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Title: Scarhaven Keep
Author: Fletcher, J. S. (Joseph Smith), 1863-1935
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Scarhaven Keep" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                             SCARHAVEN KEEP

                            BY J.S. FLETCHER

                                  1922



CONTENTS


CHAPTER


      I WANTED AT REHEARSAL
     II GREY ROOK AND GREY SEA
    III THE MAN WHO KNEW SOMETHING
     IV THE ESTATE AGENT
      V THE GREYLE HISTORY
     VI THE LEADING LADY
    VII LEFT ON GUARD
   VIII RIGHT OF WAY
     IX HOBKIN'S HOLE
      X THE INVALID CURATE
     XI BENEATH THE BRAMBLES
    XII GOOD MEN AND TRUE
   XIII MR. DENNIE
    XIV BY PRIVATE TREATY
     XV THE CABLEGRAM FROM NEW YORK
    XVI IN TOUCH WITH THE MISSING
   XVII THE OLD PLAYBILL
  XVIII THE LIE ON THE TOMBSTONE
    XIX THE STEAM YACHT
     XX THE COURTEOUS CAPTAIN
    XXI MAROONED
   XXII THE OLD HAND
  XXIII THE YACHT COMES BACK
   XXIV THE TORPEDO-BOAT DESTROYER
    XXV THE SQUIRE
   XXVI THE REAVER'S GLEN
  XXVII THE PEEL TOWER
 XXVIII THE FOOTPRINTS
   XXIX SCARVELL'S CUT
    XXX THE GREENGROCER'S CART
   XXXI AMBASSADRESS EXTRAORDINARY



CHAPTER I

WANTED AT REHEARSAL


Jerramy, thirty years' stage-door keeper at the Theatre Royal, Norcaster,
had come to regard each successive Monday morning as a time for the
renewal of old acquaintance. For at any rate forty-six weeks of the
fifty-two, theatrical companies came and went at Norcaster with unfailing
regularity. The company which presented itself for patronage in the first
week of April in one year was almost certain to present itself again in
the corresponding week of the next year. Sometimes new faces came with
it, but as a rule the same old favourites showed themselves for a good
many years in succession. And every actor and actress who came to
Norcaster knew Jerramy. He was the first official person encountered on
entering upon the business of the week. He it was who handed out the
little bundles of letters and papers, who exchanged the first greetings,
of whom one could make useful inquiries, who always knew exactly what
advice to give about lodgings and landladies. From noon onwards of
Mondays, when the newcomers began to arrive at the theatre for the
customary one o'clock call for rehearsal, Jerramy was invariably employed
in hearing that he didn't look a day older, and was as blooming as ever,
and sure to last another thirty years, and his reception always
culminated in a hearty handshake and genial greeting from the great man
of the company, who, of course, after the fashion of magnates, always
turned up at the end of the irregular procession, and was not seldom late
for the fixture which he himself had made.

At a quarter past one of a certain Monday afternoon in the course of a
sunny October, Jerramy leaned over the half-door of his sanctum in
conversation with an anxious-eyed man who for the past ten minutes had
hung about in the restless fashion peculiar to those who are waiting for
somebody. He had looked up the street and down the street a dozen times;
he had pulled out his watch and compared it with the clock of a
neighbouring church almost as often; he had several times gone up the
dark passage which led to the dressing-rooms, and had come back again
looking more perplexed than ever. The fact was that he was the business
manager of the great Mr. Bassett Oliver, who was opening for the week at
Norcaster in his latest success, and who, not quite satisfied with the
way in which a particular bit of it was being played called a special
rehearsal for a quarter to one. Everything and everybody was ready for
that rehearsal, but the great man himself had not arrived. Now Mr.
Bassett Oliver, as every man well knew who ever had dealings with him,
was not one of the irregular and unpunctual order; on the contrary, he
was a very martinet as regarded rule, precision and system; moreover, he
always did what he expected each member of his company to do. Therefore
his non-arrival, his half hour of irregularity, seemed all the more
extraordinary.

"Never knew him to be late before--never!" exclaimed the business
manager, impatiently pulling out his watch for the twentieth time. "Not
in all my ten years' experience of him--not once."

"I suppose you've seen him this morning, Mr. Stafford?" inquired Jerramy.
"He's in the town, of course?"

"I suppose he's in the town," answered Mr. Stafford. "I suppose he's at
his old quarters--the 'Angel.' But I haven't seen him; neither had
Rothwell--we've both been too busy to call there. I expect he came on to
the 'Angel' from Northborough yesterday."

Jerramy opened the half-door, and going out to the end of the passage,
looked up and down the street.

"There's a taxi-cab coming round the corner now," he announced presently.
"Coming quick, too--I should think he's in it."

The business manager bustled out to the pavement as the cab came to a
halt. But instead of the fine face and distinguished presence of Mr.
Bassett Oliver, he found himself confronting a young man who looked like
a well-set-up subaltern, or a cricket-and-football loving undergraduate;
a somewhat shy, rather nervous young man, scrupulously groomed, and
neatly attired in tweeds, who, at sight of the two men on the pavement,
immediately produced a card-case.

"Mr. Bassett Oliver?" he said inquiringly. "Is he here? I--I've got an
appointment with him for one o'clock, and I'm sorry I'm late--my train--"

"Mr. Oliver is not here yet," broke in Stafford. "He's late,
too--unaccountably late, for him. An appointment, you say?"

He was looking the stranger over as he spoke, taking him for some
stage-struck youth who had probably persuaded the good-natured actor to
give him an interview. His expression changed, however; as he glanced at
the card which the young man handed over, and he started a little and
held out his hand with a smile.

"Oh!--Mr. Copplestone?" he exclaimed. "How do you do? My name's
Stafford--I'm Mr. Oliver's business manager. So he made an
appointment with you, did he--here, today? Wants to see you about
your play, of course."

Again he looked at the newcomer with a smiling interest, thinking
secretly that he was a very youthful and ingenuous being to have written
a play which Bassett Oliver, a shrewd critic, and by no means easy to
please, had been eager to accept, and was about to produce. Mr. Richard
Copplestone, seen in the flesh, looked very young indeed, and very
unlike anything in the shape of a professional author. In fact he very
much reminded Stafford of the fine and healthy young man whom one sees
on the playing fields, and certainly does not associate with pen and
ink. That he was not much used to the world on whose edge he just then
stood Stafford gathered from a boyish trick of blushing through the tan
of his cheeks.

"I got a wire from Mr. Oliver yesterday--Sunday," replied Mr.
Copplestone. "I ought to have had it in the morning, I suppose, but I'd
gone out for the day, you know--gone out early. So I didn't find it until
I got back to my rooms late at night. I got the next train I could from
King's Cross, and it was late getting in here."

"Then you've practically been travelling all night?" remarked Stafford.
"Well, Mr. Oliver hasn't turned up--most unusual for him. I don't know
where--" Just then another man came hurrying down the passage from the
dressing-rooms, calling the business manager by name.

"I say, Stafford!" he exclaimed, as he emerged on the street. "This is a
queer thing!--I'm sure there's something wrong. I've just rung up the
'Angel' hotel. Oliver hasn't turned up there! His rooms were all ready
for him as usual yesterday, but he never came. They've neither seen nor
heard of him. Did you see him yesterday?"

"No!" replied Stafford. "I didn't. Never seen him since last thing
Saturday night at Northborough. He ordered this rehearsal for one--no, a
quarter to one, here, today. But somebody must have seen him yesterday.
Where's his dresser--where's Hackett?"

"Hackett's inside," said the other man. "He hasn't seen him either, since
Saturday night. Hackett has friends living in these parts--he went off to
see them early yesterday morning, from Northborough, and he's only just
come. So he hasn't seen Oliver, and doesn't know anything about him; he
expected, of course, to find him here."

Stafford turned with a wave of the hand towards Copplestone.

"So did this gentleman," he said. "Mr. Copplestone, this is our
stage-manager, Mr. Rothwell. Rothwell, this is Mr. Richard Copplestone,
author of the new play that Mr. Oliver's going to produce next month. Mr.
Copplestone got a wire from him yesterday, asking him to come here today
at one o'clock, He's travelled all night to get here."

"Where was the wire sent from?" asked Rothwell, a sharp-eyed,
keen-looking man, who, like Stafford, was obviously interested in the new
author's boyish appearance. "And when?"

Copplestone drew some letters and papers from his pocket and selected
one. "That's it," he said. "There you are--sent off from Northborough at
nine-thirty, yesterday morning--Sunday."

"Well, then he was at Northborough at that time," remarked Rothwell.
"Look here, Stafford, we'd better telephone to Northborough, to his
hotel. The 'Golden Apple,' wasn't it?"

"No good," replied Stafford, shaking his head. "The 'Golden Apple' isn't
on the 'phone--old-fashioned place. We'd better wire."

"Too slow," said Rothwell. "We'll telephone to the theatre there, and ask
them to step across and make inquiries. Come on!--let's do it at once."

He hurried inside again, and Stafford turned to Copplestone.

"Better send your cab away and come inside until we get some news," he
said. "Let Jerramy take your things into his sanctum--he'll keep an eye
on them till you want them--I suppose you'll stop at the 'Angel' with
Oliver. Look here!" he went on, turning to the cab driver, "just you wait
a bit--I might want you; wait ten minutes, anyway. Come in, Mr.
Copplestone."

Copplestone followed the business manager up the passage to a
dressing-room, in which a little elderly man was engaged in unpacking
trunks and dress-baskets. He looked up expectantly at the sound of
footsteps; then looked down again at the work in hand and went silently
on with it.

"This is Hackett, Mr. Oliver's dresser," said Stafford. "Been with
him--how long, Hackett?"

"Twenty years next January, Mr. Stafford," answered the dresser quietly.

"Ever known Mr. Oliver late like this?" inquired Stafford.

"Never, sir! There's something wrong," replied Hackett. "I'm sure of it.
I feel it! You ought to go and look for him, some of you gentlemen."

"Where?" asked Stafford. "We don't know anything about him. He's not come
to the 'Angel,' as he ought to have done, yesterday. I believe you're the
last person who saw him, Hackett. Aren't you, now?"

"I saw him at the 'Golden Apple' at Northborough at twelve o'clock
Saturday night, sir," answered Hackett. "I took a bag of his to his rooms
there. He was all right then. He knew I was going off first thing next
morning to see an uncle of mine who's a farmer on the coast between here
and Northborough, and he told me he shouldn't want me until one o'clock
today. So of course, I came straight here to the theatre--I didn't call
in at the 'Angel' at all this morning."

"Did he say anything about his own movements yesterday?" asked Stafford.
"Did he tell you that he was going anywhere?"

"Not a word, Mr. Stafford," replied Hackett. "But you know his habits as
well as I do."

"Just so," agreed Stafford. "Mr. Oliver," he continued, turning to
Copplestone, "is a great lover of outdoor life. On Sundays, when we're
travelling from one town to another, he likes to do the journey by
motor--alone. In a case like this, where the two towns are not very far
apart, it's his practice to find out if there's any particular beauty
spot or place of interest between them, and to spend his Sunday there. I
daresay that's what he did yesterday. You see, all last week we were at
Northborough. That, like Norcaster, is a coast town--there's fifty miles
between them. If he followed out his usual plan he'd probably hire a
motor-car and follow the coast-road, and if he came to any place that was
of special interest, he'd stop there. But--in the usual way of
things--he'd have turned up at his rooms at the 'Angel' hotel here last
night. He didn't--and he hasn't turned up here, either. So where is he?"

"Have you made inquiries of the company, Mr. Stafford?" asked Hackett.
"Most of 'em wander about a bit of a Sunday--they might have seen him."

"Good idea!" agreed Stafford. He beckoned Copplestone to follow him on
to the stage, where the members of the company sat or stood about in
groups, each conscious that something unusual had occurred. "It's really
a queer, and perhaps a serious thing," he whispered as he steered his
companion through a maze of scenery. "And if Oliver doesn't turn up, we
shall be in a fine mess. Of course, there's an understudy for his part,
but--I say!" he went on, as they stepped upon the stage, "Have any of you
seen Mr. Oliver, anywhere, since Saturday night? Can anybody tell
anything about him--anything at all? Because--it's useless to deny the
fact--he's not come here, and he's not come to town at all, so far as we
know. So--"

Rothwell came hurrying on to the stage from the opposite wings. He
hastened across to Stafford and drew him and Copplestone a little aside.

"I've heard from Northborough," he said. "I 'phoned Waters, the manager
there, to run across to the 'Golden Apple' and make inquiries. The
'Golden Apple' people say that Oliver left there at eleven o'clock
yesterday morning. He was alone. He simply walked out of the hotel. And
they know nothing more."



CHAPTER II

GREY ROCK AND GREY SEA


The three men stood for a while silently looking at each other.
Copplestone, as a stranger, secretly wondered why the two managers seemed
so concerned; to him a delay of half an hour in keeping an appointment
did not appear to be quite as serious as they evidently considered it.
But he had never met Bassett Oliver, and knew nothing of his ways; he
only began to comprehend matters when Rothwell turned to Stafford with an
air of decision.

"Look here!" he said. "You'd better go and make inquiry at Northborough.
See if you can track him. Something must be wrong--perhaps seriously
wrong. You don't quite understand, do you, Mr. Copplestone?" he went on,
giving the younger man a sharp glance. "You see, we know Mr. Oliver so
well--we've both been with him a good many years. He's a model of system,
regularity, punctuality, and all the rest of it. In the ordinary course
of events, wherever he spent yesterday, he'd have been sure to turn up at
his rooms at the 'Angel' hotel last night, and he'd have walked in here
this morning at half-past twelve. As he hasn't done either, why, then,
something unusual has happened. Stafford, you'd better get a move on."

"Wait a minute," said Stafford. He turned again to the groups behind him,
repeating his question.

"Has anybody anything to tell?" he asked anxiously. "We've just heard
that Mr. Oliver left his hotel at Northborough yesterday morning at
eleven o'clock, alone, walking. Has anybody any idea of any project, any
excursion, that he had in mind?"

An elderly man who had been in conversation with the leading lady
stepped forward.

"I was talking to Oliver about the coast scenery between here and
Northborough the other day--Friday," he remarked. "He'd never seen it--I
told him I used to know it pretty well once. He said he'd try and see
something of it on Sunday--yesterday, you know. And, I say--" here he
came closer to the two managers and lowered his voice--"that coast is
very wild, lonely, and a good bit dangerous--sharp and precipitous
cliffs. Eh?"

Rothwell clapped a hand on Stafford's arm.

"You'd really better be off to Northborough," he said with decision.
"You're sure to come across traces of him. Go to the 'Golden
Apple'--then the station. Wire or telephone me--here. Of course, this
rehearsal's off. About this evening--oh, well, a lot may happen before
then. But go at once--I believe you can get expresses from here to
North-borough pretty often."

"I'll go with you--if I may," said Copplestone suddenly. "I might be of
use. There's that cab still at the door, you know--shall we run up to
the station?"

"Good!" assented Stafford. "Yes, come by all means." He turned to
Rothwell for a moment. "If he should turn up here, 'phone to Waters at
the Northborough theatre, won't you?" he said. "We'll look in there as
soon as we arrive."

He hurried out with Copplestone and together they drove up to the
station, where an express was just leaving for the south. Once on their
way to Northborough, Stafford turned to his companion with a grave shake
of the head.

"I daresay you don't quite see the reason of our anxiety," he observed.
"You see, we know Oliver. He's a trick of wandering about by himself on
Sundays--when he gets the chance. Of course when there's a long journey
between two towns, he doesn't get the chance, and then he's all right.
But when, as in this case, the town of one week is fairly close to the
town of the next, he invariably spots some place of interest, an old
castle, or a ruined abbey, or some famous house, and goes looking round
it. And if he's been exploring some spot on this coast yesterday, and
it's as that chap Rutherford said, wild and dangerous, why, then--"

"You think he may have had an accident--fallen over the cliffs or
something?" suggested Copplestone.

"I don't like to think anything," replied Stafford. "But I shall be a
good deal relieved if we can get some definite news about him."

The first half-hour at Northborough yielded nothing definite. A telephone
message from Rothwell had just come to the theatre when they drove up to
it--nothing had so far been heard of the missing man at Norcaster--either
at theatre or hotel. Stafford and Copplestone hurried across to the
"Golden Apple" and interviewed its proprietor; he, keenly interested in
the affair, could tell no more than that Mr. Bassett Oliver, having sent
his luggage forward to Norcaster, had left the house on foot at eleven
o'clock the previous morning, and had been seen to walk across the
market-place in the direction of the railway station. But an old
head-waiter, who had served the famous actor's breakfast, was able to
give some information; Mr. Oliver, he said, had talked a little to him
about the coast scenery between Northborough and Norcaster, and had asked
him which stretch of it was worth seeing. It was his impression that Mr.
Oliver meant to break his journey somewhere along the coast.

"Of course, that's it," said Stafford, as he and Copplestone drove off
again. "He's gone to some place between the two towns. But where? Anyhow,
nobody's likely to forget Oliver if they've once seen him, and wherever
he went, he'd have to take a ticket. Therefore--the booking-office."

Here at last, was light. One of the clerks in the booking-office came
forward at once with news. Mr. Bassett Oliver, whom he knew well enough,
having seen him on and off the stage regularly for the past five years,
had come there the previous morning, and had taken a first-class single
ticket for Scarhaven. He would travel to Scarhaven by the 11.35 train,
which arrived at Scarhaven at 12.10. Where was Scarhaven? On the coast,
twenty miles off, on the way to Norcaster; you changed for it at Tilmouth
Junction. Was there a train leaving soon for Scarhaven? There was--in
five minutes.

Stafford and Copplestone presently found themselves travelling back along
the main line. A run of twenty minutes brought them to the junction,
where, at an adjacent siding they found a sort of train in miniature
which ran over a narrow-gauge railway towards the sea. Its course lay
through a romantic valley hidden between high heather-clad moorland; they
saw nothing of their destination nor of the coast until, coming to a stop
in a little station perched high on the side of a hill they emerged to
see shore and sea lying far beneath them. With a mutual consent they
passed outside the grey walls of the station-yard to take a comprehensive
view of the scene.

"Just the place to attract Oliver!" muttered Stafford, as he gazed around
him. "He'd revel in it--fairly revel!"

Copplestone gazed at the scene in silence. That was the first time he had
ever seen the Northern coast, and the strange glamour and romance of this
stretch of it appealed strongly to his artistic senses. He found himself
standing high above the landward extremity of a narrow bay or creek, much
resembling a Norwegian fiord in its general outlines; it ran in from the
sea between high shelving cliffs, the slopes of which were thickly wooded
with the hardier varieties of tree and shrub, through which at intervals
great, gaunt masses of grey rock cropped out. On the edge of the water at
either side of the bay were lines of ancient houses and cottages of grey
walls and red roofs, built and grouped with the irregularity of
individual liking; on the north side rose the square tower and low nave
of a venerable church; amidst a mass of wood on the opposite side stood a
great Norman keep, half ruinous, which looked down on a picturesque house
at its foot. Quays, primitive and quaint, ran along between the old
cottages and the water's edge; in the bay itself or nestling against the
worn timbers of the quays, were small craft whose red sails hung idly
against their tall masts and spars. And at the end of the quays and the
wooded promontories which terminated the land view, lay the North Sea,
cold, grey, and mysterious in the waning October light, and out of its
bosom rose, close to the shore, great masses of high grey rocks, strong
and fantastic of shape, and further away, almost indistinct in the
distance, an island, on the highest point of which the ruins of some old
religious house were silhouetted against the horizon.

"Just the place!" repeated Stafford. "He'd have cheerfully travelled a
thousand miles to see this. And now--we know he came here--what we next
want to know is, what he did when he got here?"

Copplestone, who had been taking in every detail of the scene before him,
pointed to a house of many gables and queer chimneys which stood a little
way beneath them at the point where the waters of a narrow stream ran
into the bay.

"That looks like an inn," he said. "I think I can make out a sign on the
gable-end. Let's go down there and inquire. He would get here just about
time for lunch, wouldn't he, and he'd probably turn in there. Also--they
may have a telephone there, and you can call up the theatre at Norcaster
and find out if anything's been heard yet."

Stafford smiled approvingly and started out in the direction of the
buildings towards which Copplestone had pointed.

"Excellent notion!" he said. "You're quite a business man--an unusual
thing in authors, isn't it? Come on, then--and that is an inn, too--I can
make out the sign now--The 'Admiral's Arms'--Mary Wooler. Let's hope Mary
Wooler, who's presumably the landlady, can give us some useful news!"

The "Admiral's Arms" proved to be an old-fashioned, capacious hostelry,
eminently promising and comfortable in appearance, which stood on the
edge of a broad shelf of headland, and commanded a fine view of the
little village and the bay. Stafford and Copplestone, turning in at the
front door, found themselves in a deep, stone-paved hall, on one side of
which, behind a bar window, a pleasant-faced, buxom woman, silk-aproned
and smartly-capped, was busily engaged in adding up columns of figures in
a big account-book. At sight of strangers she threw open a door and
smilingly invited them to walk into a snugly furnished bar-parlour where
a bright fire burned in an open hearth. Stafford gave his companion a
look--this again was just the sort of old-world place which would appeal
to Basset Oliver, supposing he had come across it.

"I wonder if you can give me some information?" he asked presently, when
the good-looking landlady had attended to their requests for refreshment.
"I suppose you are the landlady--Mrs. Wooler? Well, now, Mrs. Wooler, did
you have a tall, handsome, slightly grey-haired gentleman in here to
lunch yesterday--say about one o'clock?"

The landlady turned on her questioner with an intelligent smile.

"You mean Mr. Oliver, the actor?" she said.

"Good!" exclaimed Stafford, with a hearty sigh of relief. "I do! You know
him, then?"

"I've often seen him, both at Northborough and at Norcaster," replied
Mrs. Wooler. "But I never saw him here before yesterday. Oh, yes! of
course I knew him as soon as he walked in, and I had a bit of chat with
him before he went out, and he remarked that though he'd been coming into
these parts for some years, he'd never been to Scarhaven before--usually,
he said, he'd gone inland of a Sunday, amongst the hills. Oh, yes, he was
here--he had lunch here."

"We're seeking him," said Stafford, going directly to the question. "He
ought to have turned up at the 'Angel Hotel' at Norcaster last night,
and at the theatre today at noon--he did neither. I'm his business
manager, Mrs. Wooler. Now can you tell us anything--more than you've
already told, I mean?"

The landlady, whose face expressed more and more concern as Stafford
spoke, shook her head.

"I can't!" she answered. "I don't know any more. He was here perhaps an
hour or so. Then he went away, saying he was going to have a look round
the place. I expected he'd come in again on his way to the station, but
he never did. Dear, dear! I hope nothing's happened to him--such a fine,
pleasant man. And--"

"And--what?" asked Stafford.

"These cliffs and rocks are so dangerous," murmured Mrs. Wooler. "I
often say that no stranger ought to go alone here. They aren't safe,
these cliffs."

Stafford set down his glass and rose.

"I think you've got a telephone in your hall," he said. "I'll just call
up Norcaster and find out if they've heard anything. If they haven't--"

He shook his head and went out, and Copplestone glanced at the landlady.

"You say the cliffs are dangerous," he said. "Are they particularly so?"

"To people who don't know them, yes," she replied. "They ought to be
protected, but then, of course, we don't get many tourists here, and the
Scarhaven people know the danger spots well enough. Then again at the end
of the south promontory there, beyond the Keep--"

"Is the Keep that high square tower amongst the woods?" asked
Copplestone.

"That's it--it's all that's left of the old castle," answered Mrs.
Wooler. "Well, off the point beneath that, there's a group of
rocks--you'd perhaps noticed them as you came down from the station?
They've various names--there's the King, the Queen, the Sugar-Loaf, and
so on. At low tide you can walk across to them. And of course, some
people like to climb them. Now, they're particularly dangerous! On the
Queen rock there's a great hole called the Devil's Spout, up which the
sea rushes. Everybody wants to look over it, you know, and if a man was
there alone, and his foot slipped, and he fell, why--"

Stafford came back, looking more cast down than ever.

"They've heard nothing there," he announced. "Come on--we'll go down and
see if we can hear anything from any of the people. We'll call in and see
you later, Mrs. Wooler, and if you can make any inquiries in the
meantime, do. Look here," he went on, when he and Copplestone had got
outside, "you take this south side of the bay, and I'll take the north.
Ask anybody you see--any likely person--fishermen and so on. Then come
back here. And if we've heard nothing--"

He shook his head significantly, as he turned away, and Copplestone,
taking the other direction, felt that the manager's despondency was
influencing himself. A sudden disappearance of this sort was surely not
to be explained easily--nothing but exceptional happenings could have
kept Bassett Oliver from the scene of his week's labours. There must have
been an accident--it needed little imagination to conjure up its easy
occurrence. A too careless step, a too near approach, a loose stone, a
sudden giving way of crumbling soil, the shifting of an already detached
rock--any of these things might happen, and then--but the thought of what
might follow cast a greyer tint over the already cold and grey sea.

He went on amongst the old cottages and fishing huts which lay at the
foot of the wooded heights on the tops of whose pines and firs the gaunt
ruins of the old Keep seemed to stand sentinel. He made inquiry at open
doors and of little groups of men gathered on the quay and by the
drawn-up boats--nobody knew anything. According to what they told him,
most of these people had been out and about all the previous afternoon;
it had been a particularly fine day, that Sunday, and they had all been
out of doors, on the quay and the shore, in the sunshine. But nobody had
any recollection of the man described, and Copplestone came to the
conclusion that Oliver had not chosen that side of the bay. There was,
however, one objection to that theory--so far as he could judge, that
side was certainly the more attractive. And he himself went on to the end
of it--on until he had left quay and village far behind, and had come to
a spit of sand which ran out into the sea exactly opposite the group of
rocks of which Mrs. Wooler had spoken. There they lay, rising out of the
surf like great monsters, a half-mile from where he stood. The tide was
out at that time, and between him and them stretched a shining expanse of
glittering wet sand. And, coming straight towards him across it,
Copplestone saw the slim and graceful figure of a girl.



CHAPTER III

THE MAN WHO KNEW SOMETHING


It was not from any idle curiosity that Copplestone made up his mind to
await the girl's nearer approach. There was no other human being in view,
and he was anxious to get some information about the rocks whose grim
outlines were rapidly becoming faint and indistinct in the gathering
darkness. And so as the girl came towards him, picking her way across the
pools which lay amidst the brown ribs of sand, he went forward, throwing
away all formality and reserve in his eagerness.

"Forgive me for speaking so unceremoniously," he said as they met. "I'm
looking for a friend who has disappeared--mysteriously. Can you tell me
if, any time yesterday, afternoon or evening, you saw anywhere about here
a tall, distinguished-looking man--the actor type. In fact, he is an
actor--perhaps you've heard of him? Mr. Bassett Oliver."

He was looking narrowly at the girl as he spoke, and she, too, looked
narrowly at him out of a pair of grey eyes of more than ordinary
intelligence and perception. And at the famous actor's name she started a
little and a faint colour stole over her cheeks.

"Mr. Bassett Oliver!" she exclaimed in a clear, cultured voice. "My
mother and I saw Mr. Oliver at the Northborough Theatre on Friday
evening. Do you mean that he--"

"I mean--to put it bluntly--that Bassett Oliver is lost," answered
Copplestone. "He came to this place yesterday, Sunday, morning, to look
round; he lunched at the 'Admiral's Arms,' he went out, after a chat with
the landlady, and he's never been seen since. He should have turned up at
the 'Angel' at Norcaster last night, and at a rehearsal at the Theatre
Royal there today at noon--but he didn't. His manager and I have tracked
him here--and so far I can't hear of him. I've asked people all through
the village--this side, anyway--nobody knows anything."

He and the girl still looked attentively at each other; Copplestone,
indeed, was quietly inspecting her while he talked. He judged her to be
twenty-one or two; she was a little above medium height, slim, graceful,
pretty, and he was quick to notice that her entire air and appearance
suggested their present surroundings. Her fair hair escaped from a
knitted cap such as fisher-folk wear; her slender figure was shown to
advantage by a rough blue jersey; her skirt of blue serge was short and
practical; she was shod in brogues which showed more acquaintance with
sand and salt water than with polish. And her face was tanned with the
strong northern winds, and the ungloved hands, small and shapely as they
were, were brown as the beach across which she had come.

"I have not seen--nor heard--of Mr. Bassett Oliver--here," she answered.
"I was out and about all yesterday afternoon and evening, too--not on
this side of the bay, though. Have you been to the police-station?"

"The manager may have been there," replied Copplestone. "He's gone along
the other shore. But--I don't think he'll get any help there. I'm afraid
Mr. Oliver must have met with an accident. I wanted to ask you a
question--I saw you coming from the direction of those rocks just now.
Could he have got out there across those sands, yesterday afternoon?"

"Between three o'clock and evening--yes," said the girl.

"And--is it dangerous out there?"

"Very dangerous indeed--to any one who doesn't know them."

"There's something there called the Devil's Spout?"

"Yes--a deep fissure up which the sea boils. Oh! it seems dreadful to
think of--I hope he didn't fall in there. If he did--"

"Well?" asked Copplestone bluntly, "what if he did?"

"Nothing ever came out that once went in," she answered. "It's a sort of
whirlpool that's sucked right away into the sea. The people hereabouts
say it's bottomless."

Copplestone turned his face towards the village.

"Oh, well," he said, with an accent of hopelessness. "I can't do any more
down here, it's growing dusk. I must go back and meet the manager."

The girl walked along at his side as he turned towards the village.

"I suppose you are one of Mr. Oliver's company?" she observed presently.
"You must all be much concerned."

"They're all greatly concerned," answered Copplestone. "But I don't
belong to the company. No--I came to Norcaster this morning to meet Mr.
Oliver--he's going--I hope I oughtn't to say was going!--to produce a
play of mine next month, and he wanted to talk about the rehearsals.
Everything, of course, was at a standstill when I reached Norcaster at
one o 'clock, so I came with Stafford, the business manager, to see
what we could do about tracking Mr. Oliver. And I'm afraid, I'm very
much afraid--"

He paused, as a gate, set in the thick hedge of a garden at this point of
the village, suddenly opened to let out a man, who at sight of the girl
stopped, hesitated, and then waited for her approach. He was a tall,
well-built man of apparently thirty years, dressed in a rough tweed
knickerbocker suit, but the dusk had now so much increased that
Copplestone could only gather an impression of ordinary good-lookingness
from the face that was turned inquiringly on his companion. The girl
turned to him and spoke hurriedly.

"This is my cousin, Mr. Greyle, of Scarhaven Keep," she murmured. "He may
be able to help. Marston!" she went on, raising her voice, "can you give
any help here? This gentleman--" she paused, looking at Copplestone.

"My name is Richard Copplestone," he said.

"Mr. Copplestone is looking for Mr. Bassett Oliver, the famous actor,"
she continued, as the three met. "Mr. Oliver has mysteriously
disappeared. Mr. Copplestone has traced him here, to Scarhaven--he was
here yesterday, lunching at the inn--but he can't get any further news.
Did you see anything, or hear anything of him?"

Marston Greyle, who had been inspecting the stranger narrowly in the
fading light, shook his head.

"Bassett Oliver, the actor," he said. "Oh, yes, I saw his name on the
bills in Norcaster the other day. Came here, and has disappeared, you
say? Under what circumstances?"

Copplestone had listened carefully to the newcomer's voice; more
particularly to his accent. He had already gathered sufficient knowledge
of Scarhaven to know that this man was the Squire, the master of the old
house and grey ruin in the wood above the cliff; he also happened to
know, being something of an archaeologist and well acquainted with family
histories, that there had been Greyles of Scarhaven for many hundred
years. And he wondered how it was that though this Greyle's voice was
pleasant and cultured enough, its accent was decidedly American.

"Perhaps I'd better explain," said Copplestone. "I've already told most
of it to this lady, but you will both understand more fully if I tell you
more. It's this way--" and he went on to tell everything that had
happened and come to light since one o'clock that day. "So you see, it's
here," he concluded; "we're absolutely certain that Oliver went out of
the 'Admiral's Arms' up there about half-past two yesterday, but--where?
From that moment, no one seems to have seen him. Yet how he could come
along this village street, this quay, without being seen--"

"He need not have come along the quayside," interrupted the girl. "There
is a cliff path just below the inn which leads up to the Keep."

"Also, he mayn't have taken this side of the bay, either." remarked
Greyle. "He may have chosen the other. You didn't see or hear of him on
your side, Audrey?"

"Nothing!" replied the girl. "Nothing!"

Marston Greyle had fallen into line with the other two, and they were now
walking along the quay in the direction of the "Admiral's Arms." And
presently Stafford, accompanied by a policeman, came hurriedly round a
corner and quickened his steps at sight of Copplestone. The policeman,
evidently much puzzled and interested, saluted the Squire obsequiously as
the two groups met.

"No news at all!" exclaimed Stafford, glancing at Copplestone's
companions. "You got any?"

"None," replied Copplestone. "Not a word. This is Mr. Greyle, of the
Keep--he has heard nothing. This lady--Miss Greyle?--was out a good deal
yesterday afternoon; she knows Oliver quite well by sight, but she did
not see him. So if you've no news--"

Marston Greyle interrupted, turning to the policeman.

"What ought to be done, Haskett?" he asked. "You've had cases of
disappearance to deal with before, eh?"

"Can't say as I have, sir, in my time," answered the policeman.
"Leastways, not of this sort. Of course, we can get search parties
together, and one of 'em can go along the coast north'ards, and the other
can go south'ards, and we might have a look round the rocks out yonder,
tomorrow, as soon as it's light. But if the gentleman went out there, and
had the bad luck to fall into that Devil's Spout, why, then, sir, I'm
afraid all the searching in the world'll do no good. And the queer thing
is, gentlemen, if I may express an opinion, that nobody ever saw the
gentleman after he had left Mrs. Wooler's! That seems--"

A fisherman came lounging across the quay from the shadow of one of the
neighbouring cottages. He touched his cap to Marston Greyle, and looked
inquiringly at the two strangers.

"Are you the gentlemen as is asking after another gentleman?" he said.
"'Cause if so, I make no doubt as how I had a word or two with him
yesterday afternoon."

Stafford and Copplestone turned sharply on the newcomer--an elderly
man of plain and homely aspect who responded frankly to their
questioning glances. He went on at once, before they could put their
questions into words.

"It 'ud be about half-past two, or maybe a bit nearer three o'clock," he
said. "Up yonder it was, about a hundred yards this side of the
'Admiral's Arms.' I was sitting on a baulk o' timber there, doing
nothing, when he comes along--a tall, fine-looking man. He gives me a
pleasant sort o' nod, and said it was a grand day, and we got talking a
bit, about the scenery and such-like, and he said he'd never been here
before. Then he pointed up to the big house and the old Keep yonder, and
asked whose place that might be, and I said that was the Squire's. 'And
who may the Squire be?' says he. 'Mr. Marston Greyle,' says I, 'Recent
come into the property.' 'Marston Greyle!' he says, sharp-like. 'Why, I
used to know a young man of that very name in America!' he says. 'Very
like,' says I, 'I have heard as how the Squire had been in them parts
before he came here.' 'Bless me!' he says, 'I've a good mind to call on
him. How do you get up there?' he says. So I showed him that side path
that runs up through the plantation to near the top, and I told him that
if he followed that till he came to the Keep, he'd find another path
there as would take him to the door of the house. And he gave me a
shilling to drink his health, and off he went, the way as I'd pointed
out. D'ye think that'll be the same gentleman, now?"

Nobody answered this question. Everybody there was looking at Marston
Greyle. The little group had drawn near to the light of one of the three
gas-lamps which feebly illuminated the quay; it seemed to Copplestone
that the Squire's face had paled when the fisherman arrived at the middle
of his story. But it flushed as his companion turned to him, and he
laughed, a little uneasily.

"Said he knew me--in America?" he exclaimed. "I don't remember meeting
Mr. Bassett Oliver out there. But then I met so many Englishmen in one
place or another that I may have been introduced to him somewhere, at
some time, and--forgotten all about it."

Stafford spoke--with unnecessary abruptness, in Copplestone's opinion.

"I don't think it very likely that any one would forget Bassett Oliver,"
he said. "He isn't--or wasn't--the sort of man anybody could forget, once
they'd met him. Anyhow--did he come to your house yesterday afternoon as
this man suggests?"

Marston Greyle drew himself up. He looked Stafford up and down. Then he
made a slight gesture to the girl, whose face had already assumed a
troubled expression.

"If I had seen Mr. Bassett Oliver yesterday, sir, we should not be
discussing his possible whereabouts now," said Greyle, icily. "Are you
coming, Audrey?"

The girl hesitated, glanced at Copplestone, and then walked away with her
cousin. Stafford sniffed contemptuously.

"Ass!" he muttered. "Couldn't he see that what I meant was that Oliver
must either have been mistaken, or have referred to some other Greyle
whom he met? Hang his pride! Well, now," he went on, turning to the
fisherman, "you're dead certain about what you've told us?"

"As certain as mortal man can be of aught there is!" answered the
informant. "Sure certain, mister."

"Make a note of it, constable," said Stafford. "Mr. Oliver was last seen
going up the path to the Keep, having said he meant to call on Mr.
Marston Greyle. I'll call on you again tomorrow morning. Copplestone!" he
went on, drawing his companion away, "I'm off to Norcaster--I shall see
the police there and get detectives. There's something seriously wrong
here--and by heaven, we've got to get to the bottom of it! Now, look
here--will you stay here for the night, so as to be on the spot? I'll
come back first thing in the morning and bring your luggage--I can't come
sooner, for there are heaps of business matters to deal with. You
will--good! Now I can just catch a train. Copplestone!--keep your eyes
and ears open. It's my firm belief--I don't know why--that there's been
foul play. Foul play!"

Stafford hurried away up hill to the station, and Copplestone, after
waiting a minute or two, turned along the quay on the north of the
bay--following Audrey Greyle, who was in front, alone.



CHAPTER IV

THE ESTATE AGENT


Copplestone had kept a sharp watch on Marston Greyle and his cousin when
they walked off, and he had seen that they had parted at a point a little
farther along the shore road--the man turning up into the wood, the girl
going forward along the quay which led to the other half of the village.
He quickened his pace and followed her, catching her up as she came to a
path which led towards the old church. At the sound of his hurrying steps
she turned and faced him, and he saw in the light of a cottage lamp that
she still looked troubled and perplexed.

"Forgive me for running after you," said Copplestone as he went up to
her. "I just wanted to say that I'm sorry about--about that little scene
down there, you know. Your cousin misunderstood Mr. Stafford--what
Stafford meant was that--"

"I saw what Mr. Stafford meant," she broke in quickly. "I'm sorry my
cousin didn't see it. It was--obvious."

"All the same, Stafford put it rather--shall we say, brusquely," remarked
Copplestone. "Of course, he's terribly upset about Oliver's
disappearance, and he didn't consider the effect of his words. And it was
rather a surprise to hear that Oliver had known some man of your
cousin's name over there in America, wasn't it?"

"And that Mr. Oliver should mysteriously disappear just after making such
an announcement," said Audrey. "That certainly seems very surprising."

The two looked at each other, a question in the eyes of each, and
Copplestone knew that the trouble in the girl's eyes arose from inability
to understand what was already a suspicious circumstance.

"But after all, that may have been a mere coincidence," he hastened to
say. "Let's hope things may be cleared. I only hope that Oliver hasn't
met with an accident and is lying somewhere without help. I'm going to
remain here for the night, however, and Stafford will come back early in
the morning and go more thoroughly into things--I suppose there'll have
to be a search of the neighbourhood."

They had walked slowly up a path on the side of the cliff as they talked,
and now the girl stopped before a small cottage which stood at the end of
the churchyard, set in a tree-shaded garden, and looking out on the bay.
She laid her hand on the gate, glancing at Copplestone, and suddenly she
spoke, a little impulsively.

"Will you come in and speak to my mother?" she said. "She was a great
admirer of Mr. Oliver's acting--and she knew him at one time. She will be
interested--and grieved."

Copplestone followed her up the garden and into the house, where she led
the way into a small old-fashioned parlour in which a grey-haired woman,
who had once been strikingly handsome, and whose face seemed to the
visitor to bear traces of great trouble, sat writing at a bureau. She
turned in surprise as her daughter led Copplestone in, but her manner
became remarkably calm and collected as Audrey explained who he was and
why he was there. And Copplestone, watching her narrowly, fancied that he
saw interest flash into her eyes when she heard of Bassett Oliver's
remark to the fisherman. But she made no comment, and when Audrey had
finished the story, she turned to Copplestone as if she had already
summed up the situation.

"We know this place so well--having lived here so long, you know," she
said, "that we can make a fairly accurate guess at what Mr. Oliver might
do. There seems no doubt that he went up the path to the Keep. According
to Mr. Marston Greyle's statement, he certainly did not go to the house.
Well, he might have done one of two other things. There is a path which
leads from the Keep down to the beach, immediately opposite the big rocks
which you have no doubt seen. There is another path which turns out of
the woods and follows the cliffs towards Lenwick, a village along the
coast, a mile away. But--at that time, on a Sunday afternoon, both paths
would be frequented. Speaking from knowledge, I should say that Mr.
Oliver cannot have left the woods--he must have been seen had he done so.
It's impossible that he could have gone down to the shore or along the
cliffs without being seen, too--impossible!"

There was a certain amount of insistence in the last few words which
puzzled Copplestone--also they conveyed to him a queer suggestion which
repulsed him; it was almost as if the speaker was appealing to him to use
his own common-sense about a difficult question. And before he could make
any reply Mrs. Greyle put a direct inquiry to him.

"What is going to be done?"

"I don't know, exactly," answered Copplestone. "I'm going to stay here
for the night, anyway, on the chance of hearing something. Stafford is
coming back in the morning--he spoke of detectives."

He looked a little doubtfully at his questioner as he uttered the last
word, and again he saw the sudden strange flash of unusual interest in
her eyes, and she nodded her head emphatically.

"Precisely!--the proper thing to do," she said. "There must have been
foul play--must!"

"Mother!" exclaimed Audrey, half doubtfully. "Do you really think--that?"

"I don't think anything else," replied Mrs. Greyle. "I certainly don't
believe that Bassett Oliver would put himself into any position of danger
which would result in his breaking his neck. Bassett Oliver never left
Scarhaven Wood!"

Copplestone made no comment on this direct assertion.

Instead, after a brief silence, he asked Mrs. Greyle a question.

"You knew Mr. Oliver--personally?"

"Five and twenty years ago--yes," she answered. "I was on the stage
myself before my marriage. But I have never met him since then. I have
seen him, of course, at the local theatres."

"He--you won't mind my asking?" said Copplestone, diffidently, "he didn't
know that you lived here?"

Mrs. Greyle smiled, somewhat mysteriously.

"Not at all--my name wouldn't have conveyed anything to him," she
answered. "He never knew whom I married. Otherwise, if he met some one
named Marston Greyle in America he would have connected him with me, and
have made inquiry about me, and had he known I lived here, he would have
called. It is odd, Audrey, that if your cousin met Mr. Oliver over there
he should have forgotten him. For one doesn't easily forget a man of
reputation--and Mr. Oliver was that of course!--and on the other hand,
Marston Greyle is not a common name. Did you ever hear the name before,
Mr. Copplestone?"

"Only in connection with your own family--I have read of the Greyles of
Scarhaven," replied Copplestone. "But, after all, I suppose it is not
confined to your family. There may be Greyles in America. Well--it's all
very queer," he went on, as he rose to leave. "May I come in tomorrow and
tell you what's being done?--I'm sure Stafford means to leave no stone
unturned--he's tremendously keen about it."

"Do!" said Mrs. Greyle, heartily. "But the probability is that you'll see
us out and about in the morning--we spend most of our time out of doors,
having little else to do."

Copplestone went away feeling more puzzled than ever.

Now that he was alone, for the first time since meeting Audrey Greyle on
the beach, he was able to reflect on certain events of the afternoon in
uninterrupted fashion. He thought over them as he walked back towards the
"Admiral's Arms." It was certainly a strange thing that Bassett Oliver,
after remarking to the fisherman that he had known a Mr. Marston Greyle
in America, and hearing that the Squire of Scarhaven had been in that
country, should have gone up to the house saying that he would call on
the Squire and should never have been seen again. It was certainly
strange that if this Marston Greyle, of Scarhaven, had met Bassett Oliver
in America he should have completely forgotten the fact. Bassett Oliver
had a considerable reputation in the United States--he was, in fact, more
popular in that country than in his own, and he had toured in the
principal towns and cities across there regularly for several years. To
meet him there was to meet a most popular celebrity--could any man forget
it? Therefore, were there two men of the name of Marston Greyle?

That was one problem--closely affecting Oliver's disappearance. The other
had nothing to do with Oliver's disappearance--nevertheless, it
interested Richard Copplestone. He was a young man of quick perception
and accurate observation, and his alert eyes had seen that the Squire of
Scarhaven occupied a position suggestive of power and wealth. The house
which stood beneath the old Keep was one of size and importance, the sort
of place which could only be kept up by a rich man--Copplestone's glances
at its grounds, its gardens, its entrance lodge, its entire surroundings
had shown him that only a well-to-do man could live there. How came it,
then, that the Squire's relations--his cousin and her mother--lived in a
small and unpretentious cottage, and were obviously not well off as
regards material goods? Copplestone had the faculty of seeing things at a
glance, and refined and cultivated as the atmosphere of Mrs. Greyle's
parlour was, it had taken no more than a glance from his perceptive eyes
to see that he was there confronted with what folk call genteel poverty.
Mrs. Greyle's almost nun-like attire of black had done duty for a long
time; the carpet was threadbare; there was an absence of those little
touches of comfort with which refined women of even modest means love to
surround themselves; a sure instinct told him that here were two women
who had to carefully count their pence, and lay out their shillings with
caution. Genteel, quiet poverty, without doubt--and yet, on the other
side of the little bay, a near kinsman whose rent-roll must run to a few
thousands a year!

And yet one more curious occasion of perplexity--to add to the other two.
Copplestone had felt instinctively attracted to Audrey Greyle when he met
her on the sands, and the attraction increased as he walked at her side
towards the village. In his quiet unobtrusive fashion he had watched her
closely when they encountered the man whom she introduced as her cousin;
and he had fancied that her manner underwent a curious change when
Marston Greyle came on the scene--she had seemed to become constrained,
chilled, distant, aloof--not with the stranger, himself, but with her
kinsman. This fancy had become assurance during the conversation which
had abruptly ended when Greyle took offence at Stafford's brusque remark.
Copplestone had seen a sudden look in the girl's eyes when the fisherman
repeated what Oliver had said about meeting a Mr. Marston Greyle in
America; it was a look of sharply awakened--what? Suspicion?
apprehension?--he could not decide. But it was the same look which had
come into her mother's eyes later on. Moreover, when the Squire turned
huffily away, taking his cousin with him, Copplestone had noticed that
there was evidently a smart passage of words between them after leaving
the little group on the quay, and they had parted unceremoniously, the
man turning on his heel up a side path into his own grounds and the girl
going forward with a sudden acceleration of pace. All this made
Copplestone draw a conclusion.

"There's no great love lost between the gentleman at the big house and
his lady relatives in the little cottage," he mused. "Also, around the
gentleman there appears to be some cloud of mystery. What?--and has it
anything to do with the Oliver mystery?"

He went back to the inn and made his arrangements with its landlady, who
by that time was full to overflowing with interest and amazement at the
strange affair which had brought her this guest. But Mrs. Wooler had eyes
as well as ears, and noticing that Copplestone was already looking weary
and harassed, she hastened to provide a hot dinner for him, and to
recommend a certain claret which in her opinion possessed remarkable
revivifying qualities. Copplestone, who had eaten nothing for several
hours, accepted her hospitable attentions with gratitude, and he was
enjoying himself greatly in a quaint old-world parlour, in close
proximity to a bright fire, when Mrs. Wooler entered with a countenance
which betokened mystery in every feature.

"There's the estate agent, Mr. Chatfield, outside, very anxious to have a
word with you about this affair," she said. "Would you be for having him
in? He's the sort of man," she went on, sinking her tones to a whisper,
"who must know everything that's going on, and, of course, having the
position he has, he might be useful. Mr. Peter Chatfield, Mr. Greyle's
agent, and his uncle's before him--that's who he is--Peeping Peter, they
call him hereabouts, because he's fond of knowing everybody's business."

"Bring him in," said Copplestone. He was by no means averse to having a
companion, and Mrs. Wooler's graphic characterization had awakened his
curiosity. "Tell him I shall be glad to see him."

Mrs. Wooler presently ushered in a figure which Copplestone's dramatic
sense immediately seized on. He saw before him a tall, heavily-built
man, with a large, solemn, deeply-lined face, out of which looked a
pair of the smallest and slyest eyes ever seen in a human being--queer,
almost hidden eyes, set beneath thick bushy eyebrows above which rose
the dome of an unusually high forehead and a bald head. As for the rest
of him, Mr. Peter Chatfield had a snub nose, a wide slit of a mouth, and
a flabby hand; his garments were of a Quaker kind in cut and hue; he
wore old-fashioned stand-up collars and a voluminous black stock; in one
hand he carried a stout oaken staff, in the other a square-crowned
beaver hat; altogether, his mere outward appearance would have gained
notice for him anywhere, and Copplestone rejoiced in him as a character.
He rose, greeted his visitor cordially, and invited him to a seat by the
fire. The estate agent settled his heavy figure comfortably, and made a
careful inspection of the young stranger before he spoke. At last he
leaned forward.

"Sir!" he whispered in a confidential tone. "Do you consider this here a
matter of murder?"



CHAPTER V

THE GREYLE HISTORY


If Copplestone had followed his first natural impulse, he would have
laughed aloud at this solemnly propounded question: as it was, he found
it difficult to content himself with a smile.

"Isn't it a little early to arrive at any conclusion, of any sort, Mr.
Chatfield?" he asked. "You haven't made up your own mind, surely?"
Chatfield pursed up his long thin lips and shook his head, continuing to
stare fixedly at Copplestone.

"Now I may have, and I may not have, mister," he said at last, suddenly
relaxing. "What I was asking of was--what might you consider?"

"I don't consider at all--yet," answered Copplestone. "It's too soon. Let
me offer you a glass of claret."

"Many thanks to you, sir, but it's too cold for my stomach," responded
the visitor. "A drop of gin, now, is more in my line, since you're so
kind. Ah, well, in any case, sir, this here is a very unfortunate affair.
I'm a deal upset by it--I am indeed!"

Copplestone rang the bell, gave orders for Mr. Chatfield's suitable
entertainment with gin and cigars, and making an end of his dinner, drew
up a chair to the fire opposite his visitor.

"You are upset, Mr. Chatfield?" he remarked. "Now, why?"

Chatfield sipped his gin and water, and flourished a cigar with a
comprehensive wave of his big fat hand.

"Oh, in general, sir!" he said. "Things like this here are not pleasant
to have in a quiet, respectable community like ours. There's very wicked
people in this world, mister, and they will not control what's termed the
unruly member. They will talk. You'll excuse me, but I doubt not that I'm
a good deal more than twice your age, and I've learnt experience. My
experience, sir, is that a wise man holds his tongue until he's called
upon to use it. Now, in my opinion, it was a very unwise thing of yon
there sea-going man, Ewbank, to say that this unfortunate play-actor told
him that he'd met our Squire in America--very unfortunate!"

Copplestone pricked his ears. Had the estate agent come there to tell him
that? And if so, why?

"Oh!" he said. "You've heard that, have you? Now who told you that, Mr.
Chatfield? For I don't think that's generally known."

"If you knew this here village, mister, as well as what I do," replied
Chatfield coolly, "you'd know that there is known all over the place by
this time. The constable told me, and of course yon there man, Ewbank,
he'll have told it all round since he had that bit of talk with you and
your friend. He'll have been in to every public there is in Scarhaven,
repeating of it. And a very, very serious complexion, of course, could be
put on them words, sir."

"How?" asked Copplestone.

"Put it to yourself, sir," replied Chatfield. "The unfortunate man comes
here, tells Ewbank he knew Mr. Greyle in that far-away land, says he'll
call on him, is seen going towards the big house--and is never seen no
more! Why, sir, what does human nature--which is wicked--say?"

"What does your human nature--which I'm sure is not wicked, say?"
suggested Copplestone. "Come, now!"

"What I say, sir, is neither here nor there," answered the agent. "It's
what evil-disposed tongues says."

"But they haven't said anything yet," said Copplestone.

"I should say they've said a deal, sir," responded Chatfield,
lugubriously. "I know Scarhaven tongues. They'll have thrown out a deal
of suspicious talk about the Squire."

"Have you seen Mr. Greyle?" asked Copplestone. He was already sure that
the agent was there with a purpose, and he wanted to know its precise
nature. "Is he concerned about this?"

"I have seen Mr. Greyle, mister, and he is concerned about what yon man,
Ewbank, related," replied Chatfield. "Mr. Greyle, sir, came straight to
me--I reside in a residence within the park. Mr. Greyle, mister, says
that he has no recollection whatever of meeting this play-actor person in
America--he may have done and he mayn't. But he doesn't remember him, and
it isn't likely he should--him, an English landlord and a gentleman
wouldn't be very like to remember a play-actor person that's here today
and gone tomorrow! I hope I give no offence, sir--maybe you're a
play-actor yourself."

"I am not," answered Copplestone. He sat staring at his visitor for
awhile, and when he spoke again his voice had lost its cordial tone.
"Well," he said, "and what have you called on me about?"

Chatfield looked up sharply, noticing the altered tone.

"To tell you--and them as you no doubt represent--that Mr. Greyle will be
glad to help in any possible way towards finding out something in this
here affair," he answered. "He'll welcome any inquiry that's opened."

"Oh!" said Copplestone. "I see! But you're making a mistake, Mr.
Chatfield. I don't represent anybody. I'm not even a relation of Mr.
Bassett Oliver. In fact, I never met Mr. Oliver in my life: never spoke
to him. So--I'm not here in any representative or official sense."

Chatfield's small eyes grew smaller with suspicious curiosity.

"Oh?" he said questioningly. "Then--what might you be here for, mister?"

Copplestone stood up and rang the bell.

"That's my business." he answered. "Sorry I can't give you any more
time," he went on as Mrs. Wooler opened the door. "I'm engaged now. If
you or Mr. Greyle want to see Mr. Oliver's friends I believe his brother,
Sir Cresswell Oliver, will be here tomorrow--he's been wired for anyhow."

Chatfield's mouth opened as he picked up his hat. He stared at this
self-assured young man as if he were something quite new to him.

"Sir Cresswell Oliver!" he exclaimed. "Did you say, sir?"

"I said Sir Cresswell Oliver--quite plainly," answered Copplestone.

Chatfield's mouth grew wider.

"You don't mean to tell me that a play-actor's own brother to a titled
gentleman!" he said.

"Good-night!" replied Copplestone, motioning his visitor towards the
door. "I can't give you any more time, really. However, as you seem
anxious, Mr. Bassett Oliver is the younger brother of Rear-Admiral Sir
Cresswell Oliver, Baronet, and I should imagine that Sir Cresswell will
want to know a lot about what's become of him. So you'd better--or Mr.
Greyle had better--speak to him. Now once more--good-night."

When Chatfield had gone, Copplestone laughed and flung himself into an
easy chair before the fire. Of course, the stupid, ignorant,
self-sufficient old fool had come fishing for news--he and his master
wanted to know what was going to be done in the way of making inquiry.
But why?--why so much anxiety if they knew nothing whatever about Bassett
Oliver's strange disappearance? "Why this profession of eager willingness
to welcome any inquiry that might be made? Nobody had accused Marston
Greyle of having anything to do with Bassett Oliver's strange exit--if it
was an exit--why, then--

"But it's useless speculating," he mused. "I can't do anything--and here
I am, with nothing to do!"

He had pleaded an engagement, but he had none, of course. There was a
shelf of old books in the room, but he did not care to read. And
presently, hands in pockets, he lounged out into the hall and saw Mrs.
Wooler standing at the door of the little parlour into which she had
shown him and Stafford earlier in the day.

"There's nobody in here, sir," she said, invitingly; "if you'd like to
smoke your pipe here--"

"Thank you--I will," answered Copplestone. "I got rid of that old
fellow," he observed confidentially when he had followed the landlady
within, and had dropped into a chair near her own. "I think he had
come--fishing."

"That's his usual occupation," said Mrs. Wooler, with a meaning smile. "I
told you he was called Peeping Peter. He's the sort of man who will have
his nose in everybody's affairs. But," she added, with a shake of the
head which seemed to mean a good deal more than the smile, "he doesn't
often come here. This is almost the only house in Scarhaven that doesn't
belong to the Greyle estate. This house, and the land round it, have
belonged to the Wooler family as long as the rest of the place has
belonged to the Greyles. And many a Greyle has wanted to buy it, and
every Wooler has refused to sell it--and always will!"

"That's very interesting," said Copplestone. "Does the present Greyle
want to buy?"

The landlady picked up a piece of sewing and sat down in a chair which
seemed to be purposely placed so that she could keep an eye on the
adjacent bar-parlour on one side and the hall on the other.

"I don't know much about what the present Squire would like," she said.
"Nobody does. He's a newcomer, and nobody knows anything about him. You
saw him this afternoon?"

"I met a young lady on the sands who turned out to be his cousin, and he
came up while I was talking to her," replied Copplestone. "Yes, I saw
him. I'm afraid Mr. Stafford, who came in here with me, you know,
offended him," he continued, and gave Mrs. Wooler an account of what had
happened. "Is he rather--touchy?" he concluded.

"I don't know that he is," she said. "No one sees much of him. You see
he's a stranger: although he's a Greyle, he's not a Scarhaven man. Of
course, I know all his family history--I'm Scarhaven born and bred. In my
time there have been three generations of Greyles. The first one I knew
was this Squire's grandfather, old Mr. Stephen Greyle: he died when I was
a girl in my 'teens. He had three sons and no daughters. The three sons
were all different in their tastes and ideas; the eldest, Stephen John,
who came into the estates on his father's death, was a real home bird--he
never left Scarhaven for more than a day or two at a time all his life.
And he never married--he was a real old bachelor, almost a woman-hater.
The next one, Marcus, went out to America and settled there--he was the
father of this present Squire, Mr. Marston Greyle. Then there was the
third son, Valentine--he went to live in London. And years after he came
back here, very poor, and settled down in a little house near Scarhaven
Church with his wife and daughter--that was the daughter you met this
afternoon, Miss Audrey. I don't know why, and nobody else knows, either,
but the last Squire, Stephen John, never had anything to do with
Valentine and his family; what's more, when Valentine died and left the
widow and daughter very poorly off, Stephen John did nothing for them.
But he himself died very soon after Valentine, and then of course, as
Marcus had already died in America, everything came to this Mr. Marston.
And, as I said, he's a stranger to Scarhaven folk and Scarhaven ways.
Indeed, you might say to England and English ways, for I understand he'd
never been in England until he came to take up the family property."

"Is he more friendly with the mother and daughter than the last Squire
was?" asked Copplestone, who had been much interested in this chapter of
family history.

Mrs. Wooler made several stitches in her sewing before she answered this
direct question, and when, she spoke it was in lower tones and with a
glance of caution.

"He would be, if he could!" she said. "There are those in the village who
say that he wants to marry his cousin. But the truth is--so far as one
can see or learn it--that for some reason or other, neither Mrs.
Valentine Greyle nor Miss Audrey can bear him! They took some queer
dislike to the young man when he first came, and they've kept it up. Of
course, they're outwardly friendly, and he occasionally, I believe, goes
to the cottage, but they rarely go to the big house, and it's very seldom
they're ever seen together. I have heard--one does hear things in
villages--that he'd be very glad to do something handsome for them, but
they're both as proud as they're poor, and not the sort to accept aught
from anybody. I believe they've just enough to live on, but it can't be a
great deal, for everybody knows that Valentine Greyle made ducks and
drakes of his fortune long before he came back to Scarhaven, and old
Stephen John only left them a few hundreds of pounds. However--there it
is. However much the new Squire wants to marry his cousin, it's very flat
she'll not have anything to say to him. I've once or twice had an
opportunity of seeing those two together, and it's my private opinion
that Miss Audrey dislikes that young man just about as heartily as she
possibly could!"

"What does Mr. Marston Greyle find to do with himself in this place?"
asked Copplestone, turning the conversation. "Can't be very lively for
him if he's a man of any activity."

"Oh, I don't know," replied Mrs. Wooler. "I think he's a good deal like
his uncle, the last squire--he certainly never goes anywhere, except out
to sea in his yacht. He shoots a bit, and fishes a bit, and so on, and
spends a lot of time with Peeping Peter--he's a widower, is Chatfield, and
lives alone, except when his daughter runs down to see him. And that
daughter, bye-the-bye, Mr. Copplestone, is on the stage."

"Dear me!" said Copplestone. "That is surprising! Her father made several
contemptuous references to play-actors when he was talking to me."

"Oh, he hates them, and all connected with them!" replied Mrs. Wooler,
laughing. "All the same, his own daughter has been on the stage for a
good five years, and I fancy she's doing well. A fine, handsome girl she
is, too--she's been down here a good deal lately, and--"

The landlady suddenly paused, hearing a light step in the hall. She
glanced through the window and then turned to Copplestone with an
arch smile.

"Talk of the--you know," she exclaimed. "Here's Addie Chatfield herself!"



CHAPTER VI

THE LEADING LADY


Copplestone looked up with interest as the door of the private parlour
was thrown open, and a tall, handsome young woman burst in with a
briskness of movement which betokened unusual energy and vivacity. He
got an impression of the old estate agent's daughter in one glance,
and wondered how Chatfield came to have such a good-looking girl as
his progeny. The impression was of dark, sparkling eyes, a mass of
darker, highly-burnished hair, bright colour, a flashing vivacious
smile, a fine figure, a general air of sprightliness and glowing
health--this was certainly the sort of personality that would
recommend itself to a considerable mass of theatre-goers, and
Copplestone, as a budding dramatist, immediately began to cast Addie
Chatfield for an appropriate part.

The newcomer stopped short on the threshold as she caught sight of a
stranger, and she glanced with sharp inquisitiveness at Copplestone as he
rose from his chair.

"Oh!--I supposed you were alone, Mrs. Wooler," she exclaimed. "You
usually are, you know, so I came in anyhow--sorry!"

"Come in," said the landlady. "Don't go, Mr. Copplestone. This is Miss
Adela Chatfield. Your father has just been to see this gentleman,
Addie--perhaps he told you?"

Addie Chatfield dropped into a chair at Mrs. Wooler's side, and looked
the stranger over slowly and carefully.

"No," she answered. "My father didn't tell me--he doesn't tell me
anything about his own affairs. All his talk is about mine--the iniquity
of them, and so on."

She showed a fine set of even white teeth as she made this remark, and
her eyes sought Copplestone's again with a direct challenge. Copplestone
looked calmly at her, half-smiling; he was beginning, in his youthful
innocence, to think that he already understood this type of young woman.
And seeing him smile, Addie also smiled.

"Now I wonder whatever my father wanted to see you about?" she said, with
a strong accent on the personal pronoun. "For you don't look his sort,
and he certainly isn't yours--unless you're deceptive."

"Perhaps I am," responded Copplestone, still keeping his eyes on her.
"Your father wanted to see me about the strange disappearance of Mr.
Bassett Oliver. That was all."

The girl's glance, bold and challenging, suddenly shifted before
Copplestone's steady look. She half turned to Mrs. Wooler, and her colour
rose a little.

"I've heard of that," she said, with an affectation of indifference. "And
as I happen to know a bit of Bassett Oliver, I don't see what all this
fuss is about. I should say Bassett Oliver took it into his head to go
off somewhere yesterday on a little game of his own, and that he's turned
up at Norcaster by this time, and is safe in his dressing-room, or on the
stage. That's my notion."

"I wish I could think it the correct one," replied Copplestone. "But we
can soon find out if it is--there's a telephone in the hall. Yet--I'm so
sure that you're wrong, that I'm not even going to ring Norcaster up. Mr.
Bassett Oliver has--disappeared here!"

"Are you a member of his company?" asked Addie, again looking Copplestone
over with speculative glances.

"Not at all! I'm a humble person whose play Mr. Oliver was about to
produce next month, in consequence of which I came down to see him, and
to find this state of affairs. And--having nothing else to do--I'm now
here to help to find him--alive or dead."

"Oh!" said Addie. "So--you're a writer?"

"I understand that you are an actress?" responded Copplestone. "I wonder
if I've ever seen you anywhere?"

Addie bowed her head and gave him a sharp glance.

"Evidently not!" she retorted. "Or you wouldn't wonder! As if anybody
could forget me, once they'd seen me! I believe you're pulling my leg,
though. Do you live in town?"

"I live," replied Copplestone slowly and with affected solemnity, "in
chambers in Jermyn Street."

"And do you mean to tell me that you didn't see me last year in _The
Clever Lady Hartletop?_" she exclaimed.

Copplestone put the tips of his fingers together and his head on one side
and regarded her critically.

"What part did you play?" he asked innocently.

"Part? Why, _the_ part, of course!" she retorted. "Goodness! Why, I
created it! And played it to crowded houses for nearly two hundred
nights, too!"

"Ah!" said Copplestone. "But I'll make a confession to you. I rarely
visit the theatre. I never saw _Lady Hartletop._ I haven't been in a
theatre of any sort for two years. So you must forgive me. I congratulate
you on your success."

Addie received this tribute with a mollified smile, which changed to a
glance of surprised curiosity.

"You never go to the theatre?--and yet you write plays!" she exclaimed.
"That's queer, isn't it? But I believe writing people are queer--they
look it, anyhow. All the same, you don't look like a writer--what does he
look like, Mrs. Wooler? Oh, I know--a sort of nice little officer boy,
just washed and tidied up!"

The landlady, who had evidently enjoyed this passage at arms, laughed as
she gave Copplestone a significant glance.

"And when did you come down home, Addie?" she asked quietly. "I didn't
know you were here again."

"Came down Saturday night," said Addie. "I'm on my way to
Edinburgh--business there on Wednesday. So I broke the journey here--just
to pay my respects to my worshipful parent."

"I think I heard you say that you knew Mr. Bassett Oliver?" asked
Copplestone. "You've met him?"

"Met him in this country and in America," replied Addie, calmly. "He was
on tour over there when I was--three years ago. We were in two or three
towns together at the same time--different houses, of course. I never saw
much of him in London, though."

"You didn't see anything of him yesterday, here?" suggested Copplestone.

Addie stared and glanced at the landlady.

"Here?" she exclaimed. "Goodness, no! When I'm here of a Sunday, I lie in
bed all day, or most of it. Otherwise, I'd have to walk with my parent to
the family pew. No--my Sundays are days of rest! You really think this
disappearance is serious?"

"Oliver's managers--who know him best, of course--think it most serious,"
replied Copplestone. "They say that nothing but an accident of a really
serious nature would have kept him from his engagements."

"Then that settles it!" said Addie. "He's fallen down the Devil's Spout.
Plain as plain can be, that! He's made his way there, been a bit too
daring, and slipped over the edge. And whoever falls in there never comes
out again!--isn't that it, Mrs. Wooler?"

"That's what they say," answered the landlady.

"But I don't remember any accident at the Devil's Spout in my time."

"Well, there's been one now, anyway--that's flat," remarked Addie. "Poor
old Bassett--I'm sorry for him! Well, I'm off. Good-night, Mr.
Copplestone--and perhaps you'll so far overcome your repugnance to the
theatre as to come and see me in one some day?"

"Supposing I escort you homeward instead--now?" suggested Copplestone.
"That will at least show that I am ready to become your devoted--"

"Admirer, I suppose," said Addie. "I'm afraid he's not quite as innocent
as he looks, Mrs. Wooler. Well--you can escort me as far as the gates of
the park, then--I daren't take you further, because it's so dark in there
that you'd surely lose your way, and then there'd be a second
disappearance and all sorts of complications."

She went out of the inn, laughing and chattering, but once outside she
suddenly became serious, and she involuntarily laid her hand on
Copplestone's arm as they turned down the hillside towards the quay.

"I say!" she said in a low voice. "I wasn't going to ask questions in
there, but--what's going to be done about this Oliver affair? Of course
you're stopping here to do something. What?"

Copplestone hesitated before answering this direct question. He had not
seen anything which would lead him to suppose that Miss Adela Chatfield
was a disingenuous and designing young woman, but she was certainly
Peeping Peter's daughter, and the old man, having failed to get anything
out of Copplestone himself, might possibly have sent her to see what she
could accomplish. He replied noncommittally.

"I'm not in a position to do anything," he said. "I'm not a relative--not
even a personal friend. I daresay you know that Bassett Oliver was--one's
already talking of him in the past tense!--the brother of Rear-Admiral
Sir Cresswell Oliver, the famous seaman?"

"I knew he was a man of what they call family, but I didn't know that,"
she answered. "What of it?"

"Stafford's wired to Sir Cresswell," replied Copplestone. "He'll be down
here some time tomorrow, no doubt. And of course he'll take everything
into his own hands."

"And he'll do--what?" she asked.

"Oh, I don't know," replied Copplestone. "Set the police to work, I
should think. They'll want to find out where Bassett Oliver went, where
he got to, when he turned up to the Keep, saying he'd go and call on
the Squire, as he'd met some man of that name in America. By-the-bye,
you said you'd been in America. Did you meet anybody of the Squire's
name there?"

They were passing along the quay by that time, and in the light of one of
its feeble gas-lamps he turned and looked narrowly at his companion. He
fancied that he saw her face change in expression at his question; if
there was any change, however, it was so quick that it was gone in a
second. She shook her head with emphatic decision.

"I?" she exclaimed. "Never! It's a most uncommon name, that. I never
heard of anybody called Greyle except at Scarhaven."

"The present Mr. Greyle came from America," said Copplestone.

"I know, of course," she answered. "But I never met any Greyles out
there. Bassett Oliver may have done, though. I know he toured in a lot
of American towns--I only went to three--New York, Chicago, St. Louis.
I suppose," she continued, turning to Copplestone with a suggestion of
confidence in her manner, "I suppose you consider it a very damning
thing that Bassett Oliver should disappear, after saying what he did
to Ewbank."

It was very evident to Copplestone that whether Miss Chatfield had spoken
the truth or not when she said that her father had not told her of his
visit to the "Admiral's Arms," she was thoroughly conversant with all the
facts relating to the Oliver mystery, and he was still doubtful as to
whether she was not seeking information.

"Does it matter at all what I think," he answered evasively. "I've no
part in this affair--I'm a mere spectator. I don't know how what you
refer to might be considered by people who are accustomed to size things
up. They might say all that was a mere coincidence."

"But what do you think?" she said with feminine persistence. "Come, now,
between ourselves?"

Copplestone laughed. They had come to the edge of the wooded park in
which the estate agent's house stood, and at a gate which led into it,
he paused.

"Between ourselves, then, I don't think at all--yet," he answered. "I
haven't sized anything up. All I should say at present is that if--or
as, for I'm sure the fisherman repeated accurately what he heard--as
Oliver said he met somebody called Marston Greyle in America, why--I
conclude he did. That's all. Now, won't you please let me see you
through these dark woods?"

But Addie said her farewell, and left him somewhat abruptly, and he
watched her until she had passed out of the circle of light from the lamp
which swung over the gate. She passed on into the shadows--and
Copplestone, who had already memorized the chief geographical points of
his new surroundings, noticed what she probably thought no stranger would
notice--that instead of going towards her father's house, she turned up
the drive to the Squire's.



CHAPTER VII

LEFT ON GUARD


Stafford was back at Scarhaven before breakfast time next morning,
bringing with him a roll of copies of the _Norcaster Daily Chronicle_,
one of which he immediately displayed to Copplestone and Mrs. Wooler, who
met him at the inn door. He pointed with great pride to certain staring
headlines.

"I engineered that!" he exclaimed. "Went round to the newspaper office
last night and put them up to everything. Nothing like publicity in these
cases. There you are!

  MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF FAMOUS ACTOR!
    BASSETT OLIVER MISSING!
  INTERVIEW WITH MAN WHO SAW HIM LAST!

That's the style, Copplestone!--every human being along this coast'll be
reading that by now!"

"So there was no news of him last night?" asked Copplestone.

"Neither last night nor this morning, my boy," replied Stafford. "Of
course not! No--he never left here, not he! Now then, let Mrs. Wooler
serve us that nice breakfast which I'm sure she has in readiness, and
then we're going to plunge into business, hot and strong. There's a
couple of detectives coming on by the nine o'clock train, and we're going
to do the whole thing thoroughly."

"What about his brother?" inquired Copplestone.

"I wired him last night to his London address, and got a reply first
thing this morning," said Stafford. "He's coming along by the 5:15 A.M.
from King's Cross--he'll be here before noon. I want to get things to
work before he arrives, though. And the first thing to do, of course, is
to make sympathetic inquiry, and to search the shore, and the cliffs, and
these woods--and that Keep. All that we'll attend to at once."

But on going round to the village police-station they found that
Stafford's ideas had already been largely anticipated. The news of the
strange gentleman's mysterious disappearance had spread like wild-fire
through Scarhaven and the immediate district during the previous evening,
and at daybreak parties of fisher-folk had begun a systematic search.
These parties kept coming in to report progress all the morning: by noon
they had all returned. They had searched the famous rocks, the woods, the
park, the Keep, and its adjacent ruins, and the cliffs and shore for some
considerable distance north and south of the bay, and there was no
result. Not a trace, not a sign of the missing man was to be found
anywhere. And when, at one o'clock, Stafford and Copplestone walked up to
the little station to meet Sir Cresswell Oliver, it was with the
disappointing consciousness that they had no news to give him.

Copplestone, who nourished a natural taste for celebrities of any sort,
born of his artistic leanings and tendencies, had looked forward with
interest to meeting Sir Cresswell Oliver, who, only a few months
previously, had made himself famous by a remarkable feat of seamanship in
which great personal bravery and courage had been displayed. He had a
vague expectation of seeing a bluff, stalwart, sea-dog type of man;
instead, he presently found himself shaking hands with a very
quiet-looking, elderly gentleman, who might have been a barrister or a
doctor, of pleasant and kindly manners. With him was another gentleman of
a similar type, and of about the same age, whom he introduced as the
family solicitor, Mr. Petherton. And to these two, in a private
sitting-room at the "Admiral's Arms," Stafford, as Bassett Oliver's
business representative, and Copplestone, as having remained on the spot
since the day before, told all and every detail of what had transpired
since it was definitely established that the famous actor was missing.
Both listened in silence and with deep attention; when all the facts had
been put before them, they went aside and talked together; then they
returned and Sir Cresswell besought Stafford and Copplestone's attention.

"I want to tell you young gentlemen precisely what Mr. Petherton and I
think it best to do," he said in the mild and bland accents which had so
much astonished Copplestone. "We have listened, as you will admit, with
our best attention. Mr. Petherton, as you know, is a man of law; I
myself, when I have the good luck to be ashore, am a Chairman of
Quarter Sessions, so I'm accustomed to hearing and weighing evidence. We
don't think there's any doubt that my poor brother has met with some
curious mishap which has resulted in his death. It seems impossible,
going on what you tell us from the evidence you've collected, that he
could ever have approached that Devil's Spout place unseen; it also
seems impossible that he could have had a fatal fall over the cliffs,
since his body has not been found. No--we think something befell him in
the neighbourhood of Scarhaven Keep. But what? Foul play? Possibly! If
it was--why? And there are three people Mr. Petherton and I would like
to speak to, privately--the fisherman, Ewbank, Mr. Marston Greyle, and
Mrs. Valentine Greyle. We should like to hear Ewbank's story for
ourselves; we certainly want to see the Squire; and I, personally, wish
to see Mrs. Greyle because, from what Mr. Copplestone there has told us,
I am quite sure that I, too, knew her a good many years ago, when she
was acquainted with my brother Bassett. So we propose, Mr. Stafford, to
go and see these three people--and when we have seen them, I will tell
you and Mr. Copplestone exactly what I, as my brother's representative,
wish to be done."

The two younger men waited impatiently in and about the hotel while their
elders went on their self-appointed mission. Stafford, essentially a man
of activity, speculated on their reasons for seeing the three people whom
Sir Cresswell Oliver had specifically mentioned: Copplestone was
meanwhile wondering if he could with propriety pay another visit to Mrs.
Greyle's cottage that night. It was drawing near to dusk when the two
quiet-looking, elderly gentlemen returned and summoned the younger ones
to another conference. Both looked as reserved and bland as when they had
set out, and the old seaman's voice was just as suave as ever when he
addressed them.

"Well, gentlemen," he said, "we have paid our visits, and I suppose I had
better tell you at once that we are no wiser as to actual facts than we
were when we left you earlier in the afternoon. The man Ewbank stands
emphatically by his story; Mr. Marston Greyle says that he cannot
remember any meeting with my brother in America, and that he certainly
did not call on him here on Sunday: Mrs. Valentine Greyle has not met
Bassett for a great many years. Now--there the matter stands. Of course,
it cannot rest there. Further inquiries will have to be made. Mr.
Petherton and I are going on to Norcaster this evening, and we shall have
a very substantial reward offered to any person who can give any
information about my brother. That may result in something--or in
nothing. As to my brother's business arrangements, I will go fully into
that matter with you, Mr. Stafford, at Norcaster, tomorrow. Now, Mr.
Copplestone, will you have a word or two with me in private?"

Copplestone followed the old seaman into a quiet corner of the room,
where Sir Cresswell turned on him with a smile.

"I take it," he said, "that you are a young gentleman of leisure, and
that you can abide wherever you like, eh?"

"Yes, you may take that as granted," answered Copplestone, wondering what
was coming.

"Doesn't much matter if you write your plays in Jermyn Street
or--anywhere else, eh?" questioned Sir Cresswell with a humorous smile.

"Practically, no," replied Copplestone.

Sir Cresswell tapped him on the shoulder.

"I want you to do me a favour," he said. "I shall take it as a kindness
if you will. I don't want to talk about certain ideas which Petherton and
I have about this affair, yet, anyway--not even to you--but we _have_
formed some ideas this afternoon. Now, do you think you could manage to
stay where you are for a week or two?"

"Here?" exclaimed Copplestone.

"This seems very comfortable," said Sir Cresswell, looking round. "The
landlady is a nice, motherly person; she gave me a very well-cooked
lunch; this is a quiet room in which to do your writing, eh?"

"Of course I can stay here," answered Copplestone, who was a good deal
bewildered. "But--mayn't I know why--and in what capacity?"

"Just to keep your eyes and your ears open," said Sir Cresswell. "Don't
seem to make inquiries--in fact, don't make any inquiry--do nothing. I
don't want you to do any private detective work--not I! Just stop here
a bit--amuse yourself--write--read--and watch things quietly. And--don't
be cross--I've an elderly man's privilege, you know--you'll send your
bills to me."

"Oh, that's all right, thanks!" said Copplestone, hurriedly. "I'm pretty
well off as regards this world's goods."

"So I guessed when I found that you lived in the expensive atmosphere of
Jermyn Street," said Sir Cresswell, with a sly laugh. "But all the same,
you'll let me be paymaster here, you know--that's only fair."

"All right--certainly, if you wish it," agreed Copplestone. "But look
here--won't you trust me? I assure you I'm to be trusted. You suspect
somebody! Hadn't you better give me your confidence? I won't tell a
soul--and when I say that, I mean it literally. I won't tell one
single soul!"

Sir Cresswell waited a moment or two, looking quietly at Copplestone.
Then he clapped a hand on the young man's shoulder.

"All right, my lad," he said. "Yes!--we do suspect somebody. Marston
Greyle! Now you know it."

"I expected that," answered Copplestone. "All right, sir. And my orders
are--just what you said."

"Just what I said," agreed Sir Cresswell. "Carry on at that--eyes and
ears open; no fuss; everything quiet, unobtrusive, silent.
Meanwhile--Petherton will be at work. And I say--if you want company,
you know--I think you'll find it across the bay there at Mrs.
Greyle's--eh?"

"I was there last night," said Copplestone. "I liked both of them
very much. You knew Mrs. Greyle once upon a time, I think; you and
your brother?"

"We did!" replied Sir Cresswell, with a sigh. "Um!--the fact is, both
Bassett and I were in love with her at that time. She married another man
instead. That's all!"

He gave Copplestone a squeeze of the elbow, laughed, and went across to
the solicitor, who was chatting to Stafford in one of the bow windows.
Ten minutes later all three were off to Norcaster, and Copplestone was
alone, ruminating over this sudden and extraordinary change in the
hitherto even tenor of his life. Little more than twenty-four hours
previously, all he had been concerned about was the production of his
play by Bassett Oliver--here he was now, mixed up in a drama of real
life, with Bassett Oliver as its main figure, and the plot as yet
unrevealed. And he himself was already committed to play in it--but
what part?

Now that the others had gone, Copplestone began to feel strangely alone.
He had accepted Sir Cresswell Oliver's commission readily, feeling
genuinely interested in the affair, and being secretly conscious that he
would be glad of the opportunity of further improving his acquaintance
with Audrey Greyle. But now that he considered things quietly, he began
to see that his position was a somewhat curious and possibly invidious
one. He was to watch--and to seem not to watch. He was to listen--and
appear not to listen. The task would be difficult--and perhaps
unpleasant. For he was very certain that Marston Greyle would resent his
presence in the village, and that Chatfield would be suspicious of it.
What reason could he, an utter stranger, have for taking up his quarters
at the "Admiral's Arms?" The tourist season was over: Autumn was well set
in; with Autumn, on that coast, came weather which would send most
southerners flying homewards. Of course, these people would say that he
was left there to peep and pry--and they would all know that the Squire
was the object of suspicion. It was all very well, his telling Mrs.
Wooler that being an idle man he had taken a fancy to Scarhaven, and
would stay in her inn for a few weeks, but Mrs. Wooler, like everybody
else, would see through that. However, the promise had been given, and he
would keep it--literally. He would do nothing in the way of active
detective work--he would just wait and see what, if anything, turned up.

But upon one thing Copplestone had made up his mind determinedly before
that second evening came--he would make no pretence to Audrey Greyle and
her mother. And availing himself of their permission to call again, he
went round to the cottage, and before he had been in it five minutes told
them bluntly that he was going to stay at Scarhaven awhile, on the
chance of learning any further news of Bassett Oliver.

"Which," he added, with a grim smile, "seems about as likely as that
I should hear that I am to be Lord Chancellor when the Woolsack is
next vacant!"

"You don't know," remarked Mrs. Greyle. "A reward for information is to
be offered, isn't it?"

"Do you think that will do much good?" asked Copplestone.

"It depends upon the amount," replied Mrs. Greyle. "We know these people.
They are close and reserved--no people could keep secrets better. For all
one knows, somebody in this village may know something, and may at
present feel it wisest to keep the knowledge to himself. But if
money--what would seem a lot of money--comes into question--ah!"

"Especially if the information could be given in secret," said Audrey.
"Scarhaven folk love secrecy--it's the salt of life to them: it's in
their very blood. Chatfield is an excellent specimen. He'll watch you as
a cat watches a mouse when he finds you're going to stay here."

"I shall be quite open," said Copplestone. "I'm not going to indulge in
any secret investigations. But I mean to have a thorough look round the
place. That Keep, now?--may one look round that?"

"There's a path which leads close by the Keep, from which you can get a
good outside view of it," replied Audrey. "But the Keep itself, and the
rest of the ruins round about it are in private ground."

"But you have a key, Audrey, and you can take Mr. Copplestone in there,"
said Mrs. Greyle. "And you would show him more than he would find out for
himself--Audrey," she continued, turning to Copplestone, "knows every
inch of the place and every stone of the walls."

Copplestone made no attempt to conceal his delight at this suggestion. He
turned to the girl with almost boyish eagerness.

"Will you?" he exclaimed. "Do! When?"

"Tomorrow morning, if you like," replied Audrey. "Meet me on the south
quay, soon after ten."

Copplestone was down on the quay by ten o'clock. He became aware as he
descended the road from the inn that the fisher-folk, who were always
lounging about the sea-front, were being keenly interested in something
that was going on there. Drawing nearer he found that an energetic
bill-poster was attaching his bills to various walls and doors. Sir
Cresswell and his solicitor had evidently lost no time, and had set a
Norcaster printer to work immediately on their arrival the previous
evening. And there the bill was, and it offered a thousand pounds reward
to any person who should give information which would lead to the finding
of Bassett Oliver, alive or dead.

Copplestone purposely refrained from mingling with the groups of men and
lads who thronged about the bills, eagerly discussing the great affair of
the moment. He sauntered along the quay, waiting for Audrey. She came at
last with an enigmatic smile on her lips.

"Our particular excursion is off, Mr. Copplestone," she said.
"Extraordinary events seem to be happening. Mr. Chatfield called on us an
hour ago, took my key away from me, and solemnly informed us that
Scarhaven Keep is strictly closed until further notice!"



CHAPTER VIII

RIGHT OF WAY


The look of blank astonishment which spread over Copplestone's face on
hearing this announcement seemed to afford his companion great
amusement, and she laughed merrily as she signed to him to turn back
towards the woods.

"All the same," she observed, "I know how to steal a countermarch on
Master Chatfield. Come along!--you shan't be disappointed."

"Does your cousin know of that?" asked Copplestone. "Are those his
orders?"

Audrey's lips curled a little, and she laughed again--but this time the
laughter was cynical.

"I don't think it much matters whether my cousin knows or not," she said.
"He's the nominal Squire of Scarhaven, but everybody knows that the real
over-lord is Peter Chatfield. Peter Chatfield does--everything. And--he
hates me! He won't have had such a pleasant moment for a long time as he
had this morning when he took my key away from me and warned me off."

"But why you?" asked Copplestone.

"Oh--Peter is deep!" she said. "Peter, no doubt, knew that you came to
see us last night--Peter knows all that goes on in Scarhaven. And he put
things together, and decided that I might act as your cicerone over the
Keep and the ruins, and so--there you are!"

"Why should he object to my visiting the Keep?" demanded Copplestone.

"That's obvious! He considers you a spy," replied Audrey. "And--there may
be reasons why he doesn't desire your presence in those ancient regions.
But--we'll go there, all the same, if you don't mind breaking rules and
defying Peter."

"Not I!" said Copplestone. "Hang Peter!"

"There are people who firmly believe that Peter Chatfield should have
been hanged long since," she remarked quietly. "I'm one of them.
Chatfield is a bad old man--thoroughly bad! But I'll circumvent him in
this, anyhow. I know how to get into the Keep in spite of him and of his
locks and bolts. There's a big curtain wall, twenty feet high, all round
the Keep, but I know where there's a hole in it, behind some bushes, and
we'll get in there. Come along!"

She led him up the same path through the woods along which Bassett Oliver
had gone, according to Ewbank's account. It wound through groves of fir
and pine until it came out on a plateau, in the midst of which,
surrounded by a high irregular wall, towered at the angles and buttressed
all along its length, stood Scarhaven Keep. And there, at the head of a
path which evidently led up from the big house, stood Chatfield, angry
and threatening. Beyond him, distributed at intervals about the other
paths which converged on the plateau were other men, obviously estate
labourers, who appeared to be mounting guard over the forbidden spot.

"Now there's going to be a row!--between me and Chatfield," murmured
Audrey. "You play spectator--don't say a word. Leave it to me. We are on
our rights along this path--take no notice of Peter."

But Chatfield was already bearing down on them, his solemn-featured face
dark with displeasure. He raised his voice while he was yet a dozen
yards away.

"I thought I'd told you as you wasn't to come near these here ruins!" he
said, addressing Audrey in a fashion which made Copplestone's fingers
itch to snatch the oak staff from the agent and lay it freely about his
person. "My orders was to that there effect! And when I give orders I
mean 'em to be obeyed. You'll turn straight back where you came from,
miss, and in future do as I instruct--d'ye hear that, now?"

"If you expect me to keep quiet or dumb under that sort of thing,"
whispered Copplestone, bending towards Audrey, "you're very much mistaken
in me! I shall give this fellow a lesson in another minute if--"

"Well, wait another minute, then," said Audrey, who had continued to walk
forward, steadily regarding the agent's threatening figure. "Let me talk
a little, first--I'm enjoying it. Are you addressing me, Mr. Chatfield?"
she went on in her sweetest accents. "I hear you speaking, but I don't
know if you are speaking to me. If so, you needn't shout."

"You know very well who I'm a-speaking to," growled Chatfield. "I told
you you wasn't to come near these ruins--it's forbidden, by order. You'll
take yourself off, and that there young man with you--we want no paid
spies hereabouts!"

"If you speak to me like that again I'll knock you down!" exclaimed
Copplestone, stepping forward before Audrey could stop him. "Or to this
lady, either. Stand aside, will you?"

Chatfield twisted on his heel with a surprising agility--not to stand
aside, but to wave his arm to the men who stood here and there,
behind him.

"Here, you!" he shouted. "Here, this way, all of you! This here fellow's
threatening me with assault. You lay a finger on me, you young snapper,
and I'll have you in the lock-up in ten minutes. Stand between us, you
men!--he's for knocking me down. Now then!" he went on, as the bodyguard
got between him and Copplestone, "off you go, out o' these grounds, both
of you--quick! I'll have no defiance of my orders from neither gel nor
boy, man nor woman. Out you go, now--or you'll be put out."

But Audrey continued to advance, still watching the agent. "You're under
a mistake, Mr. Chatfield," she said calmly. "You will observe that Mr.
Copplestone and I are on this path. You know very well that this is a
public foot-path, with a proper and legal right-of-way from time
immemorial. You can't turn us off it, you know--without exposing yourself
to all sorts of pains and penalties. You men know that, too," she
continued, turning to the labourers and dropping her bantering tone. "You
all know this is a public footpath. So stand out of our way, or I'll
summon every one of you!"

The last words were spoken with so much force and decision that the three
labourers involuntarily moved aside. But Chatfield hastened to oppose
Audrey's progress, planting himself in front of a wicket-gate which there
stood across the path, and he laughed sneeringly.

"And where would you find money to take summonses out?" he said, with a
look of contempt, "I should think you and your mother's something better
to do with your bit o' money than that. Now then, no more words!--back
you turn!"

Copplestone's temper had been gradually rising during the last few
minutes. Now, at the man's carefully measured taunts, he let it go.
Before Chatfield or the labourers saw what he was at, he sprang on the
agent's big form, grasped him by the neck with one hand, twisted his oak
staff away from him with the other, flung him headlong on the turf, and
raised the staff threateningly.

"Now!" he said, "beg Miss Greyle's pardon, instantly, or I'll split your
wicked old head for you. Quick, man--I mean it!"

Before Chatfield, moaning and groaning, could find his voice capable
of words, Marston Greyle, pale and excited, came round a corner of
the ruins.

"What's this, what's all this?" he demanded. "Here, yon sir, what are
you doing with that stick! What--"

"I'm about to chastise your agent for his scoundrelly insolence to your
cousin," retorted Copplestone with cheerful determination. "Now then, my
man, quick--I always keep my word!"

"Hand the stick to Mr. Marston Greyle, Mr. Copplestone," said Audrey in
her demurest manner. "I'm sure he would beat Chatfield soundly if he had
heard what he said to me--his cousin."

"Thank you, but I'm in possession," said Copplestone, grimly. "Mr.
Marston Greyle can kick him when I've thrashed him. Now, then--are you
going to beg Miss Greyle's pardon, you hoary sinner?"

"What on earth is it all about?" exclaimed Greyle, obviously upset and
afraid. "Chatfield, what have you been saying? Go away, you men--go away,
all of you, at once. Mr. Copplestone, don't hit him. Audrey, what is it?
Hang it all!--I seem to have nothing but bother--it's most annoying. What
is it, I say?"

"It is merely, Marston, that your agent there, after trying to turn Mr.
Copplestone and myself off this public foot-path, insulted me with
shameful taunts about my mother's poverty," replied Audrey. "That's all!
Whereupon--as you were not here to do it--Mr. Copplestone promptly and
very properly knocked him down. And now--is Mr. Copplestone to punish him
or--will you?"

Copplestone, keeping a sharp eye on the groaning and sputtering agent,
contrived at the same time to turn a corner of it on Marston Greyle. That
momentary glance showed him much. The Squire was mortally afraid of his
man. That was certain--as certain as that they were there. He stood, a
picture of vexation and indecision, glancing furtively at Chatfield, then
at Audrey, and evidently hating to be asked to take a side.

"Confound it all, Chatfield!" he suddenly burst out. "Why don't you mind
what you're saying? It's all very well, Audrey, but you shouldn't have
come along here--especially with strangers. The fact is, I'm so upset
about this Oliver affair that I'm going to have a thorough search and
examination of the Keep and the ruins, and, of course, we can't allow any
one inside the grounds while it's going on. You should have kept to
Chatfield's orders--"

"And since when has a Greyle of Scarhaven kept to a servant's orders?"
interrupted Audrey, with a sneer that sent the blood rushing to the
Squire's face. "Never!--until this present régime, I should think.
Orders, indeed!--from an agent! I wonder what the last Squire of
Scarhaven would have said to a proposition like that? Mr.
Copplestone--you've punished that bad old man quite sufficiently. Will
you open the gate for me--and we'll go on our way."

The girl spoke with so much decision that Copplestone moved away from
Chatfield, who struggled to his feet, muttering words that sounded very
much like smothered curses.

"I'll have the law on you!" he growled, shaking his fist at Copplestone.
"Before this day's out, I'll have the law!"

"Sooner the better," retorted Copplestone. "Nothing will please me so
much as to tell the local magistrates precisely what you said to your
master's kinswoman. You know where I'm to be found--and there," he
added, throwing a card at the agent's feet, "there you'll find my
permanent address."

"Give me my walking-stick!" demanded Chatfield.

"Not I!" exclaimed Copplestone. "That's mine, my good man, by right of
conquest. You can summon me, or arrest me, if you like, for stealing it."

He opened the wicket-gate for Audrey, and together they passed through,
skirted the walls of the ruins, and went away into the higher portion of
the woods. Once there the girl laughed.

"Now there'll be another row!" she said. "Between master and man
this time."

"I think not!" observed Copplestone, with unusual emphasis. "For the
master is afraid of the man."

"Ah!--but which is master and which is man?" asked Audrey in a low voice.

Copplestone stopped and looked narrowly at her.

"Oh?" he said quietly, "so you've seen that?"

"Does it need much observation?" she replied. "My mother and I have known
for some time that Marston Greyle is entirely under Peter Chatfield's
thumb. He daren't do anything--save by Chatfield's permission."

Copplestone walked on a few yards, ruminating.

"Why!" he asked suddenly.

"How do we know?" retorted Audrey.

"Well, in cases like that," said Copplestone, "it generally means that
one man has a hold on the other. What hold can Chatfield have on your
cousin? I understand Mr. Marston Greyle came straight to his inheritance
from America. So what could Chatfield know of him--to have any hold?"

"Oh, I don't know--and I don't care--much," replied Audrey, as they
passed out of the woods on to the headlands beyond. "Never mind all
that--here's the sea and the open sky--hang Chatfield, and Marston, too!
As we can't see the Keep, let's enjoy ourselves some other way. What
shall we do?"

"You're the guide, conductress, general boss!" answered Copplestone.
"Shall I suggest something that sounds very material, though? Well, then,
can't we go along these cliffs to some village where we can find a nice
old fishing inn and get a simple lunch of some sort?"

"That's certainly material and eminently practical," laughed Audrey. "We
can--that place, along there to the south--Lenwick. And so, come on--and
no more talk of Squire and agent. I've a remarkable facility in throwing
away unpleasant things."

"It's a grand faculty--and I'll try to imitate you," said Copplestone.
"So--today's our own, eh? Is that it?"

"Say until the middle of this afternoon," responded Audrey. "Don't forget
that I have a mother at home."

It was, however, well past the middle of the afternoon when these two
returned to Scarhaven, very well satisfied with themselves. They had
found plenty to talk about without falling back on Marston Greyle, or
Peter Chatfield, or the event of the morning, and Copplestone suddenly
remembered, almost with compunction, that he had been so engrossed in
his companion that he had almost forgotten the Oliver mystery. But that
was sharply recalled to him as he entered the "Admiral's Arms." Mrs.
Wooler came forward from her parlour with a mysterious smile on her
good-looking face.

"Here's a billet-doux for you, Mr. Copplestone," she said. "And I can't
tell you who left it. One of the girls found it lying on the hall table
an hour ago." With that she handed Copplestone a much thumbed, very
grimy, heavily-sealed envelope.



CHAPTER IX

HOBKIN'S HOLE


Copplestone carried the queer-looking missive into his private
sitting-room and carefully examined it, back and front, before slitting
it open. The envelope was of the cheapest kind, the big splotch of red
wax at the flap had been pressed into flatness by the summary method of
forcing a coarse-grained thumb upon it; the address was inscribed in
ill-formed characters only too evidently made with difficulty by a bad
pen, which seemed to have been dipped into watery ink at every third or
fourth letter. And it read thus:--

"THE YOUNG GENTLEMAN STAYING AT 'THE ADMIRAL'--PRIVATE"

The envelope contained nothing but a scrap of paper obviously torn from a
penny cash book. No ink had been used in transcribing the two or three
lines which were scrawled across this scrap--the vehicle this time was an
indelible pencil, which the writer appeared to have moistened with his
tongue every now and then, some letters being thicker and darker than
others. The message, if mysterious, was straightforward enough. "_Sir,"_
it ran, "_if so be as you'd like to have a bit of news from one as has
it, take a walk through Hobkin's Hole tomorrow morning and look out for
Yours truly--Him as writes this_."

Like most very young men Copplestone on arriving at what he called
manhood (by which he meant the age of twenty-one years), had drawn up for
himself a code of ethics, wherein he had mentally scheduled certain
things to be done and certain things not to be done. One of the things
which he had firmly resolved never to do was to take any notice of an
anonymous letter. Here was an anonymous letter, and with it a conflict
between his principles and his inclinations. In five minutes he learnt
that cut-and-dried codes are no good when the hard facts of every-day
life have to be faced and that expediency is a factor in human existence
which has its moral values. In plain English, he made up his mind to
visit Hobkin's Hole next morning and find out who the unknown
correspondent was.

He was half tempted to go round to the cottage and show the queer scrawl
to Audrey Greyle, of whom, having passed six delightful hours in her
company--he was beginning to think much more than was good for him,
unless he intended to begin thinking of her always. But he was still
young enough to have a spice of bashfulness about him, and he did not
want to seem too pushing or forward. Again, it seemed to him that the
anonymous letter conveyed, in some subtle fashion, a hint that it was to
be regarded as sacred and secret, and Copplestone had a strong sense of
honour. He knew that Mrs. Wooler was femininely curious to hear all about
that letter, but he took care not to mention it to her. Instead he
quietly consulted an ordnance map of the district which hung framed and
glazed in the hall of the inn, and discovering that Hobkin's Hole was
marked on it as being something or other a mile or two out of Scarhaven
on the inland side, he set out in its direction next morning after
breakfast, without a word to anyone as to where he was going. And that he
might not be entirely defenceless he carried Peter Chatfield's oaken
staff with him--that would certainly serve to crack any ordinary skull,
if need arose for measure of defence.

The road which Copplestone followed out of the village soon turned off
into the heart of the moorlands that lay, rising and falling in irregular
undulations, between the sea and the hills. He was quickly out of sight
of Scarhaven, and in the midst of a solitude. All round him stretched
wide expanses of heather and gorse, broken up by great masses of rock:
from a rise in the road he looked about him and saw no sign of a human
habitation and heard nothing but the rush of the wind across the moors
and the plaintive cry of the sea-birds flapping their way to the
cultivated land beyond the barrier of hills. And from that point he saw
no sign of any fall or depression in the landscape to suggest the place
which he sought. But at the next turn he found himself at the mouth of a
narrow ravine, which cut deep into the heart of the hill, and was dark
and sombre enough to seem a likely place for secret meetings, if for
nothing more serious and sinister. It wound away from a little bridge
which carried the road over a brawling stream; along the side of that
stream were faint indications of a path which might have been made by
human feet, but was more likely to have been trodden out by the mountain
sheep. This path was quickly obscured by dwarf oaks and alder bushes,
which completely roofed in the narrow valley, and about everything hung a
suggestion of solitude that would have caused any timid or suspicious
soul to have turned back. But Copplestone was neither timid nor
suspicious, and he was already intensely curious about this adventure;
wherefore, grasping Peter Chatfield's oaken cudgel firmly in his right
hand, he jumped over the bridge and followed the narrow path into the
gloom of the trees.

He soon found that the valley resolved itself into a narrow and rocky
defile. The stream, level at first, soon came tumbling down amongst huge
boulders; the path disappeared; out of the oaks and alder high cliffs of
limestones began to lift themselves. The morning was unusually dark and
grey, even for October, and as leaves, brown and sere though they were,
still clustered thickly on the trees, Copplestone quickly found himself
in a gloom that would have made a nervous person frightened. He also
found that his forward progress became increasingly difficult. At the
foot of a tall cliff which suddenly rose up before him he was obliged to
pause; on that side of the stream it seemed impossible to go further. But
as he hesitated, peering here and there under the branches of the dwarf
oaks, he heard a voice, so suddenly, that he started in spite of himself.

"Guv'nor!"

Copplestone looked around and saw nothing. Then came a low laugh, as if
the unseen person was enjoying his perplexity.

"Look overhead, guv'nor," said the voice. "Look aloft!"

Copplestone glanced upward, and saw a man's head and face, framed in a
screen of bushes which grew on a shelf of the limestone cliff. The head
was crowned by a much worn fur cap; the face, very brown and seamed and
wrinkled, was ornamented by a short, well-blackened clay pipe, from the
bowl of which a wisp of blue smoke curled upward. And as he grew
accustomed to the gloom he was aware of a pair of shrewd, twinkling eyes,
and a set of very white teeth which gleamed like an animal's.

"Hullo!" said Copplestone. "Come out of that!"

The white teeth showed themselves still more; their owner laughed again.

"You come up, guv'nor," he said. "There's a natural staircase round the
corner. Come up and make yourself at home. I've a nice little parlour
here, and a matter of refreshment in it, too."

"Not till you show yourself," answered Copplestone. "I want to see what
I'm dealing with. Come out, now!"

The unseen laughed again, moved away from his screen, and presently
showed himself on the edge of the shelf of rock. And Copplestone found
himself staring at a queer figure of a man--an under-sized,
quaint-looking fellow, clad in dirty velveteens, a once red waistcoat,
and leather breeches and gaiters, a sort of compound between a poacher, a
game-keeper, and an ostler. But quainter than figure or garments was the
man's face--a gnarled, weather-beaten, sea-and-wind stained face, which,
in Copplestone's opinion, was honest enough and not without abundant
traces of a sense of humour.

Copplestone at once trusted that face. He swung himself up by the nooks
and crannies of the rock, and joined the man on his ledge.

"Well?" he said. "You're the chap who sent me that letter? Why?"

"Come this way, guv'nor," replied the brown-faced one. "Well talk more
comfortable, like, in my parlour. Here you are!"

He led Copplestone along the ridge behind the bushes, and presently
revealed a cave in the face of the overhanging limestone, mostly natural,
but partly due to artifice, wherein were rude seats, covered over with
old sacking, a box or two which evidently served for pantry and larder,
and a shelf on which stood a wicker-covered bottle in company with a row
of bottles of ale.

The lord of this retreat waved a hospitable hand towards his cellar.

"You'll not refuse a poor man's hospitality, guv'nor?" he said politely.
"I can give you a clean glass, and if you'll try a drop of rum, there's
fresh water from the stream to mix it with--good as you'll find in
England. Or, maybe, it being the forepart of the day, you'd prefer ale,
now? Say the word!"

"A bottle of ale, then, thank you," responded Copplestone, who saw that
he had to deal with an original, and did not wish to appear
stand-offish. "And whom am I going to drink with, may I ask?"

The man carefully drew the cork of a bottle, poured out its contents with
the discrimination of a bartender, handed the glass to his visitor with a
bow, helped himself to a measure of rum, and bowed again as he drank.

"My best respects to you, guv'nor," he said. "Glad to see you in Hobkin's
Hole Castle--that's here. Queer place for gentlemen to meet in, ain't it?
Who are you talking to, says you? My name, guv'-nor--well-known
hereabouts--is Zachary Spurge!"

"You sent me that note last night?" asked Copplestone, taking a seat and
filling his pipe. "How did you get it there--unseen?"

"Got a cousin as is odd-job man at the 'Admiral's Arms,'" replied
Spurge. "He slipped it in for me. You may ha' seen him there,
guv'nor--chap with one eye, and queer-looking, but to be trusted. As I
am!--down to the ground."

"And what do you want to see me about?" inquired Copplestone. "What's
this bit of news you've got to tell?"

Zachary Spurge thrust a hand inside his velveteen jacket and drew out a
much folded and creased paper, which, on being unwrapped, proved to be
the bill which offered a reward for the finding of Bassett Oliver. He
held it up before his visitor.

"This!" he said. "A thousand pound is a vast lot o' money, guv'nor! Now,
if I was to tell something as I knows of, what chances should I have of
getting that there money?"

"That depends," replied Copplestone. "The reward is to be given to--but
you see the plain wording of it. Can you give information of that sort?"

"I can give a certain piece of information, guv'nor," said Spurge.
"Whether it'll lead to the finding of that there gentleman or not I can't
say. But something I do know--certain sure!"

Copplestone reflected awhile.

"Ill tell you what, Spurge," he said. "I'll promise you this much. If you
can give any information I'll give you my word that--whether what you can
tell is worth much or little--you shall be well paid. That do?"

"That'll do, guv'nor," responded Spurge. "I take your word as between
gentlemen! Well, now, it's this here--you see me as I am, here in a
cave, like one o' them old eremites that used to be in the ancient days.
Why am I here! 'Cause just now it ain't quite convenient for me to show
my face in Scarhaven. I'm wanted for poaching, guv'nor--that's the fact!
This here is a safe retreat. If I was tracked here, I could make my way
out at the back of this hole--there's a passage here--before anybody
could climb that rock. However, nobody suspects I'm here. They
think--that is, that old devil Chatfield and the police--they think I'm
off to sea. However, here I am--and last Sunday afternoon as ever was, I
was in Scarhaven! In the wood I was, guv'nor, at the back of the Keep.
Never mind what for--I was there. And at precisely ten minutes to three
o'clock I saw Bassett Oliver."

"How did you know him?" demanded Copplestone.

"Cause I've had many a sixpenn'orth of him at both Northborough and
Norcaster," answered Spurge. "Seen him a dozen times, I have, and knew
him well enough, even if I'd only viewed him from the the-ayter gallery.
Well, he come along up the path from the south quay. He passed within a
dozen yards of me, and went up to the door in the wall of the ruins,
right opposite where I was lying doggo amongst some bushes. He poked the
door with the point of his stick--it was ajar, that door, and it went
open. And so he walks in--and disappears. Guv'nor!--I reckon that'ud be
the last time as he was seen alive!--unless--unless--"

"Unless--what?" asked Copplestone eagerly.

"Unless one other man saw him," replied Spurge solemnly. "For there was
another man there, guv'nor. Squire Greyle!"

Copplestone looked hard at Spurge; Spurge returned the stare, and nodded
two or three times.

"Gospel truth!" he said. "I kept where I was--I'd reasons of my own. May
be eight minutes or so--certainly not ten--after Bassett Oliver walked in
there, Squire Greyle walked out. In a hurry, guv'nor. He come out quick.
He looked a bit queer. Dazed, like. You know how quick a man can think,
guv'nor, under certain circumstances? I thought quicker'n lightning. I
says to myself 'Squire's seen somebody or something he hadn't no taste
for!' Why, you could read it on his face! plain as print. It was there!"

"Well?" said Copplestone. "And then?"

"Then," continued Spurge. "Then he stood for just a second or two,
looking right and left, up and down. There wasn't a soul in
sight--nobody! But--he slunk off--sneaked off--same as a fox sneaks away
from a farm-yard. He went down the side of the curtain-wall that shuts in
the ruins, taking as much cover as ever he could find--at the end of the
wall, he popped into the wood that stands between the ruins and his
house. And then, of course, I lost all sight of him."

"And--Mr. Oliver?" said Copplestone. "Did you see him again?"

Spurge took a pull at his rum and water, and relighted his pipe.

"I did not," he answered. "I was there until a quarter-past three--then I
went away. And no Oliver had come out o' that door when I left."



CHAPTER X

THE INVALID CURATE


Spurge and his visitor sat staring at each other in silence for a few
minutes; the silence was eventually broken by Copplestone.

"Of course," he said reflectively, "if Mr. Oliver was looking round those
ruins he could easily spend half an hour there."

"Just so," agreed Spurge. "He could spend an hour. If so be as he was one
of these here antiquarian-minded gents, as loves to potter about old
places like that, he could spend two hours, three hours, profitable-like.
But he'd have come out in the end, and the evidence is, guv'nor, that he
never did come out! Even if I am just now lying up, as it were, I'm fully
what they term o-fay with matters, and, by all accounts, after Bassett
Oliver went up that there path, subsequent to his bit of talk with
Ewbank, he was never seen no more 'cepting by me, and possibly by Squire
Greyle. Them as lives a good deal alone, like me guv'nor, develops what
you may call logical faculties--they thinks--and thinks deep. I've
thought. B.O.--that's Oliver--didn't go back by the way he'd come, or
he'd ha' been seen. B.O. didn't go forward or through the woods to the
headlands, or he'd ha' been seen, B.O. didn't go down to the shore, or
he'd ha' been seen. 'Twixt you and me, guv'nor, B.O.'s dead body is in
that there Keep!"

"Are you suggesting anything?" asked Copplestone.

"Nothing, guv'nor--no more than that," answered Spurge. "I'm making no
suggestion and no accusation against nobody. I've seen a bit too much of
life to do that. I've known more than one innocent man hanged there at
Norcaster Gaol in my time all through what they call circumstantial
evidence. Appearances is all very well--but appearances may be against a
man to the very last degree, and yet him be as innocent as a new born
baby! No--I make no suggestions. 'Cepting this here--which has no doubt
occurred to you, or to B.O.'s brother. If I were the missing gentleman's
friends I should want to know a lot! I should want to know precisely what
he meant when he said to Dan'l Ewbank as how he'd known a man called
Marston Greyle in America. 'Taint a common name, that, guv'nor."

Copplestone made no answer to these observations. His own train of
thought was somewhat similar to his host's. And presently he turned to a
different track.

"You saw no one else about there that afternoon?" he asked.

"No one, guv'nor," replied Spurge.

"And where did you go when you left the place?" inquired Copplestone.

"To tell you the truth, guv'nor, I was waiting there for that cousin o'
mine--him as carried you the letter," answered Spurge. "It was a fixture
between us--he was to meet me there about three o'clock that day. If he
wasn't there, or in sight, by a quarter-past three I was to know he
wasn't able to get away. So as he didn't come, I slipped back into the
woods, and made my way back here, round by the moors."

"Are you going to stay in this place?" asked Copplestone.

"For a bit, guv'nor--till I see how things are," replied Spurge. "As I
say, I'm wanted for poaching, and Chatfield's been watching to get his
knife into me this long while. All the same, if more serious things drew
his attention off, he might let it slide. What do you ask for, guv'nor?"

"I wanted to know where you could be found in case you were required to
give evidence about seeing Mr. Oliver," replied Copplestone. "That
evidence may be wanted."

"I've thought of that," observed Spurge. "And you can always find that
much out from my cousin at the 'Admiral.' He keeps in touch with me--if
it got too hot for me here, I should clear out to Norcaster--there's a
spot there where I've laid low many a time. You can trust my cousin--Jim
Spurge, that's his name. One eye, no mistaking of him--he's always about
the yard there at Mrs. Wooler's."

"All right," said Copplestone. "If I want you, I'll tell him. By-the-bye,
have you told this to anybody?"

"Not to a soul, guv'nor," replied Spurge. "Not even to Jim. No--I kept it
dark till I could see you. Considering, of course, that you are left in
charge of things, like."

Copplestone presently went away and returned slowly to Scarhaven,
meditating deeply on what he had heard. He saw no reason to doubt the
truth of Zachary Spurge's tale--it bore the marks of credibility. But
what did it amount to? That Spurge saw Bassett Oliver enter the ruins of
the Keep, by the one point of ingress; that a few moments later he saw
Marston Greyle come away from the same place, evidently considerably
upset, and sneak off in a manner which showed that he dreaded
observation. That was all very suspicious, to say the least of it, taken
in relation to Oliver's undoubted disappearance--but it was only
suspicion; it afforded no direct proof. However, it gave material for a
report to Sir Cresswell Oliver, and he determined to write out an account
of his dealings with Spurge that afternoon, and to send it off at once by
registered letter.

He was busily engaged in this task when Mrs. Wooler came into his
sitting-room to lay the table for his lunch. Copplestone saw at once that
she was full of news.

"Never rains but it pours!" she said with a smile. "Though, to be sure,
it isn't a very heavy shower. I've got another visitor now, Mr.
Copplestone."

"Oh?" responded Copplestone, not particularly interested. "Indeed!"

"A young clergyman from London--the Reverend Gilling," continued the
landlady. "Been ill for some time, and his doctor has recommended him to
try the north coast air. So he came down here, and he's going to stop
awhile to see how it suits him."

"I should have thought the air of the north coast was a bit strong for
an invalid," remarked Copplestone. "I'm not delicate, but I find it quite
strong enough for me."

"I daresay it's a case of kill or cure," replied Mrs. Wooler. "Chest
complaint, I should think. Not that the young gentleman looks
particularly delicate, either, and he tells me that he's a very good
appetite and that his doctor says he's to live well and to eat as much as
ever he can."

Copplestone got a view of his fellow-visitor that afternoon in the hall
of the inn, and agreed with the landlady that he showed no evident signs
of delicacy of health. He was a good type of the conventional curate,
with a rather pale, good-humoured face set between his round collar and
wide brimmed hat, and he glanced at Copplestone with friendly curiosity
and something of a question in his eyes. And Copplestone, out of good
neighbourliness, stopped and spoke to him.

"Mrs. Wooler tells me you're come here to pick up," he remarked. "Pretty
strong air round this quarter of the globe!"

"Oh, that's all right!" said the new arrival. "The air of Scarhaven
will do me good--it's full of just what I want." He gave Copplestone
another look and then glanced at the letters which he held in his hand.
"Are you going to the post-office?" he asked. "May I come?--I want to
go there, too."

The two young men walked out of the inn, and Copplestone led the way
down the road towards the northern quay. And once they were well out
of earshot of the "Admiral's Arms," and the two or three men who
lounged near the wall in front of it, the curate turned to his
companion with a sly look.

"Of course you're Mr. Copplestone?" he remarked. "You can't be anybody
else--besides, I heard the landlady call you so."

"Yes," replied Copplestone, distinctly puzzled by the other's manner.
"What then?"

The curate laughed quietly, and putting his fingers inside his heavy
overcoat, produced a card which he handed over.

"My credentials!" he said.

Copplestone glanced at the card and read "Sir Cresswell Oliver," He
turned wonderingly to his companion, who laughed again.

"Sir Cresswell told me to give you that as soon as I conveniently could,"
he said. "The fact is, I'm not a clergyman at all--not I! I'm a private
detective, sent down here by him and Petherton. See?"

Copplestone stared for a moment at the wide-brimmed hat, the round
collar, the eminently clerical countenance. Then he burst into laughter.
"I congratulate you on your make-up, anyway!" he exclaimed. "Capital!"

"Oh, I've been on the stage in my time," responded the private detective.
"I'm a good hand at fitting myself to various parts; besides I've played
the conventional curate a score of times. Yes, I don't think anybody
would see through me, and I'm very particular to avoid the clergy."

"And you left the stage--for this?" asked Copplestone. "Why, now?"

"Pays better--heaps better," replied the other calmly. "Also, it's more
exciting--there's much more variety in it. Well, now you know who I
am--my name, by-the-bye is Gilling, though I'm not the Reverend Gilling,
as Mrs. Wooler will call me. And so--as I've made things plain--how's
this matter going so far?"

Copplestone shook his head.

"My orders," he said, with a significant look, "are--to say nothing
to any one."

"Except to me," responded Gilling. "Sir Cresswell Oliver's card is my
passport. You can tell me anything."

"Tell me something first," replied Copplestone. "Precisely what are you
here for? If I'm to talk confidentially to you, you must talk in the same
fashion to me."

He stopped at a deserted stretch of the quay, and leaning against the
wall which separated it from the sand, signed to Gilling to stop also.

"If we're going to have a quiet talk," he went on, "we'd better have it
now--no one's about, and if any one sees us from a distance they'll
only think we're, what we look to be--casual acquaintances. Now--what
is your job?"

Gilling looked about him and then perched himself on the wall.

"To watch Marston Greyle," he replied.

"They suspect him?" asked Copplestone.

"Undoubtedly!"

"Sir Cresswell Oliver said as much to me--but no more. Have they said
more to you?"

"The suspicion seemed to have originated with Petherton. Petherton, in
spite of his meek old-fashioned manners, is as sharp an old bird as
you'll find in London! He fastened at once on what Bassett Oliver said
to that fisherman, Ewbank. A keen nose for a scent, Petherton's! And he
's determined to find out who it was that Bassett Oliver met in the
United States under the name of Marston Greyle. He's already set the
machinery in motion. And in the meantime, I'm to keep my eye on this
Squire--as I shall!"

"Why watch him particularly?"

"To see that he doesn't depart for unknown regions--or, if he does, to
follow in his track. He's not to be lost sight of until this mystery is
cleared. Because--something is wrong."

Copplestone considered matters in silence for a few moments, and decided
not to reveal the story of Zachary Spurge to Gilling--yet awhile at any
rate. However, he had news which there was no harm in communicating.

"Marston Greyle," he said, presently, "or his agent, Peter Chatfield, or
both, in common agreement, are already doing something to solve the
mystery--so far as Greyle's property is concerned. They've closed the
Keep and its surrounding ruins to the people who used to be permitted to
go in, and they're conducting an exhaustive search--for Bassett Oliver,
of course."

Gilling made a grimace.

"Of course!" he said, cynically. "Just so! I expected something of that
sort. That's all part of a clever scheme."

"I don't understand you," remarked Copplestone. "How--a clever scheme?"

"Whitewash!" answered Gilling. "Sheer whitewash! You don't suppose that
either Greyle or Chatfield are fools?--I should say they're far from it,
from what little I've heard of 'em. Well--don't they know very well that
Marston Greyle is under suspicion? All right--they want to clear him. So
they close their ruins and make a search--a private search, mind you--and
at the end they announce that nothing's been found--and there you are!
And--supposing they did find something--supposing they found Bassett
Oliver's body--What is it?" he asked suddenly, seeing Copplestone staring
hard across the sands at the opposite quay. "Something happened?"

"By Gad!--I believe something has happened!" exclaimed Copplestone. "Look
there--men running down the hillside from the Keep. And listen--they're
shouting to those fellows on the other quay. Come on across! Will it be
out of keeping with your invalid pose if you run?"

Gilling answered that question by lightly vaulting the wall and dropping
to the sands beneath.

"I'm not an invalid in my legs, anyhow," he answered, as they began to
splash across the pools left by the recently retreated tide. "By
George!--I believe something has happened, too! Look at those people,
running out of their cottages!"

All along the south quay the fisher-folk, men, women, and children, were
crowding eagerly towards the gate of the path by which Bassett Oliver had
gone up towards the Keep. When Copplestone and his companion gained the
quay and climbed up its wall they were pouring in at this gate, and
swarming up to the woods, all talking at the top of their voices.
Copplestone suddenly recognized Ewbank on the fringe of the crowd and
called to him.

"What is it?" he demanded. "What's happened?"

Ewbank, a man of leisurely movement, paused and waited for the two young
men to come up. At their approach he took his pipe out of his mouth, and
inclined his head towards the Keep.

"They're saying something's been found up there." he replied. "I don't
know what. But Chatfield, he's sent two men down here to the village. One
of 'em's gone for the police and the doctor, and t'other's gone to the
'Admiral,' looking for you. You're wanted up there--partiklar!"



CHAPTER XI

BENEATH THE BRAMBLES


By the time Copplestone and the pseudo-curate had reached the plateau of
open ground surrounding the ruins it seemed as if half the population of
Scarhaven had gathered there. Men, women and children were swarming about
the door in the curtain wall, all manifesting an eager desire to pass
through. But the door was strictly guarded. Chatfield, armed with a new
oak cudgel stood there, masterful and lowering; behind him were several
estate labourers, all keeping the people back. And within the door stood
Marston Greyle, evidently considerably restless and perturbed, and every
now and then looking out on the mob which the fast-spreading rumour had
called together. In one of these inspections he caught sight of
Copplestone, and spoke to Chatfield, who immediately sent one of his
body-guard through the throng.

"Mr. Greyle says will you go forward, sir?" said the man. "Your friend
can go in too, if he likes."

"That's your clerical garb," whispered Copplestone as he and Gilling made
their way to the door. "But why this sudden politeness?"

"Oh, that's easy to reckon up," answered Gilling. "I see through it. They
want creditable and respectable witnesses to something or other. This
big, heavy-jowled man is Chatfield, of course?"

"That's Chatfield," responded Copplestone. "What's he after?"

For the agent, as the two young men approached, ostentiously turned away
from them, moving a few steps from the door. He muttered a word or two to
the men who guarded it and they stood aside and allowed Copplestone and
the curate to enter. Marston Greyle came forward, eyeing Gilling with a
sharp glance of inspection. He turned from him to Copplestone.

"Will you come in?" he asked, not impolitely and with a certain anxiety
of manner. "I want you to--to be present, in fact. This gentleman is a
friend of yours?"

"An acquaintance of an hour," interposed Gilling, with ready wit. "I have
just come to stay at the inn--for my health's sake."

"Perhaps you'll be kind enough to accompany us?" said Greyle. "The fact
is, Mr. Copplestone, we've found Mr. Bassett Oliver's body."

"I thought so," remarked Copplestone.

"And as soon as the police come up," continued Greyle, "I want you all to
see exactly where it is. No one's touched it--no one's been near it. Of
course, he's dead!"

He lifted his hand with a nervous gesture, and the two others, who were
watching him closely, saw that he was trembling a good deal, and that his
face was very pale.

"Dead!--of course," he went on. "He--he must have been killed
instantaneously. And you'll see in a minute or two why the body wasn't
found before--when we made that first search. It's quite explainable. The
fact is--"

A sudden bustle at the door in the wall heralded the entrance of two
policemen. The Squire went forward to meet them. The prospect of
immediate action seemed to pull him together and his manner changed to
one of assertive superintendence of things.

"Now, Mr. Chatfield!" he called out. "Keep all these people away! Close
the door and let no one enter on any excuse. Stay there yourself and see
that we are not interrupted. Come this way now," he went on, addressing
the policemen and the two favoured spectators.

"You've found him, then, sir?" asked the police-sergeant in a thick
whisper, as Greyle led his party across the grass to the foot of the
Keep. "I suppose it's all up with the poor gentleman; of course? The
doctor, he wasn't in, but they'll send him up as soon--"

"Mr. Bassett Oliver is dead," interrupted Greyle, almost harshly. "No
doctors can do any good. Now, look here," he continued, pulling them to a
sudden halt, "I want all of you to take particular notice of this old
tower--the Keep. I believe you have not been in here before, Mr.
Copplestone--just pay particular attention to this place. Here you see is
the Keep, standing in the middle of what I suppose was the courtyard of
the old castle. It's a square tower, with a stair-turret at one angle.
The stair in that turret is in a very good state of preservation--in
fact, it is quite easy to climb to the top, and from the top there's a
fine view of land and sea: the Keep itself is nearly a hundred feet in
height. Now the inside of the Keep is completely gutted, as you'll
presently see--there isn't a floor left of the five or six which were
once there. And I'm sorry to say there's very little protection when
one's at the top--merely a narrow ledge with a very low parapet, which in
places is badly broken. Consequently, any one who climbs to the top must
be very careful, or there's the danger of slipping off that ledge and
falling to the bottom. Now in my opinion that's precisely what happened
on Sunday afternoon. Oliver evidently got in here, climbed the stairs in
the turret to enjoy the view and fell from the parapet. And why his body
hasn't been found before I'll now show you."

He led the way to the extreme foot of the Keep, and to a very low-arched
door, at which stood a couple of the estate labourers, one of whom
carried a lighted lantern. To this man the Squire made a sign.

"Show the way," he said, in a low voice.

The man turned and descended several steps of worn and moss-covered stone
which led through the archway into a dark, cellar-like place smelling
strongly of damp and age. Greyle drew the attention of his companions to
a heap of earth and rubbish at the entrance.

"We had to clear all that out before we could get in here," he said.
"This archway hadn't been opened for ages. This, of course, is the very
lowest story of the Keep, and half beneath the level of the ground
outside. Its roof has gone, like all the rest, but as you see, something
else has supplied its place. Hold up your lantern, Marris!"

The other men looked up and saw what the Squire meant. Across the tower,
at a height of some fifteen or twenty feet from the floor, Nature, left
unchecked, had thrown a ceiling of green stuff. Bramble, ivy, and other
spreading and climbing plants had, in the course of years, made a
complete network from wall to wall. In places it was so thick that no
light could be seen through it from beneath; in other places it was thin
and glimpses of the sky could be seen from above the grey, tunnel-like
walls. And in one of those places, close to the walls, there was a
distinct gap, jagged and irregular, as if some heavy mass had recently
plunged through the screen of leaf and branch from the heights above, and
beneath this the startled searchers saw the body, lying beside a heap of
stones and earth in the unmistakable stillness of death.

"You see how it must have happened," whispered Greyle, as they all bent
round the dead man. "He must have fallen from the very top of the
Keep--from the parapet, in fact--and plunged through this mass of green
stuff above us. If he had hit that where it's so thick--there!--it might
have broken his fall, but, you see, he struck it at the very thinnest
part, and being a big and heavyish man, of course, he'd crash right
through it. Now of course, when we examined the Keep on Monday morning,
it never struck us that there might be something down here--if you go up
the turret stairs to the top and look down on this mass of green stuff
from the very top, you'll see that it looks undisturbed; there's scarcely
anything to show that he fell through it, from up there. But--he did!"

"Whose notion was it that he might be found here?" asked Copplestone.

"Chatfield's," replied the Squire. "Chatfield's. He and I were up at the
top there, and he suddenly suggested that Oliver might have fallen from
the parapet and be lying embedded in that mass of green stuff beneath. We
didn't know then--even Chatfield didn't know--that there was this empty
space beneath the green stuff. But when we came to go into it, we found
there was, so we had that archway cleared of all the stone and rubbish
and of course we found him."

"The body'll have to be removed, sir," whispered the police-sergeant.
"It'll have to be taken down to the inn, to wait the inquest."

Marston Greyle started.

"Inquest!" he said. "Oh!--will that have to be held? I suppose so--yes.
But we'd better wait until the doctor comes, hadn't we? I want him--"

The doctor came into the gloomy vault at that moment, escorted by
Chatfield, who, however, immediately retired. He was an elderly,
old-fashioned somewhat fussy-mannered person, who evidently attached
much more importance to the living Squire than to the dead man, and he
listened to all Marston Greyle's explanations and theories with great
deference and accepted each without demur. "Ah yes, to be sure!" he said,
after a perfunctory examination of the body. "The affair is easily
understood. It is precisely as you suggest, Squire. The unfortunate man
evidently climbed to the top of the tower, missed his footing, and fell
headlong. That slight mass of branch and leaf would make little
difference--he was, you see, a heavy man--some fourteen or fifteen stone,
I should think. Oh, instantaneous death, without a doubt! Well, well,
these constables must see to the removal of the body, and we must let my
friend the coroner know--he will hold the inquest tomorrow, no doubt.
Quite a mere formality, my dear sir!--the whole thing is as plain as a
pikestaff. It will be a relief to know that the mystery is now
satisfactorily solved."

Outside in the welcome freshness, Copplestone turned to the doctor.

"You say the inquest will be held tomorrow?" he asked. The doctor looked
his questioner up and down with an inquiry which signified doubt as to
Copplestone's right to demand information.

"In the usual course," he replied stiffly.

"Then his brother, Sir Cresswell Oliver, and his solicitor, Mr.
Petherton, must be wired for from London," observed Copplestone, turning
to Greyle. "I'll communicate with them at once. I suppose we may go up
the tower?" he continued as Greyle nodded his assent. "I'd like to see
the stairs and the parapet."

Greyle looked a little doubtful and uneasy.

"Well, I had meant that no one should go up until all this was gone
into," he answered. "I don't want any more accidents. You'll be careful?"

"We're both young and agile," responded Copplestone.

"There's no need for alarm. Do you care to go up, Mr. Gilling?"

The pseudo-curate accepted the invitation readily, and he and
Copplestone entered the turret. They had climbed half its height before
Copplestone spoke.

"Well?" he whispered. "What do you think?"

"It may be accident," muttered Gilling. "It--mayn't."

"You think he might have been--what?--thrown down?"

"Might have been caught unawares, and pushed over. Let's see what there
is up above, anyway."

The stair in the turret, much worn, but comparatively safe, and lighted
by loopholes and arrow-slits, terminated in a low arched doorway, through
which egress was afforded to a parapet which ran completely round the
inner wall of the Keep. It was in no place more than a yard wide; the
balustrading which fenced it in was in some places completely gone, a
mere glance was sufficient to show that only a very cool-headed and
extremely sure-footed person ought to traverse it. Copplestone contented
himself with an inspection from the archway; he looked down and saw at
once that a fall from that height must mean sure and swift death: he saw,
too, that Greyle had been quite right in saying that the sudden plunge of
Oliver's body through the leafy screen far beneath had made little
difference to the appearance of that screen as seen from above. And now
that he saw everything it seemed to him that the real truth might well
lie in one word--accident.

"Coming round this parapet?" asked Gilling, who was looking narrowly
about him.

"No!" replied Copplestone. "I can't stand looking down from great
heights. It makes my head swim. Are you?"

"Sure!" answered Gilling. He took off his heavy overcoat and handed it to
his companion. "Mind holding it?" he asked. "I want to have a good look
at the exact spot from which Oliver must have fallen. There's the
gap--such as it is, and it doesn't look much from here, does it?--in the
green stuff, down below, so he must have been here on the parapet exactly
above it. Gad! it's very narrow, and a bit risky, this, when all's said
and done!"

Copplestone watched his companion make his way round to the place from
which it was only too evident Oliver must have fallen. Gilling went
slowly, carefully inspecting every yard of the moss and lichen-covered
stones. Once he paused some time and seemed to be examining a part of the
parapet with unusual attention. When he reached the precise spot at which
he had aimed, he instantly called across to Copplestone.

"There's no doubt about his having fallen from here!" he said. "Some of
the masonry on the very edge of this parapet is loose. I could dislodge
it with a touch."

"Then be careful," answered Copplestone. "Don't cross that bit!"

But Gilling quietly continued his progress and returned to his companion
by the opposite side from which he had set out, having thus accomplished
the entire round. He quietly reassumed his overcoat.

"No doubt about the fall," he said as they turned down the stair. "The
next thing is--was it accidental?"

"And--as regards that--what's to be done next?" asked Copplestone.

"That's easy. We must go at once and wire for Sir Cresswell and old
Petherton," replied Gilling. "It's now four-thirty. If they catch an
evening express at King's Cross they'll get here early in the morning. If
they like to motor from Norcaster they can get here in the small hours.
But--they must be here for that inquest."

Greyle was talking to Chatfield at the foot of the Keep when they got
down. The agent turned surlily away, but the Squire looked at both with
an unmistakable eagerness.

"There's no doubt whatever that Oliver fell from the parapet," said
Copplestone. "The marks of a fall are there--quite unmistakably."

Greyle nodded, but made no remark, and the two made their way through
the still eager crowd and went down to the village post-office. Both were
wondering, as they went, about the same thing--the evident anxiety and
mental uneasiness of Marston Greyle.



CHAPTER XII

GOOD MEN AND TRUE


Copplestone saw little of his bed that night. At seven o'clock in the
evening came a telegram from Sir Cresswell Oliver, saying that he and
Petherton were leaving at once, would reach Norcaster soon after
midnight, and would motor out to Scarhaven immediately on arrival.
Copplestone made all arrangements for their reception, and after
snatching a couple of hours' sleep was up to receive them. By two o'clock
in the morning Sir Cresswell and the old solicitor and Gilling--smuggled
into their sitting-room--had heard all he had to tell about Zachary
Spurge and his story.

"We must have that fellow at the inquest," said Petherton. "At any cost
we must have him! That's flat!"

"You think it wise?" asked Sir Cresswell. "Won't it be a bit previous?
Wouldn't it be better to wait until we know more?"

"No--we must have his evidence," declared Petherton. "It will serve as an
opening. Besides, this inquest will have to be adjourned--I shall ask for
that. No--Spurge must be produced."

"If Spurge comes into Scarhaven," observed Copplestone, "he'll be
promptly collared by the police. They want him for poaching."

"Then they can get him when the proceedings are over," retorted the old
lawyer, dryly. "They daren't touch him while he's giving evidence and
that's all we want. Perhaps he won't come?--Oh he'll come all right if
we make it worth his while. A month in Norcaster gaol will mean nothing
to him if he knows there's a chance of that reward or something
substantial out of it at the end of his sentence. You must go out to
this retreat of his and bring him in--we must have him. Better go very
early in the morning.

"I'll go now," said Copplestone. "It's as easy to go by night as by day."
He left the other three to seek their beds, and himself slipped quietly
out of the hotel by one of the ground-floor windows and set off in a
pitch-black night to seek Spurge in his lair. And after sundry barkings
of his shins against the rocks and scratchings of his hands and cheeks by
the undergrowth of Hobkin's Hole he rounded the poacher out and delivered
his message.

Spurge, blinking at his visitor in the pale light of a guttering candle,
shook his head.

"I'll come, guv'nor," he said. "Of course. I'll come--and I'll trust to
luck to get away, and it don't matter a deal if the luck's agen me--I've
done a month in Norcaster before today, and it ain't half a bad
rest-cure, if you only take it that way. But guv'nor--that old lawyer's
making a mistake! You didn't ought to have my bit of evidence at this
stage. It's too soon. You want to work up the case a bit. There's such a
thing, guv'nor, in this world as being a bit previous. This here's too
previous--you want to be surer of your facts. Because you know, guv'nor
nobody'll believe my word agen Squire Greyle's. Guv'nor--this here
inquest'll be naught but a blooming farce! Mark me! You ain't a native o'
this part--I am. D'you think as how a Scarhaven jury's going to say aught
agen its own Squire and landlord? Not it! I say, guv'nor--all a blooming
farce! Mark my words!"

"All the same, you'll come?" asked Copplestone, who was secretly of
Spurge's opinion. "You won't lose by it in the long run."

"Oh, I'll be there," responded Spurge. "Out of curiosity, if for nothing
else. You mayn't see me at first, but, let the lawyer from London call my
name out, and Zachary Spurge'll step forward."

There was abundant cover for Zachary Spurge and for half-a-dozen like him
in the village school-house when the inquest was opened at ten-o'clock
that morning. It seemed to Copplestone that it would have been a physical
impossibility to crowd more people within the walls than had assembled
when the coroner, a local solicitor, who was obviously testy, irritable,
self-important and afflicted with deafness, took his seat and looked
sourly on the crowd of faces. Copplestone had already seen him in
conversation with the village doctor, the village police, Chatfield, and
Marston Greyle's solicitor, and he began to see the force of Spurge's
shrewd remarks. What, of course, was most desired was secrecy and
privacy--the Scarhaven powers had no wish that the attention of all the
world should be drawn to this quiet place. But outsiders were there in
plenty. Stafford and several members of Bassett Oliver's company had
motored over from Norcaster and had succeeded in getting good places:
there were half-a-dozen reporters from Norcaster and Northborough, and
plain-clothes police from both towns. And there, too, were all the
principal folk of the neighbourhood, and Mrs. Greyle and her daughter,
and, a little distance from Audrey, alert and keenly interested, was
Addie Chatfield.

It needed very little insight or observation on the part of an
intelligent spectator to see how things were going. The twelve good men
and true, required under the provisions of the old statute to form a
jury, were all of them either Scarhaven tradesmen or Scarhaven
householders or labourers on the estate. Their countenances, as they took
their seats under the foremanship of a man whom Copplestone already knew
as Chatfield's under-steward, showed plainly that they regarded the whole
thing as a necessary formality and that they were already prepared with a
verdict. This impression was strengthened by the coroner's opening
remarks. In his opinion, the whole affair--to which he did not even refer
as unfortunate--was easily and quickly explained and understood. The
deceased had come to the village to look round--on a Sunday be it
observed--had somehow obtained access to the Keep, where, the ruins being
strictly private and not open to the public on any consideration on
Sunday, he had no right to be; had indulged his curiosity by climbing to
the top of the ancient tower and had paid for it by falling down from
that terrible height and breaking his neck. All that was necessary was
for them to hear evidence bearing out these facts--after which they would
return a verdict in accordance with what they had heard. Very fortunately
the facts were plain, and it would not be necessary to call many
witnesses.

Sir Cresswell Oliver turned to Copplestone who sat at one side of him,
while Petherton sat on the other.

"I don't know if you notice that Greyle isn't here?" he whispered grimly.
"In my opinion, he doesn't intend to show! We'll see!"

Certainly the Squire was not in the place. And there were soon signs that
those who conducted the proceedings evidently did not consider his
presence necessary. The witnesses were few; their examinations was
perfunctory; they were out of the extemporised witness-box as soon as
they were in it. Sir Cresswell Oliver--to give formal identification.
Mrs. Wooler--to prove that the deceased man came to her house. One of the
foremen of the estate--to prove the great care with which the Squire had
searched for traces of the missing man. One of the estate labourers--to
prove the actual finding of the body. The doctor--to prove, beyond all
doubt, that the deceased had broken his neck.

The coroner, an elderly man, obviously well satisfied with the trend of
things, took off his spectacles and turned to the jury.

"You have heard everything there is to be heard, gentlemen," said he. "As
I remarked at the opening of this inquest, the case is one of great
simplicity. You will have no difficulty in deciding that the deceased
came to his death by accident--as to the exact wording of your verdict,
you had better put it in this way:--that the deceased Bassett Oliver died
as the result--"

Petherton, who, noticing the coroner's deafness, had contrived to seat
himself as close to his chair of office as possible, quietly rose.

"Before the jury consider any verdict," he said in his loudest tones,
"they must hear certain evidence which I wish to call. And first of
all--is Mr. Marston Greyle present in this room?"

The coroner frowned, and the Squire's solicitor turned to Petherton.

"Mr. Greyle is not present," he said. "He is not at all well. There is no
need for his presence--he has no evidence to give."

"If you don't have Mr. Greyle down here at once," said Petherton,
quietly, "this inquest will have to be adjourned for his attendance.
You had better send for him--or I'll get the authorities to do so. In
the meantime, we 'll call one or two witnesses,--Daniel Ewbank!--to
begin with."

There was a brief and evidently anxious consultation between Greyle's
solicitor and the coroner; there were dark looks at Petherton and his
companions. Then the foreman of the jury spoke, sullenly.

"We don't want to hear no Ewbanks!" he said. "We're quite satisfied, us
as sits here. Our verdict is--"

"You'll have to bear Ewbank and anybody I like to call, my good sir,"
retorted Petherton quietly. "I am better acquainted with the law than you
are." He turned to the coroner's officer. "I warned you this morning to
produce Ewbank," he said. "Now, where is he?"

Out of a deep silence a shrill voice came from the rear of the crowd.

"Knows better than to be here, does Dan'l Ewbank, mister! He's off!"

"Very good--or bad--for somebody," remarked Petherton, quietly.
"Then--until Mr. Marston Greyle comes--we will call Zachary Spurge."

The assemblage, jurymen included, broke into derisive laughter as Spurge
suddenly appeared from the most densely packed corner of the room, and it
was at once evident to Copplestone that whatever the poacher might say,
no one there would attach any importance to it. The laughter continued
and increased while Spurge was under examination. Petherton appealed to
the coroner; the coroner affected not to hear. And once more the foreman
of the jury interrupted.

"We don't want to hear no more o' this stuff!" he said. "It's an insult
to us to put a fellow like that before us. We don't believe a word o'
what he says. We don't believe he was within a mile o' them ruins on
Sunday afternoon. It's all a put-up job!"

Petherton leaned towards the reporters.

"I hope you gentlemen of the press will make a full note of these
proceedings," he observed suavely. "You at any rate are not biassed or
prejudiced."

The coroner heard that in spite of his deafness, and he grew purple.

"Sir!" he exclaimed. "That is a most improper observation! It's a
reflection on my position, sir, and I've a great mind--"

"Mr. Coroner," observed Petherton, leaning towards him, "I shall hand in
a full report concerning your conduct of these proceedings to the Home
Office tomorrow. If you attempt to interfere with my duty here, all the
worse for you. Now, Spurge, you can stand down. And as I see Mr. Greyle
there--call Marston Greyle!"

The Squire had appeared while Spurge was giving his evidence, and had
heard what the poacher alleged. He entered the box very pale, angry, and
disturbed, and the glances which he cast on Sir Cresswell Oliver and his
party were distinctly those of displeasure.

"Swear him!" commanded Petherton. "Now, Mr. Greyle--"

But Greyle's own solicitor was on his legs, insisting on his right to put
a first question. In spite of Petherton, he put it.

"You heard the evidence of the last witness?--Spurge. Is there a word of
truth in it?"

Marston Greyle--who certainly looked very unwell--moistened his lips.

"Not one word!" he answered. "It's a lie!"

The solicitor glanced triumphantly at the Coroner and the jury, and the
crowd raised unchecked murmurs of approval. Again the foreman endeavoured
to stop the proceedings.

"We regard all this here as very rude conduct to Mr. Greyle," he said
angrily. "We're not concerned--"

"Mr. Foreman!" said Petherton. "You are a foolish man--you are
interfering with justice. Be warned!--I warn you, if the Coroner doesn't.
Mr. Greyle, I must ask you certain questions. Did you see the deceased
Bassett Oliver on Sunday last?"

"No!"

"I needn't remind you that you are on your oath. Have you ever met the
deceased man in your life?"

"Never!"

"You never met him in America?"

"I may have met him--but not to my recollection. If I did, it was in such
a casual fashion that I have completely forgotten all about it."

"Very well--you are on your oath, mind. Where did you live in America,
before you succeeded to this estate?"

The Squire's solicitor intervened.

"Don't answer that question!" he said sharply. "Don't answer any more. I
object altogether to your line," he went on, angrily, turning to
Petherton. "I claim the Coroner's protection for the witness."

"I quite agree," said the Coroner. "All this is absolutely irrelevant.
You can stand down," he continued, turning to the Squire. "I will have no
more of this--and I will take the full responsibility!"

"And the consequences, Mr. Coroner," replied Petherton calmly. "And the
first consequence is that I now formally demand an adjournment of this
inquest, _sine die_."

"On what grounds, sir?" demanded the Coroner.

"To permit me to bring evidence from America," replied Petherton, with a
side glance at Marston Greyle. "Evidence already being prepared."

The Coroner hesitated, looked at Greyle's solicitor, and then turned
sharply to the jury.

"I refuse that application!" he said. "You have heard all I have to say,
gentlemen," he went on, "and you can return your verdict."

Petherton quietly gathered up his papers and motioned to his friends to
follow him out of the schoolroom. The foreman of the jury was returning a
verdict of accidental death as they passed through the door, and they
emerged into the street to an accompaniment of loud cheers for the Squire
and groans for themselves.

"What a travesty of justice!" exclaimed Sir Cresswell. "That fellow
Spurge was right, you see, Copplestone. I wish we hadn't brought him
into danger."

Copplestone suddenly laughed and touched Sir Cresswell's arm. He pointed
to the edge of the moorland just outside the school-yard. Spurge was
disappearing over that edge, and in a moment had vanished.



CHAPTER XIII

MR. DENNIE


Amongst the little group of actors and actresses who had come over from
Norcaster to hear all that was to be told concerning their late manager,
sat an old gentleman who, hands folded on the head of his walking cane,
and chin settled on his hands, watched the proceedings with silent and
concentrated attention. He was a striking figure of an old
gentleman--tall, distinguished-looking, handsome, with a face full of
character, the strong lines and features of which were further
accentuated by his silvery hair. He was a smart old gentleman, too, well
and scrupulously attired and groomed, and his blue bird's-eye necktie,
worn at a rakish angle, gave him the air of something of a sporting man
rather than of a follower of Thespis. His fellow members of the Oliver
company seemed to pay him great attention, and at various points of the
proceedings whispered questions to him as to an acknowledged authority.

This old gentleman, when the inquest came to its extraordinary end and
the crowd went out murmuring and disputing, separated himself from his
companions and made his way towards Mrs. Greyle and her daughter, who
were quietly setting out homewards. To Audrey's surprise the two elders
shook hands in silence, and inspected each other with a palpable
wistfulness of look.

"And yet it's twenty-five years since we met, isn't it?" said the old
gentleman, almost as if he were talking to himself. "But I knew you at
once--I was wondering if you remembered me?"

"Why, of course," responded Mrs. Greyle. "Besides, I've had an
advantage over you. I've seen you, you know, several times--at
Norcaster. We go to the theatre now and then. Audrey--this is Mr.
Dennie--you've seen him, too."

"On the stage--on the stage!" murmured the old actor, as he shook hands
with the girl. "Um!--I wonder if any of us are ever really off it! This
affair, for instance--there's a drama for you! By the-bye--this young
Squire--he's your relation, of course?"

"My nephew-in-law, and Audrey's cousin," replied Mrs. Greyle. Mr. Dennie,
who had walked along with them towards their cottage, stopped in a quiet
stretch of the quay, and looked meditatively at Audrey.

"Then this young lady," he said, "is next heir to the Greyle estates, eh?
For I understand this present Squire isn't married. Therefore--"

"Oh, that's something that isn't worth thinking about," replied Mrs.
Greyle hastily. "Don't put such notions into the girl's head, Mr. Dennie.
Besides, the Greyle estates are not entailed, you know. The present owner
can do what he pleases with them--besides that, he's sure to marry."

"All the same," observed Mr. Dennie, imperturbably, "if this young man
had not been in existence, this child would have succeeded, eh?"

"Why, of course," agreed Mrs. Greyle a little impatiently. "But what's
the use of talking about that, my old friend! The young man is in
possession--and there you are!"

"Do you like the young man?" asked Mr. Dennie. "I take an old fellow's
privilege in asking direct questions, you know. And--though we haven't
seen each other for all these years--you can say anything tome."

"No, we don't," replied Mrs. Greyle. "And we don't know why we don't--so
there's a woman's answer for you. Kinsfolk though we are, we see little
of each other."

Mr. Dennie made no remark on this. He walked along at Audrey's side,
apparently in deep thought, and suddenly he looked across at her mother.

"What do you think about this extraordinary story of Bassett Oliver's
having met a Marston Greyle over there in America?" he asked abruptly.
"What do people here think about it?"

"We're not in a position to hear much of what other people think,"
answered Mrs. Greyle. "What I think is that if this Marston Greyle ever
did meet such a very notable and noticeable man as Bassett Oliver it's a
very, very strange thing that he's forgotten all about it!"

Mr. Dennie laughed quietly.

"Aye, aye!" he said. "But--don't you think we folk of the profession are
a little bit apt to magnify our own importance? You say 'Bless me, how
could anybody ever forget an introduction to Bassett Oliver!' But we must
remember that to some people even a famous actor is of no more importance
than--shall we say a respectable grocer? Marston Greyle may be one of
those people--it's quite possible he may have been introduced, quite
casually, to Oliver at some club, or gathering, something-or-other, over
there and have quite forgotten all about it. Quite possible, I think."

"I agree with you as to the possibility, but certainly not as to the
probability," said Mrs. Greyle, dryly. "Bassett Oliver was the sort of
man whom nobody would forget. But here we are at our cottage--you'll come
in, Mr. Dennie?"

"It will only have to be for a little time, my dear lady," said the old
actor, pulling out his watch. "Our people are going back very soon, and I
must join them at the station."

"I'll give you a glass of good old wine," said Mrs. Greyle as they went
into the cottage. "I have some that belonged to my father-in-law, the old
Squire. You must taste it--for old times' sake."

Mr. Dennie followed Audrey into the little parlour as Mrs. Greyle
disappeared to another part of the house. And the instant they were
alone, he tapped the girl's arm and gave her a curiously warning look.

"Hush, my dear!" he whispered. "Not a word--don't want your mother to
know! Listen--have you a specimen--letter--anything--of your cousin, the
Squire's handwriting? Anything so long as it's his. You have? Give it to
me--say nothing to your mother. Wait until tomorrow morning. I'll run
over to see you again--about noon. It's important--but silence!"

Audrey, scarcely understanding the old man's meaning, opened a desk and
drew out one or two letters. She selected one and handed it to Mr.
Dennie, who made haste to put it away before Mrs. Greyle returned. He
gave Audrey another warning look.

"That was what I wanted!" he said mysteriously. "I thought of it during
the inquest. Never mind why, just now--you shall know tomorrow."

He lingered a few minutes, chatting to his hostess about old times as he
sipped the old Squire's famous port; then he went off to the little
station, joined Stafford and his fellow actors and actresses, and
returned with them to Norcaster. And at Norcaster Mr. Dennie separated
himself from the rest and repaired to his quiet lodgings--rooms which he
had occupied for many years in succession whenever he went that way on
tour--and once safely bestowed in them he pulled out a certain
old-fashioned trunk, which he had owned since boyhood and lugged about
wherever he went in two continents, and from it, after much methodical
unpacking, he disinterred a brown paper parcel, neatly tied up with green
ribbon. From this parcel he drew a thin packet of typed matter and a
couple of letters--the type script he laid aside, the letters he opened
out on his table. Then he took from his pocket the letter which Audrey
Greyle had given him and put it side by side with those taken from the
parcel. And after one brief glance at all three Mr. Dennie made
typescript and letters up again into a neat packet, restored them to his
trunk, locked them up, and turned to the two hours' rest which he always
took before going to the theatre for his evening's work.

He was back at Scarhaven by eleven o'clock the next morning, with his
neat packet under his arm and he held it up significantly to Audrey who
opened the door of the cottage to him.

"Something to show you," he said with a quiet smile as he walked in.
"To show you and your mother." He stopped short on the threshold of the
little parlour, where Copplestone was just then talking to Mrs. Greyle.
"Oh!" he said, a little disappointedly, "I hoped to find you
alone--I'll wait."

Mrs. Greyle explained who Copplestone was, and Mr. Dennie immediately
brightened. "Of course--of course!" he explained. "I know! Glad to meet
you, Mr. Copplestone--you don't know me, but I know you--or your
work--well enough. It was I who read and recommended your play to our
poor dear friend. It's a little secret, you know," continued Mr. Dennie,
laying his packet on the table, "but I have acted for a great many years
as Bassett Oliver's literary adviser--taster, you might say. You know, he
had a great number of plays sent to him, of course, and he was a very
busy man, and he used to hand them over to me in the first place, to take
a look at, a taste of, you know, and if I liked the taste, why, then he
took a mouthful himself, eh? And that brings me to the very point, my
dear ladies and my dear young gentleman, that I have come specially to
Scarhaven this morning to discuss. It's a very, very serious matter
indeed," he went on as he untied his packet of papers, "and I fear that
it's only the beginning of something more serious. Come round me here at
this table, all of you, if you please."

The other three drew up chairs, each wondering what was coming, and
the old actor resumed his eyeglasses and gave obvious signs of
making a speech.

"Now I want you all to attend to me, very closely," he said. "I shall
have to go into a detailed explanation, and you will very soon see what
I am after. As you may be aware, I have been a personal friend of
Bassett Oliver for some years, and a member of his company without break
for the last eight years. I accompanied Oliver Bassett on his two trips
to the United States--therefore, I was with him when he was last there,
years ago.

"Now, while we were at Chicago that time, Bassett came to me one day with
the typescript of a one-act play and told me that it had been sent to him
by a correspondent signing himself Marston Greyle; who in a covering
letter, said that he sprang from an old English family, and that the play
dealt with a historic, romantic episode in its history. The principal
part, he believed, was one which would suit Bassett--therefore he begged
him to consider the matter. Bassett asked me to read the play, and I took
it away, with the writer's letter, for that purpose. But we were just
then very busy, and I had no opportunity of reading anything for a time.
Later on, we went to St. Louis, and there, of course, Bassett, as usual,
was much fêted and went out a great deal, lunching with people and so on.
One day he came to me, 'By-the-bye, Dennie!' he said, 'I met that Mr.
Marston Greyle today who sent me that romantic one-act thing. He wanted
to know if I'd read it, and I had to confess that it was in your hands.
Have you looked at it?' I, too, had to confess--I hadn't. 'Well,' said
he, 'read it and let me know what you think--will it suit me?' I made
time to read the little play during the following week, and I told
Bassett that I didn't think it would suit him, but I felt sure it might
suit Montagu Gaines, who plays just such parts. Bassett thereupon wrote
to the author and said what I, his reader, thought, and kindly offered,
as he knew Gaines intimately, to show the little work to him on his
return to England. And this Mr. Marston Greyle wrote back, thanking
Bassett warmly and accepting his kind offer. Accordingly, I brought the
play with me to England. Montagu Gaines, however, had just set off on a
two years' tour to Australia--consequently, the play and the author's two
letters have remained in my possession ever since. And--here they are!"

Mr. Dennie laid his hand dramatically on his packet, looked significantly
at his audience, and went on.

"Now, when I heard all that I did hear at that inquest yesterday," he
said, "I naturally remembered that I had in my possession two letters
which were undoubtedly written to Bassett Oliver by a young man named
Marston Greyle, whom Oliver--just as undoubtedly!--had personally met in
St. Louis. And so when the inquest was over, Mr. Copplestone, I recalled
myself to Mrs. Greyle here, whom I had known many years ago, and I walked
back to this house with her and her charming daughter, and--don't be
angry, Mrs. Greyle--while the mother's back was turned--on hospitable
thoughts intent--I got the daughter to lend me--secretly--a letter
written by the present Squire of Scarhaven. Armed with that, I went home
to my lodgings in Norcaster, found the letter written by the American
Marston Greyle, and compared it with them. And--here is the result!"

The old actor selected the two American letters from his papers, laid
them out on the table, and placed the letter which Audrey had given him
beside them.

"Now!" he said, as his three companions bent eagerly over these exhibits,
"Look at those three letters. All bear the same signature, Marston
Greyle--but the hand-writing of those two is as different from that of
this one as chalk is from cheese!"



CHAPTER XIV

BY PRIVATE TREATY


There was little need for the three deeply interested listeners to look
long at the letters--one glance was sufficient to show even a careless
eye that the hand which had written one of them had certainly not written
the other two. The letter which Audrey had handed to Mr. Dennie was
penned in the style commonly known as commercial--plain, commonplace,
utterly lacking in the characteristics which are supposed to denote
imagination and a sense of artistry. It was the sort of caligraphy which
one comes across every day in shops and offices and banks--there was
nothing in any upstroke, downstroke or letter which lifted it from the
very ordinary. But the other two letters were evidently written by a man
of literary and artistic sense, possessing imagination and a liking for
effect. It needed no expert in handwriting to declare that two totally
different individuals had written those letters.

"And now," observed Mr. Dennie, breaking the silence and putting into
words what each of the others was vaguely feeling, "the question is--what
does all this mean? To start with, Marston Greyle is a most uncommon
name. Is it possible there can be two persons of that name? That, at any
rate, is the first thing that strikes me."

"It is not the first thing that strikes me," said Mrs. Greyle. She took
up the typescript which the old actor had brought in his packet, and held
its title-page significantly before him. "That is the first thing that
strikes me!" she exclaimed. "The Marston Greyle who sent this to Bassett
Oliver said according to your story--that he sprang from a very old
family in England, and that this is a dramatization of a romantic episode
in its annals. Now there is no other old family in England named Greyle,
and this episode is of course, the famous legend of how Prince Rupert
once sought refuge in the Keep yonder and had a love-passage with a lady
of the house. Am I right, Mr. Dennie?"

"Quite right, ma'am, quite correct," replied the old actor. "It is
so--you have guessed correctly!"

"Very well, then--the Marston Greyle who wrote this, and those letters,
and who met Bassett Oliver was without doubt the son of Marcus Greyle,
who went to America many years ago. He was the same Marston Greyle, who,
his father being dead, of course succeeded his uncle, Stephen John
Greyle--that seems an absolute certainty. And in that case," continued
Mrs. Greyle, looking earnestly from one to the other, "in that case--who
is the man now at Scarhaven Keep?"

A dead silence fell on the little room. Audrey started and flushed at her
mother's eager, pregnant question; Mr. Dennie sat up very erect and took
a pinch of snuff from his old-fashioned box. Copplestone pushed his chair
away from the table and began to walk about. And Mrs. Greyle continued to
look from one face to the other as if demanding a reply to her question.

"Mother!" said Audrey in a low voice. "You aren't suggesting--"

"Ahem!" interrupted Mr. Dennie. "A moment, my dear. There is nothing, I
believe," he continued, waxing a little oracular, "nothing like plain
speech. We are all friends--we have a common cause--justice! It may be
that justice demands our best endeavours not only as regards our deceased
friend, Bassett Oliver, but in the interests of--this young lady. So--"

"I wish you wouldn't, Mr. Dennie!" exclaimed Audrey. "I don't like this
at all. Please don't!"

She turned, almost instinctively, to seek Copplestone's aid in repressing
the old man. But Copplestone was standing by the window, staring moodily
at the wind-swept quay beyond the garden, and Mr. Dennie waved his
snuff-box and went on.

"An old man's privilege!" he said. "In your interests, my dear. Allow
me." He turned again to Mrs. Greyle. "In plain words, ma'am, you are
wondering if the present holder of the estates is really what he claims
to be. Plain English, eh?"

"I am!" answered Mrs. Greyle with a distinct ring of challenge and
defiance. "And now that it comes to the truth, I have wondered that ever
since he came here. There!"

"Why, mother?" asked Audrey, wonderingly.

"Because he doesn't possess a single Greyle characteristic," replied Mrs.
Greyle, readily enough, "I ought to know--I married Valentine Greyle,
and I knew Stephen John, and I saw plenty of both, and something of their
father, too, and a little of Marcus before he emigrated. This man does
not possess one Single scrap of the Greyle temperament!"

Mr. Dennie put away his snuff-box and drumming on the table with his
fingers looked out of his eye corners at Copplestone who still stood with
his back to the rest, staring out of the window.

"And what," said Mr. Dennie, softly, "what--er, does our good friend Mr.
Copplestone say?"

Copplestone turned swiftly, and gave Audrey a quick glance.

"I say," he answered in a sharp, business-like fashion, "that Gilling,
who's stopping at the inn, you know, is walking up and down outside here,
evidently looking out for me, and very anxious to see me, and with your
permission, Mrs. Greyle, I'd like to have him in. Now that things have
got to this pitch, I'd better tell you something--I don't see any good in
concealing it longer. Gilling isn't an invalid curate at all!--he's a
private detective. Sir Cresswell Oliver and Petherton, the solicitor,
sent him down here to watch Greyle--the Squire, you know--that's
Gilling's job. They suspect Greyle--have suspected him from the very
first--but of what I don't know. Not--not of this, I think. Anyway, they
do suspect him, and Gilling's had his eye on him ever since he came here.
And I'd like to fetch Gilling in here, and I'd like him to know all that
Mr. Dennie's told us. Because, don't you see, Sir Cresswell and
Petherton ought to know all that, immediately, and Gilling's their man."

Audrey's brows had been gathering in lines of dismay and perplexity
all the time Copplestone was talking, but her mother showed no
signs of anything but complete composure, crowned by something very
like satisfaction, and she nodded a ready acquiescence in
Copplestone's proposal.

"By all means!" she responded. "Bring Mr. Gilling in at once."

Copplestone hurried out into the garden and signalled to the
pseudo-curate, who came hurrying across from the quay. One glance at him
showed Copplestone that something had happened.

"Gad!--I thought I should never attract your attention!" said Gilling
hastily. "Been making eyes at you for ten minutes. I say--Greyle's off!"

"Off!" exclaimed Copplestone. "How do you mean--off?"

"Left Scarhaven, anyhow--for London," replied Gilling. "An hour ago I
happened to be at the station, buying a paper, when he drove up--luggage
and man with him, so I knew he was off for some time. And I took good
care to dodge round by the booking-office when the man took the tickets.
King's Cross. So that's all right, for the time being."

"How do you mean--all right?" asked Copplestone. "I thought you were to
keep him in sight?"

"All right," repeated Gilling. "I have more eyes than these, my boy! I've
a particularly smart partner in London--name of Swallow--and he and I
have a cypher code. So soon as the gentleman had left, I repaired to the
nearest post office and wired a code message to Swallow. Swallow will
meet that train when it strikes King's Cross. And it doesn't matter if
Greyle hides himself in one of the spikes on top of the Monument or
inside the lion house at the Zoo--Swallow will be there! No man ever got
away from Swallow--once Swallow had set eyes on him."

Copplestone looked, listened, and laughed.

"Professional pride!" he said. "All right. I want you to come in here
with me--to Mrs. Greyle's. Something's happened here, too. And of such a
serious nature that I've taken the liberty of telling them who and what
you really are. You'll forgive me when you hear what it is that we've
learnt here this morning."

Gilling had looked rather doubtful at Copplestone's announcement, but he
immediately turned towards the cottage.

"Oh, well!" he said good-naturedly. "I'm sure you wouldn't have told if
you hadn't felt there was good reason. What is this fresh news?--something
about--him?"

"Very much about him," answered Copplestone. "Come in."

He himself, at Mrs. Greyle's request, gave Gilling a brief account of
Mr. Dennie's revelations, the old actor supplementing it with a shrewd
remark or two. And then all four turned to Gilling as to an expert in
these matters.

"Queer!" observed Gilling. "Decidedly queer! There may be some
explanation, you know: I've known stranger things than that turn out to
be perfectly straight and plain when they were gone into. But--putting
all the facts together--I don't think there's much doubt that there's
something considerably wrong in this case. I should like to repeat it to
my principals--I must go up to town in any event this afternoon. Better
let me have all those documents, Mr. Dennie--I'll give you a proper
receipt for them. There's something very valuable in them, anyhow."

"What?" asked Copplestone.

"The address in St. Louis from which that Marston Greyle wrote to Bassett
Oliver." replied Gilling. "We can communicate with that address--at once.
We may learn something there. But," he went on, turning to Mrs. Greyle,
"I want to learn something here--and now. I want to know where and under
what circumstances the Squire came to Scarhaven. You were here then, of
course, Mrs. Greyle? You can tell me?"

"He came very quietly," replied Mrs. Greyle. "Nobody in Scarhaven--unless
it was Peter Chatfield--knew of his coming. In fact, nobody in these
parts, at any rate--knew he was in England. The family solicitors in
London may have known. But nothing was ever said or written to me, though
my daughter, failing this man, is the next in succession."

"I do wish you'd leave all that out, mother!" exclaimed Audrey. "I
don't like it."

"Whether you like it or not, it's the fact," said Mrs. Greyle
imperturbably, "and it can't be left out. Well, as I say, no one knew the
Squire had come to England, until one day Chatfield calmly walked down
the quay with him, introducing him right and left. He brought him here."

"Ah!" said Gilling. "That's interesting. Now I wonder if you found out if
he was well up in the family history?"

"Not then, but afterwards," answered Mrs. Greyle. "He is particularly
well up in the Greyle records--suspiciously well up."

"Why suspiciously?" asked Cobblestone.

"He knows more--in a sort of antiquarian and historian fashion--than
you'd suppose a young man of his age would," said Mrs. Greyle. "He gives
you the impression of having read it up--studied it deeply. And--his
usual tastes don't lie in that direction."

"Ah!" observed Mr. Dennie, musingly. "Bad sign, ma'am,--bad sign! Looks
as if he had been--shall we say put up to overstudying his part. That's
possible! I have known men who were so anxious to be what one calls
letter-perfect, Mr. Copplestone, that though they knew their parts, they
didn't know how to play them. Fact, sir!"

While the old actor was chuckling over this reminiscence, Gilling turned
quietly to Mrs. Greyle.

"I think you suspect this man?" he said.

"Frankly--yes," replied Mrs. Greyle. "I always have done, though I have
said so little--"

"Mother!" interrupted Audrey. "Is it really worth while saying so much
now! After all, we know nothing, and if this is all mere
supposition--however," she broke off, rising and going away from the
group, "perhaps I had better say nothing."

Copplestone too rose and followed her into the window recess.

"I say!" he said entreatingly. "I hope you don't think me interfering? I
assure you--"

"You!" she exclaimed. "Oh, no!--of course. I think you're anxious to
clear things up about Mr. Oliver. But I don't want my mother dragged into
it--for a simple reason. We've got to live here--and Chatfield is a
vindictive man."

"You're frightened of him?" said Copplestone incredulously. "You!"

"Not for myself," she answered, giving him a warning look and glancing
apprehensively at Mrs. Greyle, who was talking eagerly to Mr. Dennie and
Gilling. "But my mother is not as strong as she looks and it would be a
blow to her to leave this place and we are the Squire's tenants, and
therefore at Chatfield's mercy. And you know that Chatfield does as he
likes! Now do you understand?"

"It maddens me to think that you should be at Chatfield's mercy!"
muttered Copplestone. "But do you really mean to say that if--if
Chatfield thought you--that is, your mother--were mixed up in anything
relating to the clearing up of this affair he would--"

"Drive us out without mercy," replied Audrey. "That's dead certain."

"And that your cousin would let him?" exclaimed Copplestone.
"Surely not!"

"I don't think the Squire has any control over Chatfield," she answered.
"You have seen them together."

"If that's so," said Copplestone, "I shall begin to think there is
something queer about the Squire in the way your mother suggests. It
looks as if Chatfield had a hold on him. And in that case--"

He suddenly broke off as a smart automobile drove up to the cottage door
and set down a tall, distinguished-looking man who after a glance at the
little house walked quickly up the garden. Audrey's face showed surprise.

"Mother!" she said, turning to Mrs. Greyle. "There's Lord Altmore here!
He must want you. Or shall I go?"

Mrs. Greyle quitted the room hastily. The others heard her welcome the
visitor, lead him up the tiny hall; they heard a door shut. Audrey looked
at Copplestone.

"You've heard of Lord Altmore, haven't you?" she said. "He's our
biggest man in these parts--he owns all the country at the back,
mountains, valleys, everything. The Greyle land shuts him off from the
sea. In the old days, Greyles and Altmores used to fight over their
boundaries, and--"

Mrs. Greyle suddenly showed herself again and looked at her daughter.

"Will you come here, Audrey?" she said. "You gentlemen will excuse both
of us for a few minutes?"

Mother and daughter went away, and the two young men drew up their
chairs to the table at which Mr. Dennie sat and exchanged views with him
on the curious situation. Half-an-hour went by; then steps and voices
were heard in the hall and the garden; Mrs. Greyle and Audrey were seeing
their visitor out to his car. In a few minutes the car sped away, and
they came back to the parlour. One glance at their faces showed Gilling
that some new development had cropped up and he nudged Copplestone.

"Here is remarkable news!" said Mrs. Greyle as she went back to her
chair. "Lord Altmore called to tell me of something that he thought I
ought to know. It is almost unbelievable, yet it is a fact. Marston
Greyle--if he is Marston Greyle!--has offered to sell Lord Altmore the
entire Scarhaven estate, by private treaty. Imagine it!--the estate which
has belonged to the Greyles for five hundred years!"



CHAPTER XV

THE CABLEGRAM FROM NEW YORK


The two younger men received this announcement with no more than looks
of astonished inquiry, but the elder one coughed significantly, had
further recourse to his snuff-box and turned to Mrs. Greyle with a
knowing glance.

"My dear lady!" he said impressively. "Now this is a matter in which I
believe I can be of service--real service! You may have forgotten the
fact--it is all so long ago--and perhaps I never mentioned it in the old
days--but the truth is that before I went on the stage, I was in the law.
The fact is, I am a duly and fully qualified solicitor--though," he
added, with a dry chuckle, "it is a good five and twenty years since I
paid the six pounds for the necessary annual certificate. But I have not
forgotten my law--or some of it--and no doubt I can furbish up a little
more, if necessary. You say that Mr. Marston Greyle, the present owner of
Scarhaven, has offered to sell his estate to Lord Altmore? But--is not
the estate entailed?"

"No!" replied Mrs. Greyle. "It is not."

Mr. Dennie's face fell--unmistakably. He took another pinch of snuff and
shook his head.

"Then in that case," he said dryly, "all the lawyers in the world can't
help. It's his--absolutely--and he can do what he pleases with it. Five
hundred years, you say? Remarkable!--that a man should want to sell land
his forefathers have walked over for half a thousand years!
Extraordinary!"

"Did Lord Altmore say if any reason had been given him as to why Mr.
Greyle wished to sell?" asked Gilling.

"Yes," replied Mrs. Greyle, who was obviously greatly upset by the recent
news. "He did. Mr. Greyle gave as his reason that the north does not suit
him, and that he wishes to buy an estate in the south of England. He
approached Lord Altmore first because it is well-known that the Altmores
have always been anxious to extend their own borders to the coast."

"Does Lord Altmore want to buy?" asked Gilling.

"It is very evident that he would be quite willing to buy," said
Mrs. Greyle.

"What made him come to you," continued Gilling. "He must have had
some reason?"

"He had a reason," Mrs. Greyle answered, with a glance at Audrey. "He
knows the family history, of course--he is very well aware that my
daughter is at present the heir apparent. He therefore thought we ought
to know of this offer. But that is not quite all. Lord Altmore has, of
course, read the accounts of the inquest in this morning's paper. Also
his steward was present at the inquest. And from what he has read, and
from what his steward told him, Lord Altmore thinks there is something
wrong--he thinks, for instance, that Marston Greyle should explain this
mystery about the meeting with Bassett Oliver in America. At any rate,
he will go no further in any negotiations until that mystery is
properly cleared up. Shall I tell you what Lord Altmore said on that
point? He said--"

"Is it worth while, mother?" interrupted Audrey. "It was only his
opinion."

"It is worth while--amongst ourselves--" insisted Mrs. Greyle. "Why not?
Lord Altmore said--in so many words--'I have a sort of uneasy feeling,
after reading the evidence at that inquest, and hearing what my
steward's impressions were, that this man calling himself Marston Greyle
may not be Marston Greyle at all and I shall want good proof that he is
before I even consider the proposal he has made to me.' There!
So--what's to be done?"

"The law, ma'am," observed Mr. Dennie, solemnly, "the law must step in.
You must get an injunction, ma'am, to prevent Mr. Marston Greyle from
dealing with the property until his own title to it has been established.
That, at any rate, is my opinion."

"May I ask a question?" said Copplestone who had been listening
and thinking intently. "Did Lord Altmore say when this offer was
made to him?"

"Yes," replied Mrs. Greyle. "A week ago."

"A week ago!" exclaimed Copplestone. "That is, before last Sunday--before
the Bassett Oliver episode. Then--the offer to sell is quite independent
of that affair!"

"Strange--and significant!" muttered Gilling.

He rose from his chair and looked at his watch.

"Well," he went on, "I am going off to London. Will you give me leave,
Mrs. Greyle, to report all this to Sir Cresswell Oliver and Mr.
Petherton? They ought to know."

"I'm going, too," declared Copplestone, also rising. "Mrs. Greyle, I'm
sure will entrust the whole matter to us. And Mr. Dennie will trust us
with those papers."

"Oh, certainly, certainly!" asserted Mr. Dennie, pushing his packet
across the table. "Take care of 'em, my boy!--ye don't know how important
they may turn out to be."

"And--Mrs. Greyle?" asked Copplestone.

"Tell whatever you think it best to tell," replied Mrs. Greyle. "My own
opinion is that a lot will have to be told--and to come out, yet."

"We can catch a train in three-quarters of an hour, Copplestone," said
Gilling. "Let's get back and settle up with Mrs. Wooler and be off."

Copplestone contrived to draw Audrey aside.

"This isn't good-bye," he whispered, with a meaning look. "You'll
see me back here before many days are over. But listen--if anything
happens here, if you want anybody's help--in any way--you know what
I mean--promise you'll wire to me at this address. Promise!--or I
won't go."

"Very well," said Audrey, "I promise. But--why shall you come back?"

"Tell you when I come," replied Copplestone with another look.
"But--I shall come--and soon. I'm only going because I want to be of
use--to you."

An hour later he and Gilling were on their way to London, and from
opposite corners of a compartment which they had contrived to get to
themselves, they exchanged looks.

"This is a queer business, Copplestone!" said Gilling. "It strikes me
it's going to be a big one, too. And--it's coming to a point round
Squire Greyle."

"Do you think your man will have tracked him?" asked Copplestone.

"It will be the first time Swallow's ever lost sight of anybody if he
hasn't," answered Gilling. "He's a human ferret! However, I wired to him
just before we left, telling him to meet me at King's Cross, so we'll
get his report. Oh, he'll have followed him all right--I don't imagine
for a moment that Greyle is trying to evade anybody, at this juncture,
at any rate."

But when--four hours later--the train drew into King's Cross--and
Gilling's partner, a young and sharp-looking man, presented himself, it
was with a long and downcast face and a lugubrious shake of the head.

"Done!--for the first time in my life!" he growled in answer to
Gilling's eager inquiry. "Lost him! Never failed before--as you know.
Well, it had to come, I suppose--can't go on without an occasional
defeat. But--I'm a bit licked as to the whole thing--unless your man is
dodging somebody. Is he?"

"Tell your tale," commanded Gilling, motioning Copplestone to follow him
and Swallow aside.

"I was up here in good time this afternoon to meet his train," reported
Swallow. "I spotted him and his man at once; no difficulty, as your
description of both was so full. They were together while the luggage
was got out; then he, Greyle, gave some instructions to the man and left
him. He himself got into a taxi-cab; I got into another close behind and
gave its driver certain orders. Greyle drove straight to the Fragonard
Club--you know."

"Ah!" exclaimed Gilling. "Did he, now? That's worth knowing."

"What's the Fragonard Club?" asked Copplestone. "Never heard of it."

"Club of folk connected with the stage and the music-halls," answered
Gilling, testily. "In a side street, off Shaftesbury Avenue--tell you
more of it, later. Go on, Swallow."

"He paid off his driver there, and went in," continued Swallow. "I paid
mine and hung about--there's only one entrance and exit to that spot, as
you know. He came out again within five minutes, stuffing some letters
into his pocket. He walked away across Shaftesbury Avenue into Wardour
Street--there he went into a tobacconist's shop. Of course, I hung about
again. But this time he didn't come. So at last I walked in--to buy
something. He wasn't there!"

"Pooh!--he'd slipped out--walked out--when you weren't looking!" said
Gilling. "Why didn't you keep your eye on the ball, man?--you!"

"You be hanged!" retorted Swallow. "Never had an eyelash off that shop
door from the time he entered until I, too, entered."

"Then there's a side-door to that shop--into some alley or passage,"
said Gilling.

"Not that I could find," answered Swallow. "Might be at the rear of the
premises perhaps, but I couldn't ascertain, of course. Remember!--there's
another thing. He may have stopped on the premises. There's that in it.
However, I know the shop and the name."

"Why didn't you bring somebody else with you, to follow the man and the
luggage?" demanded Gilling, half-petulantly.

Swallow shook his head.

"There I made a mess of it, I confess," he admitted. "But it never struck
me they'd separate. I thought, of course, they'd drive straight to some
hotel, and--"

"And the long and the short of it is, Greyle's slipped you," said
Gilling. "Well--there's no more to be done tonight. The only thing of
value is that Greyle called at the Fragonard. What's a country
squire--only recently come to England, too!--to do with the Fragonard?
That is worth something. Well--Copplestone, we'd better meet in the
morning at Petherton's. You be there at ten o'clock, and I'll get Sir
Cresswell Oliver to be there, too."

Copplestone betook himself to his rooms in Jermyn Street; it seemed an
age--several ages--since he had last seen the familiar things in them.
During the few days which had elapsed since his hurried setting-off to
meet Bassett Oliver so many things had happened that he felt as if he
had lived a week in a totally different world. He had met death, and
mystery, and what appeared to be sure evidence of deceit and cunning and
perhaps worse--fraud and crime blacker than fraud. But he had also met
Audrey Greyle. And it was only natural that he thought more about her
than of the strange atmosphere of mystery which wrapped itself around
Scarhaven. She, at any rate, was good to think upon, and he thought much
as he looked over the letters that had accumulated, changed his clothes,
and made ready to go and dine at his club, Already he was counting the
hours which must elapse before he would go back to her.

Nevertheless, Copplestone's mind was not entirely absorbed by this
pleasant subject; the events of the day and of the arrival in London
kept presenting themselves. And coming across a fellow club-member
whom he knew for a thorough man about town, he suddenly plumped him
with a question.

"I say!" he said. "Do you know the Fragonard Club?"

"Of course!" replied the other man. "Don't you?"

"Never even heard of it till this evening," said Copplestone.
"What is it?"

"Mixed lot!" answered his companion. "Theatrical and music-hall folk--men
and women--both. Lively spot--sometimes. Like to have a look in when they
have one of their nights?"

"Very much," assented Copplestone. "Are you a member?"

"No, but I know several men who are members," said the other. "I'll fix
it all right. Worth going to when they've what they call a
house-dinner--Sunday night, of course."

"Thanks," said Copplestone. "I suppose membership of that's confined to
the profession, eh?"

"Strictly," replied his friend. "But they ain't at all particular about
their guests--you'll meet all sorts of people there, from judges to
jockeys, and millionairesses to milliners."

Copplestone was still wondering what the Squire of Scarhaven could have
to do with the Fragonard Club when he went to Mr. Petherton's office the
next morning. He was late for the appointment which Gilling had made, and
when he arrived Gilling had already reported all that had taken place the
day before to the solicitor and to Sir Cresswell Oliver. And on that
Copplestone produced the papers entrusted to him by Mr. Dennie and they
all compared the handwritings afresh.

"There is certainly something wrong, somewhere," remarked Petherton,
after a time. "However, we are in a position to begin a systematic
inquiry. Here," he went on, drawing a paper from his desk, "is a
cablegram which arrived first thing this morning from New York--from an
agent who has been making a search for me in the shipping lists. This is
what he says: 'Marston Greyle, St. Louis, Missouri, booked first-class
passenger from New York to Falmouth, England, by S.S. _Araconda_,
September 28th, 1912.' There--that's something definite. And the next
thing," concluded the old lawyer, with a shrewd glance at Sir Cresswell,
"is to find out if the Marston Greyle who landed at Falmouth is the same
man whom we have recently seen!"



CHAPTER XVI

IN TOUCH WITH THE MISSING


Sir Cresswell Oliver took the cablegram from Petherton and read it over
slowly, muttering the precise and plain wording to himself.

"Don't you think, Petherton, that we had better get a clear notion of our
exact bearings?" he said as he laid it back on the solicitor's desk.
"Seems to me that the time's come when we ought to know exactly where we
are. As I understand it, the case is this--rightly or wrongly we suspect
the present holder of the Scarhaven estates. We suspect that he is not
the rightful owner--that, in short, he is no more the real Marston Greyle
than you are. We think that he's an impostor--posing as Marston Greyle.
Other people--Mrs. Valentine Greyle, for example--evidently think so,
too. Am I right?"

"Quite!" responded Petherton. "That's our position--exactly."

"Then--in that case, what I want to get at is this," continued Sir
Cresswell. "How does this relate to my brother's death? What's the
connection? That--to me at any rate--is the first thing of importance. Of
course I have a theory. This, that the impostor did see my brother last
Sunday afternoon. That he knew that my brother would at once know that
he, the impostor, was not the real Marston Greyle, and that the
discovery would lead to detection. And therefore he put him out of the
way. He might accompany him to the top of the tower and fling him down.
It's possible. Do you follow me?"

"Precisely," replied Petherton. "I, too, incline to that notion, though
I've worked it out in a different fashion. My reconstruction of what took
place at Scarhaven Keep is as follows--I think that Bassett Oliver met
the Squire--we'll call this man that for the sake of clearness--when he
entered the ruins. He probably introduced himself and mentioned that he
had met a Marston Greyle in America. Then the Squire saw the
probabilities of detection--and what subsequently took place was most
likely what you suggest. It may have been that the Squire recognized
Bassett Oliver, and knew that he'd met Marston Greyle; it may have been
that he didn't know him and didn't know anything until Bassett Oliver
enlightened him. But--either way--I firmly believe that Bassett Oliver
came to his death by violence--that he was murdered. So--there's the case
in a nutshell! Murdered!--to keep his tongue still."

"What's to be done, then?" asked Sir Cresswell as Petherton tapped the
cablegram.

"The first thing," he answered, "is to make use of this. We now know that
the real Marston Greyle--who certainly did live in St. Louis, where his
father had settled--left New York for England to take up his inheritance,
on September 28th, 1912, and booked a passage to Falmouth. He would land
at Falmouth from the _Araconda_ about October 5th. Probably there is
some trace of him at Falmouth. He no doubt stayed a night there. Anyway,
somebody must go to Falmouth and make inquiries. You'd better go,
Gilling, and at once. While you're away your partner had better resume
his search for the man we know as the Squire. You've two good clues--the
fact that he visited the Fragonard Club and that particular tobacconist's
shop. Urge Swallow to do his best--the man must be kept in sight. See to
both these things immediately."

"Swallow is at work already," replied Gilling. "He's got good help, too,
and his failure yesterday has put him on his mettle. As for me, I'll go
to Falmouth by the next express. Let me have that cablegram."

"I'll go with you," said Copplestone. "I may be of some use--and I'm
interested. But," he paused and looked questioningly at the old
solicitor. "What about the other news we brought you?" he asked. "About
this sale of the estate, you know? If this man is an impostor--"

"Leave that to me," replied Petherton, with a shrewd glance at Sir
Cresswell. "I know the Greyle family solicitors--highly respectable
people--only a few doors away, in fact--and I'm going round to have a
quiet little chat with them in a few minutes. There will be no sale!
Leave me to deal with that matter--and if you young men are going to
Falmouth, off you go!"

It was late that night when Copplestone and Gilling arrived at this
far-off Cornish seaport, and nothing could be done until the following
morning. To Copplestone it seemed as if they were in for a difficult
task. Over twelve months had elapsed since the real Marston Greyle left
America for England; he might not have stayed in Falmouth, might not have
held any conversation with anybody there who would recollect him! how
were they going to trace him? But Gilling--now free of his clerical
attire and presenting himself as a smart young man of the professional
classes type--was quick to explain that system, accurate and definite
system, would expedite matters.

"We know the approximate date on which the _Araconda_ would touch here,"
he said as they breakfasted together. "As things go, it would be from
October 4th to 6th, according to the quickness of her run across the
Atlantic. Very well--if Marston Greyle stayed here, he'd have to stay at
some hotel. Accordingly, we visit all the Falmouth hotels and examine
their registers of that date--first week of October, 1912. If we find his
name--good! We can then go on to make inquiries. If we don't find any
trace of him, then we know it's all up--he probably went straight away by
train after landing. We'll begin with this hotel first."

There was no record of any Marston Greyle at that hotel, nor at the next
half-dozen at which they called. A visit to the shipping office of the
line to which the _Araconda_ belonged revealed the fact that she reached
Falmouth on October 5th at half-past ten in the evening, and that the
name of Marston Greyle was on the list of first-class passengers.
Gilling left the office in cheery mood.

"That simplifies matters," he said. "As the _Araconda_ reached here late
in the evening, the passengers who landed from her would be almost
certain to stay the night in Falmouth. So we've only to resume our round
of these hotels in order to hit something pertinent. This is plain and
easy work, Copplestone--no corners in it. We'll strike oil before noon."

They struck oil at the very next hotel they called at--an old-fashioned
house in close proximity to the harbour. There was a communicative
landlord there who evidently possessed and was proud of a retentive
memory, and he no sooner heard the reason of Gilling's call upon him than
he bustled into activity, and produced the register of the previous year.

"But I remember the young gentleman you're asking about," he remarked, as
he took the book from a safe and laid it open on the table in his private
room. "Not a common name, is it? He came here about eleven o'clock of the
night you've mentioned--there you are!--there's the entry. And
there--higher up--is the name of the man who came to meet him. He came
the day before--to be here when the _Araconda_ got in."

The two visitors, bending over the book, mutually nudged each other as
their eyes encountered the signatures on the open page. There, in the
handwriting of the letters which Mr. Dennie had so fortunately preserved,
was the name Marston Greyle. But it was not the sight of that which
surprised them; they had expected to see it. What made them both thrill
with the joy of an unexpected discovery was the sight of the signature
inserted some lines above it, under date October 4th. Lest they should
exhibit that joy before the landlord, they mutually stuck their elbows
into each other and immediately affected the unconcern of indifference.

But there the signature was--_Peter Chatfield_. Peter Chatfield!--they
both knew that they were entering on a new stage of their quest; that the
fact that Chatfield had travelled to Falmouth to meet the new owner of
Scarhaven meant much--possibly meant everything.

"Oh!" said Gilling, as steadily as possible. "That gentleman came to meet
the other, did he? Just so. Now what sort of man was he?"

"Big, fleshy man--elderly--very solemn in manner and appearance,"
answered the landlord. "I remember him well. Came in about five o 'clock
in the afternoon of the 4th just after the London train arrived--and
booked a room. He told me he expected to meet a gentleman from New York,
and was very fidgety about fixing it up to go off in the tender to the
_Araconda_ when she came into the Bay. However, I found out for him that
she wouldn't be in until next evening, so of course he settled down to
wait. Very quiet, reserved old fellow--never said much."

"Did he go off on the tender next night?" asked Gilling.

"He did--and came back with this other gentleman and his baggage--this
Mr. Greyle," answered the landlord. "Mr. Chatfield had booked a room for
Mr. Greyle."

"And what sort of man was Mr. Greyle?" inquired Gilling. "That's really
the important thing. You've an exceptionally good memory--I can see that.
Tell us all you can recollect about him."

"I can recollect plenty," replied the landlord, shaking his head. "As for
his looks--a tallish, slightly-built young fellow, between, I should say,
twenty-five and twenty-eight. Stooped a good bit. Very dark hair and
eyes--eyes a good deal sunken in his face. Very pale--good-looking--good
features. But ill--my sakes! he was ill!"

"Ill!" exclaimed Gilling, with a glance at Copplestone. "Really ill!"

"He was that ill," said the landlord, "that me and my wife never expected
to see him get up that next morning. We wanted them to have a doctor but
Mr. Greyle himself said that it was nothing, but that he had some heart
trouble and that the voyage had made it worse. He said that if he took
some medicine which he had with him, and a drop of hot brandy-and-water,
and got a good night's sleep he'd be all right. And next morning he
seemed better, and he got up to breakfast--but my wife said to me that if
she'd seen death on a man's face it was on his! She's a bit of a
persuasive tongue, has my wife, and when she heard that these two
gentlemen were thinking of going a long journey--right away to the far
north, it was, I believe--she got 'em to go and see the doctor first, for
she felt that Mr. Greyle wasn't fit for the exertion."

"Did they go?" asked Gilling.

"They did! I talked, myself, to the old gentleman," replied the landlord.
"And I showed them the way to our own doctor--Dr. Tretheway. And as a
result of what he said to them, I heard them decide to break up their
journey into stages, as you might term it. They left here for Bristol
that afternoon--to stay the night there."

"You're sure of that?--Bristol?" asked Gilling.

"Ought to be," replied the landlord, with laconic assurance. "I
went to the station with them and saw them off. They booked to
Bristol--anyway--first class."

Gilling looked at his companion.

"I think we'd better see this Dr. Tretheway," he remarked.

Dr. Tretheway, an elderly man of grave manners and benevolent aspect,
remembered the visit of Mr. Marston Greyle well enough when he had turned
up its date in his case book. He also remembered the visitor's companion,
Mr. Chatfield, who seemed unusually anxious and concerned about Mr.
Greyle's health.

"And as to that," continued Dr. Tretheway, "I learnt from Mr. Greyle that
he had been seriously indisposed for some months before setting out for
England. The voyage had been rather a rough one; he had suffered much
from sea-sickness, and, in his state of health, that was unfortunate for
him. I made a careful examination of him, and I came to the conclusion
that he was suffering from a form of myocarditis which was rapidly
assuming a very serious complexion. I earnestly advised him to take as
much rest as possible, to avoid all unnecessary fatigue and all
excitement, and I strongly deprecated his travelling in one journey to
the north, whither I learnt he was bound. On my advice, he and Mr.
Chatfield decided to break that journey at Bristol, at Birmingham, and at
Leeds. By so doing, you see, they would only have a short journey each
day, and Mr. Greyle would be able to rest for a long time at a stretch.
But--I formed my own conclusions."

"And they were--what?" asked Gilling.

"That he would not live long," said the doctor. "Finding that he was
going to the neighbourhood of Norcaster, where there is a most excellent
school of medicine, I advised him to get the best specialist he could
from there, and to put himself under his treatment. But my impression was
that he had already reached a very, very serious stage."

"You think he was then likely to die suddenly?" suggested Gilling.

"It was quite possible. I should not have been surprised to hear of his
death," answered Dr. Tretheway. "He was, in short, very ill indeed."

"You never heard anything?" inquired Gilling.

"Nothing at all--though I often wondered. Of course," said the doctor
with a smile, "they were only chance visitors--I often have
trans-atlantic passengers drop in--and they forget that a physician would
sometimes like to know how a case submitted to him in that way has
turned out. No, I never heard any more."

"Did they give you any address, either of them?" asked Copplestone,
seeing that Gilling had no more to ask.

"No," replied the doctor, "they did not. I knew of course, from what
they told me that Mr. Greyle had come off the _Araconda_ the night
before, and that he was passing on. No--I only gathered that they were
going to the neighbourhood of Norcaster from the fact that Mr. Greyle
asked if a journey to that place would be too much for him--he said
with a laugh, that over there in the United States a journey of five
hundred miles would be considered a mere jaunt! He was very plucky,
poor fellow, but--"

Dr. Tretheway ended with a significant shake of the head, and his two
visitors left him and went out into the autumn sunlight.

"Copplestone!" said Gilling as they walked away. "That chap--the real
Marston Greyle--is dead! That's as certain as that we're alive! And now
the next thing is to find out where he died and when. And by George,
that's going to be a big job!"

"How are you going to set about it?" asked Copplestone. "It seems as if
we were up against a blank wall, now."

"Not at all, my son!" retorted Gilling, cheerfully. "One step at a
time--that's the sure thing to go on, in my calling. We've found out a
lot here, and quickly, too. And--we know where our next step lies.
Bristol! Like looking for needles in a bundle of hay? Not a bit of it.
If those two broke their journey at Bristol, they'd have to stop at an
hotel. Well, now we'll adjourn to Bristol--bearing in mind that we're on
the track of Peter Chatfield!"



CHAPTER XVII

THE OLD PLAYBILL


Gilling's cheerful optimism was the sort of desirable quality that is a
good thing to have, but all the optimism in the world is valueless in
face of impregnable difficulty. And the difficulty of tracing Chatfield
and his sick companion in a city the size of Bristol did indeed seem
impregnable when Gilling and Copplestone had been attacking it for
twenty-four hours. They had spent a whole day in endeavouring to get
news; they had gone in and out of hotels until they were sick of the
sight of one; they had made exhaustive inquiries at the railway station
and of the cabmen who congregated there; nobody remembered anything at
all about a big, heavy-faced man and a man in his company who seemed to
be very ill. And on the second night Copplestone intimated plainly that
in his opinion they were wasting their time.

"How do we even know that they ever came to Bristol?" he asked, as he and
Gilling refreshed themselves with a much needed dinner. "The Falmouth
landlord saw Chatfield take tickets for Bristol! That's nothing to go on!
Put it to yourself in this way. Greyle may have found even that journey
too much for him. They may, in that case, have left the train at
Plymouth--or at Exeter--or at Taunton: it would stop at each place. Seems
to me we're wasting time here--far better get nearer more tangible
things. Chatfield, for instance. Or, go back to town and find out what
your friend Swallow has done."

"Swallow," replied Gilling, "has done nothing so far, or I should have
heard. Swallow knows exactly where I am, and where I shall be until I
give him further notice. Don't be discouraged, my friend--one is often
on the very edge of a discovery when one seems to be miles away from it.
Give me another day--and if we haven't found out something by tomorrow
evening I'll consult with you as to our next step. But I've a plan for
tomorrow morning which ought to yield some result."

"What?" demanded Copplestone, doubtfully.

"This! There is in every centre of population an official who registers
births, marriages, and deaths. Now we believe the real Marston Greyle to
be dead. Let us suppose, for argument's sake, that he did die here, in
Bristol, whither he and Chatfield certainly set off when they left
Falmouth. What would happen? Notice of his death would have to be given
to the Registrar--by the nearest relative or by the person in attendance
on the deceased. That person would, in this case, be Chatfield. If the
death occurred suddenly, and without medical attendance, an inquest would
have to be held. If a doctor had been in attendance he would give a
signed certificate of the cause of death, which he would hand to the
relatives or friends in attendance, who, in their turn, would have to
hand it to the Registrar. Do you see the value of these points? What we
must do tomorrow morning is to see the Registrar--or, as there will be
more than one in a place this size--each of them in turn, in the
endeavour to find out if, early in October, 1912, Peter Chatfield
registered the death of Marston Greyle here. But remember--he may not
have registered it under that name. He may, indeed, not have used his own
name--he's deep enough for anything. That however, is our next best
chance--search of the registers. Let's try it, anyway, first thing in the
morning. And as we've had a stiff day, I propose we dismiss all thought
of this affair for the rest of the evening and betake ourselves to some
place of amusement--theatre, eh?"

Copplestone made no objection to that, and when dinner was over, they
walked round to the principal theatre in time for the first act of a play
which having been highly successful in London had just started on a round
of the leading provincial theatres. Between the second and third acts of
this production there was a long interval, and the two companions
repaired to the foyer to recuperate their energies with a drink and a
cigarette. While thus engaged, Copplestone encountered an old school
friend with whom he exchanged a few words: Gilling, meanwhile strolled
about, inspecting the pictures, photographs and old playbills on the
walls of the saloon and its adjacent apartments. And suddenly, he turned
back, waited until Copplestone's acquaintance had gone away, and then
hurried up and smacked his co-searcher on the shoulder.

"Didn't I tell you that one's often close to a thing when one seems
furthest off it!" he exclaimed triumphantly. "Come here, my son, and look
at what I've just found."

He drew Copplestone away to a quiet corner and pointed out an old
playbill, framed and hung on the wall. Copplestone stared at it and saw
nothing but the title of a well-known comedy, the names of one or two
fairly celebrated actors and actresses and the usual particulars which
appear on all similar announcements.

"Well?" he asked. "What of this?"

"That!" replied Gilling, flicking the tip of his finger on a line in the
bill. "That my boy!"

Copplestone looked again. He started at what he read.

_Margaret Sayers_.......MISS ADELA CHATFIELD.

"And now look at that!" continued Gilling, with an accentuation of his
triumphal note. "See! These people were here for a fortnight--from
October 3rd to 17th--1912. Therefore--if Peter Chatfield brought Marston
Greyle to Bristol on October 6th, Peter Chatfield's daughter would also
be in the town!"

Copplestone looked over the bill again, rapidly realizing possibilities.

"Would Chatfield know that?" he asked reflectively.

"It's only likely that he would," replied Gilling. "Even if father and
daughter don't quite hit things off in their tastes, it's only reasonable
to suppose that Peter would usually know his daughter's whereabouts. And
if he brought Greyle here, ill, and they had to stop, it's only likely
that Peter would turn to his daughter for help. Anyway, Copplestone, here
are two undoubted facts:--Chatfield and Greyle booked from Falmouth for
Bristol on October 6th, 1912, and may therefore be supposed to have come
here. That's one fact. The other is--Addie Chatfield was certainly in
Bristol on that date and for eleven days after it."

"Well--what next?" asked Copplestone.

"I've been thinking that over while you stared at the bill," answered
Gilling. "I think the best thing will be to find out where Addie
Chatfield put herself up during her stay. I daresay you know that in most
of these towns there are lodgings which are almost exclusively devoted to
the theatrical profession. Actors and actresses go to them year after
year; their owners lay themselves out for their patrons--what's more,
your theatrical landlady always remembers names and faces, and has her
favourites. Now, in my stage experience, I never struck Bristol, so I
don't know much about it, but I know where we can get information--the
stage door-keeper. He'll tell us where the recognized lodgings are--and
then we must begin a round of inquiry. When? Just now, my boy!--and a
good time, too, as you'll see."

"Why?" asked Copplestone.

"Best hour of the evening," replied Gilling with glib assurance.
"Landladies enjoying an hour of ease before beginning to cook supper
for their lodgers, now busy on the stage. Always ready to talk,
theatrical landladies, when they've nothing to do. Trust me for
knowing the ropes!--come round to the stage door and let's ask the
keeper a question or two."

But before they had quitted the foyer an interruption came in the shape
of a shrewd-looking gentleman in evening dress, who wore his opera hat at
a rakish angle and seemed to be very much at home as he strolled about,
hands in pockets, looking around him at all and sundry. He suddenly
caught sight of Gilling, smiled surprisedly and expansively, and came
forward with outstretched hand.

"Bless our hearts, is it really yourself, dear boy!" exclaimed this
apparition. "Really, now? And what brings you here--God bless my soul and
eyes--why I haven't seen you this--how long is it, dear boy!"

"Three years," answered Gilling, promptly clasping the outstretched hand.
"But what are you doing here--boss, eh?"

"Lessee's manager, dear boy--nice job, too," whispered the other. "Been
here two years--good berth." He deftly steered Gilling towards the
refreshment bar, and glanced out of his eye corner at Copplestone.
"Friend of yours?" he suggested hospitably. "Introduce us, dear boy--my
name is the same as before, you know!"

"Mr. Copplestone, Mr. Montmorency," said Gilling. "Mr. Montmorency, Mr.
Copplestone."

"Servant, sir," said Mr. Montmorency. "Pleased to meet any friend of my
friend! And what will you take, dear boys, and how are things with
you, Gilling, old man--now who on earth would have thought of seeing
you here?"

Copplestone held his peace while Gilling and Mr. Montmorency held
interesting converse. He was sure that his companion would turn this
unexpected meeting to account, and he therefore felt no surprise when
Gilling, after giving him a private nudge, plumped the manager with a
direct question.

"Did you see Addie Chatfield when she was here about a year ago?" he
asked. "You remember--she was here in _Mrs. Swayne's Necklace_--here a
fortnight."

"I remember very well, dear boy," responded Mr. Montmorency, with a
judicial sip at the contents of his tumbler. "I saw the lady several
times. More by token, I accidentally witnessed a curious little scene
between Miss Addie and a gentleman whom Nature appeared to have specially
manufactured for the part of heavy parent--you know the type. One morning
when that company was here, I happened to be standing in the vestibule,
talking to the box-office man, when a large, solemn-faced individual,
Quakerish in attire, and evidently not accustomed to the theatre walked
in and peered about him at our rich carpets and expensive
fittings--pretty much as if he was appraising their value. At the same
time, I observed that he was in what one calls a state--a little, perhaps
a good deal, upset about something. Wherefore I addressed myself to him
in my politest manner and inquired if I could serve him. Thereupon he
asked if he could see Miss Adela Chatfield on very important business.
Now, I wasn't going to let him see Miss Addie, for I took him to be a man
who might have a writ about him, or something nasty of that sort. But at
that very moment, Miss Addie, who had been rehearsing, and had come out
by the house instead of going through the stage door, came tripping into
the vestibule and let off a sharp note of exclamation. After which she
and old wooden-face stepped into the street together, and immediately
exchanged a few words. And that the old man told her something very
serious was abundantly evident from the expression of their respective
countenances. But, of course, I never knew what it was, nor who he was,
dear boy--not my business, don't you know."

"They went away together, those two?" asked Gilling, favouring
Copplestone with another nudge.

"Up the street together, certainly, talking most earnestly," replied Mr.
Montmorency.

"Ever see that old chap again?" asked Gilling.

"I never did, dear boy,--once was sufficient," said Mr. Montmorency,
lightly. "But," he continued, dropping his bantering tone, "are these
questions pertinent?--has this to do with this new profession of yours,
dear boy? If so--mum's the word, you know."

"I'll tell you what, Monty," answered Gilling. "I wish you'd find out for
me where Addie Chatfield lodged when she was here that time. Can it be
done? Between you and me, I do want to know about that, old chap. Never
mind why, now--I will tell you later. But it's serious."

Mr. Montmorency tapped the side of his handsome nose.

"All right, my boy!" he said. "I understand--wicked, wicked world! Done?
Dear boy, it shall be done! Come down to the stage door--our man knows
every landlady in the town!"

By various winding ways and devious passages he led the two young men
down to the stage door. Its keeper, not being particularly busy at that
time, was reading the evening newspaper in his glass-walled box, and
glanced inquiringly at the strangers as Mr. Montmorency pulled them up
before him.

"Prickett," said Mr. Montmorency, leaning into the sanctum over its
half-door and speaking confidentially. "You keep a sort of register of
lodgings don't you, Prickett? Now I wonder if you could tell me where
Miss Adela Chatfield, of the _Mrs. Swayne's Necklace_ Company stopped
when she was last here?--that's a year ago or about it. Prickett," he
went on, turning to Gilling, "puts all this sort of thing down,
methodically, so that he can send callers on, or send up urgent letters
or parcels during the day--isn't that it, Prickett?"

"That's about it, sir," answered the door-keeper. He had taken down a
sort of ledger as the manager spoke, and was now turning over its leaves.
He suddenly ran his finger down a page and stopped its course at a
particular line.

"Mrs. Salmon, 5, Montargis Crescent--second to the right outside," he
announced briefly. "Very good lodgings, too, are those."

Gilling promised Mr. Montmorency that he would look him up later on,
and went away with Copplestone to Montargis Crescent. Within five
minutes they were standing in a comfortably furnished, old-fashioned
sitting-room, liberally ornamented with the photographs of actors and
actresses and confronting a stout, sharp-eyed little woman who
listened intently to all that Gilling said and sniffed loudly when he
had finished.

"Remember Miss Chatfield being here!" she exclaimed. "I should think I do
remember! I ought to! Bringing mortal sickness into my house--and then
death--and then a funeral--and her and her father going away never giving
me an extra penny for the trouble!"



CHAPTER XVIII

THE LIE ON THE TOMBSTONE


Gilling's glance at his companion was quiet enough, but it spoke volumes.
Here, by sheer chance, was such a revelation as they had never dreamed of
hearing!--here was the probable explanation of at least half the mystery.
He turned composedly to the landlady.

"I've already told you who and what I am," he said, pointing to the card
which he had handed to her. "There are certain mysterious circumstances
about this affair which I want to get at. What you've said just now is
abundant evidence that you can help. If you do and will help, you'll be
well paid for your trouble. Now, you speak of sickness--death--a funeral.
Will you tell us all about it?"

"I never knew there was any mystery about it," answered the landlady, as
she motioned her visitors to seat themselves. "It was all above-board as
far as I knew. Of course, I've always been sore about it--I'd a great
deal of trouble, and as I say, I never got anything for it--that is,
anything extra. And me doing it really to oblige her and her father!"

"They brought a sick man here?" suggested Gilling.

"I'll tell you how it was," said Mrs. Salmon, seating herself and showing
signs of a disposition to confidence. "Miss Chatfield, she'd been here, I
think, three days that time--I'd had her once before a year or two
previous. One morning--I'm sure it was about the third day that the
_Swayne Necklace_ Company was here--she came in from rehearsal in a
regular take-on. She said that her father had just called on her at the
theatre. She said he'd been to Falmouth to meet a relation of theirs
who'd come from America and had found him to be very ill on landing--so
ill that a Falmouth doctor had given strict orders that he mustn't travel
any further than Bristol, on his way wherever he wanted to go. They'd got
to Bristol and the young man was so done up that Mr. Chatfield had had to
drive him to another doctor--one close by here--Dr. Valdey--as soon as
they arrived. Dr. Valdey said he must go to bed at once and have at least
two days' complete rest in bed, and he advised Mr. Chatfield to get quiet
rooms instead of going to a hotel. So Mr. Chatfield, knowing that his
daughter was here, do you see, sought her out and told her all about it.
She came to me and asked me if I knew where they could get rooms. Well
now, I had my drawing-room floor empty that week, and as it was only for
two or three days that they wanted rooms I offered to take Mr. Chatfield
and the young man in. Of course, if I'd known how ill he was, I
shouldn't. What I understood--and mind you, I don't say they wilfully
deceived me, for I don't think they did--what I understood was that the
young man simply wanted a real good rest. But he was evidently a deal
worse than what even Dr. Valdey thought. He'd stopped at Dr. Valdey's
surgery while Mr. Chatfield went to see about rooms, and they moved him
from there straight in here. And as I say, he was a deal worse than they
thought, much worse, and the doctor had to be fetched to him more than
once during the afternoon. Still Dr. Valdey himself never said to me that
there was any immediate danger. But that's neither here nor there--the
young fellow died that night."

"That night!" exclaimed Gilling, "the night he came here?"

"Very same night," assented Mrs. Salmon. "Brought in here about two in
the afternoon and died just before midnight--soon after Miss Chatfield
came in from the theatre. Went very suddenly at the end."

"Were you present?" asked Copplestone.

"I wasn't. Nobody was with him but Mr. Chatfield--Miss Chatfield was
getting her supper down here," replied Mrs. Salmon. "And I was busy
elsewhere."

"Was there an inquest then, inquired Gilling?"

"Oh, no!" said Mrs. Salmon, shaking her head. "Oh, no!--there was no need
for that--the doctor, ye see, had been seeing him all day. Oh, no--the
cause of death was evident enough, in a way of speaking. Heart."

"Did they bury him here, then?" asked Gilling.

"Two days after," replied Mrs. Salmon. "Kept everything very quiet, they
did. I don't believe Miss Chatfield told any of the theatre people--she
went to her work just the same, of course. The old gentleman saw to
everything--funeral and all. I'll say this for them.--they gave me no
unnecessary trouble, but still, there's trouble that is necessary when
you've death in a house and a funeral at the door, and they ought to have
given me something for what I did. But they didn't, so I considered it
very mean. Mr. Chatfield, he stayed two days after the funeral, and when
he left he just said that his daughter would settle up with me. But when
she came to pay she added nothing to my bill, and she walked out
remarking that if her father hadn't given me anything extra she was sure
she shouldn't. Shabby!"

"Very shabby!" agreed Gilling. "Well, you won't find my clients quite so
mean, ma'am. But just a word--don't mention this matter to anybody until
you hear from me. And as I like to give some earnest of payment here's a
bank-note which you can slip into your purse--on account, you understand.
Now, just a question or two:--Did you hear the young man's name?"

The landlady, whose spirits rose visibly on receipt of the bank-note,
appeared to reflect on hearing this question, and she shook her head as
if surprised at her own inability to answer it satisfactorily.

"Well, now," she said, "it may seem a queer thing to say, but I don't
recollect that I ever did! You see, I didn't see much of him after he
once got here. I was never in his room with them, and they didn't mention
his name--that I can remember--when they spoke about him before me. I
understood he was a relative--cousin or something of that sort."

"Didn't you see any name on the coffin?" asked Gilling.

"I didn't," replied Mrs. Salmon. "You see, the undertaker fetched him
away when him and his men brought the coffin--the next day. He took
charge of the coffin for the second night, and the funeral took place
from there. But I'll tell you what--the undertaker'll know the name, and
of course the doctor does. They're both close by."

Gilling took names and addresses and once more pledging the landlady to
secrecy, led Copplestone away.

"That's the end of another chapter," he said when they were clear of that
place. "We know now that Marston Greyle died there--in that very house,
Copplestone!--and that Peter Chatfield was with him. That's fact!"

"And it's fact, too, that the daughter knows," observed Copplestone in a
low voice.

"Fact, too, that Addie Chatfield was in it," agreed Gilling. "Well--but
what happened next? However, before we go on to that, there are three
things to do in the morning. We must see this Dr. Valdey, and the
undertaker--and Marston Greyle's grave."

"And then?" asked Copplestone.

"Stiff, big question," sighed Gilling. "Go back to town and report, I
think--and find out if Swallow has discovered anything. And egad! there's
a lot to discover! For you see we're already certain that at the stage at
which we've arrived a conspiracy began--conspiracy between Chatfield, his
daughter, and the man who's been passing himself off as Marston Greyle.
Now, who is the man? Where did they get hold of him? Is he some relation
of theirs? All that's got to be found out. Of course, their object is
very clear, Marston Greyle, the real Simon Pure, was dead on their hands.
His legal successor was his cousin, Miss Audrey. Chatfield knew that when
Miss Audrey came into power his own reign as steward of Scarhaven would
be brief. And so--but the thing is so plain that one needn't waste breath
on it. And I tell you what's plain too, Copplestone--Miss Audrey Greyle
is the lady of Scarhaven! Good luck to her! You'll no doubt be glad to
communicate the glad tidings!"

Copplestone made no answer. He was utterly confounded by the recent
revelations and was wondering what the mother and daughter in the little
cottage so far away in the grey north would say when all these things
were told them.

"Let's make dead certain of everything," he said after a long pause.
"Don't let's leave any loophole."

"Oh, we'll leave nothing--here at any rate," replied Gilling,
confidently. "But you'll find in the morning that we already know almost
everything."

In this he was right. The doctor's story was a plain one. The young man
was very ill indeed when brought to him, and though he did not anticipate
so early or sudden an end, he was not surprised when death came, and had
of course, no difficulty about giving the necessary certificate. Just as
plain was the undertaker's account of his connection with the affair--a
very ordinary transaction in his eyes. And having heard both stories,
there was nothing to do but to visit one of the adjacent cemeteries and
find a certain grave the number of which they had ascertained from the
undertaker's books. It was easily found--and Copplestone and Gilling
found themselves standing at a new tombstone, whereon the monumental
mason had carved four lines:--

MARK GREY

BORN APRIL 12TH, 1884

DIED OCTOBER 6TH, 1912

AGED 28 YEARS.

"Short, simple, eminently suited to the purpose," murmured Gilling as the
two turned away. "Somebody thought things out quickly and well,
Copplestone, when this poor fellow died. Do you know I've been thinking
as we walked up here that if Bassett Oliver had never taken it into his
head to visit Scarhaven that Sunday this fraud would never have been
found out! The chances were all against its ever being found out.
Consider them! A young man who is an absolute stranger in England comes
to take up an inheritance, having on him no doubt, the necessary proofs
of identification. He's met by one person only--his agent. He dies next
day. The agent buries him, under a false name, takes his effects and
papers, gets some accomplice to personate him, introduces that accomplice
to everybody as the real man--and there you are! Oh, Chatfield knew what
he was doing! Who on earth, wandering in this cemetery, would ever
connect Mark Grey with Marston Greyle?"

"Just so--but there was one danger-spot which must have given Chatfield
and his accomplices a good many uneasy hours," answered Copplestone. "You
know that Marston Greyle actually registered in his own name at Falmouth
and was known to the land lord and the doctor there."

"Yes--and Falmouth is three hundred miles from London and five hundred
from Scarhaven," replied Gilling dryly. "And do you suppose that whoever
saw Marston Greyle at Falmouth cared two pins--comparatively--what became
of him after he left there? No--Chatfield was almost safe from detection
as soon as he'd got that unfortunate young fellow laid away in that
grave. However we know now--what we do know. And the next thing, now that
we know Marston Greyle lies behind us there, is to get back to town and
catch the chap who took his place. We'll wire to Swallow and to
Petherton and get the next express."

Sir Cresswell Oliver and Petherton were in conference with Swallow at the
solicitor's office when Gilling and Copplestone arrived there in the
early afternoon. Gilling interrupted their conversation to tell the
result of his investigations. Copplestone, watching the effect, saw that
neither Sir Cresswell nor Petherton showed surprise. Petherton indeed,
smiled as if he had anticipated all that Gilling had to say.

"I told you that I knew the Greyle family solicitors," he observed. "I
find that they have only once seen the man whom we will call the Squire.
Chatfield brought him there. He produced proofs of identification--papers
which Chatfield no doubt took from the dead man. Of course, the
solicitors never doubted for a moment that he was the real Marston
Greyle!--never dreamed of fraud: Well--the next step. We must concentrate
on finding this man. And Swallow has nothing to tell--yet. He has never
seen anything more of him. You'd better turn all your attention to that,
Gilling--you and Swallow. As for Chatfield and his daughter, I suppose we
shall have to approach the police."

Copplestone presently went home to his rooms in Jermyn Street, puzzled
and wondering; And there, lying on top of a pile of letters, he found a
telegram--from Audrey Greyle. It had been dispatched from Scarhaven at an
early hour of the previous day, and it contained but three words--_Can
you come?_



CHAPTER XIX

THE STEAM YACHT


Copplestone had seen and learned enough of Audrey Greyle during his brief
stay at Scarhaven to make him assured that she would not have sent for
him save for very good and grave reasons. It had been with manifest
reluctance that she had given him her promise to do so: her entire
behaviour during the conference with Mr. Dennie and Gilling had convinced
him that she had an inherent distaste for publicity and an instinctive
repugnance to calling in the aid of strangers. He had never expected that
she would send for him--he himself knew that he should go back to her,
but the return would be on his own initiative. There, however, was her
summons, definite as it was brief. He was wanted--and by her. And without
opening one of his letters, he snatched up the whole pile, thrust it into
his pocket, hurriedly made some preparation for his journey and raced off
to King's Cross.

He fumed and fretted with impatience during the six hours' journey down
to Norcaster. It was ten o'clock when he arrived there, and as he knew
that the last train to Scarhaven left at half-past-nine he hurried to get
a fast motor-car that would take him over the last twenty miles of his
journey. He had wired to Audrey from Peterborough, telling her that he
was on his way and should motor out from Norcaster, and when he had
found a car to his liking he ordered its driver to go straight to Mrs.
Greyle's cottage, close by Scarhaven church. And just then he heard a
voice calling his name, and turning saw, running out of the station, a
young, athletic-looking man, much wrapped and cloaked, who waved a hand
at him and whose face he had some dim notion of having seen before.

"Mr. Copplestone?" panted the new arrival, coming up hurriedly. "I almost
missed you--I got on the wrong platform to meet your train. You don't
know me, though you may have seen me at the inquest on Mr. Bassett Oliver
the other day--my name's Vickers--Guy Vickers."

"Yes?" said Copplestone. "And--"

"I'm a solicitor, here in Norcaster," answered Vickers. "I--at least, my
firm, you know--we sometimes act for Mrs. Greyle at Scarhaven. I got a
wire from Miss Greyle late this evening, asking me to meet you here when
the London train got in and to go on to Scarhaven with you at once. She
added the words _urgent business_ so--"

"Then in heaven's name, let's be off!" exclaimed Copplestone. "It'll take
us a good hour and a quarter as it is. Of course," he went on, as they
moved away through the Norcaster streets, "of course, you haven't any
notion of what this urgent business is?"

"None whatever!" replied Vickers. "But I'm quite sure that it is urgent,
or Miss Greyle wouldn't have said so. No--I don't know what her exact
meaning was, but of course, I know there's something wrong about the
whole thing at Scarhaven--seriously wrong!"

"You do, eh?" exclaimed Copplestone. "What now?"

"Ah, that I don't know!" replied Vickers, with a dry laugh. "I wish I
did. But--you know how people talk in these provincial places--ever since
that inquest there have been all sorts of rumours. Every club and public
place in Norcaster has been full of talk--gossip, surmise, speculation.
Naturally!"

"But--about what?" asked Copplestone.

"Squire Greyle, of course," said the young solicitor; "that inquest was
enough to set the whole country talking. Everybody thinks--they couldn't
think otherwise--that something is being hushed up. Everybody's agog to
know if Sir Cresswell Oliver and Mr. Petherton are applying for a
re-opening of the inquest. You've just come from town, I believe! Did you
hear anything?"

Copplestone was wondering whether he ought to tell his companion of his
own recent discoveries. Like all laymen, he had an idea that you can tell
anything to a lawyer, and he was half-minded to pour out the whole story
to Vickers, especially as he was Mrs. Greyle's solicitor. But on second
thoughts he decided to wait until he had ascertained the state of affairs
at Scarhaven.

"I didn't hear anything about that," he replied. "Of course, that inquest
was a mere travesty of what such an inquiry should have been."

"Oh, an utter farce!" agreed Vickers. "However, it produced just the
opposite effect to that which the wire-pullers wanted. Of course,
Chatfield had squared that jury! But he forgot the press--and the local
reporters were so glad to get hold of what was really spicy news that all
the Norcaster and Northborough papers have been full of it. Everybody's
talking of it, as I said--people are asking what this evidence from
America is; why was there such mystery about the whole thing, and so on.
And, since then, everybody knows that Squire Greyle has left Scarhaven."

"Have you seen Mrs. or Miss Greyle since the inquest?" asked Copplestone,
who was anxious to keep off subjects on which he might be supposed to
possess information. "Have you been over there?"

"No--not since that day," replied Vickers. "And I don't care how soon we
do see them, for I'm a bit anxious about this telegram. Something must
have happened."

Copplestone looked out of the window on his side of the car. Already they
were clear of the Norcaster streets and on the road which led to
Scarhaven. That road ran all along the coast, often at the very edge of
the high, precipitous cliffs, with no more between it and the rocks far
beneath than a low wall. It was a road of dangerous curves and corners
which needed careful negotiation even in broad daylight, and this was a
black, moonless and starless night. But Copplestone had impressed upon
his driver that he must get to Scarhaven as quickly as possible, and he
and his companion were both so full of their purpose that they paid no
heed to the perpetual danger which they ran as the car tore round
propections and down deep cuts at a speed which at other times they would
have considered suicidal. And at just under the hour they ran on the
level stretch by the "Admiral's Arms" and looking down at the harbour saw
the lighted port-holes of some ship which lay against the south quay, and
on the quay itself men moving about in the glare of lamps.

"What's going on there?" said Vickers. "Late for a vessel to be loading
at a place like this where time's of no great importance."

Copplestone offered no suggestion. He was hotly impatient to reach the
cottage, and as soon as the car drew up at its gate he burst out, bade
the driver wait, and ran eagerly up to the path to Audrey, who opened the
door as he advanced. In another second he had both her hands in his
own--and kept them there.

"You're all right?" he demanded in tones which made clear to the girl how
anxious he had been. "There's nothing wrong--with you or your
mother--personally, I mean? You see, I didn't get your wire until this
afternoon, and then I raced off as quick--"

"I know," she said, responding a little to the pressure of his hands. "I
understand. You may be sure I shouldn't have wired if I hadn't felt it
absolutely necessary. Somebody was wanted--and you'd made me promise, and
so--Yes," she continued, drawing back as Vickers came up, "we are all
right, personally, but--there's something very wrong indeed somewhere.
Will you both come in and see mother?"

Mrs. Greyle, looking worn and ill, appeared just then in the hall, and
called to them to come in. She preceded them into the parlour and turned
to the young men as soon as Audrey closed the door.

"I'm more thankful to see you gentlemen than I've ever been in my
life--for anything!" she said. "Something is happening here which needs
the attention of men--we women can't do anything. Let me tell you what it
is. Yesterday morning, very early the Squire's steam-yacht, the _Pike_,
was brought into the inner harbour and moored against the quay just
opposite the park gates. We, of course, could see it, and as we knew he
had gone away we wondered why it was brought in there. After it had been
moored, we saw that preparations of some sort were being made. Then
men--estate labourers--began coming down from the house, carrying
packing-cases, which were taken on board. And while this was going on,
Mrs. Peller, the housekeeper, came hurrying here, in a state of great
consternation. She said that a number of men, sailors and estate men,
were packing up and removing all the most valuable things in the
house--the finest pictures, the old silver, the famous collection of
china which Stephen John Greyle made--and spent thousands upon thousands
of pounds in making!--the rarest and most valuable books out of the
library--all sorts of things of real and great value. Everything was
being taken down to the _Pike_--and the estate carpenter, who was in
charge of all this, said it was by the Squire's orders, and produced to
Mrs. Peller his written authority. Of course, Mrs. Peller could do
nothing against that, but she came hurrying to tell us, because she, like
everybody else, is much exercised by these recent events. And so Audrey
and I pocketed our pride, and went to see Peter Chatfield. But Peter
Chatfield, like his master, had gone! He had left home the previous
evening, and his house was locked up."

Copplestone and Vickers exchanged glances, and the young solicitor signed
Mrs. Greyle to proceed.

"Then," she added, "to add to that, as we came away from Chatfield's
house, we met Mr. Elkin, the bank-manager from Norcaster. He had come
over in a motor-car, to see me--privately. He wanted to tell me--in
relation to all these things--that within the last few days, the Squire
and Peter Chatfield had withdrawn from the bank the very large balances
of two separate accounts. One was the Squire's own account, in his
name--the other was an estate account, on which Chatfield could draw. In
both cases the balances withdrawn were of very large amount. Of course,
as Mr. Elkin pointed out, it was all in order, and no objection could be
raised. But it was unusual, for a large balance had always existed on
both these accounts. And, Mr. Elkin added, so many strange rumours are
going about Norcaster and the district, that he felt seriously uneasy,
and thought it his duty to see me at once. And now--what is to be done?
The house is being stripped of the best part of its valuables, and in my
opinion when that yacht sails it will be for some foreign port. What
other object can there be in taking these things away? Of course, as
nothing is entailed, and there are no heirlooms, everything is absolutely
the Squire's property, so--"

Copplestone, who had been realizing the serious significance of these
statements, saw that it was time to speak, if energetic methods were to
be taken at once.

"I'd better tell you the truth," he said interrupting Mrs. Greyle. "I
might have told you, Vickers, as we came along, but I decided to wait,
until we got here and found out how things were. Mrs. Greyle, the man you
speak of as the Squire, is no more the owner of Scarhaven than I am! He
is not Marston Greyle at all. The real Marston Greyle who came over from
America, died the day after he landed, in lodgings at Bristol to which
Peter Chatfield and his daughter had taken him, and he is buried in a
Bristol cemetery under the name of Mark Grey; Gilling and I found that
out during these last few days. It's an absolute fact. So the man who has
been posing here as the rightful owner is--an impostor!"

A dead silence followed this declaration. The mother and daughter after
one long look at Copplestone turned and looked at each other. But
Vickers, quick to realize the situation, started from his seat, with
evident intention of doing something.

"That's--the truth?" he exclaimed, turning to Copplestone. "No possible
flaw in it?"

"None," replied Copplestone. "It's sheer fact."

"Then in that case," said Vickers, "Miss Greyle is the owner of
Scarhaven, of everything in the house, of every stick, stone and pebble,
about the place! And we must act at once. Miss Greyle, you will have to
assert yourself. You must do what I tell you to do. You must get ready at
once--this minute!--and come down with me and Mrs. Greyle to that yacht
and stop all these proceedings. In our presence you must lay claim to
everything that's been taken from the house--yes, and to the yacht
itself. Come, let's hurry!"

Audrey hesitated and looked at Mrs. Greyle.

"Very well," she said quietly. "But--not my mother."

"No need!" said Vickers. "You will have us with you."

Audrey hurried from the room, and Mrs. Greyle turned anxiously to
Vickers.

"What shall you do?" she asked.

"Warn all concerned," answered Vickers, with a snap of the jaw which
showed Copplestone that he was a man of determination. "Warn them, if
necessary, that the man they have known as Marston Greyle is an impostor,
and that everything they are handling belongs to Miss Greyle. The
Scarhaven people know me, of course--there ought not to be any great
difficulty with them--and as regards the yacht people--"

"You know," interrupted Mrs. Greyle, "that this man--the impostor--has
made himself very popular with the people here? You saw how they cheered
him after the inquest? You don't think there is danger in Audrey going
down there?"

"Wouldn't it be enough if you and I went?" suggested Copplestone. "It's
very late to drag Miss Greyle out."

"I'm sorry, but it's absolutely necessary," said Vickers. "If your
story is true--I mean, of course, since it is true--Miss Greyle is
owner and mistress, and she must be on the spot. It's all we can do,
anyway," he continued, as Audrey, wrapped in a big ulster, came back to
the parlour. "Even now we may be too late. And if that yacht once sails
away from here--"

There were signs that the yacht's departure was imminent when they went
down to the south quay and came abreast of her. The lights on the shore
were being extinguished; the estate labourers were gone; only two or
three sailors were busy with ropes and gear. And Vickers hurried his
little party up a gangway and on to the deck. A hard-faced, keen-eyed,
man, evidently in authority, came forward.

"Are you the captain of this vessel?" demanded Vickers in tones of
authority. "You are? I am Mr. Vickers, solicitor, of Norcaster. I give
you formal warning that the man you have known as Marston Greyle is
not Marston Greyle at all, but an impostor. All the property which you
have removed from the house, and now have on this vessel, belongs to
this lady, Miss Audrey Greyle, Lady of the Manor of Scarhaven. It is
at your peril that you move it, or that you cause this vessel to
leave this harbour. I claim the vessel and all that is on it on behalf
of Miss Greyle."

The man addressed listened in silent attention, and showed no sign of any
surprise. As soon as Vickers had finished he turned, hurried down a
stairway, remained below for a few minutes, and came up again.

"Will you kindly step this way, Miss Greyle and gentlemen?" he said
politely. "You must remember that I am only a servant. If you will come
down--"

He led them down the stairs, along a thickly-carpeted passage, and opened
the door of a lighted saloon. All unthinking, the three stepped in--to
hear the door closed and locked behind them.



CHAPTER XX

THE COURTEOUS CAPTAIN


Vickers sprang back at that door as the sharp click of the turning key
caught his ear, and Copplestone, preceding him and following Audrey, who
had advanced fearlessly into the cabin, pulled himself up with a sudden,
sickening sense of treachery. The two young men looked at each other, and
a dead silence fell on them and the girl. Then Vickers laid his hand on
the door and shook it.

"Locked in!" he muttered with a queer glance at his companions. "What
does that mean?"

"Nothing good!" growled Copplestone who was secretly cursing his own
folly in allowing Audrey to leave the quay. "We're trapped!--that's what
it means. Why we're trapped isn't a question that matters very much under
the circumstances--the serious thing is that we certainly are trapped."

Vickers turned to Audrey.

"My fault!" he said contritely. "All my fault! But I meant it for the
best--it was the thing to do--and who on earth could have foreseen this.
Look here!--we've got to think pretty quick, Copplestone, that captain,
now? Has he done this on his own hook, or--is there somebody on board
who's at the top of things?"

"I don't see any good in thinking quick, or asking one's self
questions," replied Copplestone. "We're locked in here. We've got Miss
Greyle into this mess--and her mother will be anxious and alarmed. I wish
we'd let this confounded yacht go where it liked before ever we'd--"

"Don't!" broke in Audrey. "That's no good. Mr. Vickers certainly did what
he felt to be best--and who could foresee this? And I'm not afraid--and
as for my mother, if we don't return very soon, why, she knows where we
are and there are police in Scarhaven, and--"

"How long are we going to be where we are?" asked Copplestone, grimly.
"The thing's moving!"

There was no doubt of that very pertinent fact. Somewhere beneath them,
machinery began to work; above them there was hurry and scurry as ropes
and stays were thrown off. But so beautifully built was that yacht, and
so almost sound-proof the luxurious cabin in which they were prisoners,
that little of the noise of departure came to them. However, there was no
mistaking the increasing throb of the engines nor the fact that the
vessel was moving, and Vickers suddenly sprang on a lounge seat and moved
away a silken screen which curtained a port-hole window.

"There's no doubt of that!" he exclaimed.

"We're going through the outer harbour--we've passed the light at the end
of the quay. What do these people mean by carrying us out to sea?
Copplestone!--with all submission to you--whether it's relevant or not, I
wish we knew more of that captain chap!"

"I know him," remarked Audrey. "I have been on this yacht before. His
name is Andrius. He's an American--or American-Norwegian, or something
like that."

"And the crew?" asked Vickers. "Are they Scarhaven men?"

"No," replied Audrey. "There isn't a Scarhaven man amongst them. My
cousin--I mean--you know whom I mean--bought this yacht just as it stood,
from an American millionaire early this spring, and he took over the
captain, crew, and everything."

"So--we're in the hands of strangers!" exclaimed Vickers, while
Copplestone dug his hands into his pockets and began to stamp about. "I
wish I'd known all that before we came on board."

"But what harm can they do us?" said Audrey, incredulous of danger. "You
don't suppose they'll want to murder us, surely! My own belief is that we
never should have been locked up here if you hadn't let them know how
much we know, Mr. Vickers."

"Let them--I don't understand," said Vickers, turning a puzzled
glance on her.

"Why," replied Audrey with a laugh which convinced both men of her
fearlessness, "you let the captain see that we know a great deal and he
thereupon ran downstairs--presumably to tell somebody of what you said.
And--here's the result!"

"You think, then--" suggested Vickers. "You think that--"

"I think the somebody--whoever he is--wants to know exactly how much we
do know," answered Audrey with another laugh. "And so we're being carried
off to be cross-examined--at somebody's leisure. Let's hope they won't
use thumb-screws and that sort of thing. And anyway," she continued,
looking from one to the other, "hadn't we better make the best of it?
We're going out to sea, that's certain--here's the bar!"

A sudden lifting of the thickly-carpeted floor, a dip to the left,
another to the right, a plunge forward, a drop back, then a settling down
to a steady persistent roll, showed her companions that Audrey was
right--the yacht was crossing the bar which lay at the mouth of
Scarhaven Bay. Outside that lay the North Sea, and Copplestone suddenly
wondered which course the vessel was going to take, north, east, or
south. But before he could put his thoughts into words, the door was
suddenly unlocked, and Captain Andrius, suave, polite, deprecating,
walked into the cabin.

"A thousands pardons--and two words of explanation!" he exclaimed, as he
executed a deep bow to his lady prisoner. "First--Miss Greyle, I have
sent a message to your mother that you are quite safe and will join her
in due course. Second--this is merely a temporary detention--you shall
all be landed--all in good time."

Vickers as a legal man, assumed his most professional air.

"Do you know what you are rendering yourself liable to, sir, by detaining
us at all?" he demanded. "An action--"

Captain Andrius bowed again; again assumed his deprecating smile. He
waved the two men to seats and himself took a chair with his back to the
door by which he entered.

"My dear sir!" he said courteously. "You forget that I am but a servant.
I am under orders. However, I give my word that no harm shall come to
you, that you shall be treated with every polite attention, and that you
shall be landed."

"When--and where?" asked Vickers.

"Tomorrow, certainly," replied Andrius. "As to where, I cannot exactly
say. But--where you will be in touch with--shall we say civilization?"

He showed a set of fine white teeth in such a curious fashion as he spoke
the last word that Copplestone and Vickers instinctively glanced at each
other, with a mutual instinct of distrust.

"Won't do!" said Vickers. "I insist that you put about and go into
Scarhaven again."

Andrius spread out his open palms and shook his head "Impossible!" he
answered. "We are already _en voyage_. Time presses. Be
placable--tomorrow you shall be released."

Vickers was about to answer this appeal with an angry refusal to be
either placable or tractable, but he suddenly stopped the words which
rose to his tongue. There was something in all this--some mystery, some
queer game, and it might be worth while to find it out.

"Where are you taking this yacht?" he demanded brusquely. "Come, now!"

"I am under--orders," said Andrius, with another smile.

"Whose orders?" persisted Vickers. "Look here--it's no use trying to
burke facts. Who's on board this vessel? You know what I mean. Is the man
who calls himself Squire of Scarhaven here?"

Andrius shook his head quietly and gave his questioner a shrewd glance.

"Mr. Vickers," he said meaningly, "I know you! You are a lawyer--though a
young one. Lawyers are guarded in their speech. Now--we are alone--we
four. No one can hear anything we say. Tell me--is that right what you
said to me on deck, that the man who has called himself Marston Greyle is
not so at all?"

"Absolutely right," replied Vickers.

"An impostor?" demanded Andrius.

"He is!"

"And never had any right to--anything?"

"No right whatever!"

"Then," said Andrius, with a polite inclination of his head and shoulders
to Audrey, "the truth is that everything of the Scarhaven property
belongs to this lady?"

"Everything!" exclaimed Vickers. "Land, houses, furniture,
valuables--everything. All the property which you have on this
yacht--pictures, china, silver, books, objects of art, as I am
instructed, removed from the house--are Miss Greyle's sole property. Once
more I warn you of what you are doing, and I demand that you immediately
return to Scarhaven. This very yacht belongs to Miss Greyle!"

Andrius nodded, looked fixedly at the young solicitor for a moment, and
then rose.

"I am obliged to you," he said. "That, of course, is your claim. But--the
other one, eh? It seems to me there might be something to be said for
that, you know? So, all I can do is to renew my assurance of polite
attention, offer you our best accommodation--which is luxurious--and
promise to land you--somewhere--tomorrow. Miss Greyle, we have two women
servants on board--I shall send them to you at once and they will attend
to you--please consider them your own. You, gentlemen, will perhaps join
me in my quarters?--I have two spare cabins close to my own which are at
your service."

Copplestone and Vickers looked at each other and at Audrey--undecided and
vaguely suspicious. But Audrey was evidently neither alarmed nor
uneasy--she nodded a ready assent to the Captain's proposal.

"Thank you, Captain Andrius," she said coolly. "I know the two women. You
may send one of them. Do what he suggests," she murmured, turning to
Copplestone, who had moved close to her, "I'm not one scrap afraid of
anything--and it's only until tomorrow. He'll land us--I'm sure of it."

There was nothing for it, then, but to follow Andrius to his own
comfortable quarters. There, utterly ignoring the strange circumstances
under which they met, he played the part of host with genuine desire to
make his guests feel at ease, and when he showed them to their berths,
a little later, he emphasized his assurance of their absolute safety
and liberty.

"You see, gentlemen, your movements are untrammelled," he said. "You can
go in and out of your quarters as you like. You can go where you like on
the yacht tomorrow morning. There is no restriction on you. Sleep
well--and tomorrow you are all free again, eh?"

Copplestone got a word or two with Vickers--alone.

"What do you think?" he muttered. "Shall you sleep?"

"My impression--for I know what you're thinking about," said Vickers, "is
that Miss Greyle's as safe as if she were in her mother's house! She's no
fear, herself, anyway. There's some mystery, somewhere, and I can't make
this Andrius man out at all, but I believe all's right as regards
personal safety. There's Miss Greyle's cabin, anyhow, right opposite
ours--and I can keep an eye and an ear open even when I'm asleep!"

But in spite of these assurances, Copplestone slept little. He was up,
dressed, and on deck by sunrise, staring around him in a fresh autumn
morning to get some notion of the yacht's whereabouts, and he had just
managed to make out a mere filmy line of land far to the westward when
Audrey appeared at his elbow. There was no one of any importance near
them and Copplestone impulsively seized her hands.

"I've scarcely slept!" he blurted out, gazing intently at her.
"Couldn't! Blaming myself for letting you get into this confounded mess!
You're all right?"

Audrey responded a little to the pressure of his hands before she
disengaged her own.

"It wasn't your fault," she said. "It's nobody's fault. Don't blame Mr.
Vickers--he couldn't foresee this. Yes, I'm all right--and I slept like a
top. What's the use of worrying? Do you know," she went on, lowering her
voice and drawing nearer to him, "I believe something's going to come of
all this--something that'll clear matters up once and for all."

"Why?" asked Copplestone, wonderingly. "What makes you think that?"

"Don't know--instinct, intuitiveness, perhaps," she answered.
"Besides--I'm dead certain we're not the only people--I don't mean crew
and Captain--aboard the _Pike_. I believe there's somebody else. There's
some mystery, anyway. Keep that to yourself," she said as Andrius and
Vickers appeared from below. "Don't show any sign--wait to see how things
turn out."

She turned away from him to greet the other two as unconcernedly as if
there were nothing unusual in the situation, and Copplestone marvelled at
her coolness. He himself, not so well equipped with patience, was
feverishly anxious to know how things would turn out, and when. But the
day went by and nothing happened, except that Captain Andrius was very
polite to his guests and that the yacht, a particularly fast sailer,
continued to make headway through the grey seas, sometimes in bare sight
of land and sometimes out of it. To one or two inquiries as to the
fulfilment of his promise Andrius made no more answer than a reassuring
nod; once when Vickers pressed him, he replied curtly that the day was
not yet over. Vickers drew Copplestone aside on hearing that.

"Look here!" he said. "I've been reckoning things up as near as I can. I
make out that we've been running due north, or north-east ever since we
left Scarhaven last night. I reckon, too, that this vessel makes quite
twenty-two or three, knots an hour. We must be off the extreme north-east
coast of Scotland. And night's coming on!"

"There are ports there that he can put into," said Copplestone. "The
thing is--will he keep his promise? Remember!--he must know very well
that if we once land anywhere within reach of a telegraph office, we can
wire particulars about him to every port in the world if we like--and
he's got to go somewhere, eventually, you know."

Vickers shook his head as if this were a problem he would give up. It was
beyond him, he said, to even guess at what Andrius was after, or what was
going to happen. And nothing did happen until, as the three prisoners sat
at dinner with their polite gaoler, the _Pike_ came to a sudden stop and
hung gently on a quiet sea. Andrius looked up and smiled.

"A pleasant night for your landing," he remarked. "Don't hurry--but there
will be a boat ready for you as soon as dinner is over."

"And where are we?" asked Vickers.

"That, my dear sir, you will see when you land." replied Andrius.
"You will, at any rate, be quite comfortable for the night, and in
the morning, I think, you will be able to journey--wherever you wish
to go to."

There was something in the smile which accompanied the last words which
made Copplestone uneasy. But the prospect of regaining their liberty was
too good--he kept his own counsel. And half-an-hour later, he, Audrey and
Vickers, stood on deck, looking down on a boat alongside, in which were
two or three of the crew and a man holding a lanthorn. In front was the
dark sea, and ahead a darker mass which they took to be land.

"You won't tell us what this place is?" said Vickers as he was about to
follow the others into the boat. "It's on the mainland, of course?"

"The morning light, my good sir, will show you everything," replied
Andrius. "Be content that I have kept my promise--you have come off
luckily," he added with a significant look.

Vickers felt a strange sense of alarm as the boat left the yacht. He
noticed two or three suspicious circumstances. As soon as they got away,
he saw that all the yacht's lights had been or were being darkened or
entirely obscured; at a dozen boat lengths they could see her no more.
Then a boat, swiftly pulled, passed them in the darkness, evidently
coming from the shore to which they were being taken: it, too, carried no
light. Nor were there any lights on the shore itself; all there was in
utter blackness. They were on the shingle within a quarter of an hour;
within a minute or two the yachtsmen had helped all three on to the
beach, had carried up certain boxes and packages which had been placed in
the boat, had set down the lighted lanthorn, jumped into the boat again
and vanished in the darkness. And in the silence, broken only by the drip
of water from the retreating oars, and by the scarcely-noticed ripple of
the waves, Audrey voiced exactly what her two companions felt.

"Andrius has kept his word--and cheated us! We're stranded!"

From somewhere out of the darkness came a groan--deep and heartfelt, as
if in entire agreement with Audrey's declaration. That it proceeded from
a human being was evident enough, and Vickers hastily snatched up the
lanthorn and strode in the direction from which it came. And there,
seated on the shingle, his whole attitude one of utter dejection and
misery, the three castaways found a sharer of their sorrows--Peter
Chatfield!



CHAPTER XXI

MAROONED


To each of these three young people this was the most surprising moment
which life had yet afforded. It was an astonishing thing to find a fellow
mortal there at all, but to find that mortal was the Scarhaven estate
agent was literally short of marvellous. What was also astounding was to
see Chatfield's only too evident distress. Swathed in a heavy,
old-fashioned ulster, with a plaid shawl round his shoulders and a
deerstalker hat tied over head and ears with a bandanna handkerchief he
sat on the beach nursing his knees, slightly rocking his fleshy figure to
and fro and moaning softly with the regularity of a minute bell. His eyes
were fixed on the dark expanse of waters at his feet; his lips, when he
was not moaning, worked incessantly; as he rocked his body he beat his
toes on the shingle. Clearly, Chatfield was in a bad way, mentally. That
he was not so badly off materially was made evident by the presence of a
half-open kit bag which obviously contained food and a bottle of spirits.

For any notice that he took of them, Audrey, Vickers, and Copplestone
might have been no more than the pebbles on which they stood. In spite of
the fact that Vickers shone the light on his fat face, and that three
inquisitive pairs of eyes were trained on it, Chatfield continued to
stare moodily and disgustedly out to sea and to take no notice of his
gratuitous company. And so utterly extraordinary was his behaviour and
attitude that Audrey suddenly and almost involuntarily stepped forward
and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Mr. Chatfield!" she exclaimed. "What 's the matter? Are you ill?"

The emphasis which she gave to the last word roused some quality of
Chatfield's subtle intellect. He flashed a swift look at his
questioner--a look of mingled contempt and derision, spiced with a dash
of sneering humour. And he found his tongue.

"Ill!" he snorted. "Ill! She asks if I'm ill--me, a respectable man
what's maltreated and robbed before his own eyes by them as ought to fall
in humble gratitude at his feet! I'll!--aye, ill with something that's
worse nor any bodily aches and pains--let me tell you that! But not done
for, neither!"

"He's all right," said Copplestone. "That's a flash of his old spirit.
You're all right, Chatfield, aren't you? And who's robbed and maltreated
you--and how and when--especially when--did you come here?"

Chatfield looked up at his old assailant with a glare of dislike.

"You keep your tongue to yourself, young feller!" he growled. "I
shouldn't never ha' been here at all if it hadn't been for the likes of
you--a pokin' your nose where it isn't wanted. It's 'cause o' you three
comin' aboard o' that there yacht last night as I am here--a castaway!"

"Well, we're castaways, too, Mr. Chatfield," said Audrey. "And we can't
help believing that it's all your naughty conduct that's made us so. Why
don't you tell the truth?"

Chatfield uttered a few grumpy and inarticulate sounds.

"It'll be a bad day for more than one when I do that--as I will," he
muttered presently. "Oh aye, I 'll tell the truth--when it suits me! But
I'll be out o' this first."

"You'll never get out of this first or last, until you tell us how you
got in," said Vickers, assuming a threatening tone. "You'd better tell us
all about it, you know. Come now!--you know me and my firm."

Chatfield laughed grimly and shook his much-swathed head.

"I ought to," he said. "I've given 'em more than one nice job and said
naught about their bills o' costs, neither, my lad. You keep a civil
tongue in your mouth--I ain't done for yet, noways! You let me get off
this here place, wherever it is, and within touch of a telegraph office,
and I'll make somebody suffer!"

"Andrius, of course," said Copplestone. "Come now, he put you ashore
before he sent us off, didn't he? Why don't you own up?"

"Never you mind, young feller," retorted Chat-field. "I was feeling very
cast down, but I'm better. I've something that'll keep me going--revenge!
I'll show 'em, once I'm off this place--I will so!"

"Look here, Chatfield," said Vickers. "Do you know where this place is?
What is it? Is it on the mainland, or is it an island, or where are we?
It's all very well talking about getting off, but when and how are we to
get off? Why don't you be sensible and tell us what you know?"

The estate agent arose slowly and ponderously, drawing his shawl about
him. He looked out seawards. In that black waste the steady beat of the
yacht's propellers could be clearly heard, but not a gleam of light came
from her, and it was impossible to decide in which direction she was
going. And Chatfield suddenly shook his fist at the throbbing sound which
came in regular pulsations through the night.

"Never mind!" he said sneeringly. "We aren't at the North Pole
neither--I ain't a seafaring man, but I've a good idea of where we are!
And perhaps there won't be naught to take me off when it's daylight, and
perhaps there won't be no telegraphs near at hand, nor within a hundred
miles, and perhaps there ain't such a blessed person as that there
Marconi and his wireless in the world--oh, no! Just you wait, my fine
fellers--that's all!"

"He's not addressing us, Vickers," said Copplestone. "You're decidedly
better, Chatfield--you're quite better. The notion of revenge and of
circumvention has come to you like balm. But you'd a lot better tell us
who you're referring to, and why you were put ashore. Listen,
Chatfield!--there's property of your own on that yacht, eh? That it?
Come, now?"

Chatfield gave his questioner a look of indignant scorn. He stooped for
the kit-bag, picked it up, and turned away.

"I don't want to have naught to do with you," he remarked over his
shoulder. "You keep yourselves to yourselves, and I'll keep myself to
myself. If it hadn't been for what you blabbed out last night, them
ungrateful devils 'ud never have had such ideas put into their heads!"

As if he knew his way, Chatfield plodded heavily up the beach and was
lost in the darkness, and the three left behind stood helplessly staring
at each other. For a long time there was silence, broken only by the
agent's heavy tread on the shingle--at last Vickers spoke.

"I think I can see through all this," he said. "Chatfield's cryptic
utterances were somewhat suggestive. 'Robbed'--'maltreated'--'them as
ought to have fallen in humble gratitude at his feet'--'vengeance'--
'revenge'--'Marconi telegrams'--'ungrateful devils'--ah, I see it!
Chatfield had associates on the _Pike_--probably the impostor himself
and Andrius--probably, too, he had property of his own, as you suggested
to him, Copplestone. The whole gang was doubtless off with their loot to
far quarters of the globe. Very good--the other members have shelved
Chatfield. They've done with him. But--not if he knows it! That man will
hunt the _Pike_ and her people--whoever they are--relentlessly when he
gets off this."

"I wish we knew what it is that we're on!" said Copplestone.

"Impossible till daybreak," replied Vickers. "But I've an idea--this is
probably one of the seventy-odd islands of the Orkneys: I've sailed round
here before. If I'm right, it's most likely one of the outlying and
uninhabited ones. Andrius--or his controlling power--has dropped us--and
Chatfield--here, knowing that we may have to spend a few days on this
island before we succeed in getting off. Those few days will mean a great
deal to the _Pike_. She can be run into some safe harbourage on this
coast, given a new coat of paint and a new name, and be off before we can
do anything to stop her. I allow Chatfield to be right in this--that my
perhaps too hasty declaration to Andrius revealed to that gentleman how
he could make off with other people's property."

"Nothing will make me believe that Andrius is the solely responsible
person for this last development," said Copplestone, moodily. "There were
other people on board--cleverly concealed. And what are we going to do?"

Audrey had stepped away from the circle of light made by the lanthorn and
was gazing steadily in the direction which Chatfield had taken.

"Those are cliffs, surely," she said presently. "Hadn't we better go up
the beach and see if we can't find some shelter until morning?
Fortunately we're all warmly clad, and Andrius was considerate enough to
throw rugs and things into the boat, as well as provisions. Come
along!--after all, we're not so badly off. And we have the satisfaction
of knowing that we can keep Chatfield under observation. Remember that!"

But in the morning, when the first gleam of light came across the sea,
and Vickers, leaving his companions to prepare some breakfast from the
store of provisions which had been sent ashore with them, set out to make
a first examination of their surroundings, the agent was not to be seen.
What was to be seen was a breach of rock, sand, shingle, not a mile in
length, lying at the foot of high cliffs, and on the grey sea in front
not a sign of a sail, nor a wisp of smoke from a passing steamer. The
apparent solitude and isolation of the place was as profound as the
silence which overhung everything.

Vickers made his way up the cliffs to their highest point and from its
summit took a leisurely view of his surroundings. He saw at once that
they were on an island, and that it was but one of many which lay spread
out over the sea towards the north and the west. It was a wedge-shaped
island this, and the cliffs on which he stood and the beach beneath
formed the widest side of it; from thence its lines drew away to a point
in the distance which he judged to be two miles off. Between him and that
point lay a sloping expanse of rough land, never cultivated since
creation, whereon there were vast masses of rock and boulder but no sign
of human life. No curling column of smoke went up from hut or cottage;
his ears caught neither the bleating of sheep nor the cry of
shepherd--all was still as only such places can be still. Nor could he
perceive any signs of life on the adjacent islands--which, to be sure,
were not very near. From the sea mists which wrapped one of them he saw
projecting the cap of a mountainous hill--that hill he recognized as
being on one of the principal islands of the group, and he then knew that
he and his companions had been set down on one of the outlying islands
which, from its position, was not in the immediate way of passing vessels
nor likely to be visited by fishermen.

He was turning away from the top of the cliff after a long and careful
inspection, when he caught sight of a man's figure crossing the rocky
slope between him and this far-off point. That, he said to himself, was
Chatfield. Did Chatfield know of any place at that point visited by
fishing craft from the other islands? Had Chatfield ever been in the
Orkneys before? Was there any method in his wanderings? Or was he, too,
merely examining his surroundings--considering which was the likeliest
part of the island from which to attract attention? In the midst of these
speculation a sudden resolution came to him--one or other of the three
must keep an eye on Chatfield. Night or day, Chatfield must be watched.
And having already seen that Copplestone and Audrey had an unmistakable
liking for each other's society and would certainly not object to being
left together, he determined to watch Chatfield himself. Hurrying down
the cliffs, he hastily explained the situation to his companions, took
some food in his hands, and set out to follow the agent wherever he went.



CHAPTER XXII

THE OLD HAND


Half-an-hour later, when Vickers regained the top of the cliff and once
more looked across the island towards the far-off point, the figure which
he had previously seen making for it had turned back, and was plodding
steadily across the coarse grass and rock-strewn moorland in his own
direction. Chatfield had evidently taken a bird's eye view of the
situation from the vantage point of the slope and had come to the
conclusion that the higher part of the island was the most likely point
from which to attract attention. He came steadily forward, a big,
lumbering figure in the light mist, and Vickers as he went on to meet him
eyed him with a lively curiosity, wondering what secrets lay carefully
locked up in the man's heart and what happened on the _Pike_ that made
its captain or its owner bundle Chatfield out of it like a box of bad
goods for which there was no more use. And as he speculated, they met,
and Vickers saw at once that the old fellow's mood had changed during the
night. An atmosphere of smug oiliness sat upon Chatfield in the freshness
of the morning, and he greeted the young solicitor in tones which were
suggestive of a chastened spirit.

"Morning, Mr. Vickers," he said. "A sweetly pretty spot it is that we
find ourselves in, sir--nevertheless, one's affairs sometimes makes us
long to quit the side of beauty, however much we would tarry by it! In
plain words, Mr. Vickers, I want to get out o' this. And I've been
looking round, and my opinion is that the best thing we can do is to
start as big a fire as we can find stuff for on yon bluff and keep
a-feeding on it. In the meantime, while you're considering of that, I'll
burn something of my own--I'm weary."

He dropped down on a convenient boulder of limestone, settled his big
frame comfortably, and producing a pipe and a tobacco pouch, proceeded to
smoke. Vickers himself took another boulder and looked inquisitively at
his strange companion. He felt sure that Chatfield was up to something.

"You say 'we' now," he remarked suddenly. "Last night you said you didn't
want to have anything to do with us. We were to keep to ourselves, and--"

"Well, well, Mr. Vickers," broke in Chatfield. "One says things at one
time that one wouldn't say at another, you know. Facts is facts, sir, and
Providence has made us companions in distress. I've naught against
you--nor against the girl--as for t'other young man, he's of a
interfering nature--but I forgive him--he's young. I don't bear no ill
will--things being as they are. I've had time to reflect since last
night--and I don't see no reason why Miss Greyle and me shouldn't come to
terms--through you."

Vickers lighted his own pipe, and took some time over it.

"What are you after, Chatfield?" he asked at length. "Something, of
course. You say you want to come to terms with Miss Greyle. That, of
course, is because you know very well that Miss Greyle is the legal owner
of Scarhaven, and that--"

Chatfield waved his pipe.

"I don't!" he answered, with what seemed genuine eagerness. "I don't know
naught of the sort. I tell you, Mr. Vickers, I do _not_ know that the man
what we've known as the Squire of Scarhaven for a year gone by is _not_
the rightful Squire--I do not! Fact, sir! But"--he lowered his voice, and
his sly eyes became slyer and craftier--"but I won't deny that during
this last week or two I may have had my suspicions aroused, that there
was something wrong--I don't deny that, Mr. Vickers."

Vickers heard this with amazement. Young as he was, he had had various
dealings with Peter Chatfield, and he had an idea that he knew something
of him, subtle old fellow though he was, and he believed that Chatfield
was now speaking the truth. But, in that case, what of Copplestone's
revelation about the Falmouth and Bristol affair and the dead man? He
thought rapidly, and then determined to take a strong line.

"Chatfield!" he said. "You're trying to bluff me. It won't do. Things
are known. I know 'em! I'll be candid with you--the time's come for
that. I'll tell you what I know--it'll all have to come out. You know
very well that the real Marston Greyle's dead. You were with him when he
died. What's more, you buried him at Bristol under the name of Mark
Grey. Hang it all, man, what's the use of lying about it?--you know
that's all true!"

He was watching Chatfield's big face keenly, and he was astonished to see
that his dramatic impeachment produced no more effect than a slightly
superior smile. Instead of being floored, Chatfield was distinctly
unimpressed.

"Aye!" he said, reflectively. "Aye, I expected to hear that. That's
Copplestone's work, of course--I knew he was some sort of detective as
soon as I got speech with him. His work and that there Sir Cresswell
Oliver's as is making a mountain out of a molehill about his brother,
who, of course, broke his neck quite accidental, poor man, and of that
London lawyer--Petherton. Aye--aye--but all the same, Mr. Vickers, it
don't alter matters--no-how!"

"Good heavens, man, what do you mean?" exclaimed Vickers, who was
becoming more and more mystified. "Do you mean to tell me--come, come,
Chatfield, I'm not a fool! Why--Copplestone has found it all out--there's
no need to keep it secret, now. You were with Marston Greyle when he
died--you registered his death as Marston Greyle--and--"

Chatfield laughed softly and gave his companion a swift glance out of one
corner of his right eye.

"And put another name on a bit of a tombstone--six months afterwards,
what?" he said quietly. "Mr. Vickers, when you're as old as I am,
you'll know that this here world is as full o' puzzles as yon sea's
full o'fish!"

Vickers could only stare at his companion in speechless silence after
that. He felt that there was some mystery about which Chatfield
evidently knew a great deal while he knew nothing. The old fellow's
coolness, his ready acceptance of the Bristol facts, his almost
contemptuous brushing aside of them, reduced Vickers to a feeling of
helplessness. And Chatfield saw it, and laughed, and drawing a
pocket-flask out of his garments, helped himself to a tot of
spirits--after which he good-naturedly offered like refreshment to
Vickers. But Vickers shook his head.

"No, thanks," he said. He continued to stare at Chatfield much as he
might have, stared at the Sphinx if she had been present--and in the end
he could only think of one word. "Well?" he asked lamely. "Well?"

"As to what, now?" inquired Chatfield with a sly smile.

"About what you said," replied Vickers. "Miss Greyle, you know. I'm
about thoroughly tied up with all this. You evidently know a lot. Of
course you won't tell! You're devilish deep, Chatfield. But, between you
and me--what do you mean when you say that you don't see why you and Miss
Greyle shouldn't come to terms?"

"Didn't I say that during this last week or two I'd had my suspicions
about the Squire?" answered Chatfield. "I did. I have had them
suspicions--got 'em stronger than ever since last night. So--what I say
is this. If things should turn out that Miss Greyle's the rightful owner
of Scarhaven, and if I help her to establish her claim, and if I help,
too, to recover them valuables that are on the _Pike_--there's a good
sixty to eighty thousand pounds worth of stuff, silver, china, paintings,
books, tapestry, on that there craft, Mr. Vickers!--if, I say, I do all
that, what will Miss Greyle give me? That's it--in a plain way of
speaking."

"I thought it was," said Vickers dryly. "Of course! Very well--you'd
better come and talk to Miss Greyle. Come on--now!"

Copplestone and Audrey, having made a breakfast from the box of
provisions which Andrius had been good enough to send ashore with them,
had climbed to the head of the cliff after Vickers, and they were
presently astonished beyond measure to see him returning with Chatfield
under outward signs which suggested amity if not friendship. They paused
by a convenient nook in the rocks and silently awaited the approach of
these two strangely assorted companions. Vickers, coming near, gave them
a queer and a knowing look.

"Mr. Chatfield," he said gravely, "has had the night in which to reflect.
Mr. Chatfield desires peaceable relations. Mr. Chatfield doesn't
see--now, having reflected--why he and Miss Greyle shouldn't be on good'
terms. Mr. Chatfield desires to discuss these terms. Is that right,
Chatfield?"

"Quite right, sir," assented the agent. He had been regarding the couple
who faced him benevolently and indulgently, and he now raised his hat to
them. "Servant, ma'am," he said with a bow to Audrey. "Servant, sir," he
continued, with another bow to Copplestone. "Ah--it's far better to be at
peace one with another than to let misunderstandings exist for ever. Mr.
Copplestone, sir, you and me's had words in times past--I brush 'em away,
sir, like that there--the memory's departed! I desire naught but better
feelings. Happen Mr. Vickers'll repeat what's passed between him and me."

Copplestone stood rooted to the spot with amazement while Vickers hastily
epitomized the recent conversation; his mouth opened and his speech
failed him. But Audrey laughed and looked at Vickers as if Chatfield were
a new sort of entertainment.

"What do you say to this, Mr. Vickers?" she asked.

"Well, if you want to know," replied Vickers, "I believe Chatfield when
he says that he does _not_ know that the Squire is _not_ the Squire. May
seem strange, but I do! As a solicitor, I do."

"Great Scott!" exclaimed Copplestone, finding his tongue.
"You--believe that!"

"I've said so," retorted Vickers.

"Thank you, sir," said Chatfield. "I'm obliged to you. Mr. Copplestone,
sir, doesn't yet understand that there's a deal of conundrum in life.
He'll know better--some day. He'll know, too, that the poet spoke
truthful when he said that things isn't what they seem."

Copplestone turned angrily on Vickers.

"Is this a farce?" he demanded. "Good heavens, man! you know what I
told you!"

"Mr. Chatfield has a version," answered Vickers. "Why not hear it?"

"On terms, Mr. Vickers," remarked Chatfield. "On terms, sir."

"What terms?" asked Audrey. "To Mr. Chatfield's personal advantage,
of course."

Chatfield, who was still the most unconcerned of the group, seated
himself on the rocks and looked at his audience.

"I've said to Mr. Vickers here that if I help Miss Greyle to the estate,
I ought to be rewarded--handsome," he said. "Mind you, I don't know that
I can, for as I say, I do not know, as a matter of strict fact, that this
man as we've called the Squire, isn't the Squire. But recent events--very
recent events!--has made me suspicious that he isn't, and happen I can do
a good bit--a very good bit--to turning him out. Now, if I help in that
there work, will Miss Greyle continue me in my post of estate agent at
Scarhaven?"

"Not for any longer than it will take to turn you out of it, Mr.
Chatfield," replied Audrey with an energy and promptitude which
surprised her companions. "So we need not discuss that. You will never
be my agent!"

"Very good, ma'am--that's quite according to my expectations," said
Chatfield, meekly. "I was always a misunderstood man. However, this here
proposition will perhaps be more welcome. It's always been understood
that I was to have a retiring pension of five hundred pounds per annum.
The family has always promised it--I've letters to prove it. Will Miss
Greyle stand to that if she comes in? I've been a faithful servant for
nigh on to fifty years, Mr. Vickers, as all the neighbourhood is aware."

"If I come in, as you call it, you shall have your pension," said Audrey.
Chatfield slowly felt in a capacious inner pocket and produced a large
notebook and a fountain pen. He passed them to Vickers.

"We'll have that there in writing, signed and witnessed," he said. "Put,
if you please, Mr. Vickers, 'I agree that if I come into the Scarhaven
estate, Peter Chatfield shall at once be pensioned off with five hundred
pounds a year, to be paid quarterly. Same to be properly assured to him
for his life.' And then if Miss Greyle'll sign that document, and you
gentlemen'll witness it, I shall consider that henceforth I'm in Miss
Greyle's service. And," he added, with a significant glance all round, "I
shall be a deal more use as a friend nor what I should be as what you
might term an enemy--Mr. Vickers knows that."

Vickers held a short consultation with Audrey, the result of which was
that the paper was duly signed, Witnessed, and deposited in Chatfield's
pocket. And Chatfield nodded his satisfaction.

"All right," he said. "Now then, ma'am, and gentlemen, the next thing is
to get away out o' this, and get on the track of them as put us here.
We'd better start a big fire out o' this dry stuff--"

"But what about these revelations you were going to make?" said Vickers.
"I understood you were to tell us--"

"Sir," replied Chatfield, "I'll tell and I'll reveal in due course, and
in good order. Events, sir, is the thing! Let me get to the nearest
telegraph office, and we'll have some events, right smart. Let me
attract attention. I've sailed in these seas before. There's steamers
goes out of Kirkwall yonder frequent--we must get hold of one. A
telegraph office!--that's what I want. I'm a-going to set up a
blaze--and I'll set up a blaze elsewhere as soon as I can lay hands on a
bundle o' telegraph forms!"

He leisurely took off his shawl and overcoat, laid them on a shelf of
rock, and moved away to collect the dry stuff which lay to hand. The
three young people exchanged glances.

"What's this new mystery?" asked Audrey.

"All bluff!--some deep game of his own," growled Copplestone. "He's the
most consummate old liar I ever--"

"You're wrong this time, old chap!" interrupted Vickers. "He's a bad
'un--but he's on our side now--I'm convinced. It is a game he's playing,
and a deep one, and I don't know what it is, but it's for our
benefit--Chatfield's simply transferred his interest and influence to
us--that's all. For his own purposes, of course. And"--he suddenly
paused, gazed seaward, and then jumped to his feet. "Chatfield!" he
called quietly. "You needn't light any fire. Here's a steamer!"



CHAPTER XXIII

THE YACHT COMES BACK


Chatfield, his arms filled with masses of dried bracken and coarse grass,
turned sharply on hearing Vickers's call and stared hard and long in the
direction which the young solicitor pointed out. His small, crafty eyes
became dilated to their full extent--suddenly they contracted again with
a look of cunning satisfaction, and throwing away his burdens he drew out
a big many-coloured handkerchief and mopped his high forehead as if the
perspiration which burst out were the result of intense mental relief.

"Didn't I know we should be rescued from this here imprisonment!" he
cried with unctuous joy. "Thought they'd pinned me here for best part of
a week, no doubt, while they could get theirselves quietly away--far
away! But it's my experience 'ut them as has served the Lord's never
deserted, Mr. Vickers, and if you live as long as--"

"Don't be blasphemous, Chatfield!" said Vickers, curtly. "None of that!
What we'd better think about is the chance of that steamer sighting us.
We'll light that fire, anyway!"

"She's coming straight on for the island," remarked Copplestone, who had
been narrowly watching the approaching vessel. "So straight that you'd
think she was actually making for it."

"She'll be some craft bound for Kirkwall," said Vickers, pointing
northward to the main group of islands. "And in that case she'll probably
take this channel on our west; that fire, now! Come on all of you, and
let's make as big a smoke as we can get out of this stuff."

The weather being calm and the grass and bracken which they heaped
together as dry as tinder, there was little difficulty about raising a
thick column of smoke which presently rose high in the sky. But Audrey,
turning away from the successful result of their labours, suddenly
glanced at Copplestone with a look that challenged an answer to her own
thoughts. They were standing a little apart from the others and she
lowered her voice.

"I say!" she murmured. "I don't think we need have bothered ourselves to
light that fire. That vessel, whatever it is, is making for us. Look!"

Copplestone shaded his eyes and stared out across the sea. The steamer
was by that time no more than two or three miles away. But she was coming
towards them in a dead straight line, and as she was accordingly bow on,
and as her top deck and lamps were obscured by clouds of black smoke,
pouring furiously from her funnels, they could make little out of her
appearance. Copplestone's first notion was that she was a naval patrol
boat, or a torpedo destroyer. Whatever she was it seemed certain that she
was heading direct for the island, at that very point on which the
fugitives had been landed the previous night. And it was very evident
that she was in a great hurry to make her objective.

"I think you're right," he said, turning to Audrey. "But it's strange
that any vessel should be making for an uninhabited island like this.
What--but you've got some notion in your mind?" he broke off suddenly,
seeing her glance at him again. "What is it?"

Audrey shook her head, with a cautious look at Chatfield.

"I was wondering if that's the _Pike_?--come back!" she whispered. "And
if it is--why?"

Copplestone started, and took a longer and keener look at the
vessel. Before he could speak again, Vickers called out cheerily
across the rocks.

"Come on, you two!" he cried. "She's seen us--she's coming in. They'll
have to send off a boat. Let's get down to the beach, so that they'll
know where there's a safe landing."

He sprang over the edge of the cliff and hurried down the rough path;
Chatfield, picking up his coat and shawl, prepared to follow him; Audrey
and Copplestone lingered until he, too, had begun to lumber downward.

"If that is the _Pike_," said Audrey, "there is something--wrong. Whoever
it is that is on the _Pike_ wouldn't come back to take us!"

"You think there is somebody on the _Pike_--somebody other than Andrius?"
suggested Copplestone.

"I believe the man who calls himself Marston Greyle was on the _Pike_,"
announced Audrey. "I've always thought so. Whether Chatfield knew that
or not, I don't know. My own belief is that Chatfield did know. I believe
Chatfield was in with them, as the saying is. I think they were all
running away with as much of the Scarhaven property as they could lay
hands on and that having got it, they bundled Chatfield out and dumped
him down here, having no further use for him. And, if that's the _Pike_,
and they're returning here, it's because they want Chatfield!"

Copplestone suddenly recognized that feminine instinct had solved a
problem which masculine reason had so far left unsolved.

"By gad!" he exclaimed softly. "Then, if that is so, this is merely
another of Chatfield's games. You don't believe him?"

"I would think myself within approachable distance of lunacy if I
believed a word that Peter Chatfield said," she answered calmly. "Of
course, he is playing a game of his own all through. He shall have his
pension--if I have the power to give it--but believe him--oh, no!"

"Let's follow them," said Copplestone. "Something's going to happen--if
that is the _Pike_."

"Look there, then," exclaimed Audrey as they began to descend the cliff.
"Chatfield's already uneasy."

She pointed to the beach below, where Chatfield, now fully overcoated and
shawled again, had mounted a ridge of rock, and while gazing intently at
the vessel, was exchanging remarks with Vickers, who had evidently said
something which had alarmed him. They caught Chatfield's excited
ejaculations as they hurried over the sand.

"Don't say that, Mr. Vickers!" he was saying imploringly. "For God's
sake, Mr. Vickers, don't suggest them there sort of thoughts. You make me
feel right down poorly, Mr. Vickers, to say such! It's worse than a bad
dream, Mr. Vickers--no, sir, no, surely you're mistaken!"

"Bet you a fiver to a halfpenny it's the _Pike_," retorted Vickers. "I
know her lines. Besides she's heading straight here. Copplestone!" he
cried, turning to the advancing couple. "Do you know, I believe that's
the _Pike!_"

Copplestone gave Audrey's elbow a gentle squeeze.

"Look at old Chatfield!" he whispered. "By gad!--look at him. Yes," he
called out loudly, "We know it's the _Pike_--we saw that from the top of
the cliffs. She's coming straight in."

"Oh, yes, it's the _Pike_," exclaimed Audrey. "Aren't you delighted, Mr.
Chatfield."

The agent suddenly turned his big fat face towards the three young
people, with such an expression of craven fear on it that the sardonic
jest which Copplestone was about to voice died away on his lips.
Chatfield's creased cheeks and heavy jowl had become white as chalk;
great beads of sweat rolled down them; his mouth opened and shut
silently, and suddenly, as he raised his hands and wrung them, his knees
began to quiver. It was evident that the man was badly, terribly
afraid--and as they watched him in amazed wonder his eyes began to
search the shore and the cliffs as if he were some hunted animal seeking
any hole or cranny in which to hide. A sudden swelling of the light wind
brought the steady throb of the oncoming engines to his ears and he
turned on Vickers with a look that made the onlookers start.

"For goodness sake, Mr. Vickers!" he said in a queer, strained voice.
"For heaven's sake, let's get ourselves away! Mr. Vickers--it ain't safe
for none of us. We'd best to run, sir--let's get to the other side of the
island. There's caves there--places--let's hide till something comes from
the other islands, or till these folks goes away--I tell you it's
dangerous for us to stop here!"

"We're not afraid, Chatfield," replied Vickers. "What ails you! Why man,
you couldn't be more afraid if you'd murdered somebody! What do you
suppose these people want? You, of course. And you can't escape--if they
want you, they'll search the island till they get you. You've been
deceiving us, Chatfield--there's something you've kept back. Now, what is
it? What have they come back for?"

"Yes, Mr. Chatfield, what has the _Pike_ come back for?" repeated Audrey,
coming nearer. "Come now--hadn't you better tell?"

"It is the _Pike_," remarked Copplestone. "Look there! And they're going
to send in a boat. Better be quick, Chatfield."

The agent turned an ashen face towards the yacht. She had swung round and
come to a halt, and the rattle of a boat being let down came menacingly
to the frightened man's ears. He tittered a deep groan and his eyes again
sought the cliffs.

"It's not a bit of good, Chatfield," said Vickers. "You can't get away.
Good heavens, man!--what are you so frightened for!"

Chatfield moaned and drew haltingly nearer to the other three, as if he
found some comfort in their mere presence.

"It's the money!" he whispered. "The money as was in the Norcaster
Bank--two lots of it. He--the Squire--gave me authority to get out his
lot what was standing in his name, you know--and the other--the estate
lot--that was standing in mine--some fifty thousand pounds in all, Mr.
Vickers. I had it all in gold, packed in sealed chests--and they--those
on board there--thought I took them chests aboard the _Pike_ with me. I
did take chests, d'ye see--but they'd lead in 'em. The real stuff is
hidden--buried--never mind where. And I know what they've come back
for!--they've opened the chests I took on board, and they've found
there's naught but lead. And they want me--me!--me! They'll torture me to
make me tell where the real chests, the money is--torture me! Oh, for
God's sake, keep 'em away from me--help me to hide--help me to get
away--and I'll tell Miss Greyle then where the money's hid, and--oh,
Lord, they're coming! Mr. Vickers--Mr. Vickers--"

He cast himself bodily at Vickers, as if to clutch him, but Vickers
stepped agilely aside, and Chatfield fell on the sand, where he lay
groaning while the others looked from him to each other.

"Ah!" said Vickers at last. "So that's it, is it, Chatfield? Trying to
cheat everybody all round, eh? I suppose you'd have told Miss Greyle
later that these people had collared all that gold--and then you'd have
helped yourself to it? And now I know what you were doing on that yacht
when we boarded it--you were one of the gang, and you meant to hook it
with them--"

"I didn't--I didn't!" screamed Chatfield, beating the sand with his hands
and feet. "I meant to slip away from 'em at a Scotch port we was to call
at, and then--"

"Then you'd have gone back to the hidden chests and helped
yourself," sneered Vickers. "Chatfield, you're a wicked old
scoundrel, and an unmitigated liar! Give me that paper that Miss
Greyle signed, this instant!"

"No!" interjected Audrey. "Let him keep it. He'll have trouble enough
presently. It's very evident they mean to have him."

Chatfield heard the last few words and looked round at the edge of the
surf. The boat had grounded on the shingle, and half a dozen men had
leapt from it and were coming rapidly up the beach.

"Armed, by George!" exclaimed Copplestone. "No chance for you,
Chatfield!"

The agent suddenly sprang to his feet with a howl of terror. He gave one
more glance at the men and then he ran, clumsily, but with a speed made
desperate by terror. He made straight for the rocks--and at that, two of
the men, at a word from their leader, raised their rifles and fired. And
with a shriek that set all the echoes ringing, the sea-birds screaming,
and made Audrey clap her hands to her ears, Chatfield threw up his arms
and dropped heavily on the sands.

"That's sheer murder!" exclaimed Vickers, as the yachtsmen came
running up. "You'll answer for that, you know. Unless you mean to
murder all of us."

The leader, a smiling-faced fellow, touched his cap respectfully, and
grinned from ear to ear.

"Lor' bless you, sir, we shot twenty feet over his head!" he said. "He's
too precious to shoot: they want him badly on board there. Now then, men,
pick him up and get him into the boat--he'll come round quick enough when
he finds he hasn't even a pellet in him. Handy, now! Captain's
compliments, sir," he went on, turning again to Vickers, and pointing to
certain things which were being unloaded from the boat, "and as he
understands that no vessel will pass here for two more days, sir, he's
sent you further provisions, some more wraps, and some books and papers."



CHAPTER XXIV

THE TORPEDO-BOAT DESTROYER


Before Vickers and his companions had recovered from the surprise which
this extraordinary cool message had given them, the men had bundled
Chatfield across the beach and into the boat and were pulling quickly
back to the _Pike_.

Audrey broke the silence with a ringing laugh.

"Captain Andrius is certainly the perfection of polite pirates," she
exclaimed. "More food--more wraps--and books and papers! Was any marooned
mariner ever one-half so well treated?"

"What's the fellow mean about no vessel passing here for two more days?"
growled Copplestone, who was glaring angrily at the yacht. "What's he so
meticulously correct for?"

"I should say that he's referring to some weekly or bi-weekly steamer
which runs between Kirkwall and the mainland," replied Vickers.
"Well--it's good to know that, anyhow. But wait until the _Pike's_
vamoosed again, and we'll make up such a column of smoke that it'll be
seen for many a mile. In fact, I'll go and gather a lot of dried stuff
now--you two can drag those boxes and things up the beach and see what
our gaolers have been good enough to send us."

He went away up the cliffs, and Audrey and Copplestone, once more left
alone, looked at each other and laughed.

"That's right," said Copplestone. "What I like about you is that you
take things that way."

"Is it any use taking them any other way?" she asked. "Besides I've never
been at all frightened nor particularly concerned. I've always felt that
we were only put here so that we should be out of the way while our
captors got safely away with their booty, and as regards my mother, I
know her well enough to feel sure that she quickly sized things up, and
that she'll have taken measures of her own. Don't be surprised if we're
rescued through her means or if she has set somebody to work to catch the
predatory _Pike_."

"Good!" said Copplestone. "But as regards the _Pike_, I wonder if you
observed something during the few minutes she was here. I'm sure Vickers
didn't--he was too busy, watching Chatfield."

"So was I," replied Audrey. "What was it?"

"I believe I'm unusually observant," answered Copplestone. "I seem to see
things--all at once, don't you know. I saw that since we made her
acquaintance--and were unceremoniously bundled off her--the _Pike_ has
got a new and quite different coat of paint. And I daresay she's changed
her name, too. From all of which I argue that when they got rid of us
here, the people who are working all this slipped quietly back to some
cove or creek on the Scotch coast, did a stiff turn at repainting, and
meant to be off to the other side of the world under new colours. And
while this was going on, Andrius, or his co-villain, found time to
examine those chests that Chatfield told us of, and when they found that
Chatfield had done them, they came back here quick. Now they're off to
make him reveal the whereabouts of the real chests."

"Won't they be rather running their necks into a noose?" suggested
Audrey. "I'm dead certain that my mother will have raised a hue and cry
after them."

"They're cute enough," said Copplestone. "Anyway, they'll run a good many
risks for the sake of fifty thousand pounds. What they may do is to run
into some very quiet inlet--there are hundreds on these northern
coasts--and take Chatfield to his hiding-place. Chatfield's like all
scoundrels of his type--a horrible coward if a pistol's held to his head.
Now they've got him, they'll force him to disgorge. Hang this compulsory
inactivity!--my nerves are all a-tingle to get going at things!"

"Let's occupy ourselves with the things our generous gaolers have been
kind enough to send us, then," suggested Audrey. "We'd better carry them
up to our shelter."

Copplestone went down to the things which the boat's crew had deposited
on the beach--a couple of small packing-cases, a bundle of wraps and
cushions, and some books, magazines and newspapers. He picked up a paper
with a cry which suggested a discovery of importance.

"Look at that!" he exclaimed. "Do you see? A _Scotsman!_ Today's date!
And here--_Aberdeen Free Press_--same date!"

"Well?" asked Audrey. "And what then?"

"What then?" demanded Copplestone. "Where are your powers of deduction?
Why, that shows that the _Pike_ was somewhere this morning where she
could get the morning papers from Aberdeen and Edinburgh--therefore,
she's been, as I suggested, somewhere on the Scotch coast all night. It's
now noon--she's a fast sailer--I guess she's been within sixty miles of
us ever since she left us."

"Isn't it more pertinent to speculate on where she'll be when we want to
find her?" asked Audrey.

"More pertinent still to wonder when somebody will come to find us,"
answered Copplestone as he shouldered one of the cases. "However, there's
a certain joy in uncertainty, so they say--we're tasting it."

The joys of uncertainty, however, were not to endure. They had scarcely
completed the task of carrying up the newly-arrived stores to the shelter
which they had made in an angle of the rocks when Vickers hailed them
from a spur of the cliffs and waved his arms excitedly.

"I say, you two!" he shouted. "There's a craft coming--from the
south-west. Come up! There!" he added, a few minutes later, when they
arrived, breathless, at his side. "Out yonder--a mere black blot--but
unmistakable! Do you know what that is, either of you? You don't? All
right, I do--ought to, because I'm a R.N.V.R. man myself. That's a
T.B.D., my friends!--torpedo-boat destroyer. What's more, far off as she
is, my experienced eye and sure knowledge tell me exactly what she is.
She's a class H. boat built last year--oil fuel--turbines--runs up to
thirty knots--and she's doing 'em, too, just now! Come on,
Copplestone--more stuff on this fire!"

"I don't think we need be uneasy," said Copplestone. "Miss Greyle thinks
that her mother will have raised a hue and cry after the _Pike_. This
torpedo thing is probably looking round for us. She--what's that?"

The sudden sharp crack of a gun came across the calm surface of the sea,
and the watchers turning from their fire towards the black object in the
distance saw a cloud of white smoke drifting away from it.

"Hooray!" shouted Vickers. "She's seen our smoke-pillar! Shove more on,
just to let her know we understand. Saved!--this time, anyway."

Half-an-hour later, a spick and span and eminently youthful-looking naval
lieutenant raised his cap to the three folk who stood eagerly awaiting
his approach at the edge of the surf.

"Miss Greyle? Mr. Vickers? Mr. Copplestone?" he asked as he sprang from
his boat and came up. "Right!--we're searching for you--had wireless
messages this morning. Where's the pirate, or whatever he is?"

"Somewhere away to the southward," answered Vickers, pointing into the
haze. "He was here two hours ago--but he's about as fast as they make
'em, and he's good reason to show a clean pair of heels. However, we've
ample grounds for believing him to have gone due south again. Where are
you from?"

"Got the message off Dunnett Head, and we'll run you to Thurso," replied
the rescuer, motioning them to enter the boat. "Come on--our commander's
got some word or other for you. What's all this been?" he went on, gazing
at Audrey with youthful assurance as they moved away from the shore. "You
don't mean to say you've actually been kidnapped?"

"Kidnapped and marooned," replied Vickers. "And I hope you'll catch our
kidnapper--he's got a tremendous amount of property on him which belongs
to this lady, and he'll make tracks for the other side of the Atlantic as
soon as he gets hold of some more which he's gone to collect."

The lieutenant regarded Audrey with still more interest. "Oh, all right,"
he said confidently. "He'll not get away. I guess they've wirelessed all
over the place--our message was from the Admiralty!"

"That's Sir Cresswell's doing," said Copplestone, turning to Audrey.
"Your mother must have wired to him. I wonder what the message is?" he
asked, facing the lieutenant. "Do you know?"

"Something about if you're found to tell you to get south as fast as
possible," he answered. "And we've worked that out for you. You can get
on by train from Thurso to Inverness, and from Inverness, of course,
you'll get the southern express. Well put you off at Thurso by two
o'clock--just time to give you such lunch as our table affords--bit
rough, you know. So you've really been all night on that island?" he went
on with unaffected curiosity. "What a lark!"

"You'd have had an opportunity of studying character if you'd been
with us," replied Vickers. "We lost a fine specimen of humanity two
hours ago."

"Tell about it aboard," said the lieutenant. "We'll be thankful--we've
been round this end-of-everywhere coast for a month and we're tired. It's
quite a Godsend to have a little adventure."

Copplestone had been right in surmising that Sir Cresswell Oliver had
bestirred himself to find him and his companions. They were presently
shown his message. They were to get to Norcaster as quickly as possible,
and to wire their whereabouts as soon as they were found. If, as seemed
likely, they were picked up on the north coast of Scotland, they were to
ask at Inverness railway station for telegrams. And to Inverness after
being landed at Thurso they betook themselves, while the torpedo-boat
destroyer set off to nose round for the _Pike_, in case she came that way
back from wherever she had gone to.

Copplestone came out of the station-master's office at Inverness with a
couple of telegrams and read their contents over to his companions in the
dining-room to which they adjourned.

"This is from Mrs. Greyle," he said. "'All right and much relieved by
wire from Thurso. Bring Audrey home as quick as possible.' That's good!
And this--Great Scott! This is from Gilling! Listen!--'Just heard from
Petherton of your rescue. Come straight and sharp Norcaster. Meet me at
the "Angel." Big things afoot. Spurge most anxious see you. Important
news. Gilling.' So things have been going on," he concluded, turning
the second telegram over to Vickers. "I suppose we'll have to travel
all night?"

"Night express in an hour," replied Vickers. "We shall make Norcaster
about five-thirty tomorrow morning."

"Then let us wire the time of our arrival to Gilling. I'm anxious to know
what has brought him up there," said Copplestone. "And we'll wire to Mrs.
Greyle, too," he added, turning to Audrey. "She'll know then that you're
absolutely on the way."

"I wonder what we're on the way to?" remarked Vickers with a grim smile.
"It strikes me that our recent alarms and excursions will have been as
nothing to what awaits us at Norcaster."

What did await them on a cold, dismal morning at Norcaster was Gilling,
stamping up and down a windswept platform. And Gilling seized on
Copplestone almost before he could alight from the train.

"Come to the 'Angel' straight off!" he said. "Mrs. Greyle's there
awaiting her daughter. I've work for you and Vickers at once--that chap
Spurge is somewhere about the 'Angel,' too--been hanging round there
since yesterday, heavy with news that he'll give to nobody but you."



CHAPTER XXV

THE SQUIRE


Such of the folk of the "Angel" hotel--a night porter, a waiter, a
chamber-maid--as were up and about that grey morning, wondered why the
two old gentlemen who had arrived from London the day before should rise
from their beds to hold a secret and mysterious conference with the
three young ones who, with a charming if tired-looking young lady, drove
up before the city clocks had struck six. But Sir Cresswell Oliver and
Mr. Petherton knew that there was no time to be lost, and as soon as
Audrey had been restored to and carried off by her mother to Mrs.
Greyle's room, they summoned Vickers and Copplestone to a private
parlour and demanded their latest news. Sir Cresswell listened eagerly,
and in silence, until Copplestone described the return of the _Pike_; at
that he broke his silence.

"That's precisely what I feared!" he exclaimed. "Of course, if she's been
hurriedly repainted and renamed, she stands a fair chance of getting
away. Our instructions to the patrol boats up there are to look for a
certain vessel, the _Pike_--naturally they won't look for anything else.
We must get the wireless to work at once."

"But there's this," said Copplestone. "They certainly fetched old
Chatfield to make him hand over the gold! They won't go away without
that! And he said that he'd hidden the gold somewhere near Scarhaven.
Therefore, they'll have to come down this coast to get it."

"Not necessarily," replied Sir Cresswell, with a knowing shake of the
head. "You may be sure they're alive to all the exigencies of the
situation. They could do several things once they'd got Chatfield on
board again. Some of them could land with him at some convenient port and
make him take them to where he's hidden the money; they could recapture
that and go off to some other port, to which the yacht had meanwhile been
brought round. If we only knew where Chatfield had planted that
money--"

"He said near Scarhaven, unmistakably," remarked Vickers.

"Near Scarhaven!" repeated Sir Cresswell, laughing dismally. "That's a
wide term--a very wide one. Behind Scarhaven, as you all know, are hills
and moors and valleys and ravines in which one could hide a Dreadnought!
Well, that's all I can think of--getting into communication with patrol
boats and coastguard stations all along the coast between here and Wick.
And that mayn't be the least good. Somebody may have escorted Chatfield
ashore after they left you yesterday, brought him hereabouts by rail or
motor-car, and the yacht may have made a wide detour round the Shetlands
and be now well on her way to the North Atlantic."

"But in that case--the money?" asked Copplestone.

"They would get hold of the money, take it clean away, and ship it from
Liverpool, or Glasgow, or--anywhere," replied Sir Cresswell. "You may be
sure they've plenty of resources at command, and that they'll work
secretly. Of course, we must keep a look out round about here for any
sign or reappearance of Chatfield, but, as I say, this country is so wild
that he and his companions can easily elude observation, especially as
they're sure to come by night. Still, we must do what we can, and at
once. But first, there are one or two things I want to ask you young
men--you said, Mr. Vickers, that Chatfield solemnly insisted to you that
he did not know that the man who had posed as Marston Greyle was not
Marston Greyle?"

"He did," replied Vickers, "and though Chatfield is an unmitigated old
scoundrel, I believe him."

"You do!" exclaimed Gilling, who was listening eagerly. "Oh, come!"

"I do--as a professional man," answered Vickers, stoutly, and with an
appealing glance at his brother solicitor. "Mr. Petherton will tell you
that we lawyers have a curious gift of intuition. With all Chatfield's
badness, I do really believe that the old fellow does not know whether
the man we'll call the Squire is Marston Greyle or not! He's
doubtful--he's puzzled--but he doesn't know."

"Odd!" murmured Sir Cresswell, after a minute's silence. "Odd! Very, very
odd! That shows that there's still some extraordinary mystery about this
which we haven't even guessed at. Well, now, another question--you got
the idea that some one else was aboard the yacht?"

"Some one other than Andrius--in authority--yes!" answered Vickers. "We
certainly thought that."

"Did you think it was the man we know as the Squire?" asked Sir
Cresswell.

"We had a notion that he might be there," replied Vickers, with a glance
at Copplestone. "Especially after what happened to Chatfield. Of course,
we never saw him, or heard his voice, or saw a sign of him. Still, we
fancied--"

Sir Cresswell rose from his chair and motioned to Petherton.

"Well," he said, "I think you and I, Petherton, had better complete our
toilets, and then give a look in at the authorities here and find out if
anything has been received by wireless or from the coastguard stations
about the yacht. In the meantime," he added, turning to Vickers and
Copplestone, "Gilling can tell you what's been going on in your
absence--you'll learn from it that our impression is that the Squire, as
we call him, was on the _Pike_ with you."

The two elder men went away, and Copplestone turned to Gilling.

"What have you got?" he asked eagerly. "Live news!"

"Might have been livelier and more satisfactory," answered Gilling, "if
it hadn't been for the factor which none of us can help--luck! We tracked
the Squire."

"You did?" exclaimed Copplestone. "Where?"

"When I said we I should have said Swallow," continued Gilling. "You
remember that afternoon of our return from Bristol, Copplestone? It seems
ages away now, though as a matter of time it's only four days ago!--Well,
that afternoon Swallow, who had had two or three more keeping a sharp
look out for the Squire, got a telephone message from one of 'em saying
that he'd tracked his man to the Fragonard Club. I'd gone home to my
chambers, to rest a bit after our adventures at Bristol and Falmouth, so
Swallow had to act on his own initiative. He set off for the Fragonard
Club, and outside it met his man. This particular man had been keeping a
watch for days on that tobacconist's shop in Wardour Street. That
afternoon he suddenly saw the Squire leave it, by a side door. He
followed him to the Fragonard Club, watched him enter; then he himself
turned into a neighbouring bar and telephoned to Swallow. The Squire was
still in the Fragonard when Swallow got there: from that time he kept a
watch. The Squire remained in the Club for an hour--"

"Which proves," interrupted Copplestone, "that he's a member, and that I
ought to have followed up my attempt to get in there."

"Well, anyway," continued Gilling, "there he was, and thence he
eventually emerged, with a kit-bag. He got into a taxi, and Swallow heard
him order its driver to go to King's Cross. Now Swallow was there
alone--and he had just before that met his man scooting round to see if
there was a rear exit from the Fragonard, and he hadn't returned.
Swallow, of course, couldn't wait--every minute was precious. He
followed the Squire to King's Cross, and heard him book for
Northborough."

"Northborough!" exclaimed Copplestone, in surprise. "Not Norcaster? Ah,
well, Northborough's a port, too, isn't it?"

"Northborough is as near to Scarhaven as Norcaster is, you know," said
Gilling. "To Northborough he booked, anyhow. So did Swallow, who, now
that he'd got him, was going to follow him to the North Pole, if need be.
The train was just starting--Swallow had no time to communicate with me.
Also, the train didn't stop until it reached Grantham. There he sent me a
wire, saying he was on the track of his man. Well, they went on to
Northborough, where they arrived late in the evening. There--what is it,
Copplestone," he broke off, seeing signs of a desire to speak on
Copplestone's part.

"You're talking of the very same afternoon and evening that I came
down--four evenings ago," said Copplestone. "My train was the four
o'clock--I got to Norcaster at ten--surely they didn't come on the
same train!"

"I feel sure they did, but anyhow, these trains to the North are usually
very long ones, and you were probably in a different part," replied
Gilling. "Anyway, they got to Northborough soon after nine. Swallow
followed his man on to the platform, out to some taxi-cabs, and heard him
commission one of the chauffeurs to take him to Scarhaven. When they'd
gone Swallow got hold of another taxi, and told its driver to take him
to Scarhaven, too. Off they went--in a pitch-black night, I'm told--"

"We know that!" said Vickers with a glance at Copplestone. "We motored
from Norcaster--just about the same time."

"Well," continued Gilling, "it was at any rate so dark that Swallow's
driver, who appears to have been a very nervous chap, made very poor
progress. Also he took one or two wrong turnings. Finally he ran his car
into a guide post which stood where two roads forked--and there Swallow
was landed, scarcely halfway to Scarhaven. They couldn't get the car to
move, and it was some time before Swallow could persuade the landlord at
the nearest inn to hire out a horse and trap to him. Altogether, it was
near or just past midnight when he reached Scarhaven, and when he did get
there, it was to see the lights of a steamer going out of the bay."

"The _Pike_, of course," muttered Copplestone.

"Of course--and some men on the quay told him," continued Gilling. "Well,
that put Swallow in a fix. He was dead certain, of course, that his man
was on that yacht. However, he didn't want to rouse suspicion, so he
didn't ask any of those quayside men if they'd seen the Squire. Instead,
remembering what I'd told him about Mrs. Greyle he asked for her house
and was directed to it. He found Mrs. Greyle in a state of great anxiety.
Her daughter had gone with you two to the yacht and had never returned;
Mrs. Greyle, watching from her windows, had seen the yacht go out to
sea. Swallow found her, of course, seriously alarmed as to what had
happened. Of course, he told her what he had come down for and they
consulted. Next morning--"

"Stop a bit," interrupted Vickers. "Didn't Mrs. Greyle get any message
from the yacht about her daughter--Andrius said he'd sent one, anyway."

"A lie!" replied Gilling. "She got no message. The only consolation she
had was that you and Copplestone were with Miss Greyle. Well, first thing
next morning Swallow and Mrs. Greyle set every possible means to work.
They went to the police--they wired to places up the coast and down the
coast to keep a look out--and Swallow also wired full particulars to Sir
Cresswell Oliver, with the result that Sir Cresswell went to the naval
authorities and got them to set their craft up north to work. Having done
all this, and finding that he could be of no more service at Scarhaven,
Swallow returned to town to see me and to consult. Now, of course, we
were in a position by then to approach that Fragonard Club--"

"Ah!" exclaimed Copplestone. "Just so!"

"The man, whoever he is, had been there an hour on the day Swallow and
his man tracked him," continued Gilling. "Therefore, something must be
known of him. Swallow and I, armed with certain credentials, went there.
And--we could find out next to nothing. The hall porter there said he
dimly remembered such a gentleman coming in and going upstairs, but he
himself was new to his job, didn't know all the members--there are
hundreds of 'em--and he took this man for a regular habitue. A waiter
also had some sort of recollection of the man, and seeing him in
conversation with another man whom he, the waiter, knew better, though he
didn't know his name. Swallow is now moving everything to find that
man--to find anybody who knows our man--and something will come of it, in
the end--must do. In the meantime I came down here with Sir Cresswell and
Mr. Petherton, to be on the spot. And, from your information, things will
happen here! That hidden gold is the thing--they'll not leave that
without an effort to get it. If we could only find out where that is and
watch it--then our present object would be achieved."

"What is the present object?" asked Copplestone.

"Why," replied Gilling, "we've got warrants out against both Chatfield
and the Squire for the murder of Bassett Oliver!--the police here have
them in hand. Petherton's seen to that. And if they can only be laid
hands on--What is it?" he asked turning to a sleepy-eyed waiter who,
after a gentle tap at the door, put a shock head into the room.
"Somebody want me?"

"That there man, sir--you know," said the waiter. "Here again,
sir--stable-yard, sir."

Gilling jumped up and gave Copplestone a look.

"That's Spurge!" he muttered. "He said he'd be back at day-break. Wait
here--I'll fetch him."



CHAPTER XXVI

THE REAVER'S GLEN


Zachary Spurge, presently ushered in by Gilling, who carefully closed
the door behind himself and his companion, looked as if his recent
lodging had been of an even rougher nature than that in which
Copplestone had found him at their first meeting. The rough horseman's
cloak in which he was buttoned to the edge of a red neckerchief and a
stubbly chin was liberally ornamented with bits of straw, scraps of
furze and other odds and ends picked up in woods and hedge-rows. Spurge,
indeed, bore unmistakable evidence of having slept out in wild places
for some nights and his general atmosphere was little more respectable
than that of a scarecrow. But he grinned cheerfully at Copplestone--and
then frowned at Vickers.

"I didn't count for to meet no lawyers, gentlemen," he said, pausing on
the outer boundaries of the parlour, "I ain't a-goin' to talk before
'em, neither!"

"He's a grudge against me--I've had to appear against him once or twice,"
whispered Vickers to Copplestone. "You'd better soothe him down--I want
to know what he's got to tell."

"It's all right, Spurge," said Copplestone. "Come--Mr. Vickers is on our
side this time; he's one of us. You can say anything you like before
him--or Mr. Gilling either. We're all in it. Pull your chair up--here,
alongside of me, and tell us what you've been doing."

"Well, of course, if you puts it that way, Mr. Copplestone," replied
Spurge, coming to the table a little doubtfully. "Though I hadn't meant
to tell nobody but you what I've got to tell. However, I can see that
things is in such a pretty pass that this here ain't no one-man job--it's
a job as'll want a lot o' men! And I daresay lawyers and such-like is as
useful men in that way as you can lay hands on--no offence to you, Mr.
Vickers, only you see I've had experience o' your sort before. But if you
are taking a hand in this here--well, all right. But now, gentlemen," he
continued dropping into a chair at the table and laying his fur cap on
its polished surface, "afore ever I says a word, d'ye think that I could
be provided with a cup o' hot coffee, or tea, with a stiff dose o' rum in
it? I'm that cold and starved--ah, if you'd been where I been this last
twelve hours or so, you'd be perished."

The sleepy waiter was summoned to attend to Spurge's wants--until they
were satisfied the poacher sat staring fixedly at his cap and
occasionally shaking his head. But after a first hearty gulp of strongly
fortified coffee the colour came back into his face, he sighed with
relief, and signalled to the three watchful young men to draw their
chairs close to his.

"Ah!" he said, setting down his cup. "And nobody never wanted aught more
badly than I wanted that! And now then--the door being shut on us quite
safe, ain't it, gentlemen?--no eavesdroppers?--well, this here it is. I
don't know what you've been a-doing of these last few days, nor what may
have happened to each and all--but I've news. Serious news--as I reckons
it to be. Of--Chatfield!"

Copplestone kicked Vickers under the table and gave him a look.

"Chatfield again!" he murmured. "Well, go on, Spurge."

"There's a lot to go on with, too, guv'nor," said Spurge, after taking
another evidently welcome drink. "And I'll try to put it all in order, as
it were--same as if I was in a witness-box," he added, with a sly glance
at Vickers. "You remember that day of the inquest on the actor gentleman,
guv'nor? Well, of course, when I went to give evidence at Scarhaven, at
that there inquest, I never expected but what the police 'ud collar me at
the end of it. However, I didn't mean that they should, if I could help
it, so I watched things pretty close, intending to slip off when I saw a
chance. Well, now, you'll bear in mind that there was a bit of a dust-up
when the thing was over--some on 'em cheering the Squire and some on 'em
grousing about the verdict, and between one and t'other I popped out and
off, and you yourself saw me making for the moors. Of course, me, knowing
them moors back o' Scarhaven as I do, it was easy work to make myself
scarce on 'em in ten minutes--not all the police north o' the Tees could
ha' found me a quarter of an hour after I'd hooked it out o' that
schoolroom! Well, but the thing then was--where to go next? 'Twasn't no
good going to Hobkin's Hole again--now that them chaps knew I was in the
neighbourhood they'd soon ha' smoked me out o' there. Once I thought of
making for Norcaster here, and going into hiding down by the docks--I've
one or two harbours o' refuge there. But I had reasons for wishing to
stop in my own country--for a bit at any rate. And so, after reckoning
things up, I made for a spot as Mr. Vickers there'll know by name of the
Reaver's Glen."

"Good place, too, for hiding," remarked Vickers with a nod.

"Best place on this coast--seashore and inland," said Spurge. "And as you
two London gentlemen doesn't know it, I'll tell you about it. If you was
to go out o' Scarhaven harbour and turn north, you'd sail along our coast
line up here to the mouth of Norcaster Bay and you'd think there was
never an inlet between 'em. But there is. About half-way between
Scarhaven and Norcaster there's a very narrow opening in the cliffs that
you'd never notice unless you were close in shore, and inside that
opening there's a cove that's big enough to take a thousand-ton
vessel--aye, and half-a-dozen of 'em! It was a favourite place for
smugglers in the old days, and they call it Darkman's Dene to this day in
memory of a famous old smuggler that used it a good deal. Well, now, at
the land end of that cove there's a narrow valley that runs up to the
moorland and the hills, full o' rocks and crags and precipices and such
like--something o' the same sort as Hobkin's Hole but a deal wilder, and
that's known as the Reaver's Glen, because in other days the
cattle-lifters used to bring their stolen goods, cattle and sheep, down
there where they could pen 'em in, as it were. There's piles o' places in
that glen where a man can hide--I picked out one right at the top, at the
edge of the moors, where there's the ruins of an old peel tower. I could
get shelter in that old tower, and at the same time slip out of it if
need be into one of fifty likely hiding places amongst the rocks. I got
into touch with my cousin Jim Spurge--the one-eyed chap at the
'Admiral's Arms,' Mr. Copplestone, that night--and I got in a supply of
meat and drink, and there I was. And--as things turned out, Chatfield had
got his eye on the very same spot!"

Spurge paused for a minute, and picking out a match from a stand which
stood on the table, began to trace imaginary lines on the mahogany.

"This is how things is there," he said, inviting his companions'
attention. "Here, like, is where this peel tower stands--that's a thick
wood as comes close up to its walls--that there is a road as crosses the
moors and the wood about, maybe, a hundred yards or so behind the tower
on the land side. Now, there, one afternoon as I was in that there tower,
a-reading of a newspaper that Jim had brought me the night before, I
hears wheels on that moorland road, and I looked out through a convenient
loophole, and who should I see but Peter Chatfield in that old pony trap
of his. He was coming along from the direction of Scarhaven, and when he
got abreast of the tower he pulled up, got out, left his pony to crop the
grass and came strolling over in my direction. Of course, I wasn't
afraid of him--there's so many ways in and out of that old peel as there
is out of a rabbit-warren--besides, I felt certain he was there on some
job of his own. Well, he comes up to the edge of the glen, and he looks
into it and round it, and up and down at the tower, and he wanders about
the heaps of fallen masonry that there is there, and finally he puts
thumbs in his armhole and went slowly back to his trap. 'But you'll be
coming back, my old swindler!' says I to myself. 'You'll be back again I
doubt not at all!' And back he did come--that very night. Oh, yes!"

"Alone?" asked Copplestone.

"A-lone!" replied Spurge. "It had got to be dark, and I was thinking of
going to sleep, having nought else to do and not expecting cousin Jim
that night, when I heard the sound of horses' feet and of wheels. So I
cleared out of my hole to where I could see better. Of course, it was
Chatfield--same old trap and pony--but this time he came from Norcaster
way. Well, he gets out, just where he'd got out before, and he leads the
pony and trap across the moor to close by the tower. I could tell by the
way that trap went over the grass that there was some sort of a load in
it and it wouldn't have surprised me, gentlemen, if the old reptile had
brought a dead body out of it. After a bit, I hear him taking something
out, something which he bumped down on the ground with a thump--I counted
nine o' them thumps. And then after a bit I heard him begin a moving of
some of the loose masonry what lies in such heaps at the foot o' the peel
tower--dark though it was there was light enough in the sky for him to
see to do that. But after he'd been at it some time, puffing and groaning
and grunting, he evidently wanted to see better, and he suddenly flashed
a light on things from one o' them electric torches. And then I see--me
being not so many yards away from him--nine small white wood boxes, all
clamped with metal bands, lying in a row on the grass, and I see, too,
that Chatfield had been making a place for 'em amongst the stones.
Yes--that was it--nine small white wood boxes--so small, considering,
that I wondered what made 'em so heavy."

Copplestone favoured Vickers with another quiet kick. They were,
without doubt, hearing the story of the hidden gold, and it was
becoming exciting.

"Well," continued Spurge. "Into the place he'd cleared out them boxes
went, and once they were all in he heaped the stones over 'em as natural
as they were before, and he kicked a lot o' small loose stones round
about and over the place where he'd been standing. And then the old
sinner let out a great groan as if something troubled him, and he fetched
a bottle out of his pocket and took a good pull at whatever was in it,
after which, gentlemen, he wiped his forehead with his handkerchief and
groaned again. He'd had his bit of light on all that time, but he doused
it then, and after that he led the old pony away across the bit of moor
to the road, and presently in he gets and drives slowly away towards
Scarhaven. And so there was I, d'ye see, Mr. Copplestone, left, as it
were, sold guardian of--what?"

The three young men exchanged glances with each other while Spurge
refreshed himself with his fortified coffee, and their eyes asked similar
questions.

"Ah!" observed Copplestone at last. "You don't know what, Spurge? You
haven't examined one of those boxes?"

Spurge set his cup down and gave his questioner a knowing look.

"I'll tell you my line o' conduct, guv'nor," he said. "So certain sure
have I been that something 'ud come o' this business of hiding them boxes
and that something valuable is in 'em that I've taken partiklar care ever
since Chatfield planted 'em there that night never to set foot within a
dozen yards of 'em. Why? 'Cause I know he'll ha' left footprints of his
own there, and them footprints may be useful. No, sir!--them boxes has
been guarded careful ever since Chatfield placed 'em where he did.
For--Chatfield's never been back!"

"Never back, eh?" said Copplestone, winking at the other two.

"Never been back--self nor spirit, substance nor shadow!--since that
night," replied Spurge. "Unless, indeed, he's been back since four
o'clock this morning, when I left there. However, if he's been 'twixt
then and now, my cousin Jim Spurge, he was there. Jim's been helping me
to watch. When I first came in here to see if I could hear anything about
you--Jim having told me that some London gentlemen was up here again--I
left him in charge. And there he is now. And now you know all I can tell
you, gentlemen, and as I understand there's some mystery about Chatfield
and that he's disappeared, happen you'll know how to put two and two
together. And if I'm of any use--"

"Spurge," said Gilling. "How far is it to this Reaver's Glen--or, rather
to that peel tower?"

"Matter of eight or nine miles, guv'nor, over the moors," replied Spurge.

"How did you come in then?" asked Gilling.

"Cousin Jim Spurge's bike--down in the stable-yard, now," answered
Spurge. "Did it comfortable in under the hour."

"I think we ought to go out there--some of us," said Gilling. "We
ought--"

At that moment the door opened and Sir Cresswell Oliver came in, holding
a bit of flimsy paper in his hand. He glanced at Spurge and then beckoned
the three young men to join him.

"I've had a wireless message from the North Sea--and it puzzles me," he
said. "One of our ships up there has had news of what is surely the
_Pike_ from a fishing vessel. She was seen late yesterday afternoon going
due east--due east, mind you! If that was she--and I'm sure of it!--our
quarry's escaping us."



CHAPTER XXVII

THE PEEL TOWER


Gilling took the message from Sir Cresswell and thoughtfully read
it over. Then he handed it back and motioned the old seaman to look
at Spurge.

"I think you ought to know what this man has just told us, sir," he said.
"We've got a story from him that exactly fits in with what Chatfield told
Mr. Vickers when the _Pike_ returned to carry him off yesterday.
Chatfield, you'll remember, said that the gold he'd withdrawn from the
bank is hidden somewhere--well, there's no doubt that this man Zachary
Spurge knows where it is hidden. It's there now--and the presumption is,
of course, that these people on the _Pike_ will certainly come in to this
coast--somehow!--to get it. So in that case--eh?"

"Gad!--that's valuable!" said Sir Cresswell, glancing again at Spurge,
and with awakened interest. "Let me hear this story."

Copplestone epitomized Spurge's account, while the poacher listened
admiringly, checking off the main points and adding a word or two where
he considered the epitome lacking.

"Very smart of you, my man," remarked Sir Cresswell, nodding benevolently
at Spurge when the story was over. "You're in a fair way to find yourself
well rewarded. Now gentlemen!" he continued, sitting down at the table,
and engaging the attention of the others, "I think we had better have a
council of war. Petherton has just gone to speak to the police
authorities about those warrants which have been taken out against
Chatfield and the impostor, but we can go on in his absence. Now there
seems to be no doubt that those chests which Spurge tells us of contain
the gold which Chatfield procured from the bank, and concerning which he
seems to have played his associates more tricks than one. However, his
associates, whoever they are--and mind you, gentlemen, I believe there
are more men than Chatfield and the Squire in all this!--have now got a
tight grip on Chatfield, and they'll force him to show them where that
gold is--they'll certainly not give up the chances of fifty thousand
pounds without a stiff try to get it. So--I'm considering all the
possibilities and probabilities--we may conclude that sooner or
later--sooner, most likely--somebody will visit this old peel tower that
Spurge talks of. But--who? For we're faced with this wireless message.
I've no doubt the vessel here referred to is the _Pike_--no doubt at all.
Now she was seen making due east, near this side of the Dogger Bank, late
last night--so that it would look as if these men were making for
Denmark, or Germany, rather than for this coast. But since receiving this
message, I have thought that point out. The _Pike_ is, I believe, a very
fast vessel?"

"Very," answered Vickers. "She can do twenty-seven or eight knots an
hour."

"Exactly," said Sir Cresswell. "Then in that case they may have put in
at some Northern port, landed Chatfield and two or three men to keep an
eye on him and to accompany him to this old tower, while the _Pike_
herself has gone off till a more fitting opportunity arises of dodging in
somewhere to pick up the chests which Chatfield and his party will in the
meantime have removed. From what I have seen of it this is such a wild
part of the coast that Chatfield and such a small gang as I am imagining,
could easily come back here, keep themselves hidden and recover the
chests without observation. So our plain duty is to now devise some plan
for going to the Reaver's Glen and keeping a watch there until somebody
comes. Eh?"

"There's another thing that's possible, sir," said Vickers, who had
listened carefully to all that Sir Cresswell had said. "The _Pike_ is
fitted for wireless telegraphy."

"Yes?" said Sir Cresswell expectantly. "And you think--?"

"You suggested that there may be more people than Chatfield and the
Squire in at this business," continued Vickers. "Just so! We--Copplestone
and myself--know very well that the skipper of the _Pike_, Andrius, is in
it: that's undeniable. But there may be others--or one other, or two--on
shore here. And as the _Pike_ can communicate by wireless, those on board
her may have sent a message to their shore confederates to remove those
chests. So--"

"Capital suggestion!" said Sir Cresswell, who saw this point at once. "So
we'd better lose no time in arranging our expedition out there.
Spurge--you're the man who knows the spot best--what ought we to do about
getting there--in force?"

Spurge, obviously flattered at being called upon to advise a great man,
entered into the discussion with enthusiasm.

"Your honour mustn't go in force at all!" he said. "What's wanted,
gentlemen, is--strategy! Now if you'll let me put it to you, me knowing
the lie of the land, this is what had ought to be done. A small party
ought to go--with me to lead. We'll follow the road that cuts across the
moorland to a certain point; then we'll take a by-track that gets you to
High Nick; there we'll take to a thick bit o' wood and coppice that runs
right up to the peel tower. Nobody'll track us, nor see us from any
point, going that way. Three or four of us--these here young gentlemen,
now, and me--'ll be enough for the job--if armed. A revolver apiece your
honour--that'll be plenty. And as for the rest--what you might call a
reserve force--your honour said something just now about some warrants.
Is the police to be in at it, then?"

"The police hold warrants for the two men we've been chiefly talking
about," replied Sir Cresswell.

"Well let your honour come on a bit later with not more than three police
plain-clothes fellows--as far as High Nick," said Spurge. "The police'll
know where that is. Let 'em wait there--don't let 'em come further until
I send back a message by my cousin Jim, You see, guv'nor," he added,
turning to Copplestone, whom he seemed to regard as his own special
associate, "we don't know how things may be. We might have to wait hours.
As I view it, me having listened careful to what his honour the Admiral
there says--best respects to your honour--them chaps'll never come a-nigh
that place till it's night again, or at any rate, dusk, which'll be about
seven o'clock this evening. But they may watch, during the day, and it
'ud be a foolish thing to have a lot of men about. A small force such as
I can hide in that wood, and another in reserve at High Nick, which,
guv'nor, is a deep hole in the hill-top--that's the ticket!"

"Spurge is right," said Sir Cresswell. "You youngsters go with him--get a
motor-car--and I'll see about following you over to High Nick with the
detectives. Now, what about being armed?"

"I've a supply of service revolvers at my office, down this very street,"
replied Vickers. "I'll go and get them. Here! Let's apportion our duties.
I'll see to that. Gilling, you see about the car. Copplestone, you order
some breakfast for us--sharp."

"And I'll go round to the police," said Sir Cresswell. "Now, be careful
to take care of yourselves--you don't know what you've got to deal with,
remember."

The group separated, and Copplestone went off to find the hotel people
and order an immediate breakfast. And passing along a corridor on his way
downstairs he encountered Mrs. Greyle, who came out of a room near by and
started at sight of him.

"Audrey is asleep," she whispered, pointing to the door she had just
left. "Thank you for taking care of her. Of course I was afraid--but
that's all over now. And now the thing is--how are things?"

"Coming to a head, in my opinion," answered Copplestone. "But how or in
what way, I don't know. Anyway, we know where that gold is--and they'll
make an attempt on it--that's sure! So--we shall be there."

"But what fools Peter Chatfield and his associates must be--from their
own villainous standpoint--to have encumbered themselves with all that
weight of gold!" exclaimed Mrs. Greyle. "The folly of it seems incredible
when they could have taken it in some more easily portable form!"

"Ah!" laughed Copplestone. "But that just shows Chatfield's extraordinary
deepness and craft! He no doubt persuaded his associates that it was
better to have actual bullion where they were going, and tricked them
into believing that he'd actually put it aboard the _Pike_! If it hadn't
been that they examined the boxes which he put on the _Pike_ and found
they contained lead or bricks, the old scoundrel would have collared the
real stuff for himself."

"Take care that he doesn't collar it yet," said Mrs. Greyle with a laugh
as she went into her own room. "Chatfield is resourceful enough
for--anything. And--take care of yourselves!"

That was the second admonition to be careful, and Copplestone thought of
both, as, an hour later, he, Gilling, Vickers and Spurge sped along the
desolate, wind-swept moorland on their way to the Reaver's Glen. It was
a typically North Country autumnal morning, cold, raw, rainy; the tops of
the neighbouring hills were capped with dark clouds; sea-birds called
dismally across the heather; the sea, seen in glimpses through vistas of
fir and pine, looked angry and threatening.

"A fit morning for a do of this sort!" exclaimed Gilling suddenly. "Is it
pretty bare and bleak at this tower of yours, Spurge?"

"You'll be warm enough, guv'nor, where I shall put you," answered Spurge.
"One as has knocked about these woods and moors as much as I've had to
knows as many places to hide his nose in as a fox does! I'll put you by
that tower where you'll be snug enough, and warm enough, too--and where
nobody'll see you neither. And here's High Nick and out we get."

Leaving the car in a deep cutting of the hills and instructing the driver
to await the return of one or other of them at a wayside farmstead a mile
back, the three adventurers followed Spurge into the wood which led to
the top of the Beaver's Glen. The poacher guided them onward by narrow
and winding tracks through the undergrowth for a good half-mile; then he
led them through thickets in which there was no paths at all; finally,
after a gradual and cautious advance behind a high hedge of dense
evergreen, he halted them at a corner of the wood and motioned them to
look out through a loosely-laced network of branches.

"Here we are!" he whispered. "Tower--Reaver's Glen--sea in the distance.
Lone spot, ain't it, gentlemen?"

Copplestone and Gilling, who had never seen this part of the coast
before, looked out on the scene with lively interest. It was certainly a
prospect of romance and of wild, almost savage beauty on which they
gazed. Immediately in front of them, at a distance of twenty to thirty
yards, stood the old peel tower, a solid square mass of grey stone,
intact as to its base and its middle stories, ruinous and crumbling from
thence to what was left of its battlements and the turret tower at one
angle. The fallen stone lay in irregular heaps on the ground at its foot;
all around it were clumps of furze and bramble. From the level plateau on
which it stood the Glen fell away in horseshoe formation gradually
narrowing and descending until it terminated in a thick covert of fir and
pine that ran down to the land end of the cove of which Spurge had told
them. And beyond that stretched the wide expanse of sea, with here and
there a red-sailed fishing boat tossing restlessly on the white-capped
waves, and over that and the land was a chill silence, broken only by the
occasional cry of the sea-birds and the bleating of the mountain sheep.

"A lone spot indeed!" said Gilling in a whisper. "Spurge, where is that
stuff hidden?"

"Other side of the tower--in an angle of the old courtyard," replied
Spurge, "Can't see the spot from here."

"And where's that road you told us about?" asked Copplestone. "The
moor road?"

"Top o' the bank yonder--beyond the tower," said Spurge. "Runs round
yonder corner o' this wood and goes right round it to High Nick, where
we've cut across from. Hush now, all of you, gentlemen--I'm going to
signal Jim."

Screwing up his mobile face into a strange contortion, Spurge emitted
from his puckered lips a queer cry--a cry as of some trapped animal--so
shrill and realistic that his hearers started.

"What on earth's that represent?" asked Gilling. "It's blood-curdling?"

"Hare, with a stoat's teeth in its neck," answered Spurge. "H'sh--I'll
call him again."

No answer came to the first nor to the second summons--after a third,
equally unproductive, Spurge looked at his companions with a scared face.

"That's a queer thing, guv'nors!" he muttered. "Can't believe as how our
Jim 'ud ever desert a post. He promised me faithfully as how he'd stick
here like grim death until I came back. I hope he ain't had a fit, nor
aught o' that sort--he ain't a strong chap at the best o' times, and--"

"You'd better take a careful look round, Spurge," said Vickers.
"Here--shall I come with you?"

But Spurge waved a hand to them to stay where they were. He himself crept
along the back of the hedge until he came to a point opposite the nearest
angle of the tower. And suddenly he gave a great cry--human enough this
time!--and the three young men rushing forward found him standing by the
body of a roughly-clad man in whom Copplestone recognized the one-eyed
odd-job man of the "Admiral's Arms."



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE FOOTPRINTS


The man was lying face downwards in the grass and weeds which clustered
thickly at the foot of the hedgerow, and on the line of rough,
weatherbeaten neck which showed between his fur cap and his turned-up
collar there was a patch of dried blood. Very still and apparently
lifeless he looked, but Vickers suddenly bent down, laid strong hands on
him and turned him over.

"He's not dead!" he exclaimed. "Only unconscious from a crack on his
skull. Gilling!--where's that brandy you brought?--hand me the flask."

Zachary Spurge watched in silence as Vickers and Gilling busied
themselves in reviving the stricken man. Then he quickly pulled
Copplestone's sleeve and motioned him away from the group.

"Guv'nor!" he muttered. "There's been foul play here--and all along of
them nine boxes--that I'll warrant. Look you here, guv'nor--Jim's been
dragged to where we found him--dragged through this here gap in the hedge
and flung where he's lying. See--there's the plain marks, all through the
grass and stuff. Come on, guv'nor--let's see where they lead."

The marks of a heavy, inanimate body having been dragged through the wet
grass were evidence enough, and Copplestone and Spurge followed them to a
corner of the old tower where they ceased. Spurge glanced round that
corner and uttered a sharp exclamation.

"Just what I expected!" he said. "Leastways, what I expected as soon as I
see Jim a-lying there. Guv'nor, the stuff's gone!"

He drew Copplestone after him and pointed to a corner of the weed-grown
courtyard where a cavity had been made in the mass of fallen masonry and
the stones taken from it lay about just as they had been displaced and
thrown aside.

"That's where the nine boxes were," he continued. "Well, there ain't one
of 'em there now! Naught but the hole where they was! Well--this must ha'
been during the early morning--after I left Jim to go into Norcaster. And
of course him as put the stuff there must be him as fetched it
away--Chatfield. Let's see if there's footmarks about, guv'nor."

"Wait a bit," said Copplestone. "We must be careful about that. Move
warily. We 'd better do it systematically. There'd have to be some sort
of a trap, a vehicle, to carry away those chests. Where's the nearest
point of that road you spoke of?"

"Up there," replied Spurge, pointing to a flanking bank of heather. "But
they--or him--wasn't forced to come that way, guv'nor. He--or them--could
come up from that cove down yonder. It wouldn't surprise me if that there
yacht--the _Pike_, you know--had turned on her tracks and come in here
during the night. It's not more than a mile from this tower down to the
shore, and--"

At that moment Vickers called to them, and they went back to find Jim
Spurge slowly opening his eyes and looking round him with consciousness
of his company. His one eye lightened a little as he caught sight of
Zachary, and the poacher bent down to him.

"Jim, old man!" he said soothingly. "How are yer, Jim? Yer been hit by
somebody. Who was it, Jim?"

"Give him a drop more brandy and lift him up a bit," counselled Gilling.
"He's improving."

But it needed more than a mere drop of brandy, more than cousinly words
of adjuration, to bring the wounded man back to a state of speech. And
when at last he managed to make a feeble response, it was only to mutter
some incoherent and disjointed sentences about and being struck down from
behind--after which he again relapsed into semi-unconsciousness.

"That's it guv'nor," muttered Spurge, nudging Copplestone. "That's the
ticket! Struck down from behind--that's what happened to him. Unawares,
so to speak, I can reckon of it up--easy. They comes in the
darkness--after I'd left him here. He hears of 'em, as he says,
a-moving about. Then he no doubt starts moving about--watching 'em, as
far as he can see. Then one of 'em gives him this crack on the
skull--life-preserver if you ask me--and down he goes! And then--they
drag him in here and leaves him. Don't care whether he's a goner or
not--not they! Well, an' what does it prove? That there's been more
than one of 'em, guv'nor. And in my opinion, where they've come from
is--down there!"

He pointed down the glen in the direction of the sea, and the three
young men who were considerably exercised by this sudden turn of events
and the disappearance of the chests, looked after his out-stretched hand
and then at each other.

"Well, we can't stand here doing nothing," said Gilling at last. "Look
here, we'd better divide forces. This chap'll have to be removed and got
to some hospital. Vickers!--I guess you're the quickest-footed of the
lot--will you run back to High Nick and tell that chauffeur to bring his
car round here? If Sir Cresswell and the police are there, tell them
what's happened. Spurge--you go down the glen there, and see if you can
see anything of any suspicious-looking craft in that bay you told us of.
Copplestone, we can't do any more for this man just now--let's look
round. This is a queer business," he went on when they had all departed,
and he and Copplestone were walking towards the tower. "The gold's gone,
of course?"

"No sign of it here, anyway," answered Copplestone, leading him into the
ruinous courtyard and pointing to the cavity in the fallen masonry.
"That's where it was placed by Chatfield, according to Zachary Spurge."

"And of course Chatfield's removed it during the night," remarked
Gilling. "That message which Sir Cresswell read us must have been all
wrong--the _Pike's_ come south and she's been somewhere about--maybe been
in that cove at the end of the glen--though she'll have cleared out of it
hours ago!" he concluded disappointedly. "We're too late!"

"That theory's not necessarily correct," replied Copplestone. "Sir
Cresswell's message may have been quite right. For all we know the folks
on the Pike had confederates on shore. Go carefully, Gilling--let's see
if we can make out anything in the way of footprints."

The ground in the courtyard was grassless, a flooring of grit and loose
stone, on which no impression could well be made by human foot. But
Copplestone, carefully prospecting around and going a little way up the
bank which lay between the tower and the moorland road, suddenly saw
something in the black, peat-like earth which attracted his attention and
he called to his companion.

"I say!" he exclaimed. "Look at this! There!--that's unmistakable enough.
And fresh, too!"

Gilling bent down, looked, and stared at Copplestone with a question
in his eyes.

"By Gad!" he said. "A woman!"

"And one who wears good and shapely footwear, too," remarked Copplestone.
"That's what you'd call a slender and elegant foot. Here it is
again--going up the bank. Come on!"

There were more traces of this wearer of elegant foot-gear on the soft
earth of the bank which ran between the moorland and the stone-strewn
courtyard--more again on the edges of the road itself. There, too, were
plain signs that a motor-car of some sort had recently been pulled up
opposite the tower--Gilling pointed to the indentations made by the
studded wheels and to droppings of oil and petrol on the gravelly soil.

"That's evident enough," he said. "Those chests have been fetched away
during the night, by motor, and a woman's been in at it! Confederates, of
course. Now then, the next thing is, which way did that motor go with its
contents?"

They followed the tracks for a short distance along the road, until,
coming to a place where it widened at a gateway leading into the wood,
they saw that the car had there been backed and turned. Gilling carefully
examined the marks.

"That car came from Norcaster and it's gone back to Norcaster," he
affirmed presently. "Look here!--they came up the hill at the side of the
wood--here they backed the car towards that gate, and then ran it
backwards till they were abreast of the tower--then, when they'd loaded
up with those chests they went straight off by the way they'd come. Look
at the tracks--plain enough."

"Then we'd better get down towards Norcaster ourselves," said
Copplestone. "Call Spurge back--he'll find nothing in that cove. This job
has been done from land. And we ought to be on the track of these
people--they've had several hours start already."

By this time Zachary Spurge had been recalled, Vickers had brought the
car round from High Nick, and the injured man was carefully lifted into
it and driven away. But at High Nick itself they met another car,
hurrying up from Norcaster, and bringing Sir Cresswell Oliver and three
other men who bore the unmistakable stamp of the police force. In one of
them Copplestone recognized the inspector from Scarhaven.

The two cars met and stopped alongside each other, and Sir Cresswell,
with one sharp glance at the rough bandage which Vickers had fastened
round Jim Spurge's head, rapped out a question.

"Gone!" replied Gilling, with equal brusqueness. "Came in a motor, during
the night, soon after Zachary Spurge left Jim. They hit him pretty hard
over his head and left him unconscious. Of course they've carried off the
boxes. Car appears to have gone to Norcaster. Hadn't you better turn?"

Sir Cresswell pointed to the Scarhaven police inspector.

"Here's news from Scarhaven," he said, bending forward to the other car,
"The inspector's just brought it. The Squire--whoever he was--is dead.
They found his body this morning, lying at the foot of a cliff near the
Keep. Foul play?--that's what you don't know, eh, inspector?"

"Can't say at all, sir," answered the inspector. "He might have been
thrown down, he might have fallen down--it's a bad place. Anyway, what
the doctor said, just before I hurried in here to tell Mrs. Greyle, as
the next relative that we know of, is that he'd been dead some days--the
body, you see, was lying in a thicket at the foot of the cliff."

"Some days!" exclaimed Copplestone, with a look at Gilling. "Days?"

"Four or five days at least, sir," replied the inspector. "So the doctor
thinks. The place is a cliff between the high road from Northborough and
the house itself. There's a short cut across the park to the house from
that road. It looks as if--"

"Ah!" interrupted Gilling. "It's clear how that happened, then. He took
that short cut, when he came from Northborough that night! But--if he's
dead, who's engineering all this? There's the fact, those chests of gold
have been removed from that old tower since Zachary Spurge left his
cousin in charge there early this morning. Everything looks as if they'd
been carried to Norcaster. Therefore--"

"Turn this car round," commanded Sir Cresswell. "Of course, we must get
back to Norcaster. But what's to be done there?"

The two cars went scurrying back to the old shipping town. When at
last they had 'deposited the injured man at a neighbouring hospital
and came to a stop near the "Angel," Zachary Spurge pulled
Copplestone's sleeve, and with a look full of significance, motioned
him aside to a quiet place.



CHAPTER XXIX

SCARVELL'S CUT


The quiet place was a narrow alley, which opening out of the Market
Square in which the car had come to a halt, suddenly twisted away into a
labyrinth of ancient buildings that lay between the centre of the town
and the river. Not until Spurge had conducted Copplestone quite away from
their late companions did he turn and speak; when he spoke his words were
accompanied by a glance which suggested mystery as well as confidence.

"Guv'nor!" he said. "What's going to be done?"

"Have you pulled me down here to ask that?" exclaimed Copplestone, a
little impatiently. "Good heavens, man, with all these complications
arising--the gold gone, the Squire dead--why, there'll have to be a
pretty deep consultation, of course. We'd better get back to it."

But Spurge shook his head.

"Not me, guv'nor!" he said resolutely. "I ain't no opinion o'
consultations with lawyers and policemen--plain clothes or otherwise.
They ain't no mortal good whatever, guv'nor, when it comes to horse
sense! 'Cause why? 'Tain't their fault--it's the system. They can't
do nothing, start nothing, suggest nothing!--they can only do things
in the official, cut-and-dried, red-tape way, Guv'nor--you and me
can do better."

"Well?" asked Copplestone.

"Listen!" continued Spurge. "There ain't no doubt that that gold was
carried off early this morning--must ha' been between the time I left Jim
and sun-up, 'cause they'd want to do the job in darkness. Ain't no
reasonable doubt, neither, that the motor-car what they used came here
into Norcaster. Now, guv'nor, I ask you--where is it possible they'd make
for? Not a railway station, 'cause them boxes 'ud be conspicuous and easy
traced when inquiry was made. And yet they'd want to get 'em away--as
soon as possible. Very well--what's the other way o' getting any stuff
out o' Norcaster? What? Why--that!"

He jerked his thumb in the direction of a patch of grey water which shone
dully at the end of the alley and while his thumb jerked his eye winked.

"The river!" he went on. "The river, guv'nor! Don't this here river,
running into the free and bounding ocean six miles away, offer the best
chance? What we want to do is to take a look round these here docks and
quays and wharves--keeping our eyes open--and our ears as well. Come on
with me, guv'nor--I know places all along this riverside where you could
hide the Bank of England till it was wanted--so to speak."

"But the others?" suggested Copplestone. "Hadn't we better fetch them?"

"No!" retorted Spurge, assertively. "Two on us is enough. You trust to
me, guv'nor--I'll find out something. I know these docks--and all that's
alongside 'em. I'd do the job myself, now--but it'll be better to have
somebody along of me, in case we want a message sending for help or
anything of that nature. Come on--and if I don't find out before noon if
there's any queer craft gone out o' this since morning--why, then, I
ain't what I believe myself to be."

Copplestone, who had considerable faith in the poacher's shrewdness,
allowed himself to be led into the lowest part of the town--low in more
than one sense of the word. Norcaster itself, as regards its ancient
and time-hallowed portions, its church, its castle, its official
buildings and highly-respectable houses, stood on the top of a low
hill; its docks and wharves and the mean streets which intersected them
had been made on a stretch of marshland that lay between the foot of
that hill and the river. And down there was the smell of tar and of
merchandise, and narrow alleys full of sea-going men and raucous-voiced
women, and queer nooks and corners, and ships being laden and ships
being stripped of their cargoes and such noise and confusion and
inextricable mingling and elbowing that Copplestone thought it was as
likely to find a needle in a haystack as to make anything out relating
to the quest they were engaged in.

But Zachary Spurge, leading him in and out of the throngs on the wharves,
now taking a look into a dock, now inspecting a quay, now stopping to
exchange a word or two with taciturn gentlemen who sucked their pipes at
the corners of narrow streets, now going into shady-looking public houses
by one door and coming out at another, seemed to be remarkably well
satisfied with his doings and kept remarking to his companion that they
would hear something yet. Nevertheless, by noon they had heard nothing,
and Copplestone, who considered casual search of this sort utterly
purposeless, announced that he was going to more savoury neighborhoods.

"Give it another turn, guv'nor," urged Spurge. "Have a bit o' faith in
me, now! You see, guv'nor, I've an idea, a theory, as you might term it,
of my very own, only time's too short to go into details, like. Trust me
a bit longer, guv'nor--there's a spot or two down here that I'm fair
keen on taking a look at--come on, guv'nor, once more!--this is
Scarvell's Cut."

He drew his unwilling companion round a corner of the wharf which they
were just then patrolling and showed him a narrow creek which, hemmed in
by ancient buildings, some of them half-ruinous, sail-lofts, and sheds
full of odds and ends of merchandise, cut into the land at an irregular
angle and was at that moment affording harbourage to a mass of small
vessels, just then lying high and dry on the banks from which the tide
had retreated. Along the side of this creek there was just as much
crowding and confusion as on the wider quays; men were going in and out
of the sheds and lofts; men were busy about the sides of the small craft.
And again the feeling of uselessness came over Copplestone.

"What's the good of all this, Spurge!" he exclaimed testily. "You'll
never--"

Spurge suddenly laid a grip on his companion's elbow and twisted him
aside into a narrow entry between the sheds.

"That's the good!" he answered in an exulting voice. "Look there,
guv'nor! Look at that North Sea tug--that one, lying out there! Whose
face is, now a-peeping out o' that hatch? Come, now?"

Copplestone looked in the direction which Spurge indicated. There, lying
moored to the wharf, at a point exactly opposite a tumble-down sail-loft,
was one of those strongly-built tugs which ply between the fishing fleets
and the ports. It was an eminently business-looking craft, rakish for its
class, and it bore marks of much recent sea usage. But Copplestone gave
no more than a passing glance at it--what attracted and fascinated his
eyes was the face of a man who had come up from her depths and was
looking out of a hatchway on the top deck--looking expectantly at the
sail-loft. There was grime and oil on that face, and the neck which
supported the unkempt head rose out of a rough jersey, but Copplestone
recognized his man smartly enough. In spite of the attempt to look like a
tug deck-hand there was no mistaking the skipper of the _Pike_.

"Good heavens!" he muttered, as he stared across the crowded quay.
"Andrius!"

"Right you are, guv'nor," whispered Spurge. "It's that very same, and no
mistake! And now you'll perhaps see how I put things together, like. No
doubt those folk as sent Sir Cresswell that message did see the _Pike_
going east last evening--just so, but there wasn't no reason, considering
what that chap and his lot had at stake why they shouldn't put him and
one or two more, very likely, on one of the many tugs that's to be met
with out there off the fishing grounds. What I conclude they did,
guv'nor, was to charter one o' them tugs and run her in here. And I
expect they've got the stuff on board her, now, and when the tide comes
up, out they'll go, and be off into the free and open again, to pick the
_Pike_ up somewhere 'twixt here and the Dogger Bank. Ah!--smart 'uns they
are, no doubt. But--we've got 'em!"

"Not yet," said Copplestone. "What are we to do. Better go back and get
help, eh?"

He was keenly watching Andrius, and as the skipper of the _Pike_ suddenly
moved, he drew Spurge further into the alley.

"He's coming out of that hatchway!" whispered Copplestone. "If he comes
ashore he'll see us, and then--"

"No matter, guv'nor," said Spurge reassuringly. "They can't get out o'
Scarvell's Cut into the river till the tide serves. Yes, that's Cap'n
Andrius right enough--and he's coming ashore."

Andrius had by that time drawn himself out of the hatchway and now
revealed himself in the jersey, the thick leg-wear, and short sea-boots
of an oceangoing man. Copplestone's recollection of him as he showed
himself on board the _Pike_ was of a very smartly attired, rather
dandified person--only some deep scheme, he knew, would have caused him
to assume this disguise, and he watched him with interest as he rolled
ashore and disappeared within the lower story of the sail-loft. Spurge,
too, watched with all his eyes, and he turned to Copplestone with a gleam
of excitement.

"Guv'nor!" he said. "We've trapped 'em beautiful! I know that place--I've
worked in there in my time. I know a way into it, from the back--we'll
get in that way and see what's being done. 'Tain't worked no longer, that
sail-loft--it's all falling to pieces. But first--help!"

"How are we to get that?" asked Copplestone, eagerly.

"I'll go it," replied Spurge. "I know a man just aback of here that'll
run up to the town with a message--chap that can be trusted, sure and
faithful. 'Bide here five minutes, sir--I'll send a message to Mr.
Vickers--this chap'll know him and'll find him. He can come down with the
rest--and the police, too, if he likes. Keep your eyes skinned, guv'nor."

He twisted away like an eel into the crowd of workers and idlers, and
left Copplestone at the entrance to the alley, watching. And he had not
been so left more than a couple of minutes when a woman slipped past the
mouth of the alley, swiftly, quietly, looking neither to right nor left,
of whose veiled head and face he caught one glance. And in that glance he
recognized her--Addie Chatfield!

But in the moment of that glance Copplestone also recognized something
vastly more important. Here was the explanation of the mystery of the
early-morning doings at the old tower. The footprints of a woman who wore
fashionable and elegant boots? Addie Chatfield, of course! Was she not
old Peter's daughter, a chip of the old block, even though a feminine
chip? And did not he and Gilling know that she had been mixed up with
Peter at the Bristol affair? Great Scott!--why, of course. Addie was an
accomplice in all these things!

If Copplestone had the least shadow of doubt remaining in his mind as to
this conclusion, it was utterly dissipated when, peering cautiously round
the corner of his hiding-place, he saw Addie disappear within the old
sail-loft into which Andrius had betaken himself. Of course, she had gone
to join her fellow-conspirators. He began to fume and fret, cursing
himself for allowing Spurge to bring him down there alone--if only they
had had Gilling and Vickers with them, armed as they were--

"All right, guv'nor!" Spurge suddenly whispered at his shoulder. "They'll
be here in a quarter of an hour--I telephoned to 'em."

"Do you know what?" exclaimed Copplestone, excitedly. "Old Chatfield's
daughter's gone in there, where Andrius went. Just now!"

"What--the play-actress!" said Spurge. "You don't say, guv'nor? Ha!--that
explains everything--that's the missing link! Ha! But we'll soon know
what they're after, Mr. Copplestone. Follow me--quiet as a mouse."

Once more submitting to be led, Copplestone followed his queer guide
along the alley.



CHAPTER XXX

THE GREENGROCER'S CART


Spurge led Copplestone a little way up the narrow alley from the mouth of
which they had observed the recent proceedings, suddenly turned off into
a still narrower passage, and emerged at the rear of an ancient building
of wood and stones which looked as if a stout shove or a strong wind
would bring it down in dust and ruin.

"Back o' that old sail-loft what looks out on this cut," he whispered,
glancing over his shoulder at Copplestone. "Now, guv'nor, we're going in
here. As I said before, I've worked in this place--did a spell here when
I was once lying low for a month or two. I know every inch of it, and if
that lot are under this roof I know where they'll be."

"They'll show fight, you know," remarked Copplestone.

"Well, but ain't we got something to show fight with, too?" answered
Spurge, with a knowing wink. "I've got my revolver handy, what Mr.
Vickers give me, and I reckon you can handle yours. However, it ain't
come to no revolver yet. What I want is to see and hear,
guv'nor--follow me."

He had opened a ramshackle door in the rear of the premises as he spoke
and he now beckoned his companion to follow him down a passage which
evidently led to the front. There was no more than a dim light within,
but Copplestone could see that the whole place was falling to pieces. And
it was all wrapped in a dead silence. Away out on the quay was the rattle
of chains, the creaking of a windlass, the voices of men and shrill
laughter of women, but in there no sound existed. And Spurge suddenly
stopped his stealthy creeping forward and looked at Copplestone
suspiciously.

"Queer, ain't it?" he whispered. "I don't hear a voice, nor yet the ghost
of one! You'd think that if they was in here they'd be talking. But we'll
soon see."

Clambering up a pile of fallen timber which lay in the passage and
beckoning Copplestone to follow his example, Spurge looked through a
broken slat in the wooden partition into an open shed which fronted the
Cut. The shed was empty. Folk were passing to and fro in front of it; the
North Sea tug still lay at the wharf beyond; a man who was evidently its
skipper sat on a tub on its deck placidly smoking his short pipe--but of
Addie Chatfield or of Andrius there was no sign. And the silence in that
crumbling, rat-haunted house was deeper than ever.

"Guv'nor!" muttered Spurge, "How long is it since you see--her?"

"Almost as soon as you'd gone," answered Copplestone.

"Ten minutes ago!" sighed Spurge. "Guv'nor--they've done us! They're off!
I see it--she must ha' caught sight o' me, nosing round, and she came
here and gave the others the office, and they bucked out at the back.
The back, Guv'nor! and Lord bless you, at the back o' this shanty there's
a perfect rabbit-warren o' places--more by token, they call it the
Warren. If they've got in there, why, all the police in Norcaster'll
never find 'em--leastways, I mean, to speak truthful, not without a deal
o' trouble."

"What about upstairs?" asked Copplestone.

"Upstairs, now?" said Spurge with a doubtful glance at the ramshackle
stairway. "Lord, mister!--I don't believe nobody could get up them
stairs! No--they've hooked it through the back here, into the Warren. And
once in there--"

He ended with an eloquent gesture, and dismounting from his perch made
his way along the passage to a door which opened into the shed. Thence he
looked out on the quay, and along the crowded maze of Scarvell's Cut.

"Here's some of 'em, anyway, guv'nor," he announced. "I see Mr. Vickers
and t'other London gentleman, and the old Admiral, at all events. There
they are--getting out of a motor at the end. But go to meet 'em, Mr.
Copplestone, while I keep my eye on this here tug and its skipper."

Copplestone elbowed his way through the crowd until he met Sir Cresswell
and his two companions. All three were eager and excited: Copplestone
could only respond to their inquiries with a gloomy shake of the head.

"We seem to have the devil's own luck!" he growled dismally. "Spurge and
I spotted Andrius by sheer accident. He was on a North Sea tug, or
trawler, along the quay here. Then Spurge ran off to summon you. While
he was away Miss Chatfield appeared--"

"Addie Chatfield!" exclaimed Vickers.

"Exactly. And that of course," continued Copplestone, glancing at
Gilling, "that without doubt--in my opinion, anyway--explains those
elegant footprints up at the tower. Addie Chatfield, I tell you! She
passed me as I was hiding at the entrance to an alley down the Cut here,
and she went into an old sail-loft, outside which the tug I spoke of is
moored, and into which Andrius had strolled a minute or two previously.
But--neither she nor Andrius are there now. They've gone! And Spurge says
that at the back of this quay there's a perfect rabbit-warren of courts
and alleys, and if--or, rather as they've escaped into that--eh?"

The detectives who had accompanied Sir Cresswell on the interrupted
expedition to the old tower and who had now followed him and his
companions in a second car and arrived in time to hear Copplestone's
story, looked at each other.

"That's right enough--comparatively speaking," said one. "But if they're
in the Warren we shall get 'em out. The first thing to do, gentlemen, is
to take a look at that tug."

"Exactly!" exclaimed Sir Cresswell. "Just what I was thinking. Let us
find out what its people have to say."

The man who smoked his pipe in placid contentment on the deck of the tug
looked up in astonishment as the posse of eight crossed the plank which
connected him with the quay. Nevertheless he preserved an undaunted
front, kept his pipe in his tightly closed lips, and cocked a defiant eye
at everybody.

"Skipper o' this craft?" asked the principal detective laconically.
"Right? Where are you from, then, and when did you come in here?"

The skipper removed his pipe and spat over the rail. He put the pipe
back, folded his arms and glared.

"And what the dickens may that be to do with you?" he inquired. "And who
may you be to walk aboard my vessel without leave?"

"None of that, now!" said the detective. "Come on--we're police officers.
There's something wrong round here. We've got warrants for two men that
we believe to have been on your tug--one of 'em was seen here not so many
minutes ago. You'd far better tell us what you know. If you don't tell
now, you'll have to tell later. And--I expect you've been paid already.
Come on--out with it!"

The skipper, whose gnarled countenance had undergone several changes
during this address, smote one red fist on top of the other.

"Darned if I don't know as there was something on the crook in this here
affair!" he said, almost cheerily. "Well, well--but I ain't got nothing
to do with it. Warrants?--you say? Ah! And what might be the partiklar'
natur' o' them warrants?"

"Murder!" answered the detective. "That's one charge, anyhow--for one of
'em, at any rate. There's others."

"Murder's enough," responded the skipper. "Well, of course, nobody can
tell a man to be a murderer by merely looking at his mug. Not at
all!--nobody! However, this here is how it is. Last night it
were--evening, to be c'rect--dark. I was on the edge o' the fleet, out
there off the Dogger. A yacht comes up--smart 'un--very fast sailer--and
hails me. Was I going into Norcaster or anywheres about? Being a
Northborough tug, this, I wasn't. Would I go for a consideration--then
and there? Whereupon I asked what consideration? Then we bargains.
Eventual, we struck it at thirty pounds--cash down, which was paid,
prompt. I was to take two men straight and slick into Norcaster, to this
here very slip, Scarvell's Cut, to wait while they put a bit of a cargo
on board, and then to run 'em back to the same spot where I took 'em up.
Done! they come aboard--the yacht goes off east--I come careenin' west.
That's all! That part of it anyway."

"And the men?" suggested the detective. "What sort were they, and where
are they?"

"The men, now!" said the skipper. "Ah! Two on 'em--both done up in what
you might call deep-sea-style. But hadn't never done no deep-sea nor yet
any other sort o' sea work in their mortial days--hands as white and soft
as a lady's. One, an old chap with a dial like a full moon on him--sly
old chap, him! T'other a younger man, looked as if he'd something about
him--dangerous chap to cross. Where are they? Darned if I know. What I
knows, certain, is this--we gets in here about eight o'clock this
morning, and makes fast here, and ever since then them two's been as it
were on the fret and the fidge, allers lookin' out, so to speak, for
summun as ain't come yet. The old chap, he went across into that there
sail-maker's loft an hour ago, and t'other, he followed of him, recent. I
ain't seen 'em since. Try there. And I say?"

"Well?" asked the detective.

"Shall I be wanted?" asked the skipper. "'Cause if not, I'm off and away
as soon as the tide serves. Ain't no good me waitin' here for them chaps
if you're goin' to take and hang 'em!"

"Got to catch 'em first," said the detective, with a glance at his two
professional companions. "And while we're not doubting your word at all,
we'll just take a look round your vessel--they might have slipped on
board again, you see, while your back was turned."

But there was no sign of Peter Chatfield, nor of his daughter, nor of the
captain of the _Pike_ on that tug, nor anywhere in the sailmaker's loft
and its purlieus. And presently the detectives looked at one another and
their leader turned to Sir Cresswell.

"If these people--as seems certain--have escaped into this quarter of the
town," he said, "there'll have to be a regular hunt for them! I've known
a man who was badly wanted stow himself away here for weeks. If Chatfield
has accomplices down here in the Warren, he can hide himself and
whoever's with him for a long time--successfully. We'll have to get a lot
of men to work."

"But I say!" exclaimed Gilling. "You don't mean to tell me that three
people--one a woman--could get away through these courts and alleys,
packed as they are, without being seen? Come now!"

The detectives smiled indulgently.

"You don't know these folks," said one of them, inclining his head
towards a squalid street at the end of which they had all gathered. "But
they know _us_. It's a point of honour with them never to tell the truth
to a policeman or a detective. If they saw those three, they'd never
admit it to us--until it's made worth their while."

"Get it made worth their while, then!" exclaimed Gilling, impatiently.

"All in due course, sir," said the official voice. "Leave it to us."

The amateur searchers after the iniquitous recognized the futility of
their own endeavours in that moment, and went away to discuss matters
amongst themselves, while the detectives proceeded leisurely, after their
fashion, into the Warren as if they were out for a quiet constitutional
in its salubrious byways. And Sir Cresswell Oliver remarked on the
difficulty of knowing exactly what to do once you had red-tape on one
side and unusual craftiness on the other.

"You think there's no doubt that gold was removed this morning by
Chatfield's daughter?" he said to Copplestone as they went back to the
centre of the town together, Gilling and Vickers having turned aside
elsewhere and Spurge gone to the hospital to ask for news of his cousin.
"You think she was the woman whose footprints you saw up there at the
Beaver's Glen?"

"Seeing that she's here in Norcaster and in touch with those two, what
else can I think?" replied Copplestone. "It seems to me that they got in
touch with her by wireless and that she removed the gold in readiness for
her father and Andrius coming in here by that North Sea tug. If we could
only find out where she's put those boxes, or where she got the car from
in which she brought it down from the tower--"

"Vickers has already started some inquiries about cars," said Sir
Cresswell. "She must have hired a car somewhere in the town. Certainly,
if we could hear of that gold we should be in the way of getting on
their track."

But they heard nothing of gold or of fugitives or of what the police and
detectives were doing until the middle of the afternoon. And then Mr.
Elkin, the manager of the bank from which Chatfield had withdrawn the
estate and the private balance, came hurrying to the "Angel" and to Mrs.
Greyle, his usually rubicund face pale with emotion, his hand waving a
scrap of crumpled paper. Mrs. Greyle and Audrey were at that moment in
consultation with Sir Cresswell Oliver and Copplestone--the bank manager
burst in on them without ceremony.

"I say, I say!" he exclaimed excitedly. "Will you believe it!--the
gold's come back! It's all safe--every penny. Bless me!--I scarcely know
whether I'm dreaming or not. But--we've got it!"

"What's all this?" demanded Sir Cresswell. "You've got--that gold?"

"Less than an hour ago," replied the bank manager, dropping into a chair
and slapping his hand on his knees in his excitement, "a man who turned
out to be a greengrocer came with his cart to the bank and said he'd been
sent with nine boxes for delivery to us. Asked who had sent him he
replied that early this morning a lady whom he didn't know had asked him
to put the boxes in his shed until she called for them--she brought them
in a motor-car. This afternoon she called again at two o'clock, paid him
for the storage and for what he was to do, and instructed him to put the
boxes on his cart and bring them to us. Which," continued Mr. Elkin,
gleefully rubbing his hands together, "he did! With--this! And that, my
dear ladies and good gentlemen, is the most extraordinary document which,
in all my forty years' experience of banking matters, I have ever seen!"

He laid a dirty, crumpled half-sheet of cheap note-paper on the table at
which they were all sitting, and Copplestone, bending over it, read aloud
what was there written.

"MR. ELKIN--Please place the contents of the nine cases sent herewith to
the credit of the Greyle Estate.

"PETER CHATFIELD, Agent."

Amidst a chorus of exclamations Sir Cresswell asked a sharp question.

"Is that really Chatfield's signature?"

"Oh, undoubtedly!" replied Mr. Elkin. "Not a doubt of it. Of course, as
soon as I saw it, I closely questioned the greengrocer. But he knew
nothing. He said the lady was what he called wrapped up about her
face--veiled, of course--on both her visits, and that as soon as she'd
seen him set off with his load of boxes she disappeared. He lives, this
greengrocer, on the edge of the town--I've got his address. But I'm sure
he knows no more."

"And the cases have been examined?" asked Copplestone.

"Every one, my dear sir," answered the bank manager with a satisfied
smirk. "Every penny is there! Glorious!"

"This is most extraordinary!" said Sir Cresswell. "What on earth does it
all mean? If we could only trace that woman from the greengrocer's
place--"

But nothing came of an attempt to carry out this proposal, and no news
arrived from the police, and the evening had grown far advanced, and Mrs.
Greyle and Audrey, with Sir Cresswell, Mr. Petherton and Vickers,
Copplestone, and Gilling, were all in a private parlour together at a
late hour, when the door suddenly opened and a woman entered, who threw
back a heavy veil and revealed herself as Addie Chatfield.



CHAPTER XXXI

AMBASSADRESS EXTRAORDINARY


If Copplestone had never seen Addie Chatfield before, if he had not known
that she was an actress of some acknowledged ability, her entrance into
that suddenly silent room would have convinced him that here was a woman
whom nature had undoubtedly gifted with the dramatic instinct. Addie's
presentation of herself to the small and select audience was eminently
dramatic, without being theatrical. She filled the stage. It was as if
the lights had suddenly gone down in the auditorium and up in the
proscenium, as if a hush fell, as if every ear opened wide to catch a
first accent. And Addie's first accents were soft and liquid--and
accompanied by a smile which was calculated to soften the seven hearts
which had begun to beat a little quicker at her coming. With the smile
and the soft accent came a highly successful attempt at a shy and modest
blush which mounted to her cheek as she moved towards the centre table
and bowed to the startled and inquisitive eyes.

"I have come to ask--mercy!"

There was a faint sigh of surprise from somebody. Sir Cresswell Oliver,
only realizing that a pretty woman, had entered the room, made haste to
place a chair for her. But before Addie could respond to his
old-fashioned bow, Mr. Petherton was on his legs.

"Er!--I take it that this is the young wom--the Miss Chatfield of whom
we have had occasion to speak a good deal today," he said very stiffly.
"I think, Sir Cresswell--eh?"

"Yes," said Sir Cresswell, glancing from the visitor to the old lawyer.
"You think, Petherton--yes?"

"The situation is decidedly unpleasant," said Mr. Petherton, more icily
than ever. "Mr. Vickers will agree with me that it is most
unpleasant--and very unusual. The fact is--the police are now searching
for this--er, young lady."

"But I am here!" exclaimed Addie. "Doesn't that show that I'm not afraid
of the police. I came of my own free will--to explain. And--to ask you
all to be merciful."

"To whom?" demanded Mr. Petherton.

"Well--to my father, if you want to know," replied Addie, with another
softening glance. "Come now, all of you, what's the good of being so down
on an old man who, after all hasn't got so very long to live? There are
two of you here who are getting on, you know--it doesn't become old men
to be so hard. Good doctrine, that, anyway--isn't it, Sir Cresswell?"

Sir Cresswell turned away, obviously disconcerted; when he looked round
again, he avoided the eyes of the young men and glanced a little
sheepishly at Mr. Petherton.

"It seems to me, Petherton," he said, "that we ought to hear what Miss
Chatfield has to say. Evidently she comes to tell us--of her own free
will--something. I should like to know what that something is. I think
Mrs. Greyle would like to know, too."

"Decidedly!" exclaimed Mrs. Greyle, who was watching the central figure
with great curiosity. "I should indeed, like to know--especially if Miss
Chatfield proposes to tell us something about her father."

Mr. Petherton, who frowned very much and appeared to be greatly disturbed
by these irregularities, twisted sharply round on the visitor.

"Where is your father?" he demanded.

"Where you can't find him!" retorted Addie, with a flash of the eye that
lit up her whole face. "So's Andrius. They're off, my good sir!--both of
'em. Neither you nor the police can lay hands on 'em now. And you'll do
no good by laying hands on me. Come now," she went on, "I said I'd come
to ask for mercy. But I came for more. This game's all over! It's--up.
The curtain's down--at least it's going down. Why don't you let me tell
you all about it and then we can be friends?"

Mr. Petherton gazed at Addie for a moment as if she were some
extraordinary specimen of a new race. Then he took off his glasses, waved
them at Sir Cresswell and dropped into a chair with a snort.

"I wash my hands of the whole thing!" he exclaimed. "Do what you
like--all of you. Irregular--most irregular!"

Vickers gave Addie a sly look.

"Don't incriminate yourself, Miss Chatfield," he said. "There's no need
for you to tell anything against yourself, you know."

"Me!" exclaimed Addie. "Why, I've been playing good angel all day
long--me incriminate myself, indeed! If Miss Greyle there only knew what
I'd done for her!--look here," she continued, suddenly turning to Sir
Cresswell. "I've come to tell all about it. And first of all--every penny
of that money that my father drew from the bank has been restored this
afternoon."

"We know that," said Sir Cresswell.

"Well, that was me!--I engineered that," continued Addie. "And
second--the _Pike_ will be back at Scarhaven during the night, to unload
everything that was being carried away. My doing, again! Because, I'm no
fool, and I know when a game's up."

"So--there was a game?" suggested Vickers.

Addie leaned forward from the chair which Sir Cresswell had given her at
the end of the table and planting her elbows on the table edge began to
check off her points on the tips of her slender fingers. She was well
aware that she had the stage to herself by that time and she showed her
consciousness of it.

"You have it," she answered. "There was a game--and perhaps I know more
of it than anybody. I'll tell now. It began at Bristol. I was playing
there. One morning my father fetched me out from rehearsal to tell me
that he'd been down to Falmouth to meet the new Squire of Scarhaven,
Marston Greyle, and that he found him so ill that they'd had to go to a
doctor, who forbade Greyle to travel far at a time. They'd got to
Bristol--there, Greyle was so much worse that my father didn't know what
to do with him. He knew that I was in the town, so he came to me. I got
Greyle a quiet room at my lodgings. A doctor saw him--he said he was very
bad, but he didn't say that he was in immediate danger. However, he died
that very night."

Addie paused for a moment, and Copplestone and Gilling exchanged glances.
So far, this was all known to them--but what was coming?

"Now, I was alone with Greyle for awhile that evening," continued Addie.
"It was while my father was getting some food downstairs. Greyle said to
me that he knew he was dying, and he gave me a pocket-book in which he
said all his papers were: he said I could give it to my father. I believe
he became unconscious soon after that; anyway, he never mentioned that
pocket-book to my father. Neither did I. But after Greyle was dead I
examined its contents carefully. And when I was in London at the end of
the week, I showed them to--my husband."

Addie again paused, and at least two of the men glanced at each other
with a look of surmise. Her--husband! "Who the--"

"The fact is," she went on suddenly, "Captain Andrius is my husband. But
nobody knew that--not even my own father. We've been married three
years--I met him when I was crossing over to America once. We got
married--we kept the marriage secret for reasons of our own. Well, he met
me in London the Sunday after Greyle's death, and I showed him the
papers which were in Greyle's pocket-book. And--now this, of course, was
where it was very wicked in me--and him--though we've tried to make up
for it today, anyhow--we fixed up what I suppose you two gentlemen would
call a conspiracy. My husband had a brother, an actor--not up to much,
nor of much experience--who had been brought up in the States and who was
then in town, doing nothing. We took him into confidence, coached him up
in everything, furnished him with all the papers in the pocket-book, and
resolved to pass him off as the real Marston Greyle."

Mr. Petherton stirred angrily in his chair and turned a protesting face
on Sir Cresswell.

"Apart from being irregular," he exclaimed, "this is altogether
outrageous! This woman is openly boasting of conspiracy and--"

"You're wrong!" said Addie. "I'm not boasting--I'm explaining. You ought
to be obliged to me. And--"

"If Mrs. Andrius--to give the lady her real name--cares to unburden her
secrets to us, I really don't see why we shouldn't listen to them, Mr.
Petherton," observed Vickers. "It simplifies matters greatly."

"That's what I say," agreed Addie. "I'm done with all this and I want to
clear things up, whatever comes of it. Well--I say we fixed that up with
my brother-in-law."

"His name--his real name, if you please," inquired Vickers.

"Oh--ah!--well, his real name was Martin Andrius, but he'd another name
for the stage," replied Addie. "We gave him the papers and arranged for
him to go down to Scarhaven to my father. Now I want to assure you all,
right here, that my father never did really know that Martin was an
imposter. He began to suspect something at the end, but he didn't know
for a fact. Martin went down to him at Scarhaven, just a week after the
real Marston Greyle had died. He claimed to be Marston Greyle, he
produced his papers. My father told about the Marston Greyle he'd
buried. Martin pooh-poohed that--he said that that man must be a
secretary of his, Mark Grey, who, after stealing some documents had left
him in New York and slipped across here, no doubt meaning to pass
himself off as the real man until he could get something substantial out
of the estate, when he'd have vanished. I tell you my father accepted
that story--why? Because he knew that if Miss Greyle there came into the
estate, she and her mother would have bundled Peter Chatfield out of his
stewardship quick."

"Proceed, if you please," said Sir Cresswell. "There are other details
about which I am anxious to hear."

"Meaning about your own brother," remarked Addie. "I'm coming to that.
Well, on his story and on his production of those papers--birth
certificates, Greyle papers of their life in America and so on--everybody
accepted Martin as the real man, and things seemed to go on smoothly till
that Sunday when Bassett Oliver had the bad luck to go to Scarhaven. And
now, Sir Cresswell, I'll tell you the plain and absolute truth about
your brother's death! It's the absolute truth, mind--nobody knows it
better than I do. On that Sunday I was at Scarhaven. I wanted to speak
privately to Martin. I arranged to meet him in the grounds of the Keep
during the afternoon. I did meet him there. We hadn't been talking many
minutes when Bassett Oliver came in through the door in the wall, which
one of us had carelessly left open. He didn't see us. But we saw him. And
we were afraid! Why? Because Bassett Oliver knew both of us. He'd met
Martin several times, in London and in New York--and, of course, he knew
that Martin was no more Marston Greyle than he himself was. Well!--we
both shrank behind some shrubs that we were standing amongst, and we gave
each other one look, and Martin went white as death. But Bassett Oliver
went on across the lawn, never seeing us, and he entered the turret tower
and went up. Martin just said to me 'If Bassett Oliver sees me, there's
an end to all this--what's to be done?' But before I could speak or
think, we saw Bassett at the top of the tower, making his way round the
inside parapet. And suddenly--he disappeared!"

Addie's voice had become low and grave during the last few minutes and
she kept her eyes on the table at the end. But she looked up readily
enough when Sir Cresswell seized her arm and rapped out a question almost
in her ear.

"Is that the truth--the real truth?"

"It's the absolute truth!" she answered, regarding him steadily. "I'm
not altogether a good sort, nor a very bad sort, but I'm telling you the
real truth in that. It was a sheer accident--he stepped off the parapet
and fell. Martin went into the base of the tower and came back saying he
was dead. We were both dazed--we separated. He went off to the house--I
went to my father by a roundabout way. We decided to let things take
their course. You all know a great deal of what happened. But--later--my
husband and Martin began to take certain things into their own hands.
They put me on one side. To this minute, I don't quite know how much my
father got into their secrets or how little, but I do know that they
determined to make what you might call a purse for themselves out of
Scarhaven. Martin left certain powers in his brother's hands and went
off to London. He was there, hidden, until Andrius got all ready for a
flight on the _Pike_. Then he set off to Scarhaven, to join her. But he
didn't join her, and none of us knew what had become of him until today,
when we heard of what had been found at Scarhaven. That explained it--he
had taken that short cut from the Northborough road through the woods
behind the Keep, and fallen over the cliff at the Hermit's steps. But
that very night, you, Mr. Vickers, and Mr. Copplestone and Miss Greyle,
nearly stopped everything, and if Andrius and Chatfield hadn't carried
you off, the scheme would have come to nothing. Well--you know what
happened after that--"

"But," interjected Vickers, quickly, "not your share in the last
development."

"My share's been to see that the thing was up, and that if I wanted to
save them all, I'd best put a stop to it," rejoined Addie, with a grim
smile. "I tell you, I didn't know what they'd been up to until today. I
was in England--never mind where--wondering what was going on. Yesterday
I got a code message from my husband. When he fetched my father away from
you, he forced him to tell where that gold was--then he wired to me--by
wireless--full instructions to recover it during last night. I did--never
you mind the exact means I took nor who it was that I got to help--I got
it--and I took good care to put it where I knew it would be safe. Then
this morning I went to meet the two of them at Scarvell's Cut. And I took
the upper hand then! I got them away from that sail-loft--safely. I made
my husband give me a code message for the man in charge of the _Pike_,
telling him to return at once to Scarhaven; I made my father write a note
to Elkin at the bank, telling him to place the gold which I sent with it
to the credit of the Greyle Estate. And when all that was done--I got
them away--they're gone!"

Vickers, who had never taken his eyes off Addie during her lengthy
explanation, gave her a whimsical smile.

"Safely?" he asked.

"I'll defy the police to find 'em, anyway," replied Addie with a quick
response of lip and eye. "I don't do things by halves. I say--they're
gone! But--I'm here. Come, now--I've made a clean breast of it all. The
thing's over and done with. There's nothing to prevent Miss Greyle there
coming into her rights--I can prove 'em--my father can prove them. So--is
it any use doing what that old gentleman's just worrying to do? You can
all see what he wants--he's dying to hand me over to the police."

Sir Cresswell Oliver rose, glanced at Audrey and her mother, received
some telepathic communication from them, and assumed his old
quarter-deck manner.

"Not tonight, I think, Petherton," he said authoritatively.
"No--certainly not tonight!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Some months later, when Audrey Greyle had come into possession of
Scarhaven, and had married Copplestone in the little church behind her
mother's cottage, she and her husband, to satisfy a mutual and
long-cherished desire, visited a certain romantic and retired part of the
country. And in the course of their wanderings they came across a very
pretty village, and in it a charmingly situated retreat, which looked so
attractive from the road along which they were walking that they halted
and peered at it through its trimly-kept boundary hedge. And there,
seated in the easiest of chairs on the smoothest of lawns, roses about
him, a cigar in his mouth, the newspaper in his hand, a glass at his
elbow, they saw Peter Chatfield. They looked at him for a long moment;
then they looked at each other and smiled delightedly, as children might
smile at a pleasure-giving picture, and they passed on in silence. But
when that village lay behind them, Copplestone gave his wife a sly
glance, and permitted himself to make an epigram.

"Chatfield!" he said musingly. "Chatfield! sublimely ungrateful that he
isn't in Dartmoor."


THE END





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