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Title: Beaumaroy Home from the Wars
Author: Hope, Anthony, 1863-1933
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 "Beaumaroy Home from the Wars" ***

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                   BEAUMAROY HOME FROM THE WARS

                         BY ANTHONY HOPE


    METHUEN & CO. LTD.
    36 ESSEX STREET W.C.
    LONDON

    _First Published in 1919_



CONTENTS


CHAPTER PAGE

I. DOCTOR MARY'S PAYING GUEST 1

II. THE GENERAL REMEMBERS 13

III. MR. SAFFRON AT HOME 27

IV. PROFESSIONAL ETIQUETTE 39

V. A FAMILIAR IMPLEMENT 53

VI. ODD STORY OF CAPTAIN DUGGLE! 66

VII. A GENTLEMANLY STRANGER 80

VIII. CAPTAIN ALEC RAISES HIS VOICE 94

IX. DOCTOR MARY'S ULTIMATUM 107

X. THAT MAGICAL WORD MOROCCO! 123

XI. THE CAR BEHIND THE TREES 138

XII. THE SECRET OF THE TOWER 151

XIII. RIGHT OF CONQUEST 163

XIV. THE SCEPTRE IN THE GRAVE 178

XV. A NORMAL CASE 192

XVI. DEAD MAJESTY 206

XVII. THE CHIEF MOURNERS 220

XVIII. THE GOLD AND THE TREASURE 234



BEAUMAROY HOME FROM THE WARS



CHAPTER I

DOCTOR MARY'S PAYING GUEST


"Just in time, wasn't it?" asked Mary Arkroyd.

"Two days before the--the ceremony! Mercifully it had all been kept very
quiet, because it was only three months since poor Gilly was killed. I
forget whether you ever met Gilly? My half-brother, you know?"

"Only once--in Collingham Gardens. He had an _exeat_, and dashed in one
Saturday morning when we were just finishing our work. Don't you
remember?"

"Yes, I think I do. But since my engagement I'd gone into colours--oh,
of course, I've gone back into mourning now!--and everything was
ready--settlements and so on, you know. And rooms taken at Bournemouth.
And then it all came out!"

"How?"

"Well, Eustace--Captain Cranster, I mean----Oh, I think he really must
have had shell-shock, as he said, even though the doctor seemed to doubt
it! He gave the Colonel as a reference in some shop, and--and the bank
wouldn't pay the cheque. Other cheques turned up too; and in the end the
police went through his papers, and found letters from--well, from her,
you know. From Bogota. South America, isn't it? He'd lived there ten
years, you know, growing something--beans, or coffee, or coffee-beans,
or something--I don't know what. He tried to say the marriage wasn't
binding, but the Colonel--wasn't it providential that the Colonel was
home on leave? Mamma could never have grappled with it! The Colonel was
sure it was, and so were the lawyers."

"What happened then?"

"The great thing was to keep it quiet. Now wasn't it? And there was the
shell-shock--or so Eustace--Captain Cranster, I mean--said, anyhow. So,
on the Colonel's advice, Mamma squared the cheque business and--and they
gave him twenty-four hours to clear out. Papa--I call the Colonel papa,
you know, though he's really my stepfather--used a little influence, I
think. Anyhow it was managed. I never saw him again, Mary."

"Poor dear! Was it very bad?"

"Yes! But--suppose we had been married! Mary, where should I have been?"

Mary Arkroyd left that problem alone. "Were you very fond of him?" she
asked.

"Awfully!" Cynthia turned up to her friend pretty blue eyes suffused in
tears. "It was the end of the world to me. That there could be such men!
I went to bed. Mamma could do nothing with me. Oh, well, she wrote to
you about all that."

"She told me you were in a pretty bad way."

"I was just desperate! Then one day--in bed--the thought of you came. It
seemed an absolute inspiration. I remembered the card you sent on my
last birthday--you've never forgotten my birthdays, though it's years
since we met--with your new address here--and your 'Doctor,' and all the
letters after your name! I thought it rather funny." A faint smile, the
first since Miss Walford's arrival at Inkston, probably the first since
Captain Eustace Cranster's shell-shock had wrought catastrophe--appeared
on her lips. "How I waited for your answer! You don't mind having me, do
you, dear? Mamma insisted on suggesting the P.G. arrangement. I was
afraid you'd shy at it."

"Not a bit! I should have liked to have you anyhow, but I can make you
much more comfortable with the P.G. money. And your maid too--she looks
as if she was accustomed to the best! By the way, need she be quite so
tearful? She's more tearful than you are yourself."

"Jeanne's very, very fond of me," Cynthia murmured reproachfully.

"Oh, we'll get her out of that," said Mary briskly. "The tears, I mean,
not the fondness. I'm very fond of you myself. Six years ago you were a
charming kitten, and I used to enjoy being your 'visiting governess'--to
say nothing of finding the guineas very handy while I was waiting to
qualify. You're rather like a kitten still, one of those blue-eyed
ones--Siamese, aren't they?--with close fur and a wondering look. But
you mustn't mew down here, and you must have lots of milk and cream.
Even if rations go on, I can certify all the extras for you. That's the
good of being a doctor!" She laughed cheerfully as she took a cigarette
from the mantelpiece and lit it.

Cynthia, on the other hand, began to sob, prettily and not in a noisy
fashion, yet evidently heading towards a bout of grief. Moreover, no
sooner had the first sound of lamentation escaped from her lips, than
the door was opened smartly and a buxom girl, in lady's-maid uniform,
rushed in, darted across the room, and knelt by Cynthia, sobbing also
and exclaiming, "Oh, my poor Mees Cynthia!"

Mary smiled in a humorous contempt. "Stop this!" she commanded rather
brusquely. "You've not been deceived too, have you, Jeanne?"

"Me, madame? No. But my poor Mees----"

"Leave your poor Mees to me." She took a paper bag from the mantelpiece.
"Go and eat chocolates."

Fixed with a firm and decidedly professional glance, Jeanne stopped
sobbing and rose slowly to her feet.

"Don't listen outside the door. You must have been listening. Wait till
you're rung for. Miss Cynthia will be all right with me. We're going for
a walk. Take her upstairs and put on her hat for her, and a thick coat;
it's cold and going to rain, I think."

"A walk, Mary?" Cynthia's sobs stopped to make way for this protest. The
description of the weather did not sound attractive.

"Yes, yes. Now off with both of you! Here, take the chocolates, Jeanne,
and try to remember that it might have been worse."

Jeanne's brown eyes were eloquent of reproach.

"Captain Cranster might have been found out too late--after the
wedding," Mary explained with a smile. "Try to look at it like that.
Five minutes to get ready, Cynthia!" She was ready for the weather
herself, in the stout coat and skirt and weather-proof hat in which she
had driven the two-seater on her round that morning.

The disconsolate pair drifted ruefully from the room, though Jeanne did
recollect to take the chocolates. Doctor Mary stood looking down at the
fire, her lips still shaped in that firm, wise, and philosophical smile
with which doctors and nurses--and indeed, sometimes, anybody who
happens to be feeling pretty well himself--console or exasperate
suffering humanity. "A very good thing the poor silly child did come to
me!" That was the form her thoughts took. For although Dr. Mary Arkroyd
was, and knew herself to be, no dazzling genius at her profession--in
moments of candour she would speak of having "scraped through" her
qualifying examinations--she had a high opinion of her own common sense
and her power of guiding weaker mortals.

For all that Jeanne's cheek bulged with a chocolate, there was open
resentment on her full pouting lips, and a hint of the same feeling in
Cynthia's still liquid eyes, when mistress and maid came downstairs
again. Without heeding these signs, Mary drew on her gauntlets, took her
walking-stick, and flung the hall door open. A rush of cold wind filled
the little hall. Jeanne shivered ostentatiously; Cynthia sighed and
muffled herself deeper in her fur collar. "A good walking day!" said
Mary decisively.

Up to now, Inkston had not impressed Cynthia Walford very favourably. It
was indeed a mixed kind of a place. Like many villages which lie near to
London and have been made, by modern developments, more accessible than
once they were, it showed chronological strata in its buildings. Down by
the station all was new, red, suburban. Mounting the tarred road, the
wayfarer bore slightly to the right along the original village street;
bating the aggressive "fronts" of one or two commercial innovators, this
was old, calm, serene, grey in tone and restful, ornamented by three or
four good-class Georgian houses, one quite fine, with well-wrought iron
gates (this was Dr. Irechester's); turning to the right again, but more
sharply, the wayfarer found himself once more in villadom, but a
villadom more ornate, more costly, with gardens to be measured in
acres--or nearly. This was Hinton Avenue (Hinton because it was the
builder's wife's maiden name, Avenue because avenue is genteel). Here
Mary dwelt, but by good luck her predecessor, Dr. Christian Evans, had
seized upon a surviving old cottage at the end of the avenue, and,
indeed, of Inkston village itself. Beyond it stretched meadows, while
the road, turning again, ran across an open heath, and pursued its way
to Sprotsfield, four miles distant, a place of greater size where all
amenities could be found.

It was along this road that the friends now walked, Mary setting a brisk
pace. "When once you've turned your back on the Avenue, it's heaps
better," she said. "Might be real country, looking this way, mightn't
it? Except the Naylors' place--oh, and Tower Cottage--there are no
houses between this and Sprotsfield."

The wind blew shrewdly, with an occasional spatter of rain; the withered
bracken lay like a vast carpet of dull copper colour under the cloudy
sky; scattered fir trees made fantastic shapes in the early gloom of a
December day. A sombre scene, yet wanting only sunshine to make it flash
in a richness of colour; even to-day its quiet and spaciousness, its
melancholy and monotony, seemed to bid a sympathetic and soothing
welcome to aching and fretted hearts.

"It really is rather nice out here," Cynthia admitted.

"I come almost every afternoon. Oh, I've plenty of time! My round in the
morning generally sees me through--except for emergencies--births and
deaths, and so on. You see, my predecessor, poor Christian Evans, never
had more than the leavings, and that's all I've got. I believe the real
doctor--the old-established one--Dr. Irechester, was angry at first with
Dr. Evans for coming; he didn't want a rival. But Christian was such a
meek, mild, simple little Welshman, not the least pushing or ambitious;
and very soon Dr. Irechester, who's quite well off, was glad to leave
him the dirty work--I mean," she explained, smiling, "the cottages and
the panel work--National Insurance, you know--and so on. Well, as you
know, I came down as _locum_ for Christian--he was a fellow-student of
mine--and when the dear little man was killed in France, Dr. Irechester
himself suggested that I should stay on. He was rather nice. He said,
'We all started to laugh at you, at first, but we don't laugh
now--anyhow, only my wife does! So, if you stay on, I don't doubt we
shall work very well together, my dear colleague.' Wasn't that rather
nice of him, Cynthia?"

"Yes, dear," said Cynthia, in a voice that sounded a good many miles
away.

Mary laughed. "I'm bound to be interested in you, but I suppose you're
not bound to be interested in me," she observed resignedly. "All the
same, I made a sensation at Inkston just at first. And they were even
more astonished when it turned out that I could dance and play lawn
tennis."

"That's a funny little place," said Cynthia, pointing to the left side
of the road.

"Tower Cottage, that's called."

"But what a funny place!" Cynthia insisted. "A round tower, like a
Martello tower, only smaller, of course; and what looks just like an
ordinary cottage--or small farmhouse--joined on to it. What could the
tower have been for?"

"I'm sure I don't know. Origin lost in the mists of antiquity! An old
gentleman named Saffron lives there now."

"A patient of yours, Mary?"

"Oh no! He's well off--rich, I believe. So he belongs to Dr. Irechester.
But I often meet him along the road. Lately there's always been a
younger man with him--a companion, or secretary, or something of that
sort, I hear he is."

"There are two men coming along the road now."

"Yes, that's them--the old man and his friend. He's rather striking to
look at."

"Which of them?"

"The old man, of course. I haven't looked at the secretary. Cynthia, I
believe you're beginning to feel a little better!"

"Oh no, I'm not! I'm afraid I'm not, really!" But there had been a
cheerfully roguish little smile on her face. It vanished very promptly
when observed.

The two men approached them, on their way, no doubt, to Tower Cottage.
The old man was not above middle height, indeed scarcely reached it;
but he made the most of his inches, carrying himself very upright, with
an air of high dignity. Close-cut white hair showed under an
old-fashioned peaked cap; he wore a plaid shawl swathed round him, his
left arm being enveloped in its folds; his right rested in the arm of
his companion, who was taller than he, lean and loose-built, clad in an
almost white (and very unseasonable-looking) suit of some homespun
material. He wore no covering on his head, a thick crop of curly hair
(of a colour indistinguishable in the dim light) presumably affording
such protection as he needed. His face was turned down towards the old
man, who was looking up at him and apparently talking to him, though in
so low a tone that no sound reached Mary and Cynthia as they passed by.
Neither man gave any sign of noticing their presence.

"Mr. Saffron, you said? Rather a queer name, but he looks a nice old
man; patriarchal, you know. What's the name of the other one?"

"I did hear; somebody mentioned him at the Naylors'--somebody who had
heard something about him in France. What was the name? It was something
queer too, I think."

"They've got queer names and they live in a queer house!" Cynthia
actually gave a little laugh. "But are you going to walk all night, Mary
dear?"

"Oh, poor thing! I forgot you! You're tired? We'll turn back."

They retraced their steps, again passing Tower Cottage, into which its
occupants must have gone, for they were no longer to be seen.

"That name's on the tip of my tongue," said Mary in amused vexation. "I
shall get it in a moment!"

Cynthia had relapsed into gloom. "It doesn't matter in the least," she
murmured.

"It's Beaumaroy!" said Mary in triumph.

"I don't wonder you couldn't remember that!"



CHAPTER II

THE GENERAL REMEMBERS


Amongst many various, and no doubt useful, functions, Miss Delia Wall
performed that of gossip and newsagent-general to the village of
Inkston. A hard-featured, swarthy spinster of forty, with a roving,
inquisitive, yet not unkindly eye, she perambulated--or rather
percycled--the district, taking stock of every incident. Not a cat could
kitten or a dog have the mange without her privity; critics of her
mental activity went near to insinuating connivance. Naturally,
therefore, she was well acquainted with the new development at Tower
Cottage, although the isolated position of that dwelling made thorough
observation piquantly difficult. She laid her information before an
attentive, if not very respectful, audience gathered round the tea-table
at Old Place, the Naylors' handsome house on the outskirts of
Sprotsfield and on the far side of the heath from Inkston. She was
enjoying herself, although she was, as usual, a trifle distrustful of
the quality of Mr. Naylor's smile; it smacked of the satiric. "He looks
at you as if you were a specimen," she had once been heard to complain;
and, when she said "specimen," it was obviously beetles that she had in
mind.

"Everybody knows old Mr. Saffron--by sight, I mean--and the woman who
does for him," she said. "There's never been anything remarkable about
_them_. He took his walk as regular as clock-work every afternoon, and
she bought just the same things every week; her books must have tallied
almost to a penny every month, Mrs. Naylor! I know it! And it was a very
rare thing indeed for Mr. Saffron to go to London, though I have known
him to be away once or twice; but very, very rarely!" She paused and
added dramatically, "Until the armistice!"

"Full of ramifications, that event, Miss Wall. It affects even my
business." Mr. Naylor, though now withdrawn from an active share in its
conduct, was still interested in the large shipping firm from which he
had drawn his comfortable fortune.

She looked at him suspiciously, as he put the ends of the slender white
fingers of his two hands together, and leant forward to listen--with
that smile of his and eyes faintly twinkling. But the problem was
seething in her brain; she had to go on.

"A week after the armistice Mr. Saffron went to London by the 9.50. He
travelled first, Anna."

"Did he, dear?" Mrs. Naylor, a stout and placid dame, was not yet
stirred to excitement.

"He came down by the 4.11, and those two men with him. And they've been
there ever since!"

"Two men, Delia! I've only seen one."

"Oh yes, there's another! Sergeant Hooper they call him; a short
thickset man with a black moustache. He buys two bottles of rum every
week at the 'Green Man.' And--one minute, please, Mr. Naylor----"

"I was only going to say that it looks to me as if this man Hooper were,
or had been, a soldier. What do you think?"

"Never mind papa! Go on, Miss Wall. _I'm_ interested." This
encouragement came from Gertie Naylor, a pretty girl of seventeen who
was consuming much tea, bread, and honey.

"And since then the old gentleman and this Mr. Beaumaroy go to town
regularly every week on Wednesdays! Now who are they, how did Mr.
Saffron get hold of them, and what are they doing here? I'm at a loss,
Anna."

Apparently an _impasse_! And Mr. Naylor did not seem to assist matters
by asking whether Miss Wall had kept a constant eye on the Agony
Column. Mrs. Naylor took up her knitting and switched off to another
topic.

"Dr. Arkroyd's friend, Delia dear! What a charming girl she looks!"

"Friend, Anna? I didn't know that! A patient, I understand, anyhow.
She's taking Valentine's beef juice. Of course they _do_ give that in
drink cases, but I should be sorry to think----"

"Drugs, more likely," Mr. Naylor suavely interposed. Then he rose from
his chair and began to pace slowly up and down the long room, looking at
his beautiful pictures, his beautiful china, his beautiful chairs, all
the beautiful things that were his. His family took no notice of this
roving up and down; it was a habit, and was tacitly accepted as meaning
that he had--for the moment--had enough of the company, and even of his
own sallies at its expense.

"I've asked Dr. Arkroyd to bring her over--Miss Walford, I mean--the
first day it's fine enough for tennis," Mrs. Naylor pursued. There was a
hard court at Old Place, so that winter did not stop the game entirely.

"What a name, too!"

"Walford? It's quite a good name, Delia."

"No, no, Anna! Beaumaroy, of course." Miss Wall was back at the larger
problem.

"There's Alec's voice--he and the General are back from their golf.
Ring for another teapot, Gertie dear."

The door opened; not Alec but the General came in, and closed the door
carefully behind him; it was obviously an act of precaution and not
merely a normal exercise of good manners. Then he walked up to his
hostess and said, "It's not my fault, Anna. Alec would do it, though I
shook my head at him, behind the fellow's back."

"What do you mean, General?" cried the hostess. Mr. Naylor, for his
part, stopped roving.

The door again! "Come in, Mr. Beaumaroy--here's tea."

Mr. Beaumaroy obediently entered, in the wake of Captain Alec Naylor,
who duly presented him to Mrs. Naylor, adding that Beaumaroy had been
kind enough to make the fourth in a game with the General, the Rector of
Sprotsfield, and himself. "And he and the parson were too tough a nut
for us, weren't they, sir?" he added to the General.

Besides being an excellent officer and a capital fellow, Alec Naylor was
also reputed to be one of the handsomest men in the Service; six feet
three, very straight, very fair, with features as regular as any
romantic hero of them all, and eyes as blue. The honourable limp that at
present marked his movements would, it was hoped, pass away. Even his
own family were often surprised into a new admiration of his physical
perfections, remarking, one to the other, how Alec took the shine out of
every other man in the room.

There was no shine--no external obvious shine--to take out of Mr.
Beaumaroy--Miss Wall's puzzling, unaccounted-for Mr. Beaumaroy. The
light showed him now more clearly than when Mary Arkroyd met him on the
heath road, but perhaps thereby did him no service. His features, though
irregular, were not ugly or insignificant, but he wore a rather battered
aspect; there were deep lines running from the corners of his mouth, and
crowsfeet had started under the grey eyes which, in their turn, looked
more sceptical than ardent, rather mocking than eager. Yet when he
smiled, his face became not merely pleasant, but confidentially
pleasant; he seemed to smile especially to and for the person to whom he
was talking; and his voice was notably agreeable, soft and clear--the
voice of a high-bred man, but not exactly of a high-bred Englishman.
There was no accent definite enough to be called foreign, certainly not
to be assigned to any particular race; but there was an exotic touch
about his manner of speech suggesting that, even if not that of a
foreigner, it was shaped and coloured by the inflexions of foreign
tongues. The hue of his plentiful and curly hair, indistinguishable to
Mary and Cynthia, now stood revealed as neither black, nor red, nor
auburn, nor brown, nor golden, but just--and rather surprisingly--a
plain yellow, the colour of a cowslip or thereabouts. Altogether rather
a rum-looking fellow! This had been Alec Naylor's first remark when the
Rector of Sprotsfield pointed him out, as a possible fourth, at the golf
club, and the rough justice of the description could not be denied. He,
like Alec, bore his scars; the little finger of his right hand was
amputated down to the knuckle.

Yet, after all this description--in particularity, if not otherwise,
worthy of a classic novelist--the thing still remains that most struck
observers. Mr. Hector Beaumaroy had an adorable candour of manner. He
answered questions with innocent readiness and pellucid sincerity. It
would be impossible to think him guilty of a lie; ungenerous to suspect
so much as a suppression of the truth. Even Mr. Naylor, hardened by
five-and-thirty years' experience of what sailors will blandly swear to
in collision cases, was struck with the open candour of his bearing.

"Yes," he said. "Yes, Miss Wall, that's right, we go to town every
Wednesday. No particular reason why it should be Wednesday, but old
gentlemen somehow do better--don't you think so?--with method and
regular habits."

"I'm sure you know what's best for Mr. Saffron," said Delia. "You've
known him a long time, haven't you?"

Mr. Naylor drew a little nearer and listened. The General had put
himself into the corner--a remote corner of the room--and sat there with
an uneasy and rather glowering aspect.

"Oh, no, no!" answered Beaumaroy. "A matter of weeks only. But the dear
old fellow seemed to take to me--a friend put us in touch originally. I
seem to be able to do just what he wants."

"I hope your friend is not really ill--not seriously?" This time the
question was Mrs. Naylor's, not Miss Delia's.

"His health is really not so bad, but"--he gave a glance round the
company, as though inviting their understanding--"he insists that he's
not the man he was."

"Absurd!" smiled Naylor. "Not much older than I am, is he?"

"Only just turned seventy, I believe. But the idea's very persistent."

"Hypochondria!" snapped Miss Delia.

"Not altogether. I'm afraid there is a little real heart trouble. Dr.
Irechester----"

"Oh, with Dr. Irechester, dear Mr. Beaumaroy, you're all right!"

Again Beaumaroy's glance--that glance of innocent appeal--ranged over
the company (except the General, out of its reach). He seemed troubled
and embarrassed.

"A most accomplished man, evidently, and a friend of yours, of course.
But--well, there it is--a mere fancy, of course, but unhappily my old
friend doesn't take to him. He--he thinks that he's rather
inquisitorial. A doctor's duty, I suppose----"

"Irechester's a sound man, a very sound man," said Mr. Naylor. "And,
after all, one can ask almost any question if one does it
tactfully--can't one, Miss Wall?"

"As a matter of fact, he's only seen Mr. Saffron twice--he had a little
chill. But his manner, unfortunately, rather--er--alarmed----"

Gertie Naylor, with the directness of youth, propounded a solution of
the difficulty. "If you don't like Dr. Irechester----"

"Oh, it's not I who----"

"Why not have Mary?" Gertie made her suggestion eagerly. She was very
fond of Mary, who, from the height of age, wisdom, and professional
dignity, had stooped to offer her an equal friendship.

"She means Dr. Mary Arkroyd," Mrs. Naylor explained.

"Yes, I know, Mrs. Naylor--I know about Dr. Arkroyd. In fact, I know her
by sight. But----"

"Perhaps you don't believe in women doctors?" Alec suggested.

"It's not that. I've no prejudices. But the responsibility is on me, and
I know very little of her; and--well, to change one's doctor--it's
rather invidious----"

"Oh, as to that, Irechester's a sensible man; he's got as much work as
he wants, and as much money too. He won't resent an old man's fancy."

"Well, I'd never thought of a change, but if you all suggest it----"
Somehow it did seem as if they all--and not merely youthful Gertie--had
suggested it. "But I should rather like to know Dr. Arkroyd first."

"Come and meet her here; that's very simple. She often comes to tennis
and tea. We'll let you know the first time she's coming."

Beaumaroy most cordially accepted the idea--and the invitation. "Any
afternoon I shall be delighted--except Wednesdays. Wednesdays are
sacred--aren't they, Miss Wall? London on Wednesdays for Mr. Saffron and
me--and the old brown bag!" He laughed in a quiet merriment. "That old
bag's been in a lot of places with me and has carried some queer
cargoes. Now it just goes to and fro, between here and town, with Mudie
books. Must have books, living so much alone as we do!" He had risen as
he spoke, and approached Mrs. Naylor to take leave.

She gave him her hand very cordially. "I don't suppose Mr. Saffron cares
to meet people; but any spare time you have, Mr. Beaumaroy, we shall be
delighted to see you."

Beaumaroy bowed as he thanked her, adding, "And I'm promised a chance of
meeting Dr. Arkroyd before long?"

The promise was renewed, and the visitor took his leave, declining
Alec's offer to "run him home" in the car. "The car might startle my old
friend," he pleaded. Alec saw him off, and returned to find the General,
who had contrived to avoid more than a distant bow of farewell to
Beaumaroy, standing on the hearthrug, apparently in a state of some
agitation.

The envious years had refused to Major-General Punnit, C.B.--he was a
distant cousin of Mrs. Naylor's--the privilege of serving his country in
the Great War. His career had lain mainly in India and was mostly behind
him even at the date of the South African War, in which, however, he had
done valuable work in one of the supply services. He was short, stout,
honest, brave, shrewd, obstinate, and as full of prejudices, religious,
political, and personal, as an egg is of meat. And all this time he had
been slowly and painfully recalling what his young friend Colonel Merman
(the Colonel was young only relatively to the General) had told him
about Hector Beaumaroy. The name had struck on his memory the moment the
Rector pronounced it, but it had taken him a long while to "place it"
accurately. However, now he had it pat; the conversation in the club
came back. He retailed it now to the company at Old Place.

A pleasant fellow, Beaumaroy, socially a very agreeable fellow. And as
for courage, as brave as you like. Indeed he might have had letters
after his name save for the fact that he--the Colonel--would never
recommend a man unless his discipline was as good as his leading, and
his conduct at the base as praiseworthy as at the front. (Alec Naylor
nodded his handsome head in grave approval; his father looked a little
discontented, as though he were swallowing unpalatable, though
wholesome, food.) His whole idea--Beaumaroy's, that is--was to shield
offenders, to prevent the punishment fitting the crime, even to console
and countenance the wrongdoer. No sense of discipline, no moral
sense--the Colonel had gone as far as that. Impossible to promote or to
recommend for reward--almost impossible to keep. Of course, if he had
been caught young and put through the mill, it might have been
different--"it _might_"--the Colonel heavily underlined the
possibility--but he came from Heaven knew where, after a life spent
Heaven knew how. "And he seemed to know it himself," the Colonel had
said, thoughtfully rolling his port round in the glass. "Whenever I
wigged him, he offered to go--said he'd chuck his commission and
enlist--said he'd be happier in the ranks. But I was weak, I couldn't
bear to do it." After thus quoting his friend, the General added: "He
was weak--damned weak--and I told him so."

"Of course he ought to have got rid of him," said Alec. "Still, sir,
there's nothing--er--disgraceful."

"It seems hardly to have come to that," the General admitted
reluctantly.

"It all rather makes me like him," Gertie affirmed courageously.

"I think that, on the whole, we may venture to know him in times of
peace," Mr. Naylor summed up.

"That's your look out," remarked the General. "I've warned you. You can
do as you like."

Delia Wall had sat silent through the story. Now she spoke up and got
back to the real point:

"There's nothing in all that to show how he comes to be at Mr.
Saffron's."

The General shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, Saffron be hanged! He's not the
British Army," he said.



CHAPTER III

MR. SAFFRON AT HOME


To put it plainly, Sergeant Hooper--he had been a sergeant for a brief
and precarious three weeks, but he used the title in civil life whenever
he safely could--and he could at Inkston--Sergeant Hooper was a
villainous-looking dog. Beaumaroy, fresh from the comely presences of
Old Place, unconscious of how the General had ripped up his character
and record, pleasantly nursing a little project concerning Dr. Mary
Arkroyd, had never been more forcibly struck with his protégé's
ill-favouredness than when he arrived home on this same evening, and the
Sergeant met him at the door.

"By Gad, Sergeant," he observed pleasantly, "I don't think anybody could
be such a rascal as you look. It's that faith that carries me through."

The Sergeant helped him off with his coat. "It's some people's
stock-in-trade," he remarked, "not to look a rascal like they really
are, sir." The "sir" stuck--out of pure habit; it carried no real
implication of respect.

"Meaning me!" laughed Beaumaroy. "How is the old man to-night?"

"Quiet enough. He's in the Tower there--been there an hour or more."

The cottage door opened on to a narrow passage, with a staircase on one
side, and on the other a door leading to a small square parlour,
cheerfully if cheaply furnished, and well lit by an oil lamp. A fire
blazed on the hearth, and Beaumaroy sank into a "saddle-bag" arm-chair
beside it, with a sigh of comfort. The Sergeant had jerked his head
towards another door, on the right of the fireplace; it led to the
Tower. Beaumaroy's eyes settled on it.

"An hour or more, has he? Have you heard anything?"

"He was making a speech a little while back, that's all."

"No more complaints of palpitations, or anything of that sort?"

"Not as I've heard. But he never says much to me. Mrs. Wiles gets the
benefit of his symptoms mostly."

"You're not sympathetic, perhaps."

During the talk Hooper had been to a cupboard and mixed a glass of
whisky and soda. He brought it to Beaumaroy and put it on a small table
by him. Beaumaroy regarded his squat paunchy figure, red face, small
eyes (a squint in one of them), and bulbous nose with a patient and
benign toleration.

"Since you can't expect, Sergeant, to prepossess the Judge and Jury in
your favour, the instant you make your appearance in the box----"

"Here, what are you on to, sir?"

"It's the more important for you to have it clearly in your mind that we
are labouring in the cause of humanity, freedom, and justice. Exactly
like the Allies in the late war, you know, Sergeant. Keep that in your
mind--clinch it! He hasn't wanted you to do anything particular
to-night--or asked for me?"

"No, sir. He's happy with--with what you call his playthings."

"What are they but playthings?" asked Beaumaroy, tilting his glass to
his lips with a smile perhaps a little wry.

"Only I wish as you wouldn't talk about judges and juries," the Sergeant
complained.

"I really don't know whether it's a civil or a criminal matter, or both,
or neither," Beaumaroy admitted candidly. "But what we do know,
Sergeant, is that it provides us with excellent billets and rations.
Moreover--a thing that you certainly will not appreciate--it gratifies
my taste for the mysterious."

"I hope there's a bit more coming from it than that," said the
Sergeant. "That is, if we stick together faithful, sir."

"Oh, we shall! One thing puzzles me about you, Sergeant. I don't think
I've mentioned it before. Sometimes you speak almost like an educated
man; at others your speech is--well, illiterate."

"Well, sir, it's a sort of mixture of my mother--she was class--the
blighter who come after my father, and the board school----"

"Of course! What they call the educational ladder! That explains it. By
the way, I'm thinking of changing our doctor."

"Good job too. I 'ate that Irechester. Stares at you, that chap does."

"Does he stare at your eyes?" asked Beaumaroy thoughtfully.

"I don't know that he does at _my_ eyes particularly. Nothing wrong with
'em, is there?" The Sergeant sounded rather truculent.

"Never mind that; but I fancied he stared at Mr. Saffron's. And I've
read somewhere, in some book or other, that doctors can tell, or guess,
by the eyes----Well, that's only an idea. How does a lady doctor appeal
to you, Sergeant?"

"I should be shy," said the Sergeant, grinning.

"Vulgar! Vulgar!" Beaumaroy murmured.

"That Dr. Mary Arkroyd?"

"I had thought of her."

"She ought to be fair easy to kid. You 'ave notions sometimes, sir."

Beaumaroy stretched out his legs--debonnair, well-rounded legs--to the
seducing blaze of oak logs.

"I haven't really a care in the world," he said.

The Sergeant's reply--or comment--had a disconcerting ring. "And you're
sure of 'eaven? That's what the bloke always says to the 'angman."

"I've no intention of being a murderer, Sergeant." Beaumaroy's eyebrows
were raised in gentle protest.

"Once you're in with a job, you never know," his retainer observed
darkly.

Beaumaroy laughed. "Oh, go to the devil!--and mix me another whisky."
Yet a vague uneasiness showed itself on his face; he looked across the
room at the evil-shaped man handling the bottles in the cupboard. He
made one queer restless movement of his arms--as though to free himself.
Then, in a moment, he sprang from his chair, a glad kindly smile
illuminating his face; he bowed in a very courtly fashion, exclaiming,
"Ah, here you are, sir? And all well, I hope?"

Mr. Saffron had entered from the door leading to the Tower, carefully
closing it after him. Hooper's hand went up to his forehead in the ghost
of a military salute, but a sneering smile persisted on his lips. The
only notice Mr. Saffron took of him was a jerk of the head towards the
passage, an abrupt and ungracious dismissal, which, however, the
Sergeant silently accepted and stumped out. The greeting reserved for
Beaumaroy was vastly different. Beaumaroy's own cordiality was more than
reciprocated. It seemed impossible to doubt that a genuine affection
existed between the elder and the younger man, though the latter had not
thought fit to mention the fact to Sergeant Hooper.

"A tiring day, my dear Hector, very tiring. I've transacted a lot of
business. But never mind that, it will keep. What of your doings?"

Having sat the old man in the big chair by the fire, Beaumaroy sauntered
across to the door of the Tower, locked it, and put the key in his
pocket. Then he returned to the fire, and, standing in front of it, gave
a lively and detailed account of his visit to Old Place.

"They appear to be pleasant people, very pleasant. I should like to know
them, if it was not desirable for me to live an entirely secluded life."
Mr. Saffron's speech was very distinct and clean-cut, rather rapid, high
in tone, but not disagreeable. "You make pure fun of this Miss Wall, as
you do of so many things, Hector, but----" he smiled up at
Beaumaroy--"inquisitiveness is not our favourite sin just now!"

"She's so indiscriminately inquisitive that it's a thousand to one
against her really finding out anything of importance, sir." Beaumaroy
sometimes addressed his employer as "Mr. Saffron," but much more
commonly he used the respectful "sir." "I think I'm equal to putting
Miss Delia Wall off."

"Still she noticed our weekly journeys!"

"Half Inkston goes to town every day, sir--and the rest three times,
twice, or once a week. I called her particular attention to the bag, and
told her it was for books from Mudie's!"

"Positive statements like that are a mistake." Mr. Saffron spoke with a
sudden sharpness, in pointed rebuke. "If I form a right idea of that
woman, she's quite capable of going to Mudie's to ask about us."

"By Jove, you're right, sir, and I was wrong. We'd better go and take
out a subscription to-morrow; she'll hardly go so far as to ask the date
we started it."

"Yes, let that be done. And--remember--no unnecessary talk." His tone
grew milder, as though he were mollified by Beaumaroy's ready submission
to his reproof. "We have some places to call at to-morrow, have we?"

"They said they'd have some useful addresses ready for us, sir. I'm
afraid, though, that we're exhausting the most obvious sources."

"Still, I hope for a few more good consignments. I suppose you remain
confident that the Sergeant has no suspicions as regards that particular
aspect of the matter?"

"I'm sure of it--up to the present. Of course there might be an
accident, but with him and Mrs. Wiles both off the premises at night,
it's hardly likely; and I never let the bag out of my sight while it's
in the room with them--hardly out of my hand."

"I should like to trust him, but it's hardly fair to put such a strain
on his loyalty."

"Much safer not, sir, as long as we're not driven to it. After all,
though I believe the fellow is out to redeem his character, his isn't an
unblemished record."

"But the work--the physical labour--entailed on you, Hector!"

"Make yourself easy about that, sir. I'm as strong as a horse. The
work's good for me. Remember I've had four years' service."

Mr. Saffron smiled pensively. "It would have been funny if we'd
met--over there, you and I!"

"It would, sir," laughed Beaumaroy. "But that could hardly have happened
without some very curious accident."

The old man harked back. "Yes, a few more good consignments, and we can
think in earnest of your start." He was warming his hands--thin
yellowish hands--at the fire now, and his gaze was directed into it.
Looking down on him, Beaumaroy allowed a smile to appear on his lips--a
queer smile, which seemed to be compounded of affection, pity, and
amusement.

"The difficulties there remain considerable for the present," he
remarked.

"They must be overcome." Once again the old man's voice became sharp and
even dictatorial.

"They shall be, sir--depend on it." Beaumaroy's air was suddenly
confident, almost braggart. Mr. Saffron nodded approvingly. "But,
anyhow, I can't very well start till favourable news comes from----"

"Hush!" There was a knock on the door.

"Mrs. Wiles--to lay the table, I suppose."

"Yes! Come in!" He added hastily to Beaumaroy, in an undertone, "Yes, we
must wait for that."

Mrs. Wiles entered as he spoke. She was a colourless, negative kind of a
woman, fair, fat, flabby, and forty or thereabouts. She had been the
ill-used slave of a local carpenter, now deceased by reason of
over-drinking; her nature was to be the slave of the nearest male
creature, not from affection (her affections were anæmic), but rather,
as it seemed, from an instinctive desire to shuffle off from herself
any responsibility. But at all events she was entirely free from Miss
Delia Wall's proclivity.

Mr. Saffron rose. "I'll go and wash my hands. We'll dine just as we are,
Hector." Beaumaroy opened the door for him; he acknowledged the
attention with a little nod, and passed out to the staircase in the
narrow passage. Beaumaroy appeared to consider himself absolved from any
preparations, for he returned to the big chair and, sinking into it, lit
another cigarette. Meanwhile Mrs. Wiles laid the table, and presently
Sergeant Hooper appeared with a bottle of golden-tinted wine.

"That, at least, is the real stuff," thought Beaumaroy, as he eyed it in
pleasurable anticipation. "Where the dear old man got it, I don't know;
but in itself it's almost worth all the racket."

And really, in its present stages, so far as its present developments
went, the "racket" pleased him. It amused his active brain, besides (as
he had said to Mr. Saffron) exercising his active body, though certainly
in a rather grotesque and bizarre fashion. The attraction of it went
deeper than that. It appealed to some of those tendencies and impulses
of his character which had earned such heavy censure from Major-General
Punnit and had produced so grave an expression on Captain Alec's
handsome face--without, however, being, even in that officer's exacting
judgment, disgraceful. And, finally, there was the lure of unexplored
possibilities--not only material and external, but psychological; not
only touching what others might do or what might happen to them, but
raising also speculation as to what he might do, or what might happen to
him at his own hands; for example, how far he would flout authority,
defy the usual, and deny the accepted. The love of rebellion, of making
foolish the wisdom of the wise, of hampering the orderly and inexorable
treatment of people just as, according to the best modern lights, they
ought to be treated--this lawless love was strong in Beaumaroy. Not as a
principle; it was the stronger for being an instinct, a wayward instinct
that might carry him--he scarce knew where.

Mr. Saffron came back, greeted again by Beaumaroy's courtly bow and
Hooper's vaguely reminiscent but slovenly military salute. The pair sat
down to a homely beefsteak; but the golden-tinted wine gurgled into
their glasses. But, before they fell to, there was a little incident. A
sudden, but fierce, anger seized old Mr. Saffron. In his harshest tones
he rapped out at the Sergeant, "My knife! You careless scoundrel, you
haven't given me my knife!"

Beaumaroy sprang to his feet with a muttered exclamation: "It's all my
fault, sir. I forgot to give it to Hooper. I always lock it up when I
go out." He went to a little oak sideboard and unlocked a drawer, then
came back to Mr. Saffron's side. "Here it is, and I humbly apologize."

"Very good! Very good!" said the old man testily, as he took the
implement.

"Ain't anybody going to apologize to me?" asked Hooper, scowling.

"Oh, get out, Sergeant!" said Beaumaroy good-naturedly. "We can't bother
about your finer feelings." He glanced anxiously at Mr. Saffron. "All
right now, aren't you, sir?" he inquired.

Mr. Saffron drank his glass of wine. "I am perhaps too sensitive to any
kind of inattention; but it's not wholly unnatural in my position,
Hector."

"We both desire to be attentive and respectful, sir. Don't we, Hooper?"

"Oh my, yes!" grinned the Sergeant, showing his very ugly teeth. "It's
only owing that we 'aven't quite been brought up in royal pallises."



CHAPTER IV

PROFESSIONAL ETIQUETTE


Dr. Irechester was a man of considerable attainments and an active,
though not very persevering, intellect. He was widely read both in
professional and general literature, but had shrunk from the arduous
path of specialism. And he shrank even more from the drudgery of his
calling. He had private means, inherited in middle life; his wife had a
respectable portion; there was, then, nothing in his circumstances to
thwart his tastes and tendencies. He had soon come to see in the late
Dr. Evans a means of relief rather than a threat of rivalry; even more
easily he slipped into the same way of regarding Mary Arkroyd, helped
thereto by a lingering feeling that, after all and in spite of all, when
it came to really serious cases, a woman could not, at best, play more
than second fiddle. So, as has been seen, he patronized and encouraged
Mary; he told himself that, when she had thoroughly proved her
capacity--within the limits which he ascribed to it--to take her into
partnership would not be a bad arrangement. True, he could pretty well
choose his patients now; but as senior partner he would be able to do it
completely. It was wellnigh inconceivable that, for example, the
Naylors--great friends--should ever leave him; but he would like to be
quite secure of the pick of new patients, some of whom might, through
ignorance or whim, call in Mary. There was old Saffron, for instance. He
was, in Irechester's private opinion--or, perhaps it should be said, in
his private suspicions--an interesting case; yet, just for that reason,
unreliable, and evidently ready to take offence. It was because of cases
of that kind that he contemplated offering partnership to Mary; he would
both be sure of keeping them and able to devote himself to them.

But his wife laughed at Mary--or at that development of the feminist
movement which had produced her and so many other more startling
phenomena. The doctor was fond of his wife--a sprightly, would-be
fashionable, still very pretty woman. But her laughter, and the opinion
it represented, were to him the merest crackling of thorns under a pot.

The fine afternoon had come--a few days before Christmas--and he sat,
side by side with Mr. Naylor, both warmly wrapped in coats and rugs,
watching the lawn tennis at Old Place. Doctor Mary and Beaumaroy were
playing together, the latter accustoming himself to a finger short in
gripping his racquet, against Cynthia and Captain Alec. The Captain
could not cover the court yet in his old fashion, but his height and
reach made him formidable at the net, and Cynthia was very active. Ten
days of Inkston air had made a vast difference to Cynthia. And something
else was helping. It required no common loyalty to lost causes and
ruined ideals--it is surely not harsh to indicate Captain Cranster by
these terms?--to resist Alec Naylor. In fact he had almost taken
Cynthia's breath away at their first meeting; she thought that she had
never seen anything quite so magnificent, or all round and from all
points of view--so romantic; his stature, handsomeness, limp, renown.
Who can be surprised at it? Moreover, he was modest and simple, and no
fool within the bounds of his experience.

"She seems a nice little girl, that, and uncommonly pretty," Naylor
remarked.

"Yes, but he's a queer fish, I fancy," the Doctor answered, also rather
absently. Their minds were not running on parallel lines.

"My boy a queer fish?" Naylor expostulated humorously.

Irechester smiled; his lips shut close and tight, his smile was quick
but narrow. "You're match-making. I was diagnosing," he said.

Naylor apologized. "I've a desperate instinct to fit all these young
fellows up with mates as soon as possible. Isn't it only fair?"

"And also extremely expedient. But it's the sort of thing you can leave
to them, can't you?"

"As to Beaumaroy--I suppose you meant him, not Alec--I think you must
have been talking to old Tom Punnit--or, rather, hearing him talk."

"Punnit's general view is sound enough, I think, as to the man's
characteristics; but he doesn't appreciate his cunning."

"Cunning?" Naylor was openly astonished. "He doesn't strike me as a
cunning man, not in the least."

"Possibly--possibly, I say--not in his ends, but in his means and
expedients. That's my view. I just put it on record, Naylor. I never
like talking too much about my cases."

"Beaumaroy's not your patient, is he?"

"His employer--I suppose he's his employer--Saffron is. Well, I thought
it advisable to see Saffron alone. I tried to. Saffron was reluctant,
this man here openly against it. Next time I shall insist. Because I
think--mind you, at present I no more than think--that there's more in
Saffron's case than meets the eye."

Naylor glanced at him, smiling. "You fellows are always starting hares,"
he said.

"Game and set!" cried Captain Alec, and--to his partner--"Thank you very
much for carrying a cripple."

But Irechester's attention remained fixed on Beaumaroy--and consequently
on Doctor Mary; for the partners did not separate at the end of their
game, but, after putting on their coats, began to walk up and down
together on the other side of the court, in animated conversation,
though Beaumaroy did most of the talking, Mary listening in her usual
grave and composed manner. Now and then a word or two reached
Irechester's ears--old Naylor seemed to have fallen into a reverie over
his cigar--and it must be confessed that he took no pains not to
overhear. Once at least he plainly heard "Saffron" from Beaumaroy; he
thought that the same lips spoke his own name, and he was sure that
Doctor Mary's did. Beaumaroy was speaking rather urgently, and making
gestures with his hands; it seemed as though he were appealing to his
companion in some difficulty or perplexity. Irechester's mouth was
severely compressed and his glance suspicious as he watched.

The scene was ended by Gertie Naylor calling these laggards in to tea,
to which meal the rest of the company had already betaken itself.

At the tea-table they found General Punnit discoursing on war, and
giving "idealists" what idealists usually get. The General believed in
war; he pressed the biological argument, did not flinch when Mr. Naylor
dubbed him the "British Bernhardi," and invoked the support of "these
medical gentlemen" (this with a smile at Doctor Mary's expense) for his
point of view. War tested, proved, braced, hardened; it was nature's
crucible; it was the antidote to softness and sentimentality; it was the
vindication of the strong, the elimination of the weak.

"I suppose there's a lot in all that, sir," said Alec Naylor, "but I
don't think the effect on one's character is always what you say. I
think I've come out of this awful business a good deal softer than I
went in." He laughed in an apologetic way. "More--more sentimental, if
you like--with more feeling, don't you know, for human life, and
suffering, and so on. I've seen a great many men killed, but the sight
hasn't made me any more ready to kill men. In fact, quite the reverse."
He smiled again. "Really sometimes, for a row of pins, I'd have turned
conscientious objector."

Mrs. Naylor looked apprehensively at the General: would he explode? No,
he took it quite quietly. "You're a man who can afford to say it,
Alec," he remarked, with a nod that was almost approving.

Naylor looked affectionately at his son and turned to Beaumaroy. "And
what's the war done to you?" he asked. And this question did draw from
the General, if not an explosion, at least a rather contemptuous smile:
Beaumaroy had earned no right to express opinions!

But express one he did, and with his habitual air of candour. "I believe
it's destroyed every scruple I ever had!

"Mr. Beaumaroy!" exclaimed his hostess, scandalized; while the two
girls, Cynthia and Gertie, laughed.

"I mean it. Can you see human life treated as dirt--absolutely as cheap
as dirt--for three years, and come out thinking it worth anything? Can
you fight for your own hand, right or wrong? Oh, yes, right or wrong, in
the end, and it's no good blinking it. Can you do that for three years
in war, and then hesitate to fight for your own hand, right or wrong, in
peace? Who really cares for right or wrong, anyhow?"

A pause ensued--rather an uncomfortable pause. There was a raw sincerity
in Beaumaroy's utterance that made it a challenge.

"I honestly think we did care about the rights and wrongs--we in
England," said Naylor.

"That was certainly so at the beginning," Irechester agreed.

Beaumaroy took him up smartly. "Aye, at the beginning. But what about
when our blood got up? What then? Would we, in our hearts, rather have
been right and got a licking, or wrong and given one?"

"A searching question!" mused old Naylor. "What say you, Tom Punnit?"

"It never occurred to me to put the question," the General answered
brusquely.

"May I ask why not, sir?" said Beaumaroy respectfully.

"Because I believed in God. I knew that we were right, and I knew that
we should win."

"Are we in theology now, or still in biology?" asked Irechester, rather
acidly.

"You're getting out of my depth anyhow," smiled Mrs. Naylor. "And I'm
sure the girls must be bewildered."

"Mamma, I've done biology!"

"And many people think they've done theology!" chuckled Naylor. "Done it
completely!"

"I've raised a pretty argument!" said Beaumaroy, smiling. "I'm sorry! I
only meant to answer your question about the effect the whole thing has
had on myself."

"Even your answer to that was pretty startling, Mr. Beaumaroy," said
Doctor Mary, smiling too. "You gave us to understand that it had
obliterated for you all distinctions of right and wrong, didn't you?"

"Did I go as far as that?" he laughed. "Then I'm open to the remark that
they can't have been very strong at first."

"Now don't destroy the general interest of your thesis," Naylor
implored. "It's quite likely that yours is a case as common as Alec's,
or even commoner. 'A brutal and licentious soldiery'--isn't that a
classic phrase in our histories? All the same, I fancy Mr. Beaumaroy
does himself less than justice." He laughed. "We shall be able to judge
of that when we know him better."

"At all events, Miss Gertie, look out that I don't fake the score at
tennis!" said Beaumaroy.

"A man might be capable of murder, but not capable of that," said Alec.

"A truly British sentiment!" cried his father. "Tom, we have got back to
the national ideals."

The discussion ended in laughter, and the talk turned to lighter
matters, but, as Mary Arkroyd drove Cynthia home across the heath, her
thoughts returned to it. The two men--the two soldiers--seemed to have
given an authentic account of what their experience had done to them.
Both, as she saw the case, had been moved to pity, horror, and
indignation that such things should be done, or should have to be done,
in the world. After that point came the divergence. The higher nature
had been raised, the lower debased; Alec Naylor's sympathies had been
sharpened and sensitized; Beaumaroy's blunted. Where the one had found
ideals and incentives, the other found despair--a despair that issued in
excuses and denied high standards. And the finer mind belonged to the
finer soldier; that she knew, for Gertie had told her General Punnit's
story, and, however much she might discount it as the tale of an elderly
martinet, yet it stood for something--for something that could never be
attributed to Alec Naylor.

And yet--for her mind travelled back to her earlier talk by the
tennis-court--Beaumaroy had a conscience, had feelings. He was fond of
old Mr. Saffron; he felt a responsibility for him--felt it, indeed,
keenly. Or was he, under all that seeming openness, a consummate
hypocrite? Did he value Mr. Saffron only as a milch cow--the doting
giver of a large salary? Was his only desire to humour him, keep him in
good health and temper, and use him to his own profit? A puzzling
man--but, at all events, cutting a poor figure beside Alec Naylor, about
whom there could circle no clouds of doubt. Doctor Mary's learning and
gravity did not prevent her from drawing a very heroic and rather
romantic figure of Captain Alec--notwithstanding the fact that she
sometimes found him rather hard to talk to.

She felt Cynthia's arm steal round her waist, and Cynthia said softly,
"I did enjoy my afternoon. Can we go again soon, Mary?"

Mary glanced round at her. Cynthia laughed and blushed. "Isn't he
splendid?" Cynthia murmured. "But I don't like Mr. Beaumaroy at all, do
you?"

"I say yes to the first question, but I'm not quite ready to answer the
second," said Mary with a laugh.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three days later, on Christmas Eve, one whom Jeanne, who caught sight of
him in the hall, described as being all there was possible of ugliness,
delivered (with a request for an immediate answer) the following note
for Mary Arkroyd:

     "DEAR DR. ARKROYD,

     Mr. Saffron is unwell, and I have insisted with him that he must
     see a doctor. So much he has yielded--after a fight! But nothing
     will induce him to see Dr. Irechester again. On this point I tried
     to reason with him, but in vain. He is obstinate and resolved. I am
     afraid that I am putting you in a difficult and disagreeable
     position, but it seems to me that I have no alternative but to ask
     you to call on him professionally. I hope that Dr. Irechester will
     not be hurt by a whim which is, no doubt, itself merely a symptom
     of disordered nerves, for Dr. Irechester has been most attentive,
     and very successful hitherto in dealing with the dear old
     gentleman. But my first duty is to Mr. Saffron. If it will ease
     matters at all, pray hold yourself at liberty to show this note to
     Dr. Irechester. May I beg you to be kind enough to call at your
     earliest convenience, though it is, alas, a rough evening to ask
     you to come out?

     Yours very faithfully,

     HECTOR BEAUMAROY"

"How very awkward!" exclaimed Mary. She had prided herself on a rigorous
abstention from "poaching"; she fancied that men were very ready to
accuse women of not "playing the game" and had been resolved to give no
colour to such an accusation. "Mr. Saffron has sent for
me--professionally. He's ill, it seems," she said to Cynthia.

"Why shouldn't he?"

"He's a patient of Dr. Irechester's."

"But people often change their doctors, don't they? He thinks you're
cleverer, I suppose, and I expect you are, really."

There was no use in expounding professional etiquette to Cynthia. Mary
had to decide the point for herself--and quickly; the old man might be
seriously ill. Beaumaroy had said, at the Naylors', that his attacks
were sometimes alarming.

Suddenly she recollected that he had also seemed to hint that they were
more alarming than Irechester appeared to appreciate; she had not taken
much notice of that hint at the time, but now it recurred to her very
distinctly. There was no suggestion of the sort in Beaumaroy's letter.
Beaumaroy had written a letter that could be shown to Irechester! Was
that dishonesty, or only a pardonable diplomacy?

"I suppose I must go--and explain to Dr. Irechester afterwards." She
rang the bell to recall the maid, and gave her answer. "Say I will be
round as soon as possible. Is the messenger walking?"

"He's got a bicycle, Miss."

"All right. I shall be there almost as soon as he is."

She seemed to have no alternative, just as Beaumaroy had none. Yet while
she put on her mackintosh--it was very wet and misty--got out her car,
and lit her lamps, her face was still fretful and her mind disturbed.
For now--as she looked back on it--Beaumaroy's conversation with her at
Old Place seemed just a prelude to this summons, and meant to prepare
her for it. Perhaps that too was pardonable diplomacy, and no reference
to it could be expected in a letter which she was at liberty to show to
Dr. Irechester. She wondered, uncomfortably, how Irechester would take
it.



CHAPTER V

A FAMILIAR IMPLEMENT


As Mary brought her car to a stand at the gate of the little front
garden of Tower Cottage, she saw, through the mist, Beaumaroy's
corrugated face; he was standing in the doorway, and the light in the
passage revealed it. It seemed to her to wear a triumphant impish look,
but this vanished as he advanced to meet her, relieved her of the neat
black handbag which she always carried with her on her visits, and
suggested gravely that she should at once go upstairs and see her
patient.

"He's quieter now," he said. "The mere news that you were coming had a
soothing effect. Let me show you the way." He led her upstairs and into
a small room on the first floor, nakedly furnished with necessities, but
with a cheery fire blazing in the grate.

Old Mr. Saffron lay in bed, propped up by pillows. His silver hair
strayed from under a nightcap; he wore a light blue bedroom jacket; its
colour matched that of his restless eyes; his arms were under the
clothes from the elbows down. He was rather flushed, but did not look
seriously ill, and greeted Doctor Mary with dignified composure.

"I'll see Dr. Arkroyd alone, Hector." Beaumaroy gave the slightest
little jerk of his head, and the old man added quickly, "I am sure of
myself, quite sure."

The phrase sounded rather an odd one to Mary, but Beaumaroy accepted the
assurance with a nod. "All right, I'll wait downstairs, sir. I hope
you'll bring me a good account of him, Doctor." So he left Mary to make
her examination; going downstairs, he shook his head once, pursed up his
lips, and then smiled doubtfully, as a man may do when he has made up
his mind to take a chance.

When Mary rejoined him, she asked for pen and paper, wrote a
prescription, and requested that Beaumaroy's man should take it to the
chemist's. He went out to give it to the Sergeant, and, when he came
back, found her seated in the big chair by the fire.

"The present little attack is nothing, Mr. Beaumaroy," she said.
"Stomachic--with a little fever; if he takes what I've prescribed, he
ought to be all right in the morning. But I suppose you know that there
is valvular disease--quite definite? Didn't Dr. Irechester tell you?"

"Yes; but he said there was no particular--no immediate danger."

"If he's kept quiet and free from worry. Didn't he advise that?"

"Yes," Beaumaroy admitted, "he did. That's the only thing you find wrong
with him, Doctor?"

Beaumaroy was standing on the far side of the table, his finger-tips
resting lightly on it. He looked across at Mary with eyes candidly
inquiring.

"I've found nothing else so far. I suppose he's got nothing to worry
him?"

"Not really, I think. He fusses a bit about his affairs." He smiled. "We
go to London every week to fuss about his affairs; he's always changing
his investments, taking his money out of one thing and putting it in
another, you know. Old people get like that sometimes, don't they? I'm a
novice at that kind of thing, never having had any money to play with;
but I'm bound to say that he seems to know very well what he's about."

"Do you know anything of his history or his people? Has he any
relations?"

"I know very little. I don't think he has any--any real relations, so to
speak. There are, I believe, some cousins, distant cousins, whom he
hates. In fact, a lonely old bachelor, Dr. Arkroyd."

Mary gave a little laugh and became less professional. "He's rather an
old dear! He uses funny stately phrases. He said I might speak quite
openly to you, as you were closely attached to his person!"

"Sounds rather like a newspaper, doesn't it? He does talk like that
sometimes." Beaumaroy moved round the table, came close to the fire, and
stood there, smiling down at Mary.

"He's very fond of you, I think," she went on.

"He reposes entire confidence in me," said Beaumaroy, with a touch of
assumed pompousness.

"Those were his very words!" cried Mary, laughing again. "And he said it
just in that way! How clever of you to guess!"

"Not so very. He says it to me six times a week."

Mary had risen, about to take her leave, but to her surprise Beaumaroy
went on quickly, with one of his confidential smiles, "And now I'm going
to show you that I have the utmost confidence in you. Please sit down
again, Dr. Arkroyd. The matter concerns your patient just as much as
myself, or I wouldn't trouble you with it--at any rate, I shouldn't
venture to, so early in our acquaintance. I want you to consider
yourself as Mr. Saffron's medical adviser, and--also--to try to imagine
yourself my friend."

"I've every inclination to be your friend, but I hardly know you, Mr.
Beaumaroy."

"And feel a few doubts about me? From what you've heard from myself--and
perhaps from others?"

The wind swished outside; save for that, the little room seemed very
still. The professional character of the interview did not save it, for
Mary Arkroyd, from a sudden and rather unwelcome sense of intimacy--of
an intimacy thrust upon her, though not so much by her companion as by
circumstances. She answered rather stiffly, "Perhaps I have some
doubts."

"You detect--very acutely--that I have a great influence over Mr.
Saffron. You ask--very properly--whether he has relations. I think you
threw out a feeler about his money affairs--whether he had anything to
worry about was your phrase, wasn't it? Am I misinterpreting what was in
your mind?"

As he spoke, he offered her a cigarette from a box on the mantelpiece.
She took one and lit it at the top of the lamp-chimney; then she sat
down again in the big chair; she had not accepted his earlier invitation
to resume her seat.

"It was proper for me to put those questions, Mr. Beaumaroy. Mr.
Saffron is not a sound man, and he's old. In normal conditions his
relations should at least be warned of the position."

"Exactly," Beaumaroy assented, with an appearance of eagerness. "But he
hates them. Any suggestion that they have any sort of claim on him
raises strong resentment in him. I've known old men--old monied
men--like that before, and no doubt you have. Well now, you'll begin to
see the difficulty of my position. I'll put the case to you quite
bluntly. Suppose Mr. Saffron, having this liking for me, this confidence
in me, living here with me alone--except for servants; being, as one
might say, exposed to my influence; suppose he took it into his head to
make a will in my favour, to leave me all his money. It's quite a
considerable sum, so far as our Wednesday doings enable me to judge.
Suppose that happened, how should I stand in your opinion, Dr. Arkroyd?
But wait a moment still. Suppose that my career has not been very--well,
resplendent; that my army record is only so-so; that I've devoted myself
to him with remarkable assiduity, as in fact I have; that I might be
called, quite plausibly, an adventurer. Well, propounding that will, how
should I stand before the world and, if necessary" (he shrugged his
shoulders), "the Court?"

Mary sat silent for a moment or two. Beaumaroy knelt down by the fire,
rearranged the logs of wood which were smouldering there, and put on a
couple more. From that position, looking into the grate, he added, "And
the change of doctors? It was he, of course, who insisted on it, but I
can see a clever lawyer using that against me too. Can't you, Dr.
Arkroyd?"

"I'm sure I wish you hadn't had to make the change!" exclaimed Mary.

"So do I; though, mind you, I'm not pretending that Irechester is a
favourite of mine, any more than he is of my old friend's. Still--there
it is. I've no right, perhaps, to press my question, but your opinion
would be of real value to me."

"I see no reason to think that he's not quite competent to make a will,"
said Doctor Mary. "And no real reason why he shouldn't prefer you to
distant relations whom he dislikes."

"Ah, no real reason; that's what you say! You mean that people would
impute----?"

Mary Arkroyd had her limitations--of experience, of knowledge, of
intuition. But she did not lack courage.

"I have given you my professional opinion. It is that, so far as I see,
Mr. Saffron is of perfectly sound understanding, and capable of making a
valid will. You did me the honour----"

"No, no!" he interrupted in a low but rather strangely vehement
protest. "I begged the favour----"

"As you like! The favour, then, of my opinion as your friend, as well as
my view as Mr. Saffron's doctor."

Beaumaroy did not rise from his knees, but turned his face towards her;
the logs had blazed up, and his eyes looked curiously bright in the
glare--themselves, as it were, afire.

"In my opinion a man of sensitive honour would prefer that that will
should not be made, Mr. Beaumaroy," said Mary steadily.

Beaumaroy appeared to consider. "I'm a bit posed by that point of view,
Dr. Arkroyd," he said at last. "Either the old man's sane--_compos
mentis_, don't you call it?--or he isn't. If he is----"

"I know. But I feel that way about it."

"You'd have to give evidence for me!" He raised his brows and smiled at
her.

"There can be undue influence without actual want of mental competence,
I think."

"I don't know whether my influence is undue. I believe I'm the only
creature alive who cares twopence for the poor old gentleman."

"I know! I know! Mr. Beaumaroy, your position is very difficult. I see
that. It really is. But--would you take the money for yourself? Aren't
you--well, rather in the position of a trustee?"

"Who for? The hated cousins? What's the reason in that?"

"They may be very good people really. Old men take fancies, as you said
yourself. And they may have built on----"

"Stepping into a dead man's shoes? I dare say. Why mayn't I build on it
too? Why not my hand against the other fellow's?"

"That's what you learnt from the war! You said so--at Old Place. Captain
Naylor said something different."

"Suppose Alec Naylor and I--a hero and a damaged article----" he smiled
at Mary, and she smiled back with a sudden enjoyment of the humorous yet
bitter tang in his voice--"loved the same woman--and I had a chance of
her. Am I to give it up?"

"Really we're getting a long way from medicine, Mr. Beaumaroy!"

"Oh, you're a general practitioner! Wise on all subjects under heaven!
Conceive yourself hesitating between him and me----"

Mary laughed frankly. "How absurd you are! If you must go on talking,
talk seriously."

"But why am I absurd?"

"Because, if I were a marrying woman--which I'm not--I shouldn't
hesitate between you and Captain Naylor, not for a minute."

"You'd jump at me?"

Laughing again--his eyes had now a schoolboy merriment in them--Mary
rose from the big chair. "At him, if I'm not being impolite, Mr.
Beaumaroy."

They stood face to face. For the first time for several years--Mary's
girlhood had not been altogether empty of sentimental episodes--she
blushed under a man's glance--because it was a man's. At this event, of
which she was acutely conscious and at which she was intensely
irritated, she drew herself up, with an attempt to return to her
strictly professional manner.

"I don't find you the least impolite, Dr. Arkroyd," said Beaumaroy.

It was impudent, yet gay, dexterous, and elusive enough to avoid
reproof. With no more than a little shake of her head and a light, yet
embarrassed laugh, Mary moved towards the door, her way lying between
the table and an old oak sideboard, which stood against the wall. Some
plates, knives, and other articles of the table lay strewn, none too
tidily, about it. Beaumaroy followed her, smiling complacently, his
hands in his pockets.

Suddenly Mary came to a stop and pointed with her finger at the
sideboard, turning her face towards her companion. At the same instant
Beaumaroy's right hand shot out from his pocket towards the sideboard,
as though to snatch up something from it. Then he drew the hand as
swiftly back again; but his eyes watched Mary's with an alert and
suspicious gaze. That was for a second only; then his face resumed its
amused and nonchalant expression. But the movement of the hand and the
look of the eyes had not escaped Mary's attention; her voice betrayed
some surprise as she said:

"It's only that I just happened to notice that combination
knife-and-fork lying there, and I wondered who----"

The article in question lay among some half-dozen ordinary knives and
forks. It was of a kind quite familiar to Doctor Mary from her hospital
experience--a fork on one side, a knife-blade on the other--an implement
made for people who could command the use of only one hand.

"Surely you've noticed my hand?" He drew his right hand again from the
pocket to which he had so quickly returned it. "I used to use that in
hospital, when I was bandaged up. But that's a long while ago now, and I
can't think why Hooper's left it lying there."

The account was plausible, and entirely the same might now be said of
his face and manner. But Mary had seen the dart of his hand and the
sudden alertness in his eyes. Her own rested on him for a moment with
inquiry--for the first time with a hint of distrust. "I see!" she
murmured vaguely, and, turning away from him, pursued her way to the
door. Beaumaroy followed her with a queer smile on his lips; he shrugged
his shoulders once, very slightly.

A constraint had fallen on Mary. She allowed herself to be escorted to
the car and helped into it in silence. Beaumaroy made no effort to force
the talk, possibly by reason of the presence of Sergeant Hooper, who had
arrived back from the chemist's with the medicine for Mr. Saffron just
as Mary and Beaumaroy came out of the hall door. He stood by his
bicycle, drawing just a little aside to let them pass, but not far
enough to prevent the light from the passage showing up his ill-favoured
countenance.

"Well, good-bye, Dr. Arkroyd. I'll see how he is to-morrow, and ask you
to be kind enough to call again, if it seems advisable. And a thousand
thanks."

"Good night, Mr. Beaumaroy."

She started the car. Beaumaroy walked back to the hall door. Mary
glanced behind her once, and saw him standing by it, again framed by the
light behind him, as she had seen him on her arrival. But, this time,
within the four corners of the same frame was included the forbidding
visage of Sergeant Hooper.

Beaumaroy returned to the fire in the parlour; Hooper, leaving his
bicycle in the passage, followed him into the room and put the medicine
bottle on the table. Smiling at him, Beaumaroy pointed at the
combination knife-and-fork.

"Is it your fault or mine that that damned thing's lying there?" he
asked.

"Yours," answered the Sergeant, without hesitation and with his habitual
surliness. "I cleaned it and put it out for you to lock away, as usual.
Suppose you went and forgot it, sir!"

Beaumaroy shook his head in self-condemnation and a humorous dismay.
"That's it! I went and forgot it, Sergeant. And I think--I rather
think--that Doctor Mary smells a rat--though she is, at present, far
from guessing the colour of the animal!"

The words sounded scornful; they were spoken for the Sergeant as well as
for himself. He was looking amused and kindly, even rather tenderly
amused; as though liking and pity were the emotions which most actively
survived his first private conversation with Doctor Mary--in spite of
that mishap of the combination knife-and-fork.



CHAPTER VI

ODD STORY OF CAPTAIN DUGGLE!


Christmas Day, 1918, was a merry feast, and nowhere merrier than at Old
Place. There was a house-party and, for dinner on the day itself, a
local contingent as well: Miss Wall, the Irechesters, Mr. Penrose, and
Doctor Mary. Mr. Beaumaroy also had been invited by Mrs. Naylor; she
considered him an interesting man and felt pity for the obvious tedium
of his situation; but he had not felt able to leave his old friend.
Doctor Mary's Paying Guest was of the house-party, not merely a dinner
guest. She was asked over to spend three days and went, accompanied by
Jeanne, who by this time was crying much less; crying was no longer the
cue; her mistress, and not merely stern Doctor Mary, had plainly shown
her that. Gertie Naylor had invited Cynthia to help her in entertaining
the subalterns, though Gertie was really quite equal to that task
herself; there were only three of them, and if a pretty girl is not
equal to three subalterns--well, what are we coming to in England? And,
as it turned out, Miss Gertie had to deal with them all--sometimes
collectively, sometimes one by one--practically unassisted. Cynthia was
otherwise engaged. Gertie complained neither of the cause nor of its
consequence.

The drink--or drugs--hypothesis was exploded, and Miss Wall's
speculations set at rest, with a quite comforting solatium of romantic
and unhappy interest--"a nice titbit for the old cat," as Mr. Naylor
unkindly put it. Cynthia had told her story; she wanted a richer
sympathy than Doctor Mary's common sense afforded; out of this need the
revelation came to Gertie in innocent confidence, and, with the
narrator's tacit approval, ran through the family and its intimate
friends. If Cynthia had been as calculating as she was guileless, she
could not have done better for herself. Mrs. Naylor's motherliness, old
Naylor's courtliness, Gertie's breathless concern and avid appetite for
the fullest detail, everybody's desire to console and cheer--all these
were at her service, all enlisted in the effort to make her forget, and
live and laugh again. Her heart responded; she found herself becoming
happy at a rate which made her positively ashamed. No wonder tactful
Jeanne discovered that the cue was changed!

Fastidious old Naylor regarded his wife with the affection of habit and
with a little disdain for the ordinariness of her virtues--not to say
of the mind which they adorned. His daughter was to him a precious toy,
on which he tried jokes, played tricks, and lavished gifts, for the joy
of seeing the prettiness of her reactions to his treatment. It never
occurred to him to think that his toy might be broken; fond as he was,
his feeling for her lacked the apprehensiveness of the deepest love. But
he idolized his son, and in this case neither without fear nor without
understanding. For four years now he had feared for him bitterly: for
his body, for his life. At every waking hour his inner cry had been even
as David's, "Would God I had died for thee, my son, my son!" For at
every moment of those four years it might be that his son was even then
dead. That terror, endured under a cool and almost off-hand demeanour,
was past; but he feared for his son still. Of all who went to the war as
Crusaders, none had the temperament more ardently than Alec. As he went,
so--obviously--he had come back, not disillusioned, nay, with all his
illusions, or delusions, about this wicked world and its possibilities,
about the people who dwell in it and their lamentable limitations,
stronger in his mind than ever. How could he get through life without
being too sore hurt and wounded, without being cut to the very quick by
his inevitable discoveries? Old Naylor did not see how it was to be
done, or even hoped for; but the right kind of wife was unquestionably
the best chance.

He had cast a speculative eye on Cynthia Walford--Irechester had caught
him at it--but, as he observed her more, she did not altogether satisfy
him. Alec needed someone more stable, stronger, someone in a sense
protective; somebody more like Mary Arkroyd; that idea passed through
his thoughts; if only Mary would take the trouble to dress herself,
remember that she was--or might be made--an attractive young woman;
and--yes, throw her mortar and pestle out of the window--without,
however, discarding with them the sturdy, sane, balanced qualities of
mind which enabled her to handle them with such admirable competence.
But he soon had to put this idea from him. His son's own impulse was to
give, not to seek, protection and support.

Of Cynthia's woeful experience Alec had spoken to his father once only.
"It makes me mad to think the fellow who did that wore a British
uniform!"

How unreasonable! Since by all the laws of average, when millions of men
are wearing a uniform, there must be some rogues in it. But it was
Alec's way to hold himself responsible for the whole of His Majesty's
Forces. Their honour was his; for their misdeeds he must in his own
person make reparation. "That fellow Beaumaroy may have lost his
conscience, but my boy seems to have acquired five million," the old man
grumbled to himself--a grumble full of pride.

The father might analyse; with Alec it was all impulse--the impulse to
soothe, to obliterate, to atone. The girl had been sore hurt; with the
acuteness of sympathy he divined that she felt herself in a way soiled
and stained by contact with unworthiness and by a too easy acceptance of
it. All that must be swept out of her heart, out of her very memory, if
it could be.

Doctor Mary saw what was happening, and with a little pang to which she
would not have liked to own. She had set love affairs, and all the
notions connected therewith, behind her; but she had idealized Alec
Naylor a little; and she thought Cynthia, in homely phrase, "hardly good
enough." Was it not rather perverse that the very fact of having been a
little goose should help her to win so rare a swan?

"You're taking my patient out of my hands, Captain Alec!" she said to
him jokingly. "And you're devoting great attention to the case."

He flushed. "She seems to like to talk to me," he answered simply. "She
seems to me to have rather a remarkable mind, Doctor Mary." (She was
"Doctor Mary" to all the Old Place party now--in affection, with a touch
of chaff.)

_O sancta simplicitas!_ Mary longed to say that Cynthia was a very
ordinary child. Like to talk to him, indeed! Of course she did; and to
use her girl's weapons on him; and to wonder, in an almost awestruck
delight, at their effect on this dazzling hero. Well, the guilelessness
of heroes!

So mused Mary, on the unprofessional side of her mind, as she watched,
that Christmas-tide, Captain Alec's delicate, sensitively indirect and
delayed approach towards the ripe fruit that hung so ready to his hand.
"Part of his chivalry to assume she can't think of him yet!" Mary was
half impatient, half reluctantly admiring; not an uncommon mixture of
feeling for the extreme forms of virtue to produce. In the net result,
however, her mental image of Alec lost something of its heroic
proportions.

But professionally (the distinction must not be pushed too far, she was
not built in water-tight compartments) Tower Cottage remained
obstinately in the centre of her thoughts; and, connected with it, there
arose a puzzle over Dr. Irechester's demeanour. She had taken advantage
of Beaumaroy's permission--though rather doubtful whether she was doing
right, for she was still inexperienced in niceties of etiquette--and
sent on the letter, with a frank note explaining her own feelings and
the reason which had caused her to pay her visit to Mr. Saffron. But
though Irechester was quite friendly when they met at Old Place before
dinner, and talked freely to her during a rather prolonged period of
waiting (Captain Alec and Cynthia, Gertie and two subalterns were very
late, having apparently forgotten dinner in more refined delights), he
made no reference to the letters, nor to Tower Cottage or its inmates.
Mary herself was too shy to break the ice, but wondered at his silence,
and the more because the matter evidently had not gone out of his mind.
For, after dinner, when the port had gone round once and the proper
healths been honoured, he said across the table to Mr. Penrose:

"We were talking the other day of the Tower--on the heath, you know, by
old Saffron's cottage--and none of us knew its history. You know all
about Inkston from time out o' mind. Have you got any story about it?"

Mr. Penrose practised as a solicitor in London, but lived in a little
old house near the Irechesters' in the village street, and devoted his
leisure to the antiquities and topography of the neighbourhood; his lore
was plentiful and curious, if not important. He was a small, neat old
fellow, with white whiskers of the antique cut, a thin voice, and a dry
cackling laugh.

"There was a story about it, and one quite fit for Christmas evening,
if you're in the mood to hear it."

The thin voice was penetrating. At the promise of a story silence fell
on the company, and Mr. Penrose told his tale, vouching as his authority
an erstwhile "oldest inhabitant," now gathered to his fathers; for the
tale dated back some eighty years, to the date of the ancient's early
manhood.

A seafaring man had suddenly appeared, out of space, as it were, at
Inkston, and taken the cottage. He carried with him a strong smell of
rum and tobacco, and gave it to be understood that his name was Captain
Duggle. He was no beauty, and his behaviour was worse than his looks. To
that quiet village, in those quiet strait-laced times, he was a horror
and a portent. He not only drank prodigiously--that, being in character
and also a source of local profit, might have passed with mild
censure--but he swore and blasphemed horribly, spurning the parson,
mocking at Revelation, even at the Deity Himself. The Devil was his
friend, he said. A most terrible fellow, this Captain Duggle. Inkston's
hair stood on end, and no wonder!

"No doubt they shivered with delight over it all," commented Mr. Naylor.

Captain Duggle lived all by himself--well, what God-fearing Christian,
male or female, would be found to live with him?--came and went
mysteriously and capriciously, always full of money, and at least
equally full of drink. What he did with himself nobody knew, but evil
legends gathered about him. Terrified wayfarers, passing the cottage by
night, took oath that they had heard more than one voice!

"This is proper Christmas!" a subaltern interjected into Gertie's ear.

Mr. Penrose, with an air of gratification, continued his narrative.

"The story goes on to tell," he said, "of a final interview with the
village clergyman, in which that reverend man, as in duty bound,
solemnly told Captain Duggle that, however much he might curse, and
blaspheme, and drink, and--er--do all the other things that the Captain
did" (Obviously here Mr. Penrose felt hampered by the presence of
ladies), "yet Death, Judgment, and Churchyard waited for him at last.
Whereupon the Captain, emitting an inconceivably terrific imprecation,
which no one ever dared to repeat and which consequently is lost to
tradition, declared that the first he'd never feared, the second was
parson's gabble, and as to the third, never should his dead toes be
nearer any church than for the last forty years his living feet had
been! If so be as he wasn't drowned at sea, he'd make a grave for
himself!"

Mr. Penrose paused, sipped port wine, and resumed.

"And so, no doubt, he did, building the Tower for that purpose. By
bribes and threats he got two men to work for him. One was the uncle of
my informant. But though he built that Tower, and inside it dug his
grave, he never lay there, being, as things turned out, carried off by
the Devil. Oh, yes, there was no doubt! He went home one night--a
Saturday--very drunk, as usual. On the Sunday night a belated
wayfarer--possibly also drunk--heard wild shrieks and saw a strange red
glow through the window of the Tower--now, by the way, boarded up. And
no doubt he'd have smelt brimstone if the wind hadn't set the wrong way!
Anyhow Captain Duggle was never seen again by mortal eyes--at Inkston,
at all events. After a time the landlord of the cottage screwed up his
courage to resume possession--the Captain had only a lease of it, though
he built the Tower at his own charges, and, I believe, without any
permission, the landlord being much too frightened to interfere with
him. He found everything in a sad mess there, while in the Tower itself
every blessed stick had been burnt up. So the story looks pretty
plausible."

"And the grave?" This question came eagerly from at least three of the
company.

"In front of the fireplace there was a big oblong hole--six feet by
three feet by four--planks at the bottom, the sides roughly lined with
brick. Captain Duggle's grave; but he wasn't in it!"

"But what really became of him, Mr. Penrose?" cried Cynthia.

"The Rising Generation is very sceptical," said old Naylor. "You, of
course, Penrose, believe the story?"

"I do," said Mr. Penrose composedly. "I believe that a devil carried him
off--and that its name was _delirium tremens_. We can guess--can't we,
Irechester?--why he smashed or burnt everything, and fled in mad terror
into the darkness. Where to? Was he drowned at sea, or did he take his
life, or did he rot to death in some filthy hole? Nobody knows. But the
grave he dug is there in the Tower--unless it's been filled up since old
Saffron has lived there."

"Why in the world wasn't it filled up before?" asked Alec Naylor, with a
laugh. "People lived in the cottage, didn't they?"

"I've visited the cottage often," Irechester interposed, "when various
people had it, but I never saw any signs of the Tower being used."

"It never was, I'm sure; and as for the grave--well, Alec, in country
parts, to this day, you'd be thought a bold man if you filled up a
grave that your neighbour had dug for himself--and such a neighbour as
Captain Duggle! He might take it into his head some night to visit it,
and if he found it filled up there'd be trouble--nasty trouble!" His
laugh cackled out rather uncomfortably. Gertie shivered, and one of the
subalterns gulped down his port.

"Old Saffron's a man of education, I believe. No doubt he pays no heed
to such nonsense, and has had the thing covered up," said Naylor.

"As to that I don't know. Perhaps you do, Irechester? He's your patient,
isn't he?"

Dr. Irechester sat four places from Mary. Before he replied to the
question he cast a glance at her, smiling rather mockingly. "I've
attended him on one or two occasions, but I've never seen the inside of
the Tower. So I don't know either."

"Oh, but I'm curious! I shall ask Mr. Beaumaroy," cried Cynthia.

The ironical character of Irechester's smile grew more pronounced, and
his voice was at its driest: "Certainly you can ask Beaumaroy, Miss
Walford. As far as asking goes, there's no difficulty."

A pause followed this pointed remark, on which nobody seemed disposed to
comment. Mrs. Naylor ended the session by rising from her chair.

But Mary Arkroyd was disquieted, worried as to how she stood with
Irechester, vaguely but insistently worried over the whole Tower
Cottage business. Well, the first point she could soon settle--or try to
settle, anyhow.

With the directness which marked her action when once her mind was made
up, she waylaid Irechester as he came into the drawing-room; her
resolute approach sufficed to detach Naylor from him; he found himself
isolated for the moment from everybody except Mary.

"You got my letter, Dr. Irechester? I--I rather expected an answer."

"Your conduct was so obviously and punctiliously correct," he replied
suavely, "that I thought my answer could wait till I met you here
to-day, as I knew that I was to have the pleasure of doing." He looked
her full in the eyes. "You were placed--placed, my dear colleague--in a
position in which you had no alternative."

"I thought so, Dr. Irechester, but----"

"Oh yes, clearly! I'm far from making any complaint." He gave her a
courteous little bow, but it was one which plainly closed the subject.
Indeed he passed by her and joined a group that had gathered on the
hearthrug, leaving her alone.

So she stood for a moment, oppressed by a growing uneasiness. Irechester
said nothing, but surely meant something of import? He mocked her, but
not idly or out of wantonness. He seemed almost to warn her. What could
there be to warn her about? He had laid an odd emphasis on the word
"placed"; he had repeated it. Who had "placed" her there? Mr. Saffron?
Or Mr.----?

Alec Naylor broke in on her uneasy meditation. "It's a clinking night,
Doctor Mary," he observed. "Do you mind if I walk Miss Walford
home--instead of her going with you in your car, you know? It's only a
couple of miles and----"

"Do you think your leg can stand it?"

He laughed. "I'll cut the thing off, if it dares to make any
objection!"



CHAPTER VII

A GENTLEMANLY STRANGER


On this same Christmas Day Sergeant Hooper was feeling morose and
discontented; not because he was alone in the world (a situation
comprising many advantages); nor on the score of his wages, which were
extremely liberal; nor on account of the "old blighter's"--that is, Mr.
Saffron's--occasional outbursts of temper, these being in the nature of
the case and within the terms of the contract; nor, finally, by reason
of Beaumaroy's airy insolence, since from his youth up the Sergeant was
hardened to unfavourable comments on his personal appearance, trifling
vulgarities which a man of sense could afford to ignore.

No; the winter of his discontent--a bitter winter--was due to the
conviction, which had been growing in his mind for some time, that he
was only in half the secret, and that not the more profitable half. He
knew that the old blighter had to be humoured in certain small ways--as,
for example, in regard to the combination knife-and-fork--and the
reason for it. But, first, he did not know what happened inside the
Tower; he had never seen the inside of it; the door was always locked;
he was never invited to accompany his masters when they repaired thither
by day, and he was not on the premises by night. And, secondly, he did
not understand the Wednesday journeys to London, and he had never seen
the inside of Beaumaroy's brown bag--that, like the Tower door, was
always locked. He had handled it once, just before the pair set out for
London one Wednesday. Beaumaroy, a careless man sometimes, in spite of
the cunning which Dr. Irechester attributed to him, had left it on the
parlour table while he helped Mr. Saffron on with his coat in the
passage, and the Sergeant had swiftly and surreptitiously lifted it up.
It was very light--obviously empty, or, at all events, holding only
feather-weight contents. He had never got near it when it came back from
town; then it always went straight into the Tower and had the key turned
on it forthwith.

But the Sergeant, although slow-witted as well as ugly, had had his
experiences; he had carried weights both in the army and in other
institutions which are officially described as His Majesty's, and had
seen other men carry them too. From the set of Beaumaroy's figure as he
arrived home on at least two occasions with the brown bag, and from the
way in which he handled it, the Sergeant confidently drew the conclusion
that it was of a considerable, almost a grievous, weight. What was the
heavy thing in it? What became of that thing after it was taken into the
Tower? To whose use or profit did it, or was it to, ensure? Because it
was plain, even to the meanest capacity, that the contents of the bag
had a value in the eyes of the two men who went to London for them, and
who shepherded them from London to the custody of the Tower.

These thoughts filled and racked his brain as he sat drinking rum and
water in the bar of the Green Man on Christmas evening; a solitary man,
mixing little with the people of the village, he sat apart at a small
table in the corner, musing within himself, yet idly watching the
company--villagers, a few friends from London and elsewhere, some
soldiers and their ladies. Besides these, a tall slim man stood leaning
against the bar, at the far end of it, talking to Bill Smithers, the
landlord, and sipping a whisky-and-soda between pulls at his cigar. He
wore a neat dark overcoat, brown shoes, and a bowler hat rather on one
side; his appearance was, in fact, genteel, though his air was a trifle
raffish. In age he seemed about forty. The Sergeant had never seen him
before, and therefore favoured him with a glance of special attention.

Oddly enough, the gentlemanly stranger seemed to reciprocate the
Sergeant's interest; he gave him quite a long glance. Then he finished
his whisky-and-soda, spoke a word to Bill Smithers, and lounged across
the room to where the Sergeant sat.

"It's poor work drinking alone on Christmas night," he observed. "May I
join you? I've ordered a little something; and--well, we needn't bother
about offering a gentleman a glass to-night."

The Sergeant eyed him with apparent disfavour--as, indeed, he did
everybody who approached him--but a nod of his head accorded the desired
permission. Smithers came across with a bottle of brandy and glasses.
"Good stuff!" said the stranger, as he sat down, filled the glasses, and
drank his off. "The best thing to top up with, believe me!"

The Sergeant, in turn, drained his glass, maintaining, however, his
aloofness of demeanour. "What's up?" he growled.

"What's in the brown bag?" asked the stranger lightly and urbanely.

The Sergeant did not start; he was too old a hand for that; but his
small gimlet eyes searched his new acquaintance's face very keenly. "You
know a lot!"

"More than you do in some directions, less in others perhaps. Shall I
begin? Because we've got to confide in one another, Sergeant. A little
story of what two gentlemen do in London on Wednesdays, and of what they
carry home in a brown leather bag? Would that interest you? Oh, that
stuff in the brown leather bag! Hard to come by now, isn't it? But they
know where there's still some--and so do I, to remark it incidentally.
There were actually some people, Sergeant Hooper, who distrusted the
righteousness of the British Cause--which is to say" (the stranger
smiled cynically) "the certainty of our licking the Germans--and they
hoarded it, the villains!"

Sergeant Hooper stretched out his hand towards the bottle. "Allow me!"
said the stranger politely. "I observe that your hand trembles a
little."

It did. The Sergeant was excited. The stranger seemed to be touching on
a subject which always excited the Sergeant--to the point of hands
trembling, twitching, and itching.

"Have to pay for it too! Thirty bob in curl-twisters for every ruddy
disc; that's the figure now, or thereabouts. What do they want to do it
for? What's your governors' game? Who, in short, is going to get off
with it?"

"What is it they does--the old blighter and Boomery" (Thus he
pronounced the name Beaumaroy)--"in London?"

"First to the stockbroker's--then to a bank or two--I've known it three
even; then a taxi down East, and a call at certain addresses. The bag's
with 'em, Sergeant, and at each call it gets heavier. I've seen it
swell, so to speak."

"Who in hell are you?" the Sergeant grunted huskily.

"Names later--after the usual guarantees of good faith."

The whole conversation, carried on in low tones, had passed under cover
of noisy mirth, snatches of song, banter, and giggling; nobody paid heed
to the two men talking in a corner. Yet the stranger lowered his voice
to a whisper, as he added:

"From me to you fifty quid on account; from you to me just a sight of
the place where they put it."

Sergeant Hooper drank, smoked, and pondered. The stranger showed the
edge of a roll of notes, protruding it from his breast-pocket. The
Sergeant nodded--he understood that part. But there was much that he did
not understand. "It fair beats me what the blazes they're doing it
_for_," he broke out.

"Whose money would it be?"

"The old blighter's, o' course. Boomery's stony, except for his screw."
He looked hard at the gentlemanly stranger, and a slow smile came on his
lips. "That's your idea, is it, mister?"

"Gentleman's old--looks frail--might go off suddenly. What then? Friends
turn up--always do when you're dead, you know. Well, what of it? Less
money in the funds than was reckoned; dear old gentleman doesn't cut up
as well as they hoped! And meanwhile our friend B----! Does it dawn on
you at all--from our friend B----'s point of view, Sergeant? I may be
wrong, but that's my provisional conjecture. The question remains how
he's got the old gent into the game, doesn't it?"

Precisely the point to which the Sergeant's mind also had turned! The
knowledge which he possessed--that half of the secret--and which his
companion did not, might be very material to a solution of the problem;
the Sergeant did not mean to share it prematurely, or without necessity,
or for nothing. But surely it had a bearing on the case? Dull-witted as
he was, the Sergeant seemed to catch a glimmer of light, and mentally
groped towards it.

"Well, we can't sit here all night," said the stranger in good-humoured
impatience. "I've a train to catch."

"There's no train up from here to-night."

"There is from Sprotsfield. I shall walk over."

The Sergeant smiled. "Oh, if you're walking to Sprotsfield, I'll put you
on your way. If anybody was to see us--Boomery, for instance--he
couldn't complain of my seeing an old pal on his way on Christmas night.
No 'arm in that; no look of prowling, or spying, or such-like! And you
are an old pal, ain't you?"

"Certainly; your old pal--let me see--your old pal Percy Bennett."

"As it might be, or as it might not. What about the----?" He pointed to
Percy Bennett's breast-pocket.

"I'll give it you outside. You don't want me to be seen handing it over
in here, do you?"

The Sergeant had one more question to ask. "About 'ow much d'ye reckon
there might be by now?"

"How often have they been to London? Because they don't come to see my
friends every time, I fancy."

"Must 'ave been six or seven times by now. The game began soon after
Boomery and I came 'ere."

"Then, quite roughly--quite a shot--from what I know of the deals we--my
friends, I mean--did with them, and reasoning from that, there might be
a matter of seven or eight thousand pounds."

The Sergeant whistled softly, rose, and led the way to the door. The
gentlemanly stranger paused at the bar to pay for the brandy, and after
bidding the landlord a civil good evening, with the compliments of the
season, followed the Sergeant into the village street.

Fifteen minutes' brisk walk brought them to Hinton Avenue. At the end of
it they passed Doctor Mary's house; the drawing-room curtains were not
drawn; on the blind they saw reflected the shadows of a man and a girl,
standing side by side. "Mistletoe, eh?" remarked the stranger. The
Sergeant spat on the road; they resumed their way, pursuing the road
across the heath.

It was fine, but overclouded and decidedly dark. Every now and then
Bennett--to call the stranger by what was almost confessedly a _nom de
guerre_--flashed a powerful electric torch on the roadway. "Don't want
to walk into a gorse bush," he explained with a laugh.

"Put it away, you darned fool! We're nearly there."

The stranger obeyed. In another seven or eight minutes there loomed up,
on the left hand, the dim outline of Mr. Saffron's abode--the square
cottage with the odd round tower annexed.

"There you are!" The Sergeant's voice instinctively kept to a whisper.
"That's what you want to see."

"But I can't see it--not so as to get any clear idea."

No lights showed from the cottage, nor, of course, from the Tower; its
only window had been, as Mr. Penrose said, boarded up. The wind--there
was generally a wind on the heath--stirred the fir trees and the bushes
into a soft movement and a faint murmur of sound. A very acute and alert
ear might perhaps have caught another sound--footfalls on the road, a
good long way behind them. The two spies, or scouts, did not hear them;
their attention was elsewhere.

"Probably they're both in bed; it's quite safe to make our examination,"
said the stranger.

"Yes, I s'pose it is. But look to be ready to douse your glim. Boomery's
a nailer at turning up unexpected." The Sergeant seemed rather nervous.

Mr. Bennett was not. He took out his torch, and guided by its light
(which, however, he took care not to throw towards the cottage windows)
he advanced to the garden gate, the Sergeant following, and took a
survey of the premises. It was remarkable that, as the light of the
torch beamed out, the faint sound of footfalls on the road behind died
away.

"Keep an eye on the windows, and touch my elbow if any light shows.
Don't speak." The stranger was at business--his business--now, and his
voice became correspondingly business-like. "We won't risk going inside
the gate. I can see from here." Indeed he very well could; Tower Cottage
stood back no more than twelve or fifteen feet from the road, and the
torch was powerful.

For four or five minutes the stranger made his examination. Then he
turned off his torch. "Looks easy," he remarked, "but of course there's
the garrison." Once more he turned on his light, to look at his watch.
"Can't stop now, or I shall miss the train, and I don't want to have to
get a bed at Sprotsfield. A strayed reveller on Christmas night might be
too well remembered. Got an address?"

"Care of Mrs. Willnough, Laundress, Inkston."

"Right. Good night." With a quick turn he was off along the road to
Sprotsfield. The Sergeant saw the gleam of his torch once or twice,
receding at quite a surprising pace into the distance. Feeling the wad
of notes in his pocket--perhaps to make sure that the whole episode had
not been a dream--the Sergeant turned back towards Inkston.

After a couple of minutes, a tall figure emerged from the shelter of a
high and thick gorse bush just opposite Tower Cottage, on the other
side of the road. Captain Alec Naylor had seen the light of the
stranger's torch, and, after four years in France, he was well skilled
in the art of noiseless approach. But he felt that, for the moment at
least, his brain was less agile than his feet. He had been suddenly
wrenched out of one set of thoughts into another profoundly different.
It was his shadow, together with Cynthia Walford's, that the Sergeant
and the stranger had seen on Doctor Mary's blind. After "walking her
home," he had--well, just not proposed to Cynthia, restrained more by
those scruples of his than by any ungraciousness on the part of the
lady. Even his modesty could not blind him to this fact. He was full of
pity, of love, of a man's joyous sense of triumph, half wishing that he
had made his proposal, half glad that he had not, just because it, and
its radiant promise, could still be dangled in the bright vision of the
future. He was in the seventh heaven of romance, and his heaven was
higher than that which most men reach; it was built on loftier
foundations.

Then came the flash of the torch; the high spirits born of one
experience sought an outlet in another. "By Jove, I'll track 'em--like
old times!" he murmured, with a low light laugh. And, just for fun, he
did it, taking to the heath beside the road, twisting his long body in
and out amongst gorse, heather, and bracken, very noiselessly, with
wonderful dexterity. The light of the lamp was continuous now; the
stranger was making his examination. By it Captain Alec guided his
steps; and he arrived behind the tall gorse bush opposite Tower Cottage
just in time to hear the Sergeant say, "Mrs. Willnough, Laundress,
Inkston," and to witness the parting of the two companions.

There was very little to go upon there. Why should not one friend give
another an address? But the examination? Beaumaroy should surely know of
that? It might be nothing; but, on the other hand, it might have a
meaning. But the men had gone, had obviously parted for the night.
Beaumaroy could be told to-morrow; now he himself could go back to his
visions--and so homeward, in happiness, to his bed.

Having reached this sensible conclusion, he was about to turn away from
the garden gate which he now stood facing, when he heard the house door
softly open and as softly shut. The practice of his profession had given
him keen eyes in the dark; he discovered Beaumaroy's tall figure
stealing very cautiously down the narrow, flagged path. The next instant
the light of another torch flashed out, and this time not in the
distance, but full in his own face.

"By God, you, Naylor!" Beaumaroy exclaimed in a voice which was low but
full of surprise. "I--I--well, it's rather late----"

Alec Naylor was suddenly struck with the element of humour in the
situation. He had been playing detective; apparently he was now the
suspected!

"Give me time and I'll explain all," he said, smiling under the dazzling
rays of the torch.

Beaumaroy glanced round at the house for a second, pursed up his lips
into one of the odd little contortions which he sometimes allowed
himself, and said, "Well, then, old chap, come in and have a drink, and
do it. For I'm hanged if I see why you should stand staring into this
garden in the middle of the night! With your opportunities I should be
better employed on Christmas evening."

"You really want me to come in?" It was now Captain Alec's voice which
expressed surprise.


"Why the devil not?" asked Beaumaroy in a tone of frank but friendly
impatience.

He turned and led the way into Tower Cottage. Somehow this invitation to
enter was the last thing that Captain Alec had expected.



CHAPTER VIII

CAPTAIN ALEC RAISES HIS VOICE


Beaumaroy led the way into the parlour, Captain Alec following. "Well, I
thought your old friend didn't care to see strangers," he said,
continuing the conversation.

"He was tired and fretful to-night, so I got him to bed, and gave him a
soothing draught--one that our friend Dr. Arkroyd sent him. He went off
like a lamb, poor old boy. If we don't talk too loud we shan't disturb
him."

"I can tell you what I have to tell in a few minutes."

"Don't hurry." Beaumaroy was bringing the refreshment he had offered
from the sideboard. "I'm feeling lonely to-night, so I"--he
smiled--"yielded to the impulse to ask you to come in, Naylor. However,
let's have the story by all means."

The surprise--it might almost have been taken for alarm--which he had
shown at the first sight of Alec, seemed to have given place to a gentle
and amiable weariness, which persisted through the recital of the
Captain's experiences--how his errand of courtesy, or gallantry, had led
to his being on the road across the heath so late at night, and of what
he had seen there.

"You copped them properly!" Beaumaroy remarked at the end, with a lazy
smile. "One does learn a trick or two in France. You couldn't see their
faces, I suppose?"

"No; too dark. I didn't dare show a light, though I had one. Besides,
their backs were towards me. One looked tall and thin, the other short
and stumpy. But I should never be able to swear to either."

"And they went off in different directions, you say?"

"Yes, the tall one towards Sprotsfield, the short one back towards
Inkston."

"Oh, the short stumpy one it was who turned back to Inkston?" Beaumaroy
had seated himself on a low three-legged stool, opposite to the big
chair where Alec sat, and was smoking his pipe, his hands clasped round
his knees. "It doesn't seem to me to come to much, though I'm much
obliged to you all the same. The short one's probably a local, the other
a stranger, and the local was probably seeing his friend part of the way
home, and incidentally showing him one of the sights of the
neighbourhood. There are stories about this old den, you know--ancient
traditions. It's said to be haunted, and what not."

"Funnily enough, we had the story to-night at dinner, at our house."

"Had you now?" Beaumaroy looked up quickly. "What, all about----?"

"Captain Duggle, and the Devil, and the grave, and all that."

"Who told you the story?"

"Old Mr. Penrose. Do you know him? Lives in High Street, near the
Irechesters."

"I think I know him by sight. So he entertained you with that old yarn,
did he? And that same old yarn probably accounts for the nocturnal
examination which you saw going on. It was a little excitement for you,
to reward you for your politeness to Miss Walford!"

Alec flushed, but answered frankly: "I needed no reward for that." His
feelings got the better of him; he was very full of feelings that night,
and wanted to be sympathized with. "Beaumaroy, do you know that girl's
story?" Beaumaroy shook his head--and listened to it. Captain Alec ended
on his old note: "To think of the scoundrel using the King's uniform
like that!"

"Rotten! But--er--don't raise your voice." He pointed to the ceiling,
smiling, and went on--without further comment on Cynthia's
ill-usage--"I suppose you intend to stick to the army, Naylor?"

"Yes, certainly I do."

"I'm discharged. After I came out of hospital they gave me sick
leave--and constantly renewed it; and when the armistice came they gave
me my discharge. They put it down to my wound, of course, but--well, I
gathered the impression that I was considered no great loss." He had
finished his pipe, and was now smiling reflectively.

Captain Alec did not smile. Indeed he looked rather pained; he was
remembering General Punnit's story: military inefficiency--even military
imperfection--was for him no smiling matter. Beaumaroy did not appear to
notice his disapproving gravity.

"So I was at a loose end. I had sold up my business in Spain--I was
there six or seven years, just as Captain--Captain----? Oh, Cranster,
yes!--was in Bogota--when I joined up, and had no particular reason for
going back there--and, incidentally, no money to go back with. So I took
on this job, which came to me quite accidentally. I went into a
Piccadilly bar one evening, and found my old man there, rather excited
and declaiming a good deal of rot; seemed to have the war a bit on his
brain. They started in to guy him, and I think one or two meant to
hustle him, and perhaps take his money off him. I took his part, and
there was a bit of a shindy. In the end I saw him home to his
lodgings--he had a room in London for the night--and--to cut a long
story short--we palled up, and he asked me to come and live with him. So
here I am, and with me my Sancho Panza, the worthy ex-Sergeant Hooper.
Perhaps I may be forgiven for impliedly comparing myself to Don Quixote,
since that gentleman, besides his other characteristics, is generally
agreed to have been mad."

"Your Sancho Panza's no beauty," remarked the Captain drily.

"And no saint either. Kicked out of the Service, and done time. That
between ourselves."

"Then why the devil do you have the fellow about?"

"Beggars mustn't be choosers. Besides, I've a _penchant_ for failures."

That was what General Punnit had said! Alec Naylor grew impatient.
"That's the very spirit we have to fight against!" he exclaimed, rather
hotly.

"Forgive me, but--please--don't raise your voice."

Alec lowered his voice--for a moment anyhow--but the central article of
his creed was assailed, and he grew vehement. "It's fatal; it's at the
root of all our troubles. Allow for failures in individuals, and you
produce failure all round. It's tenderness to defaulters that wrecks
discipline. I would have strict justice, but no mercy--not a shadow of
it!"

"But you said that day, at your place, that the war had made you
tender-hearted."

"Yes, I did--and it's true. Is it hard-hearted to refuse to let a
slacker cost good men their lives? Much better take his, if it's got to
be one or the other."

"A cogent argument. But, my dear Naylor, I wish you wouldn't raise your
voice."

"Damn my voice!" said Alec, most vexatiously interrupted just as he had
got into his stride. "You say things that I can't and won't let pass,
and----"

"I really wouldn't have asked you in, if I'd thought you'd raise your
voice."

Alec recollected himself. "My dear fellow, a thousand pardons! I forgot!
The old gentleman----?"

"Exactly. But I'm afraid the mischief's done. Listen!" Again he pointed
to the ceiling, but his eyes set on Captain Alec with a queer, rueful,
humorous expression. "I was an ass to ask you in. But I'm no good at
it--that's the fact. I'm always giving the show away!" he grumbled, half
to himself, but not inaudibly.

Alec stared at him for a moment in puzzle, but the next instant his
attention was diverted. Another voice besides his was raised; the sound
of it came through the ceiling from the room above; the words were not
audible; the volubility of the utterance in itself went far to prevent
them from being distinguishable; but the high, vibrant, metallic tones
rang through the house. It was a rush of noise--sharp grating
noise--without a meaning. The effect was weird, very uncomfortable. Alec
Naylor knit his brows, and once gave a little shiver, as he listened.
Beaumaroy sat quite still, the expression in his eyes unaltered--or, if
it altered at all, it grew softer, as though with pity or affection.

"Good God, Beaumaroy, are you keeping a lunatic in this house?" He might
raise his voice as loud as he pleased now, it was drowned by that other.

"I'm not keeping him, he's keeping me. And, anyhow, his medical adviser
tells me there is no reason to suppose that my old friend is not _compos
mentis_."

"Irechester says that?"

"Mr. Saffron's medical attendant is Dr. Arkroyd."

As he spoke, the noise from above suddenly ceased. Since neither of the
men in the parlour spoke, there ensued a minute of what seemed intense
silence; it was such a change.

Then came a still small sound--a creaking of wood--from overhead.

"I think you'd better go, Naylor, if you don't mind. After a--a
performance of that kind he generally comes and tells me about it. And
he may be--I don't know at all for certain--annoyed to find you here."

Alec Naylor got up from the big chair, but it was not to take his
departure.

"I want to see him, Beaumaroy," he said brusquely and rather
authoritatively.

Beaumaroy raised his brows. "I won't take you to his room, or let you go
there, if I can help it. But if he comes down--well, you can stay and
see him. It may get me into a scrape, but that doesn't matter much."

"My point of view is----"

"My dear fellow, I know your point of view perfectly. It is that you are
personally responsible for the universe--apparently just because you
wear a uniform."

No other sound had come from above or from the stairs, but the door now
opened suddenly, and Mr. Saffron stood on the threshold. He wore
slippers, a pair of checked trousers, and his bedroom jacket of pale
blue; in addition, the grey shawl, which he wore on his walks, was again
swathed closely round him. Only his right arm was free from it; in his
hand was a silver bedroom candlestick. From his pale face and under his
snowy hair his blue eyes gleamed brightly. As Alec first caught sight of
him, he was smiling happily, and he called out triumphantly: "That was a
good one! That went well, Hector!"

Then he saw Alec's tall figure by the fire. He grew grave, closed the
door carefully, and advanced to the table, on which he set down the
candlestick. After a momentary look at Alec, he turned his gaze
inquiringly towards Beaumaroy.

"I'm afraid we're keeping it up rather late, sir," said the latter in a
tone of respectful yet easy apology, "but I took an airing on the road
after you went to bed, and there I found my friend here on his way home;
and since it was Christmas----"

Mr. Saffron bowed his head in acquiescence; he showed no sign of anger.
"Present your friend to me, Hector," he requested--or ordered--gravely.

"Captain Naylor, sir. Distinguished Service Order; Duffshire Fusiliers."

The Captain was in uniform and, during his talk with Beaumaroy, had not
thought of taking off his cap. Thus he came to the salute instinctively.
The old man bowed with reserved dignity; in spite of his queer get-up he
bore himself well; the tall handsome Captain did not seem to efface or
outclass him.

"Captain Naylor has distinguished himself highly in the war, sir,"
Beaumaroy continued.

"I am very glad to make the acquaintance of any officer who has
distinguished himself in the service of his country." Then his tone
became easier and more familiar. "Don't let me disturb you, gentlemen.
My business with you, Hector, will wait. I have finished my work, and
can rest with a clear conscience."

"Couldn't we persuade you to stay a few minutes with us, and join us in
a whisky-and-soda?"

"Yes, by all means, Hector. But no whisky. Give me a glass of my own
wine; I see a bottle on the sideboard."

He came round the table and sat down in the big chair. "Pray seat
yourself, Captain," he said, waving his hand towards the stool which
Beaumaroy had lately occupied.

The Captain obeyed the gesture, but his huge frame looked awkward on the
low seat; he felt aware of it, then aware of the cap on his head; he
snatched it off hastily and twiddled it between his fingers. Mr.
Saffron, high up in the great chair, sitting erect, seemed now actually
to dominate the scene--Beaumaroy standing by, with an arm on the back of
the chair, holding a tall glass, full of the golden wine, ready to Mr.
Saffron's command; the old man reached up his thin right hand, took it,
and sipped with evident pleasure.

Alec Naylor was embarrassed; he sat in silence. But Beaumaroy seemed
quite at his ease. He began with a statement which was, in its literal
form, no falsehood; but that was about all that could be said for it on
the score of veracity. "Before you came in, sir, we were just speaking
of uniforms. Do you remember seeing our blue Air Force uniform when we
were in town last week? I remember that you expressed approval of it."

In any case the topic was very successful. Mr. Saffron embraced it with
eagerness; with much animation he discussed the merits, whether
practical or decorative, of various uniforms--field-grey, khaki,
horizon-blue, Air Force blue, and a dozen others worn by various armies,
corps, and services. Alec was something of an enthusiast in this line
too; he soon forgot his embarrassment, and joined in the conversation
freely, though with a due respect to the obvious thoroughness of Mr.
Saffron's information. Watching the pair with an amused smile, Beaumaroy
contented himself with putting in, here and there, what may be called a
conjunctive observation--just enough to give the topic a new start.

After a quarter of an hour of this pleasant conversation, for such all
three seemed to find it, Mr. Saffron finished his wine, handed the glass
to Beaumaroy, and took a cordial leave of Alec Naylor. "It's time for me
to be in bed, but don't hurry away, Captain. You won't disturb me, I'm a
good sleeper. Good-bye. I shan't want you any more to-night, Hector."

Beaumaroy handed him his candle again, and held the door open for him as
he went out.

Alec Naylor clapped his cap back on his head. "I'm off too," he said
abruptly.

"Well, you insisted on seeing him, and you've seen him. What about it
now?" asked Beaumaroy.

Alec eyed him with a puzzled, baffled suspicion. "You switched him on to
that subject on purpose, and by means of something uncommon like a lie."

"A little artifice! I knew it would interest you, and it's quite one of
his hobbies. I don't know much about his past life, but I think he must
have had something to do with military tailoring. A designer at the War
Office, perhaps." Beaumaroy gave a low laugh, rather mocking and
malicious. "Still, that doesn't prove a man mad, does it? Perhaps it
ought to, but in general opinion it doesn't, any more than reciting
poems in bed does."

"Do you mean to tell me that he was reciting poetry when----?"

"Well, it couldn't have sounded worse if he had been, could it?"

Now he was openly laughing at the Captain's angry bewilderment. He knew
that Alec Naylor did not believe a word of what he was saying, or
suggesting; but yet Alec could not pass his guard, nor wing a shaft
between the joints of his harness. If he got into difficulties through
heedlessness, at least he made a good shot at getting out of them again
by his dexterity. Only, of course, suspicion remains suspicion, even
though it be, for the moment, baffled. And it could not be denied that
suspicions were piling up--Captain Alec; Irechester; even, on one little
point, Doctor Mary! And possibly those two fellows outside--one of them
short and stumpy--had their suspicions too, though these might be
directed to another point. He gave one of his little shrugs as he
followed the silent Captain to the garden gate.

"Good night. Thanks again. And I hope we shall meet soon," he said
cheerily.

Alec gave him a brief "Good night" and a particularly formal military
salute.



CHAPTER IX

DOCTOR MARY'S ULTIMATUM


Even Captain Alec was not superior to the foibles which beset humanity.
If it had been his conception of duty which impelled him to take a high
line with Beaumaroy, there was now in his feelings, although he did not
realize the fact, an alloy of less precious metal. He had demanded an
ordeal, a test--that he should see Mr. Saffron and judge for himself.
The test had been accepted; he had been worsted in it. His suspicions
were not laid to rest--far from it; but they were left unjustified and
unconfirmed. He had nothing to go upon, nothing to show. He had been
baffled, and, moreover, bantered and almost openly ridiculed. Beaumaroy
had been too many for him, in fact, the subtle rogue!

This conception of the case coloured his looks and pointed his words
when Tower Cottage and its occupants were referred to, and most markedly
when he spoke of them to Cynthia Walford; for in talking to her he
naturally allowed himself greater freedom than he did with others;
talking to her had become like talking to himself, so completely did she
give him back what he bestowed on her, and re-echo to his mind its own
voice. Such perfect sympathy induces a free outpouring of inner
thoughts, and reinforces the opinions of which it so unreservedly
approves.

Cynthia did more than elicit and reinforce Captain Alec's opinion; she
also disseminated it--at Old Place, at the Irechesters', at Doctor
Mary's; through all the little circle in which she was now a constant
and a favourite figure. In the light of her experience of men, so
limited and so sharply contrasted, she made a simple classification of
them; they were Cransters or Alecs; and each class acted after its kind.
Plainly Beaumaroy was not an Alec; therefore he was a Cranster; and
Cranster-like actions were to be expected from him, of such special
description as his circumstances and temptations might dictate.

She poured this simple philosophy into Doctor Mary's ears, vouching
Alec's authority for its application to Beaumaroy. The theory was too
simple for Mary, whose profession had shown her at all events something
of the complexity of human nature; and she was no infallibilist; she
would bow unquestioningly to no man's authority, not even to Alec's,
much as she liked and admired him. There was even a streak of
contrariness in her; what she might have said to herself she was prone
to criticize or contradict, if it were too confidently or urgently
pressed on her by another; perhaps, too, Cynthia's claim to be the
Captain's mouthpiece stirred up in her a latent resentment; it was not
to be called a jealousy, it was rather an amused irritation at both the
divinity and his worshipper. His worshippers can sometimes make a
divinity look foolish.

Her own interview with Beaumaroy at the Cottage had left her puzzled,
distrustful--and attracted. She suspected him vaguely of wanting to use
her for some purpose of his own; in spite of the swift plausibility of
his explanation, she was nearly certain that he had lied to her about
the combination knife-and-fork. Yet his account of his own position in
regard to Mr. Saffron had sounded remarkably candid, and the more so
because he made no pretensions to an exalted attitude. It had been left
to her to define the standard of sensitive honour; his had been rather
that of safety--or, at the best, that of what the world would think, or
even of what the hated cousins might attempt to prove. But there again
she was distrustful, both of him and of her own judgment. He might
be--it seemed likely--one of those men who conceal the good as well as
the bad in themselves, one of the morally shy men. Or again, perhaps,
one of the morally diffident, who shrink from arrogating to themselves
high standards because they fear for their own virtue if it be put to
the test, and cling to the power of saying, later on, "Well, I told you
not to expect too much from me!" Such various types of men exist, and
they do not fall readily into either of Cynthia's two classes; they are
neither Cransters nor Alecs; certainly not in thought, probably not in
conduct. He had said at Old Place, the first time that she met him, that
the war had destroyed all his scruples. That might be true; but it was
hardly the remark of a man naturally unscrupulous.

She met him one day at Old Place about a week after Christmas. The
Captain was not there; he was at her own house, with Cynthia. With the
rest of the family Beaumaroy was at his best; gaily respectful to Mrs.
Naylor, merry with Gertie, exchanging cut and thrust with old Mr.
Naylor, easy and cordial towards herself. Certainly an attractive human
being and a charming companion, pre-eminently natural. "One talks of
taking people as one finds them," old Naylor said to her, when they
found themselves alone for a few minutes together by the fire, while the
others chatted by the window. "That fellow takes himself as he finds
himself! Not as a pattern, a failure, or a problem, but just as a
fact--a psychological fact."

"That rather shuts out effort, doesn't it? Well, I mean----"

"Strivings?" Mr. Naylor smiled. "Yes, it does. On the other hand, it
gives such free play. That's what makes him interesting, makes you think
about him." He laughed. "Oh, I daresay the surroundings help too--we're
all rather children!--old Saffron, and the Devil, and Captain Duggle,
and the rest of it! The brain isn't over-worked down here; we like to
find an outlet."

"That means you think there's nothing in it really?"

"In what?" retorted old Naylor briskly.

But Mary was equal to him. "My lips are sealed professionally," she
smiled. "But hasn't your son said anything?"

"Admirable woman! Yes, Alec has said a few things; and the young lady
gives it us too. For my part, I think Beaumaroy's just drifting. He'll
take the gifts of fortune if they come, but I don't think there's much
deliberate design about it. Ah, now you're smiling in a superior way,
Doctor Mary! I charge you with secret knowledge. Or are you puffed up by
having superseded Irechester?"

"I was never so distressed and--well, embarrassed--at anything in my
life."

"Well, that, if you ask me, does look a bit queer. Sort of fits in with
Alec's theory."

Mary's discretion gave way a little. "Or with Mr. Beaumaroy's? Which is
that I'm a fool, I think."

"And that Irechester isn't?" His eyes twinkled in good-humoured malice.
"Talking of what this and that person thinks--of himself and of
others--Irechester thinks himself something of an alienist."

Her eyes grew suddenly alert. "He's never talked to me on that subject."

"Perhaps he doesn't think it's one of yours. Perhaps your studies
haven't lain that way? After all, no medical man can study everything!"

"Don't be naughty, Mr. Naylor!" said Doctor Mary.

"He tells me that, in cases where the condition--the condition I think
he called it--is in doubt, he fixes his attention on the eyes and the
voice. He couldn't give me any very clear description of what he found
in the eyes. I couldn't quite make out, anyhow, what he meant, unless it
was a sort of meaninglessness--a want of what you might call
intellectual focus. Do you follow me?"

"Yes, I think I know what you mean."

"But with regard to the voice, I distinctly remember that he used the
word 'metallic.'"

"Why, that's the word Cynthia used----!"

"I daresay it is. It's the word Alec used in describing the voice in
which old Mr. Saffron recited his poem--or whatever it was--in bed."

"But I've talked to Mr. Saffron; his voice isn't like that; it's a
little high, but full and rather melodious."

"Oh, well then----!" He spread out his hands, as though acknowledging a
check. "Still, the voice described as metallic seems to have been Mr.
Saffron's--at a certain moment at least. As a merely medical question of
some interest, I wonder if such a symptom or sign of--er--irritability
could be intermittent, coming and going with the--er--fits! Irechester
didn't say anything on that point. Have you any opinion?"

"None. I don't know. I should like to ask Dr. Irechester." Then, with a
sudden smile, she amended, "No, I shouldn't!"

"And why not, pray? Professional etiquette?"

"No--pride. Dr. Irechester laughed at me. I think I see why now; and
perhaps why Mr. Beaumaroy----" She broke off abruptly, the slightest
gesture of her hand warning Naylor also to be silent.

Having said good-bye to his friends by the window, Beaumaroy was
sauntering across the room to pay the like courtesy to herself and
Naylor. Mary rose to her feet; there was an air of decision about her,
and she addressed Beaumaroy almost before he was within speaking
distance as it is generally reckoned in society.

"If you're going home, Mr. Beaumaroy, shall we walk together? It's time
I was off too."

Beaumaroy looked a little surprised, but undoubtedly pleased. "Well,
now, what a delightful way of prolonging a delightful visit! I'm truly
grateful, Dr. Arkroyd."

"Oh, you needn't be!" said Mary, with a little toss of her head.

Naylor watched them with amusement. "He'll catch it on that walk!" he
was thinking. "She's going to let him have it! I wish I could be there
to hear." He spoke to them openly: "I'm sorry you must both go; but,
since you must, go together. Your walk will be much pleasanter."

Mary understood him well enough, and gave him a flash from her eyes. But
Beaumaroy's face betrayed nothing, as he murmured politely: "To me, at
all events, Mr. Naylor."

Naylor was not wrong as to Mary's mood and purpose. But she did not find
it easy to begin. Pretty quick at a retort herself, she could often
foresee the retorts open to her interlocutor. Beaumaroy had provided
himself with plenty: the old man's whim; the access to the old man so
willingly allowed, not only to her but to Captain Alec; his own candour
carried to the verge of self-betrayal. Oh, he would be full of retorts,
supple and dexterous ones! As this hostile accusation passed through her
mind, she awoke to the fact that she was, at the same moment, regarding
his profile (he too was silent, no doubt lying in wait to trip up her
opening!) with interest, even with some approval. He seemed to feel her
glance, for he turned towards her quickly--so quickly that she had no
time to turn her eyes away.

"Doctor Mary"--the familiar mode of address habitually used at the house
which they had just left seemed to slip out without his consciousness of
it--"you've got something against me; I know you have! I'm sensitive
that way, though not, perhaps, in another. Now, out with it!"

"You'd silence me with a clever answer. I think that you sometimes make
the mistake of supposing that to be silenced is the same thing as being
convinced. You silenced Captain Naylor--Oh, I don't mean you've
prevented him from talking!--I mean you confuted him, you put him in the
wrong; but you certainly didn't convince him."

"Of what?" he asked in a tone of surprise.

"You know that. Let us suppose his idea was all nonsense; yet your
immediate object was to put it out of his head." She suddenly added, "I
think your last question was a diplomatic blunder, Mr. Beaumaroy. You
must have known what I meant. What was the good of pretending not to?"

Beaumaroy stopped still in the road for a moment, looking at her with a
rueful amusement. "You're not so easily silenced, after all!" he said,
starting to walk on again.

"You encourage me." To tell the truth, Mary was not only encouraged, she
was pleased by the hit she had scored, and flattered by his
acknowledgment of it. "Well, then, I'll put another point. You needn't
answer if you don't like."

"I shall answer if I can, depend on it!" He laughed, and Mary, for a
brief instant, joined in his laugh. His sudden lapses into candour
seemed somehow to put the serious hostile questioner ridiculously in the
wrong. Could a man like that really have anything to conceal?

But she held to her purpose. "You're a friendly sort of man, you offer
and accept attentions and kindnesses, you're not stand-offish, or
haughty, or sulky; you make friends easily, especially perhaps with
women; they like you, and like to be pleasant and kind to you. There are
men--patients, I mean--very hard to deal with--men who resent being ill,
resent having to have things done to them and for them, who especially
resent the services of women, even of nurses--I mean in quite
indifferent things, not merely in things where a man may naturally
shrink from their help. Well, you don't seem that sort of man in the
least." She looked at him, as she ended this appreciation of him, as
though she expected an answer or a comment. Beaumaroy made neither; he
walked on, not even looking at her.

"And you can't have been troubled long with that wound. It evidently
healed up quickly and sweetly."

Beaumaroy looked for an instant at his maimed hand with a critical air;
but he was still silent.

"So that I wonder you didn't do as most patients do--let the nurse, or,
if you were still disabled after you came out, a friend or somebody, cut
up your food for you without providing yourself with that implement." He
turned his head quickly towards her. "And if you ask me what implement I
mean, I shall answer--the one you tried to snatch from the sideboard at
Tower Cottage before I could see it."

It was a direct challenge; she charged him with a lie. Beaumaroy's face
assumed a really troubled expression, a thing rare for it to do. Yet it
was not an ashamed or abashed expression; it just seemed to recognize
that a troublesome difficulty had arisen. He set a slower pace and
prodded the road with his stick. Mary pushed her advantage. "Your--your
improvisation didn't satisfy me at the time, and the more I've thought
over it, the less have I found it convincing."

He stopped again, turning round to her. He slapped his left hand against
the side of his leg. "Well, there it is, Doctor Mary! You must make what
you can of it."

It was complete surrender as to the combination knife-and-fork. He was
beaten--on that point at least--and owned it. His lie was found out.
"It's dashed difficult always to remember that you're a doctor," he
broke out the next minute.

Mary could not help laughing; but her eyes were still keen and
challenging as she said, "Perhaps you'd better change your doctor again,
Mr. Beaumaroy. You haven't found one stupid enough!"

Again Beaumaroy had no defence; his nonplussed air confessed that
manoeuvre too. Mary dropped her rallying tone and went on gravely,
"Unless I'm treated with confidence and sincerity, I can't continue to
attend Mr. Saffron."

"That's your ultimatum, is it, Doctor Mary?"

She nodded sharply and decisively. Beaumaroy meditated for a few
seconds. Then he shook his head regretfully. "It's no use. I daren't
trust you," he said.

Mary laughed again--this time in amazed resentment of his impudence.
"You can't trust me! I think it's the other way round. It seems to me
that the boot's on the other leg."

"Not as I see it." Then he smiled slowly, as it were tentatively. "Or
would you--I wonder if you could--possibly--well, stand in with me?"

"Are you offering me a--a partnership?" she asked indignantly.

He raised his hand in a seeming protest, and spoke now hastily and in
some confusion. "Not as you understand it. I mean--as you probably
understand it--from what I said to you that night at the Cottage. There
are features in the--well, there are things that I admit have--have
passed through my mind, without being what you'd call settled. Oh, yes,
without being in the least settled. Well, for the sake of your help
and--er--co-operation, those--those features could be dropped. And then
perhaps--if only your--your rules and etiquette----"

Mary scornfully cut short his embarrassed pleadings. "There's a good
deal more than rules and etiquette involved. It seems to me that it's a
matter of common honesty rather than of rules and etiquette----"

"Yes, but you don't understand----"

She cut him short again. "Mr. Beaumaroy, after this--after your
suggestion and all the rest of it--there must be an end of all
relations between us--professionally and, so far as possible, socially
too, please. I don't want to be self-righteous, but I feel bound to say
that you have misunderstood my character."

Her voice quivered at the end, and almost broke. She was full of a
grieved indignation.

They had come opposite the cottage now. Beaumaroy stopped, and stood
facing her. Though dusk had fallen, it was a clear evening; she could
see his face plainly; obviously he was in deep distress. "I wouldn't
have offended you for the world. I--I like you far too much, Doctor
Mary."

"You imputed your own standards to me. That's all there is about it, I
suppose," she said in a scornful sadness. He looked very miserable.
Compassion, and the old odd attraction which he had for her, stirred in
her mind. Her voice grew soft, and she held out her hand. "I'm sorry
too, very sorry, that it should have to be good-bye between us."

Beaumaroy did not take her proffered hand, or even seem to notice it. He
stood quite still.

"I'm damned if I know what I'm to do now!"

Close on the heels of his despairing confession of helplessness--for
such it undoubtedly seemed to be--came the noise of an opening door, a
light from the inside of the cottage, a patter of quick-moving feet on
the flagged path that led to the garden gate. The next moment Mary saw
the figure of Mr. Saffron, in his old grey shawl, standing at the gate.
He was waving his right arm in an excited way, and his hand held a large
sheet of paper.

"Hector! Hector, my dear, dear boy! The news has come at last! You can
be off to-morrow!"

Beaumaroy started violently, glanced at his old friend's strange figure,
glanced once too at Mary; the expression of utter despair which his face
had worn seemed modified into one of humorous bewilderment.

"Yes, yes, you can start to-morrow for Morocco, my dear boy!" cried old
Mr. Saffron.

Beaumaroy lifted his hat to her, cried, "I'm coming, sir," turned on his
heel, and strode quickly up to Mr. Saffron. She watched him open the
gate and take the old gentleman by the arm; she heard the murmur of his
voice, speaking in soft accents as the pair walked up the path together.
They passed into the house, and the door was shut.

Mary stood where she was for a moment, then moved slowly, hesitatingly,
yet as though under a lure which she could not resist. Just outside the
gate lay something that gleamed white through the darkness. It was the
sheet of paper. Mr. Saffron had dropped it in his excitement, and
Beaumaroy had not noticed.

Mary stole forward and picked it up stealthily; she was incapable of
resisting her curiosity or even of stopping to think about her action.
She held it up to what light there was, and strained her eyes to examine
it. So far as she could see, it was covered with dots, dashes, lines,
queerly drawn geometrical figures--a mass of meaningless hieroglyphics.
She dropped it again where she had found it, and made off home with
guilty swiftness.

Yes, there had been, this time, a distinctly metallic ring in old Mr.
Saffron's voice.



CHAPTER X

THAT MAGICAL WORD MOROCCO!


When Mary arrived home, she found Cynthia and Captain Alec still in
possession of the drawing-room; their manner accused her legitimate
entry into the room of being an outrageous intrusion. She took no heed
of that, and indeed little heed of them. To tell the truth--she was
ashamed to confess, but it was the truth--she felt rather tired of them
that evening. Their affair deserved every laudatory epithet--except that
of interesting; so she declared peevishly within herself, as she tried
to join in conversation with them. It was no use. They talked on, and in
justice to them it may be urged that they were fully as bored with Mary
just then as she was with them; so naturally their talents did not shine
their brightest. But they had plenty to say to one another, and
dutifully threw in a question or a reference to Mary every now and then.
Sitting apart at the other end of the long low room--it ran through the
whole depth of her old-fashioned dwelling--she barely heeded and barely
answered. They smiled at one another and were glad.

She was very tired; her feelings were wounded, her nerves on edge; she
could not even attempt any cool train of reasoning. The outcome of her
talk with Beaumaroy filled her mind, rather than the matter of it; and,
more even than that, the figure of the man seemed to be with her, almost
to stand before her, with his queer alternations of despair and mirth,
of defiance and pleading, of derision and alarm. One moment she was
intensely irritated with him, in the next she half forgave the plaintive
image which the fancy of her mind conjured up before her eyes.

Her eyes closed--she was so very tired, the fight had taken it out of
her! To have to do things like that was an odious necessity, which had
never befallen her before. That man had done--well, Captain Alec was
quite right about him. Yet still the shadowy image, though thus
reproached, did not depart; it was smiling at her now with its old
mockery--the kindly mockery which his face wore before they quarrelled,
and before its light was quenched in that forlorn bewilderment. And it
seemed as though the image began to say some words to her, disconnected
words, not making a sentence, but yet having for the image a pregnant
meaning, and seeming to her--though vaguely and very dimly--to be the
key to what she had to understand. She was stupid not to understand
words so full of meaning--just as stupid as Beaumaroy had thought.

Then Doctor Mary fell asleep, sound asleep; she had been very near it
for the last ten minutes.

Captain Alec and Cynthia were in two chairs, close side by side, in
front of the fire. Once Cynthia glanced over her shoulder; the Captain
had glanced over his in the same direction already. One of his hands
held one of Cynthia's. It was well to be sure that Mary was asleep,
really asleep.

She had gone to sleep on the name of Beaumaroy; on it she awoke. It came
from Captain Alec's lips. He was standing on the hearthrug with his arm
round Cynthia's waist, and his other hand raising one of hers to his
lips. He looked admirably handsome--strong, protecting, devoted. And
Cynthia, in her fragile appealing prettiness, was a delicious foil, a
perfect complement to the picture. But now, under stress of
emotion--small blame to a man who was making a vow of eternal
fidelity!--under stress of emotion, as, on a previous occasion, under
that of indignation, the Captain had raised his voice!

"Yes, against all the scoundrels in the world, whether they're called
Cranster or Beaumaroy!" he said.

Mary's eyes opened. She sat up. "Cranster and Beaumaroy?" They were the
words which her ears had caught. "What in the world has Mr. Beaumaroy to
do with----?" But she broke off, as she saw the couple by the fire. "But
what are you two doing?"

Cynthia broke away from her lover, and ran to her friend with joyous
avowals.

"I must have been sound asleep," cried Mary, kissing her. Alec had
followed across the room and now stood close by her. She looked up at
him. "Oh, I see! She's to be safe now from such people?" On this
particular occasion Mary's look at the Captain was not admiring; it was
a little scornful.

"That's the idea," agreed the happy Alec. "Another idea is that I trot
you both over in the car to Old Place--to break the news and have
dinner."

"Splendid!" cried Cynthia. "Do come, Mary!"

Mary shook her head. "No; you go--you two," she said. "I'm tired--and I
want to think." She passed her hand across her eyes. She seemed to wipe
away the mists of sleep. Her face suddenly grew animated and exultant.
"No, I don't want to think! I know!" she exclaimed emphatically.

"Mary dear, are you still asleep? Are you talking in your sleep?"

"The keyword! It came to me, somehow, in my sleep. The
keyword--Morocco!"

"What the deuce has Morocco----?" Captain Alec began, with justifiable
impatience.

"Ah, you never heard that, and, dear Captain Alec, you wouldn't have
understood it if you had. You thought he was reciting poems. What he was
really doing----"

"Look here, Doctor Mary, I've just been accepted by Cynthia, and I'm
going to take her to my mother and father. Can you get your mind on to
that?" He looked at her curiously, not at all understanding her
excitement, perhaps resenting the obvious fact that his Cynthia's
happiness was not foremost in her friend's mind.

With a great effort Mary brought herself down to the earth--to the earth
of romantic love from the heaven of professional triumph. True, the
latter was hers, the former somebody else's. "I do beg your pardon, I do
indeed. And do let me kiss you again, Cynthia darling--and you, dear
Captain Alec, just once! And then you shall go off to dinner." She
laughed excitedly. "Yes, I'm going to push you out."

"Let's go, Alec," said Cynthia, not unkindly, yet just a little
pettishly. The great moment of her life--surely as great a moment as
there had ever been in anybody's life?--had hardly earned adequate
recognition from Mary. As usual, her feelings and Alec's were as one.
Before they passed to other and more important matters, when they drove
off in the car, she said to Alec, "It seems to me that Mary's strangely
interested in that Mr. Beaumaroy. Had she been dreaming of him, Alec?"

"Looks like it! And why the devil Morocco?" His intellect baffled,
Captain Alec took refuge in his affections.

Left alone--and so thankful for it!--Doctor Mary did not attempt to sit
still. She walked up and down, she roved here and there, smoking any
quantity of cigarettes; she would certainly have forbidden such excess
to a patient. The keyword--its significance had seemed to come to her in
her sleep. Something in that subconsciousness theory? The word
explained, linked up, gave significance--that magical word Morocco!

Yes, they fell into place now, the things that had been so puzzling, and
that looked now so obviously suggestive. Even one thing which she had
thought nothing about, which had not struck her as having any
significance, now took on its meaning--the grey shawl which the old
gentleman so constantly wore swathed round his body, enveloping the
whole of it except his right arm. Did he wear the shawl while he took
his meals? Doctor Mary could not tell as to that. Perhaps he did not;
at his meals only Beaumaroy, and perhaps their servant, would be
present. But he seemed to wear it whenever he went abroad, whenever he
was exposed to the scrutiny of strangers. That indicated
secretiveness--perhaps fear--the apprehension of something. The caution
bred by that might give way under the influence of great cerebral
excitement. Unquestionably Mr. Saffron had been very excited when he
waved the sheet of hieroglyphics and shouted to Beaumaroy about Morocco.
But whether he wore the shawl or not in the safe privacy of Tower
Cottage, whatever might be the truth about that--perhaps he varied his
practice according to his condition--on one thing Doctor Mary would
stake her life--he used the combination knife-and-fork!

For it was over that implement that Beaumaroy had tripped up. It ought
to have been hidden before she was admitted to the cottage. Somebody had
been careless, somebody had blundered--whether Beaumaroy himself or his
servant was immaterial. Beaumaroy had lied, readily and ingeniously, but
not quite readily enough. The dart of his hand had betrayed him; that,
and a look in his eyes, a tell-tale mirth which had seemed to mock both
her and himself, and had made his ingenious lie even at the moment
unconvincing. Yes, whether Mr. Saffron wore the shawl or not, he
certainly used the combination table implement!

And the "poems"? The poems which Mr. Saffron recited to himself in bed,
and which he had said, in Captain Alec's hearing, were good and "went
well." It was Beaumaroy, of course, who had called them poems; the
Captain had merely repeated the description. But with her newly found
insight Doctor Mary knew better. What Mr. Saffron declaimed, in that
vibrating metallic voice, were not poems, but--speeches!

And "Morocco" itself! To anybody who remembered history for a few years
back, even with the general memory of the man in the street, to anybody
who had read the controversies about the war, Morocco brought not
puzzle, but enlightenment. For had not Morocco been really the
starting-point of the years of crisis--those years intermittent in
excitement but constant in anxiety? Beaumaroy was to start to-morrow for
Morocco--on the strength of the hieroglyphics! Perhaps he was to go on
from Morocco to Libya; perhaps he was to raise the Senussi (Mary had
followed the history of the war), to make his appearance at Cairo,
Jerusalem, Baghdad! He was to be a forerunner, was Mr. Beaumaroy. Mr.
Saffron, his august master, would follow in due course! With a sardonic
smile she wondered how the ingenious man would get out of starting for
Morocco; perhaps he would not succeed in obtaining a passport, or, that
excuse failing, in eluding the vigilance of the British authorities. Or
some more hieroglyphics might come, carrying another message, postponing
his start, saying that the propitious moment had not yet arrived after
all. There were several devices open to ingenuity; many ways in which
Beaumaroy might protract a situation not so bad for him even as it
stood, and quite rich in possibilities. Her acid smile was turned
against herself when she remembered that she had been fool enough to
talk to Beaumaroy about sensitive honour!

Well, never mind Mr. Beaumaroy! The case as to Mr. Saffron stood pretty
plain. It was queer and pitiful, but by no means unprecedented. She
might be not much of an alienist, as Dr. Irechester had been kind enough
to suggest to Mr. Naylor, but she had seen such cases herself--even
stranger ones, where even higher Powers suffered impersonation, with
effects still more tragically absurd to onlookers. And she remembered
reading somewhere--was it in Maudslay?--that in the days of Napoleon,
when princes and kings were as ninepins to be set up and knocked down at
the tyrant's pleasure, the asylums of France were full of such great
folk. Potentates there galore! If she had Mr. Saffron's "record" before
her, she would expect to read of a vain ostentatious man, ambitious in
his own small way; the little plant of these qualities would, given a
morbid physical condition, develop into the fantastic growth of delusion
which she had now diagnosed in the case of Mr. Saffron--diagnosed with
the assistance of some lucky accidents!

But what was her duty now--the duty of Dr. Mary Arkroyd, a duly
qualified, accredited, responsible medical practitioner? With a slight
shock to her self-esteem she was obliged to confess that she had only
the haziest idea. Had not people who kept a lunatic to be licensed or
something? Or did that apply only to lunatics in the plural? And did
Beaumaroy keep Mr. Saffron within the meaning of whatever the law might
be? But at any rate she must do something; the state of things at Tower
Cottage could not go on as it was. The law of the land--whatever it
was--must be observed, Beaumaroy must be foiled, and poor old Mr.
Saffron taken proper care of. The course of her meditations was hardly
interrupted by the episode of her light evening meal; she was back in
her drawing-room by half-past eight, her mind engrossed with the matter
still.

It was a little after nine when there was a ring at the hall door. Not
the lovers back so early? She heard a man's voice in the hall. The next
moment Beaumaroy was shown in, and the door shut behind him. He stood
still by it, making no motion to advance towards her. He was breathing
quickly, and she noticed beads of perspiration on his forehead. She had
sprung to her feet at the sight of him, and faced him with indignation.

"You have no right to come here, Mr. Beaumaroy, after what passed
between us this afternoon."

"Besides being, as you saw yourself, very excited, my poor old friend
isn't at all well to-night."

"I'm very sorry; but I'm no longer Mr. Saffron's medical attendant. If I
declined to be this afternoon, I decline ten times more to-night."

"For all I know, he's very ill indeed, Dr. Arkroyd." Beaumaroy's manner
was very quiet, restrained, and formal.

"I have come to a clear conclusion about Mr. Saffron's case since I left
you."

"I thought you might. I suppose 'Morocco' put you on the scent? And I
suppose, too, that you looked at that wretched bit of paper?"

"I--I thought it----" Here Mary was slightly embarrassed.

"You'd have been more than human if you hadn't. I was out again after it
in five minutes--as soon as I missed it; you'd gone, but I concluded
you'd seen it. He scribbles dozens like that."

"You seem to admit my conclusion about his mental condition," she
observed stiffly.

"I always admit when I cease to be able to deny. But don't let's stand
here talking. Really, for all I know, he may be dying. His heart seems
to me very bad."

"Go and ask Dr. Irechester."

"He dreads Irechester. I believe the sight of Irechester might finish
him. You must come."

"I can't--for the reasons I've told you."

"Why? My misdeeds? Or your rules and regulations? My God, how I hate
rules and regulations! Which of them is it that is perhaps to cost the
old man his life?"

Mary could not resist the appeal; that could hardly be her duty, and
certainly was not her inclination. Her grievance was not against poor
old Mr. Saffron, with his pitiful delusion of greatness, of a greatness
too which now had suffered an eclipse almost as tragical as that which
had befallen his own reason. What an irony in his mad aping of it now!

"I will come, Mr. Beaumaroy, on condition that you give me candidly and
truthfully all the information which, as Mr. Saffron's medical
attendant, I am entitled to ask."

"I'll tell you all I know about him--and about myself too."

"Your affairs and--er--position matter to me only so far as they bear on
Mr. Saffron."

"So be it. Only come quickly; and bring some of your things that may
help a man with a bad heart."

Mary left him, went to her surgery, and was quickly back with her bag.
"I'll get out the car."

"It'll take a little longer, I know, but do you mind if we walk? Cars
always alarm him. He thinks that they come to take him away. Every car
that passes vexes him; he looks to see if it will stop. And when yours
does----" He ended with a shrug.

For the first time Mary's feelings took on a keen edge of pity. Poor old
gentleman! Fancy his living like that! And cars--military cars too--had
been so common on the road across the heath.

"I understand. Let us go at once. You walked yourself, I suppose?"

"Ran," said Beaumaroy, and, with the first sign of a smile, wiped the
sweat from his brow with the back of his hand.

"I'm ready, Mr. Beaumaroy," said Doctor Mary.

They walked along together in silence for full half the way. Then
Beaumaroy spoke. "He was extremely excited--at his worst--when he and I
went into the cottage. I had to humour him in every way; it was the only
thing to do. That was followed by great fatigue--a sort of collapse. I
persuaded him to go to bed. I hope we shall find him there, but I don't
know. He would let me go only on condition that I left the door of the
Tower unlocked, so that he could go in there if he wanted to. If he has,
I'm afraid that you may see something--well, something rather bizarre,
Dr. Arkroyd."

"That's all in the course of my profession."

Silence fell on them again, till the outline of cottage and tower came
into view through the darkness. Beaumaroy spoke only once again before
they reached the garden gate.

"If he should happen to be calmer now, I hope you will not consider it
necessary to tell him that you suspect anything unusual."

"He is secretive?"

"He lives in terror."

"Of what?"

"Of being shut up. May I lead the way in, Dr. Arkroyd?"

They entered the cottage, and Beaumaroy shut the door. A lamp was
burning dimly in the passage. He turned it up. "Would you kindly wait
here one minute?" Receiving her nod of acquiescence, he stepped softly
up the stairs, and she heard him open a door above; she knew it was that
of Mr. Saffron's bedroom, where she had visited the old man. She
waited--now with a sudden sense of suspense. It was very quiet in the
cottage.

Beaumaroy was down again in a minute.

"It is as I feared," he said quietly. "He has got up again, and gone
into the Tower. Shall I try and get him out, or will you----?"

"I will go in with you, of course, Mr. Beaumaroy."

His old mirthful, yet rueful, smile came on his lips--just for a moment.
Then he was grave and formal again. "This way, then, if you please, Dr.
Arkroyd," he said deferentially.



CHAPTER XI

THE CAR BEHIND THE TREES


Mr. Percy Bennett, that gentlemanly stranger, was an enemy to delay;
both constitutionally and owing to experience, averse from dallying with
fortune; to him a bird in his hand was worth a whole aviary on his
neighbour's unrifled premises. He thought that Beaumaroy might levant
with the treasure; at any moment that unwelcome, though not unfamiliar,
tap on the shoulder, with the words (gratifying under quite other
circumstances and from quite different lips) "I want you," might
incapacitate him from prosecuting his enterprise (he expressed this idea
in more homely idiom--less Latinized was his language, metaphorical
indeed, yet terse); finally he had that healthy distrust of his
accomplices which is essential to success in a career of crime; he
thought that Sergeant Hooper might not deliver the goods!

Sergeant Hooper demurred; he deprecated inconsiderate haste; let the
opportunity be chosen. He had served under Mr. Beaumaroy in France, and
(whatever faults Major-General Punnit might find with that officer)
preferred that he should be off the premises at the moment when Mr.
Bennett and he himself made unauthorized entry thereon. "He's a hot 'un
in a scrap," said the Sergeant, sitting in a public-house at Sprotsfield
on Boxing Day evening, Mr. Bennett and sundry other excursionists from
London being present.

"My chauffeur will settle him," said Mr. Bennett. It may seem odd that
Mr. Bennett should have a chauffeur; but he had--or proposed to
have--_pro hac vice_--or _ad hoc_; for this particular job in fact.
Without a car that stuff at Tower Cottage--somewhere at Tower
Cottage--would be difficult to shift.

The Sergeant demurred still, by no means for the sake of saving
Beaumaroy's skin, but still purely for the reason already given; yet he
admitted that he could not name any date on which he could guarantee
Beaumaroy's absence from Tower Cottage. "He never leaves the old
blighter alone later than eleven o'clock or so, and rarely as late as
that."

"Then any night's about the same," said gentleman Bennett; "and now for
the scheme dear N.C.O.!"

Sergeant Hooper despaired of the doors. The house-door might possibly
be negotiated, though at the probable cost of arousing the notice of
Beaumaroy--and the old blighter himself. But the door from the parlour
into the Tower offered insuperable difficulties. It was always locked;
the lock was intricate; he had never so much as seen the key at close
quarters and, even had opportunity offered, was quite unpractised in the
art of taking impressions of locks--a thing not done with accuracy quite
so easily as seems sometimes to be assumed.

"For my own part," said Mr. Bennett with a nod, "I've always inclined to
the window. We can negotiate that without any noise to speak of, and it
oughtn't to take us more than a few minutes. Just deal boards, I expect!
Perhaps the old gentleman and your pal Beaumaroy" (the Sergeant spat)
"will sleep right through it!"

"If they ain't in the Tower itself," suggested the Sergeant gloomily.

"Wherever they may be," said gentleman Bennett, with a touch of
irritability--he was himself a sanguine man and disliked a mind fertile
in objections--"I suppose the stuff's in the Tower, isn't it?"

"It goes in there, and I've never seen it come out, Mr. Bennett." Here
at least a tone of confidence rang in the Sergeant's voice.

"But where in the Tower, Sergeant?"

"'Ow should I know? I've never been in the blooming place."

"It's really rather a queer business," observed Mr. Bennett, allowing
himself, for a moment, an outside and critical consideration of the
matter.

"Damned," said the Sergeant briefly.

"But, once inside, we're bound to find it! Then--with the car--it's in
London in forty minutes, and in ten more it's--where it's going to be;
where that is needn't worry you, my dear Sergeant."

"What if we're seen from the road?" urged the pessimistic Sergeant.

"There's never a job about which you can't put those questions. What if
Ludendorff had known just what Foch was going to do, Sergeant? At any
rate anybody who sees us is two miles either way from a police
station--and may be a lot farther if he tries to interfere with us! It's
a hundred to one against anybody being on the road at that time of
night; we'll pray for a dark night and dirty weather--which, so far as
I've observed, you generally get in this beastly neighbourhood." He
leant forward and tapped the Sergeant on the shoulder. "Barring
accidents, let's say this day week; meanwhile, Neddy"--he smiled as he
interjected "Neddy is our chauffeur"--"Neddy and I will make our little
plan of attack."

"Don't be too generous! Don't leave all the V.C. chances to me," the
Sergeant implored.

"Neddy's a fair glutton for 'em! Difficulty is to keep him from murder!
And he stands six foot four and weighs seventeen stone."

"I'll back him up--from be'ind--company in support," grinned the
Sergeant, considerably comforted by this description of his coadjutor.

"You'll occupy the station assigned to you, my man," said Mr. Bennett,
with an admirable burlesque of the military manner. "The front is
wherever a soldier is ordered to be--a fine saying of Lord Kitchener's!
Remember it, Sergeant!"

"Yes, sir," said the Sergeant, grinning still.

He found Mr. Bennett on the whole amusing company, though occasionally
rather alarming; for instance, there seemed to him to be no particular
reason for dragging in Neddy's predilection for murder; though, of
course, a man of his inches and weight might commit murder through some
trifling and pardonable miscalculation of force. "Same as if that
Captain Naylor hit you!" the Sergeant reflected, as he finished the
ample portion of rum with which the conversation had been lightened. He
felt pleasantly muzzy, and saw Mr. Bennett's clean-cut features rather
blurred in outline. However the sandy wig and red moustache which that
gentleman wore--in his character as a Boxing Day excursionist--were
still salient features even to his eyes. Anybody in the room would have
been able to swear to them.

Thus the date of the attack was settled and, if only it had been adhered
to, things might have fallen out differently between Doctor Mary and Mr.
Beaumaroy. Events would probably have relieved Mary from the necessity
of presenting her ultimatum, and she might never have heard that
illuminating word "Morocco." But big Neddy the Shover--as his intimate
friends were wont to call him--was a man of pleasure as well as of
business; he was not a bloke in an office; he liked an ample Christmas
vacation and was now taking one with a party of friends at Brighton--all
tip-toppers, who did the thing in style and spent their money (which was
not their money) lavishly. From the attractions of this company--not
composed of gentlemen only--Neddy refused to be separated. Mr. Bennett,
who was on thorns at the delay, could take it or leave it at that; in
any case the job was, in Neddy's opinion (which he expressed with that
massive but good-humoured scorn which is an appanage of very large men),
a leap in the dark, a pig in a poke, blind hookey; for who really knew
how much of the stuff the old blighter and his pal had contrived to
shift down to the cottage in the old brown bag? Sometimes it looked
light, sometimes it looked heavy; sometimes perhaps it was full of
bricks!

In this mood Neddy had to be humoured, even though gentlemanly Mr.
Bennett sat on thorns. The Sergeant repined less at the delay; he liked
the pickings which the job brought him much better than the job itself,
standing in wholesome dread of Beaumaroy. It was rather with resignation
than with joy that he received from Mr. Bennett the news that Neddy had
at last named the day that would suit his High Mightiness--Tuesday the
7th of January it was, and, as it chanced, the very day before Beaumaroy
was to start for Morocco! More accurately, the attack would be delivered
on the actual day of his departure--if he went. For it was timed for one
o'clock in the morning, an hour at which the road across the heath might
reasonably be expected to be clear of traffic. This was an especially
important point, in view of the fact that the window of the Tower faced
towards the road and was but four or five yards distant from it.

After a jovial dinner--rather too jovial in Mr. Bennett's opinion, but
that was Neddy's only fault, he would mix pleasure with business--the
two set out in an Overland car. Mr. Bennett--whom, by the way, his big
friend Neddy called "Mike," and not "Percy," as might have been
expected--assumed his sandy wig and red moustache as soon as they were
well started; Neddy scorned disguise for the moment, but he had a mask
in his pocket. He also had a very nasty little club in the same pocket,
whereas Mr. Bennett carried no weapon of offence--merely the tools of
his trade, at which he was singularly expert. The friends had worked
together before; though Neddy reviled Mike for a coward, and Mike
averred, with curses, that Neddy would bring them both to the gallows
some day, yet they worked well together and had a respect for one
another, each allowing for the other's idiosyncrasies. The true spirit
of partnership! On it alone can lasting and honourable success be built.

"Just match-boarding, the Sergeant says it is, does he?" asked Neddy,
breaking a long silence, which indeed had lasted until they were across
Putney Bridge and climbing the hill.

"Yes, and rotten at that. It oughtn't to take two minutes; then there'll
be only the window. Of course we must have a look round first. Then, if
the coast's clear, I'll nip in and shove something up against the door
of the place while you're following. The Sergeant's to stay on guard at
the door of the house, so that we can't be taken in the rear. See?"

"Righto!"

"Then--well, we've got to find the stuff, and when we've found it,
you've got to carry it, Neddy. Don't mind if it's a bit heavy, do you?"

"I don't want to overstrain myself," said Neddy jocularly, "but I'll do
my best with it--only hope it's there!"

"It must be there. Hasn't got wings, has it? At any rate, not till you
put it in your pocket, and go out for an evening with the ladies!"

Neddy paid this pleasantry the tribute of a laugh, but he had one more
business question to ask:

"Where are we to stow the car? How far off?"

"The Sergeant has picked out a big clump of trees, a hundred yards from
the cottage on the Sprotsfield side, and about thirty yards from the
road. Pretty clear going to it, bar the bracken--she'll do it easily.
There she'll lie, snug as you like. As we go by Sprotsfield, the car
won't have to pass the cottage at all--that's an advantage--and yet it's
not over far to carry the stuff."

"Sounds all right," said Neddy placidly, and with a yawn. "Have a drop?"

"No, I won't--and I wish you wouldn't, Neddy. It makes you bad-tempered,
and a man doesn't want to be bad-tempered on these jobs."

"Take the wheel a second while I have a drop," said Neddy, just for all
the world as if his friend had not spoken. He unscrewed the top of a
large flask and took a very considerable "drop." It was only after he
had done this with great deliberation that he observed good-naturedly,
"And you go to hell, Mike! It's dark, ain't it? That's a bit of all
right."

He did not speak again till they were near Sprotsfield. "This
Beaumaroy--queer name, ain't it?--he's a big chap, ain't he, Mike?"

"Pretty fair; but, Lord love you, a baby beside yourself."

"Well, now, you told me something the Sergeant said about a man as was"
(Neddy, unlike his friend, occasionally tripped in his English) "really
big."

"Oh, that's Naylor--Captain Naylor. But he's not at the cottage; we're
not likely to meet him, praise be!"

"Rather wish we were! I want a little bit of exercise," said Neddy.

"Well, I don't know but what Beaumaroy might give you that. The
Sergeant's got tales about him at the war."

"Oh, blast these soldiers--they ain't no good." In what he himself
regarded as his spare hours, that is to say, the daytime hours wherein
the ordinary man labours, Neddy was a highly skilled craftsman, whose
only failing was a tendency to be late in the morning and to fall ill
about the festive seasons of the year. He made lenses, and, in spite of
the failing, his work had been deemed to be of National Importance, as
indeed it was. But that did not excuse his prejudice against soldiers.

They passed through the outskirts of Sprotsfield; Mike--to use his more
familiar name--had made a thorough exploration of the place, and his
directions enabled his chauffeur to avoid the central and populous parts
of the town. Then they came out on to the open heath, passed Old Place,
and presently--about half a mile from Tower Cottage--found Sergeant
Hooper waiting for them by the roadside. It was then hard on midnight--a
dark cloudy night, very apt for their purpose. With a nod, but without a
word, the Sergeant got into the car, and in cautious whispers directed
its course to the shelter of the clump of trees; they reached it after a
few hundred yards of smooth road and some thirty of bumping over the
heath. It afforded a perfect screen from the road, and on the other side
there was only untrodden heath, no path or track being visible near it.

Neddy got out of the car, but he did not forget his faithful flask. He
offered it to the Sergeant in token of approval. "Good place, Sergeant,"
he said; "does credit to you, as a beginner. Here, mate, hold on,
though. It's evident you ain't accustomed to liqueur glasses!"

"When I sits up so late, I gets a kind of a sinking," the Sergeant
explained apologetically.

Mike flashed a torch on him for a minute; there was a very uncomfortable
look in his little squinty eyes. "Sergeant," he said suavely but
gravely, "my friend here relies on you. He's not a safe man to
disappoint." He shifted the light suddenly on to Neddy, whose
proportions seemed to loom out prodigious from the surrounding darkness.
"Are you, Neddy?"

"No, I'm a sensitive chap, I am," said Neddy, smiling. "Don't you go and
hurt my pride in you by any sign of weakness, Sergeant."

The Sergeant shivered a little. "I'm game--I'll stick it," he protested
valorously.

"You'd better!" Neddy advised.

"All quiet at the cottage as you came by?" asked Mike.

"Quiet as the grave, for what I see," the Sergeant answered.

"All right. Mike, where are them sandwiches? I feel like a bite. One for
the Sergeant too! But no more flask--no, you don't, Sergeant! When'll we
start, Mike?"

"In about half an hour."

"Just nice time for a snack--oysters and stout for you, my darling?"
said jovial Neddy. Then--with a change of voice--"Just as well that
didn't pass us!"

For the sound of a car came from the road they had just left. It was
going in the direction of the cottage and of Inkston. Captain Alec was
taking his betrothed home after a joyful evening of congratulation and
welcome.



CHAPTER XII

THE SECRET OF THE TOWER


The scene presented by the interior of the Tower, when Beaumaroy softly
opened the door and signed to Doctor Mary to step forward and look, was
indeed a strange one, a ridiculous yet pathetic mockery of grandeur.

The building was a circular one, rising to a height of some thirty-five
feet and having a diameter of about ten. Up to about twelve feet from
the floor its walls were draped with red and purple stuffs of coarse
material; above them the bare bricks and the rafters of the roof showed
naked. In the middle of the floor--with their backs to the door at which
Mary and her companion stood--were set two small arm-chairs of plain and
cheap make. Facing them, on a rough dais about three feet high and with
two steps leading up to it, stood a large and deep carved oaken
arm-chair. It too was upholstered in purple, and above and around it
were a canopy and curtains of the same colour. This strange erection was
set with its back to the one window--that which Mr. Saffron had caused
to be boarded up, soon after he entered into occupation. The place was
lighted by candles--two tall standards of an ecclesiastical pattern, one
on either side of the great chair or throne, and each holding six large
candles, all of which were now alight and about half consumed. On the
throne, his spare wasted figure set far back in the recesses of its deep
cushioned seat and his feet resting on a high hassock, sat old Mr.
Saffron; in his right hand he grasped a sceptre, obviously a theatrical
"property," but a handsome one, of black wood with gilt ornamentation;
his left arm he held close against his side. His eyes were turned up
towards the roof; his lips were moving as though he were talking, but no
sound came.

Such was Doctor Mary's first impression of the scene; but the next
moment she took in another feature of it, not less remarkable. To the
left of the throne, to her right as she stood in the doorway facing it,
there was a fireplace; an empty grate, though the night was cold.
Immediately in front of it was--unmistakably--the excavation in the
floor which Mr. Penrose had described at the Christmas dinner-party at
Old Place--six feet in length by three in breadth, and about four feet
deep. Against the wall, close by, stood a sheet of cast iron, which
evidently served to cover and conceal the aperture; by it was thrown
down, in careless disorder, a strip of the same dull red baize as
covered the rest of the floor of the Tower. By the side of the sheet and
the piece of carpet there was an old brown leather bag.

Tradition--and Mr. Penrose--had told the truth. Here without doubt was
Captain Duggle's grave, the grave he had caused to be dug for himself,
but which--be the reason what it might--his body had never occupied. Yet
the tomb was not entirely empty. The floor of it was strewn with
gold--to what depth Mary could not tell, but it was covered with golden
sovereigns; there must be thousands of them. They gleamed under the
light of the candles.

Mary turned startled, inquiring, apprehensive eyes on Beaumaroy. He
pressed her arm gently, and whispered:

"I'll tell you presently. Come in. He'll notice us, I expect, in a
minute. Mind you curtsey when he sees you!" He led her in, pulling the
door to after him, and placed her and himself in front of the two small
arm-chairs opposite Mr. Saffron's throne.

Beaumaroy removed his hand from her arm but she caught his wrist in one
of hers and stood there, holding on to him, breathing quickly, her eyes
now set on the figure on the throne.

The old man's lips had ceased to move; his eyes had closed; he lay back
in the deep seat, inert, looking half dead, very pale and waxen in the
face. For what seemed a long time he sat thus, motionless and almost
without signs of life, while the two stood side by side before him. Mary
glanced once at Beaumaroy; his lips were apart in that half-humorous,
half-compassionate smile; there was no hint of impatience in his
bearing.

At last Mr. Saffron opened his eyes and saw them; there was intelligence
in his look, though his body did not move. Mary was conscious of a low
bow from Beaumaroy; she remembered the caution he had given her, and
herself made a deep curtsey; the old man made a slight inclination of
his handsome white head. Then, after another long pause, a movement
passed over his body--excepting his left arm. She saw that he was trying
to rise from his seat, but that he had barely the strength to achieve
his purpose. But he persisted in his effort, and in the end rose slowly
and tremulously to his feet.

Then, utterly without warning, in a sudden and shocking burst of that
high, voluble, metallic speech which Captain Alec had heard through the
ceiling of the parlour, he began to address them--if indeed it were they
whom he addressed, and not some phantom audience of princes, marshal's
admirals, or trembling sheep-like recruits. It was difficult to hear
the words, hopeless to make out the sense. It was a farrago of nonsense,
part of his own inventing, part (as it seemed) wild and confused
reminiscences of the published speeches of the man he aped, all strung
together on some invisible thread of insane reasoning, delivered with a
mad vehemence and intensity that shook and seemed to rend his feeble
frame.

"We must stop him, we must stop him," Mary suddenly whispered. "He'll
kill himself if he goes on like this!"

"I've never been able to stop him," Beaumaroy whispered back. "Hush! If
he hears us speaking, he'll be furious and carry on worse."

The old man's blue eyes fixed themselves on Beaumaroy--of Mary he took
no heed. He pointed at Beaumaroy with his sceptre, and from him to the
gleaming gold in Captain Duggle's grave. A streak of coherency, a strand
of mad logic, now ran through his hurtling words; the money was there,
Beaumaroy was to take it--to-day, to-day!--to take it to Morocco, to
raise the tribes, to set Africa aflame. He was to scatter it--broadcast,
broadcast! There was no end to it--don't spare it! "There's millions,
millions of it!" he shouted, and achieved a weird wild majesty in a
final cry, "God with us!"

Then he fell--tumbled back in utter collapse into the recesses of the
great chair. His sceptre fell from his nerveless hand and rolled down
the steps of the dais; the impetus it gathered carried it, rolling
still, across the floor to the edge of the open pit; for an instant it
lay poised on the edge, and then fell with a jangle of sound on the
carpet of golden coins that lined Captain Duggle's grave.

"Quick! Get my bag--I left it in the passage," whispered Mary, as she
started forward, up the dais, to the old man's side. "And brandy, if
you've got it," she called after Beaumaroy, as he turned to the door to
do her bidding.

Beaumaroy was gone no more than a minute. When he came back, with the
bag hitched under his arm, a decanter of brandy in one hand and a glass
in the other, Mary was leaning over the throne, with her arm round the
old man. His eyes were open, but he was inert and motionless. Beaumaroy
poured out some brandy, and gave it into Mary's free hand. But when Mr.
Saffron saw Beaumaroy by his side, he gave a sudden twist of his body,
wrenched himself away from Mary's arm, and flung himself on his trusted
friend. "Hector, I'm in danger! They're after me! They'll shut me up!"

Beaumaroy put his strong arms about the frail old body. "Oh no, sir, oh
no!" he said in low, comforting, half-bantering tones. "That's the old
foolishness, sir, if I may say so. You're perfectly safe with me. You
ought to trust me by now, sir, really you ought."

"You'll swear--you'll swear it's all right, Hector?"

"Right as rain, sir," Beaumaroy assured him cheerfully.

Very feebly the old man moved his right hand towards the open grave.
"Plenty--plenty! All yours, Hector! For--for the Cause--God's with us!"
His head fell forward on Beaumaroy's breast; for an instant again he
raised it, and looked in the face of his friend. A smile came on his
lips. "I know I can trust you. I'm safe with you, Hector." His head fell
forward again; his whole body was relaxed; he gave a sigh of peace.
Beaumaroy lifted him in his arms and very gently set him back in his
great chair, placing his feet again on the high footstool.

"I think it's all over," he said, and Mary saw tears in his eyes.

Then Mary herself collapsed; she sank down on the dais and broke into
weeping. It had all been so pitiful--and somehow so terrible. Her quick
tumultuous sobbing sounded through the place which the vibrations of the
old man's voice had lately filled.

She felt Beaumaroy's hand on her shoulder. "You must make sure," he
said, in a low voice. "You must make your examination."

With trembling hands she did it--she forced herself to it, Beaumaroy
aiding her. There was no doubt. Life had left the body which reason had
left long before. His weakened heart had not endured the last strain of
mad excitement. The old man was dead.

Her face showed Beaumaroy the result of her examination, if he had ever
doubted of it. She looked at him, then made a motion of her hand towards
the body. "We must--we must----" she stammered, the tears still rolling
down her cheeks.

"Presently," he said. "There's plenty of time. You're not fit to do that
now--and no more am I, to tell the truth. We'll rest for half an hour,
and then get him upstairs, and--and do the rest. Come with me!" He put
his hand lightly within her arm. "He will rest quietly on his throne for
a little while. He's not afraid any more. He's at rest."

Still with his arm in Mary's, he bent forward and kissed the old man on
the forehead. "I shall miss you, old friend," he said. Then, with gentle
insistence, he led Mary away. They left the old man, propped up by the
high stool on which his feet rested, seated far back in the great chair,
hard by Captain Duggle's grave, where the sceptre lay on a carpet of
gold. The tall candles burnt on either side of his throne, imparting a
far-off semblance of ceremonial state.

Thus died, unmarried, in the seventy-first year of his age, Aloysius
William Saffron, formerly of Exeter, Surveyor and Auctioneer. He had
run, on the whole, a creditable course; starting from small beginnings,
and belonging to a family more remarkable for eccentricity than for any
solid merit, he had built up a good practice; he had made money and put
it by; he enjoyed a good name for financial probity. But he was held to
be a vain, fussy, self-important, peacocky fellow; very self-centred
also and (as Beaumaroy had indicated) impatient of the family and social
obligations which most men recognize, even though often unwillingly. As
the years gathered upon his head, these characteristics were
intensified. On the occasion of some trifling set-back in business--a
rival cut him out in a certain negotiation--he threw up everything and
disappeared from his native town. Thenceforward nothing was heard of him
there, save that he wrote occasionally to his cousin, Sophia Radbolt,
and her husband, both of whom he most cordially hated, whose claims to
his notice, regard, or assistance he had, of late years at least, hotly
resented. Yet he wrote to them--wrote them vaunting and magniloquent
letters, hinting darkly of great doings and great riches. In spite of
their opinion of him, the Radbolts came to believe perhaps half of what
he said; he was old and without other ties; their thirst for his money
was greedy. Undoubtedly the Radbolts would dearly have loved to get hold
of him and--somehow--hold him fast.

When he came to Tower Cottage--it was in the first year of the war--he
was precariously sane; it was only gradually that his fundamental and
constitutional vices and foibles turned to a morbid growth. First came
intensified hatred and suspicion of the Radbolts--they were after him
and his money! Then, through hidden processes of mental distortion,
there grew the conviction that he was of high importance, a great man,
the object of great conspiracies, in which the odious Radbolts were but
instruments. It was, no doubt, the course of public events, culminating
in the Great War, which gave to his mania its special turn, to his
delusion its monstrous (but, as Doctor Mary was aware, by no means
unprecedented) character. By the time of his meeting with Beaumaroy the
delusion was complete; through all the second half of 1918 he
followed--so far as his mind could now follow anything rationally--in
his own person and fortunes the fate of the man whom he believed himself
to be, appropriating the hopes, the fears, the imagined ambitions, the
physical infirmity, of that self-created other self.

But he wrapped it all in deep secrecy, for, as the conviction of his
true identity grew complete, his fears were multiplied. Radbolts indeed!
The whole of Christendom--Principalities and Powers--were on his track.
They would shut him up--kill him perhaps! Cunningly he hid his
secret--save what could not be entirely hidden, the physical deformity.
But he hid it with his shawl; he never ate out of his own house; the
combination knife-and-fork was kept sedulously hidden. Only to Beaumaroy
did he reveal the hidden thing; and later, on Beaumaroy's persuasion, he
let into the portentous secret one faithful servant--Beaumaroy's
unsavoury retainer, Sergeant Hooper.

He never accepted Hooper as more than a distasteful necessity--somebody
must wait on him and do him menial service--not feared indeed, for
surely such a dog would not dare to be false, but cordially disliked.
Beaumaroy won him from the beginning. Whom he conceived him to be
Beaumaroy himself never knew, but he opened his heart to him
unreservedly. Of him he had no suspicion; to him he looked for safety
and for the realization of his cherished dreams. Beaumaroy soothed his
terrors and humoured him in all things--what was the good of doing
anything else? asked Beaumaroy's philosophy. He loved Beaumaroy far more
than he had loved anybody except himself in all his life. At the end,
through the wild tangle of mad imaginings, there ran this golden thread
of human affection; it gave the old man hours of peace, sometimes almost
of sanity.

So he came to his death, directly indeed of a long-standing organic
disease, yet veritably self-destroyed. And so he sat now dead, amidst
his shabby parody of splendour. He had done with thrones; he had even
done with Tower Cottage--unless indeed his pale shade were to hold
nocturnal converse with the robust and flamboyant ghost of Captain
Duggle; the one vaunting his unreal vanished greatness, mouthing
orations and mimicking pomp; the other telling, in language garnished
with strange and horrible oaths, of those dark and lurid terrors which
once had driven him from this very place, leaving it ablaze behind. A
strange couple they would make, and strange would be their conversation!

Yet the tenement which had housed the old man's deranged spirit, empty
as now it was--aye, emptier than Duggle's tomb--was still to be witness
of one more earthly scene and unwittingly bear part in it.



CHAPTER XIII

RIGHT OF CONQUEST


What has been related of Mr. Saffron's life before he ascended the
throne on which he still sat in the Tower represented all that Beaumaroy
knew of his old friend before they met--indeed he knew scarcely as much.
He told the brief story to Doctor Mary in the parlour. She heard him
listlessly; all that was not much to the point on which her thoughts
were set, and did not answer the riddle which the scene in the Tower put
to her. She was calm now--and ashamed that she had ever lost her
calmness.

"Well, there was the situation as I understood it when I took on the
job--or quite soon afterwards. He thought that he was being pursued; in
a sense he was. If these Radbolts found out the truth, they certainly
would pursue him, try to shut him up, and prevent him from making away
with his money or leaving it to anybody else. I didn't at all know at
first what a tidy lot he had. He hated the Radbolts; even after he
ceased to know them as cousins, he remained very conscious of them
always; they were enemies, spies, secret service people on his
track--poor old boy! Well, why should they have him and his money? I
didn't see it. I don't see it to this day."

Mary was in Mr. Saffron's arm-chair. Beaumaroy stood before the fire.
She looked up at him.

"They seem to have more right than anybody else. And you know--you
knew--that he was mad."

"His being mad gives them no right! Oh, well, it's no use arguing. In
the end I suppose they had rights--of a kind--a right by law, I
suppose--though I never knew the law and don't want to--to shut the old
man up, and make him damned miserable, and get the money for themselves.
That sounds just the sort of right the law does give people over other
people--because Aunt Betsy married Uncle John fifty years ago, and was
probably infernally sorry for it!"

Mary smiled. "A matter of principle with you, was it, Mr. Beaumaroy?

"No--instinct, I think. It's my instinct to be against the proper thing,
the regular thing, the thing that deals hardly with an individual in the
name of some highly nebulous general principle."

"Like discipline?" she put in, with a reminiscence of Major-General
Punnit.

He nodded. "Yes, that's one case of it. And, then, the situation amused
me. I think that had more to do with it than anything else at first. It
amused me to play up to his delusions. I suggested the shawl as useful
on our walks--and thereby got him to take wholesome exercise; that ought
to appeal to you, Doctor! I got him the combination knife-and-fork; that
made him enjoy his meals--also good for him, Doctor! But I didn't do
these things because they were good for him, but because they amused me.
They never amused Hooper, he's a dull, surly, and--I'm inclined to
believe--treacherous dog."

"Who is he?"

"Sacked from the army--sent to quod. Just a gaol-bird whom I've kept
loose. But the things did amuse me, and it was that at first. But
then----" he paused.

Looking at him again, Mary saw a whimsical tenderness expressed in his
eyes and smile. "The poor old chap was so overwhelmingly grateful. He
thought me the one indubitably faithful adherent that he had. And so I
was too--though not in the way he thought. And he trusted me absolutely.
Well, was I to give him up--to the law, and the Radbolts, and the
gaolers of an asylum--a man who trusted me like that?"

"But he was mad," objected Doctor Mary obstinately.

"A man has his feelings--or may have--even when he's mad. He trusted me
and he loved me, Doctor Mary. Won't you allow that I've my case--so
far?" She made no sign of assent. "Well then, I loved him--does that go
any better with you? If it doesn't, I'm in a bad way; because what I'm
giving you now is the strong part of my case."

"I don't see why you should put what you call your case to me at all,
Mr. Beaumaroy."

He looked at her in a reproachful astonishment. "But you seemed touched
by--by what we saw in the Tower. I thought the old man's death--and
fate--had appealed to you. It seems to me that people can't go through a
thing like that together without feeling--well, some sort of
comradeship. But if you've no sort of feeling of that kind--well, I
don't want to put my case."

"Go on with your case," said Doctor Mary, after a moment's silence.

"Though it isn't really that I want to put a case for myself at all. But
I don't mind owning that I'd like you to understand about it--before I
clear out."

She looked at him questioningly, but put no spoken question. Beaumaroy
sat down on the stool opposite to her, and poked the fire.

"I can't get away from it, can I? There was something else you saw in
the Tower, wasn't there, and I dare say that you connect it with a
conversation that we had together a little while ago? Well, I'll tell
you about that. Oh, well, of course I must, mustn't I?"

"I should like to hear." Her bitterness was gone; he had come now to the
riddle.

"He was a king to himself," Beaumaroy resumed thoughtfully, "but in fact
I was king over him. I could do anything I liked with him. I had him. I
possessed him--by right of conquest. The right of conquest seemed a big
thing to me; it was about the only sort of right that I'd seen anything
of for three years and more. Yes, it was--and is--a big thing, a real
thing--the one right in the whole world that there's no doubt about.
Other rights are theories, views, preachments! Right of conquest is a
fact. I had it. I could make him do what I liked, sign what I liked. Do
you begin to see where I found myself? I say found myself, because
really it was a surprise to me. At first I thought he was in a pretty
small way--he only gave me a hundred a year besides my keep. True, he
always talked of his money, but I set that down mainly to his delusion.
But it was true that he had a lot--really a lot. A good bit besides what
you saw in there; he must have speculated cleverly, I think, he can't
have made it all in his business. Doctor Mary, how much gold do you
think there is in the grave in there?

"I haven't the least idea. Thousands? Where did you get it?"

"Oh yes, thousands--and thousands. We got it mostly from the aliens in
the East End; they'd hoarded it, you know; but they were willing to sell
at a premium. The premium rose up to last month; then it dropped a
little--not much, though, because we'd exhausted some of the most
obvious sources. I carried every sovereign of that money in the grave
down from London in my brown bag." He smiled reflectively. "Do you know
how much a thousand sovereigns weigh, Doctor Mary?"

"I haven't the least idea," said Mary again. She was leaning forward
now, listening intently, and watching Beaumaroy's face with absorbed
interest.

"Seventeen and three-quarter pounds avoirdupois--that's the correct
weight. The first time or two we didn't get much--they were still shy of
us. But after that we made some heavy hauls. Twice we brought down close
on two thousand. Once there was three thousand, almost to a sovereign.
Even men trained to the work--bullion porters, as they call them at the
Bank of England--reckon five bags of a thousand--canvas bags not much
short of a foot long and six inches across, you know--they reckon five
of them a full load--and wouldn't care to go far with them either. The
equivalent of three of them was quite enough for me to carry from
Inkston station up to the cottage--trying to look as if I were carrying
nothing of any account! One hasn't got to pretend to be carrying nothing
in full marching kit--nor to carry it all in one hand. And he'd never
trust himself in a cab--might be kidnapped, you see! I don't know
exactly, but from what he said I reckon we've brought down, on our
Wednesday trips, about two-thirds of all he had. Now you've probably
gathered what his idea was. He knew he was disguised as Saffron--and
very proud of the way he lived up to the character. As Saffron, he
realized the money by driblets--turned his securities into notes, his
notes into gold. But he'd lost all knowledge that the money was his
own--made by himself--himself Saffron. He thought it was saved out of
the wreck of his Imperial fortune. It was to be dedicated to restoring
the Imperial cause. He himself could not attempt, at present, to get out
of England, least of all carrying pots of gold coin. But he believed
that I could. I was to go to Morocco and so on, and raise the country
for him, taking as much as I could--and coming back for more! He had no
doubt at all of my coming back! In fact it wouldn't have been much
easier for me to get out of the country with the money than it would
have been for the authentic Kaiser himself. But, Doctor Mary, what would
have been possible was for me to go somewhere else--or even back to the
places we knew of--for no questions were asked there--put that money
back into notes, or securities in my own name, and tell him I had
carried out the Morocco programme. He had no sense of time, he would
have suspected nothing."

"That would have been mere and sheer robbery," said Mary.

"Oh yes, it would," Beaumaroy agreed. "And, if I'd done it, and deserted
him, I should have deserved to be hanged. That was hardly my question.
As long as he lived, I meant to stick by him; but he was turned seventy,
frail, with heart disease, and, as I understand, quite likely to sink
into general paralysis. Well, if I was to exercise my right of conquest
and get the fruits of conquest, two ways seemed open. There could be a
will; you'll remember my consulting you on that point and your reply?"

"Did he make a will?" asked Mary quickly.

"No. A will was open to serious objections. Even supposing your
evidence--which, of course, I wanted in case of need--had been
satisfactory, a fight with the Radbolts would have been unpleasant.
Worse than that--as long as I lived I should have been blackmailed by
Sergeant Hooper, who knew Mr. Saffron's condition, though he didn't know
about the money here. Even before you found out about my poor old
friend, I had decided against a will--though, perhaps, I might have
squared the Radbolts by just taking this little place--and its
contents--and letting them take the rest. That too became impossible
after your discovery. There remained, then, the money in the Tower. I
could make quite sure of that, wait for his death, and then enjoy it.
And, upon my word, why shouldn't I? He'd have been much gratified by my
going to Morocco; and he'd certainly much sooner that I had the
money--if it couldn't go to Morocco--than that the Radbolts should get
it. That was the way the question presented itself to me; and I'm a poor
man, with no obvious career before me. The right of conquest appealed to
me strongly, Doctor Mary."

"I can see that you may have been greatly tempted," said Mary in a grave
and troubled voice. "And the circumstances did enable you to make
excuses for what you thought of doing."

"Excuses? You won't even go so far as to call it a doubtful case? One
that a casuist could argue either way?" Beaumaroy was smiling again now.

"Even if I did, men of----"

"Yes, Doctor Mary--of sensitive honour!"

"Decide doubtful cases against themselves in money matters."

"Oh, I say, is that doctrine current in business circles? I've been in
business myself, and I doubt it."

"They do--men of real honour," Mary persisted.

"So that's how great fortunes are made? That's how individuals--to say
nothing of nations--rise to wealth and power! And I never knew it,"
Beaumaroy reflected in a gentle voice. His eye caught Mary's, and she
gave a little laugh. "By deciding doubtful cases against themselves!
Dear me, yes!"

"I didn't say they rose to greatness and power."

"Then the people who do rise to greatness and power--and the
nations--don't they go by right of conquest, Doctor Mary? Don't they
decide cases in their own favour?"

"Did you really mean to--to take the money?"

"I'll tell you as near as I can. I meant to do my best for my old man. I
meant him to live as long as he could--and to live free, unpersecuted,
as happy as he could be made. I meant that, because I loved him--and he
loved me. Well, I've lost him; I'm alone in the world." The last words
were no appeal to Mary; for the moment he seemed to have forgotten her;
he was speaking out of his own heart to himself. Yet the words thereby
touched her to a livelier pity; you are very lonely when there is nobody
to whom you have affection's right to complain of loneliness.

"But after that--if I saw him to his end in peace--if I brought that
off, well, then I rather think that I should have stuck to the money.
Yes, I rather think so."

"You've managed to mix things up so!" Mary complained. "Your devotion to
Mr. Saffron--for that I could forgive you keeping his secret, and
fooling me, and all of us. But then you mix that up with the money!"

"It was mixed up with it. I didn't do the mixing."

"What are you going to do now?" she asked with a sudden curiosity.

"Oh, now? Now the thing's all different. You've seen, you know--and even
I can't offer you a partnership in the cash, can I? If I weren't an
infernally poor conspirator, I should have covered up the Captain's
grave, and made everything neat and tidy before I came to fetch
you--because I knew he might go back to the Tower. On his bad nights he
always made me open the grave, and spread out the money--make a show of
it, you know. Then it had to be put back in bags--the money-bags lived
in the brown leather bag--and the grave had to be fastened down.
Altogether it was a good bit of work. I'd just got it open, and the
money spread out, when he turned bad--a sort of collapse like the one
you saw--and I was so busy getting him to bed that I forgot the cursed
grave and the money--just as I forgot to put away the knife-and-fork
before you called the first time--and you saw through me!"

"If you're not a good conspirator, it's another reason for not
conspiring, Mr. Beaumaroy. I know you conspired for him first of all,
but----"

"Well, he's safe, he's at peace. It can all come out now--and it must.
You know--and you must tell the truth. I don't know whether they can put
me in prison; I should hardly think they'd bother, if they get the money
all right. In any case I don't care much. Lord, what a lot of people'll
say, 'I told you so--bad egg, that Beaumaroy!' No, I don't care. My old
man's safe; I've won my big game after all, Doctor Mary!"

"I don't believe you cared about the money really!" she cried. "That
really was a game to you, I think--a trick you liked to play on us
respectables!"

He smiled at her confidentially. "I do like beating the respectables,"
he admitted. Then he looked at his watch. "I must do what has to be done
for the old man. But it's late--hard on one o'clock. You must be
tired--and it's a sad job."

"No, I'll help you. I--I've been in hospitals, you know. Only do go
first, and cover up that horrible place, and hide that wretched money
before I go in the Tower. Will you?" She gave a shiver, as her
imagination renewed the scene which the Tower held.

"You needn't come into the Tower at all. He's as light as a feather.
I've lifted him into bed often. I can lift him now. If you really wish
to help, will you go up to his room and--and get things ready?" As he
spoke, he crossed to the sideboard, took up a bedroom candlestick, and
lit it from one that stood on the table. "And you'll see about the body
being taken to the mortuary, won't you? I shall communicate with the
Radbolts--fully; they'll take charge of the funeral, I suppose. Well, he
won't know anything about that now, thank God!" There was the slightest
tremor in his voice as he spoke.

Mary did not take the candle. "I've said some hard things to you, Mr.
Beaumaroy. I dare say I've sounded very self-righteous." He raised his
hand in protest, but she went on: "So I should like to say one different
thing to you--since we're to part after to-night. You've shown yourself
a good friend--good and true as a man could have."

"I loved my old man," said Beaumaroy.

It was his only plea. To Mary it seemed a good one. He had loved his
poor old madman; and he had served him faithfully. "Yes, the old man
found a good friend in you; I hope you will find good friends too. Oh, I
do hope it! Because that's what you want."

"I should be very glad if I could think that, in spite of everything, I
had found one here in this place--even although she can be a friend only
in memory."

Mary paused for a moment, then gave him her hand. "I know you much
better after to-night. My memory of you will be a kind one. Now to our
work!"

"Yes--and thank you. I thank you more deeply than you imagine."

He gave her the candle and followed her to the passage.

"You know where the room is. I shall put the--the place--straight, and
then bring him up. I shan't be many minutes--ten, perhaps. The cover's
rather hard to fit."

Mary nodded from the top of the stairs. Strained by the events of the
night, and by the talk to Beaumaroy, she was again near tears; her eyes
were bright in the light of the candle, and told of nervous excitement.
Beaumaroy went back into the parlour, on his way to the Tower. Suddenly
he stopped and stood dead still, listening intently.

Mary busied herself upstairs, making her preparations with practised
skill and readiness. Her agitation did not interfere with her
work--there her training told--but of her inner mind it had full
possession. She was afraid to be alone--there in that cottage. She
longed for another clasp of that friendly hand. Well, he would come
soon; but he must bring his burden with him. When she had finished what
she had to do, she sat down and waited.

Beaumaroy waited too, outside the door leading to the Tower.



CHAPTER XIV

THE SCEPTRE IN THE GRAVE


Sergeant Hooper took up his appointed position on the flagged path that
led up to the cottage door. His primary task was to give warning if
anybody should come out of the door; a secondary one was to give the
alarm in case of interruption by passers-by on the road--an unlikely
peril this latter, in view of the hour, the darkness of the night, and
the practised noiselessness with which Mike might be relied upon to do
his work. Here then the Sergeant was left, after being accorded another
nip from the flask--which, however, Neddy kept in his own hands this
time--and a whispered but vigorously worded exhortation to keep up his
courage.

Neddy the Shover and gentlemanly Mike tiptoed off to the window, on the
right-hand side of the door as one approached the house from the road.
The bottom of the window was about seven feet from the ground. Neddy
bent down and offered his broad back as a platform to his companion.
Mike mounted thereon and began his work. That, in itself, was child's
play to him; the match-boarding was but lightly nailed on; the
fastenings came away in a moment under the skilful application of his
instrument; the window sash behind was not even bolted, for the bolt had
perished with time and had not been replaced. So far, very good! But at
this early point Mike received his first surprise. He could not see much
of the interior; a tall curtain stretched across the entire breadth of
the window, distant about two feet from it; but he could see that the
room was lighted up.

Very cautiously he completed his work on the match-boarding, handing
down each plank to Neddy when he had detached it. Then he cut out a pane
of glass--it was all A B C to him--put his hand in and raised the sash a
little; then it was simple to push it up from below. But the sash had
not been raised for years; it stuck; when it yielded to his efforts, it
gave a loud creak. He flung one leg over the window-sill and sat poised
there, listening. The room was lighted up; but if there were anyone in
it, he must be asleep or very hard of hearing, or that creak would have
aroused his attention.

Released from his office as a support, Neddy rose, and hauled himself up
by his arms till he could see in the window. "Lights!" he whispered.
Mike nodded and got in--on the dais, behind the curtain. Neddy scrambled
up after him, finding some help from a stunted but sturdy old apple tree
that grew against the wall. Now they were both inside, behind the tall
curtain.

"Come on," Mike whispered. "We must see if there's anybody here, and, if
there isn't, put out the light." For on either side of the curtain there
was room for a streak of light which might by chance be seen from the
road.

Mike advanced round the left-side edge of the curtain; he had perceived
by now that it formed the back of some structure, though he could not
yet see of what nature the structure was; nor was he now examining it.
For as he stepped out on the dais at the side of the canopy, his eyes
were engrossed by another feature of this strange apartment. He
stretched back his hand and caught hold of Neddy's brawny arm, pulling
him forward. "See that--that hole, Neddy?"

For the moment they forgot the lights; they forgot the possibility of an
occupant of the room--which indeed was, save for their own whispers,
absolutely still; they stood looking at the strange hole, and then into
one another's faces, for a few seconds. Then they stole softly nearer to
it. "That's a blasted funny 'ole!" breathed Neddy. "Looks like a
bloke's----!"

Mike's fingers squeezed his arm tighter, evidently again claiming his
attention. "My hat, we needn't look far for the stuff!" he whispered. An
uneasy whisper it was; the whole place looked queer, and that hole was
uncanny--it and its contents.

Yet they approached nearer; they came to the edge and stood looking in.
As though he could not believe the mere sight of his eyes, big Neddy
crouched down, reached out his hand, and took up Mr. Saffron's sceptre.
With a look of half-scared amazement he held it up for his companion's
inspection. Mike eyed it uneasily, but his thoughts were getting back to
business. He stole softly off to the door, with intent to see whether it
was locked; he stooped down to examine it and perceived that it was not.
It would be well, then, to barricade it, and he turned round to look for
some heavy bit of furniture suitable for his purpose, something that
would delay the entrance of an intruder and give them notice of the
interruption.

As he turned, his body suddenly stiffened; only his trained instinct
prevented him from crying out. There was an occupant of the room--there,
in the great chair between the tall candlesticks on the dais. An old man
sat--half lay--there; asleep, it seemed; his eyes were shut. The colour
of his face struck gentleman Mike as being peculiar. But everything in
that place was peculiar; like a great tomb--a blooming mausoleum--the
whole place was. Though he had the reputation of being an _esprit fort_,
Mike felt uncomfortable. Cold and clammy too, the beastly place was!

Still--business is business. Letting the matter of the unlocked door
wait for the moment, he began to steal catlike across the floor towards
the dais. He had to investigate; also he really ought to put out those
candles; it was utterly unprofessional to leave them alight. But he
could not conquer a feeling that the place would seem still more
peculiar when they were put out.

Big Neddy's eyes had not followed his comrade to the door; they had been
held by the queer hole and its queer contents--by the gleaming gold that
strewed its floor, by the mock symbol of majesty which he had lifted
from it and still held in his hand, by the oddly suggestive shape and
dimensions of the hole itself. But now he raised his eyes from these
things and looked across at Mike, mutely asking what he thought of
matters. He saw Mike stealing across the floor, looking very, very hard
at--something.

Mute as Neddy's inquiry was, Mike seemed somehow aware of it. He raised
his hand, as though to enjoin silence, and then pointed it in front of
him, raised to the level of his head. Neddy turned round to look in the
direction indicated. He saw the throne and its silent occupant--the
waxen-faced old man who sat there, seeming to preside over the scene,
whose head was turned towards him, whose closed eyes would open directly
on his face if their lids were lifted.

Neddy feared no living man; so he was accustomed to boast, and with good
warrant. But was that man living? How came he up there? And what had he
to do with the queer-shaped hole that had all that gold in it? And the
thing he held in his own hand? Did that belong to the old man up there?
Had he flung it into the hole? Or (odd fancies began to assail big
Neddy) had he left it behind him when he got out? And would he, by
chance, come down to look for it?

Mike's hand, stretched out from his body towards his friend, now again
enjoined silence. He was at the foot of the dais; he was going up its
steps. He was no good in a scrap, but he had a nerve in some things! He
was up the steps now, and leaning forward; he was looking hard in the
old man's face; his own was close to it. He laid hold of one of the old
man's arms--it happened to be that left arm of Mr. Saffron's--lifted it,
and let it fall again; it fell back just in the position from which he
had lifted it. Then he straightened himself up, looking a trifle green
perhaps, but reassured, and called out to Mike, in a penetrating
whisper, "He's a stiff 'un all right!"

Yes! But then--what of the grave? Because it was a grave and nothing
else; there was no getting away from it. What of the grave, and--what
about the sceptre?

And what was Mike going to do now? He was tiptoeing to the edge of the
dais. He was moving towards one of the high candlesticks, the top of
which was a little below the level of his head, as he stood raised on
the dais beside the throne. He leant forward towards the candles; his
intent was obvious.

But big Neddy was not minded that he should carry it out--could not
suffer him to do it. With the light of the candles--well, at all events
you could see what was happening; you could see where you were, and
where anybody else was. But in the dark--left to torches which
illuminated only bits of the place, and which perhaps you mightn't
switch on in time or turn in the right direction--if you were left like
that, anybody might be anywhere--and on to you before you knew it!

"Let them lights alone, Mike!" he whispered hoarsely. "I'll smash your
'ead in if you put them lights out!"

Mike had conquered his own fit of nerves, not without some exercise of
will, and had not given any notice to his companion's, which was
considerably more acute; perhaps the constant use of that roomy flask
had contributed to that, though lack of a liberal education (such as
Mike had enjoyed and misused) must also bear its share of
responsibility. He was amazed at this violent and threatening
interruption. He gave a funny little skip backwards on the dais; his
heel came thereby in contact with the high hassock on which Mr.
Saffron's feet rested. The hassock was shifted; one foot fell from it on
to the dais, and Mr. Saffron's body fell a little forward from out of
the deep recess of his great chair. To big Neddy's perturbed imagination
it looked as if Mr. Saffron had set one foot upon the floor of the dais
and was going to rise from his seat, perhaps to come down from the dais,
to come nearer to his grave--to ask for his sceptre.

It was too much for Neddy. He shuddered--he could not help it; and the
sceptre dropped from his hand. It fell from his hand back into the grave
again; under its impact the gold coins in the grave again jangled.

Beaumaroy had, by this time, been standing close outside the door for
about two minutes; he had lighted a cigarette from the candle on the
parlour table. The sounds that he thought he heard were not conclusive;
creaks and cracks did sometimes come from the boarded-up window and the
rafters of the roof. But the sound of the jangling gold was conclusive;
it must be due in some way to human agency; and in the circumstances
human agency must mean a thief.

Beaumaroy's mind leapt to the Sergeant. Ten to one it was the Sergeant!
He had long been after the secret; he had at last sniffed it out, and
was helping himself! It seemed to Beaumaroy a disgusting thing to do,
with the dead man sitting there. But that was sentiment. Sentiment was
not to be expected of the Sergeant, and disgusting things were.

Then he suddenly recalled Alec Naylor's story of the two men, one tall
and slight, one short and stumpy, who had reconnoitred Tower Cottage.
The Sergeant had an accomplice, no doubt. He listened again. He heard
the scrape of metal on metal, as when a man gathers up coins in his hand
out of a heap. Yet he stood where he was, smoking still. Thoughts were
passing rapidly through his brain, and they brought a smile to his lips.

Let them take it! Why not? It was no care to him now! Doctor Mary had to
tell the truth about it, and so, consequently, had he himself. It
belonged to the Radbolts. Oh, damn the Radbolts! He would have risked
his life for it if the old man had lived, but he wasn't going to risk
his life for the Radbolts. Let the rascals get off with the stuff, or as
much as they could carry! He was all right. Doctor Mary could testify
that he hadn't taken it. Let them carry off the infernal stuff!
Incidentally he would be well rid of the Sergeant, and free from any of
his importunities--from whines and threats alike; it was not an
unimportant, if a minor, consideration.

Yet it was a disgusting thing to do--it certainly was; and the Sergeant
would think that he had scored a triumph. Over his benefactor too, his
protector, Beaumaroy reflected with a satiric smile. The Sergeant
certainly deserved a fright--and, if possible, a licking. These
administered, he could be kicked out--perhaps--oh, yes, poor
brute!--with a handful of the Radbolts' money. They would never miss it,
as they did not know how much there was, and such a diversion of their
legal property in no way troubled Beaumaroy's conscience.

And the accomplice? He shrugged his shoulders. The Sergeant was, as he
well knew from his military experience of that worthy man, an arrant
coward. He would show no fight. If the accomplice did, Beaumaroy was
quite in the mood to oblige him. But while he tackled one fellow, the
other might get off with the money--with as much as he could carry. For
all that it was merely Radbolt money now, in the end Beaumaroy could not
stomach the idea of that--the idea that either of the dirty rogues in
there should get off with the money. And it was foolish to attack them
on the front on which they expected to be attacked. Quickly his mind
formed another plan. He turned, stole softly out of the parlour, and
along the passage towards the front door of the cottage.

After Neddy had dropped Mr. Saffron's sceptre into Captain Duggle's
grave (Had he known that it was Captain Duggle's, and not been a prey to
the ridiculous but haunting fancy that it had been destined for, or
even--oh, these errant fancies!--already occupied by, Mr. Saffron
himself, Neddy would have been less agitated) Mike dealt with him
roundly. In bitter hissing whispers, and in language suited thereto, he
pointed out the folly of vain superstitions, of childish fears and sick
imaginings which interfered with business and threatened its success.
His eloquent reasoning, combined with a lively desire to get out of the
place as soon as possible, so far wrought on Neddy that he produced the
sack which he had brought with him, and held its mouth open, though with
trembling hands, while Mike scraped up handful after handful of gold
coins and poured them into it. They were busily engaged on their joint
task as Beaumaroy stole along the passage and, reaching the front door,
again stood listening.

The Sergeant was still keeping his vigil before the door. He had no
doubt that it was locked; did not Beaumaroy see Mrs. Wiles and himself
out of it every evening--the back door to the little house led only on
to the heath behind and gave no direct access to the road--and lock it
after them with a squeaking key? He would have warning enough if anyone
turned the key now. He was looking towards the road--a surprise was more
possible from that quarter; his back was towards the door and only a
very little way from it.

But when Beaumaroy had entered with Doctor Mary, he had not relocked the
door; he opened it now very gently and cautiously, and saw the
Sergeant's back--there was no mistaking it. Without letting his
surprise--for he had confidently supposed the Sergeant to be in the
Tower--interfere with the instant action called for by the
circumstances, he flung out his long right arm, caught the Sergeant
round the neck with a throttling grip, and dragged him backwards into
the house. The man was incapable of crying out; no sound escaped from
him which could reach the Tower. Beaumaroy set him softly on the floor
of the passage. "If you stir or speak, I'll strangle you!" he whispered.
There was enough light from the passage lamp to enable the Sergeant to
judge, by the expression of his face, that he spoke sincerely. The
Sergeant did not dare even to rub his throat, though it was feeling very
sore and uncomfortable.

There was a row of pegs on the passage wall, just inside the door. On
them, among hats, caps, and coats--and also Mr. Saffron's grey
shawl--hung two long neck-scarves, comforters that the keen heath winds
made very acceptable on a walk. Beaumaroy took them, and tied his
prisoner hand and foot. He had just completed this operation, in the
workman-like fashion which he had learnt on service, when he heard a
footstep on the stairs. Looking up, he saw Doctor Mary standing there.

Her waiting in the room above had seemed long to her. Her ears had been
expecting the sound of Beaumaroy's tread as he mounted the stairs, laden
with his burden. That sound had not come; instead, there had been the
soft, just audible, plop of the Sergeant's body as it dropped on the
floor of the passage. It occurred to her that Beaumaroy had perhaps had
some mishap with his burden, or found difficulty with it. She was coming
downstairs to offer her help. Seeing what she saw now, she stood still
in surprise.

Beaumaroy looked up at her and smiled. "No cause for alarm," he said,
"but I've got to go out for a minute. Keep an eye on this rascal, will
you? Oh, and, Doctor Mary, if he tries to move or untie himself, just
take the parlour poker and hit him over the head! Thanks. You don't
mind, do you? And you, Sergeant, remember what I said!"

With these words Beaumaroy slipped out of the door, and softly closed it
behind him.



CHAPTER XV

A NORMAL CASE


When Captain Alec brought his fiancée home after the dinner of welcome
and congratulation at Old Place, it was nearly twelve o'clock. Jeanne,
however--in these days a radiant Jeanne, very different from the
mournful creature who had accompanied Captain Cranster's victim to
Inkston a few weeks before--was sitting up for her mistress, and since
she had to perform this duty--which was sweetened by the hope of
receiving exciting confidences; for surely that affair was
"marching"?--it had been agreed between her and the other maids that she
should sit up for the doctor also. She told the lovers that Doctor Mary
had been called for by Mr. Beaumaroy, and had gone out with him
presumably to visit his friend Mr. Saffron. It did not occur to either
of them to ask when Mary had set out; they contented themselves with
exchanging a glance of disapproval. What a pity that Mary should have
anything more to do with this Mr. Saffron and his Beaumaroy!

However there was a bright side to it this time. It would be kind of
Cynthia to sit up for Mary and minister to her a cup of tea, which
Jeanne should prepare; and it would be pleasant--and quite
permissible--for Captain Alec to bear her company. Mary could not be
long, surely; it grew late.

So for a while they thought no more of Mary--as was natural enough. They
had so much to talk about, the whole of a new and very wonderful life to
speculate about and to plan, the whole of their past acquaintance to
review; old doubts had to be confessed and laughed at; the inevitability
of the whole thing from the first beginnings had to be recognized,
proved, and exhibited. In this sweet discourse the minutes flew by
unmarked, and would have gone on flying, had not Jeanne reappeared of
her own accord, to remark that it really was very late now; did
mademoiselle think that possibly anything could have happened to Doctor
Arkroyd?

"By Jove, it is late!" cried the Captain, looking at his watch. "It's
past one!"

Cynthia was amazed to hear that.

"He must be very ill, that old gentleman," Jeanne opined. "And poor
Doctor Arkroyd will be very tired. She will find the walk across the
heath very fatiguing."

"Walk, Jeanne? Didn't she take the car?" cried Cynthia, surprised.

No, the doctor had not taken the car; she had started to walk with Mr.
Beaumaroy; the parlourmaid had certainly told Jeanne that.

"I tell you what," said the Captain. "I'll just tool along to Tower
Cottage. I'll look out for Doctor Mary on the road, and give her a lift
back if I meet her. If I don't, I can stop at the cottage and get
Beaumaroy to tell her that I'm there, and can wait to bring her home as
soon as she's ready. You'd better go to bed, Cynthia."

Jeanne tactfully disappeared, and the lovers said good-night. After
Alec's departure, Jeanne received the anticipated confidence.

That departure almost synchronized with two events at Tower Cottage. The
first was Beaumaroy's exit from the front door, leaving Mary in charge
of his prisoner who, consequently, was unable to keep any watch on the
road or to warn his principals of approaching danger. The second was big
Neddy's declaration that, in his opinion, the sack now held about as
much as he could carry. He raised it from the floor in his two hands.
"Must weigh a 'undred pound or more!" he reckoned. That meant a lot of
money, a fat lot of money. His terrors had begun to wear off, since
nothing of a supernatural or even creepy order had actually happened. He
had, at last, even agreed to the candles being put out. Still he would
be glad to be off. "Enough's as good as a feast, as the sayin' goes,
Mike," he chuckled.

Mike had fitted a new battery into his torch. It shone brightly on Neddy
and on the sack, whose mouth Neddy was now tying up. "I might fill my
pockets too," he suggested, eyeing the very respectable amount of
sovereigns which still remained in Captain Duggle's tomb.

"Don't do it, old lad," Neddy advised. "If we 'ave to get out, or
anything of that kind, you don't want to jingle as if you was a glass
chandelier, do you?"

Mike admitted the cogency of the objection, and they agreed to be off.
Mike started for the window. "I'll just pick up the Sergeant," he said,
"and signal you 'All clear.' Then you follow out."

"No, Mike," said Neddy slowly, but very decisively. "If you don't mind,
it's going to be me as gets out of that window first. I ain't a man of
your eddication, and--well, blast me if I'm going to be left in this
place alone with--that there!" He motioned with his head, back over his
shoulder, towards where silent Mr. Saffron sat.

"You're a blooming ass, Neddy, but have it your own way. Only let me see
the coast's clear first."

He stole to the window and looked around. He assumed that the Sergeant
was at his post, but all the same he wanted to have a look at the road
himself. So he had, and the result was satisfactory. It was hardly to be
expected that he should scrutinize the ground immediately under the
window; at any rate he did not think of that. It was, as Beaumaroy had
conjectured, from another direction--from the parlour--that he
anticipated a possible attack. There all was quiet. He came back and
reported to Neddy that the moment was favourable. "I'll switch off the
torch, though--just in case. You can feel your way; keep to the edge of
the steps; don't knock up against----"

"I'll take damned good care not to!" muttered Neddy, with a little
shiver.

He made his way to the window, through the darkness, having slung his
sack over his shoulder and holding it with his right hand, while with
the left he guided himself up the dais and along its outside edge,
giving as wide a berth as possible to the great chair and its encircling
canopy. With a sigh of relief he found the window, moved the sack from
his shoulder, and set it on the ledge for a moment. But it was awkward
to get down from the window, holding that heavy sack. He lowered it
towards the ground, so that it might land gently, and, just as he let it
go, he turned his head back and whispered to Mike, "All serene. Get a
move on!"

"Half a minute!" answered Mike, as he in his turn set out to grope his
way to the window.

But he was not so cautious as his friend had been. In his progress he
kicked the tall footstool sharply with one of his feet. Neddy leant back
from the window, asking quickly, and again very nervously, "What the
devil's that?"

Beaumaroy could not resist the opportunity thus offered to him. He was
crouching on the ground, not exactly under the window, but just to the
right of it. Neddy's face was turned away; he threw himself on to the
bag, rose to his feet, raised it cautiously, and holding it in front of
him with both his hands--its weight was fully as much as he could
manage--was round the curve of the Tower, and out of sight with it in an
instant.

At the back of the house there was a space of ground where Mrs. Wiles
grew a few vegetables for the household's use; it was a clearing made
from the heath, but it was not enclosed. Beaumaroy was able to reach the
back entrance, by which this patch of ground could be entered from the
kitchen. Just by the kitchen door stood that useful thing, a butt for
rainwater. It stood some three, or three and a half, feet high; and it
was full to the brim almost. With a fresh effort Beaumaroy raised the
sack to the level of his breast. Then he lowered it into the water, not
dropping it, for fear of a splash, but immersing both his arms above the
elbow. Only when he felt the weight off them, as the sack touched
bottom, did he release his hold. Then with cautious steps he continued
his progress round the house and, coming to the other side, crouched
close by the wall again and waited. Where he was now, he could see the
fence that separated the front garden from the road, and he was not more
than ten or twelve feet from the front door on his left. As he huddled
down here, he could not repress a smile of amusement, even of
self-congratulation. However he turned to the practical job of squeezing
the water out of his sleeves.

In thus congratulating himself, he was premature. His action had been
based on a miscalculation. He had heard only Neddy's last exclamation,
not the cautious whispers previously exchanged between him and Mike; he
thought that the man astride the window-sill himself had kicked
something and instinctively exclaimed "What the devil's that?" He
thought that the sack was lowered from the window in order to be
committed to the temporary guardianship of the Sergeant, who was
doubtless looking out for it and, if he had his ears open, would hear
its gentle thud. Perhaps the man in the Tower was collecting a second
instalment of booty; heavy as the sack was, it did not contain all that
he knew to be in Captain Duggle's grave. Be that as it might, the man
would climb out of the window soon; and he would fail to find his sack.

What would he do then? He would signal or call to the Sergeant; or, if
they had a preconcerted rendezvous, he would betake himself there,
expecting to find his accomplice. He would neither get an answer from
him nor find him, of course. Equally of course he would look for him.
But the last place where he would expect to find him--the last place he
would search--would be where the Sergeant in fact was, the house itself.
If in his search for Hooper, he found Beaumaroy, it would be man to man,
and, now again, Beaumaroy had no objection.

But, in fact, there were two men in the Tower--one of them big Neddy;
and the function, which Beaumaroy supposed to have been entrusted to the
Sergeant, had never been assigned to him at all; to guard the door and
the road had been his only tasks. When they found the bag gone, and the
Sergeant too, they might well think that the Sergeant had betrayed them;
that he had gone off on his own account, or that he had, at the last
moment, under an impulse of fear or a calculation of interest, changed
sides and joined the garrison in the house. If he had gone off with the
sack, he could not have gone fast or far with it. Failing to overtake
him, they would turn back to the cottage; for they knew themselves to be
in superior force. Beaumaroy was in greater danger than he knew--and so
was Doctor Mary in the house.

Big Neddy let himself down from the window, and put down his hand to
lift up the sack; he groped about for it for some seconds, during which
time Mike also climbed over the window-sill and dropped on to the ground
below. Neddy emitted a low but strenuous oath.

"The sack's gone, Mike!" he added in a whisper.

"Gone? Rot! Can't be! What do you mean, Neddy?"

"I dropped it straight 'ere. It's gone," Neddy persisted. "The Sergeant
must 'ave took it."

"No business of his! Where is the fool?" Mike's voice was already
uneasy; thieves themselves seldom believe in there being honour among
them. "You stay here. I'll go to the door and see if he's there."

He was just about to put this purpose into execution--in which event it
was quite likely that Beaumaroy, hearing his approach or his call to the
Sergeant, would have sprung out upon him, only to find himself assailed
the next instant by another and far more formidable antagonist in the
person of big Neddy, and thus in sore peril of his life--when the hum of
Captain Alec's engine became audible in the distance. The next moment,
the lights of his car became visible to all the men in the little front
garden of the cottage.

"Hist! Wait till that's gone by!" whispered Neddy.

"Yes, and get round to the back. Get out of sight round here." He drew
Neddy round the curve of the Tower wall till his big frame was hidden by
it; then he himself crouched down under the wall, with his head
cautiously protruded. The night had grown clearer; it was possible to
see figures at a distance of some yards now.

Beaumaroy also watched the car. Whose it was, and the explanation of its
appearance, even occurred to his mind. But he kept still. He did not
want visitors; he conceived his hand to be a better one than it really
was, and preferred to play it by himself. If the car passed by, well and
good. Only if it stopped at the gate would he have to take action.

It did stop at the gate. Mike saw it stop. Then its engine was shut off,
and a man got out of it, and came up to the garden gate. Though the
watching Mike had never seen him before, he had little difficulty in
guessing who he was; and he remembered something that the Sergeant had
said about him. Of a certainty it was the redoubtable Captain Naylor.
Through the darkness he loomed enormous, as tall as big Neddy himself
and no whit less broad. A powerful reinforcement for the garrison!

And what would the Sergeant do, if he were still at his post by the
door--with or without that missing, that all-important, sack?

Another tall figure came into Mike's view--from where he could not
distinctly see; it hardly seemed to be from the door of the cottage, for
no light showed, and there was no sound of an opening door. But it
appeared from somewhere near there; it was on the path, and it moved
along to the gate in a leisurely unhurried approach. A man with his
hands in his pockets--that was what it looked like. This must be the
garrison; this must be the Sergeant's friend, master, protector, and
_bête noire_, his "Boomery."

But the Sergeant himself? Where was he? He could hardly be at his post;
or Beaumaroy and he must have seen one another, must have taken some
heed of one another; something must have passed between them, either
friendly or hostile. Mike turned round and whispered hastily, close into
Neddy's ear. Neddy crawled a little forward, and put his own bullet head
far enough round the curve of the wall to see the meeting between the
garrison and its unexpected reinforcement.

Beaumaroy, hands in pockets, lounged nonchalantly down to the gate. He
opened it; the Captain entered. The two shook hands and stood there,
apparently in conversation. The words did not reach the ears of the
listeners, but the sound of voices did--voices hushed in tone. Once
Beaumaroy pointed to the house; both Mike and Neddy marked the
outstretched hand. Was Beaumaroy telling his companion about something
that had been happening at the house? Were they concocting a plan of
defence--or of attack? With the disappearance--perhaps the treachery--of
the Sergeant, and the appearance of this new ally for the garrison, the
prospects of a fight took on a very different look. Neddy might tackle
the big stranger with an equal chance. How would Mike fare in an
encounter with Beaumaroy? He did not relish the idea of it.

And, while they fought, the traitor Sergeant might be on their backs!
Or--on the other hypothesis--he might be getting off with the swag!
Neither alternative was satisfactory.

"P'r'aps he's gone off to the car with the sack--in a fright like,
thinking we'll guess that!" whispered Neddy.

Mike did not much think so, though he would much have liked to. But he
received the suggestion kindly. "We might as well have a look; we can
come back afterwards if--if we like. Perhaps that big brute'll have
gone."

"The thing as I want to do most is to wring that Sergeant's neck!"

Their whispers were checked by a new development. The cottage door
opened for a moment and then closed again; they could tell that, both by
the sound and by the momentary ray of light. Yet a light persisted after
the door was shut. It came from a candle, which burnt steadily in the
stillness of the night. It was carried by a woman, who came down the
path towards where Beaumaroy and the Captain stood in conversation. Both
turned towards her with eager attention.

"Now's our time, then! They aren't looking our way now. We can get
across the heath to where the car is."

They moved on very softly, keeping the Tower between them and the group
on the path. They gained the back of the house, and so the open heath,
and made off to their destination. They moved so softly that they
escaped unheard--unless Beaumaroy were right in the notion that his ear
caught a little rustle of the bracken. He took no heed of it, unless a
passing smile might be reckoned as such.

Doctor Mary joined him and the Captain on the path. Beaumaroy's smile
gave way to a look of expectant interest. He wondered what she was going
to say to Captain Alec. There was so much that she might say, or--just
conceivably--leave unsaid.

She spoke calmly and quietly. "It's you, Captain Alec! I thought so!
Cynthia got anxious? I'm all right. I suppose Mr. Beaumaroy has told
you? Poor Mr. Saffron is dead."

"I've told him," said Beaumaroy.

"Of heart disease," Mary added. "Quite painlessly, I think--and quite a
normal case, though, of course, it's distressing."

"I--I'm sorry," stammered Captain Alec.

Beaumaroy's eyes met Mary's in the candle's light with a swift glance of
surprise and inquiry.



CHAPTER XVI

DEAD MAJESTY


Mary did not appear to answer Beaumaroy's glance; she continued to look
at, and to address herself to, Captain Alec. "I am tired, and I should
love a ride home. But I've still a little to do, and--I know it's
awfully late, but would you mind waiting just a little while? I'm afraid
I might be as much as half an hour."

"Right you are, Doctor Mary--as long as you like. I'll walk up and down,
and smoke a cigar; I want one badly." Mary made an extremely faint
motion of her hand towards the house. "Oh, thanks, but really I--well, I
shall feel more comfortable here, I think."

Mary smiled; it was always safe to rely on Captain Alec's fine feelings;
under the circumstances he would--she had felt pretty sure--prefer to
smoke his cigar outside the house. "I'll be as quick as I can. Come, Mr.
Beaumaroy!"

Beaumaroy followed her up the path and into the house. The Sergeant was
still on the floor of the passage; he rolled apprehensive resentful eyes
at them; Mary took no heed of him, but preceded Beaumaroy into the
parlour and shut the door.

"I don't know what your game is," remarked Beaumaroy in a low voice,
"but you couldn't have played mine better. I don't want him inside the
house; but I'm mighty glad to have him extremely visible outside it."

"It was very quiet inside there"--she pointed to the door of the
Tower--"just before I came out. Before that, I'd heard odd sounds. Was
there somebody there--and the Sergeant in league with him?"

"Exactly," smiled Beaumaroy. "It is all quiet; I think I'll have a
look."

The candle on the table had burnt out. He took another from the
sideboard and lit it from the one which Mary still held.

"Like the poker?" she asked, with a flicker of a smile on her face.

"No, you come and help, if I cry out!" He could not repress a chuckle;
Doctor Mary was interesting him extremely.

Lighted by his candle, he went into the Tower. She heard him moving
about there, as she stood thoughtfully by the extinct fire, still with
her candle in her hand.

Beaumaroy returned. "He's gone--or they've gone." He exhibited to her
gaze two objects--a checked pocket-handkerchief and a tobacco pouch.
"Number one found on the edge of the grave. Number two on the floor of
the dais, just behind the canopy. If the same man had drawn them both
out of the same pocket at the same time--wanting to blow the same nose,
Doctor Mary--they'd have fallen at the same place, wouldn't they?"

"Wonderful, Holmes!" said Mary. "And now--shall we attend to Mr.
Saffron?"

They carried out that office, the course of which they had originally
prepared. Beaumaroy passed with his burden hard by the Sergeant, and
Mary followed. In a quarter of an hour they came downstairs again, and
Mary again led the way into the parlour. She went to the window, and
drew the curtains aside a little way. The lights of the car were
burning; the Captain's tall figure fell within their rays and was
plainly visible, strolling up and down; the ambit of the rays did not,
however, embrace the Tower window. The Captain paced and smoked,
patient, content, gone back to his own happy memories and anticipations.
Mary returned to the table and set her candle down on it.

"All right. I think we can keep him a little longer."

"I vote we do," said Beaumaroy. "I reckon he's scared the fellows away,
and they won't come back so long as they see his lights."

Rash at conclusions sometimes--as has been seen--Beaumaroy was right in
his opinion of the Captain's value as a sentry, or a scarecrow to keep
away hungry birds. The confederates had stolen back to their base of
operations--to where their car lay behind the trees. There, too, no
Sergeant and no sack! Neddy reached for his roomy flask, drank of it,
and with hoarse curses consigned the entire course of events, his
accomplices, even himself, to nethermost perdition. "That place
ain't--natural!" he ended in a gloomy conviction. "'Oo pinched that
sack? The Sergeant? Well--maybe it was, and maybe it wasn't." He
finished the flask, to cure a recurrence of the shudders.

Mike prevailed with him so far that he consented--reluctantly--to be
left alone on the blasted heath, while his friend went back to
reconnoitre. Mike went, and presently returned; the car was still there,
the tall figure was still pacing up and down.

"And perhaps the other one's gone for the police!" Mike suggested
uneasily. "Guess we've lost the hand, Neddy! Best be moving, eh? It's no
go for to-night."

"Catch me trying the bloomin' place any other night!" grumbled Neddy.
"It's given me the 'orrors, and no mistake."

Mike--Mr. Percy Bennett, that erstwhile gentlemanly stranger--recognized
one of his failures. Such things are incidental to all professions. "Our
best game is to go back; if the Sergeant's on the square, we'll hear
from him." But he spoke without much hope; rationalist as he professed
himself, still he was affected by the atmosphere of the Tower. With what
difficulty do we entirely throw off atavistic notions! They both of them
had, at the bottom of their minds, the idea that the dead man on the
high seat had defeated them, and that no luck lay in meddling with his
treasure.

"I 'ave my doubts whether that ugly Sergeant's 'uman himself," growled
Neddy, as he hoisted his bulk into the car.

So they went back to whence they came; and the impression that the
night's adventure left upon them was heightened as the days went by.
For, strange to say, though they watched all the usual channels of
information, as Ministers say in Parliament, and also tried to open up
some unusual ones, they never heard anything again of the Sergeant, of
the sack of gold, of the yawning tomb with its golden lining, of its
silent waxen-faced enthroned guardian who had defeated them. It all--the
whole bizarre scene--vanished from their ken, as though it had been one
of those alluring thwarting dreams which afflict men in sleep. It was an
experience to which they were shy of alluding among their confidential
friends, even of talking about between themselves. In a
word--uncomfortable!

Meanwhile the Sergeant's association with Tower Cottage had also drawn
to its close. After his search and his discovery in the Tower, Beaumaroy
came out into the passage where the prisoner lay, and proceeded to
unfasten his bonds.

"Stand up and listen to me, Sergeant," he said. "Your pals have run
away; they can't help you, and they wouldn't if they could, because,
owing to you, they haven't got away with any plunder, and so they'll be
in a very bad temper with you. In the road, in front of the house, is
Captain Naylor--you know that officer and his dimensions? He's in a very
bad temper with you too." (Here Beaumaroy was embroidering the
situation; the Sergeant was not really in Captain Alec's thoughts.)
"Finally, I'm in a very bad temper with you myself. If I see your ugly
phiz much longer, I may break out. Don't you think you'd better
depart--by the back door, and go home? And if you're not out of Inkston
for good and all by ten o'clock in the morning, and if you ever show
yourself there again, look out for squalls. What you've got out of this
business I don't know. You can keep it--and I'll give you a parting
present myself as well."

"I knows a thing or two----" the Sergeant began, but he saw a look that
he had seen only once or twice before on Beaumaroy's face; on each
occasion it had been followed by the death of the enemy whose act had
elicited it.

"Oh, try that game, just try it!" Beaumaroy muttered. "Just give me that
excuse!" He advanced to the Sergeant, who fell suddenly on his knees.
"Don't make a noise, you hound, or I'll silence you for good and
all--I'd do it for twopence!" He took hold of the Sergeant's
coat-collar, jerked him on to his legs, and propelled him to the kitchen
and through it to the back door. Opening it, he despatched the Sergeant
through the doorway with an accurate and vigorous kick. He fell, and lay
sprawling on the ground for a second, then gathered himself up and ran
hastily over the heath, soon disappearing in the darkness. The memory of
Beaumaroy's look was even keener than the sensation caused by
Beaumaroy's boot. It sent him in flight back to Inkston, thence to
London, thence into the unknown, to some spot chosen for its remoteness
from Beaumaroy, from Captain Naylor, from Mike and from Neddy. He
recognized his unpopularity, thereby achieving a triumph in a difficult
little branch of wisdom.

Beaumaroy returned to the parlour hastily; not so much to avoid keeping
Captain Alec waiting--it was quite a useful precaution to have that
sentry on duty a little longer--as because his curiosity and interest
had been excited by the description which Doctor Mary had given of Mr.
Saffron's death. It was true, probably the precise truth, but it seemed
to have been volunteered in a rather remarkable way and worded with
careful purpose. Also it was the bare truth, the truth denuded of all
its attendant circumstances--which had not been normal.

When he rejoined her, Mary was sitting in the arm-chair by the fire; she
heard his account of the state of affairs up-to-date with a thoughtful
smile, smoking a cigarette; her smile broadened over the tale of the
water-butt. She had put on the fur cloak in which she had walked to the
cottage--the fire was out and the room cold; framed in the furs, the
outline of her face looked softer.

"So we stand more or less as we did before the burglars appeared on the
scene," she commented.

"Except that our personal exertions have saved that money."

"I suppose you would prefer that all the circumstances shouldn't come
out? There have been irregularities."

"I should prefer that, not so much on my own account--I don't know and
don't care what they could do to me--as for the old man's sake."

"If I know you, I think you would rather enjoy being able to keep your
secret. You like having the laugh of people. I know that myself, Mr.
Beaumaroy." She exchanged a smile with him. "You want a death
certificate from me," she added.

"I suppose I do," Beaumaroy agreed.

"In the sort of terms in which I described Mr. Saffron's death to
Captain Alec? If I gave such a certificate, there would remain
nothing--well, nothing peculiar--except the--the appearance of things in
the Tower."

Her eyes were now fixed on his face; he nodded his head with a smile of
understanding. There was something new in the tone of Doctor Mary's
voice; not only friendliness, though that was there, but a note of
excitement, of enjoyment, as though she also were not superior to the
pleasure of having the laugh of people. "But it's rather straining a
point to say that--and nothing more. I could do it only if you made me
feel that I could trust you absolutely."

Beaumaroy made a little grimace, and waited for her to develop her
subject.

"Your morality is different from most people's, and from mine. Mine is
conventional."

"Conventual!" Beaumaroy murmured.

"Yours isn't. It's all personal with you. You recognize no rights in
people whom you don't like, or who you think aren't deserving, or
haven't earned rights. And you don't judge your own rights by what the
law gives you, either. The right of conquest you called it; you hold
yourself free to exercise that against everybody, except your friends,
and against everybody in the interest of your friends--like poor Mr.
Saffron. I believe you'd do the same for me if I asked you to."

"I'm glad you believe that, Doctor Mary."

"But I can't deal with you on that basis. It's even difficult to be
friends on that basis--and certainly impossible to be partners."

"I never suggested that we should be partners over the money," Beaumaroy
put in quickly.

"No. But I'm suggesting now--as you did before--that we should be
partners--in a secret--in Mr. Saffron's secret." She smiled again as she
added, "You can manage it all, I know, if you like. I've unlimited
confidence in your ingenuity--quite unlimited."

"But none at all in my honesty?"

"You've got an honesty; but I don't call it a really honest honesty."

"All this leads up to--the Radbolts!" declared Beaumaroy, with a gesture
of disgust.

"It does. I want your word of honour--given to a friend--that all that
money--all of it--goes to the Radbolts, if it legally belongs to them. I
want that in exchange for the certificate."

"A hard bargain! It isn't so much that I want the money--though I must
remark that in my judgment I have a strong claim to it; I would say a
moral claim but for my deference to your views, Doctor Mary. But it
isn't mainly that. I hate the Radbolts getting it--just as much as the
old man would have hated it."

"I have given you my--my terms," said Mary.

Beaumaroy stood looking down at her, his hands in his pockets. His face
was twisted in a humorous disgust. Mary laughed gently. "It is possible
to--to keep the rules without being a prig, you know, though I believe
you think it isn't."

"Including the sack in the water-butt? My sack--the sack I rescued?"

"Including the bag in the water-butt. Yes--every single sovereign!"
Though Mary was pursuing the high moral line, there was now more
mischief than gravity in her demeanour.

"Well, I'll do it!" He evidently spoke with a great effort. "I'll do it!
But, look here, Doctor Mary, you'll live to be sorry you made me do it.
Oh, I don't mean that that conscience of yours will be sorry. That'll
approve, no doubt, being the extremely conventionalized thing it is. But
you yourself--you'll be sorry--or I'm much mistaken in the Radbolts."

"It isn't a question of the Radbolts," she insisted, laughing.

"Oh yes, it is, and you'll come to feel it so." Beaumaroy was equally
obstinate.

Mary rose. "Then that's settled--and we needn't keep Captain Alec
waiting any longer."

"How do you know that I shan't cheat you?" he asked.

"I don't know how I know that," Mary admitted. "But I do know it. And I
want to tell you----"

She suddenly felt embarrassed under his gaze; her cheeks flushed, but
she went on resolutely:

"To tell you how glad, how happy, I am that it all ends like this; that
the poor old man is free of his fancies and his fears, beyond both our
pity and our laughter."

"Aye, he's earned rest, if there is to be rest for any of us!"

"And you can rest too. And you can laugh with us, and not at us. Isn't
that, after all, a more human sort of laughter?"

She was smiling still as she gave him her hand, but he saw that tears
stood in her eyes. The next instant she gave a little sob.

"Doctor Mary!" he exclaimed in rueful expostulation.

"No, no, how stupid you are!" She laughed through her sob. "It's not
unhappiness!" She pressed his hand tightly for an instant and then
walked quickly out of the house, calling back to him, "Don't come,
please don't come. I'd rather go to Captain Alec by myself."

Left alone in the cottage, now so quiet and so peaceful, Beaumaroy mused
awhile as he smoked his pipe. Then he turned to his labours--his final
night of work in the Tower. There was much to do, very much to do; he
achieved his task towards morning. When day dawned, there was nothing
but water in the water-butt, and in the Tower no furnishings were
visible save three chairs--a high carved one by the fireplace, and two
much smaller on the little platform under the window. The faded old red
carpet on the floor was the only attempt at decoration. And in still one
thing more the Tower was different from what it had been. Beaumaroy
contented himself with pasting brown paper over the pane on which Mike
had operated. He did not replace the match-boarding over the window, but
stowed it away in the coal-shed. The place was horribly in need of
sunshine and fresh air--and the old gentleman was no longer alive to
fear the draught!

When the undertaker came up to the cottage that afternoon, he glanced
from the parlour, through the open door, into the Tower.

"Driving past on business, sir," he remarked to Beaumaroy, "I've often
wondered what the old gentleman did with that there Tower. But it looks
as if he didn't make no use of it."

"We sometimes stored things in it," said Beaumaroy. "But, as you see,
there's nothing much there now."

But then the undertaker, worthy man, could not see through the carpet,
or through the lid of Captain Duggle's grave. That was full--fuller than
it had been at any period of its history. In it lay the wealth, the
sceptre, and the trappings of dead majesty. For wherein did Mr.
Saffron's dead majesty differ from the dead majesty of other kings?



CHAPTER XVII

THE CHIEF MOURNERS


The attendance was small at Mr. Saffron's funeral. Besides meek and
depressed Mrs. Wiles, and Beaumaroy himself, Doctor Mary found herself,
rather to her surprise, in company with old Mr. Naylor. On comparing
notes she discovered that, like herself, he had come on Beaumaroy's
urgent invitation and, moreover, that he was engaged also to come on
afterwards to Tower Cottage, where Beaumaroy was to entertain the chief
mourners at a midday repast. "Glad enough to show my respect to a
neighbour," said old Naylor. "And I always liked the old man's looks.
But really I don't see why I should go to lunch! However,
Beaumaroy----!"

Mary did not see why he should go to lunch--nor, for that matter, why
she should either, but curiosity about the chief mourners made her glad
that she was going. The chief mourners did not look, at first sight,
attractive. Mr. Radbolt was a short plump man, with a weaselly face and
cunning eyes; his wife's eyes, of a greeny colour, stared stolidly out
from her broad red face; she was taller than her mate, and her figure
contrived to be at once stout and angular. All through the service,
Beaumaroy's gaze was set on the pair as they sat or stood in front of
him, wandering from the one to the other in an apparently fascinated
study.

At the cottage he entertained his party in the parlour with a generous
hospitality, and treated the Radbolts with most courteous deference. The
man responded with the best manners that he had--who can do more? The
woman was much less cordial; she was curt, and treated Beaumaroy rather
as the servant than the friend of her dead cousin; there was a clear
suggestion of suspicion in her bearing towards him. After a broad stare
of astonishment on her introduction to "Dr. Arkroyd," she took very
little notice of Mary; only to Mr. Naylor was she clumsily civil and
even rather cringing; it was clear that in him she acknowledged the
gentleman. He sat by her, and she tried to insinuate herself into a
private conversation with him, apart from the others, probing him as to
his knowledge of the dead man and his mode of living. Her questions
hovered persistently round the point of Mr. Saffron's expenditure.

"Mr. Saffron was not a friend of mine," Naylor found it necessary to
explain. "I had few opportunities of observing his way of life, even if
I had felt any wish to do so."

"I suppose Beaumaroy knew all about his affairs," she suggested.

"As to that, I think you must ask Mr. Beaumaroy himself."

"From what the lawyers say, the old man seems to have been getting rid
of his money, somehow or to somebody," she grumbled in a positive
whisper.

To Mr. Naylor's intense relief, Beaumaroy interrupted this conversation.
"Well, how do you like this little place, Mrs. Radbolt?" he asked
cheerfully. "Not a bad little crib, is it? Don't you think so too, Dr.
Arkroyd?" Throughout this gathering Beaumaroy was very punctilious with
his "Dr. Arkroyd." One would have thought that Mary and he were almost
strangers.

"Yes, I like it," said Mary. "The Tower makes it rather unusual and
picturesque." This was not really her sincere opinion; she was playing
up to Beaumaroy, convinced that he had opened some conversational
manoeuvre.

"Don't like it at all," answered Mrs. Radbolt. "We'll get rid of it as
soon as we can, won't we, Radbolt?" She always addressed her husband as
"Radbolt."

"Don't be in a hurry, don't throw it away," Beaumaroy advised. "It's
not everybody's choice, of course, but there are quarters--yes, more
than one quarter--in which you might get a very good offer for this
place." His eye caught Mary's for a moment. "Indeed I wish I was in a
position to make you one myself. I should like to take it as it
stands--lock, stock, and barrel. But I've sunk all I had in another
venture--hope it'll turn out a satisfactory one! So I'm not in a
position to do it. If Mrs. Radbolt wants to sell, what would you think
of it, Dr. Arkroyd--as a speculation?"

Mary shook her head, smiling, glad to be able to smile with plausible
reason. "I'm not as fond of rash speculations as you are, Mr.
Beaumaroy."

"It may be worth more than it looks," he pursued. "Good neighbourhood,
healthy air, fruitful soil--very rich soil hereabouts."

"My dear Beaumaroy, the land about here is abominable," Naylor
expostulated.

"Perhaps generally, but some rich pockets--what one may call pockets,"
corrected Beaumaroy.

"I'm not an agriculturist," remarked weaselly Mr. Radbolt in his oily
tones.

"And then there's a picturesque old yarn told about it. Oh, whether it's
true or not, of course I don't know. It's about a certain Captain
Duggle--not the army--the Mercantile Marine, Mrs. Radbolt. You know the
story, Dr. Arkroyd? And you too, Mr. Naylor? You're the oldest
inhabitant of Inkston present, sir. Suppose you tell it to Mr. and Mrs.
Radbolt? I'm sure it will make them attach a new value to this really
very attractive cottage--with, as Dr. Arkroyd says, the additional
feature of the Tower."

"I know the story only as a friend of mine--Mr. Penrose--who takes great
interest in local records and traditions, told it to me. If our host
desires, I shall be happy to tell it to Mrs. Radbolt." Mr. Naylor
accompanied his words with a courtly little bow to that lady, and
launched upon the legend of Captain Duggle.

Mr. Radbolt was a religious man. At the end of the story he observed
gravely, "The belief in diabolical personalities is not to be lightly
dismissed, Mr. Beaumaroy."

"I'm entirely of your opinion, Mr. Radbolt." This time Mary felt that
her smile was not so plausible.

"There seems to have been nothing in the grave," mused Mrs. Radbolt.

"Apparently not when Captain Duggle left it--if he was ever in it--at
all events not when he left the house, in whatever way and by whatever
agency."

"As to the latter point, I myself incline to Penrose's theory," said
Mr. Naylor. "_Delirium tremens_, you know!"

Beaumaroy puffed at his cigar. "Still, I've often thought that, though
it was empty then, it would have made--supposing it really exists--an
excellent hiding-place for anybody who wanted such a thing. Say for a
miser, or a man who had his reasons for concealing what he was worth! I
once suggested the idea to Mr. Saffron, and he was a good deal amused.
He patted me on the shoulder and laughed heartily. He wasn't often so
much amused as that."

A new look came into Mrs. Radbolt's green eyes. Up to now, distrust of
Beaumaroy had predominated. His frank bearing, his obvious candour and
simplicity, had weakened her suspicions. But his words suggested
something else; he might be a fool, not a knave; Mr. Saffron had been
amused, had laughed beyond his wont. That might have seemed the best way
of putting Beaumaroy off the scent. The green eyes were now alert,
eager, immensely acquisitive.

"The grave's in the Tower, if it's anywhere. Would you like to see the
Tower, Mrs. Radbolt?"

"Yes, I should," she answered tartly. "Being part of our property as it
is."

Mary exchanged a glance with Mr. Naylor, as they followed the others
into the Tower. "What an abominable woman!" her glance said. Naylor
smiled a despairing acquiescence.

The strangers--chief mourners, heirs-at-law, owners now of the place
wherein they stood--looked round the bare brick walls of the little
rotunda. Naylor examined it with interest too--the old story was a
quaint one. Mary stood at the back of the group, smiling triumphantly.
How had he disposed of--everything? She had not been wrong in her
unlimited confidence in his ingenuity. She did not falter in her faith
in his word pledged to her.

"Safe from burglars, that grave of the Captain's, if you kept it
properly concealed!" Beaumaroy pursued in a sort of humorous meditation.
"And in these days some people like to have their money in their own
hands. Confiscatory legislation possible, isn't it, Mr. Naylor? You know
about those things better than I do. And then the taxes--shocking, Mr.
Radbolt! By Jove, I knew a chap the other day who came in for what
sounded like a pretty little inheritance. But by the time he'd paid all
the duties and so on, most of the gilt was off the gingerbread! It's
there--in front of the hearth--that the story says the grave is. Doesn't
it, Mr. Naylor?" A sudden thought seemed to strike him. "I say, Mrs.
Radbolt, would you like us to have a look whether we can find any
indications of it?" His eyes travelled beyond the lady whom he
addressed, they met Mary's. She knew their message; he was taking her
into his confidence about his experiment with the chief mourners.

The stout angular woman had leapt to her conclusion. Much less money
than had been expected--no signs of money having been spent--and here,
not the cunning knave whom she had expected, but a garrulous open fool,
giving away what was--perhaps--a golden secret! Mammon--the greed of
acquisitiveness, the voracious appetite for getting more--gleamed in her
green eyes.

"There? Do you say it's--it's supposed to be there?" she asked eagerly,
with a shake in her voice.

Her husband interposed in a suave and sanctimonious voice: "My dear, if
Mr. Beaumaroy and the other gentleman won't mind my saying so, I've been
feeling that these are rather light and frivolous topics for the day,
and the occasion which brings us here. The whole thing is probably an
unfounded story, although there is a sound moral to it. Later on--just
as a matter of curiosity--if you like, my dear. But to-day--Cousin
Aloysius's day of burial--is it quite seemly?"

The big woman looked at her smaller mate for just a moment--a
scrutinizing look. Then she said with most unexpected meekness, "I was
wrong. You always have the proper feelings, Radbolt."

"The fault was mine, entirely mine," Beaumaroy hastily interposed. "I
dragged in the old yarn, I led Mr. Naylor into telling it, I told you
about what I said to Mr. Saffron and how he took it. All my fault! I
acknowledge the justice of your rebuke. I apologize, Mr. Radbolt! And I
think that we've exhausted the interest of the Tower." He looked at his
watch; "Er--how do you stand for time? Shall Mrs. Wiles make us a cup of
tea, or have you a train to catch?"

"That's the woman in charge of the house, isn't it?" asked Mrs. Radbolt.

"Comes in for the day. She doesn't sleep here." He smiled pleasantly on
Mrs. Radbolt. "To tell you the truth, I don't think that she would
consent to sleep here by herself. Silly! But--the old story, you know!

"Don't you sleep here?" the woman persisted, though her husband was
looking at her rather uneasily.

"Up to now I have," said Beaumaroy. "But there's nothing to keep me here
now, and Mr. Naylor has kindly offered to put me up as long as I stay at
Inkston."

"Going to leave the place with nobody in it?"

Beaumaroy's manner indicated surprise. "Oh, yes! There's nothing to
tempt thieves, is there? Just lock the door and put the key in my
pocket!"

The woman looked very surly, but flummoxed. Her husband, with his suave
oiliness, came to her rescue. "My wife is always nervous, perhaps
foolishly nervous, about fire, Mr. Beaumaroy. Well, with an old house
like this, there is always the risk."

"Upon my soul, I hadn't thought of it! And I've packed up all my things,
and your car's come and fetched them, Mr. Naylor. Still, of course I
could----"

"Oh, we've no right, no claim, to trouble you, Mr. Beaumaroy. Only my
wife is----"

"Fire's an obsession with me, I'm afraid," said the stout woman, with a
rumbling giggle. The sound of her mirth was intolerably disagreeable to
Mary.

"I really think, my dear, that you'll feel easier if I stay myself,
won't you? You can send me what I want to-morrow, and rejoin me when we
arrange--because we shall have to settle what's to be done with the
place."

"As you please, Mr. Radbolt." Beaumaroy's tone was, for the first time,
a little curt. It hinted some slight offence--as though he felt himself
charged with carelessness, and considered Mrs. Radbolt's obsession mere
fussiness. "No doubt, if you stay, Mrs. Wiles will agree to stay too,
and do her best to make you comfortable."

"I shall feel easier that way, Radbolt," Mrs. Radbolt admitted, with
another rumble of apologetic mirth.

Beaumaroy motioned his guests back to the parlour. His manner retained
its shade of distance and offence. "Then it really only remains for me
to wish you good-bye--and all happiness in your new property. Any
information in my possession as to Mr. Saffron's affairs I shall, of
course, be happy to give you. Is the car coming for you, Mr. Naylor?"

"I thought it would be pleasant to walk back; and I hope Doctor Mary
will come with us and have some tea. I'll send you home afterwards,
Doctor Mary."

Farewells were exchanged, but now without even a show of cordiality.
Naylor and Doctor Mary felt too much distaste for the chief mourners to
attain more than a cold civility. Beaumaroy did not relax into his
earlier friendliness. His apparent dislike to her husband's plan of
staying at the cottage roused Mrs. Radbolt's suspicions again; was he a
rogue after all, but a very plausible, a very deep one? Only Mr.
Radbolt's unctuousness--surely it would have smoothed the stormiest
waves?--saved the social situation.

"Intelligent people, I thought," Beaumaroy observed, as the three
friends pursued their way across the heath towards Old Place. "Didn't
you, Mr. Naylor?"

Old Naylor grunted. With a twinkle in his eyes, Beaumaroy tried Doctor
Mary. "What was your impression of them?"

"Oh!" moaned Mary, with a deep and expressive note. "But how did you
know they'd be like that?"

"Letters--and the old man's description; he had a considerable command
of language, and very violent likes and dislikes. I made a picture of
them--and it's turned out pretty accurate."

"And those were the nearest kith and kin your poor old man had?" Naylor
shook his head sadly. "The woman obviously cared not a straw about
anything but handling his money--and couldn't even hide it! A gross and
horrible female, Beaumaroy!"

"Were you really hurt about their insisting on staying?" asked Mary.

"Oh, come, you're sharper than that, Doctor Mary! Still, I think I did
it pretty well. I set the old girl thinking again, didn't I?" He broke
into laughter, and Mary joined in heartily. Old Naylor glanced from one
to the other with an air of curiosity.

"You two people look to me--somehow--as if you'd got a secret between
you."

"Perhaps we have! Mr. Naylor's a man of honour, Doctor Mary; a man who
appreciates a situation, a man you can trust." Beaumaroy seemed very gay
and happy now, disembarrassed of a load, and buoyant alike in walk and
in spirit. "What do you say to letting Mr. Naylor--just him--nobody
else--into our secret?"

Mary put her arm through old Mr. Naylor's. "I don't mind, if you don't.
But nobody else!"

"Then you shall tell him--the entire story--at your leisure. Meanwhile
I'll begin at the wrong end. I told you I'd made a picture of the hated
cousins, of the heirs-at-law, these sorrowing chief mourners. Well,
having made a picture of them that's proved true, I'll make a prophecy
about them, and I'll bet you it proves just as true."

"Go on," said Mary. "Listen, Mr. Naylor," she added, with a squeeze of
the old man's arm.

"You're like a couple of naughty children!" he said, with an
affectionate look and laugh.

"Well, my prophecy is that they'll swear the poor dear old man's estate
at under five thousand."

"Well, why shouldn't----?" old Naylor began; but he stopped as he saw
Mary's eyes meet Beaumaroy's in a rapture of quick and delighted
understanding.

"And then perhaps you'll own to being sorry, Doctor Mary!"

"So that's what you were up to, was it?" said Mary.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE GOLD AND THE TREASURE


Old Mr. Naylor called on Mary two or three days later--at an hour when,
as he well knew, Cynthia was at his own house--in order to hear the
story. There were parts of it which she could not describe fully for
lack of knowledge--the enterprise of Mike and Big Neddy, for example;
but all that she knew she told frankly, and did not scruple to invoke
her imagination to paint Beaumaroy's position, with its difficulties,
demands, obligations--and temptations. He heard her with close
attention, evidently amused, and watching her animated face with a keen
and watchful pleasure.

"Surprising!" he said at the end, rubbing his hands together. "That's to
say, not in itself particularly surprising. Just a queer little
happening; one would think nothing of it if one read it in the
newspaper! Things are always so much more surprising when they happen
down one's own street, or within a few minutes' walk of one's garden
wall--and when one actually knows the people involved in them. Still I
was always inclined to agree with Dr. Irechester that there was
something out of the common about old Saffron and our friend Beaumaroy."

"Dr. Irechester never found out what it was, though!" exclaimed Mary
triumphantly.

"No, he didn't--for reasons pretty clearly indicated in your narrative."
He sat back in his chair, his elbows on the arms and his hands clasped
before him. "If I may say so, the really curious thing is to find you in
the thick of it, Doctor Mary."

"That wasn't my fault. I couldn't refuse to attend Mr. Saffron. Dr.
Irechester himself said so."

He paid no heed to her protest. "In the thick of it--and enjoying it so
tremendously!"

Mary looked thoughtful. "I didn't at first. I was angry, indignant,
suspicious. I thought I was being made a fool of."

"So you were--a fool and a tool, my dear!"

"But that night--because it all really happened in just one night--the
chief mourners, as Mr. Beaumaroy always calls them, were no more
than----"

"Just a rather amusing epilogue--yes, that's all."

"That night, it did get hold of me." She laughed a little nervously, a
little uneasily.

"And now you tell it to me--and I must say that your telling made it
twice the story that it really is--now you tell it as if it were the
greatest thing that ever happened to you!"

For a moment Mary fenced. "Well, nothing interesting ever has happened
in my humdrum life before." But old Naylor pursed up his lips in
contempt of her fencing. "It did seem to me a great--a great experience.
Not the burglars and all that--though some of the things, like the
water-butt, did amuse me very much--but our being apart from all the
world, there by ourselves--against the whole world in a way, Mr.
Naylor."

"The law on one side, the robbers on the other--and you two alone
together!"

"Yes, you understand. That was the way I felt it. But we weren't
together, not in every way. I mean--we were fighting between ourselves
too--right up to the very end." She gave another low laugh. "I suppose
we're fighting still; he means to face me with some Radbolt villainy,
and make me sorry for what he calls my legalism--with an epithet!"

"That's his idea, and my own too, I confess. Those chief mourners will
find the money--and some other things that'll make 'em stare. But
they'll lie low; they'll sit on the cash till the time comes when it's
safe to dispose of it; and they'll bilk the Inland Revenue out of the
duties. The remarkable thing is that Beaumaroy seems to want them to do
it."

"That's to make me sorry; that's to prove me wrong, Mr. Naylor."

"It may make you sorry--it makes me sorry, for that matter; but it
doesn't prove you wrong. You were right. My boy Alec would have taken
the same line as you did. Now you needn't laugh at me, Mary. I own up at
once--that's my highest praise."

"I know it is; and it implies a contrast?"

Old Naylor unclasped his hands and spread them in a deprecatory gesture.
"It must do that," he acknowledged.

Mary gave a rebellious little toss of her head. "I don't care if it
does, Mr. Naylor! Mr. Beaumaroy is--my friend now."

"And mine. Moreover I have such confidence in his honour and fidelity
that I have offered him a rather important and confidential position in
my business--to represent us at one of the foreign ports where we have
considerable interests." He smiled. "It's the sort of place where he
will perhaps find himself less trammelled by--er--legalism, and with
more opportunities for his undoubted gift of initiative."

"Will he accept your offer? Will he go?" she asked rather excitedly.

"Without doubt, I think. It's really quite a good offer. And what
prospects has he now--or here?"

Mary stretched her hands towards the fire and gazed into it in silence.

"I think you'll have an offer soon too, and a good one, Doctor Mary.
Irechester was over at our place yesterday. He's still of opinion that
there was something queer at Tower Cottage. Indeed he thinks that Mr.
Saffron was queer himself--in his head--and that a clever doctor would
have found it out."

"That he himself would, if he'd gone on attending----?"

"Precisely. But he's not surprised that you didn't; you lacked the
experience. Still he thinks none the worse of you for that, and he told
me that he has made up his mind to offer you partnership. Irechester's a
bit stiff, but a very straight fellow. You could rely on being fairly
treated, and it's a good practice. Besides he's well off, and quite
likely to retire as soon as he sees you fairly in the saddle."

"It's a great compliment." Here Mary's voice sounded quite
straightforward and sincere. An odd little note of contempt crept into
it as she added, "And it sounds--ideal!"

"Yes, it does," old Naylor agreed, with a private smile all to himself,
whilst Mary still gazed into the fire. "Quite ideal. You're a lucky
young woman, Mary." He rose to take his leave. "So, with our young folk
happily married, and you installed, and friend Beaumaroy suited to his
liking--why, upon my word, we may ring the curtain down on a happy
ending--of Act I, at all events!"

She seemed to pay no heed to his words. He stood for a moment admiring
her; not a beauty, but a healthy comely young woman, stout-hearted, and
with humanity and a sense of fun in her. And, as he looked, his true
feeling about the situation suddenly burst through all restraint and
leapt from his lips. "Though, for my part, under the circumstances, if I
were you, I'd see old Irechester damned before I accepted the
partnership!"

She turned to him--startled, yet suddenly smiling. He took her hand and
raised it to his lips.

"Hush! Not another word! Good-bye, my dear Mary!"

The next day, as Mary, her morning round finished, sat at lunch with
Cynthia, listening--or not listening--to her friend's excusably eager
chatter about her approaching wedding, a note was delivered into her
hands:

     "The C.M.'s are in a hurry! She's back! The window is boarded up
     again! Come and see! About 4 o'clock this afternoon. B."

Mary kept the appointment. She found Beaumaroy strolling up and down on
the road in front of the cottage. The Tower window was boarded up again,
but with new strong planks, in a much more solid and workman-like
fashion. If he were to try again, Mike would not find it so easy to
negotiate, without making a dangerous noise over the job.

"Such impatience--such undisguised rapacity--is indecent and revolting,"
Beaumaroy remarked. He seemed to be in the highest spirits. "I wonder if
they've opened it yet!"

"They'll see you prowling about outside, won't they?"

"I hope so. Indeed I've no doubt of it. Mrs. Greeneyes is probably
peering through the parlour window at this minute and cursing me. I like
it! To those people I represent law and order. If they can rise to the
conception of such a thing at all, I probably embody conscience. When
you come to think of it, it's a pleasant turn of events that I should
come to represent law and order and conscience to anybody--even to the
Radbolts."

"It is rather a change," she agreed. "But let's walk on. I don't really
much want to think of them."

"That's because you feel that you're losing the bet. I can't stop them
getting the money in the end--that's your doing! I can't stop them
cheating the Revenue--which is what they certainly mean to do--without
exposing myself to more inconvenience than I am disposed to undergo in
the cause of the Revenue. Whereas if I had left the bag in the
water-butt----! All your doing! Aren't you a little sorry?"

"Of course there is an aspect of the case----" she admitted, smiling.

"That's enough for me! You've lost the bet. Let's see--what were the
stakes, Mary?"

"Come, let's walk on." She put her arm through his. "What about this
berth that Mr. Naylor's offering you? At Bogota, isn't it?"

He looked puzzled for a moment; then his mind worked quickly back to
Cynthia's almost forgotten tragedy. He laughed in enjoyment of her
thrust. "My place isn't Bogota--though I fancy that it's rather in the
same moral latitude. You're confusing me with Captain Cranster!"

"So I was--for a moment," said Doctor Mary demurely. "But what about
the appointment, anyhow?"

"What about your partnership with Dr. Irechester, if you come to that?"

Mary pressed his arm gently, and they walked on in silence for a little
while. They were clear of the neighbourhood of Tower Cottage now, but
still a considerable distance from Old Place; very much alone together
on the heath, as they had seemed to be that night--that night of
nights--at the cottage.

"I haven't so much as received the offer yet; only Mr. Naylor has
mentioned it to me."

"Still you'd like to be ready with your answer when the offer is made,
wouldn't you?" He drew suddenly away from her, and stood still on the
road, opposite to her. His face lost its playfulness; as it set into
gravity, the lines upon it deepened, and his eyes looked rather sad.
"This is wrong of me, perhaps, but I can't help it. I'm not going to
talk to you about myself. Confessions and apologies and excuses, and so
on, aren't in my line. I should probably tell lies if I attempted
anything of the sort. You must take me or leave me on your own judgment,
on your own feeling about me, as you've seen and known me--not long, but
pretty intimately, Mary." He suddenly reached his hand into his pocket
and pulled out the combination knife-and-fork. "That's all I've brought
away of his from Tower Cottage. And I brought it away as much for your
sake as for his. It was during our encounter over this instrument that I
first thought of you as a woman, Mary. And, by Jove, I believe you knew
it!"

"Yes, I believe I did," she answered, her eyes set very steadily on his.

He slipped the thing back into his pocket. "And now I love you, and I
want you, Mary."

She fell into a sudden agitation. "Oh, but this doesn't seem for me! I'd
put all that behind me!--I----" She could scarcely find words. "I--I'm
just Doctor Mary!"

"Lots of people to practise on--bodies and souls too--in the moral
latitude I'm going to!"

Her body seemed to shiver a little, as though before a plunge into deep
water. "I'm very safe here," she whispered.

"Yes, you're safe here," he acknowledged gravely, and stood silent,
waiting for her choice.

"What a decision to have to make!" she cried suddenly. "It's all my life
in a moment! Because I don't want you to go away from me!" She drew near
to him, and put her hands on his shoulders. "I'm not a child, like
Cynthia. I can't dream dreams and make idols any more. I think I see you
as you are, and I don't know whether your love is a good thing." She
paused, searching his eyes with hers very earnestly. Then she went on,
"But if it isn't, I think there's no good thing left for me at all."

"Mary, isn't that your answer to me?"

"Yes." Her arms fell from his shoulders, and she stood opposite to him,
in silence again for a moment. Then her troubled face cleared to a calm
serenity. "And now I set doubts and fears behind me. I come to you in
faith, and loyalty, and love. I'm not a missionary to you, or a
reformer. God forbid! I'm just the woman who loves you, Hector."

"I should have mocked at the missionary, and tricked the reformer." He
bared his head before her. "But by the woman who loves me and whom I
love, I will deal faithfully." He bent and kissed her forehead.

"And now, let's walk on. No, not to Old Place--back home, past Tower
Cottage."

She put her arm through his again, and they set out through the soft
dusk that had begun to hover about them. So they came to the cottage,
and here, for a while, instinctively stayed their steps. A light shone
in the parlour window; the Tower was dark and still. Mary turned her
face to Beaumaroy's with a sudden smile of scornful gladness.

"Aye, aye, you're right!" His smile answered hers. "Poor devils! I'm
sorry for them, upon my soul I am!"

"That really is just like you!" she exclaimed in mirthful exasperation.
"Sorry for the Radbolts now, are you?"

"Well, after all, they've only got the gold. We've got the treasure,
Mary!"

       *       *       *       *       *

BY THE SAME AUTHOR


A CHANGE OF AIR

A MAN OF MARK

THE CHRONICLES OF COUNT ANTONIO

PHROSO

SIMON DALE

THE KING'S MIRROR

QUISANTÉ

THE DOLLY DIALOGUES

A SERVANT OF THE PUBLIC

TALES OF TWO PEOPLE

THE GREAT MISS DRIVER

MRS. MAXON PROTESTS

A YOUNG MAN'S YEAR





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