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Title: Lord John in New York
Author: Williamson, C. N. (Charles Norris), 1859-1920, Williamson, A. M. (Alice Muriel), 1869-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lord John in New York" ***

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[Illustration: Cover art]



LORD JOHN

IN NEW YORK



BY

C. N. & A. M. WILLIAMSON


AUTHORS OF "THE LIGHTNING CONDUCTOR"



METHUEN & CO. LTD.

36 ESSEX STREET W.C.

LONDON



_First Published in 1918_



  BY THE SAME AUTHORS

  The Lightning Conductor
  The Princess Passes
  My Friend the Chauffeur
  Lady Betty Across the Water
  The Car of Destiny
  The Botor Chaperon
  Set in Silver
  Lord Loveland Discovers America
  The Golden Silence
  The Guests of Hercules
  The Demon
  The Wedding Day
  The Princess Virginia
  The Heather Moon
  The Love Pirate
  It Happened in Egypt
  A Soldier of the Legion
  The Shop Girl
  The War Wedding
  The Lightning Conductress
  Secret History
  The Cowboy Countess
  This Woman to this Man



CONTENTS


EPISODE I

THE KEY


EPISODE II

THE GREY SISTERHOOD


EPISODE III

THE GIRL ON THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR


EPISODE IV

THE DEATH TRYST


EPISODE V

THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT


EPISODE VI

THE CLUE IN THE AIR


EPISODE VII

THE WATCHING EYE


EPISODE VIII

THE HOUSE OF REVENGE


EPISODE IX

THE BELL BUOY



TO A CERTAIN KING

OF A CERTAIN CINEMA COMPANY

WHO PUT

"LORD JOHN IN NEW YORK"

ON THE SCREEN



LORD JOHN IN NEW YORK



EPISODE I

THE KEY

"More letters and flowers for you, Lord John," said my nurse.

Not that I needed a nurse; and, above all things, I needed no more
letters or flowers.  The waste-paper basket was full.  The room smelt
like a perfume factory.  The mantelpiece and all other receptacles
having an army of occupation, vases and bowls were mobilising on the
floor.  This would, of course, not be tolerated in hospital; but I was
off the sick list, recovering in a private convalescent home.  I was
fed up with being a wounded hero; the fragrance of too many flowers,
and the kindness of too many ladies, was sapping and mining my brain
power; consequently, I could invent no excuse for escape.

The nurse came in, put down the lilies, and gave me three letters.

My heart beat, for I was expecting a note from a woman to whom somehow
or other I was almost engaged, and to whom I didn't in the least wish
to be engaged.  She would not have looked at me before the war, when I
was only a younger brother of the Marquis of Haslemere--and the author
of a successful detective story called _The Key_.  Now, however; simply
because I'd dropped a few bombs from a monoplane on to a Zeppelin
hangar in Belgium, had been wounded in one arm and two legs, and
through sheer instinct of self-preservation had contrived to escape, I
was a toy worth playing with.  She wanted to play with me.  All the
women I knew, not busy with better toys, wanted to play with me.  My
brother Haslemere, who had been ashamed of my extremely clever, rather
successful book, and the undoubted detective talent it showed, was
proud of me as a mere bomb-dropper.  So, too, was my sister-in-law.  I
was the principal object of attraction at the moment in Violet's zoo--I
mean her convalescent home.  She had cried because men were not being
wounded fast enough to fill its expensively appointed rooms; I was
captured, therefore, to make up for deficiencies and shown off to
Violet's many friends, who were duly photographed bending beautifully
over me.

There was, as I had feared, a letter from Irene Anderson; there was
also--even worse--one from Mrs. Allendale.  But the third letter was
from Carr Price.  On the envelope was the address of the New York
theatre where the play he had dramatised from my book would shortly be
produced.  He had come to England a million years ago, before the war,
to consult me about his work, which would have been brought out in
London if the war had not upset our manager's plans.  I like Carr
Price, who is as much poet as playwright; a charming, sensitive,
nervous, wonderful fellow.  I gave his letter precedence.


"DEAR LORD JOHN," he began, and I judged from the scrawl that he wrote
in agitation--"for goodness' sake, what have you done to Roger Odell
that he should have a grouch on you?  It must have been something
pretty bad.  I wish to Heaven you'd given me the tip last summer that
you'd made an enemy of him.  Roger Odell, of all men in America!  I
suppose the brother of a marquis can stand on his own feet in his own
country, but even if his brother's an archangel his feet are apt to get
cold in New York if Roger Odell turns the heat off.

"The facts--as I've just heard from Julius Felborn--are these.
Yesterday Odell sent for Julius, who went like a bird, for he and Odell
are friends.  Odell's money and influence put Julius where he is now,
as a manager, up at the top, though still young.  What was Julius's
horror, however, when Odell blurted out a warning not to produce any
play dramatised from a book of yours, because he--Odell--would do his
best to ruin it!  Julius asked what the dickens he meant.  Odell
wouldn't explain.  All he'd say was, that he'd be sorry to hurt Julius
and had nothing against me, but _The Key_ would get no chance in New
York or any old town in the United States where Roger Odell had a
finger in the pie.

"Well, you must have heard enough about Odell to know what such a
threat amounts to.  There are mighty few pies he hasn't got a finger
in.  Not that he's a man who threatens as a rule.  He's _made_ a good
many men.  I never heard of his _breaking_ one.  But when he decides to
do a thing, he does it.  Julius is in a blue funk.  He's not a coward,
but even if he felt strong enough to fight Odell's newspapers and other
influence, he says it would be an act of 'base ingratitude' to do so,
as he'd be 'walking on his uppers' now but for Odell's help, tiding
over rough places in the past.  Julius took all night to reflect, and
rang me up this morning.  I'm writing in his office at the theatre now,
after our interview.  He says Odell would have put him wise before, but
he saw the pars (in his own papers!) for the first time yesterday
morning on the way back from the West Indies, where he'd been on a
short business trip.  Queer place for such a man to go on a business
trip!  But the whole thing is dashed queer.  Now he's off again like a
whirlwind to England for _another_ 'short business trip,' so he told
Julius.  But J. let drop one little item of information about a woman,
or rather a girl.  _Can_ that be where _you_ come in on this?  _Have
you taken this girl away_?  Anyhow, whatever you've done, the
consequences seem likely to be serious.  Julius is inclined to call a
halt, bribe, wheedle or bluster the star into throwing up his part at
the first rehearsal, by way of an excuse, and to put on Chumley Reed's
_Queen Sweetheart_, which he kept up his sleeve in case _The Key_
failed.  But, of course, it _couldn't_ fail, unless it was burked.  The
whole cast was wild over _The Key_.  Julius himself was wild, and is
sick at having to turn it down.  But Odell's too big for him.  And I
guess O---- has offered to stand the racket for the loss of wasted
scenery, which has been begun on an elaborate scale.  (Think of the
great casino act at Monte Carlo!)  Unfortunately, I'm constituted so I
can't help seeing both sides of the shield and putting myself in
others' places.  I'm sorry for Julius.  But I'm twenty times sorrier
for Carr Price.  For you, too, my dear fellow, of course.  But I stand
to lose more than you do on this deal.

"I told you confidentially last June just what depends on the success
of _The Key_, and I've counted on that success as certain.  So did
_she_.  I wish to Heaven she weren't so conscientious--yet no, I love
her all the better for what she is.  I shan't ask her to break the
promise she gave her father, who, you may remember, is Governor of my
own State, not to be engaged definitely till I've made good.  But if
I'm to have even my _chance_ to make good snatched away, it's hard
lines.  I wish to the Lord my dear girl weren't such a howling swell,
with such an important parent!  No use hustling around to other
managers.  Your book went like hot cakes here.  So would your play, but
no man will pit himself against Roger Odell, if Odell means fighting.
And there's no doubt he does mean it--unless you can undo whatever the
fool thing is you've done.

"Probably this letter will go to England in the same ship with Odell.
If you're well enough by the time it reaches you, to crawl about, can't
you see him?  I've told Felborn that when you set your wits to work
you're as much of a wonder as your Prime Minister in _The Key_.  I've
worked him up to some sort of superstitious belief in you.  The next
thing is, to make him merely _put off_ the rehearsal on some pretext,
and do nothing one way or the other till I get a cable.  I shan't sleep
or eat till I hear whether there's any hope of your straightening
things with Odell.--Yours, C.P.".


"Straightening things with Odell!"  That might have been simple, if
things had ever been crooked with Odell.  But I had never met, I had
never seen him.  All I knew was what I had read, and vaguely heard from
Americans: that Roger Odell was a millionaire, still a young man, a
popular fellow who had made most of his money out of mines and had
bought up an incredible number of newspapers in order to make his power
felt in the world.  But what grudge had he against me?  How did he know
that I existed?  I decided that I owed it to myself as an expert even
more than to Price and his girl, who was a "governor's daughter," to
turn on the searchlight.

It was nearly my time for an outing.  Lady Emily Boynton was coming in
about an hour to collect me in her car, take me to the park and there
let me try a combination of legs and crutches.  But in my room was a
telephone.  In general I cursed the noisy thing.  To-day I blessed it.
I 'phoned to the doctor that, instead of his coming to me, I should
prefer to call on him, explaining my reason when we met.  Next I rang
up Lady Emily to say that I was going to Harley Street.  She mustn't
trouble to send, as I was ordering a taxi in a hurry.  And lest she
should disobey, I hobbled off before her car could arrive--my first
independent expedition since I had been interned by Violet.

I hoped that Roger Odell might be caught at some hotel in London, and
resolved not to stop going till I found him.  I began at the Savoy, and
it seemed that luck was with me when I learned that he had arrived the
night before.  He had gone out, however, directly after breakfast,
leaving no word as to his return.  This was a blow, especially as it
appeared that he had hired a powerful automobile; and even American
millionaires do not hire powerful automobiles to run about town.

They take taxis.

I gave myself a minute's reflection, and decided that it would be
tempting Providence to intern myself again before seeing Odell, or else
definitely failing to see him.  I refused to leave my name, saying that
I would call later; and on the way to keep my Harley Street appointment
stopped my taxi at a post office.  Thence I sent a cable to Carr Price--


"Count on me to make everything right with Odell.  Postpone rehearsals
if necessary, but assure Felborn he can safely prepare production.
Will wire further details.--JOHN HASLE."


Perhaps Price and Felborn would have considered this assurance
premature had they known the little I possessed to go upon.  But I had
confidence in myself, and felt justified in rushing off a cheerful
message.  Delay and uncertainty were the two fatal obstacles to our
scheme.  It seemed fair to presume that, as I've never met nor harmed
Odell, his objection to me must be founded on some misunderstanding
which a few frank words ought to clear up.  All I had to do was to see
him; and I _would_ see him if I had to camp at his door for a week.

Having got off my cable I called oh the doctor, explaining to him, as
man to man, that I was being killed with kindness, buried under flowers
and jellies, as Tarpeia was buried under shields and bracelets.  "I
must get out from under," I said, "or I shall fade like a flower or
dissolve into a jelly myself.  Can't you save me?"

"I thought you were enjoying life," he replied.  "You're well enough,
as a matter of fact, to do almost anything except go back to the front.
Your legs won't run to that, my boy, for the next six months at least.
If you're such an ungrateful beggar that you want to leave Lady
Haslemere's paradise and all its lovely houris, save yourself.  Don't
put the responsibility on me."

"Coward!" I said.  (I would have hissed it, but, except in novels, it
is physically impossible to hiss the word "coward.")

"The same to you," he retorted.  "Get someone to send you on some
mission and I'll back you up.  I'll certify that you're strong enough
to undertake it, if it doesn't depend on your legs, and is not too
strenuous."

"I may need to run over to America," it suddenly occurred to me to say,
as if by inspiration.  "I should have to depend on brains, not legs.
Would New York be too strenuous?"

"I hear they're pretty strenuous over there, but--well----"

"You don't know what I go through every day at that confounded home for
milksops when your back is turned," I pleaded, as he hesitated.  That
settled it.  We both laughed, and I knew he'd see me through.  Five
minutes before nothing had been further from my mind than a trip to New
York; but now I felt that it had been my secret intention from the
first.  It was strongly impressed upon me that I should have to go.
Why, I could not tell.  But the thing would happen.

It was two o'clock and luncheon time when I got back to the Savoy, but
Odell had not returned.  I wired (I would not 'phone lest I should be
unearthed like a fox from his hole) to the convalescent home, saying
that all was well and I had the doctor's authority to stop out as long
as I liked.  I then ate a substantial meal and inquired again at the
desk.  No Odell.  I said I would wait.  Would they kindly let me know,
in the reading-room, when Mr. Odell arrived?  I being wounded and in
khaki, they waived suspicion of a nameless caller.  I was given the
freedom of the Savoy, and I waited.  I waited three hours, and read all
the magazines and papers.  Then I wandered into the foyer and ordered
tea.  While I was having it, up trotted a sympathetic clerk with a
flurried manner to inform me that Mr. Odell was not coming back at all.
A telegram had just been received, saying that important business
called him home at once.  He was on his way by automobile to Liverpool,
whence he would sail next morning on the _Monarchic_.  His luggage was
to be forwarded by messenger in time to go on board the ship.

For a few seconds I felt as if what remained of my tea had been flung
in my face, scalding hot.  But by the time I'd thanked my informant,
paid my waiter and picked up my crutches, I knew why I had had that
presentiment.  I taxied to Cook's and learned that, owing to the war, I
could get a cabin on any ship I liked.  From Cook's to the doctor's;
found him going out, dragged him home with me, and utilised his
services in wrestling with the matron and nurses.  "The play of my book
is being produced in New York, and I must be there, dead or alive," I
explained.  This seemed to them important, even unanswerable.  It would
not to my sister-in-law.  But she was having influenza at home, and I
sneaked off before she knew (having got leave from the War Office),
sending her a grateful, regretful telegram from Liverpool.

Even the amateur sleuth doesn't let a ship carry him away to sea
without making sure that his quarry is on board.  Roger Odell's name
was not on the passenger list, but neither was mine; we were late
comers.  Nevertheless, I knew he was certain to have a good cabin, and
I inquired casually of a steward on the promenade deck whether he had
"Seen Mr. Odell yet?"  He fell into my trap and answered that he had
not, but his "mate" would be looking after the gentleman who was in the
bridal suite.

I pricked up my ears, remembering that, according to Carr Price, there
was a girl in the case.  Something unexpected had happened to upset
Odell's plans in England.  Could he be running off with anybody's wife
or daughter?

"I didn't know that Mr. Odell was on his honeymoon," I ventured as a
feeler.

The steward looked nonplussed, then grinned.  "Oh, you're thinking of
the bridal suite, sir!" he patronised my ignorance.  "There's nothing
in _that_.  Probably the gentleman wired for the best there was.  He's
alone, sir.  Do you wish to send word to him?  I can fetch my mate----"

I broke in with thanks, saying that I would see Mr. Odell later.  No
doubt I would do so; but how I should recognise him was the question.
Meanwhile, I limped about the deck, hoping to come across a chair
labelled "Odell," and vainly searching I met a deck-steward.  He took
pity on my lameness, and offered to get me a chair at once.  "Where
would you like to sit, sir?"

I wanted to say, "Put me next to Mr. Roger Odell," but that was too
crude a means towards the end.  I looked around, hesitating and
hoping--in a way I have which sometimes works well--for an inspiration,
and my wandering eyes arrived at a girl.  Then they ceased to wander.
She was extraordinarily pretty, and therefore more important than
twenty Roger Odells.  She was just settling into her deck-chair.  To
the right was another chair, with a rug and a pillow on it.  To the
left was an unfilled space.

"There's room over there," I said.  "It seems a well-sheltered place."

"It is, sir," replied the steward.  Without allowing an eye to twinkle,
he solemnly plumped down my chair at the left of the girl, not too
near, yet not too far distant.  She glanced up, as if faintly annoyed
at being given a neighbour, but seeing my crutches, melted and gave me
a brief yet angelic look of sympathy.  If she had been a nurse in my
sister-in-law's home I should never have left it.  For she was one of
those girls who, if there were only half a dozen men remaining in the
world at the end of the war, would be certain to receive proposals from
at least five.  She was the type of the Eternal Feminine, the woman of
our dreams, the face in the sunset and moonbeams.  Perhaps you have
seen such a face in real life--just once.

The girl had on a small squirrel toque and a long squirrel coat.  She
was wrapped in a squirrel rug to match.  She had reddish-brown hair.
All the girls who can take the last men in the world away from all the
other women have more or less of that red glint in their hair.  Yet she
seemed far from anxious to take the man who came striding along the
deck and stopped in front of her as the ship got under way.

What she did was to look up and cry out a horrified "Oh!"  Her cheeks,
which had been pale, flamed red.  She half threw off her fur rug, and
would have struggled out of her chair if the man had not appealed to
her mercy.

"Don't run away from me, Grace," he said, "after all these months."

The name "Grace" suited the girl, or rather expressed her.  The man
stared with hungry eyes.  I was sorry for him.  Somehow, I seemed to
know how he felt.  He had an American voice and looked like an
American--that good, strong type of American who can hold his own
anywhere: not tall, not short, not slim, not stout, not very dark, not
very fair; square-jawed, square-shouldered; aggressive-featured,
kind-eyed; one rebellious lock of brown hair falling over a white
forehead.

"But--I _have_ been running away from you all these months.  I've been
doing nothing else.  I could do nothing else," she reproached him.
They had both forgotten me.  Besides, I was not obtrusively near.

"Don't I know you've been running away--to my sorrow?" he flung back at
her.  "I heard of you in the West Indies.  I went there to hunt you
down.  You'd gone.  I dashed home.  You hadn't come back.  I was
told--I won't say by whom--that you were in England.  I ran over and
got on your track yesterday; flashed off to Bath in a fast auto;
reached there just as you'd left for Liverpool to sail on this ship.
So now I'm here."

She looked up at him, tears on her lashes.  "Oh, Rod!" was all she
said.  It did not need that name to tell me who he was, but eyes and
voice told me something more.  She was not flirting with him.  She was
not pretending to wish that he had not come.  With all her heart and
soul she did wish it, yet--_she loved him_.  I wondered if he knew
that, or if not how much he would give to learn it.

"You can't get away from me this time," he said, not truculently, but
pleadingly, as if he were afraid she might somehow slip out of his
hands.  "We'll have five days and a half--I hope six--together.  If I
can't persuade you in five days and a half----"

"You couldn't in five hundred years and a half!  Rod, what do you
_think_ of me?  Do you suppose I want you to _die_?"

"Do you suppose I'm _afraid_?"

"No.  But I am--for you.  Nothing on this earth can induce me to change
my mind.  You only make us both miserable by keeping on.  Oh, Rod, here
comes Aunt Marian!  This is her chair."

Roger Odell glanced in the direction the girl's eyes gave him.  I did
likewise.  A woman was coming, a tall woman in brown.  A generation ago
she would have been middle-aged; in our generation such women are
young.  She looked about thirty-eight, and so I put her down as ten
years older.  She was dusky olive, with a narrow face, banded black
hair, and a swaying throat: rather a beautiful Leonardo da Vinci sort
of woman.

Evidently she was as much astonished to see Odell as the girl had been,
but she had a different way of showing it.  She did not seem to mind
his presence when she got over her surprise.  She shook hands and let
him put her into her chair, tucking the brown fur rug around her body
and under her slim feet.  I thought she seemed more Italian than
American.  She was very agreeable to Odell, in a cool, detached way,
but when she inquired if he ought not to be going below to lunch, even
a man of his determination was obliged to take the hint.  "We are
having something brought to us on deck," she explained.  "Come back if
you like when you have finished."

My lameness gave me an excuse for troubling the deck steward, who
fetched me a plate of cold chicken at about the time when more
elaborately furnished trays were placed before the two ladies.  They
had more to eat than I, but they finished sooner; at least, it was so
with the younger.  There was no sea on, yet she left her luncheon
almost untouched, and after five minutes' playing with it went indoors.
No sooner had she got safely away than Odell came back to accept the
invitation given by "Aunt Marian," only to find it no longer worth his
acceptance.  (Recalling her words, I realised that she had never
expected "Grace" to stay.)  Odell asked for a chair, nevertheless, and
had it put next to hers, evidently meaning to annex the place
permanently.  These were the right tactics, of course.  Even I should
have adopted them; but they were opposed to a more subtle and deadly
strategy.  "Grace" proceeded to prove that being on board the same ship
with her did not mean being in her society.  She did not appear on deck
again.  Odell was forced to realise that he had made the girl a
prisoner in her cabin.

That afternoon the list of passengers was given out, and I searched
eagerly for her name.  I had not far down the alphabet to go.  There
she was among the "C's"--"Miss Grace Callender."  The name was an
electric shock; and seeing it I could guess but too easily why the girl
might love a man and run away from him.

Nobody who read the newspapers three years ago could have helped
knowing who Grace Callender was; and if they forgot, she would
certainly have been recalled to their minds a year and a half later.
I, at least, had not forgotten.  I owed to the "Callender-Graham
Tragedy" one detail which had helped to make the success of my novel,
and had suggested its name, _The Key_.  Miss Callender was (and is) an
American heiress, but England has its own reasons for being interested
in American heiresses.  Therefore, at the time of the two great
sensational events in Grace Callender's life, London papers gave long
paragraphs to the story.

Her parents--cousins--were both killed in a motor accident in France
while she was a schoolgirl at home in charge of her aunt, a half-sister
of the father, Graham Callender.  Both parents were rich, having, for
their lifetime, the use of an immense fortune, or rather the income
derived from it.  The principal could not be touched by them, but
passed to their only child.  This arrangement had come about through a
family quarrel in the previous generation; but, as Graham Callender and
his wife were of opinion that injustice had been done, they wished
their daughter to atone for it by her marriage.  Half the money ought
rightly to have gone to Philip Callender-Graham, a cousin who had been
disinherited in their favour.  He had died poor, leaving a couple of
sons a few years older than Grace.  The two had been educated at Graham
Callender's expense, and had spent their holidays at his houses in town
and country.  Grace had grown up to look upon both almost as brothers,
though they were only her second cousins.  She was fond of the pair--a
little fonder of Perry, the elder, than of his younger brother Ned.  As
for the brothers themselves, it appeared later that both were in love
with Grace;  but Ned kept his secret and let Perry win the prize.  The
engagement of Grace Callender and Perry Callender-Graham was announced
on the girl's nineteenth birthday.  One night a few months later, and
just one week before the day fixed for the wedding, Perry
Callender-Graham was found dead in a quiet side street near Riverside
Drive.

There were no marks of violence on his body, and apparently he had not
been robbed.  In his pockets were several letters which could have no
bearing on the cause of his death, an empty envelope, a sum of money, a
jewel-case containing a diamond pendant, probably intended as a gift
for his fiancée, and two keys which seemed to be new.  Both were
latchkeys: one rather large and long, looking as if it might belong to
the front door of a house; the other was small, not unlike the key to
the door of the dead man's flat.  Neither fitted any door of the
private hotel in which he lived, however, and consequently suggested
mystery.  But as three specialists certified death by natural causes,
the police came to regard the keys as of no importance.  The doctors
testified to a condition known as "status lymphaticus," which cannot be
diagnosed during life, but which may cause a slight shock to be fatal.
It was thought that Callender-Graham--whose body lay close to a street
crossing--might have started back to save himself from being run over
by a swift automobile suddenly turning the corner, and in the shock of
falling have died of heart failure.

Grace Callender was grieved and distressed, but not prostrated with
sorrow, as she would have been over the loss of an adored lover.
Everyone who knew her knew that she had been going to marry her cousin
not because she was in love, but in order to give him the fortune
wrongfully diverted from his father.  In these peculiar circumstances,
many people prophesied the thing which happened a year later: her
engagement to Ned Callender-Graham, through whom the restitution could
equally well be made.  He seemed to be a popular fellow, even better
liked in general than his dreamy, poetical brother; and as his friends
guessed that he had unselfishly stood in the background for Perry's
sake, all were pleased with his good fortune.  The engagement went on
for six months; and then a week before the wedding was to take place,
Ned Callender-Graham was found dead in the same street and almost on
the same spot where his brother had fallen a year and a half before.

This extraordinary coincidence was rendered even more remarkable by the
fact that nearly every detail of the first tragedy was repeated in the
second.  Not only had the brothers met their death in the same street,
and almost on the eve of marriage with the same girl, but, according to
doctors' evidence, they had died in the same way and at practically the
same hour.  Ned, like Perry, was afflicted with status lymphaticus.
There was no trace of violence on his body.  He had not been robbed,
for his pockets were full of money.  He carried his brother's watch
which Perry's will had left to him--the watch which Perry had worn on
the night of his death--and two or three letters, together with an
empty envelope.  Stranger than all, perhaps, he had in his possession
two new latchkeys--duplicates of the keys found in his dead brother's
pocket.

This time, owing to the almost miraculous resemblance between the
cases, foul play was suspected.  But it seemed that the brothers had no
enemies and, so far as could be learned, no serious rivals with Miss
Callender.  The girl and her aunt clung to the belief that Perry and
Ned had died natural deaths, and that the ghastly coincidence was no
more than a coincidence.  Miss Marian Callender's theory was that Ned
had fallen a victim to his love for his brother, a too sensitive
conviction of guilt in taking Perry's place, and an unhappy
superstition which he had confided to her--though, naturally, not to
her niece.  He believed himself to be haunted by his brother's spirit,
which influenced him to do things he did not wish.  He said one day
that he doubted if Perry would ever let him marry Grace, but would
contrive to break off the engagement in some way, even if all went well
until the last moment.  Miss Marian Callender suggested that the
apparently mysterious keys were the same keys which Perry had
possessed, they having been given, with other souvenirs of the dead
man, to his brother; that it was characteristic of Ned to keep them by
him, as well as the watch, in a kind of remorseful loyalty to the
brother he had superseded; and that the same half-affectionate,
half-fearful superstition had led him that night into the street where
Perry had fallen.  Once there--at an hour the same as that of Perry's
death a week before his appointed marriage--in all probability Ned had
imagined himself confronted by his brother's accusing ghost.  The two
were known to be temperamentally as well as physically alike, though
Ned was undoubtedly stronger physically.  It was not strange if Perry
had a peculiar weakness of the heart that Ned should have the same; and
the shock of a fancied meeting with Perry's spirit at such a time and
such a place might easily have been too great for a man already at high
nervous tension.  Others than Miss Marian Callender talked freely with
reporters and detectives, repeating her story that Ned Callender-Graham
had felt oppressed with a sense of guilt, that he had worried himself
into an emotional state which he had tried to hide, and that he had
attended spiritualistic séances.  All this, together with the fact that
there was no evidence of murder, caused the second verdict to be the
same as the first.  But Grace Callender found herself so stared at and
pointed at, and gossiped about wherever she went, that her life became
a burden.  She knew that terrible nicknames were fastened upon her,
that she was called "Belladonna" and "The Poison Flower," as if her
promise to marry had brought death upon her lovers.  She heard women
whispering behind her back, "If I were a man I simply shouldn't _dare_
be engaged to her in spite of her millions"; and what she did not hear
she imagined.  She in her turn grew superstitious, or so it was said.
She began to feel that there must be something fatal about her; that a
curse which the father of Perry and Ned was said to have pronounced on
her parents in his first fury at losing a fortune had been visited on
her.  Though she had twice come near her wedding she had never yet
deeply loved a man; nevertheless, because of the "curse" and in fear of
it, she resolved to give up all hope of happiness in love, never to
marry, nor even engage herself again.

All this I remembered distinctly, not alone because my memory is a
blotting-pad for such cases, but because the story had captured my
imagination, and because I had used the detail of the keys for my own
book, only substituting one for two.

"By Jove!" I said.  "The key!  Now, can that be the clue to Roger
Odell's veto?"

I set myself deliberately to think the matter over from this new point
of view.  Evidently he was desperately in love with Grace Callender.
Could the mere fact that I had named a book of mine _The Key_, and
turned my plot upon a mysterious key found in a dead man's pocket,
have inspired Odell with revengeful rage?  Except for the title, and
the key in the pocket, there was nothing in my book or in Carr Price's
play which bore even the vaguest likeness to the Callender-Graham
tragedy.  I didn't see how the most loyal lover could feel that I had
"butted in" upon what to him was sacred; still, the new idea had some
substance in it.  Not only had I hit on a possible clue to the man's
enmity, but into my mind from another direction suddenly flashed so
astounding a ray of light that I was almost blinded.  I could hardly
wait to try weapons with Odell.

How to get at him and hold him, so to speak, at my mercy was the next
difficulty.  I had to think that out too, and I did it by process of
deduction.  For reasons of my own, I had not yet secured a seat in the
dining-saloon, but now I limped down below with my inspiration.  Others
had made their arrangements and gone, but I managed to catch the head
steward.

"I suppose you're assigning seats for people who want to sit alone at
these small tables?" I began.

"We have assigned only one such, sir," he cautiously admitted.  "All
we're able to give."

"Why all?" I wanted to know.  "There are plenty of tables and only a
few passengers."

"Yes, sir, that's true.  But also, there's only a few stewards.  We
haven't enough to spare for scattering around."

"Is Mr. Roger Odell the one fortunate person to whom you've been able
to give a table to himself?"  I threw out this question like a lasso.

"Why, yes, sir, as a matter of fact he is," the caught steward
confessed.  "We've several tables with parties of two or three, but for
one alone----"

"I may wish to be alone just as much as Mr. Odell does," I argued.
"But the next best thing to being alone is to sit with another man who
wants to be alone.  Then there's no fear of too much conversation.  Put
me at Mr. Odell's table."  As I spoke I slipped a five-pound note into
a surprised but unresisting hand.  (I had to bribe high to outbribe a
millionaire.)  Even as his fingers closed mechanically on the paper the
steward's tongue began to stammer, "I--I'm afraid he may object, sir."

"He may at first; but not after three minutes.  All I ask is to be put
at the table when Mr. Odell is seated, and without his knowing
beforehand that he's obliged to have a companion.  If he still objects
after three minutes of my company I've had my money's worth.  I'll
leave him in possession of the table; you can put me where you like."

It was a bargain.  The steward pointed out the table selected by Odell.

I was dressed and ready for dinner before the bugle sounded, but did
not go down until I thought that most of the passengers would be
already seated.  Hovering in the doorway, I saw that Odell was already
in his place.  Then I made straight for the table and sat down in the
chair opposite his.

He had been gloomily eating his soup, and looked up from it with a
glare.

"I think you must be making a mistake," he remarked with an effort at
civility.  "I asked to be alone."

"So did I," I said.

"But not at this table."

"At this very table."

"Then I'll leave it to you."

"Please don't," I said.  "If one of us goes, I'll be the one, as I'm
the last comer.  But will you meanwhile be kind enough to answer two
easy questions?  First, are you Mr. Roger Odell of New York?"

"Yes, to question number one.  If the next's as easy, perhaps I'll
answer that too."

(He looked faintly amused.  The space between his straight black
eyebrows was growing visible again.  I had still two minutes and a half
out of the three.)

"Thank you," I said.  "The next should be even easier.  Why have you
warned Julius Felborn that if he brings out Carr Price's play, _The
Key_, you'll quash it?"

The man's face changed.  From half-amused boredom it expressed white
rage.  "You are that fellow John Hasle," he said.  His voice was low
and in control, but his look was vitriolic.  All the same, I liked him.
He was a man, and I had a man's chance with him.

"Yes, I'm that fellow John Hasle.  Let me introduce myself," I replied.

"You've hunted me down.  You said you wanted to sit alone.  That was
not true."

"I said, 'I asked to sit alone.'  I wanted to sit with you.  It was my
way of getting to do it.  I took not only the table and the
opportunity, but my ticket to New York with the same object.  I think I
have the right to inquire what's your motive for wishing to injure me
and to expect that you'll answer.  If you think differently, I'll get
up at once and go.  But I believe I shall have succeeded in spoiling
your appetite."

"You're a cool hand," he said, with no softening of the eyes which gave
me look for look.  "Sit still.  If you get up and hobble away on those
crutches you'll have the whole room gaping at us."  (Not for the first
time were my crutches a blessing in disguise:) "Whether you've a right
to question me or not, I don't mind telling you that I think Americans
are better at detective literature than any Englishman, speaking
generally, and a whole lot better than John Hasle, speaking
particularly."

"I think," said I, "that I shall be able to prove my detective powers
to you later on, speaking very particularly."

"Ah, indeed!  In what way?"

"'Later on' was what I said."

"All right.  I'm in no hurry."

"I am.  Because several matters have got to be settled before I can
progress much further.  For one thing, you haven't answered my second
question.  Your opinion of my book or my British limitations as a
detective has nothing to do with your attitude toward the play."

"If you know so much, perhaps you know more."

"Frankly, I don't.  I ask you to tell me the rest as frankly."

"Very well.  Perhaps the medicine will go to the spot quicker if you
understand what it's for.  It sounds sort of melodramatic, and maybe it
is so; but my wish--my intention--to strangle your play at birth, or
crush it afterwards, has revenge for its motive."

"Revenge for what?"

"For the cruel act of a member of your family to a member of mine."

"There's only one other member of my family beside myself--my brother."

"Exactly!  That's the man.  There's only one other member of _my_
family beside myself.  That's my adopted sister.  I care more for her
than anyone else in the world--except one.  Through your brother, my
sister's health and her hopes are both ruined.  If you didn't know
before, you know now what you're up against."

"I assure you I didn't know," I said.  "This is the last thing that
occurred to me.  I admit I thought of something else----"

"Oh, is there something else?  It's not needed.  Still, you may as well
out with it, so I can put another black mark against the name."

"I'll tell you, when I'm ready to talk of the detective test I spoke
of.  But about my brother injuring your adopted sister.  There must be
some mistake----"

"Not on your life, if you're Lord John Hasle and your brother's the
Marquis of Haslemere."

"I can't deny that."

"It's a pity!"

"So _he_ often says.  He's not proud of me as an author.  He'd be still
less proud of me on the stage.  You'll be doing him a real service if
you prevent _The Key_ from being produced, and so keep the family name
out of the papers in connection with the theatre."

"Oh, will I?" Odell echoed.  He looked rather blank for a moment; then
gathered himself and his black eyebrows together.  "You're mighty
intelligent, aren't you?" he sneered.

"I've always thought so.  I'm glad you agree.  But there's no use our
rotting on like this.  We're wasting time.  Will you tell me what
Haslemere can possibly have done?"

"Yes!  What he positively _did_ do!" the man broke out fiercely, then
controlled himself and glanced quickly round the room as if looking for
someone.  But not even Miss Marian Callender had come into the saloon.
Both she and her niece must have been dining in their own suite.  "Lord
Haslemere wrote a letter to your British Lord Chamberlain, or whatever
you call his High Mightiness, and caused him to have my sister's
presentation at Court cancelled three days before it should have come
off in May last year."

"Good heavens!" I exclaimed.  "What an extraordinary thing to do!"

"What a monstrous, what a beastly thing to do!  A defenceless girl.  A
beautiful girl.  One of the best on earth.  It broke her heart--the
humiliation of it, and the shock.  She wasn't very strong, and she'd
been looking forward to making her bow to your Royalties.  Lord knows
why she should have cared so much.  But she did.  She loved England.
She has English blood in her veins.  She had a sort of loyal feeling to
your King and Queen.  That is what she got for it.  She's never been
the same since, and I doubt if she ever will be.  All her friends knew
she was going to be presented--and then she wasn't.  The damned story
leaked out somehow, and has been going the rounds ever since.  That's
why, if your play is produced in New York, I shall see it gets what it
deserves--or, anyway, what your family deserves."

"How do you know Haslemere wrote that letter?" I asked.

"My sister got it from a woman who was to present her--a friend of Lord
Haslemere's wife.  She'd seen the letter."

"Then she must have seen some reason alleged."

"She did.  That to his certain knowledge Miss Madeleine Odell wasn't a
proper person to be introduced to their Majesties.  Maida not a proper
person!  She's a saint."

"What lie about her could have been told to my brother?"

"I know what lie was told, because it has been told to others.  It's
blighted her life for years, go where she would on our side of the
water.  She hoped it wouldn't have got so far as England; and if it
hadn't, she'd have settled down in that country to enjoy a little
peace.  But there it was, like a snake in the grass!  The thing I'd
give my head to find out is, _who spread the lie_?"

"You don't know, then?"

"No, I don't.  It's a black mystery."

"Better let me use my despised detective talents to solve it."

"Oh, _that's_ what you've been working up to, is it?"

"No.  How could it be, as I hadn't heard the story when I began to
work?  But I'm willing to take it on as an extra by and by.  My brother
and I are scarcely friends.  I'm not responsible for his act, and
whatever the motive, I don't excuse it.  Why go out of his way to hurt
a woman?  Yet I may be able to atone."

"Never!"

"Never's a long word.  But just here the time has come to mention the
two things I promised to tell you 'later on.'  I thought what you had
against me might be the name and the plot of my book, dramatised by
Carr Price."

"What the devil is the name or plot of your play to me?"

"Ah, that was what I wanted to know.  It occurred to me as possible
that you resented the incident of a key being found in a dead man's
pocket, and the title of the book and play which might recall a certain
double tragedy to the public mind."

The blood rushed to the man's face.  He understood instantly, and did
not choose to pretend ignorance.  "How dare you presume that I have a
right to resent any such reference?" he challenged me.

"I dare, because of the second of the two things I reserved to tell you
later: the wish I have to prove my detective powers for your benefit.
I couldn't help seeing to-day your meeting on deck with Miss Callender.
I couldn't help hearing a few words.  Because I play at being a
detective I keep my wits about me.  Also I have a good memory for names
and stories connected with them.  Mr. Odell, will you separate me in
your mind from my brother and give Carr Price's play a chance for its
life if I tell you who killed Perry and Ned Callender-Graham, and prove
to Miss Callender that there's no reason why she need be afraid to give
her love to any man?"

Odell stared as if he thought I had gone mad or he was dreaming.

"Who _killed_ Perry and Ned Graham?" he repeated.  "No one killed them."

"You are wrong," I said quietly.

"That's your opinion!" he blurted out.

"That's my opinion.  And if I'm right, if those two were murdered, and
if the murderer or murderers can be found, won't Miss Callender feel
she may safely marry a man she loves without delivering him up to
danger?"

"Yes," Odell admitted.  "Great Heaven, _if_ you were right!"

"Supposing I am, and can prove it?"

"There's nothing on God's earth I wouldn't do for you."

"Well," I said, "I believe there's something in that opinion of mine.
Don't dream that now I am getting at this truth I would bury it even if
you did worse than crush my play.  I'll go on, anyhow, but----"

"You say you are getting at the truth," he broke in.  "What do you
think--what do you know?  But how can you, a stranger, _know_ anything?"

"A stranger to you and those connected with the case, but not to the
case itself.  You may thank that despised detective instinct of mine
for my keen interest in its details."

"If you thought you'd unearthed the clue to a mystery, why didn't you
advertise yourself by pointing it out to the police a year and a half
ago?"

"I certainly should if I'd got hold of it then, though not for the
motive you suggest, Mr. Odell.  My publishers were giving me all the
publicity I wanted.  As it happens, I picked up the clue in question
only--a short time ago."

"Only a few hours ago" were the words which all but slipped out.  I bit
them back, however.  My line with a keen business man like Roger Odell
was not to give away something for nothing.  It was to sell--for a
price.

He tried to keep his countenance, but his eyes lit.  I saw that my
hint, like a spark to gun-cotton, had set him aflame with curiosity.
Already, in spite of himself, he began to look on me less as an enemy
than an agent; perhaps (a wonderful "perhaps" he could not help
envisaging) a deliverer.

"For God's sake, speak out and say what you mean!"  The appeal was
forced from him.  He looked half ashamed of it.

"I can't do that--yet," I returned.  "I might tell you my suspicions;
but that wouldn't be fair to myself, or you, or--anyone concerned.  I
must land first.  Once off the ship, twenty-four hours are all I shall
need to find--I won't say the '_missing_ link,' because I have reason
to think it will not be missing, but the link I can't touch this side
of New York.  I will make a rendezvous with you at the end of that
time, either to tell you I've put two and two together with the link,
or else to confess that the ends of the chain can't be made to fit."

Odell stared at me hungrily.

"You want only twenty-four hours to do what the best police in the
world haven't done in a year and a half," he growled at me.  "You think
something of yourself, don't you?"

"You see, I've known myself for a long time," I said modestly.  "You've
only just been introduced to me, and were prejudiced to begin with.
About that rendezvous--do you consent to my appointing the place?"

"Yes," he agreed.  "Your hotel?"

"No.  In the manager's private office at the Felborn Theatre; the time,
twenty-four hours after we get away from the dock.  That will be the
most convenient place for both of us in case of my success, for Julius
Felborn and Carr Price can be called in to fix a date for the first
rehearsal of _The Key_."

The man could not keep back a laugh.  It was harsh and short; but it
was a score for me and he knew it.  "The Felborn Theatre let it be," he
said grimly.

The weather was fine and we made almost a record trip in point of time.
There was nothing for Odell to regret in the briefness of the voyage,
for Grace Callender remained in her cabin till he sent a message by her
aunt, promising not to try for a word or a look if she came on deck.
After that she appeared again, as if to show appreciation, and Odell
didn't abuse her confidence.  He kept himself to the other side of the
deck; but there was no reason why I should give up my place near the
two ladies.  After the first night's dinner _en tête-à-tête_, Odell and
I had no more meals together; consequently, the Misses Callender, aunt
and niece, were unaware of our acquaintanceship.  They had no reason to
shun their lame neighbour, and my crutches gave me their sympathy, as
they have given me various other blessings.  Instead of my picking up a
dropped book, as a man usually contrives to do if he yearns to know a
girl on shipboard, Grace Callender retrieved one for me.  After that, I
was permitted, even encouraged, to draw my deck-chair closer to theirs
and "tell them things about the war."  I noticed that the girl caught
eagerly, nervously, at any subject which could hold her attention for a
moment, even that of my book and Carr Price's play.  I, having the
secret clue, guessed that she was for ever trying to escape from a
thought too engrossing.  Her aunt, Miss Marian Callender, had the clue
also; and often I caught her long dark eyes--eyes like those of La
Gioconda--fixed with almost painful intentness on Grace.  "She knows
that her niece is thinking about Odell," I told myself.  Evidently she
approved the girl's decision to put him out of her life.  If she had
been Odell's friend and sympathiser, a woman of her superior age and
strong personal charm (for she had a sort of hypnotic charm, like a
velvet-petalled flower with a penetrating perfume) could surely have
influenced an impressionable girl, especially one so devoted to her as
Grace Callender was.

It was nine o'clock on an April morning when we escaped from the
custom-house men and spun away from the White Star docks in a
glittering grey car.  When I say "we," I refer to myself and the two
Misses Callender.  They had befriended me to the extent of recommending
me to an hotel and offering to motor me to it; and I was malicious
enough to hope that Odell might see me going off with them.  There was
little doubt in my mind that he did so, and none at all of what
feelings must have been roused by the sight.  These would have been
still more poignant had he known that it was Grace who impulsively
invited me, Marian who merely followed with a polite echo.  They lived
in a large old-fashioned house in Park Avenue, where the car dropped
the ladies and by their order took me on to the Hotel Belmont.  There
Carr Price was waiting, for when--the day before our landing--the
Callenders had mentioned the Belmont I marconied him to meet me at the
hotel.

"Why did you wire 'Don't come to the dock?'" he asked almost
resentfully.

"Because I thought it might annoy Roger Odell if I dangled you under
his nose," I explained.

"Roger Odell's nose!" Price gasped.  "Where--where----"

"Was it?  On the _Monarchic_.  And I didn't pull it; neither did he
pull mine.  I even have hopes that the two features may come to terms.
To-morrow, at exactly this hour, you're due to know why.  But meanwhile
I want you to promise me patience, blind faith and--unquestioning help.
There's no time to waste over it, so here goes!  Who's the most
influential man you know in New York?"

"George Gould," he said.

"Pooh! a mere millionaire.  He's no use to me.  Do you know anyone in
the police force--high enough up to do you a favour?"

Price pondered for an instant.  "I know Sam Yelverton.  Is that name
familiar to you?"

"It is.  Think we'll find him in now if you take me to call?"

"If this is our lucky day we shall."

"Let's put it to the test.  I've noticed that New York has taxis as
well as London."

"And you'll notice the difference when you've paid for one.  But this
is on me."

The omen of luck was good, for we found our man at the police
head-quarters, and, true to his promise, Carr Price sat as still and
expressionless as an owl while I did the talking.  I had been
introduced to the great Sam Yelverton by my own request as the author
of _The Key_, and it really was a stroke of luck that he had read and
liked it.  He looked interested when I said that I'd got an idea for my
book from a _cause célèbre_ in New York--"The Callender-Graham affair,"
I explained.

"Ah, the latchkeys in the dead men's pockets!" he caught me up.

"Exactly.  Now it's a question of a play by Mr. Price, on the same
lines as my book and with the same title, soon, _very_ soon, to be
produced at the Felborn Theatre.  It will be of the greatest assistance
to him and to me in working out an important detail if I can have Ned
Callender-Graham's latchkeys--anyhow, the smaller one--in my hands for
a few hours to-day.  Indeed, I'm afraid we can't get much 'forrarder'
if you refuse."

(This was the literal truth, for, unless I could obtain the more
important of those two keys and do with it what I hoped to do, I should
be unable to "deliver the goods" to Roger Odell.  I should stand with
him where I had stood before the "hold up" interview, and the play
would be pigeon-holed indefinitely.  Price's eyes were starting from
his head, but he kept his tongue between his teeth.)

Mr. Yelverton seemed amused.  "I guess I may be able to manage that,"
he said, "if one or both of those keys are still in our hands, as I
believe they are.  If I do the trick for you I'll expect a box for the
play on the first night, eh?"

"It's a bargain, isn't it, Carr?" said I.

The dazed Price assented.

"Oh, and by the way, Mr. Yelverton"--I arrested the famous man as he
picked up the receiver of his desk telephone--"if the letters and the
empty envelopes found on the bodies of the two brothers are still among
your police archives, would it be possible for me to have a look at
them?"

Yelverton--a big man with a red face and the keenest eyes I ever saw,
deep set between cushiony lids--threw me a quick glance.  "You do
remember the details of that case pretty well, Lord John!" he said.

"I'm an amateur follower in your famous footsteps," I reminded him.  He
smiled, called up a number and began telephoning.  I admired the clear
way in which he put what he wanted--or what I wanted--without wasting a
word.  He asked not only for the keys, but for the whole dossier in the
double case of the Callender-Graham brothers.  Then came a moment of
waiting in which my heart ticked like a clock; but I contrived to
answer Mr. Yelverton's mild questions about our weather on shipboard.
At last a sharp ring heralded an end of suspense.

"Sorry, Lord John," the big man began, taking the receiver from the
generous shell of his ear.  "They're sending round the dossier, but our
chaps have got none of the Callender-Graham 'exhibits in their
possession--haven't had for nearly a year.  I feared it was likely to
be so.  You see, there was no proof that any crime had been committed
on either of the two brothers; in fact, the theory was against it.
When the police definitely dropped the case--or cases--the family was
entitled to all personal property of the deceased.  Everything found on
the body of Ned Callender-Graham was handed over to the relatives by
their request, as had been done a few weeks after the elder brother's
death, even the letters and those empty envelopes you were intelligent
enough to single out for observation.  We had done the same, naturally,
but, in every sense of the word"--he grinned--"there was nothing in
'em."

"The keys on Ned's body were handed over to the Misses Callender,
then?" I inquired, stiffening the muscles of my face to mask my
disappointment.

"Yes.  Perhaps, as you remember so much, you recall the fact that the
first two keys were given to the relatives.  Miss Marian Callender and
her niece believed that Ned had Perry's keys in his pocket, which would
mean there were but the two.  The Callender ladies are the sole
surviving relatives, or, anyhow, the nearest ones.  But I've saved my
bit of good news from head-quarters till the last.  They 'phoned that
there are duplicate keys.  I thought I recalled something of the sort.
Not sure but I suggested making them myself.  That pretty millionairess
girl might get herself engaged a third time, and if there were any more
dead men found with latchkeys in their pockets, sample specimens might
be very handy for our fellows."

Sam Yelverton finished with a laugh; but I couldn't echo it.  I thought
of Odell, of Grace Callender's lovely face and her young, spoilt life.
I remembered the cruel nicknames "Belladonna" and "Poison Flower."  If
even the police prepared for a third tragedy, in case she thought again
of marriage, no wonder the poor girl refused the man she loved.

"Will duplicates do for you, or do I lose my stage-box?" the big man
asked.

I said aloud that I thought duplicates would answer my purpose, and
silently to myself I said that they must do so.

Ten minutes later a policeman of some rank (what rank I couldn't tell,
he being my first American specimen) brought in a parcel of
considerable size.  It contained many affidavits concerning the
Callender-Graham tragedy; and on the top of these documents was a
small, neatly labelled packet containing two keys.

The larger was entirely commonplace; and even the smaller one was at
first glance a rather ordinary latchkey, of the Yale order.  To an
experienced and observant eye, however, it was of curious workmanship.

"Not a Yale, you see," said Yelverton, taking a magnifying glass from a
small drawer of his tidy desk and passing it on to me.  "What do you
make of the thing?"

"Foreign, isn't it?" I remarked carelessly.

"Yes, we thought so.  German--or Italian.  Both the brothers had
travelled abroad.  On a Yale you would read the words 'Yale
paracentric,' and a number.  There's neither name nor number on that."
He flung a gesture toward the key in my hand.

"May I take it away and keep it till to-morrow morning, to work out my
plot with?" I asked.  "The big one I don't care about.  I give you my
word I'll send this back in twenty-four--no, let's say twenty-five
hours.  I have an engagement for the twenty-fourth hour."

"All right," replied Yelverton good-naturedly.  "You might bring the
box-ticket with you.  Ha, ha!"

"I will," I laughed.  "And as to the dossier, may I sit somewhere out
of your way and glance through it in case there's anything we can work
up to strengthen the realism of our scenario?  Of course, we'll
guarantee to use nothing that might recall the Callender-Graham case to
the public or dramatic critics."

"You can sit in the outer office and browse over the bundle till
lunch-time, if you like," said Yelverton.  "There's a table there in a
quiet corner.  I shall be off on business before you finish, I expect.
See you later--at the Felborn Theatre, your first night.  Wish you
luck."

I thanked him and got up.  Carr Price followed suit.

"Weren't you a bit premature mentioning the Felborn?" he reproached me
in the next room, beyond earshot of Mr. Yelverton's secretaries and
stenographers.

"No," I reassured him.  "To-morrow, at this time or a little later,
you'll know why.  Meanwhile, don't worry, but take my word--and a taxi
to the theatre.  Tell Felborn I'm on the spot, and there's a truce
between Odell and me, an armistice of twenty-four"--I pulled out my
watch--"no, twenty-two and a half hours.  Ask him to lend me his
private office to-morrow morning from nine till ten o'clock.  After
that time you and he had better hold yourselves ready to be called in
to discuss dates."

"You're either the wonder child of the British Empire or its champion
fool," remarked Price somewhat waspishly, as he prepared to leave me
alone with the Callender-Graham dossier.

"You've got till to-morrow to make up your mind which," said I, sitting
down to my meal of manuscripts in order not to waste a minute out of
the twenty-two and a half hours which remained to me.  It would not
have been wise to add that I didn't know which myself.

Many of the papers I passed over rapidly.  Others gave me information
that I couldn't have got from Odell without a confession of ignorance,
or from the Misses Callender without impertinence.  Among the latter
was one summarising much of the family history; and, profiting by some
smart detective's researches, I learned a good deal about Miss Grace
Callender and her almost equally interesting aunt.

Even before the girl reached the age of sixteen, it seemed, she had
begun to have offers of marriage.  After her parents' death, when she
was not quite fifteen, she had lived for a while with Miss Marian
Callender at the house in Park Avenue left to her by her father.  She
had been taught by French governesses, German governesses and English
governesses, but all had failed to prevent a kind of persecution by
young men fascinated with the child's beauty or her money.  At last
Miss Callender senior had sent her niece to a boarding-school in the
country where the supervision was notoriously strict, and had herself
gone to Italy, her mother's native land, for a few months' visit.
Eight or nine years before this Marian Callender had fallen in love
with an Italian tenor, singing with enormous success in New York.  The
lady's half-brother--Grace's father--had objected to the marriage, and
for that reason or some other the two had parted.  Gossips said that
the singer, Paolo Tostini, had not cared enough for Marian Callender to
take her without a _dot_; and all she had came from her millionaire
half-brother.  At Graham Callender's death Marian's friends were
surprised that she was left a yearly allowance (though a magnificently
generous one) only while she "continued unmarried and acted as Grace's
guardian."  In the event of Grace's marriage, the girl was free to
continue half the same allowance to her aunt if she chose.  This was
generally considered unjust to Marian, and the only excuse for the
arrangement seemed to be that Graham Callender feared Paolo Tostini
might come forward again if the woman he had jilted were left with a
fortune.

The police of New York had apparently thought it worth while to ferret
out further facts in connection with the singer, who had not again
returned to America.  They learned that the once celebrated tenor had
lost his voice and had spent his money in extravagance, as many artists
do.  He was living in comparative poverty with his father (a skilled
mechanician and inventor of a successful time lock for safes) and his
younger brother in Naples at the time of Miss Marian Callender's visit
to Italy, and Grace's school life.  Although these facts were inquired
into only after some years had passed, and the two brothers
Callender-Graham had died, Marian's movements must have been easily
traced, for it was learned that she had openly visited the Tostinis at
their small villa between Posilipo and Naples.  The family had also
called and dined at her hotel, where they were not unknown.  After that
their circumstances had apparently improved, and it appeared not
improbable that Marian Callender had helped her late lover's people.

When she returned to New York it was to find that Grace was being
bombarded with love letters at school, and that the hotel in the
village near by had for its principal clients a crowd of young men
whose whole business in life was lying in wait for the heiress.  In
consequence, Marian brought her niece back to the house in Park Avenue;
and soon after, before the girl had been allowed to come out in
society, Antonio, the younger brother of Paolo Tostini, arrived in New
York.  His business was that of an analytical chemist.  He had
first-rate recommendations, and was an extremely brilliant, as well as
singularly good-looking young man, some (who remembered the tenor)
thought even handsomer than Paolo.  Antonio Tostini, thanks to his own
ability and the introductions he had from Miss Callender and others,
got on well both in business and society.  No one was surprised, and no
one blamed her, when Marian Callender threw the clever young Italian
and Grace Callender together--except that the girl was young to make up
her mind, and her dead father had favoured a match with one of the
disinherited cousins.

From these rough notes, crudely classifying Antonio Tostini's courtship
of Grace Callender, I gathered that the young Italian had fallen
desperately in love with the girl.  He had assured friends whom they
had in common that even if, to marry him, she were obliged to give up
her fortune, he would still think himself the happiest man on earth to
win her.  Grace's aunt, who had tried to keep the girl out of other
men's way, evidently favoured her old love's brother.  She chaperoned a
yachting party, of which Grace and Antonio were the most important
members, a party in which the Callender-Grahams were not included,
though they wished for invitations.  This match-making effort on
Marion's part stifled all suspicion that she discouraged Grace from
marrying in order to retain a charming home, a large, certain income,
and all kinds of other luxuries for herself.  She had taken Grace's
refusal of Antonio Tostini almost as hard as he had taken it himself.
She had even been ill for several weeks when for the third time Grace
had sent him away, and he returned in despair to Italy.  It was not
long after this affair (the dossier informed me) that, in accordance
with her father's desire, the girl engaged herself to Perry
Callender-Graham, and Marian consented to the inevitable.  Her
affection and support during the tragic experiences that followed had
given great comfort to Grace, and, so far as was known, Antonio Tostini
had had the good taste never to appear on the scene again.

Here were many details which I had been anxious, but not decently able,
to learn, as the Misses Callenders' shipboard friendship had confined
itself to lending me books, telling me what to do in New York, inviting
me to call, listening to talk about the war or the play, and allowing
me to snapshot them on deck.

Having looked through the dossier, I took my departure with the key.
It was only a duplicate, yet I couldn't rid myself of a queer,
superstitious feeling for the thing, as if it were offered to me by the
unseen hand of a dead man.

I taxied back to my hotel and mentioned to a clerk that I wanted to see
houses and flats in the direction of Riverside Drive.  Could he direct
me to an agent who would have the letting of apartments in that
neighbourhood?  If my foreign way of expressing myself amused him, he
hid his mirth and looked up in a big book the addresses of several
agents.

I had not cared to be too specific in my questions, but I chose the
address nearest the street I wanted, taxied there, found the agent, and
inquired if there were anything to be let.  It was the street in which
Perry Callender-Graham and Ned, his brother, had met their death.

"I have been recommended to that particular street by an American
friend in England," I said.  "He has told me that it's very quiet.
There are several apartment houses in it, are there not?

"Yes," replied a spruce young man who looked willing to let me half
residential New York.  "But it's a favourite street; I'm afraid there's
nothing doing there now.  As for houses, they're all owned, or have
been rented for many years.  A little farther north or south----"

"Hold on," I pulled him back.  "Somebody might be induced to let.  My
friend was telling me about a charming flat--oh, apartment you call
it?--in that street which a friend of _his_ took---let me see, it must
have been three years ago or thereabouts.  Anyhow, not later.  He had
reason to believe I might get that very flat.  Stupid of me!  I can't
remember the number or name--whichever it was--of the house.  I know
the flat was a furnished one, however; and if your agency----"

"Oh, if the apartment was furnished, and changed hands three years ago,
there's only one it _could_ be, if you're sure it's in that street?"

"I'm sure," I replied.  I staked all on that sureness, though
logically----  But I would not let my mind wander to any other
deduction than the one to which, for better or worse, I pinned my faith.

"We had the letting of a furnished apartment in the Alhambra, as the
house is named, put into our hands three years ago on the 30th of last
month," said the youth, referring to a book.  "To my certain knowledge
no other furnished one was to be had in the street at that time, and
there hasn't been since.  Isn't likely to be either, so far as I can
see.  That was the grand chance.  German-American lady and gentleman,
Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Lowenstein, going unexpectedly to Europe, and glad
to get rid of their apartment to a good tenant at a nominal price."

"You found the good tenant?" I asked.

"We did, sir--or the tenant found us.  Wanted a furnished apartment,
not too large or expensive, in a quiet street, quietness the great
consideration.  Above all, the proprietors mustn't want to use the
place again for at least five years.  That just fitted in, because our
clients were anxious to let for seven years; the husband had a business
opening in Hamburg.  The new tenant took the place for that period; and
as there's a long time to run yet, I shouldn't have thought there was
much hope for you.  However, your friend may have private information."

"Does the new tenant live there altogether?" I wanted to know.

"Only comes up from the country occasionally.  Expensive fad, to rent a
New York apartment that way.  But what's money _for_?  Some people have
it to burn."

"Quite so," I admitted.  "Have you ever met the tenant?"

"Only once--when the apartment was engaged; fixed up in one interview.
The rent comes through the post."

"It must be the apartment my friend talked about!" I exclaimed.

"Can't be any other.  Is the name of your friend's friend Paulling?"

"Why, yes, I have the impression of something like that.  By the way, I
might be able to find an old photograph, to make quite sure.  Would you
recognise it?"

"I might--and I mightn't.  Three years is a long time."

"Well, I'll do my best through some acquaintances," I finished.  "If
we're speaking of the same person, you may be able to introduce me and
save the delay of communicating with my friend in England."

Each was flattering himself on his discretion, the whole catechism
having been gone through without the question on either side, "Is the
person a man or a woman?"  Eventually we parted with the understanding
that I should return later if, after looking at the Alhambra from the
outside, I fancied it as much as I expected to do.  And then I was to
bring the photograph with me.

So far so good.  But the next steps were not so simple.

I stopped my taxi at the corner (not to advertise myself with
unnecessary noise) and limped the short distance which Perry
Callender-Graham and his brother Ned must have travelled on the secret
errands that led them to their death.  The Alhambra was neither as
picturesque nor as imposing as its name suggested.  It was just a
substantial brick building, six or seven storeys in height, with
facings of light-coloured stone, and large, cheerful windows.  Luckily
for my lame leg, the entrance was but a step above the street level.
As I arrived the door was opened by a chocolate-brown negro in
chocolate-brown livery.  He helped a smart nurse to pass out with a
baby in a white and gold chariot, and while he was thus engaged I
hobbled into the hall.  A hasty glance at a name board on the wall
opposite gave me the list of occupants and the floor on which each
tenant lived.  Evidently there were two flats to each storey.  T.
Paulling had an apartment on the third, so also had G. Emmett.  I had
to risk something, and so when the brown hall-porter turned to me
(which he did with embarrassing swiftness) I risked inquiring for Mr.
Emmett.  I believed, I added, that he was expecting me.

"That's all right, sir.  He's in," was the welcome reply, with a
compassionate grin at the crutches which guaranteed the harmlessness of
an unknown visitor.  "I'll take you in the elevator."

Up we shot to the third floor, where I feared that my conductor might
insist on guiding me to the door of Mr. Emmett.  Fortunately, however,
someone rang for the lift and the porter shot down again, directing me
to the right.

The instant he was out of sight I turned to the left, and, with the
police key in my hand, I stood before the door of T. Paulling.

My blood leaped through my veins, and the hand that tried the key in
the lock shook with the rush of it.  I heard its pounding in my ears,
and through the murmurous sound the question whispered, "What if the
key won't fit?  Down goes the whole theory.  You'll have to confess
yourself a fool to Roger Odell."

As I blundered at the lock in haste and fear that someone might pass,
or that this might be one of T. Paulling's rare days at the flat, I was
aghast at my late self-confidence.  Face to face with the test, it
seemed impossible that my-boast to Odell and Carr could succeed.  I
felt callow and stupid, altogether incompetent.  The key seemed too
large and the wrong shape, which meant that the mystery of the
brothers' death was closed to me, like the door.  A voice not far off
made my nerves jump, and--the key slipped into the lock!  From
somewhere above or below came the sound of voices, but I could not be
seen from the lift.  Almost before I knew what I was doing or what had
happened, I was on the other side of the door, in a dark and stuffy
vestibule.

The sound of voices was suddenly stilled.  It was as if with a single
step I had won my way into another world.  I drew a long breath of
relief after the strain, for the silence and darkness said that the
tenant was not at home, and I might hope to have the flat to myself.

I groped for an electric switch, touched it, and flooded the vestibule
with light.  It was small, with nothing to distinguish it from any
other vestibule of any other well-furnished flat.  Beyond led a narrow
corridor which, when lit, showed me several doors.  I opened the
nearest, switched on another light, and found myself on the threshold
of a moderate-sized sitting-room or study, with bookshelves ranged
along one of the walls.  The window was so heavily curtained that I had
no fear of the sudden illumination being noticed from the street.  The
air was heavy and smelled of moth powder.  The mahogany table in the
centre of the room and the desk under the window were coated with thin
films of dust, but everything was stiffly in order: no books lying
about, no woman's work, no trace of cigarette ash, dropped glove, nor
pile of newspapers with a tell-tale date.

I walked over to the desk and, pulling out the swivel chair, sat down.
In the silver inkstand the ink had dried.  In a pen-rack were two pens,
one stub, the other an old-fashioned quill, both almost new, but
faintly stained with ink.  Neither, it struck me, could have been used
more than once or twice.  There were several small drawers; all were
empty.  No paper nor envelopes, no sealing-wax nor seal, not so much as
an end of twine.  But the blotting-pad--the only movable thing on the
desk beside the inkstand and pen-rack--was more repaying.  It also
appeared to be nearly new.  Just inside the soft green leather cover
lay two sheets of plain, unmonogrammed grey-blue paper with two
envelopes to match.  I annexed one of the latter and made a mental note
that, in the police dossier of the Callender-Graham case the empty
envelope found in the pocket of the younger brother was said to be
blue-grey in colour and of thick texture.  No record had been kept
concerning the colour of the envelope in Perry's pocket, as little
importance had been attributed to it, until the coincidence of the
second envelope was remarked later.

The blotting-pad was as new-looking as the pens.  The two uppermost
sheets were of unspotted white, but the middle pages had both been
used, and traces were visible of two short notes having been pressed
against the paper while the ink was still very wet.  Apparently these
documents had had neither heading nor signature, and consisted of a few
lines only.  On another page a longer letter began "Dearest," and had
been signed with an initial.  There was no mirror in the room in which
to reverse these writings, and, carefully separating the used sheets
from their unsoiled fellows, I folded and slipped them into an inner
pocket.  There was nothing else in the room which could help me, with
the exception, perhaps, of the books; and most of these were in sets,
bound in a uniform way.  These had a book-plate and the monogram
"M.L.," no doubt meaning Maurice Lowenstein.  Of new novels or other
publications there were none: an additional proof (if it had been
needed after the clue of the dried ink and almost unused blotter) that
the new tenants were seldom in the place.

Having deduced this fact, I then went through the remaining six rooms
of the flat without any discoveries, and finally reached, in its due
order, the problem I had left for the last.  This was the examination
of the lock which the dead brothers' latchkeys had fitted.  The work
had to be done with the door open, and therefore I waited until the
hour when most people lunch.  It would look like burglarious business,
what I had to do, and it was important not to be interrupted or
arrested.

The hands of my watch were at one o'clock as mine were on the latch
which, if I were right, could with a single click solve the
Callender-Graham mystery.  If I were wrong, not only were four out of
my twenty-four hours wasted, but my theory fell to the ground and broke
into pieces past mending.

I opened the door of the flat and made sure that, for the moment, no
one was in the hall.  Then, bending down with my back to possible
passers-by, I whipped out a magnifying glass and pocket electric torch
which I had bought on my way to the agent's.

During the next five minutes I had good cause to thank Heaven for the
mechanical bent that had turned my mind to motors and aeroplanes.


The same evening, at a little after six, a "commuter's" train landed me
at the station of a small Long Island town almost too far away from New
York to be labelled suburban.  Big automobiles and small runabouts were
there to meet the tired business men who travelled many miles for the
sake of salt breezes and the latest thing in Elizabethan houses.  I was
more tired than any business man; also, I had encountered as many
setbacks as successes, but nobody and nothing came to welcome me.  I
was able, however, to get a place in an old-fashioned horse-drawn
vehicle whose mission was to pick up chance arrivals.  There were
several of us, and as my rate of locomotion was slow, by the time I had
hobbled off the platform the one seat left was beside the driver.  I
was not sorry, as the other men appeared to be strangers in Sandy
Plain, and having said I would go to the hotel (for the sake of saying
something), I asked my companion if he knew anybody named Paulling.

"There's two families of that name hereabouts," he replied.

"My Paullings," I hazarded, "are retiring people, don't make friends,
and are away a good deal."

"Ah, they'd be the Paullings of Bayview Farm!" returned the driver.
"There's no others answer that description around here that I ever
heard of, and I've lived at Sandy Plain since before the commuters
discovered it."

"Yes, I mean the Paullings of Bayview Farm," I caught him up.

"The farm's about a mile and a half past Roselawn Hotel," my seat mate
went on.  "I can take you there after I drop the other folks."

I thanked him and said he might come back for me if he cared to after I
had dined, and inquired casually if the Paullings were staying at their
farm just then.

The driver shook his head.  He didn't know.  Few persons did know much
about the Paullings, who weren't old residents, but had rented Bayview
Farm two or three years ago.  Maybe the hotel folks might be able to
tell me whether I was likely to find them.

They could not do so, I soon learned.  Mr. Paulling was said to be an
invalid, though he never called in the local doctor.  He was often at
home alone for weeks together, except for a man-servant, a foreigner as
reserved as himself, whom he had brought with him to Sandy Plain.
There was another servant sometimes--a woman--also a foreigner; but
when the Paullings were both away a Mrs. Vandeermans, a country
dressmaker who lived in a cottage near by, looked after the house,
going in occasionally to see that all was well.

I asked as many questions as I dared, but learned little; and as soon
as dusk had begun to fall I started off in the nondescript vehicle
which had returned for me.  The driver spent most of the twenty minutes
it took him to reach the farm in explaining that it wasn't really a
farm except in name.  Nothing was left of it but the house and two or
three acres of orchard; all the rest had been sold off in lots by the
owner before he let it to the Paullings.  What "city folks" admired in
it was beyond the knowledge of my companion, but when we arrived at the
gate and saw the far-off house gleaming white behind a thick screen of
ancient apple trees, I realised the attractions of the place,
especially for such tenants as I believed the Paullings to be.  The
farm-house, with its wide clapboarding, its neat green shutters, and
its almost classic "colonial" porch hung with roses, had the air of
being on terms of long familiar friendship with the old-fashioned
garden and the great trees which almost hid it from its neighbours and
the road.  Its front windows, closed and shuttered now, would look out
when open over sloping lawns and flowerbeds to distant blue glints of
the sea; and altogether Bayview Farm seemed an ideal retreat for
persons who could be sufficient to themselves and each other.

Those shuttered windows, however, hinted at disappointment for me.  Not
a light showed, behind one of them, and when I had rung the bell of the
front door, and pounded vainly at the back, I had to make up my mind
that the Paullings were either away or determined to be thought so.
"Mrs. Vandeermans 'll know all about 'em," my conductor comforted me.
"She lives next door, a quarter of a mile farther on."

We drove the quarter mile, only to be struck by another blow.  The one
person at home in Mrs. Vandeermans' cottage was that widowed woman's
mother, very old, very deaf, half blind, knowing little about anything,
and nothing at all about the tenants of Bayview Farm.

"My darter's gone to my son's in Buffalo," she quavered when I had
screamed at her.  "He's sick, but she'll be back to-morrow to look
after me.  She knows them Paullings.  You come again to-morrow
afternoon if you want to talk to her."

"You seem sure disappointed," remarked my companion, as he drove me and
my crutches back to Roselawn Hotel.

"I am," I admitted; but the words were as inadequate as most words are.
I was bowled over, knocked out, or so I told myself in my first
depression.  Nothing was of any use to me after to-morrow morning at
nine o'clock.

On my way back to New York in a slow train I gloomily thought over the
situation.  Certain startling yet not unexpected discoveries made early
in the day had elated me too soon.  I had collected evidence, but only
circumstantial evidence.  I had no absolute proof to give Roger Odell,
and nothing less would suffice.  I had counted on getting hold of proof
at Sandy Plain, from which place on Long Island (I had learned from the
agent) cheques came regularly each quarter to pay the rent of the flat
in the Alhambra--cheques sometimes signed T. Paulling, sometimes M.
Paulling.  One had arrived only a few days before with the former
signature, so I had reason to hope that T. Paulling might be unearthed
at Sandy Plain.

I could, I told myself, write to Roger Odell and ask for a delay, but
that would kill such feeble faith in me as I had forcibly implanted in
him.  He would think me a fraud, and believe that I had been trying to
gain time in order to spring some trick upon him.  Besides, the
Paullings might come to New York, if they were not already there, and
discover that some person unknown was on their track and had been
tearing sheets out of their blotting-book.  No, I must keep my
appointment with Roger Odell or face the prospect of complete failure.
But how to convince him of what I was myself convinced, with the
disjointed bits of evidence in my possession?  Just as my train came to
a stop with a slight jolt in the Pennsylvania station, I saw as in an
electric flash a way of doing it.  Perhaps it was the jolt that gave
the flash.

I could not wait to get back to my hotel.  I inquired of a porter where
I could get a messenger boy.  He showed me.  I begged two sheets of
paper and two envelopes.  They were pushed under my hand.  I scratched
off six lines to Roger Odell: "Don't think when you get this I'm going
to ask you to put off our interview.  On the contrary, I ask you to
advance it.  Please be in Julius Felborn's private office at a quarter
to nine instead of nine.  This is vitally important.  If he has a large
safe in his office, get the key or combination so that you can open it.
Small safe no use.--Yours hopefully, J.H."

I finished this scrawl and sent it away by messenger to the club where
Odell had said I might 'phone, if necessary, up to one o'clock that
night.  It was only just eleven.

The second letter was longer and more troublesome to compose.  It was
to Grace Callender, and I trusted for its effect to the kindness she
professed for me.  Her aunt also had been friendly and had shown
interest in the prospects of Carr Price's play.  Neither, however,
dreamed that success depended in any way upon Roger Odell.


"DEAR MISS GRACE," I wrote,--"You will think the request I'm going to
make of you and Miss Callender a very strange one, but you promised
that if you could help me you would do so.  Well, extraordinary as it
may seem, _you can make my fortune if you_ will both come to the
Felborn Theatre at the unearthly hour of nine to-morrow morning, and
ask to be shown into Mr. Felborn's private office.  I shall be there,
waiting and hoping to see you two ladies arrive promptly, as more than
I can tell depends upon that.  You happened to mention in my presence
something about dining out to-night and returning rather late, so I
feel there is a chance of your getting this and sending me a line by
the messenger to the Belmont.  He will wait for you, and I will wait
for him.--Yours sincerely, JOHN HASLE."


An hour later the answer came to my hotel.  "Of course we'll both be
there on the stroke of nine.  Depend upon us," Grace Callender replied.

"Thank Heaven!" I mumbled.  Yet I was heavy with a sense of guilt.  If
it had been only for punishment, or only for my own advancement, I
could not have done what I planned to do.  No man could.  But Grace
Callender's happiness was at stake.


Roger Odell was five minutes before his time in Felborn's office next
day, yet he found me on the spot.  I saw by his face that his
well-seasoned nerves were keyed not far from breaking-point.  But he
kept his rôle of the superior, indifferent man of the world.  He hoped
I didn't see the strain he was under, and I hoped that I hid my
feelings from him.  Each probably succeeded as well as the other.

"Well, what have you got to tell me?" he asked, when we were alone
together in Julius Felborn's decorative private office.

"I've nothing to tell you," I said.  "Nevertheless, I believe you will
hear something if you've done as I suggested.  Have you got the key or
the combination of that big safe in the wall behind the desk?"

"I have the combination for to-day.  Felborn was at the club last night
when your letter came, and I asked him for it.  There aren't many
favours he wouldn't grant me.  But what has Julius Felborn's safe to do
with the case?"

"Please open it.  We haven't much time to spare."  I looked at my
watch.  In a quarter of an hour the Misses Callender ought to be
announced.  If they failed me after all--but I would not think of that
"if."

Odell manipulated the combination, and the door of the safe swung open.
I saw that there was room for a man inside, and explained to Odell that
he must be the man.  "It's absolutely necessary for you to hear for
yourself," I insisted, "all that's said in this room during the next
half-hour.  If you didn't hear with your own ears, you'd never believe,
and nothing would be said if you were known to be listening."

"You want me to eavesdrop!" he exclaimed, ready to be scornful.

"Yes," I admitted.  "If you can call it eavesdropping to learn how and
by whom Perry and Ned Callender Graham were done to death."

Without another word Odell stepped into the safe.

"With the door ajar you can hear every word spoken in this room," I
said.  "In a few minutes you'll recognise two voices--those of Miss
Grace and Miss Marian Callender.  I tell you this that you mayn't be
surprised into making an indiscreet appearance.  Remember your future's
at stake and that of the girl you love.  All you have to do is to keep
still until the moment when the mystery is cleared up."

"How can it be cleared up by either of those two?" Odell challenged me,
anger smouldering in his eyes.

"It will be cleared up while they are in the room," I amended.
"Further than that I can't satisfy you now.  By Jove! there goes the
'phone!  I expect it's to say they're here, though it's five minutes
before the time."

My guess was correct, and my answer through the telephone, "Let them
come up at once," passed on the news to the man behind the door of the
safe.  I went out to the head of the stairs to meet my visitors, and
led them into Felborn's office.  The two were charmingly though very
simply dressed, far more _les grandes dames_ in appearance than they
had been on shipboard, and their first words were of amused admiration
for the Oriental richness of Julius Felborn's office.  It was evident
that, whatever their secret preoccupations were, both wished to seem
interested in their bizarre surroundings and in my success which they
had come to promote.  I made them sit down in the two most luxurious
chairs the room possessed.  Thus seated, their backs were toward the
safe, and the light filtered becomingly through thin gold silk curtains
on to their faces.  I placed myself opposite, on an oak bench under the
window.  If the door of the safe moved, I could see it over the
fashionable small hats of the ladies with their haloes of delicate,
spiky plumes.

When I got past generalities I blurted out, "I've a confession to make.
I won't excuse myself or explain, because when I've finished--though
not _till_ then--you'll understand.  On shipboard I talked of my book,
and told you it was called _The Key_, but I didn't tell you that the
title and one incident in the story were suggested--forgive my
startling you--by the murder of Perry and Ned Callender-Graham."

"Oh!" exclaimed Grace, half rising, "you asked us here to tell us
_that_?  It doesn't seem _like_ you, Lord John."

"Give me the benefit of the doubt and hear me to the end," I pleaded,
grieved by her stricken pallor and look of reproach as she sank into
the chair again.  Marian was pale also, even paler than usual, but her
look was of anger, therefore easier to meet.

"You must not use the word 'murder,'" she commented, a quiver in her
voice.  "Your doing so shows that you've very little knowledge of the
case."

"I beg your pardon," I said.  "On the contrary, it precisely shows that
I have knowledge of it.  The brothers were murdered by the same hand,
in the same way, and for the same motive."

Marian rose up, very straight and tall.  "It would be more suitable to
give your theories to the police than to us.  I cannot stay and let my
niece stay to listen to them."

"I shall have to give not my theories, but my knowledge, my proof, to
the police," I warned her; "only it's better for everyone concerned for
you to hear me first."

"You've brought us to this place under false pretences!" Marian cried,
throwing her arm around the girl's waist.  "It's not the act of a
gentleman.  Come, Grace, we'll go at once."

"For your own sakes you must not go," I insisted.  "If you stay and
hear me through some way may be found to save the family name from
public dishonour."

"Dearest, we _must_ stay," Grace said steadily, when the older woman
urged her toward the door.

Marian looked at her niece with the compelling look of a Fate, but the
girl stood firm.  Gently she freed herself from the clinging arm and
sat, or rather fell, into the big cushioned chair once more.  Her aunt
hesitated for a moment, I could see, whether or not to use force, but
decided against the attempt.  With a level gaze of scorn for me, she
took her stand beside Grace's chair, her hand clenched on the carving
of its high back.  I realised the tension of her grip, because her grey
suede glove split open across a curious ring she always wore on the
third finger of her left hand, showing its great cabochon emerald.  I
had often noticed this stone, and thought it like the eye of a snake.

"Say what you wish to say quickly, then, and get it over," she sharply
ordered.

"The double murder was suggested and carried out by a man, but he had
accomplices, and his principal accomplice was a woman."  (Miss
Callender's command excused my brusqueness.)  "They had the same
interest to serve; purely a financial interest.  It was vital to both
that Miss Grace Callender shouldn't marry--unless she married a person
under their influence who would share with them.  They preferred some
such scheme, but it fell through.  That drove them to extremes.  Now
I'll tell you something about this couple--this congenial husband and
wife.  Afterwards I'll give you details of their plot.  They were
married secretly years ago, and lived together when they could, abroad
and on this side.  The man was rich once, but lost his money--and the
capacity to make it--by losing his health.  Life wasn't worth living to
either unless they could have the luxury they'd been used to.  They
took an old house on Long Island--Bay View Farm, near Sandy Plain.  The
man lived there for several months each year under the name of
Paulling.  His wife paid him flying visits.  She provided the money,
and had a banking account in the town.  At Bay View Farm, when Miss
Grace first engaged herself to her cousin, the two thought out their
plot to suppress Perry.  It took them some time to elaborate it, but a
week before the wedding they were ready.  The woman, still under the
name of Paulling, engaged a furnished flat in New York, near Riverside
Drive.  She took this flat for a term of years, realising it might be
needed more than once as time went on.  In this apartment, in a house
called the Alhambra, she sat down one day at her desk and wrote an
anonymous letter to Perry Callender-Graham.  She asked him to call at
that address at midnight the next night and learn a secret concerning
his cousin Grace's birth, which would change everything for them both
if it came out.  Her handwriting was disguised by the use of a quill
pen, which used so much ink that most of the words left traces on the
blotter.  The envelope and paper were blue-grey, and thick.  Inside was
enclosed a small latchkey and a key to the front door of the house, for
the hall-porter would be in bed by the time she named.  Perry
Callender-Graham could not resist the temptation to keep the
appointment.  He went to the Alhambra, let himself in, was seen by
nobody, walked up to the third floor, and fitted the latchkey into the
door on the right side of the hall.  As he tried to turn the key
something sharp as a needle pricked his forefinger.  He was startled,
yet he went on trying to unlock the door.  The key turned all the way
round, but the door stuck.  It seemed to be bolted on the inside.  He
began to feel slightly faint, but he was so angry at being cheated that
he pushed the electric bell, determined to get in at any cost.  No
answer came, however, and at last he gave up in despair.  Some vague
idea of warning the police and of going to see a doctor came to his
mind, but he was already a dying man.  Before he got as far as the
street corner he fell dead.  Exactly the same thing happened in the
case of Ned, when every effort to frighten him into breaking his
engagement had failed, when his love for his brother, his sensitive
conscience and his superstitious fear had all been played upon in vain.
Even the same formula was used for the anonymous letter, with a
slightly different wording.  That was safe enough, for if Perry had
mentioned the first letter to Ned he would have told the police at the
time of Perry's death; it would have been a valuable clue.  It wasn't
necessary to make new keys, for the two originals had been
returned--'to the family.'  They were sent anonymously to Ned as they'd
been sent to Perry, and he also yielded to curiosity.

"The same ingenious lock, made for the plotters by a skilled
mechanician (whom they had reason to trust), shot out its poisoned
needle at the first turn of the latchkey in his hand.  As for the
poison, it, too, was supplied by a trusted one---one who had something
to gain and vengeance to take as well.  As the mechanician specialised
in lock-making, so did the chemist employed specialise in poisons.  The
one he chose out of his repertory had two virtues: first, it began to
stop the heart's action only after coursing through the blood for
twenty or thirty minutes.  Anything quicker might have struck down the
victim in front of the door and put the police on the right track.
Secondly, the poison's effect on the heart couldn't be detected by
post-mortem, but presented all the symptoms of status lymphaticus,
enlargement of the thyroid gland and so on.  As for the lock, the
second turn of the key caused the needle to retire; and for a further
safeguard, an almost invisible stop, resembling a small screw-head,
could hold the needle permanently in place inside the lock, so that the
door might be opened by a latchkey and the existence of a secret
mechanism never suspected, except by one who knew how to find it.  The
mechanism is in working order still, ready for use again, in case Miss
Grace Callender should change her mind and decide to marry."

"Who is it you are accusing, Lord John?" Grace stammered in a choked
voice.

I glanced from the drooping figure in the chair to the tall figure
standing erect and straight beside it.  Marian Callender no longer
grasped the oak carving.  The hand in the ragged glove was crushed
against her mouth, her lips on the emerald which had pressed through
the torn suede.  The woman gave no other sign of emotion than this
strange gesture.

"I accuse Paolo Tostini, with his father, his brother, and his
wife--known still as Miss Marian Callender--as his accomplices," I said.

Grace uttered a cry sharp with horror, yet there was neither amazement
nor unbelief in the pale face which she screened with two trembling
hands.  The story I had told--hastily yet circumstantially--had
prepared her for the end.  But the keen anguish in the girl's voice
snapped the last strand of Odell's patience.  He threw the iron door of
the safe wide open, and in two bounds was at Grace's side.  I saw her
hold out both arms to him.  I saw him snatch her up against his breast;
and then I turned to Marian Tostini, who had not moved from her place
beside the big carved chair.  She was staring straight at me, her dark
eyes wide and unwinking as the eyes of a person hypnotised.  The hand
in the torn glove had dropped from her lips again and clasped the
carving.  She seemed to lean upon the chair, as if for support.  Her
fingers clutched the wood.  The grey suede glove was slit now all
across its back, but the snake-eye of the emerald had ceased to shoot
out its green glint.  The stone hung from its setting like the hinged
lid of a box, showing a very small gold-lined aperture.

"There need be--no stain on the name of--Callender--if you are as
clever in hiding the secret as you've been--in finding it out," she
said, with a catch in her breath between words.

"What have you done?" I asked.

"You know--don't you--you who know everything?  The ring was my Italian
mother's--and her mother's before her.  Who can tell how long it has
been in our family?  It was empty when it came to me, but----"

"But you put into it some of the same poison Antonio Tostini made up
for Perry and Ned Callender-Graham?"

"Do you think you can force me to accuse the Tostinis?  You shall not
drag a word from me.  When Paolo hears I am dead he will die also,
before you can find him.  Antonio you cannot touch.  He is in Italy.
Thank Heaven their father is dead!  And now I think--I had better go
home or--or to my doctor's.  Grace and Roger Odell--wouldn't like me to
die here.  It might--start scandal.  I am feeling--a little faint."

"Aunt Marian!" Grace sobbed.  But Odell held the girl in his arms and
would not let her go.

"Take Miss Callender away, Odell--quickly," I advised.  "I'll attend
to--Mrs. Tostini."

Like one who walks in a dream I shut the safe on my way to the desk,
and telephoned downstairs for a taxi.  "One of the ladies who called
has been taken ill, I must drive her to a doctor's," I explained.

"You think of everything," Marian Tostini said.  She laughed softly.
"My heart has always been weak."

"Taxi is here, sir," a voice called up through the 'phone.

"Very well.  We'll be down at once.  Tell Mr. Felborn his office is
free.  Now, Miss Callender--I mean Mrs. Tostini, let me help you."

"I'm afraid I must say 'Yes,'" she smiled.  "My heart--beats so slowly.
Tell me, Lord John, as we go--how did you find out--the secret?  It
seemed so--well hid!"

"I guessed part, and bluffed the rest.  I had to," I confessed, half
guiltily.  The woman could make no ill use of such a confession now.
"I found the flat--and the lock--and two sheets of blotting paper.  I
made out the anonymous letters, and one to your husband.  I showed the
snapshot I got of you on shipboard to the house-agent.  But he couldn't
be sure--said Mrs. Paulling wore a veil when he saw her.  The name
'Paulling' was a clue too--enough like Paolo to be suggestive.  Some
criminals love to twist their own names about.  And Paolo Tostini is a
criminal.  He has brought you to this----"

"If there is guilt, I am the guilty one," she said calmly.  "So sorry.
I have to lean on you a little.  Ah! it's good to be downstairs--and in
the air.  My doctor's name is Ryland.  His address is The Montague,
East 44th Street.  It's so near--we can get there, I think, in time.
You'll tell him--nothing?"

"I'll tell him nothing," I echoed.

As I put her into the taxi I noticed that she had snapped the emerald
back in its setting, and the green snake-eye glinted up harmlessly once
more from the limp hand in the torn glove.



EPISODE II

THE GREY SISTERHOOD

LORD JOHN'S FIRST ADVENTURE IN LOVE

When applause forced the curtain up again and again on the last scene
of our play--Carr Price's and mine--I wasn't looking at the stage, but
at a girl in the opposite box.  The box was Roger Odell's, and I was
sure that the girl must be his adopted sister Madeleine.  But because
of the insult she had suffered through my brother, I might not visit
the box uninvited.

If Grace had been with her husband and sister-in-law there might have
been hope.  But the wedding had been private, because of Miss Marian
Callender's death, and it was not to be supposed that the bride would
show herself at the theatre, even as a proof of gratitude to me.  I was
in Governor Estabrook's box, with him and Carr Price, and the girl
whose engagement to Price depended, perhaps, on the success of this
night; but I thanked my lucky stars--that I was invited by Grace to
dine after the theatre, _en famille_.

"Surely I shall meet _Her_," I tried to persuade myself.  "She's here
with Roger, to show that she bears no grudge against my family.  She
can't stop away from supper when I'm to be the only guest."

This hopeful thought repeated itself in my head whenever I was thwarted
by finding my eyes avoided by the girl--the wonderful girl who, with
her lily face, and parted blonde hair rippling gold-and-silver lights
was like a shining saint.  She was so like a saint that I would have
staked my life on her being one, which made me more furious than ever
with Haslemere.  I felt if she would give me one of her white roses
lying on the red velvet of the box-rail, it would be worth more to me
than the Victoria Cross I was wearing for the first time that night.

"Author!  Author!" everybody shouted, as the curtain went down for the
tenth time.  I heard the call in a half-dream, for at that instant
Madeleine Odell dropped the opera-glasses through which she had been
taking a look at the audience.  They fell on the boxrail among the
roses, and pushed off one white beauty, which landed on the stage close
to the footlights; but I had no time to yearn for that rose just then.
I had thought only for the girl, who shrank back in her chair as if to
hide herself.  Startled, Roger bent down with a solicitous question.
Thus he screened his sister from me, as a black cloud may screen the
moon; and my impulse was to search the house for the cause of her alarm.

The audience as a whole had not yet risen, therefore the few on their
feet were conspicuous, and I picked out the man who had seemingly
annoyed Miss Odell.  Just a glimpse I had of his face before he turned,
to push past the people in his row of orchestra chairs.  It was a
strange face.

"That man has some connection with the mystery of Madeleine Odell's
life!" was my thought.  I knew I had to follow the fellow, and there
wasn't a second to lose, because, though he was perhaps twice my age, I
had to get about with a crutch and he had the full use of his long,
active legs.  Before I'd stopped to define my impulse I was on my feet,
stammering excuses to Governor Estabrook and his daughter.

"You mustn't leave now.  We're wanted on the stage!"  Carr Price caught
my arm; but a muttered, "For God's sake, don't stop me," told him that
here was some matter of life or death for me, and he stood back.  After
that, I must have made the cripple's record; and I reached the street
in time to see the quarry step into a private car.  I knew him by the
back of his head, prominent behind the ears and thatched with sleek
pepper-and-salt hair; but as he bent forward to shut the door, he
stared for half a second straight into my eyes.  His were black and
long--Egyptian eyes, and the whole personality of the man suggested
Egypt; not the Arabianised Egypt of to-day, but rather the Egypt which
left its tall, broad-shouldered types sculptured on walls of tombs.  He
made me think of a magnificent mummy "come alive," and dressed in
modern evening clothes.

After the meeting of our eyes the man turned to his chauffeur for some
word, and the theatre lights seemed to point a pale finger at a scar on
the brown throat.  The length of that thin throat was another Egyptian
characteristic, and though the collar was higher than fashion decreed,
it wasn't high enough to cover the mark when his neck stretched
forward.  It was the queerest scar I ever saw, the exact size and shape
of a human eye.  And on the white neck of Miss Odell I had noticed a
black opal with a crystal centre, representing the eye of the Egyptian
god Horus.  This fetish was the only jewel she wore; and if I hadn't
already been sure of some association between her and the man now
escaping, that eye would have convinced me.

Roger Odell had forced on me the gift of an automobile, and Price and I
had motored Governor Estabrook and his daughter to the theatre; but as
it was waiting in the procession which had just begun to move, my only
hope of following the man was to hail a passing taxi.  I was about to
try my luck, when a hand jerked me back.

"Good heavens, Lord John, are you going to leave us in the lurch?  The
audience are yelling their heads off!" panted Julius Felborn.

I would have thrown him off, but the second's delay was a second too
much.  The dark car was spinning away with its secret--which might be a
double secret, for I caught a glimpse of a grey-clad woman.  Somebody
grabbed the taxi I'd hoped to hail, and it was too late to do anything
except note the licence number.  Since my war-experience and wounds,
I've lost--temporarily, the doctors say--my memory for figures.  It is
one form which nerve-shock takes; and fearing to forget, I made a note
with a pocket pencil, on my shirt cuff.

"A man like that is no needle in a haystack," I consoled myself.  "I
can't fail to lay my hand on him if he's wanted."  Then, making the
best of the business, I allowed Felborn to work his will.  He dragged
me back into the theatre, and on to the stage, where I bowed and
smirked at the side of Price.  Queer, how indifferent the vision of a
girl made me to this vision of success!  But I'd never fallen in love
at first sight before, or, indeed, fallen in love at all in a way worth
the name.

The vision was still there when I looked up, though it would soon be
gone, for Roger had put on his sister's cloak, and both were standing.
The girl shrank into the background; but as I raised my eyes perhaps
the S.O.S. call my heart sent out compelled some faint answer.  Miss
Odell leaned forward and it seemed that she threw me a glance with
something faintly resembling interest in it.  Perhaps it was only
curiosity; or maybe she was looking for a rosebud she had lost.  I
couldn't let the flower perish, or be collected by some Philistine; so
I bent and picked it up.  I trusted that she would not be angry, but
when I raised my head the vision and the vision's brother had both
disappeared.

This was the happiest night of Carr Price's life, because Governor
Estabrook had journeyed from his own state with his daughter to see the
play.  If he could, he would have kept me to supper in order that I
might talk to the Governor while he talked to the fascinating Nora; but
I had yet to learn whether there was a chance of its being the happiest
night of my life, and I flashed off in my new car at the earliest
moment, to find out.  Down plumped my heart, however, when only Grace
and Roger appeared to welcome me.

As soon as I dared, I invented an excuse to ask for the absent one; or
rather, I blurted out what was in my mind.  "I hoped," I stammered, "to
see Miss Odell again--if only for a few minutes.  I felt sure it was
she at the theatre.  And I wanted to beg--that she'd let me try to
atone--to compel Haslemere to atone."

"Oh, she's sorry not to meet you," Roger broke in, "But she's not
strong.  And she--er--was rather upset in the theatre.  She doesn't go
out often; and she never takes late supper.  She's probably in bed by
this time----"

"Oh, Roger, do let me tell him the truth!" exclaimed Grace.  "Think how
he helped us in our trouble?  What if he could help Maida?  You must
admit he has a mind for mysteries, and if he could put an end to the
persecution which has spoiled her life, Maida wouldn't join the
Sisterhood."

"She's going to join a Sisterhood?" I broke out, feeling as if a hand
had squeezed my heart like a bath sponge.

"Yes," said Grace, glancing at Roger.  "You see, Rod, it slipped out!"

"I suppose there's no harm done," he answered.  "Only, it's for Maida
to talk of her affairs.  Lord John's a stranger to her."

"But," I said on a strong impulse, "I've taken the liberty of falling
in love with Miss Odell, without being introduced, and in spite of the
fact that she has a right to despise my family.  This is the most
serious thing that's ever happened to me.  And if she goes into a
Sisterhood the world won't be worth living in.  Give me a chance to
meet her--to offer myself----"

"Great Scott!" cried Roger.  "And the British are called a slow race!"

"Offer myself as her knight," I finished.  "Do you think I'd ask
anything in return?  Why, after what Haslemere did----"

"Oh, but who knows what might happen some day?" suggested Grace.  "Rod,
I _shall_ make Maida come down."

Without waiting to argue, she ran out of the room.  She was gone some
time, and the secret being out, Roger talked with comparative freedom
of his adopted sister's intentions.  The Sisterhood she meant to join
was not a religious order, but a club of women banded together for good
work.  At one time the Grey Sisters, as they called themselves, had
been a thriving organisation for the rescue of unfortunate girls, the
reformation of criminals, and the saving of neglected children; but the
Head Sister--there was no "Mother Superior"--had died without a will, a
promised fortune had gone back to her family, and had not a lady of
wealth and force of character volunteered for the empty place, the
Sisterhood might have had to disband.  The new Head Sister had
persuaded Madeleine Odell to join the depleted ranks.  They had met in
charity work, which was Maida's one pleasure, and the mystery
surrounding the woman had fired the interest of the girl whose youth
was wrecked by mystery.  The New York home of the Sisterhood had been
given up, owing to lack of money, but the new Head Sister, whose life
and fortune seemed dedicated to good works, had taken and restored an
old place on Long Island.  More recruits were expected, and various
charities were on the programme.

"It's a gloomy den," said Roger, "and stood empty for years because of
some ghost story.  But this friend of Maida's has a mind above ghosts.
They're going to teach women thieves to make jam, and child pickpockets
to be angels!  No arguments of mine have had the slightest effect on
Maida since she met this foreign woman.

"The child has vowed herself to live with the Sisterhood--I believe it
consists at present of no more than five or six women--for a year.
After that she can be free if she chooses.  But I know her so well that
my fear is, she _won't_ choose.  I'm afraid after all she's suffered
she won't care to come back to the world.  And the sword hanging over
our heads is the knowledge that Maida's pledged herself to go whenever
the summons comes."

If Roger's talk had been on any subject less engrossing, I should not
have heard a word.  As it was, I drank in every one.  Yet the soul
seemed to have walked out of my body and followed Grace upstairs.  It
was as if I could see her pleading with my white-rose vision of the
theatre; but I was far enough from picturing the scene as it really
was.  Afterward, when I heard Maida Odell's story, I knew what strange
surroundings she had given herself in the rich commonplaceness of that
old home which had been hers since childhood.

"The shrine" adjoined her bedroom, I know now, and for some girls would
have been a boudoir.  But the objects it contained put it out of the
"boudoir" category.  There were two life-size portraits, facing each
other on the undecorated walls, on either side the only door; there was
also a portrait of Roger's father; and opposite the door stood on end a
magnificent painted mummy-case such as a museum would give a small
fortune to possess.  Even without its contents the case would have been
of value; but behind a thick pane of glass showed the face of a
perfectly preserved mummy, a middle-aged man no doubt of high birth,
and of a dynasty when Greek influence had scarcely begun to degrade the
methods of embalming.  When I saw these treasures of Madeleine's and
learned what they meant in her life, I said that no frame could have
been more inappropriate for such a girl than such a "shrine."

Grace told me afterwards that she induced Maida to put on her dress
again and come downstairs, only by assuring her that "Poor Lord John
was dreadfully hurt."  That plea touched the soft heart; and my fifteen
minutes of suspense ended with a vision of the White Rose Girl coming
down the Odells' rather spectacular stairway, with Grace's arm girdling
her waist.

We were introduced, and Maida gave me a kind, sweet smile which was the
most beautiful present I ever had.  How it made me burn to know what
her smile of love might be!

Supper was announced; indeed, it had been waiting, and we went into the
oak-panelled dining-room where the girl was more than ever like a white
flower seen in rosy dusk.  At the table I could hardly take my eyes off
her face.  She was more lovely and lovable than I had thought in the
theatre.  Each minute that passed, while I talked of indifferent
things, I spent in mentally "working up" to the Great Request--that she
would show her forgiveness by accepting my help.  At last, after butler
and footman had been sent out, and words came to my lips--some sort of
inspiration they seemed--a servant returned with a letter.

"For Miss Odell, by district messenger," he announced, offering the
envelope on a silver tray.

"Is there an answer?" Maida asked, her face flushing.

The footman replied that the messenger had gone; and with fingers that
trembled, Maida opened the envelope.  Quite a common envelope it was,
such as one might buy at a cheap stationer's; and the handwriting,
which was in pencil, looked hurried.  "I have to go to-morrow morning,"
the girl said simply.  She spoke to Roger, but for an instant her eyes
turned to me.

"Oh, darling," cried Grace, springing up as Maida rose, "it's not
fair--such short notice!  Send word that you can't."

"The only thing I _can't_ do, dear, is to break my promise," the girl
cut in.  "I must go, and she asks me to travel alone to Salthaven.
That's the nearest station for the Sisterhood House.  She gives me the
time of the train I'm to take--seven o'clock.  After all, why isn't one
day the same as another?  Only, it's hard to say good-bye."

To leave my love thus, and without even the chance to win her, which
instinct whispered I might have had, seemed unbearable.  But there was
no other course.  She gave me her hand.  "Could it be that she was
sorry?" I dared ask myself.  But before I had time to realise how
irrevocable it all was, I stood outside Odell's closed door.  I stared
at the barrier for a minute before getting into my car, and tried to
make the oak panels transparent.  "I won't let her go out of my life
like this," I said.  "I'll fight."

Before I'd reached my hotel I had thought out the first move in a plan
of action.  But maybe there is another thing I ought to mention, before
I speak of that plan.  Roger gave me, when I left him, an interesting
description of an electrical contrivance by which he protected the
chief treasure of his sister's shrine from burglars.  He insisted on
giving me the secret in writing, also, because he would have to go away
shortly, and wanted someone to know what to do "in case anything went
wrong."  The servants, though trustworthy, were aware only that such a
protection existed and was dangerous to meddlers.

Consulting with West, the chauffeur, I learned that to reach Salthaven,
Long Island (the nearest village to Pine Cliff), passengers must change
at Jamaica.  I told him to get to that junction in the morning without
fail, before the seven o'clock train was due, and we arranged to start
even earlier than necessary, to allow for delay.  In the hotel office I
asked to be waked at five, in the unlikely event that I should
oversleep, and was going to the lift when the clerk at the information
desk called after me, "I believe, Lord John, a big box arrived for you.
It was before I came on duty, but you'll find it in your suite."

Nothing seemed less important in that mood of mine, than the arrival of
a box.  I had ordered nothing, expected nothing, wanted nothing--except
a thing it seemed unlikely I could ever have; so when I found no box in
my bedroom or small sitting-room, I supposed that it--whatever it might
be--would be sent next morning.  Then I forgot the matter.

I wished to sleep, for I needed clearness of brain for my task.  But
sleep wouldn't come.  After I had courted it in the dark for a few
minutes, I switched on the electric light over my bed, smoked a
cigarette or two; and when my nerves were calmer, began studying
Roger's electrical invention as described in two documents, a sketch of
Miss Odell's famous mummy-case, with the wiring attached, and a
separate paper of directions how to set and detach the mechanism.

Suddenly, in the midst, a wave of sleep poured over me, sweeping me to
dreamland.  I have a vague recollection of slipping one paper under the
pillow, and I must have dropped off with the other in my hand.  I was
seeing Maida again, asking her permission to keep the white rose, and
receiving it, when some sound brought me back to realities.  I sat up
in bed and looked around the room, my impression being that someone had
been there.  Nothing was disarranged, however.  All seemed as I had
left it--except--yes, there was one change!  My eyes fastened upon the
shirt cuff on which I had written the licence number of the automobile.
I had flung the shirt over a low screen, and had forgotten, in the rush
of crowding thoughts, to copy the number in my journal.  There hung the
shirt as I had left it, but the number, which I had written clearly and
distinctly, had become a black blur on the glazed linen.

I sprang out of bed, and switched on more lights.  Surely I had not
smudged the number by any clumsy accident.  The noise I had heard--that
sound like the "click" of a lock?  One swift look at the shirt cuff
came near to convincing me that a bit of rubber eraser had been used,
and then I remembered Roger's documents.  The one I had slipped under
my pillow was gone.  Fortunately it was useless to the uninitiated
without the other!

I got to the door almost as quickly as if I'd never been wounded, but
found the key still turned in the lock.  To have slipped out and locked
the door on the _inside_, meant a clever thief, a skilled _rat
d'hôtel_, provided with a special instrument; but that the trick could
be done I knew from hearsay.  I threw open the door and looked into the
dimly lit corridor.  No one was visible, except the flitting figure of
a very small child, in a sort of red-riding-hood, cloak, with a hood.
The little creature seemed startled at the noise I made, and ran to a
door which it had nearly reached.  Someone must have been waiting for
its return, for it was let in and the door closed.

"If anyone's been in my rooms, he's probably there still," I said, and
began to search in the obvious way--looking under the bed.  What I
found sent me to the door again; for a curious, collapsible box, just
big enough to hold a small child, turned the innocent, flitting figure
I'd seen into something sinister.  Quicker than light, thoughts shot
through my head; the arrival of a "big box," my failure to find it in
my room, the click of the lock, some knowledge of me by the man with
the scar, and a fear of my vaunted "detective skill."  Slipping on a
dressing-gown as I went, I stalked down the corridor to the door which
opened to admit the child; and the knob was in my grasp when a voice
spoke sharply at my back.  "Haven't you mistaken the room, sir?" the
night watchman warned me.

I had met the man before, when coming in late, and he knew my number.
He was a big Irishman, twice my size.  I foresaw trouble, but went to
meet it.  "I've reason to believe a thief's been in my rooms, and taken
refuge here," I explained.  "I want this door opened."  With that I
rattled the knob and knocked threateningly.  Almost at once the door
was unlocked, and the sweet face of a young woman in a neat, plain
dressing-gown peeped out.  "Oh, what's the matter?" she faltered.  "Is
it fire?  We have a child here."

"I _thought_ yuh was mistaken, sir!" cut in the watchman.  "Two ladies
and a little midget came in late.  I saw 'em.  No, madam, there's no
fire.  This gentleman thought a thief had slipped into one of your
rooms."

"Indeed, he is mistaken," the young woman assured us.  "We haven't
finished undressing yet.  I'm the child's nurse.  If necessary, I can
call my mistress, but she's very nervous."  As she glanced back into
the room I caught a glimpse of a woman in grey who hadn't taken off her
hat.  A sort of motor bonnet it seemed to be, with a long veil
attached.  I got no sight of her face, for the nurse hastily shut the
door, all but a crack which scarcely showed her rather piquant nose.

"That's enough, I guess, sir?" suggested the watchman.  "These ladies
mustn't be disturbed.  All the rooms along here are occupied by old
clients.  You go back to your suite and if there's any thief we'll find
him.  But maybe you was dreamin'?"

I heard the key turn again in the lock; but I realised that unless I
wanted to risk a row and perhaps arrest for "disorderly conduct," I
must bow to circumstances.  For a moment I was tempted to persist, but
I thought how much more important than anything it was to be free from
entanglements, and able to reach Jamaica before seven o'clock.  "Spilt
milk," I said to myself, and took the watchman's advice.  But outside
the forbidden door, I picked up a tiny rosetted slipper.

In my own rooms, I searched again for traces of a hostile presence.
The collapsible box was a strange thing to find under a bed, but I
couldn't prove that Little Red Riding Hood had been in it.  Neither
could I prove that a small pile of silver that I had poured out of my
pockets on to the dressing-table had diminished, or that two letters
which I had received--one from my brother Haslemere, one from Grace
Odell--had been stolen.  Nevertheless, while putting off my principal
researches, I did telephone down to inquire who occupied rooms 212,
214.  The man who answered from the office had "come on" since the
people arrived, but, the name in the hotel register was "Mrs. W. Smith,
nurse and child, Sayville, Long Island."  Nothing could sound less
offensive; but next morning when I descended at an unearthly hour it
seemed that "the party" had already gone, by motor; and the man at the
door "hadn't noticed no child."  All I could do then was to reserve
those rooms for myself, for two days, with orders that they should not
be touched until investigated by me.

It lacked twenty minutes of train time when my chauffeur got me to
Jamaica.  This made me feel almost cheerful, but my heart sank as I
reached the arrival platform.  There were not many passengers, and even
if there had been a crowd one figure would have stood out
conspicuously--that of a tall woman in a grey dress, a long grey cloak,
and a close-fitting grey bonnet with a thick grey veil falling over the
face and breast.  There was not a doubt in my mind but this was the
formidable directress of the Grey Sisterhood, come in person to meet--I
had almost said "her victim."  If the woman had known of my plan she
could hardly have found a better way of thwarting it.

As I glowered at the figure stalking up and down, I hated it.  And I
wondered if there were more than a coincidence in the fact that this
was the third grey-veiled woman I had seen since last night.  In the
car at the theatre there had been too brief a glimpse to be sure of a
resemblance, and the woman in 212 had left on my mind an impression of
comparative shortness.  But then, it is easy to stoop and disguise
one's height, I told myself viciously, eager to find a connection
between this woman and the others.

I could see nothing of her face, as we passed and repassed on the
platform; but she was hovering not far off when I learned that the
train from New York would be late.  It was "hung up," a few miles away,
owing to the breakdown of a "freighter."  Instead of regret at this
news, I felt joy.  It gave me--with luck--a way out of my difficulty.
Here was the Head Sister, waiting for Maida Odell; but if my car could
get me to the delayed train before it was restarted only Maida herself
could keep me from saying what I had come to say.

There wasn't a moment to waste, and I didn't waste one.  Thinking I had
won the first point in the game, I hurried to my car without glancing
back at the veiled woman.  I gave directions to West and was about to
get into the auto, when a look in the chauffeur's eye made me turn.
Close behind stood the grey lady.  There was no doubt that her purpose
was to speak to me.  I took off my hat and faced her; but it was like
trying to look at the moon through a thick London fog.

"You are Lord John Hasle, I believe?" she said, in a resonant contralto
voice, with a slight suggestion of foreign accent.  "I have heard of
you," she went on.  "You have been pointed out to me, and I know of
your acquaintance with the Odells.  You are going to motor back along
the line.  Your inquiries told me that.  I would thank you, and so
would Miss Odell, for taking me to her in your car."

Here was a situation!  Rudely to refuse a favour asked by a lady,
or--to lose, for ever, perhaps, my one hope?  I chose to be rude.  I
stammered that I meant to go at such a pace it would be risking her
life to grant the request.  Very sorry; more lifting of the hat; a
sheepish look of feigned regret; and then West, thoroughly ashamed of
me, started the car.  The next moment we had shot away, but not without
a startling impression.

"The worst turn you can possibly do Miss Odell will be to prevent her
coming into the Sisterhood House.  It is the one place where she can be
safe."  Those were the words I heard over the noise of the starting
motor; and as we left the tall statue of a woman, the high wind blew
her thick veil partly aside.  Instantly she pulled it into place; but I
had time to see that the face underneath was covered with a grey mask.
The effect on my mind of this revelation was of something so sinister
that I felt physically sick.  What could be the motive for such double
precautions of concealment?  Was it merely to hide a disfigurement, I
wondered, or was there a more powerful reason?  I determined to tell
Miss Odell what I had seen.

Fortunately there was little traffic on the country road at that hour,
and we did the eight miles in about eight minutes.  I thanked my lucky
stars that the hold-up train had not moved; and my heart bounded when I
saw Maida among a number of passengers who had descended to wander
about during the delay.  She in a grey travelling dress and small
winged toque, walked alone at a distance from the others.  Here back
was turned to me, but she was unmistakable, with the morning sun
ringing her hair with a saint's halo.  I tried not to frighten her by
appearing too abruptly, but she gave a start, and there was pain rather
than pleasure in her eyes.

"Do forgive me!" I pleaded.  "I _had_ to finish what I couldn't say
last night.  I wouldn't intrude by travelling in your train from New
York without permission, but I thought if I came to Jamaica, maybe
you'd grant me a few minutes.  Won't you let me atone--won't you let me
help?  I feel that I can.  Roger has hinted of trouble.  If you would
trust me, I'd put my whole soul into the fight to save you from it."

So I ran on, with a torrent of arguments and all the force of love
behind them.  Something of that force the girl must have felt, for
slowly she yielded and told me this strange story.

Roger Odell's father--Roger senior--had fallen in love with a girl who
afterwards became Maida's mother.  He was a widower, and young Roger
was a boy of eight or nine at the time.  Old Roger--he was not old
then--had acted as the girl's guardian, and she had promised to marry
him, when suddenly she disappeared, leaving behind a letter saying that
she was going with the only man she could ever love.

Five years passed, and then one day she came back bringing a little
daughter four years old.  Both the Rogers were away when she called at
the house in Fifth Avenue; one at his office, the other at school.  A
housekeeper received the pair, realising that the mother was
desperately ill.  She would say nothing of herself, except that they
had come from England; could not even tell her married name.  She had
lived through the voyage, she said, to put her daughter under the
protection of her only friend.  Some strange luggage she had brought,
on which were London labels.  She forbade the servant to telephone the
master of the house.  She would write a letter, and then she would go.
The letter was begun, but before it could be finished the writer fell
into unconsciousness.  For a few days she lingered, but never spoke
again, and died in the arms of the man she had jilted.

"If you ever loved me, keep my child as if she were your own," began
the written appeal.  "She is Madeleine, named after me.  Don't try to
find out her other name.  Give her yours, which might have been mine.
Make no inquiries.  If you do, the same fate may fall on her which has
fallen on her father and others of his family.  It is killing me now.
Save my little Maida.  The one legacy I can leave her is a jewel which
I want her to keep; a miniature of myself taken for someone I loved,
and an Egyptian relic which, for a reason I don't know, is immensely
important.  I promised her father that this child should never part
with it.  The one reward I can offer you is my grat----"

There the letter broke off.

Roger Odell, Senior, had obeyed every one of his dead love's requests.
The "Egyptian relic" was a mummy case, with the human contents
marvellously preserved; the jewel, an opal and crystal eye of Horus.
In taking out the miniature from its frame, to be copied in a large
portrait, Maida found the miniature of a man she supposed to be her
father, and had ordered that enlarged also, to hang in her shrine.  Her
memories of the past before coming to America were vague; but her
childhood, happy as it had been in other ways, was cursed by the dream
of a terrible, dark face--a face appearing as a mere brown spot in the
distance, then growing large as it drew nearer, coming close to her
eyes at last in giant size, shutting out all the rest of the world.
Whether she had ever seen this face in reality, before it obsessed her
dreams, she could not be sure; but the impression was that she had.  As
she grew older, the dream came less frequently; but once or twice she
had seen a face in a crowd which reminded her--perhaps morbidly--of the
dream.  Such a face had looked up from the audience last night.

This mystery was one of two which had clouded Maida's life.  From the
second had come her great trouble; and she did not see that between the
two could exist any connection.  When I heard the rest of the history,
however, I differed from her.  Some link there might be, I thought; and
if I were to help, it must be my business to find it.

One day, on leaving school for the holidays, when she was seventeen,
Maida, and a woman servant sent to fetch her from Milbrook to New York,
had met with a slight railway accident, much like that of to-day.  It
was this coincidence, maybe, which inclined her to confide in me, for
she had been thinking of it, she said, when I came.  A young man had
been "kind" to Miss Odell and her maid; had brought them water and
food.  Later he had introduced himself.  He was Lieutenant Granville,
of the Navy.  Also he was an inventor, who believed he could make a
fortune for himself and his mother, if he could patent and get taken up
by some great firm an idea of his, in which he had vainly tried to
interest the heads of the Navy.  This concerned a secret means of
throwing a powerful light under water, for the protection of warships
or others threatened by submerged submarines.  Granville believed that
experiments would demonstrate immense usefulness for his invention and
so interested was Maida that she tried to induce Roger to finance it.
He refused, and did not like Granville when the girl brought them
together.

This seeming injustice roused Maida's sympathy.  She met Granville
occasionally at his mother's house, without Roger's knowledge.  It was
the child's first adventure, and appealed to her love of romance.  The
natural consequences followed.  Granville proposed.  She asked to
remain his friend.  Then to give her "friend" a glorious surprise, she
worked to interest a great financier, a friend of the Odell family, in
Granville's undersea light.

Unfortunately for her unselfish plan, millionaire Orrin Adriance had a
son, Jim, who had been in love with Maida since she was in the
"flapper" stage.  This fact complicated matters.  When Granville's
chemical formula, in a sealed envelope, was stolen from a safe in the
Adriance house, before business was completed between financier and
inventor, George Granville--already jealous of Jim Adriance--was mad
enough to believe that Maida had joined in a plot to trick him.  He
accused the Adriances of wishing to get his secret without paying for
it, prophesying that a tool of theirs would presently "invent"
something of the kind, after they had refused to take up his
proposition.  Pretending illness, he had induced his mother to send for
Maida, and she, only too anxious to defend herself, had gone to the
Granville house.  After a cruel scene between her and the sailor, he
had locked the door, put the key in his pocket, and shot himself
through the heart.  Mrs. Granville, who had heard a scream from the
girl, before the shot, swore to the belief that Maida had killed the
young man to defend herself against his love-making.

Roger, learning of the tragedy, had stifled the lie as he would have
crushed a snake.  How he had done this, Maida was not sure.  He had
refused to tell.  But her name had not been connected with Granville's
at the inquest.  Mrs. Granville, who had been poor and lived poorly,
migrated to France and was reported to have "come into money through a
legacy."  In any case she seemed to have been silenced.  No word of
scandal could be traced to her, though detectives had been employed by
Roger.  Nevertheless, the story had risen from time to time like the
phoenix from its own ashes.  Maida's fellow school-mates had whispered;
her debut in society had been blighted by a paragraph in a notorious
paper, afterwards gagged by Roger.  Then, last and worse, had come the
cancelling of the girl's presentation to the King and Queen of England.

"You see now," she said, "why I shall be happier out of the world, in a
Sisterhood where I can try to help others even sadder than I have been."

"But," I threw out the bold suggestion, "what if there's a plot to get
you into the Sisterhood--into this old house!"

"Oh, but that's impossible!" she cried.  "You wouldn't dream of such a
thing if you could meet the Head Sister and see what a splendid woman
she is!"

There was my opportunity to tell about the mask, and I took it.  But it
availed me nothing.  The mask, Miss Odell said, was no secret.  She
understood that the Head Sister, in saving a child from fire, had so
injured her face that for the sake of others she kept it hidden.
Another version had it that the motive for wearing the mask was some
"sacred vow."  In any case, Maida assured me, it was an honour to the
good and charitable woman; and no arguments would break her resolution
to give the next year to work with the Sisterhood.  After that year--if
I could solve the mystery of the stolen formula, and put an end for
ever to scandal--she would come back and face the world again.  But how
could I, a stranger, do what Roger had failed to do?

That was the question.  Yet I made up my mind that it must be answered
in _one way_, or my life would be a failure.  Not only would I solve
that mystery, I told myself--though I dared not boast to the girl--but
I would link together the old one with the new.  The way to do this, I
told myself, was to learn whether an enemy of Maida Odell's father had
found her under her borrowed name, and had made the Granvilles and
Adriances his conscious or unconscious tools.

This talk we had while the train stood still.  We were sitting on a log
together, out of earshot from the other passengers, when--with the name
of the Grey Sisterhood on our lips--we looked up to see its veiled
directress.  She had, she said, been put to much trouble in securing an
automobile to come for Madeleine, and see that she was not persuaded to
break a promise.  Maida, embarrassed and protesting, assured her friend
that there was no thought of such disloyalty.  Lord John--timidly the
girl introduced us--had come only to try and help her throw off an old
sorrow, as I had helped Roger and Grace.  So she tried to "explain" me;
and the Head Sister, having triumphed, could afford to heap coals of
fire on my head by being coldly civil.  Her one open revenge she took
by requesting me not to follow them to their automobile.  The chauffeur
would fetch Miss Odell's hand luggage out of the train, and my
"kindness would no longer be needed."  I was dismissed by the
conqueror; and left by the wayside with but one consolation: Maida had
said "au revoir," not good-bye.

For a moment I stood crushed.  Then a thought jumped into my mind:
"What if this woman is the one I saw in the auto outside the theatre?"

I felt that I had been a fool to obey Maida, and took steps to retrieve
my mistake.  But the veiled lady had been too clever for me.  The car
was gone past recall.  If it hadn't been for that viper-thought--and
the thought of what had happened in my rooms last night--I might not
have had the "cheek" to make my next move in the game.  But things
being as they were I couldn't stand still and take a rebuff.

Instead of motoring back to New York, I went to Salthaven, and
breakfasted at a small inn there.  Of the Sisterhood I could learn
nothing, for it had but lately taken up its quarters near by.  Of those
quarters, however, I was able to pick up some queer stories.  The place
had been bought, it seemed, for a song, because of its ghostly
reputation, which had frightened tenant after tenant away.

"What a good pitch to choose if any 'accident' were planned, and lay it
to the ghosts!" I thought.  And I knew that I couldn't go without
learning more about the Sisterhood House than the landlord at Salthaven
could tell me.  I must see for myself if it were the sort of place
where "anything could happen."

I meant to wait until late, when all the Grey Sisters and their
protégées were safely asleep.  Then, with a present of meat for a
possible watch dog, I would try a prowl of inspection.  I made a vague
excuse of fancying the inn, and of wanting to rest till time to meet a
friend who would motor back with me to New York.  I engaged a room in
order to take the alleged rest; but spent long hours in striving to
piece together bits of the most intricate puzzle my wits had ever
worked upon.

"In an hour more now I can start," I said at ten, and composed myself
to forget the slow ticking of my watch.  But suddenly it was as if
Maida called.  Actually I seemed to hear her voice.  I sprang up, and
in five minutes had paid the bill and was off in my car for Pine Cliff.

I left West sitting in the auto at a little distance from the high
wall, which shut the old garden in from the rocks above the Sound.
Then I struck my crutch into a patch of rain-sodden earth, and used it
to help me vault over the wall.  Just as I bestrode the top, a dog gave
out a bell-toned note.  I saw his dark shape, and threw the meat I had
brought from the inn.  He was greedily silent, and I descended, to pat
his head as he ate.  Luckily he was an English bull, and perhaps
recognised me as a fellow-countryman.  At all events, he gave his
sanction to my presence.

The neglected garden, which I could dimly see, was mysterious in the
night hush.  There was no sound except the whisper of water on the
shore outside.  The substantial building with its rows of closed blinds
looked common place and comfortable enough.  Lights showed faintly in
two or three windows.  Not all the household had gone to bed.  As I
stood staring at a low balcony not far above the ground, which somehow
attracted and called my eyes, the blinds of a long French window
looking out upon it were opened.  I saw Maida herself, and a tall woman
in grey, wearing a short veil.  They stood together, talking.  Then
with an affectionate touch on the girl's shoulder, the Head Sister--I
knew it must be she--bade her newest recruit good night.

The window was left open, but dark curtains were drawn across, no doubt
by Maida.  Presently the long strip of golden light between these
draperies vanished.  No scene could be more peaceful than the quiet
garden and the sleeping house.  Still, something held me bound.  How
long I stood there, I don't know: an hour, maybe; perhaps less, perhaps
more.  But suddenly a white figure flashed out upon the balcony.  So
dim was it in the darkness, I might have taken it for one of the famous
ghosts, but Maida's voice cried out: "_The face--the face_!  God send
me help!"

"He has sent help.  I've come, to take you away," I called, and held up
my arms.

Five minutes later she was with me in my car, rushing towards New York
and her brother's house.

      *      *      *      *      *

"A gilded amateur detective," Roger Odell once called me in a joke.
But I knew he would listen to theories I'd formed concerning this
mystery which, like an evil spirit, had haunted his sister since
childhood.  All night I spent in elaborating these theories and
dove-tailing them together.  The girl had had a fright in the theatre.
I had seen a man with strange eyes and a scar, looking at her; and
through certain happenings at my hotel, I believed that a link between
him and Maida's "Head Sister" might be found.  That, of course, would
free the girl from the promise she thought sacred.

By eight-thirty in the morning I was in touch with Pemberton's Private
Detective Agency, and I had just been assured that a good man, Paul
Teano, would be with me in ten minutes, when my telephone bell rang
shrilly.  It was the voice of Grace Odell which answered my "Hello!"

"Oh, Lord John," she called distressfully, "isn't it dreadful?  Maida's
going back to the Sisterhood House!  The Head Sister has written her a
letter.  Maida's answering it.  She doesn't blame the woman for
_anything_.  She thinks she herself was a coward to take fright at a
bad dream.  Do come and argue with her.  The child wants to start this
morning.  That woman seems to have her hypnotised."

My answer goes without saying.  I determined to put off the detective,
but he arrived as I finished talking to Grace, and as his looks
appealed to me I spared him a quarter of an hour.  His eyes were as
Italian as his name--with the shadow of tragedy in them.
"Temperamental looking fellow," I said to myself.

My business with Teano had nothing to do directly with Maida.  What I
had to tell him was the invasion of my rooms two nights before, but out
it came that I had been helping a woman, and that success in this case
might mean her safety.

"I, too, work for a woman, my lord," the detective said.  Though he had
spent years in America, I noticed how little slang of the country he'd
chosen to pick up.  He spoke, perhaps in the wish to impress me, with
singular correctness.  "Now you have told me this, I shall be the more
anxious to serve you.  I turned detective to find her.  I've been five
years trying.  But every morning I think, 'Perhaps it will be to-day.'"

There was no time then to draw him out as he would have liked to be
drawn out.  I showed him what there was to work upon, in my rooms as
well as the two others, and then dashed off to Maida.

As my car stopped in front of Roger Odell's home, out of the house
bounced a small boy--a very small boy indeed, with the eyes of an imp,
and the clothes of a Sunday-school scholar.  He looked at me as he
flashed past, and it was as if he said, "So it's _you_, is it?"

I had never seen the boy before, but I thought of the collapsible box;
and leaving a flabbergasted footman at the door, my crutch and I went
after the small legs that twinkled around the corner.  The elf was too
quick, however.  By the time I had got where he ought to have been, he
had made himself invisible.  Whether a taxi had swallowed him, or a
door had opened to receive him, it was useless to wonder.  All I could
do was to question the footman.  The child had brought a letter to Miss
Odell, and had taken one away.  "Meanwhile," the servant added, seeing
my interest, "he has entertained below stairs, making faces and turning
handsprings.  Quite a acrobat, your lordship," remarked the man, who
hailed from my country; "and that _sharp_, though dumb as a fish!  We
gave 'im cake and jam, but money seemed to please 'im most, an' his
pockets was full of it already.  'E's got enough to go on a most
glorious bust, beggin' your lordship's pardon."

I gave it--and something else as well.  Then I asked him for the plate
from which the child had eaten.  It was to be wrapped in paper, and put
into my car--for Teano.  (It has never mattered that a footman should
think his master, or his master's friends, insane!)

If the child messenger from the Sisterhood, and the child-thief in the
collapsible box were one, the dumbness was an obstacle.  Nevertheless
Teano might catch him, I thought, little dreaming how my desire and
his, working into one, were to be brought about.

I was shown into Roger's den, and confessed the theft of the document
he had given me--luckily useless, without the plan.  I told him also
the history of the night.  "Two and two generally make four," I said,
"and though this affair is irritating, it may help eventually.  The man
who frightened Miss Odell had the look of an Egyptian.  Now, isn't it
more likely that a mummy should be wanted by an Egyptian than another?
Miss Odell's treasure is a mummy, in a painted mummy-case.  You know
that several attempts have been made to break into the 'shrine,' as
Miss Odell calls it.  With what other object than to get the mummy?
You've had its case protected with an ingenious system of electric
wiring.  Now, you are going away with your wife.  You give me the
secret of the mechanism.  The same night somebody tries to steal it;
also he rubs off my shirt-cuff the number of the Egyptian-looking
fellow's car.  Then, there's the directress of the Sisterhood.  She
fascinates Miss Odell.  She revives the glory of a dying order.  She
takes an old ghost-ridden house by the seashore--where anything might
happen.  And something _does_ happen.  A dream--so vivid, that I
venture to believe it wasn't a dream but a trick.  The woman tries to
induce a girl to bring all her possessions with her into seclusion.
'_All_ her possessions,' mind!  That would have included the
mummy-case, if you hadn't put your foot down.  Have I your leave to
repeat these ramblings to her?"

"She has heard them, Lord John!"  I turned, and sprang to my feet.
Maida was at the door, with Grace.

"You were talking so fast, we didn't interrupt.  And I _wanted_ to
hear.  I thought you'd wish me to.  You have a wonderful theory, but
it's _all_ a mistake so far as the Sisterhood is concerned.  The Head
Sister is the _best_ woman I ever knew.  I'm breaking my heart with
shame because I deserted my post.  Oh, don't think I blame _you_ for
bringing me away, Lord John.  I blame only myself.  You were splendid.
And I'm grateful for everything.  To convince you of that, I promise if
you can prove anything against the Sisterhood, I'll consider myself
free from my bond--even before the twelve months are up.  That's a
_safe_ promise.  You can't think what a beautiful letter the Head
Sister has sent me this morning.  I'm eager to go back and earn her
forgiveness by helping in the work she'll give me to do.  In justice to
her I _must_ tell you a secret.  That mask you saw--which prejudiced
you--is to hide burns she got in saving a slum-child from death in a
great fife.  The Sister wears it to spare others pain.  As for the
_dream_--I have it everywhere, and often.  Don't be anxious.  I'll
write, and--_you_ can write if you will.  Dear Roger, is the car ready?"

"No," said Roger bluntly.  "I hoped John would make you see reason."

"I do see it," the girl answered.  "I didn't last night."

"How I wish you weren't over twenty-one!" her adopted brother growled.

Maida laughed, almost gaily.  "As it is, I'm an old maid, and must be
allowed to go my own way."

"May I motor you and Roger to Pine Cliff, if you must go?" I begged.

She gave me a long look before answering.  Then she said, "Yes."

I shall never forget that run from New York to Long Island.  I made the
most of every moment; but my heart turned to ice whenever a voice
seemed to mutter in my ear, "You're going to lose her.  You've failed,
John Hasle, in the big crisis of her life and yours."

But I wouldn't believe the voice.  So far as my own story was
concerned, I thought this chapter of it had come to a close with the
closing of the gate at the Sisterhood House between me and Maida Odell.
Yet after all it hadn't, quite.  There was more to come.

A little veiled woman had opened the gate at the sound of the
motor-horn, evidently expecting Miss Odell.  And the same little woman
shut us out when the new sister had gone in.  I noticed her
particularly, because she shrank from our eyes, though her face was
covered with the conventional mist of gauze.  And it seemed that she
was glad to get rid of us.  Not rudely, but with eagerness, she pushed
the gate to; and as she did so I noticed her hand.  The left hand it
was--small, daintily shaped, with delicate, tapering fingers; but the
third finger was missing.


Teano was not in my rooms when I arrived once more at my hotel; but
opening the door of 212 I found him at the telephone.  So absorbed was
he that he did not hear me enter, and I stood still in order not to
disturb him.  I supposed that he had called up the Agency, and was
talking of my business.

"If I could get out of the job, I would," he almost groaned.  "But
they'd put another man on, and that would be worse for Jenny.  Everyone
heard of 'Three-Fingered Jenny' at the time of the gang's getaway.  The
only thing I can do is to keep her out of the business at any cost, and
go along on other lines.  I'll call you up again, Nella, if I get
anything on my _own_, about Jenny."

"Who, pray, are Nella and Jenny, Mr. Teano?" I asked, realising that he
meant to play me false.

He jumped as if I had shot him, and dropped the receiver.  "I--thought
I'd locked the door," he stammered.

"It's a good thing you didn't," I said.  "I've heard enough to guess
you came on some clue you didn't expect.  That's why you forgot to lock
the door, before you called up 'Nella.'"

"Nella's my sister," Teano blurted out.  "She's employed in the
Priscilla Alden, the hotel where only ladies stay.  She's the telephone
girl on the thirteenth floor."

"Thanks for the explanation," I replied with more coolness than I felt.
"As for 'Jenny'--well, before I ask more questions I'll tell you what I
think.  'Jenny' is the woman for whose sake you took up your
profession.  You'd lost, and wanted to find her.  Now, you have found
her--or rather, her fingerprints--unmistakable, because they happen to
be those of her left hand.  Rather than get her into trouble, you'd
sacrifice my interests."

Teano remained dumb as the impish child, when I finished and waited for
him to speak; so I went on.  "I don't want to hurt a woman; yet you see
I know so much I can carry on this case without you.  Suppose we work
together?  I'll begin by laying my cards on the table.  I can save you
the trouble of a search if I choose.  I know where 'Jenny' is, and can
take you to her."

"You--you're bluffing!" Teano stammered.

"I swear I'm not.  Luckily you're a _private_ detective.  The police
needn't get an inkling of this case, unless you fail me, and I turn to
them.  All I want is to find out who instigated the affair of night
before last.  Who carried it out isn't so important to me, though it
may be to you.  And by the by, has 'Jenny' any personal interest in a
little boy of four or five who is dumb?"

"My God!" broke out the detective.

"Don't you think I can be as useful to you as you can to me?" I
insinuated.  "Why not be frank about 'Jenny'?  I promise to hold every
word in confidence.  Hang up that receiver.  You'd better sit down or
you'll fall!  Now, let's have this out."

The man was at my mercy; yet I knew he was no traitor.  "Probably," I
reflected, "I'd have done the same in his place."

We sat facing each other, across the bare little table; and Teano began
the story of Jenny.  There was drama in it, and tragedy, though as yet
the story had no end.  The sad music was broken; but I began to see, as
he went on, that he and I might find a way of ending it, on a different
key.

Paul Teano and his sister had come to relatives in New York when he was
nineteen and she twelve.  That was ten years ago.  Paul was now a
naturalised American citizen, but at the time of the Italian war in
Tripoli he hadn't taken out his papers.  There had been other things to
think of--such as falling in love.  In those days Paul was a budding
newspaper reporter.  He had gone to "get" a fire, and incidentally had
saved a girl's life.  Her name was Jenny Trent.  It was a case of love
at first sight with both.  The mother took lodgers, and Teano became
one.  In a fortnight, Jenny and he were engaged in spite of a rival
with money and "position"--that of a bank clerk.

Mrs. Trent wanted Jenny to marry Richard Mayne, and Jenny had vaguely
entertained the idea before she met Teano.  There was something
mysterious and different from the men she had known, about Mayne, which
piqued her interest.  But the mystery ceased to attract her after the
Italian's appearance.  Teano, afraid of Mrs. Trent's weakness for
Mayne--or his presents, would have married Jenny at once, and trusted
to luck for a living; but the girl's mother fell ill, and while Jenny
was nursing her, Italy's war broke out.  Paul was called to the
colours, and sailed for "home" with thousands of other reservists.  It
was hard luck, and harder still to be wounded and taken prisoner in his
first battle.  Teano's adventures with his Arab captors would make a
separate story, as exciting as Slatin's though not so long, for he
suffered only a year and six months' imprisonment.  At the end of that
time he escaped, made his way to Sicily, and thence back to America as
stoker in an Italian ship.  His first thought was to see Jenny; but at
Mrs. Trent's he found himself taken for a ghost.  The report had come
that he was dead; and Mrs. Trent had "thought it best" for Jenny to
accept Dick Mayne.  "For Heaven's sake, keep away," pleaded her mother.
"She's not happy with Dick.  There was trouble at the bank, and he lost
his job.  Jenny's wretched.  But she's got a baby boy to live for--a
poor little thing, born dumb.  The sight of you will make things
harder."

Perhaps Teano might have had strength to remain in the background if an
old fellow-lodger had not whispered what "people were saying about Dick
Mayne."  It was asserted that for years he had led a "double life."
Nothing had been actually proved against him, except, that he was a
dope fiend.  But gossip had it that he was a dope-seller as well, a
receiver of stolen goods, and a friend of thieves and gunmen.  There
was likely to be an awful "bust-up" and then--Heaven help Jenny!

Naturally Teano went to the address given him--that of a tenement house
a long way east of Fifth Avenue.  There, Fate stage-managed him into
the midst of a scene destined to change the course of two lives and put
an end to one.  His knock was unanswered; but something was happening
in the kitchen of the wretched flat.  The door was not locked; it had
been forgotten.  Teano burst in, to find Jenny fighting for her life
with a madman.  Mayne had snatched a bread-knife from the table, and
Jenny's hand dripped blood.  Without a word Teano sprang to her
defence; but Mayne slipped out of his grasp.  Darting to an adjoining
room, he rushed back with a Colt revolver.  To save Teano, Jenny flung
herself between the two men; but Paul caught and put her behind him,
leaping on Mayne with a spring of a tiger.  Then came a life and death
tussle.  The revolver went off as both fought to get it, and Mayne
fell, shot through the heart.

"You'd have thought things couldn't have been worse with us than they
were," the detective groaned.  "But you'd have thought wrong.  We were
up against it, Jenny and me.  If I stayed and gave evidence, she was
afraid of a scandal.  If I made a getaway, she argued, she would be all
right, on a plea of self-defence; because it was known by the
neighbours what her husband was.  I thought the same myself; and she
persuaded me for her sake to disappear.  That was the mistake of my
life.  What happened after I went, I don't know.  I can only guess.
But something caused Jenny to change her mind.  I got off without being
seen, and lay low to watch the papers.  But if you believe me, for
three days there was nothing!  Then came out a paragraph about Mayne's
body being discovered by some friend, who pounded in vain on the door,
and at last broke it in, to find the man dead.  Doctors testified that
he'd been a corpse for forty-eight hours.  The revolver lay beside him.
The verdict was suicide.  He was known for his habits, you see; and
just by pulling the catch down, Jenny could get out, leaving the door
locked on the _inside_.  Folks thought she'd deserted him--and that and
other troubles, brought on by himself, had preyed upon his mind.  She
and I hadn't been cool enough to plan a stunt like that, in the minutes
before she forced me out of the place.  But _somebody'd_ helped her;
and things that happened later put me on to guessing who.

"Never a word or a line has Jenny sent me from that day to this.  Do
you know why?  Because a pack of thieves got hold of her and the child.
One of Mayne's secret pals must have come along and offered to save her
and the boy.  I don't believe she knew what she was letting herself in
for, till she was in.  But--well, a girl called 'Three-Fingered Jenny'
travelled with a gang of international thieves last year in France, and
I bounced over there like a bomb when I heard.  You see, when I found
her struggling with Mayne, he'd been trying to cut off her finger,
because she _would_ stick to an old ring of mine; refused to give it
up.  She'd just time to tell me that and show me what he'd done.  I saw
the poor finger would have to come off.  My poor little Jenny!  She'd
loved her pretty hands!  The European war broke out just as I was
getting on her track--or thought I was--and I lost her again.  I'd
stake my life she never stole a red cent's worth.  But they may have
forced her to act as a decoy--using the child to bring her up to time.
I've always felt the gang's game would be to train the boy for a dip.
It was a frame-up on Jenny from the first.  Why, the little chap would
do star turns, and never spill.  He's dumb.  Made for the job.  I've
seen babies in the business, sharp as traps!  Now you see, my lord,
what a knockout I had, finding those finger-marks on the
window-sill:--three, of a small left hand, the third finger missing;
and traces that a child had been let out of the window by a rope.  The
footprints are below in the court.  'Jenny and her boy,' I said to
myself.  I've prayed God I might find them; but it's the devil has sent
them to me at last."

"I'm not so sure of that," I said, and told Teano where and how I had
seen a slender little woman with big, scared eyes and a left hand with
its third finger missing.

When I had explained my rapidly developed theory, we discussed the
means of proving it.  We might as well batter at the gates of Paradise
as those of the Grey Sisterhood.  We would be turned away, as with a
flaming sword.  Trust the Head Sister for that!  But we were not at the
end of our resources.


That evening towards dusk, two ruddy-faced coastguards left a somewhat
dilapidated car in charge of a local youth.  They walked for a short
distance, where a group of pines on a promontory had suggested the name
"Pine Cliff."  They rang a gate bell, although aware that tradesmen
were the only males of the human species allowed to cross the
threshold.  When their summons remained unanswered, they tugged again
with violence, until a _grille_ opened like a shutter.  "Who is there?"
questioned a timid voice.

The elder of the coastguards, seeing his companion start at the sound
of her voice, answered, to give his comrade breathing space.  They had
come, he announced, by order, to search the garden for a suspected
hiding hole of smuggled opium.  Not that the Sisterhood was implicated!
This was an old place, and had been used by dope smugglers.  The coast
police had received the "tip" that this had happened again.

The veiled eyes behind the _grille_ vanished; and a moment later
another voice took up the argument.  As Teano had recognised Jenny's
voice, I knew the Head Sister's.  The idea was _absurd_, said the
latter.  We could not be admitted.  I stepped aside, not trusting my
disguise, and Teano held out a folded document to which we had given an
official semblance.

"I don't want to make trouble for you, ladies, but----" he hinted.  The
paper and a glimpse of a red seal said the rest.  Bolts slid back
indignantly, and the gate was flung open.  I beheld the Head Sister,
tall and formidable.  Behind her I glimpsed a group of other forms less
imposing, among them Maida, flowers in her hands, and surrounded with
children.  As for Teano, no doubt he saw only the shy figure retiring
from the gate.

"This is preposterous!" exclaimed the Head Sister.  "But search the
garden if you must.  You will find _nothing_."  She moved away to join
her satellites, motioning to the door-keeper that the gate might be
closed.  Before the gesture could be obeyed, however, Teano put himself
between the tall woman and the little one.

"Beg pardon, madam.  I admit we've got in on false pretences," he said
sharply; "but we're detectives sent to arrest Three-Fingered Jenny, and
here's our warrant."

He flourished the faked document.  Before the mistress of infinite
resource had time to collect her forces--we had swept Jenny outside the
gate, and slammed it.  We raced with her to Teano's waiting car,
and--cruel to be kind--stopped to explain nothing till Pine Cliff was
more than a mile away.

I took the wheel and gave Paul a place by Jenny.  I heard him plead,
"Don't you _know_ me, Jen?"  But not once did I turn my head until
Teano spoke my name.

"She's my Jenny," he said, "and she _cares_, but she doesn't _want_ to
be rescued!  It's a question of her boy.  She won't give him up."

"Quite right," I agreed.  "Why should she give him up?  Has she left
him in the Sisterhood House?"

"No, he's lost," Jenny answered.  "I don't know where he is--since this
morning.  But the House has been our home for weeks.  The Head Sister
took us in, and promised to save Nicky from bad people and bad ways.
He'll go back there, and----"

"But where is he now?" I cut in, having slowed down the car.  "Can't we
head him off?  The child has money, I know.  Where would he go and
spend his earnings?"

"I--can't tell," she stammered.  "He's always wanted me to take him to
Coney Island--to some amusement park.  But----"

"To Coney Island we'll go," I exclaimed.

      *      *      *      *      *

What followed was a wild adventure.  I had never been to Coney Island.
But I seemed to have been born knowing that it was a place dedicated to
the people's pleasure.  No doubt it was a toss-up which amusement
ground to choose.  By hazard, we began with Constellation Park; and
almost at once came upon traces of Nicky.  "A little dumb boy with
black eyes, all alone, with plenty of money, and a grin when asked if
he were lost?"  Oh, yes, he was doing every stunt.  We tracked him
through peanuts and ice cream, lions' dens and upside-down houses, to
the Maze of Mystery.

The name was no misnomer.  Hampton Court, and the Labyrinth of Crete
itself could have "nothing on it."  In a bewildered procession Teano,
Jenny and I wandered through streets of mirrors, complicated groves,
walled concentric alley ways, with unexpected and disappointing outlets
until at last a pair of elf-eyes stared at me from a distant and
unreachable surface of glass.  I cried out; so did Jenny and Teano, for
all of us had had the same glimpse and quickly lost it.

"_Nicky_," gasped Jenny, just behind my back.  "And, oh, _Red Joe's got
hold of him_!  It's all up--if we can't get between them.  It's Red Joe
I stole him back from when we went into the Sisterhood."

I looked back to console her--and she was gone.  Teano, too, had
suddenly separated from us, whether accidentally or for a purpose, I
could not tell.  But the maze would have put any rabbit warren to
shame.  When you thought you were in one place, you found to your
astonishment that you were in another, with no visible way of getting
out.

Then again, eyes looked at me from a mirror which might be far off or
within ten yards.  There were mirrors within mirrors, dazzling and
endless vistas of mirrors.  Child's eyes, mischievous as a squirrel's,
met mine, peering from between crowding forms of grown-ups.  The man
Jenny had spoken of as "Red Joe" (I picked him out by a ferret face and
rust-red hair) was trying to push past a fat father of a family, to
reach the child in grey.  Whether Nicky knew that he was a pawn in a
game of chess, who could tell?  There was but one thing certain.  He
was having "the time of his life."

"If I could get him for Jenny, what would Jenny do for me in return?" I
asked myself.  It might turn out that she could unlock the door that
had shut between me and Maida Odell.

A desperate, a selfish desire to beat Red Joe, seized me; but now the
mirrors told, if they did not deceive, that glassy depths of distance
between us were increasing in space and mystery.  Suddenly I reached a
turning-point.  Nicky was straight ahead.  He paused, looked, made
ready to dart away like a trout from the hook.  But--inspiration ran
with my blood.

I pulled a wad of greenbacks from my pocket and smiled.  Red Joe had
flattened pater familias unmercifully, and was squeezing past.  A hand,
a thief's hand if I ever saw one, caught at Nicky's collar.  But he
dipped from under, slipped between a surprised German's legs, and--I
grabbed him in my arms.



EPISODE III

THE GIRL ON THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR

When Teano first spoke to me of his sister, nothing was further from my
thoughts than a meeting with the telephone girl at the Priscilla Alden,
a hotel sacred to ladies.  But unexpected things happen in the best
regulated lives, especially in New York, as anyone may learn by the
Sunday papers.  Not many days after the gate of the Sisterhood House
shut for the second time between Maida and me, I changed my residence
from New York to a hotel about five miles from Pine Cliff.  Roger Odell
and Roger's bride had gone to South America on one of those business
trips which financiers seem to take as nonchalantly as we cross a
street.  His last words to me were: "You know, I rely on you to look
after Maida, as well as she can be looked after, under that brute of a
woman's thumb."

I did the best I could; but whether my wounds or my love sickness were
to blame, the fact was that something had made me a bundle of raw
nerves.

I slept badly, and my dreams were of some hideous thing happening to
Maida; or else of the mummy-case being stolen.  In my waking hours I
chased back and forth between town and country, trying to find in New
York the "Egyptian-looking man" who had disturbed Maida's peace of
mind, and who had reasons for wishing me to forget the number of his
automobile: trying to make sure on Long Island if a connection existed
between this man and the head of the Sisterhood.

At last I realised that I was in no fit state of nerves for a guardian.
The hotel people recommended me to a celebrated doctor practising on
Long Island; and one morning, ashamed of myself as a "molly-coddle," I
went to keep an appointment with him.  Thorne was his name and he lived
in a grey-shingled house set back from the road behind a small lawn.
The place was outside the village; but since abandoning my crutch, I
had begun to take as much exercise as possible.  I walked, therefore,
to the doctor's, rather than use the car presented to me by Roger.
This seems a small detail to note, but deductions following certain
events proved it to have been important.

I was received by the keen-eyed Thorne, in his private office, and
during the catechism to which he subjected me, I thought nothing of
what went on in the outer room through which I had passed.  I should
ill have earned Roger Odell's nickname ("the gilded amateur
detective"), however, if I hadn't ferreted it out afterwards and "put
two and two together."

It was an ordinary room, with a desk at which sat a young woman who
answered the door and kept the doctor's appointments classified.  I was
vaguely aware that I had interrupted her business of stamping letters,
which a boy would post.  She had not finished when a few minutes later
the next patient arrived.  This person gave his name as Mr. Genardius,
and confessed that he had no appointment; but his face--covered with
bandages--presented such a pitiful appearance that the girl agreed to
let him wait.  "When the gentleman who's in the office now goes away,"
she explained, "the doctor's hour for receiving is over.  But he may
give you a few minutes."

"Isn't the gentleman an English officer, Lord John Hasle?" inquired the
would-be patient, whose face as seen under a wide-brimmed,
old-fashioned felt hat, and between linen wrappings, consisted of
deep-set black eyes, wide nostrils, and a long-lipped mouth.

"Why, yes, he is," admitted the young woman, to whom I had given my
name.  "Do you know him?"

"Not at all," replied Mr. Genardius, who appeared to her a rather
unusual figure in his quaint hat and an equally quaint overcoat.  "But
as I got out of my automobile I saw him at the gate.  I recognised him
from portraits in newspapers.  He was an army aviator, I believe, who
got leave on account of wounds, and came over to see a play produced."

"Oh, yes, _The Key_--a _lovely_ detective play," was the flattering
reply, as reported to me later.

As she spoke, the young woman (Miss Murphy) gave the letters to the
boy, who went out, needing no directions.  Hardly had the door shut,
when Mr. Genardius rose.  "Oh, that reminds me!" he exclaimed, "I
should have wired to a friend!  The doctor is sure to be engaged for
some moments.  I'll step out and send my chauffeur with the telegram."
For an invalid, he walked briskly.  The boy hadn't disposed of his
letters and parcels, or mounted the bicycle which leaned against the
fence, when Mr. Genardius reached the gate.  Miss Murphy glanced from
the window, interested in the queer personage.  She was unable to see
the motor from where she sat; but it must have been near, for the black
felt hat and the black caped coat came flapping up the garden path
again in less than five minutes.  The thought flitted through Miss
Murphy's head that the bandages worn by the invalid wouldn't make a bad
disguise.  Mr. Genardius returned to his chair, and selected a
newspaper.

About this time came a telephone call, which Miss Murphy answered.  And
though two days had passed before I realised the need of questioning
the young woman, she was able to recall a rustle as of tearing paper at
this moment.  Her attention was occupied at the 'phone; but when
Genardius had departed, and she wished to glance at the theatrical
advertisements, she noticed that a page was gone from _The World_.  Had
she not remembered the name of the paper, a link would have been
missing from the chain of evidence.  As it was, I was able to deduce
that the torn page contained a news item "exclusive to _The World_."
Mr. Genardius had doubtless read some other newspaper at home, and it
had interested him that "Millionaire Roger Odell's Egyptian Present for
His Bride" was likely to reach New York that night on an Italian liner.

How _The World_ had got hold of this story remains a mystery.  It had
leaked out that Roger had bought for a great sum an opal "Eye of
Horus," supposed to be the mate of a curious ornament possessed by his
adopted sister, and the only other jewel resembling it, in existence.
Grace Odell (nee Grace Callender) had admired Maida's fetish.  That was
enough for Roger.  He made inquiries, and learned from a firm of
jewellers that a duplicate of Miss Odell's opal had been sold years ago
by a certain Sir Anthony Annesley to the Museum of Cairo.

How it had come into Annesley's hands was not known; and he had long
ago died.  Maida had been satisfied with her fetish, and did not covet
its fellow, but Grace's chance word caused Roger to cable an agent in
Egypt, and, after bargaining, the Museum authorities had consented to
part with the treasure.  This information the newspapers had obtained,
but the time and the way of the opal's arrival in America had, Roger
thought, been kept a dead secret.

In order that jewel-thieves, ever on the alert for a prize, should not
stalk the messenger, Roger's agent had engaged the services of a
private person.  A relative of his, an American girl who had acted as
stenographer in Naples, was giving up her position to return to New
York.  Taking advantage of this fact, and his confidence in her, the
agent had given Miss Mary Gibson charge of the Eye of Horus.  Having no
connection with any jewel firm it was believed that she might pass
unsuspected.  The curio being thousands of years old, was not subject
to duty, and could, it was hoped, be placed by Miss Gibson directly in
the hands of its owner, before anyone discovered that it had been in
hers.  Roger Odell had intended to meet the young woman; but his
suddenly arranged journey upset that plan, and the day before my visit
to Dr. Thorne I had received the following cable:

"Stenographer will go straight from ship to Priscilla Alden.  If ship
late, meet her there early morning after.  Will be expecting you."

Had I not come to an understanding with Roger before he sailed for Rio
Janeiro, this message would have been gibberish.  But he had asked me
to take over the jewel because he hoped thus to bring me into touch
with Maida.  If I could bestow the opal in Roger's bank, Miss Odell
(whose vows did not bind her to absolute seclusion) might run up to New
York and compare it with her own curio.  I had caught eagerly at the
plan.  Gladly would I have waited hours on the dock for Miss Gibson,
but fearing I might be suspected as his agent, if thieves were on the
watch, Roger had thought it best for the young woman not to be met.  In
order to avoid attention, she was to proceed as if she had been the
insignificant stranger she was supposed to be.  She was to inquire on
shipboard for an hotel in New York, taking lady guests only.  The
Priscilla Alden would be mentioned, and she would send a wireless,
engaging a room.  As clients of the Priscilla Alden were allowed no
male visitors after ten p.m., my call would have to depend upon the
time the ship docked.  Even before Roger's cable, I had ascertained
that the _Reina Elenora_ was likely to get in late, and I made up my
mind to spend the night at my own old hotel in New York.  That would
enable me to present myself early next day at the Priscilla Alden.

While I described my nightmare dreams to the doctor (keeping Maida's
name to myself), Miss Murphy left Mr. Genardius for a few moments.  A
rich old lady patient drew up at the gate in an automobile and sent her
chauffeur to fetch the young woman.  There was a verbal message to be
delivered, and while Miss Murphy committed it to heart, doubtless the
bandaged man listened at the keyhole.  He heard enough to realise that
John Hasle was close upon the trail of Miss Odell's enemies.

Thorne was sympathetic.  He talked of nerve-shock in various forms,
from which most returning soldiers suffered.

As he fumbled among medicine bottles he went on: "I'll prescribe you a
tonic; I keep a few things at hand here, and I can fix you up from my
stock.  Some of the ingredients are rare.  You couldn't get a
prescription made up nearer than New York.  No, by George! there's one
thing missing from my lot!  Luckily it's not one of the rare ones.  Did
you come in a car?  What, you walked?  Well, I'll get the boy to sprint
into the village on his bike, to the pharmacy.  He can be back inside
fifteen minutes.  I'll write to the druggist."

Thorne touched an electric button.  No one came in response.
Impatiently the doctor flung the door open to glare at Miss Murphy.
Miss Murphy was not visible, however, and away dashed the master of the
house, leaving me in his private office to wonder at his absence.  This
office being behind the outer room gave no view of the front gate,
therefore I could not see what Thorne saw.  It wasn't until he appeared
that I learned why he had bolted.  The boy whom he had intended to send
for the missing ingredients had been run down by a motor-car, while
bicycling to the post-office.  The chauffeur had, through coincidence,
been despatched by a patient waiting for Thorne.  He had taken a corner
too sharply, and knocked the boy off his bicycle, but Joey was more
frightened than hurt.  He had been picked up by the chauffeur, a
foreigner, and when Thorne had looked from the window, it had been to
see the lad lifted half conscious from the returning car.  At the gate
stood not only Miss Murphy, but the owner of the automobile, who had
hurried out on hearing the young woman's cry.  So it was that the
waiting-room had been left empty.

"Joey's as right as rain now, or will be when he's pulled himself
together," Thorne explained.  "My new patient, whoever he is--a
stranger to me--seemed to feel worse than Joey.  He gave the kid ten
dollars!  It may have been as much the boy's fault as the chauffeur's.
Anyhow, I bet Joey won't complain.  Your medicine will be ready as soon
as if nothing had happened, for the owner of the auto (Genardius, his
name is) offered to drive to the druggist's and back."

It was Miss Murphy who presently handed the doctor a small, neatly
wrapped bottle.  "That chauffeur brought me this," she announced.  "It
seems that Joey's accident upset the invalid gentleman more than he
realised at first.  He was taken faint at the pharmacy, and decided not
to consult you this morning.  He'll 'phone, and ask for an appointment."

Dr. Thorne tore the wrapper off the phial, and began pouring its
colourless contents into a bottle already two-thirds full, which he had
prepared.  Suddenly he stopped.  "I guess I'll let that do for this
time!  Take a tablespoonful when you get home, and twice more during
the day; once just before bed."

Dr. Thorne inspired me with confidence; and, as I was anxious to keep
my wits for Maida's sake, I intended to follow directions.  Arriving at
my hotel, however, I found a cablegram in answer to one I'd sent
Haslemere, in London.  I had demanded whence came the scandal which
darkened the life of Maida Odell.  Replying, he refused details, but
deigned to admit that his informant was an American, the widow of a
naval officer, of "unimpeachable respectability."  That word
"unimpeachable" was so characteristic of Haslemere that I laughed, but
the description answered closely enough to Mrs. Granville to excite me,
and I forgot the medicine.

Later, I had remembered it once more when Teano called, bringing the
dumb child Nicky, now his adopted son.  I set down the bottle and
thought no more about it, for I hoped to learn something of the man who
had frightened Maida.  My hope that Nicky might turn informant seemed,
however, doomed to disappointment.  It was difficult to elicit facts,
because of his dumbness; but Teano and I agreed that the imp took
advantage of his infirmity to bottle up secrets.  "He's in fear of some
threat," pronounced the detective.  "It's the same with his mother.
Jenny and I were married the day after you found her.  She says she's
happy, and she ought to know I'm able to protect her.  But she's afraid
to speak against the Sisterhood.  I shouldn't wonder if they've made
her swear some oath."

We talked long on the subject, and Teano produced a list of Egyptians
living in New York, obtained at my request.  Some were rich.  The
greater number appeared to be engaged in the import of tobacco and
curios, or Eastern carpets.  A few were doctors; more were
fortune-tellers; while one extraordinary creature whose description
caught my fancy was a mixture of both: an exponent of ancient cults and
religions, and a qualified physician who treated nervous ailments with
hypnotism.  This man gave weekly lectures on "Egyptian Wisdom applied
to Modern Civilisation," and was known as "Doctor" or "Professor"
Rameses.  The name was, of course, assumed; but Teano had learned that
Dr. Rameses was more than respectable; he was estimable.  Following his
religion, which claimed that each soul was a spark from the one Living
Fire, he aimed to help all mankind, and was apparently a true
philanthropist.

When Teano spoke of returning to New York it was time for me to start.
I invited him into my car, and preparing to depart, I came upon the
forgotten medicine.  Thorne had prophesied that I would prove a bad
patient; but I tried to atone by swallowing an extra large dose.  The
bottle I slipped into my overcoat pocket, intending to take the stuff
again at bedtime.

"Stop at the Priscilla Alden Hotel," I directed my chauffeur; and it
was only when Teano spoke of "Nella" that I recalled the sister
employed there.  I had seen Nella's photograph at Paul's rooms, taken
with her fiancé, Maurice Morosini, and had pleased Teano with praise of
the girl's beauty.  Morosini, too, was of an interesting type.  I was
sorry to hear from the detective that he had been ordered to join the
colours, and would sail at dawn for Naples.

"The worst thing is," Teano went on, as we sped toward New York, "that
those two can't even bid each other good-bye.  Anywhere but at the
Priscilla Alden, Morosini might walk into the hotel, take the elevator
and go to her floor for a word."

As Teano talked a pain behind my eyes began to run through my temples,
and into the back of my neck to the spine.

Something queer was the matter.  I was conscious that Teano was asking
alarmed questions, and that Nickey was staring.  I was thankful that we
had got to New York before the attack overwhelmed me, for I must leave
the letter at the Priscilla Alden.  As the motor slowed down in front
of the hotel I remember pushing Teano aside and stumbling out of the
car, the letter in my hand.  I wasn't even aware of dropping the
envelope addressed to Miss Gibson.  Only Nickey, peering from the
depths of the car, saw the fall, and would have darted to retrieve it,
had not a man grabbed the letter as it touched the pavement.  Teano was
occupied with me, and so it seems was Maurice Morosini, who had been
wandering up and down before the hotel, in the hope that Nella might
come out.  He sprang to help Paul, and there was no one for Nickey to
tell, in his queer way, by gestures and rough sketches on a slate, what
had happened.  Afterward the detective did learn in this fashion that
the man who picked up the letter was a chauffeur from a car following
us, which had stopped when we stopped.  But then it was too late for
the knowledge to be useful.

Despite protests from the doorman, Teano and Morosini half carried,
half dragged me into the hotel.  Once inside, they suggested that it
would be inhuman not to give me shelter; they made great play with my
name and title, and threatened reprisals if I should be turned out.

"I suppose under the circumstances we'll have to give his lordship a
room and get a doctor in," groaned the manager.  "But it's against
rules.  However, we'll smuggle Lord John up to the thirteenth floor,
where there's a small room vacant."

It's an ill wind that blows nobody good, and Morosini must have praised
the saints for my illness when he found it giving him the chance he
would have bought with half a year of life.  He was going to the
thirteenth floor of the sacred Priscilla Alden; and on that floor was
Nella Teano!

One glance he threw at Paul across my head, as the two helped me out of
the lift, and then his heart bounded with great joy, for close by was
the telephone window.

"The only room disengaged to-night is farther down the corridor," the
manager explained.  "I wish we could spare this one just opposite, but
there's a lady coming into it later," and he threw a regretful glance
at a door barred by a chambermaid, her arms full of linen and towels.
She had been getting ready Number 1313 for its next occupant, but in
her surprise dropped a wad of sheets and pillow-cases.  Stooping to
pick them up, a sharp word from the manager sent her flying; and
Morosini noticed that she had forgotten to take her pass-key from the
lock.

I had revived enough to walk mechanically, like a man in a dream,
without support, so Morosini left me to the guidance of Teano and the
manager, and ran back to the lighted window which framed his adored
one.  She sprang to her feet as Morosini held out his arms.

"Oh, Maurice!" she gasped.

"Give me a kiss to take with me--perhaps to my death," he implored.
The girl gave it, leaning over the narrow edge of her window.  Nella
Teano would have dared anything rather than refuse what might be a last
request; yet the danger was great, and she started at sound of the
lift.  "What _shall_ we do?" she gasped.  "You mustn't be seen----"

But Morosini did not await the end of her sentence.  For the girl's
sake he must hide.  Besides, he hoped to snatch another moment when the
coast should be clear.  With a bound he crossed the corridor, opened
the door of 1313, and shut himself in.  Meanwhile the manager,
telephoning to the office from my room, had learned that the doctor he
wished to get was in the hotel, just leaving a patient.  Out hurried
the manager to meet the doctor at the lift and discuss the case before
returning to my room.  That room, as fate would have it, happened to be
on the other side of a narrow court, opposite 1313, the windows facing
each other.

Poor Morosini had thought himself blessed by Heaven in his unhoped-for
chance to see Nella.  He still thought the same, as he stood inside the
room across from the telephone bureau; but luck had turned.  Hardly had
the door closed upon Morosini, when the chambermaid crept back to lock
number 1313, and regained the forgotten pass-key.  Nella would
desperately have called the girl, making some excuse, or, if worst came
to worst, even telling her the truth.  At that instant, however, the
doctor came from the lift, to station himself in front of the telephone
window.  He could see the manager advancing, and so also could the
maid.  In fear of meeting this awe-inspiring personage again, she
snatched the key with frenzy and fled, while Nella sat doomed to
silence.

Morosini's first hint of trouble came with the grating of the key in
the lock.  He dared not try the door at the moment, for he could hear
the voice of the manager.  What could he do if Nella were unable to
open the door?  If there were a ledge or cornice running under the
window, he might attempt to creep along it and find a way of descent by
a fire escape.  He had switched on a light, and had seen the window,
covered with a dark blind, when a faint rattle of paper attracted his
eyes to the door.  A white envelope was being slipped underneath.
Morosini seized it, and read in Nella's handwriting, "I'll try to get a
pass-key and let you out, but can't tell how or when.  Turn off the
electricity.  It can be seen through the transom."

Meanwhile, in my room, while I lay in a half-doze on the bed, the
doctor listened to Teano's story of my sudden seizure.  The medicine
bottle was found and produced, and as I had mentioned my visit to
Thorne, the detective could supply some information.  The New York
doctor got into communication with the Long Island man over the 'phone,
and thus started the train which enabled us later to make valuable
deductions.  The bandaged patient had doubtless tampered with the
bottle in the shelter of his automobile, and remained at the pharmacy
until the return of his chauffeur.  The nature of the added ingredient
was discovered eventually by analysis; and had I taken one more of the
doses directed by Dr. Thorne, nothing could have saved my life.  As it
was, the effects were temporary; and when some nauseous stuff had been
poured down my throat, increasing the heart action, consciousness of
surroundings came like the waking from a dream.  Teano it was who had
run out with the hotel doctor's prescription and returned with it made
up.  So great had been his haste that Nella's appeal detained him at
her window only for an instant.  He had no time to give help, for my
life might depend on promptness, but he promised aid later.

As it was, the effect of his treatment satisfied the doctor.  He
stopped by my bedside till I crudely invited him to go, and let me
sleep.  All I needed to restore me was a night's rest.  My presence in
the hotel was not to be talked about, but the manager would look in
from time to time, and call the doctor if needed.  I slept fitfully,
glad of the cool air blowing through the open window.  Suddenly light
struck my eyelids.  I was roused with a start, and sat up in bed.  My
impression was that someone had come in and switched on the
electricity.  But the room was dark, save for a radiant circle on the
wall at the foot of my bed.  From a bright surface of crystal framed in
gold, a woman's face looked out.

For a dazed second, I thought I had to do with a ghost.  I realised
that what I saw was the reflection of a reflection.  My narrow bed
stood with its back to the wall beside the window.  Opposite the
window, and therefore facing the foot of the bed, was a round mirror in
a gilt frame.  A dark blind had suddenly been thrown up, across the
narrow court, and a woman, pausing before the glass in her room, sent
into the dusk of mine her image.  She was taking off her hat, looking
at herself; and there she was fantastically, at the foot of my bed, for
me to look at too.  The effect was so extraordinary that it held me
fascinated, until another woman came into the room.

When Maurice Morosini heard the sound of a key in the lock, it was
music to his ears.  He believed that at last (hours had gone) Nella
found herself able to open his prison.  But another second undeceived
him.  A voice was saying, "One moment, madam.  Let me find the electric
switch before you go in."

All the young man's blood seemed to flow back upon his heart.  The
thought in his mind was, that Nella would suffer disgrace.  While a
hand groped for the switch he flung himself on the floor, and crept
under the bed.

"My moment will come," he reflected, "when the woman falls asleep.
Then I can let myself out."

But the occupant for whom 1313 had been reserved was in no hurry for
sleep.  Morosini heard her moving about, and ventured to peep.  He saw
a small woman, young and rather pretty, of what might be classified as
the "governess type."  She did not undress, but seemed restless.
Fussing round the room, she shot up the green blind and opened the
window.  Then she flew to the door.  There had been a faint knock.
Maurice peered from his hiding-place, and saw another woman come in.
She, too, was plainly dressed, but older and with a harder, more
experienced face.

"What _can_ Nella be doing?" the trapped prisoner wondered.  If she
were still at the telephone bureau she must know that 1313 now had an
occupant.  Poor girl!  Her misery must be equal to his.

Nella did know.  She had seen the young woman go in.  When no alarm
followed, however, the girl's stopped heart beat again.  But the
situation had become impossible.  She seized the first chance to call
Teano.  "It's too late for you to help, even if you could get in
again," she whispered into the telephone, fearing to be overheard by
some one passing.  "A lady has gone into 1313 for the night.  And I'm
supposed to shut my window and go off duty in half an hour.  Here comes
Shannon, the night watchman, now."

As she spoke, a woman knocked at the door of 1313.  Nella listened;
soon she could hear voices speaking earnestly.  Then they grew loud and
shrill.  "The women are quarrelling!" she thought.  "Can it have
anything to do with Maurice?"  The transom snapped shut as she asked
herself the question.  The speakers were afraid of being overheard.
That, at least, proved they believed themselves alone together!

"Well, here I am.  I've given you time enough to make up your mind,
haven't I, Miss Gibson?" began the new-comer.

"Yes, and I have made it up," answered the younger.  "I don't say
you're not acting in good faith.  The note you brought to the dock
looks like Mr. Odell's handwriting.  And it's just as you said it would
be.  I found no letter of instructions waiting here.  All the same,
Miss Parsons, I won't give up the jewel till morning, when I've made
sure the person I expected is not going to call."

"You _are_ silly!" cried the other.  "Now, how _could_ I have known
there _was_ a jewel coming with a Miss Gibson on this ship, if I wasn't
all right?"

"That's true," the younger woman admitted.  "I don't see how you could
have known except from Mr. Odell.  But I'm not taking chances!  If
nobody else shows up before nine to-morrow morning, why then----"

"I have to go west to-morrow morning," explained Miss Parsons, her
voice quivering with impatience.  "I can't wait.  I told you so on the
dock.  You _must_ give me the thing now."

"I won't--so there!" shrilled Miss Gibson.

The older woman stared at the obstinate young face in desperate
silence.  Then she broke out fiercely, all effort at suppression over.
"I believe you want me to _bribe_ you!"  And she pulled from a velvet
handbag a roll of bank-notes.

Mary Gibson drew in her breath with a gasp.  "_Why_--you've got
hundreds and hundreds of dollars!  I believe you're a _fraud_!  You're
after me to steal the jewel.  Get out of this room, you thief, or I'll
call----"

The sentence broke off with a queer gurgle.  The woman who called
herself Miss Parsons had snatched a long hatpin from the other girl's
hat on the table, and stabbed Mary Gibson through the heart.  She fell
without a cry.

This was the tragedy mirrored on my wall at the foot of my bed.  I saw
the fall.  I saw the murderess stoop; I saw her rise with something in
her hand--something that gleamed green and blue, like a wonderful
butterfly's wing.  As I stumbled out of bed and groped for the
dressing-gown which Teano had unpacked, I saw the woman tiptoe towards
the door.  Then a man's face came into the picture.

The murderess turned and saw the face also.  But instead of trying to
escape, she did a wiser thing.  Wide open she flung the door and
screamed at the top of her lungs, "Help!  Murder!  A burglar has killed
my friend!"

The big night watchman, who had paused on his round for a chat with
Nella, seized Morosini as the Italian sprang on the woman at the
threshold.

"Maurice!" shrieked Nella, betraying her secret, yet caring not at all.
Her one thought was of the man she loved.  "He's innocent.  He came to
see _me_, not to steal, or murder."

Morosini realised quickly how the case stood.  He was lost if he could
not get free, he thought.  And so it might have been, if that lighted
picture had not appeared on the wall at the crucial instant.  I came
tottering around the corner in time to shout:

"Don't let that woman go: she committed the murder.  I saw it.  I've
enough evidence to convict her, and the jewel she did it for is in her
hand now."

Miss Parsons stared at me like a mad creature, flung from her the Eye
of Horus, and rushing back into the room of death, was out of the
window before we could reach her.

Never before had the Priscilla Alden been smirched by scandal.  The
managers were in despair.  But the suicide from a window on the
thirteenth floor, and the story of my vision in the room opposite,
combined with the romance of Nella and Morosini, attracted new clients
instead of driving away the old.

"Miss Parsons," identified in death, proved to be an ex-convict, who
had mysteriously disappeared from the ken of the police months before.
Thanks, however, to that page of _The World_, missing from Dr. Thorne's
office, her tragedy in an attempt to steal the Egyptian Eye of Horus
carried me one step further on my own quest.



EPISODE IV

THE DEATH TRYST

For me, one of the strangest things in a strange world is this: the
compelling influence exerted upon our lives by people apparently
irrelevant, yet without whom the pattern of our destiny would be
different.

Take the case of Anne Garth and her connection with Maida
Odell--through Maida Odell, with me.  Of my adventures in America while
attempting to protect Maida, that in which Anne Garth played her part
was among the most curious.

It happened while Paul Teano, the private detective, and I were trying
our hardest to bring "Doctor Rameses" to book.  We were morally certain
that he was the Egyptian who had, for a mysterious reason of his own,
persecuted the girl's family, and followed her (as its last surviving
member) from Europe to New York.  Unfortunately, however, a moral
certainty and a certainty which can be proved are as far from one
another as the poles.  We might believe if we liked that "Doctor
Rameses," controlling the Grey Sisterhood, intended evil to the girl
who had been induced to join it: but it was "up to us" to prove the
connection.  So far as the police could learn, Doctor Rameses was as
philanthropic as wise.  If, as we suggested, his was the spirit guiding
more than one criminal organisation in New York, he was the cleverest
man at proving an alibi ever known to the force.  If we reported his
presence in a certain place at a certain time, he was invariably able
to show that he had been somewhere else, engaged in innocent if not
useful pursuits.  As for Maida, her confidence in the veiled woman at
the head of the Sisterhood was apparently unbroken.  Judging from the
little I could find out, she was irritatingly happy in her work among
rescued women and children, at the lonely old house on Long Island.  No
doubt there were genuine cases cared for, which made it hard to prove
anything crooked, especially to a girl so high-minded.

She had promised to remain for a year, and I had met her too late to
change that determination.  The rules of the House did not permit the
sisters (of whom there were only six) to receive the visits of men, and
though now and then I contrived to snatch a glimpse of Maida, seldom or
never since our real parting had I had word from her except by letter.
How could I be sure the letters were genuine?

While I was in the state of mind engendered by these difficulties,
Teano rushed in one morning to say that he was off to Sing Sing.
"There may be something for us," he said, and asked me to go with him.
It seemed that the Head Sister had departed at dawn in her automobile
from the Sisterhood House (Teano had someone always watching the place
night and day, in these times), and "putting two and two together" he
deduced that she might be en route for the prison.  He had learned that
a notorious woman criminal was coming out that day, after serving a
heavy sentence.  She had been a member of an international band of
thieves; and if the head of the Grey Sisterhood intended to meet her,
it could hardly be a case of "rescue."

"I know a 'con. man' whose time is up," Teano went on, "and I shall
make an excuse of meeting him if I see the lady's head turned my way.
The same excuse would do for you, my lord.  'Twon't matter putting the
woman on her guard, for if she's going to meet Diamond Doll, they'll
have met before we give 'em the chance to spot us and we'll know what
we want to know."

I was keen on the expedition, and offered my car for it.  We overtook
the Head Sister, and our hearts bounded with hope: but, though we were
able to follow in her wake all the way, our hopes were dashed by
finding that she had come to "rescue" a person of a different class
from buxom "Diamond Doll."  The latter was met at the moment of release
by a virtuous looking mother; and the tall grey form of the Head Sister
advanced toward a small, shabby young woman who might have been a
teacher in a Sunday-school.

The latter, unless she were a good actress, could hardly have feigned
the start of astonishment with which she received the veiled lady's
greeting.  She had been glancing about as if she expected someone but
that one was not the head of the Grey Sisterhood.  She listened with
reserve for a moment, then brightened visibly.  She had rather a tragic
face, as if she were born for suffering, and could not escape.
Evidently, so far, she had not escaped; but she was young, not more
than twenty-eight.  Her oval face was pale with prison paleness, and
there were shadows under the deep-set grey eyes which held no light of
hope.

Why should the Head Sister single this girl out?  If her object were
charitable, there were other women being released who needed
encouragement; yet it was to this one alone that help was offered.

As the veiled lady explained herself with the dignity of manner which
had won Maida Odell's admiration, a young man joined the two, with an
apologetic air.  He had to be introduced to the Head Sister, and as he
pulled off his cap I recognised a vague likeness between him and the
girl.

His decent, ready-made clothes were of the country, and proclaimed
themselves "Sunday best."  His sunburnt complexion was of the country,
and his shy, yet frank manners were of the country too.

The new-comer was out of breath, and apparently had hurried to make up
time lost.  He kissed the girl; and presently, without seeming to
notice us, the Head Sister walked away with the two.  She was
favourably known to the prison authorities for her "kindness" in
finding work for discharged women prisoners, and for her offers of
shelter in the Sisterhood House till work could be found.  If we had
attempted to give warning against her, we should have been laughed at
for our pains, and there was nothing we could do but play watchdog.

This we did, making ourselves inconspicuous, but not resorting to the
pretext Teano had suggested.  We let the "con. man" go off to face the
world without a salutation, and devoted our attention to the friends of
the Head Sister.  It was only the girl who went with her in the closed
automobile.  The man bade them good-bye, but not with an air of sorrow.
He looked grave as he set off for Ossining station, but satisfied
rather than sad.  Plainly it pleased him to think that the young woman
had a powerful protector.

"Well?" I asked, when Teano and I had let the strapping figure stride
out of sight: for the detective had been trying to unearth some memory
of the girl's features.  "Have you got her dug up?"

"Yes, milord," said the Italian, grinning at my way of putting it.
"She'll be no use to the grey dame in any shady job.  They say I have
'camera eyes.'  When I see a face--or even a photograph--I don't
forget.  Anne Garth is the girl's name.  She was not bad at heart."

"She doesn't look it," I said.  "She'd be beautiful if she were
fattened up and happy."

On our way back to Long Island Teano told me Anne Garth's story.  She
was a country girl, ambitious to become a nurse.  Somehow she had
worked her way up with credit in a New York hospital.  There she had
fallen in love with one of the younger doctors; and when his engagement
to another woman was announced, she had waited for him outside the
hospital one day, and shot him.  The wound was not serious, but Anne
Garth had spent two years in Sing Sing to pay for the luxury of
inflicting it.

"Doran the doctor's name was," Teano remembered.  "Not much doubt he
flirted with the girl and made her believe he would marry her.  She
might have got off with a lighter sentence, but she wouldn't show
regret.  The jury thought her hard.  She doesn't look hard to me,
though!  I expect the fellow we saw was the brother--her only relative,
I recall the papers saying.  Let me think!  Didn't he have some job in
the mountains?  Something queer--something not usual!  I can't bring it
to mind.  But it doesn't matter."

"I suppose not," I agreed.  "Did Doran marry the other girl?"

Teano shook his head.  "No," he said.  "After what happened, she was
afraid to trust him, or else--but there's no use guessing!"

I agreed again.  Neither was there much use in "guessing" the Head
Sister's object in taking Anne Garth into the Sisterhood House; but
there might be more use in trying to find out.  During the weeks that
followed I did try, with Teano's help, but succeeded only in learning
that Miss Garth was employed as a nurse.  She was seen in the garden by
Teano's watchers, wearing a nurse's dress, but she did not appear
outside the gates.

A month later, I happened to hear talk of a fancy dress ball in honour
of an Egyptian prince visiting America.  He was a relative of the
ex-Khedive, and being a handsome man with romantic eyes, was being made
much of by more than one hostess.  The ball was to be given by Mrs.
Gorst, a rich "climber," a lady who was, I heard from Teano, one of the
hypnotist Rameses' devoted patients.  She lived in the fashionable new
Dominion Hotel, where the ball would take place.  Her guests would
dance, newspapers announced, in the "magnificent Arabian room, so
congenial in its Eastern decorations to the taste of the principal
guest, Prince Murad Ali."

It occurred to me that Dr. Rameses was certain to be one of these
guests.  I did not know Mrs. Gorst, but I knew some of her friends, and
to get an invitation was "easy as falling off a log."  As it was only a
fancy dress affair, and no masks were to be worn, if Rameses were
present I ought to recognise him.  I hoped to make sure whether he was
or was not the man with the scar, who had frightened Maida Odell at the
theatre on the night when I met, fell in love, and--lost her.  Since
that night I had discovered Doctor Rameses' existence and had seen him
more than once, but without the clue of the scar it was impossible to
identify a man seen for a few seconds only.  If Rameses' throat bore
the mark, there could no longer be room for doubt, and I determined to
lay hands on him if necessary.

How I was to manage this, I didn't see: but that was a detail.  I
secured the card, and 'phoned to my old hotel in New York for a room.
If I had dined there, everything that followed would have been
different, but I went with the man who had got me invited (a friend of
Odell's) to dine at his club.  There I stopped till it was time to go
back and rig myself up as a Knight Templar: and taking my key from one
of the clerks I was told that a young lady had called.

"A young lady?" I echoed.  My thoughts created a white and gold vision
of Maida, but the clerk's next words broke it like a bubble.

"She was dressed as a nurse," he explained.  "She wouldn't give her
name; said you'd not know it--but she mentioned that she'd called first
at your Long Island hotel.  When she told them there that her errand
was urgent they consented to give this address."

"The errand was urgent!"  I felt my blood leap.  After all, the vision
might not have been so far-fetched.  What if this woman were the nurse
from Sisterhood House--Anne Garth, whom I had seen come out of
prison--Anne Garth with a message for me from Maida?

"What did you tell her?" I asked.

"Well," the clerk hedged, "she seemed anxious to know where she could
find you--insisted it was a matter of life and death, so I suggested
you might be at Mrs. Gorst's ball for that Egyptian Prince."

My first impulse was of anger.  The man was a fool, not to have known
that I must come back to dress!  But in a flash I realised that if he
hadn't known, it was my fault.  I had left no word when I went out at a
quarter to eight.

"I may see or hear from her later," I said, holding out a hand for my
key.  With it, the clerk gave me an envelope--one of the hotel
envelopes, sealed and containing a thing which felt like a small
account book.  It was addressed in pencil, evidently in haste.  Inside
the flap I caught sight of something else hurriedly pencilled, luckily
discovering it as I tore the envelope, to extract a black-covered
note-book.  "I was going to write a letter," I read, "but I fear I'm
watched.  This is the best I can do, unless they let me in at the ball."

There was no signature, not even an initial.

I went up to my room, and opened the book under the light of a
reading-lamp.  Its contents suggested a diary, with a number of
disjointed notes dashed down in pencil (the same handwriting as that
inside the envelope) with many blank spaces.

"I never hoped for anything like this," were the only words on the
first page, under the vague date, "Wednesday."  On the next page was
jotted: "It's like heaven after hell, and _she_ is an angel.  I never
saw anyone so beautiful or sweet.  Would she be as kind if she _knew_?"

"This must mean Maida," my heart said.  Certainly it could not refer to
the Head Sister!  But, after all, how did I _know_ that the "woman
dressed like a nurse" was Anne Garth?  So far, I merely surmised.
Eagerly I turned over the leaves.  Often the writer spoke of herself,
or of things that had no special meaning for me.  Then came a note
which held my eyes.  "I've confessed to _her_ the truth.  She says I
was more sinned against than sinning.  Heaven bless her!  She has
confided in me what is making her ill.  The poor child suffers!  I
never heard of one as sane as she, having illusions.  I suppose they
_are_ illusions.  She can have no enemies."

Again, on the next page: "She has told me her history.  What a strange
one!  She _has_ enemies.  But none of them can have got in here?  I'm
glad she has a love story.  I pray it may have a happier end than mine."

A few blank leaves, and then: "There's a room with a locked door over
hers.  Nobody sleeps in it.  I wonder why they keep it locked?  I
suppose it's a coincidence.  If they wished her harm why should they
send for a nurse to take care of her, when she isn't ill, except for
dreams....  A beautiful thing she said last night.  'I should die of
horror if I didn't make _his_ face come between me and the wicked face.
His love saves me.'  I envy her the _saving_ love!  Through mine I was
lost.  I wish I were allowed to sleep in her room.  _She_ wouldn't ask,
because she thought it cowardly, but I did, and was refused.  I'm
needed at night for the children's room."

Further on, after more blanks: "It's against the rules for men to come
here, but I saw a man going upstairs--or a ghost.  They say there _are_
ghosts in this house.  A woman told me that the room over my sweet
girl's is haunted.  That's why it's locked.  I wonder if the man-ghost
was going to it?  I wish it hadn't been dark in the hall, so I could
have seen what he was like.  He seemed a tall moving shadow."

Later: "I hope there's nothing wrong with _my_ head!  I was going to
the room of our H.S. for orders.  I thought the message was for me to
tap at her door at nine o'clock, but before I had time to knock she
came out and met me.  She shut the door as she asked what I wanted--the
first time she's spoken sharply!  But I caught one glimpse of the room
inside.  Opposite the door, there's a picture of the desert by
moonlight, and the Sphinx.  It's in a carved black frame, set in the
middle of a bookcase.  The frame is part of the bookcase.  But as I
looked into the room this time--I didn't mean to look or spy--the
picture of the Sphinx _wasn't there_.  It seemed to have opened out
like a door of a cabinet, and behind it was a white space with names
and dates written in red.  On top was a sign like an eye, and
underneath I thought I saw the words, 'I watch, I wait.'  Then came the
dates.  I can't be sure what they were, but I think the first was 1865.
There was a General and a Captain, and a Madeleine or Margaret, all of
the same name, which I _think_ was Annesley.  Anyhow, there were three
dates and four names, and opposite the fourth name--that of my
beautiful girl--was a question mark.  A black line had been drawn
through the other names as if they were done with, but there was no
line through hers.

"It's queer how quickly one sees things--all in a flash.  I'd only time
to draw in my breath before the door of the room was closed, yet I kept
the impression, as one goes on seeing the sun with one's eyes shut.
Now, _could_ I have imagined the whole thing?  I _did_ imagine things
at night in my cell, but I _knew_ they weren't there.  They never
seemed as real as this."

These notes, hastily pencilled, covered several of the blue-lined
pages.  There were more blanks; and then, in a shaky hand was written:
"I'm frightened.  I caught H.S. dropping something from a tiny bottle
into the glass of milk on the tray I was getting ready to take
upstairs.  I'd turned my back to fetch a bunch of violets H.S. had
brought in for me to put with the breakfast.  I don't know if she knew
I caught her, but she said she put phosferine for a tonic into the milk
twice a week, and asked if I approved.  Perhaps I oughtn't to say I
'_caught_' her.  Perhaps it's all right.  But if we had a cat in the
house I'd have tried to make it drink the milk.  I tasted it, and there
was a faint bitter tang, yet phosferine would give that.  I dared not
drink more, because if anything were wrong, and I were ill or died, I
couldn't protect _her_.  But I poured out the milk and got fresh, in
another glass, when I was sure H.S. was back in her study with the door
shut.  This can't go on.  If anything is wrong, I mayn't be able to
save _her_.  And the fear is getting on my nerves.  Yet I can't bear to
give the poor child a warning.  She has enough to worry about.  All day
this horrid thought has been in my head.  Was _I_ chosen because if
_she_ died, I could be blamed--a prison bird, with a black heart too
full of evil to be reclaimed by kindness?  If my darling girl will give
me the name of the man who loves her and where he is, I'll make some
excuse to get a day off--perhaps to meet my brother Larry--and tell her
lover what has been going on."

This was the last entry in the book, and it gave me the certainty for
which I groped.  The nurse must have come from the Sisterhood House and
from Maida; and--Maida cared for me more than I had made her confess.

I could hardly wait to get to the ball.  My first object in going was
forgotten in anxiety to find Anne Garth, to hear all she'd meant to
tell me when she called, and missed me.  It was still important--more
than ever important, perhaps--to identify Dr. Rameses as a conspirator
against Maida; but I could no longer concentrate my thoughts upon him.
My fear was that Anne Garth might not have been admitted, lacking the
card of invitation which every guest was asked to bring.  But I judged
that she would not give up easily.  If her costume (which she might
make pass as fancy dress) and her determination did not get her into
the ballroom, I believed that she would think of some other plan.

Though the Dominion Hotel is new, its Arabian room is famous.  It might
be called "Aladdin's Cave," so gorgeous are its glimmering gold walls,
and the stage jewels which star the ceiling and the gilded carvings of
its boxes.  Even its drapery is of gold tissue, embroidered with
jewelled peacock feathers: its polished floor gleams like gold,
reflecting thousands of golden lights, and its gold-framed
panel-mirrors repeat again and again a golden vision.  I was an early
arrival, but there were many before me, because Prince Murad Ali had a
reputation for un-oriental promptness, and lovers of pageants wished to
see his entrance with his suite.  If Doctor Rameses were present among
the gorgeous groups scattered like bouquets about the ballroom, my most
searching glances failed to pick him out.  I had no intention of giving
up the quest, however; and wishing to be independent I tried to evade
my hostess's offer of pretty partners who "danced like angels."
Unfortunately, as I thought, fortunately as it turned out, the lady
conquered.  I evaded a "Fox trot" on the plea that my wounded leg was
too stiff: but I could not refuse to sit out with a countrywoman of
mine, just over from England, who had "come to look on."  We had known
each other slightly at home, and I was obliged to sit through a dance
telling Lady Mary Proudfit who people were.

"At least," I tried to console myself, "if Anne Garth or that brute
Rameses comes along, I can see them."

But the crowd increased, and with many dancers on the floor it was
difficult to distinguish faces.  The Prince and his attendants arrived,
magnificent as figures incarnated from the "Arabian Nights"; and the
entrance of the principal guest was the signal for a charming surprise.
From hidden apertures in the carved ceiling, rose petals--pink and
white and golden yellow--began to flutter down, light as snowflakes.
The great room was perfumed with attar of roses, and silver ribbon
confetti, glittering like innumerable strands of spun glass, descended
on the laughing dancers.  My companion and I were lassoed by the fairy
ropes, and looking up I was struck on the cheek with a rose thrown from
a box.

The flower was thrown, not accidentally dropped.  It came from a
distance, aimed by a woman dressed as a nurse.  She was sitting in a
chair drawn close to the front of her box--a box in the second tier,
close to the musicians' gallery--and was leaning on the ledge in order
to take good aim.  Behind her stood a tall man in chain armour, his
visor so nearly covering his face as practically to mask it.  He was
bending over the nurse, as if to see where her rose fell.

Before I could grasp the flower it had fallen to the ground, and I had
to stoop to pick it up.  I was rude enough to have forgotten Lady
Mary's existence until--as I was unwinding the thread which bound a
thin bit of paper to the stem--she exclaimed, "A melodrama, Lord John!
The jealous husband's on your track.  Be careful, or he'll see that
note--no, he's gone from behind her now.  Perhaps he's coming down to
you."

"Forgive me, Lady Mary," I said, "but this is serious.  Not a love
affair, I assure you, but it may be a vital matter.  I must go to that
box.  I----"

"Don't mind me!"  She took the cue, and changed her teasing tone to
friendly common sense.  "Here comes a man I know.  He'll look after me.
Go along!  Why, how odd!  Your friend who threw the rose is pretending
to be asleep--or she's fainted!"

I glanced up from the note I had been reading while my companion
talked.  The nurse still leant on the broad ledge with its golden
fringe, but she had laid her head on her arm.  Her face I could not see.

I did not wait to make sure that Lady Mary had secured her friend in
need: but semi-consciously I heard their greetings as I turned away.
The entrance to the boxes was outside the ballroom, and there might
have been some delay in identifying the one I wanted, but for the note
attached to the rose.  Anne Garth bade me come quickly to Box 18, as
she feared she had been followed.  "I have a letter for you from
_her_," was added as a further inducement.

On the door of each box was a number.  I knew 18 was in the second
tier, and hurried up the narrow stairway which led to that row, almost
rudely pushing past a Harlequin and Columbine who were coming down.
Apart from them I had the stairs and corridor to myself.  If the man in
chain armour had altogether deserted Box 18, he had made haste to
disappear--a fact so disquieting that I regretted not having smuggled
Teano into the hotel to help.  Being alone, I had to obey orders and go
at once to the box, although I saw that keeping track of the man was
equally important.

I knocked, and when no answer followed, opened the door of Number 18.
The nurse sat in the same position which Lady Mary had remarked,
bending forward from her chair across to the broad ledge and leaning
her whole weight on it, her head on her arm.

"Miss Garth?" I said, knowing now for certain it was she, as in looking
up I had recognised the face seen outside Sing Sing prison.  How she
had recognised me would have been a puzzle, had I not conceitedly
deduced that Maida had annexed a photograph given by me to Roger.  But
it was not important to solve this puzzle.  "Miss Garth?" I repeated,
raising my voice over the music.

No reply: and a prickling cold as the touch of icicles shivered through
my veins as I laid a hand on the grey-clad arm.  It was responseless
like her lips, and sick at heart I raised the limp figure in the chair.
The head in its long veil and close-fitting bonnet lolled aside, and
there was no consciousness in the half-open eyes.  The girl had fallen
into a dead faint, or--she had been murdered, I could guess by whom.
But selfishly, my first thought was not for her.  It was for the
promised letter, and in her lap half concealed by the folds of her grey
cloak--I found it: a blank envelope, unsealed, but evidently containing
a sheet or two of paper.

"Thank God it's not been stolen!" I muttered, and pocketing the
envelope turned my thoughts to the thing which must next be done.

No wound was visible, not even a drop of blood to cover a pinprick: but
I could feel no beating of the heart; and the swift vanishing of the
man in chain armour was ominous.  I realised that, if the girl had died
by violence, I might come under suspicion, unless I could quickly prove
innocence.  Needing my liberty in order to protect Maida, I could run
no risk of losing it, and I realised that with Lady Mary Proudfit lay
my best hope.  There wasn't a minute to waste; and without a glance at
the letter I was dying to read, I peered through the sparkling of
ribbon confetti and rose petals.  What a mockery the brilliance was,
and the gay ragtime melody in the musicians' gallery next door!  Yet
the bright veil had its uses.  It was like a screen of shattered
crystal hiding the tragedy in Box 18.

Lady Mary, as I hoped, sat where I'd left her.  I beckoned.  Surprised,
but evidently pleased, she spoke to her companion, a British financier
on government business in New York.  Instantly they began to thread
their way through the crowd, and less than five minutes brought them to
the box.

"This lady had important news for me," I explained, "news of a dear
friend she has been nursing.  It was as important for others that the
news shouldn't reach my ears.  I fear there's been foul play, and I
want a doctor.  Everything must be done quietly--and the girl can't be
left alone.  But the police must be called, if she turns out to be
dead, and----"

"Oh, I can bear witness that her head dropped suddenly on her arm,
while that man in chain armour bent over her--before you even left me.
He was in fearful haste to get away!" Lady Mary interrupted.

"Hello, what's this!" exclaimed the financial magnate, Sir Felix
Gottschild, stooping to drag from under a chair, pushed against the
wall, a peculiar bundle.  "Here is chain armour--a whole suit, rolled
up and tucked under the chair!  By Jove, it tells a tale--what?  You'll
be all right, whatever happens, Lord John.  We'll stop till you get
back."

I waited for no more, but went down to inform one of the men keeping
the ballroom door what had happened.  The police and a doctor were
'phoned for, and arrived with almost magical promptness.  The gold
tissue curtains were quietly drawn across Box 18 while two "plain
clothes" men took note of what Lady Mary Proudfit and I had to tell,
and the doctor probed the mystery of Anne Garth's condition.  He was
soon able to pronounce her dead, but it was not till later that he
discovered the prick of a hypodermic syringe at the base of the brain.
The girl had been killed as sick dogs are suppressed with an injection
of strychnine.  Pre-occupied as I was with my own affairs, I could not
help remarking the doctor's emotion.  He was a young man, and at the
time I credited him with unusual sensitiveness and sympathy: but when I
learned that his name was Doran I was less sure that he deserved
credit.  Poetic justice had gone out of its way to avenge Anne Garth by
ordering this coincidence.

I told what I knew of the girl, beginning with the day I saw her leave
Sing Sing prison with the directress of the Grey Sisterhood, and going
on to the episode of the note dropped, weighted with a rose.  I had
reason to emphasise Anne Garth's connection with the Sisterhood, hoping
to fasten suspicion upon it, and secure aid more powerful than
mine--that of the police--for Maida.  I described the tall Harlequin
who had passed me in the corridor as I hurried toward Box 18, and urged
my theory that the murderer of Anne Garth had worn this disguise under
his chain armour.  With the help of a confederate (the Columbine)
waiting in an adjoining box, he could have made the change, and so
escaped without drawing attention.  I did not hesitate to suggest,
also, that the man was Doctor Rameses, the hypnotist: but the police of
New York had come to consider me mad on the subject of Rameses and the
Grey Sisterhood.  I was assured that enquiries would be made: and they
were made.  It was ascertained that Doctor Rameses had accepted Mrs.
Gorst's invitation, but at the last moment had telegraphed that an
attack of "grippe" had laid him low.  Another alibi as usual!  It was
proved (to the satisfaction of the police) that he had not left his
house that night.  The disjointed diary of Anne Garth contained no
names, and was not even an accusation, still less a proof of evil
intent on the part of any member of the Grey Sisterhood.

I heard early next day that the police had duly, if discreetly, visited
Pine Cliff, and learned that all was "above board."  Anne Garth had
been impudent, and careless about her duties.  She had been discharged
some days before the ball, her principal patient having gone away on a
visit, in order to "get rid of the nurse without a fuss."  Some gossip
in the house must have turned the woman's thoughts to Lord John Hasle,
and she had seen a way of embarrassing the ladies of the Sisterhood.
As for the murder, a theory was suggested by a bundle of love letters
found among Anne Garth's effects, forgotten when she departed.  From
these it appeared that she had been in the habit of meeting a man who
signed himself "Dick," whenever she was given a day off from her duties
at Sisterhood House.  The last letters threatened reprisals if she
persisted in seeing a certain "Tom," otherwise unnamed.

As for the Harlequin and Columbine, they were as impossible to trace as
ghosts.  No one could be discovered who had seen them enter the
ballroom or leave it.  Had it not been for Lady Mary Proudfit's
testimony, I might have floundered into serious difficulties, in spite
of the chain armour.  Thanks to her (and perhaps a little to my own
position) I was free to come and go; which was well, because Anne Garth
had left me a tryst to keep for the following night.

The one fact I hid was the existence of the letter found by me in the
dead girl's lap.  It was typed, and unsigned: but Anne Garth's journal
proved to me, if not to the police, that she was loyal; and the note
tied to the rose promised a letter from Maida.  "From _her_," the nurse
had written, expecting me to understand, and I had understood.  I had
also believed, because I could see no reason why Anne Garth, risking
much to deliver the message, should deceive me.  The man in chain
armour had had too great a need for haste to seek a letter, nor had he
reason to suspect the existence of one.  His object, if I read it
right, was to prevent Anne Garth from telling her story.

The note so fortunately hidden under the nurse's cloak was not in
Maida's writing, but had been neatly typed.  It was not the first time,
however, that I had received typed letters from her.  Sometimes I had
doubted their genuineness, but one of them explained that she had
learned to use a typewriter, to help the Head Sister with charitable
correspondence.  After that I had felt more at ease about those clearly
typed communications.


"My dear Friend," the letter began (Maida never gave me a warmer
title), "I've been ill with grippe, which is an epidemic here.  Now I'm
better, but so weak that I long for tonic air, and it has been decided
to send me up to the Crescent Mountain Inn.  I'm looking forward to the
change after my hard work and illness.  But how glorious it would be if
you could come to see me!  I hope to start the day after you receive
this.  If I can get off then, I shall arrive at the Crescent Mountain
railway station in the train which reaches there at nine-fifteen.  I
don't know what time the train that connects with it leaves New York,
but you can find out--if you care to!  At the station a team of dogs
with a driver who serves the Inn (his name is Garth) meets the train if
ordered.  As my departure is a little uncertain, because I'm not
strong, no telegram has been sent so far, and the team is free for
anyone who wishes to engage it.  If you _should_ do so, and I should
happen to be in the train, I'm sure you wouldn't mind having me for an
extra passenger!  I've spoken only to one person about my brilliant
idea of our meeting.  Yours ever, M."


Nobody who reads this can wonder that I didn't show it to the police,
or that I was ready to believe the letter genuine.  Despite the gloom
cast upon me by the death of Maida's messenger, despite my annoyance
with the police, I was selfishly happy.  I saw that I was in great luck
to have got out of a tangle which might have enmeshed me in bonds of
red tape; and it goes without saying that I telegraphed the Crescent
Mountain Inn, ordering a room, and Larry Garth the dog-driver to meet
me with his team.

I remembered Teano's mentioning that Anne Garth's brother lived in the
mountains; and I 'phoned him to ask if the man were employed by the
Crescent Mountain Inn.  The answer was, "Yes, he drives their
dog-team"; and I was the more firmly convinced that Maida and Anne
Garth had concocted the typewritten letter together.

In deducing this, I belittled the Enemy's intelligence.  But one lives
and learns.  Or, one dies and learns.

The Crescent Mountain Inn--as most people know--is one of the most
famous winter resorts in America.  It is also an autumn and spring
resort for those who love winter sports, for snow falls early at that
great height, and rests late.  Its comparative accessibility from New
York adds to the charm, and the sledge with a team of Alaskan dogs
(instead of an ordinary sleigh drawn by mere horses) was an inspiration
on the part of the landlord.

I told no one but Teano of my intention.  He, oppressively prudent
where I was concerned, wished to accompany me "in case of queer
business," but I discouraged this idea without hurting his feelings.
If there were hope of an "accidental" meeting with Maida in the train,
I didn't want even a companion.

To my disappointment, I searched the train from end to end without
finding her.  But enquiring of the conductor, I learned that the
morning train was preferred by ladies.  Perhaps--I thought--she had
already got off, in which case Garth might bring a note to the Crescent
Mountain station.  I hoped for Maida's sake it might be so, because if
she'd started early she would not have heard of her messenger's fate,
and I could break the news to her gently.  As for the dead girl's
brother, it seemed improbable that he would be informed by telegram.
The pair were said by Teano to be alone in the world; and as Garth's
evidence wouldn't be needed--anyhow for days to come--in the affair of
Anne's murder, he would not be sent for post-haste.

Again I underrated the intelligence of the Enemy.

The train arrived on time at the little mountain station built for
clients of the famous Inn.  As it was still early in the season (it is
only for Christmas that crowds begin going up), I wasn't surprised to
find myself alone on the platform.  The mountain train (into which I'd
changed long ago from the train starting from New York) went no further
that night.  Snow-covered shoulders and peaks glistened dimly in
half-veiled starlight, and I was glad to hear the jingle of bells.  A
big sledge, capable of carrying several passengers and a little light
luggage, was in waiting with a fine team of impatient dogs: but the
driver who touched his fur cap with a mittened hand was not the
honest-faced country man who had met the released prisoner at Sing Sing.

"You're not Garth!" I exclaimed, when he asked if I were Lord John
Hasle, and had been answered affirmatively.

The dim yellow light from the little station building shone into his
face, and I thought it changed as if with chagrin.  It was not as
pleasant a face as the one I remembered.  In fact, it was not pleasant
at all.  The eyes were brave enough, or anyhow bold; but the nose was
big and red as if the fellow warmed his chilled blood generously with
alcohol.  He was older than Anne Garth's brother.  The heavy features
framed in fur ear-laps might have belonged to a man of forty.

"Oh, yes, I'm Garth," he assured me, in a voice roughened by the same
agent which had empurpled his nose.

"You're not the Garth I've seen," I persisted.

"That may be," he admitted.  "We're brothers.  I'm a bit older than
Larry.  He had to go to New York.  Between the two of us, we do the
driving for the Crescent Inn."

This explanation was good enough, if Teano was wrong about the family.
"Have you a note for me?" I asked.

"No note," was the reply.  "But you're expected at the Inn all right."

"They have other guests by this time, I suppose?"

"Yes, a few.  The last that came's a young lady.  I took her up from
the afternoon train."

This was what I had wanted to find out.  My instinctive dislike of the
ugly-faced chap vanished.  I felt almost fond of him.

"Let's get on," I said.

Another man had been looking after his dogs, a man also coated and
capped in fur--a big chap whose face I could not see, as he didn't
trouble to salute or look my way before climbing into his seat beside
the driver's place.  The suitcase I'd brought from New York was
disposed of: I tucked myself into the strong-smelling rugs of rough
black fur, and the dogs flashed away like a lightning streak, their
forms racing with shadow ghosts on the blue whiteness of starlit snow.
Soon we came to a cross track, marked with a sign-post.  A red lantern
on the top seemed to drip blood over the words "Crescent Mountain Inn.
Winter Sports."

To my surprise, though the dogs made as if to swerve leftward and dash
up this beaten white way, the driver swore, and with his long whip
forced them straight ahead.

"We take the short cut.  'Tisn't everyone who knows it," he deigned to
fling over his shoulder at me.

I made no comment, and we sped along, until abruptly the dogs balked as
at something unseen.  With oaths and savage lashings they were goaded
on through deep, new-fallen snow.  The leaders yelped but obeyed.
Then, suddenly, the driver flung reins and whip full in my face.  The
unlooked-for blow dazed me for a second as it was meant to do: but, as
in one of those photographic dreams which come between sleeping and
waking, I saw the two fur-coated figures in the front seat spring from
the sledge into snow drifts.  I tried to follow suit, too late, for
down slid the team over the brim of a chasm dark as a cauldron, and
dragged the sledge in their wake.

      *      *      *      *      *

Teano, it seems, though too polite to say so, did not like my mountain
expedition.  As he was not allowed to join me, he decided that the next
best thing was to watch my interests in New York.  He and his wife
Jenny (who had an exaggerated sense of gratitude for me) discussed,
according to their habit, what they would have done and what they would
do were they in the "Enemy's" place.

"I'll tell you how _I'd_ have acted to begin with!" said Jenny, who
knew too well the ways of the underworld; "I'd have had a letter ready
to leave for Lord John on that poor dead girl's lap--a letter supposed
to be from Miss Odell.  Typing's easier than forging!  Then, if I
_found_ a letter there I'd take it away and leave mine.  Supposing
_they_ did that?  They could get Lord John to go alone to that mountain
place he told you about, and they could have him put out of the way, so
he'd never bother them again as he's always doing.  They could bring
him to his death and make it seem an accident--they're so smart!
Suppose, for instance, they telegraphed that brother of Anne Garth's,
and told him his sister was murdered; why, he'd catch the morning train
for New York.  The Inn folks would be in a fix, and grab anyone who
came along, and knew how to drive dogs."

Teano had reason to respect Jenny's suggestions, and he thought enough
of this one to meet a train connecting with that which left Crescent
Mountain station in the afternoon.  My train had been gone only a short
time, but--it had gone irrevocably.

Jenny's forebodings were justified.  Teano recognised Larry Garth and
accosted him, mentioning his own name and profession.  Garth asked if
he had sent the telegram received that morning, and produced it from
his pocket.  This told Teano, as the message was unsigned, that no
member of the police had wired.  He explained to Garth the
circumstances of Anne's death, giving extra details which he had
ferreted out that day: the fact that the girl had asked to see young
Mr. Gorst (our hostess's son) privately, and begged to be allowed to
sit in a box, because she had a "very important appointment with Lord
John Hasle, and a letter to give him from a lady."  It seemed certain,
therefore, that her desire to see me had been genuine.  Teano told
Garth something of our suspicions, confessing however that nothing was
proved.  Still, he impressed the young man so forcibly that Garth gave
up trying to see his sister's body, and instead was persuaded to return
at once to Crescent Mountain.

There was no other train that day; but Teano, believing that my life
might be at stake, drew some of his savings out of the bank and paid
for a special.  It reached its destination not ten minutes after the
9.15, but had to stop at a distance, owing to the presence of the
latter on the track.  By that time both train and station were
deserted, but Garth quickly discovered the fresh traces of his dogs and
sledge in the snow.  He and Teano, armed with an electric torch,
started on the trail.  Reaching the cross road, Garth pointed to the
tracks which led away instead of towards the hotel.  In the dull red
light of the lantern above, the two men looked into each other's eyes;
and snow, falling anew, was like pink-edged feathers in the crimson
glow.  If evil deeds were doing, this new snowfall would help the
doers, for soon their footsteps would be blotted out of sight, and all
hope of tracing them might be lost for ever.

For the moment the only tracks to be seen were those of the team and
the sledge-runners.  Garth and Teano followed.  Not far on a difference
in level in the white blanket of the earth indicated a seldom-used road
to a mountain farm.  But the sledge had not taken that turn.  It had
dashed straight on.

"Good heavens!" stammered Garth.  "That way leads nowhere--except to a
precipice.  They call it 'The Lovers' Leap'!"

The two hurried along, stumbling often, a strong cold wind blowing
particles of snow almost as hard as ice into their faces.  The glass
bulb of the small electric lantern was misted over.  Teano was obliged
constantly to wipe it clear.  Suddenly Garth seized him by the arm.
"My God, stop!" he cried.  "We're on the edge.  The sledge has gone
over here.  Two men have jumped clear--one each side the sleigh.  Oh,
my poor dogs!"

It was of me Teano thought.  Clearing his lantern he examined the holes
where the men had jumped, so near the verge of a great gulf that they
had had to throw themselves violently back in the snow to keep from
falling over.  His trained eye detected delicate markings in the snow
which proved that both men had worn coats of stiff fur.  Also their
boots had been large and heavy.  Teano knew that I had had no fur coat
when I started, and that my boots had not been made for mountain wear.

"These two chaps were confederates," he announced confidently to Garth.
"They knew when to save themselves, and Lord John has gone down with
the sledge and the team."

Garth blurted out an oath, swearing vengeance for his dogs rather than
for me, but Teano's face of despair struck him with pity.

"There's hope yet," he said, "if your lord guessed at the end what was
up and had the wit to chuck himself out.  Thirty feet down, just under
this point, there's a knob sticking up they call the Giant's Nose.
It's deep with snow now.  It wouldn't hurt to fall on it--and there's a
tree stump he could catch hold of to save himself if he kept his
senses.  But my poor dogs with the heavy sledge behind 'em wouldn't
have the devil's chance.  A man wouldn't either, unless he jumped as
the sleigh went.  Well, we shall see, when I've got the rope."

"What rope?" Teano managed to move his stiff lips.

"A rope we keep for the summer trippers," Garth explained.  "More than
once some silly gabe has got too close and lost his head, lookin' over
the Lovers' Leap.  It's a suicide place too--though we don't tell folks
that.  If anyone's caught on the Giant's nose, we can fish him up.  The
rope's in a hut near by, that's never locked."

Teano is a smaller man than Garth, and it was Teano who, with the rope
in a sailor knot under his arms, was let down by the big fellow, to
look for me.  I had kept consciousness at first, and had saved myself
in the way suggested by the mountaineer: but by the time Teano came
prospecting, I had dropped into a pleasant sleep.  An hour or two more
in my bed of snow, I should have been hidden for ever by a smooth white
winding-sheet, and so have kept my tryst with Death.

As it was, Death and I failed to meet.  I lived not only to help avenge
Anne Garth, but to go on with my work for the girl I loved, and--living
or dead--shall love for ever.  For a time after my adventure on
Crescent Mountain (where it's needless to say Maida had neither arrived
nor been expected) that vengeance and that work moved slowly.  But so
also move the mills of the gods.



EPISODE V

THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT

I was bringing my journal up to date one day at my Long Island hotel,
when a page-boy brought me a card engraved with the very last name I
should ever have guessed: "Lady Allendale."

"Is the lady downstairs?" I asked, dazed.

"The lady is here!" answered a once familiar voice at the half-open
door of my sitting-room; and I jumped up to face a tall, slim figure in
widow's weeds.  "I hope you don't mind my surprising you?" went on the
charming voice.  "I wanted to see how you looked, when you saw my name."

"How do you do?" I greeted her, as we shook hands, and the page melted
away and was forgotten.  I tried to sound sincerely welcoming, for here
she was, and I didn't want to hurt her feelings.  But I wasn't as glad
as some men would have been to see a celebrated beauty and charmer.

She explained that she had found herself in need of rest after her war
work (the last time I had seen her was the day when I fled from the
private hospital in London of my sister-in-law, Lady Haslemere), and
she had thought a sea voyage might be beneficial.  She added, with an
air of beautiful boldness, that perhaps she'd come partly to meet me
again.  "I read that you were at the Belmont in New York; so I went
there.  But they said you were staying on Long Island.  Country air
will be as good for a tired nurse of wounded officers as it is for the
wounded officers themselves, _n'est ce pas_?  And it will be nice
hearing your news, for we were rather pals!"

"Don was my best friend," I reminded her.  "Here's his picture."  And I
took from the flat top of the desk where I had been writing, one of
several framed photographs.  A flush sprang to her cheeks as the
husband's eyes looked into hers, and snatching the frame she dashed it
down so violently that the glass smashed on the parquet floor.

"How cruel of you!" she cried.  "He was a thief!  He threw away my love
and made me hate him.  I thank Heaven he died!"

An impulse of anger shook me.  If she had been a man I should have
struck her.  I'm not sure I didn't want to, as it was, in spite of her
beauty--or even because of it, so did it flaunt itself like an enemy
flag.

"It's you who are cruel," I said.  "Not to me, but to Don's memory.  I
could never believe he did what you thought.  There may have been some
horrible mistake.  And his death has never been proved----"

"He's dead to me; and the proof's incontestable, or I shouldn't wear
these things," she almost sobbed, indicating with a gesture her black
dress and veil.

In my secret heart I had thought in London, and continued to think,
that the motive for draping herself in black might be more complex than
she admitted.  Sir Donald Allendale had sailed for America on strange
circumstances months ago; had disappeared, and a body found floating in
the East River had been (superficially, I thought) identified as his.
If widow's weeds hadn't been an effective frame for Irene Allendale's
dazzling beauty, I wondered if she would have mourned in so many yards
of crape for a husband she professed to hate?

"Oh, well," I said, controlling myself, and realising that she had some
excuse to execrate Donald's memory, "let's not discuss Don now.  There
were faults on both sides.  He was jealous, and you made him miserable.
You were the greatest flirt as well as the greatest beauty in India
that year, and--but come to think of it, we needn't discuss that
either.  The present's enough.  You've arrived on this side, and----"

"You're not glad to see me.  No use pretending.  I _know_, and--here's
the reason!"  She darted forward and seized from the desk, close to my
open journal, the greatest treasure I had in the world--Maida Odell's
picture.

Roger had given it to me, knowing how I felt towards Maida.  It was a
miniature painted on ivory, and almost--though of course not quite--did
Maida justice, as no photograph could do.  I kept it in a gold,
jewelled frame with doors like the doors of a shrine which could shut
the angel face out of sight.  Usually the doors of the frame were not
only shut but locked.  When I sat at the desk, however, and expected no
visitors, I opened and put it where each time I glanced up from my
writing I could look straight into Maida's eyes.  Lady Allendale,
however, had come as a bolt from the blue, and for once I neglected to
shut the shrine.

If I had been angry before, I was doubly angry now; but I said not a
word.  Gently I took the frame, closed, and placed it in a drawer of
the desk.

"Did you say you thought of spending a few days on Long Island?" I
asked, when I could control my voice.

"I've engaged a suite at this hotel," Lady Allendale answered sharply.
"My maid's putting my things in order now.  I do think, Jack, you're
being _horrid_ to me, and if it weren't too late to change without
making gossip I should give up the rooms and go somewhere else."

I didn't want a scene, so I reminded myself how sweet she had been when
Don had brought her as a bride to India, and I had always been welcome
at their bungalow.  I soothed her as well as I could; refused to talk
personalities, and when she decided that her visit to my sitting-room
had better end, I took her to the door.  At that moment a face almost
as familiar as hers appeared at a door opposite--the face of Irene
Allendale's French maid who had come with her to India four years ago.
This woman (Pauline, I remembered hearing her called) was receiving big
trunks with White Star labels on them; and I realised not only that the
lady's new quarters were close to mine, but that she was provided for a
long stay in them!

When she had gone, and the door of her sitting-room had been shut by
Pauline (whose personality I disliked) I picked up Don's photograph,
and sat down to look at it, reviewing old times.

Poor Don!  Whatever his failings might have been, fate had been hard on
him!

He was among the smartest officers my regiment ever had, one of the
most popular--despite his hot temper--and the best looking.  Everyone
said when Irene Grey came to India to be married, chaperoned on the
voyage by a dragon of a maid, that she and Donald were the handsomest
couple ever seen.  The trouble was--for trouble began at once--that
Irene was _too_ pretty.  She was a flirt too; and her success as _the_
beauty went to her head.  She ought to have understood Don well enough
to know that he was stupidly jealous.  Perhaps she did know, and
thought it "fun."  But the fun soon turned to fighting.  They
quarrelled openly.  She would do nothing that Don wanted her to do.  In
black rage, he told her to live her own life, and he would live his.
Both were miserable, for she had loved him and he--had adored her.  She
flirted more than ever, and Don tried to forget his wretchedness by
drinking too much and playing too high.  So passed several years.  I
left the regiment and India, and took up flying.  Then came the
outbreak of war.  Don was ordered to England.  Irene sailed on the same
ship, though by that time they were scarcely civil to each other.  Don
used influence and got ordered to America to buy horses for the army,
he being a polo man and a judge of horseflesh.

I was in France then, but running over to England on leave, Irene sent
for me to tell the astounding news that Don had taken with him all her
jewellery.  She had money of her own--not a great fortune; but her
jewels, left her by a rich aunt, were magnificent and even famous.
This scene between Irene and me, when she accused Don and I defended
him, lingered in my memory as one of the most disagreeable of my life:
and the maid Pauline was associated with it in my mind, as Irene had
called her, to describe certain suspicious circumstances.  Later I
couldn't help admitting to myself, if not to Irene, that Don's
disappearance on reaching New York, before he had begun to carry out
his mission, did look queer.  Search was made by the police of New York
in vain, until a body past recognition, but wearing a watch and
identification papers belonging to Captain Sir Donald Allendale, was
found in the East River.  I induced Irene to give Don the benefit of
the doubt, not to blacken his memory by connecting him with the loss of
her jewels; and she seemed to think that yielding to my persuasions was
a proof of friendship for me.

"Well," I said to myself, extracting bits of broken glass from the
frame of Don's portrait, "better let sleeping dogs lie.  Irene'll get
tired of this quiet place before long, and be off to New York--or home."

I felt that it would be a relief to have her go; but I had no idea that
it was in her power, even if she wished it, to do me harm.

But while I was thinking of her presence in the hotel as a harmless
bore, the lady had instructed Pauline to make inquiries concerning me.
This I learned later: but had I guessed, I should have supposed there
would be nothing to find out.  I had no idea that gossip about me and
my affairs was a dining-room amusement among the maids and valets of
the hotel guests: that all Lady Allendale's _femme de chambre_ need do
was to ask "What's the name of the girl Lord John Hasle's in love
with?" in order to have my heart bared to her eyes.  That first day she
heard all about Maida--with embellishments: the beautiful Miss Odell,
adopted sister of a well-known millionaire who had lately married and
gone abroad with his bride: girl not fond of society: pledged to the
Grey Sisterhood for a year: the Sisterhood House being near Pine Cliff,
Lord John's reason for living in the one hotel of the neighbourhood.

That was enough for Irene.  Her anger having brought "to the scratch"
all the cat in her nature, she made herself acquainted with the
visiting days and hours of the Grey Sisterhood.  Though men were not
received, ladies interested in the alleged charitable work of the
Sisterhood were welcomed twice a week, between three and five in the
afternoon.  Maida was a valuable asset to the Head Sister, as a young
hostess on these reception days, for she believed in the genuineness of
the mission, and was enthusiastic on the subject of "saving" women and
children.  In her innocence she could not have been aware that most of
those "saved" were hardened thieves protected in the old house at Pine
Cliff till their "services" should be needed in New York.  It was a
splendid advertisement for the Sisterhood that so important a girl as
Miss Odell should be a member, and she was always bidden to show
visitors about, even if the veiled Head Sister were able to receive
them.

So it fell out, while I was assuring myself of Irene's harmlessness,
that she was making acquaintance with the original of the portrait in
the gold frame.  She wore, it seems, an open-faced locket containing a
photograph of me, painted to look like an ivory miniature: and seeing
Maida glance at it she asked if Miss Odell had ever met Lord John Hasle.

The girl admitted that she had; whereupon Lady Allendale said, "We are
_very_ good friends," and purposely said it in such a way as to convey
a false impression.  I had told Maida that I loved her, but she had
given me no answer except that, if I cared, I must care enough to wait.
Many weeks had passed since then, and it was long since we had set eyes
upon each other.  Lady Allendale was the most beautiful woman she had
ever seen; and the miniature in the locket, the meaning of the smile
which went with the words, were too much for the girl's faith in my
constancy.  She thought, "Why should he go on loving me when I've given
him no real hope?  No wonder he forgets me for such a dream of beauty!"

Perhaps no girl as lovely as Maida ever thought less of her own charm.
She believed that the one interest which had held her to the world and
given her strength to resist the Head Sister's persuasions was a false
star.  It came into her mind that the best way to forget would be to
promise, as her friend the grey lady had begged her to do, that she
would become a life member of the Sisterhood.

Maida made no irrevocable decision that day: but when the Head Sister
said next time (there were many of these times), "Dear child, how happy
I should be if I could count upon you in the future!" she answered,
"Perhaps you may.  I don't feel the same wish to go out into the world
that I have had."

She was praised for this concession: and it seems to me probable that
the grey lady set her intelligence to work at discovering the motive
for the change.  She had seen Irene, and had without doubt noticed the
locket.  She was aware that the visitor and the youngest, sweetest
member of the Sisterhood had talked in the garden.  She must have put
"two and two together": and the thing that happened later proves that
she reported all she knew and all she guessed to that "great
philanthropist" Doctor Rameses.  It was certain that, soon after Lady
Allendale arrived, he was informed of her presence at my hotel.  There
were ways in which he could ascertain that my friendship had been for
Donald Allendale and not his wife: therefore the theatrical effect of
the locket would have been lost upon him.

Irene and I were on friendly terms, but I manoeuvred to keep her out of
the way.  This was comparatively simple, as I had a lot of work to do;
but I invented extra engagements, and was never free to go anywhere
with her.  I even tried to take such meals as I ate in my hotel, at
hours when she wasn't likely to be in the restaurant: but one evening,
as I stepped out of my sitting-room dressed for dinner, she appeared at
her door.  It was almost as if she had been on the watch!

It was early, and I intended motoring to New York, for Carr Price and
his bride were there for a day or two.  I had my overcoat on my arm,
and a hat in my hand, which advertised the fact that I was not dining
in the hotel.  Lady Allendale also was dressed for the evening, and
Pauline was giving her a sable cloak.

"How do you do, stranger?" Irene exclaimed, with a kind of spurious
gaiety, more bitter than merry.  "I've been here a week, and this is
the fourth time we've met."

As she spoke, and I composed a suitable answer, two messengers came
along the corridor.  One was a seedy-looking individual who might, I
thought, be a messenger from Teano, and the other was a boy employed by
the Grey Sisterhood to run errands.  My heart leaped at sight of an
envelope in his hand.  It was of the peculiar dove grey used by the
Sisters: and I know now that it was recognised by Lady Allendale.
She'd sent money for the Sisterhood's charities, and had received their
thanks written on this paper.

"No answer, sir," said the boy, giving me the letter, pocketing a
"tip," and passing out of the way to let the shabby man advance,
directed by a page.  He, too, put a letter in my hand, with a mumble of
"This is pressing."

Irene could not hide her curiosity; but she dared not stand staring in
the hall.  She went on, as if to go to the lift: but I learned later
that she took refuge in the maid's room, to see (without being seen)
what I might do next.

What I did do was to return for a moment to my own room.  And there,
despite the alleged "pressing" importance of the second letter, I
opened Maida's first.


"Please don't feel in any way bound to me," she wrote.  "Indeed,
there's no real reason why you should: but lest there should be the
slightest shadow over your happiness, I wish to tell you that most
probably I shall become a life member of the Sisterhood.  I must write
Roger before deciding, but when he knows that after these many weeks I
have less longing than ever for the world, I think he will withdraw his
objections.--Yours ever sincerely, M.O."


This was a blow over the heart.  I had hoped so much, since the
wonderful night when she had let me take her home to Roger!  True, she
had gone back next day to the Sisterhood House, but I had thought I
might read between the lines of the message left for me, and other
messages since then.

I did not think of any connection between Irene Allendale and Maida's
change of mind, but attributed the adverse influence wholly to the Head
Sister.  I determined to see Maida somehow: and then remembered the
letter which I had not yet opened.  Envelope and paper were of the
cheapest, and the handwriting was crude, most of the words being
absurdly spelt.

"If yu haven't furgot yur old friend Donald Allendale and wud like to
help him in grate truble cum at wuns with the messenger and dont wate a
secund or it may be tu late."

Nothing else could have taken me out of myself in a moment of deep
depression, as did this cry from the grave of a lost friend.  I had
said to Irene "we have no proof of his death," yet I had hardly doubted
it: and it was now as if I heard the voice of a dead man.  If I had
stopped to reflect I might have reasoned that the letter was more than
likely a trick of the "enemy," as I named the Egyptian doctor to myself
and Teano: but even if I had, I should have chanced it, for the call
was too urgent to admit of delays--such as telephoning Teano to meet
me, for instance.  I ought to have seen (and perhaps did
sub-consciously see) that the appeal for haste was in itself
suspicious, framed in the hope of inducing me to do precisely what I
did do, rush off on the instant without taking any companion or leaving
word in the hotel that I was bound for an errand that might be
dangerous.

The man who had brought the letter had prudently gone to wait outside,
where, if needful, he could make a quick "getaway."  This detail seemed
of small importance at the time, but its influence on the fate of two
others besides myself was great.  If Lady Allendale had seen me
starting with the messenger, she would have known that I was not going
out in answer to the letter written on grey paper--the letter she
believed to be from Maida Odell.  Pauline's window overlooked the noisy
front entrance of the otherwise quiet hotel.  From behind the curtains
Irene could see anyone coming or going.  If the messenger had waited
outside my door, she would have seen us together: but as he stood close
against the wall, she could see only that I stopped to speak with
someone.  She could not hear the man explaining that he had been
directed to travel back to New York in the taxi which had brought him
to Long Island, and that instead of accompanying, I was to trail him.
"Somebody's afraid I might get something out of you--what?" said I.
Since argument with such a person was useless, Irene must have heard me
order a taxi, and have telephoned down for one herself.  If I'd
suspected the interest she still felt in my movements, I might have
been more on the alert, and have noticed a taxi always pursuing mine:
but my eyes were for the one ahead.

When my leader's taxi drew up at last, it was the signal agreed upon
for me to do the same.  The neighbourhood was unfamiliar, but as I
followed the man on foot I soon saw that we were in the heart of
Chinatown.  It was agreed that I should not try to speak with him
again, but simply to go where I saw him go.  He entered a Chinese
restaurant which made no pretence at picturesqueness for the attraction
of sightseers.  I, close upon his heels, entered also, and had scarcely
an instant to take in the scene, so promptly did the man make for a row
of doors at the back of a large, smoke-dimmed room.  Determined not to
be left behind, I too made for the little low-browed door he chose in
the row, and saw a private dining-room just comfortably big enough for
two.

"This is where you're to wait," my man announced, "and where my part of
the business is done.  Good night.  I expect you won't be kept long."

I offered him money, which he refused.  "I've been paid, thank you," he
said; and touching his shabby cap with an attempt at a military salute,
returned to the main restaurant.  He shut the door behind him, but not
quickly enough to prevent my recognising a face in the room outside:
the face of Donald Allendale's valet.

"By Jove!" I heard myself say half aloud.  I remembered now that the
man--Hanson or some name like that--had left his master in England, not
wishing, he explained, to go to America.  Yet here he was; and I sprang
to the rash conclusion that it was he who had sent for me with this
mysterious ceremony.

The door was shut in my face before I could even jump up from the chair
into which I had subsided; and when I threw the door open again to look
out, the face had vanished.  A number of Europeans of middle-class and
a few Chinese, apparently respectable merchants, were dining at little
tables.  Some were already going: others were coming in: and I saw at
the street door a tall woman in a long dark cloak and a kind of motor
bonnet covered with a thick blue veil.  She had the air of peering
about through the veil, to find someone she expected to meet: and if I
had ever happened to see Lady Allendale's maid Pauline in automobile
get-up, when motoring with her mistress, my thoughts might possibly
have flashed to Irene.  They did not, however, and I should have passed
the woman without remark if she had not darted at a man just making his
exit.  I didn't recall Don's valet well enough from Indian days to be
as sure of his back as of his face, but I wondered if it were Hanson
whom the veiled woman sought.  I was half inclined to step out and
accost him: but I knew by experience what errors arise from a change in
the programme when an appointment has been planned.  Possibly Hanson
was not the person who should meet me here, and in following the valet
I might miss my aim.  After a few seconds' hesitation I went back into
the tiny room and reluctantly closed the door.

It was a dull little hole, though clean.  The walls or partitions which
divided the place from others of its kind seemed to be of thin wood,
papered with red and hung with cheap Chinese banners.  Even the back
wall was of wood, and boasted as decoration a large, ugly picture of a
Chinese hunter, in a bamboo frame.  The only furniture consisted of two
chairs, and a small table laid for two persons.  In one of these chairs
I sat, staring at the door, hoping that it might soon open for Hanson
or another.

Hanson, I learned afterwards, had never intended to meet me or be seen
by me.  His business in the restaurant concerned me, to be sure, but
only indirectly: and catching sight of my face in the door of the
private room, he had made a dash for the door of the street, to be
stopped by the veiled woman on the threshold.  The veil was
impenetrable, but recognising the voice that spoke his name, he tried
to shove her aside and escape.  She seized his arms, however, obliging
him to stop inside the restaurant or risk a street scene.  She inquired
why he had come to America, and if he had been with Sir Donald.

"No, your ladyship," the man stolidly answered to both questions,
doubtless longing to ask some of his own in return.  He mumbled that he
had come to New York after his master died, for no object connected
with Sir Donald--merely wishing to "find a good job with some rich
American," a wish not yet realised.  When asked if he had seen and
recognised in the restaurant his master's old friend Lord John Hasle,
at first he said, "No, he hadn't noticed anyone like him."  But the
next words, following swiftly and excitedly, for some reason quickened
his memory as if by magic.

"Well, he is there.  I saw him go in!" the veiled Lady Allendale
insisted.  "I believe you know he is there.  I'm sure there's a _woman_
in the case!"

On this, Hanson admitted that he had seen "a man who looked a bit
_like_ his lordship," and there was a woman with him, _not_ the kind of
woman her ladyship would want to know.

"I've got to get somewhere in a hurry," he added, "but if I might
advise, the best thing for your ladyship is to do the same--go
somewhere else, most _anywhere_ else, in a hurry too."

With this, he took advantage of a relaxed hold on his arm, and was off
like a frightened rabbit, old custom forcing him to touch his hat as he
fled.

He doubtless hoped that Lady Allendale would be terrified into
abandoning her project, whatever it might be: and intended to disclaim
responsibility if she lingered.  As it happened she did linger,
summoning courage to enter the restaurant and take a table close to the
door where, for an instant, she had seen me appear.

"He was looking for _her_!" Irene said to herself; and as no woman had
passed in while she talked to Hanson in the street, she determined to
wait close to the door.  It was almost incredible that Maida Odell
should come from the house of the Grey Sisterhood to such a place as
this, but Lady Allendale was in a mood when anything seemed possible.
Anyhow, if it were not Maida, it was some other--some other about whose
existence she might let Maida know--since Maida continued to write
letters to the guilty one!  Irene ordered food as an excuse to keep the
table; but when it came she did little more than pretend to eat.
Alternately she consulted her wrist-watch and frowned at the closed
door.

All this time she supposed me to be sitting alone, fuming with
impatience for the arrival of an unexpected woman: but as a matter of
fact while she questioned Hanson the door had quickly opened and shut.
It had admitted a man: and that man was with me when Lady Allendale sat
down at her table near by to watch.

In appearance he was a Chinaman, a very tall, respectably dressed
Chinaman with a flat-brimmed hat shading his eyes, and a generous
pigtail whipping his back.  But his long dark eyes were not Chinese
eyes, though Eastern they might be.  He was magnificently made up, so
well that my impression of his falseness came by instinct rather than
by reason.  I would have given much if my brain had carried away a
clearer picture of the "man with the scar" from the theatre, on the
first night of the play.  If I could have got nearer to him then, the
difficulty of identifying him with Doctor Rameses might have
disappeared altogether, despite the Egyptian's genius for establishing
an alibi whenever I clamoured to the police.  Now, in trying to pierce
the surface calm of the dark eyes I should have had certainty to go
upon, one way or the other.  As it was I could only ask myself, "Is
this the everlasting enemy?  Or--am I a monomaniac on that subject?"

If it were Rameses, I could hardly help admiring his impudence in
sending for and meeting face to face--even in disguise--the man whose
business in life it had become to ruin him.

"Good evening, sir," he began politely, with the accent of an educated
man and a suggestion of Chinese lisp--or a good imitation.  "I am part
owner of this place.  I have come to know through my partner a sad case
of a client of his, a poor man who was a friend of yours in another
country.  My partner is a good man but he is hard.  He would have put
this fellow out and not cared; but I said, keep him and I will send
word to that friend he talks about, that Lord John Hasle.  Maybe
something can be done to help.  My partner did not wish me to do this
thing, because there might be danger for him, from the police.  If you
go further, you will soon understand why.  But I have been years in
England.  I know Englishmen.  I said to my partner, if this lord is
asked to come alone, in a hurry, for the sake of his friend, he will
not be a traitor.  That is why I had to do things in a prudent way.  I
was right.  You are here.  But this is not all you have to do.  You
give me your word you will make no noise if I show you the secret of
our place?"

"As to that, I give you my word," I said, curious, but far from
trustful.  "The message I received hints that Sir Donald Allendale
didn't die.  Is he here?"

"He is downstairs," replied the alleged Asiatic.

As he spoke, he touched one of the big, brass-headed tacks which
appeared crudely to keep in place the bamboo frame of the Chinese
Hunter.  Instantly the picture moved out of the frame, like a sliding
panel, and showed an opening or door in the wooden wall at the back of
the room.

I felt that the long eyes watched to see if I "funked," but I think my
features remained as noncommittal as those of Buddha himself.  As a
matter of fact I was scarcely surprised to find myself in one of those
secret rabbit warrens of which I had read.  I guessed that each of the
private dining-rooms in the row I had seen, possessed a concealed door
leading down to a hidden "opium den" underneath.  I guessed, too, that
only certain trusted habitués of the restaurant were allowed to learn
the secret.  Whether my being let into it were a compliment, or a sign
that I shouldn't get a chance to betray it, I was not sure.  But I
wished that I had looked to the loading of my revolver which, so far as
I remembered, held no more than one cartridge.  I fancied that my
Chinese friend was Rameses himself, and that he might indeed be a
financial "power behind the throne" in the business of this house.
Deliberately I went to the table and selected a steel knife which lay
beside one of the plates.  The tall Chinaman watched me pocket it, with
a benevolent smile, such as he might have bestowed upon a child arming
itself with a tin sword to fight a shadow.  As he stood statue-like
beside the aperture in the wall, two men in Chinese costume, dressed
like the waiters of the restaurant, came through the panel-door from
the mysterious dusk on the other side.  Each had a small tray in his
hand, as if to serve at a meal.  With a bow for my companion and an
extra one for me they moved along the wall, one on either side of the
room, passing behind us both, and ranging themselves to right and left
of the exit to the restaurant.

It was obvious that they were ready to prevent my making a dash if I
were inclined to do so.  They were big fellows, regular "chuckers out"
in size; and my host himself was more than my equal in height.  All the
same, if I'd wanted to escape, I thought I could have downed the three,
unless they were experts in ju jitsu, where I was an amateur.  No such
intention, however, was in my mind.  I determined to see the adventure
to the end, in the hope of finding Allendale.  He might have fallen
into such hands as these, and be held for some reason which I hoped to
learn.

"After you!" I said politely to my guide who would have let me go
ahead.  We bowed like Chinese mandarins, and then, as if to prove that
he meant no harm, he passed before me through the panel-door.  Whether
the two men closed it again in case of a police raid (which must always
be dreaded in such a place) I don't know; but I guessed that they were
under orders to follow at a distance.

There was just enough light in a narrow passage behind the panel to
prevent those who entered it from stumbling over each other.  I saw
that it was a long, straight corridor running between the wooden back
wall of the row of private dining-rooms and the house wall.  Such light
as there was came from the end of the passage, and from below, where it
could be turned off in case of danger.  I followed my companion, our
feet making no noise on the matting-covered floor: and voices of those
in the private rooms were audible through the thin partition.  I smiled
rather grimly for my own benefit as my fancy pictured a raid: how an
alarm would be sent to those below stairs: an electric bell, perhaps:
and how those in a condition to move would swarm up from secret,
forbidden regions underground, running like rats through this corridor
to take their places in the row of dining-rooms.  There they would be
found, calmly eating and drinking: and unless the "sleuths" had certain
information concerning the concealed doors, there would be no excuse to
look further!

At the far end of the passage, as I expected, there was a steep
stairway.  My guide still went in advance, as a proof of good faith.
Having opened a baize door which muffled sound, he held it open for me
to pass into a large room lit by green-shaded electric lamps that hung
from the low ceiling.  There was gas also, which could be used if the
electricity failed.  Here, men were gambling, silent as gambling
ghosts.  They played fan tan and other games: Chinese and Europeans,
both men and women.  Nobody glanced up when we arrived.  We might have
been flies for all the interest we excited.  I looked over my shoulder
as we came to the head of a second staircase leading down another
storey, to see if the supposed "waiters" were behind us.  They were not
to be seen: nevertheless I "felt in my bones" that they were not far
off.

The floor below the gambling-room was devoted to the smoking of opium.
There were several doors no doubt leading into private rooms for those
who could pay high prices: and ranged along the two side walls were
rows of berths protected by curtains.  Two "cooks" were at work making
the pills to fill the pipes, handed to customers by attendants.  There
was practically no furniture in the large, low room, which was filled
with the peculiar, heady fragrance of cooking opium.

Yet even then we had not reached our destination.  A third staircase
led down to a deeper cellar; and I could but think as I continued the
game of "follow my leader," what a neat trap the fly was allowing the
spider to land him in!  However, I went quietly on, consoling myself
with the thought that it's a wise fly who is up to the spider's tricks
and watching for the lid of the trap to fall.

This last cellar was evidently for the cheapest class of customers.
There were berths here too, but the curtains were poor, or
non-existent, and many Chinamen lay about the floor on strips of
matting.  The atmosphere was foetid, and thick with opium smoke.  As we
moved towards a rough partition at the further end, our figures tore
the grey cloud as if it had been made of gauze.

"Your friend lies very sick in a room there," said my guide, speaking
for the first time since he had stepped through the panel.  "We have
paid for his keep a long time now."

I made no answer, only following with my eyes the gesture he made,
pointing at the unpainted wooden partition.  In this partition were
three doors, also of rough, unpainted wood.  Two stood ajar, showing
small rooms which I fancied were used by the attendants and opium
"cooks."  One door was closed.  My companion opened it, indicating,
with a smile, that it possessed no lock, only an old-fashioned latch.
"You need not fear to go in and talk with your friend alone," he said,
in his low, monotonous voice.  "You see, he is not a prisoner!  And we
cannot make you one."

I shrugged my shoulders, and passed him without a word, shutting the
door behind me as I entered the wretched den on the other side.  It was
lit by one paraffin lamp, supported by a bracket attached to the wall,
and such light as existed brought out from the shadows the vague
lumpish shape of a mattress on the floor.  Two or three odds and ends
of furniture lurked in corners, but I scarcely saw their squalor.  My
one thought was for a dark form stretched on the grey heap of bedding.

I bent over it, and a hand seemed to grip my heart.  "My God, poor old
Don!  What have they done to you?" I broke out.

A skeleton in rags lay on the filthy mattress.  The yellow light from
the bracket lamp lit his great eyes as they suddenly opened, in deep
hollows.  Even his face looked fleshless.  There were streaks of grey
in the dark hair at his temples, and an unkempt beard mingled with the
shadows under his cheekbones.  This was what remained of Donald
Allendale, one of the smartest and handsomest men in the army.

He stared at me dully for an instant, his eyes like windows of glass
With no intelligence behind them.  Then abruptly they seemed to come
alive.  "Jack!" he gasped.  "Am I--dreaming you?"

"No, dear old chap, no," I assured him, down on one knee by the
mattress, slipping an arm under his head.  "It's Jack right enough,
come to take you out of this and make you the man you were again."

As I spoke, slowly and distinctly, so that the comforting words might
reach his sick soul, I heard a faint, stealthy noise outside.  There
was a slight squeak as of iron scraping against wood, and in a flash I
guessed what had happened.  My guide had made a point of showing that
the door could not be locked; and I, like a fool--in my haste to see
Don--hadn't sought other means of fastening it, more efficient than any
lock.  I guessed that a bar of wood or iron had now been placed across
the door, the two ends in rungs or brackets which I had passed
unnoticed.

"Well!" I said to myself, "the mischief's done.  No use kicking against
the pricks till I'm ready to kick.  And I shan't be ready till I've
seen what can be done for Allendale."

The worst of it was that as I'd allowed myself to be trapped, it was
difficult to see how anything could be done.  My theory that I'd been
let into a secret, because I should never be in a position to betray
it, seemed to be the true one.  But my fury at Donald's state gave me a
sense of superabundant strength.  I felt like Samson, able to pull down
the pillars of the Temple.

"You're--too late!" the man on the mattress sighed, his voice strange
and weak, sounding almost like a voice speaking through a telephone at
"long distance."  "But I'm glad to see you, Jack!  I've thought of you.
I've longed for you.  Tell me--about Irene.  Does she--believe I'm
dead?"

"She's in New York, dear old boy," I said, evading his question.

His eyes lighted.  It seemed that a faint colour stained his ash-white
cheeks.  "She came--to look for me!  Oh, Jack, she did love me, then!"

"Of course," I answered truly enough: for she _had_ loved him before
everything went wrong.  Even if I hadn't been as sure of Don's loyalty
as of my own, I should have known by the radiance of his face.  If he
had stolen her jewels, he would not be coming back from death to life
in the illusion that love had brought her across the sea.

"Thank God!" he breathed.  "I can die in peace--but no, not yet.
There's a thing I must tell you first, It's the thing they've kept me
here to get out of me.  They've tried every way they knew--torture,
starvation, bribes of freedom; everything.  They'd have killed me long
ago, only if they had they could never have got the secret.  But--how
is it you're here?  Is it another trick of theirs?"

As soon as I heard the word "secret" the mystery was clear.  I was the
catspaw with which the chestnuts were to be pulled out of the fire.  If
Doctor Rameses was the man who held us both, his intention was
evidently to kill two birds, two rare and valuable birds, with one
stone.  How he had got Donald Allendale into his clutches I didn't know
yet, though I soon should: but having him, and learning that he and I
had been friends, he saw how to trap me securely and through me learn
Don's secret.

Almost without telling I knew that the secret must concern Irene's
jewels, which were worth at least twenty thousand pounds; a haul not to
be despised.  Bending over Don, I lifted my head and looked around.  I
was sure that a knothole in the wooden wall had come into being within
the last five minutes.  If there'd been an aperture there, it had been
stuffed with rags, now noiselessly withdrawn.  It was distant not a
yard from Donald's face as he lay on the mattress, and a person
crouching on the floor outside could catch every word, unless we
whispered.  Somebody had deduced that the prisoner would open his heart
to me.  The "secret" would thus become the property of those who
coveted it; and once it was in their possession Donald and I could be
suppressed.  Thus the two birds would be felled with that one cleverly
directed stone--so cleverly directed that I was sure of the hand which
had placed it in the sling.

It was a case of kill or cure, to startle poor Don; but there was no
other way, and I took the one I saw.  "Yes," I said, "they got me here
by a trick, but I don't regret coming.  On the contrary.  They--whoever
they are--want to hear what you tell me.  But we can prevent that.  Let
me help you to the other side of the mattress farther from that
knothole, and you'll whisper what you have to say.  If that annoys
anyone--I know there are people made nervous by whispering!--why, they
can come in, and get a warm welcome.  Put the story into few words; and
then we'll be prepared for the next thing."

It was a tonic I had given him.  He threw a look of disgust and rage at
the knothole, which was dark because, no doubt, the lights had been
turned down outside to make our cubicle seem lighter.  Sitting up
without my help, Don flung himself to the other side of the mattress;
and as I knelt beside him, whispered.  Unless they had a concealed
dictaphone the secret was safe.

As I advised, this man raised from the dead, told his story in few
words.  On shipboard, coming to America, he had been taken over the
ship one day, by the first officer.  To his astonishment, he recognised
Hanson, his valet, in a rather clumsy disguise, travelling second
class.  Controlling himself, he appeared not to notice: but as Hanson
had refused to make the voyage in his service, there must be some
curious motive for this ruse.  Don could not guess it, but he had once
overheard a conversation between Hanson and Pauline which told him that
they were more than friends.  Don didn't like Pauline, and believed
that she had set her mistress against him.  After a little thought, he
determined to spring a surprise on Hanson.  He learned the name under
which the valet was travelling, found out that the man had a state-room
to himself; and the night after his discovery opened the door and
abruptly walked in.  He expected to catch Hanson unawares and surprise
a confession; but the room was empty.  Don was amazed to see under the
berth a dressing-bag which had belonged to Irene.  He could not believe
she had given it to Pauline or to Hanson, as it had been a present to
her from a friend.  It flashed into his head that the thing had been
stolen, and that it might have valuable contents.  Acting on impulse,
he took the bag and returned to his own cabin.  There he opened it with
one of his own keys, and found most of his wife's jewellery.

This happened on the night when the ship docked.  Don meant to
telegraph Irene next day; and was debating whether to have Hanson
arrested on board ship, or catechise him first.  He determined upon the
latter course, as he wished to learn if Pauline were involved in the
theft.  He wrote a note and sent it to Hanson, saying that his one
chance lay in confession and that he--Sir Donald--would talk with him
on the dock.  The man kept the appointment, begged his ex-master's
forgiveness, told a long story of temptation, exonerated Pauline, and
promised to reform.  Don, who had been fond of Hanson and valued him as
a servant, decided that, as he now had the jewels in his own
possession, he could afford to be generous.  He bade the fellow "go and
sin no more": and as far as Hanson was concerned, considered the
episode closed.  The dressing-bag he gave with other luggage to an
express man to take to his hotel, but the jewels (a rope of pearls, a
flexible tiara of diamonds, and a number of brooches, pendants and
rings) he had put (congratulating himself on his own prudence) into a
tobacco pouch in a pocket of his coat.  He engaged a taxi, giving the
name of a hotel; and had no suspicion that anything was wrong until he
realised that, instead of leaving poor streets behind, he was being
driven through a maze of slums.  Not knowing New York, he still hoped
that his chauffeur had chosen an unattractive short cut: but instinct
cried loudly that he was the victim of a trick.  Fancying that the taxi
slowed down, he took the tobacco-pouch from his pocket and searched for
a place to hide it, in case of trouble.  He happened to find a curious
repository.  Lifting the leather cushion which formed the seat, he
discovered an inconspicuous rip in the leather binding of the lower
edge.  He clawed out a piece of horsehair stuffing, threw it from the
window, and tucked the tobacco-pouch into the hole that was left.
Knowing the number of the taxi (Don was always great at remembering
numbers) he could inform the police if necessary!  Whereas, if all were
well, and he found himself arriving safely at his destination he would
take out the bag and laugh at his own suspicions.

No sooner had he hidden the valuables, however, than the taxi stopped.
The chauffeur civilly informed him that a tyre was down, and apologised
for having to stop in such a poor neighbourhood.  The fellow seemed so
frank, that Donald was ashamed of his own timidity.  He stuck his head
out of the window to speak with the man at work, and--remembered no
more, till he came to himself in his present surroundings.

How long ago that was, he could not tell.  He had waked to find severe
wounds on his head, and fancied that he had been delirious.  He had
thought constantly of Irene, and bitterly regretted their quarrels.  It
occurred to him (as to me in hearing the story) that Hanson had crossed
on Sir Donald Allendale's ship with the jewels, intending by the help
of Pauline at home, to throw suspicion on his master.

My evasive answers and the news of Irene's presence in New York, gave
Don new life and courage to fight for it, believing that through all
she had kept her love and faith.  I, alas, knew that this was not the
case; but I hoped that Irene's heart would turn to him again if his
innocence were proved.  "You _must_ get out of this for her sake," I
urged.  "Besides, I shan't try to escape without you.  We stand or fall
together."

"If I can find strength enough not to hinder instead of help!" he
groaned.  "But there's little chance for either of us.  For heaven
knows how long they've kept me chained to the wall.  To-night, the
Chinaman who takes care of me after a fashion unlocked the iron ring
that was on my ankle.  You can see the mark it's made!  I wondered what
was up, but thought as I was so weak, it was no longer worth while to
waste the chain on me.  Now I see they took it off because they didn't
want you to see at first glance that I was a prisoner, not a
_pensionaire_.  The fact that they've left me free shows they've taken
their precautions, though!"

"Perhaps they haven't taken enough," said I, still whispering as he
did, that ears outside might strain in vain.

I rose from my knees, and began to look for the iron staple which I
knew must exist.  I soon found it in the solid wall at the back of the
room; with the chain and the iron ankle-band attached.  A heap of straw
and rags had been used to cover these from sight.  No effort of Don's
wasted muscles could suffice to pull out the staple, as his gaolers
knew: and as for my strength, it had not occurred to them that I might
use it in that direction.  Probably no one dreamed that blind Samson
would pull down the pillars!

I made Don move to a position where his body blocked the knothole, and
unless there was another, which I failed to see, I could work without
being overlooked.  Grasping the iron ring, with all my might I pulled
and jerked at the staple till I loosened it in the wall.  The rest was
easy: and sooner than I'd dared hope I had in my hand a formidable
weapon.  If there were a chance of smashing the partition and breaking
out on the other side, it lay in that.  Also, it might be useful
afterwards, for if we got into the main cellar, our troubles would be
but just begun.  Practically my one hope was that the men told off to
deal with us might be cowards.

As for smashing the door, there was "nothing doing" there for us,
because of the bar certainly securing it.  On examination, however, the
rough plank supporting the bracket lamp looked rotten.  It had cracked
when the bracket was nailed up, and had never been mended.  This was
good; and I had a plan too, in which the lamp itself was to play a
part.  I took it from the bracket, and set it carefully on a rickety
stool which I propped against the back wall.  Then I whispered to Don:
"Now for it!  If I break through, I'll try and get hold of that bar
across the door.  If I do, it will be another weapon: and besides, we
can make a quick dash.  Here's my revolver for you.  There's only one
cartridge in it; but nobody else knows that.  And here's a knife I
stole upstairs.  I'll have the iron staple and chain which will make a
good killing, and the bar too, if we're in luck."

"They may shoot through the partition when they find what we're up to,"
said Don.

"They haven't got their precious secret yet!" I reminded him.  "They'll
try and take us alive, and we'll give them a hot time doing it!"

To weaken the cracked plank, I wrenched off the bracket, and had the
joy of hearing the wood tear as if a saw had bitten through.  Then I
dealt blow after blow on the wounded spot, and when the wood began to
give I flung my weight against it.  The noise drowned lesser sounds,
but I was conscious of a babble of voices like the chatter of angry
monkeys.  Down went the upper half of the broken plank, and the one
next it gave way.  It was close to the door, and reaching out an arm I
found the bar.  Luckily it was held by a pair of wooden horns, for had
it been slipped into rings I could not have succeeded.  As it was a
Chinaman jabbed at my hand with a knife: but I surprised him with a
smashing blow over the eyes, and seized the bar before he came at me
again.  Instantly I had it out of the sockets, the door (which Don had
unlatched) fell open, and I burst through like a whirlwind, with him
behind me, carrying the lamp I'd yelled to him to bring.

Half a dozen Chinamen stood lined up to beat us back.  Two with
pistols, two armed with axes, and the one I had tackled brandishing his
carving-knife.  I went for the pair with the pistols.  My iron bar
cracked a shaved head like an egg-shell, and broke the hand of his
mate.  One dropped his weapon without a groan, the other let his fall
with a yelp: and Don, unexpectedly darting forward, snatched up both
the pistols.  Thrusting one into my free hand he kept the other.  We
were thus doubly armed, and together made a rush for the stairs, I
keeping my eyes open for a surprise attack from my late guide.

At the foot of the steps, I let Don lead with my revolver and the big
pistol, while I backed up stair by stair, keeping off the four Chinamen
who were still intact.  It seemed too good to be true that we were to
get away so easily.  Perhaps, I thought, the tug-of-war would come on
the floor above: but it was the enemy's game to finish us before we
gained a higher level.  Here, the sound of shots could not reach the
street; and the witnesses of the fight were so besotted with their
drug, so lost to decency, that even if they woke to see strange doings,
all would be woven with their dreams.  Above, there was more to fear;
some of the clients were still alive to human feeling: they might take
our part.  An alarm might reach the police.  Why then, if Rameses were
the hidden enemy, did he let his best chance go by?  Almost
subconsciously I asked myself these questions, and half way up the
stairs, my answer came.  Men shielded with mattresses flung themselves
upon us from above.  They in turn were pushed forward by others and Don
and I fell back.  I tried to use the iron bar like a battering ram, but
the weight I struggled against was too great.  I stumbled, with Don on
top of me; there was a sound of shouting, and suddenly the lights went
out.  I struggled in darkness with unseen enemies, as in a nightmare.

      *      *      *      *      *

Two storeys above, in the restaurant, Irene Allendale sat pretending to
eat, and glancing at her watch until she lost patience.  It occurred to
her that she had been a fool--that the woman she waited for might have
arrived before her, might already be in the little private room, dining
with John Hasle.  She sprang up and on a furious impulse flung open the
door which she had so long watched in vain.  To her astonishment the
room was empty.

This seemed a miracle; for she knew that John Hasle had gone in and
hadn't come out.  As she stood staring at the empty room which seemed
to have no second exit, the Chinese proprietor came to her with a
threatening air.  "You do what we no 'low this place," he said
bullyingly.  "That plivate loom.  You no pay plivate loom.  You no
light look in.  You give me five dolahs you' dinnah, and you go 'way.
We no like spies.  You go, if you no want I call p'lice."

Already hysterical, Irene lost her head.  "How dare you talk of
police!" she cried.  "_I_ will call the police!  You've very likely
murdered a friend of mine here and hidden his body."

The man had threatened her in a low voice.  She threatened him at the
top of her lungs.  The diners at little tables jumped to their feet.
The Chinaman tried to catch her by the veil as she darted to the door,
but only pulled off her motor bonnet and loosened her hair, which
tumbled over her shoulders.  In an instant the place was in an uproar.
An American in defence of a beautiful woman knocked the Chinaman down.
A policeman passing the restaurant window blew his whistle, and had
hardly dashed in before he had a couple of comrades at his heels.

Nobody knew quite what had happened, but Lady Allendale gasped the word
"Murder!" and pointed to the open door of the private room.  In jumped
two of the policemen, while the third tried to restore order in the
restaurant.  A glance under the table in the little dining-room showed
that no corpse lay hidden there, but the lovely lady's persistence put
the idea of a secret entrance into their heads.  One of them thumped
with his fist on the picture of the Chinese hunter.  The hollow sound
suggested a space behind.  An experienced hand passed over the bamboo
frame found a spring, and the panel slid back.  Somehow the cry of
"Murder!" started by Irene flew from mouth to mouth.  More policemen
appeared, and Europeans who had been peacefully dining in the
restaurant reinforced the courageous pair who had sprung through the
opening behind the picture.  So the rescue-party reached us in the nick
of time, policemen's lanterns lighting up the darkness, revealing
stealthy flitting forms that would escape at any price, and a mass of
men struggling under and above a pile of mattresses.

My first thought (after I had seen that Don was safe) rushed to
Rameses.  But the tall Chinaman with the long dark eyes was not among
the prisoners.  That night (the police gleefully informed me later)
Doctor Rameses was engaged in giving a lecture at his own house, and
could not possibly have been in Chinatown.  As usual, he had known how
to save himself; and it was only long after that I learned the
remarkable way in which he invariably established an alibi.


My hope for the reconciliation of Don and Irene was fulfilled even
before the overwhelming proof of his truth was obtained by finding the
tobacco-pouch intact, still hidden inside the seat of the ancient taxi
whose number Don had never forgotten.  The man who had driven it the
night of the attack had been discharged, and could not be found.
Hanson, too, contrived to elude the vigilance of the police, and
Pauline passionately denied all knowledge of him.  She was watched when
Lady Allendale sent her away, but returned quietly to Europe, while
Irene remained in New York to help nurse Donald back to health.  With
Hanson and his accomplice of the taxi missing, and the Master Mind past
pursuit, it was impossible to clear up the mystery of the corpse found
floating in the East River.  But after all, that mattered only to the
police, now that Captain Sir Donald Allendale was alive and safe, and
happier than he had been for years.

The day that Irene and he made up their differences, she sent for me.
"You won't tell Don that I said I hated him and threw his picture on
the floor, will you?" she asked me piteously.

"Of course not!" I assured her.

"Ah, if I could atone!" she sighed.

"You have atoned.  You saved our lives, and----"

"Oh, but you don't know all.  If you did, you'd loathe me."

"I can think of nothing which would make me loath you, Lady Allendale."

"I--made Miss Odell believe--that--that--I can't tell you _what_!
But--never mind.  I've written to her now.  I've confessed that it was
a lie.  If you wouldn't press me with questions, but just wait to hear
from her, you'd be an _angel_, Lord John."

How long I could have remained an angel at that price I'm not sure.
But a letter came to me from Maida next day to say that she had decided
_not_ to become a life member of the Grey Sisterhood.



EPISODE VI

THE CLUE IN THE AIR

If I had been fighting my own battle, not Maida's, against Doctor
Rameses, I might have sometimes admired his cleverness.  There seemed
to be no way of catching him.

The police theory was that some person, not Rameses, took advantage of
the "philanthropist's" conspicuous appearance to commit crimes in a
disguise resembling his peculiarities.  This, they thought, might be
done not only as a means of escaping detection, but with the object of
blackmail.  My theory was different.  I believed that Rameses had a
confederate enough like him in looks to deceive an audience assembled
for one of his lectures, or patients undergoing his treatment.

I did not hesitate to assert this opinion, hoping to provoke the man to
open attack.

After the affair of the opium den, he lay low.  Nothing happened in
which, by any stretching of probabilities, he could have had a hand.
Perhaps, thought I, he had learned that I was a hard nut to crack!
Two-thirds of the time for which Maida had promised herself to the Grey
Sisterhood passed.  Her doubts of me had been swept away, and I hoped
to find at the end of the year that I hadn't waited in vain.  Now and
then I saw, or believed that I saw, light on the mystery of Maida's
antecedents.  Altogether I was happier than I had been and I was
serving my country's interests while I served my own.

I had been ordered to buy desirable new types of aeroplanes, and
luckily got hold of some good ones.  The "story" of my mission suddenly
appeared in the newspapers, and interest in my old exploits as a flying
man were revived embarrassingly.  I was "paragraphed" for a few days
when war tidings happened to be dull; and to my surprise received an
invitation to demonstrate my "stunt" of looping a double loop at a new
aviation park, opened on Long Island.  The exhibition resulted in
another compliment.  I was asked to instruct a class of young aviators,
and was officially advised by the British Ambassador to accept.  I did
accept: and was given a "plane" and a hangar of my own; but I kept on
my suite in the hotel near Sisterhood House, starting at an early hour
most mornings to motor to the aviation ground.

After a few weeks of this, a big aviation meeting took place, and when
my part in it was over I found myself holding quite a reception in my
hangar.  Friends and strangers had kind things to say: and while I
explained new features of my 'plane to some pretty women, I saw a
prettier woman gazing wistfully at me between hats.

Her face was familiar.  I remembered that tremulous, wistful smile of
eyes and lips, which (the thought flashed through my head) would be
fine stock-in-trade for an actress.  Still, for the life of me, I
couldn't recall the girl's name or whether we had ever really met,
until her chance came to dash into the breach made by disappearing
plumes and feathers.  She seized the opportunity with a promptness that
argued well for her bump of decision: but she was helped to success by
the tallest, thinnest, brightest-eyed young man I had ever seen.

"You've forgotten me, Lord John!" the girl reproached me.  "I'm Helen
Hartland.  Does that name bring back anything?"

"Of course!" I answered, remembering where and how I had met Helen
Hartland.  She had made her debut on the stage several years ago in a
curtain-raiser of mine, my first and last attempt at playwriting "on my
own."  Her part had been a small one, but she had played it well and
looked lovely in it.  I had congratulated her.  When the run ended, she
had asked for introductions to people I knew in the theatrical world,
and I had given them.  She had written me a few letters, telling of
engagements she had got (nothing good unfortunately) and wanting me to
see her act.  I had never been able to do so; but I had sent her
flowers once on a first night.

Not trusting to my recollection, she reminded me of these things, and
introduced the tall, thin, bright-eyed young man.

"You must have heard of Charlie Bridges, the California Birdman, as
everybody calls him!" she said.  And then went on to explain, as if she
didn't want their relations misunderstood: "We met on the ship coming
over, and Mr. Bridges was _so_ kind!  Our steamer chairs were together,
and he lent me a copy of _Sketch_ with a picture of him in it!  Wasn't
it funny, there was a picture of _you_, too, and I mentioned knowing
you?  Next, it came out that he was bringing a letter of introduction
to you from a friend of yours at home.  We landed only two days ago.  I
was so happy, for I've had hard luck for months, and I thought I was
falling into a ripping engagement.  But it was a fraud--the _queerest_
fraud!  I can't understand it a bit.  I want to tell you all about it
and get your advice.  Mr. Bridges brought me to the meeting here.  It
_was_ nice of him.  But now I've paid him back, haven't I, putting him
in touch with you?"

Charlie Bridges listened to the monologue with varying emotions, as I
could see in his face which was ingeniously expression-ful.  Evidently
he had fallen in love with Helen Hartland, and was not pleased to stand
still listening to protestations of gratitude for small past favours
from me.  She realised his state of feeling as well as I did, perhaps
better, being a woman: and what her motive in exciting him to jealousy
was, I couldn't be sure.  Maybe she wished to bring him to the point
(though he looked eager to impale himself upon it!), maybe she simply
didn't care how he felt, and wanted him to understand this once for
all: or possibly it amused her to play us off against each other.

In any case, I put myself out to be pleasant to Bridges, who seemed a
nice fellow, and was, I knew, a smart aviator.  He had been in France
at the time of my accident, and had not returned to America since then.
He had news from London and Paris to give me, and even if Helen
Hartland had not insisted, we should have struck up a friendship.

I invited them to have food with me at the brand new Aviation Park
Hotel (as it called itself), saying that we'd "feed" in the roof-garden
restaurant, of which the proprietors were proud.  Bridges hesitated,
possibly disliking to accept hospitality from the hated rival: but as
Helen said "yes," rather than leave her to my tender mercies, the poor
chap followed suit.

The hotel had been run up in next to no time, to catch aviation "fans,"
and the roof-garden was a smart idea, as patrons could sit there eating
and drinking, and see the flying at the same time.  It was small, but
nicely arranged, partly glassed in, partly open, with a "lift" to rush
dishes up from the kitchen (this was practically concealed with
trellis-work covered with creepers trying to grow in pots), and a low
wall or parapet with flowers planted in a shallow strip of earth.  The
weather was fine, so we chose a table in the open, for our late
luncheon.  My place--with Helen at my right, and Bridges opposite us
both--was close to the parapet, so close that I could peer over a row
of pink geraniums, to the newly-sodded lawn and gravelled paths below.
As it happened I did peer while we waited for our oysters,
sub-consciously attracted perhaps by the interest an elderly waiter was
taking in someone or somebody down there.  I was just in time to see a
face look up, not to me but to the waiter.  Instantly the head ducked,
presenting to my eyes only the top of a wide-brimmed soft hat of black
felt--an old-fashioned hat.

"By Jove!" I said to myself, and had to beg Helen's pardon for losing a
remark of hers: for that quick, snap-shot glance had shown me features
like those of the priceless Rameses.

"Now, what can _he_ be doing here--if it is he?" I wondered.  It was
absurd to fancy that he might bribe a waiter to poison my food, and so
rid himself of me once for all.  No: poisoning--anyhow at second
hand--wasn't in Rameses' line.  Besides, his waiter wasn't my waiter,
which would complicate the plot for a neat murder.  As the man walked
away (I still watching) his back was not like that of Rameses, if I had
ever seen the real Rameses.  The police thought I had not.  I thought I
had: but the picture in my mind was of a person erect and
distinguished: this figure was slouching and common.

I was not, however, to be caught napping.  I called to the waiter who
now, instead of looking down to the lawn, was picking dead leaves off
the pink geraniums.  "That was Doctor Rameses of New York, wasn't it?"
I fired at him, staring into his anemic Austrian face.  It did not
change, unless to drop such little expression as it had worn.  Utter
blankness must mean complete innocence or extreme subtlety.  I could
hardly credit the fellow with the latter.  "Doctor Ra--mps?" he echoed.
"Who--where, sir?"

"Down below: the man you were looking at," I explained, still fixing
him with a basilisk eye.

He shook his head.  "I wasn't lookin' at no man, sir," he protested.
"I was lookin' at nothin' at all."

Meanwhile the slouch hat and slouching figure had disappeared into the
crowd which still ringed the aviation ground.  I abandoned the inquest,
and turned my attention to Helen and Bridges.

As we lunched, I learned the history of Helen's trip to America, and
the "fraud" she had spoken of as "queer."  It seemed that, a few days
after the suburban theatre she was acting in had closed, she received a
long cable message from New York.  A man signing himself "William
Morgan, Manager Excelsis Motion Picture Corporation" offered her the
"lead" in a forthcoming production.  He explained expensively that he
had seen her act and thought her ideal for the part.  She was to have
six months' certain engagement with a salary of a hundred dollars a
week, and her dresses and travelling expenses were to be paid by the
management.  She was to reply by wire, and if she accepted, five
hundred dollars would be advanced to her by cable.

The address given, "29, Vandusen Street, New York," did not sound
"swell" to an English actress who vaguely thought of Broadway and Fifth
Avenue as being the only streets "over there."  Still, the promise of
an advance gave an air of bona-fides, and Helen had answered "Yes.
Start on receipt of money."

By return, the money came, and the girl took the first ship available,
telegraphing again to Mr. Morgan.  She expected him to meet her at the
docks, but he "never materialised," and "if it hadn't been for Mr.
Bridges she didn't know what she would have done!"  Bridges it was who
took her in a taxi to 29, Vandusen Street, which address proved to be
that of a tobacconist in a small way of business.  There she was told
that a man named William Morgan had paid for the privilege of receiving
"mail," but only a couple of telegrams had come.  He had called for
them, but had not been seen since.  The proprietor of the shop vowed
that he knew nothing of Morgan.  The man had walked in one day, bought
a box of expensive cigars, and made the arrangement mentioned.  Bridges
inquired "what he was like," but the tobacconist shook his head dully.
Morgan looked like everybody else, neither old nor young, fair nor
dark, fat nor lean.  If you met him once, you couldn't be sure you
would know him again.

"I've three hundred and fifty dollars left," Helen said at last, "all I
have in the world, for I was stoney-broke when the cable came.  Of
course I can't live on that money long.  But as I'm here, I shall stop
and try to get something to do.  I'm puzzled to death, though, why
'Morgan'--whoever he is--picked _me_ out, or why it was worth his while
to send a hundred pounds and then never turn up at the ship."

"It does seem odd," I agreed.  "He may have been scared off from
meeting you--or arrested.  However, you'd better be careful what
acquaintances you make."

"I _want_ to be careful," the girl said.  "But I _must_ find work.  And
I can't do that without making some acquaintances, can I?--whether
they're dangerous or not!  Unless--oh, Lord John, if you could _only_
put me in the way of an engagement, no matter how small.  I've heard
your play was a great success.  You must know a lot of managers over
here and--

"I don't," I answered her.  "My activities lately haven't been in
theatres!  I'm afraid----"  I was going on, but stopped suddenly.  She
had said "an engagement no matter how small."  I would take her at her
word!

"You've thought of something for me!" she exclaimed, while Bridges
sulked because he numbered no theatrical potentates among his friends.

"I'm almost ashamed to suggest it," I said, "but I could get you a
'job' of a sort here.  The proprietor of this hotel and his wife (good
creatures and ambitious to cut a dash in the fashionable world) want a
pretty girl--a 'real actress'--to sing and recite in the roof-garden
these fine summer evenings.  I don't suppose you----"

"Oh, yes I _would_!  I'd love to be here.  It would be _fun_!" Helen
broke in.  "I adore flying; and I should see _you_ often--and Mr.
Bridges too, perhaps.  Anyhow, it would do to go on with till I got
something else, if they'd pay me a 'living wage.'"

"I'll be your agent, sing your praises and screw up your price," I
imprudently volunteered.  Imprudently, because having arranged matters
between the hotel people and Miss Hartland, I found her gratitude
oppressive.  She said it was gratitude; yet she seemed to think that I
had got her placed at the Aviation Park Hotel in order to enjoy her
society.  This was not the case.  Helen Hartland was pretty, with
charming ways for those who liked them: but I was in the state of mind
which sees superlative beauty and charm in one woman only.  Because I
was separated from Maida Odell by force of circumstances while she
remained with the Grey Sisterhood, it was irritating to see other girls
flitting about free to do as they pleased.  It bored me when I had to
lunch or dine at the hotel to find Helen always on hand with "something
to tell," or my "advice to ask."

Whether the girl had taken a fancy to me, or whether she was amusing
herself by exciting Bridges' jealousy, I didn't know: I knew only that
I was bothered, and that Bridges was miserable.

Helen lived in the hotel from the first, partly through kindness on the
part of her employers, partly perhaps because they thought her presence
an attraction.  They gave her a decent salary--more than she had ever
earned in the small parts she'd played at home: she dressed well, and
made a "hit" with her sweet soprano voice, her really glorious
yellow-brown hair, and that wistful smile of hers.  Next door to the
best and biggest bedroom in the house was a small room which connected
with the larger one, and could be used as a dressing-room.  Nobody ever
engaged it for that purpose, however, and Mrs. Edson, the landlady,
suggested that Miss Hartland should occupy the little room until it was
wanted.  The girl described it to me as delightful.  There were double
doors between it and the large room adjoining, so that one wasn't
disturbed by voices on the other side.  There was also a door opening
close to the service stairway which went up to the roof-garden.  This
was convenient for Helen, before and after her songs and recitations.
She bought little knick-knacks to make her quarters pretty and, with a
patent folding-bed and a screen or two was able to ask her friends in,
as if she were the proud possessor of a private sitting-room.

I made excuses instead of calls; but one day I was lured in to see
Charlie Bridges (who by then had a hangar on the grounds) do his
wonderful "stunt," considered by the Edsons a fine advertisement for
their hotel.  It was not, however, for purposes of advertisement that
the California Birdman performed the "stunt" in question, but rather
for love of Helen Hartland.  In the small, smart "one seater" which he
was using, he would dive from a height, swoop past Helen's open window
and throw in a bunch of roses.  It was said that his aim was invariably
true, a more difficult feat than might be supposed: anyhow the day that
I was there to witness the exhibition it was a brilliant success.
Whether by accident or design the flowers hit me on the head, and if
Charlie were really jealous he accomplished a neat revenge.

"I could see you as plain as a pikestaff sitting there," he said
afterwards.  "Oh, I don't mean the 'plain' or the 'pikestaff' in a
nasty way, Lord John.  I only mean I recognised you as I flew by."

"And Mrs. Edson too, who was with us, I suppose," I hurried to say: for
I didn't wish the boy to think that he had anything to fear from me.  I
saw from his manner, however, when we happened to meet, that he was
worried, and to give him the chance which I didn't want for myself, I
began to avoid Helen.

This course wasn't easy to steer, I found, while duty kept me often at
the aviation grounds.  She sent me notes.  I had to answer them.  She
asked me to lend her books.  I couldn't refuse.  At last she wrote a
letter, confessing that she had got into trouble about money.  Her
salary "wasn't bad, considering"; but she hadn't understood American
prices.  She'd been stupid enough to run into debt.  Would I, as her
countryman, help her out of just _one_ scrape, and she wouldn't get
into another?  Of course, Mr. Bridges would be glad to do it, but she
didn't want to take a favour from him.  I was "different."

I sent her a hundred dollars, the sum she specified, but in writing her
thanks, she "chaffed" me for not making out a cheque.  "I believe you
think me capable of trying to get a hold on you," she wrote.  Naturally
I didn't bother to reply to that taunt, but kept out of Helen's way
more persistently than before, until one afternoon Mrs. Edson
buttonholed me.  I happened to have seen Helen on her way to New York,
so I was venturing to lunch at the hotel.

"I'm worried about Miss Hartland, Lord John," she began.  "A sweet
girl, but I'm afraid she's being silly!  Do you know what she goes to
New York for so often?"

"I didn't know she did go often," I said.

"Well, she does.  She's taking lessons in hypnotism or something and I
believe she's paying a lot of money.  A circular came to her about a
course of lectures, claiming that the _will_ could be strengthened, and
any object in life accomplished.  That caught poor Helen.  She simply
ate up the lectures, and became a pupil of the man who gave them.
That's why her salary's gone as soon as she gets it--and sooner!  Poor
child, I'm sorry.  The thing she _ought_ to want, she won't take.  The
thing she does want she can't have, if she spends every cent trying to
gain 'hypnotic power.'"

"What does she so violently want, if it's permitted to ask?" I inquired.

Mrs. Edson looked at me in a queer, sidewise way.  "You'd only be cross
if I told you," she said.  So instead of repeating the question, I
asked another.  "Who is the professor of hypnotism who gives Miss
Hartland lessons?"

"I can't remember," the landlady replied.  "I saw the circular, but
that was some time ago, and I've forgotten.  Now, the child won't talk
about him."

The thought of Rameses sprang into my mind.  I recalled the mystery of
Helen's summons to America.  Could it be possible that Doctor Rameses
had wanted a "cat's-paw" for some new chestnuts to be pulled out of the
fire?  What would Helen Hartland's poor little paw avail him for that
work?  I went on wondering.  But the ways of the Egyptian were past
finding out--or had been, up to date.  It was within the bounds of
possibility that thinking to compromise me, he had sought in England a
girl--preferably an actress--whom I had known; within the same bounds
that he might have induced her to cross the sea, in the hope that, once
on this side, we might play his game.  So far-fetched an idea would
never have come into my head, had not Mrs. Edson mentioned the
circular, and the professor of hypnotism.  But once in, I couldn't get
it out.  I determined to take the next chance to catechise Helen.

It arrived by accident, or I thought so, believing myself a free agent;
instead of which I was a fly blundering into a spider's web.

From Maida Odell and from the elderly waiter who had looked over the
parapet at a man in a broad-brimmed hat, I have since obtained threads
which show how the web was woven: but some disastrous days were to pass
first.

During this time I heard nothing from Maida, but I had memories to
comfort me, and it was good to feel how few miles were between us.
Strange that, few as they were, no telepathic thrill was able to warn
me of what was happening behind the high garden walls of the Sisterhood
House!

Maida has told me since, how the Head Sister called her one day for a
talk.  "I want to make a little journey and try to do a little good,"
the grey-veiled lady said in the deep voice which Maida had once
thought sweet as the tones of a 'cello.  "I should like you to go with
me, but--there is a reason why perhaps you would rather I took someone
else.  Still, I feel bound to give you the choice, as you are my
dearly-loved and trusted friend through _everything_."

"Why should I want you to take someone else, Sister?" Maida asked.

"Because--a man who would steal you away from us if he could, is often
at the place where we must go.  He visits the young English girl I am
asked to help; and I fear that his interest in her is not for her good.
Now, dear child, don't be angry with me for saying this!  I don't ask
you to believe.  I tell you only what I hear from my philanthropic
friend in New York who enables us to do some of our best work.  I wish
he would let his name be mentioned, but even his right hand is never
allowed to know what the left hand doeth!  In any case the girl is in
difficulties, as this doer of noble works hears from one of his
assistants.  She is an actress who sings in a gay, rowdy sort of hotel
frequented by sportsmen and their friends.  I am requested to offer her
a home here, if she chooses to come, and eventually to send her back to
England at the expense of the Sisterhood funds.  Now you see why I
spoke.  You shall go or stay, as you wish."

Once Maida had thought all the Head Sister's precepts and acts beyond
criticism.  But things had passed in Sisterhood House which had
slightly--almost imperceptibly--broken the crystal surface of perfect
trust.  She found herself wondering: "Why does Sister advise me not to
think of Lord John?  Why does she hint horrid things of him, yet take
me where we may meet?"

There was no answer to this question in Maida's mind, but she said that
she would go with the Head Sister on the "mission": and in her heart
she hoped that we might meet.  She had been tried and tested before,
and again she was loyal in thought.

The conversation between those two at Sisterhood House took place the
day after my talk with Mrs. Edson.  And while Maida and the Head Sister
discussed the short journey they planned to make, I was probably
dashing off a hasty letter to Helen Hartland.  "I want to see you," I
wrote, "about something rather important.  Please send a line in
answer, and tell me at what time I may call to-morrow afternoon."

In answer to this, Helen replied that she would see me at five o'clock.
"I'm very unhappy," she added.  "I know you want me to go back to
England, and I believe you're _afraid_ of me.  I think you are cruel,
but I'm thankful you're coming to see me of your own free will."

I should have been dumbfounded at this morbid nonsense, if the thought
of Rameses hadn't been haunting my mind.  If he were the power behind
the throne in this business, he might have stuffed the girl with false
ideas about me, or else actually have hypnotised her to write in this
unbalanced fashion.

I had been in my hangar, or flying, most of the day, and came to the
hotel half an hour before the appointment, to make myself tidy for a
call.  Looking out from the window I saw a grey automobile flash by and
slow down as if to stop at the door.  Whether it did stop or no, I
couldn't be sure, as I could not see so far; nor should I have been
interested had the thought not flashed through my head that it looked
like the car which belonged to Sisterhood House.

Nothing seemed less likely than that it should come to the Aviation
Park Hotel: and there were many autos of that make and colour on Long
Island.  I thought no more about it, little dreaming of the surprise
Doctor Rameses' genius had prepared for Maida and for me.  Now I ask
myself where was my prophetic soul wandering at that moment?  Perhaps
it was searching for Maida: but it would only have to look close at
hand to see her walking in to the hotel in the adorably becoming
costume of the Grey Sisterhood.  The inevitable Head Sister was with
her, of course: but not in command, according to custom.  Even before
starting, she had complained of a headache, and Maida had suggested
putting off the expedition: but the sufferer refused such
self-indulgence.  During the drive to the hotel, she was speechless
with pain, and Maida, who had never seen the strong, vital directress
in such a condition, was anxious.  "I'm afraid we must take a room in
the hotel for a while, where I may lie down until I'm able to see Miss
Hartland," the Head Sister said as the grey car drew up at the door.
Maida was thankful for this concession, but surprised that she should
be told, in a faint voice, to engage the best room in the house.  The
Head Sister was usually spartan in her ways, setting an example of
self-sacrifice to all those under her care.

Maida obeyed without comment, however, and the big room adjoining Helen
Hartland's, with the double doors between, was given to the two ladies
of the Grey Sisterhood.

These happenings--and certain developments which followed quickly--I
learned long afterwards from Maida's own lips, when we were putting
"two and two together."  From the elderly Austrian who acted as a
waiter in the roof-garden I forced another part of the same story,
hearing from him that he had been one of Rameses' many servants.  This
I succeeded in doing too late to pull myself out of the pit which was
waiting (at this very moment) for me to tumble into it.  Nevertheless
there was satisfaction later in knowing that my researches had never
strayed from the right track.

It had been raining that day, I remember--an unlucky thing for the
aviation "fans," come from far and near to see a new way of looping the
loop demonstrated by two American pupils of mine, and myself: a lucky
thing for the most daring experiment ever attempted by Doctor Rameses.
People were walking about between nights, with umbrellas held low over
their heads to protect them the better from a straight, steady
downpour.  Thus, roofed with wet silk domes they could see little
except their own feet and each other.  It was only when something
happened aloft that it was worth while to unroof themselves: and at
such moments all attention was concentrated on the sky.  The air-show
was a good one.  Soaked enthusiasts rushed to the hotel for a "quick
lunch" and drinks and rushed away again, or congregated on the roof
with sandwiches in their hands.  Waiters in the roof-restaurant walked
with chins up: and there was a moment when one of their number--old
Anton, the Austrian--was able to lure even the kitchen staff, cooks and
all, out of doors for a few minutes.  By a weird decree of fate, it was
a flight of mine that they were invited to desert duty in order to
witness!

While the kitchen was empty and the door open, with men's backs turned
to it, Anton had given a signal.  A mackintoshed figure slipped in, and
finding the coast clear, made for the food elevator, which was ready to
mount.  Inside there was room for a man to crouch.  Anton, darting into
the kitchen, sent the lift up: then darted out again to tell the cook
and cook's assistant a spicy anecdote about me!

There was no stop for the elevator between kitchen and roof.  It was a
slow traveller, and as the open front rose above the restaurant floor,
the crouching man within could see at a glance what hope he had of
running the gauntlet.  The moment could not have been better chosen.  I
was in the act of doubling my loop, and everyone on the roof--guests
and waiters--had crowded to the flower-fringed parapet.  The lift was
artistically concealed by an arbour of white painted trellis-work, as I
have explained; but sharp eyes could peer between the squares overhung
with climbing plants, and see all that went on upon the other side.
The crouching figure crept out, rose, and precipitated itself down the
service stairway whose railed-in wall was also masked by the trellis
arbour.

It could not have been long after this that I finished my work for the
day, and came to the hotel, as I have said, to keep my appointment with
Helen Hartland; but meanwhile there had been time for the man in the
high-collared mackintosh coat to finish _his_ work also.  He had not,
of course, ventured to try returning by the way he came, but had run
down the service stairs and walked out of the house by a side entrance.
Thanks to the rain and the umbrellas, and the call of the sky, he
escaped, as he entered, without being seen.  If Anton had not been
compelled to betray him later, the mystery of the Aviation Park Hotel
would never have been solved.

Before I went (as requested in Helen's last letter) to knock at her
door, a new cause of excitement had arisen.  Charlie Bridges had
crashed to earth in his machine, close to the hotel, and crowds had
collected round the fallen aeroplane.  Those who saw the fall, were
able to explain why the 'plane was scarcely injured.  Bridges had been
swooping at the time, so close to earth that the drop amounted to
nothing: but for some curious reason he had lost control of the
machine.  He was far more seriously hurt than he ought to have been,
for not having been strapped in, he had slid from his seat somehow, and
been caught under the machine.  Unconscious and suffering from
concussion the "California Birdman" was carried into a ground floor
room of the hotel, while a "hurry call" was sent over the telephone for
the nearest doctor.

All this happened unknown to me, for the room in which I was dressing
was on the opposite side of the house.  Any shouts I heard, or running
men I saw through the window, were only part of the ordinary show for
me.  At precisely five o'clock I went my way through various corridors
and knocked at Helen's door, in ignorance of Charlie Bridges'
misfortune.

The door stood slightly ajar, as if Helen had left it so purposely for
me: but no answer followed my knock.  I tapped again more loudly, and
the door fell open at my touch.  No one was in the room; but close to
the window, on the floor, I saw a bunch of crimson roses, wet with rain.

"Bridges!" I said to myself, with a smile.

For a moment I hesitated outside the door: yet rather than go away and
miss the girl when she arrived (I imagined that she had run up to the
roof), or lurk in the corridor to be stared at by passing servants, I
decided to walk into the room and wait.  Probably, I thought, this was
what Helen had meant, in leaving the door ajar.

If the door of the next room had opened at that instant, and Maida had
looked out, the history of the wretched weeks which followed might have
been different for us both.  But the door remained closed, and no
instinct told me who was behind it.  No one saw me walk into Helen
Hartland's room; and therefore no one could tell at what hour I had
entered.

I did not look out of the window, or I should have seen the fallen
aeroplane which must still have been on the ground.  I left the
flowers--red as their giver's blood--lying on the floor for Helen to
find when she came: but minutes passed and Helen did not come.

I sat down in a chair drawn up by the table and glanced at a couple of
books.  Both had been lent by me at Helen's request, and had my name on
the flyleaf.  I laid them down again impatiently on the gaudy cotton
tablecloth; and took out my watch.  Ten minutes after five! ... Soon it
was the quarter past.  I was resolving impatiently to scrawl a line on
a visiting-card, and go, when I heard a slight noise, as if someone in
the adjoining room were unlocking a door.  I knew from Helen's
description that there were two doors, with a distance of at least
twelve inches between.

"Can she be using that other room, too?" I wondered: when suddenly
there rang out a scream of horror, in a woman's voice.  It seemed to me
that it was like Maida's, though that must be a mere obsession! but I
sprang to my feet, dragging off the tablecloth and bringing down on the
floor books, papers, and a vase of flowers.  My chair fell over also:
and all this confusion in the room was afterwards used against me.

I rushed to the door leading out to the corridor--which I had closed on
entering--and found a swarm of people, guests and waiters, already
pouring down the service stairs from the roof-garden just above.
Everyone saw me come out of Helen Hartland's room: but even if they had
not seen, there was my hat with my initials in it, on the floor with
the rest of the fallen things, to testify to my late presence.

As we crowded the narrow corridor, the door of the "best room" whence
the scream had come, was flung wide open, and to my amazement, Maida
Odell--in her grey costume of the Sisterhood--rushed out pale as a dead
girl.

"Murder!  A woman murdered!" she whispered rather than cried, as one
strives voicelessly to shriek in a dream.  Just then she saw me, and
held out both hands as if for help.  I pushed past everyone else and
got to her: but others surged forward and she and I gave way before the
crowd.  A dozen men at least must have jostled into the room after us;
but at the instant I hardly knew that they were there.  I saw a big
woman in grey drawing a veil closely round her face as she rose from a
cushioned lounge: and I saw lying on the floor the body of Helen
Hartland with a thin stiletto sticking in her breast--a stiletto I had
lent her to use as a paper knife.  I recognised it instantly in
redoubled horror, though not thinking then of consequences for myself.

By this time a policeman--one of those always present on the aviation
grounds--forced his way through the crowd massed in the corridor.  He
got rid in summary fashion of everyone, except the two ladies,
occupants of the room, myself (because I seemed to know and have some
business with them) and the landlord.  Another policeman who followed
close on his heels, guarded the doors of the adjoining rooms, and
doubtless a third busied himself in sending off frantic telephone calls.

Helen Hartland lay on her back on the pale grey carpet stained with her
blood; and Maida told tremulously how the tragedy had been discovered.
The Head Sister, feeling ill, had lain down on a sofa not far from the
door of communication between this room and the next.  She had fancied
a noise on the other side, and asked Maida to try if the door were
fastened.  Strangely, it was not (though Edson cut in to protest that
it, and all other communicating doors were invariably locked).  The
door had opened as the handle turned, and to the girl's horror the
figure of a dead woman--standing squeezed in between the two doors--had
fallen into the room.

Hardly had the faltering explanation reached this point when a doctor
arrived--the man who had been in the hotel, attending Charlie Bridges.
He examined the body, pronounced that life had not been extinct for
half an hour, and thought from the position of the weapon, that death
had been caused by another hand than Helen's own.

There was, of course, no difficulty in identifying the girl, for the
landlord and I were both on the spot retained to give evidence.  It
soon came out that Helen Hartland had told Mrs. Edson she expected a
visit from Lord John Hasle, and I without hesitation admitted making
it.  The Head Sister chimed in, saying that she and her friend had come
for the express purpose of seeing Miss Hartland and persuading her to
leave "her unsuitable position."  The adjoining room was entered, for
it was found that the second of the double doors was unlocked.  The
confusion was remarked, and silence was maintained when I told how in
jumping up at the sound of the scream I had thrown down a chair and
pulled off a tablecloth.

The books with my name written in them were handled by the policeman
who had taken charge, and by his superior who soon arrived on the
scene.  Letters of mine--albeit innocent ones--were unearthed.  A few
drops of blood were discovered on the strawberry-coloured carpet
between the table and the door, as well as between the double doors, in
the narrow space into which the body had been thrust.  Worse than all,
my monogram was seen to adorn the stiletto paper-knife; and later (when
I had been rather reluctantly arrested on suspicion) the last letter
Helen had written turned up in my pocket.  I had slipped it in and
forgotten about it; but with so many damaging pieces of evidence that
capped the climax.  The girl accused me in so many words of wishing to
get her out of the way, to send her back to England.

It seemed like a nightmare, and a stupid nightmare: one of those
nightmares when you know you are awake yet cannot rouse yourself: I,
John Hasle, brother and heir to the Marquis of Haslemere, lay under
strong suspicion of having murdered a pretty little third-rate actress
who had become troublesome to my "lordship"--Helen Hartland.

Everything was against me, nothing apparently for me: yet I was almost
insolently sure that my innocence would prove itself, until the lawyer
my friends engaged in my defence showed me how seriously he took the
matter.

"You're in a bad fix," he said, "unless we can find someone to prove
that you weren't in that room long enough to have killed the girl and
hidden her between the doors.  You see, that would have been a smart
dodge on the murderer's part, putting her there.  If the next room
hadn't happened to be occupied (it seldom is, the landlady says) the
man who did the trick would have had plenty of time to get away before
the crime was found out.  It was an accident that there were ladies on
the other side to open the door of their room and see what was behind
it.  Your letters, your books, your stiletto----"

"It seems to me the stiletto is a proof of my innocence, not of my
guilt," I ventured.  "If I'd wanted to kill the girl, I wouldn't have
done it in a way to incriminate myself, would I?"

"Hobson's choice," said the famous James Jeckelman, shrugging his
shoulders.  "You might have been in a rage and a hurry and had to take
what there was at hand.  You couldn't have shot her, because of the
noise.  It was a stab or nothing.  No.  If we're to save you, we must
get hold of someone who _saw_."

That was easy to say, but not to do.  Not a soul came forward to state
that I had opened Helen Hartland's door at precisely five o'clock, to
find the room empty; and that at a quarter past five the girl's body
had fallen into the room next door.  Even if there had been such
evidence in my favour, it could not have freed me from suspicion.
There might have been time to murder the girl, and hide her between the
doors in less than fifteen minutes.  But it was strange that she had
not screamed.

Circumstantial evidence piled up: and the most hateful part for me was
that Maida, as well as the directress of the Grey Sisterhood, should be
called as a witness.  I writhed at the thought that Maida was involved
in the case, a case concerning the murder of a woman supposed to have
loved me "not wisely but too well."

At first I thought only of this distressing phase of the business: but
it wasn't long before I began to realise that Jeckelman had not
exaggerated.  My "position" was not to be allowed to tell in my favour,
and socialists were hot in anger against the British "lord" who thought
he could break any commandment he chose in America.

If only I had been sure how Maida felt, there might have been a rift in
the dark sky.  Could it be that her loyalty had stood this greatest
test, or had the evidence and the Head Sister's hatred done their work?
I could not tell, and day after day I saw more clearly that I might go
to my death without knowing.

The coroner's inquest had found against me: and the trial was coming on
when one day Charlie Bridges suddenly woke to consciousness.  For weeks
he had lain between life and death.  The concussion from which he
suffered was so severe that for a time he had been a mere log.  His
soul seemed to have gone out of him.  Delirium followed this state.
Then he fell into a long, sound sleep, and waking, his first words
were: "What's happened since I fell?  Have they got the man who made
Helen Hartland kill herself?"

The nurse who heard these questions thought that delirium had seized
her patient again: but the doctor, coming in at that moment, understood
that Bridges was in a normal state of mind.  He realised that every
word the sick man said might mean life or death for me.  Cautiously he
answered the question by another, speaking quietly, not to startle his
patient.  "Did Helen Hartland kill herself?  Weeks have passed since
you've been laid up, and the case was supposed to be murder."

"It was the same as murder," Bridges answered wearily.  "Nearly
everyone who knew us, knew I used to fly past her window and fling in a
bunch of flowers.  It was one of my stunts.  I could always see what
Helen was doing if she was in: and there was generally time for a
smile.  A smile's a thing quickly done.  And that was the reward I got.
This last time I saw a man standing over her in a strange way with his
hand on her forehead, for all the world as if he was hypnotising her: a
big tall man I'd never seen before.  I was so surprised that I turned
and flew back.  The fellow must have seen my flowers fall into the room
with my first go; but the second time I swooped past, Helen was
_stabbing herself_ with a kind of stiletto.  That was all I saw.  I
went queer and sick, and felt that I'd lost control.  My one thought
was to get out and save her.  I believe I must have tried to jump.
That's the last thing I remember."

When he had finished, he fell back exhausted, and had to be revived.
But there wasn't much time to waste.  Knowing the immense importance of
the statement, Doctor Graves got Bridges to repeat it as soon as he was
able.  As the words left his lips they were taken down, and then signed
by him.  Later he swore that the man he had seen with Helen was not
Lord John Hasle.

"If it had been, I'd have let him go to the chair, even if he didn't
kill her with his own hands.  I'd not have opened my mouth to help
him," Bridges said.  "I hated the fellow because Helen liked him better
than me.  But I must say he didn't seem to encourage her much.  Anyhow
I can't keep still and let an innocent man die."

When asked if he could identify the hypnotist.  Bridges was not sure.
All he could say "for certain," he persisted, was that "John Hasle was
younger and slighter and altogether a different type: there was no
chance of a mistake."

I was saved--saved by my rival, poor Charlie Bridges, the last man on
earth to whom I should have looked for help.  But then, his help didn't
precisely come from the earth: it came from the air.

I had been a fool, and I felt unworthy of the traditions I had made for
myself, not to have suspected in what manner the crime had been
committed.  Of course I had thought of Doctor Rameses.  I thought
always of Doctor Rameses!  But I had not seen any way of connecting him
with the murder of Helen Hartland, even if he were the man to whom she
had gone for lessons in "will power."  Now, I saw the way, and I
believed that at last the police would see also.  Indeed, they were
ready to see.  When Rameses' name as one of the leading "crank doctors"
of New York was earnestly brought forward by me, it was arranged that
Bridges was to be given a sight of him.  Unfortunately, however, on the
day when the California Birdman first woke from his long trance, and it
was prematurely announced in the papers that his delirium might be
followed by a return of normal consciousness, Doctor Rameses left town
for a holiday.  His servants said that he had been suffering from
nervous strain through hard work, and had been preparing for some time
to take a rest.  His favourite summer country resort was, it appeared,
the White Mountains.  He was sought there, but not found.  And I
believed that he never would be found--unless by me.

My only happy souvenir of these miserable weeks was a letter from
Maida, which I shall keep as long as I live.

"I knew from the first that you were innocent," she wrote, "and if I
had been called I intended to say so in the witness-box."



EPISODE VII

THE WATCHING EYE

"What shall I do?" I asked myself as I read a letter from Maida.

She begged a small and simple service, yet--I hesitated.

Roger Odell had begged me to look after her as well as I could in the
circumstances, during his long absence.  Those circumstances were
difficult ones: for I was not allowed to visit her at the Sisterhood
House, and she never went out unchaperoned by her "friend" the
directress.  Her wish was that I should give her the key of her
"sanctum" at Roger Odell's shut-up house in New York.  A caretaker
named Winter, one of the old servants, was in charge of the place; but
I had been appointed special guardian of the "shrine," as Maida called
this sacred room.

"Shrine" was indeed rather an appropriate name; since it contained
treasures which formed the sole link between the girl and her lost
past.  She had been brought, a child of four, by her dying mother to
the father of Roger Odell, and her sole possessions had been a couple
of miniatures, a curious Egyptian fetish, and an Egyptian mummy in a
fine, painted mummy-case.  The miniatures had been enlarged into
life-size portraits of Maida's mother and a man in the uniform of a
British officer, whom she believed to be her father.  Both portraits
hung on the wall of the "shrine," together with one of Roger Odell,
Senior.  These, with the mummy-case, were the sole contents of the room.

Roger and I had cause to think that enemies of Maida's unknown father
had followed the child and her mother to America: and that the vendetta
would not end until Maida--the last of the family--had paid with her
happiness or even with her life for the sin of some ancestor.  We had
cause to think also, that the mummy in its painted case was of
importance to them, and that they had tried in various ways to get hold
of it.  For its protection, Roger had had a clever electrical
contrivance fitted up, by means of which anyone not in the secret and
trying to touch the mummy-case would receive a violent shock.  Before
going away he had given me the plan of this mechanism, with directions
for applying the current and turning it off.  At the same time he had
handed me the key of the shrine which Maida had left with him on
departing for Long Island.

Now, she wanted this key.

"I went yesterday to my dear old home," she wrote, "to visit my
treasures.  But the shrine was locked; and Winter told me that Roger
had given you the key.  He said also that there was some kind of patent
burglar alarm which had frightened a couple of thieves away, since I
came to stay at Sisterhood House.  Is that true?  And is there danger
in opening the door?  I know I can depend upon you, when you send the
key, to make it safe for me to go in.  I'll post the key to you
afterwards, if you like--and if Roger wants you still to be troubled
with it.  Please arrange for me to pay my visit to-morrow."

It seemed that there was only one way to answer this letter: by saying
that I would arrange for the safety of the visit; and enclosing the key
in my note.  Nevertheless I hesitated.  I was afraid to send Maida the
key.

It was useless to explain to her the reasons for my seeming
boorishness.  She trusted the Head Sister.  Nothing that had happened
since she entered the Grey Sisterhood had opened the girl's eyes to the
cruel falseness of the woman, as I saw it.  Nothing, not even the
affair of Helen Hartland, had made her believe that the friend she
respected was one of the agents working for her destruction and my
elimination.  So I knew that if I refused the key I would seem a stupid
blunderer to Maida.

"If only she'd waited a few days!" I thought.  For after many
unsuccessful attempts, we (I and Paul Teano) had contrived to get an
employee--I may as well use the word "spy"--into Sisterhood House.  She
was a young but singularly intelligent girl whom Teano's wife, once
known as "Three Fingered Jenny," had lately rescued from a set of
pickpockets and "sneak thieves."  We hoped great things from "Nippy
Nance," as a protégée of the Head Sister, who did not suspect the
girl's change of heart and profession.  If she could get evidence that
the directress of the Grey Sisterhood was the leader of a criminal
gang, posing as a charitable reformer, I could not only say "I told you
so!" to the incredulous police, but I could convince Maida of her own
peril.

A few days more grace, and Nance might have been able to give us a
satisfactory report!  But I dared not delay.  I had to decide, for
Maida's letter must be answered.  My desire to please her prevailed
over prudence.  I persuaded myself that I had no right to refuse such a
request: that I must consent: that my vague fears were foolish.  I had
only to watch, and see that no harm came to Maida or to the mummy in
its painted case.

I wrote that, in loyalty to the promise I had made Roger (made for her
sake!) I couldn't leave the shrine without its "patent burglar
protection" (as she called it) over night: but I would go to the house
early in the morning and do everything necessary to ensure her safety
if she wished to touch or open the mummy-case.

"I know if you had been willing to see me there, you would have
suggested my meeting you at the house," I went on.  "As you haven't, I
daren't ask to be present: but I'll be in New York and at the Belmont
Hotel all day, expecting a word.  Will you call me up, or if not, will
you send a line by messenger to say at what hour I shall go round again
to make the "shrine" burglar proof?  I enclose the key: and perhaps you
will leave it for me with the caretaker."

Maida's letter had come to the Long Island hotel.  I sent my answer
from there by hand to Sisterhood House, where it would be taken in by a
lay sister at the gate.  The boy was ordered to wait for a reply, if
reply there were, but I thought it unlikely Maida would answer so soon.
I fancied she would consult the Head Sister, and that a response would
be delayed till the last minute.  I was mistaken, however.  My
messenger presently came back with a letter.

It was sweet, and full of gratitude for the "trouble" I was taking.  "I
am 'willing' to see you," she quoted.  "I'm more than willing!  I shall
be glad to see you.  I have _permission_ to do so.  Will you call at
Roger's house about two o'clock?  I don't know what time I shall
arrive; perhaps much earlier; but I promise not to leave until I've had
a talk with you.  I'll tell Winter to show you into Roger's study to
wait.  I shall have a companion.  But it's just possible I may be
granted a few minutes alone with my brother's best friend!"

This made me happier than I had been since the night when I fell in
love with Maida.  Nevertheless, I didn't forget the need to watch
Roger's house, from the moment that the "shrine" and the mummy-case
were released from their patent protection.  Not that I distrusted
Maida.  I believed in her as I believed in Heaven.  But she might be
deceived: and it was my business to guard her interests.

I went to the house, as I had agreed to do, early in the morning, and
not only switched off the electric current which protected the shrine
and its contents day and night, but removed the small visible parts of
the apparatus in case someone had the intention of studying the
mechanism.  I informed Winter that he might expect Miss Odell with one
of the ladies from the Grey Sisterhood, and that I would return at two
o'clock.  I then went back to the hotel where I stayed when in New
York, for I could not bear to do the necessary spying myself.  A man
from Teano's agency was engaged to watch the house, and 'phone
instantly if anyone other than the ladies in grey uniform entered; also
if one or both of these ladies went away.

No message came: and a little before two o'clock I arrived at the door.
My man, disguised as a member of the "white wings" brigade, was visible
in the distance.  I gave the signal agreed upon to mean "You can go!"
and went, as arranged, into Roger's study at the back of the house,
Winter having told me that "the ladies were upstairs."

I waited for half an hour; for three quarters: and then, growing
anxious, sought the caretaker, who had pottered down into the basement.
He was surprised at my question.  "Why, I thought the ladies was both
in the library with you!" he stammered.  "I was in the hall, where you
told me to wait.  They came down and said they were going to talk to
you.  Miss Maida's friend, the lady with the thick veil, had a telegram
to send.  She asked me to take it, and gave me something for myself.  I
supposed it was all right when I got back just now, to stop in my
quarters for a bit, as the lady said they'd be staying some time."

What a fool I had been to think, because I had arrived on the scene,
that it was safe to send the watcher away!  It was my trust of Maida
that had undone me.  I had believed so blindly in her promise not to go
without seeing me, that I had thought all danger of a trick was over.
I hadn't reflected that the enemy was clever enough to trick her at the
last minute, as well as me!

I dashed upstairs to the "shrine" found the door open and the
mummy-case gone!  This was the worst blow that could fall, because,
once the mummy-case was actually in the hands of those who had schemed
to get it, every hope of Maida's safety seemed to vanish.  In the
street, I could find no one who had seen the great painted box carried
from the house or taken away in any vehicle.  Next, I inquired at the
houses adjoining, and opposite, with no better luck: but in the shame
and confusion which obscured my mind, it appeared probable that the
Sisterhood car had taken ladies and mummy-case as swiftly as possible
to the Sisterhood House.

My own car was under repair, and I had been spinning round New York in
a taxi.  Now, I returned for a moment to my hotel, in the desperate
hope of a message from Maida.  There was nothing: but as I was hurrying
out, I met Teano.

"Hurrah, my lord!" he exclaimed.  "What luck to catch you like this!  I
thought perhaps you'd have got back from Mr. Odell's house by this
time, but if you hadn't I was going round to find you.  Is the young
lady all right?"

"Why do you ask?" I caught him up.

"Because Nance is at our flat.  She had leave for the afternoon--the
first time she's got off: a sign they trust her.  She's got a report,
my lord.  It's a blood-curdler!"

"Take me to your place and let me hear it," I said, reflecting that it
would be stupid to flash off to Long Island, when Nance's news might
save a wild goose chase.  At worst, I should lose but a few minutes.
And taxying to Teano's, I told him in a few words what a mess I'd made
of things.

"They won't have gone back to Long Island," he said excitedly.  "You'll
understand when you hear Nance and perhaps you'll have some theory."

Nance--a sharp-faced midget who would make as good a thief-catcher as
she had been a thief--was proud of her achievement.  She was on the way
to get proof of the Sisterhood's secret.  A girl had half confided in
her, and had stopped in fright; but Nance expected to prove soon that
the Grey Sisterhood was a "regular gang," associated with "high up
ones" in New York.  "There's a big boss over the whole shebang," she
said, "but he's made a bolt.  I don't know where--but I'll find out.  I
guess he's jumped the country; and I guess m'lady o' the mask (that's
what we calls the Head Sister behind her back: we all know she wears
somethin' under her veil to hide a beauty spot) will be joinin' him.
She's been sort o' gatherin' things together as if for a flit, these
last two days, but I couldn't make a break to get word to you."

Nance had more to tell, but nothing which directly concerned Maida.  We
could only draw our own deductions that the Head Sister wouldn't "flit"
unless she could take the girl.  Because Doctor Rameses had found
America too hot for him after his last plot against me, no doubt the
directress of the Grey Sisterhood had been waiting her chance to play
Ruth to his Boaz.

She had now accomplished her great coup, in securing the mummy-case
which interested Rameses; and if she'd been able to force or wheedle
Maida into breaking faith with me, she could force or wheedle her to
the ends of the world.

"Egypt!" I said aloud, as if the word had been spoken in my ear, and I
echoed it.  "These devils want to get the girl to Egypt and finish the
vendetta that began there.  What ships sail to-day?"

We learned that one was leaving for Bordeaux, and another for Naples.
Both had been due to sail in the morning, but had been delayed, owing
to the strict inspection of cargo.  Some lively telephoning followed,
but we could get no information from the agents concerning such
passengers as we described.  Nance was ordered back post-haste to
Sisterhood House in case, contrary to our theory, the pair had
returned.  Teano sent a man to the ship sailing for France; and I
myself started for the one Naples-bound, the night luggage I'd brought
from Long Island on my taxi.  I had a mission from my Government, which
I served during my convalescence, and I had no right to leave without
permission.  But I was ready to sacrifice my whole career, rather than
see Maida sail for Egypt with a cruel and unscrupulous enemy.

I arrived at the dock just in time to see the ship moving out.  In
desperation I tried to hire a tug, at no matter what price, to follow
and board her when she shed her pilot.  The thing was impossible.  It
was small consolation to be assured that no such ladies as I described
were on board.  I felt almost certain they were there, in ordinary
dress, having changed from the uniform of the Grey Sisterhood.  When
every effort had failed in this direction, however, there remained half
a hope that they might have been found by Teano's man on the ship
starting for Bordeaux.  There was a chance of reaching her before she
steamed out, and that chance I took; but fate was against me again.
She had been gone twenty minutes when my taxi rushed me to the wharf.
"You've missed nothing.  They weren't aboard," said the detective, who
awaited my arrival.  But how could I be sure that he was right?

The next thing was to cable the police at Naples and Bordeaux: yet so
far we had no definite proof against the Head Sister, who had the luck
as well as the ingenuity of her supposed partner, Doctor Rameses.  She
could merely be watched on her arrival at a foreign port, not held: and
I dared not even take it firmly for granted that she and Maida had left
America, till Teano's frantic energies should bring further particulars
of their movements.  I blamed myself for the embroglio: still, I would
not say, even in the privacy of my own head, "If I hadn't trusted the
girl so blindly!"

I spent that night in New York, hoping for news from one direction or
other: and though it was not till the morning that Teano picked up
anything authentic, I had better fortune.  A sudden inspiration came as
I walked up and down my room, smoking more cigarettes than were good
for me, and racking my brain for a solution of the puzzle.

"What if Maida left a note for you in the shrine, hoping you'd have the
sense to look?" a voice seemed to whisper in my ear.

Instantly I became certain that she had done so.  It was past ten
o'clock, but I jumped into a taxi and flashed back to Roger's house.
After pressing the electric bell a dozen times at least, Winter
appeared in deshabille, inclined to grumble.  I went straight to the
violated shrine, and switched on the electric light in its curious
globes of golden glass.  The portrait of Maida's beautiful mother faced
the door and gazed into my eyes.  Never had I quite realised its
likeness to the girl.  It was as if Maida looked at me.

"If there's anything, it will be behind that portrait," I thought.
Going straight to it, I lifted the heavy gold frame, and a folded piece
of paper fell to the floor.  No writing was visible, but I knew I had
found what I sought.

Opening the note, I had a shock of surprise.  The paper had the name
and crest of my New York hotel upon it; and the few lines scrawled in
pencil were signed "John Hasle."  So well was the writing imitated,
that my best friend would have sworn it was mine.

The letter began abruptly (perhaps the forger didn't know how I was
accustomed to address Maida): "Something has happened.  I am sending a
closed automobile to take you away and your friend also.  Get her to
consent.  It is necessary for the safety of your future.  The chauffeur
and an assistant will carry down the mummy-case if you ask them.  They
have my instructions already, and will bring a packing-box in which it
can be placed in the hall downstairs, in order not to be conspicuous.
The mummy will no longer be safe where it is.  I'll explain when we
meet.  I am called away from America at once, on official business, and
the man with the chauffeur knows the ship on which I sail this
afternoon.  I beg you will do what he asks, as you may depend on him as
my mouthpiece, and I have time now for no more.  Yours ever and in
haste, John Hasle."

Underneath, Maida had scribbled, also in pencil, "Your letter has been
handed me just outside the door of this house.  I don't understand it.
Though I suppose it's genuine, so many strange things have happened, I
am a little afraid.  If there's any trick, and you come to look for me,
I earnestly pray you may find this in time.  I shall leave a tiny end
of paper showing behind my mother's portrait, where I'll hide it."

Rameses I believed to be far away, out of reach: but the assistant he
had left behind was worthy of him.  She had reason to know the New York
hotel I frequented: the note-paper was easy to get: only the forgery
business needed an expert.  And what a clever idea that the summons
should come from me!  The Head Sister had known how hard, perhaps
impossible, it would have been to make the girl break her promise.  Now
I saw why consent had been given to my calling on Maida at her
brother's house.  Unconsciously I had been but a catspaw: and had not
my darling girl felt vaguely suspicious, I might never have guessed how
she had been enticed away.

The message told little: but at least it confirmed my theory that the
two had gone on board ship.  How Maida had been induced actually to
sail, was another question, but even that might be answered some day.

In the morning, Teano was surprised, instead of receiving word from
Nance, to see her in person.  She had been sent on an errand from
Sisterhood House to the nearest village, and rather than return had
simply--as she expressed it--"taken French leave."  The Head Sister had
gone, leaving everything in charge of a woman next in authority.  The
inmates, sisters, lay sisters, and protégées (women and children) were
told that the directress had news of a near relative's illness; she was
obliged to be absent for a few days, perhaps longer.  Unless later
instructions arrived, all was to go on as if she were at home.  Nance
knew that the grey automobile used by the Sisters had come back from
New York with a bundle in it; a bundle composed of two grey uniform
cloaks and bonnets with veils.  Somehow the two ladies had changed
their outer garments, probably in that "closed motor" mentioned in the
forged letter: and the bundle had been transferred from one car to the
other, by the man with the chauffeur, doubtless a servant of the Head
Sister.

Nance, prying for other details, had found and pieced together a few
torn scraps of paper--the remains of a letter--stuck between the
braided wicker-work and ribbon of a waste-paper basket in the
directress's study.  There were three of these bits, the largest no
larger than a child's thumb nail, the smallest not half that size; but
patching them together Teano was able to show me the mutilated words
"meet--possible--Cair----"

This strengthened my conviction that the Head Sister, with Maida and
Maida's mysterious mummy-case, was on the way to Egypt, where she would
meet Rameses in Cairo.  The two must have been on board the ship
sailing for Naples, in some disguise not easy to penetrate.  I
determined to act on this supposition, explain the circumstances as
best I could to our Ambassador, trying with his aid and, that of the
cable, to get leave for Europe.  If leave were refused, rather than
abandon Maida to the mercy of her enemies, I would "chuck" the army.
Eventually I could volunteer again, when strong enough to serve.  But
leave was not refused.  My affairs were settled with lightning speed,
and I sailed a few days later.

At Naples I got no definite news; but it appeared that, on board the
suspected ship, there had been a number of nurses wearing a navy-blue
uniform, with long veils attached to their small bonnets.  Most of the
nurses wore their veils thrown back, but a few covered their faces on
leaving the ship.  This gave me a clue--and a hope.  The costume of a
nurse afforded the necessary concealment.  I guessed that the Head
Sister had adopted it for herself and Maida, and that, through Rameses'
influence, she had obtained passports.

No nurses in uniform had, so far as I could learn, lately left Naples
for Egypt; but with the aid of the police I learned that three days
before my arrival a tall, elderly woman, heavily cloaked and veiled,
accompanied by a beautiful blonde girl, had sailed for Alexandria.
Their papers described them as the wife and daughter of a French doctor
in Cairo, and though permission for women to enter Egypt was difficult
to obtain from British authorities at that time, they had it.

Whether or no this "Madame and Mademoiselle Rameau" were the Head
Sister and Maida Odell, I could not be sure: but in any case my
destination must be Cairo.  On arriving there I could hear of no such
person as Doctor Rameau: but I found army friends: help from "high up"
was forthcoming.  I learned what non-military persons had travelled
during the last week, and what direction they had taken.  Among the few
women on the list there were only two who might be those for whom I
searched; and _they were Egyptian ladies_.  The sister and aunt of an
official in Government employ had left Cairo by rail for Asiut, whence
they were to do some days' desert travel, to reach the country house
belonging to their relative.

I determined to follow; and at Asiut I engaged a small caravan.  The
little oasis-town near which I had been told to find the house was two
days' journey from "The City of Sacred Cats"; and when we reached the
place, the servants of Ahmed Ali Bey were surprised by the questions of
my interpreter.  Their master was in Cairo with his family, and they
had not been warned of the arrival of visitors.  They were discreet and
guarded in their answers, after the first moment of blank astonishment:
but I realised instantly that the women I had followed from Cairo were
not bound for this place.  I had come up against a blank wall, and had
only my own deductions to go upon.  Were the supposed aunt and sister
of Ahmed Ali Bey, Maida and her companion, or had I taken a false
trail?  Something within myself said that I was right as to their
identity, but that the two (protected by the name of some friend of
Doctor Rameses) had never intended to come to his house.  Where, then,
should I look for them?

They must, I thought, have come as far as Asiut, otherwise their passes
would not have availed them in these days of military supervision.  But
beyond Asiut the desert stretched wide and mysterious.  My only hope
lay in the fact that caravans could be tracked, and that there were
only certain directions in which stopping-places could be found.  My
camel-leader, who spoke a little English, described to me the three or
four routes, one of which all travellers must choose in order to reach
a desert inn or "borg" on the way to distant oasis villages or towns.
But which should I choose?

In any case, we were obliged to retrace our steps for ten or twelve
miles, as far as a certain well, and there I should have to decide
definitely.  It was late in the afternoon when we reached the spot
again, and a wind which threatened simoom had covered the heart-shaped
footmarks made by our own and other camels, as with a tidal wave.  The
sky was overcast, and of a faint copper colour, clouded with greyish
veils of blowing sand.  The desert was empty, or so I thought at first;
but as I turned my field-glasses north, south, east and west, I saw
something very far off which moved uncertainly towards us.  Presently I
made out that this something was a camel, alone, and without pack or
rider: yet he must, it seemed, have broken loose from a caravan.

As he came nearer--perhaps sighting us from afar off and wishing for
our company--we saw that he was white, or a very pale grey.  He was not
an ordinary pack-camel, but was of the aristocratic type, a _mehari_,
well bred, with graceful swaying movements and long slender legs.  My
first year in the army I had spent in Egypt, where I'd picked up some
Arabic and Turkish, and had been enough impressed with the strangeness
of native life to remember many customs and superstitions.  As the
white _mehari_ approached, a timid air of wildness mingling with its
longing for society, I realised that it had been a pampered beast, dear
to the heart of its vanished owner.  Round its neck was an elaborate
collar of beads and shells, with dangling fetishes of all sorts: brass
and silver "Hands of Fatma," metal tubes for texts from the Koran,
horns of coral and lumps of amber.

It seemed to me that there was something strange about the beast.  It
held its head in a singular way, shaking it from time to time, and my
camel man thought as I thought.  "This animal has been looked on by the
Evil Eye," he said.  "It brings misfortune where it goes.  Perhaps it
has had a fit of madness, and how comes to us in a quiet interval, only
to deceive and then attack us.  I have seen such things in the desert.
A camel goes mad, kills its master, and seeks other victims for the
demon that has entered into it.  I will drive it off."

"No," I said, as the Arab would have threatened the camel with his
stick.  "Keep out of the creature's way if you like.  I'm going to see
if it will let me touch it."

Very cautiously, in order not to frighten the wild-looking beast, I
urged my own mount a few steps forward, and held out a handful of
dates.  The camel eagerly fixed its eyes on the food and moved towards
me as if magnetised.  It stretched its neck so that the queer,
purse-like nostrils and loose lips quivered above the dates: it
hesitated: in another instant it would have snatched a mouthful had I
not exclaimed aloud at a thing I saw.

Among the tubes and horns and Hands of Fatma hung a gold bangle with
the name "Maida" in emeralds, Madeline Odell's birthstone.  I
recognised the ornament at a glance.  She wore it always, even with the
uniform of the Grey Sisterhood.  I knew she had ridden this camel and
that this was her call for help.  She had hoped desperately that I
might follow, and feeble as was the chance that I should ever see the
bangle, she had snatched it because there was no other.

"Good God!" I cried sharply--and foolishly, for the camel took fright,
and went loping away into the cloud of sand.  "Come along!" I yelled to
my man, and rode after it.  "We must keep up with the beast.  We must
see where it goes."

I explained no more.  Doubtless the Arab thought me as mad as the white
camel, but I didn't care.  The _mehari_ had come to me as a messenger
from Maida, and to lose sight of it would be, I felt, to lose her.

Fortunately, after the first sprint, the creature slackened speed, even
turning its long neck now and then to see if we followed.  So we went
on, behind the shadowy form in the sand-cloud, until we came to the
high adobe wall of a desert inn, a borg which my camel-man knew well.
Outside the closed gate our quarry paused: as we drew closer it bounded
away, stopped and hovered as if watching to see whether the gate would
be opened to let us in.  It was opened; and we were greeted by the
landlord, a dull-faced fellow, half Arab, half French, who looked as if
his favourite tipple were absinthe.  In the act of letting us into the
big, bare courtyard he spied the white camel in the distance.  "Oh,
it's you again, is it?" he muttered, and would have shut the gate
quickly as my camel leader and I with the three animals of our tiny
caravan entered.

"Is that white _mehari_ yours?" I inquired.

The landlord shook his head.  "But no!" he protested.  "It is mad.  It
is a beast of evil omen."

"What did I tell the honoured gentleman?" said my man, delighted.  But
I was obstinate.  "Don't shut the beast out," I directed.  "It doesn't
seem dangerous.  I will pay you well to let it in, and for its food--or
any damage it may do."

The landlord shrugged his shoulders; and when we had passed into the
courtyard, he left the gate standing open.  A moment later the white
camel walked in, and instead of joining my animals, or another which
was squatting on the ground to munch a pile of green alfalfa, it moved
with a queer air of purposeful certainty to a window of the inn.  The
shutters of this window were closed, but the camel pressed its face
against them as if it were trying to peer in.

"Ah, that is what the brute always does!" exclaimed the landlord in his
_patois_ of Arabic and the worst _Marseillais_ French.  "One would say
his master was there.  But the room is empty."

"Tell me about this animal and what is the matter with it?" I said,
when I had got off my mount and it had been led away with the others by
my Arab.

"All I know I will tell willingly," replied the man.  "This white camel
was one of a caravan that stopped here perhaps ten days ago.  There was
no other _mehari_.  The rest were of the ordinary sort.  I noticed this
one and wondered, for such fine animals are rare among my clients.  But
soon I saw it was not right in its head.  It was not mad in the
dangerous way, which kills; but it was restless and strange.  As we
say, it had been looked on by the Evil Eye.  Perhaps the leader of the
caravan had got the brute cheap for that reason.  Unless he wished some
misfortune to fall upon the person who rode the white camel."

"What sort of person rode it?" I asked.

The man shrugged his shoulders.  "I cannot remember which one rode it,
coming here.  There were several men and several ladies, the family of
the leader.  They stopped here for the night--a night of simoom."

"One of the ladies may have ridden the _mehari_?" I suggested.

"May have: yes, monsieur."

"And did one of the ladies occupy that room with the closed shutters?"
I persisted.

"I do not know," said the landlord.  "It was one of the rooms taken by
the party.  We do not pry into the arrangements of a family when they
are clients for a night."

I divined from his manner, despite an assumed carelessness, that on the
night in question something had happened to set that night apart from
other nights: so I carried on my catechism.  I learned that the
travelling company had consisted of two Egyptian women, one possibly a
maid, under the protection of an elderly, bearded man who was in
bearing and speech a gentleman though his costume was that of a
well-to-do Bedouin; a long cloak and hood such as Arab camel-leaders
wear.  His face had hardly been visible.  Food had been sent to his
room, also to the women, one of whom seemed to be weak and ill.  They
were both veiled and cloaked.  She who was ill had not spoken.  She had
been helped into the house by her companion.  There had been a scream,
and some commotion in the night caused no doubt by the illness of this
lady.  The landlord had been out attending to a sick camel in the
_fondouk_, and returning he saw the shutters of a window thrown back.
The window itself was open, and this mad _mehari_ was staring in.  Then
the window had been suddenly closed, in the camel's face.  The creature
had seemed frightened, and had galloped wildly about the courtyard,
refusing to rest in the _fondouk_ with its fellows, even when food was
offered as an inducement.  It had returned again and again to the same
window, as if determined to look through the shutters.  Early in the
morning, the travellers had made ready to start.  The sick lady had
been worse.  The old gentleman and his servants, of whom there were
several, all negroes, had to make a kind of couch for her on the
_mehari's_ back, but the brute kept jumping up and refusing to be
touched.  At last the old gentleman grew angry and struck the animal on
the head and face.  It "went for" him furiously, and had to be caught
and chastised by the negroes.  No further attempt was made to use it
after that.  The leader of the caravan bought a good, steady pack-camel
from the landlord, and left the white aristocrat at the borg.  At first
the proprietor thought that he was in luck to come into possession of
such a fine creature, but it soon proved worse than useless.  It
refused food: it would not sit down.  It was constantly at the window
into which it had previously stared, or else at the gate trying to
escape.  After a day or two the Arabs employed about the _fondouk_ said
it was accursed, and asked the _patron_ to get rid of the brute, lest
misfortune fall upon the place.  Accordingly the once valuable _mehari_
was driven out into the desert, disappearing in the distance.  But
apparently it had not gone far.  Since then it had returned several
times with caravans, entering the courtyard with them, and walking at
once to the window in which it was so strangely interested.  "That is
why," explained the landlord, "I now keep the shutters closed.  I fear
this accursed animal may break the glass before we have time to drive
it away.  There is not much travel at this time of year, and we have
plenty of other rooms."

"All the same I should like to be put into that room to-night," I said.
"And as you tell me the white _mehari_ is not wicked, there can be no
danger in your letting it stay in the courtyard till morning.  I'm
curious about the creature, and should like to see what it will do."

The man tried to persuade me that there was nothing in the seeming
mystery.  He had rooms more comfortable than the one with the closed
shutters.  That had not been properly cleaned since the last
occupation.  As for the white camel, it would probably roar and make a
disturbance in the night.  I silenced these objections, however, in the
one effectual and classic way: and I refused to wait for the room to be
swept and dusted.  I wished to go in immediately, I said, and later the
bed could be got ready while I dined.  Reluctantly the landlord gave
his consent to this arrangement, and himself escorted me to the room in
question, bringing my bag and a lighted lamp.  I watched him as we
entered, and noticed that he glanced about anxiously as if he feared I
might see something which it would be better for me not to see.  But,
either he found nothing conspicuously wrong, or else he decided that it
was a case of "kismet."

When he had gone, I didn't open the shutters at once.  I wanted to have
a look round, unobserved.  Indeed, I took the precaution of stuffing
paper into the keyholes of the two doors: one which opened into the
corridor; another which communicated with the next room.

I knew it would be useless to ask the fellow whether the room had been
occupied since the departure of the caravan which first brought the
white camel.  He would lie if it suited him to lie: and if there were
anything to find out, I must find it out for myself.  Never in my life,
however, had I felt so strong an impression as I felt now that Maida's
wish, Maida's prayers, had brought me to this place.  I was certain
that she had at last suspected treachery in the woman she had
worshipped: that she had prayed I might follow and search for her: that
she had made friends with the white camel in order to add a souvenir of
herself to his neck-adornment: that she had some reason to hope he
might be left behind at this desert borg when she continued her
journey: that she had been in this room (where I seemed distinctly to
feel her presence) and that something had happened there which the
landlord either knew or suspected.  Anyhow, the white camel knew, and I
said to myself that I would give all I had in the world if the animal's
half-crazyed intelligence could communicate its knowledge to me.

This borg, like most crude desert halting-places for men and beasts,
was a one storey building which enclosed a large courtyard on three
sides.  The fourth side of the yard was composed of an ordinary wall
nearly as high as the roof of the house.  One wing of the latter
contained a row of bedrooms for travellers, each room having a window
that looked on the court.  The middle part, or main building, consisted
of dining-room and kitchens: the remaining wing was the dwelling-place
of the landlord's family, and at the end had a large open shed for
camels and horses.  My room, therefore, was on the ground floor.  It
was roughly paved with broken tiles, and had in front of the bed a
strip of torn Spanish matting with a pattern of flowers splashed on it
in black and red.  There was very little furniture: a tin wash-hand
stand: a deal table: an iron bedstead: and two chairs; but what there
was had been left in a state of disorder since the flitting of the last
occupant.  Both chairs had fallen: the table, which had evidently stood
in the middle of the room, was pushed askew, its cotton covering on the
floor, its legs twisted up in a torn woollen rug: and--significant sign
of a struggle--a curtain of pink mosquito netting had been wrenched
from its fastenings and hung, a limp rag, at the side of the window.

The wretched paraffin lamp served only to make darkness visible; but
taking it in my hand I walked round, examining everything: and my heart
missed a beat as I saw that, among the scarlet flowers on the matting,
were spots of brownish red--that tell-tale red which cannot be
mistaken.  They were few and small, and therefore had passed unnoticed,
perhaps, by the landlord: yet to me they cried aloud.  I tried to tell
myself that the stains might be old: that I had no reason to connect
them with danger for Maida: that as she had been brought so far,
doubtless there was a further destination to which it was intended to
take her.  But as I finished my examination of the disordered room,
turned out the light, and threw open the shutters my soul was sick.

"What happened here?" I asked myself for the twentieth time; and as if
in answer to my question the white camel came glimmering towards me
through the dusk.  It stopped at my window, and thrusting its neck
through the opening, stared into the room.  The faint light gleamed in
its yellow eyes, and gave the illusion that they moved as if following
with emotion _something they saw_.  The creature paid no attention to
me, though it could have seen me standing near the window.  Even when I
spoke, coaxingly, it did not turn its head; and when I walked back and
forth, it remained indifferent.  Its gaze concentrated on that part of
the room nearest the door leading to the corridor; and a shiver ran
through my nerves to see the white head float from right to left on its
long neck, as though eagerly watching a scene to me invisible.  I felt
the impulse to chase the beast away, but I checked myself.  I had a
queer conviction that what it could see I ought to see also: that if it
remained it might _make_ me see.

I turned up the wick of the lamp, and walked slowly towards the door,
glancing back to see what the camel would do.  Its head was poked far
into the room.  It looked like a queer white ghost, with glinting eyes.
For the first time they seemed to meet mine, and I felt that the animal
had become conscious of my presence in the picture its memory
constructed.  Close to the door, in a crack between red tiles, I saw
something round and white which I took for a button; but picking it up,
it proved to be an American ten cent piece.  Not far off lay an
Egyptian piastre, but it was the "dime" which thrilled me.  The tiny
silver coin proved that an occupant of this room had lately come from
the United States.  A little farther away I discovered broken bits of a
small bottle, with a torn label.  Matching scraps of paper together I
made out part of a word which told its own sinister story.  "Morph":
the missing syllable was not needed.  And the label had the name--or
part of the name--of a New York druggist:

"C. Sarge----"
    "Broadw----"


Already I began to visualise what the scene near the door might have
been.  I went out hastily and questioned the landlord again as to the
destination of the white camel's caravan.  I offered him so big a bribe
for information that, if he had known anything definite, he could
hardly have resisted the temptation to tell.  But he had only vague
suggestions to make.  Perhaps the party might have been bound for
Hathor Set, a small oasis-town with one or two country houses of rich
men on its outskirts.  It was twenty miles distant, and he could think
of no other place within a day's march where persons of importance
lived.  Farther away, however, there were oases where merchants and
officials owned houses which they occupied now and then, and where
their families sometimes stayed for months.

If it had been possible I would have travelled on that night, but to do
so would have been madness.  I must wait till dawn: and though I did
not expect to sleep I went back to my room when I had eaten some vile
food, and arranged for the start at five o'clock.

"Weather permitting," added the landlord, with an ear for the moan of
the sickly south wind.

"Weather must permit," I answered.

My side of the house was somewhat sheltered from the blowing sand;
still, on such a night most desert dwellers would have shut their
windows.  I kept my window open, however; and lying on the bed, the
lamp burning dimly, I faced it.  The head of the white camel, on its
long, swaying neck, was always framed in the aperture.  I had brought
from the dining-room a plateful of dates to tempt the animal, but it
refused to touch them; and the landlord had told me that, so far as he
knew, the _mehari_ had eaten no food for ten days, since it first
appeared at the borg.  This accounted in a normal way for its thinness
and the wild look of its eyes; but according to the man and his
servants the "mysterious curse" upon the beast was destroying it.  "A
camel accursed can live twice as long as others with nothing to eat,
and even with no water," the landlord had announced gravely, as if
stating a well-known fact.  "Then, suddenly, when the evil spirit is
ready to leave its body, the creature will fall dead."

I was anxious that the _mehari_ should not fall dead until I had
finished making use of it: therefore I was glad to see it staring
bleakly through the window, hour after hour.  I hoped that, in the
morning, it might lead me along the way its lost caravan had gone, and
whereever it went I intended to follow.  It was making me superstitious.

Now and then I dozed for a few minutes, to wake with a start and look
for the watching face at the window, but at last I fell heavily asleep;
and I dreamed.

I dreamed of the camel: and it seemed as if I dreamed _into_ it.  My
intense wish to see what it had seen, no doubt accounted for this
impression, but it could not account entirely for what followed.  It
was as though the light of the lamp burned down, and blazed suddenly up
in the brain of the animal.  I saw through its eyes, as by two
searchlights illuminating the sordid room.

Maida Odell was led in by a taller woman.  Both wore Arab costumes,
with cloaks and veils, as if they had been travelling.  Maida moved
languidly.  She let her companion take off her wraps.  Her face was
white, her eyes dazed.  I knew, in the dream, that she had been
drugged, and I hated the woman who touched her.  The girl walked
unsteadily to the window and threw it open, drawing in long breaths;
and then the white camel came.  I felt that it had been waiting for
this moment: that it loved and was grateful to the girl for kindness,
as no camel save a _mehari_ ever can be.  She took lumps of sugar from
her pocket and fed it.  The animal accepted them daintily.  The woman
ordered it away, closed the shutters, and drew the ragged mosquito
curtain across the window.  Darkness fell between me and the two
figures.  I saw no more; but after an interval of blankness I was
conscious that Maida, left alone in the room, had opened the shutters,
leaving only the mosquito-netting between her and the night.  The
camel, which had refused to rest with its fellows in the _fondouk_,
came sliding towards the girl and let her caress it.  Apparently they
were the best of friends.  She slipped a bangle from her arm, and tied
it to the _mehari's_ collar.  She patted the white head, and whispered
in the flat ear.  The animal was in an ecstasy.  At last Maida pushed
it away gently, and leaning out of the window searched the courtyard.
I had the impression, in my dream, that she thought of climbing out and
attempting to escape on the _mehari_ whose confidence she had gained
for that very purpose.  But at this moment a tall, bent figure in a
hooded cloak walked slowly past, and turning his head, looked at Maida.
His face was so deeply shadowed by the hood that I could not see the
features.  There was a glimpse of venerable whitish beard tucked into
the cloak; but I knew, in my dream, that the man was Rameses posing as
the leader of the caravan.  I tried to speak, to call Maida's name, to
ask her how it was that she had trusted these people: but I was
powerless to make the girl feel my presence.  "I must wait," I said to
myself.  "Some day she will explain why she consented to sail for
Naples, and why she went on to Egypt."

"Some day!" the words echoed in my brain.  Would the day come in this
world, or must I solve the greatest secret of all before I solved
Maida's?

The dream went on, but I saw nothing when the girl closed the shutters.
Soon, however, she flung them wide again; and though she had put out
the light, the moon was shining in.  I could see her moving about.  She
listened at the door, as if she heard something in the corridor.  She
had fastened the bolt, but now she discovered that it was broken.  The
door could be opened from the outside.  She placed a chair against it,
with the back caught under the handle.  Then she went and sat down
close to the window.  The camel was there, and she spoke to it, as if
she were comforted by its nearness.  For a time she was very still.
Her head drooped; but it was impossible to sleep for long in the high,
uncomfortable chair.  Now and then the girl started awake, always
turning to glance at the door: but at last she fell into a deeper doze.
Slowly the door opened, almost without noise.  Maida remained
motionless: but the watching _mehari_ uttered a snarl.  The girl sprang
to her feet, not knowing what to do.  A cloaked figure which had
slipped in attempted to hide behind the open door, but was too late.
Maida saw the gliding shadow, shrieked, and would have run into the
corridor, but the man in the Arab cloak caught her on the threshold,
and muffled her head in his mantle.  She struggled in his grasp, and
almost escaped.  Chairs were overturned: the rug under the table was
twisted round the man's feet: I thought that he would trip and fall,
but he saved himself.  Holding Maida with one hand, with the other he
drew a bottle from some pocket, and pulled out the cork with his teeth.
The girl freed an arm, but before she could push the bottle away the
man emptied a quantity of the liquid over the cloth that covered her
face.  A sickly scent of chloroform filled the air.  Still she fought
bravely, her freed hand seized the bottle, and dashed it on the floor,
where it broke with a crash.  At this instant a woman in Arab dress
came swiftly into the room.  She was very tall, as tall as the man, and
I noticed a likeness between their figures, a remarkable breadth of
shoulder, something peculiar in their bearing.  The woman's face was
unveiled, but in the darkness I could not make out its features.

She shut the door hastily.  The two spoke to each other in a language I
could not understand.  Maida struggled no more.  The chloroform had
taken effect.  In my dream I felt that the two did not wish her to die:
the time had not come.  There was a climax towards which they were
working, had been working for a long time.  Now it was close at hand.
The woman held a much smaller bottle than the one which lay broken.
She had also a glass with a little water, and a spoon.  These she
placed on the wash-hand stand, and went swiftly to the window.  Driving
away the camel with a threatening gesture, she closed the shutters.  It
seemed as if they slammed in my face.  I waked with a great start, and
found myself sitting up in bed, my face damp with sweat.

The shutters, which I'd kept wide open, had banged together in the
rising wind.  I bounded off the bed to the window, and flung them apart
again.  Sand stung my face and eyelids.  The white camel had
disappeared, but there was a wild snarling in the _fondouk_.

"My wish has been granted," I said to myself, "I have seen what the
watching eye saw in this room.  But what did it see after that?  Which
way did the caravan go?"

I must have slept soundly, and longer than I thought, for behind the
cloud of sand dawn was grey in the sky.  Half an hour later I was out
of the room, in the courtyard, where the Arab servants had begun to
stir.  From his own part of the building the landlord appeared.  I told
him that I had sent to have my man roused, and that I would start in
spite of the storm.

"What has become of the white _mehari_?" I asked.  "Is he in the
_fondouk_ after all?"

The man called one of his Arabs, asked a question, got an answer, and
turned to me.  "The beast snarled so wickedly it waked my fellows," he
explained, "and they, not knowing of my promise to you, drove it into
the desert.  That must have been two hours ago."

I was furious, but scolding was vain.  I had hoped superstitiously for
the guidance of the watcher, till the end; but this was not to be.  I
must trust to my own instinct.

Despite the arguments of the landlord and my own man that it was
dangerous to set out in the face of a simoom, we started, taking the
route towards Hathor Set.

The blown sand had obliterated the tracks of men and camels.  The
desert, so far as we could see, was a vast ocean of rippling waves.  I
had brought no compass, trusting to the sun: but the sun was hidden
behind the copper veil of sand.  "We shall be lost, sir," said my man.
"Shall we not be wise while there is time, and go back before our own
tracks are blotted out?  See, there ahead is a lesson for us: a camel
that has fallen and been choked to death by the sand.  Before night we
and our animals may lie as it lies now, with the shroud that the desert
gives, wrapped round our heads."

"A camel that has fallen!" I echoed.  And striking my beast I rode
forward till I reached the low mound to which the brown hand pointed.

The white _mehari_ lay on its side, the head and half the body buried,
the bead collar faintly blue under a coating of yellow sand.  The
watching eye was closed for ever: but I had the needed clue.

"We're not lost," I said.  "This is the right way.  We'll push on to
Hathor Set."



EPISODE VIII

THE HOUSE OF REVENGE

This chapter of my life, which stands last but one in my journal, is
Maida Odell's chapter rather than mine: and to make my part in it
clear, her part should come first.  Then the two should join, like a
double ring of platinum and gold bound together with a knot.

One day Maida waked, after confused dreams of pain and terror.  The
dreams were blurred, as she began remembering.  It was as if she were
in a dim room trying to see reflections in a dust-covered mirror; then,
as if she brushed off the dust, and the pictures suddenly sharpened in
outline.

She saw herself reading a letter signed John Hasle.  It seemed to be a
true letter, and if it were true she must obey the instructions it
gave; yet--she doubted.  She saw herself scribbling a few words on the
back of the letter, and hiding it behind the portrait of her mother, in
the room she always called her "shrine," leaving just an end of white
paper visible in the hope that John Hasle's eyes might light on it
there.  This picture was clear, and that of the mummy-case being taken
out of the shrine by two men in a hurry.  Why were they taking it?  Why
did she let it go?  Oh, she remembered!  The Head Sister had promised
long ago to try and discover the secret of the past.  She knew people
all over the world, who were grateful, and glad to repay her goodness
to them.  Because of the mummy-case and the eye of Horus, those two
mysterious treasures, the Head Sister believed that the enemy who
strove unceasingly to ruin the girl's life must be an Egyptian, working
to avenge some wrong, or fancied wrong.  She suggested photographing
the mummy, and the pictures of Maida's father and mother, in order to
send snapshots to a man she knew well in Egypt--a doctor.  He would
take up the affair, out of friendship for her, and with those clues to
go upon might learn details of inestimable value.  Maida remembered
writing to John Hasle at the Head Sister's suggestion, asking him to
send the key of the shrine.  He had answered, agreeing reluctantly; and
to prove her good faith, the Head Sister had offered permission for a
meeting at Roger's house.  Then had come the letter from John Hasle,
with its warning that the mummy was no longer safe in the shrine.
Maida had done what he told her to do, and let the mummy-case be taken
away, although the Head Sister had objected, and had even seemed hurt.
But the Head Sister had not objected to go to the ship on which John
Hasle said he would sail.  She wished to question him before he went,
and was as anxious as Maida was to know what danger threatened the
mummy.

The girl recalled how, according to John Hasle's advice (brought by his
messenger), she and the Head Sister had exchanged their grey costumes
for blue ones, with veils hanging from neat bonnets.  They had done
this in the closed motor according to instructions, and they had gone
on board the ship to bid John Hasle good-bye.  There instead of finding
him they had found a second letter, written as before on his hotel
paper.  It said that the plot against Maida was even more serious than
he had supposed.  At the last moment he had been obliged to stop in New
York, and appeal to the police to help him thwart it.  Her life was in
danger if she returned to Long Island, or even to the city, before the
enemy had been caught.  There was every prospect that he would be
caught in a few days, after which John Hasle would sail for Egypt as he
had meant to do, and there unravel the whole mystery.  The vendetta
which had cursed Maida's life, and her mother's before her, would be
ended.  She might come into a fortune in her own right, instead of
depending upon money given by the Odells.  He implored her to be brave
and take passage on the ship for Naples, though no doubt the Head
Sister would oppose the idea.  The Head Sister had not opposed it.  She
had read John Hasle's letter, and had offered to be the girl's
companion to Naples, to take her on to Egypt if necessary.  Once, she
had not liked John Hasle; but she was obliged to agree with his
opinion.  She believed that he was right about Maida's danger: things
she had found out in her researches convinced her that it existed.  The
ship would not sail for an hour or more.  The chauffeur was bidden to
take a letter from Maida to John Hasle at the Hotel Belmont, to bring
one if he were there, and also clothing necessary for the journey, of
which the Head Sister made a hurried list.

A letter had come back--a hasty scrawl in John Hasle's handwriting--to
express joy in Maida's decision, and to tell her that the mummy in its
case would go with her on the ship, addressed to his name.

Maida remembered how ungrateful she had thought herself in doubting the
Head Sister's intentions.  She had tried not to doubt, for so far in
her experience she had received only kindness and sympathy from that
wonderful friend.  Wonderful indeed!  Everything the Head Sister did
was magnetic and wonderful, like her whole personality.  This sudden
decision to go abroad for Maida's sake was no more extraordinary,
perhaps, than things she had done to help others.  She said that she
would wire the woman who stood second in authority over the Grey
Sisterhood, and explain that, for excellent reasons, she had determined
to visit the lately established branch in Cairo (Maida had heard of it
and had subscribed, for its object was an excellent one: the rescue of
European girls stranded in Egypt); she would add that she might not
return for many weeks.

Maida felt that she ought never to have doubted.  As for the letters
from John Hasle, the handwriting seemed unmistakable; they could not be
forgeries: the idea was ridiculous.  She remembered how she had argued
this in her mind, and how she had tried not to think of herself as
helpless.  She was doing what she wished to do!  And yet, when she had
asked "What else could I do, if I didn't wish to do this?" the answer
was disquieting.  Short of making a scene on shipboard and appealing to
the captain, it was difficult to see how she could go against the Head
Sister's urgent advice.  She did not try to go against it; and after
sailing, two or three wireless messages signed John Hasle brought her
comfort.  It was a coincidence that there should be a band of nurses on
board the ship, with costumes almost precisely like hers and the Head
Sister's, chosen apparently at random by John Hasle: but then, after
all, there was a strong resemblance in the dresses of all nurses,
provided the colours happened to be the same.

Even more clearly than the days on shipboard, Maida remembered arriving
at Naples, and being met by an Englishman who introduced himself as an
agent of John Hasle.  He had a long comprehensive telegram to show,
purporting to come from his employer in New York.  This announced that
John Hasle had not been able to obtain leave as soon as he expected,
but that he had learned the "whole secret of the past."  Miss Odell was
to put herself in the hands of his agent who would conduct her and her
companion to Egypt and there to a house where all mysteries would be
cleared up.  She would find herself in charge of important persons, old
acquaintances of her parents, who would watch over her interests and
explain everything connected with her family.  All trouble and danger
would be over for ever.  Her brother Roger with his wife, Grace, having
just returned to New York from the Argentine, would sail with John
Hasle a few days after the sending of the telegram, to join Miss Odell
and bring her home by way of France and England.

Maida recalled with a dull aching of heart and head her disappointment,
her uneasiness; how she had insisted upon sending telegrams to her
adopted brother, and to John Hasle, in New York, waiting for answers
before she would consent to go on.  The answers came, apparently
genuine, and she had gone on.  There had been two days in Cairo, at the
house of a rich, elderly man who called himself French, but looked like
a Turk or Egyptian.  He stated that he was a friend of Maida's
grandfather who was, he said, a general in Ismail's service.  He had
done a great wrong to a noble family of ancient Egyptian aristocracy,
who had sworn revenge, and had taken it for several generations.  But
now all its members were dead except one aged woman who wished to see
and atone to Maida for the cruel punishment inflicted on her people.
The mummy which had been stolen many years ago was to be given back;
and in return Maida would not only learn a great secret, but receive a
great fortune.  The house was in the country, and could be reached by a
short desert journey after travelling to Asiut by rail.  In order to
escape the surveillance of the British authorities, so strict in war
time, she and her faithful friend the Head of the Grey Sisterhood, were
advised to travel in the costumes of Egyptian women.

All this seemed hundreds of years ago to Maida, as she relived incident
after incident.  Everything was far in the background of a night in the
desert inn when she had seen--or thought she had seen--a face which had
been the terror of her life.  Since her earliest childhood she had seen
it in dreams, and sometimes--she believed--in reality.  It was as like
the face of the mummy in the painted mummy-case as a living face could
be, except that the expression of the mummy was noble and even benign,
whereas that of the dream-face--the living face--was malevolent.  The
hood of the caravan leader had been blown aside by the fierce desert
wind in a sand-storm, and a pair of terrible eyes had looked at her for
an instant before the hood was drawn close again; and, after that--but
Maida could remember nothing after that, except a struggle and a sudden
blotting out of consciousness.

She was afraid to wake fully lest she should find herself again in the
desert inn where it seemed that something hideous had happened.  But
the room there had been shabby.  This room in which she opened her eyes
was beautiful, far more beautiful than any in the house at Cairo.  It
was soothingly simple, too, in its decorations, as the best Eastern
rooms are.  The walls were white, ornamented with a frieze of
arabesques.  There were one or two large plaques of lovely old tiles
let into this pure whiteness, and a wonderful Persian rug in much the
same faded rainbow hues hung between two uncurtained windows with
carved, cedarwood blinds.  The ceiling also was of carved cedar,
painted with ancient designs in rich colours.  There was very little
furniture in the room, except the large divan-like bed on which Maida
was lying; but on a fat embroidered cushion squatted a girl wearing the
indoors dress of an Egyptian woman--a girl of the lower classes.  She
sat between Maida and the windows, so that her figure was silhouetted
against the light: and outside the windows was a glimpse of garden: a
tall cypress and a palm with a rose bush climbing up the trunk: dully,
Maida thought that it must be an inner patio, such as her room had
looked out upon in the house at Cairo.

"Where is the white camel?" she heard herself say, aloud: and it seemed
that her voice was tired and weak, as if she had been ill.

The girl who was embroidering looked up.  Her face was very brown, and
the eyes were painted.  She wore a dark blue dress, which was a lovely
bit of colour against the white wall.  Smiling at the invalid as at a
child, she went to the door, and called out something in a language
Maida could not understand.  Then she effaced herself respectfully,
stepping into the background, and the Head Sister came in--the Head
Sister, just as she used to be at the Sisterhood House far away on Long
Island.  She wore a grey uniform and the short veil with which her face
had always been covered in the house.

"My dear child!" she exclaimed, in her deep, pleasant voice, with its
slight accent of foreignness which could never quite be defined.  "How
thankful I am to see you conscious!  We have been waiting a long time.
You've been ill, and delirious; but I can see from the look in your
eyes that it's over now--those dreams of horror I could never persuade
you were not real."

Maida looked earnestly at the Head Sister whom she had once so utterly
loved and trusted.  Did she love and trust her now?  The girl felt that
she did not.  Yet she felt, too, that the sad change might be but the
dregs in her cup of dreams.  Never had the wonderful woman's voice been
more kind.  "If I tell you a piece of good news, will it make you
better, or will it give you a temperature?" the Head Sister went on.

"It will make me better," Maida said, a faint thrill of hope at her
heart.  There was only one piece of news, she thought, which would be
good.

"Very well, then.  It is this: we are expecting your brother and Lord
John Hasle in a few days.  Are you pleased?"

"Yes," Maida answered.  She composed her voice, and spoke quietly; but
new life filled her veins.  The dullness was gone from her brain, the
lassitude from her limbs.  She felt as if she had drunk a sparkling
tonic.

"You look another girl already," said the Head Sister.  "If this
improvement keeps up, you'll be able to walk about your room a little
to-day, and to-morrow you may be strong enough to be helped out into
the balcony that runs along over the patio, and leads to the room of
your hostess.  She is impatient for you to be well enough to come
there; and it will be a test of your strength.  Besides--I know you are
anxious to hear what you have travelled so far to find out."

Maida could not have explained then, or afterwards, why the Head
Sister's suppressed eagerness brought back the fear she had known in
her dreams.  She would have liked to answer that she preferred to wait
and see the unknown "hostess" after Roger and John had arrived.  But
something told her she had better not say that.  Instead, she smiled,
and answered that she would try to walk that afternoon, and test her
strength.

The Head Sister seemed satisfied, seemed to take it for granted that
the plan she was making would be carried out; and then she made an
excuse to leave the room.  The girl Hateb would watch over Maida, as
she had watched faithfully since the day when the unconscious patient
had been put into her care.  Hateb, the Head Sister added, had learned
in Cairo to speak a little English and French.  Maida could ask for
anything she wished.  But for a long time Maida did not wish to ask for
anything at all.  She lay still and thought--and wondered: and Hateb
went on embroidering.  She finished a thing like a charming little
table cover on which she had worked a design in dull blues and reds, a
design like the patterns of old tiles from Tunis.  Then, pausing to
roll up the square of creamy tissue, she began to make the first purple
flower of a new design on another square.

At last, as if fascinated, Maida did ask a question.  She asked what
Hateb did with these things when they were finished.  Were they for her
mistress?

The girl shook her head, and managed to make Maida understand that all
the women of the household who could embroider sent their work by the
negroes into the oasis town of Hathor Set where there was a shop which
sold such things to tourists.  Very few tourists came now, but
sometimes there were officers and soldiers.  They always bought
souvenirs for their families at home.  Harem ladies sold their work for
charity among the poor, but their servants--well, it was pleasant to
earn something extra.  This house was often shut up for months.  The
master and mistress lived away, and seldom came, so there was much
time--too much time--and it hung heavy on their hands unless they were
kept busy.

"I know how to embroider, too," said Maida, "not as you do, but after
the fashion of my country.  I make my own designs.  I should love to
embroider an end of a scarf or something like that, to show you how
fast I can work.  Then you may sell what I do, and keep the money.  If
any English or American people come to that shop in the town you speak
of they will be surprised to see such a thing if it is displayed well,
and they will be glad to offer a good price, because they will be
reminded of home.  But you must let no one in this house see my work,
or they may be angry with you for allowing me to exert myself.  It will
do me good, but they will not believe that."

The girl was delighted with the idea.  Her curiosity was aroused to see
the work of a foreigner, which would sell for much money, and she was
pleased with the prospect of having that money for herself.  She gave
Maida materials, and the invalid sat up in bed to begin her task.  With
a pencil she traced a queer little border which might have represented
breaking hearts or flashes of lightning.  Inside this border she formed
the word "Help" with her name "Maida" underneath, in elaborate old
English letters impossible for Hateb to read with her scant knowledge
of English.  Despite her weakness, Maida worked with feverish haste,
and finished the whole piece of embroidery, in blue and gold and
reddish purple, before evening.  She pronounced herself too ill to
rise, but promised to make an effort next day.  It was in her mind to
delay the visit to her unknown "hostess," and meanwhile to send out a
message, like a carrier pigeon.  But there was the strong will of the
Head Sister to reckon with.  The latter gently, yet firmly insisted
that, now dear Maida's delirium had passed, it would do her good to
take up life again where she had left it off.  The Egyptian woman they
had made this long journey to meet was impatient.  She was unable to
come to Maida.  Maida must go to her.  Besides, it would be
discouraging to Roger Odell and John Hasle to arrive and find their
dear one pale and ill.  She must make the effort for their sakes if not
for her own.

This solicitude for Roger and John was new on the part of the Head
Sister, who had deliberately taken Maida away from one, and separated
her from the other: but she frankly confessed that her point of view
had changed.  She saw that the girl had no real vocation for the Grey
Sisterhood.  If the mystery of her past could be solved, and happiness
could come out of sorrow, Maida would have a place in the world, and
John Hasle--the Head Sister admitted--deserved a reward for patience
and loyalty.

These arguments did not ring true in the ears of Maida, but she had
reached a place where it was impossible to turn back.  She was in the
woman's power, whether the woman were enemy or friend; and if she
refused to follow the Head Sister's counsel, she believed that she
would be forced to follow it.  Maida was too proud to risk being
coerced; and when the first day after the sending out of the embroidery
passed without result, she obeyed the directress and let herself be
dressed.

The girl suffered a great deal, but she had not lost physical or mental
courage.  She believed that she had sprung from a family of soldiers,
and she wanted to be worthy of them, even if no one save herself ever
knew how she faced a great danger.  Something in the Head Sister's air
of fiercely controlled excitement told her that she was about to face
danger when, with the elder woman's supporting arm round her waist, she
walked from her own room to the door of a room at the end of a long
balcony--the balcony overlooking the patio garden.

As she went, the scent of magnolias and orange blossoms pressed heavily
on her senses like the fragrance of flowers in a room of death.  It was
evening, just the hour of sunset, and as the girl looked up at the
sapphire square of sky above the white walls and greenish-brown roofs,
the pulsating light died down suddenly, as if an immense lamp had been
extinguished.

Maida shivered.  "What is the matter?  Are you afraid?" the Head Sister
asked.

"No, I am not afraid," Maida answered firmly.  "It is only--as if
someone walked on my grave."

"Your grave!" the woman echoed, with a slight laugh.  "That is very far
away to the west, let us hope."

Yet Maida's words must have brought to her mind the picture of a
highballed garden of orange trees, no further to the west than the
western end of that house.  She must have seen the negroes digging
there, under the trees, digging very fast, to be ready in time.  She
must even have known the depth and width and length of the long, narrow
hole they dug, for it had been measured to fit the painted mummy-case
brought to Egypt from Maida's "shrine" in New York.  That mummy-case,
long wanted, long sought, was useful no longer.  Its occupant for
thousands of years had been rifled of his secret.  The jewels which had
lain among the spices at his heart had been removed.  They were safe in
custody of those who claimed a right over them, and the revenge of
generations might now be completed.

The Head Sister tapped at the door of the room, and then, after a
slight pause, when no answer came, opened it.  Gently she pushed Maida
in ahead of her, and followed on the girl's heels, shutting the door
behind them both.

The room was very large and very beautiful.  Already the carved
cedar-wood blinds inside the windows shut out the light of day.  Not a
sound in the room--if there should be a sound--could be heard even in
the patio or the orange gardens.  Two huge Egyptian oil lamps of old,
hand-worked brass hung from the painted wooden ceiling.  They lit with
a flittering, golden light the white arabesquesed walls, the dado of
lovely tiling, the marble floor and the fountain pool in the centre
where goldfish flashed.  There was little furniture: a divan covered
with a Persian rug; a low, inlaid table or two; some purple silk
cushions piled near the fountain; and Maida's eyes searched vainly for
the "hostess" who waited eagerly to tell her the secret.  The only
conspicuous object in the room was a familiar one--the painted
mummy-case, standing upright as it had stood in the shrine, far away in
Roger Odell's house in New York.  It stood so that Maida, on entering
the room, saw it in profile.  She was not surprised to see it there,
for she knew that it had travelled with them--by John Hasle's wish, she
had been told--and certainly with his name on the packing-box in which
it was contained.  It was easy enough to believe that the mummy had a
connection with the "secret" she was to hear, for always it had been
for her a mystery as well as a treasure.  It was easy, also, to
understand why the "hostess" should have had the thing brought into her
room and unpacked.  But she--the hostess--was not there.

"Patience for a few minutes, my child," said the Head Sister, no doubt
reading Maida's thought.  "I have been asked to tell you a story.  It
is a long story, but you must hear it to understand what follows.  Sit
down with me, and listen quietly.  Your questions may come at the end."

Maida would have taken a few steps further, to look into the
mummy-case, and see if its occupant were intact after the journey by
sea and land: but the elder woman stopped her.  With a hand on the
girl's arm, she made her sit down on a divan where the mummy-case was
visible still only in profile.

"This room was once made ready in honour of a bride," the Head Sister
said.  "All its beauties were for her: the pool, the rare old tiles,
the Persian embroideries and rugs.  The bridegroom was an Egyptian of a
line which had been royal in the past.  I speak of the long ago past,
thousands of years ago.  He had records which proved his descent
without doubt.  When I say he was an Egyptian, I don't mean a Turk.  I
mean a lineage far more ancient than the Turkish invasion in Egypt.
The family, however, had intermarried with Turks and had become
practically Turkish, except by tradition.  This mummy-case and its
contents was the dearest treasure of Essain Bey, the man who decorated
the room you see for the woman he adored.  Immemorable generations ago
it had been taken from the Tombs of the Kings--not stolen, mind you,
but taken secretly by a descendant who had proofs that the mummied man
had been a famous, far-away ancestor of his own.  Even so, though this
forbear of Essain's had a right to the mummy, he would have let it lie
in peace, hidden for ever in the rock-caverns of the tombs if illegal
excavations had not been planned.  He saved the mummy-case from
violation, although he could not save the tomb; and though there was a
legend that the body was filled with precious things he vowed that it
should not be rifled--vowed for himself and his son and his son's son.

"The legend ran that the last Egyptian king hid the royal treasure
inside the mummy of his father, before setting out to fight the
invader, and that after his death in battle, the secret descended from
one representative of the family to another: but the whereabouts of the
tomb was lost, and only found again a century ago through the
translation of a papyrus.  As I said, the mummy in its case was
sacredly preserved, and was considered to keep good fortune in the
family so long as it remained intact.  When Essain married his
beautiful Greek bride he would have given her his soul if she had asked
for it.  Instead, she asked for the mummy of Hathor Set.  It should be
hers, he promised, the day she gave him his first boy, and he kept his
word.  But with the boy came a girl also.  The Greek woman, Irene
Xanthios, was the mother of twins.  The mummy in its case--the luck of
the family--was called hers.  It was kept in this room, where she felt
a pleasure in seeing it under her eyes.  She delighted her husband by
telling him she loved the dark face because of the likeness to his.  He
was happy, and believed that she was happy too.  Perhaps she would
always have remained faithful, had it not been for an Englishman, an
officer in the service of Ismail.

"Now, when I speak of Ismail being in power, you will understand that
all this happened many years ago; to be precise it was fifty-four years
ago to-day that the twin boy and girl were born and the mummy given to
their mother, Irene.  How she met the Englishman I do not know.  I
suppose the monotony of harem life bored her, though she had adopted
the religion and customs of Essain Bey.  She was beautiful, and maybe
she let her veil blow aside one day when she looked out of her carriage
window at the handsome officer who passed.  How long they knew each
other in secret I cannot tell either; but the twins were four years old
when their mother ran away with the Englishman.  She left them behind,
as if without regret, but--she took the luck of the family with
her--the mummy of King Hathor Set in his painted case.  So, you can
guess who was the man: your grandfather.  His name was Sir Percival
Annesley.  He was no boy at the time.  Already he had been made a
Lieutenant in Ismail's army: but he fled from Egypt with the woman he
stole--and the booty--and after that they lived quietly in England.
They hid from the world: but they could not hide from Essain's revenge.

"In this room--coming back from a council at the Khedivial Palace in
Cairo--Essain learned how his wife had profited by his absence of a
week.  In this room he vowed vengeance, not only upon her and the man
who took her from him, but upon that man's descendants, male or female,
until the last one had paid the penalty of death.  In this room he made
his two children swear that, when they grew old enough, they would help
exterminate the children of Percival Annesley, and if unfortunately
these survived long enough to have children, exterminate them also.  In
this room he branded the flesh of his young son and daughter with the
Eye of Horus, to remind them that their mission was to watch--ever to
watch.

"Essain turned his back upon this house when it had become a house of
disgrace, but he did not sell or dispose of it.  He had made up his
mind that, from a house of disgrace it must become a house of revenge.
His will was that the place should be kept up; that servants should be
ready to do anything they were bidden to do.  With his own hands he
killed your grandfather, in sight of Irene and her baby boy, your
father.  Later, Irene died of grief, but your father lived.  He too
came to Egypt, and served in the army, by that time in the hands of the
British.  Essain was dead, but Essain's son lived, and had one great
aim in his life; to kill Perceval Annesley's son, and retrieve the
mummy.  Perceval Annesley's son was named Perceval too.  He met your
mother when she was travelling in Egypt as a girl, and followed her to
America.  The younger Essain would not have allowed him to leave Egypt,
if the mummy had been there, but he had left it at home in England.  So
far as young Essain had been able to find out, the mummy had never been
desecrated: this was the one virtue of the Annesleys: they had left it
intact.

"In New York, your father persuaded your mother to run away with him,
when she was on the eve of marrying Roger Odell--old Roger who became
your guardian.  They went together to England, and lived in the
Annesley house, which is in Devonshire.  Soon, young Essain's chance
came.  He shot your father dead, in your mother's presence; but in
escaping he lost sight of her.  She knew the curse which had fallen on
the Annesleys.  She feared for you, if not for herself.  She took you,
and the mummy-case, and an Eye of Horus which had been a gift from the
elder Essain to Irene, and she contrived to vanish from the knowledge
of Essain the younger.

"It was only for a time, however, that he and his twin sister--able to
help him now--searched in vain.  He traced the travellers eventually by
means of the mummy-case.  Your mother was dead: but his vow to his
father was not fulfilled while you were alive, and the mummy of Hathor
Set under the roof of the Odells.  You were too well protected to be
easily reached, but there are many ways of accomplishing an end.  You
were never a strong girl.  Plots against your peace of mind were
planned and carried out.  Once or twice you came near death, but always
luck stood between you and what Essain and his sister Zorah believed to
be justice.  The drama of your life has been a strange one.  Your death
alone without the restoration of the mummy would not have sufficed,
though, had you died, Essain would have moved heaven and earth to gain
possession of the body of Hathor Set.  At last he has obtained it.  The
oath of his father's ancestor not to open the mummy was but for the son
and the son's son.  That has run out many years ago, and Essain felt
that the time had come to learn and profit by the secret.  He has done
so, and holds a wonderful treasure in his hands.  The like of it has
never been seen in the new world, except in museums of the East.  Now
the whole duty of Essain's son and daughter has been accomplished,
except in one last detail.  What that is, you, Madeleine Annesley can
guess.  I have finished my explanation.  But if you would understand
more, go now, and look at the mummy-case."

As if fascinated, Maida obeyed.  Her brain was working fast.  Was her
instinct right?  Had she been brought here to the House of Revenge to
die, or would this soft, sweet voice, telling so calmly the terrible
story of two families, add that the last sacrifice would not be
permitted?  Was the command to rise and look at the mummy-case a test
of her physical courage after what she had heard?

To her own surprise, she was no longer conscious of fear.  A strange,
marble coldness held her in its grip, as if she were becoming a statue.
She moved across the room and stopped in front of the mummy-case.
Living eyes looked out at her.  She saw the dark face so like in
feature to the withered face of the mummy.  This was the face of her
dreams.

The girl recoiled from it and turned to the woman who had been her
friend.  For the first time the Head Sister had lifted her veil and
taken off the mask always worn at the Sisterhood House.  Her face
seemed identical with that in the mummy-case.  It also was the face of
Maida's dreams, the haunting horror of her life.  Without a word the
mystery of the mask and veil became clear to her.  The Head Sister's
one reason for wearing them was to hide her startling likeness to
Essain, her twin brother.

"The end has come," a voice said Maida did not know whether the man or
woman spoke.  As the mummy-case opened and the figure within stepped
out, the world broke for the girl into a cataract of stars which
overwhelmed her.

      *      *      *      *      *

I have told already how I was guided in the direction of Hathor Set.  I
hoped and believed that I was right, but even so I was far from the end
of my quest.  Hathor Set is a small town, important only because of its
situation and the fact that several rich Arabs have their country
houses on the outskirts of the oasis.  Each hour, each moment counted:
yet how was I to learn which of the houses was Maida's prison?  Judging
by the precautions taken for the first stages of the journey, it was in
no optimistic mood that I rode with my little caravan into the
principal street--if street it could be called--of Hathor Set.  Our
camels trod sand, but to our left was the market, and beyond, a few
shops.  In the background the secretive white walls of houses
clustered, the plumed heads of palms rose out of hidden gardens, and
the green dome of a mosque glittered like a peacock's breast against
the hot blue sky.

It was not market day, and the open square with its booths and
enclosures was deserted: but men stood in the doors of two small shops
hopefully designed to attract tourists.  One exhibited coarse native
pottery, and the other, more ambitious, showed alleged antiques, silk
gandourahs, embroideries and hammered brasswork.  Above the open door
was the name "Said ben Hassan," and underneath was printed amateurishly
in English: "Egyptian Curios: Fine Embroideries: French, English and
American Speaken."

I had halted, meaning to descend and buy something as an excuse to ask
questions, when a dirty, crouching figure which squatted near the floor
scrambled up and flung itself before me whining for backsheesh.  "Get
away!" roared my camel-man, who was in a bad temper because of a forced
march.  He struck at the beggar with his goad, while the shopkeeper
rushed forward to prove his zeal in ridding a customer of the nuisance.

"Wretch!" he exclaimed.  "How often have I told thee to depart from my
door and not annoy the honoured ones who come to buy?  This time it is
too much.  Thou shalt spend thy next days in prison."

Between the two hustling the lame man, he fell, crying; and humbug
though he might be, my gorge rose.  For an instant I forgot that I had
meant to ingratiate myself with the shopkeeper, and abused him in my
most expressive Arabic.  I scolded my own man, and, without waiting for
my camel to bend its knees and let me down, I slid off to the rescue.

"The fellow is worthless," pleaded the shopkeeper, anxious to justify
his violence.  "It was for Effendi's sake that I pushed him.  He is
rich.  He is the king of all the beggars--the scandal of Hathor Set."

"Whatever he may be, he's old and weak, and I won't have him struck," I
said.  "Here, let this dry your tears," I went on: and enjoying the
suppressed rage of Abdullah my camel-man, I raised the weeping beggar
from the ground and gave him a handful of piastres.  With suspicious
suddenness his sobs ceased and turned to blessings.  He wished me a
hundred years of life and twenty sons: and then, exulting in the rout
of Said ben Hassan and Abdullah, defiantly returned to the rag of
sacking he had spread like a mat on the sand.  The keeper of the shop
glared a menace: but his wish to sell his goods overcame the desire for
revenge; and contenting himself with a look which said "Only wait!" he
turned with a servile smile to me.  Would the honoured master enter his
mean shop, give himself the pain to examine the wonderful stock
superior to any even in Cairo, and sip sherbet or Turkish coffee?

I paused, reflecting that it might be better to inquire somewhere else.
Humble as the man's tone was, his eyes glittered with malice; and once
he had my money he would delight in sending me on a wild-goose chase.
As I thought what to answer, my eyes wandered over his show window, and
suddenly concentrated on a piece of embroidery.  Some small
table-covers and scarfs of thin Eastern silk were draped on a brass
jardinière.  On the smallest of all I read, in old English lettering,
the words "Help.  Maida."

I kept my self-control with an effort.  For a few seconds I could not
speak.  Then I inquired the price of that piece of embroidery, pointing
it out.  The shopkeeper's fat brown face became a study.  He was asking
himself in an anguish of greed how high he might dare to go.  "Five
hundred piastres," he replied, leaving generous room for the beating
down process.  But I did not beat him down.

"That's a large price," I said, "but I will pay if you tell me where
the embroidery came from.  It's an old English design.  That's why I'm
curious to know how you got it."

Said ben Hassan seemed distressed.  "Honoured Sir, I would tell you if
I could, but I cannot.  It would be as much as my life is worth.
Ladies of the harem make these embroideries, or their women.  I sell
them, and they use the money for their charities.  It is a sacred
custom.  I can say no more."

"I will give you a thousand piastres," I said.

The man looked ready to cry, but persisted.  "It is a great pain to
refuse," he mourned.  "But I would have to make the same answer if
Effendi offered two thousand."

"I offer three," I went on.

But the man was not to be tempted.  He groaned that it was a question
of his life.  Poor as it was, he valued it.  He groaned, he apologised,
he explained, he pressed upon me the true history of all the
antiquities in his shop, and the five hundred piastres I was ready to
pay for the bit of embroidery had shrunk in his eyes to a sum scarcely
worth taking.  At last, when I turned away, deaf to his eloquence, he
caught me by the coat.  "If Effendi must know, I will risk all and give
him his will!" he wailed.  "The embroidery came from Asiut.  I will
write down the name of the powerful pasha who is master of the house:
that is, I will do so if Effendi is still ready to pay three thousand
piastres."

I knew that the man was lying, yet my best hope lay in his
knowledge--practically my one hope.  How to get the truth out of him,
was the question.

"I must think it over," I said.  As I spoke I became conscious that the
lame beggar who had crawled off his mat to the door of the shop was
whining again.

To my astonishment he hurriedly jumbled in English words as if he
wished to hide them.  Under his appeal, in Arabic that I should buy a
fetish he held up in a knotted old hand, he was mumbling in English,
that he would tell me for gratitude, what Ben Hassan dared not tell me
for money.  "Do not give him one piastre: he is lying," muttered the
beggar.  "Buy this fetish.  Inside you will find explanations."

The fetish was a tiny silver box of native make, one of those
receptacles intended to contain a text from the Koran, and to hang from
a string on the breast of the Faithful.  I threw the man a look and I
threw him money.  Squatting there, he seemed to pick up both before he
crawled away.  I burned to call him back as I saw him wrap the sacking
over head and shoulders, and start--without a backward glance--to
hobble off.  But I dared not make a sound.  Hassan, if he suspected,
might ruin the beggar's plan.  I slipped the fetish into my pocket, and
told the shopkeeper that I would content myself for the present with
buying the piece of embroidery.  I must reflect before paying the price
he wanted for information.  I should, I said, spend the night at the
inn, for I was tired.  There would be time to think.

The inn at Hathor Set is hardly worth the name, being little better
than the desert borg which, in my mind, I called the Borg of the
Watching Eye; but its goodness or badness did not matter.  As for
Abdullah, he was glad of the rest.  I had made him start before dawn in
the midst of a sand-storm which had blown itself out only late in the
baking heat of afternoon when we neared the oasis of Hathor Set.  When
I shut myself into an ill-smelling room of the inn, to open the silver
fetish, it was still baking hot, but close upon sunset.  If I had not
felt some strange impulse of confidence in the lame beggar who hid his
English under vulgar Arabic slang, I should have resented the coming of
night.  As it was, I was glad of the falling dusk.  I could work to
find Maida only under the cover of darkness, I knew: for there was no
British consul here, no Justice to whom I could appeal.  There were
only my own hands and my own brain: and such help as the beggar might
give because he hated Said ben Hassan.

A torn scrap of paper was rolled inside the tiny silver box: but it was
not a text from the Koran.

"Dine at eight to-night with the beggar Haroun and his friends and hear
something to your advantage.  Anyone can show you the house," I read,
written in English with pencil.  If I had had time to think of him much
I should have been consumed with curiosity as to the brown-faced old
man who begged by day, and in faultlessly spelled English invited
strangers to dine with him by night.  But I had time to think only of
what I might hear "to my advantage."  The mystery of the "beggar king
of Hathor Set" was lost for me in the mystery of Maida Odell, as a
bubble is lost in the sea.

The Eastern darkness fell like a purple curtain over a lighted lamp.  I
went out long before eight, and showed a coin as I asked the first
cloaked figure I met for the house of Haroun the beggar.  It was
strange that a beggar should have a house, but everything about this
beggar was strange!

The house was in the heart of the crowded town, a town of brown adobe
turning to gold under a rising moon.  All the buildings were huddled
together like a family of lion cubs, but my guide led me to a square of
blank wall on the lower edge of a hill.  The door was placed at the
foot of this hill; and when a negro opened it at my knock I found
myself in a squalid cellar.  At the far end was a flight of dilapidated
stone steps: at the top of this another door, and beyond the door--a
surprise.  I came out into a small but charming garden court with
orange trees and a fountain.  A white embroidered cloth was spread on
the tiled pavement, and surrounded with gay silk cushions for more than
a dozen guests.  Coloured lanterns hung from the trees and lit with
fairy-like effect dishes of crystallised fruit and wonderful pink cakes.

Figures of men in gandourahs came forward respectfully, and the King of
the Beggars bade me welcome.  He offered a brass bowl of rose-water in
which to dip my fingers, and as he himself dried them with a
lace-trimmed napkin he spoke in English.

"I am grateful," he said, "for your trust.  You shall not regret it."
Then he went on, without giving me time to answer, "I am a beggar by
day, and the beggars' king at night, as you see.  This is my existence.
It has its adventures, its pleasures; this meeting is one of the
highest.  It reminds me that I have English blood in my veins.
Besides, if I help you I shall help myself to revenge.  My father was
English, but turned Mohammedan for the love of my mother.  English was
the first language I learned to speak.  In the days of Ismail I was in
his army--an officer.  I was proud of my English blood and I promised
my aid to an Englishman--an officer, too, named Annesley--aid against
one of my own religion.  I helped him to run away with a beautiful
woman.  He escaped with her.  I was caught, wounded, and cruelly
punished.  My career was at an end--my money gone.  Lame and penniless,
I had no power to take revenge.  Many years have passed.  I was young
then.  Now, I am old.  The man who broke me is dead, but his children
live--twins, a son and a daughter.  They have come home from some
country far away, to their father's house.  I saw them come--I, the
lame beggar lying in the street, a Thing that does not count!  Two
women were with Essain, his sister and another who was ill--perhaps
unconscious--lying upon a litter on camel back.  The embroidery you
saw, with the English words which I, too, could read--came from his
house.  It was brought by a negro, to-day, to the shop of Said ben
Hassan, and put in his window an hour before you rode into Hathor Set.
But Ben Hassan is afraid of Essain Pasha, the man I speak of, and he
would never have told you anything about his house: he would only have
lied and sent you off on a false track in repayment for your money.  As
for me, I can tell all you wish to know: and when you have honoured me
by eating my food, I can show you the house.  It is not more than a
mile distant from the town.  If you wish to injure Essain, so much the
better.  Because of what his father did to me, and because of your
kindness, I should like to help you do it."

"For God's sake, come with me now," I broke in at last.  "You asked me
here to dine, but a girl's life may be hanging in the balance.  Her
name is Madeleine Annesley.  She must be the granddaughter of the man
who was your friend, and the woman you helped him take.  You speak of
revenge!  It is for revenge she has been brought here by the man you
call Essain and his sister who is as wicked as himself.  I never knew
till I heard your story what that woman was to him, or why they worked
together.  But now I understand all--or nearly all.  I love Madeleine
Annesley, and I know she's in danger of her life."

"I thought," said Haroun, "there might be some such matter afoot, and
that is why I asked my friends to be here.  They are ready to obey my
orders, for they count me as their king; and I have chosen them from
among others for their strength and courage.  I am the only one who is
old and lame, but I am strong enough for this work.  When it is done,
we can feast, and we will not break our fast till then.  Essain has no
fear of an attack in force.  His house, though it is the great one of
the place, is guarded but by a few negroes, the servants who have kept
it in his absence.  There are orange gardens which surround the house.
Without noise we will break open a little gate I remember, and once
inside, with fifteen strong men at our service, the surprise will be
complete--the house and all in it, male and female, at our mercy."

Not a man of the fifteen but had a weapon of some sort, an
old-fashioned pistol or a long knife, and some had both.

We started in the blue, moony dusk, walking in groups that we might not
be noticed as a band: and it was astonishing how fast the lame beggar
could go.  We led--he and I--and such was the greedy haste with which
his limping legs covered the distance that he kept pace with me at my
best.

Soon we were out of the huddled town, walking beside the rocky bed of
the _oued_ or river; and never leaving the oasis we came at last to a
high white wall.

"This is Essain's garden," Haroun whispered.  "And here is the little
gate I spoke of.  Listen!  I thought I heard voices.  But no.  It may
have been the wind rustling among the leaves."

"It wasn't the wind," I said.  "There are people talking in the garden.
Don't try to break the gate.  You may make a noise.  I'll get over the
wall and open the gate from inside."

"The wall is high," said Haroun, measuring it with his eyes.

"And I am tall," I answered.  "One of your men will give me a leg up."

In another moment I was letting myself cautiously down on a dark, dewy
garden fragrant with the scent of orange blossoms.  There was broken
glass on the top of the wall, and my hands were cut: but that was a
detail.

Noiselessly I slid back the big bolt which fastened the gate.  The men
filed in like a troop of ghosts, and followed me as I tiptoed along,
crouching under trees as I walked.

The voices, speaking together in low, hushed tones, became more
audible, though, even when we came near, we could catch no words.  A
singularly broad-shouldered man in European dress, with a fez on his
rather small head, stood with his back to us, giving orders to four
negroes.  They were out in the open, where the moon touched their
faces, and we in the shadow could see them distinctly.  They had a
long, narrow box somewhat resembling a coffin, which, by their master's
directions, they were about to lower by means of ropes into a
grave-like hole they had dug in the soft earth.

My heart gave a bound, and then missed a beat, as if my life had come
to an end.  I sprang on the man from behind, and the beggar king with
his band followed my lead.  Just what happened next I could hardly
tell: I was too busy fighting.  Down on the ground we two went
together.  Essain--whom I knew as Rameses--fought like a lion.
Surprised as he was, he flashed out a knife somehow, and I felt its
point bite between my ribs, before I got a chance to shoot.  Even then,
I shot at random, and it was only the sudden start and collapse of the
body writhing under mine which told me that my bullet had found its
billet.  The man lay still.  I jumped up, released from his hold.  His
face I could not see, but when I shook him he was limp as a marionette.
"Dead!" I said to myself.  "Well, it's all to the good!" and wasted no
more time on him.

The four negroes were down: they had shown no fight; and already Haroun
had begun with a great knife to prise open the coffin-shaped box.  It
lay on the ground in the moonlight and I saw that it was the mummy-case
I had seen last in Maida's shrine in New York.  There was no doubt--no
hope, then!  I had come too late!

Like a madman I snatched the knife from Haroun, and finished the work
he had begun.  There she lay--my darling--where the mummy had lain so
long.  But I was not too late after all.  As the air touched her she
gasped and opened her eyes.

There, you would say, with the girl I loved coming to life in my arms,
the story of my fight against her enemies might end.  But it was not to
be so.  There was still the one supreme struggle to come.  For Essain,
alias Rameses, was not dead.  He had feigned death to save himself, and
while we forgot him he crept away.



EPISODE IX

THE BELL BUOY

A white yacht steamed slowly through calm water silvered by the moon.
Maida and I were the only passengers.  We had been married that day,
and the yacht _Lily Maid_ was ours for the honeymoon, lent by Maida's
newly found cousins, Sir Robert and Lady Annesley.

"Look," I said, as passing through the Downs I caught sight of two dark
towers showing above a cloud of trees on the Kentish coast.  "Those
towers are my brother's house.  To-morrow I shall be there making him
eat humble pie--and my sister-in-law too."

"I don't want you to make them eat humble pie!" laughed Maida.

"Well, they shall eat whatever you like.  But would you care to anchor
now?  It's nearly midnight."

"Let's go on a little further," she decided.  "It's so heavenly."

It was.  I felt that I had come almost as near heaven as I could hope
to get.  Maida was my wife at last, and she was happy.  I believed that
she was safe.

We went on, and the throb of the yacht's heart was like the throbbing
of my own.  Close together we stood, she and I, my arm clasping her.
So we kept silence for a few moments, and my thoughts trailed back as
the moonlit water trailed behind us.  I remembered many things: but
above all I remembered that other night of moonlight far away in Egypt,
in a secret orange garden where men had dug a grave.

Why, yes, of course Maida was safe!  One of her two enemies had died
that night--the woman.  Exactly how she died we did not know, but I and
the "king of the beggars" had found her lying, face downward, in the
marble basin of a great fountain, dead in water not a foot deep.  The
fountain was in a room whence, from one latticed window, the orange
garden and the fight there could have been seen.  That window was open.
Doubtless Essain's sister had believed her twin brother captured or
dead.  She had thought that, for herself, the end of all things had
come with his downfall: punishment, failure and humiliation worse than
death.  So she had chosen death.  But the man had escaped and
disappeared.  The treasure hidden for thousands of years in the
mummy--treasure which the Head Sister boasted to Maida had been found
by Doctor Rameses--had disappeared with him.

The girl Hateb who had cared for Maida through her illness cared for
her again that night, while Haroun and I guarded the shut door of their
room.  The next day Maida was able to start for Cairo, and Hateb (both
veiled, and in Egyptian dress) acted as her maid.  Had it not been for
Haroun's testimony and the respect felt by the authorities for the rich
beggar, the happenings of that night and the woman's death might have
detained me at Hathor Set; but thanks to Haroun I was able to get Maida
away.  Thanks again partly to him and what he could tell (with what
Maida had been told by the Head Sister) the girl's past was no longer a
mystery.  We knew the name of her people: and luckily it was a name to
conjure with just then in Cairo.  Colonel Sir Robert Annesley was
stationed there.  He was popular and important; and I blessed all my
stars because I had met him in England.

I wanted Maida to marry me in Cairo, with her cousin Sir Robert to give
her away: but the blow my brother had struck long ago had hurt her
sensitive soul to the quick.  She said that she could not be my wife
until Lord Haslemere and Lady Haslemere were willing to welcome her.
She wanted no revenge, but she did want satisfaction.

I had to yield, since a man can't marry a girl by force nowadays, even
when she admits that she's in love.  Sir Robert found her a chaperon,
going to England, and I was allowed to sail on the same ship.  Maida
was invited to stay with Lady Annesley until the wedding could be
arranged on the bride's own "terms"; but Fate was more eloquent than I:
she induced Maida to change her mind.

Lady Annesley was as brave (for herself and her husband) as a soldier's
wife must be; but she had three children.  For them, she was a coward.
Maida had not been two days at the Annesley's Devonshire place, and I
hadn't yet been able to tackle Haslemere, when an anonymous letter
arrived for the girl's hostess.  It said that, if Lady Annesley wished
her three little boys to see their father come home, she would turn out
of her house the enemy of a noble family whose vendetta was not
complete.  At first, the recipient of the letter was at a loss what to
make of it.  Frightened and puzzled, she handed the document to Maida
(this was at breakfast) and Maida was only too well able to explain.

The letter had a London postmark: and the girl knew then, with a shock
of fear, that "Dr. Rameses" was in England--had perhaps reached there
before her.  An hour later I knew also--having motored from the hotel
where I was stopping in Exeter.  The question was, why did the enemy
want to get the girl out of her cousin's house?--for that desire alone
could have inspired the anonymous warning.  Without it, he might have
attempted a surprise stroke: but of his own accord, he had for some
reason eliminated the element of surprise.

As for me, I was thankful.  Not because Essain, alias Rameses, had come
to England, but because he was throwing Maida into my arms.  This
result might be intended by him; but naturally I felt confident that
she would be safe under my protection.  I argued that she couldn't
expose Lady Annesley and the children to danger; the Annesleys had
suffered enough for a sin of generations ago: and if she gave up the
shelter of her cousin's house she must come to me.  What mattered it,
in such circumstances, whether the family welcome came before or after
the wedding?  I guaranteed that it would come.  And so--owing to the
anonymous letter, and its visible effect upon Lady Annesley, Maida
abandoned the dream she had cherished.  We were married by special
licence: and now, on the Annesley's yacht--too small to be needed for
war-service by the Admiralty--we stood on our wedding night.

"Nothing can ever separate us again, my darling!" I broke out suddenly,
speaking my thought aloud.

"No, not even death," Maida said, softly, almost in a whisper.

"Don't think of death, my dearest!" I cut her short.

"I'll try not," she said.  "But it seems so wonderful to dare be
happy--after all.  And the memory of that man--the thought of him--I
won't call it fear, or let it be fear--is like a black spot in the
brightness.  It's like that big floating black shape, moving just
enough to show it is there, in the silver water.  Do you see?" and she
pointed.  "Does that sound we hear, come from it--like a bell--a
funeral bell tolling?"

"That's a bell buoy," I explained.  "I remember it well.  You know,
when I was a boy I spent holidays with my brother at Hasletowers; and I
loved this old buoy.  I've imagined a hundred stories about it; and--by
Jove--I wonder what that chap can be up to!"

The "chap" whose manoeuvres had caused me to break off and forget my
next sentence, was too far away to be made out distinctly.  But he was
in a boat which I took to be a motor-boat, as it had skimmed along the
bright water like a bird.  He had stopped close to the bell buoy, and
was fitting a large round object over his head.  Apparently it was a
diver's helmet.  In the boat I could see another figure, slimmer and
smaller, which might be that of a boy; and this companion gave
assistance when the helmeted one descended into the water over the side
of the boat.  For an instant I saw--or fancied that I saw--that he had
something queer in his hand--something resembling a big bird-cage.
Then he plunged under the surface, and was gone.

We were steaming slowly enough, however, for me to observe in
retrospect, that the huge round head bobbed up a minute later, and that
the black figure climbed back into the boat.  But the cage-like object
was no longer visible.

"Some repairs to the buoy, perhaps," I said, as the yacht took us on.
But it seemed odd, I couldn't put the episode out of my mind.  By and
by I asked the yacht's captain to turn, and let us anchor not too far
from the landing at Hasletowers, for me to go ashore comfortably when I
wished to do so next day.  The boat with the two figures had vanished.
The bell buoy swayed back and forth, sending out its tolling notes; and
the _Lily Maid_ was the only other thing to be seen on the water's
silver.

      *      *      *      *      *

At three o'clock the following afternoon I rowed myself ashore, and
from the private landing walked up to my brother's house.  I hadn't
seen him or my sister-in-law since the day when I ran--or rather
limped--away from Violet's London nursing home with its crowding
flowers and sentimental ladies.  But I had written.  I had told them
that I intended to marry Miss Madeleine Odell, the girl whom they had
driven from England, shamed and humiliated.  I had told them who she
really was, and something of her romantic history.  I had added that
they should learn more when they were ready to apologise and welcome
her.  Later, I had wired that we were being married unexpectedly soon,
and that we should be pleased to have them at the wedding if they
wished.  Haslemere had wired back that they would be prevented by
business of importance from leaving home, but their absence was not to
be misunderstood.  He invited me to call at Hasletowers and talk
matters over.  On this, I telegraphed, making an appointment for the
day after my marriage; because to "talk things over" was what I wanted
to do--though perhaps not in precisely the way meant by Haslemere.

If I'd expected my arrival to be considered an event of importance, I
should have been disappointed.  Haslemere and Violet had the air of
forgetting that months had passed since we met, that I'd been through
adventures, and that this was the day after my wedding.  If we had
parted half an hour before, they could hardly have been more casual!

I was shown into the library, where Haslemere (a big, gaunt fellow of
thirty-eight, looking ten years older, and with the red hair of our
Scottish ancestors) and Violet (of no particular age and much conscious
charm) were passionately occupied in reading a telegram.  I thought it
might have been mine (delayed), but in this I was soon undeceived.

"Hello, Jack!" said Haslemere.  "How are you, dear boy?" said Violet:
and then both began to pour out what was in their hearts.  It had not
the remotest connection with Maida or me.  It concerned themselves and
the great charity sale of historic jewels which, it seemed, Violet was
organising.  What?  I hadn't heard of it?  They were astounded.
England was talking of nothing else.  Well, there was the war, of
course!  But this subject and the war were practically one.  The sale
was for the benefit of mutilated officers.  Nobody else had ever
thought of doing anything practical for _them_, only for the soldiers.
Violet had started by giving the Douglas-heart ring which had come down
to her from an ancestress made even more famous than she would have
been otherwise, by Sir Walter Scott.  This splendid example of
generosity had set the ball rolling.  Violet had only to ask and to
have.  All her friends had answered her call, and lots of outsiders who
hoped thereby to become her friends.  Any number of _nouveaux riches_
creatures had actually _bought_ gorgeous antique jewels in order to lay
them at Violet's shrine--and, incidentally, that of the Mutilated
Officers.

"Nearly a hundred thousand pounds' worth of jewels is here, in this
room, at this moment," my sister-in-law went on impressively, "but it
won't be here many moments longer, I'm thankful to say!  The
responsibility has been too great for us both, this last week, while
the collection grew, and we had to look after it.  Now the whole lot is
being sent to Christie's this afternoon, and the sale by auction will
begin to-morrow.  It's the event of the season, bar nothing!  We hope
to clear a quarter of a million if the bidding goes as we think.  You
_must_ bring your bride, and make her buy something.  If she's one of
the _right_ Annesleys, she must be aw'fly rich!"

"She is one of the right Annesleys," I managed to break in.  "But, as I
wrote you and Haslemere, she has always been known as Madeleine Odell.
You and he----"

"Oh, never mind that!" Haslemere cut me short.  "You have married her
without consulting us.  If you'd asked my advice, I should
certainly--but we won't stir up the past!  Let sleeping dogs lie, and
bygones be bygones, and so on."

"Yes, we'll try and do our best for your wife," Violet added hastily,
with an absent-minded eye.  "When the sale is over, and we have time to
breathe, you must bring her here, and----"

"You both seem to misunderstand the situation, although I thought I'd
made things clear in my letter," I said.  "You cruelly misjudged Maida.
You believed lies about her, and put a public shame upon the innocent
child.  Do you think I'd ever bring her into my brother's house until
he and his wife had begged her forgiveness, and atoned as far as in
their power?"

"Good heavens, Jack, you must be mad!" Haslemere exclaimed.  "I'd
forgotten the affair until you revived it in my mind by announcing that
you intended to marry a girl whose presentation I'd caused to be
cancelled.  Then I remembered.  I acted at the time only as it was my
duty to act, according to information received.  An American
acquaintance of Violet's--a widow of good birth whose word could not be
doubted, told us a tragic story in which Miss Odell had played--well,
to put it mildly, in consideration for you--had played an unfortunate
part."

"The name of this American widow was Granville," I cut in, "and the
tragedy was that of her son."

"It was.  I see you know."

"I know the true version of the story.  And I expect you and Violet to
listen to it."

"We can't listen to anything further now, dear boy.  We've more
important--I beg your pardon--we've more _pressing_ things to attend
to," said Violet.  "You've a right to your point of view, and we don't
want to hurt your feelings.  But I don't think you ought to want _us_
to go against our convictions, unless to be civil, for your sake, and
avoid scandal.  We'll do our best, I told you; you must be satisfied
with that.  And really, we _can't_ talk about this any longer, because
just before you came we'd a telegram from Drivenny to say he and Combes
and Blackburn will be here an hour earlier than the appointment.  That
will land them on us at any instant; and I don't care to be agitated,
please!"

"Drivenny is the great jewel expert," Haslemere condescended to
enlighten my amateurish intelligence.  "Combes is the Scotland Yard
man, as you know: and Blackburn is the famous detective from New York
who's in London now.  We don't understand why they come before their
time, but no doubt they've an excellent reason and we shall hear it
soon.  You shall see them, if you like.  You're interested in
detectives."

"It sounds like a plot," I remarked, so angry with my brother and his
wife that I found a mean pleasure in trying to upset them.  "You'd
better make jolly well sure that the right men come.  As you are
responsible for the jewels----"

Haslemere laughed.  "You talk as if you were a detective in a boy's
story paper!  Not likely I should be such a fool as to hand the boodle
over to men I didn't know by sight!  They have been here before, in a
bunch, Drivenny judging the jewels, the detectives----"

"My lord, the three gentlemen from London have arrived in a motor-car,"
announced a footman.  "They wished to send their cards to your
lordship."  He presented a silver tray with three crude but
business-like cards lying on it.

"Show them in at once," said Haslemere.  He stood in front of a
bookcase containing the works of George Eliot, Charles Dickens and Sir
Walter Scott.  I knew that bookcase well, and the secret which it so
respectably hid.  Behind, was the safe in which our family had for
several generations placed such valuables as happened to be in the
house.  Haslemere slid back with a touch a little bronze ornament
decorating a hinge on the glass door.  In a tiny recess underneath was
the head of a spring, which he pressed.  The whole bookcase slipped
along the wall and revealed the safe.  Haslemere opened this, and took
out a despatch box.  While Violet received the box from his hands and
laid it on a table near by, my brother closed the safe, and replaced
the bookcase.  A moment later, the three important visitors were
ushered into the room, their names pronounced with respect by the
servant: "Mr. Drivenny: Mr. Blackburn: Mr. Combes."

Haslemere met his guests with civility and honoured them consciously by
presenting the trio to Violet.  "This is my brother, back from a
military mission to America," he indicated me casually, without
troubling to mention my name.

The three men looked at me, and I at them.  It struck me that they
would not have been sorry to dispense with my presence.  There was just
a flash of something like chagrin which passed across the faces: the
thin, aquiline face of Drivenny, spectacled, beetle-browed,
clean-shaven: the square, puffy-cheeked face of Combes: the red, round
face of the American, Blackburn.  The flash vanished as quickly as it
came, leaving the three middle-aged countenances impassive; but it made
me wonder.  Why should the jewel-expert and the two detectives object
to the presence of another beside Lord and Lady Haslemere, when that
other was a near relative of the family?  Surely it was a trifling
detail that I should witness the ceremony of their taking over the
contents of the tin box?

Whatever their true feelings might have been, by tacit consent I was
made to realise that I counted for no more in the scene than a fly on
the wall, to Haslemere and Violet.  No notice was taken of me while
Haslemere unlocked the despatch box, and Violet--as the organiser of
the scheme--took out the closely piled jewel-boxes it contained.  This
done, she proceeded to arrange them on the long oak table, cleared for
the purpose.  I stood in the background, as one by one the neatly
numbered velvet, satin or Russia-leather cases were opened, and the
description of the jewels within read aloud by Haslemere from a list.
Each of the three new-comers had a duplicate list, and there was
considerable talk before the cases were closed, and returned to the
despatch box.  Most of this talk came from Violet and Haslemere, both
of whom were excited.  As for Drivenny, Blackburn and Combes, it seemed
to me that, in their hearts, they would gladly have hastened
proceedings.  They were polite but intensely business-like, and as soon
as they could manage it the box was stuffed into a commonplace brown
kitbag which the footman had brought in with the visitors.  The three
had motored from London to Hasletowers; and they smiled drily when
Violet asked if they "thought there was danger of an attack on the way
back."

"None whatever," replied the square-faced Combes.  "We've made sure of
that.  There's too much at stake to run risks."

"Don't you remember I told you, Violet, what Mr. Combes said before?"
Haslemere reminded his wife: "that the road between here and Christie's
would swarm with plain clothes men in motors and on bicycles.  If every
gang of jewel-thieves in England or Europe were on this job, they'd
have their trouble for their pains."

"I remember," Violet admitted, "but there's been such a lot about this
affair in the papers!  Thieves are so clever----"

"Not so clever as our friends," Haslemere admonished her, with one of
his slightly patronising smiles for the jewel-expert and the
detectives.  "That's why they've got the upper hand; that's why we've
asked their co-operation."

"Oh, of course!" exclaimed Violet.  They all spent the next sixty
seconds in compliments: and at the end of that time Mr. Combes
announced that he and his companions had better be off.  It would be
well to complete the business.  Mr. Drivenny asked Haslemere if he
would care to go to Christie's in the car with them, as a matter of
form, and Haslemere replied that he considered it unnecessary.  The
valuables, in such hands, were safe as in the Bank of England.  The
three men were invited to have drinks, but refused: and Haslemere
himself accompanied them to their car.  Violet and I stared at it from
the window.  It was an ordinary-looking grey car, with an
ordinary-looking grey chauffeur.

When Haslemere came back to the library, I took up the subject which
the arrival of the men had made me drop.

What did my brother and sister-in-law intend to do, to atone to my
wife?  Apparently they intended to do nothing: could not see why they
should do anything: resented my assertion that they had done wrong in
the past, and were not accustomed to being accused or called to account.

My heart had been set on obtaining poetic justice for Maida; but I knew
she wouldn't wish me to plead.  That would be for us both a new
humiliation added to the old; an Ossa piled upon Pelion.  Losing hope,
I indulged myself by losing also my temper.

"Very well," I said.  "Maida will be a success without help from you.
As for me----"

"Mr. Drivenny, Mr. Blackburn and Mr. Combes," announced a footman--not
the same who had made the announcement before.

"What--they've come _back_!" Violet and Haslemere exclaimed together.
"Show them in."

Evidently something had gone wrong!  Even I, in the midst of my rage,
was pricked to curiosity.

The three men came in: thin, aquiline Drivenny, square, puffy-faced
Combes, and red, round Blackburn.  It was not more than half an hour
since they had gone, yet already they had changed their clothes.  They
were all dressed differently, not excepting boots and hats: and Combes
had a black kitbag in place of the brown one.  Even in their faces,
figures and bearings there was some subtle change.

"Good gracious!  What's happened?" Violet gasped.

The men seemed surprised.

"We're a little before our time, my lady," said Combes, "but----"

Haslemere snatched the words from his mouth.  "But you telegraphed.
You came here----"

"We didn't telegraph, my lord," the detective respectfully contradicted
him.

Violet gave a cry, and put her hands up to her head, staring at the
trio so subtly altered.  As before, I was a back-ground figure.  I said
nothing, but I thought a good deal.  The trick jokingly suggested by me
had actually been played.

At first neither Violet nor Haslemere would believe the dreadful thing.
It was too bad to be true.  These, not the other three, were the
impostors!  Violet staggered towards the bell to call the servants, but
Combes showed his police badge: and between the trio it was soon made
clear that the Marquis and Marchioness of Haslemere had let themselves
be utterly bamboozled.  They had of their own free will handed over to
a pack of thieves nearly one hundred thousand pounds worth of famous
jewels: not even their own, but other people's jewels entrusted to them
for charity!

There was, however, not a moment to waste in repinings.  The local
police were warned by telephone; the escaping car and chauffeur were
described, and the genuine detectives, with the jewel-expert, dashed
off in pursuit of their fraudulent understudies.  Meantime, while the
others talked, I reflected; and an astonishing idea began to
crystallise in my brain.  When Violet was left crying on Haslemere's
shoulder (sobbing that she was ruined, that she would kill herself
rather than face the blame of her friends) I made my voice heard.

"I know you and Haslemere always hated my detective talents--if any.
But they might come in useful now, if I could get an inspiration," I
remarked.

Violet caught me up.

"_Have_ you an inspiration?"

"Perhaps."

"For heaven's sake what is it?"

"If I have one, it's my own," I drily replied.  "I don't see why I
should give it away.  This is _your_ business--yours and Haslemere's.
Why should I be interested?  Neither of you are interested in mine."

"You mean, your ideas are for sale?" Haslemere exclaimed, in virtuous
disgust, seizing my point.

"My _help_ is for sale--at a price."

"The price of our receiving your wife, I suppose!" he accused me
bitterly.

"Oh, it's higher than that!  I may have guessed something.  I may be
able to do something with that guess; but I'm hanged if I'll dedicate a
thought or act to your service unless you, Haslemere, personally ask
Maida's forgiveness for the cruel injustice you once did without
stopping to make sure whether you were right or wrong: unless you,
Violet, ask my wife--_ask_ her, mind you!--to let you present her to
the King and Queen at the first Court after the war."

"We'll do anything--anything!" wailed Violet.  "I'll crawl on my knees
for a mile to your Maida, if only you can really get the jewels back
before people find out how we've been fooled."

"I don't want you to crawl," said I.  "You can walk, or even motor to
Maida--or come out in a boat to the yacht where she's waiting for me
and my news.  But if I can do any useful work, it will be to-night."

"Do you think you can--oh, do you _think_ you can?" Violet implored.

"That's just what I must do.  I must think," I said.  "Perhaps
meanwhile the police will make a lucky stroke If so, you'll owe me
nothing.  If they don't----"

"They won't--I feel they won't!" my sister-in-law sobbed.

Suddenly I had become the sole person of importance in her world.  She
pinned her one forlorn hope to me, like a flag nailed to a mast in a
storm.  And I--saw a picture before my mind's eye of a dark figure in a
boat, putting on a thing that looked like a diver's helmet.  Queer,
that--very queer!

      *      *      *      *      *

So utterly absorbed was I in my new-born theory and in trying to work
it out, that for the first time since I met and loved her I ceased
consciously to think of Maida.  Of course she was the incentive.  If I
put myself into Haslemere's service, I was working for _her_: to earn
their gratitude, and lay their payment at her feet.  Far away in the
dimmest background of my brain was the impression that I was a clever
fellow: that I was being marvellously intelligent: and at that moment I
was more of a fool than I had ever been in my life.  I thought I saw
Rameses' hand moving in the shadows, using my brother and his wife as
pawns in his game of chess.  Yet it didn't occur to my mind that he was
using me also: that he had pushed me far along the board, for his
convenience, while I believed myself acting in my own interests and
Maida's.  I had flattered myself that my white queen was safe on the
square where I had placed her, guarded by knight, bishop and castle.
Yet while I went on with the game at a far end of the board, Rameses
said "Check!"  Another move, and it would be checkmate.

I was gone longer than Maida had expected, but she was not anxious.
The yacht at anchor, lay in sight of the towers Which I had pointed out
the night before, rising above a dusky cloud of trees.  From Maida's
deck-chair she could see them against the sky; and she could have seen
the landing-place where I had gone ashore, had it not been hidden
behind a miniature promontory.  She tried to read, but it was hard to
concentrate her mind on any book, while her future was being decided.
In spite of herself, she would find her eyes wandering from the page
and focussing on the little green promontory that screened the landing.
At any moment I might appear from behind those rocks and bushes.

Suddenly, just as she had contrived to lose herself in a poem of Rupert
Brooke's, the throb of a motor-boat caught her ear.  She glanced
eagerly up, to see a small automobile craft rounding the promontory.
Apparently it had come from the private landing-place of Hasletowers,
but the girl could not be certain of this until she had made sure it
was headed for the yacht.  Presently it had stopped alongside, and
Maida saw that it had on board a man and a boy.  The man, in a yachting
cap and thick coat of the "pea-jacket" variety, absorbed himself deeply
in the engine.  What he was doing Maida neither knew nor cared; but it
took his whole attention.  He humped his back over his work and had not
even the human curiosity to look up.  It was the boy who hailed the
_Lily Maid_, and announced that he had a message for Lady John Hasle
from her sister-in-law, Lady Haslemere.  It was a verbal message, which
he had been ordered to deliver himself; and three minutes later he was
on deck carrying out his duty.

"If you please, m'lady, the Marquis and Marchioness of Haslemere send
their best compliments, and would you favour them by going in this boat
to meet her ladyship on board the yacht of a friend?  You will be
joined a little later by the Marquis, and Lord John Hasle, who are at
the house, kept by important business."

"I don't understand," Maida hesitated.  "My hus--Lord John went on
shore some time ago.  I thought--was Lady Haslemere not at home after
all?"

"That's it, m'lady," briskly explained the lad.  "She was away on board
this yacht I'm speaking of.  Her ladyship hasn't been well--a bit of an
invalid, or she'd come to you.  But Lord John Hasle thought you might
not mind----"

"Of course I don't mind," Maida answered him, believing that she began
to see light upon the complicated situation.  "I'll be ready to start
in five minutes."

And she was.  Her maid gave her a veiled hat and long cloak; and she
was helped on board the motorboat.  Still the elder member of its crew
did not turn, but went on feverishly rubbing something with an oily
rag.  The dainty white-clad passenger was made comfortable, the boy
tucking a rug over her knees.  As he did this, he glanced up from under
his cap, as if involuntarily, straight into Maida's chiffon-covered
face.  She had been too busy thinking of other things to notice the lad
with particularity: but with his face so close to hers for an instant,
it struck her for the first time that it was like another face
remembered with distaste.  There rose before Maida a fleeting picture
of a young lay sister at the house of the Grey Sisterhood far away on
Long Island.  The girl had been of the monkey type, lithe and thin,
brown and freckled, her age anything between seventeen and twenty-two;
and she had seemed to regard Miss Odell, the Head Sister's favourite,
with jealous dislike.

"The same type," thought Maida.  "They might be brother and sister.
But the boy is better looking than the girl.  Funny they should look
alike: she so American, he with his strong Cockney accent!"

A minute more, and the motor-boat had left the side of the _Lily Maid_
and was shooting away past the private landing-place of Hasletowers.
She took the direction whence the yacht had come the previous night,
before the dark shapes above the trees had been pointed out by me.
Still, there was no other yacht in sight: the waters were empty save
for a little black speck far away which might be, Maida thought, the
bell buoy of which we had talked.  Indeed, as the boat glided on--at
visibly reduced speed now--she fancied that she caught the doleful
notes of the tolling bell.

"The yacht where Lady Haslemere expects us, must be a long way from
shore;" Maida said.

"Don't be impatient," the man's voice answered.  "You will come to your
destination soon enough."

A thrill of horror ran through her veins with an electric shock.  She
knew the voice.  She had heard it last in a house in Egypt.  The man
turned deliberately as he spoke, and looked at her.  The face was the
face of her past dream, the still more dread reality of her present----

And so, after all, this was to be the end of her love story!

"You do not speak," Essain said.

"I have nothing to say," Maida heard herself answer; and she wondered
at the calmness of her own voice.  It was low, but it scarcely
trembled.  So sure she was that there was no hope, no help, she was not
even frightened.  Simply, she gave herself up for lost: and the sick
stab of pain in her heart was for me.  She was afraid--but only afraid
that I might reproach myself for leaving her alone.

"You've no doubt now as to what your destination is?" the voice went
on, quivering with exultation as Maida's did not quiver with dread.

"I have no doubt," she echoed.

"No appeal to my pity?"

"I made none before.  It would have been worse than useless then--and
it would now."

"You are right!" the man said.  "It would be useless.  I have lived for
this.  My one regret is that my sister sacrificed her life in vain.
But she and I will meet--soon it may be--and I shall tell her that we
did not fail."

"If you tell her the truth, you will have to say you couldn't make me
die a coward," Maida answered, "and so your triumph isn't worth much."

"It is the end of the vendetta, and our promise to our father will have
been kept," said Essain.  "That is enough.  I do not expect a woman of
your ancestry to be a coward."

"She doesn't know yet what you're going to do with her," cut in his
companion.  The Cockney accent was gone.  Maida started slightly in
surprise, and stared at the brown, monkey face with its ears which
stuck out on the close-cropped head.  The voice was only too easy to
recognise now.

"Be silent, you cat!" Essain commanded savagely.  "Your business is to
obey.  Leave the rest to me."

He turned again to Maida.  "You see," he said, "my sister and I never
lacked for servants.  I have many on this side of the water--as
everywhere when I want them.  But this one is rather over-zealous
because she happened not to be among the admirers of Miss Odell at the
Sisterhood House.  She wants you to realise that she is enough in my
confidence to know what is due to happen next.  I intend to tell
you--not to please her, but to please myself.  I have earned the
satisfaction!  First, however, I have a few other explanations to make.
I think they may interest you, Lady John Hasle! .... My organisations
are as powerful in Europe as in the States.  Through some of my best
men your new family is going to be disgraced.  There will be a
first-class scandal, and they will have to pay, to the tune of one
hundred thousand pounds, to crush it.  They're far from rich.  I'm not
sure they can do the trick--unless your clever husband stumps up with
the fortune he'll inherit from you, on your death.  I shall be
interested, as an outsider, to see the developments.  Meanwhile I've
put into my pocket, and my friends' pockets, the exact sum which must
come out of theirs--or rather I shall in a few moments from now do so,
as you yourself will see."

By this time they had come close to the bell buoy; and Maida remembered
how, with me, she had leaned on the deck-rail idly watching the
silhouettes of a man and a boy in a motor-boat.

"It was you we saw last night!" she exclaimed.  "You put on a diver's
helmet.  You had a thing like an empty cage in your hand.  You went
down under the water----"

"Ah, you saw that from the yacht, did you?" broke in Essain.  "I was
afraid, when I caught sight of the passing yacht, that it might have
been so!  But it doesn't matter.  Lord John fancies himself a
detective--but it's luck, more than skill, which has favoured him so
far: and his luck won't bring him to the bell buoy until I want him to
come--which I shall do, later.  The cage you saw isn't empty to-day, if
any of Lord John's luck is on my friends' side, and I'm sure it is.  I
placed the receptacle ready last night.  Now, I think it will be filled
with jewelled fish, which I have come to catch.  In their place I shall
give it a feed of stones, heavy enough to hold it down.  And deep under
the still water you shall be its guardian, till I'm out of England and
can let Lord John have a hint where to look for his lost wife."

Maida remembered what I had told her last night: how, when I was a boy
I had loved the old bell buoy and "imagined a thousand stories about
it."  Surely I could never have invented one so strange as this--this
end of our love story for which the bell tolled!

"When he finds me gone, he will never think of the bell buoy," Maida
told herself.

But I had thought of it even without knowing that she was gone.  I had
put myself into Rameses' skin, and let my mind follow the workings of
his since the sending of the anonymous letter to Lady Annesley, just up
to the moment when those two dark silhouettes had passed near the
moonlit bell buoy.  I had cursed myself for not seeing how it might
have suited Rameses' book to have Maida isolated on board the _Lily
Maid_--certain to be offered to her if she left Annesley's house to be
married in a hurry.  I had called myself every kind of madman and fool
for leaving her alone at the mercy of the enemy, and--having done all
this I went straight to Southampton in my brother's highest-powered
car, to hire a motorboat of my own.

That is how I got to the bell buoy just as Essain and his companion had
emptied the iron cage of its treasures and were filling it with stones
while Maida lay bound hand and foot in the bottom of the boat.

Rameses had ready a tiny bottle of Prussic acid which he crushed
between his teeth at sight of me and the two policemen from
Southampton.  But the disguised girl lived, and through her we found
the false Combes, Blackburn and Drivenny, members all of the old New
York gang who had played me so many tricks.  Nobody outside has ever
yet heard the story of the imposture and the theft; nor will they know
till they see this story in print.  By then the jewel auction will have
been forgotten by the world.  Only we shall not forget.  But we are too
happy, Maida and I, to remember with bitterness.



PRINTED BY

WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON, LTD.

PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND





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