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Title: Teresa of Watling Street - A Fantasia on Modern Themes
Author: Bennett, Arnold
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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TERESA OF WATLING STREET

A Fantasia On Modern Themes

By Arnold Bennett

With Eight Illustrations By Frank Gillett

London: Chatto & Windum

1904


[Illustration: 0013]


[Illustration: 0016]



TERESA OF WATLING STREET



CHAPTER I--THE BANK

Since money is the fount of all modern romantic adventure, the City of
London, which holds more money to the square yard than any other place
in the world, is the most romantic of cities. This is a profound truth,
but people will not recognise it. There is no more prosaic person than
your bank clerk, who ladles out romance from nine to four with a copper
trowel without knowing it. There is no more prosaic building than your
stone-faced banking office, which hums with romance all day, and never
guesses what a palace of wonders it is. The truth, however, remains;
and some time in the future it will be universally admitted. And if the
City, as a whole, is romantic, its banks are doubly and trebly romantic.
Nothing is more marvellous than the rapid growth of our banking system,
which is twice as great now as it was twenty years ago--and it was great
enough then.

Such were the reflections of a young man who, on a June morning, stood
motionless on the busy pavement opposite the headquarters of the British
and Scottish Banking Company, Limited, in King William Street, City.
He was a man of medium size, fair, thick-set, well-dressed, and wearing
gold-rimmed spectacles. The casual observer might have taken him for a
superior sort of clerk, but the perfect style of his boots, his gloves,
and his hat precluded such a possibility; it is in the second-rate
finish of his extremities that the superior clerk, often gorgeous in a
new frock-coat, betrays himself. This particular young man, the tenor of
whose thoughts showed that he possessed imagination--the rarest of all
qualities except honesty--had once been a clerk, but he was a clerk no
longer.

He looked at his watch; it showed three minutes to twelve o’clock. He
waited another minute, and then crossed through the traffic and entered
the sober and forbidding portals of the bank. He had never before
been inside a City bank, and the animated scene, to which many glass
partitions gave an air of mystery, would have bewildered him had he not
long since formed the immutable habit of never allowing himself to be
bewildered. Ignoring all the bustle which centred round the various cash
desks lettered A to F, G to M, and so on, he turned unhesitatingly to an
official who stood behind a little solitary counter.

‘Sir?’ said the official blandly; it was his sole duty to be bland (and
firm) to customers and possible customers of an inquiring turn of mind.

‘I have an appointment with Mr. Simon Lock,’ said the young man.

The official intensified his blandness at the mention of the august name
of the chairman of the British and Scottish Banking Company, Limited.

‘Mr. Lock is engaged with the Board,’ he said.

‘I have an appointment with the Board,’ said the young man. ‘My card;’
and he produced the pasteboard of civilization.

The official read:

Mr. Richard Redgrave, M.A.,

Specialist.

‘In that case,’ said the official, now a miracle of blandness, ‘be good
enough to step this way.’ Mr. Richard Redgrave stepped that way, and
presently found himself in front of a mahogany door, on which was
painted the legend, ‘Directors’ Parlour’--not ‘Board Room,’ but
‘Directors’ Parlour.’ The British and Scottish was not an ancient
corporation with a century or two of traditions; it was merely a
joint-stock company some thirty years of age. But it had prospered
exceedingly, and the directors, especially Mr. Simon Lock, liked to seem
quaint and old-fashioned in trifles. Such harmless affectations helped
to impress customers and to increase business. The official knocked,
and entered the parlour with as much solemnity as though he had been
entering a mosque or the tomb of Napoleon. Fifty millions of deposits
were manoeuvred from day to day in that parlour, and the careers of
eight hundred clerks depended on words spoken therein. Then Mr. Richard
Redgrave was invited to enter. His foot sank into the deep pile of a
Persian carpet. The official closed the door. The specialist was alone
with three of the directors of the British and Scottish Bank.

‘Please take a seat, Redgrave,’ said Lord Dolmer, the only one of the
trio with whom Richard was personally acquainted, and to whom he owed
this introduction. ‘We shall not keep you waiting more than a minute or
two.’

The other directors did not look up. All three were rapidly signing
papers.

Richard occupied a chair upholstered in red leather, next the door,
and surveyed the room. It was a large and lofty apartment, simply but
massively furnished in mahogany. A table of superb solidity and vast
acreage filled the middle space--such a table as only a bank director
could comfortably sit at. As Richard gazed at that article of furniture
and listened to the busy scratching of pens, he saw, with the prophetic
vision characteristic of all men who are born to success, that a crisis
in his life was at hand. He had steadily risen throughout his brief
life, but he had never before risen so high as a bank parlour, and the
parlour of such a bank! His history, though a short one, was curious.
He came to London from Westmoreland at the age of nineteen as a clerk in
the Customs. From the first he regarded his clerkship merely as a
means to an end; what end he had yet to ascertain. He paid particular
attention to his clothes, joined a large political club, and kept
his eyes open. His personal stock-in-trade consisted of a rather
distinguished appearance, a quiet, deliberate, and confident voice and
manner, an imperturbable good temper which nothing could affect, and a
firm belief that he could do anything a little better than the average
doer of that thing. He desired a University degree, and by working at
night for four years obtained the M.A. of London. He practised a little
journalism of the sensational kind, and did fairly well at that, but
abandoned it because the profits were not large enough. One Sunday he
was cycling down the Portsmouth Road, and had reached an hotel between
twenty and thirty miles from London, when he met with his first real
chance. A motor-tricycle had unaccountably disappeared from the hotel
during luncheon. The landlord and the owner of the tricycle were arguing
as to the former’s liability. Redgrave listened discreetly, and then
went to examine the barnlike coach-house from which the motor-tricycle
had been spirited away. Soon the owner, who had instructed the police
and bullied the landlord, and was now forced to kick his angry heels
till the departure of the afternoon train back to London, joined him in
the coach-house. The two began to talk.

‘You are Lord Dolmer,’ said Redgrave at length.

‘How do you know that?’ asked the other quickly.

He was a black-haired man of forty, simply dressed, and of quiet
demeanour, save of unusual excitement.

‘I have seen you at the Constitutional Club, of which I am a member.
Did you know that a motor-tricycle disappeared from this same hotel a
fortnight ago?’

Lord Dolmer was impressed by the youth’s manner.

‘No,’ he said; ‘is that really so?’

‘Yes,’ said Redgrave, ‘only a fortnight ago. Strange coincidence, isn’t
it?’

‘Who are you? You seem to know something,’ said Lord Dolmer.

Redgrave gave his name, and added:

‘I am an officer in the Customs.’

That sounded well.

‘I fancy I could trace your tricycle, if you gave me time,’ he said.

‘I will give you not only time, but money,’ the peer replied.

‘We will talk about that later,’ said Redgrave.

Until that hour Richard had no thought of assuming the rôle of detective
or private inquiry agent; but he saw no reason why he should not assume
such a rôle, and with success. He calmly determined to trace the missing
tricycle. By a stroke of what is called luck, he found it before Lord
Dolmer’s train left. Over half of the coach-house was a loft in the
roof. Richard chanced to see a set of pulleys in the rafters. He
climbed up; the motor-tricycle was concealed in the loft. The landlord,
confronted with it, said that of course some mischievous loiterers must
have hoisted it into the loft as a practical joke. The explanation was
an obvious one, and Lord Dolmer was obliged to accept it. But both he
and Redgrave had the gravest suspicions of the landlord, and it may be
mentioned here that the latter is now in prison, though not for any sin
connected with Lord Dolmer’s tricycle.

‘What do I owe you? Name your own sum,’ said Lord Dolmer to Redgrave.

‘Nothing at all,’ Redgrave answered.

He had come to a resolution on the instant.

‘Give me some introductions to your friends.

It is the ambition of my life to conduct important private inquiries,
and you must know plenty of people who stand in need of such a man as
I.’

Lord Dolmer was poor--for a lord--and eked out a bare competence by
being a guinea-pig in the City, a perfectly respectable and industrious
guinea-pig. He agreed to Redgrave’s suggestion, asked him to dinner at
his chambers in Half Moon Street, and became, in fact, friendly with
the imperturbable and resourceful young man. Redgrave obtained several
delicate commissions, and the result was such that in six months he
abandoned his post in the Customs, and rented a small office in Adelphi
Terrace. His acquaintance with Lord Dolmer continued, and when Lord
Dolmer, after a lucky day on the Exchange, bought a 5-h.p. motor-car,
these two went about the country together. Redgrave was soon able to
manage a motor-car like an expert, and foreseeing that motor-cars
would certainly acquire a high importance in the world, he cultivated
relations with the firm of manufacturers from whom Lord Dolman had
purchased his car. Then came a spell of ill-luck. The demand for a
private inquiry agent of exceptional ability (a ‘specialist,’ as Richard
described himself) seemed to die out. Richard had nothing to do, and was
on the point of turning his wits in another direction, when he received
a note from Lord Dolmer to the effect that Mr. Simon Lock and the
directors of the British and Scottish had some business for him if he
cared to undertake it.

Hence his advent in King William Street.

‘Let me introduce you,’ said Lord Dolmer, beckoning Redgrave from his
chair near the door, ‘to our chairman, Mr. Simon Lock, whose name is
doubtless familiar to you, and to my co-director, Sir Charles Custer.’

Redgrave bowed, and the two financiers nodded.

‘Take that chair, Mr. Redgrave,’ said Simon Lock, indicating a fourth
chair at the table.

Simon Lock, a middle-aged man with gray hair, glinting gray eyes, a
short moustache, and no beard, was one of the kings of finance. He had
the monarchical manner, modified by an occasional gruff pleasantry. The
British and Scottish was only one of various undertakings in which he
was interested; he was, for example, at the head of a powerful group of
Westralian mining companies, but here, as in all the others, he was the
undisputed master. When he spoke Lord Dolmer and Sir Charles Custer held
their tongues.

‘We have sent for you on Lord Dolmer’s recommendation--a very hearty
recommendation, I may say,’ Simon Lock began. ‘He tells us that you have
a particular partiality for motor-car cases’--Richard returned Simon
Lock’s faint smile--‘and so you ought to be specially useful to us in
our dilemma. I will explain the circumstance as simply as possible. Will
you make notes?’

‘I never write down these details,’ said Richard. ‘It is safer not to.
My memory is quite reliable.’

Simon Lock nodded twice quickly and resumed:

‘We have a branch at Kilburn, in the High Street, under the managership
of Mr. Raphael Craig. Mr. Craig has been in our service for about twenty
years. His age is fifty-five. He is a widower with one daughter. He came
to us from an Irish bank. Professionally, we have no fault to find with
him; but for many years past he has chosen to live thirty-five miles
from London, at a farmhouse between the town of Dunstable and the
village of Hockliffe, in Bedfordshire. Dunstable, you may be aware, is
on the old Roman road, Watling Street, which runs to Chester. He used
to go up to Bedfordshire only at weekends, but of late years he has
travelled between his country home and London several times a week,
often daily. He owns two or three motor-cars, and has once been summoned
and convicted for furious driving. It is said that he can come to London
by road from Dunstable in sixty minutes. When he stays in London he
sleeps over the bank premises in the suite of rooms which we provide for
him, as for all our managers.’

‘You say you have no fault to find with Mr. Craig professionally,’ said
Richard. ‘He does not, then, in any way neglect his duties?’

‘The reverse. He is an admirable servant, and our Kilburn branch is
one of the most lucrative of all our branches. Mr. Craig has built up a
wonderfully good business for us in that suburb. Let me continue. Last
year but one a relative of Mr. Craig’s, an uncle or something of that
sort, reputed to be crazy, died and left him a hundred thousand pounds,
chiefly, one heard, in new silver coins, which the old miser had had
a mania for collecting, and kept in his cellars like wine. The strange
thing is that Mr. Craig, thus made rich, did not resign his position
with us. Now, why should a man of large fortune trouble himself with the
cares of a comparatively unimportant bank managership? That aspect of
the case has struck us as somewhat suspicious.’

‘Highly suspicious,’ murmured Sir Charles Custer, M.P., out of his
beard.

‘You naturally--shall I say?--resent eccentricity in any member of your
staff?’ said Richard sagaciously.

‘We do, Mr. Redgrave. In a bank, eccentricity is not wanted.
Further--another strange fact--a month ago the cashier of our Kilburn
branch, a mediocre but worthy servant named Featherstone, a man of
fifty, whose brains were insufficient to lift him beyond a cashiership,
and who, outside our bank, had no chance whatever of getting a
livelihood in this hard world, suddenly resigned. He would give no
reason for his resignation, nor could Mr. Craig give us any reason for
it. In the following week Featherstone committed suicide. No doubt you
saw the affair in the papers. The man’s books were perfectly straight.
He was a bachelor, and had no ties that the police could discover. Such
is the brief outline of the case. Have you any questions to ask?’

Redgrave paused. When, from ignorance or any other cause, he had nothing
to say, he contrived to produce an excellent effect by remaining silent
and peering through his gold-rimmed spectacles. ‘Only one,’ he said.
‘What do you want to know?’

‘We don’t know what we want to know,’ said Simon Lock abruptly. ‘We
want to know anything and everything. Our suspicions are too vague to be
formulated, but, as directors of a great financial undertaking, we are
bound to practise precautions. We do not desire to dismiss Mr. Craig
without a reason. Such a course would be unfair--and unprofitable.’

‘May I define your position thus?’ said Redgrave. ‘You do not
precisely fear, but you perceive the possibility of, some scandal, some
revelations, which might harm the general reputation of the bank. And
therefore you wish to know, first, why Mr. Craig runs about Watling
Street so much on a motor-car; second, why, being possessed of a hundred
thousand pounds, he still cares to work for _you_; and third, why this
Featherstone killed himself.’

‘Just so,’ said Simon Lock, pleased.

‘Just so,’ echoed Sir Charles Custer.

Lord Dolmer gave his protégé a smile of satisfaction.

‘I will undertake to assuage your curiosity on these points,’ Redgrave
said, with that air of serene confidence which came so naturally to him.

‘And your fee?’ asked Simon Lock.

‘If I fail, nothing. If I succeed I shall present my bill in due
course.’

‘When shall we hear from you?’

‘In not less than a month.’

That evening Richard strolled up the Edgware Road to Kilburn, and
looked at the exterior of the Kilburn branch of the British and
Scottish. It presented no feature in the least extraordinary. Richard
was less interested in the bank than in the road, the magnificent artery
which stretches, almost in a straight line, from the Marble Arch to
Chester. Truly the Roman builders of that road had a glorious disregard
of everything save direction. Up hill and down dale the mighty Watling
Street travels, but it never deviates. After sixty years of disuse, it
had resumed its old position as a great highway through the magnificence
of England. The cyclist and the motorist had rediscovered it,
rejuvenating its venerable inns, raising its venerable dust, and
generally giving new vitality to the leviathan after its long sleep.

To Richard Redgrave it seemed the avenue of adventure and of success.
His imagination devoured the miles between Kilburn and Dunstable, and he
saw the solitary farmhouse of Raphael Craig, bank manager, motorist, and
inheritor of a hundred thousand pounds in virgin silver coin.



CHAPTER II--THE CIRCUS

A week later--and in the meantime he had been far from idle--Richard
Redgrave arrived in Dunstable. It was a warm, sunshiny, sleepy day, such
as suited that sleepy town, and showed off its fine old church and
fine old houses to perfection. There is no theatre in Dunstable,
no concert-hall, and nothing ever excites this staid borough save a
Parliamentary election or the biennial visit of Bosco’s Circus.

On the morning of Richard’s arrival Dunstable was certainly excited, and
the occasion was Bosco, who, with his horses, camels, elephants, lions,
bears, acrobats, riders, trapezists, and pavilions, had encamped in
a large field to the south of the town. Along the whole of its length
Dunstable, which consists chiefly of houses built on either side of
Watling Street for a distance of about a mile and a half, was happily
perturbed by the appearance of Bosco’s gigantic, unrivalled, and
indescribable circus, which was announced to give two performances, at
two-thirty and at seven-thirty of the clock. And, after all, a circus
which travels with two hundred horses (chiefly piebald and cream), and
with a single tent capable of holding four thousand people, is perhaps
worthy to cause excitement.

Richard determined to patronize Mr. Bosco’s entertainment--he thought he
might pick up useful information in the crowd--and at two-thirty he
paid his shilling and passed up the gorgeous but rickety steps into the
pavilion.

A brass band was playing at its full power, but above the noise of the
trumpets could be heard the voice of the showman--not Bosco himself,
but an individual hired for his big voice--saying, ‘Step up, ladies and
gentlemen. Today happens to be the thirtieth anniversary of our first
visit to this town, and to celebrate the event we shall present to you
exactly the same performance as we had the honour of presenting, by
special command, to Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor last year. Step up,
step up, and see our great spectacle, the Relief of Mafeking! See the
talking horse! See Juana, the most beautiful rider in the world! Step
up!

Children half-price to morning performance only.’ The big voice made
precisely this speech every day of his life all over England.

The circus was well filled, and the audience enthusiastic. The clowns
had an enormous success. As for Richard, he was more interested in
Juana, the horsewoman. She was a tall and beautiful girl, apparently
of the Spanish type. She rode, in a strictly conventional park riding
costume, a superb strawberry-roan mare, which at her command waltzed,
circled, caracoled, and did everything except stand on its head. Mare
and rider were equally graceful, equally calm and self-contained. It
was a charming item in the programme, but somewhat over the heads of
the audience, save a few who knew a born rider when they saw one. An
elephant was brought in, a young man in Indian costume being perched on
its neck. The mare and the elephant went through a number of evolutions
together. Finally the mare reared and lodged her forepaws on the
elephant’s tremendous flank, and so situated the strange pair made an
exit which roused the house from apathy to wild enthusiasm. Juana was
vociferously recalled. She re-entered on foot, holding her habit up with
one hand, a light whip in the other. Richard could not help being struck
by the rather cold, sad, disdainful beauty of the girl’s face. It seemed
wrong that the possessor of such a face should have to go through a
series of tricks twice daily for the diversion of a rustic audience.

‘That wench is as like Craig’s girl as two peas.’ Richard turned quickly
at the remark, which was made by one of two women who sat behind him
industriously talking. The other agreed that there was some likeness
between ‘Craig’s girl’ and the lovely Juana, but not a very remarkable
one.

Richard left his seat, went out of the pavilion, and walked round the
outside of it towards the part where the performers entered the ring.
Attached to the pavilion by a covered way was a smaller tent, which was
evidently used as a sort of green-room by the performers. Richard could
see within, and it happened that he saw Juana chatting with a girl who
was very much like Juana, though rather less stately. The young man in
Indian costume, who had ridden the elephant, was also of the group.
Soon the young man went to another corner of the tent, and the two girls
began to talk more rapidly and more earnestly. Lastly, they shook hands
and kissed, Juana burst into tears, and her companion ran out of the
tent. Richard followed her at a safe distance through the maze of
minor tents, vans, poles, and loose horses, to the main road. A small,
exquisitely-finished motor-car stood by the footpath; the girl jumped
on board, pulled a lever, and was off in a northerly direction through
Dunstable up Watling Street.

‘Is that the road to Hockliffe?’ he asked a policeman.

‘Yes, sir.’

‘It’s Raphael Craig’s daughter, I bet,’ he said to himself, and for some
reason or other smiled a satisfied smile. Then he added, half aloud,
‘But who is Juana?’

He went back to see the rest of the performance, and he had scarcely
sat down before he had cause to wish that he had remained outside. The
famous strawberry-roan mare, formerly ridden by Juana, was making a
second appearance as the talking horse, in charge of the young man
who had shone before in Indian costume, but who now wore the dress of a
riding-master. An attendant was walking along the front benches with
a bundle of numbered cards. He offered one to Richard, and Richard
thoughtlessly accepted the offer. From that moment the eyes of the
entire assemblage were upon him.

‘The gentleman,’ said the young man in charge of the mare, ‘has chosen
a card. Now, this wonderful animal will tell you the number of the card,
and a lot of other interesting information. I shall put questions to the
animal, which will answer “Yes” by nodding its head, and “No” by shaking
its head, and will count by stamping its off fore-foot on the ground.’

Richard was disgusted at being thus made the centre of a trick, but
there was no help for it.

‘What is the number of the card drawn by the gentleman?’ the young man
demanded of the mare.

She stamped her foot ten times on the tan.

‘Number ten,’ said the young man. ‘Is that so, sir?’

It was so. Richard nodded. Loud applause.

‘Is the holder of the card a married man?’

The mare shook her head. Laughter.

‘He is a bachelor?’

The mare lowered her head. More laughter.

‘Will he ever be married?’

The mare lowered her head again. Loud laughter.

‘Soon?’

Again the mare signed an affirmative. Shrieks of laughter.

‘To a pretty girl?’

The mare nodded decisively.

‘Will they be blessed with many children?’

The mare kicked out with her hindlegs, and ran as if horror-struck from
the ring, amid roars of rustic delight. This simple trick and joke,
practised for years and years with all kinds of horses, had helped as
much as anything to make the fortune of Bosco’s circus. It never failed
of its effect.

The final ‘turn’ of the show was the Relief of Mafeking. Under cover of
the noise and smoke of gunpowder, Richard contrived to make a stealthy
exit; he was still blushing. As he departed he caught a last glimpse of
Juana, who came into the ring in the character of a Red Cross nurse on
the field of battle.

That evening at midnight Richard issued forth from the Old Sugar Loaf
Hotel on a motor-car. Bosco’s circus was already leaving the town, and
as the straggling procession of animals and vehicles wandered up
Watling Street under the summer moon it made a weird and yet attractive
spectacle--such a spectacle as can be seen only on the high-roads
of England. Its next halting-place was eighteen miles north--a long
journey. The cavalcade was a hindrance to Richard, for he particularly
desired to have Watling Street between Dunstable and Hockliffe to
himself that night. He waited, therefore, until the whole of Bosco had
vanished ahead out of sight. The elephants, four in number, brought up
the rear of the procession, and they were under control of the young man
whose trick with the strawberry-roan mare had put Richard to the blush.
There was no sign of the mare nor of Juana.

Watling Street runs through a deep chalk-cutting immediately to the north
of Dunstable, and then along an embankment. This region at the foot of
the Chiltern Hills is famous for its chalk, which is got from immense
broad pits to the west of the high-road. As Richard’s car ran through
the cutting--it was electrical, odourless, and almost noiseless--he
perceived in front of him the elephant herd standing in the road. A
little further on he descried the elephant-keeper, who was engaged in
converse with a girl. Leaving his motor-car to take care of itself,
Richard climbed transversely up the side of the cutting, and thus
approached nearer to the pair. He saw now, in the brilliant white
radiance of the moon, that the girl was the same girl who had kissed
Juana in the circus tent. She was apparently urging the man to some
course of action at which he hesitated. Then the elephant-keeper called
aloud to his elephants, and the man and the girl, followed by the
elephants, and followed also by Richard, passed through an open gate
at the northern end of the cutting, and so crossed a very large
uncultivated field. The extremity of the field descended steeply into a
huge chalk-pit, perhaps a hundred yards in circumference and sixty feet
deep, by means of a rough cart-track. At the end of the cart-track,
in the bottom of the pit, was a motorcar. Richard watched the
elephant-keeper single out one of the elephants and attach it by ropes
to the motor-car. Slowly the ponderous and docile creature dragged the
vehicle up the steep cart-track. The girl clapped her hands with joy.

‘If she is Craig’s daughter----’ Richard exclaimed softly, and then
stopped.

Silhouetted sharply against the night-sky was the figure of Juana on
the strawberry-roan. Mare and rider stood motionless at the top of the
cart-track, and Richard, from his place of concealment, could see that
Juana was gazing fixedly into the chalk-pit The man with the elephants
and the girl with the motor-car had not perceived her, and before
they could do so she had ridden off down the field. It was a wonderful
apparition, a wonderful scene--the moon, the vast hemisphere of the
purple sky, the glittering and immense whiteness of the chalk-pit,
the exotic forms of the elephants contrasted with the motor-car, and,
lastly, the commanding and statuesque equestrian on the brow. Richard
was quite impressed by the mere beauty and strangeness, as well as by
the mystery, of it all. What did it mean? Why should Juana, an expert
who would certainly receive a generous salary, be riding at one o’clock
a.m., seeing that the principal performers, as Richard knew, usually
travelled by train from one town to the next? And why should she have
followed these other two--the elephant-keeper and the young girl who
so remarkably resembled herself? And having followed them and observed
their movements, why should she silently depart, without making known
her presence? He had been able to examine Juana’s face in the strong
moonlight, and again he was moved by its sad, calm, cold dignity. Juana
seemed as though, at the age of twenty-five or so--she could not be
more--she had suffered all the seventy and seven different sorrows which
this world is said to contain, and had emerged from them resolute and
still lovely, but with a withered heart. Her face almost frightened
Richard.

With infinite deliberation the elephants and the motor-car arrived at
the top of the cart-track. The three elephants not engaged in hauling
appeared to have formed a prejudice against the motor-car; the fourth,
the worker, who had been used to dragging logs of teak in India,
accepted his rôle with indifference. He pulled nonchalantly, as if he
was pulling a child’s go-cart, thus, happily, leaving the keeper free
to control the other beasts. At length the cortège--it had all the
solemnity of a funeral pageant--passed safely into the field and out
of Richard’s sight towards the highroad. He heard the spit, spit of the
petrol-engine of the motor-car, now able to move of itself on the easy
gradient, and simultaneously a startling snort and roar from one of the
elephants. It occurred to him to hope that the leviathan had not taken
it into his gigantic head to wreck the machine. The notion was amusing,
and he laughed when he thought how frail a thing a motor-car would prove
before the attack of an elephant’s trunk. Then he proceeded duly towards
the road, hugging the hedge. Once more he heard the snort and the roar,
and then a stern cry of command from the keeper, a little scream from
the girl, and an angry squeak from the elephant. The spit, spit of the
motor-car at the same moment ceased.

When, after some minutes of scouting, he reached the gate and had a view
of the road, he rather expected to see the motor-car lying in fragments
in Watling Street, with, possibly, a couple of mangled corpses in
the near neighbourhood, and a self-satisfied elephant dominating the
picture. But his horrid premonitions were falsified.. The keeper had
clearly proved the superiority of man over the brute creation; he
was astride the neck of the obstreperous elephant, and the herd were
trampling, with their soft, flabby footfalls, down Watling Street, along
the sloping embankment, into the deep, broad valley which separates
Dunstable from the belt of villages to the north of it. The lady with
the motor-car stood quiescent in the road. She had got safely out of
her chalk-pit, and was now waiting for the elephants to disappear before
proceeding on her journey. Richard hesitated whether to return and
examine the chalk-pit or to keep in touch with the lady. What any
creature--especially a woman, and a young woman--could be doing with a
motor-car in a chalk-pit in the middle of the night passed his wit to
conceive. Nor could he imagine how any sane driver of a motor-car could
take his car down such a steep slope as that cart-track with the least
hope of getting it up again without the assistance of an elephant, or
at least a team of horses. She must surely have been urged by the very
strongest reasons to descend into the pit. What were those reasons? He
wanted badly to examine the chalk-pit at once, but he decided ultimately
that it would be better to watch the lady--‘Craig’s girl.’ The chalk-pit
would always remain where it was, whereas the lady, undoubtedly an
erratic individuality, might be at the other end of the world by
breakfast-time. He crept back to his own car, found it unharmed in the
deep shadow where he had left it, and mounted.

By this time the elephant herd had accomplished a good quarter of a mile
down the gradual declivity of the embankment. ‘Craig’s girl’ started
her car and followed gently. It seemed, in the profound silence of the
night, that the spit, spit of her engine must be heard for miles and
miles around. Richard started his own car, and rolled noiselessly in the
traces of his forerunner. The surface of the road was perfect--for the
Bedfordshire County Council takes a proper pride in its share of this
national thoroughfare--and the vehicles moved with admirable ease,
Richard’s being about a couple of hundred yards in the rear. Just at
the top of the embankment is a tiny village, appropriately called Chalk
Hill, and this village possesses a post pillar-box, a Wesleyan chapel of
the size of a cottage, and an inn--the Green Man. As Richard swung past
the Green Man a head popped out of one of its windows.

‘Anything wrong?’ asked a man.

‘No,’ said Richard, stopping his car and lowering his voice to a
whisper, lest the girl in front should hear and turn round. ‘Go back to
bed,’ he added.

‘Go to bed yourself,’ the man said, apparently angry at this injunction.
‘You circus-folk, you’ve got motor-cars now; as if camels and alligators
wasn’t enough, you’ve got motorcars a-grunting and a-rattling. Three
blessed hours you’ve been a-passing this house, and my wife down with
erysipelas.’

Grumbling, the man closed the window. Richard laughed at being
identified with the retinue of Bosco’s circus. He felt that it was an
honour, for in the eyes of the village these circus-folk move always in
an atmosphere of glory and splendour and freedom.

He passed on. The girl in front was gradually overtaking the elephants,
which were scattered across the width of the road. Suddenly one of
them turned--the one ridden by the keeper--and charged furiously back,
followed more slowly by the others. Evidently the sound of the spit,
spit of the motor-car had renewed the animal’s anger. Perhaps it
thought: ‘I will end this spit, spit once for all.’ Whatever the brute’s
thoughts, the keeper could not dissuade it from its intentions, though
Richard could see him prodding it behind the ear with a goad. The
girl, ‘Craig’s girl,’ perceived the danger which she ran, and, after a
moment’s vacillation, began to wheel round, with the object of flying
before this terrible elephantine wrath. But that moment’s vacillation
was her undoing. Ere she could get the machine headed straight in
the opposite direction the elephant was upon her and her car. Richard
trembled with apprehension, for the situation was in truth appalling.
With a single effort the elephant might easily have pitched both girl
and car down the steep side of the embankment, which was protected only
by a thin iron rail. Richard stopped his own car and waited. He could do
nothing whatever, and he judged that the presence of himself and another
car in the dreadful altercation might lead even to further disasters.

[Illustration: 0053]

The elephant stood over the car, waving his trunk, seemingly undecided
how to go about his work of destruction; the keeper on his neck called
and coaxed in vain. The girl... Richard could see only the girl’s back;
he was thankful that he could not see her face. The other elephants
waited in a semicircle behind. Then, after an interval that was like
a hundred years, the leading elephant seized the steering-wheel of the
motor-car, and, twisting it off the rod as though it had been made of
putty, flung it into the road. That action seemed to appease the brute.
He turned quietly away and slouched off; his keeper had now ceased to
prod him. The other elephants followed meekly enough. The girl on the
motor-car did not stir. The peril was past, but Richard found his
foot trembling against the foot-brake of his car--such had been his
agitation.

The elephant herd was five hundred yards away before the girl gave the
slightest sign of life. Then she slowly dismounted, and waved a hand to
the keeper, who had also dismounted from the elephant’s neck--a wave of
the hand that was evidently intended to convey an assurance that she was
unharmed and able to take care of herself. The keeper gave an answering
signal, and--wisely, as Richard thought--continued his way up the
opposite hill.

Richard pulled over the starting-lever of his car and leisurely
approached the girl. She had already seen him, since her own car was
more than half turned round, and therefore there could be no object
in his attempting any further concealment. He drew up by her side and
raised his peaked cap.

‘That was a nasty position for you to be in,’ he said, with genuine
sympathy.

‘Oh, those elephants!’ she began gaily; ‘their trunks are so thick and
hairy, you’ve no idea----’

Then she stopped, and, without the least warning, burst into tears.
It was a very natural reaction, and no one could wonder at such an
exhibition. Nevertheless, Richard felt excessively awkward; excessively
at a loss what to do under the circumstances. He could scarcely take her
in his arms and soothe her like a child; yet that was just the thing he
wished to do.

‘Come, come,’ he said, and his spectacles gleamed paternally at her in
the moonlight; ‘it is all over now.’

She pulled out a microscopic lace handkerchief, wiped her eyes, and
looked at him.

‘Forgive me,’ she exclaimed; and then, smiling: ‘It shan’t occur again.’

‘You are a brave woman,’ he said sincerely--‘a very brave woman.’

‘How?’ she asked simply. ‘I did nothing.’

‘Most women would have fainted or screamed, and then there is no knowing
what might not have happened.’ He added, as she made no remark: ‘Can
I be of any assistance? Have you far to go? I suppose you must have
miscalculated your distances.’

‘Why?’ she asked, in reference to the last remark.

‘Oh, it’s so late, that’s all.’

‘It is,’ she said, as though the fact had just struck her. ‘Yes, I must
have miscalculated my distances. Fortunately, I have only about a mile
more. You see the yellow house on the hill towards Hockliffe? That is my
destination.’

‘You are Miss Craig?’ he said inquiringly.

‘I am. You belong, then, to these parts?’

‘I happen to know the name of the owner of Queen’s Farm, that is all,’
he admitted cautiously.

‘I am much obliged for your sympathy,’ she said. ‘I shall walk home, and
send a horse for the car to-morrow morning.’

‘I could tow it behind my car,’ he suggested.

‘Pardon me, you couldn’t,’ she said flatly; ‘the steering is smashed.’

‘I had thought of that,’ he replied quietly, as he picked up the small
broken wheel out of the road. ‘If we tie a rope to either end of your
front axle, and join them at the rear of my car, your car would steer
itself automatically.’

‘So it would,’ she said; ‘you are resourceful.

I will accept your offer.’ Then she examined his car with the rapid
glance of an expert.

‘Well I never!’ she murmured.

He looked a question.

‘It is a curious coincidence,’ she explained, ‘but we have recently
ordered an electric car precisely like yours, and were expecting it to
arrive to-morrow--my father and I, I mean. Yours is one of the
Williamson Motor Company’s vehicles, is it not?’

Richard bowed.

‘There is no coincidence,’ he said. ‘This car is destined for Mr. Craig.
I am bringing it up to Hockliffe. You will remember that Mr. Craig asked
that it should be sent by road in charge of a man?’

‘A man!’ she repeated; and, after a pause:

‘You are, perhaps, a partner in the Williamson Company?’

‘Not a partner,’ he said.

It may be explained here that the aforesaid Williamson Company had
supplied Lord Dolmer with his motor-car. Richard had visited their
office in order to ascertain if, by chance, Mr. Raphael Craig was a
customer of theirs, and had been told that he was, and, further, that
there was an electric car then on order for him. It was a matter of but
little difficulty for Richard to persuade Williamson’s manager to allow
him to pose for a few days as an employe of the company, and to take the
car up to Hockliffe himself. He foresaw that in the rôle of a motor-car
expert he might gain a footing at Craig’s house which could not be
gained in any other way.

When the two cars had been attached, and the journey--necessarily a slow
one--began, a rather desultory conversation sprang up between Richard
and Miss Craig, who sat by his side in the leading car.

‘You, too, must have miscalculated your distances,’ she said suddenly,
after they had discussed the remarkable beauty of the moon.

‘No,’ he said, ‘I like travelling at night. I admit that I thought
Hockliffe considerably further on. I expected to deliver the car about
breakfast-time.’

‘You will permit us to offer you a bed?’ she said. ‘You will be able to
get at least five hours’ sleep. We breakfast at seven. It is early, but
that is my father’s custom.’

He thanked her.

‘Take the little road on the right,’ she directed him later. ‘It leads
only to our house In Ireland we call such a road a boreen.’

It was then that he noted a faint Irish accent in her voice.

Richard brought the two cars to a standstill in front of a green gate.
Leaning over the gate was an old man.

‘Teresa!’ the old man murmured.

She rushed at him and kissed him passionately.



CHAPTER III--CHINK OF COINS

I am getting on excellently,’ said Richard to himself as he descended
from the car; but his self-satisfaction was momentarily checked by the
glance flashed at him by the old man--a glance which seemed to penetrate
at once to that locked chamber where Richard kept his secret intentions
and desires.

He returned the glance modestly, and then wondered whether, after all,
Mr. Craig was as old as he looked. The manager of the Kilburn branch of
the British and Scottish Bank had white hair, rather long at the back,
and a heavy white beard; a pale face with prominent bones, the lower
jaw large and protruding, the nose fine and delicate, the black eyes
deep-set; the forehead was rather narrow, but the bossy temples gave
indication of unusual intellectual force. The face was the face of an
old man, yet the eyes were young and fresh. Richard remembered that
Simon Lock had stated the manager’s age to be fifty-five, and he came
to the conclusion that this might be a fact, though any merely casual
observer would have put it at sixty-five at least.

‘Who is----’ Raphael Craig began questioning in tones of singular
politeness, with a gesture in the direction of Richard, after he had
returned his daughter’s salutation.

‘This is a gentleman from the Williamson Company, dad,’ Teresa
explained. ‘He has brought the new car. He likes travelling at night,
and thought our house was much further on.’

Then she explained the circumstance of the elephant’s attack.

‘Humph!’ exclaimed Raphael Craig.

Richard affected to be occupied solely with the two motor-cars. He
judged it best to seem interested in nothing else. He blew out the
oil-lamps of the old car, and switched off the electric lights of the
new one. Teresa turned instantly to the latter, and began to turn the
light off and on. Her father, too, joined in the examination of the car,
and both father and daughter appeared to be wholly wrapped up in this
new toy. Richard had to explain all the parts. He soon perceived that
he had chanced on one of those households where time is of no account.
Teresa and Raphael Craig saw nothing extraordinary in thus dawdling
over a motor-car at one o’clock in the morning by the light of the moon.
After a thorough inspection of the machine Teresa happened to make some
remark about three-speed gears, and a discussion was launched in which
Richard had to join. A clock within the house chimed two.

‘Suppose we have supper, dad?’ said Teresa, as if struck by a novel and
rather pleasing idea--‘suppose we have supper. The moon will soon be
setting.’

‘And Mr. ----’ said Raphael.

‘Redgrave,’ said Richard. ‘Richard Redgrave.’

‘Will sup with us, I trust,’ said Teresa.

‘True, there are seven inns in the village, but the village is asleep,
and a mile off. We must offer Mr. Redgrave a bed, dad.’

‘Humph!’ exclaimed the old man again.

It was, perhaps, a strange sort of remark, yet from his lips it sounded
entirely correct and friendly.

‘I am getting on excellently,’ mused Richard once more.

‘Mike!’ the girl called. ‘Micky!’

A very small, alert man instantly appeared round the corner of the
garden wall, running towards them. He kept his head bent, so that
Richard could not clearly see his face.

‘What is it ye’ll be after, Miss?’ Micky asked.

‘Take charge of these cars. Put them in the shed. Perhaps Mr. Redgrave
will be good enough to assist you with the new one.’

Raphael Craig walked towards the house. In three minutes, the cars
being safely housed in a shed which formed part of some farm buildings,
Richard and Teresa joined him in the spacious hall of the abode. Supper
was served in the hall, because, as Teresa said, the hall was the
coolest place in the house. Except an oldish, stout woman, who went up
the stairs while they were at supper, Richard saw no sign of a domestic
servant. Before the meal, which consisted of cold fowl, a pasty, and
some more than tolerable claret, was finished, Raphael Craig excused
himself, said ‘Good-night’ abruptly, and retired into one of the rooms
on the ground-floor. Richard and Teresa were then left alone. Not a
word further had been exchanged between father and daughter as to the
daughter’s adventures on the road. So far as the old man’s attitude
implied anything at all, it implied that Teresa’s regular custom was to
return home at one in the morning after adventures with motor-cars and
elephants. Richard thought this lack of curiosity on the part of the
old man remarkably curious, especially as Raphael and his daughter were
obviously very much attached to each other.

‘The circus was amusing this afternoon,’ Richard remarked.

The talk had flagged.

‘Where was it?’ Teresa asked.

‘At Dunstable,’ said Richard.

‘Really!’ she said, ‘I had not heard!’

This calm and nonchalant lie astounded

Richard. She was a beautiful girl--vivacious, fresh, charming. She could
not have long passed her twentieth year, and her face seemed made of
innocence and lilies. Yet she lied like a veteran deceiver. It was
amusing. Richard removed his spectacles, wiped them, and replaced them.

‘Yes,’ he continued, ‘I went to the afternoon performance. The clowns
were excellent, and there was a lady rider, named Juana, who was the
most perfect horsewoman I have ever seen.’

Not a muscle of that virginal face twitched.

‘Indeed!’ said Teresa.

‘I thought, perhaps, you had been with friends to the evening
performance,’ Richard said.

‘Oh no!’ Teresa answered. ‘I had had a much longer journey. Of course,
as I overtook those absurd elephants in the cutting, I knew that there
must be a circus somewhere in the neighbourhood.’

Then there was another lull in the conversation.

‘More wine, Mr. Redgrave?’ Teresa invited him.

He thanked her and took another glass, and between the sips said:

‘I am told this is a great chalk district--there are large chalk-pits,
are there not?’

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘you can see them from our windows. Very ugly they
look, too!’

‘So far, good!’ Richard privately reflected.

He had, at any rate, learnt that the Craigs had something to conceal.

The hall clock struck three. Outside it was broad daylight.

‘That is a quarter of an hour fast,’ said Teresa. ‘But perhaps it might
be as well to go to bed. You are probably not used to these hours, Mr.
Redgrave? I am. Micky! Micky!’

The small, alert man came down the side-passage leading into the hall
from the back part of the house.

‘This is decidedly a useful sort of servant,’ thought Richard, as he
looked intently at Mike’s wrinkled, humorous face.

The Irishman seemed to be about thirty-five years of age.

‘Micky,’ said Teresa, ‘show Mr. Redgrave to his room--the room over
here. Bridget has prepared it; but see that all is in order.’

‘That I will, miss,’ said Micky, but only after a marked pause.

Richard shook hands with his hostess and ascended the stairs in Micky’s
wake, and was presently alone in a not very large bedroom, plainly
but sufficiently furnished, and with some rather good prints of famous
pictures on the walls.

‘Without doubt,’ he said, as he got into bed, ‘I have had a good day
and deserve a good night. I must take measures to stop here as long as I
can.’

He had scarcely closed his eyes when there was a tap at the door, the
discreetest possible tap.

‘Well?’ he inquired.

‘It’s myself, sorr,’ said the voice of Micky familiarly.

‘Come in, then, Mike,’ Richard said with equal familiarity.

He already liked Micky; he felt as though he had known Micky for many
years.

Richard had drawn both the blind and the curtains, and the room was in
darkness; he could only discern the outline of a figure.

‘The mistress told me to remind your honour that breakfast was at seven
sharp.’

‘I was aware of it,’ Richard said dryly; ‘but I thank your mistress for
the reminder.’

‘An’ begging pardon, sorr, but d’ye know where it is you’re sleeping?’

‘At present,’ said Richard, ‘I’m not sleeping anywhere.’

‘Ah, sorr! Don’t joke. Mr. Featherstone slept in this room, sorr. Did ye
know Mr. Featherstone?’

‘What!’ cried Richard, starting up. ‘Do you mean the man that committed
suicide?’

‘The same, sorr. But speak low, your honour. It’s myself that should not
have mentioned it.’

‘Why not?’ Richard asked, subduing his voice.

‘The master might not like it.’

‘Then why do you tell me?’

‘They say it’s unlucky to sleep in a room where a suicide slept the last
night of his life.’

‘Then Mr. Featherstone killed himself the day he left here?’

‘Sure he did so. And I thought I’d warn you.’

‘Oh, well,’ said Richard, ‘it’s no matter. I dare say it won’t affect my
repose. Goodnight. Thanks.’

‘I’d like ye to sleep in another room--I’d like ye to,’ urged Mike in a
persuasive whisper.

‘No, thanks,’ said Richard firmly; ‘I’m settled now, and will take the
risk.’

Micky sighed and departed. As soon as he was gone Richard rose out of
bed, pulled the curtains aside, and made a minute examination of the
room. But he could discover nothing whatever beyond the customary
appurtenances of an ordinary middle-class bedchamber. There was a chest
of drawers, of which every drawer was locked. He tried to push the chest
away from the wall in order to look behind it, but the thing was so
heavy that he could not even move it. He returned to bed. At the same
time his ear caught the regular chink of coins, such a sound as might
be made by a man monotonously counting money. It continued without
interruption. At first Richard imagined it to proceed from under the
bed, but he knew that this was impossible. Then he thought it came
from the room to the left, then from the room to the right.
Chink--chink--chink; the periodic noise had no cessation.

‘What coins can they be?’ Richard asked himself; and decided that such a
full, rich chink could only be made by half-crowns or crowns.

He endeavoured to sleep, but in vain; for the sound continued with an
exasperating regularity. Then he seemed uneasily to doze, and woke up
with a start; the sound was still going on. The hall clock struck five.
He jumped out of bed, washed and dressed himself, and went quietly
downstairs. The sound had mysteriously ceased. With a little difficulty
he opened the hall door and passed out into the garden.

It was a lovely morning; the birds sang ravishingly, and a gentle
breeze stirred the cypress-trees which lined the drive. The house was
absolutely plain as regards its exterior--a square, solid, British
farmhouse. A meadow that was half orchard separated it from the
high-road. Away from the house, on the other side of it, and at the end
of a large garden, was a long range of low buildings, in the form of
a quadrangle, which had, presumably, once been the farmstead; they
presented, now, a decayed and forlorn look. Richard walked past the
front of the house, under its shuttered windows, across the garden,
towards these farm buildings. As he opened a gate in the garden wall he
saw Mike issuing cautiously from one of the sheds.

Simultaneously there was a tremendous crash from the house--an
ear-splitting crash, a crash that might have been caused by ten domestic
servants dropping ten trays of crockery on a brick floor. But the crash
had a metallic ring with it that precluded the idea of a catastrophe in
earthenware.

Richard and Micky glanced at each other.



CHAPTER IV--MR. PUDDEPHATT

Richard saw that Mike was quite as startled as himself at the sound
of that appalling crash within the house. But in a moment the Irish
man-of-all-work had recovered his wits.

‘Sure,’ he said, his eyes twinkling, ‘the Day o’ Judgment has come along
unexpected.’

‘What was it?’ Richard asked.

‘Mrs. Bridget must have pulled the kitchen dresser on the top of her,’
said Mike. ‘Or it’s a procession of cups and saucers down the cellar
steps and they missed their footing.’

But, in spite of the man’s jocular tone, Richard thought he perceived
something serious in Mike’s face. It occurred to him that the Irishman
had guessed the true cause of the noise, and was trying to hide it from
the visitor.

‘You’re up early in these parts,’ said Richard, determined to ignore the
crash.

‘I’m a bad sleeper, your honour, and when I can’t sleep I get up and
enjoy the works of Nature--same as your honour.’ The man looked as
fresh as though he had had a long night’s rest. ‘Like to see the horses,
sorr?’ he added.

‘Certainly,’ said Richard, following Mike into the stable, which was at
that end of the range of farm buildings nearest the house. A couple of
Irish mares occupied the two stalls of the stable, fine animals both,
with clean legs and long, straight necks. But Richard knew nothing of
horses, and after a few conventional phrases of admiration he passed
into the harness-room behind the stable, and so into what had once been
a large farmyard.

‘No farming here nowadays,’ he said.

‘No, sorr,’ said Mike, taking off his coat, preparatory to grooming the
mares. ‘Motorcars and farming don’t go together. It’s many a year since
a hen clucked on that midden.’

Richard went into several of the sheds. In one he discovered a Panhard
car, similar to that belonging to Lord Dolmer. He examined it, saw that
it was in order, and then, finding a screwdriver, removed the screw
which held the recoil-spring of its principal brake; he put the screw in
his pocket. Then he proceeded further, saw the other two cars in another
shed, and next door to that shed a large workshop full of Yankee tools
and appliances. Here, improving on his original idea, he filed the
thread of the screw which he had abstracted, returned to the first shed,
and replaced the screw loosely in its hole. At the furthest corner of
the erstwhile farmyard was a locked door, the only locked door in the
quadrangle. He tried the latch several times, and at last turned away.
From the open door of the harness-room Mike was watching him.

‘I’ve been on a voyage of discovery,’ he called, rather
self-consciously, across the farmyard.

‘Did your honour happen to discover America?’ Mike answered.

Richard fancied that he could trace a profound irony in the man’s tone.

‘No,’ he laughed back. ‘But I think I’ll try to discover the village.
Which way?’

‘Along the boreen, sort; then up the hill and down the hill, and you’ll
come to it if you keep going. It’s a mile by day and two by night.’

Richard reached the house again precisely at seven o’clock. Teresa was
out in the garden gathering flowers. They exchanged the usual chatter
about being up early, walks before breakfast, and the freshness of the
morning, and then a gong sounded.

‘Breakfast,’ said Teresa, flying towards the house.

The meal was again served in the hall. Richard wondered at its
promptness in this happy-go-lucky household, but when he saw the face
of the stern old woman named Bridget he ceased to wonder. Bridget was
evidently a continual fount of order and exactitude. Whatever others did
or failed to do, she could be relied upon to keep time.

Mr. Raphael Craig came out of the room into which he had vanished six
hours earlier. He kissed Teresa, and shook Richard’s hand with equal
gravity. In the morning light his massive head looked positively noble,
Richard thought. The bank manager had the air of a great poet or a
great scientist. He seemed wrapped up in his own deep meditations on the
universe.

Yet he ate a noticeably healthy breakfast. Richard counted both the
rashers and the eggs consumed by Raphael Craig.

‘How do you go to town, dad?’ asked Teresa. ‘Remember, to-day is
Saturday.’

‘I shall go down on the Panhard. You smashed the other last night, and I
don’t care to experiment with our new purchase this morning.’

‘No, you won’t go down on the Panhard,’ Richard said to himself; ‘I’ve
seen to that.’

‘Perhaps I may have the pleasure of taking Mr. Redgrave with me?’ the
old man added.

‘I shall be delighted,’ said Richard.

‘Do you object to fast travelling?’ asked Mr. Craig. ‘We start in a
quarter of an hour, and shall reach Kilburn before nine-thirty.’

‘The faster the better,’ Richard agreed.

‘If you please, sir, something’s gone wrong with the brake of the
Panhard. The thread of one of the screws is worn.’

The voice was the voice of Micky, whose head had unceremoniously
inserted itself at the front-door.

A shadow crossed the fine face of Raphael Craig.

‘Something gone wrong?’ he questioned severely.

‘Sure, your honour. Perhaps the expert gentleman can mend it,’ Mike
replied.

Again Richard detected a note of irony in the Irishman’s voice.

The whole party went out to inspect the Panhard. Richard, in his assumed
rôle of expert, naturally took a prominent position. In handling the
damaged screw he contrived to drop it accidentally down a grid in the
stone floor.

‘Never mind,’ said Raphael Craig, with a sharp gesture of annoyance.
‘I will drive to Leighton Buzzard and catch the eight-ten. It is now
seven-thirty. Harness Hetty instantly, Mick.’

‘That I will, sorr.’

‘Let me suggest,’ Richard interposed, ‘that I take you to Leighton on
the new car. I can then explain the working of it to you, and return
here, retrieve the screw which I have so clumsily lost, and put the
Panhard to rights, and possibly mend the other one.’

‘Oh yes, dad,’ said Teresa, ‘that will be splendid, and I will go
with you to Leighton and drive the car back under Mr. Redgrave’s
instructions.’

In three minutes the new electric car was at the front-door. Mr. Raphael
Craig had gone into the house to fetch his bag. He came out with a
rather large brown portmanteau, which from the ease with which he
carried it, was apparently empty. The car was in the form of as mall
wagonette, with room for two at the front. Mr. Craig put down the bag in
the after-part of the car, where Teresa was already sitting, and sprang
to Richard’s side on the box-seat As he did so the bag slipped, and
Richard seized it to prevent it from falling. He was astounded to find
it extremely heavy. By exerting all his strength he could scarcely lift
it, yet Mr. Craig had carried it with ease. The bank manager must be a
Hercules, notwithstanding his years!

The five and a half miles to Leighton Buzzard Station, on the London
and North-Western main line, was accomplished in twenty minutes, and
Mr. Raphael Craig pronounced himself satisfied with the new car’s
performance.

‘If you don’t mind, Mr. Redgrave,’ he said, ‘you might meet me here with
this car at two-forty-five this afternoon--that is, if you can spare
the time. Meanwhile, perhaps the Panhard will be mended, and my daughter
will entertain you as best she can.’

Mr. Craig seemed to take Richard’s affirmative for granted. Stepping off
the car, he threw a kiss to Teresa, picked up the bag as though it had
been a feather, and disappeared into the station.

‘May I drive home?’ Teresa asked meekly, and Richard explained the
tricks of the mechanism.

Speeding through the country lanes, with this beautiful girl by his
side, Richard was conscious of acute happiness. He said to himself that
he had never been so happy in the whole of his life. He wished that he
could forget the scene in the chalk-pit, the mysterious crash,
Teresa’s lies, the suicide of Featherstone, and every other suspicious
circumstance. He wished he could forget Mr. Simon Lock and his own
mission. But he could not forget, and his conscience began to mar his
happiness. What was he doing in the household of the Craigs? Was he not
a spy? Was he not taking advantage of Teresa’s innocent good-nature?
Bah! it was his trade to be a spy, for what other term could be employed
in describing a private inquiry agent? And as for Teresa’s innocence,
probably she was not so innocent after all. The entire household was
decidedly queer, unusual, disconcerting. It decidedly held a secret,
and it was the business of him, Richard Redgrave, specialist, to unearth
that secret. Simon Lock was one of the smartest men in England, and his
doubts as to the _bona fides_ of Mr. Raphael Craig seemed in a fair way
to be soon justified. ‘To work, then,’ said Richard resolutely.

‘Don’t you like Micky?’ the girl asked, with an enchanting smile.

‘Micky is delightful,’ said Richard; ‘I suppose you have had him for
many years. He has the look of an old and tried retainer.’

‘Hasn’t he!’ Teresa concurred; ‘but we have had him precisely a
fortnight. You know that Watling Street, like all great high-roads, is
infested with tramps. Micky was a Watling Street tramp. He came to the
house one day to shelter from a bad thunderstorm. He said he was from
Limerick, and badly in need of work. I was at school in a Limerick
convent for five years, and I liked his Irish ways and speech. We
happened to be desperately in need of an odd man, and so I persuaded
father to engage him on trial. Micky is on trial for a month. I do hope
he will stop with us. He doesn’t know very much about motor-cars, but we
are teaching him, and he does understand horses and the garden.’

‘Only a fortnight!’ was all Richard’s response.

‘Yes, but it seems years,’ said the girl.

‘I was much struck by his attractive manner,’ said Richard, ‘when he
came to my room last night with your message.’

‘My message?’

‘Yes, about breakfast.’

‘That must be a mistake,’ said Teresa. ‘I never sent any message.’

‘He said that you desired to remind me that breakfast was at seven
o’clock.’

Teresa laughed.

‘Oh!’ she said, ‘that’s just like Micky, just like Micky.’

The frank, innocent gaiety of that laugh made Richard forget Teresa’s
fibs of the previous night. He could think of nothing but her beauty,
her youth, her present candour. He wished to warn her. In spite of the
obvious foolishness of such a course, he wished to warn her--against
herself.

‘Has it ever occurred to you, Miss Craig,’ he said suddenly, and all
the time he cursed himself for saying it, ‘that Mr. Craig’s--er--mode of
life, and your own, might expose you to the trickeries of scoundrels,
or even to the curiosity of the powers that be? Permit me, though our
acquaintance is so brief and slight, to warn you against believing that
things are what they appear to be.’

There was a pause.

‘Mr. Redgrave,’ she said slowly, ‘do you mean to imply----’

‘I mean to imply nothing whatever, Miss Craig.’

‘But you must----’

‘Listen. I saw you at the circus yesterday, and in the----’

He stopped at the word ‘chalk-pit.’ He thought that perhaps he had
sacrificed himself sufficiently.

‘At the circus!’ she exclaimed, then blushed as red as the vermilion
wheels of the electric car. ‘You are an excessively rude man!’ she said.

‘I admit it,’ he answered.

‘But I forgive you,’ she continued, more mildly; ‘your intentions are
generous.’

‘They are,’ said Richard, and privately called himself a hundred
different sorts of fool.

Why, why had he warned her against espionage? Why had he stultified
his own undertaking, the whole purpose of his visit to Queen’s Farm,
Hockliffe? Was it because of her face? Was Richard Redgrave, then, like
other foolish young men in spring? He admitted that it appeared he was.

When they arrived at the farm Richard deposited his hostess at the
front-door, and ran the car round to the outbuildings, calling for
Micky. But Micky was not about He saw the stable-door open, and,
dismounting, he entered the stable. There was no sign of Micky. He went
into the harness-room and perceived Micky’s coat still hanging on its
peg. He also perceived something yellow sticking out of the inside
pocket of the coat He made bold to examine the pocket, and found a
French book--the Memoirs of Goron, late chief of the Paris police.

‘Rather a strange sort of Irish tramp,’ Richard thought, ‘to be reading
a French book, and such a book!’

With the aid of the admirable collection of tools in Mr. Raphael Craig’s
workshop, Richard, who was decidedly a gifted amateur in the art of
engineering, set to work on the damaged motor-cars, and an hour before
lunch-time both the Panhard and the Décauville voiturette were fully
restored to the use of their natural functions. He might easily have
elongated his task, after the manner of some British workmen, so as to
make it last over the week-end; but he had other plans, and, besides, he
was not quite sure whether he wished to continue the quest which he had
undertaken on behalf of Mr. Simon Lock.

At twelve o’clock he made his way to the house, and found Micky weeding
the drive. The two mares were capering in the orchard meadow which
separated the house from the road.

‘Well, Mike,’ said Richard, ‘I see you’ve lived in France in your time.’

‘Not me, sorr! And what might your honour be after with those words?’

‘You weed in the French way,’ Richard returned--‘on hands and knees
instead of stooping.’

It was a wild statement, but it served as well as another.

‘I’ve never been to France but once, your honour, and then I didn’t
get there, on account of the sea being so unruly. ’Twas a day trip to
Boulogne from London, and sure we had everything in the programme except
Boulogne. ’Twas a beautiful sight, Boulogne, but not so beautiful as
London when we arrived back at night, thanks to the Blessed Virgin.’

‘Then you are a French scholar?’ said Richard.

‘Wee, wee, bong, merci! That’s me French, and it’s proud I am of it,
your honour. I’ve no other tricks.’

‘Haven’t you!’ thought Richard; and he passed into the house.

Mike proceeded calmly with his weeding. On inquiry for Miss Craig,
Bridget, with a look which seemed to say ‘Hands off,’ informed him that
the young lady was in the orchard. He accordingly sought the orchard,
and discovered Teresa idly swinging in a hammock that was slung between
two apple-trees.

‘Well, Mr. Redgrave,’ she questioned, ‘have you found that lost screw?’

‘I have found it,’ he said, ‘and put both cars in order. What with three
cars and two horses, you and Mr. Craig should be tolerably well supplied
with the means of locomotion.’

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘After all, the horses are the best.’ She sat up in the
hammock and called ‘Hetty!’ One of the mares lifted its head, whinnied,
and advanced sedately to the hammock. Teresa stroked the creature’s
nose. ‘Isn’t she a beauty, Mr. Redgrave? See.’

In an instant Teresa had sprung on the mare’s back, and was cantering,
bareback and without bridle, across the meadow. Hetty was evidently
docile to the last degree, and could be guided by a touch of the hand on
the neck.

‘What do you think of that, Mr. Redgrave?’ asked the girl proudly when
she returned.

Richard paused.

‘It is as good as Juana,’ he said quietly. ‘I had no idea you were such
a performer.’

Teresa flushed as she slipped easily, to the ground.

‘I am not such a performer,’ she stiffly replied.

‘I came to tell you,’ said Richard, ignoring her petulance, ‘that I have
to go to a place in the village on some other business for my firm, I
will get my lunch at one of the inns, and be back at----’

‘Now, Mr. Redgrave,’ she interrupted him, ‘don’t be horrid. I have
told Bridget to prepare a charming lunch for us at one-fifteen, and at
one-fifteen it will be ready. You cannot possibly leave me to eat it
alone.’

‘I can’t,’ he admitted. ‘At one-fifteen I will be here. Thank you
for telling Bridget to get something charming.’ He raised his hat and
departed.

Now, the first dwelling in the village of Hockliffe as you enter it by
Watling Street from the south is a small double-fronted house with a
small stable at the side thereof. A vast chestnut-tree stands in front
of it, and at this point the telegraph-wires, which elsewhere run
thickly on both sides of the road, are all carried on the left side, so
as not to interfere with the chestnut-tree. Over the front-door of the
house, which is set back in a tiny garden, is a sign to this effect:
‘Puddephatt, Wine Merchant.’ Having descried the sign, the observant
traveller will probably descry rows of bottles in one of the windows of
the house.

As Richard sauntered down the road in search of he knew not what, Mr.
Puddephatt happened to be leaning over his railings--a large, stout
man, dressed in faded gray, with a red, cheerful face and an air of
unostentatious prosperity.

‘Morning,’ said Puddephatt.

‘Morning,’ said Richard.

‘Fine morning, said Mr. Puddephatt.

Richard accepted the proposition and agreed that it was a fine morning.
Then he slackened speed and stopped in front of Mr. Puddephatt.

‘You are Mr. Puddephatt?’

‘The same, sir.’

‘I suppose, you haven’t got any Hennessy 1875 in stock?’

‘Have I any Hennessy 1875 in stock, sir? Yes, I have, sir. Five-and-six
a bottle, and there’s no better brandy nowhere.’

‘I’m not feeling very well,’ said Richard, ‘and I always take Hennessy
1875 when I’m queer, and one can’t often get it at public-houses.’

‘No, you can’t, sir.’

‘You don’t hold a retail license?’ Richard asked.

‘No, sir. I can’t sell less than a shilling’s worth, and that mustn’t
be drunk on the premises. But I tell you what I can do--I’ll give you a
drop. Come inside, sir.’

‘It’s awfully good of you,’ said the brazen Richard; and he went inside
and had the drop.

In return he gave Mr. Puddephatt an excellent cigar. Then they began to
talk.

‘I want a lodging for a night or two,’ Richard said after a time; and
he explained that he had brought a motor-car up to the Queen’s Farm, and
had other business in the district for his firm.

‘I can find ye a lodging,’ said Mr. Puddephatt promptly. ‘An aunt o’
mine at the other end of the village has as nice a little bedroom as
ever you seed, and she’ll let you have it for a shilling a night, and
glad.’

‘Could you arrange it for me?’ Richard asked.

‘I could, sir,’ said Mr. Puddephatt; and then reflectively: ‘So you’ve
come up to Queen’s Farm with a motor-car. Seems there ’re always having
motor-cars there.’

‘I suppose they’re perfectly safe, eh?’ said Richard.

‘Oh, they’re safe enough,’ Mr. Puddephatt replied emphatically. ‘Very
nice people, too, but a bit queer.’

‘Queer? How?’

Mr. Puddephatt laughed hesitatingly.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘that Miss Craig’s knocking about these roads on them
motor-cars day and night. Not but what she’s a proper young lady.’

‘But everyone goes about on motor-cars nowadays,’ said Richard.

‘Yes,’ said Mr. Puddephatt. ‘But everyone doesn’t pay all their bills in
new silver same as the Craigs.’

‘They pay for everything in new silver, do they?’ said Richard.

‘That they do, sir. I sold ’em a couple of Irish mares when they first
come to the Queen’s Farm. Dashed if I didn’t have to take the money away
in my dog-cart!’

‘But is it not the fact that an uncle of Mr. Craig’s died a couple of
years ago and left him a large fortune in silver--an old crank, wasn’t
he?’

‘So people say,’ said Mr. Puddephatt sharply, as if to intimate that
people would say anything.

‘It’s perfectly good silver, isn’t it?’ Richard asked.

‘Oh, it’s good enough!’ Mr. Puddephatt admitted in the same tone as he
had said ‘Oh, they’re safe enough!’ a few moments before.

‘How long has Mr. Craig lived at the Queen’s Farm?’

‘About two years,’ said Mr. Puddephatt.

Mr. Simon Lock, then, was wrongly informed. Mr. Lock had said that Craig
had lived at the farm for many years.

‘Where did he come from?’

‘Before that he had a small house under Dunstable Downs--rather a
lonesome place, near them big chalk-pits,’ Mr. Puddephatt answered. ‘He
seems to like lonesome houses.’

‘Near the chalk-pits, eh?’ said Richard.

‘As you’re a motorcar gent,’ said Mr. Puddephatt later, ‘I reckon I
can’t sell you a horse.’

‘I thought you sold wines and spirits.’

‘So I do. I supply the gentry for miles around; but I does a bit in
horses--and other things. And there isn’t a man as ever I sold a horse
to as I can’t look in the face this day. I’ve got the prettiest little
bay cob in my stable now----’

Richard was obliged to say that that was not his season for buying
horse-flesh, and, thanking Mr. Puddephatt, he left the wineshop.

‘A house near the chalk-pits,’ he mused. Then he turned back. ‘I’ll let
you know about the room later in the day,’ he said to Mr. Puddephatt.

‘Right, sir,’ answered Mr. Puddephatt.

Richard could not refrain from speculating as to how much Mr. Puddephatt
already knew about the Craigs and how much he guessed at. Mr. Puddephatt
was certainly a man of weight and a man of caution. The wine-merchant’s
eyes continually hinted at things which his tongue never uttered.



CHAPTER V--FIRE

The luncheon with Teresa was a pronounced social success. French rather
than Irish in character, it was eaten under a plum-tree in the orchard.
Micky waited at table with his hat on, and then disappeared for awhile.
At two o’clock he rose again above the horizon, and said that the
electric car was at the door. Richard and Teresa set off to meet the
two-thirty train at Leighton Buzzard. By this time they had certainly
become rather intimate, according to the way of young persons thrown
together--by no matter what chance--in the month of June--or any other
month. It was not, perhaps, unnatural that Raphael Craig, when he
emerged from the railway-station and found the two laughing and chatting
side by side in the motor-car, should have cast at them a sidelong
glance, in which were mingled amusement, alarm, and warning.

Mr. Raphael carried the large brown portmanteau, which was now--as
Richard discovered by handling it--quite empty. On the journey home
Teresa drove the car, and her father sat by her side. Richard occupied
the rear of the car, giving a hint occasionally as to the management of
the machine.

‘I think I have nothing further to do here,’ he said when the party had
arrived safely at Queen’s Farm. ‘Both the other cars are in order. I
will therefore bid you good-day. Should anything go wrong with this car,
you will doubtless let us know.’

He spoke in his most commercial manner, though his feelings were far
from commercial.

Raphael Craig bent those dark, deep eyes of his upon the youth.

‘I have been telephoning to your firm this morning,’ said Craig, ‘and
have arranged with them that you shall take the Panhard back to town.
They are going to take it off my hands--at a price.’

‘With pleasure,’ said Richard.

‘But,’ Mr. Craig continued, ‘I wish to use the Panhard this week-end.
Therefore you cannot remove it till Monday.’

‘Very good,’ said Richard, ‘I will present myself on Monday morning.’

‘And in the meantime?’

‘In the meantime I have other business for my firm in the
neighbourhood.’

Teresa’s glance intercepted her father’s, and these two exchanged a
look. The old man frowned at his daughter.

‘Good-day,’ said Richard.

Raphael and Teresa shook hands with him. Was he a conceited ass, or did
Teresa really seem grieved?

‘Till Monday,’ said Teresa.

Richard walked down to the village, engaged Miss Puddephatt’s room, and
dined at the White Horse Hotel. He had not yet definitely decided what
course of conduct to follow. He was inclined to do nothing further in
the affair, and to tell Simon Lock on Monday that, so far as he could
discover, Simon Lock’s suspicions about Raphael Craig were groundless.
He had taken no money from Simon Lock, and he would take none. Yet
why should he pause now? Why should he not, for his own private
satisfaction, probe the mystery to the bottom? Afterwards--when the
strange secret stood revealed to him--there would be plenty of time then
to decide whether or not to deliver up Raphael Craig into the hands of
Simon Lock. Yes, on consideration he would, for his own pleasure, find
out whatever was to be found out.

That evening, an hour after sunset, he lay hidden behind a hedge on the
west side of Watling Street, exactly opposite the boreen leading to the
Queen’s Farm.

Richard slept. He was decidedly short of sleep, and sleep overtook him
unawares. Suddenly from the end of the boreen came the faint spit, spit
of a motor-car, growing louder as it approached the main road. Would it
awake Richard? No, he slept stolidly on. The motor-car, bearing an old
man and a young girl, slid down into the valley towards Dunstable, and
so out of hearing. An hour passed. The church clock at Houghton Regis,
two miles off to the east, struck midnight. Then the car might have been
heard returning, it laboured heavily up the hill, and grunted as though
complaining of its burden as it curved round into the boreen towards
Queen’s Farm.

Richard awoke. In a fraction of a second he was wide awake, alert,
eager, excited. He saw the car vanishing towards the outbuildings of
Queen’s Farm. Springing out of the hedge, he clambered over the opposite
hedge into Craig’s orchard, crossed it, passed the house by its north
side, and so came to the quadrangle of outbuildings. By keeping on the
exterior of this quadrangle he arrived at last, skirting the walls, at
the blind end of the boreen. He peeped cautiously round the angle of
the wall, scarcely allowing even the tip of his nose to protrude, and
discerned the empty motor-car. He ventured forward into the boreen. It
was at this corner of the quadrangle that the locked shed was situated.
Rather high up in the wall a light disclosed the presence of a small
window. The faintness of the light proved that the window must be
extremely dirty. But even if it had been clean he could not have
utilized it, for it was seven feet from the earth. He put his hand on
the wall and touched a spout. The spout felt rickety, but he climbed
up it, and, clinging partly to the spout and partly to the frame of the
window, he looked into the locked shed. It had once, he perceived, been
used as a stable, but it was being put to other purposes now. The manger
was heaped up with bright silver coins. In the middle of the floor stood
a large iron receptacle of peculiar shape. He guessed that it had been
constructed to fit into the well of the Panhard motor-car. By means of
two small buckets Teresa and her father were transferring the contents
of this receptacle, which was still half full of silver, into the
manger.

The shed was ‘lighted by a single candle stuck insecurely on what had
once been a partition between two stalls. The candle flickered and cast
strange shadows. The upper part of the chamber was in darkness. Looking
straight across it, Richard saw another little window exactly opposite
his own; and through this window he discerned another watching face.

‘Micky!’ he exclaimed softly to himself.

Raphael and Teresa were, then, doubly spied upon. But who was Micky?

Richard’s attention was diverted from this interesting inquiry by the
gradual growth of a light near the door, of which, being parallel with
his window, he had no view. Then a long, licking flame appeared.
He could see it creeping across the floor, nearer and nearer to the
unconscious heavers of silver. Raphael had turned on the waste tap of
the exhaust petrol under the motor-car. The highly combustible quid had
run beneath the door of the shed it had there come in contact with
the ax match used by Raphael to light the candle and then thrown down.
Richard saw next that the door of the shed was on fire; at the same
moment, unable any longer to keep his grip on the spout and the
window-frame, he fell unexpectedly to the ground.



CHAPTER VI--THE DESIRE FOR SILVER

The blazing door was locked. Richard called, shouted shouted again.
There was no answer, but in the extraordinary outer silence he could
still hear the industrious shovelling of silver.

‘Well,’ he said to himself, ‘they’re bound to find out pretty soon that
the show’s on fire.’

He threw himself against the door angrily, and, to his surprise, it
yielded, and he fell over the river of flame into the interior of
the shed. The noise at last startled Raphael and Teresa out of the
preoccupation of their task.

‘Haven’t you perceived that the place is being burned down?’ he
exclaimed drily.

At the same instant he sprang towards Teresa. The stream of burning
petrol had found its way into the central runnel of the stone floor, and
so had suddenly reached the hem of Teresa’s dress, which already showed
a small blaze. Fortunately, it was a serge travelling frock; had it
been of light summer material, Teresa would probably have been burnt to
death. Richard dragged her fiercely from the region of the runnel, and
extinguished the smouldering serge between his hands, which showed the
scars of that timely action for a fortnight afterwards. He glanced round
quickly, saw a pile of empty sacks in a corner--had they been used as
money-bags? he wondered--and, seizing several of them, laid them fiat
on the burning petrol and against the door. His unhesitating celerity no
doubt prevented a magnificent conflagration. The petrol, it is true, had
nearly burnt itself out, but the woodwork of the door was, in fireman’s
phrase, ‘well alight,’ and, being aged and rotten, it formed a quick
fuel.

When the flames had been conquered, the three occupants of the shed
looked at each other without a word. Strange to say, under the steady
gaze of Raphael Craig, Richard’s eyes blinked, and he glanced in another
direction--up at the little window in the opposite wall where he had
seen the face of Micky, but where the face of Micky was no longer on
view. Then he looked again at Raphael Craig, whose dark orbs seemed to
ask accusingly: ‘What are you doing here?’ And, despite the fact that he
had in all probability been the means of saving Teresa’s life, he could
not avoid the absurd sensation of having been caught in a misdeed.
He felt as if he must explain his presence to Raphael Craig. At that
juncture, we are obliged to confess, his imperturbability deserted him
for a space.

‘I--I happened to be passing the end of the road,’ he said lamely, ‘and
I saw what I took to be a flame, so I ran along--and found--this, I’m
glad it’s no worse.’

‘So am I,’ said Raphael Craig, with cold gravity.

Teresa was silent.

‘I’m glad I was in time,’ said Richard, as awkwardly as a boy.

‘I’m glad you were,’ Mr. Craig agreed.

‘It is possible that my daughter owes her life to you. I cannot imagine
how I could have been so careless with that petrol. It was inexcusable.
We thank you, Mr. Redgrave, for your services so admirably rendered.’

‘Don’t mention it,’ said Richard; ‘that’s nothing at all.’

The whole interview was becoming too utterly ridiculous. But what could
be said or done? It was the heaps of silver coins lying about that
rendered the situation so extremely difficult. Useless for Raphael Craig
to pretend that he and Teresa had been engaged in some perfectly usual
and common-place task. Useless for Richard, notwithstanding his lame
explanation, to pretend that he had not been spying. The heaps of
silver made all parties excessively self-conscious, and when you are
self-conscious you can never say the right thing in the right manner.

It was Raphael Craig who first, so to speak, came to himself.

‘As you are here, Mr. Redgrave,’ he said, ‘as you have already laid us
under one obligation, perhaps you will consent to lay us under another.
Perhaps you will help us to finish off these few coins. Afterwards I
will beg the honour of a few words with you in private.’

It was magnificent, thought Richard, this audacious manouvre of the old
man’s. It took the bull by the horns in a very determined fashion. It
disarmed Richard instantly. What course, save that of complying with so
calm and courteous a request, could he pursue? He divined that Raphael
Craig was not a man moulded to the ordinary pattern of bank managers,
‘With pleasure,’ he replied, and thereupon the heaps of silver seemed
less bizarre, less confusing, less productive of a general awkwardness.
By a fiction unanimously agreed to, all three began to behave as if
shovelling thousands of new silver coins at dead of night in a disused
stable was a daily affair with them.

Still without uttering a word, Teresa handed her galvanized iron bucket
to Richard. He noticed a little uncertainty in the motion of her hand as
she did so. The next moment there was a thud on the floor of the stable.
Teresa had fainted. She lay extended on the stone floor. Richard ran to
pick up that fair frame. He had lifted the girl’s head when the old man
interposed.

‘Never raise the head of a person who has lost consciousness,’ he said
coldly; ‘it is dangerous. Teresa will recover in a few minutes. This
swoon is due only to the shock and strain of the last few minutes. In
the meantime, will you open the door?’

Richard, having complied, stood inactive, anxious to do something, yet
finding nothing to do.

‘Shall I fetch some water from the house?’ he asked. ‘Swoons are
sometimes very serious if they last too long.’

‘Are they, my friend?’ said Raphael, with the trace of a smile. ‘This
one is already over--see?’

Teresa opened her eyes.

‘What are you two staring at?’ she inquired curiously, and then sighed
as one fatigued.

Her father raised her head in his arm and held it so for a few moments.

‘Now, my chuck,’ he said, ‘try if you can stand. Mr. Redgrave, will you
assist me?’

Mr. Redgrave assisted with joy. The girl at length stood up, supported
on one side by Raphael Craig and on the other by the emissary of Simon
Lock. With a glance at Richard, she said she could walk. Outside stood
the motor-car.

‘Shall we take her round to the front-door on this?’ Richard suggested.

‘Are you mad?’ exclaimed Raphael Craig, with sudden disapproval. ‘Teresa
will walk.’

He locked the charred door of the stable with a padlock which he took
from his pocket, and they proceeded to the house.

Bridget stood at the front-door, seeming to expect them.

‘You’re not well, mavourneen,’ she said, glancing at Teresa’s face, and
led the girl away.

During the whole of the time spent by him at Queen’s Farm nothing
impressed Richard more than the impassive yet affectionate demeanour of
Mrs. Bridget, that mysterious old servant, on this occasion.

The two men were left together in the hall. Mrs. Bridget and Teresa had
gone upstairs.

‘Mike!’ Raphael Craig called.

‘Yes, sorr,’ answered Mike, appearing from a small butler’s pantry under
the staircase.

‘Bring whisky into the drawing-room.’

‘That I will, sorr.’

Richard admired Micky’s sangfroid, which was certainly tremendous, and
he determined to have an interview with the man before many hours were
past, in order to see whether he could not break that sangfroid down.

‘Come into the drawing-room, will you?’, said Raphael Craig.

‘Thanks,’ said Richard.

The drawing-room proved to be the room into which Mr. Craig had vanished
on the _previous_ night. It presented, to his surprise, no unusual
feature whatever. It had the customary quantities of chairs, occasional
tables, photographs, knicknacks, and cosy corners. It was lighted by a
single lamp suspended from the middle of the ceiling. The only article
of furniture that by any stretch of fancy could be termed extraordinary
in a drawing-room was a rather slim grandfather’s clock in an inlaid
case of the Sheraton period. This clock struck one as they went into the
room.

Micky arrived with the whisky.

‘You will join me?’ asked Raphael, lifting the decanter.

‘Thanks,’ said Richard.

‘That will do, Mike.’

Mike departed. The two men ignited cigars and drank. Each was seated in
a large easy-chair.

‘Now for it,’ said Richard to himself.

Mr. Raphael Craig coughed.

‘I dare say, Mr. Redgrave,’ the bank manager began, ‘that certain things
which you have seen this evening will have struck you as being somewhat
strange.’

‘I am happy to have been of any help,’ said Richard.

Raphael bowed.

‘I will not disguise from you,’ he continued, that when you arrived here
in such a peculiar manner last night I had my suspicious of your good
faith. I even thought for a moment--it was very foolish of me--that you
were from Scotland Yard. I don’t know why I should have thought that,
but I did think it.’

‘Really,’ said Richard, ‘I have not the least connection with Scotland
Yard. I told you my business.’

‘I believe you,’ said Raphael. ‘I merely mention the course of my
thoughts concerning you. I am fully convinced now that, despite certain
unusual items connected with your visit, you are exactly what you said
you were, and for my doubts I now offer apology. To tell you the truth,
I inquired from the Williamson Company this morning as to you, and was
quite reassured by what they said. But,’ Mr. Craig went on, with a
very pronounced ‘but,’ interrupting Richard, who had embarked on some
protest--‘but I have at the same time been forced to the conclusion, Mr.
Redgrave, that my household, such as it is, and my ways, such as
they are, have roused in you a curiosity which is scarcely worthy
of yourself. I am a fairly good judge of character, and I know by
infallible signs that you have a nature far above idle curiosity.’

‘Thanks for your good opinion,’ said Richard; ‘but, to deal with your
suspicions in their order, may I ask why you thought at first that I was
an agent of Scotland Yard? Were you expecting Scotland Yard at Queen’s
Farm?’

He could not avoid a faint ironic smile.

Mr. Craig threw his cigar into the fireplace.

‘I was,’ said Raphael briefly, ‘and I will tell you why. Some time ago
an uncle of mine died, at a great age, and left me a huge fortune. My
uncle, Mr. Redgrave, was mad. For fifty years he had put all his savings
into silver coins. He had once been in a Mexican silver-mine, and the
experience in some mysterious way had affected his brain. Perhaps his
brain was already affected. He lived for silver, and in half a century
he collected more than half a million separate silver coins--all
English, all current, all unused. This fortune he bequeathed to me. I
was, in fact, his sole relative.’

‘A strange old fellow he must have been,’ Richard remarked.

‘Yes,’ said Raphael. ‘But I am equally strange. I have said that
my uncle had a mania. I, too, have that mania, for I tell you, Mr.
Redgrave, that I cannot bring myself to part with those coins. I have
the same madness for silver that my uncle had. Away from the silver, I
can see myself steadily, can admit frankly to myself that on that one
point my brain is, if you like the term, “touched.” In the presence of
the silver I exist solely for it, and can think of nothing else.’

‘Nevertheless,’ said Richard dispassionately, ‘I was told in the village
to-day that you paid for everything in silver. If you are so attached
to silver, how can you bring yourself to part with it? Why not pay in
gold?’

‘Because,’ Raphael replied, ‘I never handle gold save in my professional
capacity as bank manager. I take my salary in silver. I cannot help it.
The weight frequently proves a difficulty, but I cannot help it. Silver
I must have. It is in my blood, the desire for silver. True, I pay away
silver--simply because I have no other coins available.’

‘I see,’ said Richard.

He scarcely knew what to think of his strange companion. The man seemed
absolutely sane, absolutely in possession of every sense and faculty,
yet, behold him accusing himself of madness!

‘Let me finish,’ said Raphael Craig. ‘When I came into my uncle’s
fortune I was at a loss what to do with it. The small house which I then
had over at Sewell, near Chalk Hill, had no accommodation for such a
valuable and ponderous collection. I made a confidante of my daughter.
She sympathized with me, and suggested that, at any rate for a time, I
should conceal the hoard in a disused chalk-pit which lay a few hundred
yards from our house. The idea, at first sight rather wild, grew upon
me. I adopted it. Then I took this house, and gradually I have removed
my silver from the chalk-pit to Queen’s Farm. It is hidden in various
quarters of the place. We brought the last load to-night.’

‘This is very interesting,’ said Richard, who had nothing else to say.

‘I have told you this,’ the old man concluded, ‘in order to account to
you for what you saw to-night in that stable. It is but just that you
should know. I thank you again for your prompt services in the matter
of the fire, and I ask you, Mr. Redgrave, to pity the infirmity--the
harmless infirmity--of an old man.’

Raphael Craig stood up and gazed at Richard with his deep-set melancholy
eyes.

‘It is an infirmity which draws suspicion upon this house as a magnet
draws iron. Once already I have had the local police up here making
stupid inquiries. I put them off as well as I could. Daily I am
expecting that the directors of the bank will call me up to explain my
conduct. Yet I cannot do otherwise.’

‘Why,’ said Richard, ‘if you are rich, do you still care to serve the
bank? Pardon my impertinence, but, surely, if you left the bank one
source of your apprehensions would be stopped?’

‘I cannot leave the bank,’ said Raphael Craig, with solemn pathos; ‘it
would break my heart.’

With these words he sank back into a chair, and appeared to be lost in
thought So the two sat for some time. Then Richard rose and went quietly
towards the door.

‘You are the only person, save Teresa, who knows my secret. Remember
that, Mr. Redgrave.’

The manager’s voice sounded weak and distant. Richard bowed and stole
from the room. He sucked at his cigar, but it had gone out.



CHAPTER VII--NOLAN

Very quietly he sauntered to the front-door, which was ajar, and
into the portico. He stood there meditating. In front he could vaguely
discern the forms of the trees in the orchard, but beyond these nothing.
The night was as dark as a wolfs mouth. Then the sound of a horse’s
rapid hoof caught his ear. The wind had fallen, and everything was
still. Looking down the hill, he could see the light of a vehicle
ascending the slope of Watling Street. The sound of the horse’s trot
came nearer and nearer, passed the end of the boreen, and so continued
up the hill, getting fainter now, till it died entirely away as the
vehicle dipped down the gradient into Hockliffe. The vehicle was one of
her late Majesty’s mails, which took that route at that hour on Saturday
nights only. It constituted a perfectly simple weekly phenomenon, yet
somehow the birth, growth, fading, and death of the sound of the horse’s
trot on the great road affected Richard’s imagination to a singular
degree.

‘What is my position up here now?’ he asked himself. ‘Am I to depart
an unconfessed spy, without another word to Raphael Craig or Teresa,
or--what?’

The old man’s recital had touched him, and Teresa’s swoon had decidedly
touched him more.

He strolled very leisurely down the drive, staring about him. Then, with
senses suddenly alert, he whispered:

‘Come out, there. I see you quite well.’ Micky was hiding in the bushes
under the drawing-room window. The little man obeyed complacently
enough.

‘Come out into the road with me, Mike; I want to have a chat with you.’

Richard had sufficient tact not to put any sign of reproof or anger into
his tone. He accepted Micky’s spying as a thing of course. They walked
along the boreen together and up the high-road towards Hockliffe.

‘Now,’ said Richard, ‘we can talk at our ease here; we shan’t be
overheard.’

‘What does your honour want to talk about?’ asked Micky, with a great
air of innocence.

‘You can drop the “your honour,” and all that rigmarole, my friend, and
tell me who you really are. To prevent any unnecessary untruths, I may
as well tell you at the start that I found Goron’s Memoirs in the pocket
of your coat in the harness-room yesterday morning. From that moment I
knew you were playing a part here.’

‘Like you,’ said Micky quickly.

‘Yes--if it pleases you--like me. What I want to know is, are you a
detective?’

‘And what I want to know is,’ said Micky, who had abandoned most of his
Irish accent, ‘what are you?’

‘Let us not beat about the bush,’ said Richard impatiently. ‘You’re a
decent chap, so am I. I will begin by confessing that I am a private
inquiry agent employed by the British and Scottish Bank.’

‘Oh,’ said Micky, ‘I knew it was something of that sort Have you ever
heard of a detective named Nolan?’

‘What! _the_ Nolan?’ asked Richard.

‘The same,’ said Micky.

‘You are Nolan?’

‘I have the honour--or the dishonour.’

‘I am glad to meet you,’ said Richard. ‘Of course, I know you well by
reputation. How thoroughly you go into an affair! Fancy you acting as
odd man here for weeks! I tell you you have completely imposed on them.’

‘Have I?’ exclaimed Micky--or Nolan, as he must now be called. ‘I should
be glad to be assured of that. Twice to-day I have feared that Raphael
Craig had his doubts of me.’

‘I don’t think so for a moment,’ said Richard positively. ‘But what
is your object--what is Scotland Yard after? Personally, I came here
without any theories, on the chance of something turning up.’

‘Scotland Yard is merely curious about the suicide--if it was a
suicide--of a man named Featherstone, and about the plague of silver
which has visited this district during the last year or two.’

‘You say “if it was a suicide.” Do you suspect that Featherstone’s death
was due to anything else?’

‘I never suspect until I know, Mr. Redgrave. I am here with an open
mind.’

‘And what have you discovered so far?’ asked Richard.

‘My very dear sir,’ Nolan expostulated, ‘what do you take me for? I
am sure that you are a man of unimpeachable honour--all private agents
are--but, nevertheless, I cannot proclaim my discoveries to a stranger.
It would be a breach of etiquette to do so, even if such a course were
not indiscreet.’

‘I give you my word, Mr. Nolan, that my activity in this case is now
entirely at an end. I have found out this evening all that I wished to
know, and perhaps more than I wished to know. I shall return to town on
Monday morning, and Bedfordshire will know me no more.’ He paused, and
added: ‘At least, it will know me no more as a private inquiry agent.’

‘Or motor-car expert,’ said Nolan.

Richard laughed.

‘I was merely asking you,’ Richard resumed, ‘how far you had got, in the
hope that possibly I might be able to simplify matters for you.’

‘You are very good,’ said Nolan, with an indescribable accent of
irony--a bantering tone which, however, was so good-humoured that
Richard could not take exception to it--‘you are very good.’

‘You have found out, I presume, something concerning the chalk-pit?’

‘Oh yes,’ said Nolan, ‘I have found out something concerning the
chalk-pit.’

‘And you know what the crash Was early this morning?’

‘I have a notion,’ said Nolan.

‘And, since I saw your inquisitive face at the window of that stable
to-night, you know what that stable contains?’

‘Not quite to half-a-crown,’ said Nolan, but approximately.’

‘By the way,’ Richard asked, ‘why on earth didn’t you come and assist in
putting out the fire?’

‘What! And give myself away?’

‘It might have been a matter of life and death.’

‘Yes, it might have been. Had it got so far, I dare say I should have
sacrificed my standing here, my reputation with these people as a simple
Irishman, in order to save them. But I knew that you were there, and
that you would do all that was necessary.’

‘I only just got into the place in time,’ said Richard sharply.

‘Yes. It is a pity that you burnt your hands.’

‘How do you know that I burnt my hands?’ Richard asked.

‘I can tell by the way you hold them,’ said Nolan.

‘It was worth it,’ said Richard.

‘Was it?’ observed Nolan quietly. ‘I am glad. Of course, now that you
have found out everything----’

He drew up standing in the road. His voice showed that Richard had made
some little impression on that great man from Scotland Yard.

‘Admit first,’ said Richard, his eyes twinkling through the gold-rimmed
spectacles, ‘that you were guilty of the grossest indiscretion--not to
say stupidity--in leaving Goron’s Memoirs, a yellow-covered French book,
lying about the harness-room--you, an Irish labourer.’

‘I admit that in that matter I was an inconceivable ass,’ said Nolan
cheerfully.

‘Good!’ said Richard; ‘you shall have your reward.’

Then Richard told him all that he had learnt from the lips of Raphael
Craig. There was a silence when he had finished.

‘Yes,’ said Nolan, ‘it’s rather an impressive story; it impresses even
me. But do you believe it?’

‘I believe what Craig told me. If he lied, he is the finest actor I ever
saw.’

‘Listen,’ said Nolan. ‘Does this tale of Craig’s explain his daughter’s
visit to Bosco’s circus and her chat with Juana, and her unblushing fibs
to you afterwards?’

‘How did you hear about that?’ questioned Richard savagely.

He scarcely liked Nolan’s curt language in regard to Teresa.

‘I did hear about it,’ said Nolan; ‘let that suffice. And listen
further. I will make you a present of a fact--an absolutely indisputable
fact--which I have discovered: Raphael Craig never had an uncle. His
father was an only son. Moreover, no person has died within the last
few years who could by any means be related to Craig. The records at
Somerset House have been thoroughly searched.’

‘No uncle!’ was all Richard, the nonplussed, could murmur.

‘And,’ Nolan continued, ‘while I am about it, I will make you a present
of another little fact. You say that Craig told you that he had brought
all his silver here, the last load having arrived to-night. On the
contrary, he has gradually been taking silver away from here, I admit
that he has brought some, but he has carted far more away. For what else
should he need all this generous supply of motorcars?’

Richard began to suspect that he had mistaken his vocation.



CHAPTER VIII--THE PEER’S ADVICE

On the Monday morning Richard presented himself at Queen’s Farm. The
day was jocund, the landscape smiled; in the forty-acre field below
the house a steam-plough, actuated by two enormous engines and a steel
hawser, was working at the bidding of a farmer who farmed on principles
of his own, and liked to do his ploughing at midsummer. The steam-plough
rattled and jarred and jolted like a humorous and high-spirited
leviathan; the birds sang merrily above it; the Chiltem Hills stretched
away in the far distance, bathed in limitless glad sunshine; and Watling
Street ran white, dazzling, and serene, down the near slope and up the
hill towards Dunstable, curtained in the dust of rural traffic.

In the midst of all these things joyous and content, behold Richard,
melancholy and full of discontent, ringing at the front-door bell of
Queen’s Farm. He rang and rang again, but there was no answer. It was
after eight o’clock, yet not a blind had been drawn up; and the people
of the house had told him that they took breakfast at seven o’clock!
Richard had passed a wretched week-end in the village of Hockliffe, his
one solace having been another chat with Mr. Puddephatt, wine-merchant
and horse-dealer to the nobility and gentry of the neighbourhood. He
was at a loss what to do. What, indeed, could he do? The last words
of Nolan, the detective, had given him pause, hinting, as they did, at
strange mysteries still unsolved. Supposing that he, Richard, continued
his investigations and discovered some sinister secret--some crime?
The point was that Teresa was almost certainly involved in her father’s
schemes. Here was the difficulty which troubled him. His fancy pictured
a court of justice, and Raphael Craig and Teresa in the dock, and
Richard Redgrave giving evidence against them, explaining how he had
spied upon them, dogged their footsteps, and ultimately arrived at the
heart of the mystery. Could he do that? Could he look Teresa in the
face? And yet, what, after all, was Teresa to him--Teresa, whom he had
known only three days?

That was the question--what was Teresa to him?

He rang again, and the jangle of the bell reverberated as though through
a deserted dwelling. Then he walked round the house by the garden, in
the hope of encountering Micky, otherwise Mr. Nolan of Scotland Yard.
But not a sign of Mr. Nolan could he see anywhere. The stable-door was
unlocked; the mares were contentedly at work on a morning repast of
crushed oats, followed by clover-hay, but there was no Micky. He began
to think that perhaps Nolan knew a great deal more than he had chosen
to tell during that night walk along Watling Street. Perhaps Nolan
had returned to Scotland Yard armed with all the evidence necessary to
conduct a magnificent _cause célèbre_ to a successful conclusion. He
could see the posters of the evening papers: ‘Extraordinary Affair in
Bedfordshire: A Bank Manager and his Daughter charged with----’

Charged with what?

Pooh! When he recalled the dignified and absolutely sincere air of
Raphael Craig at their interview in the drawing-room in the early hours
of Sunday morning, when he recalled the words of the white-haired man,
uttered with an appealing glance from under those massive brows: ‘I ask
you, Mr. Redgrave, to pity the infirmity, the harmless infirmity, of an
old man’--when he recalled these words, and the manner of the speaker,
he could not but think that Nolan must be on an absolutely false scent;
he could not but believe that the Craigs were honest and innocent.

He at last got round to the kitchen-door of the house and knocked. The
door was immediately opened--or, rather, half opened--by Mrs. Bridget,
who put her head in the small aperture thus made after the manner of
certain women. She merely looked at him severely, without uttering a
word.

‘I wish to see Mr. Craig,’ he said calmly.

‘I was to tell ye the motor-car is in the shed, and ye are kindly to
deliver it at Williamson’s.’

This was her reply.

‘Mr. Craig is not up, then? Miss Craig----’

‘I was to tell ye the motor-car is in the shed, and ye are kindly to
deliver it at Williamson’s.’

‘Thank you. I perfectly understand,’ said Richard. ‘Miss Craig, I hope,
is fully recovered?’

‘I was to tell ye the motor-car----’

Thinking that this extraordinary Irishwoman was scarcely in full
possession of her wits that morning, Richard turned away, and proceeded
to the shed where the motor-cars were kept. The Panhard, he found, was
ready for action, its petrol-tank duly filled, its bearings oiled, its
brasswork polished. He sprang aboard and set off down the boreen. As
he passed the house, gazing at it, one of the drawn blinds on the
first-floor seemed to twitch aside and then fall straight again. Or was
it his imagination?

He turned into Watling Street, and then, on the slope, set the car to
its best pace. He reached the valley in a whirl of dust at a speed of
forty miles an hour. The great road stretched invitingly ahead. His
spirits rose. He seemed to recover somewhat from the influence of the
mysteries of Queen’s Farm.

‘I’ll chuck it,’ he shouted to himself above the noise of the flying
car--‘that’s what I’ll do. I’ll go and tell Lord Dolmer this very
morning that I can’t do anything, and prefer to waste no more time on
the affair.’

After that he laughed, also to himself, and swerved the car neatly to
avoid half a brick which lay in the middle of the road. It was at
that moment that he perceived, some distance in front, his friend Mr.
Puddephatt. Mr. Puddephatt was apparently walking to Dunstable. Richard
overtook him and drew up.

‘Let me give you a lift,’ said Richard.

[Illustration: 0126]

Mr. Puddephatt surveyed the Panhard askance.

‘Let you give me a lift?’ Mr. Puddephatt repeated. It was his habit to
repeat the exact words of an interlocutor before giving a reply. ‘No,
thanks,’ said he. ‘I’m walking to Dunstable Station for exercise.’

‘What are you going to Dunstable Station for?’ asked Richard.

‘I’m for Lunnon--horse sale at the Elephant and Castle. Perhaps you know
the Elephant and Castle, sir?’

‘I’ll give you a lift to London, if you like,’ said Richard, seizing the
chance of companionship, of which he was badly in need. ‘We shall get
there quite as soon as your train.’

Mr. Puddephatt eyed the car suspiciously. He had no sympathy with
motor-cars.

‘Are you afraid?’ asked Richard.

‘Am I afraid?’ he repeated. ‘No,’ he said, ‘I ain’t afraid. But I’d
sooner be behind a three-year-old than behind one of them things. But
I’ll try it and see how I like it. And thank ye, sir.’

So Mr. Puddephatt journeyed with Richard to London.

Perhaps it was fate that induced Mr. Puddephatt, when they had discussed
the weather, horses, motor-cars, steam-ploughs, wine, parish councils,
London, and daily papers, to turn the conversation on to the subject of
the Craigs. Mr. Puddephatt had had many and various dealings with
the Craigs, and he recounted to Richard the whole of them, one after
another, in detail. It seemed, from his narrative, that he had again and
again, from sheer good-nature, saved the Craigs from the rapacity and
unscrupulousness of the village community.

‘Nice young lady, that Miss Teresa,’ observed Mr. Puddephatt.

‘Yes,’ said Richard.

By this time they had passed through St. Albans and were well on the way
to Edgware.

‘They do say,’ said Mr. Puddephatt, leaning back luxuriously against the
cushions--‘they do say as she isn’t his daughter--not rightly.’

‘They say what?’ asked Richard quietly, all alert, but not choosing to
seem so.

Mr. Puddephatt reaffirmed his statement.

‘Who says that?’ asked Richard.

‘Oh!’ said Mr. Puddephatt, ‘I dare say it isn’t true. But it’s gotten
about the village. Ye never know how them tales begin. I dare say it
isn’t true. Bless ye, there’s lots o’ tales.’

‘Oh, indeed!’ Richard remarked sagaciously.

‘Ay!’ said Mr. Puddephatt, filling his pipe, ‘lots o’ tales. That night
as she ran away from the farm, and Mrs. Bridget had to fetch her back
from the White Horse---- Everybody said as how the old man ill-treated
her, daughter or no daughter.’

‘When was that?

‘A few weeks back,’ said Mr. Puddephatt laconically.

This was all he would say.

‘It’s a queer world, Mr. Puddephatt,’ said Richard aloud. To himself
he said: ‘Then perhaps she isn’t involved with her father--if he is her
father.’

At length they reached the suburbs of London and had to moderate
their speed. As they wound in and out through the traffic of Kilburn,
Richard’s eye chanced to catch the sign of the British and Scottish
Bank. He drew up opposite the mahogany doors of the bank and, leaving
Mr. Puddephatt in charge of the car, entered. It was turned ten o’clock.
He felt fairly certain that Raphael Craig had not left Queen’s Farm, but
he wanted to convince himself that the bank manager was not always so
impeccably prompt at business as some people said.

‘I wish to see Mr. Craig,’ he said, just as he had said two hours before
to Mrs. Bridget.

‘Mr. Craig,’ said the clerk, ‘is at present taking his annual holiday.
He will return to business in a fortnight’s time.’

Richard returned to the car curiously annoyed, with a sense of being
baffled. His thoughts ran back to Teresa. Thirty miles of Watling Street
now separated them, yet her image was more strenuously before him than
it had been at any time since she fainted in the silver-heaped stable on
Saturday night.

‘Yes,’ he said to himself positively, ‘I’ll call on Lord Dolmer at once,
and tell him I won’t have anything further to do with the affair.’

He dropped Mr. Puddephatt, whose society, he felt, was perhaps growing
rather tedious to him, at Oxford Circus, and directed him to an omnibus
for the Elephant and Castle.

‘My address is 4, Adelphi Terrace, in case you need a friend in London
at any time,’ said Richard.

‘Good-day to ye, sir,’ said Mr. Puddephatt, ‘and thank ye kindly. Shall
we be seeing you again at Hockliffe soon?’

‘No,’ said Richard shortly. ‘I am not likely ever to come to Hockliffe.
My business there is absolutely concluded.’

They shook hands, full of goodwill. As Mr. Puddephatt’s burly and rustic
form faded away into the crowd Richard watched it, and thought how
strange, and, indeed, pathetic, it was that two human beings should
casually meet, become in a measure intimate, and then part for evermore,
lost to each other in the mazy wilderness of an immense civilization.

He drove the car to Holborn Viaduct, deposited it on the Williamson
Company’s premises, and then took a bus for Piccadilly. As he did so it
began to rain, at first gently, then with a more determined steadiness:
a spell of fine weather which had lasted for several weeks was at last
broken.

In less than half an hour he was at Lord Dolmer’s door in Half-Moon
Street.

This nobleman, as has been stated, was comparatively a poor man.
Emphasis must now be laid on that word ‘comparatively.’ The baron had a
thousand a year of his own in stocks, and a small property in Yorkshire
which brought in a trifle less than nothing a year, after all the
outgoings were paid. His appointments in the City yielded him fifteen
hundred a year. So that his net income was a trifle less than two
thousand five hundred pounds per annum. He was thus removed from the
fear of absolute starvation. The peerage was not an ancient one--Lord
Dolmer was only the second baron--but the blood was aristocratic; it had
run in the veins of generations of men who knew how to live and how to
enjoy themselves. Lord Dolmer had discreetly remained a bachelor, and,
in the common phrase, ‘he did himself uncommonly well.’ He had a suite
of finely-furnished rooms in Half-Moon Street, and his domestic staff
there consisted of a valet, who was also butler and confidential
factotum; a boy, who fulfilled the functions of a ‘tiger,’ and employed
his leisure hours in not cleaning knives and boots; a housekeeper,
who wore black silk and guarded the secret of her age; and two women
servants. It was the valet who answered to Richard’s masterful ring; the
valet’s name was Simpkin.

‘Lord Dolmer at home?’ asked Richard.

‘Yes, sir,’ said Simpkin amicably; ‘his lord-ship is at breakfast.’

It was just upon eleven o’clock.

‘I’ll tell him you’re here, sir,’ said Simpkin.

In another moment Richard was greeting the second Baron Dolmer in the
dining-room, a stylish little apartment trimmed with oak. Lord Dolmer
breakfasted in the Continental fashion, taking coffee at eight, and
déjeuner about eleven. He had the habit of smoking during a meal, and
the border of his plate, which held the remains of a kidney, showed
a couple of cigarette-ends. He gave Richard a cigarette from his gold
case, and Simpkin supplemented this hospitality with a glass of adorable
and unique sherry.

‘We will deprive ourselves of your presence, Simpkin,’ said Lord Dolmer,
who, a very simple and good-natured man at heart, had nevertheless these
little affectations.

‘Certainly, sir,’ said the privileged Simpkin, who liked to hear his
master use these extraordinary phrases.

‘And now, Redgrave, what is it? You pride yourself, I know, on your
inscrutable features, but I perceive that there is something up.’

‘Well,’ said Richard, ‘it’s about that Craig affair. I thought I’d just
call and tell you privately that I can’t do anything. I should like, if
you and Mr. Lock don’t object, to retire from it.’

‘Singular!’ exclaimed Lord Dolmer mildly--, ‘highly singular! Tell me
the details, my friend.’

Richard, rather to his own surprise, began to tell the story, omitting,
however, all reference to Micky, the detective.

‘And do you believe Mr. Raphael Craig’s tale?’ asked Lord Dolmer. ‘It
seems to me scarcely to fit in with some of the facts which you have
related.’

Richard took breath.

‘No, I don’t,’ he said plumply.

‘And yet you prefer to go no further?’

‘And yet I prefer to go no further.’

‘And this Teresa, who frequents circuses and chalk-pits, and faints at
midnight--what sort of a girl is she?’

‘Miss Craig is a very beautiful woman,’ said Richard stiffly.

He tried hard to speak in a natural tone of voice, but failed.

‘She has bewitched you, Redgrave,’ said Lord Dolmer. ‘It is a clear
case. She has bewitched you. This won’t do at all--my unimpressionable
Redgrave knocked over by a country girl of nineteen or so!’

He rubbed his hands together, and then lighted another cigarette.

Richard pulled himself together, and replied, smiling:

‘Not at all.... But really, Lord Dolmer, I want to throw the thing up.
So far from Miss Craig having bewitched me, I shall, in all probability,
never see her again.’

‘I see--a heroic sacrifice! Well, I will tell Mr. Simon Lock... what
shall I tell him?’

‘Tell him I have discovered nothing definite, and own myself beaten as
regards finding out the true origin of Raphael Craig’s eccentricities.
But tell him, also, that I am convinced that Raphael Craig is nothing
worse than eccentric.’ Richard paused, and repeated: ‘Yes, nothing worse
than eccentric.’

‘No, Redgrave, I won’t tell him that you are convinced of that.’

‘And why not?’

‘Because, forgive me, I am convinced that you are not convinced of it.’

There was an interval of silence, during which two spirals of smoke
ascended gracefully to the panelled ceiling of Lord Dolmer’s diningroom.

‘Perhaps I am not,’ Richard answered calmly. ‘Tell Simon Lock what you
like, then, only make it plain that I retire. I ask no fee, since I
have earned none. I wash my hands of the whole business. I am within my
rights in so doing.’

‘Certainly you are within your rights,’ said Lord Dolmer. ‘And d’you
know, Redgrave, I am rather glad that you are retiring from the case.’

‘Why?’

‘If I tell you my reason you will regard it as strictly confidential?’

Richard assented.

‘It is this: Mr. Simon Lock has a mysterious animus against Raphael
Craig; what the cause of that animus is neither I nor any of the other
directors can guess, but it exists. (Remember, all this is between
friends.) It is Mr. Lock who has forced on this secret inquiry. The
other directors were against a proceeding which is rather underhand and
contrary to the best traditions of the bank. But Mr. Simon Lock had his
way.’ Here Lord Dolmer lighted another cigarette and resumed. ‘I ask
you, Why should the bank interfere? A bank manager has a perfect right
to live where he likes, and, outside office hours, to do what he
likes, so long as he obeys the laws of the country and the laws of
respectability. Mr. Lock laid stress on the fact that Raphael Craig
had been fined for furious motor-car driving. But what of that? It is a
misfortune which may overtake the wisest of us. You, my dear Redgrave,
well know that even I have several times only narrowly escaped the same
ignominious fate. The fact is--and I tell you this candidly--there is
something between Mr. Simon Lock and Raphael Craig. When Mr. Lock joined
the Board one of his first actions was to suggest that Craig should be
asked to resign--why, no one knows. Craig is one of the most able bank
managers in London. He would long since have been promoted to a superior
post but for Mr. Simon Lock’s consistent opposition. For these reasons,
as I say, I am glad that you have retired from the case. For anything
I know Raphael Craig may be one of the biggest scoundrels at large. I
don’t care. The point is that he has not been fairly treated by us--that
is to say, by Simon Lock. I have the honour to be an Englishman, and
fair play is my creed.’ His lordship was silent for a space, and then
he said, by way of finale, ‘Of course, I rely absolutely upon your
discretion, Redgrave.’

Richard nodded.

‘What you say is very interesting,’ he remarked. ‘It is conceivable,
then, that Mr. Lock, not to be daunted by my defection, may insist on
employing another private detective?’

‘Quite conceivable,’ Lord Dolmer admitted.

‘In that case,’ Richard began, and then stopped.

‘What?’ asked Lord Dolmer.

‘Oh, nothing!’ said Richard.

Lord Dolmer smiled, and, still smiling, said:

‘One word of advice, my friend: forget her.’

‘Why?’ Richard questioned absently, and bit his lip.

‘Forget her,’ repeated the Baron.



CHAPTER IX--A VISIT

Well, he determined, with the ferocious resoluteness of a dogged soul,
to follow Lord Dolmer’s advice. He said to himself that there ought to
be no special difficulty in doing so, since only three days had passed
since he first saw this creature whom he was enjoined to forget.
He walked slowly along Piccadilly, down Regent Street, and through
Trafalgar Square to his little office in Adelphi Terrace. Some trifling
business awaited him there, and this occupied him till the hour of
luncheon. He then went out and lunched, as his custom was, at Gatti’s.

Richard’s usual mode of life was extremely simple. His office, a single
small room, was on the third-floor of No. 4, Adelphi Terrace. On the
fourth-floor he had a bedroom, rather larger than the office, and quite
commodious enough for the uses of a young bachelor who had no fancy
tastes. When occasion needed he used the office as a sitting-room.
All his meals he took out of doors. His breakfasts, which cost him
fourpence, he consumed at a vegetarian restaurant hard by; his
luncheons and dinners were eaten at Gatti’s. Frequently at the latter
establishment he would be content with a dish of macaroni and half a
pint of bitter, at an expenditure of eightpence--a satisfying repast.
His total expenses were thus very small, and hence, although his income
was irregular and fluctuating, he nevertheless continually saved money.
It was seldom that less than one hundred pounds stood between him and
the workhouse. In case of necessity he could have lived for a whole
year, or even two years, on one hundred pounds. So he was always in an
independent position. He could always afford not to bend the knee to any
employer or client. He was, in fact, just what he looked, a shrewd and
confident man, successful and well dressed, who knew how to take care of
himself. He spent more on his wardrobe than on anything else, and this,
not because he was a coxcomb, but from purely commercial motives. He
accepted the world as he found the world, and he had learnt that clothes
counted.

All afternoon he did nothing but idle about in his office, wondering
whether by that time Lord Dolmer had told Simon Lock of the barren
result of his inquiries, and wondering also what the upshot of their
interview would be. At seven he dined at Gatti’s. At eight he returned
to Adelphi Terrace, and ascended directly to his bedroom. Opening the
window wide, he placed an easy-chair in front of it, lighted a pipe, and
sat down to perpend upon things in general.

Richard had chosen this bedroom because of its view. It looked out at an
angle on the river Thames, stateliest and most romantic of busy streams.
It is doubtful if any capital in Europe, unless it be Buda-Pesth, the
twin city on the blue Danube, can show a scene equal in beauty to the
Thames Embankment and the Thames when the hues and mysteries of sunset
are upon them. This particular evening was more than commonly splendid,
for after a day of heavy rain the clouds had retreated, and the sun
burst out in richest radiance. The red jury-sails of the barges as they
floated up-stream with the flowing tide took on the tints of the ruby.
The vast masonry of Waterloo Bridge and of Somerset House seemed like
gigantic and strange temples uncannily suspended over the surface of
the glooming water. In the west Westminster Bridge and the Houses of
Parliament stood silhouetted in profound black against the occidental
sky. The sky was like Joseph’s coat there, but in the east it was like a
maiden’s scarf.

Up from the Embankment rose the hum and roar and rattle of London’s
ceaseless traffic. The hansoms had lighted their starry lamps, and they
flitted below like fireflies in the shadows of a wood. No stranger could
have guessed that they were mere hackney vehicles plying at the fixed
rate of two miles for one shilling, and sixpence for every subsequent
mile or part of a mile.

‘Yes,’ Richard mused, ‘this is all very well, and I am enjoying it, and
nothing could be very much better; but the fact remains that I haven’t
earned a cent this blessed day. The fact also remains that I am a bit of
a frost. Further, and thirdly, the fact remains that the present state
of affairs must be immediately altered.’

His pipe went out.

‘I’ll look in at the Empire,’ he said.

Now, by what process of reasoning a young man who, on his own
confession, had drawn a blank day could arrive at the conclusion that
the proper thing to do was to go to the Empire we cannot explain. But so
it was. He looked at his watch. The hour was nine-fifteen. Half an hour
yet, for no self-respecting man-about-town ever thinks of entering the
Empire before a quarter to ten! At this point Richard probably fell
into a doze. At any rate, a knock on his bedroom-door had to be repeated
several times before it attracted his attention.

‘What is it?’ he answered at length.

‘A person to see you, sir,’ said a feminine voice, not without asperity.

‘A person to see me! Oh! ah! er!... Show him into the office. I’ll be
down directly.’

He descended to the third-floor, and, instead of the Somerset House
acquaintance whom he had expected, he found the very last person that by
all the laws of chance ought to have been in his office--he found Mrs.
Bridget.

Mrs. Bridget turned round and faced him as he went into the
little paper-strewn room. She was dressed in black alpaca, with a
curiously-shaped flat black bonnet. Her hands, which were decently
covered with black gloves, she held folded in front of her.

Richard said nothing at first. He was too astounded, and--shall we
say?--pleased. He scented what the reporters call ‘further revelations’
of an interesting nature.

‘Good-avenin’,’ said Bridget; ‘and can ye see a lady privately?’

‘Certainly,’ said Richard, ‘I can see you privately; but,’ he added,
with a mischievous smile, ‘I’m afraid our interview won’t amount to much
unless you’re more communicative than you were this morning.’

‘Bless and save ye, sir! ’tis not meself that wants ye--’tis her.’

‘Her?’

‘The misthress sent me up to find out whisht whether ye could be seen.’

‘Miss Craig is outside?’

‘The same, sir. Ye’ll see her?’

‘See her? Naturally I will see her. But--but--how did you discover my
address?’

By this time they were hurrying down the multitudinous steps to the
ground-floor.

‘Sure, we called at the Williamson Company, and they said you’d left and
they didn’t know your address. And then we came out, and who should we
see but Mr. Puddephatt leading a pony. ’Twas the Virgin’s own miracle!
“Hullo!” he says, lifting his hat.

“Puddephatt,” says my mistress----’

The recital was never finished, for at that moment they reached the
front-door. In the roadway stood the Décauville motor with lights
gleaming. By the side of the Décauville stood Teresa Craig enveloped in
a gray mackintosh.

Richard’s face showed his intense pleasure at the most unlooked-for
encounter.

‘Miss Craig,’ he said eagerly, ‘I hope you are in no trouble. Can I be
of any assistance?’

She glanced at him coldly, inimically.

‘Mr. Redgrave,’ she replied with bitterness, and then looked about--the
little street was deserted--‘I have come to seek an explanation from
you. If you are an honourable man you will give it. And I have come,
much against my inclination, to ask a favour. Bridget, take care of the
motor.’

She swept imperially before him into the portals of the house.

‘Mr. Redgrave,’ said Teresa, in a tone which clearly indicated that she
meant to lead the conversation, ‘we have not seen each other since I was
so foolish as to faint in the--the shed.’

They sat together in Richard’s little office. It was not without
difficulty that he had induced her even to sit down. Her demeanour was
hostile. Her fine, imperious face had a stormy and implacable look--a
look almost resentful, and Richard felt something of a culprit before
that gaze. He met her eyes, however, with such bravery as he could
muster.

‘Not since then,’ he assented. ‘I trust you are fully recovered, Miss
Craig.’

Ignoring the utterance of this polite hope, she resumed:

‘I have to thank you for the service you rendered on Saturday night.’

‘It was nothing,’ he said, in a voice as cold and formal as her own.

‘It was everything,’ she corrected him gravely. ‘I might have lost my
life but for you.’

‘I am happy to have been of any assistance,’ he said. But his thoughts
ran: ‘She hasn’t come to London to tell me this. What the deuce, then,
has she come for?’

‘Bridget tells me you had an interview with my father that night. May I
ask what passed?’ Teresa continued.

‘You have not seen your father since then?’ said Richard.

‘I have not.’ Her voice seemed momentarily to break.

‘Or doubtless he would have told you?’

‘Doubtless.’

Richard determined to try a bold stroke.

‘I understood from Mr. Craig that he wished our interview to be strictly
confidential.’

‘What?’ she cried. ‘From me? From his daughter?’

She stood up, suddenly angry.

‘If, indeed, you are his daughter,’ said Richard quietly.

Her eyes blazed, and her hands shook; but she collected herself, and
smiled bitterly:

‘You, then, have heard that silly rumour?’

‘By chance I heard it,’ he admitted.

‘And you believe it?’

‘I neither believe it nor disbelieve it. What has it to do with me?’

‘Exactly,’ she said; ‘a very proper question. What has it to do with
you? Listen, Mr. Redgrave. I have the most serious reasons for asking
you to tell me what passed between yourself and my father on Saturday
night.’

A look of feminine appeal passed swiftly across her features. Fleeting
as it was, it sufficed to conquer Richard. A minute ago he had meant to
dominate her. Now he was dominated.

‘I will tell you,’ he said simply, and told her--told her everthing
without any reservation.

‘Then my father did not accuse you of being a professional spy?’ she
demanded when Richard had finished.

‘No,’ said Richard, somewhat abashed.

‘He did not accuse you of having entered our house under entirely false
pretences?’

‘No,’ said Richard, still more abashed.

There was a silence.

‘I wonder,’ she said calmly, glancing out of the window, ‘I wonder why
he did not.’

She made the remark as though she were speculating privately upon a
curious but not very important point.

‘Miss Craig!’ he exclaimed, with an air of being affronted.

I read in a famous book the other day,’ she went on, ‘these words: “A
murderer is less loathsome to us than a spy. The murderer may have acted
on a sudden mad impulse; he may be penitent and amend; but a spy is
always a spy, night and day, in bed, at table, as he walks abroad; his
vileness pervades every moment of his life.”’

‘Do you mean to insinuate,’ said Richard, forced to defend himself,
‘that I am a professional spy?’

‘I not only mean to insinuate it, I mean to assert it,’ she announced
loftily, and then continued more quickly: ‘Mr. Redgrave, why did you
come to spy on us? For two whole days I trusted you, and I liked you.
But that night, as soon as I saw you behind me in the shed, the truth
burst upon me. It was that, more than anything else, that caused me
to faint. Why did you do it, Mr. Redgrave? My father liked you;
I--I--I----’ She stopped for a moment. ‘Surely a man of your talents
could have found a profession more honourable than that of a spy?’

She looked at him, less angry than reproachful.

‘I am a private detective,’ said Richard sullenly, ‘not a spy. My
business is perfectly respectable.’

‘Why trouble to play with words?’ she exclaimed impatiently. ‘We took
you for a gentleman. In our simplicity we took you for a gentleman.’

‘Which I trust I am,’ said Richard.

‘Prove it!’ she cried.

‘I will prove it in any manner you choose.’

‘I accept your promise,’ she said. ‘I have travelled up to London
to make an appeal to you to abandon this inquiry which you have
undertaken--at whose instance I know not.’

‘I cannot abandon it now,’ he said mischievously.

‘Why?’ she queried.

‘Question for question,’ he retorted. ‘How did you discover that I was a
professional spy, as you call it?’

‘Bah!’ she replied. ‘Simply by asking. When I got your address, the rest
was easy. So you decline to be a gentleman in the manner that I suggest?
I might have anticipated as much. I might have known that I was coming
to London on a fool’s errand. And yet something in your face hinted to
me that perhaps after all----’

‘Miss Craig,’ he said earnestly, ‘I cannot, abandon the inquiry now,
because I have already abandoned it. I came down to London this morning
with the intention of doing nothing more in the matter, and by noon
to-day I had informed my clients to that effect.’

‘I was not, then, mistaken in you,’ she murmured.

To his intense astonishment there was the tremor of a sob in that proud
voice.

‘Not entirely mistaken,’ he said, with a faint smile.

‘What induced you to give up the business of spying upon us?’ she asked,
looking at him.

‘How can I tell?’ he answered; ‘conscience, perhaps, though a private
detective is not supposed to possess such a thing. Perhaps I did it
because I reciprocated your sentinents towards me, Miss Craig.’

‘My sentiments towards you?’

‘Yes,’ he said audaciously. ‘You said just how that you liked me.’

Instead of taking offence, she positively smiled. She had the courage of
a guileless heart.

‘And let me tell you, Miss Craig,’ he went on, and his earnestness
became passionate, ‘that I will do anything that lies in my power to
serve you. I don’t care what it is. I don’t care what trouble you are
in; count on me.’

‘How do you know that I am in trouble?’

‘I don’t know,’ he said; ‘I merely feel it Miss Craig, let me help you.’

‘You don’t know what you are saying,’ she replied evasively.

He jumped up and seized her hand, the small hand, browned by summer
sunshine.

‘Let me help you,’ he repeated.

‘If you knew,’ she said, hiding her face, ‘what trouble I am in!’

He saw that she was crying. She drew away her hand impulsively.

‘I will help you!’ he exclaimed; ‘the spy the scorned spy, insists on
helping you. No, tell me.’

‘Let me go,’ she said. ‘I came to London to entreat your silence and
inaction. I went about the affair in a strange and silly way, but it
happens that I have succeeded. You have promised to do nothing further.
That suffices Let me go.’

‘You shall not go,’ he almost shouted; ‘I tell you you shall not
go until you have confided in me. I owe you some reparation, and I
positively insist on giving it.’

She raised her face and gazed at him.

‘I am the child of all misfortune,’ she said ‘as my country is the most
unfortunate of countries. Mr. Redgrave, my father has disappeared.’

‘Oh!’ he said, as if to say, ‘Is that all?’

‘And I dare not search for him.’

‘They told me at the bank that he had gone on his annual holiday.’

‘Then you inquired at the bank?’ she asked swiftly.

‘It was my last act of spying,’ he said. ‘Why dare you not search for
your father, Miss Craig?’

‘Because--because I might find more than I wished to find.’

‘You talk in riddles,’ he said firmly. ‘We can do nothing here; let us
go back to Hockiffe.

I will accompany you, and on the way you shall answer my questions. I
have many to put to you. Leave everything to me; imagine that I am your
brother. I have often laughed at the man’s phrase to a woman, “I would
lay down my life for you,” but at this moment I feel what it means.
Do not mistake me; do not think I am talking wildly. Perhaps I have a
better idea of your trouble than you think. But, in any case, you must
trust me as you trusted me when first you saw me. You must rely on me.
Come, let us go.’

She rose and moved towards the door, ‘Thanks,’ she said, nothing more
than that--‘thanks.’

In one part of his mind Richard wondered at himself, in another he felt
curiously and profoundly happy.



CHAPTER X--MONEY-MAKING

They passed northwards through the night of London in the Décauville
car, Richard and Teresa side by side on the front seats, old Mrs.
Bridget in her black alpaca behind, up Regent Street, along Oxford
Street, up the interminable Edgware Road, through Kilburn, and so on to
Edgware and the open road and country.

‘Bridget knows all my secrets, Mr. Redgrave,’ said Teresa. ‘Moreover,
she has no ears unless I wish it.’

‘Sure, miss,’ said Bridget, ‘more gets into my head than goes out.
’Tis for all the world like a Jew’s pocket.’

This fragment of conversation was caused by Richard’s sudden stoppage
in the middle or a remark about Micky, who, Teresa told him, had
disappeared concurrently with her father.

‘What were you going to say about Micky?’

Teresa asked.

‘I was going to say,’ Richard answered, ‘that things are not what they
seem.’

‘You mean that Micky, too, was a----’

She hesitated.

‘Yes, like me, only rather more professional.’

‘Bridget told me this morning that she had heard poor father and Micky
at high words in the middle of last night. After that she says there was
a silence for a long time, and then father called her up and gave her
the message for you.’

The sentences were spoken without hesitation, and yet in a strangely
unnatural voice.

‘You’re forgetting one little thing, miss.’

‘Hush, Bridget!’ Teresa exclaimed.

‘If I am to help you I must be in possession of the facts.’

‘Tell him, miss; tell the gintleman, do. The gintleman is a gintleman.’

Teresa sat up straight in the speeding car. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘you must
know. There was a revolver-shot. Bridget says she heard the sound of a
revolver-shot. Oh, Mr. Redgrave! what does it mean? I dared not tell you
of that before. If my father----’

She ceased.

‘Micky has left no trace behind?’

‘None.’

‘Where did the sound of the shot come from?’

‘Sure, from the drawing-room, where the master always kept his
pistol-thing in the clock-case. Master and the scoundrel Micky were
talking in there.’

‘Suppose,’ suggested Richard, ‘that it was Micky who had a revolver.’

‘Then he missed his aim,’ said Bridget, ‘for the master came to me
afterwards on the upper landing as sound as a bell.’

‘Did he seem agitated?’ Richard asked.

‘Not he! Why should a gintleman seem agitated because he has shot a
scoundrel?’

Bridget appeared to glory in the idea that Raphael Craig might indeed
have shot the Scotland Yard detective.

‘And since then you have seen nothing of either your father or Micky?’

‘Nothing whatever,’ said Teresa.

‘And you have no notion where they are?’

‘None; at least--no--none.’

‘I observed this morning,’ said Richard quietly, ‘that the new electric
car was not in the shed.’

‘Sure, and the master must have ridden off on it with the corpse----’

‘Bridget, silence!’ said Teresa imperatively.

Richard had an uncanny vision of Raphael Craig flying from justice
on the electric car, with the corpse of a murdered detective hidden
somewhere behind. The vision struck him, though, as amusing. He could
not believe in the possibility of such a deed on the part of Raphael
Craig. Yet he could see that Bridget’s doubtless fanciful and
highly-coloured report of what had passed in the night had so worked
on Teresa’s brain, already disturbed by sinister events. He could
understand now why she had so incontinently flown to London, in the wild
hope of stopping all further inquiries into her father’s proceedings.

The car climbed over the hill on which stands the town of St. Albans,
and then slipped easily down towards Redbourne and the twelve miles
of lonely and straight Watling Street that separates St. Albans from
Dunstable. On this interminable and monotonous stretch of road there are
only two villages; mile succeeds mile with a sort of dogged persistency,
and the nocturnal traveller becomes, as it were, hypnotized by the
ribbon-like highway that stretches eternally in front of him and behind
him. It was fortunate that the car ran well. Dunstable was reached in
forty minutes after leaving St. Albans, and then as they passed into the
mysterious cutting--resembling a Welsh mountain pass--to the north
of the ancient borough, the thoughts of all flew forward to the empty
farmhouse which Teresa and her attendant had left in the morning. As
soon as you emerge from the cutting you can, in daylight, see Queen’s
Farm quite plainly on the opposite slope of the valley, two miles away.
But at night, of course, you can see nothing of the house of Mr. Raphael
Craig unless it is lighted up.

‘Sure, the master’s returned!’ old Mrs. Bridget exclaimed.

A light faintly twinkled from the direction of Queen’s Farm.

This simple phenomenon produced its effect on both Teresa and Richard.
The old man had come back, and one mystery, therefore, would at length
be solved--provided that the old man chose to open his mouth! The idea
of thus approaching a revelation somehow impressed Raphael Craig’s
daughter and her companion with a sense of awe, a sense almost of fear.
They were secretly afraid lest they might encounter something which it
would have been better not to encounter. Each in fancy pictured Raphael
Craig alone in the house engaged in a strange business. Each silently
asked the question, ‘Where is Micky?’ and answered it with a vague and
terrible surmise. The feeling that Raphael Craig was responsible for
the disappearance of Micky grew on Richard especially. At first he had
scouted it, but he gradually persuaded himself that a man like Raphael
Craig was capable of most things, even to disposing of a detective. If
Raphael Craig had indeed any criminal secret to hide, and he found
out that Micky, a Scotland Yard detective, was prying into the secret,
Richard guessed that the fate of Micky might hazardously tremble in the
balance.

And another aspect of the affair troubled Richard.

‘If your father has returned,’ he said to Teresa, ‘how shall I explain
my presence, or, rather, how will you explain it? It seems to me that I
scarcely know myself why I am here with you on this car. I came on
the assumption that your father was gone. His presence would make me a
rather unnecessary item, wouldn’t it?’

‘Who can tell?’ Teresa murmured absently; and Richard was rather
chagrined at this peculiar reply.

The car was now down in the lowest part of the valley, and the house for
the moment out of sight. When, as the car breasted the hill, the summit
of the slope reappeared to the view, there was no light in Queen’s Farm;
the twinkling illumination was extinguished. Only the plain outline of
the house stood faintly visible under the waning moon.

‘Perhaps father has gone to bed,’ said Teresa, with a desperate
affectation of lightness. ‘I wonder what he would think when he found
the house empty.’

Bridget emitted a weird sound which was between a moan and a groan.

‘Happen ’twas a fairy light we saw,’ she said, the deep instincts of
Celtic superstition always rising thus at the slightest invitation.

The car at length turned into the boreen, and so reached the house. The
gate was opened, and Richard dexterously twisted the car into the drive.
The house--gaunt, bare, sinister--showed no sign whatever of life.

The three occupants of the car descended, and stood for a second within
the porch.

‘The latch-key, Bridget,’ said Teresa curtly. Bridget produced the
latch-key, but on putting it into the keyhole Teresa discovered that the
door was already unfastened. A push, and it swung backwards, revealing
the gloom of the hall.

‘Shall I go first?’ said Richard.

‘If you please,’ Teresa replied eagerly, and Richard stepped within. The
women followed.

He struck a match, which revealed a low bookcase to the left, and on
this a candle. He lighted the candle.

‘Stay here,’ he said, ‘and I will search the house.’

‘Sure,’ said Bridget, ‘we’ll stand or fall together. Where you go, me
and the mistress go too.’

Richard could not avoid a smile. Together, then, they searched the house
from roof to cellar, and found--nothing at all. Apparently not a single
thing had been displaced or touched. What could have been the origin
of the light which they had seen? Had Mr. Craig returned only to depart
again? They stood in the hall asking these questions, which they were
unable to answer. Bridget, however, assured that there was nothing of an
unusual nature within the house, recovered her wits, and set to work to
light lamps in the hall, drawing-room, and kitchen. Richard and Teresa
were alone together in the hall. Richard, glancing idly round, stooped
down and picked from the floor a gold-handled riding-whip which lay
almost under the bookcase. It was a lady’s whip.

‘A pretty whip,’ he remarked. ‘Yours, I suppose?’

Teresa went very white.

‘It isn’t mine,’ she said. ‘I’ve never seen it before. I----’

At that very moment there was the sound of hoofs on the gravel of the
drive. Richard started for the door, but Teresa clutched him and held
him back with an action almost mechanical. Her eyes showed apprehension,
mingled with another feeling which Richard almost thought was joy. The
hoofs came up the drive and stopped in front of the door, still ajar.
The two within the house could just discern the legs of a horse and
the skirt of a riding-habit. The rider jumped down, and then cautiously
pushed against the door.

‘Juana!’ cried Teresa, and rushed into the arms of the newcomer.

Richard at once recognised the equestrian of Bosco’s circus--tall, dark,
Spanish, alluring, mysterious.

The two girls exchanged a passionate kiss, and then stood apart and
gazed at each other, Richard discreetly stopped outside and held the
horse’s bridle. In this animal he recognised the strawberry-roan mare,
also of Bosco’s circus. In a moment the two girls came out on to the
porch.

‘Mr. Redgrave,’ said Teresa, ‘let me introduce you to my sister. She had
called here before, and, finding no one, had left. She came back for her
whip. Juana, I am in great trouble. Mr. Redgrave has very kindly come to
my assistance.’

Richard bowed.

‘Come into the drawing-room,’ said Teresa, ‘You can tie the mare up to
this tree, Juana.

‘I expect she won’t mind the car.’

When they were all seated in the drawing-room Richard immediately
perceived that the two girls meant, at any rate partially, to make a
confidant of him. They talked quite openly before him.

‘Suppose father should come in?’ said the circus-girl.

‘You must hide,’ said Teresa positively, and, turning to Richard,
she went on: ‘Mr. Redgrave, my father has not seen my sister for many
months, and there are reasons why he should not see her now. You will
understand----’

‘Perfectly,’ assented Richard.

‘On the whole,’ said Juana, ‘I am quite prepared to see my--father.’

The door of the drawing-room burst open, and Bridget’s head appeared.

‘Miss Teresa, there’s someone in the sheds,’ she cried. ‘I heard a noise
like that of the Banshee of MacGillicuddy. Eh! Miss Juana, and is it
yesilf I see?’

At sight of the circus-girl Bridget wept, but she did not leave the
vicinity of the door.

‘Turn out every light,’ said Richard.

No sooner had he said the word than he leapt up and extinguished the
lamp which hung from the middle of the ceiling.

‘Run, Mrs. Bridget,’ he commanded, ‘and put out the others.’

Bridget departed.

The other three went out into the porch, and at Richard’s suggestion
Juana led her mare away behind the house. They were obliged to leave the
car where it stood, since it was impossible to move it without noise.

The house was now in darkness. Bridget had joined the rest in the porch.
They stood braced, tense, silent, waiting--waiting for they knew not
what.

Presently was heard the ‘birr’ of the electric motor-car from the
direction of the outbuildings, and then the vehicle flashed down the
boreen at fifteen or twenty miles an hour. Owing partly to the
darkness and partly to the height of the glazed ‘cab’ of the machine, a
contrivance designed by Mr. Craig himself, the driver of the car could
not be recognised, but both Richard and Teresa thought that it could be
no other than Raphael Craig, and, further, that he was alone. Just as
the car passed Juana’s mare whinnied, and there was an answering whinny
from the orchard field where, as it afterwards appeared, Mr. Craig’s two
mares had been turned out to grass. But the car showed no inclination to
halt.

‘Sure, the master will be after taking it away!’ Bridget exclaimed.

‘Taking what away, Bridget?’ Juana asked.

‘Micky’s cor----’

‘Silence, Bridget, you foolish creature!’ Teresa stopped her. ‘If you
can’t talk sense you must go and sit in the kitchen alone.’

This threat resulted in a very complete silence on the part of Bridget.

The car turned southwards down Watling Street.

‘He is going to the chalk-pit,’ said Richard quietly.

‘Perhaps we had better follow discreetly and see what happens,’ said
Teresa.

‘I was about to suggest that,’ said Richard; ‘but we ought not all to
go.’

‘And why not, Mr. Redgrave?’ Bridget demanded, in alarm at the prospect
of being left.

‘Because--well, because we had better not,’ said Richard. ‘Four will
make too heavy a load for this car.’

‘Juana,’ said Teresa, ‘you will stay here with Bridget. Mr. Redgrave and
myself will reconnoitre, find out what we can, and return to you with as
little delay as possible.’

‘Very well,’ said Juana, while old Bridget sighed a sad resignation.

In half a minute they had started and were following the car down the
road at a pace which would have been dangerous had not Watling Street
been deserted at one o’clock in the morning. The moon still shone, but
her light scarcely did more than disclose the sides of the road. The
electric car was too far ahead to be discerned.

‘Miss Craig,’ said Richard, ‘your suspicions of what may have happened
are obviously more serious than you care to admit. We do not know the
nature of the adventure upon which we have embarked. Let me beg you to
be frank with me. So far as your knowledge goes, has Mr. Craig committed
any act, wittingly or unwittingly, which might bring him within the
meshes of the law?’

‘Do you mean, do I know whether he has killed Micky, the detective?’

‘No,’ said Richard sharply; ‘I mean no such thing. Go back earlier than
the last few days. Go back a few years, and consider. Mr. Craig told
me last night that a relative had died and left him a hundred thousand
pounds in silver.’

‘Yes,’ said Teresa; ‘that was Great-uncle Andrew, the man who went to
Mexico and then turned “queer.” Father has often told me of him.’

‘You believe that you once had a Great-uncle Andrew, who left all this
silver to your father?’

‘Certainly. I remember father having all the papers and things to sign,
and him fetching the money in casks on his car.’

‘Fetching it from where?’

‘Oh, I don’t know. I forget. Some place near London.’

‘What should you say if I told you that you never had a Great-uncle
Andrew, or that if there was such a person, he never left your father
any money?’

‘But we went into mourning!’ said Teresa naïvely.

‘Possibly,’ said Richard.

‘Do you mean to say that poor father made it all up?’

‘With the greatest respect for your father, Miss Craig, I suspect that
that was the case. I do not know for certain, but I suspect. Have you,
too, not had suspicions? Answer that candidly.’

Teresa hesitated.

‘Yes,’ she said in a low voice. ‘But I swear to you that I believed my
father.’

The car went through the tiny village of Chalk Hill, and their talk was
suspended.

Further up the road they could see the open; gate which led by a broad
field-path to the chalk-pit, the path along which Richard had seen the
elephant dragging the other motor-car two evenings ago. Richard directed
the car gently through the gate and then stopped; they dismounted, and
crossed the great field on foot.

‘If the matter of the silver was all fair and square,’ said Richard,
‘why did your father deal with the coin so mysteriously? How did he
excuse himself to you when he asked your assistance?’

‘He didn’t excuse himself,’ said Teresa stiffly.

‘I acted as he told me. I was his daughter. It was not my place to put
questions. Besides, I enjoyed the business. Remember, Mr. Redgrave, that
I am not a middle-aged woman.’

As they got on to the highest part of the field they saw at the far end
the dim shape of the electric car.

They crept cautiously towards it, and saw no sign of Raphael Craig.
At length, avoiding the zigzag path that led down into the pit, they
reached the point where the chalk had been cut precipitously away. Still
moving with all possible discretion, Richard lay on his stomach and
looked over. Twenty-five feet below he saw Raphael Craig standing,
apparently in an attitude of triumph, over the prone form of Micky,
otherwise Nolan, the detective. A lantern held by Craig showed plainly
the drawn and stiffened features of the man from Scotland Yard.

[Illustration: 0170]

Before Richard could prevent her, Teresa had also looked over.

‘God!’ she cried softly. ‘Is my father a----’

She stopped. The old man glanced mildly upwards.

Richard and Teresa with one accord ran along the edge of the pit, and
then down the zigzag path till they stood facing Raphael Craig, the
prone body of the detective between them.

‘What is this?’ questioned the old man coldly, pushing back the gray
hairs from his forehead. ‘Spying again?’

He looked intently at Richard. He seemed to ignore the silent form on
the ground.

‘Father,’ cried Teresa, ‘if you have killed him, fly. Take the motor-car
and get away as far as you can and as fast as you can. Mr. Redgrave and
I----’

‘Killed him!’ Raphael Craig exclaimed.

‘Why should I kill him? I found him lying here--here where I came to
seek him. He must have fallen over this miniature precipice.’

‘He isn’t dead,’ said Teresa eagerly; she had knelt beside the
detective.

‘I did not suppose that he was. But if he had been it would have been
only a just punishment.’

‘Had we not better carry him to the house, sir?’ Richard suggested
quietly.

‘As you wish,’ said Raphael. ‘It appears that you have taken charge of
our affairs.’

‘Mr. Redgrave is here at my urgent request, father,’ said Teresa.

‘You!’ Raphael gazed at her hard. ‘You! Shall I curse you as I cursed
your sister?’

Nevertheless, he helped Richard to carry the body of the detective up
the path and into the field--a task of considerable difficulty. When
they reached the electric car they put the lifeless organism into the
back part of it.

‘Take him,’ said Mr. Craig to Richard succinctly--‘take him off.’

‘And you?’ said Richard.

‘I will follow.’

Richard and Teresa got into the electric car and moved off down the
field. They spoke not a word. Arrived at the house, the detective was
taken upstairs and put into a bed by the three women. The lamps had been
relighted. The little man had regained consciousness, but he was too
feeble to give any utterance to his thoughts. He pointed weakly to his
head, whereon his nurses found a lump, but no other sign of injury. They
surmised that he was suffering from concussion of the brain, how caused
they could only guess. He drank a little brandy-and-water, and lay
extended on the bed as though unwilling almost to put himself to the
exertion of breathing.

The noise of the Décauville sounded outside. Teresa sprang to the
window.

‘Here is father, Juana,’ she said anxiously. ‘If he should come
upstairs----’

‘Go down and stop him from coming upstairs. Bridget and I will attend to
this poor fellow.’

Her voice was charged with sympathy as she glanced at the sufferer on
the bed. The reference to himself caused the detective to open his eyes.

‘I fell over the edge of the pit,’ he murmured faintly. ‘It was owing
to the short grass being so slippery after the rain.’ He had no Irish
accent now.

Then he closed his eyes again.

Teresa gave a sigh of relief as she left the room. Her father, then, was
not in thought a murderer.

As she entered the hall from the stairs

Raphael Craig and Richard came in through the front-door. They had
housed the two cars.

‘Where is he?’ asked Raphael of his daughter.

‘In the back bedroom, father. He is not seriously hurt.’

‘I will go up and have a look at him,’ said Raphael, actuated apparently
by mere idle curiosity.

‘No, father, don’t!’ Teresa pleaded. ‘Bridget is looking after him, and
I believe he is just going to sleep.’

Raphael gave a gesture of assent

‘And now, sir,’ he said to Richard, opening the drawing-room door, ‘a
word with you.’

The two men passed into the drawing-room. Raphael was closing the door
when Teresa stepped forward.

‘I also have a word to say, father,’ she remarked firmly.

‘Say it to me afterwards, then,’ he replied briefly.

‘No. It is a word that must be said now.’

The old man, smiling slightly and ironically, pulled the door open and
allowed his daughter to enter the room.

Raphael Craig sat down on the Chesterfield sofa, but Richard and Teresa
remained standing, Richard, for his part, determined that there should
be no beating about the bush; and he had not the least intention
of allowing the old man to put him in the wrong by asking difficult
questions. So he began at once, fixing his eyes on a greenish-coloured
newspaper that stuck out of Mr. Craig’s right-hand pocket.

‘Mr. Craig,’ he said, ‘let me cut a long story short. I came up here a
few days ago to bring you a Williamson electric car. True, I was for the
time being a genuine employe of the Williamson Company, but that was
not my real business. I confess to you, Mr. Craig, that I am a private
inquiry agent. It was in my professional capacity that I visited your
House.’

‘Ah!’ said Mr. Craig. ‘You were, then, after all, a spy? I had guessed
correctly.’

‘Spy?’ Richard repeated calmly. ‘Yes; it is an epithet that has been
applied to me before.’ He glanced at Teresa, who met his glance fairly.
‘To continue,’ he said: ‘I have abandoned my inquiries. To be precise, I
gave up my mission this morning; therefore, since I am here again, I am
not here as a spy.’

‘What led you to abandon your mission, Mr. Inquiry Agent?’ asked
Raphael, stroking his gray beard.

‘I gave it up, Mr. Craig,’ said Richard plumply, ‘out of regard for your
daughter.’

‘Indeed!’ Raphael remarked, with the frostiest politeness. ‘So my
daughter is fortunate enough to have won your regard?’

‘If you care to put it so.’

‘But,’ said Mr. Craig, ‘all this does not account for your presence here
to-night, Mr. Inquiry Agent.’

‘I am here now----’ Richard began, and then stopped.

‘Mr. Redgrave is here now,’ Teresa said, at the same time seating
herself, ‘because I asked him to come.’

‘When did you ask him, girl?’

‘I went to London in the Décauville to Mr. Redgrave’s office, and----’

‘You went to London alone?’

The old man sprang up thunderously, and the newspaper fell out of his
pocket. Richard quietly picked it up from the floor. It was that day’s
_Westminster Gazette_.

‘Bridget went with me,’ said Teresa, quailing before her father’s
outburst.

It was evident from both their respective demeanours that Mr. Craig’s
temper was not one of absolute serenity.

‘Bridget!’ sneered Raphael. ‘You went down to London to ask Mr. Redgrave
to come up to Hockliffe?’

‘I went to ask him to abandon his inquiries.’

‘But still, you brought him back with you?’

‘Yes.’

‘At one o’clock in the morning?’

‘Yes. But, father----’

‘Miss Craig was in a very awkward situation,’ said Richard.

‘I agree with you,’ the old man interposed.

‘And I was anxious to do anything in my power to help her.’

‘And you helped her by visiting this house at one o’clock in the morning
during my absence?’

‘Father,’ said Teresa pleadingly, ‘can’t you and I discuss that
aspect of the question afterwards? What is it that you want to ask Mr.
Redgrave?’

‘My girl,’ said Mr. Craig, ‘we will, if you please, discuss it now. Mr.
Redgrave is equally involved with yourself. Remember that it was you
that insisted on joining this little conference. You insisted on coming
into the room.’ Then he turned to Redgrave. ‘What was the exact nature
of the difficult situation in which you say my daughter was placed?’

‘I will tell you, hither,’ said Teresa, standing up. ‘If you insist on
Mr. Redgrave hearing it, he shall. I had reason to think that either you
had killed Micky, or that Micky had killed you.’

‘And which proposition did you favour?’

‘I favoured,’ said Teresa, with a coldness equalling her father’s, ‘I
favoured the proposition that you had killed Micky. Bridget heard a
revolver-shot in the night. I knew that you kept a revolver. Bridget
had previously heard you and Micky at high words. This morning you had
disappeared without warning me. Micky had also disappeared. Father, you
were not treating me fairly.’

‘You consider that before I leave my house I must give you “warning”
 like a servant, eh, Teresa? I wonder what Mr. Redgrave thinks of all
this.’

‘I do not see that it matters what Mr. Redgrave thinks,’ said Teresa.

‘It matters greatly,’ the old man contradicted; ‘and I will give you the
reason.’ He walked across the room very deliberately to the tall clock.
‘Mr. Redgrave will be your husband, Teresa.’

‘Father!’

Richard tried to think of something suitable to such an extraordinary
occasion, but could not.

‘You have hopelessly compromised yourself with him, and he shall marry
you.’

‘Never!’ said Teresa, with every nerve tingling with a girl’s pride. ‘I
will die first!’

‘Very well,’ said Mr. Craig, with frightful calmness, ‘you will die,
Teresa.’

[Illustration: 0180]

His lips were white, and his eyes blazed as he opened the clock-case and
took there from a revolver.

‘Mr. Craig,’ said Richard, ‘may I beg you to remain calm?’

‘I am entirely calm, sir. Teresa, you have never heard your mother’s
story. It is the remembrance of that story which makes me firm now. Some
day you shall hear it. You may think me mad, but I am not so. You may
think me of uncertain temper, mysterious, secretive, a bully, perhaps a
criminal. Well, you must think those things; but when you know all,
if ever you do know all, you will forgive all.’ His voice softened a
little, and then grew firm again. ‘In the meantime, you shall marry Mr.
Redgrave. You have visited his room at an unconscionable hour; he has
visited this house at an hour still more unconscionable, and there is
only one alternative to marriage. I am quite serious when I say that I
would sooner see you dead than that you should remain single after this
episode. I have seen what I have seen. I know your blood. I know what
darkened my life, and darkened your mother’s life, and finally killed
her.’

‘You threaten----’ Teresa began.

‘Stop, Teresa!’ Richard exclaimed masterfully, and turning to Raphael
Craig: ‘Mr. Craig, nothing will suit me better. I have the honour to ask
your daughter’s hand.’

Teresa started violently.

‘As Teresa’s father,’ said Craig solemnly, ‘I give her to you. May she
prove a worthy wife!’

‘And you?’ Richard questioned, gazing at Teresa.

‘What a farce!’ Teresa sobbed; but at the same moment, try how she might
to prevent it, a smile lighted her tears, and her hand found Richard’s
hand.

Mr. Craig put the revolver back into the clock-case.

‘I expect you know that we didn’t yield to that tool of yours,’
said Richard half playfully. ‘I am truly fond of Teresa--that is the
explanation. You wouldn’t have used that revolver, though you are
certainly in some ways a strange man.’

‘As you are good enough to say, Redgrave, I am a strange man. I should
have used the revolver.’

The way in which these words were uttered created a profound impression
on Richard. Releasing Teresa’s hand, he began to consider what course
he should now adopt in the joint interest of himself and of Teresa. He
could not dismiss the suspicion that he had a madman to deal with.

‘If I may,’ said he to Mr. Craig, ‘I should like a few words with Teresa
outside. After that there are several things to be settled between you,
sir, and me.’

Mr. Craig nodded.

‘It is late,’ he said.

‘Yes,’ said Richard, ‘but such nights as this do not follow every day in
the week.’

‘Teresa!’ the young lover exclaimed when they were in the hall, ‘say you
don’t regret. I have loved you since the moment I saw you first.’

‘I don’t regret,’ she said simply. ‘Why should I?’

‘Call me Dick,’ he demanded.

‘Dick.’

‘And kiss me.’

She kissed him.

‘Thanks,’ he said in his curious, undisturbed way; ‘that is indeed good.
Now go to bed and rest. I will have a thorough explanation with your
father at once. I am determined on that. We must know where we stand,
you and I;’ and without waiting for her to make any reply, he flung back
into the drawing-room and slammed the door.

Raphael still sat on the Chesterfield, apparently lost in thought.

‘Mr. Craig,’ Richard began, ‘I am now, for practical purposes, a
member of your family. Your interests are, presumably, your daughter’s
interests, and your daughter’s interests are certainly my interests;
therefore----’

‘Therefore?’ repeated Mr. Craig imperturbably.

‘Therefore,’ said Richard, ‘don’t you think you had better let me into
some of your secrets?’

‘As, for example----’

‘The secret, for example, of what has occurred between you and Micky,
whose real name you have doubtless learnt since I left you on Saturday
night last. I should tell you that I had ascertained the identity of
that gentleman immediately upon the conclusion of my interview with
you.’

‘And I,’ said Mr. Craig, ‘ascertained it about twenty-four hours later.
It was then that the revolver-shot occurred. The revolver-shot hurt
no one and nothing except the piano.’ Here Mr. Craig lifted up the
embroidered damask cover of the piano, and showed splintered wood
beneath. The perforation in the damask cover was scarcely noticeable.
He continued: ‘I was angry at the man’s calm insolence when I taxed him
with being a detective. I aimed to hit, but aimed badly. Having missed,
I thought better of the idea of an immediate killing, and told him to
go. He went. I saw nothing of him again till I saw him lying senseless
in the pit to-night; but I guessed that he was still prowling about.’

‘Thanks,’ said Richard.

‘Thanks for what?’ asked the old man.

‘For your candour. I hope you will trust me and confide in me.’ Richard
was now trying to be extremely diplomatic. ‘In spite of appearances, I
still believe that you are an honourable man, engaged, however, in some
scheme which may involve you in difficulties. Mr. Craig, let me beg you,
most respectfully, to continue your frankness; you can lose nothing
by it. I need not point out to you that you have been very fortunate
to-night.’

‘In what way?’

‘In the fact that I happen to have fallen in love with Teresa, and was
tempted beyond resistance by the opportunity offered by your amazing
proposition. My love for Teresa has not, I hope, impaired my judgment,
and my judgment infallibly tells me that you had a far more powerful
reason than that of propriety for urging my engagement to your daughter.
And, Mr. Craig, I venture to guess that your reason was that I knew too
much of your affairs. You discerned the nature of my feelings towards
your daughter, and you determined on a bold stroke. You are an
incomparable actor.’

Mr. Craig slowly smiled; it was a smile of almost tragic amusement.

‘Your insight does you credit, Redgrave,’ he said at length. ‘I admit
that it was part of my wish to secure your silence, and perhaps your
co-operation. Nevertheless, my chief reason for insisting on a betrothal
was a regard for Teresa’s future. There are pages in the history of my
life that----’ He stopped.

‘We will not go into that,’ he said shortly.

‘As you please,’ Richard assented. ‘Perhaps, to change the subject, you
will tell ‘me your object in disappearing so completely to-day, to the
grave alarm of my future wife?’

The youth’s spectacles gleamed with good-humoured mischief.

‘I had to perform a certain excursion,’ said Raphael Craig.

‘Now, why in the name of fortune, sir, don’t you say at once that you
went to London?’

‘How do you know that I went to London?’

‘By this paper.’ Richard pointed to the _Westminster Gazette_, which
lay on the floor. ‘It is to-night’s special edition. The _Westminster
Gazette_ is not on sale in Hockliffe.’

‘Yes,’ said the old man half dreamily, ‘I went to London.’

‘In order to close finally the estate of your uncle, who left you all
that silver?’

The irony of Richard’s tone was not lost on the old man.

‘What do you mean, boy?’

‘I said a few moments ago, sir, that you were an incomparable actor. I
alluded to our previous interview in this room. Most cheerfully I admit
that Teresa’s father imposed on me then to perfection. I believed you
absolutely. Since then----’

‘What?’

‘Since then I have found out that you never had any uncle, and that,
consequently, your uncle, being non-existent, could not have left you a
hundred thousand pounds in silver coin.’

Raphael Craig took a long, deep breath.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I lied to you. But it was a good lie--a lie which I
have used so often during the last year or two that I had almost come
to believe it truth. You are a clever fellow, Redgrave. How did you
discover this?’

‘To be precise,’ said Richard, ‘it was not I, but your precious Micky,
who discovered it.’

‘Then you are not so clever a fellow.’

‘Clever enough, sir, to go straight to the point. And the point is, the
point at which I have been gradually arriving since our talk began--how
did you become possessed of that silver? I ask the question, and I
demand an answer to it, as the affianced of your daughter.’

At this moment the lamp, short of oil, began to give a feeble and
still feebler light. A slight smell of oil filled the room. Both men
instinctively glanced up at the lamp.

‘Redgrave, I may, at any rate, assure you that you are not about to
marry a thief’s daughter.’

‘No, sir; probably not. But I may be about to marry the daughter of a
man who in some other way has made an enemy of the law.’

‘Listen,’ said Raphael Craig, ‘and believe that I am not acting now.
Twenty years ago I formed a scheme, a life-plan. To the success of this
scheme money was absolutely essential, money in large quantities. How
was I to get it? I was in the service of a bank, and this fact was very
helpful to the success of my scheme. I therefore did not wish to leave
the bank. But a bank manager cannot make money. At least, he cannot
make much money. I needed a lot. I thought and thought, and at length I
arrived at the solution of the problem. I began to _make_ money.’

‘But how?’ asked Richard, not yet caring to seem to perceive the old
man’s meaning.

‘I made it--made it steadily for nearly twenty years.’

‘You coined it?’

‘I coined it.’

‘Then during the whole of this time you have been spreading bad money
everywhere, and have never been found out?’

‘I didn’t make bad money, Redgrave. I made perfectly good money. I
cheated no one. I merely sinned against the law. The price of silver, as
you know, has been steadily decreasing for many years. The silver in
a half-crown, as silver, is now worth little more than a shilling. A
half-crown piece is only worth half-a-crown because we choose to call
it so. Consult any book on coinage, and you will find that what I say is
strictly true. What more easy, then, given the mechanical skill, which I
possessed, than to make and utter genuine money at a substantial profit?
I made a profit of fifty per cent, on my coinage, and no one on earth
can distinguish my money from that of the Mint. It will stand any test.’

Richard did not conceal that he was impressed by the fine simplicity and
effectiveness of Raphael’s scheme.

‘But,’ the old man continued, ‘I made money faster than I could get rid
of it. It gradually accumulated. Then it was that I invented my Mexican
uncle, so that I might deal with the coin more openly.’

‘Yes?’ said Richard.

‘That is all,’ said Raphael Craig.

‘But the object of the scheme?’ asked Richard. ‘You said you needed all
this money for a certain scheme.’

‘Yes,’ said the old man solemnly, ‘and the scheme is approaching
fruition. Yet a little time, and my task will be done.’

‘It is well,’ Richard put in, ‘that your scheme is nearly completed,
for the methods you have employed might even now be found out, and then
good-bye to the scheme, whatever it is.’

Raphael Craig smiled.

‘No, my friend,’ he remarked composedly, ‘nothing can upset it now. The
last of my silver is disposed of--safely negotiated. Go into my sheds
now, and you will discover--nothing. My machinery is destroyed; all
evidence is annihilated. For twenty years I have been crossing an abyss
by means of a tight-rope; at any moment I might have been precipitated
into the gulf. But at last I am on firm ground once more. It is the
Other, now, who will shortly be plunged into the abyss.’

‘The Other!’ Richard repeated, struck by the strange and mordant accent
with which Raphael Craig had pronounced that word.

‘The Other,’ said the old man. ‘His hour comes.’

‘And who is he?’ demanded Richard.

‘That,’ Raphael Craig said, ‘you will never know until my deed is
accomplished. The train is laid, the fuse is ignited. I have only to
wait.’

‘Then you will tell me nothing more?’ said Richard.

‘Have I not interested you so far?’ said the old man.

‘Undoubtedly, but my curiosity is still not quite sated.’

‘It occurs to me that your curiosity exceeds mine. By what right,
young man, do you put all these questions? I have never sought to
cross-examine you, as I might have done.’

‘Under the circumstances,’ said Richard, ‘I think you have a perfect
right to know, and certainly I have no objection to telling you. I came
on behalf of the directors of the bank.’

‘Which means Mr. Simon Lock,’ said Raphael Craig.

‘Which means Mr. Simon Lock,’ Richard cheerfully admitted.

‘Ah!’

‘Then you decline to admit me further into your confidence?’ Richard
doggedly persisted.

‘Redgrave,’ said the old man, standing up, my scheme is my own. It is
the most precious thing I have--the one thing that has kept me alive,
given me vitality, vivacity, strength, hope. During all these years I
have shared it with none. Shall I share it now? Shall I share it with a
man young enough to be my son, a man who forced himself into my house,
wormed himself into the secrets of my private life? I shall not. It
is too sacred a thing. You do not know what my scheme means to me; you
cannot guess all that is involved in it. I can conceive that you might
even laugh at my scheme--you who do not yet know what life is and what
life means.’

Raphael Craig resumed with dignity his seat on the sofa. Richard was
impressed by this exhibition of profound feeling on the part of the old
man. He was inclined to admit, privately, that perhaps the old man
was right--perhaps he did not know what life was and what life meant;
perhaps there were things in life deeper, more terrible, than he had
ever suspected.

A silence fell upon the room. The old man seemed not inclined to break
it; Richard, still under the hypnotism of the scene, would not speak. To
relieve the intensity of the moment he quietly opened the _Westminster
Gazette_. The lamp had sunk lower and lower, and it was with difficulty
that he could read. His eye, however, chanced to fall on the financial
page, and there, as the heading of a paragraph in the ‘Notes,’ he saw
these words: ‘LOCK RUMOURS.’ He brought the page nearer to his face, and
read: ‘The rumours that the Lock group are in serious difficulties
was again rife on ’Change to-day. Mr. Simon Lock, seen by one of our
representatives, merely smiled when told of the prevalence of these
sinister rumours. He gave our representative the somewhat cryptic answer
that we should see what we should see. We do not doubt the truth of this
remark. Dealing in the shares of the newly-floated “La Princesse” Gold
Mining Company (Westralian) was very active this morning, but fell flat
after lunch. The one-pound shares, which, after a sensational rise last
week, fell on Thursday to a shade over par, are now at five and a half,
with a distinct tendency to harden, in spite of the fact that the demand
is slight.’

Richard looked up from the paper.

‘I see,’ he said, with interest, ‘that it is not absolutely all plain
sailing even with the great Simon Lock. Did you read this paragraph here
about him?’

‘No,’ murmured the old man. ‘Read it to me.’

Richard did so in the rapidly-dying light.

‘Very curious and interesting,’ said Raphael Craig. ‘I have sometimes
permitted myself to wonder whether our respected chairman is, after all,
the impregnable rock which he is usually taken for.’

At this moment the lamp went out, and the two men sat in absolute
darkness.

The next ensuing phenomenon was the sound of an apparently heavy body
falling down the stairs into the hall, and then a girl’s terrified
scream.

Richard sprang to the door, but a few moments elapsed before his fingers
could find the handle. At length he opened the door. The lamp in the
hall was still brightly burning. At the foot of the stairs lay Nolan,
the detective, wrapped in a bedgown. At the head of the stairs, in an
attitude of dismay, stood Juana.

There was a heavy and terrible sigh at Richard’s elbow. He turned his
head sharply. Raphael Craig stood behind him, his body swaying as though
in a breeze.

‘Juana!’ he stammered out hoarsely, his eyes fixed on the trembling
girl.

‘Do not curse me again, father,’ she cried, with a superb gesture; ‘I
have suffered enough.’

An oak chest stood to the left of the drawing-room door. Raphael Craig
sank down upon it, as if exhausted by a sudden and frightful emotion.

‘Go!’ he said in a low voice.

But the girl came steadily downstairs towards him.

No one seemed to take any notice of the body of the detective.



CHAPTER XI--END OF THE NIGHT

The body of the detective lay, by chance, lengthwise along the mat at
the foot of the stairs. In order to reach the hall, therefore, Juana
had no alternative but to step over the prone figure. This she did
unhesitatingly, and then turned to Richard.

‘Carry the poor fellow upstairs, will you?’ she asked quietly. ‘He is
delirious. The room overhead.’

Richard obeyed. The small, light frame of the detective gave him no
trouble. At the top of the stairs he met Mrs. Bridget hastening towards
him.

‘Holy Virgin!’ she exclaimed. ‘I did but run down by the backstairs to
the kitchen and left the spalpeen with Miss Juana, and when I came back
to them the room was as empty as my pocket.’

‘He got a bit wild,’ Richard explained. ‘I suppose his head is affected.
Miss Juana is talking with her father. Where is Miss Teresa?’

‘Sure, she’s gone out to the mares. They must have their water, if every
soul of us was dying.’

Richard carefully laid Nolan on the bed in the room over the porch. By
this time the sufferer had recovered consciousness. He murmured a few
meaningless strings of words, then sighed.

‘I will leave him with you,’ said Richard.

‘Not alone! If he begins to kick out----’

‘He’s quite quiet now,’ said Richard, closing the door behind him.

Richard was extremely anxious to be present, as he had a sort of right
to be, at the conversation between Raphael Craig and Juana. He descended
the stairs with such an air of deliberation as he could assume, and
stood hesitatingly at the foot. He felt like an interloper, an
eavesdropper, one who is not wanted, but, indeed, there was no other
place for him to put himself into, unless it might be the kitchen; for
the drawing-room lamp was extinguished, and the lamp in the dining-room
had not been lighted.

Juana had approached her father, who still sat on the oak chest. She
bent slightly towards him, like a figure of retribution, or menace, or
sinister prophecy. Richard noticed the little wisps of curls in the nape
of her neck. She was still dressed in her riding-habit, but the lengthy
skirt had been fastened up by means of a safety-pin. Richard could not
be sure whether father or daughter had so much as observed his presence
in the hall.

‘I’ll stay where I am,’ he thought. ‘I’m a member of the family now, and
it is my business to know all the family secrets.’

For at least thirty seconds Juana uttered no word. Then she said, in a
low vibrating voice:

‘Why do you tell me to go, father?’

‘Did I not say to you last year,’ the old man replied, ‘that if you left
me you must leave me for ever?’

‘You abide by that?’ the girl demanded.

‘I abide by it,’ said Raphael Craig.

Like a flash, Juana swept round and faced Richard, and he at once
perceived that she had been aware of his presence.

‘Mr. Redgrave,’ she said, with head in air, and nostrils dilated,
‘Teresa has just told me that at my father’s--er--suggestion you and she
have become engaged to be married.’

‘That is so,’ said Richard politely. ‘May we hope for your
congratulations?’

She ignored the remark.

‘Do you know whom you are marrying?’ she asked curtly.

‘I am under the impression that I am about to marry the daughter of Mr.
Raphael Craig, manager of the Kilburn branch of the British and Scottish
Bank.’

‘You are about to do nothing of the sort,’ said Juana. ‘Mr. Raphael
Craig has no daughter. Teresa and myself, I may explain to you, are
twin-sisters, though I have the misfortune to look much the older. We
have always passed as the daughters of Mr. Craig, We have always called
him father. Teresa still thinks him her father. It was only recently
that I discovered----’

‘Juana,’ the old man interrupted, ‘have you, too, got hold of the wild
tale? It is astonishing how long a falsehood, an idle rumour, will
survive and flourish.’

‘There is no falsehood, no idle rumour,’ said Juana coldly; ‘and I think
it proper that Mr. Redgrave should know all that I know.’

‘It will make no difference whatever to me,’ said Richard, ‘whose
daughter Teresa may be. ‘It is herself, and not her ancestors, that I
shall have the honour of marrying.’

‘Still,’ said Juana, ‘do you not think that you ought to know Teresa’s
history?’

‘Decidedly,’ said Richard.

With an embittered glance at her father, Juana resumed:

‘Some time ago, Mr. Redgrave, a difficulty between Mr. Craig and myself
led to my leaving this house. I was the merest girl, but I left. I was
too proud to stay. I had a mare of my own, whom I had trained to do a
number of tricks. I could ride as well as most. Bosco’s circus happened
to be in the neighbourhood. I conceived the wild idea of applying for a
situation in the circus. Only a girl utterly inexperienced in life would
have dreamt of such a thing. The circus people had me performing for
them, and they engaged me. On the whole I lived a not unhappy existence.
I tell you this only to account for my presence not long since in
Limerick.’

‘Limerick!’ exclaimed Raphael Craig in alarm. ‘You have been there?’

Juana continued calmly:

‘The circus travelled in Ireland, and eventually came to Limerick. I
knew that Limerick was my mother’s home, and I began to make inquiries.
I found out that my sister and I were born previous to Mr. Craig’s
marriage with my mother. She had been married before, or she had, at
least, been through the ceremony of marriage with another man--a man
unknown, who came suddenly into her life and as suddenly went out of it.
You will gather, then, that Mr. Craig is not our father, and that he has
no authority over us.’

‘Redgrave,’ muttered Raphael Craig, ‘I tell you the poor girl is mad.’

Juana resumed quietly:

‘I must inform you of another thing. While in Limerick and the district
I met this Nolan, the detective. He had another name there. I know now,
from what my sister has told me, that he must have been investigating
the early history of my mother, and my real and false fathers, for some
purpose of the police. But I judge him as I found him. He was very kind
to me once, and I liked him. He was the personification of good-nature
and good temper. When our ways parted he expressed the certain hope that
we should meet again. We have met again, under circumstances extremely
painful. He has not yet recognised me. You may ask, father,’ she went
on, turning to Raphael Craig, ‘why I came back to your house to-day.
There were two reasons. It is three months since I learnt about my
parentage, and during the whole of that time I have been debating with
myself whether or not to come and have it out with you. I inclined more
and more to having a clear understanding, not only for my own sake,
but for Teresa’s. Then, the second reason, the circus folk had begun to
talk. There were jealousies, of course; and the rumour that my birth
was surrounded by doubtful mysteries somehow got afoot in the tents. I
decided to leave. Here I am. I came prepared for peace; but you, father,
have decided otherwise. I shall leave to-morrow morning, We have no
claim on each other. Mr. Redgrave, that is all I have to say.’

She ceased.

Richard bowed, and looked expectantly towards the old man, but the old
man said nothing.

‘I have the right to ask you, sir,’ said Richard, ‘for your version of
what Miss Juana has just told us.’

‘We will talk of that to-morrow,’ answered the old man testily. ‘We will
talk of that to-morrow.’

‘It is already to-morrow,’ said Juana scornfully.

There was a sudden tremendous racket overhead. A scream could be heard
from Bridget, and a loud, confused chattering from Nolan. The latter
rushed violently half-way downstairs, his eyes burning, Mrs. Bridget
after him.

[Illustration: 0206]

‘I tell you I won’t stay there!’ he shouted. ‘It’s unlucky--that room
where Featherstone slept the night before he killed himself! It’s
unlucky!’

The restless patient sank on the stairs, exhausted by the exertion.
Before Richard could do anything, Mrs. Bridget, that gaunt and powerful
creature, had picked up the little man, and by great effort carried him
away again. The people downstairs saw no more of him. Mrs. Bridget had
at last made up her mind to take him firmly in hand.

Richard was startled by a light touch on his shoulder, and he was
still more startled when he caught the horror-struck face of Juana--the
staring eyes, the drawn mouth.

‘Tell me,’ she said, her finger still on his shoulder--‘tell me--I
cannot trust him--has Mr. Featherstone committed suicide? Is he dead?’

‘Yes,’ said Richard, extremely mystified, but judging that simple
candour would be the best course to adopt under the circumstances.

‘There was an inquest. Didn’t you see it in the papers?’

‘Circus folk seldom trouble with newspapers,’ she said. ‘When was it?’

‘About a month ago.’

‘Poor fellow!’

Tears ran down her cheeks, and she spoke with an accent indescribably
mournful.

‘You knew him?’ Richard suggested.

‘I should have been his wife a year ago,’ said Juana, ‘had _he_ not
forbidden it.’ Again she pointed to Raphael Craig. ‘I never loved Mr.
Featherstone, but I liked him. He was an honourable man--old enough to
be my father, but an honourable man. He worshipped me. Why should I
not have married him? It was the best chance I was ever likely to get,
living the life we lived--solitary, utterly withdrawn from the world.
Yes, I would have married him, and I would have made him a good wife.
But _he_ forbade. He gave no reason. I was so angry that I would
have taken Mr. Featherstone despite him. But Mr. Featherstone had
old-fashioned ideas. He thought it wrong to marry a girl without her
father’s consent. And so we parted. That, Mr. Redgrave, was the reason
why I left the house of my so-called father. Scarcely a month ago Mr.
Featherstone came to me again secretly, one night after the performance
was over, and he again asked me to marry him, and said that he had
decided to dispense with Mr. Craig’s consent. He begged me to marry him.
His love was as great as ever, but with me things had changed. I had
almost ceased even to like Mr. Featherstone. I was free, independent,
and almost happy in that wandering life. Besides, I--never mind that.
I refused him as kindly as I could. It must have been immediately
afterwards that the poor fellow committed suicide, And you’--she flashed
a swift denunciatory glance on Raphael Craig--‘are his murderer.’

The old man collected himself and stood up, his face calm, stately,
livid.

‘Daughter,’ he said, ‘daughter--for I shall I still call you so, by the
right of all that I have done for you--you have said a good deal in your
anger that had been better left unsaid. But doubtless you have found
a sufficient justification for your wrath. You are severe in your
judgments. In youth we judge; in age we are merciful. You think you have
been hardly done to. Perhaps it is so; but not by me--rather by fate.
Even now I could tell you such things as would bring you to your knees
at my feet, but I refrain. Like you, I am proud. Some day you will
know all the truth--the secret of my actions and the final goal of my
desires. And I think that on that day you will bless me. No man ever
had a more sacred, a holier aim, than that which has been the aim of my
life. I thank God it is now all but achieved.’

He lighted one of the candles which always stood on the bookcase in the
hall, and passed into the drawing-room, where he sat down, leaving the
door ajar.

Richard crept towards the door and looked in. The old man sat
motionless, absently holding the candle in his hand. The frontdoor
opened from the outside, and Teresa ran into the house. She saw her
father, and hastened, with a charming gesture, towards him.

‘Old darling!’ she exclaimed; ‘why that sad face, and why that candle?
What are you all doing? See!’ She pulled back the shutters of the
window. ‘See! the sun has risen!’

So ended that long night.



CHAPTER XII--THE NAPOLEON

We have now to watch another aspect of the great struggle which for
so many years had been maturing in secrecy and darkness, and the true
nature of which was hidden from all save one man.

It was seven o’clock in the morning, and in a vast bedroom of a house in
Manchester Square a man lay with closed eyes. The house was one of those
excessively plain dwellings of the very rich which are characteristic
of the streets and squares of the West End of London. Its façade was
relieved by no ornament. You saw merely a flat face of brick, with four
rows of windows, getting smaller towards the roof, and a sombre green
front-door in the middle of the lowest row. The house did not even seem
large, but it was, in fact, extremely spacious, as anyone could see who
put foot into the hall, where two footmen lounged from morn till
night. The bedroom to which we have referred was on the first-floor. It
occupied half the width of the house, and looked out on the square.
Its three windows were made double, so that no sound from outside could
penetrate that sacred apartment. Ventilation was contrived by means of
two electric fans. The furniture consisted of the articles usual in
an English bedroom, for the man in bed prided himself on being an
Englishman who did not ape foreign ways. The said articles were,
however, extraordinarily large, massive, and ornate. The pile of the
immense carpet probably could not have been surpassed by any carpet
in London. Across the foot of the carved oak bedstead was a broad sofa
upholstered in softest silk.

An English bracket-clock on the mantelshelf intoned the hour of seven
with English solemnity, and instantly afterwards an electric bell rang
about six inches over the head of the occupant of the bed.

He opened his eyes wearily. He had not been asleep; indeed, he had spent
most of the night in a futile wakefulness, which was a bad sign with a
man who boasted that as a rule he could sleep at will, like Napoleon.
Here was one detail out of many in which this man considered that he
resembled Napoleon.

He groaned, pulled his gray moustache, stroked his chin, which bristled
with the night’s growth of beard, and ran his fingers through his gray
hair. Then he touched an electric button. Within ten seconds a valet
entered, bearing the morning papers--not merely a judicious selection of
morning papers, but every morning paper published in London.

‘Put them on the sofa, Jack.’

‘Yes, sir.’

The man rose out of bed with a sudden jerk. At the same moment the
valet, with a movement which would have done credit to a juggler, placed
a pair of bath slippers on his master’s feet, and with another movement
of equal swiftness deposited a pair of six-pound dumbbells in his hands.
The man performed six distinct exercises twelve times each, and then
dropped the lumps of iron on the bed, whence the valet removed them.

‘Seven-thirty,’ said the man.

‘Yes, sir,’ said the valet, and disappeared.

The man sank languidly on to the sofa, and began, with the efficiency
of a highly-practised reader, to skim the papers one after the other.
He led off with the _Financial_, proceeded to the _Times_, and took the
rest anyhow. When he had finished, the papers lay in a tangled heap on
the thick carpet. This man was pre-eminently tidy and orderly, yet few
things delighted him more than, at intervals, to achieve a gigantic
disorder. It was a little affectation which he permitted himself.
Another little affectation was his manner of appearing always to be busy
from the hour of opening his eyes to the hour of closing them. He was,
in truth, a very busy man indeed; but it pleased him to seem more
deeply employed than he actually was. He had a telephone affixed to
his bed-head, by means of which he could communicate with his private
secretary’s bedroom in the house, and also with his office in Cannon
Street. This telephone tickled his fancy. He used it for the sake of
using it; he enjoyed using it in the middle of the night. He went to it
now, and rang imperiously. He did everything imperiously. There was a
tinkling reply on the bell.

‘Are you up, Oakley? Well, get up then. Go to Cannon Street, and bring
the important letters. And tell----’ He went off into a series of
detailed instructions. ‘And be back here at half-past eight.’

The clock struck half-past seven. The valet entered as silently as a
nun, and the modern Napoleon passed into his marble bath-room. By this
time everyone in the household--that household which revolved round
the autocrat as the solar system revolves round the sun--knew that
the master had awakened in a somewhat dangerous mood, and that squally
weather might be expected. And they all, from the page-boy to the
great Mr. Oakley, the private secretary, accepted this fact as further
evidence that the master’s career of prosperity had received a check.

At eight o’clock precisely the master took breakfast--an English
breakfast: bacon, eggs, toast, coffee, marmalade--in the breakfast-room,
a room of medium size opening off the library. He took it in solitude,
for he could not tolerate the presence of servants so early in the
morning, and he had neither wife nor family. He poured out his own
coffee like one of his own clerks, and read his private letters propped
up one by one against the coffee-pot, also like one of his own clerks.
He looked at his watch as he drank the last drop of coffee. It was
thirty-one minutes past eight. He walked quickly into the library.
If Oakley had not been there Oakley would have caught it; but Oakley
happened to be there, calmly opening envelopes with a small ivory
paper-cutter. It was mainly in virtue of his faculty of always ‘being
there’ that Oakley received a salary of six hundred a year.

‘Shall you go to Cannon Street this morning, sir?’ asked Oakley,
a middle-aged man with the featureless face of a waiter in a large
restaurant.

‘Why?’

‘Sir Arthur Custer has telegraphed to know.’

‘No.’

‘I thought not, and have told him.’

‘Umph!’ said the master, nettled, but not daring to say anything.

Like many a man equally powerful, this Napoleon was in some ways in awe
of his unexceptionable clerk. Oakley might easily get another master,
but it was doubtful whether his employer could get another clerk equal
to Oakley.

‘A light post this morning, sir,’ said Oakley.

‘Umph!’ said the master again. ‘Take down this letter, and have it sent
off instantly:

‘“Richard Redgrave, Esq., 4, Adelphi Terrace. Dear Sir,--I shall be
obliged if you can make it convenient to call on me this morning as
early as possible at the above address. The bearer can bring you here in
his cab.--Yours truly.”’

The letter was written, signed, and despatched.

‘Anything from Gaunt and Griffiths?’ asked the Napoleon.

‘Yes, sir.’

Oakley turned to a letter on large, thick, quarto paper. The stationery
of this famous firm of stock-brokers--perhaps the largest firm, and
certainly the firm with the cleanest record, on the Exchange--was always
of an impressive type.

‘They say, “We are obliged by your favour of to-day’s date. We can offer
a limited number of La Princesse shares at twenty-five. We shall be glad
to have your acceptance or refusal before noon to-morrow.--Your obedient
servants, Gaunt and Griffiths.”’

‘Twenty-five!’ exclaimed the other. ‘They mean five. It’s a clerical
error.’

‘The amount is written out in words.’

‘It’s a clerical error.’

‘Doubtless, sir.’

Even now the Napoleon would not believe that misfortune, perhaps
ruin, was at his door. He doggedly refused to face the fact. It seemed
incredible, unthinkable, that anything could happen to him. So we
all think until the crash comes. He plunged into the mass of general
correspondence with a fine appearance of perfect calmness. But he could
not deceive Mr. Oakley.

At five minutes past nine there was a careful tap at the door. The
messenger had returned from Adelphi Terrace. Mr. Redgrave was not at
his rooms. He had gone out on the previous evening, and had not come in
again. The landlady knew not where he was.

‘Send again at noon, Oakley,’ said the Napoleon.

In another minute there was another tap at the door.

‘Come in!’--angrily.

The footman announced that Sir Arthur Custer had called.

‘D----n Sir Arthur Custer!’ said the master of the house. ‘Here, Oakley,
get out of this! I must see him.’

Oakley got out, and Sir Arthur was ushered in. Sir Arthur looked at his
host queerly, and then with much care shut the door.

‘I say, Lock,’ he said, putting his silk hat on the table, ‘it seems to
me we’re in a devil of a hole.’

‘Indeed!’ said Simon Lock cautiously.

‘Yes,’ Sir Arthur insisted. ‘Of course I’m sure that when you asked me
to join you in this Princesse affair----’

‘You will pardon me, Sir Arthur,’ said Lock, stopping him very politely
and formally, ‘I did not ask you to join me. It was yourself who
suggested that.’

‘Ah, well!’ said Sir Arthur, with a little less assurance, ‘we won’t
quarrel about that. At any rate, I understood from you that we were in
for a deuced good thing.’

‘That is so,’ Lock returned. ‘By the way, sit down, Sir Arthur, and
remain calm.’

‘Am I not calm?’ asked the member of Parliament, whose pomposity was
unaccustomed to be trifled with.

‘Certainly you are calm. I merely ask you to remain so. Now to come to
the business in hand. I said, you remind me, that we were in for a good
thing. So we were. But some secret force has been working against us.
If I could unmask that secret force all would be well, for I could then
bring pressure to bear that would effectually---- You understand?’

‘No matter from what direction the force came?’

‘No matter from what direction. And, Sir Arthur,’ said Simon Lock
impressively, ‘I shall find it out.’ He repeated the phrase still
more impressively, ‘I shall find it out. Simon Lock has never yet been
defeated, and he will not be defeated now. I began life, Sir Arthur,
on half-a-crown a week. There were conspiracies against me then, but I
upset them. At the age of fifty-five, on a slightly larger scale ‘--he
smiled--‘I shall repeat the operations of my early youth.’

Simon Lock, like many self-made men, was extremely fond of referring to
his early youth and the humbleness of his beginnings. He thought that it
proved an absence of snobbery in his individuality.

‘And in the meantime?’

‘In the meantime, I frankly confess, Sir Arthur, we have sold more La
Princesse shares than we can deliver. Nay, further, we have sold, I
fear, more La Princesse shares than actually exist. We sold freely for
the fall. I knew that the shares would fall soon after the flotation,
and they did. But they have mysteriously risen again.’

‘And are still rising,’ Sir Arthur put in, nervously stroking his long
thin beard.

‘Yes. We sold, I find, over two hundred thousand shares at three. They
then fell, as you know, to about twenty-five shillings. Then they began
to go up like a balloon. The market tightened like a drawn string. Sir
Arthur, we were led into a trap. For once in a way some fellow has got
the better of Simon Lock--temporarily, only temporarily. My brokers
thought they were selling shares to the public in general, but they were
selling to the agents of a single buyer. That is evident.’

‘How do we stand now?’

‘We have to deliver our shares in a week’s time. We have some eighty
thousand shares in hand, bought at various prices up to five pounds. On
those eighty thousand we shall just about clear ourselves. That leaves
us over a hundred and twenty thousand yet to buy.’

‘At the best price we can obtain?’

‘Yes.’

‘And what is the best price to-day?’

‘Well,’ said Lock, looking Sir Arthur straight in the face, ‘I have had
shares offered to me this morning at twenty-five.’

Sir Arthur’s reply was to rush to the sideboard and help himself to a
glass of brandy. He was a timid creature, despite his appearance.

‘And that figure means that we should lose the sum of twenty-two pounds
on each share. Twenty-two times one hundred and twenty thousand, Sir
Arthur, is two millions six hundred and forty thousand pounds. That
would be the amount of our loss on the transaction.’

‘But this is child’s play, Lock.’

‘Excuse me, it isn’t,’ said Simon Lock. ‘It is men’s play, and
desperately serious.’

‘I don’t understand the methods of the Stock Exchange--never did,’ said
Sir Arthur Custer, M.P. ‘I only came into the City because a lot of
fellows like yourself asked me to. But it seems to me the only thing to
do is to cry off.’

‘Cry off?’

‘Yes. Tell all these people to whom we have contracted to sell Princesse
shares that we simply can’t supply ’em, and tell ’em to do their
worst. Their worst won’t be worse than a dead loss of over two and a
half millions.’

‘My dear Sir Arthur,’ said Simon Lock, ‘there is no crying off in the
City. We have contracted to deliver those shares, and we must deliver
them, or pay the price--commercial ruin.’

‘The Stock Exchange,’ Sir Arthur blustered, ‘is one of the most infamous
institutions----’

‘Yes,’ Simon Lock cut him short, ‘we know all about that. The Stock
Exchange is quite right as long as we are making money; but when we
begin to lose it immediately becomes infamous.’

Sir Arthur made an obvious effort to pull himself together.

‘What is your plan of campaign, Lock?’ he asked. ‘You must have some
scheme in your head. What is it? Don’t trifle with me.’

‘Well,’ said Simon Lock, ‘we have a week.

That is our principal asset. Seven precious days in which to turn round.
A hundred and sixty hours. In that time----’

There was a knock at the door, and a page entered with a telegram.

Simon Lock opened it hurriedly. The message ran:

‘Sorry must withdraw offer contained in our letter yesterday. Princesse
shares now thirty-five.--Gaunt and Griffiths.’

The erstwhile Napoleon passed the orange-coloured paper to Sir Arthur
Custer.

‘No answer,’ he said calmly to the page.



CHAPTER XIII--THE VASE

The sensation of the next day’s Stock Exchange was the unsuccessfulness
of the attempts of Simon Lock’s brokers--he employed several different
firms--to buy La Princesse shares. It was not definitely stated who
wanted these shares, but everyone seemed to be aware that Simon Lock was
the man in the hole. The Exchange laughed quietly to itself; it did not
dare to laugh aloud, for Simon Lock was still a person to be feared.
Not a single share was to be obtained at any price; they had all been
withdrawn from the market. In vain Simon Lock tried to discover
the holders. The identity of the holders seemed to be wrapped in
impenetrable mystery. He went to one man, a member of the Westralian
market, who varied the excitements of the Exchange by the excitements
of prodigious play at Monte Carlo, and took him out to lunch. The great
Simon Lock actually took this man, a nonentity in the distinguished
financial circles in which Simon moved, out to lunch at a famous and
expensive restaurant, where those City men who want real turtle soup can
always get it.

‘My people sold you ten thousand Princesse shares the other day,’ said
Simon Lock ingratiatingly to this man.

‘True,’ said the man cautiously, ‘at three.’ ‘Just so,’ said Lock; ‘and
we have to deliver in a week.’

‘In a week,’ repeated the man absently.

‘Well, look here,’ said Simon Lock, making a sudden plunge, ‘we don’t
want to deliver; it doesn’t suit us. See?’

‘You don’t want to deliver? Why not?’ ‘Never mind why. The question is,
what will you take to release us from the contract?’

‘Nothing.’

‘You’ll release us for nothing?’

‘I mean I can’t release you, Mr. Lock,’ said the man with formal
politeness. ‘My clients have given me positive instructions.’

‘Who are your clients?’

‘That I am not at liberty to say.’

‘Tell me who your clients are,’ said Simon Lock, ‘and I’ll give you five
thousand down.’

The man shook his head sadly. He would have liked that five thousand,
but he dared not accept it.

‘Are you acting for Gaunt and Griffiths?’ asked Simon Lock.

‘No,’ said the man, glad to be able to give a positive answer.

‘Waiter, the bill,’ Simon Lock cried, and then gave a sigh.

The bill came to thirty shillings--thirty shillings wasted! He reflected
that in a few weeks’ time, unless something happened, he might be in
serious need of that thirty shillings. Nevertheless, such is human
nature, the idea of Simon Lock being hard up for thirty shillings was so
amusing to him that he could not dismiss a smile. The other man wondered
what evil that smile portended.

Simon Lock proceeded from the restaurant to the offices of Gaunt and
Griffiths. He demanded to see Mr. Gaunt, the venerable head of the firm,
and Mr. Gaunt kept him, Simon Lock, waiting ten minutes! Simon Lock had
not suffered such an insult for years. At his name the most obdurate
doors were accustomed to open instantly.

‘Well, Mr. Gaunt,’ he said, with an affectation of breezy familiarity,
when at length he was admitted, ‘I’ve just called about the matter of
those Princesse shares. How many can you offer?’

‘We can offer ten thousand, Mr. Lock.’

‘At thirty-five?’

‘At thirty-five.’

‘That means three hundred and fifty thousand pounds for your holding?’

‘Exactly.’

‘Don’t you wish you may get it, Mr. Gaunt? Eh! eh!’

He laughed gaily, but suddenly it occurred to him that his laugh sounded
hollow and foolish, and he stopped.

‘What do you mean?’ asked Mr. Gaunt gravely.

‘I mean,’ said Simon Lock lamely, ‘that the price is, of course, a fancy
one. You know the market is a bit tight, and you’re playing a game.
You’ll take less than thirty-five if you really want to sell.’

‘Our firm is not in the habit of playing games, Mr. Lock. And, by the
way, your last words bring us to the point. You say “if we really want
to sell.” The fact is, we don’t want to sell. You will remember that it
was you who came first to us to ask if we had any shares to offer. We
made inquiries, and found some. Our clients----’

‘Would you mind telling me,’ Simon Lock interrupted, ‘who your clients
are?’

‘It would be useless for you to approach them personally,’ said Mr.
Gaunt.

‘I don’t want to approach them personally. I shall not dream of such
a breach of etiquette,’ said Simon Lock, with an assumed fervour of
righteousness. ‘I merely wanted to know, out of curiosity.’

‘I regret that I cannot satisfy your curiosity, Mr. Lock.’

‘Then that is your last word, Mr. Gaunt--ten thousand at thirty-five?’

A boy entered with a telegram, which Mr. Gaunt perused slowly through
his gold-rimmed spectacles.

‘No,’ said Mr. Gaunt; ‘I regret to say---at forty. I have just received
further instructions by telegraph.’

He waved the telegram in the air.

Simon Lock’s face grew ugly, and he spoke with ominous coldness.

‘Someone seems disposed to make fun of me, Mr. Gaunt,’ he said. ‘I don’t
know who it is, but I shall find out; and when I do find out, there will
be trouble for that someone. I’ll let this cursed city know that Simon
Lock is not to be trifled with.’

‘Good-day,’ said Mr. Gaunt calmly.

[Illustration: 0232]

Simon Lock went out furious. On the pavement outside he met the
office-boy who had brought in the telegram to Mr. Gaunt.

‘Where are you going to, my boy?’ asked Simon Lock kindly.

‘To the post-office, sir,’ said the boy.

‘So am I. Now would you like to earn a couple of sovereigns easily?’
Simon Lock inquired.

‘Yes, sir,’ said the boy, and added, ‘if it’s all square. Sovereigns
ain’t flying about, you know.’

‘It’s all square. You won’t do any harm to anyone by earning it. All I
want you to do is to go into the post-office and say that on the last
telegram sent to your firm the name of the office of despatch isn’t
stamped clearly. Ask them to refer and tell you what it is. They know
you, I suppose?’

‘Oh yes, sir.’

‘Well, run along.’

The boy, dazzled by the glitter of sovereigns, went. Simon Lock waited
for him outside the post-office.

‘What’s the answer?’ he asked when the boy came out.

‘They said I ought to have brought the form with me,’ said the boy,
‘but I talked to ’em like a father. I reckon I know how to manage them
girls.’

‘And what’s the name of the place?’

‘Hockliffe.’

‘Here’s your two sovereigns,’ said Simon Lock gladly.

The lad capered down the street in the exuberance of joy.

Simon had learnt something. And yet, when he thought over what he had
learnt, he seemed to think somehow that it was valueless to him. He had
guessed all along who was at the bottom of the La Princesse business.
His guess had been confirmed--that was all. He had threatened that, when
he knew, he would do such and such dreadful things; but what could he,
in fact, do? Should he send for Raphael Craig and threaten him? With
what? It would be absurd to threaten with dismissal from a post worth
at most a thousand a year a man who stood to gain hundreds of thousands
from you. No; that manoeuvre would not serve. At last he decided that
he would pay a surprise visit of inspection to the Kilburn office of the
British and Scottish Bank, and then act as circumstances dictated.

He jumped into a hansom.

‘Kilburn,’ he said shortly.

‘What ho!’ exclaimed the driver, not caring for such a long journey;
‘Kilburn, eh? What’s the matter with the Tuppenny Toob?’

However, Simon Lock insisted on being driven to Kilburn, and was duly
driven thither, though at a pace which suited the horse better than it
suited Simon Lock. The latter revenged himself--but not on the horse--by
paying the precise legal fare.

He walked into the bank. No one knew him. His august presence caused no
flutter of excitement. The cashier inquired briefly what he wanted.

‘The manager,’ said Simon Lock.

‘Mr. Craig?’

‘If you please.’

‘Mr. Craig is taking his annual holiday.’

‘Thanks,’ said Simon Lock, grinding his teeth, and walked out. He had
experienced exactly the same rebuff as Richard Redgrave a few days
previously.

That evening, though he had several engagements, including one to dine
at the house of a Marquis in Park Lane, Simon Lock dined at home in
Manchester Square. The entire household trembled, for the formidable
widower was obviously in a silent and bitter rage. He found the
indefatigable Oakley in the library.

‘Has that ass Custer been here again?’ he asked.

‘No, sir,’ said Oakley; ‘that ass Sir Arthur Custer has not been here
within my knowledge.’

Many a clerk of Simon Lock’s had suffered sudden dismissal for a far
slighter peccadillo than this sally on the part of Mr. Oakley. The fact
was, Simon Lock was too surprised at the pleasantry, coming as it did
from a man who seldom joked, to take any practical notice of it. The two
men--the clerk and the Napoleon of finance--glanced at each other.

‘You are in a devilish merry humour tonight, Oakley!’ exclaimed Simon
Lock.

‘It is my birthday, sir.’

‘How old are you?’

‘Between thirty and sixty, sir.’

‘Listen,’ said Lock: ‘you shall come and dine with me. I never knew you
in this mood before. I don’t feel like laughing myself, and I may give
you the sack before we get past the fish; but come if you like.’

‘With pleasure, sir.’

So they dined together in the great diningroom of the mansion, with a
footman apiece, and a butler behind the footmen. Mr. Oakley’s mood was
certainly singular to the last degree. Some people might have thought
that his careless hilarity was due to the effects of intoxication, but
this was not the case. And yet surely no one except a drunken man
would have dared to behave to Simon Lock as he behaved. Mr. Oakley made
deliberate fun of his master before the three menials, and the master
never flinched nor jibbed. The fish was safely passed without an
explosion, and the joint, the poultry, the sweets, and the priceless
Cheshire cheese followed without mishap. When the coffee and cigars came
round Simon Lock dismissed his servants.

‘Oakley,’ he said, ‘why are you going to give me notice to leave?’

‘I had no intention of leaving you, sir.’

‘I could swear,’ said Lock, ‘that you had had the offer of a better
place, and were just amusing yourself with me before giving notice.
It would be like you to do that, Oakley. You were always a bit of a
mystery. I suppose you have come to the conclusion that Simon Lock’s
career is over?’

‘Nothing of the kind, sir. I have merely been jolly because it is my
birthday.’

‘Well, Oakley, as it is your birthday, I don’t mind confessing to you
that I am in something of a hole.’

‘Over the La Princesse shares?’

‘Yes.’

‘It is a pity,’ said Oakley, ‘that we have been unable to lay our hands
on Richard Redgrave.’

‘You think, then, Oakley, that Redgrave, if we could catch him and make
him speak, might be able to throw light on this little affair?’

‘At any rate,’ said Oakley, ‘he might tell you why he so suddenly threw
up his job.’

‘Yes, I would give something to get hold of Redgrave.’

‘I felt that so strongly, sir, that I have myself been down to his place
twice.’

‘And have discovered nothing?’

‘Nothing. But----’

‘Well, what is it?’

‘I was just thinking about the death of Featherstone. Featherstone
lived in a couple of rooms in Blenheim Mansions, off the Edgware Road.
Furnished rooms they were, let by a woman who has two flats on the same
floor, and lets them out in small quantities to bachelors.’

‘Yes?’

‘I wanted a couple of rooms myself.’

‘Have you not sufficient accommodation here?’

‘I wanted, as I was saying, a couple of rooms myself, and I had a fancy
to take the two rooms once occupied by the deceased Featherstone. It was
a morbid fancy, perhaps. The landlady seemed to think so. Anyhow, I took
them. I entered into possession this afternoon, and locked the door.’

‘Did you expect to see his ghost? Featherstone killed himself at the
bank, not in his rooms.’

‘I am aware of it, sir,’ said Oakley. ‘I did not expect to see his
ghost; I merely wanted to look round.’

‘Look round for what?’

‘For anything interesting that I might be able to see.’

‘But surely the police had searched?’

‘Yes, but they had found nothing. And I knew how anxious you were
to find out anything that might be discovered about Feather-stone’s
suicide.’

‘Was that your reason for taking the rooms?’ Simon Lock sneered.

‘Why not?’ said Oakley. ‘Why should it not have been my reason? I have
always been loyal to you, sir.’

‘Well, well, did you find anything interesting, any trace of evidence
that might clear up the mystery?’

‘There was apparently nothing in the rooms except the ordinary furniture
of an ordinary lodging. In the bedroom a bed, a dressing-table, a
washstand, a small table, a small wardrobe, two chairs, a small carpet,
a few framed prints, and some nails behind the door. Nothing that
could be called evidence. In the sitting-room--rather more elaborately
furnished--were a dining-table, six chairs, an easy-chair, a firescreen,
a large carpet, two footstools, a small sideboard, an old “Canterbury,”
 a mirror, some oleographs framed in German gold, and a few vases on the
mantelpiece. Here is one of the vases.’

Mr. Oakley jumped from the table and took from Simon Lock’s own
mantelpiece a small vase, whose intruding presence Simon Lock had not
noticed there. Mr. Oakley handed it carefully to Mr. Lock.

‘Do you notice anything peculiar about it?’ he asked.

Simon Lock examined the vase attentively. It was in the shape of a
cylinder, about seven inches high and three inches in diameter,
and evidently a Staffordshire imitation of classic pottery. The
ground-colour of the exterior was a brilliant red, and on this red were
depicted several classic figures in white, with black outlines. Round
the top edge the vase had been gilded. The interior surface of the vase
was highly glazed.

‘No,’ said Simon Lock, ‘I see nothing peculiar about it.’

‘Neither did I at first, sir,’ said Mr. Oakley; ‘but see here.’

He wetted the end of his finger, and drew from the interior of the vase
a roll of stiffish white writing-paper.

‘That roll of paper,’ he said, ‘must have been dropped into the vase,
whereupon it widened out till it filled the vase. The width of the paper
happened to be exactly the height of the vase, and so the paper looked
exactly like the internal surface of the vase. The resemblance would
deceive almost anyone. I thought, as you did, that the vase was
absolutely empty, but it was not.’

‘And the paper?’ asked Simon Lock.

‘The paper,’ said Mr. Oakley, holding the strangely hidden document in
his hand, ‘is double, as you see. On the inside it is filled with small
writing, very small writing, and the signature is that of Featherstone.
I have read it, and I have brought it here as a surprise for you--I hope
a pleasant surprise. Hence what you were pleased to call my devilish
merry humour.’

‘Give it me,’ said Simon Lock briefly.

His voice trembled.

‘Here it is, sir.’

Simon Lock took the paper, and began to read with difficulty.

‘Turn another light on,’ he said, and Mr. Oakley obeyed.



CHAPTER XIV--FEATHERSTONE’S RECITAL

And this is what Mr. Simon Lock read, while Mr. Oakley watched his
master’s face. The calligraphy of the document was miraculously neat and
small, and the thing had all the appearance of a declaration formally
made:

‘Statement of me, Robert John Dalrymple Featherstone, made on the day
before my death. (Here followed the date.)

‘This statement is intended to be perfectly plain and simple. I put down
facts as they occur to me in the most straightforward possible way.
I have never before in my life undertaken any sort of literary
composition, beyond letters to acquaintances. My parents dying when I
was a boy, and me being an only child, I have had no relatives; nor have
I ever had an intimate friend. I do not know why I am at the trouble to
write out this statement now. I only know that I am compelled to make
it by an instinct, or an impulse, which overpowers my ordinary
common-sense. It cannot be a matter of any importance that the world
should understand the circumstances under which I am led to commit
suicide. The world will not care. And, on the other hand, this statement
may work harm, or at least annoyance, to one whom I love. Nevertheless
I must write it. Everyone, perhaps, who commits suicide feels this
tremendous desire to explain to the world the reasons of his act--that
act for which there is no remedy, that act which he knows, if he is a
Christian, must involve him in eternal remorse.

‘As I write I have a sort of feeling that what I put down may be printed
in the newspapers. This feeling causes me to want to write unnaturally,
in a strained and showy measure. I shall try to avoid this. All my life
I have lived quiet and retired. This was not because I was modest. I am
not more modest than other mediocre men. It was because I was shy and
awkward and reserved by nature in the presence of others. When I am
alone I feel bumptious, audacious; I feel like a popular actor.

‘But let me begin.

‘My age is fifty-six. For thirty years I have been in the service of
the British and Scottish Banking Corporation, Limited. For eight
years before that I was in the service of a small private bank in
Northamptonshire. I have always served the British and Scottish
faithfully, to the best of my ability. Yet after thirty years I was only
a cashier in a suburban branch with a salary of two hundred a year--such
an income as many a more fortunate man spends on cigars and neckties. I
do not, however, blame anyone for this. I do not blame myself. I realize
clearly that I am a very mediocre man, and deserved nothing better. I
never had any talent for banking. I never had any talent for anything.
I became a bank clerk through the persuasion and influence of a distant
uncle. I agreed with him that it was an honourable and dignified
vocation. It has suited me. I got used to the official duties. I soon
learnt how to live within my income. I had no vicious tastes--no
tastes of any sort. I had no social gifts. I merely did my work
conscientiously. My evenings I spent reading the papers and periodicals
and smoking. I have smoked two ounces of Old Judge per week regularly
for five-and-twenty years. I have never smoked before lunch except
during my annual fortnight at the seaside. Every morning at breakfast I
have read the _Standard_. My political opinions have never varied.

‘Thus my life has been one of absolute sameness. There was no joy in
it except the satisfaction of regular habits, and there was no sorrow,
until last year but one (May 28th), when Miss Juana Craig walked into
the office at Kilburn.

‘She said, “Is my father in his office?”

‘I did not know her, had never seen her before, but I guessed at once
that she was the daughter of Mr. Raphael Craig, the manager of our
branch. I say she said, “Is my father in his office?” Nothing beyond
those words, and yet they had the same effect on me as if they had been
the most magnificent piece of oratory. I was literally struck dumb with
emotion. There was something peculiar in her rich voice that overcame
me. She was obliged to repeat the question.

‘At last I said, “Miss Craig, I presume. No; Mr. Craig is not in, but he
will be in shortly.” ‘I stammered this as though I had been repeating a
badly-learnt lesson.

‘She said, “Then I will wait in his room, if I may.”

‘The way she said those last three words, “if I may,” made me feel
dizzy. There was a sort of appeal in them. Of course I knew it was only
politeness--formal politeness--yet I was deeply touched by it. And I
felt ashamed that this beautiful girl should, in a way, have to beg a
favour from old me.

‘I said, “With pleasure.” And then I took her into Mr. Craig’s room, and
she sat down, and said what wet weather we were having, and I tried to
talk to her. But she was too beautiful. I could not help thinking all
the time that my hair was grey, and my moustache part grey and part
sandy, and that I had my office coat on, with paper shields over my
wrist-bands, and that I was only five feet two inches in height. At last
I came out of the room, and as I did so all the clerks looked at me,
laughing, and I blushed violently. I do not remember ever blushing
before.

‘One clerk said jokingly, “Hello, Feather (they called me Feather), what
ha’ you been up to in there?”

‘If I had been a bigger man I would have knocked him down.

‘I had never had anything to do with women, except, in a purely business
way, with our lady customers. Our lady customers all liked having their
cheques cashed, etc., by me, because I was always so strictly polite to
them. But, strange to say, I could not be polite to Miss Craig, though
never before had I wanted so badly to be polite to any woman.

‘After that day Miss Craig seemed to call every day, or nearly every
day, for her father, just after closing time in the afternoon. She was
on a motor-car, and they went off together up towards Edgware, Mr. Craig
having a house in the country near Dunstable. Sometimes I came out on
to the pavement to see them off. Once or twice I waved good-bye to them,
and once I actually kissed my hand to Miss Juana. It was a very daring
thing to do, and after I had done it I wished I had not! done it, but I
could not help doing it. She did not take offence, and the next day she
was more charming than ever. She is the sweetest, most womanly creature
that God ever made. My wonder is that the other clerks did not seem
to see this. They never went further than to say that she was a pretty
girl. I despised them. I despise them now more than ever.

‘One Friday afternoon Mr. Craig said, “Featherstone, have you anything
particular to do this week-end?” I said that I had not. He said, “Well,
will you come up with us to-morrow, and spend the week-end with us?”

‘Before I could answer anything Miss Juana said, “Yes, do, Mr.
Featherstone, there’s a dear man. We should love to have you.”

‘The charming and adorable creature condescended to joke. I said, “I
gladly accept your very kind invitation.”

‘So I went up and stayed at their house till the Monday morning. Miss
Juana drove down on the motor-car, me sitting by her side, and Mr. Craig
behind. It was very enjoyable.

‘Mr. Craig himself was very polite to me during my visit, and so was
Miss Teresa, Miss Juana’s sister. Miss Teresa drove us back to London on
the Monday morning. And for this I was sorry; not that I have a word to
say against Miss Teresa, who is a pretty enough girl, and amiable. Just
before we started on the journey to London Mr. Craig put a small but
heavy portmanteau under the back seat of the motor-car. I asked him what
that was, merely from idle curiosity, and he said, “Money, my lad.” The
two ladies were not about I laughed, thinking he was joking. But that
day he called me into his private room and said, in a very ordinary tone
of voice, “Featherstone, here is fifty pounds in new silver. Pay it into
my private account.”

‘“Yes, sir,” I said, not thinking. It was the luncheon hour, and nearly
all the clerks were out. I casually examined the silver. Of course I
can distinguish a bad coin in a moment, almost by instinct. I seem to
be mysteriously warned of the approach of a bad coin. But this money was
all right. The next morning Miss Juana called in, and she and I had
a chat. I liked her more and more. And, either I was an insufferably
conceited ass, or she liked me. I knew there was more than thirty years’
difference between us. But I said to myself, “Pooh! what is thirty
years? A man is as young as he feels.” I knew that I had only an income
of two hundred a year, which might rise to two hundred and twenty-five
or two hundred and fifty; but I said to myself that thousands of people
married happily on less than that. I felt that it was impudent on my
part to aspire to the hand of this angel; but I also said to myself that
it was always impudence that succeeded.

‘Anyhow, I was madly and deeply in love, I, bank cashier, aged fifty
odd.

‘Two hours after Miss Juana had called Mr. Craig called me into his room
and said again in a very ordinary tone of voice: “Featherstone, here
is another fifty pounds in silver. Pay it into my private account.”
 As before, the money lay in piles on his desk. “Yes, sir,” I said. I
thought it very strange, but my mind was preoccupied with Miss Juana,
and he was Miss Juana’s father, so I said nothing else. Again, most of
the other clerks were out when I filled up the slip and put the cash
into the drawers. All that day I thought of Miss Juana. Let me say now
that I am convinced she had no part in the plot, for it was a plot,
which Mr. Craig laid against me.

‘At the end of that week Mr. Craig had paid over two hundred pounds’
worth of new silver into his private account, and these payments
continued. In a fortnight I was asked down to the Craigs’ country house
again. I cannot describe my courtship of Miss Juana. I find my statement
is getting too long. But in any event I could not describe it. It was
the most precious, the only precious fragment of my life. The only
drawback to my timid happiness was Mr. Craig’s attitude to me--a sort
of insinuating attitude, quite at variance with the usual style of this
powerfully-minded and very reticent man. The payments of new silver
continued. In a business of the magnitude of our Kilburn branch the
silver was, of course, distributed in the ordinary routine of affairs
without special notice being taken of it.

‘One day I proposed to Miss Juana. It was a terrible moment for me.
To this hour I do not know how I dared to do it. To my inconceivable
astonishment and joy Miss Juana said: “You honour me, Mr. Featherstone.
I am a poor girl. My father is not rich. I do not love you, but I like
you, and I esteem you. I accept your hand.”

‘Later I said to Mr. Craig: “Mr. Craig, I have asked your daughter Juana
to be my wife, and she has done me the honour to consent. Do you also
consent?”

‘He said in reply: “My dear Featherstone, you will pardon me, but, of
course, I know the amount of your salary. Have you any other resources?”
 I said that I had none.

‘The interview grew strangely complex. I see now that he handled me with
consummate skill and adroitness. It came to this. He said:

“Assist me in a scheme of mine which is approaching completion, and when
it is complete I will give you twenty thousand pounds. But you will be
bound to secrecy.”

‘I said to him: “Is your scheme in any way contrary to the law?”

‘He said: “Frankly, it is. But, Feather-stone, you are in love, and
there is no crime in my scheme.”

‘I admit that Mr. Craig’s offer of twenty thousand pounds dazzled me
at first, especially as I began instantly to perceive that my life’s
happiness would depend on my acceptance of it. You may ask what right a
man aged fifty odd has to talk of a life’s happiness--a man who
probably has not more than ten years to live. Let me suggest that it is
impossible for any man, however old, not to believe that he will survive
for an indefinitely long period, unless he be actually on his death-bed.

‘Moreover, I was profoundly in love. I loved with the intense and
restrained passion of, which only a middle-aged man in love for the
first time is capable. No young man, with the facile ardours of youth,
could appreciate my feelings. Be that as it may--and I have no wish at
this solemn hour to attempt to excuse myself--my demeanour certainly
gave Mr. Craig the impression that I had no objection to becoming his
confederate. His face showed that he was pleased--that a weight had been
lifted from his mind.

‘He said: “Give me your oath that you will disclose nothing of what I am
about to tell you.”

‘I said: “But suppose I do not see my way----”

‘He interrupted me very grimly: “What does that matter? Anyhow, I
presume you can see your way to hold your tongue?”

‘So, not without qualms, I gave him an oath of secrecy. He then told me
that he had been coining silver for many years--that his object had been
to coin a hundred thousand pounds’ worth, and that he was then at the
end of his long task.

‘I said: “But you just now told me that you had not involved yourself in
any crime; surely to utter false money is a crime?”

‘He said with sudden anger: “It is not false money; it is perfectly good
money. It is exactly the silver produced by the Mint, and neither you
nor anyone could tell the difference.”

‘He then explained to me how it was profitable for him, owing to the
very low price of silver, to make real money, good in every respect. He
finished by saying that no one was robbed by his device.

‘I said: “Excuse me, but the Government is robbed, and, since the
Government represents the public, the public is robbed. You are robbing
the public. Besides, coining is a crime.”

‘He burst out: “Only in the eyes of the law. It is not a real crime.”

‘I said, as quietly as I could: “That may be; real or unreal, it is a
crime.”

‘He went on, apparently not noticing my observation: “Anyhow, I find it
necessary to put this money into circulation at a far quicker rate than
I have previously achieved. The years are slipping by. I have by me vast
accumulations of silver money, and I must negotiate them. I will
tell you my object, Featherstone: it is to take a just revenge upon
a scoundrel who, more than twenty years ago--before her birth--cast a
shadow--a terrible shadow--over the life of the girl whom you love. Will
not that move you?”

‘I exclaimed: “Juana?”

‘He said: “Yes, Juana and her sister and their poor mother. I have lived
till now only to carry out that scheme--only to see this man at my feet
ruined and begging for a mercy which I shall not vouchsafe.”

‘I own that I was moved to sympathy by the fearful earnestness of Mr.
Craig. I asked him who the man was.

‘He replied: “That I will not tell you, nor will I tell you his sin,
nor the precise nature of my revenge, until you agree to join me. Surely
you, as the professed lover of Juana, will not hesitate for a moment?”

‘But I did hesitate.

‘I said: “First, let me ask you one or two questions.”

‘He said coldly and bitterly: “Ask.”

‘So I asked: “You want me to help you in passing this coin which has not
come from the Royal Mint?”

‘He replied with eagerness: “Yes. I want one or two accounts opened at
other banks, and certain operations put into action with financiers and
specie dealers. Also, with your help, I can do a lot at our own bank.”

‘I said: “It seems to me you have already done something there.”

‘He laughed, and outlined to me the various means, all very ingenious,
by which he had already disposed of a lot of silver.

‘I said: “Another question: Am I to understand that if I decline to join
you you will withhold your consent to my marriage with i your daughter?”

‘He answered: “If now, at this stage, you decline to join me, I would
see both you and Juana dead before I allowed you to marry.”

‘His manner was ferocious. I could see that he was absolutely
absorbed--that his whole moral being was cankered by this life-long idea
of a mysterious revenge. And though I did not allow him to guess the
fact, I was annoyed at his attempt to intimidate me. I am not to be
intimidated.

‘I said: “I will think it over, and give you my answer shortly.”

‘I saw Juana privately, told her that her father had not given me a
definite answer, and returned to London in order that I might think the
matter over with the more calmness. In the same house with that angelic
presence it was impossible for me to think at all. I deem it right to
state that I believed--and still believe--that Mr. Craig was telling me
the truth, and that he was of sound mind. I truly believed--and still
believe--that some man, the object of Mr. Craig’s hate, had deeply
wronged Juana, her sister and her mother, and that Mr. Craig was
animated in all that he did by a lofty conception of human justice. I
guessed, further, that there was probably no means by which Mr. Craig
could bring this man, whoever he might be, before the tribunals of the
law (how many crimes slip through the wide meshes of the law!), and that
therefore he had no alternative but a private vengeance. The idea of
vengeance on behalf of Juana--that beloved being--appealed strongly to
my deepest feelings.

‘Nevertheless, on mature consideration, I felt that I could not become a
party to Mr. Craig’s scheme. I have always tried to live an honest life,
and I have never accepted the sophism that the end justifies the means.
In three days I returned to the house near Dunstable and told Mr. Craig
my decision. He was enraged.

‘He said: “Then you prefer to give up Juana?”

‘I said: “Do you think you are acting fairly in insisting that no man
shall be Juana’s husband unless he consents to commit a crime against
the law?”

‘He said: “Bosh!”

‘Before such an argument I was dumb. I saw more and more clearly that
Mr. Craig was what is called a monomaniac, and a very determined and
obdurate one.

‘After further and useless words, I left him and sought Juana.

‘I said to her: “Miss Juana, your father forbids us to marry.”

‘She replied in a strange tone: “My father is a harsh man, Robert.
He can be very cruel. Although I feel that he loves Teresa and myself
passionately, you can have no idea of the life we live here. Sometimes
it is terrible. Teresa is my father’s favourite, and I--I sometimes hate
him. I hate him now. Perhaps because I cannot comprehend him. Robert, I
will marry you without his consent.”

‘I cannot describe my emotions at that moment. Her use of my Christian
name thrilled me through and through. There was something in the tone of
her voice which caused strange and exquisite vibrations in me. I thank
God now that I had strength to behave as an English gentleman should
behave.

‘I said: “Miss Juana, your kindness overwhelms me. But I should be
unworthy of your love if I took advantage of it. I am an old-fashioned
man, with old-fashioned views, and I could not marry a lady in the face
of her parent’s opposition.”

‘Without a word, she ran out of the house. I saw that she was crying. A
few minutes afterwards I saw her galloping wildly down the road on her
strawberry-roan mare. She was the most magnificent and superb horsewoman
I have ever set eyes on.

‘The incident, as the phrase goes, was closed.

I had enjoyed the acquaintance of Miss Juana for nearly twelve months. I
enjoyed it no longer. The relations between Mr. Craig and myself resumed
their old formality. He was nothing but the bank manager; I was nothing
but the cashier. The pity was that I was bound to secrecy as regards his
scheme; and I saw that his scheme was maturing. Without the slightest
scruple, he made use of me to aid in disposing of his silver through the
bank. He could depend on my honour, though my honour made a criminal of
me. Things got worse and worse. His methods grew bolder and bolder.
A year passed. One day he told another clerk in the office that a
great-uncle had died and left him a hundred thousand pounds in new
silver. He turned to me, who happened to be close by.

‘“A strange fellow! I have mentioned his peculiarities to you before
now, have I not, Featherstone?”

‘Scarcely knowing what I said, I answered, “Yes.”

‘I was thus by an audacious stroke made a party to his dodge for
explaining away the extraordinary prevalence of new silver. Previously
to this I had noticed that he was drawing large cheques in favour of a
firm of stockbrokers.

‘At length I could stand it no more. I went into his private room and
said: “Mr. Craig, either you must cease your illegal proceedings, or you
must release me from my oath of secrecy.”

‘He said flatly: “I shall do neither.”

‘Of course I could see that my request was foolish. He had me between
his thumb and finger.

‘I then said: “Very well, Mr. Craig, there is one alternative left to
me--I resign my position in the bank. You force me to do this.”

‘He said: “As you wish.”

‘He was relentless. So I was cast on the world, at my age. I had no hope
of obtaining another situation. But what else could I do? By remaining
in the service of the bank, and allowing Mr. Craig to make it the
channel for disposing of false money, I was betraying my trust to the
bank. The truth was I ought to have done a year before what I did then.

‘My savings amounted to about a hundred pounds.

‘Soon after this final step I discovered, to my equal grief and
astonishment, that Miss Juana had left her father’s house--doubtless
he had practically driven her forth--and was earning her living in a
travelling circus. I ascertained where the circus was, and I had an
interview with Miss Juana one night after the performance. Miss Juana
was in her circus-dress, a curiously showy riding-habit, and she had
paint on her dear face. The interview was inexpressibly painful to me. I
cannot narrate it in full.

‘I said: “Miss Juana, marry me. I implore you! Never mind your father’s
consent. Anything to save you from this. I implore you to marry me! I
love you more than ever.”

‘I did not tell her that I had no means of livelihood now. I had
absolutely forgotten the fact.

‘She replied: “Why, Mr. Featherstone, I am getting an honest living.”

‘I said again: “Marry me.”

‘I could not argue.

‘She said: “A year ago I would have married you. I liked you. But I
cannot marry you now.”

‘I asked madly: “Why?”

‘She replied: “Things have happened in the meantime.”

‘I returned to London last night and bought a revolver. It is my
intention to kill myself in Mr. Craig’s own room while he is out at
lunch. This seems to me proper, but I may be mad. Who knows? My brain
may be unhinged. As for my oath of secrecy, Raphael Craig cannot demand
secrecy from a dead man. If this document leads to his punishment, let
it. I care not. And Juana, as she says herself, is getting an honest
living. She is independent of her terrible father.

‘It is half-past one o’clock in the morning.

In twelve hours I shall be in the beyond. I will place this statement in
a vase on the mantelpiece. Let who will find it.

‘Given under my dying hand,

‘Robert J. Dalrymple Featherstone.’

*****

When Simon Lock had finished the perusal of this document he passed his
hand before his eyes. The dead man’s handwriting, although perfectly
clear, was so fine that even the delicate shades of Simon Lock’s
electric chandelier had not been able to prevent the august financier
from feeling the effects of the strain; but the condition of his eyes
was a trifle. He experienced a solid and satisfying joy--such joy as he
had not felt for a very long time.

‘You have read it?’ he questioned Oakley.

‘I took that liberty, sir,’ said Oakley, who was now the old Oakley
again--formal, dry, submissive.

‘And what did you think of it, Oakley?’

‘I thought, sir, that it might prove useful to you.’

‘Did you assume that I was the unnamed man against whom this wonderful
Raphael Craig is directing what he calls his vengeance?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Ah!’ breathed Simon Lock. ‘I’ve just got this in time.’

‘You think that you have got it in time, sir?’

‘Yes, my young friend. It is a nice question whether it constitutes
legal evidence, but anyhow, it constitutes a lever which I think I can
use pretty effectively upon Mr. Craig.’

‘Then you deem it valuable, sir?’

‘Yes,’ said Simon Lock.

‘What do you think it is worth to you, sir?’

Oakley looked peculiarly at his master, who paused.

‘Well, Oakley,’ he said at length, ‘since you put it in that way, it
is worth, we’ll say, a hundred pounds to me. I’ll draw you a cheque. It
will pay the expenses of your summer holiday.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ said Oakley impassively. ‘May I just glance at the
document again, sir? There was one point----’

Simon Lock handed him the dead man’s message. Oakley took it, folded it
carefully, and placed it in his pocket.

‘What the devil are you doing?’ Simon Lock demanded angrily.

‘I was venturing to think, sir, that, after all, the document belonged
to me by right of discovery. And since I have the misfortune to differ
from you as to its monetary value----’

Simon Lock jumped up, and then he looked rather cautiously at Mr.
Oakley’s somewhat muscular frame.

‘Look here----’ Simon Lock began imperatively.

‘In my hip-pocket I have a revolver, Mr. Lock,’ said Mr. Oakley. ‘Force,
therefore, would be a mistake.’

‘I see,’ said Simon Lock. ‘Well, what do you think the thing worth?’

‘Ten thousand pounds,’ said Mr. Oakley imperturbably. ‘I will hand it
over to you in exchange for a promissory note for that amount payable at
three months.’

There was a long pause. Simon Lock had the precious gift of knowing when
he was beaten.

‘I accept,’ he said.

‘Thank you; here is the document,’ said Oakley when he had received the
promissory note.

After Simon Lock had transferred the paper to his own pocket he
remarked:

‘Oakley, the position which you occupy here is quite beneath your high
capabilities. I dismiss you. I will write you out a cheque for a month’s
wages. Leave the house within an hour.’

‘With pleasure, sir,’ said Mr. Oakley, exactly as he had accepted the
invitation to dinner.



CHAPTER XV--ARRIVAL OF SIMON

At Queen’s Farm, Hockliffe, the excitations of the terrible evening
on which Juana faced her father, and on which Richard and Teresa were
betrothed, seemed to have exhausted the actors in those trying
scenes. Only Teresa herself maintained her spirits through a night
of sleeplessness, and Teresa’s eyes disclosed a simple and profound
happiness of the soul, which proved how well the forced engagement with
Richard suited her inclinations. As for Richard, he, too, was happy in
the betrothal, but his experience of the world--a thousandfold greater
than Teresa’s--was responsible for forebodings that filled him with
apprehension. He could not but feel that disaster--perhaps immediate
disaster--waited upon the schemes of Raphael Craig, those schemes of
whose success the old man was so proudly confident Richard guessed,
naturally, that Raphael Craig was waging war on Simon Lock, and his
common-sense predicted with assurance that in this struggle of the weak
against the strong the strong would crush and the weak would be crushed.
The exact nature of Raphael Craig’s plan, of which Richard was still
in ignorance, seemed to the young man to be a matter of comparative
unimportance. He perceived, at any rate, that the campaign was a
financial one. That was enough; in the realm of finance Simon Lock
had long been peerless, and though, as the newspaper hinted, Simon was
temporarily at a disadvantage, it was absurd to pretend for an instant
that Raphael Craig, undistinguished, even unknown, could win.

So ran the course of Richard’s thoughts as he lay resting during the
early hours of the morning on the Chesterfield in the drawing-room.
Raphael Craig had retired to his room. Teresa had also retired. Juana
and Bridget were attending on the stricken detective. Each had expressed
her intention of sitting up all night. Whenever Richard’s somewhat
somnolent meditations turned in the direction of the detective he
could not help thinking that here, in this sick man, helpless, hurt,
delirious, was the instrument of Simon Lock’s ultimate success. Nolan
knew, or Nolan shrewdly surmised now, that Raphael Craig had grossly
outraged the Coinage Acts. Nolan had doubtless collected a sufficient
body of evidence at least to secure a committal for trial, and so it was
an indubitable fact to be faced that, immediately Nolan recovered,
or partially recovered, the forces of the law would be set in motion
against Craig--against Craig, the father of his betrothed. Then--Queen’s
Farm would doubtless explode like a bomb!

But was Raphael Craig the father of his betrothed? Had Juana lied on
the previous night, or had the old man lied? Here were questions which
Richard preferred to shirk rather than to answer.

A much more important question was, What would Raphael Craig be
likely to do in regard to Nolan? As things stood, Nolan was at his
mercy--helpless in his house. Certainly Craig would by this time have
arrived at the conclusion that instantly Nolan was enabled to leave the
house his own ruin would occur. Richard did not believe that Craig’s
scheme could possibly succeed after Craig was clapped in prison as a
coiner. He, indeed, suspected that Craig had only made this boast in
order to dispel any suspicions which Richard might entertain as to the
bodily safety of Nolan within the precincts of Queen’s Farm.

Yet it came to that: Richard was not without fear that the old man might
attempt to murder Nolan. Nolan dead, and his body disposed of, Craig was
safe. It was a frightful thought, but Raphael Craig’s demeanour whenever
he referred to his life-long scheme of vengeance gave at least some
excuse for it.

At eight o’clock there was a tap at the drawing-room door. Richard
jumped up and came out of the room. Bridget stood before him.

‘Miss Teresa up?’ he asked.

‘No,’ said the housekeeper, ‘and not likely to be yet, the darling! I
came to give ye a hint, Mr. Redgrave, that ye might do worse than seek a
breakfast down in the village, at the White Horse.’

‘Micky, ye mean? Better--though the spalpeen doesn’t deserve God’s
goodness nor Miss Juana’s loving care.’

‘Mr. Craig up?’ he asked further ‘No,’ said Bridget.

‘Yes,’ said Richard, ‘I’ll go down to the village, and come back again
in a couple of hours.’

‘How’s the patient?’ he asked.

He passed quietly out of the house. He had, however, not the slightest
intention of going down to the village. Determined to ignore the fact
that he had been caught as a spy once, and the risk that he might be
caught again, he turned to the left as soon as he was out of the garden
and crept under the garden wall up to the sheds, which he cautiously
entered. Safely within the range of buildings, he soon found an outlook
therefrom which commanded a view of the house--a vantage-point whence he
could see without being seen.

Nothing unusual occurred. Indeed, save that Bridget came forth to attend
to the mares, having doubtless been instructed to do so by Teresa,
nothing occurred at all till a little after nine o’clock. Then Mr. Craig
issued quickly out of the house, went along the boreen, and down towards
the village. At a discreet distance Richard followed him, for he deemed
it his bounden-duty to keep an eye on Raphael Craig until Nolan, the
detective, should have departed from the house. It was not pleasant for
him to think of his prospective father-in-law as a potential murderer,
but he had no alternative save to face the possibility. It is a full
mile from Queen’s Farm to Hockliffe village. Mr. Craig, however, walked
quickly, and the distance was soon accomplished. The old man went into
the general store, which is also the post-office--a tiny place
crammed with the produce of the East and of the West. After a moment’s
hesitation, Richard also walked towards the post-office. When he reached
it, Mr. Craig was in the act of paying for a telegram.

‘Hullo! Good-morning,’ said Raphael Craig blithely. ‘What are you doing
here?’

‘I came for some stamps,’ Richard answered.

‘Hum! They said you’d gone down to the village for breakfast. What with
one thing and another, our household arrangements are somewhat upset,
I’m afraid. Ta-ta!’

Raphael Craig left the shop, apparently quite incurious as to Richard’s
doings or plans for the day. Richard was decidedly reassured by the
man’s demeanour. He seemed as sane, as calm, as collected as a bank
manager could be. And yet--last night!

Richard breakfasted at the hostelry of the White Horse, and then walked
slowly back to Queen’s Farm. As he approached the house he met Richard
Craig again going down to the village. Four times that day the old man
went down himself to the village post-office to despatch telegrams, and
he openly stated that he was going to despatch telegrams.

Teresa was in the orchard, and Richard went to her. He said that he did
not see how he could stay longer in the house, that he ought to return
to London, and yet that he scarcely cared to leave.

To his surprise, Teresa appeared agitated and distressed at the mere
idea of his leaving.

‘Don’t go at present,’ she urged him. ‘Stay at least another twenty-four
hours. Just think how I am fixed. That man ill and delirious--by the
way, Juana won’t leave his side--and father and Juana not on speaking
terms. There is no knowing what may happen. We needn’t pretend to each
other, Dick, that there isn’t something very peculiar and mysterious
about father. I dare say you know more than I do, and I shan’t ask
questions. I don’t want to know, Dick, so long as you’re here. But do
stay a bit. Stay till something turns up.’

‘Till something turns up?’ He repeated her phrase. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I don’t know,’ she said simply; ‘but stay.’

He kissed her.

That night Richard was provided with a bed, but he found himself unable
to sleep on it. About the middle of the night--or so it seemed to
him--there was a rap on his door.

‘Mr. Redgrave.’

The voice was Juana’s.

‘Yes,’ he answered. ‘Anything the matter?’

‘Can you come and speak to Mr. Nolan? He wants to speak to you, and
nothing else will satisfy him.’

Richard rose and dressed, and came out on the landing, where a lamp
was burning. Juana, fully dressed, her eyes ringed with fatigue, stood
waiting for him. She beckoned him down the side-passage, and he entered
the room occupied by the sick man.

‘Shut the door,’ the sick man commanded in a febrile voice.

As though it had been previously arranged between them, Juana kept out
of the room. Richard and the detective were alone together.

‘You’re looking better,’ Richard said.

‘Don’t talk so loud,’ said Nolan. ‘That old scoundrel sleeps next door.
Yes, I’m better,’ he went on rather wearily, shifting the position of a
pillow, ‘thanks to nursing. I wish to say something to you. You know a
good deal about my business up here. You’ve been on the same business
yourself. Well, look here: if any questions are asked, I don’t want you
to know anything about what I’ve done or what I’ve found out.’

‘Whatever do you mean?’ Richard asked. ‘Oh dear!’ the other said
pettishly; ‘can’t you understand? I mean down at Scotland Yard. If any
of ‘em should come to you, you know, say nothing. Fact is, I’m going to
let the old man off, if I can--I’m bound to let him off. It’s all got to
be hushed up, if Mr. Nolan, Esquire, can manage it.’

‘Why?’ asked Richard calmly.

‘Why did you chuck the job up?’ returned Nolan. ‘Can’t I follow your
example?’

‘Do you mean that you--er--Miss Juana?’

‘Precisely,’ said Nolan. ‘I met her down at Limerick months ago--long
before the death of old Featherstone--when I was engaged on inquiries
about old Craig’s antecedents, to try if I couldn’t throw any light
on the matter of his treasure of new silver, which has interested the
police for a year past. I met her. I hadn’t the least notion that she
was his daughter. I was afraid that I should never see her again.
And then, when I woke up in the cursed little room here and found her
bending over me--by Heaven, it was too much! For the time, I do believe,
it made me worse. She has told me a lot to-day. I haven’t been delirious
since early this morning. Oh yes, Redgrave, I’ve got to chuck it. I
wouldn’t harm that woman, or anything that belonged to her--not to be
Chief of Police in Paris! You and I must put our heads together and
concoct a tale that will satisfy the people in London.’

The door opened, and Juana entered with a firm step.

‘Time’s up,’ she said, looking at the man in bed. ‘I gave you five
minutes, and you’ve had ten. Good-night, Mr. Redgrave--and thanks.’

Here indeed was spirited nursing.

Richard retired to his own room, intending to think things over, but
instead of thinking, for some reason or other, he slept heavily till
nine o’clock. Then he dressed and descended, and, seeing no one about,
went into the garden. Almost at the same moment a light trap drove up to
the garden-gate. Telling the driver not to wait, a man got down from the
vehicle. It was Mr. Simon Lock.

‘Ah! Mr. Redgrave,’ said Simon Lock, ‘you seem to be at home here. Can
you tell me if Mr. Craig is at home?’



CHAPTER XVI--THE INTERVIEW

At the same moment as Simon Lock spoke a window opened in the upper
story of Queen’s Farm, and Raphael Craig showed his head. Raphael Craig
was fully dressed, and his face had the freshness of morning. Richard
looked apprehensively from one to the other of these old men and old
enemies, expecting from either or both an outburst of wrath--such a
terrible outburst as twenty years might have prepared; but nothing of
the kind happened.

‘Good-morning, Mr. Lock,’ said Raphael Craig blandly.

Simon Lock, equally with Richard, was astonished by the mildness of this
greeting.

‘Good-day to you,’ said Simon Lock. ‘You do not seem surprised to see
me,’ he added.

‘Not in the least,’ said Craig. ‘On the contrary, I was expecting you.’

Simon Lock started.

‘Ah!’ was all he said.

‘Excuse me one instant,’ said Craig. ‘I will be down immediately to
welcome you to my house. You will, I trust, take breakfast with us. And
you, too, Redgrave, will breakfast with us. Let me beg you not to run
away as you did yesterday morning.’

The bank manager had positively turned courtier!

On his way down he intercepted Mrs. Bridget between the dining-room and
the kitchen, and told her to have breakfast ready for five within half
an hour.

‘But----’ began Mrs. Bridget, raising her bony hands.

‘For five,’ repeated Raphael Craig, ‘in half an hour.’

Then he went forward, and invited Simon Lock to enter, and led him to
the drawing-room, and Richard also. His attitude towards his guests,
though a shade formal, was irreproachably hospitable. Anyone could see
that Simon Lock felt himself at a disadvantage. The great and desperate
financier had anticipated a reception utterly different; this suavity
and benignity did not fit in with the plan of campaign which he had
schemed out, and he was nonplussed.

Once he did manage to put in:

‘I called to see you, Craig----’

‘After breakfast, I pray----’ the other cut him short.

A gong rang. Raphael Craig rose and opened the drawing-room door, and
the three men passed into the dining-room. Coffee, bacon, and eggs were
on the table. The two girls--Teresa in a light summer frock and Juana
still in her dark habit--stood by the mantelpiece. They were evidently
in a state of great curiosity as to the stranger, the rumour of
whose advent had reached them through Mrs. Bridget. Juana was, beyond
question, perturbed. The fact was that at Teresa’s instigation she had
meant that morning to approach her father amicably, and was fearful of
the upshot. Raphael Craig, however, cut short her suspense. He kissed
both girls on the forehead, and then said:

‘Mr. Lock, let me introduce my daughter Juana, my daughter Teresa. My
dears, this is Mr. Simon Lock, who has run down to see me on a matter of
business, and will do us the honour of breakfasting with us.’

The meal, despite the ordinariness of its service, had the deadly
and tremendous formality of a state dinner at Buckingham Palace.
Conversation, led judicially by the host himself, was kept up without
a break, but Simon Lock distinctly proved that the social arts were not
his forte. The girls talked timidly, like school misses on their best
behaviour, while Richard’s pose and Richard’s words were governed by
more than his characteristic caution. Only Raphael Craig seemed at ease,
and the old man appeared to take a ferocious but restrained delight
in the unnatural atmosphere which he had created. It was as if he saw
written on every face the expectation of some dreadful sequel, and
rejoiced in those signs of fear and dread. His eyes said: ‘Yes, I can
see that you are all desperately uncomfortable. It is well. You are
afraid of something happening, and you shall not be disappointed.’

‘Now, girls,’ he said lightly, after the meal was finished, ‘go and
amuse yourselves, and don’t forget your poor patient upstairs.’

‘You have someone ill in the house?’ Simon Lock ventured.

‘Yes,’ said Craig; ‘a fool of a Scotland Yard detective who got himself
into trouble up here by ferreting about.’

Simon Lock turned pale.

‘He was nearly killed,’ Raphael Craig went on. ‘We are nursing him back
to life,’ The old man laughed. ‘And now for our business,’ he said, and
turned to Richard. ‘I will see Mr. Lock in the drawing-room, and I shall
ask you, Mr. Redgrave, to be present at our interview.’

‘Is that necessary?’ asked Simon Lock pompously.

‘I have omitted to tell you,’ said Raphael Craig, ‘that Mr. Richard
Redgrave is my prospective son-in-law, engaged to my daughter Teresa. I
have no secrets from him.’

Simon Lock bowed. They returned to the drawing-room, and at a sign from
Raphael Craig Richard closed the door.

‘Now, Mr. Lock,’ said Raphael Craig when they were seated, ‘what can I
do for you?’

‘You said from your bedroom window that you were expecting me,’ Simon
Lock replied. ‘Therefore you are probably aware of the nature of my
business, since I have given you no warning of my arrival.’

Mr. Lock’s face disclosed the fact that he had summoned all his
faculties--and he was a man of many faculties--to the task that lay
before him. Various things had irked and annoyed him that morning, but
in order to retain the mien of diplomacy he was compelled to seem to
ignore them. There could be no doubt, for example, that he bitterly
resented the presence of Richard at this interview, but what could he do
save swallow the affront? The whole situation was a humiliating one for
Simon Lock, who was much more accustomed to dictate terms than to have
terms dictated to him. Still, it was to his credit as a man of nerve
and a man of resource that he was able to adapt himself to unusual
circumstances. He had a triple feat to perform--to keep his dignity, to
be diplomatic, and to be firm. He had come with a precise end in view,
and he was willing to sacrifice everything to that end. Behold him,
therefore, in the drawing-room at Queen’s Farm--him, the demi-god of
the City, trying to show a pleasant and yet a formidable face under
extraordinary trials.

‘It is true,’ said Raphael Craig, ‘that I expected you. But it was my
instinct more than anything else that led me to expect you. You come, I
presume, about the shares of La Princesse Mine.’

‘Exactly,’ said Simon Lock.

‘You have contracted to sell more of these shares than you can supply,
and the price has risen?’

‘Exactly,’ said Simon Lock, smiling cautiously.

Raphael Craig was, so far, courtesy itself.

‘And you wish to get the bargain cancelled?’

‘I am prepared to pay for the accommodation.’

‘And to get the bargain cancelled,’ Craig pursued, ‘you come to me.’

‘I come to you,’ repeated Simon Lock.

‘Yet you could have no direct knowledge that I had any influence over
these shares.’

‘No direct knowledge,’ said Lock; ‘but an indirect knowledge. Perhaps,’
he added, in a peculiar tone, ‘I know more than you guess.’

‘As for example?’

‘Perhaps I could answer the question, which certainly demands an answer,
how you, a mere manager of a branch of our bank, in receipt of a not
excessive salary, found the money to become a power on the Westralian
market. As the chairman of the directors of the bank I have, I think,
Mr. Craig, the right to put that question.’

‘You have first to prove that I indeed am a power on the Westralian
market.’

‘The proof of that is in the mere fact that I--I--am here at the present
moment.’

Raphael Craig smiled.

‘You are correct,’ he said. ‘That fact is a proof in itself. I admit
that I am a power. To save unnecessary words, I frankly admit that I
hold La Princesse Mine in the hollow of my hand. You have come to the
proper person, Mr. Lock. We meet at last. And am I to understand that
one object of your visit here is to discover how I became possessed of
the means which a manipulator of markets must possess?’

‘I confess I should like to know from your own lips.’

‘Well, Mr. Lock, I shall not tell you. It is no business of yours. The
sole fact that concerns you is that I am in a position to control this
particular market, not how I arrived at that position.’

Raphael Craig’s tone had suddenly become inimical, provocative, almost
insolent.

Simon Lock coughed. The moment had come. He said:

‘On the night before his decease the late Mr. Featherstone, whose death
we all lament, wrote out a sort of confession----’

‘You are mistaken,’ said Raphael Craig, with absolute imperturbability;
‘it was on the last night but one before his death. After writing it
out, he changed his mind about killing himself instantly. He came up
here to see me instead. He told me he had put everything on paper. He
made an urgent request, a very urgent request, to me to reconsider a
certain decision of mine. I declined to reconsider it. On the other
hand, I thoughtfully offered him a bed. He accepted it, left the next
morning, and killed himself. I merely mention these circumstances for
the sake of historical exactitude. I suppose you have somehow got hold
of Featherstone’s document.’

At this point Richard rose and walked to the window. The frosty
coldness, the cynical carelessness, of Raphael Craig’s manner made him
feel almost ill. He was amazed at this revelation of the depth of the
old man’s purpose to achieve his design at no matter what cost.

‘I have got hold of it--somehow,’ said Simon Lock. ‘You may judge what
I think of its value when I tell you that I paid ten thousand pounds for
it.’

‘Hum!’ murmured Craig. ‘What surprises me is that the police did not get
hold of it long ago. They must be very careless searchers. My opinion of
Scotland Yard is going down rapidly.’ He paused, and then continued:
‘It was indiscreet of you, Mr. Lock, to pay ten thousand pounds for that
document. It is quite useless to you.’

‘I fear you cannot be aware what is in it,’ said Simon Lock. ‘It is
indisputable evidence that during many years past you have been in the
habit of coining large quantities of silver money.’

‘What of that?’

‘It means penal servitude for you, Mr. Craig, if I give it up to the
police. But I trust you will not compel me to such an extreme course.’

‘How can I persuade you to have mercy on me?’ laughed Raphael Craig.

The other evidently did not appreciate the full extent of the old man’s
sarcasm.

‘It will not be difficult,’ said Simon Lock, ‘provided you are
reasonable. I will tell you without any circumlocution what my terms
are.’ Simon was feeling firm ground under feet at last, as he thought.
‘What my terms are.’ He repeated the phrase, which seemed to give him
satisfaction. ‘You must instruct your agents to agree to a cancellation
of the contracts to sell La Princesse shares. They must let go.’

‘As those contracts stand, Mr. Lock, how much do you reckon you would
lose on them?’

‘I cannot say,’ said Lock stiffly.

‘I will tell you,’ said Raphael Craig. ‘You would lose something between
two and a half and three millions of money. What you ask is that I
should make you a present of this trifling sum.’

‘In return I will give you Featherstone’s document.’

‘Nothing else? Nothing in solid cash?’

Simon Lock reflected.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I will give you a hundred thousand in cash.’

‘Make it a quarter of a million,’ Raphael Craig affected to plead.

‘I will make it a quarter of a million,’ said Simon Lock, ‘though I
am condoning a felony. I will give you the document and a quarter of
a million in exchange for a cancellation of all the La Princesse
contracts. That is a clear and business-like offer.’

‘It is,’ said Craig. ‘And I refuse it.’

‘You want more? I decline to give it.’

‘I don’t want more. If you offered me ten millions I wouldn’t accept
it.’

‘You prefer to go to prison? You prefer that I should give the document
to the police?’

‘I care not,’ said Craig. ‘I shall be perfectly content to end my days
in prison. I have ruined you, Simon Lock.’ He jumped up, and almost
shouted, ‘I have ruined you, Simon Lock, and I can die happy--whether
in prison or out of it makes no matter. In four days hence the contracts
must be fulfilled--you must deliver the shares, or you are a ruined man.
And you cannot deliver the shares. I have seen to that. Let happen what
may, the contracts are in safe hands. You will have noticed that my name
does not appear on them, and you are ruined. You are ruined, Simon, you
are ruined--unless I choose to be merciful.’

He spoke the last words in low, deliberate tones, quite different from
the rest of the speech, and this change evidently puzzled Simon Lock,
who was now undecided whether still to maintain a peaceful attitude or
to threaten and bluster.

Raphael Craig went on, looking at Richard: ‘These great financiers,
Redgrave--you see they are not so great after all. The genius of
Simon Lock in juggling with other people’s money is supposed to be
transcendent, yet how easily I have juggled with his! It is not more
than three months ago that I first saw my opportunity of working on
a big scale. I obtained information about the probable tactics of
the people in charge of Princesse shares, and I took my measures
accordingly. By the way, it is surprising the number of people in the
City who were delighted to assist me in ruining Simon Lock. The most
staid persons seemed to take a fiendish glee in it.’

Simon Lock smiled rather grimly, and Raphael Craig pursued his way:

‘I knew that the great Lock group were selling Princesse shares for the
fall. It was very silly of them, though, to sell more than they could
deliver, especially as there doesn’t happen to have been a fall.’

‘I am sure,’ said Simon Lock, ‘that you won’t mind telling me who
disclosed the nature of our operations in the matter of the Princesse
shares.’

‘With the greatest pleasure in the world,’ said Raphael Craig. ‘It was
one of your own intimate gang--your private secretary, Oakley. I bought
him, body and soul, for a thousand pounds.’

‘And he sold you to me for ten thousand,’ murmured Simon Lock, half to
himself. ‘I am well rid of him. And now’--he turned to Craig, and put
some firmness into his voice--do, please, come to some arrangement.’

‘Arrangement!’ exclaimed Raphael. ‘A good joke! Certainly we will come
to some arrangement. But first I must tell Redgrave, who has the right
to know, the history of the girl he is about to marry. I will tell him
in your presence, and when I make any error of fact you can correct me.
Many years ago, Richard, I was engaged to a beautiful girl, a native of
Limerick. She was an orphan, and had lived with friends until she became
a school-teacher, when she lived by herself. She had some aristocratic
Spanish blood in her veins through her mother’s father, who had married
her grand-mother in Buenos Ayres. I met her in Limerick when I was a
clerk in the bank there. I fell in love with her. I asked her to be my
wife, and she consented. We were to be married as soon as my salary
had sufficiently increased. I then had an offer of a situation in the
British and Scottish, just starting on its successful career, and I
removed to London. We arranged that I should save every possible penny,
and that we should get married in about two years’ time. It was
from motives of economy that I allowed a whole year to pass without
revisiting Limerick. I continually received letters from my fiancee, and
though their tone was never excessively warm, it was always tender, and
it satisfied me. As for me, I was passionately in love. I had never seen
such an adorable creature as my betrothed--her name was Juana--and I
have never since seen her equal. For me she was, and always will be,
the world’s jewel.... Well, a change came over the scene. I noticed
something in her letters--something which I could not define. Then,
after an interval of silence, came a letter saying she could not marry
me. I got leave of absence--not without a great deal of difficulty--and
hastened over to Limerick. Juana had left Limerick. I found her at
length in a remote mountain village, and I drew from her her story. It
was a shocking one. A man--a stranger from London--who must have been a
highly plausible person in those days, whatever he is now--had dazzled
her by his professions of admiration and love. He was a rich man even
then, and he made her a brilliant offer of marriage. The poor girl was
carried off her feet. Unduly urged, and her mind poisoned by his lies
concerning myself, her faith in me shaken by the stoppage for some weeks
of my letters, she consented to marry this man. She married him. They
lived together for a brief period. And all this time she had not courage
to write and confess to me the truth. Then the man left her, and coolly
informed her that the marriage was a bogus marriage from beginning to
end--that he was, in fact, already married. He said he wished to have
nothing more to do with her, and gave her a bank-note for a thousand
pounds to solace her wounded feelings, which bank-note she flung into
the fire. You may ask why this man was not prosecuted for bigamy. I will
tell you. The matter was kept quiet in order to spare the feelings of
my poor deluded Juana. Think what the trial would have meant to her. I
myself arranged with the priest and one or two other officials that
the whole thing should be buried in oblivion. I had reserved my own
punishment for the villain who thus escaped the law. To proceed, Juana
had two children--twins. They were named Juana and Teresa. Shortly after
their birth their mother died. But before she died--on her death-bed--I
married her. I had begged to do so before, but she had declined. I swore
to her that I would regard Juana and Teresa as my own children, but of
my intended vengeance against her murderer I said nothing. Hers was
a gentle heart, and she might have put me on my oath to abandon that
vengeance. From the day of her death I lived for nothing save the
punishment of a villain. It was my one thought. I subordinated
everything to it. It made my temper uncertain; it involved me in endless
difficulties; it estranged me from my dear one’s elder daughter, and
often I felt that I was harsh to Teresa, my favourite and the last-born.
But I could not do otherwise. I was a monomaniac. I dreamt only of the
moment when I should see my enemy at my feet, begging for mercy. That
moment has come. He is here. Watch him. He could only be wounded in one
place--his pocket. His pocket is the heel of this noble Achilles, and it
is his pocket that my sword has pierced.’

With outstretched finger Raphael Craig pointed with passionate scorn at
the figure of Simon Lock.

‘Beg for my mercy,’ Craig commanded.,

And to Richard’s amazement Simon Lock answered:

‘I entreat your mercy, Craig.’

‘That is well. I am satisfied,’ said Craig.

‘They say that revenge turns to ashes in the mouth. I don’t think it
does.’

‘Mr. Craig,’ said Lock suavely to Richard, ‘has given a highly-coloured
account of a somewhat ordinary affair. But to appease him I do certainly
ask his mercy. I do admit that he has the upper hand.’

‘And I will see you eternally damned, Simon Lock,’ said Raphael Craig,
‘before I grant you an ounce of mercy! There is no mercy for such as
you, who are never merciful yourselves. I only wanted to hear you beg,
that was all. I hadn’t the slightest intention of letting you off.’

Simon Lock got up.

‘It is as well,’ he said, ‘that this farce should end. In asking
your mercy I was only using a form of words in order to pacify you. I
recognised that you were suffering, as you yourself have admitted, from
a sort of mania, and I took what I thought was the easiest course with
you. As to the past, we will not go into that. Your version of it is
ridiculously overstated. I shall now leave. In twenty-four hours you
will be in prison. You say that the fact of your being in prison will
not affect the Princesse contracts. I think it will. I think that when
I inform the Stock Exchange Committee that the real mover of those
contracts is awaiting his trial as a coiner, the Committee will do
something drastic. I might have told you this before, but I wished,
if possible, to arrive at an amicable settlement. In offering you two
hundred and fifty thousand pounds I fancy I was meeting you more
than half-way. Good-day, Mr. Craig; good-day, Mr. Redgrave. And, Mr.
Redgrave, have a care how you mix yourself up with this Craig, and,
above all, do not take for gospel everything that he says as to my past
history.’

Simon Lock made his exit from the room with immense dignity.

‘He is bluffing,’ said Raphael Craig. ‘He is at the end of his tether,
and he knows it; but he has bluffed it out very well. The old man smiled
happily. ‘You are still prepared to marry Teresa?’ he asked.

Richard took Mr. Craig’s hand.



CHAPTER XVII--THE CLOSE


Would our mother have wished it?

These words, uttered in a tone of grave, sad questioning, were followed
by a hush among the group which sat under the trees in the orchard
that same afternoon. The two mares belonging to Mr. Craig, and Juana’s
strawberry roan, were feeding close by, the summer flies their sole
trouble. The group consisted of Raphael Craig, the two girls who, as he
had said, were his daughters by right of all he had done for them, and
Richard. Old Craig had, without any reservation, told Juana and Teresa
the history of their mother, and the history of his vengeance on the man
who had so cruelly wronged their mother. He explained to them, with a
satisfaction which he took no trouble to hide, how Simon Lock, after a
career of splendour, was now inevitably doomed to ruin. He told them how
for twenty years he had lived solely for the achievement of that moment,
and that, now it had come, he was content.

But Juana had said, ‘Would our mother have wished it?’ And her
phrase reminded Richard of the old man’s phrase to Simon Lock in the
morning--‘Hers was a gentle heart.’ The sisters looked at each other,
unquiet, irresolute.

‘This Simon Lock is our real father, then?’ said Teresa.

‘Have I not just told you so?’ said the old man.

‘Let him off, father,’ Juana murmured; and Teresa’s eyes, though she
said nothing, supported her sister.

‘Why?’ asked Raphael Craig.

‘Surely you despise him too much to notice him. Is not the best
punishment for him his own conscience and your silent contempt?’

‘No,’ cried the old man, suddenly starting up. ‘No, I will never let him
go free! After all these years of labour and sleepless watching, shall
I take my hands! off his throat now? You don’t know what you ask, Juana.
But you were always against me, Juana, ever since you were a little
child--you who bear your mother’s name, too!’

‘Nay, father,’ said Juana; ‘I admire your defence of my mother. I love
you for it. I think you are the noblest man alive. But you will be
nobler if you let this man go free. He is beneath your notice.’

‘Never!’ repeated the old man, and walked quickly out of the orchard.

The three young people, left together, scarcely knew what to say to
each other. The girls were, very naturally, excited and perturbed by the
recital to which they had just listened. As for Richard, he was still
in a state of suspense, of apprehension, almost of fear. To him the very
atmosphere of Queen’s Farm seemed to be charged with the messages of
fate. Raphael Craig’s profound self-satisfaction struck Richard as quite
child-like. Did this man, so experienced in the world, really think that
Simon Lock would quietly allow himself to be ruined? Did he really think
that the struggle was over? And if, on the other hand, he thought that
Simon Lock would procure his arrest, was he actually prepared to go to
prison, and to die there? Richard pictured Simon Lock as planning all
sorts of deep-laid schemes against Raphael Craig. He felt that Simon
Lock would never be ‘at the end of his tether,’ as the old man had
termed it, until Simon Lock was dead. He felt just a little bit for
Simon Lock on account of the humiliations which that proud personage
had been made to suffer that morning, and he felt so, despite his
detestation of Lock’s past career and of his general methods. He found
it impossible to get very angry about a sin committed twenty years ago.

That night Nolan, the detective, though better than on the previous day,
was suffering from a slight temporary relapse. Richard volunteered to
sit up with him, as the man could only sleep at intervals. Both Bridget
and Juana were exhausted with the nursing, and Juana would not hear of
Teresa sitting up. So it came about that Richard insisted on performing
the duty himself.

It was a warm summer night, rather too warm for comfort, and for a
little space the two men talked on miscellaneous subjects. Then Nolan
asked for something to drink, and having drunk, went off into a sound
sleep. So far as Richard could see, the patient was better again.
Richard occupied an easy-chair by the window. There was twilight all
through the night. For a long time Richard gazed idly out of the
window into the western arch of the sky. As hour after hour passed
the temperature grew chilly. He closed the window. Nolan still slept
peacefully. Richard drew down the blind, and said to himself that he
would have a doze in the easy-chair.

The next thing of which he was conscious was a knocking at the door.

‘Yes, yes,’ he answered sleepily, and Mrs. Bridget burst in.

‘Mr. Redgrave!’ she cried, ‘an’ have ye heard nothing? Surely the
ould master’s not in his bed, and something’s happened. May the Virgin
protect us all this night?’

Richard saw wild terror in the woman’s eyes. He sprang up. He was
fully and acutely awake, but the sick man slept on. He went quietly and
quickly out of the room. Juana and Teresa stood in the passage, alarmed
and dishevelled.

‘He is gone!’ Teresa exclaimed. ‘I wonder you heard nothing, as his
was the next room. It was Bridget who heard a sort of shout, she says,
outside, and then looked out of her window, and she thinks she heard a
motorcar.’

‘Which way was it going?’ asked Richard.

‘Sure and it’s meself that can’t tell ye, sir,’ said Mrs. Bridget.

Richard reflected a moment.

‘Why has he gone off like this in the night?’ questioned Juana.

‘Suppose that he has been captured--abducted--what then?’ said Richard.
‘Teresa,’ he added, ‘put your things on. You and I will go after him.
Juana and Bridget must see to the nursing. Let there be no delay.’

His words were authoritative, and both girls departed. Richard proceeded
to examine the bedroom of the vanished Raphael Craig. It was in a state
of wild confusion. The bed had not been slept in; the bed was, indeed,
almost the sole undisturbed article in the room. A writing bureau stood
in the corner between the window and the fireplace, and apparently Mr.
Craig had been sitting at this. The ink-bottle was overturned, the rows
of small drawers had all been forced open, and papers, blown by the wind
from the open window, were scattered round the room. The window was wide
open from the bottom, and on the sill Richard noticed a minute streak
of blood, quite wet. The wall-paper beneath the window was damaged,
as though by feet. The window-curtains were torn. Richard judged that
Raphael Craig must have been surprised while writing, gagged, and
removed forcibly from the room by the window. He turned again within
the room, but he observed nothing further of interest except that the
drawers and cupboards of a large mahogany wardrobe had been forced, and
their contents flung on the floor.

Richard went downstairs and out of the house by the front-door. He
travelled round the house by the garden-path, till he came under the
window of Raphael’s bedroom, and there he found the soil trodden down
and some flowers broken off their stalks; but there were no traces of
footsteps on the hard gravelled path. He returned to the house.

‘Mr. Craig has certainly been carried off,’ he said to Teresa, who was
just coming down the stairs, candle in hand.

She wore over her dress a coat, and a small hat was on her head.

‘Carried off!’ she exclaimed, and the candle shook. ‘By whom?’

‘Need we ask? Your father thought he had done with Simon Lock, but Simon
Lock is not so easily done with.’

‘But what can Simon Lock do with father?’

‘Anything that a villain dares,’ said Richard.

‘Come along; don’t wait. We will take one of the motor-cars and follow.’

They ran forth from the house to the sheds. The Décauville car stood in
the first shed.

‘Is it ready for action, do you know?’ asked Richard.

‘Perfectly. I had it out the day before yesterday.’

But when they came to start it they discovered that the pipe which led
the petrol to the cylinder had been neatly severed. It was the simplest
operation, but quite effective to disable the car. Nothing could be done
without a new pipe.

‘Where is the electric car?’ Richard demanded, almost gruffly. ‘They may
have missed that.’

‘I don’t know. It ought to be here,’ Teresa replied.

‘They have taken him off in his own car,’ was Richard’s comment ‘We can
do nothing.’

‘The horses,’ said Teresa.

‘No horses that were ever bred could overtake that car, or even keep up
with it for a couple of miles.’

They walked back to the house, and met Bridget.

‘Is it the illictric car ye’re wanting?’ she asked, with the intuition
of an Irishwoman.

‘It’s in the far shed.’

With one accord Richard and Teresa ran back to the far end of the range
of buildings. There stood the car, in what had once been the famous
silver shed.

‘I saw the master put it there this very morning as ever is,’ said
Mrs. Bridget, who had followed them, as Richard jumped on to the
driving-seat.

In two minutes they were off, sped by the whispered blessing of Mrs.
Bridget. At the end of the boreen Richard stopped the car.

‘Which way?’ he murmured, half to himself and half to Teresa, as if
seeking inspiration.

‘To London or to the North?’

‘To London, of course,’ said Teresa promptly.

He hesitated.

‘I wonder----’ he said.

‘What is that?’ Teresa asked sharply, pointing to something which
glinted on the road. She sprang down and picked it up. ‘Father’s
spectacles,’ she said--‘cracked.’ The spectacles had lain about a yard
south of the boreen; they therefore pointed to London. ‘Didn’t I tell
you?’ said Teresa.

Richard shot the car forward in silence.

‘Do you think dad threw out these specs, to guide us?’ questioned
Teresa.

‘Perhaps,’ answered Richard absently.

In this mysterious nocturnal disappearance of Raphael Craig he saw the
hand of the real Simon Lock. During the whole of that strange interview
which had taken place in the morning it had seemed to Richard that Simon
Lock had been acting a part--had, at any rate, not conducted himself
with that overbearing and arrogant masterfulness and unscrupulousness
for which he had a reputation. Richard decided in his own mind that
Simon Lock had arranged for this abduction, in case of necessity, before
his visit to Raphael Craig. It was more than possible that he might
have urged his visit chiefly as a visit of observation, to enable him to
complete his plans for exercising force to compel Raphael Craig to agree
to his wishes. With painful clearness Richard now perceived that Simon
Lock was, in fact, fighting for all that he held most dear--perhaps for
his very life and liberty, in addition to the whole of his fortune, for
Richard knew that when these colossal financiers do happen to topple
over into ruin the subsequent investigation of their affairs often leads
to criminal prosecution, a process disagreeable to the financier, but
pleasant enough to the public. A man such as Simon Lock had, therefore,
a double, or, at least, a highly intensified, motive in avoiding
financial failure. Yes, thought Richard, Simon Lock would stop at
nothing to compel Raphael Craig to give way. His mind wandered curiously
to tales of the Spanish Inquisition, and to the great torture scene in
Balzac’s ‘Catherine de Medici.’ He involuntarily shuddered, and then
with an effort he drew his mind back again to the management of the car.
This vehicle, new and in beautiful order, and charged for a journey of a
hundred and twenty miles, travelled in the most unexceptionable manner.
The two and a half miles to the North-Western station at Dunstable
were traversed in precisely five minutes, in spite of the fact that the
distance included a full mile of climbing.

The electric lights flashed along the deserted main streets of ancient
Dunstable, which is only a little more sleepy at night than in the
daytime. As they passed the Old Sugar-Loaf Inn a man jumped out of the
stable archway and hailed them frantically. His voice echoed strangely
in the wide thoroughfare.

‘What is it?’ demanded Richard, unwillingly drawing up.

‘You after a motor-car?’ the man inquired. He looked like an ostler.

‘Yes,’ said Richard.

‘Mr. Craig?’

‘Yes,’ said Richard.

‘They stopped here,’ said the man, ‘and they told me to tell you if you
came by that they’d gone to Luton, and was a-going on to Hitchin.’

‘They! Who?’ asked Teresa.

‘The gents in the car.’

‘Who was in the car?’

‘Four gents.’

‘How long since?’

‘About half an hour, or hardly.’

‘And was it Mr. Craig who told you they’d gone to Luton and Hitchin?’

‘How do I know his blooming name as told me?’ exclaimed the man. ‘They
gave me a shilling to stop here and tell ye, and I’ve told ye, and so
good-night.’

‘Thanks,’ said Richard, and he started the car. In another moment they
were at the crossing of the two great Roman high-roads, Watling Street
and the Icknield Way. The route to Luton and Hitchin lay to the left;
the route to London was straight ahead.

‘Now, was that a fake of Lock’s, or are we all wrong about Lock? and has
your father got still another mystery up his sleeve?’

He gazed intently at the macadam, but the hard road showed no traces of
wheels anywhere, not even their own.

‘We will go straight ahead,’ said Teresa earnestly.

Richard obeyed her instinct and his. Everything pointed to the
probability that Simon Lock, anticipating pursuit, had laid a trap
at the Old Sugar-Loaf to divert such pursuit. Then Raphael Craig must
surely have been drugged, or he would have protested to the ostler.

Before they had got quite clear of the last houses of Dunstable they
picked up Mr. Craig’s gold watch, which lay battered in their track. If
Craig had been drugged he must have quickly recovered! Teresa was now
extremely excited, anxious, and nervous. Previously she had talked, but
she fell into silence, and there was no sound save the monotonous,
rather high-pitched drone of the motor-car. They passed through
Markyate, four miles, and through Redbourne, another four miles, in
quick succession. The road lies absolutely straight, and the gradients
are few and easy.

‘Surely,’ said Teresa at length, ‘if they are on this road we should
soon overtake them at this speed?’

‘Fifty miles an hour,’ he said.

They were descending the last part of the hill half-way down which lies
Redbourne. It was a terrible, perilous speed for night travelling, but
happily the night was far from being quite dark. Though there was no
moon, there were innumerable multitudes of stars, and the dusty road
showed white and clear.

‘Some cars can do up to seventy an hour. And if Simon Lock got a car he
would be certain to get the best.’

As he spoke they both simultaneously descried a moving light at the
bottom of the hill. In a few seconds the car was within a hundred
yards of the light, and they could see the forms of men moving and hear
voices.

‘It is the other car broken down,’ exclaimed Teresa. ‘Put out our
lights, quick!’

Richard realized in a flash that he ought to have taken that simple
precaution before, and to have approached with every circumspection. The
men in front had perceived the second car, and Richard’s extinction of
his lights came too late. He heard a sharp word of command, and then
three men left the disabled car and ran in a body to the other one.
Their forms were distinctly visible.

‘Three to one!’ Richard said softly. ‘It looks like being a bit stiff.’

‘No! Three to two,’ Teresa corrected him. ‘Here! Take this.’ She handed
him a revolver which she had carried under her coat. ‘I just thought
of it as I was leaving the house, and took it out of the clock in the
drawing-room.’

His appreciation of her thoughtfulness was unspoken, but nevertheless
sincere.

The three men were within fifty yards.

‘Slip off behind and into the hedge,’ he ordered. ‘We shall do better
from that shelter if there is to be a row.’

She obeyed, and they cowered under the hedge side by side.

‘Get further away from me,’ he said imperatively. ‘You may be in danger
just here.’

But she would not move.

‘Whose car is this?’ cried a voice out of the gloom--a rough, bullying
voice that Richard did not recognise.

‘Never mind whose car it is!’ Richard sang out. ‘Keep away from it.
That’s my advice to you, whoever you are. I can see you perfectly well,
and I will shoot the first man that advances another step.’

‘Why?’ returned the same voice. ‘What’s all this bluster for? We only
want a bit of indiarubber for a ripped tyre.’

‘It doesn’t take three of you to fetch a bit of indiarubber. Let two of
you get back, and then I’ll talk to the third.’

‘Get on, my lads,’ another voice cried, and this time Richard knew the
voice.

It was Simon Lock’s; the financier was covered with a long overcoat; he
was the rearmost of the three.

Richard, without the least hesitation, aimed at Simon’s legs and fired.
He missed. At the same instant the middle figure of the three flung
some object sharply towards the hedge in the direction whence the
revolver-shot had proceeded, and Richard felt a smashing blow on the
head, after which he felt nothing else whatever. He had vague visions,
and then there was a blank, an absolute and complete blank.

The next thing of which he was conscious was a sense of moisture on
his head. He opened his eyes and saw in the sky the earliest inkling of
dawn. He also saw Teresa bending over him with a handkerchief.

‘You are better,’ she said to him softly.

‘You’ll soon be all right.’

Richard shook his head feebly, as he felt a lump over his eye. He had a
dizzy sensation.

‘Yes, you will,’ Teresa insisted. ‘It was very unfortunate, your being
hit with that stone. You gave an awful groan, and those men thought
you were dead; they certainly thought you were alone. I would have shot
them, every one, but you dropped the revolver in the grass by this bit
of a gutter here, and I couldn’t find it till they’d gone. D’you know,
they’ve gone off with our car? There was a man among them who seemed
to understand it perfectly. I’m awfully glad now I didn’t show myself,
because I couldn’t have done anything, and I can do something now. Oh,
Dick! I saw them pull father out of their car--it’s a big Panhard--and
put him into ours. He was all tied with ropes. It will be a heavy load
for that little car, and they can’t go so very fast. We must mend their
car, Dick, and go on as quickly as possible.’

‘Can we mend it?’ Richard asked, amazed at this coolness, courage, and
enterprise.

‘Yes, of course. Look, you can see from here; it’s only a puncture.’

‘But didn’t one of them say they’d got no indiarubber?’

Teresa laughed.

‘You aren’t yourself yet,’ she said. ‘You’re only a goose yet. That was
only an excuse for attacking us.’

Richard got up, and speedily discovered that he could walk. They
proceeded to the abandoned car. It was a 40 h.-p. concern, fully
equipped and stored. The travellers by it had already begun to mend
their puncture when the pursuing car surprised them. They had evidently
judged it easier to change cars than to finish the mending. Speed was
their sole object, and in the carrying out of the schemes of a man like
Simon Lock a 40 h.-p. Panhard left by the roadside was a trifle.

In twenty minutes the puncture was successfully mended, both Richard
and Teresa being experts at the operation. The effect of the blow on
Richard’s head had by this time quite passed away, save for a bruise.

‘And now for Manchester Square,’ said Teresa, as they moved off.

‘Why Manchester Square?’ Richard asked.

‘That is where they were going; I heard them talking.’

‘It will be Simon Lock’s house,’ said Richard. ‘I must go there alone.’

From Redbourne to London, with a clear road and a 40 h.-p. Panhard
beneath you, is not a far cry. In a shade under the hour the motor-car
was running down Edgware Road to the Marble Arch. Richard kept straight
on to Adelphi Terrace, put up the car at a stable-yard close by without
leave, and, having aroused his landlady, gave Teresa into her charge
until breakfast-time. It was just turned four o’clock, and a beautiful
morning.

‘What are you going to do?’ asked Teresa.

‘I don’t exactly know. I’ll take a cab and the revolver to Manchester
Square, and see what happens. You can rely upon me to take care of
myself.’

He could see that she wished to accompany him, and without more words
he vanished. In ten minutes, having discovered a cab, he was in the
vast silence of Manchester Square. He stopped the cab at the corner, and
walked to Simon Lock’s house, whose number he knew. A policeman stood
at the other side of the square, evidently curious as to the strange
proceedings within the well-known residence of the financier. The double
outer doors were slightly ajar. Richard walked nonchalantly up the broad
marble steps and pushed these doors open and went in. A second pair
of doors, glazed, now fronted him. Behind these stood a man in evening
dress, but whether or not he was a servant Richard could not determine.

‘Open,’ said Richard. The man seemed not to hear him.

He lifted up the revolver. The man perceived it, and opened the doors.

‘Where is Mr. Lock?’ Richard demanded in a firm, cold voice. ‘I am a
detective. I don’t want you to come with me. Stay where you are. Simply
tell me where he is.’

The man hesitated.

‘Quick,’ said Richard, fingering the revolver..

‘He was in the library, sir,’ the man faltered.

‘Anyone with him?’

‘Yes, sir; some gentlemen.’

‘How long have they been here?’

‘Not long. They came unexpected, sir.’

‘Well, see that you don’t mix yourself up in anything that may occur.
Which is the library door?’

The man pointed to a mahogany door at the end of the long, lofty hall.
Richard opened it, and found himself, not in a library, but in a small
rectangular windowless apartment, clearly intended for the reception of
hats and coats. Suspecting a ruse, he stepped quickly into the hall.

‘Not that door, the next one,’ said the man, quietly enough. Richard
followed the man’s instructions, and very silently opened the next door.
A large room disclosed itself, with a long table down the centre of it.
The place did not bear much resemblance to a library. It was, in fact,
the breakfast-room, and the library lay beyond it. At the furthest
corner, opposite another door, a man was seated on a chair. His eyes
seemed to be glued on to the door which he watched.

‘Come along, Terrell,’ this man whispered, without moving his head, as
Richard entered.

Richard accordingly came along, and was upon the man in the chair before
the latter had perceived that another than Terrell--whoever Terrell
might be--had thrust himself into the plot.

‘Silence!’ said Richard; ‘I am a detective. Come out.’

The revolver and Richard’s unflinching eye did the rest. Richard led the
astonished and unresisting man into the hall, and then locked him up
in the hat and coat room, and put the key of the door in his pocket.
He returned to the other room, locked its door on the inside, so as to
preclude the approach of the expected Terrell, and took the empty
chair in front of the far door. He guessed that Simon Lock, and perhaps
Raphael Craig, were on the other side of that door.

‘Up to now,’ he reflected, ‘it’s been fairly simple.’

There was absolute silence. It was as though the great house had hushed
itself in anticipation of a great climax.

Then Richard heard a voice in the room beyond. It was Simon Lock’s
voice. Richard instantly tried the door, turning the handle very softly
and slowly. It was latched, but not locked. Using infinite precautions,
he contrived to leave the door open about half an inch. Through this
half-inch of space he peered into the library. He saw part of a large
square desk and an armchair. In this armchair sat Raphael Craig, and
Raphael Craig was tied firmly to the chair with ropes. He could not see
Simon Lock, and he dared not yet push the door further open.

‘Now, Craig,’ the voice of Simon Lock was saying, ‘don’t drive me to
extreme measures.’

For answer Raphael Craig closed his eyes, as if bored. His face had a
disgusted, haughty expression.

‘You’ve got no chance,’ said Simon Lock.

‘Redgrave is caught, and won’t be let loose in a hurry. These two girls
of yours are also in safe hands. Nothing has been omitted. I have here a
list of the firms who have been acting for you in the Princesse shares.
I have also written out certain instructions to them which you will
sign. I have also prepared a power of attorney, authorizing me to act in
your name in the matter of these shares. You will sign these documents.
I will have them sent to the City and put into operation this morning,
and as soon as I have satisfied myself that all has been done that might
be done you will be set free--perhaps in a couple of days.’

Richard saw that Raphael Craig made no sign of any sort.

Simon Lock continued: ‘You did not expect that I should proceed to
extreme measures of this kind. You thought that the law of England would
be sufficient to protect you from physical compulsion. You thought I
should never dare. How foolish of you! As if I should permit myself
to be ruined by an old man with a bee in his bonnet; an old man whose
desire is not to make money--I could have excused that--but to work a
melodramatic revenge. If you want melodrama you shall have it, Craig,
and more of it than you think for.’

‘Why don’t you give me up to the police?’ said Raphael Craig, opening
his eyes and yawning. ‘You’ve got Featherstone’s confession, as you call
it. Surely that would be simpler than all this rigmarole.’

The manager’s voice was pregnant with sarcasm.

‘I will tell you,’ said Lock frankly; ‘there is no reason why I should
not: I have lost the confounded thing, or it has been stolen.’ He
laughed harshly. ‘However, that’s no matter. I can dispense with
that--now.’

‘You can’t do anything,’ returned Craig. ‘You’ve got me here--you and
your gang between you. But you can’t do anything. In three days your
ruin will be complete.’

‘Not do anything!’ said Simon Lock; ‘there are ways and means of
compulsion. There are worse things than death, Craig. You decline to
sign?’

Raphael closed his eyes again, coldly smiling.

‘Terrell,’ called Simon Lock sharply, ‘bring the----’

But what horrible, unmentionable things Terrell was to bring in will
never be known, for at that instant Richard rushed madly into the
room. He saw a revolver lying on the desk in front of Simon Lock. He
frantically snatched it up, and stood fronting Simon Lock.

‘Well done, Redgrave!’ said the old man.

Simon’s face went like white paper.

‘So “Redgrave is caught,” is he?’ said Richard to Lock. Without taking
his eye off the financier, he stepped backwards and secured the door.
‘Now, Mr. Lock, we are together once more, we three. Don’t utter a word,
but go and cut those ropes from Mr. Craig’s arms. Go, I say.’ Richard
had a revolver in each hand. He put one down, and took a penknife from
his pocket. ‘Stay; here is a knife,’ he added. ‘Now cut.’

[Illustration: 0322]

As Simon Lock moved to obey the revolver followed his head at a distance
of about three inches. Never in his life had Richard been so happy. In a
minute Raphael Craig was free.

‘Take his place,’ Richard commanded.

In another two minutes Simon Lock was bound as Raphael Craig had been.

‘Come with me, dear old man. We will leave him. Mr. Lock, your motor-car
is in a stable-yard off Adelphi Street. You can have it in exchange for
the car which you stole from me a few hours ago.’

He took Raphael Craig’s arm, and the old man suffered himself to be led
out like a child.

Within a quarter of an hour father and adopted daughter were in each
other’s arms at Adelphi Terrace. The drama was over.

*****

Two days later the evening papers had a brilliantly successful
afternoon, for their contents bills bore the legend: ‘Suicide of Simon
Lock.’ It was a great event for London. Simon Lock’s estate was found
to be in an extremely involved condition, but it realized over a
million pounds, which was just about a tenth of what the British public
expected. The money, in the absence of a will, went to the heir-at-law,
a cousin of the deceased, who was an army contractor, and already very
rich. The name of this man and what he did with his million will be
familiar to all readers. The heir-at-law never heard anything of the
Princesse shares, for Raphael Craig, immediately on the death of his
colossal enemy, destroyed the contracts, and made no claim whatever.
This act cost him a hundred thousand pounds in loss of actual cash
outlay, but he preferred to do it. Raphael Craig died peacefully six
months later. Both the girls who had called him father were by that time
married--Teresa to Richard and Juana to Nolan, the detective. It was
indeed curious that, by the accident of fate, Raphael should have been
saved from the consequences of the crime of uttering false coin by
the spell exercised by those girls over two separate and distinct
detectives. The two detectives--one professional, the other
amateur--subsequently went into partnership, Nolan having retired from
Scotland Yard. They practise their vocation under the name of --------
-------- But you will have guessed that name, since they are the most
famous firm in their own line in England at the present day.

And Richard says to his wife: ‘I should never have saved him. Everything
might have been different if your courage had not kindled mine that
morning after I swooned by the roadside in Watling Street.’


THE END





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