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The Stowmarket Mystery (1904)
Louis Tracy



The Stowmarket Mystery, or A Legacy of Hate


CONTENTS

         I. "THE STOWMARKET MYSTERY"
        II. DAVID HUME'S STORY
       III. THE DREAM
        IV. THROUGH THE LIBRARY WINDOW
         V. FROM BEHIND THE HEDGE
        VI. AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE
       VII. HUSBAND AND WIFE
      VIII. REVELATIONS
        IX. THE KO-KATANA
         X. THE BLACK MUSEUM
        XI. MR. "OKASAKI"
       XII. WHAT THE STATIONMASTER SAW
      XIII. TWO WOMEN
       XIV. MARGARET SPEAKS OUT
        XV. AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR
       XVI. THE COUSINS
      XVII. "CHERCHEZ LA FEMME"
     XVIII. FURTHER COMPLICATIONS
       XIX. THE THIRD MAN APPEARS
        XX. THE TRAIL
       XXI. CONCERNING CHICKENS, AND MOTIVES
      XXII. THE SECOND ATTACK
     XXIII. MARGARET'S SECRET
      XXIV. THE MEETING
       XXV. WHERE DID MARGARET GO?
      XXVI. MR. OOMA
     XXVII. HOLDEN'S STORY
    XXVIII. MR. AND MRS. JIRO
      XXIX. MARGARET'S SECRET
       XXX. HUSBAND AND WIFE
      XXXI. TO BEECHCROFT
     XXXII. THE FIGHT
    XXXIII. THE LAST NOTE IN BRETT'S DIARY





CHAPTER I

"THE STOWMARKET MYSTERY"


"Mr. David Hume."

Reginald Brett, barrister-detective, twisted round in his easy-chair to
permit the light to fall clearly on the card handed to him by his
man-servant.

"What does Mr. David Hume look like, Smith?" he asked.

"A gentleman, sir."

Well-trained servants never make a mistake when they give such a
description of a visitor. Brett was satisfied.

"Produce him."

Then he examined the card.

"It is odd," he thought. "Mr. David Hume gives no address, and writes his
own cards. I like his signature, too. Now, I wonder--"

The door was thrown open. A tall, well-proportioned young man entered. He
was soberly attired in blue serge. His face and hands bore the impress of
travel and exposure. His expression was pleasing and attractive. In repose
his features were regular, and marked with lines of thought. A short,
well-trimmed beard, of the type affected by some naval men, gave him a
somewhat unusual appearance. Otherwise he carried himself like a British
cavalry officer in mufti.

He advanced into the room and bowed easily. Brett, who had risen,
instantly felt that his visitor was one of those people who erect
invisible barriers between themselves and strangers.

"My errand will occupy some time, perhaps half an hour, to permit of full
explanation," said Mr. Hume. "May I ask--"

"I am completely at your service. Take that chair. You will find it
comfortable. Do you smoke? Yes. Well, try those cigarettes. They are
better than they look."

Mr. Hume seemed to be gratified by this cordial reception. He seated
himself as requested, in the best light obtainable in a north-side
Victoria Street flat, and picked up the box of cigarettes.

"Turkish," he announced.

"Yes."

"Grown on a slope near Salonica."

"Indeed? You interest me."

"Oh, I know them well. I was there two months ago. I suppose you got these
as a present from Yildiz Kiosk?"

"Mr. Hume, you asked for half an hour, Make it an hour. You have touched
upon a subject dear to my heart."

"They are the best cigarettes in the world. No one can buy them. They are
made for the exclusive use of the Sultan's household. To attempt to export
them means the bastinado and banishment, at the least. I do not credit you
with employing agents on such terms, so I assume an Imperial gift."

The barrister had been looking intently at the other man during this short
colloquy. Suddenly his eyes sparkled. He struck a match and held it to his
visitor, with the words:

"You are quite right, Mr. David Hume-Frazer."

The person thus addressed neither started, nor sprang to his feet, nor
gasped in amazement He took the match, lit a cigarette, and said:

"So you know me?"

"Yes."

"It is strange. I have never previously met you to my knowledge. Am I
still a celebrity?"

"To me--yes."

"A sort of distinguished criminal, eh?"

"No man could be such a judge of tobacco and remain commonplace."

"'Pon my honour, Mr. Brett, I think you deserve your reputation. For the
first time during eighteen months I feel hopeful. Do you know, I passed
dozens of acquaintances in the streets yesterday and none of them knew me.
Yet you pick me out at the first glance, so to speak."

"They might do the same if you spoke to them, Mr.--"

"Hume, if you please."

"Certainly. Why have you dropped part of your surname?"

"It is a long story. My lawyers, Flint & Sharp, of Gray's Inn, heard of
your achievements in the cases of Lady Lyle and the Imperial Diamonds.
They persuaded me to come to you."

"Though, personally, you have little faith in me?"

"Heaven knows, Mr. Brett, I have had good cause to lose faith. My case
defies analysis. It savours of the supernatural."

The barrister shoved his chair sideways until he was able to reach a
bookcase, from which he took a bulky interleaved volume.

"Supernatural," he repeated. "That is new to me. As I remember the affair,
it was highly sensational, perplexing--a blend of romance and Japanese
knives--but I do not remember any abnormal element save one, utter absence
of motive."

"Do you mean to say that you possess a record of the facts?" inquired
Hume, exhibiting some tokens of excitement in face and voice as he watched
Brett turning over the leaves of the scrap-book, in which newspaper
cuttings were neatly pasted, some being freely annotated.

"Yes. The daily press supplies my demands in the way of fiction--a word,
by the way, often misapplied. Where do you find stranger tales than in the
records of every-day life? Ah, here we are!"

He searched through a large number of printed extracts. There were
comments, long reports, and not a few notes, all under the heading: "The
Stowmarket Mystery."

Hume was now deeply agitated; he evidently restrained his feelings by
sheer force of will.

"Mr. Brett," he said, and his voice trembled a little, "surely you could
not have expected my presence here this morning?"

"I no more expected you than the man in the moon," was the reply; "but I
recognised you at once. I watched your face for many hours whilst you
stood in the dock. Professional business took me to the Assizes during
your second trial. At one time I thought of offering my services."

"To me?"

"No, not to you."

"To whom, then?"

"To the police. Winter, the Scotland Yard man who had charge of the
business, is an old friend of mine."

"What restrained you?"

"Pity, and perhaps doubt. I could see no reason why you should kill your
cousin."

"But you believed me guilty?"

The barrister looked his questioner straight in the eyes. He saw there the
glistening terror of a tortured soul. Somehow he expected to find a
different expression. He was puzzled.

"Why have you come here, Mr. Hume?" he abruptly demanded.

"To implore your assistance. They tell me you are the one man in the world
able to clear my name from the stain of crime. Will you do it?"

Again their eyes met. Hume was fighting now, fighting for all that a man
holds dear. He did not plead. He only demanded his rights. Born a few
centuries earlier, he would have enforced them with cold steel.

"Come, Mr. Brett," he almost shouted. "If you are as good a judge of men
as you say I am of tobacco, you will not think that the cowardly murderer
who struck down my cousin would come to you, of all others, and reopen the
story of a crime closed unwillingly by the law."

Brett could, on occasion, exhibit an obstinate determination not to be
drawn into expressing an opinion. His visitor's masterful manner annoyed
him. Hume, metaphorically speaking, took him by the throat and compelled
his services. He rebelled against this species of compulsion, but mere
politeness required some display of courteous tolerance.

"It seems to me," he said, "that we are beginning at the end. I may not be
able to help you. What are the facts?"

The stranger was so agitated that he could not reply. Self-restrained men
are not ready with language. Their thoughts may be fiery as bottled
vitriol, but they keep the cork in. The barrister allowed for this
drawback. His sympathies were aroused, and they overcame his slight
resentment.

"Try another cigarette," he said, "I have here a summary of the evidence.
I will read it to you. Do not interrupt. Follow the details closely, and
correct anything that is wrong when I have ended."

Hume was still volcanic, but he took the proffered box.

"Ah," cried Brett, "though you are angry, your judgment is sound. Now
listen!"

Then he read the following statement, prepared by himself in an idle
moment:--

"The Stowmarket Mystery is a strange mixture of the real and the unreal.
Sir Alan Hume-Frazer, fourth baronet, met his death on the hunting-field.
His horse blundered at a brook and the rider was impaled on a hidden
stake, placed in the stream by his own orders to prevent poachers from
netting trout. His wife, née Somers, a Bristol family, had pre-deceased
him.

"There were two children, a daughter, Margaret, aged twenty-five, and a
son, Alan, aged twenty-three. By his will, Sir Alan left all his real and
personal estate to his son, with a life charge of £1,000 per annum for the
daughter. As he was a very wealthy man, almost a millionaire, the
provision for his daughter was niggardly, which might be accounted for by
the fact that the girl, several years before her father's death,
quarrelled with him and left home, residing in London and in Florence.
Both children, by the way, were born in Italy, where Sir Alan met and
married Miss Somers.

"The old gentleman, it appeared, allowed Miss Hume-Frazer £5,000 per annum
during his life. His son voluntarily continued this allowance, but the
brother and sister continued to live apart, he devoted to travel and
sport, she to music and art, with a leaning towards the occult--a woman
divorced from conventionality and filled with a hatred of restraint.

"Beechcroft, the family residence, is situated four miles from Stowmarket,
close to the small village of Sleagill. After his father's death, the
young Sir Alan went for a protracted tour round the world. Meanwhile his
first cousin, Mr. David Hume-Frazer, lived at Beechcroft during the
shooting season, and incidentally fell in love with Miss Helen Layton,
daughter of the rector of Sleagill, the Rev. Wilberforce Layton."

Hume stirred uneasily in his chair, and the barrister paused, expecting
him to say something. But the other only gasped brokenly: "Go on; go on!"

"Love lasts longer than death or crime," mused Brett.

He continued:

"In eighteen months Sir Alan the fifth--all heirs had same name--returned
to Beechcroft, about Christmas. His cousin had been called away on family
business, but returned for a New Year's Eve ball, given by Mrs. Eastham, a
lady of some local importance. Sir Alan and Helen Layton had followed the
hounds together three times during Christmas week. They were, of course,
old friends.

"David sent from Scotland--his father's estate was situated close to
Inverness--some presents to his future wife, his cousin, and others. The
gift to Sir Alan was noteworthy and fatalistic--a handsomely inlaid
Japanese sword, with a small dagger inserted in a sheath near the top of
the scabbard. David reached Beechcroft on the day of the ball. Relations
between the cousins seemed to the servants to be cool, though the coolness
lay rather with the baronet, and David, a year older, it may be here
stated, was evidently taken by surprise by Sir Alan's attitude.

"The three young people went to the ball, and shortly after midnight there
was something in the nature of a scene. Sir Alan had been dancing with
Miss Layton. They were in the conservatory when the young lady burst into
tears, hurried to find David, and asked him to take her at once to her
carriage. Mrs. Eastham was acting as chaperon to the girl, and some heated
words passed between her and the two young men.

"Evidence showed that Sir Alan had bitterly upbraided Miss Layton on
account of her engagement, and hinted that David had taken an unfair
advantage of his (Alan's) absence to win her affections. This was
absolutely untrue. It was denied by the two most concerned, and by Mrs.
Eastham, who, as a privileged friend, knew all the facts. The young men
were in a state of white heat, but David sensibly withdrew, and walked to
the Hall.

"Mrs. Eastham's house was close to the lodge gates, and from the lodge a
straight yew-shaded drive led to the library windows, the main entrance
being at the side of the house.

"In the library a footman, on duty in the room, maintained a good fire,
and the French windows were left unfastened, as the young gentlemen would
probably enter the house that way. David did, in fact, do so. The footman
quitted the room, and a few minutes later the butler appeared. He was an
old favourite of David's. He asked if he should send some whisky and soda.

"The young man agreed, adding:

"'Sir Alan and I have commenced the year badly, Ferguson. We quarrelled
over a silly mistake. I have made up my mind not to sleep on it, so I will
await his arrival. Let me know if he comes in the other way.'

"The butler hoped that the matter was not a serious one.

"'Under other circumstances it might be,' was the answer, 'but as things
are, it is simply a wretched mistake, which a little reasonable discussion
will put right.'

"The footman brought the whisky and soda.

"Twenty minutes later he re-entered the room to attend to the fire. Mr.
David Hume-Frazer was curled up in an arm-chair asleep, or rather dozing,
for he stirred a little when the man put some coal in the grate. This was
at 1 a.m. exactly.

"At 1.10 a.m. the butler thought he heard his master's voice coming from
the front of the house, and angrily protesting something. Unfortunately he
could not catch a single word. He imagined that the 'quarrel' spoken of by
David had been renewed.

"He waited two minutes, not more, but hearing no further sounds, he walked
round to the library windows, thinking that perhaps he would see Sir Alan
in the room.

"To his dismay he found his young master stretched on the turf at the side
of the drive, thirty feet from the house. He rushed into the library,
where David was still asleep and moving uneasily--muttering, the man
thought:

"'Come quickly, sir,' he cried, 'I fear something has happened to Sir
Alan. He is lying on the ground outside the house, and I cannot arouse
him.'

"Then David Hume-Frazer sprang to his feet and shouted:

"'My God! It was not a dream. He is murdered!'

"Unquestionably--"

But the barrister's cold-blooded synopsis of a thrilling crime proved to
be too much for his hearer's nerves. Hume stood up. The man was a born
fighter. He could take, his punishment, but only on his feet.

Again he cried in anguish:

"No! It was no dream, but a foul murder. And they blame me!"




CHAPTER II

DAVID HUME'S STORY


Brett closed the book with a snap.

"What good purpose can it serve at this time to reopen the miserable
story?" he asked.

Curiously enough, Hume paid no heed to the question. His lips quivered,
his nostrils twitched, and his eyes shot strange gleams. He caught the
back of his chair with both hands in a grasp that tried to squeeze the
tough oak.

"What else have you written there?" he said, and Brett could not help but
admire his forced composure.

"Nothing of any material importance. You were arrested, after an interval
of some days, as the result of a coroner's warrant. You explained that you
had a vivid dream, in which you saw your cousin stabbed by a stranger whom
you did not know, whose face even you never saw. Sir Alan was undoubtedly
murdered. The dagger-like attachment to your Japanese sword had been
driven into his breast up to the hilt, actually splitting his heart. To
deliver such a blow, with such a weapon, required uncommon strength and
skill. I think I describe it here as 'un-English.'"

Brett referred to his scrap-book. In spite of himself, he felt all his old
interest reawakening in this remarkable crime.

"Yes?" queried Hume.

The barrister, his lips pursed up and critical, surveyed his concluding
notes.

"You were tried at the ensuing Assizes, and the jury disagreed. Your
second trial resulted in an acquittal, though the public attitude towards
you was dubious. The judge, in summing up, said that the evidence against
you 'might be deemed insufficient.' In these words he conveyed the popular
opinion. I see I have noted here that Miss Margaret Hume-Frazer was at a
Covent Garden Fancy Dress Ball on the night of the murder. But the tragic
deaths of her father and brother had a marked influence on the young lady.
She, of course, succeeded to the estates, and decided at once to live at
Beechcroft. Does she still live there?"

"Yes. I am told she is distinguished for her charity and good works. She
is married."

"Ah! To whom?"

"To an Italian, named Giovanni Capella."

"His stage name?"

"No; he is really an Italian."

Brett's pleasantry was successful in its object. David Hume regained his
equanimity and sat down again. After a pause he went on:

"May I ask, Mr. Brett, before I tell you my part of the story, if you
formed any theories as to the occurrence at the time?"

The barrister consulted his memoranda. Something that met his eyes caused
him to smile.

"I see," he said, "that Mr. Winter, of Scotland Yard, was convinced of
your guilt. That is greatly in your favour."

"Why?"

Hume disdained the police, but Brett's remark evoked curiosity.

"Because Mr. Winter is a most excellent officer, whose intellect is
shackled by handcuffs. 'De l'audace!' says the Frenchman, as a specific
for human conduct. 'Lock 'em up,' says Mr. Winter, when he is inquiring
into a crime. Of course, he is right nine times out of ten; but if, in the
tenth case, intellect conflicts with handcuffs, the handcuffs win, being
stronger in his instance."

Hume was in no mood to appreciate the humours of Scotland Yard, so the
other continued:

"The most telling point against you was the fact that not only the butler,
footman, and two housemaids, but you yourself, at the coroner's inquest,
swore that the small Japanese knife was in its sheath during the
afternoon; indeed, the footman said it was there, to the best of his
belief, at midnight. Then, again, a small drawer in Sir Alan's
writing-table had been wrenched open whilst you were alone in the room. On
this point the footman was positive. Near the drawer rested the sword from
which its viperish companion had been abstracted. Had not the butler found
Sir Alan's body, still palpitating, and testified beyond any manner of
doubt that you were apparently sleeping in the library, you would have
been hanged, Mr. Hume."

"Probably."

"The air of probability attending your execution would have been most
convincing."

"Is my case, then, so desperate?"

"You cannot be tried again, you know."

"I do not mean that. I want to establish my innocence; to compel society
to reinstate me as a man profoundly wronged; above all, to marry the woman
I love."

Brett amused himself by rapidly projecting several rings of smoke through
a large one.

"So you really are innocent?" he said, after a pause.

David Hume rose from his chair, and reached for his hat, gloves, and
stick.

"You have crushed my remaining hope of emancipation," he exclaimed
bitterly. "You have the repute of being able to pluck the heart out of a
mystery, Mr. Brett, so when you assume that I am guilty--"

"I have assumed nothing of the kind. You seem to possess the faculty of
self-control. Kindly exercise it, and answer my questions, Did you kill
your cousin?"

"No."

"Who did kill him?"

"I do not know."

"Do you suspect anybody ?"

"Not in the remotest degree."

"Did he kill himself?"

"That theory was discussed privately, but not brought forward at the
trial. Three doctors said it was not worthy of a moment's consideration."

"Well, you need not shout your replies, and I would prefer to see you
comfortably seated, unless, of course, you feel more at ease near the
door."

A trifle shamefacedly, Hume returned to his former position near the
fireplace--that shrine to which all the household gods do reverence, even
in the height of summer. It is impossible to conceive the occupants of a
room deliberately grouping themselves without reference to the grate.

Brett placed the open scrap-book on his knees, and ran an index finger
along underlined passages in the manner of counsel consulting a brief.

"Why did you give your cousin this sword?"

"Because he told me he was making a collection of Japanese arms, and I
remarked that my grandfather on my mother's side, Admiral Cunningham, had
brought this weapon, with others, from the Far East. It lay for fifty
years in our gun-room at Glen Tochan."

"So you met Sir Alan soon after his return home?"

"Yes, in London, the day he arrived. Came to town on purpose, in fact.
Afterwards I travelled North, and he went to Beechcroft."

"How long afterwards? Be particular as to dates."

"It is quite a simple matter, owing to the season. Alan reached Charing
Cross from Brindisi on December 20. We remained together--that is, lived
at the same hotel, paid calls in company, visited the same restaurants,
went to the same theatres--until the night of the 23rd, when we parted. It
is a tradition of my family that the members of it should spend Christmas
together."

"A somewhat unusual tradition in Scotland, is it not?"

"Yes, but it was my mother's wish, so my father and I keep the custom up."

"Your father is still living?"

"Yes, thank goodness!"

"He is now the sixth baronet?"

"He is not. Neither he nor I will assume the title while the succession
bears the taint of crime."

"Did you quarrel with your cousin in London?"

"Not by word or thought. He seemed to be surprised when I told him of my
engagement to Helen, but he warmly congratulated me. One afternoon he was
a trifle short-tempered, but not with me."

"Tell me about this."

"His sister is, or was then, a rather rapid young lady. She discovered
that certain money-lenders would honour her drafts on her brother, and she
had been going the pace somewhat heavily. Alan went to see her, told her
to stop this practice, and sent formal notice to the same effect through
his solicitors to the bill discounters. It annoyed him, not on account of
the money, but that his sister should act in such a way,"

"Ah, this is important! It was not mentioned at the trial."

"Why should it be?"

"Who can say? I wish to goodness I had helped your butler to raise Sir
Alan's lifeless body. But about this family dispute. Was there a
scene--tears, recriminations?"

"Not a bit. You don't know Rita. We used to call her Rita because, as
boys, we teased her by saying her name was Margharita, and not Margaret"

"Why?"

"She has such a foreign manner and style." "How did she acquire them?"

"She was a big girl, six years old, and tall for her age, when her parents
settled down in England. She first spoke Italian, and picked up Italian
ways from her nurse, an old party who was devotedly attached to her. Even
Alan was a good Italian linguist, and given to foreign manners when a
little chap. But Harrow soon knocked them out of him. Rita retained them."

"I see. A curious household. I should have expected this young lady to
upbraid her brother after the style of the prima donna in grand opera."

"No. He told me she laughed at him, and invited him to witness the trying
on of a fancy dress costume, the 'Queen of Night,' which she wore at a
_bal masqué_ the night he was murdered."

"When did she get married?"

"Last January, at Naples, very suddenly, and without the knowledge of any
of her relatives."

"She had been living at Beechcroft nearly a year, then?"

"Yes, she went South in the winter. The reason she gave was that the Hall
would be depressing on the anniversary of her brother's death. She had
become most popular in the district. Helen is very fond of her, and was
quite shocked to hear of her marriage. The local people do not like Signor
Capella."

"Why?"

"It is difficult to give a reason. Miss Layton does not indulge in
details, but that is the impression I gather from her letters."

Hume paused, and Brett shot a quick glance at him.

"Finish what you were going to say," he said.

"Only this--Helen and I have mutually released each other from our
engagement, and in the same breath have refused to be released. That is,
if you understand--"

The barrister nodded.

"The result is that we are both thoroughly miserable. Our respective
fathers do not like the idea of our marriage under the circumstances. We
are simply drifting in the feeble hope that some day a kindly Providence
will dissipate the cloud that hangs over me. Ah, Mr. Brett, I am a rich
man. Command the limits of my fortune, but clear me. Prove to Helen that
her faith in my innocence is justified."

"For goodness' sake light another cigarette," snapped the barrister. "You
have interfered with my line of thought. It is all wriggly."

Quite a minute elapsed before he began again.

"What caused the trouble at Mrs. Eastham's ball?"

"I think I can explain that. It seems that Alan's father told him to get
married--"

"Told him!"

"Well, left instructions."

"How?"

"I do not know. I only gathered as much from my cousin's remarks. Well, it
was not until his final home-coming that he realised what a beautiful
woman the jolly little girl he knew as a boy had developed into. She was
just the kind of wife he wanted, and I fancy he imagined I had stolen a
march on him. But he was a thoroughly straightforward, manly fellow, and
something very much out of the common must have upset him before he vented
his anger on me and Helen."

"Have you any notion--"

"Not the least. Pardon me. I suppose you were going to ask if I guessed
the cause?"

"Yes."

"It is quite unfathomable. We parted the best of friends in London,
although he knew all about the engagement. We met again at 6 p.m. on New
Year's Eve, and he was very short with me. I can only vaguely assume that
some feeling of resentment had meanwhile been working up in him, and it
found expression during his chat with Helen in the conservatory."

"Did you use threats to him during the subsequent wrangle?"

"Threats! Good gracious, no. I was angry with him for spoiling Miss
Layton's enjoyment. I called him an ass, and said that he had better have
remained away another year than come back and make mischief. That is all.
Mrs. Eastham was far more outspoken."

"Indeed. What did she say?"

"She hinted that his temper was a reminiscence of his Southern birth,
always a sore point with him, and contrasted me with him, to his
disadvantage. All very unfair, of course, but, you see, she was the
hostess, and Alan had upset her party very much."

"So you walked home, and resolved to hold out the olive branch?"

"Most decidedly. I was older, perhaps a trifle more sedate. I knew that
Helen loved me. There were no difficulties in the way of our marriage,
which was arranged for the following spring. Indeed, my second trial took
place on the very date we had selected. It was my duty to use poor Alan
gently. Even his foolish and unreasonable jealousy was a compliment."

Brett threw the scrap-book on to the table. He clasped his hands in front
of his knees, tucking his heels on the edge of his chair.

"Mr. Hume," he said slowly, gazing fixedly at the other, "I believe you.
You did not kill your cousin."




CHAPTER III

THE DREAM


"Thank you," was the quiet answer.

"You hinted at some supernatural influence in relation to this crime. What
did you mean?"

"Ah, that is the unpublished part of the affair. We are a Scots family, as
our name implies. The first Sir Alan Frazer became a baronet owing to his
services to King George during the '45 Rebellion. There was some trouble
about a sequestered estate--now our place in Scotland--which belonged to
his wife's brother, a Hume and a rebel. Anyhow, in 1763, he fought a duel
with Hume's son, his own nephew by marriage, and was killed."

"Really," broke in Brett, "this ancient history--"

"Is quite to the point. Sir Alan the first fought and died in front of the
library at Beechcroft."

The barrister commenced to study the moulding in the centre of the
ceiling.

"He was succeeded by his grandson, a little lad of eight. In 1807, after a
heavy drinking bout, the second Sir Alan Hume-Frazer cut his throat, and
chose the scene of his ancestor's duel for the operation."

"A remarkable coincidence!"

"In 1842, during a bread riot, the third baronet was stabbed with a
pitchfork whilst facing a mob in the same place. Then a long interval
occurred. Again a small child became the heir. Three years ago the fourth
baronet expired whilst the library windows were being opened to admit the
litter on which he was carried from the hunting-field. The fate of the
fifth you know."

Brett's chair emitted a series of squeaks as he urged it closer to the
wall. At the proper distance he stretched out his leg and pressed an
electric bell with his toe.

"Decanters and syphons, Smith," he cried, when the door opened.

"Which do you take, whisky or brandy, Mr. Hume?" he inquired.

"Whisky. But I assure you I am quite serious. These things--"

"Serious! If my name were Hume-Frazer, nothing less than a runaway
steam-engine would take me to Beechcroft. I have never previously heard
such a marvellous recital."

"We are a stiff-necked race. My uncle and cousin knew how strangely Fate
had pursued every heir to the title, yet each hoped that in his person the
tragic sequence would be broken. Oddly enough, my father holds that the
family curse, or whatever it is, has now exhausted itself."

"What grounds has he for the belief?"

"None, save a Highlander's readiness to accept signs and portents. Look at
this seal."

He unfastened from his waistcoat his watch and chain, with a small bunch
of pendants attached, and handed them to Brett. The latter examined the
seal with deep interest. It was cut into a bloodstone, and showed a stag's
head, surmounted by five pointed rays, like a crown of daggers.

"I cannot decipher the motto," he said; "what is it?"

"Fortis et audax."

"Hum! 'Strong and bold.' A stiff-necked legend, too."

He reached to his bookcase for Burke's "General Armoury." After a brief
search, he asked:

"Do you know anything about heraldry?"

"Nothing whatever."

"Then listen to this. The crest of your, house is: 'A stag's head, erased
argent, charged with a star of five rays gules.' It is peculiar."

"Yes, so my father says; but why does it appeal to you in that way?"

"Because 'erased' means, in this instance, a stag's head torn forcibly
from the body, the severed part being jagged like the teeth of a saw. And
'gules' means 'red.' Now, such heraldic rays are usually azure or blue."

"By Jove, you have hit upon the old man's idea. He contends that those
five blood-coloured points signify the founder of the baronetcy and his
four lineal descendants. Moreover, the race is now extinct in the direct
succession. The title goes to a collateral branch."

Brett stroked his chin thoughtfully.

"It is certainly very strange," he murmured, "that the dry-as-dust
knowledge of some member of the College of Heralds should evolve these
armorial bearings with their weird significance. Does this account for
your allusion to the supernatural?"

"Partly. Do not forget my dream."

"Tell it to me."

"During the trials, my counsel, a very able man, by the way--you know him,
of course, Mr. Dobbie, K.C.--only referred to the fact that I dreamed my
cousin was in some mortal danger, and that my exclamation 'He is
murdered!' was really a startled comment on my part induced by the
butler's words. That is not correct. I never told Mr. Dobbie the details
of my dream, or vision."

"Oh, didn't you? Men have been hanged before to-day because they thought
they could construct a better line of defence than their counsel."

"I had nothing to defend. I was innocent. Moreover, I knew I should not be
convicted."

The barrister well remembered the view of the case taken by the Bar mess.
Even the redoubtable Dobbie was afraid of the jury. His face must have
conveyed dubiety with respect to Hume's last remark, for the other
continued eagerly:

"It is quite true. Wait until I have concluded. After the footman brought
the whisky and soda to the library that night I took a small quantity, and
pulled an easy-chair in front of the fire. I was tired, having travelled
all the preceding night and part of the day. Hence the warmth and comfort
soon sent me to sleep. I have a hazy recollection of the man coming in to
put some coal on the fire. In a sub-conscious fashion I knew that it was
not my cousin, but a servant. I settled down a trifle more comfortably,
and everything became a blank. Then I thought I awoke. I looked out
through the windows, and, to my astonishment, it was broad daylight. The
trees, too, were covered with leaves, the sun was shining, and there was
every evidence of a fine day in early summer. In some indefinite way I
realised that the library was no longer the room which I knew. The
furniture and carpets were different. The books were old-fashioned. A very
handsome spinning-wheel stood near the open window. There was no litter of
newspapers or magazines.

"Before I could begin to piece together these curious discrepancies in the
normal condition of things, I saw two men riding up the avenue, where the
yew trees, by the way, were loftier and finer in every way than those
really existing. The horsemen were dressed in such strange fashion that,
unfortunately, I paid little heed to their faces. They wore frilled
waistcoats, redingotes with huge lapels and turned-back cuffs,
three-cornered hats, and gigantic boots. They dismounted when close to the
house. One man held both horses; the other advanced. I was just going to
look him straight in the face when another figure appeared, coming from
that side of the hall where the entrance is situated. This was a gentleman
in very elegant garments, hatless, with powdered queue, pink satin coat
embroidered with lace, pink satin small-clothes, white silk stockings, and
low shoes. As he walked, a smart cane swung from his left wrist by a silk
tassel, and he took a pinch of snuff from an ivory box.

"The two men met and seemed to have a heated argument, bitter and
passionate on one side, studiously scornful on the other. This was all in
dumb show. Not a word did I hear. My amazed wits were fully taken up with
noting their clothes, their postures, the trappings of the horses, the
eighteenth century aspect of the library. Strange, is it not, I did not
look at their faces?"

Hume paused to gulp down the contents of his tumbler. Brett said not a
word, but sat intent, absorbed, wondering, with eyes fixed on the speaker.

"All at once the dispute became vehement. The more stylishly attired man
disappeared, but returned instantly with a drawn sword in his hand. The
stranger, as we may call him, whipped out a claymore, and the two fought
fiercely. By Jove, it was no stage combat or French duel. They went for
each other as if they meant it. There was no stopping to take breath, nor
drawing apart after a foiled attack. Each man tried to kill the other as
speedily as possible. Three times they circled round in furious
sword-play. Then the stranger got his point home. The other, in mortal
agony, dropped his weapon, and tried with both hands to tear his
adversary's blade from his breast. He failed, and staggered back, the
victor still shoving the claymore through his opponent's body. Then, and
not until then, I saw the face of the man who was wounded, probably
killed. It was my cousin, Alan Hume-Fraser."

David Hume stopped again. His bronzed face was pale now. With his left
hand he swept huge drops of perspiration from his brow. But his class
demands coolness in the most desperate moments. He actually struck a match
and relighted his cigarette.

"I suppose you occasionally have a nightmare after an indigestible supper,
Mr. Brett," he went on, "and have experienced a peculiar sensation of dumb
palsy in the presence of some unknown but terrifying danger? Well, such
was my exact state at that moment. Alan fell, apparently lifeless. The
stranger kissed his blood-stained sword, which required a strong tug
before he could disengage it, rattled it back into the scabbard, rejoined
his companion, and the two rode off, without once looking back. I can see
them now, square-shouldered, with hair tied in a knot beneath their quaint
hats, their hips absurdly swollen by the huge pockets of their coats,
their boots hanging over their knees. They wore big brass spurs with
tremendous rowels, and the cantles of their saddles were high and
brass-bound.

"Alan lay motionless. I could neither speak nor move. Whether I was
sitting or standing I cannot tell you, nor do I know how I was supposed to
be attired, A darkness came over my eyes. Then a voice--Helen's
voice--whispered to me, 'Fear not, dearest; the wrong is avenged.' I
awoke, to find the trembling butler shouting in my ear that his master was
lying dead outside the house. Now, Mr. Brett, I ask you, would you have
submitted that fairy tale to a jury? I was quite assured of a verdict in
my favour, though the first disagreement almost shook my faith in Helen's
promise, but I did not want to end my days in a criminal lunatic asylum."

He did not appear to expect an answer. He was quite calm again, and even
his eyes had lost their intensity. The mere telling of his uncanny
experience had a soothing effect. He nonchalantly readjusted his watch and
chain, and noted the time.

"I have gone far beyond my stipulated half hour," he said, forcing a
deprecatory smile.

"Yes; far beyond, indeed. You carried me back to 1763, but Heaven alone
knows when you will end."

"Will you take up my case?"

"Can you doubt it? Do you think I would throw aside the most remarkable
criminal puzzle I have ever tackled?"

"Mr. Brett, I cannot find words to thank you. If you succeed--and you
inspire me with confidence--Helen and I will strive to merit your lifelong
friendship."

"Miss Layton knows the whole of your story, of course?"

"Yes; she and my father only. I must inform you that I had never heard the
full reason of the duel between the first Sir Alan and his nephew. But my
father knew it fairly well, and the details fitted in exactly with my
vision. I can hardly call it a dream."

"What was the nephew's name?"

"David Hume!"

Brett jumped up, and paced about the room.

"These coincidences defy analysis," he exclaimed. "Your Christian name is
David. Your surname joins both families. Why, the thing is a romance of
the wildest sort."

"Unhappily, it has a tragic side for me."

"Yes; the story cannot end here. You and your _fiancée_ have suffered.
Miss Layton must be a very estimable young lady--one worth winning. She
will be a true and loyal wife."

"Do you think you will be able to solve the riddle? Someone murdered my
cousin."

"That is our only solid fact at present. The family tradition is passing
strange, but it will not serve in a court of law. I may fail, for the
first time, but I will try hard. When can you accompany me to Stowmarket?"

The question disconcerted his eager auditor. The young man's countenance
clouded.

"Is it necessary that I should go there?" he asked.

"Certainly. You must throw aside all delicacy of feeling, sacrifice even
your own sentiments. That is the one locality where you don't wish to be
seen, of course?"

"It is indeed."

"I cannot help that. I must have the assistance of your local and family
knowledge to decide the knotty points sure to arise when I begin the
inquiry. Can you start this afternoon?"

"Yes."

"Very well. Come and lunch with me at my club. Then we will separate, to
meet again at Liverpool Street. Smith! Pack my traps for a week."

Brett was in the hall now, but he suddenly stopped his companion.

"By the way, Hume, you may like to wire to Miss Layton. My man will send
the telegram for you."

David Hume's barrier of proud reserve vanished from that instant. The
kindly familiarity of the barrister's words to one who, during many weary
days, suspected all men of loathing him as a murderer at large, was
directed by infinite tact.

Hume held out his hand, "You _are_ a good chap," he said.




CHAPTER IV

THROUGH THE LIBRARY WINDOW


Hume did not send a telegram to the Sleagill Rectory. He explained that,
owing to the attitude adopted by the Rev. Wilberforce Layton, Helen
avoided friction with her father by receiving his (Hume's) letters under
cover to Mrs. Eastham.

The younger man was quick to note that Brett did not like this
arrangement. He smilingly protested that there was no deception In the
matter.

"Helen would never consent to anything that savoured of subterfuge," he
explained. "Her father knows well that she hears from me constantly. He is
a studious, reserved old gentleman. He was very much shocked by the
tragedy, and his daughter's innocent association with it. He told me quite
plainly that, under the circumstances, I ought to consider the engagement
at an end. Possibly I resented an imputation not intended by him. I made
some unfair retort about his hyper-sensitiveness, and promptly sent Helen
a formal release. She tore it up, and at the same time accepted it so far
as I was concerned. We met at Mrs. Eastham's house--that good lady has
remained my firm friend throughout--and I don't mind telling you, Brett,
that I broke down utterly. Well, we began by sending messages to each
other through Mrs. Eastham. Then I forwarded to Helen, in the same way, a
copy of a rough diary of my travels. She wrote to me direct; I replied.
The position now is that she will not marry me without her father's
consent, and she will marry no one else. He is aware of our
correspondence. She always tells him of my movements. The poor old rector
is worried to know how to act for the best. His daughter's happiness is at
stake, and so my unhappy affairs have drifted aimlessly for more than a
year."

"The drifting must cease," said Brett decisively. "Beechcroft Hall will
probably provide scope for activity."

They reached Stowmarket by a late train. Next morning they drove to
Sleagill--a pretty village, with a Norman church tower standing squarely
in the midst of lofty trees, and white-washed cottages and red-tiled
villa-residences nestling in gardens.

"A bower of orchards and green lanes," murmured the barrister as their
dog-cart sped rapidly over the smooth highway.

Hume was driving. He pointed out the rectory. His eyes were eagerly
searching the lawn and the well-trimmed garden, but he was denied a sight
of his divinity. The few people they encountered gazed at them curiously.
Hume was seemingly unrecognised.

"Here is Mrs. Eastham's house," he said, checking the horse's pace as they
approached a roomy, comfortable-looking mansion, occupying an angle where
the village street sharply bifurcated. "And there is Beechcroft!"

The lodge faced the road along which they were advancing. Beyond the gates
the yew-lined drive, with its selvages of deep green turf, led straight to
the Elizabethan house a quarter of a mile distant. The ground in the rear
rose gently through a mile or more of the home park.

Immediately behind the Hall was a dense plantation of spruce and larch.
The man who planned the estate evidently possessed both taste and spirit.
It presented a beautiful and pleasing picture. A sense of homeliness was
given by a number of Alderney cattle and young hunters grazing in the park
on both sides of the avenue. Beechcroft had a reputation in metropolitan
sale-rings. Its two-year-olds were always in demand.

"We will leave the conveyance here," announced Brett "I prefer to walk to
the house."

The hotel groom went to the horse's head. He did not hear the barrister's
question:

"I suppose both you and your cousin quitted Mrs. Eastham's house by that
side-door and entered the park through the wicket?"

"Yes," assented Hume, "though I fail to see why you should hit upon the
side-door rather than the main entrance."

"Because the ball-room is built out at the back. It was originally a
granary. The conservatory opens into the garden on the other side. As
there was a large number of guests, Mrs. Eastham required all her front
rooms for supper and extra servants, so she asked people to halt their
carriages at the side-door. I would not be surprised if the gentlemen's
cloak-room was provided by the saddle-room there, whilst the yard was
carpeted and covered with an awning."

Brett rattled on in this way, heedless of his companion's blank amazement,
perhaps secretly enjoying it.

Hume was so taken aback that he stood poised on the step of the vehicle
and forgot to slip the reins into the catch on the splashboard.

"I told you none of these things," he cried.

"Of course not. They are obvious. But tell this good lady that we are
going to the Hall."

Both the main gate and wicket were fastened, and the lodge-keeper's wife
was gazing at them through the bars.

"Hello, Mrs. Crowe, don't you know me?" cried Hume.

"My gracious, It's Mr. David!" gasped the woman.

"Why are the gates locked?"

"Mrs. Capella is not receiving visitors, sir."

"Is she ill?"

"No, sir. Indisposed, I think Mr. Capella said."

"Well, she will receive me, at any rate."

"No doubt, sir, it will be all right."

She hesitatingly unbarred the wicket, and the two men entered. They walked
slowly up the drive. Hume was restless. Twice he looked behind him.

He stopped.

"It was here," he said, "that the two men dismounted."

Then a few yards farther on:

"Alan came round from the door there, and they fought here. Alan forced
the stranger on to the turf. When he was stabbed he fell here."

He pointed to a spot where the road commenced to turn to the left to clear
the house. Brett watched him narrowly. The young man was describing his
dream, not the actual murder. The vision was far more real to him.

"It was just such a day as this," he continued. "It might have been almost
this hour. The library windows--"

He ceased and looked fixedly towards the house. Brett, too, gazed in
silence. They saw a small, pale-faced, exceedingly handsome Italian--a
young man, with coal-black eyes and a mass of shining black hair--scowling
at them from within the library.

A black velvet coat and a brilliant tie were the only bizarre features of
his costume. They served sufficiently to enhance his foreign appearance.
Such a man would be correctly placed in the marble frame of a Neapolitan
villa; here he was unusual, _outré_, "un-English," as Brett put it.

But he was evidently master. He flung open the window, and said, with some
degree of hauteur:

"Whom do you wish to see? Can I be of any assistance?"

His accent was strongly marked, but his words were well chosen and civil
enough, had his tone accorded with their sense. As it was, he might be
deemed rude.

Brett advanced.

"Are you Signor Capella?" he inquired.

"Mr. Capella. Yes."

"Then you can, indeed, be of much assistance. This gentleman is Mrs.
Capella's cousin, Mr. David Hume-Frazer."

"Corpo di Baccho!"

The Italian was completely taken by surprise. His eyebrows suddenly stood
out in a ridge. His sallow skin could not become more pallid; to show
emotion he flushed a swarthy red. Beyond the involuntary exclamation in
his own language, he could not find words.

"Yes," explained the smiling Brett, "he is a near relative of yours by
marriage. We were told by the lodge-keeper that Mrs. Capella was
indisposed, but under the circumstances we felt assured that she would
receive her cousin--unless, that is, she is seriously ill."

"It is an unexpected pleasure, this visit."

Capella replied to the barrister, but looked at Hume. He had an unpleasant
habit of parting his lips closely to his teeth, like the silent snarl of a
dog.

"Undoubtedly. We both apologise for not having prepared you."

Brett's smooth, even voice seemed to exasperate the other, who continued
to block the library window in uncompromising manner.

"And you, sir. May I ask who you are?"

"My name is Brett, Reginald Brett, a friend of Mr. Hume's--who, I may
mention, does not use his full surname at present."

The Italian was compelled to turn his glittering eyes upon the man who
addressed him so glibly.

"I am sorry," he said slowly, "but Mrs. Capella is too unwell to meet
either of you to-day."

"Ah! We share your regrets. Nevertheless, as a preliminary to our purpose,
you will serve our needs equally well. May we not come in?"

Capella was faced with difficult alternatives. He must either be
discourteous to two gentlemanly strangers, one of them his wife's
relative, or admit them with some show of politeness. An Italian may be
rude, he can never be _gauche_. Having decided, Capella ushered them into
the library with quick transition to dignified ease.

He asked if he might ring for any refreshments. Hume, who glared at his
host with uncompromising hostility, and had not taken any part in the
conversation, shook his head.

Brett surprised both, for different reasons, by readily falling in with
Capella's suggestion.

"A whisky and soda would be most grateful," he said.

The Italian moved towards the bell.

"Permit me!" cried Brett.

He rose in awkward haste, and upset his chair with a loud crash on the
parquet floor.

"How stupid of me!" he exclaimed, whilst Hume wondered what had happened
to flurry the barrister, and Capella smothered a curse.

A distant bell jangled. By tacit consent, there was no further talk until
a servant appeared. The man was a stranger to Hume.

Oddly enough, Brett took but a very small allowance of the spirit. In
reality, he hated alcohol in any form during the earlier hours. He was
wont to declare that it not only disturbed his digestion but destroyed his
taste for tobacco. Hume did not yet know what a concession to exciting
circumstances his new-found friend had made the previous day in ordering
spirits before luncheon.

When the servant vanished, Capella settled himself in his chair with the
air of a man awaiting explanations. Yet he was restless and disturbed. He
was afraid of these two. Why? Brett determined to try the effect of
generalities.

"You probably guess the object of our visit?" he began.

"I? No. How should I guess?"

"As the husband of a lady so closely connected with Mr. Hume--"

But the Italian seemed to be firmly resolved to end the suspense.

"Caramba!" he broke in. "What is it?"

"It is this. Mr. Hume has asked me to help him in the investigation of
certain--"

The library door swung open, and a lady entered. She was tall, graceful,
distinguished-looking. Her cousinship to Hume was unmistakable. In both
there was the air of aristocratic birth. Their eyes, the contour of their
faces, were alike. But the fresh Anglo-Saxon complexion of the man was
replaced in the woman by a peach-like skin, whilst her hair and eyebrows
were darker.

She was strikingly beautiful. A plain black dress set off a figure that
would have caused a sculptor to dream of chiselled marble.

"A passionate, voluptuous woman," thought Brett. "A woman easily swayed,
but never to be compelled, the ready-made heroine of a tragedy."

Her first expression was one of polite inquiry, but her glance fell upon
Hume. Her face, prone to betray each fleeting emotion, exhibited surprise,
almost consternation.

"You, Davie!" she gasped.

Hume went to meet her.

"Yes, Rita," he said. "I hope you are glad to see me."

Mrs. Capella was profoundly agitated, but she held out her hand and
summoned the quick smile of an actress.

"Of course I am," she cried. "I did not know you were in England. Why did
you not let me know, and why are you here?"

"I only returned home three days ago. My journey to Beechcroft was a hasty
resolve. This is my friend, Mr. Reginald Brett. He was just about to
explain to Mr. Capella the object of our visit when you came in."

Neither husband nor wife looked at the other. Mrs. Capella was flustered,
indulging in desperate surmises, but she laughed readily enough.

"I heard a noise in this room, and then the bell rang. I thought something
had happened. You know--I mean, I thought there was no one here."

"I fear that I am the culprit, Mrs. Capella. Your husband was good enough
to invite us to enter by the window, and I promptly disturbed the
household."

Brett's pleasant tones came as a relief. Capella glared at him now with
undisguised hostility, for the barrister's adroit ruse had outwitted him
by bringing the lady from the drawing-room, which gave on to the garden
and lawn at the back of the house.

"Please do not take the blame of my intrusion, Mr. Brett," said Margaret,
with forced composure. "You will stay for luncheon, will you not? And you,
Davie? Are you at Mrs. Eastham's?"

Her concluding question was eager, almost wistful. Her cousin answered it
first.

"No," he said. "We have driven over from Stowmarket."

"And, unfortunately," put in the barrister, "we are pledged to visit Mrs.
Eastham within an hour."

The announcement seemed to please Mrs. Capella, for some reason at present
hidden from Brett. Hume, of course, was mystified by the course taken by
his friend, but held his peace.

Capella brusquely interfered:

"Perhaps, Rita, these gentlemen would now like to make the explanation
which you prevented."

He moved towards the door. So that his wife could rest under no doubt as
to his wishes, he held it open for her.

"No, no!" exclaimed Brett. "This matter concerns Mrs. Capella personally.
You probably forget that we asked to be allowed to see her in the first
instance, but you told us that she was too unwell to receive us."

For an instant Margaret gazed at the Italian with imperious scorn. Then
she deliberately turned her back on him, and seated herself close to her
cousin.

Capella closed the door and walked to the library window.

Hume openly showed his pained astonishment at this little scene. Brett
treated the incident as a domestic commonplace.

"The fact is," he explained, "that your cousin, Mrs. Capella, has sought
my assistance in order to clear his name of the odium attached to it by
the manner of Sir Alan Hume-Frazer's death. At my request he brought me
here. In this house, in this very room, such an inquiry should have its
origin, wherever it may lead ultimately."

The lady's cheeks became ashen. Her large eyes dilated.

"Is not that terrible business ended yet?" she cried. "I little dreamed
that such could be the object of your visit, Davie. What has happened--"

The Italian swung round viciously.

"If you come here as a detective, Mr. Brett," he snapped, "I refer you to
the police. Mr. Hume-Frazer is known to them."




CHAPTER V

FROM BEHIND THE HEDGE


The man's swarthy rage added force to the taunt. David Hume leaped up, but
Brett anticipated him, gripping his arm firmly, and without ostentation.

Margaret, too, had risen. She appeared to be battling with some powerful
emotion, choking back a fierce impulse. For an instant the situation was
electrical. Then the woman's clear tones rang through the room.

"I am mistress here," she cried, "Giovanni, remain silent or leave us. How
dare you, of all men, speak thus to my cousin?"

Certainly the effect of the barrister's straightforward statement was
unlooked-for. But Brett felt that a family quarrel would not further his
object at that moment. It was necessary to stop the imminent outburst, for
David Hume and Giovanni Capella were silently challenging each other to
mortal combat. What a place of ill-omen to the descendants of the Georgian
baronet was this sun-lit library with its spacious French windows!

"Of course," said the barrister, speaking as quietly as if he were
discussing the weather, "such a topic is an unpleasant one. It is,
however, unavoidable. My young friend here is determined, at all costs, to
discover the secret of Sir Alan's murder. It is imperative that he should
do so. The happiness of his whole life depends upon his success. Until
that mystery is solved he cannot marry the woman he loves."

"Do you mean Helen Layton?" Margaret's syllables might have been so many
mortal daggers.

"Yes."

"Is David still in love with her?"

"Yes."

"And she with him?"

David Hume broke in:

"Yes, Rita. She has been faithful to the end."

A very forcible Italian oath came from Capella as he passed through the
window and strode rapidly out of sight, passing to the left of the house,
where one of the lines of yew trees ended in a group of conservatories.

Margaret was now deadly white. She pressed her hand to her bosom.

"Forgive me," she sobbed. "I do not feel well. You will both be always
welcome here. Let no one interfere with you. But I must leave you. This
afternoon--"

She staggered to the door. Her cousin caught her.

"Thank you, Davie," she whispered. "Leave me now. I will be all right
soon. My heart troubles me. No. Do not ring. Let us keep our miseries from
the servants."

She passed out, leaving Hume and the barrister uncertain how best to act
The situation had developed with a vengeance. Brett was more bewildered
than ever before in his life.

"That scoundrel killed Alan, and now he wants to kill his own wife!"
growled Hume, when they were alone.

Brett looked through him rather than at him. He was thinking intently. For
a long time--minutes it seemed to his fuming companion--he remained
motionless, with glazed, immovable eyes. Then he awoke to action.

"Quick!" he cried. "Tell me if this room has changed much since you were
last here. Is the furniture the same? Is that the writing-table? What
chair did you sit in? Where was it placed? Quick, man! You have wasted
eighteen months. Give me no opinions, but facts."

Thus admonished, scared somewhat by the barrister's volcanic energy, Hume
obeyed him.

"There is no material change in the room," he said. "The secretaire is the
same. You see, here is the drawer which was broken open. It bears the
marks of the implement used to force the lock. I think I sat in this
chair, or one like it. It was placed here. My face was turned towards the
fire, yet in my dream I was looking through the centre window. The
Japanese sword rested here. I showed you where Alan's body was found."

The young man darted about the room to illustrate each sentence. Brett
followed his words and actions without comment. He grabbed his hat and
stick.

"We will return later in the day," he said. "Let us go at once and call on
Mrs. Eastham."

"Mrs. Eastham! Why?"

"Because I want to see Miss Helen Layton. The old lady can send for her."

Hume needed no urging. He could not walk fast enough. They had gone a
hundred yards from the house when Brett suddenly stopped and checked his
companion.

Behind the yew trees on the left, and rendered invisible by a stout hedge,
a man was running--running at top speed, with the labouring breath of one
unaccustomed to the exercise. The barrister sprang over the strip of turf,
passed among the trees, and plunged into the hedge regardless of thorns.
He came back instantly.

"There is a footpath across the park, leading towards the lodge gates.
Where does it come out?" he asked, speaking rapidly in a low tone.

"It enters, the road near the avenue, close to the gates. It leads from a
farmhouse."

"A lady is walking through the park towards the lodge. Capella is running
to intercept her. Come! We may hear something."

Brett set off at a rapid pace along the turf. Hume followed, and soon they
were near the lodge. Mrs. Crowe saw them, and came out.

"Stop her!" gasped Brett.

Hume signalled the woman not to open the gate. She watched them with
open-mouthed curiosity. The barrister slowed down and quietly made his way
to the leafy angle where the avenue hedge joined that which shut off the
park from the road.

He held up a warning hand. Hume stepped warily behind him, and both men
looked through a portion of the hedge where briars were supplanted by
hazel bushes.

Capella was standing panting near a stile. A girl, dressed in muslin, and
wearing a large straw hat, was approaching.

"Great Heavens! It is Helen!" exclaimed Hume.

Brett grasped his shoulder.

"Restrain yourself," he whispered earnestly. "Luckily, Capella has not
heard you. I regret the necessity which makes us eavesdroppers, but it is
a fortunate accident, all the same. Not a word! Remember what is at
stake."

They could not see the Italian's face. His back was heaving from the
violence of his exertion. Miss Layton was walking rapidly towards the
stile. Obviously she had perceived the waiting man, and she was not
pleased.

Her pretty face, flushed and sunburnt, wore the strained aspect of a woman
annoyed, but trying to be civil.

It was she who took the initiative.

"Good day, Mr. Capella," she said pleasantly. "Why on earth did you run so
fast?"

"Because I wished to be here before you, Miss Layton," replied the man,
his voice tremulous with excitement.

"Then I wish I had known, because I could have beaten you easily if you
meant to race me."

"That was not my object."

"Well, now you have attained it, whatever it may have been, please allow
me to get over the stile. I will be late for luncheon. My father wished me
to ascertain how Farmer Burton is progressing after his spill. He was
thrown from his dog-cart whilst coming from the Bury St. Edmund's fair."

It was easy for the listeners behind the hedge to gather that the girl's
affable manner was affected. She was really somewhat alarmed. Her eyes
wandered to the high road to see if anyone was approaching, and she kept
at some distance from the Italian.

"Do not play with me, Nellie," said Capella, in agonised accents. "I am
consumed with love of you. Can you not, at least, give me your pity?"

"Mr. Capella," she cried, and none but one blind to all save his own
passionate desires could fail to note her lofty disdain, "how can you be
so base as to use such language to me?"

"Base! To love you!"

"Again I say it--base and unmanly. What have I done that you should
venture to so insult your charming wife, not to speak of the insult to
myself? When you so far forgot yourself a fortnight ago as to hint at your
outrageous ideas regarding me, I forced myself to remember that you were
not an Englishman, that perhaps in your country there may be a social code
which permits a man to dishonour his home and to annoy a defenceless
woman. I cannot forgive you a second time. Let me pass! Let me pass, I
tell you, or I will strike you!"

Brett, in his admiration for the spirited girl who, notwithstanding her
protestations, seemed to be anything but "defenceless," momentarily forgot
his companion.

A convulsive tightening of Hume's muscles, preparatory to a leap through
the hedge, warned him in time.

"Idiot!" he whispered, as he clutched him again.

Were not the others so taken up with the throbbing influences of the
moment they must have heard the rustling of the leaves. But they paid
little heed to external affairs. The Italian was speaking.

"Nellie," he said, "you will drive me mad. But listen, carissima. If I may
not love you, I can at least defend you. David Hume-Frazer, the man who
murdered my wife's brother, has returned, and openly boasts that you are
waiting to marry him."

"Boasts! To whom, pray?"

"To me. I heard him say this not fifteen minutes since."

"Where? You do not know him. He could not be here without my knowledge."

"Then it is true. You do intend to marry this unconvicted felon?"

"Mr. Capella, I really think you are what English people call 'cracked.'"

"But you believe me--that this man has come to Beechcroft?"

"It may be so. He has good reasons, doubtless, for keeping his presence
here a secret. Whatever they may be, I shall soon know them."

"Helen, he is not worthy of you. He cannot give you a love fierce as mine.
Nay, I will not be repelled. Hear me. My wife is dying. I will be free in
a few months. Bid me to hope. I will not trouble you. I will go away, but
I swear, if you marry Frazer, neither he nor you will long enjoy your
happiness!"

The girl made no reply, but sprang towards the stile in sheer desperation.
Capella strove to take her in his arms, not indeed with intent to offer
her any violence; but she met his lover-like ardour with such a vigorous
buffet that he lost his temper.

He caught her. She had almost surmounted the stile, but her dress hampered
her movements. The Italian, vowing his passion in an ardent flow of words,
endeavoured to kiss her.

Then, with a sigh, for he would have preferred to avoid an open rupture,
Brett let go his hold on Hume. Indeed, if he had not done so, there must
have been a fight on both sides of the hedge.

He turned away at once to light a cigarette. What followed immediately had
no professional interest for him.

But he could not help hearing Helen's shriek of delighted surprise, and
certain other sounds which denoted that Giovanni was being used as a
football by his near relative by marriage.

Mrs. Crowe came out of her cottage.

"What's a-goin' on in the park, sir?" she inquired anxiously.

"A great event," he said. "Faust is kicking Mephistopheles."

"Drat them colts!" she cried, adding, after taking thought; "but we
haven't any horses of them names, sir."

"No! You surprise me. They are of the best Italian pedigree."

Meanwhile, he was achieving his object, which was to drive Mrs. Crowe back
towards the wicket.

Helen's voice came to them shrilly:

"That will do, Davie! Do you hear me?"

"Why, bless my 'eart, there's Miss Layton," said Mrs. Crowe.

"What a fine little boy this is!" exclaimed Brett, stooping over a
curly-haired urchin. "Is he the oldest?"

"Good gracious, sir, no. He's the youngest."

"Dear me, I would not have thought so. You must have been married very
early. Here, my little man, see what you can buy for half-a-crown."

"What a nice gentleman he is, to be sure," thought the lodge-keeper's
wife, when Brett passed through the smaller gate, assured that the
struggle in the park had ended.

"Just fancy 'im a-thinkin' Jimmy was the eldest, when I will be a
grandmother come August if all goes well wi' Kate."

The barrister signed to the groom to wait, and joined the young couple,
who now appeared in the roadway. A haggard, dishevelled, and furious man
burst through the avenue hedge and ran across the drive.

"Mrs. Crowe," he almost screamed, "do you see those two men there?"

"Yes, sir."

The good woman was startled by her master's sudden appearance and his
excited state.

"They are never to be admitted to the grounds again. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

Capella turned to rush away up the avenue, but he was compelled to limp.
Mrs. Crowe watched him wonderingly, and tried to piece together in her
mind the queer sounds and occurrences of the last two minutes.

She had not long been in the cottage when the butler arrived.

"You let two gentlemen in a while ago ?" he said.

"I did."

"One was Mr. David and the other a Mr. Brett?"

"Oh, was that the tall gentleman's name?"

"I expect so. Well, here's the missus's written order that whenever they
want to come to the 'ouse or go anywheres in the park it's O.K."

Mrs. Crowe was wise enough to keep her own counsel, but when the butler
retired, she said:

"Then I'll obey the missus, an' master can settle it with her. I don't
hold by Eye-talians, anyhow."




CHAPTER VI

AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE


Helen was very much upset by the painful scene which had just been
enacted. Its vulgarity appalled her. In a little old-world hamlet like
Sleagill, a riotous cow or frightened horse supplied sensation for a week.
What would happen when it became known that the rector's daughter had been
attacked by the Squire of Beechcroft in the park meadow, and saved from
his embraces only after a vigorous struggle, in which her defender was
David Hume-Frazer, concerning whom the villagers still spoke with bated
breath?

Of course, the girl imagined that many people must have witnessed the
occurrence. The appearance of Brett, of the waiting groom, and of a chance
labourer who now strode up the village street, led her to think so.

She did not realise that the whole affair had barely lasted a minute, that
Brett was Hume's friend, the man-servant a stranger who had seen nothing
and heard little, whilst the villager only wondered, when he touched his
cap, "why Miss Layton was so flustered like."

Brett attributed her agitation to its right cause. He knew that this
healthy, high-minded, and athletic young woman went under no fear of
Capella and his ravings.

"What happened when you jumped the hedge?" he said to Hume.

"I handled that scoundrel somewhat roughly," was the answer. "It was
Nellie here who begged for mercy on his account."

"Ah, well, the incident ended very pleasantly. No one saw what happened
save the principals, a fortunate thing in itself. We want to prevent a
nine days' wonder just now."

"Are you quite sure?" asked Miss Layton, overjoyed at this expression of
opinion, and secretly surprised at the interest taken by the barrister in
the affair, for Hume had not as yet found time to tell her his friend's
name.

"Quite sure, Miss Layton," he said, with the smile which made him such a
prompt favourite with women. "I had nothing to do but observe the
_mise-en-scéne_. The stage was quite clear for the chief actors. And now,
may I make a suggestion? The longer we remain here the more likely are we
to attract observation. Mr. Hume and I are going to call on Mrs. Eastham.
May we expect you in an hour's time?"

"Can't you come in with us now?" exclaimed David eagerly.

She laughed excitedly, being yet flurried The sudden appearance of her
lover tried her nerves more than the Italian's passionate avowal.

"No, indeed," she cried. "I must go home. My father will forget all about
his lunch otherwise, and I am afraid--I--w--ant to cry!"

Without another word she hurried off towards the rectory.

"My dear fellow," murmured Brett to the disconsolate Hume, "don't you
understand? She cannot bear the constraint imposed by my presence at this
moment, nor could she meet Mrs. Eastham with any degree of composure. Now,
this afternoon she will return a mere iceberg. Mrs. Eastham, I am sure,
has tact. I am going to the Hall. You two will be left alone for hours."

He turned aside to arrange with the groom concerning the care of the
horse, as they would be detained some time in the village. Then the two
men approached Mrs. Eastham's residence.

That good person, a motherly old lady of over sixty, was not only
surprised but delighted by the advent of David Hume.

"My dear boy," she cried, advancing to meet him with outstretched hands
when he entered the morning-room. "What fortunate wind has blown you
here?"

"I can hardly tell you, auntie," he said--both Helen and he adopted the
pleasing fiction of a relationship that did not exist--"you must ask Mr.
Brett."

Thus appealed to, the barrister set forth, in a few explicit words, the
object of their visit.

"I hope and believe you will succeed," said Mrs. Eastham impulsively.
"Providence has guided your steps here at this hour. You cannot imagine
how miserable that man Capella makes me."

"Why?" cried Hume, darting a look of surprise at Brett.

"Because he is simply pestering Nellie with his attentions. There! I must
speak plainly. He has gone to extremes that can no longer be
misinterpreted. In our small community, Mr. Brett," she explained, "though
we dearly love a little gossip, we are slow to believe that a man married
to such a charming if somewhat unconventional woman as Margaret
Hume-Frazer--I cannot train my tongue to call her Mrs. Capella--would
deliberately neglect his wife and dare to demonstrate his unlawful
affection for another woman, especially such a girl as Helen Layton."

"How long has this been going on?" inquired Brett, for Hume was too
furious to speak.

"For some months, but it is only a fortnight ago since Helen first
complained of it to me I promptly told Mr. Capella that I could not
receive him again at my house. He discovered that Nellie came here a good
deal, and managed to call about the same time as she did. Then he found
that she was interested in Japanese art, and as he is really clever in
that respect--"

"Clever," interrupted the barrister. "Do you mean that he understands
lacquer work, Satsuma ware, painting or inlaying? Is he a connoisseur or a
student?"

"It is all Greek to me!" exclaimed the old lady, "but unquestionably the
bits of china and queer carvings he often brought here were very
beautiful. Nellie did not like him personally, but she could not deny his
knowledge and enthusiasm. Margaret, too, used to invite her to the Hall,
for Miss Layton has great taste as an amateur gardener, Mr. Brett. But
this friendship suddenly ceased. Mr. Capella became very strange and
gloomy in his manner. At last Nellie told me that the wretched man had
dared to utter words of love to her, hinting that his wife could not live
long, and that he would come in for her fortune. Now, as my poor girl has
been the most faithful soul that ever lived, never for an instant doubting
that some day the cloud would lift from Davie, you may imagine what a
shock this was to her."

"Mrs. Eastham," said Brett, suddenly switching the conversation away from
the Italian's fantasy, "you are well acquainted with all the circumstances
connected with Sir Alan's murder. Have you formed any theory about the
crime, its motive, or its possible author?"

"God forgive me if I do any man an injury, but in these last few days I
have had my suspicions," she exclaimed.

"Tell me your reasons."

"It arose out of a chance remark by Nellie. She was discussing with me her
inexplicable antipathy to Mr. Capella, even during the time when they were
outwardly good friends. She said that once he showed her a Japanese sword,
a most wonderful piece of workmanship, with veins of silver and gold let
into the handle and part of the blade. To the upper part of the scabbard
was attached a knife--a small dagger--similar--"

"Yes, I understand. An implement like that used to kill Sir Alan
Hume-Frazer."

"Exactly. Nellie at first hardly realised its significance. Then she
hastily told Capella to take it away, but not before she noticed that he
seemed to understand the dreadful thing. It is fastened in its sheath by a
hidden spring, and he knew exactly how to open it. Any person not
accustomed to such weapons would endeavour to pull it out by main force."

Brett did not press Mrs. Eastham to pursue her theory. It was plain that
she regarded the Italian as a man who might conceivably be the murderer of
his wife's brother. This was enough for feminine logic.

Hume, too, shared the same belief, and had not scrupled to express it
openly.

There were, it was true, reasons in plenty, why Capella should have
committed this terrible deed. He was, presumably, affianced to Margaret at
the time. Apparently her father's will had contemplated the cutting down
of her annual allowance. The young heir had, on the other hand, made up
the deficit. But why did these artificial restrictions exist? Why were
precautions taken by the father to diminish his daughter's income? She had
been extravagant. Both father and brother quarrelled with her on this
point. Indeed, there was a slight family disturbance with reference to it
during Sir Alan's last visit to London. Was Capella mixed up with it?

At last there was a glimmering perception of motive for an otherwise
fiendishly irrational act. Did it tend to incriminate the Italian?

A summons to luncheon dispelled the momentary gloom of their thoughts.
Before the meal ended Miss Layton joined them.

Brett looked at his watch. "Fifty minutes!" he said.

Then they all laughed, except Mrs. Eastham, who marvelled at the coolness
of the meeting between the girl and David. But the old lady was
quick-witted.

"Have you met before?" she cried.

"Dearest," said the girl, kissing her; "do you mean to say they have not
told you what happened in the park?"

"That will require a special sitting," said Brett gaily. "Meanwhile, I am
going to the Hall. I suppose you do not care to accompany me, Hume?"

"I do not."

The reply was so emphatic that it created further merriment.

"Well, tell me quickly what this new secret is," exclaimed Mrs. Eastham,
"because in five minutes I must have a long talk with my cook. She has to
prepare pies and pastry sufficient to feed nearly a hundred school
children next Monday, and it is a matter of much calculation."

Brett took his leave.

"I knew that good old soul would be tactful," he said to himself. "Now I
wonder how Winter made such a colossal mistake as to imagine that Hume
murdered his cousin. He was sure of the affections of a delightful girl;
he could not succeed to the property; he has declined to take up the
title. What reason could he have for committing such a crime?"

Then a man walked up the road--a man dressed like a farmer or grazier,
rotund, strongly-built, cheerful-looking. He halted opposite Mrs.
Eastham's house, where the barrister still stood drawing on his gloves on
the doorstep.

"Yes," said Brett aloud, "you _are_ an egregious ass, Winter."

"Why, Mr. Brett?" asked the unabashed detective. "Isn't the make-up good?"

"It is the make-up that always leads you astray. You never theorise above
the level of the _Police Gazette_."

Mr. Winter yielded to not unnatural annoyance. With habitual caution, he
glanced around to assure himself that no other person was within earshot;
then he said vehemently:

"I tell you, Mr. Brett, that swine killed Sir Alan Hume-Frazer."

"You use strong language."

"Not stronger than he deserves."

"What are you doing here?"

"I heard he was in London, and watched him. I saw him go to your chambers
and guessed what was up, so I came down here to see you and tell you what
I know."

"Out of pure good-nature?"

"You can believe it or not, Mr. Brett. It is the truth."

"He has been tried and acquitted. He cannot be tried again. Does Scotland
Yard--"

"I'm on my holidays."

Brett laughed heartily.

"I see!" he cried. "A 'bus-driver's holiday! For how long?"

"Fourteen days."

"You are nothing if not professional. I suppose it was not your first
offence, or they might have let you off with a fine."

The detective enjoyed this departmental joke. He grinned broadly.

"Anyhow, Mr. Brett," he said, "you and I have been engaged on too many
smart bits of work for me to stand quietly by and let you be made a fool
of."

The barrister came nearer, and said, in a low tone:

"Winter, you have never been more mistaken in your life. Now, attend to my
words. If you help me you will, in the first place, be well paid for your
services. Secondly, you will be able to place your hand on the true
murderer of Sir Alan Hume-Frazer, or I will score my first failure.
Thirdly, Scotland Yard will give you another holiday, and I can secure you
some shooting in Scotland. What say you?"

The detective looked thoughtful. Long experience had taught him not to
argue with Brett when the latter was in earnest.

"I will do anything in my power," he said, "but there is more in this
business than perhaps you are aware of--more than ever transpired at the
Assizes."

"Quite so, and a good deal that has transpired since. Now. Winter, don't
argue, there's a good fellow. Go and engage the landlord of the local inn
in a discussion on crops. I am off to Beechcroft Hall. Mr. Hume and I will
call for you on our way back to Stowmarket. In our private sitting-room at
the hotel there I will explain everything."

They parted. Brett was promptly admitted by Mrs. Crowe, and walked rapidly
up the avenue.

Winter watched his retreating figure.

"He's smart, I know he's smart," mused the detective. "But he doesn't know
everything about this affair. He doesn't know, I'll be bound, that David
Hume-Frazer waited for his cousin that night outside the library. I didn't
know it--worse luck!--until after he was acquitted. And he doesn't know
that Miss Nellie Layton didn't reach home until 1.30 a.m., though she left
the ball at 12.15, and her house is, so to speak, a minute's walk distant.
And she was in a carriage. Oh, there's more in this case than meets the
eye! I can't say which would please me most, to find out the real
murderer, if Hume didn't do it, or prove Mr. Brett to be in the wrong!"




CHAPTER VII

HUSBAND AND WIFE


Brett did not hurry on his way to the Hall. Already things were in a
whirl, and the confusion was so great that he was momentarily unable to
map out a definite line of action.

The relations between Capella and his wife were evidently strained almost
to breaking point, and it was this very fact which caused him the greatest
perplexity.

They had been married little more than six months. They were an
extraordinarily handsome couple, apparently well suited to each other by
temperament and mutual sympathies, whilst their means were ample enough to
permit them to live under any conditions they might choose, and gratify
personal hobbies to the fullest extent.

What, then, could have happened to divide them so completely?

Surely not Capella's new-born passion for Helen Layton. Not even a
hot-blooded Southerner could be guilty of such deliberate rascality, such
ineffable folly, during the first few months after his marriage to a
beautiful and wealthy wife.

No, this hypothesis must be rejected. Margaret Capella had drifted apart
from her husband almost as soon as they reached England on their return as
man and wife. Capella, miserable and disillusioned, buried alive in a
country place--for such must existence in Beechcroft mean to a man of his
inclinations--had discovered a startling contrast between his passionate
and moody spouse, and the bright, pleasant-mannered girl whose ill-fortune
it was to create discord between the inmates of the Hall.

This theory did not wholly exonerate the Italian, but it explained a good
deal. The barrister saw no cause as yet to suspect Capella of the young
baronet's murder. Were he guilty of that ghastly crime, his motive must
have been to secure for himself the position he was now deliberately
imperilling--all for a girl's pretty face.

The explanation would not suffice. Brett had seen much that is hidden from
public ken in the vagaries of criminals, but he had never yet met a man
wholly bad, and at the same time in full possession of his senses.

To adopt the hasty judgment arrived at by Hume and Mrs. Eastham, Capella
must be deemed capable of murdering his wife's brother, of bringing about
the death of his wife after securing the reversion of her vast property to
himself, and of falling in love with Helen--all in the same breath. This
species of criminality was only met with in lunatics, and Capella
impressed the barrister as an emotional personage, capable of supreme good
as of supreme evil, but quite sane.

The question to be solved was this: Why did Capella and his wife quarrel
in the first instance? Perhaps, that way, light might come.

He asked a footman if Mrs. Capella would receive him. The man glanced at
his card.

"Yes, sir," he said at once. "Madam gave instructions that if either you
or Mr. David called you were to be taken to her boudoir, where she awaits
you."

The room was evidently on the first floor, for the servant led him up the
magnificent oak staircase that climbed two sides of the reception hall.

But this was fated to be a day of interruptions. The barrister, when he
reached the landing, was confronted by the Italian.

"A word with you, Mr. Brett," was the stiff greeting given to him.

"Certainly. But I am going to Mrs. Capella's room."

"She can wait. She does not know you are here. James, remain outside until
Mr. Brett returns. Then conduct him to your mistress."

Capella's tone admitted of no argument, nor was it necessary to protest.
Brett always liked people to talk in the way they deemed best suited to
their own interests. Without any expostulation, therefore, he followed his
limping host into a luxuriously furnished dressing-room.

Capella closed the door, and placed himself gently on a couch.

"Does your friend fight?" he said, fixing his dark eyes, blazing with
anger, intently on the other.

"That is a matter on which your opinion would probably be more valuable
than mine."

"Spare me your wit. You know well what I mean. Will he meet me on the
Continent and settle our quarrel like a gentleman, not like a hired
bravo?"

"What quarrel?"

"Mr. Brett, you are not so stupid. David Hume, notwithstanding his past,
may still be deemed a man of honour in some respects. He treated me
grossly this morning. Will he fight me, or must I treat him as a cur?"

Brett, without invitation, seated himself. He produced a cigarette and lit
it, adding greatly to Capella's irritation by his provoking calmness.

"Really," he said at last, "you amuse me."

"Silence!" he cried imperatively, when the Italian would have broken out
into a torrent of expostulations. "Listen to me, you vain fool!"

This method of address had the rare merit of achieving its object. Capella
was reduced to a condition of speechless rage.

"You consider yourself the aggrieved person, I suppose," went on the
Englishman, subsiding into a state of contemptuous placidity. "You neglect
your wife, make love to an honourable and pure-minded girl, stoop to the
use of unworthy taunts and even criminal innuendos, lose such control of
your passion as to lay sacrilegious hands upon Helen Layton, and yet you
resent the well-merited punishment administered to you by her affianced
husband. Were I a surgeon, Mr. Capella, I might take an anatomical
interest in your brain. As it is, I regard you as a psychological study in
latter-day blackguardism. Do you understand me?"

"Perfectly. You have not yet answered my question. Will Hume fight?"

"I should say that nothing would give him greater pleasure."

"Then you will arrange this matter? I can send a friend to you?"

"And if you do I will send the police to you, thus possibly anticipating
matters somewhat."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that my sole purpose in life just now is to lay hands on the man
who killed Sir Alan Hume-Frazer. Until that end is achieved, I will take
good care that your crude ideas of honour are dealt with, as they were
to-day, by the toe of a boot."

Capella was certainly a singular person. He listened unmoved to Brett's
threats and insults. He gave that snarling smile of his, and toyed
impatiently with his moustache.

"Your object in life does not concern me. Your courts tried their best to
hang the man who was responsible for his cousin's death, and failed. I
take it you decline this proffered duel?"

"Yes."

"Then I will fight David Hume in my own way. You have rejected the fair
alternative on his behalf. Caramba! We shall see now who wins. He will
never marry Helen."

"What did you mean just now when you said that he was 'responsible for his
cousin's death'? Is that an Italian way of describing a cold-blooded
murder?"

Capella leaned back and snarled silently again. It was a pity he had
cultivated that trick. It spoilt an otherwise classically regular set of
features.

"James!" he shouted.

The footman entered.

"Take this gentleman to your mistress. I have done with him."

"For the present, James," said Brett.

The astonished servant led him along a corridor and knocked at a door
hidden by a silk curtain. Mrs. Capella rose to receive her visitor. She
was very pale now, but quite calm and dignified in manner.

"Davie did not come with you?" she said when Brett was seated near to her
in an alcove formed by an oriel window.

"No. He is with Miss Layton."

"Ah, I am not sorry, I prefer to talk with you alone."

"It is perhaps better. Your cousin is impulsive in some respects, though
self-contained enough in others."

"It may be so. I like him, although we have not seen much of each other
since we were children. I knew him this morning principally on account of
his likeness to Alan. But you are his friend, Mr. Brett, and I can discuss
with you matters I would not care to broach with him. He is with Helen
Layton now, you say?"

"Yes, and let me add an explanation. Those two young people are devoted to
each other. No power on earth could separate them."

"Why do you tell me that?"

"Because I think you wished to be assured of it?"

"You are clever, Mr. Brett. If you can interpret a criminal's designs as
well as you can read a woman's heart you must be a terror to evil-doers."

A slight colour came into her cheeks. The barrister leaned forward, his
hands clasped and arms resting on his knees.

"I have just seen your husband," he said.

She exhibited no marked sign of emotion but he thought he detected a
frightened look in her eyes.

"Again I ask," she exclaimed, "why do you tell me?"

"The reason is obvious. You ought to know all that goes on. There was a
quarrel this morning between him and David Hume. Your husband wished me to
arrange a duel. I promised him a visit from the police if I heard any more
of such nonsense."

"A duel! More bloodshed!" she almost whispered.

"Do not have any alarm for either of them. They are quite safe. I will
guarantee so much, at any rate. But your husband is a somewhat curious
person. He is prone to strong and sudden hatreds--and attachments."

Margaret pressed her hands to her face. She could no longer bear the
torture of make-believe quiescence.

"Oh, what shall I do!" she wailed. "I am the most miserable woman in
England to-day, and I might have been the happiest."

"Why are you miserable, Mrs. Capella?" asked Brett gently.

"I cannot tell you. Perhaps it is owing to my own folly. Are you sure that
David and Helen intend to get married?"

"Yes."

"Then, for Heaven's sake, let the wedding take place. Let them leave
Beechcroft and its associations for ever."

"That cannot be until Hume's character is cleared from the odium attached
to it."

"You mean my brother's death. But that has been settled by the courts.
David was declared 'Not guilty.' Surely that will suffice! No good purpose
can be gained by reopening an inquiry closed by the law."

"I think you are a little unjust to your cousin in this matter, Mrs.
Capella. He and his future wife feel very grievously the slur cast upon
his name. You know perfectly well that if half the people in this county
were asked, 'Who killed Sir Alan Hume-Frazer?' they would say 'David
Hume.' The other half would shake their heads in dubiety, and prefer not
to be on visiting terms with David Hume and his wife. No; your brother was
killed in a particularly foul way. He died needlessly, so far as we can
learn. His death should be avenged, and this can only be done by tracking
his murderer and ruthlessly bringing the wretch to justice. Are not these
your own sentiments when divested of all conflicting desires?"

Brett's concluding sentence seemed to petrify his hearer.

"In what way can I help you?" she murmured, and the words appeared to come
from a heart of stone.

"There are many items I want cleared up, but I do not wish to distress you
unduly. Can you not refer me to your solicitors, for instance? I imagine
they will be able to answer all my queries."

"No. I prefer to deal with the affair myself."

"Very well. I will commence with you personally. Why did you quarrel with
your brother in London a few days before his death?"

"Because I was living extravagantly. Not only that, but he disapproved of
my manner of life. In those days I was headstrong and wilful. I loved a
Bohemian existence combined with absurd luxury, or rather, a wildly
useless expenditure of money. No one who knows me now could picture me
then. Yet now I am good and unhappy. Then I was wicked, in some people's
eyes, and happy. Strange, is it not?"

"Not altogether so unusual as you may think. Was any other person
interested in what I may term the result of the dispute between your
brother and yourself?"

"That is a difficult question to answer. I was very careless in money
matters, but it is clear that the curtailment of my rate of living from
£15,000 to £5,000 per annum must make considerable difference to all
connected with me."

"Had you been living at the former rate?"

"Yes, since my father's death. What annoyed Alan was the fact that I had
borrowed from money-lenders."

"Who else knew of your disagreement with him besides these money-lenders
and his solicitors?"

"All my friends. I used to laugh at his serious ways, when I, older and
much more experienced in some respects, treated life as a tiresome joke.
But none of my friends were commissioned to murder my brother so that I
might obtain the estate, Mr. Brett."

"Not by you," he said thoughtfully.

He knew well that to endeavour to get Margaret to implicate her husband
would merely render her an active opponent. She loved this Italian scamp.
She was profoundly thankful that David Hume had come back to claim the
hand of Helen Layton, the woman who had been the unwilling object of
Capella's wayward affections. She would be only too glad to give half her
property to the young couple if they would settle in New Zealand or
Peru--far from Beechcroft.

Yet it was impossible to believe that she could love a man whom she
suspected of murdering her brother. Why, then, had husband and wife
drifted apart? Assuredly the pieces of the puzzle were inextricably mixed.

"Where did you marry Mr. Capella?" asked Brett suddenly.

"At Naples--a civil ceremony, before the Mayor, and registered by the
British Consul."

"Had you been long acquainted"

"I met him, oddly enough, in Covent Garden Theatre, the night my brother
was killed"

It was now Brett's turn to be startled.

"Are you quite certain of this ?" he asked, his surprise at the turn taken
by the conversation almost throwing him off his guard.

"Positive. Were you led to believe that Giovanni was the murderer?"

Her voice was cold, impassive, marvellously under control. It warned him,
threw him back into the safe rôle of Hume's adviser and friend.

"I am led to believe nothing at present," he said slowly. "This inquiry
is, as yet, only twenty-four hours old so far as I am concerned. I am
seeking information. When I am gorged with facts I proceed to digest
them."

"Well, what I tell you is true. There are no less than ten people, all
living, I have no doubt, who can testify to its correctness. I had a box
at the Fancy Dress Ball that New Year's Eve. I invited nine guests. One of
them, an attaché at the Italian Embassy, brought Giovanni and introduced
him to me. We were together from midnight until 4.30 a.m. Whilst poor Alan
was lying here dead, I was revelling at a _bal masqué_. Do you think I am
likely to forget the circumstances?"

The icy tones thrilled with pitiful remembrance. But the barrister's task
required the unsparing use of the probe. He determined, once and for all,
to end an unpleasant scene.

"Will you tell me why you and your husband have, shall we say, disagreed
so soon after your marriage? You were formed by Providence and nature to
be mated. What has driven you apart?"

The woman flushed scarlet under this direct inquiry.

"I cannot tell you," she said brokenly, "but the cause--in no
way--concerns--either my brother's death--or David's innocence. It is
personal--between Giovanni and myself. In God's good time, it may be put
right."

Brett, singularly enough, was a man of quick impulse. He was moved now by
a profound pity for the woman who thus bared her heart to him.

"Thank you for your candour, Mrs. Capella," he exclaimed, with a fervour
that evidently touched her. "May I ask one more question, and I have done
with a most unpleasant ordeal. Do you suspect any person of being your
brother's assassin?"

"No," she said. "Indeed I do not."




CHAPTER VIII

REVELATIONS


Hume and Winter did not meet on terms that might be strictly described as
cordial.

Brett, on quitting the Hall, had surrendered himself to a spell of vacant
bewilderment. He haled the unwilling Hume from Helen's society, and picked
up the detective at the Wheat Sheaf Inn. Then the barrister, from sheer
need of mental relief, determined to have some fun with them.

"You two ought to know each other," he said good-humouredly. "At one time
you took keen interest in matters of mutual concern. Allow me to introduce
you. Hume--this is Mr. Winter, of Scotland Yard."

David was quite unprepared for the meeting.

"What?" he exclaimed, his upper lip stiffening, "the man who concocted all
sorts of imaginary evidence against me!"

"'Concocted' is not the right word, nor imaginary' either," growled
Winter.

"Quite right," said Brett. "Really, Hume, you should be more careful in
your choice of language. Had Winter been as careless in his statements at
the Assizes, he would certainly have hanged you."

Hume was too happy, after a prolonged _tête-à-tête_ with his beloved, to
harbour malice against any person.

"What are we supposed to do--shake hands?" he inquired blandly.

"It might be a good preliminary to a better understanding of one another.
You think Winter is an unscrupulous ruffian. He described you to me as a
swine not two hours ago. Now, you are both wrong. Winter is the best
living police detective, and a most fair-minded one. He will be a valuable
ally. Before many days are over you will be deeply in his debt in every
sense of the word. On the other hand, you, Hume, are a much-wronged man,
whom Winter must help to regain his rightful position. This is one of the
occasions when Justice is compelled to take the bandage off her eyes. She
may be impartial, but she is often blind. Now be friends, and let us start
from that basis."

Silently the two men exchanged a hearty grip.

"Excellent!" cried the barrister. "Hume, take Winter with you in front. I
will seat myself beside the groom, and please oblige me, both of you, by
not addressing a word to me between here and Stowmarket."

Hume and the detective got along comfortably once the ice was broken.
Naturally, they steered clear of all reference to the tragedy in the
presence of the servant. Their talk dealt chiefly with sporting matters.

Brett, carried swiftly along the level road, kept his eyes fixed on
Beechcroft and its contiguous hamlet until they vanished in the middle
distance.

"This is the most curious inquiry I was ever engaged in," he communed.
"Winter, of course, will fasten on to Capella like a horse leech when he
knows the facts. Yet Capella is neither a coward nor an ordinary villain.
For some ridiculous reason, I have a sneaking sympathy with him. Had he
stormed and blustered when I pitched into him to-day I would have thought
less of him. And his wife! What mysterious workings of Fate brought those
two together and then disunited them? They become fascinated one with the
other whilst the brother's corpse is still palpitating beneath that
terrible stroke. They get married, with not unreasonable haste, but no
sooner do they reach Beechcroft, a house of evil import if ever bricks and
mortar had such a character, than they are driven asunder by some malign
influence.

"And now, after eighteen months, I am asked to take up the tangled clues,
if such may be said to exist. It is a difficult, perhaps an impossible,
undertaking. Yet if I have done so much in a day, what may not happen in a
fortnight!"

Long afterwards, recalling that soliloquy, he wondered whether or not,
were he suddenly endowed with the gift of prophecy, he would,
nevertheless, have pursued his quest. He never could tell.

Once securely entrenched in a private sitting-room of the Stowmarket
Hotel, the three men began to discuss crime and tobacco.

Mr. Winter commenced by being confidential and professional.

"Now, Mr. Hume," he said, "as misunderstandings have been cleared, to some
extent, by Mr. Brett's remarks, I will, with your permission, ask you a
few questions."

"Fire away."

"In the first place, your counsel tried to prove--did prove, in fact--that
you walked straight from the ball-room to the Hall, sat down in the
library, and did not move from your chair until Fergusson, the butler,
told you how he had found Sir Alan's body on the lawn."

"Exactly."

"So if a man comes forward now and swears that he watched you for nearly
ten minutes standing in the shadow of the yews on the left of the house,
he will not be telling the truth?"

"That is putting it mildly."

"Yet there is such a witness in existence, and I am certain he is not a
liar in this matter."

"What!"

Brett and Hume ejaculated the word simultaneously; the one surprised,
because he knew how careful Winter was in matters of fact, the other
Indignant at the seeming disbelief in his statement.

"Please, gentlemen," appealed the detective, secretly gratified by the
sensation he caused, "wait until I have finished. If I did not fully
accept Mr. Brett's views on this remarkable case, I would not be sitting
here this minute. My conscience would not permit it"

"Be virtuous, Winter, but not too virtuous," broke in Brett drily.

"There you go again, sir, questioning my motives. But I am of a forgiving
disposition. Now, there cannot be the slightest doubt that a poacher named
John Wise, better known as 'Rabbit Jack,' who resides in this town, chose
that New Year's Eve as an excellent time to net the meadows behind the
Hall. He had heard about Mrs. Eastham's dance, and knew that on such a
night the estate keepers would have more liking for fun with the coachmen
and maids than for game-watching. He entered the park soon after midnight,
and saw a gentleman walk up the avenue towards the house. He waited a few
minutes, and crept quietly along the side of the hedge--in the park, of
course. Being winter time, the trees and bushes were bare, and he was
startled to see the same gentleman, with his coat buttoned up, standing in
the shade of the yews close to the Hall. 'Rabbit Jack' naturally thought
he had been spotted. He gripped his lurcher's collar and stood still for
nearly ten minutes. Then it occurred to him that he was mistaken. He had
not been seen, so he stole off towards the plantation and started
operations. He is a first-rate poacher, and always works alone. About
three o'clock he was alarmed by a policeman's lantern--the search of the
grounds after the murder, you see--and made off. He entered Stowmarket on
the far side of the town, and ran into a policeman's arms. They fought for
twenty minutes. The P.C. won, and 'Rabbit Jack' got six months' hard
labour for being in unlawful possession of game and assaulting the police.
Consequently, he never heard a syllable about the 'Stowmarket Mystery,' as
this affair was called by the Press, until long after Mr. Hume's second
trial and acquittal. Yet the first thing 'Rabbit Jack' did after his
release was to go straight to the police and tell them what he had seen. I
think, Mr. Hume, that even you will admit a good deal depended on the
result of the fight between the poacher and the bobby, for 'Rabbit Jack'
described a man of your exact appearance and dressed as you were that
night."

There was silence for a moment when Winter ended his recital.

"It is evident," said Brett, otherwise engaged in making smoke-rings,
"that 'Rabbit Jack' saw the real murderer."

"A man like me--in evening dress! Who on earth could he be?" was Hume's
natural exclamation.

"We must test this chap's story," said Brett.

"How?"

"Easily enough. There is a garden outside. Can you bring this human bunny
here to-night?"

"I think so."

"Very well. Stage him about nine o'clock. Anything else?"

Mr. Winter pondered a little while; then he addressed Hume hesitatingly:

"Does Mr. Brett know everything that happened after the murder?"

"I think so. Yes."

"Everything! Say three-quarters of an hour afterwards?"

The effect of this remark on Hume was very pronounced. His habitual air of
reserve gave place to a state of decided confusion.

"What are you hinting at?" he cried, striving hard to govern his voice.

"Well, it must out, sooner or later. Why did you go to meet Miss Helen
Layton in the avenue about 1.30 a.m.--soon after Sir Alan's body had been
examined by the doctor?'

"Oh, damn it, man, how did you ascertain that?" groaned Hume.

"I knew it all along, but I did not see that it was very material to the
case, and I wanted to keep the poor young lady's name out of the affair as
far as possible. I did not want to suggest that she was an accessory after
the crime."

Hume was blushing like a schoolboy. He glanced miserably at Brett, but the
barrister was still puffing artistic designs in big and little rings.

"Very well. My reason for concealment disappears now," he blurted out, for
the young man was both vexed and ashamed. "That wretched night, after she
returned home, Helen thought she had behaved foolishly in creating a
scene. She put on a cloak, changed her shoes, and slipped back again to
Mrs. Eastham's, where she met Alan just coming away. She implored him to
make up the quarrel with me. He apologised for his conduct, and promised
to do the same to me when we met. He explained that other matters had
upset his temper that day, and he had momentarily yielded to an irritated
belief that everything was against him. Helen watched him enter the park;
she pretended that she was going in to Mrs. Eastham's. She could see the
lighted windows of the library, and she wondered why he did not go inside,
but imagined that at the distance she might easily be mistaken. At last
she ran off to the rectory. Again she lingered in the garden, devoutly
wishing that all might be well between Alan and me. Then she became
conscious that something unusual had taken place, owing to the lights and
commotion. For a long time she was at a loss to conjecture what could have
happened. At last, yielding to curiosity, she came back to the lodge. The
gates were wide open. Mrs. Eastham's dance was still in progress. She is
not a timid girl, so she walked boldly up the avenue until she met
Fergusson, the butler, who was then going to tell Mrs. Eastham. When she
heard his story she was too shocked to credit it, and asked him to bring
me. I came. By that time I was beginning to realise that I might be
implicated in the affair, and I begged her to return home at once, alone.
She did so. Subsequently she asked me not to refer to the escapade, for
obvious reasons. It was a woman's little secret, Brett, and I was
compelled to keep it."

"Anything else, Winter?" demanded the barrister, wrapped in a cloud of his
own creation.

"That is all, sir, except the way in which I heard of Miss Layton's
meeting with Mr. Hume."

"Not through Fergusson, eh?"

"Not a bit. The old chap is as close as wax. He seems to think that a
Hume-Frazer must die a violent death outside that library window, and if
the cause of the trouble is another Hume-Frazer, it is their own blooming
business, and no other person's. Most extraordinary old chap. Have you met
him?"

"No. Indeed, I am only just beginning to hear the correct details of the
story."

Hume winced, but passed no remark.

"Well, my information came through an anonymous letter."

"You don't say so! How interesting! Have you got it?"

"I brought it with me, for a reason other than that which actuates me now,
I must confess."

He produced a small envelope, frayed at the edges, and closely compressed.
It bore the type-written address, "Police Office, Scotland Yard," and the
postal stamp was "West Strand, January 18, 9 p.m."

Within, a small slip of paper, also typed, gave this message:--

    "About Stowmarket. David Hume Frazer
    killed cousin. Cousin talked girl in road.
    Girl waited wood. David Hume Frazer met
    girl in wood after 1 a.m."

Brett jumped up in instant excitement. Ha placed the two documents on a
table near the window, where the afternoon sun fell directly on them.

"Written by the murderer!" he cried "The result of perusing the evening
papers containing a report of the first proceedings before the
magistrates! The production of an illiterate man, who knew neither the use
of a hyphen nor the correct word to describe the avenue! Not wholly exact
either, if your story be true, Hume."

"My story is true. Helen herself will tell it you, word for word."

"This is most important. Look at that broken small 'c,' and the bent
capital 'D.' The letter 'a,' too, is out of gear, and does not register
accurately. Do you note the irregular spacing in 'market,' 'Frazer,'
'talked'? You got that letter, Winter, and yet you did not test every
Remington type-writer in London."

"Oh, of course it's my fault!"

Mr. Winter's _coup_ has fallen on himself, and he knew it.

"Oh, Winter, Winter! Come to me twice a week from six to seven, Tuesdays
and Fridays, and I will give you a night-school training. Now, I wonder if
that type-writer has been repaired?"

The detective had seldom seen Brett so thoroughly roused. His eyes were
brilliant, his nose dilated as if he could smell the very scent of the
anonymous scribe.

"An illiterate man," he repeated, "in evening dress; the same height and
appearance as Hume; in a village like Sleagill on a New Year's Eve; four
miles from everywhere. Was ever clue so simple provided by a careless
scoundrel! And eighteen months have elapsed. This is positively
maddening!"

"Look here, old chap," said Hume, still smarting under the recollections
of Brett's caustic utterance, "say you forgive me for keeping that thing
back. There is nothing else, believe me. It was for Helen's sake."

"Rubbish!" cried the barrister. "The only wonder is that you are not long
since assimilated in quicklime in a prison grave. You are all cracked, I
think--living spooks, human March hares. As for you, Winter, I weep for
you."

He strode rapidly to and fro along the length of the room, smoking
prodigiously, with frowning brows and concentrated eyes. The others did
not speak, but Winter treated Hume to an informing wink, as one might say.

"Now you will hear something."




CHAPTER IX

THE KO-KATANA


Thinking aloud, rather than addressing his companions, Brett began
again:--

"The man must have had some place in which to change his clothes, for he
would not court attention by walking about in evening dress by broad
daylight He met and spoke with Alan Hume-Frazer that afternoon. The result
was unsatisfactory. The stranger resolved to visit him again at night--the
night of the ball. In a country village on such an occasion, a
swallow-tailed coat was a _passe-partout_, as many gentry had come in from
the surrounding district."

"Yes, that is so," broke in Hume.

Brett momentarily looked through him, and the detective shook his head to
deprecate any further interruption.

"He could not enter Mrs. Eastham's house, for there everybody knew
everybody else. He could not enter the library of the Hall, because the
footman was on duty for several hours. Is not that so?"

He seemed to bite both men with the question.

"Yes," they answered.

"Then he was compelled to hang about the avenue, watching his
opportunity--his opportunity for what? Not to commit a murder! He was
unarmed, or, at any rate, his implement was a haphazard choice, selected
on the spur of the moment. He saw David Hume leave the dance, and watched
his brief talk with the butler. He correctly interpreted Hume's
preparations to await his cousin's arrival. Did Hume's sleepiness suggest
the crime, and its probable explanation? Perhaps. I cannot determine that
point now. Assuredly it gave the opportunity to commit a theft. Something
was stolen from the secretaire. A bold rascal, to force a drawer whilst
another man was in the room! Did he fear the consequences if he were
caught? I think not. He succeeded in his object, and went off, but before
he reached the gates he saw Miss Layton, whom he did not know, talking to
the baronet. He secreted himself until the baronet entered the park alone.
For some reason, he made his presence known, and walked with Sir Alan to
the lawn outside the window, still retaining in his hand the small knife
used to prise open the lock. There was a short and vehement dispute.
Possibly the baronet guessed the object of this unexpected appearance.
There may have been a struggle. Then the knife was sent home, with such
singular skill that the victim fell without a word, a groan, to arouse
attention. The murderer made off down the avenue, but he was far too
cold-blooded to run away and encounter unforeseen dangers. No; he waited
among the trees to ascertain what would happen when his victim was
discovered, and frame his plans accordingly. It was then that he saw Helen
Layton and David Hume. As soon as the news of the murder spread abroad the
dance broke up. Amidst the wondering crowd, slowly dispersing in their
carriages, he could easily slip away unseen, for the police, of course,
were sure that David Hume killed his cousin. Don't you see, Winter?"

The inspector did not see.

"You are making up a fine tale, Mr. Brett," he said doggedly, "but I'm
blessed if I can follow your reasoning."

"No, of course not. Eighteen months of settled conviction are not to be
dispelled in an instant. But accept my theory. This man, the guilty man,
must have resided in Stowmarket for some hours, if not days. Many people
saw him. He could not live in Sleagill, where even the village dogs would
suspect him. But the addle-headed police, ready to handcuff David Hume,
never thought of inquiring about strangers who came and went at Stowmarket
in those days. Stowmarket is a metropolis, a wilderness of changeful
beings, to a country policeman. It has a market-day, an occasional drunken
man--life is a whirl in Stowmarket. Fortunately, people have memories. At
that time you did not wear a beard, Hume."

"No," was the reply, "though I never told you that."

"Of course you told me, many times. Did not your acquaintances fail to
recognise you? Had not Mrs. Capella to look twice at you before she knew
you? Now, Winter, start out. Ascertain, in each hotel in the town, if they
had any strange guests about the period of the murder. There is a remote
chance that you may learn something. Describe Mr. Hume without a beard,
and hint at a reward if information is forthcoming. Money quickens the
agricultural intellect."

The detective, doubting much, obeyed. Hume, asking if there was any reason
why he should not drive back to Sleagill for an hour before dinner, was
sarcastically advised to go a good deal farther. Indeed, the sight of that
tiny type-written slip had stirred Brett to volcanic activity.

He tramped backwards and forwards, enveloped in smoke. Once he halted and
tore at the bell.

A waiter came.

"Go to my room, No. 11, and bring me a leather dressing-case, marked
'R.B.' Run! I give you twenty seconds. After that you lose sixpence a
second out of your tip."

He pulled out his watch. The man dashed along the corridor, much to the
amazement of a passing chamber-maid. He returned, bearing the bag in
triumph.

"Seventeen seconds! By the law of equity you are entitled to
eighteenpence."

Brett produced the money and led the gaping waiter out of the room,
promptly shutting the door on him.

"He's a rum gentleman that," said the waiter to the girl.

"He must be, to make you hurry in such fashion. Why, you wouldn't have
gone faster for a free pint."

"I consider that an impertinent observation." With tilted nose the man
turned and cannoned against Hume.

"Here!" cried the latter. "Run to the stables and get me a horse and trap.
If they are ready in two minutes I'll give you two shillings."

"Talk about makin' money!" gasped the waiter, as he flew downstairs, "this
is coinin'. But, by gum, they _are_ in a hurry."

Brett unlocked his bag and took from it the book of newspaper cuttings.

"Ah!" he said, after a rapid glance at his concluding notes. "I thought
so. Here is what I wrote when the affair was fresh in my mind:--

"'Why were no inquiries made at Stowmarket to learn what, if any,
strangers were in the town on New Year's Eve?

"'Most minute investigations should be pursued with reference to Margaret
Hume-Frazer's friends and associates.

"'Has Fergusson ever been asked if his master received any visitors on the
day of the murder or during the preceding week? If so, who were they?

"What is the precise purpose of the knife attached to the Japanese sword?
It appears to be too small to be used as a dagger. In any case, the sword
scabbard would be an unsuitable place to carry an auxiliary weapon, to
European ideas.'

"Now, I wonder if Fergusson is still at the Hall? The other matters must
wait."

Winter returned about the same time as Hume. Brett and the latter dressed
for dinner, and the adroit detective, not to be beaten, borrowed a
dress-suit from the landlord, after telegraphing to London for his own
clothes.

During the progress of the meal the little party scrupulously refrained
from discussing business, an excellent habit always insisted on by Brett.

They had reached the stage of coffee and cigars when a waiter entered and
whispered something to the police officer.

"'Rabbit Jack' is here," exclaimed Winter.

"Capital! Tell him to wait."

When the servant had left, Brett detailed his proposed test. He and Hume
would go into the hotel garden, after donning overcoats and deer-stalker
hats, for Hume told him that both his cousin and he himself had worn that
style of headgear.

They would stand, with their faces hidden, beneath the trees, and Winter
was to bring the poacher towards them, after asking him to pick out the
man who most resembled the person he had seen standing in the avenue at
Beechcroft.

The test was most successful. "Rabbit Jack" instantly selected Hume.

"It's either the chap hisself or his dead spit," was the poacher's dictum.

Then he was cautioned to keep his own counsel as to the incident, and he
went away to get gloriously drunk on half-a-sovereign.

In the seclusion of the sitting-room, Winter related the outcome of his
inquiries. They were negative.

Landlords and barmaids remembered a few commercial travellers by referring
to old lodgers, but they one and all united in the opinion that New Year's
Eve was a most unlikely time for the hotels to contain casual visitors.

"I was afraid it would be a wild-goose chase from the start," opined
Winter.

"Obviously," replied Brett; "yet ten minutes ago you produced a man who
actually watched the murderer for a considerable time that night."

Whilst Winter was searching his wits for a suitable argument, the
barrister continued:

"Where is Fergusson now?"

"I can answer that," exclaimed Hume. "He is my father's butler. When
Capella came to Beechcroft, the old man wrote and said he could not take
orders from an Italian. It was like receiving instructions from a French
cook. So my father brought him to Glen Tochan."

"Then your father must send him to London. He may be very useful. I
understand he was very many years at Beechcroft?"

"Forty-six, man and boy, as he puts it."

"Write to-morrow and bring him to town. He can stay at your hotel. I will
not keep him long; just one conversation--no more. Can you or your father
tell me anything else about that sword?"

"I fear not. Admiral Cunningham--"

"I guess I'm the authority there," broke in Winter. "I got to know all
about it from Mr. Okasaki."

"And who, pray, is Mr. Okasaki?"

"A Japanese gentleman, who came to Ipswich to hear the first trial. He was
interested in the case, owing to the curious fact that a murder in a
little English village should be committed with such a weapon, so he came
down to listen to the evidence. And, by the way, he took a barmaid back
with him. There was rather a sensation."

"The Japs are very enterprising. What did he tell you about the sword?"

The detective produced a note-book.

"It is all here," he said, turning over the leaves. "A Japanese Samurai,
or gentleman, in former days carried two swords, one long blade for use
against his enemies, and a shorter one for committing suicide if he was
beaten or disgraced. The sword Mr. Hume gave his cousin was a short one,
and the knife which accompanied it is called the Ko-Katana, or little
sword. As well as I could understand Mr. Okasaki, a Jap uses this as a
pen-knife, and also as a queer sort of visiting-card. If he slays an enemy
he sticks the Ko-Katana between the other fellow's ribs, or into his ear,
and leaves it there."

"A P.P.C. card, in fact!"

"You always have some joke against the P.C.'s," growled the detective. "I
never--"

"You have just made a most excellent one yourself. Please continue,
Winter. Your researches are valuable."

"That is all. Would you like to see the Ko-Katana that killed Sir Alan?"

"Yes. Where is it?"

"In the Black Museum at Scotland Yard. I will take you there."

"Thank you. By the way, concerning this man, Okasaki. Supposing we should
want any further information from him on this curious topic, can you find
him? You say he indulged in some liaison with an Ipswich girl, so I assume
he has not gone back to Japan."

"The last I heard of him was at that time. Some one told me that he was an
independent gentleman, noted for his art tastes. The disappearance of the
girl created a rare old row in Ipswich."

"Make a note of him. We may need his skilled assistance. Was there any
special design on the Ko-Katana?"

"It was ornamented in some way, but I forget the pattern."

"I can help you in that matter," said Hume. "I remember perfectly that the
handle, of polished gun-metal, bore a beautiful embossed design in gold
and silver of a setting sun surmounted by clouds and two birds."

"Correct, Mr. Hume, I recall it now," said the detective. "The same thing
appears on the handle of the sword."

Brett ruminated silently on this fresh information. Like the other pieces
in the puzzle, it seemed to have no sort of connection with the cause of
the crime.

"Why do you say 'setting sun'? How does one distinguish it from the rising
sun in embossed or inlaid work?" he asked Hume.

"I do not know. I only repeat Alan's remark. I gave the beastly thing to
him because he became interested in Japanese arms during his Eastern tour,
you will recollect."

"Ah, well. That is a nice point for Mr. Okasaki to settle if we chance to
come across him. Don't forget, Winter, I want to see that Ko-Katana, Whom
did you meet at Sleagill, Hume?"

The young man laughed. "Helen, of course."

"Any other person?"

"No. I told her I might chance to drive out in that direction about five
o'clock, so--"

"Dear me! You were not at all certain."

"By no means. I am at your orders."

"Excellent! Then my orders are that you shall meet the young lady on every
possible occasion. You took her for a drive?"

"Well--er--yes, I did. You do not leave me much to tell."

"Did she say anything of importance--bearing upon our inquiry, I mean?"

"Nothing. She had not quitted the rectory since we came away. I asked her
to pick up any village gossip about the people at the Hall, and let us
know at the earliest moment if she regarded it as valuable in any way."

"That was thoughtful of you. A great deal may happen there at any moment."

A waiter knocked and entered. He handed a letter to Hume.

"From Nellie," said David hastily.

He opened the envelope and perused a short note, which he gave to Brett.
It ran:--

    "DEAREST,--I have just heard from Jane, our under-housemaid, that
    Mr. Capella is leaving the Hall for London by an early train
    to-morrow. Jane 'walks out' with Mr. Capella's valet, and is in
    tears. Tell Mr. Brett. I am going to help Mrs. Eastham to select
    prize books for the school treat to-morrow at eleven.

    "--With love, yours,

    "NELLIE."

"Who brought this note?" inquired Hume from the waiter as he picked up pen
and paper.

"A man from Sleagill, sir. Any reply?"

"Certainly. Tell him to wait in the tap-room at my expense." He commenced
to write.

"Any message?" he asked Brett.

"Yes. Give Miss Layton my compliments, and say I regret to hear that Jane
is in tears. Ask her--Miss Layton--to get Jane to find out from the valet
what train his master will travel by."

"Why?"

"Because I will go by an earlier one, if possible."

"But what about me! Confound it, I promised--"

"To meet Miss Layton at eleven. Do so, my dear fellow. But come to town
to-morrow evening. Winter and I may want you."

So the detective sent another telegram to detain that dress suit, and Hume
seemed to have quickly conquered his disinclination to visit Stowmarket.




CHAPTER X

THE BLACK MUSEUM


Winter, who had never seen Capella, was so well posted by Brett as to his
personal appearance that he experienced no difficulty in picking out the
Italian when he alighted from the train at Liverpool Street Station next
morning.

Capella did not conduct himself like a furtive villain. He jumped into a
hansom. His valet followed in a four-wheeler with the luggage. In each
instance the address given to the driver was that of a well-known West End
hotel.

The detective's cab kept pace with Capella's through Old Broad Street,
Queen Victoria Street, and along the Embankment. At the Mansion House, and
again at Blackfriars, they halted side by side, and Winter noticed that
his quarry was looking into space with sullen, vindictive eyes.

"He means mischief to somebody," was Winter's summing up. "I wonder if he
intends to knife Hume?" for Brett had given his professional _confrère_ a
synopsis of all that happened before they met, and of his subsequent
conversation with the "happy couple" in Beechcroft Hall.

He repeated this remark to the barrister when he reached Brett's chambers.

"Capella will do nothing so crude," was the comment. "He is no fool. I do
not credit him with the murder of Sir Alan, but if I am mistaken in this
respect, it is impossible to suppose that he can dream of clearing his
path again by the same drastic method. Of course he means mischief, but he
will stab reputations, not individuals."

"When will you come to the Black Museum?"

"At once, if you like. But before we set out I want to discuss Mr. Okasaki
with you. What sort of person is he?"

"A genuine Jap, small, lively, and oval-faced. His eyes are like tiny
slits in a water melon, and when he laughs his grin goes back to his
ears."

"Really, Winter, I did not credit you with such a fund of picturesque
imagery. Would you know him again?"

"I can't be certain. All Japs are very much alike, to my thinking, but if
I heard him talk I would be almost sure. Why do you ask?"

"Because I have been looking up a little information with reference to the
Ko-Katana and its uses. Now, Okasaki is the name of a Japanese town.
Family names almost invariably have a topographical foundation, referring
to some village, river, street, or mountain, and there may be thousands of
Okasakis. Then, again, it was the custom some years ago for a man to be
called one name at birth, another when he came of age, a third when he
obtained some official position, and so on. For instance, you would be
called Spring when you were born, Summer when you were twenty-one, Autumn
when you became a policeman, and Winter when you reached your present
rank."

"Oh, Christopher!" cried the detective. "And if I were made Chief
Inspector?"

"Then your title would be 'Top Dog' or something of the sort."

Mr. Winter assimilated the foregoing information with a profound
thankfulness that we in England do these things differently.

"Why are you so interested in Mr. Okasaki?" he inquired.

"I will answer your question by another. Why was he so interested in the
Ko-Katana?"

"That is hardly what I told you, Mr. Brett. He professed to be interested
in the crime itself. But now I come to think of it, he did ask me to let
him see the thing."

"And did you?"

"Yes; I wanted all the information I could get."

"My position exactly. Let us go to Scotland Yard."

The famous Black Museum has so often been the subject of articles in the
public press that no detailed description is needed here. It contains, in
glass cases, or hanging on the walls, a weird collection of articles
famous in the annals of crime. It is not open to the public, and Brett,
who had not seen the place before, examined its relics with much
curiosity.

The detective exhibited a pardonable pride in some of them, but his
companion damped his enthusiasm by saying:

"This is a depressing sight."

"In what way?"

"British rogues are evidently of low intelligence in the average. A
bludgeon and a halter make up their history."

"There's more than that in a good many cases."

"Ah, I forgot the handcuffs."

"Well, here is the Ko-Katana," said Winter shortly.

The barrister took the fateful weapon, not more deadly than a paper-knife
in appearance, and scrutinised it closely.

"It has not been cleaned," he said.

"No, it was left untouched after the doctor withdrew it from the poor
young fellow's breast."

Brett produced a magnifying glass. Beneath the rust on the blade he
thought he could distinguish some Japanese characters in the quaint
pictorial script adapted by that singular people from the Chinese system
of writing.

He brought the knife nearer to the window and carefully focussed it. Then
he produced a note-book and made a pencil drawing of the following
inscription:

[Illustration]

Winter watched him with quiet agony. He had never noticed the signs
before.

"Mr. Okasaki did not tell you what these scratches meant?" inquired the
barrister.

"No. He did not see them."

"Sure?"

"Quite positive. Of course, it is very smart on your part to hit upon them
so quickly, but what possible purpose can it serve to find out the meaning
of something carved in Japan more than fifty years ago, at the very
least?"

"I do not know. It is very stupid of me, I admit, but I have not the
faintest notion."

"Does it make the finding of Okasaki more important?"

"To a certain extent. We want to have everything explained. At present we
have so little of what I regard as really definite evidence."

"May I ask what that little is?"

"Sir Alan Hume-Frazer was murdered with a knife produced by a man like
David Hume, whom 'Rabbit Jack' saw standing beneath the yews. Not much,
eh?"

Winter shook his head dubiously.

"If Sir Alan were shot instead of stabbed," went on the barrister, "the
first thing you would endeavour to determine would be the calibre and
nature of the bullet. Why not be equally particular about the knife?"

"But this weapon has been for fifty years in Glen Tochan. Its history is
thoroughly established."

"Is it? Who made it? Whose crest does it bear? What does this motto
signify? If you wanted to kill a man would you use this toy? Why was not
the sword itself employed?"

"That string of questions leaves me out, Mr. Brett."

"I am equally uninformed. I can only answer the last one. The sword is
intended for suicidal purposes, the Ko-Katana for an enemy. This is a case
of murder, not suicide."

The detective wheeled sharply on his heels, thereby upsetting Charles
Peace's telescopic ladder.

"You suspect Okasaki!" he cried.

"My dear fellow! Okasaki is, say, five feet nothing. The murderer is five
feet ten inches in height. Japanese are clever people, but they are
not--telescopes," and he picked up the ladder.

Winter grinned. "You always make capital out of my blunders," he said.

"Pooh! My banking account is limited. Let us go. The moral atmosphere in
this room is vile."

Outside the Central Police Office they separated, Brett to pay some
long-neglected calls, Winter to hunt up Capella's movements and initiate
inquiries about Okasaki.

The detective came to Brett's chambers at five o'clock, in a great state
of excitement.

"Thank goodness you are at home, sir." he cried, when Smith admitted him
to the barrister's sanctum. "Capella is off to Naples."

Naples, the scene of his marriage! What did this journey portend? Naught
but the gravest considerations would take him so far away from home when
he knew that David and Helen were reunited.

"How did you discover this fact?" asked Brett, awaking out of a brown
study.

"Easily enough, as it happened. Ninety-nine per cent. of gentlemen's
valets are keen sports. Barbers and hotel-porters run them close. I do a
bit that way myself--"

The barrister groaned.

"Not often, sir, but this is holiday time, you see. Anyhow, I gave the
hall-porter, whom I know, the wink to come to a neighbouring bar during
his time off for tea. He actually brought Capella's man--William his name
is--with him. I told them I had backed the first winner to-day, an eight
to one chance, and that started them. I offered to put them on a certainty
next week, and William's face fell. 'It's a beastly nuisance,' he said,
'I'm off to Naples with my boss to-morrow.' 'Well,' said I, 'if you're not
going before the night train, perhaps I may be able--' But that made him
worse, because they leave by the 11 A.M., Victoria."

Brett began to pace the room. He could not make up his mind to visit
Naples in person. For one thing, he did not speak Italian. But Capella
must be followed. At last he decided upon a course of action.

"Winter," he said, "do you know a man we can trust, an Italian, or better
still, an Italian-speaking Englishman, who can undertake this commission
for us?"

"Would you mind ringing for Smith, sir?" replied the detective, who seemed
to be mightily pleased with himself.

Smith appeared.

"At the foot of the stairs you will find a gentleman named Holden," said
Winter. "Ask him to come up, please."

Holden appeared, a sallow personage, long-nosed and shrewd-looking. The
detective explained that Mr. Holden was an ex-police sergeant, retained
for many years at headquarters on account of his fluency in the language
of Tasso. Winter did not mention Tasso. This is figurative.

An arrangement was quickly made. He was to start that evening and meet
Capella on arrival at Naples; Winter would telegraph the fact of the
Italian's departure according to programme. Holden was not to spare
expense in employing local assistance if necessary. He was to report
everything he could learn about Capella's movements.

Brett wanted to hand him £50, but found that all the money he had in his
possession at the moment only totalled up to £35.

Winter produced a small bag.

"It was quite true what I said," he smirked. "I did back the first winner,
and, what's more, I drew it--sixteen of the best."

"I had no idea the police force was so corrupt," sighed Brett, as he
completed the financial transaction, and Mr. Holden took his departure.
The detective also went off to search for Okasaki.

About nine o'clock Hume arrived.

"You will be glad to hear," he said, "that the rector invited me to lunch.
He approves of my project, and will pray for my success. It has been a
most pleasant day for me, I can assure you."

"The rector retired to his study immediately after lunch, I presume?"

"Yes," said David innocently. "Has anything important occurred in town?"

Brett gave him a resumé of events. A chance allusion to Sir Alan caused
the young man to exclaim:

"By the way, you have never seen his photograph. He and I were very much
alike, you know, and I have brought from my rooms a few pictures which may
interest you."

He handed to Brett photographs of himself and his two cousins, and of the
older Sir Alan and Lady Hume-Frazer, taken singly and in groups.

The barrister examined them minutely.

"Alan and I," pointed out his client, "were photographed during our last
visit to London. Poor chap! He never saw this picture. The proofs were not
sent until after his death."

Something seemed to puzzle Brett very considerably. He compared the
pictures one with the other, and paid heed to every detail.

"Let me understand," Brett said at last. "I think I have it in my notes
that at the time of the murder you were twenty-seven, Sir Alan
twenty-four, and Mrs. Capella twenty-six?"

"That is so, approximately. We were born respectively in January, October,
and December. My twenty-seventh birthday fell on the 11th."

"Stated exactly, you were two years and nine months older than he?"

"Yes."

"You don't look it."

"I never did. We were always about the same size as boys, but he matured
at an earlier age than I."

"It is odd. How old were you when this group was taken?"

The photograph depicted a family gathering on the lawn at Beechcroft.
There were eight persons in it, three being elderly men.

David reflected.

"That was before I left Harrow, and Christmas time. Seventeen almost,
within a couple of weeks."

"So your cousin Margaret was sixteen?"

"Yes."

"She was remarkably tall, well-developed for her age."

"That was a notable characteristic from an early age. We boys used to call
her 'Mama,' when we wanted to vex her."

"The three old gentlemen are very much alike. This is the baronet. Who are
the others?"

"My father and uncle."

"What! Do you mean to tell me there to another branch of the family?"

"Well, yes, in a sense. My uncle is dead. His son, my age or a little
older, for the youngest of the three brothers was married first, was last
heard of in Argentina."

Brett threw the photograph down with clatter.

"Good Heavens!" he vociferated, "when shall I begin to comprehend this
business in its entirety? How many more uncles, and aunts, and cousins
have you?"

Amazed by this outburst, Hume endeavoured to put matters right.

"I never thought--" he commenced.

"You come to me to do the thinking, Hume. For goodness' sake switch your
memory for five minutes from Miss Layton, and tell me all you know of your
family history. Have you any other relations?"

"None whatever."

"And this newly-arrived cousin, what of him?"

"He was in the navy, and being of a quarrelsome disposition, was
court-martialled for some small outbreak. He would not submit to
discipline, and resigned the service. Then his father died, and Bob went
off to South America. I have never heard of him since. I know very little
about my younger uncle's household. Indeed, the occasion recorded by the
photograph was the last time the old men met in friendship. There was a
dispute about money matters. My Uncle Charles was in the city, the two
estates being left by my grandfather to the two oldest sons. Charles
Hume-Frazer died a poor man, having lost his fortune by speculation."

"Have you seen your cousin Robert? Did he resemble Alan and you?"

"We were all as like as peas. People say that our house is remarkable for
the unchanging type of its male line. That is readily demonstrated by the
family portraits. You have not been in the dining-room or picture-gallery
at Beechcroft, or you must have noticed this instantly."

Brett flung himself into a chair.

"The Argentine!" he muttered. "A nice school for a 'quarrelsome'
Hume-Frazer."

He had calmed sufficiently to reach for his cigarette-case when Smith
entered with a note, delivered by a boy messenger.

It was from Winter:

"Have found Okasaki. His name is now Numagawa Jiro, so you were right, as
usual. He and Mrs. Jiro live at 17 St. John's Mansions, Kensington."




CHAPTER XI

MR. "OKASAKI"


In fifteen minutes Brett was bowling along Knightsbridge in a hansom,
having left Hume with a strict injunction to rack his brains for any
further undiscovered facts bearing upon the inquiry, and turn up promptly
at ten o'clock next morning.

Although the hour was late for calling upon a complete stranger, the
barrister could not rest until he had inspected the Jiro ménage. No. 17
was a long way from the ground level. Indeed, the cats of Kensington, if
sufficiently enterprising, inhabitated the floor above.

He rang, and was surveyed with astonishment by a very small maid-servant.

"Is Mr. Numagawa Jiro at home?" he inquired.

"No, sir, but Mrs. Jiro is."

An infantine wail from one of the apartments showed that there was also a
young Jiro.

The maid neither advanced nor retreated. She simply stood stock still,
petrified by the sight of a well-dressed visitor.

Brett suggested that she should inform her mistress of his presence.

"Please, sir," whispered the girl, "are you from Ipswich?"

"No; from Victoria Street."

"I only asked, sir, because master is particular about people from
Ipswich. They upset missus so."

She vanished into the interior, and came back to usher him into the
drawing-room. The flat was expensively furnished, but very untidy. He at
once perceived, however, that the "former" Mr. Okasaki was not romancing
when he boasted of his artistic tastes. The Japanese articles in the room
were gems of faience and lacquer work.

The entrance of Mrs. Jiro drew the barrister's eyes from surrounding
objects. He was momentarily stunned. The woman was almost a giantess, and
amazingly stout. In a tiny flat, waited on by a diminutive servant, and
married to a Japanese, she was grotesque.

Originally a very tall and fairly good-looking girl, she had evidently
blossomed out like one of the gorgeous chrysanthemums of her husband's
favoured land.

Assuredly she had acquired no Japanese traits either in manner or
appearance. At first she seemed to be in a genuinely British bad temper,
but Brett excelled in the art of smoothing the ruffled plumes of
femininity.

"What is it?" she demanded, surveying him suspiciously.

"I wish to see Mr. Jiro," he said, "but permit me to apologise for making
such an untimely call. As he is not at home, I must not trouble you beyond
inquiring a likely hour to see him to-morrow."

He smiled so pleasantly that the lady became more complaisant.

"He may not be very long--" she commenced, but the youthful Jiro's voice
was again heard in fretful complaint.

"My baby is not well to-night," she explained.

"Poor little darling!" said Brett.

He was tempted to add: "What is its name?" but refrained.

"Won't you sit down?" said Mrs. Jiro. "As I was saying, my husband may not
be very long--"

She was fated not to complete that doubly accurate sentence, for at that
moment a key rattled in the outer door.

"Here he is," she announced; and Mr. Jiro entered.

It was fortunate that the gravity of his errand, no less than his power of
self-control, kept Brett from laughing. As it was, he smiled very broadly
when he greeted the master of the flat, for the little man was small even
for a Japanese.

The contrast between him and his helpmate was ludicrous. He could not
possibly kiss her unless she stooped, nor would his arms encircle her
shoulders.

"And how is my pretty _karasu_?" he asked, regarding his wife fondly.

"Don't call me that, Nummie!" she cried.

Turning to Brett she explained: "He calls me a crow, and says it is a
compliment, but I don't like it."

"In Japan the clow speaks with the voice of love," grinned Jiro.

"Well, it sounds funny in London, so just attend to this gentleman. He has
come to see you on business."

Mrs. Jiro forthwith seated herself to listen to the conclave. Brett,
though warned by the maid's remark, could not help himself, so he went
straight to the point.

"Over a year ago," he said, "you were in Ipswich."

Instantly a severe chill fell upon his hearers. The man shrank, the woman
expanded, but before either could utter a word, the barrister continued:

"Personally, I know no one in Ipswich. I have only visited the town twice,
during an Assize week. It has come to my knowledge that you gave the
police some information with reference to a Japanese weapon which figured
in a noted crime, and I have ventured to come here to ask you for
additional details."

Mrs. Jiro heaved a great sigh of relief.

"My gracious!" she cried, "you did startle me. I can't bear to hear the
name of Ipswich nowadays. I was married from there."

"Indeed!" said Brett, with polite interest.

"Yes; and my people are always hunting me up and making a row because I
married Mr. Jiro. Sometimes they make me that ill that I feel half
inclined to go with him to Japan. He is always worrying me to leave
London, but the more I hear about Japan the less I fancy it."

"Ah, my own little _gan_--" broke in her husband.

"There you go again," she snapped. "Calling me a _gan_--a goose, indeed!
Now, Mr. Brett, how would you like to be called a wild goose?"

"I have often deserved it," he said.

"You do not understand," chirped Jiro. "In Japan the goose is beautiful,
elegant. It flies fast like a white spilit."

His English was almost perfect, but in words containing a rolled "r" he
often substituted an "l."

"I understand enough to keep away from Japan, a place where they have an
earthquake every five minutes, and people live in paper houses. Besides,
look at the size of your women-folk. Just imagine me, Mr. Brett, walking
about among those little dolls, like a turkey among tom-tits."

"We give fat people much admilation," said Jiro.

"Nummie, I do hate that word fat. I can't help being tall and well
developed; but it is only short women who become 'fat'."

She hissed the word venomously, as if she possessed the scorpion's fabled
power to sting herself. Evidently Mrs. Jiro dreaded corpulence more than
earthquakes.

Brett had never previously met such a strangely assorted couple. He would
willingly have prolonged his visit for mere amusement, but he was
compelled to return to the cause of his presence. Unless he asked direct
questions he would make no progress. He took from his pocket-book the
drawing made in the Black Museum, and handed it to the Japanese, saying:

"Would you mind telling me the meaning of that?"

Jiro screwed his queer little eyes upon the scrawling characters. The
methods of writing in the Far East, being pictorial and inexact, require
scrutiny of the context before a given sentence can be correctly
interpreted.

The little man made no trouble about it, however.

"They are old chalacters," he said. "In Japan we joke a lot. Evely sign
has sevelal meanings. This can be lead two ways. It is a plovelb, and
says, 'A new field gives a small clop,' or 'Human life is but fifty
years.' Where did you see it?"

"On the blade of the Ko-Katana that killed Sir Alan Hume-Frazer," answered
Brett.

And now he experienced a fresh difficulty. The Japanese face is
exceedingly expressive. When a native of the Island Empire smiles or
scowls, exhibits surprise or fear, he apparently does these things with
his whole soul. Such facial plasticity provides far more effective
concealment of real emotions than the phlegmatic indifference of the
Briton, who, in the words of Emerson, requires "pitchforks or the cry of
'fire!'" to arouse him.

It is possible to throw an Englishman off his guard by a shrewd thrust;
but Mr. Numagawa Jiro was one of those persons whose lineaments would
reveal the same amount of pain over a cut finger as a broken leg.

Nevertheless, Brett's reply did unquestionably make him jump, and even
Mrs. Jiro's bulging features became anxious.

"Is that possible?" said the Japanese. "It is velly stlange the police
gentleman did not tell me about it."

"He did not know of it until to-day," explained Brett, "and that is why I
am here now. It is the motto of some important Japanese family, is it
not?"

"It is a plovelb," repeated Jiro, who evidently intended to take thought.

"So I understand, but used in this way it represents a family, a clan?"

"I do not know."

"What! A man so interested in his country's art as to go to an
out-of-the-way English provincial town merely to see a small knife, must
surely be able to decide such a trivial matter as the use of mottoes on
sword blades!"

Mr. Jiro's excellent knowledge of English seemed to fail him, but his wife
took up the defence.

"My husband had more to think about in Ipswich than a small knife, Mr.
Brett."

"Very much more, but it was the knife which brought him to the place. He
carried the major attraction away with him."

Mrs. Jiro thought this sounded nice. She turned to her husband:

"Why don't you tell the gentleman all you know about it, Nummie?"

The little man looked at her curiously before he spoke to the barrister.

"I have nothing to tell," he said. "I told the police all that they asked
me. That was a velly old Ko-Katana, a hundred yeals old. It was made by a
famous altist. I have told you the meaning of the liting. That is all I
know."

"Why did you give your name at Ipswich as Okasaki?" demanded Brett.

"Oh, that is vely easy. Okosaki is my family name. You English people say
it quicker than Numaguwa Jiro, so I give it. But when I got mallied I used
my light name. Japanese law does not pelmit the change of names now. My
ploper name is Numagawa Jiro"--which he pronounced "Jilo."

"You told the detective at Ipswich that the device on the handle
represented the setting sun. How did you know the sun was setting, and not
rising?"

It was a haphazard shot. The description was Hume's, not Winter's.

Again the Japanese paused before answering.

"It was shown by the way in which the gold was used. Japanese altists have
symbols for ideas. That is one."

"Thank you. I imagined you recognised the device, and could speak off-hand
in the matter. By the way, do you use a type-writer?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Jiro. "My husband is clever at all that sort of thing,
and when he found the people could not read his writing he bought a
machine."

"I have sold it again," interfered Jiro, after a hasty glance round the
room, "and I am going to buy another."

Mrs. Jiro rose to stir the fire unnecessarily.

"They are most useful," said Brett. "Which make do you prefer?"

"They are all vely much alike," answered the Japanese, "but I am going to
buy a Yost or a Hammond."

"I am very much obliged to you for receiving me at this late hour," said
the barrister, rising, "but before I go allow me to compliment you on your
remarkable knowledge of English. I am sure you are indebted to your good
lady for your idiomatic command of the language."

"I studied it for yeals in Japan--" began Jiro, but in vain, for his very
much better half resented the word "idiomatic."

"I don't know about that," she snorted. "He talked a lot of nonsense when
we were married, but I've made him drop it, and he is teaching me
Japanese."

"His task is a pleasant one. It is the tongue of poetry and love."

Again there was a pause. A minute later Brett was standing in the street
trying to determine how best to act.

He was fully persuaded that Jiro had, in the first place, identified the
crest as belonging to one of the many Samurai clans. But the motto was new
to him, and its discovery had revealed the particular family which claimed
its use.

Why did he refuse to impart his knowledge? There must be plenty of
Japanese in London who would give this information readily.

Again, why did he lie about the type-writer, and endeavour to mislead him
as to the make of the machine he used?

To-morrow, for a certainty, Jiro would dispose of the Remington which he
now possessed. Well, he should meet with a ready purchaser, if a letter
from Brett to every agency in London would expedite matters.

He did not credit Jiro with the death of Sir Alan Hume-Frazer, nor even
with complicity in the crime. The Japanese had acted as the unwitting tool
of a stronger personality, and the little man's brain was even at this
moment considering fresh aspects of the affair not previously within his
ken.

Moreover, how maddening the whole thing was! Beginning with Hume's
fantastic dream, he reviewed the hitherto unknown elements in the
case--Capella's fierce passion and queer behaviour, culminating in a
sudden journey to Italy, Margaret's silent agony, the existence of an
Argentine cousin, the evidence of "Rabbit Jack," the punning motto on the
Ko-Katana, Jiro's perturbation and desire to prevent his wife's
unconscious disclosures.

With the final item came the ludicrous remembrance of that ill-assorted
couple. Laughing, Brett hailed a hansom.




CHAPTER XII

WHAT THE STATIONMASTER SAW


The number of type-writer exchanges in London is not large. Impressing the
services of Smith and his wife as amanuenses, Brett despatched the
requisite letters before he retired for the night.

He was up betimes and out before breakfast, surprising the domestics of
his club by an early visit to the library. The Etona contained a great
many service members, and made a feature of its complete editions of Army
and Navy lists.

In one of the latter, eight years old, Brett found, among the officers of
the _Northumberland_, at that time in commission, "Robert Hume-Fraser,
sub-lieutenant." A later volume recorded his retirement from the service.

Hume and Winter reached Brett's flat together.

"Any luck with the Jap, sir?" asked the detective cheerily.

Brett told them what had happened, and Winter sighed. Here, indeed, was a
promising subject for an arrest. Why not lock him up, and seize the
type-writer? But he knew the barrister by this time, and uttered no word.

"And now," said Brett, after a malicious pause to enable Winter to declare
himself, "I am going back to Stowmarket. No, Hume, you are not coming with
me. When does Fergusson arrive here?"

The question drove from David's face the disappointed look with which he
received his friend's announcement.

"To-morrow evening," he replied. "My father thinks the old man should not
risk an all-night journey. He has also sent me every detail he can get
together, either from documents or recollection, bearing upon our family
history."

He produced a formidable roll of manuscript. The old gentleman had
evidently devoted many hours and some literary skill to the compilation.

"I will read that in the train," said Brett. "You must start at once for
Portsmouth. I have here a list of all the officers serving with your
cousin Robert on the _Northumberland_ immediately prior to his quitting
the Navy. Portsmouth, Devonport, Southsea, and the neighbourhood will
almost certainly contain some of them. If not, people there will know
where they are to be found. You must make yourself known to them, and
endeavour to gain any sort of news concerning the ex-lieutenant. Naval men
roam all over the world. Some of them may have met him in the Argentine,
or in any of the South American ports where British warships are
constantly calling. He was a sailor. He left the Navy under no cloud.
Hence, the presence of a British man-o'-war would draw him like a magnet.
Do not come back here until you bring news of him."

"Why is it so important? You cannot imagine--"

"No; I endeavour to restrain my imagination. I want facts. You are the
best person to obtain them. One relative inquiring for another is a
natural proceeding. It will not arouse suspicions that you are a
debt-collector."

"Suppose I obtain news of his whereabouts?"

"Telegraph to me and I will give you fresh instructions."

Hume walked to the door.

"Give my kind regards to Miss Layton," he said grimly.

"I will be delighted. Work hard. You will see her all the sooner."

"There goes a man in love," continued Brett, addressing the back of
Winter's skull, though looking him straight in the face. "His career, his
reputation, everything he values most in this world is at stake. He is a
sensible, level-headed fellow, who has become embittered by unjust
suspicion; yet he would unwillingly let a material item like his cousin's
proceedings sink into oblivion just for the sake of telling a girl that
she looks more charming to-day than she did yesterday, or some equally
original remark peculiar to love-making. How do you account for it,
Winter?"

"I give it up," sighed the detective. "We are all fools where women are
concerned."

"You surprise me," said the barrister sternly. "Such a personal confession
of weakness is unexpected--I may say distressing."

Winter shook his head.

"You're not married, Mr. Brett, or you wouldn't talk like that."

"Well, let it pass. I want you to make the acquaintance of that loving
couple, Mr. and Mrs. Numagawa Jiro. You must disguise yourself. Jiro is to
be shadowed constantly. Get any help you require, but do it. Be off,
Winter, on the wings of the wind. Fasten on to Jiro. Batten on him. Become
his invisible vampire. Above all else, discover his associates. Run now to
the bank and cash this cheque. It repays the sum you advanced last night,
and provides money for expenses."

"I must first see Capella off," gasped the detective.

"All the more reason that you should fly."

Left to himself, the barrister compiled memoranda for an hour or more. He
read through what he had written.

"The web is spreading quickly," he murmured. "I wonder what sort of fly we
shall catch! Is he buzzing about under our very noses, or will he be an
unknown variety? As they say in the Argentine--_Quien sabe?_"

During the journey to Stowmarket he mastered the contents of the bulky
document sent from Glen Tochan. It contained a great many irrelevant
details, but he made the following notes:--

    After the duel in 1763, David Hume, the man who avenged with his
    sword the supposed injury inflicted upon his father by the first
    Sir Alan Hume-Frazer, escaped to the Netherlands, and was never
    heard of again.

    There was a local tradition on the Scotch estate that five
    Hume-Frazers would meet with violent deaths in England. The reason
    for this singular belief was found in the recorded utterances of
    an old nurse, popularly credited with the gift of second sight,
    who prophesied, after the outlawry of the Humes in 1745, that
    there would be five long-lived generations of both families, and
    that five Frazers would die in their boots.

    "Curiously enough," commented the old gentleman who supplied this
    information, "Aunt Elspeth's prediction is capable of two
    interpretations, owing to the fact that the first Sir Alan Frazer
    assumed the additional surname of Hume, I have absolutely no
    knowledge of any distinct branch of the Hume family. David Hume's
    sister was married to my ancestor at the time of the duel."

    Admiral Cunningham, the hardy old salt who brought from Japan the
    sword used by a Samurai to commit _hari-kara_, or suicide by
    disembowelling, commanded the British vessels of the combined
    squadron which sailed up the Bay of Yedo on July 6, 1853, to
    intimidate the Mikado.

    He narrowly escaped assassination at the hands of a two-sword man,
    who was knocked down by a sailor and soundly kicked, after being
    disarmed.

    The Admiral brought home the two weapons taken from his assailant,
    and the larger sword was still to be seen in the armoury at Glen
    Tochan.

    The three brothers, of whom the writer alone survived, quarrelled
    over money matters about eight years before the murder of the
    fifth baronet. The youngest, Charles, had entangled himself in a
    disastrous speculation in the city, and bitterly reproached Alan
    and David (the narrator) because they would not come to his
    assistance.

The old gentleman laboured through many pages to explain the reasons which
actuated this decision, but Brett skipped all of them.

Finally, he suspected no one of committing the crime itself, which was
utterly inexplicable.

At Stowmarket the barrister sought a few minutes' conversation with the
stationmaster.

"Have you been long in charge of this station?" he asked, when the
official ushered him into a private office.

"Nearly five years, sir," was the surprised answer.

"Ah, then you know nearly all the members of the Hume-Frazer family?"

"Yes, sir. I think so."

"Do you remember the New Year's Eve when the young baronet was killed?"

"Yes, generally speaking, I do remember it."

The stationmaster was evidently doubtful of the motives which actuated
this cross-examination, and resolved not to commit himself to positive
statements.

"You recollect, of course, that Mr. David Hume-Frazer was arrested and
tried for the murder of his cousin?"

"Yes."

"Very well. Now I want you to search your memory well and tell me if you
saw anyone belonging to the family in the station on that New Year's Eve.
The terrible occurrence at Beechcroft the same night must have fixed the
facts in your mind."

The stationmaster, a cautious man of kindly disposition, seemed to be
troubled by the interrogatory.

"Do you mind if I ask you, sir, why you are seeking this information?" he
inquired, after a thoughtful pause.

"A very proper question. Mr. David Hume-Frazer is a friend of mine, and he
has sought my help to clear away the mystery attached to his cousin's
death."

"But why do you come to me?"

"Because you are a very likely person to have some knowledge on the point
I raised. You see every person who enters or leaves Stowmarket by train."

"That is true. We railway men see far more than people think," said the
official, with a smile. "But it is very odd that you should be the first
gentleman to think of talking to me in connection with the affair, though
I can assure you certain things puzzled me a good deal at the time."

"And what were they?"

"You are the gentleman who came here three days ago with Mr. David, whom,
by the way, I hardly recognised at first?"

"Exactly."

"Well, I suppose it is all right. I did not interfere because I could not
see my way clear to voluntarily give evidence. Of course, were I summoned
by the police, it would be a different matter. The incidents of that New
Year's Eve fairly bewildered me."

"Indeed!"

"It was stated at the trial, sir, that Mr. David came from Scotland that
morning, left Liverpool Street at 3.20 p.m., and reached Stowmarket at
5.22 p.m."

"Yes."

"Further, he was admittedly the second person to see his cousin's dead
body, and remained at the Hall until arrested by the police on a warrant."

Brett nodded. The stationmaster's statement promised to be intensely
interesting.

"Well, sir," continued the man excitedly, "I was mystified enough on New
Year's Eve, but after the murder came out I thought I was fairly
bewitched. That season is always a busy one for us, what between parcels,
passengers, and bad weather. On the morning of December 31, I fancied I
saw Mr. David leave the London train due here at 12.15 midday. I only
caught a glimpse of him, because there was a crowd of people, and he was
all muffled up. I didn't give the matter a second thought until I saw him
again step out of a first-class carriage at 2.20 p.m. I looked at him
rather sharp that time. He was differently dressed, and hurried off
without any luggage. He left the station quickly, so I imagined I had been
mistaken a couple of hours earlier. You could have knocked me down with a
feather when he appeared by the 5.22 p.m. This time he had several leather
trunks, and a footman from the Hall was waiting for him on the platform.
Excuse me, sir, but it was a fair licker!"

"It must have been. I wonder you did not speak to him!"

"I wish I had done so. Mr. David is usually a very affable young
gentleman, but, what between my surprise and the bustle of getting the
train away, I lost the opportunity. However, the queerest part of my story
is coming. I'm blest if he didn't leave here again by the last train at
5.58 p.m. I missed his entrance to the station, but had a good look at him
as the train went out. He showed the ticket-examiner at Ipswich a return
half to London, because I asked by wire. Now what did it all mean?"

"If I could tell you, it would save me much trouble," said Brett gravely.
"But why did you not mention these incidents subsequently?"

"Perhaps I was wrong, sir. I did not know what to do for the best. Every
one at the Hall, including Mr. David himself, would have proved that I was
a liar with respect to his two earlier arrivals and his departure by the
5.58. I did not see what I would accomplish except to arouse a strong
suspicion that I had been drinking."

"Which would be unjustifiable?"

The stationmaster regained his dignity.

"I have been a teetotaler, sir, for more than twenty years."

"You are sure you are making no mistake?"

"Nothing of the kind, sir. I must have been very much mistaken, but I did
not think so at the time, and it bothered me more than enough. If my
evidence promised to be of any service to Mr. David, no consideration
would have kept me back. As it was--"

"You thought it would damage him?"

"I'm afraid that was my idea."

"I agree with you. It is far better that it never came to the knowledge of
the police. I am greatly obliged to you."

"May I ask, sir, if what I have told you will be useful in your inquiry?"

"Most decidedly. Some day soon Mr. David Hume-Frazer will thank you in
person. I suppose you have no objection to placing your observations in
written form for my private use, and sending the statement to me at the
County Hotel?"

"Not the least, sir; good-day."

The barrister walked to the hotel, having despatched his bag by a porter.

"I suppose," he said to himself, "that when Winter came here he rushed
straight to the police-station. How his round eyes will bulge out of their
sockets when I tell him what I have just learnt."




CHAPTER XIII

TWO WOMEN


The surprising information given by the stationmaster impressed the
barrister as so much unexpected trover which would assert its value in the
progress of events. He certainly did not anticipate the discovery of three
David Humes, though he had hoped to find traces of two.

Before he reached his hotel he experienced a spasm of doubt. Was his
client telling the truth about his movements on that memorable Christmas
Eve? David's story was fully corroborated by the railway official and the
servants at the Hall, whose sworn evidence was in Brett's possession. But
how about Hume's counterfeit presentments arriving by the earlier
trains--coming from where and bound on what errands?

He resolutely closed down the trap-door opened by his imagination.

"The pit does not yawn for me," he communed, "but for the man who killed
Sir Alan. Assuredly he will fall into it before many days. Nothing on
earth can stop the meeting of two or more of the hidden channels now being
opened up, and when they do meet there must be a dramatic outcome."

His chief purpose in revisiting Stowmarket was to seek further confidences
from Mrs. Capella. He argued that the sudden journey of her husband to
Naples would cause her much uneasiness, and she might now be inclined to
reveal circumstances yet hidden.

He refused to take her at a disadvantage. From the hotel he sent a cyclist
messenger with a note asking for an interview, and within an hour he
received a cordial request to come at once.

Nevertheless, he was not a little astonished to find Helen Layton awaiting
him in Margaret's boudoir.

The girl showed signs of recent agitation, but she explained her presence
quietly enough.

"Mrs. Capella sent for me when your note reached her, Mr. Brett. She is
greatly upset by recent events, and was actually on the point of
telegraphing to Davie to ask him to bring you here at once when your
message was handed to her. She will be here presently. Please do not press
her too closely to reveal anything she wishes to withhold. She is so
emotional and excited, poor thing, that I fear her health may be
endangered."

Miss Layton's words were not well chosen. She was conscious of the fact,
and blushed furiously when Brett received her request with a friendly nod
of comprehension.

"I do not know what to say for the best," she went on desperately. "I am
so sorry for Margaret, and it seems to me to be a terrible thing that my
proposed marriage with her cousin should be the innocent cause of all this
trouble."

"Is it the cause?" he asked.

"What else can it be? Certainly not Mr. Capella's foolish actions. If
Davie and I were married, and far away from this neighbourhood, we would
probably never see him again. I assure you I attach no serious
significance to his mad fancy for me. The real reason for the present
bother is Davie's desire to reopen the story of the murder. Of that I am
convinced."

"Then what do you wish me to do?"

Helen's eyes became suspiciously moist.

"How am I to decide?" she said tremulously. "Naturally, I want the name of
my future husband to be cleared of the odium attached to it, but it is
hard that this cannot be done without driving a dear woman like Margaret
to despair, perhaps to the grave."

"I do not see why the one course should involve the other."

"Nor do I; but the fact remains. Mr. Capella's decision to go to Naples is
somehow bound up with it. Oh, dear! During the last two years a dozen or
more girls have been happily married in this village without any one being
killed, or running away, or dying of grief. Why should those things
descend upon my poor little head?"

"Perhaps you are mistaken. Events have conspired to point to you as the
unconscious source of a good deal that has happened. Personally, Miss
Layton, I incline to the belief that you are no more responsible than
David Hume-Frazer. If the mystery of Sir Alan's death is ever solved, I
feel assured that its genesis will be found in circumstances not only
beyond your control, but wholly independent, and likely to operate in the
same way if both you and your _fiancé_ had never either seen or heard of
Beechcroft Hall."

"Oh, Mr. Brett," she cried impulsively, "I wish I could be certain of
that!"

"Try and adopt my opinion," he answered, with a smile, for the girl's
dubiety was not very flattering.

"I know I am saying the wrong thing. I cannot help it. Margaret's distress
tried me sorely. Be gentle with her--that is all I ask."

The door opened, and Mrs. Capella entered. Helen's observations had
prepared Brett to some extent, yet he was shocked to see the havoc wrought
in Margaret's appearance by days of suffering and nights of sleepless
agony.

Her face was drawn and ivory-white, her eyes unnaturally brilliant, her
lips bloodless and pinched. She was again garbed in black, and the sombre
effect of her dress supplied a startling contrast to the deathly pallor of
her features.

She recognised Brett's presence by a silent bow, and sank on to a couch.
She was not acting, but really ill, overwrought, inert, physically weak
from want of food and sleep.

Helen ran to her side, and took her in a loving clasp.

"You poor darling!" she cried. "Why are you suffering so?"

Now there was nothing on earth Brett detested so thoroughly as a display
of feminine sentiment, no matter how spontaneous or well-timed. At heart
he was conscious of kindred emotions. A child's cry, a woman's sob, the
groan of a despairing man, had power to move him so strangely that he had
more than once allowed a long-sought opportunity to slip from his grasp
rather than sear his own soul by displaying callous indifference to the
sufferings of others.

The tears of these, two, however, set his teeth on edge. What were they
whining about--the affections of a doll of a man whose antics had been
rightly treated by David when he proved to Capella that there is nothing
like leather.

For the barrister laboured under no delusions respecting either woman.
Margaret, who secretly feared her husband, was only pining for his
rekindled admiration, whilst Helen, though true as steel to David Hume,
could not be expected to regard the Italian's misplaced passion as utterly
outrageous. No woman can absolutely hate and despise a man for loving her,
no matter how absurd or impossible his passion may be. She may proclaim,
even feel, a vast amount of indignation, but in the secret recesses of her
soul, hidden perhaps from her own scrutiny, she can find excuses for him.

Brett regarded Capella as an impressionable scamp, endowed with a too
vivid imagination, and he determined forthwith to stir his hearers into
revolt, defiance--anything but languishing regret and condolence.

Margaret soon gave him an opportunity. Recovering her self-possession with
an effort, she said:

"I am glad you are here, Mr. Brett. Helen has probably told you that we
need your presence--not that I have much to say to you, but I must have
the advice of a wiser and clearer head than my own in the present position
of affairs."

"Exactly so," replied the barrister cheerily. "As a preliminary to a
pleasant chat, may I suggest a cup of tea for each of us?"

The ladies were manifestly astonished. Tea! When broken hearts were
scattered around! The suggestion was pure bathos.

Margaret, with a touch of severity, permitted Brett to ring, and coldly
agreed with Helen's declaration that she could not think of touching any
species of refreshment at such a moment.

"Then," said Brett, advancing and holding out his hand, "I will save your
servants from needless trouble, Mrs. Capella. I am equally emphatic in my
insistence on food and drink as primary necessities. For instance, a cup
of good tea just now is much more important in my eyes than your husband's
vagaries."

"Surely you will not desert me?" appealed Margaret.

"Mr. Brett, how can you be so heartless?" cried Helen.

"Your words cut me to the bone," he answered, with an easy smile, "but in
this matter I must be adamant. My dear ladies, pray consider. What a world
we should live in if people went without their meals because they were
worried. Three days of such treatment would end the South African War,
give Ireland Home Rule, bring even the American Senate to reason. A week
of it would extinguish the human race. If the system has such
potentialities, is it unreasonable to ask whether or not any single
individual--even Mr. Capella--is worth the loss of a cup of tea because he
chooses to go to Naples?"

A servant entered.

"Is it to be for three, or none?" inquired Brett, compelling Margaret to
meet his gaze.

"James, bring tea at once," said Mrs. Capella.

The barrister accepted this partial surrender. He looked out over the
park.

"What lovely weather!" Brett exclaimed. "How delightful it must be at the
sea-side just now! Really, I am greatly tempted to run up to Whitby for a
few days. Have you ever been there, Mrs. Capella? Or you, Miss Layton? No!
Well, let me recommend the north-east coast of Yorkshire as a cure for all
ills. Do you know that, within the next fortnight, you can, if energetic
enough, see from the cliffs at Whitby the sun rise and set in the sea? It
is the one place in England where such a sight is possible. And the breeze
there! When it blows from the north, it comes straight from the Polar Sea.
There is no land intervening. Naples--evil-smelling, dirty Naples! Pah!
Who but a lunatic would prefer Naples to Whitby in July!"

Margaret was now incensed, Helen surprised, and even slightly amused.

Brett rattled on, demanding and receiving occasional curt replies. The tea
came.

Whatever the failings of Beechcroft might be, they had not reached the
kitchen. Delightful little rolls of thin bread and butter, sandwiches of
cucumber and _paté de foie gras_, tempting morsels of pastry, home-made
jam, and crisp biscuits showed that the housekeeper had unconsciously
adopted Brett's view of her mistress's needs.

Margaret, hardly knowing what she did, toyed at first with these
delicacies, until she yielded to the demands of her stimulated appetite.
Helen and Brett were unfeignedly hungry, and when Brett rose to ring for
more cucumber sandwiches, they all laughed.

"The first time I met you," said Margaret, whose cheeks began to exhibit a
faint trace of colour, "I told you that you could read a woman's heart. I
did not know you were also qualified to act as her physician."

"If the first part of my treatment is deemed successful, then I hope you
will adopt the second. I am quite in earnest concerning Whitby, or Cromer,
if you do not care to go far north."

"But, Mr. Brett, how can I possibly leave Beechcroft now?"

"Did Mr. Capella consult you when he went to Naples? Are you not mistress
here? Take my advice. Give the majority of your servants a holiday. Close
your house, or, better still, have every room dismantled on the pretence
of a thorough renovation. Leave it to paperhangers, plasterers, and
caretakers. The rector may be persuaded to allow Miss Layton to come with
you to London, where you should visit your dressmaker, for you can now
dispense with mourning. When your husband returns from Naples, let him
rage to the top of his bent. By that time I may be able to spare Mr. Hume
to look after both of you for a week or so. Permit your husband to join
you when he humbly seeks permission--not before. Believe me, Mrs. Capella,
if you have strength of will to adopt my programme in its entirety, the
trip to Naples may have results wholly unexpected by the runaway."

"Really, Margaret, Mr. Brett's advice seems to me to be very sensible. It
happens, too, that my father needs a change of air, and I think we could
both persuade him to come with us to the coast."

Helen, like all well regulated young Englishwomen, quickly took a
reasonable view of the problem. Already Capella's heroics and his wife's
lamentations began to appear ridiculous.

Margaret looked wistfully at both of them.

"You do not understand why my husband has gone to Naples," she said
slowly, seemingly revolving something in her mind.

"I think I can guess his motive," said the barrister.

"Tell me your explanation of the riddle," she answered lightly, though a
shadow of fear crossed her eyes.

"Soon after your marriage he imagined that he discovered certain facts
connected with your family--possibly relative to your brother's
death--which served to estrange him from you. Whatever they may be,
whether existent or fanciful, you are in no way responsible. He has gone
to Naples to obtain proofs of his suspicions, or knowledge. He will come
back to terrorise you, perhaps to seek revenge for imaginary wrongs.
Therefore, I say, do not meet him half-way by sitting here, blanched and
fearful, until it pleases him to return. Compel him to seek you. Let him
find you at least outwardly happy and contented, careless of his neglect,
and more pleased than otherwise by his absence. Tell him to try Algiers in
August and Calcutta in September."

Margaret's eyes were widely distended. Her mobile features expressed both
astonishment and anxiety. She covered her face with her hands, in an
attitude of deep perplexity.

They knew she was wrestling with the impulse to take them wholly into
confidence.

At last she spoke:

"I cannot tell you," she said, "how comforting your words are. If you, a
stranger, can estimate the truth so nearly, why should I torture myself
because my husband is outrageously unjust? I will follow your counsel, Mr.
Brett. If possible, Nellie and I will leave here to-morrow. Perhaps Mrs.
Eastham may be able to come with us to town. Will you order my carriage? A
drive will do me good. Come with Nellie and me, and stay here to dinner.
For to-day we may dispense with ceremony."

She left the room, walking with a firm and confident step.

Brett turned to Miss Layton.

"Capella is in for trouble," he said, with a laugh. "He will be forced to
make love to his wife a second time."




CHAPTER XIV

MARGARET SPEAKS OUT


During the drive the presence of servants rendered conversation impossible
on the one topic that engrossed their thoughts.

The barrister, therefore, had an opportunity to display the other side of
his engaging personality, his singular knowledge of the world, his
acquaintance with the latest developments in literature and the arts, and
so much of London's _vie intime_ as was suited to the ears of polite
society.

Once he amused the ladies greatly by a trivial instance of his faculty for
deducing a definite fact from seemingly inadequate signs.

He was sitting with his back to the horses. They passed a field in which
some people were working. Neither of the women paid attention to the
scene. Brett, from mere force of habit, took in all details.

A little farther on he said: "Are we approaching a village?"

"Yes," answered Miss Layton, "a small place named Needham."

"Then it will not surprise me if, during the next two minutes, we meet a
horse and cart with a load of potatoes. The driver is a young man in his
shirt sleeves. Sitting by his side is a brown-eyed maid in a poke bonnet.
Probably his left arm follows the line of her apron string."

His hearers could not help being surprised by this prediction. Helen
leaned over the side and looked ahead.

"You are wrong this time, Mr. Brett," she laughed merrily. "The only
vehicle between us and a turn in the road is a dog-cart coming this way."

"That merely shows the necessity of carefully choosing one's words. I
should have said 'overtake,' not 'meet.'"

The carriage sped swiftly along. Helen craned her head to catch the first
glimpse of the yet hidden stretch of road beyond the turning.

"Good gracious!" she cried suddenly.

Even Margaret was stimulated to curiosity. She bent over the opposite
side.

"What an extraordinary thing!" she exclaimed.

Brett sat unmoved, anything in front being, of course, quite invisible to
him. On the box the coachman nudged the footman, as if to say:

"Did you ever! Well, s'elp me!"

For, in the next few strides, the horses had to be pulled to one side to
avoid a cart laden with potatoes, driven by a coatless youth who had one
arm thrown gracefully around the waist of a girl in a huge bonnet.

Nellie turned and stared at them in most unladylike manner, much to their
discomfiture.

"I do declare," she cried, "the girl has brown eyes! Mr. Brett, do tell us
how you did it."

"I will," he replied gaily. "Those labourers in a field half a mile away
were digging potatoes. Among the women sorters was a girl who was gazing
anxiously in this direction, and who resumed work in a very bad temper
when another woman spoke to her in a chaffing way. The gate was left open,
and there were fresh wheel-tracks in this direction. The men were all
coatless, so I argued a young man driving and a girl by his side, hence
the annoyance of the watcher in the field, owing particularly to the
position of his arm. The presence on the road of several potatoes, with
the earth still damp on them, added certainty to my convictions. It is
very easy, you see."

"Yes, but how about the colour of the girl's eyes?"

"That was hazardous, to an extent. But five out of every six women in this
county have brown eyes."

"Well, you may think it easy; to me it is marvellous."

"It is positively startling," said Margaret seriously; and if the
barrister indulged in a fresh series of deductions he remained silent on
the topic.

He tried to lead the conversation to Naples, but was foiled by Mrs.
Capella's positive disinclination to discuss Italy on any pretext, and
Miss Layton's natural desire not to embarrass her friend.

Indeed, so little headway did he make, so fully was Margaret's mind taken
up with the new departure he had suggested, that when the carriage stopped
at the rectory to drop Helen--who wished to tell her father about the
dinner and to change her costume--he was strongly tempted to wriggle out
of the engagement.

Inclination pulled him to his quiet sitting-room in the County Hotel;
impulse bade him remain and make the most of the meagre opportunities
offered by the drift of conversation.

"I hope," said Helen, at parting, "that I may persuade you to come here
and dine with my father some evening when Mrs. Capella and I are in town.
If you take any interest in old coins he will entertain you for hours."

"Then I depend on you to bring an invitation to the Hall this evening. I
expect to be in Stowmarket next week."

"Are you leaving to-morrow?" inquired Mrs. Capella.

"I think so."

"Would you care to walk to the house with me now?"

"I will be delighted."

So the carriage was sent off, and the two followed on foot. Brett thought
that impulse had led him aright.

Once past the lodge gates, Margaret looked at him suddenly, with a quick,
searching glance. Hume was not in error when he spoke of her "Continental
tricks of manner."

"You wonder," she said, "why I do not trust you fully? You know that I am
keeping something back from you? You imagine that you can guess a good
deal of what I am endeavouring to hide?"

"To all those questions, I may generally answer 'Yes.'"

"Of course. You observe the small things of life. The larger events are
built from them. Well, I can be candid with you. My husband believes that
I not only deceived him in regard to my marriage, but he is, or was, very
jealous of me."

She paused, apparently unable to frame her words satisfactorily.

"Having said so much," put in the barrister gently, "you might be more
specific."

His cool, even voice reassured her.

"I hardly know how best to express myself," she cried. "Question me. I
will reply so far as I am able."

"Thank you. You have told me that you first met Mr. Capella on New Year's
Eve two years ago, at Covent Garden?"

"That is so."

"Had you ever heard of him before?"

"Never. He was brought to my party by an Italian friend."

"Did the acquaintance ripen rapidly?"

"Yes. We found that our tastes were identical in many respects. I did not
know of my brother's death until the 2nd of January. No one in Beechcroft
had my address, and my solicitor's office was closed on the holiday. Mr.
Capella called on me, by request, the day after the ball, and already I
became aware of his admiration. Italians are quick to fall in love."

"And afterwards?"

"When poor Alan's murder appeared in the press, Giovanni was among the
first to write me a sympathetic letter. Later on we met several times in
London. I did not come to reside in the Hall until all legal formalities
were settled. A year passed. I went to Naples. He came from his estate in
Calabria, and we renewed our friendship. You do not know, perhaps, that he
is a count in his own country, but we decided not to use the title here."

"Then Mr. Capella is not a poor man?"

"By no means. He is far from rich as we understand the word. He is worth,
I believe, £1,500 a-year. Why do you ask? Had you the impression that he
married me for my money?"

"There might well be other reasons," thought Brett, glancing at the
beautiful and stately woman by his side. But it was no moment for idle
compliments.

"Such things have been done," he said drily.

"Then disabuse your mind of the idea. He is a very proud man. His estates
are involved, and in our first few days of happiness we did indeed discuss
the means of freeing them, whilst our marriage contract stipulates that in
the event of either of us predeceasing the other, and there being no
children, the survivor inherits. But all at once a cloud came between us,
and Giovanni has curtly declined any assistance by me in discharging his
family debt."

Brett could not help remembering Capella's passionate declaration to
Helen, but Margaret's words read a new meaning into it. Possibly the
Italian was only making a forlorn hope attack on a country maiden's
natural desire to shine amidst her friends. Well, time would tell.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Capella's outburst of confidence was valuable.

"A cloud!" he said. "What sort of a cloud?"

"Giovanni suddenly discovered that his father and mine were deadly
enemies. It was a cruel whim of Fate that brought us together. Poor
fellow! He was very fond of his father, and it seems that a legacy of
revenge was bequeathed to him against an Englishman named Beechcroft. I
remembered, too late, that he once asked me how our house came to be so
named, and I explained its English meaning to him. I joked about it, and
said the place should rightly be called Yewcroft. During our honeymoon at
Naples he learnt that my father, for some reason, had travelled over a
large part of Italy in an assumed name--"

"How did he learn this?" broke in Brett.

"I cannot tell you. The affair happened like a flash of lightning. We had
been to Capri one afternoon, and I was tired. I went to my room to rest
for a couple of hours, fell asleep, and awoke to find Giovanni staring at
me in the most terrifying manner. There was a fierce scene. We are both
hot-tempered, and when he accused me of a ridiculous endeavour to hoodwink
him in some indefinable way I became very indignant. We patched up a sort
of truce, but I may honestly say that we have not had a moment's happiness
since."

"But you spoke of jealousy also?"

"That is really too absurd. My cousin Robert--"

"What, the gentleman from the Argentine?"

"Yes; I suppose David told you about him?"

"He did," said the barrister grimly.

"Robert is poor, you may know. He is also very good-looking."

"A family trait," Brett could not avoid saying.

"It has not been an advantage to us," she replied mournfully.

They were standing now opposite the library, almost on the spot where her
brother fell. They turned and strolled back towards the lodge.

"Robert came to see me," she resumed. "He paid a visit in unconventional
manner--waylaid me, in fact, in this very avenue, and asked me to help
him. He declined to meet my husband, and was very bitter about my marriage
to a foreigner. However, I forgave him, for my own heart was sore in me,
and he also had been unfortunate in a different way. We had a long talk,
and I kissed him at parting. I afterwards found that Giovanni had seen us
from his bedroom. He thought Robert was David. I do not think he believed
me, even when I showed him the counterfoil of my cheque-book, and the
amount of a remittance I sent to Robert next day."

"How much was the sum?"

"Five hundred pounds."

"And where did you send it?"

"To the Hotel Victoria."

"In his own name?"

"Certainly."

"Have you ever met him since?"

"Yes, unfortunately. I was in London, driving through Regent Street in a
hansom, when I saw him on the pavement. I stopped the cab, and asked him
to come to luncheon. We have no town house, so I was staying at the
Carlton alone. Yet how stupidly compromising circumstances can
occasionally become! I returned to Beechcroft. I did not mention my
meeting with Robert because, indeed, Giovanni and I were hardly on
speaking terms. One day, in the library, I was sorting a number of
accounts, when I was summoned elsewhere for a few minutes. On top of the
pile was my receipted hotel bill. My husband came in, glanced at the
paper, and saw a charge for a guest. When I returned he asked me whom I
had been entertaining. I told him, and could not help blushing, the affair
being so flagrantly absurd."

"Is that all?"

"I declare to you, Mr. Brett, that you are now as well informed as I am
myself concerning our estrangement."

"There is, I take it, no objection on your part to the inquiry I have
undertaken--the fixing of responsibility for your brother's death, I
mean?"

Margaret was silent for a few seconds before she said, in a low and steady
voice:

"We are a strange race, we Hume-Frazers. Somehow I felt, when I first saw
you and Davie together, that you would be bound up with a crisis in my
life. I dread crises. They have ever been unfortunate for me. I cannot
explain myself further. I know I am approaching an eventful epoch. Well, I
am prepared. Go on with your work, in God's name. I cannot become more
unhappy than I am."




CHAPTER XV

AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR


A clock in the church tower chimed the half-hour.

"We dine at seven," said Mrs. Capella. "Let us return to the house. I told
the housekeeper to prepare a room for you. Would you care to remain for
the night? One of the grooms can bring from Stowmarket any articles you
may need."

Brett declined the invitation, pleading a certain amount of work to be
done before he retired to rest, and his expectation of finding letters or
telegrams at the hotel.

They walked more rapidly up the avenue, and the barrister noted the
graceful ease of Margaret's movements.

"Is it a fact" he asked, "that you suffer from heart disease?"

She laughed, and said, with a certain charming hesitation:

"You are both doctor and lawyer, Mr. Brett. My heart is quite sound. I
have been foolish enough to seek relief from my troubles in morphia. Do
not be alarmed. I am not a morphinée. I promised Nellie yesterday to stop
it, and I am quite certain to succeed."

The dinner passed uneventfully.

As Brett was unable to change his clothes, neither of the ladies, of
course, appeared in elaborate costumes.

Helen wore a simple white muslin dress, with pale blue ribbons. Margaret,
mindful of the barrister's hint concerning her attire, now appeared in
pale grey crêpe de chine, trimmed with cerise panne velvet.

When she entered the drawing-room she almost startled the others, so
strong was the contrast between her present effective garments and the
black raiment she had affected constantly since her return to Beechcroft
after her marriage.

"The reform has commenced," she cried gaily, seeing how they looked at
her. "My maid is in ecstasies about the proposed visit to my dressmaker's.
She insisted on showing me a study for an Ascot frock in the _Queen_."

"Ah, she is a Frenchwoman?" said Brett.

"Yes; and pray what mystery have you elucidated now?"

"Not a mystery, but a sober fact. A Frenchwoman must be in the mode.
Anybody else would have told you to copy yourself. Fashions are a sealed
book to me, but I do claim a certain taste in colour effect, and you have
gratified it."

"And have you nothing nice to say to me, Mr. Brett?" pouted Helen.

"So much that I must remain dumb. I have a vivid recollection of Mr.
Hume's tragic air when he asked me to give you 'his kind regards.'"

"The dear boy! You have not yet told us why you left him in London."

In view of Mrs. Capella's outspokenness concerning her cousin, this was a
poser. Brett fenced with the query, and the announcement of dinner stopped
all personal references. The barrister's eyes wandered round the
dining-room. The shaded candles on the table did not permit much light to
fall on the walls, but such portraits as were visible showed that David
was right when he said the "Hume-Frazers were all alike." They were a
handsome, determined-looking race, strong, dour, inflexible.

The night was beautifully fine. The day seemed loth to die, and the
twilight lingering on the pleasant landscape tempted them outside, after
the butler had handed Brett a box of excellent cigars.

They went through the conservatory into the park, and sauntered over the
springy pastureland, whilst Brett amused the ladies by a carefully edited
account of his visit to the Jiro family.

An hour passed in pleasant chat. Then Miss Layton thought it was time she
went home, and Brett proposed to escort her to the Rectory, subsequently
picking up his conveyance at the inn.

They walked obliquely across the park towards the house, regaining it
through a clump of laurels and the conservatory.

It chanced that for a moment they were silent. Margaret led the way. Helen
followed. Brett came close behind.

When the mistress of Beechcroft Hall stepped on to the turf in front of
the library, a man who was standing under the yews a little way down the
avenue moved forward to accost her.

She uttered a little cry of alarm and retreated quickly.

"Why, Davie," cried Helen, "surely it cannot be you!"

The stranger made no reply, but paused irresolutely. Even in the dim light
Brett needed no second glance to reveal to him the astounding coincidence
that this mysterious prowler was Robert Hume-Frazer.

"Good evening," he said politely. "Do you wish to see your cousin?"

"And who the devil may you be?" was the uncompromising answer.

"A friend of Mrs. Capella's."

"H'm! I'm glad to hear it. I thought you could not be that beastly
Italian."

"You are candour itself; but you have not answered me?"

"About seeing my cousin? No. I will call when she is less engaged."

He turned to go, but Brett caught him by the shoulder.

"Will you come quietly," he said, "or by the scruff of the neck?"

The other man wheeled round again. That he feared no personal violence was
evident. Indeed, it was possible Brett had over-estimated his own strength
in suggesting the alternative.

The Argentine cousin laughed boisterously.

"By the Lord Harry," he cried, "I like your style! I will come in, if only
to have a good look at you."

They approached the two frightened women. Margaret had recognised his
voice, and now advanced with outstretched hand.

"I am glad to see you, Robert," she said in tones that vibrated somewhat.
"Why did you not let me know you were coming?"

"Because I did not know myself until an hour before I left London.
Moreover, you might have wired and told me to stop away, so I sailed
without orders."

The position was awkward. The new-comer had evidently walked from
Stowmarket. He had the appearance of a gentleman, soiled and a trifle
truculent, perhaps, but a man of birth and good breeding.

Helen was gazing at him in sheer wonderment He was so extremely like David
that, at a distance, it was easy to confuse the one with the other.

Brett, too, examined him curiously. He recalled "Rabbit Jack's"
pronouncement--"either the chap hisself or his dead spit."

But it behoved him to rescue the ladies from an _impasse_.

"When you reached Stowmarket did the stationmaster exhibit any marked
interest in you?" he inquired.

"Well, now, that beats the band," cried Robert. "He looked at me as though
I had seven heads and horns to match. But how did you know that?"

"Merely on account of your marked resemblance to David Hume-Frazer. It
puzzled the stationmaster some time ago. By the way, you appear to like
the shade of the yew trees outside. Do you always approach Beechcroft Hall
in the same way?"

The ex-sailor's bold eyes did not fall before the barrister's penetrating
glance.

"What the deuce has it got to do with you?" he replied fiercely. "Who has
appointed you grand inquisitor to the family, I should like to know?
Margaret, I beg your pardon, but this chap--"

"Is my friend, Mr. Reginald Brett. He is engaged in unravelling the manner
and cause of poor Alan's death. He has my full sanction, Robert, and was
brought here, in the first instance, by David. I hope, therefore, you will
treat him more civilly."

"I will treat him as he treats me. I owe him nothing, at any rate."

They were talking in the ill-fated library, having entered the house
through the centre window. The unbidden guest faced the others, and
although the cloud of suspicion hung heavily upon him, the barrister was
far too shrewd an observer of human nature to attribute his present
defiant attitude to other than its true origin--a feeling of humiliated
pride.

Brett understood that to question him further was to risk a scene--a thing
to be avoided at all costs.

"No doubt," he said, "you wish to speak privately to Mrs. Capella. I was
on the point of escorting Miss Layton to her house. Shall I return and
drive you back to Stowmarket? I will be here in fifteen minutes."

"It would be better than walking," replied Robert wearily, settling into a
chair with the air of a man physically tired and mentally perturbed.

Again there was a dramatic pause. Helen, more alarmed than she wished to
admit, gave Margaret a questioning look, and received a trained but
reassuring smile.

"Then I will go now--" she began, but instantly stopped. Like the others,
she heard the quick trot of a horse, and the sound of rapid wheels
approaching from the lodge.

"Who on earth can this be?" cried Margaret, blanching visibly,

The vehicle, a dog-cart, drew nearer. They all went to the window. Even
the indifferent Robert rose and joined them.

Helen startled them by running out to the side of the drive.

"This time I am not mistaken," she cried hysterically. "It is Davie!"

The proceedings of the gentleman who jumped from the dog-cart left no
doubt on the point. He brazenly kissed her, and in her excitement she
seemed to like it.

She evidently whispered something to him, for his first words to Brett
were:

"How did you find out--"

But the barrister was not anxious to let the cousin from Argentina into
the secret of the search for him.

"I have found out nothing," he interrupted. "I have been at Beechcroft all
the afternoon and evening. Meanwhile, you must be surprised to meet Mr.
Robert Hume-Frazer here so unexpectedly."

David luckily grasped his friend's intention. Such information as he
possessed must wait until they were alone. "How d'ye do, Bob?" he said,
frankly holding out his hand. "Why have you left us alone all those years,
to turn up at last in this queer way?"

The young man's kind greeting, his manly attitude, had an unlooked-for
effect.

Robert ignored the proffered hand. He reached for his hat.

"I feel like a beastly interloper," he growled huskily. "Accept my
apologies, Margaret, and you, Miss Layton. I will call in the morning. Mr.
Brett, if you still hold to your offer, I will await you at the lodge, or
any other place you care to name."

With blazing eyes, and mouth firmly set, he endeavoured to reach the open
window. Brett barred his way.

"Sit down, man," he said sternly. "Why are you such a fool as to resist
the kindness offered to you? I tried to make matters easy for you. Now I
must speak plainly. You are weak with hunger."

He had seen what the others had missed. The colour in Robert's face was
due to exposure, but he was otherwise drawn and haggard. His clothes were
shabby. He had walked from Stowmarket because he could not afford to hire
any means of conveyance.

The abject confession compelled by Brett's words was too much for him. He
again collapsed into a chair and covered his face with his hands.




CHAPTER XVI

THE COUSINS


Brett was the only person present who kept his senses. Margaret was too
shocked, the lovers too amazed, to speak coherently.

"Mr. Hume-Frazer has allowed himself to become run down," said the
barrister, with the nonchalance of one who discussed the prospects of
to-morrow's weather. "What he needs at the moment is some soup and a few
biscuits. You, Mrs. Capella, might procure these without bringing the
servants here, especially if Miss Layton were to help you."

Without a word, the two ladies quitted the room.

Robert looked up.

"You ring like good metal," he said to the barrister. "Is there any liquor
in the dining-room? I feel a trifle hollow about the belt. A drink would
do me good."

"Not until you have eaten something first," was the firm answer. "Are you
so hard up that you could not buy food?"

"Well, the fact is, I have been on my beam ends during the past week.
To-day I pawned a silver watch, but unfortunately returned to my lodgings,
where my landlady made such a fiendish row about the bill that I gave her
every penny. Then I pawned my overcoat, raising the exact fare to
Stowmarket. I could not even pay for a 'bus from Gower Street to Liverpool
Street. All I have eaten to-day was a humble breakfast at 8.30 a.m., and I
suppose the sun and the journey wore me out. Still, you must be jolly
sharp to see what was the matter. I thought I kept my end up pretty well."

David sat down by his side.

"Forgive me, old chap," continued Robert. "It broke me up to see that you
were happy after all your troubles. You are engaged to a nice girl; Alan
is dead; I am the only unlucky member of the family."

The man was talking quite sincerely. He even envied his murdered cousin.
Nothing in his words, his suspicious mode of announcing his presence, the
vague doubts that shadowed his past career, puzzled Brett so greatly as
that chance phrase.

The ladies came back, laden with good things from the kitchen, which they
insisted on carrying themselves, much to the astonishment of the servants.

All women are born actresses. Their behaviour before the domestics left
the impression that some huge joke was toward in the library.

The tactful barrister drew Hume and Helen outside to discuss immediate
arrangements. David promised faithfully to return from the rectory in
fifteen minutes, and Brett re-entered the library.

Robert Hume-Frazer gave evidence of his semi-starvation. He tried to
disguise his eagerness, but in vain. Biscuits, sandwiches, and soup
vanished rapidly, until Margaret suggested a further supply.

"No, Rita," said her cousin; "I have fasted too often on the Pampas not to
know the folly of eating too heartily. I will be all right now, especially
when Mr. Brett produces the whisky he spoke about."

The barrister brought a decanter from the dining-room. The stranger was
still an enigma. He placed bottle and glass on the table, wondering to
what extent the man would help himself.

The quantity was small and well diluted. So this member of the family was
not a drunkard.

"How did you come to be in such a state?" asked Margaret nervously. "It is
hardly six months since I sent you £500; not a very large sum, I admit,
but all you asked me for, and more than enough to live on for a much
longer period."

Robert laughed pleasantly. It was the first token of returning confidence.
He reached for a cigar, and sought Margaret's permission to smoke.

"My dear girl," he answered, "I am really a very unfortunate person. I own
a hundred thousand acres of the best land in South America, and I have
been in England nearly two years trying to raise capital to develop it. If
I owned a salted reef or an American brewery I could have got the money
for the asking. Because my stock-raising proposition is a sound paying
concern, requiring a delay of at least three years before a penny of
profit can be realised, I have worn my boots out in climbing up and down
office stairs to no purpose. Out of your £500, nearly £400 went out at
once to pay arrears of Government taxation to save my property. Of the
remaining hundred I spent fifty in a fortnight on dinners and suppers
given to a gang of top-hatted scoundrels, who, I found subsequently, were
not worth a red cent. They hoped to fleece me in some way, and their very
association discredited me in the eyes of one or two honest men. Oh, I
have had a bad time of it, I can assure you!"

"Why did you not write to me again?"

He looked at her steadily before he explained:

"Because you are a woman."

"What has that got to do with it? I am your relative, and rich. How much
do you want? If your scheme is really sound, I imagine my solicitors might
sanction my co-operation."

Again he hesitated.

"Thank you, Rita. You are a good sort. But I am not here on a matter of
high finance. I want you to lend me, say, £250. I will return to the
Argentine, and take twenty years to accomplish what I could do in five
with the necessary capital."

"Come and see me in the morning. The sum you name is absurdly small, in
any case. Perhaps Mr. Brett will accompany you. His advice will be useful
to both of us. Come early. I leave here to-morrow."

"Going away! Where to?"

"To Whitby, in Yorkshire."

"Well, that is curious," said Robert, who clearly did not like to question
her about her husband.

"Mr. Capella is in Naples," she added. "I cannot say when he will return."

Her cousin's look was eloquent of his thoughts. He did not like the
Italian, for some inexplicable reason, for to Margaret's knowledge they
had never met.

The barrister naturally did not interfere in this family conclave. He
listened intently, and had already drawn several inferences from the man's
words. For the life of him he could not classify Robert Hume-Frazer. The
man was either a consummate scoundrel, the cold-blooded murderer of
Margaret's brother, or a maligned and ill-used man.

Within a few minutes he would be called upon to treat him in one category
or the other. A few questions might elucidate matters considerably.

The hiatus in the conversation created by the mention of Capella gave him
an opportunity.

"Did you endeavour to raise the requisite capital for your estate in
London only?" he inquired.

"No; I tried elsewhere," was the quick rejoinder.

"Here, for instance, on the New Year's Eve before last?"

"Now, how the blazes did you learn that?" came the fierce demand, the
speaker's excitement rendering him careless of the words he used.

"It is true, then?"

"Yes, but--"

"Robert!--" Margaret's voice was choking, and her face was woefully white
once more--"were you--here--when Alan--was killed?"

"No, not exactly. This thing bewilders me. Let me explain. I saw him that
afternoon. We had a furious quarrel. I never told you about it, Rita. It
was a family matter. I do not hold you responsible. I--"

"Hold me responsible! What do you mean? Did you kill my brother?"

She rose to her feet. Her eyes seemed to peer into his soul. He, too, rose
and faced her.

"By God," he cried, "this is too much! Why didn't you ask your husband
that question?"

"Because my husband, with all his faults, is innocent of that crime. He
was with me in London the night that Alan met his death."

"And I, too, was in London. I left Stowmarket at six o'clock."

"Having reached the place at 2.20?" interposed Brett.

The other turned to him with eager pleading.

"In Heaven's name, Mr. Brett, if you know all about my movements that day,
disabuse Margaret's mind of the terrible idea that prompted her question."

"Why did you come here on that occasion?"

"The truth must out now. My two uncles swindled my father--that is,
Margaret, your father led my Uncle David with him in a most unjust
proceeding. My father took up some risky business in City finance, on the
verbal understanding with his brothers that they would share profits or
bear losses equally. The speculation failed, and your father basely
withdrew from the compact, persuading the other brother to follow his
lead. Perhaps there may have been some justification for his action, but
my poor old dad was very bitter about it. The affair killed him. I made my
own way in the world, and came here to ask Alan to undo the wrong done
years ago, and help me to get on my feet. He was not in the best of
tempers, and we fell out badly, using silly recriminations. I went back to
London, and next day travelled to Monte Carlo, where I lost more money
than I could afford. Believe me, I never even knew of Alan's death until I
saw the reports of Davie's trial."

"Why did you not come forward then?"

"Why? No man could have better reasons. First, it seemed to me that Davie
had killed him. Then, when the second trial ended, I came to the
conclusion--Lord help my wits--that there was some underhanded work about
the succession to the property, and my doubts appeared to receive
confirmation by the news of Margaret's marriage. In any case, if I turned
up to give evidence, I could only have helped to hang one of my own
relatives."

"It never occurred to you that you might be suspected?"

"Never, on my honour! The suggestion is preposterous. You seem to know
everything. Tell Margaret that I did leave Stowmarket by the train I
named, that I stayed in the Hotel Victoria the same night, and left for
the Riviera at 11 a.m. next day. Margaret, don't you believe me? You and I
were sweethearts as children. Can you think I murdered your brother? Why,
dear girl, I refrained from seeing your husband lest I should wound you by
revealing my thoughts."

He placed his hands on her shoulders, and looked at her with such genuine
emotion that she lifted her swimming eyes to his, and faltered:

"Forgive me, Robert, though I can never forgive myself. Your words shocked
me. I am sorry. I am not mistaken now. You are innocent as I am."

"You have also convinced me, Mr. Frazer," said Brett quietly.

Robert gazed quickly from one to the other. Then he laughed constrainedly.

"I have been accused of several offences in my time," he said, "but this
notion that got into your heads licks creation."

"What is the matter now?" said David Hume, entering through the window.




CHAPTER XVII

"CHERCHEZ LA FEMME"


The three men drove to Stowmarket in the same vehicle, the grooms
returning in the second dog-cart.

On the way Robert Frazer--who may be designated by his second surname to
distinguish him from his cousin--was anxious to learn what had caused the
present recrudescence of inquiry into Alan's death. This was easily
explained by David, and Brett took care to confine the conversation to
general details.

Frazer was naturally keen to discover how the barrister came to be so well
posted in his movements, and David listened eagerly whilst Brett related
enough of the stationmaster's story to clear up that point.

Hume broke in with a laugh:

"That shows why he was so unusually attentive when I arrived this evening.
He spotted me getting out of the train, and would not leave me until I was
clear of the station. He was evidently determined to ascertain my exact
identity without any mistake, for he began by asking if I were not Mr.
David Hume-Frazer, laying stress on my Christian name. It surprised me a
little, because I thought the old chap knew me well."

"Are you both absolutely certain that there are no other members of your
family in existence?" asked Brett.

"It depends on how many of our precious collection you are acquainted
with," said Robert.

"The only person Mr. Brett is not acquainted with is my father," exclaimed
David stiffly.

"I was not alluding to him, of course. Indeed, I had no individual
specially in my mind."

"Surely you had some motive for your remark?" questioned David. "The only
remaining relative is Mrs. Capella."

"There again--how do you define the word 'relative.' I suppose, Mr. Brett,
you are fairly well posted in the history of our house?"

"Yes."

"Well, has it never struck you that there was something queer about the
manner of my Uncle Alan's marriage--Margaret's father, I mean?"

"Perhaps. What do you know about it?"

"Nothing definite. When I was a mid-shipman on board the _Northumberland_
I have a lively recollection of a fiendish row between a man named Somers
and another officer who passed some chaffing remark about my respected
uncle's goings on in Italy. The officer in question had forgotten, or
never knew, that Sir Alan married Somers's sister--they were Bristol
people, I think--but he stuck to it that Sir Alan had an Italian wife. He
had seen her."

Brett was driving, Frazer sitting by his side, and David leaning over the
rail from the back seat. Had a bombshell dropped in their midst the two
others could not have been more startled than by Robert's chance
observation.

"Good Heavens!" cried Hume, "why has Capella gone to Italy?"

"That question may soon be answered," said Brett.

"Was that one of the other reasons you hinted at in the library when
telling us why you did not volunteer evidence at the trial?" he asked
Robert.

"It was. The cat is out of the bag now. I did not know where the affair
might end, so I held my tongue. It also accounts for my unwillingness to
meet Capella. I am very fond of Margaret. She is straight as a die, and I
would not do anything to cause her suffering. In a word, I let sleeping
dogs lie. If you can manage your matrimonial affairs without all this
fuss, Davie, I should advise you to do the same."

"What are you hinting at? What new mystery is this?" cried Hume.

"Let us keep to solid fact for the present," interposed the barrister. "I
wish I had met you sooner, Mr. Frazer. I would be nearing Naples now,
instead of entering Stowmarket Have you any further information?"

"None whatever. Even what I have told you is the recollection of a boy who
did not understand what the row was about. Where does it lead us, anyhow?
What is known about Capella?"

"Very little. Unless I am much mistaken, he will soon tell us a good deal
himself. I am beginning to credit him with the possession of more brains
and powers of malice than I was at first inclined to admit. He is a
dangerous customer."

"Look here," exclaimed Robert angrily. "If that wretched little Italian
annoys Margaret in any way I will crack his doll's head."

They reached the hotel, where a room was obtained for Frazer, and David
undertook to equip him out of his portmanteau. Brett left the cousins to
arrange matters, and hurried to his sitting-room, where a number of
telegrams awaited him.

Those from Hume he barely glanced at. David could tell his own story.

There were three from Winter. The first, despatched at 1.10 p.m., read:

    "Capella and valet left by club train. Nothing doing Japanese."

The second was timed 4.30 p.m.:

    "Jap, accompanied by tall, fat man, left home 2.45. They separated
    Piccadilly Circus. Followed Jap--("Oh, Winter!" groaned
    Brett)--and saw him enter British Museum. Four o'clock he met fat
    man again outside Tottenham Court Road Tube Station. They drove
    west in hansom. Heard address given. Am wiring before going same
    place."

This telegram had been handed in at an Oxford Street office.

The third, 7.30., p.m.:

    "Nothing important. All quiet. Wiring before your local office
    closes."

The facetious Winter had signed these messages "Snow."

Brett promptly wrote a telegram to the detective's private address:

    "Your signature should have been 'Frost.' If that fat man turns up
    again follow him. Call on Jap and endeavour to see his wife. You
    may be sadder but wiser. Meet me Victoria Street, 5 p.m. to-day."

He called a waiter and gave instructions that this message should be sent
off early next morning. Then he lit a cigar to soothe his disappointment.

"I cannot emulate the House of Commons bird," he mused, "or at this moment
I would be close to Jiro's flat in Kensington, and at the same time
crossing Lombardy in an express. What an ass Winter is, to be sure,
whenever a subtle stroke requires an ingenious guard. Jiro dresses his
wife in male attire and sends her on an errand he dare not perform
himself. The fact that they depart together from their residence is
diplomatic in itself. If they are followed, the watcher is sure to shadow
Jiro and leave his unknown friend. Just imagine Winter dodging Jiro around
the Rosetta Stone or the Phoebus Apollo, whilst the woman is visiting some
one or some place of infinite value to our search. It is positively
maddening."

Perhaps, in his heart, Brett felt that Winter was not so greatly to blame.
The sudden appearance on the scene of a portly and respectable stranger
was disconcerting, but could hardly serve as an excuse for leaving Jiro's
trail at the point of bifurcation.

Moreover, it is difficult to suspect stout people of criminal tendencies.
Winter had the best of negative evidence that they are not adapted for
"treasons, spoils, and stratagems." Even a convicted rogue, if corpulent,
demands sympathy.

But Brett was very sore. He stamped about the room and kicked unoffending
chairs out of the way. His unfailing instinct told him that a rare
opportunity had been lost. It was well for Winter that he was beyond reach
of the barrister's tongue. A valid defence would have availed him naught.

David entered.

"I just seized an opportunity--" he commenced eagerly, but Brett levelled
his cigar at him as if it were a revolver.

"You want to tell me," he cried, "that before you were two hours in
Portsmouth you ascertained Frazer's address from an old friend. You caught
the next train for London, went to his lodgings, encountered a nagging
landlady, and found that your cousin had taken his overcoat to the
pawnbroker's to raise money for his fair to Stowmarket You drove
frantically to Liverpool Street, interviewed a smart platform inspector,
and he told you--"

"That all I had to do was to ask Brett, and he would not only give me a
detailed history of my own actions, but produce the very man he sent me in
search of," interrupted David, laughing. Nothing the barrister said or did
could astonish him now.

"What has upset you?" he went on. "I hope I made no mistakes."

"None. Your conduct has been irreproachable. But you erred greatly in the
choice of your parents. There are far too many Hume-Frazers in existence."

"Please tell me what is the matter?"

"Read those." Brett tossed the detective's telegrams across the table.

Hume puzzled over them.

"I think we ought to know who that fat man was," he said.

"We do know. She is a fat woman, the ex-barmaid from Ipswich. Next time,
they will send out the youthful Jiro in a perambulator."

"But why are you so furious about it?" demanded Hume. "Was it so important
to ascertain what she did during that hour and a quarter?"

"Important! It is the only real clue given us since 'Rabbit Jack' saw a
man like you standing motionless in the avenue."




CHAPTER XVIII

FURTHER COMPLICATIONS


Brett devoted half an hour to Frazer's business affairs next morning.
David was present, and the result of the conclave is shown by the
following excerpt from a letter the barrister sent by them to Mrs.
Capella, incidentally excusing his personal attendance at the Hall:

    "In my opinion, your cousin David and you should guarantee the
    payment of the land-tax on Mr. Frazer's estate--£650 per
    annum--for five years. You should give him a reasonable sum to
    rehabilitate his wardrobe and pay the few small debts he has
    contracted, besides allowing him a weekly stipend to enable him to
    live properly for another year. I will place him in touch with
    sound financial people, who will exploit his estate if they think
    the prospects are good, and you can co-operate in the scheme, if
    you are so advised by your solicitors, with whom the financiers I
    recommend will carry weight. Failing support in England, Mr.
    Frazer says he can make his own way in the Argentine if helped in
    the manner I suggest."

He explained to the two young men that his movements that day would be
uncertain. If the ladies still adhered to their resolve to proceed to
London forthwith, the whole party would stay at the same hotel. In that
event they should send a telegram to his Victoria Street chambers, and he
would dine with them. Otherwise they must advise him of their whereabouts.

Left to himself, he curled up In an arm-chair, knotting legs and arms in
the most uncomfortable manner, and rendering it necessary to crane his
neck before he could remove a cigar from his lips.

In such posture, alternated with rapid walking about the room, he could
think best.

The waiter, not knowing that the barrister had remained in the hotel, came
in to see what trifles might be strewed about table or mantelpiece in the
shape of loose "smokes" or broken hundreds of cigarettes.

Like most people, his eyes could only observe the expected, the normal. No
one was standing or sitting in the usual way--therefore the room was
empty.

A box of Brett's Turkish cigarettes was lying temptingly open. He
advanced.

"Touch those, and I slay you," snapped Brett. "Your miserable life is not
worth one of them."

The man jumped as if he had been fired at. The barrister, coiled up like a
boa-constrictor, glared at him in mock fury.

"I beg pardon, sir," he blurted out, "I didn't know you was in."

"Evidently. A more expert scoundrel would have stolen them under my very
nose. You are a bungler."

"I really wasn't goin' to take any, sir--just put them away, that is all."

"In that packet," said Brett, "there are eighty-seven cigarettes. I count
them, because each one is an epoch. I don't count the cigars in the
sideboard."

"I prefer cigars," grinned the waiter.

"So I see. You have two of the landlord's best 'sixpences' in the left
pocket of your waistcoat at this moment."

"Well, if you ain't a fair scorcher," the man gasped.

"What, you rascal, would you call me names?"

Brett writhed convulsively, and the waiter backed towards the door.

"No, sir, I was callin' no names. We don't get too many perks--we waiters
don't, sir. I was out of bed until one o'clock and up again at six. That's
wot I call hard work, sir."

"It is outrageous. Take five cigars."

"Thank you kindly, sir."

"What kept you up till one o'clock?"

"Gossip, sir--just silly gossip. All about Mrs. Capella, an' Beechcroft,
an' I don't know wot"

"Indeed, and who was so interested in these topics as to spoil your beauty
sleep?"

"The new gentleman, who is so like Mr. David."

"How very interesting," said the barrister, who certainly did not expect
this revelation.

"It seemed to be interesting to 'im, sir. You see, the 'ouse is pretty
full, and when you brought 'im 'ere last night, sir, the bookkeeper gev'
'im the room next to mine. Last thing, I fetched the gentleman a Scotch
an' soda an' a cigar. 'E said 'e couldn't sleep, and 'e was lookin' at a
fotygraf. I caught a squint at it, an' I sez, 'Beg parding, sir, but ain't
that Mrs. Capella--Miss Margaret as used to be?' That started 'im."

"You surprise me."

"And the gentleman surprised me," confided the waiter, whose greatest
conversational effects were produced by quickly adapting remarks made to
him. "P'r'aps you are not aware, sir, that the lady's Eye-talian 'usbin'
ain't no good?"

"I have heard something of the sort."

"Then you've heard something right, sir. They do say as 'ow 'e beats her."

"The scoundrel!"

"Scoundrel! You should 'ave seen No. 18 last night when I tole 'im that.
My conscience! 'E went on awful, 'e did. 'E seemed to be mad about Mrs.
Capella."

"He is her cousin."

"Cousin! That won't wash, sir, beggin' your pardon. You an' me knows
better than that"

"I tell you again he is her cousin."

The waiter absent-mindedly dusted the back of a chair.

"Well, sir, it isn't for the likes of me to be contradictious, but I've
got two sisters an' 'arf-a-dozen cousins, an' I don't go kissin' their
pictures an' swearin' to 'ave it out with their 'usbin's."

"Oh, come now. You are romancing."

"Not a bit, sir. When I went to my room I--er--'eard 'im."

"Is there a wooden partition between No. 18 and your room?"

"Yes, sir."

"And cracks--large ones?"

"Yes, sir. But why you should--oh, I see! Excuse me, sir; I thought I
'eard a bell."

The waiter hurried off, and Brett unwound himself.

"So Robert is in love with Margaret," he said, laughing unmirthfully. "Was
there ever such a tangle! If I indulge in a violent flirtation with Miss
Layton, and I persuade Winter to ogle Mrs. Jiro, the affair should be
artistically complete."

The conceit brought Ipswich to his mind. He was convinced that the main
line of inquiry lay in the direction of Mr. Numagawa Jiro and the curious
masquerading of his colossal spouse.

He had vaguely intended to visit the local police. Now he made up his mind
to go to Ipswich and thence to London. Further delay at Stowmarket was
useless.

Before his train quitted the station he made matters right with the
stationmaster by explaining to him the identity of the two men who had
attracted his attention the previous evening. Somehow, the barrister
imagined that the third visitant of that fateful New Year's Eve two years
ago would not trouble the neighbourhood again. Herein he was mistaken.

At the county town he experienced little difficulty in learning the
antecedents of Mrs. Numagawa Jiro.

In the first hotel he entered he found a young lady behind the bar who was
not only well acquainted with Mrs. Jiro, but remembered the circumstances
of the courtship.

"The fact is," she explained, "there are a lot of silly girls about who
think every man with a dark skin is a prince in his own country if only he
wears a silk hat and patent leather boots."

"Is that all?" said Brett.

"All what?" cried the girl. "Oh, don't be stupid! I mean when they are
well dressed. Princess, indeed! Catch me marrying a nigger."

"But Japanese are not niggers."

"Well, they're not my sort, anyhow. And fancy a great gawk like Flossie
Bird taking on with a little man who doesn't reach up to her elbow. It was
simply ridiculous. What did you say her name is now?"

He gave the required information, and went on:

"Had Mr. Jiro any other friends in Ipswich to your knowledge?"

"He didn't know a soul. He was here for the Assizes, about some case, I
think. Oh, I remember--the 'Stowmarket Mystery'--and he stayed at the
hotel where Flossie was engaged. How she ever came to take notice of him,
I can't imagine. She was a queer sort of girl--used to wear bloomers, and
get off her bike to clout the small boys who chi-iked at her."

"Do her people live here?"

"Yes, and a rare old row they made about her marriage--for she is married,
I will say that for her. But why are you so interested in her?"

The fair Hebe glanced in a mirror to confirm her personal opinion that
there were much nicer girls than Flossie Bird left in Ipswich.

"Not in her," said Brett; "in the example she set."

"What do you mean?"

"If a little Japanese can come to this town and carry off a lady of her
size and appearance, what may not a six-foot Englishman hope to
accomplish?"

"Oh, go on!"

He took her advice, and went on to the hotel patronised by Mr. Jiro during
his visit to Ipswich. The landlord readily showed him the register for the
Assize week. Most of the guests were barristers and solicitors, many of
them known personally to Brett. None of the other names struck him as
important, though he noted a few who arrived on the same day as the
Japanese, "Mr. Okasaki."

He took the next train to London, and reached Victoria Street, to find Mr.
Winter awaiting him, and carefully nursing a brown paper parcel.

"I got your wire, Mr. Brett," he explained, "and this morning after Mr.
Jiro went out alone--"

"Where did he go to?"

"The British Museum."

"What on earth was he doing there?"

"Examining manuscripts, my assistant told me. He was particularly
interested in--let me see--it is written on a bit of paper. Here it is,
the 'Nihon Guai Shi,' the 'External History of Japan,' compiled by Rai
Sanyo, between 1806 and 1827, containing a history of each of the military
families. That is all Greek to me, but my man got the librarian to jot it
down for him."

"Your man has brains. What were you going to say when I interrupted you?"

"Only this. No fat companion appeared to day, so I called at No. 17 St.
John's Mansions in my favourite character as an old clo' man."

The barrister expressed extravagant admiration in dumb show, but this did
not deceive the detective, who, for some reason, was downcast.

"I saw Mrs. Jiro, and knew in an instant that she was the stout gentleman
who left her husband at Piccadilly Circus yesterday. I was that annoyed I
could hardly do a deal. However, here they are."

He began to unfasten the string which fastened the brown paper parcel.

"Here are what?" cried Brett.

"Mrs. Jiro's coat, and trousers, and waistcoat," replied Winter
desperately. "She doesn't want 'em any more; sold 'em for a song--glad to
be rid of 'em, in fact."

He unfolded a suit of huge dimensions, surveying each garment ruefully, as
though reproaching it personally for the manner in which it had deceived
him.

Then Brett sat down and enjoyed a burst of Homeric laughter.




CHAPTER XIX

THE THIRD MAN APPEARS


The Rev. Wilberforce Layton raised no objection to his daughter's
excursion to London with Mrs. Capella. Indeed, he promised to meet them in
Whitby a week later, and remain there during August. Mrs. Eastham pleaded
age and the school treat.

It was, therefore, a comparatively youthful party which Brett joined at
dinner in one of the great hotels in Northumberland Avenue.

Someone had exercised rare discretion in ordering a special meal; the
wines were good, and two at least of the company merry as emancipated
school children.

The barrister soon received ample confirmation of the discovery made by
the Stowmarket waiter.

Robert Hume-Frazer was undoubtedly in love with his cousin, or, to speak
correctly, for the ex-sailor was a gentleman, he had been in love with her
as a boy, and now secretly grieved over a hopeless passion.

Whether Margaret was conscious of this devotion or not Brett was unable to
decide. By neither word nor look was Robert indiscreet. When she was
present he was lively and talkative, entertaining the others with snatches
of strange memories drawn from an adventurous career.

It was only when she quitted their little circle that Brett detected the
mask of angry despair that settled for a moment on the young man's face,
and rendered him indifferent to other influences until he resolutely
aroused himself.

Yet, on the whole, a great improvement was visible in Frazer. Attired in
one of David's evening dress suits, carefully groomed and trimmed, he no
sooner donned the garments which gave him the outward semblance of an
aristocrat than he dropped the curt, somewhat coarse, mannerisms which
hitherto distinguished him from his cousin.

Beyond a more cosmopolitan style of speech, he was singularly like David
in person and deportment. They resembled twins rather than first cousins.
They were both remarkably fine-looking men, tall, wiry, and in splendid
condition. It was only the slightly more attenuated features of Robert
that made it possible, even for Brett, to distinguish one from the other
at a little distance.

Helen was pleased to be facetious on the point.

"Really, Davie," she said, "now that your cousin has come amongst us, you
must remove your beard at once."

"Why?" he asked.

"Because you are so alike that some evening, in these dark corridors, I
shall mistake Mr. Frazer for you."

"That won't be half bad," laughed Robert.

Nellie blushed, and endeavoured to evade the consequences of her own
remark.

"I meant," she exclaimed, "that you would be sure to laugh at me if I
treated you as Davie."

"Not at all. I would consider it a cousinly duty to make you believe I was
David, and not myself."

"Then," she cried, "I will guard against any possibility of error by
treating both of you as Mr. Robert Hume-Frazer until I am quite sure."

"Waiter!" said David, "where is the barber's shop?"

Helen became redder than ever, but they enjoyed the joke at her expense.
The waiter politely informed his questioner that the barber would not be
on duty until the morning at 8 a.m.

"Then book the first chair for me!" said David.

"And the second for me!" joined in Robert.

"Mr. Brett," said Margaret, "don't you consider this competition perfectly
disgraceful?"

"I am overjoyed," he replied. "It appears to me that the result must be
personally most satisfactory."

"In what way?"

"It is obvious that you have no resource but to accept my willing slavery,
Miss Layton having monopolised the attentions of your two cousins."

"Hello!" cried Frazer. "This is an unexpected attack. Miss Layton, I
resign. Have no fear. In the darkest corridor I will warn you that my name
is 'Robert.'"

Though the words were carelessly good-humoured, they were just a trifle
emphatic. The incident passed, but they recalled it subsequently under
very different circumstances.

Brett went home about ten o'clock. Next day at noon he was arranging for
the immediate delivery of a type-writer machine, sold by Mr. Numagawa Jiro
to a West End exchange, when a telegram reached him:

    "Come at once. Urgent.--HUME."

He drove to the hotel, where David and Helen were sitting in the foyer
awaiting his arrival.

Hume had kept his promise anent the barber. He no longer desired to alter
his appearance in any way, and had only grown a beard on account of his
sensitiveness regarding his two trials at the Assizes.

But the fun of the affair had quite gone.

Helen was pale, David greatly perturbed.

"A terrible thing has happened," he said, in a low voice, when he grasped
the barrister's hand. "Someone tried to kill Bob an hour ago."

The blank amazement on Brett's face caused him to add hurriedly:

"It is quite true. He had the narrowest escape. He is in bed now. The
doctor is examining him. We have secured the next room to his, and
Margaret is there with a nurse."

The barrister made no reply, but accompanied them to Frazer's apartment.
In the adjoining room they found Margaret, terribly scared, but listening
eagerly to the doctor's cheery optimism.

"It is nothing," he was saying, "a severe squeeze, some slight abrasions,
and a great nervous shock, quite serious in its nature, although your
friend makes light of it, and wishes to get up at once. I think,
however--"

A nurse entered.

"The patient insists upon my leaving the room," she cried angrily. "He is
dressing."

They heard Robert's voice:

"Confound it, I have been rolled on three times in one day by a bucking
broncho, and thought nothing of it. I absolutely refuse to stop in bed!"

The doctor resigned professional responsibility; and the nature of
Margaret's cheque caused him to admit that, to a man accustomed to South
American ponies, unbroken, the nervous shock might not amount to much.

Indeed, Robert appeared almost immediately, and in a bad temper.

"I lost my wind," he explained, "when that horse fell on me, and everyone
promptly imagined I was killed. I hope, Margaret, the needless excitement
of my appearance on a stretcher did not alarm you. They were going to whip
me off to the hospital when I managed to gurgle out the name of the
hotel."

"What happened?" said Brett.

"The most extraordinary thing. Have you told him, Davie?"

"No, I attributed your first words to me as being due to delirium. I had
no idea you were in earnest."

"Well, Mr. Brett," said Frazer, sitting down, for notwithstanding his
protests, he was somewhat shaky, "it began to rain after breakfast."

"Excellent!" cried the barrister, "An Englishman, in his sound mind,
always starts with the state of the weather."

"I am sound enough, thank goodness, but I had a very close shave. Don't
laugh, Davie. My ribs are sore. As the ladies decided not to go out until
the weather took up, Davie said he would keep them company whilst I seized
the opportunity to visit a tailor. I left the hotel and walked quickly to
the corner of Whitehall. It was hardly worth while taking a cab to Bond
Street, and I intended to cross in front of King Charles's statue. It is
an awkward place, and a lot of 'buses, cabs, and vans were bowling along
downhill from the Strand and St. Martin's Church. I waited a moment on the
kerbstone, watching for a favourable opportunity, when suddenly I was
pitched head foremost in front of a passing 'bus. My escape from instant
death was solely due to the splendid way in which the driver handled his
horses and applied his brake. The near horse was swung round so sharp that
he fell and landed almost, not quite, on the top of me. I could feel his
hot, reeking body against my face, and although the greater part of his
impact was borne by the road, I got enough to knock the breath out of me.
You will see by the state of my clothes in the other room how I was
flattened in the mud. By the way, Davie, it is your suit."

Helen choked back something she was going to say, and Frazer continued:

"A policeman pulled me from under the horse, and I kept my senses
sufficiently to note how the near front wheel had gouged a channel in the
mud within an inch or so of my head. It went over my hat. Where is it?"

Hume ran into the bedroom, and returned with a bowler hat torn to shreds.

"There you are," said Robert coolly, "Fancy my head in that condition."

"You used the word 'pitched.' Do you mean that someone cannoned against
you?"

"Not a bit of it. It was no accident of a hurrying man blindly following
an umbrella. I have been a sailor, Mr. Brett, and am accustomed to
maintaining my balance in a sudden lurch. I do it intuitively. It is as
much a part of my second self as using my eyes or ears with unconscious
accuracy. Some man--a big, powerful man--designedly threw me down, and did
so very scientifically, first pressing his knee against the tendons of my
left leg, and then using his elbow. Not one in a thousand Londoners would
know the trick."

"You are a first-rate witness. Pray go on," said Brett.

"Being a sailor, however, I did manage to twist round slightly as I fell,
and I'm blessed if I didn't think it was Davie here who did it."

The barrister's keen face lighted curiously. The others, closely watching
him, afterwards agreed that he reminded them of a greyhound straining
after a luckless hare.

"That seems to interest you, Mr. Brett," said Frazer. "I assure you the
momentary impression was very distinct. My assailant was dressed like
Davie, too, in dark blue serge, and wore a beard. For the moment I forgot
that Davie had visited the barber this morning, and I blurted out
something when he met me being carried in through the hall."

"Yes," exclaimed Hume. "You said: 'Davie, why did you try to murder me?' I
was sure you were delirious, as I had not left Nellie and Margaret for an
instant since you went out."

"That is so," cried Helen.

Margaret uttered no word. She sat, with hands clasped, and pale, set face,
watching her cousin as if his story had a mesmeric effect.

"I'm awfully sorry," said Frazer penitently. "I knew at once I was a fool,
but you see, old chap, I remembered you best as I had seen you during the
previous twenty-four hours, and not as you looked at breakfast this
morning. Do forgive me."

But Brett broke in impatiently:

"My dear fellow, your natural mistake is the most important thing that has
happened since your cousin Alan met his death. The man who attacked you
mistook you, in turn, for David. He will try again. I wonder if your
accident will be reported in the papers?"

"Yes," said Hume. "A youngster came to me, inquired all about Robert, and
seemed to be quite sorry he was not mangled."

"Then it will be your affair next time. Keep a close look-out whenever you
are alone. If anyone resembling yourself lays a hand on you, try and
detain him at all costs."

"Mr. Brett!" shrieked Helen, "you surely cannot mean it."

His enthusiasm had caused him to ignore her presence. For the next five
minutes he was earnestly engaged in explaining away his uncanny request.




CHAPTER XX

THE TRAIL


Standing on the steps of the hotel, Brett cast a searching glance along
the line of waiting hansoms. He wanted a strong, sure-footed horse, one of
those marvellous animals, found only in the streets of London, which trots
like a dog, slides down Savoy Street on its hind legs, slips in and out
among the traffic like an eel, and covers a steady eight miles an hour for
a seemingly indefinite period.

"Shall I whistle for a cab, sir?" said the hall-porter.

"No. You whistle without discrimination," replied the barrister.

He found the stamp of gee-gee he needed fourth on the rank.

"How long has your horse been out of the stable?" he asked the driver.

"I've just driven him here, sir."

"Is he up to a hard day's work?"

"The best tit in London, sir."

"Pull him up to the pavement."

The man obeyed. Instantly his three predecessors on the rank began a
chorus:

"'Ere! Wot th'--"

"All right, Jimmy. Wait till--"

"Well, I'm--"

"What is the matter?" inquired Brett, "You fellows always squeal before
you are hurt. Here is a fare each for you," and he solemnly gave them a
shilling a-piece.

Even then they were not satisfied. They all objurgated Jimmy for his luck
as he drove off.

It was an easy matter to find the constable who had been on point duty at
the crossing when the "accident" happened. This man produced his note-book
containing the number of the Road Car Company's Camden Town and Victoria
'bus, the driver of which had so cleverly avoided a catastrophe. The
policeman knew nothing of events prior to the falling of the horse. There
was the usual crowd of hurrying people; the scream of a startled woman; a
rush of sightseers; and the rescue of Frazer from beneath the prostrate
animal.

"Did you chance to notice the destination of the omnibus immediately
preceding the Road Car vehicle?" said Brett.

"Yes, sir. It was an Atlas."

"Have you noted the exact time the accident occurred?"

"Here it is, sir--10.45 a.m."

At Victoria he was lucky in hitting upon the Camden Town 'bus itself,
drawn up outside the District Railway Station, waiting its turn to enter
the enclosure.

The driver was a sharp fellow, and disinclined to answer questions. Brett
might be an emissary of the enemy. But a handsome tip and the assurance
that a very substantial present would be forwarded to his address by the
friends of the gentleman whose life he saved unloosed his tongue.

"I never did see anything like it, sir," he confided. "The road was quite
clear, an' I was bowlin' along to get the inside berth from a General just
behind, when this yer gent was chucked under the 'osses' 'eds. Bli-me, I
would ha' thort 'e was a suicide if I 'adn't seed a bloke shove 'im orf
the kerb."

"Oh, you saw that, did you?"

"Couldn't 'elp it, sir. I was lookin' aht for fares. Jack, my mate, sawr
it too."

The conductor thus appealed to confirmed the statement. They both
described the assailant as very like his would-be victim in size,
appearance, and garments.

Jack said he could do nothing, because the sudden swerving of the 'bus,
the fall of the horse, and the instant gathering of a crowd, prevented him
from making the attempt to grab the other man, who vanished, he believed,
down Whitehall.

"You did not tell the police about the assault?" inquired Brett.

"Not me, guv'nor," said the driver. "The poor chap in the road was not
much 'urt. I knew that, though the mob thort 'e was a dead 'un. An' wot
does it mean? A day lost in the polis-court, an' a day lost on my
pay-sheet, too."

"Well," said Brett, "the twist you gave to the reins this morning meant
several days added to your pay-sheet. Would either of you know the man
again if you saw him?"

This needed reflection.

"I wouldn't swear to 'im," was the driver's dictum, "but I would swear to
any man bein' like 'im."

"Same 'ere," said the conductor.

The barrister understood their meaning, which had not the general
application implied by the words. He obtained the addresses of both men
and left them.

His next visit was to an Atlas terminus. Here he had to wait a full hour
before the 'bus arrived that had passed Trafalgar Square on a south
journey at 10.45.

The conductor remembered the sudden stoppage of the Road Car vehicle.

"Ran over a man, sir, didn't it?" he inquired.

"Nearly, not quite. Now, I want you to fix your thoughts on the passengers
who entered your 'bus at that point. Can you describe them?"

The man smiled.

"It's rather a large order, sir," he said. "I've been past there twice
since. If it's anybody you know particular, and you tell me what he was
like, I may be able to help you."

Brett would have preferred the conductor's own unaided statement, but
seeing no help for it, he gave the man a detailed description of David
Hume, plus the beard.

"Has he got black, snaky eyes and high cheek-bones?" the conductor
inquired thoughtfully.

The barrister had described a fair man, with brown hair; and the question
in no way indicated the colour of the Hume-Frazer eyes. Yet the odd
combination caught his attention.

"Yes," he said, "that may be the man."

"Well, sir, I didn't pick him up there, but I dropped him there at nine
o'clock. I picked him up at the Elephant, and noticed him particular
because he didn't pay the fare for the whole journey, but took
penn'orths."

"I am greatly obliged to you. Would you know him again?"

"Among a thousand! He had a funny look, and never spoke. Just shoved a
penny out whenever I came on top. Twice I had to refuse it."

"Was he a foreigner?"

"Not to my idea. He looked like a Scotchman. Don't you know him, sir?"

"Not yet. I hope to make his acquaintance. Can you remember the 'bus which
was in front of you at Whitehall at 10.45?"

"Yes; I can tell you that. It was a Monster, Pimlico. The conductor is a
friend of mine, named Tomkins. That is the only time I have seen him
to-day."

At the Monster, Pimlico, after another delay, Tomkins was produced. Again
Brett described David Hume, adorned now with "black, snaky eyes and high
cheek-bones."

"Of course," said Tomkins. "I've spotted 'im. 'E came aboard wiv a run
just arter a hoss fell in front of the statoo. Gimme a penny, 'e did, an'
jumped orf at the 'Orse Guards without a ticket afore we 'ad gone a
'undred yards. I thort 'e was frightened or dotty, I did. Know 'im agin?
Ra--ther. Eyes like gimlets, 'e 'ad."

The barrister regained the seclusion of the hansom.

"St John's Mansions, Kensington," he said to the driver, and then he
curled up on the seat in the most uncomfortable attitude permitted by the
construction of the vehicle.

On nearing his destination he stopped the cab at a convenient corner.

"I want you to wait here for my return," he told the driver.

"How long will you be, sir?"

"Not more than fifteen minutes."

"I only asked, sir, because I wanted to know if I had time to give the
horse a feed."

Cabby was evidently quite convinced that his eccentric fare was not a
bilker.

Brett glanced around. In the neighbouring street was a public-house, which
possessed what the agents call "a good pull-up trade." He pointed to it.

"I think," he said, "if you wait there it will be more comfortable for you
and equally good for the horse."

The cabby pocketed an interim tip with a grin.

"I've struck it rich to-day," he murmured, as he disappeared through a
swing door bearing the legend, "Tap," in huge letters.

Meanwhile, Brett sauntered past St. John's Mansions. Across the road a man
was leaning against the railings of a large garden, being deeply immersed
in the columns of a sporting paper.

The barrister caught his eye and walked on. A minute later Mr. Winter
overtook him.

"Not a move here all day," he said in disgust, "except Mrs. Jiro's
appearance with the perambulator. She led me all round Kensington Gardens,
and her only business was to air the baby and cram it with sponge-cakes."

"Where is her husband?"

"In the house. He hasn't stirred out since yesterday's visit to the
Museum."

"Who is looking after the place in your absence?"

"One of my men has taken a room over the paper shop opposite. He has
special charge of the Jap. My second assistant is scraping and varnishing
the door of No. 16 flat. He sees every one who enters and leaves the place
during the day. If Mrs. Jiro comes out he has to follow her until he sees
that I am on the job."

"Good! I want to talk matters over with you. I have a cab waiting in a
side street."

"Why, sir, has anything special happened?"

A newsboy came running along shouting the late edition of the _Evening
News_. The barrister bought a paper and rapidly glanced through its
contents.

"Here you are," he said. "Someone in that office has a good memory."

The item which Brett pointed out to the detective read as follows:--

    "ACCIDENT IN WHITEHALL.

    "Mr. Robert Hume-Frazer, residing in one of the great hotels in
    Northumberland Avenue, was knocked down and nearly run over by an
    omnibus in Whitehall this morning. The skill of the driver averted
    a very serious accident. It is supposed that Mr. Hume-Frazer
    slipped whilst attempting to cross before the policeman on duty at
    that point stopped the traffic.

    "The injured gentleman was carried to his hotel, where he is
    staying with his cousin, Mr. David Hume-Frazer, whose name will be
    recalled in connection with the famous 'Stowmarket Mystery' of
    last year."

"What does it all mean?" inquired Winter.

"It means that you must listen carefully to what I am going to tell you.
Here is my cab. Jump in. Driver, I am surprised that a man of your
intelligence should waste your money on a public-house cigar. Throw it
away. Here is a better one. And now, Victoria Street, sharp."

Winter's ears were pricked to receive Brett's intelligence. Beyond a sigh
of professional admiration at the result of Brett's pertinacity with
regard to the omnibuses passing through Whitehall at 10.45, he did not
interrupt until the barrister had ended.

Even then he was silent, so Brett looked at him in surprise,

"Well, Winter, what do you think of it?" he said.

"Think! I wish I had half your luck, Mr. Brett," he answered sadly.

"How now, you green-eyed monster?"

"No. I'm not jealous. You beat me at my own game; I admit it. I would
never have thought of going for the 'buses. I suppose you would have
interviewed the driver and conductor of every vehicle on that route before
you gave in. You didn't trouble about the hansoms. Hailing a cab was a
slow business, and risked subsequent identification. To jump on to a
moving 'bus was just the thing. Yes, there is no denying that you are d--d
smart."

"Winter, your unreasonable jealousy is making you vulgar."

"Wouldn't any man swear, sir? Why did I let such a handful as Mrs. Jiro
slip through my fingers the other day? Clue! Why, it was a perfect bale of
cotton. If I had only followed her instead of that little rat, her
husband, we would now know where the third man lives, and have the
murderer of Sir Alan under our thumb. It is all my fault, though sometimes
I feel inclined to blame the police system--a system that won't even give
us telephones between one station and another. Never mind. Wait till I
tackle the next job for the Yard. I'll show 'em a trick or two."




CHAPTER XXI

CONCERNING CHICKENS, AND MOTIVES


The detective cooled off by the time they reached Brett's flat. On the
dining-room tables they found two telegrams and a Remington type-writer.

The messages were from Holden, Naples.

The first: "Johnson arrived here this morning."

The second: "Johnson's proceedings refer to poorhouse and church
registers."

"Johnson is Capella," explained Winter. "I forgot to tell you we had
arranged that."

Brett surveyed the second telegram so intently that the detective
inquired:

"How do you read that, sir?"

"Capella is securing copies of certificates--marriages, births, or deaths;
perhaps all three. He is also getting hold of living witnesses."

"Of what?"

"He will tell us himself. He is preparing a bombshell of sorts. It will
explode here. Goodness only knows who will be blown up by it."

He took the cover off the type-writer, seized a sheet of paper, and began
to manipulate the keyboard with the methodical carefulness of one
unaccustomed to its use.

He wrote:

    "About Stowmarket. David Hume Frazer
    killed cousin. Cousin talked girl in road.
    Girl waited wood. David Hume Frazer met
    girl in wood after 1 a.m."

"Do you mean to say," cried the detective, "that you can remember the
anonymous letter word for word? You have only seen it once, and that was
several days ago."

"Not only word for word, but the spacing, the number of words in a line,
the lines between which creases appear. Look, Winter. Here is the small
broken 'c,' the bent capital 'D,' the letter 'a' out of register. Where is
the original?"

"Here, in my pocket-book."

They silently compared the two typed sheets. It needed no expert to note
that they had been written by the same machine.

"It would take a clever counsel to upset that piece of evidence," said
Winter. "I wish I had hold of the writer."

"You have spoken to him several times."

"Surely you cannot mean Jiro!"

"Who else? Jiro is but the tool of a superior scoundrel. He is just
beginning to suspect the fact, and trying to use it for his own benefit. I
wish I was in Naples with your friend Holden."

"But, Mr. Brett, the murderer is in London! What about this morning's
attempt--"

"My dear fellow, you are already constructing the gallows. Leave that to
the gaol officials. What we do not yet know is the motive. The key to the
mystery is in Naples, probably in Capella's hands at this moment. If I
were there it would be in mine, too. Do not question me, Winter. I am not
inspired. I can only indulge in vague imaginings. Capella will bring the
reality to London."

"Then what are we to do meanwhile?"

"Await events patiently. Watch Jiro with the calm persistence of a cat
watching a hole into which a mouse has disappeared. At this moment, eat
something."

He rang for Smith, and told him to attend to the wants of the waiting
cabman, whilst Mrs. Smith made the speediest arrangements for an immediate
dinner.

The two men sat down, and Winter could not help asking another question.

"Why are you keeping the cab, Mr. Brett?"

"Because I am superstitious."

The detective opened wide his eyes at this unlooked-for statement.

"I mean it," said the barrister. "Look at all I have learnt to-day whilst
darting about London in that particular hansom, which, mind you, I
carefully selected from a rank of twenty. Abandon it until I am dropped at
my starting-point! Never!"

Winter sighed.

"I never feel that way about anything on wheels," he said. "Do you really
think you will be able to clear up this affair, sir? It seems to me to be
a bigger muddle now than when I left it after the second trial. Don't
laugh at me. That is awkwardly put, I know. But then we had a
straightforward crime to deal with. Now, goodness knows where we have
landed."

Smith entered, and commenced laying the table. Brett did not reply to the
detective's spoken reverie. Both men idly watched the deft servant's
preparations.

"Smith," suddenly cried the master of the household, "what sort of chicken
have we for dinner?"

"Cold chicken, sir."

"Thank you. As you seem to demand Miltonic precision in phrase, I amend my
words. What breed of chicken have we for dinner?"

"A dorking, sir."

"And how do you know it is a dorking?"

"Oh, there's lots of ways of knowin' that, sir. You can tell by the size,
by its head and feet, and by the tuft of feathers left on its neck."

"Q.E.D."

"Beg pardon, sir!"

"I was only saying, 'Right you are!'"

Smith went out, and Brett turned to his companion:

"Did you note Smith's philosophy in the matter of dorkings?" he inquired.

"Yes."

"Does it convey no moral to you? I fear not. Now mark me, Winter. Just as
the breed of the chicken is indelibly stamped on it in the eyes of a man
skilled in chickens, so is the murder we are investigating marked by
characteristics so plain that a child of ten, properly trained to use his
eyes, might discern them. What you and I suffer from are defects implanted
by idle nursemaids and doting mothers. Let us, for the moment, adopt the
policy of the theosophists and sit in consultation apart from our astral
bodies. Who killed Sir Alan Hume-Frazer? I answer, a relative. What
relative? Someone we do not know, whom he did not know, or who committed
murder because he was known. What sort of person is the murderer? A man
physically like either David or Robert, so like that 'Rabbit Jack' would
swear to the identity of either of them as readily as to the person of the
real murderer. Why did he use such a weird instrument as the Ko-Katana?
Because he found it under his hand and recognised its sinister purpose, to
be left implanted in the breast or brain of an enemy's lifeless body.
Where is the man now? In London, perhaps outside this building, perhaps
watching the Northumberland Avenue Hotel, waiting quietly for another
chance to take the life of the person who caused us to reopen this
inquiry. To sum up, Winter, let us find such an individual, a Hume-Frazer
with black, deadly eyes, with a cold, calculating, remorseless brain, with
a knowledge of trick and fence not generally an attribute of the
Anglo-Saxon race--let us lay hands on him, I say, and you can book him for
kingdom come, _viâ_ the Old Bailey."

"Yes, sir!" broke in Winter excitedly. "But the motive!"

"Et tu, Brute! Would the disciple rend his master? Have I not told you
that Capella will bring that knowledge with him from Naples? I have hopes
even of your long-nosed friend, Holden, giving us all the details we
need."

"What did the murderer steal from Sir Alan's writing-desk, from the drawer
broken open before the blow was struck?"

Smith entered, bearing a chicken.

"The motive, Winter! The motive!" laughed Brett, and in pursuance of his
invariable practice, he refused to say another word about the crime or its
perpetrator during the meal.




CHAPTER XXII

THE SECOND ATTACK


Mrs. Smith was accustomed to her master's occasional freaks in the matter
of dinner. Her husband, aided by long experience, knew whether Brett's
"immediately" meant one minute, or five, or even fifteen.

This time he gave his wife the longest limit, so, in addition to the
chicken, a bird whose unhappy attribute is a facility for being devoured
with the utmost speed, a mixed grill of cutlets, bacon, and French
sausages appeared on the table.

The diners were hungry and the good things were appreciated. It was well
that they wasted no time on mere words. They were still intent on the
feast when a boy messenger brought a note. It was from Helen, written in
pencil:

    "David was coming to see you when he was attacked. Can you come to
    us at once?

    "H.L.

    "P.S.--David is all right--only shaken and covered with mud. It
    occurred five minutes ago."

"Dear me!" said Brett. "Dear me!"

There was such a hiss of concentrated fury in his voice that Winter was
puzzled to account for the harmless expression the barrister had twice
used. The detective knew that his distinguished friend never, by any
chance, indulged in strong language, yet something had annoyed him so
greatly that a more powerful expletive would have had a very natural
sound.

Brett glared at him.

"It is evident," he said, "that you do not know the meaning of 'Dear me.'
It is simply the English form of the Italian 'O Dio mio!' and a literal
translation would shock you."

"It doesn't appear that much damage has been done to your client," gasped
Winter, for Brett had unceremoniously dragged him from his chair with the
intention of rushing downstairs forthwith.

They hurried out together, and dashed into the waiting hansom.

"Think of it, Winter," groaned the barrister. "Whilst we were seduced by a
dorking and a French sausage--an unholy alliance--the very man we wanted
was waiting in Northumberland Avenue. You are avenged! All my jibes and
sneers at Scotland Yard recoil on my own head. I might have known that
such a desperate scoundrel would soon make another attempt, and next time
upon the right person. You followed Mrs. Jiro. I am led astray by a cooked
fowl. Oh, Winter, Winter, who could suspect such depravity in a roasted
chicken!"

"I'm dashed if I can guess what you're driving at," growled the detective.

"No; I understand. The blood has left your brain and gone to your stomach.
You will not be able to think for hours."

Raving thus, in disjointed sentences that Winter could not make head or
tail of, Brett refused to be explicit until they reached the hotel, when
he discharged the cabman with a payment that caused the gentleman on the
perch to spit on the palm of his hand in great glee, whilst he promptly
wheeled the horse in the direction of his livery stables.

They were met by David himself, seated in the foyer by the side of Helen,
who looked white and frightened.

"This chap is a terror," began Hume, once they were safe in the privacy of
their sitting-room. "I would never have believed such things were possible
in London if they had not actually happened to Robert and me to-day. We
had dinner rather early, and dined in private, as Robert is feeling stiff
now after this morning's adventure. Margaret suggested--"

"Where is Mrs. Capella?" interrupted the barrister.

Miss Layton answered:

"She is with Mr. Frazer. They have found a quiet corner of the ladies'
smoking-room--I mean the smoking-room where ladies go--and we have not
told them yet what has happened to Davie."

"Well," resumed Hume, "Margaret's idea is that we should all leave here
for the North to-morrow. She wanted you to approve of the arrangement, so
I got into a hansom and started for your chambers. It was raining a
little, and the street was full of traffic. The driver asked if I would
like the window closed, but I would sooner face a tiger than drive through
London in a boxed-up hansom, so I refused. The middle of the road, you
know, has a long line of waiting cabs, broken by occasional
crossing-places. The horse was just getting into a trot when a man,
wrapped in a mackintosh, ran alongside, caught the off rein in the crook
of his stick, swung the poor beast right round through one of the gaps in
the rank, and down we went--horse, cab, driver, and myself--in front of a
brewer's dray. Luckily for me and the driver, we were flung right over the
smash into the gutter, for the big, heavy van ran into the fallen hansom,
crushed it like a matchbox, and killed the horse. Had the window been
closed--well, it wasn't, so there is no need for romancing."

Poor Nellie clung to her lover as if to assure herself that he was really
uninjured.

"Did you see your assailant clearly?"

"Unfortunately, no. The side windows were blurred with rain, and I was
trying to strike a match. The first thing I was conscious of was a violent
swerve. I looked up, saw a tall, cloaked figure wrenching at the reins
with a crooked stick, and over we went. I fell into a bed of mud. It
absolutely blinded me. I jumped up, and fancying that the blackguard ran
up Northumberland Street I dashed after him. I cannoned against some
passer-by and we both fell. A news-runner, who witnessed the affair, did
go after the cause of it, and received such a knock-out blow on the jaw
that he was hardly able to speak when found by a policeman."

"Where is this man now?"

"With the cabman in a small hotel across the road. I had not the nerve to
bring them here. If we have any more adventures, the management will turn
us out. I fancy they think our behaviour is hardly respectable. The
instant Robert or I endeavour to leave the door we are used to clean up a
portion of the roadway."

"Miss Layton, would you mind joining the others for a few minutes. Mr.
Hume is going out with Mr. Winter and myself."

The barrister's request took Helen by surprise.

"Is there any need for further risk?" she faltered. "Moreover, Margaret
will see at once that something has gone wrong. I am a poor hand at
deception where--where Davie is concerned."

"Have no fear. Tell them everything. Mr. Hume will be very seriously
injured--in to-morrow morning's papers. This expert in street accidents
must be led to believe he has succeeded. In any case, aided by a miserable
fowl, he is far enough from here at this moment. We will return in twenty
minutes."

The girl was so agitated that she hardly noticed Brett's words. But their
purport reassured her, and she left them.

The three men passed out into the drizzling rain. Owing to the Strand
being "up," a continuous stream of traffic flowed through the Avenue. Hume
pointed out the gap through which the horse was forced, and then they
darted across the roadway.

"I fell here," he said, indicating a muddy flood of road scrapings, in
which were embedded many splinters from the wreckage of the hansom.

Brett, careless of the amazement he caused to hurrying pedestrians, waded
through the bed of mud, kicking up any objects encountered by his feet.

He uttered an exclamation of triumph when he produced a stick from the
depths.

"I thought I should find it," he said. "When the horse fell it was a
hundred to one against the stick being extricated from the reins, and its
owner could not wait an instant. You and the stick, my dear Hume, lay
close together."

A small crowd was gathering. The barrister laughed.

"Gentleman," he said, "why are you so surprised? Which of you would not
dirty his boots to recover such a valuable article as this?"

Some people grinned sympathetically. They all moved away.

In an upper room of the neighbouring public-house were a suffering
"runner" and a disconsolate "cabby." The "runner" could tell them nothing
tangible concerning the man he pursued.

"I sawr 'im bring the hoss dahn like a bullick," he whispered, for the
poor fellow had received a terrible blow. "I went arter 'im, dodged rahnd
the fust corner, an', bli-me, 'e gev me a punch that would 'ave 'arted
Corbett."

"What with--his fist?" inquired Brett.

"Nah, guv'nor--'is 'eel, blawst 'im. I could 'ave dodged a square blow. I
can use my dukes a bit myself."

"What was the value of the punch?"

The youth tried to smile, though the effort tortured him. "It was worth
'arf a thick 'un at least, guv'nor."

Hume gave him two sovereigns, and the runner could not have been more
taken aback had the donor "landed him" on the sound jaw.

"And now, you," said Brett to the cabman. "What did you see?"

"Me!" with a snort of indignation. "Little over an hour ago I sawr a smawt
keb an' a tidy little nag wot I gev thirty quid fer at Ward's in the
Edgware Road a fortnight larst Toosday. And wot do I see now? Marylebone
Work'us fer me an' the missis an' the kids. My keb gone, my best hoss
killed, an' a pore old crock left, worth abart enough to pay the week's
stablin'. I see a lot, I do."

The man was telling the truth. He was blear-eyed with misery. Brett looked
at Hume, and the latter rang a bell. He asked the waiter for a pen and
ink.

"How much did your cab cost?" he said to the driver, who was so downcast
that he actually failed to correctly interpret David's action. The
question had to be repeated before an answer came.

"It wasn't a new 'un, mister. I was just makin' a stawt. I gev fifty-five
pound fer it, an' three pun ten to 'ave it done up. But there! What's the
use of talkin'? I'm orf 'ome, I am, to fice the missis."

"Wait just a little while," said David kindly. "You hardly understand this
business. The madman who attacked us meant to injure me, not you. Here is
a cheque for £100, which will not only replace your horse and cab, but
leave you a little over for the loss of your time."

Winter caught the dazed cabman by the shoulder.

"Billy," he said, "you know me. Are you going home, or going to get
drunk?"

Billy hesitated.

"Goin' 'ome," he vociferated. "S'elp me--"

"One moment," said Brett. "Surely you have some idea of the appearance of
the rascal who pulled your horse over?"

The man was alternately surveying the cheque and looking into the face of
his benefactor.

"I dunno," he cried, after a pause. "I feel a bit mixed. This gentleman
'ere 'as acted as square as ever man did. 'E comes of a good stock, 'e
does, an' yet--I 'umbly ax yer pawdon, sir--but the feller who tried to
kill you an' me might ha' bin yer own brother."




CHAPTER XXIII

MARGARET'S SECRET


The waiter managed to remove the most obvious traces of Brett's escapade
in the gutter, and incidentally cleaned the stick.

It was a light, tough ashplant, with a silver band around the handle. The
barrister held it under a gas jet and examined it closely. Nothing escaped
him. After scrutinising the band for some time, he looked at the ferrule,
and roughly estimated that the owner had used it two or three years.
Finally, when quite satisfied, he handed it to Winter.

"Do you recognise those scratches?" he said, with a smile, pointing out a
rough design bitten into the silver by the application of aqua regia and
beeswax.

The detective at once uttered an exclamation of supreme astonishment.

"The very thing!" he cried. "The same Japanese motto as that on the
Ko-Katana!"

Hume now drew near.

"So," he growled savagely, "the hand that struck down Alan was the same
that sought my life an hour ago!"

"And your cousin's this morning," said Brett

"The cowardly brute! If he has a grudge against my family, why doesn't he
come out into the open? He need not have feared detection, even a week
ago. I could be found easily enough. Why didn't he meet me face to face? I
have never yet run away from trouble or danger."

"You are slightly in error regarding him," observed Brett. "This man may
be a fiend incarnate, but he Is no coward. He means to kill, to work some
terrible purpose, and he takes the best means towards that end. To his
mind the idea of giving a victim fair play is sheer nonsense. It never
even occurs to him. But a coward! no. Think of the nerve required to
commit robbery and murder under the conditions that obtained at Beechcroft
on New Year's Eve. Think of the skill, the ready resource, which made so
promptly available the conditions of the two assaults to-day. Our quarry
is a genius, a Poe among criminals. Look to it, Winter, that your
handcuffs are well fixed when you arrest him, or he will slip from your
grasp at the very gates of Scotland Yard."

"If I had my fingers round his windpipe--" began David.

"You would be a dead man a few seconds later," said the barrister. "If we
three, unarmed, had him in this room now, equally defenceless, I should
regard the issue as doubtful."

"There would be a terrible dust-up," smirked Winter.

"Possibly; but it would be a fight for life or death. No half measures. A
matter of decanters, fire-irons, chairs. Let us return to the hotel."

Whilst Hume went to summon the others, Brett seated himself at a table and
wrote:

    "A curious chapter of accidents happened in Northumberland Avenue
    yesterday. Early in the morning, Mr. Robert Hume-Frazer quitted
    his hotel for a stroll in the West End, and narrowly escaped being
    run over in Whitehall. About 8 p.m. his cousin, Mr. David
    Hume-Frazer, was driving through the Avenue in a hansom, when the
    vehicle upset, and the young gentleman was thrown out. He was
    picked up in a terrible condition, and is reported to be in danger
    of his life."

The barrister read the paragraph aloud.

"It is casuistic," he commented, "but that defect is pardonable. After
all, it is not absolutely mendacious, like a War Office telegram. Winter,
go and bring joy to the heart of some penny-a-liner by giving him that
item. The 'coincidence' will ensure its acceptance by every morning paper
in London, and you can safely leave the reporter himself to add details
about Mr. Hume's connection with the Stowmarket affair."

The detective rose.

"Will you be here when I come back, sir?" he asked.

"I expect so. In any case, you must follow on to my chambers. To-night we
will concert our plan of campaign."

Margaret entered, with Helen and the two men. Robert limped somewhat.

"How d'ye do, Brett?" he cried cheerily. "That beggar hurt me more than I
imagined at the time. He struck a tendon in my left leg so hard that it is
quite painful now."

Brett gave an answering smile, but his thoughts did not find utterance.
How strange it was that two men, so widely dissimilar as Robert and the
vendor of newspapers, should insist on the skill, the unerring certainty,
of their opponent.

"Mrs. Capella," he said, wheeling round upon the lady, "when you lived in
London or on the Continent did you ever include any Japanese in the circle
of your acquaintances?"

"Yes," was the reply.

Margaret was white, her lips tense, the brilliancy of her large eyes
almost unnatural.

"Tell me about them."

"What can I tell you? They were bright, lively little men. They amused my
friends by their quaint ideas, and interested us at times by recounting
incidents of life in the East."

"Were they all 'little'? Was one of them a man of unusual stature?"

"No," said Margaret

The barrister knew that she was profoundly distressed.

"If she would be candid with me," he mused, "I would tear the heart from
this mystery to-night."

One other among those present caught the hidden drift of this small
colloquy. Robert Frazer looked sadly at his cousin. Natures that are
closely allied have an electric sympathy. He could not even darkly discern
the truth, but he connected Brett's words in some remote way with Capella.
How he loathed the despicable Italian who left his wife to bear alone the
trouble that oppressed her--who only went away in order to concoct some
villainy against her.

Margaret could not face the barrister's thoughtful, searching gaze. She
stood up--like the others of her race when danger threatened. She even
laughed harshly.

"I have decided," she said, "to leave here to-morrow morning. Helen says
she does not object Our united wardrobes will serve all needs of the
seaside. Robert's tailor visited him to-day, and assured him that the
result would be satisfactory without any preliminary 'trying on.' Do you
approve, Mr. Brett?"

"Most heartily. I can hardly believe that our hidden foe will make a
further attack until he learns that he has been foiled again. Yet you will
all be happier, and unquestionably safer, away from London. Does anyone
here know where you are going?"

"No one. I have not told my maid or footman. It was not necessary, as we
intended to remain here a week."

"Admirable! When you leave the hotel in the morning give Yarmouth as your
destination. Not until you reach King's Cross need you inform your
servants that you are really going to Whitby. Would you object to--ah,
well that is perhaps, difficult. I was about to suggest an assumed name,
but Miss Layton's father would object, no doubt."

"If he did not, I would," said Robert impetuously. "Who has Margaret to
fear, and what do David and I care for all the anonymous scoundrels in
creation?"

"Is there really so much danger that such a proceeding is advisable?"
inquired the trembling Nellie.

"To-day's circumstances speak for themselves, Miss Layton," replied Brett.
"Neither you nor Mrs. Capella run the least risk. I will not be answerable
for the others. Grave difficulties must be surmounted before the power for
further injury is taken from the man we seek. In my professional capacity,
I say act openly, advertise your destination, make it known that Mr. Hume
escaped from the wreck of the hansom unhurt. Should the would-be murderer
follow you to Whitby he cannot escape me. Here in London he is one among
five millions. But speaking as a friend, I advise the utmost vigilance
unless another Hume-Frazer is to die in his boots."

It was not Helen but Margaret who wailed in agony:

"Do you really mean what you say? Have matters reached that stage?"

"Yes, they have."

His voice was cold, almost stern.

"Kindly telegraph your Whitby address to me," he said to Hume. Then he
walked to the door, leaving them brusquely.

For once in his career he was deeply annoyed.

"Confound all women!" he muttered in anger. "They nurse some petty little
secret, some childish love affair, and deem its preservation more
important than their own happiness, or the lives of their best friends.
They are all alike--duchess or scullery-maid. Their fluttering hearts are
all the world to them, and everything else chaos. If that woman only
chose--"

"Mr. Brett!" came a clear voice along the corridor.

It was Margaret. She came to him hastily

"Why do you suspect me?" she exclaimed brokenly. "I am the most miserable
woman on earth. Suffering and death environ me, and overwhelm those
nearest and dearest. Yet what have I done that you should think me capable
of concealing from you material facts which would be of use to you?"

The barrister was tempted to retort that what she believed to be
"material" might indeed be of very slight service to him, but the contrary
proposition held good, too.

Then he saw the anguish in her face, and it moved him to say gently:

"Go back to your friends, Mrs. Capella. I am not the keeper of your
conscience. I am almost sure you are worrying yourself about trifles.
Whatever they may be, you are not responsible. Rest assured of this, in a
few days much that is now dim and troublous will be cleared up. I ask you
nothing further. I would prefer not to hear anything you wish to say to
me. It might fetter my hands Good-bye!"




CHAPTER XXIV

THE MEETING


"There!" he said to himself, as he passed downstairs, "I am just as big a
fool as she is. She followed me to make a clean breast of everything, and
I send her back with a request to keep her lips sealed. Yet I am angry
with her for the risk she is taking!"

He reached the hall and was about to cross the foyer when he caught the
words, "Gentleman thrown out of a cab," uttered by a handsome girl,
cheaply but gaudily attired, who was making some inquiry at the bureau.

He stopped and searched for a match. Then he became interested in the
latest news, pinned in strips on the baize-covered board of a "ticker."

The girl explained to an official that she had witnessed an accident that
evening. She was told that a gentleman who lived in the hotel was hurt.
Was he seriously injured?

The hotel man, from long practice, was enabled to sum up such inquirers
rapidly.

"Do you know the gentleman?" he inquired.

"No--that is, slightly."

"Well, madam, if you give me your card I will send it to his friends. They
will give you all necessary information."

She became confused. She was not accustomed to the quiet elegance of a
great hotel. The men in evening dress, the gorgeously attired ladies
passing to elevator or drawing-room, seemed to be listening to her. Why
did the bureau keeper speak so loudly? Then the assurance of the Cockney
came to her aid.

"I don't see why there should be such a fuss about nothing," she said. "I
don't know his people. I saw the gentleman pitched out of a cab and was
sorry for him, so I just called to ask how he was."

She angrily tossed her head, and stared insolently at an old lady who came
to inquire if there were any letters for the Countess of Skerry and Ness.

"No letters, your ladyship," said the man. "And you, miss, must either
send a personal message or see the manager."

The young woman bounced out in a fury, and Brett followed her, silently
thanking the favouring planets which had sent him down the stairs at the
very moment when the girl was proffering her request to the clerk.

Fortunately, the weather was better now. There was a clear sky overhead,
and the streets looked quite cheerful after the steady downpour, London's
myriad lamps being reflected in glistening zigzags across the wet
pavement.

The girl did not head towards the busy Strand, but walked direct to
Charing Cross station on the District Railway.

The barrister thought she intended to go somewhere by train. He quickened
his pace in order to be able to rapidly obtain a ticket and thus keep up
with her. Herein he was lucky. To his surprise, she passed out of the
station on the embankment side.

He followed, and nowhere could he see her. Then he remembered the steps
leading to the footpath along the Hungerford Bridge. Running up these
steps he soon caught sight of the young woman, who was walking rapidly
towards Waterloo.

A man of the artisan class stared at her as she passed, and said something
to her. She turned fiercely.

"Do you want a swipe on the jaw?" she demanded.

No, he did not. What had he done, he would like to know.

"You mind your own business," she said. "Where am I goin', indeed. What's
it got to do with you?"

The episode was valuable to the listening barrister. It classified the
anxious inquirer after Hume's health.

Her abashed admirer hung back, and the girl resumed her onward progress.
The man was conscious that the gentleman behind him must have heard what
passed. He endeavoured to justify himself.

"She's pretty O.T., she is," he grinned.

"Do you know her?" said Brett.

"I know her by sight. Seen her in the York now an' then."

"She can evidently take care of herself."

"Ra--ther. Don't you so much as look at her, mister, or off goes your
topper into the river. She's in a bad temper to-night."

Brett laughed and walked ahead. On reaching the Surrey side the girl made
for the Waterloo Road. There she mounted on top of a 'bus. The barrister
went inside. He thought of the "man with black, snaky eyes," who "took
penn'orths" all the way from the Elephant to Whitehall.

And now he, Brett, took a penn'orth to the Elephant. The 'bus reached that
famous centre of humanity, passing thence through Newington Butts to the
Kennington Park Road.

In the latter thoroughfare the girl skipped down from the roof, and
disdaining the conductor's offer to stop, swung herself lightly to the
ground. The barrister followed, and soon found himself tracking her along
a curved street of dingy houses.

Into one of these she vanished. It chanced to be opposite a gas-lamp, and
as he walked past he made out the number--37.

Externally it was exactly like its neighbours, dull, soiled, pinched, old
curtains, worn blinds, blistered paint. He knew that if he walked inside
he would tread on a strip of oilcloth, once gay in red and yellow squares,
but now worn to a dirty grey uniformity. In the "hall" he would encounter
a rickety hat-stand faced by an ancient print entitled "Idle Hours," and
depicting two ladies, reclining on rocks, attired in tremendous skirts,
tight jackets, and diminutive straw hats perched between their forehead
and chignons--in the middle distance a fat urchin, all hat and frills,
staring stupidly at the ocean.

In the front sitting-room he would encounter horse-hair chairs, frayed
carpet, and more early Victorian prints; in the back sitting-room more
frayed carpet, more prints, and possibly a bed.

Nothing very mysterious or awe-inspiring about 37 Middle Street, yet the
barrister was loth to leave the place. The scent of the chase was in his
nostrils. He had "found."

He was tempted to boldly approach and frame some excuse--a hunt for
lodgings, an inquiry for a missing friend, anything to gain admittance and
learn something, however meagre in result, of the occupants.

He reviewed the facts calmly. To attempt, at such an hour, to glean
information from the sharp-tongued young person who had just admitted
herself with a latchkey, was to court failure and suspicion. He must bide
his time. Winter was an adept in ferreting out facts concerning these
localities and their denizens. To Winter the inquiry must be left.

He stopped at the further end of the street, lit a cigar, and walked back.

He had again passed No. 37, giving a casual glance to the second floor
front window, in which a light illumined the blind, when he became aware
that a man was approaching from the Kennington Park Road. Otherwise the
street was empty.

The lamp opposite No. 37 did not throw its beams far into the gloom, but
the advancing figure instantly enlisted Brett's attention.

The man was tall and strongly built. He moved with the ease of an athlete.
He walked with a long, swinging stride, yet carried himself erect He was
attired in a navy blue serge suit and a bowler hat.

The two were rapidly nearing each other.

At ten yards' distance Brett knew that the other man was he whom he
sought, the murderer of Sir Alan Hume-Frazer, the human ogre whose mission
on earth seemed to be the extinction of all who bore that fated name.

It is idle to deny that Brett was startled by this unexpected rencontre.
Not until he made the discovery did he remember that he was carrying the
stick rescued from the mud of Northumberland Avenue.

The knowledge gave him an additional thrill. Though he could be cool
enough in exciting circumstances, though his quiet courage had more than
once saved his life in moments of extreme peril, though physically he was
more than able to hold his own with, say, the average professional boxer,
he fully understood that the individual now about to pass within a stride
could kill him with ridiculous ease.

Would this dangerous personage recognise his own stick?--that was the
question.

If he did, Brett could already see himself describing a parabola in the
air, could hear his skull crashing against the pavement. He even went so
far as to sit with the coroner's jury and bring in a verdict of
"Accidental Death."

In no sense did Brett exaggerate the risk he encountered. The individual
who could stab Sir Alan to death with a knife like a toy, hurl a stalwart
sailor into the middle of a street without perceptible effort, and bring
down a horse and cab at the precise instant and in the exact spot
determined upon after a second's thought, was no ordinary opponent.

Their eyes met.

Truly a fiendish-looking Hume-Frazer, a Satanic impersonation of a fine
human type. For the first and only time in his life Brett regretted that
he did not carry a revolver when engaged in his semi-professional affairs.

The barrister, be it stated, wore the conventional frock-coat and tall hat
of society. His was a face once seen not easily forgotten, the outlines
classic and finely chiselled, the habitual expression thoughtful,
preoccupied, the prevalent idea conveyed being tenacious strength. Quite
an unusual person in Middle Street, Kennington.

They passed.

Brett swung the stick carelessly in his left hand, but not so carelessly
that on the least sign of a hostile movement he would be unable to dash it
viciously at his possible adversary's eyes.

He remembered the advice of an old cavalry officer: "Always give 'em the
point between the eyes. They come head first, and you reach 'em at the
earliest moment."

Nevertheless, he experienced a quick quiver down his spine when the other
man deliberately stopped and looked after him. He did not turn his head,
but he could "feel" that vicious glance travelling over him, could hear
the unspoken question: "Now, I wonder who _you_ are, and what you want
here?"

He staggered slightly, recovered his balance, and went on. It was a
masterpiece of suggestiveness, not overdone, a mere wink of intoxication,
as it were.

It sufficed. Such an explanation accounts for many things in London.

The watcher resumed his interrupted progress. Brett crossed the street and
deliberately knocked at the door of a house in which the ground floor was
illuminated.

Someone peeped through a blind, the door opened as far as a rattling chain
would permit.

"Good evening," said Brett.

"What do you want?" demanded a suspicious woman.

"Mr. Smith--Mr. Horatio Smith."

"He doesn't live here."

"Dear me! Isn't this 76 Middle Street?"

"Yes; all the same, there's no Smiths here."

The door slammed; but the barrister had attained his object. The other man
had entered No. 37.




CHAPTER XXV

WHERE DID MARGARET GO?


In the Kennington Park Road he hailed hansom and drove home. Winter
awaited him, for Smith now admitted the detective without demur should his
master be absent.

The barrister walked to a sideboard, produced a decanter of brandy, and
helped himself to a stiff dose.

"Ah," he said pleasantly, "our American cousins call it a 'corpse
reviver,' but a corpse could not do that, could he, Winter?"

"I know a few corpses that would like to try. But what is up, sir? I have
not often seen you in need of stimulants."

"I am most unfeignedly glad to give you the opportunity. Winter, suppose,
some time to-morrow, you were told that the body of Reginald Brett, Esq.,
barrister-at-law, and a well-known amateur investigator of crime, had been
picked up shortly after midnight in the Kennington district, whilst the
medical evidence showed that death was caused by a fractured skull, the
result of a fall, there being no other marks of violence on the person,
what would you have thought?"

"It all depends upon the additional facts that came to light."

"I will tell them to you. You were aware that I had quitted the hotel,
because you called there?"

"Yes."

"Whom did you see?"

"Mr. David. He said that you were angry with Mrs. Capella, for no earthly
reason that he could make out. He further informed me that she had
followed you when you left the room, and had not returned, being
presumably in her own apartment."

"Anything further?"

"Mr. Hume asked Miss Layton to go and see if Mrs. Capella had retired for
the night. Miss Layton came back, looking rather scared, with the
information that Mrs. Capella had dressed and gone out. After a little
further talk we came to the conclusion that you were both together. Was
that so?"

Brett had commenced his cross-examination with the intention of humorously
proving to Winter that he (the detective) would suspect the wrong person
of committing the imagined murder. Now he straightened himself, and
continued in deadly earnest:

"When did you leave the hotel?"

"About 10.15."

"Had not Mrs. Capella returned?"

"Not a sign of her. Miss Layton was alarmed, both the men furious, Mr.
Robert particularly so. I did not see any use in remaining there; thought,
in fact, I ought to obey orders and await you here, so here I am."

The barrister scribbled on a card: "Is Mrs. C. at home?" He rang for
Smith, and said:

"Take a cab to Mr. Hume's hotel. Give him that card, and bring me the
answer. If you and the cabman must have a drink together, kindly defer the
function until after your return."

Smith took such jibes in good part. He knew full well that to attempt to
argue with his master would produce a list of previous convictions.

Then Brett proceeded to amaze Winter in his turn, giving him a full, true,
and complete history of events since his parting from Mrs. Capella in the
corridor.

He had barely finished the recital when Smith returned with a note:

    "Yes; she came in at 10.45, and has since retired for the night.
    She says that her head ached, that she wanted to be alone, and
    went for a long walk. Seemed rather to resent our anxiety. Helen
    and I will be glad when we are all safely away from London. D.H."

The barrister pondered over this communication for a long time.

"I fear," he said at last, "that I came away from Middle Street a few
minutes too soon. To tell the truth, I was in an abject state of fear.
Next time I meet Mr. Frazer the Third I will be ready for him."

"Is he really so like the others that he might be mistaken for one of
them?"

"In a sense, yes. He has the same figure, general conformation, and
features. But in other respects he is utterly different. Have you ever
seen a great actor in the role of Mephistopheles?"

"I don't remember. My favourite villain was Barry Sullivan as Richard
III."

Brett laughed hysterically.

"Let me speak more plainly. You have, no doubt, a vague picture in your
mind of a certain gentleman of the highest descent who is popularly
credited with the possession of horns, hoofs, and a barbed tail?"

"I've heard of him."

"Very well. You will see someone very like him, minus the adornments
aforesaid, when you set eyes on the principal occupant of 37 Middle
Street."

Winter slowly assimilated this description. Then he inquired:

"Why did you say just now that you came away from Middle Street a few
minutes too soon?"

"Where did Mrs. Capella go when she left the hotel?"

"If she went to visit the man you met, then she is acting in collision
with her brother's murderer, and she knows it."

"That is a hard thing to say, Winter."

"It is a harder thing to credit, sir; but one cannot reject all evidence,
merely because It happens to be straightforward and not hypothetical."

"Winter, you are sneering at me."

"No; I am only trying to make you admit the tendency of facts discovered
by yourself. There is a period in all criminal investigation when
deductive reasoning becomes inductive."

"Now I have got you," cried Brett "I thought I recognised the source of
your new-born philosophy in the first postulate. The second convinces me.
You have been reading 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue.'"

"The book is in my pocket," admitted Winter.

"I recommend you to transfer it to your head. It should be issued
departmentally as a supplement to the Police Code. But let us waste no
more time. To-morrow we have much to accomplish."

"I am all attention."

"In the first place, Mrs. Capella is leaving London for the North. She
must not be regarded in our operations. The woman is weighted with a
secret. I am sorry for her. I prefer to allow events as supplied by others
to unravel the skein. Secondly, Jiro and his wife, and all who visit them,
or whom they visit, must be watched incessantly. Get all the force
required for this operation in its fullest sense. You, with one trusted
associate, must keep a close eye on No. 37 Middle Street. On no account
obtrude yourself personally into affairs there. Rather miss twenty
opportunities than scare that man by one false move. Do you understand me
thoroughly?"

"I am to see and not be seen. If I cannot do the one without the other, I
must do neither."

"Exactly. What a holiday you are having! You will return to the Yard with
an expanded brain. When you buy a new hat you will be astounded and
gratified. But beware of the fate of the frog in the fable. He inflated
himself until he emulated the size of the bull."

"And then?"

"Oh, then he burst."

The detective changed the conversation abruptly.

"What do you propose doing, Mr. Brett?"

"I purpose reading a chapter in 'The Stowmarket Mystery,' written by your
friend, Mr. Holden."

They heard a loud rat-tat on the outer door.

"Probably," continued Brett, "this is its title."

Smith entered with a telegram. It was in the typed capitals usually
associated with Continental messages. It read:

    "Johnson leaves Naples to-night with others, I travel same
    train.--HOLDEN."

The barrister surveyed the simple words with an intensity that indicated
his desire to wrest from their context its hidden significance.

Winter, more subject to the influences of the hour, puffed his cigar
furiously.

"You arrange your words to suit the next act for all the world like an
Adelphi play," he growled.

"I see that Holden has the same gift. What does he mean by 'others'? Who
is Capella bringing with him?"

"Witnesses," volunteered Winter.

"Just so; but witnesses in what cause?"

"How the--how can I tell?"

"By applying your borrowed logic. Try the deductive reasoning you flung at
me a while ago."

"I don't quite know what 'deductive' means," was the sulky admission.

"That is the first step towards wisdom. You admit ignorance. Deduction, in
this sense, is the process of deriving consequences from admitted facts.
Now, mark you. Capella wishes to be rid of his wife, by death or legal
separation. He thinks he wants to marry Miss Layton. He is convinced that
something within his power, if done effectively, will bring about both
events. He can shunt Mrs. Capella, and so disgust Miss Layton with the
Hume-Frazers that she will turn to the next ardent and sympathetic wooer
that presents himself. He knew the points of his case, and went to Naples
to procure proofs. He has obtained them. They are chiefly living persons.
He is bringing them to England, and their testimony will convict Mrs.
Capella of some wrong-doing, either voluntary or involuntary. Holden knows
what Capella has accomplished, and thinks it is unnecessary to remain
longer in Naples. He is right. I tell you, Winter, I like Holden."

"And I tell you, Mr. Brett, that If I swallowed the whole of Mr. Poe's
stories, I couldn't make out Holden's telegram in that fashion. So I must
stick to my own methods, and I've put away a few wrong 'uns in my time.
When shall I see you next?"

Brett took out his watch.

"At seven p.m., the day after to-morrow," he said coolly. "Until then my
address is 'Hotel Metropole, Brighton.'"




CHAPTER XXVI

MR. OOMA


He kept his word. Early next morning, after despatching a message to David
Hume, and receiving an answer--an acknowledgment of his address in case of
need--he took train to London-by-the-Sea, and for thirty-six hours flung
mysteries and intrigues to the winds.

He came back prepared for the approaching climax. In such matters he was a
human barometer. The affairs of the family in whose interests he had
become so suddenly involved were rapidly reaching an acute stage.
Something must happen soon, and that something would probably have
tremendous and far-reaching consequences.

Capella and his companions, known and unknown, would reach London at 7.30
p.m. It pleased Brett to time his homeward journey so that he would speed
in the same direction, but arrive before them.

In these trivial matters he owned to a boyish enthusiasm. It stimulated
him to "beat the other man," even if he only called upon the London,
Brighton, and South Coast line to conquer a weak opponent like the
South-Eastern.

At his flat were several letters and telegrams. Mrs. Capella wrote:

    "I have seriously considered your last words to me. It is hard for
    a woman, the victim of circumstances, and deprived of her
    husband's support at a most trying and critical period, to know
    how to act for the best. You said you wished your hands to be left
    unfettered. Well, be it so. You will encounter no hindrance from
    me. I pray for your success, and can only hope that in bringing
    happiness to others you will secure peace for me."

"Poor woman!" he murmured. "She still trusts to chance to save her. Whom
does she dread? Not her husband. Each day that passes she must despise him
the more. Does she know that Robert loves her? Is she afraid that he will
despise her? Really, a collision in which Capella was the only victim
would be a perfect godsend."

David telegraphed the safe arrival of the party at a Whitby hotel. "We
have seen nothing more of our Northumberland Avenue acquaintance," he
added.

Holden, too, cabled from Paris, announcing progress. The remainder of the
correspondence referred to other matters and social engagements, all which
latter fixtures the barrister had summarily broken.

Winter was announced. His face heralded important tidings.

"Well, how goes the ratiocinative process?' was Brett's greeting.

"I don't know him," said the detective. "But I do happen to know most of
the private inquiry agents in London, and one of 'em is going strong in
Middle Street. He's watching Mr. Ooma for all he's worth."

"Mr. Whom-a?"

"I'm not joking, Mr. Brett. That is the name of the mysterious gent in No.
37--Ooma, no initials. Anyhow, that is the name he gives to the landlady,
and her daughter--the girl you followed from the hotel--tells all her
friends that when he gets his rights he will marry her and make her a
princess."

"Ooma--a princess," repeated Brett.

"Such is the yarn in Kennington circles. I obeyed orders absolutely. I and
my mate took turn about in the lodgings we hired, where we are supposed to
be inventors. My pal has a mechanical twist. He puts together a small
electric machine during his spell, and I take it to pieces in mine.
Yesterday my landlady was in the room, and Ooma looked out of the opposite
window. Then she told me the whole story."

"Go on--do!"

"Mr. Ooma is evidently puzzled to learn what has become of the
Hume-Frazers and Mrs. Capella."

"Why do you bring in her name?"

"Because it leads to the second part of my story. Someone--Capella or his
solicitors, I expect--instructed Messrs. Matchem and Smith, private
detectives, to keep a close eye on the lady. Their man is an ex-police
constable, a former subordinate of mine who was fined for taking a drink
when he ought not to. Of course, I knew him and he knew me, so I hadn't
much trouble in getting it out of him."

The speaker paused with due dramatic effect.

"Got what out of him?" cried Brett impatiently. "And don't puff your
cheeks in that way. Remember the terrible fate of the frog who would be a
bull."

"There's neither frogs nor bulls in this business," retorted Winter, calm
in the consciousness of his coming revelation. "Mrs. Capella did go to
Middle Street that night. She drove there in a hansom, had a long talk
with Ooma, and nearly drove Miss Dew crazy with jealousy."

"We guessed that already. Miss Dew is the prospective princess, I
presume?"

"Yes. She has been twice to the hotel since, trying to find out where the
party went to."

"Next?"

"Ooma has plenty of money, and now for my prize packet--he is a Jap!"

"Impossible!"

"This time you are wrong, Mr. Brett. You have only seen him once. You were
full of his remarkable likeness to the Hume-Frazers. It is startling, I
admit, and at night-time no man living could avoid the mistake. But I tell
you he is a Jap. He met Jiro yesterday, and they walked in Kensington
Palace Gardens. They talked Japanese all the time. My mate heard them. He
distinctly caught the word 'Okasaki' more than once. He managed to shadow
them very neatly by hiring a bath-chair and telling the attendant to come
near to the pair every time there was a chance. More than that, when you
know it, you can see the Japanese eyes, skin, and mouth. It is the
grafting of the Jap on the European model that gives him the likeness
to--well, to the party you mentioned the other day."

"The devil!" exclaimed Brett.

"That's him!"

It was useless to explain that the exclamation was one of amazement.

The barrister began to roam about the apartment, frowning with the
intensity of his thoughts. Once he confronted Winter.

"Are you sure of this?" he demanded.

"So sure that were it not for your positive instructions, Mr. Ooma would
now be in Holloway, awaiting his trial on a charge of murder. Look at the
facts. 'Rabbit Jack' can identify him. He knew how to use the Ko-Katana.
He knew the Japanese tricks of wrestling, which enabled him to make those
two clever attacks on the two cousins. He has some power over Mrs.
Capella, which brings her to him at eleven at night in a distant quarter
of London. He made Jiro write the typed letter in my possession. He sent
Jiro to Ipswich to attend Mr. David's second trial when the first missed
fire. I can string Mr. Ooma on that little lot."

"Winter," said Brett sternly, "you make me tired. Have all these stunning
items of intelligence invaded your intellect only since you went to Middle
Street?"

"No, not exactly, Mr. Brett. I must admit that each one of them is your
discovery, except the fact that he is a Jap--always excepting that--but
yesterday I strung them together, so to speak."

"Ending your task by stringing Ooma, in imagination. I allow you full
credit for your sensational development--always excepting this, that I
sent you to Middle Street. Why did he kill Sir Alan? How does his Japanese
nationality elucidate an utterly useless and purposeless murder?"

"I don't know, Mr. Brett."

"Unless I am much mistaken, you will learn to-night. Holden is nearly
due."

The barrister resumed his stalk round the room. In another minute he
stopped to glance at his watch.

"Half-past seven," he murmured. "Just time to get a message through to
Whitby, and perhaps a reply."

He wrote a telegram to Hume: "Where is Fergusson? I want to see him."

"What has Fergusson got to do with the business?" asked the detective.

"Probably nothing. But he is the oldest available repository of the family
secrets. His master has told him to be explicit with me. By questioning
him, I may solve the riddle presented by Mr. Ooma. Does the name suggest
nothing to you, Winter?"

"It has a Japanese ring about it."

"Nothing Scotch? Isn't it like Hume, for instance?"

"By Jove! I never thought of that. Well, there, I give in. Ooma! Dash my
buttons, that beats cock-fighting!"

The barrister paid no heed to Winter's fall from self-importance. He
pondered deeply on the queer twist given to events by the detective's
statement. At last he took a volume from his book-case.

"Do you remember what I told you about Japanese names?" he said. "I
described to you, for instance, what strange mutations your surname would
undergo were you born in the Far East."

"Yes; I would be called Spring, Summer, etc, according to my growth."

"Then listen to this," and he read the following extract from that
excellent work, "The Mikado's Empire," by W.E. Griffis:

"It has, until recently, in Japan been the custom for every Samurai to be
named differ-ently In babyhood, boyhood, manhood, or promotion, change of
life, or residence, In commemoration of certain events, or on account of a
vow, or from mere whim."

"What a place for aliases!" interpolated the professional.

"At the birth of a famous warrior," went on Brett, "his mother, having
dreamed that she conceived by the sun, called him Hiyoshi Maro (good sun).
Others dubbed him Ko Chiku (small boy), and afterward Saru Watsu
(monkey-pine)."

He closed the volume.

"This gentleman has twenty other names," he added; "but the foregoing list
will suffice. Doesn't it strike you as odd that the man who struck down
the fifth Hume-Frazer baronet on the spot so fatal to his four
predecessors, should bring from a country given to such name-changes a
cognomen that irresistibly recalls the original enemy of the family, David
Hum«?"

"It Is odd," asserted Winter.

Someone rang, and was admitted.

"Mr. Holden," announced Smith.




CHAPTER XXVII

HOLDEN'S STORY


The long-nosed ex-sergeant entered. His sallow face was browned after his
long journeys and exposure to the Italian sun in midsummer. He was soiled
and travel-stained.

"Excuse my appearance," he said. "I have had no time for even a wash since
this morning. On board the boat I thought it best to keep a constant watch
on Capella and his companions."

"Who are they?" demanded Brett.

Mr. Holden looked at the barrister with an injured air.

"I am a man of few words, sir," he said, "and if you do not mind, I will
tell my story in my own way."

Winter was secretly delighted to hear the "Old 'Un," as they called him in
the Yard, take a rise out of Brett in this manner.

"Perhaps," exclaimed the barrister, "your few words will come more easily
if you wet your whistle."

"Well, I must admit that Italian wine--"

"Is not equal to Scotch; or is it Irish?"

"Irish, sir, if you please."

Mr. Holden's utterance having been cleared of cinders, he made a fresh
start.

"As I was saying, gentlemen, I kept an observant eye on Capella and his
companions, and at the same time occupied myself in the fashioning of
certain little models with which to illustrate my subsequent remarks."

He produced a map of Naples, which he carefully smoothed out on the table,
pressing the creases with his fingers until Brett itched to tweak his long
nose.

The man was evidently a Belfast Irishman, and the barrister forced himself
to find amusement in speculating how such an individual came to speak
Italian fluently. Speculation on this abstruse problem, however, yielded
to keen interest in Mr. Holden's proceedings.

On the face of the map he located a number of small wooden carvings, which
were really very ingenious. They represented churches, an hotel, a
mansion, three ordinary houses, a rambling building like a public
institution, and a nondescript structure difficult to classify.

"I find," said Mr. Holden, when the _mise-en-scène_ was quite to his
liking, "that a good map, and a few realistic models of the principal
buildings dealt with in my discourse, give a lucidity and a coherence
otherwise foreign to the narrative."

Even Winter became restive under this style of address. Brett caught his
eye, and moved by common impulse, they lessened the whisky-mark in a
decanter of Antiquary.

"Allow me to remark," interpolated Brett, "that your telegrams were
admirably terse and to the point."

"Thank you, sir. Many eminent judges have complimented me on my manner of
giving evidence. And now to business. I arrived at the railway station
here" (touching the non-descript building), "and took a room in the Villa
Nuova here" (he laid a finger on the mansion), "which, as you see, is
quite close to the Hotel de Londres here" (a flourish over the hotel), "at
which, as I expected, Mr. Capella took up his abode. According to your
instructions I obtained a competent assistant, a native of Naples, and we
both awaited Mr. Capella's arrival. He reached Naples at 10.30 a.m. the
day following my advent at night, and after breakfast drove straight to
the Reclusorio, or Asylum for the Poor, situated here" (he indicated the
institution), "close to the Botanical Gardens. Mr. Capella arranged with
the authorities to withdraw from the poorhouse an elderly woman named
Maria Bresciano. It subsequently transpired that she was a nurse employed
by a certain English gentleman named Fraser Beechcroft, who became
entangled with a beautiful Italian girl named Margarita di Orvieto some
twenty-eight years ago."

Mr. Holden paid not the remotest attention to the looks of amazement
exchanged between Brett and Winter. He merely paused to take breath and
peer benignantly at the map, following lines thereon with the index finger
of his right hand.

"It appears further," he resumed, "that the Englishman and the Signorina
di Orvieto could not marry, on account of some foolish religious scruples
held by the young lady, but they entertained a very violent passion for
each other, met clandestinely, and a female child was born, whose baptism
is registered, under the name of Margarita di Orvieto, in the church of
the village of La Scutillo here." (He tapped a tiny spired edifice on the
edge of the map.)

"The two were living there in great secrecy, as they were in fear of their
lives, not alone from the young lady's relatives, but from her discarded
lover, the Marchese di Capella, father of the present Mr. Giovanni
Capella, who has dropped his title in England. The old woman, Maria
Bresciano, attended the signorina and her child, but unfortunately the
mother died, and her death is registered both by the civil authorities in
the Minadoi section here" (lifting a small house bodily off the map), "and
by the ecclesiastical here" (he touched another spire).

"The affair created some stir in the Naples of that day, but Beechcroft's
suffering, the calm daring with which, after the girl's death, he defied
those who had vowed vengeance on him, and the generally passionate nature
of the attachment between the two, created much public sympathy for him.
Among others who were attracted to him were a Mr. and Mrs. Somers, and
their daughter, then resident in Naples. Oddly enough, Beechcroft did not
content himself with securing efficient care for his child, but brought
the infant to the Hotel de Londres--you note the coincidence--where it was
nurtured under his personal supervision."

Brett drew a long breath. So this was Margaret's secret and Capella's
vengeance! He was aroused, as from a dream, by Mr. Holden's steady voice.

"Mr. Beechcroft always held that the Signorina di Orvieto was his true
wife in the eyes of Heaven, for their marriage was only prevented by a
most uncalled-for and unnatural threat of incurring her father's dying
curse it she dared to wed a Protestant. Eighteen months after her death he
married Miss Somers at the British Consulate, and revealed his real name
and rank--Sir Alan Hume-Frazer, baronet, of Beechcroft, near Stowmarket,
England. His lady adopted the infant girl as her own, and local gossip had
it that this was a part of the marriage contract, whilst the ceremony took
place at an early date to give colour to the kindly pretence. The pair
lived in a distant suburb, at Donzelle here" (another church fixed the
spot), "and in twelve months a boy was born, birth registered locally and
in the British Consulate. After four more years' residence in Naples, Sir
Alan and Lady Hume-Frazer left Italy with their two children. Mr. Capella
found two of their old servants, Giuseppe Conti and Lola Rintesano, living
in these small houses here and here" (the remaining houses were lifted
into prominence).

"Mr. Capella married Miss Margaret Hume-Frazer in Naples last January, the
marriage being properly registered. His estates are situated in the South
of Italy, and his father retired thither permanently during the scandal
that took place twenty-eight years ago. Mr. Capella has brought with him
the persons named as the nurse and servants, together with certified
copies of all the documents cited. I also have certified copies of those
documents, I now produce them, together with a detailed statement of my
expenses. Mr. Capella is residing in a neighbouring hotel."

The methodical police-sergeant laid some neatly docketed folios on the
table near the map, and sat down for the first time since entering the
room.

As a matter of fact, he had not uttered an unnecessary word. Other men,
describing similar complexities, would have given particulars of their
adventures, how this thing had been done, and that person wheedled into
confidences.

Mr. Holden rose superior to these considerations. His mission was
all-important, and he had certainly fulfilled it to the letter.

"If ever a grateful country makes me a judge, Mr. Holden," said Brett, "I
will add another to the encomiums you have received from the Bench.
Indeed, before this affair ends, that pleasant task may be performed by an
existing judge, for I do not see now how we are going to keep out of the
law-courts. Do you, Winter?"

"Looks like a murder case plus a divorce," commented the detective.

"You are leaving out of count the biggest sensation, namely, the title to
the Beechcroft estates. Under her father's will, if it is very cleverly
drawn, Mrs. Capella may receive £1,000 per annum. She has not the remotest
claim to Beechcroft and its revenues or to her brother's intestate
estate."

Winter whistled.

"My eye!" he exclaimed. "What is Capella going to get out of it?"

"Revenge! His is a legacy of hate, like most other benefactions in the
Hume-Frazer family. The next move rests with him. I wonder what it will
be!"




CHAPTER XXVIII

MR. AND MRS. JIRO


Chance, at times, tangles the threads on which human lives depend, and
creates such a net of knots and meshes that intelligent foresight is
rendered powerless, and plans that ought to succeed are doomed to utter
failure.

It was so during the three days succeeding Capella's return from Italy.
Reviewing events in the lights of accomplished facts, Brett subsequently
saw many opportunities where his intervention would have altered the
fortunes of the men and women in whom he had become so interested.

Although he endeavoured to keep control of circumstances, it was
impossible to predict with certainty the manner in which the fifth act of
this tragedy in real life would unfold itself.

Would he have ordered things differently had he possessed the power? He
never knew. It was a question he refused to discuss with Winter long after
everybody was comfortably married or buried, as the case might be.

To divide labour and responsibility, he apportioned Ooma and his
surroundings to Winter, Capella to Holden. The strict supervision
maintained over the Jiro family was relaxed. Brett proposed dealing with
them summarily and in person.

Holden had barely concluded his remarkable narrative when Hume's reply
came from Whitby, giving the address of the hotel where Fergusson resided.

Brett went there at once, and found the old butler on the point of
retiring for the night.

Fergusson was at first disinclined to commit himself to definite
statements. With characteristic Scottish caution, he would neither say
"yes" nor "no" until the barrister reminded him that he was not acting in
his young master's interests by being so reticent.

"Weel, sir, I'm an auld man, and mebbe a bit haverin' in my judgment. Just
ask me what ye wull, an' I'll dae my best to answer ye," was the butler's
ultimate concession.

"You remember the day of the murder?"

"Shall I ever forget it?"

"Before Mr. David Hume-Fraser arrived at Beechcroft from London, had any
other visitors seen Sir Alan?"

This was a poser. No form of ambiguity known to Fergusson would serve to
extricate him from a direct reply.

"Ay, Mr. Brett," came his reply at last. "One I can swear to."

"That was Mr. Robert Hume-Fraser, who met him in the park, and walked with
him there about three to four o'clock in the afternoon. Were there others
whom you cannot swear to?"

The butler darted a quick glance at the other.

"Ye ken, sir," he said, "that the Hume-Frazers are mixed up wi' an auld
Scoatch hoose?"

"Yes."

"Weel, sir, there's things that happen in this world which no man can
explain. Five are dead, and five had to die by violent means. Who arranged
that?"

"Neither you nor I can tell."

"That's right, sir. I know that Mr. David or Mr. Robert never lifted a
hand against their cousin, yet, unless the Lord blinded my auld een, I saw
ane or ither in the avenue when I tried to lift Sir Alan frae the groond."

"You said nothing of this at the time?"

"Would ye hae me speak o' wraiths to a Suffolk jury, Mr. Brett? I saw no
mortal man. 'Twas a ghaist for sure, an' if I had gone into the box to
talk of such things they wad hae discredited my evidence about Mr. David.
I might hae hanged him instead o' savin' him."

"Suppose I tell you that the man you saw was no ghost, but real flesh and
blood, a Japanese descendant of the David Hume who fought and killed the
first Sir Alan in 1763, what would you say?"

"I would say, sir, that it had to be, were it ever so strange."

"Have you ever, in gossip about family records, heard anything of the fate
of the David Hume I have just mentioned."

"Only this, sir. My people have lived on the Highland estate longer than
any Hume-Frazer of them a'. My father remembered his grandfather sayin'
that a man who was in India wi' Clive met Mr. Hume in Calcutta. There was
fightin' agin' the French, an' Mr. Hume would neither strike a blow for
King George nor draw a sword for the French, so he sailed away to the East
in a Dutch ship, and he was never heard of afterwards."

This was a most important confirmation of the theory evolved by the
barrister. For the rest, Fergusson's reminiscences were useless.

Next morning Brett went to Somerset House to consult the will in which
Margaret's father left her £1,000 a year. Her brother died intestate.

As he expected, the document was phrased adroitly. It read: "I give and
bequeath to Margaret Hume-Frazer, who has elected to desert the home
provided for her, the sum of--" etc., etc.

The fact that she was, in the eyes of the law, an illegitimate child could
not invalidate this bequest. For the rest, he imagined that when her
brother died so unexpectedly, no one ever dreamed of inquiring into the
well-intentioned fraud perpetrated by Lady Hume-Frazer and her husband.
Margaret was unquestionably accepted as the heiress to her brother's
property, the estate being unentailed.

Then he drove to 17 St. John's Mansions, Kensington, where Mr. and Mrs.
Jiro were "at home." They received him in the tiny drawing-room, and the
lady's manner betokened some degree of nervousness, which she vainly
endeavoured to conceal by a pretence of bland curiosity as to the object
of the barrister's visit.

Not so Numagawa, whose sharp ferret eyes snapped with anxiety.

Brett left them under no doubt from the commencement. He addressed his
remarks wholly to the Japanese.

"You have an acquaintance--perhaps I should say a confederate--residing at
No. 37 Middle Street, Kennington--" he began.

"I do not understand," broke in Jiro, whose sallow face crinkled like a
withered apple in the effort to display non-comprehension.

"Oh yes, you do. The man's name is Ooma. He is a tall, strongly-built
native of Japan. He sent you to Ipswich to watch the trial of Mr. David
Hume-Frazer for the murder of his cousin. He got you to write the
post-card to Scotland Yard on the type-writer which you disposed of the
day after my visit here. You recognised the motto of his house in the
design which I showed you, and which was borne on the blade of the
Ko-Katana. For some reason which I cannot fathom, unless you are his
accomplice, you made your wife dress in male attire and go to warn him
that some person was on his track. You see I know everything."

As each sentence of this indictment proceeded it was pitiable to watch the
faces of the couple. Jiro became a grotesque, fit to adorn the ugliest of
Satsuma plaques. Mrs. Jiro visibly swelled with agitation. Brett felt that
she was too full, and would overflow with tears in an instant.

"This is vely bad!" gasped Jiro.

"Oh, Nummie dear, have we been doing wrong?" moaned his spouse.

The barrister determined to frighten them thoroughly.

"It is a grave question with the authorities whether they should not
arrest you instantly," he said.

"On what charge?" cried Jiro.

"On a charge of complicity after the act in relation to the murder of Sir
Alan Hume-Frazer. Your accomplice, Ooma, is the murderer."

"What!" shrieked Mrs. Jiro, flouncing on to her knees and breaking forth
into piteous sobs. "Oh, my precious infant! Oh, my darling Nummie! Will
they part us from our babe?"

The door opened, and a frowsy head appeared.

"Did you call, mum?" inquired the small maid-servant.

"Get out!" shouted Brett; and the door slammed.

"Mr. Blett," whimpered the Japanese, "I did not do this thing. I am
innocent. I knew nothing about it until--until--"

"You verified the motto on the blade by consulting the 'Nihon Suai Shi' in
the British Museum."

This shot floored Jiro metaphorically, and his wife literally, for she
sank into a heap.

"He knows everything, Nummie," she cried.

"Evelything!" repeated her husband.

"Then tell him the rest!". (Yet she was born in Suffolk.)

Brett scowled terribly as a subterfuge for laughter.

"Tell me," he said, "why you helped this amazing scoundrel?"

"I did not help," squeaked Jiro, his voice becoming shrill with excitement
and fear. "He was my fliend. He is a Samurai of Japan. We met in Okasaki,
and again in London. I came to England long after the clime you talk of.
He told me these Flazel people were bad people, who had lobbed his father
in the old days. He wanted them to be all hanged, then he would get money.
He said they might watch him and get him sent back to Japan, where he
belongs to a political palty who are always beheaded when they are caught.
So when you come, I think, 'Hello, he wants to find Ooma!' I lite Ooma a
letter, and he lite me to send Mrs. Jilo, dlessed in man's clothes, to
tell him evelything. I did that to save my fliend."

"Have you Ooma's letter?"

"Yes; hele it is."

He took a document from a drawer, and Brett saw at a glance that Jiro's
statement was correct.

"You appear to have acted as his tool throughout," was his scornful
comment.

"But, Mr. Brett," sobbed the stout lady, "I ought to say that when I--when
I--put on those things--and met Mr. Ooma, I disobeyed my husband in one
matter. I--liked you--and was afraid of Mr. Ooma, so instead of describing
you to him I described Mr. Hume-Frazer from what my husband told me of his
appearance in the dock. He was the first man I could think of, and it
seemed to be best, as the quarrel was between them. Only--I gave him--a
beard and moustache, so as to puzzle him more. Didn't I, Nummie? I told
you when I came home."

So Mrs. Jiro's unconscious device had undoubtedly saved Brett from a
murderous attack, and Ooma had probably seen him leave the Northumberland
Avenue Hotel more than once whilst waiting to waylay David Hume. Hence,
too, the partial recognition by Ooma when they met by night in Middle
Street.

The barrister could not help being milder in tone as he said:

"I believe you are both telling the truth. But this is a very serious
matter. You must never again communicate with Ooma in any way. Avoid him
as you would shun the plague, for within three or four days he will be in
gaol, and you will be called upon to give evidence against him."




CHAPTER XXIX

MARGARET'S SECRET


At his chambers Brett found Holden awaiting him, with the tidings that
Capella had gone to Whitby. The Italian's agents, Messrs. Matchem & Smith,
had evidently ferreted out Margaret's whereabouts. Her husband, full of
vengeful thoughts and base schemings, hastened after her, rejoicing in the
knowledge that her cousins and Miss Layton would also be present.

"As I knew exactly where he was going, and assumed his object to be a
domestic quarrel, I did not think it necessary to accompany him until I
had first consulted you, sir," said the imperturbable Holden.

"You acted quite rightly. Wait until the little beast returns to London!"
exclaimed the barrister, with some degree of warmth.

Capella's conduct reminded him of a spiteful child which deserved a sound
spanking. He telegraphed to Hume to inform him of the fiery visitor who
might be expected at the hotel that evening.

Oddly enough, Helen, David, and the Rev. Mr. Layton, tempted by a marine
excursion to Scarborough and back, left Whitby Harbour on a local steamer
at 11 a.m., and were timed to return about 9 p.m. Margaret was not a good
sailor, so Robert Hume-Frazer remained with her, the two going for a
protracted stroll along the cliffs.

During their walk, the golden influences of the hour unlocked Margaret's
heart. She was overwhelmed with the consciousness of the wretched mistakes
of her life. She could not help contrasting the manly, gallant, out-spoken
sailor by her side with the miserable foreigner whom she had espoused
under the influence of a genuine but too violent passion. The knowledge
that Robert might, under happier conditions, have been her husband was
crushing and terrible.

There came to her some half-defined resolve to show her cousin how
unworthy she was of his affections. Stopping defiantly at a moment when he
casually called her attention to a lovely glimpse of rock-bound sea framed
in a deep gorge, she said to him:

"Robert, I have something to tell you. I was on the point of telling Mr.
Brett the last time I saw him in London, but he would not permit it. You
are my cousin, and ought to know."

"My dear girl," he cried, "why this solemnity? You give me shivers when
you speak in that way!"

"Pray listen to me, Robert. This is no matter for jesting. I am your
cousin, but only in a sense. In the eyes of the law I am a nameless
outcast. My mother was not Alan's mother. I was born before my father
married the lady who treated me as her daughter until her death. My mother
was an Italian, who died at my birth, and whom my father never married."

Frazer looked at the beautiful woman who addressed these astonishing words
to him, and amazement, incredulity, a spasm almost of fear, held him dumb.

"It is too true, Robert. I did not know these things until a few short
months ago. Some one, I believe, told my husband the truth soon after our
marriage, and it was this discovery that so changed his feelings towards
me. At first I was utterly unable to explain the awful alteration in his
attitude. Not until I returned to England and settled down at Beechcroft
did I become aware of the facts."

"Surely, Rita, you are romancing?"

"No, there can be no doubt about it. I have seen the proofs."

"Proofs! How can you be certain? Who made these statements to you?"

"I have been blackmailed, bled systematically for large sums of money. At
first I was beguiled into a correspondence. My curiosity was aroused by
references to my husband and to my father's will. Finally, I received
copies of documents which made matters clear even to my bewildered brain.
More than that, I was sent a memorandum, written by my father, in which he
gave Alan all the particulars, corroborated by extracts from registers,
and explaining the reasons which actuated him in framing his will so
curiously. We were never closely knit together, as you know. I think now
that he regarded me as the living evidence of the folly of his earlier
years, and perhaps my sensitive nature was quick to detect this hidden
feeling."

"May I ask who blackmailed you?"

Robert's face grew hard and stern. The woman experienced a tumultuous joy
as she saw it. She had at least one defender.

"That is the hard part of my story," she murmured, in a voice broken with
emotion. "The correspondence took place with a man named Ooma, a person I
never even met at that time, and--can you believe it, Robert--within the
past few days I have good reason to know that he is the murderer of my
brother, the man who endeavoured to kill both you and David."

Frazer caught her by the shoulder.

"Rita," he said, "what has come to you? Are you hysterical, or dreaming?"

"Oh, for pity's sake, believe me!" she moaned. "Mr. Brett knows it is
true. What is worse, he knows that I know it. I cannot bear this terrible
secret any longer. I went to this man's house in London the other night,
and boldly charged him with the crime. He denied it, but I could see the
lie and the fear in his eyes. To avoid a terrible family scandal I came
here with you all. But I can bear it no longer. God help me and pity me!"

"He will, Margaret. You have done no wrong that deserves so much
suffering."

For a little while there was silence. Frazer was only able to whisper
gentle and kindly words of consolation. He would have given ten years of
his life to have the right to take her in his arms and tell her that, let
the world view her conduct as it would, in his eyes she was blameless and
lovable.

But this was denied him. She was the wife of another, of one who, instead
of shielding and supporting her, was even then engaged in plotting her
ruin.

"I nearly went mad," she continued at last, "when I first became
acquainted with the truth concerning my parentage. With calmer moments
came the reflection that, after all, I was my father's child, the sister
of Alan, and entitled morally, if not legally, to succeed to the property.
My wealth has not benefited me, Robert, but at least I have tried to do
good to others."

"You have, indeed," he said tenderly. "But tell me about this fiend, Ooma.
You say you saw him. Then you were in possession of his address?"

"Yes, during the past five months. When Mr. Brett first appeared on the
scene, I feared lest he should discover my secret. How could I connect it
with the death of my brother? The explanation given to me was that the
documents were purloined by a servant years ago. It was not until the
attacks on you and Davie, and the chance mention he made of some curious
marks in a type-written communication received by Mr. Winter, that a
horrible suspicion awoke in my mind. I had received several type-written
letters" (Mr. Jiro, it would appear, had not told "evelything" to Brett),
"and I compared some of those in London with the description given by
Davie. They corresponded exactly! Then I resolved to make sure, no matter
what the risk to myself, so I went to a place in Kennington the last night
we were in town, and there I saw Ooma. Oh, Robert, he is so like you and
Davie that at first it seems to be a romance! Only you two look honest and
brave, whereas he has the appearance of a demon."

Frazer looked at his watch.

"Brett ought to know all these things at once," he said. "Let us walk back
to the hotel and wire him. Perhaps it will be necessary for David and me
to return to London immediately."

"Why? You are safe here? Why should you incur further risk?"

He could not help looking at her. A slight colour suffused her face. Then
he laughed savagely.

"There will be no risk, Rita. Once let me meet Mr. Ooma as man to man and
I will teach him a trick or two, if only for your sake. The law will deal
with him for Alan's affair. He has an odd name! It has a Japanese ring,
yet you say he resembles our family?"

Margaret, of course, could only describe him in general terms. As they
returned to the hotel she explained her strange story in greater detail,
largely on the lines already known to Brett.

In the office they found a telegram addressed to David, but his cousin
opened it, believing it might be from Brett. It was, and read as
follows:--

    "Capella arrives Whitby five o'clock. I know everything he has to
    tell you. If he becomes offensive, boot him."

Robert did not show the message to his cousin. He gave her its general
purport, and added:

"Prepare yourself for an ordeal, but be brave. Perhaps your husband is in
the hotel now, as he must have reached here half an hour ago."

He had barely uttered the words when Mrs. Capella's maid approached.

"Mr. Capella is here, madam," she said "and awaits you in your
sitting-room."

Margaret became, if possible, a shade whiter.

"What about you, Robert?" she whispered.

"Me! I am going with you. Brett's telegram is my authority."




CHAPTER XXX

HUSBAND AND WIFE


The Italian was glaring out of a window when they entered the room.

He turned instantly, with a waspish ferocity.

"So, madam." he cried, "not content with deceiving me from the first
moment we met, you have left your home in company with your lover!"

Margaret looked at Robert beseechingly. The sailor's face was like
granite. Only his eyes flashed a warning that Capella might have noted
were he less blinded by passion.

"Do not attempt to shield yourself by the presence of others!" screamed
Capella. "I know that Miss Layton and her father are here. That is part of
the game you play. As for you, Mr. David Hume, or whatever you call
yourself, your own record is not so clean that you should endeavour to
cloak the misdeeds of others."

The Italian had never before seen Robert to his knowledge. He only met
David for a few moments during an angry scene at Beechcroft, when Brett
did most of the talking. The mistake he now made was a natural one.

"It does not occur to you," said Robert, in a voice remarkable for its
calmness, "that not content with grossly insulting your wife, you are
attacking the reputation of a man whom you do not know."

"Pooh!" Capella, in his excitement, snapped his fingers. "You Hume-Frazers
are very fond of defending your reputations. A fig for them! You are not
worthy to consort with honourable people. I feel assured that when Mr.
Layton and his daughter know the truth about you they will decline to
associate with you."

Whatever else might be urged against the Italian, he was no coward. Such
language might well have led to a fierce attack on him by a man so greatly
his superior in physical strength. But Robert sat down, near the door.

"You have some object in coming here to-day," he said. "What is it?"

Margaret remained standing near the fire-place. Capella produced a bundle
of papers.

"I am here," he said, "to unmask the woman who unfortunately bears my
name, and at the same time to prevent you from getting Miss Layton to
marry you under false pretences."

"A worthy programme!" observed Frazer suavely. "You may attain the second
part of your scheme, I admit, but the first seems to be difficult."

"Is it? We shall see!"

Capella flourished his papers and began a passionate avowal of the
"treachery" practised on him in the matter of Margaret's parentage, ending
by saying:

"That woman's mother was the affianced bride of my father. She deceived
him basely. On his death-bed he made me vow my lifelong hatred of her
betrayer and all his descendants. To you, a cold-blooded Englishman, that
perhaps means nothing. To me it is sacred, imperishable, dearer than life.
And to think that I have been tricked into a marriage with the daughter of
the man who was my father's enemy. How mad I was not to make inquiries!
What a poor, short-sighted fool! But I will have my revenge! I will expose
your accursed race in the courts! I will not rest content until I am free
from this snare!"

Margaret would have spoken, but her cousin quickly forestalled her.

"You bring two charges against your wife," Robert said. "The first is that
she deceived you before marriage; the second that she is deceiving you
now. You contemplate taking divorce proceedings against her?"

"I do."

"But you are lying on both counts. There is no purer or more honourable
woman alive to-day than she who stands here at this moment. You are a mean
and despicable hound to endeavour to take advantage of circumstances
attending her birth of which she was in profound ignorance."

"She can tell that to a judge," sneered the Italian. "I know better."

Robert rose, his face white with anger.

"Margaret," he said, "you have heard your precious husband's views with
regard to you. What do you say?"

She looked from one to the other--no one knows what tumultuous thoughts
coursed through her brain in that trying moment--and she answered:

"I am his true and faithful wife, Robert. I have never been otherwise in
word or deed."

Capella started, as well he might, when he heard the Christian name of the
man who was treating him with such quiet scorn.

"So," he laughed maliciously, "I have again been fooled. You are not
David, but--"

Frazer strode towards him, and the words died away on his lips.

"Listen, you blackguard!" he hissed. "Were it not for the presence of your
wife I would choke the miserable life out of you. Go! We have done with
you! You have unmasked your real character, and I cannot believe that a
spark of affection can remain in your wife's heart for you after your
ignoble conduct. Go, I tell you! Do your worst. Spit your venom elsewhere
than in this hotel. But first let me warn you. If you dare to approach
Miss Layton, I cannot promise that my cousin David will treat you as
tenderly as I propose to do. He will probably thrash you until you are
unconscious. I simply place you outside this room."

He grabbed the Italian by the breast with his right hand, lifted him high
in the air, gathered the papers from the table in his left hand, and
carried his kicking, cursing, but helpless adversary to the door.

Then he set him down again, opened the door, and remembering Brett's
advice, assisted him outside, flinging the documents after him and closing
the door.

With impotent rage in his heart, Capella rushed from the hotel and caught
the last train to the south. He had not been in Whitby two hours, but he
was now embarked upon his vengeful mission, and bitterly resolved to push
it to the uttermost extremity.

Margaret had not uttered a sound during the final scene. She stood as one
turned to stone. Robert did not dare to speak to her. How could he offer
consolation to a woman whose tenderest feelings had been so wantonly
outraged?

"Robert," she said at last, "he spoke of getting a divorce. I believe he
can do this by Italian law. Here it should be impossible."

"In that case," he said calmly, "you and I will go and live in Italy."

She placed her hands before her face, and burst into a tempest of tears.

"Now, my dear girl," he murmured, "try and forget that pitiful rascal and
his threats. You are well rid of him. I will leave you now for a little
while. In half an hour we will go and listen to the band until dinner.
Really, we have had a most enjoyable afternoon."

He went out, placid and smiling, and Margaret sobbed plentifully--until it
became necessary to go to her room and remove the traces of her grief. So
it may be assumed that her tears were not all occasioned by grief for the
contemplated loss of her ill-chosen mate.

When the others returned from their excursion, Frazer explained to them
all that was needful with reference to Capella's visit. Helen was very
outspoken in her indignation, and even the rector condemned the Italian's
conduct in plain terms.

He warmly approved of the resolution arrived at by Robert and David to
return to London next day, and not leave Brett until a definite stage had
been reached in the strangely intricate inquiry they were embarked on.

They sat late into the night, discussing the pros and cons of the
situation; yet among these five people, fully cognisant as they were of
nearly every fact known to the able barrister who had taken charge of
their affairs, not one even remotely guessed the pending sequel.

Whilst they were talking and hoping for some favourable outcome, the night
express from York was hurrying Capella to a weird conclusion of his
efforts to discredit his wife. Had he but known what lay before him he
would have left the train at the first station and hastened to Margaret,
to grovel at her feet and beg her forgiveness for the foul aspersions cast
upon her.

It was too late.




CHAPTER XXXI

TO BEECHCROFT


Thenceforth, as the French say, events marched. Robert Frazer faithfully
recounted Margaret's statement to the barrister and the detective. The
"documents," copies of which Ooma sent to the ill-fated woman whose sudden
accession to wealth had proved so unlucky for her, were evidently those
stolen from the drawer in the writing-desk at Beechcroft.

Here, at last, was the motive of the murder laid bare.

The Japanese, by some inscrutable means, became aware that the young
baronet possessed these papers, and held them _in terrorem_ over his
reputed sister. In the hands of a third person, an outsider, they were
endowed with double powers for mischief. He could threaten the woman with
exposure, the man with the revelation of a discreditable family secret.

He visited the library in order to commit the theft, probably acting with
greater daring because he mistook the sleeping David for his cousin.
Having successfully wrenched open the drawer and secured the papers, still
holding in his hand the instrument used for slipping back the tiny lock,
he turned to leave the room by the open window, and was suddenly
confronted by the real Sir Alan, who recognised him and guessed his object
in being present at that hour.

Brett had gone thus far in his spoken commentary on the affair as it now
presented itself to his mind when Winter asked:

"Why do you say 'recognised' him, Mr. Brett? We have no evidence that Sir
Alan had ever seen Ooma?"

"What, none? Search through your memory. Did not the stationmaster see a
third David Hume leave the station that day when the movements of only two
are known to us. What became of this third personage during the afternoon?
Where did he change into evening dress? Why did Sir Alan leave documents
of such grave importance in so insecure a hiding-place?"

"There is no use in asking me questions I can't answer," snapped the
detective.

"Perhaps not. I think you said that you amused yourself in your Middle
Street lodgings by taking to pieces a small electrical machine fitted
together by your companion?"

"Yes, sir; but what of that?"

"Let us suppose that, instead of a complex machine he built a small arch
of toy bricks, and you were well acquainted with the model whilst each
brick was numbered in rotation, don't you think you could manage to
reconstruct the arch after repeated efforts?"

"I expect so."

"Well, my dear Winter, we have now got together every material stone in
our edifice. Mrs. Capella's yielding to blackmail is the keystone of the
arch. Every loose block fits at once into its proper place. The Japanese,
Ooma, must have met Sir Alan and discussed this very question with him.
The baronet must have unwittingly revealed the family secret, and the Jap
was clever enough to perceive its value. Further, the murder was
unpremeditated, the inspiration of a desperate moment, and the weapon
selected shows a sort of fiendish mandate suggested by family feud. Ooma
is undoubtedly--"

But Smith entered, apologetic, doubtful.

"Mr. Holden is here, sir, and says he wishes to see you immediately."

Holden's news was important. Capella had left Liverpool Street half an
hour ago for Beechcroft, and in the same train travelled Ooma.

"Are you sure of this?" demanded Brett, excitedly springing from his
chair.

"Quite certain, sir. Mr. Winter's mate followed him to the station, and
told me who the Japanese was. Besides, no one could mistake him who had
ever seen either of these two gentlemen."

He indicated Robert and David.

"Quick," shouted the barrister. "We must all catch the next train to
Stowmarket. Winter, have you your handcuffs? This time they may be needed.
Smith, run and call two hansoms."

He rushed to a bureau and produced a couple of revolvers. He handed one to
Holden.

"I can trust you," he said, "not to fire without reason. Do not shoot to
kill. If this man threatens the life of any person, maim him if possible,
but try to avoid hitting him in the head or body."

To the Frazers he handed the heaviest sticks he possessed. He himself
pocketed the second revolver, and picked up the peculiar walking-stick
which Ooma dropped in Northumberland Avenue.

"Now," he said, "let us be off. We have no time to lose, and we must get
to Beechcroft with the utmost speed."

Winter and he entered the same hansom.

"Why are you so anxious to prevent Capella and Ooma meeting, sir?" asked
the detective, as their vehicle sped along Victoria Street.

"I do not care whether they meet or not," was the emphatic reply. "It is
now imperatively necessary that the Japanese should be placed where he can
do no further harm. The man is a human tiger. He must be caged. If all
goes well, Winter, this case will pass out of my hands into yours within
the next three hours."

The detective smiled broadly. At last he saw his way clearly, or thought
he saw it, which is often not quite the same thing. In the present
instance he little dreamed the nature of the path he would follow. But he
was so gratified that he could not long maintain silence, though Brett was
obviously disinclined to talk.

"By Jove," he gurgled, "this will be the case of the year."

The barrister replied not.

"I suppose, Mr. Brett," continued Winter, with well-affected concern, "you
will follow your usual policy, and decide to keep your connection with the
affair hidden?"

"Exactly, and you will follow your usual policy of claiming all the credit
under the magic of the words 'from information received.'"

Winter could afford to be generous.

"Mr. Brett," he cried, "there is no man would be so pleased as I to see
you come out of your shell, and tell the Court all you have done. You
deserve it. It would be the proudest moment of your life."

Then the barrister laughed.

"You have known me for years, Winter," he said, "yet you believe that. Go
to! You are incorrigible!"

The detective did not trouble to extract the exact meaning from this
remark. He understood that Brett would never think of entering the
witness-box. That was all he wanted to know.

"Are you quite certain," he asked, with a last tinge of anxiety in his
voice, "that Ooma will be arrested to-day?"

"Quite certain, if we can accomplish that highly desirable task."

Winter pounded the door of the hansom with his clenched fist

"Then it is done!" he cried. "I'll truss him up like a fowl. If he tries
any tricks I'll borrow the leg-chains from Stowmarket police station."

At Liverpool Street they all made a hasty meal. They caught the last train
from London and passed two weary hours until Stowmarket was reached.

There on the platform stood the station-master. He approached Brett and
whispered:

"A man who came here by the preceding train told me that you and some
other gentlemen might possibly follow on. He intended to telegraph to you,
but he asked me, in case you turned up, to tell you that the Japanese has
gone on foot to Beechcroft, and that Mr. Capella has not arrived."

"Not arrived!" cried Brett. He turned to Holden. "Can you have been
mistaken?"

Holden shook his head. "I saw him with my own eyes," he asseverated, "and
to make sure of his destination I asked the ticket examiner where the
gentleman in the first smoker was going to. It was Stowmarket, right
enough."

"There can be no error, sir," put in the stationmaster. "Mr. Capella's
valet came by the train, and assured me that he left London with his
master. Besides, the carriage is here from the Hall. It was ordered by
telegraph. There is the valet himself. He imagines that Mr. Capella
quitted the train on the way, and will arrive by this one. But there is no
sign of him."

The mention of the carriage brought a look of decision into the
barrister's face.

"One more question," he said to the official. "Did you see the person
described as the Japanese?"

"Yes, sir, I did. As a matter of fact, I thought it was somebody else. It
was not until the stranger who arrived by the train used that name to
distinguish him that I understood I was mistaken."

The stationmaster looked into Brett's eyes that which he did not like to
say in the presence of the Frazers. Of course, he had fallen into the same
error as most people who only obtained a casual glimpse of Ooma.

Brett hurried his companions outside the station. There they found the
Beechcroft carriage, and a puzzled valet holding parley with the coachman
and footman. David Hume's authority was sufficient to secure the use of
the vehicle, and Brett made the position easier for the men by saying
that, in all probability, they would find fresh instructions awaiting them
at the Hall.

Before the party drove off Winter noticed a local sergeant of police
standing near.

"Shall I ask him to come with us, sir?" he said to Brett.

The barrister considered the point for an instant before replying:

"Perhaps it would be better, as we have not got a warrant."

Winter grinned broadly again.

"Oh yes, we have," he cried. "Mr. Ooma's warrant has been in my
breast-pocket for three days."

"What a thoughtful fellow you are," murmured Brett. "In that case we can
dispense with local assistance. We five can surely tackle any man living."

"What can have become of Capella?" said David Hume, when they were all
seated and bowling along the road to Beechcroft.

"It is impossible to say what such a mad ass would be up to," commented
his cousin. "He has probably gone back to London from some wayside
station, and failed to find his servant to tell him before the train moved
on."

"What do you think, Mr. Brett?" inquired Winter.

"I can form no opinion. I only wish Ooma was in gaol. For once, Winter, I
appreciate the strength of your handcuffing policy."




CHAPTER XXXII

THE FIGHT


It was almost dark by the time they reached the lodge gates. Brett, moved
by impulse, stopped the carriage in the main road. The others alighted
after him. Mrs. Crowe, the lodge-keeper's wife, opened the gates, and
evidently wondered why the carriage did not enter.

"Good evening, Mrs. Crowe," said Brett, advancing. "Have you seen a
telegraph messenger recently?"

"Lawk, sir," she cried, "I didn't recognise you in the gloom! No, sir,
there's been no messenger, only--"

Then she uttered a startled exclamation.

"Why, there's Mr. David an' Mr. Robert! I could ha' sworn one of you
gentlemen walked up to the house five minutes ago, an' I wunnered you
never took no notice of me. Well, of all the strange things!"

"It was a natural mistake," said the barrister quietly.

Then he told the coachman to wait where he was until a message reached him
from the house.

He did not want to disturb the visitor who had caused Mrs. Crowe to
"wunner," nor was there any use in sending the carriage back to
Stowmarket. Somehow, he felt that Capella would not come to Beechcroft
that night.

The five men went rapidly and silently up the avenue. As they approached
the lighted library, they could see a servant parleying with the Japanese.

A motion of Brett's hand brought the party into the shade of the sombre
yews.

"You and Holden," he said to Hume, "go round to the main entrance, proceed
at once to the library door, enter the room, and lock the door behind you.
Be ready with your stick, and do not hesitate to lunge hard if Ooma
attacks you. You, Holden, keep the revolver handy. It must only be used to
save life. The moment you appear at the door we will rush to the window,
which is open. Ooma must have entered that way. You both understand?"

They nodded and walked off, clinging to the line of the trees. The others
closed up. Timing their approach with perfect judgment, they crept over
the gravelled road at the bend, and gained the turf in front of the
window.

Ooma's back was towards them. They could hear his voice--a queer,
high-pitched, yet strident voice--whilst he questioned a somewhat scared
footman as to the whereabouts of his mistress.

The man had evidently perceived the remarkable resemblance borne by this
uncanny stranger to the Frazer family. His replies were respectful, but
stuttering. He was alarmed by those fierce eyes, more especially because
his inability to give satisfactory information seemed to anger the
new-comer.

"You are not a child," they heard Ooma say, with menace in his tone. "You
must have heard, from her maid or some other source, where Mrs. Capella
has gone to?"

"N--no, sir," stammered the man. "I really 'aven't I t--t--thought Mrs.
C--Capella was in London. The b--butler says we are all to 'ave a 'oliday
next week."

"Is there no way in which I can find out where your mistress is at this
moment? I must see her. My business is important. It cannot wait. It is of
the utmost importance to her."

Brett, straining without like a hound in the leash, could note a slight
accentuation in the perfect English spoken by Ooma. There was just a
suspicion of the liquid "r" so strongly marked in Jiro's utterance. What
an uncanny thing is heredity! It even alters the shape of the roof of the
mouth. The Japanese of English descent could necessarily pronounce English
better than the pure-born native.

The servant within seemed to rack his brains for a favourable reply.

"You might ask Mr. Capella, sir," he said at length, with some degree of
returning confidence. "He was expected here by the last train, but missed
it in London, I expect. He is sure to come to-night, and he will tell you,
if you care to wait."

"Mr. Capella! Coming by the last train! What is he like?"

"Do you mean in appearance, sir? He is a small, dark-complexioned
gentleman, with wavy black hair and a very pale face. He--"

But Ooma turned away from the man, and looked through the window, with the
lambent glare of a wild animal in his eyes. He instantly saw the three
motionless figures, Brett, Winter, and Robert Hume-Frazer.

They sprang forward. Robert was quickest, and reached the open window
first. The Japanese jumped back and made for the door, but it opened in
his face, and David entered the room. Behind him was Holden, who made no
secret of the fact that he carried a revolver.

Ooma caught the astounded man-servant by the waist, lifted him as though
he were a truss of straw, and threw him bodily at Robert Frazer and
Winter, bringing both to the ground by this singular weapon.

It was a fatal mistake to attack the readiest means of exit. Had he used
his human battering ram against Holden and David he might have escaped.
But now he looked into the muzzle of another revolver, and heard Brett's
stern demand:

"Hands up, Ooma! If you move you are a dead man?"

Nevertheless, he did move. He seemed to have the agility as well as the
semblance of a carnivorous animal. He bounded sideways towards the wall of
the library, picked up the writing-desk, and barricaded himself behind it.
In the same second he produced a small, shining article from his waistcoat
pocket, and shouted, in a voice now cracked with rage:

"Stand back, all of you. You may shoot me! I will not be arrested!"

Winter, swearing, scrambled from the floor. Robert, too, threw off the
yelling servant, and rose to his feet. Alarmed not only by the curious
entry made by David Hume and Holden, but also by the racket in the
library, other servants were now clamouring at the locked door, for Holden
had slipped his left hand behind him and turned the key. Brett similarly
closed the window. They were five to one, but the one seemed to defy them.

"That be blowed for a tale!" roared the infuriated detective, whose blood
was fired by the manner in which he had been floored. "I arrest you in the
King's name for the murder of Sir Alan Hume-Frazer, and I warn you--"

Robert Hume-Frazer waited for no preliminary explanation of an official
character. He wanted to feel that man's bones crack under his grasp. He
had the strong man's ambition to close with an opponent worthy of his
thews and sinews. Without any warning, he made for the Japanese, who
seemed to await his oncoming with singular equanimity, though otherwise
quivering with baulked hate.

But Brett had seen something that aroused a lightning-like suspicion.
Twice had the Japanese looked at a small, shining thing in his hand, as
though to make sure it was there. So the barrister was just in time to
grasp Robert's shoulder and hold him back.

"No," he cried, "you must not touch him. I command it. He cannot escape."

"Then let me have a go at him first," growled Frazer, whose face was pale
with passion.

"No, no. Leave him to me. Winter, do you hear me? Stand back, I say."

Brett's imperative tone brooked no disobedience. Thus, in a segment of a
circle, the five enclosed the one against the wall--Ooma barricaded by the
table, the others ready to defeat any stratagem he might endeavour to put
in force.

"Now listen to me, Ooma," said the barrister sternly. "You must drop that
thing you have in your right hand. You must hold both your hands high
above your head. If you move either of them again I will shoot you. If you
do not obey me before I count five I will shoot you. One! Two! Three!--"

The Japanese, gasping a horrible sort of sob, three times plunged the
instrument he held into his left arm. Then he flung it straight at Robert.
One would have thought his vengeance would be directed against Brett, whom
he must have credited by this time with his capture.

No; he singled out a Hume-Frazer for his last attack. The instrument
struck a button on Robert's coat and fell to the floor, where it lay
twisted out of shape by the force of the impact.

It was a hypodermic syringe.

Again Ooma uttered that weird cry.

"This is the end," he said. "You have not beaten me. It is Fate."

He folded his arms and looked at them. A change came over his face. He was
no longer a tiger at bay, but a human being, calm, dignified, almost
impressive.

"I arrest you--" began Winter.

"You fool!" laughed the Japanese, with a quiet contempt in his tone; "I
shall be dead in twenty minutes. That syringe contained snake poison, the
undiluted venom of the karait. Put away your pistols. They are not
wanted."

Quite nonchalantly he leaned back against the bookcase that lined the
wall. He turned his eyes to Robert.

"You have the luck of your race," he said "If that point had reached your
skin no human skill could have saved you. As it is, you are spared, and I
must go. The same blood flows in our veins, yet you are my enemy. I wish I
could once get my fingers round your throat before my strength fails."

"Come from behind that table and try," was the quick rejoinder.

Ooma made to accept the challenge, but Brett intervened.

"If you are telling the truth," he said, "you can spend your brief
remaining span of life to better purpose than in a mad combat with one who
has done you no harm. Where is Capella?"

"I killed him," was the cool reply.

The footman, who had slowly regained his senses, uttered a groan of
horror. By this time several men, not alone house servants, but gardeners,
grooms, and others, had gathered on the lawn.

"Send away that slave," cried Ooma impatiently, "and tell those others to
go to their kennels. This is no place for such."

Brett knew that the Japanese was in truth about to die. Afterwards Winter
and Holden confessed that they thought the pretence of injecting snake
poison was a mere ruse to gain time. Robert and David intuitively agreed
with the barrister. It was in their breed to know when eternity yawned for
one of them. The very calmness of the criminal, his magnificent apathy,
his dislike of vulgar witnesses, foreboded a tragedy.

Brett motioned to Holden to open the door, and the footman gladly made his
escape. In response to a wave of the barrister's arm the other servants
disappeared from view, though they probably only retreated to a greater
distance, and could see well enough all that happened.

"Yes," continued Ooma, "I killed Capella. It was a mistake. Everything is
a mistake. It was foolish on my part to kill Alan Hume-Frazer, even though
he was my enemy. I should have let him live, and tortured him by fear. You
English dread these scandals worse than death. We Japanese fear neither.
For I am a Japanese, and I am proud of it, although my ancestor was David
Hume of Glen Tochan, who fought and killed the man who robbed his father."

"But how and why did you kill Capella?" asked Brett.

"I saw him in the station at London. He followed me. I puzzled him, I
suppose. He perceived the likeness between me and my dear cousins. We are
like one another, are we not, we Hume-Frazers?"

He laughed mirthlessly, and stared at David and Robert alternately. Winter
broke in with a hasty question:

"If he is speaking the truth about the snake poison, shouldn't we send for
a doctor?"

No one had thought of this previously. Brett reproached himself for his
forgetfulness. So strange are our civilised notions that we strive to save
a man's life in order to hang him by due process at law.

It was Ooma who answered.

"Doctor!" he cried. "Bring him! Bring the whole College of Surgeons. They
can watch me die, and tell you learnedly why the blood curdles and the
heart refuses to act, but not all their science can beat the venom of the
little karait. It is an Indian snake, more deadly than the cobra, with
mightier tooth than the tiger. I meant to use that syringe on the whole
cursed brood of Frazers in this country. No one would have known what
happened to them. But look you, Fate is too powerful. The karait stored
his poison for me only. I killed only one of the race, and him I stabbed
with a Ko-Katana of my own house."

Holden left the room to send a messenger post-haste for the village
doctor.

"About Capella?" persisted Brett.

"Ah, Capella. He sought his own death. He looked at me so oddly that I
thought him a spy. I was alone in a carriage when, half-way here, he ran
along the platform at a small station and joined me. He began to question
me. I looked out of the window and saw that we were coming to a viaduct
over a stream between deep cliffs, so I took the little man and cracked
his neck. Then I flung him over the bridge. It was a mistake. He should
have left me alone."

He described this cold-blooded murder of the unfortunate Italian with the
weary air of one who recites a tedious episode. The lids drooped heavily
over his eyes.

"I am tired," he said. "That was a good little snake. He knew his
business. He could make the best of poison."

"Surely," said the barrister solemnly, "you are not so utterly inhuman
that at the very point of death you still maintain the attitude of a
disappointed avenger. What wrong had all these people done you to demand
your murderous hate?"

Ooma seemed for a moment to rouse himself from lethargy. Once again the
black eyes sparkled with their menacing gleam.

"It is you," he cried, "you, the thinker, who question me. I never gave a
thought to you, or I would not now be slowly sinking into death. I might
have guessed that a higher intelligence was at work than that which saw
the Ko-Katana with its motto, and yet failed to read its story. You ask my
motives. Can a man explain heredity? Here"--and he threw a packet of
papers on the writing-desk--"are the proofs of my identity. It is not long
ago, only one hundred and fifty years, since David Hume was robbed of his
birthright, and what is such a period to the old families of England and
Japan? There are men living in Japan to-day who saw his son in the flesh.
I am his lawful descendant. I came to England and resolved to be an
Englishman. But I needed money. Do you remember our motto, 'A new field
gives a small crop'? The first Japanese Hume did not prosper. He was a
good fighter, but he saved no yen. So I applied to my family. I came here
on the New Year's Eve, and Sir Alan Hume-Frazer saw me walking up the
avenue. He stepped out through that window to meet me. He was surprised at
my appearance, and thought I was his cousin Robert, whom he had not seen
for years."

At this remarkable statement the four listeners chiefly concerned looked
wonderingly at each other. The main incidents of the family feud were
repeating themselves in a ghostly manner.

Ooma paid no heed to their amazement. He staggered unsteadily to a chair
and sank into it limply. It was the chair which David Hume occupied when
he slept, and dreamed. Not even Winter saw cause for suspicion in the act.
Ooma was dying. His yellow skin was now green. His lips were white. His
whole frame was sinking. At this phase he became a Japanese, and lost all
likeness to the Frazers.

He continued, with an odd cackle:

"I kept up the error. I demanded money as my right, and from his words I
gathered that the Frazers had been at their old tricks and defrauded
another relative."

Robert started.

"Do you hear?" he murmured to Brett. "That accounts for Alan's strange
reception of me the same day."

Brett held up a warning hand. Ooma was still talking.

"I taunted him with thriving on the plunder of his own people. That made
him furious. He raved about the world being in league against him. The
only relative he loved, one who was more than brother, had stolen the
woman he wished to marry; his sister was a living lie; his cousin a
blackmailer. I laughed. 'Do you disown your sister, then?' I asked. He
took from his breast-pocket some papers--you will find them there, on the
table--and told me, in great anger, that he possessed proof that she was
not his sister. I was cooler than he, and saw the value of this admission
I pretended to go away, but hid among the trees and saw him walk about the
library for nearly an hour. I meant to enter the house if an opportunity
presented itself, and, trusting to my appearance, go to his bedroom, if he
changed his clothes and went out. But he helped me by placing the papers
in the drawer which I afterwards broke open. I saw him meet you"--he
feebly pointed to Robert. "I saw you arrive in the carriage," and he
indicated David. "Then I determined to wait until the night I went back to
Stowmarket, where I left a portmanteau at a small hotel"--Brett knew that
Winter stole a look at him, but he ignored the fact--"and changed my
clothes. In England, at night, a man in evening dress can enter almost any
house. When I returned I carried my bag with me, as I did not know how I
might wish to get away subsequently. I saw the preparations for the ball.
They helped me. David Hume's unexpected appearance at midnight upset my
plans. Waiting near the gate, I witnessed Alan's meeting with a girl in a
white dress. Whilst they were talking, I ran up to the house and found
David asleep in the library. I resolved to act boldly. Even he would not
know what to do if he suddenly discovered another Frazer in the room. To
force open the drawer I picked up the Japanese sword, and knew it as
belonging to my house by the device on the handle of the Ko-Katana. The
thing inspired me. I obtained the papers, and was going out when I met
Alan. He had seen what I was doing. He called me a cur, and the memory of
my ancestor's vengeance rushed on me, so I struck him with the knife, and
left it resting in his heart as he fell. Afterwards it was easy. No one
knew me. Those who had seen me thought that I was either David or Robert
Hume-Frazer. I depended on the police and the servants to complete the
mystery. They did. I saw David meet the same girl in a white dress near
the lodge, so I sent the post-card which I made Jiro write for me. He
wrote it badly, which was all the better for my purpose. I meant David to
be hanged by the law; then I would marry Margaret. That is all. Give me
some brandy. I am dreaming now. I can see curling shapes. Ah!"

He gulped down half a tumblerful of raw spirits hastily procured by Brett.
Again he attempted to shake off the torpid state that was slowly mastering
him. He lifted his eyes feebly to Brett's face, and his face contorted in
a ghastly smile.

"You!" he croaked. "I should have killed you! You carried my stick that
night in Middle Street. Why was I not warned? Did you follow the girl from
the hotel? I was a fool. I tried to stop the inquiry by getting rid of
David Hume-Frazer. As if he had brains enough to get on my track! About
that girl! She believes in me. She does not know anything of my past. Do
not tell her. Try to help her. She is coarse, one of the people, as you
say here, but she has courage and is faithful. Help her!"

His head drooped. The action of the brandy, whilst momentarily stimulating
the heart, helped the stupefaction of the brain. It was a question of a
minute, perhaps two.

"Why did you come here to-day?" asked Brett quickly.

"To see Margaret She would give me money. I was going away. That man--I
threw from the train--was her husband? He was not--a proper mate--for a
Frazer--or a Hume. We are--an old race--of soldiers. We know--how to die.
Four of us--fell fighting--in Japan. I am dying! What a pity!"

His head sank lower. His breath grew faint His voice died away in
unintelligible words. After a brief silence he spoke again.

The words he used were Japanese. In his weakened consciousness all he
could recollect was the language he learnt from his Japanese mother--the
mother he despised when he became a man and knew his history.

Winter and Brett were now holding him. The others drew apart. They
afterwards confessed that the death of this murderer, this tiger-cub of
their race, affected them greatly. He was fearless to the end. The way in
which he quitted life became him more than the manner in which he lived.

There was a bustle without, and the local doctor entered. He looked wise,
profound, even ventured on a sceptical remark when the barrister explained
that Ooma had injected snake-poison into his arm. But he lifted the
eyelids of the figure in the chair and glanced at the pupils.

"Whatever the cause of death may be, he is undoubtedly dead!" was his
verdict.




CHAPTER XXXIII

THE LAST NOTE IN BRETT'S DIARY


Winter and Holden were invaluable during the trying hours that followed.
Acting in conjunction with the local police, they caused a search to be
made for Capella's body. It was found easily enough. Only once did the
line cross such a place as that described by Ooma, and a bruised and
battered corpse was taken out of the boulder-strewn stream beneath the
viaduct.

Meanwhile Winter, writing from Brett's dictation, drew up a complete
statement of all the facts retailed by the Japanese in relation to the
murders of Sir Alan Hume-Frazer and the unfortunate Italian.

This they signed, and went to obtain the signatures of the two cousins,
Holden, and the man-servant, for whom a special short statement had been
prepared.

"This is for use at the coroner's inquest, I suppose?" inquired David.

"Yes," said Brett. "We must seize that opportunity to publish all the
evidence needed to thoroughly acquit you of suspicion in relation to your
cousin's death. By prior consultation with the coroner we can, if you
think fit, keep out of the inquiry all allusions to Mrs. Capella."

"It would certainly be the best thing to do," agreed David, "especially in
view of the fact that Robert and I have burnt those beastly papers."

He pointed to some shivering ashes in the grate of the drawing-room, for
Ooma occupied the library in the last solemn stateliness of his final
appearance on earth.

"What!" cried Brett. "Do you mean to say that you have destroyed the
documents deposited by the Japanese on the writing-desk?"

"Not exactly all," was the cool reply. "We picked out those referring to
Margaret, and made an end of them. We hope to be able to do the same with
regard to papers discovered on Capella's body or among his belongings.
Those bearing on Ooma himself are here"--and he pointed to a small packet,
neatly tied up, reposing on the mantelpiece.

"You have done a somewhat serious thing."

"We don't care a cent about that. Robert and I have both agreed that what
Margaret has she keeps. There may, in course of time, be very good reason
for this action. Anyhow, I have acted to please myself, and my father
will, I am sure, approve of what I have done."

Brett shook his head. No lawyer could approve of these rough-and-ready
settlements of important family affairs.

"Has anyone telegraphed to Mrs. Capella?" he inquired.

"Yes," said Robert, "I did. I just said 'Ooma dead; Capella reported
seriously ill. Remain in Whitby. I will join you to-morrow evening.' That,
I thought, was enough for a start."

It certainly was.

Soon there came excited messages from both Margaret and Helen demanding
more details, whereupon Brett, who knew that suspense was more unbearable
than full knowledge, sent a fairly complete account of occurrences.

During the next few days there was the usual commotion in the Press that
follows the opening up of the secret records of a great and mysterious
crime.

It came as a tremendous surprise to David Hume-Frazer to learn how many
people were convinced of his innocence "all the time." Being the central
figure in the affair, he was compelled to remain at Beechcroft until
Capella and Ooma were interred, and the coroner's jury, at a deferred
inquest, had recorded their verdict that the wretched Japanese descendant
of the Scottish Jacobite was not only doubly a murderer, but guilty of the
heinous crime of _felo de se_.

Brett, in the interim, saw to the despatch of the Italian witnesses back
to Naples. These good people did not know why they had been brought to
England, but they returned to their sunny land fully persuaded that the
English were both very rich and very foolish.

Winter, in accordance with Brett's promise, secured a fresh holiday
towards the close of August, and had the supreme joy of shooting over a
well-stocked Scotch moor.

At last, one day in September, Brett was summoned to Whitby to assist at a
family conclave.

He found that Margaret was firm in her resolve never again to live at
Beechcroft. She and Robert intended to get married early in the New Year
and sail forthwith for the Argentine, where, with the help of his wife's
money, Robert Hume-Frazer could develop his magnificent estate.

Beechroft would pass into the possession of David, and Helen and he, who
were to be married in October, would settle down in the house after their
honeymoon.

But on one point they were all very emphatic. That ill-fated library
window should pass into the limbo of things that have been. Already
builders were converting the library into an entrance hall, and the main
door would occupy its natural place in the front of the house.

Let us hope that the return of the young couple after their marriage
marked a new era for an abode hitherto singled out for tragedy. Their
start was auspicious enough, for true love, in their case, neither ran
smoothly nor yielded to the pressure of terrible events.

Mr. and Mrs. Jiro went to Japan. With them they took the girl, Rose Dew,
and the last heard of them was that the trio were running a boarding-house
in Yeddo, where Mrs. Jiro advertised the excellence of the food she
supplied, and Miss Dew sternly repressed any attempt on the part of the
lodgers to obtain credit.

The last entry in Brett's note-book, under the heading of the "Stowmarket
Mystery," is dated six months after the departure of Mr. and Mrs. Robert
Hume-Frazer for the Argentine. It reads:

    "To-day is the anniversary of David Hume's first visit to my
    chambers. This morning I discovered in a corner, dusty and
    forlorn, Ooma's walking-stick. It reminded me of a snake that was
    hibernating, so I gave it to Smith, and told him to light the
    kitchen fire with it. Then I telegraphed to old Sir David
    Hume-Frazer, saying that I gladly accepted his invitation for the
    12th. His son, it seems, cannot go North, as he does not wish to
    leave his wife during the next couple of months. I suppose I shall
    be a godfather at an early date."



THE END





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