Click on these links for publication details of editions used for indexing:

short stories | novels | children's stories

This pastiche appeared in the New York Evening World in 1904. As far as I am aware it has not been republished since then.The Fatal Chord was published in twelve daily chapters, the excerpt below is chapter ten.


The Fatal Chord,

or the Baffling Mystery of the Carnegie Hall Murder.

By Albert Payson Terhune.


Cyril Ballard, a young New Yorker, is killed during a musicale at Paul Craddock’s apartments in Carnegie Hall. Several apparently supernatural events attend his death. Poison tablets, also, are found in his pocket, but the autopsy reveals no trace of poison in his system. As Gresham and Beckwith, two detectives, are discussing the affair, they are joined by a tall, thin Englishman, whom Beckwith introduces to Gresham as the “ideal detective.” To which Gresham replies: “Do you mean to tell me this is SHERLOCK HOLMES?”

This other makes an evasive reply and tells Gresham that the latter may refer to him merely as “The Englishman.” The Englishman undertakes to solve the Ballard mystery.

The Englishman's suspicions at length fall on Royce Ballard, the murdered man's brother. Later events tend to fix the crime on Siurd von Rickerl, a German pianist.


On the Trail Once More.

“There is something else to be taken into account,” said The Englishman as his visitors rose to go. “And it brings me back in a measure to my first improbable theory, which I shall explain to you in due time. I’ve told you I was waiting until I could receive certain chemicals from my own laboratory in London before I could determine whether or not the tablets found in Cyril’s pepsin vial really held some subtle poison that had refused to respond to the regular medical tests. Well, those chemicals arrived this morning. I spent most of the day making tests on the tablets and on specimens of the viscera. I’ve been so much absorbed in the adventure I had to-night that I forgot to tell you earlier about the experiments I made.”

“Did you find what the tablets were made of?”

“Yes. They were composed of a strong precipitate of thalesia silicate. Thalesia, as you may know, is one of the deadliest, swiftest drugs known to the Malays. Its traces are not discernible through ordinary tests. Royce Ballard’s knowledge of chemistry must have been above the ordinary if he could procure and use that stuff. But” –

“But what?”

“But Cyril Ballard was not poisoned.”

“Not poisoned? Why I thought you said” –

“The brown tablets which were found among his pepsin tablets were deadly poison. But it chanced that he took none of them.”

“How do you know?”

“By my examination of the viscera. There are no traces of thalesia poisoning found there. I used an infallible test, but nothing appeared.”

“Then how did Cyril Ballard die?”

“I am almost inclined to agree with the Coroner’s physician - that the man was frightened to death.”

“But how? In a crowded room like that, and all in an instant, too? Besides, he had nerves like iron.”

“He either died of fright,” affirmed The Englishman doggedly, “or else from the only other cause that could produce the same effect on the face and body.”

“What cause is that?”

“Death by a stroke of lightning.”

Beckwith and Gresham laughed.

“Lightning? In midwinter and on a perfectly clear night?” exclaimed Beckwith. “I think we can dispense with the lightning theory. Even the idea that he died of fright seems less ridiculous than that.”

The Englishman shrugged his shoulders. Gresham asked:

“If you’d already found out that Cyril Ballard didn’t die by poison why did you run his brother down to-night?”

“Because I thought the secret of Cyril’s real mode of death might be about him, for one thing. For another, I was convinced he had intended to poison his brother, even if he did not succeed in doing so. And I wanted proofs of it. I’ve almost enough now to work on.”

“But it seems to me we are as far off as ever as to the real murderer and the manner of the murder.”

“Does it?” asked The Englishman with a smile. “On the contrary. I am already on a new trail. And this time I shall win.”

“I don’t know your game,” observed Gresham as he arose to go, “but I’m backing you.”

* * * * *

In the fire-lit library of Iris Durand’s home sat a man and a girl. It was late on the afternoon of the day following The Englishman’s adventure with Royce Ballard.

“The papers all had accounts of it this morning,” Siurd von Rickerl was saying.” The thief actually escaped on a cable car.”

“But didn’t Mr. Ballard recognize him?”

“No, I believe not. But he is terribly cut-up over the whole affair. It seems he has some sort of idea that he is being dogged for some mysterious purpose, and it’s gotten on his nerves. To make matters more inexplicable, this morning he received a package, by messenger, containing all the stolen articles together with a note signed ‘Raffles.’”

“How queer!”

“Queer? Everything is queer lately. The death of Cyril Ballard, this robbery, and all. Thank heaven, liebchen, we shall be married, you and I, in a few weeks and go to my own dear country, where things are natural, and where freaks and tragedies are the exceptions and not the rule, as in this crazy New York of yours. My fortunes may not be as bright financially over there; but life will be more peaceful.”

“It has been such a long wait,” sighed Iris, “and now that fame and wealth have at last come to you, I can hardly realize that the weary delay is over.”

“Yes,” answered Siurd, bending tenderly over her white hand, “nothing can check our plans now. Nothing except” –

“Dr. Watts!” announced a servant.

The lovers started: Von Rickerl with impatience at the breaking up of the tete-a-tete, Iris Durand in surprise that a man whom she had scarcely met three times in her life should presume to call on her.

The Englishman, reading at a glance both emotions, entered the room.

“I am afraid to intrude,” he said gently, as Iris came forward to greet him, “but believe me, the intrusion is necessary. Ah, Herr von Rickerl, I hoped to find you here. I am fortunate.”
Iris’s surprise at his visit gave place to greater amazement at the change in the visitor’s manner. Heretofore he had always appeared to her a silent, stupid man, with somewhat lackluster eyes and drooping jaw. To-day his eye was keen, his jaw set and his voice and bearing those of alertness and high intelligence.

“I called,” resumed The Englishman, “because I had some questions to ask. Questions the immediate solution of which will save future annoyance to you both.”

“But, Dr. Watts” – began Iris.

“Pardon me,” interposed The Englishman. “I have taken the liberty of studying New York incognito. May I, in confidence, lay aside that incognito for a few moments and resume my own name?” and he mentioned that name. “My friend, Mr. Beckwith, whom I asked to join me here, will vouch for me. Have I your permission, Herr von Rickerl, to ask a question or two?”

“Certainly,” answered the mystified German, “but” –

“They deal with the Ballard murder,” continued The Englishman, apparently engaged in smoothing out his gloves, yet never ceasing to scrutinize Von Rickerl’s face.

“The Ballard murder?” echoed Siurd, puzzled.

“Yes. You were there, I think, when Ballard died.”

“I was. I stood within a few feet of him,” replied Siurd with a slight shudder.

“You saw another man, I think, in the alcove where the piano stood. Can you describe him?”

“No. I did not notice im especially, nor remember until afterward that he was there. All I know is that he was in evening dress, like the rest of us.”

“You were not well, that evening?” said The Englishman, suddenly. “What was the matter?”

Siurd glanced up in surprise.

“Who told you?” he said. “Yes, I was not well. I had been working too hard and my nerves were shaky.”

“You had not seen a doctor, I believe?”

“No, I do not like doctors. A friend, an acquaintance, at least” –

“An acquaintance named Royce Ballard, who dabbles in chemistry and medicine,” interposed The Englishman, “told you of some sort of tonic that was good for bracing the nerves and sent you some. And you wrote, thanking him, I think, and asking if the medicine was swift, sure and” –

“How - how do you know all that?” gasped Von Rickerl; “he promised me he would not mention it. I wanted the tonic to get me into condition for my concert at Carnegie Music Hall the next afternoon, but he promised me” –

“Oh, he kept his promise as far as I know,” said The Englishman. “He didn’t tell me. I merely deduced it.”

“You can deduce life stories,” began Von Rickerl, curiously. “Then” –

“Oh, not always. But it will not take a genius to deduce a perfectly happy life story for Herr Von Rickerl,” said The Englishman gayly, with a glance toward Miss Durand. “thank you for answering my questions. They have told me what I already believed. I am none the less glad to have my belief confirmed.”

As he descended that steps of the Durand house he met Beckwith.

“Come,” he suggested, linking his arm in the latter’s, “let’s go round to Royce Ballard’s rooms. Gresham will meet us at the door. I’ve found out all I wanted to know about Von Rickerl. He’s as innocent of the murder as was that sweet-faced sweetheart of his. The time’s come to spring the trap on Royce. He didn’t kill his brother, for Cyril didn’t take the tablets Royce put into his pepsin bottle. But Royce doesn’t know that. He still thinks he’s Cyril’s murderer. And what’s more, Bona Pittani thinks so.”

Arrived at the bachelor apartment-house on upper Fifth avenue where Royce Ballard’s rooms were, they found Gresham awaiting them.

“He’s in, all right,” remarked Gresha with a grin. “Shall we go up? I’ve bribed his servant to admit us.”

“What’s the joke?” asked Beckwith as the grin still played about the detective’s face.

“Why, he drove here in a carriage half an hour ago. A girl was with him. That Bona Pittani, the artist. They went in, and I threw a half dollar into the carriage driver to tell me where they came from. He said they’d just been married down at the Little Church Around the Corner. Good joke on Royce, eh? We’ll be the first wedding guests to congratulate the happy pair.”

“So she’s blackmailed him into marrying her under threat of exposing him as his brother’s murderer!” mused Beckwith. “Well, of all the wasted sacrifices! He hates her like poison, too.”

“But she loves him,” amended The Englishman. “And that’s just what takes all the pleasure out of the hunt, as far as I’m concerned.”

They had reached the door of Ballard’s apartment. A man servant replied to their knock, and, on recognizing the trio, stepped aside to let them enter.

They passed into the little sitting room at the front of the apartment. The Englishman drew back the portiere and they filed into the room.

Royce Ballard confronted them almost at the door. Behind him, half curious, half frightened at the sight of the intruders, stood Bona.

“What does this mean?” asked Ballard sternly. “Is it a joke?”

“If so, it’s on you, Mr. Ballard,” answered Gresham. “Let me introduce you to a gentleman whom you already know as Dr. Watts, but whom you may henceforth know as the foremost living detective.”

White as death, Ballard recoiled as from some deadly reptile.

(To Be Continued.)

The Evening World, 14 April 1904



found at