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Title: A Prince of Swindlers
Author: Boothby, Guy
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 "A Prince of Swindlers" ***

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                               *A PRINCE*

                                  *OF*

                              *SWINDLERS*


                                   BY

                              GUY BOOTHBY



                            ARTHUR WESTBROOK
                                COMPANY
                       CLEVELAND, OHIO, U. S. A.



                  Copyright, 1907, by Bainbridge Cayll



                              *CONTENTS.*


                               CHAPTER I.

A Criminal in Disguise


                              CHAPTER II.

The Den of Iniquity


                              CHAPTER III.

The Duchess of Wiltshire’s Diamonds


                              CHAPTER IV.

How Simon Carne Won the Derby


                               CHAPTER V.

A Service to the State


                              CHAPTER VI.

A Visit in the Night


                              CHAPTER VII.

The Man of Many Crimes


                             CHAPTER VIII.

An Imperial Finale



                        *A PRINCE OF SWINDLERS*



                              *CHAPTER I.*

                       *A CRIMINAL IN DISGUISE.*


After no small amount of deliberation, I have come to the conclusion
that it is only fit and proper I should set myself right with the world
in the matter of the now famous 18--swindles.  For, though I have never
been openly accused of complicity in those miserable affairs, yet I
cannot rid myself of the remembrance that it was I who introduced the
man who perpetrated them to London society, and that in more than one
instance I acted, innocently enough, Heaven knows, as his _Deus ex
machinâ_, in bringing about the very results he was so anxious to
achieve.  I will first allude, in a few words, to the year in which the
crimes took place, and then proceed to describe the events that led to
my receiving the confession which has so strangely and unexpectedly come
into my hands.

Whatever else may be said on the subject, one thing at least is
certain--it will be many years before London forgets that season of
festivity.  The joyous occasion which made half the sovereigns of Europe
our guests for weeks on end, kept foreign princes among us until their
faces became as familiar to us as those of our own aristocracy, rendered
the houses in our fashionable quarters unobtainable for love or money,
filled our hotels to repletion, and produced daily pageants the like of
which few of us have ever seen or imagined, can hardly fail to go down
to posterity as one of the most notable in English history. Small
wonder, therefore, that the wealth, then located in our great
metropolis, should have attracted swindlers from all parts of the globe.

That it should have fallen to the lot of one who has always prided
himself on steering clear of undesirable acquaintances, to introduce to
his friends one of the most notorious adventurers our capital has ever
seen, seems like the irony of fate.  Perhaps, however, if I begin by
showing how cleverly our meeting was contrived, those who would
otherwise feel inclined to censure me, will pause before passing
judgment, and will ask themselves whether they would not have walked
into the snare as unsuspectedly as I did.

It was during the last year of my term of office as Viceroy, and while I
was paying a visit to the Governor of Bombay, that I decided upon making
a tour of the Northern Provinces, beginning with Peshawur, and winding
up with the Maharajah of Malar-Kadir. As the latter potentate is so well
known, I need not describe him.  His forcible personality, his
enlightened rule, and the progress his state has made within the last
ten years, are well known to every student of the history of our
magnificent Indian Empire.

My stay with him was a pleasant finish to an otherwise monotonous
business, for his hospitality has a world-wide reputation.  When I
arrived he placed his palace, his servants, and his stables at my
disposal to use just as I pleased.  My time was practically my own.  I
could be as solitary as a hermit if I so desired; on the other hand, I
had but to give the order, and five hundred men would cater for my
amusement. It seems therefore the more unfortunate that to this pleasant
arrangement I should have to attribute the calamities which it is the
purpose of this series of stories to narrate.

On the third morning of my stay I woke early. When I had examined my
watch I discovered that it wanted an hour of daylight, and, not feeling
inclined to go to sleep again, I wondered how I should employ my time
until my servant should bring me my _chota hazri_, or early breakfast.
On proceeding to my window I found a perfect morning, the stars still
shining, though in the east they were paling before the approach of
dawn.  It was difficult to realize that in a few hours the earth which
now looked so cool and wholesome would be lying, burnt up and quivering,
beneath the blazing Indian sun.

I stood and watched the picture presented to me for some minutes, until
an overwhelming desire came over me to order a horse and go for a long
ride before the sun should make his appearance above the jungle trees.
The temptation was more than I could resist, so I crossed the room and,
opening the door, woke my servant, who was sleeping in the ante-chamber.
Having bidden him find a groom and have a horse saddled for me, without
rousing the household, I returned and commenced my toilet.  Then,
descending by a private staircase to the great courtyard, I mounted the
animal I found awaiting me there, and set off.

Leaving the city behind me I made my way over the new bridge with which
His Highness has spanned the river, and, crossing the plain, headed
towards the jungle, that rises like a green wall upon the other side.
My horse was a _waler_ of exceptional excellence, as every one who knows
the Maharajah’s stable will readily understand, and I was just in the
humor for a ride.  But the coolness was not destined to last long, for
by the time I had left the second village behind me, the stars had given
place to the faint grey light of dawn.  A soft, breeze stirred the palms
and rustled the long grass, but its freshness was deceptive; the sun
would be up almost before I could look round, and then nothing could
save us from a scorching day.

After I had been riding for nearly an hour it struck me that, if I
wished to be back in time for breakfast, I had better think of
returning.  At the time I was standing in the center of a small plain,
surrounded by jungle.  Behind me was the path I had followed to reach
the place; in front, and to the right and left, others leading whither I
could not tell.  Having no desire to return by the road I had come, I
touched up my horse and cantered off in an easterly direction, feeling
certain that even if I had to make a divergence, I should reach the city
without very much trouble.

By the time I had put three miles or so behind me the heat had become
stifling, the path being completely shut in on either side by the
densest jungle I have ever known.  For all I could see to the contrary,
I might have been a hundred miles from any habitation.

Imagine my astonishment, therefore, when, on turning a corner of the
track, I suddenly left the jungle behind me, and found myself standing
on the top of a stupendous cliff, looking down upon a lake of blue
water.  In the center of this lake was an island, and on the island a
house.  At the distance I was from it the latter appeared to be built of
white marble, as indeed I afterward found to be the case.  Anything,
however, more lovely than the effect produced by the blue water, the
white building, and the jungle-clad hills upon the other side, can
scarcely be imagined. I stood and gazed at it in delighted amazement.
Of all the beautiful places I had hitherto seen in India this, I could
honestly say, was entitled to rank first. But how it was to benefit me
in my present situation I could not for the life of me understand.

Ten minutes later I had discovered a guide, and also a path down the
cliff to the shore, where, I was assured, a boat and a man could be
obtained to transport me to the palace.  I therefore bade my informant
precede me, and after some minutes’ anxious scrambling my horse and I
reached the water’s edge.

Once there, the boatman was soon brought to light, and, when I had
resigned my horse to the care of my guide, I was rowed across to the
mysterious residence in question.

On reaching it we drew up at some steps leading to a broad stone
esplanade, which, I could see, encircled the entire place.  Out of a
grove of trees rose the building itself, a confused jumble of Eastern
architecture crowned with many towers.  With the exception of the
vegetation and the blue sky, everything was of a dazzling white, against
which the dark green of palms contrasted with admirable effect.

Springing from the boat I made my way up the steps, imbued with much the
same feeling of curiosity as the happy Prince, so familiar to us in our
nursery days, must have experienced when he found the enchanted castle
in the forest.  As I reached the top, to my unqualified astonishment, an
English man-servant appeared through a gate-way and bowed before me.

"Breakfast is served," he said, "and my master bids me say that he waits
to receive your lordship."

Though I thought he must be making a mistake, I said nothing, but
followed him along a terrace, through a magnificent gateway, on the top
of which a peacock was preening himself in the sunlight, through court
after court, all built of the same white marble, through a garden in
which a fountain was playing to the rustling accompaniment of pipal and
pomegranate leaves, to finally enter the veranda of the main building
itself.

Drawing aside the curtain which covered the finely-carved doorway, the
servant invited me to enter, and as I did so announced "His Excellency
the Viceroy."

The change from the vivid whiteness of the marble outside to the cool
semi-European room in which I now found myself was almost disconcerting
in its abruptness.  Indeed, I had scarcely time to recover my presence
of mind before I became aware that my host was standing before me.
Another surprise was in store for me.  I had expected to find a native,
instead of which he proved to be an Englishman.

"I am more indebted than I can say to your Excellency for the honor of
this visit," he began, as he extended his hand.  "I can only wish I were
better prepared for it."

"You must not say that," I answered.  "It is I who should apologize.  I
fear I am an intruder.  But to tell you the truth I had lost my way, and
it is only by chance that I am here at all.  I was foolish to venture
out without a guide, and have none to blame for what has occurred but
myself."

"In this case I must thank the Fates for their kindness to me," returned
my host.  "But don’t let me keep you standing.  You must be both tired
and hungry after your long ride, and breakfast, as you see, is upon the
table.  Shall we show ourselves sufficiently blind to the
conventionalities to sit down to it without further preliminaries?"

Upon my assenting he struck a small gong at his side, and servants,
acting under the instructions of the white man who had conducted me to
his master’s presence, instantly appeared in answer to it.  We took our
places at the table, and the meal immediately commenced.

While it was in progress I was permitted an excellent opportunity of
studying my host, who sat opposite me, with such light as penetrated the
_jhilmills_ falling directly upon his face.  I doubt, however, vividly
as my memory recalls the scene, whether I can give you an adequate
description of the man who has since come to be a sort of nightmare to
me.

In height he could not have been more than five feet two.  His shoulders
were broad, and would have been evidence of considerable strength but
for one malformation, which completely spoilt his whole appearance.  The
poor fellow suffered from curvature of the spine of the worst sort, and
the large hump between his shoulders produced a most extraordinary
effect.  But it is when I endeavor to describe his face that I find
myself confronted with the most serious difficulty.

How to make you realize it I hardly know.

To begin with, I do not think I should be overstepping the mark were I
to say that it was one of the most beautiful countenances I have ever
seen in my fellow-men.  Its contour was as perfect as that of the bust
of the Greek god Hermes, to whom, all things considered, it is only fit
and proper he should bear some resemblance.  The forehead was broad, and
surmounted with a wealth of dark hair, in color almost black.  His eyes
were large and dreamy, the brows almost pencilled in their delicacy; the
nose, the most prominent feature of his face, reminded me more of that
of the great Napoleon than any other I can recall.

His mouth was small but firm, his ears as tiny as those of an English
beauty, and set in closer to his head than is usual with those organs.
But it was his chin that fascinated me most.  It was plainly that of a
man accustomed to command; that of a man of iron will whom no amount of
opposition would deter from his purpose.  His hands were small and
delicate, and his fingers taper, plainly those of the artist, either a
painter or a musician.  Altogether he presented a unique appearance, and
one that once seen would not be easily forgotten.

During the meal I congratulated him upon the possession of such a
beautiful residence, the like of which I had never seen before.

"Unfortunately," he answered, "the place does not belong to me, but is
the property of our mutual host, the Maharajah.  His Highness, knowing
that I am a scholar and a recluse, is kind enough to permit me the use
of this portion of the palace; and the value of such a privilege I must
leave you to imagine."

"You are a student, then?" I said, as I began to understand matters a
little more clearly.

"In a perfunctory sort of way," he replied.  "That is to say, I have
acquired sufficient knowledge to be aware of my own ignorance."

I ventured to inquire the subject in which he took most interest.  It
proved to be china and the native art of India, and on these two topics
we conversed for upwards of half-an-hour.  It was evident that he was a
consummate master of his subject.  This I could the more readily
understand when, our meal being finished, he led me into an adjoining
room, in which stood the cabinets containing his treasures.  Such a
collection I had never seen before.  Its size and completeness amazed
me.

"But surely you have not brought all these specimens together yourself?"
I asked in astonishment.

"With a few exceptions," he answered.  "You see it has been the hobby of
my life.  And it is to the fact that I am now engaged upon a book upon
the subject, which I hope to have published in England next year, that
you may attribute my playing the hermit here."

"You intend, then, to visit England?"

"If my book is finished in time," he answered, "I shall be in London at
the end of April or the commencement of May.  Who would not wish to be
in the chief city of Her Majesty’s dominions upon such a joyous and
auspicious occasion?"

As he said this he took down a small vase from a shelf, and, as if to
change the subject, described its history and its beauties to me.  A
stranger picture than he presented at that moment it would be difficult
to imagine.  His long fingers held his treasure as carefully as if it
were an invaluable jewel, his eyes glistened with the fire of the true
collector, who is born but never made, and when he came to that part of
his narrative which described the long hunt for, and the eventual
purchase of, the ornament in question, his voice fairly shook with
excitement.  I was more interested than at any other time I should have
thought possible, and it was then that I committed the most foolish
action of my life.  Quite carried away by his charm I said:

"I hope when you _do_ come to London, you will permit me to be of any
service I can to you."

"I thank you," he answered gravely, "our lordship is very kind, and if
the occasion arises, as I hope it will, I shall most certainly avail
myself of your offer."

"We shall be very pleased to see you," I replied; "and now, if you will
not consider me inquisitive, may I ask if you live in this great place
alone?"

"With the exception of my servants I have no companions."

"Really!  You must surely find it very lonely?"

"I do, and it is that very solitude which endears it to me.  When His
Highness so kindly offered me the place for a residence, I inquired if I
should have much company.  He replied that I might remain here twenty
years and never see a soul unless I chose to do so.  On hearing that I
accepted his offer with alacrity."

"Then you prefer the life of a hermit to mixing with your fellow-men?"

"I do.  But next year I shall put off my monastic habits for a few
months, and mix with my fellow-men, as you call them, in London."

"You will find hearty welcome, I am sure."

"It is very kind of you to say so; I hope I shall. But I am forgetting
the rules of hospitality.  You are a great smoker, I have heard.  Let me
offer you a cigar."

As he spoke he took a small silver whistle from his pocket, and blew a
peculiar note upon it.  A moment later the same English servant who had
conducted me to his presence, entered, carrying a number of cigar boxes
upon a tray.  I chose one, and as I did so glanced at the man.  In
outward appearance he was exactly what a body servant should be, of
medium height, scrupulously neat, clean shaven, and with a face as
devoid of expression as a blank wall.  When he had left the room again
my host immediately turned to me.

"Now," he said, "as you have seen my collection, will you like to
explore the palace?"

To this proposition I gladly assented, and we set off together.  An hour
later, satiated with the beauty of what I had seen, and feeling as if I
had known the man beside me all my life, I bade him good-bye upon the
steps and prepared to return to the spot where my horse was waiting for
me.

"One of my servants will accompany you," he said, "and will conduct you
to the city."

"I am greatly indebted to you," I answered. "Should I not see you
before, I hope you will not forget your promise to call upon me either
in Calcutta, before we leave, or in London next year."  He smiled in a
peculiar way.

"You must not think me so blind to my own interests as to forget your
kind offer," he replied.  "It is just possible, however, that I may be
in Calcutta before you leave."

"I shall hope to see you then," I said, and having shaken him by the
hand, stepped into the boat which was waiting to convey me across.

Within an hour I was back once more to the palace, much to the
satisfaction of the Maharajah and my staff, to whom my absence had been
the cause of considerable anxiety.

It was not until the evening that I found a convenient opportunity, and
was able to question His Highness about his strange _protégé_.  He
quickly told me all there was to know about him.  His name, it appeared,
was Simon Carne.  He was an Englishman and had been a great traveller.
On a certain memorable occasion he had saved His Highness’ life at the
risk of his own, and ever since that time a close intimacy had existed
between them.  For upwards of three years the man in question had
occupied a wing of the island palace, going away for months at a time
presumably in search of specimens for his collection, and returning when
he became tired of the world. To the best of His Highness’ belief he was
exceedingly wealthy, but on this subject little was known.  Such was all
I could learn about the mysterious individual I had met earlier in the
day.

Much as I wanted to do so, I was unable to pay another visit to the
palace on the lake.  Owing to pressing business, I was compelled to
return to Calcutta as quickly as possible.  For this reason it was
nearly eight months before I saw or heard anything of Simon Carne again.
When I _did_ meet him we were in the midst of our preparations for
returning to England.  I had been for a ride, I remember, and was in the
act of dismounting from my horse, when an individual came down the steps
and strolled towards me. I recognized him instantly as the man in whom I
had been so much interested in Malar-Kadir.  He was now dressed in
fashionable European attire, but there was no mistaking his face.  I
held out my hand.

"How do you do, Mr. Carne?" I cried.  "This is an unexpected pleasure.
Pray how long have you been in Calcutta?"

"I arrived last night," he answered, "and leave to-morrow morning for
Burma.  You see, I have taken your Excellency at your word."

"I am very pleased to see you," I replied.  "I have the liveliest
recollection of your kindness to me the day that I lost my way in the
jungle.  As you are leaving so soon, I fear we shall not have the
pleasure of seeing much of you, but possibly you can dine with us this
evening?"

"I shall be very glad to do so," he answered simply, watching me with
his wonderful eyes, which somehow always reminded me of those of a
collie.

"Her ladyship is devoted to Indian pottery and brass work," I said, "and
she would never forgive me if I did not give her an opportunity of
consulting you upon her collection."

"I shall be very proud to assist in any way I can," he answered.

"Very well, then, we shall meet at eight.  Good-bye."

That evening we had the pleasure of his society at dinner, and I am
prepared to state that a more interesting guest has never sat at a
vice-regal table. My wife and daughters fell under his spell as quickly
as I had done.  Indeed, the former told me afterwards that she
considered him the most uncommon man she had met during her residence in
the East, an admission scarcely complimentary to the numerous important
members of my council who all prided themselves upon their originality.
When he said good-bye we had extorted his promise to call upon us in
London, and I gathered later that my wife was prepared to make a lion of
him when he should put in an appearance.

How he _did_ arrive in London during the first week of the following
May; how it became known that he had taken Porchester House, which, as
every one knows, stands at the corner of Belverton Street and Park Lane,
for the season, at an enormous rental; how he furnished it superbly,
brought an army of Indian servants to wait upon him, and was prepared to
astonish the town with his entertainments, are matters of history.  I
welcomed him to England, and he dined with us on the night following his
arrival, and thus it was that we became, in a manner of speaking, his
sponsors in Society.  When one looks back on that time, and remembers
how vigorously, even in the midst of all that season’s gaiety, our
social world took him up, the fuss that was made of him, the manner in
which his doings were chronicled by the Press, it is indeed hard to
realize how egregiously we were all being deceived.

During the months of June and July he was to be met at every house of
distinction.  Even royalty permitted itself to become on friendly terms
with him, while it was rumored that no fewer than three of the proudest
beauties in England were prepared at any moment to accept his offer of
marriage.  To have been a social lion during such a brilliant season, to
have been able to afford one of the most perfect residences in our great
city, and to have written a book which the foremost authorities upon the
subject declare a masterpiece, are things of which any man might be
proud.  And yet this was exactly what Simon Carne was and did.

And now, having described his advent among us, I must refer to the
greatest excitement of all that year. Unique as was the occasion which
prompted the gaiety of London, constant as were the arrivals and
departures of illustrious folk, marvelous as were the social functions,
and enormous the amount of money expended, it is strange that the things
which attracted the most attention should be neither royal, social, nor
political.

As may be imagined, I am referring to the enormous robberies and
swindles which will forever be associated with that memorable year.  Day
after day, for weeks at a time, the Press chronicled a series of crimes,
the like of which the oldest Englishman could not remember.  It soon
became evident that they were the work of one person, and that that
person was a master hand was as certain as his success.

At first the police were positive that the depredations were conducted
by a foreign gang, located somewhere in North London, and that they
would soon be able to put their fingers on the culprits.  But they were
speedily undeceived.  In spite of their efforts the burglaries continued
with painful regularity.  Hardly a prominent person escaped.  My friend
Lord Orpington was despoiled of his priceless gold and silver plate; my
cousin, the Duchess of Wiltshire, lost her world-famous diamonds; the
Earl of Calingforth his race-horse "Vulcanite;" and others of my friends
were despoiled of their choicest possessions.  How it was that I escaped
I can understand now, but I must confess that it passed my comprehension
at the time.

Throughout the season Simon Carne and I scarcely spent a day apart.  His
society was like chloral; the more I took of it the more I wanted.  And
I am now told that others were affected in the same way.  I used to
flatter myself that it was to my endeavors he owed his social success,
and I can only, in justice, say that he tried to prove himself grateful.
I have his portrait hanging in my library now, painted by a famous
Academician, with this inscription upon the lozenge at the base of the
frame:

"_To my kind friend, the Earl of Amberley, in remembrance of a happy and
prosperous visit to London, from Simon Carne._"

The portrait represents him standing before a book-case in a half-dark
room.  His extraordinary face, with its dark penetrating eyes, is
instinct with life, while his lips seem as if opening to speak.  To my
thinking it would have been a better picture had he not been standing in
such a way that the light accentuated his deformity; but it appears that
this was the sitter’s own desire, thus confirming what, on many
occasions, I had felt compelled to believe, namely, that he was, for
some peculiar reason, proud of his misfortune.

It was at the end of the Cowes week that we parted company.  He had been
racing his yacht the _Unknown Quantity_, and, as if not satisfied with
having won the Derby, must needs appropriate the Queen’s Cup.  It was on
the day following that now famous race that half the leaders of London
Society bade him farewell on the deck of the steam yacht that was to
carry him back to India.

A month later, and quite by chance, the dreadful truth came out.  Then
it was discovered that the man of whom we had all been making so much
fuss, the man whom royalty had condescended to treat almost as a friend,
was neither more nor less than a Prince of Swindlers, who had been
utilizing his splendid opportunities to the very best advantage.

Every one will remember the excitement which followed the first
disclosure of this dreadful secret and the others which followed it.  As
fresh discoveries came to light, the popular interest became more and
more intense, while the public’s wonderment at the man’s almost
superhuman cleverness waxed every day greater than before.  My position,
as you may suppose was not an enviable one.  I saw how cleverly I had
been duped, and when my friends, who had most of them, suffered from his
talents, congratulated me on my immunity, I could only console myself
with the reflection that I was responsible for more than half the
acquaintances the wretch had made.  But, deeply as I was drinking of the
cup of sorrow, I had not come to the bottom of it yet.

One Saturday evening--the 7th of November, if I recollect aright--I was
sitting in my library, writing letters after dinner, when I heard the
postman come round the square and finally ascend the steps of my house.
A few moments later a footman entered bearing some letters, and a large
packet, upon a salver. Having read the former, I cut the string which
bound the parcel, and opened it.

To my surprise, it contained a bundle of manuscript and a letter.  The
former I put aside, while I broke open the envelope and extracted its
contents.  To my horror, it was from Simon Carne, and ran as follows:


"_On the High Seas._

MY DEAR LORD AMBERLEY,--

"It is only reasonable to suppose that by this time you have become
acquainted with the nature of the peculiar services you have rendered
me.  I am your debtor for as pleasant, and, at the same time, as
profitable a visit to London as any man could desire. In order that you
may not think me ungrateful, I will ask you to accept the accompanying
narrative of my adventures in your great metropolis.  Since I have
placed myself beyond the reach of capture, I will permit you to make any
use of it you please.  Doubtless you will blame me, but you must at
least do me the justice to remember that, in spite of the splendid
opportunities you permitted me, I invariably spared yourself and family.
You will think me mad thus to betray myself, but, believe me, I have
taken the greatest precautions against discovery, and as I am proud of
my London exploits, I have not the least desire to hide my light beneath
a bushel.

"With kind regards to Lady Amberley and yourself,

"I am, yours very sincerely,
       "SIMON CARNE."


Needless to say I did not retire to rest before I had read the
manuscript through from beginning to end, with the result that the
morning following I communicated with the police.  They were hopeful
that they might be able to discover the place where the packet had been
posted, but after considerable search it was found that it had been
handed by a captain of a yacht, name unknown, to the commander of a
homeward bound brig, off Finisterre, for postage in Plymouth. The
narrative, as you will observe, is written in the third person, and, as
far as I can gather, the handwriting is not that of Simon Carne.  As,
however, the details of each individual swindle coincide exactly with
the facts as ascertained by the police, there can be no doubt of their
authenticity.

A year has now elapsed since my receipt of the packet.  During that time
the police of almost every civilized country have been on the alert to
effect the capture of my whilom friend, but without success. Whether his
yacht sank and conveyed him to the bottom of the ocean, or whether, as I
suspect, she only carried him to a certain part of the seas where he
changed into another vessel and so eluded justice, I cannot say.  Even
the Maharajah of Malar-Kadir has heard nothing of him since.  The fact,
however, remains, I have, innocently enough, compounded a series of
felonies, and, as I said at the commencement of this preface, the
publication of the narrative I have so strangely received is intended to
be, as far as possible, my excuse.



                             *CHAPTER II.*

                         *THE DEN OF INIQUITY.*


The night was close and muggy, such a night, indeed, as only Calcutta,
of all the great cities of the East, can produce.  The reek of the
native quarter, that sickly, penetrating odor which once smelt, is never
forgotten, filled the streets and even invaded the sacred precincts of
Government House, where a man of gentlemanly appearance, but sadly
deformed, was engaged in bidding Her Majesty the Queen of England’s
representative in India an almost affectionate farewell.

"You will not forget your promise to acquaint us with your arrival in
London," said His Excellency as he shook his guest by the hand.  "We
shall be delighted to see you, and if we can make your stay pleasurable
as well as profitable to you, you may be sure we shall endeavor to do
so."

"Your lordship is most hospitable, and I think I may safely promise that
I will avail myself of your kindness," replied the other.  "In the
meantime ’good-bye,’ and a pleasant voyage to you."

A few minutes later he had passed the sentry, and was making his way
along the Maidan to the point where the Chitpore Road crosses it.  Here
he stopped and appeared to deliberate.  He smiled a little sardonically
as the recollection of the evening’s entertainment crossed his mind,
and, as if he feared he might forget something connected with it, when
he reached a lamp-post, took a note-book from his pocket and made an
entry in it.

"Providence has really been most kind," he said as he shut the book with
a snap, and returned it to his pocket.  "And what is more, I am prepared
to be properly grateful.  It was a good morning’s work for me when His
Excellency decided to take a ride through the Maharajah’s suburbs.  Now
I have only to play my cards carefully and success should be assured."

He took a cigar from his pocket, nipped off the end, and then lit it.
He was still smiling when the smoke had cleared away.

"It is fortunate that Her Excellency is, like myself, an enthusiastic
admirer of Indian art," he said. "It is a trump card, and I shall play
it for all it’s worth when I get to the other side.  But to-night I have
something of more importance to consider.  I have to find the sinews of
war.  Let us hope that the luck which has followed me hitherto will
still hold good, and that Liz will prove as tractable as usual."

Almost as he concluded his soliloquy a _ticcagharri_ made its
appearance, and, without being hailed, pulled up beside him.  It was
evident that their meeting was intentional, for the driver asked no
question of his fare, who simply took his seat, laid himself back upon
the cushions, and smoked his cigar with the air of a man playing a part
in some performance that had been long arranged.

Ten minutes later the coachman had turned out of the Chitpore Road into
a narrow by-street.  From this he broke off into another, and at the end
of a few minutes into still another.  These offshoots of the main
thoroughfare were wrapped in inky darkness, and, in order that there
should be as much danger as possible, they were crowded to excess.  To
those who know Calcutta this information will be significant.

There are slums in all the great cities of the world, and every one
boasts its own peculiar characteristics. The Ratcliffe Highway in
London, and the streets that lead off it, can show a fair assortment of
vice; the Chinese quarters of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco can
more than equal them; Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, a portion of
Singapore, and the shipping quarter of Bombay, have their own individual
qualities, but surely for the lowest of all the world’s low places one
must go to Calcutta, the capital of our great Indian Empire.

Surrounding the Lai, Machua, Burra, and Joira Bazaars are to be found
the most infamous dens that mind of man can conceive.  But that is not
all.  If an exhibition of scented, high-toned, gold-lacquered vice is
required, one has only to make one’s way into the streets that lie
within a stone’s throw of the Chitpore Road to be accommodated.

Reaching a certain corner, the _gharri_ came to a standstill and the
fare alighted.  He said something in an undertone to the driver as he
paid him, and then stood upon the footway placidly smoking until the
vehicle had disappeared from view.  When it was no longer in sight he
looked up at the houses towering above his head; in one a marriage feast
was being celebrated; across the way the sound of a woman’s voice in
angry expostulation could be heard.  The passers-by, all of whom were
natives, scanned him curiously, but made no remark.  Englishmen, it is
true, were _sometimes_ seen in that quarter and at that hour, but this
one seemed of a different class, and it is possible that nine out of
every ten took him for the most detested of all Englishmen, a police
officer.

For upwards of ten minutes he waited, but after that he seemed to become
impatient.  The person he had expected to find at the rendezvous had, so
far, failed to put in an appearance, and he was beginning to wonder what
he had better do in the event of his not coming.

But, badly as he had started, he was not destined to fail in his
enterprise; for, just as his patience was exhausted, he saw, hastening
towards him, a man whom he recognized as the person for whom he waited.

"You are late," he said in English, which he was aware the other spoke
fluently, though he was averse to owning it.  "I have been here more
than a quarter of an hour."

"It was impossible that I could get away before," the other answered
cringingly; "but if your Excellency will be pleased to follow me now, I
will conduct you to the person you seek, without further delay."

"Lead on," said the Englishman; "we have wasted enough time already."

Without more ado the Babu turned himself about and proceeded in the
direction he had come, never pausing save to glance over his shoulder to
make sure that his companion was following.  Seemingly countless were
the lanes, streets, and alleys through which they passed.  The place was
nothing more nor less than a rabbit warren of small passages, and so
dark that, at times, it was as much as the Englishman could do to see
his guide ahead of him.  Well acquainted as he was with the quarter, he
had never been able to make himself master of all its intricacies, and
as the person whom he was going to meet was compelled to change her
residence at frequent intervals, he had long given up the idea of
endeavoring to find her himself.

Turning out of a narrow lane, which differed from its fellows only in
the fact that it contained more dirt and a greater number of unsavory
odors, they found themselves at the top of a short flights of steps,
which in their turn conducted them to a small square, round which rose
houses taller than any they had yet discovered.  Every window contained
a balcony, some larger than others, but all in the last stage of decay.
The effect was peculiar, but not so strange as the quiet of the place;
indeed, the wind and the far-off hum of the city were the only sounds to
be heard.

Now and again figures issued from the different doorways, stood for a
moment looking anxiously about them, and then disappeared as silently as
they had come.  All the time not a light was to be seen, nor the sound
of a human voice.  It was a strange place for a white man to be in, and
so Simon Carne evidently thought as he obeyed his guide’s invitation and
entered the last house on the right-hand side.

Whether the buildings had been originally intended for residences or for
offices it would be difficult to say. They were almost as old as John
Company himself, and would not appear to have been cleaned or repaired
since they had been first inhabited.

From the center of the hall, in which he found himself, a massive
staircase led to the other floors, and up this Carne marched behind his
conductor.  On gaining the first landing he paused while the Babu went
forward and knocked at the door.  A moment later the shutter of a small
_grille_ was pulled back, and the face of a native woman looked out.  A
muttered conversation ensued, and after it was finished the door was
opened and Carne was invited to enter.  This summons he obeyed with
alacrity, only to find that once he was inside, the door was immediately
shut and barred behind him.

After the darkness of the street and the semi-obscurity of the stairs,
the dazzling light of the apartment in which he now stood was almost too
much for his eyes.  It was not long, however, before he had recovered
sufficiently to look about him.  The room was a fine one, in shape
almost square, with a large window at the further end covered with a
thick curtain of native cloth.  It was furnished with considerable
taste, in a mixture of styles, half European and half native.  A large
lamp of worked brass, burning some sweet-smelling oil, was suspended
from the ceiling. A quantity of tapestry, much of it extremely rare,
covered the walls, relieved here and there with some superb specimens of
native weapons; comfortable divans were scattered about, as if inviting
repose, and as if further to carry out this idea, beside one of the
lounges, a silver-mounted marghyle was placed, its tube curled up beside
it in a fashion somewhat suggestive of a snake.

But, luxurious as it all was, it was evidently not quite what Carne had
expected to find, and the change seemed to mystify as much as it
surprised him.  Just as he was coming to a decision however, his ear
caught the sound of chinking bracelets, and next moment the curtain
which covered a doorway in the left wall was drawn aside by a hand
glistening with rings and as tiny as that of a little child.  A second
later Trincomalee Liz entered the room.

Standing in the doorway, the heavily embroidered curtain falling in
thick folds behind her and forming a most effective background, she made
a picture such as few men could look upon without a thrill of
admiration.  At that time she, the famous Trincomalee Liz, whose doings
had made her notorious from the Saghalian coast to the shores of the
Persian Gulf, was at the prime of her life and beauty--a beauty such as
no man who has ever seen it will ever forget.

It was a notorious fact that those tiny hands had ruined more men than
any other half-dozen pairs in the whole of India, or the East for that
matter.  Not much was known of her history, but what had come to light
was certainly interesting.  As far as could be ascertained she was born
in Tonquin; her father, it had been said, was a handsome but
disreputable Frenchman, who had called himself a count, and over his
absinthe was wont to talk of his possessions in Normandy; her mother
hailed from Northern India, and she herself was lovelier than the pale
hibiscus blossom.  To tell in what manner Liz and Carne had become
acquainted would be too long a story to be included here.  But that
there was some bond between the pair is a fact that may be stated
without fear of contradiction.

On seeing her, the visitor rose from his seat and went to meet her.

"So you have come at last," she said, holding out both hands to him.  "I
have been expecting you these three weeks past.  Remember, you told me
you were coming."

"I was prevented," said Carne.  "And the business upon which I desired
to see you was not fully matured."

"So there is business then?" she answered with a pretty petulance.  "I
thought as much.  I might know by this time that you do not come to see
me for anything else.  But there, do not let us talk in this fashion
when I have not had you with me for nearly a year. Tell me of yourself,
and what you have been doing since last we met."

As she spoke she was occupied preparing a _huqa_ for him.  When it was
ready she fitted a tiny amber mouthpiece to the tube, and presented it
to him with a compliment as delicate as her own rose-leaf hands. Then,
seating herself on a pile of cushions beside him, she bade him proceed
with his narrative.

"And now," she said, when he had finished, "what is this business that
brings you to me?"

A few moments elapsed before he began his explanation, and during that
time he studied her face closely.

"I have a scheme in my head," he said, laying the _huqa_ stick carefully
upon the floor, "that, properly carried out, should make us both rich
beyond telling, but to carry it out properly I must have your
co-operation."

She laughed softly, and nodded her head.

"You mean that you want money," she answered. "Ah, Simon, you always
want money."

"I _do_ want money," he replied without hesitation. "I want it badly.
Listen to what I have to say, and then tell me if you can give it to me.
You know what year this is in England?"

She nodded her head.  There were few things with which she had not some
sort of acquaintance.

"It will be a time of great rejoicing," he continued. "Half the princes
of the earth will be assembled in London.  There will be wealth untold
there, to be had for the mere gathering in; and who is so well able to
gather it as I?  I tell you, Liz, I have made up my mind to make the
journey and try my luck, and, if you will help me with the money, you
shall have it back with such jewels, for interest, as no woman ever wore
yet.  To begin with, there is the Duchess of Wiltshire’s necklace.  Ah,
your eyes light up; you have heard of it?"

"I have," she answered, her voice trembling with excitement.  "Who has
not?"

"It is the finest thing of its kind in Europe, if not in the world," he
went on slowly, as if to allow time for his words to sink in.  "It
consists of three hundred stones, and is worth, apart from its historic
value, at least fifty thousand pounds."

He saw her hands tighten on the cushions upon which she sat.

"Fifty thousand pounds!  That is five lacs of rupees?"

"Exactly!  Five lacs of rupees, a king’s ransom," he answered.  "But
that is not all.  There will be twice as much to be had for the taking
when once I get there.  Find me the money I want, and those stones shall
be your property."

"How much _do_ you want?"

"The value of the necklace," he answered.  "Fifty thousand pounds."

"It is a large sum," she said, "and it will be difficult to find."

He smiled, as if her words were a joke and should be treated as such.

"The interest will be good," he answered.

"But are you certain of obtaining it?" she asked.

"Have I ever failed yet?" he replied.

"You have done wonderful things, certainly.  But this time you are
attempting so much."

"The greater the glory!" he answered.  "I have prepared my plans, and I
shall not fail.  This is going to be the greatest undertaking of my
life.  If it comes off successfully, I shall retire upon my laurels.
Come, for the sake of--well, you know for the sake of what--will you let
me have the money?  It is not the first time you have done it, and on
each occasion you have not only been repaid, but well rewarded into the
bargain."

"When do you want it?"

"By mid-day to-morrow.  It must be paid in to my account at the bank
before twelve o’clock.  You will have no difficulty in obtaining it I
know.  Your respectable merchant friends will do it for you if you but
hold up your little finger.  If they don’t feel inclined, then put on
the screw and make them."

She laughed as he paid this tribute to her power. A moment later,
however, she was all gravity.

"And the security?"

He leant towards her and whispered in her ear.

"It is well," she replied.  "The money shall be found for you to-morrow.
Now tell me your plans; I must know all that you intend doing."

"In the first place," he answered, drawing a little closer to her, and
speaking in a lower voice, so that no eavesdropper should hear, "I shall
take with me Abdul Khan, Ram Gafur, Jowur Singh and Nur Ali, with others
of less note as servants.  I shall engage the best house in London, and
under the wing of our gracious Viceroy, who has promised me the light of
his countenance, will work my way into the highest society.  That done,
I shall commence operations.  No one shall ever suspect!"

"And when it is finished, and you have accomplished your desires, how
will you escape?"

"That I have not yet arranged.  But of this you may be sure, I shall run
no risks."

"And afterwards?"

He leant a little towards her again, and patted her affectionately upon
the hand.

"Then we shall see what we shall see," he said, "I don’t think you will
find me ungrateful."

She shook her pretty head.

"It is good talk," she cried, "but it means nothing. You always say the
same.  How am I to know that you will not learn to love one of the white
memsahibs when you are so much among them?"

"Because there is but one Trincomalee Liz," he answered; "and for that
reason you need have no fear."

Her face expressed the doubt with which she received this assertion.  As
she had said, it was not the first time she had been cajoled into
advancing him large sums with the same assurance.  He knew this, and,
lest she should alter her mind, prepared to change the subject.

"Besides the others, I must take Hiram Singh and Wajib Baksh.  They are
in Calcutta, I am told, and I must communicate with them before noon
to-morrow. They are the most expert craftsmen in India, and I shall have
need of them."

"I will have them found, and word shall be sent to you."

"Could I not meet them here?"

"Nay, it is impossible.  I shall not be here myself. I leave for Madras
within six hours."

"Is there, then, trouble toward?"

She smiled, and spread her hands apart with a gesture that said: "Who
knows?"

He did not question her further, but after a little conversation on the
subject of the money, rose to bid her farewell.

"I do not like this idea," she said, standing before him and looking him
in the face.  "It is too dangerous. Why should you run such risk?  Let
us go to Burma.  You shall be my vizier."

"I would wish for nothing better," he said, "were it not that I am
resolved to go to England.  My mind is set upon it and when I have done,
London shall have something to talk about for years to come."

"If you are determined, I will say no more," she answered; "but when it
is over, and you are free, we will talk again."

"You will not forget about the money?" he asked anxiously.

She stamped her foot.

"Money, money, money," she cried.  "It is always the money of which you
think.  But you shall have it, never fear.  And now when shall I see you
again?"

"In six months’ time at a place of which I will tell you beforehand."

"It is a long time to wait."

"There is a necklace worth five lacs to pay you for the waiting."

"Then I will be patient.  Good-bye."

"Good-bye, little friend," he said.  And then, as if he thought he had
not said enough, he added: "Think sometimes of Simon Carne."

She promised, with many pretty speeches, to do so, after which he left
the room and went downstairs.  As he reached the bottom step he heard a
cough in the dark above him and looked up.  He could just distinguish
Liz leaning over the rail.  Then something dropped and rattled upon the
wooden steps behind him.  He picked it up to find that it was an antique
ring set with rubies.

"Wear it that it may bring thee luck," she cried, and then disappeared
again.

He put the present on his finger and went out into the dark square.

"The money is found," he said, as he looked up at the starlit heavens.
"Hiram Singh and Wajib Baksh are to be discovered before noon to-morrow.
His Excellency the Viceroy and his amiable lady have promised to stand
sponsors for me in London society. If with these advantages I don’t
succeed, well, all I can say is, I don’t deserve to.  Now where is my
Babuji?"

Almost at the same instant a figure appeared from the shadow of the
building and approached him.

"If the Sahib will permit me, I will guide him by a short road to his
hotel."

"Lead on then.  I am tired, and it is time I was in bed."  Then to
himself he added: "I must sleep to-night, for to-morrow there are great
things toward."



                             *CHAPTER III.*

                 *THE DUCHESS OF WILTSHIRE’S DIAMONDS.*


To the reflective mind the rapidity with which the inhabitants of the
world’s greatest city seize upon a new name or idea, and familiarize
themselves with it, can scarcely prove otherwise than astonishing.  As
an illustration of my meaning let me take the case of Klimo--the now
famous private detective, who has won for himself the right to be
considered as great as Lecocq, or even the late lamented Sherlock
Holmes.

Up to a certain morning London had never even heard his name, nor had it
the remotest notion as to who or what he might be.  It was as sublimely
ignorant and careless on the subject as the inhabitants of Kamtchatka or
Peru.  Within twenty-four hours, however, the whole aspect of the case
was changed. The man, woman, or child who had not seen his posters, or
heard his name, was counted an ignoramus unworthy of intercourse with
human beings.

Princes became familiar with it as their trains bore them to Windsor to
luncheon with the Queen; the nobility noticed and commented upon it as
they drove about the town; merchants, and business men generally, read
it as they made they ways by omnibus or underground, to their various
shops and counting-houses; street boys called each other by it as a
nickname; music hall artists introduced it into their patter, while it
was even rumored that the Stock Exchange itself has paused in the full
flood tide of business to manufacture a riddle on the subject.

That Klimo made his profession pay him well was certain, first from the
fact that his advertisements must have cost a good round sum, and,
second, because he had taken a mansion in Belverton Street, Park Lane,
next door to Porchester House, where to the dismay of that aristocratic
neighborhood, he advertised that he was prepared to receive and be
consulted by his clients.  The invitation was responded to with
alacrity, and from that day forward, between the hours of twelve and
two, the pavement upon the north side of the street was lined with
carriages, every one containing some person desirous of testing the
great man’s skill.

I must here explain that I have narrated all this in order to show the
state of affairs existing in Belverton Street and Park Lane when Simon
Carne arrived, or was supposed to arrive in England.  If my memory
serves me correctly, it was on Wednesday, the 3rd of May, that the Earl
of Amberley drove to Victoria to meet and welcome the man whose
acquaintance he had made in India under such peculiar circumstances, and
under the spell of whose fascination he and his family had fallen so
completely.

Reaching the station, his lordship descended from his carriage, and made
his way to the platform set apart for the reception of the Continental
express. He walked with a jaunty air, and seemed to be on the best of
terms with himself and the world in general. How little he suspected the
existence of the noose into which he was so innocently running his head!

As if out of compliment to his arrival, the train put in an appearance
within a few moments of his reaching the platform.  He immediately
placed himself in such a position that he could make sure of seeing the
man he wanted, and waited patiently until he should come in sight.
Carne, however, was not among the first batch; indeed, the majority of
passengers had passed before his lordship caught sight of him.

One thing was very certain, however great the crush might have been, it
would have been difficult to mistake Carne’s figure.  The man’s
infirmity and the peculiar beauty of his face rendered him easily
recognizable.  Possibly, after his long sojourn in India, he found the
morning cold, for he wore a long fur coat, the collar of which he had
turned up around his ears, thus making a fitting frame for his delicate
face.  On seeing Lord Amberley he hastened forward to greet him.

"This is most kind and friendly of you," he said, as he shook the other
by the hand.  "A fine day and Lord Amberley to meet me.  One could
scarcely imagine a better welcome."

As he spoke, one of his Indian servants approached and salaamed before
him.  He gave him an order, and received an answer in Hindustani,
whereupon he turned again to Lord Amberley.

"You may imagine how anxious I am to see my new dwelling," he said.  "My
servant tells me that my carriage is here, so may I hope that you will
drive back with me and see for yourself how I am likely to be lodged?"

"I shall be delighted," said Lord Amberley, who was longing for an
opportunity, and they accordingly went out into the station yard
together to discover a brougham, drawn by two magnificent horses, and
with Nur Ali, in all the glory of white raiment and crested turban, on
the box, waiting to receive them. His lordship dismissed his victoria,
and when Jowur Singh had taken his place beside his fellow-servant upon
the box, the carriage rolled out of the station yard in the direction of
Hyde Park.

"I trust her ladyship is quite well," said Simon Carne politely, as they
turned into Gloucester Place.

"Excellently well, thank you," replied his lordship. "She bade me
welcome you to England in her name as well as my own, and I was to say
that she is looking forward to seeing you."

"She is most kind, and I shall do myself the honor of calling upon her
as soon as circumstances will permit," answered Carne.  "I beg you will
convey my best thanks to her for her thought of me."

While these polite speeches were passing between them they were rapidly
approaching a large billboard, on which was displayed a poster getting
forth the name of the now famous detective, Klimo.

Simon Carne, leaning forward, studied it, and when they had passed,
turned to his friend again.

"At Victoria and on all the bill boards we met I see an enormous
placard, bearing the word ’Klimo.’  Pray, what does it mean?"

His lordship laughed.

"You are asking a question which, a month ago, was on the lips of nine
out of every ten Londoners. It is only within the last fortnight that we
have learned who and what ’Klimo’ is."

"And pray what is he?"

"Well, the explanation is very simple.  He is neither more nor less than
a remarkably astute private detective, who has succeeded in attracting
notice in such a way that half London has been induced to patronize him.
I have had dealings with the man myself.  But a friend of mine, Lord
Orpington, has been the victim of a most audacious burglary, and, the
police having failed to solve the mystery, he has called Klimo in.  We
shall therefore see what he can do before many days are past.  But,
there, I expect you will soon know more about him than any of us."

"Indeed!  And why?"

"For the simple reason that he has taken No. 1, Belverton Terrace, the
house adjoining your own, and sees his clients there."

Simon Carne pursed up his lips, and appeared to be considering
something.

"I trust he will not prove a nuisance," he said at last.  "The agents
who found me the house should have acquainted me with the fact.  Private
detectives, on however large a scale, scarcely strike one as the most
desirable of neighbors--particularly for a man who is so fond of quiet
as myself."

At this moment they were approaching their destination.  As the carriage
passed Belverton Street and pulled up, Lord Amberley pointed to a long
line of vehicles standing before the detective’s door.

"You can see for yourself something of the business he does," he said.
"Those are the carriages of his clients, and it is probable that twice
as many have arrived on foot."

"I shall certainly speak to the agent on the subject," said Carne, with
a show of annoyance upon his face.  "I consider the fact of this man’s
being so close to me a serious drawback to the house."

Jowur Singh here descended from the box and opened the door in order
that his master and his guest might alight, while portly Ram Gafur, the
butler, came down the steps and salaamed before them with Oriental
obsequiousness.  Carne greeted his domestics with kindly condescension,
and then, accompanied by the ex-Viceroy, entered his new abode.

"I think you may congratulate yourself upon having secured one of the
most desirable residences in London," said his lordship ten minutes or
so later, when they had explored the principal rooms.

"I am very glad to hear you say so," said Carne. "I trust your lordship
will remember that you will always be welcome in the house as long as I
am its owner."

"It is very kind of you to say so," returned Lord Amberley warmly.  "I
shall look forward to some months of pleasant intercourse.  And now I
must be going.  To-morrow, perhaps, if you have nothing better to do,
you will give us the pleasure of your company at dinner.  Your fame has
already gone abroad, and we shall ask one or two nice people to meet
you, including my brother and sister-in-law, Lord and Lady Gelpington,
Lord and Lady Orpington, and my cousin, the Duchess of Wiltshire, whose
interest in china and Indian art, as perhaps you know, is only second to
your own."

"I shall be more glad to come."

"We may count on seeing you in Eaton Square, then, at eight o’clock?"

"If I am alive you may be sure I shall be there. Must you really go?
Then good-bye, and many thanks for meeting me."

His lordship having left the house, Simon Carne went upstairs to his
dressing room, which it was to be noticed he found without inquiry, and
rang the electric bell, beside the fireplace, three times.  While he was
waiting for it to be answered he stood looking out of the window at the
long line of carriages in the street below.

"Everything is progressing admirably," he said to himself.  "Amberley
does not suspect any more than the world in general.  As a proof he asks
me to dinner to-morrow evening to meet his brother and sister-in-law,
two of his particular friends, and above all Her Grace of Wiltshire.  Of
course I shall go, and when I bid Her Grace good-bye it will be strange
if I am not one step nearer the interest on Liz’s money."

At this moment the door opened, and his valet, the grave and respectable
Belton, entered the room. Carne turned to greet him impatiently.

"Come, come, Belton," he said, "we must be quick. It is twenty minutes
to twelve, and if we don’t hurry the folk next door will become
impatient.  Have you succeeded in doing what I spoke to you about last
night?"

"I have done everything, sir."

"I am glad to hear it.  Now lock that door and let us get to work.  You
can let me have your news while I am dressing."

Opening one side of the massive wardrobe, that completely filled one end
of the room, Belton took from it a number of garments.  They included a
well-worn velvet coat, a baggy pair of trousers--so old that only a
notorious pauper or a millionaire could have afforded to wear them--a
flannel waistcoat, a Gladstone collar, a soft silk tie, and a pair of
embroidered carpet slippers upon which no old clothes man in the most
reckless way of business in Petticoat Lane would have advanced a single
half-penny. Into these he assisted his master to change.

"Now give me the wig, and unfasten the straps of this hump," said Carne,
as the other placed the garments just referred to upon a neighboring
chair.

Belton did as he was ordered and then there happened a thing the like of
which no one would have believed.  Having unbuckled a strap on either
shoulder, and slipped his hand beneath the waistcoat, he withdrew a
large papier-mâché hump, which he carried away and carefully placed in a
drawer of the bureau.  Relieved of his burden, Simon Carne stood up as
straight and well-made a man as any in Her Majesty’s dominions.  The
malformation, for which so many, including the Earl and Countess of
Amberley, had often pitied him, was nothing but a hoax intended to
produce an effect which would permit him additional facilities of
disguise.

The hump discarded, and the grey wig fitted carefully to his head in
such a manner that not even a pinch of his own curly locks could be seen
beneath it, he adorned his cheeks with a pair of _crépu_-hair whiskers,
donned the flannel vest and the velvet coat previously mentioned,
slipped his feet into the carpet slippers, placed a pair of smoked
glasses upon his nose, and declared himself ready to proceed about his
business.  The man who would have known him for Simon Carne would have
been as astute as, well, shall we say, as the private detective--Klimo
himself.

"It’s on the stroke of twelve," he said, as he gave a final glance at
himself in the pier-glass above the dressing-table, and arranged his tie
to his satisfaction. "Should any one call, instruct Ram Gafur to tell
them that I have gone out on business, and shall not be back until three
o’clock."

"Very good, sir."

"Now undo the door and let me go in."

Thus commanded, Belton went across to the large wardrobe which, as I
have already said, covered the whole of one side of the room, and opened
the middle door.  Two or three garments were seen inside suspended on
pegs, and these he removed, at the same time pushing towards the right
the panel at the rear. When this was done a large aperture in the wall
between the two houses was disclosed.  Through this door Carne passed,
drawing it behind him.

In No. 1, Belverton Terrace, the house occupied by the detective, whose
presence in the street Carne seemed to find so objectionable, the
entrance thus constructed was covered by the peculiar kind of
confessional box in which Klimo invariably sat to receive his clients,
the rearmost panels of which opened in the same fashion as those in the
wardrobe in the dressing room.  These being pulled aside, he had but to
draw them to again after him, take his seat, ring the electric bell to
inform his housekeeper that he was ready, and then welcome his clients
as quickly as they cared to come.

Punctually at two o’clock the interviews ceased, and Klimo, having
reaped an excellent harvest of fees, returned to Portchester House to
become Simon Carne once more.

Possibly it was due to the fact that the Earl and Countess of Amberley
were brimming over with his praise, or it may have been the rumor that
he was worth as many millions as you have fingers upon your hand that
did it; one thing, however, was self-evident, within twenty-four hours
of the noble earl’s meeting him at Victoria Station, Simon Carne was the
talk, not only fashionable, but also of unfashionable London.

That his household were, with one exception, natives of India, that he
had paid a rental for Portchester House which ran into five figures,
that he was the greatest living authority upon china and Indian art
generally, and that he had come over to England in search of a wife,
were among the smallest of the _canards_ set afloat concerning him.

During dinner next evening Carne put forth every effort to please.  He
was placed on the right hand of his hostess and next to the Duchess of
Wiltshire. To the latter he paid particular attention, and to such good
purpose that when the ladies returned to the drawing-room afterwards,
Her Grace was full of his praises.  They had discussed china of all
sorts, Carne had promised her a specimen which she had longed for all
her life, but had never been able to obtain, and in return she had
promised to show him the quaintly carved Indian casket in which the
famous necklace, of which he had, of course heard, spent most of its
time.  She would be wearing the jewels in question at her own ball in a
week’s time, she informed him, and if he would care to see the case when
it came from her bankers on that day, she would be only too pleased to
show it to him.

As Simon Carne drove home in his luxurious brougham afterwards, he
smiled to himself as he thought of the success which was attending his
first endeavor.  Two of the guests, who were stewards of the Jockey
Club, had heard with delight his idea of purchasing a horse, in order to
have an interest in the Derby.  While another, on hearing that he
desired to become the possessor of a yacht, had offered to propose him
for the R.C.Y.C.  To crown it all, however, and much better than all,
the Duchess of Wiltshire had promised to show him her famous diamonds.

"By this time next week," he said to himself, "Liz’s interest should be
considerably closer.  But satisfactory as my progress has been hitherto,
it is difficult to see how I am to get possession of the stones.  From
what I have been able to discover, they are only brought from the bank
on the day the Duchess intends to wear them, and they are taken back by
His Grace the morning following.

"While she has got them on her person it would be manifestly impossible
to get them from her.  And as, when she takes them off, they are
returned to their box and placed in a safe, constructed in the wall of
the bedroom adjoining, and which for the occasion is occupied by the
butler and one of the under footmen, the only key being in the
possession of the Duke himself, it would be equally foolish to hope to
appropriate them.  In what manner, therefore, I am to become their
possessor passes my comprehension. However, one thing is certain,
obtained they must be, and the attempt mast be made on the night of the
ball if possible.  In the meantime I’ll set my wits to work upon a
plan."

Next day Simon Carne was the recipient of an invitation to the ball in
question, and two days later he called upon the Duchess of Wiltshire, at
her residence in Belgrave Square, with a plan prepared. He also took
with him the small vase he had promised her four nights before.  She
received him most graciously, and their talk fell at once into the usual
channel.  Having examined her collection, and charmed her by means of
one or two judicious criticisms, he asked permission to include
photographs of certain of her treasures in his forthcoming book, then
little by little he skillfully guided the conversation on to the subject
of jewels.

"Since we are discussing gems, Mr. Carne," she said, "perhaps it would
interest you to see my famous necklace.  By good fortune I have it in
the house now, for the reason that an alteration is being made to one of
the clasps by my jewellers."

"I should like to see it immensely," answered Carne.  "At one time and
another I have had the good fortune to examine the jewels of the leading
Indian princes, and I should like to be able to say that I have seen the
famous Wiltshire necklace."

"Then you snail certainly have the honor," she answered with a smile.
"If you will ring that bell I will send for it."

Carne rang the bell as requested, and when the butler entered he was
given the key of the safe and ordered to bring the case to the
drawing-room.

"We must not keep it very long," she observed while the man was absent.
"It is to be returned to the bank in an hour’s time."

"I am indeed fortunate," Carne replied, and turned to the description of
some curious Indian wood carving, of which he was making a special
feature in his book.  As he explained, he had collected his
illustrations from the doors of Indian temples, from the gateways of
palaces from old brass work, and even from carved chairs and boxes he
had picked up in all sorts of odd corners.  Her Grace was most
interested.

"How strange that you should have mentioned it," she said.  "If carved
boxes have any interest for you, it is possible my jewel case itself may
be of use to you.  As I think I told you during Lady Amberley’s dinner,
it came from Benares, and has carved upon it the portraits of nearly
every god in the Hindu Pantheon."

"You raise my curiosity to fever heat," said Carne.

A few moments later the servant returned, bringing with him a wooden
box, about sixteen inches long, by twelve wide, and eight deep, which he
placed upon a table beside his mistress, after which he retired.

"This is the case to which I have just been referring," said the
Duchess, placing her hand On the article in question.  "If you glance at
it you will see how exquisitely it is carved."

Concealing his eagerness with an effort, Simon Carne drew his chair up
to the table, and examined the box.

It was with justice she had described it as a work of art.  What the
wood was of which it was constructed Carne was unable to tell.  It was
dark and heavy, and, though it was not teak, it closely resembled it.
It was literally covered with quaint carving, and of its kind was an
unique work of art.

"It is most curious and beautiful," said Carne when he had finished his
examination.  "In all my experience I can safely say I have never seen
its equal.  If you will permit me I should very much like to include a
description and an illustration of it in my book."

"Of course you may do so; I shall be only too delighted," answered Her
Grace.  "If it will help you in your work I shall be glad to lend it to
you for a few hours, in order that you may have the illustration made."

This was exactly what Carne had been waiting for, and accepted the offer
with alacrity.

"Very well, then," she said.  "On the day of my ball, when it will be
brought from the bank again, I will take the necklace out and send the
case to you. I must make one proviso, however, and that is that you let
me have it back the same day."

"I will certainly promise to do that," replied Carne.

"And now let us look inside," said his hostess. Choosing a key from a
bunch carried in her pocket, she unlocked the casket, and lifted the
lid. Accustomed as Carne had all his life been to the sight of gems,
what he then saw before him almost took his breath away.  The inside of
the box, both sides and bottom, was quilted with the softest Russia
leather, and on this luxurious couch reposed the famous necklace.  The
fire of the stones when the light caught them was sufficient to dazzle
the eyes, so fierce was it As Carne could see, every gem was perfect of
its kind, and there were no fewer than three hundred of them.  The
setting was a fine example of the jeweller’s art, and last, but not
least, the value of the whole affair was fifty thousand pounds, a mere
flea-bite to the man who had given it to his wife, but a fortune to any
humbler person.

"And now that you have seen my property, what do you think of it?" asked
the Duchess as she watched her visitor’s face.

"It is very beautiful," he answered, "and I do not wonder that you are
proud of it.  Yes, the diamonds are very fine, but I think it is their
abiding-place that fascinates me more.  Have you any objection to my
measuring it?"

"Pray do so, if it’s likely to be of any assistance to you," replied Her
Grace.

Carne thereupon produced a small ivory rule, ran it over the box, and
the figures he thus obtained he jotted down in his pocket-book.

Ten minutes later, when the case had been returned to the safe, he
thanked the Duchess for her kindness and took his departure, promising
to call in person for the empty case on the morning of the ball.

Reaching home he passed into his study, and, seating himself at his
writing-table, pulled a sheet of note-paper towards him and began to
sketch, as well as he could remember it, the box he had seen. Then he
leant back in his chair and closed his eyes.

"I have cracked a good many hard nuts in my time," he said reflectively,
"but never one that seemed so difficult at first sight as this.  As far
as I see at present, the case stands as follows: the box will be brought
from the bank where it usually reposes to Wiltshire House on the morning
of the dance. I shall be allowed to have possession of it, without the
stones of course, for a period possibly extending from eleven o’clock in
the morning to four or five, at any rate not later than seven, in the
evening. After the ball the necklace will be returned to it, when it
will be locked up in the safe, over which the butler and a footman will
mount guard.

"To get into the room during the night is not only too risky, but
physically out of the question; while to rob Her Grace of her treasure
during the progress of the dance would be equally impossible.  The Duke
fetches the casket and takes it back to the bank himself, so that to all
intents and purposes I am almost as far off the solution as ever."

Half-an-hour went by and found him still seated at his desk, staring at
the drawing on the paper, then an hour.  The traffic of the streets
rolled past the house unheeded.  Finally Jowur Singh announced his
carriage, and, feeling that an idea might come to him with a change of
scene, he set off for a drive in the Park.

By this time his elegant mail phaeton, with its magnificent horses and
Indian servant on the seat behind, was as well known as Her Majesty’s
state equipage, and attracted almost as much attention. To-day, however,
the fashionable world noticed that Simon Carne looked pre-occupied.  He
was still working out his problem, but so far without much success.
Suddenly something, no one will ever be able to say what, put an idea
into his head.  The notion was no sooner born in his brain than he left
the Park and drove quickly home.  Ten minutes had scarcely elapsed
before he was back in his study again, and had ordered that Wajib Baksh
should be sent to him.

When the man he wanted put in an appearance, Carne handed him the paper
upon which he had made the drawing of the jewel case.

"Look at that," he said, "and tell me what thou seest there."

"I see a box," answered the man, who by this time was well accustomed to
his master’s ways.

"As thou say’st, it is a box," said Carne.  "The wood is heavy and
thick, though what wood it is I do not know.  The measurements are upon
the paper below.  Within, both the sides and bottom are quilted with
soft leather, as I have also shown.  Think now, Wajib Baksh, for in this
case thou wilt need to have all thy wits about thee.  Tell me, is it in
thy power, oh must cunning of all craftsmen, to insert such extra sides
within this box that they, being held by a spring, shall lie so snug as
not to be noticeable to the ordinary eye?  Can it be so arranged that,
when the box is locked, they shall fall flat upon the bottom, thus
covering and holding fast what lies beneath them, and yet making the box
appear to the eye as if it were empty.  Is it possible for thee to do
such a thing?"

Wajib Baksh did not reply for a few moments.

His instinct told him what his master wanted, and he was not disposed to
answer hastily, for he also saw that his reputation as the most cunning
craftsman in India was at stake.

"If the Heaven-born will permit me the night for thought," he said at
last, "I will come to him when he rises from his bed and tell him what I
can do, and he can then give his orders."

"Very good," said Carne.  "Then to-morrow morning I shall expect thy
report.  Let the work be good, and there will be many rupees for thee to
touch in return.  As to the lock and the way it shall act, let that be
the concern of Hiram Singh."

Wajib Baksli salaamed and withdrew, and Simon Carne for the time being
dismissed the matter from his mind.

Next morning, while he was dressing, Belton reported that the two
artificers desired an interview with him.  He ordered them to be
admitted, and forthwith they entered the room.  It was noticeable that
Wajib Baksh carried in his hand a heavy box, which he placed upon the
table.

"Have ye thought over the matter?" he asked, seeing that the men waited
for him to speak.

"We have thought of it," replied Hiram Singh, who always acted as
spokesman for the pair.  "If the Presence will deign to look, he will
see that we have made a box of the size and shape as he drew upon the
paper."

"Yes, it is certainly a good copy," said Carne condescendingly, after he
had examined it.

Wajib Baksh showed his white teeth in appreciation of the compliment,
and Hiram Singh drew closer to the table.

"And now, if the Sahib will open it, he will in his wisdom be able to
tell if it resembles the other that he has in his mind."

Carne opened the box as requested, and discovered that the interior was
an exact counterfeit of the Duchess of Wiltshire’s jewel case, even to
the extent of the quilted leather lining which had been the other’s
principal feature.  He admitted that the likeness was all that could be
desired.

"As he is satisfied," said Hiram Singh, "it may be that the Protector of
the Poor will deign to try an experiment with it.  See, here is a comb.
Let it be placed in the box, so--now he will see what he will see."

The broad, silver-backed comb, lying upon his dressing-table, was placed
on the bottom of the box. the lid was closed, and the key turned in the
lock. The case being securely fastened, Hiram Singh laid it before his
master.

"I am to open it, I suppose?" said Carne, taking the key and replacing
it in the lock.

"If my master pleases," replied the other.

Carne accordingly turned it in the lock, and, having done so, raised the
lid and looked inside.  His astonishment was complete.  To all intents
and purposes the box was empty.  The comb was not to be seen, and yet
the quilted sides and bottom were, to all appearances, just the same as
when he had first looked inside.

"This is most wonderful," he said.  And indeed it was as clever a
conjuring trick as any he had ever seen.

"Nay, it is very simple," Wajib Baksh replied. "The Heaven-born told me
that there must be no risk of detection."

He took the box in his own hands and, running his nails down the center
of the quilting, divided the false bottom into two pieces; these he
lifted out, revealing the comb lying upon the real bottom beneath.

"The sides, as my lord will see," said Hiram Singh, taking a step
forward, "are held in their appointed places by these two springs.
Thus, when the key is turned the springs relax, and the sides are driven
by others into their places on the bottom, where the seams in the
quilting mask the join.  There is but one disadvantage.  It is as
follows: When the pieces which form the bottom are lifted out in order,
that my lord may get at whatever lies concealed beneath, the springs
must of necessity stand revealed. However, to any one who knows
sufficient of the working of the box to lift out the false bottom, it
will be an easy matter to withdraw the springs and conceal them about
his person."

"As you say, that is an easy matter," said Carne, "and I shall not be
likely to forget.  Now one other question.  Presuming I am in a position
to put the real box into your hands for say eight hours, do you think
that in that time you can fit it up so that detection will be
impossible?"

"Assuredly, my lord," replied Hiram Singh, with conviction.  "There is
but the lock and the fitting of the springs to be done.  Three hours at
most would suffice for that."

"I am pleased with you," said Carne.  "As a proof of my satisfaction,
when the work is finished you will each receive five hundred rupees.
Now you can go."

According to his promise, ten o’clock on the Friday following found him
in his hansom driving towards Belgrave Square.  He was a little anxious,
though the casual observer would scarcely have been able to tell it.
The magnitude of the stake for which he was playing was enough to try
the nerve of even such a past master in his profession as Simon Carne.

Arriving at the house he discovered some workmen erecting an awning
across the footway in preparation for the ball that was to take place at
night. It was not long, however, before he found himself in the boudoir,
reminding Her Grace of her promise to permit him an opportunity of
making a drawing of the famous jewel case.  The Duchess was naturally
busy, and within a quarter of an hour he was on his way home with the
box placed on the seat of the carriage beside him.

"Now," he said as he patted it good-humoredly, "if only the notion
worked out by Hiram Singh and Wajib Baksh holds good, the famous
Wiltshire diamonds will become my property before very many hours are
passed.  By this time to-morrow, I suppose, London will be all agog
concerning the burglary."

On reaching his house he left his carriage, and himself carried the box
into his study.  Once there he rang his bell and ordered Hiram Singh and
Wajib Baksh to be sent to him.  When they arrived he showed them the box
upon which they were to exercise their ingenuity.

"Bring your tools in here," he said, "and do the work under my own eyes.
You have but nine hours before you, so you must make the most of them."

The men went for their implements, and as soon as they were ready set to
work.  All through the day they were kept hard at it, with the result
that by five o’clock the alterations had been effected and the case
stood ready.  By the time Carne returned from his afternoon drive in the
Park it was quite prepared for the part it was to play in his scheme.
Having praised the men, he turned them out and locked the door, then
went across the room and unlocked a drawer in his writing-table.  From
it he took a flat leather jewel case, which he opened.  It contained a
necklace of counterfeit diamonds, if anything a little larger than the
one he intended to try to obtain.  He had purchased it that morning in
the Burlington Arcade for the purpose of testing the apparatus his
servants had made, and this he now proceeded to do.

Laying it carefully upon the bottom he closed the lid and turned the
key.  When he opened it again the necklace was gone, and even though he
knew the secret he could not for the life of him see where the false
bottom began and ended.  After that he reset the trap and tossed the
necklace carelessly in.  To his delight it acted as well as on the
previous occasion.  He could scarcely contain his satisfaction.  His
conscience, was sufficiently elastic to give him no trouble.  To him it
was scarcely a robbery he was planning, but an artistic trial of skill,
in which he pitted his wits and cunning against the forces of society in
general.

At half-past seven he dined, and afterwards smoked a meditative cigar
over the evening paper in the billiard-room.  The invitations to the
ball were for ten o’clock, and at nine-thirty he went to his
dressing-room.

"Make me tidy as quickly as you can," he said to Belton when the latter
appeared, "and while you are doing so listen to my final instructions."

"To-night, as you know, I am endeavoring to secure the Duchess of
Wiltshire’s necklace. To-morrow all London will resound with the hubbub,
and I have been making my plans in such a way as to arrange that Klimo
shall be the first person consulted.  When the messenger calls, if call
he does, see that the old woman next door bids him tell the Duke to come
personally at twelve o’clock.  Do you understand?"

"Perfectly, sir."

"Very good.  Now give me the jewel case, and let me be off.  You need
not sit up for me."

Precisely as the clocks in the neighborhood were striking ten Simon
Carne reached Belgrave Square, and, as he hoped, found himself the first
guest.

His hostess and her husband received him in the ante-room of the
drawing-room.

"I come laden with a thousand apologies," he said as he took Her Grace’s
hand, and bent over it with that ceremonious politeness which was one of
the man’s chief characteristics.  "I am most unconscionably early, I
know, but I hastened here in order that I might personally return the
jewel ease you so kindly lent me.  I must trust to your generosity to
forgive me.  The drawings took longer than I expected."

"Please do not apologize," answered Her Grace. "It is very kind of you
to have brought the case yourself.  I hope the illustrations have proved
successful.  I shall look forward to seeing them as soon as they are
ready.  But I am keeping you holding the box.  One of my servants will
take it to my room."

She called a footman to her, and bade him take the box and place it upon
her dressing-table.

"Before it goes I must let you see that I have not damaged it either
externally or internally," said Carne with a laugh.  "It is such a
valuable case that I should never forgive myself if it had even received
a scratch during the time it has been in my possession."

So saying he lifted the lid and allowed her to look inside.  To all
appearances it was exactly the same as when she had lent it to him
earlier in the day.

"You have been most careful," she said.  And then, with an air of
banter, she continued: "If you desire it, I shall be pleased to give you
a certificate to that effect."

They jested in this fashion for a few moments after the servant’s
departure, during which time Carne promised to call upon her the
following morning at eleven o’clock, and to bring with him the
illustrations he had made and a queer little piece of china he had had
the good fortune to pick up in a dealer’s shop the previous afternoon.
By this time fashionable London was making its way up the grand
staircase, and with its appearance further conversation became
impossible.

Shortly after midnight Carne bade his hostess good-night and slipped
away.  He was perfectly satisfied with his evening’s entertainment, and
if the key of the jewel case were not turned before the jewels were
placed in it, he was convinced they would become his property.  It
speaks well for his strength of nerve when I record the fact that on
going to bed his slumbers were as peaceful and untroubled as those of a
little child.

Breakfast was scarcely over next morning before a hansom drew up at his
front door and Lord Amberley alighted.  He was ushered into Carne’s
presence forthwith, and on seeing that the latter was surprised at his
early visit, hastened to explain.

"My dear fellow," he said, as he took possession of the chair the other
offered him, "I have come round to see you on most important business.
As I told you last night at the dance, when you so kindly asked me to
come and see the steam yacht you have purchased, I had an appointment
with Wiltshire at half-past nine this morning.  On reaching Belgrave
Square, I found the whole house in confusion.  Servants were running
hither and thither with scared faces, the butler was on the borders of
lunacy, the Duchess was well-nigh hysterical in her boudoir, while her
husband was in his study vowing vengeance against all the world."

"You alarm me," said Carne, lighting a cigarette with a hand that was as
steady as a rock.  "What on earth has happened?"

"I think I might safely allow you fifty guesses and then wager a hundred
pounds you’d not hit the mark; and yet in a certain measure it concerns
you."

"Concerns me?  Good gracious!  What have I done to bring all this
about?"

"Pray do not look so alarmed," said Amberley, "Personally you have done
nothing.  Indeed, on second thoughts, I don’t know that I am right in
saying that it concerns you at all.  The fact of the matter is, Carne, a
burglary took place at Wiltshire House, _and the famous necklace has
disappeared_."

"Good heavens!  You don’t say so?"

"But I do.  The circumstances of the case are as follows: When my cousin
retired to her room lost night after the ball, she unclasped the
necklace, and, in her husband’s presence, placed it carefully in her
jewel case, which she locked.  That having been done, Wiltshire took the
box to the room which contained the safe, and himself placed it there,
locking the iron door with his own key.  The room was occupied that
night, according to custom, by the butler and one of the footmen, both
of whom have been in the family since they were boys.

"Next morning, after breakfast, the Duke unlocked the safe and took out
the box, intending to convey it to the bank as usual.  Before leaving,
however, he placed it on his study-table and went upstairs to speak to
his wife.  He cannot remember exactly how long he was absent, but he
feels convinced that he was not gone more than a quarter of an hour at
the very utmost.

"Their conversation finished, she accompanied him down-stairs, where she
saw him take up the case to carry it to his carriage.  Before he left
the house, however, she said: ’I suppose you have looked to see that the
necklace is all right?’  ’How could I do so?’ was his reply.  ’You know
you possess the only key that will fit it!’

"She felt in her pockets, but to her surprise the key was not there."

"If I were a detective I should say that that is a point to be
remembered," said Carne with a smile. "Pray, where did she find her
keys?"

"Upon her dressing-table," said Amberley. "Though she has not the
slightest recollection of leaving them there."

"Well, when she had procured the keys, what happened?"

"Why, they opened the box, and, to their astonishment and dismay, _found
it empty_.  _The jewels were gone!_"

"Good gracious!  What a terrible loss!  It seems almost impossible that
it can be true.  And pray, what did they do?"

"At first they stood staring into the empty box, hardly believing the
evidence of their own eyes. Stare how they would, however, they could
not bring them back.  The jewels had, without doubt, disappeared, but
when and where the robbery had taken place it was impossible to say.
After that they had up all the servants and questioned them, but the
result was what they might have foreseen, no one from the butler to the
kitchen-maid could throw any light upon the subject.  To this minute it
remains as great a mystery as when they first discovered it."

"I am more concerned than I can tell you," said Carne.  "How thankful I
ought to be that I returned the case to Her Grace last night.  But in
thinking of myself I am forgetting to ask what has brought you to me.
If I can be of any assistance I hope you will command me."

"Well, I’ll tell you why I have come," replied Lord Amberley.
"Naturally, they are most anxious to have the mystery solved and the
jewels recovered as soon as possible.  Wiltshire wanted to send to
Scotland Yard there and then, but his wife and I eventually persuaded
him to consult Klimo.  As you know if the police authorities are called
in first, he refuses the business altogether.  Now, we thought, as you
are his next-door neighbor, you might possibly be able to assist us."

"You may be very sure, my lord, I will do everything that lies in my
power.  Let us go and see him at once."

As he spoke he rose and threw what remained of his cigarette into the
fireplace.  His visitor having imitated his example, they procured their
hats and walked round from Park Lane into Belverton Street to bring up
at No. 1.  After they had rung the bell and the door was opened to them
by the old woman who invariably received the detective’s clients.

"Is Mr. Klimo at home?" asked Carne.  "And if so, can we see him?"

The old lady was a little deaf, and the question had to be repeated
before she could be made to understand what was wanted.  As soon,
however, as she realized their desire, she informed them that her master
was absent from town, but would be back as usual at twelve o’clock to
meet his clients.

"What on earth’s to be done?" said the Earl, looking at his companion in
dismay.  "I am afraid I can’t come back again, as I have a most
important appointment at that hour."

"Do you think you could entrust the business to me?" asked Carne.  "If
so, I will make a point of seeing him at twelve o’clock, and could call
at Wiltshire House afterwards and tell the Duke what I have done."

"That’s very good of you," replied Amberley.  "If you are sure it would
not put you to too much trouble, that would be quite the best thing to
be done."

"I will do it with pleasure," Carne replied.  "I feel it my duty to help
in whatever way I can."

"You are very kind," said the other.  "Then, as I understand it, you are
to call up Klimo at twelve o’clock, and afterwards let my cousins know
what you have succeeded in doing.  I only hope he will help us to secure
the thief.  We are having too many of these burglaries just now.  I must
catch this hansom and be off.  Good-bye, and many thanks."

"Good-bye," said Carne, and shook him by the hand.

The hansom having rolled away, Carne retraced his steps to his own
abode.

"It is really very strange," he muttered as he walked along, "how often
chance condescends to lend her assistance to my little schemes.  The
mere fact that His Grace left the box unwatched in his study for a
quarter of an hour may serve to throw the police off on quite another
scent.  I am also glad that they decided to open the case in the house,
for if it had gone to the bankers’ and had been placed in the strongroom
unexamined, I should never have been able to get possession of the
jewels at all."

Three hours later he drove to Wiltshire House and saw the Duke.  The
Duchess was far too much upset by the catastrophe to see any one.

"This is really most kind of you, Mr. Carne," said His Grace when the
other had supplied an elaborate account of his interview with Klimo.
"We are extremely indebted to you.  I am sorry he cannot come before ten
o’clock to-night, and that he makes this stipulation of my seeing him
alone, for I must confess I should like to have had some one else
present to ask any questions that might escape me.  But if that’s his
usual hour and custom, well, we must abide by it, that’s all.  I hope he
will do some good, for this is the greatest calamity that has ever
befallen me.  As I told you just now, it has made my wife quite ill.
She is confined to her bedroom and quite hysterical."

"You do not suspect any one, I suppose?" inquired Carne.

"Not a soul," the other answered.  "The thing is such a mystery that we
do not know what to think. I feel convinced, however, that my servants
are as innocent as I am.  Nothing will ever make me think them
otherwise.  I wish I could catch the fellow, that’s all.  I’d make him
suffer for the trick he’s played me."

Carne offered an appropriate reply, and after a little further
conversation upon the subject, bade the irate nobleman good-bye and left
the house.  From Belgrave Square he drove to one of the clubs of which
he had been elected a member, in search of Lord Orpington, with whom he
had promised to lunch, and afterwards took him to a ship-builder’s yard
near Greenwich, in order to show him the steam yacht he had lately
purchased.

It was close upon dinner-time before he returned to his own residence.
He brought Lord Orpington with him, and they dined in state together.
At nine o’clock the latter bade him good-bye, and at ten Carne retired
to his dressing-room and rang for Belton.

"What have you to report," he asked, "with regard to what I bade you do
in Belgrave Square?"

"I followed your instructions to the letter," Belton replied.
"Yesterday morning I wrote to Messrs. Horniblow and Jinison, the house
agents in Piccadilly, in the name of Colonel Braithwaite, and asked for
an order to view the residence to the right of Wiltshire House.  I asked
that the order might be sent direct to the house, where the Colonel
would get it upon his arrival.  This letter I posted myself in
Basingstoke, as you desired me to do.

"At nine o’clock yesterday morning I dressed myself as much like an
elderly army officer as possible, and took a cab to Belgrave Square.
The caretaker, an old fellow of close upon seventy years of age,
admitted me immediately upon hearing my name, and proposed that he
should show me over the house. This, however, I told him was quite
unnecessary, backing my speech with a present of half-a-crown, whereupon
he returned to his breakfast perfectly satisfied, while I wandered about
the house at my own leisure.

"Reaching the same floor as that upon which is situated the room in
which the Duke’s safe is kept, I discovered that your supposition was
quite correct, and that it would be possible for a man, by opening the
window, to make his way along the coping from one house to the other,
without being seen.  I made certain that there was no one in the bedroom
in which the butler slept, and then arranged the long telescope
walking-stick you gave me, and fixed one of my boots to it by means of
the screw in the end.  With this I was able to make a regular succession
of footsteps in the dust along the ledge, between one window and the
other.

"That done, I went down-stairs again, bade the caretaker good-morning,
and got into my cab.  From Belgrave Square I drove to the shop of the
pawn-broker whom you told me you had discovered was out of town.  His
assistant inquired my business, and was anxious to do what he could for
me.  I told him, however, that I must see his master personally, as it
was about the sale of some diamonds I had had left me. I pretended to be
annoyed that he was not at home, and muttered to myself, so that the man
could hear, something about its meaning a journey to Amsterdam.

"Then I limped out of the shop, paid off my cab, and, walking down a
by-street, removed my moustache, and altered my appearance by taking off
my great-coat and muffler.  A few streets further on I purchased a
bowler hat in place of the old-fashioned topper I had hitherto been
wearing, and then took a cab from Piccadilly and came home."

"You have fulfilled my instructions admirably," said Carne.  "And if the
business comes off, as I expect it will, you shall receive your usual
percentage. Now I must be turned into Klimo and be off to Belgrave
Square to put His Grace of Wiltshire upon the track of this burglar."

Before he retired to rest that night Simon Carne took something, wrapped
in a red silk handkerchief, from the capacious pocket of the coat Klimo
had been wearing a few moments before.  Having unrolled the covering, he
held up to the light the magnificent necklace which for so many years
had been the joy and pride of the ducal house of Wiltshire.  The
electric light played upon it, and touched it with a thousand different
hues.

"Where so many have failed," he said to himself, as he wrapped it in the
handkerchief again and locked it in his safe, "it is pleasant to be able
to congratulate oneself on having succeeded.  It is without its equal,
and I don’t think I shall be overstepping the mark if I say that I think
when she receives it Liz will be glad she lent me the money."

Next morning all London was astonished by the news that the famous
Wiltshire diamonds had been stolen, and a few hours later Carne learnt
from an evening paper that the detectives who had taken up the case,
upon the supposed retirement from it of Klimo, were still completely at
fault.

That evening he was to entertain several friends to dinner.  They
included Lord Amberley, Lord Orpington, and a prominent member of the
Privy Council, Lord Amberley arrived late, but filled to overflowing
with importance.  His friends noticed his state, and questioned him.

"Well, gentlemen," he answered, as he took up a commanding position upon
the drawing-room hearth-rug, "I am in a position to inform you that
Klimo has reported upon the case, and the upshot of it is that the
Wiltshire Diamond Mystery is a mystery no longer."

"What do you mean?" asked the others in a chorus.

"I mean that he sent in his report to Wiltshire this afternoon, as
arranged.  From what he said the other night, after being alone in the
room with the empty jewel case and a magnifying glass for two minutes or
so, he was in a position to describe the modus operandi, and, what is
more, to put the police on the scent of the burglar."

"And how was it worked?" asked Carne.

"From the empty house next door," replied the other.  "On the morning of
the burglary a man, purporting to be a retired army officer, called with
an order to view, got the caretaker out of the way, clambered along to
Wiltshire house by means of the parapet outside, reached the room during
the time the servants were at breakfast, opened the safe, and abstracted
the jewels."

"But how did Klimo find all this out?" asked Lord Orpington.

"By his own inimitable cleverness," replied Lord Amberley.  "At any rate
it has been proved that he was correct.  The man did make his way from
next door, and the police have since discovered that an individual,
answering to the description given, visited a pawnbroker’s shop in the
city about an hour later, and stated that he had diamonds to sell."

"If that is so it turns out to be a very simple mystery after all," said
Lord Orpington as they began their meal.

"Thanks to the ingenuity of the cleverest detective in the world,"
remarked Amberley.

"In that case here’s a good health to Klimo," said the Privy Councillor,
raising his glass.

"I will join you in that," said Simon Carne. "Here’s a very good health
to Klimo and his connection with the Duchess of Wiltshire’s diamonds.
May he always be equally successful!"

"Hear, hear to that," replied his guests.



                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                    *HOW SIMON CARNE WON THE DERBY.*


It was seven o’clock on one of the brightest mornings of all that year.
The scene was Waterloo Station, where the Earl of Amberley, Lord
Orpington, and the Marquis of Laverstock were pacing up and down the
main line departure platform, gazing anxiously about them.  It was
evident, from the way they scrutinized every person who approached them,
that they were on the lookout for some one.  This some one ultimately
proved to be Simon Carne, who, when he appeared, greeted them with
considerable cordiality, at the same time apologizing for his lateness
in joining them.

"I think this must be our train," he said, pointing to the carriages
drawn up beside the platform on which they stood.  "At any rate, here is
my man. By dint of study he has turned himself into a sort of walking
Bradshaw, and he will certainly be able to inform us."

The inimitable Belton deferentially insinuated that his master was right
in his conjecture, and then led the way towards a Pullman car, which had
been attached to the train for the convenience of Carne and his guests.
They took their seats, and a few moments later the train moved slowly
out of the station.  Carne was in the best of spirits, and the fact that
he was taking his friends down to the stables of his trainer, William
Bent, in order that they might witness a trial of his candidate for the
Derby, seemed to give him the greatest possible pleasure.

On reaching Merford, the little wayside station nearest the village in
which the training stables were situated, they discovered a comfortable
four-wheeled conveyance drawn up to receive them.  The driver touched
his hat, and stated that his master was awaiting them on the Downs; this
proved to be the case, for when they left the high-road and turned on to
the soft turf they saw before them a string of thoroughbreds, and the
trainer himself mounted upon his well-known white pony, Columbine.

"Good-morning, Bent," said Carne, as the latter rode up and lifted his
hat to himself and friends. "You see we have kept our promise, and are
here to witness the trial you said you had arranged for us."

"I am glad to see you, sir," Bent replied.  "And I only hope that what I
am about to show you will prove of service to you.  The horse is as fit
as mortal hands can make him, and if he don’t do his best for you next
week there will be one person surprised in England, and that one will be
myself.  As you know, sir, the only horse I dread is Vulcanite, and the
fact cannot be denied that he’s a real clinker."

"Well," said Carne, "when we have seen our animal gallop we shall know
better how much trust we are to place in him.  For my own part I’m not
afraid.  Vulcanite, as you say, is a good horse, but, if I’m not
mistaken, Knight of Malta is a better.  Surely this is he coming toward
us."

"That’s him," said the trainer, with a fine disregard for grammar.
"There’s no mistaking him, is there? And now, if you’d care to stroll
across we’ll see them saddle."

The party accordingly descended from the carriage, and walked across the
turf to the spot where the four thoroughbreds were being divested of
their sheets. They made a pretty group; but even the most inexperienced
critic could scarcely have failed to pick out Knight of Malta as the
best among them.  He was a tall, shapely bay, with black points, a
trifle light of flesh perhaps, but with clean, flat legs, and low,
greyhound-like thighs sure evidence of the enormous propelling power he
was known to possess.  His head was perfection itself, though a wee bit
too lop-eared if anything.  Taken altogether he looked, what he was,
thoroughbred every inch of him.  The others of the party were Gasometer,
Hydrogen, and Young Romeo, the last-named being the particular trial
horse of the party.  It was a favorite boast of the trainer that the
last-named was so reliable in his habits, his condition, and his pace,
that you would not be far wrong to set your watch by him.

"By the way, Bent," said Carne, as the boys were lifted into their
saddles, "what weights are the horses carrying?"

"Well, sir, Young Romeo carries 8 st. 9 lb.; Gasometer, 7 st. 8 lb.;
Hydrogen, 7 st. 1 lb.; and the Knight, 9 st. 11 lb.  The distance will
be the Epsom course, one mile and half, and the best horse to win.  Now,
sir, if you’re ready we’ll get to work."

He turned to the lad who was to ride Hydrogen.

"Once you are off you will make the running, and bring them along at
your best pace to the dip, where Gasometer will, if possible, take it
up.  After that I leave it to you other boys to make the best race of it
you can.  You, Blunt," calling up his head lad, "go down with them to
the post, and get them off to as good a start as possible."

The horses departed, and Simon Carne and his friends accompanied the
trainer to a spot where they would see the finish to the best advantage.
Five minutes later an ejaculation from Lord Orpington told them that the
horses had started.  Each man accordingly clapped his glasses to his
eyes, and watched the race before them.  Faithful to his instructions,
the lad on Hydrogen came straight to the front, and led them a cracker
until they descended into the slight dip which marked the end of the
first half-mile.

Then he retired to the rear, hopelessly done for, and Gasometer took up
the running, with Knight of Malta close alongside him, and Young Romeo
only half a length away.  As they passed the mile post Young Romeo shot
to the front, but it soon became evident he had not come to stay.  Good
horse as he was, there was a better catching him hand over fist.  The
pace was all that could be desired, and when Knight of Malta swept past
the group, winner of the trial by more than his own length, the
congratulations Simon Carne received were as cordial as he could
possibly desire.

"What did I tell you, sir?" said Bent, with a smile of satisfaction upon
his face.  "You see what a good horse he is.  There’s no mistake about
that."

"Well, let us hope he will do as well a week hence," Carne replied
simply, as he replaced his glasses in their case.

"Amen to that," remarked Lord Orpington.

"And now, gentlemen," said the trainer, "if you will allow me, I will
drive you over to my place to breakfast."

They took their places in the carriage once more, and Bent having taken
the reins, in a few moments they were bowling along the high-road
towards a neat modern residence standing on a slight eminence on the
edge of the Downs.  This was the trainer’s own place of abode, the
stables containing his many precious charges lying a hundred yards or so
to the rear.

They were received on the threshold by the trainer’s wife, who welcomed
them most heartily to Merford. The keen air of the Downs had sharpened
their appetites, and when they sat down to table they found they were
able to do full justice to the excellent fare provided for them.  The
meal at an end, they inspected the stables, once more carefully
examining the Derby candidate, who seemed none the worse for his
morning’s exertion, and then Carne left his guests in the big yard to
the enjoyment of their cigars, while he accompanied his trainer into the
house for a few moments’ chat.

"And now sit down, sir," said Bent, when they reached his own sanctum, a
cosy apartment, half sitting-room and half office, bearing upon its
walls innumerable mementoes of circumstances connected with the owner’s
lengthy turf experiences.  "I hope you are satisfied, with what you saw
this morning?"

"Perfectly satisfied," said Carne, "but I should like to hear exactly
what you think about the race itself."

"Well, sir, as you may imagine I have been thinking a good deal about it
lately, and this the conclusion I have come to.  If this were an
ordinary year, I should say that we possess out and away the best horse
in the race; but we must remember that this is not by any means an
ordinary year--there’s Vulcanite, who they tell me is in the very pink
of condition, and who has beaten our horse each time they have met;
there’s the Mandarin, who won the Two Thousand this week, and who will
be certain to come into greater favor as the time shortens, and The
Filibuster who won the Biennial Stakes at the Craven Meeting, a nice
enough horse, though I must say I don’t fancy him over-much myself."

"I take it, then, that the only horse you really fear is Vulcanite?"

"That’s so, sir.  If he were not in the list, I should feel as certain
of seeing you leading your horse back a winner as any man could well
be."

On looking at his watch Carne discovered that it was time for him to
rejoin his friends and be off to the railway station if they desired to
catch the train which they had arranged should convey them back to town.
So bidding the trainer and his wife goodbye, they took their places in
the carriage once more, and were driven away.

Arriving at Waterloo, they drove to Lord Orpington’s club.

"Do you know you’re a very lucky fellow, Carne?" said the Earl of
Amberley as they stood on the steps of that institution afterwards,
before separating in pursuit of the pleasures of the afternoon.  "You
have health, wealth, fame, good looks, one of the finest houses in
London, and now one of the prospective winners of the Derby.  In fact,
you only want one thing to make your existence perfect."

"And what is that?" asked Carne.

"A wife," replied Lord Amberley.  "I wonder the girls have let you
escape so long."

"I am not a marrying man," said Carne; "how could a fellow like myself,
who is here to-day and gone to-morrow, expect any woman to link her lot
with his?  Do you remember our first meeting?"

"Perfectly," replied Lord Amberley.  "When I close my eyes I can see
that beautiful marble palace, set in its frame of blue water as plainly
as if it were but yesterday I breakfasted with you there."

"That was a very fortunate morning for me," said the other.  "And now
here is my cab.  I must be off. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," cried his friends, as he went down the steps and entered the
vehicle.  "Don’t forget to let us know if anything further turns up."

"I will be sure to do so," said Simon Carne, and then, as he laid
himself back on the soft cushions and was driven by way of Waterloo
Place to Piccadilly, he added to himself, "Yes if I can bring off the
little scheme I have in my mind, and one or two others which I am
preparing, and can manage to get out of England without any one
suspecting that I am the burglar who has outwitted all London, I shall
have good cause to say that was a very fortunate day for me when I first
met his lordship."

That evening he dined alone.  He seemed pre-occupied, and it was evident
that he was disappointed about something.  Several times on hearing
noises in the street outside he questioned his servants as to the cause.
At last, however, when Ram Gafur entered the room carrying a telegram
upon a salver, his feelings found vent in a sigh of satisfaction.  With
eager fingers he broke open the envelope, withdrew the contents, and
read the message it contained:

"Seven Stars Music Hall--Whitechapel Road.  Ten o’clock."

There was no signature, but that fact did not seem to trouble him very
much.  He placed it in his pocketbook, and afterwards continued his meal
in better spirits.  When the servants had left the room he poured
himself out a glass of port, and taking a pencil proceeded to make
certain calculations upon the back of an envelope.  For nearly ten
minutes he occupied himself in this way, then he tore the paper into
tiny pieces, replaced his pencil in his pocket, and sipped his wine with
a satisfaction that was the outcome of perfected arrangements.

"The public excitement," he said to himself, not without a small touch
of pride, "has as yet scarcely cooled down from the robbery of the
famous Wiltshire jewels.  Lord Orpington has not as yet discovered the
whereabouts of the gold and silver plate which disappeared from his
house so mysteriously a week or two ago, while several other people have
done their best to catch a gang of burglars who would seem to have set
all London at defiance.  But if I bring off this new coup, they’ll
forget all their grievances in consideration of the latest and greatest
scandal.  There’ll be scarcely a man in England who won’t have something
to say upon the subject.  By the way, let me see how he stands in the
betting to-night."

He took a paper from the table in the window, and glanced down the
sporting column.  Vulcanite was evidently the public’s choice, Knight of
Malta being the only second favorite, with The Mandarin a strong third.

"What a hubbub there will be when it becomes known," said Carne, as he
placed the paper on the table again.  "I shall have to take especial
care, or some of the storm may blow back on me.  I fancy I can hear the
newsboys shouting: ’Latest news of the turf scandal.  The Derby favorite
stolen.  Vulcanite missing.  An attempt made to get at Knight of Malta.’
Why, it will be twenty years before old England will forget the
sensation I am about to give her."

With a grim chuckle at the idea, he went upstairs to his dressing-room
and locked the door.  It must have been well after nine o’clock when he
emerged again, and clad in a long ulster, left the house in his private
hansom.  Passing down Park Lane he drove along Piccadilly, then by way
of the Haymarket, Strand, Ludgate Hill, and Fenchurch Street to the
Whitechapel Road.  Reaching the corner of Leman Street he signalled to
his man to stop, and jumped out.

His appearance was now entirely changed.  Instead of the deformed,
scholar-like figure he usually presented, he now resembled a
commonplace, farmerish individual, with iron-grey hair, a somewhat
crafty face, ornamented with bushy eyebrows and a quantity of fluffy
whiskers.  How he had managed it as he drove along goodness only knows,
but that he had effected the change was certain.

Having watched his cab drive away, he strolled along the street until he
arrived at a building, the flaring lights of which proclaimed it the
Seven Stars Music Hall.  He paid his money at the box office, and then
walked inside to find a fair-sized building, upon the floor of which
were placed possibly a hundred small tables.  On the stage at the
further end a young lady, boasting of a minimum of clothing and a
maximum of self-assurance was explaining, to the dashing accompaniment
of the orchestra, the adventures she had experienced "When Billy and me
was courting."

Acting up to his appearance, Carne called for a "two of Scotch cold,"
and, having lit a meerschaum pipe which he took from his waistcoat
pocket, prepared to make himself at home.  As ten o’clock struck he
turned his chair a little, in order that he might have a better view of
the door, and waited.

Five minutes must have elapsed before his patience was rewarded.  Then
two men came in together, and immediately he saw them he turned his face
in an opposite direction, and seemed to be taking an absorbing interest
in what was happening upon the stage.

One of the men who had entered, and whom he had seemed to recognize--a
cadaverous-looking individual in a suit of clothes a size too small for
him, a velvet waistcoat at least three sizes too large, a check tie, in
which was stuck an enormous horseshoe pin composed of palpably imitation
diamonds, boasting no shirt as far as could be seen, and wearing upon
his head a top hat of a shape that had been fashionable in the early
sixties--stopped, and placed his hand upon his shoulder.

"Mr. Blenkins, or I’m a d’isy," he said.  "Well, who’d ha’ thought of
seeing you here of all places? Why, it was only this afternoon as me and
my friend, Mr. Brown here, was a-speaking of you.  To think as how you
should ha’ come up to London just this very time, and be at the Seven
Stars Music Hall, of all other places!  It’s like what the noospapers
call a go-insidence, drat me if it ain’t.  ’Ow are yer, old pal?"

He extended his hand, which Mr. Blenkins took, and shook with
considerable cordiality.  After that, Mr. Brown, who from outward
appearances was by far the most respectable of the trio, was introduced
in the capacity of a gentleman from America, a citizenship that became
more apparent when he opened his mouth to speak.

"And what was ’ee speaking of I about?" asked Mr. Blenkins, when the
trio were comfortably seated at table.

This the diffident Mr. Jones, for by that common-place appellative the
seedy gentleman with the magnificent diamonds chose to be called;
declined to state. It would appear that he was willing to discuss the
news of the day, the price of forage, the prospects of war, the
programme proceeding upon the stage, in fact, anything rather than
declare the subject of his conversation with Mr. Brown that afternoon.

It was not until Mr. Brown happened to ask Mr. Blenkins what horse he
fancied for the Derby that Mr. Jones in any degree recovered his
self-possession. Then an animated discussion on the forthcoming race was
entered upon.  How long it would have lasted had not Mr. Jones presently
declared that the music of the orchestra was too much for him I cannot
say.

Thereupon Mr. Brown suggested that they should leave the Hall and
proceed to a place of which he knew in a neighboring street.  This they
accordingly did, and when they were safely installed in a small room off
the bar, Mr. Jones, having made certain that there was no one near
enough to overhear, unlocked his powers of conversation with whisky and
water, and proceeded to speak his mind.

For upwards of an hour they remained closeted in the room together,
conversing in an undertone.  Then the meeting broke up, Mr. Blenkins
bidding his friends "good-night" before they left the house.

From the outward appearances of the party, if in these days of seedy
millionaires and over-dressed bankrupts one may venture to judge by
them, he would have been a speculative individual who would have given a
five-pound note for the worldly wealth of the trio.  Yet, had you taken
so much trouble you might have followed Mr. Blenkins and have seen him
picked up by a smart private hansom at the corner of Leman Street.  You
might then have gone back to the Hen and Feathers, and have followed Mr.
Brown as far as Osborn Street, and have seen him enter a neat brougham,
which was evidently his own private property. Another hansom, also a
private one, met Mr. Jones in the same thoroughfare, and an hour later
two of the number were in Park Lane, while the third was discussing a
bottle of Heidseck in a gorgeous private sitting-room on the second
floor of the Langham Hotel.

As he entered his dressing-room on his return to Porchester House, Simon
Carne glanced at his watch. It was exactly twelve o’clock.

"I hope Belton will not be long," he said to himself. "Give him a
quarter of an hour to rid himself of the other fellow, and say
half-an-hour to get home. In that case he should be here within the next
few minutes."

The thought had scarcely passed through his brain before there was a
deferential knock at the door, and the next moment Belton, clad in a
long great-coat, entered the room.

"You’re back sooner than I expected," said Carne. "You could not have
stayed very long with our friend?"

"I left him soon after you did, sir," said Belton. "He was in a hurry to
get home, and as there was nothing more to settle I did not attempt to
prevent him.  I trust you are satisfied, sir, with the result of our
adventure."

"Perfectly satisfied," said Carne.  "To-morrow I’ll make sure that he’s
good for the money, and then we’ll get to work.  In the meantime you had
better see about a van and the furniture of which I spoke to you, and
also engage a man upon whom you can rely."

"But what about Merford, sir, and the attempt upon Knight of Malta?"

"I’ll see about that on Monday.  I have promised Bent to spend the night
there."

"You’ll excuse my saying so, sir, I hope," said Belton, as he poured out
his master’s hot water and laid his dressing-gown upon the back of a
chair, ready for him to put on, "but it’s a terrible risky business.  If
we don’t bring it off, there’ll be such a noise in England as has never
been heard before.  You might murder the Prime Minister, I believe, and
it wouldn’t count for so much with the people generally as an attempt to
steal the Derby favorite."

"But we shall not fail," said Carne, confidently. "By this time you
ought to know me better than to suppose that.  No, no, never fear,
Belton; I’ve got all my plans cut and dried, and even if we fail to get
possession of Vulcanite, the odds are a thousand to one against our
being suspected of any complicity in the matter.  Now you can go to bed.
Good-night."

"Good-night, sir," said Belton respectfully, and left the room.

It was one of Simon Carne’s peculiarities always to fulfill his
engagements in spite of any inconvenience they might cause himself.
Accordingly the four o’clock train from Waterloo, on the Monday
following the meeting at the Music Hall just narrated, carried him to
Merford in pursuance of the promise he had given his trainer.

Reaching the little wayside station on the edge of the Downs, he
alighted, to find himself welcomed by his trainer, who lifted his hat
respectfully, and wished him good-afternoon.

During the drive, Carne spoke of the impending race, and among other
things of a letter he had that morning received, warning him of an
attempt that would probably be made to obtain possession of his good
horse.  The trainer laughed good-humoredly.

"Bless you, sir," he said, "that’s nothing.  You should just see some of
the letters I’ve got pasted into my scrap-book.  Most of ’em comes a
week or fortnight before a big race.  Some of ’em warns me that if I
don’t prevent the horse from starting, I’m as good as a dead man; others
ask me what price I will take to let him finish outside the first three;
while more still tell me that if I don’t put ’im out of the way
altogether, I’ll find my house and my wife and family flying up to the
clouds under a full charge of dynamite within three days of the race
being run. Don’t you pay any attention to the letters you receive. I’ll
look after the horse, and you may be very sure I’ll take good care that
nothing happens to him."

"I know that, of course," said Carne, "but I thought I’d tell you.  You
see, I’m only a novice at racing, and perhaps I place more importance
just now upon a threat of that kind than I shall do a couple of years
hence."

"Of course," replied the trainer.  "I understand exactly how you feel,
sir.  It’s quite natural.  And now here we are, with the missis standing
on the steps to help me give you a hearty welcome."

They drove up to the door, and when Carne had alighted he was received
by the trainer’s wife as her lord and master had predicted.  His
bedroom, he discovered, on being conducted to it to prepare for dinner,
was at the back of the house, overlooking the stableyard, and possessed
a lovely view, extending across the gardens and village towards where
the Downs ended and the woods of Herberford began.

"A pretty room," he said to Belton, as the latter laid out his things
upon the bed, "and very convenient for our purpose.  Have you discovered
where you are located?"

"Next door, sir."

"I am glad of that; and what room is beneath us?"

"The kitchen and pantry, sir.  With the exception of one at the top of
the house, there are no other bedrooms on this side."

"That is excellent news.  Now get me ready as soon as you can."

During dinner that evening Simon Carne made himself as pleasant as
possible to his host and hostess. So affable, indeed, was he that when
they retired to rest they confessed to each other that they had never
entertained a more charming guest.  It was arranged that he should be
called at five o’clock on the morning following, in order that he might
accompany the trainer to the Downs to see his horse at his exercise.

It was close upon eleven o’clock when he dismissed his valet and threw
himself upon his bed with a novel. For upwards of two hours he amused
himself with his book; then he rose and dressed himself in the rough
suit which his man had put out for him.  Having done so, he took a
strong rope ladder from his bag, blew out his light, and opened his
window.  To attach the hooks at the end of the ropes to the inside of
the window-sill, and to throw the rest outside was the work of a moment.
Then, having ascertained that his door was securely locked, he crawled
out and descended to the ground.  Once there, he waited until he saw
Belton’s light disappear, and heard his window softly open.  Next moment
a small black bag was lowered, and following it by means of another
ladder, came the servant himself.

"There is no time to be lost," said Carne, as soon as they were
together.  "You must set to work on the big gates while I do the other
business.  The men are all asleep; nevertheless, be careful that you
make no noise."

Having given his instructions, he left his servant and made his way
across the yard towards the box where Knight of Malta was confined.
When he reached it he unfastened the bag he had brought with him, and
took from it a brace and a peculiar-shaped bit, resembling a pair of
compasses.  Uniting these, he oiled the points and applied them to the
door, a little above the lock.  What he desired to do did not occupy him
for more than a minute.

Then he went quietly along the yard to the further boundary, where he
had that afternoon noticed a short ladder.  By means of this he mounted
to the top of the wall, then lifted it up after him and lowered it on
the other side, still without making any noise. Instead of dismounting
by it, however, he seated himself for a moment astride of it, while he
drew on a pair of clumsy boots he had brought with him, suspended round
his neck.  Then, having chosen his place, he jumped.  His weight caused
him to leave a good mark on the soft ground on the other side.

He then walked heavily for perhaps fifty yards, until he reached the
high-road.  Here he divested himself of his boots, put on his list
slippers once more, and returned as speedily as possible to the ladder,
which he mounted and drew up after him.  Having descended on the other
side, he left it standing against the wall, and hastened across the yard
towards the gates, where he found Belton just finishing the work he had
set him to do.

With the aid of a brace and bit similar to that used by Carne upon the
stable door, the lock had been entirely removed and the gate stood open.
Belton was evidently satisfied with his work; Carne, however, was not so
pleased.  He picked up the circle of wood and showed it to his servant.
Then, taking the bit, he inserted the screw on the reverse side and gave
it two or three turns.

"You might have ruined everything," he whispered, "by omitting that.
The first carpenter who looked at it would be able to tell that the work
was done from the inside.  But thank goodness, I know a trick that will
set that right.  Now then, give me the pads and I’ll drop them by the
door.  Then we can return to our rooms."

Four large blanket pads were handed to him, and he went quietly across
and dropped them by the stable door.  After that he rejoined Belton, and
they made their way, with the assistance of the ladders, back to their
own rooms once more.

Half-an-hour later Carne was wrapped in a sweet slumber from which he
did not awake until he was aroused by a tapping at his chamber door.  It
was the trainer.

"Mr. Carne," cried Bent, in what were plainly agitated tones, "if you
could make it convenient I should be glad to speak to you as soon as
possible."

In something under twenty minutes he was dressed and downstairs.  He
found the trainer awaiting him in the hall, wearing a very serious face.

"If you will stroll with me as far as the yard, I should like to show
you something," he said.

Carne accordingly took up his hat and followed him out.

"You look unusually serious," said the latter as they crossed the
garden.

"An attempt has been made to get possession of your horse."

Carne stopped short in his walk and faced the other.

"What did I tell you yesterday?" he remarked.  "I was certain that that
letter was more than an idle warning.  But how do you know that an
attempt has been made?"

"Come, sir, and see for yourself," said Bent.  "I am sorry to say there
is no gainsaying the fact."

A moment later they had reached the entrance to the stable-yard.

"See sir," said Bent pointing to a circular hole which now existed where
previously the lock had been.  "The rascals cut out the lock, and thus
gained an entry to the yard."

He picked up the round piece of wood with the lock still attached to it,
and showed it to his employer.

"One thing is very certain, the man who cut this hole is a master of his
trade, and is also the possessor of fine implements."

"So it would appear," said Carne grimly.  "Now what else is there for me
to hear?  Is the horse much hurt?"

"Not a bit the worse, sir," answered Bent.  "They didn’t get in at him,
you see.  Something must have frightened them before they could complete
their task. Step this way, sir, if you please, and examine the door of
the box for yourself.  I have given strict orders that nothing shall be
touched until you have seen it."

They crossed the yard together, and approached the box in question.  On
the woodwork the commencement of a circle similar to that which had been
completed on the yard gates could be plainly distinguished, while on the
ground below lay four curious-shaped pads, one of which Carne picked up.

"What on earth are these things?" he asked innocently.

"Their use is easily explained, sir," answered the trainer.  "They are
intended for tying over the horse’s feet, so that when he is led out of
his box his plates may make no noise upon the stones.  I’d like to have
been behind ’em with a whip when they got him out, that’s all.  The
double-dyed rascals, to try such a trick upon a horse in my charge!"

"I can understand your indignation," said Carne. "It seems to me we have
had a very narrow escape."

"Narrow escape or no narrow escape, I’d have ’em safely locked up in
Merford Police Station by this time," replied Bent vindictively.  "And
now, sir, let me show you how they got out.  As far as I can see they
must have imagined they heard somebody coming from the house, otherwise
they would have left by the gates instead of by this ladder."

He pointed to the ladder, which was still standing where Carne had
placed it, and then led him by a side door round to the other side of
the wall.  Here he pointed to some heavy footmarks upon the turf. Carne
examined them closely.

"If the size of his boot is any criterion of his build," he said, "he
must have been a precious big fellow. Let me see how mine compares with
it."

He placed his neat shoe in one of the imprints before him, and smiled as
he noticed how the other overlapped it.

They then made their way to the box, where they found the animal at his
breakfast.  He lifted his head and glanced round at them, bit at the
iron of the manger, and then gave a little playful kick with one of his
hind legs.

"He doesn’t seem any the worse for his adventure," said Carne, as the
trainer went up to him and ran his hand over his legs.

"Not a bit," answered the other.  "He’s a wonderfully even-tempered
horse, and it takes a lot to put him out.  If his nerves had been at all
upset he wouldn’t have licked up his food as clean as he has done."

Having given another look at him, they left him in charge of his lad,
and returned to the house.

The gallop after breakfast confirmed their conclusion that there was
nothing the matter, and Simon Carne returned to town ostensibly
comforted by Bent’s solemn assurance to that effect.  That afternoon
Lord Calingforth, the owner of Vulcanite, called upon him.  They had met
repeatedly, and consequently were on the most intimate terms.

"Good-afternoon, Carne," he said as he entered the room.  "I have come
to condole with you upon your misfortune, and to offer you my warmest
sympathy."

"Why, what on earth has happened?" asked Carne, as he offered his
visitor a cigar.

"God bless my soul, my dear fellow!  Haven’t you seen the afternoon
paper?  Why, it reports the startling news that your stables were broken
into last night, and that my rival, Knight of Malta, was missing this
morning."

Carne laughed.

"I wonder what they’ll say next," he said quietly. "But don’t let me
appear to deceive you.  It is perfectly true that the stables were
broken into last night, but the thieves were disturbed, and decamped
just as they were forcing the lock of the Knight’s box."

"In that case I congratulate you.  What rascally inventions some of
these sporting papers do get hold of, to be sure.  I’m indeed glad to
hear that it is not true.  The race would have lost half its interest if
your horse were out of it.  By the way, I suppose you are still as
confident as ever?"

"Would you like to test it?"

"Very much, if you feel inclined for a bet."

"Then I’ll have a level thousand pounds with you that my horse beats
yours.  Both to start or the wager is off.  Do you agree?"

"With pleasure.  I’ll make a note of it."

The noble Earl jotted the bet down in his book, and then changed the
subject by inquiring whether Carne had ever had any transactions with
his next-door neighbor, Klimo.

"Only on one occasion," the other replied.  "I consulted him on behalf
of the Duke of Wiltshire at the time his wife’s diamonds were stolen.
To tell the truth, I was half thinking of calling him in to see if he
could find the fellow who broke into the stables last night, but on
second thoughts I determined not to do so.  I did not want to make any
more fuss about it than I could help.  But what makes you ask about
Klimo?"

"Well, to put the matter in a nutshell, there has been a good deal of
small pilfering down at my trainer’s place lately, and I want to get it
stopped."

"If I were you I should wait till after the race, and then have him
down.  If one excites public curiosity just now, one never knows what
will happen."

"I think you are right.  Anyhow, I’ll act on your advice.  Now what do
you say to coming along to the Rooms with me to see how our horses stand
in the market?  Your presence there would do more than any number of
paper denials towards showing the fallacy of this stupid report.  Will
you come?"

"With pleasure," said Carne, and in less than five minutes he was
sitting beside the noble Earl in his mail phaeton, driving towards the
rooms in question.

When he got there, he found Lord Calingforth had stated the case very
correctly.  The report that Knight of Malta had been stolen had been
widely circulated, and Carne discovered that the animal was, for the
moment, almost a dead letter in the market.  The presence of his owner,
however, was sufficient to stay the panic, and when he had snapped up
two or three long bets, which a few moments before had been going
begging, the horse began steadily to rise towards his old position.

That night, when Belton waited upon his master at bedtime, he found him,
if possible more silent than usual.  It was not until his work was
well-nigh completed that the other spoke.

"It’s a strange thing Belton," he said, "and you may hardly believe it,
but if there were not certain reasons to prevent me from being so
magnanimous I would give this matter up, and let the race be run on its
merits.  I don’t know that I ever took a scheme in hand with a worse
grace.  However, as it can’t be helped, I suppose I must go through with
it.  Is the van prepared?"

"It is quite ready, sir."

"All the furniture arranged as I directed?"

"It is exactly as you wished, sir.  I have attended to it myself."

"And what about the man?"

"I have engaged the young fellow, sir, who assisted me before.  I know
he’s quick, and I can stake my life he’s trustworthy."

"I am glad to hear it.  He will have need to be. Now for my
arrangements.  I shall make the attempt on Friday morning next, that is
to say, two days from now.  You and the man you have just mentioned will
take the van and horses to Market Stopford, travelling by the goods
train which, I have discovered, reaches the town between four and five
in the morning.  As soon as you are out of the station you will start
straight away along the highroad towards Exbridge, reaching the village
between five and six.  I shall meet you in the road alongside the third
milestone on the other side, made up for the part I am to play.  Do you
understand?"

"Perfectly, sir."

"That will do then.  I shall go down to the village to-morrow evening,
and you will not hear from me again until you meet me at the place I
have named. Good-night."

"Good-night, sir."

Now, it is a well-known fact that if you wish to excite the anger of the
inhabitants of Exbridge village, and more particularly of any member of
the Pitman training Establishment, you have but to ask for information
concerning a certain blind beggar who put in an appearance there towards
sunset on the Thursday preceding the Derby of 18--, and you will do so.
When that mysterious individual first came in sight he was creeping
along the dusty high road that winds across the Downs from Market
Stopford to Beaton Junction, dolorously quavering a ballad that was
intended to be, though few would have recognized it, "The Wearing of the
Green."

On reaching the stables he tapped along the wall with his stick, until
he came to the gate.  Then, when he was asked his business by the head
lad, who had been called up by one of the stable boys he stated that he
was starving, and, with peculiar arts of his own induced them to provide
him with a meal.  For upwards of an hour he remained talking with the
lads, and then wended his way down the hill towards the village, where
he further managed to induce the rector to permit him to occupy one of
his outhouses for the night.

After tea he went out and sat on the green, but towards eight o’clock he
crossed the stream at the ford, and made his way up to a little copse,
which ornamented a slight eminence, on the opposite side of the village
to that upon which the training stables were situated.

How he found his way, considering his infirmity, it is difficult to say,
but that he did find it was proved by his presence there.  It might also
have been noticed that when he was once under cover of the bushes he
gave up tapping the earth with his stick, and walked straight enough,
and without apparent hesitation, to the stump of a tree upon which he
seated himself.

For some time he enjoyed the beauty of the evening undisturbed by the
presence of any other human being.  Then he heard a step behind him and
next moment a smart-looking stable lad parted the bushes and came into
view.

"Hullo," said the new-comer.  "So you managed to get here first?"

"So I have," said the old rascal, "and it’s wonderful when you come to
think of it, considering my age and what a poor old blind chap I be.
But I’m glad to find ye’ve managed to get away, my lad.  Now what have
ye got to say for yourself?"

"I don’t know that I’ve got anything to say," replied the boy.  "But
this much is certain, what you want can’t be done."

"And a fine young cockerel you are to be sure, to crow so loud that it
can’t be done," said the old fellow, with an evil chuckle.  "How do you
know it can’t?"

"Because I don’t see my way," replied the other. "It’s too dangerous by
a long sight.  Why, if the guv’nor was to get wind of what you want me
to do, England itself wouldn’t be big enough to hold us both. You don’t
know ’im as well as I do."

"I know him well enough for all practical purposes," replied the beggar.
"Now, if you’ve got any more objections to raise, be quick about it.  If
you haven’t, then I’ll talk to you.  You haven’t?  Very good then.  Now,
just hold your jaw, open your ears, and listen to what I’ve got to say.
What time do you go to exercise to-morrow morning?"

"Nine o’clock."

"Very good then.  You go down on to the Downs, and the boss sends you
off with Vulcanite for a canter. What do you do?  Why, you go steadily
enough as long as he can see you, but directly you’re round on the other
side of the hill you stick in your heels, and nip into the wood that
runs along on your right hand, just as if your horse was bolting with
you.  Once in there, you go through for a half-a-mile until you come to
the stream, ford that, and then cut into the next wood, riding as if the
devil himself were after you, until you reach the path above Hangman’s
Hollow. Do you know the place?"

"I reckon I ought to."

"Well, then, you just make tracks for it.  When you get there you’ll
find me waiting for you.  After that I’ll take over command, and get
both you and the horse out of England in such a way that nobody will
ever suspect.  Then there’ll be five hundred pounds for your trouble, a
safe passage with the horse to South America, and another five hundred
the day the nag is set ashore.  There’s not as much risk as you could
take between your finger and thumb, and a lad with a spirit like yours
could make a fortune with a thousand pounds on the other side.  What
have you to say now?"

"It’s all very well," replied the lad, "but how am I to know that you’ll
play straight with me?"

"What do you take me for?" said the beggar indignantly, at the same time
putting his hand in his coat pocket and producing what looked like a
crumpled piece of paper.  "If you doubt me, there’s something that may
help to convince you.  But don’t go showing it around to-night, or
you’ll be giving yourself away, and that’ll mean the Stone Jug for you,
and ’Amen’ to all your hopes of a fortune.  You’ll do as I wish now, I
suppose?"

"I’ll do it," said the lad sullenly, as he crumpled the banknote up and
put it in his pocket.  "But now I must be off.  Since there’s been this
fuss about Knight of Malta, the guv’nor has us all in before eight
o’clock, and keeps the horse under lock and key, with the head lad
sleeping in the box with him."

"Well, good-night to you, and don’t you forget about to-morrow morning;
niggle the horse about a bit just to make him impatient like, and drop a
hint that he’s a bit fresh.  That will make his bolting look more
feasible.  Don’t leave the track while there’s any one near you, but, as
soon as you do, ride like thunder to the place I told you of.  I’ll see
that they’re put off the scent as to the way you’ve gone."

"All right," said the lad.  "I don’t like it, but I suppose I’m in too
deep now to draw back.  Good-night."

"Good-night, and good luck to you."

Once he had got rid of the youth, Carne (for it was he) returned by
another route to the rector’s outbuilding, where he laid himself down on
the straw, and was soon fast asleep.  His slumbers lasted till nearly
daybreak, when he rose and made his way across country to the small
copse above Hangman’s Hollow on the road from Exbridge to Beaton
Junction. Here he discovered a large van drawn up apparently laden with
furniture both inside and out.  The horses were feeding beneath a tree,
and a couple of men were eating their breakfast beside them.  On seeing
Carne, the taller of the pair--a respectable-looking workman, with a big
brown beard--rose and touched his hat.  The other looked with
astonishment at the disreputable beggar standing before them.

"So you arrived here safely," said Carne.  "If anything you’re a little
before your time.  Boil a cup of tea, and give me something to eat as
quickly as possible, for I am nearly famished.  When you have done that,
get out the clothes I told you to bring with you, and let me change into
them.  It wouldn’t do for any of the people from the village back yonder
to be able to say afterwards that they saw me talking with you in this
rig-out."

As soon as his hunger was appeased he disappeared into the wood, and
dressed himself in his new attire. Another suit of clothes, and an apron
such as might be worn by a furniture remover’s foreman, a grey wig, a
short grey beard and moustache, and a bowler hat, changed his identity
completely; indeed, when his rags had been hidden in the hollow of a
tree it would have been a difficult matter to have traced any
resemblance between the respectable-looking workman eating his breakfast
and the disreputable beggar of half-an-hour before.

It was close upon nine o’clock by this time, and as soon as he realized
this Carne gave the order to put the horses to.  This done, they turned
their attention to the back of the van, and then a strange thing became
apparent.  Though to all appearances, viewed from the open doors at the
end, the inside of this giant receptacle was filled to its utmost
capacity with chests of drawers, chairs, bedsteads, carpets, and other
articles of household furniture, yet by pulling a pair of handles it was
possible for two men easily to withdraw what looked like half the
contents of the van.

The poorest observer would then have noticed that in almost every
particular these articles were dummies, affixed to a screen, capable of
being removed at a moment’s notice.  The remainder of the van was fitted
after the fashion of a stable, with a manger at the end and a pair of
slings dependent from the roof.

The nervous tension produced by the waiting soon became almost more than
the men could bear.  Minute after minute went slowly by, and still the
eagerly expected horse did not put in an appearance.  Then Belton, whom
Carne had placed on the lookout, came flying towards them with the
report that he could hear a sound of galloping hoofs in the wood.  A few
seconds later the noise could be plainly heard at the van, and almost
before they had time to comment upon it, a magnificent thoroughbred,
ridden by the stable boy who had talked to the blind beggar on the
previous evening, dashed into view, and pulled up beside the van.

"Jump off," cried Carne, catching at the horse’s head, "and remove the
saddle.  Now be quick with those cloths; we must rub him down or he’ll
catch cold."

When the horse was comparatively dry he was led into the van which was
to be his stable for the next few hours, and, in spite of his protests,
slung in such a fashion that his feet did not touch the floor.  This
business completed, Carne bade the frightened boy get in with him, and
take care that he did not, on any account, neigh.

After that the mask of furniture was replaced, and the doors closed and
locked.  The men mounted to their places on the box and roof, and the
van continued its journey along the highway towards the Junction. But
satisfactory as their attempt had so far proved, the danger was by no
means over.  Scarcely had they proceeded three miles on their way before
Carne distinguished the sound of hoofs upon the road behind him.  A
moment later a young man, mounted on a well-bred horse, came into view,
rode up alongside, and signalled to the driver to stop.

"What’s the matter?" inquired the latter, as he brought his horses to a
standstill.  "Have we dropped anything?"

"Have you seen anything of a boy on a horse?" asked the man, who was so
much out of breath that he could scarcely get his words out.

"What sort of a boy, and what sort of a horse?" asked the man on the
van.

"A youngish boy," was the reply, "seven stone weight, with sandy hair,
on a thoroughbred."

"No; we ain’t seen no boy with sandy ’air, ridin’ of a thoroughbred
’orse seven stone weight," said Carne.  "What’s ’e been an’ done?"

"The horse has bolted with him off the Downs, back yonder," answered the
man.  "The guv’nor has sent us out in all directions to look for him."

"Sorry we can’t oblige you," said the driver as he prepared to start his
team again.  "Good-day to you."

"Much obliged," said the horseman, and, when he had turned off into a
side road, the van continued its journey till it reached the railway
station.  A quarter of an hour later it caught the eleven o’clock goods
train and set off for the small seaside town of Barworth, on the south
coast, where it was shipped on board a steamer which had arrived that
morning from London.

Once it was safely transferred from the railway truck to the deck, Carne
was accosted by a tall, swarthy individual, who, from his importance,
seemed to be both the owner and the skipper of the vessel. They went
down into the saloon together, and a few moments later an observer, had
one been there, might have seen a cheque for a considerable sum of money
change hands.

An hour later the _Jessie Branker_ was steaming out to sea, and a
military-looking individual, not at all to be compared with the
industrious mechanic who had shipped the furniture van on board the
vessel bound for Spain, stood on the platform of the station waiting for
the express train to London.  On reaching the metropolis he discovered
it surging beneath the weight of a great excitement.  The streets
re-echoed with the raucous cries of the newsvenders:

"The Derby favorite stolen--Vulcanite missing from his stable!"

Next morning an advertisement appeared in every paper of consequence,
offering "A reward of Five Hundred Pounds for any information that might
lead to the conviction of the person or persons who on the morning of
May 28th had stolen, or caused to be stolen, from the Pitman Training
Stables, the Derby favorite, Vulcanite, the property of the Right
Honorable the Earl of Calingforth."

The week following, Knight of Malta, owned by Simon Carne, Esq., of
Dorchester House, Park Lane, won the Derby by a neck in a scene of
intense excitement, the Mandarin being second, and The Filibuster third.
It is a strange fact that to this day not a member of the racing world
has been able to solve the mystery surrounding the disappearance of one
of the greatest horses that ever set foot on an English race-course.

To-day, if Simon Carne thinks of that momentous occasion when, amid the
shouting crowd of Epsom, he led his horse back a winner, he smiles
softly to himself and murmurs beneath his breath:

"Valued at twenty thousand pounds, and beaten in the Derby by a
furniture van."



                              *CHAPTER V.*

                       *A SERVICE TO THE STATE.*


It was the day following that upon which Simon Carne, presented by the
Earl of Amberley, had made his bow before the Heir Apparent at the
second levee of the season, that Klimo entered upon one of the most
interesting cases which had so far come into his experience.  The clock
in his consulting-room had just struck one when his elderly housekeeper
entered and handed him a card, bearing the name of Mrs. George Jeffreys,
14 Bellamer Street, Bloomsbury.  The detective immediately bade his
servant admit the visitor, and, almost before he had given the order,
the lady in question stood before him.

She was young not more than twenty-four at most, a frail wisp of a girl,
with light brown hair and eyes that spoke for her nationality as plain
as any words. She was neatly but by no means expensively dressed, and
showed evident signs of being oppressed by a weight of trouble.  Klimo
looked at her, and in that glance took in everything.  In spite of the
fact that he was reputed to possess a heart as hard as any flint, it was
noticeable that his voice, when he spoke to her was not as gruff as that
in which he usually addressed his visitors.

"Pray sit down," he said, "and tell me in as few words as possible what
it is you desire that I should do for you.  Speak as clearly as you can,
and, it you want my help, don’t hesitate to tell me everything."

The girl sat down as ordered, and immediately commenced her tale.

"My name is Eileen Jeffreys," she said.  "I am the wife of an English
Bank Inspector, and the daughter of Septimus O’Grady, of Chicago,
U.S.A."

"I shall remember," replied Klimo.  "And how long have you been
married?"

"Two years," answered the girl.  "Two years next September.  My husband
and I met in America, and then came to England to settle."

"In saying good-bye to your old home, you left your father behind, I
presume?"

"Yes, he preferred to remain in America."

"May I ask his profession?"

"That, I’m afraid, foolish as it may seem to say so, I cannot tell you,"
answered the girl, with a slightly heightened color.  "His means of
earning a living were always kept a secret from me."

"That was rather strange; was it not?" said Klimo. "Had he private
resources?"

"None that I ever heard of," replied the girl.

"Did no business men ever come to see him?"

"But very few people came to us at all.  We had scarcely any friends."

"Of what nationality were the friends who did come?"

"Mostly Irish, like ourselves," answered Mrs. Jeffreys.

"Was there ever any quarrel between your father and your husband, prior
to your leaving America?"

"Never any downright quarrel," said the girl. "But I am sorry to say
they were not always the best of friends.  In those days my father was a
very difficult man to get on with."

"Indeed?" said Klimo.  "Now, perhaps you had better proceed with your
story."

"To do that, I must explain that at the end of January of this present
year, my father, who was then in Chicago, sent us a cablegram to say he
was leaving for England that very day, and that, upon his arrival in
England, if we had no objection, he would like to take up his residence
with us.  He was to sail from New York on the Saturday following, and,
as you know, the passage takes six days or thereabouts. Arriving in
England he came to London and put up at our house in Bellamer Street,
Bloomsbury.  That was during the first week in February last, and off
and on he has been living with us ever since."

"Have you any idea what brought him to England?"

"Not the least," she answered deliberately, after a few seconds’ pause,
which Klimo did not fail to notice.

"Did he do business with any one that you are aware of?"

"I cannot say.  On several occasions he went away for a week at a time
into the Midlands, but what took him there I have no possible idea.  On
the last occasion he left us on the fifteenth of last month, and
returned on the ninth of this, the same day that my husband was called
away to Marseilles on important banking business.  It was easy to see
that he was not well. He was feverish, and within a short time of my
getting him to bed he began to wander in his mind, declaring over and
over again that he bitterly repented some action he had taken, and that
if he could once consider himself safe again would be quit of the whole
thing forever.

"For close upon a fortnight I continued to nurse him, until he was so
far recovered as to recognize me once more.  The day that he did so I
took in at the door this cablegram, from which I may perhaps date the
business that has brought me to you."

She took a paper from her pocket and handed it to Klimo, who glanced at
it, examined the post-mark and the date, and then placed it upon the
desk before him It was from Chicago, and ran as follows:


O’Grady,
14 Bellamer Street, London, England.

Why no answer?  Reply chances of doing business.

NERO.


"Of course, it was impossible for me to tell what this meant.  I was not
in my father’s confidence, and I had no notion who his mysterious
correspondent might be.  But as the doctor had distinctly stated that to
allow him to consider any business at all would bring on a relapse and
probably kill him, I placed the message in a drawer, and determined to
let it remain there until he should be well enough to attend to it
without danger to himself.  The week following he was not quite so well,
and fortunately there was complete silence on the part of his
correspondents.  Then this second message arrived.  As you will see it
is also from Chicago and from the same person.


Reply immediately, or remember consequences. Time presses, if do not
realize at present price, market will be lost.  NERO.


"Following my previous line of action, I placed this communication also
in the drawer, and determined to let Nero wait for a reply.  By doing
so, however, I was incurring greater trouble than I dreamt of. Within
forty-eight hours I received the following message, and upon that I made
up my mind and came off at once to you.  What it means I do not know,
but that it bodes some ill to my father I feel certain.  I had heard of
your fame, and as my husband is away from home, my father unable to
protect himself, and I am without friends at all in England, I thought
the wisest course I could pursue would be to consult you."

"Let me look at the last cablegram," said Klimo, putting his hand from
the box, and taking the slip of paper.

The first and second message were simplicity itself; this, however, was
a complete enigma.  It was worded as follows:


Uneasy--Alpha--Omega--Nineteen--Twelve--today--five
--lacs--arrange--seventy--eight--Brazils --one--twenty--nine.

NERO.


Klimo read it through, and the girl noticed that he shook his head over
it.

"My dear young lady," he said, "I am afraid that it would be safer for
you not to tell me any further, for I fear it is not in my power to help
you."

"You will not help me now that I have told you my miserable position?
Then there is nothing before me but despair.  Oh, sir, is your decision
quite irrevocable? You cannot think how I have counted on your
assistance."

"I regret exceedingly that I am compelled to disappoint you," he
answered.  "But my time is more than occupied as it is, and I could not
give your case my attention, even if I would."

His decision had been too much for her fortitude, and before he could
prevent it, her head was down upon her hands and she had begun to weep
bitterly. He attempted to comfort her, but in vain; and when she left
him, tears were still coursing down her cheeks. It was not until she had
been gone about ten minutes, and he had informed his housekeeper that he
would see no more clients that day, that he discovered that she had left
her precious cablegrams behind her.

Actuated by a feeling of curiosity, he sat down again and spread the
three cablegrams out upon his writing-table. The first two, as I have
said, required no consideration, they spoke for themselves, but the
third baffled him completely.  Who was this Septimus O’Grady who lived
in Chicago, and whose associates spent their time discussing the wrongs
of Ireland? How was it that, being a man innocent of private means, he
engaged in no business?

Then another question called for consideration.  If he had no business,
what brought him to London and took him so repeatedly into the Midlands?
These riddles he set aside for the present and began to pick the last
cablegram to pieces.  That its author was not easy in his mind when he
wrote it was quite certain.

Then who and what were the Alpha and Omega mentioned?  What connection
had they with Nero; also what did nineteen and twelve mean when coupled
with To-day?  Further, why should five lacs arrange seventy-eight
Brazils?  And what possible sense could be made out of the numbers
one--twenty--and nine?  He read the message from beginning to end again,
after that from the end to the beginning, and, like a good many other
men in a similar position, because he could not understand it, found
himself taking a greater interest in it.  This feeling had not left him
when he had put off disguise as Klimo and was Simon Carne once more.

While he was eating his lunch the thought of the lonely Irishman lying
ill in a house, where he was without doubt an unwelcome guest,
fascinated him strangely, and when he rose from the table he found he
was not able to shake off the impression it had given him.  That the
girl had some notion of her father’s business he felt as certain as of
his own name, even though she had so strenuously denied the fact.
Otherwise why should she have been so frightened by what might have been
simply innocent business messages in cypher?  That she was frightened
was as plain as the sun then shining into his room. Despite the fact
that he had resolved not to take up the case, he went into his study,
and took the cablegrams from the drawer in which he had placed them.
Then drawing a sheet of paper towards him, he set to work upon the
puzzle.

"The first word requires no explanation," he said as he wrote it down.
"For the two next, Alpha and Omega, we will, for the sake of argument,
write The Beginning and The End, and as that tells us nothing, we will
substitute for them The First and The Last. Now, who or what are The
First and The Last?  Are they the first and last words of a code, or of
a word, or do they refer to two individuals who are the principal folk
in some company or conspiracy?  If the latter, it is just possible they
are the people who are so desperately uneasy.  The next two words,
however, are too much for me altogether."

Uninteresting as the case appeared at first sight, he soon discovered
that he could think of nothing else. He found himself puzzling over it
during an afternoon concert at the Queen’s Hall, and he even thought of
it while calling upon the wife of the Prime Minister afterwards.  As he
drove in the Park before dinner, the wheels of his carriage seemed to be
saying "Alpha and Omega, nineteen, twelve" over and over again with
pitiless reiteration, and by the time he reached home once more he would
gladly have paid a ten-pound note for a feasible solution of the enigma,
if only to get its weight off his mind.

While waiting for dinner he took pen and paper and wrote the message out
again, this time in half-a-dozen different ways.  But the effect was the
same, none of them afforded him any clue.  He then took the second
letter of each word, after that the third, then the fourth, and so on
until he had exhausted them.  The result in each case was absolute
gibberish, and he felt that he was no nearer understanding it than when
Mrs. Jeffrey’s had handed it to him nearly eight hours before.

During the night he dreamt about it, and when he woke in the morning its
weight was still upon his mind.  "Nineteen--twelve," it is true, had
left him, but he was not better off for the reason that "Seventy--eight
Brazils" had taken its place.  When he got out of bed he tried it again.
But at the end of half-an-hour his patience was exhausted.

"Confound the thing," he said, as he threw the paper from him, and
seated himself in a chair before his looking-glass in order that his
confidential valet, Belton, might shave him.  "I’ll think no more of it.
Mrs. Jeffreys must solve the mystery for herself.  It has worried me too
much already."

He laid his head back upon the rest and allowed his valet to run the
soap brush over his chin.  But, however much he might desire it, his Old
Man of the Sea was not to be discarded so easily; the word "Brazils"
seemed to be painted in letters of fire upon the ceiling. As the razor
glided over his cheek he thought of the various constructions to be
placed upon the word--the Country--Stocks--and even nuts--Brazil nuts,
Spanish nuts, Barcelona nuts, walnuts, cob nuts--and then, as if to make
the nightmare more complete, no less a thing than Nutall’s Dictionary.
The smile the last suggestion caused him came within an ace of leaving
its mark upon his cheek.  He signed to the man to stay his hand.

"Egad!" he cried, "who knows but this may be the solution of the
mystery?  Go down to the study, Belton, and bring me Nuttall’s
Dictionary."

He waited with one side of his face still soaped until his value
returned, bringing with him the desired volume.  Having received it he
placed it upon the table and took up the telegram.

"Seventy--eight Brazils," it said, "one--twenty--nine."

Accordingly he chose the seventieth page, and ran his fingers down the
first column.  The letter was B, but the eighth word proved useless.  He
thereupon turned to the seventy-eighth page, and in the first column
discovered the word _Bomb_.  In a second the whole aspect of the case
changed, and he became all eagerness and excitement.  The last words on
’the telegram were "one-twenty-nine," yet it was plain that there were
barely a hundred upon the page.  The only explanation, therefore, was
that the word "One" distinguished the column, and the "twenty-nine"
referred to the number of the word in it.

Almost trembling with eagerness he began to count. Surely enough the
twenty-ninth word was Bomb.  The coincidence was, to say the least of
it, extraordinary. But presuming that it was correct, the rest of the
message was simplicity itself.  He turned the telegram over, and upon
the back transcribed the communication as he imagined it should be read.
When he had finished, it ran as follows:

Owing to O’Grady’s silence, the Society in Chicago is growing uneasy.
Two men, who are the first and last, or, in other words, the principal
members, are going to do something (Nineteen-twelve) to-day with fifty
thousand somethings, so arrange about the bombs.

Having got so far, all that remained to be done was to find out to what
"nineteen-twelve" referred.  He turned to the dictionary again, and
looked for the twelfth word upon the nineteenth page.  This proved to be
"Alkahest," which told him nothing.  So he reversed the proceedings and
looked for the nineteenth word upon the twelfth page; but this proved
even less satisfactory than before.  However much the dictionary might
have helped him hitherto, it was plainly useless now.  He thought and
thought, but without success.  He turned up the almanac, but the dates
did not fit in.

He then wrote the letters of the alphabet upon a sheet of paper, and
against each placed its equivalent number.  The nineteenth letter was S,
the twelfth L. Did they represent two words, or were they the first and
the last letters of a word?  In that case, what could it be.  The only
three he could think of were _soil_, _sell_ and _sail_.  The two first
were hopeless, but the last seemed better.  But how would that fit in?
He took up his pen and tried it.


Owing to O’Grady’s silence, the Society in Chicago is growing uneasy.
Two men, who are the first and last, or, in other words, the principal
members, sail to-day with fifty thousand somethings, probably pounds or
dollars, so prepare bombs.

NERO.


He felt convinced that he had hit it at last.  Either it was a very
extraordinary coincidence, or he had discovered the answer to the
riddle.  If this solution were correct, one thing was certain, he had
got in his hands, quite by chance, a clue to one of the biggest Fenian
conspiracies ever yet brought to light.  He remembered that at that
moment London contained half the crowned heads, or their
representatives, of Europe.  What better occasion could the enemies of
law and order desire for striking a blow at the Government and society
in general?  What was he to do?

To communicate with the police and thus allow himself to be drawn into
the affair, would be an act of the maddest folly; should he therefore
drop the whole thing, as he had at first proposed, or should he take the
matter into his own hands, help Mrs. Jeffreys in her trouble by shipping
her father out of harm’s way, outwit the Fenians, and appropriate the
fifty thousand pounds mentioned in the cablegram himself?

The last idea was distinctly a good one.  But, before it could be done,
he felt he must be certain of his facts. Was the fifty thousand referred
to money or was it something else?  If the former, was it pounds or was
it dollars?  There was a vast difference, but in either case, if only he
could hit on a safe scheme, he would be well repaid for whatever risk he
might run.  He decided to see Mrs. Jeffreys without loss of time.
Accordingly, after breakfast, he sent her a note asking her to call upon
him, without fail, at twelve o’clock.

Punctuality is not generally considered a virtue possessed by the sex of
which Mrs. Jeffreys was so unfortunate a member, but the clock upon
Klimo’s mantelpiece had scarcely struck the hour before she put in an
appearance.  He immediately bade her be seated.

"Mrs. Jeffreys," he began with a severely judicial air, "it is with much
regret I find that while seeking my advice yesterday you were all the
time deceiving me.  How was it that you failed to tell me that your
father was connected with a Fenian Society whose one aim and object is
to destroy law and order in this country."

The question evidently took the girl by surprise. She became deathly
pale, and for a moment Klimo thought she was going to faint.  With a
marvelous exhibition of will, however, she pulled herself together and
faced her accuser.

"You have no right to say such a thing," she began. "My father is----."

"Pardon me," he answered quietly, "but I am in the possession of
information which enables me to understand exactly _what_ he is.  If you
answer me correctly it is probable that after all I will take your case
up, and will help you to save your father’s life, but if you decline to
do so, ill as he is, he will be arrested within twenty-four hours, and
then nothing on earth can save him from condign punishment.  Which do
you prefer?"

"I will tell you everything," she said quickly.  "I ought to have done
so at first, but you can understand why I shrank from it.  My father has
for a long time past been ashamed of the part he has been playing, but
he could not help himself.  He was too valuable to them, and they would
not let him slip.  They drove him on and on, and it was his remorse and
anxiety that broke him down at last."

"I think you have chosen the better course in telling me this.  I will
ask my questions, and you can answer them.  To begin with, where are the
headquarters of the Society?"

"In Chicago."

"I thought as much.  And is it possible for you to tell me the names of
the two principal members?"

"There are many members, and I don’t know that one is greater than
another."

"But there must be some who are more important than others.  For
instance, the pair referred to in this telegram as Alpha and Omega?"

"I can only think," she answered, after a moment’s thought, "that they
must be the two men who came oftenest to our house, Messrs. Maguire and
Rooney."

"Can you describe them, or, better still, have you their photographs?"

"I have a photograph of Mr. Rooney.  It was taken last year."

"You must send it to me as soon as you get home," he said; "and now give
me as close a description as possible of the other person to whom you
refer, Mr. Maguire."

Mrs. Jeffreys considered for a few moments before she answered.

"He is tall, standing fully six feet, I should think," she said at last,
"with red hair and watery blue eyes, in the left of which there is a
slight cast.  He is broad-shouldered and, in spite of his long residence
in America, speaks with a decided brogue.  I know them for desperate
men, and if they come over to England may God help us all.  Mr. Klimo,
you don’t think the police will take my father?"

"Not if you implicitly obey my instructions," he answered.

Klimo thought for a few seconds, and then continued: "If you wish me to
undertake this business, which I need hardly tell you is out of my usual
line, you will now go home and send me the photograph you spoke of a few
moments since.  After that you will take no sort of action until you
hear from me again.  For certain reasons of my own I shall take this
matter up, and will do my utmost to save your father.  One word of
advice first, say nothing to anybody, but pack your father’s boxes and
be prepared to get him out of England, if necessary, at a moment’s
notice."

The girl rose and made as if she would leave the room, but instead of
doing so she stood irresolute. For a few moments she said nothing, but
fumbled with the handle of her parasol and breathed heavily.  Then the
pluck which had so far sustained her gave way entirely, and she fell
back on her chair crying as if her heart would break.  Klimo instantly
left his box and went round to her.  He made a figure queer enough to
please any one, in his old-fashioned clothes, his skull-cap, his long
grey hair reaching almost to his shoulders, and with his smoked glass
spectacles perched upon his nose.

"Why cry, my dear young lady?" said Klimo. "Have I not promised to do my
best for you?  Let us, however, understand each other thoroughly.  If
there is anything you are keeping back you must tell me. By not speaking
out you are imperilling your own and your father’s safety."

"I know that you must think that I am endeavoring to deceive you," she
said; "but I am so terribly afraid of committing myself that I hardly
know what to tell and what not to tell.  I have come to you, having no
friends in the whole world save my husband, who is in Marseilles, and my
father, who, as I have said, is lying dangerously ill in our house.

"Of course I know what my father has been.  Surely you cannot suppose
that a grown-up girl like myself could be so dense as not to guess why
few save Irishmen visited our house, and why at times there were men
staying with us for weeks at a time, who lived in the back rooms and
never went outside our front door, and who, when they did take their
departure, sneaked out in the dead of night.

"I remember a time in the fall of the last year that I was at home, when
there were more meetings than ever, and when these men, Maguire and
Rooney, almost lived with us.  They and my father were occupied day and
night in a room at the top of the house, and then, in the January
following, Maguire came to England.  Three weeks later the papers were
full of a terrible dynamite explosion in London, in which forty innocent
people lost their lives.  Mr. Klimo, you must imagine for yourself the
terror and shame that seized me, particularly when I remembered that my
father was a companion of the men who had been concerned in it.

"Now my father repents, and they are edging him on to some fresh
outrage.  I cannot tell you what it is, but I know this, that if Maguire
and Rooney are coming to England, something awful is about to happen,
and if they distrust him, and there is any chance of any one getting
into trouble, my father will be made the scapegoat.

"To run away from them would be to court certain death.  They have
agents in almost every European city, and, unless we could get right
away to the other side of the world, they would be certain to catch us.
Besides my father is too ill to travel.  The doctors say he must not be
disturbed under any pretence whatever."

"Well, well!" said Klimo, "leave the matter to me, and I will see what
can be done.  Send me the photograph you spoke of, and let me know
instantly if there are any further developments."

"Do you mean that after all I can rely upon you helping me?"

"If you are brave," he answered, "not without. Now, one last question,
and then you must be off.  I see in the last telegram, mention made of
fifty lacs; I presume that means money?"

"A lac is their term for a thousand pounds," she answered without
hesitation.

"That will do," said Klimo.  "Now go home and don’t worry yourself more
than you can help.  Above all, don’t let any one suspect that I have any
interest in the case.  Upon your doing that will in a great measure
depend your safety."

She promised to obey him in this particular as in the others, and then
took her departure.

When Klimo had passed into the adjoining house, he bade his valet
accompany him to his study.

"Belton," he said, as he seated himself in a comfortable chair before
his writing-table, "I have this morning agreed to undertake what
promises to be one of the most dangerous, and at the same time most
interesting, cases that has yet come under my notice. A young lady, the
wife of a respectable Bank Inspector, has been twice to see me lately
with a very sad story.  Her father, it would appear, is an Irish
American, with the usual prejudice against this country. He has been for
some time a member of a Fenian Society, possibly one of their most
active workers. In January last the executive sent him to his country to
arrange for an exhibition of their powers.

"Since arriving here the father has been seized with remorse, and the
mental strain and fear thus entailed have made him seriously ill.  For
weeks he has been lying at death’s door in his daughter’s house. Hearing
nothing from him the Society has telegraphed again and again, but
without result.  In consequence, two of the chief and most dangerous
members are coming over here with fifty thousand pounds at their
disposal, to look after their erring brother, to take over the
management of affairs, and to commence the slaughter as per arrangement.

"Now as a peaceable citizen of the City of London, and a humble servant
of Her Majesty the Queen, it is manifestly my duty to deliver these
rascals into the hands of the police.  But to do that would be to
implicate the girl’s father, and to kill her husband’s faith in her
family; for it must be remembered he knows nothing of the father’s
Fenian tendencies.  It would also mix me up in a most undesirable matter
at a time when I have the best reasons for desiring to keep quiet.

"Well, the long and the short of the matter is that I have been thinking
the question out, and I have arrived at the following conclusion.  If I
can hit upon a workable scheme I shall play policeman and public
benefactor, checkmate the dynamiters, save the girl and her father, and
reimburse myself to the extent of fifty thousand pounds.  Fifty thousand
pounds, Belton, think of that.  If it hadn’t been for the money I should
have had nothing at all to do with it."

"But how will you do it, sir?" asked Belton, who had learnt by
experience never to be surprised at anything his master might say or do.

"Well, so far," he answered, "it seems a comparatively easy matter.  I
see that the last telegram was dispatched on Saturday, May 26th, and
says, or purports to say, ’sail to-day.’  In that case, all being well,
they should be in Liverpool some time to-morrow, Thursday.  So we have a
clear day at our disposal in which to prepare a reception for them.
To-night I am to have a photograph of one of the men in my possession,
and to-morrow I shall send you to Liverpool to meet them.  Once you have
set eyes on them you must not lose sight of them until you have
discovered where they are domiciled in London.  After that I will take
the matter in hand myself."

"At what hour do you wish me to start for Liverpool, sir?" asked Belton.

"First thing to-morrow morning," his master replied. "In the meantime
you must, by hook or crook, obtain a police inspector’s, a sergeant’s
and two constables’ uniforms with belts and helmets complete. Also I
shall require three men in whom I can place absolute and implicit
confidence.  They must be big fellows with plenty of pluck and
intelligence, and the clothes you get must fit them so that they shall
not look awkward in them.  They must also bring plain clothes with them,
for I shall want two of them to undertake a journey to Ireland.  They
will each be paid a hundred pounds for the job, and to ensure their
silence afterwards.  Do you think you can find me the men without
disclosing my connection with the matter?"

"I know exactly where to put my hand upon them, sir," remarked Belton,
"and for the sum you mention it’s my belief they’d hold their tongues
forever, no matter what pressure was brought to bear upon them."

"Very good.  You had better communicate with them at once, and tell them
to hold themselves in readiness for I may want them at any moment.  On
Friday night I shall probably attempt the job, and they can get back to
town when and how they like.

"Very good sir.  I’ll see about them this afternoon without fail."

Next morning, Belton left London for Liverpool, with the photograph of
the mysterious Rooney in his pocket-book.  Carne had spent the afternoon
with a fashionable party at Hurlingham, and it was not until he returned
to his house that he received the telegram he had instructed his valet
to send him.  It was short, and to the point.

Friends arrived.  Reach Euston nine o’clock.

The station clocks wanted ten minutes of the hour when the hansom
containing a certain ascetic-looking curate drove into the yard.  The
clergyman paid his fare, and, having inquired the platform upon which
the Liverpool express would arrive, strolled leisurely in that
direction.  He would have been a clever man who would have recognized in
this unsophisticated individual either deformed Simon Carne of Park
Lane, or the famous detective of Belverton Street.

Punctual almost to the moment the train put in an appearance and drew up
beside the platform.  A moment later the curate was engulfed in a sea of
passengers.  A bystander, had he been sufficiently observant to notice
such a thing, would have been struck by the eager way in which he looked
about him, and also by the way in which his manner changed directly he
went forward to greet the person he was expecting. To all appearances
they were both curates, but their social positions must have been widely
different if their behavior to each other could have been taken as any
criterion.  The new arrival, having greeted his friend, turned to two
gentlemen standing beside him, and after thanking them for their company
during the journey, wished them a pleasant holiday in England, and bade
them good-bye.  Then, turning to his friend again, he led him along the
platform towards the cab rank.

During the time Belton had been speaking to the two men just referred
to, Carne had been studying their faces attentively.  One, the taller of
the pair, if his red hair and watery blue eyes went for anything, was
evidently Maguire, the other was Rooney, the man of the photograph.
Both were big, burly fellows, and Carne felt that if it ever came to a
fight, they would be just the sort of men to offer a determined
resistance.

Arm in arm the curates followed the Americans towards the cab rank.
Reaching it, the latter called up a vehicle, placed the bags they
carried upon the roof, and took their places inside.  The driver had
evidently received his instructions, for he drove off without delay.
Carne at once called up another cab, into which Belton sprang without
ceremony.  Carne pointed to the cab just disappearing through the gates
ahead.

"Keep that hansom in sight, cabby," he said: "but whatever you do don’t
pass it."

"All right, sir," said the man, and immediately applied the whip to his
horse.

When they turned into Seymour Street, scarcely twenty yards separated
the two vehicles, and in this order they proceeded across the Euston
Road, by way of Upper Woburn Place and Tavistock Square.

The cab passed through Bloomsbury Square, and turned down one of the
thoroughfares leading therefrom, and made its way into a street flanked
on either side by tall, gloomy-looking houses.  Leaning over the apron,
Carne gazed up at the corner house, on which he could just see the plate
setting forth the name of the street.  What he saw there told him all he
wanted to know.

They were in Bellamer Street, and it was plain to him that the man had
determined to thrust themselves upon the hapless Mrs. Jeffreys.  He
immediately poked his umbrella through the shutter, and bade the cabman
drive on to the next corner, and then pull up.  As soon as the horse
came to a standstill, Carne jumped out, and, bidding his companion drive
home, crossed the street, and made his way back until he arrived at a
spot exactly opposite the house entered by the two men.

His supposition that they intended to domicile themselves there was
borne out by the fact that they had taken their luggage inside, and had
dismissed their cab.  There had been lights in two of the windows when
the cab had passed, now a third was added, and this he set down as
emanating from the room allotted to the new arrivals.

For upwards of an hour and a half Carne remained standing in the shadow
of the opposite houses, watching the Jeffrey’s residence.  The lights in
the lower room had by this time disappeared and within ten minutes that
on the first floor followed suit.  Being convinced, in his own mind,
that the inmates were safely settled for the night, he left the scene of
his vigil, and, walking to the corner of the street, hailed a hansom and
was driven home.  On reaching No. 1, Belverton Street, he found a letter
lying on the hall table addressed to Klimo.  It was in a woman’s
handwriting, and it did not take him long to guess that it was from Mrs.
Jeffreys.  He opened it and read as follows:


"_Bellamer Street,_
"_Thursday Evening._

"DEAR MR. KLIMO,

"I am sending this to you to tell you that my worst suspicions have been
realized.  The two men whose coming I so dreaded, have arrived, and have
taken up their abode with us.  For my father’s sake I dare not turn them
out, and to-night I have heard from my husband to say that he will be
home on Saturday next. What is to be done?  If something does not happen
soon, they will commence their dastardly business in England, and then
God help us all.  My only hope is in Him and you.

"Yours ever gratefully,
       "EILEEN JEFFREYS."


Carne folded up the letter with a grave face, and then let himself into
Porchester House and went to bed to think out his plan of action.  Next
morning he was up betimes, and by the breakfast hour had made up his
mind as to what he was going to do.  He had also written and dispatched
a note to the girl who was depending so much upon him.  In it he told
her to come and see him without fail that morning.  His meal finished,
he went to his dressing-room and attired himself in Klimo’s clothes, and
shortly after ten o’clock entered the detective’s house.  Half-an-hour
later Mrs. Jeffreys was ushered into his presence.  As he greeted her he
noticed that she looked pale and wan.  It was evident she had spent a
sleepless night.

"Sit down," he said, "and tell me what has happened since last I saw
you."

"The most terrible thing of all has happened," she answered.  "As I told
you in my note, the men have reached England, and are now living in our
house. You can imagine what a shock their arrival was to me. I did not
know what to do.  For my father’s sake I could not refuse them
admittance, and yet I knew that I had no right to take them in during my
husband’s absence.  Be that as it may, they are there now, and to-morrow
night George returns.  If he discovers their identity, and suspects
their errand, he will hand them over to the police without a second
thought, and then we shall be disgraced forever.  Oh, Mr. Klimo, you
promised to help me, can you not do so?  Heaven knows how badly I need
your aid."

"You shall have it.  Now listen to my instructions. You will go home and
watch these men.  During the afternoon they will probably go out, and
the instant they do so, you must admit three of my servants and place
them in some room where their presence will not be suspected by our
enemies.  A friend, who will hand you my card, will call later on, and
as he will take command, you must do your best to help him in every
possible way."

"You need have no fear of my not doing that," she said.  "And I will be
grateful to you till my dying day."

"Well, we’ll see.  Now, good-bye."

After she had left him, Klimo returned to Porchester House and sent for
Belton.  He was out, it appeared, but within half-an-hour he returned
and entered his master’s presence.

"Have you discovered the bank?" asked Carne.

"Yes, sir, I have," said Belton.  "But not till I was walked off my
legs.  The men are as suspicious as wild rabbits, and they dodged and
played about so, that I began to think they’d get away from me
altogether. The bank is the ’United Kingdom,’ Oxford Street branch."

"That’s right.  Now what about the uniforms?"

"They’re quite ready, sir, helmets, tunics, belts and trousers
complete."

"Well then, have them packed as I told you yesterday, and ready to
proceed to Bellamer Street with the men, the instant we get the
information that the folk we are after have stepped outside the house
door."

"Very good, sir.  And as to yourself?"

"I shall join you at the house at ten o’clock, or thereabouts.  We must,
if possible, catch them at their supper."

London was half through its pleasures that night, when a tall,
military-looking man, muffled in a large cloak, stepped into a hansom
outside Porchester House, Park Lane, and drove off in the direction of
Oxford Street.  Though the business which was taking him out would have
presented sufficient dangers to have deterred many men who consider
themselves not wanting in pluck, it did not in the least oppress Simon
Carne; on the contrary, it seemed to afford him no small amount of
satisfaction.  He whistled a tune to himself as he drove along the
lamplit thoroughfares, and smiled as sweetly as a lover thinking of his
mistress when he reviewed the plot he had so cunningly contrived.

He felt a glow of virtue as he remembered that he was undertaking the
business in order to promote another’s happiness, but at the same time
reflected that, if fate were willing to pay him fifty thousand pounds
for his generosity, well, it was so much the better for him.  Reaching
Mudie’s Library, his coachman drove by the way of Hart Street into
Bloomsbury Square, and later on turned into Bellamer Street.

At the corner he stopped his driver and gave him some instructions in a
low voice.  Having done so, he walked along the pavement as far as No.
14, where he came to a standstill.  As on the last occasion that he had
surveyed the house, there were lights in three of the windows, and from
this illumination he argued that his men were at home.  Without
hesitation he went up the steps and rang the bell.  Before he could have
counted fifty it was opened by Mrs. Jeffreys herself, who looked
suspiciously at the person she saw before her.  It was evident that in
the tall, well-made man with iron-grey moustache and dark hair, she did
not recognize her elderly acquaintance, Klimo, the detective.

"Are you Mrs. Jeffreys?" asked the new-comer, in a low voice.

"I am," she answered.  "Pray, what can I do for you?"

"I was told by a friend to give you this card."

He thereupon handed to her a card on which was written the one word
"Klimo."  She glanced at it, and, as if that magic name were sufficient
to settle every doubt, beckoned to him to follow her.  Having softly
closed the door she led him down the passage until she arrived at a door
on her right hand.  This she opened and signed to him to enter.  It was
a room that was half office half library.

"I am to understand that you come from Mr. Klimo?" she said, trembling
under the intensity of her emotion.  "What am I to do?"

"First be as calm as you can.  Then tell me where the men are with whom
I have to deal."

"They are having their supper in the dining-room. They went out soon
after luncheon, and only returned an hour ago."

"Very good.  Now, if you will conduct me upstairs, I shall be glad to
see if your father is well enough to sign a document I have brought with
me.  Nothing can be done until I have arranged that."

"If you will come with me I will take you to him. But we must go
quietly, for the men are so suspicious that they send for me to know the
meaning of every sound.  I was dreadfully afraid your ring would bring
them out into the hall."

Leading the way up the stairs she conducted him to a room on the first
floor, the door of which she opened carefully.  On entering, Carne found
himself in a well-furnished bedroom.  A bed stood in the center of the
room, and on this lay a man.  In the dim light, for the gas was turned
down till it showed scarcely a glimmer, he looked more like a skeleton
than a human being.  A long white beard lay upon the coverlet, his hair
was of the same color, and the pallor of his skin more than matched
both.  That he was conscious was shown by the question he addressed to
his daughter as they entered.

"What is it, Eileen?" he asked faintly.  "Who is this gentleman, and why
does he come to see me?"

"He is a friend, father," she answered.  "One who has come to save us
from these wicked men."

"God bless you, sir," said the invalid, and as he spoke he made as if he
would shake him by the hand. Carne, however, checked him.

"Do not move or speak," he said, "but try and pull yourself together
sufficiently to sign this paper."

"What is the document?"

"It is something without which I can take no sort of action.  My
instructions are to do nothing until you have signed it.  You need not
be afraid; it will not hurt you.  Come, sir, there is no time to be
wasted.  If these rascals are to be got out of England our scheme must
be carried out to-night."

"To do that I will sign anything.  I trust your honor for its contents.
Give me pen and ink."

His daughter supported him in her arms, while Carne dipped a pen in the
bottle of ink he had brought with him and placed it in the tremulous
fingers.  Then, the paper being supported on a book, the old man
laboriously traced his signature at the place indicated. When he had
done so he fell back upon the pillow completely exhausted.

Carne blotted it carefully, then folded the paper up, placed it in his
pocket and announced himself ready for the work.  The clock upon the
mantlepiece showed him that it was a quarter to eleven, so that if he
intended to act that night he knew he must do so quickly.  Bidding the
invalid rest happy in the knowledge that his safety was assured, he
beckoned the daughter to him.

"Go downstairs," he said in a whisper, "and make sure that the men are
still in the dining room."

She did as he ordered her, and in a few moments returned with the
information that they had finished their supper and had announced their
intention of going to bed.

"In that case we must hurry," said Carne.  "Where are my men concealed?"

"In the room at the end of that passage," was the girl’s reply.

"I will go to them.  In the meantime you must return to the study
downstairs, where we will join you in five minutes’ time.  Just before
we enter the room in which they are sitting, one of my men will ring the
front-door bell.  You must endeavor to make the fellows inside believe
that you are trying to prevent us gaining admittance.  We shall arrest
you, and then deal with them.  Do you understand?"

"Perfectly."

She slipped away, and Carne hastened to the room at the end of the
passage.  He scratched with his finger-nail upon the door, and a second
later it was opened by a sergeant of police.  On stepping inside he
found two constables and an inspector awaiting him.  "Is all prepared,
Belton?" he inquired.

"Quite prepared, sir."

"Then come along, and step as softly as you can."

As he spoke he took from his pocket a couple of papers, and led the way
along the corridor and down the stairs.  With infinite care they made
their way along the hall until they reached the dining-room door, where
Mrs. Jeffreys joined them.  Then the street bell rang loudly, and the
man who had opened the front door a couple of inches shut it with a
bang. Without further hesitation Carne called upon the woman to stand
aside, while Belton threw open the dining-room door.

"I tell you, sir, you are mistaken," cried the terrified woman.

"I am the best judge, of that," said Carne roughly, and then, turning to
Belton, he added: "Let one of your men take charge of this woman."

On hearing them enter the two men they were in search of had risen from
the chairs they had been occupying on either side of the fire, and stood
side by side upon the hearth-rug, staring at the intruders as if they
did not know what to do.

"James Maguire and Patrick Wake Rooney," said Carne, approaching the two
men, and presenting the papers he held in his hand, "I have here
warrants, and arrest you both on a charge of being concerned in a Fenian
plot against the well-being of Her Majesty’s Government.  I should
advise you to submit quietly.  The house is surrounded, constables are
posted at all the doors, and there is not the slightest chance of
escape."

The men seemed too thunderstruck to do anything, and submitted quietly
to the process of handcuffing. When they had been secured, Carne turned
to the inspector and said:

"With regard to the other man who is ill upstairs, Septimus O’Grady, you
had better post a man at his door."

"Very good, sir."

Then turning to Messrs. Maguire and Rooney, he said: "I am authorized by
Her Majesty’s Government to offer you your choice between arrest and
appearance at Bow Street, or immediate return to America. Which do you
choose?  I need not tell you that we have proof enough in our hands to
hang the pair of you if necessary.  You had better make up your minds as
quickly as possible, for I have no time to waste."

The men stared at him in supreme astonishment.

"You will not prosecute us?"

"My instructions are, in the event of your choosing the latter
alternative, to see that you leave the country at once.  In fact, I
shall conduct you to Kingstown myself to-night, and place you aboard the
mail-boat there."

"Well, so far as I can see, it’s Hobson’s choice," said Maguire.  "I’ll
pay you the compliment of saying that you’re smarter than I thought
you’d be. How did you come to know we were in England?"

"Because your departure from America was cabled to us more than a week
ago.  You have been shadowed ever since you set foot ashore.  Now
passages have been booked for you on board the outgoing boat, and you
will sail in her.  First, however, it will be necessary for you to sign
this paper, pledging yourselves never to set foot in England again."

"And supposing we do not sign it?"

"In that case I shall take you both to Bow Street forthwith, and you
will come before the magistrates in the morning.  You know what that
will mean."

For some moments they remained silent.  Then Maguire said sullenly:
"Bedad, sir, since there’s nothing else for it, I consent."

"And so do I," said Rooney.  "Where’s the paper?"

Carne handed them a formidable-looking document, and they read it in
turn with ostentatious care.  As soon as they had professed themselves
willing to append their signatures to it, the sham detective took it to
a writing-table at the other end of the room, and then ordered them to
be unmanacled, so that they could come up in turn and sign.  Had they
been less agitated it is just possible they would have noticed that two
sheets of blotting paper covered the context, and that only a small
space on the paper, which was of a bluish-grey tint, was left uncovered.

Then placing them in charge of the police officials, Carne left the room
and went upstairs to examine their baggage.  Evidently he discovered
there what he wanted to know, for when he returned to the room his face
was radiant.

Half-an-hour later they had left the house in separate cabs.  Rooney was
accompanied by Belton and one of his subordinates, now in plain clothes,
while Carne and another took charge of Maguire.  At Euston they found
special carriages awaiting them, and the same procedure was adopted in
Ireland.  The journey to Queenstown proved entirely uneventful; not for
one moment did the two men suspect the trick that was being played upon
them; nevertheless, it was with ill-concealed feelings of satisfaction
that Carne and Belton bade them farewell upon the deck of the
outward-bound steamer.

"Good-bye," said Maguire, as their captors prepared to pass over the
side again.  "An’ good luck to ye.  I’ll wish ye that, for ye’ve treated
us well, though it’s a scurvy trick ye’ve played us in turning us out of
England like this.  First, however, one question.  What about O’Grady?"

"The same course will be pursued with him, as soon as he is able to
move," answered the other.  "I can’t say more."

"A word in your ear first," said Rooney.  He leant towards Carne.  "The
girl’s a good one," he said. "An’ ye may do what ye can for her, for she
knows naught of our business."

"I’ll remember that if ever the chance arises," said Carne.  "Now,
good-bye."

"Good-bye."

On the Wednesday morning following, an elderly gentleman, dressed in
rather an antiquated fashion, but boasting an appearance of great
respectability, drove up in a brougham to the branch of the United
Kingdom Bank in Oxford Street, and presented a cheque for no less a sum
than forty-five thousand pounds, signed with the names of Septimus
O’Grady, James Maguire, and Patrick Rooney, and bearing the date of the
preceding Friday.

The cheque was in perfect order, and, in spite of the largeness of the
amount, it was cashed without hesitation.

That afternoon Klimo received a visit from Mrs. Jeffreys. She came to
express her gratitude for his help, and to ask the extent of her debt.

"You owe me nothing but your gratitude.  I will not take a half-penny.
I am quite well enough rewarded now," said Klimo with a smile.

When she had gone he took out his pocket-book and consulted it.

"Forty-five thousand pounds," he said with a chuckle.  "Yes, that is
good.  I did not take her money, but I have been rewarded in another
way."

Then he went into Porchester House and dressed for the Garden Party at
Marlborough House, to which he had been invited.



                             *CHAPTER VI.*

                        *A VISIT IN THE NIGHT.*


One bright summer morning Simon Carne sat in his study, and reflected on
the slackness of things in general.  Since he had rendered such a signal
service to the State, as narrated in the previous chapter, he had done
comparatively nothing to raise himself in his own estimation.  He was
thinking in this strain when his butler entered, and announced "Kelmare
Sahib."  The interruption was a welcome one, and Carne rose to greet his
guest with every sign of pleasure on his face.

"Good-morning, Kelmare," he said, as he took the other’s outstretched
hand; "I’m delighted to see you. How are you this morning?"

"As well as a man can hope to be under the circumstances," replied the
new arrival, a somewhat _blasé_ youth, dressed in the height of fashion.
"You are going to the Greenthorpe wedding, of course.  I hear you have
been invited."

"You are quite right; I have," said Carne, and presently produced a card
from the basket, and tossed it across the table.

The other took it up with a groan.

"Yes," he said, "that’s it, by Jove!  And a nice-looking document it is.
Carne, did you ever hate anybody so badly that it seemed as if it would
be scarcely possible to discover anything you would not do to hurt
them?"

"No," answered Carne, "I cannot say that I have. Fate has always found
me some way or another in which I might get even with my enemies.  But
you seem very vindictive in this matter.  What’s the reason of it?"

"Vindictive!" said Kelmare, "of course I am; think how they have treated
me.  A year ago, this week, Sophie Greenthorpe and I were engaged.  Old
Greenthorpe had not then turned his business into a limited liability
company, and my people were jolly angry with me for making such a
foolish match; but I did not care.  I was in love, and Sophie
Greenthorpe is as pretty a girl as can be found in the length and
breadth of London.  But there, you’ve seen her, so you know for
yourself.  Well, three months later, old Greenthorpe sold his business
for upwards of three million sterling.  On the strength of it he went
into the House, gave thirty thousand to the funds of his party, and
would have received a baronetcy for his generosity, had his party not
been shunted out of power.

"Inside another month all the swells had taken them up; dukes and earls
were as common at the old lady’s receptions as they had been scarce
before and I began to understand that, instead of being everybody to
them as I had once been, the old fellow was beginning to think his
daughter might have done much better than become engaged to the third
son of an impecunious earl.

"Then Kilbenham came upon the scene.  He’s a fine-looking fellow and a
marquis, but, as you know as well as I do, a real bad hat.  He hasn’t a
red cent in the world to bless himself with, and he wanted
money--well--just about as badly as a man _could_ want it. What’s the
result?  Within six weeks I am thrown over, and she has accepted
Kilbenham’s offer of marriage.  Society says--’What a good match!’ and,
as if to endorse it, you receive an invitation to the ceremony."

"Forgive me, but you are growing cynical now," said Carne, as he lit a
fresh cigar.

"Haven’t I good cause to be?" asked Kelmare. "Wait till you’ve been
treated as I have, and then we’ll see how you’ll feel.  When I think how
every man you meet speaks of Kilbenham, and of the stories that are
afloat concerning him, and hear the way old Greenthorpe and his
pretensions are laughed at in the clubs, and sneered at in the papers,
and am told that they are receiving presents of enormous value from all
sorts and conditions of people, from Royalty to the poor devils of
workmen he still under-pays just because Kilbenham is a marquis and she
is the daughter of a millionaire, why, I can tell you it is enough to
make any one cynical."

"In the main, I agree with you," said Carne.  "But, as life is made up
of just such contradictions, it seems to me absurd to butt your head
against a stone wall, and then grumble because it hurts and you don’t
make any impression on it.  Do you think the presents are as wonderful
as they say?  I want to know, because I’ve not given mine yet.  In these
days one gives as others give.  If they have not received anything very
good, then a pair of electro-plated entrée dishes will meet the case.
If the reverse--well--diamonds, perhaps, or an old Master that the
Americans are wild to buy, and can’t."

"Who is cynical now, I should like to know?" said Kelmare.  "I was told
this morning that up to the present, with the superb diamonds given by
the bride’s father, they have totalled a value of something like twenty
thousand pounds."

"You surprise me," answered Carne.

"I am surprised myself," said Kelmare, as he rose to go.  "Now, I must
be off.  I came in to see if you felt inclined for a week’s cruise in
the Channel. Burgrave has lent me his yacht, and somehow I think a
change of air will do me good."

"I am very sorry," said Carne, "but it would be quite impossible for me
to get away just now.  I have several important functions on hand that
will keep me in town."

"I suppose this wedding is one of them?"

"To tell the honest truth, I had scarcely thought of it," replied Carne.
"Must you be off?  Well, then, good-bye."

When Kelmare had disappeared, Carne went back to his study, and seated
himself at his writing-table. "Kelmare is a little over-sensitive," he
said, "and his pique is spoiling his judgment.  He does not seem to
realize that he has come very well out of a jolly bad business.  I am
not certain which I pity most--Miss Greenthorpe, who is a heartless
little hussy, or the Marquis of Kilbenham who is a thorough-paced
scoundrel.  The wedding, however, promises to be a fashionable one,
and--"

He stopped midway, rose, and stood against the mantel-piece, staring
into the empty fireplace. Presently he flipped the ash of his cigar, and
turned round.  "It never struck me in that light before," he said, as he
pressed the button of the electric bell in the wall beside him.  When it
was answered, he ordered his carriage, and a quarter of an hour later
was rolling down Regent Street.

Reaching a well-known jeweler’s shop, he pulled the check string, and,
the door having been opened, descended, and went inside.  It was not the
first time he had had dealings with the firm, and as soon as he was
recognized the proprietor hastened forward himself to wait upon him.

"I want a nice wedding present for a young lady," he said, when the
other had asked what he could have the pleasure of showing him.
"Diamonds, I think, for preference."

A tray containing hairpins, brooches, rings, and aigrettes set with
stones was put before him, but Carne was not satisfied.  He wanted
something better, he said--something a little more imposing.  When he
left the shop a quarter of an hour later he had chosen a diamond
bracelet, for which he had paid the sum of one thousand pounds.

As Carne rolled down the street, he took the bracelet from its case and
glanced at it.  He had long since made up his mind as to his line of
action, and having done so, was now prepared to start business without
delay.  On leaving the shop, he had ordered his coachman to drive home;
but on second thoughts he changed his mind, and, once more pulling the
check string, substituted Berkeley Square for Park Lane.

"I must be thoroughly convinced in my own mind," he said "before I do
anything, and the only way to do that will be to see old Greenthorpe
himself without delay.  I think I have a good and sufficient excuse in
my pocket.  At any rate, I’ll try it."

On reaching the residence in question, he instructed his footman to
inquire whether Mr. Greenthorpe was at home, and if so, if he would see
him.  An answer in the affirmative was soon forthcoming, and a moment
later Carne and Greenthorpe were greeting each other in the library.

"Delighted to see you, my dear sir," the latter said as he shook his
guest warmly by the hand, at the same time hoping that old Sir Mowbray
Mowbray next door, who was a gentleman of the old school, and looked
down on the plutocracy, could see and recognize the magnificent equipage
standing before his house. "This is most kind of you, and indeed I take
it as most friendly too."

Carne’s face was as smiling and fascinating as it was wont to be, but an
acute observer might have read in the curves of his lips a little of the
contempt he felt for the man before him.  Matthew Greenthorpe’s face and
figure betrayed his origin as plainly as any words could have done.  If
this had not been sufficient, his dress and the profusion of
jewelry--principally diamonds--that decked his person would have told
the tale.  In appearance he was short, stout, very red about the face,
and made up what he lacked in breeding by an effusive familiarity that
sometimes bordered on the offensive.

"I am afraid," said Carne, when his host had finished speaking, "that I
ought to be ashamed of myself for intruding on you at such an early
hour.  I wanted, however, to thank you personally for the kind
invitation you have sent me to be present at your daughter’s wedding."

"I trust you will be able to come," replied Mr. Greenthorpe a little
anxiously, for he was eager that the world should know that he and the
now famous Simon Carne were on familiar terms.

"That is exactly what has brought me to see you," said Carne.  "I regret
to say I hardly know yet whether I shall be able to give myself that
pleasure or not.  An important complication has arisen in connection
with some property in which I am interested, and it is just possible
that I shall be called to the Continent within the next few days.  My
object in calling upon you this morning was to ask you to permit me to
withhold my answer until I am at liberty to speak more definitely as to
my arrangements."

"By all means, by all means," answered his host, placing himself with
legs wide apart upon the hearthrug, and rattling the money in his
trouser pockets. "Take just as long as you like so long as you don’t say
you can’t come.  Me and the missus--hem!--I mean Mrs. Greenthorpe and
I--are looking forward to the pleasure of your society, and I can tell
you we sha’n’t think our company complete if we don’t have you with us."

"I am extremely flattered," said Carne sweetly, "and you may be sure it
will not be my fault if I am not among your guests."

"Hear, hear, to that, sir," replied the old gentleman.  "We shall be a
merry party, and, I trust, a distinguished one.  We _did_ hope to have
had Royalty present among us, but, unfortunately, there were special
reasons, that I am hardly privileged to mention, which prevented it.
However, the Duke of Rugby and his Duchess, the father and mother of my
future son-in-law, you know, are coming; the Earl of Boxmoor and his
countess have accepted; Lord Southam and his lady, half-a-dozen baronets
or so, and as many Members of Parliament and their wives as you can
count on one hand.  There’ll be a ball the night before, given by the
Mayor at the Assembly Rooms, a dinner to the tenants at the conclusion
of the ceremony, and a ball in my own house after the young couple have
gone away.  You may take it from me, my dear sir, that nothing on a
similar scale has even been seen at Market Stopford before."

"I can quite believe it," said Carne.  "It will mark an epoch in the
history of the country."

"It will do more than that, sir.  The festivities alone will cost me a
cool five thousand pounds.  At first _I_ was all for having it in town,
but I was persuaded out of it.  After all, a country house is better
suited to such jinks.  And we mean to do it well."

He took Carne familiarly by the button of his coat, and, sinking his
voice to an impressive whisper, asked him to hazard a guess how much the
whole affair, presents and all, would cost.

Carne shook his head.  "I have not the very remotest notion," he said.
"But if you wish me to guess, I will put it at fifty thousand pounds."

"Not enough by half, sir--not enough by half. Why, I’ll let you into a
secret that even my wife knows nothing about."

As he spoke, he crossed the room to a large safe in the wall.  This he
unlocked and having done so took from it an oblong box, wrapped in
tissue paper.  This he placed on the table in the center of the room,
and then, having looked out into the hall to make sure that no one was
about, shut and locked the door. Then, turning to Carne, he said:

"I don’t know what you may think, sir, but there are some people I know
as try to insinuate that if you have money you can’t have taste.  Now,
I’ve got the money"--here he threw back his shoulders, and tapped
himself proudly on the chest--"and I’m going to convince you, sir, that
I’ve got as pretty an idea of taste as any man could wish to have.  This
box will prove it."

So saying he unwrapped the tissue paper, and displayed to Carne’s
astonished gaze a large gilded casket, richly chased, standing upon four
massive feet.

"There, sir, you see," he said, "an artistic bit of workmanship, and
I’ll ask you to guess what it’s for."

Carne, however, shook his head.  "I’m afraid I’m but a poor hand at
guessing, but, if I must venture an opinion, I should say a jewel case."

Thereupon Mr. Greenthorpe lifted the lid.

"And you would be wrong, sir.  I will tell you what it is for.  That box
has been constructed to contain exactly fifty thousand sovereigns and on
her wedding day it will be filled, and presented to the bride, as a
token of her father’s affection.  Now, if that isn’t in good taste, I
shall have to ask you to tell me what is."

"I am astonished at your munificence," said Carne. "To be perfectly
candid with you, I don’t know that I have ever heard of such a present
before."

"I thought you’d say so.  I said to myself when I ordered that box, ’Mr.
Carne is the best judge of what is artistic in England, and I’ll take
his opinion about it.’"

"I suppose your daughter has received some valuable presents?"

"Valuable, sir?  Why, that’s no name for it.  I should put down what has
come in up to the present at, not a penny under twenty thousand pounds.
Why, you may not believe it, sir, but Mrs. Greenthorpe has presented the
young couple with a complete toilet-set of solid gold.  I doubt if such
another has been seen in this country before."

"I should say it would be worth a burglar’s while to pay a visit to your
house on the wedding day," said Carne with a smile.

"He wouldn’t get much for his pains," said the old gentleman warmly.  "I
have already provided for that contingency.  The billiard-room will be
used as a treasure-chamber for the time being, as there is a big safe
like that over yonder in the wall.  This week bars are being placed on
all the windows, and on the night preceding, and also on the wedding
day, one of my gardeners will keep watch in the room itself, while one
of the village policemen will mount guard at the door in the passage.
Between them they ought to be sufficient to keep out any burglars who
may wish to try their hands upon the presents.  What do you think?"

At that moment the handle of the door turned, and an instant later the
bride-elect entered the room.  On seeing Simon Carne she paused upon the
threshold with a gesture of embarrassment, and made as if she would
retreat.  Carne, however, was too quick for her.  He advanced and held
out his hand.

"How do you do, Miss Greenthorpe," he said, looking her steadily in the
face.  "You father has just been telling me of the many beautiful
presents you have received.  I am sure I congratulate you most heartily.
With your permission I will add my mite to the list.  Such as it is, I
would beg your acceptance of it."

So saying, he took from his pocket the case containing the bracelet he
had that morning purchased. Unfastening it, he withdrew the circlet and
clasped it upon her wrist.  So great was her surprise and delight that
for some moments she was at a loss how to express her thanks.  When she
recovered her presence of mind and her speech, she attempted to do so,
but Carne stopped her.

"You must not thank me too much," he said, "or I shall begin to think I
have done a meritorious action. I trust Lord Kilbenham is well?"

"He was very well when I last saw him," answered the girl after a
momentary pause, which Carne noticed, "but he is so busy just now that
we see very little of each other.  Good-bye."

All the way home Simon Carne sat wrapped in a brown study.  On reaching
his residence he went straight to his study, and to his writing-desk,
where he engaged himself for some minutes jotting down certain memoranda
on a sheet of note-paper.  When he had finished he rang the bell and
ordered that Belton, his valet, should be sent to him.

"Belton," he said, when the person he wanted had arrived in answer to
the summons, "on Thursday next I shall go down to Market Stopford to
attend the wedding of the Marquis of Kilbenham with Miss Greenthorpe.
You will, of course, accompany me. In the meantime" (here he handed him
the sheet of paper upon which he had been writing) "I want you to attend
to these few details.  Some of these articles, I’m afraid, you will find
rather difficult to obtain, but at any cost I must have them to take
down to the country with me."

Belton took the paper and left the room with it, and for the time being
Carne dismissed the matter from his mind.  The sun was in the act of
setting on the day immediately preceding the wedding when Simon Carne
and his faithful valet reached the wayside station of Market Stopford.
As the train came to a standstill, a footman wearing the Greenthorpe
livery opened the door of the reserved carriage and informed his
master’s guest that a brougham was waiting outside the station to convey
him to his destination.  Belton was to follow with the luggage in the
servants’ omnibus.

On arrival at Greenthorpe Park, Simon Carne was received by his host and
hostess in the hall, the rear-most portion of which was furnished as a
smoking-room.  Judging from the number of guests passing, repassing, and
lolling about in the easy chairs, most of the company invited had
already arrived.  When he had greeted those with whom he was familiar,
and had taken a cup of tea from the hands of the bride-elect, who was
dispensing it at a small table near the great oak fireplace, he set
himself to be agreeable to those about him for the space of a quarter of
an hour, after which he was escorted to his bedroom, a pretty room
situated in the main portion of the building at the head of the grand
staircase.  He found Belton awaiting him there.  His luggage had been
unpacked, and a glance at his watch told him that it would be necessary
for him to prepare for dinner.

"Well, Belton," he said, as he threw himself into a chair beside the
window that looked out over the rose garden, "here we are, and the next
question is, how are we going to succeed?"

"I have never known you to fail yet, sir," replied the deferential
valet, "and I don’t suppose you’ll do so on this occasion."

"You flatter me, Belton, but I will not be so falsely modest as to say
that your praise is altogether undeserved.  This, however, is a case of
more than usual delicacy and danger, and it will be necessary for us to
play our cards with considerable care.  When I have examined this house
I shall elaborate my plans more fully.  We have none too much time, for
the attempt must be made to-morrow night.  You have brought down with
you the things I mentioned on that list, I suppose?"

"They are in these chests, sir," said Belton.  "They make a precious
heavy load, and once or twice I was fearful lest they might arouse
suspicion."

"You need have no fear, my good Belton," said Carne.  "I have a very
plausible excuse to account for their presence here.  Everyone by this
time knows that I am a great student, and also that I never travel
without at least two cases of books.  It is looked upon as a harmless
fad.  Here is my key.  Open the box standing nearest to you."

Belton did as he was commanded, when it was seen that it was filled to
its utmost holding capacity with books.

"No one would think," said Carne, with a smile at the astonishment
depicted on the other’s face, "that there are only two layers of volumes
there, would they?  If you lift out the tray upon which they rest, you
will discover that the balance of the box is now occupied by the things
you placed in it. Unknown to you, I had the trays fitted after you had
packed the others.  There is nothing like being prepared for all
emergencies.  Now pay attention to what I am about to say to you.  I
have learned that the wedding presents, including the fifty thousand
sovereigns presented by Mr. Greenthorpe to his daughter in that absurd
casket, of which I spoke to you, will be on view to-morrow afternoon in
the billiard-room; to-night, and to-morrow before the ball commences,
they will be placed in the safe.  One of Mr. Greenthorpe’s most trusted
servants will keep watch over them in the room, while a constable will
be on duty in the lobby outside.  Bars have been placed on all windows,
and, as I understand, the village police will patrol the building at
intervals during the night.  The problem of how we are to get hold of
them would seem rather a hard nut to crack, would it not?"

"I must confess I don’t see how you are going to do it at all, sir,"
said Belton.

"Well, we’ll see.  I have a plan in my head now, but before I can adopt
it I must make a few inquiries. I believe there is a staircase leading
from the end of this corridor down to the lobby outside the billiard and
smoking-rooms.  If this is so, we shall have to make use of it.  It must
be your business to discover at what time the custodians of the treasure
have their last meal.  When you have found that out let me know.  Now
you had better get me ready for dinner as soon as possible."

When Carne retired to rest that evening, his inimitable valet was in a
position to report that the sentries were already installed, and that
their supper had been taken to them, by Mr. Greenthorpe’s orders, at ten
o’clock precisely, by one of the under-footmen, who had been instructed
to look after them.

"Very good," said Carne; "I think I see my way now.  I’ll sleep on my
scheme and let you know what decision I have come to in the morning.  If
we pull this little business off successfully, there will be ten
thousand pounds for you to pay into your credit, my friend."

Belton bowed and thanked his master without a sign of emotion upon his
face.  After which Simon Carne went to bed.

When he was called next morning, he discovered a perfect summer day.
Brilliant sunshine streamed in at the windows, and the songs of the
birds came Iron the trees outside.

"An excellent augury," he said to himself as he jumped out of bed and
donned the heavy dressing-gown his valet held open for him.  "Miss
Greenthorpe, my compliments to you.  My lord marquis is not the only man
upon whom you are conferring happiness to-day."

His good humor did not leave him, for when he descended to the
breakfast-room an hour later his face was radiant with smiles, and every
one admitted that it would be impossible to meet a more charming
companion.

During the morning he was occupied in the library, writing letters.

At one he lunched with his fellow-guests, none of the family being
present, and at half-past went off to dress for the wedding ceremony.
This important business completed, a move was made for the church; and
in something less than a quarter of an hour the nuptial knot was tied,
and Miss Sophie Greenthorpe, only daughter of Matthew Greenthorpe,
erstwhile grocer and provision merchant of Little Bexter Street,
Tottenham Court Road, left the building, on her husband’s arm,
Marchioness of Kilbenham and future Duchess of Rugby.

Simon Carne and his fellow-guests followed in her wake down the aisle,
and, having entered their carriages, returned to the Park.

The ball that evening was an acknowledged success, but, though he was an
excellent dancer, and had his choice of the prettiest women in the room,
Carne was evidently ill at ease.  The number of times he stealthily
examined his watch said this as plainly as any words.  As a matter of
fact, the last guest had scarcely arrived before he left the ball-room,
and passed down the lobby towards the back stair-case, stopping _en
route_ to glance at the billiard-room door.

As he expected, it was closed, and a stalwart provincial policeman stood
on guard before it.

He made a jocular reference about the treasure the constable was
guarding, and, with a laugh at himself for forgetting the way to his
bedroom, retraced his steps to the stairs, up which he passed to his own
apartment.  Belton was awaiting him there.

"It is ten minutes to ten, Belton," he said abruptly. "It must be now or
never.  Go down to the kitchen, and hang about there until the tray upon
which the suppers of the guard are placed is prepared.  When the footman
starts with it for the Billiard-room, accompany him, and as he opens the
green baize door leading into the house, manage by hook or crook, to
hold him in conversation.  Say something, and interrupt yourself by a
severe fit of coughing.  That will give me my cue.  If anything should
happen to me as I come downstairs, be sure that the man puts his tray
down on the slab at the foot of the stairs and renders me assistance.  I
will manage the rest.  Now be off."

Belton bowed respectfully and left the room.  As he did so, Carne
crossed to the dressing-table, and unlocked a small case standing upon
it.  From this he took a tiny silver-stoppered scent bottle, containing,
perhaps, half an ounce of white powder.  This he slipped into his
waistcoat pocket, and then made for the door.

On the top of the back staircase he paused for a few moments to listen.
He heard the spring of the green baize door in the passage below creak
as it was pushed open.  Next moment he distinguished Belton’s voice.
"It’s true as I’m standing here," he was saying.  "As I went up the
stairs with the governor’s hot water there she was coming along the
passage. I stood back to let her pass, and as I did she----" (Here the
narrative was interrupted by a violent fit of coughing.)  On hearing
this Carne descended the stairs, and, when he had got half-way down, saw
the footman and his valet coming along the passage below.  At the same
instant he must have caught his foot in the stair carpet, for he tripped
and fell headlong to the bottom.

"Heavens live!" cried Belton.  "I do believe that’s my governor, and
he’s killed."  At the same time he ran forward to the injured man’s
assistance.

Carne lay at the foot of the stairs just as he had fallen, his head
thrown back, his eyes shut, and his body curled up and motionless.
Belton turned to the footman, who still stood holding the tray where he
had stopped on seeing the accident, and said: "Put down those things and
go and find Mr. Greenthorpe as quickly as you can.  Tell him Mr. Carne
has fallen downstairs, and I’m afraid is seriously injured."

The footman immediately disappeared.  His back was scarcely turned,
however, before Carne was on his feet.

"Excellent, my dear Belton," he whispered; and, as he spoke, he slipped
his fingers into his waistcoat pocket.  "Hand me up that tray, but be
quiet, or the policeman round the corner will hear you."

Belton did as he was ordered, and Carne thereupon sprinkled upon the
suppers provided for the two men some of the white powder from the
bottle he had taken from his dressing-case.  This done, he resumed his
place at the foot of the stairs, while Belton, kneeling over him and
supporting his head, waited for assistance.  Very few minutes elapsed
before Mr. Greenthorpe, with his scared face, appeared upon the scene.
At his direction Belton and the footman carried the unconscious
gentleman to his bedroom, and placed him upon his bed.  Restoratives
were administered and in something under ten minutes the injured man
once more opened his eyes.

"What is the matter?" he asked feebly.  "What has happened?"

"You have met with a slight accident, my dear sir," said the old
gentleman, "but you are better now. You fell downstairs."

As if he scarcely comprehended what was said, Carne feebly repeated the
last sentence after his host, and then closed his eyes again.  When he
opened them once more, it was to beg Mr. Greenthorpe to leave him and
return to his guests downstairs.  After a small amount of pressing, the
latter consented to do so, and retired, taking the footman with him.
The first use Carne made of their departure was to turn to Belton.

"The powder will take effect in five hours," he said.  "See that you
have all the things prepared."

"They are quite ready," replied Belton.  "I arranged them this evening."

"Very good," said Carne.  "Now, I am going to sleep in real earnest."

So saying, he closed his eyes, and resigned himself to slumber as
composedly as if nothing out of the common had occurred.  The clock on
the stables had struck three when he woke again.  Belton was still
sleeping peacefully, and it was not until he had been repeatedly shaken
that he became conscious that it was time to get up.

"Wake up," said Carne; "it is three o’clock, and time for us to be about
our business.  Unlock that box, and get out the things."

Belton did as he was ordered, placing the packets as he took them from
the case in small Gladstone bags. Having done this, he went to one of
his master’s trunks, and took from it two suits of clothes, a pair of
wigs, two excellently contrived false beards, and a couple of soft felt
hats.  These he placed upon the bed.  Ten minutes later he had assisted
his master to change into one of the suits, and when this was done
waited for further instructions.

"Before you dress, take a tumbler from that table, and go downstairs.
If you should meet anyone, say that you are going to the butler’s pantry
in search of filtered water, as you have used all the drinking water in
this room.  The ball should be over by this time, and the guests in bed
half-an-hour ago.  Ascertain if this is the case, and as you return
glance at the policeman on duty outside the billiard-room door. Let me
know his condition."

"Very good, sir," said Belton; and, taking a tumbler from the table in
question, he left the room.  In less than five minutes he had returned
to report that, with the exception of the corridor outside the
billiard-room, the house was in darkness.

"And how is the guardian of the door?" Carne inquired.

"Fast asleep," said Belton, "and snoring like a pig, sir."

"That is right," said Carne.  "The man inside should be the same, or
that powder has failed me for the first time in my experience.  We’ll
give them half-an-hour longer, however, and then get to work. You had
better dress yourself."

While Belton was making himself up to resemble his master, Carne sat in
an easy chair by his dressing-table, reading Ruskin’s _Stones of
Venice_.  It was one of the most important of his many peculiarities
that he could withdraw his thoughts from any subject, however much it
might hitherto have engrossed him, and fasten them upon another, without
once allowing them to wander back to their original channel. As the
stable clock chimed the half-hour, he put the book aside, and sprang to
his feet.

"If you’re ready, Belton," he said, "switch off the electric light and
open that door."

When this had been done he bade his valet wait in the bedroom while he
crept down the stairs on tip-toe. On turning into the billiard-room
lobby, he discovered the rural policeman propped up in the corner fast
asleep.  His heavy breathing echoed down the corridors, and one moment’s
inspection showed Carne that from him he had nothing to fear.  Unlocking
the door with a key which he took from his pocket, he entered the room,
to find the gardener, like the policeman, fast asleep in an armchair by
the window. He crossed to him, and, after a careful examination of his
breathing, lifted one of his eyelids.

"Excellent," he said.  "Nothing could be better. Now, when Belton comes,
we shall be ready for business."

So saying he left the room again, and went softly up the stairs to find
his valet.  The latter was awaiting him, and, before a witness, had
there been one, could have counted twenty, they were standing in the
billiard-room together.  It was a large apartment, luxuriously
furnished, with a bow window at one end and an alcove, surrounded with
seats, at the other. In this alcove, cleverly hidden by the wainscoting,
as Mr. Greenthorpe had once been at some pains to point out to Simon
Carne, there existed a large iron safe of the latest burglar-proof
pattern.

The secret was an ingenious one, and would have baffled any ordinary
craftsman.  Carne, however, as has already been explained, was far from
being a commonplace member of his profession.  Turning to Belton, he
said, "Give me the tools."  These being forthcoming, in something less
than ten minutes he had picked the lock and was master of the safe’s
contents.

When these, including the fifty thousand sovereigns, had been safely
carried upstairs and stowed away in the portmanteaux and chests, and the
safe had been filled with the spurious jewelry he had brought with him
for that purpose, he signed to Belton to bring him a long pair of steps
which stood in a corner of the room, and which had been used for
securing the skylight above the billiard-table.  These he placed in such
a position as would enable him to reach the window.

With a diamond-pointed instrument, and a hand as true as the eye that
guided it, he quickly extracted a square of colored glass, filed through
the catch, and was soon standing on the leads outside.  A few moments
later, the ladder, which had already rendered him such signal service,
had enabled him to descend into the garden on the other side.

There he arranged a succession of footsteps in the soft mould, and
having done so, returned to the roof, carefully wiped the end of the
ladder, so that it should not betray him, and climbed down into the room
below, pulling it after him.

"I think we have finished now," he said to Belton, as he took a last
look at the recumbent guardians of the room.  "These gentlemen sleep
soundly, so we will not disturb them further.  Come, let us retire to
bed."

In less than half-an-hour he was in bed and fast asleep.  Next morning
he was still confined to his room by his accident, though he expressed
himself as suffering but slight pain.  Every one was quick to sympathize
with him, and numerous messages were conveyed to him expressive of
sorrow that he should have met with his accident at such a time of
general rejoicing.  At ten o’clock the first batch of guests took their
departure.  It was arranged that the Duke and Duchess of Rugby, the Earl
and Countess of Raxter, and Simon Carne, who was to be carried
downstairs, should travel up to town together by the special train
leaving immediately after lunch.

When they bade their host good-bye, the later was nearly overcome.

"I’m sure it has been a real downright pleasure to me to entertain you,
Mr. Carne," he said, as he stood by the carriage door and shook his
guest warmly by the hand.  "There is only one thing bad about it, and
that is your accident."

"You must not speak of that," said Carne, with a little wave of his
hand.  "The pleasure I have derived from my visit to you amply
compensates me for such a minor inconvenience."

So saying he shook hands and drove away to catch his train.

Next morning it was announced in all the Society papers that, owing to
an unfortunate accident he had sustained while visiting Mr. Matthew
Greenthorpe, at Greenthorpe Park, on the occasion of his daughter’s
marriage, Mr. Simon Carne would be unable to fulfill any of the
engagements he might have entered into.

Any intelligent reader of the aforesaid papers might have been excused
had he pictured the gentleman in question confined to his bed tended by
skilled nurses, and watched over by the most fashionable West End
physicians obtainable for love or money.  They would doubtless,
therefore, have been surprised could they have seen him at a late hour
on the following evening hard at work in the laboratory he had
constructed at the top of his house, as hale and hearty a man as any to
be found in the great Metropolis.

"Now those Apostle spoons," he was saying, as he turned from the
crucible at which he was engaged to Belton, who was busy at a side
table.  "The diamonds are safely disposed of, their settings are melted
down, and, when these spoons have been added to the list, he will be a
wise man who can find in my possession any trace of the famous
Kilbenham-Greenthorpe wedding presents."

He was sitting before the fire in his study next morning, with his left
foot lying bound up upon a neighboring chair, when Ram Gafur announced
"Kelmare Sahib."

"So sorry to hear that you are under the weather Carne," said the
new-comer as he shook hands.  "I only heard of your accident from Baxter
last night or I should have been round before.  Beastly hard luck, but
you shouldn’t have gone to the wedding, you know!"

"And, pray, why not?"

"You see for yourself you haven’t profited by your visit, have you?"

"That all depends upon what you consider profit," replied Carne.  "I was
an actor in an interesting Society spectacle.  I was permitted an
opportunity of observing my fellow-creatures in many new lights.
Personally, I think I did very well.  Besides that, to be laid up just
now is not altogether a thing to be despised, as you seem to imagine."

"What do you mean?"

"It isn’t everybody who can boast such a valid excuse for declining
invitations as I now possess," said Carne.  "When I tell you that I had
a dinner, a lecture at the Imperial institute, two ’at homes,’ and three
dances on my list for to-night, you will understand what I mean.  Now I
am able to decline every one of them without risk of giving offense or
fear of hurting the susceptibilities of any one.  If you don’t call that
luck, I do.  And now tell me what has brought you here, for I suppose
you have some reason, other than friendship, for this early call.  When
you came in I observed that you were bursting with importance.  You are
not going to tell me that you have abandoned your yachting trip and are
going to get married?"

"You need have no fear on that score.  All the same, I have the greatest
and most glorious news for you.  It isn’t every day a man finds
Providence taking up his case and entering into judgment against his
enemies for him.  That is my position.  Haven’t you heard the news?"

"What news?" asked Carne innocently.

"The greatest of all possible news," answered Kelmare, "and one which
concerns you, my dear fellow. You may not believe it, but it was
discovered last evening that the Kilbenham-Greenthorpe wedding presents
have all been stolen, including the fifty thousand sovereigns presented
to the bride in the now famous jeweled casket.  What do you think of
that?"

"Surely you must be joking," said Carrie incredulously.  "I cannot
believe it."

"Nevertheless it’s a fact," replied Kelmare.

"But when did it happen? and how did they discover it?" asked Carne.

"When it took place nobody can tell, but they discovered it when they
came to put the presents together after the guests had departed.  On the
morning after the wedding old Greenthorpe had visited the safe himself,
and glanced casually at its contents, just to see that they were all
right, you know; but it was not until the afternoon, when they began to
do them up, that they discovered that every single article of value the
place contained had been abstracted, and dummies substituted.  Their
investigation proved that the sky-light had been tampered with, and one
could see unmistakable footmarks on the flower beds outside."

"Good gracious!" said Carne.  "This is news indeed. What a haul the
thieves must have had, to be sure.  I can scarcely believe it even now.
But I thought they had a gardener in the room, a policeman at the door,
and a patrol outside, and that old Greenthorpe went to sleep with the
keys of the room and safe under his pillow?"

"Quite right," said Kelmare, "so he did; that’s the mysterious part of
it.  The two chaps swear positively that they were wide awake all night,
and that nothing was tampered with while they were there. Who the
thieves were, and how they became so familiar with the place are riddles
that it would puzzle the Sphinx, or your friend Klimo next door, to
unravel."

"What an unfortunate thing," said Carne.  "It’s to be hoped the police
will catch them before they have time to dispose of their booty."

"You are thinking of your bracelet, I suppose?"

"It may seem egotistical, but I must confess I was; and now I suppose
you’ll stay to lunch?"

"I’m afraid that’s impossible.  There are at least five families who
have not heard the news, and I feel that it is my bounden duty to
enlighten them."

"You’re quite right, it is not often a man has such glorious vengeance
to chronicle.  It behooves you to make the most of it."

The other looked at Carne as if to discover whether or not he was
laughing at him.  Carne’s face, however, was quite expressionless.

"Good-bye; I suppose you won’t be at the Wilbringham’s to-night?"

"I’m afraid not.  You evidently forget that, as I said just now, I have
a very good and sufficient excuse."

When the front door had closed behind his guest, Carne lit a third
cigar.

"I’m overstepping my allowance," he said reflectively, as he watched the
smoke circle upward, "but it isn’t every day a man gives a thousand
pounds for a wedding present and gets upwards of seventy thousand back.
I think I may congratulate myself on having brought off a very
successful little speculation."



                             *CHAPTER VII.*

                       *THE MAN OF MANY CRIMES.*


If one consults a dictionary one finds that the word dipsomaniac means a
man who spends his life continually desiring alcoholic liquor; a name
that properly classifies it has not yet been invented for the individual
who exhibits a perpetual craving for notoriety, and yet one is, perhaps,
as much a nuisance to society as the other.  After his run of success
there came a time when Simon Carne, like Alexander the Great, could have
sat down and wept, for the reason that he had no more worlds to conquer.
For the moment it seemed as if he had exhausted, to put it plainly,
every species of artistic villainy.

He had won the Derby, under peculiar circumstances, as narrated
elsewhere; he had rendered a signal though an unostentatious service to
the State; he had stolen, under enormous difficulty, the most famous
family jewels in Europe; and he had relieved the most fashionable bride
and bridegroom of the season of the valuable presents that their friends
and relations had lavished on them.

On a morning following a banquet at the Mansion House, at which he had
been a welcome, as well as a conspicuous guest, he was sitting alone in
his study smoking a meditative cigar.  Though the world would scarcely
have thought it, a fashionable life did not suit him, and he was
beginning to wonder whether he was not, after all, a little tired of
England.  He was hungering for the warmth and color of the East, and,
perhaps, if the truth must be told, for something of the rest he had
known in the Maharajah of Kadir’s lake palace, where he had been
domiciled when he had first made the acquaintance of the man who had
been his sponsor in English society, the Earl of Amberley.

It was a strange coincidence that, while he was thinking of that
nobleman, and of the events which had followed the introduction just
referred to, his quick ears should have caught the sound of a bell that
was destined eventually to lead him up to one of the most sensational
adventures of all his sensational career.  A moment later his butler
entered to inform him that Lady Caroline Weltershall and the Earl of
Amberley had called, and would like to see him. Tossing his cigar into
the grate, he passed through the door Ram Gafur held open for him, and,
having crossed the hall, entered the drawing-room.

As he went he wondered what it was that had brought them to see him at
such an early hour.  Both were among his more intimate acquaintances and
both occupied distinguished positions in the social life of the world’s
great metropolis.  While her friends and relations spent their time in
search of amusement, and a seemingly eternal round of gaieties, which
involved a waste of both health and money, Lady Caroline, who was the
ugly duckling of an otherwise singularly handsome family, put her life
to a different use.

Philanthropy was her hobby, and scarcely a day passed in which she did
not speak at some meeting, preside over some committee, or endeavor in
some way, as she somewhat grandiloquently put it: "To better the lives
and ameliorate the conditions of our less fortunate fellow-creatures."
In appearance she was a short, fair woman, of about forty-five years of
age, with a not unhandsome face, the effect of which, however, was
completely spoilt by two large and protruding teeth.

"My dear Lady Caroline, this is indeed kind of you," said Carne, as he
shook hands with her, "and also of you, Lord Amberley.  To what happy
circumstance may I attribute the pleasure of this visit?"

"I fear it is dreadfully early for us to come to see you," replied her
ladyship, "but Lord Amberley assured me that as our business is so
pressing you would forgive us."

"Pray do not apologize," returned Carne.  "It gives me the greatest
possible pleasure to see you. As for the hour, I am ashamed to confess
that, while the morning is no longer young, I have only just finished
breakfast.  But won’t you sit down?"

They seated themselves once more, and when they had done so, Lady
Caroline unfolded her tale.

"As you are perhaps aware, my friends say that I never come to see them
unless it is to attempt to extort money from them for some charitable
purpose," she said.  "No, you need not prepare to button up your
pockets, Mr. Carne.  I am not going to ask you for anything to-day.
What I _do_ want, however, is to endeavor to persuade you to help us in
a movement we are inaugurating to raise money with which to relieve the
great distress in the Canary Islands, brought about by the late
disastrous earthquake.  My cousin, the Marquis of Laverstock, has kindly
promised to act as president, and, although we started it but yesterday,
ten thousand pounds have already been subscribed.  As you are aware,
however, if we are to attract public attention and support, the funds
raised must be representative of all classes.  Our intention, therefore,
is to hold a drawing-room meeting at my house to-morrow afternoon, when
a number of the most prominent people of the day will be invited to give
us their views upon the subject.

"I feel sure, if you will only consent to throw in your lot with us, and
to assist in carrying out what we have in view, we shall be able to
raise a sum of at least one hundred thousand pounds for the benefit of
the sufferers.  Our kind friend here, Lord Amberley, has promised to act
as secretary, and his efforts will be invaluable to us.  Royalty has
signified its gracious approval, and it is expected will head the list
with a handsome donation.  Every class will be appealed to.  Ministers
of religion, of all known denominations, will be invited to co-operate,
and if you will only consent to allow your name to appear upon the
personnel of the committee, and will allow us to advertise your name as
a speaker at to-morrow’s meeting, I feel sure there is nothing we shall
not be able to achieve."

"I shall be delighted to help you in any way I can," Carne replied.  "If
my name is likely to be of any assistance to you, I beg you will make
use of it.  In the meantime, if you will permit me, I will forward you a
cheque for one thousand pounds, being my contribution to the fund you
have so charitably started."

Her ladyship beamed with delight, and even Lord Amberley smiled gracious
approval.

"You are generous, indeed," said Lady Caroline. "I only wish others
would imitate your example."

She did not say that, wealthy though she herself was, she had only
contributed ten pounds to the fund. It is well known that while she
inaugurated large works of charity, she seldom contributed very largely
to them.  As a wit once remarked: "Philanthropy was her virtue, and
meanness was her vice."

"Egad," said Amberley, "if you’re going to open your purse-strings like
that, Carne, I shall feel called upon to do the same."

"Then let me have the pleasure of booking both amounts at once," cried
her ladyship, at the same time whipping out her note-book and pencil
with flattering alacrity.

"I shall be delighted," said Carne, with a smile of eagerness.

"I also," replied Amberley, and in a trice both amounts were written
down.  Having gained her point, her ladyship rose to say good-bye.  Lord
Amberley immediately imitated her example.

"You will not forget, will you, Mr. Carne?" she said.  "I am to have the
pleasure of seeing you at my house to-morrow afternoon at three o’clock.
We shall look forward to hearing your speech, and I need not remind you
that every word you utter will be listened to with the closest
attention."

"At three to-morrow afternoon," said Carne, "I shall be at your house.
You need have no fear that I shall forget.  And now, since you think you
must be going, good-bye, and many thanks to you for asking me."

He escorted them to the carriage which was waiting outside, and when he
had watched it drive away, returned to his study to write the cheque he
had promised her.  Having done so, he did not rise from his chair, but
continued to sit at his writing-table biting the feather of his quill
pen and staring at the blotting pad before him.  A great and glorious
notion had suddenly come into his head, and the majesty of it was for
the moment holding him spellbound.

"If only it could be worked," he said to himself, "what a glorious
_coup_ it would be.  The question for my consideration is, can it be
done?  To invite the people of England to subscribe its pounds,
shillings, and pence for my benefit, would be a glorious notion, and
just the sort of thing I should enjoy.  Besides which I have to remember
that I am a thousand pounds to the bad already, and that must come back
from somewhere.  For the present, however I’ll put the matter aside.
After the meeting to-morrow I shall have something tangible to go upon,
and then, if I still feel in the same mind, it will be strange if I
can’t find some way of doing what I want.  In the meantime I shall have
to think out my speech; upon that will depend a good deal of my success.
It is a strange world in which it is ordained that so much should depend
upon so little!"

At five minutes to three o’clock on the following afternoon Simon Carne
might have been observed--that, I believe, is the correct
expression--strolling across from Apsley House to Gloucester Place.
Reaching Lord Weltershall’s residence, he discovered a long row of
carriages lining the pavement, and setting down their occupants at his
lordship’s door.  Carne followed the stream into the house, and was
carried by it up the stairs towards the large drawing-room where the
meeting was to be held.  Already about a hundred persons were present,
and it was evident that, if they continued to arrive at the same rate,
it would not be long before the room would be filled to overflowing.
Seeing Lady Caroline bidding her friends welcome near the door, Carne
hastened to shake hands with her.

"It is so very good of you to come," she said, as she took his hand.
"Remember, we are looking to you for a rousing speech this afternoon.
We want one that will inflame all England, and touch the heartstrings of
every man and woman in the land."

"To touch their purse-strings would, perhaps, be more to the point,"
said Carne, with one of his quiet smiles.

"Let us hope we shall touch them, too," she replied. "Now would you mind
going to the dais at the other end of the room?  You will find Lord
Laverstock there, talking to my husband, I think."

Carne bowed, and went forward as he had been directed.

So soon as it was known that the celebrities had arrived, the meeting
was declared open and the speech-making commenced.  Clever as some of
them were it could not be doubted that Carne’s address was the event of
the afternoon.  He was a born speaker, and what was more, despite the
short notice he had received, had made himself thoroughly conversant
with his subject.  His handsome face was on fire with excitement, and
his sonorous voice rang through the large room like a trumpet call.
When he sat down it was amidst a burst of applause.  Lord Laverstock
leant forward and shook hands with him.

"Your speech will be read all over England to-morrow morning," he said.
"It should make a difference of thousands of pounds to the fund.  I
congratulate you most heartily upon it."

Simon Carne felt that if it was really going to make that difference he
might, in the light of future events, heartily congratulate himself.
He, however, accepted the praise showered upon him with becoming
modesty, and, during the next speaker’s exhibition of halting elocution,
amused himself watching the faces before him, and speculating as to what
they would say when the surprise he was going to spring upon them became
known.  Half-an-hour later, when the committee had been elected and the
meeting had broken up, he bade his friends good-bye and set off on his
return home.  That evening he was dining at home, intending to call at
his club afterwards, and to drop in at a reception and two dances
between ten and midnight.  After dinner, however, he changed his mind,
and having instructed Ram Gafur to deny him to all callers, and
countermanding his order for his carriage, went to his study, where he
locked himself in and sat down to smoke and think.

He had set himself a puzzle which would have taxed the brain of that
arch schemer Machiavelli himself. He was not, however, going to be
beaten by it.  There must be some way, he told himself, in which the
fraud could be worked, and if there was he was going to find it.
Numberless were the plans he formed, only to discover a few moments
later that some little difficulty rendered each impracticable.

Suddenly, throwing down the pencil with which he had been writing, he
sprang to his feet and began eagerly to pace the room.  It was evident,
from the expression upon his face, that he had touched upon a train of
thought that was at last likely to prove productive.  Reaching the
fireplace for about the thirtieth time, he paused and gazed into the
fireless grate. After standing there for a few moments he turned, and,
with his hands in his pockets, said solemnly to himself: "Yes, I think
it can be done!"

Whatever the train of thought may have been that led him to make this
declaration, it was plain that it afforded him no small amount of
satisfaction.  He did not, however, commit himself at once to a
decision, but continued to think over the scheme he had hit upon until
he had completely mastered it.  It was nearly midnight before he was
thoroughly satisfied. Then he followed his invariable practice on such
occasions, and rang for the inimitable Belton.  When he had admitted him
to the room, he bade him close and lock the door behind him.

By the time this had been done he had lit a fresh cigar, and had once
more taken up his position on the hearthrug.

"I sent for you to say that I have just made up my mind to try a little
scheme, compared with which all I have done so far will sink into
insignificance."

"What is it, sir?" asked Belton.

"I will tell you, but you must not look so terrified. Put in a few
words, it is neither more nor less than to attempt to divert the
enormous sums of money which the prodigal English public is taking out
of its pocket in order to assist the people of the Canary Islands, who
have lost so severely by the recent terrible earthquake, into my own."

Belton’s face expressed his astonishment.

"But, my dear sir," he said, "that’s a fund of which the Marquis of
Laverstock is president, and of whose committee you are one of the
principal members."

"Exactly," answered Carne.  "It is to those two happy circumstances I
shall later on attribute the success I now mean to attain.  Lord
Laverstock is merely a pompous old nobleman, whose hobby is
philanthropy. This lesson will do him good.  It will be strange if,
before I am a week older, I cannot twist him round my finger.  Now for
my instructions.  In the first place, you must find me a moderate-sized
house, fit for an elderly lady, and situated in a fairly fashionable
quarter, say South Kensington.  Furnish it on the hire system from one
of the big firms, and engage three servants who can be relied upon to do
their work and, what is more important, who can hold their tongues.

"Next find me an old lady to impersonate the mistress of the house.  She
must be very frail and delicate-looking, and you will arrange with some
livery stable people in the neighborhood to supply her with a carriage,
in which she will go for an airing every afternoon in order that the
neighborhood may become familiar with her personality.  Both she and the
servants must be made to thoroughly understand that their only chance of
obtaining anything from me depends upon their carrying out my
instructions to the letter.  Also, while they are in the house, they
must keep themselves to themselves.  My identity, of course, must not
transpire.

"As soon as I give the signal, the old lady must keep to the house, and
the neighborhood must be allowed to understand that she is seriously
ill.  The day following she will be worse, and the next she will be
dead.  You will then make arrangements for the funeral, order a coffin,
and arrange for the conveyance of the body to Southampton, _en route_
for the Channel Islands, where she is to be buried.  At Southampton a
yacht, which I will arrange for myself, will be in readiness to carry us
out to sea.  Do you think you understand?"

"Perfectly, sir," Belton replied, "but I wish I could persuade you to
give up the attempt.  You will excuse my saying so, sir, I hope, but it
does seem to me a pity, when you have done so much, to risk losing it
all over such a dangerous bit of business as this.  It surely can’t
succeed, sir?"

"Belton," said Carne very seriously, "you strike me as being in a
strange humor to-night, and I cannot say that I like it.  Were it not
that I have the most implicit confidence in you, I should begin to think
you were turning honest.  In that case our connection would be likely to
be a very short one."

"I hope, sir," Belton answered in alarm, "that you still believe I am as
devoted as ever to your interests."

"I do believe it," Carne replied.  "Let the manner in which you carry
out the various instructions I have just given you, confirm me in that
belief.  This is Wednesday.  I shall expect you to come to me on
Saturday with a report that the house has been taken and furnished, and
that the servants are installed and the delicate old lady in residence."

"You may rely upon my doing my best, sir."

"I feel sure of that," said Carne, "and now that all is arranged I think
I will go to bed."

A week later a committee of the Canary Island Relief Fund was able to
announce to the world, through the columns of the Daily Press, that the
generous public of England had subscribed no less a sum than one hundred
thousand pounds for the relief of the sufferers by the late earthquake.
The same day Carne attended a committee meeting in Gloucester Place.  A
proposition advanced by Lady Weltershall and seconded by Simon Carne was
carried unanimously. It was to the effect that in a week’s time such
members of the Relief Committee as could get away should start for the
scene of the calamity in the chairman’s yacht, which had been placed at
their disposal, taking with them, for distribution among the
impoverished inhabitants of the Islands, the sum already subscribed,
namely, one hundred thousand pounds in English gold.  They would then be
able, with the assistance of the English Consul, to personally
superintend the distribution of their money, and also be in a position
to report to the subscribers, when they returned to England, the manner
in which the money had been utilized.

"In that case," said Carne, who had not only seconded the motion, but
had put the notion into Lady Weltershall’s head, "it might be as well if
our chairman would interview the authorities of the bank, and arrange
that the amount in question shall be packed, ready for delivery to the
messengers he may select to call for it before the date in question."

"I will make it my business to call at the bank to-morrow morning,"
replied the chairman, "and perhaps you, Mr. Carne, would have no
objection to accompany me."

"If it will facilitate the business of this committee I shall be only
too pleased to do so," said Carne, and so it was settled.

On a Tuesday afternoon, six days later, and two days before the date
upon which it had been arranged that the committee should sail, the
Marquis of Laverstock received a letter.  Lady Caroline Weltershall, the
Earl of Amberley, and Simon Carne were with him when he opened it.  He
read it through, and then read it again, after which he turned to his
guests.

"This is really a very extraordinary communication," he said, "and it
affects the matter we have most at heart, perhaps I had better read it
to you:


"_154, Great Chesterton Street,_
       _Tuesday Evening._

To the Most Noble the Marquis of Laverstock, K. G., Berkeley Square.

"MY LORD--As one who has been permitted to enjoy a long and peaceful
life in a country where such visitations are happily unknown, I take the
liberty of writing to your Lordship to say how very much I should like
to subscribe to the fund so nobly started by you and your friends to
assist the poor people who have lost so much by the earthquake in the
Canary Islands.  Being a lonely old woman, blessed by Providence with
some small share of worldly wealth, I feel it my duty to make some small
sacrifice to help others who have not been so blessed.

"Unfortunately, I do not enjoy very good health, but if your Lordship
could spare a moment to call upon me, I would like to thank you in the
name of Womanhood, for all you have done, and, in proof of my gratitude,
would willingly give you my cheque for the sum of ten thousand pounds to
add to the amount already subscribed.  I am permitted by my doctors to
see visitors between the hours of eleven and twelve in the morning, and
five and six in the afternoon.  I should then be both honored and
pleased to see your Lordship.

"Trusting you will concede me this small favor, I have the honor to be,

Yours very sincerely,
       "JANET O’HALLORAN."


There was a momentary pause after his lordship had finished reading the
letter.

"What will you do?" inquired Lady Caroline.

"It is a noble offering," put in Simon Carne.

"I think there cannot be two opinions as to what is my duty," replied
the chairman.  "I shall accede to her request, though why she wants to
see me is more than I can tell."

"As she hints in the letter, she wishes to congratulate you personally
on what you have done," continued the Earl of Amberley; "and as it will
be the handsomest donation we have yet received, it will, perhaps, be as
well to humor her."

"In that case I will do as I say, and make it my business to call there
this afternoon between five and six.  And now it is my duty to report to
you that Mr. Simon Carne and I waited upon the authorities at the bank
this morning, and have arranged that the sum of one hundred thousand
pounds in gold shall be ready for our messengers when they call for it,
either to-morrow morning or to-morrow afternoon at latest."

"It is a large sum to take with us," said Lady Caroline.  "I trust it
will not prove a temptation to thieves!"

"You need have no fear on that score," replied his lordship.  "As I have
explained to the manager, my own trusted servants will effect the
removal of the money, accompanied by two private detectives, who will
remain on board my yacht until we weigh anchor. We have left nothing to
chance.  To make the matter doubly sure, I have also arranged that the
money shall not be handed over except to a person who shall present my
cheque, and at the same time show this signet ring which I now wear upon
my finger."

The other members of the committee expressed themselves as perfectly
satisfied with this arrangement, and when certain other business had
been transacted the meeting broke up.

As soon as he left Berkeley Square Carne returned with all haste to
Porchester House.  Reaching his study he ordered that Belton should be
at once sent to him.

"Now, Belton," he said, when the latter stood before him, "there is not
a moment to lose.  Lord Laverstock will be at Great Chesterton Street in
about two hours.  Send a messenger to Waterloo to inquire if they can
let us have a special train at seven o’clock to take a funeral party to
Southampton.  Use the name of Merryburn, and you may say that the amount
of the charge, whatever it may be, will be paid before the train starts.
As soon as you obtain a reply, bring it to 154, Great Chesterton Street.
In the meantime I shall disguise myself and go on to await you there. On
the way I shall wire to the captain of the yacht at Southampton to be
prepared for us.  Do you understand what you have to do?"

"Perfectly, sir," Belton replied.  "But I must confess that I am very
nervous."

"There is no need to be.  Mark my words, everything will go like
clockwork.  Now I am going to change my things and prepare for the
excursion."

He would have been a sharp man who would have recognized in the
dignified-looking clergyman who drove up in a hansom to 154, Great
Chesterton Street, half-an-hour later, Simon Carne, who had attended the
committee meeting of the Canary Island Relief Fund that afternoon.  As
he alighted he looked up, and saw that all the blinds were drawn down,
and that there were evident signs that Death had laid his finger on the
house.  Having dismissed his cab he rang the bell, and when the door was
opened entered the house. The butler who admitted him had been prepared
for coming.  He bowed respectfully, and conducted him into the
drawing-room.  There he found an intensely respectable lady, attired in
black silk, seated beside the window.

"Go upstairs," he said peremptorily, "and remain in the room above this
until you are told to come down.  Be careful not to let yourself be
seen.  As soon as it gets dark to-night you can leave the house, but not
till then.  Before you go the money promised you will be paid.  Now be
off upstairs, and make sure that some of the neighbors catch sight of
you."

Ten minutes later a man, who might have been a retired military officer,
and who was dressed in the deepest black, drove up, and was admitted to
the house. Though no one would have recognized him, Carne addressed him
at once as "Belton."

"What have you arranged about the train?" he asked, as soon as they were
in the drawing-room together.

"I have settled that it shall be ready to start for Southampton
punctually at seven o’clock," the other answered.

"And what about the hearse?"

"It will be here at a quarter to seven, without fail."

"Very good; we will have the corpse ready meanwhile. Now, before you do
anything else, have the two lower blinds in the front room drawn up.  If
he thinks there is trouble in the house he may take fright, and we must
not scare our bird away after all the bother we have had to lure him
here."

For the next hour they were busily engaged perfecting their
arrangements.  These were scarcely completed before a gorgeous landau
drove up to the house, and Belton reported that the footman had alighted
and was ascending the steps.

"Let his lordship be shown into the drawing-room," said Simon Carne,
"and as soon as he is there do you, Belton, wait at the door.  I’ll call
you when I want you."

Carne went into the drawing-room and set the door ajar.  As he did so he
heard the footman inquire whether Mrs. O’Halloran was at home, and
whether she would see his master.  The butler answered in the
affirmative, and a few moments later the Marquis ascended the steps.

"Will you be pleased to step this way my lord," said the servant.  "My
mistress is expecting you, and will see you at once."

When he entered the drawing-room he discovered the same portly,
dignified clergyman whom the neighbors had seen enter the house an hour
or so before, standing before the fireplace.

"Good-afternoon, my lord," said this individual as the door closed
behind the butler.  "If you will be good enough to take a seat, Mrs.
O’Halloran will be down in a few moments."

His lordship did as he was requested, and while doing so commented on
the weather, and allowed his eyes to wander round the room.  He took in
the grand piano, the easy chairs on either side of the book-case, and
the flower-stand in the window.  He could see that there was plain
evidence of wealth in these things.  What his next thought would have
been can only be conjectured, for he was suddenly roused from his
reverie by hearing the man say in a gruff voice: "it’s all up, my lord.
If you move or attempt to cry out, you’re a dead man!"

Swinging round he discovered a revolver barrel pointed at his head.  He
uttered an involuntary cry of alarm, and made as if he would rise.

"Sit down, sir," said the clergyman authoritatively. "Are you mad that
you disobey me?  You do not know with whom you are trifling."

"What do you mean?" cried the astonished peer, his eyes almost starting
from his head.  "I demand to be told what this behavior means.  Are you
aware who I am?"

"Perfectly," the other replied.  "As to your other question, you will
know nothing more than I choose to tell you.  What’s more, I should
advise you to hold your tongue, unless you desire to be gagged.  That
would be unpleasant for all parties."

Then, turning to the door, he cried: "Come in, Dick!"

A moment later the military individual, who had been to Waterloo to
arrange about the train, entered the room to find the Most Noble the
Marquis of Laverstock seated in an easy chair, almost beside himself
with terror, with the venerable clergyman standing over him revolver in
hand.

"Dick, my lad," said the latter quietly, "his lordship has been wise
enough to hear reason.  No, sir, thank you, your hands behind your back,
as arranged, if you please.  If you don’t obey me I shall blow your
brains out, and it would be a thousand pities to spoil this nice Turkey
carpet.  That’s right.  Now, Dick, my lad, I want his lordship’s
pocket-book from his coat and those sheets of note-paper and envelopes
we brought with us.  I carry a stylographic pen myself, so there is no
need of ink."

These articles having been obtained, they were placed on a table beside
him, and Carne took possession of the pocket-book.  He leisurely opened
it, and from it took the cheque for one hundred thousand pounds, signed
by the chairman and committee of the Canary Island Relief Fund, which
had been drawn that afternoon.

"Now take the pen," he said, "and begin to write. Endeavor to remember
that I am in a hurry, and have no time to waste.  Let the first letter
be to the bank authorities.  Request them, in your capacity of Chairman
of the Relief Fund, to hand to the bearers the amount of the cheque in
gold."

"I will do no such thing," cried the old fellow sturdily.  "Nothing
shall induce me to assist you in perpetrating such a fraud."

"I am sorry to hear that," said Carne sweetly, "for I am afraid in that
case we shall be compelled to make you submit to a rather unpleasant
alternative.  Come, sir, I will give you three minutes in which to write
that letter.  If at the end of that time you have not done so, I shall
proceed to drastic measures."

So saying, he thrust the poker into the fire in a highly suggestive
manner.  Needless to say, within the time specified the letter had been
written, placed in its envelope, and directed.

"Now I shall have to trouble you to fill in this telegraph form to your
wife, to tell her that you have been called out of town, and do not
expect to be able to return until to-morrow."

The other wrote as directed, and when he had done so Carne placed this
paper also in his pocket.

"Now I want that signet ring upon your finger, if you please."

The old gentleman handed it over to his persecutor with a heavy sigh.
He had realized that it was useless to refuse.

"Now that wine-glass on the sideboard, Dick," said the clergyman, "also
that carafe of water.  When you have given them to me, go and see that
the others things I spoke to you about are ready."

Having placed the articles in question upon the table Belton left the
room.  Carne immediately filled the glass, into which he poured about a
tablespoonful of some dark liquid from a bottle which he took from his
pocket, and which he had brought with him for that purpose.

"I’ll have to trouble you to drink this, my lord," he said, as he
stirred the contents of the glass with an ivory paper knife taken from
the table.  "You need have no fear.  It is perfectly harmless, and will
not hurt you."

"I will not touch it," replied the other.  "Nothing you can do or say
will induce me to drink a drop of it."

Carne examined his watch ostentatiously.

"Time flies, I regret to say," he answered impressively, "and I cannot
stay to argue the question with you.  I will give you three minutes to
do as I have ordered you.  If you have not drunk it by that time we
shall be compelled to repeat the little persuasion we tried with such
success a few moments since."

"You wish to kill me," cried the other.  "I will not drink it.  I will
not be murdered.  You are a fiend to attempt such a thing."

"I regret to say you are wasting time," replied his companion.  "I
assure you if you drink it you will not be hurt.  It is merely an opiate
intended to put you to sleep until we have time to get away in safety.
Come, that delightful poker is getting hot again, and if you do not do
what I tell you, trouble will ensue. Think well before you refuse."

There was another pause, during which the unfortunate nobleman gazed
first at the poker, which had been thrust between the bars of the grate
and then at the relentless being who stood before him, revolver in hand.
Never had a member of the House of Lords been placed in a more awkward
and unenviable position.

"One minute," said Carne quietly.

There was another pause, during which the Marquis groaned in a
heartrending manner.  Carne remembered with a smile that the family
title had been bestowed upon one of the Marquis’ ancestors for bravery
on the field of battle.

"Two minutes!"

As he spoke he stooped and gave the poker a little twist.

"Three minutes!"

The words were scarce out of his mouth before Lord Laverstock threw up
his hands.

"You are a heartless being to make me, but I will drink," he cried, and
with an ashened face he immediately swallowed the contents of the glass.

"Thank you," said Carne politely.

The effect produced by the drug was almost instantaneous.  A man could
scarcely have counted a hundred before the old gentleman, who had
evidently resigned himself to his fate, laid himself back in his chair
and was fast asleep.

"He has succumbed even quicker than I expected," said Carne to himself
as he bent over the prostrate figure and listened to his even breathing.
"It is, perhaps, just as well that this drug is not known in England.
At any rate, on this occasion it has answered my purpose most
admirably."

At five minutes before seven o’clock a hearse containing the mortal
remains of Mrs. O’Halloran, of Great Chesterton Street, South
Kensington, entered the yard of Waterloo Station, accompanied by a
hansom cab.  A special train was in waiting to convey the party, which
consisted of the deceased’s brother, a retired Indian officer, and her
cousin, the vicar of a Somersetshire parish, to Southampton, where a
steam yacht would transport them to Guernsey, in which place the remains
were to be interred beside those of her late husband.

"I think we may congratulate ourselves, Belton, on having carried it out
most successfully," said Carne when the coffin had been carried on board
the yacht and placed in the saloon.  "As soon as we are under weigh
we’ll have this lid off and get the poor old gentleman out.  He has had
a good spell of it in there, but he may congratulate himself that the
ventilating arrangements of his temporary home were so perfectly
attended to.  Otherwise I should have trembled for the result."

A few hours later, having helped his guest to recover consciousness, and
having seen him safely locked up in a cabin on board, the yacht put in
at a little sea-port town some thirty or forty miles from Southampton
Water, and landed two men in time to catch the midnight express to
London.  The following afternoon they rejoined the yacht a hundred miles
or so further down the coast.  When they were once more out at sea Carne
called the skipper to his cabin.

"How has your prisoner conducted himself during our absence?" he asked.
"Has he given any trouble?

"Not a bit," replied the man.  "The poor old buffer’s been too sick to
make a row.  He sent away his breakfast and his lunch untouched.  The
only thing he seems to care about is champagne, and that he drinks by
the bottle-full.  I never saw a better man at his bottle in all my
life."

It was well after ten o’clock that evening when Simon Carne, still
attired as a respectable Church of England clergyman, unlocked the door
and entered his prisoner’s cabin.

"You will be glad to hear, my lord," he said, "that your term of
imprisonment has at last come to an end. You had better get up and
dress, for a boat will be alongside in twenty minutes to take you
ashore."

The unfortunate gentleman needed no second bidding. Ill as he had
hitherto been, he seemed to derive new life from the other’s words.  At
any rate, he sprang out of his bunk, and set to work to dress with
feverish energy.  All the time Carne sat and watched him with an amused
smile upon his face.  So soon as he was ready, and the captain had
knocked at the door, he was conducted to the deck and ordered to descend
into a shore boat, which had come off in answer to a signal and was now
lying alongside in readiness.

Carne and Belton leant over the bulwarks to watch him depart.

"Good-bye, my lord," cried the former, as the boat moved away.  "It has
been a sincere pleasure to me to entertain you, and I only hope that, in
return, you have enjoyed your little excursion.  You might give my
respectful compliments to the members of the Canary Island Relief Fund,
and tell them that there is at least one person on board this yacht who
appreciates their kindly efforts."

Then his lordship stood up, and shook his fist at the yacht until it had
faded away, and could no longer be seen owing to the darkness.
Presently Carne turned to Belton.

"So much for the Most Noble the Marquis of Laverstock," he said, "and
the Canary Island Relief Fund. Now, let us be off to town.  To-morrow I
must be Simon Carne once more."

Next morning Simon Carne arose from his couch, in his luxurious bedroom,
a little later than usual.  He knew he should be tired, and had
instructed Belton not to come in until he rang his bell.  When the
latter appeared he bade him bring in the morning papers.  He found what
he wanted in the first he opened, on the middle page, headed with three
lines of large type:


                           GIGANTIC SWINDLE.

                  THE MARQUIS OF LAVERSTOCK ABDUCTED.
                     THE CANARY ISLAND FUND STOLEN.


"This looks quite interesting," said Carne, as he folded the paper in
order to be able the better to read the account.  "As I know something
of the case I shall be interested to see what they have to say about it.
Let me see."

The newspaper version ran as follows:

"Of all the series of extraordinary crimes which it has been our
unfortunate duty to chronicle during this year of great rejoicing, it is
doubtful whether a more impudent robbery has been perpetrated than that
which we have to place before our readers this morning. As every one is
well aware, a large fund has been collected from all classes for the
relief of the sufferers by the recent Canary Island earthquake.  On the
day before the robbery took place this fund amounted to no less a sum
than one hundred thousand pounds, and to-morrow it was the intention of
the committee under the presidency of the Most Noble the Marquis of
Laverstock to proceed to the seat of the disaster, taking with them the
entire amount of the sum raised in English gold.  Unfortunately for the
success of this scheme, his lordship was the recipient, two days ago, of
a letter from a person purporting to reside in Great Chesterton Street,
South Kensington.  She signed herself Janet O’Halloran, and offered to
add a sum of ten thousand pounds to the amount already collected,
provided the Marquis would call and collect her cheque personally.  The
excuse given for this extraordinary stipulation was that she wished to
convey to him her thanks for the trouble he had taken.

"Accordingly, feeling that he had no right to allow such a chance to
slip, his lordship visited the house. He was received in the
drawing-room by a man dressed in the garb of a clergyman, who, assisted
by a military-looking individual, presently clapped a revolver to his
head and demanded, under the threat of all sorts of penalties, that he
should give up to him the cheque drawn upon the bank, and which it was
the Marquis’s intention to have cashed the following morning.  Not
satisfied with this assurance, he was also made to write an order to the
banking authorities authorizing them to pay over the money to the
bearer, who was a trusted agent, while at the same time he was to supply
them with his signet ring, which, as had already been arranged, would
prove that the messengers were genuine and what they pretended to be.
Next he was ordered to drink a powerful opiate, and after that his
lordship remembers nothing more until he awoke to find himself on board
a small yacht in mid-channel. Despite the agony he was suffering, he was
detained on board this piratical craft until late last night, when he
was set ashore at a small village within a few miles of Plymouth.  Such
is his lordship’s story.  The sequel to the picture is as follows:

"Soon after the bank was opened yesterday, a respectable-looking
individual, accompanied by three others, who were introduced to the
manager as private detectives, put in an appearance and presented the
Relief Fund’s cheque at the counter.  In reply to inquiries the letter
written by the Marquis was produced, and the signet ring shown.  Never
for a moment doubting that these were the messengers the bank had all
along been told to expect, the money was handed over and placed in a
handsome private omnibus which was waiting outside.  It was not until
late last night, when a telegram was received from the Marquis of
Laverstock from Plymouth, that the nature of the gigantic fraud which
had been perpetrated was discovered.  The police authorities were
immediately communicated with and the matter placed in their hands.
Unfortunately, however, so many hours had been allowed to elapse that it
was extremely difficult to obtain any clue that might ultimately lead to
the identification of the parties concerned in the fraud. So far the
case bids fair to rank with those other mysterious robberies which,
during the last few months, have shocked and puzzled all England."

"I regard that as a remarkably able exposition of the case," said Carne
to himself with a smile as he laid the paper down, "but what an account
the man would be able to write if only he could know what is in my safe
upstairs!"

That afternoon he attended a committee meeting of the fund at
Weltershall House.  The unfortunate nobleman whose unpleasant experience
had founded the subject of this story was present.  Carne was among the
first to offer him an expression of sympathy.

"I don’t know that I ever heard of a more outrageous case," he said.  "I
only hope that the scoundrels may be soon brought to justice."

"In the meantime what about the poor people we intended to help?" asked
Lady Weltershall.

"They shall not lose," replied Lord Laverstock. "I shall refund the
entire amount myself."

"No, no, my lord; that would be manifestly unfair," said Simon Carne.
"We are all trustees of the fund and what happened is as much our faults
as yours.  If nine other people will do the same I am prepared to
contribute a sum of ten thousand pounds towards the fund."

"I will follow your example," said the Marquis.

"I also," continued Lord Amberley.

By nightfall seven other gentleman had done the same, and, as Simon
Carne said as he totalled the amounts: "By this means the Canary
Islanders will not be losers after all."



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*

                         *AN IMPERIAL FINALE.*


Of all the functions that ornament the calendar of the English social
and sporting year, surely the Lowes week may claim to rank as one of the
greatest, or at least the most enjoyable.  So thought Simon Carne as he
sat on the deck of Lord Tremorden’s yacht, anchored off the mouth of the
Medina River, smoking his cigarette and whispering soft nothings into
the shell-like ear of Lady Mabel Madderley, the lady of all others who
had won the right to be considered the beauty of the past season.  It
was a perfect afternoon, and, as if to fill his flagon of enjoyment to
the very brim, he had won the Queen’s Cup with his yacht, _The Unknown
Quantity_, only half-an-hour before.  Small wonder, therefore, that he
was contented with his lot in life, and his good fortune of that
afternoon in particular.

The tiny harbor was crowded with shipping of all sorts, shapes, and
sizes, including the guardship, his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of
Westphalia’s yacht the _Hohenzrallas_, the English Royal yachts, steam
yachts, schooners, cutters, and all the various craft taking part in
England’s greatest water carnival. Steam launches darted hither and
thither, smartly-equipped gigs conveyed gaily-dressed parties from
vessel to vessel, while, ashore the little town itself was alive with
bunting, and echoed to the strains of almost continuous music.

"Surely you ought to consider yourself a very happy man, Mr. Carne,"
said Lady Mabel Madderley with a smile, in reply to a speech of the
other’s.  "You won the Derby in June, and to-day you have appropriated
the Queen’s Cup."

"If such things constitute happiness I suppose I must be in the seventh
heaven of delight," answered Carne, as he took another cigarette from
his case and lit it.  "All the same, I am insatiable enough to desire
still greater fortune.  When one has set one’s heart upon winning
something, besides which the Derby and the Queen’s Cup are items
scarcely worth considering, one is rather apt to feel that Fortune has
still much to give."

"I am afraid I do not quite grasp your meaning," she said.  But there
was a look in her face that told him that, if she did not understand,
she could at least make a very good guess.  According to the world’s
reckoning, he was quite the best fish then swimming in the matrimonial
pond, and some people, for the past few weeks, had even gone so far as
to say that she had hooked him.  It could not be denied that he had been
paying her unmistakable attention of late.

What answer he would have vouchsafed to her speech it is impossible to
say for at that moment their host came along the deck towards them.  He
carried a note in his hand.

"I have just received a message to say that His Imperial Majesty is
going to honor us with a visit," he said, when he reached them.  "If I
mistake not, that is his launch coming towards us now."

Lady Mabel and Simon Carne rose and accompanied him to the starboard
bulwarks.  A smart white launch with the Westphalian flag flying at her
stern, had left the Royal yacht and was steaming quickly towards them.
A few minutes later it had reached the companion ladder, and Lord
Tremorden had descended to welcome his Royal guest.  When they reached
the deck together, his Majesty shook hands with Lady Tremorden, and
afterwards with Lady Mabel and Simon Carne.

"I must congratulate you most heartily, Mr. Carne," he said, "on your
victory to-day.  You gave us an excellent race, and though I had the
misfortune to be beaten by thirty seconds, still I have the satisfaction
of knowing that the winner was a better boat in every way than my own."

"Your Majesty adds to the sweets of victory by your generous acceptance
of defeat," Carne replied "But I must confess that I owe my success in
no way to my own ability.  The boat was chosen for me by another, and I
have not even the satisfaction of saying that I sailed her myself."

"Nevertheless she is your property, and you will go down to posterity
famous in yachting annals as the winner of the Queen’s Cup in this
justly celebrated year."

With this compliment his Majesty turned to his hostess and entered into
conversation with her, leaving his aide-de-camp free to discuss the
events of the day with Lady Mabel.  When he took his departure
half-an-hour later, Carne also bade his friends good-bye, and,
descending to his boat, was rowed away to his own beautiful steam yacht,
which was anchored a few cables’ length away from the Imperial craft.
He was to dine on board the latter vessel that evening.

On gaining the deck he was met by Belton, his valet, who carried a
telegram in his hand.  As soon as he received it, Carne opened it and
glanced at the contents.

"Come below," he said quickly.  "There is news enough here to give us
something to think of for hours to come."

Reaching the saloon, which was decorated with all the daintiness of the
upholsterer’s art, he led the way to the cabin he had arranged as a
study.  Having entered it, he shut and locked the door.

"It’s all up, Belton," he said.  "The comedy has lasted long enough, and
now it only remains for us to speak the tag, and after that to ring the
curtain down as speedily as may be."

"I am afraid, sir, I do not quite take your meaning," said Belton.
"Would you mind telling me what has happened?"

"I can do that in a very few words," the other answered.  "This
cablegram is from Trincomalee Liz, and was dispatched from Bombay
yesterday.  Read it for yourself."

He handed the paper to his servant, who read it carefully aloud:

To CARNE, Portchester House, Park Lane, London.--Bradfield left
fortnight since.  Have ascertained that you are the object.
TRINCOMALEE.

"This is very serious, sir," said the other, when he had finished.

"As you say, it is very serious indeed," Carne replied.  "Bradfield
thinks he has caught me at last, I suppose; but he seems to forget that
it is possible for me to be as clever as himself.  Let me look at the
message again.  Left a fortnight ago, did he?  Then I’ve still a little
respite.  By Jove, if that’s the case, I’ll see that I make the most of
it."

"But surely, sir, you will leave at once," said Belton quickly.  "If
this man, who has been after us so long, is now more than half-way to
England, coming with the deliberate intention of running you to earth,
surely, sir, you’ll see the advisability of making your escape while you
have time."

Carne smiled indulgently.

"Of course I shall escape, my good Belton," he said.  "You have never
known me to neglect to take proper precautions yet; but before I go I
must do one more piece of business.  It must be something by the light
of which all I have hitherto accomplished will look like nothing.
Something really great, that will make England open its eyes as it has
not done yet."

Belton stared at him, this time in undisguised amazement.

"Do you mean to tell me, sir," he said with the freedom of a privileged
servant, "that you intend to run another risk, when the only man who
knows sufficient of your career to bring you to book is certain to be in
England in less than a fortnight?  I cannot believe that you would be so
foolish, sir.  I beg of you to think what you are doing."

Carne, however, paid but small attention to his servant’s entreaties.

"The difficulty," he said to himself, speaking his thoughts aloud, "is
to understand quite what to do. I seem to have used up all my big
chances.  However, I’ll think it over, and it will be strange if I don’t
hit upon something.  In the meantime, Belton, you had better see that
preparations are made for leaving England on Friday next.  Tell the
skipper to have everything ready.  We shall have done our work by that
time; then hey for the open sea and freedom from the trammels of a
society life once more.  You might drop a hint or two to certain people
that I am going, but be more than careful what you say.  Write to the
agents about Portchester House, and attend to all the other necessary
details.  You may leave me now."

Belton bowed, and left the cabin without another word.  He knew his
master sufficiently well to feel certain that neither entreaties nor
expostulations would make him abandon the course he had mapped out for
himself.  That being so, he bowed to the inevitable with a grace which
had now become a habit to him.

When he was alone, Carne once more sat for upwards of an hour in earnest
thought.  He then ordered his gig, and, when it was ready, set out for
the shore. Making his way to the telegraph office, he dispatched a
message which at any other and less busy, time, would have caused the
operator some astonishment. It was addressed to a Mahommedan dealer in
precious stones in Bombay, and contained only two words in addition to
the signature.  They were:

"Leaving?--come."

He knew that they would reach the person for whom they were intended,
and that she would understand their meaning and act accordingly.

The dinner that night on board the Imperial yacht _Hohenszrallas_ was a
gorgeous affair in every sense of the word.  All the principal
yacht-owners were present, and, at the conclusion of the banquet,
Carne’s health as winner of the great event of the regatta, was proposed
by the Emperor himself, and drunk amid enthusiastic applause.  It was a
proud moment for the individual in question, but he bore his honors with
that quiet dignity that had stood him in such good stead on so many
similar occasions.  In his speech he referred to his approaching
departure from England, and this, the first inkling of such news, came
upon his audience like a thunder-clap.  When they had taken leave of his
Majesty soon after midnight, and were standing on deck, waiting for
their respective boats to draw up to the accommodation ladder, Lord
Orpington made his way to where Simon Carne was standing.

"Is it really true that you intend leaving us so soon?" he asked.

"Quite true, unfortunately," Carne replied.  "I had hoped to have
remained longer, but circumstances over which I have no control make it
imperative that I should return to India without delay.  Business that
exercises a vital influence upon my fortunes compels me.  I am therefore
obliged to leave without fail on Friday next.  I have given orders to
that effect this afternoon."

"I am extremely sorry to hear it, that’s all I can say," said Lord
Amberley, who had just come up. "I assure you we shall all miss you very
much indeed."

"You have all been extremely kind," said Carne, "and I have to thank you
for an exceedingly pleasant time.  But, there, let us postpone
consideration of the matter for as long as possible.  I think this is my
boat.  Won’t you let me take you as far as your own yacht?"

"Many thanks, but I don’t think we need trouble you," said Lord
Orpington.  "I see my gig is just behind yours."

"In that case, good-night," said Carne.  "I shall see you as arranged,
to-morrow morning, I suppose?"

"At eleven," said Lord Amberley.  "We’ll call for you and go ashore
together.  Good-night."

By the time Carne had reached his yacht he had made up his mind.  He had
also hit upon a scheme, the daring of which almost frightened himself.
If only he could bring it off, he told himself, it would be indeed a
fitting climax to all he had accomplished since he had arrived in
England.  Retiring to his cabin, he allowed Belton to assist him in his
preparations for the night almost without speaking.  It was not until
the other was about to leave the cabin that he broached the subject that
was occupying his mind to the exclusion of all else.

"Belton," he said, "I have decided upon the greatest scheme that has
come into my mind yet.  If Simon Carne is going to say farewell to the
English people on Friday next, and it succeeds, he will leave them a
legacy to think about for some time after he has gone."

"You are surely not going to attempt anything further, sir," said Belton
in alarm.  "I did hope, sir, that you would have listened to my
entreaties this afternoon."

"It was impossible for me to do so," said Carne. "I am afraid; Belton,
you are a little lacking in ambition.  I have noticed that on the last
three occasions you have endeavored to dissuade me from my endeavors to
promote the healthy excitement of the English reading public.  On this
occasion fortunately, I am able to withstand you.  To-morrow morning you
will commence preparations for the biggest piece of work to which I have
yet put my hand."

"If you have set your mind upon doing it, sir, I am quite aware that it
is hopeless for me to say anything," said Belton resignedly.  "May I
know, however, what it is going to be?"

Carne paused for a moment before he replied.

"I happen to know that the Emperor of Westphalia, whose friendship I
have the honor to claim," he said, "has a magnificent collection of gold
plate on board his yacht.  It is my intention, if possible, to become
the possessor of it."

"Surely that will be impossible, sir," said Belton. "Clever as you
undoubtedly are in arranging these things, I do not see how you can do
it.  A ship at the best of times is such a public place, and they will
be certain to guard it very closely."

"I must confess that at first glance I do not quite see how it is to be
managed, but I have a scheme in my head which I think may possibly
enable me to effect my purpose.  At any rate, I shall be able to tell
you more about it to-morrow.  First, let us try a little experiment."

As he spoke he seated himself at his dressing-table, and bade Belton
bring him a box which had hitherto been standing in a corner.  When he
opened it, it proved to be a pretty little cedar-wood affair divided
into a number of small compartments, each of which contained crépe hair
of a different color.  Selecting a small portion from one, particular
compartment, he unravelled it until he had obtained the length he
wanted, and then with dexterous fingers constructed a moustache, which
he attached with spirit gum to his upper lip.  Two or three twirls gave
it the necessary curl, then with a pair of ivory-backed brushes taken
from the dressing-table he brushed his hair back in a peculiar manner,
placed a hat of uncommon shape upon his head, took a heavy boat cloak
from a cupboard near at hand, threw it round his shoulders, and,
assuming an almost defiant expression, faced Belton, and desired him to
tell him whom he resembled.

Familiar as he was with his master’s marvelous power of disguise and his
extraordinary faculty of imitation, the latter could not refrain from
expressing his astonishment.

"His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Westphalia," he said.  "The
likeness is perfect."

"Good," said Carne.  "From that exhibition you will gather something of
my plan.  To-morrow evening, as you are aware, I am invited to meet his
Majesty, who is to dine ashore accompanied by his aide-de-camp, Count
Von Walzburg.  Here is the latter’s photograph.  He possesses, as you
know, a very decided personality, which is all in our favor.  Study it
carefully."

So saying, he took from a drawer a photograph, which he propped against
the looking-glass on the dressing-table before him.  It represented a
tall, military-looking individual, with bristling eyebrows, a large
nose, a heavy grey moustache, and hair of the same color.  Belton
examined it carefully.

"I can only suppose, sir," he said, "that as you are telling me this,
you intend me to represent Count Von Walzburg."

"Exactly," said Carne.  "That is my intention.  It should not be at all
difficult.  The Count is just your height and build.  You will only need
the moustache, the eyebrows, the grey hair, and the large nose, to look
the part exactly.  To-morrow will be a dark night, and, if only I can
control circumstances sufficiently to obtain the chance I want,
detection, in the first part of our scheme at any rate, should be more
unlikely, if not almost impossible."

"You’ll excuse my saying so, I hope, sir," said Belton, "but it seems a
very risky game to play when we have done so well up to the present."

"You must admit that the glory will be the greater, my friend, if we
succeed."

"But surely, sir, as I said just now, they keep the plate you mention in
a secure place, and have it properly guarded."

"I have made the fullest inquiries, you may be sure.  It is kept in a
safe in the chief steward’s cabin, and, while it is on board, a sentry
is always on duty at the door.  Yes, all things considered, I should say
it is kept in a remarkably secure place."

"Then, sir, I’m still at a loss to see how you are going to obtain
possession of it."

Carne smiled indulgently.  It pleased him to see how perplexed his
servant was.

"In the simplest manner possible," he said, "provided always that I can
get on board the yacht without my identity being questioned.  The manner
in which we are to leave the vessel will be rather more dangerous, but
not sufficiently so to cause us any great uneasiness.  You are a good
swimmer, I know, so that a hundred yards should not hurt you.  You must
also have a number of stout canvas sacks, say six prepared, and securely
attached to each the same number of strong lines; the latter must be
fifty fathoms long, and have at the end of each a stout swivel-hook. The
rest is only a matter of detail.  Now, what have you arranged with
regard to matters in town?"

"I have fulfilled your instructions, sir, to the letter," said Belton.
"I have communicated with the agents who act for the owner of
Portchester House. I have caused an advertisement to be inserted in all
the papers to-morrow morning to the effect that the renowned detective
Klimo, will be unable to meet his clients for at least a month, owing to
the fact that he has accepted an important engagement upon the
Continent, which will take him from home for that length of time.  I
have negotiated the sale of the various horses you have in training, and
I have also arranged for the disposal of the animals and carriages you
have now in use in London.  Ram Gafur and the other native servants at
Portchester House will come down by the mid-day train to-morrow, but
before they do so, they will fulfill your instructions and repair the
hole in the wall between the two houses. I cannot think of any more,
sir."

"You have succeeded admirably, my dear Belton," said Carne, "and I am
very pleased.  To-morrow you had better see that a paragraph is inserted
in all the daily papers announcing the fact that it is my intention to
leave England for India immediately, on important private business.  I
think that will do for to-night."

Next morning he was up by sunrise, and, by the time his friends Lords
Orpington and Amberley were thinking about breakfast, had put the
finishing touches to the scheme which was to bring his career in England
to such a fitting termination.

According to the arrangement entered into on the previous day his
friends called for him at eleven o’clock, when they went ashore
together.  It was a lovely morning, and Carne was in the highest
spirits. They visited the Castle together, made some purchases in the
town, and then went off to lunch on board Lord Orpington’s yacht.  It
was well-nigh three o’clock before Carne bade his host and hostess
farewell, and descended the gangway in order to return to his own
vessel.  A brisk sea was running, and for this reason to step into the
boat was an exceedingly difficult if not a dangerous, matter.  Either he
miscalculated his distance, or he must have jumped at the wrong moment;
at any rate, he missed his footing, and fell heavily on to the bottom.
Scarcely a second, however, had elapsed before his coxswain had sprung
to his assistance, and lifted him up on to the seat in the stern.  It
was then discovered that he had been unfortunate enough to once more
give a nasty twist to the ankle which had brought him to such grief when
he had been staying at Greenthorpe Park on the occasion of the famous
wedding.

"My dear fellow, I am so sorry," said Lord Orpington, who had witnessed
the accident.  "Won’t you come on board again?  We can easily hoist you
over the side."

"Many thanks," replied Carne, "but I think I can manage to get back to
my own boat.  It is better I should do so.  My man has had experience of
my little ailments, and knows exactly what is best to be done under such
circumstances; but it is a terrible nuisance, all the same.  I’m afraid
it will be impossible for me now to be present at his Royal Highness’s
dinner this evening, and I have been looking forward to it so much."

"We shall all be exceedingly sorry," said Lord Amberley.  "I shall come
across in the afternoon to see how you are."

"You are very kind," said Carne, "and I shall be immensely glad to see
you if you can spare the time."

With that he gave the signal to his man to push off.  By the time he
reached his own yacht his foot was so painful that it was necessary for
him to be lifted on board--a circumstance which was duly noticed by the
occupants of all the surrounding yachts, who had brought their glasses
to bear upon him. Once below in his saloon, he was placed in a
comfortable chair and left to Belton’s careful attention.

"I trust you have not hurt yourself very much, sir," said that faithful
individual, who, however, could not prevent a look of satisfaction
coming into his face, which seemed to say that he was not ill-pleased
that his master would, after all, be prevented from carrying out the
hazardous scheme he had proposed to him the previous evening.

In reply Carne sprang to his feet without showing a trace of lameness.

"My dear Belton, how peculiarly dense you are to-day," he said, with a
smile, as he noticed the other’s amazement.  "Cannot you see that I have
only been acting as you yourself wished I should do early this
morning--namely, taking precautions?  Surely you must see that, if I am
laid up on board my yacht with a sprained ankle, Society will say that
it is quite impossible for me to be doing any mischief elsewhere. Now,
tell me, is everything prepared for to-night?"

"Everything, sir," Belton replied.  "The dresses and wigs are ready.
The canvas sacks, and the lines to which the spring hooks are attached,
are in your cabin awaiting your inspection.  As far as I can see,
everything is prepared, and I hope will meet with your satisfaction."

"If you are as careful as usual I feel sure it will," said Carne.  "Now
get some bandages and make this foot of mine up into as artistic a
bundle as you possibly can.  After that help me on deck and prop me up
in a chair.  As soon as my accident gets known there will be certain to
be shoals of callers on board, and I must play my part as carefully as
possible."

Day closed in and found the sky covered with heavy clouds.  Towards
eight o’clock a violent storm of rain fell, and when Carne heard it
beating upon the deck above his cabin, and reflected that in consequence
the night would in all probability be dark, he felt his lucky star was
indeed in the ascendant.

At half-past eight he retired to his cabin with Belton, in order to
prepare for the events of the evening. Never before had he paid such
careful attention to his make-up.  He knew that on this occasion the
least carelessness might lead to detection, and he had no desire that
his last and greatest exploit should prove his undoing.

It was half-past nine before he and his servant had dressed and were
ready to set off.  Then placing broad-brimmed hats upon their heads, and
carrying a portmanteau containing the cloaks and headgear which they
were to wear later in the evening, they went on deck and descended into
the dinghy which was waiting for them alongside.  In something under a
quarter of an hour they had been put ashore in a secluded spot, had
changed their costumes, and were walking boldly down beside the water
towards the steps where they could see the Imperial launch still
waiting.  Her crew were lolling about, joking and laughing, secure in
the knowledge that it would be some hours at least before their
sovereign would be likely to require their services again.

Their astonishment, therefore, may well be imagined when they saw
approaching them the two men whom they had only half-an-hour before
brought ashore.  Stepping in and taking his seat under the shelter, his
Majesty ordered them to convey him back to the yacht with all speed.
The accent and voice were perfect, and it never for an instant struck
any one on board the boat that a deception was being practiced.  Carne,
however, was aware that this was only a preliminary; the most dangerous
portion of the business was yet to come.

On reaching the yacht, he sprang out on the ladder, followed by his
aide-de-camp, Von Walzburg, and mounted the steps.  His disguise must
have been perfect indeed, for when he reached the deck he found himself
face to face with the first lieutenant, who, on seeing him, saluted
respectfully.  For a moment Carne’s presence of mind almost deserted
him; then, seeing that he was not discovered, he determined upon a bold
piece of bluff.  Returning the officer’s salute with just the air he had
seen the Emperor use, he led him to suppose that he had important
reasons for coming on board so soon, and, as if to back this assertion
up, bade him send the chief steward to his cabin, and at the same time
had the sentry removed from his door and placed at the end of the large
saloon, with instructions to allow no one to pass until he was
communicated with again.

The officer saluted and went off on his errand, while Carne, signing to
Belton to follow him, made his way down the companion ladder to the
Royal cabins.  To both the next few minutes seemed like hours.  Reaching
the Imperial stateroom, they entered it, and closed the door behind.
Provided the sentry obeyed his orders, which there was no reason to
doubt he would do, and the Emperor himself did not return until they
were safely off the vessel again, there seemed every probability of
their being able to carry out their scheme without a hitch.

"Put those bags under the table, and unwind the lines and place them in
the gallery outside the window.  They won’t be seen there," said Carne
to Belton, who was watching him from the doorway.  "Then stand by, for
in a few minutes the chief steward will be here.  As soon as he enters
you must manage to get between him and the door, and, while I am
engaging him in conversation, spring on him, clutch him by the throat,
and hold him until I can force this gag into his mouth.  After that we
shall be safe for some time at least, for not a soul will come this way
until they discover their mistake.  It seems to me we ought to thank our
stars that the chief steward’s cabin was placed in such a convenient
position.  But hush, here comes the individual we want.  Be ready to
collar him as soon as I hold up my hand.  If he makes a sound we are
lost."

He had scarcely spoken before there was a knock at the door.  When it
opened, the chief steward entered the cabin, closing the door behind
him.

"Schmidt," said his Majesty, who was standing at the further end of the
cabin, "I have sent for you in order that I may question you on a matter
of the utmost importance.  Draw nearer."

The man came forward as he was ordered, and, having done so, looked his
master full and fair in the face. Something he saw there seemed to
stagger him.  He glanced at him a second time, and was immediately
confirmed in his belief.

"You are not the Emperor," he cried.  "There is some treachery in this.
I shall call for assistance."

He had half turned, and was about to give the alarm, when Carne held up
his hand, and Belton, who had been creeping stealthily up behind him,
threw himself upon him and had clutched him by the throat before he
could utter a sound.  The fictitious Emperor immediately produced a
cleverly constructed gag and forced it into the terrified man’s mouth,
who in another second was lying upon the floor bound hand and foot.

"There, my friend," said Carne quietly, as he rose to his feet a few
moments later, "I don’t think you will give us any further trouble.  Let
me just see that those straps are tight enough, and then we’ll place you
on this settee, and afterwards get to business with all possible
dispatch."

Having satisfied himself on these points, he signed to Belton and
between them they placed the man upon the couch.

"Let me see, I think, if I remember rightly, you carry the key of the
safe in this pocket."

So saying, he turned the man’s pocket inside out and appropriated the
bunch of keys he found therein. Choosing one from it, he gave a final
look at the bonds which secured the prostrate figure, and then turned to
Belton.

"I think he’ll do," he said.  "Now for business. Bring the bags, and
come with me."

So saying, he crossed the cabin, and, having assured himself that there
was no one about to pry upon them, passed along the luxuriously carpeted
alley way until he arrived at the door of the cabin assigned to the use
of the chief steward, and in which was the safe containing the
magnificent gold plate, the obtaining of which was the reason of his
being there.  To his surprise and chagrin, the door was closed and
locked. In his plans he had omitted to allow for this emergency.  In all
probability, however, the key was in the man’s pocket, so, turning to
Belton, he bade him return to the stateroom and bring him the keys he
had thrown upon the table.

The latter did as he was ordered, and, when he had disappeared, Carne
stood alone in the alley way waiting and listening to the various noises
of the great vessel.  On the deck overhead he could hear some one
tramping heavily up and down, and then, in an interval of silence, the
sound of pouring rain.  Good reason as he had to be anxious, he could
not help smiling as he thought of the incongruity of his position.  He
wondered what his aristocratic friends would say if he were captured and
his story came to light.  In his time he had impersonated a good many
people, but never before had he had the honor of occupying such an
exalted station.  This was the last and most daring of all his
adventures.

Minutes went by, and as Belton did not return, Carne found himself
growing nervous.  What could have become of him?  He was in the act of
going in search of him, when he appeared carrying in his hand the bunch
of keys for which he had been sent.  His master seized them eagerly.

"Why have you been so long?" he asked in a whisper. "I began to think
something had gone wrong with you."

"I stayed to make our friend secure," the other answered.  "He had
well-nigh managed to get one of his hands free.  Had he done so, he
would have had the gag out of his mouth in no time, and have given the
alarm.  Then we should have been caught like rats in a trap."

"Are you quite sure he is secure now?" asked Carne anxiously.

"Quite," replied Belton, "I took good care of that."

"In that case we had better get to work on the safe without further
delay.  We have wasted too much time already, and every moment is an
added danger."

Without more ado, Carne placed the most likely key in the lock and
turned it.  The bolt shot back, and the treasure chamber lay at his
mercy.

The cabin was not a large one, but it was plain that every precaution
had been taken to render it secure. The large safe which contained the
Imperial plate, and which it was Carne’s intention to rifle, occupied
one entire side.  It was of the latest design, and when Carne saw it he
had to confess to himself that, expert craftsman as he was, it was one
that would have required all his time and skill to open.

With the master key, however, it was the work of only a few seconds.
The key was turned, the lever depressed, and then, with a slight pull,
the heavy door swung forward.  This done, it was seen that the interior
was full to overflowing.

"Come, Belton," he said, "get these things out as quickly as possible
and lay them on the floor.  We can carry only away a certain portion of
the plunder, so let us make sure that that portion is the best."

A few moments later the entire cabin was strewn with salvers, goblets,
bowls, epergnes, gold and silver dishes, plates, cups, knives, forks,
and almost every example of the goldsmith’s art.  In his choice Carne
was not guided by what was handsomest or most delicate in workmanship or
shape.  Weight was his only standard.  Silver he discarded altogether,
for it was of less than no account.  In something under ten minutes he
had made his selection, and the stout canvas bags they had brought with
them for that purpose were full to their utmost holding capacity.

"We can carry no more," said Carne to his faithful retainer, as they
made the mouth of the last bag secure.  "Pick up yours and let us get
back to the Emperor’s stateroom."

Having locked the door of the cabin, they returned to the place whence
they had started.  There they found the unfortunate steward lying on the
settee. Placing the bags he carried upon the ground, Carne crossed to
him, and, before doing anything else, carefully examined the bonds with
which he was secured. Having done this, he went to the stern windows,
and, throwing one open, stepped into the gallery outside.  Fortunately
for what he intended to do, it was still raining heavily, and in
consequence the night was as dark as the most consummate conspirator
could have desired.  Returning to the room, he bade Belton help him
carry the bags into the gallery, and, when this had been done, made fast
the swivel-hooks to the rings in the mouth of each.

"Take up your bags as quietly as possible," he said, "and lower them one
by one into the water, but take care that they don’t get entangled in
the propeller.  When you’ve done that, slip the rings at the other end
of the lines through your belt, and buckle the latter tightly."

Belton did as he was ordered, and in a few moments the six bags were
lying at the bottom of the sea.

"Now off with these wigs and things, and say when you’re ready for a
swim."

Their disguises having been discarded and thrown overboard, Carne and
Belton clambered over the rails of the gallery and lowered themselves
until their feet touched the water.  Next moment they had both let go,
and were swimming in the direction of Carne’s own yacht.

Much exhausted, they reached the yacht’s stern and clutched at the rope
ladder which Carne had himself placed there before he had set out on the
evening’s excursion.  In less time than it takes to tell, he had mounted
it and gained the deck, followed by his faithful servant.  They
presented a sorry spectacle as they stood side by side at the taffrail,
the water dripping from their clothes and pattering upon the deck.

"Thank goodness we are here at last," said Carne, as soon as he had
recovered his breath sufficiently to speak.  "Now slip off your belt,
and hang it over this cleat with mine."

Belton did as he was directed, and then followed his master to the
saloon companion ladder.  Once below, they changed their clothes as
quickly as possible, and having donned mackintoshes, returned to the
deck, where it was still raining hard.

"Now," said Carne, "for the last and most important part of our
evening’s work.  Let us hope the lines will prove equal to the demands
we are about to make upon them."

As he said this, he took one of the belts from his cleat upon which he
had placed it, and having detached a line, began to pull it in, Belton
following his example with another.  Their hopes that they would prove
equal to the confidence placed in them proved well founded, for, in
something less than a quarter of an hour, the six bags, containing the
Emperor of Westphalia’s magnificent gold plate, were lying upon the
deck, ready to be carried below and stowed away in the secret place in
which Carne had arranged to hide his treasure.

"Now, Belton," said Carne, as he pushed the panel back into its place,
and pressed the secret spring that locked it, "I hope you’re satisfied
with what we have done.  We’ve made a splendid haul, and you shall have
your share of it.  In the meantime, just get me to bed as quickly as you
can, for I’m dead tired. When you’ve done so, be off to your own.
To-morrow morning you will have to go up town to arrange with the bank
authorities about my account."

Belton did as he was ordered and half-an-hour later his master was
safely in bed and asleep.

It was late next morning when he awoke.  He had scarcely breakfasted
before the Earl of Amberley and Lord Orpington made their appearance
over the side. To carry out the part he had arranged to play, he
received them seated in his deck chair, his swaddled-up right foot
reclining on a cushion before him.  On seeing his guests, he made as if
he would rise, but they begged him to remain seated.

"I hope your ankle is better this morning," said Lord Orpington
politely, as he took a chair beside his friend.

"Much better, thank you," Carne replied.  "It was not nearly so serious
as I feared.  I hope to be able to hobble about a little this afternoon.
And now tell me the news, if there is any."

"Do you mean to say that you have not heard the great news?" asked Lord
Amberley, in a tone of astonishment.

"I have heard nothing," Carne replied.  "Remember, I have not been
ashore this morning, and I have been so busily engaged with the
preparations for my departure to-morrow that I have not had time to look
at my papers.  Pray what is this news of which you speak with such bated
breath?"

"Listen, and I’ll tell you," Lord Orpington answered, and he related the
events of the previous night, Carne’s face, in the meantime, showing
great astonishment.

"Good gracious?" said Carne.  "I never heard of such a thing.  Surely
it’s the most impudent robbery that has taken place for many years past.
To represent the Emperor of Westphalia and his aide-de-camp so closely
that they could deceive even the officers of his own yacht, and to take
a sentry off one post and place him in such a position as to protect
them while at their own nefarious work, seems to me the very height of
audacity.  But how did they get their booty away again?  Gold plate,
under the most favorable circumstances, is by no means an easy thing to
carry."

As he asked this question, Carne lit another cigar with a hand as steady
as a rock.

"They must have escaped in a boat that, it is supposed, was lying under
the shelter of the stern gallery," replied Lord Amberley.

"And is the chief steward able to furnish the police with no clue as to
their identity?"

"None whatever," replied Orpington.  "He opines to the belief, however,
that they are Frenchmen.  One of them, the man who impersonated the
Emperor, seems to have uttered an exclamation in that tongue."

"And when was the robbery discovered?"

"Only when the real Emperor returned to the vessel shortly after
midnight.  There was no launch to meet him, and he had to get Tremorden
to take him off. You can easily imagine the surprise his arrival
occasioned.  It was intensified when they went below to find his
Majesty’s cabin turned upside down, the chief steward lying bound and
gagged upon the sofa, and all that was most valuable of the gold plate
missing."

"What an extraordinary story!"

"And now, having told you the news with which the place is ringing, we
must be off about our business," said Orpington.  "Is it quite certain
that you are going to leave us to-morrow?"

"Quite, I am sorry to say," answered Carne.  "I am going to ask as many
of my friends as possible to do me the honor of lunching with me at one
o’clock, and at five I shall weigh anchor and bid England good-bye.  I
shall have the pleasure of your company, I hope."

"I shall have much pleasure," said Orpington.

"And I also," replied Amberley.

"Then good-bye for the present.  It’s just possible I may see you again
during the afternoon."

The luncheon next day was as brilliant a social gathering as the most
fastidious in such matters could have desired.  Every one then in Cowes
who had any claim to distinction was present, and several had undertaken
the journey from town in order to say farewell to one who had made
himself so popular during his brief stay in England.  When Carne rose to
reply to the toast of his health, proposed by the Prime Minister, it was
observable that he was genuinely moved, as, indeed, were most of his
hearers.

For the remainder of the afternoon his yacht’s deck was crowded with his
friends, all of whom expressed the hope that it might not be very long
before he was amongst them once more.

To these kind speeches Carne invariably offered a smiling reply.

"I also trust it will not be long," he answered. "I have enjoyed my
visit immensely, and you may be sure I shall never forget it as long as
I live."

An hour later the anchor was weighed, and his yacht was steaming out of
the harbor amid the scene of intense enthusiasm.  As the Prime Minister
had that afternoon informed him, in the public interest, the excitement
of his departure was dividing the honors of the burglary of the Emperor
of Westphalia’s gold plate.

Carne stood beside his captain on the bridge, watching the little fleet
of yachts until his eyes could no longer distinguish them.  Then he
turned to Belton, who had just joined him, and, placing his hand upon
his shoulder, said:

"So much for our life in England, Belton, my friend.  It has been
glorious fun, and no one can deny that from a business point of view it
has been eminently satisfactory.  You, at least, should have no
regrets."

"None whatever," answered Belton.  "But I must confess I should like to
know what they will say when the truth comes out."

Carne smiled sweetly as he answered:

"I think they’ll say that, all things considered, I have won the right
to call myself ’A Prince of Swindlers.’"



                                THE END.





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This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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