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The Ox and the Wheel

by Aleister Crowley

“All that we are from mind results, on mind is
founded, built of mind;
Who acts or speaks with evil thought, him doth pain
follow sure and blind;
So the ox plants his foot, and so the car-wheel follow
hard behind.”

-The Dhammapada.

A Persian philosopher once remarked, on being questioned about the climate of Bushir, that if he had one house in Bushir and another in hell, he'd rent the one in Bushir.  Anglebosk, New Jersey, would have been congenial, one may suppose, to that philosopher, on the night when Simon Iff's car broke down in the main street, for the thermometer stood at seven degrees below zero, and a blizzard was blowing at a rate of over seventy-five miles an hour.

The car had been forcing its way gallantly into the teeth of the gale, possibly encouraged by a feeling that it was only a few miles more to its warm garage in New York; but the short steep hill of Main Street, sheeted in ice, broke its brave heart.  Less poetically, there is no doubt that something broke, and broke with a grinding shriek that for one second 'outchid the North Wind.'

The car immediately yielded to the fury of the blast, and slid down the hill.  It was too fantastic to assume a homing instinct in its machinery, but it certainly brought up with a bang against the door of Anglebosk's solitary hotel, kept by one Silas Hooper.

"Very thoughtful," said Simon, stepping out, and entering the hotel.  "Come in!" he cried aloud to his chauffeur with an imperative gesture, "leave her right there!  We can do nothing till the day breaks."

The two men were hungry, and Iff ordered the very scanty meal that proved to be available.  As was his custom, he chatted genially to the inkeeper, a jolly-faced, burly individual with a humorous smile and twinkling eyes; but it did not escape his observation that mine host's merriment was singularly forced.  He sent the chauffeur to bed, and asked the man to sit and drink.

"Indeed I will, sir!" he replied, heartily.  But Iff suddenly dropped his end of the conversation.  The innkeeper's embarrassment and preoccupation became immediately obvious.

"My friend," said Iff, with his third glass of brandy, "I'm not Buttinsky (isn't it?) but I'm a bit of a doctor of souls, and I know your symptoms.  Like to tell me?"

"Why, sir, it's nothing," said Hooper, "but it's hell."

"Naturally, naturally," returned the sympathetic magician.

"The fact is - I may be arrested any minute."

"So may any one, in America."

Oh no, sir, that's only in New York State.  This is New Jersey," said Hooper, with more enthusiasm then he had yet shown.  "But this is murder."

"Oh well, you didn't do it.  Why worry?"

The man was immensely reassured by the confidence of Iff's tone.  He did not even trouble to confirm the denial.  "I was probably the last person - but one - who saw Mrs. Craddock alive."

"Tell me the whole story.  I haven't heard about it.  To me Mrs. Craddock is a name possessing all the Fascination of the Unknown."

"It's in all the evening papers.  It happened last night."

"I never read the papers; I value my mind, such as it is.  Go on."

"It's hard to say one thing, though the reporters - blast their impudence, I hope every mother's son of 'em's out in the blizzard! - get it all down in six inch lettering.  My father was a decent man, sir, and he told me when to keep my mouth shut.  Well, better tell you myself than show you what they said about the poor girl.  She was what we call a good sport, sir.  Plenty of money, fond of cards and a drink, may be, and perhaps a kiss on the sly.  Anyhow, I went around there a heap.  I've no wife, if that's any excuse."

"I see no need for any excuse," said Simon simply.  "I'm an old-fashioned philosopher.  I think cows were made to give us milk and beef - and women for kisses."  He could always adapt his thought and expression to his audience - and this man was a coarse type.

Hooper brightened up considerably.  "Last night I was there from nine till about half-past eleven, perhaps later.  Then I came back home.  We were both pretty drunk, I guess.  Of course the kid had been in bed for hours."

"The kid?"

"She has a little boy of ten, sir, Jack, the dead spit of his poor mother.  See here!"  He pulled out his pocket-book and extracted a photograph, a modern Isis and Horus.  It showed a charming woman of a well-built, voluptuous type, a little loose and coarse about the mouth and jaw, and with eyes full of glad excitement.  As Hooper had said, the boy was her image.  No one but would be struck instantly by the astonishing resemblance!

Tears gathered in the eyes of the good innkeeper.  He kissed the picture reverently before he returned it to its resting-place.

"Go on with your story," said Iff, very gently.

"You don't know what a woman of that sort means to a man, in a place where there's no other amusement."

"Oh yes, I do!"

"This morning poor Grace was found dead in bed, her throat cut, with a razor, they say.  God help me, I shave with a straight razor!"

"There's something else the matter - not plain scare," said Simon.

"Yes," replied Hooper, frankly.  "According to the papers, I wasn't the only lover.  Curse them, they've run down half the village!  They say there were three other men with her last night."

"Do you blame her very much?" asked Simon.  "You keep a hotel, don't you?  Shouldn't God's blessings be free to all? and shouldn't we honour most those who are most generous with them?"

"I never heard any one talk like that before.  Every one knows it's wrong."

"In 1850 every one knew it was wrong to protest against negro slavery.  In Germany it's wrong to question the divine right of kings.  In Turkey it's wrong to eat pork.  In Hindustan it's wrong to eat beef.

"In 1500 it was wrong to say that the earth moved.  In 1900 it was wrong to say it didn't.

"Time and space, my friend, time and space, the illusions, breeders of all other illusions!

"Right and wrong are fashions, like women's hats."

Hooper, dumfounded, could only scratch his head.

"Who lives in the house besides the boy?"

"Her old nurse, Maddie.  And a coon girl comes in every day to do the chores and the cooking."

"What time was the murder done?"

"I don't know, sir.  They say about two in the morning."

"And haven't you an alibi?"

"No one saw me leave, or on the way home.  And I slipped up to bed without waking the others."

"A little awkward.  They're so stupid, at times, about psychology.  Tell you what:  I'll send Dobson into the city in the morning for spare parts to that motor of mine, and we'll walk up to the house together, and see what happens to be visible.  I'm Simon Iff, a bit of a crank, perhaps; but I'm in good - isn't it? - with the bulls (I think) just now.  New theories about crime, don't you know, and lately they've been panning out rather well."

"That's awfully good of you," said Hooper.

"Tush!" replied Simple Simon.  "Let me rather behold a bed!"

He was particularly pleased with himself in the morning when he learnt that Hooper had slept like a child.

II

The day had broken windless and cloudless.  It was in a brisk and joyous air that Hooper walked over to Mrs. Craddock's with the old mystic.

They found one Jonas Black, a detective inspector, in charge of the house.  Jack Craddock was on his knee, learning a new form of "Patience."

"Run away, Jacky boy" said he, on learning Simon Iff's name.  "I've some business with these gentlemen."

The boy, however, insisted on a proper presentation.  He took to Simple Simon with utter cordiality of glee, and made him promise to stay and play for a while after the interview was over.  Black signed to Hooper to take the boy off.

"We've heard of you, Mr. Iff," said Black, with a chuckle, "and I've got you beat right here!"

"A hard case, eh?"

The inspector roared with laughter.  "Caught!" he cried.  "Psychology at fault at last!  You didn't get me at all; no, not one little bit!"  He leant across the table and whispered mysteriously.  "What was I doing with these cards?"

"Canfield, isn't it?"

"Ha!  Ha!  Ha!  No, sir, I was investigating the murder upstairs!"  Simon Iff was interested at once.

"Yes, sir, believe me!  Simple as a Supreme Court Ruling, and clear as Mississippi mud!  Fifty-two cards - fifty-two men, all equally likely to have done it.  I think four of them have medium good alibis, though.  Shall we play some more?  Ha!  Ha!  Ha!  I caught you fairly, sir, admit it!"

Iff laughed heartily at the other's wit.

"You've certainly got the dramatic way of putting things," he said; "and that's a long way towards their solution, since all the world's a stage.  Seriously, though, is it as wide open as all that?"

"Sure," said Black, suddenly surly, as his sense of humour gave way to a realization of the fact that there was not much glory coming his way.

"Say, would you come up, and talk it over?  I'd be real glad, honest I would."

"Right you are!" agreed Iff.  "Everything as it was?"

"Yep.  I'm waiting for Briscoe, from headquarters.  A born sucker, by Gum!"

They went up one flight of stairs.  The dead woman's bedroom stood open.  A police officer was lounging in a chair, chewing a cigar.  He sprang to attention as Black entered.  The body of Mrs. Craddock lay on the bed, dressed in a flaming yellow kimono with black embroidery.  Her dyed yellow hair was loose, but the blood from her throat had clotted it.

Simon Iff bent over her closely.

"Mr. Black," said he, after a moment, "do you see anything peculiar here?"

"Well, the guy that did this job was no barber."

"Good!" smiled Simon.  "Carry on the thought!"

"He was drunk, I guess."

"Go on!"

"Nothing doing!" said Black, after a long pause.  "This is the last stop."

"Elaborate your thought!" said Iff.  "This - er - guy - was new to the job, as you said.  Also, he was not drunk.  He was very particularly sober.  He was trying in a very painstaking way to make a good showing, and he was extremely conscious of his entire incompetence.  Reminds one of a newly married man trying to carve a chicken for the first time."

Black burst into a barrage of laughter.  Simon Iff did not know what 'chicken' means.  The inspector explained.

"Very apt," agreed Simon.  "This chance serves the patient seeker after the 'mot juste'."

'Mot juste' was his little revenge.

"But look!" said Simon.  "One more thing about this Bungler.  He had not the slightest fear that she would wake during the process.  What does that suggest?"

Black was silent.

"Again, do you see something else - something very astonishing - something very peculiar indeed - something quite in contradiction to every fact in the case?"

"Not a thing."  He shook his head strongly.

"Look at the eyes!"

"Rather nice eyes.  A bit wild!"

"The whole of the upper part of the face contradicts the lower."

Iff covered the eyes with his sleeve.

"There's Mrs. Craddock as everybody knew her.  Now there!"

He lowered his sleeve, six inches.

"There's another woman.  Did you ever see such intensity of sadness?"

"Jehosaphat!  That's so!"

"It's accentuated, in my mind, to the point almost of insanity."

"Suicide, by the Great Horn Spoon!"

Then he checked himself.  "Steady, Jonas Black, my lad; this ain't no jumping competition.  Where's the razor?"

"Somebody might have come in, seen the body, lost his nerve, and run away, taking the razor with him.  But - as we're asking questions about razors, how did Mrs. Craddock come to have a razor about the house?  Women often shave the armpits, but they use safety razors."

"As it happens, Mrs. Craddock had a horror of razors.  Her husband killed himself with one, six years ago."

"Come, that's really interesting.  Any record of the case?"

"Right here."  Black pulled out a portfolio, and extracted a memorandum, which he unfolded.

"Quite a straightforward case.  Business losses - something about a missing debenture - heavy insurance with no suicide clause - every legitimate inducement!"

"Pathetic note to the coroner?"

"No; did it right in front of his wife's eyes.  She was in her bath, early morning..."

"Oh, was she?" said Simon Iff, in a very nimble tone.

The inspector laughed heavily.

"I'm afraid that it is you who fail to interpret me, this time, Mr. Inspector!" said the mystic with a certain asperity.  "I may add that you make a very serious mistake - I've given you a clue to the mystery."

"Oh come!" said Black.  "You can't kid me, you know.  I'm from Missouri."

"Go on then."

"He walked into the bathroom, took his razor out, and cut his throat with a single sweep."

"Exact time?  And date?"

"November twelve.  Between seven and half-past."

"He was a commuter?"

"Nope.  Money of his own."

"That settles it."

"Settles what?"

"The case."

"Chase me!"

"I am prepared to lecture to the entire population of Missouri.  Come, let us go downstairs, and clear up this matter.  It is both better and worse than you can imagine."

They returned to the main floor.  In a little room dedicated to his pleasure, Jack Craddock was sitting on the floor with Hooper, engrossed in the construction of a mechanical monument from a number of metal parts.  Maddie, the nurse, in cap and spectacles, placidly knitted.

"Hooper," said Simon, "do me a good turn.  I'm out of cigars.  Something strong and black from the village, if you don't mind."

Hooper sprang to his feet, and obeyed with alacrity.  No sooner had he left the house than Simon Iff took a large crocodile skin case from his pocket, and offered a big Upmann to the inspector.

"I must have overlooked these," he said whimsically.  Maddie pursed her thin lips.  "We'll leave you to play for a bit," smiled Simon, patting the boy's shoulder, "we have to persuade Maddie to make us a cup of tea in the kitchen."  The old nurse seemed to hesitate before complying.  "You'll take pity on a chilly old man, won't you?" went on the mystic.  The tone of his voice decided her.  "Sure you haven't a thermos flask in your pocket?" she snapped, with a thin smile.

"A fair hit!" laughed Iff.  They followed her to the kitchen.

"No harm shall come," said Simon very gravely, "if you are sensible.  You are a clever woman; you ought to understand that I am a friend."

"What do you want of me?"

"Just silence and a cup of tea, for the moment."

She was amazed; she had expected a very different request.

Simon motioned Black out of the kitchen.

"Take your boots off," he whispered, "and follow me."

Tiptoe in their socks, Iff led the inspector back to the playroom.

Jack Craddock had ceased to build up his machine.  He was sitting preternaturally still, his head drooping, his eyes fixed on vacancy.  The men went softly back to the kitchen.

"Come!" cried Simon gaily, "let me carry in the tea-tray!  I must do my share, mustn't I?"

Maddie refused indignantly.  She stalked majestically back to the playroom, and set down the tray with what came very near to being a bang.

"Two lumps, Mr. Iff?" she inquired with some acidity.

"Hardly," he replied.  "But I will take both milk and lemon."

Her eyes were gimlets.

"I want to tell Inspector Black my secret method of disclosing mysteries.  It is quite a new idea.  I go to the people who happen to know, and I ask them."  The Inspector seemed to be enjoying the cigar.  "I would like my tea strong," he said to Maddie.  "I want to wake up!"

"Indeed you do!" cried Simon.

"One to you."

"Now Maddie, tell us the whole story, and you'll feel better.  Come, Jack, let's build a Great Wheel!"

The old man squatted on the floor like a Buddha, and began with incredible swiftness to construct his model.  Jack was entranced.  Black smoked intently.  Maddie sipped her tea.

"I know nothing," she said at last.

"Ah! the formula of recognition of a Secret Society, wasn't it?" said Iff.  "I'm in good standing.  I know nothing too, and I know I know it.  However, we're all attention!"

"You don't seem to have any doubt," said Maddie, "and I own you appeal to me somehow.  But you must be crazy to think I'd say a word before Master Jack."

"On the contrary; send me and Black out of the room if you like.  But you've got to tell him, if you never tell anybody else."

"Crazy," she murmured.

"You're a good woman, and I'm a bit of a doctor of souls, in a small way."

"I've committed a crime."

Black pulled out a note-book, and warned her formally in the usual terms.  Maddie laughed rather bitterly.

"You're rocking the boat," said Iff to Jonas.  "Put away the note-book.  Your memory is going to receive some very indelible impressions, or I'm wrong again!"

"Duty," grunted Black.

"Well, go on, Maddie.  He doesn't count, does he?"

"Nothing counts, now."

"Oh yes, Jack's a boy, isn't he?" and he began to sing:  "Jack's the boy for work, Jack's the boy for play, Jack's the lad when girls are sad to kiss the tears away!"

Maddie took up her knitting.  "Least said, soonest mended," and she shut her mouth like a spring.

"Then I must tell my story ... first."

"I'll leave you with Mr. Inspector."

"No, no.  He desires your charming company, I feel sure."

Maddie understood that the detective was itching to arrest her.  She did three plain and three purl.  Then Simon Iff began to speak.

"You remember the points I called to your attention upstairs, Black?"

He nodded his assent.

"Take the first in point of time.

"Here is a debauched woman - excuse me, I must speak out - who takes a bath at seven o'clock on a November morning.  Why?  It suggests a 'white night'.  Her husband, with no reason in the world for rising early, does so also."

"Well, he had to cut his throat, didn't he?  Early morning's the favourite time o' day."

"Yes, yes, the bath's the point.  Water isn't hot at that hour as a rule, is it?"

"Nope.  Get busy."

"If you ever want to cut a man's throat, Black, do it when you're naked, and plenty of water handy."

Iff never stopped building his Great Wheel; but Jack had ceased to co-operate.  He sat with ears cocked.

"But she had no reason in the world to do it!"

"Oh yes! ask any woman who knows what husbands are!"

"Say, am I riding the goat in this lodge?"

"I know; I'm deducing everything from nothing.  But that's just what creation is, eh?"

"You can't create that sort of dope in New Jersey!"

"Well, I'm just sort of knitting.  Three plain and three purl, isn't it?  Two and two don't make four until you have two and two!  Listen to point number two!

"Here is a woman who is all jollity and drunkenness and free love, till the lower part of her face might be a model for a female Silenus.  And all the time her forehead is tightening with agony, and her eyes growing wider and wilder.  Just suppose for one instant that my crazy suggestion about the bath is correct.  Then it's natural.  She tries to forget with cards and lovers and drink.  When she's alone she's half crazy - probably that means dope.  Cocaine, for guess No. 2.  I didn't mention it upstairs, because I hadn't made up my mind what to do, but there was a speck of shining white caught on a hair in one nostril."

Maddie put down her knitting.  Simon Iff waited for her to speak.  But in a few moments she picked up her needles and went on.

"Go on?  Good idea.  Point number three.  Imagine one and one make two.  Then we have a woman - a half or three parts crazy woman - who probably has something very like melancholia whenever she is alone for a little, whenever the friends leave her, or the drink wears off, or the dope fails.  With this melancholia she probably has hallucinations.  Very likely she acts as did Lady Macbeth."

"This is a whole lot of 'very likely', marked down from 'perhaps' for the spring stock-taking sales," laughed the Inspector.

"Wait for point four.  Who murders her?  Somebody absolutely incompetent, but very much in earnest.  Somebody who knows for certain that she will not wake while he is at work.  Somebody who quite fails to adjust thought and deed; for throat-cutting is a swift passionate business.  One gets the idea of a sleep-walker, perhaps?"

Maddie smiled grimly.

"I own up," she said swiftly.

"My dear good woman," protested Iff, "you're the most efficient person I've seen in ten years.  You never bungled or fumbled in your life."

"But sleep-walking alters that."

"True.  How do you know you did it?"

"Blood on my nightgown."

"Show us!"

"I got scared, and burnt it."

"Good for you!  Consider me as having risen and bowed.  We can then continue with common sense."

Maddie took up her knitting.  "With all due deference," she said, "damn you, Mr. Iff!"

"Well," laughed Simon, "I was rather damned when I saw what I saw.  To proceed.  Here is a crime exactly like her own in every point but what might appear the essentials.  Hers was deliberate and skilful malice, the other a mere childish imitation."

"Damn you, Mr. Iff."

"Only one person could have done it - a person with a mind exactly like her own.  We must rule out all men; a man would have made one sweep.  We must rule out all women; a woman would have fled when the first half-hearted cut drew blood.  That leaves us with children - and there's only one child in the picture."

Iff ended with a sort of amiably triumphant snap of the fingers.  "I'm sorry to bother you about a trifle," said Maddie; "but there isn't a razor in the house."

"Oh yes, there is - or was.  It's the razor that she killed her husband with; and it is - or was - in the hiding-place where the cocaine is.  I can trust Mr. Black to find that place."

"You can," said Black, "if there is one.  But this yarn's still a bit of a pipe dream."

"You saw for yourself how Jack behaves when he's alone.  With us, the jolly laughing boy; this talk has only made him half serious.  Alone, he becomes a brooding solitary soul, the vulture of misery, misery without cause in environment but wholly in heredity, gnawing his vitals.  Can't you see his mother's eyes and forehead again?  And her mouth as it was before it was corrupted?  We must work upon that mouth and jaw; we must teach them to transfigure the eyes!"

"Excuse me," said Maddie, quietly.  "I have been wrong.  I have very little to say, but I will say it.  I nursed Grace Chalmers - as she then was - at my breast.  Her mother died when she was born; she was just such a child as Jack is now; her very melancholy fits made her more loveable because more pitiable; only, she was always as deceitful as the devil.  At seventeen she married Craddock.  From him she suffered the most intolerable wrong, and I guess it went to her brain.  She couldn't sleep any more.  A friend of hers - some friend! - taught her to use drugs.  Then she killed Craddock, killed him with utmost cunning.  She told me; I helped to avert any suspicion.  There's my crime, Inspector, write it down!  I stuck to her as, God helping me, I'll always stick to any one I love.  I lost my husband in a railroad wreck, and my boy died a month later.  Well, that's neither here nor there.  After Craddock's death her melancholy increased.  She took to drink and men; when she was alone it was morphine, or ether, or cocaine.  She got to seeing things.  She couldn't bear to be alone; Jack slept in the next room.  Her thoughts turned always to the one scene - the scene in the bathroom.  She would take out the razor and act it again and again.  One night her screams woke me; I went to quiet her.  I found her rehearsing the murder with Jack.  But she was too lazy to stand up.  The cocaine hit her heart, I think.  So she made Jack stand by the bed and play at cutting her throat.  I was horrified:  I stormed; I threatened; I cajoled.  Of course she promised never to do anything of the sort again.  Of course she broke the promise.  But what was I to do?  I could prove nothing; and if I did, I made it worse.  I could only pray.  God! how I have prayed........"

"This Great Wheel is an awful mess," remarked Simon Iff to Jack; "we must not think of ourselves as all-wise, all-powerful, all-benevolent, perhaps.  The best way to judge a workman is by his work, eh?"

Jack nodded merrily.  "We'll build a new one, better."

"Good boy!" and they pulled their experiment to pieces, and began again.  Maddie took up her story once more.

"Two nights ago Jack came to me.  His nightdress was covered with blood.  He was very frightened, in a very calm way.  Weren't you, Jacky, boy?"

"Course I wasn't.  Mummy said to hold my tongue about it.  Come on, Mr. Iff."

"I hid the traces as well as I could," said Maddie.

"Where's the razor?"

"I don't know.  I never knew her hiding-place.  She was as cunning as the devil."

"Hum."  Iff meditated a moment.  "Will you two go and make some waffles for us?"

"I trust you," was all Maddie answered, as she rose to comply.

When Simon Iff was left alone with Jack, he very soon began to exhibit signs of weariness.  Building wheels became a bore.  The boy reflected his new friend's emotion; lassitude seized him.  The conversation lagged.  Iff lay at full length on the carpet.  Jack fell into his mood of wretchedness.  Simple Simon, watching him keenly, said at last, in a soft voice:  "let's play killing poppa."

"Mummy said to hold my tongue about it."

"But Mummy isn't here, and I want to play."

"I haven't got the razor."

"Let's go and get it!"

They went upstairs, the boy giggling as if he were being tickled, and came to the room where the dead woman lay.

"Will he play poppa?" asked Jack, pointing to the policeman.

"No, I'll play poppa."  Iff turned to the constable.  "Say, Buddy, Mr. Inspector wants to see you right away," he said in his broken American, "I'll see all's fair."

The constable yawned, stretched himself, and departed.  Simon knew that Black would understand, and keep him out of the way.

The boy spontaneously began to play.

"Oh darling, I haven't slept one wink," he lisped, in an affected feminine voice.  "I do think I'll take a bath.  I've such a headache."

"I'll turn on the water," replied Simple Simon.

"No, you say 'Hell, it's half past six.  Do you think I'm a damned stenographer?'"

Iff, kicking himself mentally, repeated the phrase.

"Oh well, I guess I can do it myself."

Warned, Simon growled out:  "Oh, lemme sleep!"

Jack clapped his hands merrily.

"That's fine; but you say:  'Hell, lemme sleep.  All women are the same.'"

The mystic obeyed, though his nerves were chattering with horror.

The boy began to imitate the noises of running water.  It was an extraordinary piece of mimicry; Simon Iff could hardly believe that some one had not in fact turned on the tap.

"You lie down," said the boy.  Iff obeyed.  Jack took a chair, put it by the wall, and climbed upon it.  A narrow wooden rail, intended for hanging pictures, ran round the room about a foot below the ceiling.  He pulled off a loose portion of this rail.  There was a recess, small indeed, but excellently calculated to hold a year's supply of dope and - a razor.

"Mummy said always to hide the razor before anything else."  Jack took it out.  It was heavily crusted, ivory handle and all, with blood.

"Now you say 'Damn that noise!'"

"Damn that noise!" said Simon Iff, with the appropriate gruff intonation.

"I'm supposed to be behind the door.  Now I say:  'Oh darling, here's the debenture!' and you say 'what?' very loud.

Iff complied with the ritual of this ghastly game.

"Now I say, laughing:  'Annette has used it to fix the mirror'; and you say:  'Christ, I hope you're not joking.  Lemme see!'"

Simple Simon repeated the words.

"I can't get it, it's jammed.  And you say:  'For Christ's sake, don't tear it!  Here, wait!'  Only, you're tired to-night; so I come to you instead."

Was the spirit of the dead woman in the room to haunt and to obsess?  The great magician felt himself a mere automaton.

"Then, as you come through the door, I jump, and do it!"

But Simon pulled himself together.  He caught the boy's arm.

"The game's over, sonny.  We'll find a nicer game for you.  You know how frightened you are when you find blood all over you."

"All right, Mr. Iff!"

"Let's go down stairs!  They'll wonder what we're doing, and that will never do."

"But Mummy said always to put the razor away first of all."

"Right you are."

This done, they went down laughing, hand in hand.

"Take him!" said Simon Iff to Maddie, and beckoned Jonas Black.

Again the bedroom; Iff climbed the chair, and produced the razor.  Black smiled grimly.

"Partial to cocaine?" queried the magician, throwing a packet to the detective.  "I am, rather," and he pocketed one for himself.  "In strict moderation; only when already feeling jolly, and desirous of working all night without fatigue."

"Hum!" said Black, "isn't it taking a chance?"

"So is getting born.  The man who takes no chances takes nothing."

"A dangerous doctrine, Mr. Iff."

"So are mountaineering and big-game shooting dangerous sports.  But they fit you for the big risks of life.  Never be afraid of anything, least of all of yourself.  Dope-fiends are born, not made."

The mystic had replaced the section of railing, and climbed down from the chair.  He handed the razor to Black, and stood looking at him, attentively.

"In her death-struggle," said the Inspector, without a quaver in his voice, "the unhappy woman must have thrust the weapon beneath her body, perhaps with some unconscious idea of concealment.  I blame myself severely for having failed to discover it on my first inspection.  On the other hand, I deduced its position by pure logic.  May promotion follow upon this example of the remarkable penetration of Inspector Black!  Unless you want a write-up," he added, rather nervously.

"No," laughed the other.  "Thine be the kingdom and the power and the glory!"

"Very good of you," Black stammered.

"Come along!"

As they descended the stairs the house bell rang.

"Briscoe!" said Black.

Maddie was opening the door, and Black ran forward.

"I'm a fool!  I've troubled you for nothing.  It's a clear case of suicide; I've found the razor right under the body."

"I'll beat it," replied Briscoe.  "Let's go get a drink."

"I'm on."  Black waved a farewell.

Simon turned to Maddie.

"I need a housekeeper," he said.  "Not much of that insurance money left, perhaps.  Between us we may be able to put Jack and Jack together, don't you think?"

The old woman could not contain herself.  Her apron went to her eyes; then she ran pell-mell into the kitchen.  "And so," remarked Simon Iff to himself as he left the house, "in my old age I find myself obliged to shut the door.  Yet - should not Dobson be back from Manhattan?  Intuition crieth yea.  I will test it.  Anon."