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´╗┐Title: The Bomb-Makers - Being some Curious Records concerning the Craft and Cunning - of Theodore Drost, an enemy al
Author: Le Queux, William, 1864-1927
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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The Bomb-Makers
Being some Curious Records concerning the Craft and Cunning of Theodore
Drost, an enemy alien in London, together with certain Revelations
regarding his daughter Ella.
By William Le Queux
Published by Jarrolds, London.

The Bombmakers, by William Le Queux.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
THE BOMBMAKERS, BY WILLIAM LE QUEUX.

CHAPTER ONE.

THE DEVIL'S DICE.

"Do get rid of the girl!  Can't you see that she's highly dangerous!"
whispered the tall, rather overdressed man as he glanced furtively
across the small square shop set with little tables, dingy in the haze
of tobacco-smoke.  It was an obscure, old-fashioned little restaurant in
one of London's numerous byways--a resort of Germans, naturalised and
otherwise, "the enemy in our midst," as the papers called them.

"I will.  I quite agree.  My girl may know just a little too much--if we
are not very careful."

"Ah! she knows far too much already, Drost, thanks to your ridiculous
indiscretions," growled the dark-eyed man beneath his breath.  "They
will land you before a military court-martial--if you are not careful!"

"Well, I hardly think so.  I'm always most careful--most silent and
discreet," and he grinned evilly.

"True, you are a good Prussian--that I know; but remember that Ella has,
unfortunately for us, very many friends, and she may talk--women's talk,
you know.  We--you and I--are treading very thin ice.  She is, I
consider, far too friendly with that young fellow Kennedy.  It's
dangerous--distinctly dangerous to us--and I really wonder that you
allow it--you, a patriotic Prussian!"

And, drawing heavily at his strong cigar, he paused and examined its
white ash.

"Allow it?" echoed the elder man.  "How, in the name of Fate, can I
prevent it?  Suggest some means to end their acquaintanceship, and I am
only too ready to hear it."

The man who spoke, the grey-haired Dutch pastor, father of Ella Drost,
the smartly-dressed girl who was seated chatting and laughing merrily
with two rather ill-dressed men in the farther corner of the little
smoke-dried place, grunted deeply.  To the world of London he posed as a
Dutchman.  He was a man with a curiously triangular face, a big square
forehead, with tight-drawn skin and scanty hair, and broad heavy
features which tapered down to a narrow chin that ended in a pointed,
grey, and rather scraggy beard.

Theodore Drost was about fifty-five, a keen, active man whose
countenance, upon critical examination, would have been found to be
curiously refined, intelligent, and well preserved.  Yet he was shabbily
dressed, his long black clerical coat shiny with wear, in contrast with
the way in which his daughter--in her fine furs and clothes of the
latest mode--was attired.  But the father, in all grades of life, is
usually shabby, while his daughter--whatever be her profession--looks
smart, be it the smartness of Walworth or that of Worth.

As his friend, Ernst Ortmann, had whispered those warning words he had
glanced across at her, and noting how gaily she was laughing with her
two male friends, a cigarette between her pretty lips, he frowned.

Then he looked over to the man who had thus urged discretion.

The pair were seated at a table, upon which was a red-bordered cloth,
whereon stood two half-emptied "bocks" of that light beer so dear to the
Teuton palate.  They called it "Danish beer," not to offend English
customers.

The girl whose smiles they were watching was distinctly pretty.  She was
about twenty-two, with a sweet, eminently English-looking face, fair and
quite in contrast with the decidedly foreign, beetle-browed features of
the two leering loafers with whom she sat laughing.

Theodore Drost, to do him justice, was devoted to his daughter, who,
because of her childish aptitude, had become a dancer on the lowest
level of the variety stage, a touring company which visited fifth-rate
towns.  Yet, owing to her discovered talent, she had at last graduated
through the hard school of the Lancashire "halls," to what is known as
the "syndicate halls" of London.

From a demure child-dancer at an obscure music-hall in the outer
suburbs, she had become a noted revue artiste, a splendid dancer, who
commanded the services of her own press-agent, who in turn commanded
half-a-dozen lines in most of the London morning papers, both her
prestige and increased salary following in consequence.  The British
public so little suspect the insidious influence of the press-agent in
the formation of modern genius.  The press-agent has, in the past, made
many a mediocre fool into a Birthday Baronet, or a "paid-for Knight,"
and more than one has been employed in the service of a Cabinet
Minister.  Oh what sheep we are, and how easily we are led astray!

On that wintry night, Ella Drost--known to the theatre-going public as
Stella Steele, the great revue artiste whose picture postcards were
everywhere--sat in that stuffy, dingy little restaurant in Soho, sipping
a glass of its pseudo-Danish lager, and laughing with the two
unpresentable men before her.

Outside the unpretentious little place was written up the single word
"Restaurant."  Its proprietor a big, full-blooded, fair-bearded son of
the Fatherland, had kept it for twenty years, and it had been the
evening rendezvous of working-class Germans--waiters, bakers, clerks,
coiffeurs, jewellers, and such-like.

Here one could still revel in Teuton delicacies, beer brewed in Hamburg,
but declared to be "Danish," the succulent German liver sausage, the
sausage of Frankfort--boiled in pairs of course--the palatable
sauerkraut with the black sour bread of the Fatherland to match.

"I wish you could get rid of Kennedy," said Ortmann, as he again, in
confidence, bent across the table towards Ella's father.  "I believe
she's in collusion with him."

"No," laughed the elder man, "I can't believe that.  Ella is too good a
daughter of the Fatherland."  He was one of Germany's chief agents in
England, and had much money in secret at his command.

Ortmann screwed up his eyes and pursed his lips.  He was a shrewd,
clever man, and very difficult to deceive.

"Money is at stake, my dear Drost," he whispered very slowly--"big
money.  But there is love also.  And I believe--nay, I'm sure--that
Kennedy loves her."

"Bah! utterly ridiculous!" cried her father.  "I don't believe that for
a single moment.  She's only fooling him, as she has fooled all the
others."

"All right.  But I've watched.  You have not," was the cold reply.

From time to time the attractive Ella, on her part, glanced across at
her father, who was whispering with his overdressed companion, and, to
the keen observer, it would have been apparent that she was only smoking
and gossiping with that pair of low-bred foreigners for distinct
purposes of her own.

The truth was that, with her woman's instinct, feminine cleverness and
ingenuity, she, being filled with the enthusiasm of affection for her
aviator-lover, was playing a fiercely desperate part as a staunch and
patriotic daughter of Great Britain.

The hour was late.  She had hurried from the theatre in a taxi, the
carmine still about her pretty lips, her eyes still darkened beneath,
and the greasepaint only roughly rubbed off.  The great gold and white
theatre near Leicester Square, where, clad in transparencies, she was
"leading lady" in that most popular revue "Half a Moment!" had been
packed to suffocation, as indeed it was nightly.  Officers and men home
on leave from the battle-front all made a point of seeing the pretty,
sweet-faced Stella Steele, who danced with such artistic movement, and
who sang those catchy patriotic songs of hers, the stirring choruses of
which even reached the ears of the Bosches in their trenches.  And in
many a British dug-out in Flanders there was hung a programme of the
revue, or a picture postcard of the seductive Stella.

There were, perhaps, other Stella Steeles on the stage, for the name
was, after all, not an uncommon one, but this star of the whole Steele
family had arisen from the theatrical firmament since the war.  She, the
laughing girl who, that night, sat in that obscure, smoke-laden little
den of aliens in Soho, was earning annually more than the "pooled"
salary of a British Cabinet Minister.

That Stella was a born artiste all agreed--even her agent, that fat
cigar-smoking Hebrew cynic who regarded all stage women as mere cattle
out of whom he extracted commissions.  To-day nobody can earn unusual
emoluments in any profession without real merit assisted by a capable
agent.

Stella Steele was believed by all to be thoroughly British.  Nobody had
ever suspected that her real name was Drost, nor that her bespectacled
and pious father had been born in Stuttgart, and had afterwards become
naturalised as a Dutchman before coming to England.  The
cigarette-smoking male portion of the khaki-clad crowd who so loudly
applauded her every night had no idea that their idol had been born in
Berlin.  Isaac Temple, the mild-mannered press-agent whom she employed,
had always presented her, both to press and public, and sent those
artistic photographs of hers to the Sunday illustrated papers, as
daughter of a London barrister who had died suddenly, leaving her
penniless.  Thus had the suspicious connection with Drost been always
carefully suppressed, and Ella lived very quietly in her pretty flat in
Stamfordham Mansions, situate just off the High Street in Kensington.

Her father--her English mother, whom she had adored, being long ago
dead--lived a quiet, secluded life in one of those rather large houses
which may be found on the south side of the Thames between Putney and
Richmond.  Pastor Drost had, it was believed by the Dutch colony in
London, been a missionary for some years in Sumatra, and, on more than
one occasion, he had lectured upon the native life of that island.
Therefore he had many friends among Dutch merchants and others, who all
regarded him as a perfectly honest and even pious, if rather eccentric,
man.

At times he wore big round horn-rimmed glasses which grossly magnified
his eyes, giving him a strange goggled appearance.  The world, however,
never knew that Pastor Drost's only daughter was that versatile dancer
who, dressed in next-to-nothing, nightly charmed those huge enthusiastic
audiences in the popular revue, "Half a Moment!"

Until three months after the outbreak of war Ella had regarded her
father's idiosyncrasies with some amusement, dismissing them as the
outcome of a mind absorbed in chemical experiment, for though none save
herself was aware of it, the long attic beneath the roof of her father's
house--the door of which Theodore Drost always kept securely locked--was
fitted as a great chemical laboratory, where he, as a professor of
chemistry, was constantly experimenting.

After the outbreak of war, by reason of a conversation she one day
overheard between her father and his mysterious visitor, Ernst Ortmann,
her suspicions had become aroused.  Strange suspicions they indeed were.
But in order to obtain confirmation of them, she had become more
attached to her father, and had visited him far more frequently than
before, busying herself in his domestic affairs, and sometimes assisting
the old widow, Mrs Pennington, who acted as his single servant.

Two years prior to the war, happening upon that house, which was to be
sold cheap, Ella had purchased it, ready furnished as it was, and given
it as a present to her father as a place in which he might spend his old
age in comfort.  But until that night when she had overheard the curious
conversation--which she had afterwards disclosed in confidence to her
lover, Lieutenant Seymour Kennedy, Flight-Commander of the Naval Air
Service--she had never dreamed that her father, the good and pious
Dutchman who had once been a missionary, was an enemy alien, whose plans
were maturing in order to assist a great and desperate conspiracy
organised by the secret service of the German Fatherland.

On a certain well-remembered November evening she had revealed to
Kennedy the truth, and they had both made a firm compact with each
other.  The plotter was her father, it was true.  But she was a daughter
of Great Britain, and it was for her to combat any wily and evil plot
which might be formed against the land which had given birth to her
adored mother.

She loved Seymour Kennedy.  A hundred men had smiled upon her, bent over
her little hand, written to her, sent her flowers and presents, and
declared to her their undying affection.  It is ever so.  The popular
actress always attracts both fools and fortunes.  But Ella, level-headed
girl as she was, loved only Seymour, and had accepted the real,
whole-hearted and honest kisses which he had imprinted upon her lips.
Seymour Kennedy was a gentleman before being an officer, which could
not, alas! be said of all the men in the services in war-time.

Ella Drost was no fool, her dead mother had always instilled into her
mind that, though born of a German father, yet she was British, an
argument which, if discussed legally, would have been upset, because,
having, unfortunately, been born in Berlin, she was certainly a subject
of the German octopus.  At the time of her birth her father had occupied
a very important position among professors--half the men in the
Fatherland were professors of something or other--yet Drost had been
professor of chemistry at the Imperial Arsenal at Spandau--that great
impregnable fortress in which the French war indemnity of 1870 had been
locked up as the war-chest of golden French louis.

How strange it was!  And yet it was not altogether strange.  Ella, whose
heart--the heart of a true British girl trained at her mother's knee--
had discovered a curious "something" and, aided by her British airman
lover, was determined to carry on her observations, at all hazards, to
the point of ascertaining the real truth.

England was at war at the battle-front--and she, a mere girl, was at war
with the enemy in its midst.

Three-quarters of an hour later Ella--whose comfortable car was waiting
outside the dingy little place--had driven her father home, but on the
way she expressed her decision to stay with him, as it was late and her
French maid, Mariette, had no doubt gone to bed.

As they stood in her father's large, well-furnished dining-room, Ella
drew some lemonade from a siphon and then, declaring that she was
sleepy, said she would retire.

"All right, my dear," replied the old man.  "All right.  You'll find
your room quite ready for you.  I always order that it shall be kept
ready for you.  Let's see!  You were here a week ago--so the bed will
not be damp."

The girl bent and imprinted a dutiful kiss upon her father's white brow,
but, next instant, set her teeth, and in her blue eyes--though he did
not see it--there showed a distinct light of suspicion.

Then she switched on the light on the stairs, loosened her furs, and
ascended to the well-furnished room that was always regarded as hers.

The room in which Ella found herself was large, with a fine double
wardrobe, a long cheval-glass, and a handsome mahogany dressing-table.
The curtains and upholstery were in pale-blue damask, while the thick
plush carpet was of a darker shade.

Instead of retiring, Ella at once lit the gas-stove, glanced at her
wristlet-watch, the face of which was set round with diamonds, and then
flung herself into a deep armchair to think, dozing off at last, tired
out by the exertion of her dancing.

The striking of the little gilt clock upon the mantelshelf presently
aroused her, and, rising, she switched off the light and, creeping upon
tiptoe, slowly opened her bedroom door and listened attentively.

Somewhere she could hear the sound of men's voices.  One she recognised
as her father's.

"That's Nystrom again!  That infernal hell-fiend!" she whispered
breathlessly to herself.

Then, removing her smart shoes and her jingling bangles, she crept
stealthily forth along the soft carpet of the corridor, and with great
care ascended the stairs to the floor above, which was occupied by that
long room, the door of which was always kept locked--the room in which
her father conducted his constant experiments.

From the ray of light she saw that the door was ajar.  Within, the two
men were talking in low deep tones in German.

She could hear a hard sound, as of metal being filed down, and more than
once distinguished the clinking of glass, as though her father was
engaged in some experiment with his test-tubes and other scientific
paraphernalia which she had seen arranged so methodically upon the two
long deal tables.

"What has Ortmann told you?" asked Theodore Drost's midnight visitor,
while his daughter stood back within the long cupboard on the landing,
listening.

"He says that all is in order.  We have a friend awaiting us."

"And the payment--eh?" asked the man Nystrom, a German who had been
naturalised as a Swede, and now lived in London as a neutral.  As a
professor of chemistry he had been well-known in Stockholm and, being a
bosom friend of the Dutch pastor's, the pair often delighted in dabbling
together in their favourite science.

"I shall meet Ernst on Friday night.  If we are successful, he will pay
two thousand pounds--to be equally divided between us."

"Good," grunted the other.  "We shall be successful, never fear--that is
if Ortmann has arranged things at his end.  _Himmel_! what a shock it
will be--eh, my friend?--worse than the Zeppelins!"

Theodore Drost laughed gleefully, while his daughter, daring to creep
forward again, peered through the crack of the door and saw the pair
bending over what looked like a square steel despatch-box standing upon
the table amid all the scientific apparatus.

The box, about eighteen inches long, a foot wide, and six inches deep,
was khaki-covered, and, though she was not aware of it at the time, it
was of the exact type used in the Government offices.

Fridtjof Nystrom, a tall, dark-haired man, with a red, blotchy face,
rather narrow-eyed and round-shouldered, was adjusting something within
the box, while old Drost, who had discarded his shabby black pastor's
coat and now wore a dark-brown jacket, took up a small glass retort
beneath which the blue flame of a spirit-lamp had been burning, and from
it he poured a few drops of some bright red liquid into a tiny tube of
very thin glass.  Then, taking a small blow-pipe, he blew the flame upon
the tube until he had melted the glass and sealed it hermetically.

The blotchy-faced man watched this latter operation with great interest,
saying:

"Have a care now, my dear Theodore.  The least mishap, and not a piece
of either of us would remain to tell the story."

"_Ja_!  Leave that to me," answered Ella's father.  "We do not, I agree,
desire a repetition of the disaster which happened last week."

Ella, hearing those words, stood aghast.

A week before all London had been mystified and horrified by a most
remarkable explosion which had occurred one night in a house in one of
the outer suburbs, whereby the place had been set on fire and utterly
demolished.  Whoever were present in the house had been blown to atoms,
for no trace of the occupants, or of what had caused the disaster, had
been discovered.  At first it was believed to have been caused by an
incendiary bomb dropped from the air, but expert evidence quickly
established the fact that something within the house had exploded.

Was it possible that her father and his dastardly companions possessed
knowledge of what had actually occurred there?

Suddenly, Drost having handed the tiny sealed tube to Nystrom, the
latter proceeded to place it in position within the box, using most
infinite care.  Then her father turned upon his heel, and came forward
to the door behind which his daughter was standing.

In a second Ella had shrunk back noiselessly into the cupboard, which
the old man passed in the darkness, and descended the stairs.

He had passed the door of Ella's room when, having gained the bottom of
the stairs, he paused and whistled softly.  In a few seconds Nystrom
came forth.

"Come, Fridtjof," he urged in a low whisper.  "Let us drink to the
success of our expedition to-night, and the victory of our dear
Fatherland," an invitation which his visitor at once accepted.

Ella heard the two men descend, making but little noise, and a moment
later she crept into the long, well-lit laboratory where, upon the
table, stood the big official-looking despatch-box.

A second's glance was sufficient to reveal the truth even to her, a
woman unversed as she was in such things.  It was a most
ingeniously-constructed infernal machine which would detonate the
quantity of high-explosive which she saw had been placed within.

Though her father had taken the greatest precaution to conceal from his
daughter the exact line of his chemical experiments, yet, if the truth
be told, Ella and her lover had watched carefully, and Kennedy--who had
shared his well-beloved's suspicions--had ascertained, without doubt,
that Drost and Nystrom had been engaged in that long, low room beneath
the roof, in treating toluene with nitric and sulphuric acid for several
days under heat thus producing tri-nitro-toluene--or trotul--that modern
high-explosive, of terrible force, which was rapidly superseding picric
acid as a base for shell-fillers.

At a glance Ella saw that the square steel bomb, fashioned like an
official despatch-box, was filled with this highly dangerous explosive,
and that the thin glass tube which, when broken, would explode it, had
already been placed in position.  Such a bomb, on exploding in a
confined space, must work the most terrible havoc.

In those few seconds the girl verified the suspicion which Kennedy had
entertained.  Some desperate outrage was to be committed.  That was
quite certain.

A bomb from a Zeppelin could not cause greater injury to life and
property than that ingeniously contrived machine, the delicately
constructed fuse of which, fashioned on the lathe by her father's own
hands, could be arranged to detonate at any given time.

A second's pause, and then the girl, beneath her breath, took a deep
oath of vengeance against the ruler of that hated land wherein she had
been born.

"Thank Heaven that I am English!" she whispered to herself.  "And I will
live--and die, if necessary--as an English girl should."

With those words upon her lips she crept away from the laboratory, down
the stairs to her room, and, swiftly putting on her fur coat, she went
into the basement, from which she let herself out noiselessly, and then
hurried through the night, in the direction of Hammersmith Bridge.

On gaining the bridge, she saw the red rear-light of a motor-car, and
knew that it was Kennedy's.  He had drawn up against the kerb, and had
been consuming cigarettes waiting in impatience for a long time.

"Well, darling?" he asked, as they met.  "I got your message from the
theatre to-night.  What is in progress?"

"Something desperate," was her quick reply.  "Let's get into the car and
I'll explain."

Both entered the comfortable little coupe, and then Ella explained in
detail to her flying-man lover all that she had discovered.

The keen-faced, clean-shaven young officer in uniform who, before he had
gone in for aviation duties, had graduated at Osborne, and afterwards
been at sea and risen from "snotty" to lieutenant, sat beside her,
listening intently.

"Just as we thought, darling," he remarked.  "For me, loving you so
dearly, it is a terrible thing to know that your father is such a deadly
and ingenious enemy of ours as he is.  Truly the German plotters are in
our midst in every walk of life, from high society down to the scum of
the East End.  The brutes are out to win the war by any underhand,
subtle, and brutal means in their power.  But we have discovered one
line of their enemy intentions and, with your aid, dearest, we will
follow it up and, without exposing your father and bringing disgrace
upon you, we'll set out to combat them every time."

"Agreed, dear," declared the girl with patriotic enthusiasm.  "I have
told you all along of my suspicions.  To-night they are verified.
Father, and that devilish scoundrel, Nystrom, mean mischief--for payment
too--one thousand pounds each!"

"The infernal brutes!" exclaimed the man at her side.  "At least it is
to you, dear, that this discovery is due.  I had no idea what you were
after when you sent me that wire to-night."

"I suspected, and my suspicions have proved correct," said the girl.
"Shall we wait here and follow them?  They must cross the river if they
intend to go into London to-night--as no doubt they do."

"Yes.  They believe you to be soundly asleep, I suppose?"

"I locked my door, and have the key in my pocket," replied his
well-beloved with a light laugh.

And she, putting her ready lips to his, sat with him in the car at the
foot of the long suspension-bridge, waiting for any person to cross.

They remained there for perhaps half-an-hour, ever eager and watchful.
Several taxis passed, but otherwise all was quiet in the night.  Now and
then across the sky fell the big beams of searchlights seeking enemy
aircraft, and these they were watching, when, suddenly, a powerful,
dark-painted car approached.

"Look!" cried Ella.  "Why, that's that fellow Benyon's car--he's a
friend of Dad's!"

Next moment it flashed past, and beneath the dim light at the head of
the bridge they both caught a glimpse of two men within, one of whom was
undoubtedly Theodore Drost.

"Quick!" cried Ella.  "Let's follow them!  Fortunately you have to-night
another car, unknown to them!"

In an instant Seymour Kennedy had started his engine, and slowly he drew
out across the bridge, speeding after the retreating car over the river,
along Bridge Road to Hammersmith Broadway and through Brook Green, in a
direction due north.

Through the London streets it was not difficult at that hour to follow
the red tail-light of the car in which Drost sat with his bosom friend
George Benyon, a mysterious person who seemed to be an adventurer, and
who lived somewhere in York or its vicinity.

"I wonder if they are going up to York?"  Ella asked, as she sat in the
deep seat of the coupe at her lover's side.

"We'll see.  If they get on to the North Road we shall at once know
their intentions," was her lover's reply.

Half-an-hour later the pseudo-Dutch pastor and his companion, driven by
rather a reckless young fellow, were on the main Great North Road, and
Kennedy, possessing a lighter and superior car, had no misgivings as to
overtaking them whenever he wished.

On through the night they went, passing Barnet, Hatfield, Hitchin, the
cross-roads at Wansford, and up the crooked pebbled streets of Stamford,
until in the grey of morning they descended into Grantham, with its tall
spire and quaint old Angel and Crown Hotel.

It was there that Drost and his companion breakfasted, while Ella and
her lover waited and watched.

Some devilish plot of a high-explosive nature was in progress, but of
its true import they were in utter ignorance.  Yet their two British
hearts beat quickly in unison, and both were determined to frustrate the
outrage, even at the sacrifice of their own lives.

At three o'clock in the afternoon Drost and Benyon drew up at the
Station Hotel at York, and there took lunch, while Ella and her lover
ate a very hurried and much-needed meal in the railway-buffet in the big
station adjoining.

Then, after they had watched the departure of the big mud-spattered car
which contained the two conspirators, they were very quickly upon the
road again after them.

Out of the quiet old streets of York city, past the Minster, they turned
eastward upon that well-kept highway which led towards the North Sea
Coast.

An hour's run brought them to the pleasant town which I must not, with
the alarming provisions of the Defence of the Realm Act before me,
indicate with any other initial save that of J--.

The town of J--, built upon a deep and pretty bay forming a natural
harbour with its breakwater and pier, was, in the pre-war days, a
popular resort of the summer girl with her transparent blouses and her
pretty bathing costumes, but since hostilities, it was a place believed
to be within the danger zone.

As they descended, by the long, winding road, into the town, they could
see, in the bay, a big grey four-funnelled first-class cruiser lying at
anchor, the grey smoke curling lazily from her striped funnels--resting
there no doubt after many weeks of patrol duty in the vicinity of the
Kiel Canal.

Indeed, as they went along the High Street, they saw a number of
clear-eyed liberty men--bluejackets--bearing upon their caps the name
H.M.S.  _Oakham_.

The car containing Ella's father and his companion pulled up at the
Palace Hotel, a big imposing place, high on the cliff, therefore
Kennedy, much satisfied that he had thus been able to follow the car for
over two hundred miles, went on some little distance to the next
available hotel.

This latter place, like the Palace, afforded a fine view of the bay, and
as they stood at a window of the palm-lined lounge, they could see that
upon the cruiser lights were already appearing.

Kennedy called the waiter for a drink, and carelessly asked what was in
progress.

"The ship--the _Oakham_--came in the day before yesterday, sir," the man
replied.  "There's a party on board this evening, they say--our Mayor
and corporation, and all the rest."

Ella exchanged glances with her lover.  She recollected that
khaki-covered despatch-box.  Had her father brought with him that
terrible death-dealing machine which he and Nystrom had constructed with
such accursed ingenuity?

The hotel was deserted, as east coast hotels within the danger zone
usually were in those war days, remaining open only for the occasional
traveller and for the continuity of its licence.  The great revue star
had sent a telegram to her manager, asking that her understudy should
play that night, and the devoted pair now stood side by side watching
how, in the rapidly falling night, the twinkling electric lights on
board the fine British cruiser became more clearly marked against the
grey background of stormy sea and sky.

"I wonder what their game can really be?" remarked the young
flying-officer reflectively as, alone with Ella, his strong arm crept
slowly around her neat waist.

From where they stood they were afforded a wide view of the broad road
which led from the town down to the landing-stage, from which the
cruiser's steam pinnace and picket-boat were speeding to and fro between
ship and shore.  A dozen or so smart motor-cars had descended the road,
conveying the guests of the captain and officers who, after their long
and unrelaxing vigil in the North Sea, certainly deserved a little
recreation.  Then, as the twilight deepened and the stars began to shine
out over the bay, it was seen that the procession of guests had at last
ended.

"I think, Ella, that we might, perhaps, go down to the landing-stage,"
said Kennedy at last--"if you are not too tired, dear."

"Tired?  Why, of course not," she laughed, and after he had helped her
on with her coat, they both went out, passing down to the harbour by
another road.

For fully an hour they idled about in the darkness, watching the swift
brass-funnelled pinnace which, so spick and span, and commanded by a
smart lad fresh from Osborne, was making the journey regularly between
ship and quay.  Away in the darkness the lights on the cruiser's
quarter-deck reflected into the sea, while ever and anon the high-up
masthead signal-lamp winked in Morse code to the coastguard station five
miles distant across the bay.

While they were watching, the pinnace came in again, whereupon the smart
figure of a naval officer in his topcoat appeared within the zone of
light, and descended the steps, shouting in an interrogative tone:

"_Oakham_?"

"Ay, ay, sir!" came a cheery voice from the pinnace.

"Look!" gasped Ella, clinging to her lover's arm.  "Why--it's Benyon--
dressed as a naval lieutenant!  He's going on board, and he's carrying
that despatch-box with him!"

Indeed, he had handed the heavy box to one of the men, and was at that
moment stepping into the pinnace.

"Off to the ship--as quick as you can!" they heard him order, while,
next moment, the boat was cast loose and the propeller began to revolve.

"We haven't a second to lose!" whispered Kennedy who, as soon as the
pinnace was around the pier-head, called out "Boat!"  In an instant
half-a-dozen men, noticing that he was a naval officer, were eagerly
crowding around him.

"I want to follow that pinnace--quick!" he said.  "Three men--and you
can sail out there.  The wind's just right."

In a few moments a boat came alongside the steps, and into it the pair
stepped, with three hardy North Sea boatmen.

Quickly sail was set and, favoured by a fresh breeze, the boat slowly
heeled over and began to skim across the dark waters.

Already the light on the pinnace showed far away, it having nearly
reached the ship.  Therefore Kennedy, in his eagerness, stirred the
three men to greater effort, so that by rowing and sailing by turns,
they gradually grew nearer the long, dark war-vessel, while Ella sat
clasping her well-beloved's hand in the darkness, and whispering
excitedly with him.

Those were, indeed, moments of greatest tension, away upon that dark
wintry sea beyond the harbour, that wide bay which, on account of its
unusual depth and exposed position, was never considered a very safe
anchorage.

Their progress seemed at a snail's pace, as it always seems upon the sea
at night.  They watched the pinnace draw up, and they knew that the man,
Benyon, who, though German-born, had lived in London the greater part of
his life--was on board carrying that terrible instrument of death that
had been cleverly prepared in such official guise.

At last--after an age it seemed--the boat swung in beside the lighted
gangway against the pinnace, and Kennedy, stepping nimbly up, said to
the sentry on board:

"Let nobody pass up or down, except this lady."  Then, seeing the
officer on duty, he asked if a lieutenant had arrived on board with a
despatch-box.

"Yes.  I've sent him down to the captain," was the reply.

"Take me to the captain at once, please," Kennedy said in a calm voice.
"There's no time to lose.  There's treachery on board!"

In a second the officer was on the alert and ran down the stern gangway
which led direct to the captain's comfortable cabin, with its
easy-chairs covered with bright chintzes like the small drawing-room of
a country house.

Kennedy followed with Ella, but the captain was not there.  The sentry
said he was in the ward-room, therefore the pair waited till he came
forward eagerly.

"Well," asked the grey-haired captain with some surprise, seeing an
officer and a lady.  "What is it?"

"Have you received any despatches to-night, sir?"  Kennedy inquired.

"No.  What despatches?" asked the captain.

Then, in a few brief words, Kennedy explained how he had watched a man
in naval uniform come off in the pinnace, carrying a heavy despatch-box.
The man had passed the sentry and been directed below by the officer on
duty.  But he had never arrived at the captain's cabin.

The "owner," as the captain of a cruiser is often called by his brother
officers, was instantly on the alert.  The alarm was given, and the ship
was at once thoroughly searched, especially the ammunition stores,
where, in the flat close to the torpedoes on the port side, the deadly
box was discovered.  The guests knew nothing of this activity on the
lower deck, but the two men who found the box heard a curious ticking
within, and without a second's delay brought it up and heaved it
overboard.

Then again the boatswain piped, and every man, as he stood at his post,
was informed that a spy who had attempted to blow up the ship was still
on board.  Indeed, as "Number One," otherwise the first lieutenant, was
addressing them a great column of water rose from an explosion deep
below the surface, and much of it fell heavily on deck.

Another thorough search was made into every corner of the vessel,
whereupon the stranger in uniform was at last discovered in one of the
stokeholds.  Two stokers rushed across to seize him, but with a quick
movement he felled both with an iron bar.  Then he ran up the ladder
with the agility of a cat, and sped right into the arms of Ella and
Kennedy.

"Curse you--I was too late!" he shrieked in fierce anger, on recognising
them, and then seeing all retreat cut off, he suddenly sprang over the
side of the vessel, intending, no doubt, to swim ashore.

At once the pinnace went after him, but in the darkness he could not be
discovered, though the searchlights began to slowly sweep the dark
swirling waters.

That he met a well-deserved fate, however, was proved by the fact that
at dawn next day his body was picked up on the other side of the bay.
Yet long before, Theodore Drost, suspecting that something was amiss by
his fellow spy's non-return, had left by train for London.

Seymour Kennedy was next day called to the Admiralty and thanked for his
keen vigilance, but he only smiled and kept a profound secret the active
part played by his particular friend, the popular actress--Miss Stella
Steele.

CHAPTER TWO.

THE GREAT TUNNEL PLOT.

"There!  Is it not a very neat little toy, my dear Ernst?" asked
Theodore Drost, speaking in German, dressed in his usual funereal black
of a Dutch pastor, as everyone believed him to be.

Ernst Ortmann, the man addressed, screwed up his eyes, a habit of his,
and eagerly examined the heavy walking-stick which his friend had handed
to him.

It was a thick bamboo-stump, dark-brown and well-polished, bearing a
heavy iron ferrule.

The root-end, which formed the bulgy knob, the wily old German had
unscrewed, revealing in a cavity a small cylinder of brass.  This
Ortmann took out and, in turn, unscrewed it, disclosing a curious
arrangement of cog-wheels--a kind of clockwork within.

"You see that as long as the stick is carried upright the clock does not
work," Drost explained.  "But,"--and taking it from his friend's hand he
held it in a horizontal position--"but as soon as it is laid upon the
ground, the mechanical contrivance commences to work.  See!"

And the man Ortmann--known as Horton since the outbreak of war--gazed
upon it and saw the cog-wheels slowly revolving.

"By Jove!" he gasped.  "Yes.  Now I see.  What a devilish invention it
is!  It can be put to so many uses!"

"Exactly, my dear friend," laughed the supposed Dutch pastor, crossing
the secret room in the roof of his house at Barnes.

It was afternoon, and the sunlight streaming through the skylight fell
upon the place wherein the bomb-makers worked in secret.  The room
contained several deal tables whereon stood many bottles containing
explosive compounds, glass retorts, test-tubes, and glass apothecaries'
scales, with all sorts of other apparatus used in the delicate work of
manufacturing and mixing high-explosives.

"You see," Drost went on to explain, as he indicated a large mortar of
marble.  "I have been treating phenol with nitric acid and have obtained
the nitrate called trinitrophenol.  I shall fill this case with it, and
then we shall have an unsuspicious-looking weapon which will eventually
prove most useful to us--for it can be carried in perfect safety, only
it must not be laid down."

Ortmann laughed.  He saw that his friend's inventive mind had produced
an ingenious, if devilish, contrivance.  He had placed death in that
innocent-looking walking-stick--certain death to any person unconscious
of the peril.

Indeed, as Ortmann watched, his friend carefully filled the cavity in
the brass cylinder with the explosive substance, and placed within a
very strong detonator which he connected with the clockwork, winding it
to the full.  He then rescrewed the cap upon the fatal cylinder,
replacing it in the walking-stick and readjusting the knob, which closed
so perfectly that only close inspection would reveal anything abnormal
in the stick.

"The other stuff is there already, I suppose?"

"I took it down there the night before last in four petrol-tins."

"The new stuff?"

"Yes.  It is a picric acid derivative, and its relative force is twice
as great as that of gun-cotton," was the reply of the grey-haired man.
He spoke with knowledge and authority, for had he not been one of the
keenest explosive experts in the German arsenal at Spandau before he had
assumed the role of the Dutch pastor in England?

"It will create some surprise there," remarked Ortmann, with an evil
grin upon his sardonic countenance.  "Your girl knows nothing, I hope?"

"Absolutely nothing.  I have arranged to carry out our plans as soon as
possible, to-morrow night, or the night after.  Bohlen and Tragheim are
both assisting."

"Excellent!  I congratulate you, my dear Drost, upon your clever
contrivance.  Truly, you are a good son of the Fatherland, and I will
see that you receive your due and proper reward when our brave brothers
have landed upon English soil."

"You are the eyes and brains of Germany in England," declared Drost to
his friend.  "I am only the servant.  You are the organiser.  Yours is
the Mysterious Hand which controls, and controls so well, the thousands
of our fellow-Teutons, all of whom are ready for their allotted task
when the Day of Invasion comes."

"I fear you flatter me," laughed Mr Horton, whom none suspected to be
anything else than a patriotic Englishman.

"I do not flatter you.  I only admire your courage and ingenuity," was
the quiet reply.

And then the two alien enemies, standing in that long, low-ceilinged
laboratory, containing as it did sufficient high-explosives to blow up
the whole of Hammersmith and Barnes, bent over the long deal table upon
which stood a long glass retort containing some bright yellow crystals
that were cooling.

Theodore Drost, being one of Germany's foremost scientists, had been
sent to England before the war, just as a number of others had been
sent, as an advance guard of the Kaiser's Army which the German General
Staff intended should eventually raid Great Britain.  Truly, the
foresight, patience, and thoroughness of the Hun had been astounding.
The whole world's history contained nothing equal to the amazing craft
and cunning displayed by those who were responsible for Germany's Secret
Service--that service known to its agents under the designation of
"Number Seventy, Berlin."

It was fortunate that there was hardly a person in the whole of London
who knew of the relationship between Stella Steele, the clever revue
artiste, whose songs were the rage of all London and whose photographs
were in all the shop-windows, and the venerable Dutch pastor.  With his
usual craft, Drost, knowing how thoroughly English was his daughter, had
always posed to her as a great admirer of England and English ways.  To
judge by his protestations, he was a hater of the Kaiser and all his
Satanic works.

If, however, Ella--to give Stella her baptismal name--could have looked
into that long, low attic, which her father always kept so securely
locked, she would have been struck by the evil gloating of both men.

Ortmann--whom she always held in suspicion--had conceived the plot a
month ago--a foul and dastardly plot--and old Drost, as his paid
catspaw, was about to put it into execution forthwith.

Next night, just about half-past ten, Stella Steele gay, laughing, with
one portion of her lithe body clothed in the smartest of ultra costumes
by a famous French _couturiere_, the remainder of her figure either
silk-encased or undraped, bounded off the stage of the popular theatre
near Leicester Square, and fell into the arms of her grey-haired
dresser.

It was Saturday night, and the "house," packed to suffocation, were
roaring applause.

"Lights up!" shouted the stage-manager, and Stella, holding her breath
and patting her hair, staggered against the scenery, half-fainting with
exhaustion, and then, with a fierce effort, tripped merrily upon the
stage and smilingly bowed to her appreciative and enthusiastic audience.

The men in khaki, officers and "Tommies," roared for an encore.  The
revue had "caught on," and Stella Steele was the rage of London.
Because she spoke and sang in French just as easily as she did in
English, her new song, in what was really a very inane but tuneful
revue--an up-to-date variation of musical comedy--had already been
adopted in France as one of the marching songs of the French army.

From paper-seller to Peer, from drayman to Duke: in the houses of
Peckham and Park Lane, in Walworth and in Wick, the world hummed, sang,
or drummed out upon pianos and pianolas that catchy chorus which ran:

          Dans la tranchee...
          La voila, la joli' tranche:
  Tranchi, trancho, tranchons le Boche;
  La voila, la joli' tranche aux Boches,
          La voila, la joli' tranche!

As she came off, a boy handed her a note which she tore open and,
glancing at it, placed her hand upon her chest as though to stay the
wild beating of her heart.

"Say yes," was her brief reply to the lad, who a moment later
disappeared.

She walked to her dressing-room and, flinging herself into the chair,
sat staring at herself in the glass, much to the wonder of the
grey-haired woman who dressed her.

"I'm not at all well," she said to the woman at last.  "Go and tell Mr
Farquhar that I can't go on again to-night.  Miss Lambert must take my
place in the last scene."

"Are you really ill, miss?" asked the woman eagerly.

"Yes.  I've felt unwell all day, and the heat to-night has upset me.  If
I went on again I should faint on the stage.  Go and tell Mr Farquhar
at once."

The woman obeyed, whereupon Stella Steele commenced to divest herself
rapidly of the rich and daring gown.  Her one desire was to get away
from the theatre as soon as possible.

Mr Farquhar, the stage-manager, came to the door to express regret at
her illness, and within a few minutes Miss Lambert, the understudy, was
dressing to go on and fulfil her place in the final scene.

Her car took her home to the pretty flat in Stamfordham Mansions, just
off Kensington High Street, where she lived alone with Mariette her
French maid, and there, in her dainty little drawing-room, she sat
silent, almost statuesque, for fully five minutes.

"Is it possible?" she gasped.  "Is it really possible that such a
dastardly plot is being carried out!" she murmured in agitation.

Her little white hands clenched themselves, and her pretty mouth grew
hard.  She was sweet and charming, without any stage affectations.  Yet,
when she set herself to combat the evil designs of her enemy-father she
was not a person to be trifled with--as these records of her adventures
will certainly show.

"I wonder if Seymour can have been misled?" she went on, rising from her
chair as she spoke aloud to herself.  "And yet," she added, "he is
always so level-headed!"

Mariette--a slim, dark-eyed girl--entered with a glass tube of
solidified eau-de-Cologne which she rubbed upon her mistress's brow, and
then Ella passed into her own room and quickly dismissed the girl for
the night.

As soon as Mariette had gone she flung off her dress and took another
from her wardrobe, a rough brown tweed golfing-suit, and put on a
close-fitting cloth hat to match.  Then, getting into a thick
blanket-coat, she pulled on her gloves and, taking up a small leather
blouse-case, went out, closing the door noiselessly after her.

At nine o'clock on the following evening Ella Drost descended in the
lift from the second floor of the Victoria Hotel, in Sheffield, and,
wearing her blanket-coat, went to the station platform and bought a
ticket to Chesterfield--the town with the crooked spire.

Half-an-hour later she walked out into the station yard where she found
her lover, the good-looking Flight-Commander, awaiting her in a big grey
car.  He no longer wore uniform, but was in blue serge with a thick
brown overcoat.

"By Jove, Ella!" he exclaimed in welcome, as he grasped her hand.  "I'm
jolly glad you've come up here!  There's a lot going on.  You were
perfectly correct when you first hinted at it.  I've been watching
patiently for the past month.  Hop in; we've no time to lose."

Next second, Ella was in the seat beside her lover, and the powerful car
moved off down the Arkwright Road, a high-road running due eastward,
till they joined another well-kept highway which, in the pale light,
showed wide and open with its many lines of telegraphs--the road to
Clowne.

On through the falling darkness they travelled through Elmton and up the
hill to Bolsover, where they suddenly turned off to the left and,
passing down some dark, narrow lanes, with which Kennedy was evidently
familiar, they at last pulled up at the corner of a thick wood.

"Now," he said, speaking almost for the first time, and in a low voice,
"we'll have to be very careful indeed."

He had shut off his engine and switched off his lamps.

"We ought to make quite certain to-night that we are not mistaken," she
said.

"That is my intention," was her lover's reply, and then she flung off
her coat and crossed the stile, entering the wood after him.  He had a
pocket flash-lamp, and ever and anon threw its rays directly upon the
ground so that they could see the path.  The latter was an intricate
one, for twice they came to cross-paths, and in both cases Kennedy
selected one without hesitation.

At last, however, they began to move down the hill more cautiously,
conversing in low whispers, and showing no light until they at last
found themselves in the grounds attached to a large, low-built country
house, lying in the valley.

"Ortmann is living here as Mr Horton," Kennedy whispered.  "They told
me in the village that he took the house furnished about three months
ago, from a Major Jackson, who is at the front."

"But why is he living down here--in a house like this?" she asked.

"That's just what we want to discover.  Many Germans have country houses
in England for some mysterious and unknown reason."

Kennedy, glancing at his luminous wrist-watch, noted that it was nearly
two o'clock in the morning.  From where they stood at the edge of the
wood the house was plainly visible, silhouetted on the other side of a
wide lawn.

No light showed in any of the windows, and to all appearances the
inmates were asleep.

As the pair stood whispering, a big Airedale suddenly bounded forth,
barking angrily as a preliminary to attacking them.

It was an exciting moment.  But in that instant Ella recognised the bark
as that of her father's dog.

"Jack!" she said, in a low voice of reproof.  "Be quiet, and come here."

In a moment the dog, which Drost had evidently lent to his friend
Ortmann as watch-dog, bounded towards his mistress and licked her hand.

It was evident that the occupiers of the lonely place did not desire
intruders.

Fearing lest the barking of "Jack" might have alarmed the inmates, they
remained silent for a full quarter-of-an-hour, and then again creeping
beneath the shadows of the hedges and trees, they managed to cross the
lawn and the gravelled path, until they stood together beneath the front
of the house.

"Listen!" gasped Kennedy, grasping the girl's arm.  "Do you hear
anything?"

"Yes--a kind of muffled crackling noise."

"That's a wireless spark!" her lover declared.  "So they have wireless
here!"

Creeping along, they passed the main entrance and gained the other side
of the house where, quite plainly, there could be heard the whir of a
dynamo supplying the current.

But though Kennedy's keen eyes searched for aerial wires, he could
discover none in that dim light, the moon having now disappeared
entirely.  So he concluded that they were so constructed that they could
be raised at night and lowered and concealed at daybreak, or perhaps
even disguised as a portion of wire fencing.

"As the wireless is working--sending information to the enemy without a
doubt--then our friend Ortmann is most probably at home," whispered the
flying-man.  "As the motor is still running it will drown any noise, and
we might get inside without being heard.  Are you ready to risk it?"

"With you, dear, I'll risk anything that may be for my country's
benefit," she declared.  Then he pressed her soft hand in his, stooping
till his lips met hers.

As they stood there in that single blissful moment, there came the sound
of a train suddenly emerging from a long tunnel in the side of the hill
in the near vicinity, and with the light of the furnace glaring in the
darkness it sped away eastward.  Its sound showed it to be a goods
train--one of the many which, laden with munitions from the Midlands,
went nightly towards the coast on their way to the British front.

Only then did they realise that the railway-line ran along the end of
the grounds, and that the mouth of the great G--Tunnel was only five
hundred yards or so from where they stood.  Kennedy took from his pocket
a small jemmy in two pieces, which he screwed together, and then began
to examine each of the French windows which led on to the lawn.  All
were closed, with their heavy wooden shutters secured.

The shutters of one, however, though closed, had, he saw by the aid of
his flash-lamp, not been fastened.  The dog, Jack, following his
mistress, was sniffing and assisting in the investigation.

Examining the long window minutely, they saw that it had been closed
hurriedly and, hence, scarcely latched.  The room, too, was in darkness.

Suddenly, just as Kennedy was about to make an attempt to enter, the
electric light was switched on within the room, and the pair had only
time to slip round the corner of the house, when the French window
opened, and four men stepped forth upon the lawn, conversing in whispers
as they walked on tiptoe together across the gravel on to the grass.

"I wonder what's up!" whispered Kennedy to Ella.  "Let us follow and
see."

This they did, keeping always in the dark shadows, and retracing their
footsteps to the edge of the wood close to where the railway ran.

As they watched they saw that, having crossed the lawn, the four men
entered a meadow adjoining, and they then recognised the figures of
Drost and Ortmann with two strangers.  They all walked straight to the
corner where stood an old cow-shed, and into this they all four
disappeared.

For a full half-hour they remained there, Kennedy and his well-beloved
crouching beneath a bush in wonder at what there could be in the
cow-shed to detain them so long.

The shed was at the base of a high wooded hill.  Away, at some distance
on the left, the railway-line entered the great tunnel which pierced the
hill, and through it ran one of the most important railways from the
Midlands to the East Coast.

The reason of their long absence in that tumbledown cow-shed was
certainly mysterious.  The lovers strained their ears to listen, but no
sound reached them.

"Very curious!" whispered Kennedy.  "What, I wonder, should detain them
so long?  There is some further mystery here, without a doubt.
Something of interest is in progress."

Suddenly, all four men emerged from the shed laughing and chatting in
subdued tones.  Drost was carrying his hat in his hand.

They passed within ten yards of the lovers, and as they went by they
overheard Drost say in German: "To-morrow night at 11:30 a heavy
munition train will come through the tunnel.  Then we shall see!"

And at his words his three companions laughed merrily as they walked
back to the house.

Kennedy and the popular revue artiste--the girl whose name was as a
household word, and whose songs were sung everywhere--crouched in
silence watching the men until they had disappeared through that long
French window opening on to the lawn.

Then, when they were alone, Kennedy said in a low voice:

"There's more going on here, Ella, than we at first anticipated--much
more!  I wonder what secret that old shed contains--eh?"

"Let's investigate!" the girl beside him suggested eagerly.

Five minutes later they emerged from the shadow, and hurrying quickly
across the grass, entered the old tumbledown shed, whereupon Kennedy
switched on his electric torch, when there became revealed a wide hole
in the ground, which sloped away steeply in the darkness.

"Hulloa!  Why, here's a tunnel!" exclaimed Kennedy in surprise.
"They've been down there, evidently!  I wonder where it leads to?"

Then, as they both glanced around, they saw a thin, twisted electric
cable containing two wires which led from a cigar-box on the ground in a
corner away down into the tunnel.  Kennedy lifted the lid of the box,
and within found an electric tapping-key with ebonite base and two small
dry cells for the supply of the current.

"Now what can this mean, I wonder?  Some devil's work here, without a
doubt!" he said.  "Let us ascertain."

Together the pair carefully descended into the narrow tunnel that had
been driven into the side of the hill, evidently by expert hands, for
its roof had been shored up along the whole length with trees cut from
the wood.  Away along the narrow passage they groped, finding it so low
that they were compelled to bend and creep forward in uncomfortable
positions until they came to a sudden turn.

Whoever had constructed it had also succeeded--as was afterwards found--
in cleverly disguising the great heap of earth excavated.  He had also
probably misread his bearings, for at one point the subterranean gallery
went away at right angles for about fifty yards, until there--where the
atmosphere was heavy and oppressive because of lack of ventilation--
stood several petrol-tins.  To one of them the end of the cable leading
from the unsuspicious cow-shed had been attached.

As they stood staring at the petrol-tins a sudden roar slowly
approaching sounded directly overhead--a heavy rumble of wheels.  Then
it died away again.

"Hark!" gasped Ella.  "Isn't that a train?  Why, we are directly under
the railway-line running through the tunnel."

"Yes, dear.  A touch upon that key up in the shed and we should be blown
out of recognition, and the tunnel, one of the most important on the
line of railway communication running east and west across England,
would be blocked for months."

"That is what those devils intend!"  Ella declared.  "How can we
frustrate them?"

Seymour Kennedy reflected for a few seconds, holding his torch so that
its rays fell upon those innocent-looking petrol-tins at the end of the
cunningly contrived sap.  Then he took up one of them and carrying it
said:

"Let's get back, dear.  We know the truth now."

"It is evident that they intend to blow in the tunnel from below,"
declared Ella, as they crept back along the narrow gallery.

"Without a doubt," was her lover's reply.  "Mr Horton, as he is known,
took the house with but one object--namely, to cut the railway-line to
the coast--the line over which so much war material for the front goes
nightly.  Truly, the Hun leaves nothing to chance."

"And my father is actually assisting in this dastardly work?"

"I'm afraid he is, darling.  But so long as we remain wary and watchful,
I hope we may be able to combat the evil activities of these assassins."

"I'm ready to help you always, as you know," was the girl's ready reply.
"But it grieves me that father is so completely German in his actions."

"It is but natural, Ella.  He is a German.  If he were English, and
lived secretly in Germany, he would act as an Englishman.  All enemy
aliens should have been interned long ago."

Ever and anon, on their way back to the opening, they both stumbled upon
the wire, while Seymour, carrying the petrol-tin, evidently filled with
some heavy explosive, followed his well-beloved, who held the torch.

At last they emerged from the close atmosphere of the long, tortuous
gallery that had been secretly driven to a point exactly beneath the
railway-line in the very heart of the hill, and once again stood upright
in the shed.  Their clothes were muddy, and their hands and faces were
besmeared with mud.

At last Kennedy put down the square heavy tin, the cap of which he very
carefully unscrewed, and then examined it by aid of his torch, smelling
it critically.

Taking from his pocket a strong clasp-knife he went back into the tunnel
again for about fifty yards.  With a swift cut he severed the lead which
led away to the concealed tins of explosive, and bringing it back with
him to the shed, took the severed end, unravelled the silk insulation of
both wires, bared them by scraping them thoroughly with his knife, and
with expert hand attached them to a detonator which he had taken from
the tins concealed at the end of the gallery.

Having done this he put the detonator into the opening of the petrol-tin
which, with its wire lead, he afterwards carefully concealed behind a
heap of straw in the corner.  He had taken care to replace the cable
leading from the cigar-box exactly as he had found it, therefore, to the
eye, it looked as though nothing had been touched.  The cable ran into
the underground passage, it was true, but it returned back again into
the cow-shed, and into the tin of high-explosive.

Kennedy, who knew something of mining, had noticed that half-way along
the working a quantity of earth had been left for the purpose of tamping
the gallery, in order that the force of the explosion should go upward,
and not come back along the subterranean passage.  Before the Kaiser's
secret agents exploded the mine they would, no doubt, fill up the
gallery at that point before completing the electric circuit.

It was evident that on that night the four men had made a final
inspection before exploding the mine.

Therefore, quite confident in what they had achieved, Ella and her lover
crept back, and away through the wood to where they had left the car.

At six o'clock on the following morning, the Victoria Hotel in Sheffield
being always open, Ella entered alone, and ascended to her room.

Next evening at half-past seven she met her lover again in the Ecclesall
Road, and he drove her out in the car away through Eckington and Clowne,
to the wood from which they had watched on the previous night.

The weather was muggy and overcast, with low, heavy clouds precursory of
a thunderstorm.

There was plenty of time.  The attempt would probably be made at
half-past eleven when the munition train passed through, it being
intended to explode the whole train as well as the mine in the heart of
the tunnel, so as to produce a terrific upheaval by which the tunnel
would be blocked for, perhaps, a mile.

Arrived at the edge of the wood, in sight of the lawn and house beyond,
soon after ten o'clock, the lovers sat together upon a fallen tree
conversing in whispers, and awaiting the result of the counterplot.

They were, however, in ignorance of what was transpiring within the
house.

Truth to tell, Ortmann and Drost were at that moment in one of the
servants' bedrooms upstairs, which had been cleared out, and where, upon
a long table, stood a complete wireless set both for receiving and
transmission.

"That fellow Kennedy is _here_!--and with my girl Ella!" gasped old
Drost, who had just come into the room.  "I've been across to the wood.
They're actually here!"

"_Kennedy here_!" exclaimed Ortmann, his face pale in an instant.  "How
could he possibly know?"

"Well, he's here!  What shall we do?"

Ortmann stood for a few moments reflecting deeply.

Slowly an evil, sinister grin overspread his countenance.

"Your girl," he said in German, in a deep voice.  "She is your daughter.
You wish to protect her--eh?"

"No, she's English.  We are Germans."

"Excellent.  I knew that you were a good Prussian.  Then I may act--eh?"

"Entirely as you wish.  We must get rid of these watch-dogs," snarled
the old man in a venomous voice.

Ortmann, without further word, descended the stairs and entered the
dining-room wherein sat two men, Germans, naturalised as British
subjects, by name Bohlen and Tragheim.

To the first-named he gave certain and definite instructions, these
being at once carried out.

Kennedy and Ella, both, of course, quite unconscious that their presence
had been discovered by the wily Drost, saw a tall man, a stranger,
carrying a thick stick, cross the lawn to the gate which gave entrance
to the wood, and watched how he remained there for about ten minutes,
while presently there emerged a second figure, who crossed to the
cow-shed wherein the electric tapping-key remained concealed.

Kennedy glanced at his wrist-watch.

The munition train was almost due to enter the tunnel, therefore the
stranger Tragheim, one of Ortmann's poor, miserable dupes, had been sent
forward to depress the key as soon as he heard the second bell ring in
the signal-box at the exit of the tunnel--all the signal bells being
distinctly heard in the night from the door of the shed.

The ringing of that second bell would announce that the train was
passing over the exact point in the line under which the mine had been
laid.

The man Bohlen, seeing his companion come out, moved away from the gate
across the lawn back to the house, whereupon Kennedy crept up to the
spot where the German had been standing, and whence they could obtain a
good view of the shed from which the dastardly attempt was to be made.

Beside the gate they found a walking-stick--a thick one made of bamboo.

"That fellow has forgotten his stick," remarked Kennedy, taking it up,
all unconscious of the peril.

From one of the darkened windows of the house Ortmann was watching his
action, and chuckled.

Of a sudden, however, a fierce blood-red flash lit up the whole
country-side, and with a deafening roar, the shed was hurled high into
the air, together with the shattered remains of the man who had pressed
the key.

Instead of exploding the mine under the railway tunnel, as was intended,
he had exploded the tinful of picric acid derivative which Kennedy had
concealed beneath the straw!

Then, a few seconds later, the heavy train laden with munitions for the
British front emerged from the tunnel in safety, its driver all
unconscious of the desperate attempt that had been made by the enemy in
our midst.

Kennedy, having witnessed the consummation of his well-laid plan to blow
up any conspirator who touched the key, cast the walking-stick to the
ground and, taking Ella's arm, retraced his steps through the woods.

But they had not gone far ere a second explosion, a sharp concussion
which they felt about them, came from somewhere behind them.

"Funny!" he remarked to his well-beloved.  "I wonder what that second
noise was, dearest?"

"I wonder," said Ella, and they both hurried back to their car.

CHAPTER THREE.

THE HYDE PARK PLOT.

Two men sat in a big, handsome dining-room in one of the finest houses
in Park Lane.  One was Theodore Drost, dressed in his usual garb of a
Dutch pastor.  A look of satisfaction overspread his features as he
raised his glass of choice Chateau Larose.

Opposite him at the well-laid luncheon table sat his friend, Ernst
Ortmann, alias Horton, alias Harberton, the super-spy whose hand was--if
the truth be told--"The Hidden Hand" upon which the newspapers were ever
commenting--that secret and subtle influence of Germany in our midst in
war-time.

Count Ernst von Ortmann was a very shrewd and elusive person.  For a
number of years he had been a trusted official in the entourage of the
Kaiser, and having lived his early life in England, being educated at
Oxford, he was now entrusted with the delicate task of directing the
advance guard of the German army in this country.

Two years before the war Mr Henry Harberton, a wealthy, middle-aged
English merchant from Buenos Ayres, had suddenly arisen in the social
firmament in the West End, had given smart dinners, and, as an eligible
bachelor, had been smiled upon by many mothers with marriageable
daughters.  His luncheon-parties at the Savoy, the Ritz, and the Carlton
were usually chronicled in the newspapers; he was financially interested
in a popular revue at a certain West End theatre, and the rumour that he
was immensely wealthy was confirmed when he purchased a fine house
half-way up Park Lane--a house from which, quite unsuspected, radiated
the myriad ramifications of Germany's spy system.

With Henry Harberton, whose father, it was said, had amassed a huge
fortune in Argentina in the early days, and which he had inherited,
money was of no account.  The fine London mansion was sombre and
impressive in its decoration.  There was nothing flamboyant or
out-of-place, nothing that jarred upon the senses: a quiet, calm, and
restful residence, the double windows of which shut out the sound of the
motor-'buses and taxis of that busy thoroughfare where dwelt London's
commercial princes.  Surely that fine house was in strange contrast to
the obscure eight-roomed one in a long, drab terrace in Park Road,
Wandsworth Common, where dwelt the same mysterious person in very humble
and even economical circumstances as Mr Horton, a retired tradesman
from the New Cross Road.

As Ortmann sat in that big dining-room in Park Lane, a plainly decorated
apartment with dead white walls in the Adams style, and a few choice
family portraits, his friend, Drost, with his strange triangular face,
his square forehead and pointed grey beard, presented a picture of the
true type of Dutch pastor, in his rather seedy clerical coat and his
round horn-rimmed spectacles.

The pair had been discussing certain schemes to the detriment of the
English: schemes which, in the main, depended upon the crafty old
Drost's expert knowledge of high-explosives.

"Ah! my dear Count!" exclaimed the wily old professor of chemistry in
German, as he replaced his glass upon the table.  "How marvellously
clever is our Emperor!  How he befooled and bamboozled these silly sheep
of English.  Listen to this!" and from his pocket-book he drew a large
newspaper cutting--two columns of a London daily newspaper dated
Wednesday, October 28, 1908.

"What is that?" inquired the Kaiser's arch-spy, his eyebrows narrowing.

"The interview given by the Emperor to a British peer in order to throw
dust into the eyes of our enemies against whom we were rapidly
preparing.  Listen to the Emperor's clever reassurances in order to gain
time."  Then, readjusting his big round spectacles, he glanced down the
columns and read in English the following sentences that had fallen from
the Kaiser's lips: "You English are mad, mad, mad as English hares.
What has come over you that you are so completely given over to
suspicions unworthy of a great nation?  What more can I do than I have
done?  My heart is set upon peace, and it is one of my dearest wishes to
live on the best of terms with England.  Have I ever been false to my
word?  Falsehood and prevarication are alien to my nature.  My actions
ought to speak for themselves, but you listen not to them, but to those
who misinterpret and distort them.  This is a personal insult, which I
feel and resent!"

Drost replaced the cutting upon the table, and both men burst into
hilarious laughter.

"Really, in the light of present events, those printed words must cause
our dear friends, the English, considerable chagrin," declared Ortmann.

"Yes.  They now see how cleverly we have tricked them," said Drost with
a grin.  "That interview gave us an increased six years for preparation.
Truly, our Emperor is great.  He is invincible!"

And both men raised their tall Bohemian glasses in honour of the
Arch-Murderer of Europe.

That little incident at table was significant of the feelings and
intentions of the conspirators.

"Your girl Ella is still very active, and that fellow Kennedy seems
ever-watchful," Ortmann remarked presently in a decidedly apprehensive
tone.  "I know, of course, that your daughter would do nothing to harm
you personally; but remember that Kennedy is a British naval officer,
and that he might--from patriotic motives--well--"

"Kill his prospective father-in-law--eh?" chimed in the Dutch pastor,
with a light laugh.

The Count hesitated for a second.  Then he said:

"Well, perhaps not exactly kill you, but he might make things decidedly
unpleasant for us both, if he got hold of anything tangible."

"Bah!  Rest assured that he'll never get hold of anything," declared
Drost.  "I've had him out to Barnes to dinner once or twice lately, but
he's quite in the dark."

"Are you absolutely certain that he knows nothing of what is in progress
in your laboratory upstairs!" queried Ortmann.  "Are you absolutely
certain that Ella has told him nothing?"

"Quite--because she herself knows nothing."

"If she knows nothing, then why are we both watched so closely by
Kennedy?" asked Ortmann dubiously.

"Bah!  Your fancy--mere fancy!" declared the professor of chemistry.  "I
know you've been unduly suspicious for a long time, but I tell you that
Ella and her lover are far too much absorbed in their own affairs to
trouble about our business."  Ortmann shrugged his shoulders.  He did
not tell his friend Drost the true extent of his knowledge, for it was
one of his main principles never to confide serious truths to anybody.
By that principle he had risen in his Emperor's service to the high and
responsible position he now occupied--the director of The Hidden Hand.

As such, he commanded the services of many persons of both sexes in the
United Kingdom.  Some were persons who, having accepted German money or
German favours in the pre-war days, were now called upon to dance as
puppets of Germany while the Kaiser played the tune.  Many of them,
subjects of neutral countries, had been perfectly friendly to us, but
since the war the relentless thumbscrew of blackmail had been placed
upon them by Ernst von Ortmann, and they were compelled to do his
bidding and act against the interests of Great Britain.

Over the heads of most of them, men and women--especially the latter--
the wily Ortmann and his well-organised staff held documentary evidence
of such a damning character that, if handed to the proper quarter, would
either have caused their arrest and punishment, or, in the case of the
fair sex, cause their social ostracism.  Hence Ortmann held his often
unwilling agents together with an iron hand which was both unscrupulous
and drastic.  Woe betide either man or woman who, having accepted
Germany's good-will and favours before the war, now dared to refuse to
do her dirty work.

Truly, the Hidden Hand was that of the "mailed-fist" covered with
velvet, full of double cunning and irresistible influence in quite
unsuspected quarters.

Old Theodore Drost was but a pawn in Germany's dastardly attack upon
England, but a very valuable one, from his intimate knowledge of
explosives.  Moreover, as an inventor of death-dealing devices, he
certainly had no equal in Europe.

In order to discuss in secret a daring and terrible plot, the pair had
lunched in company at Park Lane.

At that same hour, on that same day, Flight-Commander Seymour Kennedy,
in his naval uniform with the "pilot's wings," was on leave from a
certain air-station on the South-East coast, and was seated opposite
Ella Drost in the Cafe Royal, in Regent Street, discussing a lobster
salad _tete-a-tete_.

It was one of the favourite luncheon places of Drost's daughter.

The revue in which she had been appearing and in which, by the way,
Ortmann was financially interested in secret, had finished its season,
and the theatre had closed its doors for the summer.  Consequently Ella
had taken a tiny riverside cottage near Shepperton-on-Thames, though she
still kept open her pretty flat in Stamfordham Mansions, her faithful
French maid, Mariette, being in charge.

"You seem worried, darling," Kennedy whispered, as he bent across the
table to her.  "What's the matter?"

"I've already told you."

"But you really don't take it seriously, do you?" asked the well-known
air-pilot.  "Surely it's only a mere suspicion."

"It is fortunate that I succeeded in obtaining for you an impression of
the key of the laboratory," was the girl's reply.

"Yes.  It was.  Your father never dreams that we know all that is in
progress there.  It's a real good stunt of yours to keep in with him,
and stay at Barnes sometimes."

"Well, I've told you what I ascertained the night before last.  Ortmann
was there with the others.  There's a big _coup_ intended--a dastardly
blow, as I have explained."

And in the girl's eyes there showed a hard, serious expression, as she
drew a long breath.  It was quite plain to her lover that she was full
of nervous apprehension, and that what she had related to him was a
fact.

Another deeply-laid plot was afoot, but one so subtle and so daring that
Kennedy, with his cheerful optimism and his high spirits, could not yet
fully realise its nature.

Ella had, an hour before, told him a very remarkable story.

At first, so extraordinary and improbable had it sounded, that he had
been inclined to pooh-pooh the whole affair, but now, amid the clatter
and bustle of that cosmopolitan restaurant, the same to-day as in the
mid-Victorian days, he began to realise that the impression left upon
his well-beloved, by the knowledge she had obtained, had been a
distinctly sinister one.

"Well, dearest," he said, again leaning across the little
_table-a-deux_, "I'll go into the matter at once if you wish it, and
we'll watch and wait."

"Yes, do, Seymour," exclaimed the girl anxiously.  "I'll help you.
There is a deeply-laid plot in progress.  Of that I'm quite certain--
more especially because Ortmann came to see dad yesterday morning and
went to see him again to-day."

"You overheard some of their conversation--eh?"

"I did," was her open response.  "And for that reason I am so full of
fear."

At nine o'clock that same night, in accordance with an appointment, Ella
Drost stood upon the whitewashed kerb in Belgrave Square, at the corner
of West Halkin Street.

Darkness had already fallen.  The London streets were gloomy because of
the lighting order, and hardly a light showed from any house in the
Square.

For fully ten minutes she waited until, at last, from out of Belgrave
Place, a car came slowly along, and pulled up at the spot where she
stood.

In a moment Ella had mounted beside her lover who, next second, moved
off in the direction of Knightsbridge.

"It's rather fortunate that we've met here, darling," were his first
words.  "Since we were together this afternoon I have been followed
continuously.  Had I called at Stamfordham Mansions, Ortmann would have
had his suspicions confirmed.  But I've successfully eluded them, and
here we are."

"I know--I feel sure that Ortmann suspects us.  Why does he live as Mr
Horton over at Wandsworth Common?"

"Because he is so infernally clever," laughed the air-pilot, in his
cheery, nonchalant way.

Neither of them knew, up to that moment, anything more of Mr Henry
Harberton, of Park Lane, save reading in the papers of his social
distinction.  Neither Kennedy nor his charming well-beloved had dreamed
that Ortmann, alias Horton, patriotic Britannia-rule-the-Waves
Englishman, was identical with that meteoric planet in the social
firmament of London, Mr Henry Harberton, whose wealth was such that
even in war-time he could give two-guinea-a-head luncheons to his
friends at one or other of the half-dozen or so London restaurants which
cater for such clients.

Seymour Kennedy was driving the car swiftly, but Ella, nestling beside
him, took no heed of the direction in which they were travelling.  The
night-wind blew cold and he, solicitous of her welfare, bent over and
with his left hand drew up the collar of her Burberry.

They were leaving London ere she became aware of it, travelling
westward, branching at Hounslow upon the old road to Bath, the road of
Dick Turpin's exploits in the good old days of cocked-hats,
powder-and-patches, and three-bottle men.

Passing through Slough, they crossed the river at Maidenhead and again
at Henley, keeping on the ever ascending high-road over the Chilterns,
to Nettlebed, until they ran rapidly down past Gould's Grove through
Benson, and past Shillingford where, a short distance beyond, he pulled
up and, opening a gate, placed the car in a meadow grey with mist.

Afterwards the pair, leaving the high-road, turned into a path which led
through the fields down to the river.  Reaching it at a point not far
from Day's Lock, they halted.

Before them, between the pathway and the river's brink, there showed a
lighted window obscured by a yellow holland blind, the window of a
corrugated iron bungalow of some river enthusiast, the room being
apparently lit by a paraffin lamp.

Carefully, and treading upon tiptoe, they crept forward without a sound,
and, approaching the square, inartistic window, halted and strained
their ears to listen to the conversation in progress within.

Words in German were being spoken.  Ella listened, and recognised her
father's voice.  Ortmann was speaking, too, while other voices of
strangers also sounded.

What Seymour overheard through the thin wood-and-iron wall of the
riverside bungalow quickly convinced him that Ella's suspicions were
only too well founded.  A desperate conspiracy to commit outrage was
certainly being formed--a plot as daring and as subtle as any ever
formed by the Nihilists in Russia, or the Mafia in Italy.

The Germans, _par excellence_ the scientists of Europe, were out to win
the war by frightfulness, just as thousands of years ago the Chinese won
their wars by assuming horrible disguises and pulling ugly faces to
bring bad luck upon their superstitious enemies.  The Great War Lord of
Germany, in order to save his throne and substantiate his title of
All-Highest, had set loose his sorry dogs of depravity, degeneracy, and
desolation.  And he had planted in our island a clever and unscrupulous
crew, headed by Ortmann, whose mission was, if possible, to wreck the
Ship of State of Great Britain.

The air-pilot listened to the conversation in amazement.  He realised
then how Ella had exercised a shrewder watchfulness than he had ever
done, although he had believed himself so clever.

Therefore, when she whispered, "Let's get away, dear, or we may be
discovered," he obeyed her, and crawled off over the strip of gravel to
the grass, after which both made their way back to the footpath.

"Well?" asked the popular actress, as they strode along hand in hand to
where they had left the car.  "What's your opinion now--eh?  Haven't you
been convinced?"

"Yes, darling.  I can now see quite plainly that there is a plot on foot
which, if we are patriots, you and I, we must scotch, at all hazards."

"I agree entirely, Seymour," was the girl's instant reply.  "I tried to
warn you a month ago, but you were not convinced.  To-day you are
convinced--are you not?  I am acting only for my dear dead mother's
country, for, strictly speaking, being the daughter of a German, I am an
alien enemy."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

About two o'clock one morning, about a week later, the dark figure of a
man in a shabby serge suit and golf-cap, treading noiselessly in
rubber-shoes, crossed Hammersmith Bridge in the direction of Barnes and,
passing along that wide open thoroughfare, paused for a moment outside
the house of the Dutch pastor, Mr Drost.  Then, finding himself
unobserved, he slipped into the front garden and, bending, concealed
himself in some bushes.

He had waited there for ten minutes or so, watching the dark, silent
house, when, slowly and noiselessly, the front door opened, and next
moment Kennedy and Ella were face to face.  The latter wore a pretty
pale-blue dressing-gown, for she had just risen from bed, she having
spent the last two days at her father's house.

With a warning finger upon her lips, and with a small flash-lamp in her
hand, she led her lover up three flights of stairs to the door of that
locked room, which she silently opened with her duplicate key.

"Father and the man Hans Rozelaar have been at work here nearly all
day," she whispered, when at last they halted before the long deal table
upon which stood Drost's chemical apparatus.

Kennedy's shrewd eyes were quick to notice what was in progress in
secret.

With some curiosity he took up a tube of tin about a foot long and four
inches in diameter.  On examining it he saw that through the centre was
a second tin tube of about an inch in diameter.  Holding it as a
telescope towards the light he could see through the inner tubes and
noticed that near one end of it a small steel catch was protruding.
Further and minute examination revealed that to the catch could be
attached a time-fuse already concealed between the inner and outer
tubes.

"This is evidently some ingenious form of hand grenade," whispered
Kennedy.  "It's all ready for filling.  But why, I wonder, should a tube
run through the middle in this way?"

He was pondering with it in his hand, when his gaze suddenly fell upon
something else which was lying close to the spot where he found the tin
tube.

It was a thin ash walking-stick.  On Kennedy taking it up it presented a
peculiar feature, for as he grasped it there sounded a sharp metallic
click.  Then, to his surprise, he discovered that he had inadvertently
released a spring in the handle, this in turn releasing four small steel
points half-way down the stick.

"Curious!" he whispered to his well-beloved, for Drost was sleeping
below entirely unconscious of the intruders in his secret laboratory.
"What connection can the stick have with the grenade--if not for the
purpose of throwing?"

He therefore placed the inner tube over the little knob of the stick,
and found that it just fitted, so that with plenty of play it slid down
as far as the projecting points which, after striking the little steel
catch which would be connected with the fuse, allowed it to pass over
freely and leave the stick.

"Ah!  I've got it!" he whispered excitedly.  "The grenade can be carried
in the pocket with perfect safety, until when required it is placed over
the handle of the stick and whirled off.  As it passes the projections
on the stick the time-fuse is set for so many seconds, and the grenade
automatically becomes a live one.  A very pretty contrivance indeed!--
very pretty!" he added with a grin.  "This, I must admit, does
considerable credit to Ortmann, Drost and Company."

Ella, who had been standing by, holding the electric torch, stood in
wonder at the discovery.  Truly, some of her father's inventions had
been diabolical ones.

Kennedy saw that the ash-stick had been finished and was in working
order.  All was complete, indeed, save the filling of the deadly
grenade, the attaching of the fuse, and the painting of the bright tin.

For fully five minutes the air-pilot stood in silence, deeply pondering.

Then, as a sudden idea occurred to him, he said quickly:

"I must take this stick, Ella.  I'll be back again by four o'clock, and
will leave it just outside the front door.  You take it in, and replace
it exactly as we found it."

He lost no time.  In five minutes he had crept from that dark house of
mystery and death, and, carrying the stick, returned across Hammersmith
Bridge.

At ten minutes to four he was back again in Barnes and had left the
suspicious-looking ash-stick against the front door, afterwards going to
his rooms to snatch a few hours' sleep.

Next day happened to be Sunday, but at noon on Monday Mr Merton
Mansfield, one of the most active members of the Cabinet, as well as one
of the most popular of Cabinet Ministers, presided at the unveiling of a
number of captured German guns which had been drawn up in Hyde Park in
order that the public might be afforded an opportunity of seeing the
trophies of war in Flanders won by British pertinacity and pluck.

Accompanying Merton Mansfield, the people's idol, the man in whom Great
Britain trusted to see that all was well, and who was, at the same time,
hated and feared by the Germans, were several other members of the
Cabinet.

The crowd outside the wire fence, within which stood the shrouded guns,
was a large one, for some patriotic speeches were expected.  Ella and
Kennedy were among the spectators eagerly watching the movements of a
thin-faced, well-dressed, middle-aged man, who wore an overcoat, in the
left-hand pocket of which was something rather bulky, and who carried in
his hand an ash-stick.

The man's name was Hans Rozelaar, known to his friends by the English
name of Rose.  By the fellow's movements it was plain that he was quite
unsuspicious of the presence of the daughter of his fellow-conspirator,
Theodore Drost.

Gradually he had worked himself through the crowd until he stood in the
front row behind the wire which fenced off the guns with the Cabinet
Ministers and their friends, and within ten yards or so of where stood
Mr Merton Mansfield.

Kennedy was beside Ella some distance away, watching breathlessly.  It
had been his first impulse to go to Scotland Yard and reveal what they
had discovered, but after due consideration he saw that the best
punishment for the conspirators was the one he had devised.

But if it failed?  What if that most deadly grenade was exploded in the
group of Great Britain's leaders--the men who were working night and
day, and working with all their might and intelligence, to crush the Hun
effectively, even though so slowly.

A roar of applause rose from the crowd as Merton Mansfield removed his
hat preparatory to speaking.  The short, stout, round-faced Cabinet
Minister who, in the days of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's Premiership,
had been so unpopular with the working-class, yet who had now come to
the forefront as the saviour of our dear old England, smiled with
pleasure at his hearty reception.

The little group of England's greatest men, Cabinet Ministers and
well-known politicians, with a sprinkling of men in khaki, clustered
round him, as he commenced to address the assembly, to descant upon the
heroic efforts of "French's contemptible little Army," of their great
exploits, of their amazing achievements, and the staggering organisation
of Lord Kitchener.

"Here, before you, you have some small souvenirs--some small idea of the
weapons which the unscrupulous fiends who are our enemies are using
against our gallant troops.  They, unfortunately, are not gallant
soldiers, these Huns in modern clothing--they are pirates with the skull
and crossbones borne upon the helmets of their crack regiments.  Yet we
shall win--I tell you that we shall win, be the time long or short, be
the sacrifice great or small--we shall win because Right, Truth, and
God's justice are with us!  And I will here give you a message from the
Prime Minister--who would have been here, if it were not for the fact
that he is at this moment having audience of His Majesty the King."

A great roar of applause greeted this announcement, when, suddenly, a
loud explosion sounded, startling everyone and causing women to scream.

The lovers, who had kept their eyes upon the man in the overcoat, saw a
red flash, and saw him reel and fall to earth with his face blown away.

They had seen how he had placed the grenade over his ash-stick, and how,
a second later, he had sharply slung it across from right to left,
intending the deadly bomb to land at Mr Merton Mansfield's feet.

Instead, with its fuse set by the little points of steel protruding from
the stick, it had, nevertheless, failed to pass from the stick, because
of the small piece of thin wire which Seymour Kennedy had driven through
just above the ferrule, on that night when he had afterwards left the
stick at old Drost's front door.  His quick intelligence had shown him
that the empty grenade had already been tried upon the stick, and that
when filled, and the fuse attached, it certainly would not be tested
again.

Hans Rozelaar had slung the grenade just as old Theodore Drost had
instructed him, but it had remained fast at the end of the stick, and
ere he could release it, it had exploded, blowing both his hands off and
his features out of all recognition, though, very fortunately, injuring
no one else.

"Come, darling.  We have surely seen enough!" whispered Seymour Kennedy
softly to Ella, as they watched the great sensation caused by the
self-destruction of the conspirator, and the hurry of the police towards
the dead man.  "The Ministers will very soon discover for themselves how
narrowly they have escaped."

And as they both turned away, Ella, looking fondly into her lover's
face, remarked in a low voice: "Yes, indeed, Seymour.  They certainly
owe their safety to you!"

CHAPTER FOUR.

THE EXPLOSIVE NEEDLE.

"Then you suspect that another plot is in progress, Ella?"

"I feel confident of it.  The Count is furious at the failure of the
conspiracy against Mr Merton Mansfield.  He came to see father last
night.  I did not gather much, as I had to get away to the theatre, but
I overheard him suggest that some other method should be tried," replied
Ella Drost.

She was sitting in the dainty little drawing-room of the flat in
Stamfordham Mansions, chatting with her airman lover.

"Of course," he said.  "Ortmann and your father were well aware that
Merton Mansfield is still the strongest man in the whole Government, a
marvellous organiser, and the really great man upon whom Britain has
pinned her faith."

"They mean to work some evil upon him," the girl said apprehensively.
"I'm quite certain of it!  Cannot we warn him?"

"I did so.  I wrote to him, urging him to take precautions, and
declaring that a plot was in progress," said Kennedy.  "I suppose his
secretary had the letter and probably held it back in order not to
disturb him.  Secretaries have a habit of doing that."

Ella, whose cigarette he had just lit, blew a cloud of blue smoke from
her lips, and replied:

"Well, if that's the case then it is exceedingly wrong.  The greatest
care should be taken of those who are leading us to victory.  Ah!
dearest," she added with a sigh, "you do not know how bitter I feel when
I reflect that my own father is a German and, moreover, a most deadly
enemy."

"I know, darling, I know," the man responded.  "That's the worst of it.
To expose the organiser of these conspirators would be to send your own
father to prison--perhaps to an ignominious end."

"Yes.  All we can do is to watch closely and thwart their devilish
designs, as far as we are able," the girl said.

"Unfortunately, I'll have to go back to the air-station to-night, but
I'll try to come up again for the week-end."

Disappointment overspread the girl's face, but a second later she
declared:

"In that case I shall go and stay with father over at Barnes, and
endeavour to discover what is intended."

Therefore, that night, after her work at the theatre, she went to
Theodore Drost's house at Barnes, instead of returning to the flat at
Kensington.  As she always kept her room there and her visits seemed to
delight old Drost, she was always able to keep in touch with Kennedy and
so help to frustrate the evil machinations of her father.

As the days passed she became more than ever confident that another
deep-laid plot was in progress.  Nor was she mistaken, for, truth to
tell, Ortmann was having many long interviews with his clever catspaw,
the man who posed as the plain and pious pastor of the Dutch Church, old
Theodore Drost.

An incident occurred about a week later which showed the trend of
events.  The old pastor called one day at that modest, dreary little
house close by Wandsworth Common, where Count Ernst von Ortmann, the man
who secretly directed the agents of Germany in England, lived as plain
Mr Horton whenever he grew tired of his beautiful house in Park Lane.
Leading, by the fact of his occupation a dual existence, it was
necessary for his nefarious purposes that he should frequently disappear
into South London, away from the fashionable friends who knew him as Mr
Henry Harberton.

The pair were seated together that evening, smoking and discussing the
cause of the failure of Rozelaar and the reason of his death by his own
bomb.

"Ah! my dear Theodore," exclaimed the Count, in German, throwing himself
back in the old wicker armchair in that cheaply furnished room.  "Your
machine was too elaborate."

"No, you are mistaken, it was simplicity itself," Drost declared.

"Could anybody have tampered with it, do you think?"

"Certainly not.  Nobody knew--nobody saw it except ourselves and
Rozelaar," Drost said.

"And we very nearly blew ourselves up with it during the test.  Do you
remember?" laughed Ortmann.

"Remember!  I rather think I do.  It was, indeed, a narrow escape.  We
won't repeat it.  I'll be more careful, I promise you!"  Drost assured
his paymaster.  "Yet I cannot guess how Rozelaar lost his life."

"Well, we need not trouble.  His was not exactly a precious life,
Theodore, was it?  The fellow knew a little too much, so, for us, it is
perhaps best that the accident should have happened."

"It is not the first time that fatal accidents have happened to those
who, having served Germany, are of no further use," remarked Drost
grimly.

And at his remark the crafty Count--the man who directed the German
octopus in Britain--smiled, but remained silent.

Though Ella, still at Barnes, kept both eyes and ears open during the
day--compelled, of course, to go to the theatre each evening--yet she
could discover no solid fact which might lead her to find out what was
in progress.

The Count came very often over to Barnes, and on two or three occasions
was accompanied by a fair-haired young man whose real name was
Schrieber, but who had changed it to Sommer, and declared himself to be
a Swiss.  Indeed, he had forged papers just as old Drost possessed.  The
fabrication of identification-papers--with photographs attached--became
quite an industry in Germany after war had broken out, while many
American passports were purchased from American "crooks" and fresh
photographs cleverly superimposed.

One afternoon the young man Schrieber called, remained talking alone
with Drost for about ten minutes, and then left.  Presently the old man
entered the drawing-room wherein his daughter was seated writing a
letter.  In his hand he carried a china vase about fourteen inches high,
the dark-blue ornamentation being very similar to a "willow-pattern"
plate.  It was shaped something like a Greek amphora, and quite of
ordinary quality.

"Ella, dear," said her father, handing her the vase, "I wish you could
get one exactly like this.  You'll be able to get it quite easily at one
of the big stores in the West End.  A friend of mine has a pair, and has
broken one."

"Certainly, dad," was the girl's reply.  "I'm going out this afternoon,
and I'll take it with me."  That afternoon Ella Drost went to several
shops until at last, at one in Oxford Street, she found the exact
replica.  They were in pairs, and she was compelled to buy both.  Later
on she took them to Barnes, but before doing so she called in at her own
flat and there left the superfluous vase.

Old Drost seemed highly delighted at securing the exact replica of the
broken ornament.

"Excellent!" he said.  "Excellent!  Really, my dear child, I thought
that you would have had to get it made.  And making things in war-time
is such a very long process."

"I had a little trouble, but I at last got a clue to where they had been
bought, and there, sure enough, they had one pair still in stock."

"Excellent!  Excellent!" he grunted, and he carried off both the pattern
vase and its companion to his little den where he usually did his
writing.

That same evening, while the taxi was at the door to take Ella to the
theatre, the Count called.

"Ah!  Fraulein!" he cried, as he entered the dining-room where Ella
stood ready dressed in her smart coat and hat, as became one who had
been so successful in her profession and drew such a handsome salary,
much to the envy of her less fortunate fellow-artistes.  "Why--you're
quite a stranger--always away at the theatre whenever I call.  I took
some friends from the club to see you the night before last.  That new
waltz-song of yours is really most delightful--so catchy," he added,
speaking in German.

"Do you like it?" asked the bright, athletic girl who led such a strange
semi-Bohemian life, and was yet filled with constant suspicion
concerning her father.  "At first I did not like singing it, because I
objected to some of the lines.  But I see now that everyone seems
attracted by it."

"No, Fraulein Ella!" exclaimed the Count, with his exquisite courtesy.
"The public are not attracted by the song, but by your own _chic_ and
charm."

"Now, really, Count," exclaimed Ella, "this is too bad of you!  If one
of my stall-admirers had said so I would forgive him.  But, surely, you
know me too well to think that I care for flattery from you.  I have
been too long on the stage, I assure you.  To me applause is merely part
of the show.  I expect it, and smile and bow when the house claps.  It
does not fill me with the least personal pride, I assure you.  When I
first went on the stage it certainly did.  But to-day, after being all
these years before the public--"

"All these years!" echoed Ortmann, interrupting her.  "Why, you are not
much more than twenty now, Ella!"

"And think, I've already been twelve years on the stage--a life hard
enough, I can tell you!"

"Yes, I know," remarked the Count.  "But you'll forget all about your
friend Commander Kennedy some day, I expect, and marry a wealthy man."

Ella's eyebrows contracted for a few seconds.

"Well--perhaps," she said.  "But I may yet marry Mr Kennedy, you know!"

Count Ernst Ortmann smiled--a hard evil expression upon his heavy lips.
He held Seymour Kennedy in distinct suspicion.

Indeed, when Ella had gone and he was standing with old Drost in the
dining-room, he remarked:

"I still entertain very grave suspicions regarding that fellow Kennedy.
Couldn't you keep Ella away from him?  Could not we part them somehow?
While they are in love a distinct danger exists.  He may learn something
at any moment.  My information is that he is particularly shrewd at
investigations, and he may suspect.  If so, then the game might very
easily be up."

"Bah!  Do not anticipate any such _contretemps_.  He knows nothing--take
that from me.  We have nothing whatever to fear in that direction,"
Drost assured him.  "If I thought so I should very soon take steps to
part them."

"How would you accomplish that?"

Theodore Drost's narrow face--broad at the brow and narrow at the chin--
puckered in a smile.

"It would not be at all difficult," he said, with a mysterious
expression.  "I have something upstairs which would very soon effect our
purpose and leave no trace--if it were necessary."

"But it _is_ necessary," the Count declared.

"One day it may be," Drost said.  "But not yet."

"Your girl is in love with him, and I suppose you think it a pity to--
well, to spoil their romance, even in face of all that Germany has at
stake!" remarked the Count, with an undisguised sneer.  "Ah, my dear
Drost! you pose as a Dutch pastor, but do you not remember our German
motto: _Der beste prediger ist der Zeit_?"  (Time is the best preacher.)

"Yes, yes," replied the old man with the scraggy beard.  "But please
rely upon my wits.  My eyes are open, and I assure you there is nothing
whatever at present to fear."

"Very well, Drost," Answered the Count.  "I submit to your wider
knowledge.  But now that the girl has gone, we may as well go upstairs--
eh?  You've, of course, seen in to-night's paper that Merton Mansfield
is to address the munition-makers in the Midlands in a fortnight's
time."

Old Drost again smiled mysteriously, and said:

"I knew that quite a fortnight ago.  Schrieber has been north.  He
returned only last Tuesday."

"Did you send him north?"

"I did.  He went upon a mission.  As you know, I am generally well ahead
with any plans I make."

"Plans!  What are they?  Really, my dear Theodore, you are a perfect
marvel of clever inventiveness!"

Ella's father shrugged his shoulders, and in his deep guttural German
replied:

"I am only doing my duty as a good loyal son of our own Fatherland."

"Well spoken," declared the Count.  "There is a good and just reward
awaiting you after the war, never fear!  Our Emperor does not forget
services rendered.  Let us go upstairs--eh?  I am anxious to learn what
you suggest."

The pair ascended the stairs to the carefully locked room in the roof,
that long, well-equipped laboratory wherein Theodore Drost spent so many
hours daily experimenting in the latest discovered high-explosives.
After Drost had switched on the light he carefully closed the door, and
then, crossing to a long deal cupboard where hung several cotton
overalls to protect his clothes against the splash of acids, he took out
his military gas-masks--those hideous devices with rubber mouth-pieces
and mica eye-holes, as used by our men at the front.

"It is always best to take precautions," Drost said, as he handed his
companion and taskmaster a helmet.  "You may find it a little stifling
at first, but it is most necessary."

Both put on the masks, after which Drost handed the Count a pair of
rubber gloves.  These Ortmann put on, watching Drost, who did the same.

"It is a good job, Count, that we are alone in the house, otherwise I
could do no work.  The gas is heavy, and any escaping from here will
fall to the basement.  One fourteen-thousandth part in air, and the
result must be fatal.  There is no known antidote.  Ah!" he laughed,
"these poor, too-confiding English little dream of our latter-day
discoveries--scientific discoveries by which we hold all the honours in
the game of war."

"Very well," grunted the Count.  "Let us hope that our science is better
than that of our enemies.  But I confess that to-day I have doubts.
These British have made most wonderful strides--the most amazing
progress in their munitions and devices."

While he spoke old Drost was, with expert hand, mixing certain
compounds, grey and bright-green crystals, which he pounded in a mortar.
Then, carefully weighing with his apothecary's scales several grammes
of a fine white powder, he added it and, while the Count, still wearing
his ugly mask, watched, mixed a measured quantity of water and placed
the whole into a big glass retort which was already in a holder warmed
by the pale-blue flame of a spirit-lamp.

Suddenly Drost made a gesture to his companion, and while the liquid in
the retort was bubbling, he attached to the narrow end of the retort an
arrangement of bent glass tube, and proceeded to distil the liquid he
had produced.

This product, which fell drop by drop into a long test-tube, was of a
bright-blue colour.  Drop by drop fell that fatal liquid--fatal because
it gave off a poison-gas against which no human being could exist for
more than five seconds.

"This," exclaimed Drost, his voice muffled by his mask, "is the most
fatal of any gas that chemical science has yet discovered.  It does not
merely asphyxiate and leave bad symptoms afterwards, but it kills
outright in a few seconds.  It is absolutely deadly."

The room had by that time become filled by a curious orange-coloured
vapour--bright-orange--which to Ortmann's eyes was an extraordinary
phenomenon.  Had he not worn the protective mask he would have been
instantly overwhelmed by an odour closely resembling that of cloves--a
terribly fatal perfume, which would sweep away men like moths passing
through the flame of a candle.

"Well, my dear Drost," said the Count, "I know you will never rest until
you've devised a means of carrying out our plans for the downfall of
Merton Mansfield, and certainly you seem to have adopted some measure--
deadly though it may be--which is quite in accord with your ingenuity."
He also spoke in a low, stifled voice from within his ugly mask.

Drost nodded, and then into the marble mortar, in which he had mixed his
devilish compounds, he poured something from a long blue glass-stoppered
bottle, whereupon the place instantly became filled with volumes of grey
smoke which, when it cleared, left the atmosphere perfectly clear--so
clear, indeed, that both men removed their masks, sniffing, however, at
the faint odour of cloves still remaining.

Afterwards the old chemist took from the cupboard a small cardboard box
which, on opening, contained, carefully packed in cotton wool, a short,
stout, but hollow needle.  Attached to it at one end was a small steel
box about two inches broad and the same high.  The box was perforated at
intervals.

"This is the little contrivance of which I spoke," said Drost gleefully,
as he gazed upon it in admiration.  "The explosive needle, when filled,
and this little chamber, also properly charged, cannot fail to act."

"I take it, my dear friend, that it will be automatic--eh?" remarked the
Count, examining it with interest.

Old Drost smiled, nodded, and replaced his precious contrivance in its
box, after which both men left the laboratory, Drost carefully locking
the door before descending the stairs to follow his companion.

Both of them took a taxi to the fine house in Park Lane where Ortmann
assumed the _role_ of society man.  At ten o'clock a visitor was ushered
in, and proved to be the young man whose real name was Schrieber.
Apparently he had just returned from a journey, and had come straight
from the station in order to make some secret report to Ortmann.

When the three were closeted together the young German, who passed as a
Swiss, produced from his pocket three small photographs showing the
interior of a room taken from different angles, but always showing the
fireplace.

"Excellent!" declared Drost, as he examined all three prints beneath the
strong light.  "You have done splendidly."

"Yes, all is in readiness.  I have made friends with the maids, and when
I return I shall be welcomed.  No breath of suspicion will be aroused.
We have now but to wait our time."

And the three conspirators--men who were working so secretly, yet with
such dastardly intent in the enemy's cause--laughed as they helped
themselves to cigars from the big silver box.

Nearly three weeks passed when, one day while Seymour Kennedy was
sitting in Ella's pretty little drawing-room, he accidentally noticed
the artistic blue-and-white vase, and remarking how unusual was the
shape, his beloved related how it had come into her possession.

Kennedy reflected for a few seconds, his brows knit in deep thought.

"Curious that your father desired to match a vase like this!  With what
object, I wonder?"

"He told me that he wanted it for a friend."

"H'm!  I wonder why his friend was so eager to match it?" was the
air-pilot's remark.  "And, again, why did he send you to buy it, when
his friend could surely have done so?"

Ella was silent.  That question had never occurred to her.

"I wonder if your father is making some fresh experiment?  Have you been
to the laboratory lately?" he inquired.

"No, dear."

"A secret visit there might be worth while," he suggested.  "Meanwhile,
the question of this vase excites my curiosity considerably.  I can't
help thinking that Ortmann is at the bottom of some other vile trickery.
Their failure to kill Merton Mansfield has, no doubt, made them all the
more determined to deal an effective _coup_."

Some five days later it was announced in the London papers that Mr
Merton Mansfield, the man in whom Great Britain placed her principal
trust in securing victory, would, on the following Thursday, address a
mass meeting of the munition workers in the great Midland town of G--.
The object of the meeting was to urge greater enthusiasm in the
prosecution of the war, and to induce the workers, in the national
cause, to forego their holidays and thus keep up the output of heavy
shells and high-explosives.

Seymour Kennedy, who was in the mess at the time, read the paragraph,
and then sat pondering.

Next day he induced his commanding officer to give him leave, and he was
soon in London making active inquiries.  He found that Mr Merton
Mansfield had been compelled to decline the invitation of Lord
Heatherdale, and had arranged to stay the night at the Central Station
Hotel at G--, as he would have to return to London by the first train
next morning.

Mr Merton Mansfield was an extremely busy man.  No member of the
Cabinet held greater responsibility upon his shoulders, and certainly no
man held higher and stronger views of British patriotism.  Any words
from his lips were listened to eagerly, and carefully weighed, not only
here, but in neutral countries also.  Hence, at this great meeting he
was expected to reveal one or two matters of paramount interest, and
also make a further declaration of British policy.

On the Tuesday night--two days before the meeting--Flight-Commander
Kennedy slept at the Central Hotel in G--and next morning returned to
London.

Next night--or rather at early morning--Ella silently opened the front
door of her father's house at Barnes, and her lover slipped in
noiselessly, the pair afterwards ascending to the secret laboratory
which his well-beloved opened with her duplicate key.  Without much
difficulty they opened the cupboard and examined the contents of the
small cardboard box--discovering the curious-looking needle attached to
the little perforated steel box.

"This place smells of cloves--doesn't it?" whispered Seymour.

"Yes, darling.  I've smelt the same smell for some days.  Father said he
had upset a bottle of oil of cloves."

"This is certainly a most curious apparatus!"  Kennedy whispered,
holding the needle in his hand.  "See, this box is not a bomb.  It is
perforated to allow some perfume--or, more likely, a poison-gas--to
escape.  The needle is certainly an explosive one!"

Further search revealed a small clockwork movement not much larger than
that of a good-sized watch, together with a small bag of bird's sand.

Having made a thorough search, they replaced things exactly as they had
found them, and then Kennedy crept forth again into the broad
thoroughfare called Castelnau.

"Those devils mean mischief again!" he muttered to himself as he hurried
across Hammersmith Bridge.  "That explosive needle is, I can quite see,
a most diabolical invention.  Drost surely has the inventive brains of
Satan himself!"

At that same hour the young man Schrieber was seated with Ortmann in
Park Lane, listening to certain instructions, until at last he rose to
go.

"And, remember--trust in nobody!"  Ortmann urged.  "If you perform this
service successfully, our Fatherland will owe you a very deep debt of
gratitude--one which I will personally see shall not be forgotten."

At midday on Thursday Kennedy and Ella left St Pancras station for G--,
arriving there three hours later, and taking rooms at the Central Hotel.

As soon as Ella entered hers, she was astonished to see upon the
mantelshelf a pair of the same blue-and-white vases as those her father
had asked her to match!

When, ten minutes later, she rejoined Kennedy in the lounge, she told
him of her discovery.

"Yes," was his reply.  "They are the same in all the rooms--one of the
fads of the proprietor.  But," he added, "you must not be seen here.  We
don't know who is coming from London by the next train."

For that reason Ella retired to her room and did not leave it for some
hours, not indeed till her lover came to tell her that all was clear.

By that time Mr Merton Mansfield had arrived, eaten a frugal dinner,
and had gone to the meeting.

"That young man Schrieber has arrived also," Kennedy told her.  "He's
never seen me, so he suspects nothing.  He has also gone to the meeting,
therefore we can go down and have something to eat."

That night at eleven o'clock Mr Merton Mansfield returned, was cheered
loudly by a huge crowd gathered outside the hotel, and waited below
chatting for nearly half-an-hour before he retired to his room.

The room was numbered 146--the best room of a suite on the first floor--
and to this room the young German, the catspaw of Ortmann, had gone
about a quarter past eleven, gaining admission through the private
sitting-room next door.

On entering he, quick as lightning, took down one of the vases from the
mantelshelf and replaced it by another exactly similar which he drew
from beneath the light coat thrown over his arm.  Then, carrying the
vase with him concealed by his coat, he slipped quickly out again
unobserved, not, however, before he had poured into the other vase some
bird-sand so as to make them both of equal weight when the maid came to
dust them on the morrow.  The conspirators left nothing to chance.

In that innocent-looking vase he had brought was one of the most
diabolical contrivances ever invented by man's brain.  To the explosive
needle the tiny clock had been attached and set to strike at half-past
two, an hour when the whole hotel would be wrapped in slumber.  The
effect of striking would be to explode the needle and thus break a thin
glass tube of a certain liquid and set over a piece of sponge saturated
by a second liquid.  The mixing of the two liquids would produce that
terribly deadly poison-gas which, escaping through the perforation, must
cause almost instant death to any person sleeping in the room.

Truly, it was a most diabolical death-trap.

Ten minutes later Mr Merton Mansfield, quite unsuspicious, entered the
room and retired to bed, an example followed by the assassin Schrieber,
who had a room on the same corridor a little distance away.

At nine o'clock next morning Seymour Kennedy, bright and spruce in his
uniform, descended to the hall and inquired of the head-porter if Mr
Merton Mansfield had left.

"Mr Mansfield is an early bird, sir.  He went away to London by the
6:47 train."

The air-pilot turned upon his heel with a sigh of relief.

Two hours later, however, while seated in the lounge with Ella, prior to
returning to London, Kennedy noticed that there was much whispering
among the staff.  Of the porter he inquired the reason.

"Well, sir," the man replied, "it seems that a maid on the first floor,
on going into one of the rooms this morning, found a visitor dead in
bed--Mr Sommer, a Swiss gentleman who arrived last night.  The place
smells strongly of cloves, and the poor girl has also been taken very
ill, for the fumes in the place nearly asphyxiated her."

Seymour again returned to Ella and told her what had occurred.

"But how did you manage it?" she asked in a low whisper.

"Well, after watching Schrieber put the vase in the room, I entered
after him and replaced it by the vase you had bought, afterwards taking
the one with the explosive needle to Schrieber's room and carrying away
the superfluous one.  The man must have glanced at the pair of vases on
his mantelshelf before sleeping, but he, of course, never dreamed that
he was gazing upon the infernal contrivance that he had placed in the
Minister's room with his own hand."

"I see," exclaimed Ella.  "And, surely, he richly deserved his fate!"

The deadly contrivance was found when the room was searched, but the
police of G--still regard the affair as a complete and inexplicable
mystery.

CHAPTER FIVE.

THE BRASS TRIANGLE.

A bank of dense fog hung over the Thames early on that December morning.
The bell of St Paul's Church, at Hammersmith, had struck two o'clock
when across the long suspension-bridge a tall man in a black waterproof
coat and black plush hat walked with a swing, smoking a cigarette, and
passed hurriedly out into the straight broad thoroughfare of Castelnau.

For some distance he proceeded, then suddenly he slackened pace, glanced
at the luminous watch upon his wrist, and, a few moments later, halted
against some railings, and, looking across the road, waited patiently
opposite the house occupied by the pious Dutch pastor, the Reverend
Theodore Drost.

The house was in darkness, and there was not a sound in the street save
the barking of a dog at the rear of a house in the vicinity.

In patience, Flight-Commander Kennedy, for it was he, waited watchfully.
He remained for a full quarter of an hour, ever and anon glancing at
his watch, until, of a sudden, the front door opposite was opened
noiselessly, and he saw the gleam of a flash-lamp.

In a moment he had crossed the road and, ascending the steps, met his
well-beloved.  As he met her, he thought how strange it all seemed, what
a romance it was.  Here was this charming girl, whom the world only knew
as a celebrated revue artiste, helping him to frustrate the criminal
plans of her German father.

Ella, standing at the door, whispered:

"Hush!"

And without a word Seymour Kennedy, treading tiptoe, slipped within.

The house was familiar to him.  He grasped the soft white hand of his
well-beloved and, raising it to his lips, kissed it in homage.  She was
wearing a dainty purple and yellow kimono, her little feet thrust into
red morocco Turkish slippers, which were noiseless, and, as she ascended
the thickly-carpeted stairs, he followed her without uttering a word.

Up they went, to the top floor.  The door which faced them at the head
of the stairs she unlocked with a key, and after they were both inside
she closed the door and then switched on the light.

The big chemical laboratory, which her father had established in secret
in that long attic, presented the same scene as it had when he had
visited it before at the invitation of his well-beloved.  With such
constant demands upon his inventive powers, it was necessary that the
Prussian ex-professor should have the place fitted up with all the
latest scientific appliances.

"Well, Seymour!" the girl exclaimed at last.  "Here you are!  What do
you think of these?"  And, crossing to a side table, she indicated two
well-worn attache-cases in brown leather, each about sixteen inches by
eight, and three inches deep.

One of them she opened, revealing a curious mechanism within, part of
which was the movement of a cheap American clock.  Her tall,
good-looking companion, who was a skilled mechanic, examined both these
innocent-looking little cases with keen interest, and then exclaimed:

"Ah!  I quite understand now!  These are no doubt to be used in
conjunction with explosives.  They run for half an hour only, and then
electrical contact is made into the explosive compound."

"Exactly.  See there, that row of tins of lubricating-oil.  They are
already filled with the high-explosive and in readiness."

Kennedy bent and then saw, ranged below a bench on the opposite side of
the laboratory, six tins of a certain well-known thick lubricating-oil
used by motorists.

"There is sufficient there, dear, to blow up the whole of Barnes," she
declared.  "Evidently this latest outrage is intended to be a serious
one."

"Ah!" sighed Kennedy.  "It is a thousand pities, Ella, that your father
is doing all this dastardly secret work for the enemy.  Happily you,
though his daughter, are taking measures to thwart his plans."

"I am doing only what is my duty, dear," replied the girl in the kimono;
"and with your aid I hope to upset this latest plot of Ortmann and his
friends."

"Have you seen Ortmann lately?" her lover asked.

"No.  He has been away somewhere in Holland--conferring with the German
Secret Service, without a doubt.  I heard father say yesterday, however,
that he had returned to Park Lane."

"Returned, in order to distribute more German money, I suppose?"

"Probably.  He must have spent many hundreds of thousands of pounds in
the German cause both before the war and after it," replied the girl.

The pair stood in the laboratory for some time examining some of the
apparatus which old Drost, now sleeping below, had during that day been
using for the manufacture of the explosive contained in those
innocent-looking oil-cans.

Kennedy realised, by the delicacy of the apparatus, how well versed the
grey-haired old Prussian was in explosives, and on again examining the
attache-cases with their mechanical contents, saw the cleverness with
which the plot, whatever its object, had been conceived.

What was intended?  There was no doubt a conspiracy afoot to destroy
some public building, or perhaps an important bridge or railway
junction.

This he pointed out to Ella, who, in reply, said:

"Yes.  I shall remain here and watch.  I shall close up my flat, and
send my maid on a holiday, so as to have excuse to remain here at home."

"Right-ho! darling.  You can always get at me on the telephone.  You
remain here and watch at this end, while I will keep an eye on Ortmann--
at least, as far as my flying duties will allow me."

Thus it was arranged, and the pair, treading noiselessly, closed the
door and, relocking it, crept softly down the stairs.  In the dark hall
Seymour took his well-beloved in his strong arms and there held her,
kissing her passionately upon the brow.  Then he whispered:

"Good-night, my darling.  Be careful that you are not detected
watching."

A moment later he had slipped out of the door and was gone.

Hardly had the door closed when Ella was startled by a movement on the
landing at the head of the stairs--a sound like a footstep.  There was a
loose board there, and it had creaked!  Some one was moving.

"Who's there?" she asked in apprehension.

There was no reply.

"Some one is up there," she cried.  "Who is it?"

Yet again there was no response.

In the house there was the old servant and her father.  Much puzzled at
the noise, which she had heard quite distinctly, she crept back up the
dark stairs and, finding no one, softly entered her father's room, to
discover him asleep and breathing heavily.  Then she ascended to the
servant's room, but old Mrs Pennington was asleep.

When she regained her own cosy room, which was, as always, in readiness
for her, even though she now usually lived in the flat in Stamfordham
Mansions, over in Kensington, she stood before the long mirror and
realised how pale she was.

That movement in the darkness had unnerved her.  Some person had most
certainly trodden upon that loose board, which she and her lover had
been so careful to avoid.

"I wonder!" she whispered to herself.  "Can there have been somebody
watching us?"

If that were so, then her father and the chief of spies, the man
Ortmann, would be on their guard.  So, in order to satisfy herself, she
took her electric torch and made a complete examination of the house,
until she came to the small back sitting-room on the ground floor.
There she found the blind drawn up and the window open.

The discovery startled her.  The person, whoever it could have been,
must have slipped past her in the darkness and, descending the stairs,
escaped by the way that entrance had been gained.

Was it a burglar?  Was it some one desirous of knowing the secrets of
that upstairs laboratory?  Or was it some person set to watch her
movements?

She switched on the electric light, which revealed that the room was a
small one, with well-filled bookshelves and a roll-top writing-table set
against the open window.

Upon the carpet something glistened, and, stooping, she picked it up.
It was a woman's curb chain-bracelet, the thin safety-chain of which was
broken.

Could the intruder have been a woman?  Had the bracelet fallen from her
wrist in her hurried flight?  Or had it fallen from the pocket of a
burglar who had secured it with some booty from a house in the vicinity?

Ella looked out into the small garden, but the intruder had vanished.
Therefore she closed the window, to find that the catch had been broken
by the mysterious visitor, and then returned again to her room, where
she once more examined the bracelet beneath the light.

"It may give us some clue," she remarked to herself.  "Yet it is of very
ordinary pattern, and bears no mark of identification."

Next day, without telling her father of her midnight discovery, she met
Seymour Kennedy by appointment at the theatre, showed him what she had
found, and related the whole story.

"Strange!" he exclaimed.  "Extraordinary!  It must have been a burglar!"

"Or a woman?"

"But why should a woman break into your house?"

"In order to watch me.  Perhaps Ortmann or my father may have
suspicions," replied the actress, arranging her hair before the big
mirror.

"I hope not, Ella.  They are both the most daring and the most
unscrupulous men in London."

"And it is for us to outwit them in secret, dear," she replied, turning
to him with a smile of sweet affection.

In the days that followed, the mystery of the intruder became further
increased by Ella making another discovery.  In the garden, upon a
thorn-bush against the wall, Mrs Pennington found a large piece of
cream silk which had apparently formed part of the sleeve of a woman's
blouse.  She brought it to Ella, saying:

"I've found this in the garden, miss.  It looks as if some lady got
entangled in the bush, and left part of 'er blouse behind--don't it?  I
wonder who's been in our garden?"

Ella took it and, expressing little surprise, suggested that it might
have been blown into the bush by the wind.

It, however, at once confirmed her suspicion that the midnight visitor
had been a woman.

While Ella sang and danced nightly at the theatre, and afterwards drove
home to Castelnau, to that house where upstairs was stored all that
high-explosive, Seymour Kennedy maintained a watchful vigilance upon
Ernst von Ortmann, the chief of enemy spies, and kept that unceasing
watch over him, not only at the house at Wandsworth, but also at the
magnificent mansion in Park Lane.

To von Ortmann's frequent dinner-parties in the West End came the crafty
and grave-faced old Drost, who there met other men of mysterious
antecedents, adventurers who posed as Swiss, American, or Dutch, for
that house was the headquarters of enemy activity in Great Britain, and
from it extended many extraordinary and unexpected ramifications.

That some great and desperate outrage was intended in the near future
Kennedy was confident, as all the apparatus was ready.  But of Drost's
intentions he could discover nothing, neither could Ella.

One cold night, while loitering in the darkness beside the railings of
the Park, Kennedy saw Ortmann emerge from the big portico of his house
and walk to Hyde Park Corner, where he hailed a taxi and drove down
Grosvenor Gardens.  Within a few moments Kennedy was in another taxi
closely following.

They crossed Westminster Bridge and turned to the right, in the
direction of Vauxhall.  Then, on arriving at Clapham Junction station,
Kennedy, discerning Ortmann's destination to be the house in Park Road,
Wandsworth Common, where at times he lived as the humble Mr Horton, the
retired tradesman, he dismissed his taxi and walked the remainder of the
distance.

When he arrived before the house, he saw a light in Horton's room, and
hardly had he halted opposite ere the figure of a man in a black
overcoat and soft felt hat came along and ascended the steps to the
door.

It was the so-called Dutch pastor, Theodore Drost.

The latter had not been admitted more than five minutes when another
visitor, a short, thick-set bearded man, having the appearance of a
workman, probably an engineer, passed by, hesitated, looked at the house
inquiringly, and then went up the steps and rang the bell.

He also quickly gained admission, and therefore it seemed plain that a
conference was being held there that night.

The bearded man was a complete stranger, hence Kennedy resolved to
follow him when he reappeared, and try to establish his identity.  Being
known to Drost and Ortmann, it was always both difficult and dangerous
for him to follow either too closely.  But with a stranger it was
different.

Before twenty-four hours had passed, the Flight-Commander had
ascertained a number of interesting facts.  The bearded man was known as
Arthur Cole, and was an electrician employed at one of the County
Council power-stations.  He lived in Tenison Street, close to Waterloo
Station, and was a widower.

Next day, on making further inquiry of shops in the vicinity, a woman
who kept a newspaper-shop exclaimed:

"I may be mistaken, sir, but I don't believe much in that there Mr
Cole."

"Why?" asked Kennedy quickly.

"Well, 'e's lived 'ere some years, you know, and before the war I used
to order for 'im a German newspaper--the Berliner-Something."

"The _Berliner-Tageblatt_ it was, I expect."

"Yes.  That's the paper, sir," said the woman.  "'E used to be very fond
of it, till I couldn't get it any more."

"Then he may be German?"

The woman bent over the narrow counter of her small establishment and
whispered:

"I'm quite certain 'e is, sir."

That night Seymour saw his well-beloved in the theatre between the acts,
and told her the result of his inquiries.  Then he returned to his vigil
and watched the dingy house in Tenison Street, one of those drab London
streets in which the sun never seems to shine.

For three nights Kennedy remained upon constant vigil.  On the fourth
night, just as Ella was throwing off her stage dress at the conclusion
of the show, she received a telegram which said: "Gone north.  Return
soon.  Wait."

It was unsigned, but she knew its sender.

Four days she waited in eager expectation of receiving news.  On the
fifth night, just before she left for the theatre, Ortmann arrived to
visit her father.  She greeted him merrily, but quickly escaped from
that detestable atmosphere of conspiracy, at the same time remembering
that mysterious female intruder.

Who could she have been?

In the meantime Seymour Kennedy, who had obtained a few days' leave, had
been living at the Central Hotel in that busy Lancashire town which must
here be known as G--.  To that town he had followed the man Cole and had
constantly watched his movements.  Cole had taken up his quarters at a
modest temperance hotel quite close to the Central, which was the big
railway terminus, and had been daily active, and had made several
journeys to places in the immediate manufacturing outskirts of G--.

At last he packed his modest Gladstone bag and returned to London,
Kennedy, in an old tweed suit, travelling by the same train.

On their arrival Kennedy took a taxi direct from Euston to the theatre.

When Ella had sent her dresser out of the room upon an errand, he
hurriedly related what had occurred.

The man Cole had, he explained, met in G--a thin-faced, dark-haired
young woman, apparently of his own social standing, a young woman of the
working-class, who wore a brass war-badge in the shape of a triangle.
The pair had been in each other's company constantly, and had been twice
out to a manufacturing centre about six miles away, a place known as
Rivertown.

Briefly he related what he had observed and what he had discovered.
Then he went out while she dressed, eventually driving with her to a
snug little restaurant off Oxford Street, where they supped together.

"Do you know, Ella," he asked in a low voice, as they sat in a corner,
"now that we've established the fact that the man Cole has visited your
father, and also that he is undoubtedly implicated in the forthcoming
plot, can it be that this young woman whom he met in G--is the same who
entered your father's house on the night of my visit there?"

"I wonder!" she exclaimed.  "Why should she go there?"

"Out of curiosity, perhaps.  Who knows?  She's evidently on friendly
terms with this electrician.  Cole, who, if my information is correct,
is no Englishman at all--but a German!"

Ella reflected deeply.  Then she answered:

"Perhaps both the man and woman came there for the purpose either of
robbery--or--"

"No.  They were probably suspicious of your father's manner, and came to
examine the house."

"But if they did not trust my father surely they would not be in active
association with him, as you say they are," the girl argued.

"True.  But they might, nevertheless, have had their curiosity aroused."

"And by so doing they may have seen us," she declared apprehensively.
"I hope not."

"And even if they did, they surely would not recognise us again," he
exclaimed.  "But," he added, "no time must be lost.  You must take
another brief holiday from the theatre, and see what we can do."

"Very well," was the dancer's reply.  "I'll see Mr Pettigrew to-morrow,
and get a rest.  It will give my understudy a chance."

Over a fortnight went by.

It was half-past five o'clock on a cold January evening when a trainful
of merry-faced girl munition workers stood at the Central Station at G--
ready to start out to Rivertown to work on the night shift in those huge
roaring factories where the big shells were being made.

Each girl wore a serviceable raincoat and close-fitting little hat, each
carried a small leather attache-case with her comb, mirror, and other
little feminine toilet requisites, and each wore upon her blouse the
brass triangle which denoted that she was a worker on munitions.

Peering out from the window of one of those dingy third-class
compartments was a young girl in a rather faded felt hat and a cheap
navy-blue coat, while upon the platform, apparently taking notice of
nobody, stood a tallish young man in a brown overcoat.  The
munition-girl was Ella Drost, and the man her lover, Seymour Kennedy.

As the train at last moved out across the long bridge over the river,
the pair exchanged glances, and then Ella, with her brass triangle on
her blouse, sat back in the crowded carriage in thought, her little
attache-case upon her knees, listening to the merry chat of her
fellow-workers.

Arrived at the station, she followed the crowd of workers to the huge
newly-erected factory close by, a great hive of industry where, through
night and day, Sunday and weekday, over eight thousand women made big
shells for the guns at the front.

At the entrance-gate each girl passed singly beneath the keen eyes of
door-keepers and detectives, for no intruder was allowed within, it
being as difficult for strangers to gain admission there as to enter the
presence of the Prime Minister at Downing Street.

The shifts were changing, and the day-workers were going off.  Hence
there was considerable bustle, and many of those lathes drilling and
turning the great steel projectiles were, for the moment, still.

Presently the night-workers began to troop in, each in her pale-brown
overall with a Dutch cap, around the edge of which was either a red or
blue band denoting the status of the worker, while the forewomen were
distinctive in their dark-blue overalls.

Some of the girls had exchanged their skirts for brown linen trousers.
Those were the girls working the travelling cranes which, moving up and
down the whole length of the factory, carried the shells from one lathe
to another as they passed through the many processes between drilling
and varnishing.  Ella was among these latter, and certainly nobody who
met her in her Dutch cap with its blue band, her linen overall jacket
with its waistband, and her trousers, stained in places with oil, would
have ever recognised her as the star of London revue.

Lithely she mounted the straight steep iron ladder up to her lofty perch
on the crane, and, seating herself, she touched the switch and began to
move along the elevated rails over the heads of the busy workers below.

The transfer of a shell from one lathe to another was accomplished with
marvellous ease and swiftness.  A girl below her lifted her hand as
signal, whereupon Ella advanced over her, and let down a huge pair of
steel grips which the lathe-worker placed upon the shell, at the same
time releasing it from the lathe.  Again she raised her hand, and the
shell was lifted a few yards above her head and lowered to the next
machine, where the worker there placed it in position, and then released
it to undergo its next phase of manufacture.

Such was Ella's work.  In the fortnight she had been there she had
become quite expert in the transfer of the huge shells, and, further,
she had become much interested in her new life and its unusual
surroundings In that great place the motive force of all was
electricity.  All those whirring lathes, drills, hammers, saws, cutting
and polishing machines, cranes, everything in that factory, as well as
the two other great factories in the near vicinity, were driven from the
great electrical power-station close by.

Now and then, as the night hours passed, though within all was bright
and busy as day, Ella would give a glance at the woman working the crane
opposite hers, a thin-faced, dark-haired young woman, who was none other
than the mysterious friend of the man Cole, and whom she held in great
suspicion.

While Ella worked within the factory in order to keep a watchful eye,
Seymour Kennedy watched with equal shrewdness outside.

The days went past, but nothing suspicious occurred until one night
Cole, who was again living at the temperance hotel, joined the
munition-workers' train, being followed by Ella, who found that he had
been engaged as an electrician in the power-house.

Next day he met the thin-faced young woman, who was known to her
fellow-workers as Kate Dexter, and they spent several hours together, at
lunch and afterwards at a picture-house.  But, friends as they were,
when they left the Central Station they took care never to travel in the
same carriage.  So, to their fellow-workers, they were strangers.

One afternoon, at half-past two, Kennedy, who was at the Central Hotel,
called at Ella's lodgings and explained how he had seen her father
walking in the street with Cole.

"I afterwards followed them," he added, "and eventually found that your
father is at the Grand Hotel."

"Then mischief is certainly intended," declared the girl, her cheeks
turning pale.

"No doubt.  They mean to execute the plot without any further delay.
That's my opinion.  It will require all our watchfulness and resource if
we are to be successful."

"Why not warn the police?" suggested the girl.

"And, by doing so, you would most certainly send your father to a long
term of penal servitude," was her lover's reply.  "No.  We must prevent
it, and for your own sake allow your father a loophole for escape,
though he certainly deserves none."

Ella had once travelled in the same train as the woman Dexter, but the
latter had not recognised her; nevertheless, from inquiries Kennedy had
made in London, it seemed that a month before the woman had been living
in London, and was a close friend of Cole's.  She had only recently gone
north to work on munitions, and had, like Ella, been instructed in the
working of the electrical cranes.

For three days Theodore Drost remained at the Grand Hotel, where he had
several interviews with the electrician Cole, and while Ella kept out of
the way by day and went to the works at night, her lover very cleverly
managed to maintain a strict watch.

More than once Ella had contrived to pass the door of the great
power-station with its humming dynamos which gave movement to that huge
mass of machinery in the three factories turning out munitions, and had
seen the man Cole in his blue dungarees busily oiling the machinery.

Once she had watched him using thick machine-oil from cans exactly
similar to those she had seen stored beneath the table in her father's
laboratory.

Night after night Ella, working there aloft in her crane, waited and
wondered.  Indeed, she never knew from hour to hour whether the
carefully laid plans of the conspirators might not result in some
disastrous explosion, in which she herself might be a victim.

But Kennedy reassured her that he was keeping an ever-watchful vigil,
and she trusted him implicitly.  As a matter of fact, one of the London
detectives watching the place was a friend of his, and, without telling
him the exact object of his visit, he was able to gain entrance to the
works.

Naturally the detective became curious, but Kennedy, who usually wore an
old tweed suit and a seedy cap, promised to reveal all to him
afterwards.

About half-past one, on a wet morning, Ella had just stopped her crane
when, at the entrance end of the building, she caught a glimpse of some
one beckoning to her.  It was her well-beloved.  In a few moments she
had clambered down, and, hurrying through the factory, joined him
outside.

"Did you travel with that woman Dexter to-night?" he inquired eagerly in
a low whisper as they stood in the darkness.

"Yes."

"Did she carry her attache-case?"

"Yes.  She always does."

"She did not have it when she went home yesterday morning, for she left
it here--the case which your father prepared," he said.  "She brought
the second of the cases with her to-night."

"Then both are here!" exclaimed Ella in excitement.

"Both are now in the power-house.  I saw her hand over the second one to
Cole only a quarter of an hour ago.  Let us watch."

Then the pair crept on beneath the dark shadows through the rain to the
great square building of red-brick which, constructed six months before,
contained some of the finest and most up-to-date electrical plant in all
the world.

At last they gained the door, which stood slightly ajar.  The other
mechanics were all away in the canteen having their early morning meal,
and the man Cole, outwardly an honest-looking workman, remained there in
charge.

Together they watched the man's movements.

Presently he came to the door, opened it, and looked eagerly out.  In
the meantime, however, Kennedy and his companion had slipped round the
corner, and were therefore out of view.  Then, returning within, Cole
went to a cupboard, and as they watched from their previous point of
vantage they saw him unlock it, displaying the two little leather
attache-cases within.

Close to the huge main dynamo in the centre of the building there stood
on the concrete floor six cans of lubricating-oil which, it was proved
afterwards, were usually kept at that spot, and therefore were in no way
conspicuous.

Swiftly the man Cole drew a coil of fine wire from the cupboard, the
ends being joined to the two attache-cases--so that if the mechanism of
one failed, the other would act--and with quick, nimble fingers he
joined the wire to that already attached to the six inoffensive-looking
cans of "oil."

The preparations did not occupy more than a minute.  Then, seizing a can
of petrol, he placed it beside the cans of high-explosive, in order to
add fire to the explosion.

Afterwards, with a final look at the wires, and putting his head into
the cupboard, where he listened to make certain that the clockwork
mechanism was in motion, he glanced at the big clock above.  Then, in
fear lest he should be caught there, he ran wildly out into the darkness
ere they were aware of his intention.

"Quick!" shouted Kennedy.  "Rush and break those wires, Ella!  I'll
watch him!"

Without a second's hesitation, the girl dashed into the power-house and
frantically tore the wires from the cupboard and from the fastenings to
the deadly attache-cases, and--as it was afterwards proved--only just in
time to save herself, the building, and its mass of machinery from total
destruction.

Meanwhile, Kennedy had overtaken the man Cole, and closed desperately
with him, both of them rolling into the mud.

Just as Ella was running towards them a pistol-shot rang out.

The fellow had drawn a revolver and in desperation had tried to shoot
his captor, but instead, in Kennedy's strong grip, his hand was turned
towards himself, and the bullet had struck his own face, entering his
brain.

In a few seconds the man Cole lay there dead.

Was it any wonder that the Press made no mention of the affair?

CHAPTER SIX.

THE SILENT DEATH.

In the yellow sunshine of a bright and cloudless autumn afternoon, Ella
Drost descended from her motor-cycle at a remote spot where four roads
crossed at a place called Pittsgate, about a mile and a half out from
Goudhurst, in Kent, having travelled from London by way of Tunbridge
Wells.

In leather cap, leggings, mackintosh, and leather belt she presented a
charming type of the healthy English sports-girl.  Indeed, in that very
garb one could buy picture postcards of her all over the kingdom, those
who purchased them little dreaming that Stella Steele, who had for so
many nights been applauded by the khaki crowds in the theatre, where she
merrily danced in the revue "Half a Moment!" was the daughter of old
Theodore Drost, the sworn enemy of Great Britain, the man who had for so
long succeeded in misleading the alien authorities into the belief that
he was a pious pastor of the Dutch Church.

Certainly the man who posed as an ex-missionary from Sumatra, and who
wore the shabby, broad-brimmed clerical hat and horn-rimmed glasses, had
never once been suspected of treasonable acts, save by his daughter Ella
and Seymour Kennedy.

It was to meet Kennedy that Ella had motored down from London that day.
The roads were rather bad, and both machine and rider were splashed with
mud.  Yet for that she cared nothing.  Her mind was too full of the
investigations upon which they were engaged.

She took out a large scale map, unfolded it, and studied it carefully,
apparently tracing a route with her finger.  Then glancing at her
wristlet-watch, she looked eagerly down the long, straight road upon her
left--the road which led up from Eastbourne, through Mayfield and
Wadhurst.

Nobody was in sight, therefore she consoled herself with a cigarette
which she took from her case, and again studied her map until, at last,
she suddenly heard the pop-pop-pop of a motor-cycle approaching and saw
Seymour, his body bent over the handles, coming up the hill at a
rattling pace.

In a few minutes he had pulled up, and, taking her in his arms, kissed
her fondly, expressing regret if he were late.

"Eastbourne is further off than I expected, darling," he added.  "Well?"
he asked eagerly.

"Nothing particular has happened since we parted on Thursday," replied
the girl.  "Father has been several times to see Mr Horton in
Wandsworth, and last night dined with Mr Harberton in Park Lane."

"Ah!  What would the public think if they knew that Count Ernst von
Ortmann, who pulls the fingers of the Hidden Hand in our midst, Henry
Harberton of Park Lane, and Mr Horton of Wandsworth, were one and the
same person, eh?" exclaimed the man, who, though not in uniform,
revealed his profession by his bearing.

"One day it will be known, dear," said the girl.  "And then there will
be an end to my father.  The Count will believe that my father has
betrayed him."

"Why do you anticipate that?"

"Because only the night before last, when Ortmann called, I overheard
him remark to my father that he was the only person who knew his secret,
and warning him against any indiscretion, and of the fate which Germany
would most certainly meet out to him if any _contretemps_ occurred."

"Yes," remarked the air-pilot reflectively.  "I suppose that if the
authorities really did arrest the inoffensive and popular Mr Harberton,
the latter would, no doubt, revenge himself most bitterly upon your
father."

"Of that I'm perfectly certain, dear.  Often I am tempted to relinquish
my efforts to combat the evil they try to work against England, and yet
the English are my own people--and also yours."

"You're a thorough brick, Ella.  There's not a girl in all the kingdom
who has run greater risks than your dear self, or been more devoted to
the British cause.  Why, a dozen times you've walked fearlessly into
danger, when you might have been blown to atoms by their infernal
bombs."

"No, no," she laughed.  "Don't discuss it here.  I've only done what any
other girl in my place would have done.  Come," she added.  "Let's get
on and carry out the plan we arranged."

"Right-ho!" he replied.  "That's the road," he added, pointing straight
before him.  "According to the map, there's a wood a little way up,
where the road forks.  We take the left road, skirt another wood past a
farm called Danemore, then over a brook, and it's the first house we
come to on the right--with another wood close behind it."

"Very well," answered the girl.  "You'll have a breakdown close to the
house--eh?"

"That's the arrangement," he laughed, and next minute he was running
beside his machine, and was soon away, followed by his mud-bespattered
well-beloved.

Off they both sped, first down a steep slope, and then gradually
mounting through a thick wood where the brown leaves were floating down
upon the chilly wind.  They passed the farm Kennedy had indicated,
crossed the brook by a bumpy, moss-grown bridge, and suddenly the man
threw up his hand as a signal that he was pulling-up, and, slowing down,
alighted, while his engine gave forth a report like a pistol-shot.

Ella, too, dismounted, and saw they were before a good-sized, well-kept
farmhouse, which stood a short distance back from the road, surrounded
by long red-brick outbuildings.

The report had brought out an old farm-hand--a white-bearded old fellow,
who was scanning them inquisitively.

Both Ella and her lover were engaged in intently examining the latter's
machine, looking very grave, and exchanging exclamations of despair.
Kennedy opened a bag of tools and, with a cigarette in his mouth,
commenced an imaginary repair, with one eye upon the adjacent house.
This lasted for about a quarter-of-an-hour.  In the meantime a woman,
evidently the farmer's wife, had come out to view the strangers, and had
returned indoors.

"I think it's now about time we might go in," the air-pilot whispered to
his companion, whereupon both of them entered the gate and passed up the
rutty drive to the house.

"I wonder if you could lend me a heavy hammer?" asked the motor-cyclist
in distress of the pleasant, middle-aged woman who opened the door.

"Why, certainly, sir.  Would the coal-hammer do?" she asked.

"Fine!" was the man's reply.  "I'm so sorry to trouble you, but I've
broken down, and I'm on my way to London."

"I'm very sorry, sir," exclaimed the woman, who fetched a heavy hammer
from her kitchen.  "Would the young lady care to come in and wait?"

"Oh, thanks.  It's awfully good of you," said Ella.  "The fact is I am a
little fagged, and if I may sit down I shall be so grateful."

"Certainly, miss.  Just come in both of you for a moment," and she led
the way into a homely well-furnished room with a great open hearth where
big logs were burning with a pleasant smell of smouldering beech.

"What a comfortable room you have here!"  Kennedy remarked, looking at
the thick Turkey carpet upon the floor, and the carved writing-table in
the window.

"Yes, sir.  This is a model dairy-farm.  It belongs to Mr
Anderson-James, who lives in Tunbridge Wells, and who comes here for
week-ends sometimes, and for the shooting.  I expect him here to-night.
My husband farms for him, and I look after the place as housekeeper."

"A model farm!" exclaimed Ella.  "Oh!  I'd so much like to see it.  I
wonder if your husband would allow me?"

"He'd be most delighted, miss."

"Stevenson is my name, and this is my friend Mr Kershaw," Ella said,
introducing herself.

"My name is Dennis," replied the comely farmer's wife with a pleasant
smile.  "This is called Furze Down Farm, and Mr Anderson-James is a
solicitor in Tunbridge Wells.  So now you know all about us," and the
woman, in her big white apron, laughed merrily.

Kennedy and the girl exchanged glances.

"Well," he said, "I'll go out and try to put the machine right.  It
won't take very long, I hope.  If I can't--well, we must go back by
train.  Where's the nearest station, Mrs Dennis?"

"Well--Paddock Wood is about two miles," was her reply.  "If you can't
get your motor right my husband will put it into a cart and drive you
over there.  It's the direct line to London."

"Thanks so much," he said, and went out, leaving Ella to rest in the
cosy, well-furnished room which the solicitor from Tunbridge Wells
occupied occasionally through the week-ends.

"Mr Anderson-James keeps this place as a hobby.  He's retired from
practice," the woman went on, "and he likes to come here for fresh air.
When you've rested I'll show you round the houses--if you're interested
in a dairy-farm."

"I'm most interested," declared the girl.  "I don't want to rest.  I'd
rather see the farm, if it is quite convenient to you to show it to me."

"Oh, quite, miss," was the woman's prompt response.  She came from
Devonshire, as Ella had quickly detected, and was an artist in
butter-making, the use of the mechanical-separator, and the management
of poultry.

The pair went out at once and, passing by clean asphalt paths, went to
the range of model cowhouses, each scrupulously clean and well-kept.
Then to the piggeries, the great poultry farm away in the meadows, and,
lastly, into the white-tiled dairy itself, where four maids in white
smocks and caps were busy with butter, milk, and cream.

Ranged along one side of the great dairy were about thirty
galvanised-iron chums of milk, ready for transport, and Ella, noting
them, asked their destination.

"Oh!  They go each night to the training-camp at B--.  They go out in
two lots, one at midnight, and one at two o'clock in the morning."

"Oh, so you supply the camp with milk, do you?"

"Yes.  Before the war all our milk went up to London Bridge by train
each night, but now we supply the two camps.  There are fifty thousand
men in training there, they say.  Isn't it splendid!" added the woman,
the fire of patriotism in her eyes.  "There's no lack of pluck in the
dear old country."

"No, Mrs Dennis.  All of us are trying to do our bit," Ella said.
"Does the Army Service Corps fetch the milk?"

"No, miss.  They used to, but for nearly six weeks we've sent it in
waggons ourselves.  The camp at B--is ten miles from here, so it comes
rather hard on the horses.  It used to go in motor-lorries.  Old Thomas,
the man bending down over there," and she pointed across the farm-yard,
"he drives the waggon out at twelve, and Jim Jennings--who only comes of
an evening--does the late delivery."

"But the road is rather difficult from here to the camp, isn't it?"
asked the girl, as though endeavouring to recollect.

"Yes.  That's just it.  They have to go right round by Shipborne to
avoid the steep hill."

Five minutes later they were in the comfortable farm-house again, and,
after a further chat, Ella went forth to see how her companion was
progressing.

The repair had been concluded--thanks to the coal-hammer!  Ella took it
back, thanked the affable Mrs Dennis, and, five minutes later, the pair
were on their way to London, perfectly satisfied with the result of
their investigations.

On that same evening, while Kennedy and Ella were having a light dinner
together at the Piccadilly Grill before she went to the theatre, the
elusive Ortmann called upon old Theodore Drost at the dark house at
Castelnau, on the Surrey side of Hammersmith Bridge.  He came in a taxi,
and accompanying him was a grey-haired, tall, and rather lean man, who
carried a heavy deal box with leather handle.

Drost welcomed them, and all three ascended at once to that long attic,
the secret workshop of the maker of bombs.  The man who posed as a pious
Dutch missionary switched on the light, disclosing upon the table a
number of small globes of thin glass which, at first, looked like
electric light bulbs.  They, however, had no metal base, the glass being
narrowed at the end into a small open tube.  Thus the air had not been
exhausted.

"This is our friend, Doctor Meins," exclaimed Ortmann, introducing his
companion, who, a few minutes later, unlocked the box and brought out a
large brass microscope of the latest pattern, which he screwed together
and set up at the further end of the table.

Meanwhile from another table at the end of the long apartment old Drost,
with a smile of satisfaction upon his face, carried over very carefully
a wooden stand in which stood a number of small sealed glass tubes, most
of which contained what looked like colourless gelatine.

"We want to be quite certain that the cultures are sufficiently
virulent," remarked Ortmann.  "That is why I have brought Professor
Meins, who, as you know, is one of our most prominent bacteriologists,
though he is, of course, naturalised as a good Englishman, and is in
general practice in Hampstead under an English name."

The German professor, smiling, took up one of the hermetically sealed
tubes, broke it, and from it quickly prepared a glass microscope-slide,
not, however, before all three had put on rubber gloves and assumed what
looked very much like gas-helmets, giving the three conspirators a most
weird appearance.  Then, while the Professor was engaged in focussing
his microscope, Drost, his voice suddenly muffled behind the goggle-eyed
mask, exhibited to Ortmann one of the glass bombs already prepared for
use.

It was about the size of a fifty-candle-power electric bulb, and its
tube having been closed by melting the glass, it appeared filled with a
pale-yellow vapour.

"That dropped anywhere in a town would infect an enormous area," Drost
explained.  "The glass is so thin that it would pulverise by the small
and almost noiseless force with which it would explode."

"It could be dropped by hand--eh?" asked Ortmann.  "And nobody would be
the wiser."

"No, if dropped by hand it would, no doubt, infect the person who
dropped it.  The best way will be to drop it from a car."

"At night?"

"No.  In daylight--in a crowded street.  It would then be more
efficacious--death resulting within five days to everyone infected."

"Terrible!" exclaimed the Kaiser's secret agent--the man of treble
personality.

"Yes.  But it is according to instructions.  See here!" and he took up
what appeared to be a small bag of indiarubber--like a child's air-ball
that had been deflated.  "This acts exactly the same when filled, only
the case is soluble.  One minute after touching water or, indeed, any
liquid, it dissolves, and thus releases the germs!"

"_Gott_!" gasped Ortmann.  "You are, indeed, a dealer in bottled death,
my dear Theodore.  Truly, you've been inventing some appalling things
for our dear friends here--eh?"

The man with the scraggy beard, who was a skilled German scientist,
though he posed as a Dutch pastor, smiled evilly, while at that moment
the man Meins, who had his eye upon the microscope, beckoned both of
them forward to look.

Ortmann obeyed, and placing his eye upon the tiny lens, saw in the
brightly reflected light colonies of the most deadly bacilli yet
discovered by German science--the germs of a certain hitherto unknown
disease, against which there was no known remedy.  The fifth day after
infection of the human system death inevitably resulted.

"All quite healthy!" declared the great bacteriologist from behind his
mask.  "What would our friends think if they knew the means by which
they came into this country--eh?"

Drost laughed, and, crossing to a cupboard, took out a fine
Ribston-pippin apple.  This he cut through with his pen-knife, revealing
inside, where the core had been removed, one of the tiny tubes secreted.

"They came like this from our friends in a certain neutral country," he
laughed.

From tube after tube Meins took and examined specimens, finding all the
cultures virulent except one, which he placed aside.

Then, turning to Drost, he gave his opinion that their condition was
excellent.

"But be careful--most scrupulously careful of yourself, and of whoever
lives here with you--your family and servants.  The bacteria are so
easily carried in the air, now that we have opened the tubes."

"Never fear," replied the muffled voice of Ella's father.  "I shall be
extremely careful.  But what is your opinion regarding this?" he added,
showing the professor one of the tiny bags of the soluble substance.

Meins examined it closely.  Obtaining permission, he cut out a tiny
piece with scissors and placed it beneath his powerful microscope.

Presently he pronounced it excellent.

"I see that it is impervious.  If it is soluble, as you say, then you
certainly need have no fear of failure," he said, with a benign smile.
Then he set to work to reseal the tubes he had opened, while Drost, with
a kind of syringe, sprayed the room with some powerful germ-destroyer.

Ten minutes later the pair had descended the stairs, while old Drost had
switched off the light and locked the door of the secret laboratory
wherein reposed the germs of a terrible disease known only to the
enemies of Great Britain--a fatal malady which Germany intended to sow
broadcast over the length and breadth of our land.

For an hour they all three sat discussing the diabolical plot which
would disseminate death over a great area of the United Kingdom, for
Germany had many friends prepared to sacrifice their own lives for the
Fatherland, and it was intended that those glass and rubber bombs should
be dropped in all quarters to produce an epidemic of disease such as the
world had never before experienced.

Old Theodore Drost, installed in his comfortable dining-room again,
opened a long bottle of Berncastler "Doctor"--a genuine bottle, be it
said, for few who have sipped the "Doctor" wine of late have taken the
genuine wine, so many fabrications did Germany make for us before the
war.

"But I warn you to be excessively careful," the professor said to Drost.
"Your daughter comes here sometimes, does she not?  Do be careful of
her.  Place powerful disinfectants here--all over the house--in every
room," he urged; "although I have plugged the tubes with cotton wool
properly treated to prevent the escape of the infection into the air,
yet one never knows."

"Ella is not often here," her father replied.  "She is still playing in
`Half a Moment!'; besides, she is rehearsing a new revue.  So she,
happily, has no time to come and see me."

"But, for your own safety, and your servant's, do be careful," Meins
urged.  "To tell you the honest truth, I almost fear to remove my mask--
even now."

"But there's surely no danger down here?" asked Drost eagerly.

"There is always danger with such a terribly infectious malady.  It is
fifty times more fatal than double pneumonia.  It attacks the lungs so
rapidly that no remedy has any chance.  Professor Steinwitz, of Stettin,
discovered it."

"And is there no remedy?"

"None whatsoever.  Its course is rapid--a poisoning of the whole
pulmonary system, and it's even more contagious than small-pox."

Then they removed their masks and drank to "The Day" in their German
wine.

Six nights later Stella Steele had feigned illness--a strain while on
her motor-cycle, and her understudy was taking her part in "Half a
Moment!" much to the disappointment of the men in khaki, who had seated
themselves in the stalls to applaud her.  Among the men on leave many
had had her portrait upon a postcard--together with a programme in
three-colour print--in their dug-outs in Flanders, for Stella Steele was
"the rage" in the Army, and among the subalterns any who had ever met
her, or who had "known her people," were at once objects of interest.

In the darkness on a road with trees on either side--the road which runs
from Tonbridge to Shipborne, and passes between Deene Park and Frith
Wood--stood Kennedy and Ella.  They had ridden down from London earlier
in the evening and placed their motorcycles inside a gate which led into
the forest on the left side of the road.

They waited in silence, their ears strained, but neither uttered a word.
Kennedy had showed his well-beloved the time.  It was half-past one in
the morning.

Of a sudden, a motor-car came up the hill, a closed car, which passed
them swiftly, and then, about a quarter-of-a-mile further on, came to a
halt.  Presently they heard footsteps in the darkness and in their
direction there walked three men.  The moon was shining fitfully through
the clouds, therefore they were just able to distinguish them.  The trio
were whispering, and two of them were carrying good-sized kit-bags.

They came to the gate where, inside, Ella and Kennedy had hidden their
cycles, and there halted.

That they were smoking Kennedy and his companion knew by the slight
odour of tobacco that reached them.  For a full quarter-of-an-hour they
remained there, chatting in low whispers.

"I wonder who they are?" asked Ella, bending to her lover's ear.

"Who knows?" replied the air-pilot.  "At any rate, we'll have a good
view from here.  You were not mistaken as to the spot?"

"No.  I heard it discussed last night," was the girl's reply.

Then, a moment later, there was a low sound of wheels and horses' hoofs
climbing the hill from the open common into that stretch of road
darkened by the overhanging trees.  Ella peered forth and saw a dim oil
lamp approaching, while the jingling of the harness sounded plain as the
horses strained at their traces.

Onward they came, until when close to the gate where the three men lay
in waiting, one of the latter flashed a bright light into the face of
the old man who was driving the waggon, and shouted:

"Stop!  _Stop_!"

The driver pulled up in surprise, dazzled by the light, but the next
second another man had flung into his face a mixture of cayenne pepper
and chemicals by which, in an instant, he had become blinded and
stupefied, falling back into his seat inert and helpless.

Then Ella and Kennedy, creeping up unnoticed by the three in their
excitement, saw that they had mounted into the waggon, which was loaded
with milk-churns--the waggon driven nightly from Furze Down Farm to the
great camp at B--, carrying the milk for the morning.

Upon these chums the three set swiftly to work, opening each, dropping
in one of those soluble bombs, and closing them.  The bombs they took
from the two kit-bags they had carried from the car.

They were engaged in carrying out one of the most dastardly plots ever
conceived by Drost and his friends--infecting the milk supply of the
great training-camp!

Kennedy was itching to get at them and prevent them, but he saw that, by
knowledge gained, he would be in a position to act more effectively than
if he suddenly alarmed them.  Therefore the pair stood by until they had
finished their hideous work of filling each chum with the most deadly
and infectious malady known to medical science.

Presently, when they had finished, the old driver, still insensible, was
lifted from his seat, carried into the wood, and there left, while one
of the conspirators--who they could now see was dressed as a farm-hand,
and would no doubt pose as a new labourer from Furze Down--took his
place and drove on as though nothing had happened, leaving the other two
to make their way back to the car.

When the red rear-light of the waggon was receding, Kennedy and Ella
followed it, for it did not proceed at much more than walking pace.

They walked along in silence till they saw the two men re-enter the car,
leaving their companion to deliver the milk at the camp.  Evidently a
fourth man had been waiting in the car for, as soon as they were in, the
man who drove turned the car, which went back in the direction it had
come, evidently intending to meet the second waggon, which was due to
come up an hour afterwards.  No doubt the same programme would be
repeated, and the fourth man would drive the second car to the adjacent
camp.

As soon, however, as the car had got clear away, Kennedy and his
well-beloved ran to their motorcycles, mounted them, and in a short time
had passed in front of the milk-waggon ere it could get down into
Shipborne village.

Putting their motors against a fence, they waited until the waggon came
up, when Kennedy stepped into the road, and flashing an electric lamp on
to the driver's face, at the same time fired a revolver point-blank at
him.

This gave the fellow such a sudden and unexpected scare that he leaped
down from the waggon and, next moment, had disappeared into the
darkness, while Ella rushed to the horses' heads and stopped them.

"That's all right!" laughed Kennedy.  "Have you got your thick gloves
on?"

"Yes, dear."

"Well, be careful that not a drop of milk goes over your hands or feet.
There's lots of time to pitch it all out on the roadway."

Then climbing into the waggon the pair, by a pre-arranged plan, began to
open the chums and turn their contents out of the waggon until the whole
wet roadway was white with milk, which soaked into the ground and ran
into the gutters and down the drains: for, fortunately, being near
Shipborne, the footpaths on either side were drained, and by that any
chance of infection later would, they knew, be minimised.

Each chum they turned upon its side until not a drain of milk remained
within, and then, leading the horses to graze on the grass at the
roadside, the pair sped swiftly back along the road in the direction the
car had taken.

About five miles away they found the conspirators' car upon the side of
the road without any occupant.  They were waiting for the second waggon.

Without ado, Kennedy mounted into it, started it, and drew it out into
the middle of the road, which at that point was upon a steep gradient.

Then, taking a piece of blind-cord from his pocket, he swiftly tied up
the steering-wheel and, jumping out, started the car down the hill.

Away it flew at furious speed, gathering impetus as it went.  For a few
moments they could hear it roaring along until, suddenly, there was a
terrific crash.

"That's upset their plans, I know," he laughed to Ella.

"We'll go and investigate in a moment, and watch the fun."

This they did later on, finding the car turned turtle at the bottom of
the hill, with three men standing around it in dismay.

Kennedy inquired what had happened, but neither would say much.

Yet, while they stood there, the second milk-laden waggon approached,
passed, and went onward, its sleepy driver taking no notice of the five
people at the roadside.

For half-an-hour Kennedy and Ella remained there in pretence of
endeavouring to right the car, until they knew that the waggon, with its
contents, was well out of harm's way.

Then they remounted and returned to London, having, by their ingenious
investigations and patient watching, saved the lives of thousands of
Great Britain's gallant boys in khaki.

Two days later Theodore Drost was taken suddenly ill with symptoms which
puzzled his local doctor at Barnes.  He spoke to Ortmann over the
telephone, but the latter dared not risk a visit to Castelnau.  Ella
also heard from her father over the telephone when, that night, she
returned to Stamfordham Mansions at the end of the "show."  She, knowing
all she did, regarded a visit there as too dangerous, but rang up
Kennedy at his air-station and guardedly informed him of the situation.

Five days later Theodore Drost lay dead of a malady to which the
bespectacled doctor at Barnes gave a name upon his certificate, but of
which he was really as ignorant as his own chauffeur.

But the curious part of the affair was that while Drost lay dead in the
house, and the night before his burial, a mysterious fire broke out
which gutted the place, a fact which no doubt must have been a great
mystery to Ortmann and his friends.

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade still entertain very grave suspicions that
it was due to an incendiary because of its fierceness; yet who, they ask
themselves, could have had any evil design upon the property of the poor
dead Dutch pastor?

The End.





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