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Title: Max Carrados
Author: Bramah, Ernest, 1869?-1942
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 "Max Carrados" ***

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  Ernest Bramah

  Methuen & Co., Ltd.




  THE COIN OF DIONYSIUS                      1





  THE TILLING SHAW MYSTERY                 187


  THE GAME PLAYED IN THE DARK              262



It was eight o'clock at night and raining, scarcely a time when a
business so limited in its clientele as that of a coin dealer could hope
to attract any customer, but a light was still showing in the small shop
that bore over its window the name of Baxter, and in the even smaller
office at the back the proprietor himself sat reading the latest _Pall
Mall_. His enterprise seemed to be justified, for presently the door
bell gave its announcement, and throwing down his paper Mr Baxter went

As a matter of fact the dealer had been expecting someone and his manner
as he passed into the shop was unmistakably suggestive of a caller of
importance. But at the first glance towards his visitor the excess of
deference melted out of his bearing, leaving the urbane, self-possessed
shopman in the presence of the casual customer.

"Mr Baxter, I think?" said the latter. He had laid aside his dripping
umbrella and was unbuttoning overcoat and coat to reach an inner pocket.
"You hardly remember me, I suppose? Mr Carlyle--two years ago I took up
a case for you----"

"To be sure. Mr Carlyle, the private detective----"

"Inquiry agent," corrected Mr Carlyle precisely.

"Well," smiled Mr Baxter, "for that matter I am a coin dealer and not an
antiquarian or a numismatist. Is there anything in that way that I can
do for you?"

"Yes," replied his visitor; "it is my turn to consult you." He had taken
a small wash-leather bag from the inner pocket and now turned something
carefully out upon the counter. "What can you tell me about that?"

The dealer gave the coin a moment's scrutiny.

"There is no question about this," he replied. "It is a Sicilian
tetradrachm of Dionysius."

"Yes, I know that--I have it on the label out of the cabinet. I can tell
you further that it's supposed to be one that Lord Seastoke gave two
hundred and fifty pounds for at the Brice sale in '94."

"It seems to me that you can tell me more about it than I can tell you,"
remarked Mr Baxter. "What is it that you really want to know?"

"I want to know," replied Mr Carlyle, "whether it is genuine or not."

"Has any doubt been cast upon it?"

"Certain circumstances raised a suspicion--that is all."

The dealer took another look at the tetradrachm through his magnifying
glass, holding it by the edge with the careful touch of an expert. Then
he shook his head slowly in a confession of ignorance.

"Of course I could make a guess----"

"No, don't," interrupted Mr Carlyle hastily. "An arrest hangs on it and
nothing short of certainty is any good to me."

"Is that so, Mr Carlyle?" said Mr Baxter, with increased interest.
"Well, to be quite candid, the thing is out of my line. Now if it was a
rare Saxon penny or a doubtful noble I'd stake my reputation on my
opinion, but I do very little in the classical series."

Mr Carlyle did not attempt to conceal his disappointment as he returned
the coin to the bag and replaced the bag in the inner pocket.

"I had been relying on you," he grumbled reproachfully. "Where on earth
am I to go now?"

"There is always the British Museum."

"Ah, to be sure, thanks. But will anyone who can tell me be there now?"

"Now? No fear!" replied Mr Baxter. "Go round in the morning----"

"But I must know to-night," explained the visitor, reduced to despair
again. "To-morrow will be too late for the purpose."

Mr Baxter did not hold out much encouragement in the circumstances.

"You can scarcely expect to find anyone at business now," he remarked.
"I should have been gone these two hours myself only I happened to have
an appointment with an American millionaire who fixed his own time."
Something indistinguishable from a wink slid off Mr Baxter's right eye.
"Offmunson he's called, and a bright young pedigree-hunter has traced
his descent from Offa, King of Mercia. So he--quite naturally--wants a
set of Offas as a sort of collateral proof."

"Very interesting," murmured Mr Carlyle, fidgeting with his watch. "I
should love an hour's chat with you about your millionaire
customers--some other time. Just now--look here, Baxter, can't you give
me a line of introduction to some dealer in this sort of thing who
happens to live in town? You must know dozens of experts."

"Why, bless my soul, Mr Carlyle, I don't know a man of them away from
his business," said Mr Baxter, staring. "They may live in Park Lane or
they may live in Petticoat Lane for all I know. Besides, there aren't so
many experts as you seem to imagine. And the two best will very likely
quarrel over it. You've had to do with 'expert witnesses,' I suppose?"

"I don't want a witness; there will be no need to give evidence. All I
want is an absolutely authoritative pronouncement that I can act on. Is
there no one who can really say whether the thing is genuine or not?"

Mr Baxter's meaning silence became cynical in its implication as he
continued to look at his visitor across the counter. Then he relaxed.

"Stay a bit; there is a man--an amateur--I remember hearing wonderful
things about some time ago. They say he really does know."

"There you are," exclaimed Mr Carlyle, much relieved. "There always is
someone. Who is he?"

"Funny name," replied Baxter. "Something Wynn or Wynn something." He
craned his neck to catch sight of an important motor car that was
drawing to the kerb before his window. "Wynn Carrados! You'll excuse me
now, Mr Carlyle, won't you? This looks like Mr Offmunson."

Mr Carlyle hastily scribbled the name down on his cuff.

"Wynn Carrados, right. Where does he live?"

"Haven't the remotest idea," replied Baxter, referring the arrangement
of his tie to the judgment of the wall mirror. "I have never seen the
man myself. Now, Mr Carlyle, I'm sorry I can't do any more for you. You
won't mind, will you?"

Mr Carlyle could not pretend to misunderstand. He enjoyed the
distinction of holding open the door for the transatlantic
representative of the line of Offa as he went out, and then made his way
through the muddy streets back to his office. There was only one way of
tracing a private individual at such short notice--through the pages of
the directories, and the gentleman did not flatter himself by a very
high estimate of his chances.

Fortune favoured him, however. He very soon discovered a Wynn Carrados
living at Richmond, and, better still, further search failed to unearth
another. There was, apparently, only one householder at all events of
that name in the neighbourhood of London. He jotted down the address and
set out for Richmond.

The house was some distance from the station, Mr Carlyle learned. He
took a taxicab and drove, dismissing the vehicle at the gate. He prided
himself on his power of observation and the accuracy of the deductions
which resulted from it--a detail of his business. "It's nothing more
than using one's eyes and putting two and two together," he would
modestly declare, when he wished to be deprecatory rather than
impressive, and by the time he had reached the front door of "The
Turrets" he had formed some opinion of the position and tastes of the
man who lived there.

A man-servant admitted Mr Carlyle and took in his card--his private card
with the bare request for an interview that would not detain Mr Carrados
for ten minutes. Luck still favoured him; Mr Carrados was at home and
would see him at once. The servant, the hall through which they passed,
and the room into which he was shown, all contributed something to the
deductions which the quietly observant gentleman was half unconsciously

"Mr Carlyle," announced the servant.

The room was a library or study. The only occupant, a man of about
Carlyle's own age, had been using a typewriter up to the moment of his
visitor's entrance. He now turned and stood up with an expression of
formal courtesy.

"It's very good of you to see me at this hour," apologized the caller.

The conventional expression of Mr Carrados's face changed a little.

"Surely my man has got your name wrong?" he exclaimed. "Isn't it Louis

The visitor stopped short and his agreeable smile gave place to a sudden
flash of anger or annoyance.

"No, sir," he replied stiffly. "My name is on the card which you have
before you."

"I beg your pardon," said Mr Carrados, with perfect good-humour. "I
hadn't seen it. But I used to know a Calling some years ago--at St

"St Michael's!" Mr Carlyle's features underwent another change, no less
instant and sweeping than before. "St Michael's! Wynn Carrados? Good
heavens! it isn't Max Wynn--old 'Winning' Wynn?"

"A little older and a little fatter--yes," replied Carrados. "I _have_
changed my name, you see."

"Extraordinary thing meeting like this," said his visitor, dropping into
a chair and staring hard at Mr Carrados. "I have changed more than my
name. How did you recognize me?"

"The voice," replied Carrados. "It took me back to that little
smoke-dried attic den of yours where we----"

"My God!" exclaimed Carlyle bitterly, "don't remind me of what we were
going to do in those days." He looked round the well-furnished, handsome
room and recalled the other signs of wealth that he had noticed. "At all
events, you seem fairly comfortable, Wynn."

"I am alternately envied and pitied," replied Carrados, with a placid
tolerance of circumstance that seemed characteristic of him. "Still, as
you say, I am fairly comfortable."

"Envied, I can understand. But why are you pitied?"

"Because I am blind," was the tranquil reply.

"Blind!" exclaimed Mr Carlyle, using his own eyes superlatively. "Do you
mean--literally blind?"

"Literally.... I was riding along a bridle-path through a wood about a
dozen years ago with a friend. He was in front. At one point a twig
sprang back--you know how easily a thing like that happens. It just
flicked my eye--nothing to think twice about."

"And that blinded you?"

"Yes, ultimately. It's called amaurosis."

"I can scarcely believe it. You seem so sure and self-reliant. Your eyes
are full of expression--only a little quieter than they used to be. I
believe you were typing when I came.... Aren't you having me?"

"You miss the dog and the stick?" smiled Carrados. "No; it's a fact."

"What an awful infliction for you, Max. You were always such an
impulsive, reckless sort of fellow--never quiet. You must miss such a
fearful lot."

"Has anyone else recognized you?" asked Carrados quietly.

"Ah, that was the voice, you said," replied Carlyle.

"Yes; but other people heard the voice as well. Only I had no
blundering, self-confident eyes to be hoodwinked."

"That's a rum way of putting it," said Carlyle. "Are your ears never
hoodwinked, may I ask?"

"Not now. Nor my fingers. Nor any of my other senses that have to look
out for themselves."

"Well, well," murmured Mr Carlyle, cut short in his sympathetic
emotions. "I'm glad you take it so well. Of course, if you find it an
advantage to be blind, old man----" He stopped and reddened. "I beg your
pardon," he concluded stiffly.

"Not an advantage perhaps," replied the other thoughtfully. "Still it
has compensations that one might not think of. A new world to explore,
new experiences, new powers awakening; strange new perceptions; life in
the fourth dimension. But why do you beg my pardon, Louis?"

"I am an ex-solicitor, struck off in connexion with the falsifying of a
trust account, Mr Carrados," replied Carlyle, rising.

"Sit down, Louis," said Carrados suavely. His face, even his incredibly
living eyes, beamed placid good-nature. "The chair on which you will
sit, the roof above you, all the comfortable surroundings to which you
have so amiably alluded, are the direct result of falsifying a trust
account. But do I call you 'Mr Carlyle' in consequence? Certainly not,

"I did not falsify the account," cried Carlyle hotly. He sat down,
however, and added more quietly: "But why do I tell you all this? I have
never spoken of it before."

"Blindness invites confidence," replied Carrados. "We are out of the
running--human rivalry ceases to exist. Besides, why shouldn't you? In
my case the account _was_ falsified."

"Of course that's all bunkum, Max," commented Carlyle. "Still, I
appreciate your motive."

"Practically everything I possess was left to me by an American cousin,
on the condition that I took the name of Carrados. He made his fortune
by an ingenious conspiracy of doctoring the crop reports and unloading
favourably in consequence. And I need hardly remind you that the
receiver is equally guilty with the thief."

"But twice as safe. I know something of that, Max.... Have you any idea
what my business is?"

"You shall tell me," replied Carrados.

"I run a private inquiry agency. When I lost my profession I had to do
something for a living. This occurred. I dropped my name, changed my
appearance and opened an office. I knew the legal side down to the
ground and I got a retired Scotland Yard man to organize the outside

"Excellent!" cried Carrados. "Do you unearth many murders?"

"No," admitted Mr Carlyle; "our business lies mostly on the conventional
lines among divorce and defalcation."

"That's a pity," remarked Carrados. "Do you know, Louis, I always had a
secret ambition to be a detective myself. I have even thought lately
that I might still be able to do something at it if the chance came my
way. That makes you smile?"

"Well, certainly, the idea----"

"Yes, the idea of a blind detective--the blind tracking the alert----"

"Of course, as you say, certain faculties are no doubt quickened," Mr
Carlyle hastened to add considerately, "but, seriously, with the
exception of an artist, I don't suppose there is any man who is more
utterly dependent on his eyes."

Whatever opinion Carrados might have held privately, his genial exterior
did not betray a shadow of dissent. For a full minute he continued to
smoke as though he derived an actual visual enjoyment from the blue
sprays that travelled and dispersed across the room. He had already
placed before his visitor a box containing cigars of a brand which that
gentleman keenly appreciated but generally regarded as unattainable, and
the matter-of-fact ease and certainty with which the blind man had
brought the box and put it before him had sent a questioning flicker
through Carlyle's mind.

"You used to be rather fond of art yourself, Louis," he remarked
presently. "Give me your opinion of my latest purchase--the bronze lion
on the cabinet there." Then, as Carlyle's gaze went about the room, he
added quickly: "No, not that cabinet--the one on your left."

Carlyle shot a sharp glance at his host as he got up, but Carrados's
expression was merely benignly complacent. Then he strolled across to
the figure.

"Very nice," he admitted. "Late Flemish, isn't it?"

"No. It is a copy of Vidal's 'Roaring lion.'"


"A French artist." The voice became indescribably flat. "He, also, had
the misfortune to be blind, by the way."

"You old humbug, Max!" shrieked Carlyle, "you've been thinking that out
for the last five minutes." Then the unfortunate man bit his lip and
turned his back towards his host.

"Do you remember how we used to pile it up on that obtuse ass Sanders
and then roast him?" asked Carrados, ignoring the half-smothered
exclamation with which the other man had recalled himself.

"Yes," replied Carlyle quietly. "This is very good," he continued,
addressing himself to the bronze again. "How ever did he do it?"

"With his hands."

"Naturally. But, I mean, how did he study his model?"

"Also with his hands. He called it 'seeing near.'"

"Even with a lion--handled it?"

"In such cases he required the services of a keeper, who brought the
animal to bay while Vidal exercised his own particular gifts.... You
don't feel inclined to put me on the track of a mystery, Louis?"

Unable to regard this request as anything but one of old Max's
unquenchable pleasantries, Mr Carlyle was on the point of making a
suitable reply when a sudden thought caused him to smile knowingly. Up
to that point he had, indeed, completely forgotten the object of his
visit. Now that he remembered the doubtful Dionysius and Mr Baxter's
recommendation he immediately assumed that some mistake had been made.
Either Max was not the Wynn Carrados he had been seeking or else the
dealer had been misinformed; for although his host was wonderfully
expert in the face of his misfortune, it was inconceivable that he could
decide the genuineness of a coin without seeing it. The opportunity
seemed a good one of getting even with Carrados by taking him at his

"Yes," he accordingly replied, with crisp deliberation, as he recrossed
the room; "yes, I will, Max. Here is the clue to what seems to be a
rather remarkable fraud." He put the tetradrachm into his host's hand.
"What do you make of it?"

For a few seconds Carrados handled the piece with the delicate
manipulation of his finger-tips while Carlyle looked on with a
self-appreciative grin. Then with equal gravity the blind man weighed
the coin in the balance of his hand. Finally he touched it with his

"Well?" demanded the other.

"Of course I have not much to go on, and if I was more fully in your
confidence I might come to another conclusion----"

"Yes, yes," interposed Carlyle, with amused encouragement.

"Then I should advise you to arrest the parlourmaid, Nina Brun,
communicate with the police authorities of Padua for particulars of the
career of Helene Brunesi, and suggest to Lord Seastoke that he should
return to London to see what further depredations have been made in his

Mr Carlyle's groping hand sought and found a chair, on to which he
dropped blankly. His eyes were unable to detach themselves for a single
moment from the very ordinary spectacle of Mr Carrados's mildly
benevolent face, while the sterilized ghost of his now forgotten
amusement still lingered about his features.

"Good heavens!" he managed to articulate, "how do you know?"

"Isn't that what you wanted of me?" asked Carrados suavely.

"Don't humbug, Max," said Carlyle severely. "This is no joke." An
undefined mistrust of his own powers suddenly possessed him in the
presence of this mystery. "How do you come to know of Nina Brun and Lord

"You are a detective, Louis," replied Carrados. "How does one know these
things? By using one's eyes and putting two and two together."

Carlyle groaned and flung out an arm petulantly.

"Is it all bunkum, Max? Do you really see all the time--though that
doesn't go very far towards explaining it."

"Like Vidal, I see very well--at close quarters," replied Carrados,
lightly running a forefinger along the inscription on the tetradrachm.
"For longer range I keep another pair of eyes. Would you like to test

Mr Carlyle's assent was not very gracious; it was, in fact, faintly
sulky. He was suffering the annoyance of feeling distinctly unimpressive
in his own department; but he was also curious.

"The bell is just behind you, if you don't mind," said his host.
"Parkinson will appear. You might take note of him while he is in."

The man who had admitted Mr Carlyle proved to be Parkinson.

"This gentleman is Mr Carlyle, Parkinson," explained Carrados the moment
the man entered. "You will remember him for the future?"

Parkinson's apologetic eye swept the visitor from head to foot, but so
lightly and swiftly that it conveyed to that gentleman the comparison
of being very deftly dusted.

"I will endeavour to do so, sir," replied Parkinson, turning again to
his master.

"I shall be at home to Mr Carlyle whenever he calls. That is all."

"Very well, sir."

"Now, Louis," remarked Mr Carrados briskly, when the door had closed
again, "you have had a good opportunity of studying Parkinson. What is
he like?"

"In what way?"

"I mean as a matter of description. I am a blind man--I haven't seen my
servant for twelve years--what idea can you give me of him? I asked you
to notice."

"I know you did, but your Parkinson is the sort of man who has very
little about him to describe. He is the embodiment of the ordinary. His
height is about average----"

"Five feet nine," murmured Carrados. "Slightly above the mean."

"Scarcely noticeably so. Clean-shaven. Medium brown hair. No
particularly marked features. Dark eyes. Good teeth."

"False," interposed Carrados. "The teeth--not the statement."

"Possibly," admitted Mr Carlyle. "I am not a dental expert and I had no
opportunity of examining Mr Parkinson's mouth in detail. But what is
the drift of all this?"

"His clothes?"

"Oh, just the ordinary evening dress of a valet. There is not much room
for variety in that."

"You noticed, in fact, nothing special by which Parkinson could be

"Well, he wore an unusually broad gold ring on the little finger of the
left hand."

"But that is removable. And yet Parkinson has an ineradicable mole--a
small one, I admit--on his chin. And you a human sleuth-hound. Oh,

"At all events," retorted Carlyle, writhing a little under this
good-humoured satire, although it was easy enough to see in it
Carrados's affectionate intention--"at all events, I dare say I can give
as good a description of Parkinson as he can give of me."

"That is what we are going to test. Ring the bell again."


"Quite. I am trying my eyes against yours. If I can't give you fifty out
of a hundred I'll renounce my private detectorial ambition for ever."

"It isn't quite the same," objected Carlyle, but he rang the bell.

"Come in and close the door, Parkinson," said Carrados when the man
appeared. "Don't look at Mr Carlyle again--in fact, you had better stand
with your back towards him, he won't mind. Now describe to me his
appearance as you observed it."

Parkinson tendered his respectful apologies to Mr Carlyle for the
liberty he was compelled to take, by the deferential quality of his

"Mr Carlyle, sir, wears patent leather boots of about size seven and
very little used. There are five buttons, but on the left boot one
button--the third up--is missing, leaving loose threads and not the more
usual metal fastener. Mr Carlyle's trousers, sir, are of a dark
material, a dark grey line of about a quarter of an inch width on a
darker ground. The bottoms are turned permanently up and are, just now,
a little muddy, if I may say so."

"Very muddy," interposed Mr Carlyle generously. "It is a wet night,

"Yes, sir; very unpleasant weather. If you will allow me, sir, I will
brush you in the hall. The mud is dry now, I notice. Then, sir,"
continued Parkinson, reverting to the business in hand, "there are dark
green cashmere hose. A curb-pattern key-chain passes into the left-hand
trouser pocket."

From the visitor's nether garments the photographic-eyed Parkinson
proceeded to higher ground, and with increasing wonder Mr Carlyle
listened to the faithful catalogue of his possessions. His
fetter-and-link albert of gold and platinum was minutely described. His
spotted blue ascot, with its gentlemanly pearl scarfpin, was set forth,
and the fact that the buttonhole in the left lapel of his morning coat
showed signs of use was duly noted. What Parkinson saw he recorded but
he made no deductions. A handkerchief carried in the cuff of the right
sleeve was simply that to him and not an indication that Mr Carlyle was,
indeed, left-handed.

But a more delicate part of Parkinson's undertaking remained. He
approached it with a double cough.

"As regards Mr Carlyle's personal appearance; sir----"

"No, enough!" cried the gentleman concerned hastily. "I am more than
satisfied. You are a keen observer, Parkinson."

"I have trained myself to suit my master's requirements, sir," replied
the man. He looked towards Mr Carrados, received a nod and withdrew.

Mr Carlyle was the first to speak.

"That man of yours would be worth five pounds a week to me, Max," he
remarked thoughtfully. "But, of course----"

"I don't think that he would take it," replied Carrados, in a voice of
equally detached speculation. "He suits me very well. But you have the
chance of using his services--indirectly."

"You still mean that--seriously?"

"I notice in you a chronic disinclination to take me seriously, Louis.
It is really--to an Englishman--almost painful. Is there something
inherently comic about me or the atmosphere of The Turrets?"

"No, my friend," replied Mr Carlyle, "but there is something
essentially prosperous. That is what points to the improbable. Now what
is it?"

"It might be merely a whim, but it is more than that," replied Carrados.
"It is, well, partly vanity, partly _ennui_, partly"--certainly there
was something more nearly tragic in his voice than comic now--"partly

Mr Carlyle was too tactful to pursue the subject.

"Those are three tolerable motives," he acquiesced. "I'll do anything
you want, Max, on one condition."

"Agreed. And it is?"

"That you tell me how you knew so much of this affair." He tapped the
silver coin which lay on the table near them. "I am not easily
flabbergasted," he added.

"You won't believe that there is nothing to explain--that it was purely

"No," replied Carlyle tersely; "I won't."

"You are quite right. And yet the thing is very simple."

"They always are--when you know," soliloquized the other. "That's what
makes them so confoundedly difficult when you don't."

"Here is this one then. In Padua, which seems to be regaining its old
reputation as the birthplace of spurious antiques, by the way, there
lives an ingenious craftsman named Pietro Stelli. This simple soul, who
possesses a talent not inferior to that of Cavino at his best, has for
many years turned his hand to the not unprofitable occupation of
forging rare Greek and Roman coins. As a collector and student of
certain Greek colonials and a specialist in forgeries I have been
familiar with Stelli's workmanship for years. Latterly he seems to have
come under the influence of an international crook called--at the
moment--Dompierre, who soon saw a way of utilizing Stelli's genius on a
royal scale. Helene Brunesi, who in private life is--and really is, I
believe--Madame Dompierre, readily lent her services to the enterprise."

"Quite so," nodded Mr Carlyle, as his host paused.

"You see the whole sequence, of course?"

"Not exactly--not in detail," confessed Mr Carlyle.

"Dompierre's idea was to gain access to some of the most celebrated
cabinets of Europe and substitute Stelli's fabrications for the genuine
coins. The princely collection of rarities that he would thus amass
might be difficult to dispose of safely but I have no doubt that he had
matured his plans. Helene, in the person of Nina Bran, an Anglicised
French parlourmaid--a part which she fills to perfection--was to obtain
wax impressions of the most valuable pieces and to make the exchange
when the counterfeits reached her. In this way it was obviously hoped
that the fraud would not come to light until long after the real coins
had been sold, and I gather that she has already done her work
successfully in several houses. Then, impressed by her excellent
references and capable manner, my housekeeper engaged her, and for a few
weeks she went about her duties here. It was fatal to this detail of
the scheme, however, that I have the misfortune to be blind. I am told
that Helene has so innocently angelic a face as to disarm suspicion, but
I was incapable of being impressed and that good material was thrown
away. But one morning my material fingers--which, of course, knew
nothing of Helene's angelic face--discovered an unfamiliar touch about
the surface of my favourite Euclideas, and, although there was doubtless
nothing to be seen, my critical sense of smell reported that wax had
been recently pressed against it. I began to make discreet inquiries and
in the meantime my cabinets went to the local bank for safety. Helene
countered by receiving a telegram from Angiers, calling her to the
death-bed of her aged mother. The aged mother succumbed; duty compelled
Helene to remain at the side of her stricken patriarchal father, and
doubtless The Turrets was written off the syndicate's operations as a
bad debt."

"Very interesting," admitted Mr Carlyle; "but at the risk of seeming
obtuse"--his manner had become delicately chastened--"I must say that I
fail to trace the inevitable connexion between Nina Brun and this
particular forgery--assuming that it is a forgery."

"Set your mind at rest about that, Louis," replied Carrados. "It is a
forgery, and it is a forgery that none but Pietro Stelli could have
achieved. That is the essential connexion. Of course, there are
accessories. A private detective coming urgently to see me with a
notable tetradrachm in his pocket, which he announces to be the clue to
a remarkable fraud--well, really, Louis, one scarcely needs to be blind
to see through that."

"And Lord Seastoke? I suppose you happened to discover that Nina Brun
had gone there?"

"No, I cannot claim to have discovered that, or I should certainly have
warned him at once when I found out--only recently--about the gang. As a
matter of fact, the last information I had of Lord Seastoke was a line
in yesterday's _Morning Post_ to the effect that he was still at Cairo.
But many of these pieces----" He brushed his finger almost lovingly
across the vivid chariot race that embellished the reverse of the coin,
and broke off to remark: "You really ought to take up the subject,
Louis. You have no idea how useful it might prove to you some day."

"I really think I must," replied Carlyle grimly. "Two hundred and fifty
pounds the original of this cost, I believe."

"Cheap, too; it would make five hundred pounds in New York to-day. As I
was saying, many are literally unique. This gem by Kimon is--here is his
signature, you see; Peter is particularly good at lettering--and as I
handled the genuine tetradrachm about two years ago, when Lord Seastoke
exhibited it at a meeting of our society in Albemarle Street, there is
nothing at all wonderful in my being able to fix the locale of your
mystery. Indeed, I feel that I ought to apologize for it all being so

"I think," remarked Mr Carlyle, critically examining the loose threads
on his left boot, "that the apology on that head would be more
appropriate from me."


"Louis," exclaimed Mr Carrados, with the air of genial gaiety that
Carlyle had found so incongruous to his conception of a blind man, "you
have a mystery somewhere about you! I know it by your step."

Nearly a month had passed since the incident of the false Dionysius had
led to the two men meeting. It was now December. Whatever Mr Carlyle's
step might indicate to the inner eye it betokened to the casual observer
the manner of a crisp, alert, self-possessed man of business. Carlyle,
in truth, betrayed nothing of the pessimism and despondency that had
marked him on the earlier occasion.

"You have only yourself to thank that it is a very poor one," he
retorted. "If you hadn't held me to a hasty promise----"

"To give me an option on the next case that baffled you, no matter what
it was----"

"Just so. The consequence is that you get a very unsatisfactory affair
that has no special interest to an amateur and is only baffling because
it is--well----"

"Well, baffling?"

"Exactly, Max. Your would-be jest has discovered the proverbial truth. I
need hardly tell you that it is only the insoluble that is finally
baffling and this is very probably insoluble. You remember the awful
smash on the Central and Suburban at Knight's Cross Station a few weeks

"Yes," replied Carrados, with interest. "I read the whole ghastly
details at the time."

"You read?" exclaimed his friend suspiciously.

"I still use the familiar phrases," explained Carrados, with a smile.
"As a matter of fact, my secretary reads to me. I mark what I want to
hear and when he comes at ten o'clock we clear off the morning papers in
no time."

"And how do you know what to mark?" demanded Mr Carlyle cunningly.

Carrados's right hand, lying idly on the table, moved to a newspaper
near. He ran his finger along a column heading, his eyes still turned
towards his visitor.

"'The Money Market. Continued from page 2. British Railways,'" he

"Extraordinary," murmured Carlyle.

"Not very," said Carrados. "If someone dipped a stick in treacle and
wrote 'Rats' across a marble slab you would probably be able to
distinguish what was there, blindfold."

"Probably," admitted Mr Carlyle. "At all events we will not test the

"The difference to you of treacle on a marble background is scarcely
greater than that of printers' ink on newspaper to me. But anything
smaller than pica I do not read with comfort, and below long primer I
cannot read at all. Hence the secretary. Now the accident, Louis."

"The accident: well, you remember all about that. An ordinary Central
and Suburban passenger train, non-stop at Knight's Cross, ran past the
signal and crashed into a crowded electric train that was just beginning
to move out. It was like sending a garden roller down a row of
handlights. Two carriages of the electric train were flattened out of
existence; the next two were broken up. For the first time on an English
railway there was a good stand-up smash between a heavy steam-engine and
a train of light cars, and it was 'bad for the coo.'"

"Twenty-seven killed, forty something injured, eight died since,"
commented Carrados.

"That was bad for the Co.," said Carlyle. "Well, the main fact was plain
enough. The heavy train was in the wrong. But was the engine-driver
responsible? He claimed, and he claimed vehemently from the first and he
never varied one iota, that he had a 'clear' signal--that is to say, the
green light, it being dark. The signalman concerned was equally dogged
that he never pulled off the signal--that it was at 'danger' when the
accident happened and that it had been for five minutes before.
Obviously, they could not both be right."

"Why, Louis?" asked Mr Carrados smoothly.

"The signal must either have been up or down--red or green."

"Did you ever notice the signals on the Great Northern Railway, Louis?"

"Not particularly. Why?"

"One winterly day, about the year when you and I were concerned in being
born, the engine-driver of a Scotch express received the 'clear' from a
signal near a little Huntingdon station called Abbots Ripton. He went on
and crashed into a goods train and into the thick of the smash a down
express mowed its way. Thirteen killed and the usual tale of injured. He
was positive that the signal gave him a 'clear'; the signalman was
equally confident that he had never pulled it off the 'danger.' Both
were right, and yet the signal was in working order. As I said, it was a
winterly day; it had been snowing hard and the snow froze and
accumulated on the upper edge of the signal arm until its weight bore it
down. That is a fact that no fiction writer dare have invented, but to
this day every signal on the Great Northern pivots from the centre of
the arm instead of from the end, in memory of that snowstorm."

"That came out at the inquest, I presume?" said Mr Carlyle. "We have had
the Board of Trade inquiry and the inquest here and no explanation is
forthcoming. Everything was in perfect order. It rests between the word
of the signalman and the word of the engine-driver--not a jot of direct
evidence either way. Which is right?"

"That is what you are going to find out, Louis?" suggested Carrados.

"It is what I am being paid for finding out," admitted Mr Carlyle
frankly. "But so far we are just where the inquest left it, and, between
ourselves, I candidly can't see an inch in front of my face in the

"Nor can I," said the blind man, with a rather wry smile. "Never mind.
The engine-driver is your client, of course?"

"Yes," admitted Carlyle. "But how the deuce did you know?"

"Let us say that your sympathies are enlisted on his behalf. The jury
were inclined to exonerate the signalman, weren't they? What has the
company done with your man?"

"Both are suspended. Hutchins, the driver, hears that he may probably be
given charge of a lavatory at one of the stations. He is a decent,
bluff, short-spoken old chap, with his heart in his work. Just now
you'll find him at his worst--bitter and suspicious. The thought of
swabbing down a lavatory and taking pennies all day is poisoning him."

"Naturally. Well, there we have honest Hutchins: taciturn, a little
touchy perhaps, grown grey in the service of the company, and
manifesting quite a bulldog-like devotion to his favourite 538."

"Why, that actually was the number of his engine--how do you know it?"
demanded Carlyle sharply.

"It was mentioned two or three times at the inquest, Louis," replied
Carrados mildly.

"And you remembered--with no reason to?"

"You can generally trust a blind man's memory, especially if he has
taken the trouble to develop it."

"Then you will remember that Hutchins did not make a very good
impression at the time. He was surly and irritable under the ordeal. I
want you to see the case from all sides."

"He called the signalman--Mead--a 'lying young dog,' across the room, I
believe. Now, Mead, what is he like? You have seen him, of course?"

"Yes. He does not impress me favourably. He is glib, ingratiating, and
distinctly 'greasy.' He has a ready answer for everything almost before
the question is out of your mouth. He has thought of everything."

"And now you are going to tell me something, Louis," said Carrados

Mr Carlyle laughed a little to cover an involuntary movement of

"There is a suggestive line that was not touched at the inquiries," he
admitted. "Hutchins has been a saving man all his life, and he has
received good wages. Among his class he is regarded as wealthy. I
daresay that he has five hundred pounds in the bank. He is a widower
with one daughter, a very nice-mannered girl of about twenty. Mead is a
young man, and he and the girl are sweethearts--have been informally
engaged for some time. But old Hutchins would not hear of it; he seems
to have taken a dislike to the signalman from the first and latterly he
had forbidden him to come to his house or his daughter to speak to him."

"Excellent, Louis," cried Carrados in great delight. "We shall clear
your man in a blaze of red and green lights yet and hang the glib,
'greasy' signalman from his own signal-post."

"It is a significant fact, seriously?"

"It is absolutely convincing."

"It may have been a slip, a mental lapse on Mead's part which he
discovered the moment it was too late, and then, being too cowardly to
admit his fault, and having so much at stake, he took care to make
detection impossible. It may have been that, but my idea is rather that
probably it was neither quite pure accident nor pure design. I can
imagine Mead meanly pluming himself over the fact that the life of this
man who stands in his way, and whom he must cordially dislike, lies in
his power. I can imagine the idea becoming an obsession as he dwells on
it. A dozen times with his hand on the lever he lets his mind explore
the possibilities of a moment's defection. Then one day he pulls the
signal off in sheer bravado--and hastily puts it at danger again. He may
have done it once or he may have done it oftener before he was caught in
a fatal moment of irresolution. The chances are about even that the
engine-driver would be killed. In any case he would be disgraced, for it
is easier on the face of it to believe that a man might run past a
danger signal in absentmindedness, without noticing it, than that a man
should pull off a signal and replace it without being conscious of his

"The fireman was killed. Does your theory involve the certainty of the
fireman being killed, Louis?"

"No," said Carlyle. "The fireman is a difficulty, but looking at it from
Mead's point of view--whether he has been guilty of an error or a
crime--it resolves itself into this: First, the fireman may be killed.
Second, he may not notice the signal at all. Third, in any case he will
loyally corroborate his driver and the good old jury will discount

Carrados smoked thoughtfully, his open, sightless eyes merely appearing
to be set in a tranquil gaze across the room.

"It would not be an improbable explanation," he said presently.
"Ninety-nine men out of a hundred would say: 'People do not do these
things.' But you and I, who have in our different ways studied
criminology, know that they sometimes do, or else there would be no
curious crimes. What have you done on that line?"

To anyone who could see, Mr Carlyle's expression conveyed an answer.

"You are behind the scenes, Max. What was there for me to do? Still I
must do something for my money. Well, I have had a very close inquiry
made confidentially among the men. There might be a whisper of one of
them knowing more than had come out--a man restrained by friendship, or
enmity, or even grade jealousy. Nothing came of that. Then there was the
remote chance that some private person had noticed the signal without
attaching any importance to it then, one who would be able to identify
it still by something associated with the time. I went over the line
myself. Opposite the signal the line on one side is shut in by a high
blank wall; on the other side are houses, but coming below the butt-end
of a scullery the signal does not happen to be visible from any road or
from any window."

"My poor Louis!" said Carrados, in friendly ridicule. "You were at the
end of your tether?"

"I was," admitted Carlyle. "And now that you know the sort of job it is
I don't suppose that you are keen on wasting your time over it."

"That would hardly be fair, would it?" said Carrados reasonably. "No,
Louis, I will take over your honest old driver and your greasy young
signalman and your fatal signal that cannot be seen from anywhere."

"But it is an important point for you to remember, Max, that although
the signal cannot be seen from the box, if the mechanism had gone wrong,
or anyone tampered with the arm, the automatic indicator would at once
have told Mead that the green light was showing. Oh, I have gone very
thoroughly into the technical points, I assure you."

"I must do so too," commented Mr Carrados gravely.

"For that matter, if there is anything you want to know, I dare say
that I can tell you," suggested his visitor. "It might save your time."

"True," acquiesced Carrados. "I should like to know whether anyone
belonging to the houses that bound the line there came of age or got
married on the twenty-sixth of November."

Mr Carlyle looked across curiously at his host.

"I really do not know, Max," he replied, in his crisp, precise way.
"What on earth has that got to do with it, may I inquire?"

"The only explanation of the Pont St Lin swing-bridge disaster of '75
was the reflection of a green bengal light on a cottage window."

Mr Carlyle smiled his indulgence privately.

"My dear chap, you mustn't let your retentive memory of obscure
happenings run away with you," he remarked wisely. "In nine cases out of
ten the obvious explanation is the true one. The difficulty, as here,
lies in proving it. Now, you would like to see these men?"

"I expect so; in any case, I will see Hutchins first."

"Both live in Holloway. Shall I ask Hutchins to come here to see
you--say to-morrow? He is doing nothing."

"No," replied Carrados. "To-morrow I must call on my brokers and my time
may be filled up."

"Quite right; you mustn't neglect your own affairs for
this--experiment," assented Carlyle.

"Besides, I should prefer to drop in on Hutchins at his own home. Now,
Louis, enough of the honest old man for one night. I have a lovely thing
by Eumenes that I want to show you. To-day is--Tuesday. Come to dinner
on Sunday and pour the vials of your ridicule on my want of success."

"That's an amiable way of putting it," replied Carlyle. "All right, I

Two hours later Carrados was again in his study, apparently, for a
wonder, sitting idle. Sometimes he smiled to himself, and once or twice
he laughed a little, but for the most part his pleasant, impassive face
reflected no emotion and he sat with his useless eyes tranquilly fixed
on an unseen distance. It was a fantastic caprice of the man to mock his
sightlessness by a parade of light, and under the soft brilliance of a
dozen electric brackets the room was as bright as day. At length he
stood up and rang the bell.

"I suppose Mr Greatorex isn't still here by any chance, Parkinson?" he
asked, referring to his secretary.

"I think not, sir, but I will ascertain," replied the man.

"Never mind. Go to his room and bring me the last two files of _The
Times_. Now"--when he returned--"turn to the earliest you have there.
The date?"

"November the second."

"That will do. Find the Money Market; it will be in the Supplement. Now
look down the columns until you come to British Railways."

"I have it, sir."

"Central and Suburban. Read the closing price and the change."

"Central and Suburban Ordinary, 66-1/2 - 67-1/2, fall 1/8. Preferred
Ordinary, 81 - 81-1/2, no change. Deferred Ordinary, 27-1/2 - 27-3/4, fall
1/4. That is all, sir."

"Now take a paper about a week on. Read the Deferred only."

"27 - 27-1/4, no change."

"Another week."

"29-1/2 - 30, rise 5/8."


"31-1/2 - 32-1/2, rise 1."

"Very good. Now on Tuesday the twenty-seventh November."

"31-7/8 - 32-3/4, rise 1/2."

"Yes. The next day."

"24-1/2 - 23-1/2, fall 9."

"Quite so, Parkinson. There had been an accident, you see."

"Yes, sir. Very unpleasant accident. Jane knows a person whose sister's
young man has a cousin who had his arm torn off in it--torn off at the
socket, she says, sir. It seems to bring it home to one, sir."

"That is all. Stay--in the paper you have, look down the first money
column and see if there is any reference to the Central and Suburban."

"Yes, sir. 'City and Suburbans, which after their late depression on the
projected extension of the motor bus service, had been steadily
creeping up on the abandonment of the scheme, and as a result of their
own excellent traffic returns, suffered a heavy slump through the
lamentable accident of Thursday night. The Deferred in particular at one
time fell eleven points as it was felt that the possible dividend, with
which rumour has of late been busy, was now out of the question.'"

"Yes; that is all. Now you can take the papers back. And let it be a
warning to you, Parkinson, not to invest your savings in speculative
railway deferreds."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir, I will endeavour to remember." He lingered
for a moment as he shook the file of papers level. "I may say, sir, that
I have my eye on a small block of cottage property at Acton. But even
cottage property scarcely seems safe from legislative depredation now,

The next day Mr Carrados called on his brokers in the city. It is to be
presumed that he got through his private business quicker than he
expected, for after leaving Austin Friars he continued his journey to
Holloway, where he found Hutchins at home and sitting morosely before
his kitchen fire. Rightly assuming that his luxuriant car would involve
him in a certain amount of public attention in Klondyke Street, the
blind man dismissed it some distance from the house, and walked the rest
of the way, guided by the almost imperceptible touch of Parkinson's arm.

"Here is a gentleman to see you, father," explained Miss Hutchins, who
had come to the door. She divined the relative positions of the two
visitors at a glance.

"Then why don't you take him into the parlour?" grumbled the ex-driver.
His face was a testimonial of hard work and general sobriety but at the
moment one might hazard from his voice and manner that he had been
drinking earlier in the day.

"I don't think that the gentleman would be impressed by the difference
between our parlour and our kitchen," replied the girl quaintly, "and it
is warmer here."

"What's the matter with the parlour now?" demanded her father sourly.
"It was good enough for your mother and me. It used to be good enough
for you."

"There is nothing the matter with it, nor with the kitchen either." She
turned impassively to the two who had followed her along the narrow
passage. "Will you go in, sir?"

"I don't want to see no gentleman," cried Hutchins noisily.
"Unless"--his manner suddenly changed to one of pitiable
anxiety--"unless you're from the Company, sir, to--to----"

"No; I have come on Mr Carlyle's behalf," replied Carrados, walking to a
chair as though he moved by a kind of instinct.

Hutchins laughed his wry contempt.

"Mr Carlyle!" he reiterated; "Mr Carlyle! Fat lot of good he's been.
Why don't he _do_ something for his money?"

"He has," replied Carrados, with imperturbable good-humour; "he has sent
me. Now, I want to ask you a few questions."

"A few questions!" roared the irate man. "Why, blast it, I have done
nothing else but answer questions for a month. I didn't pay Mr Carlyle
to ask me questions; I can get enough of that for nixes. Why don't you
go and ask Mr Herbert Ananias Mead your few questions--then you might
find out something."

There was a slight movement by the door and Carrados knew that the girl
had quietly left the room.

"You saw that, sir?" demanded the father, diverted to a new line of
bitterness. "You saw that girl--my own daughter, that I've worked for
all her life?"

"No," replied Carrados.

"The girl that's just gone out--she's my daughter," explained Hutchins.

"I know, but I did not see her. I see nothing. I am blind."

"Blind!" exclaimed the old fellow, sitting up in startled wonderment.
"You mean it, sir? You walk all right and you look at me as if you saw
me. You're kidding surely."

"No," smiled Carrados. "It's quite right."

"Then it's a funny business, sir--you what are blind expecting to find
something that those with their eyes couldn't," ruminated Hutchins

"There are things that you can't see with your eyes, Hutchins."

"Perhaps you are right, sir. Well, what is it you want to know?"

"Light a cigar first," said the blind man, holding out his case and
waiting until the various sounds told him that his host was smoking
contentedly. "The train you were driving at the time of the accident was
the six-twenty-seven from Notcliff. It stopped everywhere until it
reached Lambeth Bridge, the chief London station of your line. There it
became something of an express, and leaving Lambeth Bridge at
seven-eleven, should not stop again until it fetched Swanstead on
Thames, eleven miles out, at seven-thirty-four. Then it stopped on and
off from Swanstead to Ingerfield, the terminus of that branch, which it
reached at eight-five."

Hutchins nodded, and then, remembering, said: "That's right, sir."

"That was your business all day--running between Notcliff and

"Yes, sir. Three journeys up and three down mostly."

"With the same stops on all the down journeys?"

"No. The seven-eleven is the only one that does a run from the Bridge to
Swanstead. You see, it is just on the close of the evening rush, as they
call it. A good many late business gentlemen living at Swanstead use
the seven-eleven regular. The other journeys we stop at every station to
Lambeth Bridge, and then here and there beyond."

"There are, of course, other trains doing exactly the same journey--a
service, in fact?"

"Yes, sir. About six."

"And do any of those--say, during the rush--do any of those run non-stop
from Lambeth to Swanstead?"

Hutchins reflected a moment. All the choler and restlessness had melted
out of the man's face. He was again the excellent artisan, slow but
capable and self-reliant.

"That I couldn't definitely say, sir. Very few short-distance trains
pass the junction, but some of those may. A guide would show us in a
minute but I haven't got one."

"Never mind. You said at the inquest that it was no uncommon thing for
you to be pulled up at the 'stop' signal east of Knight's Cross Station.
How often would that happen--only with the seven-eleven, mind."

"Perhaps three times a week; perhaps twice."

"The accident was on a Thursday. Have you noticed that you were pulled
up oftener on a Thursday than on any other day?"

A smile crossed the driver's face at the question.

"You don't happen to live at Swanstead yourself, sir?" he asked in

"No," admitted Carrados. "Why?"

"Well, sir, we were _always_ pulled up on Thursday; practically always,
you may say. It got to be quite a saying among those who used the train
regular; they used to look out for it."

Carrados's sightless eyes had the one quality of concealing emotion
supremely. "Oh," he commented softly, "always; and it was quite a
saying, was it? And _why_ was it always so on Thursday?"

"It had to do with the early closing, I'm told. The suburban traffic was
a bit different. By rights we ought to have been set back two minutes
for that day, but I suppose it wasn't thought worth while to alter us in
the time-table, so we most always had to wait outside Three Deep tunnel
for a west-bound electric to make good."

"You were prepared for it then?"

"Yes, sir, I was," said Hutchins, reddening at some recollection, "and
very down about it was one of the jury over that. But, mayhap once in
three months, I did get through even on a Thursday, and it's not for me
to question whether things are right or wrong just because they are not
what I may expect. The signals are my orders, sir--stop! go on! and it's
for me to obey, as you would a general on the field of battle. What
would happen otherwise! It was nonsense what they said about going
cautious; and the man who started it was a barber who didn't know the
difference between a 'distance' and a 'stop' signal down to the minute
they gave their verdict. My orders, sir, given me by that signal, was
'Go right ahead and keep to your running time!'"

Carrados nodded a soothing assent. "That is all, I think," he remarked.

"All!" exclaimed Hutchins in surprise. "Why, sir, you can't have got
much idea of it yet."

"Quite enough. And I know it isn't pleasant for you to be taken along
the same ground over and over again."

The man moved awkwardly in his chair and pulled nervously at his
grizzled beard.

"You mustn't take any notice of what I said just now, sir," he
apologized. "You somehow make me feel that something may come of it; but
I've been badgered about and accused and cross-examined from one to
another of them these weeks till it's fairly made me bitter against
everything. And now they talk of putting me in a lavatory--me that has
been with the company for five and forty years and on the foot-plate
thirty-two--a man suspected of running past a danger signal."

"You have had a rough time, Hutchins; you will have to exercise your
patience a little longer yet," said Carrados sympathetically.

"You think something may come of it, sir? You think you will be able to
clear me? Believe me, sir, if you could give me something to look
forward to it might save me from----" He pulled himself up and shook his
head sorrowfully. "I've been near it," he added simply.

Carrados reflected and took his resolution.

"To-day is Wednesday. I think you may hope to hear something from your
general manager towards the middle of next week."

"Good God, sir! You really mean that?"

"In the interval show your good sense by behaving reasonably. Keep
civilly to yourself and don't talk. Above all"--he nodded towards a
quart jug that stood on the table between them, an incident that filled
the simple-minded engineer with boundless wonder when he recalled it
afterwards--"above all, leave that alone."

Hutchins snatched up the vessel and brought it crashing down on the
hearthstone, his face shining with a set resolution.

"I've done with it, sir. It was the bitterness and despair that drove me
to that. Now I can do without it."

The door was hastily opened and Miss Hutchins looked anxiously from her
father to the visitors and back again.

"Oh, whatever is the matter?" she exclaimed. "I heard a great crash."

"This gentleman is going to clear me, Meg, my dear," blurted out the old
man irrepressibly. "And I've done with the drink for ever."

"Hutchins! Hutchins!" said Carrados warningly.

"My daughter, sir; you wouldn't have her not know?" pleaded Hutchins,
rather crest-fallen. "It won't go any further."

Carrados laughed quietly to himself as he felt Margaret Hutchins's
startled and questioning eyes attempting to read his mind. He shook
hands with the engine-driver without further comment, however, and
walked out into the commonplace little street under Parkinson's
unobtrusive guidance.

"Very nice of Miss Hutchins to go into half-mourning, Parkinson," he
remarked as they went along. "Thoughtful, and yet not ostentatious."

"Yes, sir," agreed Parkinson, who had long ceased to wonder at his
master's perceptions.

"The Romans, Parkinson, had a saying to the effect that gold carries no
smell. That is a pity sometimes. What jewellery did Miss Hutchins wear?"

"Very little, sir. A plain gold brooch representing a merry-thought--the
merry-thought of a sparrow, I should say, sir. The only other article
was a smooth-backed gun-metal watch, suspended from a gun-metal bow."

"Nothing showy or expensive, eh?"

"Oh dear no, sir. Quite appropriate for a young person of her position."

"Just what I should have expected." He slackened his pace. "We are
passing a hoarding, are we not?"

"Yes, sir."

"We will stand here a moment. Read me the letterpress of the poster
before us."

"This 'Oxo' one, sir?"


"'Oxo,' sir."

Carrados was convulsed with silent laughter. Parkinson had infinitely
more dignity and conceded merely a tolerant recognition of the

"That was a bad shot, Parkinson," remarked his master when he could
speak. "We will try another."

For three minutes, with scrupulous conscientiousness on the part of the
reader and every appearance of keen interest on the part of the hearer,
there were set forth the particulars of a sale by auction of superfluous
timber and builders' material.

"That will do," said Carrados, when the last detail had been reached.
"We can be seen from the door of No. 107 still?"

"Yes, sir."

"No indication of anyone coming to us from there?"

"No, sir."

Carrados walked thoughtfully on again. In the Holloway Road they
rejoined the waiting motor car. "Lambeth Bridge Station," was the order
the driver received.

From the station the car was sent on home and Parkinson was instructed
to take two first-class singles for Richmond, which could be reached by
changing at Stafford Road. The "evening rush" had not yet commenced and
they had no difficulty in finding an empty carriage when the train came

Parkinson was kept busy that journey describing what he saw at various
points between Lambeth Bridge and Knight's Cross. For a quarter of a
mile Carrados's demands on the eyes and the memory of his remarkable
servant were wide and incessant. Then his questions ceased. They had
passed the "stop" signal, east of Knight's Cross Station.

The following afternoon they made the return journey as far as Knight's
Cross. This time, however, the surroundings failed to interest Carrados.
"We are going to look at some rooms," was the information he offered on
the subject, and an imperturbable "Yes, sir" had been the extent of
Parkinson's comment on the unusual proceeding. After leaving the station
they turned sharply along a road that ran parallel with the line, a dull
thoroughfare of substantial, elderly houses that were beginning to sink
into decrepitude. Here and there a corner residence displayed the brass
plate of a professional occupant, but for the most part they were given
up to the various branches of second-rate apartment letting.

"The third house after the one with the flagstaff," said Carrados.

Parkinson rang the bell, which was answered by a young servant, who took
an early opportunity of assuring them that she was not tidy as it was
rather early in the afternoon. She informed Carrados, in reply to his
inquiry, that Miss Chubb was at home, and showed them into a melancholy
little sitting-room to await her appearance.

"I shall be 'almost' blind here, Parkinson," remarked Carrados, walking
about the room. "It saves explanation."

"Very good, sir," replied Parkinson.

Five minutes later, an interval suggesting that Miss Chubb also found it
rather early in the afternoon, Carrados was arranging to take rooms for
his attendant and himself for the short time that he would be in London,
seeing an oculist.

"One bedroom, mine, must face north," he stipulated. "It has to do with
the light."

Miss Chubb replied that she quite understood. Some gentlemen, she added,
had their requirements, others their fancies. She endeavoured to suit
all. The bedroom she had in view from the first _did_ face north. She
would not have known, only the last gentleman, curiously enough, had
made the same request.

"A sufferer like myself?" inquired Carrados affably.

Miss Chubb did not think so. In his case she regarded it merely as a
fancy. He had said that he could not sleep on any other side. She had
had to turn out of her own room to accommodate him, but if one kept an
apartment-house one had to be adaptable; and Mr Ghoosh was certainly
very liberal in his ideas.

"Ghoosh? An Indian gentleman, I presume?" hazarded Carrados.

It appeared that Mr Ghoosh was an Indian. Miss Chubb confided that at
first she had been rather perturbed at the idea of taking in "a black
man," as she confessed to regarding him. She reiterated, however, that
Mr Ghoosh proved to be "quite the gentleman." Five minutes of affability
put Carrados in full possession of Mr Ghoosh's manner of life and
movements--the dates of his arrival and departure, his solitariness and
his daily habits.

"This would be the best bedroom," said Miss Chubb.

It was a fair-sized room on the first floor. The window looked out on to
the roof of an outbuilding; beyond, the deep cutting of the railway
line. Opposite stood the dead wall that Mr Carlyle had spoken of.

Carrados "looked" round the room with the discriminating glance that
sometimes proved so embarrassing to those who knew him.

"I have to take a little daily exercise," he remarked, walking to the
window and running his hand up the woodwork. "You will not mind my
fixing a 'developer' here, Miss Chubb--a few small screws?"

Miss Chubb thought not. Then she was sure not. Finally she ridiculed the
idea of minding with scorn.

"If there is width enough," mused Carrados, spanning the upright
critically. "Do you happen to have a wooden foot-rule convenient?"

"Well, to be sure!" exclaimed Miss Chubb, opening a rapid succession of
drawers until she produced the required article. "When we did out this
room after Mr Ghoosh, there was this very ruler among the things that he
hadn't thought worth taking. This is what you require, sir?"

"Yes," replied Carrados, accepting it, "I think this is exactly what I
require." It was a common new white-wood rule, such as one might buy at
any small stationer's for a penny. He carelessly took off the width of
the upright, reading the figures with a touch; and then continued to run
a finger-tip delicately up and down the edges of the instrument.

"Four and seven-eighths," was his unspoken conclusion.

"I hope it will do, sir."

"Admirably," replied Carrados. "But I haven't reached the end of my
requirements yet, Miss Chubb."

"No, sir?" said the landlady, feeling that it would be a pleasure to
oblige so agreeable a gentleman, "what else might there be?"

"Although I can see very little I like to have a light, but not any kind
of light. Gas I cannot do with. Do you think that you would be able to
find me an oil lamp?"

"Certainly, sir. I got out a very nice brass lamp that I have specially
for Mr Ghoosh. He read a good deal of an evening and he preferred a

"That is very convenient. I suppose it is large enough to burn for a
whole evening?"

"Yes, indeed. And very particular he was always to have it filled every

"A lamp without oil is not very useful," smiled Carrados, following her
towards another room, and absentmindedly slipping the foot-rule into his

Whatever Parkinson thought of the arrangement of going into second-rate
apartments in an obscure street it is to be inferred that his devotion
to his master was sufficient to overcome his private emotions as a
self-respecting "man." At all events, as they were approaching the
station he asked, and without a trace of feeling, whether there were any
orders for him with reference to the proposed migration.

"None, Parkinson," replied his master. "We must be satisfied with our
present quarters."

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Parkinson, with some constraint. "I
understood that you had taken the rooms for a week certain."

"I am afraid that Miss Chubb will be under the same impression.
Unforeseen circumstances will prevent our going, however. Mr Greatorex
must write to-morrow, enclosing a cheque, with my regrets, and adding a
penny for this ruler which I seem to have brought away with me. It, at
least, is something for the money."

Parkinson may be excused for not attempting to understand the course of

"Here is your train coming in, sir," he merely said.

"We will let it go and wait for another. Is there a signal at either end
of the platform?"

"Yes, sir; at the further end."

"Let us walk towards it. Are there any of the porters or officials about

"No, sir; none."

"Take this ruler. I want you to go up the steps--there are steps up the
signal, by the way?"

"Yes, sir."

"I want you to measure the glass of the lamp. Do not go up any higher
than is necessary, but if you have to stretch be careful not to mark on
the measurement with your nail, although the impulse is a natural one.
That has been done already."

Parkinson looked apprehensively around and about. Fortunately the part
was a dark and unfrequented spot and everyone else was moving towards
the exit at the other end of the platform. Fortunately, also, the signal
was not a high one.

"As near as I can judge on the rounded surface, the glass is four and
seven-eighths across," reported Parkinson.

"Thank you," replied Carrados, returning the measure to his pocket,
"four and seven-eighths is quite near enough. Now we will take the next
train back."

Sunday evening came, and with it Mr Carlyle to The Turrets at the
appointed hour. He brought to the situation a mind poised for any
eventuality and a trenchant eye. As the time went on and the
impenetrable Carrados made no allusion to the case, Carlyle's manner
inclined to a waggish commiseration of his host's position. Actually, he
said little, but the crisp precision of his voice when the path lay open
to a remark of any significance left little to be said.

It was not until they had finished dinner and returned to the library
that Carrados gave the slightest hint of anything unusual being in the
air. His first indication of coming events was to remove the key from
the outside to the inside of the door.

"What are you doing, Max?" demanded Mr Carlyle, his curiosity overcoming
the indirect attitude.

"You have been very entertaining, Louis," replied his friend, "but
Parkinson should be back very soon now and it is as well to be prepared.
Do you happen to carry a revolver?"

"Not when I come to dine with you, Max," replied Carlyle, with all the
aplomb he could muster. "Is it usual?"

Carrados smiled affectionately at his guest's agile recovery and touched
the secret spring of a drawer in an antique bureau by his side. The
little hidden receptacle shot smoothly out, disclosing a pair of
dull-blued pistols.

"To-night, at all events, it might be prudent," he replied, handing one
to Carlyle and putting the other into his own pocket. "Our man may be
here at any minute, and we do not know in what temper he will come."

"Our man!" exclaimed Carlyle, craning forward in excitement. "Max! you
don't mean to say that you have got Mead to admit it?"

"No one has admitted it," said Carrados. "And it is not Mead."

"Not Mead.... Do you mean that Hutchins----?"

"Neither Mead nor Hutchins. The man who tampered with the signal--for
Hutchins was right and a green light _was_ exhibited--is a young Indian
from Bengal. His name is Drishna and he lives at Swanstead."

Mr Carlyle stared at his friend between sheer surprise and blank

"You really mean this, Carrados?" he said.

"My fatal reputation for humour!" smiled Carrados. "If I am wrong,
Louis, the next hour will expose it."

"But why--why--why? The colossal villainy, the unparalleled audacity!"
Mr Carlyle lost himself among incredulous superlatives and could only

"Chiefly to get himself out of a disastrous speculation," replied
Carrados, answering the question. "If there was another motive--or at
least an incentive--which I suspect, doubtless we shall hear of it."

"All the same, Max, I don't think that you have treated me quite
fairly," protested Carlyle, getting over his first surprise and passing
to a sense of injury. "Here we are and I know nothing, absolutely
nothing, of the whole affair."

"We both have our ideas of pleasantry, Louis," replied Carrados
genially. "But I dare say you are right and perhaps there is still time
to atone." In the fewest possible words he outlined the course of his
investigations. "And now you know all that is to be known until Drishna

"But will he come?" questioned Carlyle doubtfully. "He may be

"Yes, he will be suspicious."

"Then he will not come."

"On the contrary, Louis, he will come because my letter will make him
suspicious. He _is_ coming; otherwise Parkinson would have telephoned
me at once and we should have had to take other measures."

"What did you say, Max?" asked Carlyle curiously.

"I wrote that I was anxious to discuss an Indo-Scythian inscription with
him, and sent my car in the hope that he would be able to oblige me."

"But is he interested in Indo-Scythian inscriptions?"

"I haven't the faintest idea," admitted Carrados, and Mr Carlyle was
throwing up his hands in despair when the sound of a motor car wheels
softly kissing the gravel surface of the drive outside brought him to
his feet.

"By gad, you are right, Max!" he exclaimed, peeping through the
curtains. "There is a man inside."

"Mr Drishna," announced Parkinson, a minute later.

The visitor came into the room with leisurely self-possession that might
have been real or a desperate assumption. He was a slightly built young
man of about twenty-five, with black hair and eyes, a small, carefully
trained moustache, and a dark olive skin. His physiognomy was not
displeasing, but his expression had a harsh and supercilious tinge. In
attire he erred towards the immaculately spruce.

"Mr Carrados?" he said inquiringly.

Carrados, who had risen, bowed slightly without offering his hand.

"This gentleman," he said, indicating his friend, "is Mr Carlyle, the
celebrated private detective."

The Indian shot a very sharp glance at the object of this description.
Then he sat down.

"You wrote me a letter, Mr Carrados," he remarked, in English that
scarcely betrayed any foreign origin, "a rather curious letter, I may
say. You asked me about an ancient inscription. I know nothing of
antiquities; but I thought, as you had sent, that it would be more
courteous if I came and explained this to you."

"That was the object of my letter," replied Carrados.

"You wished to see me?" said Drishna, unable to stand the ordeal of the
silence that Carrados imposed after his remark.

"When you left Miss Chubb's house you left a ruler behind." One lay on
the desk by Carrados and he took it up as he spoke.

"I don't understand what you are talking about," said Drishna guardedly.
"You are making some mistake."

"The ruler was marked at four and seven-eighths inches--the measure of
the glass of the signal lamp outside."

The unfortunate young man was unable to repress a start. His face lost
its healthy tone. Then, with a sudden impulse, he made a step forward
and snatched the object from Carrados's hand.

"If it is mine I have a right to it," he exclaimed, snapping the ruler
in two and throwing it on to the back of the blazing fire. "It is

"Pardon me, I did not say that the one you have so impetuously disposed
of was yours. As a matter of fact, it was mine. Yours is--elsewhere."

"Wherever it is you have no right to it if it is mine," panted Drishna,
with rising excitement. "You are a thief, Mr Carrados. I will not stay
any longer here."

He jumped up and turned towards the door. Carlyle made a step forward,
but the precaution was unnecessary.

"One moment, Mr Drishna," interposed Carrados, in his smoothest tones.
"It is a pity, after you have come so far, to leave without hearing of
my investigations in the neighbourhood of Shaftesbury Avenue."

Drishna sat down again.

"As you like," he muttered. "It does not interest me."

"I wanted to obtain a lamp of a certain pattern," continued Carrados.
"It seemed to me that the simplest explanation would be to say that I
wanted it for a motor car. Naturally I went to Long Acre. At the first
shop I said: 'Wasn't it here that a friend of mine, an Indian gentleman,
recently had a lamp made with a green glass that was nearly five inches
across?' No, it was not there but they could make me one. At the next
shop the same; at the third, and fourth, and so on. Finally my
persistence was rewarded. I found the place where the lamp had been
made, and at the cost of ordering another I obtained all the details I
wanted. It was news to them, the shopman informed me, that in some parts
of India green was the danger colour and therefore tail lamps had to
show a green light. The incident made some impression on him and he
would be able to identify their customer--who paid in advance and gave
no address--among a thousand of his countrymen. Do I succeed in
interesting you, Mr Drishna?"

"Do you?" replied Drishna, with a languid yawn. "Do I look interested?"

"You must make allowance for my unfortunate blindness," apologized
Carrados, with grim irony.

"Blindness!" exclaimed Drishna, dropping his affectation of unconcern as
though electrified by the word, "do you mean--really blind--that you do
not see me?"

"Alas, no," admitted Carrados.

The Indian withdrew his right hand from his coat pocket and with a
tragic gesture flung a heavy revolver down on the table between them.

"I have had you covered all the time, Mr Carrados, and if I had wished
to go and you or your friend had raised a hand to stop me, it would have
been at the peril of your lives," he said, in a voice of melancholy
triumph. "But what is the use of defying fate, and who successfully
evades his destiny? A month ago I went to see one of our people who
reads the future and sought to know the course of certain events. 'You
need fear no human eye,' was the message given to me. Then she added:
'But when the sightless sees the unseen, make your peace with Yama.' And
I thought she spoke of the Great Hereafter!"

"This amounts to an admission of your guilt," exclaimed Mr Carlyle

"I bow to the decree of fate," replied Drishna. "And it is fitting to
the universal irony of existence that a blind man should be the
instrument. I don't imagine, Mr Carlyle," he added maliciously, "that
you, with your eyes, would ever have brought that result about."

"You are a very cold-blooded young scoundrel, sir!" retorted Mr Carlyle.
"Good heavens! do you realize that you are responsible for the death of
scores of innocent men and women?"

"Do _you_ realise, Mr Carlyle, that you and your Government and your
soldiers are responsible for the death of thousands of innocent men and
women in my country every day? If England was occupied by the Germans
who quartered an army and an administration with their wives and their
families and all their expensive paraphernalia on the unfortunate
country until the whole nation was reduced to the verge of famine, and
the appointment of every new official meant the callous death sentence
on a thousand men and women to pay his salary, then if you went to
Berlin and wrecked a train you would be hailed a patriot. What Boadicea
did and--and Samson, so have I. If they were heroes, so am I."

"Well, upon my word!" cried the highly scandalized Carlyle, "what next!
Boadicea was a--er--semi-legendary person, whom we may possibly admire
at a distance. Personally, I do not profess to express an opinion. But
Samson, I would remind you, is a Biblical character. Samson was mocked
as an enemy. You, I do not doubt, have been entertained as a friend."

"And haven't I been mocked and despised and sneered at every day of my
life here by your supercilious, superior, empty-headed men?" flashed
back Drishna, his eyes leaping into malignity and his voice trembling
with sudden passion. "Oh! how I hated them as I passed them in the
street and recognized by a thousand petty insults their lordly English
contempt for me as an inferior being--a nigger. How I longed with
Caligula that a nation had a single neck that I might destroy it at one
blow. I loathe you in your complacent hypocrisy, Mr Carlyle, despise and
utterly abominate you from an eminence of superiority that you can never
even understand."

"I think we are getting rather away from the point, Mr Drishna,"
interposed Carrados, with the impartiality of a judge. "Unless I am
misinformed, you are not so ungallant as to include everyone you have
met here in your execration?"

"Ah, no," admitted Drishna, descending into a quite ingenuous frankness.
"Much as I hate your men I love your women. How is it possible that a
nation should be so divided--its men so dull-witted and offensive, its
women so quick, sympathetic and capable of appreciating?"

"But a little expensive, too, at times?" suggested Carrados.

Drishna sighed heavily.

"Yes; it is incredible. It is the generosity of their large nature. My
allowance, though what most of you would call noble, has proved quite
inadequate. I was compelled to borrow money and the interest became
overwhelming. Bankruptcy was impracticable because I should have then
been recalled by my people, and much as I detest England a certain
reason made the thought of leaving it unbearable."

"Connected with the Arcady Theatre?"

"You know? Well, do not let us introduce the lady's name. In order to
restore myself I speculated on the Stock Exchange. My credit was good
through my father's position and the standing of the firm to which I am
attached. I heard on reliable authority, and very early, that the
Central and Suburban, and the Deferred especially, was safe to fall
heavily, through a motor bus amalgamation that was then a secret. I
opened a bear account and sold largely. The shares fell, but only
fractionally, and I waited. Then, unfortunately, they began to go up.
Adverse forces were at work and rumours were put about. I could not
stand the settlement, and in order to carry over an account I was
literally compelled to deal temporarily with some securities that were
not technically my own property."

"Embezzlement, sir," commented Mr Carlyle icily. "But what is
embezzlement on the top of wholesale murder!"

"That is what it is called. In my case, however, it was only to be
temporary. Unfortunately, the rise continued. Then, at the height of my
despair, I chanced to be returning to Swanstead rather earlier than
usual one evening, and the train was stopped at a certain signal to let
another pass. There was conversation in the carriage and I learned
certain details. One said that there would be an accident some day, and
so forth. In a flash--as by an inspiration--I saw how the circumstance
might be turned to account. A bad accident and the shares would
certainly fall and my position would be retrieved. I think Mr Carrados
has somehow learned the rest."

"Max," said Mr Carlyle, with emotion, "is there any reason why you
should not send your man for a police officer and have this monster
arrested on his own confession without further delay?"

"Pray do so, Mr Carrados," acquiesced Drishna. "I shall certainly be
hanged, but the speech I shall prepare will ring from one end of India
to the other; my memory will be venerated as that of a martyr; and the
emancipation of my motherland will be hastened by my sacrifice."

"In other words," commented Carrados, "there will be disturbances at
half-a-dozen disaffected places, a few unfortunate police will be
clubbed to death, and possibly worse things may happen. That does not
suit us, Mr Drishna."

"And how do you propose to prevent it?" asked Drishna, with cool

"It is very unpleasant being hanged on a dark winter morning; very cold,
very friendless, very inhuman. The long trial, the solitude and the
confinement, the thoughts of the long sleepless night before, the
hangman and the pinioning and the noosing of the rope, are apt to prey
on the imagination. Only a very stupid man can take hanging easily."

"What do you want me to do instead, Mr Carrados?" asked Drishna

Carrados's hand closed on the weapon that still lay on the table between
them. Without a word he pushed it across.

"I see," commented Drishna, with a short laugh and a gleaming eye.
"Shoot myself and hush it up to suit your purpose. Withhold my message
to save the exposures of a trial, and keep the flame from the torch of
insurrectionary freedom."

"Also," interposed Carrados mildly, "to save your worthy people a good
deal of shame, and to save the lady who is nameless the unpleasant
necessity of relinquishing the house and the income which you have just
settled on her. She certainly would not then venerate your memory."

"What is that?"

"The transaction which you carried through was based on a felony and
could not be upheld. The firm you dealt with will go to the courts, and
the money, being directly traceable, will be held forfeit as no good
consideration passed."

"Max!" cried Mr Carlyle hotly, "you are not going to let this scoundrel
cheat the gallows after all?"

"The best use you can make of the gallows is to cheat it, Louis,"
replied Carrados. "Have you ever reflected what human beings will think
of us a hundred years hence?"

"Oh, of course I'm not really in favour of hanging," admitted Mr

"Nobody really is. But we go on hanging. Mr Drishna is a dangerous
animal who for the sake of pacific animals must cease to exist. Let his
barbarous exploit pass into oblivion with him. The disadvantages of
spreading it broadcast immeasurably outweigh the benefits."

"I have considered," announced Drishna. "I will do as you wish."

"Very well," said Carrados. "Here is some plain notepaper. You had
better write a letter to someone saying that the financial difficulties
in which you are involved make life unbearable."

"But there are no financial difficulties--now."

"That does not matter in the least. It will be put down to an
hallucination and taken as showing the state of your mind."

"But what guarantee have we that he will not escape?" whispered Mr

"He cannot escape," replied Carrados tranquilly. "His identity is too

"I have no intention of trying to escape," put in Drishna, as he wrote.
"You hardly imagine that I have not considered this eventuality, do

"All the same," murmured the ex-lawyer, "I should like to have a jury
behind me. It is one thing to execute a man morally; it is another to do
it almost literally."

"Is that all right?" asked Drishna, passing across the letter he had

Carrados smiled at this tribute to his perception.

"Quite excellent," he replied courteously. "There is a train at
nine-forty. Will that suit you?"

Drishna nodded and stood up. Mr Carlyle had a very uneasy feeling that
he ought to do something but could not suggest to himself what.

The next moment he heard his friend heartily thanking the visitor for
the assistance he had been in the matter of the Indo-Scythian
inscription, as they walked across the hall together. Then a door

"I believe that there is something positively uncanny about Max at
times," murmured the perturbed gentleman to himself.


"Max," said Mr Carlyle, when Parkinson had closed the door behind him,
"this is Lieutenant Hollyer, whom you consented to see."

"To hear," corrected Carrados, smiling straight into the healthy and
rather embarrassed face of the stranger before him. "Mr Hollyer knows of
my disability?"

"Mr Carlyle told me," said the young man, "but, as a matter of fact, I
had heard of you before, Mr Carrados, from one of our men. It was in
connexion with the foundering of the _Ivan Saratov_."

Carrados wagged his head in good-humoured resignation.

"And the owners were sworn to inviolable secrecy!" he exclaimed. "Well,
it is inevitable, I suppose. Not another scuttling case, Mr Hollyer?"

"No, mine is quite a private matter," replied the lieutenant. "My
sister, Mrs Creake--but Mr Carlyle would tell you better than I can. He
knows all about it."

"No, no; Carlyle is a professional. Let me have it in the rough, Mr
Hollyer. My ears are my eyes, you know."

"Very well, sir. I can tell you what there is to tell, right enough, but
I feel that when all's said and done it must sound very little to
another, although it seems important enough to me."

"We have occasionally found trifles of significance ourselves," said
Carrados encouragingly. "Don't let that deter you."

This was the essence of Lieutenant Hollyer's narrative:

"I have a sister, Millicent, who is married to a man called Creake. She
is about twenty-eight now and he is at least fifteen years older.
Neither my mother (who has since died), nor I, cared very much about
Creake. We had nothing particular against him, except, perhaps, the
moderate disparity of age, but none of us appeared to have anything in
common. He was a dark, taciturn man, and his moody silence froze up
conversation. As a result, of course, we didn't see much of each other."

"This, you must understand, was four or five years ago, Max," interposed
Mr Carlyle officiously.

Carrados maintained an uncompromising silence. Mr Carlyle blew his nose
and contrived to impart a hurt significance into the operation. Then
Lieutenant Hollyer continued:

"Millicent married Creake after a very short engagement. It was a
frightfully subdued wedding--more like a funeral to me. The man
professed to have no relations and apparently he had scarcely any
friends or business acquaintances. He was an agent for something or
other and had an office off Holborn. I suppose he made a living out of
it then, although we knew practically nothing of his private affairs,
but I gather that it has been going down since, and I suspect that for
the past few years they have been getting along almost entirely on
Millicent's little income. You would like the particulars of that?"

"Please," assented Carrados.

"When our father died about seven years ago, he left three thousand
pounds. It was invested in Canadian stock and brought in a little over a
hundred a year. By his will my mother was to have the income of that for
life and on her death it was to pass to Millicent, subject to the
payment of a lump sum of five hundred pounds to me. But my father
privately suggested to me that if I should have no particular use for
the money at the time, he would propose my letting Millicent have the
income of it until I did want it, as she would not be particularly well
off. You see, Mr Carrados, a great deal more had been spent on my
education and advancement than on her; I had my pay, and, of course, I
could look out for myself better than a girl could."

"Quite so," agreed Carrados.

"Therefore I did nothing about that," continued the lieutenant. "Three
years ago I was over again but I did not see much of them. They were
living in lodgings. That was the only time since the marriage that I
have seen them until last week. In the meanwhile our mother had died and
Millicent had been receiving her income. She wrote me several letters
at the time. Otherwise we did not correspond much, but about a year ago
she sent me their new address--Brookbend Cottage, Mulling Common--a
house that they had taken. When I got two months' leave I invited myself
there as a matter of course, fully expecting to stay most of my time
with them, but I made an excuse to get away after a week. The place was
dismal and unendurable, the whole life and atmosphere indescribably
depressing." He looked round with an instinct of caution, leaned forward
earnestly, and dropped his voice. "Mr Carrados, it is my absolute
conviction that Creake is only waiting for a favourable opportunity to
murder Millicent."

"Go on," said Carrados quietly. "A week of the depressing surroundings
of Brookbend Cottage would not alone convince you of that, Mr Hollyer."

"I am not so sure," declared Hollyer doubtfully. "There was a feeling of
suspicion and--before me--polite hatred that would have gone a good way
towards it. All the same there _was_ something more definite. Millicent
told me this the day after I went there. There is no doubt that a few
months ago Creake deliberately planned to poison her with some
weed-killer. She told me the circumstances in a rather distressed
moment, but afterwards she refused to speak of it again--even weakly
denied it--and, as a matter of fact, it was with the greatest difficulty
that I could get her at any time to talk about her husband or his
affairs. The gist of it was that she had the strongest suspicion that
Creake doctored a bottle of stout which he expected she would drink for
her supper when she was alone. The weed-killer, properly labelled, but
also in a beer bottle, was kept with other miscellaneous liquids in the
same cupboard as the beer but on a high shelf. When he found that it had
miscarried he poured away the mixture, washed out the bottle and put in
the dregs from another. There is no doubt in my mind that if he had come
back and found Millicent dead or dying he would have contrived it to
appear that she had made a mistake in the dark and drunk some of the
poison before she found out."

"Yes," assented Carrados. "The open way; the safe way."

"You must understand that they live in a very small style, Mr Carrados,
and Millicent is almost entirely in the man's power. The only servant
they have is a woman who comes in for a few hours every day. The house
is lonely and secluded. Creake is sometimes away for days and nights at
a time, and Millicent, either through pride or indifference, seems to
have dropped off all her old friends and to have made no others. He
might poison her, bury the body in the garden, and be a thousand miles
away before anyone began even to inquire about her. What am I to do, Mr

"He is less likely to try poison than some other means now," pondered
Carrados. "That having failed, his wife will always be on her guard. He
may know, or at least suspect, that others know. No.... The
common-sense precaution would be for your sister to leave the man, Mr
Hollyer. She will not?"

"No," admitted Hollyer, "she will not. I at once urged that." The young
man struggled with some hesitation for a moment and then blurted out:
"The fact is, Mr Carrados, I don't understand Millicent. She is not the
girl she was. She hates Creake and treats him with a silent contempt
that eats into their lives like acid, and yet she is so jealous of him
that she will let nothing short of death part them. It is a horrible
life they lead. I stood it for a week and I must say, much as I dislike
my brother-in-law, that he has something to put up with. If only he got
into a passion like a man and killed her it wouldn't be altogether

"That does not concern us," said Carrados. "In a game of this kind one
has to take sides and we have taken ours. It remains for us to see that
our side wins. You mentioned jealousy, Mr Hollyer. Have you any idea
whether Mrs Creake has real ground for it?"

"I should have told you that," replied Lieutenant Hollyer. "I happened
to strike up with a newspaper man whose office is in the same block as
Creake's. When I mentioned the name he grinned. 'Creake,' he said, 'oh,
he's the man with the romantic typist, isn't he?' 'Well, he's my
brother-in-law,' I replied. 'What about the typist?' Then the chap shut
up like a knife. 'No, no,' he said, 'I didn't know he was married. I
don't want to get mixed up in anything of that sort. I only said that
he had a typist. Well, what of that? So have we; so has everyone.' There
was nothing more to be got out of him, but the remark and the grin
meant--well, about as usual, Mr Carrados."

Carrados turned to his friend.

"I suppose you know all about the typist by now, Louis?"

"We have had her under efficient observation, Max," replied Mr Carlyle,
with severe dignity.

"Is she unmarried?"

"Yes; so far as ordinary repute goes, she is."

"That is all that is essential for the moment. Mr Hollyer opens up three
excellent reasons why this man might wish to dispose of his wife. If we
accept the suggestion of poisoning--though we have only a jealous
woman's suspicion for it--we add to the wish the determination. Well, we
will go forward on that. Have you got a photograph of Mr Creake?"

The lieutenant took out his pocket-book.

"Mr Carlyle asked me for one. Here is the best I could get."

Carrados rang the bell.

"This, Parkinson," he said, when the man appeared, "is a photograph of a
Mr----What first name, by the way?"

"Austin," put in Hollyer, who was following everything with a boyish
mixture of excitement and subdued importance.

"--of a Mr Austin Creake. I may require you to recognize him."

Parkinson glanced at the print and returned it to his master's hand.

"May I inquire if it is a recent photograph of the gentleman, sir?" he

"About six years ago," said the lieutenant, taking in this new actor in
the drama with frank curiosity. "But he is very little changed."

"Thank you, sir. I will endeavour to remember Mr Creake, sir."

Lieutenant Hollyer stood up as Parkinson left the room. The interview
seemed to be at an end.

"Oh, there's one other matter," he remarked. "I am afraid that I did
rather an unfortunate thing while I was at Brookbend. It seemed to me
that as all Millicent's money would probably pass into Creake's hands
sooner or later I might as well have my five hundred pounds, if only to
help her with afterwards. So I broached the subject and said that I
should like to have it now as I had an opportunity for investing."

"And you think?"

"It may possibly influence Creake to act sooner than he otherwise might
have done. He may have got possession of the principal even and find it
very awkward to replace it."

"So much the better. If your sister is going to be murdered it may as
well be done next week as next year so far as I am concerned. Excuse my
brutality, Mr Hollyer, but this is simply a case to me and I regard it
strategically. Now Mr Carlyle's organization can look after Mrs Creake
for a few weeks but it cannot look after her for ever. By increasing the
immediate risk we diminish the permanent risk."

"I see," agreed Hollyer. "I'm awfully uneasy but I'm entirely in your

"Then we will give Mr Creake every inducement and every opportunity to
get to work. Where are you staying now?"

"Just now with some friends at St Albans."

"That is too far." The inscrutable eyes retained their tranquil depth
but a new quality of quickening interest in the voice made Mr Carlyle
forget the weight and burden of his ruffled dignity. "Give me a few
minutes, please. The cigarettes are behind you, Mr Hollyer." The blind
man walked to the window and seemed to look out over the cypress-shaded
lawn. The lieutenant lit a cigarette and Mr Carlyle picked up _Punch_.
Then Carrados turned round again.

"You are prepared to put your own arrangements aside?" he demanded of
his visitor.


"Very well. I want you to go down now--straight from here--to Brookbend
Cottage. Tell your sister that your leave is unexpectedly cut short and
that you sail to-morrow."

"The _Martian_?"

"No, no; the _Martian_ doesn't sail. Look up the movements on your way
there and pick out a boat that does. Say you are transferred. Add that
you expect to be away only two or three months and that you really want
the five hundred pounds by the time of your return. Don't stay in the
house long, please."

"I understand, sir."

"St Albans is too far. Make your excuse and get away from there to-day.
Put up somewhere in town, where you will be in reach of the telephone.
Let Mr Carlyle and myself know where you are. Keep out of Creake's way.
I don't want actually to tie you down to the house, but we may require
your services. We will let you know at the first sign of anything doing
and if there is nothing to be done we must release you."

"I don't mind that. Is there nothing more that I can do now?"

"Nothing. In going to Mr Carlyle you have done the best thing possible;
you have put your sister into the care of the shrewdest man in London."
Whereat the object of this quite unexpected eulogy found himself
becoming covered with modest confusion.

"Well, Max?" remarked Mr Carlyle tentatively when they were alone.

"Well, Louis?"

"Of course it wasn't worth while rubbing it in before young Hollyer,
but, as a matter of fact, every single man carries the life of any other
man--only one, mind you--in his hands, do what you will."

"Provided he doesn't bungle," acquiesced Carrados.

"Quite so."

"And also that he is absolutely reckless of the consequences."

"Of course."

"Two rather large provisos. Creake is obviously susceptible to both.
Have you seen him?"

"No. As I told you, I put a man on to report his habits in town. Then,
two days ago, as the case seemed to promise some interest--for he
certainly is deeply involved with the typist, Max, and the thing might
take a sensational turn any time--I went down to Mulling Common myself.
Although the house is lonely it is on the electric tram route. You know
the sort of market garden rurality that about a dozen miles out of
London offers--alternate bricks and cabbages. It was easy enough to get
to know about Creake locally. He mixes with no one there, goes into town
at irregular times but generally every day, and is reputed to be
devilish hard to get money out of. Finally I made the acquaintance of an
old fellow who used to do a day's gardening at Brookbend occasionally.
He has a cottage and a garden of his own with a greenhouse, and the
business cost me the price of a pound of tomatoes."

"Was it--a profitable investment?"

"As tomatoes, yes; as information, no. The old fellow had the fatal
disadvantage from our point of view of labouring under a grievance. A
few weeks ago Creake told him that he would not require him again as he
was going to do his own gardening in future."

"That is something, Louis."

"If only Creake was going to poison his wife with hyoscyamine and bury
her, instead of blowing her up with a dynamite cartridge and claiming
that it came in among the coal."

"True, true. Still----"

"However, the chatty old soul had a simple explanation for everything
that Creake did. Creake was mad. He had even seen him flying a kite in
his garden where it was bound to get wrecked among the trees. 'A lad of
ten would have known better,' he declared. And certainly the kite did
get wrecked, for I saw it hanging over the road myself. But that a sane
man should spend his time 'playing with a toy' was beyond him."

"A good many men have been flying kites of various kinds lately," said
Carrados. "Is he interested in aviation?"

"I dare say. He appears to have some knowledge of scientific subjects.
Now what do you want me to do, Max?"

"Will you do it?"

"Implicitly--subject to the usual reservations."

"Keep your man on Creake in town and let me have his reports after you
have seen them. Lunch with me here now. 'Phone up to your office that
you are detained on unpleasant business and then give the deserving
Parkinson an afternoon off by looking after me while we take a motor run
round Mulling Common. If we have time we might go on to Brighton, feed
at the 'Ship,' and come back in the cool."

"Amiable and thrice lucky mortal," sighed Mr Carlyle, his glance
wandering round the room.

But, as it happened, Brighton did not figure in that day's itinerary. It
had been Carrados's intention merely to pass Brookbend Cottage on this
occasion, relying on his highly developed faculties, aided by Mr
Carlyle's description, to inform him of the surroundings. A hundred
yards before they reached the house he had given an order to his
chauffeur to drop into the lowest speed and they were leisurely drawing
past when a discovery by Mr Carlyle modified their plans.

"By Jupiter!" that gentleman suddenly exclaimed, "there's a board up,
Max. The place is to be let."

Carrados picked up the tube again. A couple of sentences passed and the
car stopped by the roadside, a score of paces past the limit of the
garden. Mr Carlyle took out his notebook and wrote down the address of a
firm of house agents.

"You might raise the bonnet and have a look at the engines, Harris,"
said Carrados. "We want to be occupied here for a few minutes."

"This is sudden; Hollyer knew nothing of their leaving," remarked Mr

"Probably not for three months yet. All the same, Louis, we will go on
to the agents and get a card to view, whether we use it to-day or not."

A thick hedge, in its summer dress effectively screening the house
beyond from public view, lay between the garden and the road. Above the
hedge showed an occasional shrub; at the corner nearest to the car a
chestnut flourished. The wooden gate, once white; which they had passed,
was grimed and rickety. The road itself was still the unpretentious
country lane that the advent of the electric car had found it. When
Carrados had taken in these details there seemed little else to notice.
He was on the point of giving Harris the order to go on when his ear
caught a trivial sound.

"Someone is coming out of the house, Louis," he warned his friend. "It
may be Hollyer, but he ought to have gone by this time."

"I don't hear anyone," replied the other, but as he spoke a door banged
noisily and Mr Carlyle slipped into another seat and ensconced himself
behind a copy of _The Globe_.

"Creake himself," he whispered across the car, as a man appeared at the
gate. "Hollyer was right; he is hardly changed. Waiting for a car, I

But a car very soon swung past them from the direction in which Mr
Creake was looking and it did not interest him. For a minute or two
longer he continued to look expectantly along the road. Then he walked
slowly up the drive back to the house.

"We will give him five or ten minutes," decided Carrados. "Harris is
behaving very naturally."

Before even the shorter period had run out they were repaid. A
telegraph-boy cycled leisurely along the road, and, leaving his machine
at the gate, went up to the cottage. Evidently there was no reply, for
in less than a minute he was trundling past them back again. Round the
bend an approaching tram clanged its bell noisily, and, quickened by the
warning sound, Mr Creake again appeared, this time with a small
portmanteau in his hand. With a backward glance he hurried on towards
the next stopping-place, and, boarding the car as it slackened down, he
was carried out of their knowledge.

"Very convenient of Mr Creake," remarked Carrados, with quiet
satisfaction. "We will now get the order and go over the house in his
absence. It might be useful to have a look at the wire as well."

"It might, Max," acquiesced Mr Carlyle a little dryly. "But if it is, as
it probably is, in Creake's pocket, how do you propose to get it?"

"By going to the post office, Louis."

"Quite so. Have you ever tried to see a copy of a telegram addressed to
someone else?"

"I don't think I have ever had occasion yet," admitted Carrados. "Have

"In one or two cases I have perhaps been an accessory to the act. It is
generally a matter either of extreme delicacy or considerable

"Then for Hollyer's sake we will hope for the former here." And Mr
Carlyle smiled darkly and hinted that he was content to wait for a
friendly revenge.

A little later, having left the car at the beginning of the straggling
High Street, the two men called at the village post office. They had
already visited the house agent and obtained an order to view Brookbend
Cottage, declining, with some difficulty, the clerk's persistent offer
to accompany them. The reason was soon forthcoming. "As a matter of
fact," explained the young man, "the present tenant is under _our_
notice to leave."

"Unsatisfactory, eh?" said Carrados encouragingly.

"He's a corker," admitted the clerk, responding to the friendly tone.
"Fifteen months and not a doit of rent have we had. That's why I should
have liked----"

"We will make every allowance," replied Carrados.

The post office occupied one side of a stationer's shop. It was not
without some inward trepidation that Mr Carlyle found himself committed
to the adventure. Carrados, on the other hand, was the personification
of bland unconcern.

"You have just sent a telegram to Brookbend Cottage," he said to the
young lady behind the brasswork lattice. "We think it may have come
inaccurately and should like a repeat." He took out his purse. "What is
the fee?"

The request was evidently not a common one. "Oh," said the girl
uncertainly, "wait a minute, please." She turned to a pile of telegram
duplicates behind the desk and ran a doubtful finger along the upper
sheets. "I think this is all right. You want it repeated?"

"Please." Just a tinge of questioning surprise gave point to the
courteous tone.

"It will be fourpence. If there is an error the amount will be

Carrados put down a coin and received his change.

"Will it take long?" he inquired carelessly, as he pulled on his glove.

"You will most likely get it within a quarter of an hour," she replied.

"Now you've done it," commented Mr Carlyle, as they walked back to their
car. "How do you propose to get that telegram, Max?"

"Ask for it," was the laconic explanation.

And, stripping the artifice of any elaboration, he simply asked for it
and got it. The car, posted at a convenient bend in the road, gave him a
warning note as the telegraph-boy approached. Then Carrados took up a
convincing attitude with his hand on the gate while Mr Carlyle lent
himself to the semblance of a departing friend. That was the inevitable
impression when the boy rode up.

"Creake, Brookbend Cottage?" inquired Carrados, holding out his hand,
and without a second thought the boy gave him the envelope and rode away
on the assurance that there would be no reply.

"Some day, my friend," remarked Mr Carlyle, looking nervously towards
the unseen house, "your ingenuity will get you into a tight corner."

"Then my ingenuity must get me out again," was the retort. "Let us have
our 'view' now. The telegram can wait."

An untidy workwoman took their order and left them standing at the door.
Presently a lady whom they both knew to be Mrs Creake appeared.

"You wish to see over the house?" she said, in a voice that was utterly
devoid of any interest. Then, without waiting for a reply, she turned to
the nearest door and threw it open.

"This is the drawing-room," she said, standing aside.

They walked into a sparsely furnished, damp-smelling room and made a
pretence of looking round, while Mrs Creake remained silent and aloof.

"The dining-room," she continued, crossing the narrow hall and opening
another door.

Mr Carlyle ventured a genial commonplace in the hope of inducing
conversation. The result was not encouraging. Doubtless they would have
gone through the house under the same frigid guidance had not Carrados
been at fault in a way that Mr Carlyle had never known him fail before.
In crossing the hall he stumbled over a mat and almost fell.

"Pardon my clumsiness," he said to the lady. "I am, unfortunately, quite
blind. But," he added, with a smile, to turn off the mishap, "even a
blind man must have a house."

The man who had eyes was surprised to see a flood of colour rush into
Mrs Creake's face.

"Blind!" she exclaimed, "oh, I beg your pardon. Why did you not tell me?
You might have fallen."

"I generally manage fairly well," he replied. "But, of course, in a
strange house----"

She put her hand on his arm very lightly.

"You must let me guide you, just a little," she said.

The house, without being large, was full of passages and inconvenient
turnings. Carrados asked an occasional question and found Mrs Creake
quite amiable without effusion. Mr Carlyle followed them from room to
room in the hope, though scarcely the expectation, of learning something
that might be useful.

"This is the last one. It is the largest bedroom," said their guide.
Only two of the upper rooms were fully furnished and Mr Carlyle at once
saw, as Carrados knew without seeing, that this was the one which the
Creakes occupied.

"A very pleasant outlook," declared Mr Carlyle.

"Oh, I suppose so," admitted the lady vaguely. The room, in fact, looked
over the leafy garden and the road beyond. It had a French window
opening on to a small balcony, and to this, under the strange influence
that always attracted him to light, Carrados walked.

"I expect that there is a certain amount of repair needed?" he said,
after standing there a moment.

"I am afraid there would be," she confessed.

"I ask because there is a sheet of metal on the floor here," he
continued. "Now that, in an old house, spells dry rot to the wary

"My husband said that the rain, which comes in a little under the
window, was rotting the boards there," she replied. "He put that down
recently. I had not noticed anything myself."

It was the first time she had mentioned her husband; Mr Carlyle pricked
up his ears.

"Ah, that is a less serious matter," said Carrados. "May I step out on
to the balcony?"

"Oh yes, if you like to." Then, as he appeared to be fumbling at the
catch, "Let me open it for you."

But the window was already open, and Carrados, facing the various points
of the compass, took in the bearings.

"A sunny, sheltered corner," he remarked. "An ideal spot for a
deck-chair and a book."

She shrugged her shoulders half contemptuously.

"I dare say," she replied, "but I never use it."

"Sometimes, surely," he persisted mildly. "It would be my favourite
retreat. But then----"

"I was going to say that I had never even been out on it, but that would
not be quite true. It has two uses for me, both equally romantic; I
occasionally shake a duster from it, and when my husband returns late
without his latchkey he wakes me up and I come out here and drop him

Further revelation of Mr Creake's nocturnal habits was cut off, greatly
to Mr Carlyle's annoyance, by a cough of unmistakable significance from
the foot of the stairs. They had heard a trade cart drive up to the
gate, a knock at the door, and the heavy-footed woman tramp along the

"Excuse me a minute, please," said Mrs Creake.

"Louis," said Carrados, in a sharp whisper, the moment they were alone,
"stand against the door."

With extreme plausibility Mr Carlyle began to admire a picture so
situated that while he was there it was impossible to open the door more
than a few inches. From that position he observed his confederate go
through the curious procedure of kneeling down on the bedroom floor and
for a full minute pressing his ear to the sheet of metal that had
already engaged his attention. Then he rose to his feet, nodded, dusted
his trousers, and Mr Carlyle moved to a less equivocal position.

"What a beautiful rose-tree grows up your balcony," remarked Carrados,
stepping into the room as Mrs Creake returned. "I suppose you are very
fond of gardening?"

"I detest it," she replied.

"But this _Glorie_, so carefully trained----?"

"Is it?" she replied. "I think my husband was nailing it up recently."
By some strange fatality Carrados's most aimless remarks seemed to
involve the absent Mr Creake. "Do you care to see the garden?"

The garden proved to be extensive and neglected. Behind the house was
chiefly orchard. In front, some semblance of order had been kept up;
here it was lawn and shrubbery, and the drive they had walked along.
Two things interested Carrados: the soil at the foot of the balcony,
which he declared on examination to be particularly suitable for roses,
and the fine chestnut-tree in the corner by the road.

As they walked back to the car Mr Carlyle lamented that they had learned
so little of Creake's movements.

"Perhaps the telegram will tell us something," suggested Carrados. "Read
it, Louis."

Mr Carlyle cut open the envelope, glanced at the enclosure, and in spite
of his disappointment could not restrain a chuckle.

"My poor Max," he explained, "you have put yourself to an amount of
ingenious trouble for nothing. Creake is evidently taking a few days'
holiday and prudently availed himself of the Meteorological Office
forecast before going. Listen: '_Immediate prospect for London warm and
settled. Further outlook cooler but fine._' Well, well; I did get a
pound of tomatoes for _my_ fourpence."

"You certainly scored there, Louis," admitted Carrados, with humorous
appreciation. "I wonder," he added speculatively, "whether it is
Creake's peculiar taste usually to spend his week-end holiday in

"Eh?" exclaimed Mr Carlyle, looking at the words again, "by gad, that's
rum, Max. They go to Weston-super-Mare. Why on earth should he want to
know about London?"

"I can make a guess, but before we are satisfied I must come here again.
Take another look at that kite, Louis. Are there a few yards of string
hanging loose from it?"

"Yes, there are."

"Rather thick string--unusually thick for the purpose?"

"Yes; but how do you know?"

As they drove home again Carrados explained, and Mr Carlyle sat aghast,
saying incredulously: "Good God, Max, is it possible?"

An hour later he was satisfied that it was possible. In reply to his
inquiry someone in his office telephoned him the information that "they"
had left Paddington by the four-thirty for Weston.

It was more than a week after his introduction to Carrados that
Lieutenant Hollyer had a summons to present himself at The Turrets
again. He found Mr Carlyle already there and the two friends awaiting
his arrival.

"I stayed in all day after hearing from you this morning, Mr Carrados,"
he said, shaking hands. "When I got your second message I was all ready
to walk straight out of the house. That's how I did it in the time. I
hope everything is all right?"

"Excellent," replied Carrados. "You'd better have something before we
start. We probably have a long and perhaps an exciting night before us."

"And certainly a wet one," assented the lieutenant. "It was thundering
over Mulling way as I came along."

"That is why you are here," said his host. "We are waiting for a certain
message before we start, and in the meantime you may as well understand
what we expect to happen. As you saw, there is a thunderstorm coming on.
The Meteorological Office morning forecast predicted it for the whole of
London if the conditions remained. That was why I kept you in readiness.
Within an hour it is now inevitable that we shall experience a deluge.
Here and there damage will be done to trees and buildings; here and
there a person will probably be struck and killed."


"It is Mr Creake's intention that his wife should be among the victims."

"I don't exactly follow," said Hollyer, looking from one man to the
other. "I quite admit that Creake would be immensely relieved if such a
thing did happen, but the chance is surely an absurdly remote one."

"Yet unless we intervene it is precisely what a coroner's jury will
decide has happened. Do you know whether your brother-in-law has any
practical knowledge of electricity, Mr Hollyer?"

"I cannot say. He was so reserved, and we really knew so little of

"Yet in 1896 an Austin Creake contributed an article on 'Alternating
Currents' to the American _Scientific World_. That would argue a fairly
intimate acquaintanceship."

"But do you mean that he is going to direct a flash of lightning?"

"Only into the minds of the doctor who conducts the post-mortem, and
the coroner. This storm, the opportunity for which he has been waiting
for weeks, is merely the cloak to his act. The weapon which he has
planned to use--scarcely less powerful than lightning but much more
tractable--is the high voltage current of electricity that flows along
the tram wire at his gate."

"Oh!" exclaimed Lieutenant Hollyer, as the sudden revelation struck him.

"Some time between eleven o'clock to-night--about the hour when your
sister goes to bed--and one-thirty in the morning--the time up to which
he can rely on the current--Creake will throw a stone up at the balcony
window. Most of his preparation has long been made; it only remains for
him to connect up a short length to the window handle and a longer one
at the other end to tap the live wire. That done, he will wake his wife
in the way I have said. The moment she moves the catch of the
window--and he has carefully filed its parts to ensure perfect
contact--she will be electrocuted as effectually as if she sat in the
executioner's chair in Sing Sing prison."

"But what are we doing here!" exclaimed Hollyer, starting to his feet,
pale and horrified. "It is past ten now and anything may happen."

"Quite natural, Mr Hollyer," said Carrados reassuringly, "but you need
have no anxiety. Creake is being watched, the house is being watched,
and your sister is as safe as if she slept to-night in Windsor Castle.
Be assured that whatever happens he will not be allowed to complete his
scheme; but it is desirable to let him implicate himself to the fullest
limit. Your brother-in-law, Mr Hollyer, is a man with a peculiar
capacity for taking pains."

"He is a damned cold-blooded scoundrel!" exclaimed the young officer
fiercely. "When I think of Millicent five years ago----"

"Well, for that matter, an enlightened nation has decided that
electrocution is the most humane way of removing its superfluous
citizens," suggested Carrados mildly. "He is certainly an
ingenious-minded gentleman. It is his misfortune that in Mr Carlyle he
was fated to be opposed by an even subtler brain----"

"No, no! Really, Max!" protested the embarrassed gentleman.

"Mr Hollyer will be able to judge for himself when I tell him that it
was Mr Carlyle who first drew attention to the significance of the
abandoned kite," insisted Carrados firmly. "Then, of course, its object
became plain to me--as indeed to anyone. For ten minutes, perhaps, a
wire must be carried from the overhead line to the chestnut-tree. Creake
has everything in his favour, but it is just within possibility that the
driver of an inopportune tram might notice the appendage. What of that?
Why, for more than a week he has seen a derelict kite with its yards of
trailing string hanging in the tree. A very calculating mind, Mr
Hollyer. It would be interesting to know what line of action Mr Creake
has mapped out for himself afterwards. I expect he has half-a-dozen
artistic little touches up his sleeve. Possibly he would merely singe
his wife's hair, burn her feet with a red-hot poker, shiver the glass of
the French window, and be content with that to let well alone. You see,
lightning is so varied in its effects that whatever he did or did not do
would be right. He is in the impregnable position of the body showing
all the symptoms of death by lightning shock and nothing else but
lightning to account for it--a dilated eye, heart contracted in systole,
bloodless lungs shrunk to a third the normal weight, and all the rest of
it. When he has removed a few outward traces of his work Creake might
quite safely 'discover' his dead wife and rush off for the nearest
doctor. Or he may have decided to arrange a convincing alibi, and creep
away, leaving the discovery to another. We shall never know; he will
make no confession."

"I wish it was well over," admitted Hollyer. "I'm not particularly
jumpy, but this gives me a touch of the creeps."

"Three more hours at the worst, Lieutenant," said Carrados cheerfully.
"Ah-ha, something is coming through now."

He went to the telephone and received a message from one quarter; then
made another connection and talked for a few minutes with someone else.

"Everything working smoothly," he remarked between times over his
shoulder. "Your sister has gone to bed, Mr Hollyer."

Then he turned to the house telephone and distributed his orders.

"So we," he concluded, "must get up."

By the time they were ready a large closed motor car was waiting. The
lieutenant thought he recognized Parkinson in the well-swathed form
beside the driver, but there was no temptation to linger for a second on
the steps. Already the stinging rain had lashed the drive into the
semblance of a frothy estuary; all round the lightning jagged its course
through the incessant tremulous glow of more distant lightning, while
the thunder only ceased its muttering to turn at close quarters and
crackle viciously.

"One of the few things I regret missing," remarked Carrados tranquilly;
"but I hear a good deal of colour in it."

The car slushed its way down to the gate, lurched a little heavily
across the dip into the road, and, steadying as it came upon the
straight, began to hum contentedly along the deserted highway.

"We are not going direct?" suddenly inquired Hollyer, after they had
travelled perhaps half-a-dozen miles. The night was bewildering enough
but he had the sailor's gift for location.

"No; through Hunscott Green and then by a field-path to the orchard at
the back," replied Carrados. "Keep a sharp look out for the man with the
lantern about here, Harris," he called through the tube.

"Something flashing just ahead, sir," came the reply, and the car slowed
down and stopped.

Carrados dropped the near window as a man in glistening waterproof
stepped from the shelter of a lich-gate and approached.

"Inspector Beedel, sir," said the stranger, looking into the car.

"Quite right, Inspector," said Carrados. "Get in."

"I have a man with me, sir."

"We can find room for him as well."

"We are very wet."

"So shall we all be soon."

The lieutenant changed his seat and the two burly forms took places side
by side. In less than five minutes the car stopped again, this time in a
grassy country lane.

"Now we have to face it," announced Carrados. "The inspector will show
us the way."

The car slid round and disappeared into the night, while Beedel led the
party to a stile in the hedge. A couple of fields brought them to the
Brookbend boundary. There a figure stood out of the black foliage,
exchanged a few words with their guide and piloted them along the
shadows of the orchard to the back door of the house.

"You will find a broken pane near the catch of the scullery window,"
said the blind man.

"Right, sir," replied the inspector. "I have it. Now who goes through?"

"Mr Hollyer will open the door for us. I'm afraid you must take off
your boots and all wet things, Lieutenant. We cannot risk a single spot

They waited until the back door opened, then each one divested himself
in a similar manner and passed into the kitchen, where the remains of a
fire still burned. The man from the orchard gathered together the
discarded garments and disappeared again.

Carrados turned to the lieutenant.

"A rather delicate job for you now, Mr Hollyer. I want you to go up to
your sister, wake her, and get her into another room with as little fuss
as possible. Tell her as much as you think fit and let her understand
that her very life depends on absolute stillness when she is alone.
Don't be unduly hurried, but not a glimmer of a light, please."

Ten minutes passed by the measure of the battered old alarum on the
dresser shelf before the young man returned.

"I've had rather a time of it," he reported, with a nervous laugh, "but
I think it will be all right now. She is in the spare room."

"Then we will take our places. You and Parkinson come with me to the
bedroom. Inspector, you have your own arrangements. Mr Carlyle will be
with you."

They dispersed silently about the house. Hollyer glanced apprehensively
at the door of the spare room as they passed it but within was as quiet
as the grave. Their room lay at the other end of the passage.

"You may as well take your place in the bed now, Hollyer," directed
Carrados when they were inside and the door closed. "Keep well down
among the clothes. Creake has to get up on the balcony, you know, and he
will probably peep through the window, but he dare come no farther. Then
when he begins to throw up stones slip on this dressing-gown of your
sister's. I'll tell you what to do after."

The next sixty minutes drew out into the longest hour that the
lieutenant had ever known. Occasionally he heard a whisper pass between
the two men who stood behind the window curtains, but he could see
nothing. Then Carrados threw a guarded remark in his direction.

"He is in the garden now."

Something scraped slightly against the outer wall. But the night was
full of wilder sounds, and in the house the furniture and the boards
creaked and sprung between the yawling of the wind among the chimneys,
the rattle of the thunder and the pelting of the rain. It was a time to
quicken the steadiest pulse, and when the crucial moment came, when a
pebble suddenly rang against the pane with a sound that the tense
waiting magnified into a shivering crash, Hollyer leapt from the bed on
the instant.

"Easy, easy," warned Carrados feelingly. "We will wait for another
knock." He passed something across. "Here is a rubber glove. I have cut
the wire but you had better put it on. Stand just for a moment at the
window, move the catch so that it can blow open a little, and drop
immediately. Now."

Another stone had rattled against the glass. For Hollyer to go through
his part was the work merely of seconds, and with a few touches Carrados
spread the dressing-gown to more effective disguise about the extended
form. But an unforeseen and in the circumstances rather horrible
interval followed, for Creake, in accordance with some detail of his
never-revealed plan, continued to shower missile after missile against
the panes until even the unimpressionable Parkinson shivered.

"The last act," whispered Carrados, a moment after the throwing had
ceased. "He has gone round to the back. Keep as you are. We take cover
now." He pressed behind the arras of an extemporized wardrobe, and the
spirit of emptiness and desolation seemed once more to reign over the
lonely house.

From half-a-dozen places of concealment ears were straining to catch the
first guiding sound. He moved very stealthily, burdened, perhaps, by
some strange scruple in the presence of the tragedy that he had not
feared to contrive, paused for a moment at the bedroom door, then opened
it very quietly, and in the fickle light read the consummation of his

"At last!" they heard the sharp whisper drawn from his relief. "At

He took another step and two shadows seemed to fall upon him from
behind, one on either side. With primitive instinct a cry of terror and
surprise escaped him as he made a desperate movement to wrench himself
free, and for a short second he almost succeeded in dragging one hand
into a pocket. Then his wrists slowly came together and the handcuffs

"I am Inspector Beedel," said the man on his right side. "You are
charged with the attempted murder of your wife, Millicent Creake."

"You are mad," retorted the miserable creature, falling into a desperate
calmness. "She has been struck by lightning."

"No, you blackguard, she hasn't," wrathfully exclaimed his
brother-in-law, jumping up. "Would you like to see her?"

"I also have to warn you," continued the inspector impassively, "that
anything you say may be used as evidence against you."

A startled cry from the farther end of the passage arrested their

"Mr Carrados," called Hollyer, "oh, come at once."

At the open door of the other bedroom stood the lieutenant, his eyes
still turned towards something in the room beyond, a little empty bottle
in his hand.

"Dead!" he exclaimed tragically, with a sob, "with this beside her. Dead
just when she would have been free of the brute."

The blind man passed into the room, sniffed the air, and laid a gentle
hand on the pulseless heart.

"Yes," he replied. "That, Hollyer, does not always appeal to the woman,
strange to say."


Mr Carlyle had arrived at The Turrets in the very best possible spirits.
Everything about him, from his immaculate white spats to the choice
gardenia in his buttonhole, from the brisk decision with which he took
the front-door steps to the bustling importance with which he had
positively brushed Parkinson aside at the door of the library,
proclaimed consequence and the extremely good terms on which he stood
with himself.

"Prepare yourself, Max," he exclaimed. "If I hinted at a case of
exceptional delicacy that will certainly interest you by its romantic

"I should have the liveliest misgivings. Ten to one it would be a jewel
mystery," hazarded Carrados, as his friend paused with the point of his
communication withheld, after the manner of a quizzical youngster with a
promised bon-bon held behind his back. "If you made any more of it I
should reluctantly be forced to the conclusion that the case involved a
society scandal connected with a priceless pearl necklace."

Mr Carlyle's face fell.

"Then it _is_ in the papers, after all?" he said, with an air of

"What is in the papers, Louis?"

"Some hint of the fraudulent insurance of the Hon. Mrs Straithwaite's
pearl necklace," replied Carlyle.

"Possibly," admitted Carrados. "But so far I have not come across it."

Mr Carlyle stared at his friend, and marching up to the table brought
his hand down on it with an arresting slap.

"Then what in the name of goodness are you talking about, may I ask?" he
demanded caustically. "If you know nothing of the Straithwaite affair,
Max, what other pearl necklace case are you referring to?"

Carrados assumed the air of mild deprecation with which he frequently
apologized for a blind man venturing to make a discovery.

"A philosopher once made the remark----"

"Had it anything to do with Mrs Straithwaite's--the Hon. Mrs
Straithwaite's--pearl necklace? And let me warn you, Max, that I have
read a good deal both of Mill and Spencer at odd times."

"It was neither Mill nor Spencer. He had a German name, so I will not
mention it. He made the observation, which, of course, we recognize as
an obvious commonplace when once it has been expressed, that in order to
have an accurate knowledge of what a man will do on any occasion it is
only necessary to study a single characteristic action of his."

"Utterly impracticable," declared Mr Carlyle.

"I therefore knew that when you spoke of a case of exceptional interest
to _me_, what you really meant, Louis, was a case of exceptional
interest to _you_."

Mr Carlyle's sudden thoughtful silence seemed to admit that possibly
there might be something in the point.

"By applying, almost unconsciously, the same useful rule, I became aware
that a mystery connected with a valuable pearl necklace and a beautiful
young society belle would appeal the most strongly to your romantic

"Romantic! I, romantic? Thirty-five and a private inquiry agent! You
are--positively feverish, Max."

"Incurably romantic--or you would have got over it by now: the worst

"Max, this may prove a most important and interesting case. Will you be
serious and discuss it?"

"Jewel cases are rarely either important or interesting. Pearl necklace
mysteries, in nine cases out of ten, spring from the miasma of social
pretence and vapid competition and only concern people who do not matter
in the least. The only attractive thing about them is the name. They are
so barren of originality that a criminological Linnæus could classify
them with absolute nicety. I'll tell you what, we'll draw up a set of
tables giving the solution to every possible pearl necklace case for the
next twenty-one years."

"We will do any mortal thing you like, Max, if you will allow Parkinson
to administer a bromo-seltzer and then enable me to meet the officials
of the Direct Insurance without a blush."

For three minutes Carrados picked his unerring way among the furniture
as he paced the room silently but with irresolution in his face. Twice
his hand went to a paper-covered book lying on his desk, and twice he
left it untouched.

"Have you ever been in the lion-house at feeding-time, Louis?" he
demanded abruptly.

"In the very remote past, possibly," admitted Mr Carlyle guardedly.

"As the hour approaches it is impossible to interest the creatures with
any other suggestion than that of raw meat. You came a day too late,
Louis." He picked up the book and skimmed it adroitly into Mr Carlyle's
hands. "I have already scented the gore, and tasted in imagination the
joy of tearing choice morsels from other similarly obsessed animals."

"'Catalogue des monnaies grecques et romaines,'" read the gentleman.
"'To be sold by auction at the Hotel Drouet, Paris, salle 8, April the
24th, 25th, etc.' H'm." He turned to the plates of photogravure
illustration which gave an air to the volume. "This is an event, I

"It is the sort of dispersal we get about once in three years," replied
Carrados. "I seldom attend the little sales, but I save up and then have
a week's orgy."

"And when do you go?"

"To-day. By the afternoon boat--Folkestone. I have already taken rooms
at Mascot's. I'm sorry it has fallen so inopportunely, Louis."

Mr Carlyle rose to the occasion with a display of extremely gentlemanly
feeling--which had the added merit of being quite genuine.

"My dear chap, your regrets only serve to remind me how much I owe to
you already. _Bon voyage_, and the most desirable of Eu--Eu--well,
perhaps it would be safer to say, of Kimons, for your collection."

"I suppose," pondered Carrados, "this insurance business might have led
to other profitable connexions?"

"That is quite true," admitted his friend. "I have been trying for some
time--but do not think any more of it, Max."

"What time is it?" demanded Carrados suddenly.


"Good. Has any officious idiot had anyone arrested?"

"No, it is only----"

"Never mind. Do you know much of the case?"

"Practically nothing as yet, unfortunately. I came----"

"Excellent. Everything is on our side. Louis, I won't go this
afternoon--I will put off till the night boat from Dover. That will give
us nine hours."

"Nine hours?" repeated the mystified Carlyle, scarcely daring to put
into thought the scandalous inference that Carrados's words conveyed.

"Nine full hours. A pearl necklace case that cannot at least be left
straight after nine hours' work will require a column to itself in our
chart. Now, Louis, where does this Direct Insurance live?"

Carlyle had allowed his blind friend to persuade him into--as they had
seemed at the beginning--many mad enterprises. But none had ever, in the
light of his own experience, seemed so foredoomed to failure as when, at
eleven-thirty, Carrados ordered his luggage to be on the platform of
Charing Cross Station at eight-fifty and then turned light-heartedly to
the task of elucidating the mystery of Mrs Straithwaite's pearl necklace
in the interval.

The head office of the Direct and Intermediate Insurance Company proved
to be in Victoria Street. Thanks to Carrados's speediest car, they
entered the building as the clocks of Westminster were striking twelve,
but for the next twenty minutes they were consigned to the general
office while Mr Carlyle fumed and displayed his watch ostentatiously. At
last a clerk slid off his stool by the speaking-tube and approached

"Mr Carlyle?" he said. "The General Manager will see you now, but as he
has another appointment in ten minutes he will be glad if you will make
your business as short as possible. This way, please."

Mr Carlyle bit his lip at the pompous formality of the message but he
was too experienced to waste any words about it and with a mere nod he
followed, guiding his friend until they reached the Manager's room.
But, though subservient to circumstance, he was far from being
negligible when he wished to create an impression.

"Mr Carrados has been good enough to give us a consultation over this
small affair," he said, with just the necessary touches of deference and
condescension that it was impossible either to miss or to resent.
"Unfortunately he can do little more as he has to leave almost at once
to direct an important case in Paris."

The General Manager conveyed little, either in his person or his manner,
of the brisk precision that his message seemed to promise. The name of
Carrados struck him as being somewhat familiar--something a little
removed from the routine of his business and a matter therefore that he
could unbend over. He continued to stand comfortably before his office
fire, making up by a tolerant benignity of his hard and bulbous eye for
the physical deprivation that his attitude entailed on his visitors.

"Paris, egad?" he grunted. "Something in your line that France can take
from us since the days of--what's-his-name--Vidocq, eh? Clever fellow,
that, what? Wasn't it about him and the Purloined Letter?"

Carrados smiled discreetly.

"Capital, wasn't it?" he replied. "But there is something else that
Paris can learn from London, more in your way, sir. Often when I drop in
to see the principal of one of their chief houses or the head of a
Government department, we fall into an entertaining discussion of this
or that subject that may be on the tapis. 'Ah, monsieur,' I say, after
perhaps half-an-hour's conversation, 'it is very amiable of you and
sometimes I regret our insular methods, but it is not thus that great
businesses are formed. At home, if I call upon one of our princes of
industry--a railway director, a merchant, or the head of one of our
leading insurance companies--nothing will tempt him for a moment from
the stern outline of the business in hand. You are too complaisant; the
merest gossip takes advantage of you.'"

"That's quite true," admitted the General Manager, occupying the
revolving chair at his desk and assuming a serious and very determined
expression. "Slackers, I call them. Now, Mr Carlyle, where are we in
this business?"

"I have your letter of yesterday. We should naturally like all the
particulars you can give us."

The Manager threw open a formidable-looking volume with an immense
display of energy, sharply flattened some typewritten pages that had
ventured to raise their heads, and lifted an impressive finger.

"We start here, the 27th of January. On that day Karsfeld, the Princess
Street jeweller, y'know, who acted as our jewellery assessor, forwards a
proposal of the Hon. Mrs Straithwaite to insure a pearl necklace against
theft. Says that he has had an opportunity of examining it and passes it
at five thousand pounds. That business goes through in the ordinary way;
the premium is paid and the policy taken out.

"A couple of months later Karsfeld has a little unpleasantness with us
and resigns. Resignation accepted. We have nothing against him, you
understand. At the same time there is an impression among the directors
that he has been perhaps a little too easy in his ways, a little
too--let us say, expansive, in some of his valuations and too
accommodating to his own clients in recommending to us business of
a--well--speculative basis; business that we do not care about and which
we now feel is foreign to our traditions as a firm. However"--the
General Manager threw apart his stubby hands as though he would shatter
any fabric of criminal intention that he might be supposed to be
insidiously constructing--"that is the extent of our animadversion
against Karsfeld. There are no irregularities and you may take it from
me that the man is all right."

"You would propose accepting the fact that a five-thousand-pound
necklace was submitted to him?" suggested Mr Carlyle.

"I should," acquiesced the Manager, with a weighty nod. "Still--this
brings us to April the third--this break, so to speak, occurring in our
routine, it seemed a good opportunity for us to assure ourselves on one
or two points. Mr Bellitzer--you know Bellitzer, of course; know _of_
him, I should say--was appointed _vice_ Karsfeld and we wrote to certain
of our clients, asking them--as our policies entitled us to do--as a
matter of form to allow Mr Bellitzer to confirm the assessment of his
predecessor. Wrapped it up in silver paper, of course; said it would
certify the present value and be a guarantee that would save them some
formalities in case of ensuing claim, and so on. Among others, wrote to
the Hon. Mrs Straithwaite to that effect--April fourth. Here is her
reply of three days later. Sorry to disappoint us, but the necklace has
just been sent to her bank for custody as she is on the point of leaving
town. Also scarcely sees that it is necessary in her case as the
insurance was only taken so recently."

"That is dated April the seventh?" inquired Mr Carlyle, busy with pencil
and pocket-book.

"April seventh," repeated the Manager, noting this conscientiousness
with an approving glance and then turning to regard questioningly the
indifferent attitude of his other visitor. "That put us on our
guard--naturally. Wrote by return regretting the necessity and
suggesting that a line to her bankers, authorizing them to show us the
necklace, would meet the case and save her any personal trouble.
Interval of a week. Her reply, April sixteenth. Thursday last.
Circumstances have altered her plans and she has returned to London
sooner than she expected. Her jewel-case has been returned from the
bank, and will we send our man round--'our man,' Mr Carlyle!--on
Saturday morning not later than twelve, please."

The Manager closed the record book, with a sweep of his hand cleared his
desk for revelations, and leaning forward in his chair fixed Mr Carlyle
with a pragmatic eye.

"On Saturday Mr Bellitzer goes to Luneburg Mansions and the Hon. Mrs
Straithwaite shows him the necklace. He examines it carefully, assesses
its insurable value up to five thousand, two hundred and fifty pounds,
and reports us to that effect. But he reports something else, Mr
Carlyle. It is not the necklace that the lady had insured."

"Not the necklace?" echoed Mr Carlyle.

"No. In spite of the number of pearls and a general similarity there are
certain technical differences, well known to experts, that made the fact
indisputable. The Hon. Mrs Straithwaite has been guilty of
misrepresentation. Possibly she has no fraudulent intention. We are
willing to pay to find out. That's your business."

Mr Carlyle made a final note and put away his book with an air of
decision that could not fail to inspire confidence.

"To-morrow," he said, "we shall perhaps be able to report something."

"Hope so," vouchsafed the Manager. "'Morning."

From his position near the window, Carrados appeared to wake up to the
fact that the interview was over.

"But so far," he remarked blandly, with his eyes towards the great man
in the chair, "you have told us nothing of the theft."

The Manager regarded the speaker dumbly for a moment and then turned to
Mr Carlyle.

"What does he mean?" he demanded pungently.

But for once Mr Carlyle's self-possession had forsaken him. He
recognized that somehow Carrados had been guilty of an appalling lapse,
by which his reputation for prescience was wrecked in that quarter for
ever, and at the catastrophe his very ears began to exude embarrassment.

In the awkward silence Carrados himself seemed to recognize that
something was amiss.

"We appear to be at cross-purposes," he observed. "I inferred that the
disappearance of the necklace would be the essence of our

"Have I said a word about it disappearing?" demanded the Manager, with a
contempt-laden raucity that he made no pretence of softening. "You don't
seem to have grasped the simple facts about the case, Mr Carrados.
Really, I hardly think----Oh, come in!"

There had been a knock at the door, then another. A clerk now entered
with an open telegram.

"Mr Longworth wished you to see this at once, sir."

"We may as well go," whispered Mr Carlyle with polite depression to his

"Here, wait a minute," said the Manager, who had been biting his
thumb-nail over the telegram. "No, not you"--to the lingering
clerk--"you clear." Much of the embarrassment that had troubled Mr
Carlyle a minute before seemed to have got into the Manager's system. "I
don't understand this," he confessed awkwardly. "It's from Bellitzer. He
wires: '_Have just heard alleged robbery Straithwaite pearls. Advise
strictest investigation._'"

Mr Carlyle suddenly found it necessary to turn to the wall and consult a
highly coloured lithographic inducement to insure. Mr Carrados alone
remained to meet the Manager's constrained glance.

"Still, _he_ tells us really nothing about the theft," he remarked

"No," admitted the Manager, experiencing some little difficulty with his
breathing, "he does not."

"Well, we still hope to be able to report something to-morrow.

It was with an effort that Mr Carlyle straightened himself sufficiently
to take leave of the Manager. Several times in the corridor he stopped
to wipe his eyes.

"Max, you unholy fraud," he said, when they were outside, "you knew all
the time."

"No; I told you that I knew nothing of it," replied Carrados frankly. "I
am absolutely sincere."

"Then all I can say is, that I see a good many things happen that I
don't believe in."

Carrados's reply was to hold out a coin to a passing newsboy and to hand
the purchase to his friend who was already in the car.

"There is a slang injunction to 'keep your eyes skinned.' That being out
of my power, I habitually 'keep my ears skinned.' You would be surprised
to know how very little you hear, Louis, and how much you miss. In the
last five minutes up there I have had three different newsboys' account
of this development."

"By Jupiter, she hasn't waited long!" exclaimed Mr Carlyle, referring
eagerly to the headlines. "'PEARL NECKLACE SENSATION. SOCIETY LADY'S
£5000 TRINKET DISAPPEARS.' Things are moving. Where next, Max?"

"It is now a quarter to one," replied Carrados, touching the fingers of
his watch. "We may as well lunch on the strength of this new turn.
Parkinson will have finished packing; I can telephone him to come to us
at Merrick's in case I require him. Buy all the papers, Louis, and we
will collate the points."

The undoubted facts that survived a comparison were few and meagre, for
in each case a conscientious journalist had touched up a few vague or
doubtful details according to his own ideas of probability. All agreed
that on Tuesday evening--it was now Thursday--Mrs Straithwaite had
formed one of a party that had occupied a box at the new Metropolitan
Opera House to witness the performance of _La Pucella_, and that she had
been robbed of a set of pearls valued in round figures at five thousand
pounds. There agreement ended. One version represented the theft as
taking place at the theatre. Another asserted that at the last moment
the lady had decided not to wear the necklace that evening and that its
abstraction had been cleverly effected from the flat during her absence.
Into a third account came an ambiguous reference to Markhams, the
well-known jewellers, and a conjecture that their loss would certainly
be covered by insurance.

Mr Carlyle, who had been picking out the salient points of the
narratives, threw down the last paper with an impatient shrug.

"Why in heaven's name have we Markhams coming into it now?" he demanded.
"What have they to lose by it, Max? What do you make of the thing?"

"There is the second genuine string--the one Bellitzer saw. That belongs
to someone."

"By gad, that's true--only five days ago, too. But what does our lady
stand to make by that being stolen?"

Carrados was staring into obscurity between an occasional moment of
attention to his cigarette or coffee.

"By this time the lady probably stands to wish she was well out of it,"
he replied thoughtfully. "Once you have set this sort of stone rolling
and it has got beyond you----" He shook his head.

"It has become more intricate than you expected?" suggested Carlyle, in
order to afford his friend an opportunity of withdrawing.

Carrados pierced the intention and smiled affectionately.

"My dear Louis," he said, "one-fifth of the mystery is already solved."

"One-fifth? How do you arrive at that?"

"Because it is one-twenty-five and we started at eleven-thirty."

He nodded to their waiter, who was standing three tables away, and paid
the bill. Then with perfect gravity he permitted Mr Carlyle to lead him
by the arm into the street, where their car was waiting, Parkinson
already there in attendance.

"Sure I can be of no further use?" asked Carlyle. Carrados had
previously indicated that after lunch he would go on alone, but, because
he was largely sceptical of the outcome, the professional man felt
guiltily that he was deserting. "Say the word?"

Carrados smiled and shook his head. Then he leaned across.

"I am going to the opera house now; then, possibly, to talk to Markham a
little. If I have time I must find a man who knows the Straithwaites,
and after that I may look up Inspector Beedel if he is at the Yard. That
is as far as I can see yet, until I call at Luneburg Mansions. Come
round on the third anyway."

"Dear old chap," murmured Mr Carlyle, as the car edged its way ahead
among the traffic. "Marvellous shots he makes!"

In the meanwhile, at Luneburg Mansions, Mrs Straithwaite had been
passing anything but a pleasant day. She had awakened with a headache
and an overnight feeling that there was some unpleasantness to be gone
on with. That it did not amount to actual fear was due to the enormous
self-importance and the incredible ignorance which ruled the butterfly
brain of the young society beauty--for in spite of three years'
experience of married life Stephanie Straithwaite was as yet on the
enviable side of two and twenty.

Anticipating an early visit from a particularly obnoxious sister-in-law,
she had remained in bed until after lunch in order to be able to deny
herself with the more conviction. Three journalists who would have
afforded her the mild excitement of being interviewed had called and
been in turn put off with polite regrets by her husband. The
objectionable sister-in-law postponed her visit until the afternoon and
for more than an hour Stephanie "suffered agonies." When the visitor had
left and the martyred hostess announced her intention of flying
immediately to the consoling society of her own bridge circle,
Straithwaite had advised her, with some significance, to wait for a
lead. The unhappy lady cast herself bodily down upon a couch and asked
whether she was to become a nun. Straithwaite merely shrugged his
shoulders and remembered a club engagement. Evidently there was no need
for him to become a monk: Stephanie followed him down the hall, arguing
and protesting. That was how they came jointly to encounter Carrados at
the door.

"I have come from the Direct Insurance in the hope of being able to see
Mrs Straithwaite," he explained, when the door opened rather suddenly
before he had knocked. "My name is Carrados--Max Carrados."

There was a moment of hesitation all round. Then Stephanie read
difficulties in the straightening lines of her husband's face and rose
joyfully to the occasion.

"Oh yes; come in, Mr Carrados," she exclaimed graciously. "We are not
quite strangers, you know. You found out something for Aunt Pigs; I
forget what, but she was most frantically impressed."

"Lady Poges," enlarged Straithwaite, who had stepped aside and was
watching the development with slow, calculating eyes. "But, I say, you
are blind, aren't you?"

Carrados's smiling admission turned the edge of Mrs Straithwaite's
impulsive, "Teddy!"

"But I get along all right," he added. "I left my man down in the car
and I found your door first shot, you see."

The references reminded the velvet-eyed little mercenary that the man
before her had the reputation of being quite desirably rich, his queer
taste merely an eccentric hobby. The consideration made her resolve to
be quite her nicest possible, as she led the way to the drawing-room.
Then Teddy, too, had been horrid beyond words and must be made to suffer
in the readiest way that offered.

"Teddy is just going out and I was to be left in solitary bereavement if
you had not appeared," she explained airily. "It wasn't very compy only
to come to see me on business by the way, Mr Carrados, but if those are
your only terms I must agree."

Straithwaite, however, did not seem to have the least intention of
going. He had left his hat and stick in the hall and he now threw his
yellow gloves down on a table and took up a negligent position on the
arm of an easy-chair.

"The thing is, where do we stand?" he remarked tentatively.

"That is the attitude of the insurance company, I imagine," replied

"I don't see that the company has any standing in the matter. We haven't
reported any loss to them and we are not making any claim, so far. That
ought to be enough."

"I assume that they act on general inference," explained Carrados. "A
limited liability company is not subtle, Mrs Straithwaite. This one
knows that you have insured a five-thousand-pound pearl necklace with
it, and when it becomes a matter of common knowledge that you have had
one answering to that description stolen, it jumps to the conclusion
that they are one and the same."

"But they aren't--worse luck," explained the hostess. "This was a string
that I let Markhams send me to see if I would keep."

"The one that Bellitzer saw last Saturday?"

"Yes," admitted Mrs Straithwaite quite simply.

Straithwaite glanced sharply at Carrados and then turned his eyes with
lazy indifference to his wife.

"My dear Stephanie, what are you thinking of?" he drawled. "Of course
those could not have been Markhams' pearls. Not knowing that you are
much too clever to do such a foolish thing, Mr Carrados will begin to
think that you have had fraudulent designs upon his company."

Whether the tone was designed to exasperate or merely fell upon a
fertile soil, Stephanie threw a hateful little glance in his direction.

"I don't care," she exclaimed recklessly; "I haven't the least little
objection in the world to Mr Carrados knowing exactly how it happened."

Carrados put in an instinctive word of warning, even raised an arresting
hand, but the lady was much too excited, too voluble, to be denied.

"It doesn't really matter in the least, Mr Carrados, because nothing
came of it," she explained. "There never were any real pearls to be
insured. It would have made no difference to the company, because I did
not regard this as an ordinary insurance from the first. It was to be a

"A loan?" repeated Carrados.

"Yes. I shall come into heaps and heaps of money in a few years' time
under Prin-Prin's will. Then I should pay back whatever had been

"But would it not have been better--simpler--to have borrowed purely on
the anticipation?"

"We have," explained the lady eagerly. "We have borrowed from all sorts
of people, and both Teddy and I have signed heaps and heaps of papers,
until now no one will lend any more."

The thing was too tragically grotesque to be laughed at. Carrados turned
his face from one to the other and by ear, and by even finer
perceptions, he focussed them in his mind--the delicate, feather-headed
beauty, with the heart of a cat and the irresponsibility of a kitten,
eye and mouth already hardening under the stress of her frantic life,
and, across the room, her debonair consort, whose lank pose and
nonchalant attitude towards the situation Carrados had not yet

Straithwaite's dry voice, with its habitual drawl, broke into his

"I don't suppose for a moment that you either know or care what this
means, my dear girl, but I will proceed to enlighten you. It means the
extreme probability that unless you can persuade Mr Carrados to hold his
tongue, you, and--without prejudice--I also, will get two years' hard.
And yet, with unconscious but consummate artistry, it seems to me that
you have perhaps done the trick; for, unless I am mistaken, Mr Carrados
will find himself unable to take advantage of your guileless confidence,
whereas he would otherwise have quite easily found out all he wanted."

"That is the most utter nonsense, Teddy," cried Stephanie, with petulant
indignation. She turned to Carrados with the assurance of meeting
understanding. "We know Mr Justice Enderleigh very well indeed, and if
there was any bother I should not have the least difficulty in getting
him to take the case privately and in explaining everything to him. But
why should there be? Why indeed?" A brilliant little new idea possessed
her. "Do you know any of these insurance people at all intimately, Mr

"The General Manager and I are on terms that almost justify us in
addressing each other as 'silly ass,'" admitted Carrados.

"There you see, Teddy, you needn't have been in a funk. Mr Carrados
would put everything right. Let me tell you exactly how I had arranged
it. I dare say you know that insurances are only too pleased to pay for
losses: it gives them an advertisement. Freddy Tantroy told me so, and
his father is a director of hundreds of companies. Only, of course, it
must be done quite regularly. Well, for months and months we had both
been most frightfully hard up, and, unfortunately, everyone else--at
least all our friends--seemed just as stony. I had been absolutely
racking my poor brain for an idea when I remembered papa's wedding
present. It was a string of pearls that he sent me from Vienna, only a
month before he died; not real, of course, because poor papa was always
quite utterly on the verge himself, but very good imitation and in
perfect taste. Otherwise I am sure papa would rather have sent a silver
penwiper, for although he had to live abroad because of what people
said, his taste was simply exquisite and he was most romantic in his
ideas. What do you say, Teddy?"

"Nothing, dear; it was only my throat ticking."

"I wore the pearls often and millions of people had seen them. Of course
our own people knew about them, but others took it for granted that
they were genuine for me to be wearing them. Teddy will tell you that I
was almost babbling in delirium, things were becoming so ghastly, when
an idea occurred. Tweety--she's a cousin of Teddy's, but quite an aged
person--has a whole coffer full of jewels that she never wears and I
knew that there was a necklace very like mine among them. She was going
almost immediately to Africa for some shooting, so I literally flew into
the wilds of Surrey and begged her on my knees to lend me her pearls for
the Lycester House dance. When I got back with them I stamped on the
clasp and took it at once to Karsfeld in Princess Street. I told him
they were only paste but I thought they were rather good and I wanted
them by the next day. And of course he looked at them, and then looked
again, and then asked me if I was certain they were imitation, and I
said, Well, we had never thought twice about it, because poor papa was
always rather chronic, only certainly he did occasionally have fabulous
streaks at the tables, and finally, like a great owl, Karsfeld said:

"'I am happy to be able to congratulate you, madam. They are undoubtedly
Bombay pearls of very fine orient. They are certainly worth five
thousand pounds.'"

From this point Mrs Straithwaite's narrative ran its slangy, obvious
course. The insurance effected--on the strict understanding of the lady
with herself that it was merely a novel form of loan, and after
satisfying her mind on Freddy Tantroy's authority that the Direct and
Intermediate could stand a temporary loss of five thousand pounds--the
genuine pearls were returned to the cousin in the wilds of Surrey and
Stephanie continued to wear the counterfeit. A decent interval was
allowed to intervene and the plot was on the point of maturity when the
company's request for a scrutiny fell like a thunderbolt. With many
touching appeals to Mr Carrados to picture her frantic distraction, with
appropriate little gestures of agony and despair, Stephanie described
her absolute prostration, her subsequent wild scramble through the jewel
stocks of London to find a substitute. The danger over, it became
increasingly necessary to act without delay, not only to anticipate
possible further curiosity on the part of the insurance, but in order to
secure the means with which to meet an impending obligation held over
them by an inflexibly obdurate Hebrew.

The evening of the previous Tuesday was to be the time; the opera house,
during the performance of _La Pucella_, the place. Straithwaite, who was
not interested in that precise form of drama, would not be expected to
be present, but with a false moustache and a few other touches which his
experience as an amateur placed within his easy reach, he was to occupy
a stall, an end stall somewhere beneath his wife's box. At an agreed
signal Stephanie would jerk open the catch of the necklace, and as she
leaned forward the ornament would trickle off her neck and disappear
into the arena beneath. Straithwaite, the only one prepared for
anything happening, would have no difficulty in securing it. He would
look up quickly as if to identify the box, and with the jewels in his
hand walk deliberately out into the passage. Before anyone had quite
realized what was happening he would have left the house.

Carrados turned his face from the woman to the man.

"This scheme commended itself to you, Mr Straithwaite?"

"Well, you see, Stephanie is so awfully clever that I took it for
granted that the thing would go all right."

"And three days before, Bellitzer had already reported misrepresentation
and that two necklaces had been used!"

"Yes," admitted Straithwaite, with an air of reluctant candour, "I had a
suspicion that Stephanie's native ingenuity rather fizzled there. You
know, Stephanie dear, there _is_ a difference, it seems, between Bombay
and Californian pearls."

"The wretch!" exclaimed the girl, grinding her little teeth vengefully.
"And we gave him champagne!"

"But nothing came of it; so it doesn't matter?" prompted Straithwaite.

"Except that now Markhams' pearls have gone and they are hinting at all
manner of diabolical things," she wrathfully reminded him.

"True," he confessed. "That is by way of a sequel, Mr Carrados. I will
endeavour to explain that part of the incident, for even yet Stephanie
seems unable to do me justice."

He detached himself from the arm of the chair and lounged across the
room to another chair, where he took up exactly the same position.

"On the fatal evening I duly made my way to the theatre--a little late,
so as to take my seat unobserved. After I had got the general hang I
glanced up occasionally until I caught Stephanie's eye, by which I knew
that she was there all right and concluded that everything was going
along quite jollily. According to arrangement, I was to cross the
theatre immediately the first curtain fell and standing opposite
Stephanie's box twist my watch chain until it was certain that she had
seen me. Then Stephanie was to fan herself three times with her
programme. Both, you will see, perfectly innocent operations, and yet
conveying to each other the intimation that all was well. Stephanie's
idea, of course. After that, I would return to my seat and Stephanie
would do her part at the first opportunity in Act II.

"However, we never reached that. Towards the end of the first act
something white and noiseless slipped down and fell at my feet. For the
moment I thought they were the pearls gone wrong. Then I saw that it was
a glove--a lady's glove. Intuition whispered that it was Stephanie's
before I touched it. I picked it up and quietly got out. Down among the
fingers was a scrap of paper--the corner torn off a programme. On it
were pencilled words to this effect:

     "'Something quite unexpected. Can do nothing to-night. Go back
     at once and wait. May return early. Frightfully worried.--S.'"

"You kept the paper, of course?"

"Yes. It is in my desk in the next room. Do you care to see it?"


Straithwaite left the room and Stephanie flung herself into a charming
attitude of entreaty.

"Mr Carrados, you will get them back for us, won't you? It would not
really matter, only I seem to have signed something and now Markhams
threaten to bring an action against us for culpable negligence in
leaving them in an empty flat."

"You see," explained Straithwaite, coming back in time to catch the
drift of his wife's words, "except to a personal friend like yourself,
it is quite impossible to submit these clues. The first one alone would
raise embarrassing inquiries; the other is beyond explanation.
Consequently I have been obliged to concoct an imaginary burglary in our
absence and to drop the necklace case among the rhododendrons in the
garden at the back, for the police to find."

"Deeper and deeper," commented Carrados.

"Why, yes. Stephanie and I are finding that out, aren't we, dear?
However, here is the first note; also the glove. Of course I returned
immediately. It was Stephanie's strategy and I was under her orders. In
something less than half-an-hour I heard a motor car stop outside. Then
the bell here rang.

"I think I have said that I was alone. I went to the door and found a
man who might have been anything standing there. He merely said: 'Mr
Straithwaite?' and on my nodding handed me a letter. I tore it open in
the hall and read it. Then I went into my room and read it again. This
is it:

     "'DEAR T.,--Absolutely ghastly. We simply must put off
     to-night. Will explain that later. Now what do you think?
     Bellitzer is here in the stalls and young K. D. has asked him
     to join us at supper at the Savoy. It appears that the creature
     is Something and I suppose the D.'s want to borrow off him. I
     can't get out of it and I am literally quaking. Don't you see,
     he will spot something? Send me the M. string at once and I
     will change somehow before supper. I am scribbling this in the
     dark. I have got the Willoughby's man to take it. Don't, don't

"It is ridiculous, preposterous," snapped Stephanie. "I never wrote a
word of it--or the other. There was I, sitting the whole evening. And
Teddy--oh, it is maddening!"

"I took it into my room and looked at it closely," continued the
unruffled Straithwaite. "Even if I had any reason to doubt, the internal
evidence was convincing, but how could I doubt? It read like a
continuation of the previous message. The writing was reasonably like
Stephanie's under the circumstances, the envelope had obviously been
obtained from the box-office of the theatre and the paper itself was a
sheet of the programme. A corner was torn off; I put against it the
previous scrap and they exactly fitted." The gentleman shrugged his
shoulders, stretched his legs with deliberation and walked across the
room to look out of the window. "I made them up into a neat little
parcel and handed it over," he concluded.

Carrados put down the two pieces of paper which he had been minutely
examining with his finger-tips and still holding the glove addressed his
small audience collectively.

"The first and most obvious point is that whoever carried out the scheme
had more than a vague knowledge of your affairs, not only in general but
also relating to this--well, loan, Mrs Straithwaite."

"Just what I have insisted," agreed Straithwaite. "You hear that,

"But who is there?" pleaded Stephanie, with weary intonation.
"Absolutely no one in the wide world. Not a soul."

"So one is liable to think offhand. Let us go further, however, merely
accounting for those who are in a position to have information. There
are the officials of the insurance company who suspect something; there
is Bellitzer, who perhaps knows a little more. There is the lady in
Surrey from whom the pearls were borrowed, a Mr Tantroy who seems to
have been consulted, and, finally, your own servants. All these people
have friends, or underlings, or observers. Suppose Mr Bellitzer's
confidential clerk happens to be the sweetheart of your maid?"

"They would still know very little."

"The arc of a circle may be very little, but, given that, it is possible
to construct the entire figure. Now your servants, Mrs Straithwaite? We
are accusing no one, of course."

"There is the cook, Mullins. She displayed alarming influenza on Tuesday
morning, and although it was most frightfully inconvenient I packed her
off home without a moment's delay. I have a horror of the influ. Then
Fraser, the parlourmaid. She does my hair--I haven't really got a maid,
you know."

"Peter," prompted Straithwaite.

"Oh yes, Beta. She's a daily girl and helps in the kitchen. I have no
doubt she is capable of any villainy."

"And all were out on Tuesday evening?"

"Yes. Mullins gone home. Beta left early as there was no dinner, and I
told Fraser to take the evening after she had dressed me so that Teddy
could make up and get out without being seen."

Carrados turned to his other witness.

"The papers and the glove have been with you ever since?"

"Yes, in my desk."



"And this glove, Mrs Straithwaite? There is no doubt that it is yours?"

"I suppose not," she replied. "I never thought. I know that when I came
to leave the theatre one had vanished and Teddy had it here."

"That was the first time you missed it?"


"But it might have gone earlier in the evening--mislaid or lost or

"I remember taking them off in the box. I sat in the corner farthest
from the stage--the front row, of course--and I placed them on the

"Where anyone in the next box could abstract one without much difficulty
at a favourable moment."

"That is quite likely. But we didn't see anyone in the next box."

"I have half an idea that I caught sight of someone hanging back,"
volunteered Straithwaite.

"Thank you," said Carrados, turning towards him almost gratefully. "That
is most important--that you think you saw someone hanging back. Now the
other glove, Mrs Straithwaite; what became of that?"

"An odd glove is not very much good, is it?" said Stephanie. "Certainly
I wore it coming back. I think I threw it down somewhere in here.
Probably it is still about. We are in a frantic muddle and nothing is
being done."

The second glove was found on the floor in a corner. Carrados received
it and laid it with the other.

"You use a very faint and characteristic scent, I notice, Mrs
Straithwaite," he observed.

"Yes; it is rather sweet, isn't it? I don't know the name because it is
in Russian. A friend in the Embassy sent me some bottles from

"But on Tuesday you supplemented it with something stronger," he
continued, raising the gloves delicately one after the other to his

"Oh, eucalyptus; rather," she admitted. "I simply drenched my
handkerchief with it."

"You have other gloves of the same pattern?"

"Have I? Now let me think! Did you give them to me, Teddy?"

"No," replied Straithwaite from the other end of the room. He had
lounged across to the window and his attitude detached him from the
discussion. "Didn't Whitstable?" he added shortly.

"Of course. Then there are three pairs, Mr Carrados, because I never let
Bimbi lose more than that to me at once, poor boy."

"I think you are rather tiring yourself out, Stephanie," warned her

Carrados's attention seemed to leap to the voice; then he turned
courteously to his hostess.

"I appreciate that you have had a trying time lately, Mrs Straithwaite,"
he said. "Every moment I have been hoping to let you out of the

"Perhaps to-morrow----" began Straithwaite, recrossing the room.

"Impossible; I leave town to-night," replied Carrados firmly. "You have
three pairs of these gloves, Mrs Straithwaite. Here is one. The other

"One pair I have not worn yet. The other--good gracious, I haven't been
out since Tuesday! I suppose it is in my glove-box."

"I must see it, please."

Straithwaite opened his mouth, but as his wife obediently rose to her
feet to comply he turned sharply away with the word unspoken.

"These are they," she said, returning.

"Mr Carrados and I will finish our investigation in my room," interposed
Straithwaite, with quiet assertiveness. "I should advise you to lie down
for half-an-hour, Stephanie, if you don't want to be a nervous wreck

"You must allow the culprit to endorse that good advice, Mrs
Straithwaite," added Carrados. He had been examining the second pair of
gloves as they spoke and he now handed them back again. "They are
undoubtedly of the same set," he admitted, with extinguished interest,
"and so our clue runs out."

"I hope you don't mind," apologized Straithwaite, as he led his guest to
his own smoking-room. "Stephanie," he confided, becoming more cordial as
two doors separated them from the lady, "is a creature of nerves and
indiscretions. She forgets. To-night she will not sleep. To-morrow she
will suffer." Carrados divined the grin. "So shall I!"

"On the contrary, pray accept my regrets," said the visitor. "Besides,"
he continued, "there is nothing more for me to do here, I suppose...."

"It is a mystery," admitted Straithwaite, with polite agreement. "Will
you try a cigarette?"

"Thanks. Can you see if my car is below?" They exchanged cigarettes and
stood at the window lighting them.

"There is one point, by the way, that may have some significance."
Carrados had begun to recross the room and stopped to pick up the two
fictitious messages. "You will have noticed that this is the outside
sheet of a programme. It is not the most suitable for the purpose; the
first inner sheet is more convenient to write on, but there the date
appears. You see the inference? The programme was obtained before----"

"Perhaps. Well----?" for Carrados had broken off abruptly and was

"You hear someone coming up the steps?"

"It is the general stairway."

"Mr Straithwaite, I don't know how far this has gone in other quarters.
We may only have a few seconds before we are interrupted."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that the man who is now on the stairs is a policeman or has worn
the uniform. If he stops at your door----"

The heavy tread ceased. Then came the authoritative knock.

"Wait," muttered Carrados, laying his hand impressively on
Straithwaite's tremulous arm. "I may recognize the voice."

They heard the servant pass along the hall and the door unlatched; then
caught the jumble of a gruff inquiry.

"Inspector Beedel of Scotland Yard!" The servant repassed their door on
her way to the drawing-room. "It is no good disguising the fact from
you, Mr Straithwaite, that you may no longer be at liberty. But I am.
_Is there anything you wish done?_"

There was no time for deliberation. Straithwaite was indeed between the
unenviable alternatives of the familiar proverb, but, to do him justice,
his voice had lost scarcely a ripple of its usual sang-froid.

"Thanks," he replied, taking a small stamped and addressed parcel from
his pocket, "you might drop this into some obscure pillar-box, if you

"The Markham necklace?"

"Exactly. I was going out to post it when you came."

"I am sure you were."

"And if you could spare five minutes later--if I am here----"

Carrados slid his cigarette-case under some papers on the desk.

"I will call for that," he assented. "Let us say about half-past eight."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I am still at large, you see, Mr Carrados; though after reflecting on
the studied formality of the inspector's business here, I imagine that
you will scarcely be surprised."

"I have made it a habit," admitted Carrados, "never to be surprised."

"However, I still want to cut a rather different figure in your eyes.
You regard me, Mr Carrados, either as a detected rogue or a repentant

"Another excellent rule is never to form deductions from uncertainties."

Straithwaite made a gesture of mild impatience.

"You only give me ten minutes. If I am to put my case before you, Mr
Carrados, we cannot fence with phrases.... To-day you have had an
exceptional opportunity of penetrating into our mode of life. You will,
I do not doubt, have summed up our perpetual indebtedness and the easy
credit that our connexion procures; Stephanie's social ambitions and
expensive popularity; her utterly extravagant incapacity to see any
other possible existence; and my tacit acquiescence. You will, I know,
have correctly gauged her irresponsible, neurotic temperament, and
judged the result of it in conflict with my own. What possibly has
escaped you, for in society one has to disguise these things, is that I
still love my wife.

"When you dare not trust the soundness of your reins you do not try to
pull up a bolting horse. For three years I have endeavoured to guide
Stephanie round awkward comers with as little visible restraint as
possible. When we differ over any project upon which she has set her
heart Stephanie has one strong argument."

"That you no longer love her?"

"Well, perhaps; but more forcibly expressed. She rushes to the top of
the building--there are six floors, Mr Carrados, and we are on the
second--and climbing on to the banister she announces her intention of
throwing herself down into the basement. In the meanwhile I have
followed her and drag her back again. One day I shall stay where I am
and let her do as she intends."

"I hope not," said Carrados gravely.

"Oh, don't be concerned. She will then climb back herself. But it will
mark an epoch. It was by that threat that she obtained my acquiescence
to this scheme--that and the certainty that she would otherwise go on
without me. But I had no intention of allowing her to land herself--to
say nothing of us both--behind the bars of a prison if I could help it.
And, above all, I wished to cure her of her fatuous delusion that she is
clever, in the hope that she may then give up being foolish.

"To fail her on the occasion was merely to postpone the attempt. I
conceived the idea of seeming to cooperate and at the same time
involving us in what appeared to be a clever counter-fraud. The thought
of the real loss will perhaps have a good effect; the publicity will
certainly prevent her from daring a second 'theft.' A sordid story, Mr
Carrados," he concluded. "Do not forget your cigarette-case in reality."

The paternal shake of Carrados's head over the recital was neutralized
by his benevolent smile.

"Yes, yes," he said. "I think we can classify you, Mr Straithwaite. One
point--the glove?"

"That was an afterthought. I had arranged the whole story and the first
note was to be brought to me by an attendant. Then, on my way, in my
overcoat pocket I discovered a pair of Stephanie's gloves which she had
asked me to carry the day before. The suggestion flashed--how much more
convincing if I could arrange for her to seem to drop the writing in
that way. As she said, the next box _was_ empty; I merely took
possession of it for a few minutes and quietly drew across one of her
gloves. And that reminds me--of course there was nothing in it, but your
interest in them made me rather nervous."

Carrados laughed outright. Then he stood up and held out his hand.

"Good-night, Mr Straithwaite," he said, with real friendliness. "Let me
give you the quaker's advice: Don't attempt another conspiracy--but if
you do, don't produce a 'pair' of gloves of which one is still
suggestive of scent, and the other identifiable with eucalyptus!"

"Oh----!" said Straithwaite.

"Quite so. But at all hazard suppress a second pair that has the same
peculiarity. Think over what it must mean. Good-bye."

Twelve minutes later Mr Carlyle was called to the telephone.

"It is eight-fifty-five and I am at Charing Cross," said a voice he
knew. "If you want local colour contrive an excuse to be with Markham
when the first post arrives to-morrow." A few more words followed, and
an affectionate valediction.

"One moment, my dear Max, one moment. Do I understand you to say that
you will post me on the report of the case from Dover?"

"No, Louis," replied Carrados, with cryptic discrimination. "I only said
that I will post you on _a_ report of the case from Dover."


The one insignificant fact upon which turned the following incident in
the joint experiences of Mr Carlyle and Max Carrados was merely this:
that having called upon his friend just at the moment when the private
detective was on the point of leaving his office to go to the safe
deposit in Lucas Street, Piccadilly, the blind amateur accompanied him,
and for ten minutes amused himself by sitting quite quietly among the
palms in the centre of the circular hall while Mr Carlyle was occupied
with his deed-box in one of the little compartments provided for the

The Lucas Street depository was then (it has since been converted into a
picture palace) generally accepted as being one of the strongest places
in London. The front of the building was constructed to represent a
gigantic safe door, and under the colloquial designation of "The Safe"
the place had passed into a synonym for all that was secure and
impregnable. Half of the marketable securities in the west of London
were popularly reported to have seen the inside of its coffers at one
time or another, together with the same generous proportion of family
jewels. However exaggerated an estimate this might be, the substratum of
truth was solid and auriferous enough to dazzle the imagination. When
ordinary safes were being carried bodily away with impunity or
ingeniously fused open by the scientifically equipped cracksman, nervous
bond-holders turned with relief to the attractions of an establishment
whose modest claim was summed up in its telegraphic address:
"Impregnable." To it went also the jewel-case between the lady's social
engagements, and when in due course "the family" journeyed north--or
south, east or west--whenever, in short, the London house was closed,
its capacious storerooms received the plate-chest as an established
custom. Not a few traders also--jewellers, financiers, dealers in
pictures, antiques and costly bijouterie, for instance--constantly used
its facilities for any stock that they did not requite immediately to

There was only one entrance to the place, an exaggerated keyhole, to
carry out the similitude of the safe-door alluded to. The ground floor
was occupied by the ordinary offices of the company; all the
strong-rooms and safes lay in the steel-cased basement. This was reached
both by a lift and by a flight of steps. In either case the visitor
found before him a grille of massive proportions. Behind its bars stood
a formidable commissionaire who never left his post, his sole duty being
to open and close the grille to arriving and departing clients. Beyond
this, a short passage led into the round central hall where Carrados was
waiting. From this part, other passages radiated off to the vaults and
strong-rooms, each one barred from the hall by a grille scarcely less
ponderous than the first one. The doors of the various private rooms put
at the disposal of the company's clients, and that of the manager's
office, filled the wall-space between the radiating passages. Everything
was very quiet, everything looked very bright, and everything seemed
hopelessly impregnable.

"But I wonder?" ran Carrados's dubious reflection; as he reached this

"Sorry to have kept you so long, my dear Max," broke in Mr Carlyle's
crisp voice. He had emerged from his compartment and was crossing the
hall, deed-box in hand. "Another minute and I will be with you."

Carrados smiled and nodded and resumed his former expression, which was
merely that of an uninterested gentleman waiting patiently for another.
It is something of an attainment to watch closely without betraying
undue curiosity, but others of the senses--hearing and smelling, for
instance--can be keenly engaged while the observer possibly has the
appearance of falling asleep.

"Now," announced Mr Carlyle, returning briskly to his friend's chair,
and drawing on his grey suede gloves.

"You are in no particular hurry?"

"No," admitted the professional man, with the slowness of mild surprise.
"Not at all. What do you propose?"

"It is very pleasant here," replied Carrados tranquilly. "Very cool and
restful with this armoured steel between us and the dust and scurry of
the hot July afternoon above. I propose remaining here for a few
minutes longer."

"Certainly," agreed Mr Carlyle, taking the nearest chair and eyeing
Carrados as though he had a shrewd suspicion of something more than met
the ear. "I believe some very interesting people rent safes here. We may
encounter a bishop, or a winning jockey, or even a musical comedy
actress. Unfortunately it seems to be rather a slack time."

"Two men came down while you were in your cubicle," remarked Carrados
casually. "The first took the lift. I imagine that he was a middle-aged,
rather portly man. He carried a stick, wore a silk hat, and used
spectacles for close sight. The other came by the stairway. I infer that
he arrived at the top immediately after the lift had gone. He ran down
the steps, so that the two were admitted at the same time, but the
second man, though the more active of the pair, hung back for a moment
in the passage and the portly one was the first to go to his safe."

Mr Carlyle's knowing look expressed: "Go on, my friend; you are coming
to something." But he merely contributed an encouraging "Yes?"

"When you emerged just now our second man quietly opened the door of his
pen a fraction. Doubtless he looked out. Then he closed it as quietly
again. You were not his man, Louis."

"I am grateful," said Mr Carlyle expressively. "What next, Louis?"

"That is all; they are still closeted."

Both were silent for a moment. Mr Carlyle's feeling was one of
unconfessed perplexity. So far the incident was utterly trivial in his
eyes; but he knew that the trifles which appeared significant to Max had
a way of standing out like signposts when the time came to look back
over an episode. Carrados's sightless faculties seemed indeed to keep
him just a move ahead as the game progressed.

"Is there really anything in it, Max?" he asked at length.

"Who can say?" replied Carrados. "At least we may wait to see them go.
Those tin deed-boxes now. There is one to each safe, I think?"

"Yes, so I imagine. The practice is to carry the box to your private
lair and there unlock it and do your business. Then you lock it up again
and take it back to your safe."

"Steady! our first man," whispered Carrados hurriedly. "Here, look at
this with me." He opened a paper--a prospectus--which he pulled from his
pocket, and they affected to study its contents together.

"You were about right, my friend," muttered Mr Carlyle, pointing to a
paragraph of assumed interest. "Hat, stick and spectacles. He is a
clean-shaven, pink-faced old boy. I believe--yes, I know the man by
sight. He is a bookmaker in a large way, I am told."

"Here comes the other," whispered Carrados.

The bookmaker passed across the hall, joined on his way by the manager
whose duty it was to counterlock the safe, and disappeared along one of
the passages. The second man sauntered up and down, waiting his turn. Mr
Carlyle reported his movements in an undertone and described him. He was
a younger man than the other, of medium height, and passably well
dressed in a quiet lounge suit, green Alpine hat and brown shoes. By the
time the detective had reached his wavy chestnut hair, large and rather
ragged moustache, and sandy, freckled complexion, the first man had
completed his business and was leaving the place.

"It isn't an exchange lay, at all events," said Mr Carlyle. "His inner
case is only half the size of the other and couldn't possibly be

"Come up now," said Carrados, rising. "There is nothing more to be
learned down here."

They requisitioned the lift and on the steps outside the gigantic
keyhole stood for a few minutes discussing an investment as a couple of
trustees or a lawyer and a client who were parting there might do. Fifty
yards away, a very large silk hat with a very curly brim marked the
progress of the bookmaker towards Piccadilly.

The lift in the hall behind them swirled up again and the gate clashed.
The second man walked leisurely out and sauntered away without a
backward glance.

"He has gone in the opposite direction," exclaimed Mr Carlyle, rather
blankly. "It isn't the 'lame goat' nor the 'follow-me-on,' nor even the
homely but efficacious sand-bag."

"What colour were his eyes?" asked Carrados.

"Upon my word, I never noticed," admitted the other.

"Parkinson would have noticed," was the severe comment.

"I am not Parkinson," retorted Mr Carlyle, with asperity, "and, strictly
as one dear friend to another, Max, permit me to add, that while
cherishing an unbounded admiration for your remarkable gifts, I have the
strongest suspicion that the whole incident is a ridiculous mare's nest,
bred in the fantastic imagination of an enthusiastic criminologist."

Mr Carrados received this outburst with the utmost benignity. "Come and
have a coffee, Louis," he suggested. "Mehmed's is only a street away."

Mehmed proved to be a cosmopolitan gentleman from Mocha whose shop
resembled a house from the outside and an Oriental divan when one was
within. A turbaned Arab placed cigarettes and cups of coffee spiced with
saffron before the customers, gave salaam and withdrew.

"You know, my dear chap," continued Mr Carlyle, sipping his black coffee
and wondering privately whether it was really very good or very bad,
"speaking quite seriously, the one fishy detail--our ginger friend's
watching for the other to leave--may be open to a dozen very innocent

"So innocent that to-morrow I intend taking a safe myself."

"You think that everything is all right?"

"On the contrary, I am convinced that something is very wrong."

"Then why----?"

"I shall keep nothing there, but it will give me the _entrée_. I should
advise you, Louis, in the first place to empty your safe with all
possible speed, and in the second to leave your business card on the

Mr Carlyle pushed his cup away, convinced now that the coffee was really
very bad.

"But, my dear Max, the place--'The Safe'--is impregnable!"

"When I was in the States, three years ago, the head porter at one hotel
took pains to impress on me that the building was absolutely fireproof.
I at once had my things taken off to another hotel. Two weeks later the
first place was burnt out. It _was_ fireproof, I believe, but of course
the furniture and the fittings were not and the walls gave way."

"Very ingenious," admitted Mr Carlyle, "but why did you really go? You
know you can't humbug me with your superhuman sixth sense, my friend."

Carrados smiled pleasantly, thereby encouraging the watchful attendant
to draw near and replenish their tiny cups.

"Perhaps," replied the blind man, "because so many careless people were
satisfied that it was fireproof."

"Ah-ha, there you are--the greater the confidence the greater the risk.
But only if your self-confidence results in carelessness. Now do you
know how this place is secured, Max?"

"I am told that they lock the door at night," replied Carrados, with
bland malice.

"And hide the key under the mat to be ready for the first arrival in the
morning," crowed Mr Carlyle, in the same playful spirit. "Dear old chap!
Well, let me tell you----"

"That force is out of the question. Quite so," admitted his friend.

"That simplifies the argument. Let us consider fraud. There again the
precautions are so rigid that many people pronounce the forms a
nuisance. I confess that I do not. I regard them as a means of
protecting my own property and I cheerfully sign my name and give my
password, which the manager compares with his record-book before he
releases the first lock of my safe. The signature is burned before my
eyes in a sort of crucible there, the password is of my own choosing and
is written only in a book that no one but the manager ever sees, and my
key is the sole one in existence."

"No duplicate or master-key?"

"Neither. If a key is lost it takes a skilful mechanic half-a-day to cut
his way in. Then you must remember that clients of a safe-deposit are
not multitudinous. All are known more or less by sight to the officials
there, and a stranger would receive close attention. Now, Max, by what
combination of circumstances is a rogue to know my password, to be able
to forge my signature, to possess himself of my key, and to resemble me
personally? And, finally, how is he possibly to determine beforehand
whether there is anything in my safe to repay so elaborate a plant?" Mr
Carlyle concluded in triumph and was so carried away by the strength of
his position that he drank off the contents of his second cup before he
realized what he was doing.

"At the hotel I just spoke of," replied Carrados, "there was an
attendant whose one duty in case of alarm was to secure three iron
doors. On the night of the fire he had a bad attack of toothache and
slipped away for just a quarter of an hour to have the thing out. There
was a most up-to-date system of automatic fire alarm; it had been tested
only the day before and the electrician, finding some part not
absolutely to his satisfaction, had taken it away and not had time to
replace it. The night watchman, it turned out, had received leave to
present himself a couple of hours later on that particular night, and
the hotel fireman, whose duties he took over, had missed being notified.
Lastly, there was a big riverside blaze at the same time and all the
engines were down at the other end of the city."

Mr Carlyle committed himself to a dubious monosyllable. Carrados leaned
forward a little.

"All these circumstances formed a coincidence of pure chance. Is it not
conceivable, Louis, that an even more remarkable series might be
brought about by design?"

"Our tawny friend?"

"Possibly. Only he was not really tawny." Mr Carlyle's easy attitude
suddenly stiffened into rigid attention. "He wore a false moustache."

"He wore a false moustache!" repeated the amazed gentleman. "And you
cannot see! No, really, Max, this is beyond the limit!"

"If only you would not trust your dear, blundering old eyes so
implicitly you would get nearer that limit yourself," retorted Carrados.
"The man carried a five-yard aura of spirit gum, emphasized by a warm,
perspiring skin. That inevitably suggested one thing. I looked for
further evidence of making-up and found it--these preparations all
smell. The hair you described was characteristically that of a wig--worn
long to hide the joining and made wavy to minimize the length. All these
things are trifles. As yet we have not gone beyond the initial stage of
suspicion. I will tell you another trifle. When this man retired to a
compartment with his deed-box, he never even opened it. Possibly it
contains a brick and a newspaper. He is only watching."

"Watching the bookmaker."

"True, but it may go far wider than that. Everything points to a plot of
careful elaboration. Still, if you are satisfied----"

"I am quite satisfied," replied Mr Carlyle gallantly. "I regard 'The
Safe' almost as a national institution, and as such I have an implicit
faith in its precautions against every kind of force or fraud." So far
Mr Carlyle's attitude had been suggestive of a rock, but at this point
he took out his watch, hummed a little to pass the time, consulted his
watch again, and continued: "I am afraid that there were one or two
papers which I overlooked. It would perhaps save me coming again
to-morrow if I went back now----"

"Quite so," acquiesced Carrados, with perfect gravity. "I will wait for

For twenty minutes he sat there, drinking an occasional tiny cup of
boiled coffee and to all appearance placidly enjoying the quaint
atmosphere which Mr Mehmed had contrived to transplant from the shore of
the Persian Gulf.

At the end of that period Carlyle returned, politely effusive about the
time he had kept his friend waiting but otherwise bland and
unassailable. Anyone with eyes might have noticed that he carried a
parcel of about the same size and dimensions as the deed-box that fitted
his safe.

The next day Carrados presented himself at the safe-deposit as an
intending renter. The manager showed him over the vaults and
strong-rooms, explaining the various precautions taken to render the
guile or force of man impotent: the strength of the chilled-steel walls,
the casing of electricity-resisting concrete, the stupendous isolation
of the whole inner fabric on metal pillars so that the watchman, while
inside the building, could walk above, below, and all round the outer
walls of what was really--although it bore no actual relationship to the
advertising device of the front--a monstrous safe; and, finally, the
arrangement which would enable the basement to be flooded with steam
within three minutes of an alarm. These details were public property.
"The Safe" was a showplace and its directors held that no harm could
come of displaying a strong hand.

Accompanied by the observant eyes of Parkinson, Carrados gave an
adventurous but not a hopeful attention to these particulars. Submitting
the problem of the tawny man to his own ingenuity, he was constantly
putting before himself the question: How shall I set about robbing this
place? and he had already dismissed force as impracticable. Nor, when it
came to the consideration of fraud, did the simple but effective
safeguards which Mr Carlyle had specified seem to offer any loophole.

"As I am blind I may as well sign in the book," he suggested, when the
manager passed to him a gummed slip for the purpose. The precaution
against one acquiring particulars of another client might well be deemed
superfluous in his case.

But the manager did not fall into the trap.

"It is our invariable rule in all cases, sir," he replied courteously.
"What word will you take?" Parkinson, it may be said, had been left in
the hall.

"Suppose I happen to forget it? How do we proceed?"

"In that case I am afraid that I might have to trouble you to establish
your identity," the manager explained. "It rarely happens."

"Then we will say 'Conspiracy.'"

The word was written down and the book closed.

"Here is your key, sir. If you will allow me--your key-ring----"

A week went by and Carrados was no nearer the absolute solution of the
problem he had set himself. He had, indeed, evolved several ways by
which the contents of the safes might be reached, some simple and
desperate, hanging on the razor-edge of chance to fall this way or that;
others more elaborate, safer on the whole, but more liable to break down
at some point of their ingenious intricacy. And setting aside complicity
on the part of the manager--a condition that Carrados had satisfied
himself did not exist--they all depended on a relaxation of the forms by
which security was assured. Carrados continued to have several occasions
to visit the safe during the week, and he "watched" with a quiet
persistence that was deadly in its scope. But from beginning to end
there was no indication of slackness in the business-like methods of the
place; nor during any of his visits did the "tawny man" appear in that
or any other disguise. Another week passed; Mr Carlyle was becoming
inexpressibly waggish, and Carrados himself, although he did not abate a
jot of his conviction, was compelled to bend to the realities of the
situation. The manager, with the obstinacy of a conscientious man who
had become obsessed with the pervading note of security, excused himself
from discussing abstract methods of fraud. Carrados was not in a
position to formulate a detailed charge; he withdrew from active
investigation, content to await his time.

It came, to be precise, on a certain Friday morning, seventeen days
after his first visit to "The Safe." Returning late on the Thursday
night, he was informed that a man giving the name of Draycott had called
to see him. Apparently the matter had been of some importance to the
visitor for he had returned three hours later on the chance of finding
Mr Carrados in. Disappointed in this, he had left a note. Carrados cut
open the envelope and ran a finger along the following words:--

     "DEAR SIR,--I have to-day consulted Mr Louis Carlyle, who
     thinks that you would like to see me. I will call again in the
     morning, say at nine o'clock. If this is too soon or otherwise
     inconvenient I entreat you to leave a message fixing as early
     an hour as possible.
     Yours faithfully,
                                   HERBERT DRAYCOTT."

     "_P.S._--I should add that I am the renter of a safe at the
     Lucas Street depository.      H. D."

A description of Mr Draycott made it clear that he was not the West-End
bookmaker. The caller, the servant explained, was a thin, wiry,
keen-faced man. Carrados felt agreeably interested in this development,
which seemed to justify his suspicion of a plot.

At five minutes to nine the next morning Mr Draycott again presented

"Very good of you to see me so soon, sir," he apologized, on Carrados at
once receiving him. "I don't know much of English ways--I'm an
Australian--and I was afraid it might be too early."

"You could have made it a couple of hours earlier as far as I am
concerned," replied Carrados. "Or you either for that matter, I
imagine," he added, "for I don't think that you slept much last night."

"I didn't sleep at all last night," corrected Mr Draycott. "But it's
strange that you should have seen that. I understood from Mr Carlyle
that you--excuse me if I am mistaken, sir--but I understood that you
were blind."

Carrados laughed his admission lightly.

"Oh yes," he said. "But never mind that. What is the trouble?"

"I'm afraid it means more than just trouble for me, Mr Carrados." The
man had steady, half-closed eyes, with the suggestion of depth which one
notices in the eyes of those whose business it is to look out over great
expanses of land or water; they were turned towards Carrados's face with
quiet resignation in their frankness now. "I'm afraid it spells
disaster. I am a working engineer from the Mount Magdalena district of
Coolgardie. I don't want to take up your time with outside details so I
will only say that about two years ago I had an opportunity of acquiring
a share in a very promising claim--gold, you understand, both reef and
alluvial. As the work went on I put more and more into the
undertaking--you couldn't call it a venture by that time. The results
were good, better than we had dared to expect, but from one cause and
another the expenses were terrible. We saw that it was a bigger thing
than we had bargained for and we admitted that we must get outside

So far Mr Draycott's narrative had proceeded smoothly enough under the
influence of the quiet despair that had come over the man. But at this
point a sudden recollection of his position swept him into a frenzy of

"Oh, what the blazes is the good of going over all this again!" he broke
out. "What can you or anyone else do anyhow? I've been robbed, rooked,
cleared out of everything I possess," and tormented by recollections and
by the impotence of his rage the unfortunate engineer beat the oak table
with the back of his hand until his knuckles bled.

Carrados waited until the fury had passed.

"Continue, if you please, Mr Draycott," he said. "Just what you thought
it best to tell me is just what I want to know."

"I'm sorry, sir," apologized the man, colouring under his tanned skin.
"I ought to be able to control myself better. But this business has
shaken me. Three times last night I looked down the barrel of my
revolver, and three times I threw it away.... Well, we arranged that I
should come to London to interest some financiers in the property. We
might have done it locally or in Perth, to be sure, but then, don't you
see, they would have wanted to get control. Six weeks ago I landed here.
I brought with me specimens of the quartz and good samples of extracted
gold, dust and nuggets, the clearing up of several weeks' working, about
two hundred and forty ounces in all. That includes the Magdalena
Lodestar, our lucky nugget, a lump weighing just under seven pounds of
pure gold.

"I had seen an advertisement of this Lucas Street safe-deposit and it
seemed just the thing I wanted. Besides the gold, I had all the papers
to do with the claims--plans, reports, receipts, licences and so on.
Then when I cashed my letter of credit I had about one hundred and fifty
pounds in notes. Of course I could have left everything at a bank but it
was more convenient to have it, as it were, in my own safe, to get at
any time, and to have a private room that I could take any gentlemen to.
I hadn't a suspicion that anything could be wrong. Negotiations hung on
in several quarters--it's a bad time to do business here, I find. Then,
yesterday, I wanted something. I went to Lucas Street, as I had done
half-a-dozen times before, opened my safe, and had the inner case
carried to a room.... Mr Carrados, it was empty!"

"Quite empty?"

"No." He laughed bitterly. "At the bottom was a sheet of wrapper paper.
I recognized it as a piece I had left there in case I wanted to make up
a parcel. But for that I should have been convinced that I had somehow
opened the wrong safe. That was my first idea."

"It cannot be done."

"So I understand, sir. And, then, there was the paper with my name
written on it in the empty tin. I was dazed; it seemed impossible. I
think I stood there without moving for minutes--it was more like hours.
Then I closed the tin box again, took it back, locked up the safe and
came out."

"Without notifying anything wrong?"

"Yes, Mr Carrados." The steady blue eyes regarded him with pained
thoughtfulness. "You see, I reckoned it out in that time that it must be
someone about the place who had done it."

"You were wrong," said Carrados.

"So Mr Carlyle seemed to think. I only knew that the key had never been
out of my possession and I had told no one of the password. Well, it did
come over me rather like cold water down the neck, that there was I
alone in the strongest dungeon in London and not a living soul knew
where I was."

"Possibly a sort of up-to-date Sweeney Todd's?"

"I'd heard of such things in London," admitted Draycott. "Anyway, I got
out. It was a mistake; I see it now. Who is to believe me as it is--it
sounds a sort of unlikely tale. And how do they come to pick on me? to
know what I had? I don't drink, or open my mouth, or hell round. It
beats me."

"They didn't pick on you--you picked on them," replied Carrados. "Never
mind how; you'll be believed all right. But as for getting anything
back----" The unfinished sentence confirmed Mr Draycott in his gloomiest

"I have the numbers of the notes," he suggested, with an attempt at
hopefulness. "They can be stopped, I take it?"

"Stopped? Yes," admitted Carrados. "And what does that amount to? The
banks and the police stations will be notified and every little
public-house between here and Land's End will change one for the
scribbling of 'John Jones' across the back. No, Mr Draycott, it's
awkward, I dare say, but you must make up your mind to wait until you
can get fresh supplies from home. Where are you staying?"

Draycott hesitated.

"I have been at the Abbotsford, in Bloomsbury, up to now," he said, with
some embarrassment. "The fact is, Mr Carrados, I think I ought to have
told you how I was placed before consulting you, because I--I see no
prospect of being able to pay my way. Knowing that I had plenty in the
safe, I had run it rather close. I went chiefly yesterday to get some
notes. I have a week's hotel bill in my pocket, and"--he glanced down
at his trousers--"I've ordered one or two other things unfortunately."

"That will be a matter of time, doubtless," suggested the other

Instead of replying Draycott suddenly dropped his arms on to the table
and buried his face between them. A minute passed in silence.

"It's no good, Mr Carrados," he said, when he was able to speak; "I
can't meet it. Say what you like, I simply can't tell those chaps that
I've lost everything we had and ask them to send me more. They couldn't
do it if I did. Understand, sir. The mine is a valuable one; we have the
greatest faith in it, but it has gone beyond our depth. The three of us
have put everything we own into it. While I am here they are doing
labourers' work for a wage, just to keep going ... waiting, oh, my God!
waiting for good news from me!"

Carrados walked round the table to his desk and wrote. Then, without a
word, he held out a paper to his visitor.

"What's this?" demanded Draycott, in bewilderment. "It's--it's a cheque
for a hundred pounds."

"It will carry you on," explained Carrados imperturbably. "A man like
you isn't going to throw up the sponge for this set-back. Cable to your
partners that you require copies of all the papers at once. They'll
manage it, never fear. The gold ... must go. Write fully by the next
mail. Tell them everything and add that in spite of all you feel that
you are nearer success than ever."

Mr Draycott folded the cheque with thoughtful deliberation and put it
carefully away in his pocket-book.

"I don't know whether you've guessed as much, sir," he said in a queer
voice, "but I think that you've saved a man's life to-day. It's not the
money, it's the encouragement ... and faith. If you could see you'd know
better than I can say how I feel about it."

Carrados laughed quietly. It always amused him to have people explain
how much more he would learn if he had eyes.

"Then we'll go on to Lucas Street and give the manager the shock of his
life," was all he said. "Come, Mr Draycott, I have already rung up the

But, as it happened, another instrument had been destined to apply that
stimulating experience to the manager. As they stepped out of the car
opposite "The Safe" a taxicab drew up and Mr Carlyle's alert and cheery
voice hailed them.

"A moment, Max," he called, turning to settle with his driver, a
transaction that he invested with an air of dignified urbanity which
almost made up for any small pecuniary disappointment that may have
accompanied it. "This is indeed fortunate. Let us compare notes for a
moment. I have just received an almost imploring message from the
manager to come at once. I assumed that it was the affair of our
colonial friend here, but he went on to mention Professor Holmfast
Bulge. Can it really be possible that he also has made a similar

"What did the manager say?" asked Carrados.

"He was practically incoherent, but I really think it must be so. What
have you done?"

"Nothing," replied Carrados. He turned his back on "The Safe" and
appeared to be regarding the other side of the street. "There is a
tobacconist's shop directly opposite?"

"There is."

"What do they sell on the first floor?"

"Possibly they sell 'Rubbo.' I hazard the suggestion from the legend
'Rub in Rubbo for Everything' which embellishes each window."

"The windows are frosted?"

"They are, to half-way up, mysterious man."

Carrados walked back to his motor car.

"While we are away, Parkinson, go across and buy a tin, bottle, box or
packet of 'Rubbo.'"

"What is 'Rubbo,' Max?" chirped Mr Carlyle with insatiable curiosity.

"So far we do not know. When Parkinson gets some, Louis, you shall be
the one to try it."

They descended into the basement and were passed in by the
grille-keeper, whose manner betrayed a discreet consciousness of
something in the air. It was unnecessary to speculate why. In the
distance, muffled by the armoured passages, an authoritative voice
boomed like a sonorous bell heard under water.

"What, however, are the facts?" it was demanding, with the causticity of
baffled helplessness. "I am assured that there is no other key in
existence; yet my safe has been unlocked. I am given to understand that
without the password it would be impossible for an unauthorized person
to tamper with my property. My password, deliberately chosen, is
'anthropophaginian,' sir. Is it one that is familiarly on the lips of
the criminal classes? But my safe is empty! What is the explanation? Who
are the guilty persons? What is being done? Where are the police?"

"If you consider that the proper course to adopt is to stand on the
doorstep and beckon in the first constable who happens to pass, permit
me to say, sir, that I differ from you," retorted the distracted
manager. "You may rely on everything possible being done to clear up the
mystery. As I told you, I have already telephoned for a capable private
detective and for one of my directors."

"But that is not enough," insisted the professor angrily. "Will one mere
private detective restore my £6000 Japanese 4-1/2 per cent. bearer
bonds? Is the return of my irreplaceable notes on 'Polyphyletic Bridal
Customs among the mid-Pleistocene Cave Men' to depend on a solitary
director? I demand that the police shall be called in--as many as are
available. Let Scotland Yard be set in motion. A searching inquiry must
be made. I have only been a user of your precious establishment for six
months, and this is the result."

"There you hold the key of the mystery, Professor Bulge," interposed
Carrados quietly.

"Who is this, sir?" demanded the exasperated professor at large.

"Permit me," explained Mr Carlyle, with bland assurance. "I am Louis
Carlyle, of Bampton Street. This gentleman is Mr Max Carrados, the
eminent amateur specialist in crime."

"I shall be thankful for any assistance towards elucidating this
appalling business," condescended the professor sonorously. "Let me put
you in possession of the facts----"

"Perhaps if we went into your room," suggested Carrados to the manager,
"we should be less liable to interruption."

"Quite so; quite so," boomed the professor, accepting the proposal on
everyone else's behalf. "The facts, sir, are these: I am the unfortunate
possessor of a safe here, in which, a few months ago, I deposited--among
less important matter--sixty bearer bonds of the Japanese Imperial
Loan--the bulk of my small fortune--and the manuscript of an important
projected work on 'Polyphyletic Bridal Customs among the mid-Pleistocene
Cave Men.' To-day I came to detach the coupons which fall due on the
fifteenth, to pay them into my bank a week in advance, in accordance
with my custom. What do I find? I find the safe locked and apparently
intact, as when I last saw it a month ago. But it is far from being
intact, sir. It has been opened; ransacked, cleared out. Not a single
bond; not a scrap of paper remains."

It was obvious that the manager's temperature had been rising during the
latter part of this speech and now he boiled over.

"Pardon my flatly contradicting you, Professor Bulge. You have again
referred to your visit here a month ago as your last. You will bear
witness of that, gentlemen. When I inform you that the professor had
access to his safe as recently as on Monday last you will recognize the
importance that the statement may assume."

The professor glared across the room like an infuriated animal, a
comparison heightened by his notoriously hircine appearance.

"How dare you contradict me, sir!" he cried, slapping the table sharply
with his open hand. "I was not here on Monday."

The manager shrugged his shoulders coldly.

"You forget that the attendants also saw you," he remarked. "Cannot we
trust our own eyes?"

"A common assumption, yet not always a strictly reliable one,"
insinuated Carrados softly.

"I cannot be mistaken."

"Then can you tell me, without looking, what colour Professor Bulge's
eyes are?"

There was a curious and expectant silence for a minute. The professor
turned his back on the manager and the manager passed from
thoughtfulness to embarrassment.

"I really do not know, Mr Carrados," he declared loftily at last. "I do
not refer to mere trifles like that."

"Then you can be mistaken," replied Carrados mildly yet with decision.

"But the ample hair, the venerable flowing beard, the prominent nose and
heavy eyebrows----"

"These are just the striking points that are most easily counterfeited.
They 'take the eye.' If you would ensure yourself against deception,
learn rather to observe the eye itself, and particularly the spots on
it, the shape of the fingernails, the set of the ears. These things
cannot be simulated."

"You seriously suggest that the man was not Professor Bulge--that he was
an impostor?"

"The conclusion is inevitable. Where were you on Monday, Professor?"

"I was on a short lecturing tour in the Midlands. On Saturday I was in
Nottingham. On Monday in Birmingham. I did not return to London until

Carrados turned to the manager again and indicated Draycott, who so far
had remained in the background.

"And this gentleman? Did he by any chance come here on Monday?"

"He did not, Mr Carrados. But I gave him access to his safe on Tuesday
afternoon and again yesterday."

Draycott shook his head sadly.

"Yesterday I found it empty," he said. "And all Tuesday afternoon I was
at Brighton, trying to see a gentleman on business."

The manager sat down very suddenly.

"Good God, another!" he exclaimed faintly.

"I am afraid the list is only beginning," said Carrados. "We must go
through your renters' book."

The manager roused himself to protest.

"That cannot be done. No one but myself or my deputy ever sees the book.
It would be--unprecedented."

"The circumstances are unprecedented," replied Carrados.

"If any difficulties are placed in the way of these gentlemen's
investigations, I shall make it my duty to bring the facts before the
Home Secretary," announced the professor; speaking up to the ceiling
with the voice of a brazen trumpet.

Carrados raised a deprecating hand.

"May I make a suggestion?" he remarked. "Now; I am blind. If,

"Very well," acquiesced the manager. "But I must request the others to

For five minutes Carrados followed the list of safe-renters as the
manager read them to him. Sometimes he stopped the catalogue to reflect
a moment; now and then he brushed a finger-tip over a written signature
and compared it with another. Occasionally a password interested him.
But when the list came to an end he continued to look into space without
any sign of enlightenment.

"So much is perfectly clear and yet so much is incredible," he mused.
"You insist that you alone have been in charge for the last six months?"

"I have not been away a day this year."


"I have my lunch sent in."

"And this room could not be entered without your knowledge while you
were about the place?"

"It is impossible. The door is fitted with a powerful spring and a
feather-touch self-acting lock. It cannot be left unlocked unless you
deliberately prop it open."

"And, with your knowledge, no one has had an opportunity of having
access to this book?"

"No," was the reply.

Carrados stood up and began to put on his gloves.

"Then I must decline to pursue my investigation any further," he said

"Why?" stammered the manager.

"Because I have positive reason for believing that you are deceiving

"Pray sit down, Mr Carrados. It is quite true that when you put the last
question to me a circumstance rushed into my mind which--so far as the
strict letter was concerned--might seem to demand 'Yes' instead of 'No.'
But not in the spirit of your inquiry. It would be absurd to attach any
importance to the incident I refer to."

"That would be for me to judge."

"You shall do so, Mr Carrados. I live at Windermere Mansions with my
sister. A few months ago she got to know a married couple who had
recently come to the opposite flat. The husband was a middle-aged,
scholarly man who spent most of his time in the British Museum. His
wife's tastes were different; she was much younger, brighter, gayer; a
mere girl in fact, one of the most charming and unaffected I have ever
met. My sister Amelia does not readily----"

"Stop!" exclaimed Carrados. "A studious middle-aged man and a charming
young wife! Be as brief as possible. If there is any chance it may turn
on a matter of minutes at the ports. She came here, of course?"

"Accompanied by her husband," replied the manager stiffly. "Mrs Scott
had travelled and she had a hobby of taking photographs wherever she
went. When my position accidentally came out one evening she was carried
away by the novel idea of adding views of a safe-deposit to her
collection--as enthusiastic as a child. There was no reason why she
should not; the place has often been taken for advertising purposes."

"She came, and brought her camera--under your very nose!"

"I do not know what you mean by 'under my very nose.' She came with her
husband one evening just about our closing time. She brought her camera,
of course--quite a small affair."

"And contrived to be in here alone?"

"I take exception to the word 'contrived.' It--it happened. I sent out
for some tea, and in the course----"

"How long was she alone in here?"

"Two or three minutes at the most. When I returned she was seated at my
desk. That was what I referred to. The little rogue had put on my
glasses and had got hold of a big book. We were great chums, and she
delighted to mock me. I confess that I was startled--merely
instinctively--to see that she had taken up this book, but the next
moment I saw that she had it upside down."

"Clever! She couldn't get it away in time. And the camera, with
half-a-dozen of its specially sensitized films already snapped over the
last few pages, by her side!"

"That child!"

"Yes. She is twenty-seven and has kicked hats off tall men's heads in
every capital from Petersburg to Buenos Aires! Get through to Scotland
Yard and ask if Inspector Beedel can come up."

The manager breathed heavily through his nose.

"To call in the police and publish everything would ruin this
establishment--confidence would be gone. I cannot do it without further

"Then the professor certainly will."

"Before you came I rang up the only director who is at present in town
and gave him the facts as they then stood. Possibly he has arrived by
this. If you will accompany me to the boardroom we will see."

They went up to the floor above, Mr Carlyle joining them on the way.

"Excuse me a moment," said the manager.

Parkinson, who had been having an improving conversation with the hall
porter on the subject of land values, approached.

"I am sorry, sir," he reported, "but I was unable to procure any
'Rubbo.' The place appears to be shut up."

"That is a pity; Mr Carlyle had set his heart on it."

"Will you come this way, please?" said the manager, reappearing.

In the boardroom they found a white-haired old gentleman who had obeyed
the manager's behest from a sense of duty, and then remained in a
distant corner of the empty room in the hope that he might be
overlooked. He was amiably helpless and appeared to be deeply aware of

"This is a very sad business, gentlemen," he said, in a whispering,
confiding voice. "I am informed that you recommend calling in the
Scotland Yard authorities. That would be a disastrous course for an
institution that depends on the implicit confidence of the public."

"It is the only course," replied Carrados.

"The name of Mr Carrados is well known to us in connexion with a
delicate case. Could you not carry this one through?"

"It is impossible. A wide inquiry must be made. Every port will have to
be watched. The police alone can do that." He threw a little
significance into the next sentence. "I alone can put the police in the
right way of doing it."

"And you will do that, Mr Carrados?"

Carrados smiled engagingly. He knew exactly what constituted the great
attraction of his services.

"My position is this," he explained. "So far my work has been entirely
amateur. In that capacity I have averted one or two crimes, remedied an
occasional injustice, and now and then been of service to my
professional friend, Louis Carlyle. But there is no reason at all why I
should serve a commercial firm in an ordinary affair of business for
nothing. For any information I should require a fee, a quite nominal fee
of, say, one hundred pounds."

The director looked as though his faith in human nature had received a
rude blow.

"A hundred pounds would be a very large initial fee for a small firm
like this, Mr Carrados," he remarked in a pained voice.

"And that, of course, would be independent of Mr Carlyle's professional
charges," added Carrados.

"Is that sum contingent on any specific performance?" inquired the

"I do not mind making it conditional on my procuring for you, for the
police to act on, a photograph and a description of the thief."

The two officials conferred apart for a moment. Then the manager

"We will agree, Mr Carrados, on the understanding that these things are
to be in our hands within two days. Failing that----"

"No, no!" cried Mr Carlyle indignantly, but Carrados good-humouredly put
him aside.

"I will accept the condition in the same sporting spirit that inspires
it. Within forty-eight hours or no pay. The cheque, of course, to be
given immediately the goods are delivered?"

"You may rely on that."

Carrados took out his pocket-book, produced an envelope bearing an
American stamp, and from it extracted an unmounted print.

"Here is the photograph," he announced. "The man is called Ulysses K.
Groom, but he is better known as 'Harry the Actor.' You will find the
description written on the back."

Five minutes later, when they were alone, Mr Carlyle expressed his
opinion of the transaction.

"You are an unmitigated humbug, Max," he said, "though an amiable one, I
admit. But purely for your own private amusement you spring these things
on people."

"On the contrary," replied Carrados, "people spring these things on me."

"Now this photograph. Why have I heard nothing of it before?"

Carrados took out his watch and touched the fingers.

"It is now three minutes to eleven. I received the photograph at twenty
past eight."

"Even then, an hour ago you assured me that you had done nothing."

"Nor had I--so far as result went. Until the keystone of the edifice was
wrung from the manager in his room, I was as far away from demonstrable
certainty as ever."

"So am I--as yet," hinted Mr Carlyle.

"I am coming to that, Louis. I turn over the whole thing to you. The man
has got two clear days' start and the chances are nine to one against
catching him. We know everything, and the case has no further interest
for me. But it is your business. Here is your material.

"On that one occasion when the 'tawny' man crossed our path, I took from
the first a rather more serious view of his scope and intention than you
did. That same day I sent a cipher cable to Pierson of the New York
service. I asked for news of any man of such and such a
description--merely negative--who was known to have left the States; an
educated man, expert in the use of disguises, audacious in his
operations, and a specialist in 'dry' work among banks and

"Why the States, Max?"

"That was a sighting shot on my part. I argued that he must be an
English-speaking man. The smart and inventive turn of the modern Yank
has made him a specialist in ingenious devices, straight or crooked.
Unpickable locks and invincible lock-pickers, burglar-proof safes and
safe-specializing burglars, come equally from the States. So I tried a
very simple test. As we talked that day and the man walked past us, I
dropped the words 'New York'--or, rather, 'Noo Y'rk'--in his hearing."

"I know you did. He neither turned nor stopped."

"He was that much on his guard; but into his step there came--though
your poor old eyes could not see it, Louis--the 'psychological pause,'
an absolute arrest of perhaps a fifth of a second; just as it would have
done with you if the word 'London' had fallen on your ear in a distant
land. However, the whys and the wherefores don't matter. Here is the
essential story.

"Eighteen months ago 'Harry the Actor' successfully looted the office
safe of M'Kenkie, J. F. Higgs & Co.; of Cleveland, Ohio. He had just
married a smart but very facile third-rate vaudeville actress--English
by origin--and wanted money for the honeymoon. He got about five hundred
pounds, and with that they came to Europe and stayed in London for some
months. That period is marked by the Congreave Square post office
burglary, you may remember. While studying such of the British
institutions as most appealed to him, the 'Actor's' attention became
fixed on this safe-deposit. Possibly the implied challenge contained in
its telegraphic address grew on him until it became a point of
professional honour with him to despoil it; at all events he was
presumedly attracted by an undertaking that promised not only glory but
very solid profit. The first part of the plot was, to the most skilful
criminal 'impersonator' in the States, mere skittles. Spreading over
those months he appeared at 'The Safe' in twelve different characters
and rented twelve safes of different sizes. At the same time he made a
thorough study of the methods of the place. As soon as possible he got
the keys back again into legitimate use, having made duplicates for his
own private ends, of course. Five he seems to have returned during his
first stay; one was received later, with profuse apologies, by
registered post; one was returned through a leading Berlin bank. Six
months ago he made a flying visit here, purely to work off two more. One
he kept from first to last, and the remaining couple he got in at the
beginning of his second long residence here, three or four months ago.

"This brings us to the serious part of the cool enterprise. He had funds
from the Atlantic and South-Central Mail-car coup when he arrived here
last April. He appears to have set up three establishments; a home, in
the guise of an elderly scholar with a young wife, which, of course, was
next door to our friend the manager; an observation point, over which he
plastered the inscription 'Rub in Rubbo for Everything' as a reason for
being; and, somewhere else, a dressing-room with essential conditions of
two doors into different streets.

"About six weeks ago he entered the last stage. Mrs Harry, with quite
ridiculous ease, got photographs of the necessary page or two of the
record-book. I don't doubt that for weeks before then everyone who
entered the place had been observed, but the photographs linked them up
with the actual men into whose hands the 'Actor's' old keys had
passed--gave their names and addresses, the numbers of their safes,
their passwords and signatures. The rest was easy."

"Yes, by Jupiter; mere play for a man like that," agreed Mr Carlyle,
with professional admiration. "He could contrive a dozen different
occasions for studying the voice and manner and appearance of his
victims. How much has he cleared?"

"We can only speculate as yet. I have put my hand on seven doubtful
callers on Monday and Tuesday last. Two others he had ignored for some
reason; the remaining two safes had not been allotted. There is one
point that raises an interesting speculation."

"What is that, Max?"

"The 'Actor' has one associate, a man known as 'Billy the Fondant,' but
beyond that--with the exception of his wife, of course--he does not
usually trust anyone. It is plain, however, that at least seven men must
latterly have been kept under close observation. It has occurred to

"Yes, Max?"

"I have wondered whether Harry has enlisted the innocent services of one
or other of our clever private inquiry offices."

"Scarcely," smiled the professional. "It would hardly pass muster."

"Oh, I don't know. Mrs Harry, in the character of a jealous wife or a
suspicious sweetheart, might reasonably----"

Mr Carlyle's smile suddenly faded.

"By Jupiter!" he exclaimed. "I remember----"

"Yes, Louis?" prompted Carrados, with laughter in his voice.

"I remember that I must telephone to a client before Beedel comes,"
concluded Mr Carlyle, rising in some haste.

At the door he almost ran into the subdued director, who was wringing
his hands in helpless protest at a new stroke of calamity.

"Mr Carrados," wailed the poor old gentleman in a tremulous bleat, "Mr
Carrados, there is another now--Sir Benjamin Gump. He insists on seeing
me. You will not--you will not desert us?"

"I should have to stay a week," replied Carrados briskly, "and I'm just
off now. There will be a procession. Mr Carlyle will support you, I am

He nodded "Good-morning" straight into the eyes of each and found his
way out with the astonishing certainty of movement that made so many
forget his infirmity. Possibly he was not desirous of encountering
Draycott's embarrassed gratitude again, for in less than a minute they
heard the swirl of his departing car.

"Never mind, my dear sir," Mr Carlyle assured his client, with
impenetrable complacency. "Never mind. _I_ will remain instead. Perhaps
I had better make myself known to Sir Benjamin at once."

The director turned on him the pleading, trustful look of a cornered

"He is in the basement," he whispered. "I shall be in the boardroom--if

Mr Carlyle had no difficulty in discovering the centre of interest in
the basement. Sir Benjamin was expansive and reserved, bewildered and
decisive, long-winded and short-tempered, each in turn and more or less
all at once. He had already demanded the attention of the manager,
Professor Bulge, Draycott and two underlings to his case and they were
now involved in a babel of inutile reiteration. The inquiry agent was at
once drawn into a circle of interrogation that he did his best to
satisfy impressively while himself learning the new facts.

The latest development was sufficiently astonishing. Less than an hour
before Sir Benjamin had received a parcel by district messenger. It
contained a jewel-case which ought at that moment to have been securely
reposing in one of the deposit safes. Hastily snatching it open, the
recipient's incredible forebodings were realized. It was empty--empty of
jewels, that is to say, for, as if to add a sting to the blow, a neatly
inscribed card had been placed inside, and on it the agitated baronet
read the appropriate but at the moment rather gratuitous maxim: "Lay not
up for yourselves treasures upon earth----"

The card was passed round and all eyes demanded the expert's

"'--where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and
steal.' H'm," read Mr Carlyle with weight. "This is a most important
clue, Sir Benjamin----"

"Hey, what? What's that?" exclaimed a voice from the other side of the
hall. "Why, damme if I don't believe you've got another! Look at that,
gentlemen; look at that. What's on, I say? Here now, come; give me my
safe. I want to know where I am."

It was the bookmaker who strode tempestuously in among them, flourishing
before their faces a replica of the card that was in Mr Carlyle's hand.

"Well, upon my soul this is most extraordinary," exclaimed that
gentleman, comparing the two. "You have just received this, Mr--Mr
Berge, isn't it?"

"That's right, Berge--'Iceberg' on the course. Thank the Lord Harry, I
can take my losses coolly enough, but this--this is a facer. Put into my
hand half-an-hour ago inside an envelope that ought to be here and as
safe as in the Bank of England. What's the game, I say? Here, Johnny,
hurry and let me into my safe."

Discipline and method had for the moment gone by the board. There was no
suggestion of the boasted safeguards of the establishment. The manager
added his voice to that of the client, and when the attendant did not at
once appear he called again.

"John, come and give Mr Berge access to his safe at once."

"All right, sir," pleaded the harassed key-attendant; hurrying up with
the burden of his own distraction. "There's a silly fathead got in what
thinks this is a left-luggage office, so far as I can make out--a

"Never mind that now," replied the manager severely. "Mr Berge's safe:
No. 01724."

The attendant and Mr Berge went off together down one of the brilliant
colonnaded vistas. One or two of the others who had caught the words
glanced across and became aware of a strange figure that was drifting
indecisively towards them. He was obviously an elderly German tourist of
pronounced type--long-haired, spectacled, outrageously garbed and
involved in the mental abstraction of his philosophical race. One hand
was occupied with the manipulation of a pipe, as markedly Teutonic as
its owner; the other grasped a carpet-bag that would have ensured an
opening laugh to any low comedian.

Quite impervious to the preoccupation of the group, the German made his
way up to them and picked out the manager.

"This was a safety deposit, _nicht wahr_?"

"Quite so," acquiesced the manager loftily, "but just now----"

"Your fellow was dense of gomprehension." The eyes behind the clumsy
glasses wrinkled to a ponderous humour. "He forgot his own business.
Now this goot bag----"

Brought into fuller prominence, the carpet-bag revealed further details
of its overburdened proportions. At one end a flannel shirt cuff
protruded in limp dejection; at the other an ancient collar, with the
grotesque attachment known as a "dickey," asserted its presence. No
wonder the manager frowned his annoyance. "The Safe" was in low enough
repute among its patrons at that moment without any burlesque interlude
to its tragic hour.

"Yes, yes," he whispered, attempting to lead the would-be depositor
away, "but you are under a mistake. This is not----"

"It was a safety deposit? Goot. Mine bag--I would deposit him in safety
till the time of mine train. _Ja?_"

"_Nein, nein!_" almost hissed the agonized official. "Go away, sir, go
away! It isn't a cloakroom. John, let this gentleman out."

The attendant and Mr Berge were returning from their quest. The inner
box had been opened and there was no need to ask the result. The
bookmaker was shaking his head like a baffled bull.

"Gone, no effects," he shouted across the hall. "Lifted from 'The Safe,'
by crumb!"

To those who knew nothing of the method and operation of the fraud it
seemed as if the financial security of the Capital was tottering. An
amazed silence fell, and in it they heard the great grille door of the
basement clang on the inopportune foreigner's departure. But, as if it
was impossible to stand still on that morning of dire happenings, he was
immediately succeeded by a dapper, keen-faced man in severe clerical
attire who had been let in as the intruder passed out.

"Canon Petersham!" exclaimed the professor, going forward to greet him.

"My dear Professor Bulge!" reciprocated the canon. "You here! A most
disquieting thing has happened to me. I must have my safe at once." He
divided his attention between the manager and the professor as he
monopolized them both. "A most disquieting and--and outrageous
circumstance. My safe, please--yes, yes, Rev. Henry Noakes Petersham. I
have just received by hand a box, a small box of no value but one that I
_thought_, yes, I am convinced that it was the one, a box that was used
to contain certain valuables of family interest which should at this
moment be in my safe here. No. 7436? Very likely, very likely. Yes, here
is my key. But not content with the disconcerting effect of that,
professor, the box contained--and I protest that it's a most unseemly
thing to quote _any_ text from the Bible in this way to a clergyman of
my position--well, here it is. 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon
earth----' Why, I have a dozen sermons of my own in my desk now on that
very verse. I'm particularly partial to the very needful lesson that it
teaches. And to apply it to _me_! It's monstrous!"

"No. 7436, John," ordered the manager, with weary resignation.

The attendant again led the way towards another armour-plated aisle.
Smartly turning a corner, he stumbled over something, bit a profane
exclamation in two, and looked back.

"It's that bloomin' foreigner's old bag again," he explained across the
place in aggrieved apology. "He left it here after all."

"Take it upstairs and throw it out when you've finished," said the
manager shortly.

"Here, wait a minute," pondered John, in absent-minded familiarity.
"Wait a minute. This is a funny go. There's a label on that wasn't here
before. '_Why not look inside?_'"

"'Why not look inside?'" repeated someone.

"That's what it says."

There was another puzzled silence. All were arrested by some intangible
suggestion of a deeper mystery than they had yet touched. One by one
they began to cross the hall with the conscious air of men who were not
curious but thought that they might as well see.

"Why, curse my crumpet," suddenly exploded Mr Berge, "if that ain't the
same writing as these texts!"

"By gad, but I believe you are right," assented Mr Carlyle. "Well, why
not look inside?"

The attendant, from his stooping posture, took the verdict of the ring
of faces and in a trice tugged open the two buckles. The central
fastening was not locked, and yielded to a touch. The flannel shirt,
the weird collar and a few other garments in the nature of a
"top-dressing" were flung out and John's hand plunged deeper....

Harry the Actor had lived up to his dramatic instinct. Nothing was
wrapped up; nay, the rich booty had been deliberately opened out and
displayed, as it were, so that the overturning of the bag, when John the
keybearer in an access of riotous extravagance lifted it up and strewed
its contents broadcast on the floor, was like the looting of a
smuggler's den, or the realization of a speculator's dream, or the
bursting of an Aladdin's cave, or something incredibly lavish and
bizarre. Bank-notes fluttered down and lay about in all directions,
relays of sovereigns rolled away like so much dross, bonds and scrip for
thousands and tens of thousands clogged the downpouring stream of
jewellery and unset gems. A yellow stone the size of a four-pound weight
and twice as heavy dropped plump upon the canon's toes and sent him
hopping and grimacing to the wall. A ruby-hilted kris cut across the
manager's wrist as he strove to arrest the splendid rout. Still the
miraculous cornucopia deluged the ground, with its pattering, ringing,
bumping, crinkling, rolling, fluttering produce until, like the final
tableau of some spectacular ballet, it ended with a golden rain that
masked the details of the heap beneath a glittering veil of yellow sand.

"My dust!" gasped Draycott.

"My fivers, by golly!" ejaculated the bookmaker, initiating a plunge
among the spoil.

"My Japanese bonds, coupons and all, and--yes, even the manuscript of my
work on 'Polyphyletic Bridal Customs among the mid-Pleistocene Cave
Men.' Hah!" Something approaching a cachinnation of delight closed the
professor's contribution to the pandemonium, and eyewitnesses afterwards
declared that for a moment the dignified scientist stood on one foot in
the opening movement of a can-can.

"My wife's diamonds, thank heaven!" cried Sir Benjamin, with the air of
a schoolboy who was very well out of a swishing.

"But what does it mean?" demanded the bewildered canon. "Here are my
family heirlooms--a few decent pearls, my grandfather's collection of
camei and other trifles--but who----?"

"Perhaps this offers some explanation," suggested Mr Carlyle, unpinning
an envelope that had been secured to the lining of the bag. "It is
addressed 'To Seven Rich Sinners.' Shall I read it for you?"

For some reason the response was not unanimous, but it was sufficient.
Mr Carlyle cut open the envelope.

     "MY DEAR FRIENDS,--Aren't you glad? Aren't you happy at this
     moment? Ah yes; but not with the true joy of regeneration that
     alone can bring lightness to the afflicted soul. Pause while
     there is yet time. Cast off the burden of your sinful lusts,
     for what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole
     world and lose his own soul? (Mark, chap. viii., v. 36.)

     "Oh, my friends, you have had an all-fired narrow squeak. Up
     till the Friday in last week I held your wealth in the hollow
     of my ungodly hand and rejoiced in my nefarious cunning, but on
     that day as I with my guilty female accomplice stood listening
     with worldly amusement to the testimony of a converted brother
     at a meeting of the Salvation Army on Clapham Common, the
     gospel light suddenly shone into our rebellious souls and then
     and there we found salvation. Hallelujah!

     "What we have done to complete the unrighteous scheme upon
     which we had laboured for months has only been for your own
     good, dear friends that you are, though as yet divided from us
     by your carnal lusts. Let this be a lesson to you. Sell all you
     have and give it to the poor--through the organization of the
     Salvation Army by preference--and thereby lay up for yourselves
     treasures where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt and where
     thieves do not break through and steal. (Matthew, chap, vi., v.

     "Yours in good works,

                                   "PRIVATE HENRY, THE SALVATIONIST.

     "_P.S._ (in haste).--I may as well inform you that no crib is
     really uncrackable, though the Cyrus J. Coy Co.'s Safe Deposit
     on West 24th Street, N.Y., comes nearest the kernel. And even
     that I could work to the bare rock if I took hold of the job
     with both hands--that is to say I could have done in my sinful
     days. As for you, I should recommend you to change your T. A.
     to 'Peanut.'

                                   "U. K. G."

"There sounds a streak of the old Adam in that postscript, Mr Carlyle,"
whispered Inspector Beedel, who had just arrived in time to hear the
letter read.


"I will see Miss George now," assented Carrados. Parkinson retired and
Greatorex looked round from his chair. The morning "clearing-up" was
still in progress.

"Shall I go?" he inquired.

"Not unless the lady desires it. I don't know her at all."

The secretary was not unobservant and he had profited from his
association with Mr Carrados. Without more ado, he began to get his
papers quietly together.

The door opened and a girl of about twenty came eagerly yet half
timorously into the room. Her eyes for a moment swept Carrados with an
anxious scrutiny. Then, with a slight shade of disappointment, she
noticed that they were not alone.

"I have come direct from Oakshire to see you, Mr Carrados," she
announced, in a quick, nervous voice that was evidently the outcome of a
desperate resolution to be brave and explicit. "The matter is a
dreadfully important one to me and I should very much prefer to tell it
to you alone."

There was no need for Carrados to turn towards his secretary; that
discriminating young gentleman was already on his way. Miss George
flashed him a shy look of thanks and filled in the moment with a timid
survey of the room.

"Is it something that you think I can help you with?"

"I had hoped so. I had heard in a roundabout way of your wonderful
power--ought I to tell you how--does it matter?"

"Not in the least if it has nothing to do with the case," replied

"When this dreadful thing happened I instinctively thought of you. I
felt sure that I ought to come and get you to help me at once. But I--I
have very little money, Mr Carrados, only a few pounds, and I am not so
childish as not to know that very clever men require large fees. Then
when I got here my heart sank, for I saw at once from your house and
position that what seemed little even to me would be ridiculous to
you--that if you did help me it would be purely out of kindness of heart
and generosity."

"Suppose you tell me what the circumstances are," suggested Carrados
cautiously. Then, to afford an opening, he added: "You have recently
gone into mourning, I see."

"See!" exclaimed the girl almost sharply. "Then you are not blind?"

"Oh yes," he replied; "only I use the familiar expression, partly from
custom, partly because it sounds unnecessarily pedantic to say, 'I
deduce from certain observations.'"

"I beg your pardon. I suppose I was startled not so much by the
expression as by your knowledge. I ought to have been prepared. But I am
already wasting your time and I came so determined to be business-like.
I got a copy of the local paper on the way, because I thought that the
account in it would be clearer to you than I could tell it. Shall I read

"Please; if that was your intention."

"It is _The Stinbridge Herald_," explained the girl, taking a closely
folded newspaper from the handbag which she carried. "Stinbridge is our
nearest town--about six miles from Tilling Shaw, where we live. This is
the account:


                  AND COMMITS SUICIDE

     "'The districts of Great Tilling, Tilling Shaw and the
     immediate neighbourhood were thrown into a state of unusual
     excitement on Thursday last by the report of a tragedy in their
     midst such as has rarely marked the annals of our law-abiding

     "'A _Herald_ representative was early on the scene, and his
     inquiries elucidated the fact that it was only too true that in
     this case rumour had not exaggerated the circumstances, rather
     the reverse indeed.

     "'On the afternoon of the day in question, Mr Frank Whitmarsh,
     of High Barn, presented himself at Barony, the residence of his
     uncle, Mr William Whitmarsh, with the intention of seeing him
     in reference to a dispute that was pending between them. This
     is understood to be connected with an alleged trespass in
     pursuit of game, each relative claiming exclusive sporting
     rights over a piece of water known as Hunstan Mere.

     "'On this occasion the elder gentleman was not at home and Mr
     Frank Whitmarsh, after waiting for some time, departed, leaving
     a message to the effect that he would return, and, according to
     one report, "have it out with Uncle William," later in the

     "'This resolution he unfortunately kept. Returning about
     eight-forty-five P.M. he found his uncle in and for some time
     the two men remained together in the dining-room. What actually
     passed between them has not yet transpired, but it is said that
     for half-an-hour there had been nothing to indicate to the
     other occupants of the house that anything unusual was in
     progress when suddenly two shots rang out in rapid succession.
     Mrs Lawrence, the housekeeper at Barony, and a servant were the
     soonest on the spot, and, conquering the natural terror that
     for a moment held them outside the now silent room, they
     summoned up courage to throw open the door and to enter. The
     first thing that met their eyes was the body of Mr Frank
     Whitmarsh lying on the floor almost at their feet. In their
     distressed state it was immediately assumed by the horrified
     women that he was dead, or at least seriously wounded, but a
     closer examination revealed the fact that the gentleman had
     experienced an almost miraculous escape. At the time of the
     tragedy he was wearing a large old-fashioned silver watch; and
     in this the bullet intended for his heart was found, literally
     embedded deep in the works. The second shot had, however,
     effected its purpose, for at the other side of the room, still
     seated at the table, was Mr William Whitmarsh, already quite
     dead, with a terrible wound in his head and the weapon, a
     large-bore revolver of obsolete pattern, lying at his feet.

     "'Mr Frank Whitmarsh subsequently explained that the shock of
     the attack, and the dreadful appearance presented by his uncle
     when, immediately afterwards, he turned his hand against
     himself, must have caused him to faint.

     "'Readers of _The Herald_ will join in our expression of
     sympathy for all members of the Whitmarsh family, and in our
     congratulations to Mr Frank Whitmarsh on his providential

     "'The inquest is fixed for Monday and it is anticipated that
     the funeral will take place on the following day.'"

"That is all," concluded Miss George.

"All that is in the paper," amended Carrados.

"It is the same everywhere--'attempted murder and suicide'--that is what
everyone accepts as a matter of course," went on the girl quickly. "How
do they know that my father tried to kill Frank, or that he killed
himself? How can they know, Mr Carrados?"

"Your father, Miss George?"

"Yes. My name is Madeline Whitmarsh. At home everyone looks at me as if
I was an object of mingled pity and reproach. I thought that they might
know the name here, so I gave the first that came into my head. I think
it is a street I was directed along. Besides, I don't want it to be
known that I came to see you in any case."


Much of the girl's conscious nervousness had stiffened into an attitude
of unconscious hardness. Grief takes many forms, and whatever she had
been before, the tragic episode had left Miss Whitmarsh a little hurt
and cynical.

"You are a man living in a town and can do as you like. I am a girl
living in the country and have therefore to do largely as my neighbours
like. For me to set up my opinion against popular feeling would
constitute no small offence; to question its justice would be held to be
adding outrageous insult to enormous injury."

"So far I am unable to go beyond the newspaper account. On the face of
it, your father--with what provocation of course I do not know--did
attempt this Mr Frank Whitmarsh's life and then take his own. You imply
another version. What reason have you?"

"That is the terrible part of it," exclaimed the girl, with rising
distress. "It was that which made me so afraid of coming to you,
although I felt that I must, for I dreaded that when you asked me for
proofs and I could give you none you would refuse to help me. We were
not even in time to hear him speak, and yet I know, _know_ with absolute
conviction, that my father would not have done this. There are things
that you cannot explain, Mr Carrados, and--well, there is an end of it."

Her voice sank to an absent-minded whisper.

"Everyone will condemn him now that he cannot defend himself, and yet he
could not even have had the revolver that was found at his feet."

"What is that?" demanded Carrados sharply. "Do you mean that?"

"Mean what?" she asked, with the blankness of one who has lost the
thread of her own thoughts.

"What you said about the revolver--that your father could not have had

"The revolver?" she repeated half wearily; "oh yes. It was a heavy,
old-fashioned affair. It had been lying in a drawer of his desk for more
than ten years because once a dog came into the orchard in broad
daylight light and worried half-a-dozen lambs before anyone could do

"Yes, but why could he not have it on Thursday?"

"I noticed that it was gone. After Frank had left in the afternoon I
went into the room where he had been waiting, to finish dusting. The
paper says the dining-room, but it was really papa's business-room and
no one else used it. Then when I was dusting the desk I saw that the
revolver was no longer there."

"You had occasion to open the drawer?"

"It is really a very old bureau and none of the drawers fit closely.
Dust lies on the ledges and you always have to open them a little to
dust properly. They were never kept locked."

"Possibly your father had taken the revolver with him."

"No. I had seen it there after he had gone. He rode to Stinbridge
immediately after lunch and did not return until nearly eight. After he
left I went to dust his room. It was then that I saw it. I was doing the
desk when Frank knocked and interrupted me. That is how I came to be
there twice."

"But you said that you had no proof, Miss Whitmarsh," Carrados reminded
her, with deep seriousness. "Do you not recognize the importance--the
deadly importance--that this one shred of evidence may assume?"

"Does it?" she replied simply. "I am afraid that I am rather dull just
now. All yesterday I was absolutely dazed; I could not do the most
ordinary things. I found myself looking at the clock for minutes
together, yet absolutely incapable of grasping what time it was. In the
same way I know that it struck me as being funny about the revolver but
I always had to give it up. It was as though everything was there but
things would not fit in."

"You are sure, absolutely sure, that you saw the revolver there after
your father had left, and missed it before he returned?"

"Oh yes," said the girl quickly; "I remember realizing how curious it
was at the time. Besides there is something else. I so often had things
to ask papa about when he was out of the house that I got into the way
of making little notes to remind me later. This morning I found on my
dressing-table one that I had written on Thursday afternoon."

"About this weapon?"

"Yes; to ask him what could have become of it."

Carrados made a further inquiry, and this was Madeline Whitmarsh's
account of affairs existing between the two branches of the family:

Until the time of William Whitmarsh, father of the William Whitmarsh
just deceased, the properties of Barony and High Barn had formed one
estate, descending from a William senior to a William junior down a
moderately long line of yeomen Whitmarshes. Through the influence of his
second wife this William senior divided the property, leaving Barony
with its four hundred acres of good land to William junior, and High
Barn, with which went three hundred acres of poor land, to his other
son, father of the Frank implicated in the recent tragedy. But though
divided, the two farms still had one common link. Beneath their growing
corn and varied pasturage lay, it was generally admitted, a seam of coal
at a depth and of a thickness that would render its working a paying
venture. Even in William the Divider's time, when the idea was new,
money in plenty would have been forthcoming, but he would have none of
it, and when he died his will contained a provision restraining either
son from mining or exploiting his land for mineral without the consent
and co-operation of the other.

This restriction became a legacy of hate. The brothers were only
half-brothers and William having suffered unforgettably at the hands of
his step-mother had old scores to pay off. Quite comfortably prosperous
on his own rich farm, and quite satisfied with the excellent shooting
and the congenial life, he had not the slightest desire to increase his
wealth. He had the old dour, peasant-like instinct to cling to the house
and the land of his forefathers. From this position no argument moved

In the meanwhile, on the other side of the new boundary fence, Frank
senior was growing poorer year by year. To his periodical entreaties
that William would agree to shafts being sunk on High Barn he received
an emphatic "Never in my time!" The poor man argued, besought,
threatened and swore; the prosperous one shook his head and grinned.
Carrados did not need to hear the local saying: "Half brothers: whole
haters; like the Whitmarshes," to read the situation.

"Of course I do not really understand the business part of it," said
Madeline, "and many people blamed poor papa, especially when Uncle Frank
drank himself to death. But I know that it was not mere obstinacy. He
loved the undisturbed, peaceful land just as it was, and his father had
wished it to remain the same. Collieries would bring swarms of strange
men into the neighbourhood, poachers and trespassers, he said. The smoke
and dust would ruin the land for miles round and drive away the game,
and in the end, if the work did not turn out profitable, we should all
be much worse off than before."

"Does the restriction lapse now; will Mr Frank junior be able to mine?"

"It will now lie with Frank and my brother William, just as it did
before with their fathers. I should expect Willie to be quite
favourable. He is more--modern."

"You have not spoken of your brother."

"I have two. Bob, the younger, is in Mexico," she explained; "and Willie
in Canada with an engineering firm. They did not get on very well with
papa and they went away."

It did not require preternatural observation to deduce that the late
William Whitmarsh had been "a little difficult."

"When Uncle Frank died, less than six months ago, Frank came back to
High Barn from South Africa. He had been away about two years."

"Possibly he did not get on well with his father?"

Madeline smiled sadly.

"I am afraid that no two Whitmarsh men ever did get on well together,"
she admitted.

"Your father and young Frank, for instance?"

"Their lands adjoin; there were always quarrels and disputes," she
replied. "Then Frank had his father's grievance over again."

"He wished to mine?"

"Yes. He told me that he had had experience of coal in Natal."

"There was no absolute ostracism between you then? You were to some
extent friends?"

"Scarcely." She appeared to reflect. "Acquaintances.... We met
occasionally, of course, at people's houses."

"You did not visit High Barn?"

"Oh no."

"But there was no particular reason why you should not?"

"Why do you ask me that?" she demanded quickly, and in a tone that was
quite incompatible with the simple inquiry. Then, recognizing the fact,
she added, with shamefaced penitence: "I beg your pardon, Mr Carrados. I
am afraid that my nerves have gone to pieces since Thursday. The most
ordinary things affect me inexplicably."

"That is a common experience in such circumstances," said Carrados
reassuringly. "Where were you at the time of the tragedy?"

"I was in my bedroom, which is rather high up, changing. I had driven
down to the village, to give an order, and had just returned. Mrs
Lawrence told me that she had been afraid there might be quarrelling,
but no one would ever have dreamed of this, and then came a loud shot
and then, after a few seconds, another not so loud, and we rushed to the
door--she and Mary first--and everything was absolutely still."

"A loud shot _and then another not so loud_?"

"Yes; I noticed that even at the time. I happened to speak to Mrs
Lawrence of it afterwards and then she also remembered that it had been
like that."

Afterwards Carrados often recalled with grim pleasantry that the two
absolutely vital points in the fabric of circumstantial evidence that
was to exonerate her father and fasten the guilt upon another had
dropped from the girl's lips utterly by chance. But at the moment the
facts themselves monopolized his attention.

"You are not disappointed that I can tell you so little?" she asked

"Scarcely," he replied. "A suicide who could not have had the weapon he
dies by, a victim who is miraculously preserved by an opportune watch,
and two shots from the same pistol that differ materially in volume, all
taken together do not admit of disappointment."

"I am very stupid," she said. "I do not seem able to follow things. But
you will come and clear my father's name?"

"I will come," he replied. "Beyond that who shall prophesy?"

It had been arranged between them that the girl should return at once,
while Carrados would travel down to Great Tilling late that same
afternoon and put up at the local fishing inn. In the evening he would
call at Barony, where Madeline would accept him as a distant connexion
of the family. The arrangement was only for the benefit of the domestics
and any casual visitor who might be present, for there was no
possibility of a near relation being in attendance. Nor was there any
appreciable danger of either his name or person being recognized in
those parts, a consideration that seemed to have some weight with the
girl, for, more than once, she entreated him not to disclose to anyone
his real business there until he had arrived at a definite conclusion.

It was nine o'clock, but still just light enough to distinguish the
prominent features of the landscape, when Carrados, accompanied by
Parkinson, reached Barony. The house, as described by the man-servant,
was a substantial grey stone building, very plain, very square, very
exposed to the four winds. It had not even a porch to break the flat
surface, and here and there in the line of its three solid storeys a
window had been built up by some frugal, tax-evading Whitmarsh of a
hundred years ago.

"Sombre enough," commented Carrados, "but the connexion between
environment and crime is not yet capable of analysis. We get murders in
brand-new suburban villas and the virtues, light-heartedness and
good-fellowship, in moated granges. What should you say about it, eh,

"I should say it was damp, sir," observed Parkinson, with his wisest

Madeline Whitmarsh herself opened the door. She took them down the long
flagged hall to the dining-room, a cheerful enough apartment whatever
its exterior might forebode.

"I am glad you have come now, Mr Carrados," she said hurriedly, when the
door was closed. "Sergeant Brewster is here from Stinbridge police
station to make some arrangements for the inquest. It is to be held at
the schools here on Monday. He says that he must take the revolver with
him to produce. Do you want to see it before he goes?"

"I should like to," replied Carrados.

"Will you come into papa's room then? He is there."

The sergeant was at the table, making notes in his pocket-book, when
they entered. An old-fashioned revolver lay before him.

"This gentleman has come a long way on hearing about poor papa," said
the girl. "He would like to see the revolver before you take it, Mr

"Good-evening, sir," said Brewster. "It's a bad business that brings us

Carrados "looked" round the room and returned the policeman's greeting.
Madeline hesitated for a moment, and then, picking up the weapon, put it
into the blind man's hand.

"A bit out of date, sir," remarked Brewster, with a nod. "But in good
order yet, I find."

"An early French make, I should say; one of Lefaucheux's probably," said
Carrados. "You have removed the cartridges?"

"Why, yes," admitted the sergeant, producing a matchbox from his pocket.
"They're pin-fire, you see, and I'm not too fond of carrying a thing
like that loaded in my pocket as I'm riding a young horse."

"Quite so," agreed Carrados, fingering the cartridges. "I wonder if you
happened to mark the order of these in the chambers?"

"That was scarcely necessary, sir. Two, together, had been fired; the
other four had not."

"I once knew a case--possibly I read of it--where a pack of cards lay on
the floor. It was a murder case and the guilt or innocence of an accused
man depended on the relative positions of the fifty-first and
fifty-second cards."

"I think you must have read of that, sir," replied Brewster,
endeavouring to implicate first Miss Whitmarsh and then Parkinson in his
meaning smile. "However, this is straightforward enough."

"Then, of course, you have not thought it worth while to look for
anything else?"

"I have noted all the facts that have any bearing on the case. Were you
referring to any particular point, sir?"

"I was only wondering," suggested Carrados, with apologetic mildness,
"whether you, or anyone, had happened to find a wad lying about

The sergeant stroked his well-kept moustache to hide the smile that
insisted, however, on escaping through his eyes.

"Scarcely, sir," he replied, with fine irony. "Bulleted revolver
cartridges contain no wad. You are thinking of a shot-gun, sir."

"Oh," said Carrados, bending over the spent cartridge he was examining,
"that settles it, of course."

"I think so, sir," assented the sergeant, courteously but with a quiet
enjoyment of the situation. "Well, miss, I'll be getting back now. I
think I have everything I want."

"You will excuse me a few minutes?" said Miss Whitmarsh, and the two
callers were left alone.

"Parkinson," said Carrados softly, as the door closed, "look round on
the floor. There is no wad lying within sight?"

"No, sir."

"Then take the lamp and look behind things. But if you find one don't
disturb it."

For a minute strange and gigantic shadows chased one another across the
ceiling as Parkinson moved the table-lamp to and fro behind the
furniture. The man to whom blazing sunlight and the deepest shade were
as one sat with his eyes fixed tranquilly on the unseen wall before him.

"There is a little pellet of paper here behind the couch, sir,"
announced Parkinson.

"Then put the lamp back."

Together they drew the cumbrous old piece of furniture from the wall and
Carrados went behind. On hands and knees, with his face almost to the
floor, he appeared to be studying even the dust that lay there. Then
with a light, unerring touch he carefully picked up the thing that
Parkinson had found. Very gently he unrolled it, using his long,
delicate fingers so skilfully that even at the end the particles of dust
still clung here and there to the surface of the paper.

"What do you make of it, Parkinson?"

Parkinson submitted it to the judgment of a single sense.

"A cigarette-paper to all appearance, sir. I can't say it's a kind that
I've had experience of. It doesn't seem to have any distinct watermark
but there is a half-inch of glossy paper along one edge."

"Amber-tipped. Yes?"

"Another edge is a little uneven; it appears to have been cut."

"This edge opposite the mouthpiece. Yes, yes."

"Patches are blackened, and little holes--like pinpricks--burned
through. In places it is scorched brown."

"Anything else?"

"I hope there is nothing I have failed to observe, sir," said Parkinson,
after a pause.

Carrados's reply was a strangely irrelevant question.

"What is the ceiling made of?" he demanded.

"Oak boards, sir, with a heavy cross-beam."

"Are there any plaster figures about the room?"

"No, sir."

"Or anything at all that is whitewashed?"

"Nothing, sir."

Carrados raised the scrap of tissue paper to his nose again, and for the
second time he touched it with his tongue.

"Very interesting, Parkinson," he remarked, and Parkinson's responsive
"Yes, sir" was a model of discreet acquiescence.

"I am sorry that I had to leave you," said Miss Whitmarsh, returning,
"but Mrs Lawrence is out and my father made a practice of offering
everyone refreshment."

"Don't mention it," said Carrados. "We have not been idle. I came from
London to pick up a scrap of paper, lying on the floor of this room.
Well, here it is." He rolled the tissue into a pellet again and held it
before her eyes.

"The wad!" she exclaimed eagerly. "Oh, that proves that I was right?"

"Scarcely 'proves,' Miss Whitmarsh."

"But it shows that one of the shots was a blank charge, as you suggested
this morning might have been the case."

"Hardly even that."

"What then?" she demanded, with her large dark eyes fixed in a curious
fascination on his inscrutable face.

"That behind the couch we have found this scrap of powder-singed paper."

There was a moment's silence. The girl turned away her head.

"I am afraid that I am a little disappointed," she murmured.

"Perhaps better now than later. I wished to warn you that we must prove
every inch of ground. Does your cousin Frank smoke cigarettes?"

"I cannot say, Mr Carrados. You see ... I knew so little of him."

"Quite so; there was just the chance. And your father?"

"He never did. He despised them."

"That is all I need ask you now. What time to-morrow shall I find you
in, Miss Whitmarsh? It is Sunday, you remember."

"At any time. The curiosity I inspire doesn't tempt me to encounter my
friends, I can assure you," she replied, her face hardening at the
recollection. "But ... Mr Carrados----"


"The inquest is on Monday afternoon.... I had a sort of desperate faith
that you would be able to vindicate papa."

"By the time of the inquest, you mean?"

"Yes. Otherwise----"

"The verdict of a coroner's jury means nothing, Miss Whitmarsh. It is
the merest formality."

"It means a very great deal to me. It haunts and oppresses me. If they
say--if it goes out--that papa is guilty of the attempt of murder, and
of suicide, I shall never raise my head again."

Carrados had no desire to prolong a futile discussion.

"Good-night," he said, holding out his hand.

"Good-night, Mr Carrados." She detained him a moment, her voice vibrant
with quiet feeling. "I already owe you more than I can ever hope to
express. Your wonderful kindness----"

"A strange case," moralized Carrados, as they walked out of the
quadrangular yard into the silent lane. "Instructive, but I more than
half wish I'd never heard of it."

"The young lady seems grateful, sir," Parkinson ventured to suggest.

"The young lady is the case, Parkinson," replied his master rather

A few score yards farther on a swing gate gave access to a field-path,
cutting off the corner that the high road made with the narrow lane.
This was their way, but instead of following the brown line of trodden
earth Carrados turned to the left and indicated the line of buildings
that formed the back of one side of the quadrangle they had passed

"We will investigate here," he said. "Can you see a way in?"

Most of the buildings opened on to the yard, but at one end of the range
Parkinson discovered a door, secured only by a wooden latch. The place
beyond was impenetrably dark, but the sweet, dusty smell of hay, and,
from beyond, the occasional click of a horse's shoe on stone and the
rattle of a head-stall chain through the manger ring told them that they
were in the chaff-pen at the back of the stable.

Carrados stretched out his hand and touched the wall with a single

"We need go no farther," he remarked, and as they resumed their way
across the field he took out a handkerchief to wipe the taste of
whitewash off his tongue.

Madeline had spoken of the gradual decay of High Barn, but Carrados was
hardly prepared for the poverty-stricken desolation which Parkinson
described as they approached the homestead on the following afternoon.
He had purposely selected a way that took them across many of young
Whitmarsh's ill-stocked fields, fields in which sedge and charlock wrote
an indictment of neglected drains and half-hearted tillage. On the land,
the gates and hedges had been broken and unkempt; the buildings, as they
passed through the farmyard, were empty and showed here and there a
skeletonry of bare rafters to the sky.

"Starved," commented the blind man, as he read the signs. "The thirsty
owner and the hungry land: they couldn't both be fed."

Although it was afternoon the bolts and locks of the front door had to
be unfastened in answer to their knock. When at last the door was opened
a shrivelled little old woman, rather wicked-looking in a comic way,
and rather begrimed, stood there.

"Mr Frank Whitmarsh?" she replied to Carrados's polite inquiry; "oh yes,
he lives here. Frank," she called down the passage, "you're wanted."

"What is it, mother?" responded a man's full, strong voice rather

"Come and see!" and the old creature ogled Carrados with her beady eyes
as though the situation constituted an excellent joke between them.

There was the sound of a chair being moved and at the end of the passage
a tall man appeared in his shirt sleeves.

"I am a stranger to you," explained Carrados, "but I am staying at the
Bridge Inn and I heard of your wonderful escape on Thursday. I was so
interested that I have taken the liberty of coming across to
congratulate you on it."

"Oh, come in, come in," said Whitmarsh. "Yes ... it was a sort of
miracle, wasn't it?"

He led the way back into the room he had come from, half kitchen, half
parlour. It at least had the virtue of an air of rude comfort, and some
of the pewter and china that ornamented its mantelpiece and dresser
would have rejoiced a collector's heart.

"You find us a bit rough," apologized the young man, with something of
contempt towards his surroundings. "We weren't expecting visitors."

"And I was hesitating to come because I thought that you would be
surrounded by your friends."

This very ordinary remark seemed to afford Mrs Whitmarsh unbounded
entertainment and for quite a number of seconds she was convulsed with
silent amusement at the idea.

"Shut up, mother," said her dutiful son. "Don't take any notice of her,"
he remarked to his visitors, "she often goes on like that. The fact is,"
he added, "we Whitmarshes aren't popular in these parts. Of course that
doesn't trouble me; I've seen too much of things. And, taken as a
boiling, the Whitmarshes deserve it."

"Ah, wait till you touch the coal, my boy, then you'll see," put in the
old lady, with malicious triumph.

"I reckon we'll show them then, eh, mother?" he responded bumptiously.
"Perhaps you've heard of that, Mr----?"

"Carrados--Wynn Carrados. This is my man, Parkinson. I have to be
attended because my sight has failed me. Yes, I had heard something
about coal. Providence seems to be on your side just now, Mr Whitmarsh.
May I offer you a cigarette?"

"Thanks, I don't mind for once in a way."

"They're Turkish; quite innocuous, I believe."

"Oh, it isn't that. I can smoke cutty with any man, I reckon, but the
paper affects my lips. I make my own and use a sort of paper with an end
that doesn't stick."

"The paper is certainly a drawback sometimes," agreed Carrados. "I've
found that. Might I try one of yours?"

They exchanged cigarettes and Whitmarsh returned to the subject of the

"This has made a bit of a stir, I can tell you," he remarked, with

"I am sure it would. Well, it was the chief topic of conversation when I
was in London."

"Is that a fact?" Avowedly indifferent to the opinion of his neighbours,
even Whitmarsh was not proof against the pronouncement of the
metropolis. "What do they say about it up there?"

"I should be inclined to think that the interest centres round the
explanation you will give at the inquest of the cause of the quarrel."

"There! What did I tell you?" exclaimed Mrs Whitmarsh.

"Be quiet, mother. That's easily answered, Mr Carrados. There was a bit
of duck shooting that lay between our two places. But perhaps you saw
that in the papers?"

"Yes," admitted Carrados, "I saw that. Frankly, the reason seemed
inadequate to so deadly a climax."

"What did I say?" demanded the irrepressible dame. "They won't believe

The young man cast a wrathful look in his mother's direction and turned
again to the visitor.

"That's because you don't know Uncle William. _Any_ reason was good
enough for him to quarrel over. Here, let me give you an instance. When
I went in on Thursday he was smoking a pipe. Well, after a bit I took
out a cigarette and lit it. I'm damned if he didn't turn round and start
on me for that. How does that strike you for one of your own family, Mr

"Unreasonable, I am bound to admit. I am afraid that I should have been
inclined to argue the point. What did you do, Mr Whitmarsh?"

"I hadn't gone there to quarrel," replied the young man, half sulky at
the recollection. "It was his house. I threw it into the fireplace."

"Very obliging," said Carrados. "But, if I may say so, it isn't so much
a matter of speculation why he should shoot you as why he should shoot

"The gentleman seems friendly. Better ask his advice, Frank," put in the
old woman in a penetrating whisper.

"Stow it, mother!" said Whitmarsh sharply. "Are you crazy? Her idea of a
coroner's inquest," he explained to Carrados, with easy contempt, "is
that I am being tried for murder. As a matter of fact, Uncle William was
a very passionate man, and, like many of that kind, he frequently went
beyond himself. I don't doubt that he was sure he'd killed me, for he
was a good shot and the force of the blow sent me backwards. He was a
very proud man too, in a way--wouldn't stand correction or any kind of
authority, and when he realized what he'd done and saw in a flash that
he would be tried and hanged for it, suicide seemed the easiest way out
of his difficulties, I suppose."

"Yes; that sounds reasonable enough," admitted Carrados.

"Then you don't think there will be any trouble, sir?" insinuated Mrs
Whitmarsh anxiously.

Frank had already professed his indifference to local opinion, but
Carrados was conscious that both of them hung rather breathlessly on to
his reply.

"Why, no," he declared weightily. "I should see no reason for
anticipating any. Unless," he added thoughtfully, "some clever lawyer
was instructed to insist that there must be more in the dispute than
appears on the surface."

"Oh, them lawyers, them lawyers!" moaned the old lady in a panic. "They
can make you say anything."

"They can't make me say anything." A cunning look came into his
complacent face. "And, besides, who's going to engage a lawyer?"

"The family of the deceased gentleman might wish to do so."

"Both of the sons are abroad and could not be back in time."

"But is there not a daughter here? I understood so."

Whitmarsh gave a short, unpleasant laugh and turned to look at his

"Madeline won't. You may bet your bottom tikkie it's the last thing she
would want."

The little old creature gazed admiringly at her big showy son and
responded with an appreciative grimace that made her look more
humorously rat-like than ever.

"He! he! Missie won't," she tittered. "That would never do. He! he!"
Wink succeeded nod and meaning smile until she relapsed into a state of
quietness; and Parkinson, who had been fascinated by her contortions,
was unable to decide whether she was still laughing or had gone to

Carrados stayed a few more minutes and before they left he asked to see
the watch.

"A unique memento, Mr Whitmarsh," he remarked, examining it. "I should
think this would become a family heirloom."

"It's no good for anything else," said Whitmarsh practically. "A famous
time-keeper it was, too."

"The fingers are both gone."

"Yes; the glass was broken, of course, and they must have caught in the
cloth of my pocket and ripped off."

"They naturally would; it was ten minutes past nine when the shot was

The young man thought and then nodded.

"About that," he agreed.

"Nearer than 'about,' if your watch was correct. Very interesting, Mr
Whitmarsh. I am glad to have seen the watch that saved your life."

Instead of returning to the inn Carrados directed Parkinson to take the
road to Barony. Madeline was at home, and from the sound of voices it
appeared that she had other visitors, but she came out to Carrados at
once, and at his request took him into the empty dining-room while
Parkinson stayed in the hall.

"Yes?" she said eagerly.

"I have come to tell you that I must throw up my brief," he said. "There
is nothing more to be done and I return to town to-night."

"Oh!" she stammered helplessly. "I thought--I thought----"

"Your cousin did not abstract the revolver when he was here on Thursday,
Miss Whitmarsh. He did not at his leisure fire a bullet into his own
watch to make it appear, later in the day, as if he had been attacked.
He did not reload the cartridge with a blank charge. He did not
deliberately shoot your father and then fire off the blank cartridge. He
_was_ attacked and the newspaper version is substantially correct. The
whole fabric so delicately suggested by inference and innuendo falls to

"Then you desert me, Mr Carrados?" she said, in a low, bitter voice.

"I have seen the watch--the watch that saved Whitmarsh's life," he
continued, unmoved. "It would save it again if necessary. It indicates
ten minutes past nine--the time to a minute at which it is agreed the
shot was fired. By what prescience was he to know at what exact minute
his opportunity would occur?"

"When I saw the watch on Thursday night the fingers were not there."

"They are not, but the shaft remains. It is of an old-fashioned pattern
and it will only take the fingers in one position. That position
indicates ten minutes past nine."

"Surely it would have been an easy matter to have altered that

"In this case fate has been curiously systematic, Miss Whitmarsh. The
bullet that shattered the works has so locked the action that it will
not move a fraction this way or that."

"There is something more than this--something that I do not understand,"
she persisted. "I think I have a right to know."

"Since you insist, there is. There is the wad of the blank cartridge
that you fired in the outbuilding."

"Oh!" she exclaimed, in the moment of startled undefence, "how do
you--how can you----"

"You must leave the conjurer his few tricks for effect. Of course you
naturally would fire it where the precious pellet could not get
lost--the paper you steamed off the cigarette that Whitmarsh threw into
the empty fire-grate; and of course the place must be some distance from
the house or even that slight report might occasion remark."

"Yes," she confessed, in a sudden abandonment to weary indifference, "it
has been useless. I was a fool to set my cleverness against yours. Now,
I suppose, Mr Carrados, you will have to hand me over to justice?

"Well; why don't you say something?" she demanded impatiently, as he
offered no comment.

"People frequently put me in this embarrassing position," he explained
diffidently, "and throw the responsibility on me. Now a number of years
ago a large and stately building was set up in London and it was
beautifully called 'The Royal Palace of Justice.' That was its official
name and that was what it was to be; but very soon people got into the
way of calling it the Law Courts, and to-day, if you asked a Londoner to
direct you to the Palace of Justice he would undoubtedly set you down as
a religious maniac. You see my difficulty?"

"It is very strange," she said, intent upon her own reflections, "but I
do not feel a bit ashamed to you of what I have done. I do not even feel
afraid to tell you all about it, although of some of that I must
certainly be ashamed. Why is it?"

"Because I am blind?"

"Oh no," she replied very positively.

Carrados smiled at her decision but he did not seek to explain that when
he could no longer see the faces of men the power was gradually given to
him of looking into their hearts, to which some in their turn--strong,
free spirits--instinctively responded.

"There is such a thing as friendship at first sight," he suggested.

"Why, yes; like quite old friends," she agreed. "It is a pity that I had
no very trusty friend, since my mother died when I was quite little.
Even my father has been--it is queer to think of it now--well, almost a
stranger to me really."

She looked at Carrados's serene and kindly face and smiled.

"It is a great relief to be able to talk like this, without the
necessity for lying," she remarked. "Did you know that I was engaged?"

"No; you had not told me that."

"Oh no, but you might have heard of it. He is a clergyman whom I met
last summer. But, of course, that is all over now."

"You have broken it off?"

"Circumstances have broken it off. The daughter of a man who had the
misfortune to be murdered might just possibly be tolerated as a vicar's
wife, but the daughter of a murderer and suicide--it is unthinkable! You
see, the requirements for the office are largely social, Mr Carrados."

"Possibly your vicar may have other views."

"Oh, he isn't a vicar yet, but he is rather well-connected, so it is
quite assured. And he would be dreadfully torn if the choice lay with
him. As it is, he will perhaps rather soon get over my absence. But, you
see, if we married he could never get over my presence; it would always
stand in the way of his preferment. I worked very hard to make it
possible, but it could not be."

"You were even prepared to send an innocent man to the gallows?"

"I think so, at one time," she admitted frankly. "But I scarcely thought
it would come to that. There are so many well-meaning people who always
get up petitions.... No, as I stand here looking at myself over there, I
feel that I couldn't quite have hanged Frank, no matter how much he
deserved it.... You are very shocked, Mr Carrados?"

"Well," admitted Carrados, with pleasant impartiality, "I have seen the
young man, but the penalty, even with a reprieve, still seems to me a
little severe."

"Yet how do you know, even now, that he is, as you say, an innocent

"I don't," was the prompt admission. "I only know, in this astonishing
case, that so far as my investigation goes, he did not murder your
father by the act of his hand."

"Not according to your Law Courts?" she suggested. "But in the great
Palace of Justice?... Well, you shall judge."

She left his side, crossed the room, and stood by the square, ugly
window, looking out, but as blind as Carrados to the details of the
somnolent landscape.

"I met Frank for the first time after I was at all grown-up about three
years ago, when I returned from boarding-school. I had not seen him
since I was a child, and I thought him very tall and manly. It seemed a
frightfully romantic thing in the circumstances to meet him
secretly--of course my thoughts flew to Romeo and Juliet. We put
impassioned letters for one another in a hollow tree that stood on the
boundary hedge. But presently I found out--gradually and incredulously
at first and then one night with a sudden terrible certainty--that my
ideas of romance were not his.... I had what is called, I believe, a
narrow escape. I was glad when he went abroad, for it was only my
self-conceit that had suffered. I was never in love with him: only in
love with the idea of being in love with him.

"A few months ago Frank came back to High Barn. I tried never to meet
him anywhere, but one day he overtook me in the lanes. He said that he
had thought a lot about me while he was away, and would I marry him. I
told him that it was impossible in any case, and, besides, I was
engaged. He coolly replied that he knew. I was dumbfounded and asked him
what he meant.

"Then he took out a packet of my letters that he had kept somewhere all
the time. He insisted on reading parts of them up and telling me what
this and that meant and what everyone would say it proved. I was
horrified at the construction that seemed capable of being put on my
foolish but innocent gush. I called him a coward and a blackguard and a
mean cur and a sneaking cad and everything I could think of in one long
breath, until I found myself faint and sick with excitement and the
nameless growing terror of it.

"He only laughed and told me to think it over, and then walked on,
throwing the letters up into the air and catching them.

"It isn't worth while going into all the times he met and threatened me.
I was to marry him or he would expose me. He would never allow me to
marry anyone else. And then finally he turned round and said that he
didn't really want to marry me at all; he only wanted to force father's
consent to start mining and this had seemed the easiest way."

"That is what is called blackmail, Miss Whitmarsh; a word you don't seem
to have applied to him. The punishment ranges up to penal servitude for
life in extreme cases."

"Yes, that is what it really was. He came on Thursday with the letters
in his pocket. That was his last threat when he could not move me. I can
guess what happened. He read the letters and proposed a bargain. And my
father, who was a very passionate man, and very proud in certain ways,
shot him as he thought, and then, in shame and in the madness of
despair, took his own life.... Now, Mr Carrados, you were to be my

"I think," said the blind man, with a great pity in his voice, "that it
will be sufficient for you to come up for Judgment when called upon."

       *       *       *       *       *

Three weeks later a registered letter bearing the Liverpool postmark was
delivered at The Turrets. After he had read it Carrados put it away in a
special drawer of his desk, and once or twice in after years, when his
work seemed rather barren, he took it out and read it. This is what it

     "DEAR MR CARRADOS,--Some time after you had left me that Sunday
     afternoon, a man came in the dark to the door and asked for me.
     I did not see his face for he kept in the shade, but his figure
     was not very unlike that of your servant Parkinson. A packet
     was put into my hands and he was gone without a word. From this
     I imagine that perhaps you did not leave quite as soon as you
     had intended.

     "Thank you very much indeed for the letters. I was glad to have
     the miserable things, to drop them into the fire, and to see
     them pass utterly out of my own and everybody else's life. I
     wonder who else in the world would have done so much for a
     forlorn creature who just flashed across a few days of his busy
     life? and then I wonder who else could.

     "But there is something else for which I thank you now far, far
     more, and that is for saving me from the blindness of my own
     passionate folly. When I look back on the abyss of meanness,
     treachery and guilt into which I would have wilfully cast
     myself, and been condemned to live in all my life, I can
     scarcely trust myself to write.

     "I will not say that I do not suffer now. I think I shall for
     many years to come, but all the bitterness and I think all the
     hardness have been drawn out.

     "You will see that I am writing from Liverpool. I have taken a
     second-class passage to Canada and we sail to-night. Willie,
     who returned to Barony last week, has lent me all the money I
     shall need until I find work. Do not be apprehensive. It is not
     with the vague uncertainty of an indifferent typist or a
     downtrodden governess that I go, but as an efficient domestic
     servant--a capable cook, housemaid or 'general,' as need be. It
     sounds rather incredible at first, does it not, but such things
     happen, and I shall get on very well.

     "Good-bye, Mr Carrados; I shall remember you very often and
     very gratefully.

                                   "MADELINE WHITMARSH.

     "_P.S._--Yes, there is friendship at first sight."


Carrados had rung up Mr Carlyle soon after the inquiry agent had reached
his office in Bampton Street on a certain morning in April. Mr Carlyle's
face at once assumed its most amiable expression as he recognized his
friend's voice.

"Yes, Max," he replied, in answer to the call, "I am here and at the top
of form, thanks. Glad to know that you are back from Trescoe. Is

"I have a couple of men coming in this evening whom you might like to
meet," explained Carrados. "Manoel the Zambesia explorer is one and the
other an East-End slum doctor who has seen a few things. Do you care to
come round to dinner?"

"Delighted," warbled Mr Carlyle, without a moment's consideration.
"Charmed. Your usual hour, Max?" Then the smiling complacence of his
face suddenly changed and the wire conveyed an exclamation of annoyance.
"I am really very sorry, Max, but I have just remembered that I have an
engagement. I fear that I must deny myself after all."

"Is it important?"

"No," admitted Mr Carlyle. "Strictly speaking, it is not in the least
important; this is why I feel compelled to keep it. It is only to dine
with my niece. They have just got into an absurd doll's house of a
villa at Groat's Heath and I had promised to go there this evening."

"Are they particular to a day?"

There was a moment's hesitation before Mr Carlyle replied.

"I am afraid so, now it is fixed," he said. "To you, Max, it will be
ridiculous or incomprehensible that a third to dinner--and he only a
middle-aged uncle--should make a straw of difference. But I know that in
their bijou way it will be a little domestic event to Elsie--an added
anxiety in giving the butcher an order, an extra course for dinner,
perhaps; a careful drilling of the one diminutive maid-servant, and she
is such a charming little woman--eh? Who, Max? No! No! I did not say the
maid-servant; if I did it is the fault of this telephone. Elsie is such
a delightful little creature that, upon my soul, it would be too bad to
fail her now."

"Of course it would, you old humbug," agreed Carrados, with sympathetic
laughter in his voice. "Well, come to-morrow instead. I shall be alone."

"Oh, besides, there is a special reason for going, which for the moment
I forgot," explained Mr Carlyle, after accepting the invitation. "Elsie
wishes for my advice with regard to her next-door neighbour. He is an
elderly man of retiring disposition and he makes a practice of throwing
kidneys over into her garden."

"Kittens! Throwing kittens?"

"No, no, Max. Kidneys. Stewed k-i-d-n-e-y-s. It is a little difficult to
explain plausibly over a badly vibrating telephone, I admit, but that is
what Elsie's letter assured me, and she adds that she is in despair."

"At all events it makes the lady quite independent of the butcher,

"I have no further particulars, Max. It may be a solitary diurnal
offering, or the sky may at times appear to rain kidneys. If it is a
mania the symptoms may even have become more pronounced and the man is
possibly showering beef-steaks across by this time. I will make full
inquiry and let you know."

"Do," assented Carrados, in the same light-hearted spirit. "Mrs
Nickleby's neighbourly admirer expressed his feelings by throwing
cucumbers, you remember, but this man puts him completely in the shade."

It had not got beyond the proportions of a jest to either of them when
they rang off--one of those whimsical occurrences in real life that
sound so fantastic in outline. Carrados did not give the matter another
thought until the next evening when his friend's arrival revived the

"And the gentleman next door?" he inquired among his greetings. "Did the
customary offering arrive while you were there?"

"No," admitted Mr Carlyle, beaming pleasantly upon all the familiar
appointments of the room, "it did not, Max. In fact, so diffident has
the mysterious philanthropist become, that no one at Fountain Cottage
has been able to catch sight of him lately, although I am told that
Scamp--Elsie's terrier--betrays a very self-conscious guilt and
suspiciously muddy paws every morning."

"Fountain Cottage?"

"That is the name of the toy villa."

"Yes, but Fountain something, Groat's Heath--Fountain Court: wasn't that
where Metrobe----?"

"Yes, yes, to be sure, Max. Metrobe the traveller, the writer and


"Well, he took up spiritualism or something, didn't he? At any rate, he
lived at Fountain Court, an old red-brick house in a large neglected
garden there, until his death a couple of years ago. Then, as Groat's
Heath had suddenly become a popular suburb with a tube railway, a land
company acquired the estate, the house was razed to the ground and in a
twinkling a colony of Noah's ark villas took its place. There is Metrobe
Road here, and Court Crescent there, and Mansion Drive and what not, and
Elsie's little place perpetuates another landmark."

"I have Metrobe's last book there," said Carrados, nodding towards a
point on his shelves. "In fact he sent me a copy. 'The Flame beyond the
Dome' it is called--the queerest farrago of balderdash and metaphysics
imaginable. But what about the neighbour, Louis? Did you settle what we
might almost term 'his hash'?"

"Oh, he is mad, of course. I advised her to make as little fuss about it
as possible, seeing that the man lives next door and might become
objectionable, but I framed a note for her to send which will probably
have a good effect."

"Is he mad, Louis?"

"Well, I don't say that he is strictly a lunatic, but there is obviously
a screw loose somewhere. He may carry indiscriminate benevolence towards
Yorkshire terriers to irrational lengths. Or he may be a food specialist
with a grievance. In effect he is mad on at least that one point. How
else are we to account for the circumstances?"

"I was wondering," replied Carrados thoughtfully.

"You suggest that he really may have a sane object?"

"I suggest it--for the sake of argument. If he has a sane object, what
is it?"

"That I leave to you, Max," retorted Mr Carlyle conclusively. "If he has
a sane object, pray what is it?"

"For the sake of the argument I will tell you that in half-a-dozen
words, Louis," replied Carrados, with good-humoured tolerance. "If he is
not mad in the sense which you have defined, the answer stares us in the
face. His object is precisely that which he is achieving."

Mr Carlyle looked inquiringly into the placid, unemotional face of his
blind friend, as if to read there whether, incredible as it might seem,
Max should be taking the thing seriously after all.

"And what is that?" he asked cautiously.

"In the first place he has produced the impression that he is eccentric
or irresponsible. That is sometimes useful in itself. Then what else has
he done?"

"What else, Max?" replied Mr Carlyle, with some indignation. "Well,
whatever he wishes to achieve by it I can tell you one thing else that
he has done. He has so demoralized Scamp with his confounded kidneys
that Elsie's neatly arranged flower-beds--and she took Fountain Cottage
principally on account of an unusually large garden--are hopelessly
devastated. If she keeps the dog up, the garden is invaded night and day
by an army of peregrinating feline marauders that scent the booty from
afar. He has gained the everlasting annoyance of an otherwise charming
neighbour, Max. Can you tell me what he has achieved by that?"

"The everlasting esteem of Scamp probably. Is he a good watch-dog,

"Good heavens, Max!" exclaimed Mr Carlyle, coming to his feet as though
he had the intention of setting out for Groat's Heath then and there,
"is it possible that he is planning a burglary?"

"Do they keep much of value about the house?"

"No," admitted Mr Carlyle, sitting down again with considerable relief.
"No, they don't. Bellmark is not particularly well endowed with worldly
goods--in fact, between ourselves, Max, Elsie could have done very much
better from a strictly social point of view, but he is a thoroughly good
fellow and idolizes her. They have no silver worth speaking of, and for
the rest--well, just the ordinary petty cash of a frugal young couple."

"Then he probably is not planning a burglary. I confess that the idea
did not appeal to me. If it is only that, why should he go to the
trouble of preparing this particular succulent dish to throw over his
neighbour's ground when cold liver would do quite as well?"

"If it is not only that, why should he go to the trouble, Max?"

"Because by that bait he produces the greatest disturbance of your
niece's garden."

"And, if sane, why should he wish to do that?"

"Because in those conditions he can the more easily obliterate his own
traces if he trespasses there at nights."

"Well, upon my word, that's drawing a bow at a venture, Max. If it isn't
burglary, what motive could the man have for any such nocturnal

An expression of suave mischief came into Carrados's usually
imperturbable face.

"Many imaginable motives surely, Louis. You are a man of the world. Why
not to meet a charming little woman----"

"No, by gad!" exclaimed the scandalized uncle warmly; "I decline to
consider the remotest possibility of that explanation. Elsie----"

"Certainly not," interposed Carrados, smothering his quiet laughter.
"The maid-servant, of course."

Mr Carlyle reined in his indignation and recovered himself with his
usual adroitness.

"But, you know, that is an atrocious libel, Max," he added. "I never
said such a thing. However, is it probable?"

"No," admitted Carrados. "I don't think that in the circumstances it is
at all probable."

"Then where are we, Max?"

"A little further than we were at the beginning. Very little.... Are you
willing to give me a roving commission to investigate?"

"Of course, Max, of course," assented Mr Carlyle heartily. "I--well, as
far as I was concerned, I regarded the matter as settled."

Carrados turned to his desk and the ghost of a smile might possibly have
lurked about his face. He produced some stationery and indicated it to
his visitor.

"You don't mind giving me a line of introduction to your niece?"

"Pleasure," murmured Carlyle, taking up a pen. "What shall I say?"

Carrados took the inquiry in its most literal sense and for reply he
dictated the following letter:--

     "'MY DEAR ELSIE,'--

"If that is the way you usually address her," he parenthesized.

"Quite so," acquiesced Mr Carlyle, writing.

     "'The bearer of this is Mr Carrados, of whom I have spoken to

"You have spoken of me to her, I trust, Louis?" he put in.

"I believe that I have casually referred to you," admitted the writer.

"I felt sure you would have done. It makes the rest easier.

     "'He is not in the least mad although he frequently does things
     which to the uninitiated appear more or less eccentric at the
     moment. I think that you would be quite safe in complying with
     any suggestion he may make.

     "'Your affectionate uncle,

                                   "'LOUIS CARLYLE.'"

He accepted the envelope and put it away in a pocket-book that always
seemed extraordinarily thin for the amount of papers it contained.

"I may call there to-morrow," he added.

Neither again referred to the subject during the evening, but when
Parkinson came to the library a couple of hours after midnight to know
whether he would be required again, he found his master rather deeply
immersed in a book and a gap on the shelf where "The Flame beyond the
Dome" had formerly stood.

It is not impossible that Mr Carlyle supplemented his brief note of
introduction with a more detailed communication that reached his niece
by the ordinary postal service at an earlier hour than the other. At all
events, when Mr Carrados presented himself at the toy villa on the
following afternoon he found Elsie Bellmark suspiciously disposed to
accept him and his rather gratuitous intervention among her suburban
troubles as a matter of course.

When the car drew up at the bright green wooden gate of Fountain Cottage
another visitor, apparently a good-class working man, was standing on
the path of the trim front garden, lingering over a reluctant departure.
Carrados took sufficient time in alighting to allow the man to pass
through the gate before he himself entered. The last exchange of
sentences reached his ear.

"I'm sure, marm, you won't find anyone to do the work at less."

"I can quite believe that," replied a very fair young lady who stood
nearer the house, "but, you see, we do all the gardening ourselves,
thank you."

Carrados made himself known and was taken into the daintily pretty
drawing-room that opened on to the lawn behind the house.

"I do not need to ask if you are Mrs Bellmark," he had declared.

"I have Uncle Louis's voice?" she divined readily.

"The niece of his voice, so to speak," he admitted. "Voices mean a great
deal to me, Mrs Bellmark."

"In recognizing and identifying people?" she suggested.

"Oh, very much more than that. In recognizing and identifying their
moods--their thoughts even. There are subtle lines of trouble and the
deep rings of anxious care quite as patent to the ear as to the
sharpest eye sometimes."

Elsie Bellmark shot a glance of curiously interested speculation to the
face that, in spite of its frank, open bearing, revealed so marvellously
little itself.

"If I had any dreadful secret, I think that I should be a little afraid
to talk to you, Mr Carrados," she said, with a half-nervous laugh.

"Then please do not have any dreadful secret," he replied, with quite
youthful gallantry. "I more than suspect that Louis has given you a very
transpontine idea of my tastes. I do not spend all my time tracking
murderers to their lairs, Mrs Bellmark, and I have never yet engaged in
a hand-to-hand encounter with a band of cut-throats."

"He told us," she declared, the recital lifting her voice into a tone
that Carrados vowed to himself was wonderfully thrilling, "about this:
He said that you were once in a sort of lonely underground cellar near
the river with two desperate men whom you could send to penal servitude.
The police, who were to have been there at a certain time, had not
arrived, and you were alone. The men had heard that you were blind but
they could hardly believe it. They were discussing in whispers which
could not be overheard what would be the best thing to do, and they had
just agreed that if you really were blind they would risk the attempt to
murder you. Then, Louis said, at that very moment you took a pair of
scissors from your pocket, and coolly asking them why they did not have
a lamp down there, you actually snuffed the candle that stood on the
table before you. Is that true?"

Carrados's mind leapt vividly back to the most desperate moment of his
existence, but his smile was gently deprecating as he replied:

"I seem to recognize the touch of truth in the inclination to do
_anything_ rather than fight," he confessed. "But, although he never
suspects it, Louis really sees life through rose-coloured opera glasses.
Take the case of your quite commonplace neighbour----"

"That is really what you came about?" she interposed shrewdly.

"Frankly, it is," he replied. "I am more attracted by a turn of the odd
and grotesque than by the most elaborate tragedy. The fantastic conceit
of throwing stewed kidneys over into a neighbour's garden irresistibly
appealed to me. Louis, as I was saying, regards the man in the romantic
light of a humanitarian monomaniac or a demented food reformer. I take a
more subdued view and I think that his action, when rightly understood,
will prove to be something quite obviously natural."

"Of course it is very ridiculous, but all the same it has been
desperately annoying," she confessed. "Still, it scarcely matters now. I
am only sorry that it should have been the cause of wasting your
valuable time, Mr Carrados."

"My valuable time," he replied, "only seems valuable to me when I am,
as you would say, wasting it. But is the incident closed? Louis told me
that he had drafted you a letter of remonstrance. May I ask if it has
been effective?"

Instead of replying at once she got up and walked to the long French
window and looked out over the garden where the fruit-trees that had
been spared from the older cultivation were rejoicing the eye with the
promise of their pink and white profusion.

"I did not send it," she said slowly, turning to her visitor again.
"There is something that I did not tell Uncle Louis, because it would
only have distressed him without doing any good. We may be leaving here
very soon."

"Just when you had begun to get it well in hand?" he said, in some

"It is a pity, is it not, but one cannot foresee these things. There is
no reason why you should not know the cause, since you have interested
yourself so far, Mr Carrados. In fact," she added, smiling away the
seriousness of the manner into which she had fallen, "I am not at all
sure that you do not know already."

He shook his head and disclaimed any such prescience.

"At all events you recognized that I was not exactly light-hearted," she
insisted. "Oh, you did not say that _I_ had dark rings under my eyes, I
know, but the cap fitted excellently.... It has to do with my husband's
business. He is with a firm of architects. It was a little venturesome
taking this house--we had been in apartments for two years--but Roy was
doing so well with his people and I was so enthusiastic for a garden
that we did--scarcely two months ago. Everything seemed quite assured.
Then came this thunderbolt. The partners--it is only a small firm, Mr
Carrados--required a little more capital in the business. Someone whom
they know is willing to put in two thousand pounds, but he stipulates
for a post with them as well. He, like my husband, is a draughtsman.
There is no need for the services of both and so----"

"Is it settled?"

"In effect, it is. They are as nice as can be about it but that does not
alter the facts. They declare that they would rather have Roy than the
new man and they have definitely offered to retain him if he can bring
in even one thousand pounds. I suppose they have some sort of
compunction about turning him adrift, for they have asked him to think
it over and let them know on Monday. Of course, that is the end of it.
It may be--I don't know--I don't like to think, how long before Roy gets
another position equally good. We must endeavour to get this house off
our hands and creep back to our three rooms. It is ... luck."

Carrados had been listening to her wonderfully musical voice as another
man might have been drawn irresistibly to watch the piquant charm of her
delicate face.

"Yes," he assented, almost to himself, "it is that strange, inexplicable
grouping of men and things that, under one name or another, we all
confess ... just luck."

"Of course you will not mention this to Uncle Louis yet, Mr Carrados?"

"If you do not wish it, certainly not."

"I am sure that it would distress him. He is so soft-hearted, so kind,
in everything. Do you know, I found out that he had had an invitation to
dine somewhere and meet some quite important people on Tuesday. Yet he
came here instead, although most other men would have cried off, just
because he knew that we small people would have been disappointed."

"Well, you can't expect me to see any self-denial in that," exclaimed
Carrados. "Why, I was one of them myself."

Elsie Bellmark laughed outright at the expressive disgust of his tone.

"I had no idea of that," she said. "Then there is another reason. Uncle
is not very well off, yet if he knew how Roy was situated he would make
an effort to arrange matters. He would, I am sure, even borrow himself
in order to lend us the money. That is a thing Roy and I are quite
agreed on. We will go back; we will go under, if it is to be; but we
will not borrow money, not even from Uncle Louis."

Once, subsequently, Carrados suddenly asked Mr Carlyle whether he had
ever heard a woman's voice roll like a celestial kettle-drum. The
professional gentleman was vastly amused by the comparison, but he
admitted that he had not.

"So that, you see," concluded Mrs Bellmark, "there is really nothing to
be done."

"Oh, quite so; I am sure that you are right," assented her visitor
readily. "But in the meanwhile I do not see why the annoyance of your
next-door neighbour should be permitted to go on."

"Of course: I have not told you that, and I could not explain it to
uncle," she said. "I am anxious not to do anything to put him out
because I have a hope--rather a faint one, certainly--that the man may
be willing to take over this house."

It would be incorrect to say that Carrados pricked up his ears--if that
curious phenomenon has any physical manifestation--for the sympathetic
expression of his face did not vary a fraction. But into his mind there
came a gleam such as might inspire a patient digger who sees the first
speck of gold that justifies his faith in an unlikely claim.

"Oh," he said, quite conversationally, "is there a chance of that?"

"He undoubtedly did want it. It is very curious in a way. A few weeks
ago, before we were really settled, he came one afternoon, saying he had
heard that this house was to be let. Of course I told him that he was
too late, that we had already taken it for three years."

"You were the first tenants?"

"Yes. The house was scarcely ready when we signed the agreement. Then
this Mr Johns, or Jones--I am not sure which he said--went on in a
rather extraordinary way to persuade me to sublet it to him. He said
that the house was dear and I could get plenty, more convenient, at less
rent, and it was unhealthy, and the drains were bad, and that we should
be pestered by tramps and it was just the sort of house that burglars
picked on, only he had taken a sort of fancy to it and he would give me
a fifty-pound premium for the term."

"Did he explain the motive for this rather eccentric partiality?"

"I don't imagine that he did. He repeated several times that he was a
queer old fellow with his whims and fancies and that they often cost him

"I think we all know that sort of old fellow," said Carrados. "It must
have been rather entertaining for you, Mrs Bellmark."

"Yes, I suppose it was," she admitted. "The next thing we knew of him
was that he had taken the other house as soon as it was finished."

"Then he would scarcely require this?"

"I am afraid not." It was obvious that the situation was not disposed
of. "But he seems to have so little furniture there and to live so
solitarily," she explained, "that we have even wondered whether he might
not be there merely as a sort of caretaker."

"And you have never heard where he came from or who he is?"

"Only what the milkman told my servant--our chief source of local
information, Mr Carrados. He declares that the man used to be the butler
at a large house that stood here formerly, Fountain Court, and that his
name is neither Johns nor Jones. But very likely it is all a mistake."

"If not, he is certainly attached to the soil," was her visitor's
rejoinder. "And, apropos of that, will you show me over your garden
before I go, Mrs Bellmark?"

"With pleasure," she assented, rising also. "I will ring now and then I
can offer you tea when we have been round. That is, if you----?"

"Thank you, I do," he replied. "And would you allow my man to go through
into the garden--in case I require him?"

"Oh, certainly. You must tell me just what you want without thinking it
necessary to ask permission, Mr Carrados," she said, with a pretty air
of protection. "Shall Amy take a message?"

He acquiesced and turned to the servant who had appeared in response to
the bell.

"Will you go to the car and tell my man--Parkinson--that I require him
here. Say that he can bring his book; he will understand."

"Yes, sir."

They stepped out through the French window and sauntered across the
lawn. Before they had reached the other side Parkinson reported himself.

"You had better stay here," said his master, indicating the sward
generally. "Mrs Bellmark will allow you to bring out a chair from the

"Thank you, sir; there is a rustic seat already provided," replied

He sat down with his back to the houses and opened the book that he had
brought. Let in among its pages was an ingeniously contrived mirror.

When their promenade again brought them near the rustic seat Carrados
dropped a few steps behind.

"He is watching you from one of the upper rooms, sir," fell from
Parkinson's lips as he sat there without raising his eyes from the page
before him.

The blind man caught up to his hostess again.

"You intended this lawn for croquet?" he asked.

"No; not specially. It is too small, isn't it?"

"Not necessarily. I think it is in about the proportion of four by five
all right. Given that, size does not really matter for an
unsophisticated game."

To settle the point he began to pace the plot of ground, across and then
lengthways. Next, apparently dissatisfied with this rough measurement,
he applied himself to marking it off more exactly by means of his
walking-stick. Elsie Bellmark was by no means dull but the action sprang
so naturally from the conversation that it did not occur to her to look
for any deeper motive.

"He has got a pair of field-glasses and is now at the window,"
communicated Parkinson.

"I am going out of sight," was the equally quiet response. "If he
becomes more anxious tell me afterwards."

"It is quite all right," he reported, returning to Mrs Bellmark with the
satisfaction of bringing agreeable news. "It should make a splendid
little ground, but you may have to level up a few dips after the earth
has set."

A chance reference to the kitchen garden by the visitor took them to a
more distant corner of the enclosure where the rear of Fountain Cottage
cut off the view from the next house windows.

"We decided on this part for vegetables because it does not really
belong to the garden proper," she explained. "When they build farther on
this side we shall have to give it up very soon. And it would be a pity
if it was all in flowers."

With the admirable spirit of the ordinary Englishwoman, she spoke of
the future as if there was no cloud to obscure its prosperous course.
She had frankly declared their position to her uncle's best friend
because in the circumstances it had seemed to be the simplest and most
straightforward thing to do; beyond that, there was no need to whine
about it.

"It is a large garden," remarked Carrados. "And you really do all the
work of it yourselves?"

"Yes; I think that is half the fun of a garden. Roy is out here early
and late and he does all the hard work. But how did you know? Did uncle
tell you?"

"No; you told me yourself."

"I? Really?"

"Indirectly. You were scorning the proffered services of a horticultural
mercenary at the moment of my arrival."

"Oh, I remember," she laughed. "It was Irons, of course. He is a great
nuisance, he is so stupidly persistent. For some weeks now he has been
coming time after time, trying to persuade me to engage him. Once when
we were all out he had actually got into the garden and was on the point
of beginning work when I returned. He said he saw the milkmen and the
grocers leaving samples at the door so he thought that he would too!"

"A practical jester evidently. Is Mr Irons a local character?"

"He said that he knew the ground and the conditions round about here
better than anyone else in Groat's Heath," she replied. "Modesty is not
among Mr Irons's handicaps. He said that he----How curious!"

"What is, Mrs Bellmark?"

"I never connected the two men before, but he said that he had been
gardener at Fountain Court for seven years."

"Another family retainer who is evidently attached to the soil."

"At all events they have not prospered equally, for while Mr Johns seems
able to take a nice house, poor Irons is willing to work for
half-a-crown a day, and I am told that all the other men charge four

They had paced the boundaries of the kitchen garden, and as there was
nothing more to be shown Elsie Bellmark led the way back to the
drawing-room. Parkinson was still engrossed in his book, the only change
being that his back was now turned towards the high paling of
clinker-built oak that separated the two gardens.

"I will speak to my man," said Carrados, turning aside.

"He hurried down and is looking through the fence, sir," reported the

"That will do then. You can return to the car."

"I wonder if you would allow me to send you a small hawthorn-tree?"
inquired Carrados among his felicitations over the teacups five minutes
later. "I think it ought to be in every garden."

"Thank you--but is it worth while?" replied Mrs Bellmark, with a touch
of restraint. As far as mere words went she had been willing to ignore
the menace of the future, but in the circumstances the offer seemed
singularly inept and she began to suspect that outside his peculiar
gifts the wonderful Mr Carrados might be a little bit obtuse after all.

"Yes; I think it is," he replied, with quiet assurance.

"In spite of----?"

"I am not forgetting that unless your husband is prepared on Monday next
to invest one thousand pounds you contemplate leaving here."

"Then I do not understand it, Mr Carrados."

"And I am unable to explain as yet. But I brought you a note from Louis
Carlyle, Mrs Bellmark. You only glanced at it. Will you do me the favour
of reading me the last paragraph?"

She picked up the letter from the table where it lay and complied with
cheerful good-humour.

"There is some suggestion that you want me to accede to," she guessed
cunningly when she had read the last few words.

"There are some three suggestions which I hope you will accede to," he
replied. "In the first place I want you to write to Mr Johns next
door--let him get the letter to-night--inquiring whether he is still
disposed to take this house."

"I had thought of doing that shortly."

"Then that is all right. Besides, he will ultimately decline."

"Oh," she exclaimed--it would be difficult to say whether with relief or
disappointment--"do you think so? Then why----"

"To keep him quiet in the meantime. Next I should like you to send a
little note to Mr Irons--your maid could deliver it also to-night, I
dare say?"

"Irons! Irons the gardener?"

"Yes," apologetically. "Only a line or two, you know. Just saying that,
after all, if he cares to come on Monday you can find him a few days'

"But in any circumstances I don't want him."

"No; I can quite believe that you could do better. Still, it doesn't
matter, as he won't come, Mrs Bellmark; not for half-a-crown a day,
believe me. But the thought will tend to make Mr Irons less restive
also. Lastly, will you persuade your husband not to decline his firm's
offer until Monday?"

"Very well, Mr Carrados," she said, after a moment's consideration. "You
are Uncle Louis's friend and therefore our friend. I will do what you

"Thank you," said Carrados. "I shall endeavour not to disappoint you."

"I shall not be disappointed because I have not dared to hope. And I
have nothing to expect because I am still completely in the dark."

"I have been there for nearly twenty years, Mrs Bellmark."

"Oh, I am sorry!" she cried impulsively.

"So am I--occasionally," he replied. "Good-bye, Mrs Bellmark. You will
hear from me shortly, I hope. About the hawthorn, you know."

It was, indeed, in something less than forty-eight hours that she heard
from him again. When Bellmark returned to his toy villa early on
Saturday afternoon Elsie met him almost at the gate with a telegram in
her hand.

"I really think, Roy, that everyone we have to do with here goes mad,"
she exclaimed, in tragi-humorous despair. "First it was Mr Johns or
Jones--if he is Johns or Jones--and then Irons who wanted to work here
for half of what he could get at heaps of places about, and now just
look at this wire that came from Mr Carrados half-an-hour ago."

This was the message that he read:

     _Please procure sardine tin opener mariner's compass and bottle
     of champagne. Shall arrive 6.45 bringing Crataegus

"Could anything be more absurd?" she demanded.

"Sounds as though it was in code," speculated her husband. "Who's the
foreign gentleman he's bringing?"

"Oh, that's a kind of special hawthorn--I looked it up. But a bottle of
champagne, and a compass, and a sardine tin opener! What possible
connexion is there between them?"

"A very resourceful man might uncork a bottle of champagne with a
sardine tin opener," he suggested.

"And find his way home afterwards by means of a mariner's compass?" she
retorted. "No, Roy dear, you are not a sleuth-hound. We had better have
our lunch."

They lunched, but if the subject of Carrados had been tabooed the meal
would have been a silent one.

"I have a compass on an old watch-chain somewhere," volunteered

"And I have a tin opener in the form of a bull's head," contributed

"But we have no champagne, I suppose?"

"How could we have, Roy? We never have had any. Shall you mind going
down to the shops for a bottle?"

"You really think that we ought?"

"Of course we must, Roy. We don't know what mightn't happen if we
didn't. Uncle Louis said that they once failed to stop a jewel robbery
because the jeweller neglected to wipe his shoes on the shop doormat,
as Mr Carrados had told him to do. Suppose Johns is a desperate
anarchist and he succeeded in blowing up Buckingham Palace because

"All right. A small bottle, eh?"

"No. A large one. Quite a large one. Don't you see how exciting it is

"If you are excited already you don't need much champagne," argued her

Nevertheless he strolled down to the leading wine-shop after lunch and
returned with his purchase modestly draped in the light summer overcoat
that he carried on his arm. Elsie Bellmark, who had quite abandoned her
previous unconcern, in the conviction that "something was going to
happen," spent the longest afternoon that she could remember, and even
Bellmark, in spite of his continual adjurations to her to "look at the
matter logically," smoked five cigarettes in place of his usual Saturday
afternoon pipe and neglected to do any gardening.

At exactly six-forty-five a motor car was heard approaching. Elsie made
a desperate rally to become the self-possessed hostess again. Bellmark
was favourably impressed by such marked punctuality. Then a Regent
Street delivery van bowled past their window and Elsie almost wept.

The suspense was not long, however. Less than five minutes later another
vehicle raised the dust of the quiet suburban road, and this time a
private car stopped at their gate.

"Can you see any policemen inside?" whispered Elsie.

Parkinson got down and opening the door took out a small tree which he
carried up to the porch and there deposited. Carrados followed.

"At all events there isn't much wrong," said Bellmark. "He's smiling all
the time."

"No, it isn't really a smile," explained Elsie; "it's his normal

She went out into the hall just as the front door was opened.

"It is the 'Scarlet-fruited thorn' of North America," Bellmark heard the
visitor remarking. "Both the flowers and the berries are wonderfully
good. Do you think that you would permit me to choose the spot for it,
Mrs Bellmark?"

Bellmark joined them in the hall and was introduced.

"We mustn't waste any time," he suggested. "There is very little light

"True," agreed Carrados. "And Coccinea requires deep digging."

They walked through the house, and turning to the right passed into the
region of the vegetable garden. Carrados and Elsie led the way, the
blind man carrying the tree, while Bellmark went to his outhouse for the
required tools.

"We will direct our operations from here," said Carrados, when they were
half-way along the walk. "You told me of a thin iron pipe that you had
traced to somewhere in the middle of the garden. We must locate the end
of it exactly."

"My rosary!" sighed Elsie, with premonition of disaster, when she had
determined the spot as exactly as she could. "Oh, Mr Carrados!"

"I am sorry, but it might be worse," said Carrados inflexibly. "We only
require to find the elbow-joint. Mr Bellmark will investigate with as
little disturbance as possible."

For five minutes Bellmark made trials with a pointed iron. Then he
cleared away the soil of a small circle and at about a foot deep exposed
a broken inch pipe.

"The fountain," announced Carrados, when he had examined it. "You have
the compass, Mr Bellmark?"

"Rather a small one," admitted Bellmark.

"Never mind, you are a mathematician. I want you to strike a line due

The reel and cord came into play and an adjustment was finally made from
the broken pipe to a position across the vegetable garden.

"Now a point nine yards, nine feet and nine inches along it."

"My onion bed!" cried Elsie tragically.

"Yes; it is really serious this time," agreed Carrados. "I want a hole a
yard across, digging here. May we proceed?"

Elsie remembered the words of her uncle's letter--or what she imagined
to be his letter--and possibly the preamble of selecting the spot had
impressed her.

"Yes, I suppose so. Unless," she added hopefully, "the turnip bed will
do instead? They are not sown yet."

"I am afraid that nowhere else in the garden will do," replied Carrados.

Bellmark delineated the space and began to dig. After clearing to about
a foot deep he paused.

"About deep enough, Mr Carrados?" he inquired.

"Oh, dear no," replied the blind man.

"I am two feet down," presently reported the digger.

"Deeper!" was the uncompromising response.

Another six inches were added and Bellmark stopped to rest.

"A little more and it won't matter which way up we plant Coccinea," he

"That is the depth we are aiming for," replied Carrados.

Elsie and her husband exchanged glances. Then Bellmark drove his spade
through another layer of earth.

"Three feet," he announced, when he had cleared it.

Carrados advanced to the very edge of the opening.

"I think that if you would loosen another six inches with the fork we
might consider the ground prepared," he decided.

Bellmark changed his tools and began to break up the soil. Presently the
steel prongs grated on some obstruction.

"Gently," directed the blind watcher. "I think you will find a
half-pound cocoa tin at the end of your fork."

"Well, how on earth you spotted that----!" was wrung from Bellmark
admiringly, as he cleared away the encrusting earth. "But I believe you
are about right." He threw up the object to his wife, who was risking a
catastrophe in her eagerness to miss no detail. "Anything in it besides
soil, Elsie?"

"She cannot open it yet," remarked Carrados. "It is soldered down."

"Oh, I say," protested Bellmark.

"It is perfectly correct, Roy. The lid is soldered on."

They looked at each other in varying degrees of wonder and speculation.
Only Carrados seemed quite untouched.

"Now we may as well replace the earth," he remarked.

"Fill it all up again?" asked Bellmark.

"Yes; we have provided a thoroughly disintegrated subsoil. That is the
great thing. A depth of six inches is sufficient merely for the roots."

There was only one remark passed during the operation.

"I think I should plant the tree just over where the tin was," Carrados
suggested. "You might like to mark the exact spot." And there the
hawthorn was placed.

Bellmark, usually the most careful and methodical of men, left the tools
where they were, in spite of a threatening shower. Strangely silent,
Elsie led the way back to the house and taking the men into the
drawing-room switched on the light.

"I think you have a tin opener, Mrs Bellmark?"

Elsie, who had been waiting for him to speak, almost jumped at the
simple inquiry. Then she went into the next room and returned with the
bull-headed utensil.

"Here it is," she said, in a voice that would have amused her at any
other time.

"Mr Bellmark will perhaps disclose our find."

Bellmark put the soily tin down on Elsie's best table-cover without
eliciting a word of reproach, grasped it firmly with his left hand, and
worked the opener round the top.

"Only paper!" he exclaimed, and without touching the contents he passed
the tin into Carrados's hands.

The blind man dexterously twirled out a little roll that crinkled
pleasantly to the ear, and began counting the leaves with a steady

"They're bank-notes!" whispered Elsie in an awestruck voice. She caught
sight of a further detail. "Bank-notes for a hundred pounds each. And
there are dozens of them!"

"Fifty, there should be," dropped Carrados between his figures.
"Twenty-five, twenty-six----"

"Good God," murmured Bellmark; "that's five thousand pounds!"

"Fifty," concluded Carrados, straightening the edges of the sheaf. "It
is always satisfactory to find that one's calculations are exact." He
detached the upper ten notes and held them out. "Mrs Bellmark, will you
accept one thousand pounds as a full legal discharge of any claim that
you may have on this property?"

"Me--I?" she stammered. "But I have no right to any in any
circumstances. It has nothing to do with us."

"You have an unassailable moral right to a fair proportion, because
without you the real owners would never have seen a penny of it. As
regards your legal right"--he took out the thin pocket-book and
extracting a business-looking paper spread it open on the table before
them--"here is a document that concedes it. 'In consideration of the
valuable services rendered by Elsie Bellmark, etc., etc., in causing to
be discovered and voluntarily surrendering the sum of five thousand
pounds deposited and not relinquished by Alexis Metrobe, late of, etc.,
etc., deceased, Messrs Binstead & Polegate, solicitors, of 77a Bedford
Row, acting on behalf of the administrator and next-of-kin of the said
etc., etc., do hereby'--well, that's what they do. Signed, witnessed and
stamped at Somerset House."

"I suppose I shall wake presently," said Elsie dreamily.

"It was for this moment that I ventured to suggest the third requirement
necessary to bring our enterprise to a successful end," said Carrados.

"Oh, how thoughtful of you!" cried Elsie. "Roy, the champagne."

Five minutes later Carrados was explaining to a small but enthralled

"The late Alexis Metrobe was a man of peculiar character. After seeing a
good deal of the world and being many things, he finally embraced
spiritualism, and in common with some of its most pronounced adherents
he thenceforward abandoned what we should call 'the common-sense view.'

"A few years ago, by the collation of the Book of Revelations, a set of
Zadkiel's Almanacs, and the complete works of Mrs Mary Baker Eddy,
Metrobe discovered that the end of the world would take place on the
tenth of October 1910. It therefore became a matter of urgent importance
in his mind to ensure pecuniary provision for himself for the time after
the catastrophe had taken place."

"I don't understand," interrupted Elsie. "Did he expect to survive it?"

"You cannot understand, Mrs Bellmark, because it is fundamentally
incomprehensible. We can only accept the fact by the light of cases
which occasionally obtain prominence. Metrobe did not expect to survive,
but he was firmly convinced that the currency of this world would be
equally useful in the spirit-land into which he expected to pass. This
view was encouraged by a lady medium at whose feet he sat. She kindly
offered to transmit to his banking account in the Hereafter, without
making any charge whatever, any sum that he cared to put into her hands
for the purpose. Metrobe accepted the idea but not the offer. His plan
was to deposit a considerable amount in a spot of which he alone had
knowledge, so that he could come and help himself to it as required."

"But if the world had come to an end----?"

"Only the material world, you must understand, Mrs Bellmark. The spirit
world, its exact impalpable counterpart, would continue as before and
Metrobe's hoard would be spiritually intact and available. That is the

"About a month ago there appeared a certain advertisement in a good many
papers. I noticed it at the time and three days ago I had only to refer
to my files to put my hand on it at once. It reads:

     "'Alexis Metrobe. Any servant or personal attendant of the late
     Alexis Metrobe of Fountain Court, Groat's Heath, possessing
     special knowledge of his habits and movements may hear of
     something advantageous on applying to Binstead & Polegate, 77a
     Bedford Row, W.C.'

"The solicitors had, in fact, discovered that five thousand pounds'
worth of securities had been realized early in 1910. They readily
ascertained that Metrobe had drawn that amount in gold out of his bank
immediately after, and there the trace ended. He died six months later.
There was no hoard of gold and not a shred of paper to show where it had
gone, yet Metrobe lived very simply within his income. The house had
meanwhile been demolished but there was no hint or whisper of any lucky

"Two inquirers presented themselves at 77a Bedford Row. They were
informed of the circumstances and offered a reward, varying according to
the results, for information that would lead to the recovery of the
money. They are both described as thoughtful, slow-spoken men. Each
heard the story, shook his head, and departed. The first caller proved
to be John Foster, the ex-butler. On the following day Mr Irons,
formerly gardener at the Court, was the applicant.

"I must now divert your attention into a side track. In the summer of
1910 Metrobe published a curious work entitled 'The Flame beyond the
Dome.' In the main it is an eschatological treatise, but at the end he
tacked on an epilogue, which he called 'The Fable of the Chameleon.' It
is even more curious than the rest and with reason, for under the guise
of a speculative essay he gives a cryptic account of the circumstances
of the five thousand pounds and, what is more important, details the
exact particulars of its disposal. His reason for so doing is
characteristic of the man. He was conscious by experience that he
possessed an utterly treacherous memory, and having had occasion to move
the treasure from one spot to another he feared that when the time came
his bemuddled shade would be unable to locate it. For future reference,
therefore, he embodied the details in his book, and to make sure that
plenty of copies should be in existence he circulated it by the only
means in his power--in other words, he gave a volume to everyone he knew
and to a good many people whom he didn't.

"So far I have dealt with actualities. The final details are partly
speculative but they are essentially correct. Metrobe conveyed his gold
to Fountain Court, obtained a stout oak coffer for it, and selected a
spot _west_ of the fountain. He chose a favourable occasion for burying
it, but by some mischance Irons came on the scene. Metrobe explained the
incident by declaring that he was burying a favourite parrot. Irons
thought nothing particular about it then, although he related the fact
to the butler, and to others, in evidence of the general belief that
'the old cock was quite barmy.' But Metrobe himself was much disturbed
by the accident. A few days later he dug up the box. In pursuance of his
new plan he carried his gold to the Bank of England and changed it into
these notes. Then transferring the venue to one due _east_ of the
fountain, he buried them in this tin, satisfied that the small space it
occupied would baffle the search of anyone not in possession of the
exact location."

"But, I say!" exclaimed Mr Bellmark. "Gold might remain gold, but what
imaginable use could be made of bank-notes after the end of the world?"

"That is a point of view, no doubt. But Metrobe, in spite of his foreign
name, was a thorough Englishman. The world might come to an end, but he
was satisfied that somehow the Bank of England would ride through it all
right. I only suggest that. There is much that we can only guess."

"That is all there is to know, Mr Carrados?"

"Yes. Everything comes to an end, Mrs Bellmark. I sent my car away to
call for me at eight. Eight has struck. That is Harris announcing his

He stood up, but embarrassment and indecision marked the looks and
movements of the other two.

"How can we possibly take all this money, though?" murmured Elsie, in
painful uncertainty. "It is entirely your undertaking, Mr Carrados. It
is the merest fiction bringing me into it at all."

"Perhaps in the circumstances," suggested Bellmark nervously--"you
remember the circumstances, Elsie?--Mr Carrados would be willing to
regard it as a loan----"

"No, no!" cried Elsie impulsively. "There must be no half measures. We
know that a thousand pounds would be nothing to Mr Carrados, and he
knows that a thousand pounds are everything to us." Her voice reminded
the blind man of the candle-snuffing recital. "We will take this great
gift, Mr Carrados, quite freely, and we will not spoil the generous
satisfaction that you must have in doing a wonderful and a splendid
service by trying to hedge our obligation."

"But what can we ever do to thank Mr Carrados?" faltered Bellmark

"Nothing," said Elsie simply. "That is it."

"But I think that Mrs Bellmark has quite solved that," interposed


"It's a funny thing, sir," said Inspector Beedel, regarding Mr Carrados
with the pensive respect that he always extended towards the blind
amateur, "it's a funny thing, but nothing seems to go on abroad now but
what you'll find some trace of it here in London if you take the trouble
to look."

"In the right quarter," contributed Carrados.

"Why, yes," agreed the inspector. "But nothing comes of it nine times
out of ten, because it's no one's particular business to look here or
the thing's been taken up and finished from the other end. I don't mean
ordinary murders or single-handed burglaries, of course, but"--a modest
ring of professional pride betrayed the quiet enthusiast--"real
First-Class Crimes."

"The State Antonio Five per cent. Bond Coupons?" suggested Carrados.

"Ah, you are right, Mr Carrados." Beedel shook his head sadly, as though
perhaps on that occasion someone ought to have looked. "A man has a fit
in the inquiry office of the Agent-General for British Equatoria, and
two hundred and fifty thousand pounds' worth of faked securities is the
result in Mexico. Then look at that jade fylfot charm pawned for
one-and-three down at the Basin and the use that could have been made
of it in the Kharkov 'ritual murder' trial."

"The West Hampstead Lost Memory puzzle and the Baripur bomb conspiracy
that might have been smothered if one had known."

"Quite true, sir. And the three children of that Chicago
millionaire--Cyrus V. Bunting, wasn't it?--kidnapped in broad daylight
outside the New York Lyric and here, three weeks later, the dumb girl
who chalked the wall at Charing Cross. I remember reading once in a
financial article that every piece of foreign gold had a string from it
leading to Threadneedle Street. A figure of speech, sir, of course, but
apt enough, I don't doubt. Well, it seems to me that every big crime
done abroad leaves a finger-print here in London--if only, as you say,
we look in the right quarter."

"And at the right moment," added Carrados. "The time is often the
present; the place the spot beneath our very noses. We take a step and
the chance has gone for ever."

The inspector nodded and contributed a weighty monosyllable of
sympathetic agreement. The most prosaic of men in the pursuit of his
ordinary duties, it nevertheless subtly appealed to some half-dormant
streak of vanity to have his profession taken romantically when there
was no serious work on hand.

"No; perhaps not 'for ever' in one case in a thousand, after all,"
amended the blind man thoughtfully. "This perpetual duel between the Law
and the Criminal has sometimes appeared to me in the terms of a game of
cricket, inspector. Law is in the field; the Criminal at the wicket. If
Law makes a mistake--sends down a loose ball or drops a catch--the
Criminal scores a little or has another lease of life. But if _he_ makes
a mistake--if he lets a straight ball pass or spoons towards a steady
man--he is done for. His mistakes are fatal; those of the Law are only
temporary and retrievable."

"Very good, sir," said Mr Beedel, rising--the conversation had taken
place in the study at The Turrets, where Beedel had found occasion to
present himself--"very apt indeed. I must remember that. Well, sir, I
only hope that this 'Guido the Razor' lot will send a catch in our

The 'this' delicately marked Inspector Beedel's instinctive contempt for
Guido. As a craftsman he was compelled, on his reputation, to respect
him, and he had accordingly availed himself of Carrados's friendship for
a confabulation. As a man--he was a foreigner: worse, an Italian, and if
left to his own resources the inspector would have opposed to his
sinuous flexibility those rigid, essentially Britannia-metal, methods of
the Force that strike the impartial observer as so ponderous, so
amateurish and conventional, and, it must be admitted, often so
curiously and inexplicably successful.

The offence that had circuitously brought "il Rasojo" and his "lot"
within the cognizance of Scotland Yard outlines the kind of story that
is discreetly hinted at by the society paragraphist of the day,
politely disbelieved by the astute reader, and then at last laid
indiscreetly bare in all its details by the inevitable princessly
"Recollections" of a generation later. It centred round an impending
royal marriage in Vienna, a certain jealous "Countess X." (here you have
the discretion of the paragrapher), and a document or two that might be
relied upon (the aristocratic biographer will impartially sum up the
contingencies) to play the deuce with the approaching nuptials. To
procure the evidence of these papers the Countess enlisted the services
of Guido, as reliable a scoundrel as she could probably have selected
for the commission. To a certain point--to the abstraction of the
papers, in fact--he succeeded, but it was with pursuit close upon his
heels. There was that disadvantage in employing a rogue to do work that
implicated roguery, for whatever moral right the Countess had to the
property, her accomplice had no legal right whatever to his liberty. On
half-a-dozen charges at least he could be arrested on sight in as many
capitals of Europe. He slipped out of Vienna by the Nordbahn with his
destination known, resourcefully stopped the express outside Czaslau and
got away across to Chrudim. By this time the game and the moves were
pretty well understood in more than one keenly interested quarter.
Diplomacy supplemented justice and the immediate history of Guido became
that of a fox hunted from covert to covert with all the familiar earths
stopped against him. From Pardubitz he passed on to Glatz, reached
Breslau and went down the Oder to Stettin. Out of the liberality of his
employer's advances he had ample funds to keep going, and he dropped and
rejoined his accomplices as the occasion ruled. A week's harrying found
him in Copenhagen, still with no time to spare, and he missed his
purpose there. He crossed to Malmo by ferry, took the connecting night
train to Stockholm and the same morning sailed down the Saltsjon,
ostensibly bound for Obo, intending to cross to Revel and so get back to
central Europe by the less frequented routes. But in this move again
luck was against him and receiving warning just in time, and by the
mysterious agency that had so far protected him, he contrived to be
dropped from the steamer by boat among the islands of the crowded
Archipelago, made his way to Helsingfors and within forty-eight hours
was back again on the Frihavnen with pursuit for the moment blinked and
a breathing-time to the good.

To appreciate the exact significance of these wanderings it is necessary
to recall the conditions. Guido was not zigzagging a course about Europe
in an aimless search for the picturesque, still less inspired by any
love of the melodramatic. To him every step was vital, each tangent or
rebound the necessary outcome of his much-badgered plans. In his pocket
reposed the papers for which he had run grave risks. The price agreed
upon for the service was sufficiently lavish to make the risks worth
taking time after time; but in order to consummate the transaction it
was necessary that the booty should be put into his employer's hand.
Half-way across Europe that employer was waiting with such patience as
she could maintain, herself watched and shadowed at every step. The
Countess X. was sufficiently exalted to be personally immune from the
high-handed methods of her country's secret service, but every approach
to her was tapped. The problem was for Guido to earn a long enough
respite to enable him to communicate his position to the Countess and
for her to go or to reach him by a trusty hand. Then the whole fabric of
intrigue could fall to pieces, but so far Guido had been kept
successfully on the run and in the meanwhile time was pressing.

"They lost him after the _Hutola_," Beedel reported, in explaining the
circumstances to Max Carrados. "Three days later they found that he'd
been back again in Copenhagen but by that time he'd flown. Now they're
without a trace except the inference of these 'Orange peach blossom'
agonies in _The Times_. But the Countess has gone hurriedly to Paris;
and Lafayard thinks it all points to London."

"I suppose the Foreign Office is anxious to oblige just now?"

"I expect so, sir," agreed Beedel, "but, of course, my instructions
don't come from that quarter. What appeals to _us_ is that it would be a
feather in our caps--they're still a little sore up at the Yard about
Hans the Piper."

"Naturally," assented Carrados. "Well, I'll see what I can do if there
is real occasion. Let me know anything, and, if you see your chance
yourself, come round for a talk if you like on--to-day's Wednesday?--I
shall be in at any rate on Friday evening."

Without being a precisian, the blind man was usually exact in such
matters. There are those who hold that an engagement must be kept at all
hazard: men who would miss a death-bed message in order to keep literal
faith with a beggar. Carrados took lower, if more substantial, ground.
"My word," he sometimes had occasion to remark, "is subject to
contingencies, like everything else about me. If I make a promise it is
conditional on nothing which seems more important arising to counteract
it. That, among men of sense, is understood." And, as it happened,
something did occur on this occasion.

He was summoned to the telephone just before dinner on Friday evening to
receive a message personally. Greatorex, his secretary, had taken the
call, but came in to say that the caller would give him nothing beyond
his name--Brebner. The name was unknown to Carrados, but such incidents
were not uncommon, and he proceeded to comply.

"Yes," he responded; "I am Max Carrados speaking. What is it?"

"Oh, it is you, sir, is it? Mr Brickwill told me to get to you direct."

"Well, you are all right. Brickwill? Are you the British Museum?"

"Yes. I am Brebner in the Chaldean Art Department. They are in a great
stew here. We have just found out that someone has managed to get access
to the Second Inner Greek Room and looted some of the cabinets there. It
is all a mystery as yet."

"What is missing?" asked Carrados.

"So far we can only definitely speak of about six trays of Greek
coins--a hundred to a hundred and twenty, roughly."


The line conveyed a caustic bark of tragic amusement.

"Why, yes, I should say so. The beggar seems to have known his business.
All fine specimens of the best period. Syracuse--Messana--Croton--
Amphipolis. Eumenes--Evainetos--Kimons. The chief quite wept."

Carrados groaned. There was not a piece among them that he had not
handled lovingly.

"What are you doing?" he demanded.

"Mr Brickwill has been to Scotland Yard, and, on advice, we are not
making it public as yet. We don't want a hint of it to be dropped
anywhere, if you don't mind, sir."

"That will be all right."

"It was for that reason that I was to speak with you personally. We are
notifying the chief dealers and likely collectors to whom the coins, or
some of them, may be offered at once if it is thought that we haven't
found it out yet. Judging from the expertness displayed in the
selection, we don't think that there is any danger of the lot being
sold to a pawnbroker or a metal-dealer, so that we are running very
little real risk in not advertising the loss."

"Yes; probably it is as well," replied Carrados. "Is there anything that
Mr Brickwill wishes me to do?"

"Only this, sir; if you are offered a suspicious lot of Greek coins, or
hear of them, would you have a look--I mean ascertain whether they are
likely to be ours, and if you think they are communicate with us and
Scotland Yard at once."

"Certainly," replied the blind man. "Tell Mr Brickwill that he can rely
on me if any indication comes my way. Convey my regrets to him and tell
him that I feel the loss quite as a personal one.... I don't think that
you and I have met as yet, Mr Brebner?"

"No, sir," said the voice diffidently, "but I have looked forward to the
pleasure. Perhaps this unfortunate business will bring me an

"You are very kind," was Carrados's acknowledgment of the compliment.
"Any time ... I was going to say that perhaps you don't know my
weakness, but I have spent many pleasant hours over your wonderful
collection. That ensures the personal element. Good-bye."

Carrados was really disturbed by the loss although his concern was
tempered by the reflection that the coins would inevitably in the end
find their way back to the Museum. That their restitution might involve
ransom to the extent of several thousand pounds was the least poignant
detail of the situation. The one harrowing thought was that the booty
might, through stress or ignorance, find its way into the melting-pot.
That dreadful contingency, remote but insistent, was enough to affect
the appetite of the blind enthusiast.

He was expecting Inspector Beedel, who would be full of his own case,
but he could not altogether dismiss the aspects of possibility that
Brebner's communication opened before his mind. He was still concerned
with the chances of destruction and a very indifferent companion for
Greatorex, who alone sat with him, when Parkinson presented himself.
Dinner was over but Carrados had remained rather longer than his custom,
smoking his mild Turkish cigarette in silence.

"A lady wishes to see you, sir. She said you would not know her name,
but that her business would interest you."

The form of message was sufficiently unusual to take the attention of
both men.

"You don't know her, of course, Parkinson?" inquired his master.

For just a second the immaculate Parkinson seemed tongue-tied. Then he
delivered himself in his most ceremonial strain.

"I regret to say that I cannot claim the advantage, sir," he replied.

"Better let me tackle her, sir," suggested Greatorex with easy
confidence. "It's probably a sub."

The sportive offer was declined by a smile and a shake of the head.
Carrados turned to his attendant.

"I shall be in the study, Parkinson. Show her there in three minutes.
You stay and have another cigarette, Greatorex. By that time she will
either have gone or have interested me."

In three minutes' time Parkinson threw open the study door.

"The lady, sir," he announced.

Could he have seen, Carrados would have received the impression of a
plainly, almost dowdily, dressed young woman of buxom figure. She wore a
light veil, but it was ineffective in concealing the unattraction of the
face beneath. The features were swart and the upper lip darkened with
the more than incipient moustache of the southern brunette. Worse
remained, for a disfiguring rash had assailed patches of her skin. As
she entered she swept the room and its occupant with a quiet but
comprehensive survey.

"Please take a chair, Madame. You wished to see me?"

The ghost of a demure smile flickered about her mouth as she complied,
and in that moment her face seemed less uncomely. Her eye lingered for a
moment on a cabinet above the desk, and one might have noticed that her
eye was very bright. Then she replied.

"You are Signor Carrados, in--in the person?"

Carrados made his smiling admission and changed his position a
fraction--possibly to catch her curiously pitched voice the better.

"The great collector of the antiquities?"

"I do collect a little," he admitted guardedly.

"You will forgive me, Signor, if my language is not altogether good.
When I live at Naples with my mother we let boardings, chiefly to
Inglish and Amerigans. I pick up the words, but since I marry and go to
live in Calabria my Inglish has gone all red--no, no, you say, rusty.
Yes, that is it; quite rusty."

"It is excellent," said Carrados. "I am sure that we shall understand
one another perfectly."

The lady shot a penetrating glance but the blind man's expression was
merely suave and courteous. Then she continued:

"My husband is of name Ferraja--Michele Ferraja. We have a vineyard and
a little property near Forenzana." She paused to examine the tips of her
gloves for quite an appreciable moment. "Signor," she burst out, with
some vehemence, "the laws of my country are not good at all."

"From what I hear on all sides," said Carrados, "I am afraid that your
country is not alone."

"There is at Forenzana a poor labourer, Gian Verde of name," continued
the visitor, dashing volubly into her narrative. "He is one day digging
in the vineyard, the vineyard of my husband, when his spade strikes
itself upon an obstruction. 'Aha,' says Gian, 'what have we here?' and
he goes down upon his knees to see. It is an oil jar of red earth,
Signor, such as was anciently used, and in it is filled with silver

"Gian is poor but he is wise. Does he call upon the authorities? No, no;
he understands that they are all corrupt. He carries what he has found
to my husband for he knows him to be a man of great honour.

"My husband also is of brief decision. His mind is made up. 'Gian,' he
says, 'keep your mouth shut. This will be to your ultimate profit.' Gian
understands, for he can trust my husband. He makes a sign of mutual
implication. Then he goes back to the spade digging.

"My husband understands a little of these things but not enough. We go
to the collections of Messina and Naples and even Rome and there we see
other pieces of silver money, similar, and learn that they are of great
value. They are of different sizes but most would cover a lira and of
the thickness of two. On the one side imagine the great head of a pagan
deity; on the other--oh, so many things I cannot remember what." A
gesture of circumferential despair indicated the hopeless variety of

"A biga or quadriga of mules?" suggested Carrados. "An eagle carrying
off a hare, a figure flying with a wreath, a trophy of arms? Some of
those perhaps?"

"_Si, si bene_," cried Madame Ferraja. "You understand, I perceive,
Signor. We are very cautious, for on every side is extortion and an
unjust law. See, it is even forbidden to take these things out of the
country, yet if we try to dispose of them at home they will be seized
and we punished, for they are _tesoro trovato_, what you call treasure
troven and belonging to the State--these coins which the industry of
Gian discovered and which had lain for so long in the ground of my
husband's vineyard."

"So you brought them to England?"

"_Si_, Signor. It is spoken of as a land of justice and rich nobility
who buy these things at the highest prices. Also my speaking a little of
the language would serve us here."

"I suppose you have the coins for disposal then? You can show them to

"My husband retains them. I will take you, but you must first give
_parola d'onore_ of an English Signor not to betray us, or to speak of
the circumstance to another."

Carrados had already foreseen this eventuality and decided to accept it.
Whether a promise exacted on the plea of treasure trove would bind him
to respect the despoilers of the British Museum was a point for
subsequent consideration. Prudence demanded that he should investigate
the offer at once and to cavil over Madame Ferraja's conditions would be
fatal to that object. If the coins were, as there seemed little reason
to doubt, the proceeds of the robbery, a modest ransom might be the
safest way of preserving irreplaceable treasures, and in that case
Carrados could offer his services as the necessary intermediary.

"I give you the promise you require, Madame," he accordingly declared.

"It is sufficient," assented Madame. "I will now take you to the spot.
It is necessary that you alone should accompany me, for my husband is so
distraught in this country, where he understands not a word of what is
spoken, that his poor spirit would cry 'We are surrounded!' if he saw
two strangers approach the house. Oh, he is become most dreadful in his
anxiety, my husband. Imagine only, he keeps on the fire a cauldron of
molten lead and he would not hesitate to plunge into it this treasure
and obliterate its existence if he imagined himself endangered."

"So," speculated Carrados inwardly. "A likely precaution for a simple
vine-grower of Calabria! Very well," he assented aloud, "I will go with
you alone. Where is the place?"

Madame Ferraja searched in the ancient purse that she discovered in her
rusty handbag and produced a scrap of paper.

"People do not understand sometimes my way of saying it," she explained.
"_Sette_, Herringbone----"

"May I----?" said Carrados, stretching out his hand. He took the paper
and touched the writing with his finger-tips. "Oh yes, 7 Heronsbourne
Place. That is on the edge of Heronsbourne Park, is it not?" He
transferred the paper casually to his desk as he spoke and stood up.
"How did you come, Madame Ferraja?"

Madame Ferraja followed the careless action with a discreet smile that
did not touch her voice.

"By motor bus--first one then another, inquiring at every turning. Oh,
but it was interminable," sighed the lady.

"My driver is off for the evening--I did not expect to be going out--but
I will 'phone up a taxi and it will be at the gate as soon as we are."
He despatched the message and then, turning to the house telephone,
switched on to Greatorex.

"I'm just going round to Heronsbourne Park," he explained. "Don't stay,
Greatorex, but if anyone calls expecting to see me, they can say that I
don't anticipate being away more than an hour."

Parkinson was hovering about the hall. With quite novel officiousness he
pressed upon his master a succession of articles that were not required.
Over this usually complacent attendant the unattractive features of
Madame Ferraja appeared to exercise a stealthy fascination, for a dozen
times the lady detected his eyes questioning her face and a dozen times
he looked guiltily away again. But his incongruities could not delay for
more than a few minutes the opening of the door.

"I do not accompany you, sir?" he inquired, with the suggestion plainly
tendered in his voice that it would be much better if he did.

"Not this time, Parkinson."

"Very well, sir. Is there any particular address to which we can
telephone in case you are required, sir?"

"Mr Greatorex has instructions."

Parkinson stood aside, his resources exhausted. Madame Ferraja laughed a
little mockingly as they walked down the drive.

"Your man-servant thinks I may eat you, Signor Carrados," she declared

Carrados, who held the key of his usually exact attendant's
perturbation--for he himself had recognized in Madame Ferraja the
angelic Nina Brun, of the Sicilian tetradrachm incident, from the moment
she opened her mouth--admitted to himself the humour of her audacity.
But it was not until half-an-hour later that enlightenment rewarded
Parkinson. Inspector Beedel had just arrived and was speaking with
Greatorex when the conscientious valet, who had been winnowing his
memory in solitude, broke in upon them, more distressed than either had
ever seen him in his life before, and with the breathless introduction:
"It was the ears, sir! I have her ears at last!" poured out his tale of
suspicion, recognition and his present fears.

In the meanwhile the two objects of his concern had reached the gate as
the summoned taxicab drew up.

"Seven Heronsbourne Place," called Carrados to the driver.

"No, no," interposed the lady, with decision, "let him stop at the
beginning of the street. It is not far to walk. My husband would be on
the verge of distraction if he thought in the dark that it was the
arrival of the police;--who knows?"

"Brackedge Road, opposite the end of Heronsbourne Place," amended

Heronsbourne Place had the reputation, among those who were curious in
such matters, of being the most reclusive residential spot inside the
four-mile circle. To earn that distinction it was, needless to say, a
cul-de-sac. It bounded one side of Heronsbourne Park but did not at any
point of its length give access to that pleasance. It was entirely
devoted to unostentatious little houses, something between the villa and
the cottage, some detached and some in pairs, but all possessing the
endowment of larger, more umbrageous gardens than can generally be
secured within the radius. The local house agent described them as
"delightfully old-world" or "completely modernized" according to the
requirement of the applicant.

The cab was dismissed at the corner and Madame Ferraja guided her
companion along the silent and deserted way. She had begun to talk with
renewed animation, but her ceaseless chatter only served to emphasize to
Carrados the one fact that it was contrived to disguise.

"I am not causing you to miss the house with looking after me--No. 7,
Madame Ferraja?" he interposed.

"No, certainly," she replied readily. "It is a little farther. The
numbers are from the other end. But we are there. _Ecco!_"

She stopped at a gate and opened it, still guiding him. They passed into
a garden, moist and sweet-scented with the distillate odours of a dewy
evening. As she turned to relatch the gate the blind man endeavoured
politely to anticipate her. Between them his hat fell to the ground.

"My clumsiness," he apologized, recovering it from the step. "My old
impulses and my present helplessness, alas, Madame Ferraja!"

"One learns prudence by experience," said Madame sagely. She was
scarcely to know, poor lady, that even as she uttered this trite
aphorism, under cover of darkness and his hat, Mr Carrados had just
ruined his signet ring by blazoning a golden "7" upon her garden step to
establish its identity if need be. A cul-de-sac that numbered from the
closed end seemed to demand some investigation.

"Seldom," he replied to her remark. "One goes on taking risks. So we are

Madame Ferraja had opened the front door with a latchkey. She dropped
the latch and led Carrados forward along the narrow hall. The room they
entered was at the back of the house, and from the position of the road
it therefore overlooked the park. Again the door was locked behind them.

"The celebrated Mr Carrados!" announced Madame Ferraja, with a sparkle
of triumph in her voice. She waved her hand towards a lean, dark man who
had stood beside the door as they entered. "My husband."

"Beneath our poor roof in the most fraternal manner," commented the dark
man, in the same derisive spirit. "But it is wonderful."

"The even more celebrated Monsieur Dompierre, unless I am mistaken?"
retorted Carrados blandly. "I bow on our first real meeting."

"You knew!" exclaimed the Dompierre of the earlier incident
incredulously. "Stoker, you were right and I owe you a hundred lire. Who
recognized you, Nina?"

"How should I know?" demanded the real Madame Dompierre crossly. "This
blind man himself, by chance."

"You pay a poor compliment to your charming wife's personality to
imagine that one could forget her so soon," put in Carrados. "And you a
Frenchman, Dompierre!"

"You knew, Monsieur Carrados," reiterated Dompierre, "and yet you
ventured here. You are either a fool or a hero."

"An enthusiast--it is the same thing as both," interposed the lady.
"What did I tell you? What did it matter if he recognized? You see?"

"Surely you exaggerate, Monsieur Dompierre," contributed Carrados. "I
may yet pay tribute to your industry. Perhaps I regret the circumstance
and the necessity but I am here to make the best of it. Let me see the
things Madame has spoken of, and then we can consider the detail of
their price, either for myself or on behalf of others."

There was no immediate reply. From Dompierre came a saturnine chuckle
and from Madame Dompierre a titter that accompanied a grimace. For one
of the rare occasions in his life Carrados found himself wholly out of
touch with the atmosphere of the situation. Instinctively he turned his
face towards the other occupant of the room, the man addressed as
"Stoker," whom he knew to be standing near the window.

"This unfortunate business _has_ brought me an introduction," said a
familiar voice.

For one dreadful moment the universe stood still round Carrados. Then,
with the crash and grind of overwhelming mental tumult, the whole
strategy revealed itself, like the sections of a gigantic puzzle falling
into place before his eyes.

There had been no robbery at the British Museum! That plausible
concoction was as fictitious as the intentionally transparent tale of
treasure trove. Carrados recognized now how ineffective the one device
would have been without the other in drawing him--how convincing the two
together--and while smarting at the humiliation of his plight he could
not restrain a dash of admiration at the ingenuity--the accurately
conjectured line of inference--of the plot. It was again the familiar
artifice of the cunning pitfall masked by the clumsily contrived trap
just beyond it. And straightway into it he had blundered!

"And this," continued the same voice, "is Carrados, Max Carrados, upon
whose perspicuity a government--only the present government, let me in
justice say--depends to outwit the undesirable alien! My country; O my

"Is it really Monsieur Carrados?" inquired Dompierre in polite sarcasm.
"Are you sure, Nina, that you have not brought a man from Scotland Yard

"_Basta!_ he is here; what more do you want? Do not mock the poor
sightless gentleman," answered Madame Dompierre, in doubtful sympathy.

"That is exactly what I was wondering," ventured Carrados mildly. "I am
here--what more do you want? Perhaps you, Mr Stoker----?"

"Excuse me. 'Stoker' is a mere colloquial appellation based on a
trifling incident of my career in connection with a disabled liner. The
title illustrates the childish weakness of the criminal classes for
nicknames, together with their pitiable baldness of invention. My real
name is Montmorency, Mr Carrados--Eustace Montmorency."

"Thank you, Mr Montmorency," said Carrados gravely. "We are on opposite
sides of the table here to-night, but I should be proud to have been
with you in the stokehold of the _Benvenuto_."

"That was pleasure," muttered the Englishman. "This is business."

"Oh, quite so," agreed Carrados. "So far I am not exactly complaining.
But I think it is high time to be told--and I address myself to
you--why I have been decoyed here and what your purpose is."

Mr Montmorency turned to his accomplice.

"Dompierre," he remarked, with great clearness, "why the devil is Mr
Carrados kept standing?"

"Ah, oh, heaven!" exclaimed Madame Dompierre with tragic resignation,
and flung herself down on a couch.

"_Scusi_," grinned the lean man, and with burlesque grace he placed a
chair for their guest's acceptance.

"Your curiosity is natural," continued Mr Montmorency, with a cold eye
towards Dompierre's antics, "although I really think that by this time
you ought to have guessed the truth. In fact, I don't doubt that you
have guessed, Mr Carrados, and that you are only endeavouring to gain
time. For that reason--because it will perhaps convince you that we have
nothing to fear--I don't mind obliging you."

"Better hasten," murmured Dompierre uneasily.

"Thank you, Bill," said the Englishman, with genial effrontery. "I won't
fail to report your intelligence to the Rasojo. Yes, Mr Carrados, as you
have already conjectured, it is the affair of the Countess X. to which
you owe this inconvenience. You will appreciate the compliment that
underlies your temporary seclusion, I am sure. When circumstances
favoured our plans and London became the inevitable place of meeting,
you and you alone stood in the way. We guessed that you would be
consulted and we frankly feared your intervention. You were consulted.
We know that Inspector Beedel visited you two days ago and he has no
other case in hand. Your quiescence for just three days had to be
obtained at any cost. So here you are."

"I see," assented Carrados. "And having got me here, how do you propose
to keep me?"

"Of course that detail has received consideration. In fact we secured
this furnished house solely with that in view. There are three courses
before us. The first, quite pleasant, hangs on your acquiescence. The
second, more drastic, comes into operation if you decline. The
third--but really, Mr Carrados, I hope you won't oblige me even to
discuss the third. You will understand that it is rather objectionable
for me to contemplate the necessity of two able-bodied men having to use
even the smallest amount of physical compulsion towards one who is blind
and helpless. I hope you will be reasonable and accept the inevitable."

"The inevitable is the one thing that I invariably accept," replied
Carrados. "What does it involve?"

"You will write a note to your secretary explaining that what you have
learned at 7 Heronsbourne Place makes it necessary for you to go
immediately abroad for a few days. By the way, Mr Carrados, although
this is Heronsbourne Place it is _not_ No. 7."

"Dear, dear me," sighed the prisoner. "You seem to have had me at every
turn, Mr Montmorency."

"An obvious precaution. The wider course of giving you a different
street altogether we rejected as being too risky in getting you here.
To continue: To give conviction to the message you will direct your man
Parkinson to follow by the first boat-train to-morrow, with all the
requirements for a short stay, and put up at Mascot's, as usual,
awaiting your arrival there."

"Very convincing," agreed Carrados. "Where shall I be in reality?"

"In a charming though rather isolated bungalow on the south coast. Your
wants will be attended to. There is a boat. You can row or fish. You
will be run down by motor car and brought back to your own gate. It's
really very pleasant for a few days. I've often stayed there myself."

"Your recommendation carries weight. Suppose, for the sake of curiosity,
that I decline?"

"You will still go there but your treatment will be commensurate with
your behaviour. The car to take you is at this moment waiting in a
convenient spot on the other side of the park. We shall go down the
garden at the back, cross the park, and put you into the car--anyway."

"And if I resist?"

The man whose pleasantry it had been to call himself Eustace Montmorency
shrugged his shoulders.

"Don't be a fool," he said tolerantly. "You know who you are dealing
with and the kind of risks we run. If you call out or endanger us at a
critical point we shall not hesitate to silence you effectively."

The blind man knew that it was no idle threat. In spite of the cloak of
humour and fantasy thrown over the proceedings, he was in the power of
coolly desperate men. The window was curtained and shuttered against
sight and sound, the door behind him locked. Possibly at that moment a
revolver threatened him; certainly weapons lay within reach of both his

"Tell me what to write," he asked, with capitulation in his voice.

Dompierre twirled his mustachios in relieved approval. Madame laughed
from her place on the couch and picked up a book, watching Montmorency
over the cover of its pages. As for that gentleman, he masked his
satisfaction by the practical business of placing on the table before
Carrados the accessories of the letter.

"Put into your own words the message that I outlined just now."

"Perhaps to make it altogether natural I had better write on a page of
the notebook that I always use," suggested Carrados.

"Do you wish to make it natural?" demanded Montmorency, with latent

"If the miscarriage of your plan is to result in my head being
knocked--yes, I do," was the reply.

"Good!" chuckled Dompierre, and sought to avoid Mr Montmorency's cold
glance by turning on the electric table-lamp for the blind man's
benefit. Madame Dompierre laughed shrilly.

"Thank you, Monsieur," said Carrados, "you have done quite right. What
is light to you is warmth to me--heat, energy, inspiration. Now to

He took out the pocket-book he had spoken of and leisurely proceeded to
flatten it down upon the table before him. As his tranquil, pleasant
eyes ranged the room meanwhile it was hard to believe that the shutters
of an impenetrable darkness lay between them and the world. They rested
for a moment on the two accomplices who stood beyond the table, picked
out Madame Dompierre lolling on the sofa on his right, and measured the
proportions of the long, narrow room. They seemed to note the positions
of the window at the one end and the door almost at the other, and even
to take into account the single pendent electric light which up till
then had been the sole illuminant.

"You prefer pencil?" asked Montmorency.

"I generally use it for casual purposes. But not," he added, touching
the point critically, "like this."

Alert for any sign of retaliation, they watched him take an
insignificant penknife from his pocket and begin to trim the pencil. Was
there in his mind any mad impulse to force conclusions with that puny
weapon? Dompierre worked his face into a fiercer expression and touched
reassuringly the handle of his knife. Montmorency looked on for a
moment, then, whistling softly to himself, turned his back on the table
and strolled towards the window, avoiding Madame Nina's pursuant eye.

Then, with overwhelming suddenness, it came, and in its form altogether

Carrados had been putting the last strokes to the pencil, whittling it
down upon the table. There had been no hasty movement, no violent act to
give them warning; only the little blade had pushed itself nearer and
nearer to the electric light cord lying there ... and suddenly and
instantly the room was plunged into absolute darkness.

"To the door, Dom!" shouted Montmorency in a flash. "I am at the window.
Don't let him pass and we are all right."

"I am here," responded Dompierre from the door.

"He will not attempt to pass," came the quiet voice of Carrados from
across the room. "You are now all exactly where I want you. You are both
covered. If either moves an inch, I fire--and remember that I shoot by
sound, not sight."

"But--but what does it mean?" stammered Montmorency, above the
despairing wail of Madame Dompierre.

"It means that we are now on equal terms--three blind men in a dark
room. The numerical advantage that you possess is counterbalanced by the
fact that you are out of your element--I am in mine."

"Dom," whispered Montmorency across the dark space, "strike a match. I
have none."

"I would not, Dompierre, if I were you," advised Carrados, with a short
laugh. "It might be dangerous." At once his voice seemed to leap into a
passion. "Drop that matchbox," he cried. "You are standing on the brink
of your grave, you fool! Drop it, I say; let me hear it fall."

A breath of thought--almost too short to call a pause--then a little
thud of surrender sounded from the carpet by the door. The two
conspirators seemed to hold their breath.

"That is right." The placid voice once more resumed its sway. "Why
cannot things be agreeable? I hate to have to shout, but you seem far
from grasping the situation yet. Remember that I do not take the
slightest risk. Also please remember, Mr Montmorency, that the action
even of a hair-trigger automatic scrapes slightly as it comes up. I
remind you of that for your own good, because if you are so ill-advised
as to think of trying to pot me in the dark, that noise gives me a fifth
of a second start of you. Do you by any chance know Zinghi's in Mercer

"The shooting gallery?" asked Mr Montmorency a little sulkily.

"The same. If you happen to come through this alive and are interested
you might ask Zinghi to show you a target of mine that he keeps. Seven
shots at twenty yards, the target indicated by four watches, none of
them so loud as the one you are wearing. He keeps it as a curiosity."

"I wear no watch," muttered Dompierre, expressing his thought aloud.

"No, Monsieur Dompierre, but you wear a heart, and that not on your
sleeve," said Carrados. "Just now it is quite as loud as Mr
Montmorency's watch. It is more central too--I shall not have to allow
any margin. That is right; breathe naturally"--for the unhappy Dompierre
had given a gasp of apprehension. "It does not make any difference to
me, and after a time holding one's breath becomes really painful."

"Monsieur," declared Dompierre earnestly, "there was no intention of
submitting you to injury, I swear. This Englishman did but speak within
his hat. At the most extreme you would have been but bound and gagged.
Take care: killing is a dangerous game."

"For you--not for me," was the bland rejoinder. "If you kill me you will
be hanged for it. If I kill you I shall be honourably acquitted. You can
imagine the scene--the sympathetic court--the recital of your
villainies--the story of my indignities. Then with stumbling feet and
groping hands the helpless blind man is led forward to give evidence.
Sensation! No, no, it isn't really fair but I can kill you both with
absolute certainty and Providence will be saddled with all the
responsibility. Please don't fidget with your feet, Monsieur Dompierre.
I know that you aren't moving but one is liable to make mistakes."

"Before I die," said Montmorency--and for some reason laughed
unconvincingly in the dark--"before I die, Mr Carrados, I should really
like to know what has happened to the light. That, surely, isn't

"Would it be ungenerous to suggest that you are trying to gain time? You
ought to know what has happened. But as it may satisfy you that I have
nothing to fear from delay, I don't mind telling you. In my hand was a
sharp knife--contemptible, you were satisfied, as a weapon; beneath my
nose the 'flex' of the electric lamp. It was only necessary for me to
draw the one across the other and the system was short-circuited. Every
lamp on that fuse is cut off and in the distributing-box in the hall you
will find a burned-out wire. You, perhaps--but Monsieur Dompierre's
experience in plating ought to have put him up to simple electricity."

"How did you know that there is a distributing-box in the hall?" asked
Dompierre, with dull resentment.

"My dear Dompierre, why beat the air with futile questions?" replied Max
Carrados. "What does it matter? Have it in the cellar if you like."

"True," interposed Montmorency. "The only thing that need concern us

"But it is in the hall--nine feet high," muttered Dompierre in
bitterness. "Yet he, this blind man----"

"The only thing that need concern us," repeated the Englishman, severely
ignoring the interruption, "is what you intend doing in the end, Mr

"The end is a little difficult to foresee," was the admission. "So far,
I am all for maintaining the _status quo_. Will the first grey light of
morning find us still in this impasse? No, for between us we have
condemned the room to eternal darkness. Probably about daybreak
Dompierre will drop off to sleep and roll against the door. I,
unfortunately mistaking his intention, will send a bullet through----
Pardon, Madame, I should have remembered--but pray don't move."

"I protest, Monsieur----"

"Don't protest; just sit still. Very likely it will be Mr Montmorency
who will fall off to sleep the first after all."

"Then we will anticipate that difficulty," said the one in question,
speaking with renewed decision. "We will play the last hand with our
cards upon the table if you like. Nina, Mr Carrados will not injure you
whatever happens--be sure of that. When the moment comes you will

"One word," put in Carrados with determination. "My position is
precarious and I take no risks. As you say, I cannot injure Madame
Dompierre, and you two men are therefore my hostages for her good
behaviour. If she rises from the couch you, Dompierre, fall. If she
advances another step Mr Montmorency follows you."

"Do nothing rash, _carissima_," urged her husband, with passionate
solicitude. "You might get hit in place of me. We will yet find a better

"You dare not, Mr Carrados!" flung out Montmorency, for the first time
beginning to show signs of wear in this duel of the temper. "He dare
not, Dompierre. In cold blood and unprovoked! No jury would acquit you!"

"Another who fails to do you justice, Madame Nina," said the blind man,
with ironic gallantry. "The action might be a little high-handed, one
admits, but when you, appropriately clothed and in your right
complexion, stepped into the witness-box and I said: 'Gentlemen of the
jury, what is my crime? That I made Madame Dompierre a widow!' can you
doubt their gratitude and my acquittal? Truly my countrymen are not
all bats or monks, Madame." Dompierre was breathing with perfect freedom
now, while from the couch came the sounds of stifled emotion, but
whether the lady was involved in a paroxysm of sobs or of laughter it
might be difficult to swear.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was perhaps an hour after the flourish of the introduction with which
Madame Dompierre had closed the door of the trap upon the blind man's

The minutes had passed but the situation remained unchanged, though the
ingenuity of certainly two of the occupants of the room had been
tormented into shreds to discover a means of turning it to their
advantage. So far the terrible omniscience of the blind man in the dark
and the respect for his markmanship with which his coolness had inspired
them, dominated the group. But one strong card yet remained to be
played, and at last the moment came upon which the conspirators had
pinned their despairing hopes.

There was the sound of movement in the hall outside, not the first about
the house, but towards the new complication Carrados had been strangely
unobservant. True, Montmorency had talked rather loudly, to carry over
the dangerous moments. But now there came an unmistakable step and to
the accomplices it could only mean one thing. Montmorency was ready on
the instant.

"Down, Dom!" he cried, "throw yourself down! Break in, Guido. Break in
the door. We are held up!"

There was an immediate response. The door, under the pressure of a human
battering-ram, burst open with a crash. On the threshold the
intruders--four or five in number--stopped starkly for a moment, held in
astonishment by the extraordinary scene that the light from the hall,
and of their own bull's-eyes, revealed.

Flat on their faces, to present the least possible surface to Carrados's
aim, Dompierre and Montmorency lay extended beside the window and behind
the door. On the couch, with her head buried beneath the cushions,
Madame Dompierre sought to shut out the sight and sound of violence.
Carrados--Carrados had not moved, but with arms resting on the table and
fingers placidly locked together he smiled benignly on the new arrivals.
His attitude, compared with the extravagance of those around him, gave
the impression of a complacent modern deity presiding over some
grotesque ceremonial of pagan worship.

"So, Inspector, you could not wait for me, after all?" was his greeting.



Minor punctuation errors have been repaired. An inconsistency
in the spelling of Messina/Messana (pages 269 and 274) has been

The following amendments have been made:

    Page 250--Carados amended to Carrados--""True," agreed
    Page 251--urning amended to turning--"They walked through the
    house, and turning to the right ..."

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