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Title: The Black Box
Author: Oppenheim, E. Phillips (Edward Phillips), 1866-1946
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Black Box" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE BLACK BOX


    The Illustrations Shown in this Edition are Reproductions of
    Scenes from the Photoplay of "THE BLACK BOX" Produced and
    Copyrighted by the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, to whom
    the Publishers Desire to Express their Thanks and Appreciation
    for Permission to use the Pictures.


[Illustration: SANFORD QUEST, CRIMINOLOGIST.]



THE BLACK BOX


BY


E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM



ILLUSTRATED WITH SCENES FROM THE PHOTO-PLAY

PRODUCED AND COPYRIGHTED BY THE UNIVERSAL FILM MANUFACTURING COMPANY

NEW YORK
GROSSET & DUNLAP
PUBLISHERS


Copyright, 1915,
By Little, Brown and Company.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

       I  SANFORD QUEST, CRIMINOLOGIST
      II  THE APARTMENT-HOUSE MYSTERY
     III  THE HIDDEN HANDS
      IV  THE POCKET WIRELESS
       V  AN OLD GRUDGE
      VI  ON THE RACK
     VII  THE UNSEEN TERROR
    VIII  THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY
      IX  THE INHERITED SIN
       X  LOST IN LONDON
      XI  THE SHIP OF HORROR
     XII  A DESERT VENGEANCE
    XIII  'NEATH IRON WHEELS
     XIV  TONGUES OF FLAME
      XV  "A BOLT FROM THE BLUE"
     XVI  JUSTICE CHEATED



    |--------------------------------------------------|
    |                  THE BLACK BOX                   |
    | ------------------------------------------------ |
    |           Universal Photo Play Edition           |
    | ------------------------------------------------ |
    |                CAST OF CHARACTERS                |
    |                                                  |
    | Sanford Quest                Herbert Rawlinson   |
    |                                                  |
    | Lenora MacDougal             Anna Little         |
    |                                                  |
    | Prof. Ashleigh }                                 |
    | Lord Ashleigh  }             William Worthington |
    |                                                  |
    | Lady Ashleigh                Helen Wright        |
    |                                                  |
    | John Craig                   Frank MacQuarrie    |
    |                                                  |
    | Laura, Quest's assistant     Laura Oakley        |
    |                                                  |
    | Mrs. Bruce Rheinholdt        Hylda Sloman        |
    |--------------------------------------------------|



THE BLACK BOX



CHAPTER I

SANFORD QUEST, CRIMINOLOGIST


The young man from the west had arrived in New York only that afternoon,
and his cousin, town born and bred, had already embarked upon the task of
showing him the great city. They occupied a table in a somewhat
insignificant corner of one of New York's most famous roof-garden
restaurants. The place was crowded with diners. There were many
notabilities to be pointed out. The town young man was very busy.

"See that bunch of girls on the right?" he asked. "They are all from the
chorus in the new musical comedy--opens to-morrow. They've been rehearsing
every day for a month. Some show it's going to be, too. I don't know
whether I'll be able to get you a seat, but I'll try. I've had mine for a
month. The fair girl who is leaning back, laughing, now, is Elsie Havers.
She's the star.... You see the old fellow with the girl, just in a line
behind? That's Dudley Worth, the multi-millionaire, and at the next table
there is Mrs. Atkinson--you remember her divorce case?"

It was all vastly interesting to the young man from the west, and he
looked from table to table with ever-increasing interest.

"Say, it's fine to be here!" he declared. "We have this sort of thing back
home, but we are only twelve stories up and there is nothing to look at.
Makes you kind of giddy here to look past the people, down at the city."

The New Yorker glanced almost indifferently at the one sight which to a
stranger is perhaps the most impressive in the new world. Twenty-five
stories below, the cable cars clanging and clashing their way through the
narrowed streets seemed like little fire-flies, children's toys pulled by
an invisible string of fire. Further afield, the flare of the city painted
the murky sky. The line of the river scintillated with rising and falling
stars. The tall buildings stabbed the blackness, fingers of fire. Here,
midway to the clouds, was another world, a world of luxury, of brilliant
toilettes, of light laughter, the popping of corks, the joy of living,
with everywhere the vague perfume and flavour of femininity.

The young man from the country touched his cousin's arm suddenly.

"Tell me," he enquired, "who is the man at a table by himself? The waiters
speak to him as though he were a little god. Is he a millionaire, or a
judge, or what?"

The New Yorker turned his head. For the first time his own face showed
some signs of interest. His voice dropped a little. He himself was
impressed.

"You're in luck, Alfred," he declared. "That's the most interesting man in
New York--one of the most interesting in the world. That's Sanford Quest."

"Who's he?"

"You haven't heard of Sanford Quest?"

"Never in my life."

The young man whose privilege it was to have been born and lived all his
days in New York, drank half a glassful of wine and leaned back in his
chair. Words, for a few moments, were an impossibility.

"Sanford Quest," he pronounced at last, "is the greatest master in
criminology the world has ever known. He is a magician, a scientist, the
Pierpont Morgan of his profession."

"Say, do you mean that he is a detective?"

The New Yorker steadied himself with an effort. Such ignorance was hard to
realise--harder still to deal with.

"Yes," he said simply, "you could call him that--just in the same way you
could call Napoleon a soldier or Lincoln a statesman. He is a detective,
if you like to call him that, the master detective of the world. He has a
great house in one of the backwater squares of New York, for his office.
He has wireless telegraphy, private chemists, a little troop of spies,
private telegraph and cable, and agents in every city of the world. If he
moves against any gang, they break up. No one can really understand him.
Sometimes he seems to be on the side of the law, sometimes on the side of
the criminal. He takes just what cases he pleases, and a million dollars
wouldn't tempt him to touch one he doesn't care about. Watch him go out.
They say that you can almost tell the lives of the people he passes, from
the way they look at him. There isn't a crook here or in the street who
doesn't know that if Sanford Quest chose, his career would be ended."

The country cousin was impressed at last. With staring eyes and opened
mouth, he watched the man who had been sitting only a few tables away from
them push back the plate on which lay his bill and rise to his feet. One
of the chief maîtres d'hôtel handed him his straw hat and cane, two
waiters stood behind his chair, the manager hurried forward to see that
the way was clear for him. Yet there was nothing about the appearance of
the man himself which seemed to suggest his demanding any of these things.
He was of little over medium height, broad-shouldered, but with a body
somewhat loosely built. He wore quiet grey clothes with a black tie, a
pearl pin, and a neat coloured shirt. His complexion was a little pale,
his features well-defined, his eyes dark and penetrating but hidden
underneath rather bushy eyebrows. His deportment was quite unassuming, and
he left the place as though entirely ignorant of the impression he
created. The little cluster of chorus girls looked at him almost with awe.
Only one of them ventured to laugh into his face as though anxious to
attract his notice. Another dropped her veil significantly as he drew
near. The millionaire seemed to become a smaller man as he glanced over
his shoulder. The lady who had been recently divorced bent over her plate.
A group of noisy young fellows talking together about a Stock Exchange
deal, suddenly ceased their clamour of voices as he passed. A man sitting
alone, with a drawn face, deliberately concealed himself behind a
newspaper, and an aldermanic-looking gentleman who was entertaining a
fluffy-haired young lady from a well-known typewriting office, looked for
a moment like an errant school-boy. Not one of these people did Sanford
Quest seem to see. He passed out to the elevator, tipped the man who
sycophantly took him the whole of the way down without a stop, walked
through the crowded hall of the hotel and entered a closed motor-car
without having exchanged greetings with a soul. Yet there was scarcely a
person there who could feel absolutely sure that he had not been noticed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sanford Quest descended, about ten minutes later, before a large and
gloomy-looking house in Georgia Square. The neighbourhood was, in its way,
unique. The roar and hubbub of the city broke like a restless sea only a
block or so away. On every side, this square of dark, silent houses seemed
to be assailed by the clamour of the encroaching city. For some reason or
other, however, it remained a little oasis of old-fashioned buildings,
residences, most of them, of a generation passed away. Sanford Quest
entered the house with a latch-key. He glanced into two of the rooms on
the ground-floor, in which telegraph and telephone operators sat at their
instruments. Then, by means of a small elevator, he ascended to the top
story and, using another key, entered a large apartment wrapped in gloom
until, as he crossed the threshold, he touched the switches of the
electric lights. One realised then that this was a man of taste. The
furniture and appointments of the room were of dark oak. The panelled
walls were hung with a few choice engravings. There were books and papers
about, a piano in the corner. A door at the further end led into what
seemed to be a sleeping-apartment. Quest drew up an easy-chair to the
wide-flung window, touching a bell as he crossed the room. In a few
moments the door was opened and closed noiselessly. A young woman entered
with a little bundle of papers in her hand.

"Anything for me, Laura?" he asked.

"I don't believe you will think so, Mr. Quest," she answered calmly.

She drew a small table and a reading lamp to his side and stood quietly
waiting. Her eyes followed Quest's as he glanced through the letters, her
expression matched his. She was tall, dark, good-looking in a massive way,
with a splendid, almost unfeminine strength in her firm, shapely mouth and
brilliant eyes. Her manner was a little brusque but her voice pleasant.
She was one of those who had learnt the art of silence.

The criminologist glanced through the papers quickly and sorted them into
two little heaps.

"Send these," he directed, "to the police-station. There is nothing in
them which calls for outside intervention. They are all matters which had
better take their normal course. To the others simply reply that the
matter they refer to does not interest me. No further enquiries?"

"Nothing, Mr. Quest."

She left the room almost noiselessly. Quest took down a volume from the
swinging book-case by his side, and drew the reading lamp a little closer
to his right shoulder. Before he opened the volume, however, he looked for
a few moments steadfastly out across the sea of roofs, the network of
telephone and telegraph wires, to where the lights of Broadway seemed to
eat their way into the sky. Around him, the night life of the great city
spread itself out in waves of gilded vice and black and sordid crime. Its
many voices fell upon deaf ears. Until long past midnight, he sat
engrossed in a scientific volume.



CHAPTER II

THE APARTMENT-HOUSE MYSTERY


1.

"This habit of becoming late for breakfast," Lady Ashleigh remarked, as
she set down the coffee-pot, "is growing upon your father."

Ella glanced up from a pile of correspondence through which she had been
looking a little negligently.

"When he comes," she said, "I shall tell him what Clyde says in his new
play--that unpunctuality for breakfast and overpunctuality for dinner are
two of the signs of advancing age."

"I shouldn't," her mother advised. "He hates anything that sounds like an
epigram, and I noticed that he avoided any allusion to his birthday last
month. Any news, dear?"

"None at all, mother. My correspondence is just the usual sort of
rubbish--invitations and gossip. Such a lot of invitations, by-the-bye."

"At your age," Lady Ashleigh declared, "that is the sort of correspondence
which you should find interesting."

Ella shook her head. She was a very beautiful young woman, but her
expression was a little more serious than her twenty-two years warranted.

"You know I am not like that, mother," she protested. "I have found one
thing in life which interests me more than all this frivolous business of
amusing oneself. I shall never be happy--not really happy--until I have
settled down to study hard. My music is really the only part of life which
absolutely appeals to me."

Lady Ashleigh sighed.

"It seems so unnecessary," she murmured. "Since Esther was married you are
practically an only daughter, you are quite well off, and there are so
many young men who want to marry you."

Ella laughed gaily.

"That sort of thing may come later on, mother," she declared,--"I suppose
I am only human like the rest of us--but to me the greatest thing in the
whole world just now is music, my music. It is a little wonderful, isn't
it, to have a gift, a real gift, and to know it? Oh, why doesn't Delarey
make up his mind and let father know, as he promised!... Here comes daddy,
mum. Bother! He's going to shoot, and I hoped he'd play golf with me."

Lord Ashleigh, who had stepped through some French windows at the farther
end of the terrace, paused for a few minutes to look around him. There was
certainly some excuse for his momentary absorption. The morning, although
it was late September, was perfectly fine and warm. The cattle in the park
which surrounded the house were already gathered under the trees. In the
far distance, the stubble fields stretched like patches of gold to ridges
of pine-topped hills, and beyond to the distant sea. The breakfast table
at which his wife and daughter were seated was arranged on the broad grey
stone terrace, and, as he slowly approached, it seemed like an oasis of
flowers and fruit and silver. A footman stood discreetly in the
background. Half a dozen dogs of various breeds came trotting forward to
meet him. His wife, still beautiful notwithstanding her forty-five years,
had turned her pleasant face towards him, and Ella, whom a great many
Society papers had singled out as being one of the most beautiful
débutantes of the season, was welcoming him with her usual lazy but wholly
good-humoured smile.

"Daddy, your habits are getting positively disgraceful!" she exclaimed.
"Mother and I have nearly finished--and our share of the post-bag is most
uninteresting. Please come and sit down, tell us where you are going to
shoot, and whether you've had any letters this morning?"

Lord Ashleigh loitered for a moment to raise the covers from the dishes
upon a side table. Afterwards he seated himself in the chair which the
servant was holding for him.

"I am going out for an hour or two with Fitzgerald," he announced.
"Partridges are scarcely worth shooting yet but he has arranged a few
drives over the hills. As for my being late--well, that has something to
do with you, young lady."

Ella looked at him with a sudden seriousness in her great eyes.

"Daddy, you've heard something!"

Lord Ashleigh pulled a bundle of letters from his pocket.

"I have," he admitted.

"Quick!" Ella begged. "Tell us all about it? Don't sit there, dad, looking
so stolid. Can't you see I am dying to hear? Quick, please!"

Her father smiled, glanced for a moment at the plate which had been passed
to him from the side table, approved of it and stretched out his hand for
his cup.

"I heard this morning," he said, "from your friend Delarey. He went into
the matter very fully. You shall read his letter presently. The sum and
substance of it all, however, is that for the first year of your musical
training he advises--where do you think?"

"Dresden," Lady Ashleigh suggested.

"Munich? Paris?" Ella put in breathlessly.

"All wrong," Lord Ashleigh declared. "New York!"

There was a momentary silence. Ella's eyes were sparkling. Her mother's
face had fallen.

"New York!" Ella murmured. "There is wonderful music there, and Mr.
Delarey knows it so well."

Lord Ashleigh nodded portentously.

"I have not finished yet. Mr. Delarey wound up his letter by promising to
cable me his final decision in the course of a few days. This cablegram,"
he went on, drawing a little slip of blue paper from his pocket, "was
brought to me this morning whilst I was shaving. I found it a most
inconvenient time, as the lather--"

"Oh, bother the lather, father!" Ella exclaimed. "Read the cablegram, or
let me."

Her father smoothed it out before him and read--

    "To Lord Ashleigh, Hamblin House, Dorset, England.

    "I find a magnificent programme arranged for at Metropolitan
    Opera House this year. Have taken box for your daughter, engaged
    the best professor in the world, and secured an apartment at the
    Leeland, our most select and comfortable residential hotel.
    Understand your brother is still in South America, returning
    early spring, but will do our best to make your daughter's year
    of study as pleasant as possible. Advise her sail on Saturday by
    Mauretania."

"On Saturday?" Ella almost screamed.

"New York!" Lady Ashleigh murmured disconsolately. "How impossible,
George!"

Her husband handed over the letter and cablegram, which Ella at once
pounced upon. He then unfolded the local newspaper and proceeded to make
an excellent breakfast. When he had quite finished, he lit a cigarette and
rose a little abruptly to his feet as a car glided out of the stable yard
and slowly approached the front door.

"I shall now," he said, "leave you to talk over and discuss this matter
for the rest of the day. I believe you said, dear," he added, turning to
his wife, "that we were dining alone to-night?"

"Quite alone, George," Lady Ashleigh admitted. "We were to have gone to
Annerley Castle, but the Duke is laid up somewhere in Scotland."

"I remember," her husband assented. "Very well, then, at dinner-time
to-night you can tell me your decision, or rather we will discuss it
together. James," he added, turning to the footman, "tell Robert I want my
sixteen-bore guns put in the car, and tell him to be very careful about
the cartridges."

He disappeared through the French windows. Lady Ashleigh was studying the
letter stretched out before her, her brows a little knitted, her
expression distressed. Ella had turned and was looking out westwards
across the park, towards the sea. For a moment she dreamed of all the
wonderful things that lay on the other side of that silver streak. She saw
inside the crowded Opera House. She felt the tense hush, the thrill of
excitement. She heard the low sobbing of the violins, she saw the
stage-setting, she heard the low notes of music creeping and growing till
every pulse in her body thrilled with her one great enthusiasm. When she
turned back to the table, her eyes were bright and there was a little
flush upon her cheeks.

"You're not sorry, mother?" she exclaimed.

"Not really, dear," Lady Ashleigh answered resignedly.


2.

Lord Ashleigh, who in many respects was a typical Englishman of his class,
had a constitutional affection for small ceremonies, an affection nurtured
by his position as Chairman of the County Magistrates and President of the
local Unionist Association. After dinner that evening, a meal which was
served in the smaller library, he cleared his throat and filled his glass
with wine. His manner, as he addressed his wife and daughter, was almost
official.

"I am to take it, I believe," he began, "that you have finally decided,
Ella, to embrace our friend Delarey's suggestion and to leave us on
Saturday for New York?"

"If you please," Ella murmured, with glowing eyes. "I can't tell you how
grateful I am to you both for letting me go."

"It is naturally a wrench to us," Lord Ashleigh confessed, "especially as
circumstances which you already know of prevent either your mother or
myself from being with you during the first few months of your stay there.
You have very many friends in New York, however, and your mother tells me
that there will be no difficulty about your chaperonage at the various
social functions to which you will, of course, be bidden."

"I think that will be all right, dad," Ella ventured.

"You will take your own maid with you, of course," Lord Ashleigh
continued. "Lenora is a good girl and I am sure she will look after you
quite well, but I have decided, although it is a somewhat unusual step, to
supplement Lenora's surveillance over your comfort by sending with you,
also, as a sort of courier and general attendant--whom do you think? Well,
Macdougal."

Lady Ashleigh looked across the table with knitted brows.

"Macdougal, George? Why, however will you spare him?"

"We can easily," Lord Ashleigh declared, "find a temporary butler.
Macdougal has lived in New York for some years, and you will doubtless
find this a great advantage, Ella. I hope that my suggestion pleases you?"

Ella glanced over her shoulder at the two servants who were standing
discreetly in the background. Her eyes rested upon the pale,
expressionless face of the man who during the last few years had enjoyed
her father's absolute confidence. Like many others of his class, there
seemed to be so little upon which to comment in his appearance, so little
room for surmise or analysis in his quiet, negative features, his
studiously low voice, his unexceptionable deportment. Yet for a moment a
queer sense of apprehension troubled her. Was it true, she wondered, that
she did not like the man? She banished the thought almost as soon as it
was conceived. The very idea was absurd! His manner towards her had always
been perfectly respectful. He seemed equally devoid of sex or character.
She withdrew her gaze and turned once more towards her father.

"Do you think that you can really spare him, daddy," she asked, "and that
it will be necessary?"

"Not altogether necessary, I dare say," Lord Ashleigh admitted. "On the
other hand, I feel sure that you will find him a comfort, and it would be
rather a relief to me to know that there is some one in touch with you all
the time in whom I place absolute confidence. I dare say I shall be very
glad to see him back again at the end of the year, but that is neither
here nor there. Mr. Delarey has sent me the name of some bankers in New
York who will honour your cheques for whatever money you may require."

"You are spoiling me, daddy," Ella sighed.

Lord Ashleigh smiled. His hand had disappeared into the pocket of his
dinner-coat.

"If you think so now," he remarked, "I do not know what you will say to me
presently. What I am doing now, Ella, I am doing with your mother's
sanction, and you must associate her with the gift which I am going to
place in your keeping."

The hand was slowly withdrawn from his pocket. He laid upon the table a
very familiar morocco case, stamped with a coronet. Even before he touched
the spring and the top flew open, Ella knew what was coming.

"Our diamonds!" she exclaimed. "The Ashleigh diamonds!"

The necklace lay exposed to view, the wonderful stones flashing in the
subdued light. Ella gazed at it, speechless.

"In New York," Lord Ashleigh continued, "it is the custom to wear
jewellery in public more, even, than in this country. The family pearls,
which I myself should have thought more suitable, went, as you know, to
your elder sister upon her marriage. I am not rich enough to invest large
sums of money in the purchase of precious stones, yet, on the other hand,
your mother and I feel that if you are to wear jewels at all, we should
like you to wear something of historic value, jewels which are associated
with the history of your own house. Allow me!"

He leaned forward. With long, capable fingers he fastened the necklace
around his daughter's neck. It fell upon her bosom, sparkling, a little
circular stream of fire against the background of her smooth, white skin.
Ella could scarcely speak. Her fingers caressed the jewels.

"It is our farewell present to you," Lord Ashleigh declared. "I need not
beg you to take care of them. I do not wish to dwell upon their value.
Money means, naturally, little to you, and when I tell you that a firm in
London offered me sixty thousand pounds for them for an American client, I
only mention it so that you may understand that they are likely to be
appreciated in the country to which you are going."

She clasped his hands.

"Father," she cried, "you are too good to me! It is all too wonderful. I
shall be afraid to wear them."

Lord Ashleigh smiled reassuringly.

"My dear," he said, "you will be quite safe. I should advise you to keep
them, as a rule, in the strong box which you will doubtless find in the
hotel to which you are going. But for all ordinary occasions you need
feel, I am convinced, no apprehension. You can understand now, I dare say,
another reason why I am sending Macdougal with you as well as Lenora."

Ella, impelled by some curious impulse which she could not quite
understand, glanced quickly around to where the man-servant was standing.
For once she had caught him unawares. For once she saw something besides
the perfect automaton. His eyes, instead of being fixed at the back of his
master's chair, were simply riveted upon the stones. His mouth was a
little indrawn. To her there was a curious change in his expression. His
cheekbones seemed to have become higher. The pupils of his eyes had
narrowed. Even while she looked at him, he moistened a little his dry lips
with the tip of his tongue. Then, as though conscious of her observation,
all these things vanished. He advanced to the table, respectfully refilled
his master's glass from the decanter of port, and retreated again. Ella
withdrew her eyes. A queer little feeling of uneasiness disturbed her for
the moment. It passed, however, as in glancing away her attention was once
more attracted by the sparkle of the jewels upon her bosom. Lord Ashleigh
raised his glass.

"Our love to you, dear," he said. "Take care of the jewels, but take more
care of yourself. Your mother and I will come to New York as soon as we
can. In the meantime, don't forget us amidst the hosts of your new friends
and the joy of your new life."

She gave them each a hand. She stooped first to one side and then to the
other, kissing them both tenderly.

"I shall never forget!" she exclaimed, her voice breaking a little. "There
could never be any one else in the world like you two--and please may I go
to the looking-glass?"


3.

The streets of New York were covered with a thin, powdery snow as the very
luxurious car of Mrs. Delarey drew up outside the front of the Leeland
Hotel, a little after midnight. Ella leaned over and kissed her hostess.

"Thank you, dear, ever so much for your delightful dinner," she exclaimed,
"and for bringing me home. As for the music, well, I can't talk about it.
I am just going upstairs into my room to sit and think."

"Don't sit up too late and spoil your pretty colour, dear," Mrs. Delarey
advised. "Good-bye! Don't forget I am coming in to lunch with you
to-morrow."

The car rolled off. Ella, a large umbrella held over her head by the
door-keeper, stepped up the little strip of drugget which led into the
softly-warmed hall of the Leeland. Behind her came her maid, Lenora, and
Macdougal, who had been riding on the box with the chauffeur. He paused
for a moment to wipe the snow from his clothes as Ella crossed the hall to
the lift. Lenora turned towards him. He whispered something in her ear.
For a moment she shook. Then she turned away and followed her mistress
upstairs.

Arrived in her apartment, Ella threw herself with a little sigh of content
into a big easy-chair before the fire. Her sitting-room was the last word
in comfort and luxury. A great bowl of pink roses, arrived during her
absence, stood on the small table by her side. Lenora had just brought her
chocolate and was busy making preparations in the bedroom adjoining. Ella
gave herself up for a few moments to reverie. The magic of the music was
still in her blood. She had made progress. That very afternoon her master,
Van Haydn, had spoken to her of her progress--Van Haydn, who had never
flattered a pupil in his life. In a few weeks' time her mother and father
were coming out to her. Meanwhile, she had made hosts of pleasant friends.
Attentions of all sorts had been showered upon her. She curled herself up
in her chair. It was good to be alive!

A log stirred upon the fire. She leaned forward lazily to replace it and
then stopped short. Exactly opposite to her was a door which opened on to
a back hall. It was used only by the servants connected with the hotel,
and was usually kept locked. Just as she was in the act of leaning
forward, Ella became conscious of a curious hallucination. She sat looking
at the handle with fascinated eyes. Then she called aloud to Lenora.

"Lenora, come here at once."

The maid hurried in from the next room. Ella pointed to the door.

"Lenora, look outside. See if any one is on that landing. I fancied that
the door opened."

The maid shook her head incredulously.

"I don't think so, my lady," she said. "No one but the waiter and the
chambermaid who comes in to clean the apartment, ever comes that way."

She crossed the room and tried the handle. Then she turned towards her
mistress in triumph.

"It is locked, my lady," she reported.

Ella rose to her feet and herself tried the handle. It was as the maid had
reported. She, however, was not altogether reassured. She was a young
woman whose nerves were in a thoroughly healthy state, and by no means
given to imaginative fears. She stood a little away, looking at the
handle. It was almost impossible that she could have been mistaken. Her
hands clasped for a moment the necklace which hung from her neck. A queer
presentiment of evil crept like a grey shadow over her.

She looked at herself in the glass--the colour had left her cheeks. She
tried to laugh at her self.

"This is absurd!" she exclaimed. "Lenora, go down and ask Macdougal to
come up for a minute. I am going to have this thing explained. Hurry,
there's a good girl."

"You are sure your ladyship doesn't mind being left?" the maid asked, a
little doubtfully.

"Of course not!" Ella replied, with a laugh which was not altogether
natural. "Hurry along, there's a good girl. I'll drink my chocolate while
you are gone, and get ready for bed, but I must see Macdougal before I
undress."

Something of her mistress's agitation seemed to have become communicated
to Lenora. Her voice shook a little as she stepped into the elevator.

"Where are you off to, young lady?" the boy enquired.

"I want to go round to our quarters," Lenora explained. "Her ladyship
wants to speak to Mr. Macdougal."

"He's gone out, sure," the elevator boy remarked. "Shall I wait for you,
Miss Lenora?" he asked, as they descended into the hall.

"Do," she begged. "I sha'n't be more than a minute or two."

She walked quickly to the back part of the hotel and ascended in another
elevator to the wing in which the servants' quarters were situated. Here
she made her way along a corridor until she reached Macdougal's room. She
knocked, and knocked again. There was no answer. She tried the door and
found it was locked. Then she returned to the elevator and descended once
more to the floor upon which her mistress's apartments were situated. She
opened the door of the suite without knocking and turned at once to the
sitting-room.

"I am sorry, my lady," she began--

Then she stopped short. The elevator boy, who had had a little trouble
with his starting apparatus and had not as yet descended, heard the scream
which broke from her lips, and a fireman in an adjacent corridor came
running up almost at the same moment. Lenora was on her knees by her
mistress's side. Ella was still lying in the easy-chair in which she had
been seated, but her head was thrown back in an unnatural fashion. There
was a red mark just across her throat. The small table by her side had
been overturned, and the chocolate was running in a little stream across
the floor. The elevator boy was the first to speak.

"Holy shakes!" he exclaimed. "What's happened?"

"Can't you see?" Lenora shrieked. "She's fainted! And the diamonds--the
diamonds have gone!"

The fireman was already at the telephone. In less than a minute one of the
managers from the office came running in. Lenora was dashing water into
Ella's still, cold face.

"She's fainted!" she shrieked. "Fetch a doctor, some one. The diamonds
have gone!"

The young man was already at the telephone. His hand shook as he took up
the receiver. He turned to the elevator boy.

"Run across to number seventy-three--Doctor Morton's," he ordered. "Don't
you let any one come in, fireman. Don't either of you say a word about
this. Here, Exchange, urgent call. Give me the police-station--yes,
police-station!... Don't be a fool, girl," he added under his breath. "You
won't do any good throwing water on her like that. Let her alone for a
moment.... Yes! Manager, Leeland Hotel, speaking. A murder and robbery
have taken place in this hotel, suite number forty-three. I am there now.
Nothing shall be touched. Send round this moment."

The young man hung up the receiver. Lenora was filling the room with her
shrieks. He took her by the shoulder and pushed her back into a chair.

"Shut up, you fool!" he exclaimed. "You can't do any good making a noise
like that."

"She said she saw the door handle turn," Lenora sobbed. "I went to fetch
Macdougal. He'd gone out. When I came back she was there--like that!"

"What door handle?" the manager asked.

Lenora pointed. The young man crossed the room. The lock was still in its
place, the door refused to yield. As he turned around the doctor arrived.
He hurried at once to Ella's side.

"Hands still warm," he muttered, as he felt them.... "My God! It's the
double knot strangle!"

He bent over Ella for several moments. Then he rose to his feet. The door
from outside had been opened once more. A police inspector, followed by a
detective, had entered.

"This is your affair, gentlemen, not mine," the doctor said gravely. "The
young lady is dead. She has been cruelly strangled within the last five or
ten minutes."

The Inspector turned around.

"Lock the outside door," he ordered his man. "Has any one left the room,
Mr. Marsham?"

"No one," the manager declared.

"Who discovered her?"

"The maid."

Lenora rose to her feet. She seemed a little calmer but the healthy colour
had all gone from her cheeks and her lips were twitching.

"Her ladyship had just come in from the Opera," she said. "She was sitting
in her easy-chair. I was in the bedroom. She looked toward the handle of
that door. She thought it moved. She called me. I tried it and found it
fast locked. She sent for Mr. Macdougal."

"Macdougal," Mr. Marsham explained, "is a confidential servant of Lord
Ashleigh's. He was sent over here with Lady Ella."

The Inspector nodded.

"Go on."

"I found Mr. Macdougal's door locked. He must have gone out. When I came
back here, I found this!"

The Inspector made a careful examination of the room.

"Tell me," he enquired, "is this the young lady who owned the wonderful
Ashleigh diamonds?"

"They've gone!" Lenora shrieked. "They've been stolen! She was wearing
them when I left the room!"

The Inspector turned to the telephone.

"Mr. Marsham," he said, "I am afraid this will be a difficult affair. I am
going to take the liberty of calling in an expert. Hello. I want Number
One, New York City--Mr. Sanford Quest."


4.

There seemed to be nothing at all original in the methods pursued by the
great criminologist when confronted with this tableau of death and
robbery. His remarks to the Inspector were few and perfunctory. He asked
only a few languid questions of Macdougal and Lenora, who were summoned to
his presence.

"You had left the hotel, I understand, at the time when the crime
occurred?" he asked the latter.

Macdougal, grave and respectful, made his answers with difficulty. His
voice was choked with emotion.

"I brought my mistress home from the Opera, sir. I rode on the box with
Mrs. Delarey's chauffeur. After I had seen her safely in the hotel, I went
up to my room for two minutes and left the hotel by the back entrance."

"Any one see you go?"

"The door-keeper, sir, and I passed a page upon the stairs."

"Wasn't it rather late for you to go out?"

"My days are a little dull here, sir," Macdougal replied, "and my
attendance is not required early in the morning. I have made some friends
in the city and I usually go out to a restaurant and have some supper."

"Quite natural," Mr. Quest agreed. "That will do, thanks."

Macdougal turned towards the door. Lenora was about to follow him but
Quest signed to her to remain.

"I should like to have a little conversation with you about your
mistress," he said to her pleasantly. "If you don't mind, I will ask you
to accompany me in my car. I will send the man back with you."

For a moment the girl stood quite still. Her face was already ghastly
pale. Her eyes alone seemed to indicate some fresh fear.

"I will go to my rooms and put on my hat," she said.

Quest pointed through the half-open door.

"That will be your hat and coat upon the bed there, won't it?" he
remarked. "I am sorry to hurry you off but I have another appointment. You
will send, of course, for the young lady's friends," he added, turning to
Mr. Marsham, "and cable her people."

"There is nothing more you can do, Mr. Quest?" the hotel manager asked, a
little querulously. "This affair must be cleared up for the credit of my
hotel."

Quest shrugged his shoulders. He glanced through the open door to where
Lenora was arranging her coat with trembling fingers.

"There will be very little difficulty about that," he said calmly. "If you
are quite ready, Miss Lenora. Is that your name?"

"Lenora is my name, sir," the girl replied.

They descended in the elevator together and Quest handed the girl into his
car. They drove quickly through the silent streets. The snow had ceased to
fall and the stars were shining brightly. Lenora shivered as she leaned
back in her corner.

"You are cold, I am afraid," Quest remarked. "Never mind, there will be a
good fire in my study. I shall only keep you for a few moments. I dare not
be away long just now, as I have a very important case on."

"There is nothing more that I can tell you," Lenora ventured, a little
fearfully. "Can't you ask me what you want to, now, as we go along?"

"We have already arrived," Quest told her. "Do you mind following me?"

She crossed the pavement and passed through the front door, which Quest
was holding open for her. They stepped into the little elevator, and a
moment or two later Lenora was installed in an easy-chair in Quest's
sitting-room, in front of a roaring fire.

"Lean back and make yourself comfortable," Quest invited, as he took a
chair opposite to her. "I must just look through these papers."

The girl did as she was told. She opened her coat. The room was
delightfully warm, almost overheated. A sense of rest crept over her. For
the first moment since the awful shock, her nerves seemed quieter.
Gradually she began to feel almost as though she were passing into sleep.
She started up, but sank back again almost immediately. She was conscious
that Quest had laid down the letters which he had been pretending to read.
His eyes were fixed upon her. There was a queer new look in them, a
strange new feeling creeping through her veins. Was she going to sleep?...

Quest's voice broke an unnatural silence.

"You are anxious to telephone some one," he said.

"You looked at both of the booths as we came through the hotel. Then you
remembered, I think, that he would not be there yet. Telephone now. The
telephone is at your right hand. You know the number."

She obeyed almost at once. She took the receiver from the instrument by
her side.

"Number 700, New York City."

"You will ask," Quest continued, "whether he is all right, whether the
jewels are safe."

There was a brief silence, then the girl's voice.

"Are you there, James?... Yes, I am Lenora. Are you safe? Have you the
jewels?... Where?... You are sure that you are safe.... No, nothing fresh
has happened."

"You are at the hotel," Quest said softly. "You are going to him."

"I cannot sleep," she continued. "I am coming to you."

She set down the receiver. Quest leaned a little more closely over her.

"You know where the jewels are hidden," he said. "Tell me where?"

Her lips quivered. She made no answer. She turned uneasily in her chair.

"Tell me the place?" Quest persisted.

There was still no response from the girl. There were drops of
perspiration on her forehead. Quest shrugged his shoulders slightly.

"Very good," he concluded. "You need not tell me. Only remember this! At
nine o'clock to-morrow morning you will bring those jewels to this
apartment.... Rest quietly now. I want you to go to sleep."

She obeyed without hesitation. Quest watched, for a moment, her regular
breathing. Then he touched a bell by his side. Laura entered almost at
once.

"Open the laboratory," Quest ordered. "Then come back."

Without a word or a glance towards the sleeping figure, she obeyed him. It
was a matter of seconds before she returned. Together they lifted and
carried the sleeping girl out of the room, across the landing, into a
larger apartment, the contents of which were wrapped in gloom and mystery.
A single electric light was burning on the top of a square mirror fixed
upon an easel. Towards this they carried the girl and laid her in an
easy-chair almost opposite to it.

"The battery is just on the left," Laura whispered.

Quest nodded.

"Give me the band."

She turned away for a moment and disappeared in the shadows. When she
returned, she carried a curved band of flexible steel. Quest took it from
her, attached it by means of a coil of wire to the battery, and with firm,
soft fingers slipped it on to Lenora's forehead. Then he stepped back. A
rare emotion quivered in his tone.

"She's a subject, Laura--I'm sure of it! Now for our great experiment!"

They watched Lenora intently. Her face twitched uneasily, but she did not
open her eyes and her breathing continued regular. Quest bent over her.

"Lenora," he said, slowly and firmly, "your mind is full of one subject.
You see your mistress in her chair by the fireside. She is toying with her
diamonds. Look again. She lies there dead! Who was it entered the room,
Lenora? Look! Look! Gaze into that mirror. What do you see there?"

The girl's eyes had opened. They were fixed now upon the
mirror--distended, full of unholy things. Quest wiped a drop of
perspiration from his forehead.

"Try harder, Lenora," he muttered, his own breath labouring. "It is there
in your brain! Look!"

Laura for the first time showed signs of emotion. She pointed towards the
mirror. Quest was suddenly silent. He seemed to have turned into a figure
of stone. For a single second the smooth surface of the mirror was
obscured. A room crept dimly like a picture into being, a fire upon the
hearth, a girl leaning back in her chair. A door in the background opened.
A man stole out. He crept nearer to the girl--his eyes fixed upon the
diamonds, a thin, silken cord twisted round his wrist. Suddenly she saw
him--too late! His hand was upon her lips,--his face seemed to start
almost from the mirror--then blackness!

       *       *       *       *       *

Lenora opened her eyes. She was still in the easy-chair before the fire.

"Mr. Quest!" she faltered.

He looked up from some letters which he had been studying.

"I am so sorry," he said politely. "I really had forgotten that you were
here. But you know--that you have been to sleep?"

She half rose to her feet. She was perplexed, uneasy.

"Asleep?" she murmured. "Have I? And I dreamed a horrible dream!... Have I
been ringing anyone up on the telephone?"

"Not that I know of," Quest assured her. "As a matter of fact, I was
called downstairs to see one of my men soon after we got here."

"Can I go now?" she asked.

"Certainly," Quest replied. "To tell you the truth, I find that I shall
not need to ask you those questions, after all. A messenger from the
police-station has been here. He says they have come to the conclusion
that a very well-known gang of New York criminals are in this thing. We
know how to track them down all right."

[Illustration: SANFORD QUEST IS CALLED UPON TO CLEAR THE MYSTERY OF THE
MURDER OF LORD ASHLEIGH'S DAUGHTER.]

[Illustration: UNDER THE HYPNOTIC INFLUENCE OF QUEST, LENORA REVEALS THE
STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE JEWELS, AND THE MURDER.]

"I may go now, then?" she repeated, with immense relief.

Quest escorted the girl downstairs, opened the front door, blew his
whistle and his car pulled up at the door.

"Take this young lady," he ordered, "wherever she wishes. Good night!"

The girl drove off. Quest watched the car disappear around the corner.
Then he turned slowly back and made preparations for his adventure....

"Number 700, New York," he muttered, half an hour later, as he left his
house. "Beyond Fourteenth Street--a tough neighbourhood."

He hesitated for a moment, feeling the articles in his overcoat pocket--a
revolver in one, a small piece of hard substance in the other. Then he
stepped into his car, which had just returned.

"Where did you leave the young lady?" he asked the chauffeur.

"In Broadway, sir. She left me and boarded a cross-town car."

Quest nodded approvingly.

"No finesse," he sighed.


5.

Sanford Quest was naturally a person unaffected by presentiments or
nervous fears of any sort, yet, having advanced a couple of yards along
the hallway of the house which he had just entered without difficulty, he
came to a standstill, oppressed with the sense of impending danger. With
his electric torch he carefully surveyed the dilapidated staircase in
front of him, the walls from which the paper hung down in
depressing-looking strips. The house was, to all appearances, uninhabited.
The door had yielded easily to his master-key. Yet this was the house
connected with Number 700, New York, the house to which Lenora had come.
Furthermore, from the street outside he had seen a light upon the first
floor, instantly extinguished as he had climbed the steps.

"Any one here?" he asked, raising his voice a little.

There was no direct response, yet from somewhere upstairs he heard the
half smothered cry of a woman. He gripped his revolver in his fingers. He
was a fatalist, and although for a moment he regretted having come
single-handed to such an obvious trap, he prepared for his task. He took a
quick step forward. The ground seemed to slip from beneath his feet. He
staggered wildly to recover himself, and failed. The floor had given from
beneath him. He was falling into blackness....

The fall itself was scarcely a dozen feet. He picked himself up, his
shoulder bruised, his head swimming a little. His electric torch was
broken to pieces upon the stone floor. He was simply in a black gulf of
darkness. Suddenly a gleam of light shone down. A trap-door above his head
was slid a few inches back. The flare of an electric torch shone upon his
face, a man's mocking voice addressed him.

"Not the great Sanford Quest? This surely cannot be the greatest detective
in the world walking so easily into the spider's web!"

"Any chance of getting out?" Quest asked laconically.

"None!" was the bitter reply. "You've done enough mischief. You're there
to rot!"

"Why this animus against me, my friend Macdougal?" Quest demanded. "You
and I have never come up against one another before. I didn't like the
life you led in New York ten years ago, or your friends, but you've
suffered nothing through me."

"If I let you go," once more came the man's voice, "I know very well in
what chair I shall be sitting before a month has passed. I am James
Macdougal, Mr. Sanford Quest, and I have got the Ashleigh diamonds, and I
have settled an old grudge, if not of my own, of one greater than you.
That's all. A pleasant night to you!"

The door went down with a bang. Faintly, as though, indeed, the footsteps
belonged to some other world, Sanford Quest heard the two leave the house.
Then silence.

"A perfect oubliette," he remarked to himself, as he held a match over his
head a moment or two later, "built for the purpose. It must be the house
we failed to find which Bill Taylor used to keep before he was shot.
Smooth brick walls, smooth brick floor, only exit twelve feet above one's
head. Human means, apparently, are useless. Science, you have been my
mistress all my days. You must save my life now or lose an earnest
disciple."

He felt in his overcoat pocket and drew out the small, hard pellet. He
gripped it in his fingers, stood as nearly as possible underneath the spot
from which he had been projected, coolly swung his arm back, and flung the
black pebble against the sliding door. The explosion which followed shook
the very ground under his feet. The walls cracked about him. Blue fire
seemed to be playing around the blackness. He jumped on one side, barely
in time to escape a shower of bricks. For minutes afterwards everything
around him seemed to rock. He struck another match. The whole of the roof
of the place was gone. By building a few bricks together, he was easily
able to climb high enough to swing himself on to the fragments of the
hallway. Even as he accomplished this, the door was thrown open and a
crowd of people rushed in. Sanford Quest emerged, dusty but unhurt, and
touched a constable on his arm.

"Arrest me," he ordered. "I am Sanford Quest. I must be taken at once to
headquarters."

"That so, Mr. Quest? Stand on one side, you loafers," the man ordered,
pushing his way out.

"We'll have a taxicab," Quest decided.

"Is there any one else in the house?" the policeman asked.

"Not a soul," Quest answered.

They found a cab without much difficulty. It was five o'clock when they
reached the central police-station. Inspector French happened to be just
going off duty. He recognized Quest with a little exclamation.

"Got your man to bring me here," Quest explained, "so as to get away from
the mob."

"Say, you've been in trouble!" the Inspector remarked, leading the way
into his room.

"Bit of an explosion, that's all," Quest replied. "I shall be all right
when you've lent me a clothes-brush."

"The Ashleigh diamonds, eh?" the Inspector asked eagerly.

"I shall have them at nine o'clock this morning," Sanford Quest promised,
"and hand you over the murderer somewhere around midnight."

The Inspector scratched his chin.

"From what I can hear about the young lady's friends," he said, "it's the
murderer they are most anxious to see nabbed."

"They'll have him," Quest promised. "Come round about half-past nine and
I'll hand over the diamonds to start with."

Quest slept for a couple of hours, had a bath and made a leisurely toilet.
At a quarter to nine he sat down to breakfast in his rooms.

"At nine o'clock," he told his servant, "a young lady will call. Bring her
up."

The door was suddenly opened. Lenora walked in. Quest glanced in surprise
at the clock.

"My fault!" he exclaimed. "We are slow. Good morning, Miss Lenora!"

She came straight to the table. The servant, at a sign from Quest,
disappeared. There were black rims around her eyes; she seemed exhausted.
She laid a little packet upon the table. Quest opened it coolly. The
Ashleigh diamonds flashed up at him. He led Lenora to a chair and rang the
bell.

"Prepare a bedroom upstairs," he ordered. "Ask Miss Roche to come here.
Laura," he added, as his secretary entered, "will you look after this
young lady? She is in a state of nervous exhaustion."

The girl nodded. She understood. She led Lenora from the room. Quest
resumed his breakfast. A few minutes later, Inspector French was
announced. Quest nodded in friendly manner.

"Some coffee, Inspector?"

"I'd rather have those diamonds!" the Inspector replied.

Quest threw them lightly across the table.

"Catch hold, then."

The Inspector whistled.

"Say, that's bright work," he acknowledged. "I believe I could have laid
my hands on the man, but it was the jewels that I was afraid of losing."

"Just so," Quest remarked. "And now, French, will you be here, please, at
midnight with three men, armed."

"Here?" the Inspector repeated.

Quest nodded.

"Our friend," he said, "is going to be mad enough to walk into hell, even,
when he finds out what he thinks has happened."

"It wasn't any of Jimmy's lot?" the Inspector asked.

Sanford Quest shook his head.

"French," he said, "keep mum, but it was the elderly family retainer,
Macdougal. I felt restless about him. He has lost the girl--he was married
to her, by-the-bye--and the jewels. No fear of his slipping away. I shall
have him here at the time I told you."

"You've a way of your own of doing these things, Mr. Quest," the Inspector
admitted grudgingly.

"Mostly luck," Quest replied. "Take a cigar, and so long, Inspector. They
want me to talk to Chicago on another little piece of business."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a few minutes before midnight when Quest parted the curtains of a
room on the ground floor of his house in Georgia Square, and looked out
into the snow-white street. Then he turned around and addressed the figure
lying as though asleep upon the sofa by the fire.

"Lenora," he said, "I am going out. Stay here, if you please, until I
return."

He left the room. For a few moments there was a profound silence. Then a
white face was pressed against the window. There was a crash of glass. A
man, covered with snow, sprang into the apartment. He moved swiftly to the
sofa, and something black and ugly swayed in his hand.

"So you've deceived me, have you?" he panted. "Handed over the jewels,
chucked me, and given me the double cross! Anything to say?"

A piece of coal fell on to the grate. Not a sound came from the sofa.
Macdougal leaned forward, his white face distorted with passion. The
life-preserver bent and quivered behind him, cut the air with a swish and
crashed full upon the head.

The man staggered back. The weapon fell from his fingers. For a moment he
was paralysed. There was no blood upon his hand, no cry--silence inhuman,
unnatural! He looked again. Then the lights flashed out all around him.
There were two detectives in the doorway, their revolvers covering
him,--Sanford Quest, with Lenora in the background. In the sudden
illumination, Macdougal's horror turned almost to hysterical rage. He had
wasted his fury upon a dummy! It was sawdust, not blood, which littered
the couch!

"Take him, men," Quest ordered. "Hands up, Macdougal. Your number's up.
Better take it quietly."

The handcuffs were upon him before he could move. He was trying to speak,
but the words somehow choked in his mouth.

"You can send a wireless to Lord Ashleigh," Quest continued, turning to
French. "Tell him that the diamonds have been recovered and that his
daughter's murderer is arrested."

"What about the young woman?" the Inspector asked.

Lenora stood in an attitude of despair, her head downcast. She had turned
a little away from Macdougal. Her hands were outstretched. It was as
though she were expecting the handcuffs.

"You can let her alone," Sanford Quest said quietly. "A wife cannot give
evidence against her husband, and besides, I need her. She is going to
work for me."

Macdougal was already at the door, between the two detectives. He swung
around. His voice was calm, almost clear--calm with the concentration of
hatred.

"You are a wonderful man, Mr. Sanford Quest," he said. "Make the most of
your triumph. Your time is nearly up."

"Keep him for a moment," Sanford Quest ordered. "You have friends, then,
Macdougal, who will avenge you, eh?"

"I have no friends," Macdougal replied, "but there is one coming whose wit
and cunning, science and skill are all-conquering. He will brush you away,
Sanford Quest, like a fly. Wait a few weeks."

"You interest me," Quest murmured. "Tell me some more about this great
master?"

"I shall tell you nothing," Macdougal replied. "You will hear nothing, you
will know nothing. Suddenly you will find yourself opposed. You will
struggle--and then the end. It is certain."

They led him away. Only Lenora remained, sobbing. Quest went up to her,
laid his hand upon her shoulder.

"You've had a rough time, Lenora," he said, with strange gentleness.
"Perhaps the brighter days are coming."

[Illustration: LORD ASHLEIGH ACCUSES LENORA OF BEING IMPLICATED IN THE
CRIME, BUT QUEST DECIDES TO THE CONTRARY.]

[Illustration: IAN MACDOUGAL IS GIVEN A LIFE SENTENCE FOR THE MURDER OF
THE DAUGHTER OF LORD ASHLEIGH.]



CHAPTER III

THE HIDDEN HANDS


1.

Sanford Quest and Lenora stood side by side upon the steps of the
Courthouse, waiting for the automobile which had become momentarily
entangled in a string of vehicles. A little crowd of people were elbowing
their way out on to the sidewalk. The faces of most of them were still
shadowed by the three hours of tense drama from which they had just
emerged. Quest, who had lit a cigar, watched them curiously.

"No need to go into Court," he remarked. "I could have told you, from the
look of these people, that Macdougal had escaped the death sentence. They
have paid their money--or rather their time, and they have been cheated of
the one supreme thrill."

"Imprisonment for life seems terrible enough," Lenora whispered,
shuddering.

"Can't see the sense of keeping such a man alive myself," Quest declared,
with purposeful brutality. "It was a cruel murder, fiendishly committed."

Lenora shivered. Quest laid his fingers for a moment upon her wrist. His
voice, though still firm, became almost kind.

"Never be afraid, Lenora," he said, "to admit the truth. Come, we have
finished with Macdougal now. Imprisonment for life will keep him from
crossing your path again."

Lenora sighed. She was almost ashamed of her feeling of immense relief.

"I am very sorry for him," she murmured. "I wish there were something one
could do."

"There is nothing," Quest replied shortly, "and if there were, you would
not be allowed to undertake it. You didn't happen to notice the way he
looked at you once or twice, did you?"

Once more the terror shone out of Lenora's eyes.

"You are right," she faltered. "I had forgotten."

They were on the point of crossing the pavement towards the automobile
when Quest felt a touch upon his shoulder. He turned and found Lord
Ashleigh standing by his side. Quest glanced towards Lenora.

"Run and get in the car," he whispered. "I will be there in a moment."

She dropped her veil and hastened across the pavement. The Englishman's
face grew sterner as he watched her.

"Macdougal's accomplice," he muttered. "We used to trust that girl, too."

"She had nothing whatever to do with the actual crime, believe me," Quest
assured him. "Besides, you must remember that it was really through her
that the man was brought to justice."

"I harbour no ill-feelings towards the girl," Lord Ashleigh replied.
"Nevertheless, the sight of her for a moment was disconcerting.... I would
not have stopped you just now, Mr. Quest, but my brother is very anxious
to renew his acquaintance with you. I think you met years ago."

Sanford Quest held out his hand to the man who had been standing a little
in the background. Lord Ashleigh turned towards him.

"This is Mr. Quest, Edgar. You may remember my brother--Professor
Ashleigh--as a man of science, Quest? He has just returned from South
America."

The two shook hands, curiously diverse in type, in expression, in all the
appurtenances of manhood. Quest was dark, with no sign of greyness in his
closely-trimmed black hair. His face was an epitome of forcefulness, his
lips hard, his eyes brilliant. He was dressed with the utmost care. His
manner was self-possessed almost to a fault. The Professor, on the other
hand, though his shoulders were broad, lost much of his height and
presence through a very pronounced stoop. His face was pale, his mouth
sensitive, his smile almost womanly in its sweetness. His clothes, and a
general air of abstraction, seemed rather to indicate the clerical
profession. His forehead, however, disclosed as he lifted his hat, was the
forehead of a scholar.

"I am very proud to make your acquaintance again, Professor," Quest said.
"Glad to know, too, that you hadn't quite forgotten me."

"My dear sir," the Professor declared, as he released the other's hand
with seeming reluctance, "I have thought about you many times. Your doings
have always been of interest to me. Though I have been lost to the world
of civilisation for so long, I have correspondents here in New York to
keep me in touch with all that is interesting. You have made a great name
for yourself, Mr. Quest. You are one of those who have made science your
handmaiden in a wonderful profession."

"You are very kind, Professor," Quest observed, flicking the ash from his
cigar.

"Not at all," the other insisted. "Not at all. I have the greatest
admiration for your methods."

"I am sorry," Quest remarked, "that our first meeting here should be under
such distressing circumstances."

The Professor nodded gravely. He glanced towards his brother, who was
talking to an acquaintance a few feet away.

"It has been a most melancholy occasion," he admitted, his voice shaking
with emotion. "Still, I felt it my duty to support my brother through the
trial. Apart from that, you know, Mr. Quest, a scene such as we have just
witnessed has a peculiar--I might almost say fascination for me," the
Professor continued, with a little glint in his eyes. "You, as a man of
science, can realise, I am sure, that the criminal side of human nature is
always of interest to an anthropologist."

"That must be so, of course," Quest agreed, glancing towards the
automobile in which Lenora was seated. "If you'll excuse me, Professor, I
think I must be getting along. We shall meet again, I trust."

"One moment," the Professor begged eagerly. "Tell me, Mr. Quest--I want
your honest opinion. What do you think of my ape?"

"Of your what?" Quest enquired dubiously.

"Of my anthropoid ape which I have just sent to the museum. You know my
claim? But perhaps you would prefer to postpone your final decision until
after you have examined the skeleton itself."

A light broke in upon the criminologist.

"Of course!" he exclaimed. "For the moment, Professor, I couldn't follow
you. You are talking about the skeleton of the ape which you brought home
from South America, and which you have presented to the museum here?"

"Naturally," the Professor assented, with mild surprise. "To what else? I
am stating my case, Mr. Quest, in the _North American Review_ next month.
I may tell you, however, as a fellow scientist, the great and absolute
truth. My claim is incontestable. My skeleton will prove to the world,
without a doubt, the absolute truth of Darwin's great theory."

"That so?"

"You must go and see it," the Professor insisted, keeping by Quest's side
as the latter moved towards the automobile. "You must go and see it, Mr.
Quest. It will be on view to the public next week, but in the meantime I
will telephone to the curator. You must mention my name. You shall be
permitted a special examination."

"Very kind of you," Quest murmured.

"We shall meet again soon, I hope," the Professor concluded cordially.
"Good morning, Mr. Quest!"

The two men shook hands, and Quest took his seat by Lenora's side in the
automobile. The Professor rejoined his brother.

"George," he exclaimed, as they walked off together, "I am disappointed in
Mr. Quest! I am very disappointed indeed. You will not believe what I am
going to tell you, but it is the truth. He could not conceal it from me.
He takes no interest whatever in my anthropoid ape."

"Neither do I," the other replied grimly.

The Professor sighed as he hailed a taxicab.

"You, my dear fellow," he said gravely, "are naturally not in the frame of
mind for the consideration of these great subjects. Besides, you have no
scientific tendencies. But in Sanford Quest I am disappointed. I expected
his enthusiasm--I may say that I counted upon it."

"I don't think that Quest has much of that quality to spare," his brother
remarked, "for anything outside his own criminal hunting."

They entered the taxicab and were driven almost in silence to the
Professor's home--a large, rambling old house, situated in somewhat
extensive but ill-kept grounds on the outskirts of New York. The
Englishman glanced around him, as they passed up the drive, with an
expression of disapproval.

"A more untidy-looking place than yours, Edgar, I never saw," he declared.
"Your grounds have become a jungle. Don't you keep any gardeners?"

The Professor smiled.

"I keep other things," he said serenely. "There is something in my garden
which would terrify your nice Scotch gardeners into fits, if they found
their way here to do a little tidying up. Come into the library and I'll
give you one of my choice cigars. Here's Craig waiting to let us in. Any
news, Craig?"

The man-servant in plain clothes who admitted them shook his head.

"Nothing has happened, sir," he replied. "The telephone is ringing in the
study now, though."

"I will answer it myself," the Professor declared, bustling off.

He hurried across the bare landing and into an apartment which seemed to
be half museum, half library. There were skeletons leaning in unexpected
corners, strange charts upon the walls, a wilderness of books and
pamphlets in all manner of unexpected places, mingled with quaintly-carved
curios, gods from West African temples, implements of savage warfare,
butterfly nets. It was a room which Lord Ashleigh was never able to enter
without a shudder.

The Professor took up the receiver from the telephone. His "Hello" was
mild and enquiring. He had no doubt that the call was from some admiring
disciple. The change in his face as he listened, however, was amazing. His
lips began to twitch. An expression of horrified dismay overspread his
features. His first reply was almost incoherent. He held the receiver away
from him and turned towards his brother.

"George," he gasped, "the greatest tragedy in the world has happened! My
ape is stolen!"

His brother looked at him blankly.

"Your ape is stolen?" he repeated.

"The skeleton of my anthropoid ape," the Professor continued, his voice
growing alike in sadness and firmness. "It is the curator of the museum
who is speaking. They have just opened the box. It has lain for two days
in an anteroom. It is empty!"

Lord Ashleigh muttered something a little vague. The theft of a skeleton
scarcely appeared to his unscientific mind to be a realisable thing. The
Professor turned back to the telephone.

"Mr. Francis," he said, "I cannot talk to you. I can say nothing. I shall
come to you at once. I am on the point of starting. Your news has
overwhelmed me."

He laid down the receiver. He looked around him like a man in a nightmare.

"The taxicab is still waiting, sir," Craig reminded him.

"That is most fortunate," the Professor pronounced. "I remember now that I
had no change with which to pay him. I must go back. Look after my
brother. And, Craig, telephone at once to Mr. Sanford Quest. Ask him to
meet me at the museum in twenty minutes. Tell him that nothing must stand
in the way. Do you hear?"

The man hesitated. There was protest in his face.

"Mr. Sanford Quest, sir?" he muttered, as he followed his master down the
hall.

"The great criminologist," the Professor explained eagerly. "Certainly!
Why do you hesitate?"

"I was wondering, sir," Craig began.

The Professor waved his servant on one side.

"Do as you are told," he ordered. "Do as you are told, Craig. You
others--you do not realise. You cannot understand what this means. Tell
the taxi man to drive to the museum. I am overcome."

The taxicab man drove off, glad enough to have a return fare. In about
half-an-hour's time the Professor strode up the steps of the museum and
hurried into the office. There was a little crowd of officials there whom
the curator at once dismissed. He rose slowly to his feet. His manner was
grave but bewildered.

"Professor," he said, "we will waste no time in words. Look here."

He threw open the door of an anteroom behind his office. The apartment was
unfurnished except for one or two chairs. In the middle of the uncarpeted
floor was a long wooden box from which the lid had just been pried.

"Yesterday, as you know from my note," the curator proceeded, "I was away.
I gave orders that your case should be placed here and I myself should
enjoy the distinction of opening it. An hour ago I commenced the task.
That is what I found."

The Professor gazed blankly at the empty box.

"Nothing left except the smell," a voice from the open doorway remarked.

They glanced around. Quest was standing there, and behind him Lenora. The
Professor welcomed them eagerly.

"This is Mr. Quest, the great criminologist," he explained to the curator.
"Come in, Mr. Quest. Let me introduce you to Mr. Francis, the curator of
the museum. Ask him what questions you will. Mr. Quest, you have the
opportunity of earning the undying gratitude of a brother scientist. If my
skeleton cannot be recovered, the work of years is undone."

Quest strolled thoughtfully around the room, glancing out of each of the
windows in turn. He kept close to the wall, and when he had finished he
drew out a magnifying-glass from his pocket and made a brief examination
of the box. Then he asked a few questions of the curator, pointed out one
of the windows to Lenora and whispered a few directions to her. She at
once produced what seemed to be a foot-rule from the bag which she was
carrying, and hurried into the garden.

"A little invention of my own for measuring foot-prints," Quest explained.
"Not much use here, I am afraid."

"What do you think of the affair so far, Mr. Quest?" the Professor asked
eagerly.

The criminologist shook his head.

"Incomprehensible," he confessed. "Can you think, by-the-bye, of any other
motive for the theft besides scientific jealousy?"

"There could be no other," the Professor declared sadly, "and it is, alas!
too prevalent. I have had to suffer from it all my life."

Quest stood over the box for a moment or two and looked once more out of
the window. Presently Lenora returned. She carried in her hand a small
object, which she brought silently to Quest. He glanced at it in
perplexity. The Professor peered over his shoulder.

"It is the little finger!" he cried,--"the little finger of my ape!"

Quest held it away from him critically.

"From which hand?" he asked.

"The right hand."

Quest examined the fastenings of the window before which he had paused
during his previous examination. He turned away with a shrug of the
shoulders.

"See you later, Mr. Ashleigh," he concluded laconically. "Nothing more to
be done at present."

The Professor followed him to the door.

"Mr. Quest," he said, his voice broken with emotion, "it is the work of my
lifetime of which I am being robbed. You will use your best efforts, you
will spare no expense? I am rich. Your fee you shall name yourself."

"I shall do my best," Quest promised, "to find the skeleton. Come, Lenora.
Good morning, gentlemen!"

       *       *       *       *       *

With his new assistant, Quest walked slowly from the museum and turned
towards his home.

"Make anything of this, Lenora?" he asked her.

She smiled.

"Of course not," she answered. "It looks as though the skeleton had been
taken away through that window."

Quest nodded.

"Marvellous!" he murmured.

"You are making fun of me," she protested.

"Not I! But you see, my young friend, the point is this. Who in their
senses would want to steal an anthropoid skeleton except a scientific man,
and if a scientific man stole it out of sheer jealousy, why in thunder
couldn't he be content with just mutilating it, which would have destroyed
its value just as well--What's that?"

He stopped short. A newsboy thrust the paper at them. Quest glanced at the
headlines. Lenora clutched at his arm. Together they read in great black
type--

      ESCAPE OF CONVICTED PRISONER!

    MACDOUGAL, ON HIS WAY TO PRISON,
      GRAPPLES WITH SHERIFF AND JUMPS
        FROM TRAIN! STILL AT LARGE
          THOUGH SEARCHED FOR BY
            POSSE OF POLICE


2.

The windows of Mrs. Rheinholdt's town house were ablaze with light. A
crimson drugget stretched down the steps to the curbstone. A long row of
automobiles stood waiting. Through the wide-flung doors was visible a
pleasant impression of flowers and light and luxury. In the nearer of the
two large reception rooms Mrs. Rheinholdt herself, a woman dark, handsome,
and in the prime of life, was standing receiving her guests. By her side
was her son, whose twenty-first birthday was being celebrated.

"I wonder whether that professor of yours will come," she remarked, as the
stream of incoming guests slackened for a moment. "I'd love to have him
here, if it were only for a moment. Every one's talking about him and his
work in South America."

"He hates receptions," the boy replied, "but he promised he'd come. I
never thought, when he used to drill science into us at the lectures, that
he was going to be such a tremendous big pot."

Mrs. Rheinholdt's plump fingers toyed for a moment complacently with the
diamonds which hung from her neck.

"You can never tell, in a world like this," she murmured. "That's why I
make a point of being civil to everybody. Your laundry woman may become a
multimillionaire, or your singing master a Caruso, and then, just while
their month's on, every one is crazy to meet them. It's the Professor's
month just now."

"Here he is, mother!" the young man exclaimed suddenly. "Good old boy! I
thought he'd keep his word."

Mrs. Rheinholdt assumed her most encouraging and condescending smile as
she held out both hands to the Professor. He came towards her, stooping a
little more than usual. His mouth had drooped a little and there were
signs of fatigue in his face. Nevertheless, his answering smile was as
delightful as ever.

"This is perfectly sweet of you, Professor," Mrs. Rheinholdt declared. "We
scarcely ventured to hope that you would break through your rule, but
Philip was so looking forward to have you come. You were his favourite
master at lectures, you know, and now--well, of course, you have the
scientific world at your feet. Later on in the evening, Professor," she
added, watching some very important newcomers, "you will tell me all about
your anthropoid ape, won't you? Philip, look after Mr. Ashleigh. Don't let
him go far away."

Mrs. Rheinholdt breathed a sigh of relief as she greeted her new arrivals.

"Professor Ashleigh, brother of Lord Ashleigh, you know," she explained.
"This is the first house he has been to since his return from South
America. You've heard all about those wonderful discoveries, of
course...."

The Professor made himself universally agreeable in a mild way, and his
presence created even more than the sensation which Mrs. Rheinholdt had
hoped for. In her desire to show him ample honour, she seldom left his
side.

"I am going to take you into my husband's study," she suggested, later on
in the evening. "He has some specimens of beetles--"

"Beetles," the Professor declared, with some excitement, "occupied
precisely two months of my time while abroad. By all means, Mrs.
Rheinholdt!"

"We shall have to go quite to the back of the house," she explained, as
she led him along the darkened passage.

The Professor smiled acquiescently. His eyes rested for a moment upon her
necklace.

"You must really permit me, Mrs. Rheinholdt," he exclaimed, "to admire
your wonderful stones! I am a judge of diamonds, and those three or four
in the centre are, I should imagine, unique."

She held them out to him. The Professor laid the end of the necklace
gently in the palm of his hand and examined them through a horn-rimmed
eyeglass.

"They are wonderful," he murmured,--"wonderful! Why--"

He turned away a little abruptly. They had reached the back of the house
and a door from the outside had just been opened. A man had crossed the
threshold with a coat over his arm, and was standing now looking at them.

"How extraordinary!" the Professor remarked. "Is that you, Craig?"

For a moment there was no answer. The servant was standing in the gloom of
an unlit portion of the passage. His eyes were fixed curiously upon the
diamonds which the Professor had just been examining. He seemed paler,
even, than usual.

"Yes, sir!" he replied. "There is a rain storm, so I ventured to bring
your mackintosh."

"Very thoughtful," the Professor murmured approvingly. "I have a
weakness," he went on, turning to his hostess, "for always walking home
after an evening like this. In the daytime I am content to ride. At night
I have the fancy always to walk."

"We don't walk half enough." Mrs. Rheinholdt sighed, glancing down at her
somewhat portly figure. "Dixon," she added, turning to the footman who had
admitted Craig, "take Professor Ashleigh's servant into the kitchen and
see that he has something before he leaves for home. Now, Professor, if
you will come this way."

They reached a little room in the far corner of the house. Mrs. Rheinholdt
apologised as she switched on the electric lights.

"It is a queer little place to bring you to," she said, "but my husband
used to spend many hours here, and he would never allow anything to be
moved. You see, the specimens are in these cases."

The Professor nodded. His general attitude towards the forthcoming
exhibition was merely one of politeness. As the first case was opened,
however, his manner completely changed. Without taking the slightest
further notice of his hostess, he adjusted a pair of horn-rimmed
spectacles and commenced to mumble eagerly to himself. Mrs. Rheinholdt,
who did not understand a word, strolled around the apartment, yawned, and
finally interrupted a little stream of eulogies, not a word of which she
understood, concerning a green beetle with yellow spots.

"I am so glad you are interested, Professor," she said. "If you don't
mind, I will rejoin my guests. You will find a shorter way back if you
keep along the passage straight ahead and come through the conservatory."

"Certainly! With pleasure!" the Professor agreed, without glancing up.

His hostess sighed as she turned to leave the room. She left the door
ajar. The Professor's face was almost touching the glass case in which
reposed the green beetle with yellow spots.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Rheinholdt's reception, notwithstanding the temporary absence of its
presiding spirit, was without doubt an unqualified success. In one of the
distant rooms the younger people were dancing. There were bridge tables,
all of which were occupied, and for those who preferred the more
old-fashioned pastime of conversation amongst luxurious surroundings,
there was still ample space and opportunity. Philip Rheinholdt, with a
pretty young débutante upon his arm, came out from the dancing room and
looked around amongst the little knots of people.

"I wonder where mother is," he remarked.

"Looking after some guests somewhere, for certain," the girl replied.
"Your mother is so wonderful at entertaining, Philip."

"It's the hobby of her life," he declared. "Never so happy as when she can
get hold of somebody every one's talking about, and show him off. Can't
think what she's done with herself now, though. She told me--"

The young man broke off in the middle of his sentence. He, too, like many
others in the room, felt a sudden thrill almost of horror at the sound
which rang without warning upon their ears--a woman's cry, a cry of fear
and horror, repeated again and again. There was a little rush towards the
curtained space which led into the conservatories. Before even, however,
the quickest could reach the spot, the curtains were thrown back and Mrs.
Rheinholdt, her hands clasping her neck, her splendid composure a thing of
the past, a panic-stricken, terrified woman, stumbled into the room. She
seemed on the point of collapse. Somehow or other, they got her into an
easy-chair.

"My jewels!" she cried. "My diamonds!"

"What do you mean, mother?" Philip Rheinholdt asked quickly. "Have you
lost them?"

"Stolen!" Mrs. Rheinholdt shrieked. "Stolen there in the conservatory!"

They gazed at her open-mouthed, incredulous. Then a still, quiet voice
from the outside of the little circle intervened.

"Instruct your servants, Mr. Rheinholdt, to lock and bar all the doors of
the house," the Professor suggested. "No one must leave it until we have
heard your mother's story."

The young man obeyed almost mechanically. There was a general exodus of
servants from the room. Some one had brought Mrs. Rheinholdt a glass of
champagne. She sipped it and gradually recovered her voice.

"I had just taken the Professor into the little room my husband used to
call the museum," she explained, her voice still shaking with agitation.
"I left him there to examine some specimens of beetles. I thought that I
would come back through the conservatory, which is the quickest way. I was
about half-way across it when suddenly I heard the switch go behind me and
all the electric lights were turned out. I couldn't imagine what had
happened. While I hesitated, I saw--I saw--"

She broke down again. There was no doubt about the genuineness of her
terror. She seemed somehow to have shrunken into the semblance of a
smaller woman. The pupils of her eyes were distended, she was white almost
to the lips. When she recommenced her story, her voice was fainter.

"I saw a pair of hands--just hands--no arms--nothing but hands--come out
of the darkness! They gripped me by the throat. I suppose it was just for
a second. I think--I lost consciousness for a moment, although I was still
standing up. The next thing I remember is that I found myself shrieking
and running here--and the jewels had gone!"

"You saw no one?" her son asked incredulously. "You heard nothing?"

"I heard no footsteps. I saw no one," Mrs. Rheinholdt repeated.

The Professor turned away.

"If you will allow me," he begged, "I am going to telephone to my friend
Mr. Sanford Quest, the criminologist. An affair so unusual as this might
attract him. You will excuse me."

The Professor hurried from the room. They brought Mrs. Rheinholdt more
champagne and she gradually struggled back to something like her normal
self. The dancing had stopped. Every one was standing about in little
groups, discussing the affair. The men had trooped towards the
conservatory, but the Professor met them on the portals.

[Illustration: "CONFESS THY SINS, MY GOOD MAN."]

[Illustration: THE BLACK BOX IS INTRODUCED INTO THE STORY.]

"I suggest," he said courteously, "that we leave the conservatory exactly
as it is until the arrival of Mr. Sanford Quest. It will doubtless aid him
in his investigations if nothing is disturbed. All the remaining doors are
locked, so that no one can escape if by any chance they should be hiding."

They all agreed without dissent, and there was a general movement towards
the buffet to pass the time until the coming of Mr. Sanford Quest. The
Professor met the great criminologist and his assistant in the hall upon
their arrival. He took the former at once by the arm.

"Mr. Quest," he began, "in a sense I must apologise for my peremptory
message. I am well aware that an ordinary jewel robbery does not interest
you, but in this case the circumstances are extraordinary. I ventured,
therefore, to summon your aid."

Sanford Quest nodded shortly.

"As a rule," he said, "I do not care to take up one affair until I have a
clean slate. There's your skeleton still bothering me, Professor. However,
where's the lady who was robbed?"

"I will take you to her," the Professor replied. Mrs. Rheinholdt's story,
by frequent repetition, had become a little more coherent, a trifle more
circumstantial, the perfection of simplicity and utterly incomprehensible.
Quest listened to it without remark and finally made his way to the
conservatory. He requested Mrs. Rheinholdt to walk with him through the
door by which she had entered, and stop at the precise spot where the
assault had been made upon her. There were one or two plants knocked down
from the tiers on the right-hand side, and some disturbance in the mould
where some large palms were growing. Quest and Lenora together made a
close investigation of the spot. Afterwards, Quest walked several times to
each of the doors leading into the gardens.

"There are four entrances altogether," he remarked, as he lit a cigar and
glanced around the place. "Two lead into the gardens--one is locked and
the other isn't--one connects with the back of the house--the one through
which you came, Mrs. Rheinholdt, and the other leads into your reception
room, into which you passed after the assault. I shall now be glad if you
will permit me to examine the gardens outside for a few minutes, alone
with my assistant, if you please."

For almost a quarter of an hour, Quest and Lenora disappeared. They all
looked eagerly at the criminologist on his return, but his face was
sphinxlike. He turned to Mrs. Rheinholdt, who with her son, the butler,
and the Professor were the only occupants of the conservatory.

"It seems to me," he remarked, "that from the back part of the house the
quickest way to reach Mayton Avenue would be through this conservatory and
out of that door. There is a path leading from just outside straight to a
gate in the wall. Does any one that you know of use this means of exit?"

Mrs. Rheinholdt shook her head.

"The servants might occasionally," she remarked doubtfully, "but not on
nights when I am receiving."

The butler stepped forward. He was looking a little grave.

"I ought, perhaps, to inform you, madam, and Mr. Quest," he said, "that I
did, only a short time ago, suggest to the Professor's servant--the man
who brought your mackintosh, sir," he added, turning to the
Professor--"that he could, if he chose, make use of this means of leaving
the house. Mr. Craig is a personal friend of mine, and a member of a very
select little club we have for social purposes."

"Did he follow your suggestion?" Sanford Quest asked.

"Of that I am not aware, sir," the butler replied. "I left Mr. Craig with
some refreshment, expecting that he would remain until my return, but a
few minutes later I discovered that he had left. I will enquire in the
kitchen if anything is known as to his movements."

He hurried off. Quest turned to the Professor.

"Has he been with you long, this man Craig, Professor?" he asked.

The Professor's smile was illuminating, his manner simple but convincing.

"Craig," he asserted, "is the best servant, the most honest mortal who
ever breathed. He would go any distance out of his way to avoid harming a
fly. I cannot even trust him to procure for me the simplest specimens of
insect or animal life. Apart from this, he is a man of some property which
he has no idea what to do with. He is, I think I may say, too devoted to
me to dream of ever leaving my service."

"You think it would be out of the question, then," Quest asked, "to
associate him with the crime?"

The Professor's confidence was sublime.

"I could more readily associate you, myself, or young Mr. Rheinholdt here
with the affair," he declared.

His words carried weight. The little breath of suspicion against the
Professor's servant faded away. In a moment or two the butler returned.

"It appears, madam," he announced, "that Mr. Craig left when there was
only one person in the kitchen. He said good-night and closed the door
behind him. It is impossible to say, therefore, by which exit he left the
house, but personally I am convinced that, knowing of the reception here
to-night, he would not think of using the conservatory."

"Most unlikely, I should say," the Professor murmured. "Craig is a very
shy man. He is at all times at your disposal, Mr. Quest, if you should
desire to question him."

Quest nodded absently.

"My assistant and I," he announced, "would be glad to make a further
examination of the conservatory, if you will kindly leave us alone."

They obeyed without demur. Quest took a seat and smoked calmly, with his
eyes fixed upon the roof. Lenora went back to her examination of the
overturned plants, the mould, and the whole ground within the immediate
environs of the assault. She abandoned the search at last, however, and
came back to Quest's side. He threw away his cigar and rose.

"Nothing there?" he asked laconically.

"Not a thing," Lenora admitted.

Quest led the way towards the door.

"Lenora," he decided, "we are up against something big. There's a new hand
at work somewhere."

"No theories yet, Mr. Quest?" she asked, smiling.

"Not the ghost of one," he admitted gloomily.

       *       *       *       *       *

Along the rain-swept causeway of Mayton Avenue, keeping close to the
shelter of the houses, his mackintosh turned up to his ears, his hands
buried in his pockets, a man walked swiftly along. At every block he
hesitated and looked around him. His manner was cautious, almost furtive.
Once the glare of an electric light fell upon his face, a face pallid with
fear, almost hopeless with despair. He walked quickly, yet he seemed to
have little idea as to his direction. Suddenly he paused. He was passing a
great building, brilliantly lit. For a moment he thought that it was some
place of entertainment. The thought of entering seemed to occur to him.
Then he felt a firm touch upon his arm, a man in uniform spoke to him.

"Step inside, brother," he invited earnestly, almost eagerly,
notwithstanding his monotonous nasal twang. "Step inside and find peace.
Step inside and the Lord will help you. Throw your burden away on the
threshold."

The man's first impulse at being addressed had seemed to be one of terror.
Then he recognised the uniform and hesitated. The light which streamed out
from the building seemed warm and pleasant. The rain was coming down in
sheets. They were singing a hymn, unmusical, unaccompanied, yet something
in the unison of those human voices, one quality--the quality of
earnestness, of faith--seemed to make an irresistible appeal to the
terrified wanderer. Slowly he moved towards the steps. The man took him by
the arm and led him in. There were the best part of a hundred people
taking their places after the singing of the hymn. A girl was standing up
before them on a platform. She was commencing to speak but suddenly broke
off. She held out her arms towards where the Professor's confidential
servant stood hesitating.

"Come and tell us your sins," she called out. "Come and have them
forgiven. Come and start a new life in a new world. There is no one here
who thinks of the past. Come and seek forgiveness."

For a moment this waif from the rain-swamped world hesitated. The light of
an infinite desire flashed in his eyes. Then he dropped his head. These
things might be for others. For him there was no hope. He shook his head
to the girl but sank into the nearest seat and on to his knees.

"He repents!" the girl called out. "Some day he will come! Brothers and
sisters, we will pray for him."

The rain dashed against the windows. The only other sound from outside was
the clanging of the street cars. The girl's voice, frenzied, exhorting,
almost hysterical, pealed out to the roof. At every pause, the little
gathering of men and women groaned in sympathy. The man's frame was shaken
with sobs.



CHAPTER IV

THE POCKET WIRELESS


1.

Mr. Sanford Quest sat in his favourite easy-chair, his cigar inclined
towards the left hand corner of his mouth, his attention riveted upon a
small instrument which he was supporting upon his knee. So far as his
immobile features were capable of expression, they betrayed now, in the
slight parting of his lips and the added brightness of his eyes, symptoms
of a lively satisfaction. He glanced across the room to where Lenora was
bending over her desk.

"We've done it this time, young woman," he declared triumphantly. "It's
all O.K., working like a little peach."

Lenora rose and came towards him. She glanced at the instrument which
Quest was fitting into a small leather case.

"Is that the pocket wireless?"

He nodded.

"I've had Morrison out at Harlem all the morning to test it," he told her.
"I've sent him at least half-a-dozen messages from this easy-chair, and
got the replies. How are you getting on with the code?"

"Not so badly for a stupid person," Lenora replied. "I'm not nearly so
quick as Laura, of course, but I could make a message out if I took time
over it."

Laura, who had been busy with some papers at the further end of the room,
came over and joined them.

"Say, it's a dandy little affair, that, Mr. Quest," she exclaimed. "I had
a try with it, a day or so ago. Jim spoke to me from Fifth Avenue."

"We've got it tuned to a shade now," Quest declared. "Equipped with this
simple little device, you can speak to me from anywhere up to ten or a
dozen miles. What are you working on this morning, Laura?"

"Same old stunt," the girl replied. "I have been reading up the records of
the savants of New York. From what I can make out about them, it doesn't
seem to me that there's one amongst the whole bunch likely to have pluck
enough to tamper with the Professor's skeleton."

Quest frowned a little gloomily. He rose to his feet and moved restlessly
about the room.

"Say, girls," he confessed, "this is the first time in my life I have been
in a fix like this. Two cases on hand and nothing doing with either of
them. Criminologist, indeed! I guess I'd better go over to England and
take a job at Scotland Yard. That's about what I'm fit for. Whose box is
this?"

Quest had paused suddenly in front of an oak sideboard which stood against
the wall. Occupying a position upon it of some prominence was a small
black box, whose presence there seemed to him unfamiliar. Laura came over
to his side and looked at it also in puzzled fashion.

"Never saw it before in my life," she answered. "Say, kid, is this yours?"
she added, turning to Lenora.

Lenora shook her head. She, too, examined it a little wonderingly.

"It wasn't there a short time ago. I brought a duster and went over the
sideboard myself."

Quest grunted.

"H'm! No one else has been in the room, and it hasn't been empty for more
than ten minutes," he remarked. "Well, let's see what's inside, any way."

"Just be careful, Mr. Quest," Laura advised. "I don't get that box at
all."

Quest pushed it with his forefinger.

"No bomb inside, any way," he remarked. "Here goes!"

He lifted off the lid. There was nothing in the interior but a sheet of
paper folded up. Quest smoothed it out with his hand. They all leaned over
and read the following words, written in an obviously disguised hand:

    "You have embarked on a new study--anthropology. What
    characteristic strikes you most forcibly in connection with it?
    Cunning? The necklace might be where the skeleton is. Why not
    begin at the beginning?"

The note was unsigned, but in the spot where a signature might have been
there was a rough pen drawing of two hands, with fingers extended, talon
fashion, menacingly, as though poised to strike at some unseen enemy.
Quest, after their first moment of stupefaction, whistled softly.

"The hands!" he muttered.

"What hands?" Lenora asked.

"The hands that gripped Mrs. Rheinholdt by the throat," he reminded them.
"Don't you remember? Hands without any arms?"

There was another brief, almost stupefied silence. Then Laura broke into
speech.

"What I want to know is," she demanded, "who brought the thing here?"

"A most daring exploit, any way," Quest declared. "If we could answer your
question, Laura, we could solve the whole riddle. We are up against
something, and no mistake."

Lenora shivered a little. The mystery of the thing terrified her, the
mystery which only stimulated her two companions.

"The hand which placed that box here," Quest continued slowly, "is capable
of even more wonderful things. We must be cautious. Hello!"

The door had opened. The Professor stood upon the threshold. He carried
his soft felt hat in his hand. He bowed to the two young women
courteously.

"I trust that I have done right in coming up?" he enquired.

"Quite right, Professor," Quest assured him. "They know well enough
downstairs that I am always at liberty to you. Come in."

"I am so anxious to learn," the Professor continued eagerly, "whether
there is any news--of my skeleton."

"Not yet, Professor, I am sorry to say," Quest replied. "Come in and shut
the door."

The Professor was obviously struggling with his disappointment. He did
not, however, at once close the door.

"There is a young lady here," he said, "who caught me up upon the landing.
She, too, I believe, wishes to see you. My manners suffered, I fear, from
my eagerness to hear from your own lips if there was anything fresh. I
should have allowed her to precede me."

He threw open the door and stood on one side. A young woman came a little
hesitatingly into the room. Her hair was plainly brushed back, and she
wore the severe dress of the Salvation Army. Nothing, however, could
conceal the fact that she was a remarkably sweet and attractive-looking
young person.

"Want to see me, young lady?" Quest asked.

She held out a book.

"My name is Miss Quigg," she said. "I want to ask you for a subscription
to our funds."

Quest frowned a little.

"I don't care about this house-to-house visitation," he remarked.

"It is only once a year that we come," the girl pleaded, "and we only go
to people who we know can afford to help us, and who we believe can
appreciate our work. You know so much of the darker side of New York, Mr.
Quest. Wherever you go you must find signs of our labours. Even if I put
on one side, for a moment, the bare religious question, think how much we
do for the good and the welfare of the poor people."

Quest nodded.

"That's all right," he admitted. "You reach the outcasts all right.
There's many a one you save whom you had better leave to die, but here and
there, no doubt, you set one of them on their legs again who's had bad
luck. Very well, Miss Quigg. You shall have a donation. I am busy to-day,
but call at the same hour to-morrow and my secretary here shall have a
cheque ready for you."

The girl smiled her gratitude.

"You are very kind indeed, Mr. Quest," she said simply. "I will be here."

The Professor laid his hand upon her arm as she passed. He had been
watching her with curious intentness.

"Young lady," he observed, "you seem very much in earnest about your
work."

"It is only the people in earnest, sir," she answered, "who can do any
good in the world. My work is worth being in earnest about."

"Will you forgive an old man's question?" the Professor continued. "I am
one of the men of the world who are in earnest. My life is dedicated to
science. Science is at once my religion and my life. It seems to me that
you and I have something in common. You, too, move in the unusual ways.
Your life is dedicated to doing good amongst the unworthy of your sex.
Whether my brain approves of your efforts or not, you compel my
admiration--my most respectful admiration. May I, too, be permitted?"

He drew out a pocket-book and passed over towards her a little wad of
notes. She took them without a moment's hesitation. Her eyes, as she
thanked him, were filled with gratitude.

"It is so kind of you," she murmured. "We never have any hesitation in
accepting money. May I know your name?"

"It is not necessary," the Professor answered. "You can enter me," he
added, as he held open the door for her, "as a friend--or would you prefer
a pseudonym?"

"A pseudonym, if you please," she begged. "We have so many who send us
sums of money as friends. Anything will do."

The Professor glanced around the room.

"What pseudonym shall I adopt?" he ruminated. "Shall I say that an oak
sideboard gives you five hundred dollars? Or a Chippendale sofa? Or," he
added, his eyes resting for a moment upon the little box, "a black box?"

The two girls from the other side of the table started. Even Quest swung
suddenly around. The Professor, as though pleased with his fancy, nodded
as his fingers played with the lid.

"Yes, that will do very nicely," he decided. "Put me down--'Black Box,'
five hundred dollars."

The girl took out her book and began to write. The Professor, with a
little farewell bow, crossed the room towards Quest. Lenora moved towards
the door.

"Let me see you out," she said to the girl pleasantly. "Don't you find
this collecting sometimes very hard work?"

"Days like to-day," the girl replied, "atone for everything. When I think
of the good that five hundred dollars will do, I feel perfectly happy."

Lenora opened the door. Both girls started. Only a few feet away Craig was
standing, his head a little thrust forward. For a moment the quiet
self-respect of his manner seemed to have deserted him. He seemed at a
loss for words.

"What do you want?" Lenora demanded.

Craig hesitated. His eyes were fixed upon the Salvation Army girl. The
changes in his face were remarkable. She, however, beyond smiling
pleasantly at him, gave no sign of any recognition.

"I was waiting for my master," Craig explained.

"Why not downstairs?" Lenora asked suspiciously. "You did not come up with
him."

"I am driving the Professor in his automobile," Craig explained. "It
occurred to me that if he were going to be long here, I should have time
to go and order another tire. It is of no consequence, though. I will go
down and wait in the car."

Lenora stood at the top of the stairs and watched him disappear. Then she
went thoughtfully back to her work. The Professor and Quest were talking
at the farther end of the room.

"I was in hopes, in great hopes," the Professor admitted, "that you might
have heard something. I promised to call at Mrs. Rheinholdt's this
afternoon."

Quest shook his head.

"There is nothing to report at present, Mr. Ashleigh," he announced.

"Dear me," the Professor murmured, "this is very disappointing. Is there
no clue, Mr. Quest--no clue at all?"

"Not the ghost of one," Quest acknowledged. "I am as far from solving the
mystery of the disappearance of your skeleton and Mrs. Rheinholdt's
necklace, as I have ever been."

The Professor failed entirely to conceal his disappointment. His tone, in
fact, was almost peevish.

"I should have expected this from the regular officials of the law, Mr.
Quest," he admitted, "but I must say that in your hands I had hoped--but
there, there! Excuse me! I am an old man, Mr. Quest. I am getting a little
irritable. Disappointments affect me quickly. I must be patient. I will be
patient."

"There are certain evidences," Quest remarked, with his eyes upon the
black box, "which seem to point to a new arrival in the criminal world of
New York. More than that I cannot tell you. I will simply ask you to
believe that I am doing my best."

"And with that, Mr. Quest, I will be content," the Professor promised. "I
will now pay my promised call upon Mrs. Rheinholdt. I shall convey to her
your assurance that everything that is possible is being done. Good
morning, young ladies," he concluded. "Good morning, Mr. Quest."

He took a courteous leave of them all and departed. Lenora crossed the
room to where Quest was seated at the table.

"Mr. Quest," she asked, "do you believe in inspiration?"

"I attribute a large amount of my success," Quest replied, "to my profound
belief in it."

"Then let me tell you," Lenora continued, "that I have one and a very
strong one. Do you know that when I went to the door a few minutes ago,
the Professor's servant, Craig, was there, listening?"

"Craig?" Quest repeated. "Let me see, that was the man who was at the
Rheinholdts' house the night of the robbery, and who might have left
through the conservatory."

"He did leave by it," Lenora declared. "He is in a state of panic at the
present moment. What else do you suppose he was out there listening for?"

"The Professor speaks very highly of him," Quest reminded her.

"The Professor is just one of those amiable old idiots, absorbed in his
mouldy old work, who would never notice anything," Lenora persisted. "He
is just the man to be completely hoodwinked by a clever servant."

"There is some sense in what the kid says," Laura remarked, strolling up.
"The fact remains that Craig was one of the few men who could have got at
the necklace that night, and he is also one of the few who knew about the
skeleton."

Quest sighed as he lit a cigar.

"It is a miserably obvious solution," he said. "To tell you the truth,
girls, our friend Inspector French has had his men watching Craig ever
since the night of the robbery. What's that? Answer the telephone,
Lenora."

Lenora obeyed.

"It's Inspector French," she announced. "He wants to speak to you."

Quest nodded, and held out his hand for the receiver.

"Hullo, French," he exclaimed. "Anything fresh?"

"Nothing much!" was the answer. "One of my men, though, who has been up
Mayton Avenue way, brought in something I found rather interesting this
morning. I want you to come round and see it."

"Go right ahead and tell me about it," Quest invited.

"You know we've been shadowing Craig," the Inspector continued. "Not much
luck up till now. Fellow seems never to leave his master's side. We have
had a couple of men up there, though, and one of them brought in a
curious-looking object he picked up just outside the back of the
Professor's grounds. It's an untidy sort of neighbourhood, you know--kind
of waste ground they commenced to build over, and then the real estate man
who had it in hand, went smash."

"What is the thing?" Quest asked.

"Well, I want to see whether you agree with me," French went on. "If you
can't come round, I'll come to you."

"No necessity," Quest replied. "We've got over little difficulties of that
sort. Laura, just tack on the phototelesme," he added, holding the
receiver away for a moment. "One moment, French. There, that's right," he
added, as Laura, with deft fingers, arranged what seemed to be a
sensitised mirror to the instrument. "Now, French, hold up the article
just in front of the receiver."

French's reply was a little brusque.

"What are you getting at, Quest?" he demanded. "You are not going to
pretend that you can see from your room into this, are you?"

"If you'll hold the object where I told you," Quest replied, "I can see
it. I promise you that. There, that's right. Hold it steady. I've got the
focus of it now. Say, French, where did you say that was found?"

"Just outside the Professor's back gates," French grunted, "but you're not
kidding me--"

"It's a finger from the Professor's skeleton you've got there," Quest
interrupted.

"How the blazes did you guess that?" the Inspector demanded.

"I'm not kidding," Quest assured him. "I've got a phototelesme at work
here. I've seen the bone all right. French, this is interesting. I must
think it over."

Quest hung up the receiver and rang off. Then he turned towards his two
assistants.

"Another finger from the Professor's skeleton," he announced, "has been
found just outside his grounds. What do you suppose that means?"

"Craig," Lenora declared confidently.

"Craig on your life," Laura echoed. "Say, Mr. Quest, I've got an idea."

Quest nodded.

"Get right ahead with it."

"Didn't the butler at Mrs. Rheinholdt's say that Craig belonged to a
servants' club up town? I know the place well. Let me go and see if I
can't join and pick up a little information about the man. He must have a
night out sometimes. Let's find out what he does. How's that?"

"Capital!" Quest agreed. "Get along, Laura. And you, Lenora," he added,
"put on your hat. We'll take a ride towards Mayton Avenue."


2.

The exact spot where the bone of the missing skeleton was discovered, was
easily located. It was about twenty yards from a gate which led into the
back part of the Professor's grounds. The neighbourhood was dreary in the
extreme. There were half-finished houses, little piles of building
materials, heaps of stones, a watchman's shed, and all the dreary
paraphernalia of an abandoned building enterprise. Quest wasted very
little time before arriving at a decision.

"The discovery of the bone so near the Professor's house," he decided,
"cannot be coincidence only. We will waste no time out here, Lenora. We
will search the grounds. Come on."

They advanced towards the gate but found it locked. The wall was unusually
high as though to obscure a view of anything that lay on the other side.
Quest noticed with interest that, in places where it had shown signs of
crumbling away, it had been repaired. He contemplated the lock
thoughtfully and drew a little instrument from his pocket, an instrument
which had the appearance of a many-sided key.

"Looks like storming the fortress, eh?" he remarked. "Here goes, any way."

The gate swung open with a single turn of the wrist. Quest glanced for a
moment at the lock and replaced the instrument in his pocket.

"The Professor's not looking for visitors," he muttered. "Gee! What a
wilderness!"

It was hard to know which way to turn. Every path was choked with tangled
weeds and bushes. Here and there remained one or two wonderful old trees,
but the vegetation for the greater part consisted of laurel and other
shrubs, which from lack of attention had grown almost into a jungle. They
wandered about almost aimlessly for nearly half-an-hour. Then Quest came
to a sudden standstill. Lenora gripped his arm. They had both heard the
same sound--a queer, crooning little cry, half plaintive, half angry.
Quest looked over his right shoulder along a narrow, overgrown path which
seemed to end abruptly in an evergreen hedge.

"What's that?" he exclaimed.

Lenora still clung to his arm.

"I hate this place," she whispered. "It terrifies me. What are we looking
for, Mr. Quest?"

"Can't say that I know exactly," the latter answered, "but I guess we'll
find out where that cry came from. Sounded to me uncommonly like a human
effort."

They made their way up as far as the hedge, which they skirted for a few
yards until they found an opening. Then Quest gave vent to a little
exclamation. Immediately in front of them was a small hut, built
apparently of sticks and bamboos, with a stronger framework behind. The
sloping roof was grass-grown and entwined with rushes. The only apology
for a window was a queer little hole set quite close to the roof.

"The sort of place where the Professor might keep some of his pets," Quest
observed thoughtfully. "We'll have a look inside, any way."

There was a rude-looking door, but Quest, on trying it, found it locked.
They walked around the place but found no other opening. All the time from
inside they could hear queer, scuffling sounds. Lenora's cheeks grew
paler.

"Must we stay?" she murmured. "I don't think I want to see what's inside.
Mr. Quest! Mr. Quest!"

She clung to his arm. They were opposite the little aperture which served
as a window, and at that moment it suddenly framed the face of a creature,
human in features, diabolical in expression. Long hair drooped over one
cheek, the close-set eyes were filled with fury, the white teeth gleamed
menacingly. Quest felt in his pocket for his revolver.

"Say, that's some face!" he remarked. "I'd hate to spoil it."

Even as he spoke, it disappeared. Quest took out the little gate opening
apparatus from his pocket.

"We've got to get inside there, Lenora," he announced, stepping forward.

She followed him silently. A few turns of the wrist and the door yielded.
Keeping Lenora a little behind him, Quest gazed around eagerly. Exactly in
front of him, clad only in a loin cloth, with hunched-up shoulders, a
necklace around his neck, with blazing eyes and ugly gleaming teeth,
crouched some unrecognisable creature, human yet inhuman, a monkey and yet
a man. There were a couple of monkeys swinging by their tails from a bar,
and a leopard chained to a staple in the ground, walking round and round
in the far corner, snapping and snarling every time he glanced towards the
new-comers. The creature in front of him stretched out a hairy hand
towards a club, and gripped it. Quest drew a long breath. His eyes were
set hard.

"Drop that club," he ordered.

The creature suddenly sprang up. The club was waved around his head.

"Drop it," Quest repeated firmly. "You will sit down in your corner. You
will take no more notice of us. Do you hear? You will drop the club. You
will sit down in your corner. You will sleep."

The club slipped from the hairy fingers. The tense frame, which had been
already crouched for the spring, was suddenly relaxed. The knees trembled.

"Back to that corner," Quest ordered, pointing.

Slowly and dejectedly, the ape-man crept to where he had been ordered and
sat there with dull, non-comprehending stare. It was a new force, this, a
note of which he had felt--the superman raising the voice of authority.
Quest touched his forehead and found it damp. The strain of those few
seconds had been intolerable.

"I don't think these other animals will hurt," he said. "Let's have a look
around the place."

The search took only a few moments. The monkeys ran and jumped around
them, gibbering as though with pleasure. The leopard watched them always
with a snarl and an evil light in his eye. They found nothing unusual
until they came to the distant corner, where a huge piano box lay on its
side with the opening turned to the wall.

"This is where the brute sleeps, I suppose," Quest remarked. "We'll turn
it round, any way."

They dragged it a few feet away from the wall, so that the opening faced
them. Then Lenora gave a little cry and Quest stood suddenly still.

"The skeleton!" Lenora shrieked. "It's the skeleton!"

Quest stooped down and drew away the matting which concealed some portion
of this strange-looking object. It was a skeleton so old that the bones
had turned to a dull grey. Yet so far as regards its limbs, it was almost
complete. Quest glanced towards the hands.

"Little fingers both missing," he muttered. "That's the skeleton all
right, Lenora."

"Remember the message!" she exclaimed. "'Where the skeleton is, the
necklace may be also.'"

Quest nodded shortly.

"We'll search."

They turned over everything in the place fruitlessly. There was no sign of
the necklace. At last they gave it up.

"You get outside, Lenora," Quest directed. "I'll just bring this beast
round again and then we'll tackle the Professor."

Lenora stepped back into the fresh air with a little murmur of relief.
Quest turned towards the creature which crouched still huddled up in its
corner, its eyes half-closed, rolling a little from side to side.

"Look at me," he ordered.

The creature obeyed. Once more its frame seemed to grow more virile and
natural.

"You need sleep no longer," Quest said. "Wake up and be yourself."

The effect of his words was instantaneous. Almost as he spoke, the
creature crouched for a spring. There was wild hatred in its close-set
eyes, the snarl of something fiend-like in its contorted mouth. Quest
slipped quickly through the door.

"Any one may have that for a pet!" he remarked grimly. "Come, Lenora,
there's a word or two to be said to the Professor. There's something here
will need a little explanation."

He lit a cigar as they struggled back along the path. Presently they
reached the untidy-looking avenue, and a few minutes later arrived at the
house. Quest looked around him in something like bewilderment.

"Say, fancy keeping a big place like this, all overgrown and like a
wilderness!" he exclaimed. "If the Professor can't afford a few gardeners,
why doesn't he take a comfortable flat down town."

"I think it's a horrible place," Lenora agreed. "I hope I never come here
again."

"Pretty well obsessed, these scientific men get," Quest muttered. "I
suppose this is the front door."

They passed under the portico and knocked. There was no reply. Quest
searched in vain for a bell. They walked round the piazza. There were no
signs of any human life. The windows were curtainless and displayed vistas
of rooms practically devoid of furniture. They came back to the front
door. Quest tried the handle and found it open. They passed into the hall.

"Hospitable sort of place, any way," he remarked. "We'll go in and wait,
Lenora."

They found their way to the study, which seemed to be the only habitable
room. Lenora glanced around at its strange contents with an expression
almost of awe.

"Fancy a man living in a muddle like this!" she exclaimed. "Not a picture,
scarcely a carpet, uncomfortable chairs--nothing but bones and skeletons
and mummies and dried-up animals. A man with tastes like this, Mr. Quest,
must have a very different outlook upon life from ordinary human beings."

Quest nodded.

"He generally has," he admitted. "Here comes our host, any way."

A small motor-car passed the window, driven by Craig. The Professor
descended. A moment or two later he entered the room. He gazed from Quest
to Lenora at first in blank surprise. Then he held out his hands.

"You have good news for me, my friends!" he exclaimed. "I am sure of it.
How unfortunate that I was not at home to receive you! Tell me--don't keep
me in suspense, if you please--you have discovered my skeleton?"

"We have found the skeleton," Quest announced.

For a single moment the new-comer stood as though turned to stone. There
was a silence which was not without its curious dramatic significance.
Then a light broke across the Professor's face. He gave a great gulp of
relief.

"My skeleton!" he murmured. "Mr. Quest, I knew it. You are the greatest
man alive. Now tell me quickly--I want to know everything, but this first
of all.--Where did you find the skeleton? Who was the thief?"

"We found the skeleton, Professor," Quest replied, "within a hundred yards
of this house."

The Professor's mouth was wide open. He looked like a bewildered child. It
was several seconds before he spoke.

"Within a hundred yards of this house? Then it wasn't stolen by one of my
rivals?"

"I should say not," Quest admitted.

"Where? Where exactly did you find it?" the other insisted.

Quest was standing very still, his manner more reserved even than usual,
his eyes studying the Professor, weighing every spoken word.

"I found it in a hut," he said, "hidden in a piano box. I found there,
also, a creature--a human being, I must call him--in a state of
captivity."

"Hidden in a piano box?" the Professor repeated wonderingly. "Why, you
mean in Hartoo's sleeping box, then?"

"If Mr. Hartoo is the gentleman who tried to club me, you are right,"
Quest admitted. "Mr. Ashleigh, before we go any further I must ask you for
an explanation as to the presence of that person in your grounds!"

The Professor hesitated for a moment. Then he slowly crossed the room,
opened the drawer of a small escritoire, and drew out a letter.

"You have heard of Sir William Raysmore, the President of the Royal
Society?" he asked.

Quest nodded.

"This letter is from him," the Professor continued. "You had better read
it."

The criminologist read it aloud. Lenora looked over his shoulder:--

    "To Professor Edgar Ashleigh, New York.

    "My dear Professor,

    "Your communication gratifies and amazes me. I can say no more.
    It fell to your lot to discover the skeleton of the anthropoid,
    a marvellous thing, in its way, and needing only its corollary
    to form the greatest discovery since the dark ages. Now you tell
    me that in the person of Hartoo, the last of the Inyamo Race of
    South America, you have found that corollary. You have supplied
    the missing link. You are in a position to give to the world a
    definite and logical explanation of the evolution of man. Let me
    give you one word of warning, Professor, before I write you at
    greater length on this matter. Anthropologists are afflicted
    more, even, than any other race of scientific men, with
    jealousy. Guard your secret well, lest the honour of this
    discovery should be stolen from you.

    "WILLIAM RAYSMORE."

[Illustration: QUEST AND LENORA RECEIVE THE MESSAGE FROM LAURA.]

[Illustration: QUEST IS SURPRISED AT FINDING THE STOLEN NECKLACE IN THE
BLACK BOX.]

The Professor nodded deliberately as Quest finished the letter.

"Now, perhaps, you can understand," he said, "why it was necessary to keep
Hartoo absolutely hidden. In a month's time my papers will be ready. Then
I shall electrify the world. I shall write not a new page but a new volume
across the history of science. I shall--"

The door was suddenly thrown open. Craig sprang in, no longer the
self-contained, perfect man-servant, but with the face of some wild
creature. His shout was one almost of agony.

"The hut, Professor! The hut is on fire!" he cried.

His appearance on the threshold was like a flash. They heard his flying
feet down the hall, and without a moment's hesitation they all followed.
The Professor led the way down a narrow and concealed path, but when they
reached the little clearing in which the hut was situated, they were
unable to approach any nearer. The place was a whirlwind of flame. The
smell of kerosene was almost overpowering. The wild yell of the leopard
rose above the strange, half-human gibbering of the monkeys and the
hoarse, bass calling of another voice, at the sound of which Lenora and
even Quest shuddered. Then, as they came, breathless, to a standstill,
they saw a strange thing. One side of the hut fell in, and almost
immediately the leopard with a mighty spring, leapt from the place and ran
howling into the undergrowth. The monkeys followed but they came straight
for the Professor, wringing their hands. They fawned at his feet as though
trying to show him their scorched bodies. Then for a single moment they
saw the form of the ape-man as he struggled to follow the others. His
strength failed him, however. He fell backwards into the burning chasm.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Professor bade them farewell, an hour later, on the steps of the
house. He seemed suddenly to have aged.

"You have done your best, Mr. Quest," he said, "but Fate has been too
strong. Remember this, though. It is quite true that the cunning of Hartoo
may have made it possible for him to have stolen the skeleton and to have
brought it back to its hiding-place, but it was jealousy--cruel, brutal,
foul jealousy which smeared the walls of that hut with kerosene and set a
light to it. The work of a lifetime, my dreams of scientific immortality,
have vanished in those flames."

He turned slowly away from them and re-entered the house. Quest and Lenora
made their way down the avenue and entered the automobile which was
waiting for them, almost in silence. The latter glanced towards his
companion as they drove off.

"Say, this has been a bit tough for you," he remarked. "I'll have to call
somewhere and get you a glass of wine."

She tried to smile but her strength was almost gone. They drove to a
restaurant and sat there for a some little time. Lenora soon recovered her
colour. She even had courage to speak of the events of the afternoon when
they re-entered the automobile.

"Mr. Quest," she murmured, "who do you suppose burned the hut down?"

"If I don't say Craig, I suppose you will," he remarked. "I wonder whether
Laura's had any luck."

They were greeted, as they entered Quest's room, by a familiar little
ticking. Quest smiled with pleasure.

"It's the pocket wireless," he declared. "Let me take down the message."

He spelt it out to Lenora, who stood by his side:

    "Have joined Servants' Club disguised as your butler. Craig
    frequent visitor here ten years ago, comes now occasionally.
    Thursday evenings most likely time. Shall wait here on chance of
    seeing him."

"Good girl, that," Quest remarked. "She's a rare sticker, too."

He turned away from the instrument and was crossing the room towards his
cigar cabinet. Suddenly he stopped. He looked intently towards the
sideboard.

"What is it?" Lenora asked.

He did not answer. She followed the direction of his gaze. Exactly in the
same spot as before reposed another but somewhat larger black box, of the
same shape and material as the previous one.

"Say, who put that there?" he demanded.

Lenora shook her head.

"I locked the door when we went out," she assured him.

Quest took the box into his hands and removed the lid. It seemed half full
of cotton-wool. On the top were a few lines of writing and beneath them
the signature of the parted hands. He read the form out slowly:

    "Drop all investigation. The hands that return these jewels
    command it."

Quest raised the cotton-wool. Beneath lay Mrs. Rheinholdt's necklace!



CHAPTER V

AN OLD GRUDGE


1.

Sanford Quest was smoking his after breakfast cigar with a relish somewhat
affected by the measure of his perplexities. Early though it was, Lenora
was already in her place, bending over her desk, and Laura, who had just
arrived, was busy divesting herself of her coat and hat. Quest watched the
latter impatiently.

"Well?" he asked.

Laura came forward, straightening her hair with her hands.

"No go," she answered. "I spent the evening in the club and I talked with
two men who knew Craig, but I couldn't get on to anything. From all I
could hear of the man, respectability is his middle name."

"That's the Professor's own idea," Quest remarked grimly. "I merely
ventured to drop a hint that Craig might not be quite so immaculate as he
seemed, and I never saw a man so horrified in my life. He assured me that
Craig was seldom out of his sight, that he hadn't a friend in the world
nor a single vicious taste."

"We're fairly up against it, boss," Laura sighed. "The best thing we can
do is to get on to another job. The Rheinholdt woman has got her jewels
back, or will have at noon to-day. I bet she won't worry about the thief.
Then the Professor's mouldy old skeleton was returned to him, even if it
was burnt up afterwards. I should take on something fresh."

"Can't be done," Quest replied shortly. "Look here, girls, your average
intellects are often apt to hit upon the truth, when a man who sees too
far ahead goes wrong. Rule Craig out. Any other possible person occur to
you?--Speak out, Lenora. You've something on your mind, I can see."

The girl swung around in her chair. There was a vague look of trouble upon
her face.

"I'm afraid you'll laugh at me," she began tentatively.

"Won't hurt you if I do," Quest replied.

"I can't help thinking of Macdougal," Lenora continued falteringly. "He
has never been recaptured, and I don't know whether he's dead or alive. He
had a perfect passion for jewels. If he is alive, he would be desperate
and would attempt anything."

Quest smoked in silence for a moment.

"I guess the return of the jewels squelches the Macdougal theory," he
remarked. "He wouldn't be likely to part with the stuff when he'd once got
his hands on it. However, I always meant, when we had a moment's spare
time, to look into that fellow's whereabouts. We'll take it on straight
away. Can't do any harm."

"I know the section boss on the railway at the spot where he disappeared,"
Laura announced.

"Then just take the train down to Mountways--that's the nearest spot--and
get busy with him," Quest directed. "Try and persuade him to loan us the
gang's hand-car to go down the line. Lenora and I will come on in the
automobile."

"Take you longer," Lenora remarked, as she moved off to put on her jacket.
"The cars do it in half an hour."

"Can't help that," Quest replied. "Mrs. Rheinholdt's coming here to
identify her jewels at twelve o'clock, and I can't run any risk of there
being no train back. You'd better be making good with the section boss.
Take plenty of bills with you."

"Sure! That's easy enough," Laura promised him. "I'll be waiting for you."

She hurried off and Quest commenced his own preparations. From his safe he
took one of the small black lumps of explosive to which he had once before
owed his life, and fitted it carefully in a small case with a coil of wire
and an electric lighter. He looked at his revolver and recharged it.
Finally he rang the bell for his confidential valet.

"Ross," he asked, "who else is here to-day besides you?"

"No one to-day, sir."

"Just as well, perhaps," Quest observed. "Listen, Ross. I am going out now
for an hour or two, but I shall be back at mid-day. Remember that. Mrs.
Rheinholdt and Inspector French are to be here at twelve o'clock. If by
any chance I should be a few moments late, ask them to wait. And, Ross, a
young woman from the Salvation Army will call too. You can give her this
cheque."

Ross Brown, who was Quest's secretary-valet and general factotum, accepted
the slip of paper and placed it in an envelope.

"There are no other instructions, sir?" he enquired.

"None," Quest replied. "You'll look out for the wireless, and you had
better switch the through cable and telegraph communication on to
headquarters. Come along, Lenora."

They left the house, entered the waiting automobile, and drove rapidly
towards the confines of the city. Quest was unusually thoughtful. Lenora,
on the other hand, seemed to have lost a great deal of her usual self
composure. She seldom sat still for more than a moment or two together.
She was obviously nervous and excited.

"What's got hold of you, Lenora?" Quest asked her once. "You seem all
fidgets."

She glanced at him apologetically.

"I can't help it," she confessed. "If you knew of the many sleepless
nights I have had, of how I have racked my brain wondering what could have
become of James, you wouldn't really wonder that I am excited now that
there is some chance of really finding out. Often I have been too
terrified to sleep."

"We very likely shan't find out a thing," Quest reminded her. "French and
his lot have had a try and come to grief."

"Inspector French isn't like you, Mr. Quest," Lenora ventured.

Quest laughed bitterly.

"Just now, at any rate, we don't seem to be any great shakes," he
remarked. "However, I'm glad we're on this job. Much better to find out
what has become of the fellow really, if we can."

Lenora's voice suddenly grew steady. She turned round in her place and
faced her companion.

"Mr. Quest," she said, "I like my work with you. You saved me from
despair. Sometimes it seems to me that life now opens out an entirely new
vista. Yet since this matter has been mentioned between us, let me tell
you one thing. I have known no rest, night or day, since we heard of--of
James's escape. I live in terror. If I have concealed it, it has been at
the expense of my nerves and my strength. I think that very soon I could
have gone on no longer."

Quest's only reply was a little nod. Yet, notwithstanding his
imperturbability of expression, that little nod was wonderfully
sympathetic. Lenora leaned back in her place well satisfied. She felt that
she was understood.

By Quest's directions, the automobile was brought to a stand-still at a
point where it skirted the main railway line, and close to the section
house which he had appointed for his rendezvous with Laura. She had
apparently seen their approach and she came out to meet them at once,
accompanied by a short, thick-set man whom she introduced as Mr. Horan.

"This is Mr. Horan, the section boss," she explained.

Mr. Horan shook hands.

"Say, I've heard of you, Mr. Quest," he announced. "The young lady tells
me you are some interested in that prisoner they lost off the cars near
here."

"That's so," Quest admitted. "We'd like to go to the spot if we could."

"That's dead easy," the boss replied. "I'll take you along in the hand
car. I've been expecting you, Mr. Quest, some time ago."

"How's that?" the criminologist asked.

Mr. Horan expelled a fragment of chewing tobacco and held out his hand for
the cigar which Quest was offering.

"They've been going the wrong way to work, these New York police," he
declared. "Just because there was a train on the other track moving
slowly, they got it into their heads that Macdougal had boarded it and was
back in New York somewhere. That ain't my theory. If I were looking for
James Macdougal, I'd search the hillsides there. I'll show you what I mean
when we get alongside."

"You may be right," Quest admitted. "Anyway, we'll start on the job."

The section boss turned around and whistled. From a little side track two
men jumped on to a hand-car, and brought it round to where they were
standing. A few yards away, the man who was propelling it--a great
red-headed Irishman--suddenly ceased his efforts. Leaning over his pole,
he gazed at Quest. A sudden ferocity darkened his coarse face. He gripped
his mate by the arm.

"See that bloke there?" he asked, pointing at Quest.

"The guy with the linen collar?" the other answered. "I see him."

"That's Quest, the detective," the Irishman went on hoarsely. "That's the
man who got me five years in the pen, the beast. That's the man I've been
looking for. You're my mate, Jim, eh?"

"I guess so," the other grunted. "Are you going to try and do him in?"

"You wait!"

"Now, then, you fellows," Horan shouted. "What are you hanging about there
for, Red Gallagher? Bring the carriage up. You fellows can go and have a
smoke for an hour. I'm going to take her down the line a bit."

The two men obeyed and disappeared in the direction of the section house.
Quest looked after them curiously.

"That's a big fellow," he remarked. "What did you call him? Red Gallagher?
I seem to have seen him before."

"He was the most troublesome fellow on the line once, although he was the
biggest worker," the boss replied. "He got five years in the penitentiary
and that seems to have taken the spirit out of him."

"I believe I was in the case," Quest observed carelessly.

"That so! Now then, young ladies," Mr. Horan advised, "hold tight, and
here goes!"

They ambled down the line for about half a mile. Then Horan brought them
to a standstill.

"This is the spot," he declared. "Now, if you want my impressions, you are
welcome to them. All the search has been made on the right-hand side here,
and in New York. I've had my eye on that hill for a long time. My
impression is that he hid there."

"I'll take your advice," Quest decided. "We'll spread out and take a
little exercise in hill climbing."

"Good luck to you!" the boss exclaimed. "You'll excuse my waiting? It
ain't a quarter of a mile back by the road, and I'm going a bit farther
on, inspecting."

Quest slipped something into his hand and the little party left the track,
crossed the road, scrambled down a bank and spread out. In front of them
was a slope some hundreds of feet high, closely overgrown with dwarf trees
and mountain shrubs. It was waste land, uncultivated and uninhabited.
Quest made a careful search of the shrubs and ground close to the spot
which Horan had indicated. He pointed out to his two companions the spot
where the grass was beaten down, and a few yards farther off where a twig
had been broken off from some overhanging trees, as though a man had
pushed his way through.

"This may have been done by the police search," he remarked, "or it may
not. Don't spread out too far, girls, and go slowly. If we find any trace
of James Macdougal on this hill-side, we are going to find it within fifty
yards of this spot."

They searched carefully and deliberately for more than half an hour. Then
Lenora suddenly called out. They looked around to find only her head
visible. She scrambled up, muddy and with wet leaves clinging to her
skirt.

"Say, that guy of a section boss told me to look out for caves. I've been
in one, sure enough! Just saved myself."

They hurried to where she was. Quest peered into the declivity down which
she had slipped. Suddenly he gave vent to a little exclamation. At the
same time Laura called out. An inch or two of tweed was clearly visible
through the strewn leaves. Quest, flat on his stomach, crawled a little
way down, took out his electric torch from his pocket and brushed the
stuff away. Then he clambered to his feet.

"Our search is over," he declared gravely, "and your troubles, Lenora.
That is Macdougal's body. He may have slipped in as you did, Laura, or he
may have crept there to hide, and starved. Anyhow, it is he."

Lenora's face sank into her hands for a moment. Quest stood on one side
while Laura passed her arm around the other girl's waist. Presently he
returned.

"We can do no more," he pointed out; "we must send for help to bring the
body up."

"I shall stay here, please," Lenora begged. "Don't think I'm foolish,
please. I can't pretend I am sorry, but I'll stay till some one comes and
takes--it away."

"She is quite right," Laura declared, "and I will stay with her."

Quest glanced at his watch.

"That's all right," he declared. "I'll have to get, but I'll send some one
along. Cheer up, Lenora," he added kindly. "Look after her, Laura."

"You bet!" that young woman declared brusquely.

Quest hastened along the road to the spot where he had left the car. The
chauffeur, who saw him coming, started up and climbed to his seat. Quest
took his place.

"Drive to the office," he ordered.

The man slipped in his clutch. They were in the act of gliding off when
there was a tremendous report. They stopped short. The man jumped down and
looked at the back tire.

"Blow-out," he remarked laconically.

Quest frowned.

"How long will it take?"

"Four minutes," the man replied. "I've got another wheel ready. That's the
queerest blow-out I ever saw, though."

The two men leaned over the tire. Suddenly Quest's expression changed. His
hand stole into his hip pocket.

"Tom," he explained, "that wasn't a blow-out at all. Look here!"

He pointed to the small level hole. Almost at once he stood back and the
sunshine flashed upon the revolver clutched in his right hand.

"That was a bullet," he continued. "Some one fired at that tire. Tom,
there's trouble about."

The man looked nervously around.

"That's a rifle bullet, sure," he muttered.

The car was drawn up by the side of the road, a few yards past the section
house. A little way farther up was the tool shed, and beyond, the tower
house. There was no one in sight at either of these places. On the other
side of the road were clumps of bushes, any one of which would prove
sufficient for a man in hiding.

"Get on the wheel as quick as you can," Quest directed. "Here, I'll give
you a hand."

He stooped down to unfasten the straps which held the spare wheel. It was
one of his rare lapses, realised a moment too late. Almost in his ears
came the hoarse cry:

"Hands up, guvnor! Hands up this second or I'll blow you to hell!"

Quest glanced over his shoulder and looked into the face of Red Gallagher,
raised a little above the level of the road. He had evidently been hiding
at the foot of the perpendicular bank which divided the road from the
track level. A very ugly little revolver was pointed directly at Quest's
heart.

"My mate's got you covered on the other side of the road, too. Hands up,
both of you, or we'll make a quick job of it."

Quest shrugged his shoulders, threw his revolver into the road and obeyed.
As he did so, the other man stole out from behind a bush and sprang for
the chauffeur, who under cover of the car was stealing off. There was a
brief struggle, then the dull thud of the railway man's rifle falling on
the former's head. The chauffeur rolled over and lay in the road.

"Pitch him off in the bushes," Red Gallagher ordered. "You don't want any
one who comes by to see. Now lend me a hand with this chap."

"What do you propose to do with me?" Quest asked.

"You'll know soon enough," Red Gallagher answered. "A matter of five
minutes' talk, to start with. You see that hand-car house?"

"Perfectly well," Quest assented. "My eyesight is quite normal."

"Get there, then. I'm a yard behind you and my revolver's pointing for the
middle of your back."

Quest looked at it anxiously.

"You have the air, my red friend," he remarked, "of being unaccustomed to
those delicate weapons. Do keep your fingers off the trigger. I will walk
to the hand-car house and talk to you, with pleasure."

He sprang lightly down from the road, crossed the few intervening yards
and stepped into the hand-car house.

Gallagher and his mate followed close behind. Quest paused on the
threshold.

"It's a filthy dirty hole," he remarked. "Can't we have our little chat
out here? Is it money you want?"

Gallagher glanced around. Then with an ugly push of the shoulder he sent
Quest reeling into the shed. His great form blocked the doorway.

"No," he cried fiercely, "it's not money I want this time. Quest, you
brute, you dirty bloodhound! You sent me to the pen for five years--you
with your cursed prying into other people's affairs. Don't you remember
me, eh? Red Gallagher?"

"Of course I do," Quest replied coolly. "You garrotted and robbed an old
man and had the spree of your life. The old man happened to be a friend of
mine, so I took the trouble to see that you paid for it. Well?"

"Five years of hell, that's what I had," the man continued, his eyes
flashing, his face twitching with anger. "Well, you're going to have a
little bit more than five years. This shed's been burnt down twice--sparks
from passing engines. It's going to be burnt down for the third time."

"Going to make a bonfire of me, eh?" Quest remarked.

"You can sneer, my fine friend," the man growled. "You've had a good many
comfortable years of wearing fine clothes and smoking twenty-five-cent
cigars, swaggering about and hunting poor guys that never did you any
harm. This is where we are going to get a bit of our own back. See here!
We are locking this door--like that. It's a lonely bit of the line. The
man in the tower never takes his eyes off the signals and there ain't a
soul in sight. Me and my mate are off to the section house. Two minutes
will see us there and back. We're going to bring a can of oil and an
armful of waste. Can you tell what for, eh? We're going to burn the place
to a cinder in less than three minutes, and if you're alive when the walls
come down, we'll try a little rifle practise at you, see?"

"Sounds remarkably unpleasant," Quest admitted. "You'd better hurry or the
boss will be back."

Gallagher finally slammed the door. Quest heard the heavy footsteps of the
two men as they turned towards the section house. He drew a little case
from his coat pocket.

"Just as well, perhaps," he said softly to himself, "that I perfected this
instrument. It's rather close quarters here."

He opened what seemed to be a little mahogany box, looked at the ball of
black substance inside, closed it up, placed it against the far wall,
untwisted the coil, stood back near the door and pressed the button. The
result was extraordinary. The whole of the far wall was blown out and for
some distance in front the ground was furrowed up by the explosion. Quest
replaced the instrument in his pocket, sprang through the opening and ran
for the tower house. Behind him, on its way to New York, he could see a
freight train coming along. He could hear, too, Red Gallagher's roar of
anger. It was less than fifty yards, yet already, as he reached the
shelter of the tower, the thunder of the freight sounded in Quest's ears.
He glanced around. Red Gallagher and his mate were racing almost beside it
towards him. He rushed up the narrow stairs into the signal room, tearing
open his coat to show his official badge.

"Stop the freight," he shouted to the operator. "Quick! I'm Sanford Quest,
detective--special powers from the chief commissioner."

The man moved to the signal. Another voice thundered in his ears. He
turned swiftly around. The Irishman's red head had appeared at the top of
the staircase.

"Drop that signal and I'll blow you into bits!" he shouted.

The operator hesitated, dazed.

"Walk towards me," Gallagher shouted. "Look here, you guy, this'll show
you whether I'm in earnest or not!"

A bullet passed within a few inches of the operator's head. He came slowly
across the room. Below they could hear the roar of the freight.

"This ain't your job," the Irishman continued savagely. "We want the cop,
and we're going to have him."

Quest had stolen a yard or two nearer during this brief colloquy.
Gallagher's mate from behind shouted out a warning just a second too late.
With a sudden kick, Quest sent the revolver flying across the room, and
before the Irishman could recover, he struck him full in the face.
Notwithstanding his huge size and strength, Gallagher reeled. The
operator, who had just begun to realize what was happening, flung himself
bodily against the two thugs. A shot from the tangled mass of struggling
limbs whistled past Quest's head as he sprang to the window which
overlooked the track. The freight had already almost passed. Quest
steadied himself for a supreme effort, crawled out on to the little steel
bridge and poised himself for a moment. The last car was just beneath. The
gap between it and the previous one was slipping by. He set his teeth and
jumped on to the smooth top. For several seconds he struggled madly to
keep his balance. He felt himself slipping every minute down to the ground
which was spinning by. Then his right heel caught a bare ledge, scarcely
an inch high. It checked his fall. He set his teeth, carefully stretched
out his hand and gripped the back of the car. Then his knee touched
something--a chain. He caught it with his other hand. He lay there,
crouching, gripping wherever he could, his fingernails breaking, an
intolerable pain in his knee, death spinning on either side of him....

       *       *       *       *       *

Back behind the tower, Red Gallagher and his mate bent with horrified
faces over the body of the signalman.

"What the hell did you want to plug him for?" the latter muttered. "He
ain't in the show at all. You've done us, Red! He's cooked!"

Red Gallagher staggered to his feet. Already the horror of the murderer
was in his eyes as he glanced furtively around.

[Illustration: QUEST JUMPS FROM THE SIGNAL TOWER ON TO THE FAST MOVING
TRAIN.]

[Illustration: A PAIR OF MYSTERIOUS HANDS PLACE THE BLACK BOX ON QUEST'S
TABLE.]

"I never meant to drop him," he muttered. "I got mad at seeing Quest get
off. That man's a devil."

"What are we going to do?" the other demanded hoarsely. "It's a quiet spot
this, but there'll be some one round before long. There goes the damned
signals already!" he exclaimed, as the gong sounded in the tower.

"There's the auto," Gallagher shouted. "Come on. Come on, man! I can fix
the tire. If we've got to swing for this job, we'll have something of our
own back first."

They crawled to the side of the road. Gallagher's rough, hairy fingers
were still trembling, but they knew their job. In a few minutes the tire
was fixed. Clumsily but successfully, the great Irishman turned the car
round away from the city.

"She's a hummer," he muttered. "I'll make her go when we get the hang of
it. Sit tight!"

They drove clumsily off, gathering speed at every yard. Behind, in the
shadow of the tower, the signalman lay dead. Quest, half way to New York,
stretched flat on his stomach, was struggling for life with knees and
hands and feet.


2.

Mrs. Rheinholdt welcomed the Inspector with a beaming smile as he stepped
out of his office and approached her automobile.

"How nice of you to be so punctual, Mr. French," she exclaimed, making
room for him by her side. "Will you tell the man to drive to Mr. Quest's
house in Georgia Square?"

The Inspector obeyed and took his place in the luxurious limousine.

"How beautifully punctual we are!" she continued, glancing at the clock.
"Inspector, I am so excited at the idea of getting my jewels back. Isn't
Mr. Quest a wonderful man?"

"He's a clever chap, all right," the Inspector admitted. "All the same,
I'm rather sorry he wasn't able to lay his hands on the thief."

"That's your point of view, of course," Mrs. Rheinholdt remarked. "I can
think of nothing but having my diamonds back. I feel I ought to go and
thank the Professor for recommending Mr. Quest."

The Inspector made no reply. Mrs. Rheinholdt was suddenly aware that she
was becoming a little tactless.

"Of course," she sighed, "it is disappointing not to be able to lay your
hands upon the thief. That is where I suppose you must find the
interference of an amateur like Mr. Quest a little troublesome sometimes.
He gets back the property, which is what the private individual wants, but
he doesn't secure the thief, which is, of course, the real end of the case
from your point of view."

"It's a queer affair about these jewels," the Inspector remarked. "Quest
hasn't told me the whole story yet. Here we are on the stroke of time!"

The car drew up outside Quest's house. The Inspector assisted his
companion to alight and rang the bell at the front door. There was a
somewhat prolonged pause. He rang again.

"Never knew this to happen before," he remarked. "That sort of
secretary-valet of Mr. Quest's--Ross Brown, I think he calls him--is
always on the spot."

They waited for some time. There was still no answer to their summons. The
Inspector placed his ear to the keyhole. There was not a sound to be
heard. He drew back, a little puzzled. At that moment his attention was
caught by the fluttering of a little piece of white material caught in the
door. He pulled it out. It was a fragment of white embroidery, and on it
were several small stains. The Inspector looked at them and looked at his
fingers. His face grew suddenly grave.

"Seems to me," he muttered, "that there's been some trouble here. I shall
have to take a liberty. If you'll excuse me, Mrs. Rheinholdt, I think it
would be better if you waited in the car until I send out for you."

"You don't think the jewels have been stolen again?" she gasped.

The Inspector made no reply. He had drawn from his pocket a little
pass-key and was fitting it into the lock. The door swung open. Once more
they were both conscious of that peculiar silence, which seemed to have in
it some unnamable quality. He moved to the foot of the stairs and shouted.

"Hello! Any one there?"

There was no reply. He opened the doors of the two rooms on the right hand
side, where Quest, when he was engaged in any widespread affair, kept a
stenographer and a telegraph operator. Both rooms were empty. Then he
turned towards Quest's study on the left hand side. French was a man of
iron nerve. He had served his time in the roughest quarters of New York.
He had found himself face to face with every sort of crime, yet as he
opened that door, he seemed to feel some premonition of what was to come.
He stepped across the threshold. No power on earth could have kept back
the cry which broke from his lips.

The curtains of the window which looked out on to the street, were drawn,
and the light was none too good. It was sufficient for him, however, to
see without difficulty the details of a ghastly tragedy. A few feet away
from the door was stretched the body of the secretary-valet. On the other
side of the room, lying as though she had slipped from the sofa, her head
fallen on one side in hideous fashion, was the body of Miss Quigg, the
Salvation Army young woman. French set his teeth and drew back the
curtains. In the clearer light, the disorder of the room was fully
revealed. There had been a terrible struggle. Between whom? How?

There was suddenly a piercing shriek. The Inspector turned quickly around.
Mrs. Rheinholdt, who had disregarded his advice, was standing on the
threshold.

"Inspector!" she cried. "What has happened? Oh, my God!"

She covered her face with her hands. French gripped her by the arm. At
that moment there was the sound of an automobile stopping outside.

"Keep quiet for a moment," the Inspector whispered in her ear. "Pull
yourself together, madam. Go to the other end of the room. Don't look.
Stay there for a few moments and then get home as quick as you can."

She obeyed him mutely, pressing her hands to her eyes, shivering in every
limb. French stood back inside the room. He heard the front door open, he
heard Quest's voice outside.

"Ross! Where the devil are you, Ross?"

There was no reply. The door was pushed open. Quest entered, followed by
the Professor and Craig. The Inspector stood watching their faces. Quest
came to a standstill before he had passed the threshold. He looked upon
the floor and he looked across to the sofa. Then he looked at French.

"My God!" he muttered.

The Professor pushed past. He, too, looked around the room, and gazed at
the two bodies with an expression of blank and absolute terror. Then he
fell back into Craig's arms.

"The poor girl!" he cried. "Horrible! Horrible! Horrible!"

Craig led him for a moment to one side. The Professor was overcome and
almost hysterical. Quest and French were left face to face.

"Know anything about this?" Quest asked quickly.

"Not a thing," the Inspector replied. "We arrived, Mrs. Rheinholdt and I,
at five minutes past twelve. There was no answer to our ring. I used my
pass-key and entered. This is what I found."

Quest stood over the body of his valet for a moment. The man was obviously
dead. The Inspector took his handkerchief and covered up the head. A few
feet away was a heavy paper-weight.

"Killed by a blow from behind," French remarked grimly, "with that little
affair. Look here!"

They glanced down at the girl. Quest's eyebrows came together quickly.
There were two blue marks upon her throat where a man's thumbs might have
been.

"The hands again!" he muttered.

The Inspector nodded.

"Can you make anything of it?"

"Not yet," Quest confessed. "I must think."

The Inspector glanced at him curiously.

"Where on earth have you been to?" he demanded.

"Been to?" Quest repeated.

"Look in the mirror!" French suggested.

Quest glanced at himself. His collar had given way, his tie was torn, a
button and some of the cloth had been wrenched from his coat, his trousers
were torn, he was covered with dust.

"I'll tell you about my trouble a little later on," he replied. "Say,
can't we keep those girls out?"

They were too late. Laura and Lenora were already upon the threshold.
Quest swung round towards them.

"Girls," he said, "there has been some trouble here. Go and wait upstairs,
Lenora, or sit in the hall. Laura, you had better telephone to the police
station, and for a doctor. That's right, isn't it, Inspector?"

"Yes!" the latter assented thoughtfully.

Lenora, white to the lips, staggered a few feet back into the hall. Laura
set her teeth and lingered.

"Is that Ross?" she asked.

"It's his body," Quest replied. "He's been murdered here, he and the
Salvation Army girl who was to come this morning for her cheque."

Laura turned away, half dazed.

"I'd have trusted Ross with my life," Quest continued, "but he must have
been alone in the house when the girl came. Do you suppose it was the
usual sort of trouble?"

Inspector French stooped down and picked up the paper-weight. Across it
was stamped the name of Sanford Quest.

"This yours, Quest?"

"Of course it is," Quest answered. "Everything in the room is mine."

"The girl would fight to defend herself," the Inspector remarked slowly,
"but she could never strike a man such a blow as your valet died from."

Once more he stooped and picked up a small clock. It had stopped at
eleven-fifteen. He looked at it thoughtfully.

"Quest," he said, "I'll have to ask you a question."

"Why not?" Quest replied, looking quickly up.

"Where were you at eleven-fifteen?"

"On tower Number 10 of the New York Central, scrapping for my life," Quest
answered grimly. "I've reason to remember it."

Something in the Inspector's steady gaze seemed to inspire the
criminologist suddenly with a new idea. He came a step forward, a little
frown upon his forehead.

"Say, French," he exclaimed, "you don't--you don't suspect me of this?"

French was unmoved. He looked Quest in the eyes.

"I don't know," he said.



CHAPTER VI

ON THE RACK


1.

For the moment a new element had been introduced into the horror of the
little tableau. All eyes were fixed upon Quest, who had listened to the
Inspector's dubious words with a supercilious smile upon his lips.

"Perhaps," he suggested, "you would like to ask me a few questions?"

"Perhaps I may feel it my duty to do so," the Inspector replied gravely.
"In the first place, then, Mr. Quest, will you kindly explain the
condition of your clothes?"

Quest looked down at himself quickly. More than ever he realised the
significance of his dishevelled appearance.

"I travelled from number ten tower, just outside New York, on top of a
freight car," he said grimly. "It wasn't a very comfortable ride."

"Perhaps you will explain what made you take it, then?" the Inspector
continued.

Quest shrugged his shoulders.

"Here you are, then," he replied. "This morning I decided to make an
attempt to clear up the mystery of Macdougal's disappearance. I sent on my
secretary, Miss Laura, to make friends with the section boss, and Lenora
and I went out by automobile a little later. We instituted a search on a
new principle, and before very long we found Macdougal's body. That's one
up against you, I think, Inspector."

"Very likely," the Inspector observed. "Go on, please."

"I left the two young ladies, at Miss Lenora's wish, to superintend the
removal of the body. I myself had an engagement to deliver over her jewels
to Mrs. Rheinholdt here at mid-day. I returned to where my automobile was
waiting, started for the city and was attacked by two thugs near the
section house. I got away from them, ran to the tower house to try and
stop the freight, was followed by the thugs, and jumped out on to the last
car from the signal arm."

There was a dead silence. Quest began quietly to dust his clothes. The
Inspector stopped him.

"Don't do that," he said.

Quest paused in his task and laid down the brush.

"Any more questions?"

"Where is your automobile?"

"No idea," Quest replied. "I left it in the road. When I jumped from the
freight car, I took a taxicab to the Professor's and called for him, as
arranged."

"That is perfectly true," the Professor intervened. "Mr. Quest called for
us, as arranged previously, at ten minutes to twelve."

The inspector nodded.

"I shall have to ask you to excuse me for a moment," he said, "while I
ring up Number 10 signal tower. If Mr. Quest's story receives
corroboration, the matter is at an end. Where shall I find a telephone?"

"In every room in the house," Quest answered shortly. "There is one
outside in the passage."

The Inspector left the room almost immediately. The Professor crossed to
Quest's side. A kindly smile parted his lips.

"My dear Mr. Quest," he exclaimed, "our friend the Inspector's head has
been turned a little, beyond doubt, by these horrible happenings! Permit
me to assure you, for one, that I look upon his insinuations as absurd."

[Illustration: "MR. QUEST, YOUR ALIBI HAS BEEN FOUND WITH A BULLET IN HIS
BRAIN. I MUST PUT YOU UNDER ARREST."]

[Illustration: WHEN QUEST GOES TO THE SAFE TO PRODUCE THE JEWELS, HE FINDS
THEM MISSING.]

"The man has gone off his head!" Laura declared angrily.

"It will be all right directly he comes back," Lenora whispered, laying
her hand upon Quest's arm.

"If only some one would give me my jewels and let me go!" Mrs. Rheinholdt
moaned.

The door opened and the Inspector reappeared. He was looking graver than
ever.

"Quest," he announced, "your alibi is useless--in fact a little worse than
useless. The operator at Number 10 has been found murdered at the back of
his tower!"

Quest started.

"I ought not to have left him to those thugs," he murmured regretfully.

"There is no automobile of yours in the vicinity," the Inspector
continued, "nor any news of it. I think it will be as well now, Quest, for
this matter to take its obvious course. Will you, first of all, hand over
her jewels to Mrs. Rheinholdt?"

Quest drew the keys of the safe from his pocket, crossed the room and
swung open the safe door. For a moment afterwards he stood transfixed. His
arm, half outstretched, remained motionless. Then he turned slowly around.

"The jewels have been stolen," he announced with unnatural calm.

Mrs. Rheinholdt pushed her way forward, wringing her hands.

"Stolen again?" she said. "Mr. Quest! Inspector!"

"They were there," Quest declared, "when I left the house this morning. It
seems probable," he added, "that the same person who is responsible for
this double tragedy has also taken the jewels."

The Inspector laid his hand heavily upon Quest's shoulder.

"It does seem as though that might be so," he assented grimly. "You will
kindly consider yourself under arrest, Quest. Ladies and gentlemen, will
you clear the room now, if you please? The ambulance I telephoned for is
outside."

The Professor, who had been looking on as though dazed, suddenly
intervened.

"Mr. French," he said earnestly, "I am convinced that you are making a
great mistake. In arresting and taking away Mr. Quest, you are removing
from us the one man who is likely to be able to clear up this mystery."

The Inspector pushed him gently on one side.

"You will excuse me, Professor," he said, "but this is no matter for
argument. If Mr. Quest can clear himself, no one will be more glad than
I."

Quest shrugged his shoulders.

"The Inspector will have his little joke," he observed drily. "It's all
right, girls. Keep cool," he went on, as he saw the tears in Lenora's
eyes. "Come round and see me in the Tombs, one of you."

"If I can be of any assistance," the Professor exclaimed, "I trust that
you will not fail to call upon me, Mr. Quest. I repeat, Inspector," he
added, "I am convinced that you are making a very grave mistake. Mrs.
Rheinholdt, you must let me take you home."

She gave him her arm.

"My jewels!" she sobbed. "Just as they had been recovered, too!"

"My dear lady," the Professor reminded her, with a faint air of reproach
in his tone, "I think we must remember that we are in the presence of a
graver tragedy than the loss of a few jewels."...

The ambulance men came and departed with their grim burden, the room on
the ground floor was locked and sealed, and the house was soon empty
except for the two girls. Towards three o'clock, Lenora went out and
returned with a newspaper. She opened it out upon the table and they both
pored over it.--

    "WELL-KNOWN CRIMINOLOGIST ARRESTED FOR DOUBLE TRAGEDY!

    "Sanford Quest, the famous New York criminologist, was arrested
    at noon to-day, charged with the murder of his valet, Ross
    Brown, and Miss Quigg, Salvation Army canvasser. The crime seems
    to be mixed up in some mysterious fashion with others. John D.
    Martin, of signal tower Number 10, offered by Quest as an alibi,
    was found dead behind his tower. Quest claimed that he travelled
    from the signal tower to New York on a freight train, leaving
    his automobile behind, but neither machine nor chauffeur have
    been discovered.

    "Justice Thorpe has refused to consider bail."

"He's a guy, that Justice Thorpe, and so's the idiot who wrote this
stuff!" Laura exclaimed, thrusting the paper away from her. "I guess the
Professor was dead right when he told French he was locking up the one man
who could clear up the whole show."

Lenora nodded thoughtfully.

"The Professor spoke up like a man," she agreed, "but, Laura, I want to
ask you something. Did you notice his servant--that man Craig?"

"Can't say I did particularly," Laura admitted.

"Twice," Lenora continued, "I thought he was going to faint. I tell you he
was scared the whole of the time."

"What are you getting at, kid?" Laura demanded.

"At Craig, if I can," Lenora replied, moving towards the telephone.
"Please give me the phototelesme. I am going to talk to the Professor."

Laura adjusted the mirror to the instrument and Lenora rang up. The
Professor himself answered the call.

"Have you seen the three o'clock edition, Professor?" Lenora asked.

"I never read newspapers, young lady," the Professor replied.

"Let me tell you what they say about Mr. Quest!"

Lenora commenced a rambling account of what she had read in the newspaper.
All the time the eyes of the two girls were fixed upon the mirror. They
could see the Professor seated in his chair with two huge volumes by his
side, a pile of manuscript, and a pen in his hand. They could even catch
the look of sympathy on his face as he listened attentively. Suddenly
Lenora almost broke off. She gripped Laura by the arm. The door of the
study had been opened slowly, and Craig, carrying a bundle, paused for a
moment on the threshold. He glanced nervously towards the Professor, who
seemed unaware of his entrance. Then he moved stealthily towards the
fireplace, stooped down and committed something to the flames. The relief
on his face, as he stood up, was obvious.

"All I can do for Mr. Quest, young lady, I will," the Professor promised.
"If you will forgive my saying so, you are a little over-excited just now.
Take my advice and rest for a short time. Call round and see me whenever
you wish."

He laid the receiver down and the reflection on the mirror faded away.
Lenora started up and hastily put on her coat and hat, which were still
lying on the chair.

"I am going right down to the Professor's," she announced.

"What do you think you can do there?" Laura asked.

"I am going to see if I can find out what that man burnt," she replied. "I
will be back in an hour."

Laura walked with her as far as the street car, and very soon afterwards
Lenora found herself knocking at the Professor's front door. Craig
admitted her almost at once. For a moment he seemed to shiver as he
recognised her. The weakness, however, was only momentary. He showed her
into the study with grave deference. The Professor was still immersed in
his work. He greeted her kindly, and with a little sigh laid down his pen.

"Well, young lady," he said, "have you thought of something I can do?"

She took no notice of the chair to which he pointed, and rested her hand
upon his shoulder.

"Professor," she begged, "go and see Mr. Quest! He is in the Tombs prison.
It would be the kindest thing any one could possibly do."

The Professor glanced regretfully at his manuscript, but he did not
hesitate. He rose promptly to his feet.

"If you think he would appreciate it, I will go at once," he decided.

Her face shone with gratitude.

"That is really very kind of you, Professor," she declared.

"I will send for my coat and we will go together, if you like," he
suggested.

She smiled.

"I am going the other way, back to Georgia Square," she explained. "No,
please don't ring. I can find my own way out."

She hurried from the room. Outside in the hall she paused, for a moment,
listening with beating heart. By the side wall was a hat rack with
branching pegs, from which several coats were hanging. She slipped quietly
behind their shelter. Presently the Professor came out of the room.

"My coat, please, Craig," she heard him say.

Her heart sank. Craig was coming in her direction. Her discovery seemed
certain. Then, as his hand was half stretched out to remove one of the
garments, she heard the Professor's voice.

"I think that I shall walk, Craig. I have been so much upset to-day that
the exercise will do me good. I will have the light coat from my bedroom."

For a moment the shock of relief was so great that she almost lost
consciousness. A moment or two later she heard the Professor leave the
house. Very cautiously she stole out from her hiding place. The hall was
empty. She crossed it with noiseless footsteps, slipped into the study and
moved stealthily to the fireplace. There was a little heap of ashes in one
distinct spot. She gathered them up in her handkerchief and secreted it in
her dress. Then she moved hurriedly towards the door and stepped quietly
behind the curtain. She stood there listening intently. Craig was doing
something in the hall. Even while she was hesitating, the door was opened.
He came in and moved towards his master's table. Through a chink in the
curtain she could see that he was stooping down, collecting some letters.
She stole out, ran down the hall, opened the front door and hastened down
the avenue. Her heart was beating quickly. The front door handle had
slipped from her fingers, and it seemed to her that she could hear even
now the slam with which it had swung to. At the gates she looked back.
There were no signs of life. The house still bore its customary
appearance, gloomy and deserted. With a sigh of relief, she hailed a
taxicab and sank back into the corner.

She found Laura waiting for her, and a few minutes afterwards the two
girls were examining the ashes with the aid of Quest's microscope. Among
the little pile was one fragment at the sight of which they both
exclaimed. It was distinctly a shred of charred muslin embroidery. Lenora
pointed towards it triumphantly.

"Isn't that evidence?" she demanded. "Let's ring up Inspector French!"

Laura shook her head doubtfully.

"Not so fast," she advised. "French is a good sort in his way, but he's
prejudiced just now against the boss. I'm not sure that this evidence
would go far by itself."

"It's evidence enough for us to go for Craig, though! What we have got to
do is to get a confession out of him, somehow!"

Laura studied her companion, for a moment, curiously.

"Taking some interest in Mr. Quest, kid, ain't you?"

Lenora looked up. Then her head suddenly sank into her hands. She knew
quite well that her secret had escaped her. Laura patted her shoulder.

"That's all right, child," she said soothingly. "We'll see him through
this, somehow or other."

"You don't mind?" Lenora faltered, without raising her eyes.

"Not I," she replied promptly. "I'm not looking for trouble of that sort."

Lenora raised her head. There was an immense relief in her face.

"I am so glad," she said. "I was afraid sometimes--living here with him,
you know--"

Laura interrupted her with an easy laugh.

"You don't need to worry," she assured her.

Lenora rose to her feet. She was quite herself again. There was a new look
of determination in her face.

"Laura," she exclaimed, "we will save Mr. Quest and we will get hold of
Craig! I have a plan. Listen."


2.

Craig's surprise was real enough as he opened the back door of the
Professor's house on the following morning and found Lenora standing on
the threshold.

"I am very sorry, Miss Lenora," he apologised. "The front door bell must
be out of order. I certainly didn't hear it ring. Mr. Ashleigh is in his
study, if you wish to see him."

Lenora smiled pleasantly.

"To tell you the truth," she said, "I really do not want to see him,--at
least, not just yet. I came to this door because I wanted a little talk
with you."

Craig's attitude was perfect. He was mystified, but he remained
respectful.

"Will you come inside?" he invited.

She shook her head.

"I am afraid," she confided, "of what I am going to say being overheard.
Come with me down to the garage for a moment."

She pointed to the wooden building which stood about fifty yards away from
the house. Craig hesitated.

"If you wish it, miss," he assented doubtfully. "I will get the keys."

He disappeared for a moment and came out again almost immediately
afterwards with a bunch of keys in his hand. He seemed a little disturbed.

"I am doing as you wish, Miss Lenora," he said, "but there is nobody about
here likely to overhear, and I have no secrets from my master."

"Perhaps not," Lenora replied, "but I have. The Professor is a dear," she
added hastily, "but he is too wrapped up in his scientific work to be able
to see things like men of ordinary common-sense."

"That is quite true," Craig admitted. "Mr. Ashleigh has only one idea in
his life.... This way, then, if you please, miss."

He opened the door of the garage, leaving the keys in the lock, and they
both passed inside. The place was gloomy and lit only by a single narrow
window near the roof. The only vehicle it contained was the Professor's
little car.

"You can say what you please here without the slightest fear of being
overheard, miss," Craig remarked.

Lenora nodded, and breathed a prayer to herself. She was nearer the door
than Craig by about half-a-dozen paces. Her hand groped in the little bag
she was carrying and gripped something hard. She clenched her teeth for a
moment. Then the automatic pistol flashed out through the gloom.

"Craig," she threatened, "if you move I shall shoot you."

It seemed as though the man were a coward. He began to tremble, his lips
twitched, his eyes grew larger and rounder.

"What is it?" he faltered. "What do you want?"

"Just this," Lenora said firmly. "I suspect you to be guilty of the crime
for which Sanford Quest is in prison. I am going to have you questioned.
If you are innocent, you have nothing to fear. If you are guilty, there
will be some one here before long who will extract the truth from you."

The man's face was an epitome of terror. Even his knees shook. Lenora felt
herself grow calmer with every moment.

"I am going outside to send a message," she told him. "I shall return
presently."

"Don't go," he begged suddenly. "Don't leave me!"

She turned around.

"Why not?"

He drew a step nearer. Once more the few inches of blue steel flashed out
between them.

"None of your games," she warned him. "I am in earnest, and I am not
afraid to shoot."

"I won't come any nearer," he promised, "but listen! I am innocent--I have
done nothing wrong. If you keep me here, you will do more harm than you
can dream of."

"It is for other people to decide about your innocence," Lenora said
calmly. "I have nothing to do with that. If you are wise, you will stop
here quietly."

"Have you said anything to Mr. Ashleigh, miss?" the man asked piteously.

"Not a word."

An expression of relief shone for a moment upon his face. Lenora pointed
to a stool.

"Sit down there and wait quietly," she ordered.

He obeyed without a word. She left the place, locked the door securely,
and made her way round to the other side of the garage--the side hidden
from the house. Here, at the far corner, she drew a little pocket wireless
from her bag and set it on the window-sill. Very slowly she sent her
message,--

    "I have Craig here in the Professor's garage, locked up. If our
    plan has succeeded, come at once. I am waiting here for you."

There was no reply. She sent the message again and again. Suddenly, during
a pause, there was a little flash upon the plate. A message was coming to
her. She transcribed it with beating heart:

    "O.K. Coming."

The guard swung open the wicket in front of Quest's cell.

"Young woman to see you, Quest," he announced. "Ten minutes, and no loud
talking, please."

Quest moved to the bars. It was Laura who stood there. She wasted very
little time in preliminaries. Having satisfied herself that the guard was
out of hearing, she leaned as close as she could to Quest.

"Look here," she said, "Lenora's crazy with the idea that Craig has done
these jobs--Craig, the Professor's servant, you know. We used the
phototelesme yesterday afternoon and saw him burn something in the
Professor's study. Lenora went up straight away and got hold of the
ashes."

"Smart girl," Quest murmured, nodding approvingly. "Well?"

"There are distinct fragments," Laura continued, "of embroidered stuff
such as the Salvation Army girl might have been wearing. We put them on
one side, but they aren't enough evidence. Lenora's idea is that you
should try and get hold of Craig and hypnotise him into a confession."

"That's all right," Quest replied, "but how am I to get hold of him?"

Laura glanced once more carelessly around to where the guard stood.

"Lenora's gone up to the Professor's again this afternoon. She is going to
try and get hold of Craig and lock him in the garage. If she succeeds, she
will send a message by wireless at three o'clock. It is half-past two
now."

"Well?" Quest exclaimed. "Well?"

"You can work this guard, if you want to," Laura went on. "I have seen you
tackle much worse cases. He seems dead easy. Then let me in the cell, take
my clothes and leave me here. You did it before when you were trying to
hunt down those men in Chicago, and not a soul recognised you."

Quest followed the scheme in his mind quickly.

"It is all right," he decided, "but I am not at all sure that they can
really hold me on the evidence they have got. If they can't, I shall be
doing myself more harm than good this way."

"It's no use unless you can get hold of Craig quickly," Laura said. "He is
getting the scares, as it is."

"I'll do it," Quest decided. "Call the guard, Laura."

She obeyed. The man came good-naturedly towards them.

"Well, young people, not quarrelling, I hope?" he remarked.

Quest looked at him steadfastly through the bars.

"I want you to come inside for a moment," he said.

"What for?" the man demanded.

"I want you to come inside for a moment," Quest repeated softly. "Unlock
the door, please, take the key off your bunch and come inside."

The man hesitated, but all the time his fingers were fumbling with the
keys. Quest's lips continued to move. The warder opened the door and
entered. A few minutes later, Quest passed the key through the window to
Laura, who was standing on guard.

"Come in," he whispered. "Don't step over him. He is sitting with his back
to the wall, just inside."

Laura obeyed, and entered the cell. For a moment they were breathless with
alarm. A passing warder looked down their avenue. Eventually, however, he
turned in the other direction.

"Off with your coat and skirt like lightning, Laura," Quest ordered. "This
has got to be done quickly or not at all."

Without a word, and with marvellous rapidity, the change was effected.
Laura produced from her hand-bag a wig, which she pinned inside her hat
and passed over to Quest. Then she flung herself on to the bed and drew
the blanket up to her chin.

"How long will he stay like that?" she whispered, pointing to the warder,
who was sitting on the floor with his arms folded and his eyes closed.

"Half an hour or so," Quest answered. "Don't bother about him. I shall
drop the key back through the window."

A moment or two later, Quest walked deliberately down the corridor of the
prison, crossed the pavement and stepped into a taxicab. He reached
Georgia Square at five minutes to three. A glance up and down assured him
that the house was unwatched. He let himself in with his own key and
laughed softly as he caught sight of his reflection in the mirror. The
house was strangely quiet and deserted, but he wasted no time in looking
around. He ran quickly upstairs, paused in his sitting-room only to take a
cigar from the cabinet, passed on to the bedroom, threw Laura's clothes
off, and, after a few moments' hesitation, selected from the wardrobe a
rough tweed suit with a thick lining and lapels. Just as he was tying his
tie, the little wireless which he had laid on the table at his side began
to record the message. He glanced at the clock. It was exactly three.

    "I have Craig here in the Professor's garage, locked up. If our
    plan has succeeded, come at once. I am waiting here for you."

Quest's eyes shone for a moment with satisfaction. Then he sent off his
answering message, put on a duster and slouch hat, and left the house by
the side entrance. In a few moments he was in Broadway, and a quarter of
an hour later a taxicab deposited him at the entrance to the Professor's
house. He walked swiftly up the drive and turned towards the garage,
hoping every moment to see something of Lenora. The door of the place
stood open. He entered and walked around. It was empty. There was no sign
of either Craig or Lenora!...

       *       *       *       *       *

Quest, recovered from his first disappointment, stole carefully out and
made a minute examination of the place. Close to the corner from which
Lenora had sent her wireless message to him, he stooped and picked up a
handkerchief, which from the marking he recognised at once. A few feet
away, the gravel was disturbed as though by the trampling of several feet.
He set his teeth. For a single moment his own danger was forgotten. A
feeling which he utterly failed to recognise robbed him of his indomitable
nerve. He realised with vivid but scarcely displeasing potency a weakness
in the armour of his complete self-control.

"I've got to find that girl," he muttered. "Craig can go to hell!"

He turned away and approached the house. The front door stood open and he
made his way at once to the library. The Professor, who was sitting at his
desk surrounded by a pile of books and papers, addressed him, as he
entered, without looking up.

"Where on earth have you been, Craig?" he enquired petulantly. "I have
rung for you six times. Have I not told you never to leave the place
without orders?"

"It is not Craig," Quest replied quietly. "It is I, Professor--Sanford
Quest."

The Professor swung round in his chair and eyed his visitor in blank
astonishment.

"Quest?" he exclaimed. "God bless my soul! Have they let you out already,
then?"

"I came out," Quest replied grimly. "Sit down and listen to me for a
moment, will you?"

"You came out?" the Professor repeated, looking a little dazed. "You mean
that you escaped?"

Quest nodded.

"Perhaps I made a mistake," he admitted, "but here I am. Now listen,
Professor. I know this will be painful to you, but give me your best
attention for a few minutes. These young women assistants of mine have
formed a theory of their own about the murder in my flat and the robbery
of the jewels. Hold on to your chair, Professor. They believe that the
guilty person was Craig."

The Professor's face was almost pitiful in its blank amazement. His mouth
was wide open like a child's, words seemed absolutely denied to him.

"That's their theory," Quest went on. "They may be right or they may be
wrong--Lenora, at any rate, has collected some shreds of evidence. They
hatched a scheme between them, clever enough in its way. They locked Craig
up in your garage and got me out of the Tombs in Laura's clothes. I have
come straight up to find your garage open and Lenora missing."

The Professor rose to his feet, obviously making a tremendous effort to
adjust his ideas.

"Craig locked up in my garage?" he murmured. "Craig guilty of those
murders? Why, my dear Mr. Quest, a more harmless, a more inoffensive,
peace-loving and devoted servant than John Craig never trod this earth!"

"Maybe," Quest replied, "but come out here, Mr. Ashleigh."

The Professor followed his companion out to the garage. Quest showed him
the open door and the marks of footsteps around where he had picked up the
handkerchief.

"Now," he said, "what has become of your man Craig, and what has become of
my assistant Lenora?"

"Perhaps we had better search the house," the Professor suggested. "Craig?
My dear Mr. Quest, you little know--"

"Where is he, then?" Quest interrupted.

The Professor could do nothing but look around him a little vaguely.
Together they went back to the house and searched it without result. Then
they returned once more to the garage.

"I am going back," Quest announced. "My only chance is the wireless. If
Lenora is alive or at liberty, she will communicate with me."

"May I come, too?" the Professor asked timidly. "This matter has upset me
thoroughly. I cannot stay here without Craig."

"Come, by all means," Quest assented. "I will drive you down in your car,
if you like."

The Professor hurried away to get his coat and hat, and a few minutes
later they started off. In Broadway, they left the car at a garage and
made their way up a back street, which enabled them to enter the house at
the side entrance. They passed upstairs into the sitting-room. Quest
fetched the pocket wireless and laid it down on the table. The Professor
examined it with interest.

"You are marvellous, my friend," he declared. "With all these resources of
science at your command, it seems incredible that you should be in the
position you are."

Quest nodded coolly.

"I'll get out of that all right," he asserted confidently. "The only
trouble is that while I am dodging about like this I cannot devote myself
properly to the task of running down this fiend of the Hands. Just one
moment, Professor, while I send off a message," he continued, opening the
little instrument. "Where are you, Lenora?" he signalled. "Send me word
and I will fetch you. I am in my own house for the present. Let me know
that you are safe."

The Professor leaned back, smoking one of Quest's excellent cigars. He was
beginning to show signs of the liveliest interest.

[Illustration: QUEST AND LAURA CHANGE CLOTHES SO THAT QUEST MAY MAKE HIS
ESCAPE.]

[Illustration: ONE OF THE CLUB'S BUTLERS TURNS IN A FIRE ALARM.]

"Quest," he said, "I wish I could induce you to dismiss this extraordinary
supposition of yours concerning my servant Craig. The man has been with me
for the best part of twenty years. He saved my life in South America; we
have travelled in all parts of the world. He has proved himself to be
exemplary, a faithful and devoted servant. I thought it absurd, Mr. Quest,
when you were suspected of these crimes. I should think it even more
ridiculous to associate Craig with them in any way whatever."

"Then perhaps you will tell me," Quest suggested, "where he is now, and
why he has gone away? That does not look like complete innocence, does
it?"

The Professor sighed.

"Appearances are nothing," he declared. "Craig is a man of highly nervous
susceptibilities. The very idea of being suspected of anything so terrible
would be enough to drive him almost out of his mind. I am convinced that
we shall find him at home presently, with some reasonable explanation of
his absence."

Quest paced the room for a few moments, moodily.

There was a certain amount of reason in the Professor's point of view.

"Anyway, I cannot stay here much longer, unless I mean to go back to the
Tombs," he declared.

"Surely," the Professor suggested, "your innocence will very soon be
established?"

"There is one thing which will happen, without a doubt," Quest replied.
"My auto and the chauffeur will be discovered. I have insisted upon
enquiries being sent out throughout the State of Connecticut. They tell
me, too, that the police are hard on the scent of Red Gallagher and the
other man. Unless they get wind of this and sell me purposely, their
arrest will be the end of my troubles. To tell you the truth, Professor,"
Quest concluded, "it is not of myself I am thinking at all just now. It is
Lenora."

The Professor nodded sympathetically.

"The young lady who shut Craig up in the garage, you mean? A plucky young
woman she must be."

"She has a great many other good qualities besides courage," Quest
declared. "Women have not counted for much with me, Professor, up till
now, any more than they have done, I should think, with you, but I tell
you frankly, if any one has hurt a hair of that girl's head I will have
their lives, whatever the penalty may be! It is for her sake--to find
her--that I broke out of prison and that I am trying to keep free. The
wisest thing to do, from my own point of view, would be to give myself up.
I can't bring myself to do that without knowing what has become of her."

The Professor nodded again.

"A charming and well-bred young woman she seems," he admitted. "I fear
that I should only be a bungler in your profession, Mr. Quest, but if
there is anything I can do to help you to discover her whereabouts, you
can count upon me. Personally, I am convinced that Craig will return to me
with some plausible explanation as to what has happened. In that case he
will doubtless bring news of the young lady."

Quest, for the third or fourth time, moved cautiously towards the window.
His expression suddenly changed. He glanced downwards, frowning slightly.
An alert light flashed into his eyes.

"They're after me!" he exclaimed. "Sit still, Professor."

He darted into his room and reappeared again almost immediately. The
Professor gave a gasp of astonishment at his altered appearance. His tweed
suit seemed to have been turned inside out. There were no lapels now and
it was buttoned up to his neck. He wore a long white apron; a peaked cap
and a chin-piece of astonishing naturalness had transformed him into the
semblance of a Dutch grocer's boy.

"I'm off, Professor," Quest whispered. "You shall hear from me soon. I
have not been here, remember!"

He ran lightly down the steps and into the kitchen, picked up a basket,
filled it haphazard with vegetables and threw a cloth over the top. Then
he made his way to the front door, peered out for a moment, swung through
it on to the step, and, turning round, commenced to belabour it with his
fist. Two plain-clothes men stood at the end of the street. A police
automobile drew up outside the gate. Inspector French, attended by a
policeman, stepped out. The former looked searchingly at Quest.

"Well, my boy, what are you doing here?" he asked.

"I cannot answer get," Quest replied, in broken English. "Ten minutes
already have I wasted. I have knocked at all the doors."

French smiled.

"You can hop it, Dutchie," he advised. "By-the-bye, when was that order
for vegetables given?" he added, frowning for a moment.

"It is three times a week the same," Quest explained, whipping the cloth
from the basket. "No word has been sent to alter anything."

The Inspector pushed him hurriedly in the direction of the street.

"You run along home," he said, "and tell your master that he had better
leave off delivering goods here for the present."

Quest went off, grumbling. He walked with the peculiar waddle affected by
young Dutchmen of a certain class, and was soon out of sight round the
corner of the street. French opened the door with a masterkey and secured
it carefully, leaving one of his men to guard it. He searched the rooms on
the ground floor and finally ascended to Quest's study. The Professor was
still enjoying his cigar.

"Say, where's Quest?" the Inspector asked promptly.

"Have you let him out already?" the Professor replied, in a tone of mild
surprise. "I thought he was in the Tombs prison."

The Inspector pressed on without answering. Every room in the house was
ransacked. Presently he came back to the room where the Professor was
still sitting. His usually good-humoured face was a little clouded.

"Professor," he began--"What's that, Miles?"

A plain-clothes man from the street had come hurrying into the room.

"Say, Mr. French," he reported, "our fellows have got hold of a newsie
down in the street, who was coming along way round the back and saw two
men enter this house by the side entrance, half-an-hour ago. One he
described exactly as the Professor here. The other, without a doubt, was
Quest."

French turned swiftly towards the Professor.

"You hear what this man says?" he exclaimed. "Mr. Ashleigh, you're fooling
me! You entered this house with Sanford Quest. You must tell us where he
is hiding."

The Professor knocked the ash from his cigar and replaced it in his mouth.
His clasped hands rested in front of him. There was a twinkle of something
almost like mirth in his eyes as he glanced up at the Inspector.

"Mr. French," he said, "Mr. Sanford Quest is my friend. I am here in
charge of his house. Believing as I do that his arrest was an egregious
blunder, I shall say or do nothing likely to afford you any information."

French turned impatiently away. Suddenly a light broke in upon him, he
rushed towards the door.

"That damned Dutchie!" he exclaimed.

The Professor smiled benignly.



CHAPTER VII

THE UNSEEN TERROR


1.

With a little gesture of despair, Quest turned away from the instrument
which seemed suddenly to have become so terribly unresponsive, and looked
across the vista of square roofs and tangled masses of telephone wires to
where the lights of larger New York flared up against the sky. From his
attic chamber, the roar of the City a few blocks away was always in his
ears. He had forgotten in those hours of frenzied solitude to fear for his
own safety. He thought only of Lenora. Under which one of those thousands
of roofs was she being concealed? What was the reason for this continued
silence? Perhaps they had taken her instrument away--perhaps she was being
ill-used. The bare thought opened the door to a thousand grim and
torturing surmises. He paced restlessly up and down the room. Inaction had
never seemed to him so wearisome. From sheer craving to be doing
something, he paused once more before the little instrument.

"Lenora, where are you?" he signalled. "I have taken a lodging in the
Servants' Club. I am still in hiding, hoping that Craig may come here. I
am very anxious about you."

Still no reply! Quest drew a chair up to the window and sat there with
folded arms looking down into the street. Suddenly he sprang to his feet.
The instrument quivered--there was a message at last! He took it down with
a little choke of relief.

"I don't know where I am. I am terrified. I was outside the garage when I
was seized from behind. The Hands held me. I was unconscious until I found
myself here. I am now in an attic room with no window except the skylight,
which I cannot reach. I can see nothing--hear nothing. No one has hurt me,
no one comes near. Food is pushed through a door, which is locked again
immediately. The house seems empty, yet I fancy that I am being watched
all the time. I am terrified!"

Quest drew the instrument towards him.

"I have your message," he signalled. "Be brave! I am watching for Craig.
Through him I shall reach you before long. Send me a message every now and
then."

Then there was a silence.

Quest was conscious of an enormous feeling of relief and yet an almost
maddening sense of helplessness. She was imprisoned by the Hands. She was
in their power, and up till now they had shown themselves ruthless enough.
A room with a roof window only! How could she define her whereabouts! His
first impulse was to rush madly out into the street and search for her.
Then his common sense intervened. His one hope was through Craig. Again he
took up his vigil in front of the window. Once more his eyes swept the
narrow street with its constant stream of passers-by. Each time a man
stopped and entered the building, he leaned a little further forward, and
at each disappointment he seemed to realise a little more completely the
slenderness of the chance upon which he was staking so much. Then suddenly
he found himself gripping the window-sill in a momentary thrill of rare
excitement. His vigil was rewarded at last. The man for whom he was
waiting was there! Quest watched him cross the street, glance furtively to
the right and to the left, then enter the club. He turned back to the
little wireless and his fingers worked as though inspired.

"I am on Craig's track," he signalled. "Be brave."

He waited for no reply, but opened the door and stealing softly out of the
room, leaned over the banisters. His apartment was on the fourth story.
The floor below was almost entirely occupied by the kitchen and other
offices. The men's club room was on the second floor. From where he stood
he heard the steward of the club greeting Craig. He was a big man with a
hearty voice, and the sound of his words reached Quest distinctly.

"Say, Mr. Craig, you're an authority on South America, aren't you? I
bought some beans in the market this morning which they told me were grown
down there, and my chef don't seem to know what to make of 'em. I wonder
whether you would mind stepping up and giving him your advice?"

Craig's much lower voice was inaudible but it was evident that he had
consented, for the two men ascended to the third floor together. Quest
watched them enter the kitchen. A moment or two later the steward was
summoned by a messenger and descended alone. Quest ran quickly down the
stairs and planted himself behind the kitchen door. He had hardly taken up
his position before the handle was turned. He heard Craig's last words,
spoken as he looked over his shoulder.

"You want to just soak them for two hours longer than any other beans in
the world. That's all there is about it."

Craig appeared and the door swung back behind him. Before he could utter a
cry, Quest's left hand was over his mouth and the cold muzzle of an
automatic pistol was pressed to his ribs.

"Turn round and mount those stairs, Craig," Quest ordered.

The man shrunk away, trembling. The pistol pressed a little further into
his side.

"Upstairs," Quest repeated firmly. "If you utter a cry I shall shoot you."

Craig turned slowly round and obeyed. He mounted the stairs with reluctant
footsteps, followed by Quest.

"Through the door to your right," the latter directed. "That's right! Now
sit down in that chair facing me."

Quest closed the door carefully. Craig sat where he had been ordered, his
fingers gripping the arms of the chair. In his eyes shone the furtive,
terrified light of the trapped criminal.

Quest looked him over a little scornfully. It was queer that a man with
apparently so little nerve should have the art and the daring to plan such
exploits.

"What do you want with me?" Craig asked doggedly.

"First of all," Quest replied, "I want to know what you have done with my
assistant, the girl whom you carried off from the Professor's garage."

Craig shook his head.

"I know nothing about her."

"She locked you in the garage," Quest continued, "and sent for me. When I
arrived, I found the garage door open, Lenora gone and you a fugitive."

Bewilderment struggled for a moment with blank terror in Craig's
expression.

"How do you know that she locked me in the garage?"

Quest smiled, stretched out his right arm and his long fingers played
softly with the pocket wireless.

"In just the same way," he explained, "that I am sending her this message
at the present moment--a message which she will receive and understand
wherever she is hidden. Would you like to know what I am telling her?"

The man shivered. His eyes, as though fascinated, watched the little
instrument.

"I am saying this, Craig," Quest continued. "Craig is here and in my
power. He is sitting within a few feet of me and will not leave this room
alive until he has told me your whereabouts. Keep up your courage, Lenora.
You shall be free in an hour."

The trapped man looked away from the instrument into Quest's face. There
was a momentary flicker of something that might have passed for courage in
his tone.

"Mr. Quest," he said, "you are a wonderful man, but there are limits to
your power. You can tear my tongue from my mouth but you cannot force me
to speak a word."

Quest leaned a little further forward in his chair, his gaze became more
concentrated.

"That is where you are wrong, Craig. That is where you make a mistake. In
a very few minutes you will be telling me all the secrets of your heart."

Craig shivered, drew back a little in his chair, tried to rise and fell
back again helpless.

"My God!" he cried. "Leave me alone!"

"When you have told me the truth," Quest answered, swiftly, "and you will
tell me all I want to know in a few moments.... Your eyelids are getting a
little heavy, Craig. Don't resist. Something which is like sleep is coming
over you. You see my will has yours by the throat."

Craig seemed suddenly to collapse altogether. He fell over on one side.
Every atom of colour had faded from his cheeks. Quest leaned over him with
a frown. The man was in a stupor without a doubt, but it was a physical
state of unconsciousness into which he had subsided. He felt his pulse,
unbuttoned his coat, and listened for a moment to the beating of his
heart. Then he crossed the room, fetched the pitcher of water and dashed
some of its contents in Craig's face. In a few moments the man opened his
eyes and regained consciousness. His appearance, however, was still
ghastly.

"Where am I?" he murmured.

"You are here in my room, at the Servants' Club," Quest replied. "You are
just about to tell me where I shall find Lenora."

Craig shook his head. A very weak smile of triumph flickered for a moment
at the corners of his lips.

"Your torture chamber trick won't work on me!" he exclaimed. "You can
never--"

The whole gamut of emotions seemed already to have spent themselves in the
man's face, but at that moment there was a new element, an element of
terrified curiosity in the expression of his eyes as he stared towards the
door.

"Is this another trick of yours?" he muttered.

Quest, too, turned his head and sprang instantly to his feet. From
underneath the door came a little puff of smoke. There was a queer sense
of heat of which both men were simultaneously conscious. Down in the
street arose a chorus of warning shouts, increasing momentarily in volume.
Quest threw open the door and closed it again at once.

"The place is on fire," he announced briefly. "Pull yourself together,
man. We shall have all we can do to get out of this."

Craig turned to the door but staggered back almost immediately.

"The stairs are going!" he shrieked. "It is the kitchen that is on fire.
We are cut off! We cannot get down!"

Quest was on his hands and knees, fumbling under his truckle bed. He
pulled out a crude form of fire escape, a rough sort of cradle with a rope
attached.

"Know how to use this?" he asked Craig quickly. "Here, catch hold. Put
your arms inside this strap."

"You are going to send me down first?" Craig exclaimed incredulously.

Quest smiled. Then he drew the rope round the table and tied it.

"You would like to have a chance of cutting the rope, wouldn't you, when I
was half way down?" he asked grimly. "Now then, don't waste time. Get on
to the window-sill. Don't brake too much. Off you go!"

Yard by yard, swinging a little in the air, Craig made his descent. When
he arrived in the street, there were a hundred willing hands to release
him. Quest drew up the rope quickly, warned by a roar of anxious voices.
The walls of the room were crumbling. Volumes of smoke were now pouring in
underneath the door, and through the yawning fissures of the wall. Little
tongues of flame were leaping out dangerously close to the spot where he
must pass. He let fall the slack of the rope and leaned from the window to
watch it anxiously. Then he commenced to descend, letting himself down
hand over hand, always with one eye upon that length of rope that swung
below. Suddenly, as he reached the second floor, a little cry from the
crowd warned him of what had happened. Tongues of flame curling out from
the blazing building, had caught the rope, which was being burned through
not a dozen feet away from him. He descended a little further and paused
in mid-air.

A shout from the crowd reached him.

"The cables! Try the cables!"

He glanced round. Seven or eight feet away, and almost level with him was
a double row of telegraph wires. Almost as he saw them the rope below him
burned through and fell to the ground. He swung a little towards the side
of the house, pushed himself vigorously away from it with his feet, and at
the farthest point of the outward swing, jumped. His hands gripped the
telegraph wires safely. Even in that tense moment he heard a little sob of
relief from the people below.

Hand over hand he made his way to the nearest pole and slipped easily to
the ground. The crowd immediately surged around him. Some one forced a
drink into his hand. A chorus of congratulations fell upon his deafened
ears. Then the coming of the fire engines, and the approach of a police
automobile diverted the attention of the on-lookers. Quest slipped about
amongst them, searching for Craig.

"Where is the man who came down before me?" he asked a bystander.

"Talking to the police in the car over yonder," was the hoarse reply.
"Say, Guv'nor, you only just made that!"

Quest pushed his way through the crowd to where Craig was speaking eagerly
to Inspector French. He stopped short and stooped down. He was near enough
to hear the former's words.

"Mr. French, you saw that man come down the rope and swing on to the
cables? That was Quest, Sanford Quest, the man who escaped from the Tombs
prison. He can't have got away yet."

Quest drew off his coat, turned it inside out, and replaced it swiftly. He
coolly picked up a hat some one had lost in the crowd and pulled it over
his eyes. He passed within a few feet of where Craig and the Inspector
were talking.

"He was hiding in the Servants' Club," Craig continued, "he had just
threatened to shoot me when the fire broke out."

"I'll send the word round," French declared. "We'll have him found, right
enough."

For a single moment Quest hesitated. He had a wild impulse to take Craig
by the neck and throw him back into the burning house. Then he heard
French shout to his men.

"Say, boys, Sanford Quest is in the crowd here somewhere. He's the man who
jumped on to the cable lines. A hundred dollars for his arrest!"

Quest turned reluctantly away. Men were rushing about in all directions
looking for him. He forced a passage through the crowd and in the general
confusion he passed the little line of police without difficulty. His face
darkened as he looked behind at the burning block. A peculiar sense of
helplessness oppressed him. His pocket wireless was by now a charred heap
of ashes. His one means of communication with Lenora was gone and the only
man who knew her whereabouts was safe under the protection of the police.


2.

The Professor swung round in his chair and greeted Quest with some
surprise but also a little disappointment.

"No news of Craig?" he asked.

Quest sank into a chair. He was fresh from the Turkish baths and was
enjoying the luxury of clean linen and the flavour of an excellent cigar.

"I got Craig all right," he replied. "He came to the Servants' Club where
I was waiting for him. My luck's out, though. The place was burnt to the
ground last night. I saved his life and then the brute gave me away to the
police. I had to make my escape as best I could."

The Professor tapped the table peevishly.

"This is insufferable," he declared. "I have had no shaving water; my
coffee was undrinkable; I can find nothing. I have a most important
lecture to prepare and I cannot find any of the notes I made upon the
subject."

Quest stared at the Professor for a moment and then laughed softly.

"Well," he remarked, "you are rather an egoist, Professor, aren't you?"

"Perhaps I am," the latter confessed. "Still, you must remember that the
scientific world on those few occasions when I do appear in public,
expects much of me. My sense of proportion may perhaps be disarranged by
this knowledge. All that I can realise at the present moment, is this. You
seem to have frightened away the one man in the world who is indispensable
to me."

Quest smoked in silence for a moment.

"Any mail for me, Professor?" he asked, abruptly.

The Professor opened a drawer and handed him a telegram.

"Only this!"

Quest opened it and read it through. It was from the Sheriff of a small
town in Connecticut:--

    "The men you enquired for are both here. They have sold an
    automobile and seem to be spending the proceeds. Shall I
    arrest?"

Quest studied the message for a moment.

"Say, this is rather interesting, Professor," he remarked.

"Really?" the latter replied tartly. "You must forgive me if I cannot
follow the complications of your--pardon me for saying Munchausen-like
affairs. How does the arrest of these two men help you?"

"Don't you see?" Quest explained. "These are the two thugs who set upon me
up at the section house. They killed the signalman, who could have been my
alibi, and swiped my car, in which, as it cannot be found, French supposes
that I returned to New York. With their arrest the case against me
collapses. I tell you frankly, Professor," Quest continued, frowning, "I
hate to leave the city without having found that girl; but I am not sure
that the quickest way to set things right would not be to go down, arrest
these men and bring them back here, clear myself, and then go tooth and
nail for Craig."

"I agree with you most heartily," the Professor declared. "I recommend any
course which will ensure the return of my man Craig."

"I cannot promise you that you will ever have Craig here again," Quest
observed grimly. "I rather fancy Sing-Sing will be his next home."

"Don't be foolish, Mr. Quest," the Professor advised. "Don't let me lose
confidence in you. Craig would not hurt a fly, and as to abducting your
assistant--if my sense of humour were developed upon normal lines--well, I
should laugh! What you have really done, you, and that young lady
assistant of yours, is to terrify the poor fellow into such a state of
nerves that he scarcely knows what he is doing. As a matter of fact, how
do you know that that young woman has been abducted at all? Such things
are most unlikely, especially in this part of the city."

"What reason do you suggest, then, for her disappearance?" Quest enquired.

"At my age," the Professor replied, drily, "I naturally know nothing of
these things. But she is a young woman of considerable personal
attractions--I should think it not unlikely that she is engaged in some
amorous adventure."

Quest laughed derisively.

"You do not know Lenora, Mr. Ashleigh," he remarked. "However, if it
interests you, I will tell you why I know she has been abducted. Only a
few hours ago, I was talking to her."

The Professor turned his head swiftly towards Quest. There was a queer
sort of surprise in his face.

"Talking to her?"

Quest nodded.

"Our pocket wireless!" he explained. "Lenora has even described to me the
room in which she is hidden."

"And the neighbourhood also?" the Professor demanded.

"Of that she knows nothing," Quest replied. "She is in a room apparently
at the top of a house and the only window is in the roof. She can see
nothing, hear nothing. When I get hold of the man who put her there,"
Quest continued slowly, "it will be my ambition to supplement personally
any punishment the law may be able to inflict."

The Professor's manner had lost all its petulance. He looked at Quest
almost with admiration.

"The idea of yours is wonderful," he confessed. "I am beginning to believe
in your infallibility, Mr. Quest. I am beginning to believe that on this
occasion, at any rate, you will triumph over your enemies."

Quest rose to his feet.

"Well," he said, "if I can keep out of my friend French's way for a few
hours longer, I think I can promise you that I shall be a free man when I
return from Bethel. I'm off now, Professor. Wish me good luck!"

"My friend," the Professor replied, "I wish you the best of luck, but more
than anything else in the world," he added, a little peevishly, "I hope
you may bring me back my servant Craig, and leave us both in peace."

Quest stepped off the cars at Bethel a little before noon that morning.
The Sheriff met him at the depot and greeted him cordially but with
obvious surprise.

"Say, Mr. Quest," he exclaimed, as they turned away, "I know these men are
wanted on your charge, but I thought--you'll excuse my saying so--that you
were in some trouble yourself."

Quest nodded.

"I'm out of that--came out yesterday."

"Very glad to hear it," the Sheriff assured him heartily. "I never thought
that they'd be able to hold you."

"They hadn't a chance," Quest admitted. "Things turned out a little
awkwardly at first, but this affair is going to put me on my feet again.
The moment my car is identified and Red Gallagher and his mate arrested,
every scrap of evidence against me goes."

"Well, here's the garage and the man who bought the car," the Sheriff
remarked, "and there's the car itself in the road. It's for you to say
whether it can be identified."

Quest drew a sigh of relief.

"That's mine, right enough," he declared. "Now for the men."

"Say, I want to tell you something," the Sheriff began dubiously. "These
two are real thugs. They ain't going to take it lying down."

"Where are they?" Quest demanded.

"In the worst saloon here," the Sheriff replied. "They've been there
pretty well all night, drinking, and they're there again this morning,
hard at it. They've both got firearms, and though I ain't exactly a
nervous man, Mr. Quest--"

"You leave it to me," Quest interrupted. "This is my job and I want to
take the men myself."

"You'll never do it," the Sheriff declared.

"Look here," Quest explained, "if I let you and your men go in, there will
be a free fight, and as likely as not you will kill one, if not both of
the men. I want them alive."

"Well, it's your show," the Sheriff admitted, stopping before a
disreputable-looking building. "This is the saloon. They've turned the
place upside down since they've been here. You can hear the row they're
making now. Free drinks to all the toughs in the town! They're pouring the
stuff down all the time."

"Well," Quest decided, "I'm going in and I'm going in unarmed. You can
bring your men in later, if I call for help or if you hear any shooting."

"You're asking for trouble," the Sheriff warned him.

"I've got to do this my own way," Quest insisted. "Stand by now."

He pushed open the door of the saloon. There were a dozen men drinking
around the bar and in the centre of them Red Gallagher and his mate. They
seemed to be all shouting together, and the air was thick with tobacco
smoke. Quest walked right up to the two men.

"Gallagher," he said, "you're my prisoner. Are you coming quietly?"

Gallagher's mate, who was half drunk, swung round and fired a wild shot in
Quest's direction. The result was a general stampede. Red Gallagher alone
remained motionless. Grim and dangerously silent, he held a pistol within
a few inches of Quest's forehead.

"If my number's up," he exclaimed ferociously, "it won't be you who'll
take me."

"I think it will," Quest answered. "Put that gun away."

Gallagher hesitated. Quest's influence over him was indomitable.

"Put it away," Quest repeated firmly. "You know you daren't use it. Your
account's pretty full up, as it is."

Gallagher's hand wavered. From outside came the shouts of the Sheriff and
his men, struggling to fight their way in through the little crowd who
were rushing for safety. Suddenly Quest backed, jerked the pistol up with
his right elbow, and with almost the same movement struck Red Gallagher
under the jaw. The man went over with a crash. His mate, who had been
staggering about, cursing viciously, fired another wild shot at Quest, who
swayed and fell forward.

"I've done him!" the man shouted. "Get up, Red! I've done him all right!
Finish yer drink. We'll get out of this!"

He bent unsteadily over Quest. Suddenly the latter sprang up, seized him
by the leg and sent him sprawling. The gun fell from his hand. Quest
picked it up and held it firmly out, covering both men. Gallagher was on
his knees, groping for his own weapon.

"Get the handcuffs on them," Quest directed the Sheriff, who with his men
had at last succeeded in forcing his way into the saloon.

The Sheriff wasted no words till the two thugs, now nerveless and cowed,
were handcuffed. Then he turned to Quest. There was a note of genuine
admiration in his tone.

"Mr. Quest," he declared, "you've got the biggest nerve of any man I have
ever known."

The criminologist smiled.

"This sort of bully is always a coward when it comes to the pinch," he
remarked.

       *       *       *       *       *

Crouching in her chair, her pale, terror-stricken face supported between
her hands, Lenora, her eyes filled with hopeless misery, gazed at the dumb
instrument upon the table. Her last gleam of hope seemed to be passing.
Her little friend was silent. Once more her weary fingers spelt out a
final, despairing message.

"What has happened to you? I am waiting to hear all the time. Has Craig
told you where I am? I am afraid!"

There was still no reply. Her head sank a little lower on to her folded
arms. Even the luxury of tears seemed denied her. Fear, the fear which
dwelt with her day and night, had her in its grip. Suddenly she leaped,
screaming, from her place. Splinters of glass fell all around her. Her
first wild thought was of release; she gazed upwards at the broken pane.
Then very faintly from the street below she heard the shout of a boy's
angry voice.

"You've done it now, Jimmy! You're a fine pitcher, ain't you? Lost it,
that's what you've gone and done!"

The thoughts formed themselves mechanically in her mind. Her eyes sought
the ball which had come crashing into the room. There was life once more
in her pulses. She found a scrap of paper and a pencil in her pocket. With
trembling fingers she wrote a few words:

    "Police head-quarters. I am Sanford Quest's assistant, abducted
    and imprisoned here in the room where the ball has fallen. Help!
    I am going mad!"

She twisted the paper, looked around the room vainly for string, and
finally tore a thin piece of ribbon from her dress. She tied the message
around the ball, set her teeth, and threw it at the empty skylight. The
first time she was not successful and the ball came back. The second time
it passed through the centre of the opening. She heard it strike the sound
portion of the glass outside, heard it rumble down the roof. A few seconds
of breathless silence! Her heart almost stopped beating. Had it rested in
some ledge, or fallen into the street below? Then she heard the boy's
voice.

"Gee! Here's the ball come back again!"

A new light shone into the room. She seemed to be breathing a different
atmosphere--the atmosphere of hope. She listened no longer with horror for
a creaking upon the stairs. She walked back and forth until she was
exhausted.... Curiously enough, when the end came she was asleep, crouched
upon the bed and dreaming wildly. She sprang up to find Inspector French,
with a policeman behind him, standing upon the threshold.

"Inspector!" she cried, rushing towards him. "Mr. French! Oh, thank God!"

Her feelings carried her away. She threw herself at his feet. She was
laughing and crying and talking incoherently, all at the same time. The
Inspector assisted her to a chair.

"Say, what's all this mean?" he demanded.

She told him her story, incoherently, in broken phrases. French listened
with puzzled frown.

"Say, what about Quest?" he asked. "He ain't been here at all, then?"

She looked at him wonderingly.

"Of course not! Mr. Quest--"

She hesitated. The Inspector laid his hand upon her wrist. Then he
realised that she was on the point of a nervous breakdown, and in no
condition for interrogations.

"That'll do," he said. "I'll take care of you for a time, young lady, and
I'll ask you a few questions later on. My men are searching the house. You
and I will be getting on, if you can tear yourself away."

She laughed hysterically and hurried him towards the door. As they passed
down the gloomy stairs she clung to his arm. The first breath of air
seemed wonderful to her as they passed out into the street. It was
freedom!

       *       *       *       *       *

The plain-clothes man, who was lounging in Quest's most comfortable
easy-chair and smoking one of his best cigars, suddenly laid down his
paper. He moved to the window. A large, empty automobile stood in the
street outside, from which the occupants had presumably just descended. He
hastened towards the door, which was opened, however, before he was
half-way across the room. The cigar slipped from his fingers. It was
Sanford Quest who stood there, followed by the Sheriff of Bethel, two
country policemen, and Red Gallagher and his mate, heavily handcuffed.
Quest glanced at the cigar.

"Say, do you mind picking that up?" he exclaimed. "That carpet cost me
money."

The plain-clothes man obeyed at once. Then he edged a little towards the
telephone. Quest had opened his cigar cabinet.

"Glad you've left me one or two," he remarked drily.

"Say, aren't you wanted down yonder, Mr. Quest?" the man enquired.

"That's all right now," Quest told him. "I'm ringing up Inspector French
myself. You'd better stand by the other fellows there and keep your eye on
Red Gallagher and his mate."

"I guess Mr. Quest is all right," the Sheriff intervened. "We're ringing
up headquarters ourselves, anyway."

The plain-clothes man did as he was told. Quest took up the receiver from
his telephone instrument and arranged the phototelesme.

"Police-station Number One, central," he said,--"through to Mr. French's
office, if you please. Mr. Quest wants to speak to him. Yes, Sanford
Quest. No need to get excited!... All right. I'm through, am I?... Hullo,
Inspector?"

A rare expression of joy suddenly transfigured Quest's face. He was gazing
downward into the little mirror.

"You've found Lenora, then, Inspector?" he exclaimed. "Bully for you!...
What do I mean? What I say! You forget that I am a scientific man, French.
No end of appliances here you haven't had time to look at. I can see you
sitting there, and Lenora and Laura looking as though you had them on the
rack. You can drop that, French. I've got Red Gallagher and his mate, got
them here with the Sheriff of Bethel. They went off with my auto and sold
it. We've got that. Also, in less than five minutes my chauffeur will be
here. He's been lying in a farmhouse, unconscious, since that scrap. He
can tell you what time he saw me last. Bring the girls along, French--and
hurry!"

Quest hung up the receiver.

"I've given Inspector French something to think about," he remarked, as he
turned away. "Now, Mr. Sheriff, if you can make yourself at home for a
quarter of an hour or so, French will be here and take these fellows off
your hands. I've still a little more telephoning to do."

"You go right ahead," the Sheriff acquiesced.

Quest rang up the Professor. His response to the call was a little
languid, and his reception of the news of Quest's successful enterprise
was almost querulous.

"My friend," the Professor said, "your news gratifies me, of course. Your
rehabilitation, however, was a matter of certainty. With me life has
become a chaos. You can have no idea, with your independent nature, what
it means to entirely rely upon the ministrations of one person and to be
suddenly deprived of their help."

"No news of Craig, then?" Quest demanded.

"None at all," was the weary reply. "What about your young lady
assistant?"

"She'll be here in five minutes," Quest told him. "You had better come
along and hear her story. It ought to interest you."

"Dear me!" the Professor exclaimed. "I will certainly come--certainly!"

Quest set down the receiver and paced the room thoughtfully for a moment
or two. Although his own troubles were almost over, the main problem
before him was as yet unsolved. The affair with the Gallaghers was, after
all, only an off-shoot. It was the mystery of Lenora's abduction, the
mystery of the black box, which still called for the exercise of all his
ingenuity.

Inspector French was as good, even better, than his word. In a
surprisingly short time he entered the room, followed by Laura and Lenora.
Quest gave them a hand each, but it was into Lenora's eyes that he looked.
Her coming, her few words of greeting, timid though they were, brought him
an immense sense of relief.

"Well, girls," he said, "both full of adventures, eh? What did they do
with you in the Tombs, Laura?"

"Pshaw! What could they do?" Laura replied. "If they're guys enough to be
tricked by a girl, the best thing they can do is to keep mum about it and
let her go. That's about what they did to me."

Inspector French, who was standing a little aloof, regarded Laura with an
air of unwilling admiration.

"That's some girl, that Miss Laura," he muttered in an undertone to Quest.
"She roasted us nicely."

"I mustn't stop to hear your story, Lenora," Quest said. "You're
safe--that's the great thing."

"Found her in an empty house," French reported, "out Gayson Avenue way.
Now, Mr. Quest, I don't want to come the official over you too much, but
if you'll kindly remember that you're an escaped prisoner--"

There was a knock at the door. A young man entered in chauffeur's livery,
with his head still bandaged. Quest motioned him to come in.

"I'll just repeat my story of that morning, French," Quest said. "We went
out to find Macdougal, and succeeded, as you know. Just as I was starting
for home, those two thugs set upon me. They nearly did me up. You know how
I made my escape. They went off in my automobile and sold it in Bethel. I
arrested them there myself this morning. Here's the Sheriff, who will bear
out what I say, also that they arrived at the place in my automobile."

"Sure!" the Sheriff murmured.

"Further," Quest continued, "there's my chauffeur. He knows exactly what
time it was when the tire of my car blew out, just as we were starting for
New York."

"It was eleven-ten, sir," the chauffeur declared. "Mr. Quest and I both
took out our watches to see if we could make New York by mid-day. Then one
of those fellows hit me over the head and I've been laid up ever since. A
man who keeps a store a little way along the road picked me up and looked
after me."

Inspector French held out his hand.

"Mr. Quest," he said, "I reckon we'll have to withdraw the case against
you. No hard feeling, I hope?"

"None at all," Quest replied promptly, taking his hand.

"That's all right, then," French declared. "I've brought two more men with
me. Perhaps, Mr. Sheriff, you wouldn't mind escorting your prisoners
around to headquarters? I'll be there before long."

"And you girls," Quest insisted, "go right to your room and rest. I'll
come upstairs presently and have a talk. Look after her, Laura," he added,
glancing a little anxiously at Lenora. "She has had about as much as she
can bear, I think."

The two girls left the room. Quest stood upon the threshold, watching the
Sheriff and his prisoners leave the house. The former turned round to wave
his adieux to them.

"There's an elderly josser out here," he shouted; "seems to want to come
in."

Quest leaned forward and saw the Professor.

"Come right in, Mr. Ashleigh," he invited.

The Professor promptly made his appearance. His coat was ill-brushed and
in place of a hat he was wearing a tweed cap which had seen better days.
His expression was almost pathetic.

"My dear Quest," he exclaimed, as he wrung his hand, "my heartiest
congratulations! As you know, I always believed in your innocence. I am
delighted that it has been proved."

"Come in and sit down, Mr. Ashleigh," Quest invited. "You know the
Inspector."

The Professor shook hands with French, and then, feeling that his
appearance required some explanation, he took off his cap and looked at it
ruefully.

"I am aware," he said, "that this is not a becoming headgear, but I am
lost--absolutely lost without my servant. If you would earn my undying
gratitude, Mr. Quest, you would clear up the mystery about Craig and
restore him to me."

Quest was helping the Inspector to the whisky at the sideboard. He paused
to light a cigar before he replied.

"I very much fear, Professor," he observed, "that you will never have
Craig back again."

The Professor sank wearily into an easy-chair.

"I will take a little whisky and one of your excellent cigars, Quest," he
said. "I must ask you to bear with me if I seem upset. After more than
twenty years' service from one whom I have always treated as a friend,
this sudden separation, to a man of my age, is somewhat trying. My small
comforts are all interfered with. The business of my every-day life is
completely upset. I do not allude, as you perceive, Mr. Quest, to the
horrible suspicions you seem to have formed of Craig. My own theory is
that you have simply frightened him to death."

"All the same," the Inspector remarked thoughtfully, "some one who is
still at large committed those murders and stole those jewels. What is
your theory about the jewels, Mr. Quest?"

"I haven't had time to frame one yet," the criminologist replied. "You've
been keeping me too busy looking after myself. However," he added, "it's
time something was done."

He took a magnifying glass from his pocket and examined very closely the
whole of the front of the safe.

"No sign of finger-prints," he muttered. "The person who opened it
probably wore gloves."

He fitted the combination and swung open the door. He stood there, for a
moment, speechless. Something in his attitude attracted the Inspector's
attention.

"What is it, Mr. Quest?" he asked eagerly.

Quest drew a little breath. Exactly facing him, in the spot where the
jewels had been, was a small black box. He brought it to the table and
removed the lid. Inside was a sheet of paper, which he quickly unfolded.
They all three read the few lines together:--

    "Pitted against the inherited cunning of the ages, you have no
    chance. I will take compassion upon you. Look in the right-hand
    drawer of your desk."

Underneath appeared the signature of the Hands. Quest moved like a dream
to his cabinet and pulled open the right-hand drawer. He turned around and
faced the other two men. In his hand was Mrs. Rheinholdt's necklace!



CHAPTER VIII

THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY


1.

Something in the nature of a conference was proceeding in Quest's study.
The Professor was there, seated in the most comfortable easy-chair,
smoking without relish one of his host's best cigars, watching with
nervous impatience the closed door. Laura and Lenora were seated at the
table, dressed for the street. They had the air of being prepared for some
excursion. Quest, realising the Professor's highly-strung state, had left
him alone for a few moments and was studying a map of New York. The
latter, however, was too ill at ease to keep silent for long.

"Our friend French," he remarked, "gave you no clue, I suppose, as to the
direction in which his investigations are leading him?"

Quest glanced up from the map.

"None at all. I know, however, that the house in which Lenora here was
confined, is being watched closely."

The Professor glanced towards the table before which Lenora was seated.

"It seems strange," he continued, "that the young lady should have so
little to tell us about her incarceration."

Lenora shivered for a moment.

"What could there be to tell," she asked, "except that it was all
horrible, and that I felt things--felt dangers--which I couldn't
describe."

The Professor gave vent to an impatient little exclamation.

"I am not speaking of fancies," he persisted. "You had food brought to
you, for instance. Could you never see the hand which placed it inside
your room? Could you hear nothing of the footsteps of the person who
brought it? Could you not even surmise whether it was a man or a woman?"

Lenora answered him with an evident effort. She had barely, as yet,
recovered from the shock of those awful hours.

"The person who brought me the food," she said, "came at night--never in
the daytime. I never heard anything. The most I ever saw was once--I
happened to be looking towards the door and I saw a pair of hands--nothing
more--setting down a tray. I shrieked and called out. I think that I
almost fainted. When I found courage enough to look, there was nothing
there but the tray upon the floor."

"You never heard, for instance, the rustling of a gown or the sound of a
footstep?" the Professor asked. "You could not even say whether your
jailer were man or woman?"

Lenora shook her head.

"All that I ever heard was the opening of the door. All that I ever saw
was that pair of hands. One night I fancied--but that must have been a
dream!"

"You fancied what?" the Professor persisted.

"That I saw a pair of eyes glaring at me," Lenora replied, "eyes without
any human body. I know that I ran round the room, calling out. When I
dared to look again, there was nothing there."

The Professor sighed as he turned away.

"It is evident, I am afraid," he said, "that Miss Lenora's evidence will
help no one. As an expert in these affairs, Mr. Quest, does it not seem to
you that her imprisonment was just a little purposeless? There seems to
have been no attempt to harm her in any way whatever, that I can see."

"Whoever took the risk of abducting her," Quest pointed out grimly, "did
it for a purpose. That purpose would probably have become developed in
course of time. However we look at it, Mr. Ashleigh, there was only one
man who must have been anxious to get her out of the way, and that man was
Craig."

The Professor's manner betrayed some excitement.

"Then will you tell me this?" he demanded. "The young lady is confident
that she locked Craig up in the coach-house and that the key was on the
outside of the door, a fact which would prevent the lock being picked from
inside, even if such a thing were possible. The window is small, and up
almost in the roof. Will you tell me how Craig escaped from the
coach-house in order to carry out this abduction--all within a few
minutes, mind, of his having been left there? Will you tell me that, Mr.
Sanford Quest?" the Professor concluded, with a note of triumph in his
tone.

"That's one of the troubles we are up against," Quest admitted. "We have
to remember this, though. The brain that planned the two murders here,
that stole and restored Mrs. Rheinholdt's jewels, that sends us those
little billets-doux from time to time, is quite capable of finding a way
out of a jerry-built garage."

The Professor sniffed. He turned once more to Lenora.

"Young lady," he said, "I will ask you this. I do not wish to seem
obstinate in my refusal to accept Craig's guilt as proved, but I would
like to put this simple question to you. Did Craig's demeanour during your
conversation seem to you to indicate the master criminal? Did he seem to
you to be possessed of supreme courage, of marvellous intelligence?"

Lenora smiled very faintly.

"I am afraid," she replied, "that this time I'll have to satisfy the
Professor. He was white and trembling all the time. I thought him an
arrant coward."

The Professor smiled beatifically as he glanced around. He had the air of
one propounding an unanswerable problem.

"You hear what Miss Lenora says? I ask you whether a man who even knew the
meaning of the word fear could have carried out these ghastly crimes?"

"I have known cases," Quest observed, "where the most cold-blooded
criminals in the world have been stricken with the most deadly fear when
it has come to a question of any personal danger. However," he added,
"here comes our friend French. I have an idea that he has something to
tell us."

They glanced expectantly towards the door as French entered. The
Inspector, who was looking very spruce and well-brushed, wished them a
general good-morning. His eyes rested last and longest upon Laura, who
seemed, however, unconscious of his presence.

"Now, then, French," Quest began, as he returned his greeting, "take a
cigar, make yourself comfortable in that chair and let us have your news.
As you see, we have obeyed orders. We are all ready to follow you anywhere
you say."

"It won't be to the end of the world, anyway," the Inspector remarked, as
he lit his cigar. "I am going to propose a little excursion down Gayson
Avenue way."

"Back to that house?" Lenora exclaimed, with a grimace.

The Inspector nodded.

"We have had those boys at the station," he went on, "and we have
questioned them carefully. It seems that after they had picked up the
ball, a man came out of the side entrance of the house, saw them reading
Miss Lenora's message, and shouted after them. The boys had sense enough
to scoot. The man ran after them, but had to give it up. Here is their
description of him."

The Inspector took a piece of paper from his pocket. They all waited
breathlessly.

"Had to drag this out of the boys, bit by bit," the Inspector proceeded,
"but boiled down and put into reasonable language, this is what it comes
to. The man was of medium height, rather thin, pale, and dressed in black
clothes. He had what they call anxious eyes, and after running a short
distance he put his hand to his heart, as though out of breath. One of the
boys thought his nose was a little hooked, and they both remarked upon the
fact that although he shouted after them, he used no swear words, but
simply tried to induce them to stop. This description suggest anything to
you, gentlemen?"

"Craig," Lenora said firmly.

"It is a very accurate description of Craig," Sanford Quest agreed.

The Professor looked troubled, also a little perplexed. He said nothing,
however.

"Under these circumstances," the Inspector continued, "I have had the
house watched, and I propose that we now search it systematically. It is
very possible that something may transpire to help us. Of course, my men
went through it roughly when we brought Miss Lenora away, but that wasn't
anything of a search to count, if the place really has become a haunt of
criminals."

"What about the ownership of the house?" Quest asked, as he took up his
hat.

The Inspector nodded approvingly.

"I am making a few enquiries in that direction," he announced. "I expect
to have something to report very shortly."

The Professor stood drawing on his gloves. The vague look of trouble still
lingered in his face.

"Tell me again," he begged, "the name of the avenue in which this
residence is situated?"

"Gayson Avenue," the inspector replied. "It's a bit out of the way, but
it's not a bad neighbourhood."

The Professor repeated the address to himself softly. For a moment he
stood quite still. His manner showed signs of growing anxiety. He seemed
to be trying to remember something.

"The name," he admitted finally, as they moved towards the door, "suggests
to me, I must confess--We are going to see the house, Inspector?"

"We are on our way there now, sir--that is, if the young ladies are
willing?" he added, glancing at Laura.

"We've been waiting here with our hats on for the last half-hour," Laura
replied promptly. "You've stretched your ten minutes out some, Mr.
French."

The Inspector manoeuvred to let the others pass on, and descended the
stairs by Laura's side.

"Couldn't help it," he confided, lowering his tone a little. "Had some
information come in about that house I couldn't quite size up. You're
looking well this morning, Miss Laura."

"Say, who are you guying!" she replied.

"I mean it," the Inspector persisted. "That hat seems to suit you."

Laura laughed at the top of her voice.

"Say, kid," she exclaimed to Lenora, "the Inspector here's setting up as a
judge of millinery!"

Lenora turned and looked at them both with an air of blank astonishment.
The Inspector was a little embarrassed.

"No need to give me away like that," he muttered, as they reached the
hall. "Now then, ladies and gentlemen, if you are ready."

They took their places in the automobile and drove off. As they neared the
vicinity of Gayson Avenue, the Professor began to show signs of renewed
uneasiness. When they drew up at last outside the house, he gave a little
exclamation. His face was grave, almost haggard.

"Mr. Quest," he said, "Inspector French, I deeply regret that I have a
statement to make."

They both turned quickly towards him. The Inspector smiled in a
confidential manner at Laura. It was obvious that he knew what was coming.

"Some years ago," the Professor continued, "I bought this house and made a
present of it to--"

"To whom?" Quest asked quickly.

"To my servant Craig," the Professor admitted with a groan.

Lenora gave a little cry. She turned triumphantly towards the Inspector.

"All recollection as to its locality had escaped me," the Professor
continued sorrowfully. "I remember that it was on the anniversary of his
having been with me for some fifteen years that I decided to show him some
substantial mark of my appreciation. I knew that he was looking for a
domicile for his father and mother, who are since both dead, and I
requested a house agent to send me in a list of suitable residences. This,
alas! was the one I purchased."

Quest glanced around the place.

"I think," he said, "that the Professor's statement now removes any doubt
as to Craig's guilt. You are sure the house has been closely watched,
Inspector?"

"Since I received certain information," French replied, "I have had
half-a-dozen of my best men in the vicinity. I can assure you that no one
has entered or left it during the last twenty-four hours."

They made their way to the piazza steps and entered by the front door. The
house was an ordinary framework one of moderate size, in poor repair, and
showing signs of great neglect. The rooms were barely furnished, and their
first cursory search revealed no traces of habitation. There was still the
broken skylight in the room which Lenora had occupied, and the bed upon
which she had slept was still crumpled. French, who had been tapping the
walls downstairs, called to them. They trooped down into the hall. The
Inspector was standing before what appeared to be an ordinary panel.

"Look here," he said, glancing out of the corner of his eye to be sure
that Laura was there, "let me show you what I have just discovered."

He felt with his thumb for a spring. In a moment or two a portion of the
wall, about two feet in extent, slowly revolved, disclosing a small
cupboard fitted with a telephone instrument.

"A telephone," the Inspector remarked, pointing to it, "in an unoccupied
house and a concealed cupboard. What do you think of that?"

The Professor shook his head.

"Don't ask me," he groaned.

French took the receiver from its rest and called up the exchange.

"Inspector French speaking," he announced. "Kindly tell me what is the
number of the telephone from which I am speaking, and who is the
subscriber?"

He listened to the reply and asked another question.

"Can you tell me when this instrument was last used?... When?... Thank
you!"

The Inspector hung up the receiver.

"The subscriber's name," he told them drily, "is Brown. The number is not
entered in the book, by request. The telephone was used an hour ago from a
call office, and connection was established. That is to say that some one
spoke from this telephone."

"Then if your men have maintained their search properly, that some one,"
Quest said slowly, "must be in the house at the present moment."

"Without a doubt," the Inspector agreed. "I should like to suggest," he
went on, "that the two young ladies wait for us now in the automobile. If
this man turns out as desperate as he has shown himself ingenious, there
may be a little trouble."

They both protested vigorously. Quest shrugged his shoulders.

"They must decide for themselves," he said. "Personally, I like Lenora,
who has had less experience of such adventures, to grow accustomed to
danger.... With your permission, Inspector, I am going to search the front
room on the first floor before we do anything else. I think that if you
wait here I may be able to show you something directly."

Quest ascended the stairs and entered a wholly unfurnished room on the
left-hand side. He looked for a minute contemplatively at a large but
rather shallow cupboard, the door of which stood open, and tapped lightly
with his forefinger upon the back part of it. Then he withdrew a few feet
and, drawing out his revolver, deliberately fired into the floor, a few
inches inside. There was a half stifled cry. The false back suddenly swung
open and a man rushed out. Quest's revolver covered him, but there was no
necessity for its use. Craig, smothered with dust, his face white as a
piece of marble, even his jaw shaking with fear, was wholly unarmed. He
seemed, in fact, incapable of any form of resistance. He threw himself
upon his knees before Quest.

"Save me!" he begged. "Help me to get away from this house! You don't
belong to the police. I'll give you every penny I have in the world to let
me go!"

Quest smiled at him derisively.

"Get up," he ordered.

Very slowly Craig obeyed him. He was a pitiful-looking object, but a
single look into Quest's face showed him the folly of any sort of appeal.

"Walk out of the room," Quest ordered, "in front of me--so! Now, then,
turn to the right and go down the stairs."

They all gave a little cry as they saw him appear, a trembling, pitiful
creature, glancing around like a trapped animal. He commenced to descend
the stairs, holding tightly to the banisters. Quest remained on the
landing above, his revolver in his hand. French waited in the hall below,
also armed. Laura gripped Lenora's arm in excitement.

"They've got him now!" she exclaimed. "Got him, sure!"

On the fourth or fifth stair, Craig hesitated. He suddenly saw the
Professor standing below. He gripped the banisters with one hand. The
other he flung out in a threatening gesture.

"You've given me away to these bloodhounds!" he cried,--"you, for whom I
have toiled and slaved, whom I have followed all over the world, whom I
have served faithfully with the last breath of my body and the last drop
of blood in my veins! You have brought them here--tracked me down! You!"

The Professor shook his head sorrowfully.

"Craig," he said, "you have been the best servant man ever had. If you are
innocent of these crimes, you can clear yourself. If you are guilty, a
dog's death is none too good for you."

Craig seemed to sway for a moment upon his feet. Only Lenora, from the
hall, saw that he was fitting his right foot into what seemed to be a
leather loop hanging from the banisters. Then a wild shout of surprise
broke from the lips of all of them, followed by a moment of stupefied
wonder. The whole staircase suddenly began to revolve. Craig, clinging to
the banisters, disappeared. In a moment or two there was a fresh click.
Another set of stairs, almost identical to the first, had taken their
place.

"The cellar!" Quest shouted, as he rushed down the stairs. "Quick!"

They wrenched open the wooden door and hurried down the dark steps into
the gloomy, unlit cellar. The place was crowded with packing-cases, and
two large wine barrels stood in the corner. At the farther end was a door.
Quest rushed for it and stood on guard. A moment later, however, he called
to Laura and pressed his revolver into her hand.

"Stand here," he ordered. "Shoot him if he tries to run out. I'll search
in the packing-cases. He might be dangerous."

The Professor, out of breath, was leaning against one of the pillars, his
arm passed around it for support. Lenora, with Quest and French, searched
hastily amongst the packing-cases. Suddenly there was a loud crack, the
sound of falling masonry, followed by a scream from Laura. French, with a
roar of anger, rushed towards her. She was lying on her side, already half
covered by falling bricks and masonry. He dragged her away, just in time.

"My God, she's fainted!" he exclaimed.

"I haven't," Laura faltered, trying to open her eyes, "and I'm not going
to, but I think my arm's broken, and my side hurts."

"The fellow's not down here, anyway," Quest declared. "Let's help her
upstairs and get her out of this devil's house."

They supported her up the steps and found a chair for her in the hall. She
was white almost to the lips, but she struggled bravely to keep
consciousness.

"Don't you bother about me," she begged. "Don't let that blackguard go!
You find him. I shall be all right."

The Inspector swung open the telephone cupboard and called for an
ambulance. Then Quest, who had been examining the staircase, suddenly gave
a little exclamation.

"He's done us!" he cried. "Look here, French, this is the original
staircase. There's the leather loop. I know it because there was a crack
on the fourth stair. When we rushed down the cellar after him, he swung
the thing round again and simply walked out of the front door. Damn it,
man, it's open!"

They hurried outside. French blew his whistle. One of the plain-clothes
men came running up from the avenue. He was looking a little sheepish.

"What's wrong?" French demanded.

"He's gone off," was the unwilling reply. "I guess that chap's given us
the slip."

"Speak up," French insisted.

"The only place," the man went on, "we hadn't our eyes glued on, was the
front door. He must have come out through that. There's been a motor truck
with one or two queer-looking chaps in it, at the corner of the avenue
there for the last ten minutes. I'd just made up my mind to stroll round
and see what it was up to when Jim, who was on the other side, shouted
out. A man jumped up into it and they made off at once."

"Could he have come from this house?" French asked sternly.

"I guess, if he'd come out from the front door, he might just have done
it," the man admitted.

Quest and the Inspector exchanged glances.

"He's done us!" Quest muttered,--"done us like a couple of greenhorns!"

The Inspector's rubicund countenance was white with fury. His head kept
turning in the direction of Laura, to whom the Professor was busy
rendering first aid.

"If I never take another job on as long as I live," he declared, "I'll
have that fellow before I'm through!"


2.

The Professor roused himself from what had apparently been a very gloomy
reverie.

"Well," he announced, "I must go home. It has been very kind of you, Mr.
Quest, to keep me here for so long."

Quest glanced at the clock.

"Don't hurry, Mr. Ashleigh," he said. "We may get some news at any moment.
French has a dozen men out on the search and he has promised to ring me up
immediately he hears anything."

The Professor sighed.

"A man," he declared, "who for twenty years can deceive his master as
utterly and completely as Craig has done me, who is capable of such
diabolical outrages, and who, when capture stares him in the face, is
capable of an escape such as he made to-day, is outside the laws of
probability. Personally, I do not believe that I shall ever again see the
face of my servant, any more than that you, Quest, will entirely solve the
mystery of these murders and the theft of the Rheinholdt jewels."

Lenora, who, with her hat on, was packing a small bag at the other end of
the room, glanced up for a moment.

[Illustration: QUEST IS MYSTIFIED AT FINDING THE JEWELS IN THE BLACK BOX,
WHICH WAS ON THE FLOOR.]

[Illustration: "SURE AN' ME NAME'S NOT CRAIG--IT'S MARTY O'TOOLE, SIR."
THEY HAD FOOLED THE CRIMINOLOGIST.]

"The man is a demon!" she exclaimed. "He would have sacrificed us all, if
he could. When I think of poor Laura lying there in the hospital, crushed
almost to death, so that he could save his miserable carcass, and realise
that he is free, I feel--"

She stopped short. Quest looked at her and nodded.

"Don't mind hurting our feelings, Lenora," he said. "French and I are up
against it all right. We're second best, at the present moment--I'll admit
that--but the end hasn't come yet."

"I am sorry," she murmured. "I was led away for a moment. But, Mr. Quest,"
she went on piteously, "can't we do something? Laura's so brave. She tried
to laugh when I left her, an hour ago, but I could see all the time that
she was suffering agony. Fancy a man doing that to a woman! It makes me
feel that I can't rest or sleep. I think that when I have left the
hospital I shall just walk up and down the streets and watch and search."

Quest shook his head.

"That sort of thing won't do any good," he declared. "It isn't any use,
Lenora, working without a plan. That's why I'm here now, waiting. I want
to formulate a plan first."

"Who are we," the Professor asked drearily, "to make plans against a fiend
like that? What can we do against men who have revolving staircases and
trolley-loads of river pirates waiting for them? You may be a scientific
criminologist, Quest, but that fellow Craig is a scientific criminal, if
ever there was one."

Quest crossed the room towards his cigar cabinet, and opened it. His
little start was apparent to both of them. Lenora laid down the bag which
she had just lifted up. The Professor leaned forward in his chair.

"What is it, Quest?" he demanded.

Quest stretched out his hand and picked up from the top of the cigars a
small black box! He laid it on the table.

"Unless I am very much mistaken," he said, "it is another communication
from our mysterious friend."

"Impossible!" the Professor exclaimed hoarsely.

"How can he have been here?" Lenora cried.

Quest removed the lid from the box and drew out a circular card. Around
the outside edge was a very clever pen and ink sketch of a lifebuoy, and
inside the margin were several sentences of clear handwriting. In the
middle was the signature--the clenched hands! Quest read the message
aloud--

    "In the great scheme of things, the Supreme Ruler of the
    Universe divided an inheritance amongst His children. To one He
    gave power, to another strength, to another beauty, but to His
    favourites He gave cunning."

They all looked at one another.

"What does it mean?" Lenora gasped.

"A lifebuoy!" the Professor murmured.

They both stared at Quest, who remained silent, chewing hard at the end of
his cigar.

"Every message," he said, speaking half to himself, "has had some
significance. What does this mean--a lifebuoy?"

He was silent for a moment. Then he turned suddenly to the Professor.

"What did you call those men in the motor-truck, Professor--river pirates?
And a lifebuoy! Wait."

He crossed the room towards his desk and returned with a list in his hand.
He ran his finger down it, stopped and glanced at the date.

"The _Durham_," he muttered, "cargo cotton, destination Southampton, sails
at high tide on the 16th. Lenora, is that calendar right?"

"It's the 16th, Mr. Quest," she answered.

Quest crossed the room to the telephone.

"I want Number One Central, Exchange," he said. "Thank you! Put me through
to Mr. French's office.... Hullo, French! I've got an idea. Can you come
round here at once and bring an automobile? I want to get down to the
docks--not where the passenger steamers start from--lower down.... Good!
We'll wait."

Quest hung up the receiver.

"See here, Professor," he continued, "that fellow wouldn't dare to send
this message if he wasn't pretty sure of getting off. He's made all his
plans beforehand, but it's my belief we shall just get our hands upon him,
after all. Lenora, you'd better get along round to the hospital. You don't
come in this time. It's bad enough to have Laura laid up--can't risk you.
There'll be a little trouble, too, before we're through, I'm afraid."

Lenora sighed as she picked up her bag.

"If it weren't for Laura," she said, "you'd find it pretty hard to keep me
away. I think that if I could see the handcuffs put on that man, it would
be the happiest moment of my life."

"We'll get him all right," Quest promised. "Remember me to Laura."

"And present my compliments, also," the Professor begged.

Lenora left them. The Professor, his spirits apparently a little improved
by the prospect of action, accepted some whisky and a cigar. Presently
they heard the automobile stop outside and French appeared.

"Anything doing?" he asked.

Quest showed him the card and the sailing list. The Inspector nodded.

"Say, that fellow's some sport!" he remarked admiringly. "You wouldn't
believe it just to look at him. That staircase this afternoon, though,
kind of teaches one not to trust to appearances. So you think he's getting
a move on him, Mr. Quest?"

"I think he had a truck waiting for him at the corner of Gayson Avenue,"
Quest replied. "It was the machine my men went after. The men looked like
river thugs, although I shouldn't have thought of it if the Professor
hadn't used the word 'river pirates.' It's quite clear that they took
Craig down to the river. There's only one likely ship sailing to-night and
that's the _Durham_. It's my belief Craig's on her."

The Inspector glanced at the clock.

"Then we've got to make tracks," he declared, "and pretty quick, too.
She'll be starting from somewhere about Number Twenty-eight dock, a long
way down. Come along, gentlemen."

They hurried out to the automobile and started off for the docks. The
latter part of their journey was accomplished under difficulties, for the
street was packed with drays and heavy vehicles. They reached dock Number
Twenty-eight at last, however, and hurried through the shed on to the
wharf. There were no signs of a steamer there.

"Where's the _Durham_?" Quest asked one of the carters, who was just
getting his team together.

The man pointed out to the middle of the river, where a small steamer was
lying.

"There she is," he replied. "She'll be off in a few minutes. You'll hear
the sirens directly, when they begin to move down."

Quest led the way quickly to the edge of the wharf. There was a small tug
there, the crew of which were just making her fast for the night.

"Fifty dollars if you'll take us out to the _Durham_ and catch her before
she sails," Quest shouted to the man who seemed to be the captain. "What
do you say?"

The man spat out a plug of tobacco from his mouth.

"I'd take you to hell for fifty dollars," he answered tersely. "Step in.
We'll make it, if you look quick."

They clambered down the iron ladder and jumped on to the deck of the tug.
The captain seized the wheel. The two men who formed the crew took off
their coats and waistcoats.

"Give it her, Jim," the former ordered. "Now, then, here goes! We'll just
miss the ferry."

They swung around and commenced their journey. Quest stood with his watch
in his hand. They were getting up the anchor of the _Durham_, and from
higher up the river came the screech of steamers beginning to move on
their outward way.

"We'll make it all right," the captain assured them.

They were within a hundred yards of the _Durham_ when Quest gave a little
exclamation. From the other side of the steamer another tug shot away,
turning back towards New York. Huddled up in the stern, half concealed in
a tarpaulin, was a man in a plain black suit. Quest, with a little shout,
recognised the man at the helm from his long brown beard.

"That's one of those fellows who was in the truck," he declared, "and
that's Craig in the stern! We've got him this time. Say, Captain, it's
that tug I want. Never mind about the steamer. Catch it and I'll make it a
hundred dollars!"

The man swung round the wheel, but he glanced at Quest a little
doubtfully.

"Say, what is this show?" he asked.

Quest opened his coat and displayed his badge. He pointed to the
Inspector.

"Police job. This is Inspector French, I am Sanford Quest."

"Good enough," the man replied. "What's the bloke wanted for?"

"Murder," Quest answered shortly.

"That so?" the other remarked. "Well, you'll get him, sure! He's looking
pretty scared, too. You'd better keep your eyes open, though. I don't know
how many men there are on board, but that tug belongs to the toughest crew
up the river. Got anything handy in the way of firearms?"

Quest nodded.

"You don't need to worry," he said. "We've automatics here, but as long as
we're heading them this way, they'll know the game's up."

"We've got her!" the captain exclaimed. "There's the ferry and the first
of the steamers coming down in the middle. They'll have to chuck it."

Right ahead of them, blazing with lights, a huge ferry came churning the
river up and sending great waves in their direction. On the other side,
unnaturally large, loomed up the great bows of an ocean-going steamer. The
tug was swung round and they ran up alongside. The man with the beard
leaned over.

"Say, what's your trouble?" he demanded.

The Inspector stepped forward.

"I want that man you've got under the tarpaulin," he announced.

"Say, you ain't the river police?"

"I'm Inspector French from headquarters," was the curt reply. "The sooner
you hand him over, the better for you."

"Do you hear that, O'Toole?" the other remarked, swinging round on his
heel. "Get up, you blackguard!"

A man rose from underneath the oilskin. He was wearing Craig's clothes,
but his face was the face of a stranger. As quick as lightning, Quest
swung round in his place.

"He's fooled us again!" he exclaimed. "Head her round, Captain--back to
the _Durham_!"

The sailor shook his head.

"We've lost our chance, guvnor," he pointed out, "Look!"

Quest set his teeth and gripped the Inspector's arm. The place where the
_Durham_ had been anchored was empty. Already, half a mile down the river,
with a trail of light behind and her siren shrieking, the _Durham_ was
standing out seawards.



CHAPTER IX

THE INHERITED SIN


1.

"Getting kind of used to these courthouse shows, aren't you, Lenora?"
Quest remarked, as they stepped from the automobile and entered the house
in Georgia Square.

Lenora shrugged her shoulders. She was certainly a very different-looking
person from the tired, trembling girl who had heard Macdougal sentenced
not many weeks ago.

"Could anyone feel much sympathy," she asked, "with those men? Red
Gallagher, as they all called him, is more like a great brute animal than
a human being. I think that even if they had sentenced him to death I
should have felt that it was quite the proper thing to have done."

"Too much sentiment about those things," Quest agreed, clipping the end
off a cigar. "Men like that are better off the face of the earth. They did
their best to send me there."

"Here's a cablegram for you!" Lenora exclaimed, bringing it over to him.
"Mr. Quest, I wonder if it's from Scotland Yard!"

Quest tore it open. They read it together, Lenora standing on tiptoe to
peer over his shoulder:

    "Stowaway answering in every respect your description of Craig
    found on 'Durham.' Has been arrested, as desired, and will be
    taken to Hamblin House for identification by Lord Ashleigh.
    Reply whether you are coming over, and full details as to
    charge."

"Good for Scotland Yard!" Quest declared. "So they've got him, eh? All the
same, that fellow's as slippery as an eel. Lenora, how should you like a
trip across the ocean, eh?"

"I should love it," Lenora replied. "Do you mean it really?"

Quest nodded.

"The fellow's fooled me pretty well," he continued, "but somehow I feel
that if I get my hands on him this time, they'll stay there till he stands
where Red Gallagher did to-day. I don't feel content to let anyone else
finish off the job. Got any relatives over there?"

"I have an aunt in London," Lenora told him, "the dearest old lady you
ever knew. She'd give anything to have me make her a visit."

Quest moved across to his desk and took up a sailing list. He studied it
for a few moments and turned back to Lenora.

"Send a cable off at once to Scotland Yard," he directed. "Say--'Am
sailing on _Lusitania_ to-morrow. Hold prisoner. Charge very serious. Have
full warrants.'"

Lenora wrote down the message and went to the telephone to send it off. As
soon as she had finished, Quest took up his hat again.

"Come on," he invited. "The machine's outside. We'll just go and look in
on the Professor and tell him the news. Poor old chap, I'm afraid he'll
never be the same man again."

"He must miss Craig terribly," Lenora observed, as they took their places
in the automobile, "and yet, Mr. Quest, it does seem to me a most amazing
thing that a man so utterly callous and cruel as Craig must be, should
have been a devoted and faithful servant to anyone through all these
years."

Quest nodded.

"I am beginning to frame a theory about that. You see, all the time Craig
has lived with the Professor, he has been a sort of dabbler with him in
his studies. Where the Professor's gone right into a thing and understood
it, Craig, you see, hasn't managed to get past the first crust. His brain
wasn't educated enough for the subjects into the consideration of which
the Professor may have led him. See what I'm driving at?"

"You mean that he may have been mad?" Lenora suggested.

"Something of that sort," Quest assented. "Seems to me the only feasible
explanation. The Professor's a bit of a terror, you know. There are some
queer stories about the way he got some of his earlier specimens in South
America. Science is his god. What he has gone through in some of those
foreign countries, no one knows. Quite enough to unbalance any man of
ordinary nerves and temperament."

"The Professor himself is remarkably sane," Lenora observed.

"Precisely," Quest agreed, "but then, you see, his brain was big enough,
to start with. It could hold all there was for it to hold. It's like
pouring stuff into the wrong receptacle when a man like Craig tries to
follow him. However, that's only a theory. Here we are, and the front door
wide open. I wonder how our friend's feeling to-day."

They found the Professor on his hands and knees upon a dusty floor.
Carefully arranged before him were the bones of a skeleton, each laid in
some appointed place. He had a chart on either side of him, and a third
one on an easel. He looked up a little impatiently at the sound of the
opening of the door, but when he recognised Quest and his companion the
annoyance passed from his face.

"Are we disturbing you, Mr. Ashleigh?" Quest enquired.

The Professor rose to his feet and brushed the dust from his knees.

"I shall be glad of a rest," he said simply. "You see what I am doing? I
am trying to reconstruct from memory--and a little imagination,
perhaps--the important part of my missing skeleton. It's a wonderful
problem which those bones might have solved, if I had been able to place
them fairly before the scientists of the world. Do you understand much
about the human frame, Mr. Quest?"

Quest shook his head promptly.

"Still life doesn't interest me," he declared. "Bones are bones, after
all, you know. I don't even care who my grandfather was, much less who my
grandfather a million times removed might have been. Let's step into the
study for a moment, Professor, if you don't mind," he went on. "Lenora
here is a little sensitive to smell, and a spray of lavender water on some
of your bones wouldn't do them any harm."

The Professor ambled amiably towards the door.

"I never notice it myself," he said. "Very likely that is because I see
beyond these withered fragments into the prehistoric worlds whence they
came. I sit here alone sometimes, and the curtain rolls up, and I find
myself back in one of those far corners of South America, or even in a
certain spot in East Africa, and I can almost fancy that time rolls back
like an unwinding reel and there are no secrets into which I may not look.
And then the moment passes and I remember that this dry-as-dust world is
shrieking always for proofs--this extraordinary conglomeration of human
animals in weird attire, with monstrous tastes and extraordinary habits,
who make up what they call the civilized world. Civilized!"

They reached the study and Quest produced his cigar case.

"Can't imagine any world that existed before tobacco," he remarked
cheerfully. "Help yourself, Professor. It does me good to see you human
enough to enjoy a cigar!"

The Professor smiled.

"I never remember to buy any for myself," he said, "but one of yours is
always a treat. Miss Lenora, I am glad to see, is completely recovered."

"I am quite well, thank you, Mr. Ashleigh," Lenora replied. "I am even
forgetting that I ever had nerves. I have been in the courthouse all the
morning, and I even looked curiously at your garage as we drove up."

"Very good--very good, my dear!" the Professor murmured. "At the
courthouse, eh? Were those charming friends of yours from Bethel being
tried, Quest?"

Quest nodded.

"Red Gallagher and his mate! Yes, they got it in the neck, too."

"Personally," the Professor exclaimed, his eyes sparkling with
appreciation of his own wit, "I think that they ought to have got it round
the neck! However, let us be thankful that they are disposed of. Their
attack upon you, Mr. Quest, introduced rather a curious factor into our
troubles. Even now I find it a little difficult to follow the workings of
our friend French's mind. It seems hard to believe that he could really
have imagined you guilty."

"French is all right," Quest declared. "He fell into the common error of
the detective without imagination."

"What about that unhappy man Craig?" the Professor asked gloomily. "Isn't
the _Durham_ almost due now?"

Quest took out the cablegram from his pocket and passed it over. The
Professor's fingers trembled a little as he read it. He passed it back,
however, without immediate comment.

"You see, they have been cleverer over there than we were," Quest
remarked.

"Perhaps," the Professor assented. "They seem, at least, to have arrested
the man. Even now I can scarcely believe that it is Craig--my servant
Craig--who is lying in an English prison. Do you know that his people have
been servants in the Ashleigh family for some hundreds of years?"

Quest was clearly interested. "Say, I'd like to hear about that!" he
exclaimed. "You know, I'm rather great on heredity, Professor. What class
did he come from then? Were his people just domestic servants always?"

The Professor's face was for a moment troubled. He moved to his desk,
rummaged about for a time, and finally produced an ancient volume.

"This really belongs to my brother, Lord Ashleigh," he explained. "He
brought it over with him to show me some entries concerning which I was
interested. It contains a history of the Hamblin estate since the days of
Cromwell, and here in the back, you see, is a list of our farmers,
bailiffs and domestic servants. There was a Craig who was a tenant of the
first Lord Ashleigh and fought with him in the Cromwellian Wars as a
trooper and since those days, so far as I can see, there has never been a
time when there hasn't been a Craig in the service of our family. A fine
race they seem to have been, until--"

"Until when?" Quest demanded.

The look of trouble had once more clouded the Professor's face. He
shrugged his shoulders slightly.

"Until Craig's father," he admitted. "I am afraid I must admit that we
come upon a bad piece of family history here. Silas Craig entered the
service of my father in 1858, as under game-keeper. Here we come upon the
first black mark against the name. He appears to have lived reputably for
some years, and then, after a quarrel with a neighbour about some trivial
matter, he deliberately murdered him, a crime for which he was tried and
executed in 1867. John Craig, his only son, entered our service in 1880,
and, when I left England, accompanied me as my valet."

There was a moment's silence. Quest shook his head a little reproachfully.

"Professor," he said, "you are a scientific man, you appreciate the
significance of heredity, yet during all this time, when you must have
seen for yourself the evidence culminating against Craig, you never
mentioned this--this--damning piece of evidence."

The Professor closed the book with a sigh.

"I did not mention it, Mr. Quest," he acknowledged, "because I did not
believe in Craig's guilt and I did not wish to further prejudice you
against him. That is the whole and simple truth. Now tell me what you are
going to do about his arrest?"

"Lenora and I are sailing to-morrow," Quest replied. "We are taking over
the necessary warrants and shall bring Craig back here for trial."

The Professor smoked thoughtfully for some moments. Then he rose
deliberately to his feet. He had come to a decision. He announced it
calmly but irrevocably.

"I shall come with you," he announced. "I shall be glad of a visit to
England, but apart from that I feel it to be my duty. I owe it to Craig to
see that he has a fair chance, and I owe it to the law to see that he pays
the penalty, if indeed he is guilty of these crimes. Is Miss Laura
accompanying you, too?"

Quest shook his head.

"From what the surgeons tell us," he said, "it will be some weeks before
she is able to travel. At the same time, I must tell you that I am glad of
your decision, Professor."

"It is my duty," the latter declared. "I cannot rest in this state of
uncertainty. If Craig is lost to me, the sooner I face the fact the
better. At the same time I will be frank with you. Notwithstanding all
this accumulated pile of evidence I feel in my heart the urgent necessity
of seeing him face to face, of holding him by the shoulders and asking him
whether these things are true. We have faced death together, Craig and I.
We have done more than that--we have courted it. There is nothing about
him I can accept from hearsay. I shall go with you to England, Mr. Quest."


2.

The Professor rose from his seat in some excitement as the carriage passed
through the great gates of Hamblin Park. He acknowledged with a smile the
respectful curtsey of the woman who held it open.

"You have now an opportunity, my dear Mr. Quest," he said, "of
appreciating one feature of English life not entirely reproducible in your
own wonderful country. I mean the home life and surroundings of our
aristocracy. You see these oak trees?" he went on, with a little wave of
his hand. "They were planted by my ancestors in the days of Henry the
Eighth. I have been a student of tree life in South America and in the
dense forests of Central Africa, but for real character, for splendour of
growth and hardiness, there is nothing in the world to touch the Ashleigh
oaks."

"They're some trees," the criminologist admitted.

"You notice, perhaps, the smaller ones, which seem dwarfed. Their tops
were cut off by the Lord of Ashleigh on the day that Lady Jane Grey was
beheaded. Queen Elizabeth heard of it and threatened to confiscate the
estate. Look at the turf, my friend. Ages have gone to the making of that
mossy, velvet carpet."

"Where's the house?" Quest enquired.

"A mile farther on yet. The woods part and make a natural avenue past the
bend of the river there," the Professor pointed out. "Full of trout, that
river, Quest. How I used to whip that stream when I was a boy!"

They swept presently round a bend in the avenue. Before them on the
hill-side, surrounded by trees and with a great walled garden behind, was
Hamblin House. Quest gave vent to a little exclamation of wonder as he
looked at it. The older part and the whole of the west front was
Elizabethan, but the Georgian architect entrusted with the task of
building a great extension had carried out his work in a manner almost
inspired. Lines and curves, sweeping everywhere towards the same
constructive purpose, had been harmonised by the hand of time into a most
surprising and effectual unity. The criminologist, notwithstanding his
unemotional temperament, repeated his exclamation as he resumed his place
in the carriage.

"This is where you've got us beaten," he admitted. "Our country places are
like gew-gaw palaces compared to this. Makes me kind of sorry," he went on
regretfully, "that I didn't bring Lenora along."

The Professor shook his head.

"You were very wise," he said. "My brother and Lady Ashleigh have
recovered from the shock of poor Lena's death in a marvellous manner, I
believe, but the sight of the girl might have brought it back to them. You
have left her with friends, I hope, Mr. Quest?"

[Illustration: LORD ASHLEIGH IDENTIFIES THE CAPTURED MAN AS CRAIG.]

[Illustration: "CRAIG DISAPPEARED ABOUT HERE, SIR"--SAID THE GAMEKEEPER.]

"She has an aunt in Hampstead," the latter explained. "I should have liked
to have seen her safely there myself, but we should have been an hour or
two later down here, and I tell you," he went on, his voice gathering a
note almost of ferocity, "I'm wanting to get my hands on that fellow
Craig! I wonder where they're holding him."

"At the local police-station, I expect," the Professor replied. "My
brother is a magistrate, of course, and he would see that proper
arrangements were made. There he is at the hall door."

The carriage drew up before the great front, a moment or two later. Lord
Ashleigh came forward with outstretched hands, the genial smile of the
welcoming host upon his lips. In his manner, however, there was a distinct
note of anxiety.

"Edgar, my dear fellow," he exclaimed, "I am delighted! Welcome back to
your home! Mr. Quest, I am very happy to see you here. You have heard the
news, of course?"

"We have heard nothing!" the Professor replied.

"You didn't go to Scotland Yard?" Lord Ashleigh asked.

"We haven't been to London at all," Quest explained. "We got on the boat
train at Plymouth, and your brother managed to induce one of the directors
whom he saw on the platform to stop the train for us at Hamblin Road. We
only left the boat two hours ago. There's nothing wrong with Craig, is
there?"

Lord Ashleigh motioned them to follow him.

"Please come this way," he invited.

He led them across the hall--which, dimly-lit and with its stained-glass
windows, was almost like the nave of a cathedral,--into the library
beyond. He closed the door and turned around.

"I have bad news for you both," he announced. "Craig has escaped."

Neither the Professor nor Quest betrayed any unusual surprise. So far as
the latter was concerned, his first glimpse at Lord Ashleigh's face had
warned him of what was coming.

"Dear me!" the Professor murmured, sinking into an easy-chair. "This is
most unexpected!"

"We'll get him again," Quest declared quickly. "Can you let us have the
particulars of his escape, Lord Ashleigh? The sooner we get the hang of
things, the better."

Their host turned towards the butler, who was arranging a tray upon the
sideboard.

"You must permit me to offer you some refreshments after your journey," he
begged. "Then I will tell you the whole story. I think you will agree,
when you hear it, that no particular blame can be said to rest upon any
one's shoulders. It was simply an extraordinary interposition of chance.
There is tea, whisky and soda, and wine here, Mr. Quest. Edgar, I know
you'll take some tea."

"English tea for me," the Professor remarked, watching the cream.

"Whisky and soda here," Quest decided.

Lord Ashleigh himself attended to the wants of his guests. Then, at his
instigation, they made themselves comfortable in easy-chairs and he
commenced his narration.

"You know, of course," he began, "that Craig was arrested at Liverpool in
consequence of communications from the New York police. I understand that
it was with great difficulty he was discovered, and it is quite clear that
some one on the ship had been heavily bribed. However, he was arrested,
brought to London, and then down here for purposes of identification. I
would have gone to London myself, and in fact offered to do so, but on the
other hand, as there are many others on the estate to whom he was
well-known, I thought that it would be better to have more evidence than
mine alone. Accordingly, they left London one afternoon, and I sent a
dogcart to the station to meet them. They arrived quite safely and started
for here, Craig handcuffed to one of the Scotland Yard men on the back
seat, and the other in front with the driver. About half a mile from the
south entrance to the park, the road runs across a rather desolate strip
of country with a lot of low undergrowth on one side. We have had a little
trouble with poachers, as there is a sort of gipsy camp on some common
land a short distance away. My head-keeper, to whom the very idea of a
poacher is intolerable, was patrolling this ground himself that afternoon,
and caught sight of one of these gipsy fellows setting a trap. He chased
him, and more, I am sure, to frighten him than anything else, when he saw
that the fellow was getting away he fired his gun, just as the dog-cart
was passing. The horse shied, the wheel caught a great stone by the side
of the road, and all four men were thrown out. The man to whom Craig was
handcuffed was stunned, but Craig himself appears to have been unhurt. He
jumped up, took the key of the handcuffs from the pocket of the officer,
undid them, and slipped off into the undergrowth before either the groom
or the other Scotland Yard man had recovered their senses. To cut a long
story short, that was last Thursday, and up till now not a single trace of
the fellow has been discovered."

Quest rose abruptly to his feet.

"I'd like to take this matter up right on the spot where Craig
disappeared," he suggested. "Couldn't we do that?"

"By all means," Lord Ashleigh agreed, touching a bell. "We have several
hours before we change for dinner. I will have a car round and take you to
the spot."

The Professor acquiesced readily, and very soon they stepped out of the
automobile on to the side of a narrow road, looking very much as it had
been described. Further on, beyond a stretch of open common, they could
see the smoke from the gipsy encampment. On their left-hand side was a
stretch of absolutely wild country, bounded in the far distance by the
grey stone wall of the park. Lord Ashleigh led the way through the
thicket, talking as he went.

"Craig came along through here," he explained. "The groom and the Scotland
Yard man who had been sitting by his side followed him. They searched for
an hour but found no trace of him at all. Then they returned to the house
to make a report and get help. I will now show you how Craig first eluded
them."

He led the way along a tangled path, doubled back, plunged into a little
spinney and came suddenly to a small shed.

"This is an ancient gamekeeper's shelter," he explained, "built a long
time ago and almost forgotten now. What Craig did, without a doubt, was to
hide in this. The Scotland Yard man who took the affair in hand found
distinct traces here of recent occupation. That is how he made his first
escape."

Quest nodded.

"Sure!" he murmured. "Well now, what about your more extended search?"

"I was coming to that," Lord Ashleigh replied. "As Edgar will remember, no
doubt, I have always kept a few bloodhounds in my kennels, and as soon as
we could get together one or two of the keepers and a few of the local
constabulary, we started off again from here. The dogs brought us without
a check to this shed, and started off again in this way."

They walked another half a mile, across a reedy swamp. Every now and then
they had to jump across a small dyke, and once they had to make a detour
to avoid an osier bed. They came at last to the river.

"Now I can show you exactly how that fellow put us off the scent here,"
their guide proceeded. "He seems to have picked up something, Edgar, in
those South American trips of yours, for a cleverer thing I never saw. You
see all these bullrushes everywhere--clouds of them, all along the river?"

"We call them tules," Quest muttered. "Well?"

"When Craig arrived here," Lord Ashleigh continued, "he must have heard
the baying of the dogs in the distance and he knew that the game was up
unless he could put them off the scent. He cut a quantity of these
bullrushes from a place a little further behind those trees there, stepped
boldly into the middle of the water, waded down to that spot where, as you
see, the trees hang over, stood stock still and leaned them all around
him. It was dusk when the chase reached the river bank, and I have no
doubt the bullrushes presented quite a natural appearance. At any rate,
although the dogs came without a check to the edge of the river, where he
stepped off, they never picked the scent up again either on this side or
the other. We tried them for four or five hours before we took them home.
The next morning, while the place was being thoroughly searched, we came
upon the spot where these bullrushes had been cut down, and we found them
caught in the low boughs of a tree, drifting down the river."

The Professor's tone was filled with something almost like admiration.

"I must confess," he declared, "I never realised for a single moment that
Craig was a person of such gifts. In all the small ways of life, in
campaigning, camping out, dealing with natural difficulties incidental to
our expeditions, I have found him invariably a person of resource,
ready-witted and full of useful suggestions. But that he should be able to
apply his gifts with such infinite cunning, to a suddenly conceived career
of crime, I must admit amazes me."

Quest had lit a fresh cigar and was smoking vigorously.

"What astonishes me more than anything," he pronounced, as he stood
looking over the desolate expanse of country, "is that when one comes face
to face with the fellow he presents all the appearance of a nerveless and
broken-down coward. Then all of a sudden there spring up these evidences
of the most amazing, the most diabolical resource.... Who's this, Lord
Ashleigh?"

The latter turned his head. An elderly man in a brown velveteen suit, with
gaiters and thick boots, raised his hat respectfully.

"This is my head-keeper, Middleton," his master explained. "He was with us
on the chase."

The Professor shook hands heartily with the newcomer.

"Not a day older, Middleton!" he exclaimed. "So you are the man who has
given us all this trouble, eh? This gentleman and I have come over from
New York on purpose to lay hands on Craig."

"I am very sorry, sir," the man replied. "I wouldn't have fired my gun if
I had known what the consequences were going to be, but them poaching
devils that come round here rabbiting fairly send me furious and that's a
fact. It ain't that one grudges them a few rabbits, but my tame pheasants
all run out here from the home wood, and I've seen feathers at the side of
the road there that no fox nor stoat had nothing to do with. All the same,
sir, I'm very sorry," he added, "to have been the cause of any
inconvenience."

"It is rather worse than inconvenience, Middleton," the Professor said
gravely. "The man who has escaped is one of the worst criminals of these
days."

"He won't get far, sir," the gamekeeper remarked, with a little smile.
"It's a wild bit of country, this, and I admit that men might search it
for weeks without finding anything, but those gentlemen from Scotland
Yard, sir, if you'll excuse my making the remark, and hoping that this
gentleman," he added, looking at Quest, "is in no way connected with
them--well, they don't know everything, and that's a fact."

"This gentleman is from the United States," Lord Ashleigh reminded him,
"so your criticism doesn't affect him. By-the-by, Middleton, I heard this
morning that you'd been airing your opinions down in the village. You seem
to rather fancy yourself as a thief-catcher."

"I wouldn't go so far as that, my lord," the man replied respectfully,
"but still, I hope I may say that I've as much common sense as most
people. You see, sir," he went on, turning to Quest, "the spots where he
could emerge from this track of country are pretty well guarded, and he'll
be in a fine mess, when he does put in an appearance, to show himself upon
a public road. Yet by this time I should say he must be nigh starved.
Sooner or later he'll have to come out for food. I've a little scheme of
my own, sir, I don't mind admitting," the man concluded, with a twinkle in
his keen brown eyes. "I'm not giving it away. If I catch him for you,
that's all that's wanted, I imagine, and we shan't be any the nearer to it
for letting any one into my little secret."

His master smiled.

"You shall have your rise out of the police, if you can, Middleton," he
observed. "It seems queer, though, to believe that the fellow's still in
hiding round here."

As though by common consent, they all stood, for a moment, perfectly
still, looking across the stretch of marshland with its boggy places, its
scrubby plantations, its clustering masses of tall grasses and bullrushes.
The grey twilight had become even more pronounced during the last few
minutes. Little wreaths of white mist hung over the damp places.
Everywhere was a queer silence. The very air seemed breathless. The
Professor shivered and turned away.

"My nerves," he declared, "are scarcely what they were. I have listened in
a primeval forest, listened for the soft rustling of a snake in the
undergrowth, or the distant roar of some beast of prey. I have listened
then with curiosity. I have not known fear. It seems to me, somehow, that
in this place there is something different afoot. I don't like it,
George--I don't like it. We will go home, if you please."

They made their way, single file, to the road and up to the house. Lord
Ashleigh did his best to dispel a queer little sensation of uneasiness
which seemed to have arisen in the minds of all of them.

"Come," he said, "we must put aside our disappointment for the present,
and remember that after all the chances are that Craig will never make his
escape alive. Let us forget him for a little while.... Mr. Quest," he
added, a few minutes later, as they reached the hall, "Moreton here will
show you to your room and look after you. Please let me know if you will
take an aperitif. I can recommend my sherry. We dine at eight o'clock.
Edgar, you know your way. The blue room, of course. I am coming up with
you myself. Her ladyship back yet, Moreton?"

"Not yet, my lord."

"Lady Ashleigh," her husband explained, "has gone to the other side of the
county to open a bazaar. She is looking forward to the pleasure of
welcoming you at dinner-time."

       *       *       *       *       *

Dinner, served, out of compliment to their transatlantic visitor, in the
great banqueting hall, was to Quest especially a most impressive meal.
They sat at a small round table lit by shaded lights, in the centre of an
apartment which was large in reality, and which seemed vast by reason of
the shadows which hovered around the unlit spaces. From the walls frowned
down a long succession of family portraits--Ashleighs in the queer Tudor
costume of Henry the Seventh; Ashleighs in chain armour, sword in hand, a
charger waiting, regardless of perspective, in the near distance;
Ashleighs befrilled and bewigged; Ashleighs in the Court dress of the
Georges--judges, sailors, statesmen and soldiers. A collection of armour
which would have gladdened the eye of many an antiquarian, was ranged
along the black-panelled walls. Everything was in harmony, even the grave
precision of the solemn-faced butler and the powdered hair of the two
footmen. Quest, perhaps for the first time in his life, felt almost lost,
hopelessly out of touch with his surroundings, an alien and a struggling
figure. Nevertheless, he entertained the little party with many stories.
He struggled all the time against that queer sensation of anachronism
which now and then became almost oppressive.

The Professor's pleasure at finding himself once more amongst these
familiar surroundings was obvious and intense. The conversation between
him and his brother never flagged. There were tenants and neighbours to be
asked after, matters concerning the estate on which he demanded
information. Even the very servants' names he remembered.

"It was a queer turn of fate, George," he declared, as he held out before
him a wonderfully chased glass filled with amber wine, "which sent you
into the world a few seconds before me and made you Lord of Ashleigh and
me a struggling scientific man."

"The world has benefited by it," Lord Ashleigh remarked, with more than
fraternal courtesy. "We hear great things of you over here, Edgar. We hear
that you have been on the point of proving most unpleasant things with
regard to our origin."

"Oh! there is no doubt about that," the Professor observed. "Where we came
from and where we are going to are questions which no longer afford room
for the slightest doubt to the really scientific mind. What sometimes does
elude us is the nature of our tendencies while we are here on earth."

"Mine, I fancy, are obvious enough," Lord Ashleigh interposed.

"Superficially, I grant it," his brother acknowledged. "As a matter of
scientific fact, I recognize the probability of your actually being a
person utterly different from what you appear. Man becomes what he is
according to the circumstances by which he is assailed. Now your life
here, George, must be a singularly uneventful one."

"Not during the last six months," Lord Ashleigh remarked, with a sigh.
"Even these last few days have been exciting enough. I must confess that
they have left me with a queer sort of nervousness. I find myself
listening intently sometimes,--conscious, as it were, of the influence or
presence of some indefinite danger."

"Very interesting," the Professor murmured. "Spiritualism, as an exact
science, has always interested me very much."

Lady Ashleigh made a little grimace.

"Don't encourage George," she begged. "He is much too superstitious, as it
is."

There was a brief silence. The port had been placed upon the table and
coffee served. The servants, according to the custom of the house, had
departed. The great apartment was empty. Even Quest was impressed by some
peculiar significance in the long-drawn-out silence. He looked around him
uneasily. The frowning regard of that long line of painted warriors seemed
somehow to be full of menace. There was something grim, too, in the sight
of those empty suits of armour.

"I may be superstitious," Lord Ashleigh said, "but there are times,
especially just lately, when I seem to find a new and hateful quality in
silence. What is it, I wonder? I ask you but I think I know. It is the
conviction that there is some alien presence, something disturbing lurking
close at hand."

He suddenly rose to his feet, pushed his chair back and walked to the
window, which opened level with the ground. He threw it up and listened.
The others came over and joined him. There was nothing to be heard but the
distant hooting of an owl, and farther away the barking of some farmhouse
dog. Lord Ashleigh stood there with straining eyes, gazing out across the
park.

"There was something here," he muttered, "something which has gone. What's
that? Quest, your eyes are younger than mine. Can you see anything
underneath that tree?"

Quest peered out into the grey darkness.

"I fancied I saw something moving in the shadow of that oak," he muttered.
"Wait."

He crossed the terrace, swung down on to the path, across a lawn, over a
wire fence and into the park itself. All the time he kept his eyes fixed
on a certain spot. When at last he reached the tree, there was nothing
there. He looked all around him. He stood and listened for several
moments. A more utterly peaceful night it would be hard to imagine. Slowly
he made his way back to the house.

"I imagine we are all a little nervous to-night," he remarked. "There's
nothing doing out there."

They strolled about for an hour or more, looking into different rooms,
showing their guest the finest pictures, even taking him down into the
wonderful cellars. They parted early, but Quest stood, for a few moments
before retiring, gazing about him with an air almost of awe. His great
room, as large as an apartment in an Italian palace, was lit by a dozen
wax candles in silver candlesticks. His four-poster was supported by
pillars of black oak, carved into strange forms, and surmounted by the
Ashleigh coronet and coat of arms. He threw his windows open wide and
stood for a moment looking out across the park, more clearly visible now
by the light of the slowly rising moon. There was scarcely a breeze
stirring, scarcely a sound even from the animal world. Nevertheless,
Quest, too, as reluctantly he made his preparations for retiring for the
night, was conscious of that queer sensation of unimagined and impalpable
danger.



CHAPTER X

LOST IN LONDON


1.

Quest, notwithstanding the unusual nature of his surroundings, slept that
night as only a tired and healthy man can. He was awakened the next
morning by the quiet movements of a man-servant who had brought back his
clothes carefully brushed and pressed. He sat up in bed and discovered a
small china tea equipage by his side.

"What's this?" he enquired.

"Your tea, sir."

Quest drank half a cupful without protest.

"Your bath is ready at any time, sir."

"I'm coming right along," Quest replied, jumping out of bed.

The man held up a dressing-gown and escorted him to an unexpectedly modern
bathroom at the end of the corridor. When Quest returned, his toilet
articles were all laid out for him with prim precision; the window was
wide open, the blinds drawn, and a soft breeze was stealing through into
the room. Below him, the park, looking more beautiful than ever in the
morning sunshine, stretched away to a vista of distant meadowlands and
cornfields, with here and there a little farm-house and outbuildings,
gathered snugly together. The servant, who had heard him leave the
bathroom, reappeared.

"Is there anything further I can do for you, sir?" he enquired.

"Nothing at all, thanks," Quest assured him. "What time's breakfast?"

"Breakfast is served at nine o'clock, sir. It is now half-past eight."

The man withdrew and Quest made a brisk toilet. The nameless fears of the
previous night had altogether disappeared. To his saner morning
imagination, the atmosphere seemed somehow to have become cleared of that
cloud of mysterious depression. He was whistling to himself from sheer
light-heartedness as he turned to leave the room. Then the shock came. At
the last moment he stretched out his hand to take a handkerchief from his
satchel. A sudden exclamation broke from his lips. He stood for a moment
as though turned to stone. Before him, on the top of the little pile of
white cambric, was a small black box! With a movement of the fingers which
was almost mechanical, he removed the lid and drew out the customary
little scrap of paper. He smoothed it out before him on the dressing-case
and read the message:--

    "You will fail here as you have failed before. Better go back.
    There is more danger for you in this country than you dream of."

His teeth came fiercely together and his hands were clenched. His thoughts
had gone like a flash to Lenora. Was it possible that harm was intended to
her? He put the idea away from him almost as soon as conceived. The thing
was unimaginable. Craig was here, must be here, in the close vicinity of
the house. He could have had no time to communicate with confederates in
London. Lenora, at any rate, was safe. Then he glanced around the room and
thought for a moment of his own danger. In the dead of the night, as he
had slept, mysterious feet had stolen across his room, mysterious hands
had placed those few words of half mocking warning in that simple
hiding-place! It would have been just as easy, he reflected with a grim
little smile, for those hands to have stretched their death-dealing
fingers over the bed where he had lain asleep. He looked once more out
over the park. Somehow, its sunny peace seemed to have become disturbed.
The strange sense of foreboding which he, in common with the others, had
carried about with him last night, had returned.

The atmosphere of the pleasant breakfast-room to which in due course he
descended, was cheerful enough. Lady Ashleigh had already taken her place
at the head of the table before a glittering array of silver tea and
coffee equipage. The Professor, with a plate in his hand, was making an
approving survey of the contents of the dishes ranged upon the sideboard.

"An English breakfast, my dear Quest," he remarked, after they had
exchanged the usual greetings, "will, I am sure, appeal to you. I am not,
I confess, given to the pleasures of the table, but if anything could move
me to enthusiasm in dietary matters, the sight of your sideboard, my dear
sister-in-law, would do so. I commend the bacon and eggs to you, Quest, or
if you prefer sausages, those long, thin ones are home-made and delicious.
Does Mrs. Bland still cure our hams, Julia?"

"Her daughter does," Lady Ashleigh replied, smiling. "We are almost
self-supporting here. All our daily produce, of course, comes from the
home farm. Tea or coffee, Mr. Quest?"

"Coffee, if you please," Quest decided, returning from his visit to the
sideboard. "Is Lord Ashleigh a late riser?"

"Not by any means," his wife declared. "He very often gets up and rides in
the park before breakfast. I don't know where he is this morning. He
didn't even come in to see me. I think we must send up."

She touched an electric bell under her foot and a moment or two later the
butler appeared.

"Go up and see how long your master will be," Lady Ashleigh directed.

"Very good, your ladyship."

The man was backing through the doorway in his usual dignified manner when
he was suddenly pushed to one side. The valet who had waited upon Quest,
and who was Lord Ashleigh's own servant, rushed into the room. His face
was white. He had forgotten all decorum. He almost shouted to Lady
Ashleigh.

"Your ladyship--the master! Something has happened! He won't move!
He--he--"

They all rose to their feet. Quest groaned to himself. The black box!

"What do you mean?" Lady Ashleigh faltered. "What do you mean, Williams?"

The man shook his head. He seemed almost incapable of speech.

"Something has happened to the master!"

They all trooped out of the room and up the stairs, the Professor leading
the way. They pushed open the door of Lord Ashleigh's bedchamber. In the
far corner of the large room was the four-poster, and underneath the
clothes a silent figure. The Professor turned down the sheets. Then he
held out his hand. His face, too, was blanched.

"Julia, don't come," he begged.

"I must know!" she almost shrieked. "I must know!"

"George is dead," the Professor said slowly.

There was a moment's awful silence, broken by a piercing scream from Lady
Ashleigh. She sank down upon the sofa and the Professor leaned over her.
Quest turned to the little group of frightened servants who were gathering
round the doorway.

"Telephone for a doctor," he ordered, "also to the local police-station."

[Illustration: "FOR GOD'S SAKE, COME! MY MASTER HAS BEEN STRANGLED TO
DEATH."]

[Illustration: "LADY ASHLEIGH, I WILL FIND AND BRING TO JUSTICE, THE
CRIMINAL."]

He, too, approached the bed and reverently lifted the covering. Lord
Ashleigh was lying there, his body a little doubled up, his arms wide
outstretched. On his throat were two black marks.

"Where is the valet--Williams?" Quest asked, as he turned away.

The man came forward.

"Tell us at once what you know?" Quest demanded.

"I came in, as usual, to call his lordship before I called you," the man
replied. "He did not answer, but I thought, perhaps, that he was sleepy. I
filled his bath, which, as you see, opens out of the room, and then came
to attend on you. When you went down to breakfast, I returned to his
lordship's room expecting to find him dressed. Instead of that the room
was silent, the bath still unused. I spoke to him--there was no answer.
Then I lifted the sheet!"

They had led Lady Ashleigh from the room. The Professor and Quest stood
face to face. The former's expression, however, had lost all his amiable
serenity. His face was white and pinched. He looked shrivelled up. It was
as though some physical stroke had fallen upon him.

"Quest! Quest!" he almost sobbed. "My brother!--George, whom I loved like
nobody else on earth! Is he really dead?"

"Absolutely!"

The Professor gripped the oak pillar of the bedstead. He seemed on the
point of collapse.

"The mark of the Hands is upon his throat," Quest pointed out.

"The Hands! Oh, my God!" the Professor groaned.

"We must not eat or drink or sleep," Quest declared fiercely, "until we
have brought this matter to an end. Craig must be found. This is the
supreme horror of all. Pull yourself together, Mr. Ashleigh. We shall need
every particle of intelligence we possess. I begin to think that we are
fighting against something superhuman."

The butler made an apologetic appearance. He spoke in a hushed whisper.

"You are wanted downstairs, gentlemen. Middleton, the head-keeper, is
there."

As though inspired with a common idea, both Quest and the Professor
hurried out of the room and down the broad stairs. Their inspiration was a
true one. The gamekeeper welcomed them with a smile of triumph. By his
side, the picture of abject misery, his clothes torn and muddy, was Craig!

"I've managed this little job, sir," Middleton announced, with a smile of
slow triumph.

"How did you get him?" Quest demanded.

"Little idea of my own," the gamekeeper continued. "I guessed pretty well
what he'd be up to. He'd tumbled to it that the usual way off the moor was
pretty well guarded, and he'd doubled back through the thin line of woods
close to the house. I dug one of my poachers' pits, sir, and covered it
over with a lot of loose stuff. That got him all right. When I went to
look this morning I saw where he'd fallen through, and there he was,
walking round and round at the bottom like a caged animal. Your servants
have telephoned for the police, Mr. Ashleigh," he went on, turning to the
Professor, "but I'd like you just to point out to the Scotland Yard
gentleman--called us yokels, he did, when he first came down--that we've a
few ideas of our own down here."

Quest suddenly whispered to the Professor. Then he turned to the keeper.

"Bring him upstairs, Middleton, for a moment," he directed. "Follow us,
please."

The Professor gripped Quest's arm as they ascended the stairs.

"What is this?" he asked hoarsely. "What is it you wish to do?"

"It's just an idea of my own," Quest replied. "I rather believe in that
sort of thing. I want to confront him with the result of his crime."

The Professor stopped short. His eyes were half-closed.

"It is too horrible!" he muttered.

"Nothing could be too horrible for an inhuman being like this," Quest
answered tersely. "I want to see whether he'll commit himself."

They passed into the bedchamber. Quest signed to the keeper to bring Craig
to the side of the four-poster. Then he drew down the sheet.

"Is that your work?" he asked sternly.

Craig, up till then, had spoken no word. He had shambled to the bedside, a
broken, yet in a sense, a stolid figure. The sight of the dead man,
however, seemed to galvanise him into sudden and awful vitality. He threw
up his arms. His eyes were horrible as they glared at those small black
marks. His lips moved, helplessly at first. Then at last he spoke.

"Strangled!" he cried. "One more!"

"That is your work," the criminologist said firmly.

Craig collapsed. He would have fallen bodily to the ground if Middleton's
grip had not kept him up. Quest bent over him. It was clear that he had
fainted. They led him from the room.

"We'd better lock him up until the police arrive," Quest suggested. "I
suppose there is a safe place somewhere?"

The Professor awoke from his stupor.

"Let me show you," he begged. "I know the way. We've a subterranean
hiding-place which no criminal on this earth could escape from."

They led him down to the back part of the house, a miserable, dejected
procession. Holding candles over their heads, they descended two sets of
winding stone steps, passed along a gloomy corridor till they came to a
heavy oak door, which Moreton, the butler, who carried the keys, opened
with some difficulty. It led into a dry cellar which had the appearance of
a prison cell. There was a single bench set against the wall. Quest looked
around quickly.

"This place has been used before now, in the old days, for malefactors,"
the Professor remarked. "He'll be safe there. Craig," he added, his voice
trembling, "Craig--I--I can't speak to you. How could you!"

There was no answer. Craig's face was buried in his hands. They left him
there and turned the key.


2.

Quest stood, frowning, upon the pavement, gazing at the obviously empty
house. He looked once more at the slip of paper which Lenora had given
him. There was no possibility of any mistake:--

    "Mrs. Willet,
    157 Elsmere Road,
    Hampstead."

This was 157 and the house was empty. After a moment's hesitation he rang
the bell at the adjoining door. A woman who had been watching him from the
front room, answered the summons at once.

"Can you tell me," he enquired, "what has become of the lady who used to
live at 157--Mrs. Willet?"

"She's moved," was the uncompromising reply.

"Do you know where to?" Quest asked eagerly.

"West Kensington--Number 17 Princes' Court Road. There was a young lady
here yesterday afternoon enquiring for her."

Quest raised his hat. It was a relief, at any rate, to have news of
Lenora.

"I am very much obliged to you, madam."

"You're welcome!" was the terse reply.

Quest gave the new address to the taxi-driver and was scarcely able to
restrain his impatience during the long drive. They pulled up at last
before a somewhat dingy-looking house. He rang the bell, which was
answered by a trim-looking little maid-servant.

"Is Mrs. Willet in?" he enquired.

The maid-servant stood on one side to let him pass. Almost at the same
moment, the door of the front room opened and a pleasant-looking elderly
lady appeared.

"I am Mrs. Willet," she announced.

"I am Mr. Quest," the criminologist told her quickly. "You may have heard
your niece, Lenora, speak of me."

"Then perhaps you can tell me what has become of her?" Mrs. Willet
observed.

"Isn't she here?"

Mrs. Willet shook her head.

"I had a telegram from her from New York to say that she was coming, but
I've seen nothing of her as yet."

"You've changed your address, you know," Quest reminded her, after a
moment's reflection.

"I wrote and told her," Mrs. Willet began. "After all, though," she went
on thoughtfully, "I am not sure whether she could have had the letter. But
if she went up to Hampstead, any one would tell her where I had moved to.
There's no secret about me."

"Lenora did go up to 157 Elsmere Road yesterday," Quest told her. "They
gave her your address here, as they have just given it to me."

"Then what's become of the child?" Mrs. Willet demanded.

Quest, whose brain was working quickly, scribbled upon one of his cards
the address of the hotel where he had taken rooms, and passed it over.

"Why Lenora didn't come on to you here I can't imagine," he said.
"However, I'll go back to the hotel where she was to spend the night after
she arrived. She may have gone back there. That's my address, Mrs. Willet.
If you hear anything, I wish you'd let me know. Lenora's quite a
particular friend of mine and I am a little anxious."

Mrs. Willet smiled knowingly.

"I'll let you know certainly, sir," she promised, "and glad I shall be to
hear of Lenora's being comfortably settled, after that first unfortunate
affair of hers. You'll excuse me a moment. I'm a little slower in my wits
than you. Did you say that Lenora was at Hampstead yesterday afternoon and
they told her my address?"

"That's so," Quest admitted.

The woman's face grew troubled.

"I don't like it," she said simply.

"Neither do I," Quest agreed.

"London's no place, nowadays," Mrs. Willet continued, "for girls as pretty
as Lenora to be wandering about in. Such tales as there have been lately
in the Sunday papers as makes one's blood run cold if one can believe them
all."

"You don't have any--what we call the White Slave Traffic--over here, do
you?" Quest asked quickly.

"I can't say that I've ever come across any case of it myself, sir," the
old lady replied. "I was housekeeper to the Duke of Merioneth for fifty
years, and where we lived we didn't hear much about London and London
ways. You see, I never came to the town house. But since I retired and
came up here, and took to reading the Sunday papers, I begin to be
thankful that my ways have been country ways all my life."

"No need to alarm ourselves, I'm sure," Quest intervened, making his way
towards the door. "Lenora is a particularly capable young lady. I feel
sure she'd look after herself. I am going right back to the hotel, Mrs.
Willet, and I'll let you know directly I hear anything."

"I shall be very anxious, Mr. Quest," she reminded him, earnestly, "very
anxious indeed. Lenora was my sister's favourite child, and my sister--"

Quest had already opened the front door for himself and passed out. He
sprang into the taxi which he had kept waiting.

"Clifford's Hotel in Payne Street," he told the man sharply.

He lit a cigar and smoked furiously all the way, throwing it on to the
pavement as he hurried into the quiet private hotel which a
fellow-passenger on the steamer had recommended as being suitable for
Lenora's one night alone in town.

"Can you tell me if Miss Lenora Macdougal is staying here?" he asked at
the office.

The woman shook her head.

"Miss Macdougal stayed here the night before last," she said, "and her
luggage is waiting for orders. She left here yesterday afternoon to go to
her aunt's, and promised to send for her things later on during the day.
There they stand, all ready for her."

Quest followed the direction of the woman's finger. Lenora's familiar
little belongings were there, standing in a corner of the hall.

"You haven't heard from her, then, since she went out yesterday
afternoon?" he asked, with sinking heart.

"No, sir!"

"What time did she go?"

"Directly after an early lunch. It must have been about two o'clock."

Quest hurried away. So after all there was some foundation for this queer
sense of depression which had been hovering about him for the last few
days!

"Scotland Yard," he told the taxi-driver.

He thrust another cigar between his teeth but forgot to light it. He was
amazed at his own sensations, conscious of fears and emotions of which he
would never have believed himself capable. He gave in his card, and after
a few moments' delay he was shown into the presence of one of the chiefs
of the Detective Department, who greeted him warmly.

"My name is Hardaway," the latter announced. "Glad to meet you, Mr. Quest.
We've heard of you over here. Take a chair."

"To tell you the truth," Quest replied, "my business is a little urgent."

"Glad to hear you've got that fellow Craig," Mr. Hardaway continued.
"Ridiculous the way he managed to slip through our fingers. I understand
you've got him all right now, though?"

"He is safe enough," Quest declared, "but to tell you the truth, I'm
worried about another little affair."

"Go on," the other invited.

"My assistant, a young lady, Miss Lenora Macdougal, has disappeared! She
and I and Professor Ashleigh left the steamer at Plymouth and travelled up
in the boat train. It was stopped at Hamblin Road for the Professor and
myself, and Miss Macdougal came on to London. She was staying at
Clifford's Hotel in Payne Street for the night, and then going on to an
aunt. Well, I've found that aunt. She was expecting the girl but the girl
never appeared. I have been to the hotel where she spent the night before
last, and I find that she left there at two o'clock and left word that she
would send for her luggage. She didn't arrive at her aunt's, and the
luggage is still uncalled for."

[Illustration: QUEST FIGHTS HIS WAY TO THE GIRL HE LOVES.]

[Illustration: AS THE PROFESSOR EXPLAINED THE CELLAR'S HISTORY TO QUEST,
THE STONE CROSS CLOSED ON THE FRIGHTENED SERVANT.]

The Inspector was at first only politely interested. It probably occurred
to him that young ladies have been known before now to disappear from
their guardians for a few hours without serious results.

"Where did this aunt live?" he enquired.

"Number 17, Princes' Court Road, West Kensington," Quest replied. "She had
just moved there from Elsmere Road, Hampstead. I went first to Hampstead.
Lenora had been there and learnt her aunt's correct address in West
Kensington. I followed on to West Kensington and found that her aunt was
still awaiting her."

A new interest seemed suddenly to have crept into Hardaway's manner.

"Let me see," he said, "if she left Clifford's Hotel about two, she would
have been at Hampstead about half-past two. She would waste a few minutes
in making enquiries, then she probably left Hampstead for West Kensington,
say, at a quarter to three."

"Somewhere between those two points," Quest pointed out, "she has
disappeared."

"Give me at once a description of the young lady," Mr. Hardaway demanded.

Quest drew a photograph from his pocket and passed it silently over. The
official glanced at it and down at some papers which lay before him. Then
he looked at the clock.

"Mr. Quest," he said, "it is just possible that your visit here has been
an exceedingly opportune one."

He snatched his hat from a rack and took Quest by the arm.

"Come along with me," he continued. "We'll talk as we go."

They entered a taxi and drove off westwards.

"Mr. Quest," he went on, "for two months we have been on the track of a
man and a woman whom we strongly suspect of having decoyed half a dozen
perfectly respectable young women, and shipped them out to South America."

"The White Slave Traffic!" Quest gasped.

"Something of the sort," Hardaway admitted. "Well, we've been closing the
net around this interesting couple, and last night I had information
brought to me upon which we are acting this afternoon. We've had them
watched and it seems that they were sitting in a tea place about three
o'clock yesterday afternoon, when a young woman entered who was obviously
a stranger to London. You see, the time fits in exactly, if your assistant
decided to stop on her way to Kensington and get some tea. She asked the
woman at the desk the best means of getting to West Kensington without
taking a taxi-cab. Her description tallies exactly with the photograph you
have shown me. The woman whom my men were watching addressed her and
offered to show her the way. They left the place together. My men followed
them. The house has been watched ever since and we are raiding it this
afternoon. You and I will just be in time."

"You've left her there since yesterday afternoon? You've left her there
all night?" Quest exclaimed. "My God!"

Hardaway touched his arm soothingly.

"Don't worry, Mr. Quest," he said. "We don't want the woman alone; we want
the man, too. Now the man was away. He only visits the house occasionally,
and I am given to understand that he is a member of several West End
clubs. When the two women entered that house yesterday afternoon, there
wasn't a soul in it except servants. The woman telephoned for the man. He
never turned up last night nor this morning. He arrived at that house
twenty minutes ago."

Quest drew a little breath.

"It gave me a turn," he admitted. "Say, this is a slow taxi!"

The Inspector glanced out of the window.

"If this is the young lady you're looking for," he said, "you'll be in
plenty of time, never fear. What I am hoping is that we may be able to
catch my fellows before they try to rush the place. You understand, with
your experience, Mr. Quest, that there are two things we've got to think
of. We not only want to put our hand upon the guilty persons, but we want
to bring the crime home to them."

"I see that," Quest assented. "How much farther is this place?"

"We're there," Hardaway told him.

He stopped the cab and they got out. A man who seemed to be strolling
aimlessly along, reading a newspaper, suddenly joined them.

"Well, Dixon?" his chief exclaimed.

The man glanced around.

"I've got three men round at the back, Mr. Hardaway," he said. "It's
impossible for any one to leave the place."

"Anything fresh to tell me?"

"There are two men in the place besides the governor--butler and footman,
dressed in livery. They sleep out, and only come after lunch."

Hardaway paused to consider for a moment.

"Look here," Quest suggested, "they know all you, of course, and they'll
never let you in until they're forced to. I'm a stranger. Let me go. I'll
get in all right."

Hardaway peered around the corner of the street.

"All right," he assented. "We shall follow you up pretty closely, though."

Quest stepped back into the taxi and gave the driver a direction. When he
emerged in front of the handsome grey stone house he seemed to have become
completely transformed. There was a fatuous smile upon his lips. He
crossed the pavement with difficulty, stumbled up the steps, and held on
to the knocker with one hand while he consulted a slip of paper. He had
scarcely rung the bell before a slightly parted curtain in the front room
fell together, and a moment later the door was opened by a man in the
livery of a butler, but with the face and physique of a prize-fighter.

"Lady of the house," Quest demanded. "Want to see the lady of the house."

Almost immediately he was conscious of a woman standing in the hall before
him. She was quietly but handsomely dressed; her hair was grey; her smile,
although a little peculiar, was benevolent.

"You had better come in," she invited. "Please do not stand in the
doorway."

Quest, however, who heard the footsteps of the others behind him, loitered
there for a moment.

"You're the lady whose name is on this piece of paper?" he demanded. "This
place is all right, eh?"

"I really do not know what you mean," the woman replied coldly, "but if
you will come inside, I will talk to you in the drawing-room."

Quest, as though stumbling against the front-door, had it now wide open,
and in a moment the hall seemed full. The woman shrieked. The butler
suddenly sprang upon the last man to enter, and sent him spinning down the
steps. Almost at that instant there was a scream from upstairs. Quest took
a running jump and went up the stairs four at a time. The butler suddenly
snatched the revolver from Hardaway's hand and fired blindly in front of
him, missing Quest only by an inch or two.

"Don't be a fool, Karl!" the woman called out. "The game's up. Take it
quietly."

Once more the shriek rang through the house. Quest rushed to the door of
the room from whence it came, tried the handle and found it locked. He ran
back a little way and charged it. From inside he could hear a turmoil of
voices. White with rage and passion, he pushed and kicked madly. There was
the sound of a shot from inside, a bullet came through the door within an
inch of his head, then the crash of broken crockery and a man's groan.
With a final effort Quest dashed the door in and staggered into the room.
Lenora was standing in the far corner, the front of her dress torn and
blood upon her lip. She held a revolver in her hand and was covering a man
whose head and hands were bleeding. Around him were the debris of a broken
jug.

"Mr. Quest!" she screamed. "Don't go near him--I've got him covered. I'm
all right."

Quest drew a long breath. The man who stood glaring at him was
well-dressed and still young. He was unarmed, however, and Quest secured
him in a moment.

"The girl's mad!" he said sullenly. "No one wanted to do her any harm."

Hardaway and his men came trooping up the stairs. Quest relinquished his
prisoner and went over to Lenora.

"I've been so frightened," she sobbed. "They got me in here--they told me
that this was the street in which my aunt lived--and they wouldn't let me
go. The woman was horrible. And this afternoon this man came. The brute!"

"He hasn't hurt you?" Quest demanded fiercely, as he passed his arm around
her.

She shook her head.

"He would never have done that," she murmured. "I had my hatpin in my gown
and I should have killed myself first."

Quest turned to Hardaway.

"I'll take the young lady away," he said. "You know where to find us."

Hardaway nodded and Quest supported Lenora down the stairs and into the
taxi-cab, which was still waiting. She leaned back and he passed his arm
around her.

"Are you faint?" he asked anxiously, as they drove towards the hotel.

"A little," she admitted, "not very. But oh! I am so thankful--so
thankful!"

He leaned a little nearer towards her. She looked at him wonderingly.
Suddenly the colour flushed into her cheeks.

"I couldn't have done without you, Lenora," he whispered, as he kissed
her.

Lenora had almost recovered when they reached the hotel. Walking up and
down they found the Professor. His face, as he came towards them, was
almost pitiful. He scarcely noticed Lenora's deshabille, which was in a
measure concealed by the cloak which Quest had thrown around her.

"My friend!" he exclaimed--"Mr. Quest! It is the devil incarnate against
whom we fight!"

"What do you mean?" Quest demanded.

The Professor wrung his hands.

"I put him in our James the Second prison," he declared. "Why should I
think of the secret passage? No one has used it for a hundred years. He
found it, learnt the trick--"

"You mean," Quest cried--

"He has escaped!" the Professor broke in. "Craig has escaped again! They
are searching for him high and low, but he has gone!"

Quest's arm tightened for a moment in Lenora's. It was curious how he
seemed to have lost at that moment all sense of proportion. Lenora was
safe--the relief of that one thought overshadowed everything else in the
world.

"The fellow can't get far," he muttered.

"Who knows?" the Professor replied dolefully. "The passage--I'll show it
you some day and you'll see how wonderful his escape has been--leads on to
the first floor of the house. He must have got into my dressing-room, for
his old clothes are there and he went away in a suit of mine. No one has
seen him or knows anything about him. All that the local police can find
out is that a man answering somewhat his description caught the morning
train for Southampton from Hamblin Roads."

They had been standing together in a little recess of the hall. Suddenly
Lenora, whose face was turned towards the entrance doors, gave a little
cry. She took a quick step forward.

"Laura!" she exclaimed, wonderingly. "Why, it's Laura!"

They all turned around. A young woman had just entered the hotel, followed
by a porter carrying some luggage. Her arm was in a sling and there was a
bandage around her forehead. She walked, too, with the help of a stick.
She recognized them at once and waved it gaily.

"Hullo, you people?" she cried. "Soon run you to earth, eh?"

They were for a moment dumbfounded; Lenora was the first to find words.
"But when did you start, Laura?" she asked. "I thought you were too ill to
move for weeks."

The girl smiled contemptuously.

"I left three days after you, on the _Kaiser Frederic_," she replied.
"There was some trouble at Plymouth, and we came into Southampton early
this morning, and here I am. But, before we go any farther, tell me about
Craig?"

"We've had him," Quest confessed, "and lost him again. He escaped last
night."

"Where from?" Laura asked.

"Hamblin House."

"Is that anywhere near the south coast?" the girl demanded excitedly.

"It's not far away," Quest replied quickly. "Why?"

"I'll tell you why," Laura explained. "I was as sure of it as any one
could be. Craig passed me in Southampton Water this morning, being rowed
out to a steamer. Not only that but he recognized me. I saw him draw back
and hide his face, but somehow I couldn't believe that it was really he. I
was just coming down the gangway and I nearly fell into the sea, I was so
surprised."

Quest was already turning over the pages of a time-table.

"What was the steamer?" he demanded.

"I found out," Laura told him. "I tell you, I was so sure of it's being
Craig that I made no end of enquiries. It was the _Barton_, bound for
India, with first stop at Port Said."

"When does she sail?" Quest asked.

"To-night--somewhere about seven," Laura replied.

Quest glanced at the clock and threw down the time-table. He turned
towards the door. They all followed him.

"I'm for Southampton," he announced. "I'm going to try to get on board
that steamer before she sails. Lenora, you'd better go upstairs and lie
down. They'll give you a room here. Don't you stir out till I come back.
Professor, what about you?"

"I shall accompany you," the Professor declared. "The discomforts of
travelling without luggage are nothing compared with the importance of
discovering this human fiend."

"Luggage--pshaw!" Laura exclaimed. "Who cares about that?"

"And nothing," Lenora declared firmly, as she caught at Quest's arm,
"would keep me away."

"I'll telephone to Scotland Yard, in case they care to send a man down,"
Quest decided. "We must remember, though," he reminded them, "that it will
very likely be a wild-goose chase."

"It won't be the first," Laura observed grimly, "but Craig's on board that
ship all right."...

They caught a train to Southampton, where they were joined by a man from
Scotland Yard. The little party drove as quickly as possible to the docks.

"Where does the _Barton_ start from?" Quest asked the pier-master.

The man pointed a little way down the harbor.

"She's not in dock, sir," he said. "She's lying out yonder. You'll barely
catch her, I'm afraid," he added, glancing at the clock.

They hurried to the edge of the quay.

"Look here," Quest cried, raising his voice, "I'll give a ten pound note
to any one who gets me out to the _Barton_ before she sails."

The little party were almost thrown into a tug, and in a few minutes they
were skimming across the smooth water. Just as they reached the steamer,
however, she began to move.

"Run up alongside," Quest ordered.

"She won't stop, sir," the Captain of the tug replied doubtfully. "She is
an hour late, as it is."

"Do as I tell you," Quest insisted.

They raced along by the side of the great steamer. An officer came to the
rail and shouted down to them.

"What do you want?"

"The Captain," Quest replied.

The Captain came down from the bridge, where he had been conferring with
the pilot.

"Keep away from the side there," he shouted. "Who are you?"

"We are in search of a desperate criminal whom we believe to be on board
your steamer," Quest explained. "Please take us on board."

The Captain shook his head.

"Are you from Scotland Yard?" he asked. "Have you got your warrant?"

"We are from America," Quest answered, "but we've got a Scotland Yard man
with us, and a warrant, right enough."

"Any extradition papers?"

"No time to get them yet," Quest replied, "but the man's wanted for
murder."

"Are you from the New York police?"

Quest shook his head.

"I am a private detective," he announced. "I am working in conjunction
with the New York Police."

The Captain shook his head.

"I am over an hour late," he said, "and it's costing me fifty pounds a
minute. If I take you on board, you'll have to come right along with me,
unless you find the fellow before we've left your tug behind."

Quest turned around.

"Will you risk it?" he asked.

"Yes!" they all replied.

"We're coming, Captain," Quest decided.

A rope ladder was let down. The steamer began to slow.

"Can you girls manage it?" Quest asked doubtfully.

Laura smiled.

"I should say so," she replied. "I can go up that with only one arm. You
watch me!"

They cheered her on board the steamer as she hobbled up. The others
followed. The tug, the crew of which had been already well paid, raced
along by the side. The Captain spoke once more to the pilot and came down
from the bridge.

"I'm forced to go full speed ahead to cross the bar," he told Quest. "I'm
sorry, but the tide's just on the turn."

They looked at one another a little blankly.

The Professor, however, beamed upon them all.

"I have always understood," he said, "that Port Said is a most interesting
place."



CHAPTER XI

THE SHIP OF HORROR


Quest leaned a little forward and gazed down the line of steamer chairs.
The Professor, in a borrowed overcoat and cap, was reclining at full
length, studying a book on seagulls which he had found in the library.
Laura and Lenora were both dozing tranquilly. Mr. Harris of Scotland Yard
was deep in a volume of detective stories.

"As a pleasure cruise," Quest remarked grimly, "this little excursion
seems to be a complete success."

Laura opened her eyes at once.

"Trying to get my goat again, eh?" she retorted. "I suppose that's what
you're after. Going to tell me, I suppose, that it wasn't Craig I saw
board this steamer?"

"We are all liable to make mistakes," Quest observed, "and I am inclined
to believe that this is one of yours."

Laura's expression was a little dogged.

"If he's too clever for you and Mr. Harris," she said, "I can't help that.
I only know that he came on board. My eyes are the one thing in life I do
believe."

"If you'll excuse my saying so, Miss Laura," Harris ventured, leaning
deferentially towards her, "there isn't a passenger on board this ship, or
a servant, or one of the crew, whom we haven't seen. We've been into every
stateroom, and we've even searched the hold. We've been over the ship,
backwards and forwards. The Captain's own steward has been our guide, and
we've conducted an extra search on our own account. Personally, I must say
I have come to the same conclusion as Mr. Quest. At the present moment
there is no such person as the man we are looking for, on board this
steamer."

"Then he either changed on to another one," Laura declared obstinately,
"or else he jumped overboard."

Harris, who was a very polite man, gazed thoughtfully seaward. Quest
smiled.

"When Laura's set on a thing," he remarked, "she takes a little moving.
What do you think about it, Professor?"

The Professor laid down his book, keeping his finger in the place. He had
the air of a man perfectly content with himself and his surroundings.

"My friend," he said, "I boarded this steamer with only one thought in my
mind--Craig. At the present moment, I feel myself compelled to plead
guilty to a complete change of outlook. The horrors of the last few months
seem to have passed from my brain like a dream. I lie here, I watch these
white-winged birds wheeling around us, I watch the sunshine make jewels of
the spray, I breathe this wonderful air, I relax my body to the slow,
soothing movements of the boat, and I feel a new life stealing through me.
Is Craig really on board? Was it really he whom Miss Laura here saw? At
the present moment, I really do not care. I learn from the steward, who
arranged my bath this morning, that we are bound for India. I am very glad
to hear it. It is some time since I saw Bombay, and the thought of these
long days of complete peace fills me with a most indescribable
satisfaction."

Quest grunted a little as he knocked the ash from his cigar.

"Not much of the bloodhound about the Professor," he remarked. "What about
you, Lenora?"

She smiled at him.

"I agree entirely with the Professor," she murmured, "except that I am not
quite so sure that I appreciate the rhythmical movement of the boat as he
seems to. For the rest, I have just that feeling that I would like to go
on and on and forget all the horrible things that have happened, to live
in a sort of dream, and wake up in a world from which Craig had vanished
altogether."

"Enervating effect this voyage seems to be having upon you all," Quest
grumbled. "Even Harris there looks far too well contented with life."

The detective smiled. He was young and fresh-coloured, with a shrewd but
pleasant face. He glanced involuntarily at Laura as he spoke.

"Well, Mr. Quest," he said, "I didn't bring you on the steamer so I don't
feel any responsibility about it, but I must confess that I am enjoying
the trip. I haven't had a holiday this year."

Quest struggled to his feet and threw back the rug in his chair.

"If you all persist in turning this into a pleasure cruise," he remarked,
"I suppose I'll have to alter my own point of view. Come on, Harris, you
and I promised to report to the Captain this morning. I don't suppose
he'll be any too pleased with us. Let's get through with it."

The two men walked down the deck together. They found the Captain alone in
his room, with a chart spread out in front of him and a pair of compasses
in his hand. He turned round and greeted them.

"Well?"

"No luck, sir," Quest announced. "Your steward has given us every
assistance possible and we have searched the ship thoroughly. Unless he
has found a hiding place unknown to your steward, and not apparent to us,
the man is not on board."

The Captain frowned slightly.

"You are not suggesting that that is possible, I suppose?"

Quest did not at once reply. He was thinking of Laura's obstinacy.

"Personally," he admitted, "I should not have believed it possible. The
young lady of our party, however, who declares that she saw Craig board
the steamer, is quite immovable."

The Captain rose to his feet. He was a man of medium height, strongly
built, with short brown beard and keen blue eyes.

"This matter must be cleared up entirely," he declared brusquely. "If you
will excuse me for a moment, I will talk to the young lady myself."

He walked firmly down the deck to where the two girls were seated, and
paused in front of Laura.

"So you're the young lady," he remarked, touching his cap, "who thinks
that I come to sea with criminals stowed away on my ship?"

"I don't know what your habits are, Captain," Laura replied, "but this
particular criminal boarded your ship all right in Southampton Harbour."

"Anything wrong with your eyesight?" the Captain enquired blandly.

"No," Laura assured him. "I saw the man, saw him just as plainly as I see
you now."

"Do you know," the Captain persisted, "that Mr. Quest and Mr. Harris have
searched every nook and corner of the ship? They have had an absolutely
free hand, and my own steward has been their guide. They have seen every
man, boy, woman and animal amongst my crew or passengers."

"They've been fooled somehow," Laura muttered.

The Captain frowned. He was on the point of a sharp rejoinder when he met
Laura's eyes. She was smiling very faintly and there was something in her
expression which changed his whole point of view.

"I'll go and make a few enquiries myself," he declared. "See you at
dinner-time, I hope, young ladies."

"If you keep her as steady as this," Laura promised, "there are hopes."

He disappeared along the deck, and presently re-entered his room, where
Harris and Quest were waiting for him. He was followed by his steward, an
under-sized man with pallid complexion and nervous manner. He closed the
door behind him.

"Brown," he said, turning to the steward, "I understand you to say that
you have taken these gentlemen into every corner of the ship, that you
have ransacked every possible hiding-place, that you have given them every
possible opportunity of searching for themselves?"

"That is quite true, sir," the man acknowledged.

"You agree with me that it is impossible for any one to remain hidden in
this ship?"

"Absolutely, sir."

"You hear, gentlemen?" the Captain continued. "I really can do no more. It
is perfectly clear to me that the man you are seeking is not on my ship.
Your very charming young lady friend seems to think it impossible that she
could have been mistaken, but as a matter of fact she was. If I might take
the liberty, Mr. Quest, I would suggest that you ask her, at any rate, to
keep her suspicions to herself."

"I'll see she doesn't talk," Quest promised. "Very sorry to have given you
all this trouble, I'm sure."

"It's no trouble," the Captain replied, "and apart from the disagreeable
nature of your business, I am delighted to have you on board. If you can
forget your suspicions about this fellow Craig, I shall do my best to make
your trip a pleasant one as far as Port Said, or on to India if you decide
to take the trip with me."

"Very good of you, Captain, I'm sure," Quest pronounced. "We shall go on
keeping our eyes open, of course, but apart from that we'll forget the
fellow."

The Captain nodded.

"I am coming down to dinner to-night," he announced, "and shall hope to
find you in your places. What the mischief are you hanging about for,
Brown?" he asked, turning to the steward, who was standing by with a
carpet-sweeper in his hand.

"Room wants cleaning out badly, sir."

The Captain glanced distastefully at the carpet-sweeper.

"Do it when I am at dinner, then," he ordered, "and take that damned thing
away."

The steward obeyed promptly. Quest and Harris followed him down the deck.

"Queer-looking fellow, that," the latter remarked. "Doesn't seem quite at
his ease, does he?"

"Seemed a trifle over-anxious, I thought, when he was showing us round the
ship," Quest agreed.

"M-m," Harris murmured softly, "as the gentleman who wrote the volume of
detective stories I am reading puts it, we'd better keep our eye on
Brown."...

The Captain, who was down to dinner unusually early, rose to welcome
Quest's little party and himself arranged the seats.

"You, Miss Lenora," he said, "will please sit on my left, and you, Miss
Laura, on my right. Mr. Quest, will you sit on the other side of Miss
Laura, and Mr. Harris two places down on my left. There is an old lady who
expects to be at the table, but the steward tells me she hasn't been in
yet."

They settled down into the places arranged for them. Harris was looking a
little glum. Lenora and Quest exchanged a meaning glance.

"I'm not sure that I appreciate this arrangement," Harris whispered to his
neighbour.

"You may be candid," Lenora replied, "but you aren't very polite, are
you?"

Harris almost blushed as he realized his slip.

"I am sorry," he said, "but to tell you the truth," he added, glancing
towards Quest, "I fancied that you were feeling about the same."

"We women are poor dissemblers," Lenora murmured. "Do look how angry this
old woman seems."

An elderly lady, dressed in somewhat oppressive black, with a big cameo
brooch at her throat and a black satin bag in her hand, was being shown by
the steward to a seat by Quest's side. She acknowledged the Captain's
greeting acidly.

"Good evening, Captain," she said. "I understood from the second steward
that the seat on your right hand would be reserved for me. I am Mrs.
Foston Rowe."

The Captain received the announcement calmly.

"Very pleased to have you at the table, madam," he replied. "As to the
seating, I leave that entirely to the steward. I never interfere myself."

Laura pinched his arm, and Lenora glanced away to hide a smile. Mrs.
Foston Rowe studied the menu disapprovingly.

"Hors d'oeuvres," she declared, "I never touch. No one knows how long
they've been opened. Bouillon--I will have some bouillon, steward."

"In one moment, madam."

The Professor just then came ambling along towards the table.

"I fear that I am a few moments late," he remarked, as he took the chair
next to Mrs. Foston Rowe. "I offer you my apologies, Captain. I
congratulate you upon your library. I have discovered a most interesting
book upon the habits of seagulls. It kept me engrossed until the very last
moment."

"Very disagreeable habits, those I've noticed," Mrs. Foston Rowe sniffed.

"Madam," the Professor assured her, "yours is but a superficial view. For
myself, I must confess that the days upon which I learn something new in
life are days of happiness for me. To-day is an example; I have learnt
something new about seagulls, and I am hungry."

"Well, you'll have to stay hungry a long time at this table, then," Mrs.
Foston Rowe snapped. "Seems to me that the service is going to be
abominable."

The steward, who had just arrived, presented a cup of bouillon to Quest.
The others had all been served. Quest stirred it thoughtfully.

"And as to the custom," Mrs. Foston Rowe continued, "of serving gentlemen
before ladies, it is, I suppose, peculiar to this steamer."

Quest hastily laid down his spoon, raised the cup of bouillon and
presented it with a little bow to his neighbour.

"Pray allow me, madam," he begged. "The steward was to blame."

Mrs. Foston Rowe did not hesitate for a moment. She broke up some toast in
the bouillon and commenced to sip it.

"Your politeness will at least teach them a lesson," she said. "I am used
to travel by the P. & O. and from what I have seen of this steamer--"

The spoon suddenly went clattering from her fingers. She caught at the
sides of the table, there was a strange look in her face. With scarcely a
murmur she fell back in her seat. Quest leaned hurriedly forward.

"Captain!" he exclaimed. "Steward! Mrs. Foston Rowe is ill."

There was a slight commotion. The Doctor came hurrying up from the other
side of the salon. He bent over her and his face grew grave.

"What is it?" the Captain demanded.

The Doctor glanced at him meaningly.

"She had better be carried out," he whispered.

It was all done in a moment. There was nothing but Mrs. Foston Rowe's
empty place at the table and the cup of bouillon, to remind them of what
had happened.

"Was it a faint?" Lenora asked.

"We shall know directly," the Captain replied. "Better keep our places, I
think. Steward, serve the dinner as usual."

The man held out his hand to withdraw the cup of bouillon, but Quest drew
it towards him.

"Let it wait for a moment," he ordered.

He glanced at the Captain, who nodded back. In a few moments the Doctor
reappeared. He leaned down and whispered to the Captain.

"Dead!"

The Captain gave no sign.

"Better call it heart failure," the Doctor continued. "I'll let the people
know quietly. I don't in the least understand the symptoms, though."

Quest turned around.

"Doctor," he said, "I happen to have my chemical chest with me, and some
special testing tubes. If you'll allow me, I'd like to examine this cup of
bouillon. You might come round, too, if you will."

The Captain nodded.

"I'd better stay here for a time," he decided. "I'll follow you
presently."

The service of dinner was resumed. Laura, however, sent plate after plate
away. The Captain watched her anxiously.

"I can't help it," she explained. "I don't know whether you've had any
talk with Mr. Quest, but we've been through some queer times lately. I
guess this death business is getting on my nerves."

The Captain was startled.

"You don't for a moment connect Mrs. Foston Rowe's death with the criminal
you are in search of?" he exclaimed.

Laura sat quite still for a moment.

"The bouillon was offered first to Mr. Quest," she murmured.

The Captain called his steward.

"Where did you get the bouillon you served--that last cup especially?" he
asked.

"From the pantry just as usual, sir," the man answered. "It was all served
out from the same cauldron."

"Any chance of any one getting at it?"

"Quite impossible, sir!"

Laura rose to her feet.

"Sorry," she apologized, "I can't eat anything. I'm off on deck."

The Captain rose promptly.

"I'll escort you, if I may," he suggested.

Harris, too, rose from his place, after a final and regretful glance at
the menu, and joined the others. The Captain, however, drew Laura's arm
through his as they reached the stairs, and Harris, with a little shrug of
the shoulders, made his way to Quest's stateroom. The Doctor, the
Professor, Quest and Lenora were all gathered around two little tubes,
which the criminologist was examining with an electric torch.

"No reaction at all," the latter muttered. "This isn't an ordinary poison,
any way."

The Professor, who had been standing on one side, suddenly gave vent to a
soft exclamation.

"Wait!" he whispered. "Wait! I have an idea."

He hurried off to his stateroom. The Doctor was poring over a volume of
tabulated poisons. Quest was still watching his tubes. Lenora sat upon the
couch. Suddenly the Professor reappeared. He was carrying a small notebook
in his hand; his manner betrayed some excitement. He closed the door
carefully behind him.

"I want you all," he begged, "to listen very carefully to me. You will
discover the application of what I am going to read, when I am finished.
Now, if you please."

They looked at him wonderingly. It was evident that the Professor was very
much in earnest. He held the book a little way away from him and read
slowly and distinctly.

"This," he began, "is the diary of a tour made by Craig and myself in
Northern Egypt some fourteen years ago. Here is the first entry of
import:--

    "_Monday_. Twenty-nine miles south-east of Port Said. We have
    stayed for two days at a little Mongar village. I have to-day
    come to the definite conclusion that anthropoid apes were at one
    time denizens of this country.

    "_Tuesday_. Both Craig and I have been a little uneasy to-day.
    These Mongars into whose encampment we have found our way, are
    one of the strangest and fiercest of the nomad tribes. They are
    descended, without a doubt, from the ancient Mongolians, who
    invaded this country some seven hundred years before Christ.
    They have interbred with the Arabs to some extent, but have
    preserved in a marvellous way their individuality as a race.
    They have the narrow eyes and the thick nose base of the pure
    Oriental; also much of his cunning. One of their special
    weaknesses seems to be the invention of the most hideous forms
    of torture, which they apply remorselessly to their enemies."

"Pleasant sort of people," Quest muttered.

"We escaped with our lives," the Professor explained earnestly, "from
these people, only on account of an incident which you will find in this
next paragraph:--"

    "_Wednesday_. This has been a wonderful day for as, chiefly
    owing to what I must place on record as an act of great bravery
    by Craig, my servant. Early this morning, a man-eating lion
    found his way into the encampment. The Mongars behaved like
    arrant cowards. They fled right and left, leaving the Chief's
    little daughter, Feerda, at the brute's mercy. Craig, who is by
    no means an adept in the use of firearms, chased the animal as
    he was making off with the child, and, more by good luck than
    anything else, managed to wound it mortally. He brought the
    child back to the encampment just as the Chief and the warriors
    of the tribe returned from a hunting expedition. Our position
    here is now absolutely secure. We are treated like gods, and,
    appreciating my weakness for all matters of science, the Chief
    has to-day explained to me many of the secret mysteries of the
    tribe. Amongst other things, he has shown me a wonderful secret
    poison, known only to this tribe, which they call Veedemzoo. It
    brings almost instant death, and is exceedingly difficult to
    trace. The addition of sugar causes a curious condensation and
    resolves it almost to a white paste. The only antidote is a
    substance which they use here freely, and which is exactly
    equivalent to our camphor."

The Professor closed his book. Quest promptly rang the bell.

"Some sugar," he ordered, turning to the steward.

They waited in absolute silence. The suggestion which the Professor's
disclosure had brought to them was stupefying, even Quest's fingers, as a
moment or two later he rubbed two knobs of sugar together so that the
particles should fall into the tubes of bouillon, shook. The result was
magical. The bouillon turned to a strange shade of grey and began slowly
to thicken.

"It is the Mongar poison!" the Professor cried, with breaking voice.

They all looked at one another.

"Craig must be here amongst us," Quest muttered.

"And the bouillon," Lenora cried, clasping Quest's arm, "the bouillon was
meant for you!"...

There seemed to be, somehow, amongst all of them, a curious indisposition
to discuss this matter. Suddenly Lenora, who was sitting on the lounge
underneath the porthole, put out her hand and picked up a card which was
lying by her side. She glanced at it, at first curiously. Then she
shrieked.

"A message!" she cried. "A message from the Hands! Look!"

They crowded around her. In that same familiar handwriting was scrawled
across the face of the card these few words--

    "To Sanford Quest.

    "You have escaped this time by a chance of fortune, not because
    your wits are keen, not because of your own shrewdness; simply
    because Fate willed it. It will not be for long."

Underneath was the drawing of the clenched hands.

"There is no longer any doubt," Lenora said calmly. "Craig is on board. He
must have been on deck a few minutes ago. It was his hand which placed
this card in the porthole.... Listen! What's that?"

There was a scream from the deck. They all recognised Laura's voice.
Harris was out of the stateroom first but they were all on deck within ten
seconds. Laura was standing with one hand clasping the rail, her hand
fiercely outstretched towards the lower part of the promenade deck.
Through the darkness they heard the sound of angry voices.

"What is it, Laura?" Lenora cried.

She swung round upon them.

"Craig!" she cried. "Craig! I saw his face as I sat in my chair there,
talking to the Captain. I saw a man's white face--nothing else. He must
have been leaning over the rail. He heard me call out and he disappeared."

The Captain came slowly out of the shadows, limping a little and followed
by his steward, who was murmuring profuse apologies.

"Did you find him?" Laura demanded eagerly.

"I did not," the Captain replied, a little tersely. "I ran into Brown here
and we both had a shake-up."

"But he was there--a second ago!" Laura cried out.

"I beg your pardon, miss," Brown ventured, "but the deck's closed at the
end, as you can see, with sail-cloth, and I was leaning over the rail
myself when you shrieked. There wasn't any one else near me, and no one
can possibly have passed round the deck, as you can see plainly for
yourself."

Laura stood quite still.

"What doors are there on the side?" she asked.

"The doors of my room only," the Captain replied, a little shortly. "It
was Brown you saw, of course. He was standing exactly where you thought
you saw Craig."

Laura walked to the end of the deck and back.

"Very well, then," she said, "you people had better get a strait-waistcoat
ready for me. If I didn't see Craig there, I'm going off my head."

Quest had disappeared some seconds ago. He came thoughtfully back, a
little later.

"Captain," he asked, "what shall you say if I tell you that I have proof
that Craig is on board?"

The Captain glanced at Laura and restrained himself.

"I should probably say a great many things which I should regret
afterwards," he replied grimly.

"Sit down and we'll tell you what has happened in my room," Quest
continued.

He told the story, calmly and without remark. The Captain held his head.

"Of course, I'm convinced that I am a sane man," he said, "but this sounds
more like a Munchausen story than anything I've ever heard. I suppose you
people are all real? You are in earnest about this, aren't you? It isn't a
gigantic joke?"

"We are in deadly earnest," the Professor pronounced gravely.

"I have been down to the pantry," Quest went on. "The porthole has been
open all day. It was just possible for a man to have reached the cups of
bouillon as they were prepared. That isn't the point, however. Craig is
cunning and clever enough for any devilish scheme on earth, and that card
proves that he is on board."

"The ship shall be searched," the Captain declared, "once more. We'll look
into every crack and every cupboard."

Lenora turned away with a little shiver. It was one of her rare moments of
weakness.

"You won't find him! You won't ever find him!" she murmured. "And I am
afraid!"

Lenora grasped the rails of the steamer and glanced downwards at the great
barge full of Arab sailors and merchandise. In the near background were
the docks of Port Said. It was their first glimpse of Eastern atmosphere
and colour.

"I can't tell you how happy I am," she declared to Quest, "to think that
this voyage is over. Every night I have gone to bed terrified."

He smiled grimly.

"Things have been quiet enough the last few days," he said. "There's
Harris on this barge. Look at Laura waving to him!"

The Scotland Yard man only glanced up at them. He was occupied in leaning
over towards Laura, who was on the deck below.

"If you said the word," he called out, "I wouldn't be going back, Miss
Laura. I'd stick to the ship fast enough."

She laughed at him gaily.

"Not you! You're longing for your smoky old London already. You cut it
out, my friend. You're a good sort, and I hope we'll meet again some day.
But--"

She shook her head at him good-humouredly. He turned away, disappointed,
and waved his hand to Lenora and Quest on the upper deck.

"Coming on shore, any of you?" he enquired.

"We may when the boat moves up," Quest replied. "The Professor went off on
the first barge. Here he is, coming back."

A little boat had shot out from the docks, manned by a couple of Arabs.
They could see the Professor seated in the stern. He was poring over a
small document which he held in his hand. He waved to them excitedly.

"He's got news!" Quest muttered.

With much shouting the boat was brought to the side of the barge. The
Professor was hauled up. He stumbled blindly across towards the gangway
and came up the steps with amazing speed. He came straight to Quest and
Lenora and gripped the former by the arm.

"Look!" he cried. "Look!"

He held out a card. Quest read it aloud:--

    "There is not one amongst you with the wit of a Mongar child.
    Good-bye!"

    "THE HANDS!"

"Where did you get it?" Quest demanded.

"That's the point--the whole point!" the Professor exclaimed excitedly.
"He's done us! He's landed! That paper was pushed into my hand by a tall
Arab, who mumbled something and hurried off across the docks. On the
landing-stage, mind!"

The Captain came and put his head out of the door.

"Mr. Quest," he said, "can you spare me a moment? You can all come, if you
like."

They moved up towards him. The Captain closed the door of his cabin. He
pointed to a carpet-sweeper which lay against the wall.

"Look at that," he invited.

They lifted the top. Inside were several sandwiches and a small can of
tea.

"What on earth is this?" Quest demanded.

The Captain, without a word, led them into his inner room. A huge lounge
stood in one corner. He lifted the valance. Underneath were some crumbs.

"You see," he pointed out, "there's room there for a man to have hidden,
especially if he could crawl out on deck at night. I couldn't make out why
the dickens Brown was always sweeping out my room, and I took up this
thing a little time ago and looked at it. This is what I found."

"Where's Brown?" Quest asked quickly.

"I rang down for the chief steward," the Captain continued, "and ordered
Brown to be sent up at once. The chief steward came himself instead. It
seems Brown went off without his wages but with a huge parcel of bedding,
on the first barge this morning, before any one was about."

Quest groaned as he turned away.

"Captain," he declared, "I am ashamed. He has been here all the time and
we've let him slip through our fingers. Girls," he went on briskly,
turning towards Laura, who had just come up, "India's off. We'll catch
this barge, if there's time. Our luggage can be put on shore when the boat
docks."

The Captain walked gloomily with them to the gangway.

"I shall miss you all," he told Laura.

She laughed in his face.

"If you ask me, I think you'll be glad to be rid of us."

"Not of you, Miss Laura," he insisted.

She made a little grimace.

"You're as bad as Mr. Harris," she declared. "We'll come for another trip
with you some day."

They left him leaning disconsolately over the rails. The Professor and
Quest sat side by side on one of the trunks which was piled up on the
barge.

"Professor," Quest asked, "how long would it take us to get to this Mongar
village you spoke about?"

"Two or three days, if we can get camels," the other replied. "I see you
agree with me, then, as to Craig's probable destination?"

Quest nodded.

"What sort of fellows are they, any way?" he asked. "Will it be safe for
us to push on alone?"

"With me," the Professor assured him, "you will be safe anywhere. I speak
a little of their language. I have lived with them. They are far more
civilized than some of the interior tribes."

"We'll find a comfortable hotel where we can leave the girls--" Quest
began.

"You can cut that out," Laura interrupted. "I don't know about the kid
here, but if you think I'm going to miss a camel ride across the desert,
you're dead wrong, so that's all there is to it."

Quest glanced towards Lenora. She leaned over and took his arm.

"I simply couldn't be left behind," she pleaded. "I've had quite enough of
that."

"The journey will not be an unpleasant one," the Professor declared
amiably, "and the riding of a camel is an accomplishment easily acquired.
So far as I am aware, too, the district which we shall have to traverse is
entirely peaceable."

They disembarked and were driven to the hotel, still discussing their
project. Afterwards they all wandered into the bazaars, along the narrow
streets, where dusky children pulled at their clothes and ran by their
side, where every now and then a brown-skinned Arab, on a slow-moving
camel, made his way through the throngs of veiled Turkish women, Syrians,
Arabs, and Egyptians. Laura and Lenora, at any rate, attracted by the
curious novelty of the scene, forgot the heat, the street smells, and the
filthy clothes of the mendicants and loafers who pressed against them.
They bought strange jewellery, shawls, beads and perfumes. The Professor
had disappeared for some time but rejoined them later.

"It is all arranged," he announced. "I found a dragoman whom I know. We
shall have four of the best camels and a small escort ready to start
to-morrow morning. Furthermore, I have news. An Englishman whose
description precisely tallies with Craig's, started off, only an hour ago,
in the same direction. This time, at any rate, Craig cannot escape us."

"He might go on past the Mongar camp," Quest suggested.

The Professor shook his head.

"The Mongar village," he explained, "is placed practically at a cul-de-sac
so far as regards further progress southwards without making a detour. It
is flanked by a strip of jungle and desert on either side, in which there
are no wells for many miles. We shall find Craig with the Mongars."

They made their way back to the hotel, dined in a cool, bare room, and
sauntered out again into the streets. The Professor led the way to a
little building, outside which a man was volubly inviting all to enter.

"You shall see one of the sights of Port Said," he promised. "This is a
real Egyptian dancing girl."

They took their seats in the front row of a dimly-lit, bare-looking room.
The stage was dark and empty. From some unseen place came the monotonous
rhythm of a single instrument. They waited for some time in vain. At last
one or two lights in front were lit, the music grew more insistent. A girl
who seemed to be dressed in little more than a winding veil, glided on to
the stage, swaying and moving slowly to the rhythm of the monotonous
music. She danced a measure which none of them except the Professor had
ever seen before, coming now and then so close that they could almost feel
her hot breath, and Lenora felt somehow vaguely disturbed by the glitter
of her eyes. An odd perfume was shaken into the air around them from her
one flowing garment, through which her limbs continually flashed. Lenora
looked away.

"I don't like it," she said to Quest simply.

Suddenly Laura leaned forward.

"Look at the Professor," she whispered.

They all turned their heads. A queer change seemed to have come into the
Professor's face. His teeth were gleaming between his parted lips, his
head was a little thrust forward, his eyes were filled with a strange,
hard light. He was a transformed being, unrecognisable, perturbing. Even
while they watched, the girl floated close to where he sat and leaned
towards him with a queer, mocking smile. His hand suddenly descended upon
her foot. She laughed still more. There was a little exclamation from
Lenora. The Professor's whole frame quivered, he snatched the anklet from
the girl's ankle and bent over it. She leaned towards him, a torrent of
words streaming from her lips. The Professor answered her in her own
language. She listened to him in amazement. The anger passed. She held out
both her hands. The Professor still argued. She shook her head. Finally he
placed some gold in her palms. She patted him on the cheek, laughed into
his eyes, pointed behind and resumed her dancing. The anklet remained in
the Professor's hand.

"Say, we'll get out of this," Quest said. "The girls have had enough."

The Professor made no objection. He led the way, holding the anklet all
the time close to his eyes, and turning it round. They none of them spoke
to him, yet they were all conscious of an immense sense of relief when,
after they had passed into the street, he commenced to talk in his natural
voice.

"Congratulate me," he said. "I have been a collector of Assyrian gold
ornaments all my life. This is the one anklet I needed to complete my
collection. It has the double mark of the Pharaohs. I recognised it at
once. There are a thousand like it, you would think, in the bazaars there.
In reality there may be, perhaps, a dozen more in all Egypt which are
genuine."

They all looked at one another. Their relief had grown too poignant for
words.

"Early start to-morrow," Quest reminded them.

"Home and bed for me, this moment," Laura declared.

"The camels," the Professor assented, "will be round at daybreak."

Lenora, a few nights later, looked down from the star-strewn sky which
seemed suddenly to have dropped so much nearer to them, to the shadows
thrown across the desert by the dancing flames of their fire.

"It is the same world, I suppose," she murmured.

"A queer little place out of the same world," Quest agreed. "Listen to
those fellows, how they chatter!"

The camel drivers and guides were sitting together in a little group, some
distance away. They had finished their supper and were chattering together
now, swaying back and forth, two of them at least in a state of wild
excitement.

"Whatever can they be talking about?" Laura asked. "They sound as though
they were going to fight every second."

The Professor smiled.

"The last one was talking about the beauty of his fat lady friend," he
remarked drily. "Just before, they were discussing whether they would be
given any backsheesh in addition to their pay. We are quite off the
ordinary routes here, and these fellows aren't much used to Europeans."

Laura rose to her feet.

"I'm going to get a drink," she announced.

The dragoman, who had been hovering around, bowed gravely and pointed
towards the waterbottles. Lenora also rose.

"I'm coming too," she decided. "It seems a sin to think of going to sleep,
though. The whole place is like a great silent sea. I suppose this isn't a
dream, is it, Laura?"

"There's no dream about my thirst, any way," Laura declared.

She took the horn cup from the dragoman.

"Have some yourself, if you want to, Hassan," she invited.

Hassan bowed gravely, filled a cup and drank it off. He stood for a moment
perfectly still, as though something were coming over him which he failed
to understand. Then his lips parted, his eyes for a moment seemed to shoot
from out of his dusky skin. He threw up his arms and fell over on his
side. Laura, who had only sipped her cup, threw it from her. She, too,
reeled for a moment. The Professor and Quest came running up, attracted by
Lenora's shriek.

"They're poisoned!" she cried.

"The Veedemzoo!" Quest shouted. "My God! Pull yourself together, Laura.
Hold up for a minute."

He dashed back to their little encampment and reappeared almost
immediately. He threw Laura's head back and forced some liquid down her
throat.

"It's camphor," he cried. "You'll be all right, Laura. Hold on to
yourself."

He swung round to where the dragoman was lying, forced his mouth open, but
it was too late--the man was dead. He returned to Laura. She stumbled to
her feet. She was pale, and drops of perspiration were standing on her
forehead. She was able to rise to her feet, however, without assistance.

"I am all right now," she declared.

Quest felt her pulse and her forehead. They moved back to the fire.

"We are within a dozen miles or so of the Mongar village," Quest said
grimly. "Do you suppose that fellow could have been watching?"

They all talked together for a time in low voices. The Professor was
inclined to scout the theory of Craig having approached them.

"You must remember," he pointed out, "that the Mongars hate these fellows.
It was part of my arrangement with Hassan that they should leave us when
we got in sight of the Mongar Encampment. It may have been meant for
Hassan. The Mongars hate the dragomen who bring tourists in this direction
at all."

They talked a little while longer and finally stole away to their tents to
sleep. Outside, the camel drivers talked still, chattering away, walking
now and then around Hassan's body in solemn procession. Finally, one of
them who seemed to have taken the lead, broke into an impassioned stream
of words. The others listened. When he had finished, there was a low
murmur of fierce approval. Silent-footed, as though shod in velvet, they
ran to the tethered camels, stacked the provisions once more upon their
backs, lashed the guns across their own shoulders. Soon they stole away--a
long, ghostly procession--into the night.

"Those fellows seem to have left off their infernal chattering all of a
sudden," Quest remarked lazily from inside the tent.

The Professor made no answer. He was asleep.



CHAPTER XII

A DESERT VENGEANCE


1.

Quest was the first the next morning to open his eyes, to grope his way
through the tent opening and stand for a moment alone, watching the
alabaster skies. Away eastwards, the faint curve of the blood-red sun
seemed to be rising out of the limitless sea of sand. The light around him
was pearly, almost opalescent, fading eastwards into pink. The shadows had
passed away. Though the sands were still hot beneath his feet, the silent
air was deliciously cool. He turned lazily around, meaning to summon the
Arab who had volunteered to take Hassan's place. His arms--he had been in
the act of stretching--fell to his sides. He stared incredulously at the
spot where the camels had been tethered. There were no camels, no drivers,
no Arabs. There was not a soul nor an object in sight except the stark
body of Hassan, which they had dragged half out of sight behind a slight
knoll. High up in the sky above were two little black specks, wheeling
lower and lower. Quest shivered as he suddenly realised that for the first
time in his life he was looking upon the winged ghouls of the desert.
Lower and lower they came. He turned away with a shiver.

The Professor was still sleeping when Quest re-entered the tent. He woke
him up and beckoned him to come outside.

"Dear me!" the former exclaimed genially, as he adjusted his glasses, "I
am not sure that my toilet--however, the young ladies, I imagine, are not
yet astir. You did well to call me, Quest. This is the rose dawn of Egypt.
I have watched it from solitudes such as you have never dreamed of. After
all, we are here scarcely past the outskirts of civilisation."

"You'll find we are far enough!" Quest remarked grimly. "What do you make
of this, Professor?"

He pointed to the little sandy knoll with its sparse covering of grass,
deserted--with scarcely a sign, even, that it had been the resting place
of the caravan. The Professor gave vent to a little exclamation.

"Our guides!" he demanded. "And the camels! What has become of them?"

"I woke you up to ask you that question?" Quest replied, "but I guess it's
pretty obvious. We might have saved the money we gave for those rifles in
Port Said."

The Professor hurried off towards the spot where the encampment had been
made. Suddenly he stood still and pointed with his finger. In the clearer,
almost crystalline light of the coming day, they saw the track of the
camels in one long, unbroken line stretching away northwards.

"No river near, where they could have gone to water the camels, or
anything of that sort, I suppose?" Quest asked.

The Professor smiled.

"Nothing nearer than a little stream you may have heard of in the days
when you studied geography," he observed derisively,--"the Nile. I never
liked the look of those fellows, Quest. They sat and talked and crooned
together after Hassan's death. I felt that they were up to some mischief."

He glanced around a little helplessly. Quest took a cigar from his case,
and lit it.

"To think that an old campaigner like I am," the Professor continued, in a
tone of abasement, "should be placed in a position like this! There have
been times when for weeks together I have slept literally with my finger
upon the trigger of my rifle, when I have laid warning traps in case the
natives tried to desert in the night. I have even had our pack ponies
hobbled. I have learnt the secret of no end of devices. And here, with a
shifty lot of Arabs picked up in the slums of Port Said, and Hassan, the
dragoman, dying in that mysterious fashion, I permit myself to lie down
and go to sleep! I do not even secure my rifle! Quest, I shall never
forgive myself."

"No good worrying," Quest sighed. "The question is how best to get out of
the mess. What's the next move, anyway?"

The Professor glanced towards the sun and took a small compass from his
pocket. He pointed across the desert.

"That's exactly our route," he said, "but I reckon we still must be two
days from the Mongars, and how we are going to get there ourselves, much
more get the women there, without camels, I don't know. There are no
wells, and I don't believe those fellows have left us a single tin of
water."

"Any chance of falling in with a caravan?" Quest enquired.

"Not one in a hundred," the Professor replied gloomily. "If we were only
this short distance out of Port Said, and on one of the recognised trade
routes, we should probably meet half-a-dozen before mid-day. Here we are
simply in the wilds. The way we are going leads to nowhere and finishes in
an utterly uninhabitable jungle."

"Think we'd better turn round and try and bisect one of the trade routes?"
Quest suggested.

The Professor shook his head.

"We should never know when we'd struck it. There are no milestones or
telegraph wires. We shall have to put as brave a face on it as possible,
and push on."

Laura put her head out of the tent in which the two women had slept.

"Say, where's breakfast?" she exclaimed. "I can't smell the coffee."

They turned and approached her silently. The two girls, fully dressed,
came out of the tent as they approached.

"Young ladies," the Professor announced, "I regret to say that a
misfortune has befallen us, a misfortune which we shall be able, without a
doubt, to surmount, but which will mean a day of hardship and much
inconvenience."

"Where are the camels?" Lenora asked breathlessly.

"Gone!" Quest replied.

"And the Arabs?"

"Gone with them--we are left high and dry," Quest explained. "Those
fellows are as superstitious as they can be, and Hassan's death has given
them the scares. They have gone back to Port Said."

"And what is worse," the Professor added, with a groan, "they have taken
with them all our stores, our rifles and our water."

"How far are we from the Mongar Camp?" Lenora asked.

"About a day's tramp," Quest replied quickly. "We may reach there by
nightfall."

"Then let's start walking at once, before it gets any hotter," Lenora
suggested.

Quest patted her on the back. They made a close search of the tents but
found that the Arabs had taken everything in the way of food and drink,
except a single half-filled tin of drinking water. They moistened their
lips with this carefully, Quest with the camphor in his hand. They found
it good, however, though lukewarm. Laura produced a packet of sweet
chocolate from her pocket.

"It's some breakfast, this," she remarked, as she handed it round. "Let's
get a move on."

"And if I may be permitted to make the suggestion," the Professor advised,
"not too much chocolate. It is sustaining, I know, but this sweetened
concoction encourages thirst, and it is thirst which we have most to--from
which we may suffer most inconvenience."

"One, two, three--march!" Laura sung out. "Come on, everybody."

They started bravely enough, but by mid-day their little stock of water
was gone, and their feet were sorely blistered. No one complained,
however, and the Professor especially did his best to revive their
spirits.

"We have come further than I had dared to hope, in the time," he
announced. "Fortunately, I know the exact direction we must take. Keep up
your spirits, young ladies. At any time now we may see signs of our
destination."

"Makes one sad to think of the drinks we could have had," Quest muttered.
"What's that?"

The whole party stopped short. Before them was a distant vision of white
houses, of little stunted groves of trees, the masts of ships in the
distance.

"It's Port Said!" Quest exclaimed. "What the mischief--have we turned
round? Say, Professor, has your compass got the jim-jams?"

"I don't care where it is," Lenora faltered, with tears in her eyes. "I
thought Port Said was a horrible place, but just now I believe it's
heaven."

The Professor turned towards them and shook his head.

"Can't you see?" he pointed out. "It's a mirage--a desert mirage. They are
quite common at dusk."

Lenora for a moment was hysterical, and even Laura gave a little sob.
Quest set his teeth and glanced at the Professor.

[Illustration: "WHILE WE ARE WAITING, LET'S GO IN AND BE SHOCKED!"]

[Illustration: "YOU MUST THANK HIM FOR YOUR LIVES--THE MONGARS NEVER TAKE
PRISONERS."]

"Always water near where there's a mirage, isn't there, Professor?"

"That's so," the Professor agreed. "We are coming to something, all
right."

They struggled on once more. Night came and brought with it a half
soothing, half torturing coolness. That vain straining of the eyes upon
the horizon, at any rate, was spared to them. They slept in a fashion, but
soon after dawn they were on their feet again. They were silent now, for
their tongues were swollen and talk had become painful. Their walk had
become a shamble, but there was one expression in their haggard faces
common to all of them--the brave, dogged desire to struggle on to the
last. Suddenly Quest, who had gone a little out of his way to mount a low
ridge of sand-hills, waved his arm furiously. He was holding his
field-glasses to his eyes. It was wonderful how that ray of hope
transformed them. They hurried to where he was. He passed the glasses to
the Professor.

"A caravan!" he exclaimed. "I can see the camels, and horses!"

The Professor almost snatched the glasses.

"It is quite true," he agreed. "It is a caravan crossing at right angles
to our direction. Come! They will see us before long."

Lenora began to sob and Laura to laugh. Both were struggling with a
tendency towards hysterics. The Professor and Quest marched grimly side by
side. With every step they took the caravan became more distinct.
Presently three or four horsemen detached themselves from the main body
and came galloping towards them. The eyes of the little party glistened as
they saw that the foremost had a water-bottle slung around his neck. He
came dashing up, waving his arms.

"You lost, people?" he asked. "Want water?"

They almost snatched the bottle from him. It was like pouring life into
their veins. They all, at the Professor's instigation, drank sparingly.
Quest, with a great sigh of relief, lit a cigar.

"Some adventure, this!" he declared.

The Professor, who had been talking to the men in their own language,
turned back towards the two girls.

"It is a caravan," he explained, "of peaceful merchants on their way to
Jaffa. They are halting for us, and we shall be able, without a doubt, to
arrange for water and food and a camel or two horses. The man here asks if
the ladies will take the horses and ride?"

They started off gaily to where the caravan had come to a standstill. They
had scarcely traversed a hundred yards, however, before the Arab who was
leading Lenora's horse came to a sudden standstill. He pointed with his
arm and commenced to talk in an excited fashion to his two companions.
From across the desert, facing them, came a little company of horsemen,
galloping fast and with the sunlight flashing upon their rifles.

"The Mongars!" the Arab cried, pointing wildly. "They attack the caravan!"

The three Arabs talked together for a moment in an excited fashion. Then,
without excuse or warning, they swung the two women to the ground, leapt
on their horses, and, turning northwards, galloped away. Already the crack
of the rifles and little puffs of white smoke showed them where the
Mongars, advancing cautiously, were commencing their attack. The Professor
looked on anxiously.

"I am not at all sure," he said in an undertone to Quest, "about our
position with the Mongars. Craig has a peculiar hold upon them, but as a
rule they hate white men, and their blood will be up.... See! the fight is
all over. Those fellows were no match for the Mongars. Most of them have
fled and left the caravan."

The fight was indeed over. Four of the Mongars had galloped away in
pursuit of the Arabs who had been the temporary escort of Quest and his
companions. They passed about a hundred yards away, waving their arms and
shouting furiously. One of them even fired a shot, which missed Quest by
only a few inches.

"They say they are coming back," the Professor muttered. "Who's this? It's
the Chief and--"

"Our search is over, at any rate," Quest interrupted. "It's Craig!"

They came galloping up, Craig in white linen clothes and an Arab cloak;
the Chief by his side--a fine, upright man with long grey beard; behind,
three Mongars, their rifles already to their shoulders. The Chief wheeled
up his horse as he came within twenty paces of the little party.

"White! English!" he shouted. "Why do you seek death here?"

He waited for no reply but turned to his men. Three of them dashed
forward, their rifles, which were fitted with an odd sort of bayonet,
drawn back for the plunge. Quest, snatching his field-glasses from his
shoulders, swung them by the strap above his head, and brought them down
upon the head of his assailant. The man reeled and his rifle fell from his
hand. Quest picked it up, and stood on guard. The other two Mongars swung
round towards him, raising their rifles to their shoulders. Quest held
Lenora to him. It seemed as though their last second had come. Suddenly
Craig, who had been a little in the rear, galloped, shouting, into the
line of fire.

"Stop!" he ordered. "Chief, these people are my friends. Chief, the word!"

The Chief raised his arm promptly. The men lowered their rifles, and Craig
galloped back to his host's side. The Chief listened to him, nodding
gravely. Presently he rode up to the little party. He saluted the
Professor and talked to him in his own language. The Professor turned to
the others.

"The Chief apologises for not recognising me," he announced. "It seems
that Craig had told him that he had come to the desert for shelter, and he
imagined at once, when he gave the order for the attack upon us, that we
were his enemies. He says that we are welcome to go with him to his
encampment."

Quest stood for a moment irresolute.

"Seems to me we're in a pretty fix," he muttered. "We've got to owe our
lives to that fellow Craig, anyway, and how shall we be able to get him
away from them, goodness only knows."

"That is for later," the Professor said gravely. "At present I think we
cannot do better than accept the hospitality of the Chief. Even now the
Chief is suspicious. I heard him ask Craig why, if these were his friends,
he did not greet them."

Craig turned slowly towards them. It was a strange meeting. His face was
thin and worn, there were hollows in his cheeks, a dull light in his
sunken eyes. He had the look of the hunted animal. He spoke to them in a
low tone.

"It is necessary," he told them, "that you should pretend to be my
friends. The Chief has ordered two of his men to dismount. Their ponies
are for the young ladies. There will be horses for you amongst the
captured ones from the caravan yonder."

"So we meet at last, Craig," the Professor said sternly.

Craig raised his eyes and dropped them again. He said nothing. He turned
instead once more towards Quest.

"Whatever there may be between us," he said, "your lives are mine at this
moment, if I chose to take them. For the sake of the women, do as I
advise. The Chief invites you to his encampment as his guests."

They all turned towards the Chief, who remained a little on the outside of
the circle. The Professor raised his hat and spoke a few words in his own
language, then he turned to the others.

"I have accepted the invitation of the Chief," he announced. "We had
better start."

       *       *       *       *       *

"This may not be Delmonico's," Laura remarked, a few hours later, with a
little sigh of contentment, "but believe me that goat-stew and sherbet
tasted better than any chicken and champagne I ever tasted."

"And I don't quite know what tobacco this is," Quest added, helping
himself to one of a little pile of cigarettes which had been brought in to
them, "but it tastes good."

They moved to the opening of the tent and sat looking out across the
silent desert. Laura took the flap of the canvas in her hand.

"What do all these marks mean?" she asked.

"They are cabalistic signs," the Professor replied, "part of the language
of the tribe. They indicate that this is the guest tent, and there are a
few little maxims traced upon it, extolling the virtues of hospitality.
Out in the desert there we met the Mongars as foes, and we had, I can
assure you, a very narrow escape of our lives. Here, under the shelter of
their encampment, it is a very different matter. We have eaten their
salt."

"It's a strange position," Quest remarked moodily.

Lenora leaned forward to where a little group of Mongars were talking
together.

"I wish that beautiful girl would come and let us see her again," she
murmured.

"She," the Professor explained, "is the Chief's daughter, Feerda, whose
life Craig saved."

"And from the way she looks at him," Laura observed, "I should say she
hadn't forgotten it, either."

The Professor held up a warning finger. The girl herself had glided to
their side out of the shadows. She faced the Professor. The rest of the
party she seemed to ignore. She spoke very slowly and in halting English.

"My father wishes to know that you are satisfied?" she said. "You have no
further wants?"

"None," the Professor assured her. "We are very grateful for this
hospitality, Feerda."

"Won't you talk to us for a little time?" Lenora begged, leaning forward.

The girl made no responsive movement. She seemed, if anything, to shrink a
little away. Her head was thrown back, her dark eyes were filled with
dislike. She turned suddenly to the Professor and spoke to him in her own
language. She pointed to the signs upon the tent, drew her finger along
one of the sentences, flashed a fierce glance at them all and disappeared.

"Seems to me we are not exactly popular with the young lady," Quest
remarked. "What was she saying, Professor?"

"She suspects us," the Professor said slowly, "of wishing to bring evil to
Craig. She pointed to a sentence upon the tent. Roughly it means
'Gratitude is the debt of hospitality.' I am very much afraid that the
young lady must have been listening to our conversation a while ago."

Lenora shivered.

"To think of any girl," she murmured, "caring for a fiend like Craig!"

Before they knew it she was there again, her eyes on fire, her tone
shaking.

"You call him evil, he who saved your lives, who saved you from the swords
of my soldiers!" she cried. "I wish that you had all died before you came
here. I hope that you yet may die!"

She passed away into the night. The Professor looked anxiously after her.

"It is a humiliating reflection," he said, "but we are most certainly in
Craig's power. Until we have been able to evolve some scheme for
liberating ourselves and taking him with us, if possible, I think that we
had better avoid any reference to him as much as possible. That young
woman is quite capable of stirring up the whole tribe against us. The
whole onus of hospitality would pass if they suspected we meant evil to
Craig, and they have an ugly way of dealing with their enemies.... Ah!
Listen!"

The Professor suddenly leaned forward. There was a queer change in his
face. From somewhere on the other side of that soft bank of violet
darkness came what seemed to be the clear, low cry of some animal.

"It is the Mongar cry of warning," he said hoarsely. "Something is going
to happen."

The whole encampment was suddenly in a state of activity. The Mongars ran
hither and thither, getting together their horses. The Chief, with Craig
by his side, was standing on the outskirts of the camp. The cry came
again, this time much louder and nearer. Soon they caught the muffled
trampling of a horse's hoofs galloping across the soft sands, then the
gleam of his white garments as he came suddenly into sight, in the edge of
the little circle of light thrown by the fire. They saw him leap from his
horse, run to the Chief, bend double in some form of salute, then commence
to talk rapidly. The Chief listened with no sign of emotion, but in a
moment or two he was giving rapid orders. Camels appeared from some
invisible place. Men, already on horseback, were galloping hither and
thither, collecting fire-arms and spare ammunition. Pack-horses were being
loaded, tents rolled up and every evidence of breaking camp.

"Seems to me there's a move on," Quest muttered, as they rose to their
feet. "I wonder if we are in it."

A moment or two later Craig approached them. He came with his shoulders
stooped and his eyes fixed upon the ground. He scarcely raised them as he
spoke.

"Word has been brought to the Chief," he announced, "that the Arab who
escaped from the caravan has fallen in with an outpost of British
soldiers. They have already started in pursuit of us. The Mongars will
take refuge in the jungle, where they have prepared hiding-places. We
start at once."

"What about us?" the Professor enquired.

"I endeavoured," Craig continued, "to persuade the Chief to allow you to
remain here, when the care of you would devolve upon the English soldiers.
He and Feerda, however, have absolutely refused my request. Feerda has
overheard some of your conversation, and the Chief believes that you will
betray us. You will have to come along, too."

"You mean," Laura exclaimed, "that we've got to tramp into what you call
the jungle, and hide there because these thieves are being chased?"

Craig glanced uneasily around.

"Young lady," he said, "you will do well to speak little here. They have
long ears and quick understandings, these men. You may call them a race of
robbers. They only remember that they are the descendants of an Imperial
race, and what they take by the right of conquest they believe Allah sends
them. You must do the bidding of the Chief."

He turned away towards where the Chief and Feerda, already on horseback,
were waiting for him. Quest leaned towards the Professor.

"Why not tackle the Chief yourself?" he suggested. "Here he comes now.
Craig may be speaking the truth, but, on the other hand, it's all to his
interests to keep us away from the soldiers."

The Professor rose at once to his feet and stepped out to where the Chief
was giving orders.

"Chief," he said, "my friends desire me to speak with you. We are worn out
with our adventures. The young ladies who are with us are unused to and
ill-prepared for this hard life. We beg that you will allow us to remain
here and await the arrival of the English soldiers."

The Chief turned his head. There was little friendliness in his tone.

"Wise man," he replied, "I have sent you my bidding by him who is our
honoured guest. I tell you frankly that I am not satisfied with the
explanations I have received of your presence here."

Feerda leaned forward, her beautiful eyes flashing in the dim light.

"Ah! but I know," she cried, "they would bring harm to the master. I can
read it in their hearts as I have heard it from their own lips."

"What my daughter says is truth," the Chief declared. "Back, wise man, and
tell your friends that you ride with us to-night, either as guests or
captives. You may take your choice."

The Professor returned to where the others were eagerly awaiting him.

"It is useless," he announced. "The girl, who is clearly enamoured of
Craig, suspects us. So does the Chief. Perhaps, secretly, Craig himself is
unwilling to leave us here. The Chief never changes his mind and he has
spoken. We go either as his captives or his guests. I have heard it said,"
the Professor added grimly, "that the Mongars never keep captives longer
than twenty-four hours."

They all rose at once to their feet, and a few moments later horses were
brought. The little procession was already being formed in line. Craig
approached them once more.

"You will mount now and ride in the middle of our caravan," he directed.
"The Chief does not trust you. If you value your lives, you will do as you
are bidden."

"I don't like the idea of the jungle," Lenora sighed.

"Gives me the creeps," Laura admitted, as she climbed upon her horse. "Any
wild animals there, Professor?"

The Professor became more cheerful.

"The animal life of the region we are about to traverse," he observed, as
they moved off, "is in some respects familiar to me. Twelve years ago I
devoted some time to research a little to the westward of our present
route. I will, if you choose, as we ride, give you a brief account of some
of my discoveries."

The two girls exchanged glances. Quest, who had intercepted them, turned
his horse and rode in between the Professor and Lenora.

"Go right ahead, Professor," he invited. "Fortunately the girls have got
saddles like boxes--I think they both mean to go to sleep."

"An intelligent listener of either sex," the Professor said amiably, "will
be a stimulus to my memory."


2.

"You can call this fairyland, if you want," Laura remarked, gazing around
her; "I call it a nasty, damp, oozy spot."

"It seemed very beautiful when we first came," Lenora sighed, "but that
was after the heat and glare of the desert. There does seem something a
little unhealthy about it."

"I'm just about fed up with Mongars," Quest declared.

"We do nothing but lie about, and they won't even let us fire a gun off."

"Personally," the Professor confessed, holding up a glass bottle in front
of him from which a yellow beetle was making frantic efforts to escape, "I
find this little patch of country unusually interesting. The specimen
which I have here--I spare you the scientific name for him--belongs to a
class of beetle which has for long eluded me."

Laura regarded the specimen with disfavour.

"So far as I am concerned," she observed, "I shouldn't have cared if he'd
eluded you a little longer. Don't you dare let him out, Professor."

"My dear young lady," the Professor assured her, "the insect is perfectly
secure. Through the cork, as you see, I have bored a couple of holes,
hoping to keep him alive until we reach Port Said, when I can prepare him
as a specimen."

"Port Said!" Lenora murmured. "It sounds like heaven."

Quest motioned them to sit a little nearer.

"Well," he said, "I fancy we are all feeling about the same except the
Professor, and even he wants to get some powder for his beetle. I had a
moment's talk with Craig this morning, and from what he says I fancy they
mean to make a move a little further in before long. It'll be all the more
difficult to escape then."

"You think we could get away?" Lenora whispered eagerly.

Quest glanced cautiously around. They were surrounded by thick vegetation,
but they were only a very short distance from the camp.

"Seems to me," he continued, "we shall have to try it some day or other
and I'm all for trying it soon. Even if they caught us, I don't believe
they'd dare to kill us, with the English soldiers so close behind. I am
going to get hold of two or three rifles and some ammunition. That's easy,
because they leave them about all the time. And what you girls want to do
is to hide some food and get a bottle of water."

"What about Craig?" the Professor asked.

"We are going to take him along," Quest declared grimly. "He's had the
devil's own luck so far, but it can't last forever. I'll see to that part
of the business, if you others get ready and wait for me to give the
signal.... What's that?"

They all looked around. There had been a little rustling amongst the
canopy of bushes. Quest peered through and returned, frowning.

"Feerda again," he muttered. "She hangs around all the time, trying to
listen to what we are saying. She couldn't have heard this, though. Now,
girls, remember. When the food is about this evening, see how much you can
get hold of. I know just where to find the guns and the horses. Let's
separate now. The Professor and I will go on a beetle hunt."

They dispersed in various directions. It was not until late in the
evening, when the Mongars had withdrawn a little to indulge in their
customary orgy of crooning songs, that they were absolutely alone. Quest
looked out of the tent in which they had been sitting and came back again.

"Well?"

Laura lifted her skirt and showed an unusual projection underneath.

"Lenora and I have pinned up our petticoats," she announced. "We've got
plenty of food and a bottle of water."

Quest threw open the white Arab cloak which he had been wearing. He had
three rifles strapped around him.

"The Professor's got the ammunition," he said, "and we've five horses
tethered a hundred paces along the track we came by, just behind the
second tree turning to the left. I want you all to go there now at once
and take the rifles. There isn't a soul in the camp and you can carry them
wrapped in this cloak. I'll join you in ten minutes."

"What about Craig?" the Professor enquired.

"I am seeing to him," Quest replied.

Lenora hesitated.

"Isn't it rather a risk?" she whispered fearfully.

Quest's face was suddenly stern.

"Craig is going back with us," he said. "I'll be careful, Lenora. Don't
worry."

He strolled out of the tent and came back again.

"The coast's clear," he announced. "Off you go.... One moment," he added,
"there are some papers in this little box of mine which one of you ought
to take care of."

He bent hastily over the little wallet, which never left him. Suddenly a
little exclamation broke from his lips. The Professor peered over his
shoulder.

"What is it?"

Quest never said a word. From one of the spaces of the wallet he drew out
a small black box, removed the lid and held out the card. They read it
together:

    "Fools, all of you! The cunning of the ages defeats your puny
    efforts at every turn.

    "THE HANDS!"

Even the Professor's lips blanched a little as he read. Quest, however,
seemed suddenly furious. He tore the card and the box to pieces, flung
them into a corner of the tent and drew a revolver from his pocket.

"This time," he exclaimed, "we are going to make an end of the Hands! Out
you go now, girls. You can leave me to finish things up."

One by one they stole along the path. Quest came out and watched them
disappear. Then he gripped his revolver firmly in his hand and turned
towards Craig's tent. There was something in the breathless stillness of
the place, at that moment, which seemed almost a presage of coming
disaster. Without knowing exactly why, Quest's fingers tightened on the
butt of his weapon. Then, from the thick growth by the side of the
clearing, he saw a dark shape steal out and vanish in the direction of
Craig's tent. He came to a standstill, puzzled. There had been rumours of
lions all day, but the Professor had been incredulous. The nature of the
country, he thought, scarcely favoured the probability of their presence.
Then the still, heavy air was suddenly rent by a wild scream of horror.
Across the narrow opening the creature had reappeared, carrying something
in its mouth, something which gave vent all the time to the most awful
yells. Quest fired his revolver on chance and broke into a run. Already
the Mongars, disturbed in their evening amusement, were breaking into the
undergrowth in chase. Quest came to a standstill. It was from Craig's tent
that the beast had issued!

He turned slowly around. If Craig had indeed paid for his crimes by so
horrible a death, there was all the more reason why they should make their
escape in the general confusion, and make it quickly. He retraced his
steps. The sound of shouting voices grew less and less distinct. When he
reached the meeting place, he found the Professor standing at the corner
with the rest. His face showed signs of the most lively curiosity.

"From the commotion," he announced, "I believe that, after all, a lion has
visited the camp. The cries which we have heard were distinctly the cries
of a native."

Quest shook his head.

"A lion's been here all right," he said, "and he has finished our little
job for us. That was Craig. I saw him come out of Craig's tent."

The Professor was dubious.

"My friend," he said, "you are mistaken. There is nothing more
characteristic and distinct than the Mongar cry of fear. They seldom use
it except in the face of death. That was the cry of a native Mongar. As
for Craig, well, you see that tree that looks like a dwarfed aloe?"

Quest nodded.

"What about it?"

"Craig was lying there ten minutes ago. He sprang up when he heard the
yells from the encampment, but I believe he is there now."

"Got the horses all right?" Quest enquired.

"Everything is waiting," the Professor replied.

"I'll have one more try, then," Quest declared.

He made his way slowly through the undergrowth to the spot which the
Professor had indicated. Close to the trunk of a tree Craig was standing.
Feerda was on her knees before him. She was speaking to him in broken
English.

"Dear master, you shall listen to your slave. These people are your
enemies. It would be all over in a few minutes. You have but to say the
word. My father is eager for it. No one would ever know."

Craig patted her head. His tone was filled with the deepest despondency.

"It is impossible, Feerda," he said. "You do not understand. I cannot tell
you everything. Sometimes I almost think that the best thing I could do
would be to return with them to the countries you know nothing of."

"That's what you are going to do, any way," Quest declared, suddenly
making his appearance. "Hands up!"

He covered Craig with his revolver, but his arm was scarcely extended
before Feerda sprang at him like a little wild-cat. He gripped her with
his left arm and held her away with difficulty.

"Craig," he continued, "you're coming with us. You know the way to Port
Said and we want you--you know why. Untie that sash from your waist.
Quickly!"

Craig obeyed. He had the stupefied air of a man who has lost for the time
his volition.

"Tie it to the tree," Quest ordered. "Leave room enough."

Craig did as he was told. Then he turned and held the loose ends up. Quest
lowered his revolver for a moment as he pushed Feerda toward it. Craig,
with a wonderful spring, reached his side and kicked the revolver away.
Before Quest could even stoop to recover it, he saw the glitter of the
other's knife pressed against his chest.

"Listen," Craig declared. "I've made up my mind. I won't go back to
America. I've had enough of being hunted all over the world. This time I
think I'll rid myself of one of you, at any rate."

"Will you?"

The interruption was so unexpected that Craig lost his nerve. Through an
opening in the trees, only a few feet away, Lenora had suddenly appeared.
She, too, held a revolver; her hand was as steady as a rock.

"Drop your knife," she ordered Craig.

He obeyed without hesitation.

"Now tie the sash around the girl."

He obeyed mechanically. Feerda, who had been fiercely resisting Quest's
efforts to hold her, yielded without a struggle as soon as Craig touched
her. She looked at him, however, with bitter reproach.

"You would tie me here?" she murmured. "You would leave me?"

[Illustration: FEERDA, THE CHIEF'S DAUGHTER, LISTENS ENRAPTURED TO CRAIG'S
TALES OF FARAWAY AMERICA.]

[Illustration: CRAIG FRANTICALLY ASSISTED IN DRAGGING PEOPLE FROM THE
BURNING CAR.]

"It is Fate," Craig muttered. "I am worn out with trying to escape,
Feerda. They will come soon and release you."

She opened her lips to shriek, but Quest, who had made a gag of her linen
head-dress, thrust it suddenly into her mouth. He took Craig by the collar
and led him to the spot where the others were waiting. They hoisted him on
to a horse. Already behind them they could see the flare of the torches
from the returning Mongars.

"You know the way to Port Said," Quest whispered. "See that you lead us
there. There will be trouble, mind, if you don't."

Craig made no reply. He rode off in front of the little troop, covered all
the time by Quest's revolver. Very soon they were out of the jungle and in
the open desert. Quest looked behind him uneasily.

"To judge by the row those fellows are making," he remarked, "I should
think that they've found Feerda already."

"In that case," the Professor said gravely, "let me recommend you to push
on as fast as possible. We have had one escape from them, but nothing in
the world can save us now that you have laid hands upon Feerda. The Chief
would never forgive that."

"We've got a start, any way," Quest observed, "and these are the five best
horses in the camp. Girls, a little faster. We've got to trust Craig for
the direction but I believe he is right."

"So far as my instinct tells me," the Professor agreed, "I believe that we
are heading in precisely the right direction."

They galloped steadily on. The moon rose higher and higher until it became
almost as light as day. Often the Professor raised himself in his saddle
and peered forward.

"This column of soldiers would march at night," he remarked. "I am hoping
all the time that we may meet them."

Quest fell a little behind to his side, although he never left off
watching Craig.

"Look behind you, Professor," he whispered.

In the far distance were a number of little black specks, growing every
moment larger. Even at that moment they heard the low, long call of the
Mongars.

"They are gaining on us," Quest muttered.

The two girls, white though they were, bent over their horses.

"We'll stick to it till the last moment," Quest continued, "then we'll
turn and let them have it."

They raced on for another mile or more. A bullet whistled over their
heads. Quest tightened his reins.

"No good," he sighed. "We'd better stay and fight it out, Professor. Stick
close to me, Lenora."

They drew up and hastily dismounted. The Mongars closed in around them. A
cloud had drifted in front of the moon, and in the darkness it was almost
impossible to see their whereabouts. They heard the Chief's voice.

"Shoot first that dog of a Craig!"

There was a shriek. Suddenly Feerda, breaking loose from the others, raced
across the little division. She flung herself from her horse.

"Tell my father that you were not faithless," she pleaded. "They shall not
kill you!"

She clung to Craig's neck. The bullets were beginning to whistle around
them now. All of a sudden she threw up her arms. Craig, in a fury, turned
around and fired into the darkness. Then suddenly, as though on the
bidding of some unspoken word, there was a queer silence. Every one was
distinctly conscious of an alien sound--the soft thud of many horses' feet
galloping from the right; then a sharp, English voice of command.

"Hold your fire, men. Close into the left there. Steady!"

The cloud suddenly rolled away from the moon. A long line of horsemen were
immediately visible. The officer in front rode forward.

"Drop your arms and surrender," he ordered sternly.

The Mongars, who were outnumbered by twenty to one, obeyed without
hesitation. Their Chief seemed unconscious, even, of what had happened. He
was on his knees, bending over the body of Feerda, half supported in
Craig's arms. The officer turned to Quest.

"Are you the party who left Port Said for the Mongar Camp?" he asked.

Quest nodded.

"They took us into the jungle--just escaped. They'd caught us here,
though, and I'm afraid we were about finished if you hadn't come along. We
are not English--we're American."

"Same thing," the officer replied, as he held out his hand. "Stack up
their arms, men," he ordered, turning around. "Tie them in twos. Dennis,
take the young ladies back to the commissariat camels."

The Professor drew a little sigh.

"Commissariat!" he murmured. "That sounds most inviting."



CHAPTER XIII

'NEATH IRON WHEELS


1.

Side by side they leaned over the rail of the steamer and gazed shorewards
at the slowly unfolding scene before them. For some time they had all
preserved an almost ecstatic silence.

"Oh, but it's good to see home again!" Laura sighed at last.

"I'm with you," Quest agreed emphatically. "It's the wrong side of the
continent, perhaps, but I'm aching to set my foot on American soil again."

"This the wrong side of the continent! I should say not!" Laura exclaimed,
pointing to where in the distance the buildings of the Exposition gleamed
almost snow-white in the dazzling sunshine. "Why, I have never seen
anything so beautiful in my life."

The Professor intervened amiably. His face, too, shone with pleasure as he
gazed landwards.

"I agree with the young lady," he declared. "The blood and sinews of life
may seem to throb more ponderously in New York, but there is a big life
here on this western side, a great, wide-flung, pulsating life. There is
room here, room to breathe."

"And it is so beautiful," Lenora murmured.

Quest glanced a little way along the deck to where a pale-faced man stood
leaning upon his folded arms, gazing upon the same scene. There was no
smile on Craig's face, no light of anticipation in his eyes.

"I guess there's one of us here," Quest observed, "who is none too pleased
to see America again."

Lenora shivered a little. They were all grave.

"We must, I think, admit," the Professor said, "that Craig's deportment
during the voyage has been everything that could be desired. He has even
voluntarily carried out certain small attentions to my person which I must
confess that I had greatly missed."

"That's all right," Quest agreed. "At the same time I am afraid the moment
has come now to remind him that the end is drawing near."

Quest moved slowly down the deck towards Craig's side, and touched him on
the arm.

"Give me your left wrist, Craig," he said quietly.

The man slunk away. There was a sudden look of horror in his white face.
He started back but Quest was too quick for him. In a moment there was the
click of a handcuff, the mate of which was concealed under the
criminologist's cuff.

"You'd better take things quietly," the latter advised. "It will only hurt
you to struggle. Step this way a little. Put your hand in your pocket, so,
and no one will notice."

Craig obeyed silently. They stepped along the deck towards the rest of the
party. Lenora handed her glasses to Quest.

"Do look, Mr. Quest," she begged. "There is Inspector French standing in
the front row on the dock, with two enormous bunches of
flowers--carnations for me, I expect, and poinsettias for Laura. They're
the larger bunch."

Quest took the glasses and nodded.

"That's French, right enough," he assented. "Look at him standing
straightening his tie in front of that advertisement mirror! Flowers, too!
Say, he's got his eye on one of you girls. Not you, by any chance, is it,
Lenora?"

Lenora laughed across at Laura, who had turned a little pink.

"I guess French has got sense enough to know I'm not that sort," the
latter replied. "The double-harness stuff doesn't appeal to me, and he
knows it!"

Lenora made a little grimace as she turned away.

"Well," she said, "it's brave talk."

"Almost," the Professor pointed out, "Amazonian. Yet in the ancient days
even the Amazons were sometimes tamed."

"Oh, nonsense!" Laura exclaimed, turning away. "I don't see why the man
wants to make himself look like a walking conservatory, though," she added
under her breath.

"And I think it's sweet of him," Lenora insisted. "If there's anything I'm
longing for, it's a breath of perfume from those flowers."

Slowly the great steamer drifted nearer and nearer to the dock, hats were
waved from the little line of spectators, ropes were drawn taut. The
Inspector was standing at the bottom of the gangway as they all passed
down. He shook hands with every one vigorously. Then he presented Lenora
with her carnations and Laura with the poinsettias. Lenora was
enthusiastic. Even Laura murmured a few words of thanks.

"Some flowers, those poinsettias," the Inspector agreed.

Quest gripped him by the arm.

"French," he said, "I tell you I shall make your hair curl when you hear
all that we've been through. Do you feel like having me start in right
away, on our way to the cars?"

French withdrew his arm.

"Nothing doing," he replied. "I want to talk to Miss Laura. You can stow
that criminal stuff. It'll wait all right. You've got the fellow--that's
what matters."

Quest exchanged an amused glance with Lenora. The Inspector and Laura fell
a little behind. The former took off his hat for a moment and fanned
himself.

"Say, Miss Laura," he began, "I'm a plain man, and a poor hand at
speeches. I've been saying a few nice things over to myself on the dock
here for the last hour, but everything's gone right out of my head. Look
here, it sums up like this. How do you feel about quitting this bunch
right away and coming back to New York with me?"

"What do I want to go to New York for?" Laura demanded.

"Oh, come on, Miss Laura, you know what I mean," French replied. "We'll
slip off and get married here and then take this man Craig to New York.
Once get him safely in the Tombs and we'll go off on a honeymoon anywhere
you say."

Laura was on the point of laughing at him. Then the unwonted seriousness
of his expression appealed suddenly to her sympathy. She patted him kindly
on the shoulder.

"You're a good sort, Inspector, but you've picked the wrong girl. I've run
along on my own hook ever since I was born, I guess, and I can't switch my
ideas over to this married stuff. You'd better get a move on and get Craig
back to New York before he slips us again. I'm going to stay here with the
others."

The Inspector sighed. His face had grown long, and the buoyancy had passed
from his manner.

"This is some disappointment, believe me, Miss Laura," he confessed.

"Cheer up," she laughed. "You'll get over it all right."

They found the others waiting for them at the end of the great wooden
shed. Quest turned to French.

"Look here, French," he said, "you know I don't want to hurry you off, but
I don't know what we're going to do with this fellow about in San
Francisco. We don't want to lodge two charges, and we should have to put
him in jail to-night. Why don't you take him on right away? There's a
Limited goes by the southern route in an hour's time."

French assented gloomily.

"That suits me," he agreed. "You'll be glad to get rid of the fellow,
too," he added.

They drove straight to the depot, found two vacant seats in the train, and
Quest with a little sigh of relief handed over his charge. Craig, who,
though still dumb, had shown signs of intense nervousness since the
landing, sank back in his corner seat, covering the upper part of his head
with his hands. Suddenly Lenora, who had been chatting with French through
the window, happened to glance towards Craig. She gave a little cry and
stepped back.

"Look!" she exclaimed. "The eyes! Those are the eyes that haunted me all
through those terrible days!"

She was suddenly white. Quest passed his arm through hers and glanced
through the carriage window. In the shaded light, Craig's eyes seemed
indeed to have suddenly grown in power and intensity. They shone fiercely
from underneath the hands which clasped his forehead.

"Well, that's the last you'll see of them," Quest reminded her soothingly.
"Come, you're not going to break down now, Lenora. We've been through it
all and there he is, safe and sound in French's keeping. There is nothing
more left in the world to frighten you."

Lenora pulled herself together with an effort.

"It was silly," she confessed, "yet even now--"

"Don't you worry, Miss Lenora," French cried from out of the window. "You
can take my word for it the job's finished this time. Good-bye, all of
you! Good-bye, Miss Laura!"

Laura waved her hand gaily. They all stood and watched the train depart.
Then they turned away from the depot.

"Now for a little holiday," Quest declared, passing Lenora's arm through
his. "We'll just have a look round the city and then get down to San Diego
and take a look at the Exposition there. No responsibilities, no one to
look after, nothing to do but enjoy ourselves."

"Capital!" the Professor agreed, beaming upon them all. "There is a
collection of fossilised remains in the museum here, the study of which
will afford me the greatest pleasure and interest."

The girls laughed heartily.

"I think you and I," Quest suggested, turning to them, "will part company
with the Professor!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Quest and Lenora turned away from the window of the hotel, out of which
they had been gazing for the last quarter of an hour. Stretched out before
them were the lights of the Exposition, a blur of twinkling diamonds
against the black garb of night. Beyond, the flashing of a light-house and
a faint background of dark sea.

"It's too beautiful," Lenora sighed.

Quest stood for a moment shaking his head. The Professor with a pile of
newspapers stretched out before him, was completely engrossed in their
perusal. Laura, who had been sitting in an armchair at the further end of
the apartment, was apparently deep in thought. The newspaper which she had
been reading had slipped unnoticed from her fingers.

"Say, you two are no sort of people for a holiday," Quest declared. "As
for you, Laura, I can't think what's come over you. You never opened your
mouth at dinner-time, and you sit there now looking like nothing on
earth."

"I am beginning to suspect her," Lenora chimed in. "Too bad he had to
hurry away, dear!"

Laura's indignation was not altogether convincing. Quest and Lenora
exchanged amused glances. The former picked up the newspaper from the
floor and calmly turned out the Professor's lamp.

"Look here," he explained, "this is the first night of our holiday. I'm
going to run the party and I'm going to make the rules. No more newspapers
to-night or for a fortnight. You understand? No reading, nothing but
frivolity. And no love-sickness, Miss Laura."

"Love-sickness, indeed!" she repeated scornfully.

"Having arranged those minor details," Quest concluded, "on with your
hats, everybody. I am going to take you out to a café where they play the
best music in the city. We are going to have supper, drink one another's
health, and try and forget the last few months altogether."

Lenora clapped her hands and Laura rose at once to her feet. The Professor
obediently crossed the room for his hat.

"I am convinced," he said, "that our friend Quest's advice is good. We
will at any rate embark upon this particular frivolity which he suggests."


2.

Quest took the dispatch which the hotel clerk handed to him one afternoon
a fortnight later, and read it through without change of expression.
Lenora, however, who was by his side, knew at once that it contained
something startling.

"What is it?" she asked.

He passed his arm through hers and led her down the hall to where the
Professor and Laura were just waiting for the lift. He beckoned them to
follow him to a corner of the lounge.

"There's one thing I quite forgot, a fortnight ago," he said, slowly,
"when I suggested that we should none of us look at a newspaper all the
time we were in California. Have you kept to our bargain, Professor?"

"Absolutely!"

"And you, girls?"

"I've never even seen one," Lenora declared.

"Nor I," Laura echoed.

"I made a mistake," Quest confessed. "Something has happened which we
ought to have known about. You had better read this message--or, wait,
I'll read it aloud:--

    "To Sanford Quest, Garfield Hotel, San Diego.

    "Injured in wreck of Limited. Recovered consciousness today.
    Craig reported burned in wreck but think you had better come
    on."

    "FRENCH, Samaritan Hospital, Allguez."

"When can we start?" Laura exclaimed excitedly.

Lenora clutched at Quest's arm.

"I knew it," she declared simply. "I felt perfectly certain, when they
left San Francisco, that something would happen. We haven't seen the end
of Craig yet."

Quest, who had been studying a time-table, glanced once more at the
dispatch.

"Look here," he said, "Allguez isn't so far out of the way if we take the
southern route to New York. Let's get a move on to-night."

Laura led the way to the lift. She was in a state of rare discomposure.

"To think that all the time we've been giddying round," she muttered,
"that poor man has been lying in hospital! Makes one feel like a brute."

"He's been unconscious all the time," Quest reminded her.

"Might have expected to find us there when he came-to, any way," Laura
insisted.

Lenora smiled faintly as she caught a glance from Quest.

"Laura's got a heart somewhere," she murmured, "only it takes an awful lot
of getting at!"...

They found French, already convalescent, comfortably installed in the
private ward of a small hospital in the picturesque New Mexican town.
Laura almost at once established herself by his side.

"You're going to lose your job here, nurse," Quest told her, smiling.

The nurse glanced at French.

"The change seems to be doing him good, any way," she remarked. "I haven't
seen him look so bright yet."

"Can you remember anything about the wreck, French?" Quest enquired.

The Inspector passed his hand wearily over his forehead.

"It seems more like a dream--or rather a nightmare--than anything," he
admitted. "I was sitting opposite Craig when the crash came. I was
unconscious for a time. When I came to, I was simply pinned down by the
side of the car. I could see a man working hard to release me, tugging and
straining with all his might. Every now and then I got a glimpse of his
face. It seemed queer, but I could have sworn it was Craig. Then other
people passed by. I heard the shriek of a locomotive. I could see a doctor
bending over some bodies. Then it all faded away and came back again. The
second time I was nearly free. The man who had been working so hard was
just smashing the last bit of timber away, and again I saw his face and
that time I was sure that it was Craig. Anyway, he finished the job. I
suddenly felt I could move my limbs. The man stood up as though exhausted,
looked at me, called to the doctor, and then he seemed to fade away. It
might have been because I was unconscious myself, for I don't remember
anything else until I found myself in bed."

"It would indeed," the Professor remarked, "be an interesting
circumstance--an interesting psychological circumstance, if I might put it
that way--if Craig, the arch-criminal, the man who has seemed to us so
utterly devoid of all human feeling, should really have toiled in this
manner to set free his captor."

"Interesting or not," Quest observed, "I'd like to know whether it was
Craig or not. I understand there were about a dozen unrecognisable bodies
found."

The nurse, who had left the room for a few minutes, returned with a small
package in her hand, which she handed to French. He looked at it in a
puzzled manner.

"What can that be?" he muttered, turning it over. "Addressed to me all
right, but there isn't a soul knows I'm here except you people. Will you
open it, Miss Laura?"

She took it from him and untied the strings. A little breathless cry
escaped from her lips as she tore open the paper. A small black box was
disclosed. She opened the lid with trembling fingers and drew out a scrap
of paper. They all leaned over and read together:--

    "You have all lost again. Why not give it up? You can never win.

    "THE HANDS."

Lenora was perhaps the calmest. She simply nodded with the melancholy air
of satisfaction of one who finds her preconceived ideas confirmed.

"I knew it!" she exclaimed softly. "I knew it at the depot. Craig's time
has not come yet. He may be somewhere near us, even now."

She glanced uneasily around the ward. Quest, who had been examining the
post-mark on the package, threw the papers down.

"The post-mark's all blurred out," he remarked. "There's no doubt about
it, that fellow Craig has the devil's own luck, but we'll get him--we'll
get him yet. I'll just take a stroll up to police head-quarters and make a
few inquiries. You might come with me, Lenora, and Laura can get busy with
her amateur nursing."

"I shall make inquiries," the Professor announced briskly, "concerning the
local museum. There should be interesting relics hereabouts of the
prehistoric Indians."


3.

A man sat on the steps of the range cook wagon, crouching as far back as
possible to take advantage of its slight shelter from the burning sun. He
held before him a newspaper, a certain paragraph of which he was eagerly
devouring. In the distance the mail boy was already disappearing in a
cloud of dust.

    "FAMOUS CRIMINOLOGIST IN ALLGUEZ

    "Sanford Quest and his assistants, accompanied by Professor Lord
    Ashleigh, arrived in Allguez a few days ago to look for John
    Craig, formerly servant to the scientist. Craig has not been
    seen since the accident to the Limited, a fortnight ago, and by
    many is supposed to have perished in the wreck. He was in the
    charge of Inspector French, and was on his way to New York to
    stand his trial for homicide. French was taken to the hospital,
    suffering from concussion of the brain, but is now
    convalescent."

The man read the paragraph twice. Then he set down the paper and looked
steadily across the rolling prairie land. There was a queer, bitter little
smile upon his lips.

"So it begins again!" he muttered.

There was a cloud of dust in the distance. The man rose to his feet,
shaded his eyes with his hand and shambled round to the back of the wagon,
where a long table was set out with knives and forks, hunches of bread and
tin cups. He walked a little further away to the fire, and slowly stirred
a pot of stew. The little party of cowboys came thundering up. There was a
chorus of shouts and exclamations, whistlings and good-natured chaff, as
they threw themselves from their horses. Long Jim stood slowly cracking
his whip and looking down the table.

"Say, boys, I think he's fixed things up all right," he remarked. "Come on
with the grub, cookie."

Silently the man filled each dish with the stew and laid it in its place.
Then he retired to the background and the cowboys commenced their meal.
Long Jim winked at the others as he picked up a biscuit.

"Cookie, you're no good," he called out. "The stew's rotten. Here, take
this!"

He flicked the biscuit, which caught the cook on the side of the head. For
a moment the man started. With his hand upon his temple he flashed a look
of hatred towards his assailant. Long Jim laughed carelessly.

"Say, cookie," the latter went on, "where did you get them eyes? Guess
we'll have to tame you a bit."

The meal was soon over, and Jim strolled across to where the others were
saddling up. He passed his left arm through the reins of his horse and
turned once more to look at Craig.

"Say, you mind you do better to-night, young fellow. Eh!"

He stopped short with a cry of pain. The horse had suddenly started,
wrenching at the reins. Jim's arm hung helplessly down from the shoulder.

"Gee, boys, he's broken it!" he groaned. "Say, this is hell!"

He swore in agony. They all crowded around him.

"What's wrong, Jim?"

"It's broken, sure!"

"Wrong, you helpless sons of loons!" Jim yelled. "Can't any of you do
something?"

The cook suddenly pushed his way through the little crowd. He took Jim's
shoulder firmly in one hand and his arm in the other. The cowboy howled
with pain.

"Let go my arm!" he shouted. "Kill him, boys! My God, I'll make holes in
you for this!"

He snatched at his gun with his other hand and the cowboys scattered a
little. The cook stepped back, the gun flashed out, only to be suddenly
lowered. Jim looked incredulously towards his left arm, which hung no
longer helplessly by his side. He swung it backwards and forwards, and a
broad grin slowly lit up his lean, brown face. He thrust the gun in his
holster and held out his hand.

"Cookie, you're all right!" he exclaimed. "You've done the trick this
time. Say, you're a miracle!"

The cook smiled.

"Your arm was just out of joint," he remarked. "It was rather a hard pull
but it's all right now."

Jim looked around at the others.

"And to think that I might have killed him!" he exclaimed. "Cookie, you're
a white boy. You'll do. We're going to like you here."

Craig watched them ride off. The bitterness had passed from his face.
Slowly he began to clean up. Then he crept underneath the wagon and
rested....

[Illustration: CRAIG WINS THE COWPUNCHER'S ADMIRATION BY HIS SKILL AS A
VIOLINIST.]

[Illustration: THE COWBOYS CONSULT A MAP WHILE ARRANGING FOR CRAIG'S
ESCAPE.]

Evening came and with it a repetition of his labours. When everything was
ready to serve, he stepped from behind the wagon and looked across the
rolling stretch of open country. There was no one in sight. Softly, almost
stealthily, he crept up to the wagon, fetched out from its wooden case a
small violin, made his way to the further side of the wagon, sat down with
his back to the wheel and began to play. His eyes were closed. Sometimes
the movements of his fingers were so slow that the melody seemed to die
away. Then unexpectedly he picked it up, carrying the same strain through
quick, convulsive passages, lost it again, wandered as though in search of
it, extemporising all the time, yet playing always with the air of a man
who feels and sees the hidden things. Suddenly the bow rested motionless.
A look of fear came into his face. He sprang up. The cowboys were all
stealing from the other side of the wagon. They had arrived and dismounted
without his hearing them. He sprang to his feet and began to stammer
apologies. Long Jim's hand was laid firmly upon his shoulders.

"Say, cookie, you don't need to look so scared. You ain't done nothing
wrong. Me and the boys, we like your music. Sing us another tune on that
fiddle!"

"I haven't neglected anything," Craig faltered. "It's all ready to serve."

"The grub can wait," Jim replied. "Pull the bow, partner, pull the bow."

The cook looked at him for a moment incredulously. Then he realised that
the cowboy was in earnest. He picked up the bow and commenced to play
again. They sat around him, wondering, absolutely absorbed. No one even
made a move towards the food. It was Craig who led them there at last
himself, still playing. Long Jim threw his arm almost caressingly around
his shoulder.

"Say, Cookie," he began, "there ain't never no questions asked concerning
the past history of the men who find their way out here, just so long as
they don't play the game yellow. Maybe you've fitted up a nice little hell
for yourself somewhere, but we ain't none of us hankering to know the
address. You're white and you're one of us and any time any guy wants to
charge you rent for that little hell where you got the furniture of your
conscience stored, why, you just let us settle with him, that's all. Now,
one more tune, Cookie."

Craig shook his head. He had turned away to where the kettle was hissing
on the range fire.

"It is time you had your food," he said.

Long Jim took up the violin and drew the bow across it. There was a chorus
of execrations. Craig snatched it from him. He suddenly turned his back
upon them all. He had played before as though to amuse himself. He played
now with the complete, almost passionate absorption of the artist. His
head was uplifted, his eyes half closed. He was no longer the menial, the
fugitive from justice. He was playing himself into another world, playing
amidst a silence which, considering his audience, was amazing. They
crouched across the table and watched him. Long Jim stood like a figure of
stone. The interruption which came was from outside.

"More of these damned tourists," Long Jim muttered. "Women, too!"

Craig had stopped playing. He turned his head slowly. Quest was in the act
of dismounting from his horse. By his side was the Professor; just behind,
Lenora and Laura. Long Jim greeted them with rough cordiality.

"Say, what are you folks looking for?" he demanded.

Quest pointed to Craig.

"We want that man," he announced. "This is Inspector French from New York.
I am Sanford Quest."

There was a tense silence. Craig covered his face with his hands, then
suddenly looked up.

"I won't come," he cried fiercely. "You've hounded me all round the world.
I am innocent. I won't come."

Quest shrugged his shoulders. He took a step forward, but Long Jim, as
though by accident, sauntered in the way.

"Got a warrant?" he asked tersely.

"We don't need it," Quest replied. "He's our man, right enough."

"Right this minute he's our cook," drawled Long Jim, "and we ain't exactly
particular about going hungry to please a bunch of strangers. Cut it
short, Mister. If you ain't got a warrant, you ain't got this man. Maybe
we don't sport finger-bowls and silk socks, but we're civilised enough not
to let no slim dude walk off with one of our boys without proper
authority. So you can just meander along back where you come from. Ain't
that right, boys?"

There was a sullen murmur of assent. Quest turned back and whispered for a
moment to the Inspector. Then he turned to Long Jim.

"All right," he agreed. "The Inspector here and I will soon see to that.
We'll ride back to the township. With your permission, the ladies and our
elderly friend will remain for a rest."

"You're welcome to anything we've got except our cook," Jim replied,
turning away....

Darkness came early and the little company grew closer and closer to the
camp fire, where Craig had once more taken up the violin. The Professor
had wandered off somewhere into the darkness and the girls were seated a
little apart. They had been treated hospitably but coldly.

"Don't seem to cotton to us, these boys," Laura remarked.

"They don't like us," Lenora replied, "because they think we are after
Craig. I wonder what Long Jim has been whispering to him, and what that
paper is he has been showing Craig. Do you know how far we are from the
Mexican border?"

"Not more than five or six miles, I believe," Laura replied.

Lenora rose softly to her feet and strolled to the back of the range
wagon. In a few moments she reappeared, carrying a piece of paper in her
hand. She stooped down.

"Craig's saddling up," she whispered. "Look what he dropped."

She held out the paper, on which was traced a roughly drawn map.

"That line's the river that marks the Mexican border," she explained. "You
see where Long Jim's put the cross? That's where the bridge is. That other
cross is the camp."

She pointed away southwards.

"That's the line," she continued. "Laura, where's the Professor?"

"I don't know," Laura replied. "He rode off some time ago, said he was
going to meet Mr. Quest."

"If only he were here!" Lenora muttered. "I feel sure Craig means to
escape. There he goes."

They saw him ride off into the darkness. Lenora ran to where her horse was
tethered.

"I'm going after him," she announced. "Listen, Laura. If they arrive soon,
send them after me. That's the line, as near as I can tell you," she
added, pointing.

"Wait; I'm coming too!" Laura exclaimed.

Lenora shook her head.

"You must stay here and tell them about it," she insisted. "I shall be all
right."

She galloped off while Laura was still undecided. Almost at that moment
she heard from behind the welcome sound of horses' feet in the opposite
direction and Quest alone galloped up. Laura laid her hand upon his rein.

"Where are the others?" she asked.

"French and two deputies from the township are about a mile behind," Quest
replied. "They've had trouble with their horses."

"Don't get off," Laura continued quickly. "Craig has escaped, riding
towards the Mexican frontier. Lenora is following him. He's gone in that
direction," she added, pointing. "When you come to the river you'll have
to hunt for the bridge."

Quest frowned as he gathered up his reins.

"I was afraid they'd try something of the sort," he muttered. "Tell the
others where I've gone, Laura."

He galloped off into the darkness. Behind, there were some growls from the
little group of cowboys, none of whom, however, attempted to interfere
with him. Long Jim stood up and gazed sullenly southwards.

"Cookie'll make the bridge all right," he remarked. "If the girl catches
him, she can't do anything. And that last guy'll never make it. Whoop!
Here come the rest of them."

The Inspector, with two deputies, rode suddenly into the camp. The
Inspector paused to speak to Laura. Long Jim's eyes sparkled as he saw
them approach.

"It's old Harris and fat Andy," he whispered. "We'll have some fun with
them."

The older of the two deputies approached them frowning.

"Been at your games again, Long Jim?" he began. "I hear you declined to
hand over a criminal who's been sheltering on your ranch? You'll get into
trouble before you've finished."

"Got the warrant?" Jim asked.

The deputy produced it. Long Jim looked at it curiously and handed it
back.

"Guess the only other thing you want, then, is the man."

"Better produce him quickly," the deputy advised.

Jim turned away.

"Can't do it. He's beat it."

"You mean that you've let him go?"

"Let him go?" Jim repeated. "I ain't got no right to keep him. He took the
job on at a moment's notice and he left at a moment's notice. There's some
of your party after him, all right."

The deputies whispered to one another. The elder of the two turned around.

"Look here," he said to the cowboys, glancing around for Long Jim, who had
disappeared, "we've had about enough of your goings-on. I reckon we'll
take one of you back and see what seven days' bread and water will do
towards civilising you."

There was a little mutter. The deputies stood side by side. With an almost
simultaneous movement they had drawn their guns.

"Where's Long Jim?" the older one asked.

There was a sudden whirring about their heads. A lariat, thrown with
unerring accuracy, had gathered them both in its coil. With a jerk they
were drawn close together, their hands pinned to their side. Two cowboys
quickly disarmed them. Long Jim came sauntering round from the other side
of the range wagon, tightening the rope as he walked.

"Say, you've got a hell of a nerve, butting into a peaceable camp like
this. We ain't broke no laws. So you're a'going to civilise us, eh? Well,
Mister Harris, we can play that civilising game, too. Hey boys, all
together, tie 'em up against that wagon."

A dozen willing hands secured them. The two men spluttered wildly, half in
anger, half in fear of their tormentors, but in a few seconds they were
secured firmly against the canvas-topped wagon.

"Now sit easy, gentlemen, sit easy. Nothing's going to hurt you." Long Jim
shoved fresh cartridges into his forty-five. "That is, unless you're
unlucky. Line up there, boys, one at a time now. Bud, you and Tim and
Dough-head give them guys a singe, their hair's getting too long. The rest
of you boys just content yourselves doing a fancy decoration on the canvas
all around 'em. I'll deevote my entire attenshun to trimming them
lugshuriant whiskers, Mister Harris is a-sporting. All ready now,--one,
two, three, let 'em whistle!"

The two deputies gave a simultaneous yell as several bullets sung by their
ears.

"Whoa, old horses," drawled Long Jim. "Flies bothering you some, eh? Sit
easy, sit easy. Too dangerous hopping around that way. You might stick
yourselves right in the way of one of them spitballs. Some nerve tonic
this! A.X.X. Ranch brand, ready to serve at all hours, cheap at half the
price. Ah ha, pretty near shaved your upper lip that time, didn't I,
Mister Harris. My hand's a bit unsteady, what with all the excitement
hereabouts. Say, put a stem on that chrysanthemum you're doing,
Cotton-top."

The two men, racked with fury and terror, ridiculous in their trussed-up
state, motionless and strained, crouched in terror while the bullets
passed all around them. Inspector French tapped Long Jim on the shoulder.

"Look here," he remonstrated, "you're looking for trouble. You can't treat
the representatives of the law like this."

Long Jim turned slowly around. His politeness was ominous.

"Say, you got me scared," he replied. "Am I going to be hung?"

"The law must be respected," French said firmly. "Untie those men."

Long Jim scratched his head for a moment.

"Say, Mr. Inspector," he remarked, "you're a fine man in your way but you
weigh too much--that's what's the matter with you. Boys," he added,
turning around, "what's the best exercise for reducing flesh?"

"Dancing," they shouted.

Long Jim grinned. He fell a little back. Suddenly he lowered his gun and
shot into the ground, barely an inch from French's feet. The Inspector
leaped into the air.

"Once more, boys," the cowboy went on. "Keep it up, Inspector. Jump a
little higher next time. You barely cleared that one."

The bullets buried themselves in the dust around the Inspector's feet.
Fuming with anger, French found himself continually forced to jump. The
two deputies, forgotten for the moment, watched with something that was
almost like a grin upon their faces. Laura, protesting loudly, was obliged
more than once to look away to hide a smile. Jim at last slipped his gun
into his holster.

"No more ammunition to waste, boys," he declared. "Untie the guys with the
warrant and bring out the bottle of rye. Say," he went on, addressing the
deputies as they struggled to their feet, "and you, Mr. New-Yorker, is it
to be friends and a drink, or do you want a quarrel?"

The deputies were very thirsty. The perspiration was streaming down
French's forehead. They all looked at one another. Laura whispered in
French's ear and he nodded.

"We'll call it a drink," he decided.

       *       *       *       *       *

The hunted man turned around with a little gasp. Before him was the rude
mountain bridge, and on the other side--freedom. Scarcely a dozen lengths
away was Lenora, and close behind her came Quest. He slackened speed as he
walked his horse cautiously on to the planked bridge. Suddenly he gave a
little cry. The frail structure, unexpectedly insecure, seemed to sway
beneath his weight. Lenora, who had been riding fast, was unable to stop
herself. She came on to the bridge at a half canter. Craig, who had
reached the other side in safety, threw up his hands.

"Look out!" he cried. "My God!"

The bridge suddenly collapsed as though it had been made of paper. Lenora,
grasping her horse, was thrown into the stream. Quest, galloping up, was
only able to check himself just in time. He flung himself from his horse,
and plunged into the stream. It was several moments before he was able to
reach Lenora. From the opposite bank Craig watched them, glancing once or
twice at the bridge. One of the wooden pillars had been sawn completely
through.

"Are you hurt, dear?" Quest gasped, as he drew Lenora to the bank.

She shook her head.

"Just my side. Did Craig get away?"

Quest looked gloomily across the stream.

"Craig's in Mexico, right enough," he answered savagely, "but I am
beginning to feel that I could fetch him back out of hell!"



CHAPTER XIV

TONGUES OF FLAME


1.

From the shadows of the trees on the further side of the river, Craig with
strained eyes watched Quest's struggle. He saw him reach Lenora, watched
him struggle to the bank with her, waited until he had lifted her on to
his horse. Then he turned slowly around and faced the one country in the
world where freedom was still possible for him. He looked into a wall of
darkness, penetrated only at one spot by a little blaze of light. Slowly,
with his arm through the bridle of his horse, he limped towards it. As he
drew nearer and discovered its source, he hesitated. The light came
through the uncurtained windows of a saloon, three long, yellow shafts
illuminating the stunted shrubs and sandy places. Craig kept in the shadow
between them and drew a little nearer. From inside he could hear the
thumping of a worn piano, the twanging of a guitar, the rattle of glasses,
the uproarious shouting of men, the shrill laughter of women. The tired
man and the lame horse stole reluctantly a little nearer. Craig listened
once more wearily. It was home he longed for so much--and rest. The very
thought of the place sickened him. Even when he reached the door, he
hesitated and instead of entering stood back amongst the shadows. If only
he could find any other sort of shelter!

Inside, the scene was ordinary enough. There was a long bar, against which
were lounging half-a-dozen typical Mexican cowpunchers. There was a small
space cleared for dancing, at the further end of which two performers were
making weird but vehement music. Three girls were dancing with cowboys,
not ungracefully considering the state of the floor and the frequent
discords in the music. One of them--the prettiest--stopped abruptly and
pushed her partner away from her.

"You have drunk too much, José!" she exclaimed. "You cannot dance. You
tread on my feet and you lean against me. I do not like it. I will dance
with you another night when you are sober. Go away, please."

Her cavalier swayed for a moment on his feet. Then he looked down upon her
with an evil glitter in his eyes. He was tall and thin, with a black
moustache and yellow, unpleasant-looking teeth.

"So you will not dance any longer with José?" he muttered. "Very well, you
shall drink with him, then. We will sit together at one of those little
tables. Listen, you shall drink wine."

"I do not want to drink wine with you. All that I wish is to be left
alone," the girl insisted curtly. "Go and play cards, if you want to.
There is Pietro over there, and Diego. Perhaps you may win some money.
They say that drunkards have all the luck."

José leered at her.

"Presently I will play cards," he said. "Presently I will win all their
money and I will buy jewelry for you, Marta--stones that look like
diamonds and will sparkle in your neck and in your hair."

She turned disdainfully away.

"I do not want your jewelry, José," she declared.

He caught her suddenly by the wrist.

"Perhaps this is what you want," he cried, as he stooped down to kiss her.

She swung her right hand round and struck him on the face. He staggered
back for a moment. There was a red flush which showed through the tan of
his cheek. Then he drew a little nearer to her, and before she could
escape he had passed his long arm around her body. He drew her to the
chair placed by the side of the wall. His left hand played with the knife
at his belt.

"Marta, little sweetheart," he said mockingly, "you must pay for that
blow. Don't be afraid," he went on, as he drew the knife across his
leather breeches. "A little scratch across your cheek, so! It is but the
brand of your master, a love-token from José. Steady, now, little
Maverick!"

The girl struggled violently, but José was strong, such brawls were
common, and those of the company who noticed at all, merely laughed at the
girl's futile struggles. José's arm was already raised with the knife in
his hand, when a sudden blow brought a yell of pain to his lips. The knife
fell clattering to the floor. He sprang up, his eyes red with fury. A man
had entered the door from behind and was standing within a few feet of
him, a man with long, pale face, dark eyes, travel-stained, and with the
air of a fugitive. A flood of incoherent abuse streamed from José's lips.
He stooped for the knife. Marta threw herself upon him. The two cowboys
who had been dancing suddenly intervened. The girls screamed.

"It was José's fault!" Marta cried. "José was mad. He would have killed
me!"

Craig faced them all with sudden courage.

"As I came in," he explained, "that man had his knife raised to stab the
girl. You don't allow that sort of thing, do you, here?"

The two cowboys linked their arms through José's and led him off towards
the door.

"The stranger's right, José," one of them insisted. "You can't carve a
girl up in company."

The girl clutched at Craig's arm.

"Sit down here, please," she begged. "Wait."

She disappeared for a moment and came back with a glass full of wine,
which she set down on the table.

"Drink this," she invited. "And thank you for saving me."

Craig emptied the glass eagerly. He was beginning to be more than a little
conscious of his fatigue.

"I just happened to be the first to see him," he said. "They aren't quite
wild enough to allow that here, are they?"

"Quien sabe? The girls do not like me! The men do not care," she declared.
"José took me by surprise, though, or I would have killed him. But who are
you, and where did you come from?"

"I have just crossed the border," he replied.

She nodded understandingly.

"Were they after you?"

"Yes! with a warrant for my arrest!"

She patted his hand.

"You are safe now," she whispered. "We care that much for a United States
warrant," and she snapped her slim fingers. "You shall stay with us for a
time. We will take care of you."

He sighed wearily.

"If I do," he said, "there will be trouble. Wherever I go there is
trouble. I have been round the world looking for peace. I shall never find
it in this world."

Her eyes filled with tears. There was something hopelessly pathetic in his
appearance.

"You shall find it here," she promised.

       *       *       *       *       *

Back in the camp, a spirit of deviltry had entered once more into Long Jim
and his mates. A tactless remark on the part of one of the deputies had
set alight once more the smouldering fire of resentment which the cowboys
had all the time felt against them. At a word from Long Jim they were
taken by surprise and again tied to the wagon.

"These guys ain't got a sufficiency yet, boys. Limber up them guns again.
Same order as before. Put a few more petals on them flowers, and I'll trim
their eyelashes for them."

The deputies spluttered with rage and fear. Shots rained about them and
the canvas of the wagon was riddled. French began to get restless.

"Look here," he said to Laura, "I can't stand this any longer. It don't
seem right to have two officers of the law treated like that, any way. I
guess I'll have to butt in again."

"Don't," Laura advised bluntly. "You'll get yours if you do."

A yell from one of the deputies clinched the matter. French drew his
revolver and advanced into the centre of the little group.

"Say, you fellows," he exclaimed, "you've got to stop this! Those men came
here on a legitimate errand and it's your duty to respect them."

Long Jim strolled up to the Inspector.

"Maybe you're right, Mr. French," he remarked, "but--"

With a swoop of his long arm he snatched French's gun away, examined it
for a moment, looked at French and shook his head.

"You're too fat, Inspector," he declared sorrowfully, "still too fat.
That's what's the matter with you. Another ten minutes' exercise will do
you all the good in the world."

A bullet struck the dust a few inches from French's feet. Furious with
rage, he found himself once more forced to resort to undignified antics.
This time, however, Laura intervened. She walked straight up into the
little circle and stood close to French's side, regardless of the levelled
guns.

"Look here, Long Jim, or whatever your name is," she protested, "you just
call your crowd off and stop this. Undo those two deputies. A joke's a
joke, but this has gone far enough. If you don't untie them, I will. Take
your choice and get a move on."

Long Jim scratched his chin for a moment.

"Waal," he said, "I guess that what the lady says goes. We ain't often
favoured with ladies' society, boys, and I guess when we are we'd better
do as we are told. Turn 'em loose, boys."

They abandoned the sport a little reluctantly. Suddenly they all paused to
listen. The sound of a horse's slow footfall was heard close at hand.
Presently Quest appeared out of the shadows, carrying Lenora in his arms.
Laura rushed forward.

"Lenora!" she cried. "Is she hurt?"

Quest laid her tenderly upon the ground.

"We had a spill at the bridge," he explained quickly. "I don't know
whether Craig loosened the supports. He got over all right, but it went
down under Lenora, who was following, and I had to get her out of the
river. Where's the Professor?"

The Professor came ambling down from the tent where he had been lying. He
stooped at once over Lenora's still unconscious form.

"Dear me!" he exclaimed. "Dear me! Come, come!"

He passed his hand over her side and made a brief examination.

"Four ribs broken," he pronounced. "It will be a week, at any rate, before
we are able to move her. Nothing more serious, so far as I can see, Mr.
Quest, but she'll need rest and all the comfort we can give her."

"Say, that's too bad!" Long Jim declared. "If you've got to stay around
for a time, though, you can have the tents. We boys can double up
anywhere, or bunk on the ground. That's right, ain't it?" he added,
turning around to the cowboys.

There was a little grunt of acquiescence. They carried Lenora to the
largest of the tents and made her as comfortable as possible. She opened
her eyes on the way.

"I am so sorry," she faltered. "It's just my side. It--hurts. How did I
get out of the stream?"

"I fished you out," Quest whispered. "Don't talk now. We are going to make
you comfortable."

She pressed his hand and closed her eyes again. The Professor returned.

"We'll make the young lady comfortable all right," he assured them
cheerfully, "but there's one thing you can make up your minds to. We are
here for a week at the least."

They all looked at one another. The Inspector was the only one who
preserved an air of cheerfulness, and he was glancing towards Laura.

"Guess we'll have to make the best of it," he murmured.


2.

The girl drew a low stool over to Craig's side. He was sitting in a rough
chair tilted back against the adobe wall of the saloon.

"As tired as ever?" she asked, laying her hand upon his for a moment.

He turned his head and looked at her.

"Always tired," he answered listlessly.

She made a little grimace.

"But you are so strange," she protested. "Over the hills there are the
steam cars. They would take you to some of our beautiful cities where all
is light and gaiety. You are safe here, whatever your troubles may have
been. You say that you have money, and if you are lonely," she added,
dropping her voice, "you need not go alone."

[Illustration: LENORA KNOWS THAT QUEST IS IN DANGER AND GOES TO FIND HIM.]

[Illustration: MARTA TRIES TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH CRAIG.]

He patted her hand affectionately but there was something a little forced
about the action.

"Child," he said, "it is so hard to make you understand. I might lose
myself for a few minutes, it is true, over yonder. Perhaps, even," he
added, "you might help me to forget. And then there would be the
awakening. That is always the same. Sometimes at night I sleep, and when I
sleep I rest, and when my eyes are opened in the morning the weight comes
back and sits upon my heart, and the strength seems to pass from my limbs
and the will from my brain."

Her eyes were soft and her voice shook a little as she leaned towards him.
Something in his helplessness had kindled the protective spirit in her.

"Has life been so terrible for you?" she whispered. "Have you left
behind--but no! you never could have been really wicked. You are not very
old, are you? Why do you not stand up and be a man? If you have done
wrong, then very likely people have done wrong things to you. Why should
you brood over these memories? Why--... What are you looking at? Who are
these people?"

The Professor, with Quest and Long Jim, suddenly appeared round the corner
of the building. They walked towards Craig. He shrank back in his place.

"If these are your enemies," the girl cried fiercely, "remember that they
cannot touch you here. I'll have the boys out in a minute, if they dare to
try it."

Craig struggled to his feet. He made no answer. His eyes were fixed upon
the Professor's. The girl passed her arm through his and dragged him into
the saloon. They passed José in the doorway. He scoffed at them.

"Say, the boss will fire you, Marta, if you waste all your time with that
Yankee," he muttered.

Marta drew the red rose from the bosom of her dress and placed it in
Craig's buttonhole. Then she led him without a word to a seat.

"If these men try any tricks in here," she said, "there'll be trouble."

Almost at that moment they all three entered. Long Jim nodded to Craig in
friendly fashion.

"It's all right, cookie," he told them. "Don't you look so scared. This is
just a bit of parley-vous business, that's all."

The Professor held out a piece of paper. He handed it over to Craig.

"Craig," he announced, "this is a dispatch which I found in Allguez with
my letters. It is addressed to you, but under the circumstances you will
scarcely wonder that I opened it. You had better read it."

Craig accepted the cable-form and read it through slowly to himself:--

    "To John Craig, c/o Professor Lord Ashleigh, Yonkers, New York:

    "Your sister died to-day. Her daughter Mary sails on Tuesday to
    join you in New York. Please meet her.

    "COMPTON, Solicitor, London."

Craig sat for a moment as though stunned. The girl leaned over towards
him.

"Are they trying to take you on a warrant?" she whispered. "Remember you
don't need to go unless you want to."

Craig shook his head.

"This is something quite different," he explained. "Leave me for a moment,
Marta. I must talk to these people."

She slipped regretfully away from his side and out into the darkness. He
sat with his eyes fixed upon the cablegram. Then he turned towards Quest.

"Fate seems to be too strong for me," he admitted. "Leave me alone and I
promise you that I'll go at once to New York, settle Mary's future, and
then make a full disclosure."

Jim touched him on the shoulder.

"Remember," he told him, "you ain't no call to leave here unless you want
to. Those deputies don't go this side of the border. You're safe as long
as you like to stay."

Craig nodded gratefully.

"All the same," he said, "I fear that I must go."

The Professor coughed.

"I am sure, Craig," he declared, "that you have decided wisely."

Craig looked gloomily away.

"There is nothing else for me to do," he said. "The child must be met and
looked after. Besides, I am sick of it all. You may as well know the
truth."

"Why not now?" Quest suggested softly.

"In New York," Craig replied, "and not before."

Quest and the Professor exchanged meaning glances.

"Very well," the former decided, turning away, "in a week from to-day,
Craig, I shall expect you to report at the Professor's house."

They left the room together. Long Jim lingered by Craig's side.

"Those guys have been scaring you some, I guess," he remarked. "Forget
'em, cookie. They can't touch you here. Of course, if you go to New York
it's your own show."

"I know that," Craig replied gloomily.

One of the girls passed her arm through Long Jim's.

"Just one dance," she whispered.

He hesitated, looking out of the window. Then he shrugged his shoulders.

"I'm tired of those guys," he remarked to Craig with a grin. "Guess I'll
stay here for a bit."

Craig was left alone for a few minutes. Suddenly Marta glided in and sat
by his side. Her eyes were flashing with anger.

"You know what they said, those two, as they passed out?" she whispered
hoarsely. "I heard them. They are going to board the eight-thirty train
to-morrow morning. The dark man turned and said to the other--'If he is
not on that, we'll wait till we find him. Once we get him in New York,
he's our man.'"

A little exclamation of anger broke from Craig's lips. The girl caught at
his arm.

"Don't go," she begged. "Don't go. There are plenty of places near here
where you can hide, where we could go together and live quite simply. I'd
work for you. Take me away from this, somewhere over the hills. Don't go
to New York. They are cruel, those men. They are hunting you--I can see it
in their faces."

Craig shook his head sadly.

"Little girl," he said, "I should like to go with you along that valley
and over the hills and forget that I had ever lived in any other world.
But I can't do it. There's a child there now, on the ocean, nearer to New
York every day, my sister's own child and no one to meet her. And--there
are the other things. I have sinned and I must pay.... My God!"

The room suddenly rang with Marta's shriek. Through the open window by
which they were sitting, an arm wrapped in a serape had suddenly hovered
over them. Craig, in starting back, had just escaped the downward blow of
the knife, which had buried itself in Marta's arm. She fell back,
screaming.

"It's José!" she cried. "The brute! The beast!"

Craig swung to his feet, furious. Long Jim, cursing fiercely, drew his
gun. At that moment the door of the saloon was thrown open. José came
reeling in, his serape over his shoulder, a drunken grin on his face. He
staggered towards them.

"José, you beast!" the girl called out, and fell back, fainting.

There was the sound of a revolver shot and José reeled backwards and fell
with a cry across the sanded floor. Jim thrust his smoking gun into his
belt and caught Craig by the arm.

"Say, we'd better get out of this, cookie!" he muttered.

They were hustled out. Apparently José was unpopular, for every one seemed
only anxious to have them clear away.

"I'll get you into the camp quietly," Long Jim muttered. "You'll be safer
there for the night. Then you can make that eighty-thirty in the morning."

       *       *       *       *       *

Lenora, with her bed dragged to the opening of the tent, eagerly greeted
the little party on their return. Quest at once came and sat by her side.

"Where's Laura," he asked, "and the Inspector?"

She smiled and pointed to the rising ground behind them. In the faint
moonlight two forms were just visible.

"The Inspector isn't taking 'no' for an answer," Lenora remarked
cheerfully, "and honestly, if you ask me, I believe that Laura is
weakening a little. She pretended she didn't want to go out for a walk,
and mumbled something about leaving me, but she soon changed her mind when
the Inspector pressed her. They have been up there for an hour or more."

Quest smiled.

"French has got it bad," he declared, "almost as badly as I have, Lenora."

She laughed at him. Her face was a little drawn with pain but her eyes
were very soft.

"I wonder if you have it very badly," she murmured.

He held her hand for a moment.

"I think you know," he said.

As they talked they heard the coyotes barking in the distance. Presently
Laura and the Inspector returned.

"Nice sort of nurse I am," the former grumbled. "It's all the fault of
this man. He would keep me out there talking rubbish."

"We were watching you, dear," Lenora said quietly. "Somehow it didn't seem
to us that you were particularly anxious to get away."

The Inspector chuckled.

"That's one for Miss Laura," he declared, with an air of satisfaction.
"Little bit hard on me generally."

"Oh! I'm all right if I'm left alone," Laura retorted, bustling around.
"Come along, you folks, if we are going to have any supper to-night."

They sat round the opening before Lenora's tent till the moon was high in
the heavens. Quest, who had been on the outside of the circle for some
little time, suddenly rose to his feet and crossed over to the cook wagon.
Long Jim, who was sitting on the steps, glanced up a little surlily.

"Who's inside there?" Quest asked.

Long Jim removed his pipe from his teeth.

"That don't sound none too civil a question for a guest," he remarked,
"but if you want to know, our new Chinese cookie is there."

Quest nodded.

"Sorry if I seemed abrupt," he apologised. "You've been very good to us
and I'm sure we are uncommonly obliged to you, Jim. The only reason I
asked the question was that I saw a face in the door there and it gave me
a start. For a moment I thought it was Craig back again."

"He's gone to New York, or going to-morrow morning," Jim replied. "I don't
think he's so powerful fond of your company that he'd come round here
looking for it."

Quest strolled off again and glanced at his watch as he rejoined the
little group.

"Well," he said, "I think we'll turn in. Seven o'clock to-morrow morning,
Inspector. Jim's sending one of the boys with us and we shall catch the
Eastern Limited at the junction."

The Inspector yawned.

"This open-air life makes me sleepy," he confessed.

"To bed, all of us," Quest concluded, turning away.


3.

Quest awoke the next morning, stretched out his hand and glanced at the
watch by the side of his bed. It was barely six o'clock. He turned over
and dozed again, looked again at half-past six, and finally, at a few
minutes to seven, rose and made a hasty toilet. Then, in the act of
placing his watch in his waistcoat pocket, he gave a sudden start. By its
side, half covered by the handkerchief which he had thrown upon the little
table, stood a small black box! For a moment he was motionless. Then he
stretched out his hand, removed the lid and drew out the usual neatly
folded piece of paper:--

    "Even time fights you. It loses that you may lose.

    "THE HANDS."

Quest for a moment was puzzled. Then he hurried into the next tent, where
the Professor was sleeping peacefully.

"Say, Professor, what's the time by your watch?" Quest asked, shaking him
gently.

The Professor sat up and drew his chronometer from under his pillow.

"Seven o'clock," he replied, "five minutes past, maybe."

Quest nodded.

"That seems all right," he declared. "I'll explain later, Professor."

He hurried out into French's tent and found the Inspector just drawing on
his shoes.

"French, what's the time?" he demanded.

"Three minutes past seven, or thereabouts," French replied, yawning. "I'm
coming right along. We've lots of time. Three-quarters of an hour ought to
do it, the boys say."

Quest held out a strip of paper.

"This gave me a turn," he said quietly. "I found it in a black box by the
side of my bed."

French gazed at it in a puzzled manner. They walked outside to the camp,
where the cowboys were finishing their breakfast.

"Say, boss," one of them called out, "you're not making that eight-thirty
train to New York?"

"Why not?" Quest asked quickly. "It's only three quarters of an hour's
ride, is it?"

"Maybe not," the other replied, "but as it's eight now, your chances ain't
looking lively. Kind of overslept, haven't you?"

Both men glanced once more at their watches. Then Quest thrust his back
with a little oath.

"Our watches have been set back!" he exclaimed. "The Hands again!"

For a moment they looked at one another, dumbfounded. Then Quest moved
towards the corral.

"Say, is there any quicker way to the depot?" he enquired of the cowboys.

They heard his question indifferently.

"Fifty dollars," Quest continued, "to any one who can take me by a quicker
route."

One of them rose slowly to his feet.

"Waal," he observed, "fifty dollars would come in kind of handy. Yes, I
reckon I can cut off a mile or two for you."

"Fifty dollars for you, then," Quest replied, as they hurried towards the
horses, "and an extra ten if we make the train."

They galloped off into the distance. The cowboys finished their breakfast
and went off to their work. Laura stole out from her tent and started off
in rather a shame-faced manner for a ride. Presently Lenora opened her
eyes. She, too, stretched out her hand for her watch. Suddenly she sat up
in bed with a little exclamation. On the table by her side was a small
black box. She took off the lid with trembling fingers, drew out a scrap
of paper and read:--

    "Fools! Tongues of flame will cross Quest's path. He will never
    reach the depot alive."

Lenora glanced at Laura's empty bed. Then she staggered to the opening of
the tent.

"Laura!" she cried.

There was no one there. The cowboys had all gone to their work, Laura had
passed out of sight across the ridge in the distance. Lenora staggered to
the cook wagon, where the Chinese cook was sitting cleaning plates.

"Listen!" she cried. "They are in danger, the three men who have gone off
to the depot! If you'll ride after them, I will give you a hundred
dollars. Give them this," she added, holding out the scrap of paper.

The Chinaman shook his head. He glanced at the slip of paper indifferently
and went on with his work.

"No can ride, missee," he said.

Lenora looked around helplessly. The camp was empty. She staggered across
towards her own horse.

"Come and help me," she ordered.

The Chinaman came unwillingly. They found her saddle but he only gazed at
it in a stolid sort of fashion.

"No can fix," he said. "Missee no can ride. Better go back bed."

Lenora pushed him on one side. With a great effort she managed to reach
her place in the saddle. Then she turned and, with her face to the depot,
galloped away. The pain was excruciating. She could only keep herself in
the saddle with an effort. Yet all the time that one sentence was ringing
in her mind--"Tongues of flame!" She kept looking around anxiously.
Suddenly the road dropped from a little decline. She was conscious of a
wave of heat. In the distance she could see the smoke rolling across the
open. She touched her horse with the quirt. The spot which she must pass
to keep on the track to the depot was scarcely a hundred yards ahead, but
already the fire seemed to be running like quicksilver across the ground
licking up the dry greasewood with indeed a flaming tongue. She glanced
once behind, warned by the heat. The fire was closing in upon her. A puff
of smoke suddenly enveloped her. She coughed. Her head began to swim and a
fit of giddiness assailed her. She rocked in her saddle and the pony came
to a sudden standstill, faced by the mass of rolling smoke and flame.

"Sanford!" Lenora cried. "Save me!"

The pony reared. She slipped from the saddle and fell across the track.



CHAPTER XV

"A BOLT FROM THE BLUE"


1.

There was a peculiar, almost a foreboding silence about the camp that
morning when Laura returned from her early ride. The only living person to
be seen was the Chinaman, sitting on a stool in front of the wagon, with a
dish of potatoes between his knees.

"Say, where's every one?" Laura sung out, after she had looked into
Lenora's tent and found it empty.

The Chinaman continued to peel potatoes. He took no notice of the
question. Laura touched her horse with the whip and cantered over to his
side. At the last moment the animal swerved a little. The Chinaman, trying
to draw back hastily, let the bowl slip between his knees. He gazed at the
broken pieces of the dish in dismay.

"Never mind your silly potatoes!" Laura exclaimed. "Tell me where every
one's gone to, can't you?"

The Chinaman looked up at her malevolently. He rose and made a stealthy
movement forward. Laura backed her horse. The purpose which had gleamed
for a moment in the man's narrowed eyes seemed to fade away.

"All gone," he announced. "Cowboy gone workee. Missee gone hurry up find
Mr. Quest."

Laura hesitated, puzzled. Just then the Professor came cantering in with a
bundle of grass in his hand. He glanced down at the Chinaman.

"Good morning, Miss Laura!" he said. "You don't seem to be getting on with
our friend here," he added in an undertone. "If you would permit me to
offer you just a word of advice, it really doesn't pay to annoy these
Chinese too much. They never forget. I didn't like the way that fellow was
looking at you. I was watching him all the way from the rise there."

"Pshaw!" she answered. "Who cares what a Chink thinks! The fellow's an
idiot. I'm worried, Professor. Lenora's gone out after Mr. Quest and the
Inspector. She wasn't fit to ride a horse. I can't make out why she's
attempted it."

The Professor unslung some field-glasses from his shoulder and gazed
steadily southward.

"It is just possible," he said softly, "that she may have received a
warning of that."

He pointed with his forefinger, and Laura peered forward. Something which
seemed to be just a faint cloud hung over the horizon. The Professor
handed her his glasses.

"Why, it's a fire!" she cried.

The Professor nodded.

"Just a prairie fire," he replied,--"very dangerous, though, these dry
seasons. The flames move so quickly that if you happen to be in a certain
position you might easily get cut off."

Laura turned her horse round.

"Come on, Professor!" she exclaimed. "That's what it is. Lenora's gone to
try and warn the others."

"She is a very brave young lady," the Professor declared, as he touched
his pony with the spurs. "All the same, Miss Laura, you take my advice and
leave that Chinaman alone."

They rode to the very edge of the tract of country which was temporarily
enveloped with smoke and flame. Here they pulled in their horses, and the
Professor looked thoughtfully through his field-glasses.

"The road straight on is the ordinary way to the depot," he said, "but, as
you can see, at the bend there it is becoming almost impassable. The thing
is, what did Lenora do? When she got as far as this, she must have seen
that further progress was dangerous."

Laura gave a little cry and pointed with her riding-whip. About twenty
yards further on, by the side of the road, was a small white object. She
cantered on, swung herself from her horse and picked it up.

"Lenora's handkerchief!" she cried.

The Professor waved his arm westward.

"Here come Quest and the Inspector. They are making a circuit to avoid the
fire. The cowboy with them must have shown them the way. We'd better hurry
up and find out if they've seen anything of Miss Lenora."

They galloped across the rough country towards the little party, who were
now clearly in sight.

"Lenora isn't with them," Laura declared anxiously, "and look--what's
that?"

From the centre of one of the burning patches they saw a riderless horse
gallop out, stop for a moment with his head almost between its fore-legs,
shake himself furiously, and gallop blindly on again.

"It's Lenora's horse!" Laura cried. "She must have been thrown. Come!"

Laura would have turned her horse, but the Professor checked her.

"Let us wait for Quest," he advised. "They are close here."

The cowboy, riding a little behind the two others, had unlimbered his
lariat, and, while they watched, swung it over his head and secured the
runaway. Quest galloped up to where Laura and the Professor were waving
frantically.

"Say, that's some fire!" Quest exclaimed. "Did you people come out to see
it?"

"No, we came to find Lenora!" Laura answered breathlessly. "That's her
horse. She started to meet you. She must be somewhere--"

"Lenora?" Quest interrupted fiercely. "What do you mean?"

"When I got back to the camp," Laura continued rapidly, "there wasn't a
soul there except the Chinaman. He told me that Lenora had ridden off a
few minutes before to find you. We came to look for her. We found her
handkerchief on the road there, and that's her horse."

Quest did not wait for another word. He jumped a rough bush of scrub on
the right-hand side, galloped over the ground, which was already hot with
the coming fire, and followed along down the road by which Lenora had
passed. When he came to the first bend, he could hear the roar of flames
in the trees. A volume of smoke almost blinded him; his horse became
wholly unmanageable. He slipped from the saddle and ran on, staggering
from right to left like a drunken man. About forty yards along the road,
Lenora was lying in the dust. A volume of smoke rushed over her. The tree
under which she had collapsed was already afire. A twig fell from it as
Quest staggered up, and her skirt began to smoulder. He tore off his coat,
wrapped it around her, beat out the fire which was already blazing at her
feet, and snatched her into his arms. She opened her eyes for a moment.

"Where are we?" she whispered. "The fire!"

"That's all right," Quest shouted. "We'll be out of it in a moment. Hold
tight to my neck."

He braced himself for a supreme effort and ran along the pathway. His feet
were blistered with the heat; there was a great burn on one of his arms.
At last, however, he passed out of the danger zone and staggered up to
where the Professor, the Inspector and Laura were waiting.

"Say, that was a close shave," he faltered, as he laid Lenora upon the
ground. "Another five minutes--well, we won't talk about it. Let's lift
her on to your horse, Laura, and get back to the camp."


2.

The Professor laid down his book and gazed with an amiable smile towards
Quest and Lenora.

"I fear," he remarked dolefully, "that my little treatise on the fauna of
the Northern Orinoco scarcely appeals to you, Mr. Quest."

Quest, whose arm was in a sling but who was otherwise none the worse for
his recent adventure, pointed out of the tent.

"Don't you believe it, Professor," he begged. "I've been listening to
every word. But say, Lenora, just look at Laura and French!"

They all three peered anxiously out of the opening of the tent. Laura and
the Inspector were very slowly approaching the cook wagon. Laura was
carrying a large bunch of wild flowers, one of which she was in the act of
fastening in French's buttonhole.

"That fellow French has got grit," Quest declared. "He sticks to it all
the time. He'll win out with Laura in the end, you mark my words."

"I hope he will," Lenora said. "She's a dear girl, although she has got an
idea into her head that she hates men and love-making. I think the
Inspector's just the man for her."

The two had paused outside the cook wagon. Laura held out the flowers to
the Chinaman.

"Can't you find me a bowl for these?" she asked.

He looked slowly up at her.

"No bowlee for flowers," he answered. "All want for eatee."

Laura leaned over and shook him by the shoulder.

"Well, I'll eatee off the ground," she said. "Give me a bowl, you
slant-eyed old idiot."

"Why don't you obey the lady?" French intervened.

Very slowly the Chinaman rose to his feet, disappeared inside the cook
wagon and reappeared with a basin, which he handed to Laura. She thanked
him carelessly, and they passed on. From where they stood, both Quest and
Lenora saw the look which for a moment flashed from the Chinaman's eyes.
Lenora shivered.

"I'll be glad when we get away from here," she declared, clinging to
Quest's arm. "That Chinaman hates Laura like poison, and I'm afraid of
him."

Quest nodded.

"She does seem to have put his back up," he agreed. "As to going on, I
think we might just as well move tomorrow. My arm's all right."

"And I'm quite well," Lenora asserted eagerly.

"We've wired for them to meet Craig," Quest said. "I only hope they don't
let him slip through their fingers. I haven't much faith in his promise to
turn up at the Professor's. Let's see what Laura and French have to say."

"Can't see any sense in staying on here any longer," was French's
immediate decision, "so long as you two invalids feel that you can stand
the journey. Besides, we're using up these fellows' hospitality."

"We'll get everything in order to-night," Laura decided, "and start first
thing to-morrow."

They busied themselves for the next hour or two in making preparations.
After their evening meal, the two men walked with Lenora and Laura to
their tent.

"I think you girls had better go to bed," Quest suggested. "Try and get a
long night's sleep."

"That's all very well," French remarked, "but it's only eight o'clock.
What about a stroll, Miss Laura, just up to the ridge?"

Laura hesitated for a moment and glanced towards Lenora.

"Please go," the latter begged. "I really don't feel like going to sleep
just yet."

"I'll look after Lenora," Quest promised. "You have your walk. There's the
Professor sitting outside his tent. Wouldn't you like to take him with
you?"

Laura glanced indignantly at him as they strolled out, and Lenora laughed
softly.

"How dared you suggest such a thing!" she murmured to Quest. "Do look at
them. The Inspector wants her to take his watch, and she can't quite make
up her mind about it. Why, Laura's getting positively frivolous."

"Guess we'd better not watch them any longer," Quest decided. "What about
a game of bezique?"

"I should love it!" Lenora assented. "You'll find the cards in that
satchel."

They sat and played for half an hour by the light of a lantern. Suddenly
Quest paused in the act of dealing and glanced over his shoulder.

"What the mischief was that?" he muttered.

"Sounded as though the tent flapped," Lenora replied.

Quest rose, and with the lantern in his hand walked to the other side of
the tent. The flap was open, but there was no sign of any one in sight. He
looked around and came back.

"Queer thing!" he exclaimed. "It sounded just as though some one had
pulled the flap of the tent back. The flap's open, but there isn't a soul
in sight."

"I expect it was fancy," Lenora remarked. "Still, there isn't a breath of
wind, is there?"

Quest returned to his place, and they recommenced the game. Just at that
moment the entrance to the tent was lifted and Laura ran in. She plumped
down upon her bed with her hands on either side of her.

"If that man--" she began.

Suddenly she sprang up with a little cry which turned almost into a
scream. From a look of humorous indignation, her face suddenly assumed an
expression of absolute terror. She shrank away.

"There's something soft in the bed!" she shrieked. "I felt it with my
hand!"

They all looked towards the cot. Quest held up the lantern. They
distinctly saw a movement under the bedclothes. The Inspector, stooping
down, suddenly entered the tent.

"Say, what's wrong here?" he demanded.

"There's something in Laura's bed," Quest muttered. "Here, give me the
camp-stool."

He stole towards the bed, gripping the camp-stool firmly with his right
hand, and slowly turning down the bedclothes with the feet of the chair.
Suddenly there was a piercing scream. A huge snake, coiled and quivering
for the spring, lifted its head. Even Quest seemed for the moment
nerveless. Then from the doorway came the sharp report of a revolver, and
the snake fell, a limp, inert thing. They all looked at the Professor as
though fascinated. He came a step farther into the tent, the revolver
still smoking in his hand. Standing over the snake, he deliberately fired
again and again into the body.

"I think," he remarked, in his usual calm tones, "that we may consider the
creature now beyond any power of doing harm. You will be interested to
hear," he continued, bending over the remains of the creature, "that this
is an exceedingly rare species, a sort of second cousin to the rattlesnake
found only in this part of the world and fatally poisonous."

"But how could it have got there?" Lenora faltered.

The Professor shook his head gravely.

"I am afraid," he said, "that there can be no doubt about that. I saw the
Chinaman whom Laura is so fond of sneaking away from this tent a few
minutes ago, and I suspected some devilry. That is why I went and fetched
my revolver."

There was a roar of anger from French. He snatched the weapon from the
Professor's hand.

"I'll kill that yellow dog!" he shouted. "Where is he?"

He dashed across the open space towards the camp wagon. His teeth were
set, and there was murder in his blazing eyes.

"Where's that Chinaman?" he yelled at the top of his voice.

The cowboys struggled to their feet. The Chinaman, who was sitting inside
the cook wagon, poring over a book by the light of a lantern, recognised
the note of fury in French's tone and raised his head, startled. A
paroxysm of fear seized him. The very moment that French threw open the
door of the wagon, he kicked the lantern across the floor and plunged at
the canvas sides of the vehicle, slipping underneath until he reached the
ground. French, left in darkness, groped around for a moment and then
emerged. The cowboys had gathered together outside.

"Say, Mr. Inspector French," one of them demanded, "what's wrong with John
Chinaman? You folks seem to have a sort of grudge against our cooks.
What's the Oriental been doing, eh?"

"Tried to commit a filthy murder," French shouted. "Brought a snake and
put it into the bed of one of the young women."

They hesitated no longer.

"Come on, boys," one of them cried. "We'll have to see this matter
through."

They found the spot where the Chinaman had escaped from the wagon, but
even at that moment they heard the sound of a horse's hoofs and saw a
flying figure in the distance.

"Said he couldn't ride!" French shouted. "Told the young lady so when she
wanted him to go and warn us of the fire. Look at him now!"

"Come on, all of you," one of the cowboys yelled, as they rushed for the
horse. "Bring your lariats. We'll have him, sure."

French, with his start, was the first to reach a horse. The cowboys
galloped off through the shadows. Dimly visible, they now and then caught
a glimpse of their quarry; sometimes he faded out of sight altogether.

"We'll have him through that patch of brush," Long Jim shouted. "He won't
dare to ride the pace there."

They saw him for a moment bending low over his horse, but they did not see
him slip easily from its back, roll over into the brushwood, and lie there
concealed. They heard the thunder of hoofs ahead, and they galloped by.
When they were out of sight, the Chinaman stole away into the darkness.
Nearly an hour later, the little party caught up with the riderless horse.
The language of the cowboys was picturesque.

"Spread out, boys. We'll round him up going back, if we can," Long Jim
directed. "If he was spilled off, we'll get him, sure. But if the dirty
coyote has tricked us and slipped off into the brush, it's good night.
We'll never find him."

French's hand tightened upon his revolver, and his eyes pierced the
darkness to right and to left as he rode slowly back.

"There'll be no trial if I can get the drop on him," he muttered.

Away in the distance, John Chinaman was reaching Allguez, and the little
party of cowboys rode into the camp without having seen a sign of him.
French was narrating his failure to the three others, when Quest in
silence handed him a cablegram, a messenger had just brought.

    To Inspector French, Allguez, N.M.

    Very sorry. Craig gave us slip after leaving depot. Niece
    disappeared from address given. No clues at present. When are
    you returning?

French swore softly for a moment. Then he dropped into a chair, exhausted.

"This," he declared, "is our unlucky evening."


3.

The woman who had just laid the cloth for a homely evening meal, smiled
across at the girl who stood at the window.

"It's all ready now directly your uncle comes home," she announced. "Say,
you never seem to tire of looking out of that window."

The girl turned around with a smile. She was very young and dressed in
deep mourning.

"I've never seen anything like it before, Mrs. Malony," she said. "It was
quite quiet where we lived in London, and here, with the street cars and
the elevated railways and the clanging of bells, there never seems to be a
moment's peace."

Mrs. Malony came to the girl's side.

"Your poor uncle looks as though a little peace would do him good," she
remarked.

The girl sighed.

"If only I could do something for him!" she murmured.

"He's in some kind of trouble, I think," Mrs. Malony observed. "He is not
what you might call a communicative person, but it's easy to see that he
is far from being happy in himself. You'll ring when you're ready, Miss
Mary?"

The door was suddenly opened, and Craig entered. He was very pale and a
little out of breath. Before he closed the door, he listened for a moment.

"Just as we were speaking about you, Mr. Craig," the landlady continued.
"I was saying to the young lady that there was only one thing I could wish
for you both, and that was that you weren't quite so worried like."

Craig seemed scarcely to hear her.

"Look across the road," he begged. "Tell me if there is a man in a blue
serge suit and a bowler hat, smoking a cigar, looking across here."

Mrs. Malony and the girl both obeyed. The girl was the first to speak.

"Yes!" she announced. "He is looking straight at these windows."

Craig groaned and sank down upon a chair.

"Leave us, if you please, Mrs. Malony," he ordered. "I'll ring when I'm
ready."

Mrs. Malony hesitated with the door-knob in her hand.

"I'm not wishing to say anything that might sound offensive," she observed
slowly, "but if it's a case of trouble of any sort with the police, Mr.
Craig--"

"That will do," Craig interrupted. "It isn't anything of the sort you
think. You are not likely to suffer by having me here, Mrs. Malony, or by
looking after my niece when I have gone."

The landlady left the room silently. The girl came over to her uncle and
threw her arm around his neck.

"Please don't talk about going away, uncle," she pleaded. "I have been so
happy since I have been with you."

He patted her head, felt in his pocket, and drew out a little paper bag,
from which he shook a bunch of violets. The girl pinned them to her frock
with a little cry of pleasure.

"How kind you are to me!" she exclaimed. "You think of everything!"

He sighed.

"If I had had you for a little longer, Mary," he said, "perhaps I should
have been a better man. Go to the window, please, and tell me if that man
is still there."

She crossed the room with light footsteps. Presently she returned.

"He is just crossing the street," she announced. "I think that he seems to
be coming here."

Craig took the girl for a minute into his arms.

"Good-bye, dear," he said. "I want you to take this paper and keep it
carefully. You will be cared for always, but I must go."

"But where must you go?" she asked bewildered.

"I have an appointment at Professor Ashleigh's," he told her. "I cannot
tell you anything more than that. Good-bye!"

He kissed her for a moment passionately. Then suddenly he tore himself
away. She heard him run lightly down the stairs. Some instinct led her to
the back window. She saw him emerge from the house and pass down the yard.
Then she went to the front. The man in the blue serge suit was talking to
the landlady below. She sank into a chair, puzzled and unhappy. Then she
heard heavy footsteps. The door was opened. The man in the blue serge suit
entered, followed by the protesting landlady.

"There's no sense in coming here to worry the young lady," Mrs. Malony
declared irritably. "As for Mr. Craig, I told you that he'd gone out."

"Gone out, eh?" the man repeated, speaking in a thick, disagreeable tone.
"Why, I watched him in here not ten minutes ago. Now then, young lady,
guess you'd better cough up the truth. Where's this precious uncle of
yours?"

"My uncle has gone out," the girl replied, drawing herself up. "He left
five minutes ago."

"Sneaked out by the back way, maybe," the man sneered.

"If there was any fear of your stopping to speak to him, I should think he
would," the girl retorted boldly. "My uncle is rather particular about his
acquaintances."

The man laughed.

"What's that in your hand?" he demanded.

"Something my uncle gave me before he went out," the girl replied. "I
haven't looked at it yet myself."

"Give it here," he ordered.

She spread it out upon the table.

"You may look at it if you choose," she agreed. "My uncle did not tell me
not to show it to any one."

They read it together. The few lines seemed to be written with great care.
They took, indeed, the form of a legal document, to which was affixed the
seal of a notary and the name of a witness.--

    I, John Craig, being about to receive the just punishment for
    all my sins, hereby bequeath to my niece, Mary Carlton, all
    monies and property belonging to me, a list of which she will
    find at this address. I make one condition only of my bequest
    and I beg my niece to fervently respect it. It is that she never
    of her own consent or knowledge speak to any one of the name of
    Ashleigh, or associate with any of that name.

    JOHN CRAIG.

The man folded up the paper.

"I'll take care of this," he said. "It's yours, right enough. We'll just
need to borrow it for a time. Go and get your hat and coat on, miss."

"I shall not," the girl objected. "My uncle told me, if anything happened
to him, that I was to remain here."

"And remain here she shall, so long as she likes," Mrs. Malony insisted.
"I've given my promise, too, to look after her, and Mr. Craig knows that I
am an honest woman."

"You may be that," the man replied, "but it's just as well for you both to
understand this. I'm from the police, and what I say goes. No harm will
come to the girl, Mrs. Malony, and she shall come back here, but for the
present she is going to accompany me to headquarters. If you make any
trouble, I only have to blow my whistle and I can fill your house with
policemen."

"I'll go," the girl whispered.

In silence she put on her hat and coat, in silence she drove with him to
the police-station, where she was shown at once into an inspector's
office. The man who had brought her whispered for a moment or two with his
chief and handed him the paper. Inspector French read it and whistled
softly. He took up the telephone by his side.

"Say, you've something of a find here," he remarked to the plain-clothes
man. "Put me through to Mr. Quest, please," he added, speaking into the
receiver.

The two men whispered together. The girl stole from her place and turned
over rapidly the pages of a directory which was on the round table before
her. She found the "A's" quickly. Her eye fell upon the name of Ashleigh.
She repeated the address to herself and glanced around. The two men were
still whispering. For the moment she was forgotten. She stole on tiptoe
across the room, ran down the stone steps, and hastened into the street.


4.

The Professor, who was comfortably seated in Quest's favourite easy-chair,
glanced at his watch and shook his head.

"I am afraid, my friend," he said, "that Craig's nerve has failed him. A
voluntary surrender was perhaps too much to hope for."

Quest smoked for a moment in silence.

"Can't understand those fellows letting him give them the slip," he
muttered. "He ought to have been under close surveillance from the moment
he set foot in New York. What's that?" he added, turning to the door.

His servant entered, bearing a note.

"This was left a few minutes ago, sir," he announced, "by a messenger boy.
There was no answer required."

The man retired and Quest unfolded the sheet of paper. His expression
suddenly changed.

"Listen!" he exclaimed.

    To Sanford Quest.

    Gather your people in Professor Ashleigh's library at ten
    o'clock to-night. I will be there and tell you my whole story.

    JOHN CRAIG.

The Professor sat for a moment speechless.

"Then he meant it, after all!" he exclaimed at last.

"Seems like it," Quest admitted. "I'll just telephone to French."

The Professor rose to his feet, knocked the ash from his cigar, struggled
into his coat, and took up his hat. Then he waited until Quest had
completed his conversation. The latter's face had grown grave and puzzled.
It was obvious that he was receiving information of some importance. He
put down the instrument at last with a curt word of farewell.

"Let me send a couple of men up with you, Professor," he begged. "You
don't want to run any risk of having Craig there before we arrive."

The Professor smiled.

"My friend," he said, "it is seldom in my life that I have had to have
recourse to physical violence, but I flatter myself that there is no man
who would do me any harm. We will meet, then, at my house. You will bring
the young ladies?"

"Sure!" Quest replied. "I am just sending word up to them now."

The Professor moved towards the door.

"If only this may prove to be the end!" he sighed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Quest spent the next hour or so in restless deliberations. There were
still many things which puzzled him. At about a quarter past nine Lenora
and Laura arrived, dressed for their expedition. Quest threw open the
window and looked out across the city. A yellowish haze which, accompanied
by a sulphurous heat, had been brooding over the city all day long, had
suddenly increased in density. The air was stifling.

"I'm afraid we are in for a bad thunderstorm, girls," Quest remarked.

Laura laughed.

"Who cares? The automobile's there, Mr. Quest."

"Let's go, then," he replied.

They descended into the street and drove to the Professor's house in
silence. Even Laura was feeling the strain of these last hours of anxiety.
On the way they picked up French and a plain-clothes man, and the whole
party arrived at their destination just as the storm broke. The Professor
met them in the hall. He, too, seemed to have lost to some extent his
customary equanimity.

"Come this way, my friends," he invited. "If Craig keeps his word, he will
be here now within a few minutes. This way."

They followed him into the library. Chairs were arranged around the table
in the middle of the room, and they all sat down. The Professor took out
his watch. It was five minutes to ten.

"In a few minutes," he continued solemnly, "this weight is to be lifted
from the minds of all of us. I have come to the conclusion that on this
occasion Craig will keep his word. I am not sure, mind, but I believe that
he is in the house at this present moment. I have heard movements in the
room which belonged to him. I have not interfered. I have been content to
wait."

"At least he has not tried to escape," Quest remarked. "French here
brought news of him. He has been living with his niece very quietly, but
without any particular attempt at concealment or any signs of wishing to
leave the city."

"I had that girl brought to my office," French remarked, "barely an hour
ago, but she slipped away while we were talking. Say, what's that?"

They all rose quickly to their feet. In a momentary lull of the storm,
they could hear distinctly a girl's shrill call from outside, followed by
the clamour of angry voices.

"I bet that's the girl," French exclaimed. "She's been looking up the
Professor's address in a directory."

They all hurried out into the hall. The plain-clothes man whom they had
left on guard was standing there with his hand upon Craig's collar. The
girl, sobbing bitterly, was clinging to his arm. Craig was making
desperate efforts to escape. Directly he saw the little party issue from
the library, however, the strength seemed to pass from his limbs. He
remained in the clutches of his captor, limp and helpless.

"I caught the girl trying to make her way into the house," the latter
explained. "She called out, and this man came running down-stairs, right
into my arms."

"It is quite all right," the Professor said, in a dignified tone. "You may
release them both. Craig was on his way to keep an appointment here at ten
o'clock. Quest, will you and the Inspector bring him in? Let us resume our
places at the table."

The little procession made its way down the hall. The girl was still
clinging to her uncle.

"What are they going to do to you, these people?" she sobbed. "They shan't
hurt you! They shan't!"

Lenora passed her arm around the girl.

"Of course not, dear," she said soothingly. "Your uncle has come of his
own free will to answer a few questions, only I think it would be better
if you would let me--"

Lenora never finished her sentence. They had reached the entrance now to
the library. The Professor was standing in the doorway with extended hand,
motioning them to take their places at the table. Then, with no form of
warning, the room seemed suddenly filled with a blaze of blue light. It
came at first in a thin flash from the window to the table, became
immediately multiplied a thousand times, and played round the table in
sparks which suddenly expanded to sheets of leaping, curling flame. The
roar of thunder shook the very foundations of the house--and then silence.
For several seconds not one of them seemed to have the power of speech. An
amazing thing had happened. The oak table in the middle of the room was a
charred fragment, the chairs were every one blackened remnants.

"A thunderbolt!" French gasped at last.

Quest was the first to cross the room. From the table to the outside
window was one charred, black line which had burnt its way through the
carpet. He threw open the window. The wire whose course he had followed
ended there with a little lump of queer substance. He broke it off from
the end of the wire, which was absolutely brittle, and brought it into the
room.

"What is it?" Lenora faltered.

"What have you got there?" French echoed.

Quest examined the strange-looking lump of metal steadily. The most
curious thing about it seemed to be that it was absolutely sound and
showed no signs of damage. He turned to the Professor.

"I think you are the only one who will be able to appreciate this,
Professor," he remarked. "Look! It is a fragment of opotan--a distinct and
wonderful specimen of opotan."

Every one looked puzzled.

"But what," Lenora enquired, "is opotan?"

"It is a new metal," Quest explained gravely, "towards which scientists
have been directing a great deal of attention lately. It has the power of
collecting all the electricity from the air around us. There are a dozen
people, at the present moment, conducting experiments with it for the
purpose of cheapening electric lights. If we had been in the room ten
seconds sooner--"

He paused significantly. Then he swung round on his heel. Craig, a now
pitiful object, his hands nervously twitching, his face ghastly, was
cowering in the background.

"Your last little effort, Craig?" he demanded sternly.

Craig made no reply. The Professor, who had disappeared for a moment, came
back to them.

"There is a smaller room across the hall," he said, "which will do for our
purpose."

Craig suddenly turned and faced them.

"I have changed my mind," he said. "I have nothing to tell you. Do what
you will with me. Take me to the Tombs, deal with me any way you choose,
but I have nothing to say."

French smiled a little grimly.

"We may make you change your mind when we get you there," he remarked.

"No one will ever make me change my mind," the man replied. "This is my
last word."

Quest pointed a threatening finger at him.

"Your last voluntary word, perhaps," he said, "but science is still your
master, Craig. Science has brought many criminals to their doom. It shall
take its turn with you. Bring him along, French, to my study. There is a
way of dealing with him."

       *       *       *       *       *

Quest felt his forehead and found it damp. There were dark rims under his
eyes. Before him was Craig, with a little band around his forehead and the
mirror where they could all see it. The Professor stood a little in the
background. Laura and French were side by side, gazing with distended eyes
at the blank mirror, and Lenora was doing her best to soothe the terrified
niece. Twice Quest's teeth came together and once he almost reeled.

"It's the fight of his life," he muttered at last, "but I've got him."

Almost as he spoke, they could see Craig's resistance begin to weaken. The
tenseness of his form relaxed; Quest's will was triumphing. Slowly in the
mirror they saw a little picture creeping from outline into definite form,
a picture of the Professor's library. Craig himself was there with mortar
and trowel, and a black box in his hand.

"It's coming!" Lenora moaned.

Quest stood perfectly tense. The picture suddenly flashed into brilliant
clearness. They saw Craig's features with almost lifelike detail. From the
corner of that room where the Professor was standing, came a smothered
groan. It was a terrifying, a paralysing moment. Even the silence seemed
charged with awful things. Then suddenly, without any warning, the picture
faded completely away. A cry which was almost a howl of anger broke from
Quest's lips. Craig had fallen sideways from his chair. There was an
ominous change in his face. Something seemed to have passed from the
atmosphere of the room, some tense and nameless quality. Quest moved
forward and laid his hand on Craig's heart. The girl was on her knees,
crying.

"Take her away," Quest whispered to Lenora.

"What about him?" French demanded, as Lenora led the girl from the room.

"He fought too hard," Quest said gravely. "He is dead. Professor,--"

They all looked around. The spot where he had been standing was empty. The
Professor had gone.



CHAPTER XVI

JUSTICE CHEATED


The first shock was over. Craig's body had been removed, and the girls had
taken Mary, half stunned with grief, to their room. French and Quest were
left alone.

"This is some disappointment," the former remarked gloomily.

"It is a disappointment," Quest said slowly, "which may clear the way to
bigger things."

"What's in your mind now?" French enquired.

Quest shook his head.

"A turmoil. First of all, where is the Professor?"

"Must have scooted right away home," French suggested. "He was looking
pretty sick all the time. Guess it must have been a powerful shock for
him, and he isn't so young as he used to be."

"Give me that paper of Craig's again," Quest asked, stretching out his
hand.

The Inspector produced the document from his inner pocket, and Quest,
stretching it out upon his knee, read it word for word.

"Never to communicate or to have anything to do with any one of the name
of Ashleigh, eh?" he remarked, as he handed it back again. "Rather a queer
provision, that, French."

"I've been thinking that myself," the Inspector admitted. "Seems to be
rather reversing the positions, doesn't it?"

Quest glanced at the clock.

"Well," he said, "if you're ready, Inspector, we'll be getting along."

"Where to?" French demanded.

Quest looked for a moment surprised. Just then Lenora entered the room.

"Are you going out?" she asked Quest.

He nodded.

"The Inspector and I are going to have a look for that black box," he told
her.

"Won't you want me?"

He shook his head.

"I think you girls have had as much as is good for you of this sort of
business," he declared grimly.

"But it's all over now," Lenora protested.

Quest buttoned up his coat and motioned to French to follow him.

"I'm not so sure," he said. "I'll 'phone if we want you, Lenora. We shall
be at the Professor's."

The two men drove to the outskirts of the city almost in silence, while
several of the officers followed in another taxi. The Professor's house
seemed more than ever deserted as they drew up at the front door. They
entered without ringing and crossed the hall towards the library. On the
threshold Quest paused and held up his finger.

"Some one is in there," he whispered, stepping quickly forward. "Come!"

He threw open the door. The room was empty, yet both Quest and French were
conscious of a curious conviction that it had been occupied within the
last few seconds. French even shook out the curtains and swung open the
doors of a bureau. There was no sign of anybody, however, nor any evidence
as to how they could have left the room.

"Queer, but it seemed to me I heard some one," French muttered.

"I was sure of it," Quest replied, shaking the curtains at the back of the
door.

They stood still for a moment and listened. The silence in the empty house
was almost unnatural. Quest turned away with a shrug of the shoulders.

"At any rate," he said, "Craig's dying thoughts must have been truthful.
Come."

He led the way to the fireplace, went down on his knees and passed his
hands over the bricks. The third one he touched, shook. He tapped
it--without a doubt it was hollow. With his penknife he loosened the
mortar a little and drew it out easily. The back was open. Inside was the
black box.

"Craig's secret at last!" French muttered hoarsely. "Bring it to the
light, quick!"

They were unemotional men but the moment was supreme. The key to the
mystery of these tragical weeks was there in their hands! Their eyes
almost devoured those few hastily scrawled words buried with so much care:

    _See page 62, January number, American Medical Journal 1905._

They looked at one another. They repeated vaguely this most commonplace of
messages. As the final result of their strenuous enterprise, these cryptic
words seemed pitifully inadequate. Quest's face darkened. He crumpled the
paper in his fingers.

"There must be some meaning in this," he muttered. "It can't be altogether
a fool's game we're on. Wait."

He moved towards a table which usually stood against the wall, but which
had obviously been dragged out recently into the middle of the room. It
was covered with bound volumes. Quest glanced at one and exclaimed softly.

"_American Medical Journal, 1905!_ French, there's something in this
message, after all."

He turned over the pages rapidly. Then he came to a stop. Page 60 was
there; page 62 had been neatly removed with a pair of scissors.

"The Professor!" he cried. "The Professor's been at work here!"

The two men stood looking at one another across the table. Strange
thoughts were framing themselves in the brains of both of them. Then there
came a startling and in its way a dramatic interlude. Through the empty
house came the ringing of the electric bell from the front door, shrill
and insistent. Without a moment's hesitation, Quest hurried out, and
French followed him. On the door-step was another surprise. Lenora and
Laura were there, the former carrying a small, black-bound volume.

"Don't be cross," she begged quickly. "We just had to come. Look! We
picked this up underneath the chair where Craig was sitting. It must have
slipped from his pocket. You see what is written on it? DIARY OF JOHN
CRAIG."

Quest took it in his hand.

"This ought to be interesting," he remarked. "Come along in."

They passed into the library. French lingered behind for a moment and
caught up with them just as they were opening the book underneath the
electric lamp.

"See what I've found!" he exclaimed. "It was just by the side of the wall
there. Where's that journal?"

He spread out the piece of paper--it fitted exactly into the empty space.
They all read together:

    "Professor Ashleigh, after being bitten by the anthropoid,
    rapidly developed hydrophobia of a serious nature. After
    treatment with a new serum the patient was relieved of the
    hydrophobic symptoms, but to my horror this mild-mannered,
    humane man seems possessed at times of all the characteristics
    of the brutal anthropoid--cunning, thievery, brutality. I do not
    know what may come of this. I hesitate to put even these words
    on to paper. I am doubtful as to what course, in the interests
    of humanity, I ought to take.

    (Signed) "JAMES MERRILL, M.D.

    "Editor's Note. Just as we go to press, a cable announces the
    terrible death of Doctor Merrill, the writer of the above notes.
    He was attacked by wild animals while alone in a South American
    jungle, and torn to pieces."

There was a queer little silence among the company. No one seemed inclined
for speech. They looked at one another in dumb, wondering horror. Then
Quest drew a penknife from his pocket and with a turn of his wrist forced
the lock of the diary. They all watched him with fascinated eyes. It was
something to escape from their thoughts. They leaned over as he spread the
book out before him. Those first two sentences were almost in the light of
a dedication:

    "For ten years I have protected my master, Professor Edgar
    Ashleigh, at the cost of my peace of mind, my happiness, my
    reputation. This book, even though it be too late to help me,
    shall clear my reputation."

Quest closed the volume.

"French," he decided, "we must find the Professor. Will you have your men
search the house and grounds immediately?"

The Inspector left the room like a dazed man. They could hear him giving
orders outside.

"The next page," Lenora begged. "Just one page more!"

Quest hesitated for a moment. Then he turned it over. All three read
again:

    "Ten years of horror, struggling all the while to keep him from
    that other self, that thing of bestiality, to keep his horrible
    secret from the world, to cover up his crimes, even though their
    shadow should rest upon me. Now Sanford Quest has come. Will
    this mean discovery?"

"Another page," Lenora faltered.

"No more," Quest said. "Don't you see where it is leading us? We have the
truth here. Wait!"

He strode hastily to the door. French and one of the plain-clothes men
were descending the stairs.

"Well?" Quest asked breathlessly.

"The Professor is not in the house," French reported. "We are going to
search the grounds."

Quest returned to the library. Lenora clung to his arm. The diary lay
still upon the table.

Quest opened the volume slowly. Again they all read together:

    "The evil nature is growing stronger every day. He is developing
    a sort of ferocious cunning to help him in his crimes. He
    wanders about in the dark, wearing a black velvet suit with
    holes for his eyes, and leaving only his hands exposed. I have
    watched him come into a half-darkened room and one can see
    nothing but the hands and the eyes; sometimes if he closes his
    eyes, only the hands."

"Mrs. Rheinholdt!" Quest muttered. "Wait. I know where that suit is."

He hastened to a cupboard at the farther end of the room, snatched some
garments from it and vanished into the hall.

"One moment, girls," he said. "I see now how he did it. Wait. I'll show
you."

They stood quite still, a little terrified. In a moment or two the door
reopened. A finger turned out all the electric lights but one. Then there
was nothing to be seen but a pair of white hands, which seemed to come
floating towards them through the darkness--a pair of white hands and a
pair of gleaming eyes. Lenora screamed wildly. Even Laura was unnerved.

"Stop that!" she cried out. "Who are you, anyway?"

The lights were suddenly turned on. Quest threw off his disguise.

"There you are," he exclaimed triumphantly. "Ingenious, but one ought to
have seen through it long ago. The stroke of genius about it was that as
soon as he had used a dodge once or twice and set you thinking about it,
he dropped it."

The door was suddenly opened and French entered.

"Beaten!" he exclaimed tersely.

"You haven't found him?" Quest asked.

French shook his head.

"We've searched every room, every cupboard, every scrap of the cellar in
the house," he announced. "We've been into every corner of the grounds,
searched all the place inside and out. There's no sign of the Professor."

Quest pocketed the diary.

"You're perfectly certain that he is not in this house or anywhere upon
the premises?"

"Certain sure!" French replied.

Quest shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, we'd better get back," he said. "You come, too, French. We'll sit
down and figure out some scheme for finding him."

They made their way to the front door and crowded into the autos. The two
men left with marked reluctance. The two girls had but one idea in their
heads--to get away, and get away quickly.

"Do start, please," Lenora begged. "There's just one thing in life I want,
and that is to be in my own room, to feel myself away from his world of
horrible, unnatural mysteries."

"The kid has the right idea," Laura agreed. "I've had enough myself."

They were on the point of starting, the chauffeur with his hand upon the
starting handle, French with the steering wheel of the police car already
in his hand. And then the little party seemed suddenly turned to stone.
For a few breathless seconds not one of them moved. Out into the clammy
night air came the echoes of a hideous, inhuman, blood-curdling scream.
Quest was the first to recover himself. He leaped from his seat and rushed
back across the empty hall into the study, followed a little way behind by
French and the others. An unsuspected panel door which led into the
garden, stood slightly ajar. The Professor, with his hand on the back of a
chair, was staring at the fireplace, shaking as though with some horrible
ague, his face distorted, his body curiously hunched-up. He seemed
suddenly to have dropped his humanity, to have fallen back into the world
of some strange creatures. He heard their footsteps, but he did not turn
his head. His hands were stretched out in front of him as though to keep
away from his sight some hateful object.

"Stop him!" he cried. "Take him away! It's Craig--his spirit! He came to
me in the garage, he followed me through the grounds, he mocked at me when
I hid in the tree. He's there now, kneeling before the fireplace. Why
can't I kill him! He is coming! Stop him, some one!"

No one spoke or moved; no one, indeed, had the power. Then at last Quest
found words.

"There is no one in the room, Professor," he said, "except us."

The sound of a human voice seemed to produce a strange effect. The
Professor straightened himself, shook his head, his hands dropped to his
side. He turned around and faced them. He was ghastly pale, but his smile
was once more the smile of the amiable naturalist.

"My friends," he said, "forgive me. I am very old, and the events of these
last few hours have unnerved me. Forgive me."

He groped for a moment and sank into a chair. Quest fetched a decanter and
a glass from the sideboard, poured out some wine and held it to his lips.
The Professor drank it eagerly.

"My dear friend," he exclaimed, "you have saved me! I have something to
tell you, something I must tell you at once, but not here. I loathe this
place. Let me come with you to your rooms."

"As you please," Quest answered calmly.

The Professor rose hastily to his feet. As he turned around, he saw French
concealing something in his hands. He shivered.

"I don't need those!" he cried. "What are they? Handcuffs? Ah, no! I am
only too anxious to tell you all that I know. Take care of me, Mr. Quest.
Take me with you."

He gripped Quest's arm. In silence they passed from the room, in silence
they took their places once more in the automobiles, in silence they drove
without a pause to Quest's rooms. The Professor seemed to breathe more
freely as they left the neighbourhood of his house behind. He walked up
the stairs to Quest's library almost blithely. If he was aware of it, he
took no notice of French and the two plain-clothes men behind. As he
stepped into the room, he drew a long sigh of relief. He made his way at
once to his favourite easy-chair, threw off his overcoat and leaned back.

"Quest," he pronounced, "you are the best friend I have in my life! It is
you who have rid me of my great burden. Tell me--help me a little with my
story--have you read that page from the _Medical Journal_ which Craig has
kept locked up all these years?"

"We have all read it," Quest replied.

"It was forged," the Professor declared firmly, "forged by Craig. All the
years since, he has blackmailed me. I have been his servant and his tool.
I have been afraid to speak. At last I am free of him. Thank God!"

"Craig, after all," French muttered.

The Professor sat with a faint, wistful smile upon the corners of his
lips, looking around at all of them. His face had become like the face of
a child, eager for sympathy and kindness.

"You will trust me, I know," he continued. "You will believe me. All my
life I have laboured for science. I have never been selfish. I have laid
up no store of gold or treasure. Knowledge has been my mistress, knowledge
has been my heaven. If I had been a wise man, I would have ridden myself
of this hideous burden, but I was foolish and afraid. I wanted to pursue
my studies, I wanted to be left in peace, so I let that fiend prey upon my
fears. But now--now I feel that the burden has rolled away. I shall tell
you my story, and afterwards I will do great things yet, great things for
science, great things for the world."

They listened to him, spellbound. Only Lenora stood a little apart with a
faint frown upon her forehead. She touched Quest on the shoulder.

"Mr. Quest," she murmured, "he is lying!"

Quest turned his head. His lips scarcely moved.

"What do you mean?" he whispered.

"He is lying!" Lenora insisted. "I tell you there's another creature
there, something we don't understand. Let me bring the Electro-thought
transference apparatus; let us read his mind. If I am wrong, I will go
down on my knees and beg for forgiveness."

Quest nodded. Lenora hastened to the further end of the room, snatched the
cloth from the instrument and wheeled down the little mirror with its
coils and levers. The Professor watched her. Slowly his face changed. The
benevolence faded away, his teeth for a moment showed in something which
was almost a snarl.

"You believe me?" he cried, turning to Quest. "You are not going to try
that horrible thing on me--Professor Lord Ashleigh? I am all broken up. I
am not fit for it. Look at my hands, how they shake."

"Professor," Quest said sternly, "we are surrounded by the shadow of some
terrible deeds for which as yet there is no explanation. I do not say that
we mistrust you, but I ask you to submit to this test."

"I refuse!" the Professor replied harshly.

"And I insist," Quest muttered.

The Professor drew a little breath. He sat back in his chair. His face
became still, his lips were drawn closely together. Lenora wheeled up the
machine and with deft fingers adjusted the fittings on one side. Quest
himself connected it up on the other. The Professor sat there like a
figure of stone. The silence in the room was so intense that the ticking
of the small clock upon the mantelpiece was clearly audible. The silent
battle of wills seemed like a live and visible struggle. The very
atmosphere seemed charged with the thrill and wonder of it. Never before
had Quest met with resistance so complete and immovable. For the first
time the thought of failure oppressed him. Even that slight slackening of
his rigid concentration brought relief to the Professor. Without any
knowledge as to the source of their conviction, the two girls who watched
felt that the Professor was becoming dominant. And then there came a
sudden queer change. The intangible triumph of the Professor's stony poise
seemed to fade away. His eyes had sought the corner of the room, his lips
quivered. The horror was there again, the horror they had seen before. He
crouched a little back. His hands were uplifted as though to keep off some
evil thing.

"Craig!" Lenora whispered. "He thinks he sees Craig again!"

Quest held up his hand. He realised that this was his moment. He leaned a
little farther forward. Sternly he concentrated the whole of his will
power upon his task. Almost at once there was a change. The Professor fell
back in the chair. The tense self-control had passed from his features,
his lips twitched. Simultaneously, the mirror for a moment was
clouded,--then slowly a picture upon it gathered outline and substance.
There was a jungle, strange, tall trees, and brushwood so thick that it
reached to the waists of the two men who were slowly making their way
through it. One was the Professor, clearly recognisable under his white
sun helmet; the other a stranger to all of them. Suddenly they stopped.
The latter had crept a yard or so ahead, his gun raised to his shoulder,
his eyes fixed upon some possible object of pursuit. There was a sudden
change in the Professor. They saw him seize his gun by the barrel and
whirl it above his head. He seemed suddenly to lose his whole identity. He
crouched on his haunches, almost like an animal, and sprang at the other's
throat. They could almost hear the snarl from his lips as the two men went
down together into the undergrowth. The picture faded away.

"Dr. Merrill!" Lenora faltered. "Then it was not wild beasts which killed
him."

Almost immediately figures again appeared in the mirror. This time they
saw the Professor in bed in a tent, Craig sitting by him, a violin in his
hand. A native servant entered with food, which he placed by the bedside
with a low obeisance. Slowly the Professor raised himself in bed. His face
was distorted, his mouth curved into strange lines. With a sudden spring
he seized the native servant by the throat and bore him back upon the
floor. Craig passed his arm through his master's and, exerting all his
strength, dragged him away. They saw the man run terrified from the room,
they saw Craig soothe the Professor and finally get him back to bed. Then
he seized the violin and bent a little forward, playing softly. Slowly the
Professor relapsed into what seemed to be a sleep. The scene faded away,
to be replaced almost immediately by another. There was a small passage
which seemed to lead from the back entrance of a house; the Professor with
a black mantle, Craig following him, pleading, expostulating. They saw the
conservatory for a minute, and then blackness. The Professor was leaning
against a marble basin. There was nothing to be seen of him but his eyes
and hands. They saw him listen, for a moment or two in cold, unresponsive
silence, then stretch out his hand and push Craig away. The picture glowed
and faded and glowed again. Then they saw through the gloom the figure of
a woman approach, a diamond necklace around her neck. They saw the hands
steal out and encircle her throat--and then more darkness, silence,
obscurity. The mirror was empty once more.

"Mrs. Rheinholdt's jewels!" Lenora cried. "What next? Oh! my God, what
next?"

Their eyes ached with the strain but there was not one of them who could
even glance away from the mirror. It was Quest's study which slowly
appeared then. The Salvation Army girl was there, talking to the
Professor. They saw him leave her, they saw him look back from the door, a
strange, evil glance. Then the secretary entered and spoke to her. Once
more the door opened. The hands were there, stretching and reaching, a
paper-weight gripped in the right-hand fingers. They saw it raised above
the secretary's head, they saw the other hand take the girl by the throat
and push her towards the table. A wild scream broke from Lenora's lips.
Quest wavered for a moment. The picture faded out.

"Oh, stop it!" Lenora begged. "Haven't we seen enough? We know the truth
now. Stop!"

The criminologist made no reply. His eyes were still fixed upon the
Professor, who showed some signs of returning consciousness. He was
gripping at his collar. He seemed to have difficulty with his breathing.
Quest suddenly braced himself. He pushed Lenora back.

"One more," he muttered. "There's something growing in his mind. I can
feel it. Wait!"

Again they all turned towards the mirror. They saw the hallway of Ashleigh
House, the pictures upon the walls, they could almost feel the quiet
silence of night. They saw the Professor come stealing down the stairs. He
was wearing the black velvet suit with the cowl in his hand. They watched
him pause before a certain door, draw on the cowl and disappear. Through
the opening they could see Lord Ashleigh asleep in bed, the moonlight
streaming through the open window across the counterpane. They saw the
Professor turn with a strange, horrible look in his face and close the
door. Lenora burst into sobs.

"No more!" she begged. "No more, please!"

Suddenly, without any warning, Laura also began to sob hysterically.
French mopped his forehead with his handkerchief. His face was
unrecognisable. He had lost all his healthy colour, and his lips were
twitching. Quest himself was as pale as death, and there were black rims
under his eyes.

"We've had enough," he admitted, swaying a little on his feet. "Undo the
other band, if you can, Lenora."

He leaned forward and released their victim. The whole atmosphere of the
place seemed immediately to change. Lenora drew a long, convulsive breath
and sank into a chair. The Professor sat up, and gazed at them all with
the air of a man who had just awakened from a dream. His features
relapsed, his mouth once more resolved itself into pleasant and natural
lines. He smiled at them cordially.

"Have I, by any chance, slept?" he asked. "Or--"

He never finished his sentence. His eyes fell upon the mirror, the metal
band lying by his side. He read the truth in the faces still turned
towards him. He rose to his feet. There was another and equally sudden
change in his demeanour and tone. He carried himself with the calm dignity
of the scientist.

"The end of our struggle, I presume?" he said to Quest, pointing to the
metal band. "You will at least admit that I have shown you fine sport?"

No one answered him. Even Quest had barely yet recovered himself. The
Professor shrugged his shoulders.

"I recognise, of course," he said gravely, "that this is the end. A person
_in extremis_ has privileges. Will you allow me to write just a matter of
twenty lines at your desk?"

Silently Quest assented. The Professor seated himself in the swing chair,
drew a sheet of paper towards him, dipped the pen in the ink and began to
write. Then he turned round and reached for his own small black bag which
lay upon the table. Quest caught him by the wrist.

"What do you want out of that, Professor?" he enquired.

"Merely my own pen and ink," the Professor expostulated. "If there is
anything I detest in the world, it is violet ink. And your pen, too, is
execrable. As these are to be the last words I shall leave to a sorrowing
world, I should like to write them in my own fashion. Open the bag for
yourself, if you will. You can pass me the things out."

Quest opened the bag, took out a pen and a small glass bottle of ink. He
handed them to the Professor, who started once more to write. Quest
watched him for a moment and then turned away to French. The Professor
looked over his shoulder and suddenly bared his wrist. Lenora seized her
employer by the arm.

"Look!" she cried. "What is he going to do?"

Quest swung round, but he was too late. The Professor had dug the pen into
his arm. He sat in his chair and laughed as they all hurried towards him.
Then suddenly he sprang to his feet. Again the change came into his face
which they had seen in the mirror. French dashed forward towards him. The
Professor snarled, seemed about to spring, then suddenly once more
stretched out his hands to show that he was helpless and handed to Quest
the paper upon which he had been writing.

"You have nothing to fear from me," he exclaimed. "Here is my last message
to you, Sanford Quest. Read it--read it aloud. Always remember that this
was not your triumph but mine."

Quest held up the paper. They all read. The Professor's letters were
carefully formed, his handwriting perfectly legible.

    "You have been a clever opponent, Sanford Quest, but even now
    you are to be cheated. The wisdom of the ages outreaches yours,
    outreaches it and triumphs."

Quest looked up quickly.

"What the devil does he mean?" he muttered.

The Professor's arms shot suddenly above his head. Again that strange,
animal look convulsed his features. He burst into a loud, unnatural laugh.

"Mean, you fool?" he cried, holding out his wrist, which was slowly
turning black. "Poisoned! That is what it means!"

They all stared at him. Quest seized the ink bottle, revealed the false
top and laid it down again with a little exclamation. Then, before they
could realize it, the end came. The Professor lay, a crumpled-up heap,
upon the floor. The last change of all had taken place in his face. His
arms were outstretched, his face deathly white, his lips faintly curved in
the half amiable, half supercilious smile of the savant who sees beyond.
Quest stooped over him.

"He is dead," he declared.

       *       *       *       *       *

Quest swung round in his chair as French entered the room, and held out
his left hand.

"Glad to see you, French. Help yourself to a cigar."

"I don't know as I want to smoke this morning just at present, thank you,"
French replied.

Quest laid down his pen and looked up. French was fidgeting about with his
hat in his hand. He was dressed more carefully than usual, but he was
obviously ill at ease.

"Nothing wrong, eh?"

"No, there's nothing wrong," French admitted. "I just looked in--"

Quest waited for a moment. Then he crossed his legs and assumed a patient
attitude.

"What the dickens did you look in for?" he asked.

"The fact of it is," French explained, "I should like a few words with
Miss Laura."

Quest laughed shortly.

"Why on earth couldn't you say so?" he observed. "Never knew you bashful
before, Inspector. She's up in the laboratory. I'll ring for some one to
show you the way."

Quest touched the bell and his new secretary entered almost at once.

"Take Inspector French up into the laboratory," Quest directed. "See you
later, French."

"Yes--perhaps--I hope so," the Inspector replied nervously.

Quest watched him disappear, with a puzzled smile.

Then he sat down at his desk, drew a sheet of paper towards him and began
to write:

    "My dear Inspector,

    "I am taking this opportunity of letting you know that out of
    deference to the wishes of the woman I hope soon to marry, I am
    abandoning the hazardous and nerve-racking profession of
    criminology for a safer and happier career. You will have,
    therefore, to find help elsewhere in the future.

    "With best wishes,

    "Yours,

    "SANFORD QUEST."

He left the sheet of paper upon the desk and, ringing the bell, sent for
Lenora. She appeared in a few moments and came over to his side.

"What is it, Mr. Quest?" she asked.

He gave her the letter without remark. She read it through and, turning
slowly around, looked at him expectantly.

"How's that seem to you?" he asked, reaching out his hand for a cigar.

"Very sensible indeed," she replied.

"It's no sort of life, this, for a married man," Quest declared. "You
agree with me there, don't you, Lenora?"

"Yes!" she admitted, a little faintly.

Quest lit his cigar deliberately. Then he enclosed the letter in an
envelope and addressed it to Inspector French.

"You'd better deliver this to the Inspector," he said, "in case he doesn't
call round here on his way out."

He handed her the note. For a moment she looked at him, then she turned
quickly away.

"He shall have it at once," she said in a low tone.

Quest watched her cross the room. She opened the door and passed out
without a backward glance. Then he shrugged his shoulders, hesitated for a
moment, and followed her. He heard the door of her apartment on the next
floor close, however, and made his way to the laboratory. He entered the
room softly and paused upon the threshold. His presence was altogether
unobserved by the two people who were standing at the other end of the
apartment.

"I say, Miss Laura," the Inspector was saying, "this has got to come
sometime or other. Why don't you make up your mind to it? I'm no great
hand at love-making, but I'm the right sort of man for you and I think you
know it."

"This," Quest murmured to himself, "is where Laura boxes the Inspector's
ears!"

Nothing of the sort happened, however. There was a queer, a mystifying
change in Laura's expression. She was looking down at the floor. Suddenly
her face was hidden in her hands. The Inspector threw his arms around her.

"That's all the answer I want," he declared.

Quest stole softly away. As he regained the door of his study, Lenora,
dressed for the street, hurried out. She tried to pass him but he laid his
hand upon her shoulder.

"I was just going round to Mr. French's office," she explained.

"That's all right," Quest replied. "The Inspector's here. You can leave
the note upon the table. Hi, Parkins," he called out to his secretary in
the next room, "get my hat and coat. Come back a moment, Lenora."

She turned into the room a little unwillingly and leaned against the
table. Quest stood by her side.

"Lenora," he said quietly, "that was kind of a brutal note I told you to
give to French, but I thought you'd understand."

She raised her eyes suddenly to his.

"Understand what?" she whispered.

The secretary entered the room, helped Quest on with his coat and handed
him his hat.

"If you are quite ready, Lenora."

"Ready?" she exclaimed. "Where are we going?"

Quest sighed.

"Fancy having to explain all these things!" he said, taking her arm. "I
just want you to understand, Lenora, that I've waited--quite long enough.
Parkins," he added, turning to his secretary, "if any one calls, just say
that my wife and I will be back early in the afternoon. And you'd better
step upstairs to the laboratory and give my compliments to Inspector
French, and say that I hope he and Miss Laura will join us at Delmonico's
for luncheon at one o'clock."

"Very good, sir," the man replied.

Lenora's face was suddenly transformed. She passed her arm through
Quest's. He stooped and kissed her as he led her towards the door.

"You understand now, don't you?" he whispered, smiling down at her.

"I think so," she admitted, with a little sigh of content.


THE END

       *       *       *       *       *



JOHN FOX, JR'S.

STORIES OF THE KENTUCKY MOUNTAINS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list.


THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE.

Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

[Illustration]

The "lonesome pine" from which the story takes its name was a tall tree
that stood in solitary splendor on a mountain top. The fame of the pine
lured a young engineer through Kentucky to catch the trail, and when he
finally climbed to its shelter he found not only the pine but the
_foot-prints of a girl_. And the girl proved to be lovely, piquant, and
the trail of these girlish foot-prints led the young engineer a madder
chase than "the trail of the lonesome pine."


THE LITTLE SHEPHERD OF KINGDOM COME.

Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

This is a story of Kentucky, in a settlement known as "Kingdom Come." It
is a life rude, semi-barbarous; but natural and honest, from which often
springs the flower of civilization.

"Chad," the "little shepherd" did not know who he was nor whence he
came--he had just wandered from door to door since early childhood,
seeking shelter with kindly mountaineers who gladly fathered and mothered
this waif about whom there was such a mystery--a charming waif, by the
way, who could play the banjo better that anyone else in the mountains.


A KNIGHT OF THE CUMBERLAND.

Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

The scenes are laid along the waters of the Cumberland, the lair of
moonshiner and feudsman. The knight is a moonshiner's son, and the heroine
a beautiful girl perversely christened "The Blight." Two impetuous young
Southerners' fall under the spell of "The Blight's" charms and she learns
what a large part jealousy and pistols have in the love making of the
mountaineers.

Included in this volume is "Hell fer-Sartain" and other stories, some of
Mr. Fox's most entertaining Cumberland valley narratives.


_Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York



STORIES OF RARE CHARM BY GENE STRATTON-PORTER

May be had wherever books are sold.  Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list.


THE HARVESTER

Illustrated by W. L. Jacobs

[Illustration]

"The Harvester," David Langston, is a man of the woods and fields, who
draws his living from the prodigal hand of Mother Nature herself. If the
book had nothing in it but the splendid figure of this man, with his sure
grip on life, his superb optimism, and his almost miraculous knowledge of
nature secrets, it would be notable. But when the Girl comes to his
"Medicine Woods," and the Harvester's whole sound, healthy, large outdoor
being realizes that this is the highest point of life which has come to
him--there begins a romance, troubled and interrupted, yet of the rarest
idyllic quality.


FRECKLES.

Decorations by E. Stetson Crawford

Freckles is a nameless waif when the tale opens, but the way in which he
takes hold of life; the nature friendships he forms in the great
Limberlost Swamp; the manner in which everyone who meets him succumbs to
the charm of his engaging personality; and his love-story with "The Angel"
are full of real sentiment.


A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST.

Illustrated by Wladyslaw T. Brenda.

The story of a girl of the Michigan woods; a buoyant, lovable type of the
self-reliant American. Her philosophy is one of love and kindness towards
all things; her hope is never dimmed. And by the sheer beauty of her soul,
and the purity of her vision, she wins from barren and unpromising
surroundings those rewards of high courage.

It is an inspiring story of a life worth while and the rich beauties of
the out-of-doors are strewn through all its pages.


AT THE FOOT OF THE RAINBOW.

Illustrations in colors by Oliver Kemp. Design and decorations by Ralph
Fletcher Seymour.

The scene of this charming, idyllic love story is laid in Central Indiana.
The story is one of devoted friendship, and tender self-sacrificing love;
the friendship that gives freely without return, and the love that seeks
first the happiness of the object. The novel is brimful of the most
beautiful word painting of nature, and its pathos and tender sentiment
will endear it to all.


_Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York



MYRTLE REED'S NOVELS

May be had wherever books are sold.  Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list


LAVENDER AND OLD LACE.

[Illustration]

A charming story of a quaint corner of New England where bygone romance
finds a modern parallel. The story centers round the coming of love to the
young people on the staff of a newspaper--and it is one of the prettiest,
sweetest and quaintest of old fashioned love stories, * * * a rare book,
exquisite in spirit and conception, full of delicate fancy, of tenderness,
of delightful humor and spontaneity.


A SPINNER IN THE SUN.

Miss Myrtle Reed may always be depended upon to write a story in which
poetry, charm, tenderness and humor are combined into a clever and
entertaining book. Her characters are delightful and she always displays a
quaint humor of expression and a quiet feeling of pathos which give a
touch of active realism to all her writings. In "A Spinner in the Sun" she
tells an old-fashioned love story, of a veiled lady who lives in solitude
and whose features her neighbors have never seen. There is a mystery at
the heart of the book that throws over it the glamour of romance.


THE MASTER'S VIOLIN.

A love story in a musical atmosphere. A picturesque, old German virtuoso
is the reverent possessor of a genuine "Cremona." He consents to take for
his pupil a handsome youth who proves to have an aptitude for technique,
but not the soul of an artist. The youth has led the happy, careless life
of a modern, well-to-do young American and he cannot, with his meagre
past, express the love, the passion and the tragedies of life and all its
happy phases as can the master who has lived life in all its fulness. But
a girl comes into his life--a beautiful bit of human driftwood that his
aunt had taken into her heart and home, and through his passionate love
for her, he learns the lessons that life has to give--and his soul awakes.

Founded on a fact that all artists realize.


_Ask for a complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York



GROSSET & DUNLAP'S

DRAMATIZED NOVELS

THE KIND THAT ARE MAKING THEATRICAL HISTORY

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list


WITHIN THE LAW. By Bayard Veiller & Marvin Dana.

Illustrated by Wm. Charles Cooke.

This is a novelization of the immensely successful play which ran for two
years in New York and Chicago.

The plot of this powerful novel is of a young woman's revenge directed
against her employer who allowed her to be sent to prison for three years
on a charge of theft, of which she was innocent.


WHAT HAPPENED TO MARY. By Robert Carlton Brown.

Illustrated with scenes from the play.

This is a narrative of a young and innocent country girl who is suddenly
thrown into the very heart of New York, "the land of her dreams," where
she is exposed to all sorts of temptations and dangers.

The story of Mary is being told in moving pictures and played in theatres
all over the world.


THE RETURN OF PETER GRIMM. By David Belasco.

Illustrated by John Rae.

This is a novelization of the popular play in which David Warfield, as Old
Peter Grimm, scored such a remarkable success.

The story is spectacular and extremely pathetic but withal powerful, both
as a book and as a play.


THE GARDEN OF ALLAH. By Robert Hichens.

This novel is an intense, glowing epic of the great desert, sunlit
barbaric, with its marvelous atmosphere of vastness and loneliness.

It is a book of rapturous beauty, vivid in word painting. The play has
been staged with magnificent cast and gorgeous properties.


BEN HUR. A Tale of the Christ. By General Lew Wallace.

The whole world has placed this famous Religious-Historical Romance on a
height of pre-eminence which no other novel of its time has reached. The
clashing of rivalry and the deepest human passions, the perfect
reproduction of brilliant Roman life, and the tense, fierce atmosphere of
the arena have kept their deep fascination. A tremendous dramatic success.


BOUGHT AND PAID FOR. By George Broadhurst and Arthur Hornblow.

Illustrated with scenes from the play.

A stupendous arraignment of modern marriage which has created an interest
on the stage that is almost unparalleled. The scenes are laid in New York,
and deal with conditions among both the rich and poor.

The interest of the story turns on the day-by-day developments which show
the young wife the price she has paid.


_Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_


Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York



GROSSET & DUNLAP'S

DRAMATIZED NOVELS

Original, sincere and courageous--often amusing--the kind that are making
theatrical history.


MADAME X. By Alexandre Bisson and J. W. McConaughy.

Illustrated with scenes from the play.

A beautiful Parisienne became an outcast because her husband would not
forgive an error of her youth. Her love for her son is the great final
influence in her career. A tremendous dramatic success.


THE GARDEN OF ALLAH. By Robert Hichens.

An unconventional English woman and an inscrutable stranger meet and love
in an oasis of the Sahara. Staged this season with magnificent cast and
gorgeous properties.


THE PRINCE OF INDIA. By Lew. Wallace.

A glowing romance of the Byzantine Empire, presenting with extraordinary
power the siege of Constantinople, and lighting its tragedy with the warm
underglow of an Oriental romance. As a play it is a great dramatic
spectacle.


TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY. By Grace Miller White.

Illust. by Howard Chandler Christy.

A girl from the dregs of society, loves a young Cornell University
student, and it works startling changes in her life and the lives of those
about her. The dramatic version is one of the sensations of the season.


YOUNG WALLINGFORD. By George Randolph Chester.

Illust. by F. R. Gruger and Henry Raleigh.

A series of clever swindles conducted by a cheerful young man, each of
which is just on the safe side of a State's prison offence. As
"Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford," it is probably the most amusing expose of
money manipulation ever seen on the stage.


THE INTRUSION OF JIMMY. By P. G. Wodehouse.

Illustrations by Will Grefe.

Social and club life in London and New York, an amateur burglary adventure
and a love story. Dramatized under the title of "A Gentleman of Leisure,"
it furnishes hours of laughter to the play-goers.


Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St, New York



A FEW OF

GROSSET & DUNLAP'S

Great Books at Little Prices

NEW, CLEVER, ENTERTAINING.


GRET: The Story of a Pagan. By Beatrice Mantle.

Illustrated by C. M. Relyea.

The wild free life of an Oregon lumber camp furnishes the setting for this
strong original story. Gret is the daughter of the camp and is utterly
content with the wild life--until love comes. A fine book, unmarred by
convention.


OLD CHESTER TALES. By Margaret Deland.

Illustrated by Howard Pyle.

A vivid yet delicate portrayal of characters in an old New England town.

Dr. Lavendar's fine, kindly wisdom is brought to bear upon the lives of
all, permeating the whole volume like the pungent odor of pine, healthful
and life giving. "Old Chester Tales" will surely be among the books that
abide.


THE MEMOIRS OF A BABY. By Josephine Daskam.

Illustrated by F. Y. Cory.

The dawning intelligence of the baby was grappled with by its great aunt,
an elderly maiden, whose book knowledge of babies was something at which
even the infant himself winked. A delicious bit of humor.


REBECCA MARY. By Annie Hamilton Donnell.

Illustrated by Elizabeth Shippen Green.

The heart tragedies of this little girl with no one near to share them,
are told with a delicate art, a keen appreciation of the needs of the
childish heart and a humorous knowledge of the workings of the childish
mind.


THE FLY ON THE WHEEL. By Katherine Cecil Thurston.

Frontispiece by Harrison Fisher.

An Irish story of real power, perfect in development and showing a true
conception of the spirited Hibernian character as displayed in the tragic
as well as the tender phases of life.


THE MAN FROM BRODNEY'S. By George Barr McCutcheon.

Illustrated by Harrison Fisher.

An island in the South Sea is the setting for this entertaining tale, and
an all-conquering hero and a beautiful princess figure in a most
complicated plot. One of Mr. McCutcheon's best books.


TOLD BY UNCLE REMUS. By Joel Chandler Harris.

Illustrated by A. B. Frost, J. M. Conde and Frank Verbeck.

Again Uncle Remus enters the fields of childhood, and leads another little
boy to that non-locatable land called "Brer Rabbit's Laughing Place," and
again the quaint animals spring into active life and play their parts, for
the edification of a small but appreciative audience.


THE CLIMBER. By E. F. Benson.

With frontispiece.

An unsparing analysis of an ambitious woman's soul--a woman who believed
that in social supremacy she would find happiness, and who finds instead
the utter despair of one who has chosen the things that pass away.


LYNCH'S DAUGHTER. By Leonard Merrick.

Illustrated by Geo. Brehm.

A story of to-day, telling how a rich girl acquires ideals of beautiful
and simple living, and of men and love, quite apart from the teachings of
her father, "Old Man Lynch" of Wall St. True to life, clever in treatment.


Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York



A FEW OF

GROSSET & DUNLAP'S

Great Books at Little Prices


THE MUSIC MASTER. By Charles Klein.

Illustrated by John Rae.

This marvelously vivid narrative turns upon the search of a German
musician in New York for his little daughter. Mr. Klein has well portrayed
his pathetic struggle with poverty, his varied experiences in endeavoring
to meet the demands of a public not trained to an appreciation of the
classic, and his final great hour when, in the rapidly shifting events of
a big city, his little daughter, now a beautiful young woman, is brought
to his very door. A superb bit of fiction, palpitating with the life of
the great metropolis. The play in which David Warfield scored his highest
success.


DR. LAVENDAR'S PEOPLE. By Margaret Deland.

Illustrated by Lucius Hitchcock.

Mrs. Deland won so many friends through Old Chester Tales that this volume
needs no introduction beyond its title. The lovable doctor is more ripened
in this later book, and the simple comedies and tragedies of the old
village are told with dramatic charm.


OLD CHESTER TALES. By Margaret Deland.

Illustrated by Howard Pyle.

Stories portraying with delightful humor and pathos a quaint people in a
sleepy old town. Dr. Lavendar, a very human and lovable "preacher," is the
connecting link between these dramatic stories from life.


HE FELL IN LOVE WITH HIS WIFE. By E. P. Roe.

With frontispiece.

The hero is a farmer--a man with honest, sincere views of life. Bereft of
his wife, his home is cared for by a succession of domestics of varying
degrees of inefficiency until, from a most unpromising source, comes a
young woman who not only becomes his wife but commands his respect and
eventually wins his love. A bright and delicate romance, revealing on both
sides a love that surmounts all difficulties and survives the censure of
friends as well as the bitterness of enemies.


THE YOKE. By Elizabeth Miller.

Against the historical background of the days when the children of Israel
were delivered from the bondage of Egypt, the author has sketched a
romance of compelling charm. A biblical novel as great as any since "Ben
Hur."


SAUL OF TARSUS. By Elizabeth Miller.

Illustrated by André Castaigne.

The scenes of this story are laid in Jerusalem, Alexandria, Rome and
Damascus. The Apostle Paul, the Martyr Stephen, Herod Agrippa and the
Emperors Tiberius and Caligula are among the mighty figures that move
through the pages. Wonderful descriptions, and a love story of the purest
and noblest type mark this most remarkable religious romance.

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York



B. M. Bower's Novels

Thrilling Western Romances

Large 12 mos. Handsomely bound in cloth. Illustrated.


CHIP, OF THE FLYING U

A breezy wholesome tale, wherein the love affairs of Chip and Delia
Whitman are charmingly and humorously told. Chip's jealousy of Dr. Cecil
Grantham, who turns out to be a big, blue eyed young woman is very
amusing. A clever, realistic story of the American Cow-puncher.


THE HAPPY FAMILY

A lively and amusing story, dealing with the adventures of eighteen
jovial, big hearted Montana cowboys. Foremost amongst them, we find
Ananias Green, known as Andy, whose imaginative powers cause many lively
and exciting adventures.


HER PRAIRIE KNIGHT

A realistic story of the plains, describing a gay party of Easterners who
exchange a cottage at Newport for the rough homeliness of a Montana
ranch-house. The merry-hearted cowboys, the fascinating Beatrice, and the
effusive Sir Redmond, become living, breathing personalities.


THE RANGE DWELLERS

Here are everyday, genuine cowboys, just as they really exist. Spirited
action, a range feud between two families, and a Romeo and Juliet
courtship make this a bright, jolly, entertaining story, without a dull
page.


THE LURE OF DIM TRAILS

A vivid portrayal of the experience of an Eastern author, among the
cowboys of the West, in search of "local color" for a new novel. "Bud"
Thurston learns many a lesson while following "the lure of the dim trails"
but the hardest, and probably the most welcome, is that of love.


THE LONESOME TRAIL

"Weary" Davidson leaves the ranch for Portland, where conventional city
life palls on him. A little branch of sage brush, pungent with the
atmosphere of the prairie, and the recollection of a pair of large brown
eyes soon compel his return. A wholesome love story.


THE LONG SHADOW

A vigorous Western story, sparkling with the free, outdoor, life of a
mountain ranch. Its scenes shift rapidly and its actors play the game of
life fearlessly and like men. It is a fine love story from start to
finish.


Ask for a complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction.

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York



LOUIS TRACY'S

CAPTIVATING AND EXHILARATING ROMANCES

May be had wherever books are sold.  Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list


CYNTHIA'S CHAUFFEUR.

Illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy.

A pretty American girl in London is touring in a car with a chauffeur
whose identity puzzles her. An amusing mystery.


THE STOWAWAY GIRL.

Illustrated by Nesbitt Benson.

A shipwreck, a lovely girl stowaway, a rascally captain, a fascinating
officer, and thrilling adventures in South Seas.


THE CAPTAIN OF THE KANSAS.

Love and the salt sea, a helpless ship whirled into the hands of
cannibals, desperate fighting and a tender romance.


THE MESSAGE.

Illustrated by Joseph Cummings Chase.

A bit of parchment found in the figurehead of an old vessel tells of a
buried treasure. A thrilling mystery develops.


THE PILLAR OF LIGHT.

The pillar thus designated was a lighthouse, and the author tells with
exciting detail the terrible dilemma of its cut-off inhabitants.


THE WHEEL O'FORTUNE.

With illustrations by James Montgomery Flagg.

The story deals with the finding of a papyrus containing the particulars
of some of the treasures of the Queen of Sheba.


A SON OF THE IMMORTALS.

Illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy.

A young American is proclaimed king of a little Balkan Kingdom, and a
pretty Parisian art student is the power behind the throne.


THE WINGS OF THE MORNING.

A sort of Robinson Crusoe _redivivus_ with modern settings and a very
pretty love story added. The hero and heroine, are the only survivors of a
wreck, and have many thrilling adventures on their desert island.


_Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_


Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York



STORIES OF WESTERN LIFE

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list


RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE, By Zane Grey.

Illustrated by Douglas Duer.

In this picturesque romance of Utah of some forty years ago, we are
permitted to see the unscrupulous methods employed by the invisible hand
of the Mormon Church to break the will of those refusing to conform to its
rule.


FRIAR TUCK, By Robert Alexander Wason.

Illustrated by Stanley L. Wood.

Happy Hawkins tells us, in his humorous way, how Friar Tuck lived among
the Cowboys, how he adjusted their quarrels and love affairs and how he
fought with them and for them when occasion required.


THE SKY PILOT, By Ralph Connor.

Illustrated by Louis Rhead.

There is no novel, dealing with the rough existence of cowboys, so
charming in the telling, abounding as it does with the freshest and the
truest pathos.


THE EMIGRANT TRAIL, By Geraldine Bonner.

Colored frontispiece by John Rae.

The book relates the adventures of a party on its overland pilgrimage, and
the birth and growth of the absorbing love of two strong men for a
charming heroine.


THE BOSS OF WIND RIVER, By A. M. Chisholm.

Illustrated by Frank Tenney Johnson.

This is a strong, virile novel with the lumber industry for its central
theme and a love story full of interest as a sort of subplot.


A PRAIRIE COURTSHIP, By Harold Bindloss.

A story of Canadian prairies in which the hero is stirred, through the
influence of his love for a woman, to settle down to the heroic business
of pioneer farming.


JOYCE OF THE NORTH WOODS, By Harriet T. Comstock.

Illustrated by John Cassel.

A story of the deep woods that shows the power of love at work among its
primitive dwellers. It is a tensely moving study of the human heart and
its aspirations that unfolds itself through thrilling situations and
dramatic developments.


_Ask for a complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_


Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York



CHARMING BOOKS FOR GIRLS

May be had wherever books are sold.  Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list


WHEN PATTY WENT TO COLLEGE, By Jean Webster.

Illustrated by C. D. Williams.

One of the best stories of life in a girl's college that has ever been
written. It is bright, whimsical and entertaining, lifelike, laughable and
thoroughly human.


JUST PATTY, By Jean Webster.

Illustrated by C. M. Relyea.

Patty is full of the joy of living, fun-loving, given to ingenious
mischief for its own sake, with a disregard for pretty convention which is
an unfailing source of joy to her fellows.


THE POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL, By Eleanor Gates.

With four full page illustrations.

This story relates the experience of one of those unfortunate children
whose early days are passed in the companionship of a governess, seldom
seeing either parent, and famishing for natural love and tenderness. A
charming play as dramatized by the author.


REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM, By Kate Douglas Wiggin.

One of the most beautiful studies of childhood--Rebecca's artistic,
unusual and quaintly charming qualities stand out midst a circle of
austere New Englanders. The stage version is making a phenomenal dramatic
record.


NEW CHRONICLES OF REBECCA, By Kate Douglas Wiggin.

Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

Additional episodes in the girlhood of this delightful heroine that carry
Rebecca through various stages to her eighteenth birthday.


REBECCA MARY, By Annie Hamilton Donnell.

Illustrated by Elizabeth Shippen Green.

This author possesses the rare gift of portraying all the grotesque little
joys and sorrows and scruples of this very small girl with a pathos that
is peculiarly genuine and appealing.


EMMY LOU: Her Book and Heart, By George Madden Martin.

Illustrated by Charles Louis Hinton.

Emmy Lou is irresistibly lovable, because she is so absolutely real. She
is just a bewitchingly innocent, huggable little Maid. The book is
wonderfully human.


_Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York



THE NOVELS OF IRVING BACHELLER

Full of the real atmosphere of American home life.


THE HAND-MADE GENTLEMAN.

With a double-page frontispiece.

The son of a wash-woman begins re-making himself socially and imparts his
system to his numerous friends. A story of rural New York with an
appreciation of American types only possible from the pen of a humor
loving American.


DARREL OF THE BLESSED ISLES.

With illustrations by Arthur I. Keller.

A tale of the North Country. In Darrel, the clock tinker, wit, philosopher
and man of mystery, is portrayed a force held in fetters and covered with
obscurity, yet strong to make its way, and widely felt.


D'RI AND I: A Tale of Daring Deeds in the Second War with the British.

Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

"D'ri" was a mighty hunter, quaint, rugged, wise, truthful. He fights
magnificently on the Lawrence, and is a striking figure in this
enthusiastic romance of early America.


EBEN HOLDEN: A Tale of the North Country.

A story of the hardy wood-choppers of Vermont, who founded their homes in
the Adirondack wilderness. "Eben," the hero, is a bachelor with an
imagination that is a very wilderness of oddities.


SILAS STRONG: Emperor of the Woods.

A simple account of one summer life, as it was lived in a part of the
Adirondacks. Silas Strong is a woodland philosopher, and his camp is the
scene of an impressive little love story.


VERGILIUS: A Tale of the Coming of Christ.

A thrilling and beautiful story of two young Roman Patricians whose great
and perilous love in the reign of Augustus leads them through the
momentous, exciting events that marked the year just preceding the birth
of Christ.

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York

       *       *       *       *       *





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