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Title: The Red Triangle - Being Some Further Chronicles of Martin Hewitt, Investigator
Author: Morrison, Arthur, 1863-1945
Language: English
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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.

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                          The Red Triangle

     BEING SOME FURTHER CHRONICLES OF MARTIN HEWITT, INVESTIGATOR

                         By Arthur Morrison

                 _Short Story Index Reprint Series_


BOOKS FOR LIBRARIES PRESS
FREEPORT, NEW YORK

First Published 1903
Reprinted 1970

STANDARD BOOK NUMBER:
8369-3466-0

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NUMBER:
75-116962

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



CONTENTS


       I. The Affair of Samuel's Diamonds

      II. The Case of Mr. Jacob Mason

     III. The Case of the Lever Key

      IV. The Case of the Burnt Barn

       V. The Case of the Admiralty Code

      VI. The Adventure of Channel Marsh



THE AFFAIR OF SAMUEL'S DIAMONDS



I


I have already recorded many of the adventures of my friend Martin
Hewitt, but among them there have been more of a certain few which were
discovered to be related together in a very extraordinary manner; and it
is to these that I am now at liberty to address myself. There may have
been others--cases which gave no indication of their connection with
these; some of them indeed I may have told without a suspicion of their
connection with the Red Triangle; but the first in which that singular
accompaniment became apparent was the matter of Samuel's diamonds. The
case exhibited many interesting features, and I was very anxious to
report it, with perhaps even less delay than I had thought judicious in
other cases; but Hewitt restrained me.

"No, Brett," he said, "there is more to come of this. This particular
case is over, it is true, but there is much behind. I've an idea that I
shall see that Red Triangle again. I may, or, of course, I may not; but
there is deep work going on--very deep work, and whether we see more of
it or not, I must keep prepared. I can't afford to throw a single card
upon the table. So, as many notes as you please, Brett, for future
reference; but no publication yet--none of your journalism!"

Hewitt was right. It was not so long before we heard more of the Red
Triangle, and after that more, though the true connection of some of the
cases with the mysterious symbol and the meaning of the symbol itself
remained for a time undiscovered. But at last Hewitt was able to unmask
the hideous secret, and for ever put an end to the evil influence that
gathered about the sign; and now there remains no reason why the full
story should not be told.

I have told elsewhere of my first acquaintance with Martin Hewitt, of
his pleasant and companionable nature, his ordinary height, his
stoutness, his round, smiling face--those characteristics that aided him
so well in his business of investigator, so unlike was his appearance
and manner to that of the private detective of the ordinary person's
imagination. Therefore I need only remind my readers that my bachelor
chambers were, during most of my acquaintance with Hewitt, in the old
building near the Strand, in which Hewitt's office stood at the top of
the first flight of stairs; where the plain ground-glass of the door
bore as inscription the single word "Hewitt," and the sharp lad,
Kerrett, first received visitors in the outer office.

Next door to this old house, at the time I am to speak of, a much newer
building stood, especially built for letting out in offices. It happened
that one day as Hewitt left his office for a late lunch, he became aware
of a pallid and agitated Jew who was pervading the front door of this
adjoining building. The man exhibited every sign of nervous expectancy,
staring this way and that up and down the busy street, and once or twice
rushing aimlessly half-way up the inner stairs, and as often returning
to the door. Apprehension was plain on his pale face, and he was clearly
in a state that blinded his attention to the ordinary matters about him,
just as happens when a man is in momentary and nervous expectation of
some serious event.

Noting these things as he passed, with no more than the observation that
was his professional habit, Hewitt proceeded to his lunch. This done
with, he returned to his office, perceiving, as he passed the next-door
building, that the distracted Jew was no longer visible. It seemed plain
that the person or the event he had awaited with such obvious
nervousness had arrived and passed; one more of the problems, anxieties
or crises that join and unravel moment by moment in the human ant-hill
of London, had perhaps closed for good or ill within the past half-hour;
perhaps it had only begun.

A message awaited Hewitt at his office--an urgent message. The
housekeeper had come in from next door, Kerrett reported, with an urgent
request that Mr. Martin Hewitt would go immediately to the offices of
Mr. Denson, on the third floor. The housekeeper seemed to know little or
nothing of the business, except that a Mr. Samuel was alone in Mr.
Denson's office, and had sent the message.

With no delay Hewitt transferred himself to the next-door offices. There
the housekeeper, who inhabited a uniform and a glass box opposite the
foot of the first flight of stairs, directed Hewitt, with the remark
that the gentleman was very impatient and very much upset. "Third floor,
sir, second door on the right; name Denson on the door. There's no
lift."

"W.F. Denson" was the complete name, followed by the line "Foreign and
Commission Agent." This Hewitt read with some little difficulty, for the
door was open, and on the threshold stood that same agitated Jew whom
Hewitt had seen at the front door.

A little less actively perturbed now, he was nevertheless still
nervously pale. "Mr. Martin Hewitt?" he cried, while Hewitt was still
only at the head of the stairs. "Is it Mr. Martin Hewitt?"

Hewitt came quietly along the corridor, using eyes and ears as he came.
The Jew was a man of middle height, very obviously Jewish, and with a
slight accent that hinted a Continental origin.

"I have just received your message," Hewitt said, "and, as you see, I am
here with no delay. Is Mr. Denson in?"

"No--good heafens no--I would gif anything if he was, Mr. Hewitt. Come
in, do! I haf been robbed--robbed by Denson himself, wit'out a wort of
doubt. It is terrible--terrible! Fifteen t'ousant pounds! It ruins me,
Mr. Hewitt, ruins me! Unless you can recover it! If you recover it, I
will pay--pay--oh, I will pay fery well indeed!"

There was a characteristically sudden moderation of the client's
emphasis when he came to the engagement to pay. Hewitt had observed it
in other clients, but it did not disturb him.

"First," he said, "you must tell me your difficulty. You say you have
been robbed of fifteen thousand pounds----"

"Tiamonts, Mr. Hewitt--tiamonts! All from the case--here is the case,
empty----"

"Let us be methodical. We will shut the door and sit down." Hewitt
pressed his client into a chair and produced his note-book. "It will be
better to begin at the beginning. First, I should like to know your
name, and a few such particulars as that."

"Lewis Samuel, Hatton Garden--150, Hatton Garden--tiamont merchant."

"Yes. And what is your connection with Mr. Denson?"

"Business--just business," Samuel responded. He pronounced it
"pishness," and it seemed his favourite word. "Like this; I will tell
you. I haf known him some time, and did at first small pishness. He
bought a little tiamont and haf it set in pracelet, and he
pay--straightforward pishness. Then he bought some very good paste
stones, all set in gold, and he pay--quite straightforward pishness. At
the same time he says, 'I am pishness man myself, Mr. Samuel,' he says,
'and I like to make a little moneys as well as pay out sometimes. Don't
you want any little agencies done? I do all foreign commissions, and I
can forwart and receive and clear at dock and custom house. If you send
any tiamonts I can consign and insure--very cheapest rates to you,
special. If you want brokerage or buy and sell for you, confidential, I
can do it with lowest commission. Especially I haf good connection with
America. I haf many rich Americans, principals and customers,' he says,
'and often I could do pishness for you when they come over.'"

"By which he meant he might sell them diamonds?" Hewitt queried.

"Just so, Mr. Hewitt--reg'lar pishness. And after that two or three
little parcels of tiamonts he bought--for American customers, he says.
But he says he can do bigger pishness soon. Ay, so he has--goot heavens,
he has! But I tell you. I do also one or two small pishnesses with him,
and that is all right--he treat me very well and I pay when it suits.
Then he says, 'Samuel,' he says, very friendly now inteet, 'Samuel,
could you get a nice large lot of tiamonts for an American customer I
expect here soon?' And I say, 'Of course I can.' 'Enough,' he says, 'to
fit out a rich man's wife--that is, to pegin. He is not long rich, and
he will want more soon--ah, she will make him pay! But to pegin--a good
fit-out of tiamonts, eh?'

"I tell him yes, and I offer usual commission. But no, says Denson, he
wants no commission; he will make his own profit. That I don't mind so
long as I get mine; so I agree to put the tiamonts in at a price. The
American, he says, is to come over about a big company deal, and when it
is through he will pay well. So last week I pring a peautiful
collection all cut but unset, and I wait out in that room while Denson
shows them to his customer."

"You mean you let them out of your sight?"

"Yes--that is not so uncommon; reg'lar pishness. You see I was out
here--this is the only way out. Denson was in the inner office with the
stones and the American. Neither could get out without passing here. And
I had done pishness with him alretty."

"Well?"

"You see I wait downstairs with my case--this case--till Denson sends
down. He doesn't want me to show--fery natural, you see, in pishness.
When I sell to make a profit, perhaps for somebody else, I don't want
that somebody to know my customer, else he sells direct and I lose my
profit--fery natural. See?"

"Of course, I understand. It's a point of business among you gentlemen
to keep your own customers to yourselves. And often, no doubt, diamonds
pass through several hands before reaching the eventual customer,
leaving a profit in each."

"Always, Mr. Hewitt--always, you might say. Well, you see, Denson sends
down that his customer is in, and I come up. Denson comes out from the
inner office, takes my case, and I wait in there."

The case which Samuel showed Hewitt was of black leather, perhaps
eighteen inches long by a foot wide. The arrangement of the office was
simple. In this, the outer room, a small space was partitioned off by
means of a ground glass screen, and it was in there that Samuel meant
that he had waited.

"Well, he took the case in, and I could hear some sound of talking--but
not much, you see, the door being shut. After a time the door opens and
I hear Denson say: 'Very well, think over it; but don't be long or
you'll lose the chance. Excuse me while I put them back in the safe.'
Then he shuts the door and brings the case to me and goes back. But of
course I stay till I haf looked very carefully through all the tiamonts,
in the different compartments of the case, in case one might haf dropped
on the floor, or got changed, you know. That is pishness."

"Just so. And they were all right?"

"All right and same as the list--I know well a tiamont that I haf seen
once. So I go away, and afterwards Denson tells me that the American
liked much the stones but wouldn't quite come up to price. That, of
course, is fery usual pishness. 'But he will rise, Samuel,' Denson says.
'I know him quite well, and them tiamonts is as good as sold with a
good profit for me; and a good one for you, too, I bet,' he says. I was
putting the lot to him for fifteen t'ousant pounds, and it would have
been a nice profit in that for me. And then Denson he chaffs me and he
says, 'Ah! Samuel,' he says, 'wasn't you afraid my customer and me would
hook it out o' the window with all your stones?' I don't like that sort
o' joke in pishness, you see, but I say, 'All right--I wasn't afraid o'
that. The window was a mile too high, and besides I could see it from
where I was a-sitting.' And so I could, you see, plain enough to see if
it was opened."

The ground-glass partition, in fact, cut off a part of the window of the
outer office, which, being at an angle with the inner room, gave a side
view of the window that lighted that apartment.

"Denson laughed at that," Samuel went on. "'Ha-ha!' says he, 'I never
thought of that. Then you could see the American's hat hanging up just
by the window--rum hat, ain't it?' And that was quite true, for I had
noticed it--a big, grey wideawake, almost white."

Hewitt nodded approvingly. "You are quite right," he said, "to tell me
everything you recollect, even of the most trivial sort; the smallest
thing may be very valuable. So you took your diamonds away the first
time, last week. What next?"

"Well, I came again, just the same, to-day, by appointment. Just the
same I sat in that place, and just the same Denson took the case into
the inner room. 'He's come to buy this time, I can see,' Denson whispers,
and winks. 'But he'll fight hard over the price. We'll see!' and off he
goes into the other room. Well, I waited. I waited and I waited a long
time. I looked out sideways at the window, and there I see the
American's big wideawake hat hanging up just inside the other window,
same as last time. So I think they are a long time settling the price,
and I wait some more. But it is such a very long time, and I begin to
feel uneasy. Of course, I know you cannot sell fifteen t'ousant wort' of
tiamonts in five minutes--that is not reasonable pishness. But I could
hear nothing at all now--not a sound. And the boy--the boy that came
down to call me up--he wasn't come back. But there I could see the big
wideawake hat still hanging inside the window, and of course I knew
there was only one door out of the inner room, right before me, so it
seemed foolish to be uneasy. So I waited longer still, but now it was so
late, I thought they should have come out to lunch before this, and then
I was fery uneasy--fery uneasy inteet. So I thought I would pretend to
be a new caller, and I opened the outer office door and banged it, and
walked in very loud and knocked on the boy's table. I thought Denson
would come when he heard that, but no--there was not a sound. So I got
more uneasy, and I opened the window and leaned out as far as I could,
to look in at the other window. There I could see nothing but the big
hat and the back of a chair and a bit of the room--empty. So I went and
banged the outer door again, and called out, 'Hi! Mr. Denson, you're
wanted! Hi! d'y'ear?' and knocked with my umbrella on the inner door;
and, Mr. Hewitt--you might have knocked me down with half a feather when
I got no answer at all--not a sound! I opened the door, Mr. Hewitt, and
there was nobody there--nobody! There was my leather case on the table,
open--and empty! Fifteen t'ousant pounds in tiamonts, Mr. Hewitt--it
ruins me!"

Hewitt rose, and flung wide the inner office door. "This is certainly
the only door," he said, "and that is the only window--quite well in
view from where you sat. There is the wideawake hat still hanging
there--see, it is quite new; obviously brought for you to look at, it
would seem. The door and the window were not used, and the chimney is
impossible--register grate. But there was one other way--there."

The inner wall of each of the rooms was the wall of the corridor into
which all the offices opened, and this corridor was lighted--and the
offices partly ventilated--by a sort of hinged casement or fanlight
close up by the ceiling, oblong, and extending the most of the length of
each room. Plainly an active man, not too stout, might mount a
chair-back, and climb very quietly through the opening. "That's the only
way," said Hewitt, pointing.

"Yes," answered Samuel, nodding and rubbing his knuckles together
nervously. "I saw it--saw it when it was too late. But who'd have
thought o' such a thing beforehand? And the American--either there
wasn't an American at all, or he got out the same way. But, anyway, here
I am, and the tiamonts are gone, and there is nothing here but the
furniture--not worth twenty pound!"

"Well," Hewitt said, "so far, I think I understand, though I may have
questions to ask presently. But go on."

"Go on? But there is no more, Mr. Hewitt! Quite enough, don't you think?
There is no more--I am robbed!"

"But when you found the empty room, and the case, what did you do? Send
for the police?"

The Jew's face clouded slightly. "No, Mr. Hewitt," he said, "not for the
police, but for you. Reason plain enough. The police make a great fuss,
and they want to arrest the criminal. Quite right--I want to arrest him,
and punish him too, plenty. But most I want the tiamonts back, because
if not it ruins me. If it was to make choice between two things for me,
whether to punish Denson or get my tiamonts, then of course I take the
tiamonts, and let Denson go--I cannot be ruined. But with the police, if
it is their choice, they catch the thief first, and hold him tight,
whether it loses the property or not; the property is only second with
them--with me it is first and second, and all. So I take no more risks
than I can help, Mr. Hewitt. I have sent for you to get first the
stones--afterwards the thief if you can. But first my property; you can
perhaps find Denson and make him give it up rather than go to prison.
That would be better than having him taken and imprisoned, and perhaps
the stones put away safe all the time ready for him when he came out."

"Still, the police can do things that I can't," Hewitt interposed; "stop
people leaving or landing at ports, and the like. I think we should see
them."

Samuel was anxiously emphatic. "No, Mr. Hewitt," he said, "certainly not
the police. There are reasons--no, _not_ the police, Mr. Hewitt, at any
rate, not till you have tried. I cannot haf the police--just yet."

Martin Hewitt shrugged his shoulders. "Very well," he said, "if those
are your instructions, I'll do my best. And so you sent for me at once,
as soon as you discovered the loss?"

"Yes, at once."

"Without telling anybody else?"

"I haf tolt nobody."

"Did you look about anywhere for Denson--in the street, or what not?"

"No--what was the good? He was gone; there was time for him to go
miles."

"Very good. And speaking of time, let me judge how far he may have gone.
How long were you kept waiting?"

"Two hours and a quarter, very near--within five minutes."

"By your watch?"

"Yes--I looked often, to see if it was so long waiting as it seemed."

"Very good. Do you happen to have a piece of Denson's writing about
you?"

Samuel looked round him. "There's nothing about here," he said, "but
perhaps we can find--oh here--here's a post-card." He took the card from
his pocket, and gave it to Hewitt.

"There is nothing else to tell me, then?" queried Hewitt. "Are you sure
that you have forgotten nothing that has happened since you first
arrived--_nothing at all_?" There was meaning in the emphasis, and a
sharp look in Hewitt's eyes.

"No, Mr. Hewitt," Samuel answered, hastily; "there is nothing else I can
tell you."

"Then I will think it over at once. You had better go back quietly to
your office, and think it over yourself, _in case_ you have forgotten
something; and I need hardly warn you to keep quiet as to what has
passed between us--unless you tell the police. I think I shall take the
liberty of a glance over Mr. Denson's office, and since his office boy
still stays away, I will lend him my clerk for a little. He will keep
his eyes open if any callers come, and his ears too. Wait while I fetch
him."



II


It was at this point that my humble part in the case began, for Hewitt
hurried first to my rooms.

"Brett," he exclaimed, "are you engaged this afternoon?"

"No--nothing important."

"Will you do me a small favour? I have a rather interesting case. I want
a man watched for an hour or so, and I haven't a soul to do it. Kerrett
_may_ be known, and I _am_ known. Besides, there is another job for
Kerrett."

Of course, I expressed myself willing to do what I could.

"Capital," replied Hewitt. "Come along--you like these adventures, I
know, or I wouldn't have asked you; and you know the dodges in this sort
of observation. The man is one Samuel, a Jew, of 150 Hatton Garden,
diamond dealer. I'll tell you more afterwards. Kerrett and I are going
into the offices next door, and I want you to wait thereabout. Presently
I will come downstairs with him and he will go away. An hour or so will
be enough, probably."

I followed Hewitt downstairs. He took Kerrett with him and locked his
office door. I saw them both disappear within the large new building,
and I waited near a convenient postal pillar-box, prepared to seem very
busy with a few old letters from my pocket until my man's back was
turned.

In a very few minutes Hewitt reappeared, this time with a man--a Jew,
obviously--whom I remembered having seen already at the door of that
office more than an hour before, as I had passed on the way from the
bookseller's at the corner. The man walked briskly up the street, and I,
on the opposite side, did the same, a little in the rear.

He turned the corner, and at once slackened his pace and looked about
him. He took a peep back along the street he had left, and then hailed a
cab.

For a hundred yards or more I was obliged to trot, till I saw another
cab drop its fare just ahead, and managed to secure it and give the
cabman instructions to follow the cab in front, before it turned a
corner. The chase was difficult, for the horse that drew me was a poor
one, and half a dozen times I thought I had lost sight of the other cab
altogether; but my cabman was better than his animal, and from his high
perch he kept the chase in view, turning corners and picking out the cab
ahead among a dozen others with surprising certainty. We went across
Charing Cross Road by way of Cranborne Street, past Leicester Square,
through Coventry Street and up the Quadrant and Regent Street. At Oxford
Circus the Jew's cab led us to the left, and along Oxford Street we
chased it past Bond Street end. Suddenly my cab pulled up with a jerk,
and the driver spoke through the trapdoor. "That fare's getting down,
sir," he said, "at the corner o' Duke Street."

I thrust a half-crown up through the hole and sprang out. "'E's crossing
the road, sir," the cabman finally reported, and I hurried across the
street accordingly.

The man I was watching was strikingly Jewish enough, and easy to
distinguish in a crowd. I had almost overtaken him before he had gone a
dozen yards up the northern end of Duke Street. He walked on into
Manchester Square. There a small, neat brougham, with blinds drawn, was
being driven slowly round the central garden. I saw Samuel walk
hurriedly up to this brougham, which stopped as he approached. He
stepped quickly into the carriage and shut the door behind him. The
brougham resumed its slow progress, and I loitered, keeping it in view,
though the blinds were drawn so close that it was impossible to guess
who might be Samuel's companion, if he had one. I think I have said that
when the Jew came to the office door with Hewitt I perceived that he was
a man I had seen before that day. I was now convinced that I had also
seen that same brougham, at the same time; but of this presently.

The carriage made one slow circuit, and then Samuel got out and shut the
door quickly again. I took the precaution of turning my back and letting
him overtake and pass me on his way back through Duke Street. At the end
of the street he mounted an omnibus going east, and I took another seat
in the same vehicle. The rest was uninteresting. He went direct to No.
150 Hatton Garden, and there remained. I read his name on the door-post
among a score of others, and after a twenty-minutes' wait I returned to
my rooms. I had no doubt that it was the meeting in the brougham that
Hewitt wished reported, and I remembered his rule was never to watch a
man a moment after the main object was secured.

Hewitt was out, and he did not return till after dusk. Then he came
straightway to my rooms.

"Well, Brett," he said, "what's the report? As a matter of fact, Samuel
is my client, as I shall explain presently. I don't like spying on a
client, as a rule, but I was convinced that he was keeping something
back from me, and there was something odd about his whole story. But
what did you see?"

I told Hewitt the tale of my pursuit as I have told it here. "I came
away," I concluded, "after it seemed that he was settled in his office
for a bit. But there is another thing you should know. When he first
came out with you I recognised him at once as a man I had seen at that
same door a little after two o'clock--say a quarter past."

"Yes?" answered Hewitt. "I saw him there myself a little
sooner--something like two, I should say. What was he doing?"

"Well," I replied, "he was doing pretty well what he did in Manchester
Square. For as a matter of fact the brougham also was here then--just
outside the next-door office. I think I might swear to that same
brougham--though of course I didn't notice it so particularly that first
time."

Hewitt whistled. "Oh!" he said. "Tell me about this. Did he get into the
brougham this time?"

"Yes. He came out of the office door with a black leather case in his
hand and a very scared look on his face. And he popped into the
brougham, leather case, scared look and all."

"Ho--ho!" said Hewitt, thoughtfully, and whistled again. "A black
leather case, eh! Come, come, the plot thickens. And what happened? Did
the carriage go off?"

"No; I saw nothing more--shouldn't have noticed so much, in fact, if the
whole thing hadn't looked a trifle curious. Nervous, pallid Jew with a
black case--as though he thought it was dynamite and might go off at any
moment--closed brougham, blinds drawn, Jew skipped in and banged the
door, but brougham didn't move; and I fancied--perhaps only
fancied--that I saw a woman's black veil inside. But then I turned in
here and saw no more."

Hewitt sat thoughtfully silent for a few moments. Then he rose and said,
"Come next door, and I'll tell you how we stand. The housekeeper will
let us in, and we'll see if you can identify that black case anywhere."

It seemed that Hewitt had by this established a good understanding with
the housekeeper next door. "Nobody's been, sir," the man said, as he
admitted us and closed the heavy doors. "Office boy not come back, nor
nothing."

We went up to Denson's office on the third floor, the door of which the
housekeeper opened; and having turned on the electric light, he left
us.

"Now, is that anything like the case?" Hewitt asked, when the
housekeeper was gone; and he lifted from under the table the very black
case I had seen Samuel take into the brougham.

I said that I felt as sure of the case as of the brougham. And then
Hewitt told me the whole tale of Samuel and his loss of fifteen thousand
pounds' worth of diamonds, just as it appears earlier in this narrative.

"Now, see here," said Hewitt, when he had made me acquainted with his
client's tale, "there is something odd about all this. See this
post-card which Samuel gave me. It is from Denson, and it makes this
morning's appointment. See! 'Be down below at eleven sharp' is the
message. He came and he waited just two hours and a quarter, as he tells
me, being certain to the time within five minutes. That brings, us to a
quarter-past one--the time when he finds he is robbed; and he came
downstairs in a very agitated state at a quarter-past one, as I have
since ascertained. At two I pass and see him still dancing distractedly
on the front steps--certainly very much like a man who has had a serious
misfortune, or expects one. At a quarter-past two--that was about it, I
think?" (I nodded) "At a quarter-past two you see him, still agitated,
diving into the brougham with this black case in his hand; and a little
afterward--after all this, mind--he tells me this story of a robbery of
diamonds from that very case, and assures me that he sent for me the
moment he discovered the loss--that is to say, at a quarter-past one, a
positive lie--and has told nobody else. He further assures me that he
has told me everything that has happened up to the moment he meets me.
Then he goes away--to his office, as he tells me. But you find him
posting to Manchester Square in a cab, and there once more plunging into
that same mysterious closed brougham. Now why should he do that? He has
seen the person in that brougham, presumably, an hour before, and there
can be nothing more to communicate, except the result of his interview
with me--a thing I warned him to keep to himself. It's odd, isn't it?"

"It is. What can be his motive?"

"I want to know his motive. I object to working for a client who
deceives me--indeed, it's unsafe. I may be making myself an accomplice
in some criminal scheme. You observe that he never called for the
police--a natural impulse in a robbed man. Indeed, he expressly vetoes
all communication with the police."

"Of course he gave reasons."

"But the reasons are not good enough. I can't stop a man leaving this
country anywhere round the coast except by going to the police."

"Can it be," I suggested, "that Samuel and Denson are working in
collusion, and have perhaps insured the stones, and now want your help
to make out a case of loss?"

"Scarcely that, I think, for more than one reason. First, it isn't a
risk any insurer would take, in the circumstances. Next, the insurer
would certainly want to know why the police were not informed at once.
But there is more. I have not been idle this while, as you would know.
I will tell you some of the things I have ascertained. To begin with,
Samuel is known in Hatton Garden only as a dealer on a very small and
peddling scale. A dabbler in commissions, in fact, rather than a buyer
and seller of diamonds in quantities on his own account. His office is
nothing but a desk in a small room he shares with two others--small
dealers like himself. When I spoke to the people most likely to know, of
his offering fifteen thousand pounds' worth of diamonds on his own
account, they laughed. An investment of two or three hundred pounds in
stones was about his limit, they said. Now that fact offers fresh
suggestions, doesn't it?" Hewitt looked at me significantly.

"You mean," I said after a little consideration, "that Samuel may have
been entrusted with the diamonds to sell by the real owner, and has made
all these arrangements with Denson to get the gems for themselves and
represent them as stolen?"

Hewitt nodded thoughtfully. "There's that possibility," he said. "Though
even in that case the owner would certainly want to know why the police
had not been told, and I don't know what satisfactory answer Samuel
could make. And more, I find that no such robbery has been reported to
any of the principal dealers in Hatton Garden to-day; and, so far as I
can ascertain, none of them has entrusted Samuel with anything like so
large a quantity of diamonds as he talks of--lately, at any rate."

"Isn't it possible that the diamonds are purely imaginary?" I suggested.
"Mightn't there be some trick played on that basis? Perhaps a trick on
the American customer--if there was one."

Hewitt was thoughtful. "There are many possibilities," he said, "which I
must consider. The diamonds may even be stolen property to begin with;
that would account for a great deal, though perhaps not all. But the
whole thing is so oddly suspicious, that unless my client is willing to
let me a great deal further into his confidence to-morrow morning I
shall throw up the case."

"Did you direct any inquiries after Denson?"

"Of course; which brings me to the other things I have ascertained. He
has not been here long--a few months. I cannot find that he has been
doing any particular business all the time with anybody except Samuel.
With him, however, he seems to have been very friendly. The housekeeper
speaks of them as being 'very thick together.' The rooms are cheaply
furnished, as you see. And here is another thing to consider. The
housekeeper vows that he never left his glass box at the foot of the
stairs from the time Samuel went upstairs first to the time when he came
down again, vastly agitated, at a quarter-past one, and sent a message;
and during all that time _Denson never passed the box_! And the main
door is the only way out."

"But wasn't he there at all?"

"Yes, he was there, certainly, when Samuel came. But note, now. Observe
the sequence of things as we know them now. First, there is Denson in
his office; I can find nothing of any American visitor, and I am
convinced that he is a total fiction, either of Denson's or Samuel and
Denson together. Denson is in his office. To him comes Samuel. Neither
leaves the place till Samuel comes down at a quarter-past one o'clock. I
told you he sent some sort of message. The housekeeper tells me that he
called a passing commissionaire and gave him something, though whether
it was a telegram or a note he did not see; nor does he know the
commissionaire, nor his number--though he could easily be found if it
became necessary, no doubt. Samuel sends the message, and waits on the
steps, watching, in an agitated manner (as would be natural, perhaps, in
a man engaged in an anxious and ticklish piece of illegality) for an
hour, when this mysterious brougham appears. He takes this black case
into the brougham, and he obviously brings it out again, for here it is.
Whatever has happened, he brings it out empty. Then he sends the
housekeeper for me. When at length I arrive, Denson has certainly gone,
but there was an opportunity for that while the housekeeper was absent
on the message to my office--_after_ all Samuel's agitation, and after
he had carried his case to and from the brougham."

"The whole thing is odd enough, certainly, and suspicious enough. Have
you found anything else?"

"Yes. Denson lives, or lived, in a boarding house in Bloomsbury. He has
only been there two months, however, and they know practically nothing
of him. To-day he came home at an unusual time, letting himself in with
his latchkey, and went away at once with a bag, but the accounts of the
exact time are contradictory. One servant thought it was before twelve,
and another insisted that it was after one. He has not been back."

"And the office boy--can't you get some information out of him?"

"He hasn't been seen since the morning. I expect Denson told him to take
a whole holiday. I can't find where he lives, at the moment, but no
doubt he will turn up to-morrow. Not that I expect to get much from him.
But I shan't bother. Unless Mr. Samuel will answer satisfactorily some
very plain questions I shall ask--and I don't expect he will--I shall
throw up the commission. He called, by the way, not long ago, but I was
out. We shall see him in the morning, I expect."

A look round Denson's office taught me no more than it had taught Hewitt
already. There were two small rooms, one inside the other, with ordinary
and cheap office furniture. It was quite plain that any man of ordinary
activity and size could have got out of the inner room into the corridor
by the means which Samuel suggested--through the hinged wall-light, near
the ceiling. Hewitt had meddled with nothing--he would do no more till
he was satisfied of the _bonâ fides_ of his client; certainly he would
not commit himself to breaking open desks or cupboards. And so, the time
for my attendance at the office approaching--I was working on the
_Morning Ph[oe]nix_ then, and ten at night saw my work begin--we shut
Denson's office, and went away.



III


In the morning I was awakened by an impatient knocking at my bedroom
door. Going to bed at two or three I was naturally a late riser, and
this was about nine. I scrambled sleepily out of bed, and turned the
key. Hewitt was standing in my sitting-room, with a newspaper in his
hand.

"Sorry to break your morning sleep, Brett," he said, "but something
interesting has happened in regard to that business you helped me with
yesterday, and you may like to know. Crawl back into bed if you like."

But I was already in my dressing-gown, and groping for my clothes. "No,
no, come in and tell me," I said. "What is it?"

Hewitt sat on the bed. "I'll tell you in due order," he said. "First, I
saw Samuel again last night--after you had gone away. You remember I
went back to my office; I had a letter or two to write which I had set
aside in the afternoon. Well, I wrote the letters, shut up, and went
downstairs. I opened the outer door, and there was Samuel, in the act
of ringing the housekeeper's bell. He said he was very anxious, and
couldn't sleep without coming to hear if I had made any progress; he had
called before, but I was out. I half thought of taking him back to my
office, but decided that it wasn't worth while. So I walked along to the
corner of the Strand, till I got him well under the lights. Then I
stopped and talked to him. 'You ask about the progress in your case, Mr.
Samuel,' I said. 'Now, I have sometimes met people who seem to consider
me a sort of prophet, seer, or diviner. As a matter of fact, I am
nothing but a professional investigator, and even if I were possessed of
such an amazing genius as I lay no claim to, I could never succeed in a
case, nor even make progress in it, if my client started me with false
information, or only told me half the truth. More, when I find that such
is the state of affairs, and that if I am to succeed I must begin by
investigating my client before I proceed with his case, I throw that
case up on the instant--invariably. Do you understand that? Now I must
tell you that I have made no progress with your case, none; for that
very reason.'"

"He protested, of course--vowed he had told me the simple truth, and so
forth. I replied by asking him certain definite questions. First, I
asked him whose the diamonds were. He repeated that they were his own.
To that I simply replied, 'Good evening, Mr. Samuel,' and turned away.
He came after me beseechingly, and prevaricated. He said something about
another party having an interest, but the matter being confidential. To
that I responded by asking him with whom he had communicated before
sending for me, and who was the person in the brougham which he had
twice entered. That flabbergasted him. He said that he couldn't answer
those questions without bringing other parties into the matter, to which
I answered that it was just those other parties that I meant to know
about, if I were to move a step in the matter. At this he got into a sad
state--imploring, actually imploring, me not to desert him. He said he
should do something desperate--something terrible--that night if I
didn't relieve his mind, and undertake the case. What he meant he'd do
I didn't know, of course, but it didn't move me. I said finally that I
would deal only with principals, and that until I had the personal
instructions of the actual owner of the diamonds, in addition to a
complete explanation of the brougham incident, I should do nothing, and
I recommended him to go to the police; and with that I left him."

"And you got nothing more from him than that?"

"Nothing more; but it was something, you see. He admitted, to all
intents, that the diamonds were not his own. And now see here. I suppose
I left him about ten o'clock. Here is a paragraph in one of this
morning's newspapers. It is only in the one paper; the matter seems to
have occurred rather late for press."

Hewitt gave me the paper in his hand, pointing to the following
paragraph:

/#
     "HORRIBLE DISCOVERY.--A shocking discovery was made just before
     midnight last night, near the York column, where a police-constable
     found the dead body of a man lying on the stone steps. The body,
     which was fully clothed in the ordinary dress of a labouring man,
     bore plain marks of strangulation, and it was evident that a brutal
     murder had been committed. A singular circumstance was the presence
     of a curious reddish mark upon the forehead, at first taken for a
     wound, but soon discovered to be a mark apparently drawn or
     impressed on the skin. At the time of going to press, no arrest had
     been made, and so far the affair appears a mystery."
#/

"Well," I said, "this certainly seems curious, especially in the matter
of the mark on the forehead. But what has it all to do----"

"To do with Samuel and his diamonds, you mean? I'll tell you. _That dead
man is Denson!_"

"Denson?" I exclaimed. "Denson? How?"

"I get it from the housekeeper next door. It seems that when the police
came to examine the body they found, among other things--money and a
watch, and the like--a piece of an addressed envelope, used to hold a
few pins--the pins stuck in and the paper rolled up, you know. There was
just enough of it to guess the address by--that of the office next door;
and it was the only clue they had. So they came along here at once and
knocked up the housekeeper. He went with them and instantly recognised
Denson, disguised in labourer's clothes, but Denson, he says,
unmistakably."

"And the mark on the forehead?"

"That is very odd. It is an outlined triangle, rather less than an inch
along each side. It is quite red, he says, and seems to be done in a
greasy, sticky sort of ink or colour."

"Was anything found--the diamonds?"

"No. He says there was money--two or three five-pound notes, I believe,
some small change, a watch, keys and so forth; but there's not a word
of diamonds."

I paused in my dressing. "Does that mean that the murderer has got
them?" I asked. Hewitt pursed his lips and shook his head. "It _may_
mean that," he said, "but does it look altogether like it when
five-pound notes are left? On the other hand, there is the disguise; the
only reason that we know of for that would be that he was bolting with
the diamonds. But the really puzzling thing is the mark on the forehead.
Why that? Of course, the picturesque and romantic thing to suppose is
that it is the mark of some criminal club or society. But criminal
associations, such as exist, don't do silly things like that. When
criminals rob and murder, they don't go leaving their tracks behind them
purposely--they leave nothing that could possibly draw attention to them
if they can help it; also, they don't leave five-pound notes. But I'm
off to have a look at that mark. Inspector Plummer is in charge of the
case--you remember Plummer, don't you, in the Stanway Cameo case, and
two or three others? Well, Plummer is an old friend of mine, and not
only am I interested in this matter myself, but now that it becomes a
case of murder, I must tell the police all I know, merely as a loyal
citizen. I've an idea they will want to ask our friend Mr. Samuel some
very serious questions."

"Will you go now?"

"Yes, I must waste no more time. You get your breakfast and look out for
me, or for a message."

Hewitt was off to Vine Street, and I devoted myself to my toilet and my
breakfast, vastly mystified by this tragic turn in a matter already
puzzling enough.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not a messenger, but Hewitt himself, who came back in less than
an hour. "Come," he said, "Plummer is below, and we are going next door,
to Denson's office. I've an idea that we may get at something at last.
The police are after Samuel hot-foot. They think he should be made sure
of in any case without delay; and I must say they have some reason, on
the face of it."

We joined Plummer at once--I have already spoken of Plummer in my
accounts of several of Hewitt's cases in which I met him--and we all
turned into the office next door. There we found a very frightened and
bewildered office boy, whom Denson had given a holiday yesterday, after
sending him down to Samuel. He had come to his work as usual, only to
meet the housekeeper's tale of the murder of his master and the end of
his business prospects. He had little or no information to impart. He
had only been employed for a month or six weeks, and during that time
his work had been practically nothing.

Plummer nodded at this information, and sniffed comprehensively at the
office furniture. "I know this sort o' stuff," he said. "This is the way
they fit up long firm offices and such. This place was taken for the
job, that's plain, by one or both of 'em."

The boy's address was taken, and he was given a final holiday, and asked
to send up the housekeeper as he went out. Plummer passed Hewitt a bunch
of keys.

The housekeeper entered. "Now, Hutt," said Martin Hewitt, "you were
saying yesterday, I think, that the main front door was the only
entrance and exit for this building?"

"That's so, sir--the only one as anybody can use, except me."

"Oh! then there _is_ another, then?"

"Well, not exactly to say an entrance, sir. There's a small private door
at the back into the court behind, but that's only opened to take in
coals and such, and I always have the key. This house isn't like yours,
sir; you have no back way into the court as we have. It's a convenience,
sometimes."

"Ah, I've no doubt. Do you happen to have the key with you?"

"It's on the bunch hanging up in my box, sir. Shall I fetch it?"

"I should like to see it, if you will."

The housekeeper disappeared, and presently returned with a large bunch
of keys.

"This is the one, Mr. Hewitt," he explained, lifting it from among the
rest.

Hewitt examined it closely, and then placed beside it one from the bunch
Plummer had given him. "It seems you're not the only person who ever had
a key exactly like that, Hutt," he said. "See here--this was found in
Mr. Denson's pocket."

Plummer nodded sagaciously. "All in the plant," he said. "See--it's
brand new; clean as a new pin, and file marks still on it."

"Take us to this back door, Hutt," Hewitt pursued. "We'll try this key.
Is there a back staircase?"

There _was_ a small back staircase, leading to the coal-cellars, and
only used by servants. Down this we all went, and on a lower landing we
stopped before a small door. Hewitt slipped the key in the lock and
turned it. The door opened easily, and there before us was the little
courtyard which I think I have mentioned in one of my other
narratives--the courtyard with a narrow passage leading into the next
street.

Martin Hewitt seemed singularly excited. "See there," he said, "that is
how Denson left the building without passing the housekeeper's box! And
now I'm going to make another shot. See here. This key on Denson's bunch
attracted my attention because of its noticeable newness compared with
most of the others. _Most_ of the others, I say, because there is one
other just as bright--see! This small one. Now, Hutt, do you happen to
have a key like that also?"

Hutt turned the key over in his hand and glanced from it to his own
bunch. "Why, yes, sir!" he said presently. "Yes, sir! It's the same as
the key of the fire-hose cupboards!"

"Does that key fit them all? How many fire-hose cupboards are there?"

"Two on each floor, sir, one at each end, just against the mains. And
one key fits the lot."

"Show us the nearest to this door."

A short, narrow passage led to the main ground-floor corridor, where a
cupboard lettered "Fire Hose" stood next the main and its fittings. "We
have to keep the hose-cupboards locked," the housekeeper explained
apologetically, "'cause o' mischievous boys in the offices."

This key fitted as well as the other. A long coil of brown leather hose
hung within, and in a corner lay a piece of chamois leather evidently
used for polishing the brass fittings. This Hewitt pulled aside, and
there beneath it lay another and cleaner piece of chamois leather,
neatly folded and tied round with cord. Hewitt snatched it up. He
unfastened the cord; he unrolled the leather, which was sewn into a sort
of bag or satchel; and when at last he spread wide the mouth of this
satchel, light seemed to spring from out of it, for there lay a
glittering heap of brilliants!

"What!" cried Plummer, who first got his speech. "Diamonds! Samuel's
diamonds!"

"Diamonds, at any rate," replied Hewitt, "whether Samuel's or somebody
else's. But they can't have been there long. How often is this cupboard
opened?"

"Every Saturday reg'lar, sir," replied the housekeeper; "just to dust it
out and see things is right."

"Now, see here!" said Martin Hewitt, "I've had luck in my conjectures as
yet, and I'll try again. Here is what I believe has happened. Every word
that Samuel told me about the theft of those diamonds was true, except
as to their ownership. Denson has planned all along to rob him of as
big a collection of diamonds as he could prompt him to get together,
and he has played up to this for months. His smaller dealings one way
and another were ground-bait. Very artfully he let Samuel take the
diamonds safely away once, in order that he should be less watchful and
less suspicious the second time. This second time he does the trick
exactly as we see. He hangs up the imaginary American's hat, he escapes
by the fanlight, and he goes out by the back way to avoid the
housekeeper's observation. He has arranged beforehand for this, too. He
has seized an opportunity when the housekeeper has been out of his box
to get wax impressions of these two keys, and he has made copies of
them. And here we come on a curious thing. It is easy enough to
understand why he should foresee and get himself a key for the back
door, in order to make his escape. But why the key of the hose-cupboard?
Why, indeed, should he leave the diamonds behind him at all? It is plain
that he meant to come back for them--probably at night. He would have
been wholly free from observation in that quiet courtyard, and he could
let himself in, get the diamonds, and leave again without exciting the
smallest alarm or suspicion. But why take all the trouble? Why not stick
to the plunder from the beginning? The plain inference is that he
feared somebody or something. He feared being stopped and searched, or
he feared being waylaid _sometime during yesterday_. By whom? There's
the puzzle, and I can't see the bottom of it, I confess. If I could,
perhaps I might know something of last night's murder.

"As to Samuel's prevarications, there is only one explanation that will
fit, now that the rest is made clear. He must have been entrusted with
these diamonds by a private owner, for sale--secretly. Some lady of
conspicuous position in difficulties, probably--perhaps unknown to her
husband. Such things occur every day. A common expedient is to sell the
stones and have good paste substituted, in the same settings. Samuel
would be just the man to carry through a transaction of that sort. That
would account for everything. The jewels are _en suite_, cut, but
unset--taken from a set of jewellery, and paste substituted. Samuel
arranges it all for the lady, finds a customer--Denson--who treats him
exactly as he has told us. When he realises the loss Samuel doesn't know
what to do. He mustn't call the police, being bound to secrecy on the
lady's behalf. He sends her a hasty message, and remains keeping watch
by Denson's office. She hurries to him with all possible secrecy,
keeping her carriage blinds down; he dashes into the brougham to
describe the disaster, taking his case with him in his frantic desire to
explain things fully. The lady fears publicity, and won't hear of the
police--she instructs him to consult me: and consequently, of course,
when I recommend communicating with the police he won't listen to the
suggestion. Samuel has arranged with the lady to hurry off and report
progress as soon as he has consulted me, and this he does, the lady
having appointed Manchester Square for the interview. Perhaps she hints
some suspicion of Samuel's honesty--rather natural, perhaps, in the
circumstances. That terrifies him more than ever, and leads to his
frantic appeals to me when I throw the case up. Come, there's my guess
at the facts of the case, and I'll back it with twopence and a bit more.
Eh, Plummer?"

"I don't take your bet," answered Plummer. "The thing's plain enough;
except the murder. There's something deeper there."

Hewitt became grave. "That's true," he said, "and something I can see
no way into, as yet. But come--you take this parcel of diamonds, as
representing the law. And here comes one of your men, I think."

We had been approaching the front door during this talk, and now a
police constable appeared, and saluted Plummer. "Samuel's just been
brought in, sir," he reported. "He's half dead with fright, and he's
sent a message to Lady H---- in P---- Square; and he says he wants Mr.
Martin Hewitt to come and speak for him."

"Poor Samuel!" Hewitt commented. "Come, we'll go and make him happy.
Here are the diamonds, and, those safely accounted for, there's no
evidence to connect him with the murder. We'll get him out of the mess
as soon as possible."

And so they did. Hewitt's reading of the case was correct to a tittle,
as it turned out, and with very little delay Samuel was released. But
with the message from the police station, the fat was in the fire as
regarded Lady H----. Her husband necessarily became acquainted with
everything, and there was serious domestic trouble.

Samuel was glad enough to get quit of the business with no worse than a
bad fright, as may well be supposed. He showed himself most grateful to
Hewitt in after times, giving him excellent confidential advice and
information more than once in matters connected with the diamond trade.
He is still in business, I believe, in a much larger way, and I have no
doubt he is the wiser for his experience, and for the lesson which
Hewitt did not forget to rub well in: that it is useless and worse to
place a confidential matter in the hands of a man of Hewitt's
profession, and at the same time withhold particulars of the case,
however unessential they may appear to be.

       *       *       *       *       *

But meantime, on the way to Vine Street I asked Hewitt what led him to
suppose that the new key on Denson's bunch fitted a lock in that
particular office building.

"Call it a lucky guess, if you like," Hewitt answered; "but as a matter
of fact it was prompted by pure common sense. Plummer showed me the
things found on the body, and I saw at once that the keys offered the
only chance of immediate information. I went through them one by one.
There was his latchkey--the key with which he had gone into his lodgings
to fetch away the disguise. There was another largish key, equally
old--probably the key of his office door. There were other smaller keys,
also old--plainly belonging to bags and trunks and drawers and so forth.
And then there was the large, perfectly new key. What was that? It was
not the key of any bag or drawer, clearly--it was the key of a door--a
door with a lever lock. What door? Had Denson some other office? Perhaps
he had, but first it was best to begin by trying it on places we were
already acquainted with. At once I thought of Denson's disappearance
unobserved by the housekeeper. Could this be the key of some private
exit from the office building? I resolved to test that conjecture first,
and it turned out to be the right one. Being successful so far, of
course I turned to the other new key and tried that, as you saw."

"But what of that triangular mark on the man's forehead?"

Martin Hewitt became deeply thoughtful. "That," he said, "is a matter
wholly beyond me at present, as indeed is the whole business of the
murder. Whether we shall ever know more I can't guess, but the matter is
deep--deep and difficult and dark. As to the mark itself, that seems to
have been impressed from an engraved stamp of some sort. It is a plain
equilateral triangle in red outline, measuring about an inch on each
side. It is in a greasy, sticky sort of red ink, which may be smeared,
but is very difficult, if not impossible, to rub away. What it means I
can't at present conjecture. I have told you my reasons for not thinking
it the sign of any gang of criminals. But whose sign is it? Surely not
that of some self-constituted punisher of crime? For such a person, with
no risk to himself, could have handed Denson over to the police, if he
knew of his offence. Can he have been murdered by an accomplice? But he
used no accomplice; if one thing is plain in all that story of the
stolen diamonds it is that Denson did the thing wholly by himself.
Besides, an accomplice would have taken the keys and have gone and
secured the diamonds for himself; else why the murder at all? But no
keys were taken--nothing was taken, as far as we can tell. And why was
the body placed in that conspicuous position? It is pretty certain that
the crime cannot have happened where the body was found--somebody must
have heard or seen a struggle in such a place as that. As it is, I
should say, the body was probably brought quietly to the spot in a cab,
or some such conveyance.

"But mystery envelops this crime everywhere. So far as I can see, there
is no clue whatever beyond the Red Triangle, which, as yet, I cannot
understand. The strangling points to the murder being committed by a
powerful man, certainly, and it is a form of crime that may have been
perpetrated silently. But beyond that I can see nothing. The apparent
motivelessness of the thing makes the mystery all the darker, and the
circumstances we are acquainted with, instead of helping us, seem to
complicate the puzzle.

"What was it that Denson feared when he left those diamonds behind him,
when he might have carried them away? And why should he fear it in
daytime and not at night, since it would seem plain that he meant to
have returned for the stones at night? Where did he go to disguise
himself yesterday--we know it was not in his lodgings--and where has he
left the clothes he discarded?"

All these doubts and mysteries were destined to be cleared up, in more
or less degree; but it was not till Hewitt and I had witnessed other
singular adventures that the answer came to the problem, the real
meaning of the Red Triangle was made apparent, and its connection with
the theft of Samuel's diamonds grew clear. For indeed the connection
proved in the end to be very intimate indeed. Once, a little later, we
were allowed to see a shade farther into the mystery, as I shall tell in
the proper place; but even then the real secret remained hidden from us
till the appointed end.

So ended the case of Samuel's diamonds, so far as concerned Samuel
himself and the owner; but the case of the Red Triangle had only begun.



THE CASE OF MR. JACOB MASON



I


The mystery of Denson's death remained a mystery, despite all the police
could do. The coroner's jury returned a verdict of "Murder by some
person or persons unknown"--which, indeed, was all that could be
expected of them; for they had no more before them than the bare fact
that the body, disguised in the clothes of a labourer, had been found on
the steps near the Duke of York's column, just before midnight, by a
police constable. But for the housekeeper's identification, even the
name of the victim would have been unknown. The jury certainly wasted
some time in idle speculation as to the strange triangular mark found on
the forehead, without a speck of evidence to help them; but in the end
they returned their verdict, and went home.

But the police knew a little more than the jury, though that little
rather confused than helped them. They exercised their judgment at the
inquest in withholding all evidence of the theft of diamonds on which
the victim had been engaged, the curious particulars of which I have
already related. In this they followed their usual course in cases where
the evidence withheld could give the jury no help in arriving at their
verdict, and at the same time might easily hamper further investigations
if revealed. For the theft had been frustrated by Martin Hewitt's
exertions, as we have seen, and in any case the thief was now dead and
beyond the reach of human punishment. The one matter now remaining for
the police was inquiry into the murder of this same thief, and the one
object of their exertions the apprehension of the murderer or murderers.

The case, as I have already said, was in the hands of Inspector Plummer,
an intelligent officer and an old friend of Hewitt's. A few days' work
after the inquest yielded Plummer so little result that he called at
Hewitt's office to talk matters over.

"I suppose," Plummer began, "it's no use asking if you've heard anything
more of that matter of Denson's murder?"

Hewitt shook his head. "I haven't heard a word," he said. "If I had, it
would have come on to you at once. But I hope you've had some luck
yourself?"

"Not a scrap; time wasted; and the few off-chance clues I tried have led
nowhere, so that I'm where I was at the start. The thing is quite the
oddest in all my experience. See how we stand. Here's a man, Denson, who
has just pulled off one of the cleverest jewel robberies ever attempted.
He so arranges it that he walks safely off with fifteen thousand pounds'
worth of diamonds, leaving the victim, Samuel, stuck patiently in an
office for an hour or two before he even begins to suspect anything is
wrong, and _then_ unable to set the police after him, for the reasons
you discovered. But this Denson doesn't carry the plunder off
straightway, as he so easily might have done--he conceals it in the very
house where the robbery was committed, taking with him a key by aid of
which he may return and get it. Why? As you explained, it was probably
because he feared somebody--feared being stopped and searched _on the
day of the robbery_--not after, since it was plain he meant to return
for his booty at night. Who could this have been, and why did Denson
fear him? Mystery number one. Then this Denson is found dead that same
night disguised in the clothes of a labourer, in a most conspicuous spot
in London--the last place in the world one would expect a murderer to
select for depositing his victim's body, for it is evidently _not_ the
place where the murder was committed. More, on the forehead there is
this extraordinary impressed mark of a Red Triangle. Now, what can all
that mean? Robbery, perhaps one thinks. But the body isn't robbed! There
are three five-pound notes on it, besides a sovereign or two and some
small change, a watch and chain, keys and all the rest of it. Then one
guesses at the diamonds. Perhaps it was an accomplice in the robbery,
who finds that Denson is about to bolt with the whole lot. But if
there's one thing plain in this amazing business it is that Denson _had_
no accomplice; he did the whole thing alone, as you discovered, and he
needed no help. More than that, if this were the work of an accomplice
why didn't he get the jewels? There were the keys to his hand and he
left them! And would such a person actually go out of his way to put the
body where it must be discovered at once, instead of concealing it till
he could himself get away with the diamonds? Of course not. But there
was no accomplice, and it's useless to labour that farther. All these
arguments apply equally against the theory that it was the work of some
criminal gang. They would have taken all they could get, notes, keys,
diamonds and all, and they wouldn't have been so foolish as to exhibit
the body with that extraordinary mark; criminal gangs are not such fools
as to take unnecessary chances and gratuitously leave tracks behind
them, as you know well enough. Well then, there we stand. So far, do you
see any more in it than I do?"

Hewitt shook his head. "No," he said, "I can't say I do. All the
considerations you have mentioned have already occurred to me. I talked
them over, in fact, with my friend Brett. My connection with the case
ceased, of course, with the discovery of the jewels, and about the
murder I know no more than has been told me. I never saw the body, and
so had no opportunity of picking up any overlooked clue; though
doubtless you have seen to that. I know not a tittle more than you have
just summarised, and on that alone the thing seems mystery pure and
unadulterated."

"All there is beyond that was ascertained by the divisional surgeon on
examination of the body. The man died from strangulation, as you know,
and the natural presumption from that was that the murderer must have
been a powerful man. But the surgeon is of the positive opinion--he is
certain, in fact--that Denson was strangled with an instrument--a
tourniquet."

"A tourniquet?"

"Yes, a surgeon's tourniquet, such as is used to compress a leg or arm
and so stop a flow of blood. He considers the marks unmistakable. Now
that might point to the murderer being a medical man."

"Conjecturally, yes; though, of course, it justifies nothing more than
conjecture."

"Precisely. Well, that was something, but precious little. A tourniquet
is a common thing enough--no more than a band with screw fittings, and
there was nothing to show that the tourniquet used was any different
from a thousand others; and I can see no particular reason why a doctor
should commit a murder like this any more than any other man; in which
the divisional surgeon agreed with me. And doctor or none, that Red
Triangle was altogether unaccounted for. About that, too, by the way,
the divisional surgeon told me a little, but a very useless little. The
mark was not properly dried, owing to its slightly greasy nature, and
although it was almost impossible to remove it wholly, it _was_ possible
to scrape off a little of the ink, or colour. Here is a little of it on
a paper--quite dried now, of course."

Plummer carefully took from his pocket a small folded paper, unfolded
it, and revealed a smaller paper within. On this were two little smears
of a bright red colour. "There--that's the stuff," he said. "The surgeon
examined it, and he reports it to be rather oddly constituted--so as to
bear some affinity of meaning, possibly, to the triangle. For the stuff
is a compound of three substances--animal, vegetable and mineral; there
is a fine vegetable oil, he says, some waxy preparation, certainly of
animal origin, and a mineral--cinnabar: vermilion, in fact. But though
there _may_ be some connection between the triangle and the substances
representing the three natural kingdoms, it gives nothing
practical--nothing to go on."

Martin Hewitt had been closely examining the marks on the paper, and now
he answered, "I'm not so sure of that, though, Plummer. I think at least
that it gives us another conjecture. I should guess that the man you
want, as well as being acquainted with the use of the tourniquet, has at
some time travelled in, or to, China."

"Why?"

"Unless I am wider of the mark than usual, this is the pigment used on
Chinese seals. A Chinaman's seal acts for his signature on all sorts of
documents; it is impressed or printed by hand pressure from a little
engraved stone die, precisely as this triangle seems to have been, and
the ink or colour is almost always red, compounded of vermilion, wax,
and oil of sesamum."

Plummer sat up with a whistle. "Phew! Then it may have been done by a
Chinaman!"

Hewitt shrugged his shoulders. "It's possible," he said; "of course,
though, the sign, the triangle, is not a Chinese character. As a
character, of course it is the Greek _Delta_. But it may be no character
at all. In the signs of the ancient Cabala, the triangle, apex upward as
it was in this case, was the symbol of fire; apex downward, it signified
water."

Plummer patted the side of his head distractedly. "Heavens!" he said,
"don't tell me I'm to search all China, and Greece, and--wherever the
cabalistic pundits come from!"

"Well, no," Hewitt answered with a smile. "I think I should, at any
rate, begin in this country. I rather think you might make a beginning
at Denson. That is what I should do if the case were mine. See if
anything can be ascertained of his previous life--probably under another
name or names. _He_ may have been in China. Yes, certainly, as we stand
at present, I should begin at Denson."

"I think I will," the inspector replied, "though there's precious little
to begin on there. I'd like to have you with me on this job, but, of
course, that's impossible, since it's purely a police matter. But
something, some information, may come your way, and in that case you'll
let me know at once, of course."

"Of course I shall--it's a serious matter, as well as a strange one. I
wish you all luck!"

Plummer departed to grapple with his difficulties, but in fact it was
Hewitt who first heard fresh news of the Red Triangle, and that from a
wholly unexpected quarter.

It was, indeed, only two days after Plummer's visit that Kerrett brought
into Hewitt's private room the card of the Rev. James Potswood, with a
request for a consultation. Mr. Potswood's name was known to Hewitt, as,
indeed, it was to many people, as that of a most devoted clergyman,
rector of a large parish in north-west London, who devoted not only all
his time and personal strength to his work, but also spent every penny
of his private income on his parish. It was not a small income that Mr.
Potswood spent in this unselfish way, for he came of a wealthy family,
and though a good part of his parish was inhabited by well-to-do people,
there was quite enough poverty and distress in the poorer quarters to
cause this excellent man often to regret that his resources were not
even larger. He was a spare active grey-whiskered man of nearly sixty,
with prominent and not very handsome features, though his face was full
of frank and simple kindliness.

"My errand, Mr. Hewitt," he said, "is of a rather vague, not to say
visionary, character, and I doubt if you can help me. But at any rate I
will explain the trouble as well as I can. In the first place, am I
right in supposing that you were in some way professionally engaged in
connection with that extraordinary case of murder a week or so ago--the
case in which a man named Denson was found dead on the steps by the Duke
of York's column?"

"Yes--and no," Hewitt answered. "I was professionally engaged on a
certain matter about which you will not wish me to particularise--since
it is the business of a client--and in course of it I came upon the
other affair."

"Then before I ask what you know of that mysterious event, Mr. Hewitt,
I will tell you my story, so that you may judge whether you are able to
reveal anything, or to do anything. Of course, what I say is in the
strictest confidence."

"Of course."

"I have a parishioner, a Mr. Jacob Mason, of whom I have seen very
little of late years--scarcely anything at all, in fact, till a few days
ago. He is fairly well to do, I believe, living a somewhat retired life
in a house not far from my rectory. For many years he has laboured at
natural science--chemistry in particular--and he has a very excellently
fitted laboratory attached to his house. He is a widower, with no
children of his own, but his orphan niece, a Miss Creswick, lives under
his guardianship. Mr. Mason was never a very regular church-goer, but
years ago I saw much more of him than I have of late. I must be
perfectly frank with you, Mr. Hewitt, if you are to help me, and
therefore I must tell you that we disagreed on points of religion, in
such a way that I found it difficult to maintain my former regard for
Mr. Mason. He had a curiously fantastic mind, and he was constantly
being led to tamper with things that I think are best left alone--what
is called spiritualism, for instance, and that horrible form of modern
superstition which we hear whispers of at times from the Continent--the
alleged devil-propitiation or worship. It was not that he did anything I
thought morally wrong, you understand--except that he dabbled. And he
was always running after some new thing--animal magnetism, or telepathy,
or crystal-gazing, or theosophy, or some one of the score of such things
that have an attraction for a mind of that sort. And it was a
characteristic of each new enthusiasm with him that it prompted him to
try to convert _me_; and that in such terms--terms often applied to the
doctrines of that religion of which I am a humble minister--as I could
in nowise permit in my presence. So that our friendly intercourse,
though not interrupted by any definite breaking off, fell away to almost
nothing. For which reason I was a little surprised to receive a visit
from Mr. Mason on the afternoon of the day on which the newspapers
printed the report of the finding of the body of Denson. You may
remember that only one morning paper mentioned the matter, and that very
briefly; but there were full reports in all the evening papers."

"Yes, the discovery was made very late the previous night."

"So I gathered. Well, I was told that Mr. Mason had been shown into my
study, and there I found him. He was in an extremely nervous and
agitated state, and he had an evening paper in his hand. With scarcely
a preliminary word he burst out, 'Have you seen this in the paper?
This--this murder? There--there's the report.' And he thrust the paper
into my hands.

"I had not seen or heard anything of the matter, in fact, till that
moment, and now he gave me little leisure to read the report. He walked
up and down the room, nervously clasping his hands, sometimes together,
sometimes at his sides, sometimes before him, shaking his head in a
shuddering sort of way, and bursting out once or twice as though the
words were uncontrollable, 'What ought I to do? What _can_ I do?'

"I looked up from the paper, and he went on, 'Have you read it? It's a
murder--a horrid murder. The poor wretched fellow was trying to escape,
but he couldn't. It's a murder!'

"'It certainly seems so,' I said. 'But what--did you know this man,
Denson?'

"'No, of course not,' Mason replied, 'but there it is, plain enough, and
here's another paper with just the same report, but a little shorter.'
He pulled the second paper from his pocket. 'I got what different papers
I could, but these are the two fullest. It's plain enough it's a brutal
murder, isn't it? And the man was a merchant, or an agent, or something,
in Portsmouth Street, but he was found in labourer's clothes--proof that
he feared it and was trying to escape it; but he couldn't--he
couldn't--no! nor anybody. It's awful, awful!'

"'But I don't understand,' I said. 'Won't you sit down?' For Mason
continued to pace distractedly about the room. 'What is it you think
this unfortunate man was trying to escape? And what am I to do in the
matter?'

"He stopped, pressed both hands to his head, and seemed to control
himself by a great effort. 'You must excuse me,' he said. 'I'm a bit run
down lately, and my nerves are all wrong. I'm talking rather wildly,
I'm afraid. I really hardly know why I came to you, except that I
haven't a soul I can talk to about--well, about anything, scarcely.'

"He took a chair, and sat for a little while with his head forward on
his hand and his eyes directed towards the floor. Then he said, in a
musing way, rather as though he was thinking aloud than talking to me,
'You were right, after all, Potswood, and I was a fool to disregard your
warnings. I oughtn't to have dabbled--I should have left those things
alone.'

"I said nothing, thinking it best not to disturb him, but to leave him
free to say what he wanted to say in his own way. He remained quiet for
a minute or two more, and then sat up with an appearance of much greater
composure. 'You mustn't mind me, Potswood,' he said. 'As I've told you,
I'm in a bad state of nerves, and at best I'm an impulsive sort of
person, as you know. I needn't have bothered you like this--I came
rushing round here without thinking, and if the house had been a bit
farther off I should have come to my senses before I reached you. After
all, there's nothing so much to disturb one's-self about, and this
man--this Denson--may very well have deserved his fate. Don't you think
that likely?'

"He added this last question with an involuntary eagerness that scarcely
accorded with the indifferent tone with which he had begun. I answered
guardedly. I said of course nobody could say what the unhappy man's sins
might have been, but that whatever they were they could never justify
the fearful sin of murder. 'And,' I added, 'if you know anything of the
matter, Mason, or have the smallest suspicion as to who is the guilty
person, I'm sure you won't hesitate in your duty.'

"'My duty?' he said. 'Oh yes, of course; my duty. You mean, of course,
that any law-abiding citizen who knows of evidence should bring it out.
Just so. Of course _I_ haven't any evidence--that paper gave me the
first news of the thing.'

"'I think,' I rejoined, 'that anybody who was possessed of even less
than evidence--of any suspicion which might lead to evidence--should go
at once and place the authorities in possession of all he knows or
suspects.'

"'Yes,' he said--very calmly now, though it seemed at cost of a great
effort--'so he should; so he should, no doubt, in any ordinary case. But
sometimes there are difficulties, you know--great difficulties.' He
stopped and looked at me furtively and uneasily. 'A man might fear for
his own safety--he might even know that to say what he knew would be to
condemn himself to sudden death; and more, perhaps, more. Suppose--it
might be, you know--suppose, for instance, a man was placed between the
alternatives of neglecting this duty and of breaking a--well an oath, a
binding oath of a very serious--terrible--character? An oath, we will
say, made previously, without any foreknowledge of the crime?'

"I said that any such oath taken without foreknowledge of the crime
could not have contemplated such an event, and that however wrong the
taking of such an oath might have been in itself, to assist in
concealing such a crime as this murder was infinitely worse--infinitely
worse than taking the oath, and infinitely worse than breaking it.
Though as to the latter, I repeated that any such engagement made
without contemplation or foreknowledge of such a crime would seem to be
void in that respect. I went further--much further. I conjured him to
make no secret of anything he might know, and not to burden his
conscience with complicity--for that was what concealment would amount
to--in such a terrible crime. I added some further exhortations which
I need not repeat now, and presently his assumed calmness departed
utterly, and he became even more agitated than when first he came. He
would say nothing further, however, and in the end he went away, saying
he would 'think over the matter very seriously.'

"It was quite plain to me that my poor friend was suffering acutely from
the burden of some terrible secret, and that in his impulsive way he had
rushed to confide in me at the first shock of the news of this murder,
and that afterwards his courage had failed him. But I conceived it my
duty not to allow such a matter to stand thus. Therefore, giving Mason a
few hours for calm consideration, I called on him in the evening. I was
told that he was not very well and had gone to bed; he had, however,
left a message, in case I should call, to the effect that he would come
and see me in the morning. I waited the whole of that next morning and
the whole of the afternoon, and saw nothing of him. In the evening
urgent parish work took me away, but next morning I called again at
Mason's house and saw him. This time he avoided the subject--tried to
dodge it, in fact. But I was not to be denied, and the result was
another scene of alternate agitation and forced calmness. I will not
weary you, Mr. Hewitt, with useless repetition, but I may say that I
have seen Mason twice since then without bringing him to any definite
resolve. As a matter of fact, I believe that he is restrained from
saying anything further by fear--sheer terror. He has even gone so far
as to deny absolutely that he knows anything of the matter--and then has
contradicted himself a minute afterwards. At last, this morning, I have
brought him a degree further. In the last few days I made it my business
to acquaint myself, as far as possible, with the exact circumstances of
the tragedy, so far as they are known, and in course of my inquiries I
saw the housekeeper of the offices next door--the man who identified the
body as Denson's. He either could not, or would not, tell me very much,
but he _did_ say that you had been working in some way in connection
with the case, and that you knew as much of it as anybody. That gave me
an idea. This morning I told Mason that not only he, but I also had a
duty in respect to this matter, and my duty was to see that nothing in
connection with such a crime as this should be hushed up on any
consideration or for anybody's fancies. I said that if he liked he need
tell me no more, but might take _you_ into consultation professionally,
as your client, allowing me first to see you and to assure you that,
consistently with his own safety, he was anxious to further the ends of
justice. I said that, as your client, your first duty would be to
protect him, that your professional practice would keep your mouth
absolutely sealed, and that you already knew a good deal about the
crime--perhaps more than he suspected. I protested that this seemed to
me the very least he could do, and I warned him that if he refused to do
even this, I should have to consider whether it was consistent with my
character, as a clergyman and a loyal citizen, any longer to conceal the
fact that he was keeping back information that might lead to the
apprehension of the murderer. This frightened him, and between the fear
of the threat and the fear that you might already know more than he
suspected, he authorised me--he was even eager about it--to come and see
you; always, of course, under a pledge of strict professional secrecy."

"So far your account is quite clear, Mr. Potswood," Hewitt said. "You
have done your best, now I must do mine. You wish me to see Mason at
once, no doubt?"

"I arranged to bring you to his house, if you were willing and your
engagements permitted, at three this afternoon. Will that do? I have
been keeping you, I see--it is past one already. Will you lunch with me
at my club?"

"With great pleasure--more especially as I have a few questions to ask
as we go along. Is it far?"

"Just at this end of Pall Mall--we will walk, if you like."

"Tell me now," said Hewitt as they went, "anything you know about Mr.
Mason's habits, family connections, and so forth, as fully and as
minutely as you please. Has he any friends connected with China, for
instance?"

"China? Why, no, I think not; except--but I'll tell you all I know. Mr.
Mason has no family connections, so far as I am aware--at any rate, in
London--except his niece, Miss Creswick. She is within a few months of
twenty-one, a charming girl, but horribly shut in, for Mason has almost
no visitors. Miss Creswick was his sister's daughter; she lost her
mother first and then her father, and was left to the guardianship of
her uncle. He was also trustee under the will, and he has, I believe,
discretion to keep charge of her property, if he thinks fit, till she
reaches the age of twenty-five; though in case of his death she is to
inherit in the ordinary way, on coming of age. She is a very dutiful
and, indeed, an affectionate niece; though I must say he is scarcely
fair to her, keeping her, as he does, so completely secluded from the
society of young people of her own age. Mere thoughtlessness, I think;
he has had no children of his own, his mind is wholly occupied with his
science and his fads, and he makes himself a recluse without a thought
of the girl. And that brings me to what I was about to say at first,
when you asked me if Mr. Mason had any friends connected with China.
There is a young doctor--Lawson is his name--some very distant
connection of the family, I think, who had a professional appointment of
some sort in Shanghai for a year or two, but who is now in London trying
to work up a small practice of his own. If you hadn't mentioned China I
shouldn't have thought of him, since he never goes to the house now--or,
at any rate, is supposed not to go."

"Doesn't go to the house? And why is that?"

"Well, there was a disagreement. What it was I don't quite know, but in
the first place it had some connection with some of Mason's
experiments--something which Lawson declined to help him with for
professional reasons, or else something he declined to do for Lawson, I
don't know which. But the thing went further, for, as a matter of fact,
there was something between the young people--Lawson is only
twenty-eight--and Mason put an end to that. It had been something like a
formal engagement, I think, but in the quarrel--Mason was always
quarrelling with somebody when he _had_ friends, and that's why he has
so few now--in the quarrel things were said that ended in a rupture.
Whether young Lawson was fortune-hunting or not I cannot say, but Mason
certainly accused him of it, and promised to keep back the girl's money
as long as he could. In the meantime Mason declared an end to the
engagement, and poor Helen was broken-hearted; for as I have said, she
is an affectionate girl, and she hadn't a friend to confide in. But I'm
boring you--you don't want to know all these things, surely?"

"On the contrary, I can't possibly know too much, and the particulars
can't possibly be too minute. Nine cases out of ten I bring to an issue
by means of a triviality. You were saying a little while back that there
were almost _no_ visitors at Mr. Mason's house; but you said 'almost,'
and that means there are some. Who are they?"

"Very occasionally--rarely, in fact--there are one or two members of
learned societies with whom he had been in correspondence, or who are
old friends. There is a Professor Hutton and a Dr. Burge, I believe; but
they don't appear once in six months; and there is Mr. Everard Myatt,
who is more frequent. He does not profess to be a great man of science,
but he is interested in chemistry as an amateur, and is, I fancy, a sort
of disciple of Mason's. He has noticed a sad difference in Mason just
lately, and he even called on me yesterday, though I hardly knew him by
sight, in the hope that I would back up his urgent suggestion that
Mason should go off for a change and a rest. Beyond these I don't think
I know of a single visitor. But here we are at the Megatherium."



II


Mr. Jacob Mason's house stood in its own grounds in a quiet suburban
road. It was not a very large house, but it straggled about comfortably
in the manner of detached houses built in the suburbs at a time when
space was less valuable than now, and it consisted of two floors only.
The front door was not far from the road, and was clearly visible to
passengers who might chance to look through either of the two iron gates
that opened one on each end of the semi-circular drive.

All these things Martin Hewitt noticed as the Rev. Mr. Potswood pushed
open one of these gates, and the two walked up the drive. The front door
stood in a portico, and a French window gave access to the roof of this
portico from a bedroom or dressing-room. As Hewitt and his companion
approached the house the French window was pushed open, and a man
appeared--a middle-aged, slightly stoutish man with a short, grey beard;
commonplace enough in himself, but now convulsed with noisy anger,
shaking his fists and stamping on the portico-roof.

"Get out!" he shouted. "Don't come near my house again, or I'll have you
flung out! Go away and take your friends with you! D'you hear? Go away,
sir, and don't come here annoying me! Go! Go at once!"

Mr. Potswood absolutely staggered with amazement. "Why," he gasped,
"it's Mason! He's mad--clean mad! Why, Mason, my poor friend, don't you
know me?"

"Get out, I say!" cried Mason. "Give me no more of your talk! I won't
have you here!" And now Hewitt caught a glimpse of a girl's face at the
window behind the man--a pale and handsome face, drawn with anxiety and
fear.

Hewitt seized the clergyman quickly by the arm. "Come," he whispered
hurriedly, "come away at once. There is a reason for this. Get away at
once. If you can answer back angrily, do so, but at any rate, come
away."

He hurried back to the gate, half dragging the astounded rector, who was
all too honest a soul to be able to counterfeit an anger he did not
feel, even if his amazement had not made him speechless. Hewitt closed
the gate behind him and said as he walked, "Where is the rectory? We
will go there. He may have sent a message while you were out."

Mechanically the rector took the first turning. "But he's mad!" he
protested. "Mad, poor fellow! Merciful heavens, Mr. Hewitt, his whole
tale must have been a delusion! A mere madman's fancy! Poor fellow! We
must go back, Mr. Hewitt--we really must! We can't leave that poor girl
there alone with a raving maniac!"

"No," Hewitt insisted, "come to the rectory. That is no madness, Mr.
Potswood. Couldn't you see the colour of the man under the eyes, and the
shaking of his beard? That was not anger and it was not madness. It was
terror, Mr. Potswood--sheer, sick terror! Terror, or some emotion very
much like it."

"But, if terror, why that outburst? What does it mean? If it were
terror, why not rather welcome our company and help?"

"Don't you see, Mr. Potswood?" answered Hewitt. "Don't you guess? _Mason
is watched, and he knows it!_ He was acting his anger before unseen
eyes--and he knew they were on him!"

"God be merciful to us all," ejaculated the clergyman. "Poor man--poor
sinner! What is this unspeakable thing which has him in its clutches?
What had he done to give himself over to such a power?"

"We can tell nothing, and guess nothing, as yet," Hewitt answered. "Let
us see if he has sent you a message. It seems likely. If he has it may
help us. If not--then I think we must do something decisive at once. But
don't hurry so! It is hard to restrain one's self, I know, but there may
be eyes on us, Mr. Potswood, and we must not seem to be persisting in
our errand."

So they went through the quiet streets for the two or three furlongs
that seemed so many miles to the good parson. Arrived at the rectory,
Mr. Potswood pushed impatiently through the gate, and was hurrying
toward the house, when he perceived a bent little old man standing among
some shrubs with his own gardener, who was digging.

"There's Mason's gardener!" the rector exclaimed, and went to meet him.

The old man touched his hat, looked sharply towards Hewitt, who was
waiting near the rectory door, and then disappeared round a corner of
the house, the rector following. In a few seconds Mr. Potswood
reappeared, with a slip of paper in his hand. "Here," he said, "see
this! The old man was told to give it to nobody but me, and in nobody
else's presence. He's been waiting since one o'clock."

Scrawled on the paper, in trembling and straggling letters, were these
words:--

/#
     "You must not bring Mr. Martin Hewitt to my house this afternoon. I
     am watched. It is hopeless. Do not desert me. Bring him to-night
     after dark at eight. I shall want his best skill, and you shall
     know all. After dark. Come to the back gate in the lane, which will
     be ajar, and through the conservatory at the side, where my niece
     will be waiting at eight, after dark. Burn this and do not let it
     out of your sight first. Send a line by this man to say you will do
     as I ask, but do not say what it is, for fear of accidents. Send at
     once. Do come at eight, with Mr. Hewitt."
#/

"We must do as he says," remarked Hewitt. "We know nothing of this
matter, and we must be guided till we do. Just write an unsigned
note--'All shall be as you request,' or words to that effect, and be
sure the man gives it to him. Let him out behind through the churchyard,
if possible, and tell him not to go straight from one house to the
other. Is he an intelligent man?"

"Yes--uncommonly shrewd, I believe. He says he can't have been followed.
He knows several gardeners hereabout, and he seems to have called on
each of them on his way--in at the front of the garden and out at the
back each time, after a few minutes' conversation. Gipps is rather a
cunning old fellow."

"Ah," said Hewitt admiringly, "that's the sort of messenger I often
want. I'll give him half a crown for himself and the money to pay for a
telegram on his way. He knows nothing essential, of course?"

"No--only that his master is in some sort of trouble, and warned him
that he might be followed."

"That is good. I shall telegraph to Detective-Inspector Plummer, of
Scotland Yard. All right--I quite understand that all I have heard is
confidential. I shall tell Plummer nothing till I may--indeed, as yet
I have very little to tell that would help him. But I think it will be
well to have the police within call--we may want them at a moment's
notice; I have no police powers, you see, and Plummer has the Denson
case in hand. I will ask him to be here, at this house, before a quarter
to eight, if you will allow me."

And so the telegram went to Plummer, and Hewitt, accepting the rector's
invitation to an early dinner before starting on their visit, resigned
himself to wait. He did not like the waste of time, as he frankly told
Mr. Potswood. He would have preferred to see Mason at once, at any
risk, and to take what means he thought necessary without delay. But as
it seemed that the risk was to be chiefly Mason's, and as Mason knew all
of which both he and the rector were ignorant, Mason must be allowed to
choose his own time.

The excellent Mr. Potswood endured agonies of suspense, though he also
insisted that Mason's wishes must be observed exactly. "What is it
all--what can it be?" he ejaculated again and again. "What dreadful
influence can thus compass a man about, here in London, in these times?"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was autumn, and night fell early. Dinner was over at last, and they
had scarcely left the table when Plummer arrived, anxious and eager.

"You'll have to trust me a little, Plummer," Hewitt said, when he had
made him known to the rector. "I can tell you nothing now--know nothing,
in fact, or very little more than nothing. The fact is, I'm going to see
a man who promises information to me alone, in confidence, as his
client, and I don't know how long I may have to keep you in the dark.
But this is where the trail lies hot, and I know that's where you want
to be. More, if you're wanted suddenly you'll be at hand. You have a man
or two with you, I suppose, as I suggested?"

"Three of the best of them. They will follow us up. Is it far?"

"No, close enough. It is a house in a walled garden--not a high wall. We
go in at a gate from the lane behind, and I think you should wait at
that gate, and put your men at hand. We mustn't go in as a crowd. The
rector had better go first, and you and I will follow on the opposite
side of the road."

So the procession was formed, and it was still some three minutes short
of eight o'clock when Hewitt and Plummer joined the clergyman at the
door in the garden wall behind Mason's house. The door was ajar as had
been promised in Mason's note. Leaving Plummer on guard without, Martin
Hewitt and the rector stepped as silently as possible through the little
kitchen garden and across a strip of lawn toward where a dull light
illuminated the conservatory, at the right-hand end of the house. The
door of the conservatory was ajar also, and this the rector pushed open.

"Miss Creswick!" the rector called, in a loud whisper. "Miss Creswick!"
And with that a girl appeared within.

"Oh, Mr. Potswood," she said, "I'm so glad you've come! I can't think
what's wrong with poor uncle! I'm afraid he must be going mad! He is
terrified at something, and he has been getting worse, till he could
hardly speak or walk. Dr. Lawson has been--about an hour ago, and since
then uncle has been much quieter, in his study."

They were entering the dimly-lighted drawing-room now. "Dr. Lawson?"
queried the rector. "Rather an unusual visitor, isn't he? How long has
he been gone?"

Miss Creswick flushed slightly through all her paleness and grief. "I
don't know," she said. "He let himself out, I fancy. He said he could
not stay long when he came, but I didn't hear him go; I have been
upstairs, and the servants are in the kitchen--they say uncle's mad, and
I'm really afraid he is!"

They left the drawing-room, and walked along the corridor and the hall
to the opposite side of the house, where the study lay. Miss Creswick
tapped gently at the door, but there was no answer. She tapped again,
louder, and then came the faint sound of a quick step on the carpet, and
then a slight scraping noise, as when a door is closed over a carpet it
will scarcely pass. "That's the window into the garden," said Miss
Creswick. "Why is he going out? Uncle! Uncle Jacob!"

But now the silence was wholly unbroken. Hewitt snatched quickly at the
door-handle. "Locked!" he said. "Come--the quickest way into the
garden!"

They ran out at the front door, and round toward the study window. It
was a French window, exactly at the opposite end of the house to the
conservatory, and now the gas-light streamed out through one half of it,
which stood curtainless and ajar, while the curtain was drawn across the
other half. Hewitt was the least familiar with the place, but he was
quickest on his legs, and more seriously alarmed than the others. He
reached the window first--and instantly turned and thrust the rector
back against Miss Creswick. "Quick! take her away," he said; "we are too
late!" and in the same moment, even as Hewitt dashed over the threshold,
he snatched a whistle from his pocket, and blew his hardest.

There on the floor lay Mason, his face dreadful and staring and black;
tight in his neck was the band of a tourniquet, and fresh and wet on his
forehead was the Red Triangle.

Hewitt snatched at the screw of the tourniquet behind the neck, and
loosened it as quickly as hands could turn. But it was too late. Too
late, the examining surgeon afterwards said, by a quarter of an hour.

Plummer was at the window with his men at his heels even before the
tourniquet was half unscrewed.

"Round the wall of the garden," shouted Hewitt, "and whistle up the
police! He's only this moment out!"

The house was alive with shouts and screams. The rector came running
back, and Hewitt, busy with his useless attempt at restoration, called
now for a doctor. People were scampering in the street, and Hewitt left
the victim to the care of the rector, and himself joined Plummer, all in
fewer seconds than it may be told in.

But Plummer and his men were beaten, for nothing--not so much as a
moving shadow--was seen in the garden or about the walls. Worse, the
general trampling would obliterate possible tracks. Plummer set a guard
of police about the wall, and came in for consultation with Hewitt.

The body was carried into another room, and Hewitt and Plummer began an
examination of the study.

"No signs of a struggle," commented Plummer, "and there was no noise,
they say. That's very odd."

"From what I have seen and heard to-day," said Hewitt, "it is as I
should have expected. I believe the man was almost killed by terror
before he was strangled--dazed, stricken dumb, paralysed, deafened by
it--everything but blinded, poor wretch. And to have been blinded would
have been a mercy."

And then, as they made their examination systematically, calmly and
without flurry, Hewitt told the whole tale of his day's adventures,
together with all he had heard from the rector. "The man's dead," he
said, "and his confidence is at an end. Indeed, I never had it--the
case, so far as I am concerned, is over before I have even touched it. I
haven't had a chance, Plummer; and the thing is deep and dark, deep and
dark. Oh, if only the man had let me come to him in the daylight, spite
of all! This might all have been averted.... There has been a close
search here, too. See how everything is turned over. But, stay!"

A low fire smouldered in the grate, and on it lay ashes of many burnt
papers. Hewitt passed the shovel carefully under these ashes, lifted
them out and placed them gently on the table under the light of the
gas-pendant.

"I must leave you," said Plummer. "There'll be an inspector here from
the station in a moment--he won't interfere with you, and if anybody can
get information out of this room it's you. The next thing for me is
plain. I must make sure of Dr. Lawson, if he can be found."

"That is quite right, without a doubt," Hewitt responded. "I may find
anything or nothing in this room, and, meanwhile, he was the last
person known to have been here, and the only visitor, and he was not
heard to go out, unless we heard him go when we were outside the study
door. More, it was plainly some one familiar with the place who was able
to get away so quickly by the window and the garden."

"And his interest in getting rid of Mason, too--the girl of age in
a few months, and all obstacles to getting hold of her, and her money,
removed. And--and the surgical tourniquet, the Chinese colour and
everything!"

"Quite right, you must make sure of him, as you say. You will get his
address from the rector. Meanwhile I'll try to begin my little
contribution to the case--to begin it as best I can, after all the
chances have made it useless."



III


It was after nine when Plummer returned. The rector had just rejoined
Hewitt in the study, having left poor Miss Creswick, utterly broken
down, in her room, in charge of a scarcely less terrified servant.
Plummer tapped, and pushed the study door open.

"That's done clean and sure enough," he said, with professional
calmness. "And he's a cool hand, is that Dr. Lawson. But have you found
anything more? We shall want all we can get."

"We shall," Hewitt assented, "and we shall find more than we've got now,
or I'm grievously mistaken. But tell me first what you've done."

He removed the blotting pad, on which the paper ashes still lay, and
very carefully shut it away in a wide drawer where no draught could
disturb it; he also shut another drawer which stood open.

"We had no difficulty in finding Dr. Lawson," Plummer began. "We met
him, in fact, leaving his surgery. I went back with him into the
gas-light, and there put it to him plump. Well, he was staggered, badly.
Any man would be, of course. But he pulled himself together wonderfully
soon, and the first thing he said was that he was just on his way to
Mason's house. I thought at first, of course, that he meant to deny that
he had been there already, and I gave him the usual warning about what
he said being used in evidence. But he went on, and I've got it all
safely noted. He admitted that he had been here, at about seven o'clock
or just before, and he said he came because Mr. Mason sent for him. That
doesn't seem likely, does it, on the facts as we know them?"

"Why, no," said the rector. "The last time he was here he was ordered
out, and I know of no reason why he should have been asked to come
to-day. We must ask if anybody was sent."

"I have asked," replied Plummer, "just now, and none of the servants was
sent. But Lawson's story is that he _was_ sent for and came, though he
said he shouldn't say what Mason wanted to see him about till he knew
more of the case. Looks as though he hadn't quite got his story ready
yet, doesn't it? He had thought over the point about not being seen to
go away, though; he said he had let himself out at about half-past
seven, being familiar with the ways of the house. And he said that Mason
was rather unwell--nervously upset--when he left him, but that was
all."

"It's terrible," said the rector, "terrible. It seems impossible to
believe it of young Lawson; and yet--and yet!" And then after a
pause--"Good heavens!" he burst out again. "Why, I only realise it now!
There is the other crime, too! Denson! Two murders! Two--and most
certainly by the same hand! Mr. Plummer, I _can't_ believe it! Oh,
there's more behind, more behind, Mr. Hewitt."

"There _is_ more," said Hewitt, "as you will see when I tell you the
little I have been able to ascertain. There _is_ more behind, though I
see little of it yet. First----"

There was a sharp knock at the front door, followed by a ring, muffled
in the distant kitchen. Hewitt started up. "Who is this late visitor at
this unvisited house?" he said. "If it is the police, well enough. But
if anybody else--_anybody_--you may call me Doctor, or anything you
please, except Martin Hewitt. Don't forget that!"

There were hurried steps in the hall, a question or two, and the study
door was pushed open. Two servants--they would not venture from the
kitchen singly this dreadful night--made a confused announcement of "Mr.
Myatt," and were instantly pushed aside by Mr. Myatt himself, anxious
and agitated.

The late Mr. Mason's closest scientific friend was a palish,
black-bearded man, of above middle height, with stooping shoulders and a
very quick pair of eyes. There was something about his face that somehow
reminded Hewitt of portraits he had seen of John Knox, and yet it was
not such a face as his; it seemed oddly unlike in its very likeness.

"What is this dreadful news, Mr. Potswood?" he cried. "I heard people
talking in the next street on my way home. Is it true? But the servants
have told me so. They say our poor friend--but there has been an arrest,
hasn't there?"

The rector nodded gravely.

"And who? Tell me about it, Mr. Potswood--tell me!"

"I think I must see how Miss Creswick is doing," said Hewitt, speaking
across to Plummer and making for the door.

"Certainly, doctor, certainly!" answered Plummer with a nod.

Hewitt closed the door behind him, leaving the rector in the full tide
of his account of the day's events; but Hewitt's way took him to the
kitchen, where the servants were cowering and whispering together,
frightened and bewildered.

"Is there any paint or varnish of any sort in the place?" he asked
sharply. "Give me anything there is--black, if possible--and a brush,
quickly."

"There's--there's Brunswick black, sir, for the stove," said the cook.

"That will do; be quick. Oh, there's Gipps, the gardener! You're just
the man I want, Gipps. Come and find me a board or a plank, quick as you
please!" And Hewitt pushed the old gardener before him into the garden
by the kitchen door.

       *       *       *       *       *

A quarter of an hour later, Mr. Everard Myatt, having heard all that was
to be told of his friend's terrible death and the arrest of Mr. Lawson,
turned to go, meeting Hewitt at the study door on his way.

"And how is poor Miss Creswick by now, doctor?" he asked anxiously.

Hewitt shook his head. "No better than you could expect," he said, "but,
on the whole, no worse. She mustn't be seen to-night, of course, but,
perhaps, if you could call round in the morning with the rector----"

"Of course--of course! Poor girl--and Dr. Lawson suspected, too--what a
terrible blow for her! Anything I can do, doctor, of course, as I said
to Mr. Potswood--anything I can do I will do as gladly as such sad
circumstances permit."

The rector had been coming to the door with Mr. Myatt, but Plummer,
catching a sign from Hewitt, restrained him unseen, and Hewitt and the
visitor walked into the hall together.

"They have put out the light, it seems," Hewitt said. "I wonder
why--unless people from the crowd have been coming into the garden and
staring in through the glass panels. I wonder if we can find the
door-handle. Yes, here it is. Dark outside, too! Good-night--mind how
you go on the steps!"

Mr. Myatt checked and stumbled in the dark porch, and reached quickly
downward.

"There's a board standing across the porch," he said.

"A board?" replied Hewitt. "So there is. Let me move it, or it'll upset
somebody. Good-night!"

Mr. Myatt strode off into the dark night, and Hewitt, noiselessly
lifting the board he had himself placed in position, hastened back to
the study.

He swung up the board, all sticky and shiny with Brunswick black, and
laid it across a spread newspaper, on the table. There on the top, in
the midst of the black varnish, were the prints of all five finger-tips
of a hand, where Mr. Myatt had felt for the obstruction in the porch.

Hewitt opened the drawer he had shut a little while back, and took
therefrom a sheet of writing-paper. And when, with the lens from his
pocket, he began to examine that paper in comparison with the
finger-marks on the board, Plummer and the rector could see that there
were also two distinct finger-marks on the paper and one faint one--all
red. Plummer came to look.

"What's this?" he said. "Was this what you were going to tell us about?"

Hewitt did not reply for a few moments, but continued his examination.
Then he rose and turned to Plummer.

"You've still got that piece of paper in your pocket, I suppose," he
said, "with the little red smudges of colour put there by the police
surgeon?"

"Yes--here it is," and the detective took it from his waistcoat pocket.

"Thanks," said Hewitt. "Now, see here. That is a little of the red stuff
taken from the mark on Denson's forehead a week ago, and found to
consist of vermilion, oil and wax. You have seen the second impression
of that awful mark on the forehead of your poor friend Mason, Mr.
Potswood, to-night. This room has been searched for papers before we
began, and papers have been burnt. In the search this drawer was
opened--containing, as you see, nothing but a supply of new headed
note-paper. The note-paper was hastily lifted to see if anything else
lay beneath, and here, on the bottom sheet, these finger-marks were left
in that same adhesive, freely marking red--a sort of stuff that sticks
to and marks whatever it touches. The hand that lifted that paper was
the hand that impressed that ghastly mark; and the hand that left its
print on this black varnish was Mr. Everard Myatt's! Now compare the
two!"

Plummer had snatched the lens, and was narrowly comparing the marks ere
Hewitt had well finished speaking.

"They are!" he cried, as the rector bent excitedly over him. "They are
the same! See--forefinger and middle finger--the same, every line!"

"I needn't tell you," pursued Hewitt, "certainly I needn't tell Plummer,
that that is the most certain and scientific method of identification
known. The police know that--and use it. But now there is some more. You
saw me take that charred paper from the fire. Sometimes words may be
read on charred paper--it depends on the paper and the ink. Most of the
cinders were too much broken to yield any information, though we may try
again by daylight. But one was suggestive. See it!" Hewitt very
carefully pulled out the flat drawer that held the cinders.

"You see," he went on, "that one--this--is different from the rest. It
has retained its original form better, and has been less broken, because
of being of thicker paper. It is a crumpled envelope. Look at the
flap--it has never been closed down. Moreover, on that same flap you may
read in embossed letters, still visible, part of the name of this house.
Plain inference--this was an envelope intended for a letter never sent,
and so crumpled up and dropped into the waste-paper basket. But why
should such an apparently unimportant thing as that be carefully brought
from the waste-paper basket and burnt? Somebody was anxious that the
smallest scrap of paper evidencing a certain correspondence should be
destroyed. But look closely at the front of the envelope--the ink shows
a rather lighter grey than the paper. The address is incomplete--at any
rate, no more than some of the first line and a little of the second is
at all visible now; but it is plain that the first line begins with an
E. The letters immediately following are not distinct, but next there is
a capital M beginning a name which is clearly Myatt or Myall. Now,
_that_ is why, when Myatt came here, I took the first steps to hand to
get an impression of his finger-tips, in order to compare them with the
marks on that paper."

"But why," asked the astonished rector, "why did he come back?"

"Nothing but a bold measure to see how things were going--he came as his
own spy, that's all. He's a keen and dangerous man. Don't you remember
telling me how he called on you yesterday, though you hardly knew him by
sight, merely to ask you to persuade Mason to take a holiday? It struck
me as a little odd at the time. He was pumping you, Mr. Potswood--he
wanted to find what Mason had been saying! And he is not alone--plainly
he is not alone, for poor Mason knew they were watching everywhere. But
come--this is no time for speculation. Plummer--you must hold him
safely--we'll pick up evidence enough when you've got him. I wouldn't
leave it, Plummer--I'd take him to-night!"

"You're right--right, as usual, Mr. Hewitt," Plummer agreed. "More
especially as the rector was--well, a little incautious in talking to
him just now."

"I? What did I say?" Mr. Potswood asked, astonished. "I had no
suspicions--how could I have----"

"No, Mr. Potswood," the detective replied, "you had no suspicions, and
for that very reason, in the excitement of the narrative, you called Mr.
Martin Hewitt by his right name at least twice! And after I had called
him 'doctor,' too!" he added regretfully.

"Is that so?" asked Hewitt.

The poor rector was sadly abashed. "But I really wasn't aware of it, Mr.
Hewitt!" he protested. "I hardly think I could--but, there, perhaps I
did! Of course, if Inspector Plummer remembers it----"

"He'll be off!" exclaimed Hewitt. "With that hint, and finding the black
stuff on his hands, he'll smell a rat instantly! Come, Mr. Potswood--you
can show us the nearest way to his house, at any rate! Come--we may get
him yet!"

       *       *       *       *       *

But the good rector's slip of the tongue was fatal, and Myatt was not
yet to meet the fate that fitted him. The house was not far--less than a
mile away. It was a detached house, but quite a small one--smaller than
Mason's. Plummer blocked every exit with a man, but his caution was
wasted. Myatt was gone.

There was the house and the furniture and two servants, just as it might
have been any day in the year when Myatt was out for an hour. But now
he was out for good. The police watched and waited all night, and all
the next day; they waited and watched for a week, and the house was
under observation after that, but Myatt never returned. He had made his
plans, it was plain, for just such a flight, whenever the necessity
might arise; and when he was assured that danger threatened, he simply
vanished in the dark of a London night. Search brought no
information--not a scrap of telltale paper lay in Calton Lodge--not a
letter, not a line. Though, indeed, the police were to see more of
Myatt's work yet--and so was Hewitt.

Dr. Lawson's detention did not last the night out. The unhappy Mason had
indeed sent to him, by a chance messenger, having grown desperate in
long waiting for the return of Gipps from the rectory. Mason was ready
to call in any aid, to recall any of the friendships he had sacrificed
in the past. But Lawson was long in coming, having received the note
after a long professional round, and when at last he arrived, Mason was
a little reassured by the promise of Hewitt's visit. Therefore, he did
not tell the doctor so much as he might have done. Nevertheless, he
talked wildly and vaguely, so that Dr. Lawson feared some disturbance of
his reason. The doctor quieted and soothed him, however, and when he
left he promised to return after his consultation hour at the surgery
was over. He must have been watched away from the house, and then the
blow fell that sealed for ever the lips of Jacob Mason.

Poor Miss Creswick was taken from the old house in which she could no
longer remain, and for a few months she stayed at the rectory, tended
lovingly by the rector's excellent wife--stayed there, in fact, till her
wedding-day, which took place early the next year; so that for her and
Dr. Lawson the tragedy ended in happiness, after all.

       *       *       *       *       *

"God forgive me," cried the rector in the grey of the morning, when
it became clear that Myatt had escaped--"God forgive me! Through my
stupidity a horrible creature has been set loose in the world to work
his diabolical will afresh!"

"Never mind," said Hewitt. "It was not stupidity, Mr. Potswood--nothing
but your openness of character. You were not trained to the cunning that
we must use in my profession. And there will be more than Myatt to
take--he was not alone! It is plain that Mason was found to be wavering
in whatever horrible allegiance he had bound himself, and he was
watched. No, Myatt was not alone!"

"No, I fear not," replied the clergyman. "I fear not: there is horrible
mystery still. The watching and besetting that terrified him so much;
the fact that he seems to have yielded up his life without a
struggle--and that with help so near; and the connection--what could it
have been?--between Mason and the other victim--Denson. That is a deep
mystery indeed! And that horrible sign! Mr. Hewitt, you have done
much--but not all!"

"No," replied Martin Hewitt, "not nearly all. It is even doubtful
whether or not it will be my lot to come across the thing again; but it
will be in the hands of the police. And, after all, we have achieved
something. For we know that if Myatt can be captured we shall be at the
heart of the mystery."



THE CASE OF THE LEVER KEY



I


In some of the cases which we now know to have been connected with the
Red Triangle, there was nothing, in the first place, to show any such
association. In some of these cases the connection has become apparent
only since the final clearing up of the whole mystery, and with these
cases we have no present concern; but in others it revealed itself
during the investigation of the case. It was to this second category
that the next case belonged--the next at all connectible, that is, after
that of the mysterious death of Mr. Jacob Mason and the flight of
Everard Myatt.

The case was remarkable in other respects also; first, because in one of
its features it had a resemblance to the case of Samuel's diamonds,
which first brought the Red Triangle to Hewitt's notice; next, because
in its course Hewitt encountered what he declared to be the most
ingenious and baffling cryptogram that he had ever seen in the length of
his strange experience; and thirdly, because I was the means of placing
that cryptogram in his hands, owing to one of those odd chances that
arise again and again in real life--are, indeed, so common as to pass
almost unregarded--and yet might be thought improbable if offered in the
guise of a mere story. Hewitt has often alluded to the curious
persistence of such chances in his experience. I think I have elsewhere
mentioned a certain police officer's prolonged search after a criminal
for whose arrest he held a warrant, ending in the discovery--because of
a misdirected call--that the man had been living all the time next door
to himself; and I have also told of the other detective inspector, who,
being sent in search of a criminal of whom he had but the meagrest and
most unsatisfactory particulars, and whom he scarcely hoped ever to run
down, actually _fell over_ the man as he was leaving the office where he
had received his information, in the doorway of which the fellow had
stooped to tie his shoe-lace! But, as Hewitt would say, nothing but the
exceptional nature of the surrounding circumstances makes these things
seem extraordinary. What more ordinary experience, for example, than to
meet a friend in some London street--perhaps one friend of the only
dozen or so you have among the four millions of people about you? The
odds against you two, of all the millions, choosing the one street of
the thousands in London to walk down at the same minute of time, would
seem incalculable; and yet the chance comes off so often as to be a
matter of the most ordinary experience.

On this occasion I was expecting orders from my editor to produce
certain articles on the subject of the London hospitals. It will be
remembered that the matter was very much in the air a few years ago, and
as nothing is professionally more uncomfortable than to be called on
suddenly for an accurate and reasonable leading article on a subject one
knows nothing about, I wrote to my friend, Barton McCarthy, who is
house-surgeon at St. Augustine's, and he replied by an offer to tell me
anything I cared to ask if I would call at the hospital.

I set out accordingly some little time after a breakfast even later than
ordinary, and called in at Hewitt's office on my way downstairs, to say
that I should not be lunching at our usual place that day.

"No," Hewitt answered, "nor shall I, I expect. I'm off to the City, at
once. I have an urgent message to go immediately to Kingsley, Bell and
Dalton's, in Broad Street, where a big bond robbery has just been
discovered. Perhaps I can give you a lift in my cab?"

We hurried off together accordingly. Hewitt knew nothing of the case he
had to examine, and so could tell me nothing, beyond the short urgent
request that he would come at once, and that the matter involved the
loss of bonds to a very large amount; and he dropped me at a convenient
spot, whence my walk to the hospital was but a short one.

I saw my friend McCarthy, and bothered him very successfully for nearly
an hour, getting all the information I had expected, and more, during a
very interesting walk through the great hospital.

"You get some idea in a place like this," said McCarthy, as we came at
last into the receiving room for accident cases, "you get some idea,
Brett, of the size of this great London machine working about us. You
might walk about the streets for a week and never see a serious
accident, or even an accident at all, and yet, you see, here they come
all day long--a stream of people damaged or killed in the machine."

A decent workman was having a gashed hand dressed and strapped, and a
navvy with bandages about his head was being led away by a friend.
Nurses and dressers were waiting ready to take their orderly turns at
the incoming casualties, and as we looked a more serious case was
brought in on an ambulance by two policemen. The patient was a ragged,
disreputable-looking fellow of middle age, in grimy and tattered
clothes, whose head had been roughly bandaged by the policemen who
brought him. He had been knocked down and kicked on the head by a
butcher's cart-horse, it seemed, in Moorgate Street, and he was quite
insensible. A very short examination showed that the case was nothing
trivial, and McCarthy sent me to sit in his private room to wait lunch,
while he gave the matter his personal attention.

When he returned he brought a small crumpled envelope in his hand. "That
case is put to bed," he said, "still insensible."

"Is it very bad?" I asked.

"Slight fracture of the occipital, and, of course, concussion of the
brain--probably contusion, too, I expect we shall find presently. Not so
over serious for a healthy man, but I'm afraid he's an old soaker--the
sort that crumple up at a touch. Nobody knows him, and there's nothing
to identify him in the pockets--a few coppers, an old knife, and so on.
So we can't send to tell his friends--unless we bring in your friend
Martin Hewitt to trace 'em out, which would come too expensive.
Besides," McCarthy added, dropping into a seat before his desk, "if he's
got any friends they'll come, sooner or later, when they miss him. This
is the only thing he'd got beside what's in the pockets--he'd been sent
on a message, probably."

My friend held up the crumpled envelope and took from it a small key.
"He'd got this envelope gripped tightly in his hand," he said, "but
there was no address on it, so we tore it open in the hope of finding
one inside. But there was nothing there but the key. If you were a very
promising pupil of your friend Hewitt, I should expect you to take a
glance at it and tell us the man's address at once, together with his
age, birthplace, when vaccinated, and the residence of his maternal
grandmother. But you're not, so I'll let you off."

McCarthy turned the key idly about in his hand and tried it on a lock in
his desk. "Stopped up," he remarked, withdrawing it, and peeping into
the barrel; "not dirt, either--stopped up with paper! What's that for?"

He took a pin to clear the barrel, and the paper came away quite
readily. It was a tight little roll, which the surgeon pulled out into a
small strip rather less than three inches long and about half-an-inch
broad.

"Hullo!" he exclaimed. "Look here! Here's a job for Martin Hewitt, after
all! Figures! What does that mean? And what an amazing place to put
them in! A key barrel! By Jove, Brett, this looks like one of your
favourite adventures. Somebody sends a key in an envelope, and a row of
incomprehensible figures rolled up inside the key. Look at it!"

I took the key and the paper. The key was of a good sort; small,
inscribed "Tripp's Patent" on the bow, and it evidently belonged to a
superior lever lock. The paper which had come from the barrel was very
thin and tough--a kind I have seen used in typewriters. It had been very
carefully and closely rolled, and then pushed into the key so that its
natural tendency to open out held it tightly within. Written upon it
with a fine pen appeared a series of very minute figures, thus:--

               9, 8, 14, 4, 20, 18, 5, 9; 15, 19, 20,
               0, 3, 9, 8, 5; 3, 23, 0, 0, 5, 13, 14,
               19; 19, 20, 0, 0, 0, 0, 6, 1; 5, 20, 0,
               0, 0, 0, 3, 22; 1, 15, 0, 0, 0, 0, 18,
               5; 1, 8, 20, 11, 18, 9, 5, 20; 12, 5,
               23, 14, 14, 1, 1, 20.

"Well," inquired McCarthy, "what do you make of it?"

"Not much as yet," I admitted. "But it's pretty certain it must be a
cryptogram or code-writing of some sort; and if that's the case, I
_think_ I might back myself to read it--with a little time." For I well
remembered the case of the "Flitterbat Lancers," and the lesson in
cypher-reading which Hewitt then gave me.

"Come," my friend replied, much interested, "let's see how you do it.
Meantime we'll get on with our lunch."

I took a pencil and a spare sheet of paper, and I studied those figures
all through lunch and for some little time after. It soon became plain
that the problem was much more difficult than it looked, and I said so.
"At the first glance," I said, "it looked a fairly easy cypher; but as a
matter of fact, I don't think it's easy at all. One assumes, of course,
that the figures stand for letters, and on that assumption two or three
peculiarities are noticeable. First, the highest number written here is
23, so that all the letters indicated, in whatever order they may come,
are within the compass of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. Next,
the numbers most frequently repeated, if we except the noughts, are 5
and 20, which occur seven times each. Now, the vowel most frequently
occurring in average English writing is e, and you will at once perceive
that e is number five in the alphabet, counting from the beginning.
More, if we go on counting so, we shall find that 20 is _t_, which is
one of the most frequently occurring consonants. This would seem to hint
that the cypher is of the very simplest description, consisting of the
mere substitution of figures for letters in the exact order of the
alphabet. But what, then, of the noughts? What can they mean? More
especially when we consider that in three places there are actually four
noughts in succession; for, of course, no letter is repeated four times
successively in any English word, nor in any foreign word that I can
imagine. But let us put down the letters in substitution for the
figures, on the supposition that the figures stand for letters in their
alphabetical order, leaving the noughts as they are. Then we get this."

I rapidly pencilled the letters on the spare paper, thus:--_i, h, n, d,
t, r, e, i; 0, s, t, 0, c, i, h, e; c, w, 0, 0, e, m, n, s; s, t, 0, 0,
0, 0, f, a; e, t, 0, 0, 0, 0, c, v; a, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, r, e; a, h, t, k,
r, i, e, t; l, e, w, n, n, a, a, t_.

"See there," I said. "Now, I can make nothing of that. When I come to
examine the comparative frequency of the different letters, I find them
much as they might be expected to be in a sentence of normal English,
and any change would destroy the proportion. _E_ and _t_ are the most
frequent, and then come _a, n, i, r, s,_ and _c_. But as they stand
they all mean nothing. It is possible that this may be one of the
difficult variable letter cyphers, which Hewitt might read, but I can't.
But even then, if the values of the letters change as they would do,
they would get out of their normal proportions of frequency; so that a
variable letter cypher seems unlikely. And there is another oddity.
Look, and you will see that, counting the noughts in, the letters go in
groups of eight, with a semi-colon at the end of each group. Now, it is
impossible that the message can be a sentence in which every word has
exactly eight letters--or, at least, I should think so. It can scarcely
be that the semi-colon itself means a letter--it would be singular for
one letter to occur with such curious regularity as that. There is no
other visible division between the words, nor any single one of the
usual aids by which the reader of secret cypher is able to take a hold
of his work. No, I'm afraid I must give it up; for the present, at any
rate. But I really think it is a thing that would vastly interest
Hewitt, if I might show it to him. I suppose I mustn't?"

"Well," McCarthy answered, "perhaps it isn't strictly according to rule,
but I think I might venture to lend it to you till to-morrow, if that
will do. Indeed, I think, on second thoughts, that I may consider
myself quite justified, since it may lead to the man's identification,
and it will be a sufficient answer to any inquiry to say that I have
shown it to Mr. Martin Hewitt for that purpose. But you'll be careful of
it, won't you? Do you want the key, too?"

"I think, if I may, I will take the key and the envelope all together.
You can never tell what may or what may not help him, and the three
things may hang together, and perhaps explain each other in some
mysterious way."

"Very good--here's the whole bag of tricks. It's a queer business
altogether, and I must say I feel inquisitive; certainly, if Hewitt can
get anything out of those figures I shall be mighty curious to know how
he does it. You'll come in again to-morrow, then?"

I promised I would, and walked off with the crumpled envelope, the
little key, and the puzzling strip of figures. Since the lesson from
Hewitt which I have alluded to, I had often amused myself with
cryptogram reading, and I had never found a cypher message in a
newspaper "agony-column" the meaning of which I could not get at with a
little trouble. But this was something altogether beyond me; and if I
have any reader who prides himself on his ability to read secret cypher,
I recommend him to try his skill on this one before he reads further.

The circumstances, too, seemed as puzzling as the writing itself. Why,
if any person wished to send a note and a key in a closed envelope,
should he take the trouble to pack the note inside the key? Why,
especially when the note was already written in so baffling a cypher?
Whither had this ragged messenger been going with the mysterious
package, and who had sent him, and why?

Guessing and musing, I reached home, and found that Hewitt had returned
before me. I made my way into his office, and came on him sitting at his
desk with a large lens, attentively examining a broken brass padlock.

"Am I bothering you?" I asked. "Are you on the bond robbery, now?"

Martin Hewitt nodded, with a jerk of the hand toward the padlock. "It's
a tough job," he said, "and I shall shut myself up presently and think
hard over it; just now I can't see my way into it at all. But what have
you got there?"

"Never mind," I said, "you're too busy now. I came across something very
odd at the hospital, which I thought would interest you--that's all."

"Very well, let me see it. I haven't begun my bout of cogitation yet.
Show me."

I put the envelope, the key and the paper on the table before him.
Hewitt, with a glance of surprise, picked up the key and examined it.
"That's curious," he said, and straightway began fitting the key to the
broken padlock on the desk.

"Why, man alive!" he cried, with a sudden burst of excitement, "where
did you get this? This--this is the article--the key--the very thing I
want!" He sprang to his feet and stared in my face in sheer amazement.
"Heavens, Brett, the thing's almost supernatural! I've a broken lever
padlock here, and of all things in the world I wanted to find the one
key that fitted it; and you calmly walk in and clap down the very thing
under my nose! Where did you get it?"

I told him the tale of the man who had been knocked down in Moorgate
Street, and I explained exactly how the paper, the key and the envelope
were found in relation to each other, and why I had brought them.

"And when was the man knocked over?" Hewitt asked.

"Some time between one and two o'clock, I should say," I replied. "They
brought him in well before two, at any rate."

Hewitt stared into vacancy for a moment, thinking hard. Then he said,
"Brett, I believe you've saved my reputation--not that it could have
suffered much, perhaps, in such a desperate case. But as a fact I had
already advised the calling in of the police, and should, perhaps, even
have given up the part of the case still left me. But this ought to put
me on the proper track. You see, every one of these patent lever locks
differs in some slight degree from all the rest, and only its own key
will fit it; and here, by this amazing piece of good luck, is the one
key for this very lock, and the man who had it is detained in hospital.
Come, I'm off to see him. Insensible, you say, when you left?"

"Yes," I answered, "and likely to be so for some time, McCarthy thinks;
so you probably won't get much information out of him just yet. But the
cypher----"

"I'll examine the cypher as I go along, I think. But I should like to
take a look at the man, at any rate, even if he can't tell me anything.
Will you give me a note to your friend McCarthy?"

"Of course," I answered, readily, and sat down to scribble the few lines
necessary to introduce Hewitt.

When I had finished, Hewitt, who had been examining the cryptogram
meanwhile, remarked: "This cypher is something out of the common,
Brett. I certainly don't expect to be able to read it in the
cab-journey--perhaps not in a week of study. The man who devised this is
a man of abilities altogether beyond the average."

"I have had my best try at it," I said, "but it beats me wholly. I
brought it purely as a matter of curiosity, to show you; it was the
merest chance that I brought the key as well."

"And if you hadn't I should probably have put the cypher aside until the
case was over, and so have missed the whole thing. Another lesson never
to despise what seem like trifles. If you have studied the cypher you
have no doubt observed--but there, we'll talk that over afterwards, and
the whole case if you like. I'll go now, and I'll tell you all about the
business when time permits."



II


Here is the case of the bond robbery as it had been presented to Martin
Hewitt that morning, while I was at St. Augustine's Hospital, and as I
learned it from him later. I had been a little puzzled to hear Hewitt
say that the case had seemed so desperately hopeless that he advised the
calling in of the police, because my experience had rather been that it
was Hewitt who was commonly called in--often too late--when the police
were beaten, and I had never before heard of a case in which this order
of things was reversed. It turned out, however, as will be seen, that in
the state of the matter as it first presented itself the only measures
that seemed possible were such as it was in the power of the police
alone to adopt.

Messrs. Kingsley, Bell, and Dalton were an old-established firm of
brokers whose operations were not enormous nor much in the eye of the
public, but who carried on a steady and reputable business in a set of
offices high up in a great building in Broad Street--a building so
large that the notice "Offices to let" was a permanent fixture in the
front porch. The firm's clients were chiefly steady-going investors of
the old-fashioned sort, who wished to avoid all speculative fireworks,
and to deal through a firm whose habits were conformable to their own.
The last Kingsley had left the firm and soon afterward died, some few
years back, and now the head of the firm was Mr. Robert Stanstead Bell,
a gentleman of some sixty years of age. There were a couple of sleeping
partners--relations--but the one other active partner was Mr. Clarence
Dalton, a young man but recently advanced to partnership, and, it was
said, likely to become Mr. Bell's son-in-law whenever the old
gentleman's daughter Lilian should be married.

The steady, even round of business to which Kingsley, Bell, and Dalton,
and their clerks were accustomed was suddenly interrupted by an
appalling loss. It was discovered that bonds were missing from the safe,
bonds to the amount of some £25,000; and whence, how, or when they were
taken was an utter mystery. It was this loss which had occasioned the
urgent message to Hewitt.

When Hewitt reached the spot he was shown at once into an inner office,
where Mr. Bell sat waiting. The old gentleman was in a sad state of
agitation, and it was with some difficulty that Hewitt got from him a
reasonably connected account of the trouble.

"The loss comes at such a time, Mr. Hewitt," the senior partner
explained, "that I don't know but it may ruin us utterly, unless my
clients' property can be recovered. We have had to pay out heavy sums of
late to the representatives of dead or retiring partners, and other
circumstances combine with these to make the matter in this way even
more terribly serious than the very large amount of the loss would seem
to suggest. So I beg you will do what you can."

"That of course," responded Hewitt. "But please tell me, as clearly as
you can, the precise circumstances of the case. Where were the bonds
taken from?"

"This safe," Mr. Bell answered, turning toward a very large and heavy
one, which might almost have been called a small strong room. "They were
kept, together with others, in this box, one of several, as you see. The
box was fastened, like the rest, with a Tripp's patent lever padlock,
the only key of which I kept, together with the key of the safe."

The box indicated was one of ordinary thin sheet iron, japanned
black--something like what is called a deed box.

"The padlock has been broken open, I see," Hewitt observed.

"Yes, but I did that myself this morning. It had been blocked up in some
way, so that the key wouldn't turn--doubtless in order to cause delay
when next the box should come to be opened. As it was I might have
desisted and put off opening it till later, but I had a reason for
wishing to refer at once to a list which was in the box, and so I
decided to break the padlock. It was more difficult than one might
expect, with such a small padlock."

"And then you discovered your loss?"

"Then I discovered the loss, Mr. Hewitt, though it was a mere chance
even then. For see! All the bonds have not been taken, and those left
are placed on the top, while the space below is filled with dummies. I
hardly know why I turned them over--for the list was at the top--but I
did, and then----" Mr. Bell finished with a despairing gesture.

"And this was some time this morning?"

"At about half-past eleven."

"And when did you last open the box before that?"

"Ten days ago at least, I should think--and even then the bonds may have
been gone, for I only opened it to refer to the same list, and I
examined nothing else."

"You say that some bonds are left and others are gone. I presume those
taken are such as would be easy to negotiate, and those left are such as
would be difficult. Is that the fact?"

"Precisely."

"Then the thief evidently knows the ropes, and altogether the matter
would seem awkward. For anything short of ten days, you see, and quite
possibly for even a longer time than that, these bonds have been in the
undisturbed possession of some person who could easily dispose of them,
and would certainly do so without a moment's delay."

Mr. Bell nodded sadly. "Quite true," he said.

"But now tell me a little more. You say you yourself keep the only key
of the padlock, as well as the key of the safe. So that you open the
safe every morning yourself and close it at night?"

"Just so."

"And do you never entrust the keys to anybody else?"

"The key of the safe is on a separate bunch from the key of the box.
This second bunch, with the key of the box, is _always_ in my pocket,
and not a soul else ever touches it. The other bunch, with the outer
key of the safe, I sometimes hand to my partner, or to the head clerk,
Mr. Foster, if something is wanted from the safe when I am busy. Though,
as a rule, the safe door is open so long as I am about the place.
Nothing but the books can be taken out without the use of other keys for
the drawers and boxes, which I keep on the private bunch."

"And would it be possible for anybody--anybody at all, mind--to get at
that private bunch of keys in such a way, for instance, as to be able to
take a wax impression of the key of that bond-box?"

"No, certainly not," Mr. Bell answered with decision. "Certainly not. At
any rate, not in this office," he added.

"Ah, not in this office. Anywhere else?"

"No, nor anywhere else, I should think," the other replied, though this
time a little more thoughtfully. "There's only my own family at home and
the servants and----"

"Anybody who has access to this room of the office?" Hewitt asked
keenly.

Mr. Bell seemed a little startled.

"Why, no," he said, "nobody at home comes to the office--not even a
visitor, except, of course, my junior partner, who visits the room
pretty frequently."

"Very well. You don't remember ever mislaying the keys temporarily, I
suppose, either here or at home?"

"No-o," Mr. Bell replied slowly. "I can't say that I do remember
anything of the sort. No--and I believe I should be sure to remember if
I had."

"Ah! And when you realised your loss what did you do? Told your partner
first, I suppose?"

"No--he doesn't know of the discovery. He went out just before I made
it, and I don't expect him in again to-day." But as Mr. Bell spoke there
grew plain in his face the pallor of a new fear.

Martin Hewitt observed it, but kept his thoughts to himself. "Well," he
said, "you didn't tell your partner. Nor the police?"

"No, Mr. Hewitt. You see, of course, the first thing the police attempt
is to catch and punish the thief, and they make the recovery of the
property a subsidiary object. But for me, Mr. Hewitt, the recovery of
the property, as I have explained, is the one great consideration.
Punish the thief by all means, but first save me from ruin, Mr. Hewitt!
That is why I sent for you; for that, and because I thought it might be
advisable to keep the matter quiet, till you had taken some steps."

"There is something in that consideration, certainly. So you have told
nobody of the loss, except me?"

"Nobody but Foster, my head clerk--an old and faithful servant. It was
he, in fact, who suggested sending for you. As he put it very forcibly,
you can act for _me_ and my interests, while the police act for
themselves, and--very properly, of course, as police--in the interest of
the community."

"Very well. I see you have several clerks in the outer office. Do they
ever come into this room?"

"Never, unless they are sent for."

"If you and your partner were out, and one of the clerks came in
_without_ being sent for, the rest would know it, of course?"

"Certainly."

"I observe three private rooms opening out of this. What are they?"

"This is a sort of extra inner room where I have private interviews with
clients--I was in there with a client for half an hour this morning
before I discovered the loss. The next is a mere little box of a room
where the correspondence clerk sits and works. The other is a larger
place--it is shared between my partner, Mr. Clarence Dalton, and the
head clerk, Mr. Foster."

"Now let me have your broken padlock--and the key. I see you have forced
up the front plate with a screw-driver. I will borrow that
screw-driver, if you please, and force it off completely."

Hewitt's client produced a screw-driver from a drawer, and in a very few
moments the interior of the little padlock lay uncovered. Hewitt
examined the lock attentively for some few minutes, trying the key
several times against the levers. Then he stood up and said--

"Mr. Bell, you have made a mistake. This is not your lock at all!"

"Not my lock!" exclaimed the broker. "What do you mean? I tell you it is
the lock of that box, and I broke it open myself!"

"Yes," answered Hewitt calmly, "it was on that box, and you broke it
open yourself; but all the same it is not your lock. Let me explain.
These are very good little padlocks, with an excellent lever action,
'dogged against detent,' as the technical phrase goes; so that only the
key properly made for each lock will open it. They are so good, indeed,
as locks, that it would be a waste of time to try picking them, when,
because of their small size, it is so very easy to break them apart,
just as you have done yourself, and just as I could probably have done
in half the time, having had rather more experience. Now that is what
has been done with _your_ lock by the person who has your bonds. But of
course a broken lock has one disadvantage as compared with a skilfully
picked lock--it shows at the first glance what has happened. In this
case, Mr. Bell, _your_ lock has been broken and taken away, and the
thief, having first provided himself with another padlock of precisely
the same make and size, has substituted _that_, locked it with its
proper key and so left it!"

"What! Then that was why----"

"That, of course, was why you supposed it to be out of order when you
attempted to open it with _your_ key. As a matter of fact, it is even
now in perfectly good order, except for the damage we have jointly
committed with the screw-driver. And now, observe! That lock was shut by
another key; if the man that did that is as sharp as I suppose he is, he
will have got rid of that key at once. But perhaps he hasn't; and if
not, then the man who has that key is the thief. At any rate, the key is
the clue we must hunt for. Let us have your clerks in one by one, and
look at their keys. Some are out at lunch by this time, probably?"

"No--I said they might be wanted, so kept them. I thought you might
prefer to see them before they went out."

"Very well thought of, but perhaps scarcely judicious, on the whole.
Because if there _is_ a guilty person among them it may give him a
hint; and the odds are rather against its being very useful, considering
the possibility--even probability--that the bonds and the collateral
evidence left here days ago. But we'll look at their keys, by all means,
and then they may go to lunch as soon as you please. Let me do the
talking, or perhaps you'll start a scare. Send for the nearest clerks
first, then the others. As each comes in, mention his name, so that I
can hear it. Say, 'Oh, Mr. Brown'--or Jones, or what not--'have you some
keys about you?' Don't mention my name, and I will do the rest. Push to
the door of the safe, and lock this drawer in the table."

Mr. Bell did as Hewitt directed, and then called the head clerk, Mr.
Foster, from his room, with the prescribed inquiry about keys.

"Yes, Mr. Foster," Hewitt added pleasantly, "I'm not sure that the lock
is quite in order, but I promised to open it for Mr. Bell, so we'll
try."

Mr. Foster, a slim, active old gentleman, grown grey in the firm's
service, pulled a bunch of keys from his pocket, and Hewitt scrutinised
each narrowly. "No," he said, "I'm afraid none of these will do. Stay,"
he added suddenly, and turning his back, carried the bunch to the
window. "No," he concluded, as he came back to the table and tried one
of the keys fruitlessly. "No, I'm afraid none of those will do. Thank
you, Mr. Foster. You don't happen to have any more, do you?"

No, Mr. Foster hadn't any more, and he retired to his room. Then Mr.
Bell called the correspondence clerk, Mr. Henning. Mr. Henning was a
much younger man than the head clerk--twenty-six or so--pale and
blue-eyed, with weak whiskers and a straggling moustache. His keys were
just as readily produced as Mr. Foster's, but again Hewitt's examination
was unsuccessful. The only other key he had belonged to the typewriter,
and _that_ did not fit.

Then came Mr. Potter, the book-keeper, round, and tubby, and puffy, and
his keys went under inspection in the same way, taking a little longer
this time, with two separate dashes to the light of the window. Then
there was Mr. Robson, young and spruce, Mr. Clancy, older and less tidy,
and four or five more. All the keys were examined, all with the same
lack of success, and all the clerks were sent away to take their turns
at lunch.

"No," Hewitt reported, as soon as he and Mr. Bell were alone again, "it
was certainly none of those keys. Though indeed, my little attempt was
desperate at best. A man would be a fool to keep _that_ key longer than
he needed it, and especially to string it with his others. Still, of
course, it is by just such blunders as that that nine criminals out of
ten are discovered. And now let me take a good look at that box and its
contents."

He lifted the box from the safe to the table, and narrowly scrutinised
its exterior, especially about the hasp, where the padlock had been.
"Either the thief was an experienced hand," he said, "or he took some
steady practice with a few such padlocks as this before setting to work.
There are no signs of banging about or slipping of tools anywhere."

"But, of course, banging or anything violent would have been noticed in
a place like this," Mr. Bell remarked.

"In office hours, yes," responded Hewitt. "But we mustn't forget that
office hours are only seven or eight out of the twenty-four."

"But you don't suspect burglary, do you?"

"I'm afraid, as yet, I've precious little ground for suspecting anything
definite," Hewitt answered; "but we must keep awake to every
possibility. Now let us see the dummies." He turned them over, and
loosened them wherever they were tied. "Yes," he remarked, "quite neatly
done. Filled in with ordinary blank foolscap, such as, no doubt, you
have in your office--but, then, it is in every other office, too; every
stationer has it by the ream. No marks anywhere--no old newspapers,
nothing that could give the shadow of a clue." He dropped the last of
the papers, and turned to his client. "Mr. Bell," he said, "this thing
has been thought out to the last inch. There is something like genius in
this robbery--if genius is the capacity for taking pains. My advice to
you is to call in the Scotland Yard people at once."

"Do you mean you can do nothing?" asked Mr. Bell despairingly. "Don't
tell me that, Mr. Hewitt!"

"No, I don't mean that," Hewitt answered. "I mean that until I have had
time to think the thing over very thoroughly I can't tell what I can or
ought to do. Meantime, I think the police should know; not because I
think they can see farther into the thing than I can--for, indeed, I
don't think they can; but simply because the thief is getting a longer
start every moment, and the police are armed with powers that are not at
my disposal. They can get search warrants, stop people at ports and
railway stations, arrest suspects--do a score of things that will be
necessary. Send to Scotland Yard and get Detective Inspector Plummer, if
he's available--he's as good a man as they have. Tell him that you've
engaged me, or, better still, write a note to the Scotland Yard
authorities, and let me have it, to send or not as I think best, after I
have turned the thing over in my mind. I shall take one good look round
this office, and then run back to my rooms for an hour or two's hard
consideration of whatever I may see. One or two small things I _have_
seen already--though I'd rather not mention them till I've made up my
mind how they bear. Matters seem likely to have gone so far that perhaps
the regular police course of catching the thief first will be the best
plan, if it can be done. Meantime, it will be my business to keep my eye
first on the recovery of the bonds. But I think we must have the police,
Mr. Bell. Now, I'll take my general look round."



III


After Martin Hewitt had rushed off to St. Augustine's Hospital with the
key, the envelope, and the cypher I had brought him, I heard nothing of
him till dusk fell--about six. Then I received this telegram:--

/#
     "Cypher read. Most interesting case. If you can spare an hour be
     outside 120 Broad Street at six thirty.--Hewitt."
#/

I had to be at my office between eight and nine, and to keep Hewitt's
appointment I should probably have to sacrifice my dinner. But I was
particularly curious to know the meaning of that cypher, and just as
curious to know how it could be read; and, moreover, I knew that any
case that Hewitt called interesting would probably be interesting above
the common. So I took my hat and sought a cab.

I was first at the meeting-place--indeed, a little before my time. No.
120 Broad Street was a great new building of offices, most, if not all,
closed at this time--a fact indicated by the shutting of one of the
halves of the big front door, where a char-woman was sweeping the steps
under the board which announced that offices were to be let. I waited
nearly a quarter of an hour, and then at last a hansom stopped and
deposited Hewitt and another older gentleman before me.

"Hope we haven't kept you waiting, Brett," Hewitt said. "This is Mr.
Bell, of Kingsley, Bell and Dalton; it took me a little longer than I
expected to reach him. His offices are shut, and the clerks all gone,
but we are going to turn up the lights for a bit. The lift man is gone
too, I expect, so we shall have a good long stair-climb."

As to the lift man Hewitt was right, and during our long climb I
received, briefly, an account of the loss Mr. Bell's firm had suffered.
"I have told Mr. Bell," Hewitt said, "that it was you who happened
across the key in such an odd fashion, and when I wired I was sure he
would be glad to let you see the upshot of your strange bit of luck. I
was also pretty sure that you would like to see it, too. For I really
believe that this case--which I confess seemed pretty near hopeless a
few hours ago--is coming to an issue now, and here."

"Did you get any information out of the man in the hospital?" I asked.

"Not a scrap," Hewitt replied. "He was still insensible, and though I
saw his clothes, and they told me a good deal about the gentleman's
personal habits--which are not dazzlingly noble, to put it mildly--they
told me nothing else whatever, except that he had recently been knocked
down in the mud, which I knew already. But the cypher has told me
something, as I will explain presently."

By this time we had reached the high floor in which the offices stood,
and Mr. Bell, all wonder and pale agitation, unlocked the outer door,
and turned on the electric light.

"Now," cried Hewitt, "show me your ventilators!"

There were some, it seemed, in the top panes of the windows, but these
were not what Hewitt wanted. There were others in the form of upright
chambers or flues, made of metal, and painted the same colour as the
walls about them. They rose from the floor in corners and wall angles,
and could be shut or opened by means of lids over their upper ends.
These were more to Hewitt's mind, and he went about from one to another,
groping under the lids, and poking down into the flues with a
walking-stick. There was a wire-grating, or diaphragm, it seemed, in
each of them, two or three feet down, and we could hear the end of the
stick raking on this at each investigation. One after another of these
ventilators Hewitt examined, till he had examined them all, in outer and
inner rooms, without result; and I could see that he was disappointed.

"There must be another somewhere," he said, and hunted afresh.

But plainly he had tried them all, and now he could do no more than try
them all again, with as little result.

"It _is_ a ventilator," he said, positively. "Unless----" he broke off
thoughtfully and stood silent for a few moments. "Ah! of course!" he
resumed presently. "We'll send for the housekeeper and a candle. Which
is the nearest empty office--the nearest office to let? Is there one on
this floor?"

"I think not," Mr. Bell answered. "But there's one on the floor below,
just opposite the lift--I see the bill on the door every day as I come
up."

"We'll try that, then. I'll rake out every ventilator in this palatial
edifice before I'll call myself beaten. Come, call the housekeeper. Is
there a speaking tube? Tell him to bring a light."

The housekeeper came, wonderingly, with a watch-man's oil-lantern, and
we all went to the floor below. Opposite the lift was a glass door from
which a bill had recently been torn.

"Why, it's let!" said Mr. Bell.

"Yes, sir," assented the housekeeper. "Let a day or two ago to a Mr.
Catherton Hunt. Or, at least, a deposit was paid."

"But see--the door's not locked," Hewitt observed, pushing it open. "I
think we'll trespass on Mr. Catherton Hunt's new offices, since they
seem quite empty, and he hasn't taken possession. Come--ventilators!"

It was a small office--an outer room of moderate size, and one smaller
inner room. Hewitt at once attacked the ventilators in the larger
apartment--there were two of them--but retired disappointed from each.
There was one ventilator only in the small room. Hewitt tilted the lid,
which was at about the level of his eyes, thrust in his hand, and drew
forth a bundle of folded papers; thrust in his hand again and drew forth
another bundle; did it again, and drew forth more!

Mr. Bell fell upon the first bundle almost as a dog falls upon a bone;
and now he snatched eagerly at each successive paper or bundle, till
Hewitt raked the grating with his stick, and declared that there were no
more. "Is that all?" he asked.

Mr. Bell went tremblingly from paper to paper, and, at last, said that
he believed it really was. "I can verify it by the list upstairs," he
added, "if you are sure there are no more."

"No more," repeated Hewitt, rattling his stick in the ventilator again.
"Let us go and verify, by all means."

We sent the puzzled housekeeper away, and returned to the office above,
and presently Mr. Bell, now beginning so far to recover from his
amazement as to express incoherent gratitude, reported that the bonds
were correct and complete to the last and least.

"Very well," said Hewitt, "then my part of the business is done, though
I must say I've had luck, or rather, Brett has had it for me. But the
police must come on now. I think, Mr. Bell, we'll go along to Scotland
Yard when we leave here. They'll be wanting to see Mr. Catherton Hunt, I
expect, whoever he is--and somebody in your office, too, if I'm not
sadly mistaken."

"Who?" gasped Mr. Bell.

"That, perhaps, you can help to point out. See here--do you know whose
figures they are?" and Hewitt produced the small slip of paper
containing the cypher.

"They're very small," remarked Mr. Bell, putting on his glasses; "very
small indeed; but I think--why they're Henning's, I do believe!"

"Ah! one or two other little things seemed to point that way. Henning is
your correspondence clerk, I believe, and I expect this thin little slip
is a specimen of your typewriter paper. Have you any of his written
figures for comparison?"

"Well no--I hardly think--you see he typewrites his letters, and
although I know his writing very well I can't at the moment put my hand
on any figures of his."

"Never mind--it's mere matter of curiosity; the police will ask him
questions in the morning. What _I_ believe has happened is this. Our
friend Henning--if he's the man--has a friend outside a great deal
cleverer than himself--though he would seem to have his share of
cunning, too. Between them they resolved to rob you in the way they have
done--temporarily. Henning was to take advantage of his position in that
little inner room to get at the safe some day when it was open and when
you were engaged in your own private inner room with a client, so
leaving the safe unwatched. He was provided with a spare patent padlock
and key, of the sort you used on that black box, and his confederate had
drilled him in the trick of breaking that particular sort of padlock
open, with other spare specimens. He got his opportunity this morning."

"Only this morning?"

"This morning, I think, else we should never have got these bonds back,
nor even have heard of them again. I think you said you were engaged
with a client for half an hour?"

"Yes, from about half-past ten to eleven."

"That was his chance, and he took it. He broke the padlock, took out the
bonds, substituted the dummies he had already prepared in his own desk,
and locked the box again with the new padlock. Meantime Hunt had paid a
deposit, pending references, on the office below--the nearest empty
room. Of course, he wouldn't get the key until the tenancy was finally
accepted--which he never intended it should be. But he easily arranged
to have the door left unlocked for a day or two, on some convenient
excuse--arranging decorations, or what not. And the bill was taken down,
so that prospective and prospecting tenants were kept away. The bonds
being stolen, Henning took the first opportunity of carrying them to the
empty office--probably piecemeal--a thing he could easily manage almost
under your nose, before you were aware of your loss. There he was to
conceal them, either in the chimney, under the boards, or in the
ventilator, as he might find convenient--and he found the ventilator
most convenient. Then he was to apprise his confederate of the fact that
the robbery had been effected in order that Hunt might come and quietly
fetch the plunder away. The message was to take an ingenious form. Hunt
was to have a fellow waiting about in the street, and as soon as Henning
could get out--say to lunch--he was just to _send the key_ by this
messenger--the key with which he had locked the new padlock on the black
box. You see the advantages of that simple arrangement. First, the key,
which is evidence, is got rid of in a safe and effectual way--a thing
that couldn't be done as well by merely flinging it away on or near the
premises, where it might be found. Next, the message is perfectly
secret--the messenger could never guess what the key meant, nor could
any other person not in the confederate's confidence. And, at the same
time, the key tells all that is necessary; the robbery has been
effected--come and remove the plunder.

"But something unforeseen happens. No sooner are the bonds stolen and
safely hidden than you go to the box, find something wrong with the
lock, break it open and discover the loss. This was a thing that they
trusted would not happen till after the bonds were safely got away.
More, I am sent for, the clerks are kept in from lunch, and so on.
Henning gets into a funk, and resolves to send a message of special
urgency to his confederate. For that purpose he uses a cypher which the
two have agreed upon--the most ingenious cypher I have ever seen used
for the purpose. He doesn't wish to make his message any more
conspicuous than he need, so he writes his cypher on this scrap of paper
and rolls it inside the key--probably another expedient agreed upon in
case of necessity. Then the key goes into an envelope, for greater
security of the cypher message, and the messenger gets it when Henning
is at last released for lunch. What happened to the message we know; and
here it is.

"Now I will not weary you with a detailed account of the different ways
in which I attacked this cypher, but I will take the shortest possible
cut to the true interpretation. A very short examination of the
cryptogram shows that while no number is included above 23, the numbers,
in their relative frequency, roughly agree with the relative frequency
of the corresponding letters of the alphabet, _a_ for 1, _b_ for 2, and
so on."

Here I handed Hewitt the pencilled note I had made at the hospital, with
letters substituted for the figures, thus:--_i, h, n, d, t, r, e, i; 0,
s, t, 0, c, i, h, e; c, w, 0, 0, e, m, n, s; s, t, 0, 0, 0, 0, f, a; e,
t, 0, 0, 0, 0, c, v; a, o, 0, 0, 0, 0, r, e; a, h, t, k, r, i, e, t; l,
e, w, n, n, a, a, t._

Hewitt took the paper and went on. "If that were all the thing would be
childishly simple. But you will see that we seem as far from the
solution as ever; for the letters as they stand mean nothing, though in
fact they are in normal relative frequency; so that if they mean other
letters, all the rules are upset, and we are at a standstill. I admit
that for a long time the thing bothered me. But a peculiarity struck me.
Not only were the figures, or letters, disposed in groups of _eight_,
but there were also _eight_ such groups--sixty-four altogether. What did
that suggest? What but a chessboard?"

"A chessboard?" I queried.

"Just so--a chessboard. Eight squares each way--sixty-four altogether.
So I drew a rough representation of a chessboard, and set out the
letters on it, in their order, like this:--

               i h n d t r e i
               o s t o c i h e
               c w o o e m n s
               s t o o o o f a
               e t o o o o c v
               a o o o o o r e
               a h t k r i e t
               l e w n n a a t

"Now, there was my chessboard with my letters on it. I tried reading
them downward, across, upward and diagonally, in the direction of the
moves of different chess pieces--king, queen, rook and bishop. Nothing
came of that, whatever I did; the thing was as unreadable as ever. But
there remained one chess-move to try--the eccentric move of the knight;
the move of one square forward, backward or sideways, and then one
square diagonally, or, as it has sometimes been more concisely
expressed, the move to the next square but one of a different colour
from that on which it rests. I tried the knight's move, and I read the
cypher.

"I began at the top left-hand corner, just as one does in reading a
book. I read the moves downward--_i_ to _w_, _e_ and _h_, and found that
led to nothing. So I took the one alternative move, and, with a little
consideration, skipped along from _i_ to _t_ in the second line of
squares, _t_ in the top line, _h_ in the second line, _e_ in the third,
_r_ in the top and _e_ in the second. That gave me an idea. There were
the letters _i, t, t_, followed by the word _here_. I tried back
from the _i_ again, and taking in the reverse order the _w, e_ and _h_
which I had first given up, I read my own name, as you can see it, from
the _h_ on the bottom line but one, moving upward. So I had the words
_Hewitt here_. I need not carry you through all the steps, which will
now be plain enough to you. But I found that the message actually began
in the _right_-hand corner, and read thus, the noughts counting for
nothing--

"_'Invent loss disc take at once Martin Hewitt here fear watch.'_

"The noughts were plainly merely inserted to fill in unneeded squares,
and keep the rest of the figures in their proper relative places when
the cypher was written in line. At first I was a little puzzled to
understand what seemed to be the first word _invent_. But it was quite
clear that _loss disc_ meant 'loss discovered,' so I concluded that here
in the beginning was a contraction also, and that _in_ was a separate
word. In that case _vent_ could be a contraction for no other word but
'ventilator,' in accordance with the sense of the words. So I concluded
that the meaning of the whole sentence was simply this: 'The plunder is
in the ventilator, the loss is discovered, take away the booty at once;
Martin Hewitt is here, and I fear I may be watched.' There is the
reading, and our little adventure this evening is what it has led to.

"Of course, the confederate wouldn't go groping about the squares so
painfully as I have had to do. To him the reading would be simple
enough, for the order of the moves would be preconcerted. Each of the
conspirators would have, as a guide, both to reading and writing the
cypher, a drawn set of squares, numbered in the order of the moves--1
where we have the _i_, 2 where we have the _n_, 3 where we have the _v_,
and so on. With that before him, either reading or writing in this
extraordinary cryptogram would be easy and quick enough. And now for
Scotland Yard!"



IV


We learned late on the following day that Henning had not appeared at
the office. From that we assumed that he must have met his confederate
in the evening, and, finding that he had not received the message sent,
conceived that something was wrong, and made himself safe. The
confederate, Hunt, however, made his appearance early next morning, but
escaped.

What happened is best told in Plummer's words when he called on Hewitt
in the afternoon.

"I went round this morning," he said, "as I said I would last night. I
took a good man with me, and we got the dummy bonds that had been put in
Bell's box and popped 'em in the ventilator, where the real ones had
been hidden. You see, we'd got nothing _legal_ against Catherton Hunt as
yet, but if we could only grab him with those dummy bonds on him it
might help, with the other evidence we could scrape up (and especially
if we could take Henning), to sustain a charge of conspiracy to steal.
Well, he came so quick he was on us before we were quite ready. We'd got
the dummies in their place, and I was in front of the door telling my
man the likeliest corner to wait in, when suddenly up pops the lift
right in front of me, with a gentleman in it--clean-shaven. I looked at
him and he looked at me. I had a sort of distant notion that I might
have seen him before, and it's pretty certain he had something more than
a distant notion about me. 'Down again,' he says to the lift man, before
the gate was swung, 'I've forgotten something!' And down the lift went.
You'll understand I had no idea he was the man we wanted; but as the
lift went down and my eyes were on the man's face, I saw who he was!
When he stood straight before me I had no more than a vague notion that
I'd seen him somewhere before. But down the lift went, and in the flash
of time when he'd nearly disappeared, and the bottom part of his face
was hidden by the sill of the lift opening--the part of his face where
his beard had been when we met him last--I saw it was Myatt!"

"Myatt? Good heavens!"

"Everard Myatt, Mr. Hewitt, the man that murdered Mr. Jacob Mason!
Everard Myatt, for a thousand, with his beard shaved! And we've lost him
again! What could we do? We shouted and ran downstairs, and that was
all. He'd gone, of course. And when we asked the hall porter he told us
that Mr. Catherton Hunt had just come down the lift and hurried out!"



THE CASE OF THE BURNT BARN



I


Everard Myatt--or Catherton Hunt--was lost again. Martin Hewitt had been
wholly successful, for he had recovered Mr. Bell's missing bonds; but
the police caught neither of the conspirators. Investigation at
Henning's lodgings showed that careful preparations must have been made
for an immediate flight if it should become necessary, and the flight
had taken place. The man in the hospital, who had been knocked down in
carrying from one to the other the extraordinary message that Hewitt
deciphered, remained insensible for a few days, and could not be
questioned till some time later still. Then he professed to have
forgotten all about the message on which he was going when he met his
accident, and the medical men in attendance informed the police that it
was quite possible that the fellow's statement was true. He said that he
_did_ carry messages sometimes, when he could get a job, but he could
remember nothing of the message of the key, nor of who had sent him, nor
where he was to go. Nevertheless, the police, although they professed
to accept his statement, kept a wary eye on him after his discharge from
the hospital, for they had a very great suspicion that he knew more than
he chose to tell. But nothing more was heard of the accomplices till
another case of Martin Hewitt's brought the news, and that in a manner
strange enough.

The matter began, as so many matters of Hewitt's did, with the receipt
of a telegram, followed immediately by another. For the first having
been handed in at a country office not very long before eight the
previous evening, it was not delivered at Hewitt's office till the
morning, in accordance with the ancient manners and customs observed in
the telegraphic system of this country. It had been despatched from
Throckham, in Middlesex, and it was simply a very urgently worded
request to Hewitt to come at once, signed "Claire Peytral." The second
telegram, which came even as Hewitt was reading the first, on his
arrival at his office, ran thus:--

/#
     "Did you receive telegram? See newspapers. Matter life or death.
     Would come personally but cannot leave mother. Pray
     answer.--Peytral."
#/

The answer went instantly that Hewitt would come by the next train, for
he had seen the morning paper and from that knew the urgency of the
case. But a consultation of the railway guide showed that trains to
Throckham were fewer than one might suppose, considering the proximity
of the village to London, and that the next would leave in about an hour
and a quarter; so that I saw Hewitt before he started. He came up to my
rooms, in fact, as I was beginning to breakfast.

"See here," he said, "I am sent for in the Throckham case. Have you seen
the report?"

As a leader writer, I had little business with the news side of my
paper, and indeed I had no more than a vague recollection of some such
heading as: "Tragedy in a barn," in one evening paper of the day before,
and "Murder at Throckham" in another. So I could claim no very exact
knowledge of the affair.

"Here you have a paper, I see," Hewitt said, reaching for it. "Perhaps
their report is fuller than that in mine." He gave me his own newspaper
and began searching in the other. "No," he said presently, "much the
same. News agency report to both papers, no doubt."

The report which I read ran as follows:--

/#
     "Singular Tragedy.--An extraordinary occurrence is reported from
     Throckham, a small village within fifteen miles of London,
     involving a tragic fatality that has led to a charge of murder. On
     Thursday evening an old barn, for some time disused, was discovered
     to be on fire, and it was only by extraordinary exertions on the
     part of the villagers that the fire was extinguished. Upon an
     examination of the place yesterday morning the body of Mr. Victor
     Peytral, a gentleman who had lived in the neighbourhood for some
     time, and who had been missing since shortly before the discovery
     of the fire, was found in the ruins. The body was burnt almost
     beyond recognition, but not so much as to conceal the fact that the
     unfortunate gentleman had not perished in the fire, but had been
     the victim of foul play. The throat was very deeply cut, and there
     can be no doubt that the murderer must have fired the barn with the
     object of destroying all traces of the crime. The police have
     arrested Mr. Percy Bowmore, a frequent visitor at the house of the
     deceased."
#/

"My telegram," said Hewitt, "is plainly from a relative of this Mr.
Peytral who is dead--perhaps a daughter, since she speaks of being
unable to leave her mother. In that case, probably an only child, since
there is no other to leave."

"Unless the others are too young," I suggested.

"Just so," Hewitt replied. "Well, Brett," he added, "to-day is
Saturday."

Saturday was, of course, my "off" day, and I understood Hewitt to hint
that if I pleased I might accompany him to Throckham. "Saturday it is,"
I said, "and I have no engagements. Would you care for me to come?"

"As you please, of course. I can guess very little of the case as yet,
naturally, beyond what I have read in the paper; but the subtle sense of
my experience tells me that there is all the chance of an interesting
case in this. That's _your_ temptation. As for myself, I don't mind
admitting that--especially in these country cases, where the resources
of civilisation are not always close at hand--I'm never loth to have a
friend with me who isn't too proud to be made use of. That's _my_
temptation!"

No persuasion was needed, and in due time we set out together.



II


It is my experience that places are to be found within twenty miles of
London far more rural, far sleepier, far less influenced by the great
city that lies so near, than places thrice and four times as far away.
They are just too far out to be disturbed by suburban traffic, and too
near to feel the influence of the great railway lines. These main lines
go by, carrying their goods and their passengers to places far beyond,
and it is only by awkward little branch lines, with slow and rare
trains, that any part of this mid-lying belt is reached, and even then
it is odds but that one must drive a good way to his destination.

Throckham was just such a place as I speak of, and that was the reason
why we had such ample time to catch the first of the half-dozen
leisurely trains by which one might reach the neighbourhood during the
day. The station was Redfield, and Throckham was three miles beyond it.

At Redfield a coachman with a dogcart awaited Hewitt--only one
gentleman having been expected, as the man explained, in offering to
give either of us the reins. But Hewitt wished to talk to the coachman,
and I willingly took the back seat, understanding very well that my
friend would get better to work if he first had as many of the facts as
possible from a calm informant before discussing them with the dead
man's relations, probably confused and distracted with their natural
emotions.

The coachman was a civil and intelligent fellow, and he gave Hewitt all
he knew of the case with perfect clearness, as I could very well hear.

"It isn't much I can tell you, sir," he said, "beyond what I expect you
know. I suppose you didn't know Mr. Peytral, my master, that's dead?"

"No. But he was a foreigner, I suppose--French, from the name."

"Well, no, sir," the coachman replied, thoughtfully; "not French
exactly, I think, though sometimes he talked French to the mistress.
They came from somewhere in the West Indies, I believe, and there's a
trifle of--well, of dark blood in 'em, sir, I should think; though, of
course, it ain't for me to say."

"Yes--there are many such families in the French West Indies. Did you
ever hear of Alexandre Dumas?"

"No, sir, can't say I did."

"Well, he was a very great Frenchman indeed, but he had as much 'dark
blood' as your master had--probably more; and it came from the West
Indies, too. But go on."

"Mr. Peytral, you must understand, sir, has lived here a year or
two--I've only been with him nine months. He talked English always--as
good as you or me; and he was always called _Mr._ Peytral--not Monsieur,
or Signor, or any o' them foreign titles. I think he was naturalised.
Mrs. Peytral, she's an invalid--came here an invalid, I'm told. She
never comes out of her bedroom 'cept on an invalid couch, which is
carried. Miss Claire, she's the daughter, an' the only one, and she was
hoping you'd ha' been down last night, sir, by the last train. She's in
an awful state, as you may expect, sir."

"Naturally, to lose her father in such a terrible way."

"Yes, sir, but it's wuss than that even, for her. You see, this Mr.
Bowmore, that they've took up, he's been sort of keepin' company with
Miss Claire for some time, an' there's no doubt she was very fond of
him. That makes it pretty bad for her, takin' it both ways, you see."

"Of course--terrible. But tell me how the thing happened, and why they
took this Mr. Bowmore."

"Well, sir, it ain't exactly for me to say, and, of course, I don't know
the rights of it, bein' only a servant, but they say there was a sudden
quarrel last night between Mr. Peytral and Mr. Bowmore. I think myself
that Mr. Peytral was getting a bit excitable lately, whatever it was. On
Thursday night, just after dinner, he went strolling off in the dusk,
alone, and presently Mr. Bowmore--he came down in the afternoon--went
strolling off after him. It seems they went down toward the Penn's
Meadow barn, Mr. Peytral first, and Mr. Bowmore catching him up from
behind. A man saw them--a gamekeeper. He was lyin' quiet in a little
wood just the other side of Penn's Meadow, an' they didn't see him as
they came along together. They were quarrelling, it seems, though
Grant--that's the gamekeeper--couldn't hear exactly what about; but he
heard Mr. Peytral tell Mr. Bowmore to go away. He 'preferred to be
alone' and he'd 'had enough' of Mr. Bowmore, from what Grant could make
out. 'Get out o' my sight, sir, I tell you!' the old gentleman said at
last, stamping his foot, and shaking his fist in the young gentleman's
face. And then Bowmore turned and walked away."

"One moment," Hewitt interposed. "You are telling me what Grant saw and
heard. How did it come to your knowledge?"

"Told me hisself, sir--told me every word yesterday. Told me twice, in
fact. First thing in the morning when they found the body, and then
again after he'd been to Redfield and had it took down by the police. It
was because of that they arrested Mr. Bowmore, of course."

"Just so. And is this gamekeeper Grant in the same employ as yourself?"

"Oh, no, sir! Mr. Peytral's is only just an acre or two of garden and a
paddock. Grant's master is Colonel White, up at the Hall."

"Very good. You were saying that Mr. Peytral told Mr. Bowmore to get out
of his sight, and that Mr. Bowmore walked away. What then?"

"Well, Grant saw Mr. Bowmore walk away, but it was only a feint--a
dodge, you see, sir. He walked away to the corner of the little wood
where Grant was, and then he took a turn into the wood and began
following Mr. Peytral up, watching him from among the trees. Came close
by where Grant was sitting, following up Mr. Peytral and watching him;
and so Grant lost sight of 'em."

"Did Grant say what he was doing in the wood?"

"He said he'd found marks of rabbit-snares there, and he was watching to
see if anybody came to set any more."

"Yes--quite an ordinary part of his duty, of course. What next?"

"Well, Grant didn't see any more. He waited a bit, and then moved off to
another part of the wood, and he didn't notice anything else particular
till the barn was on fire. It was dark, then, of course."

"Yes--you must tell me about the fire. Who discovered it?"

"Oh, a man going home along the lane. He ran and called some people, and
they fetched the fire-engine from the village and pumped out of the
horse-pond just close by. It was pretty much of a wreck by the time they
got the fire out, but it wasn't all gone, as you might have expected.
You see, it had been out of use for some time, sir, and there was mostly
nothing but old broken ploughs and lumber there; and what's more, there
was a deal of rain early in the week, as you may remember, sir, so the
thatch was pretty sodden, being out o' repair and all--and so was the
timber, for the matter o' that, for there's no telling when it was last
painted. So the fire didn't go quite so fierce as it might, you see;
else I should expect it had been all over before they got to work on
it."

"Not at all a likely sort of place to catch fire, it would seem,
either," Hewitt commented. "Old ploughs and such lumber are not very
combustible."

"Quite so, sir; that's what makes 'em think it so odd, I suppose. But
there _was_ a bundle or two of old pea-straw there, shied in last
summer, they say, being over bundles from the last load, and there
left."

"And when was Mr. Bowmore seen next?"

"He came strolling back, sir, and told the young lady he'd left her
father outside, or something of that sort, I think; said nothing of the
quarrel, I believe. But he said the barn was on fire--which he must have
known pretty early, sir, for 'tis a mile from the house off that way;"
and the coachman pointed with his whip.

"Nothing was suspected of the murder, it seems, till yesterday morning?"

"No, sir. Miss Claire got frightful worried when her father didn't come
home, as you would expect, and specially at him not coming home all
night. But when the fire was quite put out, o' course the people went
away home to bed, and it wasn't till the morning that anybody went in to
turn the place over. Then they found the body."

"Badly burnt, I believe?"

"Horrid burnt, sir. If it wasn't for Mr. Peytral's being missing, I
doubt if they'd have known it was him at all. It took a doctor's
examination to see clear that the throat had been cut. But cut it had
been, and deep, so the doctor said. And now the body's gone over to
Redfield mortuary."

Hewitt asked a few questions more, and got equally direct answers,
except where the coachman had to confess ignorance. But presently we
were at the house to which Hewitt had been summoned.

It was a pleasant house enough, standing alone, apart from the village,
a little way back from a loop of road that skirted a patch of open
green. As we came in at the front gate, I caught an instant's glimpse of
a pale face at an upper window, and before we could reach the
drawing-room door Miss Claire Peytral had met us.

She was a young lady of singular beauty, which the plain signs of
violent grief and anxiety very little obscured. Her complexion, of a
very delicate ivory tinge, was scarcely marred by the traces of
sleeplessness and tears that were nevertheless clear to see. Her eyes
were large and black, and her jetty hair had a slight waviness that was
the only distinct sign about her of the remote blend of blood from an
inferior race.

"Oh, Mr. Hewitt," she cried, "I am so glad you have come at last! I have
been waiting--waiting so long! And my poor mother is beginning to
suspect!"

"You have not told her, then?"

"No, it will kill her when she knows, I'm sure--kill her on the spot. I
have only said that father is ill at--at Redfield. Oh, what shall I do?"

The poor girl seemed on the point of breakdown, and Hewitt spoke sharply
and distinctly.

"What you must do is this," he said. "You must attend to me, and tell me
all I want to know as accurately and as tersely as you can. In that case
I will do whatever I can, but if you give way you will cripple me. It
all depends on you, remember. This is my intimate friend, Mr. Brett, who
is good enough to offer to help us. Now, first, I think I know the heads
of the case, from the newspapers, and, more especially, from your
coachman. But when you sent for me, no doubt you had some definite idea
or intention in your mind. What was it?"

"Oh, he is innocent, Mr. Hewitt--he is, really! The only friend I have
in the world--the only friend we all have!"

"Steady--steady," Hewitt said, pressing her kindly and firmly into a
seat. "You _must_ keep steady, you know, if I am to do anything. I
expected that would be your belief. Now tell me why you are so sure."

"Mr. Hewitt, if you knew him you wouldn't ask. He would never injure my
poor father--he went out after him purely out of kindness, because I was
uneasy. He would never hurt him, Mr. Hewitt, never, never! I can't say
it strongly enough--he never would! Oh! my poor father, and now----"

"Steady again!" cried Hewitt, more sharply still. I could see that he
feared the hysterical breakdown that might come at any moment after the
lengthened suspense Miss Peytral had suffered. "Listen, now--you mustn't
frighten yourself too much. If Mr. Bowmore is innocent--and you say you
are so certain of it--then I've no doubt of finding a way to prove it if
only you'll make your best effort to help me, and keep your wits about
you. As far as I can see at present there's nothing against him that we
need be afraid of if we tackle it properly, and, of course, the police
make arrests of this sort by way of precaution in a case like this, on
the merest hint. Come now, you say you were uneasy when your father went
out after dinner on Thursday night. Why?"

"I don't know, quite, Mr. Hewitt. It was my mother that was uneasy,
really, about something she never explained to me. My father had taken
to going out in the evening after dinner, just in the way he did on
Thursday night. I don't know why, but I think it had something to do
with my mother's anxiety."

"Did he dress for dinner?"

"No, not lately. He used to dress always, but he has dropped it of
late."

Hewitt paused for a moment, thoughtfully. Then he said, "Mrs. Peytral is
an invalid, I know, and no doubt none the better for her anxiety. But if
it could be managed I should like to ask her a few questions. What do
you think?"

But this Miss Peytral was altogether against. Her mother was suffering
from spinal complaint, it appeared, with very serious nervous
complications, and there was no answering for the result of the smallest
excitement. She never saw strangers, and, if it could possibly be
avoided, it must be avoided now.

"Very well, Miss Peytral, I will first go and look at some things I must
see, and I will do without your mother's help as long as I possibly can.
But now you must answer a few more questions yourself, please."

Hewitt's questions produced little more substantial information, it
seemed to me, than he had already received. Mr. Peytral had taken the
house in which we were sitting--it was called "The Lodge" simply--two
years ago. Before that the family had lived in Surrey, but they had not
moved direct from there; there was a journey to America between, on some
business of Mr. Peytral's, and it was on the return voyage that they had
met Mr. Percy Bowmore. Mr. Bowmore had no friends nearer than Canada,
and he was reading for the Bar--in a very desultory way, as I gathered.
Miss Peytral's childhood had been passed in the West Indies, at the town
of San Domingo, in fact, where her father had been a merchant. Her
mother had been a helpless invalid ever since Miss Peytral could
remember. As to the engagement with Bowmore, it would seem to have had
the full approval of both parents all along. But a rather curious change
had come over her father, she thought, a few months ago. What it was
that had caused it she could not say, but he grew nervous and moody,
often absent-minded, and sometimes even short-tempered and snappish, a
thing she had never known before. Also he read the daily papers with
much care and eagerness. It was plain that Miss Peytral had no idea of
any cause which might have led to a quarrel between Bowmore and her
father, and Hewitt's most cunning questions failed to elicit the
smallest suggestion of reason for such an occurrence.

Ten days or so ago, Mr. Peytral had returned from a short walk after
dinner, very much agitated; and from that day he had made a practice of
going out immediately after dinner every evening regularly, walking off
across the paddock, and so away in the direction of Penn's Meadow. The
first visit of Percy Bowmore after this practice had begun was on
Thursday, but the presence of the visitor made no difference, as Miss
Peytral had expected it would. Her father rose abruptly after dinner and
went off as before; and this time Mrs. Peytral, who had been brought
down to dinner, displayed a singular uneasiness about him. She had
experienced the same feeling, curiously enough, on other occasions, Miss
Peytral remarked, when her husband had been unwell or in difficulties,
even at some considerable distance. This time the feeling was so strong
that she begged Bowmore to hurry after Mr. Peytral and accompany him in
his walk. This the young man had done; but he returned alone after a
while, saying simply that he had lost sight of Mr. Peytral, whom he had
supposed might have come home by some other way; and mentioning also
that he had been told that Penn's Meadow barn was on fire.

When it grew late, and Mr. Peytral failed to return, Bowmore went out
again and made inquiry in all directions. It grew necessary to concoct a
story to appease Mrs. Peytral, who had been taken back to her bedroom.
Bowmore spent the whole night in fruitless search and inquiry, and
then, with the morning, came the terrible news of the discovery in the
burnt barn; and late in the afternoon Bowmore was arrested.

The poor girl had a great struggle to restrain her feelings during the
conversation, and, at its close, Hewitt had to use all his tact to keep
her going. Physical exhaustion, as well as mental trouble, were against
her, and stimulus was needed. So Hewitt said, "Now you must try your
best, and if you will keep up as well as you have done a little longer,
perhaps I may have good news for you soon. I must go at once and examine
things. First, I should like to have brought to me every single pair of
boots or shoes belonging to your father. Send them, and then go and look
after your mother. Remember, you are helping all the time."



III


Hewitt examined the boots and shoes with great rapidity, but with a
singularly quick eye for peculiarities.

"He liked a light shoe," he said, "and he preferred to wear shoes rather
than boots. There are few boots, and those not much worn, although he
was living in the country. Trod square on the right foot, inward on the
left, and wore the left heel more than the right. It's plain he hated
nails, for these are all hand-sewn, with scarcely as much as a peg
visible in the lot; and they are all laced, boots and shoes alike. Come,
this is the best-worn pair; it is also a pair of the same sort the maid
tells me he must have been wearing, since they are missing; low shoes,
laced; we'll take them with us."

We left the house and sought our friend the coachman. He pointed out
quite clearly the path by which his master had gone on his last walk;
showed us the gate, still fastened, over which he had climbed to gain
the adjoining meadow, and put us in the way of finding the small wood
and the barn.

Both within and without the gate there was a small patch bare of grass,
worn by feet; and here Martin Hewitt picked up his trail at once.

"The ground has hardened since Thursday night," he said; "and so much
the better--it keeps the marks for us. Do you see what is here?"

There were footmarks, certainly, but so beaten and confused that I could
make nothing of them. Hewitt's practised eye, however, read them as I
might have read a rather illegibly written letter.

"Here is the right foot, plain enough," he said, carefully fitting the
shoe he had brought in the mark. "He alighted on that as he came over
the gate. Half over it is another footmark--Bowmore's, I expect, for I
can see signs of others, in both directions--going and coming. But we
shall know better presently."

He rose, and we followed the irregular track across the meadow. Like
most such field-tracks, its direction was plainly indicated by the thin
and beaten grass, with a bare spot here and there. Hewitt troubled to
take no more than a glance at each of these spots as we passed, but that
was all he needed. The meadow was bounded by a hedge, with a stile; and
at the farther side of this stile my friend knelt again, with every
sign of attention.

"A little piece of luck," he reported. "The left shoe has picked up a
tiny piece of broken thorn-twig just here. See the mark? The shoe was a
little soddened in the sole by this time, and the thorn stuck. I hope it
stuck altogether. If it did it may help us wonderfully when we get to
the barn, for the trouble there will be the trampling all round of the
people at the fire."

So we went on till we reached the edge of the little wood. The
field-path skirted this, and here Hewitt dropped on his knees and set to
work with great minuteness.

"Keep away from the track, Brett," he warned me, "or you may make it
worse. The police have been here, I see, and quite recently, coming from
the direction of Redfield. Here are two pairs of unmistakable police
boots and another heavy pair with them; no doubt they brought the
gamekeeper along with them, to have things fully explained."

From the corner of the wood to a point forty yards along the path; back
to the corner again, and then into the wood Hewitt went, carefully
examining every inch of the ground as he did so. Then at last he
rejoined me.

"I think the gamekeeper has told the truth," he said. "It's pretty
plain, thanks to the soft ground hereabout, notwithstanding the
policemen's boots. Here they came together--the thorn-twig sticks to the
shoe still, you see--and here they stopped. The marks face about, and
Bowmore's steps are retraced to the corner of the wood. Peytral's turn
again and go on, and Bowmore's turn into the edge of the wood and come
along among the trees. You don't see them in the grassy parts quite as
well as I do, I expect, but there they are. We'll keep after Peytral's
prints. Bowmore's come back in the same track, I see."

The next stile led to Penn's Meadow. This meadow--a large one--stretched
over a rather steep hump of land, at the other side of which the barn
stood. From the stile two paths could be discerned--one rising straight
over the meadow in the direction of the barn, and the other skirting it
to the left, parallel with the hedge.

"Here the footprints part," Hewitt observed, musingly; "and what does
that mean? Man[oe]uvring--or what?"

He thought a moment, and then went on: "We'll leave the tracks for the
present and see the barn. That is straight ahead, I take it."

When we reached the top of the rise the barn came in view, a blackened
and sinister wreck. The greater part of the main structure was still
standing, and even part of the thatched roof still held its place,
scorched and broken. Off to the right from where we stood the village
roofs were visible, giving indication of the position of the road to
Redfield. A single human figure was in sight--that of a policeman on
guard before the barn.

"Now we must get rid of that excellent fellow," said Hewitt, "or he'll
be offering objections to the examination I want to make. I wonder if he
knows my name?"

We walked down to the barn, and Hewitt, assuming the largest possible
air, addressed the policeman.

"Constable," he said, "I am here officially--here is my card. Of course
you will know the name if you have had any wide experience--London
experience especially. I am looking into this case on behalf of Miss
Peytral--co-operating with the police, of course. Where is your
inspector?"

He was a rather stupid countryman, this policeman, but he was visibly
impressed--even flurried--by Hewitt's elaborate bumptiousness. He
saluted, tried to look unnaturally sagacious, and confessed that he
couldn't exactly say where the inspector was, things being put about so
just now. He might be in Throckham village, but more likely he was at
Redfield.

"Ah!" Hewitt replied, with condescension. "Now, if he is in the village,
you will oblige me, constable, by telling him that I am here. If he is
not there, you will return at once. I will be responsible here till you
come back. Don't be very long, now."

The man was taken by surprise, and possibly a trifle doubtful. But
Hewitt was so extremely lofty and so very peremptory and official, that
the inferior intelligence capitulated feebly, and presently, after
another uneasy salute, the village policeman had vanished in the
direction of the road. The moment he had disappeared Hewitt turned to
the ruined barn. The door was gone, and the scorched and charred lumber
that littered the place had a look of absolute ghostliness--perhaps
chiefly the effect of my imagination in the knowledge of the ghastly
tragedy that the place had witnessed. Well in from the doorway was a
great scatter of light ashes--plainly the pea-straw that the coachman
had spoken of. And by these ashes and partly among them, marked in some
odd manner on the floor, was a horrible black shape that I shuddered to
see, as Hewitt pointed it out with a moving forefinger, which he made to
trace the figure of a prostrate human form.

"Did you never see that before in a burnt house?" Hewitt asked in a
hushed voice. "I have, more than once. That sort of thing always leaves
a strange stain under it, like a shadow."

But business claimed Martin Hewitt, and he stepped carefully within.
Scarcely had he done so, when he stood suddenly still, with a low
whistle, pointing toward something lying among the dirt and ashes by the
foot of that terrible shape.

"See?" he said. "Don't disturb anything, but look!"

I crept in with all the care I could command, and stooped. The place was
filled with such a vast confusion of lumber and cinder and ash that at
first I failed to see at all what had so startled Hewitt's attention.
And even when I understood his direction, all I saw was about a dozen
little wire loops, each a quarter of an inch long or less, lying among a
little grey ash that clung about the ends of some of the loops in clots.
Even as I looked another thing caught Hewitt's eye. Among the
straw-ashes there lay some cinders of paper and card, and near them
another cinder, smaller, and plainly of some other substance. Hewitt
took my walking-stick, and turned this cinder over. It broke apart as he
did so, and from within it two or three little charred sticks escaped.
Hewitt snatched one up and scrutinised it closely.

"Do you see the tin ferrule?" he said. "It has been a brush; and that
was a box of colours!" He pointed to the cinder at his feet. "That being
so," he went on, "that paper and card was probably a sketch-book. Brett!
come outside a bit. There's something amazing here!"

We went outside, and Hewitt faced me with a curious expression that for
the life of me I could not understand.

"Suppose," he said, "_that Mr. Victor Peytral is not dead after all_?"

"Not dead?" I gasped; "but--but he is! We know----"

"It seems to me," Hewitt pursued, with his eyes still fixed on mine,
"that we know very little indeed of this affair, as yet. The body was
unrecognisable, or very near it. You remember what the coachman said?
'If it wasn't for Mr. Peytral's being missing,' he said, 'I doubt if
they'd have known it was him at all.' I think those were his exact
words. More, you must remember that the body has not been seen by either
of Peytral's relatives."

"But then," I protested, "if it isn't his body whose is it?"

"Ah, indeed," Hewitt responded, "whose is it? Don't you see the
possibilities of the thing? There's a colour-box and a sketch-book
burned. Who carried a colour-box and a sketch-book? Not Peytral, or we
should have heard of it from his daughter; she made a particular point
of her father's evening strolls being quite aimless, so far as her
knowledge or conjecture went; she knew nothing of any sketching. And
another thing--don't you see what _those_ things mean?" He pointed
toward the place of the little wire loops.

"Not at all."

"Man, don't you see they've been boot-buttons? When the boots
shrivelled, the threads were burnt and the buttons dropped off.
Boot-buttons are made of a sort of composition that burns to a grey ash,
once the fire really gets hold of them--as you may try yourself, any
time you please. You can see the ash still clinging to some of the
shanks; and there the shanks are, lying in two groups, six and six, as
they fell! Now Peytral came out in laced shoes."

"But if Peytral isn't dead, where is he?"

"Precisely," rejoined Hewitt, with the curious expression still in his
eyes. "As you say, where is he? And as you said before, who is the dead
man? Who is the dead man, and where is Peytral, and why has he gone?
Don't you see the possibilities of the case _now_?"

Light broke upon me suddenly. I saw what Hewitt meant. Here was a
possible explanation of the whole thing--Peytral's recent change of
temper, his evening prowlings, his driving away of Bowmore, and lastly,
of his disappearance--his flight, as it now seemed probable it was. The
case had taken a strange turn, and we looked at one another with meaning
eyes. It might be that Hewitt, begged by the unhappy girl we had but
just left to prove the innocence of her lover, would by that very act
bring her father to the gallows.

"Poor girl!" Hewitt murmured, as we stood staring at one another.
"Better she continued to believe him dead, as she does! Brett, there's
many a good man would be disposed to fling these proofs away for the
girl's sake and her mother's, seeing how little there can be to hurt
Bowmore. But justice must be done, though the blow fall--as it commonly
does--on innocent and guilty together. See, now, I've another idea. Stay
on guard while I try."

He hurried out toward the farther side of the broad band of trampled
ground which surrounded the burnt barn, and began questing to and fro,
this way and that, receding farther from me as he went, and nearing the
horse-pond and the road. At last he vanished altogether, and left me
alone with the burnt barn, my thoughts, and--that dim Shape on the barn
floor. It was broad day, but I felt none too happy; and I should not
have been at all anxious to keep the police watch at night.

Perhaps Hewitt had been gone a quarter of an hour, perhaps a little
more, when I saw him again, hurrying back and beckoning to me. I went to
meet him.

"It's right enough," he cried. "I've come on his trail again! There it
is, thorn-mark and all, by the roadside, and at a stile--going to
Redfield--probably to the station. Come, we'll follow it up! Where's
that fool of a policeman? Oh, the muddle they _can_ make when they
really try!"

"Need we wait for him?" I asked.

"Yes, better now, with those proofs lying there; and we must tell him
not to be bounced off again as I bounced him off. There he comes!"

The heavy figure of the local policeman was visible in the distance, and
we shouted and beckoned to hurry him. Agility was no part of that
policeman's nature, however, and beyond a sudden agitation of his head
and his shoulders, which we guessed to be caused by a dignified spasm of
leisurely haste, we saw no apparent acceleration of his pace.

As we stood and waited we were aware of a sound of wheels from the
direction of Redfield, and as the policeman neared us from the right,
so the sound of wheels approached us from the left. Presently a fly hove
in sight--the sort of dusty vehicle that plies at every rural railway
station in this country; and as he caught sight of us in the road the
driver began waving his whip in a very singular and excited manner. As
he drew nearer still he shouted, though at first we could not
distinguish his words. By this time the policeman, trotting ponderously,
was within a few yards. The passenger in the fly, a thin, dark, elderly
man, leaned over the side to look ahead at us, and with that the
policeman pulled up with a great gasp and staggered into the ditch.

"'Ere 'e is!" cried the fly-driver, regardless of the angry
remonstrances of his fare. "'Ere 'e is! 'E's all right! It ain't 'im!
'Ere he is!"

"Shut your mouth, you fool!" cried the angry fare. "_Will_ you stop
making a show of me?"

"Not me!" cried the eccentric cabman. "I don't want no fare, sir! I'm
drivin' you 'ome for honour an' glory, an' honour an' glory I'll make
it! 'Ere 'e is!"

Hewitt took in the case in a flash--the flabbergasted policeman, the
excited cabman and the angry passenger. He sprang into the road and
cried to the cabman, who pulled up suddenly before us.

"Mr. Victor Peytral, I believe?" said Martin Hewitt.

"Yes, sir," answered the dark gentleman snappishly, "but I don't know
you!"

"There has been a deal of trouble here, Mr. Peytral, over your absence
from home, as no doubt you have become aware; and I was telegraphed for
by your daughter. My name is Hewitt--Martin Hewitt."

Peytral's face changed instantly. "I know your name well, Mr. Hewitt,"
he said. "There's a matter--but who is this?"

"My friend, Mr. Brett, who is good enough to help me to-day. If I may
detain you a moment, I should like a word with you aside."

"Certainly."

Mr. Peytral alighted, and the two walked a little apart.

I saw Hewitt talking and pointing toward the burnt barn, and I well
guessed what he was saying. He was giving Peytral warning of what he had
discovered in the barn, explaining that he must give the information to
the police, and asking if, in those circumstances, Peytral wished to go
home, or to make other arrangements. Often Hewitt's duty to his clients
and his duty as a law-upholding citizen between them put him in some
such delicate position.

But there was no hesitation in Mr. Victor Peytral. Plainly he feared
nothing, and he was going home.

"Very well, then," I heard Hewitt say as they turned towards us,
"perhaps we had better go on slowly and let my friend cut across the
fields first to break the news. Brett--I knew you would be useful,
sooner or later."

And so I hurried off, with the happy though delicate mission to restore
both father and lover to Miss Claire Peytral.



IV


Miss Peytral had to be put to bed under care of a nurse, for the
revulsion was very great, and so was her physical prostration. Bowmore,
now set free, and in himself a very pleasant young fellow, came with
hurried inquiries and congratulations, and then rushed off to London to
cable to his friends in Canada, for fear of the effect of newspaper
telegrams.

When at last Hewitt and I sat with Mr. Peytral in his study, "Mr.
Hewitt," said Peytral, "I am not sure how far explanations may go
between us. There is more in that death in the barn than the police will
ever guess."

Peytral was haggard and drawn, for, as he had let slip already, he had
scarce slept an hour since leaving home on Thursday.

"I am tired," he said, "and worn out, but that is not a novelty with me;
and I'm not sure but we may be of use to each other. Did my daughter
tell you why she sent Mr. Bowmore after me on Thursday night?"

Hewitt explained the thing as briefly as possible, just as he had heard
it from Miss Peytral.

"Ah," said Peytral, thoughtfully. "So she thought my manner became moody
a few months back. It did, no doubt, for I had memories; and more, I had
apprehensions. Mr. Hewitt, I think I read in the papers that you were in
some way engaged in the extraordinary case of the murder of Mr. Jacob
Mason?"

"That is quite correct. I was."

"There was another case, a little while before, which possibly you may
not have heard of. A man was found strangled near the York column, by
Pall Mall, with just such a mark on his forehead as was found on Mr.
Mason's."

"I know that case, too, as well as the other."

"Do you know the name of the murderer?"

"I think I do. We speak in confidence, of course, as client and
professional man?"

"Of course. What was his name?"

"I have heard two--Everard Myatt and Catherton Hunt."

"Neither is his real name, and I doubt if anybody but himself knows it.
Twenty years ago and more I knew him as Mayes. He was a Jamaican. Mr.
Hewitt, that man's foul life has been justly forfeit a thousand times,
but if it belongs to anybody it belongs to me!"

It was terrible to see the sudden fiery change in the old man. His
lassitude was gone in a flash, his eyes blazed and his nostrils dilated.

For a little while he sat so, his mouth awork with passion; then he sank
back in his chair with a sigh.

"I am getting old," he said, more quietly, "and perhaps I am not strong
enough to lose my temper.... Well, as I said, Mayes was a Jamaican, a
renegade white. Do you remember that in the black rebellion of 1865,
there was a traitorous white man among the negroes? Eyre hanged a few
rebels, and rightly, but the worst creature on all that island
escaped--probably escaped by the aid of that very white skin that should
have ensured him a greater punishment than the rest. He escaped to
Hayti. Now you have probably heard something of Hayti, and of the common
state of affairs there?"

We both had heard, and, indeed, the matter had been particularly brought
to Hewitt's notice by the case which I have told elsewhere as "The
Affair of the Tortoise." As for me, I had read Sir Spenser St. John's
book on the black republic, and I had been greatly impressed by the
graphic picture it gives of the horrible, blood-stained travesty of
regular government there prevailing. Nothing in the worst of the South
American Republics is to be remotely compared to it. In the worst
periods there was not a crime imaginable that could not be, and was not,
committed openly and with impunity by anybody on the right side of the
so-called "government"; and the "government" was nothing but an
organised crime in itself.

"Well," Peytral pursued, "then I need not expatiate on it, and you will
understand the sort of place that Mayes fled to, and how it suited him.
He was a man of far greater ability than any of the coarse scoundrels in
power, and he was worse than all of them. He was not such a fool as to
aim at ostensible political power--that way generally led to
assassination. He was the jackal, the contriver, the power behind the
throne, the instigator of half the devilry set going in that unhappy
place, and he profited by it with little risk; he was the confidential
adviser of that horrible creature Domingue. If you know anything of
Hayti you will know what that means.

"At this time I was comparatively a young man, and a merchant at
Port-au-Prince. It was a bad place, of course, and business was risky
enough, but, for that very reason, profits were large, and that was an
attraction to a sanguine young man like myself. I did very well, and I
had thoughts of getting out of it with what I had made. But it was a
fatal thing to be supposed wealthy in Port-au-Prince, unless you were a
villain in power, or partner with one. I was neither, and I was judged a
suitable victim by Mayes. Not I alone, either--no, nor even only I and
my fortune. Gentlemen, gentlemen, my poor wife, who now lies----"

Peytral's utterance failed him. He rose as if choking, and Hewitt rose
to quiet him. "Never mind," he said, "sit quiet now. We understand. Rest
a moment."

The old man sank back in his chair, and for a little while buried his
face in his hands. Then he went on.

"I needn't go into details," he said, huskily. "It is enough to say that
every devilish engine of force and cunning was put in operation against
me. So it came that at last, on a hint from a hanger-on of the
police-office, who had enough humanity in him to remember a kindness he
had experienced at my hands, that we took flight in the middle of the
night--my poor wife, myself, and our three children, with nothing in the
world but our bare lives and the clothes we wore. I might have tried to
get aboard a foreign ship in the harbour, but I knew that would be
useless. I should have been given up on whatever criminal charge Mayes
chose to present, and my wife and children with me. I had hope of
somehow getting to San Cristobel, where I had a friend--over the border
in the other Government of the island, the Dominican Republic. That was
eighty miles away and more, across swamps, and forests and mountains.
Well, we did it--we did it. We did it, Mr. Hewitt, and I dream of it
still. They hunted us, sir--hunted us with dogs. We hid from them a
whole day among the rank weeds--up to our shoulders in the water of a
pestilential fever-swamp; Claire, the baby, on her mother's back, and
both the boys on mine. They died--they died next day. My two beautiful
boys, gentlemen, died in my arms, and I was too weak even to bury them!"

There was another long pause, and the man's head was bowed in his hands
once more. Presently he went on again, but at first without lifting his
head.

"We did it, gentlemen," he said--"we did it. We crawled into San
Cristobel at the end of five days; and from that moment my dear wife has
never once stood upright on her feet. So we came out of it, and the
baby, Claire, was the one that suffered least. She was too young to
understand, and her mother--her mother saved her, when I could not save
the boys!"

He paused again, and presently sat up, pale, but in full command of
himself. "You will excuse me, gentlemen, I am sure, and make allowances
for my feelings," he said. "There is not a great deal more to tell.
Mayes did not last long in Hayti. Domingue was overthrown, and Mayes
left the island, I was told, and made for another part of the world.
Years afterward I heard of his being in China, though what truth there
may have been in the rumour I cannot say.

"My friend in San Cristobel--he was a cousin, in fact--put me on my legs
again, and after a while he helped me to begin business at San Domingo,
under my present name, Peytral, which, in fact, was my mother's maiden
name. There came a sudden push in trade with the United States about
this time, and I went into my affairs with the more energy to distract
my thoughts. In fifteen years--to cut a long story short--I had made the
small competency which I have brought to England with me, with the idea
of a peaceful end to my life and my wife's; though I doubt if I am to
have that now. I doubt it, and I will tell you why. Mr. Hewitt, when I
went away without warning on Thursday night I was dogging Mayes!"

Hewitt nodded, with no sign of surprise. "And the man killed in the
barn?"

"That is one more of his thousand crimes, without a doubt. Though it
differs. Do you know what drew my attention to the murders of the men
Denson and Mason, and so set me thinking? In each case the murder was by
strangulation, and the medical evidence at the inquests showed that it
was effected by means of a tourniquet. In fact, in the second case, the
tourniquet itself was left behind."

"Yes," Hewitt replied, "I loosened it myself--but, unfortunately, I was
too late."

"Well, now," Peytral went on, "in Hayti, in my time, Mayes's enemies had
a habit of dying suddenly in the night, by strangulation, and a
tourniquet was always the instrument. And just as murder was quite a
popular procedure in that accursed place, so strangulation by tourniquet
became for a while the most common form of the crime. It was rapid,
effective, and silent, you see. So that a murder by tourniquet, quite an
unknown thing in this country, took my attention at once, and when
another followed it so soon, I felt something like certainty. And the
triangle was suggestive, too."

"Were Mayes's victims marked in that way in Hayti?"

"No, there was no mark. But"--here Mr. Peytral's features assumed a
curious expression--"there are things which are not believed in this
country--which are laughed at, in fact, and called superstition. You
know something of Hayti, and therefore you must have heard of
Voodoo--the witchcraft and devil-worship of the West Indies. Well, Mayes
was as deep in that as he was in every other species of wickedness. It
sounds foolish, perhaps, here in civilised England, and you may laugh,
but I tell you that Mayes could make men do as he wished, with their
consent or against it! And he used a thing--it was generally known that
he used a thing marked with a triangle--a Red Triangle--by the use of
which he could bend men to his will!"

Hewitt was listening intently, with no sign of laughter at all,
notwithstanding his client's apprehension. And I remembered the case of
Mr. Jacob Mason, and how that victim had so fervently expressed his wish
to the excellent clergyman, Mr. Potswood, that he had never dabbled in
the strange devilries of Myatt--or Mayes, as we were now learning to
call him.

"At any rate," Peytral resumed, "you will understand that the
conjunction of the tourniquet with the Red Triangle in the two cases you
know of caused me some excitement. My daughter, as you have said,
noticed a change in my habits from that time; my wife did more--she knew
the reason. Mr. Hewitt, I am an older man, but there is hotter blood in
my veins than in yours. My father was English--though you might scarcely
suppose it--but my mother, to whose name I have reverted, was a French
Creole. So perhaps my natural instincts come nearer to those of our
savage ancestry than do yours. Whether or not you will understand me I
do not know, but I can tell you that even now, in cold blood--for my
paroxysm has exhausted itself and me--it seems to me that it would be my
duty, not to say my sacred duty, to tear that man to pieces with my
hands whenever and wherever I could put them on him! My old passions may
have slept, I find, but they are alive still, and I found them waking
when I realised that Mayes was alive and in England. The words 'sane'
and 'insane' are elastic in their application, but I doubt if you would
have called me strictly sane of late. I evolved mad schemes for the
destruction of this wretch, and I was ready to devote myself and
everything I possessed to the purpose. More than once I contemplated
coming to you--seeing that you had met the man in one of his
villainies--with the idea of enlisting your aid. But I reflected that
you would probably make yourself no party to a plan of private revenge,
and I hesitated. And then--then, a little more than a week ago, I saw
the man himself! Changed, without doubt, but not half as much changed as
I am myself. Nevertheless, sure as I am of him now, I hesitated then.
For it was here in the meadow that you know, near the barn, and the
thing seemed so likely to be illusion that I almost suspected my senses.
It was dusk, and he was walking and talking with another man, a good
deal younger. And presently, while I was still confounded with surprise,
and as they passed behind a clump of trees, Mayes was gone, and I saw
his companion alone. He was a young man--an artist, it would seem, with
sketch-book and colours."

I started, and Hewitt and I glanced at each other. Peytral saw it and
paused. "Never mind," said Hewitt. "Please go on."

"After that I came out every night, in the hope of seeing my enemy
again. On several evenings I saw the young artist waiting by the barn
expectantly, but nobody joined him. I found that this young man was
lodging at a cottage in the village, and I resolved not to lose sight of
him.

"At last, on Thursday night, I saw Mayes again. Mr. Bowmore was here,
and when I left the house he troubled me much by coming after me. I was
obliged to tell him that I wished to be alone, and I was in a nervously
explosive state when I did it. He seemed reluctant to go; my anger
blazed out, and I violently ordered him off. From what he has told me it
seems that he followed me still, but lost sight of me near Penn's
Meadow. Well, be that as it may, I saw Mayes and the young artist again.
I watched from a rather awkward spot, and dusk was falling, so that I
could not see all that passed; but presently I was aware that Mayes was
making off by the road alone, and I followed him.

"From that moment I think I really was mad, though my madness did not
drive me to attack him at once. I had a feeling of curiosity to see
where he would go, and a curious cruel idea of letting him run for a
little first--as a cat feels, I suppose, with a mouse. You may judge
that I was not in my normal state of mind from the fact that all through
yesterday and part of to-day I never as much as thought of telegraphing
home to say that I had gone to London. For it was to London I followed
him. I took no ticket at the station--I got on the platform by stealth,
and entered the train unobserved, for he and one boy were the only
passengers, and I feared attracting attention. It was easy enough, in
such a station as Redfield, and I paid my fare at London. And after all
I lost him! Lost him in London!"

"How?"

"Like a fool. I saw him enter a house, and waited. Followed him again,
and waited at another. I might have flung him into the river from the
Embankment, and I refrained. And then--whether it began at a dark corner
or in a group of people I cannot tell, but I suddenly discovered that I
was following a stranger--a stranger of about Mayes's form and stature.
It was what I should have expected, and provided for, in London streets
at night!

"If I have been mad, it was then I was worst. I suppose by that time it
must have been too late to get back home, but I never thought of that. I
ran the streets the whole night, like a fool, hunting for Mayes. I kept
on all day yesterday. I waited and watched hours at the two houses he
had visited; and it was not till early this morning that I flung myself
on a bed in a private hotel in Euston Road. I slept a little, and my
paroxysm was over. Perhaps I am more fortunate than I am disposed to
think, since I am as yet in no danger of trial for murder."

This passionate, wayward, stricken man was plainly the object of
fascinated interest to Hewitt. My friend waited a moment, and then
said--"The houses he called at--I should like to know them. And where
you lost sight of him."

Peytral sat back, and gazed thoughtfully for fully half a minute in
Hewitt's face. "Do you know," he said at length, "I don't think I'll
answer that question now. I'd like to leave it for a day or two.
Yesterday I wouldn't have told you, even on the rack--no, not a word! I
should have said, 'Take your own chances, and get him if you can. As for
me, I consider him _my_ prey, and what scent I have picked up I shall
use myself!' A mad fancy, you will think, perhaps. For me the question
is, was I sanest then or now? I will take a day or two to think."



V


In less than a day or two the identity of the victim of the burnt barn
was established. For Hewitt had his idea, and he communicated with
Plummer, of Scotland Yard. The man with the buttoned boots and the
sketch-book was the artist who had been staying at the cottage in the
village, but who, singularly enough, had never been seen to draw, and
had left no drawings behind him. He had warned the people of the cottage
that he might be away for a night or two, and he had stayed away for two
nights before; so that his disappearance did not disturb them, and when
they heard that Mr. Peytral's body had been found in the barn they
accepted the news as fact. They recognised at once a photograph produced
by Plummer as that of their late lodger. And the photograph had been
procured from Messrs. Kingsley, Bell and Dalton, the intended victims in
the bond case, and it was one of Henning, their vanished correspondence
clerk!

That his death would be convenient to Mayes, the greater scoundrel, was
plain enough. The bond robbery had been brought to naught, thanks to
Martin Hewitt, and Henning was now useless. Worse, he might be caught,
or give himself up, and was thus a perpetual danger. And probably he
wanted money. This being so, it was a singular fact that at the inquest
the surgeon who had examined the wound gave it as his most positive
opinion that it had been self-inflicted. And it was inflicted with a
razor, Henning's own, as was very clearly proved after inquiry. For the
razor was found in the barn by the police, entangled with the blackened
frame of an old lantern. Here was still another puzzle; one to which the
final revelation of the mystery of the Red Triangle gave an answer, as
will be seen in due place.



THE CASE OF THE ADMIRALTY CODE



I


Quick on the heels of the case of the Burnt Barn followed the next of
the Red Triangle affairs. Indeed, the interval was barely two days. Mr.
Victor Peytral, it will be remembered, had declined to reveal to Hewitt
the addresses of the two houses in London which he had seen Mayes visit,
desiring to think the matter over for a few days first; but before any
more could be heard from him, news of another sort was brought by
Inspector Plummer.

It may give some clue to the period whereabout the whole mystery of the
Red Triangle began to be cleared up if I say that at the time of
Plummer's visit this country was on the very verge of war with a great
European State. It is a State with which the present relations of
England are of the friendliest description, and, since the dreaded
collision was happily averted, there is no need to particularise in the
matter now, especially as the name of the country with which we were at
variance matters nothing as regards the course of events I am to
relate. Though most readers will recognise it at once when I say that
the war, had it come to that, would have been a naval war of great
magnitude; and that during the time of tension swift but quiet
preparations were going forward at all naval depôts, and movements and
dispositions of our fleet were arranged that extended to the remotest
parts of the ocean.

It was at the height of the excitement, and, as I have said, two days
after the return of Hewitt and myself from Throckham, when the case of
the Burnt Barn had been disposed of, that Detective-Inspector Plummer
called. I was in Hewitt's office at the time, having, in fact, called in
on my way to learn if he had heard more from Mr. Victor Peytral, for, as
may be imagined, I was as eager to penetrate the mystery of the Triangle
as Hewitt himself--perhaps more so, since Hewitt was a man inured to
mysteries. I had hardly had time to learn that Peytral had not yet made
up his mind so far as to write, when Plummer pushed hurriedly into the
room.

"Excuse my rushing in like this," he said, "but your lad told me that it
was Mr. Brett who was with you, and the matter needs hurry. You've heard
no more of that fellow--Myatt, Hunt, Mayes, whatever his name is
last--since the barn murder, of course? Has Peytral given you the tip he
half promised?"

Hewitt shook his head again. "Brett has this moment come to ask the same
question," he said. "I have heard nothing."

"I must have it," said Plummer, emphatically. "Do you think he will tell
me?"

Hewitt shook his head again. "Scarcely likely," he said. "He's an odd
fellow, this Mr. Peytral--a foreigner, with revenge in his blood. I have
done him and his daughter some little service, and he told me all his
private history; but he seemed even then disposed to keep Mayes to
himself and let nobody interfere with his own vengeance. But I will wire
if you like. What is it?"

"I'll tell you," said Plummer, pushing the door close behind him. "I'll
tell you--in confidence, of course--because you've seen more of this
mysterious rascal than I have, and--equally in confidence, of
course--Mr. Brett may hear, too, since he's been in several of the cases
already. Well, of course, we all know well enough that we want this
creature--Mayes, we may as well call him, I suppose, now--for three
murders, at least, to say nothing of other things. That's all very well,
and we might have got him with time. But now we want him for something
else; and it's such a thing that _we must have him at once_, or
else"--and Plummer pursed his lips and snapped his fingers
significantly. "We can't wait over this, Mr. Hewitt; _we've got to have
that man to-day_, if it can be done. And there's more than ordinary
depending on it. It's the country this time. The Admiralty telegraphic
code has been stolen!"

"By Mayes?"

Plummer shrugged his shoulders. "That's to be proved," he said; "but he
was seen leaving the office at about the time the loss occurred, and
that's enough to set me after him; and there's not another clue of any
sort. Mr. Hewitt, I wish you were in the official service!"

Hewitt smiled. "You flatter me," he said, "as you have done before. But
why in this case particularly?"

"It's a case altogether out of the ordinary, and one of a string of
such, all of which you have at your fingers' ends. And I don't mind
confessing that this man Mayes is a little too big a handful for
one--for me, at any rate. I wish you could work with me over this; in
fact, in the special circumstances I've a good mind to ask to have you
retained, as an exceptional measure. But the thing's urgent, and there's
red-tape!"

Hewitt had taken a glance at his desk tablet, which he now flung down.

"I'll do it for love," he said, "if necessary. My appointment list is
uncommonly slack just now, and even if it weren't, I'd make a
considerable sacrifice rather than be out of this. This fellow Mayes is
a dangerous man; and I feel it a point of honour that he shall not
continue to escape. Moreover, I have begun to form a certain theory as
to the Red Triangle, and all there is at the back of it--a theory I
would rather keep to myself till I see a little more, since as it stands
it may only strike you as fantastic, and if it is wrong it may lead some
of us off the track; but it is a theory I wish to test to the end. So
I'm with you, Plummer, if you'll allow it; and you can make your
official application for a special retainer or not, just as you please."

Plummer was plainly delighted.

"Most certainly I will," he said. "Shall I give you the heads of the
case, or will you come to the Admiralty and see for yourself?"

"Both, I think," said Hewitt. "But first I will send a telegram to
Peytral. Then you can give me the heads of the case as we go along, and
I will look at the place for myself. I am in this case heart and soul,
pay or no pay--and I expect my friend Brett would like to be in it, too.
Is there any objection?"

"Well," Plummer answered, a little doubtfully, "we're glad of outside
help, of course, but I'm not sure, officially----"

"Of course you are always glad of outside help," Hewitt interrupted,
"and in this case we may possibly find Brett more useful than you think.
Consider now. He has seen a good deal of these cases--quite as much as
you, in fact--but he is the only one of the three of us whom Mayes does
not know by sight. Remember, Mayes saw us both in the affair of Mr.
Jacob Mason, and he saw you again in the case of the Lever Key--escaped,
in fact, because he instantly recognised you. I'll answer for Brett's
discretion, and I'm sure he'll be glad to help, even if, for official
reasons, you may not find it possible to admit him wholly into your
counsels."

Of course I willingly assented, and the conditions understood, Plummer
offered no further objection. Hewitt despatched his telegram, and in a
very few minutes we were in a cab on the way to the Admiralty.

"This is the way of it," Plummer said. "You will remember that when we
lost Mayes at the end of the Lever Key case, I was waiting for him in
that city office, with an assistant, and that we only saw him for an
instant in the lift. Well, that assistant was a very intelligent man of
mine, named Corder--a fellow with a wonderful memory for a face. Now
Corder is on another case just now, and we'd put him on, dressed like a
loafer, to hang about Whitehall and the neighbourhood, watching for some
one we want. Well, this morning there came an urgent message to the Yard
from the Admiralty, to ask for a responsible official at once, and I was
sent. As I came along I saw Corder lounging about, and of course I took
no notice--it would not do for us people from the Yard to recognise each
other too readily in the street. But Corder came up, and made pretence
to ask me for a match to light his pipe; and under cover of that he told
me that he had seen Mayes not an hour before, coming out of the
Admiralty. At this, of course, I pricked up my ears. I didn't know what
they wanted me for, but if there was mischief, and that fellow had been
there, it was likely at least that he might have been in it. Corder was
quite positive that it was the man, although he had only seen him for a
moment in the lift. He hadn't seen him go into the Admiralty office, but
he was passing as he came out, and noted the time exactly, so that he
might report to me at the first opportunity. The time was 11.32, and
Mayes jumped into a hansom and drove off. He walked right out into the
middle of the road to stop the hansom--you know how wide the road is
there--so that Corder couldn't hear his direction to the cabman, but he
took the number as the cab went off. Corder ought to have collared him
then and there, I think, but he was in a difficult position. It would
have endangered the case he was on, which is very important; and
besides, he didn't realise how much we wanted him for, having only been
brought in as an assistant at the tail of our bond case. Still less did
he guess--any more than myself--what I was going to hear at the
Admiralty office."

"At any rate," interrupted Hewitt, "you've got the number of the cab?"

"Here it is," Plummer answered, "and I've already set a man to get hold
of the cabman. You'd better note the number--92,873."

Hewitt duly noted the number, and advised me to do the same, in case I
should chance to meet the cab during the afternoon; and as we neared our
destination Plummer gave us the rest of the case in outline.

"In the office," he said, "I found them in a great state. A copy of the
code, or cypher, in which confidential orders and other messages are
sent to the fleet all over the world, and in which reports and messages
are sent back, had disappeared during the morning. It was in charge of a
Mr. Robert Telfer, a clerk of responsibility and undoubted integrity. He
kept it in a small iron safe, which is let into the wall of his private
room. It was safe when he arrived in the morning, and he immediately
used it in order to code a telegram, and locked it in the safe again at
10.20. Two hours later, at 12.20, he went to the safe for it again, in
order to de-code a message just received, and it was gone! And the lock
of the safe is one that would take hours to pick, I should judge. There
isn't a shade of a clue, so far as I can see, except this circumstance
of Mayes being seen leaving by Corder--just between Telfer's two visits
to the safe, you perceive. And of course there may be nothing in that,
except for the character of the man. And that's all there is to go on,
as far as I can see. I needn't tell you how important the thing is at a
time like this, and how much would be paid for that secret code by a
certain foreign Government. We have made hurried arrangements to have
certain places watched, and as soon as I have taken you to the office I
must rush off and make a few more arrangements still. But here we are."

Mr. Robert Telfer's room was at the side of a long and gloomy corridor
on the upper floor, and the door was distinguished merely by a number
and the word "Private" painted thereon. We found Mr. Telfer sitting
alone, and plainly in a state of great nervous tension. He was a man of
forty or thereabout, thin, alert, and using a single eye-glass. Plummer
introduced us by name, and rapidly explained our business.

"I told you the name of the party I am after, Mr. Telfer," Plummer said,
"and I went straight to Mr. Martin Hewitt, as being most likely to have
information of him. Mr. Hewitt, whose name you know already, of course,
is kind enough, seeing we're in a bad pinch, and pushed for time, to
come in and give us all the help he can. Both he and his friend, Mr.
Brett, know a good deal of the doings of the person we're after, and
their assistance is likely to be of the very greatest value. Do you mind
giving Mr. Hewitt any information he may ask? I must rush over to the
Yard to put some other inquiries on foot, and to set an observation or
two, but I'll be back presently."

"Certainly," Mr. Telfer answered, "I'm only too anxious to give any
information whatever--so long as it is nothing departmentally
forbidden--which will help to put this horrible matter right. Please ask
me anything, and be patient if my answers are not very clear. I have
been much overworked lately, as you may imagine, and have had very
little sleep; and now this terrible misfortune has upset me completely;
for, of course, I am held responsible for that copy of the code, and if
it isn't recovered, and quickly, I am ruined--to say nothing, of
course, of the far more serious consequences in other directions."

"That is the safe in which it was kept, I presume?" Hewitt said,
indicating a small one let into the wall. "May I examine it?"

"Certainly." Mr. Telfer turned and produced the keys from his pocket.
"The code was here, lying on this shelf when I needed it this morning at
ten. I took it out, used it, returned it to the same place exactly, and
locked the safe door. Then I took the draft of the telegram, together
with the copy in cypher, into the Controller's room, gave it into safe
hands, and returned here."

Hewitt narrowly examined the lock of the safe with his pocket lens.
"There are no signs of the lock having been picked," he said, "even if
that were possible. As a matter of fact, this is a lock that would take
half a day to pick, even with a heavy bag of tools. No, I don't think
that was the way of it. You have no doubt about locking the safe door at
10.20, I suppose, before you went to the Controller's room?"

"No possible doubt whatever. You see, I left the whole bunch of keys
hanging in the lock while I coded the telegram. It was a short one, and
was soon done. Then I returned the code to its place, locked the safe,
and then used another key on the bunch to lock a drawer in this desk. I
had no occasion to go to the safe again till about 12.20, when the
Controller's secretary came here with a telegram to be de-coded. The
safe was still locked then, but when it was opened the code was gone."

"You had had no occasion to go to the safe in the meantime?"

"None at all. I locked it at 10.20, and I unlocked it two hours later,
and that was all."

"You were not in the room the whole of the time, of course?"

"Oh, no. I have told you that at 10.20 I went to the Controller's room,
and after that I went out two or three times on one occasion or another.
But each time I locked the door of the room."

"Oh, you did? That is important. And you took all your keys with you, I
presume?"

"Yes, all. The keys on the bunch I took in my pocket, of course, and the
room door key I also took. There are one or two rather important papers
on my desk, you see, and anybody from the corridor might come in if the
door were left unlocked."

"The lock of the door would be a good deal easier to pick than that of
the safe," Hewitt observed, after examining it. "But that would be of no
great use with the safe locked. Shortly, then, the facts are these. You
locked the code safely away at 10.20, you left the room two or three
times, but each time the door, as well as the safe, was locked, and the
keys in your pocket; and then, at 12.20, or two hours exactly after the
code had been put safely away, you opened the safe again in presence of
the Controller's secretary, and the code had vanished. That is the whole
matter in brief, I take it?"

"Precisely." Mr. Telfer was pallid and bewildered. "It seems a total
impossibility," he said; "a total, absolute, physical impossibility; but
there it is."

"But as no such thing as a physical impossibility ever happens," Hewitt
replied calmly, "we must look further. Now, are there any other ways
into this room than by that door into the corridor? I see another door
here. What is that?"

"That door has been locked for ages. The room on the other side is one
like this, with a door in the corridor; it is used chiefly to store old
documents of no great importance, and I believe that whole stacks of
them, in bundles, are piled against the other side of that same door. We
will send for the key and see, if you like."

The key was sent for, and the door from the corridor opened. As Telfer
had led us to expect, the place was full of old papers in bundles and
parcels, thick with ancient dust, and these things were piled high
against the door next his room, and plainly had not been disturbed for
months, or even years.

"There remains the skylight," said Hewitt, "for I perceive, Mr. Telfer,
that your room is lighted from above, and has no window; while the grate
is a register. There seems to be no opening in that skylight but the
revolving ventilator. Am I right?"

"Quite so. There is no getting in by the skylight without breaking it,
and, as you see, it has not been broken. Certainly there are men on the
roof repairing the leads, but it is plain enough that nobody has come
that way. The thing is wholly inexplicable."

"At present, yes," Hewitt said, musingly. He stood for a few moments in
deep thought.

"Plummer is longer away than I expected," he said presently. "By the
way, what was the external appearance of the missing code?"

"It was nothing but a sort of thin manuscript book, made of a few sheets
of foolscap size, sewn in a cover of thickish grey paper. I left it in
the safe doubled lengthwise, and tied with tape in the middle."

"Its loss is a very serious thing, of course?"

"Oh, terribly, terribly serious, Mr. Hewitt," Telfer replied,
despairingly. "I am responsible, and it will put an end to my career,
of course. But the consequences to the country are more important, and
they may be disastrous--enormously so. A great sum would be paid for
that code on the Continent, I need hardly say."

"But now that you know it is taken, surely the code can be changed?"

"It's not so easy as it seems, Mr. Hewitt," Telfer answered, shaking his
head. "It means time, and I needn't tell you that with affairs in their
present state we can't afford one moment of time. Some expedients are
being attempted, of course, but you will understand that any new code
would have to be arranged with scattered items of the fleet in all parts
of the world, and that probably with the present code in the hands of
the enemy. Moreover, all our messages already sent will be accessible
with very little trouble, and they contain all our strategical coaling
and storing dispositions for a great war, Mr. Hewitt; and they can't,
they _can't_ be altered at a moment's notice! Oh, it is terrible!... But
here is Inspector Plummer. No news, I suppose, Mr. Plummer?"

"Well, no," Plummer answered deliberately. "I can't say I've any news
for _you_, Mr. Telfer, just yet. But I want to talk about a few things
to Mr. Hewitt. Hadn't we better go and see if your telegram is
answered, Mr. Hewitt? Unless you've heard."

"No, I haven't," Hewitt replied. "We'll go on at once. Good-day for the
present, Mr. Telfer. I hope to bring good news when next I see you."

"I hope so, too, Mr. Hewitt, most fervently," Telfer answered; and his
looks confirmed his words.

We walked in silence through the corridor, down the stairs, and out by
the gates into the street. Then Plummer turned on his heel and faced
Hewitt.

"That man's a wrong 'un," he said, abruptly, jerking his thumb in the
direction of the office we had just left. "I'll tell you about it in the
cab."

As soon as our cab was started on its way back to Hewitt's office
Plummer explained himself.

"He's been watched," he said, "has Mr. Telfer, when he didn't know it;
and he'll be watched again for the rest of to-day, as I've arranged.
What's more, he won't be allowed to leave the office this evening till
I have seen him again, or sent a message. No need to frighten him too
soon--it mightn't suit us. But he's in it, alone or in company!"

"How do you know?"

"I'll tell you. It seems the lead roofs are being repaired at the
Admiralty, and the plumbers are walking about where they like. Now
I needn't tell you I've had a man or two fishing about among the
doorkeepers and so on at the Admiralty, and one of them found a plumber
he knew slightly, working on the roof. That plumber happens to be no
fool--a bit smarter than the detective-constable, it seems to me, in
fact. Anyhow, he seems to have got more out of my man than my man got
out of him; and soon after I reached the Yard he turned up, asking to
see me. He said he'd heard that a valuable paper was missing (he didn't
know what) from the room with the skylight in the top floor, where the
gentleman with the single eye-glass was, and where the safe was let in
the wall; and he wanted to know what would be the reward for anybody
giving information about it. Of course I couldn't make any promise, and
I gave him to understand that he would have to leave the amount of the
reward to the authorities, if his information was worth anything; also,
that we were getting to work fast, and that if he wished to be first to
give information he'd better be quick about it; but I promised to make a
special report of his name and what he had to say if it were useful. And
it will be, or I'm vastly mistaken! For just you see here. Our friend,
Mr. Telfer, says he put that code safely away at 10.20 in the safe, and
that he never went to the safe again till 12.20, when the Controller's
secretary was with him; never went to it for anything whatever,
observe. Well, the plumber happened to be near the skylight at half-past
eleven, and he is prepared to swear that he saw Mr. Telfer--'the gent
with the eye-glass,' as he calls him--go to the safe, unlock it, take
out a grey paper, folded lengthwise, with red tape round it, re-lock the
safe, and carry that paper out into the corridor! The plumber was
kneeling by a brazier, it seems, which was close by the skylight, and he
is so certain of the time because he was regulating his watch by
Westminster Hall clock, and compared it when the half-hour struck, which
was just while Telfer was absent in the corridor with the paper. He was
only gone a second or two, and you will remember that Corder saw Mayes
leaving the premises within two minutes of that time!"

"Yes!"

"Well, Telfer was back in a second or two, _without the paper_, and went
on with his affairs as before. That's pretty striking, eh?"

"Yes," Hewitt answered thoughtfully, "it is."

"It was a sort of shot in the dark on the part of the plumber, for he
knew nothing else--nothing about Telfer legitimately having the keys of
the safe, nor any of the particulars we have been told. He merely knew
that a paper was missing, and having seen a paper taken out of the safe
he got it into his head that he had possibly witnessed the theft; and
he kept his knowledge to himself till he could see somebody in
authority. Mighty keen, too, about a reward!"

"And now you are having Telfer supervised?"

"I am. Not that we're likely to get the code from him; that's passed
out, sure enough, in Mayes's hands--or else his pockets."

To this confident expression of opinion Hewitt offered no reply, and
presently we alighted at his office, eager to learn if Peytral had given
the information Hewitt so much desired. Sure enough a telegram was
there, and it ran thus:

/#
     "On the night you know of, Mayes went first to 37 Raven Street,
     Blackfriars, then to 8 Norbury Row, Barbican. Message follows."
#/

"Now we're at work," Hewitt said, briskly, "and for a while we part. I
shall make a few changes of dress, and go to take a look at 37 Raven
Street, Blackfriars. Will you two go on to Norbury Row? You'll have to
be careful, Plummer, and not show yourself. That is where Brett will be
useful, since he isn't known; if anybody is to be seen let it be him. I
shall be very careful myself--though I shall have some little disguise;
and I fancy I shall not be so likely to be seen as you."

"What are we to do?" I asked.

"Well, of course, if you see Mayes in the open, grab him instantly. I
needn't tell Plummer _that_. I think Plummer would naturally seize him
on the spot, rush him off to the nearest station and go back with enough
men to clear out No. 8 Norbury Row. If you don't see him you'll keep an
observation, according to Plummer's discretion. But, unless some
exceptional chance occurs, I hope you won't go rushing in till we
communicate with each other--we must work together, and I may have news.
My instinct seems to tell me that yours is the right end of the stick,
at Barbican. But we must neglect nothing, and that is why I want you to
hold on there while I make the necessary examination at the other end.
Do you know this Norbury Row, Plummer?"

"I think I know every street and alley in the City," Plummer answered.
"There is a very good publican at the corner of Norbury Row, who's been
useful to the police a score of times. He keeps his eyes open, and I
shall be surprised if he can't give us _some_ information about No. 8,
anyhow. Moon's his name, and the house is 'The Compasses.' I shall go
there first. And if you've any message to send, send it through him.
I'll tell him."

On the stairs Plummer and I encountered another of his assistants.
"I've got the cab, sir," he reported. "Waiting outside now. Took up a
fare in Whitehall, opposite the Admiralty, and drove him to Charterhouse
Street; got down just by the Meat Market. That's all the man seems to
know."

Plummer questioned the cabman, and found that as a matter of fact that
was all he did know. So, telling him to wait to take us our little
journey, we returned and reported his information to Hewitt.

"Just as I expected," he said, quietly. "He stopped the cab a bit short
of his destination, of course,--just as you will, no doubt. There's not
a great deal in the evidence, but it confirms my idea."



II


We followed Mayes's example by stopping the cab in Charterhouse Street,
and walking the short remaining distance to Barbican. Norbury Row was an
obscure street behind it, at the corner of which stood "The Compasses,"
the public-house which Plummer had mentioned. We did not venture to show
ourselves in Norbury Row, but hastened into the nearest door of "The
Compasses," which chanced to be that of the private bar.

A stout, red-faced, slow-moving man with one eye and a black patch,
stood behind the bar. Plummer lifted his finger and pointed quickly
toward the bar-parlour; and at the signal the one-eyed man turned with
great deliberation and pulled a catch which released the door of that
apartment, close at our elbows. We stepped quickly within, and presently
the one-eyed man came rolling in by the other door.

"Well, good art'noon, Mr. Plummer, sir," he said, with a long
intonation and a wheeze. "Good art'noon, sir. You've bin a stranger
lately."

"Good afternoon, Mr. Moon," Plummer answered, briskly. "We've come for
a little information, my friend and I, which I'm sure you'll give us if
you can."

"All the years I've been knowed to the police," answered Mr. Moon,
slower and wheezier as he went on, "I've allus give 'em all the
information I could, an' that's a fact. Ain't it, Mr. Plummer?"

"Yes, of course, and we don't forget it. What we want now----"

"Allus tell 'em what--ever I knows," rumbled Mr. Moon, turning to me,
"allus; an' glad to do it, too. 'Cause why? Ain't they the police? Very
well then, I tells 'em. Allus tells 'em!"

Plummer waited patiently while Mr. Moon stared solemnly at me after this
speech. Then, when the patch slowly turned in my direction and the eye
in his, he resumed, "We want to know if you know anything about No. 8
Norbury Row?"

"Number eight," Mr. Moon mused, gazing abstractedly out of the window;
"num--ber eight. Ground-floor, Stevens, packing-case maker; first-floor,
Hutt, agent in fancy-goods; second-floor, dunno. Name o' Richardson,
bookbinder, on the door, but that's bin there five or six year now, and
it ain't the same tenant. Richardson's dead, an' this one don't bind no
books as I can see. I don't even remember seein' him _very_ often.
Tallish, darkish sort o' gent he is, and don't seem to have many
visitors. Well, then there's the top-floor--but I s'pose it's the same
tenant. Richardson used to have it for his workshop. That's all."

"Have you got a window we can watch it from?"

Mr. Moon turned ponderously round and without a word led the way to the
first floor, puffing enormously on the stairs.

"You _can_ see it from the club-room," he said at length, "but this 'ere
little place is better."

He pushed open a door, and we entered a small sitting-room. "That's the
place," he said, pointing. "There's a new packing-case a-standing
outside now."

Norbury Row presented an appearance common enough in parts of the city a
little way removed from the centre. A street of houses that once had
sheltered well-to-do residents had gradually sunk in the world to the
condition of tenement-houses, and now was on the upward grade again,
being let in floors to the smaller sort of manufacturers, and to such
agents and small commercial men as required cheap offices. No. 8 was
much like the rest. A packing-case maker had the ground-floor, as Moon
had said, and a token of his trade, in the shape of a new packing-case,
stood on the pavement. The rest of the building showed nothing
distinctive.

"There y'are, gents," said Mr. Moon, "if you want to watch, you're
welcome, bein' the p'lice, which I allus does my best for, allus. But
you'll have to excuse me now, 'cos o' the bar."

Mr. Moon stumped off downstairs, leaving Plummer and myself watching at
the window.

"Your friend the publican seems very proud of helping the police," I
remarked.

Plummer laughed. "Yes," he said, "or at any rate, he is anxious we
shan't forget it. You see, it's in some way a matter of mutual
accommodation. We make things as easy as possible for him on licensing
days, and as he has a pretty extensive acquaintance among the sort of
people we often want to get hold of, he has been able to show his
gratitude very handsomely once or twice."

The house on which our eyes were fixed was a little too far up the
street for us to see perfectly through the window of the second-floor,
though we could see enough to indicate that it was furnished as an
office. We agreed that the unknown second-floor tenant was more likely
to be our customer, or connected with him, than either of the others.
Still, we much desired a nearer view, and presently, since the coast
seemed clear, Plummer announced his intention of taking one.

He left me at the post of observation, and presently I saw him lounging
along on the other side of the way, keeping close to the houses, so as
to escape observation from the upper windows. He took a good look at the
names on the door-post of No. 8, and presently stepped within.

I waited five or six minutes, and then saw him returning as he had come.

"It's the top floors we want," he said, when he rejoined me in Mr.
Moon's sitting-room. "The packing-case maker is genuine enough, and very
busy. So is the fancy-goods agent. I went in, seeing the door wide open,
and found the agent, a little, shop-walkery sort of chap, hard at work
with his clerk among piles of cardboard boxes. I wouldn't go further, in
case I were spotted. Do you think you'd be cool enough to do it without
arousing suspicion? Mayes doesn't know you, you see. What do you think?
We don't want to precipitate matters till we hear from Hewitt, but on
the other hand I don't want to sit still as long as anything can be
ascertained. You might ask a question about book-binding."

"Of course," I said. "If you will let me I'll go at once--glad of the
chance to get a peep. I'll bespeak a quotation for binding and
lettering a thousand octavos in paste grain, on behalf of some
convenient firm of publishers. That would be technical enough, I think?"

I took my hat and walked out as Plummer had done, though, of course, I
approached the door of No. 8 with less caution. The packing-case maker's
men were hammering away merrily, and as I mounted the stairs I saw the
little fancy-goods agent among his cardboard boxes, just as Plummer had
said. The upper part of the house was a silent contrast to the busy
lower floors, and as I arrived at the next landing I was surprised to
see the door ajar.

I pushed boldly in, and found myself alone in a good-sized room plainly
fitted as an office. There were two windows looking on the street, and
one at the back, more than half concealed behind a ground glass
partition or screen. I stepped across and looked out of this window. It
looked on a narrow space, or well, of plain brick wall, containing
nothing but a ladder, standing in one corner. And the only other window
giving on this narrow square space was in the opposite wall, but much
lower, on the ground level.

I saw these things in a single glance, and then I turned--to find myself
face to face with a tallish, thin, active man, with a pale, shaven,
ascetic face, dark hair, and astonishingly quick glittering black eyes.
He stood just within the office door, to which he must have come without
a sound, looking at me with a mechanical smile of inquiry, while his
eyes searched me with a portentous keenness.

"Oh," I said, with the best assumption of carelessness I could command,
"I was looking for you, Mr. Richardson. Do you care to give a quotation
for binding at per thousand crown octavo volumes in paste grain, plain,
with lettering on back?"

"No," answered the man with the eyes, "I don't; I'm afraid my
carelessness has led you into a mistake. I am not Richardson the
bookbinder. He was my predecessor in this office, and I have neglected
to paint out his name on the door-post."

I hastened to apologise. "I am sorry to have intruded," I said. "I found
the door ajar and so came in. You see the publishing season is
beginning, and our regular binders are full of work, so that we have to
look elsewhere. Good-day!"

"Good-day," the keen man responded, turning to allow me to pass through
the door. "I'm sorry I cannot be of service to you--on this occasion."

From first to last his eyes had never ceased to search me, and now as I
descended the stairs I could _feel_ that they were fixed on me still.

I took a turn about the houses, in order not to be observed going
direct to "The Compasses," and entered that house by way of the private
bar, as before.

"That is Mayes, and no other," said Plummer, when I had made my report
and described the man with the eyes. "I've seen him twice, once with his
beard and once without. The question now is, whether we hadn't best sail
in straight away and collar him. But there's the window at the back, and
a ladder, I think you said. Can he reach it?"

"I think he might--easily."

"And perhaps there's the roof, since he's got the top floor too. Not
good enough without some men to surround the house. We must go gingerly
over this. One thing to find out is, what is the building behind? Ah,
how I wish Mr. Hewitt were here now! If we don't hear from him soon we
must send a message. But we mustn't lose sight of No. 8 for a moment."

There was a thump at the sitting-room door, and Mr. Moon came puffing in
and shouldered himself confidentially against Plummer. "Bloke downstairs
wants to see you," he said, in a hoarse grunt that was meant for a low
whisper. "Twigged you outside, I think, an' says he's got somethink
partickler to tell yer. I believe 'e's a 'nark'; I see him with one o'
your chaps the other day."

"I'll go," Plummer said to me hurriedly. "Plainly somebody's spotted me
in the street, and I may as well hear him."

I knew very well, of course, what Moon meant by a 'nark.' A 'nark'
is an informer, a spy among criminals who sells the police whatever
information he can scrape up. Could it be possible that this man had
anything to tell about Mayes? It was scarcely likely, and I made up my
mind that Plummer was merely being detained by some tale of a petty
local crime.

But in a few minutes he returned with news of import. "This fellow is
most valuable," he said. "He knows a lot about Mayes, whom, of course,
he calls by another name; but the identity's certain. He saw me looking
in at No. 8, he says, and guessed I must be after him. He seems to have
wondered at Mayes's mysterious movements for a long time, and so kept
his eye on him and made inquiries. It seems that Mayes sometimes uses a
back way, through the window you saw on the opposite side of the little
area, by way of that ladder you mentioned. It's quite plain this fellow
knows something, from the particulars about that ladder. He wants half a
sovereign to show me the way through a stable passage behind and point
out where our man can be trapped to a certainty. It'll be a cheap ten
shillingsworth, and we mustn't waste time. If Hewitt comes, tell him not
to move till I come back or send a message, which I can easily do by
this chap I'm going with. And be sure to keep your eye on the front door
of No. 8 while I'm gone."

The thing had begun to grow exciting, and the fascination of the pursuit
took full possession of my imagination. I saw Plummer pass across the
end of the street in company with a shuffling, out-at-elbows-looking man
with dirty brown whiskers, and I set myself to watch the door of the
staircase by the packing-case maker's with redoubled attention, hoping
fervently that Mayes might emerge, and so give me the opportunity of
capping the extraordinary series of occurrences connected with the Red
Triangle by myself seizing and handing him over to the police.

So I waited and watched for something near another quarter of an hour.
Then there came another thump at the door, and once more I beheld Mr.
Moon.

"Man askin' for you in the bar, sir," he said.

"Asking for me?" I asked, a little astonished. "By name?"

"Mr. Brett, 'e said, sir. He's the same chap, you know. He's got a
message from Inspector Plummer, 'e says."

"May he come up here?" I asked, mindful of maintaining my watch.

"Certainly, sir, if you like. I'll bring him."

Presently the shuffling man with the dirty whiskers presented himself.
He was a shifty, villainous-looking fellow of middle height, looking a
"nark" all over. He pulled off his cap and delivered his message in a
rum-scented whisper. "Inspector Plummer says the front way don't matter
now," he said. "'E can cop 'im fair the other way if you'll go round to
him at once. If Mr. Martin Hewitt's here 'e'd rather 'ave 'im, but on'y
one's to come now."

Naturally, I thought, Plummer would prefer Hewitt; but in this case I
should for once be ahead of my friend, and have the pleasure of relating
the circumstances of the capture to him, instead of listening, as usual,
to his own quiet explanations of the manner in which the case had been
brought to a successful issue. So I took my hat and went.

"Best let me go in front," whispered the "nark." "You bein' a toff might
be noticed." It was a reasonable precaution, and I followed him
accordingly.

We went a little way down Barbican, and presently, taking a very narrow
turning, plunged into a cluster of alleys, through which, however, I
could plainly perceive that our way lay in the direction of the back of
the house in Norbury Row. At length my guide stopped at what seemed a
stable yard, pushed open a wicket gate, and went in, keeping the gate
open for me to follow.

It was, indeed, a stable yard, littered with much straw, which the
"nark" carefully picked to walk on as noiselessly as possible, motioning
me to do the same. It was a small enough yard, and dark, and when my
guide very carefully opened the door of a stable I saw that that was
darker still.

He pushed the door wide so as to let a little light fall on another door
which I now perceived in the brick wall which formed the side of the
stable. After listening intently for a moment at this door, the guide
stepped back and favoured me with another puff of rum and a whisper.
"There's no light in that there passage," he said, "an' we'd better not
strike one. I'll catch hold of your hand."

He pulled the stable door to, and took me by the hand. I heard the inner
door open quietly, and we stepped cautiously forward. We had gone some
five or six yards in the darkness when I felt something cold touch the
wrist of the hand by which I was being led. There was a loud click, my
hand was dropped, and I felt my wrist held fast, while I could hear my
late guide shuffling away in the darkness.

I could not guess whether to cry out or remain quiet. I called after the
man in a loud whisper, but got no answer. I used my other hand to feel
at my right wrist, and found that it was clipped in one of a pair of
handcuffs, the other being locked in a staple in the wall. I tugged my
hardest to loosen this staple, but it held firm. The thing had been so
sudden and stealthy that I scarce had time to realise that I was in
serious danger, and that, doubtless, Plummer had preceded me, when a
light appeared at an angle ahead. It turned the corner, and I perceived,
coming toward me, carrying a lamp, the pale man of the eyes, whom I had
encountered not an hour before--in a word, Mayes.

His eyes searched me still, but he approached me with a curiously polite
smile.

"No, Mr. Brett," he said, "my name is not Richardson, and I am not a
bookbinder. Not that I am particular about such a thing as a name, for
you have heard of me under more than one already, and you are quite at
liberty to call me Richardson if you like. I am sorry to have to talk to
you in this uncomfortable place, but the circumstances are exceptional.
But, at least, I should give you a chair."

He stepped back a little way and pressed a bell-button. Presently the
fellow who had decoyed me there appeared, and Mayes ordered him to
bring me a chair at once, which he did, with stolid obedience. I sat in
it, so that my wrist rested at somewhere near the level of my shoulder.

"Mr. Brett," Mayes pursued, when his man was gone, "I am not so
implacable a person as you perhaps believe me; in fact, I can assure you
that my disposition is most friendly."

"Then unfasten this handcuff," I said.

"I am sorry that that is a little precaution I find it necessary to take
till we understand each other better. I am glad to see you, Mr. Brett,
though I am sure you will not think me rude if I say that I should have
preferred Mr. Martin Hewitt in your place. But perhaps his turn will
come later. I have a proposition to make, Mr. Brett. I should like you
to join me."

"To join you?"

"Exactly." He nodded pleasantly. "You needn't shrink; I shan't ask you
to do anything vulgar, or even anything that, with your present
prejudices, you might consider actively criminal. You can help me, you
see, in your own profession as a journalist; and in other ways. And my
enterprise is greater than you may imagine. Join me, and you shall be
a great man in an entirely new sphere. A small matter of initiation is
necessary, and that is all. You have only to consent to that."

I said nothing.

"You seem reluctant. Well, perhaps it is natural, in your present
ignorance. This is no vulgar criminal organisation that I have,
understand. I have taken certain measures to provide myself with the
necessary tools in the shape of money, and so forth, but my aims are
larger than you suspect--perhaps larger than you can understand. And
I work with a means more wonderful than you have experience of. For
instance, here is to-day's work. You know about the lost Naval Code, of
course--it is what you came about. That document is now lying in the
desk you stood by in the room where we spoke of paste grain book covers
and the like. It was there then at your elbow. It will be sold for many
thousands of pounds by to-morrow, and all the puny watchings and
dodgings that have been devised cannot prevent it. The money will go to
aid me in the attainment of the power of which you may have a part, if
you wish. The means of attaining this I scruple no more about than you
did to-day about the story of the bookbindings." He bowed with a slight
smile and went on.

"Come now, Mr. Brett, put aside your bourgeois prejudices and join me.
Your friend Plummer is coming gladly, I feel sure, and he will be
useful, too. And from what I have seen from Mr. Martin Hewitt, I have
no doubt I can make it right with him. If I can't it will be very bad
for him, I can assure you; you have heard and seen something of my
powers, and I need say no more. But Hewitt is a man of sense, and will
come in, of course, and you had better come with your friends. I want
one or two superior men. Mason--you know about Jacob Mason, of
course--Mason was a fool, and he was lost--inevitably. The others"--he
made a gesture of contempt--"they are mere vulgar tools. They will have
their rewards if they are faithful, of course; if not--well, you
remember Denson in the Samuel diamond business? He was _not_ faithful,
and there was an end of him. I may tell you that Denson was made an
example, for one was needed. I assigned him a certain operation, and,
having brought it to success, he endeavoured to embezzle--did
embezzle--the proceeds. He was made a conspicuous example, in a most
conspicuous public place, to impress the others. They didn't know _him_,
but they knew well enough what the Red Triangle meant! Ah, my excellent
recruit--for so I count you already--there is more in that little sign
than you can imagine! It is more than a sign--it is an implement of very
potent power; and you shall learn its whole secret in that little form
of initiation I spoke of. See now, a present example. Telfer, the
Admiralty clerk, gave up that document at my mere spoken word. He will
deny it to his dying day, and he will be ruined for the act; but he gave
me the paper himself, at my mere order. If he were one of my own--if he
had passed through the initiation I offer you, I would have protected
him; as it is, he must take his punishment, and though it is only I who
will benefit, he will still deny the fact! Ha! Mr. Brett, do you begin
to perceive that I do not boast when I tell of powers beyond your
understanding?"

Truly I was amazed, though I could not half understand. The
circumstances of the loss of the Admiralty code had been so
inexplicable, and now these incredible suggestions of the prime
actor in the matter were more mysterious still.

"Ha! you are amazed," he went on, "but if you will come further into my
counsels I will amaze you more. What are you now? A drudge of a
journalist, and if ever you make a thousand a year to feed yourself with
you will be lucky. Come to me and you shall be a man of power. There is
a place beyond the sea where I may be king, and you a viceroy. Don't
think I am raving! It is true enough that I am an enthusiast, but I have
power, power to do anything I please, I tell you! What are the greatest
powers among men on this earth? Some will say the pen, or the sword, or
love, or what not. Men of the world will say, money and lies; and they
will be very nearly right. Money and lies will move continents, but I
have one greater power still--the very apex of the triangle! That power
I revealed to Jacob Mason. He thought to betray it, and it killed him.
That power I will reveal to you, if you will accept the alternative I
offer."

"The alternative?"

"Yes, the alternative, for an alternative it is, of course. If you will
go through the form of initiation, I shall keep you here a little till I
can trust you--which will be very soon. But if not--well, Mr. Brett, I
wish to be as friendly as you please, but having been at the trouble of
catching you, and having got you here safely, you who know so much now,
you who could be so dangerous if you ever got away--eh? Well, you know
my methods, and you have seen them exemplified, and you will
understand."

There was no anger in his voice as he uttered this threat, nor even, I
thought, in his eyes. But what there was was worse.

"But I'm sure you will not make things unpleasant," he concluded. "You
will go through the little form I have arranged, if only for curiosity.
Just think over it for a moment, while I go to close my little office."

He took the lamp and turned away, but as he reached the angle of the
passage, there came a sound that checked his steps. I could hear a noise
of feet and hurried voices, and then suddenly arose a shout in a voice
which seemed to be Plummer's. "Here!" it cried. "Help! This way, Hewitt!
Brett!"

I shouted back at the top of my voice, wondering where Plummer was, and
what it might all mean. And with that Mayes turned, and I saw that he
was about to make for the door I had entered by. I resolved he should
not pass me if I could prevent it, and I sprang up and seized my chair
in my left hand, shouting aloud for help as I did so.

Mayes came with a bound, and flung his lighted lamp full at my head. It
struck the chair and smashed to a thousand pieces, and in that instant
of time Mayes was on me. Plainly he had no weapon, or he would have used
it; but I was at disadvantage enough, with my right wrist chained to the
wall. I clung with all my might, and endeavoured to swing my enemy round
against the wall in order that I might clasp my hands about him, and I
shouted my loudest as I did it. But the chair and the broken glass
hampered me, and Mayes was desperate. The agony in my right wrist was
unbearable, and just as I was conscious of a rush of approaching feet a
heavy blow took me full in the face, and I felt Mayes rush over me while
I fell and hung from the wrist.

I had a stunned sense of lights and voices and general confusion, and
then I remembered nothing.



III


I came to myself on the floor of a lighted room, with Hewitt's face over
mine. My wrist seemed broken, though it was free, there was oil and
blood on my clothes, and in my left hand I still gripped a piece of
Mayes's coat.

"Stop him!" I cried. "He's gone by the stable! Have they got him?"

"No good, Brett," Hewitt answered soberly. "You did your best, but he's
gone, and Peytral after him!"

"Peytral?"

"Yes. He brought his own message to town. But see if you can stand up."

I was well enough able to do that, and, indeed, I had only fainted from
the pain of the strain on my wrist. Several policemen were in the room,
beside Hewitt and Plummer. Mayes's stronghold was in the hands of his
enemies.

Then I suddenly remembered.

"The Admiralty code!" I cried. "It was in the office desk. Have you got
it?"

"No," Hewitt answered. "Come, Plummer, up the ladder!"

Little time was lost in forcing Mayes's desk, and there the document was
found, grey cover, red tape and all intact. The police were left to make
a vigorous search for any possible copy, and the original was handed to
Plummer, as chief representative of the law present. He had been trapped
precisely as I had been, except that he had been led further, and shut
in a cellar as well as fastened by the wrist. Mayes, it seemed, had
wasted very little time in attempting to pervert him, and I have no
doubt that, whatever fate might have been reserved for me, Plummer would
never have left the place alive had it not been for the timely irruption
of Hewitt, with Peytral and the police.

In half an hour Peytral returned. He had dashed out in chase of the
fugitive, but failed even to see him--lost him wholly in the courts, in
fact. For some little while he persevered, but found it useless.

The dirty-whiskered man made no attempt to escape, though there was talk
of another man having got away in the confusion by way of the stable
roof. The police were left in charge of the place, and we deferred a
complete exploration till the next day.

Hewitt's tale was simple enough. He had endued himself in somewhat seedy
clothes, and had visited 37 Raven Street, Blackfriars, which he found
to be merely a tenement house. It took some time to make inquiries
there, with the necessary caution, because of the number of lodgers; and
then the inquiries led to nothing. It was an experience common enough in
his practice, but none the less an annoying delay, and when he returned
to his office he found Mr. Peytral already awaiting him. Peytral
described his following of Mayes at much greater length and detail than
before, and he and Hewitt had come on to Norbury Row at once and asked
news of Mr. Moon.

Mr. Moon's description of the successive disappearances of Plummer and
myself, and of our continued absence, so aroused Hewitt's suspicions
that he instantly procured help from the nearest station, and approached
the door of Mayes's office. A knock being unanswered, the door was
instantly broken in. The room was found to be unoccupied, but the ladder
was still standing at the open window, by which Mayes had descended to
the back premises. Down this ladder Hewitt went, with the police after
him. The rest I had seen myself.

"But what," I said, "what is this mystery? Why did Telfer give up the
code, and what is the power that Mayes talks of?"

"It is a power," replied Hewitt, "that I have suspected for some time,
and now I am quite sure of it. A secret, dangerous and terrible power
which I have encountered before, though never before have I known its
possibilities carried so far. It is hypnotism!"

"Hypnotism!" I exclaimed. "But can a person be hypnotised against his
will?"

"In a sense, in most cases, he cannot. That is the explanation of
Mayes's proposals to you to go through a 'form of initiation.' If you
had consented, the 'form' would have been a process of hypnotism. Once
or twice repeated, and you would have been wholly under his control, so
that if he willed it and forbade you, you could tell nothing of what he
wished kept secret, and you would have committed any crime he might
suggest. Consider poor Jacob Mason! Remember how he struggled to tell
what he knew, oppressed by the horror of it, and how it all ended! And
remember Henning the clerk, Mayes's tool in that case of bond robbery!
What has happened to him? He committed suicide, as you know, immediately
after Mayes had left him at the barn. Brett, this power of hypnotism, a
power for healing in the hands of a good man, may become a terrible
power for evil in the hands of a villain!"

"But Telfer, to-day? He seems to have known nothing of Mayes, and he
was not one of his regular creatures--Mayes himself told me so."

"About that I don't know. But I expect we shall find that he has been
willingly hypnotised at some time or another, perhaps more than once, by
this same scoundrel Mayes. Possibly in one of Mayes's appearances in
respectable society, at an evening party, or the like. In a case of that
sort the hypnotist may impress a certain formula--a word, a name, or a
number--on the subject's mind, by the repetition of which, at any future
time, that same subject may be instantly hypnotised. So that, once
having become hypnotised, on any innocent occasion, the subject is in
the power of the hypnotist, more or less, ever after. The hypnotist
says: 'When I repeat such and such a sentence or number to you in
future, you will be hypnotised,' and hypnotised the subject duly is,
instantly. Supposing such a case in this matter of Mr. Telfer, it would
only be necessary for Mayes to meet him in the corridor, repeat his
formula and command the victim to bring out the paper he specified. This
done he could similarly order him to _forget the whole transaction_, and
this the victim would do, infallibly."

It is only necessary to say here, parenthetically, that later inquiry
proved the truth of Hewitt's supposition. Twice or three times Mr.
Telfer had been hypnotised in a friend's chambers, by a plausible tall
man whose acquaintance his host had made at some public scientific
gathering. And in the end it became possible to identify this man with
Mayes.

Mr. Moon, of "The Compasses," was of great comfort to me that evening.
My cuts and bruises were washed in his house, and my inner man revived
with his food and drink.

"Allus glad to oblige the p'lice," said Mr. Moon; "allus. 'Cos why?
Ain't they the p'lice? Very well then!"



THE ADVENTURE OF CHANNEL MARSH



I


Mayes's stronghold was taken, but Mayes had escaped us once again; the
cage was in our hands, but the bird had flown.

Martin Hewitt, however, had his plans, as he was soon to show. The
recovery of the Admiralty code was a good stroke, and was a satisfactory
ending to an important case; but that, and even the capture of the
curious premises behind the Barbican, made but a halting-place in his
pursuit of Mayes, and as soon as I was in some degree recovered from my
struggle, and the captured place had been hastily searched, the chase
was resumed without a moment's delay; and that adventure was entered
upon which saw the end of the Red Triangle and its unholy doings--which
came terribly near to seeing the end of Hewitt himself, in fact.

I have not described the den near the Barbican with any great
particularity, but I have said that the office, accessible from the open
street, was only connected with the hidden premises behind--premises, as
was afterwards discovered, held under a separate tenancy--by an
easily-shifted ladder. It was in these hidden premises, approached by
the maze of courts and the stable-yard, that the main evidences of
Mayes's way of life were observable. The passage where my wrist had been
locked to the wall, and the room or cellar in which Plummer had been
confined, were the only parts of the lower premises fitted for the
detention of prisoners, with the exception of one very low and wholly
unlighted cellar, entered by a trapdoor and a very steep flight of brick
steps. This place smelt horribly faint and stagnant; but it produced on
my mind, both then and when I examined it later, an effect of horror and
repulsion more than could be accounted for by the smell alone. Of its
history nothing was discovered, and perhaps the feeling (though others
experienced it as well as myself) was the effect of mere fancy; but I
have never got rid of a conviction that that black cellar, or rather
pit--for it was very narrow--had been the instrument of crimes never to
be told.

There were one or two rooms sparely furnished--one as a bedroom, a
larger room, with a long table, a sofa, and several chairs; and in one
of the smaller rooms was found a stove, ladles and crucibles for the
melting down of metals--gold or silver. It was in this same room also
that the table stood, in the drawers of which were found papers, letters
and formulæ--things giving more than a hint of the use to which Mayes
had put his friendship with Mr. Jacob Mason, for of every possible
manner and detail in which science--more particularly the science of
chemistry--could aid in the commission of crime, there were notes in
these same drawers.

But most of these things were observed in detail later. The thing that
set us once more on the trail of Mayes, that very night and that very
hour, was found in the isolated office facing the street. It was a
cheque-book, quite full of unused cheques.

"This cheque-book," said Hewitt to Inspector Plummer and myself, "was in
the drawer below that in which we discovered the Admiralty code. The
Eastern Consolidated is the bank, as you see--Upper Holloway branch. Now
we must follow this at once, before waiting to search any further. There
may be something more important as a clue, or there may not, but at any
rate, while we are looking for it we are losing time. This may bring us
to him at once."

"You mean that he may have some address in Holloway," suggested
Plummer, "and we may get it from the bank?"

"There's that possibility, and another," Hewitt answered. "He has had to
bolt without warning or preparation, with nothing but the clothes he ran
in--probably very little money. Money he will want at once, and he would
rather not wait till the morning to get it; if he can get it at once it
will mean thirteen or fourteen hours' start at least. More, he will know
very well that this place will be searched, that this cheque-book will
be discovered soon enough, and that consequently the bank will be
watched. This is what he will do--what he is doing now, very likely. He
will knock up the resident manager of that bank and try to get a cheque
cashed to-night. I don't think that can be done; in which case he will
probably try to make some arrangement to have money sent him. Either
way, we must be at the Upper Holloway branch of the Eastern Consolidated
Bank as soon as a hansom can get us there."

Thus it was settled, and Hewitt and Plummer went off at once, leaving
Plummer's men, with the City police, in charge of the raided premises;
leaving some of them also to make inquiries in the neighbourhood. Mr.
Victor Peytral had shown himself anxious to accompany Hewitt and
Plummer, but had been dissuaded by Hewitt. I guessed that Hewitt feared
that some hasty indiscretion on the part of this terribly wronged man
might endanger his plans. Peytral, however, seemed tractable enough, and
left immediately after them; he had business, he said, which he expected
would occupy him for a day or two, and when it was completed he would
see us again.

As for myself I only remained long enough to ascertain that the police
could find no trace of the direction of Mayes's flight in the immediate
neighbourhood. They had little to aid them. He had gone without a hat,
and his dress was in some degree disordered by his struggle with me; but
the latter defect he might easily have remedied in the courts as he ran,
and they could gather no tidings of a hatless man. So I took my way to
my office, my wrist growing stiffer and more painful as I went, so that
I was not sorry to arrange for another member of the staff to take my
duty for the night, and to get to bed a few hours earlier than usual,
after the day's fatigue and excitement.



II


Going to bed uncommonly soon I woke correspondingly early in the
morning; but I was no earlier than Hewitt, who was at my door, in fact,
ere my breakfast was well begun.

"Well," I asked eagerly, almost before my friend had entered, "have you
got him at last?"

"Not yet," Hewitt answered. "But he did exactly as I had expected.
Plummer and I knocked up the bank manager, who lives over the premises
at the Upper Holloway branch. He was a very decent fellow--rather young
for the post--but he was naturally a bit surprised, possibly irritated,
at being bothered by one and another after office hours. I showed him
the cheque-book, and asked him if it belonged to any customer of his.

"'Why, yes,' he said, examining the numbers, 'I remember this because it
is the first of a new series, and we issued it the day before yesterday
to a new customer. Where did you get it?'

"'We are very anxious to see that customer,' I said. 'Has he been here
this evening?'

"The manager seemed a trifle surprised, but answered readily enough.
'Yes,' he said, 'he was here not an hour ago.'

"'Wanting to draw money?' I asked. But that the manager wouldn't tell
me, of course. So that it was necessary for Plummer to step in and
reveal the facts that this was a police matter, and that he was a
detective-inspector. That made some difference. The manager told us that
our man had opened an account at the bank only two days before; and I'd
like you to guess what name he had opened it under."

"Not Myatt?" I said. "After the chase----"

"No, not Myatt."

"Catherton Hunt?"

"No, nor Catherton Hunt. He had opened it in the name of Mayes!"

"What! his actual name?"

"His actual original name, according to Peytral. The account was
transferred, it would seem, from another bank; and I have an idea we may
find that he has been shifting his money about from one bank to another
as safety suggested, using his real name with it. You remember we could
find no trace of a banking account when the police raided and ransacked
Calton Lodge after Mason was killed? Quite probably he has had small
current accounts in other names at various times to aid in his schemes,
but his main account has always stood in his real name; and by that, you
see, we get some confirmation of Peytral's story. Well, as I say, the
account was opened in the name of Mayes, and the cheque-book was issued
which we discovered last night. The Upper Holloway branch saw no more of
its customer till yesterday evening, long after hours, when he drove up
in a hansom."

"Oh," I said, "in a hansom, was it? The men left behind could get no
news of him."

"Yes, we ascertained that last night; we called back, of course, the
last thing. I expect he got the first cab visible and drove off to a
hatter's a fair distance away, and then on to the bank. At any rate, he
knocked up the manager and told him that he had a sudden need for money
that very night; could he have some?

"The manager told him it would be impossible. Even if he had been
willing to do it, against all regulations, it would still be impossible.
For the strong-room and every cash receptacle in it was locked with two
separate locks with different keys, and though he had one of these keys
himself, it was useless without the other, which was in the possession
of his second in command, who lived some distance out of London. This
course is the usual precaution adopted in branch banks of this sort;
opening and closing, morning and evening, have to be done by chief and
assistant together. And I tell you, Brett, I believe that it was only
the being informed of this fact that prevented Mayes from trying some of
his hypnotic tricks on the bank manager; in which case there would have
been a big bank robbery--perhaps something worse in addition."

"Murder?"

"Murder with a tourniquet, perhaps--perhaps with some other weapon; but,
at any rate, probably with the Red Triangle. You know, of course--indeed
I told you, I think--that in most cases--not all--it is necessary to get
the subject's consent to the _first_ exercise of hypnotism on him. I
told you also it is possible for the practised hypnotist, while the
subject is under the influence of the _first_ experiment, to suggest to
him a certain word or formula, or even a silent sign, which shall bring
him under the influence at any other time, whenever the hypnotist
chooses to repeat it--just as must have been done with Mr. Telfer, in
the case of the Admiralty code. The first suggestion would not be the
difficult thing it might seem--it would only require a little time and
persuasion. Nothing would be said about hypnotism, of course; perhaps
something about a little physical experiment, or the like, and then in
a moment or two the subject would be in this creature's power for ever.
Remember the little 'ceremony of initiation' that the scoundrel
attempted to persuade you to submit to! That meant hypnotism--perhaps
death.

"But this is mere speculation. Mayes found that the keys on the premises
were not enough to release his money, even if the strict rules of the
bank had permitted the cashing of a cheque out of hours. But the manager
suggested that perhaps some neighbouring tradesman would exchange cash
for a cheque, and, with the view of obliging the new customer, went with
him as far as the shop of Mr. Isaac Trenaman, a grocer and cheesemonger
with a rather large shop at the corner of the road. Mr. Trenaman,
introduced and assured by the manager, was willing to give as much cash
as he could find in the till against Mr. Mayes's cheque, and did so to
the extent of twenty-seven pounds, a cheque for which sum was duly drawn
on one of the tradesman's own cheque forms, and left with him. This
done, the bank's new customer took himself off, with thanks and
apologies; carrying with him, however, two blank cheque forms from Mr.
Trenaman's book, the pennies for which he punctiliously paid over the
counter. Having no cheque forms with him, he explained, he might find
them useful if he could come across some friend who could provide the
cash he wished to use that night. And having completed this business so
far, this charming new customer of the bank made off into the night."

"And is that all you know of his movements?"

"Yes, as yet. He seems to have made no very definite excuse to the
manager for wanting the money in such a hurry--just said something had
occurred which made cash necessary, and was very polite and apologetic,
generally. The manager formed a notion that it must be for some gambling
purpose--he fancied that Mayes said something distantly alluding to
that, but wasn't sure."

"Did you ask about the address given to the bank?"

"Of course; but there we gained nothing. The manager couldn't remember
it exactly, and the books, of course, were locked up. But we know it
already--for what the manager _could_ remember was that it was an office
address, and somewhere near Barbican! So that we are back at the
Barbican den again, where I am going now, with Plummer, to give a day to
a minute investigation of the whole place. Meanwhile a watch is being
set at the bank in Holloway."

"Do you expect him back there, then?"

"Hardly. You see he knows that by this time we must have found his
cheque-book, and will be on the watch. But there is just a chance--a
very remote one--that he may send a message; perhaps send somebody to
cash a cheque. Though I don't expect it, for he is no fool--he is,
indeed, a sort of genius--and that would be a mistake, I think. Still,
he is bold, and that is where his money is, and he may make a dash at
it. So a couple of Plummer's men are to be waiting there, this morning,
in the manager's office, and if anybody comes from Mayes he will be
detained. Perhaps you would like to be with them? You can't be of much
use with me, and the job will be dull. But there you _may_ have a chance
of excitement, and you will be useful to come and report if anything
does happen. Why, you may even bag Mayes himself!"

"Of course--I'll go anywhere you please. They told you last night, I
suppose, that Peytral had business, and had gone off?"

"Yes, and I'm not sorry. He is too dangerous a man to have about us,
with his hot blood and the terrible injuries he keeps in memory. As
likely as not, if we get Mayes, we should next have to collar Peytral
for shooting him, or something. So I'm not sorry he is out of it for a
bit. But can you start now? Plummer is in my office and the two men are
in a cab outside. The bank opens at nine, and that is in Upper
Holloway."

I seized my hat and made ready.

"You should keep your eyes open," Hewitt hinted, "before you get to the
bank and when you leave, as well as while you're there. Do you remember
how poor Mason was watched? Well, there is probably some watching going
on now. Last night, on our way to the bank and back, I believe Plummer
and I were watched pretty closely."



III


Plummer's two plain-clothes men and I reached the neighbourhood of the
bank with a quarter of an hour to spare, or rather more. We dismissed
the cab at some little distance from the spot, and approached singly, so
that it was not difficult for us to slip in separately among the dozen
or fifteen clerks as they arrived. We passed directly into the manager's
room, the door of which opened into the space left for the public before
the counter. From this room the whole of the outer office was visible
through the glass of the partition. The manager, Mr. Blockley, a quick,
intelligent man of thirty-six or so, gave us chairs and pointed out how
best we could watch the counter without ourselves being observed.

"If a letter is sent," he said, "it will be brought here to me, of
course, and I will bring the messenger in. If a cheque is presented from
Mayes, I have told the cashier to slide that big ledger off his desk
accidentally with his elbow. That will be your signal, and then you can
do whatever you think proper. I don't think I can do any more than
that."

We took our positions and waited. I felt pretty sure that if Mayes sent
at all it would be early, for obvious reasons. And I was right, for the
very first customer was our man.

He stepped in briskly scarcely a minute after the manager had ceased
speaking, and I remembered having seen him waiting at the street corner
as I came along. He was a well-dressed, smart enough looking man, in
frock coat and tall hat. He took a letter-case from his pocket, picked
out a cheque from the rest of the papers in it, and passed it under the
wire grille of the counter.

The cashier took it, turned it over, and shifted mechanically to post
the amount in the book on his desk. As he did so his elbow touched the
heavy ledger which the manager had pointed out to us, and it fell with a
crash. The cashier calmly put his pen behind his ear, and stooped to
pick up the book, but even as he did it the two Scotland Yard men were
out before the counter, and had sidled up to the stranger, one on each
side.

"May we see that cheque, if you please?" asked one, and the cashier
turned its face toward him. "Ah, just so; a hundred pounds--Mayes. We
must just trouble you to come with us, if you please. There is some
explanation wanted about that cheque."

I had followed the two men from the manager's room, and now I saw that
while one had laid his hand on the stranger's shoulder the other had
taken him by the opposite arm. "Why," said the former, looking into his
face, "it's Broady Sims!"

"All right," the man growled resignedly. "It's a cop. I'll go quiet."

But as he spoke I saw the free hand steal out behind him and pitch away
a crumpled fragment of paper. One of the policemen saw it too, followed
it with his eyes, and saw me snatch it up.

"That's right, sir," he said, "take care of that; and we'll have a cab,
in case anything else drops accidentally. It's just a turning over,
Broady, that's what it is."

I spread out the piece of paper, and was astonished to find inscribed on
it just such another series of figures, in groups of eight, as was found
in the cypher message in the Case of the Lever Key.

Here was a great find--a secret message as clear to me as to Mayes
himself, and as likely as not the scrap of paper that would hang him! I
took one of the plain-clothes men aside while the other kept his hold of
Broady Sims.

"This is very important," I said. "It is a cypher message which Mr.
Hewitt can read--or I, myself, in fact, with a little time. Must you
take it with you? If so, I'll make a copy now."

"Well, sir, we're responsible, you see," the man said, "so I think we
must take it; so perhaps you'd better make a copy, as you suggest."

"Very well," I said, "that is done in a few seconds. You can take your
man off, and I will go direct to Mr. Hewitt and Inspector Plummer with
the copy." And with that I made the copy, which read thus:--

               23, 19, 15, 1, 9, 14, 9, 2; 20, 8, 1,
               20, 14, 14, 20, 8; 14, 5, 12, 4, 9, 7,
               5, 14; 3, 8, 18, 23, 0, 14, 1, 8; 22,
               9, 6, 1, 18, 3, 5, 1; 19, 14, 15, 21,
               9, 0, 20, 12; 18, 12, 21, 1, 6, 23, 20,
               12; 9, 18, 15, 5, 18, 13, 12, 20.

It struck me to ask the manager if the cheque just presented were one of
those procured from Mr. Trenaman the night before, and I found that it
was. Then I left the policemen with their prisoner and made for the
nearest cab-rank. This cypher message, no doubt conveying Mayes's
instructions to the man just captured, was probably of the utmost
importance, and Hewitt must see it at once; and as the cab ambled along
towards Barbican I busied myself in deciphering the figures according to
the plan of the knight's move in chess, as Hewitt had explained to me. I
could only see two noughts among the numbers, so plainly it was a longer
message than the one then deciphered--one of sixty-two letters, in fact.
I turned the figures into the letters corresponding in the alphabet, _a_
for 1, _b_ for 2, and so on, as Hewitt had done, and I arranged these
letters in the squares of a roughly drawn chessboard, so that they stood
thus:--

               w s o a i n i b
               t h a t n n t h
               n e l d i g e n
               c h r w o n a h
               v i f a r c e a
               s n o u i o t l
               r l u a f w t l
               i r o e r m l t

The letters thus set out, to read off the message was a simple task
enough, in view of the key Hewitt had given me. I began, as in the case
of the Lever Key message, at the right-hand top corner, and taking the
knight's move from _b_ to _e_ in the last square but one of the third
line, thence to _a_ at the end of the fifth line, and so to _t_ in the
seventh line, and from that to _r_ (fifth square in bottom line), _u_ in
seventh line and so on, in the order shown by the Lever Key message, a
copy of which I kept as a curiosity in my pocket-book. So I read the
message through, and I set it down thus:--

/#
     _Be at ruin Channel Marsh to-night twelve; wait in hall for
     instruc. Word final._
#/

The general meaning of this seemed clear enough. The man whom the
policeman had recognised as Broady Sims was to be at some spot--a ruined
building, it would seem--in a place called Channel Marsh, at midnight,
there to wait in the hall for instructions; no doubt for instructions
where to take the hundred pounds he was to have got from the bank. "Word
final" was not so clear, though I judged--and I think rightly--that it
meant that the word "final" was to be used as a password by which the
two messengers should know each other.

I was almost at my destination, and was cogitating the message and its
meaning, when the cab checked at some traffic in Barbican, just by the
"Compasses" public-house, and Mr. Victor Peytral hailed me and climbed
on the step of the cab.

"I was just going to see if Mr. Hewitt was at the place," he said, "and
if so to ask him for news. But I am rather in a hurry, and perhaps you
can tell me?"

"We are on the track, I think," I answered, "and I have just come across
this, which I am taking to Hewitt," and with that I showed him my
translation of the cypher, and gave him its history in half a dozen
sentences.

"That's good," Peytral answered. "I don't know Channel Marsh, do you?
But probably Mr. Hewitt does. I won't keep you any longer--I see you're
hurrying. But I hope to see you again before long."

He dropped off the step and disappeared, and the cab went on round the
corner by the "Compasses."

I found Hewitt and Plummer in the office where, on pretence of
bookbindery, I had first seen Mayes face to face the day before. They
were near the completion of their examination of this office and all its
contents, and soon would begin as systematically on the premises behind.
I gave Hewitt my copy of the cypher message, and my translation, with an
exact account of how it had come into my possession.

Martin Hewitt studied the message for a minute or two, and then relapsed
into grave thought. So he sat for some little time, while Plummer left
the room by the window and descended the ladder to speak with his men on
guard below.

Presently Hewitt looked up and said: "Brett, this message is most
important--probably as important as you suppose it to be. But at the
same time I believe you have made a great mistake about it."

"But I haven't misread it, have I? Is there any other way----"

"No, you haven't misread it; you've read every word as it was intended
to be read. But it is a very different thing from what you suppose it to
be."

"What is it, then?"

Martin Hewitt put the paper on the table and looked keenly in my face.
"It is a trap," he said. "It is a trap to catch _me_--unless I flatter
myself unduly."

I could not understand. "A trap?" I repeated. "But how?"

"Why should Mayes need to send his confederate instructions by written
note? We know the nature of his hold over his subordinates, and we know
that it means personal communication. Also, the cheque was in Mayes's
own hands last night. More, Mayes knows very well that I have read that
cypher--has known it for some time; otherwise how could we have
discovered the bonds in the case of the Lever Key? Also, Mayes knows
that we have his cheque-book and know his bank. Didn't I assure you we
were watched last night? I believe he knows all we have done. In such
circumstances he might risk his jackal's liberty by sending him on the
desperate chance of cashing a cheque, but, knowing the risk, he would
never have let him come with information on him. And least of all would
he have let him come carrying a vital secret written in that very
cypher which he knows I read many weeks ago. And then see how that
message, instead of being concealed, was positively brought to your
notice! That man Broady Sims is a cunning rascal, and the police know
him of old as a skilful swindler and bill-forger. A man like that
doesn't get rid of a compromising scrap of paper by trundling it out
under your nose just at the moment he is arrested, when the attention of
everybody is directed to him; no, he would wait his opportunity, and
then he would probably slip it into his mouth and swallow it. As it is,
he would seem to have succeeded in dropping this paper full in your
sight, with an elaborate pretence of secrecy. Now this is what has been
done, Brett. That man has been sent to cash a cheque, with very little
hope of success, or none, because the first move that Mayes would
anticipate on our part would be the watching for him and his cheques at
the bank in Upper Holloway. If by any chance the cheques had been
cashed, well and good, no harm would have been done, and then Mayes
could have gone on to arrange for drawing the rest of his balance--could
probably have quite safely come himself to draw it. But if on the other
hand, as he fully anticipated, Sims was arrested, what then? Nothing was
lost but a penny cheque-form, and even Sims--though Mayes would care
nothing about that--could only be searched and then released, for the
cheque was perfectly genuine, and there was no charge against him. But
since he would certainly be searched, that cypher note was given him,
with instructions to make a conspicuous show of attempting to get rid of
it. Now that note was written in a cypher which Mayes knew was as plain
as print--to whom? To _me_. I am on his trail, and this note is
deliberately flung in my way, open as the day, but with every appearance
of secrecy. I am his dangerous enemy, and he knows it--as he told you,
in fact, yesterday. If he can clear me away, he can take breath and make
himself safe. The purpose of this note is to induce me to go, alone, to
this place on Channel Marsh to-night at twelve, in the hope of learning
where to find Mayes. There I am to be got rid of--murdered in some way,
for which preparation will be made. Mayes judges my character pretty
well. He knows that, in such circumstances as he represents, Sims being
kept away from his appointment, I should certainly go and take his
place, and use his password, to learn what I could. And, Brett, _that is
precisely what I shall do_!"

"What? You will go?" I exclaimed. "But you mustn't--the danger! We'd
better both go together."

Hewitt smiled. "Why not forty of us?" he said. "No. Here is a chance of
bagging our man, for, however I am to be arranged for--whether by shot,
steel, or the tourniquet, I make no doubt it is Mayes himself who is to
do it. You shall come, however, you and Plummer at least. But we will
not go in a bunch--you shall follow me and watch, ready to help when
needful. This Channel Marsh is an empty, dark space between two channels
of the Lea. It is among the Hackney Marshes, lying between Stratford and
Homerton, and I fancy there is a deserted house there, though I can't
remember ever having seen it. Do you know it?"

"No; not in the least."

"Well, I must reconnoitre to-day, and that with a lot of care. I think I
told you I was convinced of being watched, and that is a thing you can't
prevent in a place like London, if it is skilfully done. Now, Brett, you
have done very well this morning. If you want to be on the scene of
action to-night at twelve, you must get leave from your editor, mustn't
you? How's your wrist?"

It was still extremely stiff, and I told Hewitt that I doubted my
ability to hold a pen for two or three days.

"Very well, then; get off and convey your excuses as soon as you please.
I shall have a talk with Plummer, and then I shall take a few hours to
myself, by myself, in somebody else's clothes. Be in your rooms all the
evening, for you may expect a message."



IV


It was at a little past nine in the evening that I next saw Hewitt. He
came into my rooms in an incongruous get-up. He wore corduroy trousers,
a very dirty striped jersey, a particularly greasy old jacket, and a
twisted neckcloth; but over all was an excellent overcoat, and on his
head a tall hat of high polish.

"Brought to me by Kerrett," he said, in explanation of the hat and
overcoat. "He's been waiting with them for a long time in a court by
Milford Lane. A good hat and overcoat will cover anything, and I
preferred to enter this building in my own character. I've been wearing
that this afternoon," and he pulled out of his pocket an old peaked cap
with ear-pieces tied over the top.

"You mustn't bring your best clothes," he went on, "or you'll spoil
them scrambling about boats and groping in ditches. I have done my
ditch-groping for the day, and I'm going to change. You had best be
putting on older things while I get into newer."

"What sort of place is this Channel Marsh?" I asked.

"Well, I should think there must be a great many better places to spend
a night in. It must be the dreariest, wettest flat within many miles of
London, and I should like to see the portrait of the man who had the
idea of building a house there. For a house there is, or rather the
ruins of it--deserted for years, and half carried away by rats and
people who wanted slates and firewood and water pipes."

"Is that the place where you intend waiting to-night?"

"It is. I haven't examined it nearly so closely as I should like, for
fear of raising a scare. Channel Marsh is almost an island, with a
narrow neck of an entrance at each end. A foot-track runs the whole
length, and a person in the ruined house can easily see anybody entering
the Marsh from either end. For that reason I reconnoitred from a
boat--the boat you will go in to-night. I think it is the very dirtiest
old tub I ever saw, so that it suited my rig out. I discovered it at a
wharf some little way down the river, and I paid a shilling for the hire
of it. Channel Marsh is banked a bit on one side, and I crept up under
cover of the bank. I learned very little, beyond the general lie of the
land, because I was so mighty cautious. I judged it better to be content
with half an examination, rather than drive away the game. And even as
it is I've an idea I have been seen. I lay up among some reeds till
dark, but after that I am _sure_ there was somebody on the Marsh--and
skulking, too, like me. So after waiting and scouting for a little I
gave it up and paddled quietly back."

"But look here, Hewitt," I said, "this seems a bit mad. Why go and risk
yourself as you talk of doing? You believe Mayes will be there, at the
ruin, or will come there at twelve. Very well, then, why can't the
police send enough men to surround the place and capture him for
certain?"

Hewitt smiled and shook his head. "My dear Brett," he said, "you haven't
seen the place, and I have. It will be hard enough job for you and
Plummer to get near the spot unobserved, guided by a man who knows every
inch. A trampling crowd of policemen would have as much chance as a herd
of elephants, and on such light nights as we are having now they would
be seen a mile off. And who knows what scouts he may have out? No, as I
say, it will be a great piece of luck if you get through unobserved as
it is, and even now I'm not perfectly certain that I couldn't do best
alone. However, arrangements are made now, and you are coming, three of
you."

"Then what are the arrangements?" I asked.

"Just these. You are to leave here first. Make the best of your way to
Mile End Gate, where an old inn stands in the middle of the road. Go to
the corner of the turning opposite this, at the south side of the road.
At eleven o'clock a four-wheeler will drive up, with Plummer and one of
his men in it. The man is one who knows all the geography of Channel
Marsh, and he also knows exactly where to find the boat I used to-day.
You will drive to a little way beyond Bow Bridge, and then Plummer's man
will lead you to the boat. You had better scull and leave the others to
look out. They will know what to do. You will pull along to a place
where you can watch till you see me coming on to the Marsh by the path.
As soon as you see me you will slip quietly along to a place the
policeman will show you, close to the ruin, and watch again. That's all.
I don't know whether or not you think it worth while to take a pistol. I
certainly shall; but then I'm most likely to want it. Plummer will have
one."

I thought it well worth while, and I took my regulation "Webley"--a
relic of my old Volunteer captaincy. Then, by way of the underground
railway, I gained the neighbourhood of Mile End, and interested myself
about its back streets till the time approached to look for Plummer's
cab.

Plummer was more than punctual--indeed, he was two or three minutes
before his time. The cab drew near the kerb and scarcely stopped, so
quickly did I scramble in.

"Good," said Plummer; "we're well ahead of time. Mr. Hewitt quite
right?"

"Yes," I said. "I left him so an hour and a half ago at his office." And
we sat silent while the cab rattled and rumbled over the stony road to
Bow Bridge, and the shopkeepers on the way put up their shutters and
extinguished their lights.

Bow Bridge was reached and passed, and presently we stopped the cab and
alighted. Here Styles, Plummer's man, took the lead, and a little way
farther along the road we turned into a dark and muddy lane on the left.
We floundered through this for some hundred and fifty yards or so, and
then suddenly drew in at an opening on the right. Here we stood for a
few moments while our guide groped his way down toward the muddy water
we could smell, rather than see, a little way before us.

There were a few broken steps and a broad black thing which was the
boat. We got into it as silently as we could manage, and cast off. It
was a clumsy, broad-beamed, leaky old conveyance, and that it was as
dirty as Hewitt had described it I could feel as I groped for the sculls
and got them out. The night was light and dark by turns--changing with
the clouds. We shipped the rudder, and Styles steered, or I should
probably have run ashore more than once, for the banks were not always
distinct, and the channel was narrow and dark. We passed the black forms
of several factories with tall chimneys, and then drew out among the
Marshes, flat and grey, with wisps of mist lying here and there. So we
went in silence for a while, till at last we drew in against the bank on
the left and laid hold by a post at a landing-place.

"This is the Channel Marsh," whispered Styles, as we climbed cautiously
ashore. "We can't see the house very well from here, but there's where
Mr. Hewitt will come through."

Looking over the top of the low bank, we could discern a path which
traversed the length of the marsh, entering it by a broken gate at a
neck of land which we must have passed on our way. Here we crouched and
waited. We had heard the half-hour struck on some distant clock soon
after entering the boat, and now we waited anxiously for the
three-quarters. So long did the time seem to my excited perceptions that
I had quite decided that the clock must have stopped, or, at any rate,
did not chime quarters, when at last the strokes came, distant and
plaintive, over the misty flats.

"A quarter of an hour," Plummer remarked. "He won't be a minute late,
nor a minute too early, from what I know of him. How long will it take
him from that gate to the ruin?"

"Eight or nine minutes, good," Styles answered.

"Then we shall see him in seven minutes or six minutes, as the case may
be," Plummer rejoined in the same low tones.

Slowly the minutes dragged, with not a sound about us save the sucking
and lapping of the muddy river and the occasional flop of a water-rat.
The dark clouds were now fewer, and the moon was high and only partially
obscured by the thinner clouds that traversed its face. More than once I
fancied a sound from the direction of the ruin, and then I doubted my
fancy; when at last there was a sound indeed, but from the opposite
direction, and in a moment we saw Hewitt, muffled close about the neck,
walking briskly up the path.

We regained the boat with all possible speed and silence, and I pulled
my best, regardless of my stiff wrist. During our watch I had had time
to perceive the wisdom of the arrangements which had been made. We had
been watching from a place fairly out of sight from the ruin, yet
sufficiently near it to be able to reach its neighbourhood before
Hewitt; and certainly it was better to approach the actual spot at the
same time as Hewitt himself, for then, if he were being watched for, the
attention of the watcher would be diverted from us.

Presently we reached the reed-bed that Hewitt had spoken of, and I could
see a sort of little creek or inlet. Here I ceased to pull, and Styles
cautiously punted us into the creek with one of the sculls. The boat
grounded noiselessly in the mud, and we crept ashore one at a time
through mud and sedge.

The creek was edged with a bank of rough, broken ground, grown with
coarse grass and bramble, and as we peeped over this bank the ruined
house stood before us--so near as to startle me by its proximity. It
must have been a large house originally--if, indeed, it was ever
completed. Now it stood roofless, dismantled, and windowless, and in
many places whole rods of brickwork had fallen and now littered the
ground about. The black gap of the front door stood plain to see, with a
short flight of broken steps before it, and by the side of these a thick
timber shore supported the front wall. It struck me then that the ruin
was perhaps largely due to a failure of the marshy foundation.

The place seemed silent and empty. Hewitt's footsteps were now plain to
hear, and presently he appeared, walking briskly as before. He could not
see us, and did not look for us, but made directly for the broken steps.
He mounted these, paused on the topmost, and struck a match. It seemed a
rather large hall, and I caught a momentary glimpse of bare rafters and
plasterless wall. Then the match went out and Hewitt stepped within.

Almost on the instant there came a loud jar, and a noise of falling
bricks; and then, in the same instant of time I heard a terrific crash,
and saw Hewitt leap out at the front door--leap out, as it seemed, from
a cloud of dust and splinters.

I sprang to my feet, but Plummer pulled me down again. "Steady!" he
said, "lie low! He isn't hurt. Wait and see before we show ourselves."

It seemed that the floor above had fallen on the spot where Hewitt had
been standing. He had alighted from his leap on hands and knees, but now
stood facing the house, revolver in hand, watching.

There was a moment's pause, a sound of movement from the upper part of
the ruin, another quiet moment, and then a bang and a flash from high on
the wall to the right. Hewitt sprang to shelter behind the heavy shore,
and another shot followed him, scoring a white line across the thick
timber.

Plummer was up, and Styles and I were after him.

"There he is!" cried Plummer, "up on the coping!" I pulled out my own
pistol.

"Don't shoot!" cried Hewitt. "We'll take him alive!"

Far to the right, on the topmost coping of the front wall, I could see a
crouching figure. I saw it rise to its knees, and once more raise an arm
to take aim at Hewitt; and then, with a sudden cry, another human figure
appeared from behind the coping and sprang upon the first. There was a
moment of struggle, and then the rotten coping crumbled, and down, down,
came bricks and men together.

I sickened. I can only explain my feeling by saying that never before
had I seen anything that seemed so long in falling as those two men. And
then with a horrid crash they struck the broken ground, and the pistol
fired again with the shock.

We reached them in a dozen strides, and turned them over, limp, oozing,
and lifeless. And then we saw that one was Mayes, and the other--Victor
Peytral!

We kept no silence now, but Plummer blew his whistle loud and long, and
I fired my revolver into the air, chamber after chamber. Styles started
off at a run along the path towards the town lights, to fetch what aid
he might.

But even then we had doubt if any aid would avail Mayes. He was the
under man in the fall, and he had dropped across a little heap of
bricks. He now lay unconscious, breathing heavily, with a terrible wound
at the back of the head, and Hewitt foretold--and rightly--that when the
doctor did come he would find a broken spine. Peytral, on the other
hand, though unconscious, showed no sign of injury, and just before the
doctor came sighed heavily and turned on his side.

First there came policemen, and then in a little time a hastily dressed
surgeon, and after him an ambulance. Mayes was carried off to hospital,
but with a good deal of rubbing and a little brandy, Peytral came round
well enough to be helped over the Marshes to a cab.

The trap which had been laid for Hewitt was simple, but terribly
effective. The floor above the hall--loose and broken everywhere--was
supported on rafters, and the rafters were crossed underneath and
supported at the centre by a stout beam. The rafters had been sawn
through at both ends, and the rotten floor had been piled high with
broken brick and stone to a weight of a ton or more. The end of a loose
beam had been wedged obliquely under the end of the one timber now
supporting the whole weight, so that a pull on the opposite end of this
long lever would force away the bricks on which the beam rested and let
the whole weight fall. It was the jar of the beam and the fall of the
first few loose bricks that had so far warned Hewitt as to enable him to
leap from under the floor almost as it fell.

Peytral's sudden appearance, when we had time to reflect on it, gave us
a suspicion as to some at least of the espionage to which Hewitt had
been subjected--a suspicion confirmed, later, by Peytral himself after
his recovery from the shock of the fall. For fresh news of his enemy had
re-awakened all his passion, and since he alone could not find him, he
was willing enough to let Hewitt do the tracking down, if only he
himself might clutch Mayes's throat in the end. This explained the
"business" that had called him away after the Barbican stronghold had
been captured; finding both Hewitt and Plummer somewhat uncommunicative,
and himself somewhat "out of it," he had drawn off, and had followed
Hewitt's every movement, confident that he would be led to his old enemy
at last. What I had told him of the cypher message had led him to hunt
out Channel Marsh in the afternoon, and to return at midnight. He, of
course, regarded the message, as I did myself at the time, as a
perfectly genuine instruction from Mayes to Sims, and he came to the
rendezvous wholly in ignorance as to what Hewitt was doing, and with no
better hope than that he might hear something that would lead him in the
direction of Mayes. He had entered the marsh after dark from the upper
end, and had lain concealed by the other channel till near midnight;
then he had crept to the rear of the ruin and climbed to where an
opening seemed to offer a good chance of hearing what might pass in the
hall. He had heard Hewitt approach from the front, and the crash that
followed. The rest we had seen.



V


Mayes never recovered consciousness, and was dead when we visited the
hospital the day after; both skull and spine were badly fractured. And
the very last we saw of the Red Triangle was the implement with which it
had been impressed, which was found in his pocket.

It was a small triangular prism of what I believe is called soapstone.
It was perhaps four inches long, and the face at the end corresponded
with the mark that Hewitt had seen on the forehead of Mr. Jacob Mason.
It fitted closely in a leather case, in the end of which was a small,
square metal box full of the red, greasy pigment with which the mark had
been impressed.

It was from Broady Sims that we learnt the exact use and meaning of this
implement: though he would not say a word till he had seen with his own
eyes Mayes lying dead in the mortuary. Then he gasped his relief and
said, "That's the end of something worse than slavery for me! I'll turn
straight after this."

Sims's story was long, and it went over ground that concerns none of
Hewitt's adventures. But what we learned from it was briefly this. It
had been Mayes's way to meet clever criminals as they left gaol after a
term of imprisonment. In this manner he had met Sims. He had made great
promises, had spoken of great ideas which they could put into execution
together, had lent him money, and then at last had "initiated" him, as
he called it. He had put him to lie back in a chair and had directed his
gaze on the Red Triangle held in the air before him: and then the
Triangle had descended gently, and he felt sleepy, till at the cold
touch of the thing on his forehead his senses had gone. This was done
more than once, and in the end the victim found that Mayes had only to
raise the Triangle before him to send him to sleep instantly. Then he
found that he must do certain things, whether he wanted or not. And it
ended in complete subservience; so that Mayes could set him to
perpetrate a robbery and then appropriate the proceeds for himself, for
by post-hypnotic suggestion he could force him to bring and hand over
every penny. More, the poor wretch was held in constant terror, for he
knew that his very life depended on the lift of his master's hand. He
could be sent into lethargy by a gesture and killed in that state. That
very thing was done, in fact, as we have seen, in two cases.

Sims was but one of a gang of such criminals, brought to heel and made
victims. Their minds and souls, such as they were, had passed into the
miscreant's keeping, and terror reinforced the power of hypnotism. They
committed crimes, and when they failed they took the punishment; when
they succeeded Mayes took the gains, or at any rate the greater part of
them. He went, also, among people who were not yet criminals, and by
degrees made them so, to his own profit. The case of Henning, the
correspondence clerk, was one that had come under Hewitt's eyes. He used
his faculty also with great cunning in other ways--as we had seen in the
matter of the Admiralty code. And it was even said among the gang that a
man he had once hypnotised he could force by suggestion to commit
suicide when he became useless or inconvenient.

Sims and the ragged fellow who had decoyed me into Mayes's den were the
only members of the gang whom we could identify after his death, but
many others must have shared their relief; and I sincerely hope--though
I hardly expect--that they all availed themselves of their liberty to
abandon their evil courses. As in fact the two I speak of did, and took
to honest work.

All that had remained mysterious in the earlier cases now became clear.
In the first, the case of Samuel's diamonds, Denson had been put into
the office where Samuel had found him, by Mayes, with the express design
of effecting a diamond robbery. The robbery was effected, and the
unhappy Denson formed a plan of making a bolt of it himself with the
diamonds. He was, perhaps, what is called a difficult subject in
hypnotism--amenable enough to direct influence, but not sufficiently
retentive of post-hypnotic suggestion. He hid the jewels and adopted a
disguise, but Mayes was watching him better than he supposed. The
diamonds were lost, but Denson was found and done to death--probably not
in that retreat near Barbican, but at night in some empty street. The
diamonds were not found on him, and the body, with the mark of the
Triangle still on it, was taken by night to a central spot in London and
there left. Mayes probably thought that a notable example like this, so
boldly displayed and so conspicuously reported in the Press, would
impress his auxiliaries throughout London with the terror that was one
of his weapons; for they would well understand the meaning of the Red
Triangle, and they would receive a striking illustration of the
consequences of rebellion or bad faith. The money and the watch were
left in the pockets because they were trifles after the loss of fifteen
thousand pounds' worth of diamonds, and their presence in the pockets
made the murder the less easy to understand--which was a point gained.
And as to the keys--Mayes knew nothing of where the diamonds were
hidden, and so had no use for them. For where could he use them? Denson
had left his lodgings, and as to the office, that, he would guess, would
be in the hands of the police, on Samuel's complaint. The immediate
result of this affair on the only honest member of Mayes's circle I have
told in the case of Mr. Jacob Mason. He was not yet thoroughly in
Mayes's hands, but he had "dabbled," as he remorsefully confessed, and
Mayes had already found him useful. He was dangerous, and his end came
quickly. Another victim who had probably begun innocently enough was
Henning, the clerk to Kingsley, Bell and Dalton, and his death in the
Penn's Meadow barn leaves a mystery that never can be positively cleared
up. Was it murder or was it suicide by post-hypnotic suggestion? It will
be remembered that the fire burst out in the barn after Mayes had left
it.

The case of Mr. Telfer was explained clearly enough by Hewitt at the
time; but it is an example of the snares that lie open for the most
innocent person who allows himself to be made the subject of hypnotic
experiments at the hands of persons with whom, and with whose objects,
he is not thoroughly acquainted. And it must be remembered that at this
time there are persons advertising to teach the practice of hypnotism to
anybody who will pay; to anybody who may use the terrible power as he
pleases. More, the danger is so great that it has led two eminent men of
science to issue a public protest and warning, with an urgent plea that
the practice of hypnotism be restricted by law at least as closely as
that of vivisection.

As to what would have happened if Plummer and I had yielded to Mayes's
threats so far as to undergo the "initiation" he proposed, at the time
we were helpless in his hands--of that I have little doubt. I cannot
suppose that he would have wasted much time over me, once I had fallen
lethargic. When Hewitt burst in he would have found me lying dead, with
the Red Triangle on my forehead. It would have saved Mayes a lot of
noise and struggle, at least.

But I often wonder whether or not there was anything in his reference to
the place beyond the sea, where he would make me a great man if I did as
he wished. Was it his design, having accumulated sufficient wealth, to
return and take his natural place among the enlightened rulers of Hayti?
He would not have been so much worse than some of the others.





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