Long Siege of Residence Ends
When Wife Follows At-
PAINTINGS TAKEN AWAY.
Cincinnati Firm to Hold
Them Pending Settlement
of Supposed Debt.
A sharp rap at her front door apprised Mrs. J. L. Woods Merrill in her home, 3200 Peery avenue, a 4:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon that the enemy, in force, were storming her position. Tiptoeing to the window, she peered out. Then she stepped back in sheer surprise. James Fairweather, her attorney, was in the act of looking in.
"We'll have to give up," he whispered hoarsely through the casement. "The enemy is without and will soon be within. Deputy John Whole is here, armed with an ax and an order from the sheriff to cut a cat-hole in the portcullis if it is not lifted immediately."
It was true, as Mrs. Merrill could see at a glance. Wholey, ax in hand, looking like Richard, the Lion-Hearted, in the act of advancing upon a belligerent Corsair, was moving up the concrete steps leading to the three-story brick house which sets on a terrace several feet from the sidewalk. Behind him trouped four deputies. Not far away in the offing a couple of yellow fans had cast anchor.
"Oh, very well," she assented quietly.
A moment later Mrs. Merrill opened the door a wee little bit, peeked out, received the attachment writ which four deputies had been trying two days to serve and shut it again. Silence reigned in the house after the Yale night lock snapped. On the front porch a platoon of big men were drawing long breaths. If she opened the door again a siege which had cost them a night's rest and belated meals would bear happy fruit. If the oaken panels remained staring them in the face -- hist! The night lock was turning.
"Come in," invited Mrs. Merrill with an immobile face. "If you've got to ransack the house get through it as quickly as possible."
The deputies filed into the house and began work. Beautiful paintings that had cost thousands in good money were in a few minutes more or less carefully packed, so that the Madonnas of Spain could gaze serenely down upon Flemish landscapes through clouds of excelsior and gauze paper. Big, strong hands, admirably adapted to lifting pianos and transferring semi-anthracite from a wagon to a sub-basement, were skillful in wedging painted Cupids between the best efforts of Raphael and Murrillo so the time-seasoned paint would not rub off in the journey to the safety vault of the criminal court building.
"It's a shame and an outrage and it should not be permitted," said J. L. Woods Merrill in his office in the Arlington building yesterday afternoon, in speaking of the attachment gotten out in the interests of the Gamble Soap Manufacturing Company of Cincinnati, O., to get possession of $150,000 worth of paintings to satisfy a debt of $2,800 which is claimed Mr. Merrill owes Mrs. Francisca Gamble, but which Merrill claims never existed.
"Mrs. Merrill borrowed $2,800 from Francisca N. Gamble three years ago, but neither my wife nor myself ever gave a note for the same," said Mr. Merrill. "Since the money was borrowed, $800 was paid back one time and $600 another time, leaving only $1,200 due Mrs. Gamble. I have offered several times to settle the matter and last Monday morning when A. K. Nippert of Cincinnati called at my office we decided on a settlement, but at the last minute Mr. Nippert objected, saying he 'wasn't getting enough for Cincinnati.' And that is just the matter. They want to get those paintings to Cincinnati and then what would be the chance of me getting them back? They only put up a $6,000 bond to cover the value of ninety-two paintings worth over $150,000.
"While we were talking about the matter Mr. Nippert placed some papers on my table. When he left he gathered them up, putting them in his pocket. The next morning he came back and demanded that I return them to him. He then had issued a replevin to make me give them up and later got out the attachment.
"The replevin calls for 'one written instrument acknowledging the receipt of the sum of $2,800, signed by J. L. Woods Merril.'
"Take it from me," said Mr. Merrill, "those papers never existed.
"Just before Colonel Swope died, I talked with him regarding the establishment of an Original Oil Painting Art Institute in Kansas City," said Mr. Merrill, "and I had intended to donate some of our most valuable paintings. I still intend to do so should the institute be built unless these people are allowed to cobble them.