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Title: The Crime and the Criminal
Author: Marsh, Richard, 1857-1915
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Crime and the Criminal" ***

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[Illustration: "She had fallen backwards through the open carriage
door." _Frontispiece_]



                                 THE
                        Crime and the Criminal



                                  BY
                            RICHARD MARSH
                              AUTHOR OF
  "THE BEETLE," "THE MYSTERY OF PHILIP BENNION'S DEATH," ETC., ETC.



                          *   *   *   *   *

                   WITH TWO FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS
                          BY HAROLD PIFFARD

                          *   *   *   *   *



                               NEW YORK
                      NEW AMSTERDAM BOOK COMPANY
                                 1899



                              CONTENTS.

                              *   *   *

                         BOOK I.--THE CRIME.

                              CHAPTER I.
       THE OPEN DOOR.


                             CHAPTER II.
       THE MAN WITH THE SILK HANDKERCHIEF.


                             CHAPTER III.
       THE NAME ON THE SCRAP OF PAPER.


                             CHAPTER IV.
       BLACKMAIL.


                              CHAPTER V.
       THE FACE IN THE DARKNESS.


                             CHAPTER VI.
       A CONFESSION.


                             CHAPTER VII.
       A VISITOR.


                            CHAPTER VIII.

       MORE THAN HIS MATCH.


                             CHAPTER IX.
       FOR THE SECOND TIME.



                         BOOK II.--THE CLUB.

                              CHAPTER X.
       THE HONOUR OF THE CLUB.


                             CHAPTER XI.
       WHAT MR. TENNANT HAD WRITTEN.


                             CHAPTER XII.
       SIR HASELTON JARDINE.


                            CHAPTER XIII.
       AN AFTERNOON CALL.


                             CHAPTER XIV.
       SELLING BOOMJOPFS.


                             CHAPTER XV.
       THE CLUB.


                             CHAPTER XVI.
       DRAWING THE LOT.


                            CHAPTER XVII.
       A LITTLE GAME.


                            CHAPTER XVIII.
       DAMON AND PYTHIAS: A MODERN INSTANCE.


                             CHAPTER XIX.
       THE PROMISE.


                             CHAPTER XX.
       THE NEWS FROM TOWN.



                        BOOK III.--THE WOMAN.


                             CHAPTER XXI.
       THE ADVENTURES OF A NIGHT.


                            CHAPTER XXII.
       LOUISE O'DONNEL'S FATHER.


                            CHAPTER XXIII.
       MR. TOWNSEND COMES TO TEA.


                            CHAPTER XXIV.
       WHAT MRS. CARRUTH SAW.


                             CHAPTER XXV.
       MR. TOWNSEND'S DOUBLE.


                            CHAPTER XXVI.
       ANNOUNCED!


                            CHAPTER XXVII.
       MR. TOWNSEND IS MADE TO UNDERSTAND.


                           CHAPTER XXVIII.
       THE PRISONER COMES INTO COURT.


                            CHAPTER XXIX.
       THE TRIAL BEGINS.


                             CHAPTER XXX.
       MR. TAUNTON'S EVIDENCE.


                            CHAPTER XXXI.
       THE CASE FOR THE CROWN CONCLUDES.


                            CHAPTER XXXII.
       MRS. CARRUTH REMOVES HER VEIL.



                       BOOK IV.--THE CRIMINAL.


                           CHAPTER XXXIII.
       MR. TENNANT SPEAKS.


                            CHAPTER XXXIV.
       MR. HOLMAN AT HOME.


                            CHAPTER XXXV.
       THE WOMAN OF THE PORTRAIT.


                            CHAPTER XXXVI.
       THE VARIOUS MOODS OF A GENTLEMAN OF FASHION.


                           CHAPTER XXXVII.
       "CALL ME DORA."

                           CHAPTER XXXVIII.
       ON THE THRESHOLD.


                            CHAPTER XXXIX.
       THE LAST MEETING OF THE CLUB.


                             CHAPTER XL.
       MR. TOWNSEND REACHES HOME.


                             CHAPTER XLI.
       TAKING LEAVE.


                            CHAPTER XLII.
       HAND IN HAND.



                     THE CRIME AND THE CRIMINAL.



                          BOOK I.-THE CRIME.

            (_The Story according to Mr. Thomas Tennant_.)



                              CHAPTER I.

                            THE OPEN DOOR.


I ran down to Brighton for the Sunday. My wife's cousin, George
Baxendale, was stopping there, with the Coopers. The wife and I were
both to have gone. But our little Minna was very queer--feverish cold,
or something--and Lucy did not like to leave her with the nurse. So I
went down alone.

It was a fine day, for November. We drove over to Bramber--Jack Cooper
and his wife, Baxendale, and I. When we got back to Regency Square it
was pretty late. I was to go back by the 8.40. When we had dined I had
to make quite a rush to catch the train. Jack and George both came up
to see me off. As the Pullman carriages all seemed full, I got into the
compartment of an ordinary first-class carriage.

"You'll be better in there," said Jack. "You'll have it to yourself."

I did, till just as the train was off. When the train had actually
started, a woman came hurrying up the platform. A porter threw open the
door of my carriage, and she got in. I let her have the seat by the
door through which she had entered. I went to the other end of the
compartment. I did not feel too much obliged to the porter who had
shown her in. Although it was not a smoking carriage, as I had expected
to have had it to myself, I had intended to smoke all the way to town.
In fact, I was smoking at that moment. I hardly knew what to do. The
train did not stop till it reached Victoria. There would be no
opportunity of changing carriages. I did not relish the idea of not
smoking, while I scarcely knew if I might venture to ask permission to
smoke of the new-comer.

I made up my mind that I would. I had only just lighted a cigar. I had
not looked at her as she came up the platform, to notice what kind of
person she was. I had been too much engaged with Jack and George. I
turned to her, raising my hat as I did so.

"May I ask if you object to----"

I had got so far; but I got no farther. She looked at me, and, as she
did so, and I saw her face clearly, and met her eyes, my blood went
cold in my veins.

The woman at the other end of the carriage was either Nelly, or Nelly's
ghost. If she was her ghost, then she was the most substantial ghost I
had ever heard of. And yet I had to stare at her for some moments in
stupefied silence before I could believe that she was not a ghost.
Before I could believe that she was genuine flesh and blood.

She struck me as being as much surprised at seeing me as I was at
seeing her--and, at first at any rate, not much better pleased. We
stared at each other as if we were moonstruck. She was the first to
find her voice--she always was quicker, in every sense of the word,
than I am.

"Tom!" she said. Then gave a sort of gasp.

"Nelly!" It was all I could do to get her name to pass my lips.

I am not going to enter into details as to what I said to her, and as
to what she said to me. Nothing pleasant was said on either side. When
a man meets a woman, even after a separation of seven years and more,
who has wronged him as Ellen Howth, as she was named when I first knew
her, had wronged me, he is not likely to greet her with sugared
phrases, especially when he has had every reason to suppose that his
prayers have been answered, and that she is dead. When I saw that she
had tricked me, for the thousand-and-first time, and that she was not
dead, as I have written, my blood went cold. When it warmed, it was not
with love for her.

We quarrelled, as we had done many and many a time before. She had been
drinking. She was always bad enough when sober; when not sober she was
infinitely worse. Every moment I expected her to assail me with
personal violence. She threatened to, over and over again. I feared
that there would be some outrageous scene in the railway carriage.
Fearing this, and the scandal which such a thing would necessarily
entail, I formed a wild resolution. I determined that, even while the
train continued to fly through the air, I would leave the compartment
in which she was, and at any and every risk seek refuge in an adjoining
one.

The resolution was no sooner formed than I proceeded to put it into
execution. There was no necessity to lower the window; the handle was
inside the carriage. Turning the handle, I rose from my seat. Whether
she mistook or designed to frustrate my purpose, I cannot say. No
sooner did I rise, than she came rushing at me. The violence of her
assault took me by surprise. The handle escaping from my grasp, the
door swung back upon its hinges. She had me by the shoulders. I
endeavoured to wrest myself free. There was a struggle. In the
struggle, unconsciously certainly to me, we must have reversed our
positions, because, suddenly loosing her grasp of me, before I had the
faintest suspicion of what was about to happen, she had fallen
backwards through the open carriage door, out into the night, and the
train was going at express speed to town.

It was some moments before I realised what had actually occurred. When
I did do so, I sat down on the seat in a sort of stupor. I was roused
from it by the banging of the carriage door. It was being swung
backwards and forwards by the momentum of the train. I shut it, almost
mechanically; as I did so I noticed that the glass was shattered. It
might have been broken by the banging of the door, or she might have
broken it by striking it in her frantic efforts to clutch at something.

What was I to do? My eyes wandered to the alarm-bell. Should I ring it
and stop the train? To what purpose? She might not be dead. Indeed, the
probabilities were that she was, at least, not quite dead. In such a
case I knew her well enough to be aware that nothing was more likely
than that she would at once denounce me as her attempted murderer. Then
in what a plight I should be! To the best of my knowledge and belief
she had brought her fate upon herself. I had nothing to do with it.
Undoubtedly, I had not opened the door to hurl her through. It is easy
enough after the event to say that at all hazards I ought at once to
have stopped the train, and explained what had occurred. I should have
done so had I been able to foresee the events which followed. I should
have been willing to have given a great deal to have saved myself from
bearing what I actually have borne. But, at the moment, I foresaw
nothing. My wits were woolgathering. I was confronted by the thought
that, in face of her allegations of my guilt, my protestations of
innocence might avail but little. I had suffered too much on her
account already to have any desire to suffer more.

As I sat there thinking, something struck me a severe blow in the face.
It was a piece of glass from the broken window which had been loosened,
and which had been forced out of its place by the pressure of the wind.
I lowered the window, lest the remaining fragments should also be
driven from their places. The sharp edge of the piece of glass had come
into contact with my cheek. It had cut me to the bone. I put up my
handkerchief to stop the bleeding. As I did so I noticed that my
overcoat seemed to have been torn open in the struggle; the top button
appeared to be missing.

The blood flowed freely from the open wound. The piece of glass seemed
to have cut me like a knife. My handkerchief was quite inadequate to
stop the flow. It was becoming soaked with blood. While I was wondering
what I should do if the bleeding did not shortly cease, the train drew
up at Victoria.

The distance between Brighton and town had never before seemed to me to
be so short.



                             CHAPTER II.

                 THE MAN WITH THE SILK HANDKERCHIEF.


Now that I had reached Victoria I did not know what to do. I continued
to sit in a sort of bewilderment, wondering. Should I speak to the
guard, or should I not? Should I walk out of the station as if nothing
had happened? I was, or it seemed to me that I was, between the devil
and the deep sea. Whichever path I took was the path, not of safety but
of danger.

While I sat hesitating and apparently incapable of anything but
hesitation, the carriage door was opened. I supposed that, seeing me, a
porter had opened it for me to alight. But it was not a porter who
stood there looking in--looking in, as it struck me, with eager
curiosity. It was an individual in a top hat and an overcoat ornamented
with fur cuffs and collar. Even in my state of confusion, and in that
imperfect light, I was at once struck by the fact that both hat and
overcoat were the worse for wear. The face under the hat was also the
worse for wear. The cheeks were ruddy, with a ruddiness which suggested
alcohol. The moustache and whiskers were too black for nature. The
eyes, which were at once both impudent and shifty, in colour almost
matched the whiskers. There was something about the man which reminded
me of some one I had seen before. Who it was, at the moment, I could
not think.

He addressed me with what he probably intended for an ingratiating
smile, "This is Victoria." I told him I was aware of it. "All get out
here." I added that I was also aware of that.

His eyes, which had been travelling round and round the carriage in an
eager, searching fashion, which, for some reason, made me curiously
uneasy, finally rested on my face. He at once noticed the blood-stained
handkerchief which I still was holding to my cheek.

"Nose bleeding?"

"No; I've cut my cheek."

I don't know why I sat there speaking to the man as I did.

"Permit me to offer you my handkerchief; yours seems soaked with
blood."

Taking out a red silk handkerchief, the corner of which had been
protruding from the outside pocket of his overcoat, he held it out to
me. I was reluctant to take it. One is reluctant to accept the loan of
a silk handkerchief from a perfect stranger, more especially, perhaps,
from the sort of stranger he appeared to be. But what was I to do? I
was in want of a handkerchief. My own was worse than useless. It was
reeking wet. Great gouts of blood were commencing to drop from it. My
cheek was bleeding as profusely as ever. I was beginning to wonder if a
blood-vessel had been severed. One cannot buy handkerchiefs on a Sunday
night. I should have to borrow from some one. So I borrowed from him.
Unwillingly enough, I admit. As I applied his handkerchief to my cheek,
turning, I threw my own through the open window at my side.

He rushed forward, as if to stay my arm. He was too late. The
handkerchief had gone. "Good God!" he exclaimed, "what have you done?"

He seemed unnecessarily excited, considering that, in any case, the
handkerchief was mine.

"I've thrown it away. You don't suppose that, in that condition, I
could carry it home." He looked at me with his eager eyes.

"Was your name upon it?"

"I believe so; why?"

Leaning over, he laid his hand upon my shoulder. He spoke in a tone of
voice which, in spite of myself, sent a thrill all over me.

"Man, supposing they find it? It may be a question of life or death.
Let's get out of this--come!"

It was time that we left the carriage. I had noticed a porter staring
in, as if wondering why we remained its occupants. But that was no
reason why the stranger, thrusting his arm through mine, should have
almost dragged me out on to the platform. As he continued to cling to
me when we were on the platform, I remonstrated--"Be so good as to
release my arm."

Paying no attention to my request, he made as if to hurry me on.

"Come to a little place I know near here. I am a bit of a doctor. I'll
soon make that cut of yours all right."

I did not budge. I repeated my request--

"Be so good as to release my arm. I am obliged to you for your
suggestion. I, however, prefer to go straight home."

"Quite right; there is no place like home. Let's go and find a cab."

Not at all nonplussed, he again made as if to hasten on. I still
declined to budge.

"Thank you. I can perform that office for myself. If you will give me
your address, I will forward you your handkerchief. Or, if you prefer
it, I will deposit with you its value."

"Sir, I am a gentleman." He drew himself up with an assumption of
dignity which was so overdone as to be ludicrous. The two last words he
repeated--"A gentleman!"

"I do not doubt it. It is I who may not be a gentleman."

"I, sir, can tell a gentleman when I see one." He laid a stress upon
the personal pronoun, as if he wished me to infer that such clearness
of vision might be a personal peculiarity. "I will give you my address
in the cab."

Willing to humour him, I suffered him to stroll up the platform at my
side. I held out my hand to him when we reached a hansom.

"Your address?"

"I said I would give you my address in the cab." Leaning towards me, he
spoke in that curious tone which had impressed me so unpleasantly in
the railway carriage. "Get into the cab, man; I travelled from Brighton
in the next compartment to yours."

I was foolish. I ought, even at the eleventh hour, to have addressed
myself to an official, to have made a clean breast of it, to have told
him of the accident, the unavoidable accident, which had happened on
the line. I know that now too well. I knew it, dimly, then. But, at the
moment, I was weak. The fellow's manner increased my state of mental
confusion. In a sense, his words overwhelmed me. I yielded to him. I
got into the cab. He placed himself at my side.

"Where shall I tell the man to drive?" he asked.

"Anywhere."

"Piccadilly Circus!" he shouted. The cab was off.

We sat in silence, I in a state of mind which I should find some
difficulty in making plain. I will not attempt it. I will only say that
I should have dearly liked to have taken my friend, the stranger, by
the scuff of his neck and to have thrown him out into the street. I did
not dare.

When we were clear of the traffic I asked him, in a voice which I
scarcely knew to be my own, it was so husky and dry--

"What did you mean by saying that you travelled from Brighton in the
next compartment to mine?"

"Mean? My dear sir, I meant what I said. It was a coincidence--nothing
more." He spoke lightly; impudently even. I felt incapable of pressing
him for a more precise explanation. He added, as a sort of
afterthought, "I'm a detective."

I turned to him with a start. "A detective?"

He pretended to be surprised by my surprise.

"What's the matter, my dear sir?" He paused. Then, with a sneer, "I'm
not that sort. I'm the respectable sort. I'm a private detective, sir.
I make delicate inquiries for persons of position and of means." He
emphasised "means." "Have you a cigar?"

"I gave him one; he proceeded to light it. I was conscious that, since
I had admitted him to a share of the cab, a change had taken place in
his bearing. It was not only familiar, it was positively brutal. Yet,
strange though it may appear--and I would point out that nothing is so
common as that sort of wisdom which enables us to point out the folly
of each other's behaviour--I found myself unable to resent it.

"I've been down to Brighton on business; to make inquiries about a
woman."

"A woman?"

"A woman who is missing--women are missing now and then--Louise
O'Donnel. I suppose you never happen to have heard the name?"

"Louise O'Donnel?" I wondered what he meant; there was meaning in his
tone. Indeed, every word he uttered, every gesture he made, seemed
pregnant with meaning. The more I saw of him, the more uncomfortable I
became. "I do not remember to have heard the name Louise O'Donnel."

"Yes, Louise O'Donnel. You're quite sure you never heard it?"

"So far as I remember, never."

"Perhaps your memory is at fault; one never knows." He puffed at his
cigar--or, rather, he puffed at my cigar. "I don't think I'll give you
my address. I'll call for the handkerchief at yours. What is your
address?"

I hesitated. I was quite aware that to give him my address would be to
commit a further act of folly. But, at the same time, I did not see how
I could avoid giving it him without a row or worse.

"My office is in Austin Friars?"

"Austin Friars? You don't happen to have a card about you?"

I did happen to have one of my business cards in my letter-case. Taking
it out, I gave it to him. He looked at it askance, reading the name on
it out loud.

"Thomas Tennant. Rather an alliterative kind of name. Almost like a
pseudonym." I sat in silence. "However, there may be some one about
with such a name." He slipped the card into his waistcoat pocket. "I
shall have pleasure, Mr. Tennant, in calling on you, for my silk
handkerchief, in Austin Friars; possibly to-morrow, possibly next week,
or the week after--but that I shall call for it, sooner or later, you
may rest assured." He looked at me with a grin. "Now that we have
transacted that little piece of business, I don't think there is any
necessity for me to inflict my company upon you any longer. I may as
well get out."

I was thankful for the prospect of a prompt deliverance. But I was not
to be rid of him so easily, as his next words showed. He was drumming
with his finger-tips on the front of the cab.

"By the way, you were good enough to mention something about a deposit
for my handkerchief. I think that, after all, I will trouble you for
one."

I advanced my hand towards my pocket.

"With pleasure. If you have no objection, I will buy the handkerchief
right out at a liberal price?"

His reply was a sneer.

"Thank you; I am obliged; the handkerchief is not for sale. I prize it
too greatly--as a present from my late lamented greatgrandmother. But
something on deposit I don't mind."

"How much shall we say?"

"Say--we'll say ten pounds."

"Ten pounds!" I stared at him. The fellow's impudence was increasing.
"You are jesting."

He turned on me quite savagely--his black eyes glared.

"Jesting? What do you mean by saying I am jesting?"

"I shall certainly deposit with you no sum approaching ten pounds."

He continued to regard me as if he were taking my measure. I met his
glance unflinchingly. I wished him to understand that I was not quite
the simpleton he seemed to take me for. I think he grasped something of
my meaning. His tone became sullen.

"Make it five pounds, then."

"I am more likely to make it five shillings. However, under the
peculiar circumstances, as I don't know what I should have done without
your handkerchief, I don't mind going as far as half a sovereign, which
is about four times its value."

His reply, though scarcely a direct answer to my words, still was
sufficiently plain.

"You and I, Mr. Tennant, will spend the night together."

"Again, I ask you, what do you mean by that?"

The fellow smoothed his clean-shaven chin and grinned.

"I mean, Mr. Tennant, that I am beginning to suspect that it may be my
painful duty to thrust myself on your society until I have ascertained
what became of the woman who got into your compartment at Brighton, but
who was not in it when we reached Victoria."

A creepy, crawly feeling went all over me. This came of not having told
the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, directly the
accident had happened. Already I was suspected of the worst. And by
such a fellow! Already, to a certain extent, I was in his power.

I did not give him the five pounds he asked. I did not make quite such
an idiot of myself as that. But I gave him much more than his ancient
rag was worth. He rattled the coins, gold coins, together in the palms
of his hands; he chuckled at the sound of them; he called out to the
cabman, "Stop!" Standing on the pavement, he took off his hat to me
with a sweeping flourish, saying, with a laugh--

"The handkerchief itself--that priceless relic of my late lamented
greatgrandmother!--I will call for at your office in Austin Friars."



                             CHAPTER III.

                   THE NAME ON THE SCRAP OF PAPER.


I was quite conscious, as I drove home the rest of the way alone, that
I had made of myself, doubly and trebly, a fool. But, if possible,
still worse remained behind.

How the African gentleman, of whom I read the other day, manages with
999 wives, I, for one, am at a loss to understand. When a man is on
good terms with one wife--and I had rather be on good terms with one
wife than on bad terms with 999--occasions do arise on which he
experiences little difficulties. For instance, I had been in the habit
of telling my wife everything--or, perhaps, it would be more correct to
write, practically everything. It would have been well for me if there
had been no reservations. As a matter of fact, I had said nothing about
two or three little incidents of my pre-nuptial existence. Notably, I
had said nothing about Ellen Howth--though that, perhaps, was rather
more than an incident.

The result was that when I reached home I was in something of a
quandary. The wife plied me with the usual questions, to which I was
unable to supply the accustomed copious and satisfactory answers. She
wished to know how my face came to be cut in that terrible fashion. I
rigged up some cock-and-bull story about a broken window--a window had
been broken, but not altogether in the manner I led her to infer. Then
she found that a button was missing from my overcoat. Another
cock-and-bull story had to be manufactured to account for that. It did
not require a woman's keen eyes to discover that there was something
amiss about my general demeanour--that I "wore a worried look." In
endeavouring to satisfactorily account for that I blundered fearfully.
We went to bed with a shade of coolness perceptible on either side. I
felt that I had been ill-used generally, and Lucy felt that I had
ill-used her.

The wife had bound up my face with a sticking-plaster. In the morning
the sticking-plaster was much in evidence. I had not had a good night's
rest. I should like to know who would have done, after my adventures of
the evening! I got up, not so much in a bad temper as oppressed with
gloom. Lucy, as a matter of course, plied me with her questions all
over again. We had a fencing match while dressing. The match was
continued at breakfast, till the buttons almost came off the foils. I
had resolved, in the small hours of the morning, to screw my courage to
the sticking point, and to make a clean breast of it to some one. I
told myself that the first plunge would be the worst, when I had taken
that all would be well. But, by the time I started for the City, I had
become so aggrieved with Lucy that my resolution, as it were, had
assumed a different hue. It was irresolution again.

I bought all the papers. I searched them to learn if anything or any
one had been found upon the Brighton line. I did not see very well how
there could have been, in time for the fact to have been printed in the
morning papers. But a morbid anxiety constrained me to the search.
Pilbeam, who always travels with me to town, displayed almost as much
interest in the papers as I did. He wanted to know why I had bought
them. He became facetious in his way--which is his way, and, thank
Providence, his way only. I listened to Pilbeam's facetiæ while I was
mentally asking myself if it would be better--for me--for her to be
found living or dead. In the one case I knew that she would denounce me
at once to the police, and I should sleep that night in gaol--and then,
what could I say or do? In the other, the odds might be slightly in my
favour. Under the circumstances, I naturally enjoyed Pilbeam's jokes.
They were so funny, and so suited to my mood.

That was a dreadful day. There was no business doing. Had there been I
might have been saved from thinking--and from drinking. As a rule, I
never drink anything in town. But that day I had to. I was too
invertebrate to keep going without it.

Boon after midday I was sitting in one of the City bars--one of those
in which men play chess and draughts and dominoes. I was leaning on one
of the little marble tables scribbling aimlessly upon a sheet of paper.
Some one, standing in front of me, addressed me by my name. I looked
up. It was a man with whom I had occasionally done business--a man
named Townsend, a tall, well-built fellow, with what one sometimes
hears called the "beauty of the devil." He had always been something of
a mystery to me. Although I had done a good deal for him at one time or
another, he had never given me an address at which, in case of
necessity, I could find him. His reference, which hitherto had been a
sufficient one, had been a City bank. He used to give me instructions,
and then would call at the office to see what I had made of them. He
certainly seemed to get hold of reliable information, principally about
mining securities; but that he was no City man I was persuaded. There
was about him an indefinable something which irresistibly suggested the
West End. He struck me as some butterfly of fashion with opportunities
and tastes for punting of various kinds. That he confined his
transactions to me I never for a moment believed, and in spite of his
being the best dressed and the handsomest man I ever saw, whenever he
gave me anything like a large line, before I operated I was always
careful to have an eye for cover.

"I've been looking for you," he said, as I glanced up at him. "They
told me at the office I should probably find you here. I want you to do
a little deal for me." He dropped into a chair on the other side of the
table. "What's this you've been scribbling here; anything private?"

He referred to the piece of paper on which I had been allowing my
pencil to scrawl, I knew not what. "It's nothing; only rubbish."

He picked the piece of paper up; I was watching him as he did so. As
his eyes fell on it, not a little to my surprise a most singular change
took place in his countenance. Although his face was clean shaven, and,
therefore, as one would have thought, likely to give visual evidence of
any passing shades of feeling, it had always seemed to me the most
inscrutable of masks. Neither success nor failure seemed to make the
slightest difference to him. His expression was ever the same. The
change which now took place in it therefore, was all the more
surprising. In an instant there came into his face a look of the most
unmistakable terror. His eyes dilated, his jaw dropped open. He sat
staring at the paper as if paralysed by horror.

"What the devil's this?" he gasped, when his attitude and his continued
silence were beginning to make me conscious of discomfort, and,
goodness knows, I had been, and was, uncomfortable enough without his
help!

I had not the faintest notion what it was which had had on him so
singular an effect. I took the paper out of his momentarily nerveless
hands. So soon as I saw what was on it, I too had something like a fit
of the horrors. "Goodness gracious!" I exclaimed.

It showed in what sort of groove my mind had been working.
Unconsciously I had been scribbling the name of the woman whom the
stranger, when we had been together in the cab the night before, had
told me he had been searching for in Brighton. There it was, "Louise
O'Donnel, Louise O'Donnel," scrawled all over the paper, perhaps fifty
times.

"What an extraordinary thing," I murmured.

And, indeed, it seemed to me to be a very extraordinary thing; and by
no means a pleasant thing either. Very much the other way. It showed
what I was capable of doing without being aware of it. I did not like
it at all.

By the time I had regained some of my composure Mr. Townsend appeared
to have regained some of his. He had called the waiter, from whom he
was ordering brandy. I ordered brandy too--a shillingsworth; what they
give you for sixpence would have had no effect upon me. We both drank
before anything was said. Then Mr. Townsend looked at me over the top
of his glass.

"May I ask, Mr. Tennant, what you know about Louise O'Donnel?"

The effect which the discovery of that name upon the sheet of paper--my
sheet of paper--had had upon me was sufficiently capable of
explanation. Only too capable. Why it should have affected Townsend
surpassed my comprehension. I hardly knew what to answer when he put
his question.

"Know! I know nothing."

"Is that so? Then how came you to write the name upon that scrap of
paper?"

"I know no more than the man in the moon."

"Indeed. Then are you suggesting that its presence there is an
illustration of the new kind of force which promises to be the
craze--telepathic writing, don't they call it?"

This was said with a sneer. Something about the tone, the manner in
which it was uttered, reminded me forcibly of some one I had heard
quite recently elsewhere. The resemblance was so strong that it came to
me with the force of a sudden shock. To whom could it be? It came to me
in a flash; the stranger of the night before. Directly he had appeared
at the carriage door he had reminded me of some one. Now I knew of
whom. He was sitting in front of me at that moment--Mr. Townsend. His
tone was the stranger's, his manner was the stranger's; even his face,
in some strange fashion, was the stranger's too. The stranger wore
side-whiskers and a moustache, he was older, he was not nearly so
good-looking, he lacked Mr. Townsend's peculiar air of polish, but in
spite of the differences which existed between them, there was the
resemblance too. The more I stared--and I did stare--the more the
resemblance grew. Mr. Townsend leaned towards me across the table. The
attitude was the stranger's.

"Are you trying to think of where you heard the name before? I see that
you have heard it."

"Yes; last night."

"Last night!"

He was holding the glass in which the waiter had brought his brandy
in his hand. As he echoed my words he brought it down upon the
marble-topped table with a crash. It was strange that it was not
splintered.

"Last night, as I came from Brighton."

Mr. Townsend must have been in an oddly clumsy mood. As I spoke it
seemed to me that he deliberately knocked his glass off the table on to
the floor. When he bent over it, it was to find it shivered into
fragments. From the waiter, who came to remove the broken remnants, he
ordered a fresh supply of brandy. I had my glass replenished too.

"Have you a double, Mr. Townsend, moving about the world?"

He was raising his glass to his lips when I put the question. He spoke
before he drank. "A double? What on earth do you mean?"

"Because it was from the lips of your double I heard the name of Louise
O'Donnel."

"My double?" He put down his glass, untasted.

"I came up with him in the same train last night from Brighton."

"You came up with him in the same train last night from Brighton? With
whom?"

"Your double."

His face was absolutely ghastly. He had gone white to the lips, and a
curiously unnatural, sickly white. I could not make him out at all. I
suspected that he could not make me out either. I know that something
about him had for me, just then, a dreadful sort of fascination.

"I do not know, Mr. Tennant, if you are enjoying a little jest at my
expense. I am not conscious of having a double, nor am I conscious of
having come up with you last night in the same train from Brighton. By
what train did you travel?"

"By the 8.40 express."

"By the train, that is, which leaves Brighton at 8.40?"

"Yes; and which arrives in town at ten."

Unless I was mistaken, a look of distinct relief passed over his face.

"Oh, then, you certainly never came from Brighton with me. It occurs to
me, Mr. Tennant, that you are not looking well. You almost look as if
you had had a recent serious shock. I trust that it is only my fancy."

He looked at me with eager, searching eyes, which reminded me very
acutely of the stranger's.

"I am not feeling very well to-day, and that's a fact."

"You don't look very well. By the by, how came this double of mine to
mention the name?"

Mr. Townsend nodded towards the sheet of paper, almost, as it seemed to
me, as if he were unwilling to pronounce the name which was upon it.

"He merely mentioned that he had been down to Brighton to look for a
woman named Louise O'Donnel."

Mr. Townsend's glass came down on to the table with the same startled
gesture as before. If he was not careful, he would break a second one.
And, since he glanced our way, so the waiter seemed to think.

"Been looking for her? What had he been doing that for?"

"That is more than I can tell you."

Mr. Townsend sat and stared at me as if doubting whether I spoke the
truth.

"May I ask you, in my turn, what you know about this mysterious Louise
O'Donnel?"

He looked down, and then up at me. He smiled, his smile striking me as
being more than a little forced.

"That is the funny part of it. I, too, know nothing of Louise
O'Donnel--no more than you do."

"It seems odd that you should take so great an interest in a person of
whom you know nothing."

"Does not the same remark apply to you?"

"Not at all. I heard the name mentioned last night, casually, for the
first time. It seems to have lingered in my memory, and I appear to
have scribbled it, in a fit of abstraction, and, certainly, quite
unconsciously."

Taking out a cigar, Mr. Townsend commenced to light it with an
appearance of indifference which was, perhaps, a trifle too pronounced.

"Very odd, very odd indeed, that both you and I should seem to evince
so much interest in a person whose name we have merely heard casually
mentioned. It occurred to me that, when you found the name confronting
you, you appeared--shall I say startled?--as if it or its owner was
connected in your mind with disagreeable associations. Perhaps,
however, that was simply a consequence of the general ill-health from
which you say you suffer. And, I must say myself, that you don't look
well. I hope that, next time I see you, you will be better."

He carried it off with an air. But I did not believe him. I felt
persuaded that he knew more of Louise O'Donnel than he chose to
confess. What he knew was more than I could say. But I felt equally
persuaded that he wished that he knew less. He went off without saying
anything further about the little deal which he had said that he wanted
me to do for him. It had, apparently, escaped his recollection. I, too,
had forgotten it till after he had gone. I had never felt less inclined
for business in my life.

Scarcely had I returned to the office than the door opened, and, wholly
unannounced, the stranger of the night before came in. He might,
almost, have been waiting and watching for my return.



                             CHAPTER IV.

                              BLACKMAIL.


Again I was struck by the man's resemblance to Mr. Townsend. It was
obvious even in the way in which he advanced towards me across the
room. It was almost as if Townsend had slipped on some costume of a
masquerade, and reappeared in it to play tricks with me. The fellow,
going to the centre of the room, crossed his arms, in theatrical
fashion, across his chest, and stood and stared at me--glared at me
would be the more correct expression. Not caring to meet his glances,
and to return him glare for glare, as if we were two madmen trying to
outstare each other, I fumbled with the papers on my table.

"You have called for that handkerchief of yours? I am obliged to you
for the loan of it; but I had to leave home for town so early this
morning that my wife was not able to get it ready in time for me to
bring it with me. If you will give me your address I will see that it
is sent to you through the post."

There was a considerable interval before he answered me--an interval
during which he continued to glare, and I to fumble with my papers.
When he did speak, it was in one of those portentous and assumed bass
voices, which one inevitably connects with the proverbial "Villain at
the Vic."

"I have not called for my handkerchief."

"Then, may I ask to what I am indebted for the pleasure of your
presence here. I have only just come in, and I have some rather
pressing business which I must do."

"Your business has nothing to do with me."

"Probably not; but it has with me."

He came a step nearer, still keeping his arms crossed upon his chest.
This time he spoke in a sort of a hiss. It seemed obvious that at some
period of his career he must have had something to do with the stage.

"Do you not know what has brought me here. Does your own conscience not
tell you, man?"

I began to suspect that he had been drinking. I looked up at him. He
was eyeing me with a scowl which, to say the least of it, was scarcely
civil.

"How should I know what has brought you here, if it is not a desire to
regain possession of your property? I take it that you hardly intend to
suggest a further deposit."

I do not think that he altogether relished the allusion. His scowl
became less theatrical, and a good deal more natural. He seemed, for a
moment, to be at a loss as to what to say. Then a word came from
between his lips which startled me.

"Murderer!"

That was rather more than I could stand. I sprang to my feet.

"What do you mean, sir, by addressing me like that? Are you mad?"

My assumption of indignation did not seem to impress him in the least.
He returned to the basso profundo.

"Have you seen the evening papers?"

At the question something began to swim before my eyes. I had to lean
against the edge of the table.

"No; what is there in the evening papers to interest me?"

"I will show you."

He began to unfold a paper which he took from his pocket. Laying the
open sheet before me on the table, he pointed to a column of leaded
type.

"Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest that, if you can."

The heading of the column was enough for me. It was headed, "Tragedy on
the Brighton Line." I could read no farther. I dropped down into my
chair again. The stranger continued to regard me with accusatory eyes.

"What's the matter with you? You don't seem well."

"I've not been feeling well all day."

"So I should imagine. Else you had been more or less than human. Since
you are not able to read the paper yourself, at which I am not
surprised, I will read it for you. The paper says that the body of a
woman has been found on the up side of the Brighton line, just before
Three Bridges Station."

"Dead?"

"Dead--murdered."

I was speechless, tongue-tied. The whole hideous folly of which I had
been guilty rose in front of me, and paralysed my brain. I saw, too
clearly, and too late, the dreadful nature of the error I had made. I
realised the awful something which, owing to my own cowardice, now
stared me in the face. It might have been bad enough if I had played
the man; but it would have been better than this.

The stranger kept his eyes fixed on my countenance. I have no doubt
that on it was seen some of the horror which racked me. His voice
sounded to me like an echo from far away.

"That explains how it was that I saw a woman get into your carriage at
Brighton, and that she was not there when we reached Victoria. You had
left her on the line."

I made an effort to shake off the stupor which oppressed me. It was out
of the question that I should continue to sit there passively, and
allow this fellow to jump, in his own fashion, at his own conclusions.
Better late than never! There might still be time for me to play the
man. I took out my handkerchief to wipe away the moisture from my brow.
I looked at the man in front of me.

"May I ask you for your name, sir?"

"My name is immaterial."

"Excuse me, but it is not immaterial. You thrust yourself upon me last
night, you thrust yourself upon me again to-day. If I am to have
anything to say to you, I must know with whom I am dealing."

"You are dealing with the witness of your crime."

"That is not the case. I have been guilty of no crime."

"Why do you lie to me? Don't you know that I could go straight from
this room and hang you?" He raised his voice in a manner which told
upon my nerves. I looked furtively about the room. I had to wipe the
moisture from my brow again.

"Is it necessary that you should speak so loudly, sir! Do you wish to
be overheard? There are clerks in the adjoining room."

"Then send them away; or don't try to hoodwink me--me!" He struck his
hand against his chest, accentuating the second "me," as if he were an
individual altogether separate and apart. "If I were to follow the
promptings of my bosom, I should go at once to the police, and leave
you to dangle on the gallows."

"You are under a misapprehension, sir. I give you my word of honour
that you are. I may have been guilty--I have been guilty--of an error
of judgment, but not of a crime."

"Do you call murder an error of judgment?"

"There has been no murder--I swear it!"

He held up his hand to check me. "Let me tell you how much I know about
the business before you go out of your way to lie to me." Seating
himself on the edge of my writing-table, he brought his right hand down
upon it now and then to emphasise his words. "Directly the train
started I heard two voices in the compartment next to mine--in your
compartment. The voices were raised in quarrelling. I had, by the
purest accident, seen a woman get into your compartment just as we were
leaving Brighton, and I knew that the voices were yours and hers. The
quarrelling got worse and worse. I feared every moment that something
dreadful would happen. I was just going to sound the alarm, when there
was silence. Immediately after a door banged--the door of your
carriage. I was afraid that something dreadful had happened. And yet, I
told myself, if nothing had happened I should look foolish if I stopped
the train. Unable to make up my mind what to do, I did nothing. When on
reaching Victoria I made a bolt for your carriage and found that the
woman was not there, I saw that my worst fears were realised. Then I
understood the sudden silence, and the banging of the door."

"She had fallen out."

"Fallen out?"

"Yes."

"Who opened the door for her to fall?"

"I did." Seeing the slip I had made I endeavoured to correct myself.
"That is, I opened the door with the intention of leaving the carriage,
in order to escape her violence. In trying to prevent my leaving she
herself fell out."

"If, as you say, the whole thing was an accident, why did you not sound
the alarm?"

"I ought to have done; I know I ought to have done. I can only say that
it was all so sudden and so unexpected that I lost my head."

"To whom have you mentioned a word about the--accident, until this
moment I have charged you with your crime?"

"To no one. My reticence, unfortunately, is the error of judgment to
which I referred."

"You call that an error of judgment! Then, let me tell you, it was an
error of judgment of a somewhat peculiar kind. A mere outsider would
say that reticence was the best course you could possibly pursue."

The fellow's way of looking at the matter made things look blacker and
blacker. The moisture accumulated upon my brow so fast that I could
scarcely keep it from trickling down my cheeks.

"It might have been the best course to pursue had I been guilty, but I
am not guilty; I swear it. I am as innocent as you are. It was my
misfortune that there were peculiar circumstances connected with the
matter which I wished to keep private. I feared to be misunderstood."

"You were not misunderstood by me, I do assure you. I understood, and
understand you only too well. The point is that you still seem unable
to understand me. You still appear to be unable to realise that I was
in the next compartment to yours, that the divisions between the
compartments are thin, and that you shouted at the top of your voice. I
distinctly heard you threaten to kill the woman--yes, and more than
once, and in a tone of voice which sounded very much as if you meant
it."

He was wrong, and he was right. That was the worst of it. Undoubtedly,
there had been strong language used on either side, uncommonly strong
language. A listener who was not acquainted with all the circumstances
might have supposed that some of it was meant. I can only protest that,
so far as I was concerned, I had never meant what I had said half so
much as she had meant what she said. No, nor a quarter as much. Nor,
for the matter of that, an eighth. She had aggravated me to such an
extent that I undoubtedly had said something--and perhaps in rather a
loud tone of voice--to the effect that I should like to kill her. But I
said it metaphorically. Every one who knows me knows that in practice I
am the least bloodthirsty man alive. I never could kill a cat. Even
when there are kittens to drown I have to leave them to my wife.
Instead of the woman having killed herself I would infinitely rather
she had killed me.

But it was no use trying to explain these things to the man in front of
me. I saw that plainly. So far as he was concerned, my guilt was as if
it were written in the skies. Taking up a position in front of the
fire, he assumed what he possibly intended to be a judicial air, but
which struck me as being a mixture of truculence with impudence.

"When a man threatens to kill a woman, and she is killed immediately
afterwards, one asks who killed her. I do not ask, simply because I
know. My impulse is to let the world know too. When I do get into the
witness-box my evidence will hang you."

I thought it possible, nay, I thought it probable. If I had only made a
clean breast of it when the scoundrel had first accosted me the night
before!

"The thing now is, what am I to do?"

"I should have thought," I gasped, "that the thing now is what am I to
do."

"Nothing of the sort. You have placed yourself outside the pale of
consideration. It is myself I must consider." He said this with a
lordly wave of the hand.

Crushed though I was, I found his manner a little trying.

"It is my misfortune that my ears are ever open to the promptings of
mercy."

"I had not previously supposed that a characteristic of that kind was a
misfortune."

"It is a misfortune, and one of the gravest kind. It is one, moreover,
against which I have had to battle my whole life long. The truly
fortunate man is he who can always mete out justice. But the still,
small voice of mercy I have ever heard. It is a weakness, but it is
mine own. My obvious duty to society would be to take prompt steps to
rid it of such a man as you."

That was a pleasant sort of observation to have addressed to one.

"It strikes me that you take rather a strained view of your duty, sir."

"That would strike you. It doesn't me. But I will be frank with you.
Why should I not be frank--although you are not frank with me. Though
perhaps I can afford to be frank better than you can."

He threw his ancient overcoat, faced with ancient mock astrachan, wide
open. He tilted his ancient silk hat on to the back of his head. He
thrust his hands into the pockets of his ancient trousers.

"The plain fact is, Mr. Tennant, that I am a victim of the present
commercial depression."

He looked it, every inch of him. Though, at the moment, I scarcely
cared to tell him so.

"The depreciation in landed property, and in various securities, has
hit me hard."

"To what securities do you allude?"

I fancy he made an effort at recollection, and that the effort failed.

"To South American securities, and others. But I need not
particularise." He repeated the former lordly gesture with his hand.
"The truth is that my income is not only seriously crippled, but that I
am, at this present moment, actually in want of ready cash." I believed
him, without his protestations. I judged from his looks. "Now, if I do
something for you, will you do something for me?"

"What will you do for me?"

"Keep silence. I am not compelled to blurt out all I know. If I show
mercy to you, what return will you make me for my kindness?"

I did not quite like his way of putting it. But that I had to stomach.

"What return will you require?"

He looked at me; then round the room; then back again to me. He was
evidently making up his mind as to what it would be advisable for him
to say.

"I should require you to make me an immediate, and, of course,
temporary advance of £100--in gold."

"A hundred pounds? I am not exactly a poor man; on the other hand, I am
emphatically not a rich one. To me a hundred pounds are a hundred
pounds. Say ten."

"Say ten! I'll be hanged if I say ten! And you'll be hanged if you try
to make me."

"Twenty."

"Nor twenty."

"I'm afraid I could not go beyond thirty."

"Then the discussion is at an end."

"Suppose--I only say suppose, mind--that I was able to find fifty."

"I won't take a penny less than a hundred pounds--not one centime."

"Would you undertake to go abroad?"

"Go abroad! I'll be shot if I would. You might go abroad. I have my
business to attend to. You forget that I am a private detective in a
very extensive way."

"For how long will you keep silence?"

"A month."

"Then, in that case, I must decline to advance you even so much as a
hundred pence."

"Two months."

"No--nor in that case either."

"Three months."

"If you will undertake to keep silence until you are compelled to
speak, I will give your suggestion my most careful consideration."

"Give it your most careful consideration! Oh, will you? It strikes me,
Mr. Tennant, that you are as far from understanding me as ever. If you
don't put the money down upon that table at once I go to the police."

He straightened his hat. He began to button up his overcoat. He looked,
and, it struck me, sounded as though he meant it. I hesitated. If the
woman who hesitates is lost, so also is the man. I was lost before; I
was lost again, because I hesitated. I was conscious that still the
bold part was the better part; that I should be wise to go to the
authorities and tell them the whole plain truth, although so tardily. I
knew that this man was a mean bloodsucker; that he would spend my
money, and then come to me for more and more, and, after all, would
hang me if he could. But I dared not face the prospect of being handed,
there and then, to the police; of being delivered by him into their
clutches, with his evidence to hang me. I wanted to see my wife, my
child, again. I wanted, if I could, to prepare them for the cloud which
was about to burst in storm upon their heads. I wanted breathing space;
time to look about me; to make ready. I wanted to postpone the falling
of the hammer. So I gave him the hundred pounds which he demanded,
bitterly conscious all the while of what a fool I was for giving it.

He would not take my cheque. Nothing would do for him but gold. I had
to send a clerk to the bank to get it. He thrust the washleather bag in
which it came, as it was, into his pocket. He was good enough to say
that he would not insult me by counting it; he would treat me as one
gentleman should always treat another. Then, with a triumphant grin,
and an airy raising of his hat, he left me to enjoy my reflections--if
I could.



                              CHAPTER V.

                      THE FACE IN THE DARKNESS.


I did not go home even when he had left me, though shortly afterwards I
started to. As I was going along Throgmorton Street I met MacCulloch.
He was jubilant. He had pulled off a big stake over some race or
other--upon my word, I forget what. It was one which had been run that
day. He asked me to have a small bottle with him. While we were having
it three other fellows joined us. Then MacCulloch asked the lot of us
to go and dine with him. I knew that I ought not to, but I didn't care.
I seemed to care for nothing. The moral side of me seemed dead, or
sleeping. I was aware that, instead of plunging into dissipation with
MacCulloch and his friends, duty, not to speak of common sense,
required that, without further loss of time, I should prepare Lucy for
the worst. Instead of following the path of duty, I went to dine, and
that without sending to Lucy a word of warning not to wait for me. When
the usually good husband does misbehave himself, it strikes me that he
is worse than the usually bad one. I speak from what seems to me to be
the teachings of my own experience.

We went down, all of us, in two hansoms to the West End. I rode upon
MacCulloch's knees. We began by playing billiards at some place in
Jermyn Street. I know that I lost three pounds at pool. Then we dined
in a private room at the Café Royal. I have not the faintest
recollection of what we had for dinner, but I am under a strong
impression that I ate and drank of whatever there was to eat and drink,
and that of both there was too much. My digestion is my weak point. The
plainest possible food is best for me, and only a little of that. I was
unwell before the dinner was half way through. Still I kept pegging
away. I never did know why. By the time it was over I was only fit for
bed. But when I suggested that the next item on the programme should be
a liver pill or a seidlitz-powder and then home, they wouldn't hear of
it. Their idea of what was the proper thing for men in our situation
was another couple of cabs and a music-hall.

I am not certain what music-hall it was. Something, I can scarcely say
what, leads me to believe that it was one at which there was a ballet.
So far as I was concerned, as soon as I was in my stall I fell asleep.
They wouldn't let me sleep it out. Some one, I don't know who, woke me,
as I understood the matter, because I snored. When sleeping my
breathing is a trifle stertorous perhaps; at least, so Lucy has
informed me more than once. Then we went for a turn in the promenade.
So far as I am able to recollect, MacCulloch who, I suspect, in common
with the other men, had been since dinner making further efforts to
quench his thirst, wanted to introduce me to some one whom he didn't
seem to know, and who certainly didn't seem to want to know me. I fancy
Kenyan, one of the fellows who was with us, trod upon somebody else's
toes, or somebody else trod upon his. At any rate there was an
argument, which in an extraordinarily short time began to be punctuated
by blows. Some one hit me, I don't know who, and I hit some one--I am
disposed to think MacCulloch, because his back was turned to me, and he
happened to be nearest. Then there was a row. The next thing I can
remember was finding myself on the pavement in the street--sitting down
on it, if I do not err. They did not lock us up; personally, I should
rather have preferred their doing so; it would have relieved me of a
feeling of responsibility. Having, I believe, helped me up, MacCulloch,
slipping his arm through mine, suggested that we should go upon the
spree. I did not, and do not, know what he meant, nor what he supposed
we had been doing up to then. Anyhow, I strenuously objected. I
insisted upon a cab and home. He, or some one else, put me into one,
and off I went.

The presumption is that directly the cabman started I fell asleep. When
I awoke I found him bending over me, pulling at the collar of my coat.

"Now then, sir, wake up; this is Hackney."

I stared at him. I did not understand. "Hackney! What do you mean?"

"The gentleman told me to drive you to Hackney, and this is Mare
Street. What part of Hackney do you want?"

I supposed the man was joking. I had never been to Hackney in my life.
I did not even know, exactly, in what part of town it was situated. My
house is in West Kensington. Why he imagined that I wished to pay a
first visit to Hackney at that hour of the night I was at a loss to
understand. I told him so. In return, his bearing approached to
insolence. He wanted to know if I was having a lark with him. I, on my
side, wanted to know if he was having a lark with me. He declared that
the gentleman who had put me into the cab had instructed him to drive
me to Hackney. Then it dawned on me that MacCulloch, or his friends,
might have been having a little joke at my expense, and not the cabman.

When I desired to be taken to West Kensington in the shortest possible
space of time, Jehu did not altogether appear to see it. He observed
that his horse was tired, that he ought to have been in the stable
before now, and that the stable was on the Surrey side of Waterloo
Bridge. We compromised. He was to drive me to the Strand. When there, I
was to find another cab to take me the remainder of the distance. When
we did reach the Strand the man demanded a most extortionate sum for
his fare. But, as I did not feel in a fit frame of mind to conduct
another heated argument, I gave him what he asked, none the less
conscious that I was enjoying myself in a most expensive kind of way,
as I was aware that Lucy, if she ever came to hear of it, would think.

I was wide awake during the remainder of my journey. Having found
another cab, I made a point of seeing that its driver did not go wrong.
I did not want this time to find myself, say, at New Cross or Hampstead
Heath. When he drew up in front of my house--at last!--I was looking
forward, with a morbid sense of expectation and a bad headache, to the
sort of greeting I might expect to receive inside. But--I repeat it--I
was wide awake.

Directly the cab stopped, I got out. As I stepped upon the pavement,
something came at me, through the darkness--a woman. It was a dark
night--it all happened very suddenly. The details of the figure and the
costume I could not, or at least I did not, make out. That I own. But
about the face I have not the slightest doubt. I saw it as plainly as
ever I saw a face in my life. It looked at me with wide, staring eyes.
There was a look in them which I had never seen before. The lips were
parted--I saw that the teeth were clenched. It was very white, and it
struck me, just in the moment during which I saw it, as looking
strangely white.

But it was none of these things which made my heart stand still, which
made me, with a gasp of horror, reel backwards against the cab. I cared
nothing for what the face looked like. What I did care for was that I
should have seen that face at all. That it should have come to me, like
an accusing spirit, all in an instant, out of the darkness of the
night. For it was the face of the woman whom, like a coward, I had left
lying dead on the Brighton line. It was the face of Ellen Howth.



                             CHAPTER VI.

                            A CONFESSION.


"He will be all right now."

The voice seemed to come to me out of the land of dreams. I seemed to
be in a dream myself. What I saw, I seemed to see in a dream. It was
some moments before I realised that the man bending over me was
Ferguson, our doctor; that I was lying undressed in bed; that my wife
was standing by the doctor's side. When I did realise it, I sat up with
a start.

"What's the matter?" I asked. "Have I been ill?"

It struck me that, as he replied to my question with another, the
doctor's eyes were twinkling behind his glasses.

"How are you feeling?"

I felt, now that I was once more conscious of any sort of feeling, very
far from well. My head was splitting. Everything was dancing before my
eyes. I sank back on my pillow with a groan. The doctor laid his hand
upon my brow. It felt beautifully soft and cool. He said something to
my wife; then he went. Lucy went with him, I presume, to see him out.

Presently my wife returned. She did not even glance at me as she
passed. Going straight to the other side of the room, she began busying
herself with something on the dressing-table. I might not have been
there for all the notice she took of me. I could not make her demeanour
out at all. Indeed, the whole proceedings were mysterious to me. She
was wont to be so solicitous when I was ill.

"What's the time?" I asked.

"Half-past four."

That was all she said. She never turned her head to say that. The
silence became oppressive. "How long have I been lying here?"

"It's an hour since the cabman rang the bell."

"The cabman?" It all came back to me with a rush. The appearance of the
apparition--the face I had seen gleaming at me through the darkness;
the sudden blank which followed. I half rose in bed. "Has she gone?" I
cried.

Then Lucy did turn round. Words came from between her lips as if they
were icicles.

"Mr. Tennant, to whom are you alluding as 'she'? Have you not yet
grasped the fact that you are in the presence of your wife?"

Then I perceived that I was misunderstood. I lay down again. Seldom had
I felt so ill. I closed my eyes; even then I saw things dancing about.
This unkindness of Lucy's was the final straw. I could have cried.

"My dear, why do you speak to me like that? What has happened?"

"I will tell you what has happened. I can quite understand how it is
you do not know. You came home, Mr. Tennant, in such a condition that
when you got out of the cab which brought you, you could not stand. Had
the cabman not been a good Samaritan you might have lain in the gutter
till the milkman came. If the milkman had found you it would, of
course, have been pleasant both for your wife and family. I thought you
were dead. I sent for Dr. Ferguson; but, when he came, he informed me
that you were only"--what a stress she laid upon the adverb!--"drunk."

I knew that she misjudged me--that she had not even an inkling of the
situation I was in. But at that moment I could not even hint at it. She
went on--

"I don't know, Mr. Tennant, how much money you went out with. You have
come back with 1s. 3d. in your pockets."

That "Good Samaritan" of a cabman must have robbed me. I felt sure that
I had more than 1s. 3d. when I got into his cab.

"You have broken your watch; you have spoiled your clothes, and you
appear to have either given away or lost your hat. The cabman said that
you were not wearing one when you engaged him."

That I could hardly believe. What could I have done with it? It seemed
incredible that I could have driven to Hackney and back without a hat.

"I may add that, if you take my advice, at the earliest possible moment
you will have a bath." She moved towards the door. "I am going to try
to get some sleep in the spare room."

I could not bear to think of her leaving me like that. I called to her,
"Lucy."

"Well?"

"You are hard on me. I have been dining with MacCulloch."

"I don't know who MacCulloch may be, but next time you dine with him if
you give me warning I will keep a doctor waiting on the premises ready
for your return."

"Lucy! You would not speak to me like that if you knew all. I am in
great trouble."

Her tone changed on the instant. She came towards the bed.

"Tom! What do you mean!"

"I know that I have been a fool, and worse. Even you don't know how
great a fool I have been. To-night I have been trying to drown
thought."

She knelt on the floor beside the bed, stretching out her hands to me
across the coverlet.

"Tom! You're not playing with me, as they say some husbands do play
with their wives? Tell me what you mean?"

I found this tone harder to bear than the other. A shudder went all
over me. I closed my eyes. What did I mean? How could I tell her? My
throat went dry and husky--a condition which was not owing to the
potations of the night.

"I've been a good husband to you, haven't I? I've tried to be."

"My darling, you've been the best husband in the world. That's what
makes this seem so strange." She alluded to the events of the night.
"Why have you been so silly?" Putting her arms about my neck, she drew
me towards her.

"You have no conception how silly I have been."

She laid her cool cheek against my fevered one. "Tell me all about it.
Is it money?"

"Money would be nothing."

Her voice sank. "What is it?"

"It is something which happened last night."

I felt her shiver. "I knew it. I felt there was something wrong when
you came in, although you would not own there was."

"I was afraid to tell you."

She drew closer to me. Again her voice dropped to a whisper. "What was
it, Tom?"

"It was something which happened in the train." I paused. My tongue
seemed to stick in my throat. "When we left Brighton a woman got into
my carriage."

"A woman?" She withdrew herself a little. Then I felt that I could not
tell her who the woman was; at least, not then.

"She had been drinking. At least, so I suppose. As soon as the train
started she began to quarrel."

"To quarrel?"

"Yes. I was afraid there would be a row. You know the express does not
stop between London and Brighton. I did not know whether to pull the
alarm-bell or not. I made up my mind to try to leave my carriage and
get into the next."

"Do you mean while the train was moving?"

"Yes. I thought it better to run the risk than to stop the train, and
have a scene, and, possibly, a scandal. One never knows what may come
of being mixed up in that sort of thing with a woman."

"Well?"

"She tried to stop me leaving the carriage, and in trying she fell
out."

"Tom!" Taking her cheek away from mine, Lucy looked me in the face.
"Fell out?"

"Yes."

"While the train was moving?"

I nodded.

"How awful! She might have been hurt! What did you do?"

"That's where my folly began. I did nothing."

She continued to stare at me, evidently not comprehending. My task was
getting more and more difficult. After all, I almost wished that I had
not begun it.

"It was all so sudden, and I was so bewildered that I lost my head."

"Then don't you know what became of her?"

"I did not know till the evening papers appeared. She was killed."

"Killed!" Lucy's arms were still about my neck. I felt them give a
convulsive twitch. "What did you do when you knew she was killed?"

"Went with MacCulloch to dine. You see, it seems that the body was
found on the line. They appear to have jumped to the conclusion that
there has been murder done. It struck me that if I went and told my
story the odds were that I should be arrested as her murderer. I had
not the courage to face the situation, and so by way of a compromise I
went with MacCulloch to dine."

Lucy removed her arms from about my neck. She put her hand to her
forehead as if perplexed.

"Tell me, plainly, just what happened. How did she fall out? Was there
a scuffle?"

"In a sense there was. To prevent my leaving the carriage she took me
by the shoulder. In trying to maintain her hold she got her back to the
open door. She must have stepped backwards before either of us realised
how near to the open door she really was, because, before I had the
faintest suspicion of what had happened or was about to happen, she had
disappeared."

There was silence. I did not feel equal to meeting Lucy's eyes, but I
felt they were on my face. At last she spoke.

"I see. No wonder I saw that something had happened. No wonder that you
found it difficult to tell me what it was." Rising to her feet, she
went to the fireplace. Leaning her elbow on the mantelshelf, she stood
in such a position that her face was turned away from me. "Is there any
probability of their being able to connect the affair with you?"

"Given certain conditions, there is an absolute certainty. To my shame
be it said, that is really the reason why I went with MacCulloch to
dine."

Then I told her about the fellow who had been in the adjoining
compartment. How he had forced himself upon me at Victoria; how he
claimed to have overheard all that had taken place; how he had arrived
at his own conclusions; how he had levied on me blackmail. Lucy
listened quietly, putting a question now and then, but never looking at
me all the time.

"And am I to understand that this person believes that you committed
murder, and is prepared to go into the witness-box and swear it?"

It was not only the question, it was, more than anything, the way in
which she asked it, which made me shiver.

"The fellow is a scoundrel."

"Is that why you gave him the hundred pounds? If he is such a scoundrel
as you say, why did you not show him the door, and defy him to do his
worst?"

The calmness with which she spoke made me writhe. My tone became
dogged.

"I have no excuse to offer. I was, and am, quite conscious of my
folly."

"I don't wish to say anything unkind to you; I quite realise how you
stand in need of all the kindness one can show you; but I don't at all
understand your story as you tell it. Why did you quarrel with this
woman?"

"I did not quarrel with her; she quarrelled with me."

"But it takes two to make a quarrel. Why did she quarrel with you?"

"I tell you, she had been drinking."

"But, even then, what did she say to you, or what did you say to her,
which could have caused such a disturbance? Because, I can see, from
your own statements, that both of you had lost your tempers."

I was silent. I knew not what to answer.

"I suppose that the woman was a stranger to you--that you had never
seen her before?"

What could I say? I felt that if I did not tell the truth then it would
come out afterwards. Better, while I was about it, make a clean breast
of everything.

And yet I found it hard. Lucy's ideas are narrow. She has her own views
of things, and strong views some of them are. She thinks, for instance,
that there ought to be the same standard for a man as for a woman: the
same moral standard--that a man ought to come to his wife with clean
hands, in the same sense in which a woman ought to come with clean
hands to her husband. I am afraid that I had been rather in the habit
of finding favour in her eyes by endorsing her opinions. It seemed hard
that the only real peccadillo of which I had been guilty should be
cropping up against me after all this lapse of time. I had repented of
it, and put it behind me, long ago; and yet here it was, as fresh and
vigorous as ever, rising to confront me from its tomb.

Lucy seemed struck by my continued silence. She repeated her question
in an altered form. "Had you seen her before?"

"Many years ago."

"Many years ago? You knew her, then?"

"I used to know her, to my sorrow, once upon a time, long before I knew
you, my dear."

The final words were intended as a sort of propitiation--I saw that she
was getting roused at last--but they failed in their effect. She stood
straight up, facing me, her fists clenched at her sides.

"Who was she? What was her name?"

"Her name was Ellen Howth. I assure you, my dear, that there is no
necessity for you to get warm. I have heard and seen nothing of her
since I married you. Indeed, these many years I have thought she was
dead."

"Why did you think she was dead? What did it matter to you if she was
dead or alive? What did you know of her?"

"Really nothing, I am afraid, to her advantage."

"What do you mean? Tell me the truth, Tom, if you have never told me it
before. What was she to you?"

"She was nothing to me. My dear, she was a person of indifferent
character."

"Do you mean----" She paused. She came close to the bed. She leant over
me. "Was she----"

I knew what she meant too well. My heart and my voice sank as I
replied. I did not know how she would take it.

"I'm afraid that she was."

She stood straight up. She drew a long breath. She looked down at me.
When she spoke her voice trembled--half with passion, half with scorn.

"I see! Now I understand your story very well, and just what happened
in the train. And you are the man who has always held himself up to me
as different to other men--as a model of what a man should be. And all
the time you have had this story in your life; and how many more
besides?"

"You are very hard on me, my dear. I assure you, this is the only one."

"So you tell me now. Not long ago you told me there was not one."

"I have always meant to tell you all about it."

"Indeed? Then how skilfully you have concealed your meaning! I suppose
that, like other men, when you wearied of your light-o'-love you cast
her from you. Years afterwards she meets you in the train. She takes
advantage of the opportunity--probably the first opportunity which has
offered--to tell you what she thinks of you. Your coward conscience
plays you such tricks that you try to flee from her, even at the peril
of your life. She will not let you off so easily, so you threw her from
the train."

"I did not. I never laid a hand on her. So far as I was concerned, it
was pure accident. I swear it."

"Whether that is true or not can only be known to your God, and you."

Lucy turned on her heels. Without another word she left the room.



                             CHAPTER VII.

                              A VISITOR.


These might be a silver lining to the cloud. If there was, I should
have liked to have had a peep at it. Just then it would have done me
good. I could not see much promise of happiness either in the near or
in the distant future. I had been reading a good deal lately about the
"ethics of suicide." If my wife believed me guilty, I should find it
difficult to convince a judge and jury of my innocence. I might as well
commit suicide as hang. I should be the victim of a judicial murder if
they did hang me; but I did not see how my situation would be
materially improved by that.

Such reflections did not tend to make me sleep. As a matter of fact, I
never closed my eyes. The consequence was that, when the time came for
me to rise and start for the City, I was ill--really ill. My head
burned. It felt every moment as if it would burst. I could not see out
of my eyes. The paroxysms of indigestion from which I suffered bent me
double. My wife came and found me in this condition.

"You are not looking well," she said.

I was aware of that without her telling me. I could not see how it
could be otherwise, suffering as I was suffering then. If ever there
was an object of pity, I felt that I was one. But there did not seem to
be much pity either in her voice, words, or manner. I said nothing in
reply to her remark. I only groaned.

"Will you have your breakfast in bed?"

"I don't want any breakfast, thank you."

"Shall I send for Dr. Ferguson? Though I don't know if he is an
authority on dipsomania."

"Lucy I don't talk to me like that!"

"Why not? I merely made a statement of fact. And, of course, you are
suffering from the after effects of overindulgence."

That was a charming fashion in which to endeavour to smooth the pillow
of an invalid. I changed the subject.

"How is Minna?"

Minna is my little girl--a little fair-haired darling she is. With all
her father's tender-heartedness; more--with, I hope, some of that
father's power of forgiving injuries.

"I am going to send her away to-day."

"Send her away?"

"Certainly. I have not yet made up my mind whether I shall go with her
myself or send nurse with her alone. Are you well enough to enter into
a discussion?"

"No," I said; "I'm not."

Nor was I. At that moment I was neither mentally nor physically her
equal. Since, at any time, Lucy has about nine-parts of speech to my
one, I had no intention of measuring myself against her,
conversationally and argumentatively, when I had none.

I was ill four days. So ill that I could not leave my bed. At least, I
was clear upon that point, if no one else was. I am almost inclined to
suspect that Lucy had her doubts; or she pretended to have them. I am
disposed to believe that she would not have allowed me to have stayed
in bed at all if she had had her way. She threw out hints about the
necessity of attending to matters in the City; though I explained to
her, as clearly as my illness would permit me, that in the City things
were absolutely stagnant. Then she dropped hints upon more delicate
subjects still; but to these I resolutely turned a deaf ear. I vowed
that I was too ill to listen.

However, on the afternoon of the fourth day things reached a climax.
Facts became too strong for me. I had to listen. Lucy came into the
room with an envelope in her hand.

"There is some one who wishes to see you."

I supposed it was Parker, my senior clerk. He had been backwards and
forwards bothering me two or three times a day.

"Is it Parker?"

"No. It is a stranger to me. I believe you will find his name in that
envelope. He would not give it me."

I opened the envelope which she handed to me. It contained half a sheet
of paper, on which was written, "The gentleman who travelled in the
next compartment to yours." At sight of those words I sat up in
bed--rather hurriedly, I fancy.

"Good gracious!" I exclaimed; "where is he? I hope you haven't let him
in."

"Jane let him in. At present he is in the drawing-room waiting to see
you."

"It's that blackmailing ruffian."

I gave her the sheet of paper.

"I guessed he was something of the kind. So this is the man who holds
you in the hollow of his hand? I see."

She might see, but I didn't. There was about her vision a clearness and
coolness which made me shudder. It was dreadful to hear her talk in
that cold-blooded way about anybody "holding me in the hollow of his
hand." She continued to regard me in a manner which I had noticed about
her once or twice of late, and which, although I said nothing about it,
I resented.

"Perhaps now I may be allowed to talk to you as if you were a
reasonable man. During the last few days I have hardly known whether
you wished me to regard you as a child."

"My dear!"

"You have been lying there, pretending to be ill, doing nothing, and
worse than nothing, while your fate and my fate has been hanging by a
hair. I had not thought that my husband could be so contemptible a
thing."

"Really, Lucy, I wish you wouldn't speak to me like that."

"Possibly. I have discovered, too late, how you dislike to hear
unpleasant things."

"I don't know that I am peculiar in that respect."

"I don't doubt that there are other backboneless creatures in existence
besides yourself--unfortunately for their children and their wives."

"Lucy, I won't have you talk to me like that--I won't."

"Then get up and play the man! Do you know that the hue and cry is out
all over England for you?"

"For me?"

"For the man who threw the woman from the train. 'The Three Bridges
Tragedy,' they've christened it. The papers are full of it; it is the
topic of the day. They have found the carriage from which she was
thrown. It seems that it was all in disorder and stained with blood,
and that the window was broken. You said nothing about that to me. They
have found the porter who saw her into your carriage. Who was it saw
you off from Brighton?"

"Jack and George. Why do you ask?"

"Because the porter who admitted her to your carriage declares that you
were talking to two gentleman. They are looking for them now."

"Surely they will never make Jack and George give evidence against me."

"You may be sure they will. A porter has come forward who says he saw
you in the carriage at Victoria. He has given a description of you,
which is sufficiently like you to show that he will probably recognise
you if he sees you again. It seems that the only thing they are in want
of is your name."

I sank back in bed, appalled. The prospect, in my weak state, was too
terrible for contemplation. It seemed incredible that a wholly innocent
man could, by any possibility, be placed in such a situation.

My wife went on, her voice seeming to ring in my ears almost as if it
had been a knell of doom--

"Play the man! I have been playing the part for you up to now. Now play
it yourself. I need not tell you what it has meant to me to learn that
my husband has been, as it were, a living lie. You know how I have
believed in you, and what you have been to me because I believed in
you. To have the object of one's faith collapse, like an air-pricked
bladder, into nothingness, and worse than nothingness, is calculated to
give one something of a shock. But I realise that this is not a moment
for reproaches--that it is a time for deeds, not words. I realise, too,
that I still owe my duty to you, as your wife, although, as my husband,
you have failed in that which you owe to me. If you will take my
advice, you will get up, and you will go at once to a first-rate
lawyer; you will tell him the truth--the whole truth, mind--and you
will place yourself entirely in his hands, even if he counsels you to
surrender yourself to the police. I should do so without a moment's
hesitation."

"It's all very well to talk about surrendering to the police. It's easy
enough in theory. It's I who shall hang, not you."

"Tom, don't deprive me of all my faith in you; leave me something
of my belief; try to be a little of a man. Don't add blunder to
blunder--blunders which are worse than crimes--simply because you have
not courage enough to be frank. As for the man who is waiting to see
you in the drawing-room downstairs----"

She was interrupted by a voice speaking from behind.

"As for that man, is it not Paul Pry who says in the play, 'I hope I
don't intrude?'"

The speaker was my friend, the blackmailer. He had forced himself into
my bedroom unannounced.



                            CHAPTER VIII.

                         MORE THAN HIS MATCH.


Yes, unannounced. I am sure that if I had had the least suspicion of
his approaching presence I should have kept him out by the simple
expedient of turning the key in the door. As it was, there he stood, as
bold as brass, holding in one hand the handle of the door which he had
closed behind him, and in the other his hat, the brim of which he was
pressing to his breast.

A striking change had been effected in his appearance since I had seen
him last. He had expended a portion of my hundred pounds to advantage
in a tailor's shop. He was newly clad from top to toe. The overcoat
which he had on was new, and so also was the astrachan which made it
glorious. Thrown wide open, it revealed the fact that the gloss of
newness was still upon the garments which it covered. A gold
watch-chain ran from pocket to pocket of his waistcoat. Beautiful kid
gloves encased his hands. Spats adorned his brand-new polished boots.
His silk hat shone like a mirror. Even the dye upon his hair and
whiskers had been renewed; it gleamed a beautiful blue-black. In his
new splendour his resemblance to Mr. Townsend was more pronounced than
ever. Even in the state of agitation which, ill as I was, his sudden
appearance caused me, I could not but be struck by that.

He showed not the slightest sign of discomposure at the manner in which
I greeted him. He stood grinning like a mountebank, not only as if he
was sure of a hearty welcome, but as if the whole house belonged to
him.

"Sorry, Mr. Tennant, to hear you are unwell--really grieved. I can only
hope that it is nothing serious."

His impudence was a little more than even I could stand. I let him see
it.

"What the dickens do you mean, sir, by entering my bedroom?"

In reply, he only smiled the more.

"My dear sir, I am here out of pure consideration for you. When I heard
of your ill-health, I could not bear the thought of subjecting you to
the inconvenience of coming down to me. So, instead, I came to you."

"Then, having come, perhaps you would be so good as, at once, to go
again."

He turned towards me with a movement of his eyebrows, as if to express
surprise.

"Gently, sir! Surely you presume upon the presence of a lady. Is that
the way in which you should speak to me? I have no desire to keep you.
My business with you ought not to detain me more than half a minute."

He seated himself on a chair, which he drew up towards the fire.
Placing his hat upon his knee, he began to smooth the nap with his
gloved hand. Unbearable though I felt his insolence to be, I saw that,
unless I employed actual violence, I should not be able to induce him
to budge. I looked at my wife. I should not have minded so much if she
had not been there. I had borne with the fellow's insolence before; I
might have borne with it again. But I was conscious that Lucy's eye was
upon me, and that, unreasonably enough, she was expecting me to show
the sort of stuff of which I was made. I say that this attitude of hers
was an unreasonable attitude, because, what could she expect of a man
who was recovering from a severe attack of illness, and whose nervous
system was a shattered wreck. I temporised.

"What do you want with me?"

I fixed my gaze upon him. Avoiding it, he flicked his gloved fingers in
the direction of my wife.

"At your service! Pray do not let me inconvenience the lady."

"You do inconvenience the lady greatly."

Both my tone and my manner were severe--as severe, that is, as they
could be--considering that I was in my night-shirt sitting up in bed.

"I trust not. I would not wish her to leave the room one moment sooner
on our account."

Then I saw what he was at. He wanted to get me alone and without the
aid of my wife's moral support to back me. I looked at Lucy. She was
standing very straight, looking alternately at both of us, as if she
were making up her mind which she ought to admire most--or least. I
caught a gleam from the corner of her eye. It was the one I sought.

"I have no secrets from my wife. What you wish to say to me you may say
in her presence, and be so good as to say it quickly, sir."

Leaning back in his chair, thrusting his thumbs into the armholes of
his waistcoat, the fellow looked at Lucy with a smile upon his impudent
face for which I could have struck him--and no doubt I should have
struck him, had my health permitted it.

"No secrets from your wife? What a model husband you must be! Permit
me, madam, to tender you my most sincere congratulations--you have
secured a prize."

My wife said nothing. But I saw her lips curl.

"Do not address yourself to my wife, sir; address yourself to me."

Still lolling back in the chair, the fellow turned, with the same
impudent smile, to me.

"To you? Certainly I will address myself to you. I am here to address
myself to you, though my address will not occupy more than half a dozen
words. I want from you a hundred pounds. That is the only remark which
I wish to address to you."

"What!"

I was reduced to gasping.

"Surely what I say is plain enough. And don't I say it plainly? I want
from you a hundred pounds."

"This is Friday, and you only had a hundred pounds from me on Monday."

"Yes, and this, as you say, is Friday. A hundred pounds are but a
hundred pounds. In the hands of a gentleman they fly. Especially when
he has to provide for what may be called preliminary expenses of a
certain kind, which, in themselves, make a hole in a century."

I knew to what he referred. He meant that he had replenished his
wardrobe. As though that had anything to do with me.

"Do you imagine that I am a bank at which you have a large current
account on which you can draw at sight."

He laughed--or pretended to.

"That is precisely what I not only imagine, but fervently believe."

"Then your belief is a very foolish one. I assure you that you were
never more in error in your life."

He glanced at a gold watch which he took out of his waistcoat pocket.

"Why should we waste time over these small quibbles? Are we children,
you and I? I have an engagement shortly. If you have not the sum in the
house in gold I will take what you have in cash, and the balance in an
open cheque to bearer."

"You will have neither cash nor cheque from me. I will not give you one
single penny."

"Do you mean it?"

He replaced his watch in his pocket. He rose from his chair. There was,
in his bearing a return to the manner of "the Villain at the Vic." The
fellow was theatrical all through. All his moods were equally unreal.
At the same time there was something about the change which I did not
altogether relish.

"Of course I mean it. You don't suppose that I am going to be robbed
and plundered with impunity by you."

"You prefer to hang?"

"You know that I am as innocent of crime as you are, and probably much
more so."

"Don't lie to me, you hound!" He turned with a sweeping gesture towards
my wife. "You must excuse me, madam, but you will do me the justice to
remember that I suggested your departure from the room. I cannot allow
your presence to debar me from plain speaking." Directing his attention
again towards me, he began to button up his brand-new overcoat, with a
deliberation which was, doubtless, intended to impress me. "As you have
been lying in your bed, like a cur hiding in its kennel--because pray
don't suppose that you can make me believe that you have been sick with
anything else but terror--I don't know, my man, if you are aware that
all England is on tiptoe, watching for your capture. If I were to point
you out, at this moment, in any street in England, the people would
tear you limb from limb. The whole country is thirsting, righteously
thirsting, for your blood."

"It is false!"

"Is it? Refuse to give me what I ask, and I will prove to you if it is
false."

"I won't be robbed by you."

"Then you'll be hung by me instead." He raised his hat, as if he was
about to put it on his head. "Once more, and for the last time, which
is it to be--the gallows or the hundred pounds?"

"You'll get no hundred pounds from me. I swear it."

"Then it will be the gallows. In ten minutes the news will be flashing
through the land that justice has its hands about the murderer's neck."

He clapped his hat upon his head. He moved towards the door. I went all
hot and cold--anybody would have gone all hot and cold with such a
prospect as the scoundrel pictured in front of him. Whether, with a
view of appealing to his better self--if he had one, which I doubt--I
should have prevented his leaving the room, is more than I can say. I
might have done. After all, self-preservation is nature's first and
greatest law. I had, and always should have, an incurable objection to
being hanged by such a rascal. As it was, it was my wife that
interposed.

"One moment, sir, before you go."

He removed his hat--with a flourish which, as usual, was reminiscent of
the transpontine drama.

"Madam, ten thousand, if you wish it."

"Are you the person who travelled in the next compartment to my
husband's from Brighton?"

"Madam, I am."

"You look it."

The fellow might be excused for looking a little startled--which he
certainly did do. I have found that particular tone of Lucy's, now and
then, a little startling myself. The man did not seem as if he quite
knew what to make of it.

"I look it, madam--how do you mean?"

"You look the sort of character."

"To what sort of character, madam, do you refer?"

"You look like the sort of person who would wear another man's
clothes."

He drew himself bolt upright, as if his backbone had suddenly been
straightened by a spring.

"Madam! I would have you to know that I wear no one's clothes but my
own."

"You are wearing my husband's clothes at this present moment."

"Your husband's clothes?"

"Were they not purchased with his money?"

"Madam I you have a very extraordinary way of putting things. Is it
possible that you intend to be offensive?"

"Is it possible to be offensive to such as you?"

"I, madam, am a gentleman, born and bred."

"That you are a gentleman of a certain kind I have no doubt whatever."

The man began to look badgered, as if he were growing conscious of a
feeling of tightness about the region of the chest. He commenced to
smooth the nap of his hat, violently, with his gloved hand.

"I take it, Mrs. Tennant, that you don't quite realise the position in
which your husband stands."

"And I take it that you don't at all realise the position in which you
stand."

The fellow ceased brushing his hat, the better to enable him to stare.

"I stand?"

"Yes, you."

"And pray, madam, how do I stand?"

"Have you ever heard of such a thing as an accessory after the fact?"

"An accessory after the fact?"

"Because that is the position in which you stand--in the position of an
accessory after the fact."

The man looked unmistakably uneasy. He continued to suspend the
operation of smoothing his hat.

"You are pleased to be facetious."

"You will find that that view will not be taken by a judge and jury."

It was with a distinct effort that the fellow returned to an attitude
of defiance--squaring his shoulders and tugging at his moustache.

"I have no wish, and no intention, to chop phrases with a lady. I
imagined, madam, that you desired to say something pertinent to your
husband's terrible position--with the gallows already shadowing him.
Since it appears to be otherwise I can but proceed to do my duty."

"By all means do your duty. But you understand that when my husband is
arrested you will be arrested too."

"Pooh, madam--you cannot frighten me!"

"But I can, and will, get you penal servitude for life."

"Can you, indeed, madam? May I ask how you propose to do it?"

"By telling the plain and simple story of your connection with my
husband. That will be sufficient, as you know."

"I know nothing of the sort; tell your story, and be hanged!"

Thrusting his hat upon his head, the fellow marched out of the room in
a couple of strides. His exit, whether consciously to himself or not,
was marked rather by haste than by dignity. When he had gone I looked
at my wife. Lucy, on her part, looked at the door through which he had
vanished.

"Now you've done it," I observed.

Lucy turned to me with a smile hovering about her lips, which, under
the circumstances, I thought was a little out of place.

"I have done it, as you say."

"You don't seem to be aware of what you've done. What's the good of
talking to him like that? Do you suppose that you can frighten
him--that you can take him in? He knows very well that whatever happens
to me he'll go scatheless. He's the one witness whom the prosecution
will not be able to do without."

"I think you are mistaken. With a man of that type the high horse is
the only horse you ought to ride. He desires nothing less than to get
into the witness-box, or I misjudge the man. I suspect that his own
record is not of a kind which he would care to have exposed to the
cross-examining light of day."

Hardly were the words out of her mouth than there came a tap at the
panel of the door. Lucy shot a glance towards me.

"Who's there?" she asked.

Whom should it be but our friend the scoundrel. He came in with quite a
dove-like air of mildness, mincing, like a dancing-master, on his toes.

"Excuse me, but even on the front door steps my heart got the upper
hand of me. I could not do what seemed even to approximate to cruelty.
I could not hang anybody--I judge not, so that I may not be judged. My
one aspiration is, and always has been, to be a friend in need. I
cannot help it, but so I am."

Producing a parti-coloured silk handkerchief--brand new--he manipulated
it in such a manner as to diffuse an odour of perfume through the room.
My wife looked him up and down. Her tone was dry.

"Your sentiments do you credit."

"They do, I know it; but, such as they are, they are mine own." He
coughed. "So far as I am personally concerned, financial considerations
are as nothing. It is circumstances which weigh me down. Instead of one
hundred pounds, suppose we say seventy-five--in a cheque and cash."

Lucy took upon herself to answer him--

"I am afraid we cannot say seventy-five."

"Merely as a temporary advance, till Monday. I expect remittances on
Monday, very large remittances, from my agents."

Lucy's tone was even drier than before. "I am glad to hear it."

"Yes, quite so." The fellow glanced towards me. He came sneaking
towards my bed. He spoke to me under cover of his hat. "I think, Mr.
Tennant, if you were to ask your good lady to withdraw, and were to
allow me to have one word with you, between ourselves, in private--just
one--I know we should understand each other; I am sure we should."

I looked at Lucy. She also looked at me. I am bound to admit that what
I saw in her eyes supplied me, to a certain extent, with the moral
stamina in which, owing to the severe illness from which I had recently
been suffering, I was temporarily deficient. I spoke to the fellow
plainly--

"No, sir. As I have already told you, I have no secrets from my wife,
and whatever you wish to say to me must be said while she is present."

"You are--you are"--I suspect that he was going to say something the
reverse of complimentary, only Lucy's presence and attitude induced him
to change his mind--"a husband in a million. Now, Mr. Tennant, allow
me, as one gentleman speaking to another, to ask you if, considering
all things, you are not disposed to advance me, on unimpeachable
surety--that of my word--the sum of seventy-five pounds."

"I am not, sir."

"You are not? Strange! I confess I had not thought it possible.
However, I will not utter what may seem a word of reproach. We will
make it fifty pounds, then."

"We will not. At least, I won't."

"Then, since fifty pounds is insufficient to supply even my most
pressing needs, it is useless for me to attempt to carry the discussion
further. You are compelling me, Mr. Tennant, to take a step which, when
it is taken, we shall both of us regret. But, remember, whatever comes
of it--and ill will come--the act is yours, not mine. I wish you
good-day, sir; a last good-day! Also, madam, I wish good-day to you."
He marched to the door in a fashion which, this time, made up in
dignity what it lost in haste. With the handle of the open door in his
hand, he turned to me again, "I will concede still one more point. We
will make it forty-five."

"We won't."

"Then nothing remains." He vanished, to immediately reappear; his head
and shoulders were inserted through the partly open door. "Shall we
make it forty?"

"Nor forty."

Instead of taking the rebuff as final, he brought his legs and body
into the room after his head and shoulders. He addressed himself to
Lucy.

"I am conscious, madam, that in this matter yours is the controlling
voice. May I ask if you quite realise the responsibilities of your
position? Your husband's life hangs in the balance. My necessities urge
me on. Were it otherwise, I shall be only too happy to give that
assistance of which, at present, I stand in need. Even as it is, you
shall find in me no huckster. In proof of it, I need only state that I
am willing to accept the loan of a paltry five-and-twenty pounds."

"You won't get it."

"Then what shall I get? I find it hard to believe that a man can be
reduced to the position of a mendicant! I ask again--what shall I get?"

"Nothing."

"That is not only foolish, madam, it is cruel. Shall we speak of such a
bagatelle as fifteen pounds?"

"No."

The fellow made a grimace as if he ground his teeth.

"Ten?"

"No."

He threw out his arms as if appealing to the gods of the gallery.

"Confound it; is a gentleman to be reduced to ask for the loan of a
trumpery five-pound note!"

"Though he asks, he will not get it."

He looked at Lucy, as if he could not believe she was in earnest. Then
he sighed, or groaned. His hat, which he had been holding in his hand,
he replaced upon his head. Throwing his overcoat wide open, he began to
examine his pockets, methodically, one by one, as if he searched for
something. He did not find it, whatever it was.

"Bare, absolutely bare! This is awful. 'To err is human, to forgive
divine!'" He raised his hat about an inch from his head, possibly under
the impression that it was a text which he was quoting. "I came into
this house with my heart beating high with hope, filled with the milk
of human kindness, and it ends in this. It seems absurd to pawn a watch
within four-and-twenty hours of buying it, though I certainly never
should have bought it had I foreseen that I should receive such
treatment. Might I ask you to oblige me with the loan of a sovereign to
keep me going till I receive my remittances on Monday?"

"Better not. Your request would only meet with a refusal."

"Would it? That does finish it, that does. I'm off." I thought that
this time he was off finally, but scarcely was he off than he was back
again. He came hurrying towards me across the room. "I say, Tennant,
I'm actually without a cab fare. Lend me five shillings, there's a
trump."

"I will not lend you fivepence."

"You won't, won't you? Now we do know where we are." He glared about in
his best tragedy style. "Perhaps you will give me back that
handkerchief you borrowed."

Lucy interposed. "I shall not."

"You won't? Do you mean to steal it? Is it your intention to add theft
to the rest of the family crimes?"

"I mean to keep it as evidence."

"As evidence? What do you mean?"

"As evidence of your being an accessory after the fact. If you take my
advice, with the proceeds of the pawning of the watch which you
purchased with my husband's money, you will remove yourself as far from
the reach of the police as you conveniently can."

He put his hand up to his chin, as if pondering her words.

"If you will lend me----"

Lucy cut him short. She threw the door wide open.

"I will lend you nothing. Now go--unless you wish me to send for the
police."

He looked at her, not seeming to like what he saw. He scowled his
finest scowl.

"Go? Oh yes, I'll go." He cast his eyes up towards the ceiling.
"Ingratitude, thy name is woman!" Then down to me--"Not to mention
man." He began to button up his overcoat as if in a hurry. "I'll be
even with some one over this, you see if I don't."

Then he went finally. We heard him stamping down the stairs; then we
heard him shut the hall door behind him with a clatter and a bang as he
went out into the street.



                             CHAPTER IX.

                         FOR THE SECOND TIME.


Lucy turned to me as soon as it was quite clear that the fellow had
gone.

"Now get up and dress, and go at once to some great lawyer and tell him
everything. To whom shall you go?"

"My dear! At this time of day? By the time that I reach town they'll
have all gone home."

Lucy looked at me in that freezing fashion which has always struck me
as being so singularly unsympathetic.

"What do you propose to do?"

"Well, my dear, I think I'll get up and dress, if you don't mind, and
have a little dinner."

"Dinner?"

"Yes, dinner. It's easy enough for you to sneer, but if you'd been
living on toast and water, which, to some extent, during the last four
days, I practically have been doing, the prospect of a little decent
food would even appeal to you."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"And you're a man? As, I suppose, is the individual who has just taken
himself out of the house."

"I should be obliged, Lucy, if you would not institute comparison
between that vagabond and me. I don't like it. In the morning I will
follow your advice. I will go to a lawyer, and I will place myself
unreservedly in his hands. Just now the thing is out of the question; I
shouldn't find one, to begin with; and, in the second place, I'm
hungry."

We had dinner. Or at least I had dinner, and she looked on at me while
I was eating it. Her companionship did not tend to increase one's
appetite. She sat in front of me, bolt upright on her chair, her hands
clasped in her lap, eating nothing, and saying nothing either. She
seemed to be counting every mouthful which I took, as though I was
doing something of which I ought to be ashamed. I don't know what there
was to be ashamed of. I don't see why a man shouldn't eat, even if he
is going to be hanged, especially if he is innocent as a babe unborn,
and is about to be made the victim of a judicial murder, as I bade fair
to be.

A knock which came at the front door just as I was finishing came as a
positive relief. I should have had words with Lucy if she had continued
to sit, like an unblinking statue, in front of me much longer. The
servant announced that the knocker was Mr. Keeley. Adolphus Keeley and
I on Fridays play chess together, all through the winter--one week at
his house, the next at mine. Owing to my illness, and the preoccupation
of my mind and body, I had forgotten that this was Friday, and that it
was his turn to come to me.

When Keeley was announced Lucy looked inquiringly at me.

"Shall I tell Jane to ask Mr. Keeley to excuse you?"

"Certainly not." I had not been by any means looking forward to the
pleasurable prospects of a _tête-à-tête_. Keeley came as a relief.
"Tell Mr. Keeley I will be with him in a minute."

Adolphus Keeley, to be frank, and to use an idiom, is not so wise as
they make them. He is well intentioned, but dull. I have known him
pretty well my whole life long, and I can stand as much of him as any
one. But that night I found him particularly trying. He persisted in
keeping the conversation in a groove for which I had a strong distaste.
One of his weak points is an inability to see a hint in time to take
it. I not only dropped hints, I threw them at him as hard as I could;
but I threw them all away. I had a dreadful time. In preferring his
society to Lucy's I had stepped from the frying-pan into the fire.

He began as soon as I was in the room.

"Well, Tennant, what do you think about the murder?"

"Murder? What murder?

"The Three Bridges tragedy; isn't it a dreadful thing?"

At the mere mention of the subject a shiver went all over me. I tried
to make him see that it was a topic for which I had no relish. I might
as well have tried to put two heads upon his shoulders.

"I have heard scarcely anything about it. I've been ill--very ill."

"I heard that you'd been seedy. Got a bit fluffy on Monday, eh?"

It is true that Mrs. Tennant was not in the room at the moment, but she
might have been just outside the door; and, in any case, the
insinuation was of an unwarrantable kind.

"Got chucked from the Empire, eh? Went home Hackney way, without a hat.
I know. Shouldn't be surprised if you have been a little queerish; you
look puffy even now. I tell you what, Tennant, you ought to go in for
training. I could get a couple of stone off you, and you'd be all the
better for it. But about this murder. I'm not a bloodthirsty creature,
as a rule, but I should like to have the fellow who did it all alone to
myself for about five-and-twenty minutes."

Keeley is one of the large army of muscular maniacs. He stands six feet
three in his socks. He spends most of his spare time in a gymnasium,
and the rest in what he calls "keeping himself fit." He could kill me
with a single blow of his fist. Just then Lucy came in.

"Sorry to hear that Tom's been seedy, Mrs. Tennant."

"He's been in bed."

"So I hear. And what do you think of the murder?"

Lucy had brought some work in with her. Seating herself by the fire,
she began busying herself with it.

"Do you think it was a murder?"

"I should think it was a murder. What else could it have been?"

"The woman might have fallen out of the train by accident."

"Accident? A lot of that!" I have told Lucy over and over again that,
in the presence of ladies, Adolphus Keeley is sometimes brusque to the
verge of rudeness. "Do you think that if there had been any accident
about it, the fellow who was with her wouldn't have given the alarm? He
knew better."

I had been setting out the chessmen on the board, and turned to Keeley
with a pawn in either hand.

"Which hand will you have?"

"Left."

The white pawn was in the left hand. We sat down to play. Still he
continued to prose. "Fred Courtney wanted to bet that they wouldn't
have the fellow in a month. I should be almost inclined to take short
odds that they'll have him within four-and-twenty hours."

He had moved to king's pawn. I was about to give the usual reply, but
when he said that my hand faltered on the piece.

"Within four-and-twenty hours? What makes you think that?"

Keeley winked.

"I've heard something, that's all. It's your move."

I moved.

He brought his knight out. I fancy that I brought mine. But I am not
sure. I found that, after all, I was not sufficiently recovered to do
myself justice over a chessboard. I am more than his match as a rule. I
have played him three weeks in succession--one night a week--without
his ever winning a game. But on that occasion I was not a foeman worthy
of his steel. He beat me with even ridiculous ease. And directly he had
won he began again.

"You're fond of murders, aren't you?"

"Fond of murders, Keeley! What do you mean?"

"I've heard you say more than once that you like a first-class murder."

"I don't remember ever having said anything of the sort. It seems
incredible that I could have done. It would have been in direct
opposition to all my principles."

"Come!--I say!" He looked at me as if to see if I was joking. I
emphatically was not. "I've heard you say that you'd like to be in the
position of a murderer yourself, just for the sake of a new sensation."

"Keeley!"

"I have! And when the Putney mystery was on you took as much interest
in it as if it had been a personal matter. Why, you have even talked
about starting as an amateur detective to see if you couldn't ferret
out the business yourself. You used to declare that the fellow who did
it deserved flaying alive; and, when I suggested that there might be
extenuating circumstances, you used to get quite mad with me."

"My dear Keeley, the Putney mystery belongs to ancient history. Won't
you have another game?"

"But it seems to me that this Three Bridges business is quite as pretty
a puzzle. What did he kill her for? They talk about getting up a
sweepstake in the office. The possible reasons to be put down on pieces
of paper, and whoever draws what proves to be the right one when the
fellow comes to be tried and hung, to take the sweep. Now, what should
you say he killed her for?"

"Would you mind changing the subject, Keeley. You forget that I have
been ill, and still am very far from well, and that the topic is hardly
one which is likely to appeal to an invalid's brain. I think I'll have
a little whisky, Lucy."

I had a little whisky. In fact I had a fairish quantity; I had to,
since I had to bear the burden of Keeley's conversation. That
particular topic seemed to be the only one he had inside his head. He
harked back to it nearly every time he opened his mouth. Had I not
known the man I should have concluded that he was doing it out of sheer
malignancy. But I did know him. I knew he was thick-headed. Lucy was
not of the slightest use. She went on sewing in silence, as if all
subjects were indifferent to her.

I was glad when Keeley rose to go. I went with him to the front door to
see him off the premises. After he had gone I remained standing on the
steps to get a mouthful of fresh air. It was a dark night; there was no
wind, and there was a suspicion of fog in the air. I was standing on
the bottom step but one. The nearest lamp-post was some distance down
the road. What with the darkness and the mist I could not see any of
the lamps on the hall doors on the other side of the street. It was
very quiet. There was not a sound of footsteps nor of any sort of
traffic.

Suddenly, while I was thinking of nothing in particular, except that
Keeley had been making rather a greater ass of himself than he
generally did, I saw something begin to shape itself in the air in
front of me. It did not come all at once, but by degrees. First a dim
outline, then feature after feature, until the whole was there. It
began to take the shape of a face. It was a face--a woman's face--her
face--Ellen Howth's. For the second time it had come to me, unwatched
for, undreamed of, unawares, a visitant from the dead--come to me with
its awful, staring eyes. There could be no question this time about my
having drunk too much. I was as sober as I ever was in my life. I can
give no adequate conception of the havoc with which I realised that
this was so, and that the face was there. It came slowly towards me.
The idea of a closer contact was more than I could endure. As it
advanced, I retreated, backwards, up the steps. Still the face came on.
I got into the house, and banged the door, as it seemed to me, just in
time to shut it out. I staggered against the wall. Lucy came to me, as
I stood there trembling.

"I was coming to tell you to come in. You will catch a cold." Then,
perceiving my state of agitation, "Tom! What is the matter?"

"Lucy, I have seen a ghost."

"A ghost?"

"As I live and breathe, I have seen a ghost. Oh, my God!"

"Tom!"

"This is the second time I have seen it. I have a premonition that the
third time will mean death."

There came a knocking at the door. Lucy looked at me.

"It is Mr. Keeley back again. The servants have gone to bed. I will
open and see."

It was not Keeley. It was a short, broadly-built man, with a bushy
beard. Other men were with him, though I could only just see them
standing in the shadow at the foot of the steps. The bearded man
addressed himself to me--

"Are you Thomas Tennant?"

"That is my name."

"I am a detective. You are my prisoner. I arrest you for wilful
murder."

Then I saw that the men who had been standing at the foot of the steps,
and who now, uninvited, were entering the house, were constables.



                         BOOK II.--THE CLUB.

           (_The Tale is told by Reginald Townsend, Esq_.)



                              CHAPTER X.

                       THE HONOUR OF THE CLUB.


I had not a notion that it would be Louise, that evening at the
club--not the very faintest! How could I have? I did not know that the
lot would fall to me. I was the first to draw. When I saw that the card
which I had drawn was black, and that on it were inscribed, in gleaming
crimson letters, the words, "The Honour of the Club," it gave me quite
a start. Of course I knew that the odds were equal. But, somehow or
other, I had never expected to draw the thing. I held it up in front of
me.

"Gentlemen, the Honour of the Club is mine."

Pendarvon, in the chair, stood up. The others all rose with him.

"Gentlemen of the Murder Club, charge your glasses to the brim." They
filled them with neat brandy. Pendarvon turned to me, holding his
tumbler above his head.

"Mr. Townsend, we offer you our most sincere congratulations."

The others all chimed in--

"We do!"

They emptied their glasses, with inclinations of their heads towards
me. I don't fancy that, ordinarily, they would all of them have been
quite equal to drinking half a pint of brandy at one swallow, neat.
Some of them did not like it even then. As young Rasper-Stenning, who
was in front of me, put down his glass, he pulled a face, and caught at
the table. I thought he was going to be ill.

Pendarvon went on--

"The Honour of the Club, Mr. Townsend, rests with you. We do not doubt
that, this day month, you will return it to us, as untarnished as when
it came into your keeping." They sat down. I rose.

"Gentlemen, I thank you. I give you my word that, with me, the Honour
of the Club is safe. I will wear it next my heart. At our next meeting
I will return it to you with its crimson of a still more vivid hue. I
will show you that it is possible to paint even scarlet red."

I put the Honour of the Club into my pocket-book. I went away with
Archie Beaupré. He wanted to know if I had any one in my mind's eye.

"Not any one--unless it's you."

He was lighting a cigarette. He laughed.

"It's against the rules to kill each other. Have a light?"

I had one.

"I'll kill some one, never you fear. What is likely to afflict me is
not a poverty of choice, but an embarrassment of riches. The difficulty
will be to know, not whom to kill, but whom to leave alive. Think of
one's creditors. How they cry out for slaughter."

But Louise O'Donnel never occurred to me. I was too fond of her. The
little witch had twined herself about my heart. When I thought of her,
I thought of nothing else but kisses. I don't know how many women I
have loved in my time--I hope that, as becomes a gentleman, I have
loved them all! I never loved one better than, at that period of my
career, I loved Louise.

True enough, later on my love grew fainter. The fault was hers. My
experience, a tolerably wide one, teaches me that, when a man's love
does grow less, almost invariably the woman is at fault. The days went
by. The Honour of the Club remained in my pocket. I could not make up
my mind whom to choose. When it came to the scratch, I found the task
harder than I supposed. I thought of my scamp of a brother. Goodness
knows he would be all the better for killing. I might have pitched upon
him had not another choice been positively thrust upon me. None of
one's other relatives seemed worthy serious attention. The Depehurst
people are a nuisance. But one scarcely felt justified in killing one
of them, just by way of a joke, except it was Harold, who, what with
his temperance fad, and his anti-gambling fad, and his social purity
fad, and all the rest of his fads, is one of the most obnoxious prigs I
know. On the other hand, if one commenced killing men simply because
they were prigs, slaughter would know no ending.

Then Louise began to worry me. The usual story--her character at stake.
As though it mattered! But, try as I would, I could not induce her to
take my point of view. Never was a girl more unreasonable. I had always
foreseen that she was the sort with whom one might have trouble. But
then I had always supposed that she loved me. I made at least a dozen
suggestions--delicately, and almost inferentially, as it were, because
she was in a state of mind in which a slip on my part might have made
her dangerous. Nothing would do for her except that I should marry her,
which, of course, was absurd.

Then it happened. Up to the very last moment I was undecided. The fault
was hers all through.

She was staying in lodgings at Brighton--really at my expense. I had
enough expenses of that kind upon my hands just then! Her tenancy was
up on the Monday. I told her to leave instead on the Sunday. She was to
meet me at East Grinstead. She might have been under the impression
that, having met me, she was to stay with me--if so, again the fault
was hers. Leaving town early, I met her at East Grinstead Station. We
lunched at a tavern near the station. After lunch we walked over to
Turner's Hill. At the inn we had a hybrid sort of meal. Afterwards we
started, as she supposed, to walk back to East Grinstead Station.

In so supposing, she was wrong.

She had been affectionate all day--too affectionate--with a sort of
affection which suggested what a good wife she would be to her husband.
When we left the inn, instead of going in the direction she supposed, I
turned towards Paddockhurst, intending to walk through Tilgate Forest
to Three Bridges Station, distant some four or five miles. She was a
stranger in that country. I knew every inch of it--a lonely one it is
at night. I made up my mind to put the issue plainly to her on the
road. And that then, if she did not promise to be reasonable, I would
do something for the Honour of the Club. The month allowed by the rules
was up on the Thursday following. At the meeting I should be called to
account.

Louise continued to be as unreasonable as ever--if anything, she was
more so. She talked about my promises--as if they were anything! She
cried, making quite a scene--or rather, a succession of scenes. She
kept stopping, as we were going down Whitely Hill, accusing me of all
sorts of things. I fancy she was rather taken aback when I turned into
Tilgate Forest. It was pitch dark, and the walking was not too smooth.
The game seemed wide awake. We could hear the rustling of unseen feet,
the hurtling of unseen wings. Once we flushed a pheasant right from
beneath our feet. A startled cock-pheasant is not the quietest of
birds, but I don't think I ever heard one make such a noise as that
bird did then. It startled even me. Louise was frightened out of her
wits. I felt her trembling as she clung to my arm.

All the way along I kept saying to myself, "Now! now!" And I should
have done it in the forest, only just as I was bringing myself to the
sticking point, my eyes were saluted by a crimson glare. I thought for
a moment we had gone further than I supposed, and had reached Wrench's
farm. Then I thought of the charcoal-burners. You will find them
somewhere in Tilgate Forest all the year round. Sure enough it was
them. Their furnace was glowing blood-red--they had built it close to
the path. They had raised a barricade of faggots to screen it from the
wind. Louise wanted to stop and look at it, I believe, because she
wanted the encouragement of its companionship. But I would not agree; I
hurried her on. I had no desire to be seen just then, even by a
charcoal-burner. As I was congratulating myself that we should get past
unnoticed, a short, stunted figure, starting out from behind the
barricade, glared at us through the gloom.

Little was said by either of us, as, leaving the forest, we went across
the fields. Reaching the railway, we passed under the arch. I helped
Louise over the stile. We paused by the gate. About half a mile off
were the village and the station. I resolved I would give her another
chance; then if she was obstinate, I would do it.

She was obstinate, even, as it seemed to me, in a positively ascending
scale.

"You promised to marry me. I have your letter. I trusted you. If you
are going to leave me to face my shame alone, there is nothing for me
but death."

That saying of hers finished it; there was nothing for her but death.
Only it came a little sooner than she quite bargained for. Just at that
moment a train went thundering over the bridge towards town. As it went
a cloud must have parted, because, suddenly, the moon came out. It
shone upon us two. Louise looked up at me through the moonbeams.
Although she had been crying--and I never knew a woman's face which was
improved by tears--her prettiness, revealed, all at once, by the
moonlight, particularly struck me. She looked prettier even than when I
first saw her at the Coliseum. Her beauty went to my heart. She put her
hand upon my arm--a tiny hand it was.

"Reggie, has your love for me all gone? Don't you love me still?"

"Oh, yes," I said; "I love you still."

Then, putting my hands round her neck, I began to choke her. Hers was a
slender neck, so that I was able to put nay hands right round and get a
good, firm grip. I don't think that at first she realised what I was up
to. She was thinking more of love than of death. At any rate she did
not attempt to scream. She looked to me as if she was startled. She
looked more startled as I increased the pressure. Appetite came with
eating. I had not altogether relished the business until I tackled it.
But, as I got a tighter and tighter hold, and felt her convulsive
writhings and her life slipping through my fingers, I began to feel the
joy of killing, for the killing's sake. I began to be filled with a
sort of ecstasy of passion--the sort of sensation which I had been in
search of when I joined the club. After all, it was worth feeling.
Lifting her up, I bent her backwards over the gate. She took longer to
die than I should have supposed. When she had ceased to move, and went
all limp in my grasp, I dropped her. My fingers were rigid with cramp.
For some seconds I could not move them. When I could, the pain was
excruciating. I found, too, that I was not only breathless, I was damp
with perspiration.

She lay in an ugly heap on the ground. I arranged her draperies and
straightened her. In her pocket was a purse--one which I had given her,
so I was only regaining my own--some letters in an envelope, which, I
guessed, were also mine, and a handkerchief. I knew that she was in the
habit of wearing a portrait of mine, which I had been ass enough to
give her, in a locket round her neck. Opening her dress at the
bosom--which I had a job in doing--I found the locket tied to a piece
of ribbon. Tearing it off, I put it, with the other things, into the
inside pocket of my overcoat. Not wishing to leave the body lying there
for the first passer-by to find in the morning, picking it up I carried
it a few feet along the hedge which bordered the railway embankment. On
the other side of this hedge shrubs were growing on the sloping banks.
Raising the body above my head, I threw it, as far as I could, among
these shrubs. I distinctly heard it fall. Then, immediately after, I
heard a sort of rustling--exactly the sort of rustling which the body
might have made had it been alive and was rising to its feet. I knew
well enough that it was not alive; I had taken care of that. But the
sound was, in one sense, so apposite, and, in another sense, so very
much the other way, that it filled me with an unreasoning panic terror.
I started off running across the open meadow as if I had been running
for my life.

I had meant to keep along the Brighton line to Three Bridges Station.
It was only when I struck the stile which leads to the footpath across
the Horsham line that I realised what an idiot I was. Then I pulled up,
and only then. I was in a muck of sweat. Sitting on the stile, I began
to mop myself with my pocket-handkerchief. I was exhausted--all of a
quiver. Something of my absurd attack of terror was with me still. I
actually thought that I had seen a face rise up from among the bushes
and stare at me--white in the moonlight. As I recalled my folly--even
though I was conscious it was folly--I shut my eyes and shivered.

As soon as I felt myself presentable and in a condition to move, I went
along the Horsham line into the station. I gained the platform
unobserved. I made at once for a refreshment-room. I was aware that it
was not the part of wisdom to expose myself too much, but I felt that I
must have a drink, even though directly after I was hanged. There being
two refreshment-rooms on the up platform, I had two drinks at each of
them.

The return half of my East Grinstead ticket was available to town from
there; so I had no concern on that account. As I came out of the second
refreshment-room, feeling that the stuff which they had sold me for
brandy had done me good, I tackled a porter about a train. The next,
and last, to London was at 10.20. Glancing at my watch, I found that it
was just past the hour.

A woman, coming up to me as I moved from the porter, asked me the
question which I had just been asking him. I noticed what a pleasant
voice she had--few things in a woman appeal to me so much as that.
Something in her bearing suggested that she might not resent a desire
on my part for sociability. I gave her the information she required,
with additions of my own, thrown out by way of feeler. She responded;
we began to talk. The long and short of it was that I travelled with
her in the same compartment to town.

Possibly I had at the moment an unconscious craving for congenial
society--I am a gregarious animal. Certainly, she did appeal to what I
take to be my instincts in an unusual degree. She was not in her first
youth, but she was still good-looking, and she was not made up. I hate
a woman who paints and powders; after all my experience I have never
got over a feeling that a woman who does that sort of thing can't be
clean. She was good style; if she was not exactly a woman of our world,
then she was either very clever or very near it. She had seen the
world, and it had not spoilt her. She was well dressed, and by the
right people. I would not have minded doing a turn in the Park with her
any day of the week.

She was frankness itself--it was that which made me shy a little. With
strangers our women are not so frank, though that I have a sympathetic,
not to say fascinating, way about me, I make no doubt. It is not a
question of conceit; I know it. I ought to, considering it is the
leading article of my stock-in-trade.

She said she was a widow. We got so thick that she gave me her
card--Mrs. Daniel J. Carruth, with an address at West Kensington. She
herself was English, her husband was American, which explained the
name. She had been out of England several years; had returned to find
herself alone. She felt her loneliness she said. I had no reason to
suppose she lied.

"Have you no children?"

"No. I have scarcely known whether to be glad or sorry. There is
something to be said on either side of the question." Looking down she
began pulling at the pile of her sealskin coat. "You must know that my
husband was many years my senior." I nodded. "It would have made a
difference if he had been young."

Though I did not quite see the sequence, I nodded again. She had given
me permission to light a cigarette. I was at my ease. I was conscious
of feeling a really curious interest in Mrs. Carruth.

She glanced up at me. Hers were fine eyes, though about them there were
two peculiarities--they seemed to be looking, not at me, but at
something far away, and they always smiled.

"It seems so odd. When I left England, though I was poor, I had troops
of friends. Now I have come back I am rich, but all my friends seem to
have vanished into air. I have not one."

"That is a state of things which is not likely to continue long."

"Perhaps not; I hope not--one does not like to be friendless. But it is
all so different to what I had looked forward to. When one has been
absent a long time from home, and is able to return at last, one dreams
dreams. Only those who have experienced it can know how"--she
hesitated, as if for a word--"strange it feels when one is forced to
recognise that those dreams have been but dreams." She glanced down;
then up again. "I have many acquaintances; they are not friends."

I agreed with her, asking myself at the same time what she might happen
to mean. Was she dropping a hint to me? If so, I might be more than
half disposed to take it. Mrs. Carruth appealed to me strangely, every
moment more and more. The minutes sped; before I knew it we were in
town.

I saw her into a hansom at Victoria. She asked me to call on her; to
renew and improve the acquaintance made in the train. I said that I
would. What is more, when she was gone, I told myself that I would keep
my promise.

Her voice lingered in my ears.



                             CHAPTER XI.

                    WHAT MR. TENNANT HAD WRITTEN.

There were several letters by the morning's post. One's creditors, at
any rate, seemed to be in town. Do those sort of people ever go away?
Lily Langdale wanted me to look her up. Confound little Lily Langdale!
I had looked her up too much already. Chirpy Mason, writing from Monte
Carlo, wanted to know if I could do him a hundred or two. Would I wire?
No; I would neither do the one or the other. I knew Chirpy. He had
probably made the same request to half a dozen more of us. There were
only two letters among the heap worth looking at. One contained just
two type-written words, "Buy Boomjopfs." No address, no signature, no
nothing. I put that aside. It would entail my going into the City as
soon as I could. The other letter was from Haselton Jardine:--


                                                "SLOANE GARDENS.

"DEAR TOWNSEND,--If you are in town and this catches you, and you have
nothing else to do, come round to-morrow (Monday) and dine _en
famille_. Only Dora! I have something which I rather wish to say to
you.

                                  "Yours,

                                         "H. J."


I was to go down to them at Cockington on Friday. What had he to say to
me which would not keep till then, I wondered. But I had nothing else
to do--and there was Dora! So, scribbling a line of acceptance, I told
Burton to take it round. When I opened the paper I found that Sir
Haselton was leading for the defendants in the great diamond earring
libel case--Mrs. Potter Segundi against Lady Lucretia Jenkyns. I should
not have minded being in court to see the fun. They say Mrs. P. S. has
brass enough to start a foundry. I know, of my own knowledge, that Lady
J. is fairly well equipped. When I am in Queer-street I hope that Sir
Haselton will be briefed for me.

It was past one when I got out. I ought to have gone straight to the
City. Instead, I dropped into the Climax, and had just one rubber. I
cut Pendarvon against Graeme and Bicketts. Pendarvon and I had the luck
of the devil: we scored a bumper. Altogether, with bets, I walked off
with about a pony. When I reached the City it was not very far from
four. I made for a broker in Austin Friars--a man named Tennant, Thomas
Tennant--as steady a file as ever I saw. I have done a good deal of
business through him at various times. I don't fancy that he has much
nose of his own; but he keeps quiet, asks no questions, and follows
instructions to the letter.

Tennant was out. He was not in the House. A clerk thought that he was
at Danby's; he would go and see. I knew where Danby's was--it is one of
those City restaurants where there is more drank than ate--so I saved
that clerk his trouble, and went myself.

I spotted Tennant directly I got inside the place--a plump little
fellow, with round, pasty face, and hair which always looked to me as
if he soaped it. A mild, unassuming neat-as-ninepence sort of man. He
had a table to himself. As a rule, in a mild sort of way, he is jolly
as a sandboy. Just then it appeared to me that he seemed hipped. Taking
a chair on the opposite side of the table, carelessly, thoughtlessly
enough, I took hold of a scrap of paper on which he had been
scribbling. When I glanced at it a thrill went down my back. It was a
bolt out of the blue. I do not think that in all my life before I was
ever so taken by surprise.

Tennant had been scribbling all over the sheet of paper a woman's
name--"Louise O'Donnel." That my appearance on the scene at that
particular moment was a pure coincidence, I had, of course, no doubt.
It could not have been otherwise. But how came he to have been writing
that name? I could scarcely believe my eyes. I stared at the paper, and
then at him.

"What is the meaning of this?" I asked.

"The meaning of what?"

When I showed him what he had been writing on the piece of paper he
seemed to be as much taken aback as I was. At first he wanted me to
believe that he had been writing a name over and over again without
having an idea of what it was that he was doing. I could not make him
out at all. He made me feel uneasy.

So far as I was aware, I was the only person in England who had been
acquainted with the girl's real name. She had always assured me that
such was the case, and I had believed her. Everybody, except myself,
knew her by her stage name--Milly Carroll. Her father was the only
relative she had in the world, and he was in Colorado. Father and
daughter had fallen out. Coming to England with a burlesque company
from New York, she had left him on the other side of the world. If
this story of hers was true--and I did not, and do not, believe she
lied--she was not that sort of girl--how did Mr. Thomas Tennant come to
be in possession of her name?

I put the question to him point blank.

"What do you know about Louise O'Donnel?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing? Tennant, I say!"

"I heard it mentioned for the first time in my life last night."

"Last night?" The coincidence made me shiver again.

"As I was coming up from Brighton."

"Brighton?" I had to gasp for breath. "Did you come up last night from
Brighton? By what train?"

"The 8.40."

I figured it out in my mind. I should not be surprised if that was the
identical train which had rattled over the arch while Louise and I had
been leaning against the gate, just before I did something for the
Honour of the Club. And Tennant was in it. "Was the long arm of
coincidence going to make things pleasant for me?"

"What did you hear about Louise O'Donnel as you were coming up from
Brighton?"

"Nothing. The name was casually mentioned in my hearing, that was all.
It seems to have stuck in my head."

It did seem to have stuck in his head--and it seemed to have crept
unawares from the ends of his fingers. That something had been said or
done to fix the name in his memory, I did not doubt. What had been said
or done was another matter. Somehow I did not seem to care to question
him too closely. Generally, in his own placid, fish-like fashion,
Tennant is as cool as you please. Then he was as fidgety as if he had
been sitting on hot bricks. He said he was ill, and he looked it--if
his ailment was not more mental than physical I misjudged him.

I clean forgot all about the Boomjopf shares, which I had come up to
instruct him to buy. I left Tennant in Danby's without having mentioned
them to him from first to last. Indeed, I never thought of them till I
pulled Groeden's tip out of my pocket when I got home to dress for
dinner. Seeing the girl's name upon that sheet of paper made me all of
a fluster.

Scarcely had I left Danby's when I all but cannoned into my scamp of a
brother. He seemed as little pleased to see me as I was to see him, but
as I had seen and heard nothing of him for the last two years, I
thought that I might as well do the fraternal. He looked seedy enough,
and cad enough to boot. The cad was in his face and bearing; the
seediness was in his clothes. He had on what looked like, not a second,
but a fourth-hand overcoat, trimmed with the usual imitation astrachan.
If he had his way, I believe that he would be buried in imitation
astrachan.

"Not in prison then?"

"No." He fidgeted inside his clothes. "I'm not in prison."

"Recently come out?"

"Nor have I recently come out."

"Or just going in?"

"Not unless, my dear Reginald, it is to visit you."

Alexander was cheeky; he must be in funds, although he did not look it.

"May I ask, my dear Alexander, what means you are at present taking to
increase your fortune?"

He blew his nose with an old silk handkerchief and a flourish. Did he
ever do anything without a flourish--even pick a pocket?

"I don't know, my dear Reginald, that it much matters to you what I am
doing, but I don't mind telling you, in confidence, that I am at
present devoting my energies to the detection of crime."

"To what?"

The idea seemed too funny.

"To the detection of crime. In other words, I am a private detective,
on, I think I may say, a considerable scale."

"The deuce you are! That is something new."

"And you--may I ask what you are doing?"

I stared at Alexander. He certainly was coming on.

"I'm talking to you."

"I trust that the occupation gives you satisfaction. I regret that I am
compelled to cut it short. My time is valuable. In fact, at this moment
I have a pressing appointment with a gentleman well known in City
circles."

"A bailiff or a policeman, Alexander? They are both of them well known
in City circles."

"Probably, my dear Reginald, they are better known to you than they are
to me. Good-day."

"Good-day!"

He raised his hat about three feet; I raised mine about three inches.
We parted, I do believe, for the first time in our lives, on the most
affable of terms.



                             CHAPTER XII.

                        SIR HASELTON JARDINE.


Sir Haselton Jardine was a man whom I had rather been in the habit of
holding in awe. One never could be certain how much he knew. A man
could scarcely rise to the forensic heights which he had reached
without knowing something of almost every one. He was so quiet and so
self-contained that it was impossible to gauge the extent of his
knowledge until too late.

He was rather short, and he was very thin, and he stooped. He had
colourless grey eyes, which you scarcely ever saw, though, if you had
your wits about you, you felt that they all the time saw you. He had a
peaked grey beard, too straggling to be Vandyke, and sandy hair, which
he parted low down on the right-hand side. His voice was as soft and
gentle as any girl's--when he was asking a jury to hang a man he was
always the very pink of courtesy, and I wonder how many he had sent
that way in his time. He had beautiful hands, and he either braced his
trousers too high or else it was a principle of his to have them made
too short. Jardine's trousers were a standing joke--he always looked as
if he had got into his younger, and distinctly smaller, brother's. He
was a widower, and Dora was his only child.

I always had had a tenderness towards Dora Jardine. I suspected that,
under certain circumstances, she might not be ill-disposed towards me.
It was Sir Haselton that I felt shy of. He had the reputation of being
rich, apart from his practice at the bar, and that was supposed to be
worth fifteen thousand a year. Dora was pretty; he might very well have
eyes for an altogether bigger man than Reginald T. But somehow of late
I had begun to fancy that he himself had a partiality for me. He had
become quite fatherly. I was in a measure free of the house. On Friday
I was to go down to his country place at Cockington to shoot; he had
quite made a point of my making an indefinite stay.

Now there had been his note of the morning!

Sir Haselton was not visible when I arrived. I found Dora alone in the
drawing-room. Very nice she looked. Not one of the new order of tall
girls, but tall enough, and straight as a dart. Brown hair, which,
in certain lights looked golden, and which had a natural crinkle.
Pouting lips--very pretty ones--good nose and chin. Her eyes were
her most remarkable feature, as was the case with her father. Blue
eyes--laughing blue eyes I have heard them called--and innocent and
girlish too. But to me they were something else besides. I never knew a
man or a woman with eyes like that who was deficient in grit. I will go
further. If the women who have gone to the devil, and smiled when they
met him face to face, could be polled, I should be disposed to wager
that the majority of them had eyes like Dora Jardine's. I am not
insinuating anything against her--quite the other way. Only I am a
student of women's eyes.

She was standing by the fire as I went in. She turned, holding out her
hand.

"I am glad you have come," she said.

I felt as I took her hand in mine--and I felt it not for the first
time--that she and I were kindred spirits, and that, girl though she
was, she was stronger than I. I said something; I don't know what. Then
I looked at the fire. I felt that her eyes were on my face.

"What a strange face you have, as though, in you, were the makings of a
man."

I don't know how she was in the habit of talking to other men; she was
always saying that sort of thing to me. I laughed. "What sort of man?"

She did not answer my question. She ran her conversation on lines of
her own.

"What have you been doing since I saw you last--killing time?"

"Unfortunately, Miss Jardine, I have nothing else to do."

"Would you like to have something?"

"That depends."

"On what?"

"On the something."

"I see. I suppose that you will be doing something else on Saturday;
you are going to kill papa's pheasants?"

"You speak as though that was an improper thing to do."

There was a slight movement of her shoulders.

"I suppose that some men kill pheasants, and that other men rule
empires. I might like to do both things, but I confess that if I had to
choose I should prefer the empires."

I looked at her. Quietly, and without any ostentation, she gave me back
glance for glance. Something from her eyes seemed to get into my veins.

"Suppose it was not yours to choose?"

"It would be were I a man."

"It certainly has never yet been mine."

"Then you certainly are not a man."

Her high-faluting amused me. That the little, brown-haired, blue-eyed
thing should talk in such an inflated strain! And yet I felt that if
she had been a man she would have gone for the gloves--nay, that though
she was a woman she might go for them still.

She went on--

"That is the very essence of being a man; that he can choose what he
will be and do."

"You are on the wrong track. He might choose to win the Derby--plenty
of them do--but the odds are he will fail."

"He might try."

"And come a cropper. Men of that sort get posted every settling day. If
he is a cautious man he will limit his range of choice to things which
are within his reach."

"Are you a cautious man?"

As I met her eyes I could not have told her. I seemed to see so clearly
in them something which was not caution, something which thrilled and
kept time with a pulse of mine. While I hesitated Sir Haselton
appeared--his dress shoes making the shortness of his trousers still
more conspicuous. Immediately after, dinner was announced.

They always feed you well at Jardine's, and it seems to me that lawyers
generally do. And, though to look at him you might not think it,
Jardine can drink with any man--perhaps to counterbalance the dryness
of his profession. And he has some stuff worth drinking. His guests can
do as they please; he himself is old-fashioned--he sticks to the cloth
when the women are gone. That evening, bearing the hint in his note in
my mind, I stuck to it with him.

I was curious to know what it was he wanted to say to me; it took me
aback when it came.

I lit up when Dora had gone--Jardine does not smoke--post-prandial
wine-drinkers seldom do. As he leaned back in his chair a lean, dried
up, insignificant little chap he looked; but whoever, on that account,
would have liked to have tried a fall with him would have done well to
get up early. The fingers of his left hand grasped the stem of his
wineglass, but, used though I was to his trick of peering through his
half-shut eyes, I could not make out if he was looking at me or at the
glass.

"Townsend, I want to say something to you in confidence."

I nodded; though I don't mind owning that I felt a bit uneasy. He might
have wanted to say all sorts of things to me in what he called
confidence--and he was the sort of man to say them too. His next words,
however, reassured me.

"I am not a man of strong likes or dislikes"--I should rather say he
wasn't, being about the most bloodless creature going!--"but I like
you, if you will excuse me, Townsend."

"Excuse you, sir? You flatter me too much."

He smiled--if the wrinkling of his thin lips could be called a smile.

"Flatter you? I hardly think I flatter you. I will tell you why I like
you, Townsend."

He paused. I waited. The old fox kept twisting the stem of his
wineglass round and round between his thin white fingers.

"I like you, Townsend, because, although you are out of the common run,
you are not sufficiently so to be unpleasantly conspicuous. You have
what I lack, passion. You are as likely to ascend to the top of the
tree as to the top of the gallows. I hardly think I flatter you."

"You at least credit me with having aspirations."

"I believe, Townsend, that your wealth scarcely exceeds the dreams of
avarice--eh?" The remark had so little connection with anything that
had gone before, that I think I stared. He favoured me with one of
those lightning flashes which are among the tricks of his trade--then
you can see what eyes he really has. "I said I wanted to speak to you
in confidence."

"Precisely. You only flatter me too much."

Again that wrinkling of the lips which he, perhaps, intended for a
smile. I wondered what the dickens he was at.

"You see, Townsend, things reach my ears which do not come to other
men. May we take it, Townsend, that you are not a millionaire?"

"You may certainly take it, sir, at that."

"Pressed, now and then, for ready-money, perhaps."

What was he driving at? Was he going to develop into a sixty per cent.
and offer me a loan?

"I believe that most men are."

"Yes--they are." It struck me that there was something about the pause
he made which was anything but complimentary. I was beginning to feel
like throwing something at him. "You have a brother, Townsend." How did
he know that? "Have you seen him lately?"

"This afternoon."

"So recently? Is he doing well?"

"He said he was."

"There is nothing clogs a man so much as a brother of a certain kind."

"I take care that my brother does not clog me."

"I believe, Townsend, that you do." What did he mean by the inflection
with which the words were uttered? "You are wondering why I talk to you
like this. I will explain."

He took a sip from his glass. Then held it up in front of him,
connoisseur fashion.

"I am something of a curiosity. I have lived my own life. In my way, I
have enjoyed it. But I have one thing with which to reproach
Providence. He has not bestowed on me a son." He emptied his glass.
"Townsend, why don't you drink? I can recommend this port. Drink up,
and let me fill the glasses." I let him. "That a son is not always an
unmixed blessing I am aware. On the other hand, Dora has been a model
child. Still, a daughter can hardly do for a father what a son can. So
I still am hoping for a son."

What did the old beggar mean? He was still so long that I thought he
had forgotten to go on. But I did not feel that it was my cue to break
the silence. And at last he condescended to remember.

"You have in you the makings of the sort of son that I should like to
have."

"I? Sir Haselton, did I not say you flattered me?"

"I hardly think I do. I think I know you pretty well. Dora seems to
think she knows you even better." Now I began to see his drift.

"Townsend, what do you think of Dora?"

"I have sometimes feared, sir, that I have thought of her too much."

"Indeed." The word, as it came from between his lips, was a gently
murmured sneer.

"I should not have imagined that you were that kind of man. Townsend,
would you like to marry?"

"It has been my constant dream."

"Has it? And about Lily Langdale and others?"

What did he know about Lily, and the rest of them? I would have given
something to have learned just how much the old sleuth-hound did know
about everything or anything. I felt all the time that he had me at a
strong advantage. When I am in his presence I always do feel like that.

"You yourself, sir, have been a bachelor."

"True--I have. I take it, Townsend, that when you marry you will cease
to be a bachelor."

"Undoubtedly."

"What would you say to ten thousand pounds a-year?"

"Sir!"

"When Dora marries she will have that income to commence with. Should
her marriage prove a happy one, it will be increased."

He paused, as if for me to speak. I deemed silence to be the better
part of wisdom.

"The man who marries Dora will have to have a clean slate, if it has to
be cleaned for the occasion. I shall require him to give me a correct
statement of his position. I will see that his house is set in order.
He will have to take my name; Dora shall always be a Jardine. He will
have to enter public life."

"Public life?"

"Have you any objection?"

"It depends upon what you mean, sir, by public life; it is an elastic
term."

"He will have to enter Parliament. Means will be furnished to enable
him to do so. As a country gentleman he will have to take an interest
in local and in county government. He will have to play a prominent
part on the stage of national politics. He will have to aim at the top
of the tree. Dora has ambitions; her husband must have them too."

When he paused I was silent again. There was a cut-and-dried way about
his fashion of settling things which nettled me.

"Have you no ambitions, Townsend?"

"I have such ambitions as a poor man may have."

"A poor man is entitled to have the same ambitions as a rich one--if he
is strong enough. I was poor once upon a time. I did not allow my
poverty to hamper my ambition. What do you think of the programme which
I have drawn up for Dora's husband?"

"I think it an alluring one."

"For a strong man it has possibilities. You may take it from me that,
properly backed, you are strong enough to be able to say, with truth,
that few things are beyond your reach."

"I think myself that, given the opportunity, I might find the man."

"I think so too. You shall have the opportunity. You have heard on what
conditions. That is what I wanted to say to you. We shall see you at
Cockington at the end of the week. Perhaps, before you leave us, you
may have something to say to me."

"I trust, sir, that I may have something to say to you that will be
pleasant to us both."



                            CHAPTER XIII.

                          AN AFTERNOON CALL.


"You're sleeping it out. Are you going to lie in bed all day?"

I opened my eyes. I looked up. Somebody was shaking me--Archie Beaupré.

"You don't mean to say that you're awake? I admire your hours."

"Is it late?"

"I don't know what you call late. It's nearly one. Do you generally
sleep to this time?"

"Made rather a night of it, my boy. It was five when I left the
Climax."

"Oh, you went to the Climax, did you, after you left Jardine's? Win?"

"A trifle. What brings you here--starting in the early-calling line?"

Archie seated himself on the bed, murmuring--

"He calls this early."

Beaupré is the third son of the Duke of Glenlivet--one of the duke's
famed thirteen. Not a bad sort--stone broke, like all the rest of us.
Archie was born in two different sections--one-half of him makes all
for wickedness, and the other half makes all the other way--and,
whichever half of him is to the fore, he's thorough. Jardine and I had
found him in the drawing-room with Dora when we had finished our
hobnobbing--at which I was not sorry. When a man has had the sort of
talk with the father which I had had, he is not, on the instant, all
agog for a _tête-à-tête_ with the child. He wants to straighten things
out inside his head a bit. We had left the Jardines together, Beaupré
and I. He had gone to some twenty-third cousin of his great
grandmother--the man's relations are as the sands of the sea for
multitude, and he keeps in with every one of them--and I had gone on to
the Climax Club. Now, I wondered what he wanted on my bed.

When Burton had brought me my coffee, and Archie had put himself
outside a soda, tempered, he began.

"Don't laugh at me, old chap." Of course, when he told me not to laugh,
I was at once upon the grin--it's human nature. But he went on, "I am a
miserable wretch, I swear I am."

"Who says you aren't?"

"What a muck I've made of things!"

"Who denies it? Give me the rascal's name?"

"And I might have been a respectable chap once, if I had liked."

"My dear Archie! When?"

He was too woebegone to heed my chaff. He went and leaned his elbow on
my mantelshelf, and his head upon his hand.

"Reggie, I've been thinking that you and I ought to cut the Jardines."

"The deuce, you have!"

"For their sake. It is not fair to them that we should let them run the
risk of being contaminated by even a remote connection with the shadow
which, I suppose sooner or later, is sure to fall on us. It will come
specially hard on me--because I don't mind telling you, between
ourselves, that Miss Jardine's society to me means much." I stared;
things were coming out. "But the knowledge that this is so has come too
late. Unless the whole business of the club--I won't give it a name,
but you know the club which meets once a month in Horseferry Road--is a
ghastly joke."

"That is what it is."

"What?"

"A ghastly joke."

Beaupré looked up at me. I don't know what he saw in my face, but a
funny look came on his own--a look almost of fear.

"Sometimes, Townsend, I don't know if you're a man or a devil."

"The devil was a sublimated sort of man, and I expect he still is. This
coffee is just a trifle too sweet."

It was my second cup. I was sitting up in bed and stirring it.

"Of course, you have done nothing."

He said "Of course"; but I saw he was uneasy.

"Of course, I have."

"Townsend!"

The man gave quite a jump. He brought the back of his head with a bump
against the wall, without seeming to notice it.

"I hope, as I said, on Thursday to have the pleasure of returning the
Honour of the Club with its scarlet a more vivid hue."

He was glaring at me as if I had been some sort of hideous wild animal.

"You don't mean that you have killed some one?"

"Certainly. What else should I mean? Though I don't perceive that there
is any necessity for you to announce it from the tiles."

He staggered to a chair, plumping down in it with the stiffening all
gone out of him.

I laughed.

"My dear Archie, you had better have another drink. You don't seem
quite the thing."

He looked me straight in the face, I giving him look for look. When he
had sustained my glance for a moment or two he shut his eyes and
shivered. I saw a shudder go all over him. I drank my coffee.

"You're sure that you're not joking?"

"Some men joke most when they are most in earnest. Perhaps I am one of
them."

"Who was it?"

"A little girl I knew."

"A girl? My gracious! When was it?"

"Sunday evening."

He turned to me with a sort of gasp.

"Was it near Three Bridges Station?"

"Within half a mile."

"My God! It's in the paper! Townsend, what have you done?"

"It is in the paper, is it? May I ask what is in the paper?"

"They've found the body." He sprang from the chair.

"Reggie, I wish that I had died before you did this thing, and before
ever I heard of that accursed club."

"That is rather good, from you--the club having been a suggestion of
your own."

"I had been on the drink, hadn't I? I was mad. I swear, before the
living God, that I never dreamed that you fellows would take the thing
up in bitter earnest."

"My dear Archie, respect the proprieties, if you respect nothing
else--not quite that sort of language, if you please." He stared at me
and laughed--a queer laugh it was. "You remember the rule which directs
what course the members shall pursue towards a colleague who, for any
cause, turns tail and rats. That also, I believe, was a suggestion of
your own."

"Are you afraid that I shall turn tail and rat? You need have no fear.
That I shall never do, especially now. If we are to go to the devil,
we'll all travel the same road. But there is one thing on which I do
insist. I insist on your ceasing your connection with the Jardines."

"You insist?"

"I beseech you, then."

"I don't wish to say anything which may sound at all unkind, but don't
you think, my dear Archie, that you are taking rather a liberty in
intruding yourself into my affairs? The accident of our both being
members of the same club gives you no warrant for anything of the kind.
It certainly gives you none which I am likely to recognise even in the
faintest degree."

He began to pace about the bedroom like a caged wild cat. Presently he
made an announcement:

"It strikes me that I had better go home."

"I trust that you will allow nothing which I have said to deprive me of
the pleasure of your society, but perhaps it might do you good if you
were to toddle home and take a pill."

"Good-day!" he shouted.

Snatching up his hat and stick from the couch, he banged out of the
room without another word.

I don't mind owning--since, in these pages, at any rate, candour is the
order of the day--that when Beaupré had gone I did not feel altogether
up to concert pitch. Things were going contrary. The club did bid fair
to be a bit of a failure. Although the suggestion, as I had said, had
been Archie's, it was Pendarvon who had put it into shape.

I don't quite know how Archie first came to think of the thing. Some of
us had been playing poker in his rooms. Pendarvon had been losing. He
began to tell us about a story which he had been reading in which there
was a suicide club. He said that he had half a mind to start such a
club himself. Archie at once suggested that he should go one better;
instead of a suicide, let him make it a murder club. Let the members
draw lots, and whoever drew the lot, instead of suicide let him go in
for murder--for the Honour of the Club. Pendarvon took up the idea in a
way which startled us. We had all been drinking; there and then drawing
up a sort of rough outline of the club, he got us all to promise to
join. There were to be thirteen members; the club was to meet once a
month; lots were to be drawn; whoever drew the lot was to kill someone,
not a member of the club, within the month. On this basis Pendarvon had
actually got the thing into shape. We had had one meeting. The lot had
fallen to me.

I can safely say that if I had had the slightest inkling that old
Jardine was going to say what he had said I should have given
Pendarvon's pretty little plaything the widest of wide berths. I might
easily have succeeded in keeping Louise quiet by the use of some less
drastic means; at any rate, until I was sure of Dora. On Sunday I had
cared for nothing. The very next day I had something for which to care.
A golden future dangled before my eyes.

It was like the irony of fate.

Still the game might not be lost. I yet had time. I might, at any rate,
make my hay and enjoy it while the sun was shining. To-morrow--whose
to-morrow it was, or what weather it might bring, no man could tell. I
would live out to-day.

I looked at the newspaper. It was as Archie had said; how funny that he
should be touched by Dora! They had found the body--but that was
nothing, if that was all--and it was all. I had not supposed for a
moment that the body could stay hidden. It had all happened just as I
expected. A platelayer, walking along the line, had seen something
lying among the bushes--Louise. There was some sensational rubbish to
catch the pennies of the mob, but the whole thing merely amounted to
this, that Louise was found.

Queer stick, old Jardine! Fancy his having taken to me, after all! He
was a keen judge of character; I have seldom met a keener, and, as he
said, there was that in me which differentiates strength from weakness.
I had known, I had felt it, all along. I have, to begin with, the
courage of the devil. Give me something of a chance, and my foot in the
bottom niche, it should not be my fault if I did not reach the top of
the pillar of fame.

The mischief was, my affairs were in a muddle. It was not money so
much; I could manage for that, and, if things went as they ought to go,
not impossibly Jardine would stand by me there. I had a shrewd
suspicion, from the remarks which he had dropped, that he knew as much
about my pecuniary position as he cared to know. It was other things,
and one of those things was Lily Langdale. It is extraordinary how I
always have managed to get myself mixed up with women. The teachings of
my experience I should sum up in something like a bull--the best thing
that can happen to a man is for him to be born sexless.

While I was dressing Burton imparted a piece of information which
brought me to a rapid resolution.

"Mrs. Langdale was here after you went out, sir. Made rather a noise.
Talked about stopping for your return."

"Did she?" That settled it.

I went straight off to Miss Lily. I was plain with her. She did not
like it--she was equally plain with me. What home truths one does get
from women! A woman in a temper is ten thousand times more candid than
a man. But she had sense enough to understand that she could scarcely
expect to score, on those lines, off me. I explained that what would be
done for her depended upon how she behaved herself, but I did not
explain that it depended much more upon Sir Haselton Jardine.

Lily's place was in the Hammersmith Road. As I was leaving it,
something like calm having followed the storm--never, if you can help
it, leave a woman in a rage, it is cruel--whom should I encounter but
Mrs. Daniel J. Carruth, my acquaintance of the train. Very nice she
looked, with a natty little toque on her clever head, and a fluffy fur
thing round her throat. I have seen many uglier women ten years
younger--yes, and as far as appearances went, further gone in the sere
and yellow.

She came sailing up when she saw me.

"I hope, Mr. Townsend, that you are coming to give me a call, and that
I am just getting home in time."

I was not going to give her a call. I had forgotten that the address
she had given me was at West Kensington. Her very existence had escaped
my memory. But when she asked me, why, I went.

A decent house she seemed to have, in a street at the back of St.
Paul's School. An old fellow was in the drawing-room when we got in. I
say old, though I daresay he was not more than fifty. He reminded me,
somehow, of some one I had seen somewhere before, and known intimately,
as it seemed to me, but I could not for the life of me think whom. He
was tall and thin, and stooped, though he looked as tough as leather
and sinewy and strong. He was bald on the top of his head. What hair he
had, and the fringe of whisker on his chin, was grey. He wore an
undertaker's frock-coat, and in his open shirt-front was a diamond as
big as a pea.

Mrs. Carruth introduced us.

"Mr. Townsend, this is an old friend of mine, Mr Haines."

The old chap did not stay long. I fancy he did not altogether relish my
intrusion, or what he took to be such. When he had gone I told Mrs.
Carruth that he seemed to remind me of some one I had known.

"Is that so? One does sometimes fancy that one sees a resemblance. I
think that in your case it is only fancy. Mr. Haines is an American, a
Westerner. He has only recently arrived in England. He was my husband's
friend for many years."

I found Mrs. Carruth very pleasant. Friendly--but not too friendly. She
seemed to do everything in fairly good style. The room in which we sat
was not only prettily furnished, it was distinctly that sort of
prettiness which costs money--it had no connection with the "How to
furnish a twelve-roomed house tastefully for £200" kind of thing. Tea
was served with the accompaniments of silver and Wedgewood china, by a
maid who knew her work. Altogether Mrs. Carruth and her way of doing
things favourably impressed me.

She alluded to the queerness of our meeting.

"I hope, Mr. Townsend, that you will not allow the informal fashion of
our introduction to each other to prejudice me in your eyes."

"Quite the other way. Chance acquaintances are sometimes the
pleasantest one makes."

"You speak from the man's point of view. From the woman's, I think that
you are wrong. I have had my share of moving about in the world. I have
found that, generally speaking, chance acquaintances are things to be
avoided."

"It is I, then, who must warn you that both prejudgment and prejudice
begin with a 'P.'"

"I promise, for my part, that I won't judge you until I know you
better. Only you must give me a chance. Were you really coming to see
me when we met?"

"No, I wasn't. Frankly, I was not at all sure that you would care to
see me. I know, as you have said, that my view of chance acquaintances
is a man's; and how was I to know that your words as you rattled off in
your hansom were not merely intended as a courteous dismissal?"

She put down her cup and saucer, seeming quite distressed.

"Oh, I hope you won't think that of me! I assure you, Mr. Townsend,
that if I had wished to dismiss you I should have done so. I hope you
won't mind my saying--since you have yourself said so much--that as I
left you my feeling was that, for once in a way, I had made a chance
acquaintance which it might be worth one's while to cultivate. And, as
I told you, I was practically alone in this big town, and when one is
alone one does want friends, and--I think that that's all."

That might be all, but I understood. When I left I felt that I liked
Mrs. Carruth even better than I had done at first. She interested me in
a really curious way.



                             CHAPTER XIV.

                          SELLING BOOMJOPFS.


The newspapers on the Wednesday and Thursday were beyond my
understanding. I had never before so clearly realised how great a stir
a little thing might make. The little incident at Three Bridges had
assumed the dimensions of an event of national importance. Had one of
the great decisive battles of the world just been fought it could
scarcely have seemed to occupy a greater space in the public mind.
Everywhere the words stared you in the face, everywhere you heard the
words slipping from somebody's tongue--Three Bridges Tragedy! At least
the thing received a magnificent advertisement. What a heap of money
would have been required to procure a similar advertisement for
Pickemup's Pills.

They appeared to have got the business into an elegant muddle. Either
the luck was on my side, or some one had blundered. People seemed to
have leaped to the conclusion that Louise had been thrown from a
passing train--my pitching the body over the hedge on to the railway
embankment, read by the light of after events, amounted to a stroke of
inspiration. The papers were full of observations on the dangers of
English railway travelling. Why were not our carriages all thrown open
to the world? Our present system of horse-boxes rendered it possible
for the innocent A. to be cooped up with the dangerous B. through sixty
miles of country. The means provided for inter-communication, the
alarm-bell, and all the rest of it, were fatally insufficient, as
witness this most horrid instance. As I read I stared.

From my point of view the most extraordinary part of the affair was
that there actually seemed some excuse for the public blundering.
Immediately after the arrival at Victoria of the 8.40 from Brighton, it
had been discovered that the window of one of the first-class carriages
was smashed to shivers, the compartment was stained with blood, and
bore every appearance of having been the scene of a recent struggle.
That was the very train which had passed while Louise and I had been
arguing at the gate--had another little argument been taking place on
board the train? But what capped the record was a statement which had
been volunteered by a Brighton porter. He declared--or was stated to
have declared--that he had shown a lady into the identical compartment
in which the window was smashed, just as the train was starting; that
the only other passenger the compartment contained was a gentleman,
whom, if he saw him again, he thought he should recognise;
and--_mirabile dictum!_ he had seen the body which had been found on
the line, and in the dead woman had instantly recognised the lady he
had shown into the carriage. The question now was--all the world was
asking it--where was the gentleman?

Yes--where was he?

On the Thursday I received another line from Groeden--"Sell Boomjopfs."
This recalled to my mind the fact that, by the Monday morning's post,
he had counselled me to buy them. I had started Citywards to act on his
advice. The curious coincidence of finding Mr. Tennant scribbling
Louise's name all over a sheet of paper had prevented my putting my
intention into execution.

Groeden's latest advice sent me to the money article. Since Monday
Boomjopfs had gone up fourteen. What an ass I had truly been! A pretty
pile I had thrown away! What little game Mr. Groeden and his friends at
Johannesburg were up to, I was not sufficiently in the know to be able
to say. I took it that, the bulls having had an innings, the bears were
to have their turn. The top price having been reached, the word was
"Knock 'em." So off I went to sell what I had been fool enough to just
miss buying.

I thought that I would give Tennant another try. When I reached Austin
Friars I was informed that he was ill--had been away from the office
since Monday. While I was hesitating what I should do--whether, that
is, I should give a commission to his managing man, or go elsewhere--I
heard a voice in the inner office which rather made me cock my ears.

The voice was my rascally brother's. He was not speaking in a whisper.
His words struck me as queer ones.

"If Mr. Tennant takes my advice, he'll see me though he's dying."

"I shall see Mr. Tennant at his private address to-night. I will tell
him what you say. What name shall I give?"

"Name? Tell him the gentleman who came up with him on Sunday night from
Brighton."

I went out into the street, still not clear in my mind as to what I
should do. Presently, along came Alexander. But what a change had come
over him since Monday! Then he was a faded ruin; now he was a vision of
splendour. He was arrayed in new garments from top to toe--and not
garments which had been procured at a slop-shop either. Alexander must
have come into a fortune. The glory of him made one blink one's eyes.

Again, at sight of me he did not seem glad.

"Still out?" I began.

"Sir!" He pulled his hat more over to the side of his head. "Allow me
to point out to you that the fact of your being my brother does not
entitle you to insult me. May I ask what you mean by saying 'Still
out'?"

"My dear Alexander, is it possible that you can think me capable of
insulting you? I am only too glad to see that you still are out. And in
such gorgeous apparel! What universal provider have you been inspiring
with confidence?"

He drew his imitation astrachan cuffs further down over his wrists.

"I believe, my dear Reginald, that I informed you on Monday that I am a
private detective on a considerable scale. As such, it is part of my
business to wear disguises. You saw me in one of them on Monday. At
this moment I am in my usual attire."

"Indeed! and excellently it becomes you. Almost anybody might mistake
you for a respectable person. Alexander, by the way, what was that you
were saying about your having come up with Mr. Tennant on Sunday night
from Brighton?"

Alexander looked at me for a moment as if my question had knocked the
sense right out of him. Then, without a word, turning into a narrow
passage which was on our right, he walked off down it at the rate of a
good five miles an hour. I let him go, though what had sent him off in
such a style at such a pace was hidden from me.

I did sell Boomjopfs, but not through Mr. Tennant's managing man.

That night was to be the second meeting of the club. I dressed when I
got home: then I put my proofs into my pocket. After a solitary dinner
I started off to give back to the Club its Honour.



                             CHAPTER XV.

                              THE CLUB.


The club held its meetings in Horseferry Road. I had never been there
in the daytime, but by night the approaches, the surroundings, the
place itself did not strike one as being particularly savoury. One
wondered what the deuce one was doing in that galley.

We were instructed to tell cabmen to pull up at the Gas Light and Coke
Company's Offices. Since it was not deemed expedient to let even
jarveys know exactly where in that salubrious locality men with the
price of a cab-fare in their pockets happened to be going, the rest of
the distance was to be walked.

I fancy that in the daytime the lower part of the house was used as
offices. When I reached it the street door was closed, the place seemed
deserted, not a light was to be seen. Each of us had been provided with
a pass-key. Letting myself in, I found myself in a pitch-dark passage.
Striking a match, I used it to light me up two flights of stairs. At
the top of the second flight I was confronted by another door. On the
left-hand side, against the wall, was an electric button. I pressed it
twice, then counted three; pressed it once, counted another three, then
pressed it twice again. Almost immediately afterwards a gong was struck
within. While the sound was still vibrating in the air, I sang out--

"Reginald!"

As I uttered my Christian name the door was opened and Pendarvon
received me on the threshold within.

"Welcome, Reginald! You are the first-comer," he said.

We turned into a room on the right. The room was plainly furnished, the
walls were painted red, a red carpet was on the floor. In the centre
stood a good-sized oval-shaped mahogany table. Thirteen chairs were
placed round it. In front of each was a decanter of brandy and a glass.
In front of one was a manuscript book, bound in crimson morocco, pens,
ink, a crimson velvet bag, and a small heap of red cards, of the size
and shape of ordinary playing-cards.

As Pendarvon had said, he and I, up to the present, had the place to
ourselves. Cecil Pendarvon was fairly tall and fairly broad--the florid
type of man. He had fair hair, fair beard, and light blue eyes. Your
first impression of the man was that he was always laughing. When you
came to study him a little closer you began to doubt if his laugh
suggested merriment. I knew him well. I had come to understand that the
more he laughed the worse it would be for some one.

He stood, stroking his long fair beard, laughing at me now.

"Pendarvon, I don't quite see what's the use of the counting, and the
ornamental ringing, and all the rest of it outside the door."

"You mayn't see it now. One of these days you may. There may come a
time when it will be advisable that we should know that the person at
the door is not a member of the club."

"If you mean that one of these days we are likely to receive a visit
from the police, you don't suppose that we should be able to keep them
out, if they had made up their minds to enter. We should be trapped
like rabbits in a warren."

"I think not. That door is of sheet iron. It is held in position by
four steel bolts which run into a wall made of solid Portland cement.
By the time the police got through it we should be miles away."

I looked round the apartment.

"Is this room then not what it seems? Is there a hidden door?"

"There is not. But there is something quite as good. There is a
fireplace."

"A fireplace?"

"And likewise a chimney, which is a chimney. When I took this place I
had an eye to all the possibilities. Look here."

He went to the fireplace, a huge old-fashioned one, probably over six
feet wide. The stove occupied not one-third of it. He stepped inside, I
following. There was ample room for both of us. He pointed upwards.

"Stanchions, which will make excellent steps."

I saw that there were stanchions, rising one above the other, set in
the side of the chimney.

"Where do they lead to?"

"Climb up twelve, put your hand out to the right, you will find a bolt.
Draw it, push, a door will open. Go through it, you will find yourself
upon the roof."

"The roof, at night--I thank you!"

"The chimney-stack will be on your left, between you and a fall into
the street. Keep it on your left, go straight forward--you will find
yourself upon the edge."

"The edge! Of the roof? Pendarvon, my thanks increase!"

"If you feel for it on your right you will find a rail. This is the
rail of a bridge which crosses from this house to one in the street
behind. When I took this room I took that house. It will remain empty.
Cross the bridge. Close to your hand, on your left, you will find an
iron ladder set straight against the wall. Descend it, you will land
yourself on the flat roof of an outhouse. Within a foot of you, still
to your left, there is a window. It will be always left unlatched. You
have only to raise it, enter the empty house, strike a light, and walk
downstairs into the street. To reach that particular house, in that
particular street, by road, a policeman will have to walk two miles."

"How long is this bridge of yours?"

"Under twenty feet."

"And how wide?"

"Perhaps ten inches--it is a single plank. The rail by which you hold
is firmly fixed and bolted at either end. What the whole arrangement
was intended for originally is a puzzle I have not attempted to solve.
I heard of it. I thought it might suit us."

"Don't you think we ought to do what the firemen do--have a full dress
rehearsal? I, for one, should hardly care to seek that path to safety
without having had some practical experience of the peculiarities and
perils of the way."

Pendarvon laughed.

"You fellows can have a rehearsal to-night, if you like--only you will
get yourselves into a deuce of a mess. I don't guarantee that you will
be able to keep yourselves clean. I only guarantee that that way, at a
pinch, you will be able to save your necks."

As he finished speaking, the electric bell rang twice; there was a
pause; then a single ring; another pause; then twice more. Pendarvon
went to a gong which was suspended from the ceiling outside the room.
He struck it, not too loudly. A voice on the other side of the other
door exclaimed--

"Gustave!"

As Pendarvon opened the door, he turned to me.

"Gustave Rudini."

It was Rudini--an undersized, ill-dressed little fellow, more like a
waiter out of work than anything else I know. Pendarvon had had some
difficulty in completing the tail of his thirteen. He had insisted that
there must be thirteen members. In order to make up the number he had
had to bring in three fellows who, to say the least of it, were not in
society. Of these three Rudini was one. According to Pendarvon, he was
a Swiss anarchist. Since he killed on principle, he was not likely to
hesitate to kill for fun. His was not a pleasant personality. He
addressed every one as "Citizen "--as he did me now.

"Well, citizen, the good work begins." I asked him what he meant. "Have
you not seen about the bombs at Saragosa--that is what I call good
reading."

I shuddered. I felt more than half disposed to knock the creature down.
Some demons had thrown bombs among a crowded audience at a theatre. No
end of people had been killed and injured. The brute called the account
of the affair good reading.

I suppose he read my feelings in my face. He stretched out his hands in
front of him--with a snarl which was perhaps meant for a grin.

"Do you not agree with me, citizen, that it is good reading? If it
comes to killing, why kill units instead of tens? It is only a little
matter of arithmetical progression."

The next comer was a madman out and out. He was a religionist of a sect
of which, I suspect, he was the first member and the last. He believed,
it seemed, that death meant annihilation. Annihilation, to use a
paradox, was all he lived for. But it had been revealed to him--I never
heard by whom, or how--that he himself never could attain annihilation
until he had killed some one, as it were, to clear the way. So he had
joined the club, in order that his destiny might the sooner be
fulfilled. His name was Shepherd--Henry Shepherd. He was a lanky,
loosely-built man, with long iron grey hair, and sailors' eyes--eyes,
that is, which were calm and deep. As he entered, he seated himself at
table without uttering a word. He was the second of Pendarvon's
gathered and garnered three.

The fellows now came hard upon each others' heels. Unless I was
mistaken, they had for the most part, been quenching their thirst.
Their eyes shone; their speech was inclined to be erratic; about some
of them there was a joviality which they had found in their glasses.
Teddy Hibbard, for one, was distinctly drunk. He came with Eugene
Silvester, who was not much better. The pair staggered up to me.

Teddy tried to steady himself by a somewhat close attachment to
Silvester's arm.

"I say, Reggie, old fellow, Eugene and I have been making up our minds
whom we'll slaughter. Whom do you think we've decided on?"

"My dear Teddy, I haven't the faintest notion. Don't you think you'd
better take a chair?"

"Thank you, old boy, I think I will." He took one just in time.
"We've decided on slaughtering the first chap we meet of the name of
Jones--there are such a lot of them about, you know."

Archie Beaupré came across to me. He was among the last to arrive. He
also had been drinking. But liquor did not affect him as it did Teddy
Hibbard. He never lost his equilibrium. There never came a stammer into
his speech. Nor, in Iago's sense, did it steal away his brains. When
drink entered into Archie, the devil went with it. When he had drunk
enough to stupefy an ordinary man, he was very near to genius. In that
condition I have known him write lines which no poet need be ashamed to
own; and I have known him do things which must have set all the imps of
Satan chuckling.

As he advanced to me, a casual acquaintance might not have supposed
that he had been exceeding in the slightest degree. But I knew better.
I knew it by something that was in his face, and in his eyes; by the
ring that was in his voice, when he spoke; by the very way in which he
clasped me by the hand.

"Here's luck!" he said--"I'm with you all the way."



                             CHAPTER XVI.

                           DRAWING THE LOT.


When we had taken our places, Pendarvon commenced proceedings. He
looked round at us and laughed, as if the whole proceedings had been
some mighty joke.

"Gentlemen, the usual preliminaries, if you please."

He had the crimson-covered book open in front of him. He read aloud the
oath by which we all had bound ourselves. As he did so, men sobered
down a little. The oath which he had evolved from his mischief-making
brain was calculated to make one sober. It was the rule that, at each
meeting, the oath was to be re-sworn. Having recited it, with his right
hand resting on the open page, Pendarvon affixed to it his signature.
The book went round. Each man recited the oath, his hand resting on the
page, and signed.

By the time Pendarvon had the book again, a change came over the spirit
of the scene. The suggestion of frivolity which had been in the air had
vanished. Hibbard and Silvester, in spite of the assistance which they
had received from outside sources, did not look happy. Pendarvon read
out the signatures. When he came to one he stopped.

"Teddy, have you signed?"

Hibbard was indignant--or feigned to be.

"Signed? Of course I've signed! Can't you read it?"

Pendarvon tugged at his beard and laughed.

"Be shot if I can! I can see a smudge, and that's all I can see. In a
matter of this importance a signature should be writ as plain as
copper-plate, so that all who run may read. Teddy, would you mind
signing again, this time a little clearer? and Silvester might follow
suit. You would not care to take us at an advantage, and be the only
two among us to keep your names dark."

Pendarvon went to Teddy with the book in his hand. Placing it on the
table in front of him, he leaned over his shoulder while he wrote.

"That's better, Teddy; that's plain as print. 'Edward Hibbard,' that's
something like a name. Now, Silvester, if you won't mind."

Silvester leaned back in his chair, and frowned.

"I don't understand. That's my usual signature. What else do you want?"

"We want it a little plainer; nothing more."

Silvester grumbled, but he did what he was asked to do. He signed
again, and plainer. That was like Pendarvon. If he had made up his mind
that a man should do a thing, the odds were that the man would do it,
although against his own will.

Pendarvon returned to his seat in triumph. As he talked to us he kept
on laughing. The ugliest thing about him was his voice; it was harsh
and strident--sometimes it seemed to strike one like a whip.

"Gentlemen, we have all of us been looking forward with pleasurable
anticipations to this, our second, meeting. I need not tell you why. A
month to-night our Honour was committed to the hands of one of us. We
are here to ask for its return."

With a laughing gesture, he turned to me.

"Reggie, our Honour is in your hands."

As he sat down, I rose, and as I rose a sound which was almost like a
sigh went round the room. I fancy that some of the fellows were
preparing themselves for what might be to come, by taking in a
good supply of breath. That all eyes were fixed on me I was well
aware--fixed on me, I mean, with a curious, unusual kind of stare. They
looked at me as if they would have almost rather not, and yet could not
help but look. I took out my pocket-book; I laid it on the table. Every
little movement which I made was followed by their eyes. I doubt if
ever a man had a more attentive audience.

"Gentlemen of the Murder Club, I greet you."

I bowed to each individual. As I did so I noticed how pale they seemed
to look.

"I occupy, on this occasion, a unique position. I take it that no man
ever stood in such a pair of shoes as mine before. There have been
murder clubs, which have been called by other names. They have
concerned themselves with revolutions--with religious, social,
political reforms. A murder club, the object of which has been
amusement, pure and simple, I doubt if there ever before has been. To
our founders I owe a special, a peculiar gratitude. Beaupré, I bow to
you--the original suggestion of our Club was yours."

I bowed to Archie. In return he waved his hand to me.

"And a devilish good suggestion, too!"

"Beaupré, the words you use could not be bettered. They exactly
describe the theme. Mr. Chairman, I bow to you--it was you who clothed
with flesh the dry bones of the suggestion, breathed on them, and gave
them life."

I bowed to Pendarvon. Laughing, he bowed again to me. He knew I hated
him, and I knew he hated me.

"I owe these special thanks to our founders, gentlemen, because, during
the month which is past, they have provided me with such great, such
unwonted sport. So soon as I knew that the Honour of the Club was
indeed entrusted to my keeping, I became like the old-fashioned
sportsman, who had to do his own beating and flush for himself his
birds. In my case there was this marked peculiarity, that I did not
even know where to find the cover in which a bird might happen to be
hiding."

Pausing, I looked each member in the face in turn. Odd spectacles they
most of them presented. The majority of them shifted their eyes as they
saw mine coming, as if they were unwilling, or unable, to meet my
glances.

"Gentlemen, I found the cover and the bird. I have had the
gratification of being able to fulfil the promise which I made to you.
I return the Honour of the Club, dyed a more vivid crimson stain."

As I spoke, two or three fellows gasped. I don't know who they were,
but the queer sound which they emitted caused me to smile. Taking out
the Honour of the Club from my pocket-book, I held it up in front of
me. There was silence. Then Pendarvon spoke--

"Are we to take you literally?"

"In the sense that the Honour of the Club has, literally, been dyed a
more vivid crimson--that, in other words, it has been dipped in the
sacrificial blood? No. My meaning, there, was metaphorical. There was
no blood to dip it in."

I handed the Honour of the Club across the table to Pendarvon. As he
took it, he looked at me askance.

"That is not all you are going to tell us? The rules require you to
furnish full particulars."

"Those particulars, Mr. Chairman, I am now about to furnish. The bird I
flushed, marked, and bagged was a hen."

"A hen?"

"A woman, Mr. Chairman. Name, Louise O'Donnel. Age, turned twenty.
Date, last Sunday. Scene, Three Bridges. Cause of death,
strangulation."

Pendarvon leaned towards me over the table.

"Are you responsible, then, for what the papers have christened the
Three Bridges Tragedy?"

"I am."

"Did you throw the woman from the train?"

"I did not. I threw the woman from the field, over the hedge, on to the
railway embankment. I should explain to you, gentlemen, that it seems
not unlikely that I may become the subject of a curious coincidence. I
killed the bird under the railway bridge. As I was doing so a train
passed overhead. This must have been the train of which you have read
in the public prints. I cannot pretend to predict the course of events,
but I can assure you that whoever smashed that window and had that
little rough and tumble in the railway carriage had nothing to do with
the Three Bridges Tragedy. For that I am responsible, and I alone."

Silence followed my words. I glanced round. Various expressions were on
the fellows' faces, and among them was one which suggested doubt. I
noted, with amusement, that what I had anticipated had taken place.
They doubted if I had done what I had declared I had.

Pendarvon gave this feeling voice.

"The case is a little delicate, dear Reggie. A man say that he has done
a thing, and then when B, on the strength of what A says, goes and does
likewise, he may find that A has been having a joke with him--don't you
see my point?"

"You want proofs."

"You say that this Three Bridges business is yours. Suppose that some
one else is arrested for it, and--we will go so far--is hung, what
shall you do?"

"Do? Why, let him hang."

"I see. Of course. You would."

"In a matter of this sort proofs are rather difficult to give, unless
you were all to come with me to see the fun. I will tell you my story."

Then I told them exactly what had happened on the Sunday evening, as it
is written. At the close I took two letters from my pocket-book.

"Mr. Chairman, I have here two letters. The first is the one which I
wrote asking the lady to meet me at East Grinstead--that I took from
her pocket after she was dead. The second is the one in which she
promised that she would. I have pleasure in submitting them to the
attention of the club."

I passed the letter to Pendarvon. From one of my tail pockets I
produced a small parcel.

"You will have observed, gentlemen, that it is stated that nothing was
found in the woman's pockets. That was owing to the fact that I had
previously taken the precaution to empty it. I hold the contents of her
pocket in my hand: a letter--that the chairman has--a purse, some keys,
a pocket-handkerchief. This scrap of silk ribbon suspended this locket
to her neck; in the locket you will find my portrait. That also I took
from her after she was dead. I offer it, with the other items, for the
inspection of the club."

Pendarvon read the letters carefully through; then, without remark, he
passed them to the man who sat beside him. After examining my relics,
he passed them too. The batch went round. One or two of the men
carefully examined each separate item; most just glanced at them in
passing; some seemed to shrink from touching them, as if afraid of
coming into close contact.

When they had gone round, Pendarvon rose.

"I think, gentlemen, that our friend's statement has given general
satisfaction."

Rudini tapped with his finger on the table.

"It was a woman; it is not a man's work to kill a woman."

Pendarvon laughed.

"There, Rudini, you must excuse me if I differ. I think that it is
essentially a man's work. The women are always killing us. It is just
as well that we should take our turn at killing them. Indeed, were it
not too late I should almost be disposed to suggest that it should
always be a woman who was killed."

Budini brought his fist down with a bang.

"Then I shall go."

"It will be soon enough, Budini, for you to talk of going when the
suggestion's made. I repeat, gentlemen, that I think that Mr. Townsend
has satisfied us that he really has done something for the Honour of
the Club. As he himself says, in cases of this sort, the ocular proof
it is almost impossible to give. But he has given us proofs, as it
seems to me, of a sufficiently convincing kind. Are you content? Those
of you who are will please stand up."

All rose--Rudini after a moment's hesitation.

"I see, gentlemen, that we are all content. We have excellent cause. Be
so good as to charge your glasses. We thank you, Reggie; we appreciate
the good deed which you have done, and we drink to your next fortunate
adventure."

They drained their glasses--not, I suspect, before some of them were in
need of what was in them. They would have sampled the brandy before had
it not been a rule of the club that nothing was to be drunk except in
response to the chairman's toasts.

Pendarvon continued--

"There only remains one thing for our friend to do."

He wrote something in the book in front of him. Then he passed the book
to me.

"We have to ask you, Reggie, to put your name to that."

I saw that he had put the date of the preceding Sunday, and then--

"Louise O'Donnel--For the Honour of the Club."

"If I put my name to that it may be tantamount to a confession of
murder."

"Precisely--it is in accordance with our rules--for our general
protection--we shall have to sign a similar memorandum in our turns."

"May I ask where this book is kept? One does not like to think that
such an interesting volume is left lying about."

Pendarvon pointed to a safe which was fitted into the wall.

"At present it is kept in there. It is as good a safe of its sort as
you are likely to find. I have the only key But I agree with you that
the proper custody of the book is a matter of importance. I would
suggest that a safe be obtained with thirteen different locks and
thirteen different keys, which it will be impossible to open except
without common consent."

"Your suggestion, Mr. Chairman, is a good one."

"Then, by the time we meet again such a safe shall be obtained. In the
meantime--sign."

I signed. Outwardly, I believe, that I was calm enough. In my heart I
wished that, before I had ever heard of him or it, Pendarvon and his
club had been at Timbuctoo, and stayed there.

As he blotted my signature, Pendarvon laughed. I felt, as I heard, that
I had been a fool not to have exchanged him for Louise. To my ear,
everything about the man rang false--and always had.

"Townsend, what an excellent hand you write! If only every one wrote as
clearly! I wish I could. As you are aware, it now becomes my pleasant
duty to inform you that the Honour of the Club which you have returned
to us to-night will be framed in gold, and will be awarded to you as a
diploma of merit."

"You may keep it."

"Reggie!--the idea! As though I would rob you of what you have so
fairly earned!" He closed the crimson-coloured volume. "Our next
business, gentlemen, is to ascertain the fortunate individual to whose
keeping the Honour of the Club is to be now entrusted. Since you,
Townsend, have won our diploma of merit, it becomes my duty, as a mere
postulant, to resign to you the chair. You will conduct the drawing, in
which, of course, you yourself will not take part. Gentlemen, Mr.
Townsend will be our chairman, until some equally fortunate colleague
has gained his diploma."

He rose from their seat, beckoning me towards it with his hand. As I
accepted his invitation, there was some tapping of hands upon the
table, and Archie called out, "Hear, hear!" I took up the little heap
of cards which was on the table in front of my new seat, counting them
so that they all could see.

"As you perceive, here are eleven." Kendrick sat on my left. I handed
the bag to him.

"Colonel, will you be first to draw?"

Kendrick was the oldest man among us. His hair and moustache were white
as snow. He was rich, respected, with troops of friends. Why he had
joined us was more than I could say. I guessed that it was to gratify
some private grudge. However that might be, I saw that his hand
trembled as he thrust it into the bag. He took some time in choosing.
When at last he drew his card, glancing quickly at both sides of it, he
threw it down upon the table.

"Blank!" he said. "Not yet."

Rudini sat next to him. He made a little speech before he put his hand
into the bag.

"If I am what Mr. Pendarvon has called the fortunate individual, it
will be no woman I shall kill. I would sooner kill a thousand men. It
is for that I joined the club."

But he was not the "fortunate individual." He drew a blank. He was
shortsighted. He had to peer at it closely before he saw it was a
blank.

"As the Colonel says--not yet. My time will come."

Poindexter sat by Rudini--the Honourable Jem. I always thought it was
rather a shame to drag him in. He was only a boy, just out of his
teens. He said nothing when he got the bag; he made up in eloquence of
looks for paucity of words. There was a white, drawn look about his
face which made him look as old as any one of us. He fumbled with the
mouth of the bag, as though it was not large enough for him to get his
hand in. When he did get one hand in, he dropped the bag from the
other. Pendarvon laughed.

"Upon my word, you're shivering, Jem; is it with joy?"

The Honourable picked up the bag.

"What's it to do with you what I am shivering at?"

He stared at the card he drew. Then he gasped, "Thank God, it's blank!"

Pendarvon laughed again. I believe that the laughter which they say is
heard in hell must sound like his.

"Why, Jem, one would almost think that you were glad."

The Honourable said nothing. He tried to stare at Pendarvon. But it was
a failure. He put his head down on the table. And he cried. He was only
a lad.

Old Shepherd came after the boy. When he saw that it was his turn he
did a very curious thing. He got off his chair and he went on to his
knees, and he said--

"I am going to pray."

He closed his eyes, and he clasped his hands in front of him. I suppose
he prayed. I know we stared. Pendarvon was shaking with laughter--it
was with soundless laughter for once in a way. I suppose that the man
prayed for at least five minutes. I wonder that we were still so long.
I was on the point of politely requesting him to cut it short when he
rose from his knees. He put his hand into the bag. He drew a blank.

"My prayer," he said, "has not been answered. I fear, sometimes, that
it will remain unanswered to the end."

What he meant it is not for me to say. It was plain that, as I have
observed already, he was stark mad. In the next chair was Teddy
Hibbard. He turned to Shepherd--

"I say, old chap, what was it you wanted?"

"The Honour of the Club. I am waiting and watching and hoping for the
end."

"Are you? Then if I get it I'll give it you; a beginning's more my
line."

He also drew a blank. When he perceived what it was he held it out
towards Pendarvon and winked, "I'm not sorry." With a dexterous
movement he threw it across the table, so that if Pendarvon had not put
up his hand and stopped it it would have struck him in the face. "Put
that in your pipe and smoke it, see."

When Silvester took the bag he began to shake it.

"We're getting warm." He turned to Shepherd. "I echo what Teddy's said.
If I draw the Honour of the Club I'll pass it on to you."

Shepherd shook his head.

"That will not do. I must draw the lot myself."

Silvester held out the bag to him. "Would you like to have another
try?"

"I must draw it, in due order, in my proper turn."

"It strikes me that you're not quite so anxious as you make out. I
don't mind owning that my anxiety is all the other way. I should like
to have a little longer run before I earn my diploma."

He drew a blank. Next to him sat Archie. Silvester passed him the bag,
with a laugh--a queer laugh, which had in it a hysteric note.

"Try your luck, Beaupré--three shies a penny!"

Archie looked him in the face.

"There is no necessity for me to try my luck, Silvester. I know it
before I try. I knew it before I came into this room. You fellows
drawing was but a mere matter of form. I am to draw the Honour of the
Club. It is written in the skies."

His voice rang through the room. I noticed that Pendarvon tugged at his
beard, and stared at him, as if he could not make him out. But I,
knowing the man as I did, knew his mood. Slipping his hand quickly into
the bag, in an instant he drew it out. Without glancing at the card
which he had drawn be held it up to us between his fingers. "See! The
Honour of the Club!"

It was.

There was silence. Approaching the card to his face, Archie touched it
with his lips.

"Welcome, thou dreadful thing!" He half rose to his feet. "Gentlemen,
did I not tell you? As you perceive, the fortune of war is mine!"

I stood up as he sat down.

"Bumpers, gentlemen." They filled and rose. "Beaupré, feeling, as we
must, that the Honour of the Club could not possibly be in better or in
more deserving hands, we tender you our best congratulations on your
good fortune as you know full well."

Then they all said in a sort of chorus as they drank, "We do."

"You have the prospect, nay, the certainty, of good sport before you,
Beaupré--sport of a rare and of a most excellent kind. I speak from my
own experience. That this day month you may have as pleasant a story to
tell as mine--Beaupré, I can wish you no better wish than that."

Then Archie spoke. He held the Honour of the Club out in front of him
while he was speaking.

"Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I have not words with which to thank you.
I would I had. They would indeed be warm. Mr. Chairman, to you I would
particularly say that your good wishes strike me deep. They cut into my
heart. For my fondest hope as I listen and as I look at you, with this
piece of pasteboard held in my safe keeping, thinking of all that you
have done on behalf of its twin brother, is that I may play half as
well the man." He bowed round the table. "I thank you."

And he sat down.



                            CHAPTER XVII.

                            A LITTLE GAME.


Six or seven of us were in the street outside the club when the meeting
was over. Where the rest had vanished to I do not know. There was not a
cab to be seen. I doubt if a cab ever does ply for hire in that
locality. Besides, what would be one cab among so many? The night was
fine. Archie put his arm through mine.

"Come along, lets pad the hoof, my dears."

Off we went, the lot of us abreast. We had not gone a dozen yards
before we came upon a policeman coming along as if the pavement had
been in his family for years.

"Now, officer," cried Silvester, "make way!"

The officer slowed. He thrust his thumbs into his belt. He surveyed us
with a genial grin which might almost have suggested that we were
friends of his.

"What are you gentlemen doing here? This isn't the sort of place
for the likes of you. If some of the chaps caught sight of those
shirt-fronts of yours they might rumple 'em a bit."

Silvester pulled up the collar of his coat.

"My dear Mr. Policeman, how you frighten us! Could you tell us where we
are or which is the way to anywhere?"

The officer jerked his thumb over his shoulder.

"If you go straight on, through Strutton Ground, it'll take you out
into Victoria Street, but you'll find it a roughish way."

We did find it a roughish way. We also found that there were some
roughish people thereabouts, especially the proprietors of the costers'
barrows. It must have been at least eleven, but they were carrying on a
market in the gutter as briskly as if it had been the middle of the
day. I said to Archie, as soon as I saw what sort of place it was, that
we had better sneak through in single file, and thank our stars when we
found ourselves out of it. But the others didn't seem to see it. They
were bent on improving the shining hour. And they improved it. When I
did begin to understand that I was in Victoria Street, at last, some
gentleman had borrowed my hat, and I had to tie a handkerchief under my
chin to keep the rest of my hair on my head.

"A lively five minutes," observed Teddy, picking what were either
pieces of a potato or of an onion from his eye.

I moved a little from him. Owing to his having been upset among the
dried fish on a coster's barrow he smelt a bit strong. Silvester held
up something in the air.

"I've got a cabbage, and, by jove, I believe some one's got my watch."

There was a roar of voices issuing from the street through which we had
come.

"Here they are again!" I cried. "I've had enough of it. I'm off. Hi!
cabby!"

Two hansoms were prowling by. I jumped into one. Two or three of the
fellows followed me. We drove away from our friends of Strutton Ground
with a parting yell, the rest of the fellows in the second hansom
bringing up the rear.

They would not let us in at the Criterion. The individual at the door
seemed to think that there was something in our appearance which was
not exactly what it ought to be. Silvester presented him with the
cabbage for which, quite unintentionally, he had exchanged his watch.
But so far from allowing that handsome contribution to the family
larder--it had cost Eugene perhaps fifty pounds--to melt his heart, the
stiff-necked Cerberus actually threatened us with the police. So we
adjourned to the tavern at the corner till they turned us out. Then we
went for a quiet stroll along Piccadilly, seven abreast, which soon
landed us in the thick of a row. It was a fight of giants while it
lasted. But the police were one too many. They bore the Honourable off
in triumph. We followed him in a body to Vine Street Station, where
every one was most polite. But they wouldn't hear of bail. A policeman
had a most dreadful eye, and he made out that it was Jem. So we had to
leave him in the hands of cruel strangers to spend the night. Poor Jem!

When we got outside, being all of us so clear-headed and in such a
thoroughly judicial frame of mind, Archie proposed that we should
adjourn to his place and have a hand at cards. We belonged to perhaps
two dozen clubs between us, but they were none of them sufficiently
cerulean--though blue enough--to have admitted us without our first
having gone through the ceremony of going home and washing ourselves
and changing our clothes. So, as that sort of thing would have been an
awful bore, we snapped at Archie's kind invite. And some uncivil
policeman coming up and suggesting that it would be well for our own
health and for the health of the neighbourhood if we stood not on the
order of our going, we tumbled into a couple of cabs and went.

Archie's rooms were in Wilton Street. As the cabs drew up at his door,
Pendarvon came strolling up. He pulled up at the sight of us. He
stared. He appeared surprised. As every one who had been favoured with
a near view of us during the last hour or so had appeared surprised,
however much we might feel wounded, we could scarcely openly resent
such an exhibition on the part even of a friend.

"What on earth have you fellows been doing?" he inquired. "You don't
seem to me to have a whole suit of clothes between you."

Archie explained--

"My dear Pendarvon, if you had been doing what we have been doing, you
would look as we are looking. Come inside!"

So Pendarvon entered with the rest of us.

When we were in we found that with Pendarvon we were six. We had been
seven without him. The Honourable we had dropped at Vine Street, and
Lister, for anything any one seemed to know to the contrary, was a
clear case of lost, stolen, or strayed. Of the six, Gravesend was
obviously no good for cards. He fell asleep as soon as he had found a
chair to do it on. It did not seem to rouse him to any appreciable
extent even when he tumbled off. The best we could do for him was to
put him comfortably to bed on the hearthrug in Archie's bedroom. There
was no fear of his doing himself a mischief if he rolled about.

Of the five who were left, Teddy was not exactly fit. But as the idea
of leaving him out, filled him with nothing else but wrath, we cut him
in. Silvester had quenched his thirst, but I do not think I ever saw
him too drunk to play. He presented a truly remarkable spectacle as
regards attire. The gentleman who had borrowed his watch, or some of
his friends, had taken away the large portion of his shirt to wrap it
up in. His coat was slit right down his back. Waistcoat he had none.
And he had tied his braces round his waist in order to retain
possession of what was left him of his trousers. However, with the
assistance of one of Archie's dressing-gowns, he managed. The more
Archie drinks, the more he's in the vein. As for me, I was ready to
play for my boots. And Pendarvon was as sober as a judge.

Beaupré made it poker--poker is his pet game. We began with a ten
shilling ante, and a ten pound limit. It made a pretty game, while it
lasted. In the first jack-pot, when it came to threes, Silvester
declared that all his cash was gone. It was he began the IOU's. Teddy's
luck was wonderful. Before very long very nearly all our ready-money
had gone his way. I had ten tenners and gold when I began. They soon
paid a visit to Teddy. Pendarvon seemed to have a pocket full of money.
He brought out a whole sheaf of bank-notes to give our appetites a
twist.

Teddy had just taken another plump jack-pot when Beaupré ran dry. He
replenished his pockets at his desk. When he came back, Pendarvon was
about to deal.

"Don't you think," he said, "that this is a little slow? Suppose we
double the limit. Teddy, I suppose you don't object."

Teddy said he didn't. More than half drunk, and fancying himself in the
vein, he was not likely to object. I took it that Archie had already
lost a hundred and fifty. I saw that he had only brought about another
century to table. I guessed--for reasons--that he was squeezed for
funds. I suspected that he might not care to plunge deeper than we were
already. And so, to save him, I struck in.

"So far as I am concerned, I am content to go on as we are. It's good
enough for me."

To my surprise, and to my amusement, Archie was quite vehement upon the
other side.

"Rubbish! This sort of thing's only fit for babes, not men! Reggie,
where's your courage--make it twenty."

So we made the limit twenty pounds.

Luck began to slip away from Teddy--small wonder either! He did some
outrageous bluffing, against Pendarvon, too, who is one of the hardest
men to bluff there is about. Teddy waxed wild. He and Pendarvon were
the only two left in. They raised each other till there was, perhaps
five hundred in the pool. Then Pendarvon saw him. Teddy threw down his
cards with a curse.

"Ace high."

"Fours."

Pendarvon showed four sevens. Teddy had paid for his whistle.

After that, the luck, and, for the matter of that, the play too, went
dead against him. He kept on drinking--he was not in the least fit for
poker, but he would keep on playing. Archie, too, kept on the shady
side. Silvester about held his own. I had an occasional hand worth
backing. Pendarvon and I bid fair to share the spoils.

One round we all came in. I was first bettor. Silvester was blind. I
opened with the limit. Each man went the limit better in his turn. When
there was four hundred in the pool Silvester went out. Another round or
two and Teddy went. There was over five hundred in the pool. Pendarvon
had raised the limit over Archie. It was sixty pounds for me to come
in. I had a straight, knave high. I saw the sixty. Archie saw it, and
went twenty better. Pendarvon raised him twenty. I saw the forty.
Archie scribbled another IOU--he had been reduced for some time to
paper. He had raised again. Pendarvon followed suit. I thought that it
was enough for me, and went. The two kept at it. There must have been
over a thousand in before Pendarvon saw. Archie laid down his hand,
with a smile, as though he felt sure that, this time, the luck was his.

"A full--queens high."

Pendarvon laughed.

"Not good enough! I take this pool--I pip you."

He also had a full--with three kings on top. Silvester spoke.

"Will somebody kindly stick a penknife into Teddy."

I looked up--poor Teddy was asleep. When, however, we charged him with
it, he endeavoured to wake up and call us names. He insisted on
continuing to play. It proved to be as much as he could do to pick up
his cards--more than he could do to see them when picked up. The very
next round, when asked if he proposed to cover the ante, he threw down
his cards face upwards on the table, observing that it was no good
coming in on a hand like that. He had held three queens! I struck. I
declined to go shares in a robbery.

"Teddy," I remarked, "if you'll take my advice you'll go home to bed.
Just now poker's not your line."

"I'm not feeling very well," he said. "I hate this game; it makes me
ill. Let's play something else."

"We will. We'll sing 'Rock-a-by, baby,' and play at going to sleep.
Come along, Teddy, let me offer you the temporary loan of my arm."

Archie interposed.

"Hang it, Reggie, you're not going! Put the beggar to sleep alongside
Gravesend on the rug."

"I'm not going to sleep on the rug," said Teddy, "I hate the rug."

We compromised, putting him to bed on the couch in Archie's bedroom. It
seemed unlikely that he would fall off, since he was asleep before we
had the whole of him laid down. While we were together in the bedroom,
I said a private word to Archie.

"If you'll hearken to the wisdom of the wise, old man, you'll cut it.
You're not in the vein."

He chose to misunderstand my meaning.

"Do you mean I'm drunk?"

"I think I am--at least too drunk for poker; and too sleepy, also. If
you'll allow me, I'll get home."

Archie looked at me in the way I knew, all his Scotch temper in his
eyes.

"Are you afraid, or broke? Or what the devil's up?"

Pendarvon called from the next room.

"Are you fellows having a little game by yourselves?"

I jerked my thumb towards Pendarvon as Archie and I went in together.

"That's just what is up--the devil."

We four went at it again. I reckoned that at that time Archie had lost
about two thousand pounds--nearly the whole of it to Pendarvon in
IOU's. His heavier losses all came afterwards. Silvester also lost. He
made a very nasty loser. He allowed things to escape his tongue which,
under other circumstances, might have brought the sitting to a prompt
and a turbulent close. Pendarvon, to whose address Silvester's little
observations were principally directed, seemed to take it for granted
that the fact of his being three-parts drunk covered a multitude of
sins. For my part, on the whole I won. By degrees, as Silvester's
sulkiness increased, the game resolved itself into a sort of triangular
duel. Archie went for Pendarvon, and Pendarvon went for me. As he
found, for the most part, that his assaults were unavailing, and that
my mood was beatific, Pendarvon began to follow Silvester's lead and
lose his temper. Not, however, on Silvester's lines. The more enraged
he grew, the more he laughed. I knew the gentleman so well.

Archie began to play like a lunatic. Once Silvester declined to come
in. I had four knaves; it was the second four hand I had had within a
very few minutes. Of course, I started to back it for all I was worth.
What Archie and Pendarvon had was more than I could guess; I did not
much care. I felt that, whatever they had, I was about their match. I
had taken one card, wishing them to suppose that I had drawn to two
pairs. Archie had had two. I took it that he had started with a
triplet. Pendarvon had had three; apparently he had opened with a pair.
It seemed from the betting that they had both improved their hands, for
neither seemed disposed to tire. The pool crept up to a thousand. Then
Archie found fault with the rate of progression.

"Confound this limit! It's child's play; we shall be at it all night.
Will either of you see me for £500?"

Pendarvon hesitated, or appeared to.

"Having fixed a limit, isn't it rather against the rules to travel
outside? But, so far as I am personally concerned, I don't mind seeing
your five hundred, and raising you another five. What do you say,
Townsend?"

"I object. At this point of the game to change the points in such a
fashion would simply be to plunder you. I hold the winning hand."

Archie became excited, and not quite civil.

"That's rot. I say ditto to Pendarvon, Reggie. Will you pay a thousand
to see our hands?"

"I will do this. I will agree to each man tabling a thousand, and
showing his hand."

"Done!" Archie scribbled an IOU. "Now, Pen, down with your thousand."

Pendarvon counted out a heap of Archie's IOU's, laughing as he did so.

"I hope that's good enough."

I drew a cheque on a sheet of paper.

"Now, Archie, if you please, let us see your hand."

He faced his cards.

"A straight flush!" he cried.

For a moment he took my breath away. That he could have drawn two cards
for a straight flush had not entered into my philosophy. My next
feeling was that the thing looked ugly. For a man with a straight flush
in his hand to propose to increase the stakes was--well, not the thing.
While words were coming near my lips, Pendarvon leaned towards him.

"Where is your straight flush? Show it us?" Then, with a laugh, "That's
not a straight flush."

Archie stared at his cards.

"What do you mean?" Then, with a shout, "I'm damned if it is!"

As he recognised the fact, he seemed to me to turn quite green, and he
swore. In his haste, giving only a single glance at his cards, he had
let himself in. It was all but a straight flush--a case of the miss
which is as good as a mile. His hand was four, five, seven, eight, and
nine of hearts. It was a flush, but not a straight flush--he had
overlooked the absence of the six. The curious part of the thing was
that he should have drawn to such a hand.

Pendarvon faced his cards.

"I fancy, Archie, that I am better than you."

He was. He had a full. Three aces and a pair of kings. No wonder he had
been willing to back his luck. I don't know what his feelings were when
he found that I could show still more.

"Fours. I think that takes it."

It did.

As I scooped the plunder, Silvester rose.

"Show four whenever you like--eh, Townsend?"

His tone was disagreeable, and meant to be.

"I wish I could."

"I should say that your wish was gratified. It occurs to me that this
is distinctly a game at which the soberest wins."

We looked at him. He looked back at us. He was evidently in a state of
mind in which he was disposed to pick a quarrel with us, either
separately or altogether. The thing to do was not to gratify his whim.
He treated Archie to a peculiarly impertinent stare. "That was an odd
mistake of yours. I'm drunk, but I'm not drunk enough for that, and I
never could be." He gave Pendarvon a turn--"You didn't choose your
cards badly. But it's only a question of courage. Take my tip, next
time you make it fours." He lurched away from the table. "I'm off.
You're welcome to what you've got--cut it up between you."

He staggered from the room. Archie rose, intending, as host, to see him
off the premises. Pendarvon caught him by the arm.

"Let the beggar see himself out. If we have luck he may break his neck
as he goes downstairs. He's made a bid for it." It seemed that he had.
We could hear him stumble down two or three steps at a time. We
listened. There was the sound of another stumble. Pendarvon laughed.
"Bid number two."

Directly afterwards we heard him fidgeting with the handle of the front
door. Archie grew restless.

"He'll raise the dead if he goes on like that much longer. Let me go
down, and let him out."

We heard the door open, and immediately afterwards shut with a bang.

"He's let himself out. I fancy a little more rapidly than he intended.
I'll bet an even pony that he's gone face foremost into the street.
Let's hope it." Pendarvon picked up a pack of cards. "It's my deal.
What are we going to do?"

Getting up, Archie helped himself to another soda and whiskey.

"Who'll have some?" We both of us did. "Let's play unlimited. I'm sick
of this." Pendarvon raised his glass.

"Here's to you, Archie; you're a gambler."

"I thank the stars I am. Have you any objection, Reggie?"

I shrugged my shoulders, perceiving that remonstrance would be thrown
away.

"I'm at your service."

"Then we'll play unlimited."

And we did.

It was a warmish little game. There is something about unlimited poker
which appeals to one. The spirit of the gamble gets into one's veins
like the breath of the battle into the nostrils of the soldier. One
feels that it is a game for men, and that the manhood which is in one
has a chance to score. Archie evidently meant going for the gloves. He
never bet less than a hundred, and a thousand--in pencil on a scrap of
paper--was as nothing to him. If we wanted to be in that game we too
had to treat thousands as if they had been sovereigns. At the beginning
the luck went round to him--possibly because it took some little time
to make his methods ours. He bluffed outrageously. With a pair one was
not disposed, at the commencement, to pay a thousand to see his cards.
The result was that he scooped pool after pool. When he had made it
plain that, if we wanted him to show, we should have to pay, we began
to pay.

And luck began!

The ante was fixed at a tenner. I was ante. The other two had come in.
Making good, I drew three to a pair of sevens, without improving my
hand. Pendarvon opened with a hundred, Archie promptly making it five.
I had not had a sight--I had had no cards--for the last five hands.
This time, the devil entering into me, I made up my mind that I would
find out what sort of game Archie was playing, and have a view if it
broke me. I saw his five hundred. Pendarvon saw it too. Then Archie
turned up a pair of knaves. I yielded without showing, and to my
surprise, Pendarvon did as I had done. A pair of knaves seemed hardly
worth fifteen hundred pounds. It looked like easy earning.

The same thing went on time after time. Archie could not be induced to
see a man while he could keep on raising. The very next hand, when we
had both come in, Archie started with a five hundred bet. So Pendarvon
and I let him have the entries. And we had a twenty pound pot.

We had gone right round and come back again to pairs, when Pendarvon
announced that he could open. He made it a hundred to enter. Archie and
I went in--though, so far as I was concerned, I had an empty hand.
Pendarvon took two, Archie stood pat, and I drew five, finding myself
in possession of a pair of aces. Pendarvon started with five hundred
pounds; we seemed to be getting incapable of thinking of anything
under. Archie raised him nine thousand five hundred pounds, tabling his
IOU for a round ten thousand. I retired; a pair of aces was not quite
good enough for that. If I was to be broken, I might just as well be
broken for something better. Pendarvon looked at Archie as if he would
have liked to have seen right into him.

"Have you the Bank of England at your back?"

"What are you going to raise me?" inquired Archie.

"Nothing. I go. The courage is yours. I opened with a pair of jacks."

Pendarvon showed them. I doubt if he had anything more. I doubt if
Archie had as much. But, still, ten thousand. The average man is not
inclined to go as far as that upon a pair of jacks. I could see that
Pendarvon felt that he had been bluffed. It put his back up. He meant
to be even with Archie--and he was.

"Let me clearly understand what unlimited poker means. Does it mean
that I'm at liberty to put half a sheet of notepaper on the table and
say I raise a million?"

Archie fired up at the innuendo Pendarvon's words seemed to convey.

"What do you mean by half a sheet of notepaper? Do you suggest that my
IOU is nothing but half a sheet of notepaper?"

"Not a bit of it. Why should I? My dear Archie, don't get warm. Only we
are none of us millionaires. I know I'm not. Ten thousand pounds is a
considerable sum to me. We, all of us, are playing on the nod. Before
you go any further suppose we name a date by which all paper must be
redeemed."

"I'm willing."

"Suppose we say that it must be redeemed within a week?"

"I'm willing again."

I also acquiesced. I saw the force of what he said, and I saw the pull
which it would give him over Archie. Where Archie was likely to find
such a sum as ten thousand pounds within a week was more than I knew,
and, unless I greatly erred, more than he knew either. Pendarvon is a
man of substance. His stannary dues alone are supposed to average
thirty or forty thousand pounds a year, and if it came to a question of
ready-money not improbably he could buy up Archie lock, stock, and
barrel, and scarcely feel that he had made a purchase.

Archie must have been possessed by the very spirit of mischief. He
entirely refused to be out-crowed on his own dunghill--even though he
knew his rival to be the larger and the stronger bird. Almost
immediately afterwards Pendarvon started the betting with a thousand
pounds. Archie retorted by raising him fourteen thousand, laying on the
table his IOU for fifteen thousand pounds. I went. I had two pairs, but
the atmosphere promised to grow too hot for me. Pendarvon laughed.

"I'll see your raise."

He placed his own IOU on Archie's.

"Three kings."

Archie faced them. Pendarvon laughed again. He threw his cards away.

"Too good!"

He had supposed that Archie was bluffing--and had paid for his
supposition.

The game fluctuated. Pendarvon had Archie once or twice upon the hip,
paring down his winnings. At last we came to what proved to be the
last, and hardest-fought-for pool of the sitting. It was a pot. We had
gone right through the hands. In the second round Archie opened when it
came to two pairs or better. He made it a hundred to go in. I went in,
though I had only queens. I kept the pair and an ace, and took two--two
more queens. Pendarvon and Archie both stood pat. I perceived that the
scent of a big battle was coming into the air--when I saw my four
queens, and made sure that they were four queens, it did me good to
smell it coming.

Archie began, for him, very modestly--with a five hundred bet. I turned
it into a thousand, which Pendarvon doubled. Then we went at it, hammer
and tongs. As I raised Archie, and Pendarvon every time raised me, it
made it impossible for Archie to even the bets, and force a display. At
last it grew too hot even for him. I reckoned that I had thirty
thousand in the pool. Pendarvon had made it another four thousand for
Archie to come in. Although he was beginning to look as if he was not
altogether enjoying himself, in he came. I raised him. Pendarvon raised
me. The betting went on. I had IOU's for sixty thousand in the pool.
The fates alone knew where the cash was to come from if I lost--unless
it came from Sir Haselton Jardine, against which possibility the odds
seemed pretty strong. Pendarvon raised me five thousand more. Archie
realised at last that he could not see us unless we chose to let
him--and that we did not mean to let him. He threw down his cards with
a curse--it being a bad habit of his to use strong language when, if he
only knew it, milder words would serve him at least equally well. One
can damn so effectively with a softly-uttered blessing.

When Archie went I saw Pendarvon.

"Fours," he said.

I felt a shudder go all down my back.

"Four what?"

"Tens."

"Queens."

As I faced them, in its holy of holies my heart sang a loud Te Deum.
Pendarvon stood up, still laughing.

"That's enough for me."

When I heard the peculiar something that was ringing in his laughter,
knowing the man as I did, I knew that Mr. Pendarvon would watch for me
and wait. His turn would come.

"I'm hanged!" cried Archie, "if I haven't thrown my money clean away!"

He certainly had--that is, if his IOU's represented money, which his
best friend might be excused for doubting.



                            CHAPTER XVIII.

                DAMON AND PYTHIAS: A MODERN INSTANCE.


                                         "WEST KENSINGTON.

"DEAR MR. TOWNSEND,--Will you come and dine with me one evening next
week? I am always free.

"I want to ask your advice on a small personal concern. You know the
world so much better than I do.

                                  "Truly yours,

                                         "HELEN CARRUTH."


The next morning, when I woke from dreams of poker, this was the first
letter which I opened. It was nicely written, in a small, round hand,
as clear as copperplate--somehow it did not strike me as being the
writing of a woman who did not know the world. Mrs. Carruth seemed
friendly. With a background of intentions, as usual? What was the
"small personal concern?" An excuse?--only that and nothing more? I
wondered.

I had to go down to Cockington by the afternoon train--to Dora, and to
Haselton Jardine. I should probably stay there till Tuesday or
Wednesday--it depended. I might make it Thursday with Mrs. Carruth--if
anything turned up at the last moment I could always send an excuse.
Something about the woman attracted me. A _tête-à-tête_ might prove
amusing. There and then I scribbled an acceptance--appointing Thursday.

I was conscious of the possession of a head--the adventures of the
night had left the flavour of brandy behind. We had made up accounts
before we parted. There had been diversions! I had a nice little
pocketful of money. Pendarvon owed me seventeen thousand odd, Archie
owed him over four thousand, and me over thirty-five thousand. As I
surveyed Archie's heap of IOU's I felt that I had better make early
inquiries into the prices current of waste paper. Pendarvon's seventeen
thousand I would get within the week, or mention it.

No need to trouble myself about Pendarvon. While I still was fingering
his paper, Burton brought me an envelope on which I recognised his
handwriting.

"Mr. Pendarvon's servant waits for an answer, sir?"

The envelope contained a cheque and note.


                                  "ARLINGTON STREET.

                                      "_Friday_.

"DEAR TOWNSEND,--Enclosed find a cheque for £17,450. Short reckonings
make long friends. Please give IOU's to bearer.

                                       "Yours,

                                           "C. P."


I packed up his IOU in an envelope, with a word of thanks, and handed
them to Burton. Pendarvon was the sort of man one liked to play
with--when one won. He might not prove so pleasant an opponent when one
lost, and owed one's losings, and was pressed for cash. Asking for no
grace, he gave none. Archie would have to find that four thousand in a
week.

Poor dear old Archie!

What was I to do? I had as much chance of getting thirty-five thousand
pounds out of him as out of the first beggar I might meet in the
street. Well, I could afford to be magnanimous. I was like unto him
that expecteth nothing. I might let him off--if his beggarly, but
proud, Scotch blood would suffer it. It might be worth my while to put
him under an obligation.

He came in just as I had finished dressing--looking as if he had been
spending the time since I had seen him last in trying to find that five
and thirty thousand pounds. His eyes were bloodshot. His face was white
and drawn. He was a vivid illustration of the night it must have been.
Vouchsafing no greeting, sitting down without a word, leaning on the
handle of his stick, he stared at nothing with his bloodshot eyes.

I opened the ball.

"Are you coming down with me to Torquay by the three o'clock?" Silence.
"I suppose you haven't forgotten your engagement with Jardine?"

"I can't keep it. For a sufficient reason."

"What's that? Feel seedy? The run down will do you good. You'll feel as
fit as a fiddler by the time you get to Cockington."

"That's not the reason."

"What is it then? I suppose you're not going to throw them
over--they'll want your gun."

"The reason I'm not going is because I have not sufficient money with
which to pay the fare."

I stared. I had not supposed the thing was so bad as that. Yet it was
characteristic. In one of his moods he was just the man to play for his
boots, and not miss them till he wanted to put them on.

"I suppose you're joking."

By way of reply he relinquished his stick, stood up, and solemnly
turned out his pockets one by one. He held some coins out towards me in
his hand.

"Six-and-ninepence. That represents my cash in hand. Of course, there
is always the pawnshop."

"Stuff. You can always borrow."

"I am glad to hear it. From whom? Give me the gentleman's name. He is
not known to me, I'll swear. I must be unknown to him, or he would
never lend."

"Can't you do anything on a bit of stiff?"

"I repeat--give me the gentleman's name."

"If it comes to that, I'll lend you a hundred or so to go on with
myself, as you very well know."

"I owe you five and thirty thousand pounds already."

"Look here, Archie, I don't want to make myself disagreeable, as you
believe, but when you like you can be about as much of an idiot as they
make them. Your proceedings last night would have been more appropriate
at a symposium in the county asylum. As to what you say you owe me,
we'll postpone the settling day, with your permission, to when your
ship comes home."

"The arrangement was that all paper was to be taken up within a week."

"Rubbish. You and I know what those sort of arrangements are worth."

"Are you suggesting that I'm a thief?"

"I'm doing nothing of the sort. I'm asserting that you're a fool."

"Reggie!"

"Archie?"

He glared at me so that, for a moment, I thought that he was going to
give further proof of the truth of my words upon the spot. But he
changed his mind. He dropped on to a chair with a sort of gasp.

"What you say is correct enough. I have no right to cavil. I thank you
for the word." He sat silent. Then he added, "But it's not only you I
owe, I owe Pendarvon."

"If you take my advice, you'll pay Pendarvon."

"It's not advice I want; it's money. I owe the man, in round numbers,
four thousand five hundred pounds. I don't know where to turn to raise
four hundred."

"My dear Archie, you must excuse my saying, that's your affair. You
would punt--although he gave you warning. The man lost heavily himself.
This morning he's sent me round a cheque to settle."

"He has, has he? He is an honest man. My God! what it is to have
money!"

"That's nonsense. If you were made of money you would not be justified
in playing as you played last night."

"That's right. Give it me. I deserve it all. I wonder what my father
will think when he finds out, once more, what sort of son I am."

"He'll think of the days of his own youth. When they are confronted
with similar revelations, all our fathers do."

"I doubt it. I don't think my father was ever such as I am. Certainly,
he never bound himself to commit murder within a month. I suppose that
you have not forgotten that the Honour of the Club is in my keeping."

I had not. I had very clearly understood that it was that fact which
had caused him to make the spectacle of himself which he had done. I
stood contemplating the fire, twisting Mrs. Carruth's note between my
fingers. He repeated his own words bitterly--"The Honour of the Club."

"It's a pretty club."

"My faith it is!"

"Your only bantling."

"Don't say that. It's Pendarvon's. You know it is. It's the biggest
part of the debt I owe him. When I think of it, I feel like killing
him."

"Why don't you?"

"It's against the rules. You stood by the rules, and so will I."

"Who are you going to kill?"

"For one thing, I shall kill my father. It will be as good as his
death-blow when he hears of the sort of thing I am."

"That sort of murder won't come within the scope of the definition. If
it did, possibly seven men out of ten would be entitled to the diploma
of the club. Archie, I'll make you a proposition. I'll give you the
money to pay Pendarvon, and I'll cry quits for what you owe me, if
you'll agree, since you must kill some one, to kill any person I may
nominate."

"Reggie!--what devil's game are you up to now?"

"At present, none. At this moment I have not the faintest reason to
wish myself rid of any living creature. But before the end of the month
the situation may be altered. Is it a deal?"

He hesitated; rose, and began to walk about the room. I watched him as
he did so. I noticed how he clasped and unclasped his hands. He turned
to me.

"I agree."

I sat down, then and there, and wrote him an open cheque for five
thousand pounds.

"The balance will enable you to rub along for a time. If you take my
tip, you'll let Pendarvon have his coin at once--before leaving town."

He took the cheque. Scanning the figures, he began to fold it up with
nervous fingers. A smile--of a kind--wrinkled his lips.

"What things we may become! If ever there was blood money, this is it.
And I'm a Beaupré. And do you know, Townsend, that for ever so long
I've been dreaming dreams." He looked up at me, with a sudden flashing
of his eyes. "Dreams of Dora Jardine."

I turned again to the fire--smiling in my turn.

"You told me so before."

"But I never told you what sort of dreams I had been dreaming. I never
told you how she fills all my veins till, in all the world, I see
nothing, think of nothing else, but her. I never told you how she is
with me by day and by night, sleeping and waking; that, wherever I am,
and whatever I do, I am always repeating to myself her name. I never
told you that the dreams which I have dreamed of her have driven me
mad. I never told you that."

"With all due respect to you, I should hardly have believed you if you
had."

"Why? Because I am the thing I am? There's the pity of it! I have been
so conscious of my unworthiness, so conscious that I never could be
worthy, that, constrained by some madness which I verily believe is in
my blood, I have become more unworthy still." He came closer to me. His
voice dropped to a sort of breathless whisper. "And yet, Reggie, do you
know, I believe that, in spite of all, she cares for me."

"I think not."

He became, all at once, almost ferocious.

"You think not! What right have you to think? How can you tell what
grounds I may have for my belief?"

I turned to him. I had purposely kept my back towards him while he had
been indulging in his hysterical ravings. Now I was surprised and
amused to see what a change his hysterics had produced. His cheeks were
flushed. His eyes were flaming. He seemed to have increased in stature.
He seemed to have lost all traces of the hang-dog air with which he had
entered the room.

"I ought, Archie, to have stopped you. If I remember rightly I did stop
you on a previous occasion. I have, I assure you, good cause for
thinking that your belief is an erroneous one; that cause is, that I
have reason to believe that she cares for me."

"For you--Reggie!"

"I will be frank with you. With her father's express approval I am
going down to Cockington to-day in the character of Miss Jardine's
suitor."

"You!--My God!"

"Very shortly I hope to receive your congratulations on the confessedly
undeserved good fortune which has dowered me with such a wife."

"But"--the man was trembling so that he could scarcely
speak--"you're--you're a murderer."

"I am as you will shortly be. Let us hope that my man is not listening
to these plain truths. What then?"

He began fumbling in his waistcoat pocket.

"I won't have your money. You can't buy me body and soul--no, not
altogether. She shall know what manner of man you are."

He threw my cheque from him on to the floor.

"I see. Having led me into crime, you are going to tell of me. Is that
sort of conduct in accordance with the Beaupré code of honour? Are you
sure that you are not proposing to play Judas merely because I have
conquered where you have failed?"

"No! No! I won't tell! I won't tell! You know I won't! But--that you
should be going to marry Dora Jardine!"

He sank in a heap on to a chair, looking once more as pitiable an
object as one would care to see.

"Come, Archie, pull yourself together. Have a drink, and play the man.
Pick up the cheque, run down with me to Cockington, and wish me luck
upon the road. Surely your own experience has taught you that love's
transferable. So long as one has an object it does not much matter what
it is, or whether it's in the singular or plural. Between ourselves, I
believe that Miss Whortleberry, the American millionairess, is with the
Jardines. You marry her--and her millions--I promise you I won't tell."

My words did not seem to brighten him up to any considerable extent. He
sat staring with wide open eyes, almost like a man who had been
stricken with paralysis.



                             CHAPTER XIX.

                             THE PROMISE.


But he went with me to Cockington. More, he picked up the cheque, and
cashed it, and let Pendarvon have his money before he went. He struck
me as not being very far from drunk when we started. Having commenced
to drink, he kept at it like a fish. He was in deliriously high spirits
by the time we reached our journey's end. I began to suspect that there
was literal truth in what he had said; that there was a strain of
madness in his blood; and that, consciously or otherwise, he was in
actual training for a madhouse. The more I considered it, the less his
conduct for some time past smacked to me of sanity.

It was past nine when we reached Jardine's. At the door they told us
that dinner had been kept waiting for our arrival. It was ready to be
served as soon as we appeared. Making a quick change, I hurried down
into the drawing-room. As I entered Dora Jardine advanced to meet me.

"We expected papa by the same train by which you came, but he is
detained in town. I have just had a telegram from him to say so. He
says that he hopes to be here for the shoot, so perhaps he will come
down by the mail--it gets here in the middle of the night, just before
four." I bowed. She added, in a lower tone of voice, "Isn't it odd how
some people have too much to do, and others have too little?"

"I am afraid, Miss Jardine, that such inequality is characteristic;
while, if you are referring particularly to me, I assure you that very
shortly I hope to be overwhelmed beneath the pressure of innumerable
engagements."

She turned to the others. I knew them all. There was her aunt, Mrs.
Crashaw, fat, not fair, and more than forty, a childless widow, who was
understood to be rich. Lady Mary Porteous, the Marquis of Bodmin's
sister, who was not so young as she had been. And there was Miss
Whortleberry, the daughter of Asa Whortleberry, late of Chicago, and
the present possessor of all his millions. Miss Whortleberry was one of
those young women who seem to be America's most peculiar and special
product. To look at she was a graceful, slender little thing, with big
eyes and a face that was almost angelic in its innocence. An
unsuspecting stranger might have been excused for taking it for granted
that in the frame of a delicate girl there was the simple spirit of a
child. A more prolonged inspection would, however, have revealed to him
the fact that her costume was, to say the least of it, more suggestive
of Paris than Arcadia. But it was when she opened her mouth that she
gave herself away. Her voice, quite apart from its nasal twang, always
reminded me, in some queer way, of Lancashire streets; it was hard and
metallic. Her conceit was simply monumental. You could not talk to her
for half an hour without discovering that there was only one heaven for
her, and that was the heaven of dollars, and that, in her own
estimation at any rate, she was its uncrowned queen.

She was lolling back in a corner of a sofa as I advanced to her. She
vouchsafed me the tips of her fingers.

"Ah, it's you."

That was all the greeting she condescended to bestow.

There were four men. George Innes--Lord George Innes--who, on the
strength of being one of the finest shots in England, is in hot request
wherever there are birds about. I believe Innes is one of the cleanest
living men I know. He is not rich, but, I take it, he lives within his
income. He is fond of a modest gamble, but he won't play for big
stakes, and he will only sit down where there's ready-money. His manner
is a trifle suggestive of a poker down his back, but if I had been run
in a different mould I could have fraternised with Innes. The man to me
rings true--he is a man. He dislikes me--it is perhaps, just as well
for him that he should.

Then there was Tommy Verulam, an ass, if ever there was one. I suppose
he was there because of his father. I don't know what other
recommendation he has. Then there was Denton, the man who writes.
Personally, I have no taste for men who write. They may be all right in
print, but generally they are nothing out of it, and the worst of it
is, they are apt to think they are. And Silcox, M.P. I am told that he
is very popular in his party, as being the only man in the Radical gang
who is a fool, and knows it.

Presently Archie appeared. He was flushed. I thought he looked
uncommonly well. He is a handsome beggar in his way. Dora received him
with a something in her air which made his flush mount higher. I
guessed how she set all his pulses tingling. Even Miss Whortleberry
extended to him a welcome which, for her, was quite affectionate--he
was a son of the Duke of Glenlivet.

Dora went in with Innes, as being the biggest there. I came in with the
tail. We would change all that!

After dinner I made straight for the drawing-room. Something seemed to
tell me that I had better make the running while I could. It was the
pace which would win. Besides, the consciousness that I was once more
in Dora's near neighbourhood had on me the same queer effect which it
evidently had on Archie. I found her talking to the Whortleberry.
Presently the millionairess went off with Mary Porteous. I had Dora to
myself.

It was odd how the recognition of this fact gave me what positively
amounted to a thrill. And yet, for a moment or two, neither of us
spoke. She sat opening and shutting her fan. I sat and watched her
performance. And when I did speak at last, my voice actually trembled.

"I have been thinking of what you said to me the other evening."

"What was that?"

"Have you forgotten?"

"Haven't you?"

"I could scarcely have been thinking of it if I had forgotten."

"What did I say?"

"You gave me courage."

"Courage?"

"Yes."

"Were you in want of courage?"

"Of that particular sort of courage. Some men only get that particular
sort of courage from a woman. I know you gave it me."

She glanced up with those strange eyes of hers.

"Tell me what you mean."

"It would take me an hour to explain. Don't you know?"

"You never struck me as being in want of courage of any sort or kind."

There was an ironic intonation in her voice, which, in some subtle
fashion, recalled her father.

"Is that meant as a reproach?"

"No." She hesitated, as if to consider. Then went on, "It is not so
much your courage which I should have questioned, as the direction in
which it has been shown. It is a sufficiently rare quality to make it
unfortunate that any of it should be wasted. How much of it has been
wasted you know even better than I do."

"I understand you. I thank you, not only for what you say, but also for
what you leave unsaid. I am not only going to turn over a new leaf,
Miss Jardine; I am going to commence a new volume. Though I shall
always feel, myself, that you have commenced it for me."

"I am content, so long as it is a volume of a certain kind."

What did she mean? I seldom knew quite what she did mean. She puzzled
me almost as much as her father. She was not like the average girl one
bit. As she looked at me with her curiously smiling eyes, with the
suggestion of strength which they conveyed to me, I felt that it was
probable that she knew much more of the contents of my volume, the one
which I claimed to be just closing, than I was likely to know of hers.

"Do you know, Miss Jardine, that you are making of me a proselyte."

"In what sense?"

"I have never, hitherto, believed in the influence of women. You are
making of me a believer."

"That certain women have influence over certain men I think there can
be no doubt whatever. I have influence over you; you have influence
over me. Only"--she stopped my speaking with a movement of her fan--"I
should be on my guard against your influence over me until I felt that
my influence over you had produced certain results."

"I suppose that any attempts on my part to guard against your influence
would be vain."

"You would not attempt to make them. You are not that kind of man."

"Miss Jardine!"

"You are not. You would not attempt to resist the influence of any
woman. You would rather welcome it as a sort of study in sensation, as
far as it would go. But it would not go far. It would soon reach a
bed-rock of resistance. As soon as it reached that rock it would vanish
into nothing."

"You flatter me by making so close a study of my peculiarities."

"I do not flatter you. I take an interest in you, because, for one
reason, you take an interest in me. Now, Mr. Townsend, I am sure that I
should find that bed-rock of resistance at a greater distance from the
surface. If ever you welcomed my influence you might find it go much
farther than you had at first intended. So I warn you in advance."

I was silenced, not so much by her words as by her bearing. Her eyes
had an effect on me which no eyes had ever had on me before. They
mastered me, and made me conscious of a sense of satisfaction at being
mastered.

"You make me afraid of you."

"Just now you said I gave you courage."

"The two things are compatible. Fear of you might give me courage."

"You mean fear of appearing contemptible to me?"

"Exactly."

"Then that sort of courage I should like to give you." A gleam came
into her eyes which was almost like a flash of lightning. "Perhaps I
will."

"Do I not tell you that you have given me a taste of it already?"

We might have reached delicate ground. When a man and a woman deal in
personalities, and persevere in them, a situation of some sort is apt
to ensue. Archie's appearance postponed the crisis which I was
beginning to think was nearer even than I had supposed. Archie seemed
in a condition of almost feverish exaltation. In the look with which he
favoured me there was something which certainly was not altogether
friendly. Dora did not seem to notice it. She welcomed him with a
smile. As he sat down on the other side of her I got up. I left them
together.

"Poor chap!" I told myself as I strolled off, "let him have his
innings. He must be badly burned or he would make a more strenuous
endeavour to avoid the fire."

Lounging into the little drawing-room beyond, I came into collision
with the aunt. She had the place to herself. She appeared to be just
waking up from the enjoyment of forty winks. I daresay if I had not
come upon the scene she would have had another. At the sight of me she
roused. She beckoned me to occupy an adjacent chair. She was the aunt,
and I still was unattached. I sat beside her.

"What do you think of Dora?" Her tone was confidential. She spoke to me
under cover of her handkerchief. Seeing that I was puzzled, she
explained--"I mean, how do you think she's looking?"

"I think she's looking very well."

"Isn't she! Wonderfully well! Don't you think she's lovely?"

I hardly knew what to say. She could scarcely expect me to be ecstatic.

"Indeed I do."

"Of course you would!" She smiled--such a smile. "And she's all she
looks, and more. She is good as she is beautiful, and so clever.
Extraordinarily so! She's a wonderful girl!" She closed her eyes, as if
the wonder was too great for visual contemplation. "I often think that
it is unfortunate that she was not born a man."

"You can scarcely expect me to agree with you there."

"You wicked creature!" She prodded me with her fat fingers in the arm.
Mrs. Crashaw was one of those old women who, whenever they can,
punctuate their remarks on the persons of their listeners. She arranged
her bracelets on her wrists. "Haselton tells me that he has a very high
opinion of you, Mr. Townsend."

"I am very glad to hear it. I only hope he does not think more highly
of me than I deserve."

"I hope not. Young men nowadays are so wicked. They deserve so little.
As you probably are aware, Mr. Townsend, I am Haselton's only sister.
He reposes in me his entire confidence. He has no secrets from me."

I believed her! She might be his only sister, but Sir Haselton Jardine
was as likely to repose his entire confidence in a woman of Mrs.
Crashaw's type as in the first town crier. Whatever he told her would
probably be told with, at least, one eye to advertisement.

"My brother Haselton is a man of peculiar gifts. A remarkable man. A
man of genius if ever there was one. He is, of course, respected by all
of us, by his country and his Queen. He has a marvellous knowledge of
the world, and a great esteem for those sacred things which are too
often disregarded. And when I learn that he has a high opinion of any
person I know that that person must be all right upon the moral side. I
am glad, Mr. Townsend, to be able to think this of you."

I looked down. I could not help but smile.

"Thank you, Mrs. Crashaw; you are very good."

"In this age of flippancy, the most shocking things are suffered. I
hear, I assure you, of things which would astound you. I have made
Haselton's hair stand up on end. It always gives me pleasure to hear of
a young man who is not only clever but good. For my part, let them say
what they will,  I think it is better to be good than clever. I hope,
Mr. Townsend, that you will always bear that in mind."

Again she prodded me in the arm. I could but bow my head.

"The man who marries Dora will be a most fortunate man. She has money
of her own. She will have money from her father. She may have money
from me--mind, I make no promise--I say she may have. It depends." Mrs.
Crashaw smoothed out her ample skirts in front of her. "Then there is
the family influence and position. With a clever girl like Dora for a
wife nothing ought to be impossible to her husband."

The dear old thing might be prosy, but it did me good to hear her
talking. Such observations, coming from such a quarter, carried weight
and meaning. They meant that my position looked already as if it was
assured. They meant that the whole thing--spontaneously, so far as I
was concerned--had been threshed out in family councils, and that then
the decision had been given for me. The thing seemed too good to be
true; and yet it was true--here was the living witness. I was in for a
stroke of fortune so stupendous as to seem to verge on the miraculous.

If only I had known of it before last Sunday! If only I had suspected
that the thing was even possible! Why had I been so blind? Why had I
not seen it coming? Why had Sir Haselton not dropped a hint in time?
Oh, if he only had!

But the game was not yet lost. Lost?--it was all but gained! I had but
to breast the tape, and win. The riding would do it. Luck was on my
side.

I turned in early. I had had little enough of bed the night before. I
wanted to get up fit, with a clear eye and steady hand. I did not want
Innes to beat me too badly with the birds. One likes to hold one's own,
whatever is the game.

In the corridor, as I was making for the sheets, who should I meet but
Dora. She thought that I was going to make changes in my costume, to
fit me for the smoking-room.

"Going to change your coat?"

"Not I. I'm going to bed."

"Really?"

"Really. I want to make some additions to to-morrow's bag. Sir Haselton
won't thank me if I don't."

She looked at me as if she was trying to read my face. When she tried
to do that I felt, in some occult fashion, that she succeeded. I would
have been prepared to wager that she had her father's power of reading
faces--and more.

"I want you to promise me something."

"What is it?"

"I want you to promise to top Lord George's score."

"You ask a hard thing, Miss Jardine. I do not profess to be Lord George
Innes's equal as a shot."

"I believe, if you like, you can do anything."

"You believe too much of me. Honestly, for my sake, I wish you would
believe a little less."

"Will you promise?"

"I promise that I will try my hardest, that I will do my best; and, as
the archer says in 'Ivanhoe,' no man can do more."

"You will hare to do more for me; you will have to promise, and you
will have to keep your promise."

It seemed an unreasonable request to make--especially in that insistent
fashion--such a promise no man could be sure of keeping. A thousand
things might be against him. I might shoot better than I had ever shot
in my life, and yet not be certain of topping the score. Yet, when I
saw the something that was in her eyes, I cast caution to the wind.

"I promise."

She held out her hand.

"Good-night."

She allowed me to retain her hand for a moment in mine.

"I know you will keep the promise you have made."

She was gone. I turned into my room. And, when in it, I reflected.

"If she knows that I will keep the promise I have made she knows a good
deal more than I do. I wonder what will happen if I don't. I can, as a
rule, see pretty straight along the barrel of a gun, but I do hope to
goodness the birds will be good enough to cross my line of fire. She's
the sort of girl to take the miscarriage even of such a promise as an
omen. I want the omen to be all the other way."

Some one knocked at the door. It was Archie. He had a smoking jacket
on.

"Aren't you coming down into the smoking-room?"

"I am not. And, if you take my tip, you won't go either. You must be
almost as much in want of a trifle of bed as I am."

"I am obliged to you. I make my own sleeping arrangements." His tone
was snappy. He seated himself on the arm of a chair. "Were you in
earnest in what you said to me this morning?"

"To what are you referring?"

"To what you said about Miss Jardine."

"Certainly I was in earnest."

He fixed his glance upon me in a fashion I did not relish.

"Haven't you a grain of pity? Is there nothing human about you,
Townsend?"

I felt strongly that that sort of thing must cease. The idea of Lord
Archibald Beaupré's mentorship was an idea not to be endured.

"There has been a good deal about your manner towards me lately,
Beaupré, to which I have objected, and with good cause. You have
presumed on the friendship which exists between us in a manner of which
I should have thought you, of all men, would have been incapable." He
flushed. I saw I had struck home. "You must excuse me saying that if
you consider that the fact of our being acquainted with each other
entitles you to unwarrantably interest yourself in my private affairs,
I must request that that acquaintance shall cease."

"You don't understand me--or you won't."

"I understand you better than you imagine. You are not the first
jealous man I have known."

He went white and red.

"It isn't jealousy; I swear it isn't."

"It is a matter of complete indifference to me what it is. I object to
it in any case."

He was silent for some seconds. He stared at his toes.

"Tell me one thing--have you proposed to her?"

"I shall tell you nothing. After the tone which you have used towards
me I decline to allow you to ask me questions."

He got off the arm of the chair.

"Then God help her." He went to the door. At the door he turned again.
"I don't believe that He will suffer it."

Then he went

If Archie went on like that much longer, he and I should quarrel.
Vicarious morality is a variety of the article to which the most
liberal-minded inevitably objects.



                             CHAPTER XX.

                         THE NEWS FROM TOWN.


I woke up feeling as fresh as a daisy. When Burton drew up the blinds
the sun came gleaming through the bedroom windows.

"There's been a slight frost, sir, but I think it's going to be a clear
day."

From where I lay in bed the sky looked cloudless.

"It seems just the morning for a shoot."

"I think it is a shooting day, sir--there's no wind, and a good light."

As Burton said, it was a shooting day. When I had dressed I went
straight down on to the terrace. There was a slight nip in the air, and
the faintest whisper of a breeze. It was the sort of day which makes
one feel that it is good to be alive. I seemed to be the first one
down. I never felt more fit. I stood there drinking in great draughts
of the clear, cool air, with greater relish than I ever drank
champagne. If one always lived in such an atmosphere, with plenty of
money in one's pockets, one could afford to be a model of all the
virtues.

Some one spoke to me from behind. It was Dora.

"You are the first on the scene."

I turned. She was standing at the open window of the morning-room.

"Am I the first to whom you have wished good morning?"

"The very first. Good morning, Mr. Townsend."

She held out to me her hand. I retained it in mine. A wild impulse
seized me to kiss her on the lips. It was all I could do to hold my own
against it. Her eyes were so provoking, her mouth so tempting. She
allowed me to keep her hand in mine, though she might surely have seen
my desire showing through my face. And I have no doubt she did, for she
smiled at me.

"Well--good luck."

"I will keep my promise."

I released her hand. A gleam of colour was glowing on her cheeks. I
doubted if she was not making fun of me.

"After all, papa cannot come. He wishes you to shoot without him. He
says that he will certainly be down tonight."

We shot without him. I do not think that he was missed. I had never
seen Sir Haselton Jardine handling a gun, but I should not fancy that
he was much of a performer. He did not strike one as being built that
way.

I spoke to Innes as we were strolling to cover.

"Innes, I'm feeling in first-rate shooting trim to-day. I don't
pretend, for a moment, to compare my shooting to yours, but would you
like to have a sporting wager?"

"How?"

One peculiarity of Innes's is that he never uses two syllables where
one will do.

"Bet you a pony that I kill more birds than you."

"Birds? or all in?"

"All in if you like."

"Done."

That decided it. I had not expected that he would bet. I had a sort of
suspicion that he rather avoided making bets with me, but now that he
had bet, if I did not win his pony and keep my promise, luck would have
to be against me with a vengeance.

There were seven guns--the house lot, and a local. Innes, Archie, I,
and the local had the best places. The local was a man named Purrier.
He seemed to be something in the gentleman farmer sort of line. He
could shoot, though he was a pot hunter if ever there was one. Sport
did not seem so much to his taste as killing. He potted ever so many of
his birds before they had a chance of getting up. Archie shot wildly.
He evidently had not taken my advice and gone to bed when I did. When
he is in form his gun can be relied upon. At his performances on that
occasion, I saw Vicary, the head-keeper, more than once pulling a face.
Innes, as usual, performed like a book. And his luck was better than
mine. The birds would rise his side. I never missed a chance. Yet, by
lunch-time, he was nineteen pheasants, two rabbits, and a hare to the
good--twenty-one in all.

I was a bit surprised to find that luncheon was done in swagger
fashion. It was the first time I had shot at Jardine's. I had not been
aware that they did things in quite such style. There was a portable
kitchen, and a tent, and a regular table, and a lot of servants, and
there were the ladies there. One doesn't care, if one is at all keen,
for lunch being made a feature, when one is shooting. But I did not
object so much just then. Dora's face was welcome, though I had such a
pitiful tale to tell. We sat down anyhow. I planted myself beside her.

"I haven't kept my promise."

"Pray, how is that?"

"The stars in their courses have fought against me. The enemy is
twenty-one ahead."

"That is nothing. You will keep your promise before you have finished.
I know you will."

How she knew is more than I can say. She knew better than I did. And
she knew quite right. I kept my promise. After lunch, I made up for all
my ill-luck of the morning. Her words may have had something to do with
it--and the tone in which the words were uttered. I believe they had.
Anyhow, I wound up by beating my friend, the enemy, with more than two
score birds in hand.

The local made all the running at the start. He shot like a keeper, for
the larder, or like a dealer, for the shop, grassing bird after bird
before it had a fair chance to stretch its wings. Some of the birds
seemed a trifle tame; they were either weak on the wing or else they
had been overfed. They would not rise until they were compelled. Some
of them had to be driven right on to our guns before they would get up.
This was nuts for the local. When he had a chance to stop them they
never got up at all.

I began catching Innes all along. But it was in the last cover the
trick was done. The bag for the day was close upon two thousand. Of
these over seven hundred were winged in that last cover. Vicary had
kept his _bonne bouche_ for the finish.

When we reached it Innes and I were about equal. When the slaughter
began he did all he knew. But I did better. I brought them down as fast
as I could get the guns; and I fancy that my guns were loaded quicker
than his. While it lasted it was as hot a bit as one could wish.

When it was over Innes came to me.

"You win."

"I think I do. What do you make your total?"

He told me. I told him that I made mine forty-seven more.

"I did not know that you were quite so many as that. But I knew that
you were in front. The birds have broken on your gun in a crowd."

I owned that was so.

"I know that the luck has been mine. Of course, as a shot I am not to
be compared to you. It was like my cheek to back myself. But, somehow,
I seemed to know, in advance, that I should have the luck."

"It has not, by any means, been all luck. You're a good shot, Mr.
Townsend."

Archie came slouching up. He had lost his temper--as he was wont to do
when he had been making an ass of himself.

"Did you ever see anything like my shooting? I can't hit a haystack."

He was looking at Vicary, but whether he was speaking to him is more
than I can say. Vicary chose to think that he was. Evidently Jardine's
head man knew his business--he had given us a first-rate day. But he
was one of those keepers who like to see their birds shot. When they
were missed, and the principal offender gave him such a chance as that,
he was not likely to let it pass him.

He looked at Archie. His face assumed an expression of rustic
stupidity--it was a distinct assumption. Nature had made him look as
sharp as a ferret.

"Well, sir, I did understand from Sir Haselton as how you could hit
haystacks."

Archie went red all over, then went white to the lips.

I take it that last spinney was a good four miles from the house. So we
drove home. It had kept clear, but it had again turned frosty. There
was a keen bite in the air. They had sent our coats in the brake. The
ladies were having tea when we got back. When we had changed we joined
them--all but Archie, who, I imagine, stayed in his room to sulk. Innes
and I got in together. The others were already in evidence, including
the local, who was to stop and dine.

Mary Porteous called out as we came in--

"So you've had a good day?"

I answered. Innes, if he could, always saved his words.

"First-rate."

"And I hear that you've gained all the honours, Mr. Townsend."

"I've had a good deal of luck, Lady Mary--more than my share. But, I
believe, as a matter of fact, that Mr. Purrier heads the score."

Mr. Purrier disclaimed the soft impeachment.

"I doubt it. I never saw better shooting, Mr. Townsend, than yours."

"It's very good of you to say so. You all seem very nice and
complimentary."

Mary Porteous laughed.

"How modest we are!"

People went into the billiard-room after tea. I stayed for a moment or
two behind with Dora. I had not had a chance of a word with her at tea.
She had been entertaining Silcox and Purrier--it was she who sent them
to billiards. The rest trooped after them. We were left alone. I had
been sitting a little in the shadow, on the other side of the room. I
crossed to her.

"I've kept my promise."

"Thank yon. It is almost as if you had done me a special and a most
particular favour. But I knew you would."

"You seem to know me very well."

"I know you much better, perhaps, than you imagine."

"But, I assure you, I do not always necessarily keep promises which I
make."

"Of that I am certain. But, before you make a promise to me, I shall
know--know, mind!--if you will keep it. And I shall never ask you to
make a promise which I do not know that you will keep."

"Are you a seer?"

"So far as you are concerned, I am."

She touched my arm lightly with her hand. I protest that she set me all
a-trembling. There was a pause. She removed her hand. I do not believe
that I could have spoken while she had it there.

"Papa has telegraphed that we are not to wait dinner for him, so we
shall dine at eight. Papa says that he will dine alone, as he is
bringing work with him from town. It seems to me that life is coming to
mean, more and more, to him, nothing but a synonym for work."

I made up my mind, on the instant, that I would--if I could--put the
matter to the touch before Sir Haselton Jardine appeared upon the
scene. I felt that I could not hold myself in much longer, even if I
tried. I was beginning to feel a longing for this girl such as I had
never felt for a woman before--and I own that, in my time, I have
longed for particular women now and then. Apart from all other
considerations, I yearned to have her, to win her, to call her
mine--for herself, and for herself alone. She always had exercised over
me a sort of cerebral attraction. This attraction had grown and
strengthened. It was both intellectual and physical. It was beginning
to overwhelm me. I knew that, when the moment came in which we should
see each other eye to eye, for the first time in my career I should
look upon the face of my undoubted master. I had met my master in my
mistress, if the fates would but let me win her for my wife. If but
Dame Fortune had that crowning mercy to bestow! The knowledge that
she was my master was beginning to fill my veins with a frenzy of
desire--we should be so fairly mated.

As I was dressing, the look which I had seen in her glances was
haunting me. I told myself that, after dinner, I would put my fortune
to the touch, and lose or win it all.

And so I did!

We were a lively lot at dinner--all but Archie. He was black as black
could be. Tommy Verulam began chaffing him about his shooting. Tommy
himself, I should say, could shoot as well with one end of his gun as
with the other. But that did not prevent his being down on Archie. The
worse a man is at a thing himself, the more disposed he seems to be to
exploit the deficiencies of others, especially if he is a fool of the
transcendental sort. Tommy had heard Vicary's remark about the
haystack. So he told the tale--with embellishments of his own. I
thought Archie would have thrown a plate at his head. There would have
been a row royal if the ladies had not been present. Trying to snub
Tommy--I expected that Vicary would hear something from headquarters
about that little slip of his tongue--Dora endeavoured to extend her
sympathies to Archie. But Archie would have none of it. The light had
gone out of the world for him.

Directly the ladies' backs were turned the band did begin to play.
Leaning his arms on the table, Archie addressed himself to Tommy.

"Mr. Verulam, have you ever had your head punched?"

Tommy gaped.

"What the doose do you mean?"

"What I say. If you haven't, consider your head punched now."

Innes interposed.

"For shame, Beaupré!"

Archie turned on him like a wild cat.

"You mind your own business! Don't you interfere with me!" Evidently,
as regards interference, in Archie's estimation what was sauce for the
goose was not sauce for the gander. He stood up. "Mr. Verulam, so long
as you are in this house you are in sanctuary. On the first occasion on
which I meet you outside, I shall kick you."

With that he stalked out of the room--it's a pretty Scotch temper he
has of his own!

But I cared neither for his bad taste nor for his bad temper, and as
little for Tommy's folly. I went in search of Dora. I peeped into the
drawing-room. Mary Porteous was making a noise at the piano, but in
spite of the noise she made Mrs. Crashaw was having forty winks upon an
easy-chair.

The millionairess was nowhere to be seen, nor was Dora. From the
morning-room there was a door leading into the conservatory; entrance
to this conservatory was to be gained from the drawing-room as well. I
went to the morning-room. I looked into the conservatory. At first I
thought it was empty. But, when I went farther into it, there was Dora.

The glass house was a large one. In the centre was a fountain. The
water fell into a basin in which were goldfish. Looking into this
basin, seated under the shadow of a palm, was Dora.

She was thinking, perhaps, of me. She did not become conscious of my
approach until I was close upon her.

"A penny for your thoughts."

She looked up with that odd smile which, to me, seemed to glorify her
countenance.

"They ought to be worth more than that to you."

I was silent. I, too, looked into the basin. The goldfish were swimming
round and round. The fountain fell into the water with a musical
splash. The noise of the piano came from the drawing-room beyond. Now
that I was close to her the task seemed harder than I had supposed. My
ready tongue seemed to have forsaken me. My pulses were throbbing in my
veins like some young lad's.

It was she who broke the silence.

"Your thoughts; are they worth a penny too?"

"Can you not guess them?"

"That is not an answer to my question."

"I have not your gift of prescience. I cannot tell if they are worth a
penny to you. To me they are worth more pennies than I am ever likely
to possess."

"You place a high value on your own thoughts."

"Shall I tell you what they are?"

"If you like. Though, is it worth the trouble, if you are sure that I
can guess?"

"Give me leave to tell you them."

"I give you leave."

"I was thinking what fallible creatures we men are."

"Is that all? Surely that is not worth a penny, even to you."

"Because so small a thing may change all our lives."

"Not worth a penny yet."

"Have you bewitched me?"

"I cannot tell."

"I believe you have."

"You are not bewitched so easily."

"As you say, I am not so easily bewitched. That makes it still more
strange."

"I await the penny's worth."

"Will you forgive me, Miss Jardine?"

"For what?"

The words trembled on my lips. And yet, without a struggle, I could not
utter them. As I looked into the water, all at once my eyes seemed
blinded by its glare.

"For loving you."

She was still. I did not dare to turn to look upon her face, for fear
of what there might be there to see.

"You have your methods, Mr. Townsend."

"In what sense, Miss Jardine?"

"I await the penny's worth."

On a sudden a great shame came over me; a sense of overwhelming horror.
I sank on my knee. I hid my face in my hands on the basin's edge.

"God help me!"

The cry was wrung from me by something which, for the moment, was
stronger than I.

"Hush!"

The word was whispered. Then she, too, was still.

"Begin again." The words seemed to come to me like the words which we
hear in a dream. "What is done, is done. You cannot put it behind you
altogether. But it is done. It is not yet to do. And, because it is
done, therefore, you need not do it again, in the time which is to
come. If you have strength--and you have strength, Mr. Townsend--play
the man."

I had never thought that any one would have had to bid me play the man.
But she had to bid me then. She laid her hand upon my shoulder. Beneath
her touch a shudder went all over me. Then I looked up at her.

"You are not for such as I am."

"But you are for such as I am."

I held my breath. I knew not what to do or say. I stared in front of
me, not understanding what it was I saw.

"What is it that you say?"

"Are you so deaf? All in an instant have you become so dull? Come, I
will do the wooing, since you are afraid to woo me." That ever I should
have been told by a woman that I was afraid to woo her! "If you but
love me half as I love you, you will fill the world with the fame of
the great deeds which you will do for love of me, and leave behind a
name which men never shall let die."

"Dora! Dora! My Dora!"

"Well, if I am your's----"

"If? Is it only if?"

"Will you be mine?"

"Body, soul, and spirit. I do believe you have bewitched me. I am going
mad for the love of you!"

"I am content."

"Is this a dream of ecstasy from which there will soon be waking?"

"I would that you might wake to something soon."

"What's that?"

"To the fact that I am here."

I woke to it. It was worth while to have lived if only to have woke to
what I woke then. For I woke to find that her face was close to mine,
that I might take her in my arms, that I was free to smother her with
kisses.

Loving is such sweet pain. I learned it then!

And hardly had I loosed her, than some one came upon us. It was Sir
Haselton Jardine. I saw his well-regulated eyelids suffered to open to
enable him to shoot one of his swift glances. I saw his lips wrinkled
by his imitation of a smile. And he said--

"I hope I do not interrupt you. I am but now arrived from town."

Dora, all rosy red, ran into his arms.

"Father!" she cried.

"My dear!" Then to me, "How are you, Townsend? I said I thought it
possible that you might have something to say to me before you went
away."

"I trust, sir, that I may have."

I believe that I, myself, was blushing like any boy.

While we were standing there--forming, no doubt, a sufficiently awkward
group--Tommy Verulam came running in. He seemed to have recovered from
the effects of his little episode with Archie. He was quite excited.

"I say, I've just been looking at the London papers. It seems that
they've got the chap who murdered the woman at Three Bridges."

I turned to him.

"Indeed! Who may he be?"

"His name is Tennant--Thomas Tennant. I hope they'll hang the brute,
upon my soul I do."

Sir Haselton struck in--

"I am briefed by the Treasury to prosecute. If the man's guilty, it
will be a positive pleasure to have a hand in sending him to the
gallows."

As I was endeavouring to grasp the drift of what it was that they were
saying, I saw that Archie Beaupré was staring at us through the
drawing-room window.



                        BOOK III.--THE WOMAN.

                (_The Story as told by Mrs. Carruth_.)



                             CHAPTER XXI.

                      THE ADVENTURES OF A NIGHT.


To have fallen out of an express train going at full speed! I have had
some strange experiences, for a mere woman. But this, I think, beats
all.

And to owe it to Thomas Tennant! I will be even with him yet.

I went down to Brighton to spend the Sunday with Lettice Enderby--she
was acting at the theatre there. I found her not feeling very well. We
spent the day alone together. After dinner I had to make a rush for the
train. Who should I find myself shut in with as soon as the train had
started, but Tommy Tennant.

It was years and years since we had seen each other. And all the world
had happened since we had. But, so far as personal appearance was
concerned, he had not changed a bit. He was still the same jack-pudding
sort of little man, with round eyes and rosy cheeks. I knew him at
sight. What was queerer, he knew me. I take that as a compliment. I
flatter myself that I have not changed, except for the better, since
those days of long ago. Tommy's prompt recognition was the best
testimony to the truth of this fact I could possibly have had.

Although more than seas divided us, and never was a past more dead than
his and mine, at the sight of Tommy all my old grudge against him came
back again. Perhaps the glass or two of wine I had had with Lettice
might have had something to do with it, but directly I saw him I flew
into a rage. Tommy Tennant always has been the ideal man I hate. Give
me them good or give me them bad, but do give me them one or the other.
The irresolute, backboneless, jelly-like sort of man is beyond
endurance.

If Thomas Tennant ever had a backbone he lost it in his cradle!

He always used to be afraid of me. In that respect, as in the others, I
found he had not changed. He was frightened half out of his life
directly he saw who it was. When I began talking to him he started
shivering--literally shivering--in a way which made me wild. I do like
a man who can hold his own. Talk about conscience making cowards of us
all; I like the man of whom nothing can make a coward. He got into such
a state of mortal terror that he actually tried to steal out of the
carriage and escape from me while the train was going, for all I know,
perhaps fifty miles an hour.

That was how the trouble all began. It would have spoiled the sport to
have let him go, so I tried to stop him. He had opened the carriage
door, and in endeavouring to prevent his going out, I went out instead.

That is the simple truth.

There never was a more astonished woman. I doubt if there ever was one
with so much reason for astonishment. How it happened, or exactly what
happened, I do not know. There was not time enough to clearly
understand. I discovered that I was standing upon nothing, and then
that I was flying backwards through the air. After that I suppose I
lost my seven senses.

I could not, however, have lost them for long. Perhaps for not more
than a minute or so. When I came to I opened my eyes, and looking up
saw that the moon was shining in the sky overhead, and that it was
almost as light as day. I wondered where I was, and whether the end of
the world had come. I found that I was lying among a group of bushes on
what seemed a sloping bank, and that something very like a miracle had
taken place. Falling out of the train while it was rushing along the
top of an embankment, I must have gone, backwards, into a bush, which
while it had let me through, had sufficed to break my fall. I must have
rolled down the bank, until I was stopped by the clump of bushes amidst
which I found myself.

The miracle was that I was unhurt. I was a trifle shaken and a trifle
dazed. But not a bone was broken, and I felt that, so far as material
damage was concerned, I could get up when I chose and walk off,
practically as if nothing had occurred.

But I was a trifle dazed, and it was some moments before my senses
quite returned to me. What hastened their return was the fact of my
hearing footsteps. I listened. Somebody was walking, and not very far
off either. The person, whoever it was, seemed to be quite close at
hand. I did not know whereabouts I might be lying. I was only aware
that I was somewhere between Brighton and London. I had no notion how
far I might be from a station or a town. It struck me that it would be
just as well that I should discover who the pedestrian might chance to
be.

As I was about to rise, with the intention of prospecting, something
heavy falling among the bushes almost on top of me startled me half out
of my wits. I sprang to my feet. At the bottom of the bank on the other
side of a fence which formed a boundary between the railway and the
country beyond, a man stood, staring at me in the moonlight. He was
tall, and he wore a long black overcoat and a billycock hat; even then,
and in that light, I could see he was a gentleman. But it was the look
which was on his face which took me aback. I never saw such a look on a
man's face before. He stared at me as if he was staring at a ghost. And
just as I was about to accost him, and to request his assistance, at
least to the extent of informing me as to my whereabouts, leaping right
round, he began to tear across the moonlit field as if Satan was at his
heels.

I was going to call and beg him not to leave me, a stranger in the
land, alone in the lurch like that, when I was reminded of the
something which had fallen among the bushes, and which had first made
me conscious of his presence, by kicking against something which felt
soft and yielding, and which was lying on the ground.

I stooped down to see what it was.

"Sakes alive! It's a woman!"

It was; a young woman--and she was dead. No wonder he had stared at me
as if he had been staring at a ghost. No wonder, as he saw me looking
at him from among the bushes, that he had thought that the victim of
his handiwork had risen from the dead to look again upon his face. No
wonder he had torn for his life across the grass, feeling that she was
at his heels.

I seemed to be in for a pretty thing. I have looked upon dead folk many
a time; yes, and upon not a few who have come to their death by
"accident." I have lived in parts of the world in which life is not
held so sacred as it is in England; where not such a fuss is made every
time the doctor is forestalled--where the doctor is not the only
individual who is licensed to kill; where men shoot now and then at
sight, and, when they are pushed to it, women too. I know a girl--and
liked her--who shot a man who had insulted her in New Orleans, and left
him on the sidewalk. Nobody said a word. She is married now to a rich
man, and to a good man, as good men go, and she has a family, and she
is highly esteemed. In England that seems odd, but I suppose the fact
is that when one is in Rome one does as the Romans do, and that is all
about it.

And at that moment I happened to be in England, and I made up my mind
there and then that, if I could help it, I would have no finger in the
pie. I had no desire to go into the witness-box--I would almost as soon
have gone into the dock. Cross-examining counsel have a knack of making
mincemeat of a witness. Things come out--the things which one would
much rather did not come out. I had not returned to England, a widow,
with my big pile, with the intention of coming such a cropper at the
outset. Rather than be mixed up in such a mess, I would almost sooner
take my passage in the first steamer back to the States, and count the
ties out West again.

Please the fates, I had done with scandals--fresh ones, anyhow--for the
rest of my days. The woman was dead. She was beyond my help. Let
whoever found her hang the man who laid her there. The house in which I
lived was too transparent for me to indulge in the luxury of throwing
stones.

I gathered myself together. The most miraculous part of the business
was that my clothing seemed to have escaped uninjured; falling
backwards had been my salvation. I peeped at my face in my handglass. I
seemed to be all right--right enough, at any rate, to pass muster at
night and in a crowd. I went up the bank to the line. From that
altitude I had a good view of the surrounding country. Straight along
the line to the left, not so very far away, lights were glimmering. I
made up my mind to chance it, to keep along the line and to make for
them.

They proved to be the lights of a station. The station was Three
Bridges Junction. I managed to enter it to the best of my knowledge and
belief, entirely unobserved. I thanked my stars when I felt the
platform beneath my feet.

From the mirror in the waiting-room I learned that my handglass had not
deceived me. I could pass muster. A woman in the room addressed me--she
and I had it to ourselves.

"Excuse me, miss, but do you know your back's all covered with weeds?"

As she brushed them off I thanked her, murmuring something about my
having been sitting on the grass.

Going out on to the platform I all but came into collision with the man
who had stood staring at me from the other side of the railing. The
sight of him fairly took my breath away. He was going from me or he
could scarcely have failed to notice the singularity of my demeanour.
It was he--there could be no mistake about that. But, lest I might be
in error, I resolved to have another glimpse at him. Before I could put
my resolution into force he had vanished, into what I discovered to be,
as I strolled slowly past it, a refreshment-room.

I should not wonder if he did stand in need of refreshment!

There did not appear to be a seat in the place. English people talk
about the discomfort of the American depôts but my experience is that,
from the discomfort point of view, the average English station runs the
American depôt hard. I sat on one of those square trollies which the
porters use for baggage. There I watched and waited for my gentleman to
emerge, refreshed. The trolley was close to the refreshment-room. I
could see him at the bar. He was not content with one drink. He
disposed of two.

Probably he needed them!

Presently he came out. He had had his back towards me while he had been
drinking. As he came out of the buffet, turning, he walked in the
direction of the trolley on which I was sitting. He moved right past,
so close to me that by putting out my foot, I could have tripped him
up.

It was he. My first impression had not been wrong. That he had got
cured of his fright was plain--certainly he showed no signs of it. He
seemed quite at his ease. His hands were in the pockets of his
overcoat, an umbrella was under his arm, a cigarette was between his
teeth. There might not have been such a thing as a ghost--or the shadow
of the shade of a ghost--in all the world.

Back he came. He sailed up to a porter. I heard him asking him when
there was a train to town. As the man, having given the information,
was making off, I cut in. I put to my gentleman the question which he
had put to the porter.

"Can you tell me when the next train starts for London?"

He told me what I asked, adding a word or two on his own account, as I
had expected and desired. I responded. He seemed disposed for
sociability. Why should I object? We began to talk. The end of it was
that we travelled in the same compartment up to town.

It was so funny!

He was that most remarkable product--an English gentleman. Given the
real article--and there is no mistaking it when once encountered--there
is nothing in the world which can be compared to it. I speak who know.
He was tall. He was perfectly dressed. He was handsome--I never saw a
more handsome man. And he had that air of infinite, yet unconscious,
condescension which the English gentleman, alone of all the creatures
of the world, is born with, and which, willy-nilly, he carries with him
from the cradle to the grave.

They tell you in the different countries of the world that the
Englishman is awkward, shy, ungraceful, seldom at his ease. May be; but
not the English gentleman. He is the only man I have known who is
always at his ease in every possible situation. But he is not to be
found on every bush. Even in his own country he is the rarest of rare
birds. Being born a peer, even though he can trace his tree to Noah,
does not make a man a gentleman--you bet that it does not.  I believe
that an English gentleman is a caprice, an accident. He is not to be
accounted for by natural laws. And though, for all I know, he may be
trusted by his fellows, he is not to be trusted by a woman. He has one
code of honour for his own sex and another for ours.

That is so, though it may not be according to the copybooks.

My friend the gentleman was a real smart man. As he lolled back in his
seat, enjoying his tobacco, it did you good to see him smile. His voice
was typical of his kind, it fell like music on your ears. As you looked
at him and listened, you could have sworn that he had not a care upon
his mind. He was at peace with himself, and all the world. And it was
all so natural; he was to the manner born.

I found him quite delightful. I could see what he was doing--he was
reckoning me up. And he was puzzled where to place me. I took him into
my real confidence, for reasons of my own, and that puzzled him still
more. I told him nothing but the truth. How I had gone out to America,
and met poor dear Daniel, and married him. And how he had died and left
me a widow, and his pile to comfort me. And how I had come back to
England childless and forlorn and all alone. I laid stress upon my
loneliness. I think that touched him. When a woman tells a man that she
is lonely he takes it that she means that there is not a man anywhere
in sight, and that the coast is clear for him, and that does touch
him. His manner became quite sympathetic. He was as nice as could
be--allusive, as a real smart man can be, with a delicate, intangible
directness almost equal to a woman's.

We were almost like old friends by the time that we reached town. He
put me into a hansom at Victoria station. I asked him to come and see
me, to have consideration for my loneliness. He promised that he would.
All the way home, as the cab bore me through the streets, I kept
thinking of Mr. Reginald Townsend--that was the name which he had given
me--and of the woman he had left, lying by the line, amidst that clump
of bushes.

I believe I have written that I like a man to be thorough. It seemed
probable that Mr. Townsend was that.



                            CHAPTER XXII.

                      LOUISE O'DONNEL'S FATHER.


Next day Jack Haines came to see me. Mr. Haines promised to be a
nuisance.

Jack Haines and Daniel J. Carruth had been partners. I might have
married either of them, for the matter of that. I might have married
any one in Strikehigh City. Of two evils I chose what seemed to me to
be the lesser, which was Daniel. For one thing, he was the boss partner
and had the larger share, and for another, he was the older man. I
could have twisted either of them round my finger, but it occurred to
me that I might manage best with Daniel. So I became Mrs. Daniel J.
Carruth, and poor dear Daniel lived just long enough to capitalize
his share--he made a better thing of it than we had either of us
expected--and then he died. Hardly was he buried than the chief mourner
at his funeral, Mr. Haines, wanted me to marry him. He hinted that it
would be just as well to keep the partnership alive, which struck me as
absurd. Anyhow, I did not seem to see it. I came straight away to
England, instead of marrying him, with the intention of getting as much
fun out of Daniel's dollars as I possibly could.

What I had not bargained for was his coming after me.

The folks in Strikehigh City had all lived queer lives, but I rather
guess that, in some ways, Jack Haines had lived one of the queerest. He
had told me about it over and over again, and, whatever I might think
of him, I knew that he had told me the truth.

He had been married. He and his wife had lived like cat and dog. She
had died. She had left a daughter. He had brought the daughter
up--trying to rule her with a heavy hand. There came a time when she
objected. There was a disturbance--she left him. That was just before
he came to Strikehigh City--in fact, her going sent him there, and he
had never seen her since. I could see plainly that he had been more in
the wrong than she had. In his way, he loved her. His conscience
pricked him all the time. When Daniel died, it began to prick him worse
than ever. Finding that I would not have him, he set himself to look
for her.

This I learned from his own lips when I met him again in London.

It seemed that, when she had left him the girl had gone on to the
stage--attaching herself to a variety show. From that she had passed to
a burlesque troupe. The burlesque troupe had gone to England--she went
with it. The burlesque troupe returned--she had stayed behind. No doubt
for reasons of her own. Jack Haines wanted very much to know what those
reasons were, because, no sooner had the troupe gone, and left her,
than she vanished. No one seemed to have the faintest notion what had
become of her. She had simply disappeared--gone clean out of sight.

The old man had come over to see if he could not succeed where others
had failed; if he could not light on the clue which others had missed.

The desire to find the girl had become with him a regular mania. It was
like a bee in his bonnet. It occupied his thoughts, to the exclusion of
all else, both by night and day. As I have said, the man was becoming a
nuisance. I did not want to quarrel with him, but I saw that, without a
quarrel, I never should be rid of him. He insisted on making me his
confidant. And, although I took care never to give him a chance to say
a word outright, I knew that, as soon as he had found the girl, he
would renew that hint about the desirability of keeping the partnership
alive.

On the day after that little trip to Brighton, he turned up in my
drawing-room. I had run over to Kensington High Street for something.
When I came back, there he was--and I was not by any means best pleased
to see him there.

I should have disliked him for one thing if I had disliked him for
nothing else--he was so deadly serious. I do not think I ever saw him
smile. Indeed, I doubt if he had a smile left in him. He had no sense
of humour, and, to him, a joke was as meaningless as double Dutch. He
was bald at the top of his head, his face was as long as one's arm, his
eyes generally had an expressionless, fishlike sort of stare, and,
since he had assumed the garb of respectability, he was always attired
in funeral black. He seemed to be under the impression that that was
the only hue in which respectability could appear. As for his temper,
it varied from doubtful to bad, and from bad to worse, and when he was
in a rage, which he quickly was, he was by no means an agreeable person
to have to deal with. He and Daniel were always falling out, and, until
I came upon the scene, he used to ride over poor dear Daniel roughshod.
But, when I did I let him understand that whoever fell out with Daniel
fell out with me.

For my part, I did not wonder so much at his daughter's having run away
as at her having lived with him as long as she did.

His hat was on one chair, his umbrella on another, he himself sat, with
his hands clasped in front of him, on a little centre table, in an
attitude which suggested that he was about to offer prayer. He did not
rise as I entered--respectability has not yet worked such havoc with
him as that. He stared at me as I went in, solemnly speechless, as if
he wondered how I could venture to interrupt the meeting.

"Well, Mr. Haines, any news?"

I did not care if there was any news, but I did object to his sitting
and staring at me like that.

"She is dead."

"Dead!--You don't mean it!--How do you know?"

"It was told me last night in a dream."

Among the rest of his little peculiarities, he was one of the most
superstitious creatures breathing. In religion, I believe, he called
himself a spiritualist. Anyhow, he was always seeing things, and
hearing things, and having things revealed to him. Talking to him in
some of his moods reminded one of that scene in Richard II. where the
poor dear king wants to sit upon a gravestone and talk of epitaphs.

"Is that the only reason why you know that she is dead--because it was
told you in a dream?"

"Do not mock at me. The voice which speaks to me in visions does not
lie. I saw a coffin lying in an open grave, and 'Louise O'Donnel' was
on the coffin-lid."

"You did not happen to see in which particular graveyard that grave
might be located."

"I did not. But I know that she is dead. My daughter, oh, my daughter!"

I had to turn aside to smile. I grant that it was not a subject for
laughter--but he was so funny!

"And as I looked the coffin-lid was lifted. And, on her breast, there
was an open wound."

He rose slowly, painfully, inch by inch. He pointed with his right hand
towards the floor.

"Woman, my daughter has been slain."

"Really, Mr. Haines, you are always seeing the most dreadful things in
dreams. If I were you I should take less supper."

"It's not the supper. It's the spirit."

"Well, in that case, I should take less of that."

He frowned.

"You know very well what I mean. I am not speaking of the spirit of
alcohol, but of the spirit of the soul. Now one task is ended. Another
is begun. I will be the avenger of blood. Mine will it be to execute
judgment on him who has destroyed my daughter's body, having first of
all destroyed her soul."

"Jack Haines, what nonsense you do talk."

"What do you mean, woman?"

"My good man, do you think that you awe me by your persistence in
calling me woman? I am a woman; but let me tell you in confidence that
you strike me as only being part of a man!"

"You jeer at me. You are always jeering. You know not what you say."

"That is good--from you. Your style of conversation may have been
suited to Strikehigh City, where they all were lunatics. But in London
it is out of place."

"London!--bah!"

He threw out his arms, as if to put the idea of London clean behind
him.

"Precisely. Then if it's London!--bah! Why don't you return to
Strikehigh City?"

"I will finish the work which I came to do. Then I will return."

I had sat down on an easy-chair. I had crossed my legs, and was
swinging my foot in the air. Old Haines stood glowering down at me,
clenching his fists to hold his temper in. I looked him up and down.
After all he was, every inch of him, a narrow-minded, cross-grained,
hidebound New Englander.

"You are more likely to see the inside of a prison if you don't take
care. You know, they manage things differently upon this side. Jack
Haines, let me speak to you a word in season--a candid word. It may do
you good. You killed your wife; I do not mean legally, but you killed
her all the same. A prolonged course of you would be sufficient to kill
any wife."

"Woman!"

"You drove your daughter from you. So unwilling was she to have it
known that she was connected with you, that she took her mother's name.
She called herself Louise O'Donnel. Under that name she came to
England. Conscious that, even underneath her mother's name, you might
trace her out in England, she has changed her name again. Under that
new name she is deliberately hiding herself away from you."

"It is false."

"It may be. It is but a surmise. But, as such, it is at least as much
likely to be correct as yours."

"She is dead."

"You have not one jot or tittle of proof that she is anything of the
kind."

"I will have proof." He brought down his fist upon my pretty, fragile
table with a crash. "I will have proof."

"Don't destroy the furniture."

"Furniture!" He glared at the inoffensive table as if he would have
liked to have chopped it into firewood. "You should not anger me. I say
that I will have proof. And I will have proof of who it is has murdered
her. And I will find him, though he hides himself in the uttermost
corners of the earth. And when I have found him I will have a
quittance."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Do you not know what I mean? Have you known me so short a time that
you should need to ask?"

"Do you mean that, if there is anything in these wild dreams of yours,
you will kill the man who has killed your girl?"

He raised his hands above his head in a sort of paroxysm.

"Like a dog."

"Then let me tell you that you are treading the road which leads to the
gallows. They manage things in their own way upon this side. Killing's
murder here. And the more excuse you think you have the tighter you're
likely to fit the rope about your neck."

"The hemp has not been sown which shall hang me on an English gallows.
Do you think I am afraid?"

He gave me the creeps. Although it surpassed my powers to adequately
explain the thing, I knew that he had a trick of seeing things which
had taken place before they became known to other people. I had had
unpleasant experience of it more than once. One might begin by laughing
at what he called his dreams and his visions, but, in the end, the
laugh was apt to be upon the other side.

It was quite possible that his girl was dead. Young, pretty, simple,
innocent, alone in a foreign land--what more possible? It was even
possible that she had been done to death. Some one might think that no
one would miss her. In that case, that some one might as well at once
place himself in the hangman's hands as wait to interview Jack Haines.

I was glad to be rid of him. He was not a cheerful companion at the
best of times. But since he had got this bee in his bonnet he was more
than I could stand.

In the afternoon I went to see Kate Levett. Kate and I had been
together in Pfeinmann's "King of the Castle Operatic Combination." We
were friends all through. I fancy it was a case of "a fellow-feeling
makes us wondrous kind"--after a fashion we were girls of a feather.
When the Combination came to eternal grief at Strikehigh City, we went
different ways. I stayed where I was, Kate went East. It was at Boston
she married Ferdinand Levett. He was touring at that time through the
States as acting manager for a famous English comedy company. It was a
case of marriage at first sight as it were. It proved to be the best
thing Kate had ever done in her life. Levett turned out a regular
trump, and they hit it off together to a T. Now they were settled in
England, and, although Kate had kept off the boards, they were doing
uncommonly well in a modest sort of a way.

When I turned up at their flat on the Thames Embankment, at the back of
the Strand, Kate wanted me to stay and dine. So I stayed. After dinner
we went to a theatre. Levett was at business--managing the Colosseum,
so we went there. To finish up, we went back to supper at the flat.

I had gone originally to Kate with the idea of gleaning a little
information. Before I left I had got all that I wanted, and, perhaps, a
little more. What I wished to find out was whether Kate knew anything
about a Mr. Reginald Townsend. She and her husband knew something about
all sorts and conditions of men, and it struck me that my friend, the
gentleman, was just the sort of man of whom one or the other of them
might have heard.

I did not want to seem too anxious. So I just slipped my question in
casually, as if I was indifferent whether I received an answer to it or
not. I kept it till after supper. Kate was at the piano strumming
through all the latest things in comic songs. I was lolling in a
rocker, joining in the chorus whenever there was a chorus. Ferdinand
was taking his ease upon a couch. We were all as snug as we could be.
Kate had been saying she knew somebody or other, I don't know who, when
I struck in.

"Between you, you two seem to know pretty nearly every one."

"Those whom we don't know are not worth knowing."

"Quite right, my dear!"--this from Ferdinand, on the couch.

"Have you ever heard of a Mr. Townsend?"

"What!--Reggie Townsend?"

She spun round on the piano-stool like a catherine-wheel.

"Reginald Townsend--that's it."

She and her husband looked at each other--in that meaning sort of way.

"Fred, have we ever heard of Reginald Townsend?"

Ferdinand laughed. She held out her hands in front of her.

"Why, my dear, there have been times and seasons when we've heard of
little else but Reginald Townsend."

"Perhaps your man is not my man. My man's tall."

"So's our man!"

"And dark."

"You couldn't paint our man blacker than he is."

"And very--very swagger, don't you know."

"Our man's the swaggerest man in town. It's impossible that there could
be two Reginald Townsends. What do you know of him?"

"Oh, I only met him once. But he rather struck me."

"Take care that he doesn't strike you too much. He's not only the
swaggerest, he's also the wickedest man in town. I could tell you tales
of him which would shock your innocent ears. He's a terror, isn't he,
Fred?"

"He has rather liberal ideas on the subject of the whole duty of man."

"I should rather think he has."

And Kate went off at score. I could see from what she said that my
friend the gentleman was all my fancy painted him. When she gave me an
opening, I slipped another word in edgeways.

"Is he received in respectable society?"

"That depends, my dearest child, upon what you call respectable
society. He's the boon companion of dukes, marquises, and earls, and
that kind of thing. He visits the best houses and the best people. But
I was raised at Salem, Mass., and our ideas of respectable society were
perhaps our own. I haven't found that they obtain to any considerable
extent round here."

It was scandalously late when I left for home.

The same thing occupied my thoughts in the cab as on the night
before--my friend the gentleman. Whatever could have made him do the
thing which he had done? That is, if Kate's Reginald Townsend was
mine--of which, by the way, I had no doubt. A man may be all that's
bad; he may be worse than a murderer, but he takes particularly good
care not, if he can help it, to be the thing itself. What could it be
which, in the judgment of a man in his position, had compelled him to
place himself within the shadow of the gallows?

The problem occupied my mind. The man had been placed by nature in such
a fortunate position. It appeared that he had so much to lose--and he
had lost it all! What for? I wondered. What was it which had
constrained him to choose between the devil and the deep sea--and then
to choose the devil?

As I thought of it, and how handsome he was, and how well bred, and how
there was everything to please a woman's taste, and to gratify her eye,
a wild notion germinated in my brain--which was watered by
circumstances, and grew.

I dismissed the cab at the end of my road. The night, though dark, was
fine. The horse was tired. I had no objection to saving the creature's
legs by walking the rest of the way. I did not suppose that, at that
hour of the night, or, rather, of the morning, there would be any one
about.

In supposing that, however, I was wrong.

The street was a pretty long one. When I got about half way along it I
perceived that a cab was stopping at a house in front of me. As I
reached the cab a man got out of it in a fashion which, to say the
least of it, was rather sudden. He plunged on to the pavement, rather
than stepped on to it. As his feet touched solid ground, he turned
towards me.

It was Tommy Tennant!

For a moment I was frightened half out of my wits. It was such an hour,
he was without a hat, he looked wild and dishevelled, his appearance at
such a place--within a stone's throw of my own house--at such a moment
was so wholly unexpected, that it fairly took my breath away.

But if his appearance startled me, my appearance seemed to have an even
more startling effect upon him. He gave one glance at me and tumbled in
a heap on to the pavement.

The driver of the hansom leaned down towards me from his perch.

"It's all right, miss; he's only been enjoying of hisself. The cold
stones will cool 'is head."

I said nothing; I hurried on.



                            CHAPTER XXIII.

                      MR. TOWNSEND COMES TO TEA.


I have not lived in the world so long as I have done, and seen so much
of it, without realising how small a world, after all, it really is,
and how full it is of coincidence; but I do think that this beats all
the coincidences of which I ever heard.

To think that I should have pitched on the one street in London which
Mr. Thomas Tennant has chosen for a residence! It seems that I have. I
lay awake for an hour trying to account for his sudden appearance from
that cab. At last I hit on something. I sat up in bed with quite a
jump.

"Can it be possible that he lives in this street?"

Rest was out of the question till I had made sure. I got out of bed--it
was nearer five than four--and I tiptoed my way downstairs. I routed
out a directory, and I hunted up the street. Sure enough he did. There
was his name, as large as life--"Thomas Tennant." He lived at No. 29.
My house was blank--it had been empty at the time the directory had
gone to press--but I had taken No. 39.

"Well, this beats everything! To think that I have spent all this
money, and come all this way, to plant myself five doors from Mr.
Tennant!"

He might be unwilling to have me for a neighbour, but I could assure
him that I was equally unwilling to have him. I did not wish the first
entry on the fresh leaf which I had turned to be a reminiscence, and
especially a reminiscence of that particular friend.

I thought that was strange enough, but stranger things were yet to
follow. What a queer little world this is!

Recognising that it was no use addling my brains by puzzling out
conundrums at that time of the morning, so soon as, by reading it over
and over again in the directory, I had made quite sure that my eyes had
not misled me, and that Tommy did reside five doors away, I toddled up
to bed again. "There is nothing like leather," says the proverb. I say
there is nothing like sleep. Give me plenty of sleep and I am good for
anything. As I have always been blessed with a clear conscience--if
there is a vacuum where the conscience ought to be it must be
clear--and, what is equally to be desired, a good digestion, I have
ever found sleep come at my bidding. Once I have my toes well down
between the sheets, my head on the pillow, and the blankets well up to
my ears, I snooze. I know I did just then. And I never dreamed; none of
Jack Haines's lively visions came my way.

I looked at my watch when I awoke. It was past eleven. I just turned
over. I had a stretch. I believe that, when you wake in the morning, it
does you good to have a stretch; it seems to help you to realise that
there is a piece of you between your head and your heels. "What should
I do?"

"I'll have some tea."

I had some tea. The girl brought me the letters and the papers. There
was nothing in the letters, but in the papers there were ructions!

At first I could not make out what it was all about. Directly I opened
the _Telegraph_ these were the words, in big, black letters, staring me
in the face: "Murder on the Brighton Line." That was my friend, the
gentleman! But at first, as I have said, the more I looked at it the
more I couldn't make it out.

A platelayer--whatever that might be in connection with a railway
line--going to his work in the morning had seen the body lying among
the bushes--in that clump of bushes, I took it, where it had almost
fallen on top of me. That was all right. Where I found the puzzle was
in what directly followed. The girl had, of course, been murdered in
the field, probably within a foot or two of where I had seen Townsend
standing. The papers, or the people who inspired the papers, seemed to
think that the murder had taken place in a train, and that then the
body had been thrown on to the line. What could have made them think
such a thing as that?

As I read on the whole thing flashed upon me; it was another
coincidence!

It seemed that when the 8.40 train from Brighton had arrived at
Victoria--the 8.40? Why, that was the train in which I had travelled
with Tommy! My stars and bars!--it was discovered that the window in
one of the carriages was shivered to atoms, that the carriage was
marked with blood, and that it bore signs of having been the scene of a
recent struggle.

Jerusalem! what was coming next? I had to put down the paper and take
another drink of tea.

Nothing came next except what they called a "presumption," and if ever
there was a piece of real presumption it was that same.

The presumption, according to the papers, was that the railway carriage
had been the scene of a hideous tragedy--of a frightful murder, of one
of those recurrent crimes, which force us, from time to time, to
recognise the dangers which, in England, at any rate, are associated
with railway travelling. The identity of one of the _dramatis
personæ_--as poor, dear Daniel used to say. "I'm a-quoting"--was
unfortunately, but too evident. There was the woman who had been found
lying among the laurels--I wonder if they were laurels?--with her face
turned towards the skies. As a matter of fact, she had lain face
downwards. It was owing to that I had not seen her face. She was a
silent but an eloquent witness--that was touching. The public
demanded the prompt production of at least another of the _dramatis
personæ_--"still a-quoting"--of the man--it would not, perhaps, display
too much rashness to hazard the prediction that it would prove to be a
man--who had hurled her there.

If that did not point to Tommy, I should like to know to whom it
pointed.

I began to wonder. What had Tommy done when I had made my exit? Had he
done nothing but twiddle his thumbs and stare? It would be
characteristic of him if he had. He never did do the right thing at the
right time if there was a wrong thing which could be done. The window
might have been smashed by the banging of the door. I dare say that
there had been signs of a struggle. I could not make out about the
blood, but, perhaps, in the midst of his muddle, Tommy's nose had
started bleeding. That was just the sort of thing his nose would do. It
was quite conceivable, to one who knew him, that Tommy had toddled home
without saying a word to any one about the lady who had tumbled out
upon the line. If so----

If so, and I kept in the background, it was equally conceivable that,
as a glorious climax to the muddle, because of that woman who had been
found upon the line, Tommy might find himself in a very awkward fix.

I had to take another drink of tea.

I found what might turn out to be the top brick of the building while I
was in the very act of drinking. Tommy himself might think that I was
dead. I might have died. From a mere consideration of the odds point of
view, I ought to have died. The miracle was that I wasn't dead. Tommy
knew nothing about the woman who had been thrown on the top of me. He
might think--he was capable of thinking anything, but in the present
instance it was natural that he should think--that the body which had
been found was mine.

If he did think so?

But he had seen me the night before. The fact rather supported my
theories than otherwise. He had glared at me as if I had been a ghost.
The sight of me had struck him senseless. According to the cabman, he
was drunk. Knowing what he knew, or what he thought he knew, he might
very well suppose that I was a creature born of his delirium.

It appeared to me that my cue, for the present, at any rate, was to
keep sitting on the fence. I might still be even with Tommy, and that
without having to move a finger of either hand. As for my friend, the
gentleman--we should see.

Oddly enough, I came across Mr. Reginald Townsend that very afternoon.
I had been shopping--shopping was about all there was for me to do;
after Strikehigh City I found life pretty dull West Kensington way, but
then I had expected it to be dull. As I was strolling homewards, who
should I see but Mr. Reginald Townsend. He was a sight for sore
eyes--at least, he was a sight for mine. I like to see a man that is a
man--handsome, well set up, and dressed as only the thoroughbred man
knows how to dress. I am not so particular about a man's morals as
about his manners, and his manners were all they ought to be. From his
bearing, as he stood there, in front of me, you would have thought I
was the very person he had wanted to see and had expected to see. I
don't believe that he had supposed that I was within a hundred miles of
him. I should not have been surprised to learn that, until my actual
presence recalled it to him, he had entirely forgotten my existence.

He was the sort of creature one finds amusing.

After poor, dear Daniel one liked to feel that one was connected with
such a picture of a man. One liked to feel that he was doing credit to
one's good taste as he was walking by one's side.

I asked him to come and have a cup of tea. He was delighted, or he
professed to be. When I remembered the occasion on which I had first
encountered him it seemed to me that, in his heart of hearts--or
whatever it was that passed for his heart of hearts--he must wish that
I was at the bottom of the sea. He could not like being reminded of
Three Bridges Junction. But one can never tell. From his manner he
might have met me first of all in Queen Victoria's drawing-room, and
none but pleasant memories might have been connected with the meeting.

When we got indoors, who should I find in the drawing-room, sitting in
solitary state, but Mr. Haines. The look he gave me! And the look he
gave my friend, the gentleman! The old nuisance might have been my
husband.

Mr. Town send appeared oblivious of there being anything peculiar in
the old worry's demeanour, and, fortunately, the old worry did not stay
long, considerably to my surprise. I was afraid that he would make a
point of outstaying Mr. Townsend. But it was all the other way. After
he had tried to freeze us for about five minutes he disappeared.

"It's very odd," said Mr. Townsend, as soon as he was gone, "but I've
either seen that gentleman before or somebody very like him. There's
something in his face which positively haunts me."

I shook my head.

"Your imagination plays you a trick; it sometimes is like that. Mr.
Haines has only been in England, for the first time in his life, for
about a month. He was my late husband's partner. I fancy he is under
the impression that I'm a little lonely."

"That is a complaint which may easily be cured."

"The complaint of loneliness?"

"You will be able to make as many friends as you desire."

"It is not so easy for a woman to make friends as you may, perhaps,
suppose--that is, of course, friends who are worth the making. You see,
I have ambitions."

"Ambitions?"

"Yes, ambitions." He looked as if he would have liked to have asked me
what I meant, only he was too civil. "In my position I think I am
entitled to have ambitions."

He still seemed puzzled. It did me good to look at him, to know that he
was sitting there, to breathe in, as it were, the aroma of his
refinement and his high breeding. I have always hungered for those two
things in a man, and I have never had them. I could understand a
woman's falling in love with my friend, the gentleman. For the first
time in my life the idea of a woman being in love with a man became
conceivable.

All too soon--for me--he rose to go.

"You will come again?"

"I shall only be too happy."

"Seriously, I mean it, Mr. Townsend."

"And equally seriously I mean it too. Our acquaintance was made in an
informal fashion, but I trust that, in course of time, I may be able to
induce you to allow the informality to stand excused."

"It will be your fault if you do not."

When he went an appreciable something seemed to have departed with him,
and that although his voice, his presence, seemed still to linger in
the air. I found myself touching the cup from which he had been
drinking, even the chair on which he had been sitting, with quite a
curious sensation.

It was very odd.

I believe that if I had been born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and
the right sort of man to whom to attach myself, and to become attached
to him, I should have been one of the best women in the world. I agree
with Becky Sharp, that for a woman five thousand a year is something;
but it is nothing, after all, without a man. Love in a cottage is a
lunatic absurdity. Love itself may be all stuff. But there is something
which, for all I can tell, may be akin to love. If one never knows it,
life can never have its fullest savour. Perhaps, after all, for every
square peg there may be a square hole somewhere in the world. If, when
it meets it--it might; one can conceive that such meetings are--it
cannot claim, and obtain possession, it will be hard upon the peg.

I had half a mind to tell the girl to put the cup which he had used
aside and keep it free from the contamination of anybody else's lips
until he came again. It would seem so silly. And yet----

Somebody came striding into the room. I turned. It was Jack Haines come
back again. I almost dropped the cup, which I was holding, from my hand
in my surprise. He was looking as black as black could be and his
manners proved to be in full accord with his looks.

"Who is that man?"

"What man? What is the matter with you, Mr. Haines? I thought that you
had gone."

"You know what man I mean--he who has just left your house."

"I am at a loss to know how it concerns you. That gentleman is a friend
of mine."

"He is a thing of evil."

"Mr. Haines!"

"He is a shedder of innocent blood!"

Jack Haines was becoming really charming. I had always known he could
be pleasant. I was only just beginning to realise how pleasant he could
be when he tried.

"Mr. Haines, are you stark mad?"

"Woman!"

"Sit down."

He was raging like a wild bull about the room.

"Why should I sit down?" He threw up his hands. "I warn you against
that man!"

"Sit down!"

I pointed to a chair. He sat down--I knew he would--and he looked as if
he would like to eat me for forcing him to do it.

"Now, Mr. Haines, if you feel that you have, to a certain extent,
mastered your excitement, perhaps you will be so good as to tell me
what is the meaning of your behaviour."

"Nelly----"

"To you, Mr. Haines, I am Mrs. Carruth."

"Nelly, I say!"

In proof of his saying it, he stretched out towards me his clenched
fist.

"Even at Strikehigh City, I did not think you capable of insulting an
unprotected woman."

"I'm not insulting you."

"If you think not, then your ideas of what an insult is must be your
own."

He rubbed his hands slowly up and down his knees. He stared at me hard.
He shook his head.

"It's very hard; it's very hard. Between you and the girl, I'm
suffering. The lines have fallen on me, and they're cutting right into
my vital places." He brought his hands down upon his knees with a
sudden thwack. "I asked you first, before even Daniel said a word to
you; I laid myself at your feet."

"Was that my fault?"

He looked at me in silence. Then he drew the back of his hand across
his brow.

"No; it was not your fault. I'm not blaming you. It was to be. Some men
are made for women's feet to spurn." He paused. "Mrs. Carruth--since it
is to be--I mean you well."

"Some people's meaning is very badly expressed."

"That's me. That's me all through--yes, right along. I ask you again,
Who is that man?"

"Are you referring to the gentleman who has just been kind enough to
come and see me? That is Mr. Townsend."

"Then Mr. Townsend is a thing of evil--he is!" He held up his
forefinger to me with a warning gesture. I did not interrupt. "When I
came near him I knew him for what he was. I saw right through. He is a
whited sepulchre. I saw the blood gleaming on his hand. I could not
stay where he was. I went outside, and stood on the corner of the
street until I saw him go. And when I came back, I found that his
presence was still with the house."

For my part I was glad that it was--if it was.

"This sort of talk, coming from you, is very ridiculous. Has your own
life been so pure that you should attempt to blacken another man's
character merely because he is my friend?"

"Pure? No; no man's life is pure. We are born to evil like the sparks
fly upwards. But there's a difference."

"Pray, in what does the difference consist? I presume you have not
forgotten that at least a portion of your record is known to me?"

He shook his head with dogged insistence.

"There is a difference. You know there is a difference. There's bad
ones and there's bad ones; and Mr. Townsend's the sort of creature that
no woman ought to have any truck with. He'll bite you if you do."

I got up from my chair.

"I am sorry this should have happened, Mr. Haines. I fear I shall have
to ask you to come and see me more seldom than you have been in the
habit of doing. I hope Mr. Townsend will be a frequent visitor. It
would be pleasant neither for you nor for me for you to have to meet
him, in my house, when you hold the opinions of him which you say you
do."

He pressed his lips. He looked, if anything, sourer than ever.

"So Mr. Townsend is going to be a frequent visitor, is he? And how
about Daniel?--and about me?"

I laughed.

"About you, Mr. Haines? I hope, Mr. Haines, that you will have a cup of
tea."

He had one. And did penance in having it. For he hated tea.

And it was cold.



                            CHAPTER XXIV.

                        WHAT MRS. CARRUTH SAW.


All sorts of things have happened--past all belief. Tommy Tennant has
been arrested for murder--for the murder of me! Those wise police! And
Reginald Townsend is coming to dine.

But let us proceed in order. Each thing in its place, and one at a
time.

To take two or three things to begin with. The muddle they have made
about what happened at Three Bridges is, really, in its way, quite
marvellous. And it all pans out so clean--or seems to--to those who are
looking on. No one is talking of anything else, and some of them talk
of it to me. It only wants Mr. Townsend to favour me with a few
remarks, and Tommy to add a postscript, to make me begin to think that
I must be dreaming.

They have found the porter who saw me into the train at Brighton, and
he has declared that the corpse is me! What a sweet creature that
porter man must be! And they have found the porter who saw Tommy get
out of the empty, blood-stained carriage at Victoria. But how they have
found Tommy himself I don't, as yet, altogether understand. I know they
have not found me.

I have had another sight of Tommy since the one on that first
night--or, rather, so early in the morning. And, again, the manner of
it was curious.

I have been in rather a predicament since I realised that Tommy and I
were neighbours. There has been a certain delicacy about the situation.
I might tell tales of him--he is married! I have seen his wife--such a
pretty woman; but, unless I am mistaken, she wears the breeches! But
they would not do him a tithe of the injury his tales would do me. And
we women are so handicapped. The justice of the world is so unjust. A
man may steal the horse, while we may not look over the hedge.
Primitive civilisations are, after all, in certain respects, the best;
but then they lack the very things we want!

I'm a widow--_bonâ fide_. I could put down as much hard cash, dollar
for dollar, as many women who are famed for riches. I want to begin
again. I have ambitions. I want to ruffle it among the best of them.
Why shouldn't I? I have the qualities. So I have taken this highly
respectable house in this highly respectable street, and furnished it
in a highly respectable manner. I wanted to look about me--to find out
where I am. I did not want to start with a splash, or folks would want
to know who I was. And there are people who could tell them. For
instance, Tommy for one. I want some one to launch me; some one fully
equipped with the necessary equipment to give me a good send-off.

Tommy, if he liked, could spoil me. On the thin ice of my perfect
respectability, at this stage of the game, I stand or fall; and, if I
do fall, I fall right in. If I had known that Tommy and I were
neighbours, I should have behaved in a very different fashion when I
discovered we were fellow-passengers. I should have shown a spirit of
Christian forgiveness; and, in excusing the past, I should have buried
the hatchet. Tommy is a good-hearted creature, in his way. I could have
easily induced him to hold his tongue, or even to assist me with a
helping hand.

Now that boat is burned!

My first impulse, when I discovered that we were neighbours, was to fly
before he made the same discovery on his own account. Had he chosen, he
might have made my position absolutely untenable. While this mood was
on me, I did my little best to conceal the fact. When I went out, I
took care not to pass his house, lest he should see me from the
windows. And the funny part of it was that the first time I did pass
his house, he saw me.

The papers were full of the Three Bridges tragedy. The hue-and-cry was
hot against the man who had travelled in that blood-stained carriage.
What amazed me was his continued silence. It showed not only abject
cowardice, but drivelling idiocy to boot. Anything was better--for
him!--than keeping still. It was the Friday night. I had some letters
to post. I had a headache. I felt that I must have some fresh air, or a
change of air if fresh air was not obtainable; so I took them myself to
the pillar-box at the end of the road. Doing so involved passing
Tommy's residence. But it was dark; there was more than the suspicion
of fog--the risk seemed small.

I went on the opposite side of the street. The fog was so thick that,
when I had despatched the letters, it seemed absurd to take
precautions.

"I'll stroll back past Tommy's. Why should I be afraid of him?"

I strolled. The fog appeared to be thicker every moment. The houses in
the street, externally, were as like as two peas. I really found it
difficult to find out exactly whereabouts I was. I was thinking of
Tommy, and of how eagerly he was being hunted, and of what a sensation
I might make by sending his address to Scotland Yard--when there he was
in front of me!

Right close in front of me!

He was standing at the bottom of a flight of steps--his own
steps--hatless, his hands in his trousers' pockets, as if, like me, he
had come out to get a change of air. Suddenly he became conscious of my
presence. He turned my way, and stared. The encounter was more than I
had bargained for. It made me feel a trifle awkward. But the effect
which it had on him was most astounding. The look which came upon his
face actually frightened me--it's a fact! I had not thought that a
human countenance could have been capable of an expression of such
awful horror. To look at him--and I had to look!--made me go all cold.
As I advanced, he went--automatically, I am sure--backwards up the
steps, never removing his eyes from off me, the awful something that
was on his face intensifying every second. At the bottom of the steps I
paused--I had to; something made me. I don't know what he thought; but,
as he saw me standing there, he made a convulsive movement backwards,
went into the house, and banged the door.

I am cool enough as a rule. It takes something to put me off my
balance. But I was off my balance then. The whole thing was so unlooked
for, and seemed so strange; it unnerved me. When Tommy had gone I found
that I was trembling.

But the incident was not by any means concluded.

When I had gone a few steps further on, I all but cannoned into what
seemed to be a crowd of men, who, of malice prepense, were blocking up
the pavement. What with the fog and my state of fluster, I did not
perceive what they were till I was right upon them.

They were policemen.

My nerves were in such a condition of tension that, when I realised
that fact, it was all I could do to prevent myself from screaming.

"I beg your pardon," I mumbled. "I did not see you."

"It's all right, miss," said a voice. "Pass on."

I passed on. But I had not passed on another dozen yards when, it
seemed to me, by a sort of inspiration, I guessed what might have
brought them there. What _might_ have brought them there? What had?

Be the consequences what they might, I felt that I must stay and see
what was about to happen. Turning, I went back a little way; and,
keeping as much in the shadow as I could, I stood and watched.

A man, who was dressed in ordinary private clothes, went on in front.
The policemen divided in two sections. Two of them followed closely on
this man's heels. The rest went out into the road.

Just as I expected, the man in plain clothes passed up Tommy's steps.
He hammered with the knocker at Tommy's door. The door was opened. He
went in. The two policemen went in with him.

I knew that, even while I was standing watching there, Tommy was being
arrested for the murder of me!

The confusion of my ideas filled me with panic terror. He had seen me
not a minute back. He had only to tell the policemen so. They would
come and find me there. There would be an end to all my dreams.

I rushed home. For the first time in my life I could not sleep. Indeed,
I scarcely tried to sleep. All night I lay in agony. A thousand
thoughts came crowding on my brain. I lost my self-control. I was half
stupefied with fear. I wished that there were a hundred miles between
my house and Tommy's. More than once, even in the middle of the night,
I nearly made a bolt of it. I was so oppressed by the consciousness
that he had only to send these policemen five doors along the street,
and there was I.

But I did not lose every fragment of common sense. I did not become an
utter fool. When the morning came, I was still there to see it out.

Next day I never moved outside the door. I bought all the evening
papers. They were selling them in the streets all day. Tommy filled
them all. "Arrest of the Three Bridges Murderer!" "Examination before
the Magistrates!" They were shouting the words in the streets all day.
It seemed that they had taken him to East Grinstead, wherever that
might be, early in the morning, and brought him before the magistrates
directly they got him there. To me the whole business was amazing. Why
had he not told them at once that he had seen me, and put the police on
my track? I was close at hand. They could scarcely have failed to find
me. So far as he was concerned, there would have been an end of the
affair upon the spot.

But Tommy's ways always were beyond my finding out.

What the newspapers called his examination was of the most perfunctory
kind. The police simply said that they had arrested him, and he was
remanded for a week.

And on Thursday Mr. Townsend was coming to dine.



                             CHAPTER XXV.

                        MR. TOWNSEND'S DOUBLE.


That Thursday was wet. It drizzled all day long. I was not feeling
well. I had had trouble with one of my maids--caught her tampering with
a lock, and sent her packing on the spot. Altogether I was feeling run
down.

The best of us women get the blues at times!

Things were worrying me, as things will if one is not feeling quite the
thing. I was almost disposed to tell myself that I had made a mistake
in coming to England. After all, I should have done better by remaining
on the other side. Here there were so many things which were against
me--in England there is no mercy for the woman that repenteth. And
getting myself mixed up in this business was scarcely a promising
beginning.

The arrival of my friend, the gentleman, acted as a pick-me-up. It did
a poor, nerveless creature good to gaze on so vivid a representative of
sunshine and of strength. I was leaning back upon a couch when he came
in--somehow his knocking at the door had set all my pulses twittering.
It was with an effort I looked up and met his eyes.

He looked so well in evening dress--it was the first time I had seen
him in it. When one has lived for years with savages one notices such
little things.

"It is good of you to come to cheer me. I am so much in want of being
cheered."

He laughed, retaining my hand for a minute in his.

"The want is common to us both. I am in want of being cheered as much
as you--we will cheer each other." He sat down on a little easy-chair,
which he drew in front of me. "I have only just returned from
Devonshire, which is like coming from the sunshine into the night."

"Have you been there alone?"

"I have been staying with a friend--Sir Haselton Jardine."

Sir Haselton Jardine? Where, quite recently, had I heard that name? Of
course! It was the name of the famous counsel. I had seen it stated in
that day's paper that he was to be retained by the Crown to prosecute
Tommy.

I wondered if that item of news had come Mr. Townsend's way.

"Sir Haselton Jardine? Is that the lawyer?"

"Yes. I suppose he's the greatest barrister at the Bar just now."

"Didn't I see that he was going to have something to do with this
murder there's all the stir about?"

I had to let it out--I could not help it. So far as any effect which
the allusion had upon my visitor was concerned I need not have tried.
He never turned a hair. I was watching the white hands, which were
resting on his knee. Not a muscle quivered.

He replied to my question without a moment's hesitation, and in his
ordinary tone of voice.

"He tells me that he's going to prosecute. He seems rather eager about
the business, too. If the chap is guilty I don't fancy Jardine will let
him slip."

I was still for a moment. I looked into my visitor's eyes with wonder,
and--I don't mind owning it--with admiration. This was the sort of man
it was worth one's while to know--he was a man.

"Don't you think the affair is rather an odd one?"

"Very odd, indeed--and not the least odd part of it is that I know this
fellow Tennant very well."

"No!" I was startled.

"I do. He's a stockbroker. He's done a good deal of business for me.
Unless  I am mistaken, he is, or was, almost a neighbour of yours."

"I know. He lives five doors down the street. But fancy your knowing
him. It seems so strange."

He made a little movement with his hands.

"In this world it is the strange things which happen."

"That is true."

As I sat there, looking at him, I realised how true it was with a
vividness of which he probably had no notion. This man was a study for
the gods. His attitude of perfect unconcern was not acting, it was
nature.

I felt that, having gone so far, I must go farther.

"Do you think he's guilty?"

"It seems almost incredible. He always struck me as being one of the
pleasantest and most inoffensive little chaps alive."

"Every one seems to think he's guilty."

He smiled.

"Every one's an ass."

"Suppose he were to be found guilty, and was hanged, and all the time
he was innocent; how dreadful it would be."

Another little movement with his hands.

"It's the way of the world. The innocent are always being hung. Half
the time we guilty ones go free."

This was a man. I went still further.

"Do you know that we met each other, for the first time, on the night
which the murder happened?"

"Am I likely to forget it?"

"Thank you. It's very kind of you to say so. But do you know that we
must have met each other quite close to what they call the scene of the
tragedy."

"I believe that we were within half a mile of it."

"And it must just have happened."

"Probably within twenty minutes of our meeting. By all of which you
will perceive that our acquaintance in the beginning was cemented with
blood."

What did he mean? What kind of creature was he? I really began to
wonder.

We went in to dinner, for which, by the way, he already had given me an
appetite.

I had seen a good deal of men--of all sorts and conditions of men!--but
I never saw a man who came within measurable distance of Mr. Reginald
Townsend in the exercise of that very rare, and wholly indescribable
gift, the gift of fascination. I should say that he would have been a
favourite alike with men and women--I will stake my bottom dollar, as
poor, dear Daniel would have said, that he would have been popular with
every woman. To me the average "fascinating man" is a monstrosity. He
so obviously bears his honours thick upon his brow. He so plainly tries
his hardest to live up to them. There was nothing of that sort about
Mr. Townsend. The charm was in him; it would come out of him whether he
would or he would not. He was not conscious of it. There was no sign of
effort. There was no effort. He was always natural, always completely
at his ease. He could not help but give you pleasure. You yourself did
not notice the glamour of his manner and his presence till, as it were,
it had compassed you about.

Nor were his powers of fascination decreased by the fact that he was
the best bred, the best dressed, the most graceful, and the handsomest
man I ever saw.

This sounds like tall talking. But it is not. I am no tall talkist,
especially where men are concerned. It is the simple truth. My friend,
the gentleman, was a man in twenty millions; any woman would have been
proud to own him.

I felt this very strongly, with a tendency to personal application,
before the dinner was through. His conversation did me good. He talked
as if he had been brought up in the same cradle with all the leading
members of the British aristocracy. There was nobody who was anybody
whom he did not seem to know, male and female. To listen to him talking
was like reading the Almanach de Gotha and the Court Guide bound up
together. Only it was better, and a deal more satisfying.

He began to speak of a particular friend of his, one Lord Archibald
Beaupré, in a way which set me all of a tremble.

"I will bring Archie to call on you--if I may."

This Lord Archibald Beaupré was a son of the Duke of Glenlivet, and, so
far as blood went, not very distant from the Throne itself.

"I shall be very glad to see him, or, indeed, any of your friends. Is
this Sir Haselton Jardine, with whom you have been staying, a married
man?"

"He is a widower."

"Has he any family?"

"He has a daughter."

I don't know what there was in his tone, but there was something when
he said "He has a daughter" which made it almost seem as if he had
slapped my face. I felt almost as if he had taken my breath away. I
found myself echoing his words.

"A daughter? I see."

There was silence. Something seemed, all at once, to have taken the
heart out of the conversation. It floundered, fell flat; seemed, for a
time, to die. I knew very well what that something was just as plainly
as if it had been told to me.

It was that daughter of Sir Haselton Jardine.

It may seem odd. I had never seen the girl. I had never heard of her
before. But, all the same, I hated her right then. She spoilt my
dinner. That's a fact. And, straight on the spot, she made me stand to
arms.

I knew he loved her. And it made me feel--well, I had never thought
that a little thing like that could have made me feel so queer.

I had meant to talk to him about my plans for the future. To have asked
his advice upon points on which I wished him to think I needed it. I
wanted to beguile him into showing interest in what I had set my heart
upon, until he had drifted, though but a little, into the current of my
affairs. But, somehow, after all, I did not seem to care to try. At
least, not then. I let him go.

He was very nice. I was conscious that the man was almost like a woman
in the quickness of his intuition. That, if it came to shooting I
should have to move like lightning to get my shot in first. That he
would detect any intended movement towards my gun even before the
intention was wholly formed. And instinct told me that he was aware
that I had perceived the intonation with which he had said "He has a
daughter," and that it rankled. I do believe that for the first time in
my life I had given myself away. And to a man. But this man could read
the stars. And after dinner, he was particularly nice, because he
happened to have read them.

After he was gone I sat for ever so long in the drawing-room forming
plans. The first wild notion had come to me before. I gave it form and
fashion then. I, too, would buck the tiger. Why not? Who would have
more cause than I? It is a peculiarity of my constitution that,
whatever the game, I always play better when the stakes are high.

I would win my friend, the gentleman. I would go the limit every time
until I did.

In winning him I should win all. Everything my soul desired. At a
single coup, the game.

First of all, I should win the man. He was well worth winning--just the
man.

Then I should win social recognition. By becoming Mrs. Reginald
Townsend I should be spared years of struggling--struggling, too, which
might only bring failure at the end. He wanted a clever wife, and he
should have her. He wanted a good wife, and he should have her too. He
wanted a wife who believed in him; he would never meet one who believed
in him more than I did. He wanted a wife with money; probably there was
not in England half a dozen possible women who had as much as I had.
Given a wife who had all these things I doubted if there was a
drawing-room in which he could not make her welcome--from the Queen's
own drawing-room, downwards or upwards. Practically he could place
Society--with a big S!--at her feet, to do with as she chose.

To think of it! What a realisation of one's dream. What a short and
what an easy cut to the Kingdom of the Blest!

Again, in making him the captive of my sword and of my bow, I should be
giving one to the daughter of Sir Haselton Jardine. That, also, would
be worth the doing. To dislike any one is a mistake. I reminded myself
of that over and over again. But I knew I hated her.

As to whether I should be able to win him--on that point I had no
shadow of doubt. It was true that the overtures might have to come from
me, but they should come. And when they came they should come in a
guise which he would find resistless.

Or we should see!

I slept very well that night--soothed by my own fancies. I remember
very well that, when I was in my bedroom, just before I got between the
sheets, I looked at the hand which he had held in his, and, just where
his hand pressed it, I kissed it. It was a silly thing to do, but it
did me good.

I wondered if, when he had held her hand in his, she was silly too.
But, no doubt, she had freehold rights--or she thought that she had
freehold rights--to what was much better worth the kissing.

Never mind! But bide a wee!

Days slipped by. At his next examination before the magistrates things
began to look very black indeed against poor Tommy. I suppose the
witnesses supposed they spoke the truth--so far as I could see, there
was no possible cause for their wishing to do otherwise. But how they
lied! Unconsciously, we will hope, and in their haste. It was becoming
plainer and plainer that unless something, as yet wholly unsuspected,
turned up in his favour, Tommy bade fair to hang.

Well, I have seen a man hung on suspicion of stealing a horse, and
directly he was hung the horse in question has turned up underneath the
thief that really stole him. As Mr. Townsend observed, sometimes it
seems as if the innocent were born to hang. If everything in life were
certain, where would be the sport, and what would be the use of
betting?

It is the element of chance that makes the game!

One afternoon something happened which struck me as being distinctly
curious. It was after lunch. I was thinking of taking the air. I had
just gone into the drawing-room for a moment, when there came a
knocking at the door.

"Now, who's that, I wonder?" I stopped the servant on her way to answer
the door. "Eliza, let me know who it is before you say I'm in."

I knew who it was directly she opened the door. It was no good telling
him that I was not in. He did not even ask. He came himself to see. It
was old Jack Haines, and with him was a stranger.

It was the stranger who made me open my eyes. I had to stare. For he
was--and yet he wasn't--the living, breathing image of my friend, the
gentleman. He was Reginald Townsend, with a difference. And the
difference--which was all the difference--was this: Reginald Townsend
was a gentleman; this man was emphatically quite another kind of thing.

And Jack Haines treated him as if he was quite another kind of thing.
He treated him as if he had been nothing but a cur, and the man bore
himself as if he was used to being treated like a cur.

Mr. Haines strode into the middle of the room. He pointed to the
stranger.

"You see this creature?"

It was an awkward sort of introduction. I scarcely knew what to make of
it. The more I looked at him, the more I wondered who the man could be.

"He's a detective--a private detective. That's what he calls himself.
If he is, he's the English kind. When first I landed on this darned old
island I went to him, like the fool I was, and I said, 'I want to find
my girl.' And he said, 'I'm the man to find her.' And I said, 'You
are?' And he said, 'You bet. It's only a question of money, that's all
it is.' And that's all it has been ever since--a question of money.
That's the only time he told the truth. If you knew the amount of money
he's had out of me you would laugh. He kept thinking that he's found a
clue, and wanting twenty pounds to find out if he'd found it, and every
time he got that twenty pounds he found out he hadn't. And now he
thinks he's found another clue, and I've brought him along with me in
here to find out what sort of clue he thinks he has found."

The man coughed behind his hand. He puffed out his chest. He drew
himself upright. He tried to think himself a man.

"You are severe, Mr. Haines, uncommonly severe. Even detectives are but
fallible. But, on this occasion I do not only think I have a clue, I am
positive--quite positive."

"What's the figure?"

"Figure? Expenses--merely!"

"And what's the clue?"

The man seemed a trifle fidgety.

"I am afraid that I am scarcely in a position at present----"

Mr. Haines cut him uncivilly short.

"Stow that! You don't touch a nickel till you tell me what's the clue."

The man cleared his throat. He looked round and round the room, as
though looking for the clue. Mr. Haines's inquisition seemed more than
he had bargained for.

"As you are aware, Mr. Haines, I have searched all England for Miss
Louise O'Donnel."

"Judging from the amount of money you've had I should think you've
searched all Europe."

Again the stranger cleared his throat, as if he deprecated the
allusion.

"You probably have it in your recollection that at one time I believed
that I had traced her to Liverpool. Circumstances have recently
occurred which have brought to me the knowledge that in so believing I
was right. She is in Liverpool."

Mr. Haines began to tremble like a leaf. I saw how easily this man, or
any other man, could play upon what seemed to have become the
dominating passion of his existence.

"Whereabouts in Liverpool? Tell me that!"

"Unfortunately, at this moment, that is beyond the limit of my power.
But this I will undertake to do. If you are disposed to expend a
further sum of fifty pounds I will undertake to place you in
communication with her within, yes, certainly, within fourteen days."

"You swear it?"

The man threw himself into an attitude which he, no doubt, intended to
be sublime. "As one gentleman to another I undertake, sir, to do what I
have said."

"You shall have your fifty pounds. I will go and get it. Stay here."
Mr. Haines turned to me. "Do you mind my leaving him here while I go
and cash a cheque? I want to give him the money in your presence, and
on conditions which you shall hear."

"I have no objection."

I had not. Indeed, I had been wondering how I might find the
opportunity to ask the man a question which should be entirely between
ourselves. Whether he was as willing to be left alone with me as I was
to be left alone with him, is more than I can say. He ought to have
been. Mr. Haines took me at my word. He stamped through the hall and
from the house. The stranger and I were _tête-à-tête_.

He did not seem to be exactly at his ease. Mr. Haines had not offered
him a chair. He seemed to think that he would like one. Indeed, he said
as much.

"With your permission, madam, I will sit down."

"I would rather you did not."

He was about to act on his own suggestion when my words arrested him.
He seemed disconcerted, looking at me as if wondering what it was that
I might mean. I went on, "Of course you are lying again?"

The man drew himself up with what he intended to be an air of dignity.

"Lying?--Again?--Madam! May I inquire what you mean?"

"Pray don't put on that sort of air with me. I understand you very
well, my man. You are too common a type not to be understood. Of
course, you are lying again and of course I shall tell Mr. Haines so
when he returns." He looked as if he felt that in exchanging Mr.
Haines' society for mine he had made a change for the worse. "Or,
rather, I shall tell Mr. Haines unless you give me satisfactory answers
to the questions I am about to put to you."

"I assure you, madam, that, as a gentleman----"

"Stop! Confine yourself to answering my questions. On your answers will
depend whether or not I shall keep silence. What is your name?"



                            CHAPTER XXVI.

                              ANNOUNCED!


The man twiddled his hat round and round between his hands, as if he
sought inspiration from its brim. I sat and watched him. He was a poor
kind of scamp. He was so easily nonplussed.

"My name, madam? Yes." He struck himself with the palm of his hand upon
his chest, affably, as it were. "My name is Trevannion--Stewart
Trevannion."

"Have you ever heard of Mr. Reginald Townsend?"

Mr. Trevannion went all of a heap. He looked at me like a startled
rabbit. He turned, as if to obey an impulse which suggested that he
should make a rush from the room. But he thought better of it. Instead,
he put his hand up to his chin, appearing, all at once, to be plunged
into a sea of contemplation.

"Townsend? Townsend? No! I don't seem to remember the name." He glanced
at me out of the corner of his eye. He saw that it would not do. "Stay.
I had a client of the name of Townsend--he was a merchant in the West
Indies--but his name was John."

"You won't get that fifty pounds."

Again he drew himself up, with an attempt at that air of dignity which
he seemed so anxious to assume.

"I haven't the honour, madam, of being acquainted with your
name--excuse me, you must permit me to conclude--but I have to assure
you that you appear to altogether misunderstand my character."

After all, Mr. Trevannion was amusing. I laughed at him.

"I should be sorry to do that. In proof of it, if you could manage to
tell the truth, just once in a way, should it not be too great a strain
upon your constitution, I shall be happy to add twenty guineas of my
own to Mr. Haines's fifty."

He appeared to be more startled than ever. This time his amazement
seemed to be of a pleasurable kind.

"How much?"

"Twenty guineas."

"Honour?"

"Straight."

He adjusted his coat upon his shoulders.

"I'll do it. Hanged if I won't. Why shouldn't I? I'm not afraid of him!
He's nothing to me! What is it that you desire to know, madam--for your
twenty guineas?"

"Have you heard of Mr. Reginald Townsend?"

"I have."

"I thought you had. What relation is he to you?"

"Relation?" He sought for inspiration from the ceiling. "Cousin."

"Cousin? I see. You're sure he's not your father?"

"Father? No, certainly not! Absolutely not! There's not the slightest
ground for any presumption of the kind."

"You won't get the twenty guineas."

"Madam!"

"Lied again."

"I will be candid with you, madam. I will tell you the truth. Why
should I conceal it?" Mr. Trevannion shot his cuffs. They were a trifle
soiled. "The fact is that, for reasons of his own--what they are I have
not the slightest notion! I think it possible that they may not be
wholly to his credit! Mr. Reginald Townsend does not appear anxious to
advertise the particular degree of consanguinity which binds us to each
other--or, rather, which ought to bind us to each other--because, as a
matter of fact, so far as he is concerned, with me affection never
dies! I never can forget that the same heart nourished us both!--the
binding is merely theoretical I'm his brother--his elder brother--and,
as such, qualified to take my place beside him in all the salons of the
land."

He looked his brother. I had guessed he was a sort of Corsican brother
from the first. He was like a caricature--all alive, oh!--of my friend
the gentleman; reminding me of nothing so much as a picture I once saw
in "Cassell's Popular Educator." It was called "The Child: What shall
become of Him?" On the top line they showed you portraits of the child
at various periods of his life, as he advanced towards honoured age.
While, on the bottom line, were portraits of the child, also at various
periods of his life, as he advanced towards the other kind of age. Mr.
Trevannion recalled the portraits of the child advanced towards the
other kind of age.

While he still continued in the pose which he had done his best to
strike, and before either of us had spoken again, Mr. Haines came in.

Mr. Haines made short work of this brother whose affection did not die.
He counted nine five-pound notes and five separate sovereigns on the
table.

"There are fifty pounds. You mark it?"

"I certainly do observe that there appear to be fifty pounds."

"Appear to be! There are!"

"Mr. Haines raised his voice to a roar, which made Mr. Trevannion jump.

"Exactly--as you say--there are."

"You can have that fifty pounds on the understanding that you undertake
to place me in communication with my girl within fourteen days. If you
don't, next time I find myself in communication with you I'll have
value for my fifty pounds. You hear?"

"While you continue, Mr. Haines, to speak so loudly, I can hardly fail
to hear."

Mr. Haines covered the money with his hand.

"Swear that you will find my girl for me within fourteen days."

I had noticed Mr. Trevannion's eyes begin to glisten directly the money
appeared. He seemed to fear that he might find such an oath a little
difficult of digestion. Still he swallowed it.

"I swear."

Mr. Haines turned to me.

"You hear? He says he swears." He removed his hand. "Take the money. If
you're lying to me again, when next we meet there'll one of us have
fits."

Mr. Trevannion took the money in rather a hurry, as if he feared that,
after all, Mr. Haines might change his mind.

"I may truly say, Mr. Haines, that I never saw a father's love which
equalled yours. It is a rare, noble spectacle. It will be my pride, as
well as my pleasure, to restore, in the shortest possible space of
time, your child to her father's arms."

"Mind you do."

Mr. Trevannion had disposed of the money. He turned to me.

"Eh, madam, might I have the pleasure of saying one word to you in
private?"

"Certainly not."

He seemed surprised.

"With reference to that little matter----"

I interrupted him.

"Mr. Haines, if you are finished with this person might I ask you to
relieve me of his society?"

Jack Haines chose to fly into a rage.

"What the devil, sir, do you mean by wanting to speak in private to a
lady who's a friend of mine! Outside!"

Mr. Trevannion went outside, Mr. Haines accompanying him to the door to
see him go.

The very next day the Corsican brother obliged me with a call--my
friend, the gentleman. He came accompanied by a friend--none other than
that Lord Archibald Beaupré, of whom he had spoken.

My lord was long and thin and a little weedy. His hair was sandy, and
parted, with mathematical exactness, precisely in the middle. It would
not be many years before he went bald. His eyes were light blue--the
kind of eyes which not only suggest a bad temper, but a senseless
temper too. It is excusable--though foolish--to fly into a fury about
something. But people with those sort of eyes are apt, when they feel
that way disposed, to get into a rage about nothing at all, and to go
blind with passion when they are at it. Milord's manner was very well.
Only he struck me as being the least bit condescending--as if he was
conscious of what a well-born man he was.

It was very kind of Mr. Townsend to bring him, and so I told him.

By the way, all the time I was looking at Mr. Townsend, I could not
help my thoughts travelling to Mr. Stewart Trevannion. How alike they
were, and yet how different. How came the two lives to be lived on such
different roads? Sometime it might be worth my while to improve my
acquaintance with Mr. Trevannion. One might acquire from them a scrap
or two of gossip which might prove useful by and by. Could this man
ever be like that man? I doubted it. This had what the other had
not--the courage of Old Nick. He would never crouch, whatever else he
did.

But, as I was Baying, it was very kind of Mr. Townsend to bring his
friend. Although there was something about the fashion of his
introduction which, instinctively, put my back up. I wondered what he
had said to milord before he came. Nothing could exceed Mr. Townsend's
courtesy, but I had a kind of suspicion that he was seeking to
recommend his friend to my notice as a substitute, as it were, for
himself. I almost felt as if he were throwing us, with all the delicacy
and grace conceivable, at each other's heads. I could have sworn that
he told milord, before he brought him on the scene, that I was a rich
American widow, and that he had dropped, perhaps, something stronger
than a hint that I was just the sort of woman whom it might be worth
his lordship's while to marry.

If he had, he had thrown his hint away. He was trying to travel along
the wrong line of rails. That bird would not fight. There was only one
man's wife I meant to be, and he was himself that man.

They went away together. When they had gone, somehow or other I felt a
trifle sore. I was beginning to get into a funny frame of mind. I was
half disposed to feel that I should be willing to get my friend the
gentleman--to get just him, and nothing more. I had never thought that
I should fool like that for any man; or that I could. It puzzled me.

Things went on worse and worse for Tommy. At the close of his next
examination before the magistrates, he looked as much like hanging as
any man cared to do. As I read, I could scarcely believe my eyes. I
stared and I stared. I almost began myself to believe that he must be
guilty--that I must be dead. It just showed that things are not always
what they quite seem.

A new witness went into the box. He said his name was Taunton. I soon
saw that if Tommy was to be hanged it would be Mr. Taunton who would
hang him.

It was Mr. Taunton, after all, who had given the police the office. It
was he who had delivered Tommy into their hands. He had travelled in
the same train with Tommy from Brighton. He had been in the next
compartment. He had heard all the argument. And, from what he said, he
must have been listening for all that he was worth.

But there! When I read all that was in the paper, I gasped for breath.
In imagination I already saw the rope round Tommy's neck.

Who would have thought that it ever would have come to that?

Two or three days afterwards I received a shock. I was looking through
the morning paper when I came upon a paragraph which sent all the blood
running out of my finger-ends--or it seemed to. It was in the column of
daily gossip. Here it is:--


"An engagement is announced between Mr. Reginald Townsend, one of the
best known and most popular society figures, and Dora, daughter and
only child of Sir Haselton Jardine. We understand that the marriage
will take place very shortly. This announcement will be received with
the wider public interest in view of the position of counsel for the
Crown which Sir Haselton Jardine will occupy, should Mr. Thomas Tennant
have to stand his trial for the Three Bridges murder. It is understood
that the trial will be set down for the next Lewes Assizes. In that
case the judge will be Mr. Justice Hunter."

When first I saw the thing all that struck me was the bold fact of the
engagement--that it was announced. On a re-perusal, it began to occur
to me that the announcement was rather oddly worded. It might almost
have been done with malicious intent. Beginning with marriage, it ended
with murder.

A comfortable juxtaposition!

What was more, there seemed to be more murder in it than marriage. The
stress seemed to be laid upon the murder. Certainly the impression
likely to be left upon the imagination of the average reader was a
combination of blood with orange blossoms.

I wondered who had inspired the paragraph in that peculiar form, and
what would be my friend the gentleman's sensations if, as I had done,
he should chance to happen on it unexpectedly.

But, still, the engagement was announced.

That thing was sure!

The more I thought of it, the more I went all hot and cold. No wonder I
had hated her directly he had told me that such a creature was in the
world. Her name was Dora! What a name! It sounded Dolly. It must be her
money he was after. He could not care for a woman with a name like
that. She must be brainless!

Well, other women had money; and brains as well.

So the newspaper man had been given to understand that the marriage was
going to take place very shortly. Was it? A marriage was going to take
place very shortly. But not that one. We should see!

I pranced about the room; I worked myself into a rage. I felt that I
must have it out with some one.

And I had. I had it out with Tommy's wife!

It was all that paragraph.

The day before a servant had offered herself as a candidate to fill the
place of the one I had dismissed. She referred me for her character to
her late mistress. When she told me who her late mistress was I stared.
It was Mrs. Tennant. It occurred to me, very forcibly, that one of
Tommy's servants would hardly do for me. Things might get about, and
tales be told. I gave her application scant consideration.

Now, in the middle of my rage, it struck me that here was an
opportunity to get rid of some of it--on some one else's head. I might
bait Mrs. Tennant. I could pretend to go and ask about the servant's
character, and give the servant's mistress one, just by the way. I went
and put my hat on, and made myself look as nice as I knew how, and off
I trotted there and then.

I thought it more than possible that I should not be admitted--in her
position some people would have declined to see strangers on business
of any sort or kind. But I was. At the door they asked my name and what
I wanted. When I said I had come about a servant's character, I was
shown into a sitting-room. And presently in came Tommy's wife.

Directly I saw her I knew I had made a big mistake. I perceived at a
glance that she was not anybody in particular--I mean that she was not
a lady, or much to look at. She was just a woman. But, all the same, I
knew that if I tried to close with her the odds were that I should get
a fall.

She was just that kind!

She waited for me to begin. So I began--quite a thrill going through me
when I realised that I was actually talking to Tommy's wife.

"I have called about a servant named Jane Parsons." She moved her
head--the motion was scarcely equivalent to a bow. "She tells me that
she was in your service. She has referred me to you for a character."

"I have nothing to say against the way in which Jane Parsons performed
her duties."

Her voice was of that peculiar kind which you never hear issuing
from between the lips of any but an Englishwoman, and from but few of
them. Sweet, soft, gentle, yet incisive and clear. It may seem
ridiculous--one can only speak of one's own experience--but I have
never known it to be a possession of any but a good woman. It is apt,
when I hear it, to have a most absurd effect upon me--for some occult
reason, which I do not pretend to understand, it makes me go ashamed
all over.

"May I ask why she left you?"

She flushed, though very slightly; and, perhaps unconsciously, she drew
herself up straighter. I saw that, unwittingly, I had rubbed against a
raw.

"Did she not tell you?"

Jane Parsons had not told me. I said so, though I did not think it
necessary to explain that I had got rid of her before she had had a
chance to get as far.

She hesitated, as if mentally selecting the fittest words.

"Jane Parsons left me because I was in trouble."

At once I perceived my opportunity. I saw what it was she meant, though
I pretended innocence.

"In trouble? Indeed? Was there illness in the house?"

"There was worse than illness. To do Jane justice, I do not think she
would have left me merely because there was illness in the house."

"I am afraid I do not understand."

Mrs. Tennant smiled--very faintly, and not with joy.

"It is immaterial. The point is, I did not discharge the girl. She left
me of her own accord. I should have been glad to have kept her. She is
sober, clean, honest, and industrious. As good a servant as I should
wish to have."

I pretended to look at a little memorandum book which I took from my
purse.

"Your name is Tennant--Mrs. Tennant?"

She nodded her head, still faintly smiling.

"My name is Tennant."

"I perceive that the names are similar; but I take it that, in spite of
the similarity, you are in no way connected with the Three Bridges
murderer?"

The shot sped straight home. She went red all over, then white as a
sheet. Her lips trembled. I thought for a moment that she was going to
cry. But she didn't.

"I don't know what it matters to you or how it concerns a servant's
character; but I am the wife of the Mr. Thomas Tennant who is being
wrongfully accused of murder, but who is wholly innocent of any crime."
Then, with what was very like a hysterical outburst, she added, "He is
the dearest and the best husband in the world."

"Dear me!" I rose from my seat. I went to the door. "I had no notion
that you were in any way connected with that dreadful creature, or I
certainly should not have troubled you. To think that you can be the
wife of such a man! Of course it is altogether out of the question that
I could knowingly engage a servant who had lived in such a house as
this!"

Without waiting for her to summon a servant to escort me to the door, I
showed myself out into the street.

I had given her one. But now that I had done it I was not by any means
proud of the gift I had bestowed. Indeed, when I got indoors I could
have bit and slapped and scratched and pinched myself--and worse. Women
are cats. There is no doubt of it. Especially to each other! I know it,
to my sorrow, of my own experience. If there was one thing on which I
had always prided myself, it was that--at any rate, in that respect, I
was not like other women. Whatever else I was, I was not a cat.

And now I had been the cat of all the cats!

And all because of that stupid paragraph in that stupid paper.

When I thought of that pale-faced woman, with her sweet, true mouth,
and brown eyes, and of all the trouble she had to bear, and of how I
had gone out of my way to add to the bitterness of it all, and to rub
it in, I could have banged my head against the wall.

But there! the thing was done. And when a thing is done--especially a
thing like that--it is not the least use being sorry. One may as well
pretend that one is glad. And, after all, the engagement was announced.
And why did they announce it, if they did not want to drive me into a
rage?

Poor Tommy! He bade fair to have the most to suffer. After his next
examination before the magistrates, they committed him for trial.
According to the newspapers, it would take place almost immediately.
Things were moving fast. It was time that I should move as well. It was
time that I should come to an understanding with my friend the
gentleman.

So I wrote to him to come and see me, putting a touch or two into my
note which I knew would bring him.

And he came.



                            CHAPTER XXVII.

                 MR. TOWNSEND IS MADE TO UNDERSTAND.


I wondered if he had an inkling of what it was that I might have to say
to him. He showed no signs of it. But one could not tell. I felt,
instinctively, that his intuition was every whit as keen as mine. While
as for his appearance of perfect ease, it clothed him like a skin.

As he lounged in an easy-chair I drank in, as it were, the atmosphere
of his grace and elegance and charm of manner. I felt that I was going
to enjoy myself. I believe that the fighting instinct is the strongest
instinct that I have. I knew that, at least, for once in a way, I was
going to cross swords with a foeman who was worthy of my steel.

I began to play with him, as a preliminary to the earnest which was to
follow.

"I hear that I am to congratulate you, Mr. Townsend." He made a slight
movement with his hands--it was a pretty little trick he had. "I
understand that you are about to make a change in your condition of
life. You are about to be married."

"In that respect I do deserve your congratulations, for if ever there
was a marriage which, to one of the parties at any rate, promised all
that the heart of man could desire, it is that on which I am about to
enter. Therefore, Mrs. Carruth, I do solicit your congratulations."

He looked me straight in the face as he said this, a smile peeping from
the corners of his lips. The first score had been with him. And I felt
he knew it.

"I saw that the engagement was announced."

"I know that it was announced--I believe at the suggestion of Sir
Haselton Jardine."

"It was rather an odd announcement, the one I saw."

"Odd? In what way?"

"Perhaps the oddity was also part of Sir Haselton Jardine's
suggestion."

"What was there peculiar about the one you saw?"

"Well, there was a little about the marriage, and a good deal about the
murder."

"What murder?"

"The Three Bridges murder. It seemed to me to be rather a funny
mixture. It was not so much an announcement of the engagement as of Sir
Haselton Jardine's connection with the murderer."

"His connection with the murderer?"

"As counsel for the Crown."

"I'm afraid I don't quite follow your meaning."

"No? Really?"

He got up.

"I fear, Mrs. Carruth, I must tear myself away. I have an appointment
which I am inclined to think is already overdue."

"You mustn't go. Did I not tell you in my note that I have something
which I particularly wished to say to you? Have you forgotten? I am
coming to it now."

"I am but too disposed to yield to temptation, Mrs. Carruth, being
fully conscious of how good it is of you to say anything to me at all."

He said that kind of thing with an easy assurance and an exquisite
grace, which seemed to rob it of its banality. Resuming his seat, he
continued to look me straight in the face. He gave me no lead. I had to
make one for myself.

"It is about the murder."

"The murder? Every one seems to be talking of that!"

"Are you going to let Mr. Tennant hang?"

To look at him one would not have imagined that he understood me in the
least.

"I am afraid that that is an issue which scarcely rests in my hands. I
wish the poor chap well. I don't know that there is anything else that
I can do for him. Is there any talk of a petition being got up in case
he is convicted?"

"You see, I saw you do it."

"You saw me do--what?"

He asked the question as coolly as you please.

"The murder!"

It might have been my fancy, but I thought that a sort of greyness
passed for a moment over his face, and that the pupils of his eyes came
to a point. But certainly he showed no other signs of discomposure.

"I suppose, Mrs. Carruth, that you are jesting?"

"I have been jesting. I jest no more."

He watched me for some seconds with anxious scrutiny.

"What am I to understand you to mean?"

"You are to understand that I saw you commit the murder with which Mr.
Tennant stands charged."

He continued to examine my face. Reading as much of it, I suppose, as
he desired to read--which, possibly, was more than I intended. Not the
slightest shadow of a change took place in his own. Having concluded
his examination, he got up from his chair. He went to the fireplace.
Leaning his elbow on the mantelboard, he stood looking down into the
burning coals.

To judge from his demeanour, what he had just now heard possessed only
the smallest personal interest for him.

"Where were you?"

"I was on the bank. You almost threw the lady upon my head."

"Really?" He positively smiled. "How do you know it was I?"

"I saw you. You stood on the other side of the hedge and stared at me."

He glanced up from the fire.

"Did you rise up, like a sort of accusing spirit, from the middle of
the bushes?"

"I did. That kind of thing was enough to make any one rise."

"How very odd! Do you know, I took you for a ghost. You gave me a
horrid fright. I took to my heels, and ran for my life."

"I know you did. I saw you start off running."

He laughed softly. He seemed to find the thing amusing in a way which
began to strike me as a bit uncanny. His gaze turned to the fire.

"Do you know, I thought that you were that kind of woman from the
first?"

"What do you mean? That I was what kind of woman?"

"I mean nothing disagreeable, on my honour. Only I thought that we
might be sympathetic."

His words or his manner, or both together, cut me as if he had struck
me with a lash. So far he seemed to be doing all the scoring. I was
silent. I still would bide my time. He went on--

"By the way, how came you to be upon the bank?"

I hesitated. Should I tell him anything? And, if anything, how much? I
knew that he was watching me. I decided to be frank.

"I fell out of the train."

"What train?"

"I was in the same compartment with this Mr. Tennant. We had a
discussion. In the course of it I fell out."

"While the train was moving?"

"Yes. It was a miracle I was not killed. As a matter of fact I fell
among some bushes, and was not even scratched."

"You say that you fell out. Do you mean that you fell out with Mr.
Tennant's help?"

"He had nothing to do with it. It was a pure accident. He may have
thought that he had, but he had not."

"Is it possible that he thinks you were killed?"

"It is extremely possible. When that body was found I believe he
thought that it was mine."

"This is very curious; but if he saw the body he would know it was not
yours."

"Would he see it? Taking it for granted that it was mine, he would not
want to see it, and would they compel him to see it against his will?"

His tone was contemplative.

"I suppose they wouldn't--no. So, if he is found guilty, and is
sentenced to be hung, he will actually go to the gallows under the
impression that he deserves his fate. I never heard of anything so
curious."

It occurred to me that not the least curious part of the situation was
the fashion in which he appeared to regard it from the point of view of
a mere outsider. He continued to gaze at the fire. Presently he smiled
again.

"And now may I venture to ask you why you have told me this extremely
interesting scrap of news?"

"Because I intend to save the life of an innocent man."

"How?"

"By laying the real facts of the case before the police."

"Unless I do what? I suppose there is something I can do to save
myself. Otherwise you would have laid the real facts of the case before
the police before."

"There certainly is a way by which you can constrain me to silence."

"Oh, yes; there are several ways of doing that."

Something in his tone caused me to grasp the revolver which I had
slipped into my dress pocket. I had not known how he might take what I
had to say. I had thought that it might be just as well that I should
come prepared.

"You need not fondle that pretty little pistol of yours. I was not
thinking of that way, I assure you."

The man's quickness of perception verged upon the supernatural.

"It is a matter of indifference to me whether you were or were not
thinking of it. I am not afraid."

"I believe that you are not."

"I am not. You are wrong in saying that there are more ways than one of
constraining me to silence. There is but one."

"And that is?"

"You may save yourself from the law by the law, and, so far as I am
concerned, only by the law."

"Explain yourself."

"According to the law of England, on a capital charge, a wife may give
no evidence against her husband."

Unless I was mistaken, he slightly started. Anyhow, his elbow came off
the mantelboard and his arm fell to his side. There was silence.

Presently he returned his elbow to its former place upon the
mantelboard.

"I see."

It was an ejaculation, rather than anything else. To the best of my
judgment his face was expressionless as a mask. But I could not see his
eyes--he kept them flamewards. Next time he spoke he confined himself
to the utterance of a monosyllable.

"Well?"

"So far as I am concerned, that is all."

He stood up straight. He faced me, turning his back to the fire.

"May I ask why you wish to marry me?"

"I? It is you who wish to marry me, surely."

He regarded me with unwavering eyes.

"Let us be frank with one another. Why do you wish to marry me?"

"I am not conscious of having expressed any wish of the kind. I merely
suggest that if I were your wife, in time, your neck would be saved.
Otherwise----"

I allowed the sentence to remain unfinished.

"I am not a prize in the matrimonial market."

"I have not inferred that you were. However, that is a question of the
point of view."

"And your point of view is?"

"You have certain things I want."

"As for instance?"

"You have position--I have money."

"What sort of position do you imagine me to have?"

"You have the _entrée_ to the best society in England."

"It does not follow that I can give that _entrée_ to my wife."

"If you have a particular kind of wife, it does."

"And you would be that particular kind of wife?"

"I should. I have sufficient brains, sufficient looks, and sufficient
money."

"What is your idea of sufficient money?"

"I can spend, say, between forty and fifty thousand pounds a year, and
still economise."

For the first time, he evinced genuine surprise. I thought I had him;
but I had not.

"Between forty and fifty thousand pounds a year? No. Then why do you
live in such a place as this?"

"If you have any doubts as to the existence of the money, I shall be
happy to give you ample proof, not only that my income is considerably
over the larger of the two sums which I have mentioned, but also that
it is certain to increase."

"Then you are a rich woman, even as riches go. You might have
your choice of the best _partis_ in England. You would have no
difficulty in marrying a man who really has what I only have in your
imagination--family and influence. For instance, there is Archie
Beaupré. He has some of the bluest blood in England in his veins. He
has just the things you want. Why not marry him?"

"If I did, you would hang."

He smiled. It seemed to me that this time his smile was a little
strained.

"Again I am compelled to ask, why do you wish to marry me?--me, in
particular?"

"I will hint at a possible reason--one which may commend itself to you.
You said, just now, that when first you saw me something told you that
we were sympathetic. That something told you aright--we are."

I had hit him at last. Something came into his face and eyes which said
I had. It stayed only for a moment. But it stayed long enough to show
that, under that expressionless mask, there was a volcano raging.

"You certainly are an unusual type of woman."

"Precisely; and you are an unusual type of man. We approximate."

He laughed out loud. But, to my ear, there was something in his
laughter which was scarcely gay.

"But, my dearest lady, you are aware that I am already engaged to be
married?"

I shrugged my shoulders.

"I have seen something about it in the papers."

"And now you hear it from me as a fact. There are circumstances as
connected with my engagement which render it certain that, if by any
overt act of mine, it is ruptured, I shall be ruined, I shall forfeit
my reputation; I shall lose, entirely, and for ever, what you say you
want--that fragment of a position, which in reality is all that I
possess."

I simply tilted my chair backwards, pressed the tips of my fingers
together, and smiled at him.

"I have enough money to buy it back again--all that you are likely to
lose, and more. I would not allow any consideration of that kind, if I
were you, to frighten me. Besides, I think that, perhaps unconsciously,
you exaggerate. However, don't let us carry the discussion just now any
farther. The great thing is that we understand each other. Should I
remain a free agent, or, in other words, should I not be your wife, in
time, I shall do my utmost to save the life of an innocent man."

"What do you mean by being my wife in time?"

"Within eight-and-forty hours of the jury bringing in a verdict of
guilty against Mr. Tennant."

"Poor wretch! Then, I take it, you do not require a promise from me
now?"

"Neither now nor at any other time. From first to last the matter is
purely one for your own consideration. It is your affair, not mine.
There are such things as special licenses. I believe one can get
married within twelve hours. By the way, Mr. Townsend, I want you to do
me a favour."

"If I can. What is it?"

"I want you to get me a ticket for the trial."

He started--really! The start was unconcealed. There was no mistake
about it.

"The trial? Do you mean for Tennant's trial?"

"I do."

"Do you propose to be present?"

"Certainly."

"What for?"

"It will be so funny."

"Are you meditating active interposition?"

He eyed me as if he would have searched out my inmost soul. His
anxiety--obvious at last--amused me.

"My dear Mr. Townsend, you may take my word for it that I shall stand,
literally and exactly, to every syllable I have uttered. You need be
under no apprehension of my interposing in the trial. I shall do
nothing in the business, of any sort or kind, until eight-and-forty
hours after Mr. Tennant has been found guilty. What I am to do then
rests, as I have explained, with you. You will be able to obtain the
ticket I require from your friend, Sir Haselton Jardine."

The keenness of his scrutiny relaxed. Possibly he deemed it wiser to
pretend that he was satisfied, even if he was not.

"If I can get you a ticket, you shall have one. I think I have read
somewhere that, on a question of taste, there is no room for
disputation." He smiled--his natural smile once more. "And now, dear
Mrs. Carruth, let me assure you that I am very sensitive of the
compliment which you have paid me and of the still greater honour which
you would do me. Of my own unworthiness I am but too conscious. But I
would ask you to let me tell you frankly--since frankness is the order
of the day--that, were it not for the ramifications and complications
of my unfortunate position, I should long ere this have been at your
feet, upon my knees. I protest that, more than once when in your
presence, I have experienced the greatest difficulty in keeping myself
upstanding."

I laughed. How the man could lie! With what a grace!

We parted the best of friends.



                           CHAPTER XXVIII.

                    THE PRISONER COMES INTO COURT.


I got the ticket, and I went to the trial.

I travelled in the same train with the judge. At Victoria, as
I was standing at the carriage door, a little old gentleman, of the
beer-barrel type of architecture, went toddling by. He wore gold
spectacles, he had a very red face, a double chin, and big, pursy
lips--the sort of old gentleman one would have liked to have smacked on
the back.

Another old gentleman was standing near me. He was tall and thin. When
the little old gentleman went toddling by this other old gentleman
moved his head in the toddler's direction and his arms in mine.

"Judge Hunter."

I was most benign.

"Indeed! Is that Judge Hunter?"

"Going down to Lewes Assizes; been spending a day in town."

That was a Monday. Of course, the day before had been Sunday. But what
the man meant is more than I can say.

The thin old gentleman and I shared a compartment. He fed me with
scraps of information by the way.

"Good judge, Hunter. He has one qualification which a good judge ought
to have."

"What is that?"

"Been a bit of a rogue himself."

"Is that a qualification which goes to the making of a good judge? Then
what a number of good judges there must be."

The thin old gentleman smiled.

"I don't mean in a criminal sense, you understand. He's not been in
prison, and that kind of thing. But Hunter has not lived exactly the
life of a saint. In the case of a judge a fellow-feeling ought to make
one wondrous kind."

"I see."

It was a delightful journey. The sun was shining; the air was warm and
sweet; the country through which we passed seemed lovely. Perhaps I was
in the mood!

As we rattled through Three Bridges Junction the thin old gentleman
recommenced his process of feeding me with titbits of information.

"This is where the murder took place."

"Is that so?"

How different it looked in the sunshine!

"Just about there"--he was pointing through the window of the
carriage--"is where they found the body."

I wondered if he was right. I, myself, had the vaguest notion. I had
not been in a position to make a mental map of my surroundings. It
struck me that it must have been a little farther on; to me, at the
time, it had seemed to be a good distance from the station. But then I
had to allow for the rate at which we were moving. I had walked along
the line.

"It was a dreadful thing--dreadful! It makes one's blood boil when one
thinks of it. I do hope that, this time, no false sentimentality will
be allowed to interfere, and that they will hang the man."

I had become used to hearing that sort of remark. Everybody seemed to
be taking it for granted that Tommy was guilty. I could but acquiesce.

Lewes seemed to me to be a charming town--all up-hill and down--though
I must confess that there was a little more up-hill than down. And all
so old! I do so like a town to be old. Of course one would never dream
of living in it, but it is so nice to visit.

The assizes were not to open till the Tuesday. Tommy's trial was not
expected to begin till the Wednesday. So I had time upon my hands. I
was truly rural. I went to Newhaven--a horrid hole!--and across the
road to Seaford--which was much of a muchness. And I lived on the Lewes
Downs. What a breeze there was up there! And what a view! And I saw the
prison--the outside of it, I mean, not the inside. It was built right
on the edge of the downs--rather cool in winter, I should think.

I came on a warder. He was smoking a pipe. I suppose he was taking
the air. He was a big man, with a huge red beard and one of the
best-humoured faces I ever saw. I wondered what he did with his
good-humour when he went inside. I should think it must have been
against the prison rules to take it in.

We foregathered. He was affability itself. He pointed out the various
parts of the prison.

"That is the debtors' wing, that is; that's where we keep the hard-up
'uns. A chap can't earn five-and-twenty shillings to pay his poor rate,
perhaps, so we spend ten pound over locking him up. That's a pretty
game, that is. I've never been able to make head or tail of it myself.
But, of course, it's no affair of mine. Those are the convicted wards.
We haven't got enough prisoners of our own to keep the place properly
going, so they send us a few down from town--some of the worst they've
got. Nice ones some of them are. That's the chapel. Oh, yes, we have a
regular daily service; we couldn't get on without one, could we?--twice
on Sunday--Protestant and Catholic. They're very particular, some of
'em, about their religion. We chaps don't do much in the service. All
our time's took up in looking after the boys; and the worse a man is,
the more he likes his bit of chapel. That's where we keep the prisoners
who are awaiting trial--Tennant's in there."

"Indeed! How very interesting! And what sort of a man is he?--I suppose
he's a dreadful man?"

The warder began combing his beard with his fingers.

"Not a bit of it; don't you think it. He's as decent and nice a chap as
ever you'd wish to meet."

"Don't you think he's guilty?"

"Oh, I don't know nothing at all about that. Some of the very worst
murders ever I have known have been done by some of the very nicest
chaps ever you met--when you come to talk to 'em, I mean. I don't know
how it is, but so it is. He'll be hung--safe to. That's where they'll
hang him. You can't see it from where we are, but there's a little yard
in there where they build the gallows. I expect I shall have the charge
of him in the condemned cell. I generally do have. I've hung 'em before
to-day; but it's not a nice job."

Poor, dear Tommy! It made me go queer all over to hear the man talk of
him like that. What a funny world it is? Or is it the people in it who
are funny?

When the trial began the court was like a theatre. I got in early--for
reasons of my own. I wanted a particular place, and succeeded in
obtaining the object of my heart's desire.

I had had a peep in at the court on the opening day of the assizes.
What I wanted was a position in which I should not face the prisoner. I
found that the prisoners were placed in a sort of railed enclosure.
Their feet were about on a level with the lawyers' heads. On one side
of this enclosure was a kind of pew. So long as the occupants kept
their seats it was impossible for any one in the enclosure to even
guess at their identity. I soon saw that a seat in this pew was exactly
what I wanted. If I wore a thick veil, and made certain changes in my
attire, Tommy would never dream that the woman whom he was charged with
having murdered was actually sitting within reach of his hand, a
spectator of the trial.

When I reached the court the usher--or whoever it was--wanted me to sit
on the bench, on a line with the judge and immediately facing the
prisoner's dock. He assured me that that part of the court was
specially reserved for ladies who were ticket-holders, and that it was
quite impossible that they could be allowed to sit anywhere else. This
impossibility I rather doubted, and when I presented him with two
beautifully bright, new yellow sovereigns he seemed to doubt it too.

"I don't want to be conspicuous," I explained. "I just want to see
everything without being seen."

Nothing could have possibly been truer or more reasonable. Possibly
those two sovereigns aided that usher to see both the truth and the
reason. Anyhow, he showed me into actually the seat I wanted.

Very soon the place was crowded. No end of ladies graced the bench.
Some of them must--unlike modest little me!--have come to be seen as
well as to see. Certainly they were dressed for show. The court wore
quite an air of fashion.

Among the crowd, but not on the bench, was Tommy's wife. She came in
with an elderly lady and gentleman, whom I took to be her father and
mother, or else Tommy's--I could not make my mind up which--and a
younger gentleman, who still was pretty well on in years. I had no
doubt that he was Tommy's solicitor. As Mrs. Tennant came in two of the
barristers, who were sitting among a heap of others at a table, stood
up and shook hands with her. I found out afterwards that, as I
suspected at the time, they were Tommy's counsel. Somebody must have
known who she was, because, directly she appeared, quite a buzz of
whispering went round the court. The women on the bench leaned towards
each other, and stared and did everything but point at her. They might
have been ladies--gentlewomen, as my old mother used to have it, they
were not. She removed her veil and looked at them--just once, and that
was all. She looked very sweet and pale and troubled, but grit to the
finger-ends.

Other counsel were sitting cheek by jowl with Tommy's counsel. One of
them, turning as Mrs. Tennant entered, looked her keenly up and down.
He was an ugly, mean-looking, colourless, bloodless little man. His
robe, or whatever they called the thing he wore, was different to the
others--it was of silk. I wondered what he was.

Suddenly there was a stir in court. Somebody appeared like an
undertaker's mute--only he wasn't a mute--from a door at the back.

"The judge."

Everybody rose to their feet. In waddled the fat little fellow I had
seen in the train. He reminded me, somehow, of the comic man in the
burlesque. He had on an enormous wig, about sixty yards of what, from
where I sat, looked like some sort of scarlet blanketing, and--as if
that wasn't enough!--fur. He presented a dreadful spectacle. Goodness
knows that he had a red enough face of his own! They might have put him
in white.

There was some rubbish which I did not understand--and did not want to.
It was some time before I could take my eyes off the judge. He was
something to stare at. The more I looked at him the more I wondered
what they would do if the man was struck with apoplexy. To me the risk
of something of the kind, which he seemed to be running, was simply
awful.

Then they swore in the jury. Among them were some of the
stupidest-looking men I ever saw. If they were married it was a pity
they could not have sent their wives, and they themselves have stayed
at home. There must have been more sense somewhere in the family.

Then somebody said--

"Bring in Thomas Tennant!"

A hush came over the court. All eyes were turned in one direction. I,
alone, did not dare to turn to look. There were movements behind me,
then all was still. I noticed that Mrs. Tennant had removed her veil
again, and had turned round in her seat and was looking at some one
whom I could not see--looking at this some one with a smile.

I knew that she was looking at her husband, and that Tommy was going to
be tried for the murder of me.

As I sat there, scarcely daring to breathe, staring straight in front
of me, yet seeing nothing, my thick veil obscuring my features, my
hands tightly clasping the knob of my umbrella, I was experiencing the
most singular sensation I had ever known.

It was worse than stage fright, by a deal.



                            CHAPTER XXIX.

                          THE TRIAL BEGINS.


I am not able to describe all that took place. To begin with,
everything that happened seemed to me for some time to be happening in
a dream. When, afterwards, I read the account in the newspapers, it
came to me with all the force of novelty.

The fact was that, for ever so long, it was all I could do to prevent
myself from swooning and making a scene and spoiling it all.

It seems funny that, after having gone so much out of my way, and taken
all that trouble, I should have been such a goose; but I was.

When I begun to have my wits about me I found that the mean-looking
little man who had so keenly eyed Mrs. Tennant was making a speech.
Then I understood, not all at once, but by degrees, that he was counsel
for the Crown, that he was opening the case for the prosecution, and
that, in short, he was Sir Haselton Jardine.

So this was the father of Mr. Townsend's Dora!

Well, if the daughter in any way resembled the father, I could not say
much for Mr. Townsend's taste.

But the thing was out of the question. I was certain that he did care
for her, and it was altogether impossible that he could care for a
woman who in any way whatever resembled this shapeless, pulseless,
mummified little man. I knew my friend, the gentleman, too well. I felt
persuaded that, as regards resemblance, or rather want of resemblance,
to her father, Dora Jardine was one of nature's eccentricities.

It seemed odd when I did begin to come to myself, to notice how the
people hung upon every word which the little man was uttering--and they
had to hang if they wished to hear. He seemed to be speaking in a
whisper. His voice matched his appearance and his size. After one had
listened for awhile, however, one began to realise what a singularly
penetrating whisper it was. He never raised his voice; he made not the
slightest attempt to produce an effect. He spoke as one could fancy a
machine might speak, yet each syllable must have been audible to every
person there.

And probably his speech, as a whole, produced a strong impression on
every one who heard it. I only heard--to understand--the concluding
words, but I know that when he sat down I felt as if the first string
of the rope which ultimately was to bury the man behind me had been
woven before my eyes.

"Call Samuel Parsons!"

Samuel Parsons proved to be a big, shock-headed man of the navvy type.
He was not examined by Sir Haselton Jardine, but by another barrister,
who was as big and blustering as Sir Haselton was small and quiet.

Samuel Parsons was a ganger. He had been walking along the up line to
his morning's work, when he saw something lying among the bushes about
half-way down the bank. It was a woman. She was dead. He described the
position in which she lay, and exactly whereabouts he found her.

Tommy's counsel asked no questions.

A policeman followed. He had been informed that a woman had been found
dead on the line. Went to see her. Described the position in which she
lay. Was informed that she had not been touched before he came. She was
quite cold. Was well dressed. Her clothes were wet. It had rained
earlier in the morning. There was nothing about her to show who she
was. Examined her linen later; there were no initials or marks on it of
any kind. Her pocket was empty.

Again Tommy's counsel asked no questions.

A porter came next--Joseph Wilcox. He was examined by Sir Haselton
Jardine. Joseph Wilcox was a pleasant-faced young fellow, who gave
his evidence with a degree of assurance and an air of conviction
which--considering what his evidence was--took me aback. If ever there
was a witness who seemed convinced of the truth of his own testimony,
Joseph Wilcox was the man. And yet----

Well, this is what his evidence amounted to:--

He was the porter who had shown me into Tommy's carriage when the train
left Brighton. I had not noticed him. Indeed, I remembered nothing at
all about him. He declared that he had noticed me particularly. He
should have known me again if he had seen me anywhere. Asked what had
made him notice me, he said because I had come running up just as the
train was starting, and--this with something of a blush--because I was
so good-looking. I ought to have blushed, but I did not. Asked to
describe me, he gave a pretty glib and pretty clear description of a
woman who was not in the least like me.

I wondered what impression Joseph Wilcox's ideas of my personal
appearance made on Tommy. I guessed that they did impress him, because
presently a scrap of paper was handed from the dock to the counsel in
front.

Asked if he had seen me since, he said that he had. He had gone to East
Grinstead, and had seen me in the mortuary, dead. Had he the slightest
doubt that the woman he had seen in the mortuary dead was the same
woman he had shown into the carriage?

He had no doubt whatever.

He said this with an air which, I am persuaded, impressed every one who
heard him with the conviction that there was no doubt.

I wondered what Mr. Wilcox's feelings would be if he ever came to learn
that he had done his utmost to hang a man by the utterance of as great
a lie as ever yet was told.

Sir Haselton then asked him if he had noticed if there was any one in
the carriage into which he had shown me. There was--a gentleman. He had
occasion to notice him because he had been leaning out of the carriage
window talking to two other gentlemen who had come, apparently, to see
him off.

"Should you know him again?"

"I should." Mr. Wilcox pointed towards the dock. "This is the
gentleman."

"You are certain of that?"

"I am quite certain."

As Sir Haselton sat down I felt as if he had woven another strand.

Tommy's counsel rose.

I found out afterwards that his name was Bates, M.P., Q.C. He was tall,
well-built, grey-headed. His wig suited him. He had a bold, clear
voice, and a trick of standing with one hand under the skirt of his
gown and the other pointed towards the witness.

"You appear to have noticed this unfortunate woman very closely, Mr.
Wilcox. Can you tell us something else which you noticed about her?"

"In what way?"

"Did you notice, for instance, if she had been drinking?"

"I did not."

"Can you swear that she had not been drinking?"

"There was nothing about her which made me suppose that she had."

Mr. Bates sat down. If Tommy had told him that I had had too much to
drink he had told as big a story as was ever told.

"Call George Baxendale!"

Mr. Baxendale was the first gentlemanly-looking witness who had
appeared in the box; he was also the one who seemed to be least at his
ease. He was a tall, fair, slightly built man, with long, drooping
moustache, the ends of which he had a nervous trick of twisting. He
glanced towards the dock with what he possibly intended to be a
friendly smile. The distortion of his visage, however, which actually
took place, more strongly resembled a ghastly grin.

He was examined by Sir Haselton's colleague.

"Are you related to the prisoner?"

"I am related to his wife. I am Mrs. Tennant's cousin."

This explained the ghastly grin.

"Do you remember Sunday, the 8th of November?"

"I do."

"Where were you?"

"I was at Brighton, staying with some friends of mine."

"Did any one come to see you on that day?"

"Yes. Mr. Tennant."

"By what train did he return to town?"

"By the 8.40."

"Have you any particular reason for remembering that it was by that
train he returned to town?"

"Well, for one thing, Jack Cooper and I went up to the station to see
him off."

"What happened while you were at the station seeing him off?"

Mr. Baxendale told of my getting into Tommy's carriage. He answered the
questions which were put to him as if he was desirous of giving as
little information as he possibly could, which did not make it better
for Tommy. He had not noticed me particularly. Did not think he should
know me again. Had seen the body at East Grinstead. Had not recognised
it. Could see no likeness. Still, it might be the same woman. Could not
swear that it was, or that it was not. Had really not taken sufficient
notice of the woman who had got into the train.

His questioner sat down, leaving an impression on the minds of the
people that if the witness had not been Mrs. Tennant's cousin some of
his questions would have received different answers.

Mr. Bates stood up.

"About this woman of whom we have heard--was there nothing about her
which you noticed?"

"There was."

"What was there about her which you did notice?"

"It struck me that she had been drinking." The witness became voluble
all of a sudden. "She seemed to be in a state of excitement, which,
probably, was induced by drink. She certainly was not a lady. She
struck me as being a woman of a certain class. In fact, I was just
going to suggest to Tennant that he should get into another
compartment, when the train was off."

"Why were you going to make that suggestion to Mr. Tennant?"

"Because I knew that he was a shy, nervous sort of fellow, who easily
loses his presence of mind, and I thought that, cooped up in a
compartment alone with a woman of that sort, who was in that condition,
without a stoppage before he got to town, there might be
unpleasantness."

"You thought it probable that she might annoy him?"

"I thought it extremely probable."

When Mr. Bates sat down, the other counsel once more got up. He
proceeded to turn Mr. Baxendale inside out.

He could not swear the woman had been drinking. He only surmised it.
Could not exactly say what caused him to surmise it. She was excited.
That might have been owing to her anxiety to catch the train. Women do
get excited when they are flurried. She might have been a lady. Had
no groundwork of fact for his suggestion that she was a woman of a
certain class. It was quite true that, as he had said in his
examination-in-chief, he had not noticed her. Should not like to swear
that she was not a teetotaler and a lady of the highest birth and
breeding. In fact, he should not like to swear to anything at all. He
might get down.

He got down, looking badgered.

I owed him one.

He was followed by the Mr. Cooper with whom he had stayed at Brighton.
Mr. Cooper was a short, thick-set man, looking just what he was, a
captain in the navy. His manner was self-contained; his answers short
and to the point.

He had accompanied Mr. Baxendale to see Tommy off. Had seen me get into
his carriage. Had scarcely glanced at me. Should not know me again. Had
seen the body at East Grinstead. Could not say if it was the same
woman. Was not qualified to express an opinion.

Mr. Bates asked no questions.

Next came a porter, John Norton. He had an anxious, careworn face, and
grizzled hair. His manner was tremulous. He kept fidgeting with his
cap. More than once he had to be asked to speak up. He was examined by
Sir Haselton Jardine.

Was a porter at Victoria Station. Remembered the 8.40 from Brighton
coming in on Sunday, November 8th. It was due at Victoria at 10 p.m.
Noticed a gentleman sitting alone in a first-class carriage. It was the
prisoner. Noticed he was holding a white handkerchief to his cheek.
There were red stains on it, as of blood. Was going to open the
carriage door when a gentleman jumping out of the next carriage opened
it instead. When he passed again the gentleman was standing at the door
of the compartment speaking to the prisoner. Prisoner was holding
another handkerchief to his face--a silk one. Presently the prisoner
and the gentleman went off together. Passed the carriage again
immediately afterwards. Saw something lying on the floor. Found it was
pieces of glass. Found that the carriage was in disorder. There were
stains of blood on the cushions and the carpet. The window, in front of
which the prisoner had been sitting, was down. On pulling it up, found
that the glass was smashed to pieces. Gave information to the guard.
Efforts were made to find the prisoner, but he had left the station.
Was certain that the prisoner was the man he had seen sitting in the
empty carriage.

Mr. Bates asked no questions. I wondered what was the defence he
intended to set up. If he was going to do nothing more to earn his
money than he was doing at present, it seemed to me that Tommy might as
well have kept it in his pocket. Here was Sir Haselton Jardine twisting
the rope tighter and tighter round Tommy's neck, and Mr. Bates seemed
to be doing nothing at all to stop him.

I would have asked John Norton questions.

The guard of the train came next. John Norton had called his attention
to the broken window. He corroborated what John Norton had said as to
the condition of the carriage. He had noticed that the alarm bell
appeared untouched. Nothing had attracted his attention on the journey.
The compartment in question was in the next coach but one to his, but
he had heard nothing. Sounds would have travelled in his direction.
Still, it was difficult, when there was a wind, and the train was going
at a high speed, to hear what was taking place in the next coach but
one; for instance, if there were two persons quarrelling. At the same
time, if any one had screamed at all loudly he could scarcely have
failed to hear that. His hearing was very good. The compartment looked
to him as if somebody had been having a fight in it.

Again no questions from Mr. Bates. So far, Tommy could have managed
equally well without his help.

Though it is true that that is saying little.



                             CHAPTER XXX.

                       MR. TAUNTON'S EVIDENCE.


"Call Alexander Taunton!"

He came not, though they called.

Instead there was an interval for refreshment. A buzz of talking rose
in the court. With one hand the judge pressed his spectacles more
firmly in their place. He took a bird's-eye view of the proceedings.

"I think," he observed, "that before taking the evidence of the next
witness, it might be convenient if we were to adjourn for luncheon."

So we adjourned. At least, some of us did. The prisoner was taken away.
I heard them removing him behind me. Most of the counsel removed
themselves, and some of the people. The greater part of us who stayed
set to eating. Sandwiches were produced and other things. Mysterious
refreshments were brought in from without. I had my own little store.
Everybody chattered. It was quite a festive scene.

"Call Alexander Taunton!"

Proceedings recommenced by a repetition of the words. But again he did
not come.

"Alexander Taunton!"

One heard the name shouted by different voices, apparently in different
passages and at different doors. Still none answered. The delay ruffled
the judge's feelings.

"What does this witness mean by keeping the court waiting? Where is
he?"

Sir Haselton Jardine's colleague rose with the apparent intention of
personally assisting in the search.

"Here he is," said some one.

And there he was. I almost dropped from my seat.

Who should get into the box but Reginald Townsend's Corsican brother,
Jack Haines's private detective, who had told me that his name was
Stewart Trevannion.

I could scarcely believe my own eyes at first. But it was the man--if
one had seen him once, there was no mistaking him. To me he seemed to
be peculiarly ill at ease--an uneasiness which was not by any means
concealed by an attempt to carry things off with a flourish. He bowed
to the judge, he bowed to the jury; I believe he was going to bow to
the lawyers too, only at the last moment he changed his mind. He placed
his silk hat on the rail at his side. He took off one of his brand-new
gloves. Unbuttoning his overcoat, he opened it so as to display his
chest. There was something about him which destroyed the effect he
evidently intended to produce--it made the people smile.

The judge was serious enough.

"What do you mean by keeping the court waiting?"

Alexander Taunton--or whatever his name was--pressed the finger-tips of
his left hand against his chest.

"I beg your lordship's pardon. I had just that moment stepped outside."

I could have wagered he had stepped outside to drink just another drop
to help him to keep his courage up. The more I looked at him the
plainer I saw that there was quite a hunted look about his eyes.

The story he told in response to Sir Haselton Jardine's questions
filled me with something more than amazement. Of course he was the
Taunton whose evidence at the examination before the magistrates one
had read in the papers, but I had never for an instant suspected--who
would have done?--that the two men were, or could be, one and the same.
By the time he had finished he had hammered every nail in Tommy's
coffin. And the strangest part about it was that--as none knew better
than I--certainly the larger portion of what he said was true.

He had travelled from Brighton in the next compartment to Tommy and I.
Think of it! On that fateful Sunday night I had journeyed with one
brother half the way and with the other brother the rest of the way to
town.

He had heard us having our little discussion. He had heard some of the
things we had said to each other--especially some of the very
strongest. He had heard the banging of the door as I fell. According to
him, the sound had so agitated him that he had not known what to do. He
suspected that something had happened, but he had not known what. He
owned now that he ought to have given the alarm and stopped the train,
but at the moment he lost his presence of mind. On reaching Victoria he
found Tommy sitting in the next compartment alone. Blood was flowing
from a wound in his cheek. Prisoner's own handkerchief being soaked
with blood, witness lent him one of his own--a silk one. On which
prisoner threw his bloodstained handkerchief out of the window.

At this point, altogether unexpectedly, Sir Haselton Jardine sat down.
Mr. Bates got up. As he did so, the witness looked over his shoulder as
if he would have liked to have turned tail and run.

I saw that Mr. Bates was going to do something to earn his money at
last.

The witness saw it too.

"My learned brother, Mr. Taunton, has brought your story to a point at
which it reminds one of those sensational tales which are to be
continued in our next. With your permission we will continue it
together. You have told us of your charitable loan of a handkerchief--a
silk handkerchief. May I take it that you then communicated with the
police?"

"No."

"Then what did you do?"

"I had no actual knowledge that a crime had been committed."

"I ask you, Mr. Taunton, when you had lent the silk handkerchief, what
you did."

"I saw the prisoner to a cab."

"Then did you communicate with the police?"

"I did not."

"Then what did you do?"

"I accompanied him a short distance in the cab."

"Did he give you anything when you parted?"

"He gave me his address."

"Did he give you anything else?"

"He gave me a deposit on my silk handkerchief."

"He gave you a deposit on your silk handkerchief. I see. What was the
amount of the deposit?"

The witness hesitated.

"Ten shillings."

"Do you swear it was not more than ten shillings?"

"It might have been a pound."

"Do you swear it was not more than a pound?"

"It might have been thirty shillings. I don't exactly remember."

"I see. For the first time your memory begins to fail you. Then did you
communicate with the police?"

"I did not."

"What did you do?"

"The next day I called on the prisoner at his office at Austin Friars."

"Yes. And then?"

"I charged him with the murder."

"You charged him with the murder. Of course, then, you did communicate
with the police?"

The witness seemed to find the reiteration trying. He looked around
him, as if seeking shelter.

"Unfortunately, I did not."

"Unfortunately? I see. Unfortunately, what did you do?"

"At that time I was very pressed for money. I yielded to the pressure
of my necessities."

"By which you mean?"

"That I accepted a small loan."

"You accepted a small loan. Did you not levy blackmail? Did you not
extort blood-money, sir? Did you not demand a sum of money in exchange
for your silence?"

Mr. Bates raised his voice very considerably. The witness quivered.

"I believe I did suggest that a small loan should be made to me."

"And you got it?"

"I did."

"What was the amount of this small loan?"

"A hundred pounds."

"A hundred pounds?" This from the judge.

The witness, "Yes, my lord."

"You call that a small loan? Well, go on."

Mr. Bates went on.

"Then what did you do?"

"I called again at the prisoner's office. When I found he was not there
on this Friday I called at his private house."

"On which occasion you found him ill in bed?"

"I found him in bed."

"In the presence of Mrs. Tennant you suggested that another small loan
should be made you?"

"I might have done."

"You did not get it?"

"I did not."

"You were shown to the door instead?"

"I left the house, resolving to tamper no more with my conscience."

"Having been refused another small loan?"

"I went at once to the police, and told them everything."

"Including the incident of the small loan?"

"I don't know that I told them about that."

"I think it probable that you did not. Mr. Taunton, what is your
profession?"

The witness gripped the rail in front of him.

"I have none."

"May I ask, then, how you earn your living?"

"As best I can."

Mr. Bates turned to the judge.

"I think it possible, my lord, that I may be able to throw a flood of
light upon what the witness means by saying that he earns his living as
best he can. Mr. Taunton, when did you last come out of gaol?"

Obviously the witness gripped the rail in front of him still tighter.
The moisture gleamed upon his forehead.

"That has nothing to do with it."

The judge interposed. "Answer the question, sir."

The witness turned his twitching countenance towards the judge.

"I would respectfully suggest, my lord, that it has nothing to do with
the present case."

Mr. Bates struck in.

"With your lordship's permission, I may be able to render the witness
material assistance. Mr. Taunton, at York Assizes, five years ago this
month, under the name of Arthur Stewart, were you not sentenced to five
years' penal servitude by Mr. Justice Hunter?"

The judge pressed his spectacles into their place.

"I thought I had seen the man before. I remember him very well. Was it
a case of bigamous intermarriage?"

"The man--this man--was found guilty of having married four women, one
after the other, of robbing them of all they had, and then deserting
them. Possibly, also, your lordship will remember that no less than
three previous convictions were proved against him."

"I remember the case very well. And I remember the man. It was one of
the worst cases of the kind I had ever encountered. I believe I said so
at the time."

"Your lordship did. Strangely enough, while your lordship was judge, I
was for the prosecution. I recognised the man directly he stepped into
the box. I have no doubt that he recognised me."

Mr. Bates sat down.

"When did this man come out of prison?"

Some one spoke from the side of the court.

"He was released on ticket-of-leave, my lord. The ticket has just run
out."

"Was there any police supervision?"

"I believe not, my lord."

"Then I hope that the police will keep their eyes upon him." He turned
to the witness. "According to your own statement, you appear to have
been guilty of an offence as heinous as any of your previous ones. Your
conduct has been as bad as it could have been. I may consider it to be
my duty to recommend your prosecution. As I have said, I hope the
police will keep their eyes on you. Go down!"

The witness went down--all the flourish gone clean out of him. He
looked more dead than alive.

It may seem queer, but I felt quite sorry for the wretch.



                            CHAPTER XXXI.

                  THE CASE FOR THE CROWN CONCLUDES.


After that the court adjourned till to-morrow. Mr. Alexander Taunton's
performance wound up the programme of the day's entertainment, as it
appeared to me, with adequate spirit.

At the inn or hotel, or whatever they called it, at which I was
stopping, every one was talking of the trial. The chambermaid, who
waited on me at dinner, could talk of nothing else. She went gabble,
gabble all the time that she was in the room, and it seemed to me that
she stopped in the room as much as she possibly could. Her manners, if
rustic, were familiar.

She had witnessed Tommy's arrival at the court.

"A more dreadful-looking wretch I never saw. It gave me quite a feeling
to look at him. He's got pig's eyes. And cruel! There was cruelty all
over him!"

Poor Tommy! She must have had an insufficient view, or she was
prejudiced. A milder-mannered man was never charged with having cut a
throat, nor, I verily believe, a tenderer-hearted one.

"And they tell me his wife was in court. I never! She must be a one!
I'd have drowned myself sooner than let people know I was the wife of a
man like that. She must be almost as bad as he is, or she would never
have dared to show her face."

Alas for the rarity of Christian charity! Dear, dear, how these
Christians do love each other! To think that that sweet-faced,
true-hearted woman should have been spoken of like that!

"They're sure to hang him, that's one comfort. I think it's a shame
they don't hang him out of hand, without making all this fuss about it.
I think such creatures ought to be hung directly they catch 'em."

"Before ascertaining if they are guilty?"

"He's guilty, safe enough. The wretch!"

Well, of course, she knew best. Still, what a funny world it is.

At dinner I ordered a bottle of wine. The landlord brought it up
himself, as an excuse for a gossip. He was a shrivelled-up little man,
about sixty, not at all like the typical Boniface.

"I thought that I should have been on the jury. But I was on the jury
yesterday instead. But there are two cousins of mine who are--got heads
screwed on their shoulders both of 'em."

"Indeed? Will you have a glass of wine?"

"Thank you, ma'am, you're very kind. I don't mind if I do." He did not
mind.

"I can recommend this port wine. I've had it in my cellars over twenty
years. Your very good health, ma'am. Yes." He shook his head. "Neither
of them holds with this chap's little games." I had not the faintest
notion to what little games he alluded. "I saw you in court, ma'am.
Might I ask if you're interested in any of the parties?"

"Not at all. I am an American. While I was staying in England I thought
that I would not lose an opportunity of seeing one of your great
trials."

"Ay, this is a very great trial, this is. It won't soon be forgotten.
Do you think he's guilty?"

"Do you?"

"Well, what I say is just this. I wouldn't be locked up alone with a
strange woman in a railway carriage all the way from Brighton to
London, not for--not for any amount of money."

"You are flattering."

"I don't mean nothing--not at all. Only, in this case, how are we to
say what happened? He seems to be a decent kind of chap. She might have
been nasty, there might have been a rumpus, he might have tried to get
away from her, she might have fallen out upon the line. How is any one
to tell?"

My friend, the landlord, in spite of his somewhat unpromising
appearance, seemed to be one of the few sensible persons I had recently
encountered. I pressed him to take another glass of wine. He yielded to
the pressure.

"Don't you think they'll find him guilty, then?"

"Oh, they'll find him guilty, safe enough, and I daresay they'll hang
him, too. That's just the best of it. When a man gets mixed up with a
woman in a thing like this they're sure to think the worse of him. But
it doesn't follow that he did it, any the more for that. As for that
chap Taunton, I'd hang him!"

It seemed that my friend the gentleman had good cause to congratulate
himself on the possession of such a relative. He seemed to be held in
general esteem.

When the court reopened the next day I changed my seat. I had taken
careful stock of the scene of action the day before. The result had
been that I came to one or two conclusions. I perceived, for one thing,
that one might very easily sit upon the bench and yet preserve one's
anonymity. If I wore a cloak, kept my veil down, sat on the back row,
and kept myself in the shade, I need fear no recognition from Tommy.

I quite hungered for a sight of the prisoner. I had not dared to turn
and look at him from where I sat the day before. The action might not
improbably have attracted his attention.

Besides, I wanted to have a good view of what might, not improperly, be
described as the closing tableau.

So when I entered the court this time I presented the usher with a
sovereign for a seat on the bench. I had a seat on the bench--quite in
the shade.

The place was, if anything, more crowded than ever. It was understood
that the trial was to conclude in the course of the day. Perhaps that
proved an extra attraction. Anyhow, we were uncomfortably crowded on
the bench, and the court, everywhere, was as full as it could hold. I
wondered how much--in a theatrical sense--the house was worth to a some
one--say the usher.

The judge came in. Then Tommy. They let him have a chair. I had a
good look at him. He badly wanted shaving; there was a month's
growth of hair upon his cheeks and chin. But he looked better than I
expected--and braver. His wife sat in front of him, as she had done the
day before. She turned as he came in, and greeted him with a smile.
Such a brave one! Without a suspicion of a tear! He smiled back at her.

Poor dears! Their smiling days were nearly done.

When he was seated and had recovered from the excitement of his entry,
after all, the expression began to creep into his face, which I had
expected to see there all along. The expression of stupor, of mental
paralysis, of shame, of horror at the position in which he found
himself, and at the things which were to come.

Poor, dear Tommy! He looked to me as if there was no fight left in him.

I need not have feared his recognition. He never looked at any one. He
just glanced now and then at his wife, and every time he did so there
came into his face a something which was a curious commingling of
pleasure with pain. But, with the exception of Mrs. Tennant, I doubt if
he clearly realised the personality of any other creature there.

The first witness called was a man named Stephen Rodman. He said he was
a "tapper," which, I suppose, had something to do with railway work,
though I don't know what. Early on the morning of Monday, November 9th,
he was walking in the six-foot way of the arrival platform of Victoria
Station. He saw a handkerchief lying on the ground. He picked it up. It
was soaked with blood, and was still damp. In the corner was a name,
"T. Tennant." The 8.40 from Brighton had been drawn up at that platform
the night before. Sir Haselton Jardine's colleague, who was examining,
handed witness a handkerchief--still unwashed. That was the one he
found.

Jane Parsons followed, actually the girl who had been in Mrs. Tennant's
service and who had applied for my situation. Certainly the prosecution
were fitting the rope round Tommy's neck, as if they did not mean to
leave him a loophole of escape. I wondered what she had to say.

Not much. She began by showing an inclination to cry, which inclination
she presently gave way to. The tears trickled down her cheeks. She kept
dabbling at them with a handkerchief, which she had squeezed into the
shape and size of a penny ball.

She was a parlourmaid. Had been, till recently, in Mrs. Tennant's
service. Remembered November 8th. Mr. Tennant went to spend the day at
Brighton. Mrs. Tennant told her he had gone. Miss Minna was not well,
so missus stayed to nurse her. Admitted Mr. Tennant on his return. It
was pretty late. After eleven. Mr. Tennant did not seem to be himself
at all. He seemed all anyhow--as if he had been fighting. There was a
great cut on his cheek. Helped him off with his overcoat. It was all
torn and rumpled about the collar. The top button had been torn right
off, and a piece of cloth torn with it. It was spotted with blood.
Shown an overcoat; recognised it as the overcoat which Mr. Tennant had
worn. His collar and tie were disarranged. As a rule he was a most
particular gentleman about his clothes.

Mr. Bates asked a question or two.

Had been in Mrs. Tennant's employ more than two years. Mr. Tennant was
a very good master--no one could want a better. Lived a quiet, regular
life. Was very fond of his wife, and she of him. Made a perfect idol of
his little girl.

At this point poor Tommy covered his face with his hands.

She didn't believe he had ever done it, and she never would--she didn't
care what nobody said. This statement was volunteered, amidst a burst
of sobbing. Mr. Tennant was very nervous. They used to make a joke of
it in the kitchen. The least thing put him off. She meant that he was
easily flustered. He was a tender and a loving husband and father, a
gentle and a kind master, and she didn't believe that, willingly, he
would hurt a fly. Jane's tears burst forth afresh.

Mr. Bates sat down.

The detective who had arrested Tommy next appeared. His name was
Matthew Holman. He was a sinewy, greybearded, greyheaded, not
unkindly-looking man, looking more like a sailor than anything else.
His evidence was purely cut and dried, and formal. Prisoner had made no
statement on being arrested. All efforts to trace the identity of the
dead woman had been unsuccessful. Mr. Bates allowed the witness to
depart unquestioned.

The medical evidence which followed revived the flagging interest. It
roused Tommy more than anything which had gone before. As well it
might.

Two doctors were called. The first was a country doctor. A middle-aged
man, with a fatherly sort of manner, and something of the milk of human
kindness about his mouth, and in the twinkling of his eyes. His name
was Gresham.

Dr. Gresham had examined the body twice. First at the Three Bridges,
afterwards in the mortuary at East Grinstead. The first occasion was
between nine and ten on the morning of Monday, November 9th. Life had
been extinct some hours, probably twelve. The body was that of a
well-nourished, healthy young woman, probably under twenty-one years of
age.

When he heard this Tommy started. Certainly no doctor could have
mistaken me for under one-and-twenty.

She was far advanced in pregnancy.

Tommy started again. I fancied that Mrs. Tennant started too.

The cause of death was strangulation.

Tommy started more and more. Leaning over the rail of the dock, he
stared at the witness with all his eyes.

He was sure of it. He had no doubt upon the point whatever.
Unfortunately, there was no room for doubt. She had been killed by the
pressure of a man's hands and fingers. Great violence must have been
used. In fact, extraordinary violence. The skin of the throat was
discoloured. Marks of a man's hands and fingers were most distinct.
Indeed, so distinct, that when he first saw them they amounted almost
to a model. There were slight bruises on the body, such as might have
been caused by a fall. There was a livid bruise which ran from shoulder
to shoulder across the back. It had probably been caused by pressure.
For instance, by pressure against the edge of a carriage seat. His
theory was that she had been forced back against the edge of the
carriage seat, and in that position strangled. Falling from the train
had not been the cause of death. The fall had nothing to do with it.

When Sir Haselton Jardine sat down Tommy and Mr. Bates had quite a long
confabulation. Tommy seemed half beside himself with excitement--I very
well knew why! It struck me, however, that Mr. Bates did not seem very
much impressed.

Still, acting no doubt on his client's strenuous instructions, he
subjected the doctor to a rigorous cross-examination.

But it was all in vain.

Poor Tommy!

Mr. Bates first of all suggested, as it were, casually, that the woman
was more than one-and-twenty. The doctor did not think it possible.
Everything went to show that she was not. Then, after some fencing, he
tried to induce the doctor to admit that she might have been strangled
after she had fallen from the train. That she might have fallen from
the train by accident. Been stupefied by the fall, and, on recovering
from her stupor, that some one might have come along and strangled her.
The doctor would have none of it, He deemed the thing incredible. Mr.
Bates hammered away, but the doctor held his own.

Tommy was done!

He was done still more when it came to the second doctor's turn. He was
a Dr. Braithwaite, a great swell from London. He had examined the body
at East Grinstead. He corroborated all that Dr. Gresham had had to say,
putting things, if anything, a little stronger against poor Tommy. He
declined to move a hair's-breadth from his fixed conviction that the
woman had been strangled--in the train.

When he left the box every creature in court was aware that, unless
something amounting almost to a miracle intervened, Tommy's fate was
sealed.

Sir Haselton Jardine, half rising from his seat, announced that that
was the case for the Crown.



                            CHAPTER XXXII.

                    MRS. CARRUTH REMOVES HER VEIL.


After luncheon came the speeches.

Sir Haselton Jardine's was as deadly as it very well could have been.
He was not a bit of an orator. He reminded one of an automatic figure
as much as anything, as if he had been wound up to go. He went quietly
on, in the same placid, passionless sort of whisper, but as clear as a
bell. One never lost a syllable he uttered. He never faltered or
stumbled. The words, as they flowed from him, were exactly adapted to
the meaning they were intended to convey. He fitted them together with
the dexterity of an artist in mosaic.

One began almost to feel that one was listening to the voice of doom.

He recounted the story. He observed that it did not appear to be
disputed that the prisoner had travelled in the same compartment with
the woman who was dead. He did not know what the defence would be. But
if it was intended to suggest that death had been the result of
accident, he asked the attention of the jury to the medical evidence.
It was shown by that that death had not been caused by falling from the
train. The woman had been strangled--strangled by a man's two hands.
The degree of violence which had been used not only inevitably
suggested premeditation, but also great resolution in carrying out what
had been premeditated. The murderer had resolved to kill, and he did
kill.

They could not say with certainty what happened after the train left
Brighton. A feature of the case was that the efforts of the police had
failed in establishing the dead woman's identity. So far as they could
discover she was nameless. No one had come forward to claim her--to say
who she was. She seemed to have come from nowhere. No one seemed to
have missed her now that she had gone. It was a mystery. He could not
say if the prisoner had it in his power to supply them with the key to
that mystery. Men live double lives. The witness Taunton had told them
that what he had heard had caused him to conclude that the man and
woman in the next compartment were acquaintances. That might have been
the case. In that connection he would merely remark--that the prisoner
was a married man; that the woman was young and pretty; that she was
far advanced in pregnancy; that she wore no wedding-ring.

In these facts they might, possibly, find a motive for the crime.

A great crime had been committed. A young woman, scarcely more than a
girl, who would shortly have become a mother, had been done to death.
So far as one could perceive, there were no palliating circumstances.
It was the other way. The crime was the act of a coward, as well as of
a criminal. He did not desire to press the case unduly against the
prisoner. It was his duty to ask them, as jurymen, if the facts which
had been presented were not adequate to bring the crime home to him. If
they deemed them inadequate, then, without showing fear or favour, it
was their duty to say so.

Sir Haselton Jardine sat down.

And Mr. Bates got up.

Mr. Bates began by remarking that he did not propose to call any
witnesses for the defence.

Then, in that case, in view of the body of evidence which had been
called for the other side, Tommy's goose was cooked, and he was done
for. Mr. Bates might have as well kept still. A general movement which
took place in the court seemed to be a voiceless expression of this
consensus of opinion.

Mr. Bates said that, in taking this course, he was almost overwhelmed
by a sense of responsibility. That was chiefly owing to the fact that
the law of England was still in such a state that the prisoner could
not go into the box and testify. He was exceedingly anxious to give his
testimony, but it could not be received as evidence. If he had spoken
out at first he might not, and probably would not, have been in the
position which he was occupying now. But he had shrunk from the course
which a wiser man would have pursued--shrunk from it for reasons which
were natural enough, but which still, he was bound to say, were
insufficient. Now it was too late. His voice could not be heard.

It was his duty, as the prisoner's advocate, to lay before the jury the
prisoner's story.

Then Mr. Bates told what had really happened, and told it very well
indeed. His story was literally accurate. I did not detect a single
discrepancy. I think I should have done! He was frank almost to a
fault. He nothing extenuated, nothing set down in malice. Nothing was
omitted--even the dotting of the i's.

And yet I doubt if a soul in court, with the exception, perhaps, of
Tommy's wife, believed a word he said.

To me, listening up there, the thing was inconceivably funny.

The chief difficulty which Mr. Bates had to contend with, as he owned,
and as one perceived without his owning it, was the medical evidence.
He admitted that it was difficult to reconcile it with the prisoner's
story. The prisoner declared that he did not understand it; that it had
come upon him with the force of a surprise.

His theory was that the woman had been stunned by her fall from the
train. As she was unconscious, or before she had recovered, some
straggling vagabond had found her lying on the bank. He had robbed her.
To effect his purpose he had had to add murder to robbery. The
prosecution had not laid stress upon the point, but she evidently had
been robbed. There was not the slightest tittle of evidence to connect
the prisoner with the robbery, so counsel for the Crown had been wise
not to dwell upon it. On the other hand there was complete absence of
motive, and the fact that nothing of any sort could have belonged to
the dead woman had been found in the possession of the prisoner.

He admitted that the suggestion that murder had been committed after
the fall from the carriage was well worthy the attention of the jury.

The prisoner made a mistake--which however, he submitted, was the
mistake which we might naturally have expected from a constitutionally
nervous man--in not giving the alarm immediately the accident took
place. He ought to have spoken when they reached Victoria. He ought not
to have allowed himself to be frightened by the blackmailing Taunton.
But, after all, these were all mistakes which a perfectly innocent man,
of his constitution, in his position, might have made. We none of us
could absolutely rely upon having our wits about us when we most wanted
them.

The prisoner had made mistakes. He owned it. But he begged the jury to
consider that the law did not permit him to put the prisoner into the
witness-box, and that the prisoner was convinced that, if he only might
be suffered to tell his tale his innocence would be established. Above
all, he entreated them not to send a fellow-creature to an ignominious
death because he had yielded to the promptings of a timorous
constitution and had not played the man.

When Mr. Bates sat down the judge summed up.

And he did it very briefly.

He pooh-poohed Mr. Bates's story altogether. He told the jury that they
were at liberty to believe it, if they could. But it was not supported
by a shred of evidence. It was disproved in several essential
particulars, and it was his duty to inform them that it was contrary to
every principle of English law that an _ex parte_ statement which was
without any sort of corroboration should be allowed to weigh, for an
instant, against a large and authenticated body of evidence which had
been sworn to by credible and impartial witnesses. At the same time, if
there was any doubt in their minds, let the prisoner have the benefit
of it; though, so far as he was concerned, he had not the least doubt
in his own mind that the man was guilty, and, if they did their duty,
they would say so.

Of course this was not exactly what he did say, and of course he said a
good deal more than this, but this is the gist of what his saying
amounted to. Certainly the judge's summing-up was every whit as damning
as Sir Haselton's speech had been. Mr. Justice Hunter had evidently
himself no doubt upon the matter, and, by inference, he took it for
granted that no one else could have any either.

The jury followed the judge's lead. They never left their places. They
whispered together for a few moments. Then one of them announced that
they were prepared with their verdict.

"Do you find the prisoner guilty or not guilty?"

"Guilty."

Some one told the prisoner to stand up. He stood up.

"Have you anything to say, prisoner, why sentence should not be
pronounced against you?"

The prisoner had something to say--just a word or two.

He was very white. He was clinging to the rail in front of him. His
throat seemed parched. It seemed all that he could do to speak.

I noticed that his wife was looking at him with upturned face, and that
her eyes were streaming with tears.

"I am innocent. I did not do it. I did not kill her. I never touched
her. There is something I do not understand."

That was all he had to say--and that was not enough.

As the judge very soon made him comprehend.

He took a black thing out of a tin box which was at his side and
perched it on the top of his wig, and he sentenced Tommy to be hanged;
and, in sentencing him, he gave it to him hot.

He told him that instead of exhibiting any signs of remorse for the
dreadful thing he had done he had just uttered an infamous lie to add
to the rest of his crimes. That lie had extinguished any spark of pity
which he might have felt. Tommy had been guilty of as wicked, as cruel,
and as cowardly a murder as had ever come within the range of the
judge's experience. He might not hope for mercy. There was no
circumstance of extenuation. He had behaved more like a devil than a
man. He was a disgrace to his class and to his station, and he had
brought shame upon our common manhood; and the sentence of the court
was that he should be taken to the place from whence he came, and there
be hanged by the neck till he was dead; and might God have mercy on his
soul!

And that was the end of it--or it might have been, if it had not been
for me.

I don't know how it was; I don't know whether the devil prompted me or
not. But the idea came to me, all at once, with a force which was
beyond my powers of resistance.

And I did it!

I dropped my cloak, I removed my veil, and I stood up where I knew that
Tommy would see me. And he did see me. He looked my way, and he saw me,
and he knew me too!

And I smiled at him.

And with sudden, instant recognition he stretched out his arms towards
me in a kind of frenzy; and he tried to speak, or shout, or do
something, but he couldn't. And before he could get a word out edgeways
the warder bustled him down the stairs below.



                        BOOK IV--THE CRIMINAL.

                    (_The Author tells the Tale_.)



                           CHAPTER XXXIII.

                         MR. TENNANT SPEAKS.


"I saw her! I saw her!"

"None of that now. You'd better come quietly."

Mr Tennant looked at the warder who spoke. With the assistance of his
colleague the man was hurrying him along in a fashion which, even at
that moment of amazement and of horror, in some subtle way reminded him
of his school days.

"I saw her!" he repeated.

"So you might have done; nobody says you didn't. Only don't let's have
any fuss."

The man spoke as one might speak, not ill-naturedly, but with the
superior wisdom of a senior to a fractious child. Mr. Tennant knew that
he was not understood; that it was no use to attempt to make himself
understood. His mind was in a chaos. What was he to do?

It had come to him in a flash of revelation that he had been made the
subject of some hideous mockery, the victim of some malevolent plot;
that he had been racked and re-racked for nothing at all; that he had
stood his trial for the murder of a woman, who, all the time, was
actually alive; that the law had committed some grotesque blunder; that
he had been condemned to be hung for another person's crime.

What was he to do?

He did nothing till he was back again in gaol. In the condemned cell
this time. Nobody had told him, but he knew what it was. He knew that
here a long line of murderers had awaited their fate, that here he
would be kept until he was hung.

A natural shudder shook him as he realised that they were about to
thrust him into this last abiding-place of the damned. He felt that if
he did not speak so as to make himself understood before they had him
fast in there he would never have a chance to speak at all: That if
that door clanged upon his silence, hope, for him, would have died with
its clangour.

He turned to the warder.

"I wish to see the governor."

"You can't see the governor now."

"I must. Listen to me." He tried to restrain his emotion, to hold
himself in hand. "Some extraordinary error has taken place. Just as I
was leaving the court I saw the woman whom I am charged with having
killed."

The warder stared, as if inclined to laugh.

"I am not mad, nor am I dreaming; nor did I see a ghost. I saw this
woman. She was as much alive as you or I. She was among a number of
other women on the bench near the judge. She stood up and she stared at
me. I saw her as plainly as I see you. There has been some astounding
mistake. Tell the governor that I must see him at once or it will be
too late. If you do not tell him my blood may be upon your head."

"All right."

The warder clanged the door, and went.

Mr. Tennant was left alone in that abode of the haunted.

Would the man tell him? Would the governor come? Would he listen if he
came? Would they stir a finger? Would they believe him? Would they pay
the slightest attention to anything that he said?

It would have been hard enough to hang believing her dead, although he
had not killed her, but now that he had seen her standing up and
looking at him, and smiling at his agony----!

This explained the two ghostly visitations. It was not a ghost, it was
herself he had seen. All this time he had been suffering the agonies of
the damned, and she had been laughing in her sleeve. How she must have
enjoyed the play! Oh, what a fool he had been!

What was that? Was that footsteps ringing on the stone pavement along
the vaulted corridor? He listened. It was somebody going, not coming.

Suppose the governor would not come?

There was a bell. Should he ring it and make a scene and in that way
emphasise the expression of his desire? If he could succeed in no other
way, he would try that. It was time that was precious. Every moment
that passed made his task the harder. If they had only given him an
opportunity to proclaim the woman's identity! If they only had! If he
could only get back into the court even now and stop her before again
she vanished into air!

Would the governor not come?

Then he would ring the bell and wake the echoes of the prison, and keep
on ringing until they either disconnected the bell or put him into
irons. He would not hang without a struggle now. He would ring at once.

Ah! There was some one coming.

Two persons. He could hear two separate tramp tramps, one falling a
little behind the other as they came along the flagstones.

The door was opened. It was the governor.

"You wish to see me?"

"I do, sir."

Again Mr. Tennant tried to master himself, to hold himself in hand. He
realised to the full, and very late in the day, how much might hinge
upon his being able to preserve his presence of mind.

"What do you wish to say?"

"I wish to say that the woman whom I am charged with having murdered
was actually in the court."

"Nonsense."

"It is not nonsense. It is the simple truth. I saw her as plainly as I
see you."

The governor eyed him with what, for him, was a look of
ferocity--unofficially, he was one of the softest-hearted creatures
breathing.

"Man, don't tell such tales to me."

"I am telling you the absolute, literal truth. I have felt all along
that there was something about the medical evidence which I did not
understand. The woman they described was not the woman who fell out of
the train. Now I understand how it was. That woman is not dead. I saw
her, just now, alive, in court."

"Why did you not interrupt the proceedings to say so?"

"I did not see her before sentence was pronounced. When I did see her I
was so astonished that, before I had recovered sufficiently from my
astonishment to be able to speak the warders removed me from the court.
I told the warders who it was that I had seen."

The governor observed the prisoner, as it was, reflectively. Certainly
Mr. Tennant had become on a sudden a different man. He had lost his
awkwardness. He was no longer ill at ease. He held himself erect. His
eyes were clear, his glance unwavering. His bearing was simple--the
simplicity of the man was what struck one first of all--yet assured. He
spoke with a calmness, and even with a dignity which, considering that
sentence of ignominious death had just been pronounced upon him, could
scarcely fail to be impressive.

"Tennant, so far as it concerns your fate, whatever you may have to say
will be without effect. For you in this world there is no hope. You had
better prepare yourself for the world which is to come. Do not buoy
yourself up with any hopes that anything you may say will prevent the
sentence which has been pronounced upon you being executed. That
sentence will certainly be carried out."

The condemned man would have spoken, but the governor went on.

"But the warder has just told me what you told him, and in discharge of
what I hold to be my duty I have requested the detective who has been
in charge of the case to come and hear what you may have to say. Here
he is."

And there he was--Matthew Holman, the man who looked so like a sailor.

"Well, Tennant, what cock-and-bull story have you to tell us now?"

"None. I have to tell you the truth."

"It is time."

Mr. Holman's tone was biting, his glance was keen.

Mr. Tennant re-told the story of his famous journey. The detective
seemed not so much to be listening to the words he uttered as searching
for what might be behind them.

"So you did know her? What was her name?"

"I knew her as Ellen Howth. But she may have had half a dozen names
before I knew her and since."

The detective made a note in his pocket-book.

"Where did she live?"

"I have no notion. As I have told you before that night I had not seen
or heard of her for years."

"Describe her."

Mr. Tennant described her.

"You understand that, until I heard the medical evidence, I supposed
that she had been killed by the fall from the carriage. When I heard
what the doctors had to say I began to wonder. It became clearer and
clearer to me that they could not be talking of Ellen Howth. The two
descriptions did not tally. I did not believe that she was pregnant. I
knew that she was over thirty, and it seemed inconceivable that a
medical man could mistake a woman of considerably over thirty for a
girl under twenty-one. When I saw Ellen Howth standing up there and
smiling at me, in an instant it was all made plain."

"What was all made plain?"

"Many things. For one, it explained what seemed to me to be the
discrepancies between the evidence and what I knew to be the facts--the
facts, that is, so far as they concerned myself."

"Where was the woman whom you say you saw standing--tell me exactly."

Mr. Tennant paused to think. The detective's eyes were on him, and the
governor's and the warder's at the back.

"She was on the bench. She was on the last row of seats. She sat either
second or third from the judge, to his right. When he had pronounced
sentence I noticed her rising and I noticed her remove her veil, and
she looked at me, I have no doubt with the deliberate design of
attracting my attention."

"I believe I noticed the woman to whom you refer."

This was the governor. The detective said nothing. He continued to look
at the prisoner for a moment or two in silence. Then from a pocket in
his coat he took an envelope.

"There is a portrait of Ellen Howth."

He handed a photograph to Mr. Tennant.

"This is not Ellen Howth."

"Then that is."

He passed the prisoner a second photograph.

"Nor is this. Neither of these photographs in the least resembles Ellen
Howth. Not in any one particular. I have never seen the woman whose
portrait this purports to be. Of that I am sure."

"It beats me, my lad, to think how a man circumstanced as you are, can
lie so glibly. You know as well as I do, and indeed better, that you
are holding in your hands portraits of the poor young woman whose life
you took."

"That is not so. Neither of these portraits at all resembles the woman,
Ellen Howth, with whom I travelled from Brighton. If they are
photographs of the woman who was found dead, then it is certain that I
had no hand whatever in killing her."

"You have seen those portraits before."

"Never!"

"Do you mean to tell me that no one, neither your counsel nor your
solicitor, nor any one else showed you them?"

"I do. You appear surprised."

"It is not a question of surprise. I don't believe you."

"You can soon ascertain for yourself that what I tell you is a fact.
You must remember that from the first I told my solicitor the actual
facts. I took it for granted that the woman who had been found dead was
Ellen Howth. Under those circumstances there was no reason why I should
be shown or why I should wish to be shown her photograph. I have not
seen that portrait before. The woman whose portrait it is is a complete
stranger to me. Were she here she would tell you that I am equally a
stranger to her. There is some mystery which, at present, I do not
profess to understand. But of one thing I am certain, that the woman,
Ellen Howth, whom I supposed was dead, is as much alive as you are or
as I am."

"Give me those portraits. It strikes me that you are one of those men
who will go even to face their God with a lie upon their lips. I don't
believe a word that you have said."

"Then you wrong me cruelly. I hope, for your sake, as well as for my
own, that you will learn that you do, before it is too late."

The detective made no reply. He went out of the cell without a word.
The governor followed him. The door was clanged. The condemned man was
left alone to get himself, if he could, into a mood in which he should
be able to look the gallows squarely and without flinching in the face.

The governor spoke to the detective as they walked side by side.

"What do you think of it?"

"Queer-street."

"I certainly noticed myself the woman of whom he speaks. I wonder you
didn't. Her action was most marked. She certainly did cast at him what
seemed to me to be a glance of exultant recognition, while the sight of
her seemed to fill him with stupefied amazement. I wondered when I saw
it what the scene might mean."

"What was she like?"

"He describes her very fairly."

"If she's still in Lewes I'll leave no stone unturned to find her."

"And if she isn't?"

"You know, sir, that if you give him a chance, a man in his position
can always pitch some sort of a tale to save his neck. And the worse
they are the more they lie like the truth."

"That's true enough."

The governor sighed.

"If ever a man was found guilty on the evidence this man was. If he's
not guilty, then I'll never again put my trust in evidence; and so far
I've generally found evidence that will stand sifting quite good enough
for me. Still, as I say, I'll leave no stone unturned to find the woman
of whom he speaks."

"And of whom I speak."

The governor spoke with a little smile.

"Yes, sir, and of whom you speak too."



                            CHAPTER XXXIV.

                         MR. HOLMAN AT HOME.


But they looked for her in vain. They did not find her. And the
following night Mr. Holman was in the bosom of his family.

Mr. Holman's home was in a street off Leicester Square. His family
consisted of his wife. Of her he was wont to make a confidant, as he
did on the present occasion.

Mr. Holman had come up by an afternoon train from Lewes. Mrs. Holman
had prepared a meat tea for him on his arrival. He had commenced his
attack upon the viands before she began to question him.

"So they're going to hang him?"

"It would seem as though they were."

Mrs. Holman detected something in her husband's tone.

"What do you mean? Aren't they going to hang him?"

"Did I say they weren't going to hang him? Didn't I say it seems as
though they were. Don't you understand Queen's English?"

Mrs. Holman was silent for a second or two.

"Surely they're not getting up a petition to let him off?"

"I've heard nothing at all about it, if they are. But perhaps you've
heard more than me. You do sometimes, don't you?"

"You don't mean to say that you don't believe he did it. I thought you
were sure that he was guilty."

"I've been sure of a good many things in my time, and been sorry for it
afterwards. I'm not the only leather-headed fool there is about, as
perhaps you know."

Mrs. Holman was skilled in the inflections of her husband's voice. She
perceived that it would be wiser, temporarily, to keep her curiosity in
her pocket, and to allow him to finish his meal in peace, which she did
and obtained her reward.

When the lady's lord and master had eaten and drunk to his heart's
content he wiped his lips and he looked at his wife.

"What do you think he says?"

"I haven't the least idea."

"He says that the woman who was found is not the woman who was with him
in the train."

"A man like him would say anything."

"How clever you women are. You know everything. As it happens, it seems
to me that he's just the sort of man who would not say anything, and I
ought to be a pretty good judge of that kind of thing if any one is."
Mr. Holman was regarding the two portraits which he had submitted to
Mr. Tennant for inspection. "I don't half like it. I can swear that
this is a good likeness of the woman that was found. He says that it's
not the least like the woman who was with him in the train.

"Fiddlededee!"

"Of course it's fiddlededee. And if he was hung, and it came out
afterwards that what he said was true, it would look like fiddlededee,
wouldn't it? I should feel as if I'd murdered him."

"Matthew!"

"Somehow the tale which he tells sounds true, and the queer part of it
is that he says that the woman whom he travelled with in the train from
Brighton was actually present in the court during the trial."

"It isn't possible."

"Oh, dear no! Of course not. If you say so, it couldn't be. It seems
funny though that the governor should be of a different opinion."

"What governor?"

"What governor! The governor of Lewes gaol--stupid! Considering how
clever you set yourself up to be, it's queer what a lot of explanation
you seem to want. The governor noticed this woman of whom Tennant
speaks, and something about her goings-on struck him as being queer.
I've been looking for her in Lewes all this blessed day. She's not
there. But I'll find her if she's anywhere. I'm not going to have a man
hung for a woman that's alive if I can help it. I'm going to make my
report in the morning, and if I'm not told off to hunt her up I'll be
surprised."

A ring was heard.

"Go and see what idiot that is ringing the bell. If it's any one to see
me let me know who it is before you show him in."

Mrs. Holman went to see what idiot it was. She returned and reported.

"It's that American who has lost his daughter, Mr. Haines his name is."

"Confound Mr. Haines! What's he come humbugging about? Show him in.
I'll make short work of Mr. Haines."

Mr. Haines was shown in, tall and thin, Yankee writ large all over him.
Uninvited, he seated himself. He crossed his legs. He balanced his hat
upon his knees. He looked at Mr. Holman without speaking a word. Mr.
Holman, without any show of deference, looked back at him, nor was his
manner when he spoke marked by a superfluity of courtesy.

For some moments the silence remained unbroken--a fact which seemed to
arouse the detective's irascibility.

"Is that all you have to say? If so, perhaps you will excuse me. My
time happens to be of value."

Mr. Haines opened his lips.

"That creature has buncoed me again."

"What creature?"

"Private detective Stewart Trevannion."

"When a man calls himself a private detective, nine times out of ten
yon may safely write him down a scoundrel. The tenth time, perhaps, he
is something worse."

"A scoundrel. That's what he is. And next time we chance to meet I'll
write the thing on him in good bold letters in my very plainest hand.
He raised another fifty out of me. He undertook to place me in
communication with my girl if I let him have it. He has placed me in
communication neither with my girl nor with himself since he raised
that fifty."

Mr. Holman leaned against the side of the table on which he had just
been having tea. He regarded his visitor with something like a twinkle
in his eye.

"Governor, do you mind my speaking a little plainly?"

"I do not."

"Take my tip, book a berth in the next boat, and go back where you came
from. You'll be more at home like over there."

"Not till I have looked upon her grave if she is dead, or on her face
if she is living."

"Ah, then, I shouldn't be surprised if you were to stay this side some
time. You'll settle here."

"Aren't the resources of civilisation sufficient to enable me to find
my girl?"

"The resources of civilisation aren't interested. You drove her away,
it's for you to fetch her back again. What it strikes me is that she
don't want to come, and she don't mean to, either."

"She is dead."

"How are you going to prove it?"

"I want you to help me."

"How am I going to help you any more than I have done? I'm a public
servant. I receive instructions from my superiors, and I have to obey
them. How am I going to devote myself to you? I don't know what good I
should do if I could. Thousands of girls are missing; they leave home
because they're sick of it, and they set up on their own hook. How do
you think you're going to find 'em if they don't mean to be found? It
may be easy in the stories, but it isn't out of them."

Rising from his chair, Mr. Haines paced slowly across the room. Mr.
Holman watched him. He noticed his air of extreme depression.

"You do as I say, take my tip, and go back by the next ship. You'll be
able to look for her as well there as over here--yes, and better. You
say she knows what address will find you. You'll hear from her safe
enough when she's had about enough of it.

"Not me."

"How can you tell that."

"Because she's dead."

Mr. Holman moved from the table with a gesture of impatience. Not
impossibly he would have terminated the interview then and there. He
looked as if language of even unusual strength was trembling on his
lips. He was prevented, however, from giving it utterance by the
unannounced entrance of a second visitor.

The visitor was in the shape of a girl--a young girl. She was pretty,
with a prettiness which more than suggested the theatre. She had an
amazing array of short, fair hair. It shrined her face like a sort of
coronal. The big hat was perched on the top of her hair. There was a
hint of kohl about her pretty eyes. And though her plump cheeks were
clean enough and tempting enough just then, one could have sworn that
they had long been familiar with rouge.

She came into the room with a complete absence of ceremony, as if she
was perfectly at home.

"Well, uncle, so you're back again."

Mr. Holman looked her up and down without saying a word. Planting
herself right in front of him she clasped her hands behind her
back--impudently demure. "You can look at me."

"So you have dyed your hair."

"I have."

"And cut it off."

"And cut it off."

"And fluffed it?"

"Fluffed it? Crimped it, I suppose you mean. My dear uncle, if anybody
offered to double your salary on condition that you dyed your hair,
you'd dye it all the colours of the rainbow." Mr. Holman turned away.
"Aren't you going to kiss me? You'd not only dye, you'd give your hair
to kiss me if you weren't my uncle. How nice it is to have relations!"

Mrs. Holman appeared at the door.

"Never mind him, Hetty. He's come back in a bad temper."

"Of course he's come back in a bad temper. Did you ever know him when
he hadn't come back in a bad temper? He's the worst-tempered man I ever
knew, and that's saying something."

Mr. Holman seated himself in an arm-chair by the fire. The young lady
sat on one of the arms. She smoothed her uncle's hair.

"Dear uncle, how well you're looking."

Mr. Holman shook his head, as if to remove it from the reach of her
embrace.

"Don't touch me."

"And what a nice, kind look you've got in your eyes."

"Hetty, I'm ashamed of you."

"Oh, no, you're not. You're not half such a goose as you pretend to
be."

"I tell you that I am."

"You're what? A goose. Dear uncle, I would never let any one call you a
goose except yourself. Won't you kiss me?"

The fair young face stooped down. The man's weather-beaten face looked
up. The lips met.

The kiss was interrupted by a series of exclamations which came from
the back of the room. So unexpected and so startling a series of
exclamations that Mr. Holman rose from his chair with such suddenness
as almost to overturn his niece.

"What's up now?" he asked.

A good deal seemed to be up, at any rate with Mr. Haines. That
gentleman was standing on the other side of the table staring at
something which he was holding in his hand, giving vent to a variety of
observations which were scarcely parliamentary.

"It's Loo! Blamed if it ain't! It's my girl! It's Loo!"

Throwing down what he was holding, he rushed at the detective like some
wild animal.

"Damn you!" he yelled. "It's Loo!"



                            CHAPTER XXXV.

                      THE WOMAN OF THE PORTRAIT.


The detective easily avoided the man's blind rush, the result of which
was that Mr. Haines all but cannoned into Mr. Holman's niece.

Miss Hetty Johnson, however--the young lady's name was Johnson--seemed
in no way disconcerted.

"That's right. Knock me down and trample on me. I don't mind. I've done
nothing to nobody. But it's all the same as if I had."

Brought back by the young lady's words to a sense of reality, Mr.
Haines spluttered out an apology.

"I beg your pardon. It was an accident." Then he raved at Mr. Holman.
"You--you devil! You've been having me, tricking me, doing me. You
cursed slippery British hound, I feel like killing you!"

He looked as he said he felt. His tall figure was drawn upright, his
long arms were stretched out in front of him, his fists were clenched
as in a paroxysm of rage.

Mr. Holman stared at him with stolid imperturbability.

"Perhaps, when you've quite finished, you'll tell us what's wrong."

"You know. Don't you try to play it any more off on to me, or the
presence of a woman shan't save you."

"What's the matter with the man?" asked Mrs. Holman.

"Don't you hear me asking him?" chimed in her lord. "But it doesn't
seem as if he cared to tell us."

As if one was not sufficient, Mr. Haines began shaking both his fists
at the detective.

"You said you knew nothing about her; you told me you could not help
me; you advised me to go back by the next ship. I could not make it
out. Now I do catch on. You had her portrait all the time."

"Whose portrait?"

"Loo's!"

"Who's Loo?"

"My girl!"

The words came from Mr. Haines with a roar.

The detective looked at him as if he was beginning to suspect that,
after all, there might be some method in his madness.

"See here, Mr. Haines, I don't know if you are or are not mad, but just
try to behave as if you weren't. I've no notion what you're talking
about. I tell you I know no more about your girl than I know about the
man in the moon."

"You tell me that, and expect me to believe it, when you have her
portrait?"

"I have her portrait! Where?"

"Here!" Striding forward, he snatched up one of the two portraits which
were lying on the table. As he did so, he perceived the second. "Why,
here's another! There are two! You have two portraits of my girl, and
you tell me that you know nothing of her."

Although the detective's face remained impassive, a speck of light
seemed all at once to come into his eyes. The pupils dilated. There was
something in them which suggested that the whole man had become, upon a
sudden, alert and eager.

"I would ask you, Mr. Haines, to consider carefully what you are
saying. More may depend upon your words than you imagine. Do I
understand you to say that you know the original of that photograph?"

"Know the original! Of course I do. It's my girl, my Loo!"

"Are you prepared to swear it?"

"I am, before God and man."

"May I ask if there is anything in particular in which the likeness
consists?"

"Don't you think a father knows his daughter when he sees her in a
picture? Don't talk back to me. I tell you it's my girl, my Loo! Where
is she?"

"I will tell you everything in a moment, Mr. Haines. Look at those
photographs closely. Don't you notice anything about them which is
peculiar?"

Mr. Haines did as he was told. He peered closely at the portraits.

"She is looking pretty sick."

"Well she might do. Those photographs were taken after death?"

"After death?"

"Have you heard of the Three Bridges Tragedy?"

"The Three Bridges Tragedy? Yes."

"That is the portrait of the victim."

"The victim? So! She is dead. She was done to death. I knew it."

"The man who has been found guilty of the crime is now lying in gaol
under sentence of death."

"They shan't hang him?"

"It looks uncommonly as if they would."

"I say they shan't. Not if I have to tear down the prison walls with my
hands and nails to get at him. Do you think I've come all these
thousands of miles to let them strangers pay the man that killed my
girl? You bet I've not!"

Mr. Haines glanced at the detective as if he defied his contradiction.

The detective looked at him, in return, as if he doubted what to make
of him.

While the two men were thus, as it were, taking each other's measure,
Miss Hetty Johnson advanced to the table on which Mr. Haines had,
perhaps unconsciously, replaced the photographs. She picked them up.

"Is this the poor girl who was murdered?" She glanced at them. As she
did so she uttered a startled exclamation, "Why, it--it's Milly!" She
turned to Mr. Holman all in a tremor of excitement. "Uncle, this is
Milly!"

Her uncle turned to her with what almost amounted to a savage start.

"Who do you say it is? You don't mean to say that you know the
original? Hanged if I don't believe everybody does except me. And here,
all this time, we've been hunting the whole world to find out."

Miss Johnson was not at all affected by her uncle's display of temper.
She repeated her previous assertion, and that with more emphasis than
before.

"This is Milly Carroll who was with me at the theatre. I am sure of it.
Aunt, you've heard me talk of Milly Carroll?"

"Often," said her aunt. "Now, Hetty, don't you let your fancy run away
with you. It may be like her, and yet it mayn't be her. Remember the
mischief you might do. You think before you speak."

"My dear aunt, there is not the slightest necessity for you to talk to
me like that. I am sure that this is Milly Carroll. Heaps of girls at
the theatre will tell you so if you ask them. It doesn't do her
justice, and she looks as if she were dead, but it's her." She dropped
her hand to her side, as if a startling reflection had all at once
occurred to her. "I wonder if that explains it?"

"Explains what?"

"Her silence. I wondered why she had never replied to my last letter.
All the time, perhaps, she was dead. And I was telling every one how
unkind she was. To think of it!"

"Do you know where she lived?"

"When I last heard from her she was living at Brighton."

"Brighton? Then he did do it. What an artistic liar that man must be!"

"She left the stage for good. She was going to be married."

"Going to be married, was she? Then it's her. What was her future
husband's name?"

"I never heard his name. We always took him for some big swell, she
kept his name so close. She used to call him Reggie."

"Reggie? Oh! Not Tommy?"

"No, Reggie. I knew him very well by sight."

"What do you mean--you knew him very well by sight?"

"Well, I spoke to him two or three times, and, of course, he spoke to
me. And I used often to see her with him. And then he was always at the
theatre. He used to give her everything she wanted, and made no end of
a fuss of her. The girls all envied her good luck."

"It looks as if they had cause to. What sort of party was this swell of
hers to look at?"

"He was tall, and dark, and very handsome, and he had most beautiful
hands, and one of the nicest-speaking voices I ever heard--and such a
smile! And he dressed awfully well--he was an awful swell. Milly told
me he was awfully rich, but I could see that without her telling me."

Mr. Holman had listened to the girl's description with some appearance
of surprise.

"Of course you could. You girls can see anything. That's how it is so
many of you come to grief--you think you see so much. You're sure you
haven't made a mistake about this swell of hers? You're sure he wasn't
short, and plump, and rosy?"

"He wasn't a scrap like that. He was exactly as I've told you. Short,
and plump, and rosy? Indeed! I should think he wasn't."

"Would you recognise him if you saw him again?"

"Rather! I should think I should. I should know him anywhere. If you
saw him once, you would never be likely to forget him, he was too
good-looking."

"Was he indeed? You seem to have been more than half in love with him
yourself. You girls always do fall in love with the right sort of men.
Have you any of this young woman's writing?"

"I've some of her letters which she sent me."

Mr. Haines, advancing, laid his hand gently on Miss Johnson's arm.

"Will you let me see her letters--my girl's, my Loo's?"

"Of course I will. You can come round and look at them now if you like.
There's time before I'm due at the theatre." The young girl looked up
at the old man with a curious interest. "She was an American. She used
to talk to me about a place called Colorado."

"She was raised in Colorado. And that is where she left me. So you were
her friend--my girl's friend?"

"Well, we were pals."

"Pals? Yes. You were pals."

Mr. Haines looked at Miss Johnson inquiringly, searchingly, as if he
was endeavouring to ascertain, by force of visual inspection, what sort
of girl she was.

Mr. Holman interposed.

"When you two have done palavering, perhaps Miss Hetty Johnson will be
good enough to tell me what was this young woman's address at
Brighton--that is, if she happens to remember it."

"I remember it perfectly."

Miss Hetty proved that she did by unhesitatingly furnishing her uncle
with the information required. Her uncle entered the address she gave
him in his pocket-book. He looked at his watch.

"It's twenty minutes past seven. There's a train from Victoria to
Brighton at 7.50. If I got a decent cab I ought to have time to catch
it, and to spare. If I do catch it, I ought to be able to get all the
information I want in time to catch the last train back to town. If I
don't, I'll wire." This was to his wife. He turned to his niece. "You
keep a still tongue in your head, if you can, and don't go chattering
at the theatre. And don't let anything that was that young woman's pass
out of your hands to any one--do you hear?"

"I hear. But, uncle, I don't, and I can't, believe that Milly's
sweetheart had anything to do with killing her."

"No one asks you for what you believe. I've been asking you for what
you know. And that's all I'm likely to ask you for. You mark what I
say, and don't you give a scrap of her writing to any one. I'm off."

He was off, catching up the portraits from the table as he went.

As soon as her uncle had gone Miss Johnson turned to Mr. Haines.

"If you want to see those letters, you'll have to come now. I have to
be at the theatre soon after eight."

The young girl and the old man went away together. Miss Johnson led the
way through Coventry Street. Suddenly stopping, she caught Mr. Haines
by the arm.

"Oh! There he is!"

"Who?"

"Milly's sweetheart."

"Where?"

Miss Johnson pointed to a tall man who was standing on the pavement
talking to the driver of a hansom cab. Mr. Haines started. His
companion felt that he was trembling. He spoke as if he were short of
breath.

"Are you sure?"

"Quite sure--certain."

Mr. Haines went forward without a word. Miss Johnson stood still and
watched, fearing she knew not what.

But she need have feared nothing, for nothing happened.

By the time that Mr. Haines had reached the cab the man in question had
seated himself inside. Mr. Haines had a good look at him before the cab
moved off.

"It's he! Her aristocrat! I knew that he smelt of blood first time I
saw him, but if I'd known that the blood was hers----"

He raised his hands above his head, as if by way of a wind-up to his
unfinished sentence.

The passers-by stared at the old man talking to himself and
gesticulating on the pavement, wondering, perhaps, if he was drunk or
if he was merely mad.



                            CHAPTER XXXVI.

             THE VARIOUS MOODS OF A GENTLEMAN OF FASHION.


Mr. Townsend was shaving himself. Advancing his face an inch or two
nearer his shaving-glass, with his fingers he smoothed his chin.

"Very awkward," he said. "Very!"

The allusion could scarcely have been to the process in which he was
engaged. Everything had gone with smoothness. Not even a scratch had
marred the perfect peace.

Mr. Townsend concluded that his chin was as clean shaven as it possibly
could be. He put his razor down. He took up a cigarette. He lighted it.

"Exceedingly awkward!"

As he murmured the iteration, seating himself in an armchair, he
selected an open letter from among a heap of others which lay on a
little table at his side. The letter he had selected was unmistakably a
feminine production. It was written in a large, bold, running hand, on
paper which was as stiff as cardboard.


"MY DEAREST REGGIE,--You must come and see me! At once! I shall expect
you this morning!

"_Whatever you have done, it it quite impossible that I shall let you
go--you are mine!_

"You understand that I am waiting for you, and that you are to come to
me as soon as you possibly can.

"You are to tell the bearer when I shall see you!

                                         "YOUR DORA."


That was what the letter said. The italics and the notes of exclamation
were the lady's own. As he puffed his cigarette Mr. Townsend read the
letter carefully through and smiled. Removing his cigarette, he pressed
the letter to his lips. Then, carefully folding the letter between his
fingers, he laid it down.

"As I said I would go, I shall have to go--it's uncommonly awkward. Had
she been wise, she would have taken what I wrote as the final word, and
left it so."

Rising, he continued his toilet, humming to himself, now and then,
snatches of a popular comic song. Going to the fireplace, he began
pushing about, with the toe of his shoes, the pieces of burning coal.

"It's odd how I love her--very! After my experience. And this time, as
the man says in the play, it is love. Well, she has called the stakes.
It is for me to win. If I don't, I can but lose."

He returned to the table on which the letters were. He picked up
another, also unmistakably the production of a feminine hand. It
contained but a line or two. It was without prefix or signature. And
this time the writing was small and fine and clear:--

"I have heard nothing from you. The eight-and-forty hours will be up
this afternoon at five. After that time I shall feel it my duty to do
my utmost at once to save the life of an innocent man. I shall be at
home to you till five."

Mr. Townsend read this epistle also with a smile, but he did not press
it to his lips when read. Instead, he commented on it with a curious
sort of humour.

"You pretty dear! You are the dangerous sort that always smiles. I have
heard and read a good deal about women being cleverer than men, but
till I met you I never met my match."

Tearing the letter into pieces, he dropped the fragments among the
burning coals. As he adjusted his necktie before a looking-glass he
indulged himself with further snatches of that comic song. Having
completed his toilet, he went into the adjoining room. In response to
his ring breakfast was brought in. And, with every appearance of the
satisfaction of the man whose conscience is perfectly at ease, Mr.
Townsend sat down to the discussion of his morning meal.

As he was finishing, a manservant opened the door.

"Lord Archibald Beaupré, sir, wishes to see you."

"Show him in here."

Presently there entered a tall, thin, and rather weedy-looking young
man. His scanty hair was of that colourless fairness which is almost
peculiar to a certain type of Scotchman. He would not have been
bad-looking, in spite of his being slightly freckled, if it had not
been for three things: first, he had obviously at least his share of
the pride for which his countrymen are proverbial; second, he was
obviously more than sufficiently weak; and third, he was equally
obviously bad tempered.

On this occasion he did not seem to be by any means in the most
agreeable frame of mind. Taking no sort of notice of Mr. Townsend's
nodded greeting, he marched straight to an easy-chair, and, sitting
down on it, he rested his hands on the handle of his stick, and his
chin on his hands. He looked straight in front of him with about as
sour a visage as he could well have worn. Mr. Townsend continued his
breakfast as if there was nothing at all peculiar in his visitor's
demeanour, and as he ate he smiled.

After a while he leaned back on his chair.

"Well, Archie, any news?"

"News be damned!"

Mr. Townsend still smiled.

"By all means if you wish it. It is the same to me."

"You know very well what I have come for."

"I take it that you have come to bestow on me for a short period the
charm of your society." The visitor scowled. His host but smiled the
more. "Have anything to eat?"

"I'll have something to drink."

"You'll find all the ingredients on the sideboard. Help yourself, dear
boy."

The visitor helped himself. As he stood at the sideboard pouring the
liquor out into a glass his host sat watching him with amusement which
was wholly unconcealed. The contrast between the two men was striking.
It would have forced itself on to the attention of the most casual
spectator. The one weak, irritable almost to the point of peevishness;
the other strong, unruffled, self-contained. The one with, in his whole
bearing, that suggestion of self-assertion which is often but the child
of shyness, but which none the less repels; the other with that easy,
graceful, seemingly unconscious, personal magnetism which, in spite of
oneself, attracts. One could understand how the one might be forgiven
till seventy times seven, while the other would be condemned, without
benefit of clergy, for his first offence.

Lord Archibald Beaupré returned to the easy-chair, armed with a
tumbler of whisky and soda. He took a considerable drink. And then he
spoke--morosely.

"It's the meeting of that cursed club to-night."

Mr. Townsend had watched his every movement, particularly seeming to
note the quantity he had drunk--and still he smiled.

"So it is."

The other burst into a torrent of words.

"I wish I had never heard of it! I wish I had never had anything to do
with it! I wish I had never had anything to do with any one of you! I
wish----"

His emotions proved too much for him; he prematurely stopped.

"Wish it out." Mr. Townsend was lighting a cigarette. "And when you've
wished it out, what then?"

"Damn you. You do nothing else but jibe and jeer at me."

"My dear Archie, your manners are not good."

"Curse my manners!"

"By all means, if you wish it. Only I am inclined to think there won't
be very much to curse."

Lord Archibald ground out an oath between his teeth, and he groaned.
Mr. Townsend went on; he was enjoying his cigarette.

"By the way, have you done anything for the Honour of the Club?"

His visitor half rose from his seat, then sank back into it again.

"No! You know I haven't! Don't talk of it! No!"

"I have no desire to talk of it. It is scarcely a question of talk. It
is rather a question of do."

His hearer covered his face with his hands and shuddered. There was
something in his host's eyes, as he smilingly regarded him, which
suggested possibilities--and also limitations--of a distinctly curious
sort. He kept his glance fixed on his companion, and, as he spoke
again, he expelled through his nostrils the smoke of his cigarette.

"On the whole, perhaps, your policy of postponement may turn out
fortunately for both of us. You will remember that under certain
circumstances I reserved the right to nominate a candidate--a
candidate, that is, for your attention. The circumstances which I
thought might arise have arisen."

"Townsend!"

"Archie!"

Lord Archibald removed his hands from his face. The two men looked at
each other--the one face ghastly, haggard, frightened; the other easy,
careless, smiling.

"Do you mean it?"

Lord Archibald's voice was husky. Mr. Townsend flicked the ash from his
cigarette.

"I am in the habit, in matters of moment, of meaning what I say,
although that may not be the case with you."

The airily-suggested insinuation stung. The other burst into a sudden
blaze of passion.

"What do you mean by that?"

The host met his visitor's furious gaze with a smile which seemed to
convey a fulness of meaning which was sufficient to subdue the other's
wrath.

"What did you mean by asking me if I meant what I said? Didn't you
know?"

Lord Archibald turned his face away. Taking up the tumbler of soda and
whisky he drained it of its contents. Getting up from his chair, he
went to the sideboard to replenish. While he was in the act of doing
so, and his back towards his host, he asked a question.

"Who is it?"

"A woman."

Lord Archibald spun round like a teetotum, a decanter in one hand, a
tumbler in the other.

"A woman? Reggie? You--you don't mean Miss Jardine?"

Mr. Townsend's lips curled. In some subtle way his countenance was
transfigured. The ease and the carelessness vanished. He became all
bitterness and gall.

"Beaupré, I am inclined to think that you are the most consummate ass
of my acquaintance. Why will you perpetually harp upon a single string?
You are so utterly inept that the wonder is I have borne with you so
long. Might I ask you not eternally to play the fool?"

Lord Archibald put down the decanter and the glass. The muscles of his
face quivered as if he was about to be afflicted by an attack of St.
Vitus' Dance.

"If anybody but you had spoken to me like that, at the very least he
should never speak to me again."

The only effect which his visitor's fury had on Mr. Townsend was to
make him still more scornful.

"Don't gas to me, my good fellow. Reserve that sort of thing for some
other of your acquaintance. I regret that you should have rendered it
necessary for me to remind you that you are under a considerable
obligation to me, and I regret still more that you should have
compelled me to ask if it is your intention to fulfil that obligation.
I believe that even Scotchmen do occasionally fulfil their
obligations."

His listener's face was a sickly yellow. Rage had made him calm.

"Mr. Townsend, be so good as to tell me who this woman is."

Thus requested, Mr. Townsend, scribbling something on a scrap of paper,
tossed the scrap of paper across the table to his guest.

"There is her name and her address. I took you with me once to call on
her. Probably you remember the occasion and the lady. Your business
with her must be transacted before five o'clock this afternoon. If you
are a quarter of an hour after that time you may as well postpone the
fulfilment of your obligation to a future day. For my purpose you will
be too late."

The other scanned what was written on the scrap of paper. He folded the
paper up; he placed it in his waistcoat-pocket.

"You shall have the literal letter of your bond. Afterwards, Mr.
Townsend, I will deal with you."

Without another word Lord Archibald Beaupré left the room.

Left to himself, Mr. Townsend threw the end of his cigarette into the
fire. Thrusting his hands into his trouser-pockets, stretching out his
legs in front of him, he stared at the flame and he smiled--not
pleasantly.

"What a fool the fellow is! I have had about as much of him as I can
stand. Indeed, I have had more. I hope they'll hang him. It will be a
happy despatch. Or perhaps, after he has done the deed, he will turn,
as a relief, to suicide. It's just the sort of thing he would do."

Something tickled him. He laughed.

"What a game of touch and go I'm playing."

He stood up.

"To think that he should have supposed that I meant Dora. My Dora!"

A panel photograph was on the mantelboard. It was the portrait of a
young girl. Mr. Townsend apostrophised it as if it had been a living
thing.

"My darling! If you had only come into my life before, how different it
might all have been! If fortune had but let you come my way, evil
should not have been my good. There is the making of a man in me,
somewhere, that I swear. If I could but get out of it all and shake
myself free and begin again, I'd quickly prove it."

Taking the photograph into his hand, he kissed it. It was strange how
tender his voice had suddenly become.

"My love! What thing is this which I have been consorting with all this
time, and supposing it was love? That's not love. Bah! I have learnt my
lesson rather late in the day, but I have learnt it, sweet. You have
taught me what is love."

He put the portrait back. He sat down again. But he still looked at the
face which was on the mantelboard.

"The place in which I am is such a tight one. You had been wiser, dear,
had you believed me when I wrote that I was not fit for you, and so
straightway have let me go. Again I'll endeavour to persuade you. But
if you'll not be persuaded I will win you, and I will hold you, and I
will keep you if I can, though to do so I have to plunge deeper in the
mire. It may be, indeed, that that way atonement lies. Who knows?"



                           CHAPTER XXXVII.

                           "CALL ME DORA."


Mr. Townsend's rooms were at Albert Gate. Miss Jardine's home was in
Sloane Gardens. From Albert Gate to Sloane Gardens is not very far. It
was a clear, brisk morning. Mr. Townsend decided to walk.

Just as he had crossed the road some one touched his arm from behind,
and a voice said--

"Excuse me--might I speak to you for a moment?"

Mr. Townsend turned. He supposed it was a beggar. The speaker looked
like one. The man--it was a man--had on a top hat which was battered
and bruised out of all semblance of its original shape. His overcoat,
which was trimmed with imitation astrachan, was torn in half a dozen
places and covered with mud, as if it had been rolled in the gutter
with its owner inside it, but it was buttoned right up to his chin in a
manner which suggested a not unnatural anxiety to conceal material
deficiencies in the rest of his attire. His countenance bore evidence
of having been recently subjected to serious ill-usage. One eye was
ornamented by a purple patch, the skin of his right cheek was bruised
and broken as by a blow from a fist, and his mouth was so badly cut as
to say, the least, to render it highly inconvenient for him to be
compelled to open his lips.

The sorry spectacle was Stewart Trevannion, _alias_ Alexander Taunton,
_alias_ Mr. Arthur Stewart, _alias_ a dozen other names--the immaculate
Mr. Townsend's brother. A striking contrast the two brothers presented
as they stood there.

Alexander was rubbing his hands over each other. He seemed to
experience a difficulty in holding himself straight up. He shivered as
if in pain.

"Reginald," he muttered.

Possibly Alexander was in a sensitive frame of mind. He seemed to
shrink from the look of mingled amusement and scorn with which his
brother regarded him.

"You!" Mr. Townsend's voice rang with laughter. "Well, my man, what do
you want with me--charity?"

Alexander put up his hand, as if to hide his injured mouth.

"It isn't only that."

"No? What else is it then?"

"It's a word I want to say to you--a word of warning."

"Of warning? Against what?"

"Do you know a man named Haines--an American?"

"Haines?" Mr. Townsend reflected. "Well, what of Mr. Haines?"

"You've been doing something to his daughter--you best know what. He's
found it out, and he's looking for you. If he gets a chance he'll kill
you. He's almost done for me."

Mr. Townsend made a significant gesture in the direction of his
brother.

"Is this his handiwork?"

"It's no laughing matter. I tell you he means murder. If you take my
advice you'll clear. He left me as good as dead last night. He wouldn't
have cared if he had left me quite. I don't believe I've a whole bone
in my body. It's as much as I can do to stand." Alexander put his hand
to his back and groaned. His tone became a whine. "You couldn't oblige
me with the loan of a shilling or two?"

"With pleasure. I'll oblige you with the loan of a whole sovereign. If
you take my advice you'll spend part of it on plaster. I'll think of
what you've said. Good-day."

As he walked away Mr. Townsend swung his cane. He seemed amused.
Alexander, clutching the sovereign tightly in his hand, stared after
him. He did not seem to be at all amused.

"You may laugh now, but you won't laugh then. You've been up to some
devil's trick, and this time you've caught the devil. If he does find
you, one of you'll be missing."

As he pursued his way down Sloane Street, Mr. Townsend did not appear
himself to regard his situation in such a serious light. The idea that
there could be anything serious about it appeared to afford him nothing
but amusement.

"Haines? Haines? I fancy that that's the name of Mrs. Carruth's Yankee
friend. The dissenting parson sort of looking individual. I take it
that Alexander, as usual, has the wrong end of the stick--from the look
of him he appears to have felt both ends of it, and the middle too. If
Mr. Haines has done me the honour to object to my behaviour, I imagine
that it is because he supposes that I have poached on his preserve. I
assure him he need be under no apprehension. If he only knew!"

Mr. Townsend laughed--then checked himself. He struck the ferrule of
his stick against the pavement.

"Now, what am I to say to Dora? Its awkward--very!"

It was awkward. Especially as he had not made up his mind what to say
to Dora, even when he found himself at Sir Haselton Jardine's.

He was shown at once into Miss Jardine's own sitting-room, and there he
found the lady.

Miss Jardine was short and slight. Although she was not handsome, she
certainly was not bad-looking. Her appearance, her bearing, her
movements suggested buoyancy, activity, health. Her eyes were her most
characteristic possession. They affected different people in different
ways. They were blue eyes. Their chief peculiarity was that they were
light--some people said unnaturally light. But, as also they were
beautiful eyes, that saying may be set down to malice. Somehow one felt
as one looked at Miss Jardine that she would never cry.

She held out her hand to Mr. Townsend.

"Reggie!"

Mr. Townsend made no attempt to touch the outstretched hand. He merely
bowed.

"Miss Jardine!"

Miss Jardine was not at all disconcerted. She laughed.

"So it's that way!" She assumed an air of mock dignity, which became
her very well. "Mr. Townsend, may I offer you a chair?"

"With your permission I will stand."

Mr. Townsend spoke with an air of decorous propriety which approached
the severe. The lady did not fall into his mood at all. She looked up
at him with her sunny eyes.

"Stand! Why stand?"

Mr. Townsend returned the young lady's smiling glance, without evincing
any inclination to smile in return.

"You have sent for me. I have come."

Going to the fireplace, Miss Jardine stood with one foot upon the kerb.
Her hands were behind her back. Her face was inclined a little upwards.
She reminded one somehow of a bird--a resemblance which owed something,
perhaps, to the brightness of her eyes.

"I have one or two questions which I wish to ask you. You must answer
them. First, Do you love me?"

"You must forgive my suggesting that that is scarcely the first
question which you should ask me. The man in the street may love you.
It does not follow that he is worthy."

"But if I love him?"

Mr. Townsend made a slight movement with his hands. He was standing in
what, to the average Englishman, is a rather trying position--in the
centre of the room, away from any article of furniture, with his arms
hanging loosely at his sides; and yet he looked well.

"He may love you. You may love him. And yet any connection with him may
bring you, at the best, unhappiness."

"You have not answered my question. Do you love me?"

"You know that I do."

"As you say, I know that you do. You know also that I love you. My
second question, Are you married?"

"I am not."

"Then why should you not marry me? Stay! Let me explain my position."

His eyes became, if anything, brighter. Something came over her which
made one forget how physically small she was. One realised that the
girl, like the man she was addressing, had a magnetic personality of
her own.

"I am, in a measure, Reggie--I am going to call you Reggie--what it is
the fashion to call a pessimist. It is my father's dower. I am afraid
that, in a sense, from the men of my acquaintance, I always expect the
worst. I believe most of them do, in their youth, many things which
they ought not to do--and for which, in their age, they are sorry. I
take this for granted. And I believe that, in spite of this being so,
some of them make good husbands and good fathers. I think it possible
that your temptations have been greater than is the case with the
average man, and that, therefore, your misdoings have been more. But I
am convinced that, as regards real strength, you are stronger than the
average man, and that you can, if you like, put these things behind you
for ever--and, on the stepping-stones of your dead self, rise to higher
things. And I believe that you will like, because you love me--and
because, also, I love you."

"Unfortunately, Miss Jardine----"

She made an imperious gesture with her hand.

"Call me Dora. With you, now, it shall not be Miss Jardine."

"Unfortunately"--there was an almost imperceptible pause, and then
there came very softly the Christian name--"Dora, there are things
which, when they are once done, we cannot put away. They meet us at
Philippi."

"If in your life there are such ghosts, why did you ask me to marry
you?"

"I ought not to have done. When I did I hoped that I should be able to
lay the ghosts, and that for me there would be no Philippi."

"But is there no hope now?" He seemed to hesitate. She went on with, in
her voice, a sudden tremor. "Consider! Think well before you speak!
Reggie, I wonder if you know how much the spoiling of your life will
mean the spoiling of mine?"

Her voice, or her manner, or her words--or all three combined--affected
Mr. Townsend strangely. There seemed to be something in her glance
which he found himself unable to encounter. He turned away. Going to
him, she touched him softly on the arm. A shudder went all over him.
The muscles of his face seemed to stiffen; his expression became a
little set. His voice also became, as it were, a little rigid.

"There may be hope."

"There may be? Reggie!" She paused--as if breathless. "Of laying the
ghosts--for ever?"

"For ever."

She was still again. Her articulation seemed to be actually impeded.

"When will you know--for sure?"

"This afternoon, at five."

"Reggie!" His words appeared to take her by surprise. "Do you mean
it--really?"

"I do."

He turned and looked at her. Their glances met. She shrank away from
him. The hot blood flowed into her cheeks. Her emotion was so great, it
made her beautiful. His name came from her lips, with a catching of her
breath, and in a whisper. She was visibly trembling.

"Reggie!"



                           CHAPTER XXXVIII.

                          ON THE THRESHOLD.


It was plain that Mrs. Carruth was impatient. Nor was the thing made
less evident by her attempts to conceal it from herself. She lounged on
a couch. A pile of books and magazines was at her side. She pretended
to read--or, rather, it would be more correct to write that she tried
not to pretend to read. But it would not do. It was nothing but
pretence. And she knew that it was nothing but pretence. She took up a
book. She turned a page or two. She put it down again. She exchanged it
for a magazine--a magazine with pictures. She tried to look at the
pictures. The pictures palled. She essayed a magazine without pictures.

That was as great a failure as the other. In her present mood the
ministrations of print and pictures alike were ineffectual.

No wonder she had become impatient. She had been on tenterhooks all
day--waiting! waiting! All the morning she had expected to receive some
sort of communication--some acknowledgment of the expressive line or
two which she had sent. But when lunch came, and there still was
nothing, she was quite sure that, during the afternoon the gentleman
would come himself.

She was ready for him by two. She did not think it likely that he would
come quite so early. Still, it would be well that she should not be
taken unawares. So she made herself even unwontedly charming. She put
on a brand-new dress, which suited her to perfection. It really did
make her look uncommonly nice! It fitted her so well that it displayed
her long, lithe, and yet by no means unbecomingly bony figure, to the
best advantage. She took astonishing pains with her hair. She even went
in for unusual splendour in the way of shoes and stockings. And the
effect produced by the few touches which she bestowed upon her
countenance was wonderful.

In spite of all she was ready by two. And still--he cometh not, she
said. The silvery chimes of the exquisite little clock which stood on
the top of the overmantel announced that it was three-quarters after
three. She looked at her own watch to see if it really was so late. The
thing was true enough. Her watch was in complete agreement with the
clock--it was a quarter to four.

She put down the last of the magazines with, in her manner, an
appearance of finality. She rose from the couch. She went to the
window. She stood there with her fingertips drumming idly and
noiselessly against the pane. The only creature in sight was a milkman,
who, by way of killing two birds with one stone, was serving a customer
across the road, and flirting with the maid. Mrs. Carruth watched the
flirtation proceed to its conclusion, and, when the milkman, springing
into his cart, had disappeared with the inevitable clatter, Mrs.
Carruth, turning away from the window, came back into the room.

She stood at a little centre table. She laughed to herself.

"If, after all, he shouldn't come--what fun it would be!"

She was very far from being an ill-looking woman, as she stood there,
with smiles puckering her lips and peeping from her eyes.

"If he should suppose that I am not in earnest! His experience may
teach him that many women never are in earnest. If he should imagine
that I am one of the many!"

Raising her right hand, she began daintily pinching her lower lip
between her finger and her thumb.

"It would be a pity for both of us." She made a little impatient
movement with her head. "And yet, I can't believe that a man with his
experience could suppose that I am one of the many. If he did, it would
be his fault--not mine."

The little clock struck four.

"An hour more, my friend--an hour more. And then--well, I do hope
you'll come before the hour's out, for your sake, as well as mine. I
wonder if, in this little matter, I've been counting my chickens before
they're hatched. I, of all women, should have known better. And, with
such a hand faced on the board, one might be excused for supposing that
it would take the pool. A straight flush cannot be beaten."

She laughed again, this time not quite so lightly.

"It reminds me of some of the games which I have seen played. You can't
show a hand to beat a straight, but you can fight to save the pool. I
wonder if he means fighting. If he does, it'll be against all the odds.
He has neither gun nor bow. When I start shooting, he's bound to drop.
Sure."

The merriment passed from her face, the laughter from her eyes--an
expression of anxiety came into them instead; a look which suggested
hunger, a something which made her, all at once, seem actually old.

"Perhaps he takes it that a victory, on these lines, may mean more
than a defeat. And he counts on that. It would, too. It would mean
farewell--a long farewell, an actual farewell--to another of my dreams.
And the brightest of them all. But I don't care. It would mean death to
him. Death! And such a death! And, after all, it would only mean a
stumble to me. From the practice I have had, I have become so used to
stumbles that surely one other wouldn't count."

She began moving about the room restlessly, touching here a table,
there a chair, to the window, and back again, as if a spirit possessed
her which made her not know what it was she wanted to be at. She
approached a corner of the room, as if she were about to take refuge in
it, like some naughty child. As she went, clenching her fists, as if
she were pressing her finger-nails into her palms, she gave a little
cry.

"Oh, I'd give--I'd give, what wouldn't I give?--if he'd come into the
room, now--without keeping me waiting any longer, now!--and speak to me
as I would have him speak! Why doesn't he come? He has everything to
gain, he has nothing to lose!"

She swept right round, with a swish of her skirts, in a sort of frenzy,
echoing her own question as she swung out her arms in front of her.

"Why doesn't he come?"

Even as the words were on her lips, at the hall door there came a
knocking. She went red and white, despite the aids of beauty! She
caught at a chair, as if desirous of having something to lean against.

"Thank God!"

Then, as if conscious of the incongruity of such words upon her lips,
she put her hands up to her face.

"Oh, I'm so glad he's come!"

Some one outside had hold of the handle of the door. She uncovered her
face. She touched her hair. She touched the bosom of her dress. She
dropped into the chair by which she was standing. In an instant she was
the picture of composure.

The door opened to admit Mr. Haines.

His appearance was a shock to Mrs. Carruth. She looked negligently
round, as if indifferent who the new-comer might be, and then--she
stared.

"You!"

There was something in the lady's intonation which was very far from
being complimentary. She stood up, quivering with disappointment and
with rage.

"I thought I gave instructions that this afternoon I was not at home to
visitors."

Mr. Haines did not seem to be at all nonplussed.

"That's what the young lady who opened the door told me. I said I would
wait until you were. I will."

Mr. Haines sat down--with every appearance of having come to stay. Mrs.
Carruth looked at the clock, then at her watch, then at the gentleman
upon the chair. The gentleman in question, with his head thrown back,
was staring at the ceiling, as if quite unconscious of her
neighbourhood. It seemed to be as much as the lady could do to retain
her self-control.

"I am sure, Mr. Haines, that you cannot wish to be rude. I have an
appointment this afternoon which I regret will prevent my having the
pleasure of receiving you."

"I'm going to have my say. I'll say it afterwards, or I'll say it now.
It's all the same to me."

"What do you mean by you're going to have your say?"

"If you're ready, I'll let it out. But don't mind me. Don't let me
spoil your appointment. Keep anything you've got to keep."

Mrs. Carruth seemed to be at a loss to know what to do. Her looks were
eloquent witnesses as to what she would have done if she could. But,
apparently, she did not see her way to do it. She temporised.

"If there is anything of importance, Mr. Haines, which you wished to
say to me, perhaps you will be so good as to say it as briefly as you
can, now. Possibly it will not detain you, at the utmost, more than a
quarter of an hour."

"Possibly it will not. I rather reckon you'll have a word to say in
that. It won't all be for me." Mr. Haines brought his eyes down to
the level of the lady's face. He spread out his hands upon his knees.
He looked at her very straight. "What I have to say may be said in
about two words. It's just this--I've found my girl."

Mrs. Carruth did not display any great amount of interest, but she did
seem to be surprised.

"Indeed! I am glad to hear it. I hope that she is well."

"She is well. She's better than many of us ever will be. She's at
rest."

"At rest? How?"

"As it was told to me. She is dead."

"Dead! Mr. Haines?"

"Yes, murdered. As I saw it in the vision, so it is."

Mrs. Carruth looked at Mr. Haines as if she felt that he had a somewhat
singular method of imparting information--especially of such a peculiar
kind.

"If what you say is correct, you have such a queer way of putting
things. I never can quite make you out. I need not tell you how sorry I
am."

"You have cause for sorrow. The grief is about half yours."

"Half mine? What do you mean?"

"I have loved you, true and faithful, since the first time I set eyes
on you. Before ever Daniel did."

The sudden change of subject seemed, not unnaturally, to take the lady
aback.

"What nonsense are you talking? What did you mean by saying the grief's
half mine?"

"I'm coming to it, in time. I want to put to you this question. Will
you have me, now, just as I am?"

"I will not; neither now or ever. How many more times am I to tell you
that? Jack Haines, I do believe you're more than half insane."

"I may be. So'll you be before I'm through." Raising the big forefinger
of his right hand, he wagged it at her solemnly. "There's some one come
between us. Yes. That aristocrat."

"Aristocrat? What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean. Yes. The blood-stained Townsend. I knew he was
stained with blood when first I saw him inside this room. But I did not
know with whose blood he was stained, or I would have called him to his
account right there and then. I did not know he was stained with the
blood of my girl."

"Jack!"

The name came from her with an unconscious recurrence to the days which
were gone.

"Yes. This is the man who has stolen what ought by rights to have been
mine--the slayer of my girl."

"It's not true! You coward! You know you lie!"

"I do not lie."

"You do lie! What proof have you?"

"Enough and to spare--for him, for me, and for you."

"Out with it, then. Let's hear what some of it's like."

Mrs. Carruth was standing by the little centre table. Rising from his
chair, Mr. Haines went and stood at the other side of it. Resting his
hands on the edges, he leaned over it towards her.

"Have you heard of the Three Bridges tragedy?"

She looked at him just once. In that one look she saw something, on his
face or in his eyes, which, to use an expressive idiom, seemed to take
the stiffening all out of her. She dropped into a chair as if he had
knocked her into it. She caught at the arms. Her complexion assumed a
curious tinge of yellow. There was a moment's pause. Then, from between
her rigid lips, there came one word.

"Yes."

"The woman who was killed was Loo--my Loo."

She shuddered, as if attacked by sudden ague.

"It's a lie!"

"It's not a lie. It's gospel truth. And Townsend killed her."

Her rejoinder, under ordinary circumstances, might have struck him as
an odd one.

"You can't prove it."

"I can prove it. And the police can prove it, too."

Half rising from her chair, she turned to him, every muscle in her body
seemed to be quivering with excitement.

"The police? Do they know it?"

"They do. To-morrow the whole world will know it. They've laid hold of
the wrong man. They've found it out just before it's a bit too late.
They hope to have hold of your friend Townsend soon. They're hoping
wrong. His first reckoning will be with me. When that is through,
neither he nor I will care who has what's left. Since I have loved you,
true and faithful, all these years, I calculated I would come and ask
you if, when all is done, you'd give me my reward. We might make a
happy ending of it, you and me together, over on the other side.
But if you won't, you won't. So I'm through. I've only one word
left--good-bye."

He held out his hand to her. So far as she was concerned, it went
unheeded. Indeed, it would seem, from the eager question which she
asked, that most of what he had been saying had gone unheeded too.

"Are you sure the police are after him? Are you sure?"

He looked at her from under the shadow of his bushy, overhanging
eyebrows, in silence, for a moment. Then he said, more in sorrow than
in anger--

"So your last thought is of him? Well, I'm sorry!"

Without anymore elaborate leave-taking than was comprised in these few
words. Mr. Haines went from the room and from the house.

Mrs. Carruth seemed scarcely conscious of the fact of his departure.
All her faculties and all her thoughts seemed far away. Indeed, it was
only after a lapse of some seconds that, looking about her, with a
start, she appeared to recognise that she was alone. Getting up, she
began to pace feverishly about the room, as if only rapid movement
could enable her to control the fires which were mounting in her blood.

"I wonder if it's true! I wonder if it is! Perhaps that explains why it
is he hasn't come. I may have been misjudging him. Perhaps he can't
come. Suppose he is arrested. Perhaps he doesn't know what it is the
police have discovered. He's nearly certain not to know. Who's to tell
him? I will go and tell him! This instant! Now! I will warn him against
the police and against Jack Haines. I will save him yet, yet. He shall
owe it all to me."

With her hands she brushed her hair from her brow--the hair which she
had so carefully arranged.

"After all I have longed for, after all I have lived through, I do
believe that for him I should esteem the world well lost."

She ran upstairs--literally ran. She put on a coat and hat in a space
of time which, for shortness, considering that a pretty woman was
concerned, was simply marvellous. And having put them on, she ran down
the stairs. She hurried through the hall. She opened the hall door.

And as she did so something or some one bounded up the steps--rather
than mounted them in an ordinary fashion. There was a flash of
something in the air. Mrs. Carruth was borne backwards.

A second afterwards she was lying half on her face, with the lifeblood
streaming from her on to the floor.



                            CHAPTER XXXIX.

                    THE LAST MEETING OF THE CLUB.


Horseferry Road. A hazy though a cloudless night. A house, the windows
of which showed no lights. Up two nights of stairs.

The rendezvous of that agreeable social institution, the Murder Club.

The Club was to hold a session. The gentleman who, if he was not the
actual source of inspiration, was, at any rate, the founder, the
promoter, the organiser, the backbone of the Club, was making ready for
the members coming. A man about the middle height, somewhat slightly
built, in evening dress, with an orchid in his buttonhole--Mr. Cecil
Pendarvon. Mr. Pendarvon was not bad-looking. He had a long, fair
beard, which he had a trick of pulling with both his hands. His eyes
were certainly not ugly, but to the close observer they conveyed an odd
impression. As one watched them, one began to wonder if they were the
man's real eyes which one saw, or if the real eyes were behind them.
Perhaps one had this feeling of wonder, because, although there always
was the light of laughter in Mr. Pendarvon's eyes, their real
expression was one of such cold, passionless, unrelenting cruelty.

For some reason Mr. Pendarvon seemed ill at ease. One hand was resting
on the large oval table which occupied the greater portion of the room,
with the other he tugged at his beard, while he stared at a manuscript
volume, bound in a beautiful scarlet binding, which lay open in front
of him. A cackling sound was emitted from his throat, which was,
possibly, intended for a chuckle.

"His signature! His sign manual! An elegant example, too! With his own
hand--tied tight. If I remember rightly, he did say something about his
practically committing suicide by affixing his signature to such a
declaration. How often is truth spoken in a jest. What fools men are!"

His statement--which was very far from being an original statement--of
the folly of humanity, seemed to afford him a large amount of
satisfaction. He combed his beard with the fingers of both his hands.
He kept on chuckling to himself as if he had given utterance to one of
the best jokes that ever was heard.

"What's that?"

It was queer to notice how, in an instant, all signs of amusement fled.
He gripped the rim of the massive table, as if seeking its support. He
cast a stealthy glance about him. He stood and listened, seeming to
hold his breath to enable him to do it better. The man's real self
peeped from his eyes. His whole bearing suggested fear.

There was a perfect silence for some moments. Then he drew a long
breath.

"It's nothing." He began again to tug at his beard, as if mechanically.
"What a little upsets a man if he is in the mood." He glanced at his
watch, seeming, as he did so, to make a mental calculation. "It's time
that some of them were here." He paused, the remainder of his speech
apparently referring to some other theme. "I hope that one can rely
upon them sometimes--that one may take it that the guardians of law and
order do not always blunder. I suppose that we are shadowed. I suppose,
too, that they will make no movement until they have received ocular
demonstration of the fact that all of them are here. What's that?"

Again there was a sudden, startling change in Mr. Pendarvon's outward
bearing. Obviously his every faculty was strained in the act of
listening. So far as an ordinary observer would have been able to judge
there did not appear to be a sound. Yet it is not improbable that
something had made itself audible to Mr. Pendarvon's unusually keen
sense of hearing, because presently a slight click was heard, as it
seemed, within the wall itself upon his right.

"Number one!"

Mr. Pendarvon's state of tension seemed to slightly decrease. The wall
upon his right was panelled from floor to ceiling. One of the panels
Mr. Pendarvon slipped aside, and, in doing so, revealed a dial-plate of
peculiar construction, which apparently had some connection with
electricity. On it was a prominent figure 2. Beneath it a needle made
three separate strokes. A large 1 appeared. Then three more separate
strokes. Then another prominent 2. On the appearance of the second 2,
on Mr. Pendarvon's touching an ivory button, the whole thing performed
a complete revolution, and a sound as of a gong was heard.

While the gong still continued to vibrate, a voice was heard outside
the door exclaiming "Reginald!"

The announcement of the name seemed to precipitate Mr. Pendarvon back
into his former condition of uneasiness.

"The man himself," he muttered. Then, by way of an afterthought, with a
smile which by no means suggested mirth, "I wonder if they saw him
come."

He seemed to hesitate, then, with an effort, to pull himself together.

"The honourable member should not be kept waiting."

As he made this observation to himself, with another mirthless grin, he
pressed a second button, which was on the other side of the dial.
Immediately the door without swung open.

In another moment Mr. Reginald Townsend appeared upon the threshold of
the door.

"A trifle slow to-night, Pendarvon--eh?"

Mr. Pendarvon admitted the soft impeachment.

"I'm afraid that this time, perhaps, I am. You've caught me napping. I
was just putting the things in order when you came."

"Putting the things in order! I see. The things want putting in order,
Pendarvon--eh?"

"There is a certain amount of work which has to be done, which, of
course, by virtue of my office"--this with a sneer which, perhaps, the
speaker found it impossible to suppress--"I have to do."

"By virtue of your office; yes." Mr. Pendarvon looked up at Mr.
Townsend, only, as it were, by accident and for a moment; then his
glance went back again. "It would be a fine night if it were not for
the mist which is in the air. One now and then can get peeps at the
stars beyond. But this mist gives me a chill."

"It's warm enough in here."

"Oh, yes, it's sufficiently warm in here."

In each man's manner there was something which was distinctly out of
the ordinary, and the strangest part of it was that, though each was,
as a rule, as keen an observer as one might easily meet, neither seemed
to realise that there was anything unusual in the bearing of the other.
Mr. Pendarvon was restless, fidgety, fussy, continually on the watch
for something to happen, not in the room, but out of it. He was like a
person who has an appointment of the first importance, and who is
devoured with anxiety lest the individual with whom he has the
appointment should fail to keep it. Mr. Townsend's mood, on the other
hand, seemed almost transcendental. His physical beauty, uncommon both
in type and in degree, seemed to-night to have positively increased. It
was almost startling. He seemed, too, to have increased in height. He
bore himself with an unconscious grace which displayed his splendid
figure to singular advantage. His head was thrown a little back from
his shoulders, and in his eyes and in the whole expression of his face
there was something which suggested rapturous calm. One felt that,
whatever happened, this man's mind would be at ease. He recalled the
soldier who, having volunteered for a forlorn hope, advances to meet
death, and worse than death, with a smile.

It is probably when our soldiers have been in just that mood that they
have done the deeds which have seemed to the world to be miracles of
valour. It is when one cares for nothing that, sometimes, one can do
anything.

Each of these men, however, seemed to be so preoccupied in his affairs
that he noticed nothing uncommon in the other. Mr. Pendarvon fidgeted
about the room. He set the chairs straight, the decanters on the table.
He occupied himself with a dozen trifling things which scarcely seemed
to stand in need of his attention. Mr. Townsend stood in front of the
huge, old-fashioned fireplace paying no sort of heed to the other's
fussiness, seeming indeed to be in a condition of mind which,
psychologically, approximated to a waking dream.

Although he took no notice of the fit of fidgets with which Mr.
Pendarvon seemed to be afflicted, his very calmness caused that
gentleman to seem still more ill at ease. More than once he seemed to
be on the point of saying something and then to stop short as if for
want of being able to find something appropriate to say.

At last he did hit upon a sufficiently apposite remark.

"They're late to-night."

The sound of his voice seemed to rouse Mr. Townsend to the fact of Mr.
Pendarvon's presence.

"They are a little late to-night, Pendarvon." He looked at his watch.
"Indeed! Is it possible that they may have neglected to make a note of
the occasion?"

Mr. Pendarvon laughed--again not merrily.

"I don't think there is much fear of that. They're sure to come, if
only for their own safety's sake." Again the cheerless grin. "Possibly
they're trying to get their spirits up by putting the spirits down upon
the way. Hark! there's some one coming now."

There was a silence as the two men listened, with their eyes upon the
dial-plate which Mr. Pendarvon had left exposed. It repeated the
performance with which it had announced Mr. Townsend's arrival.

"You have good ears, Pendarvon. I heard nothing."

Mr. Pendarvon admitted that it was so.

"I have good ears."

He spoke with a dryness which seemed to be unnecessarily significant.
He sounded the gong. There was a voice without.

"Henry!"

"Dear Mr. Shepherd. You may let him in."

The door swung open. There entered a tall man, with long grey hair,
clad in the attire of a superior mechanic. He had a silent face--the
face of a man who can be silent in very many tongues--and the eyes of a
man who sees visions. He vouchsafed no sort of greeting, but at once
sat down on one of the chairs which stood around the table.

Mr. Townsend looked at him as one looks at an object which one finds an
interesting study.

"I trust, Mr. Shepherd, that you may have fortune in drawing the lot
to-night."

Mr. Shepherd opened his lips, which hitherto he had kept hermetically
closed. He spoke with a nasal twang which suggested a certain type of
prayer-meeting.

"Not to-night: my hour is not yet."

"Indeed! May I ask when your hour is likely to be?"

"I seek not to inquire."

The hint which Mr. Shepherd intended to convey was unmistakable. Mr.
Pendarvon laughed. Mr. Townsend stared. Before the latter could speak
again the dial-plate repeated its previous performances. This time two
voices answered to the summons of the gong.

The door opened to admit Mr. Teddy Hibbard and his inseparable friend,
Mr. Eugene Silvester.

They were both of them boys, rather than men, and were obviously
members of that class which, in a more advanced stage of social
organisation, will probably, during its salad days, be detained in some
kindly institution, the inmates of which will be gently, yet firmly,
persuaded to do themselves as little injury as they conveniently can.
They grow out of it, some of these young men, in time. But one had only
to look at this particular two to see that, with them, that time was
scarcely yet.

The bell, being started, was kept rolling. One after the other the
members of the Club came in. A heterogeneous gathering they were. One
wondered what some of them did in such a galley. They seemed to be so
oddly out of place.

At last, with two exceptions, all the members were assembled. One of
the exceptions was Lord Archibald Beaupré. His absence was the cause,
not only of comment, but, as time went on, and still he did not come,
of obvious uneasiness to some of those who had arrived. Tell-tale looks
came on their faces. They eyed each other, as it were, askance. They
not only inquired of one another why it was he did not come, but they
made the same inquiry of themselves with still more emphasis. The
appearance of indifference with which, at first, they had treated the
absent member's tardiness became less and less convincing. It was he
who last had drawn the lot. It was he who had to do something for the
Honour of the Club.

What was it which had detained him?

Mr. Pendarvon, who, plainly, was not the least uneasy of those who were
present in the room, addressed an inquiry to Mr. Townsend.

"You are Beaupré's _fidus achates_, Townsend. When did you see him
last?"

Mr. Townsend had evidently shown an indifference to the fact of Lord
Archibald Beaupré's non-arrival which evidently in his case was not
assumed. He looked at Mr. Pendarvon a moment before he answered, and
when he did answer his manner, although completely courteous, was
hardly genial.

"For information of Lord Archibald Beaupré I must refer you--to Lord
Archibald Beaupré."

Mr. Pendarvon seemed to relish neither the look with which he had been
favoured nor the answer. Indeed, Mr. Townsend's manner, even more than
his answer, seemed to increase the general feeling of uneasiness which
was beginning to dominate the room.

Suddenly there was the sound of a click. With a rapidity which, in its
way, was comic, all eyes were fixed upon the dial-plate. Its mechanism
had been set in motion. The familiar movements followed.

"There he is!" exclaimed a voice.

Mr. Silvester added, with a show of hilarity which was slightly forced,
"Better late than never!"

Mr. Pendarvon sounded the gong, seemingly in a state of fevered
agitation.

"Stephen!" exclaimed a voice.

A blank look came on some of the faces.

"It isn't Beaupré; it's Kendrick!"

Colonel Kendrick was the other member who had not yet put in an
appearance. His absence had gone almost unnoticed. He had to do nothing
for the Honour of the Club--as yet.

Colonel Kendrick came into the room. He was a thickset,
soldierly-looking man, with a slight grey moustache and a pair of bold,
unflinching eyes. He bowed as he came in, speaking in that short,
crisp, staccato tone of voice which is apt to mark the man who has been
accustomed to command.

"Gentlemen, I have to apologise to you for my delay." He turned to Mr.
Townsend. "I have to inform you, Mr. Townsend, that Mr. Pendarvon has
set the police upon your track."



                             CHAPTER XL.

                      MR. TOWNSEND REACHES HOME.


The members, for the most part, stared at the Colonel. Then they stared
at one another. They did not seem to understand. Mr. Townsend looked at
the Colonel, then at Mr. Pendarvon. Mr. Pendarvon, with twitching lips
and dilated eyes, was leaning, as if for support, against the
dial-plate.

"Pendarvon, I am waiting for you to contradict what Kendrick has said."

Mr. Pendarvon was making an effort to control his faculty of speech.

"It's false."

Mr. Townsend turned to the Colonel.

"You hear what he says?"

The Colonel pointed at Mr. Pendarvon.

"And you see how he says it." They did see. The disclosure of his
treachery, being premature, had taken Mr. Pendarvon unawares. It had,
unfortunately, caused him to lose his nerve. He stood crouching against
the wall, trembling, like a cur, in terror of what might be to come.

The man's guilt was self-confessed. They perceived that it was so with
a stupefaction which made them dumb.

Colonel Kendrick went on.

"I have a cousin at Scotland Yard. He has just now told me that, this
morning, they received information of the existence of an organisation
called the Murder Club. They had been told that the individual who was
actually responsible for the Three Bridges Tragedy was a member of the
Club. His name was Reginald Townsend. I asked who was their informant.
I was told that it was a man named Cecil Pendarvon. So, gentlemen, the
person who is responsible for the position in which we find ourselves
is the one who has given us away."

One or two of the members made a half-unconscious movement forward.
Mr. Pendarvon seemed to endeavour to huddle himself closer to the
dial-plate.

"My cousin informed me that the club was to meet tonight, and that a
coup was to be made while the members were in actual assembly. I have
hurried straight from my cousin here. I have some acquaintance with the
personnel of Scotland Yard. As I approached these premises I recognised
one or two individuals whom I knew by sight. Mr. Townsend, the police
are at the door waiting to receive the signal to effect your capture."

Of all those present Mr. Townsend seemed the least affected by the
Colonel's communication. It was the humorous side of the situation
which seemed to strike him first.

"It is the unexpected happens, my dear Kendrick. I do believe that all
the wisdom of the world is contained in that one phrase. The blow has
come from the quarter from which I least expected it. Mr. Pendarvon, I
presume that you are acquainted with the rule which you yourself
framed, and which lays down the measure which is to be meted out to
traitors."

Mr. Townsend moved towards Mr. Pendarvon. Snatching a revolver from his
pocket, Mr. Pendarvon pointed it in the face of the man he had
betrayed. In an instant Colonel Kendrick had struck it from his hand.
One barrel was discharged harmlessly as it fell. Immediately a dozen
weapons were in a dozen hands. Mr. Townsend retained his appearance of
perfect ease. Standing in front of Mr. Pendarvon, he regarded that
gentleman with courteous contempt which caused him, literally, to seem
to wither.

"Well done!"

The tranquil scorn of Mr. Townsend's tone seemed to affect Mr.
Pendarvon as if it had been vitriol. He writhed.

"You--you hound!" he spluttered.

Mr. Townsend merely repeated his former commendation, which the other
received as if it had been a scorpion's lash.

"Well done!"

There was a click. Mr. Pendarvon's body was obscuring the dial-plate.
With scant ceremony, the Colonel thrust him aside. The dial had made a
new departure. It displayed the figure 3.

The Colonel spoke.

"I fancy we may take it that that is the signal which Mr. Pendarvon has
arranged with his policemen friends. It is they who have given it,
being now outside the door. I imagine, gentlemen, that, so far as we
are concerned, we have but little to fear. Be so good, some one, as to
tear that book and to burn it."

The Colonel pointed to the manuscript book in the beautiful crimson
cover. Some one snatched it up. In a moment it was in pieces and the
pieces were in flames. Mr. Pendarvon made a movement as if he would
have done something to check the destruction of so important a witness.
The Colonel checked him with a word.

"Stand still!" And Mr. Pendarvon was still. The Colonel turned to Mr.
Townsend. "It is you who have most to fear. Can you suggest how you may
be able to effect your escape?"

"Unless Mr. Pendarvon has romanced, he has not only provided the trap,
but also the means of escape from the trap which he has baited--unless,
I say, he has romanced. We shall see. Good-bye, Pendarvon."

With a gesture of careless insolence, with his open palm, Mr. Townsend
struck Mr. Pendarvon lightly across the face. That was too much even
for Mr. Pendarvon. He sprang at Mr. Townsend. Mr. Townsend knocked him
down. Being down, he seemed to deem it wiser, on the whole, to stay
there.

A voice was heard without--a peremptory voice, an official voice.

"Open this door immediately, or we shall break it down!"

Mr. Townsend gave a mocking rejoinder.

"Break it down; by all means, break it down!" He went to the fireplace;
he stood within it. He turned to the assembled company. "We shall meet
again--at Philippi!"

He grasped the first two stanchions and was immediately out of sight.

"Count twelve," he told himself as he climbed. "This is the twelfth.
Put out your hand to the right, and you will feel a bolt. This does
feel like a bolt, and a door. After all, Pendarvon, you're not such a
liar as you might have been."

Scrambling through the door which he had thrust open, Mr. Townsend
found himself standing on what was evidently thereof. It was flat just
there. In front of him was a high brick wall, which served as a base
for a stack of chimneys.

He stood for some seconds listening. He could distinctly hear voices
ascending from the room below.

"I wonder what they will do to our friend Pendarvon, and how long they
will keep those dear policemen out--if I shall have time to do what I
have to do. Keep moving, sir! The moments are all that you can call
your own."

He went forward, keeping the stack of chimneys on his left.

"Hallo! There's the edge of the roof! Yes, and here's a rail and a
bridge--all spoken of by our friend Pendarvon. To essay the great act
of crossing the bridge!"

He stepped on to the plank. It quivered beneath his weight.

"This bridge is of somewhat rickety construction and the rail
unsteady."

When about half-way across he paused. The plank seemed to be bending
double. He peered into the depths below.

"It occurs to me that it would not be a difficult business to smash
this bridge into two clean halves as I stand here. That might be an
easy way to end it all. But it will not serve. There is that which I
must do."

He moved on more rapidly. The frail planking shuddered and shook;
it swung in the air. More than once it seemed as if the tall,
quickly-moving figure was supported upon nothing. But the bridge became
firmer as he approached the opposite side. He put out his hand to the
left, feeling for what Mr. Pendarvon told him he would find there.

"The ladder! As he said, straight against the wall. Bravo! Now, if the
house is only empty, the thing is done!"

The house was empty, and the thing was done. It all happened as Mr.
Pendarvon had said it would. He ascended the ladder, raised the
unlatched window frame, struck a light, passed through the empty house,
and into the street beyond. He found a cab, and, ere long, he was at
Albert Gate.

As he stepped out of the cab some one touched him on the shoulder from
behind. He turned sharply round, thinking, perhaps, that he had but
escaped from one pitfall to fall at once into another.

But it was not so. The person whom he found himself confronting was
that recalcitrant member of the Murder Club, Lord Archibald Beaupré.

"You! Well?"

This was Mr. Townsend's greeting. Lord Archibald's response was a
little delayed. When it did come it came in a hoarse whisper from
between tremulous lips.

"Why did you do it?"

"Do what?"

Lord Archibald, leaning forward, whispered something into Mr.
Townsend's ear.

"I was afraid, my dear Archie, that you might be a quarter of an hour
too late." Mr. Townsend paused, looking at, without seeming to notice,
the other's ashen countenance. "Is she dead?"

"No."

"Will she die?"

"No."

There was silence. Then Lord Archibald went on, rendered almost
voiceless by contending emotions, "I was there in time; you should have
waited."

"As I tell you, my dear Archie, it was a question of a quarter of an
hour."

"When I got there the house was in commotion. They had found her lying
in the hall, as you had left her. She was regaining consciousness as I
arrived. When she saw me she made me stoop down and she whispered to
me. She told me that it was you who had done it, and that you did it
just as she was starting to save you."

"She has, perhaps, her own notions of salvation."

"I think she meant it. She said she was coming to warn you against a
man named Haines."

"Haines? Indeed! That is the second time I have been warned against a
man named Haines. By the way, I have just come from Horseferry Road.
Pendarvon has given the show away."

"Pendarvon?"

"Yes, Pendarvon. He has, what I believe old-fashioned thieves used to
call, blown the gaff. The place is in the hands of the police. I
escaped up the chimney. I expect that the gentlemen in blue will soon
be here. I have no doubt that already they have missed me and are hot
upon my trail."

"Reggie!"

In Lord Archibald's voice there was something which sounded very like a
sob.

"Don't worry about me, dear boy. For me, anyhow, all things are over.
You'll be all right. After all, it was lucky for you that I was first
upon the scene." Having paused, he added, "Tell her, when she is all
right again, as you seem to think she will be, that I am sorry I did
it. She should have left me a wider option."

"I don't believe she means to give you away. When the policemen asked
her who had done it she said that the man was a stranger to her. She
had never seen him in her life before."

"Did she, indeed? How very odd! They tell you not to trust a woman. My
experience teaches me not to trust a man. One thing I do regret. I
should have liked to have killed Pendarvon. Archie, I want you to do me
a favour--to take a message."

"To whom?"

"To Miss Jardine. Will you do it?"

"Yes."

The speaker's voice was even more husky than before.

Mr. Townsend scribbled a few words on a page of his pocket-book.
Tearing out the leaf, he handed it to Lord Archibald Beaupré.

"Give her that. Not necessarily at once, but some time when the thing's
all over. And tell her----" He stopped; then, with a smile, went on,
"Yes, tell her that I loved her, but that already, when my love for her
was born, it was too late."

"I'll tell her. What are you going to do yourself?"

"Do? Wait; they'll soon be here. I have one or two matters which will
occupy me till they come. Good-bye."

He held out his hand. The other grasped it in his own.

"By ----, Reggie, I had almost sooner that it had been I."

"Don't be an ass, dear boy. Slip across the water till the wind has
blown a little of the dust away."

He nodded, moved quickly across the pavement, and disappeared into the
house. Lord Archibald Beaupré was left standing in the street,
clutching the sheet of paper tightly in his hand.

As Mr. Townsend entered a woman came forward to greet him. She wore an
air of considerable concern.

"Oh, Mr. Townsend, sir, I'm so glad it's you. Burton's out, and
something has happened which has quite upset me.

"I'm very sorry, Mrs. Lane, that you should have been upset. What has
upset you?"

"There's been a man who wanted to see you--leastways, he didn't look as
if he was a gentleman, and he didn't behave like one. I told him you
weren't in, but he wouldn't take no for an answer. He pushed right past
me and marched straight into your room, and said he'd wait until you
came. He's been there an hour or more; and I just went in to say that I
really didn't think it was any use his waiting when I was taken quite
aback to find that the room was empty and that he wasn't there."

"That, probably, was because he had gone. Let us trust that the spoons
have not gone too!"

"Oh, sir, I do trust they haven't. But what makes it seem so queer to
me is that I have been watching all the time, and haven't seen a
creature leave the room."

"Possibly, Mrs. Lane, he has vanished into air."

Laughing at her as he passed, Mr. Townsend went into his room.



                             CHAPTER XLI.

                            TAKING LEAVE.


It was a handsome room, that in which Mr. Townsend, when at home,
passed the larger portion of his waking hours--large, lofty,
well-proportioned. The walls were wainscoted. Here and there was a
piece of tapestry. Curtains suggested, rather than screened, an
occasional recess. Veiled, too, were entrances to rooms beyond. A
window, running from floor to ceiling, extended on one side of the
room, almost from wall to wall. Had it been daytime, one would have
seen that it overlooked Hyde Park.

On his entrance Mr. Townsend went immediately to the portrait of the
girl which stood up on his mantelboard. He looked at it long and
earnestly. He took it out of its frame. He kissed it, not once or
twice, but a dozen times at least. He regarded it with something of the
veneration which the religious Russian peasant regards his Icon.

"Dora!" he murmured. "Dora!" Then, with a smile, "What might have
been!"

Gripping the portrait with both his hands, he began to tear it into
two; then stopped.

"It seems almost like sacrilege." He kissed the face again. "It would
be a sacrilege to let it fall into their hands as evidence that she had
endured the contamination of my acquaintance."

He tore the portrait, not only into halves, but into fragments, and the
fragments he cast upon the fire. As the flames consumed them he made a
little gesture towards them with his hands.

"Good-bye!"

He picked up several knick-knacks which were about the room and
examined them, as if he were considering what ought to be their fate.
Some of them, which bore unmistakable traces of feminine handiwork and
taste, he threw, after the portrait, into the fire. He opened a large
despatch-box which stood upon a table at one side. From among its varied
contents he took all sorts of things--a glove, a knot of ribbon, a menu
card, some programmes of dances, a chocolate bonbon, a variety of
trivial impedimenta with which one would hardly have thought such a man
would have cared to be troubled. Last of all he took out four or five
envelopes addressed to himself in what was evidently a woman's hand.

"My love letters!--love letters! I doubt if there was a word of love in
one of them, except that which came to me this morning. In our
courtship hitherto love letters have scarcely entered. There has been
no opportunity. It is another case of what might have been--and yet
these are my love letters, for they were written by her hand, and these
are my love tokens, because they are tokens of certain passages which
she has had with me. Nor must they become their spoil. These sort of
tales find their way into so many sorts of papers that, for her sake,
it is well that I have had time enough to destroy what might tend to
show that I ever was engaged--save the mark!--to marry Miss Jardine."

He threw the letters and the various trivialities together into the
fire, breaking up the coals to enable them to burn the faster. He stood
watching their destruction. When they were entirely consumed he turned
away, the finger of his right hand in his waistcoat pocket, apparently
feeling for something which was there.

"I think that that is all; now I'm ready."

"That, young man, is just as well, because so am I."

The voice came from behind his back. Mr. Townsend showed no sign of
being startled, nor did he evince any anxiety to turn and inquire into
the speaker's personality. He stood, for a moment, as if he was
endeavouring to recall to his memory the tones of the speaker's voice.
He turned at last, at his leisure, and with a smile--

"Mr. Haines?"

It was Mr. Haines. His sudden appearance was explained by the fact that
he had obviously just stepped from behind a pair of curtains which
concealed the entrance to an inner room. He still held one of the
curtains in his hand. He eyed Mr. Townsend in silence, one hand being
in suggestive proximity to the hip pocket in his trousers in which the
Westerner is apt to keep his gun.

"Yes, I am Mr. Haines."

"I am glad to have the pleasure of seeing you, Mr. Haines. Might I ask
you to be good enough to select your own chair?"

Mr. Haines took no notice of Mr. Townsend's gesture of almost
exaggerated courtesy. Manner and tone alike were dogged.

"I've been watching you."

"I am gratified to think that any action of mine should have been
esteemed worthy your attention."

"The woman said that you weren't in. I said I'd wait. I knew you'd
come. She fidgeted. So I stepped behind the curtains. I thought trouble
might be saved."

"It was very thoughtful, Mr. Haines, of you, indeed."

Mr. Haines moved away from the curtains. He came farther into the room,
his hand still in the neighbourhood of his pistol pocket, his eyes
never wandering from Mr. Townsend's face.

"Last night I reckoned with your brother."

"My brother?"

"He says he is your brother. He let it out as I was laying into him.
And he's about your style all over. He calls himself Stewart
Trevannion, and he's a thief, but not near such a thief as you."

"Is that so? May I inquire, Mr. Haines, what I have done that you
should say I am a thief?"

"You've stole my girl."

"Your girl?" Mr. Townsend raised his eyebrows slightly, but still
sufficiently for the movement to be perceptible. "Are you alluding to
Mrs. Carruth?"

"Mrs. Carruth? No, young man, I am not alluding, as you call it, to
Mrs. Carruth."

"I thought that Mrs. Carruth could hardly be adequately described as a
girl."

"Is it sneering at Mrs. Carruth you are?"

Mr. Haines's idiom, on the sudden, became flavoured with, as it were, a
reminiscence of Ireland.

"I trust that I never, Mr. Haines, shall be guilty of so heinous a
crime as sneering at a lady. I believe that I am merely asserting a
fact in venturing to express an opinion that Mrs. Carruth can hardly be
adequately described as a girl."

Mr. Townsend's exaggeration of courtesy, suggesting more than it
expressed, seemed to be something for which Mr. Haines was unprepared.
He hesitated, as if in doubt; then repeated his previous assertion.

"You've stole my girl, and I've come to call you to account."

"I am unconscious of having conveyed from you any property of the kind.
Of whom are you speaking as your girl?"

"My Loo."

"Your----" Mr. Townsend obviously started, regaining his
self-possession only after a momentary pause. "I am still, Mr. Haines,
so unfortunate as to be unable to follow you."

"Whether she was known to you as Louisa Haines, or Louise O'Donnel, or
Milly Carroll, she was my girl. You stole her. You killed her. I am
here to kill you for it."

There was silence. The two men eyed each other. Mr. Haines with that
sullen, dogged look upon his face which it was used to wear; Mr.
Townsend with the natural expression of the man who has just been told
a sudden startling, wholly unexpected piece of news. He seemed to find
it so startling a piece of news as to be almost incredible.

"Is it possible, Mr. Haines, that the lady whom I knew as Louise
O'Donnel was your child?"


[Illustration: "'Remove your hand, Sir!'" _Page_ 339]


"She was: my only child--my one ewe lamb. You took her life. What have
you to say why I shouldn't have your life for hers?"

"Only that it is the unexpected happens. I may tell you, twice I have
been advised to beware of you. I had no notion what was your cause of
quarrel. Now that I do know, I admit its perfect justice."

"Put up your hands."

Mr. Haines flashed a revolver in the air. Mr. Townsend remained
unmoved; he simply looked at Mr. Haines and smiled.

"I am afraid that I must decline to obey you, literally, Mr. Haines. We
do not do it quite that way this side. To an English taste the method
seems a little bizarre. But I will undertake to offer no resistance.
Nor to move. So far as I am concerned, you may shoot. I'm ready."

Mr. Haines moved a step or two forward. He pointed his revolver at Mr.
Townsend's head, pointed it with a hand which did not tremble. There
was an interval of silence. They steadfastly regarded each other,
neither moving so much as an eyelash.

"You've grit. Which is what your brother'd like to swallow."

"It pleases you to say so. I would not wish to put you to
inconvenience, but if you will permit me to advise you you will shoot
and waste no time. Time is precious. I happen to know that, if you
waste it, others may cheat you of your prey."

Mr. Haines lowered his revolver.

"I reckoned to shoot you on sight. It's not because you've grit I
don't. Don't you think it. I've seen men like you before. A few. Some
of them with grit enough to dare the devil to do his level worst when
he gets them down to hell. Grit's just an accident. It don't count with
me neither one way nor the other. Young man, I'm going to make you an
offer."

"Make it."

"There are two things I've had to live for. Just two. No more. You've
robbed me of them both. My girl, and the heart which I reckoned to have
one day for mine."

"If, as I presume, this time it is Mrs. Carruth to whom you are
referring, I do protest with all my heart that you are welcome to her
heart, Mr. Haines."

"It's not your consent I should be asking. No. It's hers. I've asked
for it. In vain. I reckon that with nothing to live for living isn't
worth it. I've another gun in here." Mr. Haines produced a second
revolver from one of his tail pockets. Mr. Townsend smiled. "What are
you laughing at, young man?"

"You must forgive me. You reminded me for a moment of a pirate king of
whom I used to read in my boyish days, whose habit it was to carry an
arsenal about with him wherever he might go."

"Laugh on. One of these guns is for you, the other gun's for me. We are
going to shoot each other."

"Excuse me, we are not."

"I say we are." Mr. Townsend slightly shrugged his shoulders. The
gesture seemed to anger Mr. Haines. He went still closer to him. "You
are going to put the muzzle of one gun to my forehead, and I'm going to
put the muzzle of the other gun to yours, and we're going to fire
together on the word."

"I beg ten thousand pardons for being constrained to contradict you,
but--we are not."

"I say we are." Again the only response was a movement of Mr.
Townsend's shoulders. "Take hold of the gun."

Mr. Haines endeavoured to thrust one of the revolvers into Mr.
Townsend's hand.

"Not I."

"Take hold of the gun!"

Mr. Haines, on Mr. Townsend's betraying an inclination to remove
himself from too near neighbourhood, caught him by the shoulder.

"Remove your hand, sir. I have no objection to your shooting me. But to
your touching me while I am still alive I have."

"You hearken to what I say, young man. Take hold of this gun!"

Mr. Haines endeavoured to subject Mr. Townsend to what, in the nursery,
is called a shaking.

"If you attempt to do that again, Mr. Haines, I shall be under the
disagreeable necessity of knocking you down--before the shooting."

Mr. Haines attempted to do it again. Mr. Townsend tried to knock Mr.
Haines down. Mr. Haines was not to be easily felled. Bursting into
sudden passion, he seized Mr. Townsend by both shoulders. His two
"guns" fell, unnoticed, to the ground. With commendable promptness Mr.
Townsend returned the compliment which had been accorded him by
clutching Mr. Haines. They clenched, struggled, and together fell to
the floor.

On the floor they continued to discuss to the best of their ability the
side issue which Mr. Haines had raised.

So engrossed were they with their own proceedings that they failed to
notice the sudden opening of the door, followed by the unannounced
entrance into the room of four or five men. One of them moved quickly
to where the two combatants were contending on the floor. He placed his
hand on Mr. Townsend's shoulder.

"You are my prisoner, Mr. Townsend. I arrest you on the charge of
murder."

The sound of Mr. Holman's voice--for Matthew Holman was the
speaker--did produce a diversion of the interest. The two men ceased to
struggle. Then, being suffered to do so by Mr. Haines, Mr. Townsend
rose to his feet. As he did so, some one who had come into the room
with the police broke into laughter as he pointed at him with his
finger. It was Mr. Pendarvon.

"Yes, officer, that's your man. That's Townsend, the Three Bridges
murderer."

Mr. Pendarvon's merriment seemed out of place. He had cause to exchange
it for something else a moment afterwards.

Mr. Townsend turned to Mr. Holman.

"As this person says, I am the man you want. And----" He paused; before
they had a notion of what it was he intended to do, rushing forward, he
had caught Mr. Pendarvon in his arms and borne him completely from his
feet. "You are just the man I want."

Mr. Townsend's movements were so rapid that, before they could do
anything to stop him, he had carried his victim right across the room,
and, brushing aside the curtains, with a tremendous splintering of
glass, had crashed with him through the closed windows into the night
beyond.

"All right," cried Mr. Holman, as, too late to check his progress, the
constables rushed after him. "There are some of the other chaps out
there. They'll have him."

From Mr. Holman's point of view it proved to be all right. The drop
from the window was only six or seven feet. By the time Mr. Holman had
reached it Mr. Townsend was already again in the hands of the police.
The detective shouted his instructions through the shattered pane.

"Put the handcuffs on him."

A voice replied from below--

"They are on him. He has almost killed this other man."

Mr. Townsend was heard speaking with a most pronounced drawl.

"Almost! Not quite! That's a pity. Still, 'twill serve. Officer, will
you allow me to use my handkerchief; my mouth is bleeding?"

He succeeded, in spite of his handcuffed wrists, in withdrawing a
handkerchief from an inner pocket of his coat. He pressed it, for a
moment, to his lips. When he removed it, he tossed something into the
air.

"Done you!" he cried. "Hurrah!"

There was an exclamation from the officer who was in charge of him.

"He has taken something. I can smell it."

"Yes," said Mr. Townsend, "I have taken leave." There was a small
commotion. Mr. Townsend, reeling, would have fallen to the ground had
he not been supported by the sergeant's arms. The man leaned over him
to smell his breath. He, probably, was something of a chemist.
"Hydrocyanic acid!" he exclaimed. "He is dead."



                            CHAPTER XLII.

                            HAND IN HAND.


Mrs. Tennant had obtained permission to see her husband in prison once
before he was hung to say good-bye. She was starting upon the errand
now--alone.

She had resolved to go alone. She had battled out the question with
herself, upon her knees, in prayer, and it seemed to her that, of many
alternatives, she had not chosen the worst. She would have with her
neither his mother, nor hers, nor any of their kith and kin. The horror
of the memory of that parting should be hers alone.

Nor would she take their little child, their Minna. That was for the
child's sake. The father might, perhaps, be glad to see, once more, his
darling, even though it was through iron bars. But the child must be
considered. The picture of that last parting might, and probably would,
be impinged upon the retina of the child's brain, never to be
obliterated. It might haunt her through the years, colour the whole of
her life.

When Mrs. Tennant was ready to start, while she was still in the
privacy of her own room, she knelt upon the floor and drew the little
child into her arms.

"Minna, I am going to see papa. Shall I tell him that you send your
love?"

A small, pleading face looked into hers.

"Can't I come with you? I want to see him too."

"I cannot take you with me, Minna, but I will take your love. I think
it would please papa to know you sent it."

"Of course you are to tell papa I love him. He knows I do. And, mamma,
you're to give him that." The child kissed her mother. "And you're to
tell him that he is to come back soon."

Mrs. Tennant went with the little one downstairs, not daring to trust
herself in further speech. Her mother came to receive the child, and to
put to her a last inquiry.

"Are you quite sure, Lucy, that you would not like to have me with
you--nor any one--even as far as Lewes? Consider, dear, all you are
undertaking, and think before you speak." Mrs. Tennant's answer was
quietly conclusive. "I would rather go quite alone, mother, thanking
you." There was a knocking at the hall door. Since bad news had come
crowding so fast upon the household, every fresh knock had seemed to be
the precursor of more ill-tidings. The two women looked at each other
with frightened faces, a question in their very silence. While they
still were looking there came, bursting into the room, no less a
personage than that eminent counsel, Bates, Q.C., who had defended Mr.
Tennant at his trial.

Mr. Bates seemed to be in a condition of very unlawyerlike excitement.

"Mrs. Tennant, I bring you good news!"

Mrs. Tennant shrunk back.

"Good news! For me!"

"The best of all possible news. I have only just heard it. I have come
rushing off at once to tell you. Your husband is pardoned!"

"Pardoned! Do you mean that his sentence is commuted?"

"Nothing of the sort! He is a free man--as free as air! He has told us
all along the absolute truth. He had nothing to do with the woman
falling out of the carriage--she isn't even dead! It's an extraordinary
story, and you shall hear all the details another time; but he had no
more to do with the death of the poor girl who actually was murdered
than you or I. Mrs. Tennant, your husband is a hardly used and a deeply
injured man."

Mrs. Tennant had sunk into a chair. She was crying. Mr. Bates blew his
nose; he wiped his eyes.

"Don't cry madam, don't cry! This isn't a case for tears! I am told
that a Queen's messenger is taking the official pardon to Lewes by the
next train. If you make haste, you'll be able to travel with him. And
I'll come with you if you like!"

"Thank you, Mr. Bates, I will go alone."

And, practically, she went alone. In the same compartment of the train
was the official messenger, but they did not exchange half a dozen
words. Sitting in a corner of the railway carriage, with her veil down,
she cried all the way to Lewes, smiling through her tears. They had a
carriage from the station up to the prison on the hill. And Mrs.
Tennant was suffered to be the bearer of the glad tidings to her
husband.

In the condemned cell, locked in each other's arms, the man and woman
cried as if their hearts would break.

And very shortly the prison gates closed after them, as, out of the
valley of the shadow of death, they passed to face the world again, the
husband and the wife, together, hand in hand.



                               THE END.



        UNWIN BROTHERS, THE GRESHAM PRESS, WOKING AND LONDON.





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