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´╗┐Title: Colonel Thorndyke's Secret
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Colonel Thorndyke's Secret" ***

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COLONEL THORNDYKE'S SECRET


By G. A. Henty.



PUBLISHER'S INTRODUCTION.


"Colonel Thorndyke's Secret" is a story so far out of the ordinary that
it will not be inappropriate to speak a few words regarding the tale and
its unusually successful author, Mr. George Alfred Henty.

The plot of the story hinges upon the possession of a valuable bracelet,
of diamonds, stolen from a Hindoo idol by a British soldier in India.
This bracelet falls into the possession of Colonel Thorndyke, who,
shortly afterward, is sent home to England because of his wounds. The
secret concerning the bracelet is told to the Colonel's brother, a
country squire, and the treasure is left to younger members of the
Thorndyke family.

As is well known today, the theft of anything from a Hindoo temple is
considered an extraordinary crime in India, and when this occurs it
becomes a religious duty for one or more persons to hunt down the thief
and bring back the property taken from the heathen god.

The members of the Thorndyke family soon learn that they are being
watched. But this is at a time when highwaymen are numerous in this part
of England, and they cannot determine whether the work is that of the
"knights of the roads" or that of the Lascars after the famous bracelet.
A mysterious death follows, and the younger members of the family are
almost stunned, not knowing what will happen next. They would give the
bracelet up, but do not know where it is hidden, the secret having been
in the sole possession of the member now dead. In this quandary the
young hero of the tale rises to the occasion and determines to join the
London police force and become a detective, with the hope of ultimately
clearing up the mystery. Thrilling adventures of a most unusual kind
follow, and at last something of the mystery is explained. The bracelet
and other jewelry are unearthed, and it is decided to take the bracelet
to Amsterdam and offer it to the diamond cutters at that place. But
the carrying of the bracelet is both difficult and dangerous. How the
mission is brought to a conclusion, and what part the Lascars played in
the final adventure, will be found in the pages that follow.

It can truthfully be said that Mr. Henty is easily the most popular of
all English story tellers, his books for boys enjoying a circulation of
from a hundred and fifty thousand to two hundred and fifty thousand per
year. His tales are all clean, and although some are full of exciting
situations and thrilling to the last degree, they are of a high moral
tone, while the English employed is of the best.

The present story is of peculiar value as giving a good insight into
country and town life in England over a hundred years ago, when railways
and telegraph lines were unknown and when the "knights of the road" were
apt to hold up any stagecoach that happened to come along. It also gives
a truthful picture of the dark and underhanded work accomplished at
times by those of East Indian blood, especially when on what they
consider a religious mission.



CHAPTER I.


Squire Thorndyke, of the Manor House of Crawley, was, on the 1st of
September; 1782, walking up and down the little terrace in front of the
quaint old house in an unusually disturbed mood. He was a man of forty
three or four, stoutly and strongly built, and inclined to be portly.
Save the loss of his wife four years before, there had been but little
to ruffle the easy tenor of his life. A younger son, he had, at his
mother's death, when he was three and twenty, come in for the small
estate at Crawley, which had been her jointure.

For ten years he had led a life resembling that of most of his
neighbors; he had hunted and shot, been a regular attendant at any
main of cocks that was fought within fifteen miles of Crawley, had
occasionally been up to London for a week or two to see the gay doings
there. Of an evening he had generally gone down to the inn, where he
talked over, with two or three of his own condition and a few of the
better class of farmers, the news of the day, the war with the French,
the troubles in Scotland, the alarming march of the Young Pretender, and
his defeat at Culloden--with no very keen interest in the result, for
the Southern gentry and yeomen, unlike those in the North, had no strong
leanings either way. They had a dull dislike for Hanoverian George, but
no great love for the exiled Stuarts, whose patron, the King of France,
was an enemy of England.

More often, however, their thoughts turned upon local topics--the
holding up of the coach of Sir James Harris or Squire Hamilton by
highwaymen; the affray between the French smugglers and the Revenue men
near Selsea Bill or Shoreham; the delinquencies of the poaching gangs;
the heaviness of the taxes, and the price of corn.

At the age of thirty-three Squire Thorndyke married the daughter of
a neighboring landowner; a son was born and three years later Mrs.
Thorndyke died. Since then the Squire had led a more retired life; he
still went down to smoke his pipe at the inn parlor, but he gave up his
visits to town; and cock fights, and even bull baiting, were no longer
attractions to him. He was known as a good landlord to the three or four
farmers who held land under him; was respected and liked in the village,
where he was always ready to assist in cases of real distress; was of an
easygoing disposition and on good terms with all his neighbors.

But today he was unusually disturbed in his mind. A messenger had ridden
up two hours before with a letter from London. It was as follows:

"MY DEAR BROTHER JOHN:

"You will be surprised indeed at this letter from me, who, doubtless,
you suppose to be fighting in India. I have done with fighting, and
am nearly done with life. I was shot in the battle of Buxar, eighteen
months ago. For a time the surgeons thought that it was going to be
fatal; then I rallied, and for some months it seemed that, in spite of
the ball that they were never able to find, I was going to get over it,
and should be fit for service again. Then I got worse; first it was
a cough, then the blood used to come up, and they said that the only
chance for me was to come home. I did not believe it would be of any
use, but I thought that I would rather die at home than in India, so
home I came, and have now been a week in London.

"I thought at first of going down to my place at Reigate, and having
you and your boy there with me; but as I have certainly not many weeks,
perhaps not many days, to live, I thought I would come down to you; so
the day after you receive this letter I shall be with you. I shall not
bring my little girl down; I have left her in good hands, and I shall
only bring with me my Hindoo servant. He will give you no trouble--a mat
to sleep on, and a little rice to eat, will satisfy his wants; and he
will take the trouble of me a good deal off your hands. He was a Sepoy
in my regiment, and has always evinced the greatest devotion for me.
More than once in battle he has saved my life, and has, for the last
three years, been my servant, and has nursed me since I have been ill
as tenderly as a woman could have done. As I shall have time to tell you
everything when I arrive, I will say no more now."

The news had much affected John Thorndyke. His brother George was five
years his senior, and had gone out as a cadet in the company's service
when John was but thirteen, and this was his first home coming. Had it
not been for a portrait that had been taken of him in his uniform just
before he sailed, John would have had but little remembrance of him. In
that he was represented as a thin, spare youth, with an expression of
quiet determination in his face. From his father John had, of course,
heard much about him.

"Nothing would satisfy him but to go out to India, John. There was, of
course, no occasion for it, as he would have this place after me--a
fine estate and a good position: what could he want more? But he was a
curious fellow. Once he formed an opinion there was no persuading him to
change it. He was always getting ideas such as no one else would think
of; he did not care for anything that other people cared for; never
hunted nor shot. He used to puzzle me altogether with his ways, and,
'pon my word, I was not sorry when he said he would go to India, for
there was no saying how he might have turned out if he had stopped here.
He never could do anything like anybody else: nothing that he could have
done would have surprised me.

"If he had told me that he intended to be a play actor, or a Jockey, or
a private, or a book writer, I should not have been surprised. Upon my
word, it was rather a relief to me when he said, 'I have made up my mind
to go into the East India Service, father. I suppose you can get me
a cadetship?' At least that was an honorable profession; and I knew,
anyhow, that when he once said 'I have made up my mind, father,' no
arguments would move him, and that if I did not get him a cadetship he
was perfectly capable of running away, going up to London, and enlisting
in one of their white regiments."

John Thorndyke's own remembrances were that his brother had always
been good natured to him, that he had often told him long stories about
Indian adventures, and that a short time before he went away, having
heard that he had been unmercifully beaten by the schoolmaster at
Reigate for some trifling fault, he had gone down to the town, and had
so battered the man that the school had to be closed for a fortnight.
They had always kept up a correspondence. When he received the news of
his father's death George had written to him, begging him to go down to
Reigate, and to manage the estate for him.

"Of course," he said, "you will draw its income as long as you are
there. I mayn't be back for another twenty years; one gets rich out here
fast, what with plunder and presents and one thing and another, and it
is no use to have money accumulating at home, so just live on the place
as if it were your own, until I come home to turn you out."

John had declined the offer.

"I am very well where I am," he wrote, "and the care of the estate would
be a horrible worry to me; besides, I have just married, and if I ever
have any children they would be brought up beyond their station. I
have done what I can for you. I have seen the family lawyers, who have
engaged a man who has been steward to Sir John Hieover, and looked after
the estate during his son's minority. But the young blade, on coming of
age, set to work to make ducks and drakes of the property, and Newman
could not bear to see the estate going to the Jews, so, as luck would
have it, he resigned a month ago, and has been appointed steward at
Reigate. Of course, if you don't like the arrangement you must write and
say so. It will be a year before I get your answer, and he has only been
engaged for certain for that time; it must lie with you as to permanent
arrangement."

So Newman had taken charge of the Reigate estate, and had continued
to manage it ever since, although George had written home in great
displeasure at his offer being refused.

Inside the Manor the bustle of preparations was going on; the spare
room, which had not been used for many years, was being turned out, and
a great fire lighted to air it. John Thorndyke had sent a letter by the
returning messenger to a friend in town, begging him to go at once to
Leadenhall Street and send down a supply of Indian condiments for his
brother's use, and had then betaken himself to the garden to think the
matter over. The next day a post chaise arrived, bringing the invalid
and his colored servant, whose complexion and Indian garb struck the
maids with an awe not unmingled with alarm. John Thorndyke could hardly
believe that the bent and emaciated figure was that of his brother, but
he remembered the voice when the latter said, holding out his hand to
him:

"Well, brother John, here I am, what is left of me. Gracious, man,
who would have thought that you were going to grow up such a fine tall
fellow? You are more fitted to be a soldier than I am. No, don't try
to help me out; Ramoo will do that--he is accustomed to my ways, and I
would as soon trust myself to a rogue elephant as to you."

"I am sorry to see you looking so bad, brother George."

"What must be must. I have had my fling; and after thirty years of
marching and fighting, I have no right to grumble if I am laid upon my
back at last."

Leaning on Ramoo's arm, Colonel Thorndyke made his way into the house,
and when the Hindoo had arranged the cushions of the sofa, took his
place there in a half reclining position.

"I am not always as bad as this, John," he said; "the jolting of your
confounded roads has been too much for me. If I were the King I would
hang every fellow who had anything to do with them--contractors, boards
of county magistrates, and the whole lot. If I had known what it was
going to be like I would have hired a sedan chair, and had myself
carried down. That is what I have been doing in London; but I would
rather have had an Indian palkee, that one could have lain down
comfortably in."

"What shall I get you first, George? I have got some lemons."

"I want something better than lemons, John. Have you any Burgundy
handy?"

"Yes, plenty."

"If you give a bottle to Ramoo he will know how much water I want."

Here the servants entered with a tray with a chicken and a dish of
kidneys.

"I sent up yesterday for some of the Indian things that you are
accustomed to, George, but they have not come down yet."

"I brought a store down with me. This will do capitally for the present.
Ramoo will do the cooking for me in future. He need not go into the
kitchen to scare the maids. I could see they looked at him as if he had
been his infernal majesty, as he came in. He can do it anywhere; all he
wants is an iron pot with some holes in it, and some charcoal. He can
squat out there on the veranda, or, if it is bad weather, any shed will
do for him.

"Well, it is nice to be home again, John," he went on, after he had
eaten a few mouthfuls of chicken and drunk a tumbler of Burgundy and
water. "I am glad to be back, now I am here, though I dare say I should
not have come home for another ten years if it had not been for this
rascally bullet. Where is your boy?"

"He is away at school."

"Well, I think I will go up to bed at once, if you don't mind, John. I
shall be fitter to talk in the morning."

The next day, indeed, Colonel Thorndyke was materially better. His voice
was stronger and more cheery, and when he came down after breakfast he
took his seat in an easy chair instead of on the sofa.

"Now, brother," he said, "we will have a cozy chat. There are several
things I want done, but the chief of these is that when I am gone you
should go down to Reigate, as I wanted you to do ten years ago. I want
you to seem to be its master, as well as be its master, until Millicent
comes of age, if not longer. Her name is Millicent Conyers Thorndyke. I
wish her to be called Millicent Conyers, and to appear as your ward, and
not as your niece and heiress of the property. If there is one thing in
the world I have a greater horror of than another, it is of a girl being
married for her money. I don't suppose that anyone knows that I have a
daughter--at any rate, none beyond a few Indian chums. She was sent home
with an ayah under the charge of the widow of a comrade of mine. I had
been away for months, and only went back to Calcutta in time to see her
mother die. So that is all right."

"I could not do such a thing as that, George. I should be living under
false colors. It is not that I mind so much leaving here and looking
after the child's interest at Reigate, but I could not possibly take
possession of the place as its owner when I should not be so. Besides,
there are other objections. Mark would grow up supposing himself to be
the heir."

"Mark will be all right. I have, since I have been in London, signed a
will, leaving the rest of my fortune between them. I had it drawn up by
our father's solicitors, relying upon your consent to do what I asked
you. I have explained the matter to them, and given them the assignment,
or whatever they call it, of the Reigate estate to you, until my
daughter comes of age, appointing them her guardians should you die
before that. Thus, you will be placed in a proper position; and should
it be known by any means that the child is my daughter, that deed will
still be a proof that you are carrying out my wishes, and are absolute
master of the estate until she comes of age."

"I must think it all over, George. It is a singular proposal, and I own
I would rather things went on in their regular course."

"Yes, yes, I understand that, John; but you see I have altogether set
my mind on this matter. I want to know that my girl is not going to be
married for her money; and, at any rate, that deed makes you master of
the Reigate estates for the next thirteen years; so the only thing that
I really want of you is to let the girl be called your ward instead of
your niece, and that she and everyone else shall be in ignorance that
she is an heiress. So far from doing the girl a wrong, you will be doing
her a benefit; and as I have explained the whole matter to our lawyers,
no one can possibly think that the thing has been done from any motive
whatever except that of affording me satisfaction."

"I will think the matter over," John repeated. "Of course, brother, it
has been in your mind for some time, but it comes altogether fresh to
me, and I must look at it in every light. For myself, I have no wish at
all to become master of our father's estate. I have been going in one
groove for the last twenty years, and don't care about changing it. You
wished me to do so ten years ago, and I declined then, and the ten years
have not made me more desirous of change than I was before."

"All right; think it over. Please send Ramoo in to me; I have tired
myself in talking."

John Thorndyke smoked many churchwarden pipes in the little arbor in his
garden that day. In the afternoon his brother was so weak and tired that
the subject of the conversation was not reverted to. At eight o'clock
the Colonel went off to bed. The next morning, after breakfast, he was
brighter again.

"Well, John, what has come of your thinking?" he asked.

"I don't like it, George."

"You mayn't like it, John, but you will do it. I am not going to have my
girl run after by ruined spendthrifts who want her money to repair their
fortunes; and I tell you frankly, if you refuse I shall go up to town
tomorrow, and I shall make a new will, leaving all my property to your
son, subject to a life annuity of 200 pounds a year to the child, and
ordering that, in the event of his dying before he comes of age, or of
refusing to accept the provisions of the will, or handing any of the
property or money over to my daughter, the whole estate, money, jewels,
and all, shall go to the London hospitals, subject, as before, to the
annuity.

"Don't be an ass, brother John. Do you think that I don't know what I
am doing? I have seen enough of the evils of marrying for money out in
India. Every ship that comes out brings so many girls sent out to some
relation to be put on the marriage market, and marrying men old enough
to be pretty nearly their grandfathers, with the natural consequence
that there is the devil to pay before they have been married a year or
two. Come, you know you will do it; why not give in at once, and have
done with it? It is not a bad thing for you, it will be a good thing for
your boy, it will save my girl from fortune hunters, and enable me to
die quietly and comfortably."

"All right, George, I will do it. Mind, I don't do it willingly, but I
do it for your sake."

"That is right," Colonel Thorndyke said, holding out his thin bronzed
hand to his brother; "that is off my mind. Now, there is only one other
thing--those confounded jewels. But I won't talk about them now."

It was not indeed till three or four days later that the Colonel again
spoke to his brother on any than ordinary matters. He had indeed been
very weak and ailing. After breakfast, when, as usual, he was a little
stronger and brighter than later in the day, he said to his brother
suddenly:--

"I suppose there are no hiding places in this room?"

"Hiding places! What do you mean, George?"

"Places where a fellow could hide up and hear what we are talking
about."

"No, I don't think so," the Squire replied, looking round vaguely. "Such
an idea never occurred to me. Why do you ask?"

"Because, John, if there is such a thing as a hiding place, someone will
be sure to be hiding there. Where does that door lead to?"

"It doesn't lead anywhere; it used to lead into the next room, but it
was closed up before my time, and turned into a cupboard, and this door
is permanently closed."

"Do you mind stepping round into the next room and seeing if anyone is
in the cupboard?"

Thinking that his brother was a little light headed, John Thorndyke went
into the next room, and returned, saying gravely that no one was there.

"Will you look behind the curtains, John, and under this sofa, and
everywhere else where even a cat could be hidden? That seems all right,"
the Colonel went on, as his brother continued the search. "You know
there is a saying that walls have ears, and I am not sure that it is
not so. I have been haunted with the feeling that everything I did was
watched, and that everything I said was listened to for years; and I can
tell you it is a devilishly unpleasant thought. Draw your chair quite
close to me. It is about my jewels, John. I always had a fancy for
jewels--not to wear them, but to own them. In my time I have had good
opportunities in that way, both in the Madras Presidency and in the
Carnatic. In the first place, I have never cared for taking presents in
money, but I have never refused jewels; and what with Rajahs and Nabobs
and Ministers that one had helped or done a good turn to somehow, a good
deal came to me that way.

"Then I always made a point of carrying money with me, and after a
defeat of the enemy or a successful siege, there was always lots of
loot, and the soldiers were glad enough to sell anything in the way of
jewels for a tithe of their value in gold. I should say if I put the
value of the jewels at 50,000 pounds I am not much wide of the mark.
That is all right, there is no bother about them; the trouble came
from a diamond bracelet that I got from a soldier. We were in camp near
Tanjore. I was officer of the day. I had made my rounds, and was coming
back to my quarters, when I saw a soldier coming out of a tent thirty
or forty yards away. It was a moonlight night, and the tent was one
belonging to a white Madras regiment. Suddenly, I saw another figure,
that had been lying down outside the tent, rise. I saw the flash of the
moonlight on steel; then there was a blow, and the soldier fell. I drew
my sword and rushed forward.

"The native--for I could see that it was a native--was bending over the
man he had stabbed. His back was towards me, and on the sandy soil he
did not hear my footsteps until I was close to him; then he sprang up
with a cry of fury, and leaped on me like a tiger. I was so taken by
surprise that before I could use my sword the fellow had given me a
nasty stab on the shoulder; but before he could strike again I had
run him through. By this time several other, men ran out of the tent,
uttering exclamations of rage at seeing their fallen comrade.

"'What is it, sir?' they asked me.

"'This scoundrel, here, has stabbed your comrade,' I said. 'He did not
see me coming, and I ran up just as he was, I think, rifling him for
booty. He came at me like a wild cat, and has given me a nasty stab.
However, I have put an end to his game. Is your comrade dead?'

"'No, sir, he is breathing still; but I fancy there is little chance for
him.'

"'You had better carry him to the hospital tent at once; I will send a
surgeon there.'

"I called the regimental surgeon up, and went with him to the hospital
tent, telling him what had happened. He shook his head after examining
the man's wound, which was fairly between the shoulders.

"'He may live a few hours, but there is no chance of his getting
better.'

"'Now,' I said, 'you may as well have a look at my wound, for the
villain stabbed me too.'

"'You have had a pretty narrow escape of it,' he said, as he examined
it. 'If he had struck an inch or two nearer the shoulder the knife would
have gone right into you; but you see I expect he was springing as he
struck, and the blow fell nearly perpendicularly, and it glanced down
over your ribs, and made a gash six inches long. There is no danger. I
will bandage it now, and tomorrow morning I will sew the edges together,
and make a proper job of it.'

"In the morning one of the hospital attendants came to me and said the
soldier who had been wounded wanted to speak to me. The doctor said he
would not live long. I went across to him. He was on a bed some little
distance from any of the others, for it was the healthy season, and
there were only three or four others in the tent.

"'I hear, Major Thorndyke,' he said in a low voice, 'that you killed
that fellow who gave me this wound, and that you yourself were stabbed.'

"'Mine is not a serious business, my man,' I said. 'I wish you had got
off as easily.'

"'I have been expecting it, sir,' he said; 'and how I came to be fool
enough to go outside the tent by myself I cannot think. I was uneasy,
and could not sleep; I felt hot and feverish, and came out for a breath
of fresh air. I will tell you what caused it, sir. About two years ago
a cousin of mine, in one of the King's regiments, who was dying, they
said, of fever (but I know the doctors thought he had been poisoned),
said to me, "Here are some things that will make your fortune if ever
you get to England; but I tell you beforehand, they are dangerous things
to keep about you. I fancy that they have something to do with my being
like this now. A year ago I went with some others into one of their
great temples on a feast day. Well, the god had got on all his trinkets,
and among them was a bracelet with the biggest diamonds I ever saw. I
did not think so much of it at the time, but I kept on thinking of them
afterwards, and it happened that some months after our visit we took the
place by storm. I made straight for the temple, and I got the jewels. It
don't matter how I got them--I got them. Well, since that I have never
had any peace; pretty near every night one or other of our tents was
turned topsy turvy, all the kits turned out, and even the ground dug
up with knives. You know how silently Indian thieves can work. However,
nothing was ever stolen, and as for the diamonds, at the end of every
day's march I always went out as soon as it was quite dark, and buried
the bracelet between the tent pegs; it did not take a minute to do. When
we moved, of course, I took it up again. At last I gave that up, for
however early I turned out in the morning there was sure to be a native
about. I took then to dropping it down the barrel of my gun; that way I
beat them. Still, I have always somehow felt myself watched, and my tent
has been disturbed a great deal oftener than any of the others. I have
had half a mind to throw the things away many a time, but I could not
bring myself to do it."

"'Well, sir, I have carried the bracelet ever since. I have done as he
did, and always had it in my musket barrel--When we had fighting to do I
would drop it out into my hand and slip it into my ammunition pouch;
but I know that I have always been followed, just as Bill was. I suppose
they found out that I went to see him before he died. Anyhow, my tent
has been rummaged again and again. I have no doubt that fellow whom you
killed last night had been watching me all the time, and thought that I
had come out to hide the things. However, there they are, sir. One of my
mates brought my musket here a quarter of an hour ago, and emptied the
barrel out for me. Now, sir, you did your best to save my life last
night, and you killed that fellow who did for me, and you pretty nearly
got killed yourself. I have got no one else I could give the things to,
and if I were to give them to one of my mates in the regiment they would
probably cost him his life, as they have cost me mine. But you will know
what to do with the things; they are worth a lot of money if you can get
them home. Mind, sir, you have got to be careful. I have heard tales of
how those priests will follow up a temple jewel that has been lost for
years, and never give it up until they get it back again.'

"'I ought to give it up,' I said.

"'You don't know where it came from, sir,' he replied. 'I was one of a
party of convalescents who were sent up just before that fight, and my
own regiment was not there: it might have been here, and it might have
been in the Carnatic. Bill never told me, and I have no more idea than a
babe unborn.'

"The gems were certainly magnificent; and though I knew well enough that
these untiring Brahmins would not be long in guessing that the things
had come into my possession, I took the bracelet. I thought, anyhow,
that I might have a few hours' start; the fellow I had killed might, of
course, have one or two others with him, but I had to risk that. I got
leave an hour later, and went down to Madras, and got them put into
a place of safety. That I was watched all the time I was in India
afterwards I have no doubt, but no attempts were made to assassinate
me. They would have known that I went straight away, but whether I had
buried them somewhere on the road, or had given them to someone's care
at Madras they could not know, and there was, therefore, nothing for
them to do but to wait till I made a move.

"I have no doubt whatever that they came over in the same ship with me.
Two or three times during the week I was in London I saw colored men in
the street outside the hotel. Once it was a Lascar seaman, another time
a dark looking sailor in European clothes: he might pass for a Spaniard.
Several times as I was going about in a sedan chair I looked out
suddenly, and each time there was a dark face somewhere in the street
behind. I had a letter this morning from the lawyer, and he mentioned
that two days ago his offices had been broken into, and every strong box
and drawer forced open, but that, curiously enough, they could not find
that anything had been stolen, though in the cashier's box there were 30
pounds in gold. Of course it was my friends. I have no doubt that one or
two of them have followed me down here; and for anything I know they may
be lurking somewhere in your garden at the present moment--that is, if
they are not standing beside us in this room."

John Thorndyke looked round with an uncomfortable feeling.

"How do you mean, George?"

"I mean some of those Indian fellows can do all sorts of wonderful
conjuring tricks. I have seen them go up into the air on a rope and
never come down again, and for aught I know they may be able to render
themselves invisible. Seriously, I think that it is likely as not."

"Well, and where are the things to be found now, George?"

"That I won't tell you, John. Before I go I will whisper it in your ear,
and give you the means of finding them, but not till then. No, I will
write it down on a piece of paper, and slip it into your hand. As soon
as you get out of the room you glance at it, and then put the piece of
paper into your mouth, chew it up and swallow it. I tell you I dare not
even whisper it; but whatever you do, take no steps in the matter until
your son comes of age."

"There can surely be no danger in another twelve years, George; they
will have given up the search long before that."


"Not they," the Colonel said emphatically. "If they die others will take
their places: it is a sacred business with them. My advice to you is,
either sell them directly you get them into your hands, or go straight
to Amsterdam and sell them there to one of the diamond cutters, who will
turn them out so that they will be altered beyond all recognition. Don't
sell more than two stones at most to any one man; then they will never
come out as a bracelet again, and the hunt will be over."


"I would almost rather leave them alone altogether, George."

"Well, they are worth 50,000 pounds if they are worth a penny, and a
great deal more I should say; but you cannot leave them alone without
leaving everything alone, for all my gems are with them, and 52,000
pounds in gold. Of course, if you like you can, when you get the box,
pick those diamonds out and chuck them away, but if you do you must do
it openly, so that anyone watching you may see you do it, otherwise the
search will go on."

Two days later, as Ramoo was helping the Colonel to the sofa, the latter
was seized with a violent fit of coughing, then a rush of blood poured
from his lips. His brother and Ramoo laid him on the sofa almost
insensible.

"Run and get some water, Ramoo," John Thorndyke said.

As Ramoo left the room the Colonel feebly placed his snuffbox in his
brother's hand with a significant glance; then he made several desperate
efforts to speak, and tried to struggle up into a sitting position;
another gush of blood poured from him, and as it ceased he fell back
dead.

John Thorndyke was bitterly grieved at the death of his brother, and it
was not until he went up to his room that night that he thought of the
snuffbox that he had dropped into his pocket as his brother handed it
to him. He had no doubt that it contained the instructions as to the
treasure. It was of Indian manufacture. He emptied the snuff from it,
but it contained nothing else. He was convinced that the secret must be
hidden there, and after in vain endeavoring to find a spring, he took
a poker and hammered it, and as it bent a spring gave way, and showed a
very shallow false bottom.

In this was a thin gold coin, evidently of considerable antiquity, and a
small piece of paper, on which was written the word "Masulipatam." John
Thorndyke looked at it in bewilderment; that it was connected with the
secret he felt certain, but alone it was absolutely useless. Doubtless
his brother had intended to give him the key of the riddle, when he had
so desperately striven to speak. After in vain thinking the matter over
he said:

"Well, thank goodness; there is nothing to be done about the matter for
another thirteen or fourteen years; it is of no use worrying about it
now." He went to an old fashioned cabinet, and placed the coin and piece
of paper in a very cunningly devised secret drawer. The next morning
he went out into the garden and dropped the battered snuffbox into the
well, and then dismissed the subject from his mind.



CHAPTER II


Standing some two miles out of Reigate is the village of Crowswood, a
quiet place and fairly well to do, thanks in no small degree to Squire
Thorndyke, who owned the whole of the parish, and by whom and his
tenants the greater portion of the village were employed. Greatly had
the closing of the Manor House, after the death of old Squire Thorndyke,
been felt. There were no more jellies, soups, and other comforts to
be looked for in time of sickness, no abatement of rent when the
breadwinner was sick or disabled, no check to the drunkards, whom the
knowledge that they would be turned out of their cottage at a week's
notice kept in some sort of order. When, therefore, after ten years
of absence of all government, John Thorndyke, after the death of his
brother, the Colonel, came down and took possession, he found the place
sadly changed from what it had been when he had left it twenty years
before. His first act was to dismiss Newman; who, completely unchecked,
had, he found, been sadly mismanaging affairs. It was not long, however,
before his hand made itself felt. Two out of the three public houses
were shut up in six months, a score of their habitual frequenters had,
weeks before, been turned out of their houses, an order had been issued
that unless a cottage was kept in good order and the garden bright and
blooming with flowers in the summer a fresh tenant would be found for
it. Every child must be sent to the village school; the Squire was
ready to do what there was to be done in the way of thatching and
whitewashing, repairing palings and painting doors and windows, but,
as he told the people, the village had to be kept clean and decent,
and anyone who would not conform to the rules was at liberty to leave
without a day's notice.

Many of the villagers grumbled under their breath, but public opinion
was, on the whole, favorable. There was someone to look after them now,
someone who would see that the greater portion of the wages was not
spent at the alehouse, who would take an interest in the people, and
would lend a helping hand in bad times. There was a feeling of regret
that the Squire was a widower, but the post of visitor and almoner was
well supplied by the lady who acted as companion and governess to the
Squire's little ward and regulated the affairs of his household.

John Thorndyke had never had much occasion for the display of energy
before, but he had an abundance of it, although hitherto latent. He
had come into this business against his will, but he took it up with
a determination to do well in it. The income was legally his until his
niece came of age, but he was determined he would take nothing out of
the estate beyond the necessary expenses of the position, and that all
surplus should be expended in improving it in every way possible,
so that he could hand it over to her in the most perfect condition.
Therefore, when he came into possession he made a close inspection of
the farms, with their houses, barns, and other tenements. Where he saw
that the men were doing their best, that the hedges and fields were in
good order, he did everything that was necessary without a word; but
where there were slovenly farming and signs of neglect and carelessness,
he spoke out his mind sharply.

"This has all got to be amended," he said. "What must be done I will
do, but unless I see things well kept up, the fences in good order, the
hedges cut, the cattle in good condition, and everything going on as
it ought to be, out you go next Christmas. The estate at present is a
disgrace to the county, but it shall not be so any longer if I can help
it. I shall do my share, and anyone who is not prepared to do the same
had better look out for another holding at once."

No one rejoiced more at the coming home of the Squire than Mr. Bastow,
the Rector. He had had a pleasant time of it during the life of the old
Squire. He was always a welcome guest at the house; Mr. Thorndyke had
been ever ready to put his hand into his pocket for any repairs needed
for the church, and bore on his shoulders almost the entire expense of
the village school. In the latter respect there had been no falling off,
he having given explicit instructions to his solicitors to pay his usual
annual subscriptions to the school until his son's return from India.
But with the death of the Squire the Rector had gradually lost all
authority in the village.

For a time force of habit had had its effect, but as this wore out and
the people recognized that he had no real authority things went from bad
to worse. Drunken men would shout jeeringly as they passed the Rectory
on their way home from the alehouse; women no longer feared reproof for
the untidiness of their houses and children; the school was half emptied
and the church almost wholly so.

For seven or eight years Mr. Bastow had a hard time of it. It was, then,
both with pleasure as an old friend, and with renewed hopefulness for
the village, that he visited John Thorndyke on his return. The change
in the state of affairs was almost instantaneous. As soon as it became
known that the Rector was backed, heart and soul, by the Squire's
authority, and that a complaint from him was followed the next day by a
notice to quit at the end of a week, his own authority was established
as firmly as it had been in the old Squire's time, and in a couple of
years Crowswood became quite a model village. Every garden blossomed
with flowers; roses and eglantine clustered over the cottages, neatness
and order prevailed everywhere.

The children were tidily dressed and respectful in manner, the women
bright and cheerful, and the solitary alehouse remaining had but few
customers, and those few were never allowed to transgress the bounds of
moderation. The Squire had a talk with the landlord a fortnight after
his arrival.

"I am not going to turn you out, Peters," he said. "I hear that you make
some efforts to keep your house decently; the other two I shall send
packing directly their terms are up. Whether you remain permanently must
depend upon yourself. I will do up your house for you, and build a bar
parlor alongside, where quiet men can sit and smoke their pipes and talk
and take their beer in comfort, and have liberty to enjoy themselves as
long as their enjoyment does not cause annoyance to other people or keep
their wives and children in rags. I will do anything for you if I
find the place well conducted; but I warn you that I will have no
drunkenness. A man who, to my knowledge, gets drunk twice, will not get
drunk a third time in this parish, and if you let men get drunk here it
is your fault as much as theirs. Now we understand each other."

Things once placed on a satisfactory footing, the Squire had but little
more trouble, and it soon came to be understood that he was not to be
trifled with, and that Crowswood was no longer a place for the idle or
shiftless. Two or three of the farmers left at the termination of their
year, but better men took their places, and John Thorndyke, having
settled matters to his satisfaction, now began to attend more to other
affairs. He had been, when he first came back, welcomed with great
heartiness by all the gentry of the neighborhood; his father had been a
popular man, and young Thorndyke had been regarded as a pleasant young
fellow, and would in any case have been welcomed, if only because
Crowswood had become a nuisance to the whole district. It was, indeed,
a sort of rendezvous for poachers and bad characters, it was more than
suspected that gangs of thieves and burglars made it their headquarters,
and that even highwaymen found it a convenient and quiet resort.

Thus, then, the transformation effected within a few months of Mr.
Thorndyke's return caused general and lively satisfaction, and a year
later he was put on the Commission of the Peace, and became one of the
most regular attendants at the Bench of Magistrates. Reluctantly as
he had taken up his present position, he found it, as time went on, a
pleasant one. He had not been conscious before that time hung somewhat
heavily on his hands, but here he had duties to perform and ample
employment. His nature was naturally somewhat a masterful one, and
both as a magistrate and a landlord he had scope and power of action.
Occasionally he went up to London, always driving his gig, with a pair
of fast trotting horses, and was known to the frequenters of the
coffee houses chiefly patronized by country gentlemen. Altogether, John
Thorndyke became quite a notable person in the district, and men were
inclined to congratulate themselves upon the fact that he, and not the
Indian officer, his brother, had come into the estate.

The idea of an old Indian officer in those days was that he was almost
of necessity an invalid, and an irritable one, with a liver hopelessly
deranged, a yellow complexion, and a hatred of the English climate. The
fact that, instead of leaving the army and coming home at his father's
death, George Thorndyke had chosen to remain abroad and leave the estate
to the management of agents, had specially prejudiced him in the eyes of
the people of that part, and had heightened the warmth with which they
had received his brother. John Thorndyke had upon the occasion, of his
first visit to the family solicitors spoken his mind with much freedom
as to the manner in which Newman had been allowed a free hand.

"Another ten years," he said, "and there would not have been a cottage
habitable on the estate, nor a farm worth cultivating. He did absolutely
nothing beyond collecting the rents. He let the whole place go to rack
and ruin. The first day I arrived I sent him out of the house, with a
talking to that he won't forget as long as he lives."

"We never heard any complaints about him, Mr. Thorndyke, except that I
think we did once hear from the Rector of the place that his conduct was
not satisfactory. I remember that we wrote to him about it, and he
said that the Rector was a malignant fellow, on bad terms with all his
parishioners."

"If I had the scoundrel here," John Thorndyke said with indignation, "I
would let him have a taste of the lash of my dog whip. You should not
have taken the fellow's word; you should have sent down someone to find
out the true state of things. Why, the place has been an eyesore to the
whole neighborhood, the resort of poaching, thieving rascals; by gad,
if my brother George had gone down there I don't know what would
have happened! It will cost a couple of years' rent to get things put
straight."

When the Squire was at home there was scarce an evening when the Rector
did not come up to smoke a pipe and take his glass of old Jamaica or
Hollands with him.

"Look here, Bastow," the latter said, some three years after his return,
"what are you going to do with that boy of yours? I hear bad reports of
him from everyone; he gets into broils at the alehouse, and I hear
that he consorts with a bad lot of fellows down at Reigate. One of my
tenants--I won't mention names--complained to me that he had persecuted
his daughter with his attentions. They say, he was recognized among that
poaching gang that had an affray with Sir James Hartrop's keepers. The
thing is becoming a gross scandal."

"I don't know what to do about him, Squire; the boy has always been a
trouble to me. You see, before you came home, he got into bad hands in
the village here. Of course they have all gone, but several of them only
moved as far as Reigate, and he kept up their acquaintance. I thrashed
him again and again, but he has got beyond that now, you see; he is
nearly eighteen, and openly scoffs at my authority. Upon my word, I
don't know what to do in the matter."

"He is growing up a thorough young ruffian," the Squire said
indignantly, "and one of these mornings I expect to see him brought up
before us charged with some serious offense. We had to fine him last
week for being drunk and making a disturbance down at Reigate. Why do
you let him have money? You may have no authority over him; but at least
you should refuse to open your purse to him. Don't you see that this
sort of thing is not only a disgrace to him, but very prejudicial to
the village? What authority can you have for speaking against vice and
drunkenness, when your son is constantly intoxicated?"

"I see that, Squire--none better; and I have thought of resigning my
cure."

"Stuff and nonsense, Parson! If the young fellow persists in his present
course he must leave the village, that is clear enough; but that is no
reason why you should. The question is what is to be done with him? The
best thing he could do would be to enlist. He might be of some service
to his country, in India or the American Colonies, but so far as I can
see he is only qualifying himself for a jail here."

"I have told him as much, Squire," Mr. Bastow said, in a depressed
voice, "and he has simply laughed in my face, and said that he was very
comfortable where he was, and had no idea whatever of moving."

"What time does he go out in the morning?" John Thorndyke asked
abruptly.

"He never gets up till twelve o'clock, and has his breakfast when I take
my dinner."

"Well, I will come in tomorrow morning and have a talk with him myself."

The next day the Squire rode up to the door of the Rectory soon after
one o'clock. Mr. Bastow had just finished his meal; his son, a young
fellow of between seventeen and eighteen, was lolling in an easy chair.

"I have come in principally to speak to you, young sir," John Thorndyke
said quietly. "I have been asking your father what you intend to do with
yourself. He says he does not know."

The young fellow looked up with an air of insolent effrontery.

"I don't know that it is any business of yours, Mr. Thorndyke, what I do
with myself."

"Oh, yes, it is," the Squire replied. "This village and the people in it
are mine. You are disturbing the village with your blackguard conduct;
you are annoying some of the girls on the estate, and altogether you are
making yourself a nuisance. I stopped at the alehouse as I came here,
and have ordered the landlord to draw no more liquor for you, and unless
you amend your conduct, and that quickly, I will have you out of the
village altogether."

"I fancy, Mr. Thorndyke, that, even as a justice of the peace, you have
not the power to dictate to my father who shall be the occupant of this
house."

"What you say is perfectly true; but as you make your father's life a
burden to him, and he is desirous of your absence, I can and will
order the village constable to remove you from his house by force, if
necessary."

The young fellow cast an evil glance at his father. "He has not been
complaining, has he?" he said, with a sneer.

"He has not, sir," John Thorndyke said indignantly. "It is I who have
been complaining to him, and he admits that you are altogether beyond
his authority. I have pointed out to him that he is in no way obliged
to support you at your age in idleness and dissipation, and that it were
best for him and all concerned that he should close his doors to you. I
don't want to have to send the son of my old friend to prison, but I can
see well enough that that is what it will come to if you don't give up
your evil courses. I should think you know by this time that I am a man
of my word. I have taken some pains to purge this village of all bad
characters, and I do not intend to have an exception made of the son of
the clergyman, who, in his family as well as in his own person, is bound
to set an example."

"Well, Mr. Thorndyke, I utterly decline to obey your orders or to be
guided by your advice."

"Very well, sir," the magistrate said sternly. "Mr. Bastow, do I
understand that you desire that your son shall no longer remain an
inmate of your house?"

"I do," the clergyman said firmly; "and if he does so I have no other
course before me but to resign my living; my position here has become
absolutely unbearable."

"Very well, sir, then you will please lock your doors tonight, and if he
attempts to enter, I, as a magistrate, should know how to deal with
him. Now, young sir, you understand your position; you may not take my
advice, nevertheless, I shall give it you. The best thing you can do
is to take your place for town on the outside of the coach that comes
through Reigate this afternoon, and tomorrow morning proceed either to
the recruiting officer for His Majesty's service, or to that for the
East India Company's. You have health and strength, you will get rid at
once of your bad associates, and will start afresh in a life in which
you may redeem your past and be useful to your king and country."

Young Bastow smiled.

"Thanks," he said sarcastically. "I have my own plans, and shall follow
them."

"I would think, Mr. Bastow," the Squire said quietly, "it would just
be as well for you to come home with me. I don't think that the leave
taking is likely to be an affectionate one."

The Rector rose at once.

"I will come with you, Squire. I may tell you now, what I have not told
you before, that my son has more than once raised his hand against me,
and that I do not care to be left alone with him."

"I judged him capable even of that, Mr. Bastow."

"Goodby, Arthur," his father said. "My heart is ready to break that it
has come to this; but for both our sakes it is better so. Goodby, my
son, and may Heaven lead you to better ways! If ever you come to me and
say, 'Father, I have turned over a new leaf, and heartily repent the
trouble I have caused you,' you will receive a hearty welcome from me,
and no words of reproach for the past."

The young man paid no attention to the offered hand, but laughed
scornfully.

"You have not got rid of me yet," he said. "As for you, Squire
Thorndyke, I shall not forget your meddlesome interference, and some
day, maybe, you will be sorry for it."

"I think not," John Thorndyke said gravely. "I am doing my duty to the
village, and still more I am doing my duty to an old friend, and I am
not likely ever to feel any regret that I have so acted. Now, Parson,
let's be off."

After leaving the house with the clergyman, the Squire stopped at the
house of Knapp, the village constable; and said a few words to him,
then, leading his horse, walked home with Mr. Bastow.

"Don't be cast down, old friend," he said. "It is a terrible trial to
you; but it is one sharp wrench, and then it will be over. Anything is
better than what you must have been suffering for some time."

"I quite feel that, Squire; my life has indeed been intolerable of late.
I had a painful time before, but always looked forward with hope to your
brother coming home. Since you returned, and matters in the parish have
been put straight, this trouble has come in to take the place of the
other, and I have felt that I would rather resign and beg for charity
than see my son going from bad to worse, a scandal to the parish, and a
hindrance to all good work."

"It is a bad business, Bastow, and it seems to me that two or three
years in prison would be the best thing for him, as he will not take up
the only trade open to him. At any rate, it would separate him from his
evil associates, and give you peace while he is behind the bars. Where
does he get his money?"

"That I know not, Squire. He takes some from me--it used to be done
secretly, now it is done with threats, and, as I told you, with
violence--but that would not account for his always having money. He
must get it somewhere else, for when I have paid my bills, as I always
do the hour that I receive money, there is but little over for him
to take. He is often away all night, sometimes for two or three days
together, and I dare not think what he does with himself; but certainly
he gets money somehow, and I am afraid that I cannot hope it is honestly
obtained."

"I do not well see how it can be," the Squire agreed.

"If I had before known as much as you tell me now, I would have taken
some steps to have him watched, and to nip the matter before it went too
far. Do you think that he will take your notice, and come no more to the
house?"

Mr. Bastow shook his head.

"I fear that the only effect will be to make him worse, even when he was
quite a small boy punishment only had that effect with him. He will come
back tonight probably half drunk, and certainly furious at my having
ventured to lay the case before you."

"You must lock the doors and bar the windows."

"I did that when he first took to being out at night, but he always
managed to get in somehow."

"Well, it must be all put a stop to, Bastow; and I will come back With
you this evening, and if this young rascal breaks into the house I will
have him down at Reigate tomorrow on the charge of house breaking; or,
at any rate, I will threaten to do so if he does not give a promise that
he will in future keep away from you altogether."

"I shall be glad, at any rate, if you will come down, Squire, for, to
say the truth, I feel uneasy as to the steps he may take in his fury at
our conversation just now."

John Thorndyke took down from a wall a heavy hunting whip, as he went
out with the parson at nine o'clock. He had in vain endeavored to cheer
his old friend as they sat over their steaming glasses of Jamaica. The
parson had never been a strong man; he was of a kindly disposition, and
an unwearied worker when there was an opportunity for work, but he had
always shrunk from unpleasantness, and was ready to yield rather than
bring about trouble. He had for a long time suffered in silence, and
had not the Squire himself approached the subject of his son's
delinquencies, he would have never opened his mouth about it. Now,
however, that he had done so, and the Squire had taken the matter in
hand, and had laid down what was to be done, though he trembled at the
prospect, he did not even think of opposing his plan, and indeed could
think of no alternative for it.

"I have told John Knapp to be here," the Squire said, as they reached
the house. "It is just as well that he should be present if your son
comes back again. He is a quiet, trustworthy fellow, and will keep his
mouth shut if I tell him."

Mr. Bastow made no reply. It was terrible to him that there should be
another witness to his son's conduct, but he saw that the Squire was
right. An old woman opened the door.

"Are all the shutters closed and barred?" John Thorndyke asked her.

"Yes, sir; I always sees to that as soon as it gets dark."

"Very well; you can go to bed now, Elisa," her master said. "Is John
Knapp here?"

"Yes, he came an hour ago, and is sitting in the kitchen."

"I will call him in myself when I want to speak to him."

As soon as the old servant had gone upstairs the Squire went into the
kitchen, Mr. Bastow having gone to the cellar to fetch up a bottle of
old brandy that was part of a two dozen case given to him by the old
Squire fifteen years before.

"Do you go round the house, John, and see that everything is properly
fastened up. I see that you have got a jug of beer there. You had better
get a couple of hours' sleep on that settle. I shall keep watch, till I
am sleepy, and then I will call you. Let me know if you find any of the
doors or windows unbarred."

Five minutes later the constable knocked at the door of the parlor. "The
door opening into the stable yard was unbarred, Squire."

"I thought it likely that it would be so, Knapp. You have made it fast
now, I suppose? That is right. Now lie down and get an hour or two of
sleep; it is scarce likely that he will be back until late.

"That was the old woman, of course," he went on to his companion, when
the door closed behind the constable. "I thought it likely enough that
he might tell her to leave a way for him to come in. You told me that
she had been with you a good many years. I dare say she has left that
door unbarred for him many a time. I should advise you to get a man to
sleep in the house regularly; there are plenty of fellows who will be
glad to do it for a shilling or two a week, and I do not think that it
is safe for you to be here alone."

An hour later he said to the Rector: "Now, Bastow, you had best go
to bed. I have taken the matter into my own hands, and will carry
it through. However, I won't have him taken away without your being
present, and will call you when we want you. Of course, if he will give
a solemn promise not to molest you, and, even if he won't enlist, to
leave this part of the country altogether, I shall let him off."

"There is one thing, Mr. Thorndyke, that I have not told you," the
Rector said hesitatingly. "Sometimes, when he comes home late, he brings
someone with him; I have heard voices downstairs. I have never seen who
it was--for what could I have done if I went down?--but I have heard
horses brought round to the stable yard, and heard them ride away:"

"It is just as well you told me," the Squire said dryly. "If you had
told me this evening at the house, I would have dropped a brace of
pistols into my pocket. However, this hunting crop is a good weapon;
but I don't suppose they will show fight, even if anyone is with him.
Besides, Knapp has a stout oaken cudgel with him--I noticed it standing
against his chair as I went in--and as he is a strong active fellow, and
we shall have the advantage of a surprise, I fancy we should be a match
even for three or four of them."

At one o'clock the Squire roused John Knapp. "It is one o'clock, John;
now take off your boots. I don't want him to know that there is anyone
in the house till we get hold of him. I am going to lie down on the sofa
in the parlor. The moment you hear footsteps you come and wake me."

The clock in the kitchen had just struck two when the constable shook
John Thorndyke. "There are two horses just coming into the yard."

"All right. I opened a window in the room looking down into the yard
before I lay down. I will go up and see what they are going to do. If
they try to break in anywhere down here, do you come at once quietly up
to me."

The Squire had taken off his boots before he lay down, and, holding his
heavy hunting crop in his hand, he went quietly upstairs. As he went to
the window he heard Arthur Bastow say angrily:

"Confound the old woman! she has locked the door; she has never played
me that trick before. There is a ladder in the stable, and I will get in
at that window up there and open it for you. Or you may as well come up
that way, too, and then you can stow the things away in my room at once,
and have done with it."

The Squire went hastily down.

"Come upstairs, Knapp," he whispered to the constable. "There are three
of them, and I fancy the two mounted men are highwaymen. Let them all
get in, keeping yourself well back from the window. The moon is round on
the other side of the house, but it will be light enough for us to see
them as they get in. I will take the last fellow, and I will warrant
that he will give no trouble; then I will fall upon the second, and do
you spring on young Bastow. The two highwaymen are sure to have pistols,
and he may have some also. Give him a clip with that cudgel of yours
first, then spring on him, and hold his arms tightly by his side. If I
call you give him a back heel and throw him smartly, and then come to
my aid. I don't think I shall want it, but it is as well to prepare for
everything."

They went upstairs and took their places, one on each side of the
window, standing three or four feet back. Just as they took up their
positions the top of the stable ladder appeared above the sill of the
window. Half a minute later young Bastow's head appeared, and he threw
up the sash still higher, and stepped into the room; then he turned and
helped two men in, one after the other.

"Follow me," he said, "then you won't tumble over the furniture."

As they turned, the heavy handle of John's Thorndyke's whip fell with
tremendous force on the head of the last man.

"What the devil is that?" the other exclaimed, snatching out a pistol
and turning round, as the falling body struck him, but he got no
further. Again the heavy whip descended, this time on his right arm;
it dropped useless by his side, and the pistol fell from his hand. Then
John Thorndyke fell upon him and bore him to the ground, snatched the
other pistol from his belt, and held it to his head.

"Now, my man," he said quietly, "if you don't surrender I will blow out
your brains."

"I surrender," the man moaned. "I believe that you have broken my arm.
Curse you, whoever you are."

The struggle between John Knapp and young Bastow was soon over.
The young fellow was lithe and sinewy, but he was no match for the
constable, who, indeed, had almost overpowered him before he was aware
what had happened.

"Has he got pistols, Knapp?" the Squire asked.

"Yes, sir, a brace of them; I have got them both safely in my pocket.
There," he went on, as a sharp click was heard, "I have got the darbys
on him. Now shall I help you, sir?"

"You had better run downstairs first and light a couple of candles at
the kitchen fire: you will find a pair standing on the parlor table.
Don't be long about it; the first fellow I hit was stunned, and he may
come round any moment."

"I will make sure of him before I go, Squire. I have got another pair of
darbys in my pocket."

As soon as he had fastened these upon the wrists of the insensible man
he ran downstairs, and in a minute returned with the candles.

"I am glad that you are back," the Squire said. "I was afraid that young
rascal would try to escape."

"I took good care of that, Squire; you see I put one of his arms round
the bedpost before I slipped the darbys on, and he cannot get away
unless he takes the whole bed with him; and as I don't think he would
get it out either by the window or the door, he is as safe here as he
would be in Newgate. What is the next thing to do, Squire?"

"You had better tie this fellow's legs. I will leave you a candle here,
and you can keep guard over them while I go and wake Mr. Bastow."

The Rector needed no waking; he was walking up and down his room in
great distress. He had not undressed, but had thrown himself upon his
bed.

"What has happened, Thorndyke?" he asked as the Squire entered. "I heard
two heavy falls, and I felt that something terrible had taken place."

"Well, it has been a serious matter--very serious. That unfortunate
son of yours is not hurt, but I don't know but that the best thing that
could have happened would have been for him to have got a bullet through
his head. He brought home with him two men who are, I have little doubt,
highwaymen; anyhow, they each had a brace of pistols in their belt, and
from what he said I think they have been stopping a coach. At any rate,
they have something with them that they were going to hide here, and
I fancy it is not the first time that it has been done. I don't expect
your son had anything to do with the robbery, though he was carrying a
brace of pistols, too; however, we have got them all three.

"Now, you see, Bastow, this takes the affair altogether out of our
hands. I had hoped that when we caught your son in the act of breaking
into your house after you had ordered him from it, we should be able to
frighten him into enlisting, or, at any rate, into promising to disturb
you no more, for even if we had taken him before the bench, nothing
could have been done to him, for under such circumstances his
re-entering the house could not be looked upon as an act of burglary. As
it is, the affair is altogether changed. Even if I wished to do so, as a
magistrate I could not release those two highwaymen; they must appear as
prisoners in court. I shall hear down in the town tomorrow morning what
coach has been stopped, and I have no doubt that they have on them the
proceeds of the robbery. Your son was consorting with and aiding them,
and acting as a receiver of stolen goods, and as you have heard horses
here before it is probable that when his room is thoroughly searched we
shall come upon a number of articles of the same sort. I am sorry that
I ever meddled in the matter; but it is too late for that now. You had
better come downstairs with me, and we will take a turn in the garden,
and try to see what had best be done."



CHAPTER III.


John Thorndyke opened the shutters of the parlor window, and stepped out
into the garden alone, for the Rector was too unnerved and shattered to
go out with him, but threw himself on the sofa, completely prostrated.
Half an hour later the Squire re-entered the room. The morning was just
beginning to break. Mr. Bastow raised his head and looked sadly at him.

"I can see no way out of it, old friend. Were it not that he is in
charge of the constable, I should have said that your only course was
to aid your son to escape; but Knapp is a shrewd fellow as well as
an honest one. You cannot possibly get your son away without his
assistance, for he is handcuffed to the bed, and Knapp, in so serious a
matter as this, would not, I am sure, lend himself to an escape. I have
no doubt that with my influence with the other magistrates, and, indeed,
on the circumstances of the case, they will commit him on a minor charge
only, as the passengers of the coach will, I hope, give evidence that it
was stopped by mounted men alone. I think, therefore, that he would
only be charged with consorting with and aiding the highwaymen after the
event, and of aiding them to conceal stolen goods--that is, if any are
found in his room.

"That much stolen property has been hidden there, there is little reason
to doubt, but it may have been removed shortly afterwards. It was, of
course, very convenient for them to have some place where they could
take things at once, and then ride on quietly to London the next day,
for, if arrested; nothing would be found upon them, and it would be
impossible to connect them with the robbery. Later on they might come
back again and get them from him. Of course, if nothing is found in his
room, we get rid of the charge of receiving altogether, and there would
be nothing but harboring, aiding, and abetting--a much less serious
business. Look here, old friend, I will strain a point. I will go out
into the garden again and walk about for an hour, and while I am out, if
you should take advantage of my absence to creep up to your son's room
and to search it thoroughly, examining every board of the floor to see
if it is loose, and should you find anything concealed, to take it and
hide it, of course I cannot help it. The things, if there are any, might
secretly be packed up by you in a box and sent up to Bow Street, with a
line inside, saying that they are proceeds of robbery, and that you hope
the owners will be traced and their property restored to them. Not, of
course, in your own hand, and without a signature. There might be some
little trouble in managing it, but it could, no doubt, be done."

John Thorndyke went out into the garden without another word. The hour
was nearly up when Mr. Bastow came out; he looked ten years older than
he had done on the previous day. He wrung his friend's hand.

"Thank God I have been up there," he said. "I do not think they will
find anything."

"Say nothing about it, Bastow; I don't want to know whether you found
anything. Now I am going to fetch two or three of the men from the
village, to get them to aid the constable in keeping guard, and another
to go up to the house at once and order a groom to saddle one of my
horses and bring it here."

As it was now past five o'clock, and the Squire found most of the men
getting up, he sent one off to the house with the message, and returned
with two others to the Rectory. He told them briefly that two highwaymen
had been arrested during the night, and that as young Mr. Bastow was in
their company at the time, it had been necessary as a matter of form to
arrest him also. He went upstairs with them.

"I have brought up two men to sit with you, Knapp, until the Reigate
constables come up. You can take those handcuffs off Mr. Bastow, but
see that he does not leave the room, and do you yourself sit in a chair
against the door, and place one of these men at the window. How about
others?"

"The man you hit first, Squire, did not move until a quarter of an hour
ago; he has been muttering to himself since, but I don't think he is
sensible. The other one has been quiet enough, but there is no doubt
that his arm is broken."

"I am going to ride down to Reigate at once, and will bring back a
surgeon with me."

"You will repent this night's business, Thorndyke!" Arthur Bastow said
threateningly.

"I fancy that you will repent it more than I shall, Bastow; it is likely
that you will have plenty of time to do so."

It was not long before the groom with the horse arrived. John Thorndyke
rode at a gallop down to Reigate, and first called on the head
constable.

"Dawney," he said, as the man came down, partially dressed, at his
summons, "has anything taken place during the night?"

"Yes, Squire, the up coach was stopped a mile before it got here, and
the passengers robbed. It was due here at one, and did not come in till
half an hour later. Of course I was sent for. The guard was shot. There
were two of the fellows. He let fly with his blunderbuss, but he does
not seem to have hit either of them, and one rode up and shot him dead;
then they robbed all the passengers. They got six gold watches, some
rings, and, adding up the amounts taken from all the passengers, about a
hundred and fifty pounds in money."

"Well, I fancy I have got your two highwaymen safe, _Dawney_."

"You have, sir?" the constable said in astonishment.

"Yes. I happened to be at the Rectory. Mr. Bastow had had a quarrel with
his son, and had forbidden him the house."

The constable shook his head. "I am afraid he is a very bad one, that
young chap."

"I am afraid he is, Dawney. However, his father was afraid that he might
come in during the night and make a scene, so I said I would stop with
him, and I took our village constable with me. At two o'clock this
morning the young fellow came with two mounted men, who, I have no
doubt, were highwaymen. We had locked up down below. Bastow took a
ladder, and the three got in at a bedroom window on the first floor.
Knapp and I were waiting for them there, and, taking them by surprise,
succeeded in capturing them before the highwaymen could use their
pistols. The constable and two men are looking after them, but as one
has not got over a knock I gave him on the head, and the other has a
broken arm, there is little fear of their making their escape. You had
better go up with two of your men, and take a light cart with you with
some straw in the bottom, and bring them all down here. I will ride
round myself to Mr. Chetwynde, Sir Charles Harris, and Mr. Merchison,
and we will sit at twelve o'clock. You can send round a constable with
the usual letters to the others, but those three will be quite enough
for the preliminary examination."

"Well, Squire, that is good news indeed. We have had the coach held up
so often within five miles of this place during the past three months,
that we have been getting quite a bad name. And to think that young
Bastow was in it! I have heard some queer stories about him, and fancied
before long I should have to put my hand upon his shoulder; but I didn't
expect this."

"There is not a shadow of proof that he had anything to do with the
robbery, Dawney, but he will have difficulty in proving that he did not
afterwards abet them. It is serious enough as it is, and I am terribly
grieved for his father's sake."

"Yes, sir; I have always heard him spoken of as a kind gentleman, and
one who took a lot of trouble whenever anyone was sick. Well, sir, I
will be off in twenty minutes. I will run round at once and send Dr.
Hewett up to the Rectory, and a man shall start on horseback at seven
o'clock with the summons to the other magistrates."

John Thorndyke rode round to his three fellow magistrates, who, living
nearest to the town, were most regular in their attendance at the
meetings. They all listened in surprise to his narrative, and expressed
great pleasure at hearing that the men who had been such a pest to
the neighborhood, and had caused them all personally a great deal of
trouble, had been captured. All had heard tales, too, to Arthur Bastow's
disadvantage, and expressed great commiseration for his father. They
agreed to meet at the court half an hour before business began, to talk
the matter over together.

"It is out of the question that we can release him on bail," the
gentleman who was chairman of the bench said. "Quite so," John Thorndyke
agreed. "In the first place, the matter is too serious; and in the
next, he certainly would not be able to find bail; and lastly, for his
father's sake, it is unadvisable that he should be let out. At the same
time, it appears to me that there is a broad distinction between his
case and the others. I fear that there can be no question that he had
prior acquaintance with these men, and that he was cognizant of the
whole business; something I heard him say, and which, to my regret, I
shall have to repeat in court, almost proves that he was so. Still, let
us hope none of the stolen property will be found upon him; whether they
had intended to pass it over to his care or not is immaterial. If they
had not done so, I doubt whether he could be charged with receiving
stolen goods, and we might make the charge simply one of aiding these
two criminals, and of being so far an accessory after the crime.

"If we could soften it down still further I should, for his father's
sake, be glad; but as far as he himself is concerned, I would do nothing
to lighten his punishment. He is about as bad a specimen of human nature
as I ever came across. His father is in bodily fear of him. I saw the
young fellow yesterday, and urged him to enlist, in order to break
himself loose from the bad companionship he had fallen into. His reply
was insolent and defiant in the highest degree, and it was then that in
his father's name I forbade him the house, and as his father was present
he confirmed what I said, and told him that he would not have anything
more to do with him. This affair may do him good, and save his neck from
a noose. A few years at the hulks or a passage to Botany Bay will do him
no harm; and, at any rate, his father will have rest and peace, which he
never would have if he remained here."

A somewhat similar conversation took place at each house. John Thorndyke
breakfasted at Sir Charles Harris', the last of the three upon whom he
called, and then mounting rode back to Reigate.

"We have found the plunder on them," the head constable said, coming
out of the lockup as he drew rein before it, "and, fortunately for young
Bastow, nothing was found upon him."

"How are the two men?"

"The fellow you hit first is conscious now, sir, but very weak. The
doctor says that if he hadn't had a thick hat on, your blow would have
killed him to a certainty. The other man's arm is set and bandaged, and
he is all right otherwise. We shall be able to have them both in court
at twelve o'clock."

The Squire rode up to his house. He was met at the door by his son, in a
state of great excitement.

"Is it all true, father? The news has come from the village that you
have killed two men, and that they and Arthur Bastow have all been taken
away in a cart, guarded by constables."

"As usual, Mark, rumor has exaggerated matters. There are no dead men;
one certainly got a crack on the head that rendered him insensible for
some time, and another's arm is broken."

"And are they highwaymen, father? They say that two horses were fastened
behind the cart."

"That is what we are going to try, Mark. Until their guilt is proved, no
one knows whether they are highwaymen or not."

"And why is Arthur Bastow taken, father?"

"Simply because he was in company with the others. Now, you need not ask
any more questions, but if you like to get your pony saddled and ride
down with me to Reigate at eleven o'clock, I will get you into the
courthouse, and then you will hear all about it."

At greater length the Squire went into the matter with Mrs. Cunningham,
his lady housekeeper, and his ward's governess.

"It is a bad business, Mr. Thorndyke," she said, "and must be terrible
for poor Mr. Bastow."

"Yes, it is a bad business altogether, except that it will rid him of
this young rascal. If I were in his place I should be ready to suffer a
good deal to obtain such a riddance."

"I suppose that you won't sit upon the bench today?"

"No; at least I shall take no part in the deliberations. I shall, of
course, give evidence. The affair is not likely to last very long; my
story will take the longest to tell. Knapp's will be confirmatory of
mine, and the Reigate constable will depose to finding the watches,
rings, and money upon them; then, of course, the case will be adjourned
for the attendance of the coachman and some of the passengers. I don't
suppose they will be able to swear to their identity, for no doubt
they were masked. But that is immaterial; the discovery of the stolen
property upon them will be sufficient to hang them. No doubt we shall
have some Bow Streets runners down from town tomorrow or next day, and
they will most likely be able to say who the fellows are."

"Will Mr. Bastow have to give evidence against his son?"

"Not before us, I think; but I imagine he will have to appear at the
trial."

"It will be terrible for him."

"Yes, terrible. I sincerely hope that they will not summon him, but I am
afraid that there is very little doubt about it; they are sure to want
to know about his son's general conduct, though possibly the testimony
on that point of the constable at Reigate will be sufficient. My own
hope is that he will get a long sentence; at any rate, one long enough
to insure his not coming back during his father's lifetime. If you had
seen his manner when we were talking to him yesterday, you would believe
that he is capable of anything. I have had a good many bad characters
before me during the year and a half that I have sat upon the bench, but
I am bound to say that I never saw one who was to my eyes so thoroughly
evil as this young fellow. I don't think," he added with a smile, "that
I should feel quite comfortable myself if he were acquitted; it will
be a long time before I shall forget the expression of his face when
he said to me this morning, 'You will repent this night's work,
Thorndyke.'"

"You don't mean that you think he would do you any harm, Mr. Thorndyke?"

"Well, I should not care to meet him in a lonely place if he was armed
and I was not. But you need not be nervous, Mrs. Cunningham, there is
not the smallest chance of his being out for years; and by that time his
blood will have had time to cool down, and he will have learnt, at any
rate, that crimes cannot be committed in this country with impunity."

"It is all very shocking," the lady said. "What will poor Mr. Bastow do?
I should think that he would not like to remain as clergyman here, where
everyone knows about it."

"That must be for him to decide," the Squire said; "but if he wishes to
resign I certainly shall not press him to continue to hold the living.
He is a very old friend of mine. My father presented the living to him
when I was nine or ten years old, and I may say I saw him daily up to
the time when I went down into Sussex. If he resigns I should urge him
to take up his residence here and to act as Mark's tutor; and he might
also relieve you of some of Millicent's lessons. You have plenty to do
in looking after the management of things in general. However, that is
for the future."

At eleven o'clock the Squire drove down to Reigate, taking Mark with
him, as it would save all trouble about putting up the horse and pony.
On arriving he handed Mark over to the head constable, and asked him to
pass him into a seat in the courthouse, before the public were let in.

Reigate was in a state of unusual excitement. That the coach should have
been stopped and robbed was too common an event to excite much interest,
but that two highwaymen should have been captured, and, as was rumored,
a young gentleman brought in on a charge of being in connection with
them, caused a thrill of excitement. Quite a small crowd was assembled
before the courthouse, and the name of Squire Thorndyke passed from
mouth to mouth.

"There is some talk of his being mixed up with it in some way or other,"
one said. "I saw him myself ride in here, about half past five, and
I wondered he was about so early. Some do say as he caught the two
highwaymen single handed; but that don't stand to reason. Besides,
what could he have been doing out at such an hour as that? He is a good
landlord, and they say that Crowswood has been quite a different place
since he came to be master. He is a tight hand as a magistrate, and
cleared out half the village the first two or three months he was there;
but he spent a mint of money on the place, and the people there say that
they could not have a better master. Ah, here is Squire Chetwynd. He was
sure to be here. There is Sir Charles' gig turning the corner. I expect
most of them will be on the bench; they don't get such a case as this
every day."

"It may be there will be nothing for us to hear when the court opens,"
another said. "I hear both the fellows have been shot or knocked about
so bad that they cannot be brought up. Of course the court cannot sit if
they aint before it."

"That is not so, Master Jones. I spoke to one of the constables half an
hour ago--he lives next door to me--and he said that they would be well
enough to appear. Neither of them have been shot, though they have been
hurt pretty bad."

All this added to the desire of those around to get into the court, and
there was quite a rush when the doors were opened two minutes before
twelve, and it was at once crammed, the constable having some difficulty
in getting the doors shut, and in persuading those who could not get in
that there was not standing room for another person. There was a buzz of
talk in court until the door opened and six magistrates came in. It was
observed that John Thorndyke did not seat himself with the others, but
moved his chair a little apart from them, thus confirming the report
that he was in some way connected with the matter, and did not intend to
take any part in the decision. Then another door opened, and the three
prisoners were brought in. The two first were pale and evidently weak;
one had his head wrapped in bandages, the other had the right sleeve of
his coat cut off, and his arm bandaged and supported by a sling. Both
made a resolute effort to preserve a careless demeanor. The third, who
was some years younger than the others, looked round with a smile on his
lips, bowed to the magistrates with an air of insolent bravado when
he was placed in the dock, and then leaned easily in the corner, as
if indifferent to the whole business. A chair was placed between his
comrades for the use of the man whose head was bandaged. Many among
those present knew Arthur Bastow by sight, and his name passed from
mouth to mouth; but the usher called loudly for silence, and then the
magistrates' clerk rose.

"William Smith and John Brown--at least, these are the names given--are
charged with stopping the South Coast coach last night, killing the
guard, and robbing the passengers; and Arthur Bastow is charged with
aiding and abetting the other two prisoners, and with guilty knowledge
of their crime."

It was noticed by those who could see the prisoners' faces that, in
spite of Bastow's air of indifference, there was an expression of
anxiety on his face as the charge was read, and he undoubtedly felt
relief as that against himself was mentioned. The first witness was John
Knapp, and the constable stepped into the witness box.

"What do you know of this business, Knapp?" the chairman asked. "Just
tell it your own way."

"I am constable of Crowswood, your honor, and yesterday Squire Thorndyke
said to me--"

"No, you must not tell it like that, Knapp; you must not repeat what
another person said to you. You can say that from information received
you did so and so."

"Yes, your honor. From information received I went to the Rev. Mr.
Bastow's house, at a quarter to nine last night. At nine o'clock Squire
Thorndyke and the Parson came in together. They sent the servant up to
bed, and then the Squire sent me round to examine the fastenings of the
doors. I found that one back door had been left unfastened, and locked
and bolted it. The Squire told me to lie down until one o'clock, and he
would watch, and Mr. Bastow went up to bed."

"Do you know of your own knowledge why these precautions were taken?"

"Only from what I was told, your honor. At one o'clock the Squire woke
me, and he lay down in the parlor, telling me to call him if I heard
any movement outside. About two o'clock I heard two horses come into the
Parson's yard. I called Squire Thorndyke, who went upstairs to an open
window; presently someone came and tried the back door. I heard voices
outside, but could not hear what was said. The Squire came down and
called me upstairs. I went up and took my place at one side of the
window, and the Squire took his on the other. I had this cudgel in my
hand, and the Squire his riding whip. A ladder was put up against the
window, and then someone came up, lifted the sash up high and got in.
There was light enough for me to see it was young Mr. Bastow. Then the
two other prisoners came up. When the third had got into the room Mr.
Bastow said, 'Follow me, and then you won't tumble over the furniture.'"

"How was it that they did not see you and Mr. Thorndyke?" the chairman
asked.

"We were standing well back, your honor. The moon was on the other side
of the house. There was light enough for us to see them as they got in
at the window, but where we were standing it was quite dark, especially
to chaps who had just come in from the moonlight. As they moved, the
Squire hit the last of them a clout on the head with his hunting crop,
and down he went, as if shot. The man next to him turned, but I did not
see what took place, for, as the Squire had ordered me, I made a rush at
Mr. Bastow and got my arms round him pretty tight, so as to prevent him
using his pistols, if he had any. He struggled hard, but without saying
a word, till I got my heel behind his and threw him on his back. I came
down on the top of him; then I got the pistols out of his belt and threw
them on the bed, slipped the handcuffs onto one wrist, lifted him up a
bit, and then shoved him up against the bedpost, and got the handcuff
onto his other wrist, so that he could not shift away, having the post
in between his arms.

"Then I went to see if the Squire wanted any help, but he didn't. I
first handcuffed the man whose head he had broken, and tied the legs
of the other, and then kept guard over them till morning. When the
constables came up from town we searched the prisoners, and on two
of them found the watches, money, and rings. We found nothing on Mr.
Bastow. I went with the head constable to Mr. Bastow's room and searched
it thoroughly, but found nothing whatever there."

The evidence created a great sensation in court. John Thorndyke had
first intended to ask Knapp not to make any mention of the fact that
Arthur Bastow was carrying pistols unless the question was directly put
to him. But the more he had thought over the matter, the more convinced
was he that the heavier the sentence the better it would be for the
Rector; and when he had heard from the latter that there was nothing
left in his son's room that could be brought against him, and that he
could not be charged with the capital crime of being a receiver, he
thought it best to let matters take their course.

The head constable was the next witness. He deposed to the finding of
the articles produced upon the two elder prisoners and the unsuccessful
search of the younger prisoner's room.

"You did not search the house further?" the chairman inquired.

"No, sir; I wanted to get the prisoners down here as fast as I could,
seeing that two of them were seriously hurt."

The chairman nodded.

"You will, of course, make a careful search of the whole house,
constable."

"Yes, sir; I left one of my men up there with instructions to allow no
one to go upstairs until I returned."

"Quite right."

John Thorndyke was the next witness, and his evidence cleared up what
had hitherto been a mystery to the general body of the public, as to
how he and the constable happened to be in the house on watch when the
highwaymen arrived. The most important part of his evidence was the
repetition of the words young Bastow had used as he mounted the ladder,
as they showed that it was arranged between the prisoners that the
stolen goods should be hidden in the house. The Squire was only asked
one or two questions.

"I suppose, Mr. Thorndyke, that you had no idea whatever that the
younger prisoner would be accompanied by anyone else when he returned
home?"

"Not the slightest," the Squire replied. "I was there simply to prevent
this unfortunate lad from entering the house, when perhaps he might have
used violence towards his father. My intention was to seize him if he
did so, and to give him the choice of enlisting, as I had urged him to
do, or of being brought before this bench for breaking into his father's
house. I felt that anything was better than his continuing in the evil
courses on which he seemed bent."

"Thank you, Mr. Thorndyke. I must compliment you in the name of my
brother magistrates, and I may say of the public, for the manner in
which you, at considerable risk to yourself, have effected the capture
of the two elder prisoners."

After consulting with the others the head constable was recalled.

"Do you know anything about the character of the youngest prisoner?"

"Yes, sir. We have had our eye upon him for some time. He was brought
before your honors a week ago charged with being drunk and disorderly in
this town, and was fined 5 pounds. He is constantly drinking with some
of the worst characters in the place, and is strongly suspected of
having been concerned in the fray between the poachers and Sir Charles
Harris' gamekeepers. Two of the latter said that they recognized him
amongst the poachers, but as they both declined to swear to him we did
not arrest him."

John Knapp was then recalled, and testified to Bastow's drinking habits,
and that the landlord of the alehouse at Crowswood had been ordered by
the Squire not to draw any liquor for him in future on pain of having
the renewal of his license refused.

"Have you any more witnesses to call?" the chairman asked the head
constable.

"Not at present, your honor. We have sent up to town, and on the next
occasion the coachman will be called to testify to the shooting of the
guard, and we hope to have some of the passengers there to identify the
articles stolen from them."

"It will be necessary that the Rev. Mr. Bastow should be here. He need
not be called to give evidence unless we think it to be of importance,
but he had better be in attendance. The prisoners are remanded until
this day week."

An hour later the three prisoners, handcuffed, were driven under an
escort of three armed constables to Croydon Jail. When again brought up
in court the passengers on the coach identified the articles taken from
them; the coachman gave evidence of the stopping of the coach, and of
the shooting of the guard. The head constable testified that he had
searched the Rectory from top to bottom, and found nothing whatever of
a suspicious nature. None of the passengers were able to testify to the
two elder prisoners as the men who had robbed them, as these had been
masked, but the height and dress corresponded to those of the prisoners;
and the two Bow Street runners then came forward, and gave evidence
that the two elder prisoners were well known to them. They had long been
suspected of being highwaymen, and had several times been arrested when
riding towards London on occasions when a coach had been stopped the
night before, but no stolen goods had ever been found upon them, and in
no case had the passengers been able to swear to their identity. One was
known among his associates as "Galloping Bill," the other as the
"Downy One." At the conclusion of the evidence the three prisoners
were formally committed for trial, the magistrates having retired in
consultation for some time upon the question of whether the charge of
receiving stolen goods ought to be made against Arthur Bastow.

"I think, gentlemen," the chairman said, after a good deal had been
urged on both sides of the question, "in this case we can afford to take
a merciful view. In the first place, no stolen goods were discovered
upon him or in the house. There is strong presumptive evidence of his
intention, but intention is not a crime, and even were the evidence
stronger than it is, I should be inclined to take a merciful view. There
can be no doubt that the young fellow is thoroughly bad, and the bravado
he has exhibited throughout the hearing is at once unbecoming and
disgraceful; but we must remember that he is not yet eighteen, and that,
in the second place, he is the son of a much respected clergyman, who is
our neighbor. The matter is serious enough for him as it stands, and he
is certain to have a very heavy sentence.

"Mr. Thorndyke, who takes no part in our deliberations, is most anxious
that the prisoner's father should be spared the agony of his son being
placed on trial on a capital charge, though I do not think that there
would be the smallest chance of his being executed, for the judges would
be certain to take his youth into consideration. Had there been prima
facie evidence of concealment, we must have done our duty and sent him
to trial on that charge; but as there is no such evidence, I think that
it will be in all respects better to send him on a charge on which the
evidence is as clear as noonday. Moreover, I think that Mr. Thorndyke's
wishes should have some weight with us, seeing that it is entirely due
to him that the important capture of these highwaymen, who have long
been a scourge to this neighborhood, has been effected."

Mr. Bastow had not been called as a witness. John Thorndyke had brought
him down to Reigate in a closed carriage, and he had waited in the
justices' room while the examination went on; but the magistrates agreed
that the evidence given was amply sufficient for them to commit upon
without given him the pain of appearing. John Thorndyke had taken him to
another room while the magistrates were consulting together, and when he
heard the result drove him back again.

"I have fully made up my mind to resign my living, Thorndyke. I could
not stand up and preach to the villagers of their duties when I myself
have failed so signally in training my own son; nor visit their houses
and presume to lecture them on their shortcomings when my son is a
convicted criminal."

"I quite see that, old friend," the Squire said. "And I had no doubt but
that you would decide on this course. I will try not to persuade you to
change your decision, for I feel that your power of usefulness is at an
end as far as the village is concerned. May I ask what you propose to
do? I can hardly suppose that your savings have been large."

"Two years ago I had some hundreds laid by, but they have dwindled away
to nothing; you can understand how. For a time it was given freely, then
reluctantly; then I declared I would give no more, but he took it all
the same--he knew well enough that I could never prosecute him for
forgery."

"As bad as that, eh?" Thorndyke said sternly. "Well, we won't talk
further of him now; what I propose is that you should take up your abode
at the Hall. I am not satisfied with the school where Mark has been for
the last two years, and I have been hesitating whether to get a private
tutor for him or to send him to one of the public schools. I know that
that would be best, but I could not bring myself to do so. I have some
troubles of my own that but two or three people know of, and now, that
everything is going on smoothly on the estate and in the village, I
often feel dull, and the boy's companionship does me much good; and as
he knows many lads of his own age in the neighborhood now, I think that
he would do just as well at home.

"He will be taking to shooting and hunting before long, and if he is
to have a tutor, there is no one I should like to have better than
yourself. You know all the people, and we could talk comfortably
together of an evening when the house is quiet. Altogether, it will be
an excellent arrangement for me. You would have your own room, and if I
have company you need not join us unless you like. The house would not
seem like itself without you, for you have been associated with it as
long as I can remember. As to your going out into the world at the age
of sixty, it would be little short of madness. There--you need not give
me an answer now," he went on, seeing that the Rector was too broken
down to speak; "but I am sure that when you think it over you will come
to the same conclusion as I do, that it will be the best plan possible
for us both."



CHAPTER IV.


The trial of the two highwaymen and Arthur Bastow came off in due
course. The evidence given was similar to that offered at Reigate, the
only addition being that Mr. Bastow was himself put into the box. The
counsel for the prosecution said: "I am sorry to have to call you, Mr.
Bastow. We all feel most deeply for you, and I will ask you only two or
three questions. Was your son frequently out at night?"

"He was."

"Did you often hear him return?"

"Yes; I seldom went to sleep until he came back."

"Had you any reason to suppose that others returned with him?"

"I never saw any others."

"But you might have heard them without seeing them. Please tell us if
you ever heard voices."

"Yes, I have heard men's voices," the clergyman said reluctantly, in a
low voice.

"One more question, and I have done. Have you on some occasions heard
the sound of horses' hoofs in your yard at about the time that your son
came in?"

Mr. Bastow said in a low voice: "I have."

"Had you any suspicion whatever of the character of your son's
visitors?"

"None whatever. I supposed that those with him were companions with whom
he had been spending the evening."

Mr. Bastow had to be assisted from the witness box, so overcome was
he with the ordeal. He had not glanced at his son while giving his
evidence. The latter and his two fellow prisoners maintained throughout
the trial their expression of indifference. The two highwaymen nodded
to acquaintances they saw in the body of the court, smiled at various
points in the evidence, and so conducted themselves that there were
murmured exclamations of approval of their gameness on the part of the
lower class of the public. The jury, without a moment's hesitation,
found them all guilty of the offenses with which they were charged.
Bastow was first sentenced.

"Young man," the judge said, "young as you are, there can be no doubt
whatever in the minds of anyone who has heard the evidence that you have
been an associate with these men who have been found guilty of highway
robbery accompanied by murder. I consider that a merciful view was taken
of your case by the magistrates who committed you for trial, for the
evidence of your heartbroken father, on whose gray hairs your conduct
has brought trouble and disgrace, leaves no doubt that you have for some
time been in league with highwaymen, although not actually participating
in their crime. The words overheard by Mr. Thorndyke show that you were
prepared to hide their booty for them, and it is well for you that
you were captured before this was done, and that no proceeds of other
robberies were found in the house. The evidence of the Bow Street
officers show that it had for some time been suspected that these men
had an accomplice somewhere in the neighborhood of Reigate, for although
arrested several times under circumstances forming a strong assumption
of their guilt, nothing was ever found upon them. There can now be
little, doubt who their accomplice was. Had you been an older man
I should have sentenced you to transportation for life, but in
consideration of your youth, I shall take the milder course of
sentencing you to fifteen years' transportation."

The capital sentence was then passed in much fewer words upon the two
highwaymen. As they were leaving the dock Bastow turned, and in a clear
voice said to John Thorndyke, who had been accommodated with a seat in
the well of the court:

"I have to thank you, Thorndyke, for this. I will pay off my debt some
day, you make take your oath."

"A sad case, Mr. Thorndyke--a sad case," the judge, who had greatly
complimented the Squire on his conduct, said to him as he was disrobing
afterwards. "I don't know that in all my experience I ever saw such a
hardened young villain. With highwaymen it is a point of honor to assume
a gayety of demeanor on such occasions; but to see a boy of eighteen,
never before convicted, exhibiting such coolness and effrontery is quite
beyond my experience. I suppose his record is altogether bad?"

"Altogether," the Squire said. "His father has, during the last two
years, been quite broken by it; he owned to me that he was in bodily
fear of the lad, who had on several occasions assaulted him, had robbed
him of his savings by means of forgery, and was so hopelessly bad that
he himself thought with me that the only possible hope for him was
to get him to enlist. I myself recommended the East India Company's
service, thinking that he would have less opportunity for crime out
there, and that there would be a strong chance that either fever or a
bullet would carry him off, for I own that I have not the slightest hope
of reformation in such a character."

"I would have given him transportation for life if I had known all
this," the judge said. "However, it is not likely that he will ever
come back again--very few of them do; the hulks are not the most healthy
places in the world, and they have a pretty rough way with men who give
them trouble, as this young fellow is likely to do."

Mr. Bastow, as soon as he had given his evidence, had taken a hackney
coach to the inn where he and the Squire had put up on their arrival in
town the evening before, and here, on his return, John Thorndyke found
him. He was lying on his bed in a state of prostration.

"Cheer up, Bastow," he said, putting his hand upon the Rector's
shoulder. "The sentence is fifteen years, which was the very amount I
hoped that he would get. The more one sees of him the more hopeless
it is to expect that any change will ever take place in him; and it is
infinitely better that he should be across the sea where his conduct,
when his term is over, can affect no one. The disgrace, such as it is,
to his friends, is no greater in a long term than in a short one. Had
he got off with four or five years' imprisonment, he would have been a
perpetual trouble and a source of uneasiness, not to say alarm; and even
had he left you alone we should always have been in a state of dread as
to his next offense. Better that he should be out in the colonies than
be hung at Tyburn."

"How did he take the sentence?"

"With the same bravado he had shown all through, and as he went out of
the dock addressed a threat to me, that, under the circumstances, I can
very well afford to despise. Now, if you will take my advice, you will
drink a couple of glasses of good port, and then go to bed. I will see
to your being awakened at seven o'clock, which will give us time to
breakfast comfortably, and to make a start at nine."

"I would rather not have the wine," the Rector said feebly.

"Yes, but you must take what is good for you. I have ordered up a bottle
of the landlord's best, and must insist upon your drinking a couple of
glasses with me. I want it almost as much as you do, for the atmosphere
of that court was enough to poison a dog. I have got the taste of it in
my mouth still."

With much reluctance the Rector accompanied him to the private sitting
room that the Squire had engaged. He sat down almost mechanically in an
easy chair. The Squire poured out the wine, and handed him a glass. Mr.
Bastow at first put it to his lips without glancing at it, but he was a
connoisseur in wine, and the bouquet of the port appealing to his latent
senses, he took a sip, and then another, appreciatingly.

"The landlord said it was first rate, and he is not far wrong," John
Thorndyke remarked, as he set down his own glass.

"Yes, it is a fine vintage, and in perfect condition," Mr. Bastow
agreed. "I have drunk nothing better for years, though you have some
fine bins."

"I would take a biscuit, if I were you, before I took another glass,"
the Squire said, helping himself from a plate on the table. "You have
had nothing to eat today, and you want something badly. I have a dish of
kidneys coming up in half an hour; they cook them well here."

The Rector ate a biscuit, mechanically sipped another glass of wine,
and was even able to eat a kidney when they were brought up. Although
September was not yet out, the Squire had a fire lighted in the room,
and after the meal was over, and two steaming tumblers of punch were
placed upon the table, he took a long pipe from the mantel, filled and
lighted it, then filled another, and handed it to the Rector, at the
same time holding out a light to him.

"Life has its consolations," he said. "You have had a lot of troubles
one way and another, Bastow, but we may hope that they are all over now,
and that life will go more smoothly and easily with you. We had better
leave the past alone for the present. I call this snug: a good fire, a
clean pipe, a comfortable chair, and a steaming bowl at one's elbow."

The Rector smiled faintly.

"It seems unnatural--" he began.

"Not at all, not at all," the Squire broke in. "You have had a
tremendous load on your mind, and now it is lifted off; the thundercloud
has burst, and though damage has been done, one is thankful that it is
no worse. Now I can talk to you of a matter that has been on my mind for
the last three weeks. What steps do you think that I ought to take to
find a successor for you? It is most important to have a man who will
be a real help in the parish, as you have been, would pull with one
comfortably, and be a pleasant associate. I don't want too young a
fellow, and I don't want too old a one. I have no more idea how to set
about it than a child. Of course, I could ask the Bishop to appoint, but
I don't know that he would appoint at all the sort of man I want. The
living is only worth 200 pounds a year and the house--no very great
catch; but there is many a man that would be glad to have it."

"I have been thinking it over, too, Thorndyke, when I could bring my
mind to consider anything but my own affairs. How would Greg do? He has
been taking duty for me since I could not do it myself. I know that he
is a hard working fellow, and he has a wife and a couple of children;
his curacy is only 70 pounds a year, and it would be a perfect godsend,
for he has no interest in the Church, and he might be years without
preferment."

"I should think he would do very well, Bastow. Yes, he reads well, which
I own I care for that a good deal more than for the preaching; not
that I have anything to say against that. He gives sound and practical
sermons, and they have the advantage of being short, which is a great
thing. In the first place, it is good in itself, and in the second,
specially important in a village congregation, where you know very well
every woman present is fidgeting to get home to see that the pot is not
boiling over, and the meat in the oven is not burnt. Yes, I will go down
tomorrow afternoon and ask him if he would like the living. You were
talking of selling the furniture; how much do you suppose it is worth?"

"I don't suppose it will fetch above seventy or eighty pounds; it is
solid and good, but as I have had it in use nearly forty years, it would
not go for much."

"Well, let us say a hundred pounds," the Squire said. "I will give you a
check for it. I dare say Greg will find it difficult to furnish, and he
might have to borrow the money, and the debt would be a millstone round
his neck, perhaps, for years, so I will hand it over with the Rectory to
him."

So they talked for an hour or two on village matters, and the Squire was
well pleased, when his old friend went up to bed, that he had succeeded
in diverting his thoughts for a time from the painful subject that had
engrossed them for weeks.

"You have slept well," he said, when they met at breakfast, "I can see
by your face."

"Yes, I have not slept so soundly for months. I went to sleep as soon
as my head touched the pillow, and did not awake until the chambermaid
knocked at the door."

"That second glass of punch did it, Bastow. It is a fine morning; we
shall have a brisk drive back. I am very glad that I changed my mind and
brought the gig instead of the close carriage."

In the afternoon the Squire drove into Reigate. He found the curate at
home, and astonished and delighted him by asking him if he would like
the living of Crowswood. It came altogether as a surprise to him, for
the Rector's intentions to resign had not been made public, and it was
supposed in the village that he was only staying at the Squire's until
this sad affair should be over. Greg was a man of seven or eight and
twenty, had graduated with distinction at Cambridge, but, having
no influence, had no prospects of promotion, and the offer almost
bewildered him.

"I should be grateful indeed, Mr. Thorndyke," he said. "It would be a
boon to us. Will you excuse me for a moment?"

And opening a door, he called for his wife, who was trying to keep the
two children quiet there, having retired with them hastily when Mr.
Thorndyke was announced.

"What do you think, Emma?" her husband said excitedly, as she came into
the room. "Mr. Thorndyke has been good enough to offer me the living of
Crowswood."

Then he recovered himself. "I beg your pardon, sir, for my
unmannerliness in not first introducing my wife to you."

"It was natural that you should think of telling her the news first of
all," the Squire said courteously. "Madam, I am your obedient servant,
and I hope that soon we shall get to know each other well. I consider
it of great importance that the Squire of a parish and the Rector should
work well together, and see a great deal of each other. I don't know
whether you are aware, Mr. Greg, that the living is worth 200 pounds
a year, besides which there is a paddock of about ten acres, which is
sufficient for the keep of a horse and cow. The Rectory is a comfortable
one, and I have arranged with Mr. Bastow that he shall leave his
furniture for the benefit of his successor. It will include linen, so
that you will be put to no expense whatever in moving in. I have known
these first expenses to seriously cripple the usefulness of a clergyman
when appointed to a living."

"That is good of you indeed, Mr. Thorndyke," the curate said. "We have
been living in these lodgings since we first came here, and it will
indeed make matters easy to have the question of furniture so kindly
settled for us."

"Will your Rector be able to release you shortly?"

"I have no doubt that he will do that at once. His son has just left
Oxford and taken deacon's orders; and the Rector told me the other day
that he should be glad if I would look out for another curacy, as he
wanted to have his son here with him. He spoke very kindly, and said
that he should make no change until I could hear of a place to suit
me. His son has been assisting him for the last month, since I took the
services at Crowswood, and I am sure he would release me at once."

"Then I should be glad if you will move up as soon as possible to the
Rectory. I know nothing about the necessary forms, but I suppose that
Mr. Bastow will send in his resignation to the Bishop, and I shall
write and tell him that I have appointed you, and you can continue to
officiate as you have done lately until you can be formally inducted
as the Rector. Perhaps you would not mind going round to your Rector
at once and telling him of the offer you have had. I have one or two
matters to do in the town, and will call again in three quarters of
an hour. I shall be glad to tell Mr. Bastow that you will come into
residence at once."

On returning at the appointed time he found that the curate had
returned.

"Mr. Pilkington was very kind, and evidently very pleased; he
congratulated me most warmly, and I can come up at once. We don't know
how to thank you enough, Mr. Thorndyke."

"I don't want any thanks, I can assure you, Mr. Greg. Tomorrow I will
send a couple of women in from the village to get the place in order,
and no doubt Mr. Bastow will want to take away a few things. He is going
to remain with me as tutor to my son. I am sure you and I will get on
very well together, and I only hope that your sermons will be no longer
when you are Rector than they have been while you have been assisting
us. Long sermons may do for a town congregation, but in my opinion they
are a very serious mistake in the case of a village one. By the way, I
think it would be as well for you to get a servant here, and that before
you go up. Mr. Bastow's servant was an old woman, and in a case like
this I always think it is better not to take one's predecessor's
servant. She generally resents any change, and is always quoting how
her last master had things. I mention this before you go, because she
is sure to ask to stay on, and it is much easier to say that you are
bringing a servant with you than to have to tell her she is too old or
too fat. Don't you think so, Mrs. Greg?"

"Yes, I think it will be much better, Mr. Thorndyke. Even if I cannot
hear of one likely to suit us permanently, I will take someone as a stop
gap. One can easily change afterwards."

"The old woman will do very well," the Squire said. "She has two married
daughters in the village, and with a shilling or two from the parish she
will manage comfortably. At any rate we shall look after her, and I have
no doubt Mr. Bastow will make her an allowance."

Never were a pair more delighted than Parson Greg and his wife when two
days later they took possession of their new home. Half a dozen women
had been at work the day before, and everything was in perfect order. To
Mrs. Greg's relief she found that the old servant had already gone, the
Squire having himself informed her that Mrs. Greg would bring her own
maid with her. Mr. Bastow said that he would allow her half a crown a
week as long as she lived, and the Squire added as much more, and as the
woman had saved a good deal during her twenty years' service with the
Rector, she was perfectly satisfied.

"It is a good thing that she should be content," the Squire said to Mr.
Bastow. "She has a lot of connections in the village, and if she had
gone away with a sense of grievance she might have created a good deal
of ill feeling against your successor, and I am very anxious that he
should begin well. I like the young fellow, and I like his wife."

"We are fortunate, indeed, Ernest," Mrs. Greg said the following
morning, as with the children, two and three years old, they went out
into the garden; where the trees were laden with apples, pears, and
plums. "What a change from our little rooms in Reigate. I should think
that anyone ought to be happy indeed here."

"They ought to be, Emma, but you see Mr. Bastow had trouble enough; and
it should be a lesson to us, dear, to look very closely after the boys
now they are young, and see that they don't make bad acquaintances."

"From what we hear of the village, there is little fear of that; the
mischief must have begun before Mr. Thorndyke came down, when by all
accounts things had altogether gone to the bad here, and of course young
Bastow must have had an exceptionally evil disposition, Ernest."

"Yes, no doubt; but his father could not have looked after him properly.
I believe, from what I hear, that Bastow was so dispirited at his
powerlessness to put a stop to the state of things here, that, except to
perform service, he seldom left the house, and the boy no doubt grew up
altogether wild. You know that I was in court on the second day of the
examination, and the young fellow's insolence and bearing astonished
and shocked me. Happily, we have the Squire here now to back us up, the
village has been completely cleared of all bad characters, and is by all
accounts quite a model place, and we must do our best to keep it so."

The news of the change at the Rectory naturally occasioned a great deal
of talk. At first there was a general feeling of regret that Mr. Bastow
had gone, and yet it was felt that he could not have been expected to
stay; the month's experience that they had had of the new parson had
cleared the way for him. He and his wife soon made themselves familiar
with the villagers, and being bright young people, speedily made
themselves liked. The Squire and Mrs. Cunningham called the first
afternoon after their arrival.

"You must always send up if anything is wanted, Mr. Greg; whenever
there is any illness in the village we always keep a stock of soups and
jellies, and Mrs. Cunningham is almoner in general. Is there anything
that we can do for you? If so, let me know without hesitation."

"Indeed, there is nothing, Mr. Thorndyke. It is marvelous to us coming
in here and finding everything that we can possibly want."

"You will want a boy for your garden; and you cannot do better than take
young Bill Summers. He was with me for a bit last year, when the boy I
have now was laid up with mumps or something of that sort, and he was
very favorably reported on as being handy in the garden, able to milk
a cow, and so on. By the way, Mrs. Greg, I have taken the liberty of
sending down a cow in milk. I expect she is in your meadow now. I have
seven or eight of them, and if you will send her back when her milk
fails I will send down another."

"You are too kind altogether, Mr. Thorndyke!" Mrs. Greg exclaimed.

"Not at all. I want to see things comfortable here, and you will find it
difficult to get on without a cow. I keep two or three for the special
use of the village. I make them pay for it, halfpenny a pint; it is
better to do that than to give it. It is invaluable for the children;
and I don't think in all England you see rosier and healthier youngsters
than those in our schools. You will sometimes find milk useful for
puddings and that sort of thing for the sick; and they will appreciate
it all the more than if they had to look solely to us for their supply."

"How is Mr. Bastow, sir?"

"He is better than could be expected. He himself proposed this morning
that my boy Mark should begin his studies at once; and, indeed, now
that the worst is over and he has got rid of the load of care on his
shoulders, I hope that we shall have him bright and cheerful again
before long."

Such was indeed the case. For some little time Mr. Bastow avoided the
village, but John Thorndyke got him to go down with him to call upon
Mr. Greg, and afterwards to walk through it with him. At first he went
timidly and shrinkingly, but the kindly greetings of the women he met,
and the children stopping to pull a forelock or bob a courtesy as of
old, gradually cheered him up, and he soon got accustomed to the change,
and would of an afternoon go down to the village and chat with the
women, after he had ascertained that his successor had no objection
whatever, and was, indeed, pleased that he still took an interest in his
former parishioners. Mark was at first disappointed at the arrangement,
for he had looked forward to going to a public school. His father,
however, had no great trouble in reconciling him to it.

"Of course, Mark," he said, "there are advantages in a public school.
I was never at one myself, but I believe that, though the discipline is
pretty strict, there is a great deal of fun and sport, and you may make
desirable acquaintances. Upon the other hand, there are drawbacks. In
the first place, the majority of the boys are sons of richer men than
I am. I don't know that that would matter much, but it would give you
expensive habits, and perhaps make you fonder of London life than I
should care about. In the next place, you see, you would be at school
when the shooting begins, and you are looking forward to carrying a gun
next year. The same with hunting. You know I promised that this year you
should go to the meets on your pony, and see as much of them as you can,
and of course when you were at school you would only be able to indulge
in these matters during your holidays; and if a hard frost set in, as
is the case three times out of four, just as you came home, you would be
out of it altogether.

"I must say I should like you to have a real love of field sports and to
be a good shot and a good rider. A man, however wide his acres may be,
is thought but little of in the country if he is not a good sportsman;
and, moreover, there is nothing better for developing health and muscles
than riding, and tramping over the fields with a gun on your shoulder;
and, lastly, you must not forget, Mark, that one of my objects in making
this arrangement is to keep Mr. Bastow with us. I am sure that unless
he thought that he was making himself useful he would not be content
to remain here; and at his age, you know, it would be hard for him to
obtain clerical employment."

"All right, father. I see that the present plan is the best, and that I
should have but little sport if I went away to school. Besides, I like
Mr. Bastow very much, and I am quite sure that I shan't get so many
whackings from him as I used to do from old Holbrook."

"I fancy not, Mark," his father said with a smile. "I am not against
wholesome discipline, but I think it can be carried too far; at any
rate, I hope you will be just as obedient to Mr. Bastow as if he always
had a cane on the table beside him."

Mark, therefore, went to work in a cheerful spirit, and soon found that
he made more progress in a week under Mr. Bastow's gentle tuition than
he had done in a month under the vigorous discipline of his former
master. Mr. and Mrs. Greg dined regularly at the Squire's once a week.

"Have you had that Indian servant of yours long, Mr. Thorndyke?" Mrs.
Greg asked one day. "He is a strange looking creature. Of course, in
the daytime, when one sees him about in ordinary clothes, one does not
notice him so much; but of an evening, in that Eastern costume of his,
he looks very strange."

"He was the servant of the Colonel, my brother," the Squire replied. "He
brought him over from India with him. The man had been some years in his
service, and was very attached to him, and had saved his life more than
once, he told me. On one occasion he caught a cobra by the neck as it
was about to strike my brother's hand as he sat at table; he carried it
out into the compound, as George called it, but which means, he told me,
garden, and there let it escape. Another time he caught a Thug, which
means a sort of robber who kills his victims by strangling before
robbing them. They are a sort of sect who regard strangling as a
religious action, greatly favored by the bloodthirsty goddess they
worship. He was in the act of fastening the twisted handkerchief, used
for the purpose, round my brother's neck, when Ramoo cut him down. The
closest shave, though, was when George, coming down the country, was
pounced upon by a tiger and carried off. Ramoo seized a couple of
muskets from the men, and rushed into the jungle after him, and coming
up with the brute killed him at the first shot. George escaped with a
broken arm and his back laid open by a scratch of the tiger's claws as
it first seized him.

"So at George's death I took Ramoo on, and have found him a most useful
fellow. Of course, I was some little time before I became accustomed
to his noiseless way of going about, and it used to make me jump when
I happened to look round, and saw him standing quietly behind me when
I thought I was quite alone. However, as soon as I became accustomed to
him, I got over all that, and now I would not lose him for anything; he
seems to know instinctively what I want. He is excellent as a waiter and
valet; I should feel almost lost without him now; and the clumping about
of an English man servant would annoy me as much as his noiseless way of
going about did at first. He has come to speak English very fairly. Of
course, my brother always talked to him in his own tongue; still, he had
picked up enough English for me to get on with; now he speaks it quite
fluently. When I have nothing whatever for him to do he devotes himself
to my little ward. She is very fond of him, and it is quite pretty to
see them together in the garden. Altogether, I would not part with him
for anything."

For some years life passed uneventfully at Crowswood. It was seldom
indeed that the Squire's authority was needed to set matters right in
the village. The substitution of good farmers for shiftless ones in
some of the farms, and the better cultivation generally, had given
more employment; and as John Thorndyke preferred keeping two or three
cottages shut up rather than have them occupied by men for whom no work
could be found, it was rare indeed that there were any complaints
of scarcity of work, except, indeed, on the part of the Rector, who
declared that, what with the healthiness of the village and the absence
of want, his occupation, save for the Sunday duty, was a sinecure. Mr.
Bastow was more happy and much brighter than he had been for many years.
The occupation of teaching suited him, and he was able to make the work
pleasant to his pupil as well as to himself; indeed, it occupied but a
small portion of the day, the amount of learning considered necessary
at the time not being extensive. A knowledge of Greek was thought
quite superfluous for a country gentleman. Science was in its infancy,
mathematics a subject only to be taken up by those who wanted to obtain
a college fellowship. Latin, however, was considered an essential, and a
knack of apt quotation from the Latin poets an accomplishment that
every man who was a member of society or aspired to enter Parliament
was expected to possess. Thus Mark Thorndyke's lessons lasted but two or
three hours a day, and the school term was a movable period, according
to the season of the year and the engagements of the Squire and Mark. In
winter the evening was the time, so that the boy shot with his father,
or rode to the hounds, or, as he got older, joined in shooting parties
at the houses of neighbors.

In summer the work was done in the morning, but was not unfrequently
broken. Mark went off at a very early hour to drive perhaps some twenty
miles with his great chum, Dick Chetwynd, for a long day's fishing, or
to see a main of cocks fought or a fight between the champions of two
neighboring villages, or perhaps some more important battle.

When Millicent Conyers was ten years old she came regularly into the
study, sitting curled up in a deep chair, getting up her lessons while
Mark did his, and then changing seats with him while he learned his
Horace or Ovid by heart. At this time she looked up greatly to him, and
was his companion whenever he would allow her to be, fetched and carried
for him, and stood almost on a level with his dogs in his estimation.
Five years later, when Mark was eighteen, these relations changed
somewhat. He now liked to have her with him, not only when about the
house and garden, but when he took short rides she cantered along on her
pony by his side. She was a bright faced girl, full of life and fun, and
rejoicing in a far greater amount of freedom than most girls of her age
and time.

"It is really time that she should learn to comport herself more
staidly, instead of running about like a wild thing," Mrs. Cunningham
said, one day, as she and the Squire stood after breakfast looking out
of the open window at Mark and Millicent.

"Time enough, my dear lady, time enough. Let her enjoy life while she
can. I am not in favor of making a young kitten behave like an old
tabby; every creature in nature is joyful and frolicsome while it is
young. She is as tall and as straight as any of her friends of the same
age, and looks more healthy; she will tame down in time, and I dare say
walk and look as prim and demure as they do. I was watching them the
other day when there was a party of them up here, and I thought the
difference was all to her advantage. She looked a natural, healthy girl;
they looked like a set of overdressed dolls, afraid to move or to talk
loud, or to stretch their mouths when they smile; very ladylike and
nice, no doubt, but you will see Millicent will throw them into the
shade when she is once past the tomboy age. Leave her alone, Mrs.
Cunningham; a girl is not like a fruit tree, that wants pruning and
training from its first year; it will be quite time to get her into
shape when she has done growing."

John Thorndyke had occasionally made inquiries of Mr. Bastow as to
the whereabouts of his son. At the time the sentence was passed
transportation to the American colonies was being discontinued, and
until other arrangements could be made hulks were established as places
of confinement and punishment; but a few months later Arthur Bastow
was one of the first batch of convicts sent out to the penal settlement
formed on the east coast of Australia. This was intended to be fixed
at Botany Bay, but it having been found that this bay was open and
unsheltered, it was established at Sydney, although for many years the
settlement retained in England the name of the original site. As the
condition of the prisoners kept in the hulks was deplorable, the Squire
had, through the influence of Sir Charles Harris, obtained the inclusion
of Bastow's name among the first batch of those who were to sail for
Australia. Mr. Bastow obtained permission to see his son before sailing,
but returned home much depressed, for he had been assailed with such
revolting and blasphemous language by him that he had been forced to
retire in horror at the end of a few minutes.

"We have done well in getting him sent off," the Squire said, when he
heard the result of the interview. "In the first place, the demoralizing
effect of these hulks is quite evident, and it may be hoped that in a
new country, where there can be no occasion for the convicts to be pent
up together, things may be better; for although escapes from the hulks
are not frequent, they occasionally take place, and had he gained
his liberty we should have had an anxious time of it until he was
re-arrested, whereas out there there is nowhere to go to, no possibility
of committing a crime. It is not there as it was in the American colony.
Settlements may grow up in time, but at present there are no white
men whatever settled in the district; and the natives are, they say,
hostile, and were a convict to escape he would almost certainly be
killed, and possibly eaten. No doubt by the time your son has served
his sentence colonies will be established out there, and he may then be
disposed to settle there, either on a piece of land of which he could no
doubt take up or in the service of one of the colonists."



CHAPTER V.


The scene in the convict yard at Sydney, five years after its foundation
as a penal settlement, was not a pleasant one to the lover of humanity.
Warders armed to the teeth were arranging gangs that were to go out to
labor on the roads. Many of the convicts had leg irons, but so fastened
as to be but slight hindrance to their working powers, but the majority
were unironed. These were the better behaved convicts; not that this
would be judged from their faces, for the brutalizing nature of the
system and the close association of criminals had placed its mark on
all, and it would have been difficult for the most discriminating to
have made any choice between the most hardened criminals and those who
had been sent out for what would now be considered comparatively trivial
offenses. The voyage on board ship had done much to efface distinctions,
the convict life had done more, and the chief difference between the
chained and unchained prisoners was that the latter were men of more
timid disposition than many of their companions, and therefore less
disposed to give trouble that would entail heavy punishment. But it
was only the comparatively well conducted men who were placed upon road
work; the rest were retained for work inside the jail, or were caged in
solitary confinement. Each morning a number, varying from half a dozen
to a dozen, were fastened up and flogged, in some cases with merciless
severity, but it was seldom that a cry was uttered by these, the most
brutal ruffians of the convict herd. This spectacle was just over: it
was conducted in public for the edification of the rest, but, judging
from the low laughs and brutal jests, uttered below the breath, it
signally failed in producing the desired impression. Two of those who
had suffered the severest punishment were now putting on their
coarse woolen garments over their bloodstained shoulders; both were
comparatively young men.

"I shall not stand this much longer," one muttered. "I will brain a
warder, and get hung for it. One can but die once, while one can get
flogged once a week."

"So would I," the other said bitterly; "but I have some scores to settle
in England, and I am not going to put my head in a noose until I have
wiped them out. The sooner we make arrangements to get back there the
better."

"Yes, we have talked of this before," the other said, "and I quite
agreed with you that if we all had the pluck of men we ought to be able
to overpower the warders, in spite of their firearms. Of course some
of us would get killed, but no one would mind that if there was but the
remotest chance of getting away. The question is what we should do with
ourselves when we were once outside the prison. Of course I know that
there are two or three hundred settlers, but there would not be much
to be got out of them, and life among those black fellows, even if they
were civil to us, which I don't suppose they would be, would not be
worth having."

"We might not have to stay there long; ships with stores or settlers
arrive occasionally, and if a lot of us got away we might seize one by
force, turn pirates for a bit, and when we are tired of that sail to
some South American port, sell our capture, and make our way home to
England. If we were not strong enough to take her, we could hide up on
board her; we should be sure to find some fellow who for a pound or two
would be willing to help us. The thing can be done if we make up our
minds to do it, and I for one have made up my mind to try. I haven't
chalked out a plan yet, but I am convinced that it is to be done."

"I am with you, whatever it is," the other said; "and I think there are
twenty or thirty we could rely on. I don't say there are more than that,
because there are a lot of white livered cusses among them who would
inform against us at once, so as to get their own freedom as a reward
for doing so. Well, we will both think it over, mate, and the sooner the
better."

The two men who were thus talking together were both by birth above the
common herd of convicts, and had gained a considerable ascendency over
the others because of their reckless indifference to punishment and
their defiance of authority. Few of the men knew each other's real
names; by the officials they were simply known by numbers, while among
themselves each had a slang name generally gained on board ship.

Separation there had, of course, been impossible, and when fastened down
below each had told his story with such embellishments as he chose to
give it, and being but little interfered with by their guards, save
to insure the impossibility of a mutiny, there had been fights of a
desperate kind. Four or five dead bodies had been found and thrown
overboard, but as none would testify as to who had been the assailants
none were punished for it; and so the strongest and most desperate had
enforced their authority over the others, as wild beasts might do, and
by the time they had reached their destination all were steeped much
deeper in wickedness and brutalism than when they set sail.

The two men who were speaking together had speedily become chums, and,
though much younger than the majority of the prisoners, had by their
recklessness and ferocity established an ascendency among the others.
This ascendency had been maintained after their arrival by their
constant acts of insubordination, and by their apparent indifference to
the punishment awarded them. At night the convicts were lodged in wooden
buildings, where, so long as they were not riotous, they were allowed to
talk and converse freely, as indeed was the case when their work for the
day was done.

As to any attempt at escape, the authorities had but small anxiety, for
until the arrival of the first settlers, three years after that of
the convicts, there was nowhere a fugitive could go to, no food to be
obtained, no shelter save among the blacks, who were always ready for
a reward of tobacco and spirits to hand them over at once to the
authorities. The case had but slightly changed since the settlement
began to grow. It was true that by stealing sheep or driving off a few
head of cattle a fugitive might maintain himself for a time, but even if
not shot down by the settlers or patrols, he would be sure before long
to be brought in by the blacks.

The experiment had already been tried of farming our better conducted
convicts to the settlers, and indeed it was the prospect of obtaining
such cheap labor that had been the main inducement to many of the
colonists to establish themselves so far from home, instead of going to
America. As a whole the system worked satisfactorily; the men were
as much prisoners as were the inmates of the jail, for they knew well
enough that were they to leave the farmers and take to the bush they
would remain free but a short time, being either killed or handed over
by the blacks, and in the latter case they would be severely punished
and set to prison work in irons, with labor very much more severe than
that they were called upon to do on the farms.

Some little time after the conversation between the two convicts the
prison authorities were congratulating themselves upon the fact that a
distinct change had taken or was taking place in the demeanor of many of
the men who had hitherto been the most troublesome, and they put it down
to the unusually severe floggings that had been inflicted on the two
most refractory prisoners in the establishment. When in the prison
yard or at work they were more silent than before, and did their tasks
doggedly and sullenly; there was no open defiance to the authorities,
and, above all, a marked cessation of drunkenness from the spirits
smuggled into the place.

Only the two originators were aware of the extent of the plot; for they
had agreed that only by keeping every man in ignorance as to who had
joined it could they hope to escape treachery. In the first place,
they had taken into their confidence a dozen men on whom they could
absolutely rely. Beyond this they had approached the others singly,
beginning by hinting that there was a plot for escape, and that a good
many were concerned, and telling them that these had bound themselves
together by a solemn oath to kill any traitor, even if hanged for it.

"No one is to know who is in it and who is not," the leaders said to
each recruit. "Every new man will be closely watched by the rest, and if
he has any communication privately with a warder or any other official
he will be found strangled the next morning; no one will know who did
it. Even if he succeeded in eluding the vigilance of his comrades at the
time, it would soon be known; for if indulgence of any kind was shown
towards one man, or he was relieved from his ordinary work, or even
freed altogether and suddenly, he would be a dead man in twenty-four
hours, for we have friends outside among the ticket of leave men who
have bound themselves to kill at once any man set free."

To the question, "What do you intend to do when we get off?" the answer
was, "We shall go straight to the bush, so as to avoid a fight with the
soldiers, in the first place; then we shall join that night, and drive
off all the cattle and sheep from the settlements, take possession of
every firearm found in the houses, then move off a couple of hundred
miles or so into the bush, and establish a settlement of our own.

"Of course, we shall take horses and clothes and any spirits and food
we may find. If the soldiers pursue us, we will fight them; but as there
are only three or four companies of them, and we shall be eight hundred
strong, we shall very soon show them that they had better leave us
alone.

"Oh, yes, no doubt they will send more soldiers out from England, but
it will be over a year before they can get here; and we propose after we
have done with the fellows here to break up into parties of twenty and
thirty, dividing the sheep and cattle among us, and each party going
where it will. The place is of tremendous size, as big as a dozen
Englands, they say, and each party will fix a place it fancies, where
there is good water and a river with fish and so on, and we may live all
our lives comfortably, with just enough work to raise potatoes and corn,
and to watch our stock increasing. Anyhow, we might calculate on having
some years of peace and freedom, and even if in the end they searched
us all out, which would be very unlikely, they could but bring us back,
hang a few, and set the rest to work again; but we think that they would
most likely leave us alone altogether, quite satisfied with having got
rid of us."

"Those who liked it could, no doubt, take wives among the blacks. The
convict women who are out on service with the settlers would, you may
be sure, join us at once, and an enterprising chap who preferred a white
woman to a black could always make his way down here and persuade one to
go off with him to his farm. That is the general plan; if many get tired
of the life they have only to come down to Sydney, hide up near the
place on some dark night, and go down to the port, seize a ship, and
make off in her, compelling the officers and sailors to take them and
land them at any port they fancy, either in Chili, Peru, or Mexico, or,
if they like, sail west and make for Rio or Buenos Ayres or one of the
West Indian islands. As to when it is going to be done, or how it is
going to be done, no one will be told till it is ready to be carried
out. We have not settled that ourselves, and thus one who was fool
enough to risk certain death could tell the Governor no more than that
there was a plot on hand, and that the man who had sworn him in was
concerned in it."

So one by one every man in the prison was sworn by a terrible oath to
secrecy, to watch his companions, and to report anything that looked
suspicious. Many joined willingly, the prospect of relief, even should
it only be temporary, being too fascinating to be resisted. Some joined
against their will, fearing that a refusal to do so would be punished
by death; and the fact that two or three men were found strangled in bed
had a very great effect in inducing others to join in the plot.

These deaths caused some uneasiness to the authorities. Their utmost
endeavors failed to discover who were the perpetrators of these
murders; and even when everyone in the same hut was flogged to obtain
information, not one opened his lips.

One night the word was passed round that the time had come. One only in
each hut was familiar with the details, and he gave instructions to each
man individually as to what he was to do. The date had been determined
by the fact that the time which they had been sentenced to wear irons
had terminated the day before, and their unusually subdued and quiet
demeanor having carried them through the interval without, as usual,
fresh punishments being awarded them before the termination of the
former one.

In the morning the whole of the convicts were drawn up to witness the
flogging of the inmates of one of the huts, where a man had been found
strangled the morning before. The first prisoner was taken to the
triangle, stripped to the waist, and tied up. There was a dead silence
in the ranks of the convicts, but as the first blow fell upon his
shoulders there was a loud yell, and simultaneously the whole ranks
broke up, and a number of men sprang upon each of the warders, wrested
their muskets from them, and threw them to the ground. Then there was a
rush towards the Governor and officers, who were assembled in front
of the stone house that faced the open end of the square. Firing their
pistols, these at once took refuge in the house, three or four falling
under the scattered fire that was opened as soon as the muskets of the
warders fell into the hands of the convicts.

Directly the doors were closed the officers appeared at the windows, and
opened a rifle fire upon the convicts, as did the guards near the gate.
As comparatively few of the convicts had muskets, they began to waver at
once. But, headed by the two ringleaders, the armed party rushed at the
guard, shot them down, and threw open the gate.

Then an unexpected thing occurred. The soldiers from the barracks
happened to be marching down to do target practice on the shore, and
were passing the convict prison when the firing broke out. They were
at once halted, and ordered to load, and as the convicts, with exultant
shouts, poured through the gate they saw a long line of soldiers, with
leveled muskets, facing them.

"At them!" one of the leaders shouted. "It is too late to draw back now.
We have got to break through them."

Many of the convicts ran back into the yard; but those armed with
muskets, the more desperate of the party, followed their leaders. A
moment later a heavy volley rang out, and numbers of the convicts fell.
Their two leaders, however, and some twenty of their followers, keeping
in a close body, rushed at the line of soldiers with clubbed muskets,
and with the suddenness and fury of the rush burst their way through
the line, and then scattering, fled across the country, pursued by a
dropping fire of musketry.

The officers in command, seeing that but a fraction had escaped, ordered
one company to pursue, and marched the rest into the prison yard. It was
already deserted; the convicts had scattered to their huts, those who
had arms throwing them away. Dotted here and there over the square were
the bodies of eight or ten convicts and as many warders, whose skulls
had been smashed in by their infuriated assailants as soon as they had
obtained possession of their muskets. Close to the gate lay the six
soldiers who had furnished the guard; these were all dead or mortally
wounded.

The Governor and the officials issued from the house as soon as the
soldiers entered the yard. The first step to do was to turn all the
convicts out of the huts and to iron them. No resistance was attempted,
the sight of the soldiers completely cowing the mutineers. When the
bodies of the convicts that had fallen were counted and the roll of the
prisoners called over, it was found that eighteen were missing, and of
these six were during the course of the next hour or two brought in by
the soldiers who had gone in pursuit of them. The rest had escaped.

The convicts were all questioned separately, and the tales they told
agreed so closely that the Governor could not doubt that they were
speaking the truth. All had been sworn in by one of two men, and knew
nothing whatever of what was intended to be done that day, until after
they were locked up on the evening previous. Each of those in the huts
had received his instructions the night before from the one man.

There were eighteen huts, each containing fifteen convicts. Of the men
who had given instructions six had fallen outside the gate, together
with sixteen others; five had been overtaken and brought in; altogether,
twelve were still at large. Among these were the two leaders. The next
day six of the prisoners were tried and executed. The rest were punished
only by a reduction in their rations; sentence of death was at the same
time passed upon the twelve still at large, so as to save the trouble of
a succession of trials as they were caught and brought in.

The two leaders had kept together after they had broken through the line
of soldiers.

"Things have gone off well," one said as they ran through. "Those
soldiers nearly spoilt it all."

"Yes, that was unlucky," the other agreed; "but so far as we are
concerned, which is all we care about, I think things have turned out
for the best."

Nothing more was said until they had far outstripped their pursuers,
hampered as these were by their uniforms and belts.

"You mean that it is not such a bad thing that they have not all got
away?"

"Yes, that is what I mean. It is all very well to tell them about
driving off the sheep and cattle and horses, and going to start a colony
on our own account, but the soldiers would have been up to us before we
had gone a day's journey. Most of the fellows would have bolted directly
they saw them. As it is, I fancy only about a dozen have got away,
perhaps not as many as that, and they are all men that one can rely
upon. One can feed a dozen without difficulty--a sheep a day would do
it--and by giving a turn to each of the settlers, the animals won't be
missed. Besides, we shall want money if we are ever to get out of this
cursed country. It would not be difficult to get enough for you and me,
but when it comes to a large number the sack of the whole settlement
would not go very far.

"My own idea is that we had best join the others tonight, kill a few
sheep, and go two or three days' march into the bush, until the heat of
the pursuit is over. We are all armed, the blacks would not venture to
attack us, and the soldiers would not be likely to pursue us very far.
In a week or so, when we can assume that matters have cooled down a bit,
we can come down again. We know all the shepherds, and even if they were
not disposed to help us they would not dare to betray us, or report a
sheep or two being missing. Of course, we shall have to be very careful
to shift our quarters frequently. Those black trackers are sure to be
sent out pretty often."

"As long as we are hanging about the settlements there won't be much
fear of our being bothered by the blacks. Of course, we shall have to
decide later on whether it will be best for us to try and seize a ship,
all of us acting together, or for us to get quietly on board one and
keep under hatches until she is well away. That is the plan I fancy
most."

"So do I. In the first place the chances are that in the next two or
three months at least half the fellows will be picked up. To begin with,
several of them are sure to get hold of liquor and make attacks upon the
settlers, in which case some of them, anyhow, are sure to get killed. In
the next place, most of them were brought up as thieves in the slums of
London, and will have no more idea of roughing it in a country like this
than of behaving themselves if they were transported to a London drawing
room. Therefore, I am pretty sure that at the end of three months we
shall not be able to reckon on half of them. Well, six men are not
enough to capture a ship, or, if they do capture it, to keep the crew
under. One must sleep sometimes, and with only three or four men on deck
we could not hope to keep a whole ship's crew at bay."

"Then there is another reason. You and I, when we have got a decent rig
out, could pass anywhere without exciting observation; while if we had
half a dozen of the others, whatever their good qualities, they would be
noticed at once by their villainous faces, and if questions were to be
asked we should be likely to find ourselves in limbo again in a very
short time. So I am all for working on our own account, even if the
whole of the others were ready to back us; but, of course, we must keep
on good terms with them all, and breathe no word that we think that each
man had better shift for himself. Some of those fellows, if they thought
we had any idea of leaving them, would go straight into Sydney and
denounce us, although they would know that they themselves would be
likely to swing at the same time."

As none of the convicts were acquainted with the bush, they had been
obliged to select as their rendezvous a hut two miles out of the town,
where the convict gangs that worked on the road were in the habit of
leaving their tools. On the way there the two men killed a couple of
sheep from a flock whose position they had noticed before it became
dark. These they skinned, cut off the heads, and left them behind,
carrying the sheep on their shoulders to the meeting.

"Is that you, Captain Wild?" a voice said as they approached.

"Yes; Gentleman Dick is with me."

"That is a good job. We had begun to think that the soldiers had caught
you."

"They would not have caught us alive, you may take your oath. How many
are there of us here?"

"Ten of us, Captain. I think that that is all there are."

"That is enough for our purpose. Has anyone got anything to eat?"

There was a deep growl in the negative.

"Well, we have brought a couple of sheep with us, and as we have carried
them something like a mile, you had better handle them by turns. We will
strike off into the bush and put another three or four miles between us
and the jail, and then light a fire and have a meal."

Two of the men came forward and took the sheep. Then they turned off
from the road, and taking their direction from a star, followed it for
an hour.

"I think we have got far enough now," the man called Captain Wild said.
"You had better cut down the bushes, and we will make a fire."

"But how are we to light it?" one of them exclaimed in a tone of
consternation. "I don't suppose we have got flint and steel or tinder
box among us."

"Oh, we can manage that!" the Captain said. "Get a heap of dried leaves
here first, then some wood, and we will soon have a blaze."

His orders were obeyed. Some of the men had carried off the warders'
swords as well as their muskets, and now used them for chopping wood.
As soon as a small pile of dried leaves was gathered the Captain broke
a cartridge and sprinkled half its contents among them, and then dropped
the remainder into his musket. He flashed this off among the leaves, and
a bright flame at once shot up, and in five minutes a fire was burning.

One of the sheep was soon cut up, the meat hacked in slices from the
bones, a ramrod was thrust through the pieces, and, supported by four
sticks, was laid across the fire. Three other similarly laden spits
were soon placed beside it, and in a short time the meat was ready for
eating. Until a hearty meal had been made there was but little talking.

"That is first rate," one of the men said, as he wiped his mouth with
the back of his hand. "Now one only wants a pipe and bacca and a glass
of grog, to feel comfortable."

"Well, Captain, are you satisfied with the day's work?"

"It would have been a grand day had it not been for the soldiers passing
just at the time. As it is, Gentleman Dick and I have been agreeing that
as far as we are all concerned it has not turned out so badly. There
would have been a lot of difficulty in finding food if we had all got
away, and some of those mealy mouthed fellows would have been sure to go
back and peach on us at the first opportunity. A dozen is better than a
hundred for the sort of life we are likely to lead for some time. We are
strong enough to beat off any attack from the black fellows, and also to
break into any of these settlers' houses.

"We can, when we have a mind to, take a stray sheep now and then, or
even a bullock would scarcely be missed, especially if our pals in the
settlement will lend us a helping hand, which you may be sure they will
do; in fact, they would know better than to refuse. Then a large party
could be traced by those black trackers at a run, while a small one
would not; especially if, as we certainly will do, we break up into twos
and threes for a time. First of all, though, we must go well into the
bush; at daybreak tomorrow morning we will drive off twenty sheep, and
go right away a hundred miles, and wait there till matters have settled
down. They will never take the troops out that distance after us. Then
we can come back again, and hang about the settlement and take what we
want. The wild blacks don't come near there, and we shall be safer in
pairs than we should be if we kept together; and of course we could meet
once a week or so to talk over our plans. We must borrow some whisky,
flour, tea, tobacco, and a few other items from the settlers, but we had
better do without them for this trip. I don't want to turn the settlers
against us, for they have all got horses, and might combine with the
troops to give chase, so it would be best to leave them alone, at any
rate till we get back again. Another reason for treating them gently is
that even if they did not join the troops they might get into a funk,
and drive their sheep and horses down into Sydney, and then we should
mighty soon get short of food. It will be quite time enough to draw upon
them heavily when we make up our minds to get hold of a ship and sail
away. Money would be of no use to us here, but we shall want it when we
get to a port, wherever that port may be."

"That sounds right enough, Captain," one of the convicts said, "and just
at present nothing would suit me better than to get so far away from
this place that I can lay on my back and take it easy for a spell."

There was a general chorus of assent, and there being neither tobacco
nor spirits, the party very soon stretched themselves off to sleep round
the fire.

In the morning they were up before daylight, and half an hour later
arrived at one of the farms farthest from Sydney. Here they found a
flock of a hundred sheep. The shepherd came to the door of his hut on
hearing a noise.

"You had best lie down and go to sleep for the next hour," the leader of
the convicts said sharply. "We don't want to do an old pal any harm, and
when you wake up in the morning and find the flock some twenty short, of
course you won't have any idea what has come of them."

The man nodded and went back into the hut and shut the door, and the
convicts started for the interior, driving twenty sheep before them.

During the first day's journey they went fast, keeping the sheep at a
trot before them, and continuing their journey through the heat of the
day.

"I tell you what, Captain," one of the men said when they halted at
sunset, "if we don't get to a water hole we shall have to give up this
idea of going and camping in the bush. My mouth has been like an oven
all day, and it is no use getting away from jail to die of thirst out
here."

There had been similar remarks during the day, and the two leaders
agreed together that it would be madness to push further, and that,
whatever the risk, they would have to return to the settlements unless
they could strike water. As they were sitting moodily round the fire
they were startled by a dozen natives coming forward into the circle
of light. These held out their hands to say that their intentions were
peaceful.

"Don't touch your muskets!" Captain Wild exclaimed sharply, as some
of the men were on the point of jumping to their feet. "The men are
friendly, and we may be able to get them to guide us to water."

The natives, as they came up, grinned and rubbed their stomachs, to show
that they were hungry.

"I understand," the Captain said; "you want a sheep, we want water;" and
he held up his hand to his mouth and lifted his elbow as if in the act
of drinking.

In two or three minutes the natives understood what he wanted, and
beckoned to the men to follow. The tired sheep were got onto their legs
again, and half a mile away the party arrived at a pool in what in wet
weather was the bed of a river. A sheep was at once handed over to the
natives, and when the men had satisfied their thirst another sheep was
killed for their own use.

After a great deal of trouble the natives were made to understand that
the white men wanted one of their party to go with them as a guide, and
to take them always to water holes, and a boy of fifteen was handed over
to them in exchange for two more sheep, and at daybreak the next morning
they started again for the interior, feeling much exhilarated by the
piece of luck that had befallen them. They traveled for four days more,
and then, considering that the soldiers had ceased their pursuit long
ago, they encamped for ten days, enjoying to the utmost their recovered
freedom and their immunity from work of any kind. Then they returned
to the neighborhood of the settlements, and broke up, as their leader
proposed, into pairs.

They had been there but a short time before the depredations committed
roused the settlers to band themselves together. Every horse that could
be spared was lent to the military, who formed a mounted patrol of
forty men, while parties of infantry, guided by native trackers, were
constantly on the scent for the convicts.

"This is just what I expected," Captain Wild said to his lieutenant. "It
was the choice of two evils, and I am not sure that the plan we chose
was not the worst. We might have been quite sure that these fellows
would not be able, even for a time, to give up their old ways. If they
had confined themselves, as we have done, to taking a sheep when they
wanted it, and behaving civilly when they went to one of the houses and
begged for a few pounds of flour or tea, the settlers would have made no
great complaint of us; they know what a hard time we have had, and you
can see that some of the women were really sorry for us, and gave us
more than we actually asked for. But it has not been so with the others.
They had been breaking into houses, stealing every thing they could lay
their hands upon, and in three or four cases shooting down men on the
slightest provocation.

"The money and watches were no good to them, but the brutes could not
help stealing them; so here we are, and the settlement is like a swarm
of angry bees, and this plan of handing over most of their horses to the
military will end in all of us being hunted down if we stay here. Two
were shot yesterday, and in another week we shall all either be killed
or caught. There is nothing for it but to clear out. I am against
violence, not on principle, but because in this case it sets people's
backs up; but it cannot be helped now. We must get a couple of horses
to ride, and a spare one to carry our swag. We must have half a sack of
flour and a sheep--it is no use taking more than one, because the meat
won't keep--and a good stock of tea and sugar. We must get a good supply
of powder, if we can, some bullets and shot. We shall have to get our
meat by shooting.

"There is no time to be lost, and tonight we had better go to that
settler's place nearest the town. He has got two of the best horses out
here--at least so Redgrave, that shepherd I was talking to today, told
me--and a well filled store of provisions. If he will let us have them
without rumpus, all well and good; if not, it will be the worse for
him. My idea is that we should ride two or three hundred miles along the
coast until we get to a river, follow it up till we find a tidy place
for a camp, and stop there for three or four months, then come back
again and keep ourselves quiet until we find out that a ship is going to
sail; then we will do a night among the farmhouses, and clean them out
of their watches and money, manage to get on board, and hide till we
are well out to sea. We must get a fresh fit out before we go on board;
these clothes are neither handsome nor becoming. We must put on our best
manners, and tell them that we are men who have served our full time,
and want to get back, and that we were obliged to hide because we had
not enough to pay our full passage money, but that we have enough to pay
the cost of our grub, and are ready to pull at a rope and make ourselves
useful in any way. If we are lucky we ought to get enough before we
start to buy horses and set ourselves up well in business at home."

"I think that is a very good plan," the other agreed, "and I am quite
sure the sooner we make ourselves scarce here the better."



CHAPTER VI.


While arranging for young Bastow being sent out with the first batch of
convicts John Thorndyke had been introduced to several of the officials
of the Department, and called upon them at intervals to obtain news of
the penal colony. Three years after its establishment a Crown colony had
been opened for settlement in its vicinity. As the climate was said to
be very fine and the country fertile, and land could be taken up without
payment, the number who went out was considerable, there being the
additional attraction that convicts of good character would be allotted
to settlers as servants and farm hands.

Six years after Arthur Bastow sailed the Squire learned that there
had been a revolt among the convicts; several had been killed, and the
mutiny suppressed, but about a dozen had succeeded in getting away.
These had committed several robberies and some murders among the
settlers, and a military force and a party of warders from the prison
were scouring the country for them.

"Of course, Mr. Thorndyke," the official said, "the Governor in his
report does not gives us the names of any of those concerned in the
matter; he simply says that although the mutiny was general, it was
wholly the work of a small number of the worse class of prisoners. By
worse class he means the most troublesome and refractory out there.
The prisoners are not classified according to their original crimes.
A poacher who has killed a game keeper, or a smuggler who has killed
a revenue officer, may in other respects be a quiet and well conducted
man, while men sentenced for comparatively minor offenses may give an
immense deal of trouble. I will, however, get a letter written to the
Governor, asking him if Arthur Bastow was among those who took part in
the revolt, and if so what has become of him."

It was more than a year before the reply came, and then the Governor
reported that Arthur Bastow, who was believed to have been the leading
spirit of the mutiny, was among those who had escaped, and had not yet
been recaptured. It was generally believed that he had been killed by
the blacks, but of this there was no actual proof.

Mr. Bastow was much disturbed when he heard the news. "Suppose he comes
back here, Mr. Thorndyke."

"I won't suppose anything of the sort," the Squire replied. "I don't say
that it would be altogether impossible, because now that vessels go from
time to time to Sydney, he might, of course, be able to hide up in one
of them, and not come on deck until she was well on her way, when, in
all probability, he would be allowed to work his passage, and might be
put ashore without any information being given to the authorities.
I have no doubt that among the sailors there would be a good deal of
sympathy felt for the convicts. No doubt they have a hard time of it,
and we know that the gangs working on the roads are always ironed.
Still, this is very unlikely, and the chances are all in favor of his
being in hiding in the bush.

"The shepherds and other hands on the farms are chiefly convicts, and
would probably give him aid if he required it, and there would be no
difficulty in getting a sheep, now and then, for, as all reports say,
one of the chief troubles out there are the wild dogs, or dingoes, as
they are called; any loss in that way would readily be put down to them.
As to money, he would have no occasion for it; if he wanted it he would
get it by robbing the settlers, he would know that if he came back here
he would run the risk of being seized at once on landing or of being
speedily hunted down as an escaped convict. I don't think that there is
the slightest occasion for us to trouble ourselves about him."

But though the Squire spoke so confidently, he felt by no means sure
that Arthur Bastow would not turn up again, for his reckless audacity
had made a great impression upon him. The proceeds of the robberies in
the colony, in which he had no doubt played a part, would have furnished
him with money with which he could bribe a sailor to hide him away
and, if necessary, pay his passage money to England, when discovered
on board, and perhaps maintain him when he got home until he could
replenish his purse by some unlawful means. Lastly, the Squire argued
that the fellow's vindictive nature and longing for revenge would act as
an incentive to bring him back to London. He talked the matter over with
Mark, who was now a powerful young fellow of twenty, who, of course,
remembered the incidents attending Bastow's capture and trial.

"I cannot help fancying that the fellow will come back, Mark."

"Well, if he does, father, we must make it our business to lay him by
the heels again. You managed it last time, and if he should turn up you
may be sure I will help you to do it again."

"Yes, but we may not hear of his having returned until he strikes a
blow. At any rate, see that your pistols are loaded and close at hand at
night."

"They always are, father. There is no saying when a house like this,
standing alone, and containing a good deal of plate and valuables, may
be broken into."

"Well, you might as well carry them always when you go out after dark.
I shall speak to Knapp, and request him to let me know if he hears of a
suspicious looking character--any stranger, in fact--being noticed in
or about the village, and I shall have a talk with Simeox, the head
constable at Reigate, and ask him to do the same. He is not the same
man who was head at the time Bastow was up before us, but he was in
the force then, and, as one of the constables who came up to take the
prisoners down to Reigate, he will have all the facts in his mind. He is
a sharp fellow, and though Bastow has no doubt changed a good deal since
then, he would hardly fail to recognize him if his eye fell upon him. Of
course we may be alarming ourselves unnecessarily, but there are several
reasons why I should object strongly to be shot just at the present
time."

"Or at any other time, I should say, father," the young man said with a
laugh.

"I shall know him, Squire, safe enough," the head constable replied when
John Thorndyke went down to see him on the following day; "but I should
think that if he does come back to England he will hardly be fool enough
to come down here. He was pretty well known in town before that affair,
and everyone who was in the courthouse would be sure to have his face
strongly impressed upon their minds. You may forget a man you have seen
casually, but you don't forget one you have watched closely when he is
in the dock with two others charged with murder. Five out of my six men
were constables at that time, and would know him again the minute they
saw him; but anyhow, I will tell them to keep a sharp lookout in the
tramps' quarters, and especially over the two or three men still here
that Bastow used to consort with. I should say that Reigate is the last
place in the world where he would show his face."

"I hope so," the Squire said. "He has caused trouble enough down here as
it is; his father is getting an old man now, and is by no means strong,
and fresh troubles of that kind would undoubtedly kill him."

A month later the Reigate coach was stopped when a short distance out
of the town by two highwaymen, and a considerable prize obtained by the
robbers. Soon afterwards came news of private carriages being stopped on
various commons in the South of London, and of several burglaries taking
place among the houses round Clapham, Wandsworth, and Putney. Such
events were by no means uncommon, but following each other in such quick
succession they created a strong feeling of alarm among the inhabitants
of the neighborhood. John Thorndyke, going up to town shortly
afterwards, went to the headquarters of the Bow Street runners, and had
a talk with their chief in reference especially to the stoppage of the
Reigate coach. Mr. Chetwynd had lately died, and John Thorndyke had been
unanimously elected by his fellow magistrates as chairman of the bench.

"No, Mr. Thorndyke, we have no clew whatever. Our men have been keeping
the sharpest watch over the fellows suspected of having a hand in such
matters, but they all seem keeping pretty quiet at present, and none of
them seem to be particularly flush with money. It is the same with these
burglaries in the South of London. We are at our wits' end about them.
We are flooded with letters of complaint from residents; but though the
patrols on the common have been doubled and every effort made, we are as
far off as ever. As far as the burglaries are concerned, we have every
reason to think that they are the work of two or three new hands. The
jobs are not neatly done, and certainly not with tools usually used by
burglars. They seem to rely upon daring rather than skill. Anyhow, we
don't know where to look for them, and are altogether at sea.

"Of course it is as annoying to us as it is to anyone else; more so,
because the Justices of the Peace are sending complaints to the Home
Secretary, and he in turn drops on us and wants to know what we are
doing. I have a sort of fancy myself the fellows who are stopping the
coaches are the same as those concerned in the burglaries. I could not
give you my reasons for saying so, except that on no occasion has a
coach been stopped and a house broken into on the same night. I fancy
that at present we shan't hear much more of them. They have created such
alarm that the coaches carry with them two men armed with blunderbusses,
in addition to the guards, and I should fancy that every householder
sleeps with pistols within reach, and has got arms for his servants. At
many of the large houses I know a watchman has been engaged to sit in
the hall all night, to ring the alarm bell and wake the inmates directly
he hears any suspicious sounds. Perhaps the fellows may be quiet for a
time, for they must, during the last month, have got a wonderful amount
of spoil. Maybe they will go west--the Bath road is always a favorite
one with these fellows--maybe they will work the northern side of the
town. I hope we shall lay hands upon them one day, but so far I may say
frankly we have not the slightest clew."

"But they must put their horses up somewhere?"

"Yes, but unfortunately there are so many small wayside inns, that it
is next to impossible to trace them. A number of these fellows are in
alliance with the highwaymen. Some of them, too, have small farms in
addition to their public house businesses, and the horses may be snugly
put up there, while we are searching the inn stables in vain. Again,
there are rogues even among the farmers themselves; little men, perhaps,
who do not farm more than thirty or forty acres, either working them
themselves, or by the aid of a hired man who lives perhaps at a village
a mile away. To a man of this kind, the offer of a couple of guineas a
week to keep two horses in an empty cowshed, and to ask no questions, is
a heavy temptation.

"We have got two clever fellows going about the country inquiring at
all the villages whether two mounted men have lately been heard going
through there late at night, or early in the morning, so as to narrow
down the area to be searched, but nothing has come of it, although I am
pretty sure that they must have three or four places they use in various
directions. My men have picked up stories of horsemen being heard
occasionally, but they come from various directions, and nowhere have
they been noticed with any regularity. Besides, there are other knights
of the road about, so we are no nearer than we were on that line of
inquiry."

A month later John Thorndyke had occasion to go up again to town. This
time Mark accompanied him. Both carried pistols, as did the groom,
sitting behind them. The Squire himself was but a poor shot, but Mark
had practiced a great deal.

"'Tis a good thing to be able to shoot straight, Mark," his father had
said to him three years before. "I abhor dueling, but there is so much
of it at present that any gentlemen might find himself in a position
when he must either go out or submit to be considered a coward. Then,
too, the roads are infested by highwaymen. For that reason alone it
would be well that a man should be able to shoot straight. You should
also practice sometimes at night, setting up some object at a distance
so that you can just make out its outline, and taking a dozen shots at
it. I know it is very difficult when you cannot see your own pistol, but
you can soon learn to trust to your arm to come up to the right height
and in the right direction. Of course you must wait until morning to
find out where your bullet has gone."

Two days after they had reached town the Squire received a letter from
Mrs. Cunningham.

"DEAR MR. THORNDYKE:

"Knapp has been up this morning to tell me that a stranger dismounted
yesterday at the alehouse, and while his horse was being fed he asked a
few questions. Among others, he wished to be told if you were at home,
saying that he had known you some fifteen years ago, when you lived near
Hastings, and should like to have a talk with you again. In fact, he had
turned off from the main road for the purpose. He seemed disappointed
when he heard that you had gone up to town, and hearing that you might
not be back for three or four days, said he should be coming back
through Reigate in a week or ten days, and he dared say he should be
able to find time to call again. Knapp did not hear about it until this
morning; he asked the landlord about the man, and the landlord said he
was about thirty, dark, and sparely built. He did not notice his horse
particularly, seeing that it was such as a small squire or farmer might
ride. He carried a brace of pistols in his holsters. The landlord was
not prepossessed with his appearance, and it was that that made him
speak to Knapp about him. I have told the men to unfasten the dogs every
night, and I have asked Knapp to send up two trustworthy men to keep
watch."

"It may mean something, and it may not," the Squire said, as he handed
the letter to Mark. "It is a suspicious looking circumstance; if
the fellow had been honest he would surely have said something about
himself. There is no doubt these housebreakers generally find out what
chance there is of resistance, and, hearing that we were both away,
may have decided on making an attempt. I have pretty well finished our
business and ordered nearly all the provisions that Mrs. Cunningham
requires. But I have to call at my lawyer's, and that is generally a
longish business. It is half past two o'clock now; if we start from
here at five we shall be down soon after eight, which will be quite soon
enough. We shall have a couple of hours' drive in the dark, but that
won't matter, we have got the lamps."

"I am quite ready to start, father. I am engaged to sup with Reginald
Ascot, but I will go over this afternoon and make my excuses."

At five o'clock they started. "You have got your pistols in order,
Mark?" the Squire asked, as they drove over London Bridge.

"I have them handy, father, one in each pocket."

"James, are your pistols charged?"

"Yes, sir."

At six o'clock it was beginning to get dusk, and they stopped while the
groom got down and lit the lamps; then they resumed their journey. They
were within five miles of Reigate when suddenly two horsemen rode out
from a side road with a shout of "Stand and deliver!"

The Squire lashed the horses, and a moment later a pistol was fired, and
the ball went through his hat. By the light of the lamps Mark saw
the other man raise his hand, and, leveling his pistol, fired on the
instant; then, as there was no reply to his shot, he discharged the
second barrel at the first who had fired, and who had at once drawn
another pistol. The two reports rang out almost at the same moment, but
Mark's was a little the first. There was a sharp exclamation of pain
from the highwayman, who wrenched round his horse and galloped down the
lane from which he had issued, the groom sending two bullets after him.

"Where is the other man?" Mark exclaimed, as his father reined in the
horses.

"Somewhere on the ground there, Mark; I saw him fall from his saddle as
we passed him."

"Is it any use pursuing the other, father? I am pretty sure I hit him."

"I am quite sure you did, but it is no good our following; the side
roads are so cut up by ruts that we should break a spring before we had
gone a hundred yards. No, we will stop and look at this fellow who is
unhorsed, Mark."

The groom got down, and, taking one of the carriage lamps, proceeded to
a spot where the highwayman's horse was standing. The man was already
dead, the bullet having hit him a few inches above the heart.

"He is dead, father."

"I think you had better lift him up on the foot board behind; James can
ride his horse. We will hand the body over to the constable at Reigate.
He may know who he is, or find something upon him that may afford a clew
that will lead to the capture of his companion."

"No, I don't know him, Squire," the constable said as they stopped
before his house and told him what had happened. "However, he certainly
is dead, and I will get one of the men to help me carry him into the
shed behind the courthouse. So you say that you think that the other is
wounded?"

"I am pretty sure he is. I heard him give an exclamation as my son
fired."

"That is good shooting, Mr. Mark," the constable said. "If every
passenger could use his arms as you do there would soon be an end to
stopping coaches. I will see what he has got about him, and will come up
and let you know, Squire, the first thing in the morning."

"I will send Knapp down," John Thorndyke said, as they drove homewards.
"I am rather curious to know if this fellow is the same Mrs. Cunningham
wrote about. I will tell him to take Peters along with him."

"I hardly see that there can be any connection between the two.
Highwaymen don't go in for house breaking. I think they consider that to
be a lower branch of the profession."

"Generally they do, no doubt, Mark; but you know I told you that the
chief at Bow Street said that he had a suspicion that the highway
robbers and the house breakers who have been creating so much alarm are
the same men."

"It is curious that they should have happened to light on us, father, if
they were intending to break into our house."

John Thorndyke made no reply, and in a few minutes drove up to the
house. Their return, a couple of days before they were expected,
caused great satisfaction to Mrs. Cunningham and Millicent. The former,
however, had wisely kept from the girl the matter on which she had
written to the Squire, and the suspicion she had herself entertained.

"It is very dull without you both," Millicent said. "I was telling Mrs.
Cunningham that I thought it would be a good thing, when you got back,
for us two to take a run up to town for a week, just to let you see
how dull the place is when two of us are away. You are looking quite
serious, uncle. Is anything the matter?"

"Happily nothing is the matter with us, dear, but we have had an
adventure, and not a very pleasant one."

"What was it?" the girl asked.

"If you examine my hat closely, Millicent, it will tell you."

The girl took up the hat from a chair on which he had put it, and
brought it to the light. "There are two holes in it," she said. "Oh,
Guardy, have you been shot at?"

"It looks like it, dear. Two gentlemen highwaymen--at least, that is
what I believe they call themselves--asked us pressingly to stop, and
as we would not comply with their request, one fired at me, and, as you
see, it was an uncommonly good shot. The other was about to fire when
Mark's pistol put a stop to him, and his second barrel stopped the
fellow who had fired first; he was hit, for we heard him give an
exclamation of pain, but before any more shooting could be done he
turned and rode off down a narrow lane where we could not follow."

"And what became of the first?" Millicent asked with open eyes.

"He was dead before we could get down to examine him; he will not
disturb the King's peace again. It happened about four miles from home,
so we brought him in and gave him and his horse into the charge of the
constable at Reigate."

"And you have really killed a man?" Millicent said, looking up with an
awestruck expression to Mark.

"Well, as the man would have killed us if I hadn't, I cannot say,
Millicent, that his death weighs in any way heavily on my mind. If he
were as good a shot as the other, my father's life would not have been
worth much, for as we were driving fast, he was not above half as far
away as the other had been when he fired. Just the same, I suppose, as
it would be in a battle; a man is going to shoot you, and you shoot him
first, and I don't suppose it ever troubles you afterwards."

"Of course I don't mean that I blame you, Mark; but it does seem
shocking."

"I don't suppose you would think that, Millicent, if a burglar, who had
taken one shot at you and was about to finish you with another, was cut
short in the operation by a shot from my pistol. I believe that your
relief and thankfulness would be so great that the idea that it was a
shocking thing for me to do would not as much as enter your head."

"I wish you had shot the other man as well as the one you did, Mark,"
the Squire said, as he walked with his son down to Reigate to attend the
inquest the next morning on the man he had brought in. Mark looked at
his father in surprise.

"There is no doubt I hit him, father," he said; "but I should not think
that he will be likely to trouble us again."

"I wish I felt quite sure of that. Do you know that I have a strong
suspicion that it was Arthur Bastow?"

Mark had, of course, heard of Bastow's escape, but had attached no great
importance to it. The crime had taken place nearly eight years before,
and although greatly impressed at the time by the ill doings of the man,
the idea that he would ever return and endeavor to avenge himself on
his father for the part he had taken had not occurred to him. Beyond
mentioning his escape, the Squire had never talked to him on the
subject.

"It was he who bade us stand and deliver, and the moment he spoke the
voice seemed familiar to me, and, thinking it over, I have an impression
that it was his. I may be mistaken, for I have had him in my mind ever
since I heard that he had escaped, and may therefore have connected the
voice with him erroneously, and yet I cannot but think that I was right.
You see, there are two or three suspicious circumstances. In the first
place, there was this man down here making inquiries. Knapp went down
early this morning with the innkeeper, and told me before breakfast that
Peters at once recognized the fellow you shot as the man who had made
the inquiries. Now, the natural result of making inquiries would have
been that the two men would the next evening have broken into the house,
thinking that during our absence they would meet with no resistance.
Instead of doing this they waylaid us on the road, which looks as if it
was me they intended to attack, and not the house."

"But how could they have known that it was us, father? It is certainly
singular that one of the two men should have been the fellow who was up
at the inn, but it may be only a matter of coincidence."

"I don't know, Mark; I don't say that singular coincidences don't occur,
but I have not much faith in them. Still, if they were journeying down
to attack the house last night they would hardly have stopped travelers
by the way when there was a rich booty awaiting them, as they evidently
believed there was, or that man would not have come down specially to
make inquiries. My own impression is that when they heard that we should
return in two or three days one of them watched us in London, and as
soon as they learned that we were to start for home at five o'clock they
came down here to stop us. They would hardly have done that merely to
get our watches and what money we had in our pockets."

"No, I should think not, father; but they might be friends of men who
have got into trouble at Reigate, and, as you are chairman of the bench,
may have had a special grudge against you for their conviction."

"That is, of course, possible, and I hope that it is so."

"But even if Arthur Bastow had escaped, father, why should he come back
to England, where he would know that he might be arrested again, instead
of staying quietly out in Australia?"

"There are two reasons. In the first place the life out there would not
be a quiet one; there would be nothing for him but to attack and rob the
settlers, and this, as they are sure to be armed, is a pretty dangerous
business. Then there are perils from the blacks, and lastly, such a
life would be absolutely devoid of comfort, and be that of a hunted dog;
living always in the bush, scarcely venturing to sleep lest he should
be pounced upon either by the armed constables of the colony or by the
blacks. It is not as if the country were extensively populated; there
are not a very large number of settlers there yet, and therefore very
small scope for robbers. These people would keep very little money
with them, and the amount of plunder to be got would be small indeed.
Therefore, I take it that the main object of any escaped convict would
be to get away from the place.

"That is one of the reasons why the fellow might come back to England
in spite of the risks. The other is that I believe him to be so
diabolically vindictive that he would run almost any peril in order to
obtain revenge upon me or his father. Twice he has threatened me, the
first time when we captured him, the second time as he left the court
after he had received his sentence. I am not a coward, so far as I know,
Mark, but I am as certain as I stand here that he meant what he said,
and that, during these years of imprisonment and toil out there, he has
been cherishing the thought of coming home some day and getting even
with me. You see, he is said to have been the leader of this convict
revolt. There is no doubting his daring, and to my mind the attack upon
us last night, when they knew that they could have managed a successful
robbery here, points to the fact that it was the result of personal
animosity, and strengthens my belief that it was Arthur Bastow who
called upon us to stand and deliver."

"It is a very unpleasant idea, father."

"Very unpleasant, and it seems to me that we should at any rate spare no
pains in hunting the man you wounded down."

"I will undertake that if you like. I have nothing particular to do, and
it would be an excitement. You have a lot to keep you here."

"I don't fancy that you will find it an excitement, Mark, for of course
the detectives will do the hunting, but I should certainly be glad if
you would take a letter for me to the head of the Detective Department,
and tell him what I think, and my reasons for thinking so, and say that
I offer a reward of a hundred pounds for the capture of the man who
tried to stop us, and who was, we are certain, wounded by you. Unless
he has some marvelously out of the way hiding place, it ought not to
be difficult. A wounded man could scarcely lie hidden in the slums of
London without it being known to a good many people, to some of whom
a reward of the sum of a hundred pounds would be an irresistible
temptation."

By this time they had reached Reigate. The inquest did not last
many minutes, and the jury without hesitation returned a verdict of
justifiable homicide.



CHAPTER VII.


The next morning Mark went up to London.

"Of course, Mr. Thorndyke," the chief at Bow Street said, "your father's
suspicions as to the man's identity may or may not be justified; that,
however, makes no difference to us. Here is a highwayman who has been
wounded, and would certainly be a valuable capture: I will set my men to
work at once; if he is in London they will get news of him before many
days. My men in any case would do their duty, but your father's offer
will certainly stimulate their energy. Where are you stopping?"

"At the Bull, in Holborn."

"Very well; I will be sure to let you know as soon as we get any clew to
the man's identity."

Mark remained in London a week, and at the end of that time he received
a note from Bow Street saying that the superintendent wished to see him.

"I am sorry that I have no news for you, Mr. Thorndyke," the officer
said, when he called upon him. "Every place where such a man would be
likely to be in hiding has been searched, and no clew whatever has been
obtained. We shall now circulate notices of the reward throughout the
country. If the man was at all severely hit, we may assume that he must
be somewhere in the neighborhood of London, whereas, if the wound was
a slight one, he might be able to go a long distance, and may be now
in York, for aught we know. However, now that the search in London has
terminated, I can really see no use in your staying here any longer; we
will let you know directly we have any news."

Three months later John Thorndyke received a letter from the Detective
Office asking him to call the next time he came up to town, as although
no news had been obtained that would lead to the man's immediate
arrest, news had at any rate been obtained showing that he was alive. It
happened that Mark was intending to go up on the following day, and his
father asked him to call for him at Bow Street.

"Well, Mr. Thorndyke, we have heard about your man, and that after we
had quite abandoned the search. I had come to the conclusion that the
wound you gave him had been a fatal one, and that he had been quietly
buried by some of the people with whom he was connected. The discovery
was, as half these discoveries generally are, the result of accident.
Last week a gentleman entered the Bank and asked for change in gold for
a fifty pound note. The cashier, looking at the number, found that it
was one of those that had been stolen from a passenger by one of the
south coaches several months ago. The gentleman was at once taken into
a private office, and questioned as to how he had obtained the note.
The account that he gave was that he was a surgeon in practice at
Southampton. A gentleman had arrived there on a date which we found to
be the day after that on which you were stopped; he was well dressed,
and had the air of a gentleman; he had come down by coach, and was
evidently very ill. He told the surgeon that he had been engaged in a
duel, that the pistols had been discharged simultaneously, and that he
had killed his man, but had himself been severely wounded. He said that
the person whom he had killed had influential connections, and that it
would be necessary for him to remain in seclusion for a time, and he
asked him to take charge of his case, as he had ample means of paying
him handsomely. The surgeon examined the wound, and found it to be
indeed a serious one, and, as he thought, probably fatal. However,
having no doubt as to the truth of the story, he had taken the gentleman
in, and he remained under his charge until a week before he came up to
town.

"For the first month he had been dangerously ill, but he completely
recovered. The surgeon had no reason whatever for doubting his patient
being a gentleman; he was fashionably dressed, and had evidently changed
his clothes after the duel, as there were no bloodstains upon them. He
was, however, glad when he left, as his conversation did not please him
from its cynical tone. The Bank sent to us directly the man presented
the note, which he stated had been given to him in part payment for his
medical services and the board and lodging of the patient; the total
amount had been 75 pounds, and the balance was paid in gold. As he
was able to give several good references, and was identified by three
gentlemen, he was, of course, released. I have no doubt whatever that
the fellow he attended was your man. The surgeon said, whoever he was,
he must have been a man of iron resolution to have made such a journey
in the state he was.

"No doubt he must have ridden straight to the place he used as his
headquarters, where he had his wound roughly bandaged, changed his
clothes, and had ridden in the morning to some point that the coach
passed on its way to Southampton. Of course we obtained a minute
description from the surgeon of the man's appearance. We found that
the people at the coach office had no remembrance of there being anyone
answering to that description among the persons who traveled by the
coach, but of course that would not go for much, for over three months
have elapsed.

"When the coachman who had driven the down coach that day came up to
town, we saw him, and he remembered perfectly that on or about that day
he had picked up a passenger at Kingston--a gentleman who was in very
weak health. There were only three inside passengers besides himself,
and he had to be assisted into the coach. The way bill, on being turned
up, showed that an inside passenger had been taken up at Kingston. I
have already sent down men to make inquiries at every village in the
district between Reigate and Kingston, and I trust that we shall lay
hands on him, especially now we have got an accurate description of him,
while before we were working in the dark in that respect."

"What is the description, sir? My father is much interested on that
point, for, as I believe I told you, he has a strong suspicion that
the fellow is the man who was transported more than eight years ago to
Australia, and who made his escape from the prison there."

"Yes, I know. At first it appeared to me very improbable, but I am bound
to say the description tallies very closely with that given of him. The
surgeon took him to be nearly thirty; but after what he has gone through
he may well look three or four years older than he is. He had light
hair, rather small gray eyes, and a face that would have been good
looking had it not been for its supercilious and sneering expression."

"I can remember him," Mark said; "and that answers very closely to him.
I should say that it is certainly Bastow, and my father made no mistake
when he asserted that he recognized his voice."

The officer added a note to the description in his register: "Strongly
suspected of being Arthur Bastow, transported for connivance with
highwaymen; was leader of a mutiny in convict jail of Sydney two years
and a half ago. Made his escape."

"There is no doubt," he went on, "that he is a desperate character. No
doubt he is the man who has been concerned in most of these robberies in
the southern suburbs. We must get hold of him if we can, and once we
do so there will be an end of his travels, for the mutiny in prison and
escape is a hanging business, putting aside the affairs since he
got back. Well, sir, I hope he will give you and your father no more
trouble."

"I am sure I hope so," Mark said. "I suppose that the fellow who was
shot was one of the men who escaped with him from the convict prison."

"That is likely enough. Two would get home as easily as one, and the
fact that they were both strangers here would account for the difficulty
our men have had in their search for him. You see, we have had nothing
whatever to go on. You must not be too sanguine about our catching the
man in a short time: he is evidently a clever fellow, and I think it
likely that once he got back he lost no time in getting away from this
part of the country, and we are more likely to find him in the west or
north than we are of laying hands on him here. We will send descriptions
all over the country, and as soon as I hear of a series of crimes
anywhere, I will send off two of my best men to help the local
constables."

On his return home Mark told his father what he had done.

"I thought that I could not have been mistaken, Mark; we have got that
rascal on our hands again. I hope now that they have got a description
of him to go by, they will not be long before they catch him; but
the way he escaped after being badly wounded shows that he is full of
resources, and he may give them some trouble yet, if I am not mistaken.
At any rate, I will have a talk with the Reigate constable, and tell him
that there is very little doubt that the man who attacked us was Arthur
Bastow, who has, as we have heard, escaped from Botany Bay, and that he
had best tell his men to keep a sharp lookout for him, for that, owing
to his animosity against us for his former capture and conviction, it
is likely enough that sooner or later he will be in this neighborhood
again. After his determined attempt at my life when pretending to rob
us, I shall certainly not feel comfortable until I know that he is under
lock and key."

"I wish, Guardy, you would give up this magistrate's business,"
Millicent said at dinner. "I am sure that it is worrying you, and I
can't see why you should go on with it."

"It does not worry me, as a rule, Millicent; indeed, I like the duty.
Besides, every landowner of standing ought to take his share in public
work. There are only two of the magistrates younger than I am, and
whatever you may think of me, I feel myself capable of doing what work
there is to do. When Mark gets a few years older I shall resign, and let
him take my place on the bench. I own, though, that I should be glad if
these highway robberies could be suppressed. Poaching and the ordinary
offenses of drunkenness and assaults are disposed of without any
trouble; but this stopping of the coaches, accompanied occasionally by
the shooting of the coachman or guard, gives a great deal of trouble,
and the worst of it is that we are practically powerless to put such
crimes down. Nothing short of patrolling the roads in parties of three
or four between sunset and sunrise would put a stop to them, and the
funds at our disposal would not support such an expenditure."

"It is a pity that you cannot get up a corps like the yeomanry, and call
it the Mounted Constabulary," said Mark. "There are at least a dozen
fellows I know who would, like myself, be glad to join it, and I dare
say we could get a score of young farmers or farmers' sons."

"It is not a bad idea, Mark, and I dare say that for a time the duty
would be zealously performed, but before very long you would tire of it.
A few wet nights or winter's cold, and you would cease to see the fun of
it, especially as you may be sure that the news that the roads are well
patrolled would soon come to the ears of these scoundrels, and they
would cease to work in the district."

"Perhaps you are right, sir; but I think that a few of us would stick to
it."

"Perhaps so, Mark, but I should be sorry to wager that the work would
be thoroughly done. The first county or hunt ball, or even dinner party,
more than half of them would be away. I don't say that you personally
might not for some considerable time persist in patrolling the roads,
for you have a sort of personal interest in the matter; but I would
wager that before two months have passed you would find you were the
only one who attended at the rendezvous regularly."

A fortnight later the party were seated round the fire in the dusk.
Mr. Bastow was sitting next to the Squire, and was in unusually good
spirits. He had heard no word of what the Squire had discovered, nor
dreamed that his son was again in England, still less that he was
suspected of being one of the men who had endeavored to stop the Squire
and his son on their drive from London. Suddenly there was the crack of
a pistol outside, and a ball passed between him and the Squire. Without
a word, Mark Thorndyke rushed to the door, seized a pistol from his
riding coat, and, snatching up a heavy whip, dashed out into the garden.

He was just in time to see a figure running at full speed, and he set
off in pursuit. Good runner as he was, he gained but slightly at first,
but after a time he drew nearer to the fugitive. The latter was but
some sixty yards away when he leaped a hedge into a narrow lane. Mark
followed without hesitation, but as he leaped into the road he heard a
jeering laugh and the sharp sound of a horse's hoofs, and knew that the
man he was pursuing had gained his horse and made off. Disgusted at his
failure, he went slowly back to the house. The shutters had been put up.

"I have lost him, father. He ran well to begin with, but I was gaining
fast on him when he leaped into a narrow lane where he had left his
horse, and rode off before I could get up to him. I need hardly say that
there was no use attempting to follow on foot. He missed you all, did he
not?"

"Yes, Mark. It is not so easy to take an accurate aim when it is nearly
dark. The bullet passed between myself and Mr. Bastow, and has buried
itself in the mantelpiece."

"Something ought to be done, Guardy," Millicent Conyers said
indignantly. "It is shameful that people cannot sit in their own room
without the risk of being shot at. What can it mean? Surely no one can
have any enmity against you."

"I hope not, my dear," John Thorndyke said lightly. "Some of the fellows
we have sentenced may think that we were rather hard on them, but I
do not think that any of them would feel it sufficiently to attempt to
murder one; besides, Mark says that the fellow had a horse waiting
for him, and none of our poachers would be likely to be the owner of a
horse. It may be that the highwayman Mark shot at and wounded has come
down to give us a fright. It is no use worrying about it now; in future
we will have the shutters closed at sunset. It is hardly likely that
the thing will be attempted again, and Mark's chase must have shown the
fellow that the game is hardly worth the risk."

"He might have shot you, Mark; you had no right to risk your life in
that sort of way," the girl said to him, later, as they were seated
together in front of the fire, while the Squire was reading the Gazette
at the table, Mrs. Cunningham was working, and Mr. Bastow, who had been
greatly shaken by the event, had retired to bed.

"Do you think that he really meant to kill your father?"

"I should imagine he did; a man would hardly run the risk of being hung
merely for the pleasure of shooting. I would give a good deal if I had
caught him, or better still, if I had shot him," said Mark. "However, I
will make it my business to hunt the fellow down. After this evening's
affair, we shall never feel comfortable until he is caught. I have
no doubt that he is the fellow we have been hunting for the last four
months. The people at Bow Street seem no good whatever; I will try if I
cannot succeed better."

"Don't do anything rash, Mark," said Millicent, in a low voice; "you
have no right to put yourself in danger."

"But our lives are in danger now, Millicent--in much greater danger
than mine would be when looking out for him. But there seems no guarding
against attacks like this; I mean to hunt him down, if it takes me
a year. I have nothing special to do, and cannot employ my time more
usefully."

When the ladies went up to bed the Squire said:

"Come into the library, Mark, and we will smoke a pipe, and have a talk
over this business." He touched the bell. "Have you got a good fire in
the library, Ramoo?"

"Yes, sahib, very good."

"Then take a bottle of number one bin of port there--and a couple of
glasses."

When they were quietly seated, glasses filled, and the long pipes
alight, the Squire said: "I want to have a serious talk with you, Mark.
What I am going to say will surprise you a good deal. I had not intended
to tell you for another four years--that is to say, not until Millicent
came of age--but after that affair tonight, I feel that my life is
so uncertain that I ought not to delay letting you know the truth.
I suppose you agree with me that it was Bastow who shot at me this
evening?"

"I have not the least doubt about that, father."

"I will not say that he shot at me," the Squire said, "for he may have
shot at his father; the villain is quite capable of that. It was his
father who brought me upon him, and though I effected his capture eight
years ago I don't suppose he cares which of us he killed. However, the
point is not what he aimed at, but whether it was he, and that I take
there is no doubt about. He missed me this time, but his next shot may
be more successful, At any rate, I think that it is high time that I
told you the story."

And, beginning with the arrival of Colonel Thorndyke at his place, he
repeated the conversation that he had had with him. Several times in
the early portion of his narrative he was interrupted by exclamations of
surprise from his son.

"Then Millicent is really my uncle's heiress!" exclaimed Mark, when he
heard the request the Colonel had made of the Squire.

"That is so, Mark. She does not know it herself, and it was my brother's
urgent wish that she should not know it until she came of age or until
she married. I fought against it to the utmost, but it was his dying
prayer, and I could not refuse it. My solicitor knows the facts of the
matter, and so does Mrs. Cunningham, who brought Millicent over from
India when she was only about a year old. I may say that I especially
urged that it would not be fair to you to be brought up to consider
yourself to be heir to the property, but he said:

"'Putting aside the estate, I have a considerable fortune. In the first
place, there are the accumulations of rent from the Reigate place. I
have never touched them, and they have been going on for twelve years.
In. the next place, the shaking of the pagoda tree has gone on merrily,
and we all made a comfortable pile. Then I always made a point of
carrying about with me two or three hundred pounds, and after the
sacking of some of the palaces I could pick up jewels and things from
the troops for a trifle, being able to pay money down. Even without
the rents here, I have some 50,000 pounds in money. I should think the
jewels would be worth at least as much more, irrespective of a diamond
bracelet which is, I fancy, worth more than the rest put together. It
was stolen from the arm of some idol.' He then explained how he got it,
and the manner in which he had placed it and the rest of his wealth in a
secure position.

"'Things stolen from a god are frightfully dangerous,' he said, 'for the
Brahmins or priests connected with the temples have been known to follow
them up for years, and in nine cases out of ten they get possession of
them again. Murder in such a case is meritorious, and I would not have
them in the house here, were they ten times the value they are. I know
that my clothes, my drawers, and everything belonging to me have been
gone through at night a score of times. Nothing has been stolen, but,
being a methodical man, I could generally see some displacement in the
things that told me they had been disturbed, They gave it up for a time,
but I haven't a shadow of a doubt that they have been watching me ever
since, and they may be watching me now, for anything I know. Now, half
of that fortune I have left by my will to your son; half to the girl. I
will tell you where the things are the last thing before I die.

"'Now, mind, you must be careful when you get them. When I am dead you
are almost certain to be watched. You don't know what these fellows are.
The things must remain where they are until your boy comes of age. Don't
let him keep those diamonds an hour in his possession; let him pass them
away privately to some man in whom he has implicit confidence, for
him to take them to a jeweler's; let him double and turn and disguise
himself so as to throw everyone that may be spying on him off his
track. If you can manage it, the best way would be to carry them over to
Amsterdam, and sell them there.'

"I confess it seemed absurd, but it is a matter about which he would
know a great deal more than I do, and he was convinced that not only
was he watched, but that he owed his life simply to the fact that the
fellows did not know where the diamonds were hidden, and that by killing
him they would have lost every chance of regaining them.

"So convinced was he of all this, that he would not tell me where he had
stowed them away; he seemed to think that the very walls would hear us,
and that these fellows might be hidden under the sofa, in a cupboard, or
up the chimney, for aught I know. He told me that he would tell me the
secret before he died; but death came so suddenly that he never had an
opportunity of doing so. He made a tremendous effort in his last moment,
but failed, and I shall never forget the anguish his face expressed when
he found himself powerless to speak; however, he pressed his snuffbox
into my hand with such a significant look that, being certain it
contained some clew to the mystery, and being unable to find a hidden
spring or a receptacle, I broke it open that night.

"It contained a false bottom, and here are what I found in it. I stowed
them away in a secret drawer in that old cabinet that stands by my
bedside. It is in the bottom pigeonhole on the right hand side. I bought
the cabinet at a sale, and found the spring of the secret drawer quite
accidentally. I shall put the things back tonight, and you will know
where to look for them. You press against the bottom and up against the
top simultaneously, and the back then falls forward. The opening behind
is very shallow, and will hold but two or three letters. But, however,
it sufficed for this;" and he handed Mark the coin and slip of paper.

"But what are these, father?"

"These are the clews by which we are to obtain the treasure."

As Mark examined them carefully the Squire stood up with his back to the
fire, and looking round walked to the door and said: "I thought there
was a draught somewhere; either Ramoo did not shut the door when he went
out or it has come open again. It has done that once or twice before.
When I go into town tomorrow I will tell Tucker to send a man up to take
the lock off. Well, what do you make out of that?"

"I can make out nothing," Mark replied. "No doubt the coin is something
to be given to whoever is in charge of the treasure, and Masulipatam may
be the place where it is hidden."

"Yes, or it may be a password. It reminds one of the forty thieves
business. You go and knock at the door of a cave, a figure armed to the
teeth presents itself, you whisper in his ear 'Masulipatam,' he replies
'Madras,' or 'Calcutta,' or something of that sort, you take out the
coin and show it to him, he takes out from some hidden repository a
similar one, compares the two, and then leads you to an inner cave piled
up with jewels."

Mark laughed.

"Well, it is no laughing matter, Mark," the Squire went on seriously.
"The little comedy may not be played just as I have sketched it, but I
expect that it is something of the kind. That coin has to be shown, and
the word 'Masulipatam' spoken to the guardian, whoever he may be, of
your uncle's treasure. But who that guardian may be or how he is to be
found is a mystery. I myself have never tried to solve it. There was
nothing whatever to go upon. The things may be in England or, it may be,
anywhere in India. To me it looked an absolutely hopeless business to
set about. I did not see how even a first step was to be taken, and as I
had this estate and you and Millicent to look after, and was no longer
a young man, I put the matter aside altogether. You are young, you have
plenty of energy, and you have your life before you, and it is a matter
of the greatest interest to you.

"Possibly--very improbably, mind, still possibly--when Millicent comes
of age and learns who she is, Mrs. Cunningham may be able to help you.
I have no idea whether it is so. I have never spoken to her about this
treasure of George's, but it is just possible that while he was in
town before he came down to me he may have given her some instructions
concerning it. Of course he intended to give me full particulars, but he
could hardly have avoided seeing that, in the event of my death, perhaps
suddenly before the time came for seeking the treasure, the secret
would be lost altogether. Whether he has told her or his lawyer or not
I cannot say, but I have all along clung to the hope that he took some
such natural precaution. Unless that treasure is discovered, the only
thing that will come to you is the half of the accumulated rents of
this estate during the ten years between my father's death and George's;
these rents were paid to our solicitors, and by them invested.

"The rentals amount to about 2500 pounds a year, and of course there is
interest to be added, so that I suppose there is now some 25,000 pounds,
for I had out 2000 pounds when I came here, to set matters straight. I
had a great fight with the lawyers over it, but as I pointed out they
had failed altogether to see that the agent did his duty, and that
at least a couple of hundred a year ought to be expended in necessary
repairs, I had a right to at least that sum to carry out the work that
ought to be done from year to year. In addition to that sum I laid out
about 1000 pounds a year for the first three years I was here; so that
practically 5000 pounds was expended in rebuilding the village and
doing repairs on the homesteads; that, however, is not the point now.
Altogether, then, there is some 25,000 pounds to be divided between you
and Millicent when she becomes mistress of this property.

"According to the terms of my brother's will, I am still to remain here
until she marries; when she does so I shall, of course, go back to my
own little place; the income of that has been accumulating while I
have been here, my only expenses having been for clothes. I have taken
nothing out of this estate since I came here, and each year have paid
to the solicitors all balances remaining after discharging the household
expenses, these balances averaging 700 or 800 pounds a year. Of
course the income was absolutely left to me during the time I remained
ostensible owner, but I had no wish to make money out of a trust that
I assumed greatly against my will. That money is Millicent's; of course
the house had to be kept up in proper style whether I were here or not.
Had she at once come into possession, there must have been horses, and
carriages, and so on. I don't say that I have not had all the expenses
of our living saved; that I had no objection to; but I was determined at
least not to take a penny put of the estate beyond those expenses. You
see, Mark, you will have your 12,500 pounds anyhow, as soon as Millicent
comes of age--not a bad little sum--so that even if you never hear
anything more of this mysterious treasure you will not be penniless, or
in anyway dependent upon me. At my death, of course, you will come into
the Sussex place, with what savings there may be."

"I am sure I have no reason to grumble, father," Mark said heartily.
"Of course it came upon me at first as a surprise that Millicent was
the heiress here, and it flashed through my mind for the moment that the
best thing would be to take a commission in the army, or to follow my
uncle's example, and get a cadetship in the Company's service. I have
no doubt that I should have enjoyed life either way quite as much or
possibly more than if I had gone on a good many years as heir to these
estates, and afterwards as Squire. Of course, now I shall make it my
business to see if it is possible to obtain some sort of clew to this
treasure, and then follow it up; but the first thing to which I shall
give my mind will be to hunt down Bastow. We shall never feel safe here
as long as that fellow is alive, and that will be the first thing I
shall devote myself to. After that I shall see about the treasure."

"As to that, Mark, I cannot impress upon you too strongly what your
uncle said. It may, of course, be a pure delusion on his part; but if
he is right, and some of these Hindoo fellows are still on the watch to
obtain that bracelet, you must use extraordinary precautions when you
get it into your hands; he advised me to take it across to Amsterdam,
and either get the stones recut or to sell them separately to different
diamond merchants there. He said that my life would not be worth an
hour's purchase as long as the stones were in my hands."

"That rather looks, father, as if the things were somewhere in England;
had they been in India, you would have had them some months in your
hands before you could get them to Amsterdam."

"I did not think of that before, Mark, and it is possible that you
are right; but I don't know; he might have thought that it would be
impossible for me to dispose of them at Madras or Calcutta, and may have
assumed that I should at once deposit them in a bank to be forwarded
with other treasure to England, or that I should get them packed away
in the treasure safe in the ship I came back by, and that I should not
really have them on my person till I landed in England, or until I
took them from the Bank. Still, I see that your supposition is the most
likely, and that they may all this time have been lying somewhere in
London until I should present myself with a gold coin and the word
'Masulipatam.'"

Suddenly Mark sprang to his feet, and pulled back the curtains across
a window, threw it up, and leaped into the garden, and there stood
listening for two or three minutes, with his pistol cocked in his hand.
He stepped for a moment into the room again.

"You had better put that light out, father or we may have another shot."

"Did you hear anything, Mark?"

"I thought I did, father. I may have been mistaken, but I certainly
thought I heard a noise, and when I pulled the curtains aside the window
was not shut by three or four inches. I will have a look through the
shrubbery. That fellow may have come back again. Pull the curtains to
after me."

"I will go with you, Mark."

"I would rather you didn't, father; it would only make me nervous. I
shan't go into the shrubbery and give them a chance of getting first
shot. I shall hide up somewhere and listen. It is a still night, and if
there is anyone moving I am pretty sure to hear him."

The Squire turned down the lamp, drew the curtains, and seated himself
by the fire. It was three quarters of an hour before Mark returned. He
shut the window, and fastened it carefully.

"I fancy you must have been mistaken, Mark."

"I suppose that shot through the window has made me nervous. I certainly
did fancy I heard a noise there; it may have been a dead bough snapping,
or something of that sort; and of course, the window being partly open,
even though only three or four inches, any little noise would come in
more plainly than it otherwise would do. However, everything has been
perfectly quiet since I went out, and it is hardly likely indeed that
the fellow would have returned so soon after the hot chase I gave him."

"It is very stupid--the window being left open," the Squire said. "I
shall question Martha about it in the morning; it was her duty to see
that it was shut and fastened before drawing the curtains. Just at
present one can scarcely be too careful. I don't mean to deny that
whether there was a window open or not a burglar who wanted to get into
the house could do so, still there is no use in making their work more
easy for them. I know, as a rule, we are careless about such things;
there has not been a burglary in this part for years, and until lately
the front door has never been locked at night, and anyone could have
walked in who wanted to. Of course the servants don't know that there is
any reason for being more careful at present than usual.

"I was thinking the other day of having shutters put to all these
downstair rooms. Some of them have got them, and some have not; still,
even with shutters, burglars can always get in if they want to do so.
They have only to cut round the lock of a door or to make a hole in a
panel to give them room to put an arm through and draw back a bolt, and
the thing is done. I know that all the silver is locked up every night
in the safe, for Ramoo sees to that, and I have never known him neglect
anything under his charge. Well, Mark, I don't know that it is any use
sitting up longer, we have plenty of time to talk the matter over; it is
four years yet before Millicent comes of age, though, of course, there
is nothing to prevent your setting out in quest of the treasure as soon
as you like. Still, there is no hurry about it."

"None whatever, father; but I don't mean to lose a day before I try to
get on the track of that villain Bastow."



CHAPTER VIII.


Mark was some hours before he went to sleep. The news that he had heard
that evening was strange and startling. Full of health and strength, the
fact that he was not, as he had always supposed, the heir to the estate
troubled him not at all. The fact that in four years he would come in
for some twelve thousand pounds was sufficient to prevent his feeling
any uneasiness as to his future; and indeed in some respects it was not
an unpleasant idea that, instead of being tied down to the estate, he
should be able to wander at will, visit foreign countries, and make his
own life.

In one respect he was sorry. His father had in the last year hinted more
than once that it would be a very nice arrangement if he were to make
up a match with his ward; he had laughed, and said that there would be
plenty of time for that yet. But the idea had been an agreeable one. He
was very fond of Millicent--fond, perhaps; in a cousinly way at present;
but at any rate he liked her far better than any of the sisters of his
friends. Of course she was only seventeen yet, and there was plenty of
time to think of marriage in another three years. Still, the thought
occurred to him several times that she was budding out into a young
woman, and every month added to her attractions. It was but the day
before he had said to himself that there was no reason to wait as long
as three years, especially as his father seemed anxious, and would
evidently be glad were the match to take place. Now, of course, he said
to himself, that was at an end. He had never given her any reason to
suppose that he cared for her, and now that she was the heiress and
he comparatively poor, she would naturally think that it was for the
estate, and not for herself, that she was wooed. Then there was the
question of this curiously lost treasure, with the mysterious clew that
led to nothing. How on earth was he to set about the quest? He puzzled
for a long time over this, till at last he fell asleep. He was roused by
Ramoo entering the room.

"What is it, Ramoo?"

"Me not know, sahib. Massa Thorndyke's door shut. Me no able to make him
hear."

"That is curious, Ramoo," Mark said, jumping hastily out of bed. "I will
be with you in a minute."

He slipped on his trousers, coat, and slippers, and then accompanied
Ramoo to his father's door. He knocked again and again, and each time
more loudly, his face growing paler as he did so. Then he threw himself
against the door, but it was solid and heavy.

"Fetch me an ax, Ramoo," he said. "There is something wrong here."

Ramoo returned in a short time with two men servants and with the ax in
his hands. Mark took it, and with a few mighty blows split the woodwork,
and then hurling himself against the door, it yielded. As he entered
the room a cry broke from his lips. Within a pace or two of the bed the
Squire lay on the ground, on his face, and a deep stain on the carpet
at once showed that his death had been a violent one. Mark knelt by his
side now, and touched him. The body was stiff and cold. The Squire must
have been dead for some hours.

"Murdered!" he said in a low voice; "my father has been murdered."

He remained in horror struck silence for a minute or two; then he slowly
rose to his feet.

"Let us lay him on the bed," he said, and with the assistance of the
three men he lifted and laid him there.

"He has been stabbed," he murmured, pointing to a small cut in the
middle of the deep stain, just over the heart.

Ramoo, after helping to lift the Squire onto the bed, had slid down to
the floor, and crouched there, sobbing convulsively. The two servants
stood helpless and aghast. Mark looked round the room: the window was
open. He walked to it. A garden ladder stood outside, showing how the
assassin had obtained entrance. Mark stood rigid and silent, his hands
tightly clenched, his breath coming slowly and heavily. At last he
roused himself.

"Leave things just as they are," he said to the men in a tone of
unnatural calmness, "and fasten the door up again, and turn a table or
something of that sort against it on the outside so that no one can come
in. John, do you tell one of the grooms to saddle a horse and ride down
into the town. Let him tell the head constable to come up at once, and
also Dr. Holloway. Then he is to go on to Sir Charles Harris, tell him
what has happened, and beg him to ride over at once.

"Come, Ramoo," he said in a softer voice, "you can do no good here, poor
fellow, and the room must be closed. It is a heavy loss to you too."

The Hindoo rose slowly, the tears streaming down his face.

"He was a good master," he said, "and I loved him just as I loved the
Colonel, sahib. Ramoo would have given his life for him."

With his hand upon Ramoo's shoulder, Mark left the room; he passed a
group of women huddled together with blanched faces, at a short distance
down the passage, the news that the Squire's door could not be opened
and the sounds made by its being broken in having called them together.
Mark could not speak. He silently shook his head and passed on. As
he reached his room he heard shrieks and cries behind him, as the men
informed them of what had taken place. On reaching his door, the one
opposite opened, and Mrs. Cunningham in a dressing gown came out.

"What is the matter, Mark, and what are these cries about?"

"A dreadful thing has happened, Mrs. Cunningham; my father has been
murdered in the night. Please tell Millicent."

Then he closed the door behind him, threw himself on his bed, and burst
into a passion of tears. The Squire had been a good father to him, and
had made him his friend and companion--a treatment rare indeed at a time
when few sons would think of sitting down in their father's presence
until told to do so. Since he had left school, eight years before, they
had been very much together. For the last two or three years Mark had
been a good deal out, but in this his father had encouraged him.

"I like to see you make your own friends, Mark, and go your own way," he
used to say; "it is as bad for a lad to be tied to his father's coattail
as at his mother's apron string. Get fresh ideas and form your own
opinions. It will do for you what a public school would have done; make
you self reliant, and independent."

Still, of course, a great portion of his time had been with his father,
and they often would ride round the estate together and talk to the
tenants, or walk in the gardens and forcing houses. Generally Mark would
be driven by his father to the meet if it took place within reasonable
distance, his horse being sent on beforehand by a groom, while of an
evening they would sit in the library, smoke their long pipes, and talk
over politics or the American and French wars.

All this was over. There was but one thing now that he could do for his
father, and that was to revenge his death, and at the thought he rose
from his bed impatiently and paced up and down the room. He must wait
for a week, wait till the funeral was over, and then he would be on
Bastow's track. If all other plans failed he would spend his time in
coaches until at last the villain should try to stop one; but there must
be other ways. Could he find no other he would apply for employment as
a Bow Street runner, serve for a year to find out their methods, and
acquaint himself with the places where criminals were harbored. It would
be the one object of his life, until he succeeded in laying his hand on
Bastow's shoulder. He would not shoot him if he could help it. He should
prefer to see him in the dock, to hear the sentence passed on him, and
to see it carried out. As to the treasure, it was not worth a thought
till his first duty was discharged.

Presently a servant brought him a cup of tea. He drank it mechanically,
and then proceeded to dress himself. Sir Charles Harris would be here
soon and the others; indeed, he had scarcely finished when he was told
that the doctor from Reigate had just arrived, and that the constable
had come up half an hour before. He at once went down to the library,
into which the doctor had been shown.

"You have heard what has happened," he said, as he shook hands silently.
"I expect Sir Charles Harris here in half an hour. I suppose you will
not go up till then?"

"No, I think it will be best that no one should go in until he comes. I
have been speaking to Simeox; he was going in, but I told him I thought
it was better to wait. I may as well take the opportunity of going
upstairs to see Mr. Bastow. I hear that he fainted when he heard the
news, and that he is completely prostrate."

"Two such shocks might well prove fatal to him," Mark said; "he has been
weak and ailing for some time."

"Two shocks?" the doctor repeated interrogatively.

"Ah, I forgot you had not heard about the affair yesterday evening: a
man fired at us through the window when we were sitting round the fire,
before the candles were lit. The ball passed between my father's head
and Mr. Bastow's; both had a narrow escape; the bullet is imbedded in
the mantelpiece. I will have it cut out; it may be a useful item of
evidence some day."

"But what could have been the man's motive? Your father was universally
popular."

"Except with ill doers," Mark said. "I ran out and chased the fellow
for half a mile, and should have caught him if he had not had a horse
waiting for him in a lane, and he got off by the skin of his teeth. I
hope that next time I meet him he will not be so lucky. Mr. Bastow was
very much shaken, and went to bed soon afterwards. I am not surprised
that this second shock should be too much for him. Will you go up and
see him? I will speak to Simeox."

The constable was out in the garden.

"This is a terrible business, Mr. Thorndyke. I suppose, after what you
told me, you have your suspicions?"

"They are not suspicions at all--they are certainties. Did you hear that
he tried to shoot my father yesterday evening?"

"No, sir, I have heard nothing about it."

Mark repeated the story of the attempt and pursuit.

"Could you swear to him,' Mr. Thorndyke?"

"No, there was not much light left; besides, as I have not seen him for
the last eight years, I should certainly not be able to recognize him
unless I had time to have a good look at him. Had it only been last
night's affair it might have been anyone; but the shooting through the
window was not the act of a thief, but of an assassin, who could only
have been influenced by private enmity. I quite see that at present I
have no legal evidence against. Bastow; I am not even in a position to
prove that he is in the country, for it cannot be said that my father's
belief that he recognized the voice of the man who said 'Stand and
deliver!' is proof. I doubt if anyone could swear that, when he only
heard three words, he was absolutely sure that it was the voice of a man
he had not seen for some years. However, fortunately, that will make no
difference; the man is, as I told you, wanted for his heading the mutiny
in the convict prison at Sydney, which will be quite sufficient to hang
him without this business. But I own that I should prefer that he were
hung for my father's murder if we could secure sufficient evidence.
Moreover, there is the attack upon us three or four months ago, and with
the evidence of the surgeon who attended him as to his wound, that would
be enough to hang him. But we have first got to catch him, and that I
mean to make my business, however long the search may take me."

"Was anything taken last night, sir?"

"I don't know; I did not look. We shall see to that when we go upstairs.
We may as well go indoors now; Sir Charles may be here in a few minutes,
and I want to hear Dr. Holloway's report as to Mr. Bastow."

"He does not suspect, I hope, sir?"

"No, thank God; my father never mentioned to him anything he heard about
his son, or his suspicions, therefore he has no reason to believe that
the fellow is not still in the convict prison at Sydney. We shall keep
it from him now, whatever happens; but it would, for his sake, be best
that this shock should prove too much for him. He has had a very hard
time of it altogether."

"He is terribly prostrate," the doctor reported when Mark joined him. "I
don't think that he will get over it. He is scarcely conscious now. You
see, he is an old man, and has no reserve of strength to fall back upon.
Your father has been such a good friend to him that it is not surprising
the news should have been too much for him. I examined him at the
Squire's request some months ago as to his heart's action, which was so
weak that I told the Squire then that he might go off at any time, and I
rather wonder that he recovered even temporarily from the shock."

In a few minutes Sir Charles Harris drove up.

"This is terrible news, my dear Mark," he said, as he leaped from his
gig and wrung Mark's hand--"terrible. I don't know when I have had
such a shock; he was a noble fellow in all respects, a warm friend, an
excellent magistrate, a kind landlord, good all round. I can scarcely
believe it yet. A burglar, of course. I suppose he entered the house for
the purpose of robbery, when your father awoke and jumped out of bed,
there was a tussle, and the scoundrel killed him; at least, that is what
I gather from the story that the groom told me."

"That is near it, Sir Charles, but I firmly believe that robbery was not
the object, but murder; for murder was attempted yesterday evening," and
he informed the magistrate of the shot fired through the window.

"Bless me, you don't say so!" the magistrate exclaimed. "That alters
the case altogether, and certainly would seem to make the act one of
premeditated murder; and yet, surely, the Squire could not have had an
enemy. Some of the men whom we have sentenced may have felt a grudge
against him, but surely not sufficient to lead them to a crime like
this."

"I will talk of it with you afterwards, Sir Charles. I have the very
strongest suspicions, although no absolute proofs. Now, will you first
come upstairs? Doctor Holloway is here and Simeox, but no one has
entered the room since I left it; I thought it better that it should be
left undisturbed until you came."

"Quite so; we will go up at once."

An examination of the room showed nothing whatever that would afford the
slightest clew. The Squire's watch was still in the watch pocket at the
head of the bed, his purse was on a small table beside him; apparently
nothing had been touched in the room.

"If robbery was the object," Sir Charles said gravely, "it has evidently
not been carried out, and it is probable that Mr. Thorndyke was partly
woke by the opening of the window, and that he was not thoroughly
aroused until the man was close to his bed; then he leapt out and seized
him. Probably the stab was, as Dr. Holloway assures us, instantly fatal,
and he may have fallen so heavily that the man, fearing that the house
would be alarmed at the sound, at once fled, without even waiting to
snatch up the purse. The whole thing is so clear that it is scarcely
necessary to ask any further questions. Of course, there must be an
inquest tomorrow. I should like when I go down to ask the gardener
where he left the ladder yesterday. Have you examined the ground for
footmarks?"

"Yes, Sir Charles, but you see it was a pretty hard frost last night,
and I cannot find any marks at all. The ground must have been like iron
about the time when the ladder was placed there."

The gardener, on being called in, said that the ladder was always hung
up outside the shed at the back of the house; there was a chain round
it, and he had found that morning that one of the links had been filed
through.

"The Squire was most particular about its being locked, as Mr. Mark
knows, so that it could not be used by any ill disposed chaps who might
come along at night. The key of the padlock was always hung on a nail
round the other side of the shed. The Squire knew of it, and so did Mr.
Mark and me; so that while it was out of the way of the eyes of a thief,
any of us could run and get it and undo the padlock in a minute in case
of fire or anything of that sort. I have not used the ladder, maybe,
for a fortnight, but I know that it was hanging in its place yesterday
afternoon."

"I expect the fellow was prowling about here for some time," Mark said.
"I was chatting with my father in the library when I thought I heard a
noise, and I threw open the window, which had by some carelessness been
left a little open, and went out, and listened for nearly an hour, but I
could hear nothing, and put it down to the fact that I was nervous owing
to what had happened early in the evening, and that the noise was simply
fancy, or that the frost had caused a dry branch of one of the shrubs to
crack."

"How was it you did not notice the window was open as you went in?"

"The curtains were drawn, sir. I glanced at that when I went into the
room with my father. After being shot at once from outside, it was
possible that we might be again; though I own that I did not for a
moment think that the fellow would return after the hot chase that
I gave him. I suppose after I went in he looked about and found the
ladder; it is likely enough that he would have had a file with him in
case he had any bars to cut through to get into the house, but to my
mind it is more likely that he knew where to find the ladder without any
looking for it; it has hung there as long as I can remember."

"Yes, sir," the gardener said, "I have worked for the Squire ever since
he came here, and the ladder was bought a week or two after he took me
on, and the Squire settled where it should be hung, so that it might be
handy either in case of fire or if wanted for a painting job. This aint
the first ladder; we got a new one four years ago."

"It is singular that the man should have known which was the window of
your father's room."

"Very singular," Mark said.

Shortly after the doctor left, and Mark had a long talk with the
magistrate in the library, and told him his reasons for suspecting that
the murderer was Arthur Bastow.

"It certainly looks like it," the magistrate said thoughtfully, after
he had heard Mark's story, "though of course it is only a case of strong
suspicion, and not of legal proof. Your father's recognition of the
voice could have scarcely been accepted as final when he heard but three
words, still the whole thing hangs together. The fellow was, I should
say, capable of anything. I don't know that I ever had a prisoner before
me whose demeanor was so offensive and insolent, and if it can be proved
that Bastow is in England I should certainly accept your view of the
case. He would probably have known both where the ladder was to be found
and which was the window of your father's bedroom."

"I should certainly think that he would know it, sir. The bedroom was
the same that my grandfather used to sleep in, and probably during the
years before we came here young Bastow would have often been over the
house. The first year or two after we came he was often up here with
his father, but I know that my father took such an objection to him, his
manner and language were so offensive, that he would not have me, boy as
I was--I was only about eleven when he came here--associate with him in
the smallest degree. But during those two years he may very well have
noticed where the ladder was."

"Do you intend to say anything about all this tomorrow at the inquest,
Mark?"

"I don't think I shall do so," Mark said moodily. "I am certain of it
myself, but I don't think any man would convict him without stronger
evidence than I could give. However, that business in Australia will be
sufficient to hang him."

"I think you are right, Mark. Of course, if you do light upon any
evidence, we can bring this matter up in another court; if not, there
will be no occasion for you to appear in it at all, but leave it
altogether for the authorities to prove the Sydney case against him;
it will only be necessary for the constables who got up the other case
against him to prove his sentence, and for the reports of the Governor
of the jail to be read. There will be no getting over that, and he
will be hung as a matter of course. It will be a terrible thing for his
unhappy father."

"I do not think that he is likely to come to know it, sir; the shock of
the affair yesterday and that of this morning have completely prostrated
him, and Dr. Holloway, who was up with him before you arrived, thinks
that there is very little chance of his recovery."

When the magistrate had left, Mark sent a request to Mrs. Cunningham
that she would come down for a few minutes. She joined him in the
drawing room.

"Thank you for coming down," he said quietly. "I wanted to ask how you
were, and how Millicent is."

"She is terribly upset. You see, the Squire was the only father she had
ever known; and had he been really so he could not have been kinder. It
is a grievous loss to me also, after ten years of happiness here; but
I have had but little time to think of my own loss yet, I have been too
occupied in soothing the poor girl. How are you feeling yourself, Mark?"

"I don't understand myself," he said. "I don't think that anyone could
have loved his father better than I have done; but since I broke down
when I first went to my room I seem to have no inclination to give way
to sorrow. I feel frozen up; my voice does not sound to me as if it were
my own; I am able to discuss matters as calmly as if I were speaking of
a stranger. The one thing that I feel passionately anxious about is to
set out on the track of the assassin."

"There is nothing unusual in your state of feeling, Mark. Such a thing
as this is like a wound in battle; the shock is so great that for a time
it numbs all pain. I have heard my husband say that a soldier who has
had his arm carried off by a cannon ball will fall from the shock, and
when he recovers consciousness will be ignorant where he has been hit.
It is so with you; probably the sense of pain and loss will increase
every day as you take it in more and more. As for what you say about the
murderer, it will undoubtedly be a good thing for you to have something
to employ your thoughts and engage all your faculties as soon as this is
all over. Is there anything that I can do?"

"No, thank you; the inquest will be held tomorrow. I have sent down to
Chatterton to come up this afternoon to make the necessary preparations
for the funeral. Let me see, today is Wednesday, is it not? I seem to
have lost all account of the time."

"Yes, Wednesday."

"Then I suppose the funeral will be on Monday or Tuesday. If there is
any message that you want sent down to the town, one of the grooms will
carry it whenever you wish."

"Thank you; 'tis not worth sending particularly, any time will do, but
I shall want to send a note to Mrs. Wilson presently, asking her to come
up the first thing tomorrow morning."

"He can take it whenever, you like, Mrs. Cunningham. I have nothing
to send down for, as far as I know. I suppose you have heard that the
doctor thinks very badly of Mr. Bastow?"

"Yes. Ramoo is sitting with him now."

"Then I think, if you will write your note at once, Mrs. Cunningham, I
will send one down to Dr. Holloway, asking him to send an experienced
nurse. He said he should call again this afternoon, but the sooner a
nurse comes the better."

That afternoon Mark wrote a letter to the family solicitors, telling
them of what had taken place, and stating that the funeral would be on
the following Tuesday, and asking them to send down a clerk with his
father's will, or if one of the partners could manage to come down,
he should greatly prefer it, in view of the explanations that would be
necessary. He had already sent off a letter to the head of the Detective
Department, asking him to send down one of his best men as soon as
possible. Then he went out into the garden, and walked backwards and
forwards for about two hours, and then returned to what he thought
would be a solitary meal. Mrs. Cunningham, however, came down. She had
thoughtfully had the large dining table pushed on one side, and a small
one placed near the fire.

"I thought it would be more comfortable," she said, "as there are only
our two selves, just to sit here."

He thanked her with a look. It was a nice little dinner, and Mark, to
his surprise, ate it with an appetite. Except the cup of tea that he
had taken in the morning, and a glass of wine at midday, he had touched
nothing. Mrs. Cunningham was a woman of great tact, and by making him
talk of the steps that he intended to take to hunt down the assassin,
kept him from thinking.

"Thank you very much, Mrs. Cunningham," he said, when the dinner was
over. "I feel very much better."

"I have brought down my work," she said, "and will sit here while you
drink your wine and smoke a pipe. Millicent has gone to bed, completely
worn out, and it will be pleasanter for us both to sit here than to be
alone."

Mark gladly agreed to the proposal. She turned the conversation now to
India, and talked of her life there.

"I was not out there very long," she said. "I was engaged to my husband
when he first went out, and six years afterwards joined him there, and
we were married. Your uncle, who was a major of his regiment, gave me
away. My husband got his company six months afterwards, and was killed
three years later. My pension as his widow was not a large one, and
when your uncle offered me the charge of his daughter I was very glad to
accept it. He gave some idea of his plans for her. I thought they were
very foolish, but when I saw that his mind was thoroughly made up I did
not attempt to dissuade him. He said that when he came home to England
(and he had no idea when that would be) he should have me here, as head
of his establishment, and it would be given out that the child was his
ward. I hoped that he would alter his mind later on, but, as you know,
he never did."

"Well, of course, she will have to be told now," Mark said.

"Do you think so? It seems to me that it were better that she would go
as she is, at any rate, until she is twenty-one."

"That would be quite impossible," Mark said decidedly. "How could I
assume the position of master here? And even if I could, it would be a
strange thing indeed for me to be here with a girl the age of my cousin,
even with you as chaperon. You must see yourself that it would be quite
impossible."

"But how could she live here by herself?"

"I don't think she could live here by herself," Mark said, "especially
after what has happened. Of course, it has all got to be talked over,
but my idea is that the place had better be shut up, and that you should
take, in your own name, a house in London. I suppose she will want
masters for the harp, and so on. For a time, at any rate, that would be
the best plan, unless you would prefer some other place to London. We
have done our best to carry out my uncle's wishes, but circumstances
have been too strong for us, and it cannot be kept up any longer; but
there is no reason, if you and she prefer it, why she should not be
known, until you return here, by her present name. Of course the affair
will create a great deal of talk down here, but in London no one will
know that Millicent is an heiress, though it is hardly likely that you
will make many acquaintances for a time."

"Have you known it long, Mark? I thought that you were kept in ignorance
of it."

"I only heard it yesterday evening, Mrs. Cunningham; after that shot
through the window my father thought I ought to know all about it, for
the attempt might be repeated more successfully. He told me all about
her, and about the treasure."

"What treasure?" Mrs. Cunningham said. "I don't know what you mean."

He then told her of the story his uncle had related, and how he had been
prevented from giving full instructions for its discovery, the only clew
being a gold coin and the word Masulipatam, and that this treasure had
been left equally divided between him and Millicent by his will.

"He told me that he should provide for you," Mrs. Cunningham remarked,
"when I said that it would be unfair that you should be brought up
believing yourself the heir. I never heard any more about it, but I am
glad that it is so."

"I fancy the chance of its coming to either of us is very small," Mark
said; "a coin and a word are not much to go upon. I have not the most
remote idea what they mean, and whether the treasure is in England or in
India, Heaven only knows."

"Possibly, when he made the will, he may have told the solicitors
where it was, and instructed them to keep it secret until the time that
Millicent came into possession of the estate."

"It is just possible he did so, Mrs. Cunningham, but the efforts he made
to speak at the last moment would almost seem to show that he had
not told them, for, if he had, the matter would have been of no vital
importance one way or the other. Will Millicent be well enough to come
down in the morning?"

"I hope so."

"I hope so, too; but, at any rate, keep her up in her room till the
afternoon. The inquest will be at eleven o'clock, and it is better that
she should not come down until everyone has gone away."



CHAPTER IX.


Directly after breakfast was over the next morning the Rector came in.

"I would not come in yesterday, Mark," he said. "I knew that you would
be best alone; and, indeed, I was myself so terribly upset by the news
that I did not feel equal to it. I need not say how deeply I and my wife
sympathize with you. Never did a kinder heart beat than your father's;
never have I seen people so universally grieved as they are in the
village. I doubt whether a man went to work yesterday, and as for
the women, had it been a father they had lost they could not be more
affected."

"Yes, he will be greatly missed," Mark said unsteadily; "and, between
ourselves--but this must go no further--I have a suspicion, amounting
almost to a certainty, that the hand that dealt this blow is the same
that caused the vacancy that brought you here."

"Do you mean Arthur Bastow?" Mr. Greg said in amazement. "Why, I thought
that he was transported for fifteen years."

Then Mark told the Rector the inner history of the past six months,
and of the report they had had from the officer at Bow Street of the
personal appearance of the wounded man.

"Other things are in favor of it," he went on. "My father's watch and
purse were untouched, and a stranger on a dark night would be hardly
likely to have discovered the ladder, or to have had a file in his
pocket with which to cut through a link, though this might have been
part of the apparatus of any burglar. Then, again, an ordinary man would
hardly have known which was my father's bedroom, except, indeed, that he
saw the light there after those in the ladies' rooms were extinguished;
but, at any rate, he could not have told which was my father's and which
was mine. But all this is, as I said, Mr. Greg, quite between ourselves.
I had a long talk yesterday with Sir Charles Harris, and, as he said,
there is no legal proof whatever, strong as the suspicion is; so I am
going to say nothing on the subject at the inquest. The scoundrel's poor
father is dying, happily in ignorance of all this. Dr. Holloway was up
with him all night, and told me this morning before he drove off that it
is very unlikely that he will get through the day."

"It is all very terrible, Mark; but I cannot deny that everything points
to the man. Surely no one else could have cut short so useful a life,
for certainly no ordinary degree of hatred would drive a man, however
brutal his nature, to commit such a crime, and to run the risk of
hanging for it. Let us take a brisk walk in the garden for an hour--that
will be the best thing for you. I will stop with you until the inquest
is over, and then you had better come over and have lunch with us."

"Thank you; I cannot do so," Mark said, "though I should like to. In the
first place, Millicent will come downstairs this afternoon, and I should
like to be in to meet her. Had it not been for that I might have come,
as I can walk across the fields to the Rectory without passing through
the village. There is another reason. I sent up yesterday by the coach
a letter to be delivered at once by hand, and I expect a detective down
here by one o'clock. I don't know that he will do any good; but at
the same time it will give me something to do, and at present there is
nothing I dread so much as sitting alone. Fortunately, yesterday evening
Millicent went to bed at five o'clock, and Mrs. Cunningham sat with me
all the evening, and her talk did me a great deal of good."

The inquest occupied a very short time, the only point on which many
questions were asked being as to the firing through the window. Mark
stated that it was already so dark that although he was within fifty
yards of the man when he mounted and rode off, he could not give any
very distinct description of his figure. It struck him as being that of
a man of medium height.

"You have made out that the bullet was intended for pour father?"

"I cannot say that, sir, it went between his head and that of Mr.
Bastow, but it might have been meant for either."

"Was your father impressed with the idea that it was an attempt to
murder him?"

"He naturally thought so. Mr. Bastow can assuredly have no enemies,
while my father, as a magistrate, may have made some. He certainly
thought it was an attempt to murder him, and was so impressed by the
fact that when we went to the library later on he went into certain
family matters with me that he had never communicated before, and which,
had it not been for this, he would not have entered into for some years
to come."

"He had his opinion, then, as to who was his assailant?"

"He had, sir, but as it was but an opinion, although there were
several facts that seemed to justify the conviction, there was no proof
whatever, and therefore I do not think myself justified in saying what
that opinion was."

"Do you entertain the same opinion yourself?"

"I do," Mark said emphatically; "but until I can obtain some evidence in
support of what is really but a matter of opinion, and because, were I
to give the name, it would lessen my chance of obtaining such evidence,
I decline to mention the name."

"You have no doubt that the author of the second attempt is the same as
that of the first?"

"Personally, I have no doubt whatever; it stands to reason that it is
barely possible that two men could have, unknown to each other, made up
their minds to murder my father on the same evening."

The constable's evidence added nothing to that given by Mark. He had
been down to the lane where the man pursued had mounted. The reins of
the horse had apparently been thrown over a gatepost, and he thought it
had been standing there for some little time, for there were marks where
it had scraped the ground repeatedly. He had followed the marks of its
hoofs for some distance; it had gone at a gallop for about half a mile,
and then the pace had slackened into a trot. It continued until the
lane fell into the main road, but beyond this he had been unable to
distinguish it from the marks of the traffic in general.

"You found no footprints whatever near the foot of the ladder, or
anywhere else round the house?"

"None whatever, sir."

"There were no signs of any other window or door save that of Mr.
Thorndyke's room being attempted?"

"None at all, sir."

There was but a short consultation between the jurors, who at once
returned a verdict of "Willful murder by some person or persons
unknown."

Dr. Holloway had, after giving evidence, returned at once to Mr.
Bastow's room. The only point of importance in his evidence was the
statement that the wound must have been fatal at once, the heart itself
having been penetrated. It had been inflicted by a dagger or a narrow
bladed knife.

"Do you mean that it was an unusually small dagger, Dr. Holloway?"

"I should say it was a very fine dagger; not the sort of weapon that you
would expect to find a highwayman carry, if he carried one at all, but
rather a weapon of Spanish or Italian manufacture."

"Not the sort of wound that a rapier would make?"

"Yes, the wound itself might have been very well made by a light rapier,
but there was a slight bruise on the flesh on each side of the wound,
such a mark as might be made by the handle or guard of a dagger, and
sufficiently plain to leave no doubt in my mind that it was so made."

"Had the wound a downward course, or was it a straight thrust?"

"A straight thrust," the doctor replied. "My idea is that the two men
were grappling together, and that as Mr. Thorndyke was a very powerful
man, his assailant, who probably was approaching the bed with the
dagger in his hand, plunged it into him; had he struck at him I should
certainly have expected the course of the wound to be downward, as I
fancy a man very seldom thrusts straight with a dagger, as he would do
with a rapier."

When the inquest was over, Mark, going out into the hall, found the
doctor waiting there for him.

"Mr. Bastow breathed his last some ten minutes ago. I saw when I went up
to him just before I gave my evidence that it was likely that he would
die before I returned to the room."

"I am very sorry," Mark said, "although I expected nothing else from
what you told me: He was a very kind hearted man; no one could have
had a kinder or more patient tutor than he was to me, while my father
regarded him as a very dear and valued friend. I am expecting the
undertaker here in a few minutes, and they can both be buried at the
same time."

It was late in the afternoon before Millicent came down with Mrs.
Cunningham. The news of Mr. Bastow's death had set her tears flowing
afresh; she had been very fond of him, and that he and the Squire should
have been taken at once seemed almost beyond belief. She had, however,
nerved herself to some degree of composure before she went down to meet
Mark; but although she returned the pressure of his hand, she was unable
for some time to speak. Mrs. Cunningham thought it best to speak first
on the minor grief.

"So Mr. Bastow has gone, Mark?"

"Yes, Dr. Holloway thought very badly of him yesterday, and said that he
had but very faint hope of his rallying. I cannot help thinking that it
was best so. Of course, he was not a very old man, but he has for some
years been a very feeble one, and now that Millicent and I have both
given up our studies with him, I think that he would have felt that his
work was done, and would have gone downhill very fast."

"I think so, too," Mrs. Cunningham agreed. "I am sure that even had the
Squire's death come quietly, in the course of nature, it would have
been a terrible blow to him. He was fond of you and Millicent, but his
affection for your father was a passion; his face always lit up when he
spoke to him. I used to think sometimes that it was like an old dog with
his master. It was quite touching to see them together. I think, Mark,
with you, that it is best that it should be as it is."

Gradually the conversation turned to other matters. Millicent was,
however, unable to take any part in it, and half an hour later she held
out her hand silently to Mark and left the room hurriedly. The next day
she was better, and was able to walk for a time with Mark in the garden
and talk more calmly about their mutual loss, for to her, no less than
to Mark, the Squire had been a father.

"'Tis strange to think that you are the Squire now, Mark," she said as
they sat together in the dining room on the evening before the funeral.

"You will think it stranger still, Millicent," he said, "when I tell you
that I am not the Squire, and never shall be."

She looked up in his face with wonder.

"What do you mean, Mark?"

"Well, dear, you will know tomorrow, as Mr. Prendergast, one of the
family solicitors, is coming down; but I think it is as well to tell you
beforehand. It has been a curious position all along. I never knew it
myself till my father told me when we went into the library after
the shot was fired. The news did not affect me one way or the other,
although it surprised me a great deal. Like yourself, I have always
supposed that you were my father's ward, the daughter of an old comrade
of his brother's. Well, it is a curious story, Millicent. But there is
no occasion for you to look frightened. The fact is you are my uncle's
daughter and my cousin."

"Oh, that is not very dreadful!" she exclaimed in a tone of relief.

"Not dreadful at all," Mark said. "But you see it involves the fact that
you are mistress of this estate, and not I."

Millicent stood up suddenly with a little cry. "No, no, Mark, it cannot
be! It would be dreadful, and I won't have it. Nothing could make me
have it. What, to take the estate away from you when you have all along
supposed it to be yours! How could I?"

"But you see it never has been mine, my dear. Father might have lived
another five-and-twenty years, and God knows I have never looked forward
to succeeding him. Sit down and let me tell you the story. It was not my
father's fault that he reigned here so long as master, it was the result
of a whim of your father's. And although my father fought against it, he
could not resist the dying prayer of my uncle."

He then related the whole circumstances under which the girl had been
brought up as Millicent Conyers, instead of Millicent Conyers Thorndyke,
and how the estate had been left by Colonel Thorndyke's will to his
brother until such time as Millicent should come of age, or marry,
and how he had ordered that when that event took place the rest of his
property in money and jewels was to be divided equally between Mark and
herself.

"It must not be, Mark," she said firmly. "You must take the estate, and
we can divide the rest between us. What is the rest?"

"To begin with," Mark said cheerfully, "there are 25,000 pounds,
the accumulations of the rents of the estate after the death of my
grandfather up to the time when the Colonel returned from India; and
there are, besides, a few thousands, though I don't exactly know how
many, that my father paid over to the solicitors as the surplus of the
rents of the estates after paying all expenses of keeping up this house.
He very properly considered that although he had accepted the situation
at your father's earnest wish, he ought not to make money by doing so.
If we put it down at 30,000 pounds altogether, you see there is 15,000
pounds for each of us. A very nice sum for a young man to start life
with, especially as I shall have my father's estate near Hastings,
which brings in 500 pounds a year; and as the rents of this have been
accumulating for the last ten years, my share will be raised from 15,000
pounds to 20,000 pounds. Besides this, there is the main bulk of the
Colonel's fortune made in India. That seems to be worth about 100,000
pounds but I must own that the chance of getting it seems very small."

"How is that, Mark?"

Mark told her the whole story.

"I mean to make it my business to follow the matter up," he said. "I
think that the chance of ever finding it is very small. Still, it will
give me an object to begin life with."

"Oh, I hope that you will never find it!" she exclaimed. "From what you
say it will be a terrible danger if you do get it."

Mark smiled.

"I hardly think so, Millicent. I cannot believe that people would be
following up this thing for over fifteen years, for it was many years
before the Colonel came home that he got possession of these diamonds.
Even Hindoos would, I think, have got sick of such a hopeless affair
long before this; but as they may ever since your father's death have
been watching us, although it hardly seems possible, I shall follow out
the Colonel's instructions, and get rid of those particular diamonds
at once. I shall only keep them about me long enough to take them to
Amsterdam and sell them there. The Colonel said they were the finest
diamonds that he ever saw, and that he really had no idea of what they
were worth. However, that is for the future."

"Mrs. Cunningham has known this all along, Mark?"

"Not about the money affairs, but of course she knew that you were my
cousin. She brought you from India, you see, and has known all
along that the Colonel was your father. She knows it, and the family
solicitors know it, but I believe no one else, except, perhaps, Ramoo. I
am not sure whether he was in uncle's service when you were sent over in
Mrs. Cunningham's charge. He may know it or he may not, but certainly
no one else does, except, as I say, the solicitors and myself. Possibly
some other of the Colonel's old comrades knew that there was a child
born; but if they were in England and happened to hear that my father
had succeeded to the estate, they would, of course, suppose that the
child had died."

"Then," Millicent said, in a tone of relief, "there can be no reason why
anyone else should know anything about it. I will see Mr. Prendergast
when he comes down tomorrow, and beg him to say nothing about it;
15,000 pounds is quite enough for any girl; and besides, you say that my
father's greatest wish was that I was not to be married for money, and
after all the pains that have been taken, his wish will not be carried
out if I am to be made owner of the estate."

"You won't be able to persuade Mr. Prendergast to do that," Mark said,
smiling. "It is his duty simply to carry out the provisions of your
father's will, and to place you in possession of the estate; and if he
would keep silence, which he certainly won't, you don't suppose that I
would."

"Then I shall hate you, Mark."

"I don't think you will, Millicent, and I would rather that you did that
than that you should despise me. At the present moment you may think
that this estate would be only a burden to you, but some day when you
marry you might see the matter in a different light."

The girl looked at him reproachfully.

"I should never think so!" she burst out. "What would you have me do?
Live here in this great house, with only Mrs. Cunningham, while you are
going about the world seeking for this treasure? Never!"

"No, I don't think that it would be nice for you to do that, Millicent,"
Mark said. "Mrs. Cunningham and I have been talking it over. We thought
that the best plan would be for her to take a house in London, and go
there with you; you would have the advantages of good masters.

"Then you were saying only a short time since that you would like to
learn the harp and take lessons in painting. There would be time enough
to think about what you would do with respect to this house afterward."

"It is all horrible," Millicent said, bursting into tears, "and I shall
always feel that I have robbed you."

"But I don't feel so in the least," Mark urged. "I was not in the
smallest degree put out when my father told me about it. I have always
had a fancy for wandering about the world, as my uncle did, and doing
something to distinguish myself, instead of settling down for life to be
a country magistrate and a squire. Of course it came as a surprise, but
I can assure you that it was not an altogether unpleasant one. What
can a man want more than a nice little estate of 500 pounds a year and
20,000 pounds in money?"

"It is all very well to say that, but as you said to me just now, you
may see it in a different light some day."

Then she sat thinking for some time. "At any rate," she went on at last,
"I don't see why anyone should know about it now. If the house is to be
shut up and you are going away, why need anyone know anything about it?
My father's wish was that I should not have people making love to me
just because I was an heiress; after all that has been done, it would be
wicked to go against his wishes. I suppose the interest of this 15,000
pounds would be enough for Mrs. Cunningham and I to live comfortably on
in London?"

"Yes," Mark said; "it will, at 5 per cent, bring in 750 pounds a year."

"Then I shall remain Millicent Conyers to the world. There is nothing to
prevent that, is there?" she said almost defiantly.

"No," he replied thoughtfully. "The rents of this estate might
accumulate. I suppose the solicitors would see after that; and as I
shall be away it will, of course, make no difference to me. Were I to
stay in the neighborhood I could not consent to live as my father did,
in a false position; but even then I might give out that the property
had only been left to my father during his lifetime, and that it had now
gone elsewhere, without saying whom it had gone to. However, as I shall
be away there will be no occasion even for that. When the will is read
there will be no one present but ourselves, and I don't see why its
contents should not be kept a secret for a time; at any rate, we can ask
Mr. Prendergast's opinion upon that subject."

At this moment, Mrs. Cunningham coming into the room, Millicent ran to
her and threw her arms round her neck.

"He has made me most miserable," she said. "I thought I could not have
been more miserable than I was before he told me all about it."

"I knew that he was going to do so, and I was quite sure that you would
not be pleased at the news. I have all along thought that it was a
mistake on the part of your father; but as it was his decision, and not
mine, I only had to carry out his wishes."

"It is cruel," Millicent sobbed. "I don't mean it is cruel of my father;
of course he could not have known, and he thought he was doing the best
thing for my happiness, but it has all turned out wrong."

"For the present you may think so, dear; but you must remember that up
to the present time it has turned out well. I know that your uncle did
not like it at first, but I think that he passed ten happy years here.
It gave him a great power for doing good, and he worthily availed
himself of it. We have all spent a happy time; he was universally liked
and respected. I think all of us have benefited by it. It would not have
been half as pleasant if it had been known that you, my child, were the
real owner of the estate, and he was acting merely as your guardian.
Let us hope that everything will turn out as well in future. Colonel
Thorndyke told me that he had left a considerable sum in addition to the
estates, and that this was to be divided between you and Mark; so you
see your cousin will not go out into the world a beggar."

"It is most of it lost," Millicent said with an hysterical laugh. "It
is all hidden away, and no one can find it; everything has gone wrong
together."

"Well, I think, dear, that you had better go up to bed. I will go
with you. At the present time this, of course, has come upon you as an
additional shock. I would gladly have shielded you from it for a time if
I could have done so, but you must have learned it tomorrow, and I quite
agree with Mark that is was better that he should tell you this evening.
I sent down to the town today to the doctor's and asked him to send me
up a soothing draught, thinking that you might be upset by the news. I
hope by the morning you will be able to look at matters more calmly."

Some time later Mrs. Cunningham came down again.

"She has cried herself to sleep," she said. "She is much grieved about
this money being lost."

"It is annoying; still I cannot help thinking that the Colonel must have
taken some such precaution to prevent the treasure from being lost."

"One would certainly think so," Mrs. Cunningham agreed; "the Colonel
seemed to me a methodical man. I know that he had the reputation of
being one of the most particular men in the service as to all petty
details. His instructions to me before I left him were all very minute,
and he gave me a sealed packet which he told me contained instructions
and a copy of the register of his marriage and of Millicent's birth, and
he said that in case of his death I was to take it to your father. He
said that there was a letter inclosed in it to him, and also a copy
of his will. The letter was directed to your father, and not to me.
I handed it over to him when he asked me to come here. He told me
afterwards that the letter contained the request that his brother lived
to make personally to him--that the child should be brought up as his
ward; and that he had handed the certificates to a lawyer, who had,
however, received copies of them from the Colonel himself before he went
down to see your father. So, as he took these precautions to insure
his wishes being carried out in the event of his sudden death, I should
think that he must have done something of the sort with regard to this
treasure."

"I should think that extremely likely, Mrs. Cunningham. I certainly had
not thought of that before, and I hope that for Millicent's sake and my
own it may turn out to be so. I can get on extremely well without
it, but at the same time I don't pretend that 50,000 pounds are to be
despised."

The next morning Mr. Prendergast, who had arrived at Reigate late the
evening before, and had put up at an inn, came up to the house an hour
before the time named for the funeral. He learned from Mark that he had
already acquainted Millicent with her change of circumstances. A few
minutes after he arrived, a servant told him that Miss Conyers would be
glad if he would see her alone for a few minutes in the drawing room.
Mark had already prepared him for her request.

"Mark has told you that he told me about this hateful thing last night,
I suppose, Mr. Prendergast?"

"He has," the old lawyer said kindly; "and he tells me also that you are
not at all pleased at the news."

"Pleased! I should think not, Mr. Prendergast," she said indignantly. "I
am not going to rob my cousin of what he has always been taught to think
as his inheritance. It is abominable, I call it, and most unnatural."

"But, my dear young lady, it is yours, and not his. I do not wish to
discuss whether the arrangement was altogether a wise one, but I think
that so far it has turned out well for all parties. Your estate has
profited greatly by the management of your uncle, the tenants and all
connected with it have benefited greatly, he himself has had active
employment afforded him, of which he was fond. Your cousin has,
I believe, enjoyed the advantages of the position, and has become
acquainted with the best people in this part of the country, and will
now obtain the benefit of something like 15,000 pounds--a comfortable
little sum, especially as he inherits, I believe, his father's property
in Sussex. You yourself will have obtained what I cannot but consider
the advantage of having been brought up without knowing that you were an
heiress, and therefore without being spoiled, which is, in my opinion,
the case with many young ladies in such a condition; therefore I cannot
but think that, if unwise in its conception, the matter has so far
worked out well. I am bound to say that Mr. Mark Thorndyke has been
speaking to me very handsomely on the subject, and that he appears in no
way disappointed at finding that you are the heiress of the estate, and
is really concerned only at your unwillingness to accept the situation."

"I wanted to know, Mr. Prendergast," she said, but in a tone that showed
she was convinced by his manner that her request would be refused, "if
you could arrange so that things would not be disturbed, and he should
come into possession as his father's heir in the natural way."

"But you see he is not his father's heir, Miss Thorndyke. His father
only had the use, as we call it, of the property until you came of age,
or marriage; it was not necessary for it to come to you on your coming
of age, but only, as your father explained to me, in the event of your
marriage; that is to say, it was not to become public that you were
entitled to the estate until your marriage. If you married before you
were twenty-one the property was then to come to you. If you did not
your were to be informed of the circumstances or not, as Mr. Thorndyke
might decide was best, but you were not to come into the property until
you married. Your cousin was also to be informed when you came to the
age of twenty-one, and as at that time he was to take his half share of
the remainder of the property, he would then be able to arrange his life
as he liked. If your uncle died, as unfortunately he has done, before
you reached the age of twenty-one, you would then be placed in your
proper position; but your father desired us to say to you that it was
his wish, that if it could be arranged, your having succeeded to the
ownership should not be publicly known until you divulged it to your
husband after marriage. The other portions of the will must be carried
out. This being only a request, you are at liberty to follow it or not
as you may choose."

"Certainly I should choose," the girl said. "After all this trouble to
prevent my being run after as an heiress, it would be wicked to upset
it all and to fly in the face of his wishes by setting up as mistress of
this estate. Still you understand, Mr. Prendergast, that I don't mean to
take it."

The lawyer smiled indulgently. "There is one way in which it might be
managed," he said. "Perhaps you can guess what it is?"

A flush of color rose over the girl's face. "Don't say it, I beg of you,
Mr. Prendergast. Mrs. Cunningham hinted at it this morning, and I told
her that my own wish entirely agreed with that of my father, and that
I was determined not to be married for money; and I am quite sure that
Mark would be as unwilling as I am that the estate should change hands
in that way. No, Mr. Prendergast, you must find some other way of doing
it than that. Surely an estate cannot be forced upon anyone who is
determined not to take it."

"Well, we must think it over," Mr. Prendergast said quietly. "And now I
think that it is time for me to join the others."



CHAPTER X.


The funeral of Squire Thorndyke and Mr. Bastow was over, and all
agreed they had never seen a more affecting spectacle than that at the
churchyard when the two coffins were brought in. The distance was short,
and the tenants had requested leave to carry the Squire's bier, while
that of Mr. Bastow was borne by the villagers who had known and loved
him. Behind followed all the magistrates and a great number of the
gentry for miles round; the churchyard was crowded by every man, woman,
and child in the village, and the women, as well as many of the men,
wept unrestrainedly as the coffins passed by. Besides these, a large
number of people from Reigate and the surrounding villages were present,
attracted rather by the crime that had caused the death than by the
loss of the Squire himself. The church was crowded, and it was with
difficulty that Mr. Greg read the service. The Squire was laid by
the side of his father, Mr. Bastow in the spot where many of his
predecessors had slept before him.

Mark had been greatly affected, not only by his own loss, but by the
sight of the general grief among those for whom the Squire had done so
much. Even Mr. Prendergast, who had taken part in many such functions
over departed clients, was much moved by the scene.

"I have been at many funerals," he said to Mark as they walked back to
the Hall, "but I never have been at one that so affected me. No monument
ever raised, sir, did such credit to him who was laid beneath it as the
tears of those simple villagers."

Mark did not reply; his heart was altogether too full to speak. As they
entered the house he said, "The ladies will have their lunch upstairs,
Mr. Prendergast; we may as well have ours at once, and then you can call
them down if there is any business to be done."

"That will not take long," the lawyer said. "I have brought down the
wills of both your uncle the Colonel, and your father, and I think that
it would be as well for me to read them both. That of your father is
a very short and simple document, extending, indeed, only over a few
lines. Your uncle's is longer and more complicated, but as you are well
aware of the gist of it, it will take us but a short time to get through
it."

Mark took his meal in a perfunctory manner. For himself he would have
eaten nothing, but he made an effort to do so in order to keep his guest
company. When it was over he said:

"We may as well go into the library at once, and I will send up for the
ladies. It is as well to lose no time, for I know that you want to catch
the afternoon coach up to town."

Mrs. Cunningham and Millicent joined them in a minute or two, the girl
looking very pale in her deep mourning.

"I am about," Mr. Prendergast said quietly, "to read the wills of
Colonel Thorndyke and Mr. John Thorndyke, and I will ask you, if there
is any phrase that you do not understand, to stop me, and I will explain
to you its purport."

The three persons present were acquainted with the main provisions of
the Colonel's will. It began by stating that, being determined that his
daughter, Millicent Conyers Thorndyke, should not be married for her
money, he hereby bequeathed to his brother, John Thorndyke, his estate
in the parish of Crowswood, to be held by him until his daughter
Millicent came to the age of twenty-one, or was married; if that
marriage did not take place until she was over the age of twenty-one, so
long was it to continue in John Thorndyke's possession, save and except
that she was, on attaining the age of twenty-one, to receive from it an
income of 250 pounds a year for her private use and disposal.

"To Jane Cunningham, the widow of the late Captain Charles Cunningham,
of the 10th Madras Native Infantry, should she remain with my daughter
until the marriage of the latter, I bequeath an annuity of 150 pounds
per annum, chargeable on the estate, and to commence at my daughter's
marriage. All my other property in moneys, investments, jewels, and
chattels of all sorts, is to be divided in equal portions between my
daughter, Millicent Conyers Thorndyke, and my nephew, Mark Thorndyke.
Should, however, my daughter die before marriage, I bequeath the said
estate in the parish of Crowswood to my brother, John Thorndyke, for his
life, and after him to his son Mark, and to the latter the whole of
my other property of all kinds, this to take effect on the death of my
daughter. Should my brother predecease the marriage or coming of age of
my daughter, she is at once to come into possession of the said estate
of Crowswood. In which case my nephew Mark and Mr. James Prendergast,
of the firm of Hopwood & Prendergast, my solicitors, are to act as her
trustees, and Mrs. Jane Cunningham and the said James Prendergast as her
guardians."

All this was, of course, expressed in the usual legal language, but the
purport was clear to those previously acquainted with its bearing, the
only item that was new to them being the legacy to Mrs. Cunningham. John
Thorndyke's testament was a short one. He left all his property to his
son Mark, with the exception of a hundred pounds to his niece to buy a
mourning ring or brooch or other ornament in memory of him, and fifty
pounds to Mrs. Cunningham for a similar purpose, as a token of his
great esteem for her character, and 200 pounds to Ramoo for his faithful
services to his brother and himself. When the lawyer had folded up the
wills Millicent said:

"On my part, I have to say that I absolutely renounce the legacy of the
estate in favor of my cousin Mark, who has always believed that it would
be his."

"And I as absolutely refuse to accept the sacrifice," Mark said.

"My dear young lady," Mr. Prendergast said quietly, "at present, at any
rate, you have no power whatever to take any action in the matter; you
are, in the eye of the law, an infant, and until you come of age you
have no power to execute any legal document whatever. Therefore you
must perforce remain mistress of the estate until you attain the age of
twenty-one. Many things may happen before that time; for example, you
might marry, and in that case your husband would have a voice in the
matter; you might die, in which case Mr. Mark Thorndyke would, without
any effort on your part, come into possession of the estate. But, at any
rate, until you reach the age of twenty-one your trustees will collect
the rents of the estate on your behalf, and will hold the monies in
trust for you, making, of course, such payments for your support and
maintenance as are fit and proper for your condition."

The tears came into Millicent's eyes as she resumed the seat from which
she had risen, and she did not utter another word until Mr. Prendergast
rose to leave.

"I shall doubtless learn your wishes as to the future, Miss Thorndyke,
from your cousin," he said. "I hope that you will not cherish any
malice against me, and that when you think it over you will come to the
conclusion that second thoughts are sometimes the wisest, and also that
you should have some consideration for your father's wishes in a matter
of this kind. He worked hard and risked his life to build up the fortune
that he has left. He evidently thought greatly of your welfare, and was,
above all things, anxious to insure your happiness. I am sure that on
thinking it over you will see that you should not thwart his wishes."

"My dear boy," he said to Mark, as they stood on the doorstep waiting
for the carriage to come round, "the best plan by far in this business
would be for the interests of your cousin and yourself to be identical.
She is a very charming young lady, a little headstrong in this matter,
perhaps, but I do not think that that is altogether unnatural."

"That might have come about if it had not been for the property, Mr.
Prendergast," Mark said, "but it cannot be now. If she and I had been
engaged before all this happened the case would have been different; but
you see yourself that now my lips are sealed, for it would seem as if I
had not cared for her until she turned out to be an heiress."

"You are a silly young couple," the lawyer said. "I can only hope that
as you grow older you will grow wiser. Well, you had better come up and
have a talk with me about the assets your uncle mentions in his will."

"Then you don't know anything about them, sir?"

"Nothing at all, except as to the accumulations in his absence. He
mentioned vaguely that he was a wealthy man. I thought that, as a matter
of course, he had told his brother all about it."

"It is a curious business, sir, and I doubt if there will ever be
anything besides the accumulations you speak of."

"Bless me, you don't say so! Well, well, I always thought that it was
the most foolish business that I ever heard of. However, you shall tell
me all about it when you come up. I shall miss my coach unless I start."

So saying, he shook Mark's hand, took his place in the gig, and was
driven away. Millicent did not come downstairs again that day.

"She is thoroughly upset," Mrs. Cunningham said, "and it would be best
to let her have her own way for a time. I think the sooner I can get
her away from here the better. The house is full of sad memories, and I
myself feel shaken and in need of a change."

"I can quite understand her feeling and yours, Mrs. Cunningham. I do
hope you will be able to disabuse her mind of the idea that I have any
shadow of feeling of regret that she instead of I has the estate, and
please try to work upon her on the ground of her father's wishes. I
could see that her face changed when Mr. Prendergast put the matter
in that light, which I do not think had occurred to her before. I am
thinking of going up to town in a couple of days; I was thinking of
doing so tomorrow, but a day or so will make no difference. I propose
that you both go with me, and that I then help you look for a house.
Even if you don't get one at once, a week in London will be a change,
and you can then, if you like, go somewhere for a time. Of course Bath
would be too gay at present; but you might go to Tunbridge Wells, or, if
she would like a seaside place, as she has never been near the sea since
she was a baby, that would be the greatest change for her. You might go
down for a month or two to Dover or Hastings. There is no occasion for
you to settle down in London for a time. There is Weymouth, too, if you
would like it better. I believe that that is a cheerful place without
being too fashionable."

"I think that will be an excellent plan," Mrs. Cunningham said.

"If you like I will drive you up to town, and the luggage can go by the
carrier; it is more pleasant than being shut up in a coach."

"Much more cheerful, of course."

"You will, of course, leave many of your things here, and the packing
them up will give her something to do, and prevent her from brooding."

"I think that is an excellent idea, Mark."

Late in the afternoon Ramoo came in in his usual silent manner. The man
had said but little during the past few days, but it was evident that he
was grieving deeply, and he looked years older than he had done before
that fatal night.

"Of course, Ramoo, you will stay with me for the present. I hardly know
what I shall be doing for a time, but I am sure that until I settle
down, Miss Conyers will be very glad to have you with her."

"No, sahib, Ramoo will return home to India. Ramoo is getting old; he
was thirty when he entered the service of the Colonel, sahib; he is
fifty now; he will go home to end his days; he has saved enough to live
in comfort, and with what the lawyer sahib told him your father has left
him he will be a rich man among his own people."

"But you will find things changed, Ramoo, since you left; while here,
you know, we all regard you as a friend rather than as a servant."

"You are all very kind and good, sahib. Ramoo knows that he will meet no
friends like those he has here, but he longs for the bright sun and blue
sky of India, and though it will well nigh break his heart to leave the
young missie and you, he feels that he must go."

"All right, Ramoo. We shall all be very sorry to lose you, but I
understand your longing to go home, and I know that you always feel our
cold winters very trying; therefore I will not oppose your wishes. I
shall be going up to town in two or three days, and will arrange to pay
your legacy at once, and will inquire what vessels are sailing."

Millicent was unfeignedly sorry when she heard of Ramoo's determination;
she was very fond of him, for when as a child she first arrived at
Crowswood he had been her companion whenever the Squire did not require
his services, and would accompany her about the garden and grounds,
listening to her prattle, carrying her on his shoulder, and obeying
her behests. No doubt he knew that she was the daughter of his former
master, and had to a certain extent transferred his allegiance from the
sahib, whose life he had several times saved, to his little daughter.
Still, she agreed with Mark that it was perhaps best that he should go.
She and Mrs. Cunningham would find but little occasion for his services
when established in London, and his swarthy complexion and semi-Eastern
costume would attract attention, and perhaps trouble, when he went
abroad--the population being less accustomed to Orientals then than at
present--but still less would they know what to do with him were they
for a time to wander about. Mark said at once that so long as he himself
was engaged in the task that he had set himself, he could not take Ramoo
with him, and as for his staying alone in the house when it was only in
charge of a caretaker, it was not to be thought of.

Although not inclined at the present time to agree with Mark in
anything, Millicent could not but acknowledge that it were best that
Ramoo should not be urged further to reconsider his determination, and
she also fell in with his proposal that they should go up to London for
a week, and then go down to Weymouth for a time, after which they would
be guided by circumstances. Accordingly, two days later, Mark drove
Millicent and Mrs. Cunningham up to London. A groom accompanied them on
Mark's favorite horse. This was to be left in town for his use, and
the groom was to drive the carriage back again. Comfortable rooms were
obtained in a quiet inn for the ladies, while Mark put up at the Bull,
saying that he would come every day to take them out.

"Why did not Mark stay here, Mrs. Cunningham?" Millicent asked
pettishly.

"I suppose he thought it better that he should not do so; and I own that
I think he was right."

"When we were, as we supposed, no relation to each other," Millicent
said, "we could be like brother and sister. Now that we find that we are
cousins we are going to be stiff and ceremonious."

"Not necessarily because you are cousins, Millicent. Before, you were
his father's ward, and under his father's care; now you are a young lady
on your own account. You must see that the position is changed greatly,
and that what was quite right and proper before would not be at all
right and proper now."

Millicent shrugged her shoulders.

"Oh, if Mark wishes to be distant and stiff he can certainly do so if he
likes it. It makes no matter to me."

"That is not at all fair, Millicent, and very unlike yourself. Had not
Mark suggested his going to another inn, I should have suggested it
myself."

"Oh, yes; no doubt it is better," Millicent said carelessly. "He has
several friends in town, and of course we cannot expect him to be
devoting himself to us."

Mrs. Cunningham raised her eyebrows slightly, but made no answer.
Millicent was seldom wayward, but at present things had gone very hardly
with her, and her friend felt that it would be better to leave her
entirely to herself until her humor changed. In the morning, when Mark
came round, Millicent announced that she felt tired with the drive of
the previous day, and would prefer staying indoors. Mark looked a little
surprised, more at the tone than at the substance of the words, for the
manner in which she spoke showed that the excuse she had given was not
her only reason for not going out.

"Of course, I shall stay at home too," Mrs. Cunningham said quietly, as
he glanced toward her inquiringly. "Millicent is unnerved and shaken,
and perhaps it is just as well for her to have a day's complete rest."

"Very well, Mrs. Cunningham; then I will, as I cannot be of any use to
you, set about my own business for the day. I have already been round
to the lawyer's, and have got a check for Ramoo's legacy. He will be up
this afternoon, and I will go round to Leadenhall Street and find out
what ships are sailing and when they start. I will come in this evening
for a chat."

Millicent sat without speaking for some minutes after he had left the
room. Mrs. Cunningham, whose hands were always busy, took some work out
of a bag and set to work at it industriously. Presently the girl said:

"What business is this that Mark is going to occupy himself in?"

"I do not know much about it," she replied. "But from a few words which
he let drop I believe that he intends to devote himself to discovering
and hunting down your uncle's murderer."

The listless expression faded out at once of Millicent's face.

"But surely, Mrs. Cunningham, that will be very dangerous work."

"No doubt it will be dangerous work, but I don't think that that is
likely to hinder Mark. The man, whoever he may be, is of course a
desperate character, and not likely to be captured without making a
fierce struggle for it."

"Then he ought to put the matter in the hands of the proper
authorities," Millicent said decidedly. "Of course such men are
dangerous. Very likely, this man may have accomplices, and it is not
against one only that Mark will have to fight. He has no right to risk
his life in so desperate an adventure."

Mrs. Cunningham smiled quietly over her work. The Squire had often
confided to her how glad he would be if these two should some day come
together. In that case the disclosure after marriage of the real facts
of the case would cause no disturbance or difficulty. The estate
would be theirs, and it would not matter which had brought it into the
partnership; she had thoroughly agreed with him, but so far nothing had
occurred to give any ground for the belief that their hopes would be
fulfilled.

Till within the last year Millicent had been little more than a child;
she had looked up to Mark as she might have done to a big brother, as
something most admirable, as one whose dictum was law. During the last
year there had been some slight change, but more, perhaps, on Mark's
part than on hers. He had consulted her wishes more, had asked instead
of ordered, and had begun to treat her as if conscious that she was fast
growing up into womanhood.

Millicent herself scarcely seemed to have noticed this change. She was
little more inclined to assert herself than before, but was ready to
accompany him whenever he wished her to do so, or to see him go away
without complaint, when it so pleased him; but the last week had made a
rapid change in their position. Millicent had sprung almost at a bound
into a young woman. She had come to think and resolve for herself; she
was becoming wayward and fanciful; she no longer deferred to Mark's
opinion, but held her own, and was capable of being vexed at his
decisions. At any rate, her relations with Mark had changed rapidly, and
Mrs. Cunningham considered this little outburst of pettishness to be a
good omen for her hopes, and very much better than if they had continued
on their old footing of affectionate cousins.

Mark went back again to the lawyer's, and had a long talk with Mr.
Prendergast over the lost treasure. The old lawyer scoffed at the idea
that there could be any danger associated with the bracelet.

"Men in India, I suppose, get fanciful," he said, "and imbibe some of
the native superstitions. The soldier who got them from the man who
stole them was stabbed. He might have been stabbed for a thousand
reasons, but he had the bracelet on his mind. He was forever hiding it
and digging it up, and fancying that someone was on his track, and he
put down the attack as being made by someone connected with it. His
manner impressed your uncle. He concealed the diamonds or sent them off
somewhere, instantly. He never had any further trouble about them, but
like many men who have a craze, fancied that he was being perpetually
watched and followed. The unfortunate result of all this is that these
jewels and the money that he accumulated during his service in India
seem to be lost. A more stupid affair I never heard of.

"Now, as to the clew, any reasonable man would have given full
instructions as to how the treasure was to be found; or if he did not
do that, would, at least, instead of carrying about an absurd coin and
a scrap of paper with a name upon it, have written his instructions and
put them in that ridiculous hiding place, or, more wisely still, would
have instructed his solicitor fully on the subject. The amount of
trouble given by men, otherwise perfectly sane, by cranks and fancies
is astonishing. Here is something like 100,000 pounds lost owing to a
superstitious whim. As to your chance of finding the treasure, I regard
it as small indeed. The things are hidden in India, in some old tomb, or
other rubbishing place. Your uncle may have committed them to the charge
of a native; he may have sent them to a banker at one of the great
towns; he may have shipped them to England. He may have sent them to
the North Pole for anything I know. How can one begin to search the
universe?"

"I thought, sir, that perhaps he might have sent them to some London
Bank or agent, with instructions to hold them until claimed by him, and
that perhaps an inquiry among such houses would lead to the discovery
that they hold certain property forwarded by him."

"Well; there is some sense in that suggestion," Prendergast grumbled,
"and I suppose the first thing to be done will be to carry that out. If
you wish, we will do it for you. They would be more likely to give the
information, if they possess it, to a well known firm of solicitors like
ourselves than to any private individual. Besides, if you were to go
yourself, they would in each case want you to be identified before they
would answer any question, whereas I should write a note to them in the
firm's name, with our compliments, saying that we should be glad to know
if the late Colonel Thorndyke, of whose will we are the executors, had
any account at their firm or has deposited any property in their hands.
There are not above five or six banks doing business with India, and
as many agents in a large way of business; and if he did such a
foolish thing, he would be certain to do it with some houses of good
standing--if, indeed, anything can be taken as certain in the case of a
gentleman with such extraordinary fancies and plans as his."

"Thank you, Mr. Prendergast," Mark said, with a slight smile at the
lawyer's irritability; "that will be clearing the ground to a certain
extent. If that does not succeed, I think I shall go to India
myself, and shall there make similar inquiries at all the principal
establishments at Calcutta and Madras. Should I fail there, it seems to
me that the only remaining plan will be to find out from the military
authorities the place where my uncle's regiment was encamped on the
day--we have the date on which the jewels were given to him--and to
institute a minute search of all the old ruins within such a distance as
he might have reached within a day's ride."

"But you have no certainty that it was a ruin. He might have dug a hole
under his tent and have buried the things there; he might have taken a
shovel and buried them in a clump of bushes a quarter of a mile away.
The thing is more and more ridiculous the more you look at it."

"I see it is very difficult, sir, but one might narrow it down somewhat
if one discovered the spot. Probably there are still native officers in
the regiment who were there at the time. If so, they might possibly know
who was my uncle's servant at the time. The man may be a pensioner,
and in that case I might discover his address through the military
authorities, and I could find out from him whether my uncle often rode
out at night, what were his habits, and possibly where the tent stood,
and so on."

"Well," Mr. Prendergast said, "if you like to undertake a wild goose
chase of this sort it is your business, and not mine; but I consider
the idea is the most Utopian that I ever heard of. As to where the tent
stood, is it likely that a man would remember to within a hundred yards
where a tent stood fourteen years ago? Why, you might dig up acres and
acres of ground and not be sure then that you had hit upon the right
place."

"There is one other circumstance, Mr. Prendergast," Mark said quietly,
"that has to be taken into consideration, and which renders it
improbable that these diamonds were hidden anywhere by my uncle
himself at that time. He certainly spoke of the whole of this treasure
collectively. It is morally certain that he would not carry all these
jewels that he had been collecting about with him, and certainly not his
treasure in money. He must, therefore, have sent these diamonds to the
person, whoever he may be, who had the keeping of his other jewels and
of his money. This certainly points to a bank."

"There is a sensible conjecture. Yes, there is something in that. He
certainly could not have carried about him 50,000 pounds in gold and
as much in jewelry; it would have been the act of a madman, and Colonel
Thorndyke, although eccentric and cranky, was not mad. But, on the
other hand, he may have carried about a banker's passbook, or what is
equivalent to it, for the amount that had been deposited with a native
banker or agent, together with a receipt for the box containing the
jewels, and this he might have hidden with the diamonds."

"I don't think that he would have done that; there could have been no
object for his putting the power of demanding his money and valuables
out of his possession."

"Well, well," the lawyer said testily, "it is of no use arguing now what
he might or might not have done. A man who would have taken the trouble
that he did to prevent his daughter knowing that she was an heiress, and
fancied that he was followed about by black fellows, might do anything,
reasonable or unreasonable, under the sun. At any rate, Mr. Thorndyke,
I will carry out your instructions as to inquiries in London, and will
duly inform you of the result; beyond that I must really decline to give
any advice or opinion upon the matter, which is altogether beyond me."

On leaving the lawyer's, Mark went to Bow Street, and related to the
chief the circumstances attending his father's murder.

"I have heard them from the man I sent down at your request, Mr.
Thorndyke, and taking the attempt early in the evening and the
subsequent murder, there can be no doubt that the affair was one of
revenge, and not of robbery. Had the second attempt stood alone, robbery
might have been the object; the mere fact that nothing was stolen in
no way alters the case. Men are often seized with a certain panic after
committing a murder, and fly at once without attempting to carry out
their original purpose. Your father, no doubt, fell heavily, and the man
might well have feared that the fall would be heard; but the previous
attempt precludes the supposition that robbery was at the bottom of it.
It points to a case of revenge, and certainly goes a very long way to
support the theory that we talked over when I last saw you, that the
highwayman who endeavored to stop you on the road, whom you wounded,
and who afterwards went down to Southampton, was the escaped convict,
Bastow. Since that time I have had a man making inquiries along the
roads between Reigate and Kingston, but altogether without success. I
should be glad to follow up any other line that you might suggest, and
that might offer any reasonable possibility of success, but I must own
that at present we are entirely off the scent."

"I am thinking of devoting myself entirely to the quest. I have no
occupation at present. I have an income amply sufficient for my wants,
and for all expenses that I may incur, and I intend to devote, if
necessary, some years of my life to hunting this man down. As your men
have searched without success in the country, I think for the present my
best plan will be to devote myself to learning something of the ways
and haunts of the criminal classes of London, and it is with that object
that I have come to you now. I should like, for some time, at any rate,
to enter the detective force as an enrolled member. I should, of course,
require no pay, but should be prepared to obey all orders and to do any
work required, as any other member of the corps would do. I am strong,
active, and have, I hope, a fair share of intelligence. I should not
mind risking my life in carrying out any duty that you might assign to
me. I presume that I need not always be on duty, and could, when not
required, employ my time as I liked, and keep up my acquaintances in
town. Should it be otherwise, however, I am perfectly ready to submit
myself in all respects to your rule. I have a first rate horse and
should be available for country duty, wherever you might think fit to
send me. I should not desire any distinction to be made between me and
the paid officers."

"Your proposal is an altogether novel one, Mr. Thorndyke, but it is
worthy of consideration. I have no doubt that you would make a very
useful officer; the work is certainly interesting, though not without
serious hazards. However, I will think the matter over, and if you will
call in tomorrow you shall have my answer. We are always glad to have a
new hand in the force, for the faces of our men are so well known among
the criminal class that they are liable to be detected even under the
cleverest disguises. There is work, too, upon which it is absolutely
necessary that a gentleman should be employed, and in the event of your
joining us, I should wish you to keep the matter strictly from all your
acquaintances; and it would certainly be advantageous that you should,
when disengaged, continue to mix with your friends and to mingle in
society of all kinds as freely as possible. There is crime among the
upper classes as well as among the lower, though of a different
type; and as Mr. Thorndyke of Crowswood you would have far better
opportunities of investigating some of these cases than any of my men
would have. You would not object to take up such cases?"

"Not at all, sir; that is, if it could be arranged that I should not
do the actual work of making an arrest, or have to appear in court as a
witness."

"That could be managed," the chief said "When you have got to a certain
point the matter of the final arrest could always be handed over to
someone else, but as a rule we keep our officers in the background as
much as possible, because at every trial the court is half full of men
of the criminal class, and the faces of our men would soon be known to
every one of them. Well, if you will call about ten o'clock tomorrow you
shall have my answer; but I should advise you to think the matter
well over before you see me again. The responsibilities as well as the
dangers are great, and indeed in some of the work you would literally
have to carry your life in your hand; and I can assure you that the task
you would undertake is by no means a light one."



CHAPTER XI.


Mark called that evening, as he had promised, upon Mrs. Cunningham.

"I hope that you feel all the better for your day's rest, Millicent," he
said.

The girl looked quickly at him to see if there was any sarcasm in the
question, but it was evident that the inquiry was made in earnest.

"Yes, I feel better now," she said. "I have dozed a good deal today.
I did not feel up to anything. Mrs. Cunningham's work has progressed
wonderfully. I should say that she has done more today than she
ordinarily finds time to do in a week. What have you been doing with
yourself?"

"I have been having a long talk with Mr. Prendergast about the lost
treasure."

"And of course he said that you would never find it, Mark?"

"Well, yes, he distinctly expressed that opinion."

"And afterwards?"

"Afterwards I went to Bow Street and had a long talk also with the chief
officer there."

"I don't like the idea of your searching for this man, Mark. In the
first place, I don't see why you should hope to succeed when the men
whose business it is to do such work have failed. In the next place, I
think that you may get into serious danger."

"That I must risk, Millicent. I have already proved a better shot than
he is, and I am quite ready to take my chance if I can but come upon
him; that is the difficult part of the matter. I know that I shall need
patience, but I have plenty of time before me, and have great hopes that
I shall run him to earth at last."

"But you would not know him if you saw him?"

"I think I should," Mark said quietly; "at least, if he is the man that
I suspect."

"Then you do suspect someone?" Mrs. Cunningham said, laying down her
work.

"Yes, I know of no reason why you should not know it now. I
suspect--indeed, I feel morally certain--that the man who murdered my
father was Arthur Bastow."

An exclamation of surprise broke from both his hearers, and they
listened with horror while he detailed the various grounds that he had
for his suspicions. They were silent for some time after he had brought
his narrative to a conclusion, then Mrs. Cunningham said:

"What a merciful release for Mr. Bastow that he should have died before
this terrible thing came out! For after what you have told us I can
hardly doubt that you are right, and that it is this wicked man who is
guilty."

"Yes, it was indeed providential," Mark said, "though I think that,
feeble as he has been for some months, it might have been kept from him.
Still, a word from a chance visitor, who did not associate Bastow the
murderer with our dear old friend, might have enlightened him, and the
blow would have been a terrible one indeed. It is true that, as it was,
he died from the shock, but he did not know the hand that struck the
blow."

"Now that you have told me this," Millicent said, "I cannot blame you,
Mark, for determining to hunt the man down. It seems even worse than it
did before; it is awful to think that anyone could cherish revenge like
that. Now tell me how you are going to set about it."

"I have promised the chief officer that I will tell absolutely no
one," he said. "I have a plan, and I believe that in time it must be
successful. I know well enough that I could tell you both of it without
any fear of its going further, but he asked me to promise, and I did so
without reservation; moreover, I think that for some reasons it is as
well that even you should not know it. As it is, you are aware that I am
going to try, and that is all. If I were to tell you how, you might be
picturing all sorts of imaginary dangers and worrying yourself over
it, so I think that it will be much the best that you should remain in
ignorance, at any rate for a time. I can say this, that I shall for the
present remain principally in London, and I think that I am more likely
to come upon a clew here than elsewhere."

Millicent pouted, but Mrs. Cunningham said: "I think, perhaps, that you
are right, Mark, and it is better that we should know nothing about it;
we shall know that you are looking for a clew, but of course no danger
can arise until you obtain it and attempt to arrest him. I feel sure
that you will do nothing rash, especially as if any harm befell you he
might escape unpunished, and therefore that when the time comes to
seize him you will obtain such help as may be necessary, and will, if
possible, arrest him at a moment when resistance is impossible."

"Thank you, Mrs. Cunningham; I shall certainly spare no efforts in
taking him that way, and would far rather he met his fate on a gibbet
than by a bullet from my pistol."

"I agree with you, Mark," Millicent said; "even hanging is too good for
such a wicked man. When are you going to set about it?"

"I hope to be able to begin tomorrow," he said. "I am impatient to be at
work, even though I know perfectly well that it may be months before I
can get on his track. I hope to get a good deal of information as to
the habits of men of his kind from the Bow Street runners, and I have an
appointment tomorrow morning to see their chief, who will give me every
assistance in his power."

"Then you will not be able to take us out?" Millicent said.

"I trust to do so later on, but I cannot say how long I shall be
engaged. However, I hope to get away so as to go out with you after
lunch, and may possibly be able to postpone my getting regularly to work
until after you have gone, so as to be able to devote myself to your
service."

"But what sort of work? I cannot make out how you are going to begin."

"I can tell you this much, that to begin with I shall go in company with
a constable to various places where such a man is likely to be found.
It will take some time to acquaint myself with all these localities; the
next step will be to find out, if possible, if anyone at all answering
to his description is in the habit of coming there occasionally, and
whom he visits; another thing will be to find out the places where
receivers of stolen goods do their business, and to watch those with
whom highwaymen are suspected of having dealings. All this, you see,
will entail a lot of work, and require a very large amount of patience.
Of course, if nothing whatever comes of such inquiries, I shall have
to try quiet places in the suburbs; you must remember that this fellow
during his time as a convict must have had opportunities of getting
a vast amount of information likely to be useful to him, such as the
addresses of men holding positions of apparent respectability, and yet
in alliance with thieves. You may be sure that when he returned he took
every imaginable pains to obtain a safe place of concealment before
he began his work; my own opinion is that I am more likely to find him
living quietly in a suburban cottage than in a London slum."

Millicent was now thoroughly interested in the search. "It seems a great
business, Mark, but going into it as thoroughly as you are doing I feel
sure that you will succeed. I only wish that I could help you; but I
could not do that, could I?" she asked wistfully.

He saw that she was in earnest, and suppressed all semblance of a smile.

"I am afraid, dear, that you would be a much greater source of
embarrassment than of assistance to me," he said gravely. "This is
essentially not a woman's work. I believe that women are sometimes
employed in the detection of what we may call domestic crimes, but this
is a different matter altogether."

"I suppose so," she sighed; "but it will be very hard to be taking our
ease down at Weymouth while we know that you are, day after day, wearing
yourself out in tramping about making inquiries."

"It will be no more fatiguing than tramping through the stubble round
Crowswood after partridges, which I should probably be doing now if I
were down there. By the way, before you go we shall have to talk over
the question of shutting up the house. We had too much to think of to
go into that before we came away, and I suppose I shall have to run down
and arrange it all, if you have quite made up your mind that you don't
mean to return for a year or two."

"Decidedly our present idea is to have a few weeks at Weymouth, and then
when we feel braced up to come back here and look for a house. Where are
you likely to be, Mark?" Mrs. Cunningham asked.

"I shall consult with Dick Chetwynd; he knows the town thoroughly, and
is more up here than he is down in the country; he will recommend me to
some lodging in a street that, without being the height of fashion, is
at least passable. I have not the least wish to become a regular man
about town, but I should like to go into good society. One cannot be at
work incessantly."

The next morning the chief of the detective department told Mark that he
had decided to accept his offer.

"As you will receive no pay," he said, "I shall regard you as a sort of
volunteer. For the first two or three months you will spend your time in
going about with one or other of my men on his work. They will be able
to put you up to disguises. When you have once learned to know all the
thieves' quarters and the most notorious receivers of stolen goods,
you will be able to go about your work on your own account. All that
I require is that you shall report yourself here twice a day. Should I
have on hand any business for which you may appear to me particularly
well suited, I shall request you to at once undertake it, and from time
to time, when there is a good deal of business on hand, I may get you to
aid one of my men who may require an assistant in the job on which he is
engaged."

"I am sure I am very much obliged to you, sir," Mark said, "and will,
I can assure you, do my best in every way to assist your men in any
business in which they may be engaged."

"When will you begin?"

"It is Saturday today, sir. I think I will postpone setting to until
Monday week. My cousin and the lady in whose charge she is came up with
me on Thursday, and will be leaving town the end of next week, and
I should wish to escort them about while here. I will come on Monday
morning ready for work. How had I better be dressed?"

"I should say as a countryman. A convenient character for you to begin
with will be that of a man who, having got into a poaching fray, and
hurt a gamekeeper, has made for London as the best hiding place. You
are quite uncertain about your future movements, but you are thinking of
enlisting."

"Very well, sir, I will get the constable at Reigate, who knows me well,
to send me a suit. I might find it difficult to get all the things I
want here."

Accordingly, for the next week Mark devoted himself to the ladies.
Millicent, in her interest in the work that he was about to undertake,
had now quite got over her fit of ill temper, and the old cordial
relations were renewed. On the Friday he saw them into the Weymouth
coach, then sauntered off to his friend Chetwynd's lodgings.

Ramoo had already sailed. On his arrival in town he had said that he
should, if possible, arrange to go out as a steward.

"Many men of my color who have come over here with their masters go back
in that way," he said, in answer to Mark's remonstrances. "It is much
more comfortable that way than as a passenger. If you go third class,
rough fellows laugh and mock; if you go second class, men look as much
as to say, 'What is that colored fellow doing here? This is no place for
him.' Much better go as steward; not very hard work; very comfortable;
plenty to eat; no one laugh or make fun."

"Well, perhaps it would be best, when one comes to think of it, Ramoo;
but I would gladly pay your passage in any class you like."

"Ramoo go his own way, sahib," he said. "No pay passage money; me go to
docks where boats are sailing, go on board and see head steward. Head
steward glad enough to take good servant who is willing to work his
way out, and ask for no wages. Head steward draw wages for him, and put
wages in his own pocket. He very well satisfied."

On Wednesday he came and told Mark that he had arranged to sail in the
Nabob, and was to go on board early the next morning. He seemed a great
deal affected, and Mark and Millicent were equally sorry to part with
the faithful fellow.

"Well, old man," Dick Chetwynd said, when Mark entered the room, where
he was still at breakfast, "I was beginning to wonder whether you had
gone to Reigate. Why, when I saw you last Friday you told me that you
would look me up in a day or two."

"I have been busy showing London to Mrs. Cunningham and Miss Conyers,"
he replied--for Millicent had insisted on keeping her former name, at
any rate for the present--and Mark was somewhat glad that there had been
no necessity for entering into any explanations. It was agreed that
when he went down to discharge some of the servants and called upon his
friends he should say nothing of the change in his position, but should
assign as a motive that he intended to travel about for a long time, and
that he felt he could not settle down in the lonely house, at any
rate for two or three years; and therefore intended to diminish the
establishment.

"You will have some breakfast, Mark?"

"No, thank you. I breakfasted two hours ago."

"Then you still keep to your intention to stay in London for a while?"

"Yes. I don't feel that I could bear the house alone," Mark replied. "You
see, Mrs. Cunningham and my uncle's ward could not very well remain in a
bachelor's home, and naturally, after what has happened, they would not
like to do so, even if they could. They have gone down to Weymouth for
a few weeks for a complete change; and Mrs. Cunningham talks of taking
a house in town for a time. I am going to look for lodgings, and I want
your advice as to the quarter likely to suit me."

"Why not take up your abode here for a time? There is a vacant room, and
I should be very glad to have you with me."

"Thank you very much, Dick, but I should prefer being alone. You will
have friends dropping in to see you, and at present I should be poor
company. It will be some little time before I shall feel equal to
society."

"Of course, Mark. I always speak first and think afterwards, as you know
pretty well by this time. Well, what sort of lodgings do you want?"

"I want them to be in a good but not in a thoroughly fashionable street.
In time, no doubt, I shall like a little society, and shall get you to
introduce me to some of the quieter of your friends, and so gradually
feel my way."

"I will do all that sort of thing for you, Mark. As you know, I am not
one of those who see much fun in gambling or drinking, though one must
play a little to be in the fashion. Still, I never go heavily into it.
I risk a few guineas and then leave it. My own inclinations lie rather
towards sport, and in this I can indulge without being out of the
fashion. All the tip top people now patronize the ring, and I do so
in my small way too. I am on good terms with all the principal prize
fighters, and put on the gloves with one or other of them pretty nearly
every day. I have taken courses of lessons regularly from four or five
of them, and I can tell you that I can hold my own with most of the
Corinthians. It is a grand sport, and I don't know how I should get
on without it; after the hard exercise I was accustomed to down in the
country, it keeps one's muscles in splendid order, and I can tell you
that if one happens to get into a fight in the streets, it is no light
thing to be able to polish off an antagonist in a round or two without
getting a mark on your face that would keep you a prisoner in your room
for a week or more."

"Yes, I should like very much to take lessons too, Dick; it is one of
the things that I have always wished to do. I suppose one can do it of
an evening, or any time you like?"

"Yes, any hour suits those fellows. You ought to get either a heavy
middleweight or a light heavyweight; you will be a heavyweight yourself
by the time you have filled out. Let me think; what is your height--six
feet one, if I remember rightly?"

"Yes, that is about it."

"Well, with your shoulders and long reach and activity, you ought to be
something out of the way if you take pains, Mark. You see, I am barely
five feet ten, and am something like two stone lighter than you are. I
suppose you are not much under twelve stone and a half."

"That is just about my weight; I weighed at the miller's only a
fortnight ago."

"Good. I will make some inquiries, and see who would be the best man to
take you in hand to begin with. And now about lodgings. Well, I should
say Essex Street, or any of those streets running down from the Strand,
would suit you. The rooms in Essex Street are bigger than those in
Buckingham Street, and you will find anything between the two in some of
the others. I may as well saunter round there with you. Of course money
is no object to you?"

"No," Mark agreed, "but I don't want big rooms. I think a small one,
when you are sitting by yourself, is more cozy and comfortable."

Finally two rooms were taken in Villiers Street; they were of moderate
size and handsomely furnished: the last tenant had fitted them out for
himself, but had lived to enjoy them only three months, having at the
end of that time been killed in a duel over a quarrel at cards.

"Well, I think you are in luck, Mark; you might look through a good many
streets before you would find rooms so fashionably furnished as these. I
see he went in for driving; that is evident from these engravings on the
walls."

"They are common, gaudy looking things," Mark said, "and quite out of
character with the furniture."

"Not at all, as times go, Mark; it is quite the thing for a man to have
prints showing his tastes, riding or driving, shooting or coaching, or
the ring. If you don't like them you can take them down, or, what will
be better, take them out of their frames and put some of the champions
past and present up there instead."

"I will see about it," Mark said with a laugh. "I may turn out a
complete failure."

"There is no fear of that, Mark; and as the ring is all the fashion now,
I can assure you it would be considered in good taste, though I own that
in point of art most of these things leave a good deal to be desired.
Now that that important thing is settled, suppose you come and lunch
with me in Covent Garden? I don't belong to a club yet, though I have
got my name down at a couple of them, but as far as I can see they are
slow sort of places unless you know a lot of people. The coffee houses
are much more amusing; you see people of all sorts there--fellows like
myself, who have no clubs to go to; country gentlemen up for a week;
a few writers, who, by the way, are not the best customers of these
places; men whom nobody knows, and men whom everybody knows. Of course,
the best time to see them is of an evening."

"Yes, I have generally been in of an evening when I have been up in
towns Dick, and I have always been amused. However, I am quite ready to
lunch there now, for I breakfasted early."

"I have to make some calls this afternoon, Mark. At seven this evening
I will look in at your lodgings, and you shall go along with me to
Ingleston's in St. Giles'. It is one of the headquarters of the fancy,
and Jack Needham, who taught me, is safe to be there, and he will tell
me who he thinks is best for you to begin with."

Accordingly, after taking luncheon, they separated, and Mark went to his
inn.

Ingleston's was at that time regarded as the headquarters of the fancy.
At the back of the house was a large room, with benches rising behind
each other to accommodate the spectators. Here, on the evenings when it
was known that leading men would put on the gloves, peers of the realm
would sit side by side with sporting butchers, and men of fashion back
their opinion on a coming prize fight with ex-pugilists and publicans. A
number of men were assembled in the bar; among these was Jack Needham.

"Good evening, Mr. Chetwynd," the man said as they came up to him. "It's
going to be a good night. Tring and Bob Pratt are going to have a round
or two together, and Gibbons will put on the gloves with anyone who
likes to take him on."

"This gentleman is Mr. Thorndyke, a squire, Jack, whose place is near
mine at Reigate. He has come up to town for a few months, and wants to
learn how to use his mauleys. I told him that you would advise him as to
who would be the best man for him to go to."

"I can tell you better when I have seen him strip, sir. There is no one
in the big room at present. It won't be open for half an hour. Ingleston
keeps it shut as long as he can so as to give everyone a fair chance of
a good place. If the gentleman will come in there with me I will have a
look at him."

Mark expressed his willingness to be looked at, and the man having gone
and got the key of the room from Ingleston, went in with them and locked
the door behind.

"Now, sir, if you will strip to the waist I shall be better able to say
who you should have as your teacher than I can now."

Mark stripped, and the man walked round and round him, examining him
critically.

"He's a big 'un," he said to Dick when he had completed his examination.
"He has got plenty of muscle and frame, and ought to be a tremendous
hitter; he is about the figure of Gibbons, and if he goes in for it
really, ought to make well nigh as good a man, if not quite. I don't
think Bill would care about taking him up till he knows a bit about it.
I tell you what, sir; you will be too big altogether for me by the time
you get to be quick on your legs, and to use your strength, but if you
like I will take you on for a month or so--say, two months; by that time
I think you will be good enough to go to Gibbons. I will just call him
in if you don't mind; he came in just before you."

In a couple of minutes he came in with a man of similar height and
somewhat similar figure to Mark.

"This is Gibbons, sir, ex-champion, and like enough he might be champion
now if he chose; as fine a boxer as ever stripped, but he is ring maker
now to the P. C. and it suits him better to do that and to teach, than
to have a chance of getting a battle once a year or so."

"Have you a great many pupils, Gibbons?"

The man shook his head.

"I am too big, sir; gentlemen like to learn from someone about their
own weight, or perhaps a bit lighter, and there are not many of them
who would care to stand up against a man who has been champion, and so I
have plenty of time on my hands. I am a hard hitter, too, even with the
gloves; that is one reason why Jack had best take you on until you get
a little handy with your fists. I do more in the dog fancier line than
I do with boxing, but there is nothing I like better than getting the
gloves on with an amateur who is likely to be a credit to me. That is my
card, sir; you will find me in pretty nearly any time of the day, and
I have got a place behind the house where I do teaching when I get
a chance. It is handy in one way, because you can drop in and take a
lesson any time you like."

"That would suit me exceedingly well," Mark said; "and when I have had a
couple of months with Needham I will come to you."

Mark now put on his clothes again, and they went out together, and
re-entered a few minutes later, when the door was open. The benches were
soon crowded. Mark had been to several prize fights with Dick Chetwynd,
had often boxed with him and other lads, and had had lessons from an
ex-prize fighter at Reigate, and was therefore able to appreciate the
science shown by the various men who confronted each other. The event of
the evening was the contest between Tring and Bob Pratt; both were very
powerful men, who were about to go into strict training for matches that
had been made for them against two west countrymen, who were thought
very highly of by their friends, and who were regarded as possible
candidates for the championship.

Bob Pratt was a stone heavier than his opponent, but far less active,
and owed his position more to his ability to take punishment, and to
hard hitting powers, than to his science. In the two rounds that were
fought, Tring had the advantage, but the general opinion was that in the
long run the other would wear him down. Both fought with good temper,
and were warmly applauded as they shook hands at the finish.

"I think I should back Tring in a fight," Mark said, as the meeting
broke up, "but it is difficult to say, for he is in better condition
than the other, and it may be that when both are thoroughly fit the
heavy man might show more improvement than he would do."

The hat was passed round at the conclusion: Every man dropped in his
guinea, some more, it being understood that the collection was divided
between the two men to pay the expenses of their training.



CHAPTER XII.


The next morning Mark commenced work in earnest, and for two months
visited all the worst slums of London in company with one of the Bow
Street men. Both were generally in disguise, but Mark's companion
sometimes went openly to some of the houses inhabited by men well known
as criminals. On such occasions Mark remained within call, ready to go
in if assistance should be required; but there was small fear of this,
the men who were visited were all personally known to the officer, and
generally greeted him with "You aint wanting me, are you?"

"Not at all; what I am wanting is a little information for which I shall
be quite willing to pay the first man who enables us to lay hands on the
gentleman I want to find." Then he would describe Bastow's appearance.

"He has taken to the road, I fancy, and has given us a good deal of
trouble; if it is the man I think it is, he has been away from London
for some years, and came back eight or ten months ago."

The reply was always to the same effect:

"I don't know of such a man, and never heard of him. For my part,
I would not split on a pal, not for anything; but I should not mind
earning five guineas to put you on a cove who is not one of us. Besides,
it aint only the money; you know, you might do me a good turn some day."

"Quite so; well, I can tell you it is a good deal more than five guineas
that would be earned if you could put me in the way of laying my hand on
his shoulder. I don't think that he is living in town. I expect he is
in some quiet neighborhood; still, if he is on the road, he must have a
horse somewhere. You might ask among the stables, and find out whether
anyone keeps a horse there who is in the habit of going out in the
afternoon and not coming back until the next day. You have plenty of
time upon your hands, and it would pay you well if you could bring me
the information I want."

The officer said to Mark at the end of two months: "These knights of the
road don't often mix themselves up with the London housebreakers. The
most likely men to be able to tell you about the doings of such a
fellow would be receivers of stolen goods, but it would be dangerous to
question any of them--they would be sure to put him on his guard. I will
give you a list of some of them, and I should say that your best way
would be to watch their places of an evening, from the time it gets dark
till ten or eleven. Of course, it is just a chance. You may watch one
place for a month and he may happen to go there the very day you have
gone off to watch another crib. Still, there is just the chance, and I
don't see that there is one any other way."

During this time Mark had been taking a lesson every evening with
Needham, and had surprised his teacher with the rapidity of his
progress; he had said, the very evening before, when Mark had countered
him with a blow that knocked him for two or three minutes senseless:

"We have had enough of this, governor; you have got beyond me
altogether, and I don't want another blow like that. You had better take
on Gibbons now. You are too big altogether for me, and yet you don't
fight like a heavyweight, for you are as quick on your pins as I am."

Well pleased at having the day to himself and of having got clear of his
work in the thieves' rookeries, Mark went the next morning to Gibbons'
shop. His entry was hailed by a chorus of barking from dogs of all sorts
and sizes, from the bulldog down to the ratting terrier.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Thorndyke," Gibbons said, when he had silenced the
barking. "I saw Jack last week, and he told me that he should hand you
over to me pretty soon, for that you were getting beyond him altogether,
and he thought that if you stuck to it you would give me all my work to
do in another six months."

"I finished with him last night, Gibbons, and I shall be ready to come
for a lesson to you every morning, somewhere about this hour. I have
brought my bag with my togs."

"All right, sir, I am ready at once; the place is clear now behind. I
have just been making it tidy, for we had a little ratting last night,
one of my dogs against Sir James Collette's, fifty rats each; my dog
beat him by three quarters of a minute."

"You will never see me here at one of those businesses. I have no
objection to stand up to a man my own size and give and take until we
have had enough, but to see rats slaughtered when they have not a chance
of making a fight of it is altogether out of my line."

"Well, sir, I do not care about it myself; there are lots who do like
it, and are ready to wager their money on it, and as it helps to sell my
dogs, besides what I can win out of the event--it was a wager of twenty
guineas last night--it aint for me to set myself up against it."

Calling a boy to look after the shop, Gibbons went away into a wooden
building in the back yard; it was about twenty-five feet square, and
there were holes in the floor for the stakes, when a regular ring was
made. The floor was strewn with clean sawdust; a number of boxing gloves
hung by the wall.

"There is the dressing room," Gibbons said, pointing to a door at the
other end. When both were ready he looked Mark over. "Your muscles have
thickened out a good bit, sir, since I saw you strip. Before another
four years, if you keep on at it, you will be as big a man as I am. I
am about eight years too old, and you are four years too young. You will
improve every day, and I shan't. Now, sir, let us see what you can do.
Jack tells me that you are wonderfully quick on your feet; there is the
advantage you have of me. I am as strong as ever I was, I think, but I
find that I cannot get about as I used to."

He stood somewhat carelessly at first, but as they sparred for an
opening he became more careful, and presently hit out sharply. Mark
leaped back, and then, springing forward, struck out with his left;
Gibbons only just stopped it and then countered, but Mark was out of
reach again.

"That is good enough," Gibbons said; "I can see Jack has taught you
pretty nearly all there is to know. We will just take those hits again.
You were right to get away from the first, but the second time you
should have guarded with your left, and hit at my chin with your right.
That jumping back game is first rate for avoiding punishment, but you
have got to come in again to hit. You took me by surprise that time, and
nearly got home, but you would not do it twice," and so the lesson went
on for three quarters of an hour.

"That will do for today, sir; I am getting blown, if you are not. Well,
I can tell you I have never had a more promising pupil, and I have
brought forward two or three of the best men in the ring; no wonder that
Jack cannot do much with you. Give me six months, every day, and you
should have a turn occasionally with other men, and I would back you for
a hundred pounds against any man now in the ring."

Three or four days later Mark received a message that the chief wanted
to speak with him that afternoon, and he accordingly went down.

"I've got a job for you, Mr. Thorndyke; it is just the sort of thing
that will suit you. There is a house in Buckingham Street that we have
had our eye on for some time; it is a gambling house, but with that we
have nothing to do unless complaints are made, but we have had several
complaints of late. It is a well got up place, and there are a good many
men of title frequent it, but men of title are not always more honest
than other people; anyhow, there are some rooks there, and several
young fellows of means have been pigeoned and ruined. They are mighty
particular who they let in, and there would be very little chance of
getting my regular men in there. Now, you are a stranger in London, but
you have friends here, and no doubt you could get introduced. We want
to know if the play is fair; if it isn't, we would break the place up
altogether. We know enough to do it now; but none of the poor beggars
who have been ruined will come forward, and, indeed, haven't any idea,
I think, that they have lost their money in anything but a run of bad
luck.

"One young fellow blew his brains out last week, and his father came
here with a list of what are called debts of honor, which he found in
his room. There they are, and the names of the men they are owed to; of
course some of them have been fairly won, but I have a strong suspicion
that those I have marked with a cross have not been. For instance, there
is Sir James Flash, a fellow who was turned out of White's two years
ago for sharp practice with cards; there is John Emerson, he is a man of
good family, but all his friends have given him up long ago, and he has
been living by his wits for the last five years. The others marked
are all of the same sort. Now, what I want you to do is to become a
frequenter of the place; of course you will have to play a little, and
as you are a stranger I expect that they will let you win for a bit;
but if not the old gentleman has placed 200 pounds in my hands for the
expenses."

"I could play with my own money," Mark said rather warmly.

"You forget, Mr. Thorndyke," the chief said firmly, "that at the present
moment you are a member of my force, and that you go to this place in
that capacity, and not as Squire of Crowswood; therefore you must, if
you please, do as I instruct you. The gentleman will be ready to pay
that sum. As you see, the amounts entered here total up to nearly 10,000
pounds. He said that it will ruin him to pay that sum, but that he
must do so rather than his son should be branded as a defaulter. I have
advised him to write to all these people saying that it will take him
some time to raise the money, but that he will see that nobody shall be
a loser by his son's debts. I have told him in the meantime that I will
endeavor to get proof that the play was not fair, and in that case he
would, of course, refuse to pay any of the claims on that ground; and
you may be sure that if unfair play was proved none of those concerned
would dare to press their claims."

"Then my function would be simply to watch?"

"Yes, to watch, and to bring me word of anything you may observe. You
see, without making a public scandal, if it could be found that a man
was discovered cheating, and the way in which he was doing it, one would
be able to put so strong a pressure on him, that not only might he be
forced to abstain from going to any club, but would be frightened into
giving up any IOUs he might hold."

"I shall be glad to do the best I can, sir; but frankly I know next
to nothing of cards, and should have but little chance of detecting
anything that might be going on, when it must be done so cleverly that
experienced gamblers, watching a man closely, fail to see anything
wrong."

"I quite understand that; but one of my men has made a study of the
various methods employed by gamblers to cheat, and although it would
take you years to learn how to do it yourself, a few hours' instruction
from him would at least put you up to some of their methods, and enable
you to know where to look for cheating. The man is now waiting in the
next room, and if you will take two or three hours daily with him, say
for a week, you ought to be able to detect the doings of these fellows
when to others everything seems right and above board. You may have no
inclination for cards, but knowledge of that sort is useful to anyone
in society, here or anywhere else, and may enable him either to save his
own pocket or to do a service to a friend."

Mark was greatly interested in the tricks the man showed him. At first
it seemed to him almost magical, after he himself had shuffled the cards
and cut them the dealer invariably turned up a king. Even admitting he
might have various places of concealment, pockets in the lining of the
sleeve, in the inside of the coat, and in various other parts of
the dress, in which cards could be concealed and drawn out by silken
threads, it did not seem possible that this could be done with such
quickness as to be unobserved. It was only when his teacher showed him,
at first in the slowest manner, and then gradually increasing his speed,
that he perceived that what seemed impossible was easy enough when the
necessary practice and skill had been attained. The man was indeed an
adept at a great variety of tricks by which the unsuspecting could be
taken in.

"I ought to know," he said. "I was for three years in a gambling house
in Paris, where every other man was a sharper. I have been in places of
the same sort in Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Italy. At first I was
only a boy waiter, and as until evening there was nothing doing at these
places, men would sometimes amuse themselves by teaching me tricks, easy
ones to begin with, and when they saw I was sharp and quick handed they
went on. After a time I began to work as a confederate, and at last on
my own account; but I got disgusted with it at last. A young fellow shot
himself at the table of the gambling house at Rome, and at another place
I was nearly killed by a man who had lost heavily--do you see, it has
left a broad scar right across my forehead?--so I gave it up.

"I was in the French police for a time, and used to watch some of the
lower hells. I was nearly killed there once or twice, and at last I
came back here. My French chief gave me a letter to the chief, and I was
taken on at once, for, talking as I do half a dozen languages, and being
acquainted with most of the swell mobsmen of Paris, I was just the man
who happened to be wanted here at the time. Since I came over I have
done a good deal in the way of breaking up hells where sailors and
others are plundered. But, you see, I cannot be used for the higher
class of work; my nose has been broken, and I have half a dozen scars on
my face. I hate the sight of cards now. I have seen so much of the ruin
they do, and have, I am sorry to say, taken a hand so often in doing it,
that save showing someone who would use the knowledge in the right way
how the tricks are done, nothing would persuade me to touch them again.
However, as a protection, the knowledge is as useful as it is dangerous
when used the other way. It would take you ten years to learn to do
these tricks yourself so well as to defy detection; but in a very short
time, by learning where to keep your eyes, you would get to detect
almost any of them.

"You see, there are three methods of cheating: the first by hidden
cards, the second by marked cards, the third simply by sleight of hand,
this being generally used in connection with marked cards. These tricks
require great skill and extreme delicacy of touch, for the marks,
which are generally at the edge of the cards, are so slight as to be
altogether imperceptible save to a trained hand. There are also marks on
the back of the cards; these are done in the printing, and are so slight
that, unless attention were attracted to them, no one would dream of
their existence."

In the course of a week's practice Mark learned where to look for
cheating; he could not indeed follow the fingers of his instructor, for
even when he knew what was going to be done, the movements were so rapid
that his eye could not follow them, and in nine cases out of ten he
was unable to say whether the coup had been accomplished or not; but
he could see that there was a slight movement of the fingers that could
only mean that something was being done.

"It would be a good thing," he said one day, "if every young fellow
before going out into the world were to have a course of such
instruction as you are giving me; he would learn, at least, the absolute
folly of sitting down to play cards with strangers. He would see that
he could be robbed in fifty different ways, and would be at the absolute
mercy of any sharper. I never had any inclination for gambling, but if
I had been inclined that way you would have cured me of the passion for
life."

The week's instruction was lengthened to a fortnight, and at the end of
that time Mark went to Dick Chetwynd.

"Do you know, Dick," he said, "a gambling place in Buckingham Street?"

"I know that there is a hell there, Mark, but I have never been in it.
Why do you ask?"

"I have rather a fancy to go there," he replied. "I hear that, although
a good many men of fashion haunt the place, the crowd is rather a mixed
one."

"It has a bad name, Mark; I have heard some queer reports about it."

"Yes, so have I. I should think that it is a very likely place for a man
like Bastow to go to if he has any liking for play. Of course he would
get up as a gentleman. At any rate, I have been making what inquiries
I can in some of the thieves' quarters, and have come to the conclusion
that he is not likely to have taken up his abode there, and I don't
think I can do better than make a round of some of these doubtful
houses. I should like to begin with this, and then work downwards."

"Well, I dare say I could manage it, Mark; I know half a dozen men who
play there; they say there is more fun and excitement to be got than
at White's or Crockford's, or any of those places. Some men, of course,
play high, but a good many who go there only risk a few guineas; some go
because it is the proper thing at present for a man about town either to
play or to bet on horses or cock fights, or to patronize the ring; and,
after all, it is easier to stroll for an hour or two of an evening into
comfortable rooms, where you meet a lively set and there is champagne
always going, than it is to attend races or prize fights."

Very few days passed that Mark did not go in for half an hour's chat
with his friend, and two days after this conversation Dick said:

"By the way, Mark, I have arranged for us to go to that hell tonight;
young Boldero, who is a member of my club, told me some time ago that he
played there sometimes. I met him yesterday evening, and said that I had
a fancy to go and have a look at it, and that a friend of mine from the
country also wanted to go; he said at once that he would take us there.

"'I should advise you not to play much, Chetwynd,' he said; 'sometimes
they play uncommonly high, and there are some fellows who have wonderful
luck. Of course, on ordinary occasions, when the play is low, you could
stake a few guineas there as well as elsewhere, but when really high
play is on we small fish always stand out. All I can say is that I have
never seen anything that savors of foul play in the smallest degree; but
you understand how it is, if one man happens to have a big run of luck,
there are always fellows who go about hinting that there is something
wrong in it. However, it is a jolly place to drop into, and, of course
there is no occasion to play always, and if one loses one is likely to
win on the next race or on the next fight.'"

Accordingly that evening Mark met Boldero, whom he had once or twice
before seen in Dick's company, and the three went together to the house
in Buckingham Street. Boldero nodded to the doorkeeper as he went in,
and they then proceeded upstairs and entered a handsome room, with
comfortable sofas and chairs, on which a dozen men were seated, for the
most part smoking. Several champagne bottles stood on the tables, and
all who liked helped themselves. Boldero was known to several of those
present, while two or three were also known to Dick. Boldero introduced
them both to his friends. One of these was the Hon. John Emerson, a man
of some five and thirty, with a languid air and a slight drawl.

"Glad to make your acquaintance, sir," he said to Mark. "Have you been
long in town?"

"Two or three months only," Mark replied.

"Is this your first visit here?"

"Yes, this is my first visit to any place of the sort, but I thought
that I should like to go the rounds before I went home again."

"Quite so. Going to punt a few guineas, I suppose?"

"Yes, I suppose that is the right thing to do."

"Well, everyone who comes is expected to do a little that way; there is
no occasion to play high."

"Oh, I should not like to do that," Mark said innocently; "indeed, I
know very little about cards."

"Oh, that is quite immaterial so long as you only play games of chance;
in fact, you don't want to know anything about them. You see others
staking their money, some on one side of the table, and some on the
other; you place your money whichever side you like, and take your
chance. There is no skill in it. Some people play on what they call a
system, but there is nothing in it; you have just as much chance if you
put your money down blindfolded. If luck is with you, you win; if luck
is against you, you lose."

After chatting for a few minutes Mark went with his two companions
upstairs. The room they now entered was furnished as a drawing room,
except that in the middle was a table, round which some fifteen people
were seated, while as many more looked on; round the room were several
small tables, on which were packs of cards. These were for those who
preferred to play piquet or ecarte, two or three couples being so
engaged. Mark knew enough of cards to know that hazard was being played
at the large table. There was an inner room, and Mark strolled across
and looked in. It was at present untenanted; it contained a center table
capable of holding four, and two or three small ones, with two chairs
set in readiness to each.

"That is where the heavy play goes on," Boldero said. "None of your four
or five guineas wagers there, fifties and hundreds are nearer the mark,
and I have seen a thousand wagered many a time. It is exciting work even
looking on, I can tell you; what it must be for the players I cannot
say, but I should think it must be frightful."

Mark took up his stand at the hazard table, and after looking on for
some little time began to play. Beginning with guineas, he gradually, as
luck favored him, played five guineas, and after half an hour's play won
fifty. Then luck turned, and in a few minutes he had lost all he won.

"You ought to have stopped, Mark," Dick said reproachfully, as he
stepped back from his place, which was at once filled by one who had
been standing behind him.

The play in the inner room had now begun, and Mark went in and joined
those who were looking on. In half an hour one of the players had had
enough, and a young man said to Emerson, who was standing on the other
side of the table:

"Now, Mr. Emerson, will you give me my revenge?"

"I would really rather not, Mr. Cotter. The luck has been so one sided
lately that I would rather leave it alone."

"But it may turn tonight," the other said. "At any rate, I will try it,
if you have no objection."

There was a certain eagerness in the young man's voice that caused Mark
to watch him closely. He was a good looking young fellow, but his face
was not a strong one; and although he evidently tried to assume an
appearance of indifference as he sat down, there was a nervous movement
of his fingers. Mark took his place behind him as play began. The game
was ecarte, and for a time Emerson lost.

"I think the luck has changed, Mr. Cotter, but as we generally raise the
stakes after playing for a bit, I am ready to do so. Shall we make it
fifty pounds again?"

"With pleasure," the young man said.

He won the next two games, then for some time they won alternately.

"Shall we say a hundred again?" he said.

"As you like," Emerson replied. "We don't seem to get much forwarder
either way at present."

A considerable number of lookers on had now gathered round. So far Mark,
although watching the fingers of the opposite player intently, had seen
no sign whatever of unfair play. He now redoubled his attention. Cotter
won the first game, his adversary the three next. Mark noticed now that
after looking at his hand Emerson looked abstractedly, as if meditating
before taking the next step; there was no expression in his face, but
Mark fancied that his eyes rested for a moment on the man standing next
to himself. He looked at his watch and then, as if finding the hour
later than he had expected, moved away from his place, and presently
joined Dick, who was standing with Boldero on the other side of the
table.

"Who is that man playing with Emerson?" he asked in a whisper.

"He is the son of Cotter, the head of Cotter's Bank, in Lombard Street."

As the men were standing two or three deep round the table, Mark could
not see the table itself, but this mattered little, for his attention
was entirely directed towards the man standing behind Cotter's chair. He
saw that after glancing down at the young man's hand he looked across as
if seeing what Emerson was going to do; sometimes his eyes dropped
for an instant, at other times there was no such movement, and after
noticing this four or five times, and noticing the course Emerson took,
he had no doubt whatever in his own mind that the movement of the man's
eyes was an intimation to Emerson of the nature of Cotter's hand. The
young man had lost four games in succession; he had grown very pale, but
showed no other signs of agitation. Presently he said:

"You have your usual luck again; I will only play one more game tonight,
but we may as well make it worth playing. Shall we say five hundred?"

"At your service," Emerson replied.

This time the face of the man standing behind Cotter's chair was
immovable, and Mark, placing himself behind a short man and straining
his head forward, saw that Cotter scored four. The next time there was
still no sign. Emerson showed a king and scored it, and then won every
trick and the game.

"That makes nine hundred pounds," the young man said quietly, writing
an IOU for that amount and handing it to Emerson. There was a general
movement of the spectators, and two fresh players took the seats vacated
by the late antagonists.

"Who was the man standing behind Cotter's chair?" Mark asked Boldero.

"That is Sir James Flash. He is just going to play, you see; it is sure
to be another hot game, and an interesting one."

"Well, I think I will go," Mark said; "the heat of the room has given me
a bit of a headache. I will see you tomorrow, Dick."

"Good night, old man," Chetwynd said; and, shaking hands with Boldero,
Mark went downstairs immediately after Cotter. The latter went into the
room below, drank off a tumbler of champagne, and then went down, took
his hat, and went out. Mark followed him for a short distance, and
joined him as soon as he got up into the Strand.

"Mr. Cotter," he said, "I have not the pleasure of knowing you
personally, and I must introduce myself. My name is Mark Thorndyke,
and I am the owner of an estate close to Reigate. Would you mind my
exchanging a few words with you?"

Cotter looked up, and was about to give a flat refusal, but the
expression of Mark's face was so friendly and pleasant that he changed
his mind and said in a hard voice:

"I really do not know what you can have to say to me, Mr. Thorndyke, but
of course I can hardly refuse to hear you."

They walked across the road and turned up a quiet street.

"For certain reasons it is not necessary for me to explain," Mark said,
"I went to that place for the first time tonight, and I watched the play
between you and Mr. Emerson."

"It does not matter, sir; I lost, and I am not going there again."

"I hope, on the contrary, that you will go there again, Mr. Cotter. If I
mistake not, from what I heard, you have lost considerable sums to that
man."

"I imagine, sir, that that is no business of a stranger."

"In no way personally," Mark replied, not heeding the angry ring in
the voice, "but as an honest man it does concern me. I am absolutely
convinced, sir, that that money has not been won from you fairly."

The young man gave a start.

"Impossible!" he said shortly. "Mr. Emerson is a man of good family and
a gentleman."

"He is a man of good family, I admit, but certainly not a gentleman; his
antecedents are notorious."

"I have never heard a word against him; he is intimate with Sir James
Flash and other gentlemen of position."

"I am not surprised, that you have not heard of it; it was probably
to the interest of several persons that you should not do so. Nor do
I suppose that you are aware that Sir James Flash was himself expelled
from White's for cheating at cards."

"Impossible!" Mr. Cotter replied.

"I can assure you of the fact," Mark said quietly. "Probably you have
among your acquaintances some members of White's. I am sure if you ask
them they will confirm the fact. Now, sir, I can assure you that I
have no interest in this matter, save to prevent a gentleman from being
ruined by blacklegs. May I ask how much you owe to Mr. Emerson and Sir
James Flash?"

The young man hesitated. "I believe you, sir," he said at last. "They
hold my IOUs for 29,000 pounds. I need hardly say it is absolute ruin.
My intention is to make a clean breast to my father about it tomorrow
morning. My father will give me the money, in the first place because he
loves me and would save my name from disgrace, and in the second because
were I posted as a defaulter it would strike a severe blow at the credit
of the bank. So he will give me the money, but he will bid me leave his
house forever. That will matter little, for I shall pay the money, and
tomorrow night I shall blow out my brains."

"Well, sir, if you will follow my advice you will neither pay the
money nor blow out your brains. I saw enough tonight to feel absolutely
certain that you have been cheated. Sir James Flash stood behind you,
and was, I am sure, signaling your hand to Emerson. I believe that
Emerson played fair otherwise, until the last game, but I am convinced
that he then cheated. You had good hands, but he had better; and
although I did not see him cheat--for I was on the other side of the
table--I am convinced that he did so. Now, sir, I advise you to go in
as usual tomorrow evening, and to play, raising your stakes as you did
tonight. When the times comes I will expose him. Should I not be able to
detect him we must try another night. I am so much convinced that this
is the case, and that I shall succeed, that whether you play one night
or three I will guarantee that you shall be no loser, but will, on the
honor of a gentleman, place in your hands the amount of your losses; so
that you will not have to ask your father for a check larger than you
would do if you confessed to him tomorrow morning. I only ask in return
that you, on your part, will give me your word of honor that you will
never touch a card again after you rise from the table."

"I cannot accept so generous an offer from a stranger," Cotter said in a
low tone.

"I do not think that it is generous," Mark replied quietly, "because I
am perfectly convinced that I shall not have to pay at all. Have you any
other IOUs out?"

"I have given them for about 5000 pounds, but that is not in addition
to the 29,000 pounds. Emerson told me that as he knew that I should have
difficulty in paying them at the present moment, he had taken them up,
and held them with his own."

"Will you give me the names of the persons to whom you gave them in the
first place?"

"Certainly;" and he mentioned three names, all of which stood with a
black cross against them on Mark's list.

"Thank you. Then you will go tomorrow night again?"

"Yes; and I swear to you that I will never touch a card afterwards."

"I don't think that you need fear," Mark said. "I have not been long in
London, but I happen to have been shown a good many of the tricks that
these blacklegs play on greenhorns, which will account for my having
noticed what has never been observed by the honest portion of the men
who frequent the place. Now I will say good night, sir. I shall be
behind your chair or his tomorrow night."

"I don't know what to say," Cotter said hesitatingly.

"There is no occasion to say anything; it is the duty of every honest
man to interfere if he sees another honest man being robbed, and that is
my sole object in this matter. Good night;" and turning round, he walked
rapidly away.



CHAPTER XIII.


The next morning, before going round to Gibbons', Mark saw his chief and
told him of what had taken place on the previous evening.

"I certainly did not think that you would succeed so soon; you believe
that you will be able fairly to expose these fellows?"

"I have no doubt whatever that I shall be able to expose one of them;
and I have equally no doubt that if the others are arrested, either
false cards or pockets for cards will be found upon them. What do you
wish me to do, sir? I can, of course, expose any fellow I catch at it,
but can do nothing about the others."

"I must have more than one captured," the chief said. "At even the most
irreproachable club there may be one blackleg, but if it is clear that
this place is the haunt of blacklegs we can break it. There are half a
dozen Acts that apply; there is the 11th Act of Henry VIII, statute 33,
cap. 9, which prohibits the keeping of any common house for dice, cards,
or any unlawful game. That has never been repealed, except that gaming
houses were licensed in 1620. What is more to the point is that
five Acts of George II, the 9th, 12th, 13th, 18th, and 30th, impose
penalties upon the keepers of public houses for permitting gambling, and
lay heavy penalties upon hazard, roulette, and other gambling games, on
the keepers of gambling houses and those who play there. Having received
complaints of several young men being rooked in the place, we can, if
we prove that some of its frequenters are blacklegs, shut the place up
altogether. We should do it quietly, and without fuss, if possible;
but if we shut it up several others of the same sort will be certain to
close their doors. But mind, there will probably be a desperate row, and
you had better take pistols with you. I will have four men close at
hand from ten o'clock till the time the place closes, and if they hear a
scrimmage, or you fire a pistol out of the window, they will rush in and
seize all engaged in the row, and march them to the lock up. Of course
you will have to be included."

Mark then went to Chetwynd.

"Well, what did you think of it last night?"

"Well, I own that it went against my grain to see that young fellow
being victimized by a sharper."

"My dear Mark, you must not use such language as that. I fancy from
what I have heard that the Honorable John is not altogether an estimable
character, but to call him a sharper is going too far altogether."

"I don't think that it is, for from what I saw last night I am pretty
well convinced that he did not play fair. I mean to go again tonight."

"But why on earth should you mix yourself up in such an affair, Mark? It
is no business of yours; you are not an habitue of the place. Above
all, it is extremely unlikely that you are right. There were some
shady people there, no doubt, but there were also a good many gentlemen
present, and as you know nothing of cards, as far as I know, it is the
most unlikely thing in the world that you should find out that Emerson
cheated when no one else noticed it."

"It is my business; it is the duty of every honest man to see that a
poor lad like that should not be eaten up by a shark like Emerson. I
don't care if there is a shindy over it. I shall not interfere unless I
can prove that the man is cheating, in which case no man of honor would
go out with him. I shall be glad if you and Boldero would go with me
again this evening. I am not known there, and you are to a good many
men, and Boldero to many more. I only want that, if I get into a row,
you should testify to the fact that I am a gentleman, and ordinarily
sane. If there is a row you will have an opportunity of seeing how much
I have benefited by my lessons."

"Yes, I heard you were making tremendous progress. Jack Needham told
me a month ago that you had knocked him out of time, and I went into
Gibbons' yesterday morning with a man who wanted to buy a dog, and he
told me that he considered that it was a great misfortune that you were
an amateur, for that you only required another six months' practice, and
he would then be ready to back you for a hundred pounds against any man
in the ring. But about this affair, Mark. Are you really in earnest?"

"I am, Dick, thoroughly in earnest; so would you be if you had spoken
to Cotter last night, as I did. I tell you that if I had not given him a
little hope that the thing might come out right, he would have blown out
his brains today."

"Well, Mark, if you have set your mind on it, of course I will stick to
you, though I have some doubts whether Cotter has any brains to speak
of to blow out, else he would not be mad enough to back himself against
Emerson and other men whom Boldero tells me he has been playing with."

"He has made an ass of himself, no doubt, Dick; but I fancy a good
many fellows do that at one time or other of their lives, though not, I
grant, always in the same way."

"Well, I will go, Mark. I need not ask Boldero, for he told me that he
should look in again at ten o'clock this evening, for he thought that
another night's play would probably bring Cotter to the end of his
tether."

Accordingly a little before ten they walked into the gambling house
together.

"Now, Dick, I want you, as soon as you sit down, to take your place in
the front line within a yard or two of Emerson. I don't want you to be
just behind him, but a short distance away; and I want you to keep your
eye upon Sir James Flash, who, if I am not mistaken, will take up the
same position that he did last night, near enough to Cotter to see
his hand. You will remark, I have no doubt, as I did last night, that
whenever Cotter has a bad hand, Flash will either close his eyes, or put
his hand up to his mouth and stroke his mustache, or make some sign of
that sort. When Cotter has a good hand he will stand perfectly still or
look about the room. At any rate, he will make no sign--that, of course,
is a guide to Emerson whether to propose or to refuse to allow Cotter
to do so. I need not point out to you what a tremendous advantage
the knowledge whether an opponent's hand is good or not gives him. Of
course, while watching an hour's play I can only know that Flash was
making signs, and that when he did so Cotter's hand was a bad one. It is
possible that the manner in which the sign was made, either by closing
his eye or twisting his mustache, or so on, may have been an intimation
as to the suit in which Cotter was strongest or weakest."

"By Jove, this is a serious thing, Mark."

"It is a serious thing. I don't want you to get into a row with the
fellow. I should like you to give me a nod when you have satisfied
yourself that I was not mistaken. I will take upon myself to denounce
the fellow, and to say what I noticed yesterday and you can back me up
by saying that you saw the same thing. I have no doubt that I shall be
able to convince every decent man there that my charge is well founded.
I am going to watch Emerson. With the help he gets from Flash, he won't
risk anything by cheating until it comes to a big stake like the last
game yesterday, in which case, if Cotter's hand happens to be a strong
one, he is likely to do so, and I fancy if he does I shall be able to
catch him at it. You had better keep Boldero near you. You can whisper
to him what you are watching Flash for, and get him to do so too; as,
if I catch Emerson cheating, there is likely to be a row; he can lend
a hand if necessary, and, at any rate, his joining in with you will
suffice to show his friends that the thing is genuine."

"All right, Mark. I am interested in the matter now, and am ready for
anything."

Soon after ten Cotter and Emerson again sat down, and, as usual, a lot
of spectators gathered round the table. The game resembled the one on
the previous evening. Mark placed himself' by the side of Cotter, a
stranger stood immediately behind his chair, another member of the club
was on the other side, and Sir James Flash stood partly behind him, so
that although somewhat in the background he could obtain a view between
their heads of Cotter's cards. Mark saw to his satisfaction that Dick
and Boldero had secured the exact position that he wished them to take.
For the first few games the play was even, and Dick began to think that
Mark had been mistaken, for Flash appeared to take little interest in
the game, and made no sign how Emerson should proceed.

As soon as the stake rose to a hundred again he distinctly saw Flash
close his eyes and play with his mustache; he called Boldero's attention
to the fact, and found the latter, who had also been watching, had
noticed it. By the time a few games had been played he verified Mark's
assertion that these signs were signals that Cotter's hand was a bad
one, and in each case Emerson played without giving his opponent the
opportunity of discarding and taking in fresh cards. He and Dick nodded
quietly to Mark, who had satisfied himself that so far Emerson had not
cheated in any other way. As on the previous evening, Cotter, after
losing five or six hundred pounds, proposed a final game of five
hundred. Mark bent down his head, so that the intentness of his gaze
should not be noticed, but from under his eyebrows he watched Emerson's
every movement; suddenly he placed a foot on the edge of the chair of
the man sitting in front of him, and with a sudden spring leaped upon
the table, seized Emerson's hand, and held it up to the full length of
his arm.

"Gentlemen," he shouted, "this fellow is cheating; there is a card in
his hand which he has just brought from under the table."

In a moment there was a dead silence of surprise; then Mark forced the
hand open and took Emerson's card, which he held up.

"There, you see, gentleman; it is a king."

Then a Babel of sounds arose, a dozen hands were laid upon Emerson, who
was pulled back from his chair and thrown down on a sofa, while hands
were run over his coat, waistcoat, and breeches.

"Here they are!" a man shouted, and held a dozen cards over his head.

The place of concealment had been cleverly chosen; the breeches
apparently buttoned closely at the knee, but in reality they were loose
enough to enable a finger and thumb to be passed between them and the
stocking, and in the lining of the breeches was a pocket in which the
cards had been placed, being held there by two pieces of whalebone, that
closed the pocket. The searchers, among whom were Dick and Boldero, did
not have it all their own way; four or five men rushed upon them, and
endeavored to pull them off Emerson. The din of voices was prodigious,
but Mark, still standing on the table, stilled it for a moment by
shouting:

"The scoundrel has an accomplice, who this evening and yesterday has
been signaling the strength of the cards in Mr. Cotter's hands."

"Who is he?" was shouted over the room.

"It is Sir James Flash," Mark said. "I denounce him as a cheat and a
sharper."

As pale as death, Flash rushed to the table.

"I don't know who you are, sir," he said, in a tone of concentrated
rage, "but you are a liar, and you shall answer for this in the
morning."

"I will answer to any gentleman that calls me to account," Mark said,
in a ringing voice, "but I don't meet a man who has been expelled from
White's for cheating, and who I have no doubt is well stocked with cards
at the present moment, in readiness for the victim that he is next going
to meet after the plucking of Mr. Cotter has been done. Now, gentlemen,
search him and see if I am wrong; if I am I will apologize for that part
of my accusation."

Flash drew a pistol from his pocket, but in an instant his arm was
seized by those standing round him, and it exploded harmlessly. Among
those who seized Flash was the man who had played with him the previous
evening. In spite of his struggles and curses, and the efforts of his
friends to rescue him, he too was thrown down and eight court cards were
found concealed in his sleeve. The uproar while this was going on had
been tremendous, but it was suddenly stilled as four men in dark clothes
entered the room. Each held in his hand the well known symbol of his
office, the little ebony staff surmounted by a silver crown.

"I arrest all present in the name of the king," one said, "for breaking
the laws against gambling, and for brawling and the use of firearms.
Now, gentlemen, resistance is useless; I must request that you each give
me your card, and your word of honor that you will appear at Bow Street
tomorrow morning."

"What is all this about, sir?" he asked Mark, who was still standing on
the table.

"Two fellows here have been caught cheating."

"What is your name and address, sir?"

"My name is Mark Thorndyke, and I am a landed gentleman at Reigate; my
friends Mr. Chetwynd and Mr. Boldero will bear this out."

"Who are the two men?" the constable asked.

"The two fellows with torn clothes," Mark said. "They are Mr. Emerson
and Sir James Flash."

"You are certain of the charge that you are making?"

"Quite certain; the cards have been found hidden upon them."

"Yes, yes!" a score of voices shouted; "they have been caught in the act
of cheating."

"Take those two men into custody," the constable said to two of his
companions.

"Who fired that pistol?" he went on.

A number of voices shouted:

"Sir James Flash; he attempted to murder Mr. Thorndyke."

The constable nodded to the man who had laid his hands on Sir James
Flash, and in a moment a pair of handcuffs closed on his wrists.

"You shall repent this!" Flash exclaimed furiously.

"Calm yourself, Sir James," the constable said calmly. "We know our
duty, and do it whether a man is a peer or a peasant; you are accused of
card sharping and an attempted murder."

"What is your address in town, Mr. Thorndyke?" he asked.

"18 Villiers Street."

"Is there any charge against anyone else here? A good many of you seem
to have your clothes torn and disarranged."

"Some fellows attempted to rescue Emerson and Flash while we were
searching them; for what reason we can all pretty well imagine."

"I shall require the names in the morning of your assailants," the
constable said; "it looks very much as if they were confederates of the
two prisoners. Now, gentlemen, you can all leave. This house is
closed, and will not be opened again until this affair is thoroughly
investigated."

In five minutes the house was deserted.

"How can I thank you, Mr. Thorndyke?" Cotter, who was one of those who
had seized Flash's arm, diverted his aim and searched him, said, when
they got outside the house. "You have saved my life. It did not seem
possible to me that you could succeed in showing that I was being
cheated, and I had firmly resolved that, instead of allowing you to
suffer loss, I would tomorrow morning make a clean breast of the whole
affair to my father, as I had intended to have done this morning."

"If I might advise you, Mr. Cotter, I should say, carry out your
intention as far as making a clean breast of it is concerned. Happily,
you are free from debt, as those IOUs are worthless, for they were
obtained from you by cheating, therefore you have no demand to make upon
his purse. The police will, I have no doubt, endeavor to keep this thing
quiet, but your name may come out, and it would be far better that
your father should hear this story from you than elsewhere; and your
assurance that you will never touch a card again, and the heavy lesson
that you have had, will doubtless induce him to look at the matter
leniently. It will, no doubt, be a painful story to tell, but it will be
far better told by you."

"I will do it, sir; as you say, the lesson has been a heavy one, and
henceforth my father shall have no reason to complain of me. May I call
and see you tomorrow evening?"

"Certainly. I shall be at home from seven to eight, after which hour I
have an engagement. Good night."

Cotter walked on, and Mark fell back, and joined Dick and Boldero, who
had fallen behind when they saw him speaking to Cotter.

"Well, Mark, I congratulate you," Dick Chetwynd said. "You did it
wonderfully, though how on earth you knew that fellow had a card in his
hand is more than I can guess."

"I felt sure he was going to cheat," Mark said quietly; "I saw that
Cotter's hand was a very strong one, and knew that Emerson would be
aware that it was so, because he would receive no signal from Flash,
therefore this was the time, if any, that he would cheat. He had been
playing with both hands upon the table. I saw him withdraw one, there
was a little pause, and then it came up again, and I had not a doubt
in the world that there was a card in it, and that it had been
hidden somewhere in his breeches, which is one of the best places of
concealment, for his hand being under the table while getting at the
card, no one present who was not behind the scenes, as I was, could
detect him doing it."

"The wonder to me is," Boldero said, "that while there were a number
of men looking on closely, for Emerson has long been suspected of not
playing fair, you, just fresh from the country, if I may say so, should
have spotted him."

"That is easily explained," Mark said. "Not wishing to fall a victim, I
have of late been put up to a great many of these sharpers' tricks by a
man who at one time had been in the trade himself."

"That was a capital idea, Mark," Dick said. "I wish you would introduce
me to him."

"I won't do that, Dick, but I shall be very glad to teach you all I know
myself about it; but I fancy that after this you will be in no great
hurry to enter a gambling hell again."

"That is so, Mark. I have never had any great inclination for play;
but after this you may be quite sure that I will light shy of cards
altogether. Still, I shall be glad if you will put me up to some of
these tricks, for I may be able to some day save a victim of card
sharpers, as you have done this evening."

The next morning, when those who had been present at the scene of the
previous evening arrived at the office of the detectives in Bow Street,
they were shown into some private rooms, and asked to wait. Cotter,
Mark, and his two friends first had an interview with the chief.

"You will understand," the latter said, "that this is an altogether
informal affair. I propose you first tell me your story as briefly as
possible."

This was done.

"Now, Mr. Cotter. I take it that you do not wish to prosecute?"

"Certainly not. I would, in fact, give anything rather than appear in
it."

"You have said that, in addition to the IOUs that you have given to the
two men caught cheating, they hold others to the amount of some five
or six thousand pounds, given by you to three other frequenters of the
club. In fact, these papers have been found in Emerson's pocketbook; he
told you, I believe, that he had taken them up, so that you should not
be inconvenienced by them. I understand, then, that you will be quite
content if you get these IOUs back again; those given to Emerson and
Flash are, of course, worthless. After what has happened, they could not
be presented, but probably you might have trouble about the others,
for, though I have no doubt that the whole of the men were in league
together, we have no means of absolutely proving it."

"I shall be more than content, sir; I have no wish to prosecute."

"We are glad," the chief said, "to be able to close a dangerous place;
and as the exposure will put a stop to the career of these two men, and
no doubt alarm a good many others, we don't care about taking the matter
into court. Such gross scandals as this are best kept quiet, when there
is no object in ventilating them. Therefore, gentlemen, as Mr. Cotter
is willing to do so, we shall let the matter drop. I shall be obliged if
you will step into the next room, however, until I have seen these three
men."

When they had left, the three were brought in.

"You have been concerned, sirs," the chief said sternly, "in winning
large sums of money from the Hon. William Denton, from Mr. James Carew,
from Mr. William Hobson, and others; in all of these cases the two men
caught cheating last night were also concerned. You all hold notes of
hand of Mr. Hobson. I shall advise that gentleman's father to refuse to
pay those notes, and promise him that if any further request for payment
is made I will furnish him with such particulars for publication as
will more than justify him in the eyes of the world in refusing to honor
them. You, as well as Mr. Emerson and Sir James Flash, have won large
sums from Mr. Cotter, and the fact that the IOUs he gave you were found
on Mr. Emerson points very strongly to their being in confederacy with
you in the matter; at any rate, they point so strongly that, whether a
jury would convict or not on the evidence that we shall be able to lay
before them, there can be no question whatever as to what the opinion of
men of honor will be. These IOUs are in our hands. Mr. Cotter does not
desire to pursue the case; he will, however, refuse absolutely to pay
those IOUs, and in doing so he will have the approval of all honorable
men. That being so, the IOUs are absolutely useless to you, and if you
will agree to my tearing them up now, he has most kindly consented to
let the matter drop in your cases."

The three men, who had all turned very white when he was speaking, now
protested angrily against imputations being made on their honor.

"Well, sirs," the officer said, "in that case the matter can, of course,
go on. You know best what the feeling will be as to these IOUs. They
will form an important item of evidence against you, you will see. As
the matter stands, either you gave them to Emerson to collect for you,
without any money passing between you--a very strange procedure, which
you will find it difficult to explain--or else he gave you the coin for
them, and you passed them over to him, and have, therefore, parted with
all claim on Mr. Cotter on your own account. Of course I impound them
with the other IOUs as proof of a conspiracy between you. Now, sirs, am
I to tear them up or not?"

The three men looked at each other, and then one of them said:

"We protest altogether against the assertion, sir, but at the same
time, as there can be little doubt that Emerson and Sir James Flash have
played unfairly, and we do not wish any association of our names
with theirs, we are perfectly willing that the IOUs, which, under the
circumstances, we should never have dreamt of presenting, should be
destroyed."

"I think that you have chosen wisely," the chief said dryly. "It is a
pity that you did not do so at first. These are the IOUs he gave to one
or other of you. Perhaps it would be pleasanter for you to destroy them
yourselves."

The three men took the papers with their names on them and tore them up.

"Thank you," he went on sarcastically. "That will place you in a
better position. You will be able to tell your friends that you felt so
indignant at the manner in which Mr. Cotter had been swindled by Emerson
and Flash that you at once destroyed his IOUs for the sums that you had
won of him. But, gentlemen,"--he spoke sternly now,--"remember that we
have a long list against you, and that the next victim, or let us say
his father, might be more disposed to push matters to their full length
than is Mr. Cotter. Remember, also, that we keep ourselves acquainted
with what is going on, and that should trouble arise we shall produce
all the complaints that have been made against you, and shall also
mention your connection with this affair, in which, as I understand, you
all did your best to prevent those two fellows from being searched."

Without saying another word the three men went out of the room,
too crestfallen to make even an attempt at keeping up their air of
indignation. The others were then called in.

"I am sorry, gentlemen," he said, "that you have had the trouble of
coming here, for the gentleman swindled has declined to prosecute the
swindlers, and you will understand that he is somewhat anxious that his
name should not appear in the matter. Fortunately, as instead of paying
in cash he gave IOUs for his losses, he will not be a loser to any large
amount by these transactions. I may say that the proprietor of the hell
has been there this morning, and to avoid trouble he has consented to
close his place for good. I have only to remark that I should advise
you, gentlemen, in future, only to indulge in gambling in places where
you may be fairly assured of the character of the men you play with. I
think, in conclusion, that you may all feel grateful to Mr. Cotter for
refusing to prosecute. It has saved you from having to appear in court
as witnesses in so utterly disreputable an affair."

There was a general murmur of assent, and in a minute or two the room
was clear. Flash and Emerson were then brought in, with a constable on
each side of them.

"Mr. Cotter has, I regret to say, declined to prosecute, and Mr.
Thorndyke has done the same with regard to Sir James Flash's use of his
pistol. You have, therefore, escaped the punishment due to swindlers
at cards. It is the less matter, as you are not likely to have an
opportunity of making fresh victims, for the story will be known by
this afternoon in every club in London. These IOUs will be of no use to
you--they are not worth the paper on which they are written. However,
I shall take it upon myself to hand them back to Mr. Cotter, to prevent
the possibility of their getting into other hands and giving him
trouble.

"You can unlock those handcuffs, constable; these men are at liberty to
go, and if they will take my advice they will lose no time in crossing
the water and establishing themselves somewhere where their talents are
likely to be better appreciated than they are here. They can go; one
of you can call a hackney coach for them if they wish it. They will
scarcely care to walk with their garments in their present condition."

Then the chief went into the next room.

"There is an end of that affair, Mr. Cotter. Here are the IOUs you gave
to those two swindlers. Those you gave to the other three men, who were
no doubt their confederates, have been torn up by them in my presence.
They declare that after seeing how shamefully you had been victimized
they had not the slightest idea of ever presenting them."

"I am sure that I am extremely grateful to you," Cotter said. "I know
that I have behaved like a madman, and that I don't deserve to have got
off as I have done. It will be a lesson to me for life, I can assure
you."

On leaving, Dick Chetwynd walked for some distance with Mark--as far as
Gibbons' place in St. Giles.

"There is one thing which I cannot understand," he said, "and that is
how it was that the constables happened to be so close at hand, just at
the time they were wanted."

"Well, you see, Dick, my relations with Bow Street are just at present
of a somewhat close nature, for they are aiding me in the search that I
told you that I was making for my father's murderer. The consequence was
that I had only to mention to the chief that I fancied I had detected
cheating at that place, and that there was a likelihood of a row there
last night, and he at once said he would send four men, to come in if
they heard a rumpus; and he was, indeed, rather glad of an opportunity
for breaking up the place, concerning which he had had several
complaints of young men being plucked to the last feather. Well, it was
lucky they came. I don't say that it would have made any difference,
because I think our side was a great deal stronger than they were, still
it would have led to a nasty row, and perhaps to half a dozen duels
afterwards. Well, I will say goodby now. I am very glad that the affair
has been dropped; it would not have mattered so much to me, as I am
single and my own master, but there were a good many men there who would
have been ready to have paid up handsomely rather than that their names
should appear in connection with a row at a gambling house."

At seven o'clock in the evening Philip Cotter called at Mark's lodgings,
accompanied by his father, who, as he came in with him, advanced at once
to Mark and shook him warmly by the hand.

"My son has told me everything, Mr. Thorndyke," he said, "and I cannot
thank you sufficiently for the noble part you took in rescuing him from
the terrible effects of his folly. I have been down here twice this
afternoon, for I felt that I could not rest until I had shaken you by
the hand. It is not the question of money so much, though that would
have been a serious loss to me, but it is the saving of my son's life,
and the saving of the honor of our name."

"I am glad indeed to have been of service, Mr. Cotter, and I trust that
you have consented to forgive the folly that he has committed, and which
I feel sure will never be repeated."

"Yes. It was a heavy blow to me, Mr. Thorndyke, when Philip told me; but
as he has sworn most solemnly never to touch a card again, and as I feel
sure that the lesson cannot but be a useful one to him all his life, I
have agreed to say no more about it, and let the matter drop altogether.
He has been fortunate to have escaped so easily. He has told me of the
noble offer you made to pay his losses if you should not be able to
prove that he was being cheated."

"I was not committing myself heavily," Mark said with a smile. "I had
seen enough to be absolutely certain, and was sure that I should be able
to bring it home to them."

"But it was at a considerable risk to yourself, Mr. Thorndyke. As it
was, you had a narrow escape of being shot."

"Not a very narrow escape," Mark replied. "With so many men standing
round him and their attention called to him, it was certain that he
would be seized before he could take aim at me. I had pistols in my
pocket, and was prepared to fire in an instant, but I saw at once that
there was no occasion for that."

"But I cannot imagine how you should have detected the cheating," the
banker said. "You are younger than my son, and he said that you told
him that you had only recently come up to London. It is astonishing that
while experienced players should never have noticed that anything was
wrong you should have discovered it."

"The explanation is simple, Mr. Cotter. I have no inclination for play
myself, but I happened a short time since to fall in with a man who was
well acquainted with all the various methods of card sharping. I thought
that a knowledge of that might some day be useful, and I got him to
put me up to a number of the tricks of card sharpers both at home and
abroad. Having these fresh in my mind, and seeing that your son was
playing with a man whose reputation I knew to be bad, I naturally
concentrated my attention upon him, and was not long in discovering that
he had a confederate standing behind your son's chair. Being a stranger
in the place, I could not denounce him, but the next night I set two
friends to watch that method of cheating, while I kept my eyes fixed on
Emerson's hands. As I anticipated, there was nothing suspicious about
his movements so long as play was comparatively low, for the advantage
that he gained from his confederate enabled him to be sure of winning in
the long run; it was only in the last game, which was a high one, that,
as he knew that your son had a strong hand, he was tempted to stock
his hand with false cards; and watching closely, I had no difficulty in
detecting his method."

"Well, sir, you have, at any rate, laid us both under the deepest
obligation. Is there any possible way in which we can show our
gratitude?"

Mark thought for a moment.

"In one way you might do me a favor, Mr. Cotter. A ward of my father's,
who will inherit some property when she comes of age, is at present
finishing her education in town, and is living with a lady who has
been her friend and companion since childhood. I have a good many
acquaintances, but they are all bachelors; and having been living down
at my father's place, near Reigate, for so many years, the ladles have
no acquaintances in London. They live at Islington, and their life is
a very dull one. I am anxious, for several reasons, that the young lady
should have the advantage of going somewhat into society. Hitherto I
have had no means of introducing her. If it is not too much to ask, Mr.
Cotter, I should be extremely glad and obliged if Mrs. Cotter would call
on them and give them an introduction into society. The lady with my
father's ward is the widow of a captain in the Indian Army, and is in
all ways a very charming person, and has been at the head of my father's
establishment for the last twelve years."

"With the greatest pleasure in the world, Mr. Thorndyke. I am only sorry
that it is so slight a thing that you ask of me. I have thought it
but right to tell my wife what has passed, and I had difficulty in
persuading her not to come with me this evening to also express her
gratitude to you. She will be pleased indeed to call upon your friends
at once, and I am sure she will do so tomorrow. I was going to ask you
to dine with us, and I hope that you will do so. We shall have no one
else, and I hope that you will be able to arrange to meet your friends
at our house a few days later."

The next morning Mark called on Mrs. Cunningham.

"I think you will have a visitor today," he said. "It has happened that
I have been able to do a service to the son of Mr. Cotter, a wealthy
banker. I am going to dine there this evening. He asked me about my
friends in London, and I mentioned that my only lady friends were you
and Millicent. He asked a few questions as to where you were living, and
so on, and said that his wife would have much pleasure in calling and
introducing Millicent into society. As your life is very dull here, and
it is clearly very desirable that Millicent should go into society, I
gladly accepted the offer, and I believe that she will call today."

"That will be very nice indeed, Mark. Millicent is not complaining, but
she must have felt it very dull. I have even felt it so myself after the
cheerful society we had at home."

"I don't know that I shall like it," Millicent said doubtfully.

"Oh, yes, you will, Millicent; and besides, it will be good for you. It
is not natural for a girl of your age to be here without friends, and I
shall be very glad to know that you are going to mix a little with other
people."

Mrs. Cotter called that afternoon, and three days later Mark met Mrs.
Cunningham and Millicent at a dinner party at the banker's, and Mrs.
Cotter introduced them very warmly to several of her friends, with the
result that in a very short time they were frequently invited out, while
they became very intimate with the banker and his wife, and often spent
the day there.



CHAPTER XIV.


Some little time after this Mark was intrusted by his chief with the
work of discovering a man who had committed a very atrocious murder, and
was, it was tolerably certain, hiding in the slums of Westminster. It
was the first business of the kind that had been confided to him, and he
was exceedingly anxious to carry it out successfully. He dressed himself
as a street hawker, and took a small lodging in one of the lanes, being
away the greater portion of the day ostensibly on his business, and
of an evening dropped into some of the worst public houses in the
neighborhood. He was at first viewed with some suspicion, but it was not
long before he became popular. He let it be understood that he had got
into trouble down in the country, and that he was quite ready to take
part in any job that promised to be profitable. But he principally
owed his popularity to the fact that the bully of the locality picked
a quarrel with him, and, to the astonishment of those present, Mark
invited him to go outside.

"You had better make it up with him, mate," a man sitting by his side
whispered. "He was in the prize ring at one time, and thrashed big Mike
Hartley at Kennington. He had to give it up owing to having fought a
cross. He would kill you in five minutes."

"I will chance that," Mark said quietly, as he moved towards the door.
"I don't think that he is stronger than I am, and I can use my fists a
bit, too."

By the time they had taken off their upper garments a crowd had
assembled. The news that a hawker was going to stand up against
Black Jim circulated rapidly, and caused intense excitement. To the
astonishment of the spectators, the bully from the first had not a
shadow of a chance, and at the end of the third round was carried away
senseless, while the hawker had not received a scratch. A few days later
Mark, who, on the strength of his prowess, had had two or three hints
that he could be put up to a good thing if he was inclined to join, was
going down to Westminster when two men stopped and looked after him.

"I tell you, Emerson, that is the fellow. I could swear to him anywhere.
What he is got up like that for I cannot tell you, but I should not be
surprised if he is one of that Bow Street gang. He called himself Mark
Thorndyke, and Chetwynd said that he was a gentleman of property; but
that might have been part of the plant to catch us. I have never been
able to understand how a raw countryman could have caught you palming
that card. I believe that fellow is a Bow Street runner; if so, it is
rum if we cannot manage to get even with him before we go. It seemed
to me that luck had deserted us altogether; but this looks as if it was
going to turn again. Let's go after him."

Keeping some fifty yards behind him, they watched Mark to his lodgings,
waited until he came out again, and followed him to a public house.

"He is acting as a detective, sure enough," Emerson said. "The question
is, what are we to do next?"

In half an hour Mark came out again. Several people nodded to him as he
passed them, but they saw a big man, who happened to be standing under
a lamp, turn his back suddenly as Mark approached him, and, after he had
passed, stand scowling after him, and muttering deep curses. Flash
at once went up to him. "Do you know who that fellow is, my man?" The
fellow turned savagely upon him.

"I don't know who he is; but what is that to you?"

"He is not a friend of ours," Flash said quietly; "quite the contrary.
We have known him when he was not got up like this, and we are rather
curious to know what he is doing here."

"Do you mean that?"

"I do; I owe the fellow a grudge."

"So do I," the man growled. "Just step up this next turning; there won't
be anyone about there. Now, then, what do yer want to know?"

"I want to know who he is."

"Well, he calls himself a hawker; but my idea of him is he is one of the
fancy, perhaps a west countryman, who is keeping dark here till he can
get a match on. I have been a prize fighter myself, but he knocked me
out in three rounds the other day."

"Well, the last time I saw him," Flash said, "he was dressed as a swell.
My idea of him is, he is a Bow Street runner, and he is got up like this
to lay his hands on some of the fellows down here."

"You don't mean it!" the man said with a deep oath. "Then I can tell you
he has come to the wrong shop. I have only got to whisper it about, and
his life would not be worth an hour's purchase. I had meant to stick
a knife in him on the first opportunity, but this will save me the
trouble."

"Well, you can have your revenge and five guineas besides," Flash said.
"But we must be there at the time. I should like him to know that I was
at the bottom of his being caught."

They stood talking together for a few minutes, and then separated, Flash
and his companion going back to a quiet lodging they had taken until
they could finish their arrangements for disposing of their furniture
and belongings before going abroad, while at the same time they finished
plucking a country greenhorn they had met at a coffee house. Two days
later, wrapped up in great coats, and with rough caps pulled down over
their eyes, they entered the thieves' resort half an hour before Mark's
usual time of getting there. A larger number of men than usual were
assembled, and among them was Black Jim. The men were all talking
excitedly, and were evidently furious at the news that the pugilist had
just told them.

"Those are the gents that have given me the office," he said, as Flash
and his companion entered. "They can tell yer he is one of that cursed
Bow Street lot."

"That is right enough, my men," Flash said. "He and four of his mates
broke into a place where we were having a bit of play, three weeks
since, marched us all away to Bow Street, and shut the place up. I don't
know what he is down here for, but you may be sure that it's for no good
to some of you. We owe him a heavy one ourselves. He came spying on us
dressed up as a swell and spoilt our game, and got the darbies put on
us, and we have sworn to get even with him."

"You will get even, don't you fear," one of the men growled, "and more
than even, strike me blind if you don't."

"Look here, lads," Flash said. "There is one thing I say--don't use your
knives on him; remember he is a runner, and no doubt his chief knows all
that he is doing, and no doubt ordered him to come here. There will be
a big search, you may be sure, when he don't turn up to make his report.
So don't let's have any bloodshed. Let the thing be done quietly."

"We can chuck his body into the river," one said.

"Yes, but if it is picked up with half a dozen holes in it, you may be
sure that they will be down here, and like enough every man who has used
this place will be arrested; you know that when there are twenty men in
a job the chances are that one will slip his neck out of the halter by
turning King's evidence."

An angry growl went round the room.

"Well, you know well enough it is so, it is always the case; besides, we
ought to give him a little time to prepare himself. My idea is that the
best plan will be to bind and gag him first, then we can hold a little
court over him, and let him know what is coming. An hour later, when the
place gets a bit quiet, we can carry him down to the river--it is not
above fifty yards away--tie a heavy weight round his neck, cut his cords
the last thing, and chuck him over; if his body is found, it will be
thought it is that of some chap tired of life who took pains to drown
himself pretty quickly, and there won't be any fuss over him, and there
will be nothing to come upon any of you fellows for."

There was a general murmur of assent. Several of those present had
already committed themselves to some extent with the supposed hawker,
and were as eager as Flash himself that he should be killed; still,
all felt that it was as well that it should be managed with the least
possible risk of discovery, for while an ordinary man could be put
out of the way without any trouble arising, the fact that he was a Bow
Street runner added enormously to the risk of the discovery of his fate.

There was a little talk, and then two of the men went out and brought
back a couple of strong ropes. A few minutes after their return Mark
Thorndyke came in. He paused as he entered the room, in surprise at the
silence that reigned, for he was accustomed to be greeted with friendly
exclamations. However, as he walked in the door closed, and then
suddenly, with shouts of "Down with the spy!" the men sprang from their
seats and made a sudden rush at him. For a minute the struggle was
tremendous; man after man went down under Mark's blows, others clung
onto him from behind, a rope was passed round his legs and pulled, and
he fell down with a crash, bringing down five or six of his assailants;
a minute later he was gagged and bound.

While the struggle was going on no one noticed that a Lascar's face was
pressed against the window; it disappeared as soon as Mark fell, and
ten minutes later a dark faced sailor ran into Gibbons'; it was a quiet
evening at Ingleston's, and Gibbons, after smoking a pipe with half a
dozen of the pugilists, had just returned.

"Hallo," he said, as he opened the door, "what the deuce do you want?"

The man was for a moment too breathless to answer.

"You know Mr. Thorndyke," he said at last, in very fair English.

"Yes, I know him. Well, what of him?"

"He has been attacked by a number of thieves in a public house near the
river, at Westminster, and he will be murdered unless you go with others
to help him."

"What the deuce was he doing there?" Gibbons muttered, and then, seizing
his cap, said to the Lascar,

"Come along with me; it aint likely that we shall be in time, but we
will try, anyhow."

He ran to Ingleston's.

"Come along, Ingleston," he exclaimed, "and all of you. You all know
Mr. Thorndyke. This man says he has been attacked by a gang down at
Westminster, and will be murdered. I am afraid we shan't be in time, but
it is worth trying."

The prize fighters all leaped to their feet. Mark had sparred with
several of them, and, being open handed and friendly, was generally
liked. In a moment, headed by Ingleston and Gibbons, they started at the
top of their speed, and in less than a quarter of an hour were at bank
side.

"That is the house," the sailor said, pointing to the public, where a
red blind had been lowered at the window, and two men lounged outside
the door to tell any chance customer that might come along he was not
wanted there at present.

Inside a mock trial had been going on, and Mark had been sentenced to
death as a spy, not a voice being raised in his defense. As soon as he
had been lifted up and seated so that he could see the faces of those
present, he recognized the two gamblers, and saw at once that his fate
was sealed; even had they not been there the chance of escape would have
been small. The fact that one of the detectives had been caught under
circumstances when there was but slight chance of its ever being known
how he came to his end, was in itself sufficient to doom him. Several
of the men present had taken him into their confidence, and he had
encouraged them to do so, not that he wanted to entrap them, or that he
intended to do so, but in order to obtain a clew through them as to the
hiding place of the man he was in search of.

The savage exultation on the faces of the two gamblers, however, was
sufficient to extinguish any ray of hope. He felt sure at once that they
had been the authors of his seizure, and that no thought of mercy would
enter the minds of these two scoundrels whose plans he had frustrated,
whose position he had demolished, and to whom he had caused the loss of
a large sum of money. Neither Flash nor Emerson would have taken share
in a crime known to so many had they not been on the point of leaving
England. Their names were known to no one there, and even should some of
these afterwards peach they would at least be safe. Mark had been asked
whether he could deny that he was a member of the detective force, and
had shaken his head. Even if he had told a lie, which he would not do,
the lie would have been a useless one. No one would have believed it,
for the two gamblers would have been witnesses that he was so.

He had been placed in one corner of the room, so that what light there
was would not fall on his face, and had anyone entered they would not
have noticed that he was gagged. One, indeed, had suggested that it
would be better to lay him under one of the benches, but Black Jim said,
with a brutal laugh:

"No, no; it is better that we should keep sight of him, and if anyone
asks a question of course we can say that the gentleman has the
toothache."

Presently Flash spoke to the ruffian in a low voice.

"Yes, I think you are right," he replied. "Look here," he went on,
raising his voice. "There is no occasion to have such a lot in this
business; Jake Watson, Bill the Tinker, and me are quite enough to carry
him to his bed. I reckon the rest had better make themselves scarce when
the times comes, go home, and keep their mouths shut. I need not say
that anyone who lets his tongue wag about it is likely to come to a
worse end than this bloodhound. We will have another glass of grog
before you turn out; the streets won't be quiet for another hour
yet, and there is another guinea of this worthy hawker's to be spent.
Summers, make another big bowl of punch. Don't put so much water in it
as you did in the last."

The landlord, a notorious ruffian, was just coming into the room with a
huge bowl when there was the sound of a scuffle outside.

"You had better see what is up," Black Jim said, and two of the men
nearest the door unbarred and opened it. As they did so there was a
rush, and eight powerful men ran in, knocking to the floor those who had
opened the door. The rest sprang to their feet; Gibbons looked round,
and as his eye fell upon Mark, who had, the moment the men inside rose,
got into a standing position, Gibbons launched himself towards him,
striking four of the ruffians who endeavored to stop him to the ground
with his crushing blows.

"This way," he shouted to his friends. "Ingleston and Tring, do you keep
the door."

The moment the six men had closed round Mark, one of them, taking
out his knife, cut the cords, removed the bandage from his mouth, and
extricated the gag. The name of the two prize fighters had created
something like a panic among the crowd, which had increased when one of
them shouted, "It is Charley Gibbons."

Flash and Emerson sprang to their feet with the rest, and the latter
shouted, "Go at them, men; there are only eight of them, and we are
twenty. Knife them, or you will all hang for this job."

The knowledge of their danger was evident to all the men, and, nerved by
desperation, they rushed at the prize fighters; but the eight were now
nine, and each of them in a fray of this kind was equal to half a dozen
ordinary men. Scarce a word was spoken, but the sound of crushing blows
and scuffling, and an occasional, oath, made a confused din in the half
lighted room. Mark burst his way through his assailants to the spot
where Flash and Emerson were standing, somewhat in the rear of the
crowd, for they had been sitting at the other end of the room. Flash had
a pistol in his hand, but the man who was standing in front of him was
struck with such violence that he fell backwards, knocking Emerson
to the ground and almost upsetting Flash, and before the latter could
steady himself Mark struck him with all his force under the chin. A
moment later the landlord blew out the two candies, and in the darkness
the ruffians made a dash for the door, carried Tring and Ingleston off
their feet, and rushed out into the lane.

"If the man who blew those candles out don't light them again at once,"
Gibbons shouted, "I, Charley Gibbons, tell him that I will smash him and
burn this place over his head; he had best be quick about it."

The landlord, cowed with the threat, soon returned with a candle from
the kitchen, and lit those that he had extinguished.

"Well, Mr. Thorndyke, we just arrived in time, I fancy," Gibbons said.

"You have saved my life, Gibbons--you and the others. How you got to
know that I was here I cannot imagine. I would have been a dead man
in another half hour if you had not arrived. I thank you all from the
bottom of my heart."

"That is all right, sir," Gibbons said. "It is a pleasure to give such
scoundrels as these a lesson. Is anyone hurt? I fancy I have got a
scratch or two."

Several of the men had been cut with knives, but the blows had been
given so hurriedly that no one was seriously injured. Twelve men lay on
the ground.

"Now sir, what shall we do with these fellows?"

"I should say we had better leave them alone, Gibbons. I don't want any
row over the affair. It is the work of these two fellows here. I think I
pretty well settled one of them."

Gibbons stooped over Flash.

"You have broken his jaw, sir; but he will come round in time. I believe
this other fellow is only shamming. I don't see any of our handiwork
upon his face. The others have all got as much as they want, I think,"
and taking a candle he looked at their faces. "There is not one of them
who will want to show up for a week or so," he said, "and there are two
or three who will carry the marks to their graves. Well, sir, if you
don't want anything done to them, the sooner we are off the better.
Those fellows who got away may bring a lot of others down upon us. As
long as it is only fists, we could march through Westminster; but as
they would have knives, it is just as well to get out of it before there
is any trouble. You are got up in a rum way, Mr. Thorndyke."

"Yes; I will tell you about it afterwards. I agree with you that we had
best be moving at once."

But the men who had fled were too glad to have made their escape to
think of anything but to make for their dens as quick as possible,
and the party passed through the lanes into the open space in front of
Parliament House without interruption.

"We will go up to your place, Ingleston, and talk it over there," Mark
said. "You can get those cuts bound up, and I shall be very glad to
get a drink. That thing they shoved into my mouth hurt my tongue a good
deal, and I have not gone through a pleasant half hour, I can tell you."

He walked up past Whitehall with Gibbons and Ingleston, the others
going in pairs, so as not to attract attention. As soon as they reached
Ingleston's place, the latter told the man in the bar to put the
shutters up, led the way into the bar parlor, and mixed a large bowl of
punch.

"Now, Gibbons, in the first place," Mark said, after quenching his
thirst, "how did you know of my being in danger?"

"Well, sir, a black sailor chap ran into my place suddenly and told me."

"Do you mean a colored man, Gibbons?"

"Yes, sir, one of those Lascar chaps you see about the docks. I did not
ask any questions, but ran as hard as I could. I had only left here five
minutes before, and knew that Tring and some of the others would still
be here. They did not lose a moment, and off we went. The sailor chap he
kept ahead. I tried to come up to him two or three times to get to know
something about it, but he always seemed to quicken his pace when I was
coming up, and I soon got too blown to want to do much talking. He led
us to the door, and after that I saw nothing more of him. What became
of him I don't know. I expect he was better at running than he was at
fighting."

"It is curious," Mark said thoughtfully. "He might have been in the
place when I went in, and slipped out while I was making a fight for it.
I have seen a Lascar several times while I have been down there. I dare
say it was the same man, though why he should take such trouble for the
sake of a stranger I don't know. There seems to be a good many of them
about, for now I think of it, I have run against them several times
wherever I have been in town."

"Now, sir, what did they want to kill you for?"

"Well, Gibbons, it happened in this way. My father, you know, was
murdered by a man who had a grudge against him, and who is both a
highwayman and a house breaker."

"They don't often go together," Ingleston said. "The highwaymen
generally look down upon the burglars and keep themselves to
themselves."

"I hew they do, Ingleston; but this fellow has been a convict, and is
not particular what he turns his hand to. The detectives have been
after him for a long time, but have failed, and I determined to take the
matter up myself, and ever since I have been up here I have been hunting
about in the worst quarters of the town. The people of Bow Street have
aided me in every way they could, and I suppose some of these men have
seen me go in or out of the place. Of course, when I am going into these
bad quarters, I put on a disguise and manage to get in with some of
these thieves, and so to try to get news of him through them. Three
weeks ago I decided to try Westminster. I was getting on uncommonly well
there, principally because I gave a tremendous thrashing to a fellow
they call Black Jim. He has been a prize fighter."

"I know him," Tring said; "it was the fellow that was kicked out for
selling a fight. He was not a bad man with his fists, either; but I
expect you astonished him, Mr. Thorndyke."

"Yes, I knocked him out of time in three rounds. Well, he has been a
bully down there, and everyone was very glad he was taken down. After
that I got to know several of the worst lot down there. They fancied
that I was one of themselves, and several of them made proposals to me
to join them, and, of course, I encouraged the idea in hopes of coming
upon the man that I was after. Then some fellow in the street recognized
me, I suppose, and denounced me to the rest as being one of the runners.
I suppose he told them this evening, before I went in.

"The place was a regular thieves' den, which, of course, was why I
went there. Naturally they were furious, especially those who had been
proposing to me to join them. Anyhow, they had evidently settled among
themselves that I was to be put out of the way, and directly I went in I
was attacked. I knocked down a few of them, but they jumped on my back,
and one of them managed to get a rope round my legs, and down I went
with three or four of them, and before I could get up again they had
tied and gagged me. Then they held a sort of court. Man after man got up
and said that I had been drawing them on to find out what they were up
to, and had agreed to join them, of course with the intention of getting
them caught in the act, and two got up and said that they knew me as one
of the runners. They all agreed that I must be put out of the way.

"I suppose, as the landlord did not want blood spilt in his house, they
did not knife me at once; however, they told me that they had decided
that as soon as the coast was clear I should be carried down to the
river, and chucked in, with an old anchor tied to my neck. I had just
a gleam of hope a short time before you came in, for then it had been
settled that it was just as well no more should be engaged in the affair
than was necessary, and that Black Jim, with two others, whom I had
been talking to, and the two men who had told them that I was a runner,
should manage it, and the rest were to go off to their homes.

"I had been all the time trying to loosen my ropes, and had got one of
my hands nearly free, and I thought that if they waited another half
hour I might have got them both free, and been able to make a bit of a
fight of it, though I had very little hope of getting my legs free.

"However, I had my eye on the knife of the man who was sitting next to
me, and who was one of those who was to stay. I thought that if I had my
hands free, I could snatch his knife, settle him, and then cut the ropes
from my legs; that done, I could, I think, have managed Black Jim and
the others. As for the men who denounced me, they were small men, and I
had no fear of them in a fight, unless; as I thought likely enough, they
might have pistols. One of them is the fellow whose jaw I broke; I hit
him hard, for he had a pistol in his hand."

"There is no doubt you hit him hard," Gibbons said dryly. "He looked a
better sort than the rest."

"Yes, the fellow was a card sharper whom I once detected at cheating;
and so was the one who was lying next to him, the man whom you said you
thought was shamming."

By this time the men's wounds were all bandaged up. Mark told them that
he would be round there again in the morning, and hoped that they would
all be there.

"I shall go home at once, and turn in," he said. "Straining at those
cords has taken the skin off my wrists, and I feel stiff all over; it
will be a day or two, Gibbons, before I am able to put the gloves on
again. I wish I could find that Lascar; I owe him a heavy debt."

As Mark made his way home he thought a good deal about the colored
sailor. If the man had been in the den the ruffians would hardly have
ventured to have attacked him in the presence of a stranger. Of course,
he might have been passing, and have seen the fray through the window,
but in that case he would run to the nearest constable. How could he
know anything about his habits, and why should he have gone to Gibbons
for assistance? That, and the fact that he had so often observed
Lascars in the places he had gone to, certainly looked as if he had been
watched, and if so, it could only be connected with those diamonds. It
was a curious thing altogether.

The next morning he went early to Bow Street. As soon as the chief came
he related the events of the previous evening, and told him that it was
Flash and Emerson who had denounced him.

"I know the place," the officer said. "It is one of the worst thieves'
dens in London. However, it is just as well you decided not to take any
steps. Of course, all the fellows would have sworn that they did not
intend to do any harm, but that Flash had put them up to frightening
you, and I doubt whether any jury would have convicted. As to the other
men, we know that they are all thieves, and some of them worse; but the
mere fact that they proposed to you to join in their crimes won't do,
as no actual crime was committed. However, I shall have the gang closely
watched, and, at any rate, you had better leave Westminster alone;
someone else must take up the work of looking for that man you were
on the watch for. Anyhow, you had best take a week's rest; there is
no doubt you have had a very narrow escape. It is strange about that
Lascar; he might not have cared for going in to take part in the fray,
but you would have thought that he would have waited outside to get a
reward for bringing those men to your rescue."

As Mark did not care to tell about the diamonds till the time came for
getting them, he made no reply, beyond expressing an agreement with the
chief's surprise at the man not having remained to the end of the fray.
On leaving Bow Street he went up to Ingleston's. The men who had rescued
him the night before were gathered there; and he presented each of them
with a check for twenty-five guineas.

"I know very well," he said, "that you had no thought of reward when you
hurried down to save me, but that is no reason why I should not show my
gratitude to you for the service you have rendered me; some of you might
very well have been seriously hurt, if not killed, by their knives. At
any rate, I insist upon you taking it; money is always useful, you know,
and it is not often so well earned as this."

The men were greatly pleased, and Tring said:

"Well, sir, if you get into another scrape you may be sure that you can
count upon us."

"I shall try and not get into any more," Mark laughed. "This has been
a good deal more serious than I had bargained for, and I shall be very
careful in the future."



CHAPTER XV.


"The burglary season seems to have recommenced in earnest," Mark's chief
said some nine months after he had been at work. "For a time there had
been a lull, as you know, but I have had three reports this week, and it
strikes me that they are by the same hand as before; of course I may be
mistaken, but they are done in a similar way, the only difference being
that there is ground for believing that only one man is engaged in them.
I fancy the fellow that you are after has either been away from London
for some time, or has been keeping very quiet. At any rate, we have
every ground for believing that he keeps himself aloof from London
thieves, which is what I should expect from such a man. If one has nerve
enough to do it, there is nothing like working singly; when two or
three men are engaged, there is always the risk of one being caught
and turning Queen's evidence, or of there being a quarrel, and of his
peaching from revenge.

"If your man has been away from town, he has certainly not been working
any one district; of course, one gets the usual number of reports from
different quarters; but although burglaries are frequent enough, there
has been no complaint of a sudden increase of such crimes as there would
have been judging from the numerous daring attempts here, had Bastow
been concerned; therefore I feel sure that he has been living quietly.
He would have his mate's share--that man you shot, you know--of the
plunder they made together; he would know that after that affair at your
place there would be a vigilant hunt for him, and it is likely enough
that he has retired altogether from business for a time.

"However, men of that sort can never stand a quiet life long, and are
sure sooner or later to take to their trade again, if only for the sake
of its excitement. Now that the burglaries have begun again, I shall
be glad if you will devote yourself entirely to this business. You have
served a good apprenticeship, and for our sake as well as yours I should
be glad for you to have it in hand."

"I shall be very pleased to do so, sir. Although we do not know where he
is to be found, I think I can say that it is not in the slums of
London; it seems to me that he may be quietly settled as an eminently
respectable man almost under our noses; he may show himself occasionally
at fashionable resorts, and may be a regular attendant at horse races.

"He would not run any appreciable risk in doing so, for his face is
quite unknown to anyone except the constables who were present at his
trial, and even these would scarcely be likely to recognize him, for he
was then but eighteen, while he is now six or seven and twenty, and no
doubt the life he has led must have changed him greatly."

"I quite agree with you," the chief said. "After the first hunt for him
was over, he might do almost anything without running much risk. Well,
I put the matter in your hands, and leave it to you to work out in your
own way; you have given ample proof of your shrewdness and pluck, and
in this case especially I know that you will do everything that is
possible. Of course you will be relieved of all other duties, and if it
takes you months before you can lay hands upon him, we shall consider it
time well spent, if you succeed at last. From time to time change your
quarters, but let me know your address, so that, should I learn anything
that may be useful, I can communicate with you at once. You had better
take another name than that by which you are known in the force. I shall
be glad if, after thinking the matter over, you will write me a few
lines stating what you propose to do in the first place."

Mark went back to his lodgings, and sat there for some time, thinking
matters over. His first thought was to attend the races for a time, but
seeing the number of people there, and his own ignorance of Bastow's
appearance, he abandoned the idea, and determined to try a slower but
more methodical plan. After coming to that conclusion he put on his hat
and made his way to Mrs. Cunningham's.

"Well, Mr. Constable," Millicent said saucily, as he entered, "any fresh
captures?"

"No, I think that I have for the present done with that sort of thing; I
have served my apprenticeship, and am now setting up on my own account."

"How is that, Mark?"

"There is reason to believe that Bastow has begun his work again near
London. As I have told you, it is absolutely certain that he is not
hiding in any of the places frequented by criminals here, and there
is every reason for supposing that he has been leading a quiet life
somewhere, or that he has been away in the country. As long as that was
the case, there was nothing to be done; but now that he seems to have
set to work again, it is time for me to be on the move. I have seen the
chief this morning, and he has released me from all other' duty, and
given me carte blanche to work in my own way."

"Then why don't you leave the force altogether, Mark? You know that I
have always thought it hateful that you should be working under orders,
like any other constable."

"Of course, women don't like to be under orders, Millicent; but men are
not so independent, and are quite content to obey those who are well
qualified to give orders. I have had a very interesting time of it."

"Very interesting!" she said scornfully. "You have nearly been killed
or shot half a dozen times; you have been obliged to wear all sorts of
dirty clothes, to sleep in places where one would not put a dog, and
generally to do all sorts of things altogether unbecoming in your
position."

"My dear, I have no particular position," he laughed, and then went on
more seriously: "My one position at present is that of avenger of
my father's murder, and nothing that can assist me in the task is
unbecoming to me; but, as I said, it has been interesting, I may almost
say fascinating, work. I used to be fond of hunting, but I can tell you
that it is infinitely more exciting to hunt a man than it is to hunt a
fox. You are your own hound, you have to pick up the scent, to follow
it up, however much the quarry may wind and double, and when at last you
lay your hand upon his shoulder and say, 'In the King's name,' there is
an infinitely keener pleasure than there is when the hounds run down
the fox. One sport is perhaps as dangerous as the other: in the one case
your horse may fail at a leap and you may break your neck, in the other
you may get a bullet in your head; so in that respect there is not much
to choose between man and fox hunting. There is the advantage, though,
that in the one you have to depend upon your horse's strength, and in
the other on your own courage."

"I know that you are an enthusiast over it, Mark, and I can fancy that
if I were a big strong man, as you are, I might do the same; but if you
are going now to try by yourself, why should you not leave the force
altogether?"

"Because, in the first place, I shall get all the information they
obtain, and can send for any assistance that I may require. In the next
place, by showing this little staff with its silver crown, I show that
I am a Bow Street runner, and can obtain information at once from all
sorts of people which I could not get without its aid."

"Well, I won't say anything more against it, Mark. How are you going to
begin?"

"I mean to go the round of all the places near London--say, within ten
miles. I shall stay from a week to a fortnight in each, take a quiet
lodging, give out that I am on the lookout for a small house with a
garden, and get to talk with people of all kinds."

"But I cannot see what you have to inquire for."

"I imagine that Bastow will have taken just the sort of house that I am
inquiring for, and in the course of my questions I may hear of someone
living in just that sort of way--a retired life, not making many
friends, going up to London sometimes, and keeping, perhaps, a deaf old
woman as a servant, or perhaps a deaf old man--someone, you see, who
would not be likely to hear him if he came home in the middle of the
night, or in the early morning. Once I hear of such a man, I should
ascertain his age, and whether generally he agreed in appearance with
what Bastow is likely to be by this time, then get down one of the
constables who was at the trial, and take his opinion on the subject,
after which we should only have to watch the house at night and pounce
upon him as he came back from one of his excursions. That is the broad
outline of my plan. I cannot help thinking that in the long run I shall
be able to trace him, and of course it will make it all the easier if he
takes to stopping coaches or committing murderous burglaries."

"Then I suppose we are not going to see you often, Mark?"

"Well, not so often as you have done, Millicent, for some time, at any
rate. I shall not be more than five or six miles away, and I shall often
ride into town for the evening, and return late with some sort of hope
that I may be stopped on the road again; it would save me a world of
trouble, you see, if he would come to me instead of my having to find
him."

"Which side of London are you going to try first?"

"The south side, certainly; there are a score of places that would be
convenient to him--Dulwich, Clapham, Tooting, Wimbledon, Stockwell; the
list is a long one. I should say Wimbledon was about the most distant,
and I should think that he would not go so far as that; if he only acted
as a highwayman he might be as far off as Epsom; but if he is really the
man concerned in these burglaries he must be but a short distance away.
He would hardly risk having to ride very far with the chance of coming
upon the patrols. I think that I shall begin at Peckham; that is a
central sort of position, and from there I shall work gradually west;
before I do so perhaps I shall try Lewisham. He is likely, in any case,
to be quite on the outskirts of any village he may have settled in, in
order that he may ride in and out at any hour without his coming and
going being noticed."

"You certainly seem to have thought it over in all ways, Mark; you
almost infect me with your ardor, and make me wish that I was a man and
could help you."

"You are much nicer as you are, Millicent."

The girl tossed her head in disdain at the compliment.

"It is all very well, Mark," she went on, ignoring his speech, "but it
seems to me that in finding out things a woman would be able to do
just as much as a man; she can gossip with her neighbors and ask about
everyone in a place quite as well, if not better, than a man."

"Yes I don't doubt that," Mark laughed, "and if I want your aid I shall
have no hesitation in asking for it. Until then I hope you will go on
with your painting and harping steadily, like a good little girl."

"I am nearly eighteen, sir, and I object to be called a good little
girl."

"Well, if I were to say a good young woman you would not like it."

"No, I don't think I should. I don't know why, but when anyone says a
girl is a good young woman or a nice young woman, there always seems
something derogatory about it; it is almost as bad as saying she is a
very respectable young person, which is odious."

"Then, you see," he went on, "you are quite getting on in society; since
Mr. Cotter's introduction to Mrs. Cunningham and his mother's subsequent
call you have got to know a good many people and go about a good deal."

"Yes, it has been more lively of late," she admitted. "At first it was
certainly monstrously dull here, and I began to think that we should
have to change our plans and go down again to Weymouth, and settle there
for a time. Now I am getting contented; but I admit, even at the risk of
making you conceited, that we shall certainly miss you very much, as
you have been very good, considering how busy you have been, to come in
three or four evenings every week for a chat."

"There has been nothing very good about it, Millicent; it has been very
pleasant to me; it is like a bit of old times again when I am here with
you two, and seem to leave all the excitement of one's work behind as I
come in at the door."

"I wonder whether the old time will ever come back again, Mark?" she
said sadly.

"It never can be quite the old time again, but when you are back at the
old place it may be very near it."

She looked at him reproachfully.

"You think that I shall change my mind, Mark, but at heart you know
better. The day I am one and twenty I hope to carry out my intentions."

"Well, as I have told you before, Millicent, I cannot control your
actions, but I am at least master of my own. You can give away Crowswood
to whom you like, but at least you cannot compel me to take it. Make it
over to one of the hospitals if you like--that is within your power; but
it is not in your power to force me into the mean action of enriching
myself because you have romantic notions in your mind. I should scorn
myself were I capable of doing such an action. I wonder you think so
meanly of me as to suppose for a moment that I would do so."

"It is a great pity my father did not leave the property outright to
your father, then all this bother would have been avoided," she said
quietly. "I should still have had plenty to live upon without there
being any fear of being loved merely for my money."

"It would have been the same thing if he had," Mark said stubbornly.
"My father would not have taken it, and I am sure that I should not have
taken it after him; you are his proper heiress. I don't say if he had
left a son, and that son had been a second Bastow, that one would have
hesitated, for he would probably have gambled it away in a year, the
tenants might have been ruined, and the village gone to the dogs.
Every man has a right to disinherit an unworthy son, but that is a very
different thing from disinheriting a daughter simply from a whim. Well,
don't let us talk about it any more, Millicent. It is the only thing
that we don't agree about, and therefore it is best left alone."

The next day Mark established himself at an inn in Peckham, and for six
weeks made diligent inquiries, but without success. There were at least
a dozen men who lived quietly and rode or drove to their business in
town. Many of them were put aside as needing no investigation, having
been residents there for years. Some of the others he saw start or
return, but none of them corresponded in any way with the probable
appearance of the man for whom he was in search. During this time he
heard of several private coaches being held up on the road between Epsom
and London, and three burglaries took place at Streatham.

He then moved to Stockwell. Before proceeding there he had his horse
up again from Crowswood, and rode into Stockwell from the west. He was
dressed now as a small country squire, and had a valise strapped behind
his saddle. The inn there was a busy one.

"I want a room," he said, as he alighted. "I shall probably stay here a
few days."

Presently he had a talk with the landlord.

"I am on the lookout," he said, "for a little place near town. I have
come in for a small estate in the country, but I have no taste for
farming, and want to be within easy reach of town, and at the same
time to have a place with a paddock where I can keep my horse and live
quietly. I don't much care whether it is here or anywhere else within
a few miles of town, and I intend to ride about and see if I can find a
place that will suit me. I do not want to be nearer the town than this,
for I have not money enough to go the pace; still, I should like to be
near enough to ride or walk in whenever I have a fancy for it."

"I understand, sir. Of course there are plenty of places round here,
at Clapham and Tooting, and I may say Streatham, but most of them are
a deal too large for a bachelor, still I have no doubt you would find a
place to suit you without much difficulty. These sort of places are most
in request by London tradesmen who have given up business and want to
get a little way out of town and keep a gig. I should say there must be
a score of such people living round here. I am often asked about such
places, but I don't know of one to let just at the present moment.

"Still, there ought to be, for of late people have not cared so much
to come out here; there has been such a scare owing to highwaymen and
burglars, that men with wives and families don't fancy settling out of
town, though there aint much work about it, for to every one house that
is broken into there are thousands that are not, and besides, the houses
that these fellows try are large places, where there is plenty of silver
plate and a few gold watches, and perhaps some money to be had."

Mark soon made the acquaintance of the stablemen, and a few pints of
beer put them on good terms with him. Every day he took rides round the
neighborhood, going out early, stabling his horse, and after having a
chat with the ostlers, strolling round the place. Clapham, Ewell, and
Streatham were also visited.

"I know of a place that would just suit you," the ostler at the
Greyhound at Streatham said to him, on the occasion of his third visit
there; "but it is let; my old mother is the gentleman's housekeeper.
He took the place through me, for he rode up just as you have done, one
afternoon, nigh a year ago. He was from town, he was; he told me that
he had been going the pace too hard, and had to pull in, and wanted a
little place where he could keep his horse and live quiet for a time. I
told him of a place that I thought would suit him just outside the town,
and he called in the next day and told me he had taken it. 'Now,' he
said, 'I want a woman as house keeper; an old woman, you know. I cannot
be bothered with a young one. If you speak a civil word to a wench she
soon fancies you are in love with her. I want one who can cook a chop or
a steak, fry me a bit of bacon, and boil an egg and keep the place tidy.
I intend to look after my horse myself.'

"'Well, sir,' I said, 'there is my old mother. She is a widow, and it
is as much as she can do to keep off the parish. She is reckoned a tidy
cook and a good cleaner, and she could keep herself well enough if it
wasn't that she is so hard of hearing that many people don't care to
employ her.'

"'I don't care a rap about that,' he said. 'I shall not need to talk to
her except to tell her what I will have for dinner, and if she is deaf
she won't want to be away gossiping. Does she live near here?'

"'She lives in the town,' I said. 'I can fetch her down in half an
hour.'

"'That will do,' says he. 'I am going to have lunch. When I have, done I
will come out and speak with her.'

"Well, sir, he engaged her right off, and he tipped me a guinea for
finding the place for him, and there he has been ever since. It was a
lucky job for mother, for she says there never was a gentleman that gave
less trouble. He is a wonderful quiet man, and in general stops at home
all the day smoking and reading. He has a boy comes in two or three
times a week to work in the garden. Sometimes of an evening he rides up
to town. I expect he cannot keep away from the cards altogether."

"Is he an elderly man?" Mark asked.

"Lor', no, sir; under thirty, I should say. He is a free handed sort of
chap, and though he aint particular about his eating, he likes a bottle
of good wine, the old woman says, even if it is only with a chop. He
never rides past here and I happen to be outside without tossing me a
shilling to drink his health."

Mark went into the house and ordered lunch. It would not have done to
have asked any more questions or to have shown any special interest in
the matter, but he felt so excited that he could not have avoided doing
so had he waited longer with the ostler. After he had finished his meal
he strolled out again into the stable yard.

"Well," he said to the ostler, "can't you put me up to another good
thing, just as you told that gentleman you were speaking to me about?"

"There are two or three places that I know of that might suit you, sir.
There is a house on the hill. I know that it has got a paddock, but I
don't know how big it is; it is in general known as Hawleys--that is the
name of the last people who lived there. Anyone will tell you which is
the house. Then there is another place. You turn to the right the third
turning on the hill; it stands by itself two or three hundred yards
down; it has got a goodish bit of ground. There is only one house beyond
it; that is the one where my mother lives. That was an old farm once,
but this was built later. I believe the ground belonged to the farm. You
will know it by a big tree in front of it; it stands back forty feet or
so from the road."

"Where does the road lead to?"

"Well, sir, it aint much of a road beyond the next house; it is only
a lane, but you can get through that way into the main road, through
Tooting down into Balham, and on to Wimbledon."

"'I think I will go and have a look at both those places," Mark said.

"Will you take your horse, sir?"

"No; I suppose it is not much above half a mile?"

"About that, sir."

"Then I will walk; I shall not be likely to find anyone to hold my horse
there."

Mark had no difficulty in finding the house. It looked as if it had been
untenanted for some time, and in the window was a notice that for keys
and information applications were to be made at a shop in the High
Street. Well pleased to find that there was no one in the house, Mark
entered the gate and passed round into what at one time had been a
kitchen garden behind it; at the bottom of this was a field of three or
four acres.

The ground was separated by a hedge from that of the house beyond. This
was fully a hundred yards away. A well bred horse was grazing in the
field, a man smoking a pipe was watching a boy doing gardening work
behind the house. Mark remained for nearly an hour concealed behind
the hedge in hopes that he would come nearer. At the end of that time,
however, he went into the house, and after waiting another ten minutes
Mark also left, resisting the temptation to walk along the road and take
a closer look at it, for he felt that such a step would be dangerous,
for should the man notice anyone looking at the place his suspicions
might be aroused.

It was evident that the lane was very little used; in many cases the
grass grew across it. There were marks of horses' feet, but none of
wheels, and he concluded that when going up to town the man came that
way and rode quietly through Streatham, for the hoof prints all pointed
in that direction, and that on his return at night he came up the lane
from the other road.

"Well, master, what do you think of the houses?" the ostler asked on his
return to the inn.

"I have only been to the one in the lane that you spoke of, for I want
to get back to town. I' had a good look at it, but it is rather a dreary
looking place, and evidently wants a lot of repairs before it can
be made comfortable. The next time that I am down I will look at the
other."

Mounting his horse, he rode at a rapid pace into London, and dismounted
at Bow Street.

"You have news, I see, Mr. Thorndyke," the chief said when he entered.

"I have, sir; I believe that I have marked the man down; at any rate, if
it is not he, it is a criminal of some sort--of that I have no doubt."

"That is good news indeed," the chief said. "Now tell me all about it."

Mark repeated the story the ostler had told him, and the result of his
own observations.

"You see," he said, "the man, whether Bastow or not, has clearly taken
the place for the purpose of concealment, for he can approach it by
the lane, which is a very unfrequented one, on his return from his
expeditions. He has taken on a deaf old woman who will not hear him ride
in at night, and will have no idea at what hours he comes home. Riding
out through the main street in the afternoon he would excite no notice,
and the story to the ostler would very well account for his taking the
house and for his habit of coming up here of an afternoon and returning
late. I thought it best to come back and tell you, and I will adopt any
plan that you suggest for his capture."

"You say that he has been there for nearly a year?"

"About a year, the ostler said."

"Then one of my men, at least, must have been very careless not to
have found him out long ago. Let me see;" and he took down a volume of
reports. "Streatham. Tomlinson has been here a fortnight making every
inquiry. 'No man of suspicious appearance or of unknown antecedents
here.'

"Humph! That is not the first time that Tomlinson has failed altogether
in his duty. However, that does not matter for the moment. What is your
own idea, Mr. Thorndyke?"

"My idea is that a couple of good men should go down with me to
Streatham, and that we should be always on the watch in High Street
until we see him ride past. Directly it is dark we will go to his house,
fasten the old woman up, and search it thoroughly. If we find stolen
property so much the better; but in any case we shall wait inside the
house until he returns, and as he comes in throw ourselves upon him
before he has time to draw a pistol. I should say it would be as well
the men should go down in a trap. There is an empty house next door, and
when we go to search the place we can leave the horse and trap inside
the gate. Directly we have him secure we can fetch up the trap, put him
in, and one of the men and myself can drive him back here, leaving the
other in charge of the house, which can then be searched again next
day."

"I think that will be a very good plan, and will avoid all unnecessary
fuss. I will send Malcolm and Chester down with you tomorrow. Where will
you meet them?"

"I should say that they had better put up at the Greyhound. I don't
suppose he will go out until six or seven o'clock, but they had better
be there earlier. One should station himself in the main street, the
other concealing himself somewhere beyond the fellow's house, for it is
likely enough that sometimes he may take the other way. I will go down
to the Greyhound at six, and will wait there until one of them brings me
news that he has left."

"I think you had better come in in the morning, and give your
instructions to the men; there will be less fear of any mistake being
made. I should say you had better put your horse up and come here on
foot; one can never be too careful when one is dealing with so crafty
a rogue as this; he certainly does not work with an accomplice, but for
all that he may have two or three sharp boys in his pay, and they may
watch this place by turns and carry him news of any stir about the
office."

"I will walk in," Mark replied. "It is no distance from Stockwell."

Mark slept but little that night. He had believed all along that he
should be finally successful, but the discovery had come so suddenly
that it had taken him completely by surprise. It might not be the man,
and he tried hard to persuade himself that the chances were against his
being so, so that he should not feel disappointed should it turn out
that it was some other criminal, for that the man was a criminal he had
not a shadow of doubt.

The next morning he was at the office early. The chief arrived half an
hour later, and the two officers were at once called in.

"You will go with Mr. Thorndyke," the chief said, "and he will give you
instructions. The capture is a very important one, and there must be no
mistake made. We believe the man to be Bastow. I think you were present
at his trial, Chester; he escaped from Sydney Convict Prison some
three years ago, and is, I believe, the author of many of the highway
robberies and burglaries that have puzzled us so. Of course, you will
take firearms, but if he is alone you will certainly have no occasion
to use them, especially as you will take him completely by surprise.
You will order a gig from Morden, and leave here about three o'clock. I
should say you had better get up as two countrymen who have been up
to market. However, Mr. Thorndyke will explain the whole matter to you
fully."

Mark then went off with the two officers to a private room, and went
into the whole matter with them.

"I think, Chester," he said, "that you had better watch in the High
Street, because you know the man. At least, you have seen him, and may
recognize him again."

"I think I should know him, however much he has changed.. I took
particular notice of him at the trial, and thought what a hardened
looking young scamp he was. It is very seldom I forget a face when once
I have a thorough look at it, and I don't think I am likely to forget
his."

"Malcolm, I think you cannot do better than take your place in the
garden of the house next to his; it is a place that has stood empty for
many months, and there is no chance of anyone seeing you. His paddock
comes up to the garden, and you can, by placing yourself in the corner,
see him as he comes out into the lane. As soon as you see that he has
gone, come back to the Greyhound with the news. I shall be there, and
you will pick up Chester in the High Street as you come along; of course
you won't pretend to know me, but the mere fact of your coming back will
be enough to tell me that he has gone. As soon as it gets dark we will
pay our reckoning, and drive off in the gig, leaving it in the drive in
front of the house this side of his. I shall have strolled off before,
and shall be waiting for you there. If he does not come out by ten
o'clock we can give it up for tonight. You had better say that you have
changed your mind, and will take beds at the Greyhound; and the next
morning drive off in your gig and put up again at the inn at the other
end of the town, the White Horse. I will come over again at two o'clock
in the afternoon. You will bring handcuffs, and you had better also
bring a stout rope to tie him with."

When every detail had been arranged, Mark strolled to Dick Chetwynd's
lodgings.

"Well, Mark what has become of you? I have not seen you for the last two
months, and I hear that you have not been near Ingleston's crib since I
saw you."

"No, I have been away on business. You know I told you that I was
spending much of my time in endeavoring to hunt down my father's
murderer. I can tell you now that I have been working all the time with
the Bow Street people, and I think I know every thieves' slum in London
as well as any constable in the town."

"You don't say so, Mark! Well, I should not like such work as that. The
prize fighters are a pretty rough lot, but to go to such dens as those
is enough to make one shudder. But that does not explain where you have
been now."

"No. Well, having persuaded myself at last that his headquarters were
not in town, I have been trying the villages round, and I believe that I
have laid my hands on him at last."

"You don't say so, Mark! Well, I congratulate you heartily, both on your
having caught the fellow and for having got rid of such horrid work.
Where is he? Have you got him lodged in jail?"

"No, we are going to capture him tonight; or if not tonight, tomorrow
night. Two of the Bow Street officers are going down with me, and we
shall have him as he comes home from one of his expeditions either on
the highway or as a house breaker. If he does not go this evening we
shall wait until tomorrow, but at any rate, the first time that he goes
out we shall have him."

"I have got a special engagement for this evening, Mark, or I would
offer to go with you and lend you a hand, if necessary."

"There is no occasion for that, Dick. We shall take the fellow by
surprise as he goes into his own house, and have him handcuffed before
he can draw a pistol. Then, when we have got him fairly tied up, we
shall put him into a light cart that we shall have handy, and bring him
straight to Bow Street. To tell you the truth, I am so excited over the
thought that I do not know how I should have got through the day if I
had not come in to have a chat with you."

"I can quite understand that, old fellow. Well, the best thing we can do
is to take a stroll out and look at the fashions. It is early yet, but
just at present it is all the rage to turn out early. It will do me
good too, for I was at Ingleston's last night, and the smoke and row has
given me a headache. I shall really have to give up going there, except
when there is an important fight on. It is too much to stand, and the
tobacco is so bad that I am obliged to keep a suit of clothes for the
purpose. Let us be off at once."



CHAPTER XVI.


At four o'clock Mark put up his horse at the Greyhound, and chatted for
a quarter of an hour with the ostler, who had been making inquiries,
and had heard of one or two other houses in the neighborhood which were
untenanted. Mark then strolled up the town, exchanging a passing
glance with Chester, who, in a velveteen coat, low hat and gaiters, was
chatting with a wagoner going with a load of hay for the next morning's
market in London. He turned into an inn, called for a pint of the best
port, and sat down in the parlor at a table close to the window, so that
he could see all who went up or down. He entered into conversation with
two or three people who came in, and so passed the time till seven, when
he felt too restless to sit still longer, and went out into the street.

When he was halfway to the Greyhound he heard the sound of a horse's
hoofs behind him, and saw a quietly dressed man coming along at an easy
trot. Had it not been that he recognized the horse, he could not have
felt sure that its rider was the man whose coming he had been waiting
for, there being nothing in his appearance that would excite the
slightest suspicion that he was other than a gentleman of moderate means
and quiet taste, either returning from a ride or passing through on his
way to town. He had a well built and active figure, carried himself with
the ease of a thorough horseman, and nodded to one or two persons of his
acquaintance, and checking his horse at the principal butcher's, ordered
some meat to be sent in that evening.

Mark could trace no resemblance in the face to that of the young fellow
he remembered. It was a quiet and resolute one. If this were Bastow,
he had lost the sneering and insolent expression that was so strongly
impressed on his memory. It might be the man, but if so, he was greatly
changed. Mark's first impression was that it could not be Bastow; but
when he thought over the years of toil and confinement in the convict
prison, the life he had led in the bush, and the two years he had passed
since he returned home, he imagined that the insolence of youth might
well have disappeared, and been succeeded by the resolute daring and
dogged determination that seemed to be impressed on this fellow's face.

Mark paused fifty yards before he reached the inn. In a few minutes he
saw Chester coming along. There was no one else in sight.

"Is it Bastow?" he asked, as the officer came up.

"It's Bastow sure enough, sir. But he is so changed that if I had not
had him in my mind I should not have recognized him. I calculate that a
man who has gone through what he has would have lost the expression he
had as a boy. He must have learnt a lot in the convict prison, and
the fact that he headed the mutiny and escaped from the searchers and
managed to get home showed that he must have become a resolute and
desperate man. All those burglaries, and the way in which he has several
times stopped coaches single handed, show his nerve and coolness. I had
all that in my mind as he came along, and his face was pretty much as I
expected to see it. He is a cool hand, and I can understand how he has
given us the slip so long. There is none of the shifty look about his
eyes that one generally sees in criminals, no glancing from side to
side; he rode with the air of a man who had a right to be where he was,
and feared no one. He will be an awkward customer to tackle if we do not
take him by surprise."

"Yes, I agree with you there. However, he won't have much chance of
using either his pistols or his strength. Here is Malcolm coming, so I
will walk away for a few minutes, and let you go in first. You can tell
the ostler now that you will have your horse put in at nine o'clock. I
have been thinking, by the way, that we had better take the trap round
behind the house instead of leaving it in the drive. The man may come
back this way, and if so, he might hear the horse stamp or make some
movement, and that would at once put him on his guard."

As the officers entered the inn Mark went into the yard and told the
ostler that he had met some friends, and should let his horse remain
there for the night.

"It is possible that they may drive me into the town in the morning," he
said; "and I shall very likely send a man down for the horse."

At a quarter to nine he went out again, and walked to the house he had
before visited; in ten minutes he heard the sound of wheels, threw open
the gate, and the men, jumping down, led the horse in.

"You may as well take him out of the trap," he said. "We cannot very
well get that round the house, but there is no difficulty about taking
the horse."

The officers had brought a halter and a nosebag full of corn. The horse
was fastened to a tree with soft ground round it, the nosebag put on,
and a horse cloth thrown over its back; then Mark and his two companions
went out into the lane, and in a couple of minutes entered the next
gate, treading lightly, and going round to the back of the house.

A light burned in the kitchen, and an old woman could be seen knitting.
They lifted the latch and walked in. Dropping her knitting, she rose
with an exclamation of terror.

Mark advanced alone.

"Do not be frightened," he said; "we are not going to do you any harm."
He took out his little ebony staff. "We are constables," he went on,
"and have orders to search this house. We must secure you, but you will
be released in the morning. Now, which is your room?"

In spite of Mark's assurance, the old woman was almost paralyzed with
terror. However, the two constables assisted her up to her room, and
there secured her with a rope, taking care that it was not so tightly
bound as to hurt her. Then they placed a gag in her mouth, and left her.

"Now let us search his room in the first place," Mark said, when they
came downstairs again. "I hardly expect we shall find anything. You may
be sure that he will have taken great pains to hide away any booty that
he may have here, and that it will need daylight and a closer search
than we can give the place now, before we find anything."

The search of the house was indeed fruitless. They cut open the bed,
prized up every loose board in the bedroom and the parlor, lifted the
hearth stone, tapped the walls, and searched every drawer; then, taking
a lantern, went out into the stable. The officers were both accustomed
to look for hiding places, and ran their hands along on the top of the
walls, examining the stone flooring and manger.

"That is a very large corn bin," Mark said, as he looked round, when
they desisted from the search.

"You are right, sir. We will empty it."

There were two or three empty sacks on the ground near it, and they
emptied the corn into these, so that there should be no litter about.
Chester gave an exclamation of disappointment as they reached the
bottom. Mark put his hand on the bin and gave it a pull.

"It is just as I thought," he said. "It is fastened down. I saw an ax in
the woodshed, Malcolm; just fetch it here."

While the man was away Mark took the lantern and examined the bottom
closely. "We shan't want the ax," he said, as he pointed out to Chester
a piece of string that was apparently jammed in the form of a loop
between the bottom and side. "Just get in and clear those few handfuls
of corn out. I think you will see that it will pull up then."

There was, however, no movement in the bottom when Mark pulled at the
loop.

"Look closely round outside," he said, handing Malcolm, who had
now returned, the lantern. "I have no doubt that there is a catch
somewhere."

In a minute or two the constable found a small ring between two of the
cobblestones close to the foot of the wall. He pulled at it, and as
he did so Mark felt the resistance to his pull cease suddenly, and the
bottom of the bin came up like a trapdoor.

"That is a clever hiding place," he said. "If I had not happened to
notice that the bin was fixed we might have had a long search before we
found it here."

Below was a square hole, the size of the bin; a ladder led down into it.
Mark, with a lantern, descended. Four or five sacks piled on each other
lay at the bottom, leaving just room enough for a man to stand beside
them.

"The top one is silver by the feel," he said, "not yet broken up; these
smaller sacks are solid. I suppose it is silver that has been melted
down. This--" and he lifted a bag some eighteen inches deep, opened it,
and looked in "--contains watches and jewels. Now I think we will leave
things here for the present, and put everything straight. He may be back
before long."

Mark ascended, the bottom of the trap was shut down again, the corn
poured in, and the bags thrown down on the spot from which they had been
taken. They returned to the house, shut the door, and extinguished the
light.

"That has been a grand find," he said; "even if this is not Bastow, it
will be a valuable capture."

"That it will, Mr. Thorndyke. I have no doubt that this fellow is
the man we have been in search of for the last eighteen months; that
accounts for our difficulty in laying hold of him. He has been too
crafty to try to sell any of his plunder, so that none of the fences
have known anything about him. No doubt he has taken sufficient cash to
enable him to live here quietly. He intended some time or other to melt
down all the rest of the plate and to sell the silver, which he could do
easily enough. As for the watches and jewels, he could get rid of them
abroad."

"No doubt that is what he intended," Mark agreed. "It is not often these
fellows are as prudent as he has been; if they were, your work would be
a good deal more difficult than it is."

"You are right, sir; I don't know that I ever heard of such a case
before. The fellow almost deserves to get away."

"That would be rewarding him too highly for his caution," Mark laughed.
"He is a desperate villain, and all the more dangerous for being a
prudent one. Now, I think one of us had better keep watch at the gate by
turns. We shall hear him coming in plenty of time to get back here and
be in readiness for him. We must each understand our part thoroughly.
I will stand facing the door. It is possible that he may light that
lantern we saw hanging in the stable, but I don't think it likely he
will do so; he will take off the saddle, and either take the horse in
there--there is plenty of food in the manger--or else turn it out into
the paddock. As he comes in I will throw my arms round him and you will
at once close in, one on each side, each catch an arm tightly, handcuff
him, and take the pistols from his belt. Don't leave go of his arms
until I have lit the candle; he may have another pistol inside his coat,
and might draw it."

It was now one o'clock, and half an hour later Malcolm, who was at the
gate, came in quietly and said he could hear a horse coming along the
lane.

"Which way, Malcolm?"

"Tooting way."

"That is all right. I have been a little nervous lest if he came
the other way our horse might make some slight noise and attract his
attention; that was our only weak point."

They had already ascertained that the front door was locked and bolted,
and that he must therefore enter through the kitchen. They heard the
horse stop in front, a moment later the gate was opened, and through
the window they could just make out the figure of a man leading a horse;
then the stable door opened, and they heard a movement, and knew that
the horse was being unsaddled; they heard it walk into the stable, the
door was shut behind it, and a step approached the back door. It was
opened, and a voice said with an oath, "The old fool has forgotten to
leave a candle burning;" then he stepped into the kitchen.

In an instant there was a sound of a violent struggle, deep oaths and
curses, two sharp clicks, then all was quiet except heavy breathing and
the striking of flint on a tinderbox; there was the blue glare of the
sulphur match, and a candle was lighted. Mark then turned to the man who
was standing still grasped in the hands of his two captors.

"Arthur Bastow," he said, producing his staff, "I arrest you in the
King's name, as an escaped convict, as a notorious highwayman and house
breaker."

As his name was spoken the man started, then he said quietly:

"You have made a mistake this time, my men; my name is William Johnson;
I am well known here, and have been a quiet resident in this house for
upwards of a year."

"A resident, but not a quiet resident, Bastow. I don't think we are
mistaken; but even if you can prove that you are not Bastow, but William
Johnson, a man of means and family, we have evidence enough upon the
other charges. We have been in search of you for a long time, and have
got you at last. You don't remember me, though it is but eighteen months
since we met; but I fancy that I then left a mark upon you that still
remains on your shoulder. I am Mark Thorndyke, and you will understand
now why I have hunted you down."

"The game is not finished yet," the man said recklessly. "The hunting
down will be the other way next time, Mark Thorndyke."

"I don't think so. Now, Chester, you may as well tie his feet together,
and then search him. When that is done I will look after him while you
fetch the trap round."

In his pockets were found two gold watches, forty-eight pounds in gold,
and a hundred pounds in bank notes.

"We shall hear where this comes from tomorrow," Malcolm said, as he laid
them on the table; "it will save us the trouble of getting evidence from
Australia."

The prisoner was placed in a chair, and then the two officers went out
to fetch the trap round.

"So you have turned thief catcher, have you?" he said in a sneering
tone, that recalled him to Mark's memory far more than his face had
done, "and you carry a Bow Street staff about with you, and pretend to
belong to the force: that is a punishable offense, you know."

"Yes, it would be if I had no right to use it," Mark said quietly; "but
it happens that I have a right, having been for a year and a half in the
force. I joined it solely to hunt you down, and now that I have done so
my resignation will be sent in tomorrow."

"And how is the worthy squire?"

Mark started to his feet, and seized one of the pistols lying before
him.

"You villain!" he exclaimed, "I wonder you dare mention his name--you,
his murderer."

"It was but tit for tat," the man said coolly; "he murdered me, body and
soul, when he sent me to the hulks. I told him I would be even with him.
I did not think I had hit him at the time, for I thought that if I had
you would have stopped with him, and would not have chased me across the
fields."

"You scoundrel!" Mark said. "You know well enough that you came back,
stole into his room, and stabbed him."

Bastow looked at him with a puzzled expression.

"I don't know what you are talking about," he said. "I fired at him
through the window--I don't mind saying so to you, because there are no
witnesses--and saw him jump up, but I fancied I had missed him. I
saw you bolt out of the room, and thought it better to be off at once
instead of taking another shot. You gave me a hard chase. It was lucky
for you that you did not come up with me, for if you had done so I
should have shot you; I owed you one for having killed as good a comrade
as man ever had, and for that bullet you put in my shoulder before. If
I had not been so out of breath that I could not feel sure of my aim I
should have stopped for you, but I rode straight to town."

"A likely story," Mark said shortly. "What, you will pretend that there
were two murderers hanging round the house that night?--a likely tale
indeed."

"I tell you that if your father was killed by a knife or dagger, I had
nothing to do with it," the man said. "I am obliged to the man, whoever
he was. I had intended to go down again to Reigate to finish the job
myself; I should scarcely have missed a second time. So it is for that
you hunted me down? Well, I don't blame you; I never forgive an injury,
and I see your sentiments are mine. Whether I killed your father or not
makes no difference; he was killed, that is the principal point; if I
was going to be put on my trial for that I could prove that at eight
o'clock I was in a coffee house in Covent Garden. I purposely kicked
up a row there, and was turned out, so that if I were charged with that
shooting affair I could prove that I was in London that evening."

"I can't quite believe that," Mark said; "a fast horse would have
brought you up to town in an hour and a half, and another fast horse
would have taken you back again as quickly; so you might have been in
London at eight and back again at Crowswood by half past twelve or one,
even if you stopped a couple of hours at a coffee house. However, you
won't be tried for that. Those things on the table and the contents of
that corn bin are enough to hang you a dozen times."

"Curse you! have you found that out?" Bastow exclaimed furiously.

"We have," Mark replied. "It would have been wiser if you had got rid
of your things sooner. It was a clever hiding place, but it is always
dangerous to keep such things by you, Bastow."

The man said no more, but sat quietly in his chair until they heard
the vehicle stop outside the gate. Then the two constables came in,
and lifting Bastow, carried him out and placed him in the bottom of the
cart.

"You can loose the old woman now, Malcolm," Mark said as he took his
seat and gathered the reins in his hand. "By eleven o'clock, no doubt,
one of the others will be down with the gig again, and you can empty
out the contents of that hole, and bring them up with you. I don't think
that it will be of any use searching further. You might have a good look
all round before you come away. There may be some notes stowed away,
though it is likely enough that they have been sent away by post to some
receiver abroad."

For some time after starting they could hear the prisoner moving about
uneasily in the straw.

"I suppose there is no fear of his slipping out of those handcuffs,
Chester?"

"Not a bit; they are full tight for him. I expect that that is what is
making him uncomfortable."

Presently the movement ceased.

"He is still enough now, Mr. Thorndyke. I should not be at all surprised
if he has dropped off to sleep. He is hardened enough to sleep while the
gibbet was waiting for him."

It was four o'clock in the morning when they drove up at Bow Street. Two
constables on duty came out to the cart.

"We have got a prisoner, Inspector," Chester said. "He is the man we
have been looking for so long. I fancy we have got all the swag that has
been stolen for the last eighteen months--bags of jewels and watches,
and sacks of silver. He is handcuffed, and his legs are tied, so we must
carry him in."

The officer fetched out a lantern. The other constable helped him to let
down the backboard of the cart.

"Now, Bastow, wake up," Chester said. "Here we are."

But there was no movement!

"He is mighty sound asleep," the constable said.

"Well, haul him out;" and, taking the man by the shoulders, they pulled
him out from the cart.

"There is something rum about him," the constable said; and as they
lowered his feet to the pavement his head fell forward, and he would
have sunk down if they had not supported him.

The Inspector raised the lantern to his face.

"Why, the man is dead," he said.

"Dead!" Chester repeated incredulously.

"Aye, that he is. Look here;" and he pointed to a slim steel handle some
three inches long, projecting over the region of the heart. "You must
have searched him very carelessly, Chester. Well, bring him in now."

They carried him into the room, where two candles were burning. Mark
followed them. The inspector pulled out the dagger. It was but four
inches long, with a very thin blade. The handle was little thicker than
the blade itself. Mark took it and examined it.

"I have not a shadow of doubt that this is the dagger with which he
murdered my father. The wound was very narrow, about this width, and the
doctor said that the weapon that had been used was certainly a foreign
dagger."

"I don't think this is a foreign dagger," the Inspector said on
examining it, "although it may be the one that was used, as you say,
Mr. Thorndyke. It has evidently been made to carry about without being
observed."

He threw back the dead man's coat.

"Ah, here is where it was kept. You see, the lining has been sewn to the
cloth, so as to make a sheath down by the seam under the arm. I expect
that, knowing what would happen if he were caught, he had made up his
mind to do it all along. Well, I don't know that you are to be so much
blamed, Chester, for, passing your hand over his clothes, you might very
well miss this, which is no thicker than a piece of whalebone. Well,
well, he has saved us a good deal of trouble. You say you have got most
of the booty he has collected?"

"I don't know that we have got all of it, sir, but we have made a very
big haul, anyhow; it was a cunningly contrived place. There was a big
corn bin in the stable, and when we had emptied out the corn it seemed
empty. However, Mr. Thorndyke discovered that the bin was fixed. Then we
found that the bottom was really a trap door, and under it was a sort of
well in which were sacks and bags. One of the sacks was full of unbroken
silver, two others contained silver ingots, things that he had melted
down, and there was a large bag full of watches and jewels. In his
pocket we found a hundred pounds in bank notes, about fifty guineas, and
a couple of gold watches."

"That he must have got tonight from the Portsmouth coach; we heard half
an hour ago that it had been stopped near Kingston, the coachman shot,
and the passengers robbed. It will be good news to some of them that
we have got hold of their valuables. Well, Mr. Thorndyke, I have to
congratulate you most heartily on the skill with which you have ferreted
out a man who had baffled us for so long, and had become a perfect
terror to the south of London. No doubt we shall be able to trace
a great portion of the property in that sack. The capture has been
splendidly effected."

"You will understand," Mark said, "that I do not wish my name to appear
in the matter at all. I have, as you know, been actuated by private
reasons only in my search, and I see no occasion why my name should
be mentioned; the evidence of Chester and Malcolm will be ample. From
information received, they went down to this place, searched it in
his absence, discovered the stolen goods, and captured them. Having
handcuffed and bound him, one drove him up to town, the other remaining
to guard the treasure. On his way he got at this hidden dagger and
stabbed himself. My evidence would not strengthen the case at all."

"No, I don't see that it will be necessary to call you, Mr. Thorndyke.
The discovery of this hidden booty and the proceeds of the coach robbery
would be quite sufficient. Beyond the coroner's inquest there will be no
inquiry. Had it been otherwise it might probably have been necessary to
call you at the trial. However, as it is, it will save a lot of trouble;
now we shall only need to find the owners of these bank notes. I will
send off a cart for the things as early as I can get one, and will send
a couple of constables round to the houses where burglaries have
been committed to request the owners to come over and see if they can
identify any of their property; and those who do so can attend the
inquest tomorrow, though I don't suppose they will be called. The chief
will be mightily pleased when he hears what has taken place, for he has
been sadly worried by these constant complaints, and I fancy that
the authorities have been rather down upon him on the subject. The
announcement that the career of this famous robber has been brought to
an end will cause quite a sensation, and people round the commons on the
south side will sleep more quietly than they have done lately. I expect
that if he had not put an end to himself we should have had to send him
across to Newington today, for of course it is a Surrey business, though
we have had the luck to take him. I suppose we shall not see much of you
in the future, Mr. Thorndyke?"

"No indeed," Mark said. "My business is done, and I shall send in my
resignation this morning. I don't regret the time that I have spent over
it; I have learned a great deal, and have seen a lot of the shady side
of life, and have picked up experience in a good many ways."

Mark, after requesting the Inspector to find a man to go over to
Streatham and bring back his horse, and writing an order to the ostler
to deliver it, walked across to his lodgings. Upon the whole, he was
not sorry that Bastow had taken the matter into his own hands; he had,
certainly, while engaged in the search, looked forward to seeing him in
the dock and witnessing his execution, but he now felt that enough had
been done for vengeance, and that it was as well that the matter had
ended as it had. He was wearied out with the excitement of the last
forty-eight hours. It was one o'clock when he awoke, and after dressing
and going into Covent Garden to lunch at one of the coffee houses, he
made his way up to Islington.

"Taking a day's holiday?" Millicent asked as he came in.

"Well, not exactly, Millicent; I have left school altogether."

"Left school, Mark? Do you mean that you have decided that it is of no
use going on any longer?"

"I have given it up because I have finished it. Arthur Bastow was
captured last night, and committed suicide as he was being taken to the
station."

An exclamation of surprise broke from Mrs. Cunningham and Millicent.

"It seems horrid to be glad that anyone has taken his own life," the
latter said; "but I cannot help feeling so, for as long as he lived I
should never have considered that you were safe, and besides, I suppose
there is no doubt that if he had not killed himself he would have been
hung."

"There is not a shadow of doubt about that," Mark replied. "We found
the proceeds of a vast number of robberies at his place, and also in
his pockets the money he had taken from the passengers of the Portsmouth
coach an hour before we captured him. So that putting aside that
Australian business altogether, his doom was sealed."

"Now, please, tell us all about it," Mrs. Cunningham said. "But first
let us congratulate you most warmly not only on the success of your
search, but that the work is at an end."

"Yes, I am glad it is over. At first I was very much interested; in
fact, I was intensely interested all along, and should have been for
however long it had continued. But, at the same time, I could do nothing
else, and one does not want to spend one's whole life as a detective.
At last it came about almost by chance, and the only thing I have to
congratulate myself upon is that my idea of the sort of place he would
have taken was exactly borne out by fact."

And Mark then gave them a full account of the manner in which the
discovery had been made and the capture effected.

"You see, Millicent, I followed your injunction, and was very careful.
Taking him by surprise as I did, I might have managed it single handed,
but with the aid of two good men it made a certainty of it, and the
whole thing was comfortably arranged."

"I think you have done splendidly, Mark," Mrs. Cunningham said. "It was
certainly wonderful that you should have found him doing exactly what
you had guessed, even down to the deaf servant. Well, now that is done
and over, what do you think of doing next?"

"I have hardly thought about that," he replied; "but, at any rate, I
shall take a few weeks' holiday, and I suppose after that I shall settle
down to the search for my uncle's treasure. I am afraid that will be
a much longer and a vastly more difficult business than this has been.
Here there were all sorts of clews to work upon. Bastow ought to have
been captured months ago, but in this other affair, so far, there is
next to nothing to follow up. We don't even know whether the things are
in India or in England. I believe they will be found, but that it will
be by an accident. Besides, I fancy that we shall hear about them when
you come of age, Millicent. There was to have been no change till that
time, and I cannot help thinking that Uncle George must have made some
provisions by which we should get to know about them in the event of
his death without his having an opportunity of telling anyone where they
are.

"He might have been killed in battle; he might have been drowned on his
way home. He had thought the whole matter over so thoroughly, I do think
the possibilities of this could not have escaped him. As I told you,
Mr. Prendergast made inquiries of all the principal bankers and Indian
agents here, and altogether without success. After he had done that, I
got a list of all the leading firms in Calcutta and Madras, and wrote to
them, and all the replies were in the negative. It is true that does
not prove anything absolutely. Eighteen years is a long time, and the
chances are that during those years almost every head of a firm would
have retired and come home. Such a matter would only be likely to be
known to the heads; and if, as we thought likely, the box or chest was
merely forwarded by a firm there to England, the transaction would
not have attracted any special attention. If, upon the other hand, it
remained out there it might have been put down in a cellar or store, and
have been lying there ever since, altogether forgotten."

"I don't see myself why you should bother any more about it; perhaps,
as you say, it will turn up of itself when I come of age. At any rate, I
should say it is certainly as well to wait till then and see if it does,
especially as you acknowledge that you have no clew whatever to work
on. It is only three more years, for I am eighteen next week, and it
certainly seems to me that it will be very foolish to spend the next
three years in searching about for a thing that may come to you without
any searching at all."

"Well, I will think it over."

"You see, you really don't want the money, Mark," she went on.

"No, I don't want it particularly, Millicent; but when one knows that
there is something like 50,000 pounds waiting for one somewhere, one
would like to get it. Your father worked for twenty years of his life
accumulating it for us, and it seems to me a sort of sacred duty to see
that his labor has not all been thrown away."

Millicent was silent.

"It is very tiresome," she said presently. "Of course my father
intended, as you say, that his savings should come to us, but I am sure
he never meant that they should be a bother and a trouble to us."

"I don't see why they should ever be that, Millicent. As it is we have
both sufficient for anything any man or woman could reasonably want, and
neither of us need fret over it if the treasure is never found. Still,
he wished us to have it, and it is properly ours, and I don't want it to
go to enrich someone who has not a shadow of a right to it."

On the following morning Mark went to attend the inquest on Bastow. He
did not go into the court, however, but remained close at hand in the
event of the coroner insisting upon his being called. However, the two
men only spoke casually in their evidence of their comrade Roberts, who
had been also engaged in the capture. One of the jurymen suggested that
he should also be called, but the coroner said:

"I really cannot see any occasion for it; we are here to consider how
the deceased came by his death, and I think it must be perfectly clear
that he came by it by his own act. You have heard how he was captured,
that the spoils of the coach that he had just rifled were found upon
him, and that the booty he had been acquiring from his deeds for months
past also was seized; therefore, as the man was desperate, and knew
well enough that his life was forfeited, there was ample motive for
his putting an end to his wretched existence. I really do not think,
gentlemen, that it is worth while to waste your time and mine by going
into further evidence."

Finally, a verdict of felo de se was returned, with a strong expression
of the jury's admiration of the conduct of constables Malcolm, Chester,
and Roberts, who had so cleverly effected the capture of the man who had
so long set the law at defiance.



CHAPTER XVII.


Four days later Mark, on his return from dinner, found Philip Cotter
sitting in his room waiting for him. They had met on the previous
evening, and Cotter had expressed his intention of calling upon him the
next day.

"I am here on a matter of business, Thorndyke," the latter said as they
shook hands.

"Of business!" Mark repeated.

"Yes. You might guess for a year, and I don't suppose that you would hit
it. It is rather a curious thing. Nearly twenty years ago--"

"I can guess it before you go any further," Mark exclaimed, leaping up
from the seat that he had just taken. "Your people received a box from
India."

"That is so Mark; although how you guessed it I don't know."

"We have been searching for it for years," Mark replied. "Our lawyer,
Prendergast, wrote to you about that box; at least, he wrote to you
asking if you had any property belonging to Colonel Thorndyke, and your
people wrote to say they hadn't."

"Yes, I remember I wrote to him myself. Of course that was before you
did me that great service, and I did not know your name, and we had not
the name on our books. What is in the box?"

"Jewels worth something like fifty thousand pounds."

"By Jove, I congratulate you, old fellow; that is to say, if you have
the handling of it. Well, this is what happened. The box was sent to
us by a firm in Calcutta, together with bills for 50,000 pounds. The
instructions were that the money was to be invested in stock, and that
we were to manage it and to take 100 pounds a year for so doing. The
rest of the interest of the money was to be invested. The box was a very
massive one, and was marked with the letters XYZ. It was very carefully
sealed. Our instructions were that the owner of the box and the money
might present himself at any time."

"And that the proof of his ownership was to be that he was to use the
word 'Masulipatam,'" Mark broke in, "and produce a gold coin that would,
probably--though of this I am not certain--correspond with the seals."

He got up and went to the cabinet which he had brought up with him from
Crowswood, unlocked it, and produced the piece of paper and the coin.

"Yes, that looks like the seal, Thorndyke. At any rate, it is the same
sort of thing. Why on earth didn't you come with it before, and take the
things away?"

"Simply because I did not know where to go to. My uncle was dying
when he came home, and told my father about the treasure, but he died
suddenly, and my father did not know whether it was sent to England or
committed to someone's charge in India, or buried there. We did the only
thing we could, namely, inquired at all the banks and agents here and
at all the principal firms in Madras and Calcutta to ask if they had in
their possession any property belonging to the late Colonel Thorndyke."

"You see, we did not know," Cotter went on, "any more than Adam, to whom
the box belonged. Fortunately, the agent sent in his communication a
sealed letter, on the outside of which was written, 'This is to remain
unopened, but if no one before that date presents himself with the token
and password, it is to be read on the 18th of August, 1789.' That was
yesterday, you know."

"Yes, that was my cousin's eighteenth birthday. We thought if my uncle
had left the box in anyone's charge he would probably have given him
some such instructions, for at that time there was hard fighting in
India, and he might have been killed any day, and would therefore
naturally have made some provisions for preventing the secret dying with
him."

"We did not think of it until this morning early, though we have been
rather curious over it ourselves. When we opened it, inside was another
letter addressed 'To be delivered to John Thorndyke, Esquire, at
Crawley, near Hastings, or at Crowswood, Reigate, or in the event of his
death to his executors.'"

"I am one of his executors," Mark said; "Mr. Prendergast, the lawyer,
is the other. I think I had better go round to him tomorrow and open the
letter there."

"Oh, I should think you might open it at once, Thorndyke. It will
probably only contain instructions, and, at any rate, as you have the
coin and the word, you could come round tomorrow morning and get the
chest out if you want it."

"I won't do that," Mark said; "the coffer contains gems worth over
50,000 pounds, and I would very much rather it remained in your keeping
until I decide what to do with it. How large is it?"

"It is a square box, about a foot each way; and it is pretty heavy,
probably from the setting of the jewels. Well, anyhow, I am heartily
glad, Thorndyke. I know, of course, that you are well off, still 100,000
pounds--for the money has doubled itself since we had it--to say nothing
of the jewels, is a nice plum to drop into anyone's mouth."

"Very nice indeed, although only half of it comes to me under my uncle's
will. To tell you the truth, I am more glad that the mystery has been
solved than at getting the money; the affair was a great worry to my
father, and has been so to me. I felt that I ought to search for the
treasure, and yet the probability of finding it seemed so small that I
felt the thing was hopeless, and that really the only chance was that my
uncle would have taken just the course he did, and have fixed some date
when the treasure should be handed over, if not asked for. I rather
fancied that it would not have been for another three years, for that is
when my cousin comes of age."

"What cousin do you mean?" Philip Cotter asked. "I did not know you had
one."

"Well, that is at present a secret, Cotter--one of the mysteries
connected with my uncle's will. For myself, I would tell it in the
market place tomorrow, but she wishes it to be preserved at present; you
shall certainly know as soon as anyone. By the way, I have not seen
you at Mrs. Cunningham's for the last week, and you used to be a pretty
regular visitor."

"No," the young man said gloomily; "I don't mind telling you that Miss
Conyers refused me a fortnight ago. I never thought that I had much
chance, but I had just a shadow of hope, and that is at an end now."

"Perhaps in the future--" Mark suggested for the sake of saying
something.

"No; I said as much as that to her, and she replied that it would
always be the same, and I gathered from her manner, although she did not
exactly say so, that there was someone else in the case, and yet I have
never met anyone often there."

"Perhaps you are mistaken," Mark said.

"Well, whether or not, there is clearly no hope for me. I am very sorry,
but it is no use moping over it. My father and mother like her so much,
and they are anxious for me to marry and settle down; altogether, it
would have been just the thing. I do not know whether she has any money,
and did not care, for of course I shall have plenty. I shall be a junior
partner in another six months; my father told me so the other day. He
said that at one time he was afraid that I should never come into the
house, for that it would not have been fair to the others to take such
a reckless fellow in, but that I seemed to have reformed so thoroughly
since that affair that if I continued so for another six months they
should have no hesitation in giving me a share."

It was too late to go up to Islington that evening. In the morning Mark
went with the still unopened letter to the solicitor's. The old lawyer
congratulated him most heartily when he told him of the discovery that
he had made.

"I am glad indeed, Mark; not so much for the sake of the money, but
because I was afraid that that confounded treasure was going to unsettle
your life. When a man once begins treasure hunting it becomes a sort of
craze, and he can no more give it up than an opium smoker can the use
of the drug. Thank goodness, that is over; so the capital amount is
doubled, and you are accordingly worth 70,000 pounds more than you were
this time yesterday--a fine windfall! Now let us see what your uncle
says."

He broke the seal. The letter was a short one, and began:

"My DEAR JOHN:

"If you have not, before you receive this, got my treasure, you will get
it on the 18th or 19th of August, 17??89. I have made a will which will
give you full instructions what to do with it. I may say, though, that I
have left it between a little daughter who was born six months ago, and
your son Mark. My own intentions are to stop out here until I get the
rank of general, and I have taken the measures that I have done in case
a bullet or a sharp attack of fever carries me off suddenly. I hope that
you will have carried out the provisions of my will, and I hope also
that I shall have come home and talked the whole matter over with you
before I go under.

"Your affectionate brother."

"A singular man," Mr. Prendergast said, as he laid the letter down on
the table beside him. "What trouble these crotchety people do give!
I suppose you have altogether put aside that folly of his about the
jewels?"

"Well, no, I can't say that I have, Mr. Prendergast. Do you know that
I have a fancy--it may only be a fancy, but if so, I cannot shake it
off--that I am watched by Lascars. There was one standing at the corner
of the street as I came up this morning, and again and again I have
run across one. It is not always the same man, nor have I any absolute
reasons for believing that they are watching me; still, somehow or
other, I do come across them more frequently than seems natural."

"Pooh, nonsense, Mark! I should have thought that you were too sensible
a fellow to have such ridiculous fancies in your head."

"Of course, I should never have thought of such a thing, Mr.
Prendergast, if it had not been for what my father told me, that my
uncle was desperately in earnest about it, and had an intense conviction
that someone watched his every movement."

"Don't let us talk of such folly any longer," the lawyer said irritably.
"Now that you have got the money, the best thing you can do is to go at
once and carry out what was the wish both of your father and your uncle,
and ask your cousin to marry you; that will put an end to the whole
business, and I can tell you that I am positively convinced that the
day she gets twenty-one she will renounce the property, and that if you
refuse to take it she will pass it over to some hospital or other. You
cannot do better than prevent her from carrying out such an act of folly
as that, and the only way that I can see is by your marrying her. I
gathered from what you said when I gave you the same advice at Reigate
that you liked her and should have done it had it not been for her
coming into the estate instead of you. Well, you are now in a position
to ask her to marry you without the possibility of its being supposed
that you are a fortune hunter."

"I will think about it, Mr. Prendergast. Of course this money does make
a considerable difference in my position; however, I shall do nothing
until I have got the jewels off my hands."

"Well, a couple of days will manage that," the lawyer said; "you have
only got to take the box to a first class jeweler, and get him to value
the things and make you an offer for the whole of them."

Mark did not care to press the subject, and on leaving went to Cotter's
Bank. He was at once shown into his friend's room, and the latter took
him to his father.

"It is curious, Mr. Thorndyke," the latter said heartily, "that we
should have been keeping your money all this time without having the
slightest idea that it belonged to you. We are ready at once to pay it
over to your order, for if you pronounce the word you know of, and I
find that the coin you have corresponds with the seal on the box, the
necessary proof will be given us that you have authority to take it
away. I have had the box brought up this morning, so that we can compare
the seal."

The box was taken out of the strong safe, and it was at once seen that
the coin corresponded with the seals.

"I will leave it with you for the present, Mr. Cotter; it contains a
large amount of jewels, and until I have decided what to do with them I
would rather leave them; it would be madness to have 50,000 pounds worth
of gems in a London lodging, even for a single night. As to the money,
that also had better remain as it is at present invested. As I told your
son--that and the jewels are the joint property of myself and another. I
dare say that in a few days half of the money will be transferred to
the name of the other legatee; that can be easily done. I shall get
my lawyer, Mr. Prendergast, to call upon you, Mr. Cotter. I suppose it
would be better that some legal proof that we are entitled to the money
should be given."

"I shall be glad to see him and to take his instructions," the banker
said; "but in point of fact I regard the property as yours; I have
nothing to do with wills or other arrangements. I simply received
the box and the cash with an order that they should be delivered to
whomsoever should come with the word 'Masulipatam' and a coin to match
the seals. That you have done, and with subsequent dispositions I have
no concern. I shall be happy to keep this box for you as long as you
should think proper; and I have also written out an acknowledgement
that I hold securities of the value, at the closing prices yesterday, of
103,000 pounds 16 shillings," and he handed the paper to Mark.

As the latter left the bank he looked up and down the street, and
muttered an angry exclamation as he caught sight of a rough looking
fellow just turning a corner into a side street. The glance was so
momentary a one that he could not say whether the man was a colored
seaman; but he certainly thought that he was a Lascar.

"I am going to have trouble about that bracelet," he said to himself,
as he hailed a hackney coach and told him to drive to Islington. "I am
convinced that the Colonel was right, and that there are some men over
in this country with the fixed purpose of seeing what is done with those
jewels, and obtaining them if possible. How they could tell that they
were deposited at Cotter's beats me altogether. It may be indeed that
they really knew nothing about it, and have simply been watching me.
They can hardly have been watching me for the last nine months, and yet,
curiously enough, though I have never given the matter a thought since,
Charley Gibbons said that it was a dark colored man who brought the news
that took them to my rescue and saved my life. I have often run against
Lascars, and if they have taken this trouble all along, now that they
have seen me come out of the bank, I shall be watched night and day.

"It is a creepy sort of idea. I should not be afraid of any number of
them if they attacked me openly; but there is no saying what they might
do. I wish Ramoo had been here. I would have consulted him about it; but
as I got a letter from him only last week saying that he had, on the day
of writing it, arrived in Calcutta, it is of no use wishing that. At any
rate, I cannot do better than stick to the plan that my uncle sketched
out, and take them across to Amsterdam. It would be very unfair to take
them to any jeweler here. He might have them in his possession for a
week or ten days before he made me any definite offer for them, and
during that time I would not give a fig for his life. If I distribute
the stones at Amsterdam they would hardly set about attacking twelve
diamond merchants one after another. Well, at any rate, I must say
nothing about the affair to Millicent and Mrs. Cunningham. It was bad
enough my running risks in the pursuit of Bastow; but this would be ten
times worse, and I know Millicent would be for letting the things remain
for good at the banker's. But I have no idea of allowing myself to be
frightened by two or three black scoundrels into throwing away 50,000
pounds."

Mrs. Cunningham and Millicent were sitting in their bonnets in the
parlor.

"Here you are at last, sir," the girl said. "Another five minutes, and
we should have gone out. You told us that you would come early, and
now it is twelve o'clock; and you are generally so punctual in your
appointments. What have you got to say for yourself?"

"A good many things have happened since then, Millicent. Last night your
friend Mr. Cotter called upon me."

"Why do you say my friend? He was your friend, and it was entirely
through you that we knew him at all."

"Well, we will say 'our friend,' Millicent; and he made a communication
to me that this morning I had to go to Mr. Prendergast and make a
communication to him."

"What do you mean by your communications?" Millicent asked, laughing.
"You are quite mysterious, Mark."

"And then I had to go," he went on, without heeding her interruption,
"to Cotter's Bank, where I saw both our friend and his father, and there
is the result of these communications and that interview;" and he threw
the paper to her.

"What does it mean?" she asked in astonishment, after glancing through
it.

"It means, dear, that your father took exactly the precautions I thought
he would take, and after sending his money and jewels home, he sent a
sealed letter to the firm with whom he deposited them, which happened to
be Cotter's, with instructions that should no one present himself with
the word and coin by the 18th of August, 1789--that is to say, on your
eighteenth birthday--the envelope should be opened; it was so opened,
and it contained a letter that was to be sent to my father, or, in the
case of his death before that date, to his executors."

"How wonderful!" the girl said. "I had quite given up all idea of it.
But how is it that it came to be so much? Have they sold the jewels?"

"No, you see it is the compound interest going on for seventeen years,
and perhaps some rise in the value of the securities, that has doubled
the original sum invested. As for the jewels, I have left them at the
bank; I should not care about having 50,000 pounds worth of such things
in my rooms and I should not think that you would like to have them
here, either."

"Certainly not," Mrs. Cunningham said emphatically; "you did quite
right, Mark. I don't think I could sleep, even if you had half a dozen
of your detective friends posted round the house."

"Still I suppose we shall have a chance of seeing them?" Millicent said.

"Certainly. I can make an appointment with Philip Cotter for you to see
them at the bank; or if I take them to a jeweler to value, you could
see them there. But I should think that the bank would be the best. I am
sure that Cotter would put his room at your disposal, and, of course,
if you would like to have some of them for yourself you could select
any you liked, but I expect that they won't look much in their present
settings; the Indian jewelers have not the knack of setting off gems.
However, there is no hurry about them one way or another. The money,
I have told Cotter's father, shall, for the present, remain as it
is invested; it is all in the Funds, Cotter said, for although the
instructions were that it was to be put into good securities, he did
not feel justified under the peculiar circumstances in going outside
Government stock. Mr. Prendergast is quite of opinion that it would be
better to make no change until you come of age. I did not know whether
you would wait till then, for some purpose or other you might want to
use some of it."

Millicent shrugged her shoulders.

"I think I would much rather have had just the money I had before, Mark;
all this will be a great nuisance, I am sure. I think there ought to be
a law against women having more than 20,000 pounds, whether in money or
in land."

Mark laughed.

"It would be a bad thing for spendthrift young noblemen, Millicent. How
are they to pay off their debts and mortgages if there were no heiresses
ready to do so in exchange for a title?"

"It would be a good thing for them, I consider," the girl said
indignantly. "In the first place, they would not impoverish themselves
if they knew that there was no way of building up their fortune again,
and in the next place, if they did ruin themselves they would have to
either set to work to earn an honest living or blow out their brains,
if they have any to blow out. I can assure you that I don't feel at all
exultant at getting all this money, and I think that my father was quite
right in wishing that I should know nothing about it until I married;
but, on the other hand, I am heartily glad, more glad than I can say,
Mark, that you have come into your share."

"I am glad for one reason, Millicent; that is, that this must put an end
to the ridiculous idea you have of giving up Crowswood. Your father has
made me rich beyond anything I could possibly have expected from him.
I suddenly find myself a wealthy man, and I can buy another estate for
myself worth more than Crowswood if inclined to settle down as a squire;
therefore your theory that I have been disappointed in not inheriting
what I thought was my father's estate falls to the ground altogether. In
no case would I ever have accepted your sacrifice. If you had liked to
hand it over to St. Bartholomew's or Guy's Hospital, or to give it away
to any other charity, I would not have prevented you, but I would never
have accepted it for myself. Now, thank goodness, the question cannot
arise; for you must see that, even looking at the matter from a purely
business point of view, I have benefited to an enormous and altogether
unexpected extent by your father's will, and if any contest between us
could arise it should be on the ground that he has acted unfairly to you
by giving me so large a proportion of the money that, in the course of
nature, you should have inherited. It was not even as if he had known
and liked me, for I was but four years old at the time he wrote the
letter saying that I was to share the money and jewels with you."

"You are very obstinate and very disagreeable, Mark," she said, with
tears in her eyes.

"I think the obstinacy has been principally on your side, Millicent;
though certainly I should not think of saying that you have been
disagreeable. It has been an excess of kindheartedness on your part,
and you have resolutely closed your eyes to the fact that, had I been
willing to take advantage of your generosity, I should have lacked the
courage to do so, for I should have been pointed at wherever I went,
as a mean fellow who took advantage of his little cousin's romantic
generosity. Pray, dear, let us say no more about it. We are two rich
young people; we have both an estate; yours, I grant, is the larger,
but if I choose I can increase mine, until it is quite as large as
Crowswood. We can be better friends than we have been for the last year,
because this point of dispute has always stood between us and made us
uncomfortable. Now you will have to think over what you would like done,
and whether you wish any change made in your manner of living."

"Did you tell Mr. Cotter," Millicent laughed, after a pause, "that I had
a half share in the money?"

"No, that was a matter for you to decide, not for me. I told him that
I was only a half shareholder, but there was no necessity to say who
it was who had the other half. When I was talking to Philip Cotter, the
words 'my cousin' slipped out, but he did not associate it in any way
with you. It might have been the son of another brother or of a sister
of my father's."

"In that case, then, we will certainly make no change, will we, Mrs.
Cunningham?"

"I think, Millicent, that Mr. Prendergast and Mark will probably be of
opinion that you ought now to be introduced regularly into society. The
fact that you are a rich heiress might, as your father so much wished,
remain a secret. But it is one thing having this blazoned about and
quite another for you to be living quietly here, where, with the
exception of Mr. Cotter and a few other friends, you have no society
whatever. Certainly it was not the wish of your father that you should
remain unmarried. You are quite pretty and nice enough to be sought for
yourself alone, and I must say that I think, now that you have finished
with your various masters, it would be well that you should go out a
good deal more, and that as a first step we should go down to Bath this
year instead of paying another visit to Weymouth, as we had arranged."

"I don't want any change at all, Mrs. Cunningham. If I am to get married
I shall be married; if I am not I shall not fret about it."

"But for all that, Millicent," Mark said, "Mrs. Cunningham is right.
We quite agree that there is no occasion whatever for you to go about
labeled 'A good estate and over 70,000 pounds in cash,' but I do think
that it is right that you should go into society. With the exception of
Philip Cotter, Dick Chetwynd, and two or three other of my friends, you
really know very few people. You have now gone out of mourning, and I
think that Mrs. Cunningham's proposal that you should go down to Bath
is a very good one. I shall not be sorry for a change myself, for I have
been engrossed in my work for a long time now. I can go down a day or
two before you, and get you comfortable lodgings, and will myself
stay at a hotel. Although I have no intimate friends beyond those from
Reigate, I know a large number of men of fashion from meeting them at
the boxing schools and other places, and could introduce you both, and
get you into society."

"I am altogether opposed to the idea," Millicent said decidedly. "You
want to trot me out like a horse for sale."

"No, Millicent," Mark said calmly. "I only want you to have the same
advantages that other girls have, neither more nor less, and for you
to enjoy yourself as others do. There is nothing undignified or
objectionable about that, especially as we are agreed that nothing shall
be said about your fortune. Well, we will think it over. Mr. Prendergast
and I certainly do not wish to act as tyrants, and there is no occasion
to come to a decision in a hurry. We have only discovered our good
fortune today, and can scarcely appreciate the difference that it will
make to us. We can think over what will be for the best at our leisure,
and see if we cannot hit upon some plan that will be agreeable to you."

"Thank you, Mark," she said gratefully. "I am afraid that you must think
me very disagreeable and cross; but though you, as a man, have not the
same sort of feelings, I can assure you that I feel all this money and
so on to be a heavy burden; and were it not for your sake I could wish
heartily that this treasure had never been discovered at all."

"I can quite understand that," he said quietly. "At the present moment,
even, I do not see that it will be of much advantage to me; but it may
be that some day I shall see it in a different light. It has come upon
me almost as suddenly as it has upon you. I thought that after I had
finished with the Bastow affair I should set to work to find out this
treasure, and that it would probably take me out to India, occupy me
there for some time, and that afterwards I might travel through other
places, and be away from England three or four years. Now the matter
is altogether altered, and I shall be some time before I form any fresh
plans. In fact, these must depend upon circumstances."

Mrs. Cunningham had left the room two or three minutes before, thinking
that Mark might be able to talk her charge into a more reasonable state
of mind were he alone with her, and he added:

"Of one circumstance in particular."

She looked up inquiringly.

"Well, Millicent, it depends a great deal upon you. I know you think
that all that has happened during the past year has been a little hard
upon you, and I thoroughly agree with you; you were fond of Crowswood,
and were very happy there, and the change to this somewhat dull house,
just at a time when you are of an age to enjoy pleasure, has been a
trial. Then, too, there has been this question of the estate upon your
mind. But you must remember it has been somewhat of a trial to me also.
I grant that I have had plenty of occupation which has been in every way
beneficial to me, and have not at all lamented leaving the country, but
in one respect it has been a trial. I don't know whether it ever entered
your mind, before that sad time at home, that I was getting to care for
you in a very different way to that in which I had done before.

"My father, I think, observed it, for he threw out a very plain hint
once that he would very gladly see us coming together. However, I never
spoke of it to you. I was young and you were young. It seemed to me that
there was plenty of time, and that, moreover, it would not be fair for
me to speak to you until you had had the opportunity of going out and of
seeing other men. Then came the evening before his death, when my father
told me how matters really stood, and he again said that there was a way
by which all trouble could be obviated. But I saw that it was not so,
and that the hope I had entertained must be put aside. I had never told
you I loved you when I seemed to be the heir of the property and you
only the daughter of an old comrade of his, and I saw that were I to
speak now, when you were the heiress, it could not but appear to you
that it was the estate and not you that I wanted, and I felt my lips
were sealed forever. Mr. Prendergast said that day when he came down to
the funeral, and you told him that you would not take the property, that
it might be managed in another way, and you said that you did not want
to be married for your money; so you see you saw it in exactly the same
light as I did.

"My first thought this morning, when Mr. Cotter told me that the money
had mounted up to over 100,000 pounds, was that it would unseal my
lips. You were still better off than I was, but the difference was now
immaterial. I was a rich man, and had not the smallest occasion to marry
for money. Whether I married a girl without a penny, or an heiress,
could make but little difference to me, as I have certainly no ambition
to become a great landowner. I still think that it would have been more
fair to you to give you the opportunity of seeing more of the society of
the world before speaking to you, but you see you are opposed to that,
and therefore it would be the same did I wait patiently another year,
which I don't think I should be able to do. I love you, Millicent. It
is only during the past eighteen months, when I have thought that I
had lost you, that I have known how much I love you, and how much my
happiness depends upon you. I can truly say that were you penniless, it
would make no shadow of difference to me. It is no longer a question of
arranging matters comfortably: it is a question of love. The estate is
nothing to me. It never has been anything, and it does not count at all
in the scale. I hope that you will put it altogether out of your mind in
giving me an answer; and that if you cannot say as truly and wholly as I
do, 'I love you,' that you will say as frankly as you have always spoken
to me, 'I love you very much as a cousin, Mark, but not in that way.'"

The girl had sat perfectly quiet while he was speaking.

He was standing before her now, and he took one of her hands.

"I love you, dear; I love you with all my heart. Do you love me?"

Then she looked up and rose to her feet, and placed both hands upon his
shoulders.

"As you love me, so I love you, Mark."

After that, conversation languished till Mrs. Cunningham came into the
room, five minutes later.

"We have come to the conclusion, Mrs. Cunningham," he said, "that there
will be no necessity for the visit to Bath. Millicent is otherwise
provided for; she has promised to be my wife."

"I am glad, Mark, glad indeed!" and she took Millicent in her arms and
kissed her tenderly. "I have all along hoped for it, but I began to
be afraid that you were both such obstinate young people that it would
never come about. I know that your father wished it, Mark, and he told
me that his brother had said that it would be a good arrangement if
some day you should come to like each other. I have guessed for the last
year, and, indeed, before then, that Millicent would not say 'No' if you
ever asked her; but this stupid estate seemed to stand in the way. Of
late, I have even come to hope that the obstinate girl would keep to her
intention, and that if, as I knew would be the case, you refused to take
the estate, she would give it away to some charity. In that case, there
could be nothing to prevent your speaking; and even then you would have
been between you very fairly equipped with this world's goods. However,
the present is a far better solution, and the discovery of the treasure
has saved you from three years' waiting before things were straightened
out. I feel as if I were her mother, Mark, having had her in my charge
since she was a baby; and as she grew up it became my fondest hope to
see you united some day, and I think that I am almost as pleased that my
hope has been fulfilled as you are yourselves."



CHAPTER XVIII.


After thinking over the best way in which to set about the work of
carrying the diamonds to Amsterdam, Mark decided upon asking the advice
of his late chief. The latter said, as Mark entered his room:

"I did not expect to see you here again, Mr. Thorndyke."

"Well, sir, I have come to ask your' advice about another matter
altogether."

"What is it now?"

"I have to convey a diamond bracelet of very great value across to
Amsterdam. I have reasons to believe that there is a plot to seize it
on the way, and that the men engaged will hesitate at nothing to achieve
their object. Under these circumstances I should be very much obliged
if you will tell me what would be the best course to pursue. I must say
that the bracelet is, with many other jewels, in a strong teak box of
about a foot square, at present in the possession of our bankers; they
were brought from India by my uncle. I imagine that the rest of the
jewels are of comparatively little importance in the eyes of these men,
though doubtless they would take them also if they lay their hands on
them. The bracelet, however, is of special interest to them, not so
much for its intrinsic value, as because it was stolen from one of their
sacred idols.

"This was about twenty years ago; but I have reason to believe that the
search for it on the part of some Hindoos connected with the temple has
never ceased. The soldier who took it was murdered; his comrade, into
whose hands they next passed, was also murdered. They next came to my
uncle, who forwarded it at once to England. His bungalows were searched
again and again, until probably the fellows came to the conclusion that
he must have either buried it or sent it away. Nevertheless, to the day
of his death he was firmly convinced that he was closely followed, and
every movement watched. He warned my father solemnly that he too would
be watched, but as far as we know it was not so; at any rate, we had no
reason to suppose that the house was ever entered. On the other hand, I
am convinced I have been watched more or less closely ever since I came
up to town, and as I came out from the bank yesterday I saw a man--a
colored fellow, I believe--on the watch.

"My uncle said that my life would not be worth an hour's purchase so
long as I had the bracelet in my possession, and advised that it should
be taken straight over to Amsterdam, broken up, and the diamonds sold
singly to the merchants there."

"It is a curious story, Mr. Thorndyke. I own to ignorance of these
Indian thieves and their ways, but it certainly seems extraordinary that
so hopeless a quest should be kept up for so long a time. You are sure
that it is not fancy on your part that you have been watched? I know you
are not the sort of man to take fancies in your head, but as you have
had the matter so strongly impressed upon you, you might naturally have
been inclined to think this would be the case when it was not so."

"No, I don't think there is any chance of my being mistaken. It is only
of late that I have thought about it, but when I did so and thought over
what had passed since I came to London, I recalled the fact that I had
very often come across foreign seamen; sometimes they were Lascars, at
others they might have been Italian or Spanish seamen; and you see,
sir, it was, as I told you at the time, some foreign sailor who came
and informed Gibbons that I had fallen into the hands of a gang of
criminals, and that I should certainly be killed if I was not rescued
immediately. Gibbons at once got together half a dozen fighting men,
and, as you know, rescued me just in time. It was extraordinary that the
man never came forward to obtain any reward."

"That was a friendly act, Mr. Thorndyke."

"Yes, I have no reason to suppose that these men would be hostile to me
personally. I was not the thief, I was simply the person who happened to
be in possession, or rather, might come into possession of the bracelet.
From the close watch they had kept, they were, I imagine, well aware
that I had not got it, but may have thought, and doubtless did think,
that I had some clew to its hiding place, and should sooner or later
get it. With my death the clew might be finally lost, and my life was
consequently of extreme importance to them, and therefore they took
steps to have me rescued, and the fact that they learned this and knew
how friendly I was with Gibbons shows how close was the watch kept over
me. No doubt, had Gibbons refused to help them, they would have come
here at once."

"Certainly, after what you say it would seem that your conjecture is
right, and in this case, if I were you, I should take the bracelet out
of the case and conceal it about me. I would not fetch it myself from
the bank."

"I don't think I should be much safer so," Mark said thoughtfully.
"In the first place, I must go to the bank to get them, and I might be
murdered merely on the supposition that I had brought the bracelet away.
In the next place, even if I got to Amsterdam safely and got rid of the
bracelet and returned unnoticed by them, a fresh danger would arise when
I got the other gems into my possession, for they could not be certain
whether the diamonds were still among them or not."

"I should hardly think that would be the case if they watch you as
strictly as you believe. Even if none of them accompanied you, they
would soon find out what diamond merchants you went to, and the leader
might call upon these men, stating that he was commissioned to purchase
some diamonds of exceptional value for an Eastern Prince, in which case
he would be sure to obtain sight of them.

"If I had your business to perform, I would not go near the bank again,
but would send some friend I could trust to go and open the box, and
take out the bracelet, and make it into a small parcel. He should hand
it to you privately, as you are on your way to embark for Amsterdam.
Then I would take with me one or two of my men, and, say, a couple of
your prize fighters, and with such a guard you ought to be fairly safe."

"I think that is a capital plan," Mark said, "and if I don't go to the
bank there will be nothing to lead them to suppose that I have taken
them out, or that I am just going across to Holland."

Mark then went straight to Dick Chetwynd's lodgings.

"I want you to do me a service, Dick," he said.

"With pleasure, Mark. What sort of service is it? If it is anything in
my power, you know that you can absolutely rely upon me. You are not
going to fight a duel, are you, and want a second?"

"No; quite another sort of business. I will tell you shortly what it is.
I have to convey an extremely valuable diamond bracelet to Amsterdam,
and I have reason to believe that there will be an attempt to murder me,
and to carry off the jewels before I can dispose of them. It happened in
this way;" and he then related the history of the diamonds, the reason
he was followed, and the suggestions that the Chief of the Bow Street
detectives had given him.

"That is all right," Dick said, when he concluded. "It is a rum
business, but certainly I will do what you ask me; and, what is more, I
will go over with you to Amsterdam, and see the thing through. It is an
interesting business, if it is a queer one."

"You know Philip Cotter?"

"Of course, Mark; why, I have met him with you several times."

"I will give you a note to ask him to allow you to open the case, and
to take from it the bracelet; I don't know whether it is a regular
gold mounted bracelet, or simply some diamonds that have been fastened
together as a necklace; however, I suppose you are sure to recognize
them; they are altogether exceptional stones, and will certainly be done
up in a packet by themselves, whatever the others may be. Say that you
will call in and take them away some other time, of which I will give
him notice by letter. I will write the note now, and if you can spare
time to go there today, all the better, for I shall be glad to get the
business over; then I will come again tomorrow morning, and we will
arrange the details of the plan. I will look in the shipping list, and
see what vessels are sailing for Amsterdam. When we have fixed on one,
it will be best for you to take our passages under any names you like,
so that they are not our own. The detectives will take their passages
separately, and so will Gibbons and whoever else goes with us."

"I will go at once, Mark."

"Don't go straight there, Dick; if these fellows are dogging my
footsteps everywhere, and saw me coming here, they might take it into
their heads to follow you."

"Oh, they can never be doing all that sort of thing; that's too much to
believe. However, to please you, I will go into my club for a quarter of
an hour. Shall I come round to your rooms this evening, or will you come
here?"

"I think I will put off our meeting altogether until tomorrow morning. I
have an engagement this evening that I cannot very well get out of."

"All right, Mark, just as you please. What time will you come round in
the morning?"

"About the time you have finished breakfast. I will go now, and have a
look at the shipping list."

They parted at the door, and Mark went to the coffee house where
shipping matters were specially attended to, and where master mariners
might often be met, conversing together, or with ship owners or
merchants. On going through the list, he found that the fast sailing
brig, Essex, of 204 tons, and mounting eight guns, would sail for
Amsterdam in three days' time, and would take in goods for that place,
and, should sufficient freight be obtained, for any other Dutch port.
It was also announced that she had good accommodation for passengers.
Information as to cargo could be obtained from her owners, on Tower
Hill, or from the captain on board, between the hours of ten and twelve.
Then, in small type, it was stated that the Essex was at present lying
in the outside tier nearly opposite Anderson's wharf.

Mark made a note of all these particulars in his pocketbook, and then
went to Ingleston's public house.

"Morning, Mr. Thorndyke," the man said; "haven't seen yer for the last
month or so."

"No; I have been out of town. Do you expect Gibbons in here this
morning?"

"It is about his time, sir, when he has nothing in particular to see
about. Like a turn with the mauleys this morning?"

"Not this morning, Ingleston. I have got some engagements for the next
day or two where I could not very well show myself with a black eye or a
swelled nose; you have given me a good many of both."

"Well, Mr. Thorndyke, when one stands up against a man who is as strong
as one's self, and a mighty quick and hard hitter, you have got to hit
sharp and quick too. You know my opinion, that there aint half a dozen
men in the country could lick you if you had a proper training."

"I suppose you couldn't get away for a week, or maybe two?" he said.

"Lor' bless you, no, sir. Who would there be to keep order here at
night? When I first came here I had not given up the ring, and I fought
once or twice afterwards. But, Lor' bless you, I soon found that I had
got either to give up the pub or the ring, and as I was doing a tidy
business here, I thought it best to retire; since then business has
grown. You see, boxing is more fashionable than it used to be, and
there are very few nights when one don't have a dozen Corinthians in
here--sometimes there are twice as many--either to see some of the new
hands put on the mauleys, and judge for themselves how they are going to
turn out, or maybe to arrange for a bout between some novice they fancy
and one of the west countrymen. No, sir, I could not do it anyhow; I
should not like to be away even for one night, though I know Gibbons
would look after things for me; as for being away for a week, I could
not do it for any money. No, sir, my fight with Jackson last year was
the last time I shall ever go into the ring. I was a fool to go in for
that, but I got taunted into it. I never thought that I should lick him,
though, as you know, sir, I have licked a good many good men in my time,
but Jackson is an out and out man, and he has got a lot more science
than I ever had; my only chance was that I could knock him out of time
or wear him down; but he was too quick on his pins for me to do the
former. Ah, Gibbons, here is Mr. Thorndyke. He wants to see you; you had
best go into my room behind the bar."

"Want to get hold of a fresh hand, Mr. Thorndyke?" Gibbons asked when
they had sat down by the fire.

"No, Gibbons, it is another business altogether. Have you got anything
particular to keep you in town for the next fortnight? It may not be
over a week, but it may be over a fortnight."

"No, sir," the man said, after taking three or four draws at his long
pipe. "No, sir; they won't want the ropes and stakes for another three
weeks, so I am your man if you want me. What, is it for, sir?"

"Well, it is rather a curious affair, Gibbons. I have to take a very
valuable bracelet over to Amsterdam, to sell there, and I have very
strong reasons for believing that if some fellows get an inkling of it
they will try to put me out of the way, and get hold of the diamonds. I
want a couple of good men to go with me."

"Well sir, I should say you and me could lick a dozen ordinary chaps,
without thinking anything of it."

"I dare say we could, Gibbons, in a stand up fight without weapons, but
I fancy these fellows will not try that. They are foreigners, and the
first thing they would try would be to put a dagger between my shoulders
as I walked up and down on deck at night, or, more likely still, creep
into my cabin and stab me while I was asleep. If the voyage were only to
last one night I might sit up, pistol in hand, but if the wind is foul
we might be a week. We are a pretty strong party. Mr. Chetwynd--you know
him--is going with me; there will also be two runners from Bow Street,
and I want you to take another good man with you. Of course, on board
we shall separate. The Bow Street men will watch the passengers, and you
and your mate will smoke your pipes and keep yourselves ready to join
in if you see there is going to be a row. But I rather think that the
passage will be a quiet one. At Amsterdam, until I have got rid of the
diamonds I certainly should not care about going out into the street
after nightfall without having you close behind me."

"All right, sir. I should say Tom Tring would be as good a man as one
could get at the job. What is the money to be, Mr. Thorndyke?"

"Well, what do you think yourself, Gibbons?"

"I take it you pay all expenses, sir?"

"Yes, everything."

"Would five and twenty guineas a head be too much?"

"No; I will do better than that. I will give you five and twenty guineas
each when we get to Amsterdam, and I will give you another twenty-five
each if I come back here safe and sound."

"Well, I call that handsome. One could not want more, and you can rely
on it that Tring will jump at the offer. He has not been able to get a
fight on lately, and he is rather in low water."

"Well, you will both get up as quiet traders. I don't know what other
passengers there may be, but I don't want them to know that you belong
to the fancy."

"I twig, sir. We will get up quiet like."

"Then I want you tomorrow morning, Gibbons, to go down to Holmes
& Moore, No. 67 Tower Street, and take two first class tickets to
Amsterdam on board the Essex, which sails on Saturday. I don't know what
the passage money will be, but this is sure to be enough; and we can
settle accounts afterwards. You will find out what time of day she will
start."

"All right, governor. I suppose you will be here again before that?"

"No, I don't suppose I shall, unless there is some change in the
arrangements. If for any reasons Tring cannot go with you, you will
get somebody else instead. You are sure that you quite understand
your instructions? Here is the name and address of the people in Tower
Street."

"All right, sir. You may make sure that when you go down to the ship you
will see the two of us on board."

It needed but a few minutes at Bow Street to inform the chief of the
arrangements that had been made.

"I have told off Chester and Malcolm; one of them shall go down and
take their tickets. Of course, they will take their passages in the fore
cabin, as the danger, if there is danger, may come from there, and you
will have your other two men with you aft. I fancy myself that there is
hardly any chance of your being in any way troubled while on board.
It will be considered that there will be a vastly greater chance of
carrying out any plan they may have formed at Amsterdam than there would
be on board a ship; you see, if there were any struggle whatever on
board there would be no escape for them.

"For myself, of course I cannot give any opinion worth having in a
matter so different from anything we have to do with here, and I should
have unhesitatingly scoffed at the idea of anyone watching the movements
of people for a long number of years in order to obtain the possession
of jewels, however valuable. However, your uncle was well acquainted
with the habits of Hindoos, and was not a man to be lightly alarmed;
you yourself, after your year with us, should not be deceived in such
a matter as being yourself followed; under these circumstances you
are quite right to take every precaution, and as you pay well for
the services of our two men, even if I had no belief whatever in the
existence of danger to you, I should not feel justified in refusing to
let you have them."

Having arranged these matters, Mark spent the rest of his time that day
and the next at Islington.

"I am going across to Amsterdam on Saturday with a diamond bracelet to
sell there."

Millicent looked at him in reproachful surprise.

"Why, surely, Mark, there can be no hurry about that. I think you might
have stayed a little longer before running away."

"I should do so, you may be quite sure, Millicent, if I consulted my own
inclinations, but I am bearing out your father's wishes. This bracelet
is the most valuable of all the things he had, and I believe that it has
some sort of history attached to it. He told my father that he had
sent all the gems home principally to get these diamonds out of his
possession; he said that as soon as my father got hold of the things, he
was to take the diamonds straight over to Amsterdam and sell them there,
for he considered that they were much too valuable to be kept in the
house, and that it was possible that some of the Hindoos might endeavor
to get possession of them. At the time he spoke he believed that my
father would, at his death, go to the bank and get the jewels, as of
course he would have done if he had known where to find them. My
father promised him that they should be taken to Amsterdam at once; and
although so many years have passed since his death, I think I am bound
to carry out that promise."

"I have never been able to understand, Mark, how it was that my father,
when he gave all these instructions about me and these jewels and so on,
did not at the same time tell uncle where to find them."

"It was a fancy of his; he was in very bad health, and he thought so
much over these diamonds that it had become almost a sort of mania with
him that not only was there danger in their possession, but that he
was watched night and day wherever he went. He thought, even, if he
whispered where the hiding place was to be discovered it might be heard;
therefore he deferred telling it until too late. Of course all this
was but a fancy on his part, although it is probable enough that the
possession of the diamonds was a source of danger in India, and might
have been a source of danger here had any thieves known that such
valuable gems were kept in a private house or carried about. At any
rate, I shall be glad to be free of the responsibility; and although,
naturally, I don't like leaving you at the present time, I think it best
to carry out your father's instructions at once, and to get them off
my mind altogether. Dick Chetwynd is going with me, so it will be a
pleasant little trip."

"Well, I am glad he is going with you, Mark; for although I know well
enough that they could never be watching for those diamonds to turn
up all these years, I feel sure I should fidget and worry if you were
alone. You are not going to take the others with you?"

"No, only this particular bracelet. None of the others are exceptionally
valuable, so far as I know. At any rate, your father did not specially
allude to them. I have no doubt that there are some really valuable
jewels among them, for my uncle prided himself on being a judge of
precious stones, and as he invested a large amount of money in them,
they are, no doubt, worth a great deal. Still, I don't suppose there
will be any difficulty in selling them here, and, at any rate, I don't
want to be delayed at Amsterdam by having to sell perhaps fifty or a
hundred pieces of jewelry; any time will do for that. I fancy that I
ought to be able to dispose of the bracelet in three or four days at the
outside. I have got from Bow Street a list of all the principal diamond
merchants in Amsterdam. That is a matter of great interest to the force,
as almost all precious stones stolen in this country are sent across
there, and if there is any special jewel robbery we send over a list of
all the articles taken to the merchants there. As a rule, that would
not prevent their dealing in them, but there are some who will not touch
things that have been dishonestly come by, and we occasionally get hints
that enable us to lay hands upon thieves over there."

"I hate to hear you say 'the force,' Mark, just as if you were still a
detective; it is bad enough that you should have belonged to it, even
for the purpose you did; but you have done with it now."

"Yes; but, you see, it is rather difficult to get out of the habit when
one has been for over a year constantly at work at a thing. This will be
my last absence on business, Millicent; henceforward I shall be able to
be always with you."

"Well, now that I know what you have been doing all this time, Mark, I
must admit that you have been very good to have been with us as much as
you have. I often used to wonder how you passed your time. Of course I
knew that you were trying to find that man out, but it did not seem to
me that you could be always at that, and I never dreamt that you had
become a regular detective. I am very glad I did not know it till a
short time before you gave it up. In the first place, I should have
been horrified, and, in the second place, I should have been constantly
uneasy about you. However, as this is to be the last time, I will let
you go without grumbling."

"By the way, Millicent, what do you wish me to say about our engagement?
I don't see that there is the slightest occasion for us to keep up the
farce of your being Miss Conyers any longer. You cannot be married under
a false name, you know, and now that you have escaped what your father
was so afraid of, and are going to be married for love and not for
money, I don't see why there should be any more mystery about it."

"But how would you account for my having been called Conyers all this
time?"

"I should simply tell the truth; that your father, having a great fear
that you might be married for money, left the estate to my father, to
be held by him until you came of age, and that it was at his particular
request that you were brought up simply as his ward, and dropped the
family name and passed by your two Christian names. I should say that
we have all been aware for a long time of the facts of the case, and
I should also say that your father had left a very large fortune in
addition to the estate between us, and had expressed a hope that we
should, when the time came, marry each other."

"Then people will think that we have only married to keep the fortune
together, Mark."

"Well, my dear, I don't suppose there are a great many people who will
be interested in the matter, and those who get to know you will see at
once that as far as I am concerned, there was no great difficulty in
falling in with your father's ideas, while, on the other hand, they may
consider that you made a noble sacrifice of yourself in agreeing to the
plan."

"Nonsense, sir. I am not going to flatter you, as no doubt you expect;
but, at any rate, I am perfectly content with my share of the bargain."

"Well, there is one thing, Millicent; all who knew us down at Reigate
will say that it is a very sensible arrangement, and will be glad to
know that I shall retain the estate they have hitherto considered to be
mine. Well, then, you agree to my mentioning to my intimate friends that
you are my cousin, and that we are engaged?"

"Yes, I suppose it is the best thing, Mark, and, as you say, I must
marry under my proper name, and it is just as well to get the talk
over down at Reigate now, as for it all to come as a wonder when we are
married."

"When is that going to be, Millicent?"

"Oh, I don't know; of course it will be a long time before we even think
of that."

"I beg your pardon, I am thinking of it now, and I can see no reason
whatever why it should be delayed. We know each other well enough, I
should think, and there is no probability of our changing our minds on
discovering all sorts of faults, that we never dreamt, in each other.
I may be away for a fortnight, and I would suggest that you had better
make your preparations at once, so that we can be married a fortnight
after I come back."

"You say that there is no fear of our discovering faults in each other.
I can assure you that I have just discovered a very serious fault,
namely, that you are altogether too masterful, too bent upon having your
own way. I know you always were so when you were a boy, but I hoped
you had grown out of it; now I see that I was altogether mistaken.
Seriously, Mark, your proposal is absurd."

"Where does the absurdity come in, Millicent?"

"Well, everywhere," she said gravely.

"Which in the present case means nowhere," he said. "Do you mean to tell
me, Millicent, that in this town there are not a hundred dressmakers,
each of whom could turn you out a wedding dress and as many other
garments as you can possibly require in the course of a month, or even
if that effort were too stupendous, that you could not divide the work
among a dozen of them?"

"Well, I don't say that could not be done," Millicent admitted
reluctantly.

"Well, what other objection is there?"

"Well, you see, one does not, like to be bustled in such a matter as
this, Mark. One likes to think it all over and to realize it to one's
self."

"Well, dear, you will have a fortnight while I am away to think and to
realize as much as you like. I can see no advantage myself in waiting
a single day longer than there is a necessity for; I have been for the
last year coming here merely as a visitor, and I want to take possession
of you and have you all to myself. I suppose Mrs. Cunningham will be
coming in presently, and I will put the matter to her. If she says you
cannot be ready in a month I must give you another week, but I don't
think that she will say so. By the way, how about her?"

"I was thinking of that last night, Mark. It would be very lonely for
her to live by herself now, and you see she has always been as a mother
to me."

"Quite so, dear; and I am sure that I should have no objection to her
coming back to Crowswood, and living there as a friend, and helping you
in the housekeeping."

"Thank you very much, Mark; I should like that in every way. You see, I
know nothing whatever about housekeeping; and besides, when you are
out, it would be a great thing to have her with me, for it would be very
lonely by myself in that big house."

"Well, we will have her there, by all means, dear, if she likes to come;
you had better talk it over with her. Ah! here she is.

"We were just talking over the time it will take Millicent to get
ready," he said, "and I shall be glad of your opinion. I have been
telling her that I am going away for a fortnight, and have proposed that
the marriage should come off a fortnight later. I cannot see any use in
delay, and she does not either; at least, I suppose not, for the only
objection she has advanced is that there will be but a short time in
which to get her things ready. That strikes me as being all nonsense.
I could get things ready for ten weddings in that time. What do you
think?"

"I see no reason for delay," Mrs. Cunningham said; "and assuredly a
month ought to be sufficient to get everything made."

"Thank you, Mrs. Cunningham; then we can consider that settled,
Millicent!"

"I call this tyranny, Mrs. Cunningham," Millicent protested. "He says
he proposes that we shall be married in a month; it is not a proposal at
all, it is an order. If he had wanted me in such a hurry he might have
said so a year ago, and now that he has made up his mind at last, he
wants everything done in a hurry."

"It is the nature of men, my dear; they are all alike in that respect.
I think you had better make up your mind to it, especially as I have no
doubt in this case the order is not a very unpleasant one."

"You are too bad, Mrs. Cunningham," Millicent said. "I made sure that I
should find you on my side, and it seems you have gone over altogether
to the enemy."

"Where are you going to?" asked Mrs. Cunningham of Mark.

"I am going across to Amsterdam to sell that bracelet. My uncle
expressed a particular wish to my father that he should do so
immediately it came into his possession. Dick Chetwynd is going over
with me, and if the weather is fair it will be a pleasant trip."

"Where are you thinking of going after the marriage?"

"We have not talked it over yet. My own idea is that, as neither of
us has been abroad, we might as well take this opportunity for seeing
something of the Continent. Of course we cannot go to France, things are
in too disturbed a state there; but we might go to Brussels, and then
into Germany, and perhaps as far as Vienna, and then down into Italy;
but of course, if Millicent prefers it, we will simply take a tour
through England and Scotland."

"Oh, I am glad that I am to have some voice in the matter," Millicent
said. "However, I should like the tour you propose very much, Mark. I
have often thought that I should like to see Italy above all places."

"Well, then, we will consider that settled. And now, what are you going
to do for today?"



CHAPTER XIX.


The Essex was to sail at eleven o'clock. Half an hour before that
time Mark's hackney coach drew up at the wharf. Ten minutes later Dick
Chetwynd, who had, like Mark, driven by a circuitous route, and had made
several stoppages, joined him, and as they shook hands slipped a parcel
into his hand, and this Mark at once pocketed, and buttoned his coat up
tightly; then hailing a boat, they went on board together; they had sent
their luggage on the previous evening. On getting on board Mark saw the
two prize fighters walking up and down the deck aft. They were quietly
dressed, and save for their size would have attracted no attention,
and would have been taken for two countrymen on their way to Holland on
business.

The two detectives were seated forward, their appearance being that of
two quiet business men, commercial travelers or small traders. The two
friends first went below, and saw to the cabin which they were to share,
and found their luggage was all there. Then they returned on deck. Four
or five other passengers were standing watching the last bales of goods
coming on board. The tide was just on the turn, and a quarter of an hour
later the warps were thrown off, and some of the sails hoisted, and the
Essex began to move through the water.

"Look there, Dick!" Mark exclaimed. "Do you see that boat lying on its
oars in the middle of the stream? That man sitting in the stern is a
foreigner, either from Southern Europe or from India."

"He is certainly a dark man, Mark. Still, that may be only a
coincidence."

"It is rather a curious one," Mark said. "We are too far off to see
his features, but he is apparently watching us off. There, the oars are
dipping into the water, now he sees that we are fairly under way."

"Well, Mark, I shall begin to think that you are right. I am bound to
say that hitherto I thought that it was ridiculous to suppose that
you could have been watched as you thought, and that you had got these
diamonds on your brain till you had really become fanciful. However, it
certainly looks as if you were right; but even if you were, how on earth
could they have found out that we were going by this ship?"

"That is more than I can tell; if they have been watching me they must
have known that I was intimate with you; they have seen me come out of
Cotter's Bank, and afterwards enter your lodgings; they would feel sure
that I had heard that there would be danger connected with the diamonds,
and might suppose that I should get some friend to take them from the
bank, and may have followed your movements as well as mine. In that case
they would have found out that you also went to Cotter's Bank; may have
followed you to Tower Street, and found out that you had taken a passage
for two to Amsterdam. They may again have seen you go to the bank this
morning and have guessed that you had the diamonds about you, and then
seeing us together on the wharf would feel pretty certain that it was
so. One of them may have hired that boat and watched the Essex to see
that neither of us went on shore again."

"Now they see that we are off they will know that their game is up,"
Chetwynd said.

"I am not so sure of that, Dick; there are craft going every day to
Antwerp and Flushing, and for anything we know some of them may be on
board a craft already dropping down like ourselves by this tide. But
even if we had twelve hours' start, by landing, say at Flushing, they
would have time to cross by land to Amsterdam and get there before us."

"Yes, I suppose they would; anyhow, it is pretty certain that we shall
not be troubled on the voyage."

"Yes, I never thought there was much danger of that, because even if
they were on board they would see that you and I, being always together,
could not be got rid of without an alarm being given."

Not until they were passing Greenwich did either of the detectives come
near Mark, then as he and Dick were standing by the bulwarks, looking
at the hospital, Chester strolled across the deck and, pointing to the
building as if asking him some question about it, said:

"There is a colored man forward, dressed as a sailor."

"Is that so?" Mark said. "I see no one aft here who looks suspicious,
and I don't think they will try anything till we get to Amsterdam. There
was a colored man in a boat watching us as we set sail."

"I saw him, sir. Can he get to Amsterdam before us?"

"Yes, I have no doubt he can; if he lands at Flushing or Antwerp, and
takes a post chaise or a diligence, I should say he could get there
twenty-four hours before us. Certainly he could do so if he landed at
The Hague, as we have to go a long way round to get into the Zuyder Zee.
That is where the real danger will be; still you had better keep a sharp
lookout on the man forward."

No more was said. Mark was not long in getting into conversation with
the other passengers aft, and later on strolled forward with Dick,
asking the sailors some questions as to what sort of passage they were
likely to have, and how the wind suited. The men agreed that unless the
wind shifted they would not be likely to make a quick passage.

"The wind is northeasterly," one of them said. "We can only just lay
our course now, and it will be dead against us in some of the reaches.
Still, I think we shall manage to make down to sea with only a tack or
two, but when we are once fairly out of the river it will be a long leg
and a short one, and going up round the Texel it will be dead against
us. Except that it would be a bit worse if it had a little more east
in it, it is about as foul a wind as we could have, and I don't see any
sign of a change, worse luck."

Presently, moving about among them, he got next to Gibbons.

"I don't think we shall have any trouble on board," he said; "if there
is any, it will be after we have landed. But you can keep an eye on that
foreign sailor standing alone there up in the bows."

"All right, sir; if you like, I can manage to get into a quarrel with
him, and can warrant that he won't get out of his berth before it is
time to go ashore."

"No, I would leave him alone, Gibbons; as long as he is forward he can
do no harm; but if you see him working his way aft, after it gets dark,
it will do him no harm if you manage to stumble against him and give him
a clout on the head."

"All right, sir; if I hit him once he won't want another. The fellow
seems quiet enough, and as far as strength goes he don't look stronger
than a girl."

After chatting for some time longer Mark and Dick Chetwynd went aft
again. The Essex did not put into any intermediate port, and it was only
on the sixth day after sailing that she approached Amsterdam. The voyage
had passed off without any incident except that at nine o'clock one
evening there had been a slight noise on deck and the sound of a fall.
The friends went up at once. Several of the sailors had run aft, and
Gibbons was explaining matters to them.

"I was walking up and down the deck," he said, "when I saw this chap
staring down through the skylight, and I said to him, 'I don't call it
good manners to be prying down into your betters' cabin.' He did not
answer or move, so I gave him a push, when he turned upon me like a wild
cat, and drew his knife from his girdle. There it is, on the other side
of the deck. As I did not want daylight put into me, I just knocked him
down."

"Served him right," one of the sailors said. "He had no right to come
aft at all, and if he drew his knife on you, you were quite right in
laying him out. But you must have hit him mighty hard, for you have
knocked the life pretty near out of him. Well, we may as well carry him
forward and throw a bucket of water over him. That is the worst of these
foreign chaps; they are always so ready with their knives. However, I
don't think he will be likely to try his hand on an Englishman again."

Mark and his friend went below again. In the morning Mark asked one of
the sailors if the foreigner was much hurt.

"Well, he is a good bit hurt, sir. That big chap looks as strong as a
bullock, and his blow has flattened the foreign chap's nose. He cannot
see out of his eyes this morning, and is keeping his bunk. They cannot
stand a blow, those foreign chaps; but I don't suppose that any of us
would have stood such a blow as that, without feeling it pretty heavy.
The man who hit him is quite sorry this morning that he hit him quite so
hot, but, as he says, when a fellow draws a knife on you, you have not
got much time for thinking it over, and you have got to hit quick and
hard. I told him he needn't be sorry about it. I consider when a fellow
draws a knife that hanging aint too bad for him, whether he gets it into
a man or not."

There was a growl of assent from two or three sailors standing round,
for in those days the use of the knife was almost unknown in England,
and was abhorrent to Englishmen, both as being cowardly and unfair, and
as being a purely foreign crime.

"It will be dark before we get alongside," Mark said to the two
detectives. "Do you two walk first; we will keep just behind you, and
the others shall follow as close as they can keep to us. If anyone is
looking out for us they will see that we are a strong party, and that it
would be no good to attack us, for even if they were to stab me it would
not be possible to search me for the diamonds when I am with a party
like this."

It was indeed quite dark when the brig brought up outside a tier of
vessels lying by the wharf. A few oil lamps burning by the quay showed
that there were a good many people still sauntering about. The party
waited until the rest of the passengers had landed. They learned from
one of those who knew the place that the hotel to which they were going
was but three or four hundred yards away, and obtained directions how to
find it.

"Now we will go," Mark said. "Gibbons, you had better keep a sharp
lookout on your own account. That fellow you knocked down may try to put
a knife into you."

"I will keep a sharp lookout, sir, never you fear."

"I think, Tring, you had better watch Gibbons; he is more in danger than
I am. Have you seen the man go on shore?"

"Yes, he was the very first to cross onto the next vessel," Tring said.

The loungers on the quay had gathered together to watch the passengers
as they left the ship, and by the dim light from one of the oil lamps it
could be seen that the majority of them were of the roughest class.
As they were passing through them a man with a cry of rage sprang at
Gibbons with an uplifted knife. Tring's fist struck him under the ear as
he was in the act of striking, and he fell like a log. There was a cry
of "Down with them!" and a rush of a score of men, most of whom were
armed with heavy bludgeons.

The party was at once broken up, heavy blows were exchanged, the two
pugilists rolling their assailants over like ninepins, but receiving
several heavy blows from their assailants' clubs. A rush of five or
six men separated Mark from the others. Those in front of him he struck
down, but a moment later received a tremendous blow on the back of the
head which struck him to the ground unconscious. His companions were all
too busy defending themselves against their assailants to notice what
had been done, and as the attack had taken place in the center of the
roadway behind the quay, there was no lamp, and the fight was taking
place in almost total darkness.

By this time many people had run up at the sound of the fray. A minute
later there was a cry that the watch were coming, and four or five men
with lanterns emerged from one of the streets leading down to the quays,
and hurried towards the spot. The fight at once ceased, the men who had
attacked mingled with the crowd, and when the watch came up they found
the five Englishmen clustered together and ten or twelve men lying on
the ground.

The instant that the fight had ceased Dick Chetwynd asked, "Where is Mr.
Thorndyke?"

No answer was given. The other four men simultaneously uttered
exclamations of alarm. The crowd was thinning fast as the watch came up.

"What is all this about?" one of them asked in Dutch.

"Do any of you speak English?" Dick asked.

"I do," one of them said.

"We landed five minutes ago from that craft," continued Dick, "and as we
came across we were attacked by a band of ruffians. An Englishman, one
of our party, is missing."

"Whose bodies are these?" the watchman asked, raising his lantern and
pointing to them.

"Perhaps Mr. Thorndyke is among them," Dick Chetwynd said.

The fallen figures were examined by the light of the lanterns. Mark was
not among them. The watchmen uttered an exclamation of astonishment as
they looked at the men's faces.

"What did you strike them with?" the one who spoke first asked.

"Struck them with our fists, of course," Gibbons replied. "They will do
well enough; you need not bother about them, they will come round again
presently. The question is, Where is Mr. Thorndyke?"

The whole of the lookers on had dispersed, each fearing that he might be
charged with taking part in the outrage.

"This is a very serious matter," Chetwynd said. "We have every reason
to believe that the attack was premeditated, for the gentleman who is
missing was known to have some valuables on him; all these fellows ought
to be taken and locked up and made to give an account of themselves. We
are going to the Hotel d'Hollande where you can find us at any time. I
dare say some of these scoundrels are known to you, and that may give
you a clew as to where Mr. Thorndyke is.

"I have but little hope that he will be found alive; no doubt he has
been stabbed and his body carried off so that they can search his
clothes at their leisure. We came in a strong party to prevent the risk
of an attack upon Mr. Thorndyke. Here is my card. It is of no use our
attempting to search by ourselves, but if you will get these fellows
taken to the watch house, and will call at the hotel, we will join your
party and help you to search the places you think he has most likely
been taken to."

"I think, sir, you had better come with me to the watch house, and see
the Lieutenant, and tell him what has happened."

"I will just take my friends to the hotel, and shall be back from there
before you have got men to take these fellows away. If you go to one of
those ships and borrow a bucket, empty it over each of them; you will
find that will bring them to!"

As soon as they arrived at the hotel Dick ordered a private sitting room
and five bedrooms.

"We have made a terrible mess of this, lads," he said gloomily. "I don't
say that it is any of our faults, but it is a horrible affair. I have
not the least doubt that Mr. Thorndyke has been killed, and it is no
satisfaction to us that we have pretty nearly done for a dozen of those
scoundrels."

"I would not have had it happen for a hundred pounds, nor a thousand,
sir. If there had been daylight we could have licked a score of them in
spite of their bludgeons, but they came with such a rush at us that we
got separated before we knew where we were. I don't think that it was
our fault. I feel as much ashamed as if I had thrown up the sponge in
the ring at the end of the first round. To think that we came over here,
four of us, and yourself, sir, on purpose to take care of Mr. Thorndyke,
all well save a few knocks with those sticks, and Mr. Thorndyke killed
and carried off before we have been on shore five minutes. A better
young fellow I never put on the gloves with;" and Gibbons passed the
back of his hand across his eyes.

"Well, I must be off now," Chetwynd said. "I feel heartbroken over it.
I have known him since we were boys together; and what makes it worse
is that only three days ago he became engaged to be married. How we are
going to take the news back God only knows!"

As he hurried down the street towards the wharf he saw a number of
lanterns coming towards him, and ten or twelve watchmen came along
escorting the prisoners, many of whose faces were covered with blood;
then came four other watchmen carrying a body on a stretcher.

"One of them is dead," the watchman who had before spoken said to Dick.
"A foreign seaman, a Lascar I should say, from his color; we found an
open knife by his side."

"That is the man who began the fray," Chetwynd said. "He was on the
point of stabbing one of my companions when another hit him under the
ear."

"What!" the watchman said. "He must have been hit like the kick of a
horse. All these prisoners seem to have been struck but once; two of
them cannot speak. I think their jaws are broken; four of them have
broken noses, and another has had all his front teeth knocked out, while
the others are nearly as bad."

"I see you have brought with you some of their bludgeons," Dick said,
pointing to one of the watchmen carrying a great bundle of sticks over
his shoulder.

"Yes, sir, twenty-three of them; it certainly seems to show that it
was a planned thing. Most of these fellows' faces are so bruised that
I cannot say who they are at present, but two or three are known as the
worst ruffians in the city, and I have no doubt we shall find that they
all belong to the same gang."

By this time they had arrived at the watch house, a building of
considerable size; the prisoners were first lodged in a strong room with
barred windows and very heavy doors, and then the watchman went with
Chetwynd to the Lieutenant's room. The officer had just returned, having
hurried down with a reinforcement to the wharf as soon as he had heard
of the fray, and tried to obtain some information from the people who
had gathered round, attracted by the lanterns of the watch. He had
already learned from the watchmen all they knew about the affair. As he
spoke English well, he at once addressed Dick:

"This is a serious affair, sir."

"A very serious affair, for, indeed, I am afraid that my dearest friend
has been murdered."

"Will you kindly give me the particulars?" the officer said, sitting
down to the table with a pen in his hand.

Dick Chetwynd told him the story of how Mr. Thorndyke, having some very
valuable jewels that he wished to dispose of, and believing that he
would be attacked by a band of robbers, had asked him to accompany him,
and had brought four detective officers and pugilists to protect him
against any sudden attack.

"Ah, that accounts for the terrible blows that these fellows received,"
the officer said. "And your friend; was he a strong man?"

"He was a man exceptionally strong, and a match for either of the
pugilists that he brought over. I have no doubt that he was stabbed,
though of course he might have been brought down by a blow from one of
the bludgeons. He must have been completely insensible when carried off.

"The watchman here tells me that three or four of these ruffians are
known, and perhaps if you will give orders for the blood to be washed
off the others' faces some more may be recognized and prove an aid in
enabling you to form an idea where Mr. Thorndyke has been carried. I
trust that you will send out a party to search for him. I and the four
men with me will gladly join them, and may be of use if any resistance
is offered."

The Lieutenant at once gave orders to the watchman to go down and see
that the prisoners all washed their faces. As soon as he returned with
the report that this was done the officer went down with Dick Chetwynd
to examine them. Three or four of the men with lanterns also went in.
Eight out of eleven men were recognized; the other three, whose features
were so swollen that they could not see out of their eyes, could not be
made out, but their companions, on being questioned, gave their names.

"They all belong to a gang of wharf thieves and plunderers. They live
in a slum near the water. I will have men posted in the lanes leading
to it, and will myself go with you to see that a search is made of every
house; but first I will try to find out from these fellows where he was
to be taken.

"Now, my men," he said, "anyone of you who will tell me where one of the
party you attacked was to be taken to will find things made easy for him
at his trial."

None of the men spoke for a minute, and then one said:

"We know nothing about it; how should we, when we were all knocked
stupid?"

"No, but you might know where he was to be taken."

"I know nothing about that. We all got word to mind we were on the wharf
when a brig, that was seen coming up, came alongside, and that we were
to have a hundred francs each for attacking some passengers as they
landed. Six of them came along together, and one said, 'These are the
men.' A black sailor came up first and spoke to two or three men in some
foreign language. I don't know who the men were; it was too dark to see
their faces. It was one of them who gave the order. It seemed an easy
job enough when there were twenty-five of us with heavy sticks, but it
didn't turn out so. I only know that I hit one big fellow a blow that
ought to have knocked him down, and the next moment there was a crash,
and I don't know anything more about it until a lot of water was thrown
over me and one of the watch helped me to my feet. I don't know whether
the others know more than I do, but I don't think they do."

All the others protested at once that they were equally ignorant. They
had gone to earn a hundred francs. They had been told that the money was
all right, but who found it or who were the men to be attacked they had
not the least idea.

"How was it that you all had these bludgeons--there were no knives found
on any of you?"

The man who spoke before said:

"The order was 'No knives,' and before we went down to the wharf each
of us was searched and a stick given to us. I suppose from that, that
whoever paid for the job didn't want blood to be shed; it suited us well
enough, for it was a job there was sure to be a row over, and I don't
suppose any of us wanted to put his head in a noose. I know that we all
said to each other as we went out that it did not want such sticks as we
had to give a man a thrashing, but the man who hired us, whoever he was,
knew his customers better than we did."

The officer translated the man's words as they were spoken to Dick, and
on hearing the last speech, the latter said:

"Then there is still hope that Thorndyke may only have been stunned;
that is a greater reason for our losing no time in looking for him, for
I am afraid that they won't hesitate to kill him when they have got him
hidden away."

"I expect," the Lieutenant said, "they thought that if any of the watch
came upon them as they were carrying him off, they might be at once
arrested if it was found that they were carrying a dead man, whilst if
he were only stunned they would say that it was a drunken comrade who
had fallen and knocked his head against something. I agree with you,
sir; we had better start on our search at once."

"Will you pass the Hotel d'Hollande? If not, I will run and bring my
men."

"Yes, I will go that way; it will be no further."

Dick walked on fast.

"We have no news of him," he said, as he entered the room where the four
men were anxiously awaiting him, "but we and the watch are now going to
search the slums where the men who were taken prisoners all live; come
down now, and I will tell you what I have learned, before the others
come up.

"There is reason for believing that he was not stabbed," he went on, as
they reached the street, "for the men all say that they were armed only
with clubs, and that the strictest orders were given that none were to
carry knives, therefore there is little doubt that he was at the time
only stunned. But I am bound to say that this gives me very small ground
for hoping that we may find him alive. I fear they only stunned him, so
that they might carry him safely to their haunts, for if stopped
they could say that it was a drunken comrade, who had fallen and hurt
himself. I fear that when they get him into one of their dens they will
make short work of him, therefore it is clear that there is not a moment
to be lost. Ah, here comes the watch."

There were eight men with the Lieutenant.

"I have already sent off ten others," he said as he joined Chetwynd, "to
watch the lanes, and let no one go in or out. I thought it best not to
lose a moment about that, for when the men see that we have learned
from the others where the gang came from, and have closed the avenues
of escape, they will hesitate about murdering their prisoner if he was
still alive when my men got there."

In a quarter of an hour they arrived at the end of a narrow lane, where
two watchmen were standing with lanterns.

"You have seen nor heard nothing?" the Lieutenant asked him.

"No, sir, we have not seen a man moving in the lane."

"There is just one hope that we might be in time," the Lieutenant said,
as he went on down the lane, "and that is, that the fellows when they
gather will be so dismayed at finding that nearly half their number are
missing, and knowing that some of them are pretty sure to make a clean
breast of it, they will hesitate to complete their crime. It is one
thing to rob a man in the streets, quite another to murder him in cold
blood. There is likely to be a good deal of difference of opinion among
them, some of the more desperate being in favor of carrying the thing
through, but others are sure to be against it, and nothing may have been
done. You may be sure that the sight of my men at the end of the lanes
will still further alarm them. I have no doubt the news that we have
surrounded the district has already been circulated, and that if alive
now he is safe, for they will think it is better to suffer a year or
two's imprisonment than to be tried for murder. We are sure to make some
captures, for it is probable that several of the others will bear marks
of the fight. Each man we take we will question separately; one or other
of them is pretty safe to be ready to say where your friend was taken to
if I promise him that he shan't be prosecuted."

Every house in the district was searched from top to bottom. Six
men; with cut and bruised faces, were found shamming sleep, and were
separately questioned closely; all declared that they knew nothing
whatever of anyone being carried there.

"It is of no use your denying your share in the affair," the Lieutenant
said. "Your comrades have confessed that there were twenty-five of you
hired to carry out this, and that you received a hundred francs each.
Now, if this gentleman is not found, it will be a hanging matter for
some of you, and you had better tell all you know. If you will tell us
where he is, I will promise that you shan't be included in the list of
those who will be prosecuted."

The reply, although put in different words, was identical with that of
the prisoners.

"We had nothing to do with carrying him off; we were hired only to
knock the men down who were pointed out to us; not a word was said about
carrying them off. He may have been carried off, that we cannot say, but
he has certainly not been brought here, and none of us had anything to
do with it."

Morning was breaking before the search was concluded. The detectives,
accustomed as they were to visit the worst slums of London, were
horrified at the crowding, the squalor, and the misery of the places
they entered.

"My opinion. Mr. Chetwynd," Gibbons growled, "is that the best thing to
do would be to put a score of soldiers at the end of all these lanes,
and then to burn the whole place down, and make a clean sweep of it. I
never saw such a villainous looking crew in all my life. I have been
in hopes all along that some of them would resist; it would have been a
real pleasure to have let fly at them."

"They are a villainous set of wretches, Gibbons, but they may not be all
criminals."

"Well; I don't know, sir; but I know that if I were on a jury, and any
of the lot were in the dock, I should not want to hear any evidence
against them; their faces are enough to hang them."

At last the search was over, and they were glad indeed when they emerged
from the lanes and breathed the pure air outside, for all the Englishmen
felt sick at the poisonous air of the dens they had entered. The
prisoners, as they were taken, had been sent off to the watch house.

"I begin to think that the story these fellows tell is a true one, Mr.
Chetwynd," the Lieutenant said, "and that they had nothing to do with
carrying your friend off. In the first place, they all tell the same
story: that in itself would not be much, as that might have been settled
beforehand; but it is hardly likely that one of the lot would not have
been ready to purchase his life by turning on the others. There is very
little honor among thieves; and as they know that we have taken their
mates--for no doubt we were watched as we marched them up the town--they
would make sure that someone would turn traitor, and would think they
might as well be beforehand. I fancy that the men, whoever they are,
who hired this gang to attack you, carried out that part of the business
themselves."

"I am afraid that is so," Dick agreed; "and I fear in that case that he
is in even worse hands than if these ruffians here had taken him."

"Well, sir, can you furnish us with any clew?"

"The only clew is that they were most probably dark men. That man who
was killed was undoubtedly one of them. I should say that they would
probably be got up as foreign sailors."

"Well, that is something to go upon, at any rate. I will send round men
at once to all the places by the quays where sailors board, and if three
or four of them have been together at any place we are sure to hear of
it, and the moment I have news I will send to your hotel."

"Thank you; I don't see that we can be of any use at present, but you
will find us ready to turn out again the moment we hear that you have
news."

When the party returned to the hotel they sat talking the matter over
for upwards of an hour. All were greatly discouraged, for they had
little hope indeed of ever learning what had become of Mark. As they had
started out Dick had told the night porter that he could not say what
time they might return, but that before the house closed he must have a
couple of bottles of spirits and some tumblers sent up to their sitting
room, together with some bread and cold meat, for that they might not
return until morning, and would need something before they went to bed,
as they had had nothing since their dinner, at one o'clock.

"It wants something to take the taste of that place out of one's mouth,"
Tring said to Dick, as, directly they entered, he poured some spirits
into the glasses. "I feel as queer as if I had been hocussed."

All, indeed, were feeling the same, and it was not until they had eaten
their supper and considerably lowered the spirits in the two bottles
that they began to talk. The two detectives were the principal speakers,
and both of these were of opinion that the only shadow of hope remaining
rested upon Mark himself.

"Unless they finished him before he came round," Malcolm said, "they
would find him an awkward customer to deal with. Mr. Thorndyke has got
his head screwed on right, and if, as you say, they are Indians, Mr.
Chetwynd, I should think that if he once comes fairly round, unless he
is tied up, he will be a match for them, even with their knives. That is
the only chance I see. Even if the watch do find out that three or four
foreign sailors have been at one of the boarding houses and did not turn
up last night, I don't think we shall be much nearer. They will probably
only have carried him some distance along the wharf, got to some quiet
place where there is a big pile of wood, or something of that sort, then
put a knife into him, searched for the diamonds, which you may be sure
they would find easily enough wherever he had hidden them, and then make
off, most likely for Rotterdam or The Hague; they could be at either of
these places by this time, and will mostly likely divide the diamonds
and get on board different craft, bound for London or Hull, or indeed
any other port, and then ship for India. From what Mr. Thorndyke said
they did not want the diamonds to sell, but only to carry back to some
temple from which they were stolen twenty years ago."

Chester was of precisely the same opinion.

"I am afraid, Mr. Chetwynd," he added, as they rose to go to their rooms
for two or three hours' sleep, "the only news that we shall get in the
morning is that Mr. Thorndyke's body has been found."



CHAPTER XX.


At ten o'clock a constable came with a message from the Lieutenant to
Mr. Chetwynd that he would be glad if he would come down to the watch
house. Dick did not wake the others, but freshening himself up by
pouring a jug of water over his head, went at once with the constable.

"Have you news?" he asked eagerly as he entered.

"Yes, the men returned an hour ago. At four of the houses they went to
a foreign sailor had been lodging there for the last day or so, but
yesterday afternoon all had paid their reckoning and left. Then the idea
struck me that it would be as well to ask if they had been seen on the
quays, and I sent off a fresh batch of men to make inquiries. A quarter
of an hour ago one of them came back with the news that he had learned
from a sailor that he had noticed a dark colored foreigner, whom he took
to be a Lascar sailor, talking to a boatman, and that they had rowed off
together to a barge anchored a short way out; he did not notice anything
more about him.

"Now, I should not be at all surprised if the fellow went off to arrange
with the bargeman for a passage for himself and four or five comrades to
some port or other, it might be anywhere. It would make no difference to
them where the barge was bound for. No doubt he saw the man again after
the brig was sighted, and told him that they should come on board soon
after it got dark, and told him to have the boat at the stairs. You
see, in that case they might not have carried Mr. Thorndyke above fifty
yards. They would probably get him on board as one of their party who
had been drunk. The barge, no doubt, got under way about nine o'clock,
which is the hour when the tide was high last night, and during the
night the Indians could easily drop your friend overboard--and may
even have done so before they got under way, which would have been the
easiest thing to do. There would have been no one at the helm, and they
could have chosen a moment when the crew, probably only three, were
below. I am afraid that this is not a cheering lookout, but I have
little doubt that it is the correct one.

"I have told my men to find out what barge was lying at the spot the
sailor pointed out, and if we discover her name, which we are likely to
be able to do, there will be no difficulty in finding out to whom she
belongs and where she was bound for. Then we can follow it up; though
there is little likelihood of our finding the murderers still on board."

"Thank you very much for the pains that you are taking, sir," Dick said.
"I am afraid that there is no shadow of hope of finding my poor friend
alive. I have no doubt that the thing has happened exactly as you
suggest; the whole course of the affair shows how carefully it was
planned, and I have no hope that any scruple about taking life would be
felt by them for a moment. I will go back to the hotel, and I shall be
obliged if you will let me know as soon as you obtain any clew as to the
barge."

An hour and a half later the officer himself came round to the room
where Dick Chetwynd and the two pugilists were sitting. The detectives
had started out to make inquiries on their own account, taking with them
a hanger on at the hotel who spoke English.

"The barge's name was the Julie," he said; "she has a cargo on board for
Rotterdam."

"I think the best thing would be to take a carriage, and drive there at
once," Dick said.

"You can do that, sir, but I don't think you will be there before the
barge; they have something like eighteen hours' start for you, and the
wind has been all the time in the east. I should say that they would be
there by eight o'clock this morning."

"No, I don't know that it would be of any use, but at least it would be
doing something. I suppose we could be there in four hours?"

"From that to five; but even if the barge were delayed, and you got
there first, which is very unlikely, I do not think that there would be
the remotest chance of finding those villains on board. I reckon they
would, as we agreed, launch the body overboard even before they got
under way here, and they may either have landed again before the craft
got under way, pretending that they had changed their minds, and then
walked across to The Hague or to Haarlem, or have gone on with the barge
for two hours, or even until daybreak. If by that time they were near
Rotterdam, they may have stayed on board till they got there; if not,
they may have landed, and finished the journey on foot, but they would
certainly not have stopped on board after six or seven o'clock this
morning. They would calculate that possibly we might get on their track
at an early hour this morning, and set out in pursuit at once.

"However, it will doubtless be a satisfaction to you to be moving,
and at least you will be able to overhaul the barge when you get to
Rotterdam, and to hear what the boatmen say. The chances are they will
not even have noticed that one of the men who came on board was missing.
The men may very well have made up a long bundle, carried it on shore
with them, or three of them may have carried a fourth ashore; and in the
dark the bargemen were unlikely to have noticed that the number was less
than when they came on board. However, it will be something for you to
find out when and where the fellows landed."

"Yes; I should certainly like to lay hands on them, though I am afraid
we should find it very hard to prove that they had anything to do with
this affair."

"I think that also, Mr. Chetwynd. Morally, we may feel absolutely
certain; but, unless the boatmen noticed that one of their number was
missing when they landed, we have at present no evidence to connect them
with it."

"We will set out as soon as my other two men return. I told them to be
back soon after twelve. I will write to you this evening from Rotterdam.
Ah! here are the men."

The door opened, and, to the stupefaction of the party, Mark Thorndyke
entered the room.

"Good Heavens, Mark!" Dick exclaimed, springing forward and seizing
his hand, "is it really you alive in the flesh? We had given you up for
dead. We have been searching the town for you all night, and were just
going to set out for Rotterdam in search of a barge on which we believed
you were carried. Why, it seems almost a miracle!"

The two prize fighters also came forward, and shook hands with a
pressure that would have made most men shrink.

"I am as glad, Mr. Thorndyke," Gibbons said, "as if anyone had given me
a thousand pounds. I have never quite given up hope, for, as I said to
Mr. Chetwynd, if you got but a shadow of a chance, you would polish off
those nigger fellows in no time; but I was afraid that they never would
give you a chance. Well, I am glad, sir."

"Mark, this is the Lieutenant of the watch here," Dick said. "He has
been most kind, and has himself headed the search that has been made for
you all night. Now tell us all about it."

"First of all give me something to drink, for, except some water, I have
had nothing since dinner yesterday. You are right, Dick; it is almost a
miracle, even to me, that I am here. I would not have given a penny for
my chance of life, and I can no more account for the fact that I am here
than you can."

Mark drank off a tumbler of weak spirits and water that Gibbons poured
out for him. Chetwynd rang the bell, and ordered lunch to be brought
up at once. Just at this moment the two detectives came in, and were
astonished and delighted at finding Mark there.

"Now," he said, "I will tell you as much as I know, which is little
enough. When I came to my senses I found myself lying on the deck of a
craft of some sort; it was a long time before I could at all understand
how I got there. I think it was the pain from the back of my head that
brought it to my mind that I must have been knocked down and stunned in
that fight; for some time I was very vague in my brain as to that, but
it all came back suddenly, and I recalled that we had all got separated.
I was hitting out, and then there was a crash. Yes, I must have been
knocked down and stunned, and I could only suppose that in the darkness
and confusion I had been carried off and taken on board without any of
you missing me; my hands and feet were tied, and there was something
shoved into my mouth that prevented me from speaking.

"I should think that it must have been an hour before I quite recovered
my senses, and got the thing fairly into my mind. Then a man with a
knife leant over me, and made signs that if I spoke he would stab me,
and another took the gag out of my mouth and poured some water down my
throat, and then put it in again. I saw that he was a dark colored man,
and I then understood it all; it was those Hindoos who had got up the
attack upon us and had carried me off. I had no doubt they had got the
diamonds I had sewn up in the waistband of my trousers.

"I wondered why they were keeping me, but was sure they would stab
me presently and throw me overboard. I knew that they had killed two
soldiers for the sake of the diamonds, and if it hadn't been that they
had given me the water, I should not have had a shadow of doubt about my
fate."

"I puzzled over why they should have done so, and came to the conclusion
that they dared not do it on board, because of the crew, and that they
intended to take me on shore somewhere, and there dispose of me. I made
many attempts to loosen my ropes, but they would not give the slightest.
At last I think I dozed off for a time. After I had had the water they
drew a blanket or something of that sort over me. It had been there
before, but it had only been pulled up as high as my nose, and I felt
sure that it was only done to prevent the Dutchmen on the boat seeing
that I was bound and gagged; this time they pulled it right over my
face. When they took it off again I could see it was nearly morning, for
there was a faint light in the sky. They were moving about on the deck,
and presently I saw one of the sailors get into the boat and pull it
along, hand over hand, by the rail, until he was close to me. Then four
Lascar sort of chaps--I could scarcely make out their features--lifted
me and lowered me into the boat and got in themselves.

"I did not attempt to struggle. No doubt they had made up some tale
that I was mad or something of that sort, and I thought that I had best
pretend to be quiet and peaceable till I could see some sort of chance
of making a fight for it. It was but a few yards from the shore. The man
lifted me out onto the bank, and the sailor then started to row back
to the barge; they carried me a few yards away, and then laid me face
downwards on some grass. Now, I thought to myself, it is all over; they
are going to stab me and make off. To my surprise I felt they were
doing something--I could not make out what--to the ropes; then there
was quiet. I lay there I should think for half an hour, wondering why
on earth they did not finish me. At last I made up my mind to move,
and turned round onto my back. As I lay there I could see no one, and,
raising my head, looked round. To my amazement I found that I was alone.
It was now almost light, and as I craned my head in all directions I
assured myself that they had gone; then I began to try again at the
ropes.

"To my surprise I found that they were much looser than they were
before, although still tight enough to give me nearly an hour's work
before I got my hands free. Then it took me almost as long to get
the ropes off my legs, for they had knotted them in such a fearfully
intricate way that it was a long time before I could even discover where
the ends were. At last I finished the job, stood up, and looked round. A
quarter of a mile off there was a good sized town, but not a soul could
I see.

"Till now I had hardly thought of the diamonds; I put my hands to my
waistband and found, as I expected, that they were gone. I think I felt
nothing but pleasure: the confounded things had given trouble enough,
and I was well rid of them. Why they should have spared my life I could
not imagine. If they had finished me, which they could have done without
any risk to themselves when they got me ashore, they could have gone off
with the diamonds without the slightest fear of pursuit, while now there
was, of course, a chance that I might follow and recognize them."

"Would you know them again?" the Lieutenant interrupted.

"Not in the slightest; it was light enough to see that they were dark,
but from the time the boat came along the blanket was over my head,
and except when they gave me the water I had no chance of seeing any
of their features. Still, if I had gone straight to the town I saw and
reported the matter to the authorities and sent mounted men to all the
ports to warn them not to let any colored men embark, I might have given
them a lot of trouble, but I don't suppose any of them would ever have
been caught. After the craft they had shown in the whole matter, it is
certain that they would have laid their plans for escape so well
that the law would never have laid hands upon them. I put my hand
mechanically to my watch to see the time, and to my astonishment
discovered that I still had it in my pocket, and was equally surprised
to find that the money in my trousers' pockets was also untouched. The
watch had, of course, stopped. I first of all went down to the water and
had a good wash; then I proceeded to the town, and, going to a hotel,
ordered breakfast."

"Why, I thought you said that you had had nothing to eat, Mark."

"Yes? Well, I had forgotten all about that breakfast. The people looked
a good deal surprised at an Englishman walking in in that way. While
I was eating my breakfast two men--who were, I suppose, authorities of
some kind--who spoke English, came and questioned me. As I had made up
my mind to say nothing more about the affair, I merely told them that I
had come for a sail from Amsterdam, and that I wanted a carriage to take
me back. They were evidently astonished at my choosing a dark night for
such a trip, but I said that I had some curiosity to see how the boatmen
navigated their vessel when there were no lighthouses or anything to
steer by. They asked a few more questions, and then went away, evidently
thinking that I was a little mad. However, they must have spoken to the
landlord, who in a short time made signs that the carriage was at the
door.

"I had avoided asking the men either the name of the place or how far
it was from any big town, because that would have made the whole affair
more singular. It was a quarter past eight when I started, and beyond
the fact that I know by the sun we came pretty nearly due east, I have
not the slightest idea of the road. The coachman could not speak a word
of English. I should say we came about seven miles an hour and stopped
once to bait the horses, so I suppose that it must have been between
four and five miles from Rotterdam when I landed."

Lunch had by this time been laid on the table, and at Dick's invitation
the Lieutenant joined them.

"It is an extraordinary story!" he said. "That your life should have
been spared is altogether beyond my comprehension, still more so why
they should have left you your money and watch."

"The whole story is extraordinary," Dick Chetwynd said; "for we have
every reason to believe that those fellows, or at least one or two of
them, have been patiently watching for a chance of carrying off those
diamonds for twenty years. When my friend told me of it ten days ago I
did not believe that it could be possible; but he has certainly shown
that he was correct in his opinion."

Mark then related the history of the jewels, surprising the pugilists
and detectives as much as the Lieutenant.

"It is extraordinary indeed," the latter said. "I should not have
believed it possible that men would devote so many years to such a
purpose, nor that they could have succeeded in tracing the diamonds in
spite of the precaution taken by your uncle, and afterwards by yourself.
It would seem that from the time he landed in England he, and after him
your father and yourself, must have been watched almost night and day.
I can understand now why they did not take your watch and money.
They evidently acted from a sort of religious enthusiasm, and were no
ordinary thieves, but as evidently they did not hesitate to kill, I
cannot understand why they should have added to their risks by sparing
you."

"No, that is what puzzles me," Mark agreed. "I was thinking it over
while we were driving here. Now let me hear about the fight, Dick. How
did you all come out of it?"

"As well as could be expected. Gibbons and Tring both got some heavy
blows with the cudgels, as indeed we all did more or less, but they did
great execution. Eleven fellows were left senseless on the ground, and
one of them, that black fellow who came over with us, was killed. The
other ten are all in prison. All of us did our best, and managed to
leave our mark on eight others, who were in consequence picked out, and
are also in jail."

Dick went on to relate the particulars of the search.

"You see, our friend here had traced you to the barge and found out her
destination, and if you had come ten minutes later you would have found
that we had all just started for Rotterdam. I was only waiting for
Chester and Malcolm to return to set out. I am sorry, Mark, that you
have lost your diamonds; not so much because they are gone, for I can
well understand you to be thoroughly glad to be rid of such dangerous
articles, but because they have carried them off in our teeth, after we
have been specially retained to protect you. I certainly thought that
with such a bodyguard you were absolutely safe from any number of
Hindoos."

"Yes, we made a regular mess of it, Mr. Thorndyke," Gibbons said. "I
never felt so certain of winning a battle as I did that you would not
be touched as long as we were looking after you. Tring and I, if we had
been asked, would have said that we could each have taken on a dozen
foreigners easily. Mr. Chetwynd is handy with his fists too, though he
hasn't your weight and reach, and your two other friends are both pretty
well accustomed to deal with rough customers. As for Tring and me, it
makes one feel small to know that we have been bested by a handful of
niggers, or Hindoos, or whatever the chaps are, whom a good sized boy of
twelve ought to be able to polish off."

"Now, Mark, what is to be done next?" Dick Chetwynd asked.

"The next thing will be to get back as soon as we can, Dick. I, for one,
have had enough of Holland to last me for a lifetime."

"I am afraid, gentlemen," the Lieutenant said, "you will have to wait
a day or two before you can leave. I have nineteen men in prison, and
there will be a meeting of magistrates this afternoon. Now you have come
back, Mr. Thorndyke, the charge against them won't be as serious as
it would have been before, but they are guilty of a desperate and
premeditated assault upon six passengers on their arrival here; they
have already admitted that they were paid for their work; and as among
them are some of the worst characters in the city, you may be sure that
now we have got them fairly in our hands we shall not let them go. It is
so simple an affair that the investigation ought not to take long, but
we shall want to find out, if we can, who acted as the intermediary
between the Hindoos and the prisoners. I should think that two meetings
ought to be sufficient for the present, but I am afraid that there may
then be a long remand, and that you will either have to remain here or
to come over again."

"It would be a horrible nuisance," Dick said; "still it would be better
to come back again than to wait here indefinitely, and anyhow I don't
suppose it would be necessary for all of us to come back again."

"I should not mind if it could be arranged for me to be here again in a
month's time," Mark agreed, "for, to tell you the truth, I am going to
be married in less than three weeks, and as I had intended to come to
Brussels, and afterwards to travel for a while, I could make a visit
here without greatly putting myself out."

"I will try and arrange that, Mr. Thorndyke."

"I shall be glad," Mark said, "if you can manage to get the men
sentenced without going into the question of the diamonds at all, and
treat the matter as a mere attempt at robbery. It surely would not be
necessary to bring the question of my being carried away into the matter
at all; I can give evidence that I was knocked down and stunned, and
that I was robbed of some jewels that I had about me, which were the
object of the attack."

"I think we should have to admit that," the Lieutenant said; "it must
come out that the attack was an organized one."

"Well, if it must, it must," Mark said reluctantly; "but then, you see,
no end of questions would be asked, and the thing might be delayed while
a search is being made for the men who stole the bracelet."

"Well, we will keep it out of the inquiry if we can," the Lieutenant
said. "The meeting will be at three o'clock. I will send a man to take
you to the Town Hall."

At the appointed hour the party proceeded to the court, and the eighteen
prisoners, under a strong guard, having been brought in, six magistrates
took their places on the bench; the rest of the court was crowded, the
fray on the wharf and the number of captures having created quite a
stir in the city. They had arranged that Tring should first give
his evidence, which he did, the Lieutenant of the watch acting as
interpreter, though most of the magistrates understood English. The
appearance of the prisoners created quite a sensation in the court, for
the injuries that they had received were now even more conspicuous than
they had been when they were first captured; some of them had to be led
into court, their eyes being completely closed, others had their heads
bandaged, and all showed signs of tremendous punishment. Tring related
that he, with five others, had come ashore together; one of his
companions had a row on board a ship they had crossed in, with a
Lascar sailor, who was a passenger, and they kept together as they were
crossing the wharf, thinking that possibly the man might attempt to stab
his companion.

"I was walking behind him," Tring went on, "when the Lascar jumped
suddenly out from among the men standing about, and was about to stab my
companion, when I hit him just in time, and he went down; then there was
a rush, and we all got separated, and did as well as we could until the
watch came up; that is all that I know about it."

"Is the Lascar among the prisoners?" one of the magistrates asked the
Lieutenant of the watch.

"No, sir, when picked up by one of my men he was found to be dead; the
blow had apparently killed him instantly."

The other five then gave their evidence; it was similar to that of
Tring, save that being in front of him they knew nothing of the attack
by the Lascar. All they knew about it was that there was a sudden
rush upon them by a number of men armed with bludgeons, that they were
separated, and that each defended himself until the guard came up.

Some of the watch then gave evidence, and told how on arriving at
the spot eleven of the prisoners were found lying senseless; how, on
recovering, they were all taken to the watch house, where several of
them were recognized as notoriously bad characters; they had admitted
that they were paid to make the attack, which was apparently the result
of the private enmity of some person or persons unknown to one or more
of those attacked.

The Lieutenant then related the steps that he had taken to capture
others connected with the attack, and that he found eight men bearing
marks of the fray, and that all these were also notorious characters,
and associates of the prisoners first taken. The first witnesses were
again questioned; five of them said that, so far as they knew, they had
no personal enemies. Mark, who was the last to get into the witness box,
said that he himself had no enemies, but that an uncle of his, who was
in the British Indian service, had a sort of feud with some members of
a sect there on account of some jewels that he had purchased, and which
had, they declared, been stolen from a temple. Two soldiers through
whose hands these things had passed, had been successively killed by
them, and his uncle had to the day of his death believed that their
vengeance would one day fall upon him.

"I can only suppose," continued Mark, "that I have inherited the enmity
they bore him, as I inherited the jewels, and that the attack was really
designed solely against me, and the consequences might have been
fatal to me had it not been for the strength and courage of my fellow
passengers."

"Did they come with you for your protection, Mr. Thorndyke?"

"To some extent, yes. The fact is, that I have for some time been
convinced that I was followed about by natives of India, and remembering
what my uncle had said on the subject, I became to some degree
apprehensive, and thought it as well to leave London for a short time.
That this attack was really instigated by the men I have no doubt
whatever, since, as you have heard, it was begun by a Lascar, who tried
to stab one of my companions and who received a knockdown blow that
caused his death from one of the others. It is a well known fact that
these people will cherish for many years a determination to avenge any
injury. However, I hope that after the failure of this attempt upon my
life I shall hear no more of them."

"Were any knives found on the prisoners?" the magistrates asked the
Lieutenant of the watch.

"No, sir; all carried clubs. And they told me that they had been
especially ordered not to take knives, and had indeed been searched
before they came out."

"What impression do you gather from that, Mr. Thorndyke?"

"My impression is, sir, that they desired to overpower those with me and
to beat them down, in order to carry out their revenge upon me."

After some consultation the magistrate who had before spoken said:

"The prisoners will be remanded. It is necessary that we should find out
who was the chief culprit who bribed this gang."

As soon as the prisoners were taken out of court Mark slipped across to
the magistrates, accompanied by the Lieutenant as interpreter.

"I hope, gentlemen, that our presence here will not be necessary, for it
would be a matter of extreme inconvenience. I may say that my marriage
is fixed for today three weeks, hence you can well imagine that I want
to return as soon as possible. Two of the men are, as you have heard,
Bow Street officers, whose presence could not well be spared."

The magistrates again consulted together.

"Your evidence has all been taken down by the clerk of the court.
Certainly we should not require your presence at the remand; but whether
we should do so at the trial would, of course, depend upon whether these
men all own their guilt, which, having been taken red handed, it is
likely enough they will do. We will consent, therefore, to your leaving,
if you will give us an undertaking to return for the trial if your
presence is necessary, and that you will bring with you the man who
struck down the Lascar who commenced the fray, and one of the others."

"That I will do willingly," Mark replied. "We are much obliged to
you for your consideration. I shall be traveling for a time after my
marriage; but I will as I pass through Belgium after my marriage give
you the route I intend to take and the address at which letters will
find me, and if you send me a sufficiently long notice I will at once
return for the trial."



CHAPTER XXI.


"You managed that very well, Mark," Dick said. "You kept well within the
limits of truth without bringing the real facts of the attack upon us
into the case."

"Well, you see, Dick, after working as a detective, one gets into the
way of telling stories with the smallest amount of deviation possible
from the truth. What will these fellows get done to them, Lieutenant?"

"I should say that they will get two or three years imprisonment; the
only charge now is rioting and assault. It is lucky for them that they
had clubs instead of knives, for that would have brought the matter
under the head of attempted murder. The matter of the gems was not
important in the case, but there is sure to be a great fuss and search
for the missing Indians. I suppose you will soon be off home now?"

"Yes, I shall find out tonight what vessel leaves for England tomorrow,
and take a berth in the first that sails for London. It is too late to
think of starting this evening, and indeed I feel that I want a long
night's rest, for I did not sleep much last night, and have not quite
recovered from that crack on my head."

On his return to the hotel Mark sent out a man to inquire at the
shipping offices, and finding that a bark would sail at nine o'clock
the next morning, they went down and took berths, and sailed in her next
day. The voyage home was a rapid one, for the wind blew steadily from
the east, and the vessel made the passage to the mouth of the river in
two days, and the next took them up to London.

"I will call round tomorrow or next day, Gibbons, with the checks for
you both," Mark said as he prepared to go ashore.

"No, sir. We are both of one mind that we could not take them. We went
over to prevent you being robbed of those sparklers, and to see that you
came to no harm. Well, the things are lost, and you got knocked down
and carried away. It is no thanks to us that you are alive now. It is a
mortifying job, that with two detectives to watch over things and with
us to fight we should have been fairly beat by a few black niggers."

"If there had been any bungling on your part, Gibbons, there might be
something in what you say, but no one could have foreseen that before we
had been on shore two minutes we should have been attacked in that way.
You both did all that men could do, as was shown by the condition of
the fellows who were taken. I was just as much separated from you as you
were from me, and the fact that we were surprised as we were is really
due to my not determining to stay on board until the morning, which I
could no doubt have done with the captain's permission. It never struck
me for a moment that we should be attacked in force. I thought it
probable that an attempt at assassination would be made, but it
certainly did not seem probable that it would be attempted while you
were all with me. You are not in the slightest degree to blame, for
your part of the agreement was carried out to my satisfaction. I shall
certainly carry out mine, as I have arrived home safe and sound."

"Well, governor, it is very good of you; but I tell you it will go
against the grain for us to take your money."

On landing, Mark parted with Dick Chetwynd, who had arranged to drop
Mark's bag at his lodgings on his way home, and at once took a hackney
coach to Islington. Millicent gave a cry of delight as he entered the
room.

"You are back earlier than I expected, Mark. You told me before you
started that the wind was in the east, and that you might be a long time
getting to Amsterdam unless it changed. I have been watching the vane on
the church, and it has been pointing east ever since.

"Well, you have sold the diamonds, I hope?" she said, after the first
greeting was over.

"No; I have bad news for you, Millicent; the jewels have been stolen."

"Well it does not make much difference, Mark. We have much more than
enough without them, so don't bother yourself in the least. How did it
happen?"

"Well, it is rather a long story. I will tell it you when Mrs.
Cunningham is here, so as not to have to go over it twice. How are the
dresses getting on?"

"I suppose they are getting on all right," she said. "I have done
nothing for the last two days but try them on. You see, we put them
out to three milliners, and they all three seem to reach the same point
together, and I start after breakfast, and it takes about two hours at
each place. You don't know what trouble you have given me by hurrying
things on so unreasonably."

"Well, it is better to have it all done and over," he said, "than to
have the thing hanging over you for a couple of months."

"That is what Mrs. Cunningham says. Now I want to hear about your
adventures, and I will call her down."


"Only think, Mrs. Cunningham," Millicent said presently, with a laugh,
after she had returned with her, "this silly boy has actually let the
diamonds be stolen from him."


"No, really, Millicent!"

"Yes, indeed. Fancy his not being fit to be trusted to look after them!
However, I tell him it is of no consequence. I don't know how they went.
He would not tell me the story until you came down."

"I am sorry to say it is true, Mrs. Cunningham, although I can assure
you that I really cannot blame myself for either carelessness or
stupidity. I knew when I started that there was a very great risk, and
took what seemed to me every possible precaution, for in addition to
Dick Chetwynd going with me, I took two detectives from Bow Street and
two prize fighters."

Exclamations of surprise broke from both ladies.

"And yet, in spite of all that, these things were stolen," Millicent
said. "How on earth did they do it? I should have sewn them up in my
pockets inside my dress."

"I sewed them up in the waistband of my trousers, Millicent, and yet
they managed, in spite of us, to steal them. And now I must begin by
telling you the whole history of those diamonds, and you will understand
why I thought it necessary to take a strong party with me."

He then told them, repeating the history the Colonel had given his
father of the diamonds, and the conviction that he had, that he had been
followed by Hindoos, and the instructions he had given for the disposal
of the bracelet.

"As you know," he said, "nothing happened to confirm my uncle's belief
that there were men over here in search of the diamonds during my
father's life, but since then I have come to the same conclusion that he
had, and felt positive that I was being constantly followed wherever I
went. As soon as I heard where the treasure was I began to take every
precaution in my power. I avoided going to the bank after my first visit
there, and, as you know, would not bring the things for you to look
at. I got Dick Chetwynd to go there, open the case, and take out these
diamonds. He did not bring them away with him, but fetched them from
there the morning we started. He went down and took the passage for us
both at the shipping office, and the pugilists and the detectives each
took passages for themselves, so that I hoped, however closely I was
followed, they would not learn that I was taking them to Amsterdam."

"It was very wrong, Mark; very wrong indeed," Millicent broke in. "You
had no right to run such a terrible risk; it would have been better for
you to have taken the diamonds and thrown them into the Thames."

"That would not have improved matters," he said; "the Indians would not
have known that I had got rid of them, and would have continued their
efforts to find them, and I should always have been in danger instead
of getting it over once for all. However, I did not think that there was
any danger, going over as I did, with two of the best prize fighters
in England, to say nothing of the detectives, who were the men who
were with me when I caught Bastow. The only danger was that I might be
stabbed; but, as they would know, it was no use their stabbing me unless
they could search me quietly, and that they could not do unless I was
alone and in some lonely neighborhood, and I had made up my mind not to
stir out unless the whole party were with me. I found out, when we got
on board that in spite of all the precautions I had taken, they had
discovered that I was going to sail for Amsterdam, which they could only
have done by following Dick as well as myself. There was a dark faced
foreign sailor, who, I had no doubt, was a Hindoo, already on board, and
I saw another in a boat watching us start; this was unpleasant, but as
I felt sure that they could not have known that I had with me detectives
and pugilists, I still felt that they would be able to do nothing when I
got to Amsterdam."

Then he told them the whole story of the attack, of his being carried
away, and of his unexpected release; of the search that had been made
for him and the arrest of eighteen of his assailants. Millicent grew
pale as he continued, and burst into tears when she heard of his being a
prisoner in the hands of the Hindoos.

"I shall never let you go out of my sight again, Mark!" she exclaimed
when he had finished. "It was bad enough before when you were searching
for that man here, and I used to be terribly anxious; but that was
nothing to this."

"Well, there is an end of it now, Millicent; the men have got the
diamonds, and will soon be on their way to India, if they have not
started already."

"Nasty things!" she said; "I shall never like diamonds again: they will
always remind me of the terrible danger that you have run. Isn't it
extraordinary that for twenty years four or five men should be spending
their lives waiting for a chance of getting them back!"

"I do not expect there were so many as that; probably there was only
one. He would have no difficulty in learning that my father had not
received any extraordinary gems from my uncle, and probably supposed
that they would not be taken out from wherever they might be until you
came of age. After the death of my father he might suppose that I should
take them out, or that, at any rate, I should go to whoever had them,
and see that they were all right, and he then, perhaps, engaged half a
dozen Lascars--there are plenty of them at the docks--and had me watched
wherever I went; and, do you know, that I believe I once owed my life to
them."

"How was that, Mark?"

"Well, I was captured by some fellows who suspected me to be a Bow
Street runner, and I think that it would have gone very hard with me
if a party of five or six prize fighters had not broken into the house,
pretty nearly killed the men in whose hands I was, and rescued me. They
said that they had heard of my danger from a foreign sailor who called
at Gibbons', with whom I was in the habit of boxing, and told him about
it. You see, until they learned where the jewels were, my life was
valuable to them, for possibly I was the only person who knew where they
were hidden; so really I don't think I have any reason for bearing a
grudge against them. They saved my life in the first place, and spared
it at what was a distinct risk to themselves. On the other hand, they
were content with regaining the bracelet, not even, as I told you,
taking my watch or purse. You see, with them it was a matter of
religion. They had no animosity against me personally, but I have no
doubt they would have stabbed me without the slightest compunction had
there been no other way of getting the things. Still, I think that I owe
a debt of gratitude to them rather than the reverse, and, after all, the
loss of the bracelet is not a serious one to us."

"I am glad it is gone," Millicent said. "You say it had already caused
the death of two men, and if you had succeeded in selling it I can't
help thinking that the money would have brought ill fortune to us. I am
heartily glad that the diamonds are gone, Mark. I suppose they were very
handsome?"

"They were magnificent," he said. "Dick and Cotter both agreed that they
had never seen their equal, and I fancy that they must have been worth a
great deal more than your father valued them at."

"Well, it does not matter at all. There is no history attached to the
others, I hope, Mark?"

"Not in any way, dear. They were bought, as the Colonel told my father,
in the ordinary course of things, and some, no doubt, were obtained at
the capture of some of the native princes' treasuries; but it was solely
on account of this bracelet that he had any anxiety. You can wear all
the others, if you have a fancy for keeping them, without a shadow of
risk."

"No, Mark, we will sell them every one. I don't think that I shall ever
care to wear any jewels again; and if I am ever presented at court and
have to do so, I would rather that you should buy some new ones fresh
from a jeweler's shop than wear anything that has come from India."

"To-morrow you shall both go to the bank with me to see them, and then I
will take them to some first-class jeweler's and get him to value them."

The visit was paid next day. Both Millicent and Mrs. Cunningham were
somewhat disappointed at the jewels.

"It is hardly fair to see them like this," Philip Cotter said. "They
would look very different if reset. No Indian jewels I have ever seen
show to advantage in their native settings; but many of the stones are
very large, and without knowing anything about them I should say that
they are worth the 50,000 pounds at which you say Colonel Thorndyke
valued them. He was not likely to be mistaken. He was evidently a judge
of these matters, and would hardly be likely to be far wrong."

"We will go with you to the jeweler's, Mark," Millicent said. "In the
first place, I shall not feel quite comfortable until I know that they
are out of your hands, and in the next place I should like to hear what
he thinks of them."

"I have a number of Indian jewels that I wish you to value for me," Mark
said, as, carrying the case, he entered the jeweler's shop. "They were
collected by Colonel Thorndyke, an uncle of mine, during service in
India."

The jeweler took them with him into a room behind the shop. The case was
opened, and the man took out sixty-eight small parcels it contained, and
opened them one after the other.

"I shall need a very careful examination of these before I can form any
estimate of their value," he said, after inspecting some of the more
important pieces of jewelry carefully. "They are a most magnificent
collection, and had they been properly cut in the first place they would
have been worth a very large sum. Unfortunately, the Indian princes
think more of size than of lustre, and have their stones cut very much
too flat to show off their full brilliancy. Some of these large ones I
should certainly advise to be recut, for what they will lose in weight
they will gain in beauty and value. However, sir, I will go through them
and give you an estimate of the selling value of each piece. I need not
say that they ought all to be reset in the prevailing fashion; but
the gold, which is in some cases unnecessarily massive, will go some
distance towards defraying the expense."

"When shall I call again?" Mark asked.

"I should be glad if you can give me a week," the jeweler said. "Some
of the things, for instance that great pearl necklace, I could appraise
without much difficulty, but all the gems must be taken out of their
settings before I could form a fair idea of their value."

"Then I will call in a week's time," Mark said. "I am in no particular
hurry about them, but I would rather that they were in your care than
mine."

"Yes, if the cracksmen got word that there was such a collection as this
in any private house it would need a couple of men with pistols to keep
guard over them."

A week later Mark again called.

"I have the list ready for you, sir; you will see that they are not
marked according to their setting, but according to their size and
value. Thus, you see, the largest stones are priced separately; the
smaller ones are in groups according to their weight. The total comes
to 42,000 pounds. I do not know whether that at all equals your
expectations. I may say that I have shown the stones to two or three of
our principal diamond merchants, and that the prices I have put down are
those at which they would be willing to buy them; possibly some would be
worth more. I had the merchants here together, and they spent some hours
going through them, and the sums put down are those at which one or
other were willing to purchase."

"It quite answers my expectations," Mark said. "My uncle's estimate,
indeed, was somewhat higher, but doubtless he judged them at the price
which they would fetch in India. Well, sir, I authorize you to close
with the offers, and to dispose of them for me. I will give you a
written authority to do so. In the meantime, I wish to buy a suite of
jewels as a wedding present, a tiara, necklace, and bracelets; but I do
not want any diamonds to be among them."

"I am afraid I have nothing in stock without diamonds; of course, I have
both necklaces and bracelets of almost any stones that you might select,
but I have no complete set without diamonds; the effect would be somber,
and few ladies would like them."

"We have some unpleasant associations with diamonds," Mark said, "and
on that point I am quite determined; but if you used pearls instead of
diamonds the effect might be as good. I don't care whether the stones
are emeralds or rubies; at any rate, I should like to see some, and then
perhaps you might be able to make me a set on the same model."

Several superb sets were brought in; Mark selected one of emeralds and
diamonds.

"What would be the price of this set?" he asked.

"That set is 6000 pounds, sir; the stones are exceptionally fine ones;
but if you substituted pearls of equal size for the diamonds, it would
cost considerably less; I could not give you the exact price until it is
made, but I should say that it would be about 4500 pounds."

"Very well, then, I will take that. How long will it be making?"

"I should not like to say less than three months at the earliest; it
will require some time to collect as fine a set of emeralds as these.
Indeed, I think that most probably I shall use these emeralds, or the
greater part of them, and collect others to take their places at my
leisure. I do not know whether the best plan would not be to take the
diamonds out and substitute pearls; there would be no difficulty in
getting them, and in that case I might have it ready for you in a
month."

"I think that will be the best plan; but you need not be in any
particular hurry about them. My marriage will take place in less than
a fortnight, and after that I shall probably be three or four months
before I return to London. I will get you to keep the things until I
come back."

"I have sold the jewels, Millicent," he said, when he returned to
Islington; "the jeweler has found purchasers for them all, and the total
comes to 42,000 pounds."

"Whatever shall we do with all our money, Mark?"

"I rather wonder myself, dear. However, there is one thing, there are
always plenty of people who will be glad to relieve us of anything that
we don't want. I can tell you that in the course of my search for Bastow
I have seen an amount of poverty and misery such as I never dreamt of,
and I certainly should like to do something to relieve it. The best
thing that I know of would be to give a handsome sum to three or four
of the great hospitals. I don't know of any better means of helping the
very poor."

"Suppose, Mark," the girl said, putting her hand on his arm, "we give
this 42,000 pounds as a thank offering. We never expected to get it,
and my father's jewels have nearly cost you your life. We have such an
abundance without that, I should like, above all things, to give this
money away."

"I think that is an excellent plan, Millicent, and a very happy thought
on your part. We cannot do it now, as we have not yet got the money, but
as soon as we do we will send off checks for 10,000 guineas each to St.
Bartholomew's, Guy's, and St. Thomas'--those are the three principal
ones; the others we can settle afterwards. But I should say that the
Foundling would be as good as any, and I believe that they are rather
short of funds at present; then there is the London Mendicity Society,
and many other good charities. Perhaps it would be better to divide the
whole among eight of them instead of four; but we need not settle that
until we return."

"Do you think we shall have to go to this horrid Amsterdam, Mark?"

"I hope not, dear; but I shall no doubt hear from the Lieutenant of the
watch during the next week or ten days."

When the letter came it was satisfactory. The prisoners, seeing the
hopelessness of any defense, had all admitted their guilt, and the name
of the man who had dealt with them had also been given up. Except in his
case there would be no trial. The others would have sentences passed
on them at once, and three, who had been promised comparatively slight
punishment, would go into the box to give evidence against the man
who had engaged them. Before starting for Holland Mark had consulted
Millicent as to whether she would prefer being married in London or at
Crowswood. She had replied:

"I should greatly prefer Crowswood, Mark. Here we know no one, there we
should be among all our friends; certainly if we don't go we must get
Mr. Greg to come up and marry us here. I am sure he would feel very
disappointed if anyone else were asked. At the same time I should not
like to go home. When we come back from our trip it will be different;
but it would be a great trial now, and however happy we might be, I
should feel there was a gloom over the house."

"I quite agree with you, Millicent. When we come back we can see about
entirely refurnishing it, and, perhaps, adding some rooms to it, and we
need not go down until a complete change has been made. We shall be able
to manage it somehow or other, and I quite agree with you that anything
will be better than going back to the house for a day or two before the
wedding."

On the voyage back from Holland Mark had talked the matter over with
Dick Chetwynd, and said that he thought of taking rooms for Mrs.
Cunningham and Millicent at Reigate, and stopping at the hotel himself,
and having the wedding breakfast there.

"Of course, Dick, you will be my best man."

"I should think so," Dick laughed. "Why, if you had asked anyone else
I should have made a personal matter of it with him, and have given
him the option of resigning the position or going out with me. But your
other plans are foolish, and I shall take the matter into my own hands;
I shall insist upon the two ladies coming down to the Park, and I will
get my aunt to come and preside generally over things. I shall fill up
the house with bridesmaids, and shall have a dance the evening before.
You can put up at the hotel if you like, but you know very well that
there are a dozen houses where they will be delighted to have you; there
is no doubt that when they know what is coming off you will get a dozen
invitations, and then after church all those invited will drive off to
the Park to the wedding breakfast. After that is over you can start in a
post chaise to Canterbury or Dover, wherever you may decide to make your
first halt."

"But, my dear Dick, I could not put you to all this trouble!"

"Nonsense, man. I should enjoy it immensely; besides, I shall be really
glad of a good reason to try and open the doors of the Park again. I
have been there very little since my father's death, and I think I shall
make it my headquarters in future. I am getting rather tired of bachelor
life in London, and must look out for a wife; so nothing could be more
appropriate than this idea. Don't bother yourself any further about
it. I shall ride down and establish myself there tomorrow, and spend
a couple of days in driving round to our friends and in sending out
invitations. I shall still have nearly a fortnight for making
all preparations. Why, it will cause quite an excitement in the
neighborhood! I shall be hailed as a benefactor, and I shall let
everyone know that your father's ward was really your cousin, but that
by the will of her father she was to drop her surname until she came of
age; and that until that time your father was to have the entire control
of the property. I shall add that although the estate, of course, is
hers, your uncle has left you a very big fortune, and that nothing could
be more suitable in all respects than the marriage."

"That will do excellently, Dick; that will be quite enough, without
going into details at all. You can mention that we intend to have the
house entirely refurnished, and on the return from our wedding trip
abroad to settle there. I am sure I am extremely obliged to you for your
offer, which will certainly clear away all sorts of small difficulties."

A day or two after his return Mark wrote to Mr. Greg telling him the
relations in which Millicent and he stood to each other, and of the near
approach of their marriage. He said that Millicent would be married from
Dick Chetwynd's, but that it would be at Crowswood church. In return he
received a warm letter of congratulation from the Rector, telling him
that the news was in every respect delightful, and that his wife and
the children were in a state of the highest excitement, not only at the
marriage, but at their coming down to reside again at Crowswood.

"The village," he said, "will be scarcely less pleased than I am, for
though everything goes on as you ordered, and the people get their milk,
broths, and jellies as before, they don't look at it as the same thing
as it was in the old days. I cannot say that the news of your engagement
to Miss Conyers--I ought to say Miss Thorndyke--is surprising, for I had
thought that it would be quite the natural thing for you to fall in love
with each other, and, indeed, my wife declares that she saw it coming
on distinctly during the last few months before you left here. Your
postscript saying that Bastow had been captured and had committed
suicide gave me a distinct feeling of relief, for no one could tell
whether the deadly enmity that he felt for your father might not extend
to you. I have cut this note rather short, but I have just heard the
door shut, and I am quite sure that my wife has gone down to tell the
good news in the village, and I really cannot deny myself the pleasure
of telling some of the people myself, and seeing their faces brighten up
at the news."

As Dick had foretold would be the case, Mark received a very warm
letter from Sir Charles Harris, congratulating him upon his approaching
marriage, and insisting upon his taking up his quarters with him.

"I am sending a man down with this to hand it to the guard as the up
coach goes through the town. Chetwynd told me that his call on me was
the first he had paid, so I feel fairly confident that I shall forestall
the rest of your friends, and that you will give me the pleasure of your
company."

Mark wrote back accepting the invitation at once, which enabled him to
decline half a dozen others without the necessity of making a choice.
Everything turned out as arranged. Millicent and Mrs. Cunningham went
down in a post chaise, two days before the wedding, and Mark drove down
in his gig with them. Dick Chetwynd met them on horseback just outside
Reigate, and escorted the ladies to his house, Mark driving on to that
of Sir Charles Harris. Millicent found the house full of her special
friends, whom she had asked to be her bridesmaids. She was almost
bewildered by the warmth of their welcome, and overpowered by the
questions poured upon her.

"The news quite took all our breath away, Millicent," one of them said.
"It seems extraordinary that you should have been Miss Thorndyke all the
time, though I don't think that any of us were at all surprised that you
should take the name now; you must have been surprised when you heard
that you were the heiress of Crowswood."

"I was a great deal more disgusted than surprised," she said rather
indignantly. "I did not think that it was fair at all that I should step
into Mark's shoes."

"Well, it has all come right now, Millicent, and I dare say you thought
that it would, even then."

"I can assure you that I did not; quite the contrary, I thought that it
never would come right. I was very unhappy about it for a time."

"Now, young ladies," Dick Chetwynd laughed, "will you please take Mrs.
Cunningham and Miss Thorndyke up to their rooms? I don't suppose I shall
see any more of you before dinner time; there are those trunks to be
opened and examined, talked over, and admired. Mind, I have fifteen
more, for the most part men, coming to dinner, so those of you who
aspire to follow Miss Thorndyke's example had best prepare yourselves
for conquest."

The ball on the following evening was a great success. Dick had
determined that it should be a memorable one, and there was a consensus
of opinion that it was the most brilliant that had taken place in that
part of the country for many years.

Crowswood church and village presented a most festive appearance on
the following day; there was not a cottage that had not great posies of
flowers in its windows, and that had not made some sort of attempt
at decoration with flags or flowers. A huge arch of evergreens, with
sheaves of wheat and flowers, had been erected on the top of the hill,
and every man, woman, and child turned out in their best, and cheered
lustily, first, when Mark drove up in his gig, and equally lustily when
the Chetwynd carriage, drawn by four gray horses, dashed up, preceded
by a large number of others with the bridesmaids and friends. The church
was already crowded, and Mr. Greg was visibly moved at seeing the son
and niece of the man to whom he owed his living made man and wife.
When the wedding breakfast, at which more than fifty sat down, and
the necessary toasts were over, Mr. and Mrs. Thorndyke started for
Canterbury.



CHAPTER XXII.


It was not until Easter that Mark Thorndyke and his wife returned to
England. They had spent the greater portion of that time in Italy,
lingering for a month at Venice, and had then journeyed quietly
homewards through Bavaria and Saxony; They were in no hurry, as before
starting on their honeymoon Mark had consulted an architect, had told
him exactly what he wanted, and had left the matter in his hands. Mrs.
Cunningham had from time to time kept them informed how things were
going on. The part of the house in which the Squire's room had been
situated was entirely pulled down, and a new wing built in its stead.
Millicent had been specially wishful that this should be done.

"I don't know that I am superstitious, Mark," she had said, "but I do
think that when a murder has taken place in a house it is better to make
a complete change. The servants always think they see or hear something.
That part of the house is avoided, and it is difficult to get anyone to
stay there. I think it is very much more important to do that than it
is to get the house refurnished; we can do anything in that way you
like when we get back, but I should certainly like very much to have the
great alteration made before we return."

The architect was a clever one, and the house, which was some two
hundred years old, was greatly improved in appearance by the new wing,
which was made to harmonize well with the rest, but was specially
designed to give as much variety as possible to the general outline.
Millicent uttered an exclamation of pleasure when they first caught a
glimpse of the house. As they rode through the village they were again
welcomed as heartily as they were on their wedding day. Mrs. Cunningham
received them; she had been established there for a month, and had
placed the house entirely on its old footing. They first examined the
new portion of the house, and Millicent was greatly pleased with the
rooms that had been prepared for them, Mark having requested Mrs.
Cunningham to put the furnishing into the hands of the best known firm
of the day.

"I have asked," Mrs. Cunningham said, "the Rector and his wife and
Mr. Chetwynd to dine with us this evening; they can scarcely be termed
company, and I thought that you might find it pleasant to have these old
friends here the first evening. There is a letter for you on the library
table, Mark; it may almost be called a packet; it has been here nearly a
month."

In our days a newly married couple would find on their return from
foreign travel basketfuls of letters, circulars, and catalogues from
tradesmen of all kinds; happily, our forefathers were saved from these
inflictions, and Mark at once went to the library with almost a feeling
of surprise as to who could have written to him. He saw at once that
it was a ship's letter, for on the top was written, "Favored by the
Surinam."

"Why, it is Ramoo's writing. I suppose he gave it to someone he knew,
and that instead of its being put in the mail bag in India, he brought
it on with him. What a tremendously long epistle!" he exclaimed,
glancing his eye down the first page, and then a puzzled expression came
across his face; he sat down and began to read from the first slowly and
carefully.

"HONORED SAHIB:

"I do not know why I should write to tell you the true history of all
these matters. I have thought it over many times, but I feel that it
is right that you should know clearly what has happened, and how it has
come about, and more especially that you should know that you need never
fear any troubles such as those that have taken place. I am beginning
to write this while we are yet sailing, and shall send it to you by
ship from the Cape, or if it chances that we meet any ship on her way to
England, our letters may be put on board her."

"Why, this letter must be more than a year old," Mark said to himself.
There was no date to the letter, but, turning to the last sheet, he saw
as a postscript after the signature the words, "January 26th.--A ship,
the Surinam, is lying a short distance from us, and will take our
letters to England."

"Yes, it must be a year old; but what he means by the way he begins is
more than I can imagine;" and he turned back to the point at which he
had broken off.

"I would tell it you in order as it happened. I, Ramoo, am a Brahmin.
Twenty years ago I was the head priest of a great temple. I shall not
say where the temple was; it matters not in any way. There was fighting,
as there is always fighting in India. There were Company's Sepoys and
white troops, and one night the most sacred bracelet of the great god of
our temple was stolen."

"Good Heavens!" Mark exclaimed, laying down the letter. "Then it has
been Ramoo who has all this time been in pursuit of the diamonds; and to
think that my uncle never even suspected him!"

Then suddenly he continued, "now I understand why it was my life was
spared by those fellows. By Jove, this is astounding!" Then he took up
the letter again.

"Two of the Brahmins under me had observed, at a festival the day before
the bracelet was lost, a white soldier staring at it with covetous eyes.
One of them was in charge of the temple on the night when it was stolen,
and on the day following he came to me, and said, 'I desire to devote my
life to the recovery of the jewels of the god. Bondah will go with me;
we will return no more until we bring them back.' 'It is good,' I said;
'the god must be appeased, or terrible misfortunes may happen.' Then we
held a solemn service in the temple. The two men removed the caste marks
from their foreheads, prostrated themselves before the god, and went
out from amongst us as outcasts until the day of their death. Two months
later a messenger came from the one who had spoken to me, saying that
they had found the man, but had for a long time had no opportunity of
finding the bracelet. Then Bondah had met him in a lonely place, and
had attacked him. Bondah had lost his life, but the soldier was, though
sorely wounded, able to get back to his regiment. He had died, but he
had, the writer was convinced, passed the jewels on to a comrade, whom
he would watch. Then I saw that one man was not sufficient for such a
task. Then I, too, the Chief Brahmin of the temple, saw that it was my
duty to go forth also.

"I laid the matter before the others, and they said, 'You are right; it
is you who, as the chief in the service of the god, should bring back
his jewels.' So again there was a service, and I went forth as an
outcast and a wanderer, knowing that I must do many things that were
forbidden to my caste; that I must touch unclean things, must eat
forbidden food, and must take life if needs be. You, sahib, cannot
understand how terrible was the degradation to me, who was of the purest
blood of the Brahmins. I had taken the most solemn vows to devote my
life to this. I knew that, whether successful or not, although I might
be forgiven my offense by the god, yet that never again could I recover
my caste, even though the heaviest penances were performed. Henceforth,
I must stand alone in the world, without kindred, without friends,
without help, save such as the god might give me in the search.

"I was rich. The greater part of my goods I gave to the temple, and yet
retained a considerable sum, for I should need money to carry out my
quest, and after I had accomplished it I should hand over what remained
for the benefit of the poor. I should myself become a fakir. I want you
to understand, sahib, that henceforth I had but one object in life, a
supreme one, to accomplish, in which nothing must stand in my way, and
that what would be in others a crime was but a sacrifice on my part,
most acceptable to the god. I journeyed down to the place where my
comrade was, dressed as one of the lowest class, even as a sweeper, and
he and I strove by all the means in our power to discover what this man
had done with the jewels. Night after night we crawled into his tent. We
searched his bed and his clothes. With sharp rods we tried every inch of
the soil, believing that he had hidden the diamonds underground, but we
failed.

"There my comrade said, 'I must give my life to find out where he hides
these things. I will watch night after night by the door of his tent,
and if he comes out I will stab him; it shall be a mortal wound, but
I will not kill him outright. Before he dies he will doubtless, as the
other did, pass the jewels on to some comrade, and then it will be for
you to follow him up.' 'It is good,' I said. 'This man may have hidden
them away somewhere during the time they have marched through the
country. In spite of the watch you have kept he may have said to
himself, "I will return, though it be years hence." Your plan is good,'
I said. 'I envy you. 'Tis better to die thus than to live in sin as we
are doing.'

"That evening the man was stabbed, but an officer running up killed my
comrade. The soldier was taken to the hospital, and I lay down beside
the tent with my eye to a slit that I had cut, and watched till morning.

"Then I took my broom and swept the ground. I had not been hired as one
of the camp sweepers, and so could move about and sweep where I chose.
No one ever asked me any questions. The soldiers heeded me no more than
if I had been a dog, and, of course, supposed that I was acting by the
order of the head of the sweepers. Presently I saw one of the servants
of the hospital go across to the tent of the officer who had killed my
comrade. He came over and went into the hospital tent. I felt sure that
it was the wounded man who had sent for him. He was in there some time.
Presently a soldier came out and went to the tent of the wounded man,
and returned bringing a musket. Then I said to myself, 'The god has
blinded us. He wills that we shall go through many more toils before we
regain the bracelet.' Doubtless the man had carried the bracelet in his
musket all the time, and we, blind that we were, had never thought of
it.

"Presently the officer came out again. I noticed that as he did so he
looked round on all sides as if to see if he were watched. Then I knew
that it was as I had thought: the soldier had given the bracelet to him.
At this I was pleased; it would be far more easy to search the tent of
an officer than of a soldier, who sleeps surrounded by his comrades. I
thought that there was no hurry now; it would need but patience, and
I should be sure to find them. I had not calculated that he would
have better opportunities than the soldier for going about, and that,
doubtless, the soldier had warned him of his danger. Two hours later the
officer mounted his horse and rode towards the camp of another regiment,
a mile and a quarter away. There was nothing in that; but I watched for
his return all that day and all that night, and when he did not come
back, I felt that he was doing something to get rid of the diamonds.

"He was away three days, and when he returned I was almost sure that he
had not the diamonds about him. As he had ridden off he had looked about
just as he had when he left the hospital: he was uneasy, just as if he
was watched; now he was uneasy no longer. Then I knew that my search
would be a long one, and might fail altogether. I went away, and for
three months I prayed and fasted; then I returned. I bought different
clothes, I painted my forehead with another caste mark, then I bought
from the servant of an officer in another regiment his papers of
service: recommendations from former masters. Then I went to the
officer--you will guess, sahib, that it was the Major, your uncle--and I
paid his servant to leave his service, and to present me as a brother
of his who had been accustomed to serve white sahibs, and was, like
himself, a good servant; so I took his place.

"He was a good master, and I came to love him, though I knew that I
might yet have to kill him. You have heard that I saved his life three
times; I did so partly because I loved him, but chiefly because his life
was most precious to me, for if he had died I should have lost all clew
to the bracelet. I had, of course, made sure that he had not got
them with him; over and over again I searched every article in his
possession. I ripped open his saddle lest they might be sewn up in its
stuffing. All that could be done I did, until I was quite sure that he
had not got them. He, on his part, came to like me. He thought that I
was the most faithful of servants, and after the last time I saved his
life he took me with him everywhere. He went down to Madras, and was
married there. I watched his every movement. After that he went down
frequently. Then a child was born, and six months afterwards his wife
died.

"The regiment was stationed at the fort. At that time he was at many
places--the governor's, the other officer sahibs', the merchants', and
others'. I could not follow him, but I was sure by his manner that he
had not taken back the bracelet from whoever he had sent it to. I knew
him so well by this time that I should have noticed any change in his
manner in a moment. At last the child went away in the charge of
Mrs. Cunningham. I bribed the child's ayah, and she searched Mrs.
Cunningham's boxes and every garment she had, and found no small sealed
parcel or box amongst them. Three years more passed. By this time the
Colonel treated me more as a friend than as a servant. He said one day,
laughing, 'It is a long time since my things have been turned topsy
turvy, Ramoo. I think the thieves have come to the conclusion that I
have not got what they are looking for.' 'What is that, sahib?' I asked.
'Some special jewels,' he said. 'They are extremely valuable. But I have
got them and a lot of other things so safely stowed that no one will
ever find them unless I give them the clew.' 'But suppose you are
killed, sahib,' I said; 'your little daughter will never get the
things.' 'I have provided for that,' he answered. 'If I am killed I have
arranged that she shall know all about it either when she comes to the
age of eighteen or twenty-one.'

"A few weeks after that he was wounded very badly. I nursed him night
and day for weeks, and when he came to England he brought me with him.
As you know, sahib, he died. When he was in London he went to see Mrs.
Cunningham and the child, and several times to the office of the lawyer
who attended your father's funeral. Then he came down to your father,
and I know he had long and earnest conversations with him. I did all I
could to listen, but the Colonel always had the windows and doors shut
before he began to speak. I could see that your father was troubled.
Then the Colonel died. After his death I could never find his snuff box;
he had carried it about with him for some years; once or twice I had
examined it, but it was too small for the diamonds to be hidden in. I
suppose that he had given it to the sahib, your father, but as I could
never find it I guessed that there was some mystery attached to it,
though what I could not tell.

"Then your father took me down to Crowswood with him, and Mrs.
Cunningham and the little girl came down. I was surprised to find that
your father seemed to be master of the estate, and that no one thought
anything of the child, whose name had been changed. I spoke one day to
Mrs. Cunningham about it; your father seemed to me a just and good man,
and I could not believe that he was robbing his brother's daughter. Mrs.
Cunningham told me that the Colonel did not wish her to be known as an
heiress, and that he had left the estate to his brother until she came
of age. Your father was as good a master as the Colonel had been.
I watched and watched, and once or twice I overheard him talking to
himself in the library, and discovered that your father himself was
altogether ignorant of the hiding place of the property that the Colonel
had mentioned in his will. I knew then that I should have to wait until
the child was either eighteen or twenty-one.

"It was a long time, but I had learnt to be patient. I was not unhappy;
I loved your father, I loved the Colonel's little daughter; and I was
very fond of you. All these things were small to me in comparison to my
vow and the finding the jewels of the god, but they shortened the years
of waiting. Then a year before the young mistress was eighteen came the
shot through the window. I did not know who had fired it, but I saw that
your father's life was in danger, and I said to myself, 'He will tell
the young sahib what he knows about the bracelet.' After you had gone
into the library I opened the door quietly, and listened. I could hear
much that was said, but not all. I heard him say something about a snuff
box, and some means of finding the lost things being hidden in it, and
that he had kept them all these years in a secret hiding place, which he
described. You were to search for the diamonds, and I guessed from that
that he did not know what he was to be told when the young memsahib came
of age, or perhaps when she was eighteen. It was not until I had thought
over what I heard that I came to the conclusion that if I could find the
things he spoke of I might be able to find the jewels. By that time your
father had gone to bed. I was foolish not to have been patient, but
my blood boiled after waiting for eighteen or nineteen years. The god
seemed to have sent me the chance, and it seemed to me that I should
take it at once. I knew that he generally slept with his window open,
and it seemed to me that it would be easy to slip in there and to get
those things from the cabinet. I knew where the ladder was kept. I took
a file from the tool chest and cut the chain."

Here Mark dropped the letter in horror.

"Good Heavens!" he exclaimed. "Then Bastow spoke truly, and he was not
my father's murderer! Never did a single suspicion of Ramoo enter my
head. This is appalling; but I cannot read any more now. It is time for
me to go and dress for dinner."

"Is anything the matter with you, Mark?" Millicent asked anxiously, as
she met him in the drawing room; "you look as white as a sheet."

"I have been reading Ramoo's letter, and he has told me some things that
have surprised and shocked me. I will tell you about them after dinner,
dear. It is a long story, but you won't have to wait until Dick and the
Gregs are gone. They are interested in all that interests us, and shall
hear the letter read. No; I think I will ask them and Dick to come in
the morning. I should not like anything to sadden the first evening of
our coming home."

"Then it is something sad."

"Yes, but it does not affect us, though it does affect Ramoo. Now clear
your brow, dear, and dismiss the subject from your mind, else our guests
will fancy that our marriage has not been altogether so satisfactory as
they had hoped."

"As if they could think such a thing as that, Mark," she said
indignantly. "But there is the sound of wheels; it is Mr. Chetwynd's
gig."

The three visitors all came in together, having met at the door. Mark,
with a great effort, put aside the letter from his mind, and a cheerful
evening was spent. They had much to tell of their travels, many
questions to ask about the parish and their mutual friends and the
neighborhood generally, and when they rose to go Mark said:

"Would you mind riding over again tomorrow morning, Dick? I have a
letter to read to you that will interest you greatly."

"Certainly. What time shall I be here?"

"Say at eleven o'clock. It is a long epistle, and will take us an hour
to get through; after that we can stroll round, and, of course, you will
stop to lunch.

"I should be glad if you and Mrs. Greg can come over too," he added,
turning to the Rector; "you will be much interested also in the matter."


The next day the party met in the library at the hour named. "I may tell
you, Mr. Greg, that I specially asked you and your wife here because
this letter throws some light on Arthur Bastow's connection with my
father's murder; you were friends with his father, and I think you ought
to know. As to you, Dick, the letter will interest you from beginning to
end, and will surprise as much as it will interest you."

"Even I don't know what it is, Mrs. Greg," Millicent said. "I know it
quite upset Mark yesterday, but he said he would sooner I did not know
anything about it until today, as he did not want me to be saddened on
the first evening of our return home. Now, please go on, Mark; you have
said quite enough to excite us all."

Mark had read but a short distance when Dick Chetwynd exclaimed:

"Then Ramoo was at the bottom of that Indian business, after all. I
almost wonder you never suspected it, Mark."

"Well, I hardly could do so," Mark said, "when my uncle was so fond of
him, and he had served him so faithfully."

As he approached the point at which he had laid down the letter on the
previous evening, Millicent's color faded.

Suddenly an exclamation of horror broke from her when he read the last
line.

"Oh, Mark," she said, with quivering lips, "don't say it was Ramoo. He
always seemed so kind and good."

"It was here I stopped last night," he said, "but I fear there can be no
doubt about it. I must say that it is evident from this letter, that
no thought of doing my father harm was in his mind when he placed that
ladder against the window. Now I will go on."

The letter continued as follows:

"Having placed the ladder, I clambered to the window and quietly entered
the room. It was quite dark, but I knew the place of every piece of
furniture so well that I was able to go without hesitation to the
cabinet. Your father was speaking very slowly and distinctly when he
told you how it was to be opened, and I was able to do it easily, but
I did not know that the back opened with a sharp click, and the noise
startled me and woke your father. In an instant he was out of bed and
seized me by the throat. Now, he was a much stronger man than I was. I
struggled in vain. I felt that in a moment I should become insensible;
my vow and my duty to the god flashed across me, and scarce knowing what
I did, I drew a little dagger I always carried, and struck blindly.
He fell, and I fell beside him. For a time I was insensible. When I
recovered I was seized with the bitterest remorse that I had killed one
I loved, but I seemed to hear the voice of the god saying, 'You have
done well, Ramoo. I am your great master, and you are bound to my
service.'

"I got up almost blindly, felt in the cabinet, and found a coin and a
piece of paper, and a feeling of exultation came over me that, after
nearly twenty years, I should succeed in carrying out my vow and taking
his bracelet back to the god. I descended the ladder, crept in the back
door by which I had come out, went up to my room, where I had kept a
light burning, and examined my treasures. Then I saw that all had been
in vain. They were doubtless a key to the mystery, but until a clew was
given they were absolutely useless. I sat for hours staring at them. I
would have gone back and replaced them in the cabinet and left all as
it had been before, but I dared not enter the room again. The next day I
heard you say that you suspected that the talk with your father had been
overheard, and that the man who had earlier in the evening before shot
at him had returned, and while listening had heard something said about
the hiding place, and thought that he would find some sort of treasure
there. I thought that in the talk your father might have told you how
to use these things, though I had not caught it, and it was therefore
important that you should have them back again, so I went into the room
after the inquest was over, and placed the things in their hiding place
again.

"Then, thinking it over, I determined to leave your service. You would
be trying to find the treasure, and I must watch you, and this I could
not do as long as I was a house servant; so I came up to London, and you
thought I had sailed for India, but I did not go. I hired four Lascars,
men of my own religion, and paid them to watch every movement that you
made, to see where you visited and where you went. I paid them well,
and they served me well; it was so that I was able to bring those men
to your help when but for that you would have lost your life. It was for
this to some extent that I had you followed; for I soon found out that
you were on the search for the man who had fired through the window, and
who you believed had killed your father, rather than for the jewels. I
knew that you might run into danger, and partly because I loved you, and
partly because it was possible that it would be essential for that coin
and piece of paper to be produced in order that the treasure might be
obtained, I kept guard over you.

"When the 18th of August approached we were all on the watch. I felt
sure that you would take every possible precaution while you had the
bracelet in your possession. We knew who were your principal friends,
the banker's son and Mr. Chetwynd. On the 18th of August everything went
on as usual. On the following day the banker's son came to you, and as
soon as he left you, you went to the lawyer's, and afterwards to the
banker's. I felt sure now that it was at that bank that the jewels had
been placed, and that you had been waiting till the young memsahib's
birthday for the news that they might be taken out; then you went to Mr.
Chetwynd's, and he went to the bank. I had no doubt that he was to take
them out for you, and after that one of the men never took his eyes off
him when he was outside of his house. Afterwards you went to the place
where the men used to fight, and the man who was watching you went in,
and had beer, and saw you talking with the big man you used to fight
with, in the parlor behind the bar. The watcher went out to follow you,
but left another to watch this man. We found that both Mr. Chetwynd and
he went to a shipping office in Tower Street, and we then guessed that
you intended to take the bracelet at once across the sea.

"I went myself and found out that a vessel was sailing in two days to
Amsterdam. I took a passage for a man in the cheap cabin, and asked to
look at the list of passengers, as I believed that some friend would
be sailing by her; there were two men's names down together in one
handwriting among the first class passengers, and I guessed that these
were you and Mr. Chetwynd. I also saw the name of the big man, which I
had heard long before, down in the list of passengers, and another
name next to his in the same handwriting. I did not know his name, but
guessed that it was another of the fighting men, and that they were
going to look after you until you had got rid of the diamonds. On the
morning that she was to sail one of the Lascars was on board; I thought
it possible that in order to throw anyone who might be following you off
your scent you might at the last moment go ashore, and that Mr. Chetwynd
might take the diamonds over, so I watched, and saw you on the deck with
your friend.

"I and the other three Lascars then took passage that evening in a craft
for Rotterdam, and got to Amsterdam two days before your ship arrived;
we went to different houses, and going separately into the worst parts
of the town, soon found a man who kept a gambling den, and who was a
man who could be trusted. I offered him a thousand francs to collect
twenty-five men, who were to be paid a hundred francs each, and to be
ready, if your ship arrived after dark, to attack two passengers I would
point out to them. I did not want you to be hurt, so bargained that all
knives were to be left behind, and that he was to supply the men only
with clubs. If the ship came in in daylight you were to be attacked the
first time you went out after dark. You know how that was carried out.
You had two more men with you than I had expected; but I thought that
with a sudden rush you might all be separated. You know the rest. The
moment you were knocked down I and three others carried you to a boat.
It had been lying near the stairs, and we took you off to the barge in
which I had arranged you should be taken to Rotterdam.

"We told them that you were a drunken man who had been stunned in a
fight in a public house. As soon as we were off, I searched you and
found the diamonds. Then, as you know, we put you ashore. We all
crossed to England that night. Two days later I sailed in this ship, the
Brahmapootra. I am not afraid of telling you this, because I know that
the diamonds will not shine on the god's arm until all fear of search
and inquiry are over. My task will be done when I hand them over to the
man who holds the office I once held; then I shall bear the penances
imposed on me for having broken my caste in every way, and for having
taken life, and for the rest of my days I shall wander as a fakir
through India. I shall be supported by the knowledge that I have done my
duty to my god, and have sacrificed all in his service, but it will ever
be a grief to me that in so doing it was necessary to sacrifice the life
of one who had ever shown me kindness. You may wonder why I have written
this, but I felt that I must own the truth to you, and that you should
know that if in the course of my duty to the god it was my misfortune
to slay your father, I have twice saved your life, just as three times I
saved that of the Colonel Sahib, your uncle."

There was silence for some little time after Mark had finished reading.

"It is a strange story indeed," Mr. Greg said, "but it is not for us
to judge the man. He has acted according to his lights, and none can do
more. He sacrificed himself and his life solely to the service of his
god, well knowing that even were he successful, his reward would be
penance and suffering, and a life of what cannot but be misery to a
man brought up, as he has been, to consider himself of the highest and
holiest rank of the people. I think, Mark, we need neither say nor think
anything harshly of him."

"Certainly not," Mark agreed. "I can understand that according to his
view of the matter anything that stood between him and his goal was but
an obstacle to be swept aside; assuredly there was no premeditation in
the killing of my father. I have no doubt that the man was attached to
him, and that he killed him not to save his own life, but in order that
his mission might be carried out."

"Quite so, Mark; it was done in the same spirit, if I may say so, that
Abraham would have sacrificed his son at the order of his God. What
years of devotion that man has passed through! Accustomed, as you see,
to a lofty position, to the respect and veneration of those around him,
he became a servant, and performed duties that were in his opinion not
only humiliating, but polluting and destructive to his caste, and which
rendered him an outcast even among the lowest of his people. Do you not
think so, Mrs. Thorndyke?"

Millicent, who was crying quietly, looked up.

"I can only think of him as the man who twice saved Mark's life," she
said.

"I understand why you have wished to tell me this story," the Rector
went on to Mark. "You wish me to know that Arthur Bastow did not add
this to his other crimes; that he was spared from being the murderer of
your father, but from no want of will on his part; and, as we know, he
killed many others, the last but an hour or two before he put an end to
his own life; still I am glad that this terrible crime is not his. It
seemed to be so revolting and unnatural. It was the Squire's father who
had given the living to his father, and the Squire himself had been his
friend in the greatest of his trials, and had given him a shelter and a
home in his old age. I am glad, at least, that the man, evil as he was,
was spared this last crime of the grossest ingratitude."

"Well, Mark," Dick Chetwynd said cheerfully, in order to turn the
subject, "I am heartily glad that we have got to the bottom of this
jewel mystery. I have been puzzling over it all the time that you have
been away, and I have never been able to understand how, in spite of
the precautions that we took, they should have found out that the jewels
were at Cotter's, and that you had them on board with you, and, above
all, why they spared your life when they could so easily and safely
have put you out of the way. It is certainly strange that while you were
thinking over everything connected with the jewels, the idea that Ramoo
was the leading spirit in the whole business should never once have
occurred to you."

A month later, when Mark went up to town, he called at Leadenhall
Street.

"Of course, you have not heard of the arrival of the Brahmapootra at
Madras yet. May I ask when she left the Cape?"

"She never left the Cape, sir," the clerk replied, "and there are very
grave fears for her safety. She spoke the Surinam and gave her mails
for England when the latter was eight days out from the Cape, and the
Surinam reported that a day later she encountered a terrible gale, lost
several spars, and narrowly escaped being blown onto the African coast.
Since then we have had no news of the Brahmapootra. A number of Indiamen
have arrived since; the latest came in only yesterday, and up to the
time when she left no news had been received of the ship. Three small
craft had been sent up the coast weeks before to make inquiries for her,
but had returned without being able to obtain any intelligence, and had
seen no wreckage on the coast, although they had gone several hundred
miles beyond where she had spoken the Surinam, therefore there can be
little doubt that she foundered with all hands during the gale. You had
no near relatives on board, I hope, sir?"

"No near relatives, but there was one on board in whom I was greatly
interested. Here is my card; I should feel greatly obliged if you would
write me a line should you hear anything of her."

"I will do so, sir. We have had innumerable inquiries from friends and
relatives of those on board, and although of late we have been obliged
to say that there can no longer be any hope that she will ever be heard
of, not a day passes but many persons still come in to inquire."

No letter ever came to Mark; no news was ever heard of the Brahmapootra.
Ramoo's sacrifice was in vain, and never again did the diamond bracelet
glisten on the arm of the idol in the unknown temple.



THE END.





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