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Elsa Colby, Criminal Attorney, just turning up the high soapstone steps of the dark old mansion where was to be held, within less than thirty minutes now, the first case she should ever defend in actual court—the State of Illinois in re grand larceny and murder in the first degree!—noted that she was at least not going to have to ring the old-fashioned saucer-sized bell at the top to gain entrance! For that precise operation was just being performed by a man who had preceded her up the steps—a man carrying a heavy gnarled cane so thick that it was no less than a bludgeon, and wearing—of all things in Chicago!—a white African pith helmet.

Was he, she wondered unhappily, some exceedingly important State’s witness against the penniless, luckless—and, incidentally, unknown—client whom Fate had decreed she must defend? And defend, moreover, in—of all places—a private home. And—of all times—at night. One more human link, perhaps—that man up ahead of her—in the vicious chain which doubtlessly was to set her client in the electric chair.

And an insignificant-looking figure she herself—lone attorney for the defense—must be, Elsa rejected with a pained sigh as she continued to climb on up the high white steps in the invisible wake left by the man ahead. The latter now leaned on his gnarled bludgeon-like cane, and waited stolidly for his ring to be answered. Elsa’s scant ninety pounds of weight were buttoned into a borrowed and far too large, soiled gray raincoat—for there was a faintish smell of London in the October Chicago air tonight! Her red hair—as brightly red today as it had been on the day she was born, twenty-six years ago—was shoved up into a loosely knitted black tam-o’-shanter cap, her bluegreen eyes were riveted feverishly upon those lighted doors up ahead, and her small freckled hands clutched her two pieces of important courtroom luggage: her worn paperoid portfolio containing her papers, and that ancient carpet-bag containing—

And now Elsa was to receive her first surprise—of all those which this memorable night was to offer!—and at the precise moment when the man in the African pith helmet should render his name and identity to the official doorkeeper who opened the front door, even as Elsa reached the second-to-last step from the top. Thereby revealing to Elsa—though she did not then know it—the very individual who was to serve tonight, in the improvised court, as court-clerk and bailiff combined. And who was officially to ticket, for the State, exhibit after exhibit, until—

Gazing frowningly and blackly out from the open doors, he brought to Elsa, for the first time, the essence of the utter hostility which she—with such a client as she had!—must face tonight. For he was tall, this Cerberus, and had a forelock hanging down his forehead as black as the alpaca coat he wore. His nose was large and blue-veined, and cold blue eyes gazed past it and proclaimed that, while doorkeeper only, no mere curiosity-seekers were going to enter this house tonight. Indeed, a very official-looking foolscap sheet in his hand showed that those who had a legal right to be here were duly recorded.

“Your name?” he was asking peremptorily of the man with the pith helmet.

“Arthur—Gilbert—Foshart,” the man at the bell was saying. “A—a witness for the State.”

While Elsa, still six feet in the latter’s rear, could only gasp. And say to herself:

“Well—I’ll be damned! So the State of Illinois even has to pluck my own dead father’s best friend—out of the jungles—to send my client to the chair! What next? Yoo-hoo—Mr. Foshart?—yoo-hoo!”


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