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The Angel of Terror
Edgar Wallace




The characters in this book are entirely imaginary, and have no relation
to any living person.


          To
        F.L.S.
     A MAN OF LAW


First Printed, May, 1922

32nd Edition, September, 1934

Made and Printed in Great Britain for Hodder and Stoughton Limited,
by Wyman & Sons Ltd., London, Reading and Fakenham




The Angel of Terror




Chapter I


The hush of the court, which had been broken when the foreman of the
jury returned their verdict, was intensified as the Judge, with a quick
glance over his pince-nez at the tall prisoner, marshalled his papers
with the precision and method which old men display in tense moments
such as these. He gathered them together, white paper and blue and buff
and stacked them in a neat heap on a tiny ledge to the left of his desk.
Then he took his pen and wrote a few words on a printed paper before
him.

Another breathless pause and he groped beneath the desk and brought out
a small square of black silk and carefully laid it over his white wig.
Then he spoke:

"James Meredith, you have been convicted after a long and patient trial
of the awful crime of wilful murder. With the verdict of the jury I am
in complete agreement. There is little doubt, after hearing the evidence
of the unfortunate lady to whom you were engaged, and whose evidence you
attempted in the most brutal manner to refute, that, instigated by your
jealousy, you shot Ferdinand Bulford. The evidence of Miss Briggerland
that you had threatened this poor young man, and that you left her
presence in a temper, is unshaken. By a terrible coincidence, Mr.
Bulford was in the street outside your fiancée's door when you left, and
maddened by your insane jealousy, you shot him dead.

"To suggest, as you have through your counsel, that you called at Miss
Briggerland's that night to break off your engagement and that the
interview was a mild one and unattended by recriminations is to suggest
that this lady has deliberately committed perjury in order to swear away
your life, and when to that disgraceful charge you produce a motive,
namely that by your death or imprisonment Miss Briggerland, who is your
cousin, would benefit to a considerable extent, you merely add to your
infamy. Nobody who saw the young girl in the box, a pathetic, and if I
may say, a beautiful figure, could accept for one moment your fantastic
explanation.

"Who killed Ferdinand Bulford? A man without an enemy in the world. That
tragedy cannot be explained away. It now only remains for me to pass the
sentence which the law imposes. The jury's recommendation to mercy will
be forwarded to the proper quarter...."

He then proceeded to pass sentence of death, and the tall man in the
dock listened without a muscle of his face moving.

So ended the great Berkeley Street Murder Trial, and when a few days
later it was announced that the sentence of death had been commuted to
one of penal servitude for life, there were newspapers and people who
hinted at mistaken leniency and suggested that James Meredith would have
been hanged if he were a poor man instead of being, as he was, the
master of vast wealth.

"That's that," said Jack Glover between his teeth, as he came out of
court with the eminent King's Counsel who had defended his friend and
client, "the little lady wins."

His companion looked sideways at him and smiled.

"Honestly, Glover, do you believe that poor girl could do so dastardly a
thing as lie about the man she loves?"

"She loves!" repeated Jack Glover witheringly.

"I think you are prejudiced," said the counsel, shaking his head.
"Personally, I believe that Meredith is a lunatic; I am satisfied that
all he told us about the interview he had with the girl was born of a
diseased imagination. I was terribly impressed when I saw Jean
Briggerland in the box. She--by Jove, there is the lady!"

They had reached the entrance of the Court. A big car was standing by
the kerb and one of the attendants was holding open the door for a girl
dressed in black. They had a glimpse of a pale, sad face of
extraordinary beauty, and then she disappeared behind the drawn blinds.

The counsel drew a long sigh.

"Mad!" he said huskily. "He must be mad! If ever I saw a pure soul in a
woman's face, it is in hers!"

"You've been in the sun, Sir John--you're getting sentimental," said
Jack Glover brutally, and the eminent lawyer choked indignantly.

Jack Glover had a trick of saying rude things to his friends, even when
those friends were twenty years his senior, and by every rule of
professional etiquette entitled to respectful treatment.

"Really!" said the outraged Sir John. "There are times, Glover, when you
are insufferable!"

But by this time Jack Glover was swinging along the Old Bailey, his
hands in his pockets, his silk hat on the back of his head.

He found the grey-haired senior member of the firm of Rennett, Glover
and Simpson (there had been no Simpson in the firm for ten years) on the
point of going home.

Mr. Rennett sat down at the sight of his junior.

"I heard the news by 'phone," he said. "Ellbery says there is no ground
for appeal, but I think the recommendation to mercy will save his
life--besides it is a _crime passionelle_, and they don't hang for
homicidal jealousy. I suppose it was the girl's evidence that turned the
trick?"

Jack nodded.

"And she looked like an angel just out of the refrigerator," he said
despairingly. "Ellbery did his poor best to shake her, but the old fool
is half in love with her--I left him raving about her pure soul and her
other celestial etceteras."

Mr. Rennett stroked his iron grey beard.

"She's won," he said, but the other turned on him with a snarl.

"Not yet!" he said almost harshly. "She hasn't won till Jimmy Meredith
is dead or----"

"Or----?" repeated his partner significantly. "That 'or' won't come off,
Jack. He'll get a life sentence as sure as 'eggs is eggs.' I'd go a long
way to help Jimmy; I'd risk my practice and my name."

Jack Glover looked at his partner in astonishment.

"You old sportsman!" he said admiringly. "I didn't know you were so fond
of Jimmy?"

Mr. Rennett got up and began pulling on his gloves. He seemed a little
uncomfortable at the sensation he had created.

"His father was my first client," he said apologetically. "One of the
best fellows that ever lived. He married late in life, that was why he
was such a crank over the question of marriage. You might say that old
Meredith founded our firm. Your father and Simpson and I were nearly at
our last gasp when Meredith gave us his business. That was our turning
point. Your father--God rest him--was never tired of talking about it. I
wonder he never told you."

"I think he did," said Jack thoughtfully. "And you really would go a
long way--Rennett--I mean, to help Jim Meredith?"

"All the way," said old Rennett shortly.

Jack Glover began whistling a long lugubrious tune.

"I'm seeing the old boy to-morrow," he said. "By the way, Rennett, did
you see that a fellow had been released from prison to a nursing home
for a minor operation the other day? There was a question asked in
Parliament about it. Is it usual?"

"It can be arranged," said Rennett. "Why?"

"Do you think in a few months' time we could get Jim Meredith into a
nursing home for--say an appendix operation?"

"Has he appendicitis?" asked the other in surprise.

"He can fake it," said Jack calmly. "It's the easiest thing in the world
to fake."

Rennett looked at the other under his heavy eyebrows.

"You're thinking of the 'or'?" he challenged, and Jack nodded.

"It can be done--if he's alive," said Rennett after a pause.

"He'll be alive," prophesied his partner, "now the only thing is--where
shall I find the girl?"




Chapter II


Lydia Beale gathered up the scraps of paper that littered her table,
rolled them into a ball and tossed them into the fire.

There was a knock at the door, and she half turned in her chair to meet
with a smile her stout landlady who came in carrying a tray on which
stood a large cup of tea and two thick and wholesome slices of bread and
jam.

"Finished, Miss Beale?" asked the landlady anxiously.

"For the day, yes," said the girl with a nod, and stood up stretching
herself stiffly.

She was slender, a head taller than the dumpy Mrs. Morgan. The dark
violet eyes and the delicate spiritual face she owed to her Celtic
ancestors, the grace of her movements, no less than the perfect hands
that rested on the drawing board, spoke eloquently of breed.

"I'd like to see it, miss, if I may," said Mrs. Morgan, wiping her hands
on her apron in anticipation.

Lydia pulled open a drawer of the table and took out a large sheet of
Windsor board. She had completed her pencil sketch and Mrs. Morgan
gasped appreciatively. It was a picture of a masked man holding a
villainous crowd at bay at the point of a pistol.

"That's wonderful, miss," she said in awe. "I suppose those sort of
things happen too?"

The girl laughed as she put the drawing away.

"They happen in stories which I illustrate, Mrs. Morgan," she said
dryly. "The real brigands of life come in the shape of lawyers' clerks
with writs and summonses. It's a relief from those mad fashion plates I
draw, anyway. Do you know, Mrs. Morgan, that the sight of a dressmaker's
shop window makes me positively ill!"

Mrs. Morgan shook her head sympathetically and Lydia changed the
subject.

"Has anybody been this afternoon?" she asked.

"Only the young man from Spadd & Newton," replied the stout woman with a
sigh. "I told 'im you was out, but I'm a bad liar."

The girl groaned.

"I wonder if I shall ever get to the end of those debts," she said in
despair. "I've enough writs in the drawer to paper the house, Mrs.
Morgan."

Three years ago Lydia Beale's father had died and she had lost the best
friend and companion that any girl ever had. She knew he was in debt,
but had no idea how extensively he was involved. A creditor had seen
her the day after the funeral and had made some uncouth reference to the
convenience of a death which had automatically cancelled George Beale's
obligations. It needed only that to spur the girl to an action which was
as foolish as it was generous. She had written to all the people to whom
her father owed money and had assumed full responsibility for debts
amounting to hundreds of pounds.

It was the Celt in her that drove her to shoulder the burden which she
was ill-equipped to carry, but she had never regretted her impetuous
act.

There were a few creditors who, realising what had happened, did not
bother her, and there were others....

She earned a fairly good salary on the staff of the _Daily Megaphone_,
which made a feature of fashion, but she would have had to have been the
recipient of a cabinet minister's emoluments to have met the demands
which flowed in upon her a month after she had accepted her father's
obligations.

"Are you going out to-night, miss?" asked the woman.

Lydia roused herself from her unpleasant thoughts.

"Yes. I'm making some drawings of the dresses in Curfew's new play. I'll
be home somewhere around twelve."

Mrs. Morgan was half-way across the room when she turned back.

"One of these days you'll get out of all your troubles, miss, you see if
you don't! I'll bet you'll marry a rich young gentleman."

Lydia, sitting on the edge of the table, laughed.

"You'd lose your money, Mrs. Morgan," she said, "rich young gentlemen
only marry poor working girls in the kind of stories I illustrate. If I
marry it will probably be a very poor young gentleman who will become an
incurable invalid and want nursing. And I shall hate him so much that I
can't be happy with him, and pity him so much that I can't run away from
him."

Mrs. Morgan sniffed her disagreement.

"There are things that happen----" she began.

"Not to me--not miracles, anyway," said Lydia, still smiling, "and I
don't know that I want to get married. I've got to pay all these bills
first, and by the time they are settled I'll be a grey-haired old lady
in a mob cap."

Lydia had finished her tea and was standing somewhat scantily attired in
the middle of her bedroom, preparing for her theatre engagement, when
Mrs. Morgan returned.

"I forgot to tell you, miss," she said, "there was a gentleman and a
lady called."

"A gentleman and a lady? Who were they?"

"I don't know, Miss Beale. I was lying down at the time, and the girl
answered the door. I gave her strict orders to say that you were out."

"Did they leave any name?"

"No, miss. They just asked if Miss Beale lived here, and could they see
her."

"H'm!" said Lydia with a frown. "I wonder what we owe them!"

She dismissed the matter from her mind, and thought no more of it until
she stopped on her way to the theatre to learn from the office by
telephone the number of drawings required.

The chief sub-editor answered her.

"And, by the way," he added, "there was an inquiry for you at the office
to-day--I found a note of it on my desk when I came in to-night. Some
old friends of yours who want to see you. Brand told them you were going
to do a show at the Erving Theatre to-night, so you'll probably see
them."

"Who are they?" she asked, puzzled.

She had few friends, old or new.

"I haven't the foggiest idea," was the reply.

At the theatre she saw nobody she knew, though she looked round
interestedly, nor was she approached in any of the _entr'actes_.

In the row ahead of her, and a little to her right, were two people who
regarded her curiously as she entered. The man was about fifty, very
dark and bald--the skin of his head was almost copper-coloured, though
he was obviously a European, for the eyes which beamed benevolently upon
her through powerful spectacles were blue, but so light a blue that by
contrast with the mahogany skin of his clean-shaven face, they seemed
almost white.

The girl who sat with him was fair, and to Lydia's artistic eye,
singularly lovely. Her hair was a mop of fine gold. The colour was
natural, Lydia was too sophisticated to make any mistake about that. Her
features were regular and flawless. The young artist thought she had
never seen so perfect a "cupid" mouth in her life. There was something
so freshly, fragrantly innocent about the girl that Lydia's heart went
out to her, and she could hardly keep her eyes on the stage. The unknown
seemed to take almost as much interest in her, for twice Lydia surprised
her backward scrutiny. She found herself wondering who she was. The girl
was beautifully dressed, and about her neck was a platinum chain that
must have hung to her waist--a chain which was broken every few inches
by a big emerald.

It required something of an effort of concentration to bring her mind
back to the stage and her work. With a book on her knee she sketched
the somewhat bizarre costumes which had aroused a mild public interest
in the play, and for the moment forgot her entrancing companion.

She came through the vestibule at the end of the performance, and drew
her worn cloak more closely about her slender shoulders, for the night
was raw, and a sou'westerly wind blew the big wet snowflakes under the
protecting glass awning into the lobby itself. The favoured playgoers
minced daintily through the slush to their waiting cars, then taxis came
into the procession of waiting vehicles, there was a banging of cab
doors, a babble of orders to the scurrying attendants, until something
like order was evolved from the chaos.

"Cab, miss?"

Lydia shook her head. An omnibus would take her to Fleet Street, but two
had passed, packed with passengers, and she was beginning to despair,
when a particularly handsome taxi pulled up at the kerb.

The driver leant over the shining apron which partially protected him
from the weather, and shouted:

"Is Miss Beale there?"

The girl started in surprise, taking a step toward the cab.

"I am Miss Beale," she said.

"Your editor has sent me for you," said the man briskly.

The editor of the _Megaphone_ had been guilty of many eccentric acts. He
had expressed views on her drawing which she shivered to recall. He had
aroused her in the middle of the night to sketch dresses at a fancy
dress ball, but never before had he done anything so human as to send a
taxi for her. Nevertheless, she would not look at the gift cab too
closely, and she stepped into the warm interior.

The windows were veiled with the snow and the sleet which had been
falling all the time she had been in the theatre. She saw blurred lights
flash past, and realised that the taxi was going at a good pace. She
rubbed the windows and tried to look out after a while. Then she
endeavoured to lower one, but without success. Suddenly she jumped up
and tapped furiously at the window to attract the driver's attention.
There was no mistaking the fact that they were crossing a bridge and it
was not necessary to cross a bridge to reach Fleet Street.

If the driver heard he took no notice. The speed of the car increased.
She tapped at the window again furiously. She was not afraid, but she
was angry. Presently fear came. It was when she tried to open the door,
and found that it was fastened from the outside, that she struck a
match to discover that the windows had been screwed tight--the edge of
the hole where the screw had gone in was rawly new, and the screw's head
was bright and shining.

She had no umbrella--she never carried one to the theatre--and nothing
more substantial in the shape of a weapon than a fountain pen. She could
smash the windows with her foot. She sat back in the seat, and
discovered that it was not so easy an operation as she had thought. She
hesitated even to make the attempt; and then the panic sense left her,
and she was her own calm self again. She was not being abducted. These
things did not happen in the twentieth century, except in sensational
books. She frowned. She had said almost the same thing to somebody that
day--to Mrs. Morgan, who had hinted at a romantic marriage. Of course,
nothing was wrong. The driver had called her by name. Probably the
editor wanted to see her at his home, he lived somewhere in South
London, she remembered. That would explain everything. And yet her
instinct told her that something unusual was happening, that some
unpleasant experience was imminent.

She tried to put the thought out of her mind, but it was too vivid, too
insistent.

Again she tried the door, and then, conscious of a faint reflected glow
on the cloth-lined roof of the cab, she looked backward through the
peep-hole. She saw two great motor-car lamps within a few yards of the
cab. A car was following, she glimpsed the outline of it as they ran
past a street standard.

They were in one of the roads of the outer suburbs. Looking through the
window over the driver's shoulder she saw trees on one side of the road,
and a long grey fence. It was while she was so looking that the car
behind shot suddenly past and ahead, and she saw its tail lights moving
away with a pang of hopelessness. Then, before she realised what had
happened, the big car ahead slowed and swung sideways, blocking the
road, and the cab came to a jerky stop that flung her against the
window. She saw two figures in the dim light of the taxi's head lamps,
heard somebody speak, and the door was jerked open.

"Will you step out, Miss Beale," said a pleasant voice, and though her
legs seemed queerly weak, she obliged. The second man was standing by
the side of the driver. He wore a long raincoat, the collar of which was
turned up to the tip of his nose.

"You may go back to your friends and tell them that Miss Beale is in
good hands," he was saying. "You may also burn a candle or two before
your favourite saint, in thanksgiving that you are alive."

"I don't know what you're talking about," said the driver sulkily. "I'm
taking this young lady to her office."

"Since when has the _Daily Megaphone_ been published in the ghastly
suburbs?" asked the other politely.

He saw the girl, and raised his hat.

"Come along, Miss Beale," he said. "I promise you a more comfortable
ride--even if I cannot guarantee that the end will be less startling."




Chapter III


The man who had opened the door was a short, stoutly built person of
middle age. He took the girl's arm gently, and without questioning she
accompanied him to the car ahead, the man in the raincoat following. No
word was spoken, and Lydia was too bewildered to ask questions until the
car was on its way. Then the younger man chuckled.

"Clever, Rennett!" he said. "I tell you, those people are super-humanly
brilliant!"

"I'm not a great admirer of villainy," said the other gruffly, and the
younger man, who was sitting opposite the girl, laughed.

"You must take a detached interest, my dear chap. Personally, I admire
them. I admit they gave me a fright when I realised that Miss Beale had
not called the cab, but that it had been carefully planted for her, but
still I can admire them."

"What does it mean?" asked the puzzled girl. "I'm so confused--where are
we going now? To the office?"

"I fear you will not get to the office to-night," said the young man
calmly, "and it is impossible to explain to you just why you were
abducted."

"Abducted?" said the girl incredulously. "Do you mean to say that
man----"

"He was carrying you into the country," said the other calmly. "He would
probably have travelled all night and have left you stranded in some
un-get-at-able place. I don't think he meant any harm--they never take
unnecessary risks, and all they wanted was to spirit you away for the
night. How they came to know that we had chosen you baffles me," he
said. "Can you advance any theory, Rennett?"

"Chosen me?" repeated the startled girl. "Really, I feel I'm entitled to
some explanation, and if you don't mind, I would like you to take me
back to my office. I have a job to keep," she added grimly.

"Six pounds ten a week, and a few guineas extra for your illustrations,"
said the man in the raincoat. "Believe me, Miss Beale, you'll never pay
off your debts on that salary, not if you live to be a hundred."

She could only gasp.

"You seem to know a great deal about my private affairs," she said, when
she had recovered her breath.

"A great deal more than you can imagine."

She guessed he was smiling in the darkness, and his voice was so gentle
and apologetic that she could not take offence.

"In the past twelve months you have had thirty-nine judgments recorded
against you, and in the previous year, twenty-seven. You are living on
exactly thirty shillings a week, and all the rest is going to your
father's creditors."

"You're very impertinent!" she said hotly and, as she felt, foolishly.

"I'm very pertinent, really. By the way, my name is Glover--John Glover,
of the firm of Rennett, Glover and Simpson. The gentleman at your side
is Mr. Charles Rennett, my senior partner. We are a firm of solicitors,
but how long we shall remain a firm," he added pointedly, "depends
rather upon you."

"Upon me?" said the girl in genuine astonishment. "Well, I can't say
that I have so much love for lawyers----"

"That I can well understand," murmured Mr. Glover.

"But I certainly do not wish to dissolve your partnership," she went on.

"It is rather more serious than that," said Mr. Rennett, who was sitting
by her side. "The fact is, Miss Beale, we are acting in a perfectly
illegal manner, and we are going to reveal to you the particulars of an
act we contemplate, which, if you pass on the information to the police,
will result in our professional ruin. So you see this adventure is
infinitely more important to us than at present it is to you. And here
we are!" he said, interrupting the girl's question.

The car turned into a narrow drive, and proceeded some distance through
an avenue of trees before it pulled up at the pillared porch of a big
house.

Rennett helped her to alight and ushered her through the door, which
opened almost as they stopped, into a large panelled hall.

"This is the way, let me show you," said the younger man.

He opened a door and she found herself in a big drawing-room,
exquisitely furnished and lit by two silver electroliers suspended from
the carved roof.

To her relief an elderly woman rose to greet her.

"This is my wife, Miss Beale," said Rennett. "I need hardly explain that
this is also my home."

"So you found the young lady," said the elderly lady, smiling her
welcome, "and what does Miss Beale think of your proposition?"

The young man Glover came in at that moment, and divested of his long
raincoat and hat, he proved to be of a type that the Universities turn
out by the hundred. He was good-looking too, Lydia noticed with feminine
inconsequence, and there was something in his eyes that inspired trust.
He nodded with a smile to Mrs. Rennett, then turned to the girl.

"Now Miss Beale, I don't know whether I ought to explain or whether my
learned and distinguished friend prefers to save me the trouble."

"Not me," said the elder man hastily. "My dear," he turned to his wife,
"I think we'll leave Jack Glover to talk to this young lady."

"Doesn't she know?" asked Mrs. Rennett in surprise, and Lydia laughed,
although she was feeling far from amused.

The possible loss of her employment, the disquieting adventure of the
evening, and now this further mystery all combined to set her nerves on
edge.

Glover waited until the door closed on his partner and his wife and
seemed inclined to wait a little longer, for he stood with his back to
the fire, biting his lips and looking down thoughtfully at the carpet.

"I don't just know how to begin, Miss Beale," he said. "And having seen
you, my conscience is beginning to work overtime. But I might as well
start at the beginning. I suppose you have heard of the Bulford murder?"

The girl stared at him.

"The Bulford murder?" she said incredulously, and he nodded.

"Why, of course, everybody has heard of that."

"Then happily it is unnecessary to explain all the circumstances," said
Jack Glover, with a little grimace of distaste.

"I only know," interrupted the girl, "that Mr. Bulford was killed by a
Mr. Meredith, who was jealous of him, and that Mr. Meredith, when he
went into the witness-box, behaved disgracefully to his fiancée."

"Exactly," nodded Glover with a twinkle in his eye. "In other words, he
repudiated the suggestion that he was jealous, swore that he had already
told Miss Briggerland that he could not marry her, and he did not even
know that Bulford was paying attention to the lady."

"He did that to save his life," said Lydia quietly. "Miss Briggerland
swore in the witness-box that no such interview had occurred."

Glover nodded.

"What you do not know, Miss Beale," he said gravely, "is that Jean
Briggerland was Meredith's cousin, and unless certain things happen, she
will inherit the greater part of six hundred thousand pounds from
Meredith's estate. Meredith, I might explain, is one of my best friends,
and the fact that he is now serving out a life sentence does not make
him any less a friend. I am as sure, as I am sure of your sitting there,
that he no more killed Bulford than I did. I believe the whole thing
was a plot to secure his death or imprisonment. My partner thinks the
same. The truth is that Meredith was engaged to this girl; he discovered
certain things about her and her father which are not greatly to their
credit. He was never really in love with her, beautiful as she is, and
he was trapped into the proposal. When he found out how things were
shaping and heard some of the queer stories which were told about
Briggerland and his daughter, he broke off the engagement and went that
night to tell her so."

The girl had listened in some bewilderment to this recital.

"I don't exactly see what all this is to do with me," she said, and
again Jack Glover nodded.

"I can quite understand," he said, "but I will tell you yet another part
of the story which is not public property. Meredith's father was an
eccentric man who believed in early marriages, and it was a condition of
his will that if Meredith was not married by his thirtieth birthday, the
money should go to his sister, her heirs and successors. His sister was
Mrs. Briggerland, who is now dead. Her heirs are her husband and Jean
Briggerland."

There was a silence. The girl stared thoughtfully into the fire.

"How old is Mr. Meredith?"

"He is thirty next Monday," said Glover quietly, "and it is necessary
that he should be married before next Monday."

"In prison?" she asked.

He shook his head.

"If such things are allowed that could have been arranged, but for some
reason the Home Secretary refuses to exercise his discretion in this
matter, and has resolutely refused to allow such a marriage to take
place. He objects on the ground of public policy, and I dare say from
his point of view he is right. Meredith has a twenty-years sentence to
serve."

"Then how----" began Lydia.

"Let me tell this story more or less understandably," said Glover with
that little smile of his. "Believe me, Miss Beale, I'm not so keen upon
the scheme as I was. If by chance," he spoke deliberately, "we could get
James Meredith into this house to-morrow morning, would you marry him?"

"Me?" she gasped. "Marry a man I've not seen--a murderer?"

"Not a murderer," he said gently.

"But it is preposterous, impossible!" she protested. "Why me?"

He was silent for a moment.

"When this scheme was mooted we looked round for some one to whom such a
marriage would be of advantage," he said, speaking slowly. "It was
Rennett's idea that we should search the County Court records of London
to discover if there was a girl who was in urgent need of money. There
is no surer way of unearthing financial skeletons than by searching
County Court records. We found four, only one of whom was eligible and
that was you. Don't interrupt me for a moment, please," he said, raising
his hand warningly as she was about to speak. "We have made thorough
inquiries about you, too thorough in fact, because the Briggerlands have
smelt a rat, and have been on our trail for a week. We know that you are
not engaged to be married, we know that you have a fairly heavy burden
of debts, and we know, too, that you are unencumbered by relations or
friends. What we offer you, Miss Beale, and believe me I feel rather a
cad in being the medium through which the offer is made, is five
thousand pounds a year for the rest of your life, a sum of twenty
thousand pounds down, and the assurance that you will not be troubled by
your husband from the moment you are married."

Lydia listened like one in a dream. It did not seem real. She would wake
up presently and find Mrs. Morgan with a cup of tea in her hand and a
plate of her indigestible cakes. Such things did not happen, she told
herself, and yet here was a young man, standing with his back to the
fire, explaining in the most commonplace conversational tone, an offer
which belonged strictly to the realm of romance, and not too convincing
romance at that.

"You've rather taken my breath away," she said after a while. "All this
wants thinking about, and if Mr. Meredith is in prison----"

"Mr. Meredith is not in prison," said Glover quietly. "He was released
two days ago to go to a nursing home for a slight operation. He escaped
from the nursing home last night and at this particular moment is in
this house."

She could only stare at him open-mouthed, and he went on.

"The Briggerlands know he has escaped; they probably thought he was
here, because we have had a police visitation this afternoon, and the
interior of the house and grounds have been searched. They know, of
course, that Mr. Rennett and I were his legal advisers, and we expected
them to come. How he escaped their observation is neither here nor
there. Now, Miss Beale, what do you say?"

"I don't know what to say," she said, shaking her head helplessly. "I
know I'm dreaming, and if I had the moral courage to pinch myself hard,
I should wake up. Somehow I don't want to wake, it is so fascinatingly
impossible."

He smiled.

"Can I see Mr. Meredith?"

"Not till to-morrow. I might say that we've made every arrangement for
your wedding, the licence has been secured and at eight o'clock
to-morrow morning--marriages before eight or after three are not legal
in this country, by the way--a clergyman will attend and the ceremony
will be performed."

There was a long silence.

Lydia sat on the edge of her chair, her elbows on her knees, her face in
her hands.

Glover looked down at her seriously, pityingly, cursing himself that he
was the exponent of his own grotesque scheme. Presently she looked up.

"I think I will," she said a little wearily. "And you were wrong about
the number of judgment summonses, there were seventy-five in two
years--and I'm so tired of lawyers."

"Thank you," said Jack Glover politely.




Chapter IV


All night long she had sat in the little bedroom to which Mrs. Rennett
had led her, thinking and thinking and thinking. She could not sleep,
although she had tried hard, and most of the night she spent pacing up
and down from window to door turning over the amazing situation in which
she found herself. She had never thought of marriage seriously, and
really a marriage such as this presented no terrors and might, had the
prelude been a little less exciting, been accepted by her with relief.
The prospect of being a wife in name only, even the thought that her
husband would be, for the next twenty years, behind prison walls,
neither distressed nor horrified her. Somehow she accepted Glover's
statement that Meredith was innocent, without reservation.

She wondered what Mrs. Morgan would say and what explanation she would
give at the office. She was not particularly in love with her work, and
it would be no wrench for her to drop it and give herself up to the
serious study of art. Five thousand pounds a year! She could live in
Italy, study under the best masters, have a car of her own--the
possibilities seemed illimitable--and the disadvantages?

She shrugged her shoulders as she answered the question for the
twentieth time. What disadvantages were there? She could not marry, but
then she did not want to marry. She was not the kind to fall in love,
she told herself, she was too independent, too sophisticated, and
understood men and their weaknesses only too well.

"The Lord designed me for an old maid," she said to herself.

At seven o'clock in the morning--a grey, cheerless morning it was,
thought Lydia, looking out of the window--Mrs. Rennett came in with some
tea.

"I'm afraid you haven't slept, my dear," she said with a glance at the
bed. "It's very trying for you."

She laid her hand upon the girl's arm and squeezed it gently.

"And it's very trying for all of us," she said with a whimsical smile.
"I expect we shall all get into fearful trouble."

That had occurred to the girl too, remembering the gloomy picture which
Glover had painted in the car.

"Won't this be very serious for you, if the authorities find that you
have connived at the escape?" she asked.

"Escape, my dear?" Mrs. Rennett's face became a mask. "I have not heard
anything of an escape. All that we know is that poor Mr. Meredith,
anticipating that the Home Office would allow him to get married, had
made arrangements for the marriage at this house. How Mr. Meredith comes
here is quite a matter outside our knowledge," said the diplomatic lady,
and Lydia laughed in spite of herself.

She spent half an hour making herself presentable for the forthcoming
ordeal.

As a church clock struck eight, there came another tap on the door. It
was Mrs. Rennett again.

"They are waiting," she said. Her face was a little pale and her lips
trembled.

Lydia, however, was calmness itself, as she walked into the drawing-room
ahead of her hostess.

There were four men. Glover and Rennett she knew. A third man wearing a
clerical collar she guessed was the officiating priest, and all her
attention was concentrated upon the fourth. He was a gaunt, unshaven
man, his hair cut short, his face and figure wasted, so that the clothes
he wore hung on him. Her first feeling was one of revulsion. Her second
was an impulse of pity. James Meredith, for she guessed it was he,
appeared wretchedly ill. He swung round as she came in, and looked at
her intently, then, walking quickly towards her, he held out his thin
hand.

"Miss Beale, isn't it?" he said. "I'm sorry to meet you under such
unpleasant circumstances. Glover has explained everything, has he not?"

She nodded.

His deep-set eyes had a magnetic quality that fascinated her.

"You understand the terms? Glover has told you just why this marriage
must take place?" he said, lowering his voice. "Believe me, I am deeply
grateful to you for falling in with my wishes."

Without preliminary he walked over to where the parson stood.

"We will begin now," he said simply.

The ceremony seemed so unreal to the girl that she did not realise what
it portended, not even when a ring (a loosely-fitting ring, for Jack
Glover had made the wildest guess at the size) was slipped over her
finger. She knelt to receive the solemn benediction and then got slowly
to her feet and looked at her husband strangely.

"I think I'm going to faint," she said.

It was Jack Glover who caught her and carried her to the sofa. She woke
with a confused idea that somebody was trying to hypnotise her, and she
opened her eyes to look upon the sombre face of James Meredith.

"Better?" he asked anxiously. "I'm afraid you've had a trying time, and
no sleep you said, Mrs. Rennett?"

Mrs. Rennett shook her head.

"Well, you'll sleep to-night better than I shall," he smiled, and then
he turned to Rennett, a grave and anxious man, who stood nervously
stroking his little beard, watching the bridegroom. "Mr. Rennett," he
said, "I must tell you in the presence of witnesses, that I have escaped
from a nursing home to which I had been sent by the clemency of the
Secretary of State. When I informed you that I had received permission
to come to your house this morning to get married, I told you that which
was not true."

"I'm sorry to hear that," said Rennett politely. "And, of course, it is
my duty to hand you over to the police, Mr. Meredith." It was all part
of the game. The girl watched the play, knowing that this scene was
carefully rehearsed, in order to absolve Rennett and his partner from
complicity in the escape.

Rennett had hardly spoken when there was a loud rat-tat at the front
door, and Jack Glover hastened into the hall to answer. But it was not
the policeman he had expected. It was a girl in a big sable coat,
muffled up to her eyes. She pushed past Jack, crossed the hall, and
walked straight into the drawing-room.

Lydia, standing shakily by Mrs. Rennett's side, saw the visitor come in,
and then, as she unfastened her coat, recognised her with a gasp. It
was the beautiful girl she had seen in the stalls of the theatre the
night before!

"And what can we do for you?" It was Glover's voice again, bland and
bantering.

"I want Meredith," said the girl shortly, and Glover chuckled.

"You have wanted Meredith for a long time, Miss Briggerland," he said,
"and you're likely to want. You have arrived just a little too late."

The girl's eyes fell upon the parson.

"Too late," she said slowly, "then he is married?"

She bit her red lips and nodded, then she looked at Lydia, and the blue
eyes were expressionless.

Meredith had disappeared. Lydia looked round for him in her distress,
but he had gone. She wondered if he had gone out to the police, to make
his surrender, and she was still wondering when there came the sound of
a shot.

It was from the outside of the house, and at the sound Glover ran
through the doorway, crossed the hall and flew into the open. It was
still snowing, and there was no sign of any human being. He raced along
a path which ran parallel with the house, turned the corner and dived
into a shrubbery. Here the snow had not laid, and he followed the garden
path that twisted and turned through the thick laurel bushes and ended
at a roughly-built tool house. As he came in sight of the shed he
stopped.

A man lay on the ground, his arm extended, his head in a pool of blood,
his grey hand clutching a revolver.

Jack uttered an exclamation of horror and ran to the side of the fallen
man.

It was James Meredith, and he was dead.




Chapter V


Jack Glover heard footsteps coming down the path, and turned to meet a
man who had "detective" written largely all over him. Jack turned and
looked down again at the body as the man came up.

"Who is this?" asked the officer sharply.

"It is James Meredith," said Jack simply.

"Dead?" said the officer, startled. "He has committed suicide!"

Jack did not reply, and watched the inspector as he made his brief,
quick examination of the body. A bullet had entered just below the left
temple, and there was a mark of powder near the face.

"A very bad business, Mr. Glover," said the police officer seriously.
"Can you account for this man being here?"

"He came to get married," said Jack listlessly. "I dare say that
startles you, but it is the fact. He was married less than ten minutes
ago. If you will come up to the house I will explain his presence here."

The detective hesitated, but just then another of his comrades came on
the scene, and Jack led the way back to the house through a back door
into Rennett's study.

The lawyer was waiting for them, and he was alone.

"If I'm not very much mistaken, you're Inspector Colhead, of Scotland
Yard," said Glover.

"That is my name," nodded the officer. "Between ourselves, Mr. Glover, I
don't think I should make any statement which you are not prepared to
verify publicly."

Jack noted the significance of the warning with a little smile, and
proceeded to tell the story of the wedding.

"I can only tell you," he said in answer to a further inquiry, "that Mr.
Meredith came into this house at a quarter to eight this morning, and
surrendered himself to my partner. At eight o'clock exactly, as you are
well aware, Mr. Rennett telephoned to Scotland Yard to say that Mr.
Meredith was here. During the period of his waiting he was married."

"Did a parson happen to be staying here, sir?" asked the police officer
sarcastically.

"He happened to be staying here," said Jack calmly, "because I had
arranged for him to be here. I knew that if it was humanly possible, Mr.
Meredith would come to this house, and that his desire was to be
married, for reasons which my partner will explain."

"Did you help him to escape? That is asking you a leading question,"
smiled the detective.

Jack shook his head.

"I can answer you with perfect truth that I did not, any more than the
Home Secretary helped him when he gave him permission to go to a nursing
home."

Soon after the detective returned to the shed, and Jack and his partner
were left alone.

"Well?" said Rennett, in a shaking voice, "what happened?"

"He's dead," said Jack quietly.

"Suicide?"

Jack looked at him oddly.

"Did Bulford commit suicide?" he asked.

"Where is the angel?"

"I left her in the drawing-room with Mrs. Rennett and Miss Beale."

"Mrs. Meredith," corrected Jack quietly.

"This complicates matters," said Rennett, "but I think we can get out of
our share of the trouble, though it is going to look a little black."

They found the three women in the drawing-room. Lydia, looking very
white, came to meet them.

"What happened?" she asked, and then she guessed from his face. "He's
not dead?" she gasped.

Jack nodded. All the time his eyes were on the other girl. Her
beautiful lips were drooped a little. There was a look of pain and
sorrow in her eyes that caught his breath.

"Did he shoot himself?" she asked in a low voice.

Jack regarded her coldly.

"The only thing that I am certain about," and Lydia winced at the
cruelty in his voice, "is that you did not shoot him, Miss Briggerland."

"How dare you!" flamed Jean Briggerland. The quick flush that came to
her cheek was the only other evidence of emotion she betrayed.

"I dare say a lot," said Jack curtly. "You asked me if it is a case of
suicide, and I tell you that it is not--it is a case of murder. James
Meredith was found with a revolver clutched in his right hand. He was
shot through the left temple, and if you'll explain to me how any man,
holding a pistol in a normal way, can perform that feat, I will accept
your theory of suicide."

There was a dead silence.

"Besides," Jack went on, with a little shrug, "poor Jimmy had no
pistol."

Jean Briggerland had dropped her eyes, and stood there with downcast
head and compressed lips. Presently she looked up.

"I know how you feel, Mr. Glover," she said gently. "I can well
understand, believing such dreadful things about me as you do, that you
must hate me."

Her mouth quivered and her voice grew husky with sorrow.

"I loved James Meredith," she said, "and he loved me."

"He loved you well enough to marry somebody else," said Jack Glover, and
Lydia was shocked.

"Mr. Glover," she said reproachfully, "do you think it is right to say
these things, with poor Mr. Meredith lying dead?"

He turned slowly toward her, and she saw in his humorous eyes a hardness
that she had not seen before.

"Miss Briggerland has told us that I hate her," he said in an even
voice, "and she spoke nothing but the truth. I hate her perhaps beyond
understanding--Mrs. Meredith." He emphasised the words, and the girl
winced. "And one day, if the Circumstantialists spare me----"

"The Circumstantialists," said Jean Briggerland slowly. "I don't quite
understand you."

Jack Glover laughed, and it was not a pleasant laugh.

"Perhaps you will," he said shortly. "As to your loving poor Jim--well,
you know best. I am trying to be polite to you, Miss Briggerland, and
not to gloat over the fact that you arrived too late to stop this
wedding! And shall I tell you why you arrived too late?" His eyes were
laughing again. "It was because I had arranged with the vicar of St.
Peter's to be here at nine o'clock this morning, well knowing that you
and your little army of spies would discover the hour of the wedding,
and would take care to be here before. And then I secretly sent for an
old Oxford friend of mine to be here at eight--he was here last night."

Still she stood regarding him without visible evidence of the anger
which Lydia thought would have been justified.

"I had no desire to stop the wedding," said the girl, in a low, soft
voice. "If Jim preferred to be married in this way to somebody who does
not know him, I can only accept his choice." She turned to the girl and
held out her hand. "I am very sorry that this tragedy has come to you,
Mrs. Meredith," she said. "May I wish you a greater happiness than any
you have found?"

Lydia was touched by the sincerity, hurt a little by Glover's
uncouthness, and could only warmly grip the little hand that was held
out to her.

"I'm sorry too," she said a little unsteadily. "For you more than
for--anything else."

The girl lowered her eyes and again her lips quivered, and then without
a word she walked out of the room, pulling her sable wrap about her
throat.

It was noon before Rennett's car deposited Lydia Meredith at the door of
her lodging.

She found Mrs. Morgan in a great state of anxiety, and the stout little
woman almost shed tears of joy at the sight of her.

"Oh, miss, you've no idea how worried I've been," she babbled, "and
they've been round here from your newspaper office asking where you are.
I thought you had been run over or something, and the _Daily Megaphone_
have sent to all the hospitals----"

"I have been run over," said Lydia wearily. "My poor mind has been under
the wheels of a dozen motor-buses, and my soul has been in a hundred
collisions."

Mrs. Morgan gaped at her. She had no sense of metaphor.

"It's all right, Mrs. Morgan," laughed her lodger over her shoulder as
she went up the stairs. "I haven't really you know, only I've had a
worrying time--and by the way, my name is Meredith."

Mrs. Morgan collapsed on to a hall chair.

"Meredith, miss?" she said incredulously. "Why I knew your father----"

"I've been married, that's all," said Lydia grimly. "You told me
yesterday that I should be married romantically, but even in the wildest
flights of your imagination, Mrs. Morgan, you could never have supposed
that I should be married in such a violent, desperate way. I'm going to
bed." She paused on the landing and looked down at the dumbfounded
woman. "If anybody calls for me, I am not at home. Oh, yes, you can tell
the _Megaphone_ that I came home very late and that I've gone to bed,
and I'll call to-morrow to explain."

"But, miss," stammered the woman, "your husband----"

"My husband is dead," said the girl calmly. She felt a brute, but
somehow she could not raise any note of sorrow. "And if that lawyer man
comes, will you please tell him that I shall have twenty thousand pounds
in the morning," and with that last staggering statement, she went to
her room, leaving her landlady speechless.




Chapter VI


The police search of the house and grounds at Dulwich Grange, Mr.
Rennett's residence, occupied the whole of the morning, and neither
Rennett's nor Jack's assistance was invited or offered.

Before luncheon Inspector Colhead came to the study.

"We've had a good look round your place, Mr. Rennett," he said, "and I
think we know where the deceased hid himself."

"Indeed!" said Mr. Rennett.

"That hut of yours in the garden is used, I suppose, for a tool house.
There are no tools there now, and one of my men discovered that you can
pull up the whole of the floor, it works on a hinge and is balanced with
counter-weights."

Mr. Rennett nodded.

"I believe it was used as a wine cellar by a former tenant of the
house," he said coolly. "We have no cellars at the Grange, you know. I
do not drink wine, and I've never had occasion to use it."

"That's where he was hidden. We found a blanket, and pillows, down
there, and, as you say, it has obviously been a wine cellar, because
there is a ventilating shaft leading up into the bushes. We should never
have found the trap, but one of my men felt one of the corners of the
floor give under his feet."

The two men said nothing.

"Another thing," the detective went on slowly, "is that I'm inclined to
agree that Meredith did not commit suicide. We found footmarks, quite
fresh, leading round to the back of the hut."

"A big foot or a little foot?" asked Jack quickly.

"It is rather a big foot," said the detective, "and it has rubber heels.
We traced it to a gate at the back of your premises, and the gate has
been opened recently--probably by Mr. Meredith when he came to the
house. It's a queer case, Mr. Rennett."

"What is the pistol?"

"That's new too," said Colhead. "Belgian make and impossible to trace, I
should imagine. You can't keep track of these Belgian weapons. You can
buy them in any shop in any town in Ostend or Brussels, and I don't
think it is the practice for the sellers to keep any record of the
numbers."

"In fact," said Jack quietly, "it is the same kind of pistol that killed
Bulford."

Colhead raised his eyebrows.

"So it was, but wasn't it established that that was Mr. Meredith's own
weapon?"

Jack shook his head.

"The only thing that was established was that he had seen the body and
he picked up the pistol which was lying near the dead man. The shot was
fired as he opened the door of Mr. Briggerland's house. Then he saw the
figure on the pavement and picked up the pistol. He was in that position
when Miss Briggerland, who testified against him, came out of the house
and saw him."

The detective nodded.

"I had nothing to do with the case," he said, "but I remember seeing the
weapon, and it was identical with this. I'll talk to the chief and let
you know what he says about the whole affair. You'll have to give
evidence at the inquest of course."

When he had gone the two men looked at one another.

"Well, Rennett, do you think we're going to get into hot water, or are
we going to perjure our way to safety?"

"There's no need for perjury, not serious perjury," said the other
carefully. "By the way, Jack, where was Briggerland the night Bulford
was murdered?"

"When Miss Jean Briggerland had recovered from her horror, she went
upstairs and aroused her father, who, despite the early hour, was in
bed and asleep. When the police came, or rather, when the detective in
charge of the case arrived, which must have been some time after the
policeman on point duty put in an appearance, Mr. Briggerland was
discovered in a picturesque dressing gown and, I presume, no less
picturesque pyjamas."

"Horrified, too, I suppose," said Rennett dryly.

Jack was silent for a long time. Then: "Rennett," he said, "do you know
I am more rattled about this girl than I am about any consequences to
ourselves."

"Which girl are you talking about?"

"About Mrs. Meredith. Whilst poor Meredith was alive she was in no
particular danger. But do you realise that what were advantages from our
point of view, namely, the fact that she had no relations in the world,
are to-day a source of considerable peril to this unfortunate lady?"

"I had forgotten that," said Rennett thoughtfully. "What makes matters a
little more complicated, is the will which Meredith made this morning
before he was married."

Jack whistled.

"Did he make a will?" he said in surprise.

His partner nodded.

"You remember he was here with me for half an hour. Well, he insisted
upon writing out a will and my wife and Bolton, the butler, witnessed
it."

"And he has left his money----?"

"To his wife absolutely," replied the other. "The poor old chap was so
frantically keen on keeping the money out of the Briggerland exchequer,
that he was prepared to entrust the whole of his money to a girl he had
not seen."

Jack was serious now.

"And the Briggerlands are her heirs? Do you realise that,
Rennett--there's going to be hell!"

Mr. Rennett nodded.

"I thought that too," he said quietly.

Jack sank down in a seat, his face screwed up into a hideous frown, and
the elder man did not interrupt his thoughts. Suddenly Jack's face
cleared and he smiled.

"Jaggs!" he said softly.

"Jaggs?" repeated his puzzled partner.

"Jaggs," said Jack, nodding, "he's the fellow. We've got to meet
strategy with strategy, Rennett, and Jaggs is the boy to do it."

Mr. Rennett looked at him helplessly.

"Could Jaggs get us out of our trouble too?" he asked sarcastically.

"He could even do that," replied Jack.

"Then bring him along, for I have an idea he'll have the time of his
life."




Chapter VII


Miss Jean Briggerland reached her home in Berkeley Street soon after
nine o'clock. She did not ring, but let herself in with a key and went
straight to the dining-room, where her father sat eating his breakfast,
with a newspaper propped up before him.

He was the dark-skinned man whom Lydia had seen at the theatre, and he
looked up over his gold-rimmed spectacles as the girl came in.

"You have been out very early," he said.

She did not reply, but slowly divesting herself of her sable coat she
threw it on to a chair, took off the toque that graced her shapely head,
and flung it after the coat. Then she drew out a chair, and sat down at
the table, her chin on her palms, her blue eyes fixed upon her parent.

Nature had so favoured her that her face needed no artificial
embellishment--the skin was clear and fine of texture, and the cold
morning had brought only a faint pink to the beautiful face.

"Well, my dear," Mr. Briggerland looked up and beamed through his
glasses, "so poor Meredith has committed suicide?"

She did not speak, keeping her eyes fixed on him.

"Very sad, very sad," Mr. Briggerland shook his head.

"How did it happen?" she asked quietly.

Mr. Briggerland shrugged his shoulders.

"I suppose at the sight of you he bolted back to his hiding place
where--er--had been located by--er--interested persons during the night,
then seeing me by the shed--he committed the rash and fatal act. Somehow
I thought he would run back to his dug-out."

"And you were prepared for him?" she said.

He smiled.

"A clear case of suicide, my dear," he said.

"Shot through the left temple, and the pistol was found in his right
hand," said the girl.

Mr. Briggerland started.

"Damn it," he said. "Who noticed that?"

"That good-looking young lawyer, Glover."

"Did the police notice?"

"I suppose they did when Glover called their attention to the fact,"
said the girl.

Mr. Briggerland took off his glasses and wiped them.

"It was done in such a hurry--I had to get back through the garden gate
to join the police. When I got there, I found they'd been attracted by
the shot and had entered the house. Still, nobody would know I was in
the garden, and anyway my association with the capture of an escaped
convict would not get into the newspapers."

"But a case of suicide would," said the girl. "Though I don't suppose
the police will give away the person who informed them that James
Meredith would be at Dulwich Grange."

Mr. Briggerland sat back in his chair, his thick lips pursed, and he was
not a beautiful sight.

"One can't remember everything," he grumbled.

He rose from his chair, went to the door, and locked it. Then he crossed
to a bureau, pulled open a drawer and took out a small revolver. He
threw out the cylinder, glanced along the barrel and the chambers to
make sure it was not loaded, then clicked it back in position, and
standing before a glass, he endeavoured, the pistol in his right hand,
to bring the muzzle to bear on his left temple. He found this
impossible, and signified his annoyance with a grunt. Then he tried the
pistol with his thumb on the trigger and his hand clasping the back of
the butt. Here he was more successful.

"That's it," he said with satisfaction. "It could have been done that
way."

She did not shudder at the dreadful sight, but watched him with the
keenest interest, her chin still in the palm of her hand. He might have
been explaining a new way of serving a tennis ball, for all the emotion
he evoked.

Mr. Briggerland came back to the table, toyed with a piece of toast and
buttered it leisurely.

"Everybody is going to Cannes this year," he said, "but I think I shall
stick to Monte Carlo. There is a quiet about Monte Carlo which is very
restful, especially if one can get a villa on the hill away from the
railway. I told Morden yesterday to take the new car across and meet us
at Boulogne. He says that the new body is exquisite. There is a
micraphonic attachment for telephoning to the driver, the electrical
heating apparatus is splendid and----"

"Meredith was married."

If she had thrown a bomb at him she could not have produced a more
tremendous sensation. He gaped at her, and pushed himself back from the
table.

"Married?" His voice was a squeak.

She nodded.

"It's a lie," he roared. All his suavity dropped away from him, his face
was distorted and puckered with anger and grew a shade darker. "Married,
you lying little beast! He couldn't have been married! It was only a few
minutes after eight, and the parson didn't come till nine. I'll break
your neck if you try to scare me! I've told you about that before...."

He raved on, and she listened unmoved.

"He was married at eight o'clock by a man they brought down from
Oxford, and who stayed the night in the house," she repeated with great
calmness. "There's no sense in lashing yourself into a rage. I've seen
the bride, and spoken to the clergyman."

From the bullying, raging madman, he became a whimpering, pitiable
thing. His chin trembled, the big hands he laid on the tablecloth shook
with a fever.

"What are we going to do?" he wailed. "My God, Jean, what are we going
to do?"

She rose and went to the sideboard, poured out a stiff dose of brandy
from a decanter and brought it across to him without a word. She was
used to these tantrums, and to their inevitable ending. She was neither
hurt, surprised, nor disgusted. This pale, ethereal being was the
dominant partner of the combination. Nerves she did not possess, fears
she did not know. She had acquired the precise sense of a great surgeon
in whom pity was a detached emotion, and one which never intruded itself
into the operating chamber. She was no more phenomenal than they, save
that she did not feel bound by the conventions and laws which govern
them as members of an ordered society. It requires no greater nerve to
slay than to cure. She had had that matter out with herself, and had
settled it to her own satisfaction.

"You will have to put off your trip to Monte Carlo," she said, as he
drank the brandy greedily.

"We've lost everything now," he stuttered, "everything."

"This girl has no relations," said the daughter steadily. "Her
heirs-at-law are ourselves."

He put down the glass, and looked at her, and became almost immediately
his old self.

"My dear," he said admiringly, "you are really wonderful. Of course, it
was childish of me. Now what do you suggest?"

"Unlock that door," she said in a low voice, "I want to call the maid."

As he walked to the door, she pressed the footbell, and soon after the
faded woman who attended her came into the room.

"Hart," she said, "I want you to find my emerald ring, the small one,
the little pearl necklet, and the diamond scarf pin. Pack them carefully
in a box with cotton wool."

"Yes, madam," said the woman, and went out.

"Now what are you going to do, Jean?" asked her father.

"I am returning them to Mrs. Meredith," said the girl coolly. "They were
presents given to me by her husband, and I feel after this tragic ending
of my dream that I can no longer bear the sight of them."

"He didn't give you those things, he gave you the chain. Besides, you
are throwing away good money?"

"I know he never gave them to me, and I am not throwing away good
money," she said patiently. "Mrs. Meredith will return them, and she
will give me an opportunity of throwing a little light upon James
Meredith, an opportunity which I very much desire."

Later she went up to her pretty little sitting-room on the first floor,
and wrote a letter.

     "_Dear Mrs. Meredith.--I am sending you the few trinkets which
     James gave to me in happier days. They are all that I have of
     his, and you, as a woman, will realise that whilst the
     possession of them brings me many unhappy memories, yet they
     have been a certain comfort to me. I wish I could dispose of
     memory as easily as I send these to you (for I feel they are
     really your property) but more do I wish that I could recall
     and obliterate the occasion which has made Mr. Glover so bitter
     an enemy of mine._

     "_Thinking over the past, I see that I was at fault, but I know
     that you will sympathise with me when the truth is revealed to
     you. A young girl, unused to the ways of men, perhaps I
     attached too much importance to Mr. Glover's attentions, and
     resented them too crudely. In those days I thought it was
     unpardonable that a man who professed to be poor James's best
     friend, should make love to his fiancée, though I suppose that
     such things happen, and are endured by the modern girl. A man
     does not readily forgive a woman for making him feel a fool--it
     is the one unpardonable offence that a girl can commit.
     Therefore, I do not resent his enmity as much as you might
     think. Believe me, I feel for you very much in these trying
     days. Let me say again that I hope your future will be
     bright._"

She blotted the letter, put it in an envelope, and addressed it, and
taking down a book from one of the well-stocked shelves, drew her chair
to the fire, and began reading.

Mr. Briggerland came in an hour after, looked over her shoulder at the
title, and made a sound of disapproval.

"I can't understand your liking for that kind of book," he said.

The book was one of the two volumes of "Chronicles of Crime," and she
looked up with a smile.

"Can't you? It's very easily explained. It is the most encouraging work
in my collection. Sit down for a minute."

"A record of vulgar criminals," he growled. "Their infernal last dying
speeches, their processions to Tyburn--phaugh!"

She smiled again, and looked down at the book. The wide margins were
covered with pencilled notes in her writing.

"They're a splendid mental exercise," she said. "In every case I have
written down how the criminal might have escaped arrest, but they were
all so vulgar, and so stupid. Really the police of the time deserve no
credit for catching them. It is the same with modern criminals...."

She went to the shelf, and took down two large scrap-books, carried them
across to the fire, and opened one on her knees.

"Vulgar and stupid, every one of them," she repeated, as she turned the
leaves rapidly.

"The clever ones get caught at times," said Briggerland gloomily.

"Never," she said, and closed the book with a snap. "In England, in
France, in America, and in almost every civilised country, there are
murderers walking about to-day, respected by their fellow citizens.
Murderers, of whose crimes the police are ignorant. Look at these." She
opened the book again. "Here is the case of Rell, who poisons a
troublesome creditor with weed-killer. Everybody in the town knew he
bought the weed-killer; everybody knew that he was in debt to this man.
What chance had he of escaping? Here's Jewelville--he kills his wife,
buries her in the cellar, and then calls attention to himself by running
away. Here's Morden, who kills his sister-in-law for the sake of her
insurance money, and who also buys the poison in broad daylight, and is
found with a bottle in his pocket. Such people deserve hanging."

"I wish to heaven you wouldn't talk about hanging," said Briggerland
tremulously, "you're inhuman, Jean, by God--"

"I'm an angel," she smiled, "and I have press cuttings to prove it! The
_Daily Recorder_ had half a column on my appearance in the box at Jim's
trial."

He looked over toward the writing-table, saw the letter, and picked it
up.

"So you've written to the lady. Are you sending her the jewels?"

She nodded.

He looked at her quickly.

"You haven't been up to any funny business with them, have you?" he
asked suspiciously, and she smiled.

"My dear parent," drawled Jean Briggerland, "after my lecture on the
stupidity of the average criminal, do you imagine I should do anything
so _gauche_?"




Chapter VIII


"And now, Mrs. Meredith," said Jack Glover, "what are you going to do?"

He had spent the greater part of the morning with the new heiress, and
Lydia had listened, speechless, as he recited a long and meaningless
list of securities, of estates, of ground rents, balances and the like,
which she had inherited.

"What am I going to do?" she said, shaking her head, hopelessly. "I
don't know. I haven't the slightest idea, Mr. Glover. It is so
bewildering. Do I understand that all this property is mine?"

"Not yet," said Jack with a smile, "but it is so much yours that on the
strength of the will we are willing to advance you money to almost any
extent. The will has to be proved, and probate must be taken, but when
these legal formalities are settled, and we have paid the very heavy
death duties, you will be entitled to dispose of your fortune as you
wish. As a matter of fact," he added, "you could do that now. At any
rate, you cannot live here in Brinksome Street, and I have taken the
liberty of hiring a furnished flat on your behalf. One of our clients
has gone away to the Continent and left the flat for me to dispose of.
The rent is very low, about twenty guineas a week."

"Twenty guineas a week!" gasped the horrified girl, "why, I can't----"

And then she realised that she "could."

Twenty guineas a week was as nothing to her. This fact more than
anything else, brought her to an understanding of her fortune.

"I suppose I had better move," she said dubiously. "Mrs. Morgan is
giving up this house, and she asked me whether I had any plans. I think
she'd be willing to come as my housekeeper."

"Excellent," nodded Jack. "You'll want a maid as well and, of course,
you will have to put up Jaggs for the nights."

"Jaggs?" she said in astonishment.

"Jaggs," repeated Jack solemnly. "You see, Miss--I beg your pardon, Mrs.
Meredith, I'm rather concerned about you, and I want you to have
somebody on hand I can rely on, sleeping in your flat at night. I dare
say you think I am an old woman," he said as he saw her smile, "and that
my fears are groundless, but you will agree that your own experience of
last week will support the theory that anything may happen in London."

"But really, Mr. Glover, you don't mean that I am in any serious
danger--from whom?"

"From a lot of people," he said diplomatically.

"From poor Miss Briggerland?" she challenged, and his eyes narrowed.

"Poor Miss Briggerland," he said softly. "She certainly is poorer than
she expected to be."

"Nonsense," scoffed the girl. She was irritated, which was unusual in
her. "My dear Mr. Glover, why do you pursue your vendetta against her?
Do you think it is playing the game, honestly now? Isn't it a case of
wounded vanity on your part?"

He stared at her in astonishment.

"Wounded vanity? Do you mean pique?"

She nodded.

"Why should I be piqued?" he asked slowly.

"You know best," replied Lydia, and then a light dawned on him.

"Have I been making love to Miss Briggerland by any chance?" he asked.

"You know best," she repeated.

"Good Lord!" and then he began to laugh, and she thought he would never
stop.

"I suppose I made love to her, and she was angry because I dared to
commit such an act of treachery to her fiancé! Yes, that was it. I made
love to her behind poor Jim's back, and she 'ticked me off,' and that's
why I'm so annoyed with her?"

"You have a very good memory," said Lydia, with a scornful little smile.

"My memory isn't as good as Miss Briggerland's power of invention," said
Jack. "Doesn't it strike you, Mrs. Meredith, that if I had made love to
that young lady, I should not be seen here to-day?"

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"I mean," said Jack Glover soberly, "that it would not have been
Bulford, but I, who would have been lured from his club by a telephone
message, and told to wait outside the door in Berkeley Street. It would
have been I, who would have been shot dead by Miss Briggerland's father
from the drawing-room window."

The girl looked at him in amazement.

"What a preposterous charge to make!" she said at last indignantly. "Do
you suggest that this girl has connived at a murder?"

"I not only suggest that she connived at it, but I stake my life that
she planned it," said Jack carefully.

"But the pistol was found near Mr. Bulford's body," said Lydia almost
triumphantly, as she conceived this unanswerable argument.

Jack nodded.

"From Bulford's body to the drawing-room window was exactly nine feet.
It was possible to pitch the pistol so that it fell near him. Bulford
was waiting there by the instructions of Jean Briggerland. We have
traced the telephone call that came through to him from the club--it
came from the Briggerlands' house in Berkeley Street, and the attendant
at the club was sure it was a woman's voice. We didn't find that out
till after the trial. Poor Meredith was in the hall when the shot was
fired. The signal was given when he turned the handle to let himself
out. He heard the shot, rushed down the steps and saw the body. Whether
he picked up the pistol or not, I do not know. Jean Briggerland swears
he had it in his hand, but, of course, Jean Briggerland is a hopeless
liar!"

"You can't know what you're saying," said Lydia in a low voice. "It is a
dreadful charge to make, dreadful, against a girl whose very face
refutes such an accusation."

"Her face is her fortune," snapped Jack, and then penitently, "I'm sorry
I'm rude, but somehow the very mention of Jean Briggerland arouses all
that is worst in me. Now, you will accept Jaggs, won't you?"

"Who is he?" she asked.

"He is an old army pensioner. A weird bird, as shrewd as the dickens, in
spite of his age a pretty powerful old fellow."

"Oh, he's old," she said with some relief.

"He's old, and in some ways, incapacitated. He hasn't the use of his
right arm, and he's a bit groggy in one of his ankles as the result of
a Boer bullet."

She laughed in spite of herself.

"He doesn't sound a very attractive kind of guardian. He's a perfectly
clean old bird, though I confess he doesn't look it, and he won't bother
you or your servants. You can give him a room where he can sit, and you
can give him a bit of bread and cheese, and a glass of beer, and he'll
not bother you."

Lydia was amused now. It was absurd that Jack Glover should imagine she
needed a guardian at all, but if he insisted, as he did, it would be
better to have somebody as harmless as the unattractive Jaggs.

"What time will he come?"

"At about ten o'clock every night, and he'll leave you at about seven in
the morning. Unless you wish, you need never see him," said Jack.

"How did you come to know him?" she asked curiously.

"I know everybody," said the boastful young man, "you mustn't forget
that I am a lawyer and have to meet very queer people."

He gathered up his papers and put them into his little bag.

"And now what are your plans for to-day?" he demanded.

She resented the self-imposed guardianship which he had undertaken, yet
she could not forget what she owed him.

By some extraordinary means he had kept her out of the Meredith case and
she had not been called as a witness at the inquest. Incidentally, in as
mysterious a way he had managed to whitewash his partner and himself,
although the Law Society were holding an inquiry of their own (this the
girl did not know) it seemed likely that he would escape the consequence
of an act which was a flagrant breach of the law.

"I am going to Mrs. Cole-Mortimer's to tea," she said.

"Mrs. Cole-Mortimer?" he said quickly. "How do you come to know that
lady?"

"Really, Mr. Glover, you are almost impertinent," she smiled in spite of
her annoyance. "She came to call on me two or three days after that
dreadful morning. She knew Mr. Meredith and was an old friend of the
family's."

"As a matter of fact," said Jack icily, "she did not know Meredith,
except to say 'how-do-you-do' to him, and she was certainly not a friend
of the family. She is, however, a friend of Jean Briggerland."

"Jean Briggerland!" said the exasperated girl. "Can't you forget her?
You are like the man in Dickens's books--she's your King Charles's head!
Really, for a respectable and a responsible lawyer, you're simply eaten
up with prejudices. Of course, she was a friend of Mr. Meredith's. Why,
she brought me a photograph of him taken when he was at Eton."

"Supplied by Jean Briggerland," said the unperturbed Jack calmly, "and
if she'd brought you a pair of socks he wore when he was a baby I
suppose you would have accepted those too."

"Now you are being really abominable," said the girl, "and I've got a
lot to do."

He paused at the door.

"Don't forget you can move into Cavendish Mansions to-morrow. I'll send
the key round, and the day you move in, Jaggs will turn up for duty,
bright and smiling. He doesn't talk a great deal----"

"I don't suppose you ever give the poor man a chance," she said
cuttingly.




Chapter IX


Mrs. Cole-Mortimer was a representative of a numerous class of women who
live so close to the border-line which separates good society from
society which is not quite as good, that the members of either set
thought she was in the other. She had a small house where she gave big
parties, and nobody quite knew how this widow of an Indian colonel made
both ends meet. It was the fact that her menage was an expensive one to
maintain; she had a car, she entertained in London in the season, and
disappeared from the metropolis when it was the correct thing to
disappear, a season of exile which comes between the Goodwood Race
Meeting in the south and the Doncaster Race Meeting in the north.

Lydia had been surprised to receive a visit from this elegant lady, and
had readily accepted the story of her friendship with James Meredith.
Mrs. Cole-Mortimer's invitation she had welcomed. She needed some
distraction, something which would smooth out the ravelled threads of
life which were now even more tangled than she had ever expected they
could be.

Mr. Rennett had handed to her a thousand pounds the day after the
wedding, and when she had recovered from the shock of possessing such a
large sum, she hired a taxicab and indulged herself in a wild orgy of
shopping.

The relief she experienced when he informed her he was taking charge of
her affairs and settling the debts which had worried her for three years
was so great that she felt as though a heavy weight had been lifted from
her heart.

It was in one of her new frocks that Lydia, feeling more confident than
usual, made her call. She had expected to find a crowd at the house in
Hyde Park Crescent, and she was surprised when she was ushered into the
drawing-room to find only four people present.

Mrs. Cole-Mortimer was a chirpy, pale little woman of forty-something.
It would be ungallant to say how much that "something" represented. She
came toward Lydia with outstretched hands.

"My dear," she said with extravagant pleasure, "I am glad you were able
to come. You know Miss Briggerland and Mr. Briggerland?"

Lydia looked up at the tall figure of the man she had seen in the stalls
the night before her wedding and recognised him instantly.

"Mr. Marcus Stepney, I don't think you have met."

Lydia bowed to a smart looking man of thirty, immaculately attired. He
was very handsome, she thought, in a dark way, but he was just a little
too "new" to please her. She did not like fashion-plate men, and
although the most captious of critics could not have found fault with
his correct attire, he gave her the impression of being over-dressed.

Lydia had not expected to meet Miss Briggerland and her father, although
she had a dim recollection that Mrs. Cole-Mortimer had mentioned her
name. Then in a flash she recalled the suspicions of Jack Glover, which
she had covered with ridicule. The association made her feel a little
uncomfortable, and Jean Briggerland, whose intuition was a little short
of uncanny, must have read the doubt in her face.

"Mrs. Meredith expected to see us, didn't she, Margaret?" she said,
addressing the twittering hostess. "Surely you told her we were great
friends?"

"Of course I did, my dear. Knowing your dear cousin and his dear father,
it was not remarkable that I should know the whole of the family," and
she smiled wisely from one to the other.

Of course! How absurd she was, thought Lydia. She had almost forgotten,
and probably Jack Glover had forgotten too, that the Briggerlands and
the Merediths were related.

She found herself talking in a corner of the room with the girl, and
fell to studying her face anew. A closer inspection merely consolidated
her earlier judgment. She smiled inwardly as she remembered Jack
Glover's ridiculous warning. It was like killing a butterfly with a
steam hammer, to loose so much vengeance against this frail piece of
china.

"And how do you feel now that you're very rich?" asked Jean kindly.

"I haven't realised it yet," smiled Lydia.

Jean nodded.

"I suppose you have yet to settle with the lawyers. Who are they? Oh
yes, of course Mr. Glover was poor Jim's solicitor." She sighed. "I
dislike lawyers," she said with a shiver, "they are so heavily paternal!
They feel that they and they only are qualified to direct your life and
your actions. I suppose it is second nature with them. Then, of course,
they make an awful lot of money out of commissions and fees, though I'm
sure Jack Glover wouldn't worry about that. He's really a nice boy," she
said earnestly, "and I don't think you could have a better friend."

Lydia glowed at the generosity of this girl whom the man had so
maligned.

"He has been very good to me," she said, "although, of course, he is a
little fussy."

Jean's lips twitched with amusement.

"Has he warned you against me?" she asked solemnly. "Has he told you
what a terrible ogre I am?" And then without waiting for a reply: "I
sometimes think poor Jack is just a little--well, I wouldn't say mad,
but a little queer. His dislikes are so violent. He positively loathes
Margaret, though why I have never been able to understand."

"He doesn't hate me," laughed Lydia, and Jean looked at her strangely.

"No, I suppose not," she said. "I can't imagine anybody hating you,
Lydia. May I call you by your Christian name?"

"I wish you would," said Lydia warmly.

"I can't imagine anybody hating you," repeated the girl thoughtfully.
"And, of course, Jack wouldn't hate you because you're his client--a
very rich and attractive client too, my dear." She tapped the girl's
cheek and Lydia, for some reason, felt foolish.

But as though unconscious of the embarrassment she had caused, Jean went
on.

"I don't really blame him, either. I've a shrewd suspicion that all
these warnings against me and against other possible enemies will
furnish a very excellent excuse for seeing you every day and acting as
your personal bodyguard!"

Lydia shook her head.

"That part of it he has relegated already," she said, giving smile for
smile. "He has appointed Mr. Jaggs as my bodyguard."

"Mr. Jaggs?" The tone was even, the note of inquiry was not strained.

"He's an old gentleman in whom Mr. Glover is interested, an old army
pensioner. Beyond the fact that he hasn't the use of his right arm, and
limps with his left leg, and that he likes beer and cheese, he seems an
admirable watch dog," said Lydia humorously.

"Jaggs?" repeated the girl. "I wonder where I've heard that name before.
Is he a detective?"

"No, I don't think so. But Mr. Glover thinks I ought to have some sort
of man sleeping in my new flat and Jaggs was duly engaged."

Soon after this Mr. Marcus Stepney came over and Lydia found him rather
uninteresting. Less boring was Briggerland, for he had a fund of stories
and experiences to relate, and he had, too, one of those soft soothing
voices that are so rare in men.

It was dark when she came out with Mr. and Miss Briggerland, and she
felt that the afternoon had not been unprofitably spent.

For she had a clearer conception of the girl's character, and was
getting Jack Glover's interest into better perspective. The mercenary
part of it made her just a little sick. There was something so
mysterious, so ugly in his outlook on life, and there might not be a
little self-interest in his care for her.

She stood on the step of the house talking to the girl, whilst Mr.
Briggerland lit a cigarette with a patent lighter. Hyde Park Crescent
was deserted save for a man who stood near the railings which protected
the area of Mrs. Cole-Mortimer's house. He was apparently tying his shoe
laces.

They went down on the sidewalk, and Mr. Briggerland looked for his car.

"I'd like to take you home. My chauffeur promised to be here at four
o'clock. These men are most untrustworthy."

From the other end of the Crescent appeared the lights of a car. At
first Lydia thought it might be Mr. Briggerland's, and she was going to
make her excuses for she wanted to go home alone. The car was coming
too, at a tremendous pace. She watched it as it came furiously toward
her, and she did not notice that Mr. Briggerland and his daughter had
left her standing alone on the sidewalk and had withdrawn a few paces.

Suddenly the car made a swerve, mounted the sidewalk and dashed upon
her. It seemed that nothing could save her, and she stood fascinated
with horror, waiting for death.

Then an arm gripped her waist, a powerful arm that lifted her from her
feet and flung her back against the railings, as the car flashed past,
the mud-guard missing her by an inch. The machine pulled up with a jerk,
and the white-faced girl saw Briggerland and Jean running toward her.

"I should never have forgiven myself if anything had happened. I think
my chauffeur must be drunk," said Briggerland in an agitated voice.

She had no words. She could only nod, and then she remembered her
preserver, and she turned to meet the solemn eyes of a bent old man,
whose pointed, white beard and bristling white eyebrows gave him a
hawk-like appearance. His right hand was thrust into his pocket. He was
touching his battered hat with the other.

"Beg pardon, miss," he said raucously, "name of Jaggs! And I have
reported for dooty!"




Chapter X


Jack Glover listened gravely to the story which the girl told. He had
called at her lodgings on the following morning to secure her signature
to some documents, and breathlessly and a little shamefacedly, she told
him what had happened.

"Of course it was an accident," she insisted, "in fact, Mr. and Miss
Briggerland were almost knocked down by the car. But you don't know how
thankful I am your Mr. Jaggs was on the spot."

"Where is he now?" asked Jack.

"I don't know," replied the girl. "He just limped away without another
word and I did not see him again, though I thought I caught a glimpse of
him as I came into this house last night. How did he come to be on the
spot?" she asked curiously.

"That is easily explained," replied Jack. "I told the old boy not to let
you out of his sight from sundown to sun up."

"Then you think I'm safe during the day?" she rallied him.

He nodded.

"I don't know whether to laugh at you or to be very angry," she said,
shaking her head reprovingly. "Of course it was an accident!"

"I disagree with you," said Jack. "Did you catch a glimpse of the
chauffeur?"

"No," she said in surprise. "I didn't think of looking at him."

He nodded.

"If you had, you would probably have seen an old friend, namely, the
gentleman who carried you off from the Erving Theatre," he said quietly.

It was difficult for Lydia to analyse her own feelings. She knew that
Jack Glover was wrong, monstrously wrong. She was perfectly confident
that his fantastic theory had no foundation, and yet she could not get
away from his sincerity. Remembering Jean's description of him as "a
little queer" she tried to fit that description into her knowledge of
him, only to admit to herself that he had been exceptionally normal as
far as she was concerned. The suggestion that his object was mercenary,
and that he looked upon her as a profitable match for himself, she
dismissed without consideration.

"Anyway, I like your Mr. Jaggs," she said.

"Better than you like me, I gather from your tone," smiled Jack. "He's
not a bad old boy."

"He is a very strong old boy," she said. "He lifted me as though I were
a feather--I don't know now how I escaped. The steering gear went
wrong," she explained unnecessarily.

"Dear me," said Jack politely, "and it went right again in time to
enable the chauffeur to keep clear of Briggerland and his angel
daughter!"

She gave a gesture of despair.

"You're hopeless," she said. "These things happened in the dark ages;
men and women do not assassinate one another in the twentieth century."

"Who told you that?" he demanded. "Human nature hasn't changed for two
thousand years. The instinct to kill is as strong as ever, or wars would
be impossible. If any man or woman could commit one cold-blooded murder,
there is no reason why he or she should not commit a hundred. In
England, America, and France fifty cold-blooded murders are detected
every year. Twice that number are undetected. It does not make the crime
more impossible because the criminal is good looking."

"You're hopeless," she said again, and Jack made no further attempt to
convince her.

On the Thursday of that week she exchanged her lodgings for a handsome
flat in Cavendish Place, and Mrs. Morgan had promised to join her a week
later, when she had settled up her own business affairs.

Lydia was fortunate enough to get two maids from one of the agencies,
one of whom was to sleep on the premises. The flat was not illimitable,
and she regretted that she had promised to place a room at the disposal
of the aged Mr. Jaggs. If he was awake all night as she presumed he
would be, and slept in the day, he might have been accommodated in the
kitchen, and she hinted as much to Jack. To her surprise the lawyer had
turned down that idea.

"You don't want your servants to know that you have a watchman."

"What do you imagine they will think he is?" she asked scornfully. "How
can I have an old gentleman in the flat without explaining why he is
there?"

"Your explanation could be that he did the boots."

"It wouldn't take him all night to do the boots. Of course, I'm too
grateful to him to want him to do anything."

Mr. Jaggs reported again for duty that night. He came at half-past nine,
a shabby-looking old man, and Lydia, who had not yet got used to her new
magnificence, came out into the hall to meet him.

He was certainly not a prepossessing object, and Lydia discovered that,
in addition to his other misfortunes, he had a slight squint.

"I hadn't an opportunity of thanking you the other day, Mr. Jaggs," she
said. "I think you saved my life."

"That's all right, miss," he said, in his hoarse voice. "Dooty is
dooty!"

She thought he was looking past her, till she realised that his curious
slanting line of vision was part of his infirmity.

"I'll show you to your room," she said hastily.

She led the way down the corridor, opened the door of a small room which
had been prepared for him, and switched on the light.

"Too much light for me, miss," said the old man, shaking his head. "I
like to sit in the dark and listen, that's what I like, to sit in the
dark and listen."

"But you can't sit in the dark, you'll want to read, won't you?"

"Can't read, miss," said Jaggs cheerfully. "Can't write, either. I don't
know that I'm any worse off."

Reluctantly she switched out the light.

"But you won't be able to see your food."

"I can feel for that, miss," he said with a hoarse chuckle. "Don't you
worry about me. I'll just sit here and have a big think."

If she was uncomfortable before, she was really embarrassed now. The
very sight of the door behind which old Jaggs sat having his "big think"
was an irritation to her. She could not sleep for a long time that
night for thinking of him sitting in the darkness, and "listening" as
he put it, and had firmly resolved on ending a condition of affairs
which was particularly distasteful to her, when she fell asleep.

She woke when the maid brought her tea, to learn that Jaggs had gone.

The maid, too, had her views on the "old gentleman." She hadn't slept
all night for the thought of him, she said, though probably this was an
exaggeration.

The arrangement must end, thought Lydia, and she called at Jack Glover's
office that afternoon to tell him so. Jack listened without comment
until she had finished.

"I'm sorry he is worrying you, but you'll get used to him in time, and I
should be obliged if you kept him for a month. You would relieve me of a
lot of anxiety."

At first she was determined to have her way, but he was so persistent,
so pleading, that eventually she surrendered.

Lucy, the new maid, however, was not so easily convinced.

"I don't like it, miss," she said, "he's just like an old tramp, and I'm
sure we shall be murdered in our beds."

"How cheerful you are, Lucy," laughed Lydia. "Of course, there is no
danger from Mr. Jaggs, and he really was very useful to me."

The girl grumbled and assented a little sulkily, and Lydia had a
feeling that she was going to lose a good servant. In this she was not
mistaken.

Old Jaggs called at half-past nine that night, and was admitted by the
maid, who stalked in front of him and opened his door.

"There's your room," she snapped, "and I'd rather have your room than
your company."

"Would you, miss?" wheezed Jaggs, and Lydia, attracted by the sound of
voices, came to the door and listened with some amusement.

"Lord, bless me life, it ain't a bad room, either. Put the light out, my
dear, I don't like light. I like 'em dark, like them little cells in
Holloway prison, where you were took two years ago for robbing your
missus."

Lydia's smile left her face. She heard the girl gasp.

"You old liar!" she hissed.

"Lucy Jones you call yourself--you used to be Mary Welch in them days,"
chuckled old Jaggs.

"I'm not going to be insulted," almost screamed Lucy, though there was a
note of fear in her strident voice. "I'm going to leave to-night."

"No you ain't, my dear," said old Jaggs complacently. "You're going to
sleep here to-night, and you're going to leave in the morning. If you
try to get out of that door before I let you, you'll be pinched."

"They've got nothing against me," the girl was betrayed into saying.

"False characters, my dear. Pretending to come from the agency, when you
didn't. That's another crime. Lord bless your heart, I've got enough
against you to put you in jail for a year."

Lydia came forward.

"What is this you're saying about my maid?"

"Good evening, ma'am."

The old man knuckled his forehead.

"I'm just having an argument with your young lady."

"Do you say she is a thief?"

"Of course she is, miss," said Jaggs scornfully. "You ask her!"

But Lucy had gone into her room, slammed the door and locked it.

The next morning when Lydia woke, the flat was empty, save for herself.
But she had hardly finished dressing when there came a knock at the
door, and a trim, fresh-looking country girl, with an expansive smile
and a look of good cheer that warmed Lydia's heart, appeared.

"You're the lady that wants a maid, ma'am, aren't you?"

"Yes," said Lydia in surprise. "But who sent you?"

"I was telegraphed for yesterday, ma'am, from the country."

"Come in," said Lydia helplessly.

"Isn't it right?" asked the girl a little disappointedly. "They sent me
my fare. I came up by the first train."

"It is quite all right," said Lydia, "only I'm wondering who is running
this flat, me or Mr. Jaggs?"




Chapter XI


Jean Briggerland had spent a very busy afternoon. There had been a
string of callers at the handsome house in Berkeley Street.

Mr. Briggerland was of a philanthropic bent, and had instituted a club
in the East End of London which was intended to raise the moral tone of
Limehouse, Wapping, Poplar and the adjacent districts. It was started
without ostentation with a man named Faire as general manager. Mr. Faire
had had in his lifetime several hectic contests with the police, in
which he had been invariably the loser. And it was in his role as a
reformed character that he undertook the management of this social
uplift club.

Well-meaning police officials had warned Mr. Briggerland that Faire had
a bad character. Mr. Briggerland listened, was grateful for the warning,
but explained that Faire had come under the influence of the new uplift
movement, and from henceforward he would be an exemplary citizen. Later,
the police had occasion to extend their warning to its founder. The club
was being used by known criminal characters; men who had already been
in jail and were qualifying for a return visit.

Again Mr. Briggerland pointed to the object of the institution which was
to bring bad men into the society of good men and women, and to arouse
in them a desire for better things. He quoted a famous text with great
effect. But still the police were unconvinced.

It was the practice of Miss Jean Briggerland to receive selected members
of the club and to entertain them at tea in Berkeley Street. Her friends
thought it was very "sweet" and very "daring," and wondered whether she
wasn't afraid of catching some kind of disease peculiar to the East End
of London. But Jean did not worry about such things. On this afternoon,
after the last of her callers had gone, she went down to the little
morning-room where such entertainments occurred and found two men, who
rose awkwardly as she entered.

The gentle influence of the club had not made them look anything but
what they were. "Jail-bird" was written all over them.

"I'm very glad you men have come," said Jean sweetly. "Mr. Hoggins----"

"That's me, miss," said one, with a grin.

"And Mr. Talmot."

The second man showed his teeth.

"I'm always glad to see members of the club," said Jean busy with the
teapot, "especially men who have had so bad a time as you have. You
have only just come out of prison, haven't you, Mr. Hoggins?" she asked
innocently.

Hoggins went red and coughed.

"Yes, miss," he said huskily and added inconsequently, "I didn't do it!"

"I'm sure you were innocent," she said with a smile of sympathy, "and
really if you were guilty I don't think you men are so much to blame.
Look what a bad time you have! What disadvantages you suffer, whilst
here in the West End people are wasting money that really ought to go to
your wives and children."

"That's right," said Mr. Hoggins.

"There's a girl I know who is tremendously rich," Jean prattled on. "She
lives at 84, Cavendish Mansions, just on the top floor, and, of course,
she's very foolish to sleep with her windows open, especially as people
could get down from the roof--there is a fire escape there. She always
has a lot of jewellery--keeps it under her pillow I think, and there is
generally a few hundred pounds scattered about the bedroom. Now that is
what I call putting temptation in the way of the weak."

She lifted her blue eyes, saw the glitter in the man's eyes and went on.

"I've told her lots of times that there is danger, but she only laughs.
There is an old man who sleeps in the house--quite a feeble old man who
has only the use of one arm. Of course, if she cried out, I suppose he
would come to her rescue, but then a real burglar wouldn't let her cry
out, would he?" she asked.

The two men looked at one another.

"No," breathed one.

"Especially as they could get clean away if they were clever," said
Jean, "and it isn't likely that they would leave her in a condition to
betray them, is it?"

Mr. Hoggins cleared his throat.

"It's not very likely, miss," he said.

Jean shrugged her shoulders.

"Women do these things, and then they blame the poor man to whom a
thousand pounds would be a fortune because he comes and takes it.
Personally, I should not like to live at 84, Cavendish Mansions."

"84, Cavendish Mansions," murmured Mr. Hoggins absent-mindedly.

His last sentence had been one of ten years' penal servitude. His next
sentence would be for life. Nobody knew this better than Jean
Briggerland as she went on to talk of the club and of the wonderful work
which it was doing.

She dismissed her visitors and went back to her sitting-room. As she
turned to go up the stairway her maid intercepted her.

"Mary is in your room, miss," she said in a low voice.

Jean frowned but made no reply.

The woman who stood awkwardly in the centre of the room awaiting the
girl, greeted her with an apologetic smile.

"I'm sorry, miss," she said, "but I lost my job this morning. That old
man spotted me. He's a split--a detective."

Jean Briggerland regarded her with an unmoved face save that her
beautiful mouth took on the pathetic little droop which had excited the
pity of a judge and an army of lawyers.

"When did this happen?" she asked.

"Last night, miss. He came and I got a bit cheeky to him, and he turned
on me, the old devil, and told me my real name and that I'd got the job
by forging recommendations."

Jean sat down slowly in the padded Venetian chair before her writing
table.

"Jaggs?" she asked.

"Yes, miss."

"And why didn't you come here at once?"

"I thought I might be followed, miss."

The girl bit her lip and nodded.

"You did quite right," she said, and then after a moment's reflection,
"We shall be in Paris next week. You had better go by the night train
and wait for us at the flat."

She gave the maid some money and after she had gone, sat for an hour
before the fire looking into its red depths.

She rose at last a little stiffly, pulled the heavy silken curtain
across the windows and switched on the light, and there was a smile on
her face that was very beautiful to see. For in that hour came an
inspiration.

She sought her father in his study and told him her plan, and he
blanched and shivered with the very horror of it.




Chapter XII


Mr. Briggerland, it seemed, had some other object in life than the
regeneration of the criminal classes. He was a sociologist--a loose
title which covers a great deal of inquisitive investigation into other
people's affairs. Moreover, he had published a book on the subject. His
name was on the title page and the book had been reviewed to his credit;
though in truth he did no more than suggest the title, the work in
question having been carried out by a writer on the subject who, for a
consideration, had allowed Mr. Briggerland to adopt the child of his
brain.

On a morning when pale yellow sunlight brightened his dining-room, Mr.
Briggerland put down his newspaper and looked across the table at his
daughter. He had a club in the East End of London and his manager had
telephoned that morning sending a somewhat unhappy report.

"Do you remember that man Talmot, my dear?" he asked.

She nodded, and looked up quickly.

"Yes, what about him?"

"He's in hospital," said Mr. Briggerland. "I fear that he and Hoggins
were engaged in some nefarious plan and that in making an attempt to
enter--as, of course, they had no right to enter--a block of flats in
Cavendish Place, poor Talmot slipped and fell from the fourth floor
window-sill, breaking his leg. Hoggins had to carry him to hospital."

The girl reached for bacon from the hot plate.

"He should have broken his neck," she said calmly. "I suppose now the
police are making tender inquiries?"

"No, no," Mr. Briggerland hastened to assure her. "Nobody knows anything
about it, not even the--er--fortunate occupant of the flat they were
evidently trying to burgle. I only learnt of it because the manager of
the club, who gets information of this character, thought I would be
interested."

"Anyway I'm glad they didn't succeed," said Jean after a while. "The
possibility of their trying rather worried me. The Hoggins type is such
a bungler that it was almost certain they would fail."

It was a curious fact that whilst her father made the most guarded
references to all their exploits and clothed them with garments of
euphemism, his daughter never attempted any such disguise. The
psychologist would find in Mr. Briggerland's reticence the embryo of a
once dominant rectitude, no trace of which remained in his daughter's
moral equipment.

"I have been trying to place this man Jaggs," she went on with a little
puzzled frown, "and he completely baffles me. He arrives every night in
a taxicab, sometimes from St. Pancras, sometimes from Euston, sometimes
from London Bridge Station."

"Do you think he is a detective?"

"I don't know," she said thoughtfully. "If he is, he has been imported
from the provinces. He is not a Scotland Yard man. He may, of course, be
an old police pensioner, and I have been trying to trace him from that
source."

"It should not be difficult to find out all about him," said Mr.
Briggerland easily. "A man with his afflictions should be pretty
well-known."

He looked at his watch.

"My appointment at Norwood is at eleven o'clock," he said. He made a
little grimace of disgust.

"Would you rather I went?" asked the girl.

Mr. Briggerland would much rather that she had undertaken the
disagreeable experience which lay before him, but he dare not confess as
much.

"You, my dear? Of course not! I would not allow you to have such an
experience. No, no, I don't mind it a bit."

Nevertheless, he tossed down two long glasses of brandy before he left.

His car set him down before the iron gates of a squat and ugly stucco
building, surrounded by high walls, and the uniformed attendant, having
examined his credentials, admitted him. He had to wait a little while
before a second attendant arrived to conduct him to the medical
superintendent, an elderly man who did not seem overwhelmed with joy at
the honour Mr. Briggerland was paying him.

"I'm sorry I shan't be able to show you round, Mr. Briggerland," he
said. "I have an engagement in town, but my assistant, Dr. Carew, will
conduct you over the asylum and give you all the information you
require. This, of course, as you know, is a private institution. I
should have thought you would have got more material for your book in
one of the big public asylums. The people who are sent to Norwood, you
know, are not the mild cases, and you will see some rather terrible
sights. You are prepared for that?"

Mr. Briggerland nodded. He was prepared to the extent of two full
noggins of brandy. Moreover, he was well aware that Norwood was the
asylum to which the more dangerous of lunatics were transferred.

Dr. Carew proved to be a young and enthusiastic alienist whose heart and
soul was in his work.

"I suppose you are prepared to see jumpy things," he said with a smile,
as he conducted Mr. Briggerland along a stone-vaulted corridor.

He opened a steel gate, the bars of which were encased with thick layers
of rubber, crossed a grassy plot (there were no stone-flagged paths at
Norwood) and entered one of the three buildings which constituted the
asylum proper.

It was a harrowing, heart-breaking, and to some extent, a disappointing
experience for Mr. Briggerland. True, his heart did not break, because
it was made of infrangible material, and his disappointment was
counter-balanced by a certain vague relief.

At the end of two hours' inspection they were standing out on the big
playing fields, watching the less violent of the patients wandering
aimlessly about. Except one, they were unattended by keepers, but in the
case of this one man, two stalwart uniformed men walked on either side
of him.

"Who is he?" asked Briggerland.

"That is rather a sad case," said the alienist cheerfully. He had
pointed out many "sad cases" in the same bright manner. "He's a doctor
and a genuine homicide. Luckily they detected him before he did any
mischief or he would have been in Broadmoor."

"Aren't you ever afraid of these men escaping?" asked Mr. Briggerland.

"You asked that before," said the doctor in surprise. "No. You see, an
insane asylum is not like a prison; to make a good get-away from prison
you have to have outside assistance. Nobody wants to help a lunatic
escape, otherwise it would be easier than getting out of prison, because
we have no patrols in the grounds, the wards can be opened from the
outside without a key and the night patrol who visits the wards every
half-hour has no time for any other observation. Would you like to talk
to Dr. Thun?"

Mr. Briggerland hesitated only for a second.

"Yes," he said huskily.

There was nothing in the appearance of the patient to suggest that he
was in any way dangerous. A fair, bearded man, with pale blue eyes, he
held out his hand impulsively to the visitor, and after a momentary
hesitation, Mr. Briggerland took it and found his hand in a grip like a
vice. The two attendants exchanged glances with the asylum doctor and
strolled off.

"I think you can talk to him without fear," said the doctor in a low
voice, not so low, however, that the patient did not hear it, for he
laughed.

"Without fear, favour or prejudice, eh? Yes, that was how they swore the
officers at my court martial."

"The doctor was the general who was responsible for the losses at
Caperetto," explained Dr. Carew. "That was where the Italians lost so
heavily."

Thun nodded.

"Of course, I was perfectly innocent," he explained to Briggerland
seriously, and taking the visitor's arm he strolled across the field,
the doctor and the two attendants following at a distance. Mr.
Briggerland breathed a little more quickly as he felt the strength of
the patient's biceps.

"My conviction," said Dr. Thun seriously, "was due to the fact that
women were sitting on the court martial, which is, of course, against
all regulations."

"Certainly," murmured Mr. Briggerland.

"Keeping me here," Thun went on, "is part of the plot of the Italian
government. Naturally, they do not wish me to get at my enemies, who I
have every reason to believe are in London."

Mr. Briggerland drew a long breath.

"They are in London," he said a little hoarsely. "I happen to know where
they are."

"Really?" said the other easily, and then a cloud passed over his face
and he shook his head.

"They are safe from my vengeance," he said a little sadly. "As long as
they keep me in this place pretending that I am mad, there is no
possible chance for me."

The visitor looked round and saw that the three men who were following
were out of ear shot.

"Suppose I came to-morrow night," he said, lowering his voice, "and
helped you to get away? What is your ward?"

"No. 6," said the other in the same tone. His eyes were blazing.

"Do you think you will remember?" asked Briggerland.

Thun nodded.

"You will come to-morrow night--No. 6, the first cubicle on the left,"
he whispered, "you will not fail me? If I thought you'd fail me----" His
eyes lit up again.

"I shall not fail you," said Mr. Briggerland hastily. "When the clock
strikes twelve you may expect me."

"You must be Marshal Foch," murmured Thun, and then with all a madman's
cunning, changed the conversation as the doctor and attendants, who had
noticed his excitement, drew nearer. "Believe me, Mr. Briggerland," he
went on airily, "the strategy of the Allies was at fault until I took up
the command of the army...."

Ten minutes later Mr. Briggerland was in his car driving homeward, a
little breathless, more than a little terrified at the unpleasant task
he had set himself; jubilant, too, at his amazing success.

Jean had said he might have to visit a dozen asylums before he found his
opportunity and the right man, and he had succeeded at the first
attempt. Yet--he shuddered at the picture he conjured--that climb over
the high wall (he had already located the ward, for he had followed the
General and the attendants and had seen him safely put away), the
midnight association with a madman....

He burst in upon Jean with his news.

"At the first attempt, my dear, what do you think of that?" His dark
face glowed with almost childish pride, and she looked at him with a
half-smile.

"I thought you would," she said quietly. "That's the rough work done, at
any rate."

"The rough work!" he said indignantly.

She nodded.

"Half the difficulty is going to be to cover up your visit to the
asylum, because this man is certain to mention your name, and it will
not all be dismissed as the imagination of a madman. Now I think I will
make my promised call upon Mrs. Meredith."




Chapter XIII


There was one thing which rather puzzled and almost piqued Lydia
Meredith, and that was the failure of Jean Briggerland's prophecy to
materialise. Jean had said half jestingly that Jack Glover would be a
frequent visitor at the flat; in point of fact, he did not come at all.
Even when she visited the offices of Rennett, Glover and Simpson, it was
Mr. Rennett who attended to her, and Jack was invisible. Mr. Rennett
sometimes explained that he was at the courts, for Jack did all the
court work, sometimes that he had gone home.

She caught a glimpse of him once as she was driving past the Law Courts
in the Strand. He was standing on the pavement talking to a be-wigged
counsel, so possibly Mr. Rennett had not stated more than the truth when
he said that the young man's time was mostly occupied by the processes
of litigation.

She was curious enough to look through the telephone directory to
discover where he lived. There were about fifty Glovers, and ten of
these were John Glovers, and she was enough of a woman to call up six of
the most likely only to discover that her Mr. Glover was not amongst
them. She did not know till later that his full name was Bertram John
Glover, or she might have found his address without difficulty.

Mrs. Morgan had now arrived, to Lydia's infinite relief, and had taken
control of the household affairs. The new maid was as perfect as a new
maid could be, and but for the nightly intrusion of the taciturn Jaggs,
to whom, for some reason, Mrs. Morgan took a liking, the current of her
domestic life ran smoothly.

She was already becoming accustomed to the possession of wealth. The
habit of being rich is one of the easiest acquired, and she found
herself negotiating for a little house in Curzon Street and a more
pretentious establishment in Somerset, with a sangfroid which astonished
and frightened her.

The purchase and arrival of her first car, and the engagement of her
chauffeur had been a thrilling experience. It was incredible, too, that
her new bankers should, without hesitation, deliver to her enormous sums
of money at the mere affixing of her signature to an oblong slip of
paper.

She had even got over the panic feeling which came to her on her first
few visits to the bank. On these earlier occasions she had felt rather
like an inexpert forger, who was endeavouring to get money by false
pretence, and it was both a relief and a wonder to her when the
nonchalant cashier thrust thick wads of bank-notes under the grille,
without so much as sending for a policeman.

"It's a lovely flat," said Jean Briggerland, looking round the pink
drawing-room approvingly, "but of course, my dear, this is one that was
already furnished for you. I'm dying to see what you will make of your
own home when you get one."

She had telephoned that morning to Lydia saying that she was paying a
call, asking if it was convenient, and the two girls were alone.

"It _is_ a nice flat, and I shall be sorry to leave it," agreed Lydia.
"It is so extraordinarily quiet. I sleep like a top. There is no noise
to disturb one, except that there was rather an unpleasant happening the
other morning."

"What was that?" asked Jean, stirring her tea.

"I don't know really what happened," said Lydia. "I heard an awful
groaning very early in the morning and I got up and looked out of the
window. There were two men in the courtyard. One, I think, had hurt
himself very badly. I never discovered what happened."

"They must have been workmen, I should think," said Jean, "or else they
were drunk. Personally, I have never liked taking furnished flats," she
went on. "One always breaks things, and there's such a big bill to pay
at the end. And then I always lose the keys. One usually has two or
three. You should be very careful about that, my dear, they make an
enormous charge for lost keys," she prattled on.

"I think the house agent gave me three," said Lydia. She walked to her
little secretaire, opened it and pulled out a drawer.

"Yes, three," she said, "there is one here, one I carry, and Mrs. Morgan
has one."

"Have you seen Jack Glover lately?"

Jean never pursued an enquiry too far, by so much as one syllable.

"No, I haven't seen him," smiled Lydia, "You weren't a good prophet."

"I expect he is busy," said the girl carelessly. "I think I could like
Jack awfully--if he hadn't such a passion for ordering people about. How
careless of me!" She had tipped over her teacup and its contents were
running across the little tea table. She pulled out her handkerchief
quickly and tried to stop the flow.

"Oh, please, please don't spoil your beautiful handkerchief," said
Lydia, rising hurriedly, "I will get a duster."

She ran out of the room and was back almost immediately, to find Jean
standing with her back to the secretaire examining the ruins of her late
handkerchief with a smile.

"Let me put your handkerchief in water or it will be stained," said
Lydia, putting out her hand.

"I would rather do it myself," laughed Jean Briggerland, and pushed the
handkerchief into her bag.

There were many reasons why Lydia should not handle that flimsy piece of
cambric and lace, the most important of which was the key which Jean had
taken from the secretaire in Lydia's absence, and had rolled inside the
tea-stained handkerchief.

A few days later Mr. Bertram John Glover interviewed a high official at
Scotland Yard, and the interview was not a particularly satisfactory one
to the lawyer. It might have been worse, had not the police commissioner
been a friend of Jack's partner.

The official listened patiently whilst the lawyer, with professional
skill, marshalled all his facts, attaching to them the suspicions which
had matured to convictions.

"I have sat in this chair for twenty-five years," said the head of the
C.I.D., "and I have heard stories which beat the best and the worst of
detective stories hollow. I have listened to cranks, amateur detectives,
crooks, parsons and expert fictionists, but never in my experience have
I ever heard anything quite so improbable as your theory. It happens
that I have met Briggerland and I've met his daughter too, and a more
beautiful girl I don't think it has been my pleasure to meet."

Jack groaned.

"Aren't you feeling well?" asked the chief unpleasantly.

"I'm all right, sir," said Jack, "only I'm so tired of hearing about
Jean Briggerland's beauty. It doesn't seem a very good argument to
oppose to the facts--"

"Facts!" said the other scornfully. "What facts have you given us?"

"The fact of the Briggerlands' history," said Jack desperately.
"Briggerland was broke when he married Miss Meredith under the
impression that he would get a fortune with his wife. He has lived by
his wits all his life, and until this girl was about fifteen, they were
existing in a state of poverty. They lived in a tiny house in Ealing,
the rent of which was always in arrears, and then Briggerland became
acquainted with a rich Australian of middle age who was crazy about his
daughter. The rich Australian died suddenly."

"From an overdose of veronal," said the chief. "It was established at
the inquest--I got all the documents out after I received your
letter--that he was in the habit of taking veronal. You suggest he was
murdered. If he was, for what? He left the girl about six thousand
pounds."

"Briggerland thought she was going to get it all," said Jack.

"That is conjecture," interrupted the chief. "Go on."

"Briggerland moved up west," Jack went on, "and when the girl was
seventeen she made the acquaintance of a man named Gunnesbury, who went
just as mad about her. Gunnesbury was a midland merchant with a wife and
family. He was so infatuated with her that he collected all the loose
money he could lay his hands on--some twenty-five thousand pounds--and
bolted to the continent. The girl was supposed to have gone on ahead,
and he was to join her at Calais. He never reached Calais. The theory
was that he jumped overboard. His body was found and brought in to
Dover, but there was none of the money in his possession that he had
drawn from the Midland Bank."

"That is a theory, too," said the chief, shaking his head. "The identity
of the girl was never established. It was known that she was a friend of
Gunnesbury's, but there was proof that she was in London on the night of
his death. It was a clear case of suicide."

"A year later," Jack went on, "she forced a meeting with Meredith, her
cousin. His father had just died--Jim had come back from Central Africa
to put things in order. He was not a woman's man, and was a grave,
retiring sort of fellow, who had no other interest in life than his
shooting. The story of Meredith you know."

"And is that all?" asked the chief politely.

"All the facts I can gather. There must be other cases which are beyond
the power of the investigator to unearth."

"And what do you expect me to do?"

Jack smiled.

"I don't expect you to do anything," he said frankly. "You are not
exactly supporting my views with enthusiasm."

The chief rose, a signal that the interview was at an end.

"I'd like to help you if you had any real need for help," he said. "But
when you come to me and tell me that Miss Briggerland, a girl whose
innocence shows in her face, is a heartless criminal and murderess, and
a conspirator--why, Mr. Glover, what do you expect me to say?"

"I expect you to give adequate protection to Mrs. Meredith," said Jack
sharply. "I expect you, sir, to remember that I've warned you that Mrs.
Meredith may die one of those accidental deaths in which Mr. and Miss
Briggerland specialise. I'm going to put my warning in black and white,
and if anything happens to Lydia Meredith, there is going to be serious
trouble on the Thames Embankment."

The chief touched a bell, and a constable came in.

"Show Mr. Glover the way out," he said stiffly.

Jack had calmed down considerably by the time he reached the Thames
Embankment, and was inclined to be annoyed with himself for losing his
temper.

He stopped a newsboy, took a paper from his hand, and, hailing a cab,
drove to his office.

There was little in the early edition save the sporting news, but on the
front page a paragraph arrested his eye.

     "DANGEROUS LUNATIC AT LARGE."

     "The Medical Superintendent at Norwood Asylum reports that Dr.
     Algernon John Thun, an inmate of the asylum, escaped last
     night, and is believed to be at large in the neighbourhood.
     Search parties have been organised, but no trace of the man has
     been found. He is known to have homicidal tendencies, a fact
     which renders his immediate recapture a very urgent necessity."

There followed a description of the wanted man. Jack turned to another
part of the paper, and dismissed the paragraph from his mind.

His partner, however, was to bring the matter up at lunch. Norwood
Asylum was near Dulwich, and Mr. Rennett was pardonably concerned.

"The womenfolk at my house are scared to death," he said at lunch. "They
won't go out at night, and they keep all the doors locked. How did your
interview with the commissioner go on?"

"We parted the worst of friends," said Jack, "and, Rennett, the next man
who talks to me about Jean Briggerland's beautiful face is going to be
killed dead through it, even though I have to take a leaf from her book
and employ the grisly Jaggs to do it."




Chapter XIV


That night the "grisly Jaggs" was later than usual. Lydia heard him
shuffling along the passage, and presently the door of his room closed
with a click. She was sitting at the piano, and had stopped playing at
the sound of his knock, and when Mrs. Morgan came in to announce his
arrival, she closed the piano and swung round on the music stool, a look
of determination on her delicate face.

"He's come, miss."

"And for the last time," said Lydia ominously. "Mrs. Morgan, I can't
stand that weird old gentleman any longer. He has got on my nerves so
that I could scream when I think of him."

"He's not a bad old gentleman," excused Mrs. Morgan.

"I'm not so worried about his moral character, and I dare say that it is
perfectly blameless," said Lydia determinedly, "but I have written a
note to Mr. Glover to tell him that I really must dispense with his
services."

"What's he here for, miss?" asked Mrs. Morgan.

Her curiosity had been aroused, but this was the first time she had
given it expression.

"He's here because----" Lydia hesitated, "well, because Mr. Glover
thinks I ought to have a man in the house to look after me."

"Why, miss?" asked the startled woman.

"You'd better ask Mr. Glover that question," said Lydia grimly.

She was beginning to chafe under the sense of restraint. She was being
"school-marmed" she thought. No girl likes the ostentatious protection
of the big brother or the head mistress. The soul of the schoolgirl
yearns to break from the "crocodile" in which she is marched to church
and to school, and this sensation of being marshalled and ordered about,
and of living her life according to a third person's programme, and that
third person a man, irked her horribly.

Old Jaggs was the outward and visible sign of Jack Glover's unwarranted
authority, and slowly there was creeping into her mind a suspicion that
Jean Briggerland might not have been mistaken when she spoke of Jack's
penchant for "ordering people about."

Life was growing bigger for her. She had broken down the barriers which
had confined her to a narrow promenade between office and home. The
hours which she had had to devote to work were now entirely free, and
she could sketch or paint whenever the fancy took her--which was not
very often, though she promised herself a period of hard work when once
she was settled down.

Toward the good-looking young lawyer her point of view had shifted. She
hardly knew herself how she regarded him. He irritated, and yet in some
indefinable way, pleased her. His sincerity--? She did not doubt his
sincerity. She admitted to herself that she wished he would call a
little more frequently than he did. He might have persuaded her that
Jaggs was a necessary evil, but he hadn't even taken the trouble to
come. Therefore--but this she did not admit--Jaggs must go.

"I don't think the old gentleman's quite right in his head, you know,
sometimes," said Mrs. Morgan.

"Why ever not, Mrs. Morgan?" asked the girl in surprise.

"I often hear him sniggering to himself as I go past his door. I suppose
he stays in his room all night, miss?"

"He doesn't," said the girl emphatically, "and that's why he's going. I
heard him in the passage at two o'clock this morning; I'm getting into
such a state of nerves that the slightest sound awakens me. He had his
boots off and was creeping about in his stockings, and when I went out
and switched the light on he bolted back to his room. I can't have that
sort of thing going on, and I won't! it's altogether too creepy!"

Mrs. Morgan agreed.

Lydia had not been out in the evening for several days, she remembered,
as she began to undress for the night. The weather had been unpleasant,
and to stay in the warm, comfortable flat was no great hardship. Even if
she had gone out, Jaggs would have accompanied her, she thought
ironically.

And then she had a little twinge of conscience, remembering that Jaggs's
presence on a memorable afternoon had saved her from destruction.

She wondered for the twentieth time what was old Jaggs's history, and
where Jack had found him. Once she had been tempted to ask Jaggs
himself, but the old man had fenced with the question, and had talked
vaguely of having worked in the country, and she was as wise as she had
been before.

But she must get rid of old Jaggs, she thought, as she switched off the
light and kicked out the innumerable water-bottles, with which Mrs.
Morgan, in mistaken kindness, had encumbered the bed ... old Jaggs must
go ... he was a nuisance....

She woke with a start from a dreamless sleep. The clock in the hall was
striking three. She realised this subconsciously. Her eyes were fixed on
the window, which was open at the bottom. Mrs. Morgan had pulled it
down at the top, but now it was wide open, and her heart began to thump,
thump, rapidly. Jaggs! He was her first thought. She would never have
believed that she could have thought of that old man with such a warm
glow of thankfulness. There was nothing to be seen. The storm of the
early night had passed over, and a faint light came into the room from
the waning moon. And then she saw the curtains move, and opened her
mouth to scream, but fear had paralysed her voice, and she lay staring
at the hangings, incapable of movement or sound. As she watched the
curtain she saw it move again, and a shape appeared faintly against the
gloomy background.

The spell was broken. She swung herself out of the opposite side of the
bed, and raced to the door, but the man was before her. Before she could
scream, a big hand gripped her throat and flung her back against the
rail of the bed.

Horrified she stared into the cruel face that leered down at her, and
felt the grip tighten. And then as she looked into the face she saw a
sudden grimace, and sensed the terror in his eyes. The hand relaxed; he
bubbled something thickly and fell sideways against the bed. And now she
saw. A man had come through the doorway, a tall man, with a fair beard
and eyes that danced with insane joy.

He came slowly toward her, wiping on his cuff the long-handled knife
that had sent her assailant to the floor.

He was mad. She knew it instinctively, and remembered in a hazy,
confused way, a paragraph she had read about an escaped lunatic. She
tried to dash past him to the open door, but he caught her in the crook
of his left arm, and pressed her to him, towering head and shoulders
over her.

"You have no right to sit on a court martial, madam," he said with
uncanny politeness, and at that moment the light in the room was
switched on and Jaggs appeared in the doorway, his bearded lips parted
in an ugly grin, a long-barrelled pistol in his left hand.

"Drop your knife," he said, "or I'll drop you."

The mad doctor turned his head slowly and frowned at the intruder.

"Good morning, General," he said calmly. "You came in time," and he
threw the knife on to the ground. "We will try her according to
regulations!"




Chapter XV


     A TRAGIC AFFAIR IN THE WEST END.

     MAD DOCTOR WOUNDS A BURGLAR IN A SOCIETY WOMAN'S BEDROOM.

     "There was an extraordinary and tragic sequel to the escape of
     Dr. Thun from Norwood Asylum, particulars of which appeared in
     our early edition of yesterday. This morning at four o'clock,
     in answer to a telephone call, Detective-Sergeant Miller,
     accompanied by another officer, went to 84, Cavendish Mansions,
     a flat occupied by Mrs. Meredith, and there found and took into
     custody Dr. Algernon Thun, who had escaped from Norwood Asylum.
     In the room was also found a man named Hoggins, a person well
     known to the police. It appears that Hoggins had effected an
     entrance into Mrs. Meredith's flat, descending from the roof by
     means of a rope, making his way into the premises through the
     window of Mrs. Meredith's bedroom. Whilst there he was detected
     by Mrs. Meredith, who would undoubtedly have been murdered had
     not Dr. Thun, who, in some mysterious manner, had gained
     admission to the flat, intervened. In the struggle that
     followed the doctor, who is suffering from the delusion of
     persecution, severely wounded the man, who is not expected to
     live. He then turned his attention to the lady. Happily an old
     man who works at the flat, who was sleeping on the premises at
     the time, was roused by the sound of the struggle, and
     succeeded in releasing the lady from the maniacal grasp of the
     intruder. The wounded burglar was removed to hospital and the
     lunatic was taken to the police station and was afterwards sent
     under a strong guard to the asylum from whence he had escaped.
     He made a rambling statement to the police to the effect that
     General Foch had assisted his escape and had directed him to
     the home of his persecutors."

Jean Briggerland put down the paper and laughed.

"It is nothing to snigger about," growled Briggerland savagely.

"If I didn't laugh I should do something more emotional," said the girl
coolly. "To think that that fool should go back and make the attempt
single-handed. I never imagined that."

"Faire tells me that he's not expected to live," said Mr. Briggerland.
He rubbed his bald head irritably. "I wonder if that lunatic is going
to talk?"

"What does it matter if he does?" said the girl impatiently.

"You said the other day----" he began.

"The other day it mattered, my dear father. To-day nothing matters very
much. I think we have got well out of it. I ignored all the lessons
which my textbook teaches when I entrusted work to other hands. Jaggs,"
she said softly.

"Eh?" said the father.

"I'm repeating a well-beloved name," she smiled and rose, folding her
serviette. "I am going for a long run in the country. Would you like to
come? Mordon is very enthusiastic about the new car, the bill for which,
by the way, came in this morning. Have we any money?"

"A few thousands," said her father, rubbing his chin. "Jean, we shall
have to sell something unless things brighten."

Jean's lips twitched, but she said nothing.

On her way to the open road she called at Cavendish Mansions, and was
neither surprised nor discomfited to discover that Jack Glover was
there.

"My dear," she said, warmly clasping both the girl's hands in hers, "I
was so shocked when I read the news! How terrible it must have been for
you."

Lydia was looking pale, and there were dark shadows under her eyes, but
she treated the matter cheerfully.

"I've just been trying to explain to Mr. Glover what happened.
Unfortunately, the wonderful Jaggs is not here. He knows more about it
than I, for I collapsed in the most feminine way."

"How did he get in--I mean this madman?" asked the girl.

"Through the door."

It was Jack who answered.

"It is the last way in the world a lunatic would enter a flat, isn't it?
He came in with a key, and he was brought here by somebody who struck a
match to make sure it was the right number."

"He might have struck the match himself," said Jean, "but you're so
clever that you would not say a thing like that unless you had proof."

"We found two matches in the hall outside," said Jack, "and when Dr.
Thun was searched no matches were found on him, and I have since learnt
that, like most homicidal lunatics, he had a horror of fire in any form.
The doctor to whom I have been talking is absolutely sure that he would
not have struck the match himself. Oh, by the way, Miss Briggerland,
your father met this unfortunate man. I understand he paid a visit to
the asylum a few days ago?"

"Yes, he did," she answered without hesitation. "He was talking about
him this morning. You see, father has been making a tour of the asylums.
He is writing a book about such things. Father was horrified when he
heard the man had escaped, because the doctor told him that he was a
particularly dangerous lunatic. But who would have imagined he would
have turned up here?"

Her big, sad eyes were fixed on Jack as she shook her head in wonder.

"If one had read that in a book one would never have believed it, would
one?"

"And the man Hoggins," said Jack, who did not share her wonder. "He was
by way of being an acquaintance of yours, a member of your father's
club, wasn't he?"

She knit her brows.

"I don't remember the name, but if he is a very bad character," she said
with a little smile, "I should say distinctly that he was a member of
father's club! Poor daddy, I don't think he will ever regenerate the
East End."

"I don't think he will," agreed Jack heartily. "The question is, whether
the East End will ever regenerate him."

A slow smile dawned on her face.

"How unkind!" she said, mockery in her eyes now. "I wonder why you
dislike him so. He is so very harmless, really. My dear," she turned to
the girl with a gesture of helplessness. "I am afraid that even in this
affair Mr. Glover is seeing my sinister influence!"

"You're the most un-sinister person I have ever met, Jean," laughed
Lydia, "and Mr. Glover doesn't really think all these horrid things."

"Doesn't he?" said Jean softly, and Jack saw that she was shaking with
laughter.

There was a certain deadly humour in the situation which tickled him
too, and he grinned.

"I wish to heaven you'd get married and settle down, Miss Briggerland,"
he said incautiously.

It was her chance. She shook her head, the lips drooped, the eyes again
grew moist with the pain she could call to them at will.

"I wish I could," she said in a tone a little above a whisper, "but,
Jack, I could never marry you, never!"

She left Jack Glover bereft of speech, totally incapable of arousing so
much as a moan.

Lydia, returning from escorting her visitor to the door, saw his
embarrassment and checked his impulsive explanation a little coldly.

"I--I believed you when you said it wasn't true, Mr. Glover," she said,
and there was a reproach in her tone for which she hated herself
afterwards.




Chapter XVI


Lydia had promised to go to the theatre that night with Mrs.
Cole-Mortimer, and she was glad of the excuse to leave her tragic home.

Mrs. Cole-Mortimer, who was not lavish in the matter of entertainments
that cost money, had a box, and although Lydia had seen the piece before
(it was in fact the very play she had attended to sketch dresses on the
night of her adventure) it was a relief to sit in silence, which her
hostess, with singular discretion, did not attempt to disturb.

It was during the last act that Mrs. Cole-Mortimer gave her an
invitation which she accepted joyfully.

"I've got a house at Cap Martin," said Mrs. Cole-Mortimer. "It is only a
tiny place, but I think you would rather like it. I hate going to the
Riviera alone, so if you care to come as my guest, I shall be most happy
to chaperon you. They are bringing my yacht down to Monaco, so we ought
to have a really good time."

Lydia accepted the yacht and the house as she had accepted the
invitation--without question. That the yacht had been chartered that
morning and the house hired by telegram on the previous day, she could
not be expected to guess. For all she knew, Mrs. Cole-Mortimer might be
a very wealthy woman, and in her wildest dreams she did not imagine that
Jean Briggerland had provided the money for both.

It had not been a delicate negotiation, because Mrs. Cole-Mortimer had
the skin of a pachyderm.

Years later Lydia discovered that the woman lived on borrowed money,
money which never could and never would be repaid, and which the
borrower had no intention of refunding.

A hint dropped by Jean that there was somebody on the Riviera whom she
desired to meet, without her father's knowledge, accompanied by the
plain statement that she would pay all expenses, was quite sufficient
for Mrs. Cole-Mortimer, and she had fallen in with her patron's views as
readily as she had agreed to pose as a friend of Meredith's. To do her
justice, she had the faculty of believing in her own invention, and she
was quite satisfied that James Meredith had been a great personal friend
of hers, just as she would believe that the house on the Riviera and the
little steam-yacht had been procured out of her own purse.

It was harder for her, however, to explain the great system which she
was going to work in Monte Carlo and which was to make everybody's
fortune.

Lydia, who was no gambler and only mildly interested in games of chance,
displayed so little evidence of interest in the scheme that Mrs.
Cole-Mortimer groaned her despair, not knowing that she was expected to
do no more than stir the soil for the crop which Jean Briggerland would
plant and reap.

They went on to supper at one of the clubs, and Lydia thought with
amusement of poor old Jaggs, who apparently took his job very seriously
indeed.

Again her angle of vision had shifted, and her respect for the old man
had overcome any annoyance his uncouth presence brought to her.

As she alighted at the door of the club she looked round, half expecting
to see him. The club entrance was up a side street off Leicester Square,
an ill-lit thoroughfare which favoured Mr. Jaggs's retiring methods, but
there was no sign of him, and she did not wait in the drizzling night to
make any closer inspection.

Mrs. Cole-Mortimer had not disguised the possibility of Jean Briggerland
being at the club, and they found her with a gay party of young people,
sitting in one of the recesses. Jean made a place for the girl by her
side and introduced her to half a dozen people whose names Lydia did not
catch, and never afterwards remembered.

Mr. Marcus Stepney, however, that sleek, dark man, who bowed over her
hand and seemed as though he were going to kiss it, she had met before,
and her second impression of him was even less favourable than the
first.

"Do you dance?" asked Jean.

A jazz band was playing an infectious two-step. At the girl's nod Jean
beckoned one of her party, a tall, handsome boy who throughout the
subsequent dance babbled into Lydia's ear an incessant pæan in praise of
Jean Briggerland.

Lydia was amused.

"Of course she is very beautiful," she said in answer to the
interminable repetition of his question. "I think she's lovely."

"That's what I say," said the young man, whom she discovered was Lord
Stoker. "The most amazingly beautiful creature on the earth, I think."

"Of course you're awfully good-looking, too," he blundered, and Lydia
laughed aloud.

"But she's got enemies," said the young man viciously, "and if ever I
meet that infernal cad, Glover, he'll be sorry."

The smile left Lydia's face.

"Mr. Glover is a friend of mine," she said a little quickly.

"Sorry," he mumbled, "but----"

"Does Miss Briggerland say he is so very bad?"

"Of course not. She never says a word against him really." His lordship
hastened to exonerate his idol. "She just says she doesn't know how long
she's going to stand his persecutions. It breaks one's heart to see how
sad this--your friend makes her."

Lydia was a very thoughtful girl for the rest of the evening; she was
beginning in a hazy way to see things which she had not seen before. Of
course Jean never said anything against Jack Glover. And yet she had
succeeded in arousing this youth to fury against the lawyer, and Lydia
realised, with a sense of amazement, that Jean had also made her feel
bad about Jack. And yet she had said nothing but sweet things.

When she got back to the flat that night she found that Mr. Jaggs had
not been there all the evening. He came in a few minutes after her,
wrapped up in an old army coat, and from his appearance she gathered
that he had been standing out in the rain and sleet the whole of the
evening.

"Why, Jaggs," she said impulsively, "wherever have you been?"

"Just dodging round, miss," he grunted. "Having a look at the little
ducks in the pond."

"You've been outside the theatre, and you've been waiting outside Niro's
Club," she said accusingly.

"Don't know it, miss," he said. "One theayter is as much like another
one to me."

"You must take your things off and let Mrs. Morgan dry your clothes,"
she insisted, but he would not hear of this, compromising only with
stripping his sodden great coat.

He disappeared into his dark room, there to ruminate upon such matters
as appeared of interest to him. A bed had been placed for him, but only
once had he slept on it.

After the flat grew still and the last click of the switch told that the
last light had been extinguished, he opened the door softly, and,
carrying a chair in his hand, he placed this gently with its back to the
front door, and there he sat and dozed throughout the night. When Lydia
woke the next morning he was gone as usual.




Chapter XVII


Lydia had plenty to occupy her days. The house in Curzon Street had been
bought and she had been a round of furnishers, paper-hangers and fitters
of all variety.

The trip to the Riviera came at the right moment. She could leave Mrs.
Morgan in charge and come back to her new home, which was to be ready in
two months.

Amongst other things, the problem of the watchful Mr. Jaggs would be
settled automatically.

She spoke to him that night when he came.

"By the way, Mr. Jaggs, I am going to the South of France next week."

"A pretty place by all accounts," volunteered Mr. Jaggs.

"A lovely place--by all accounts," repeated Lydia with a smile. "And
you're going to have a holiday, Mr. Jaggs. By the way, what am I to pay
you?"

"The gentleman pays me, miss," said Mr. Jaggs with a sniff. "The lawyer
gentleman."

"Well, he must continue paying you whilst I am away," said the girl. "I
am very grateful to you and I want to give you a little present before
I go. Is there anything you would like, Mr. Jaggs?"

Mr. Jaggs rubbed his beard, scratched his head and thought he would like
a pipe.

"Though bless you, miss, I don't want any present."

"You shall have the best pipe I can buy," said the girl. "It seems very
inadequate."

"I'd rather have a briar, miss," said old Jaggs mistakenly.

He was on duty until the morning she left, and although she rose early
he had gone. She was disappointed, for she had not given him the
handsome case of pipes she had bought, and she wanted to thank him. She
felt she had acted rather meanly towards him. She owed her life to him
twice.

"Didn't you see him go?" she asked Mrs. Morgan.

"No, miss," the stout housekeeper shook her head. "I was up at six and
he'd gone then, but he'd left his chair in the passage--I've got an idea
that's where he slept, miss, if he slept at all."

"Poor old man," said the girl gently. "I haven't been very kind to him,
have I? And I do owe him such a lot."

"Maybe he'll turn up again," said Mrs. Morgan hopefully. She had the
mother feeling for the old, which is one of the beauties of her class,
and she regretted Lydia's absence probably as much because it would
entail the disappearance of old Jaggs as for the loss of her mistress.
But old Jaggs did not turn up. Lydia hoped to see him at the station,
hovering on the outskirts of the crowd in his furtive way, but she was
disappointed.

She left by the eleven o'clock train, joining Mrs. Cole-Mortimer on the
station. That lady had arranged to spend a day in Paris, and the girl
was not sorry, after a somewhat bad crossing of the English Channel,
that she had not to continue her journey through the night.

The South of France was to be a revelation to her. She had no conception
of the extraordinary change of climate and vegetation that could be
experienced in one country.

She passed from a drizzly, bedraggled Paris into a land of sunshine and
gentle breezes; from the bare sullen lands of the Champagne, into a
country where flowers grew by the side of the railway, and that in
February; to a semi-tropic land, fragrant with flowers, to white beaches
by a blue, lazy sea and a sky over all unflecked by clouds.

It took her breath away, the beauty of it; and the sense and genial
warmth of it. The trees laden with lemons, the wisteria on the walls,
the white dust on the road, and the glory of the golden mimosa that
scented the air with its rare and lovely perfume.

They left the train at Nice and drove along the Grande Corniche. Mrs.
Cole-Mortimer had a call to make in Monte Carlo and the girl sat back in
the car and drank in the beauty of this delicious spot, whilst her
hostess interviewed the house agent.

Surely the place must be kept under glass. It looked so fresh and clean
and free from stain.

The Casino disappointed her--it was a place of plaster and stucco, and
did not seem built for permanent use.

They drove back part of the way they had come, on to the peninsula of
Cap Martin and she had a glimpse of beautiful villas between the pines
and queer little roads that led into mysterious dells. Presently the car
drew up before a good looking house (even Mrs. Cole-Mortimer was
surprised into an expression of her satisfaction at the sight of it).

Lydia, who thought that this was Mrs. Cole-Mortimer's own demesne, was
delighted.

"You are lucky to have a beautiful home like this, Mrs. Cole-Mortimer,"
she said, "it must be heavenly living here."

The habit of wealth had not been so well acquired that she could realise
that she also could have a beautiful house if she wished--she thought of
that later. Nor did she expect to find Jean Briggerland there, and Mr.
Briggerland too, sitting on a big cane chair on the veranda overlooking
the sea and smoking a cigar of peace.

Mrs. Cole-Mortimer had been very careful to avoid all mention of Jean on
the journey.

"Didn't I tell you they would be here?" she said in careless amazement.
"Why, of course, dear Jean left two days before we did. It makes such a
nice little party. Do you play bridge?"

Lydia did not play bridge, but was willing to be taught.

She spent the remaining hour of daylight exploring the grounds which led
down to the road which fringed the sea.

She could look across at the lights already beginning to twinkle at
Monte Carlo, to the white yachts lying off Monaco, and farther along the
coast to a little cluster of lights that stood for Beaulieu.

"It is glorious," she said, drawing a long breath.

Mrs. Cole-Mortimer, who had accompanied her in her stroll, purred the
purr of the pleased patron whose protégée has been thankful for favours
received.

Dinner was a gay meal, for Jean was in her brightest mood. She had a
keen sense of fun and her sly little sallies, sometimes aimed at her
father, sometimes at Lydia's expense, but more often directed at people
in the social world, whose names were household words, kept Lydia in a
constant gurgle of laughter.

Mrs. Cole-Mortimer alone was nervous and ill at ease. She had learnt
unpleasant news and was not sure whether she should tell the company or
keep her secret to herself. In such dilemma, weak people take the most
sensational course, and presently she dropped her bombshell.

"Celeste says that the gardener's little boy has malignant smallpox,"
she almost wailed.

Jean was telling a funny story to the girl who sat by her, and did not
pause for so much as a second in her narrative. The effect on Mr.
Briggerland was, however, wholly satisfactory to Mrs. Cole-Mortimer. He
pushed back his chair and blinked at his "hostess."

"Smallpox?" he said in horror, "here--in Cap Martin? Good God, did you
hear that, Jean?"

"Did I hear what?" she asked lazily, "about the gardener's little boy?
Oh, yes. There has been quite an epidemic on the Italian Riviera, in
fact they closed the frontier last week."

"But--but here!" spluttered Briggerland.

Lydia could only look at him in open-eyed amazement. The big man's
terror was pitiably apparent. The copper skin had turned a dirty grey,
his lower lip was trembling like a frightened child's.

"Why not here?" said Jean coolly, "there is nothing to be scared about.
Have you been vaccinated recently?" she turned to the girl, and Lydia
shook her head.

"Not since I was a baby--and then I believe the operation was not a
success."

"Anyway, the child is isolated in the cottage and they are taking him to
Nice to-night," said Jean. "Poor little fellow! Even his own mother has
deserted him. Are you going to the Casino?" she asked.

"I don't know," replied Lydia. "I'm very tired but I should love to go."

"Take her, father--and you go, Margaret. By the time you return the
infection will be removed."

"Won't you come too?" asked Lydia.

"No, I'll stay at home to-night. I turned my ankle to-day and it is
rather stiff. Father!"

This time her voice was sharp, menacing almost, thought Lydia, and Mr.
Briggerland made an heroic attempt to recover his self-possession.

"Cer--certainly, my dear--I shall be delighted--er--delighted."

He saw her alone whilst Lydia was changing in her lovely big
dressing-room, overlooking the sea.

"Why didn't you tell me there was smallpox in Cap Martin?" he demanded
fretfully.

"Because I didn't know till Margaret relieved her mind at our expense,"
said his daughter coolly. "I had to say something. Besides, I'd heard
one of the maids say that somebody's mother had deserted him--I fitted
it in. What a funk you are, father!"

"I hate the very thought of disease," he growled. "Why aren't you coming
with us--there is nothing the matter with your ankle?"

"Because I prefer to stay at home."

He looked at her suspiciously.

"Jean," he said in a milder voice, "hadn't we better let up on the girl
for a bit--until that lunatic doctor affair has blown over?"

She reached out and took a gold case from his waistcoat pocket,
extracted a cigarette and replaced the case before she spoke.

"We can't afford to 'let up' as you call it, for a single hour. Do you
realise that any day her lawyer may persuade her to make a will leaving
her money to a--a home for cats, or something equally untouchable? If
there was no Jack Glover we could afford to wait months. And I'm less
troubled about him than I am about the man Jaggs. Father, you will be
glad to learn that I am almost afraid of that freakish old man."

"Neither of them are here--" he began.

"Exactly," said Jean, "neither are here--Lydia had a telegram from him
just before dinner asking if he could come to see her next week."

At this moment Lydia returned and Jean Briggerland eyed her critically.

"My dear, you look lovely," she said and kissed her.

Mr. Briggerland's nose wrinkled, as it always did when his daughter
shocked him.




Chapter XVIII


Jean Briggerland waited until she heard the sound of the departing car
sink to a faint hum, then she went up to her room, opened the bureau and
took out a long and tightly fitting dust-coat that she wore when she was
motoring. She had seen a large bottle of peroxide in Mrs.
Cole-Mortimer's room. It probably contributed to the dazzling glories of
Mrs. Cole-Mortimer's hair, but it was also a powerful germicide. She
soaked a big silk handkerchief in a basin of water, to which she added a
generous quantity of the drug, and squeezing the handkerchief nearly
dry, she knotted it loosely about her neck. A rubber bathing cap she
pulled down over her head, and smiled at her queer reflection in the
glass. Then she found a pair of kid gloves and drew them on.

She turned out the light and went softly down the carpeted stairs. The
servants were at their dinner, and she opened the front door and crossed
the lawn into a belt of trees, beyond which she knew, for she had been
in the house two days, was the gardener's cottage.

A dim light burnt in one of the two rooms and the window was
uncurtained. She saw the bed and its tiny occupant, but nobody else was
in the room. The maid had said that the mother had deserted the little
sufferer, but this was not quite true. The doctor had ordered the mother
into isolation, and had sent a nurse from the infection hospital to take
her place. That lady, at the moment, was waiting at the end of the
avenue for the ambulance to arrive.

Jean opened the door and stepped in, pulling up the saturated
handkerchief until it covered nose and mouth. The place was deserted,
and, without a moment's hesitation, she lifted the child, wrapped a
blanket about it and crossed the lawn again. She went quietly up the
stairs straight to Lydia's room. There was enough light from the
dressing-room to see the bed, and unwrapping the blanket she pulled back
the covers and laid him gently in the bed. The child was unconscious.
The hideous marks of the disease had developed with remarkable rapidity
and he made no sound.

She sat down in a chair, waiting. Her almost inhuman calm was not
ruffled by so much as a second's apprehension. She had provided for
every contingency and was ready with a complete explanation, whatever
happened.

Half an hour passed, and then rising, she wrapped the child in the
blanket and carried him back to the cottage. She heard the purr of the
motor and footsteps as she flitted back through the trees.

First she went to Lydia's room and straightened the bed, spraying the
room with the faint perfume which she found on the dressing table; then
she went back again into the garden, stripped off the dust coat, cap and
handkerchief, rolling them into a bundle, which she thrust through the
bars of an open window which she knew ventilated a cellar. Last of all
she stripped her gloves and sent them after the bundle.

She heard the voices of the nurse and attendant as they carried the
child to the ambulance.

"Poor little kid," she murmured, "I hope he gets better."

And, strangely enough, she meant it.

       *       *       *       *       *

It had been a thrilling evening for Lydia, and she returned to the house
at Cap Martin very tired, but very happy. She was seeing a new world, a
world the like of which had never been revealed to her, and though she
could have slept, and her head did nod in the car, she roused herself to
talk it all over again with the sympathetic Jean.

Mrs. Cole-Mortimer retired early. Mr. Briggerland had gone up to bed the
moment he returned, and Lydia would have been glad to have ended her
conversation; since her head reeled with weariness, but Jean was very
talkative, until----

"My dear, if I don't go to bed I shall sleep on the table," smiled
Lydia, rising and suppressing a yawn.

"I'm so sorry," said the penitent Jean.

She accompanied the girl upstairs, her arm about her waist, and left her
at the door of her dressing-room.

A maid had laid out her night things on a big settee (a little to
Lydia's surprise) and she undressed quickly.

She opened the door of her bedroom, her hand was on a switch, when she
was conscious of a faint and not unpleasant odour. It was a clean,
pungent smell. "Disinfectant," said her brain mechanically. She turned
on the light, wondering where it came from. And then as she crossed the
room she came in sight of her bed and stopped, for it was saturated with
water--water that dropped from the hanging coverlet, and made little
pools on the floor. From the head of the bed to the foot there was not
one dry place. Whosoever had done the work was thorough. Blankets,
sheets, pillows were soddened, and from the soaked mass came a faint
acrid aroma which she recognised, even before she saw on the floor an
empty bottle labelled "Peroxide of Hydrogen."

She could only stand and stare. It was too late to arouse the household,
and she remembered that there was a very comfortable settee in the
dressing-room with a rug and a pillow, and she went back.

A few minutes later she was fast asleep. Not so Miss Briggerland, who
was sitting up in bed, a cigarette between her lips, a heavy volume on
her knees, reading:

"Such malignant cases are almost without exception rapidly fatal,
sometimes so early that no sign of the characteristic symptoms appear at
all," she read and, dropping the book on the floor, extinguished her
cigarette on an alabaster tray, and settled herself to sleep. She was
dozing when she remembered that she had forgotten to say her prayers.

"Oh, damn!" said Jean, getting out reluctantly to kneel on the cold
floor by the side of the bed.




Chapter XIX


Her maid woke Jean Briggerland at eight o'clock the next morning.

"Oh, miss," she said, as she drew up the table for the chocolate, "have
you heard about Mrs. Meredith?"

Jean blinked open her eyes, slipped into her dressing jacket and sat up
with a yawn.

"Have I heard about Mrs. Meredith? Many times," she said.

"But what somebody did last night, miss?"

Jean was wide awake now.

"What has happened to Mrs. Meredith?" she asked.

"Why, miss, somebody played a practical joke on her. Her bed's sopping."

"Sopping?" frowned the girl.

"Yes, miss," the woman nodded. "They must have poured buckets of water
over it, and used up all Mrs. Cole-Mortimer's peroxide, what she uses
for keeping her hands nice."

Jean swung out of her bed and sat looking down at her tiny white feet.

"Where did Mrs. Meredith sleep? Why didn't she wake us up?"

"She slept in the dressing-room, miss. I don't suppose the young lady
liked making a fuss."

"Who did it?"

"I don't know who did it. It's a silly kind of practical joke, and I
know none of the maids would have dared, not the French ones."

Jean put her feet into her slippers, exchanged her jacket for a gown,
and went on a tour of inspection.

Lydia was dressing in her room, and the sound of her fresh, young voice,
as she carolled out of sheer love of life, came to the girl before she
turned into the room.

One glance at the bed was sufficient. It was still wet, and the empty
peroxide bottle told its own story.

Jean glanced at it thoughtfully as she crossed into the dressing-room.

"Whatever happened last night, Lydia?"

Lydia turned at the voice.

"Oh, the bed you mean," she made a little face. "Heaven knows. It
occurred to me this morning that some person, out of mistaken kindness,
had started to disinfect the room--it was only this morning that I
recalled the little boy who was ill--and had overdone it."

"They've certainly overdone it," said Jean grimly. "I wonder what poor
Mrs. Cole-Mortimer will say. You haven't the slightest idea----"

"Not the slightest idea," said Lydia, answering the unspoken question.

"I'll see Mrs. Cole-Mortimer and get her to change your bed--there's
another room you could have," suggested Jean.

She went back to her own apartment, bathed and dressed leisurely.

She found her father in the garden reading the _Nicoise_, under the
shade of a bush, for the sun was not warm, but at that hour, blinding.

"I've changed my plans," she said without preliminary.

He looked up over his glasses.

"I didn't know you had any," he said with heavy humour.

"I intended going back to London and taking you with me," she said
unexpectedly.

"Back to London?" he said incredulously. "I thought you were staying on
for a month."

"I probably shall now," she said, pulling up a basket-chair and sitting
by his side. "Give me a cigarette."

"You're smoking a lot lately," he said as he handed his case to her.

"I know I am."

"Have your nerves gone wrong?"

She looked at him out of the corner of her eye and her lips curled.

"It wouldn't be remarkable if I inherited a little of your yellow
streak," she said coolly, and he growled something under his breath.
"No, my nerves are all right, but a cigarette helps me to think."

"A yellow streak, have I?" Mr. Briggerland was annoyed. "And I've been
out since five o'clock this morning----" he stopped.

"Doing--what?" she asked curiously.

"Never mind," he said with a lofty gesture.

Thus they sat, busy with their own thoughts, for a quarter of an hour.

"Jean."

"Yes," she said without turning her head.

"Don't you think we'd better give this up and get back to London? Lord
Stoker is pretty keen on you."

"I'm not pretty keen on him," she said decidedly. "He has his regimental
pay and £500 a year, two estates, mortgaged, no brains and a title--what
is the use of his title to me? As much use as a coat of paint! Beside
which, I am essentially democratic."

He chuckled, and there was another silence.

"Do you think the lawyer is keen on the girl?"

"Jack Glover?"

Mr. Briggerland nodded.

"I imagine he is," said Jean thoughtfully. "I like Jack--he's clever. He
has all the moral qualities which one admires so much in the abstract. I
could love Jack myself."

"Could he love you?" bantered her father.

"He couldn't," she said shortly. "Jack would be a happy man if he saw
me stand in Jim Meredith's place in the Old Bailey. No, I have no
illusion about Jack's affections."

"He's after Lydia's money I suppose," said Mr. Briggerland, stroking his
bald head.

"Don't be a fool," was the calm reply. "That kind of man doesn't worry
about a girl's money. I wish Lydia was dead," she added without malice.
"It would make things so easy and smooth."

Her father swallowed something.

"You shock me sometimes, Jean," he said, a statement which amused her.

"You're such a half-and-half man," she said with a note of contempt in
her voice. "You were quite willing to benefit by Jim Meredith's death;
you killed him as cold-bloodedly as you killed poor little Bulford, and
yet you must whine and snivel whenever your deeds are put into plain
language. What does it matter if Lydia dies now or in fifty years time?"
she asked. "It would be different if she were immortal. You people
attach so much importance to human life--the ancients, and the Japanese
amongst the modern, are the only people who have the matter in true
perspective. It is no more cruel to kill a human being than it is to cut
the throat of a pig to provide you with bacon. There's hardly a dish at
your table which doesn't represent wilful murder, and yet you never
think of it, but because the man animal can talk and dresses himself or
herself in queer animal and vegetable fabrics, and decorates the body
with bits of metal and pieces of glittering quartz, you give its life a
value which you deny to the cattle within your gates! Killing is a
matter of expediency. Permissible if you call it war, terrible if you
call it murder. To me it is just killing. If you are caught in the act
of killing they kill you, and people say it is right to do so. The
sacredness of human life is a slogan invented by cowards who fear
death--as you do."

"Don't you, Jean?" he asked in a hushed voice.

"I fear life without money," she said quietly. "I fear long days of work
for a callous, leering employer, and strap-hanging in a crowded tube on
my way home to one miserable room and the cold mutton of yesterday. I
fear getting up and making my own bed and washing my own handkerchiefs
and blouses, and renovating last year's hats to make them look like this
year's. I fear a poor husband and a procession of children, and doing
the housework with an incompetent maid, or maybe without any at all.
Those are the things I fear, Mr. Briggerland."

She dusted the ash from her dress and got up.

"I haven't forgotten the life we lived at Ealing," she said
significantly.

She looked across the bay to Monte Carlo glittering in the morning
sunlight, to the green-capped head of Cap-d'Ail, to Beaulieu, a jewel
set in greystone and shook her head.

"'It is written'," she quoted sombrely and left him in the midst of the
question he was asking. She strolled back to the house and joined Lydia
who was looking radiantly beautiful in a new dress of silver grey
charmeuse.




Chapter XX


"Have you solved the mystery of the submerged bed?" smiled Jean.

Lydia laughed.

"I'm not probing too deeply into the matter," she said. "Poor Mrs.
Cole-Mortimer was terribly upset."

"She would be," said Jean. "It was her own eiderdown!"

This was the first hint Lydia had received that the house was rented
furnished.

They drove into Nice that morning, and Lydia, remembering Jack Glover's
remarks, looked closely at the chauffeur, and was startled to see a
resemblance between him and the man who had driven the taxicab on the
night she had been carried off from the theatre. It is true that the
taxi-driver had a moustache and that this man was clean-shaven, and
moreover, had tiny side whiskers, but there was a resemblance.

"Have you had your driver long?" she asked as they were running through
Monte Carlo, along the sea road.

"Mordon? Yes, we have had him six or seven years," said Jean
carelessly. "He drives us when we are on the continent, you know. He
speaks French perfectly and is an excellent driver. Father has tried to
persuade him to come to England, but he hates London--he was telling me
the other day that he hadn't been there for ten years."

That disposed of the resemblance, thought Lydia, and yet--she could
remember his voice, she thought, and when they alighted on the Promenade
des Anglaise she spoke to him. He replied in French, and it is
impossible to detect points of resemblance in a voice that speaks one
language and the same voice when it speaks another.

The promenade was crowded with saunterers. A band was playing by the
jetty and although the wind was colder than it had been at Cap Martin
the sun was warm enough to necessitate the opening of a parasol.

It was a race week, and the two girls lunched at the Negrito. They were
in the midst of their meal when a man came toward them and Lydia
recognised Mr. Marcus Stepney. This dark, suave man was no favourite of
hers, though why she could not have explained. His manners were always
perfect and, towards her, deferential.

As usual, he was dressed with the precision of a fashion-plate. Mr.
Marcus Stepney was a man, a considerable portion of whose time was
taken up every morning by the choice of cravats and socks and shirts.
Though Lydia did not know this, his smartness, plus a certain dexterity
with cards, was his stock in trade. No breath of scandal had touched
him, he moved in a good set and was always at the right place at the
proper season.

When Aix was full he was certain to be found at the Palace, in the
Deauville week you would find him at the Casino punting mildly at the
baccarat table. And after the rooms were closed, and even the Sports
Club at Monte Carlo had shut its doors, there was always a little game
to be had in the hotels and in Marcus Stepney's private sitting-room.

And it cannot be denied that Mr. Stepney was lucky. He won sufficient at
these out-of-hour games to support him nobly through the trials and
vicissitudes which the public tables inflict upon their votaries.

"Going to the races," he said, "how very fortunate! Will you come along
with me? I can give you three good winners."

"I have no money to gamble," said Jean, "I am a poor woman. Lydia, who
is rolling in wealth, can afford to take your tips, Marcus."

Marcus looked at Lydia with a speculative eye.

"If you haven't any money with you, don't worry. I have plenty and you
can pay me afterwards. I could make you a million francs to-day."

"Thank you," said Jean coolly, "but Mrs. Meredith does not bet so
heavily."

Her tone was a clear intimation to the man of wits that he was impinging
upon somebody else's preserves and he grinned amiably.

Nevertheless, it was a profitable afternoon for Lydia. She came back to
Cap Martin twenty thousand francs richer than she had been when she
started off.

"Lydia's had a lot of luck she tells me," said Mr. Briggerland.

"Yes. She won about five hundred pounds," said his daughter. "Marcus was
laying ground bait. She did not know what horses he had backed until
after the race was run, when he invariably appeared with a few _mille_
notes and Lydia's pleasure was pathetic. Of course she didn't win
anything. The twenty thousand francs was a sprat--he's coming to-night
to see how the whales are blowing!"

Mr. Marcus Stepney arrived punctually, and, to Mr. Briggerland's
disgust, was dressed for dinner, a fact which necessitated the older
man's hurried retreat and reappearance in conventional evening wear.

Marcus Stepney's behaviour at dinner was faultless. He devoted himself
in the main to Mrs. Cole-Mortimer and Jean, who apparently never looked
at him and yet observed his every movement, knew that he was merely
waiting his opportunity.

It came when the dinner was over and the party adjourned to the big
stoep facing the sea. The night was chilly and Mr. Stepney found wraps
and furs for the ladies, and so manoeuvred the arrangement of the chairs
that Lydia and he were detached from the remainder of the party, not by
any great distance, but sufficient, as the experienced Marcus knew, to
remove a murmured conversation from the sharpest eavesdropper.

Jean, who was carrying on a three-cornered conversation with her father
and Mrs. Cole-Mortimer, did not stir, until she saw, by the light of a
shaded lamp in the roof, the dark head of Mr. Marcus Stepney droop more
confidently towards his companion. Then she rose and strolled across.

Marcus did not curse her because he did not express his inmost thoughts
aloud.

He gave her his chair and pulled another forward.

"Does Miss Briggerland know?" asked Lydia.

"No," said Mr. Stepney pleasantly.

"May I tell her?"

"Of course."

"Mr. Stepney has been telling me about a wonderful racing coup to be
made to-morrow. Isn't it rather thrilling, Jean? He says it will be
quite possible for me to make five million francs without any risk at
all."

"Except the risk of a million, I suppose," smiled Jean. "Well, are you
going to do it?" Lydia shook her head.

"I haven't a million francs in France, for one thing," she said, "and I
wouldn't risk it if I had."

And Jean smiled again at the discomfiture which Mr. Marcus Stepney
strove manfully to hide.

Later she took his arm and led him into the garden.

"Marcus," she said when they were out of range of the house, "I think
you are several kinds of a fool."

"Why?" asked the other, who was not in the best humour.

"It was so crude," she said scornfully, "so cheap and
confidence-trickish. A miserable million francs--twenty thousand pounds.
Apart from the fact that your name would be mud in London if it were
known that you had robbed a girl----"

"There's no question of robbery," he said hotly, "I tell you Valdau is a
certainty for the Prix."

"It would not be a certainty if her money were on," said Jean dryly. "It
would finish an artistic second and you would be full of apologies, and
poor Lydia would be a million francs to the bad. No, Marcus, that is
cheap."

"I'm nearly broke," he said shortly.

He made no disguise of his profession, nor of his nefarious plan.

Between the two there was a queer kind of camaraderie. Though he may not
have been privy to the more tremendous of her crimes, yet he seemed to
accept her as one of those who lived on the frontiers of illegality.

"I was thinking about you, as you sat there telling her the story," said
Jean thoughtfully. "Marcus, why don't you marry her?"

He stopped in his stride and looked down at the girl.

"Marry her, Jean; are you mad? She wouldn't marry me."

"Why not?" she asked. "Of course she'd marry you, you silly fool, if you
went the right way about it."

He was silent.

"She is worth six hundred thousand pounds, and I happen to know that she
has nearly two hundred thousand pounds in cash on deposit at the bank,"
said Jean.

"Why do you want me to marry her?" he asked significantly. "Is there a
rake-off for you?"

"A big rake-off," she said. "The two hundred thousand on deposit should
be easily get-at-able, Marcus, and she'd even give you more----"

"Why?" he asked.

"To agree to a separation," she said coolly. "I know you. No woman could
live very long with you and preserve her reason."

He chuckled.

"And I'm to hand it all over to you?"

"Oh no," she corrected. "I'm not greedy. It is my experience that the
greedy people get into bad trouble. The man or woman who 'wants it all'
usually gets the dressing-case the 'all' was kept in. No, I'd like to
take a half."

He sat down on a garden seat and she followed his example.

"What is there to be?" he asked. "An agreement between you and me?
Something signed and sealed and delivered, eh?"

Her sad eyes caught his and held them.

"I trust you, Marcus," she said softly. "If I help you in this--and I
will if you will do all that I tell you to do--I will trust you to give
me my share."

Mr. Marcus Stepney fingered his collar a little importantly.

"I've never let a pal down in my life," he said with a cough. "I'm as
straight as they make 'em, to people who play the game with me."

"And you are wise, so far as I am concerned," said the gentle Jean. "For
if you double-crossed me, I should hand the police the name and address
of your other wife who is still living."

His jaw dropped.

"Wha--what?" he stammered.

"Let us join the ladies," mocked Jean, as she rose and put her arm in
his.

It pleased her immensely to feel this big man trembling.




Chapter XXI


It seemed to Lydia that she had been abroad for years, though in reality
she had been three days in Cap Martin, when Mr. Marcus Stepney became a
regular caller.

Even the most objectionable people improve on acquaintance, and give the
lie to first impressions.

Mr. Stepney never bored her. He had an inexhaustible store of anecdotes
and reminiscences, none of which was in the slightest degree offensive.
He was something of a sportsman, too, and he called by arrangement the
next morning, after his introduction to the Cap Martin household, and
conducting her to a sheltered cove, containing two bathing huts, he
introduced her to the exhilarating Mediterranean.

Sea bathing is not permitted in Monte Carlo until May, and the water was
much colder than Lydia had expected. They swam out to a floating
platform when Mr. Briggerland and Jean put in an appearance. Jean had
come straight from the house in her bathing-gown, over which she wore a
light wrap. Lydia watched her with amazement, for the girl was an
expert swimmer. She could dive from almost any height and could remain
under water an alarming time.

"I never thought you had so much energy and strength in your little
body," said Lydia, as Jean, with a shriek of enjoyment, drew herself on
the raft and wiped the water from her eyes.

"There's a man up there looking at us through glasses," said Briggerland
suddenly. "I saw the flash of the sun on them."

He pointed to the rising ground beyond the seashore, but they could see
nothing.

Presently there was a glitter of light amongst the green, and Lydia
pointed.

"I thought that sort of thing was never done except in comic
newspapers," she said, but Jean did not smile. Her eyes were focused on
the point where the unseen observer lay or sat, and she shaded her eyes.

"Some visitor from Monte Carlo, I expect. People at Cap Martin are much
too respectable to do anything so vulgar."

Mr. Briggerland, at a glance from his daughter, slipped into the water,
and with strong heavy strokes, made his way to the shore.

"Father is going to investigate," said Jean, "and the water really is
the warmest place," and with that she fell sideways into the blue sea
like a seal, dived down into its depths, and presently Lydia saw her
walking along the white floor of the ocean, her little hands keeping up
an almost imperceptible motion. Presently she shot up again, shook her
head and looked round, only to dive again.

In the meantime, though Lydia, who was fascinated by the manoeuvre of
the girl, did not notice the fact, Mr. Briggerland had reached the
shore, pulled on a pair of rubber shoes, and with his mackintosh
buttoned over his bathing dress, had begun to climb through the
underbrush towards the spot where the glasses had glistened. When Lydia
looked up he had disappeared.

"Where is your father?" she asked the girl.

"He went into the bushes." Mr. Stepney volunteered the information. "I
suppose he's looking for the Paul Pry."

Mr. Stepney had been unusually glum and silent, for he was piqued by the
tactless appearance of the Briggerlands.

"Come into the water, Marcus," said Jean peremptorily, as she put her
foot against the edge of the raft, and pushed herself backward, "I want
to see Mrs. Meredith dive."

"Me?" said Lydia in surprise. "Good heavens, no! After watching you I
don't intend making an exhibition of myself."

"I want to show you the proper way to dive," said Jean. "Stand up on the
edge of the raft."

Lydia obeyed.

"Straight up," said Jean. "Now put both your arms out wide. Now----"

There was a sharp crack from the shore; something whistled past Lydia's
head, struck an upright post, splintering the edge, and with a whine
went ricochetting into the sea.

Lydia's face went white.

"What--what was that?" she gasped. She had hardly spoken before there
was another shot. This time the bullet must have gone very high, and
immediately afterwards came a yell of pain from the shore.

Jean did not wait. She struck out for the beach, swimming furiously. It
was not the shot, but the cry which had alarmed her, and without waiting
to put on coat or sandals, she ran up the little road where her father
had gone, following the path through the undergrowth. Presently she came
to a grassy plot, in the centre of which two tall pines grew side by
side, and lying against one of the trees was the huddled figure of
Briggerland. She turned him over. He was breathing heavily and was
unconscious. An ugly wound gaped at the back of his head, and his
mackintosh and bathing dress were smothered with blood.

She looked round quickly for his assailant, but there was nobody in
sight, and nothing to indicate the presence of a third person but two
shining brass cartridges which lay on the grass.




Chapter XXII


Lydia Meredith only remembered swooning twice in her life, and both
these occasions had happened within a few weeks.

She never felt quite so unprepared to carry on as she did when, with an
effort she threw herself into the water at Marcus Stepney's side and
swam slowly toward the shore.

She dare not let her mind dwell upon the narrowness of her escape.
Whoever had fired that shot had done so deliberately, and with the
intention of killing her. She had felt the wind of the bullet in her
face.

"What do you suppose it was?" asked Marcus Stepney as he assisted her up
the beach. "Do you think it was soldiers practising?"

She shook her head.

"Oh," said Mr. Stepney thoughtfully, and then: "If you don't mind, I'll
run up and see what has happened."

He wrapped himself in the dressing gown he had brought with him, and
followed Jean's trail, coming up with her as Mr. Briggerland opened his
eyes and stared round.

"Help me to hold him, Marcus," said Jean.

"Wait a moment," said Mr. Stepney, feeling in his pocket and producing a
silk handkerchief, "bandage him with that."

She shook her head.

"He's lost all the blood he's going to lose," she said quietly, "and I
don't think there's a fracture. I felt the skull very carefully with my
finger."

Mr. Stepney shivered.

"Hullo," said Briggerland drowsily, "Gee, he gave me a whack!"

"Who did it?" asked the girl.

Mr. Briggerland shook his head and winced with the pain of it.

"I don't know," he moaned. "Help me up. Stepney."

With the man's assistance he rose unsteadily to his feet.

"What happened?" asked Stepney.

"Don't ask him any questions now," said the girl sharply. "Help him back
to the house."

A doctor was summoned and stitched the wound. He gave an encouraging
report, and was not too inquisitive as to how the injury had occurred.
Foreign visitors get extraordinary things in the regions of Monte Carlo,
and medical men lose nothing by their discretion.

It was not until that afternoon, propped up with pillows in a chair,
the centre of a sympathetic audience, that Mr. Briggerland told his
story.

"I had a feeling that something was wrong," he said, "and I went up to
investigate. I heard a shot fired, almost within a few yards of me, and
dashing through the bushes, I saw the fellow taking aim for the second
time, and seized him. You remember the second shot went high."

"What sort of a man was he?" asked Stepney.

"He was an Italian, I should think," answered Mr. Briggerland. "At any
rate, he caught me an awful whack with the back of his rifle, and I knew
no more until Jean found me."

"Do you think he was firing at me?" asked Lydia in horror.

"I am certain of it," said Briggerland. "I realised it the moment I saw
the fellow."

"How am I to thank you?" said the girl impulsively. "Really, it was
wonderful of you to tackle an armed man with your bare hands."

Mr. Briggerland closed his eyes and sighed.

"It was nothing," he said modestly.

Before dinner he and his daughter were left alone for the first time
since the accident.

"What happened?" she asked.

"It was going to be a little surprise for you," he said. "A little
scheme of my own, my dear; you're always calling me a funk, and I
wanted to prove----"

"What happened?" she asked tersely.

"Well, I went out yesterday morning and fixed it all. I bought the
rifle, an old English rifle, at Amiens from a peasant. I thought it
might come in handy, especially as the man threw in a packet of
ammunition. Yesterday morning, lying awake before daybreak, I thought it
out. I went up to the hill--the land belongs to an empty house, by the
way--and I located the spot, put the rifle where I could find it easily,
and fixed a pair of glass goggles on to one of the bushes, where the sun
would catch it. The whole scheme was not without its merit as a piece of
strategy, my dear," he said complacently.

"And then----?" she said.

"I thought we'd go bathing yesterday, but we didn't, but to-day--it was
a long time before anybody spotted the glasses, but once I had the
excuse for going ashore and investigating, the rest was easy."

She nodded.

"So that was why you asked me to keep her on the raft, and make her
stand up?"

He nodded.

"Well----?" she demanded.

"I went up to the spot, got the rifle and took aim. I've always been a
pretty good shot----"

"You didn't advertise it to-day," she said sardonically. "Then I suppose
somebody hit you on the head?"

He nodded and made a grimace, but any movement of his injured cranium
was excessively painful.

"Who was it?" she asked.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Don't ask fool questions," he said petulantly. "I know nothing. I
didn't even feel the blow. I just remember taking aim, and then
everything went dark."

"And how would you have explained it all, supposing you had succeeded?"

"That was easy," he said. "I should have said that I went in search of
the man we had seen, I heard a shot and rushed forward and found nothing
but the rifle."

She was silent, pinching her lips absently.

"And you took the risk of some peasant or visitor seeing you--took the
risk of bringing the police to the spot and turning what might have
easily been a case of accidental death into an obvious case of wilful
murder. I think you called yourself a strategist," she asked politely.

"I did my best," he growled.

"Well, don't do it again, father," she said. "Your foolhardiness appals
me, and heaven knows, I never expected that I should be in a position to
call you foolhardy."

And with this she left him to bask in the hero-worship which the
approaching Mrs. Cole-Mortimer would lavish upon him.

The "accident" kept them at home that night, and Lydia was not sorry. A
settee is not a very comfortable sleeping place, and she was ready for a
real bed that night. Mr. Stepney found her yawning surreptitiously, and
went home early in disgust.

The night was warmer than the morning had been. The _Föhn_ wind was
blowing and she found her room with its radiator a little oppressive.
She opened the long French windows, and stepped out on to the balcony.
The last quarter of the moon was high in the sky, and though the light
was faint, it gave shadows to trees and an eerie illumination to the
lawn.

She leant her arms on the rail and looked across the sea to the lights
of Monte Carlo glistening in the purple night. Her eyes wandered idly to
the grounds and she started. She could have sworn she had seen a figure
moving in the shadow of the tree, nor was she mistaken.

Presently it left the tree belt, and stepped cautiously across the lawn,
halting now and again to look around. She thought at first that it was
Marcus Stepney who had returned, but something about the walk of the man
seemed familiar. Presently he stopped directly under the balcony and
looked up and she uttered an exclamation, as the faint light revealed
the iron-grey hair and the grisly eyebrows of the intruder.

"All right, miss," he said in a hoarse whisper, "it's only old Jaggs."

"What are you doing?" she answered in the same tone.

"Just lookin' round," he said, "just lookin' round," and limped again
into the darkness.




Chapter XXIII


So old Jaggs was in Monte Carlo! Whatever was he doing, and how was he
getting on with these people who spoke nothing but French, she wondered!
She had something to think about before she went to sleep.

She opened her eyes singularly awake as the dawn was coming up over the
grey sea. She looked at her watch; it was a quarter to six. Why she had
wakened so thoroughly she could not tell, but remembered with a little
shiver another occasion she had wakened, this time before the dawn, to
face death in a most terrifying shape.

She got up out of bed, put on a heavy coat and opened the wire doors
that led to the balcony. The morning was colder than she imagined, and
she was glad to retreat to the neighbourhood of the warm radiator.

The fresh clean hours of the dawn, when the mind is clear, and there is
neither sound nor movement to distract the thoughts, are favourable to
sane thinking.

Lydia reviewed the past few weeks in her life, and realised, for the
first time, the miracle which had happened. It was like a legend of
old--the slave had been lifted from the king's anteroom--the struggling
artist was now a rich woman. She twiddled the gold ring on her hand
absent-mindedly--and she was married ... and a widow! She had an
uncomfortable feeling that, in spite of her riches, she had not yet
found her niche. She was an odd quantity, as yet. The Cole-Mortimers and
the Briggerlands did not belong to her ideal world, and she could find
no place where she fitted.

She tried, in this state of mind so favourable to the consideration of
such a problem, to analyse Jack Glover's antagonism toward Jean
Briggerland and her father.

It seemed unnatural that a healthy young man should maintain so bitter a
feud with a girl whose beauty was almost of a transcendant quality and
all because she had rejected him.

Jack Glover was a public school boy, a man with a keen sense of honour.
She could not imagine him being guilty of a mean action. And such men
did not pursue vendettas without good reason. If they were rejected by a
woman, they accepted their _congé_ with a good grace, and it was almost
unthinkable that Jack should have no other reason for his hatred. Yet
she could not bring herself even to consider the possibility that the
reason was the one he had advanced. She came again to the dead end of
conjecture. She could believe in Jack's judgment up to a point--beyond
that she could not go.

She had her bath, dressed, and was in the garden when the eastern
horizon was golden with the light of the rising sun. Nobody was about,
the most energetic of the servants had not yet risen, and she strolled
through the avenue to the main road. As she stood there looking up and
down a man came out from the trees that fringed the road and began
walking rapidly in the direction of Monte Carlo.

"Mr. Jaggs!" she called.

He took no notice, but seemed to increase his limping pace, and after a
moment's hesitation, she went flying down the road after him. He turned
at the sound of her footsteps and in his furtive way drew into the
shadow of a bush. He looked more than usually grimy; on his hands were
an odd pair of gloves and a soft slouch hat that had seen better days,
covered his head.

"Good-morning, miss," he wheezed.

"Why were you running away, Mr. Jaggs?" she asked, a little out of
breath.

"Not runnin' away, miss," he said, glancing at her sharply from under
his heavy white eyebrows. "Just havin' a look round!"

"Do you spend all your nights looking round?" she smiled at him.

"Yes, miss."

At that moment a cyclist gendarme came into view. He slowed down as he
approached the two and dismounted.

"Good morning, madame," he said politely, and then looking at the man,
"is this man in your employ? I have seen him coming out of your house
every morning?"

"Oh, yes," said Lydia hastily, "he's my----"

She was at a loss to describe him, but old Jaggs saved her the trouble.

"I'm madame's courier," he said, and to Lydia's amazement he spoke in
perfect French, "I am also the watchman of the house."

"Yes, yes," said Lydia, after she had recovered from her surprise.
"M'sieur is the watchman, also."

"_Bien_, madame," said the gendarme. "Forgive my asking, but we have so
many strangers here."

They watched the gendarme out of sight. Then old Jaggs chuckled.

"Pretty good French, miss, wasn't it?" he said, and without another
word, turned and limped in the trail of the police.

She looked after him in bewilderment. So he spent every night in the
grounds, or somewhere about the house? The knowledge gave her a queer
sense of comfort and safety.

When she went back to the villa she found the servants were up. Jean did
not put in an appearance until breakfast, and Lydia had an opportunity
of talking to the French housekeeper whom Mrs. Cole-Mortimer had engaged
when she took the villa. From her she learnt a bit of news, which she
passed on to Jean almost as soon as she put in an appearance.

"The gardener's little boy is going to get well, Jean."

Jean nodded.

"I know," she said. "I telephoned to the hospital yesterday."

It was so unlike her conception of the girl, that Lydia stared.

"The mother is in isolation," Lydia went on, "and Madame Souviet says
that the poor woman has no money and no friends. I thought of going down
to the hospital to-day to see if I could do anything for her."

"You'd better not, my dear," warned Mrs. Cole-Mortimer nervously. "Let
us be thankful we've got the little brat out of the neighbourhood
without our catching the disease. One doesn't want to seek trouble. Keep
away from the hospital."

"Rubbish!" said Jean briskly. "If Lydia wants to go, there is no reason
why she shouldn't. The isolation people are never allowed to come into
contact with visitors, so there is really no danger."

"I agree with Mrs. Cole-Mortimer," grumbled Briggerland. "It is very
foolish to ask for trouble. You take my advice, my dear, and keep
away."

"I had a talk with a gendarme this morning," said Lydia to change the
subject. "When he stopped and got off his bicycle I thought he was going
to speak about the shooting. I suppose it was reported to the police?"

"Er--yes," said Mr. Briggerland, not looking up from his plate, "of
course. Have you been into Monte Carlo?"

Lydia shook her head.

"No, I couldn't sleep, and I was taking a walk along the road when he
passed." She said nothing about Mr. Jaggs. "The police at Monaco are
very sociable."

Mr. Briggerland sniffed.

"Very," he said.

"Have they any theories?" she asked. In her innocence she was persisting
in a subject which was wholly distasteful to Mr. Briggerland. "About the
shooting I mean?"

"Yes, they have theories, but my dear, I should advise you not to
discuss the matter with the police. The fact is," invented Mr.
Briggerland, "I told them that you were unaware of the fact that you had
been shot at, and if you discussed it with the police, you would make me
look rather foolish."

When Lydia and Mrs. Cole-Mortimer had gone, Jean seized an opportunity
which the absence of the maid offered.

"I hope you are beginning to see how perfectly insane your scheme was,"
she said. "You have to support your act with a whole series of bungling
lies. Possibly Marcus, like a fool, has mentioned it in Monte Carlo, and
we shall have the detectives out here asking why you have not reported
the matter."

"If I were as clever as you----" he growled.

"You're not," said Jean, rolling her serviette. "You're the most
un-clever man I know."




Chapter XXIV


Lydia went up to her bedroom to put away her clothes and found the maid
making the bed.

"Oh, madame," said the girl, "I forgot to speak to you about a matter--I
hope madame will not be angry."

"I'm hardly likely to be angry on a morning like this," said Lydia.

"It is because of this matter," said the girl. She groped in her pocket
and brought out a small shining object, and Lydia took it from her hand.

"This matter" was a tiny silver cross, so small that a five-franc piece
would have covered it easily. It was brightly polished and apparently
had seen service.

"When we took your bed, after the atrocious and mysterious happening,"
said the maid rapidly, "this was found in the sheets. It was not thought
that it could possibly be madame's, because it was so poor, until this
morning when it was suggested that it might be a souvenir that madame
values."

"You found it in the sheets?" asked Lydia in surprise.

"Yes, madame."

"It doesn't belong to me," said Lydia. "Perhaps it belongs to Madame
Cole-Mortimer. I will show it to her."

Mrs. Cole-Mortimer was a devout Catholic and it might easily be some
cherished keep-sake of hers.

The girl carried the cross to the window; an "X" had been scrawled by
some sharp-pointed instrument at the junction of the bars. There was no
other mark to identify the trinket.

She put the cross in her bag, and when she saw Mrs. Cole-Mortimer again
she forgot to ask her about it.

The car drove her into Nice alone. Jean did not feel inclined to make
the journey and Lydia rather enjoyed the solitude.

The isolation hospital was at the top of the hill and she found some
difficulty in obtaining admission at this hour. The arrival of the chief
medical officer, however, saved her from making the journey in vain. The
report he gave about the child was very satisfactory; the mother was in
the isolation ward.

"Can she be seen?"

"Yes, madame," said the urbane Frenchman in charge. "You understand, you
will not be able to get near her? It will be rather like interviewing a
prisoner, for she will be behind one set of bars and you behind
another."

Lydia was taken to a room which was, she imagined, very much like a room
in which prisoners interviewed their distressed relations. There were
not exactly bars, but two large mesh nets of steel separated the visitor
from the patient under observation. After a time a nun brought in the
gardener's wife, a tall, gaunt woman, who was a native of Marseilles,
and spoke the confusing patois of that city with great rapidity. It was
some time before Lydia could accustom her ear to the queer dialect.

Her boy was getting well, she said, but she herself was in terrible
trouble. She had no money for the extra food she required. Her husband
who was away in Paris when the child had been taken, had not troubled to
write to her. It was terrible being in a place amongst other fever
cases, and she was certain that her days were numbered....

Lydia pushed a five-hundred franc note through the grating to the nun,
to settle her material needs.

"And, oh, madame," wailed the gardener's wife, "my poor little boy has
lost the gift of the Reverend Mother of San Surplice! His own cross
which has been blessed by his holiness the Pope! It is because I left
his cross in his little shirt that he is getting better, but now it is
lost and I am sure these thieving doctors have taken it."

"A cross?" said Lydia. "What sort of a cross?"

"It was a silver cross, madame; the value in money was nothing--it was
priceless. Little Xavier----"

"Xavier?" repeated Lydia, remembering the "X" on the trinket that had
been found in her bed. "Wait a moment, madame." She opened her bag and
took out the tiny silver symbol, and at the sight of it the woman burst
into a volley of joyful thanks.

"It is the same, the same, madame! It has a small 'X' which the Reverend
Mother scratched with her own blessed scissors!"

Lydia pushed the cross through the net and the nun handed it to the
woman.

"It is the same, it is the same!" she cried. "Oh, thank you, madame! Now
my heart is glad...."

Lydia came out of the hospital and walked through the gardens by the
doctor's side. But she was not listening to what he was saying--her mind
was fully occupied with the mystery of the silver cross.

It was little Xavier's ... it had been tucked inside his bed when he
lay, as his mother thought, dying ... and it had been found in her bed!
Then little Xavier had been in her bed! Her foot was on the step of the
car when it came to her--the meaning of that drenched couch and the
empty bottle of peroxide. Xavier had been put there, and somebody who
knew that the bed was infected had so soaked it with water that she
could not sleep in it. But who? Old Jaggs!

She got into the car slowly, and went back to Cap Martin along the
Grande Corniche.

Who had put the child there? He could not have walked from the cottage;
that was impossible.

She was half-way home when she noticed a parcel lying on the floor of
the car, and she let down the front window and spoke to the chauffeur.
It was not Mordon, but a man whom she had hired with the car.

"It came from the hospital, madame," he said. "The porter asked me if I
came from Villa Casa. It was something sent to the hospital to be
disinfected. There was a charge of seven francs for the service, madame,
and this I paid."

She nodded.

She picked up the parcel--it was addressed to "Mademoiselle Jean
Briggerland" and bore the label of the hospital.

Lydia sat back in the car with her eyes closed, tired of turning over
this problem, yet determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Jean was out when she got back and she carried the parcel to her own
room. She was trying to keep out of her mind the very possibility that
such a hideous crime could have been conceived as that which all the
evidence indicated had been attempted. Very resolutely she refused to
believe that such a thing could have happened. There must be some
explanation for the presence of the cross in her bed. Possibly it had
been found after the wet sheets had been taken to the servants' part of
the house.

She rang the bell, and the maid who had given her the trinket came.

"Tell me," said Lydia, "where was this cross found?"

"In your bed, mademoiselle."

"But where? Was it before the clothing was removed from this room or
after?"

"It was before, madame," said the maid. "When the sheets were turned
back we found it lying exactly in the middle of the bed."

Lydia's heart sank.

"Thank you, that will do," she said. "I have found the owner of the
cross and have restored it."

Should she tell Jean? Her first impulse was to take the girl into her
confidence, and reveal the state of her mind. Her second thought was to
seek out old Jaggs, but where could he be found? He evidently lived
somewhere in Monte Carlo, but his name was hardly likely to be in the
visitors' list. She was still undecided when Marcus Stepney called to
take her to lunch at the Café de Paris.

The whole thing was so amazingly improbable. It belonged to a world of
unreality, but then, she told herself, she also was living in an unreal
world, and had been so for weeks.




Chapter XXV


Mr. Stepney had become more bearable. A week ago she would have shrunk
from taking luncheon with him, but now such a prospect had no terrors.
His views of things and people were more generous than she had expected.
She had anticipated his attitude would be a little cynical, but to her
surprise he oozed loving-kindness. Had she known Mr. Marcus Stepney as
well as Jean knew him, she would have realised that he adapted his
mental attitude to his audience. He was a man whose stock-in-trade was a
knowledge of human nature, and the ability to please. He would no more
have attempted to shock or frighten her, than a first-class salesman
would shock or annoy a possible customer.

He had goods to sell, and it was his business to see that they satisfied
the buyer. In this case the goods were represented by sixty-nine inches
of good-looking, well-dressed man, and it was rather important that he
should present the best face of the article to the purchaser. It was
almost as important that the sale should be a quick one. Mr. Stepney
lived from week to week. What might happen next year seldom interested
him, therefore his courting must be rapid.

He told the story of his life at lunch, a story liable to move a
tender-hearted woman to at least a sympathetic interest. The story of
his life varied also with the audience. In this case, it was designed
for one whom he knew had had a hard struggle, whose father had been
heavily in debt, and who had tasted some of the bitterness of defeat.
Jean had given him a very precise story of the girl's career, and Mr.
Marcus Stepney adapted it for his own purpose.

"Why, your life has almost run parallel with mine," said Lydia.

"I hope it may continue," said Mr. Stepney not without a touch of
sadness in his voice. "I am a very lonely man--I have no friends except
the acquaintances one can pick up at night clubs, and the places where
the smart people go in the season, and there is an artificiality about
society friends which rather depresses me."

"I feel that, too," said the sympathetic Lydia.

"If I could only settle down!" he said, shaking his head. "A little
house in the country, a few horses, a few cows, a woman who understood
me...."

A false move this.

"And a few pet chickens to follow you about?" she laughed. "No, it
doesn't sound quite like you, Mr. Stepney."

He lowered his eyes.

"I am sorry you think that," he said. "All the world thinks that I'm a
gadabout, an idler, with no interest in existence, except the pleasure I
can extract."

"And a jolly good existence, too," said Lydia briskly. She had detected
a note of sentiment creeping into the conversation, and had slain it
with the most effective weapon in woman's armoury.

"And now tell me all about the great Moorish Pretender who is staying at
your hotel--I caught a glimpse of him on the promenade--and there was a
lot about him in the paper."

Mr. Stepney sighed and related all that he knew of the redoubtable Muley
Hafiz on the way to the rooms. Muley Hafiz was being lionised in France
just then, to the annoyance of the Spanish authorities, who had put a
price on his head.

Lydia showed much more interest in the Moorish Pretender than she did in
the pretender who walked by her side.

He was not in the best of tempers when he brought her back to the Villa
Casa, and Jean, who entertained him whilst Lydia was changing, saw that
his first advances had not met with a very encouraging result.

"There will be no wedding bells, Jean," he said.

"You take a rebuff very easily," said the girl, but he shook his head.

"My dear Jean, I know women as well as I know the back of my hand, and I
tell you that there's nothing doing with this girl. I'm not a fool."

She looked at him earnestly.

"No, you're not a fool," she said at last. "You're hardly likely to make
a mistake about that sort of thing. I'm afraid you'll have to do
something more romantic."

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"You'll have to run away with her; and like the knights of old carry off
the lady of your choice."

"The knights of old didn't have to go before a judge and jury and serve
seven years at Dartmoor for their sins," he said unpleasantly.

She was sitting on a low chair overlooking the sea, whittling a twig
with a silver-handled knife she had taken from her bag--a favourite
occupation of hers in moments of cogitation.

"All the ladies of old didn't go to the police," she said. "Some of them
were quite happy with their powerful lords, especially delicate-minded
ladies who shrank from advertising their misfortune to the readers of
the Sunday press. I think most women like to be wooed in the cave-man
fashion, Marcus."

"Is that the kind of treatment you'd like, Jean?"

There was a new note in his voice. Had she looked at him she would have
seen a strange light in his eyes.

"I'm merely advancing a theory," she said, "a theory which has been
supported throughout the ages."

"I'd let her go and her money, too," he said. He was speaking quickly,
almost incoherently. "There's only one woman in the world for me, Jean,
and I've told you that before. I'd give my life and soul for her."

He bent over, and caught her arm in his big hand.

"You believe in the cave-man method, do you?" he breathed. "It is the
kind of treatment you'd like, eh, Jean?"

She did not attempt to release her arm.

"Keep your hand to yourself, Marcus, please," she said quietly.

"You'd like it, wouldn't you, Jean? My God, I'd sacrifice my soul for
you, you little devil!"

"Be sensible," she said. It was not her words or her firm tone that made
him draw back. Twice and deliberately she drew the edge of her little
knife across the back of his hand, and he leapt away with a howl of
pain.

"You--you beast," he stammered, and she looked at him with her sly
smile.

"There must have been cave women, too, Marcus," she said coolly, as she
rose. "They had their methods--give me your handkerchief, I want to
wipe this knife."

His face was grey now. He was looking at her like a man bereft of his
senses.

He did not move when she took his handkerchief from his pocket, wiped
the knife, closed and slipped it into her bag, before she replaced the
handkerchief tidily. And all the time he stood there with his hand
streaming with blood, incapable of movement. It was not until she had
disappeared round the corner of the house that he pulled out the
handkerchief and wrapped it about his hand.

"A devil," he whimpered, almost in tears, "a devil!"




Chapter XXVI


Jean Briggerland discovered a new arrival on her return to the house.

Jack Glover had come unexpectedly from London, so Lydia told her, and
Jack himself met her with extraordinary geniality.

"You lucky people to be in this paradise!" he said. "It is raining like
the dickens in London, and miserable beyond description. And you're
looking brown and beautiful, Miss Briggerland."

"The spirit of the warm south has got into your blood, Mr. Glover," she
said sarcastically. "A course at the Riviera would make you almost
human."

"And what would make you human?" asked Jack blandly.

"I hope you people aren't going to quarrel as soon as you meet," said
Lydia.

Jean was struck by the change in the girl. There was a colour in her
cheeks, and a new and a more joyous note in her voice, which was
unmistakable to so keen a student as Jean Briggerland.

"I never quarrel with Jack," she said. She assumed a proprietorial air
toward Jack Glover, which unaccountably annoyed Lydia. "He invents the
quarrels and carries them out himself. How long are you staying?"

"Two days," said Jack, "then I'm due back in town."

"Have you brought your Mr. Jaggs with you?" asked Jean innocently.

"Isn't he here?" asked Jack in surprise. "I sent him along a week ago."

"Here?" repeated Jean slowly. "Oh, he's here, is he? Of course." She
nodded. Certain things were clear to her now; the unknown drencher of
beds, the stranger who had appeared from nowhere and had left her father
senseless, were no longer mysteries.

"Oh, Jean," it was Lydia who spoke. "I'm awfully remiss, I didn't give
you the parcel I brought back from the hospital."

"From the hospital?" said Jean. "What parcel was that?"

"Something you had sent to be sterilized. I'll get it."

She came back in a minute or two with the parcel which she had found in
the car.

"Oh yes," said Jean carelessly, "I remember. It is a rug that I lent to
the gardener's wife when her little boy was taken ill."

She handed the packet to the maid.

"Take it to my room," she said.

She waited just long enough to find an excuse for leaving the party,
and went upstairs. The parcel was on her bed. She tore off the
wrapping--inside, starched white and clean, was the dust coat she had
worn the night she had carried Xavier from the cottage to Lydia's bed.
The rubber cap was there, discoloured from the effects of the
disinfectant, and the gloves and the silk handkerchief, neatly washed
and pressed. She looked at them thoughtfully.

She put the articles away in a drawer, went down the servants' stairs
and through a heavy open door into the cellar. Light was admitted by two
barred windows, through one of which she had thrust her bundle that
night, and she could see every corner of the cellar, which was empty--as
she had expected. The clothing she had thrown down had been gathered by
some mysterious agent, who had forwarded it to the hospital in her name.

She came slowly up the stairs, fastened the open door behind her, and
walked out into the garden to think.

"Jaggs!" she said aloud, and her voice was as soft as silk. "I think,
Mr. Jaggs, you ought to be in heaven."




Chapter XXVII


"Who were the haughty individuals interviewing Jean in the saloon?"
asked Jack Glover, as Lydia's car panted and groaned on the stiff ascent
to La Turbie.

Lydia was concerned, and he had already noted her seriousness.

"Poor Jean is rather worried," she said. "It appears that she had a love
affair with a man three or four years ago, and recently he has been
bombarding her with threatening letters."

"Poor soul," said Jack dryly, "but I should imagine she could have dealt
with that matter without calling in the police. I suppose they were
detectives. Has she had a letter recently?"

"She had one this morning--posted in Monte Carlo last night."

"By the way, Jean went into Monte Carlo last night, didn't she?" asked
Jack.

She looked at him reproachfully.

"We all went into Monte Carlo," she said severely. "Now, please don't be
horrid, Mr. Glover, you aren't suggesting that Jean wrote this awful
letter to herself, are you?"

"Was it an awful letter?" asked Jack.

"A terrible letter, threatening to kill her. Do you know that Mr.
Briggerland thinks that the person who nearly killed me was really
shooting at Jean."

"You don't say," said Jack politely. "I haven't heard about people
shooting at you--but it sounds rather alarming."

She told him the story, and he offered no comment.

"Go on with your thrilling story of Jean's mortal enemy. Who is he?"

"She doesn't know his name," said Lydia. "She met him in Egypt--an
elderly man who positively dogged her footsteps wherever she went, and
made himself a nuisance."

"Doesn't know his name, eh?" said Jack with a sniff. "Well, that's
convenient."

"I think you're almost spiteful," said Lydia hotly. "Poor girl, she was
so distressed this morning; I have never seen her so upset."

"And are the police going to keep guard and follow her wherever she
goes? And is that impossible person, Mr. Marcus Stepney, also in the
vendetta? I saw him wandering about this morning like a wounded hero,
with his arm in a sling."

"He hurt his hand gathering wild flowers for me on the--"

But Jack's outburst of laughter checked her, and she glared at him.

"I think you're boorish," she snapped angrily. "I'm sorry I came out
with you."

"And I'm sorry I've been such a fool," apologised the penitent Jack,
"but the vision of the immaculate Mr. Stepney gathering wild flowers in
a top hat and a morning suit certainly did appeal to me as being
comical!"

"He doesn't wear a top hat or a morning suit in Monte Carlo," she said,
furious at his banter. "Let us talk about somebody else than my
friends."

"I haven't started to talk about your friends yet," he said. "And please
don't try to tell your chauffeur to turn round--the road is too narrow,
and he'd have the car over the cliff before you knew where you were, if
he were stupid enough to try. I'm sorry, deeply sorry, Mrs. Meredith,
but I think that Jean was right when she said that the southern air had
got into my blood. I'm a little hysterical--yes, put it down to that. It
runs in the family," he babbled on. "I have an aunt who faints at the
sight of strawberries, and an uncle who swoons whenever a cat walks into
the room."

"I hope you don't visit him very much," she said coldly.

"Two points to you," said Jack, "but I must warn Jaggs, in case he is
mistaken for the elderly Lothario. Obviously Jean is preparing the way
for an unpleasant end to poor old Jaggs."

"Why do you think these things about Jean?" she asked, as they were
running into La Turbie.

"Because I have a criminal mind," he replied promptly. "I have the same
type of mind as Jean Briggerland's, wedded to a wholesome respect for
the law, and a healthy sense of right and wrong. Some people couldn't be
happy if they owned a cent that had been earned dishonestly; other
people are happy so long as they have the money--so long as it is real
money. I belong to the former category. Jean--well, I don't know what
would make Jean happy."

"And what would make you happy--Jean?" she asked.

He did not answer this question until they were sitting on the stoep of
the National, where a light luncheon was awaiting them.

"Jean?" he said, as though the question had just been asked. "No, I
don't want Jean. She is wonderful, really, Mrs. Meredith, wonderful! I
find myself thinking about her at odd moments, and the more I think the
more I am amazed. Lucretia Borgia was a child in arms compared with
Jean--poor old Lucretia has been maligned, anyway. There was a woman in
the sixteenth century rather like her, and another girl in the early
days of New England, who used to denounce witches for the pleasure of
seeing them burn, but I can't think of an exact parallel, because Jean
gets no pleasure out of hurting people any more than you will get out of
cutting that cantaloup. It has just got to be cut, and the fact that you
are finally destroying the life of the melon doesn't worry you."

"Have cantaloups life?" She paused, knife in hand, eyeing the fruit with
a frown. "No, I don't think I want it. So Jean is a murderess at heart?"

She asked the question in solemn mockery, but Jack was not smiling.

"Oh yes--in intention, at any rate. I don't know whether she has ever
killed anybody, but she has certainly planned murders."

Lydia sighed and sat back in her chair patiently.

"Do you still suggest that she harbours designs against my young life?"

"I not only suggest it, but I state positively that there have been four
attempts on your life in the past fortnight," he said calmly.

"Let us have this out," she said recklessly. "Number one?"

"The nearly-a-fatal accident in Berkeley Street," said Jack.

"Will you explain by what miracle the car arrived at the psychological
moment?" she asked.

"That's easy," he said with a smile. "Old man Briggerland lit his cigar
standing on the steps of the house. That light was a brilliant one,
Jaggs tells me. It was the signal for the car to come on. The next
attempt was made with the assistance of a lunatic doctor who was helped
to escape by Briggerland, and brought to your house by him. In some way
he got hold of a key--probably Jean manoeuvred it. Did she ever talk
to you about keys?"

"No," said the girl, "she----" She stopped suddenly, remembering that
Jean had discussed keys with her.

"Are you sure she didn't?" asked Jack, watching her.

"I think she may have done," said the girl defiantly; "what was the
third attempt?"

"The third attempt," said Jack slowly, "was to infect your bed with a
malignant fever."

"Jean did it?" said the girl incredulously. "Oh no, that would be
impossible."

"The child was in your bed. Jaggs saw it and threw two buckets of water
over the bed, so that you should not sleep in it."

She was silent.

"And I suppose the next attempt was the shooting?"

He nodded.

"Now do you believe?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"No, I don't believe," she said quietly. "I think you have worked up a
very strong case against poor Jean, and I am sure you think you're
justified."

"You are quite right there," he said.

He lifted a pair of field glasses which he had put on the table, and
surveyed the road from the sea. "Mrs. Meredith, I want you to do
something and tell Jean Briggerland when you have done it."

"What is that?" she asked.

"I want you to make a will. I don't care where you leave your property,
so long as it is not to somebody you love."

She shivered.

"I don't like making wills. It's so gruesome."

"It will be more gruesome for you if you don't," he said significantly.
"The Briggerlands are your heirs at law."

She looked at him quickly.

"So that is what you are aiming at? You think that all these plots are
designed to put me out of the way so that they can enjoy my money?"

He nodded, and she looked at him wonderingly.

"If you weren't a hard-headed lawyer, I should think you were a writer
of romantic fiction," she said. "But if it will please you I will make a
will. I haven't the slightest idea who I could leave the money to. I've
got rather a lot of money, haven't I?"

"You have exactly £160,000 in hard cash. I want to talk to you about
that," said Jack. "It is lying at your bankers in your current account.
It represents property which has been sold or was in process of being
sold when you inherited the money, and anybody who can get your
signature and can satisfy the bankers that they are bona fide payees,
can draw every cent you have of ready money. I might say in passing that
we are prepared for that contingency, and any large cheque will be
referred to me or to my partner."

He raised his field glasses for a second time and looked steadily down
along the hill road up which they had come.

"Are you expecting anybody?" she asked.

"I'm expecting Jean," he said grimly.

"But we left her----"

"The fact that we left her talking to the police doesn't mean that she
will not be coming up here, to watch us. Jean doesn't like me, you know,
and she will be scared to death of this _tête-à-tête_."

The conversation had been arrested by the arrival of the soup and now
there was a further interruption whilst the table was being cleared.
When the _maître d'hôtel_ had gone the girl asked:

"What am I to do with the money? Reinvest it?"

"Exactly," said Jack, "but the most important thing is to make your
will."

He looked along the deserted veranda. They were the only guests present
who had come early. From the veranda two curtained doors led into the
_salon_ of the hotel and it struck him that one of these had not been
ajar when he looked at it before, and it was the door opposite to the
table where they were sitting.

He noted this idly without attaching any great importance to the fact.

"Suppose somebody were to present a cheque to the bank in my name?" she
asked. "What would happen?"

"If it were for a large sum? The manager would call us up and one of us
would probably go round to your bank. It is only a block from our
office. If Rennett or I said it was all right the cheque would be
honoured. You may be sure that I should make very drastic inquiries as
to the origin of the signature."

And then she saw him stiffen and his eyes go to the door. He waited a
second, then rising noiselessly, crossed the wooden floor of the veranda
quickly and pushed open the door, to find himself face to face with the
smiling Jean Briggerland.




Chapter XXVIII


"However did you get here?" asked Lydia in surprise.

"I went into Nice," said the girl carelessly. "The detectives were going
there and I gave them a lift."

"I see," said Jack, "so you came into Turbie by the back road? I
wondered why I hadn't seen your car."

"You expected me, did you?" she smiled, as she sat down at the table and
selected a peach from its cotton-wool bed. "I only arrived a second ago,
in fact I was opening the door when you almost knocked my head off. What
a violent man you are, Jack! I shall have to put you into my story."

Glover had recovered his self-possession by now.

"So you are adding to your other crimes by turning novelist, are you?"
he said good-humouredly. "What is the book, Miss Briggerland?"

"It is going to be called 'Suspected,'" she said coolly. "And it will be
the Story of a Hurt Soul."

"Oh, I see, a humorous story," said Jack, wilfully dense. "I didn't know
you were going to write a biography."

"But do tell me about this, it is very thrilling, Jean," said Lydia,
"and it is the first I've heard of it."

Jean was skinning the peach and was smiling as at an amusing thought.

"I've been two years making up my mind to write it," she said, "and I'm
going to dedicate it to Jack. I started work on it three or four days
ago. Look at my wrist!" She held out her beautiful hand for the girl's
inspection.

"It is a very pretty wrist," laughed Lydia, "but why did you want me to
see it?"

"If you had a professional eye," said the girl, resuming her occupation,
"you would have noticed the swelling, the result of writers' cramp."

"The yarn about your elderly admirer ought to provide a good chapter,"
said Jack, "and isn't there a phrase 'A Chapter of Accidents'--_that_
ought to go in?"

She did not raise her eyes.

"Don't discourage me," she said a little sadly. "I have to make money
somehow."

How much had she heard? Jack was wondering all the time, and he groaned
inwardly when he saw how little effect his warning had upon the girl he
was striving to protect. Women are natural actresses, but Lydia was not
acting now. She was genuinely fond of Jean and he could see that she had
accepted his warnings as the ravings of a diseased imagination. He
confirmed this view when after a morning of sight-seeing and the
exploration of the spot where, two thousand years before, the Emperor
Augustine had erected his lofty "trophy," they returned to the villa.
There are some omissions which are marked, and when Lydia allowed him to
depart without pressing him to stay to dinner he realised that he had
lost the trick.

"When are you going back to London?" she asked.

"To-morrow morning," said Jack. "I don't think I shall come here again
before I go."

She did not reply immediately. She was a little penitent at her lack of
hospitality, but Jack had annoyed her and the more convincing he had
become, the greater had been the irritation he had caused. One question
he had to ask but he hesitated.

"About that will----" he began, but her look of weariness stopped him.

It was a very annoyed young man that drove back to the Hôtel de Paris.
He had hardly gone before Lydia regretted her brusqueness. She liked
Jack Glover more than she was prepared to admit, and though he had only
been in Cap Martin for two days she felt a little sense of desolation at
his going. Very resolutely she refused even to consider his
extraordinary views about Jean. And yet----

Jean left her alone and watched her strolling aimlessly about the
garden, guessing the little storm which had developed in her breast.
Lydia went to bed early that night, another significant sign Jean noted,
and was not sorry, because she wanted to have her father to herself.

Mr. Briggerland listened moodily whilst Jean related all that she had
learnt, for she had been in the _salon_ at the National for a good
quarter of an hour before Jack had discovered her.

"I thought he would want her to make a will," she said, "and, of course,
although she has rejected the idea now, it will grow on her. I think we
have the best part of a week."

"I suppose you have everything cut and dried as usual," growled Mr.
Briggerland. "What is your plan?"

"I have three," said Jean thoughtfully, "and two are particularly
appealing to me because they do not involve the employment of any third
person."

"Had you one which brought in somebody else?" asked Briggerland in
surprise. "I thought a clever girl like you----"

"Don't waste your sarcasm on me," said Jean quietly. "The third person
whom I considered was Marcus Stepney," and she told him the gist of her
conversation with the gambler. Mr. Briggerland was not impressed.

"A thief like Marcus will get out of paying," he said, "and if he can
stall you long enough to get the money you may whistle for your share.
Besides, a fellow like that isn't really afraid of a charge of bigamy."

Jean, curled up in a big arm-chair, looked up under her eyelashes at her
father and laughed.

"I had no intention of letting Marcus marry Lydia," she said coolly,
"but I had to dangle something in front of his eyes, because he may
serve me in quite another way."

"How did he get those two slashes on his hand?" asked Mr. Briggerland
suddenly.

"Ask him," she said. "Marcus is getting a little troublesome. I thought
he had learnt his lesson and had realised that I am not built for
matrimony, especially for a hectic attachment to a man who gains his
livelihood by cheating at cards."

"Now, now, my dear," said her father.

"Please don't be shocked," she mocked him. "You know as well as I do how
Marcus lives."

"The boy is very fond of you."

"The boy is between thirty and thirty-six," she said tersely. "And he's
not the kind of boy that I am particularly fond of. He is useful and
may be more useful yet."

She rose, stretched her arms and yawned.

"I'm going up to my room to work on my story. You are watching for Mr.
Jaggs?"

"Work on what?" he said.

"The story I am writing and which I think will create a sensation," she
said calmly.

"What's this?" asked Briggerland suspiciously. "A story? I didn't know
you were writing that kind of Stuff."

"There are lots of important things that you know nothing about,
parent," she said and left him a little dazed.

For once Jean was not deceiving him. A writing table had been put in her
room and a thick pad of paper awaited her attention. She got into her
kimono and with a little sigh sat down at the table and began to write.
It was half-past two when she gathered up the sheets and read them over
with a smile which was half contempt. She was on the point of getting
into bed when she remembered that her father was keeping watch below.
She put on her slippers and went downstairs and tapped gently at the
door of the darkened dining-room.

Almost immediately it was opened.

"What did you want to tap for?" he grumbled. "You gave me a start."

"I preferred tapping to being shot," she answered. "Have you heard
anything or seen anybody?"

The French windows of the dining-room were open, her father was wearing
his coat and on his arm she saw by the reflected starlight from outside
he carried a shot-gun.

"Nothing," he said. "The old man hasn't come to-night."

She nodded.

"Somehow I didn't think he would," she said.

"I don't see how I can shoot him without making a fuss."

"Don't be silly," said Jean lightly. "Aren't the police well aware that
an elderly gentleman has threatened my life, and would it be remarkable
if seeing an ancient man prowl about this house you shot him on sight?"

She bit her lips thoughtfully.

"Yes, I think you can go to bed," she said. "He will not be here
to-night. To-morrow night, yes."

She went up to her room, said her prayers and went to bed and was asleep
immediately.

Lydia had forgotten about Jean's story until she saw her writing
industriously at a small table which had been placed on the lawn. It was
February, but the wind and the sun were warm and Lydia thought she had
never seen a more beautiful picture than the girl presented sitting
there in a garden spangled with gay flowers, heavy with the scent of
February roses, a dainty figure of a girl, almost ethereal in her
loveliness.

"Am I interrupting you?"

"Not a bit," said Jean, putting down her pen and rubbing her wrist.
"Isn't it annoying. I've got to quite an exciting part, and my wrist is
giving me hell."

She used the word so naturally that Lydia forgot to be shocked.

"Can I do anything for you?"

Jean shook her head.

"I don't exactly see what you can do," she said, "unless you could--but,
no, I would not ask you to do that!"

"What is it?" asked Lydia.

Jean puckered her brows in thought.

"I suppose you could do it," she said, "but I'd hate to ask you. You
see, dear, I've got a chapter to finish and it really ought to go off to
London to-day. I am very keen on getting an opinion from a literary
friend of mine--but, no, I won't ask you."

"What is it?" smiled Lydia. "I'm sure you're not going to ask the
impossible."

"The thought occurred to me that perhaps you might write as I dictated.
It would only be two or three pages," said the girl apologetically. "I'm
so full of the story at this moment that it would be a shame if I
allowed the divine fire of inspiration--that's the term, isn't it--to
go out."

"Of course I'll do it," said Lydia. "I can't write shorthand, but that
doesn't matter, does it?"

"No, longhand will be quick enough for me. My thoughts aren't so fast,"
said the girl.

"What is it all about?"

"It is about a girl," said Jean, "who has stolen a lot of money----"

"How thrilling!" smiled Lydia.

"And she's got away to America. She is living a very full and joyous
life, but the thought of her sin is haunting her and she decides to
disappear and let people think she has drowned herself. She is really
going into a convent. I've got to the point where she is saying farewell
to her friend. Do you feel capable of being harrowed?"

"I never felt fitter for the job in my life," said Lydia, and sitting
down in the chair the girl had vacated, she took up the pencil which the
other had left.

Jean strolled up and down the lawn in an agony of mental composition and
presently she came back and began slowly to dictate.

Word by word Lydia wrote down the thrilling story of the girl's remorse,
and presently came to the moment when the heroine was inditing a letter
to her friend.

"Take a fresh page," said Jean, as Lydia paused half-way down one
sheet. "I shall want to write something in there myself when my hand
gets better. Now begin:

"MY DEAR FRIEND."

Lydia wrote down the words and slowly the girl dictated.

     "_I do not know how I can write you this letter. I intended to
     tell you when I saw you the other day how miserable I was. Your
     suspicion hurt me less than your ignorance of the one vital
     event in my life which has now made living a burden. My money
     has brought no joy to me. I have met a man I love, but with
     whom I know a union is impossible. We are determined to die
     together--farewell--_"

"You said she was going away," interrupted Lydia.

"I know," Jean nodded. "Only she wants to give the impression----"

"I see, I see," said Lydia. "Go on."

     "_Forgive me for the act I am committing, which you may think
     is the act of a coward, and try to think as well of me as you
     possibly can. Your friend----_"

"I don't know whether to make her sign her name or put her initials,"
said Jean, pursing her lips.

"What is her name?"

"Laura Martin. Just put the initials L.M."

"They're mine also," smiled Lydia. "What else?"

"I don't think I'll do any more," said Jean. "I'm not a good dictator,
am I? Though you're a wonderful amanuensis."

She collected the papers tidily, put them in a little portfolio and
tucked them under her arm.

"Let us gamble the afternoon away," said Jean. "I want distraction."

"But your story? Haven't you to send it off?"

"I'm going to wrestle with it in secret, even if it breaks my wrist,"
said Jean brightly.

She took the portfolio up to her room, locked the door and sorted over
the pages. The page which held the farewell letter she put carefully
aside. The remainder, including all that part of the story she had
written on the previous night, she made into a bundle, and when Lydia
had gone off with Marcus Stepney to swim, she carried the paper to a
remote corner of the grounds and burnt it sheet by sheet. Again she
examined the "letter," folded it and locked it in a drawer.

Lydia, returning from her swim, was met by Jean half-way up the hill.

"By the way, my dear, I wish you would give me Jack Glover's London
address," she said as they went into the house. "Write it here. Here is
a pencil." She pulled out an envelope from a stationery rack and Lydia,
in all innocence, wrote as she requested.

The envelope Jean carried upstairs, put into it the letter signed "L.
M.," and sealed it down. Lydia Meredith was nearer to death at that
moment than she had been on the afternoon when Mordon the chauffeur
brought his big Fiat on to the pavement of Berkeley Street.




Chapter XXIX


It was in the evening of the next day that Lydia received a wire from
Jack Glover. It was addressed from London and announced his arrival.

"Doesn't it make you feel nice, Lydia," said Jean, when she saw the
telegram, "to have a man in London looking after your interests--a sort
of guardian angel--and another guardian angel prowling round your
demesne at Cap Martin?"

"You mean Jaggs? Have you seen him?"

"No, I have not seen him," said the girl softly. "I should rather like
to see him. Do you know where he is staying at Monte Carlo?"

Lydia shook her head.

"I hope I shall see him before I go," said Jean. "He must be a very
interesting old gentleman."

It was Mr. Briggerland who first caught a glimpse of Lydia's watchman.
Mr. Briggerland had spent the greater part of the day sleeping. He was
unusually wakeful at one o'clock in the morning, and sat on the veranda
in a fur-lined overcoat, his gun lay across his knees. He had seen many
mysterious shapes flitting across the lawn, only to discover on
investigation that they were no more than the shadows which the moving
tree-tops cast.

At two o'clock he saw a shape emerge from the tree belt and move
stealthily in the shadow of the bushes toward the house. He did not fire
because there was a chance that it might have been one of the detectives
who had promised to keep an eye upon the Villa Casa in view of the
murderous threats which Jean had received.

Noiselessly he rose and stepped in his rubber shoes to the darker end of
the stoep. It was old Jaggs. There was no mistaking him. A bent man who
limped cautiously across the lawn and was making for the back of the
house. Mr. Briggerland cocked his gun and took aim....

Both girls heard the shot, and Lydia, springing out of bed, ran on to
the balcony.

"It's all right, Mrs. Meredith," said Briggerland's voice. "It was a
burglar, I think."

"You haven't hurt him?" she cried, remembering old Jaggs's nocturnal
habits.

"If I have, he's got away," said Briggerland. "He must have seen me and
dropped."

Jean flew downstairs in her dressing-gown and joined her father on the
lawn.

"Did you get him?" she asked in a low voice.

"I could have sworn I shot him," said her father in the same tone, "but
the old devil must have dropped."

He heard the quick catch of her breath and turned apprehensively.

"Now, don't make a fuss about it, Jean, I couldn't help it."

"You couldn't help it!" she almost snarled. "You had him under your gun
and you let him go. Do you think he'll ever come again, you fool?"

"Now look here, I'm not going to----" began Mr. Briggerland, but she
snatched the gun from his hand, looked swiftly at the lock and ran
across the lawn toward the trees.

Somebody was hiding. She sensed that and all her nerves were alert.
Presently she saw a crouching figure and lifted the gun, but before she
could fire it was wrested from her hand.

She opened her lips to cry out for help, but a hand closed over her
mouth, and swung her round so that her back was toward her assailant,
and then in a flash his arm came round her neck, the flex of the elbow
against her throat.

"Say one of them prayers of yours," said a voice in her ear, and the arm
tightened.

She struggled furiously, but the man held her as though she were a
child.

"You're going to die," whispered the voice. "How do you like the
sensation?"

The arm tightened on her neck. She was suffocating, dying she thought,
and her heart was filled with a wild, mad longing for life and a terror
undreamt of. She could faintly hear her father's voice calling her and
then consciousness departed.

When Jean came to herself she was in Lydia Meredith's arms. She opened
her eyes and saw the pathetic face of her father looming from the
background. Her hand went up to her throat.

"Hallo, people--how did I get here?" she asked as she struggled into a
sitting position.

"I came in search of you and found you lying on the ground," quavered
Mr. Briggerland.

"Did you see the man?" she asked.

"No. What happened to you, darling?"

"Nothing," she said with that composure which she could command. "I must
have fainted. It was rather ridiculous of me, wasn't it?" she smiled.

She got unsteadily to her feet and again she felt her throat. Lydia
noticed the action.

"Did he hurt you?" she asked anxiously. "It couldn't have been Jaggs."

"Oh no," smiled Jean, "it couldn't have been Jaggs. I think I'll go to
bed."

She did not expect to sleep. For the first time in her extraordinary
life fear had come to her, and she had shivered on the very edge of the
abyss. She felt the shudder she could not repress and shook herself
impatiently. Then she extinguished the light and went to the window and
looked out. Somewhere there in the darkness she knew her enemy was
hidden, and again that sense of apprehension swept over her.

"I'm losing my nerve," she murmured.

It was extraordinary to Lydia Meredith that the girl showed no sign of
her night's adventure when she came in to breakfast on the following
morning. She looked bright. Her eyes were clear and her delicate irony
as pointed as though she had slept the clock round.

Lydia did not swim that day, and Mr. Stepney had his journey out to Cap
Martin in vain. Nor was she inclined to go back with him to Monte Carlo
to the Casino in the afternoon, and Mr. Stepney began to realise that he
was wasting valuable time.

Jean found her scribbling in the garden and Lydia made no secret of the
task she was undertaking.

"Making your will? What a grisly idea?" she said as she put down the cup
of tea she had carried out to the girl.

"Isn't it," said Lydia with a grimace. "It is the most worrying
business, too, Jean. There is nobody I want to leave money to except you
and Mr. Glover."

"For heaven's sake don't leave me any or Jack will think I am conspiring
to bring about your untimely end," said Jean. "Why make a will at all?"

There was no need for her to ask that, but she was curious to discover
what reply the girl would make, and to her surprise Lydia fenced with
the question.

"It is done in all the best circles," she said good-humouredly. "And,
Jean, I'm not interested in a single public institution! I don't know by
title the name of any home for dogs, and I shouldn't be at all anxious
to leave my money to one even if I did."

"Then you'd better leave it to Jack Glover," said the girl, "or to the
Lifeboat Institution."

Lydia threw down her pencil in disgust.

"Fancy making one's will on a beautiful day like this, and giving
instructions as to where one should be buried. Brrr! Jean," she asked
suddenly, "was it Mr. Jaggs you saw in the wood?"

Jean shook her head.

"I saw nobody," she said. "I went in to look for the burglar; the
excitement must have been too much for me, and I fainted."

But Lydia was not satisfied.

"I can't understand Mr. Jaggs myself," she said, but Jean interrupted
her with a cry.

Lydia looked up and saw her eyes shining and her lips parting in a
smile.

"Of course," she said softly. "He used to sleep at your flat, didn't
he?"

"Yes, why?" asked the girl in surprise.

"What a fool I am, what a perfect fool!" said Jean, startled out of her
accustomed self-possession.

"I don't quite know where your folly comes in, but perhaps you will tell
me," but Jean was laughing softly.

"Go on and make your will," she said mockingly. "And when you've
finished we'll go into the rooms and chase the lucky numbers. Poor dear
Mrs. Cole-Mortimer is feeling a little neglected, too, we ought to do
something for her."

The day and night passed without any untoward event. In the evening Jean
had an interview with her French chauffeur, and afterwards disappeared
into her room. Lydia tapping at her door to bid her good night received
no answer.

Day was breaking when old Jaggs came out from the trees in his furtive
way and glancing up and down the road made his halting way toward Monte
Carlo. The only objects in sight was a donkey laden with market produce
led by a bare-legged boy who was going in the same direction as he.

A little more than a mile along the road he turned sharply to the right
and began climbing a steep and narrow bridle path which joined the
mountain road, half-way up to La Turbie. The boy with the donkey turned
off to the main road and continued the steep climb toward the Grande
Corniche. There were many houses built on the edge of the road and
practically on the edge of precipices, for the windows facing the sea
often looked sheer down for two hundred feet. At first these dwellings
appeared in clusters, then as the road climbed higher, they occurred at
rare intervals.

The boy leading the donkey kept his eye upon the valley below, and from
time to time caught a glimpse of the old man who had now left the bridle
path, and was picking his way up the rough hill-side. He was making for
a dilapidated house which stood at one of the hairpin bends of the road,
and the donkey-boy, shading his eyes from the glare of the rising sun,
saw him disappear into what must have been the cellar of the house,
since the door through which he went was a good twenty feet beneath the
level of the road. The donkey-boy continued his climb, tugging at his
burdened beast, and presently he came up to the house. Smoke was rising
from one of the chimneys, and he halted at the door, tied the rope he
held to a rickety gate post, and knocked gently.

A bright-faced peasant woman came to the open door and shook her head at
the sight of the wares with which the donkey was laden.

"We want none of your truck, my boy," she said. "I have my own garden.
You are not a Monogasque."

"No, signora," replied the boy, flashing his teeth with a smile. "I am
from San Remo, but I have come to live in Monte Carlo to sell vegetables
for my uncle, and he told me I should find a lodging here."

She looked at him dubiously.

"I have one room which you could have, boy," she said, "though I do not
like Italians. You must pay me a franc a night, and your donkey can go
into the shed of my brother-in-law up the hill."

She led the way down a flight of ancient stairs and showed him a tiny
room overlooking the valley.

"I have one other man who lives here," she said. "An old one, who sleeps
all day and goes out all night. But he is a very respectable man," she
added in defence of her client.

"Where does he sleep?" asked the boy.

"There!" The woman pointed to a room on the opposite side of the narrow
landing. "He has just come in, I can hear him." She listened.

"Will madame get me change for this?" The boy produced a fifty-franc
note, and the woman's eyebrows rose.

"Such wealth!" she said good-naturedly. "I did not think that a little
boy like you could have such money."

She bustled upstairs to her own room, leaving the boy alone. He waited
until her heavy footsteps sounded overhead, and then gently he tried the
door of the other lodger. Mr. Jaggs had not yet bolted the door, and the
spy pushed it open and looked. What he saw satisfied him, for he pulled
the door tight again, and as the footfall of old Jaggs came nearer the
door, the donkey-boy flew upstairs with extraordinary rapidity.

"I will come later, madame," he said, when he had received the change.
"I must take my donkey into Monte Carlo."

She watched the boy and his beast go down the road, and went back to the
task of preparing her lodger's breakfast.

To Monte Carlo the cabbage seller did not go. Instead, he turned back
the way he had come, and a hundred yards from the gate of Villa Casa,
Mordon, the chauffeur, appeared, and took the rope from his hand.

"Did you find what you wanted, mademoiselle?" he asked.

Jean nodded. She got into the house through the servants' entrance and
up to her room without observation. She pulled off the black wig and
applied herself to removing the stains from her face. It had been a good
morning's work.

"You must keep Mrs. Meredith fully occupied to-day." She waylaid her
father on the stairs to give him these instructions.

For her it was a busy morning. First she went to the Hôtel de Paris, and
on the pretext of writing a letter in the lounge, secured two or three
sheets of the hotel paper and an envelope. Next she hired a typewriter
and carried it with her back to the house. She was working for an hour
before she had the letter finished. The signature took her some time.
She had to ransack Lydia's writing case before she found a letter from
Jack Glover--Lydia's signature was easy in comparison.

This, and a cheque drawn from the back of Lydia Meredith's cheque-book,
completed her equipment.

That afternoon Mordon, the chauffeur, motored into Nice, and by nine
o'clock that night an aeroplane deposited him in Paris. He was in London
the following morning, a bearer of an urgent letter to Mr. Rennett, the
lawyer, which, however, he did not present in person.

Mordon knew a French girl in London, and she it was who carried the
letter to Charles Rennett--a letter that made him scratch his head many
times before he took a sheet of paper, and addressing the manager of
Lydia's bank, wrote:

"This cheque is in order. Please honour."




Chapter XXX


"Desperate diseases," said Jean Briggerland, "call for desperate
remedies."

Mr. Briggerland looked up from his book.

"What was that tale you were telling Lydia this morning," he asked,
"about Glover's gambling? He was only here a day, wasn't he?"

"He was here long enough to lose a lot of money," said Jean. "Of course
he didn't gamble, so he did not lose. It was just a little seed-sowing
on my part--one never knows how useful the right word may be in the
right season."

"Did you tell Lydia that he was losing heavily?" he asked quickly.

"Am I a fool? Of course not! I merely said that youth would be served,
and if you have the gambling instinct in you, why, it didn't matter what
position you held in society or what your responsibilities were, you
must indulge your passion."

Mr. Briggerland stroked his chin. There were times when Jean's schemes
got very far beyond him, and he hated the mental exercise of catching
up. The only thing he knew was that every post from London bore urgent
demands for money, and that the future held possibilities which he did
not care to contemplate. He was in the unfortunate position of having
numerous pensioners to support, men and women who had served him in
various ways and whose approval, but what was more important, whose
loyalty, depended largely upon the regularity of their payments.

"I shall gamble or do something desperate," he said with a frown.
"Unless you can bring off a coup that will produce twenty thousand
pounds of ready money we are going to get into all kinds of trouble,
Jean."

"Do you think I don't know that?" she asked contemptuously. "It is
because of this urgent need of money that I have taken a step which I
hate."

He listened in amazement whilst she told him what she had done to
relieve her pressing needs.

"We are getting deeper and deeper into Mordon's hands," he said, shaking
his head. "That is what scares me at times."

"You needn't worry about Mordon," she smiled. Her smile was a little
hard. "Mordon and I are going to be married."

She was examining the toe of her shoe attentively as she spoke, and Mr.
Briggerland leapt to his feet.

"What!" he squeaked. "Marry a chauffeur? A fellow I picked out of the
gutter? You're mad! The fellow is a rascal who has earned the guillotine
time and time again."

"Who hasn't?" she asked, looking up.

"It is incredible! It's madness!" he said. "I had no idea----" he
stopped for want of breath.

Mordon was becoming troublesome. She had known that better than her
father.

"It was after the 'accident' that didn't happen that he began to get a
little tiresome," she said. "You say we are getting deeper and deeper
into his hands? Well, he hinted as much, and I did not like it. When he
began to get a little loving I accepted that way out as an easy
alternative to a very unpleasant exposure. Whether he would have
betrayed us I don't know; probably he would."

Mr. Briggerland's face was dark.

"When is this interesting event to take place?"

"My marriage? In two months, I think. When is Easter? That class of
person always wants to be married at Easter. I asked him to keep our
secret and not to mention it to you, and I should not have spoken now if
you had not referred to the obligation we were under."

"In two months?" Mr. Briggerland nodded. "Let me know when you want this
to end, Jean," he said.

"It will end almost immediately. Please do not trouble," said Jean, "and
there is one other thing, father. If you see Mr. Jaggs in the garden
to-night, I beg of you do not attempt to shoot him. He is a very useful
man."

Her father sank back in his chair.

"You're beyond me," he said, helplessly.

Mordon occupied two rooms above the garage, which was conveniently
situated for Jean's purpose. He arrived late the next night, and a light
in his window, which was visible from the girl's room, told her all she
wanted to know.

Mr. Mordon was a good-looking man by certain standards. His hair was
dark and glossily brushed. His normal pallor of countenance gave him the
interesting appearance which men of his kind did not greatly dislike,
and he had a figure which was admired in a dozen servants' halls, and a
manner which passed amongst housemaids for "gentlemanly," and amongst
gentlemen as "superior." He heard the foot of the girl on the stairs,
and opened the door.

"You have brought it?" she said, without a preliminary word.

She had thrown a dark cloak over her evening dress, and the man's eyes
feasted on her.

"Yes, I have brought it--Jean," he said.

She put her finger to her lips.

"Be careful, François," she cautioned in a low voice.

Although the man spoke English as well as he spoke French, it was in the
latter language that the conversation was carried on. He went to a grip
which lay on the bed, opened it and took out five thick packages of
thousand-franc notes.

"There are a thousand in each, mademoiselle. Five million francs. I
changed part of the money in Paris, and part in London."

"The woman--there is no danger from her?"

"Oh no, mademoiselle," he smiled complacently. "She is not likely to
betray me, and she does not know my name or where I am living. She is a
girl I met at a dance at the Swiss Waiters' Club," he explained. "She is
not a good character. I think the French police wish to find her, but
she is very clever."

"What did you tell her?" asked Jean.

"That I was working a coup with Vaud and Montheron. These are two
notorious men in Paris whom she knew. I gave her five thousand francs
for her work."

"There was no trouble?"

"None whatever, mademoiselle. I watched her, and saw she carried the
letter to the bank. As soon as the money was changed I left Croydon by
air for Paris, and came on from Paris to Marseilles by aeroplane."

"You did well, François," she said, and patted his hand.

He would have seized hers, but she drew back.

"You have promised, François," she said with dignity, "and a French
gentleman keeps his word."

François bowed.

He was not a French gentleman, but he was anxious that this girl should
think he was, and to that end had told her stories of his birth which
had apparently impressed her.

"Now will you do something more for me?"

"I will do anything in the world, Jean," he cried passionately, and
again a restraining hand fell on his shoulder.

"Then sit down and write; your French is so much better than mine."

"What shall I write?" he asked. She had never called upon him for proof
of his scholarship, and he was childishly eager to reveal to the woman
he loved attainments of which he had no knowledge.

"Write, 'Dear Mademoiselle'." He obeyed.

     "'_have returned from London, and have confessed to Madame
     Meredith that I have forged her name and have drawn £100,000
     from her bank----_'"

"Why do I write this, Jean?" he asked in surprise.

"I will tell you one day--go on. François," she continued her
dictation.

     "'_And now I have learnt that Madame Meredith loves me. There
     is only one end to this--that which you see----_'"

"Do you intend passing suspicion to somebody else?" he asked, evidently
fogged, "but why should I say----?"

She stopped his mouth with her hand.

"How wonderful you are, Jean," he said, admiringly, as he blotted the
paper and handed it to her. "So that if this matter is traced to
you----" She looked into his eyes and smiled.

"There will be trouble for somebody," she said, softly, as she put the
paper in her pocket.

Suddenly, before she could realise what was happening he had her in his
arms, his lips pressed against hers.

"Jean, Jean!" he muttered. "You adorable woman!"

Gently she pressed him back and she was still smiling, though her eyes
were like granite.

"Gently, François," she said, "you must have patience!"

She slipped through the door and closed it behind her, and even in her
then state of mind she did not slam it, nor did she hurry down the
stairs, but went out, taking her time, and was back in the house without
her absence having been noticed. Her face, reflected in her long mirror,
was serene in its repose, but within her a devil was alive, hungry for
destruction. No man had roused the love of Jean Briggerland, but at
least one had succeeded in bringing to life a consuming hate which, for
the time being, absorbed her.

From the moment she drew her wet handkerchief across her red lips and
flung the dainty thing as though it were contaminated through the open
window, François Mordon was a dead man.




Chapter XXXI


A letter from Jack Glover arrived the next morning. He had had an easy
journey, was glad to have had the opportunity of seeing Lydia, and hoped
she would think over the will. Lydia was not thinking of wills, but of
an excuse to get back to London. Of a sudden the loveliness of Monte
Carlo had palled upon her, and she had almost forgotten the
circumstances which had made the change of scene and climate so welcome.

"Go back to London, my dear?" said Mrs. Cole-Mortimer, shocked. "What
a--a rash notion! Why it is _freezing_ in town and foggy and ... and I
really can't let you go back!"

Mrs. Cole-Mortimer was agitated at the very thought. Her own good time
on the Riviera depended upon Lydia staying. Jean had made that point
very clear. She, herself, she explained to her discomforted hostess, was
ready to go back at once, and the prolongation of Mrs. Cole-Mortimer's
stay depended upon Lydia's plans. A startling switch of cause and
effect, for Mrs. Cole-Mortimer had understood that Jean's will
controlled the plans of the party.

Lydia might have insisted, had she really known the reason for her
sudden longing for the grimy metropolis. But she could not even convince
herself that the charms of Monte Carlo were contingent upon the presence
there of a man who had aroused her furious indignation and with whom she
had spent most of the time quarrelling. She mentioned her unrest to
Jean, and Jean as usual seemed to understand.

"The Riviera is rather like Turkish Delight--very sweet, but
unsatisfying," she said. "Stay another week and then if you feel that
way we'll all go home together."

"This means breaking up your holiday," said Lydia in self-reproach.

"Not a bit," denied the girl, "perhaps I shall feel as you do in a
week's time."

A week! Jean thought that much might happen in a week. In truth events
began to move quickly from that night, but in a way she had not
anticipated.

Mr. Briggerland, who had been reading the newspaper through the
conversation, looked up.

"They are making a great fuss of this Moor in Nice," he said, "but if I
remember rightly, Nice invariably has some weird lion to adore."

"Muley Hafiz," said Lydia. "Yes, I saw him the day I went to lunch with
Mr. Stepney, a fine-looking man."

"I'm not greatly interested in natives," said Jean carelessly. "What is
he, a negro?"

"Oh, no, he's fairer than--" Lydia was about to say "your father," but
thought it discreet to find another comparison. "He's fairer than most
of the people in the south of France," she said, "but then all very
highly-bred Moors are, aren't they?"

Jean shook her head.

"Ethnology means nothing to me," she said humorously. "I've got my idea
of Moors from Shakespeare, and I thought they were mostly black. What is
he then? I haven't read the papers."

"He is the Pretender to the Moorish throne," said Lydia, "and there has
been a lot of trouble in the French Senate about him. France supports
his claims, and the Spaniards have offered a reward for his body, dead
or alive, and that has brought about a strained relationship between
Spain and France."

Jean regarded her with an amused smile.

"Fancy taking an interest in international politics. I suppose that is
due to your working on a newspaper, Lydia."

Jean discovered that she was to take a greater interest in Muley Hafiz
than she could have thought was possible. She had to go into Monte Carlo
to do some shopping. Mentone was nearer, but she preferred the drive
into the principality.

The Rooms had no great call for her, and whilst Mordon went to a garage
to have a faulty cylinder examined, she strolled on to the terrace of
the Casino, down the broad steps towards the sea. The bathing huts were
closed at this season, but the little road down to the beach is secluded
and had been a favourite walk of hers in earlier visits.

Near the huts she passed a group of dark-looking men in long white
jellabs, and wondered which of these was the famous Muley. One she
noticed with a particularly negro type of face, wore on his flowing robe
the scarlet ribbon of the Legion of Honour. Somehow or other he did not
seem interesting enough to be Muley, she thought as she went on to a
strip of beach.

A man was standing on the sea shore, a tall, commanding man, gazing out
it seemed across the sunlit ocean as though he were in search of
something. He could not have heard her footfall because she was walking
on the sand, and yet he must have realised her presence, for he turned,
and she almost stopped at the sight of his face. He might have been a
European; his complexion was fair, though his eyebrows and eyes were jet
black, as also was the tiny beard and moustache he wore. Beneath the
conventional jellab he wore a dark green jacket, and she had a glimpse
of glittering decorations before he pulled over his cloak so that they
were hidden. But it was his eyes which held her. They were large and as
black as night, and they were set in a face of such strength and
dignity that Jean knew instinctively that she was looking upon the
Moorish Pretender.

They stood for a second staring at one another, and then the Moor
stepped aside.

"Pardon," he said in French, "I am afraid I startled you."

Jean was breathing a little quicker. She could not remember in her life
any man who had created so immediate and favourable an impression. She
forgot her contempt for native people, forgot his race, his religion
(and religion was a big thing to Jean), forgot everything except that
behind those eyes she recognised something which was kin to her.

"You are English, of course," he said in that language.

"Scottish," smiled Jean.

"It is almost the same, isn't it?" He spoke without any trace of an
accent, without an error of grammar, and his voice was the voice of a
college man.

He had left the way open for her to pass on, but she lingered.

"You are Muley Hafiz, aren't you?" she asked, and he turned his head.
"I've read a great deal about you," she added, though in truth she had
read nothing.

He laughed, showing two rows of perfect white teeth. It was only by
contrast with their whiteness that she noticed the golden brown of his
complexion.

"I am of international interest," he said lightly and glanced round
toward his attendants.

She thought he was going and would have moved on, but he stopped her.

"You are the first English speaking person I have talked to since I've
been in France," he said, "except the American Ambassador." He smiled as
at a pleasant recollection.

"You talk almost like an Englishman yourself."

"I was at Oxford," he said. "My brother was at Harvard. My father, the
brother of the late Sultan, was a very progressive man and believed in
the Western education for his children. Won't you sit down?" he asked,
pointing to the sand.

She hesitated a second, and then sank to the ground, and crossing his
legs he sat by her side.

"I was in France for four years," he carried on, evidently anxious to
hold her in conversation, "so I speak both languages fairly well. Do you
speak Arabic?" He asked the question solemnly, but his eyes were bright
with laughter.

"Not very well," she answered gravely. "Are you staying very long?" It
was a conventional question and she was unprepared for the reply.

"I leave to-night," he said, "though very few people know it. You have
surprised a State secret," he smiled again.

And then he began to talk of Morocco and its history, and with
extraordinary ease he traced the story of the families which had ruled
that troubled State.

He touched lightly on his own share in the rebellion which had almost
brought about a European war.

"My uncle seized the throne, you know," he said, taking up a handful of
sand and tossing it up in the air. "He defeated my father and killed
him, and then we caught his two sons."

"What happened to them?" asked Jean curiously.

"Oh, we killed them," he said carelessly. "I had them hanged in front of
my tent. You're shocked?"

She shook her head.

"Do you believe in killing your enemies?"

She nodded.

"Why not? It is the only logical thing to do."

"My brother joined forces with the present Sultan, and if I ever catch
him I shall hang him too," he smiled.

"And if he catches you?" she asked.

"Why, he'll hang me," he laughed. "That is the rule of the game."

"How strange!" she said, half to herself.

"Do you think so? I suppose from the European standpoint----"

"No, no," she stopped him. "I wasn't thinking of that. You are logical
and you do the logical thing. That is how I would treat my enemies."

"If you had any," he suggested.

She nodded.

"If I had any," she repeated with a hard little smile. "Will you tell me
this--do I call you Mr. Muley or Lord Muley?"

"You may call me Wazeer, if you're so hard up for a title," he said, and
the little idiom sounded queer from him.

"Well, Wazeer, will you tell me: Suppose somebody who had something that
you wanted very badly and they wouldn't give it to you, and you had the
power to destroy them, what would you do?"

"I should certainly destroy them," said Muley Hafiz. "It is unnecessary
to ask. 'The common rule, the simple plan'" he quoted.

Her eyes were fixed on his face, and she was frowning, though this she
did not know.

"I am glad I met you this afternoon," she said. "It must be wonderful
living in that atmosphere, the atmosphere of might and power, where men
and women aren't governed by the finicking rules which vitiate the
Western world."

He laughed.

"Then you are tired of your Western civilisation," he said as he rose
and helped her to her feet (his hands were long and delicate, and she
grew breathless at the touch of them). "You must come along to my little
city in the hills where the law is the sword of Muley Hafiz."

She looked at him for a moment.

"I almost wish I could," she said and held out her hand.

He took it in the European fashion and bowed over it. She seemed so tiny
a thing by the side of him, her head did not reach his shoulder.

"Good-bye," she said hurriedly and turning, walked back the way she had
come, and he stood watching her until she was out of sight.




Chapter XXXII


"Jean!"

She looked round to meet the scowling gaze of Marcus Stepney.

"I must say you're the limit," he said violently. "There are lots of
things I imagine you'd do, but to stand there in broad daylight talking
to a nigger----"

"If I stand in broad daylight and talk to a card-sharper, Marcus, I
think I'm just low enough to do almost anything."

"A damned Moorish nigger," he spluttered, and her eyes narrowed.

"Walk up the road with me, and if you possibly can, keep your voice down
to the level which gentlemen usually employ when talking to women," she
said.

She was in better condition than he, and he was a little out of breath
by the time they reached the Café de Paris, which was crowded at that
hour with the afternoon tea people.

He found a quiet corner, and by this time his anger, and a little of his
courage, had evaporated.

"I've only your interest at heart, Jean," he said almost pleadingly,
"but you don't want people in our set to know you've been hobnobbing
with this infernal Moor."

"When you say 'our set,' to which set are you referring?" she asked
unpleasantly. "Because if it is the set I believe you mean, they can't
think too badly of me for my liking. It would be a degradation to me to
be admired by your set, Marcus."

"Oh, come now," he began feebly.

"I thought I had made it clear to you and I hoped you would carry the
marks to your dying day"--there was malice in her voice, and he
winced--"that I do not allow you to dominate my life or to censor my
actions. The 'nigger' you referred to was more of a gentleman than you
can ever be, Marcus, because he has breed, which the Lord didn't give to
you."

The waiter brought the tea at that moment, and the conversation passed
to unimportant topics till he had gone.

"I'm rather rattled," he apologised. "I lost six thousand louis last
night."

"Then you have six thousand reasons why you should keep on good terms
with me," said Jean smiling cheerfully.

"That cave man stuff?" he asked, and shook his head. "She'd raise Cain."

Jean was laughing inside herself, but she did not show her merriment.

"You can but try," she said. "I've already told you how it can be
done."

"I'll try to-morrow," he said after a thought. "By heavens, I'll try
to-morrow!"

It was on the tip of her tongue to say "Not to-morrow," but she checked
herself.

Mordon came round with the car to pick her up soon after. Mordon! Her
little chin jerked up with a gesture of annoyance, which she seldom
permitted herself. And yet she felt unusually cheered. Her meeting with
the Moor was a milestone in her life from which memory she could draw
both encouragement and comfort.

"You met Muley?" said Lydia. "How thrilling! What is he like, Jean? Was
he a blackamoor?"

"No, he wasn't a blackamoor," said the girl quietly. "He was an
unusually intelligent man."

"H'm," grunted her father. "How did you come to meet him, my dear?"

"I picked him up on the beach," said Jean coolly, "as any flapper would
pick up any nut."

Mr. Briggerland choked.

"I hate to hear you talking like that, Jean. Who introduced him?"

"I told you," she said complacently. "I introduced myself. I talked to
him on the beach and he talked to me, and we sat down and played with
the sand and discussed one another's lives."

"But how enterprising of you, Jean," said the admiring Lydia.

Mr. Briggerland was going to say something, but thought better of it.

There was a concert at the theatre that night and the whole party went.
They had a box, and the interval had come before Lydia saw somebody
ushered into a box on the other side of the house with such evidence of
deference that she would have known who he was even if she had not seen
the scarlet fez and the white robe.

"It is your Muley," she whispered.

Jean looked round.

Muley Hafiz was looking across at her; his eyes immediately sought the
girl's, and he bowed slightly.

"What the devil is he bowing at?" grumbled Mr. Briggerland. "You didn't
take any notice of him, did you, Jean?"

"I bowed to him," said his daughter, not troubling to look round. "Don't
be silly, father; anyway, if he weren't nice, it would be quite the
right thing to do. I'm the most distinguished woman in the house because
I know Muley Hafiz, and he has bowed to me! Don't you realise the social
value of a lion's recognition?"

Lydia could not see him distinctly. She had an impression of a white
face, two large black spaces where his eyes were and a black beard. He
sat all the time in the shadow of a curtain.

Jean looked round to see if Marcus Stepney was present, hoping that he
had witnessed the exchange of courtesies, but Marcus at that moment was
watching little bundles of twelve thousand franc notes raked across to
the croupier's end of the table--which is the business end of Monte
Carlo.

Jean was the last to leave the car when it set them down at the Villa
Casa. Mordon called her respectfully.

"Excuse me, mademoiselle," he said, "I wish you would come to the garage
and see the new tyres that have arrived. I don't like them."

It was a code which she had agreed he should use when he wanted her.

"Very good, Mordon, I will come to the garage later," she said
carelessly.

"What does Mordon want you for?" asked her father, with a frown.

"You heard him. He doesn't approve of some new tyres that have been
bought for the car," she said coolly. "And don't ask me questions. I've
got a headache and I'm dying for a cup of chocolate."

"If that fellow gives you any trouble he'll be sorry," said Briggerland.
"And let me tell you this, Jean, that marriage idea of yours----"

She only looked at him, but he knew the look and wilted.

"I don't want to interfere with your private affairs," he mumbled, "but
the very thought of it gets me crazy."

The garage was a brick building erected by the side of the carriage
drive, built much nearer the house than is usually the case.

Jean waited a reasonable time before she slipped away. Mordon was
waiting for her before the open doors of the garage. The place was in
darkness; she did not see him standing in the entrance until she was
within a few paces of the man.

"Come up to my room," he said briskly.

"What do you want?" she asked.

"I want to speak to you and this is not the place."

"This is the only place where I am prepared to speak to you at the
moment, François," she said reproachfully. "Don't you realise that my
father is within hearing, and at any moment Madame Meredith may come
out? How would I explain my presence in your room?"

He did not answer for the moment, then:

"Jean, I am worried," he said, in a troubled voice. "I cannot understand
your plans--they are too clever for me, and I have known men and women
of great attainment. The great Bersac----"

"The great Bersac is dead," she said coldly. "He was a man of such great
attainments that he came to the knife. Besides, it is not necessary
that you should understand my plans, François."

She knew quite well what was troubling him, but she waited.

"I cannot understand the letter which I wrote for you," said Mordon.
"The letter in which I say Madame Meredith loved me. I have thought this
matter out, Jean, and it seems to me that I am compromised."

She laughed softly.

"Poor François," she said mockingly. "With whom could you be compromised
but with your future wife? If I desire you to write that letter, what
else matters?"

Again he was silent.

"I cannot speak here," he said almost roughly. "You must come to my
room."

She hesitated. There was something in his voice she did not like.

"Very well," she said, and followed him up the steep stairs.




Chapter XXXIII


"Now explain." His words were a command, his tone peremptory.

Jean, who knew men, and read them without error, realised that this was
not a moment to temporise.

"I will explain to you, François, but I do not like the way you speak,"
she said. "It is not you I wish to compromise, but Madame Meredith."

"In this letter I wrote for you I said I was going away. I confessed to
you that I had forged a cheque for five million francs. That is a very
serious document, mademoiselle, to be in the possession of anybody but
myself." He looked at her straight in the eyes and she met his gaze
unflinchingly.

"The thing will be made very clear to you to-morrow, François," she said
softly, "and really there is no reason to worry. I wish to end this
unhappy state of affairs."

"With me?" he asked quickly.

"No, with Madame Meredith," she answered. "I, too, am tired of waiting
for marriage and I intend asking my father's permission for the wedding
to take place next week. Indeed, François," she lowered her eyes
modestly, "I have already written to the British Consul at Nice, asking
him to arrange for the ceremony to be performed."

The sallow face of the chauffeur flushed a dull red.

"Do you mean that?" he said eagerly. "Jean, you are not deceiving me?"

She shook her head.

"No, François," she said in that low plaintive voice of hers, "I could
not deceive you in a matter so important to myself."

He stood watching her, his breast heaving, his burning eyes devouring
her, then:

"You will give me back that letter I wrote, Jean?" he said.

"I will give it to you to-morrow."

"To-night," he said, and took both her hands in his. "I am sure I am
right. It is too dangerous a letter to be in existence, Jean, dangerous
for you and for me--you will let me have it to-night?"

She hesitated.

"It is in my room," she said, an unnecessary statement, and, in the
circumstances, a dangerous one, for his eyes dropped to the bag that
hung at her wrist.

"It is there," he said. "Jean darling, do as I ask," he pleaded. "You
know, every time I think of that letter I go cold. I was a madman when I
wrote it."

"I have not got it here," she said steadily. She tried to draw back, but
she was too late. He gripped her wrists and pulled the bag roughly from
her hand.

"Forgive me, but I know I am right," he began, and then like a fury she
flew at him, wrenched the bag from his hand, and by the very violence of
her attack, flung him backward.

He stared at her, and the colour faded from his face leaving it a dead
white.

"What is this you are trying to do?" he glowered at her.

"I will see you in the morning, François," she said and turned.

Before she could reach the head of the stairs his arm was round her and
he had dragged her back.

"My friend," he said between his teeth, "there is something in this
matter which is bad for me."

"Let me go," she breathed and struck at his face.

For a full minute they struggled, and then the door opened and Mr.
Briggerland came in, and at the sight of his livid face, Mordon released
his hold.

"You swine!" hissed the big man. His fist shot out and Mordon went down
with a crash to the ground. For a moment he was stunned, and then with a
snarl he turned over on his side and whipped a revolver from his hip
pocket. Before he could fire, the girl had gripped the pistol and
wrenched it from his hand.

"Get up," said Briggerland sternly. "Now explain to me, my friend, what
you mean by this disgraceful attack upon mademoiselle."

The man rose and dusted himself mechanically and there was that in his
face which boded no good to Mr. Briggerland.

Before he could speak Jean intervened.

"Father," she said quietly, "you have no right to strike François."

"François," spluttered Briggerland, his dark face purple with rage.

"François," she repeated calmly. "It is right that you should know that
François and I will be married next week."

Mr. Briggerland's jaw dropped.

"What?" he almost shrieked.

She nodded.

"We are going to be married next week," she said, "and the little scene
you witnessed has nothing whatever to do with you."

The effect of these words on Mordon was magical. The malignant frown
which had distorted his face cleared away. He looked from Jean to
Briggerland as though it were impossible to believe the evidence of his
ears.

"François and I love one another," Jean went on in her even voice. "We
have quarrelled to-night on a matter which has nothing to do with
anybody save ourselves."

"You're--going--to--marry--him--next--week?" said Mr. Briggerland dully.
"By God, you'll do nothing of the sort!"

She raised her hand.

"It is too late for you to interfere, father," she said quietly.
"François and I shall go our way and face our own fate. I'm sorry you
disapprove, because you have always been a very loving father to me."

That was the first hint Mr. Briggerland had received that there might be
some other explanation for her words, and he became calmer.

"Very well," he said, "I can only tell you that I strongly disapprove of
the action you have taken and that I shall do nothing whatever to
further your reckless scheme. But I must insist upon your coming back to
the house now. I cannot have my daughter talked about."

She nodded.

"I will see you to-morrow morning early, François," she said. "Perhaps
you will drive me into Nice before breakfast. I have some purchases to
make."

He bowed, and reached out his hand for the revolver which she had taken
from him.

She looked at the ornate weapon, its silver-plated metal parts, the
graceful ivory handle.

"I'm not going to trust you with this to-night," she said with her rare
smile. "Good night, François."

He took her hand and kissed it.

"Good night, Jean," he said in a tremulous voice. For a moment their
eyes met, and then she turned as though she dared not trust herself and
followed her father down the stairs.

They were half-way to the house when she laid her hand on Briggerland's
arm.

"Keep this," she said. It was François' revolver. "It is probably loaded
and I thought I saw some silver initials inlaid in the ivory handle. If
I know François Mordon, they are his."

"What do you want me to do with it?" he said as he slipped the weapon in
his pocket.

She laughed.

"On your way to bed, come in to my room," she said. "I've quite a lot to
tell you," and she sailed into the drawing-room to interrupt Mrs.
Cole-Mortimer, who was teaching a weary Lydia the elements of bezique.

"Where have you been, Jean?" asked Lydia, putting down her cards.

"I have been arranging a novel experience for you, but I'm not so sure
that it will be as interesting as it might--it all depends upon the
state of your young heart," said Jean, pulling up a chair.

"My young heart is very healthy," laughed Lydia. "What is the
interesting experience?"

"Are you in love?" challenged Jean, searching in a big chintz bag where
she kept her handiwork for a piece of unfinished sewing. (Jean's
domesticity was always a source of wonder to Lydia.)

"In love--good heavens, no."

"So much the better," nodded Jean, "that sounds as though the experience
will be fascinating."

She waited until she had threaded the fine needle before she explained.

"If you really are not in love and you sit on the Lovers' Chair, the
name of your future husband will come to you. If you're in love, of
course, that complicates matters a little."

"But suppose I don't want to know the name of my future husband?"

"Then you're inhuman," said Jean.

"Where is this magical chair?"

"It is on the San Remo road beyond the frontier station. You've been
there, haven't you, Margaret?"

"Once," said Mrs. Cole-Mortimer, who had not been east of Cap Martin,
but whose rule it was never to admit that she had missed anything worth
seeing.

"In a wild, eerie spot," Jean went on, "and miles from any human
habitation."

"Are you going to take me?"

Jean shook her head.

"That would ruin the spell," she said solemnly. "No, my dear, if you
want that thrill, and, seriously, it is worth while, because the scenery
is the most beautiful of any along the coast, you must go alone."

Lydia nodded.

"I'll try it. Is it too far to walk?" she asked.

"Much too far," said Jean. "Mordon will drive you out. He knows the road
very well and you ought not to take anybody but an experienced driver. I
have a _permis_ for the car to pass the frontier; you will probably meet
father in San Remo--he is taking a motor-cycle trip, aren't you, daddy?"

Mr. Briggerland drew a long breath and nodded. He was beginning to
understand.




Chapter XXXIV


There was lying in Monaco harbour a long white boat with a stumpy mast,
which delighted in the name of _Jungle Queen_. It was the property of an
impecunious English nobleman who made a respectable income from letting
the vessel on hire.

Mrs. Cole-Mortimer had seemed surprised at the reasonable fee demanded
for two months' use until she had seen the boat the day after her
arrival at Cap Martin.

She had pictured a large and commodious yacht; she found a reasonably
sized motor-launch with a whale-deck cabin. The description in the
agent's catalogue that the _Jungle Queen_ would "sleep four" was
probably based on the experience of a party of young roisterers who had
once hired the vessel. Supposing that the "four" were reasonably drunk
or heavily drugged, it was possible for them to sleep on board the
_Jungle Queen_. Normally two persons would have found it difficult,
though by lying diagonally across the "cabin" one small-sized man could
have slumbered without discomfort.

The _Jungle Queen_ had been a disappointment to Jean also. Her busy
brain had conceived an excellent way of solving her principal problem,
but a glance at the _Jungle Queen_ told her that the money she had spent
on hiring the launch--and it was little better--was wasted. She herself
hated the sea and had so little faith in the utility of the boat, that
she had even dismissed the youth who attended to its well-worn engines.

Mr. Marcus Stepney, who was mildly interested in motor-boating, and
considerably interested in any form of amusement which he could get at
somebody else's expense, had so far been the sole patron of the _Jungle
Queen_. It was his practice to take the boat out every morning for a two
hours' sail, generally alone, though sometimes he would take somebody
whose acquaintance he had made, and who was destined to be a source of
profit to him in the future.

Jean's talk of the cave-man method of wooing had made a big impression
upon him, emphasised as it had been, and still was, by the two angry red
scars across the back of his hand. Things were not going well with him;
the supply of rich and trusting youths had suddenly dried up. The little
games in his private sitting-room had dwindled to feeble proportions. He
was still able to eke out a living, but his success at his private
séances had been counter-balanced by heavy losses at the public tables.

It is a known fact that people who live outside the law keep to their
own plane. The swindler very rarely commits acts of violence. The
burglar who practises card-sharping as a side-line, is virtually
unknown.

Mr. Stepney lived on a plausible tongue and a pair of highly dexterous
hands. It had never occurred to him to go beyond his own sphere, and
indeed violence was as repugnant to him as it was vulgar.

Yet the cave-man suggestion appealed to him. He had a way with women of
a certain kind, and if his confidence had been rather shaken by Jean's
savagery and Lydia's indifference, he had not altogether abandoned the
hope that both girls in their turn might be conquered by the adoption of
the right method.

The method for dealing with Jean he had at the back of his mind.

As for Lydia--Jean's suggestion was very attractive. It was after a very
heavily unprofitable night spent at the Nice Casino, that he took his
courage in both hands and drove to the Villa Casa.

He was an early arrival, but Lydia had already finished her _petite
déjeuner_ and she was painfully surprised to see him.

"I'm not swimming to-day, Mr. Stepney," she said, "and you don't look
as if you were either."

He was dressed in perfectly fitting white duck trousers, white shoes,
and a blue nautical coat with brass buttons; a yachtsman's cap was set
at an angle on his dark head.

"No, I'm going out to do a little fishing," he said, "and I was
wondering whether, in your charity, you would accompany me."

She shook her head.

"I'm sorry--I have another engagement this morning," she said.

"Can't you break it?" he pleaded, "as an especial favour to me? I've
made all preparations and I've got a lovely lunch on board--you said you
would come fishing with me one day."

"I'd like to," she confessed, "but I really have something very
important to do this morning."

She did not tell him that her important duty was to sit on the Lovers'
Chair. Somehow her trip seemed just a little silly in the cold clear
light of morning.

"I could have you back in time," he begged. "Do come along, Mrs.
Meredith! You're going to spoil my day."

"I'm sure Lydia wouldn't be so unkind."

Jean had made her appearance as they were speaking.

"What is the scheme, Lydia?"

"Mr. Stepney wants me to go out in the yacht," said the girl, and Jean
smiled.

"I'm glad you call it a 'yacht,'" she said dryly. "You're the second
person who has so described it. The first was the agent. Take her
to-morrow, Marcus."

There was a glint of amusement in her eyes, and he felt that she knew
what was at the back of his mind.

"All right," he said in a tone which suggested that it was anything but
all right, and added, "I saw you flying through Nice this morning with
that yellow-faced chauffeur of yours, Jean."

"Were you up so early?" she asked carelessly.

"I wasn't dressed, I was looking out of the window--my room faces the
Promenade d'Anglaise. I don't like that fellow."

"I shouldn't let him know," said Jean coolly. "He is very sensitive.
There are so many fellows that you dislike, too."

"I don't think you ought to allow him so much freedom," Marcus Stepney
went on. He was not in an amiable frame of mind, and the knowledge that
he was annoying the girl encouraged him. "If you give these French
chauffeurs an inch they'll take a kilometre."

"I suppose they would," said Jean thoughtfully. "How is your poor hand,
Marcus?"

He growled something under his breath and thrust his hand deep into the
pocket of his reefer coat.

"It is quite well," he snapped, and went back to Monaco and his solitary
boat trip, flaming.

"One of these days ..." he muttered, as he tuned up the motor. He did
not finish his sentence, but sent the nose of the _Jungle Queen_ at full
speed for the open sea.

Jean's talk with Mordon that morning had not been wholly satisfactory.
She had calmed his suspicions to an extent, but he still harped upon the
letter, and she had promised to give it to him that evening.

"My dear," she said, "you are too impulsive--too Gallic. I had a
terrible scene with father last night. He wants me to break off the
engagement; told me what my friends in London would say, and how I
should be a social outcast."

"And you--you, Jean?" he asked.

"I told him that such things did not trouble me," she said, and her lips
drooped sadly. "I know I cannot be happy with anybody but you, François,
and I am willing to face the sneers of London, even the hatred and scorn
of my father, for your sake."

He would have seized her hand, though they were in the open road, but
she drew away from him.

"Be careful, François," she warned him.

"Remember that you have a very little time to wait."

"I cannot believe my good fortune," he babbled, as he brought the car up
the gentle incline into Monte Carlo. He dodged an early morning tram,
missing an unsuspecting passenger, who had come round the back of the
tram-car, by inches, and set the big Italia up the palm avenue into the
town.

"It is incredible, and yet I always thought some great thing would
happen to me, and, Jean, I have risked so much for you. I would have
killed Madame in London if she had not been dragged out of the way by
that old man, and did I not watch for you when the man Meredith----"

"Hush," she said in a low voice. "Let us talk about something else."

"Shall I see your father? I am sorry for what I did last night," he said
when they were nearing the villa.

"Father has taken his motor-bicycle and gone for a trip into Italy," she
said. "No, I do not think I should speak to him, even if he were here.
He may come round in time, François. You can understand that it is
terribly distressing; he hoped I would make a great marriage. You must
allow for father's disappointment."

He nodded. He did not drive her to the house, but stopped outside the
garage.

"Remember, at half-past ten you will take Madame Meredith to the Lovers'
Chair--you know the place?"

"I know it very well," he said. "It is a difficult place to turn--I must
take her almost into San Remo. Why does she want to go to the Lovers'
Chair? I thought only the cheap people went there----"

"You must not tell her that," she said sharply. "Besides, I myself have
been there."

"And who did you think of, Jean?" he asked suddenly.

She lowered her eyes.

"I will not tell you--now," she said, and ran into the house.

François stood gazing after her until she had disappeared, and then,
like a man waking from a trance, he turned to the mundane business of
filling his tank.




Chapter XXXV


Lydia was dressing for her journey when Mrs. Cole-Mortimer came into the
saloon where Jean was writing.

"There's a telephone call from Monte Carlo," she said. "Somebody wants
to speak to Lydia."

Jean jumped up.

"I'll answer it," she said.

The voice at the other end of the wire was harsh and unfamiliar to her.

"I want to speak to Mrs. Meredith."

"Who is it?" asked Jean.

"It is a friend of hers," said the voice. "Will you tell her? The
business is rather urgent."

"I'm sorry," said Jean, "but she's just gone out."

She heard an exclamation of annoyance.

"Do you know where she's gone?" asked the voice.

"I think she's gone in to Monte Carlo," said Jean.

"If I miss her will you tell her not to go out again until I come to the
house?"

"Certainly," said Jean politely, and hung up the telephone.

"Was that a call for me?"

It was Lydia's voice from the head of the stairs.

"Yes, dear. I think it was Marcus Stepney who wanted to speak to you. I
told him you'd gone out," said Jean. "You didn't wish to speak to him?"

"Good heavens, no!" said Lydia. "You're sure you won't come with me?"

"I'd rather stay here," said Jean truthfully.

The car was at the door, and Mordon, looking unusually spruce in his
white dust coat, stood by the open door.

"How long shall I be away?" asked Lydia.

"About two hours, dear, you'll be very hungry when you come back," said
Jean, kissing her. "Now, mind you think of the right man," she warned
her in mockery.

"I wonder if I shall," said Lydia quietly.

Jean watched the car out of sight, then went back to the saloon. She was
hardly seated before the telephone rang again, and she anticipated Mrs.
Cole-Mortimer, and answered it.

"Mrs. Meredith has not gone in to Monte Carlo," said the voice. "Her car
has not been seen on the road."

"Is that Mr. Jaggs?" asked Jean sweetly.

"Yes, miss," was the reply.

"Mrs. Meredith has come back now. I'm dreadfully sorry, I thought she
had gone into Monte Carlo. She's in her room with a bad headache. Will
you come and see her?"

There was an interval of silence.

"Yes, I will come," said Jaggs.

Twenty minutes later a taxicab set down the old man at the door, and a
maid admitted him and brought him into the saloon.

Jean rose to meet him. She looked at the bowed figure of old Jaggs. Took
him all in, from his iron-grey hair to his dusty shoes, and then she
pointed to a chair.

"Sit down," she said, and old Jaggs obeyed. "You've something very
important to tell Mrs. Meredith, I suppose."

"I'll tell her that myself, miss," said the old man gruffly.

"Well, before you tell her anything, I want to make a confession," she
smiled down on old Jaggs, and pulled up a chair so that she faced him.

He was sitting with his back to the light, holding his battered hat on
his knees.

"I've really brought you up under false pretences," she said, "because
Mrs. Meredith isn't here at all."

"Not here?" he said, half rising.

"No, she's gone for a ride with our chauffeur. But I wanted to see you,
Mr. Jaggs, because--" she paused. "I realise that you're a dear friend
of hers and have her best interests at heart. I don't know who you are,"
she said, shaking her head, "but I know, of course, that Mr. John Glover
has employed you."

"What's all this about?" he asked gruffly. "What have you to tell me?"

"I don't know how to begin," she said, biting her lips. "It is such a
delicate matter that I hate talking about it at all. But the attitude of
Mrs. Meredith to our chauffeur Mordon, is distressing, and I think Mr.
Glover should be told."

He did not speak and she went on.

"These things do happen, I know," she said, "but I am happy to say that
nothing of that sort has come into my experience, and, of course, Mordon
is a good-looking man and she is young----"

"What are you talking about?" His tone was dictatorial and commanding.

"I mean," she said, "that I fear poor Lydia is in love with Mordon."

He sprang to his feet.

"It's a damned lie!" he said, and she stared at him. "Now tell me what
has happened to Lydia Meredith," he went on, "and let me tell you this,
Jean Briggerland, that if one hair of that girl's head is harmed, I will
finish the work I began out there," he pointed to the garden, "and
strangle you with my own hands."

She lifted her eyes to his and dropped them again, and began to
tremble, then turning suddenly on her heel, she fled to her room, locked
the door and stood against it, white and shaking. For the second time in
her life Jean Briggerland was afraid.

She heard his quick footsteps in the passage outside, and there came a
tap on her door.

"Let me in," growled the man, and for a second she almost lost control
of herself. She looked wildly round the room for some way of escape, and
then as a thought struck her, she ran quickly into the bath-room, which
opened from her room. A large sponge was set to dry by an open window,
and this she seized; on a shelf by the side of the bath was a big bottle
of ammonia, and averting her face, she poured its contents upon the
sponge until it was sodden, then with the dripping sponge in her hand,
she crept back, turned the key and opened the door.

The old man burst in, then, before he realised what was happening, the
sponge was pressed against his face. The pungent drug almost blinded
him, its paralysing fumes brought him on to his knees. He gripped her
wrist and tried to press away her hand, but now her arm was round his
neck, and he could not get the purchase.

With a groan of agony he collapsed on the floor. In that instant she was
on him like a cat, her knee between his shoulders.

Half unconscious he felt his hands drawn to his back, and felt something
lashing them together. She was using the silk girdle which had been
about her waist, and her work was effective.

Presently she turned him over on his back. The ammonia was still in his
eyes, and he could not open them. The agony was terrible, almost
unendurable. With her hand under his arm he struggled to his feet. He
felt her lead him somewhere, and suddenly he was pushed into a chair.
She left him alone for a little while, but presently came back and began
to tie his feet together. It was a most amazing single-handed
capture--even Jean could never have imagined the ease with which she
could gain her victory.

"I'm sorry to hurt an old man." There was a sneer in her voice which he
had not heard before. "But if you promise not to shout, I will not gag
you."

He heard the sound of running water, and presently with a wet cloth she
began wiping his eyes gently.

"You will be able to see in a minute," said Jean's cool voice. "In the
meantime you'll stay here until I send for the police."

For all his pain he was forced to chuckle.

"Until you send for the police, eh? You know me?"

"I only know you're a wicked old man who broke into this house whilst I
was alone and the servants were out," she said.

"You know why I've come?" he insisted. "I've come to tell Mrs. Meredith
that a hundred thousand pounds have been taken from her bank on a forged
signature."

"How absurd," said Jean. She was sitting on the edge of the bath looking
at the bedraggled figure. "How could anybody draw money from Mrs.
Meredith's bank whilst her dear friend and guardian, Jack Glover, is in
London to see that she is not robbed."

"Old Jaggs" glared up at her from his inflamed eyes.

"You know very well," he said distinctly, "that I am Jack Glover, and
that I have not left Monte Carlo since Lydia Meredith arrived."




Chapter XXXVI


Mr. Briggerland did not enthuse over any form of sport or exercise. His
hobbies were confined to the handsome motor-cycle, which not only
provided him with recreation, but had, on occasion, been of assistance
in the carrying out of important plans, formulated by his daughter.

He stopped at Mentone for breakfast and climbed the hill to Grimaldi
after passing the frontier station at Pont St. Louis. He had all the
morning before him, and there was no great hurry. At Ventimille he had a
second breakfast, for the morning was keen and his appetite was good. He
loafed through the little town, with a cigar between his teeth, bought
some curios at a shop and continued his leisurely journey.

His objective was San Remo. There was a train at one o'clock which would
bring him and his machine back to Monte Carlo, where it was his
intention to spend the remainder of the afternoon. At Pont St. Louis he
had had a talk with the Customs Officer.

"No, m'sieur, there are very few travellers on the road in the
morning," said the official. "It is not until late in the afternoon that
the traffic begins. Times have changed on the Riviera, and so many
people go to Cannes. The old road is almost now deserted."

At eleven o'clock Mr. Briggerland came to a certain part of the road and
found a hiding-place for his motor-cycle--a small plantation of olive
trees on the hill side. Incidentally it was an admirable resting place,
for from here he commanded an extensive view of the western road.

Lydia's journey had been no less enjoyable. She, too, had stopped at
Mentone to explore the town, and had left Pont St. Louis an hour after
Mr. Briggerland had passed.

The road to San Remo runs under the shadow of steep hills through a
bleak stretch of country from which even the industrious peasantry of
northern Italy cannot win a livelihood. Save for isolated patches of
cultivated land, the hills are bare and menacing.

With these gaunt plateaux on one side and the rock-strewn seashore on
the other, there was little to hold the eye save an occasional glimpse
of the Italian town in the far distance. There was a wild uncouthness
about the scenery which awed the girl. Sometimes the car would be
running so near the sea level that the spray of the waves hit the
windows; sometimes it would climb over an out-jutting headland and she
would look down upon a bouldered beach a hundred feet below.

It was on the crest of a headland that the car stopped.

Here the road ran out in a semi-circle so that from where she sat she
could not see its continuation either before or behind. Ahead it slipped
round the shoulder of a high and over-hanging mass of rock, through
which the road must have been cut. Behind it dipped down to a cove,
hidden from sight.

"There is the Lovers' Chair, mademoiselle," said Mordon.

Half a dozen feet beneath the road level was a broad shelf of rock. A
few stone steps led down and she followed them. The Lovers' Chair was
carved in the face of the rock and she sat down to view the beauty of
the scene. The solitude, the stillness which only the lazy waves broke,
the majesty of the setting, brought a strange peace to her. Beyond the
edge of the ledge the cliff fell sheer to the water, and she shivered as
she stepped back from her inspection.

Mordon did not see her go. He sat on the running board of his car, his
pale face between his hands, a prey to his own gloomy thoughts. There
must be a development, he told himself. He was beginning to get uneasy,
and for the first time he doubted the sincerity of the woman who had
been to him as a goddess.

He did not hear Mr. Briggerland, for the dark man was light of foot,
when he came round the shoulder of the hill. Mordon's back was toward
him. Suddenly the chauffeur looked round.

"M'sieur," he stammered, and would have risen, but Briggerland laid his
hand on his shoulder.

"Do not rise, François," he said pleasantly. "I am afraid I was hasty
last night."

"M'sieur, it was I who was hasty," said Mordon huskily, "it was
unpardonable...."

"Nonsense," Briggerland patted the man's shoulder. "What is that boat
out there--a man o' war, François?"

François Mordon turned his head toward the sea, and Briggerland pointed
the ivory-handled pistol he had held behind his back and shot him dead.

The report of the revolver thrown down by the rocks came to Lydia like a
clap of thunder. At first she thought it was a tyre burst and hurried up
the steps to see.

Mr. Briggerland was standing with his back to the car. At his feet was
the tumbled body of Mordon.

"Mr.--Brig...!" she gasped, and saw the revolver in his hand. With a cry
she almost flung herself down the steps as the revolver exploded. The
bullet ripped her hat from her head, and she flung up her hands,
thinking she had been struck.

Then the dark face showed over the parapet and again the revolver was
presented. She stared for a second into his benevolent eyes, and then
something hit her violently and she staggered back, and dropped over the
edge of the shelf down, straight down into the sea below.




Chapter XXXVII


Probably Jean Briggerland never gave a more perfect representation of
shocked surprise than when old Jaggs announced that he was Jack Glover.

"Mr. Glover," she said incredulously.

"If you'll be kind enough to release my hands," said Jack savagely, "I
will convince you."

Jean, all meekness, obeyed, and presently he stood up with a groan.

"You've nearly blinded me," he said, turning to the glass.

"If I'd known it was you----"

"Don't make me laugh!" he snapped. "Of course you knew who it was!" He
took off the wig and peeled the beard from his face.

"Was that very painful?" she asked, sympathetically, and Jack snorted.

"How was I to know that it was you?" she demanded, virtuously indignant,
"I thought you were a wicked old man----"

"You thought nothing of the sort, Miss Briggerland," said Jack. "You
knew who I was, and you guessed why I had taken on this disguise. I was
not many yards from you when it suddenly dawned upon you that I could
not sleep at Lydia Meredith's flat unless I went there in the guise of
an old man."

"Why should you want to sleep at her flat at all?" she asked innocently.
"It doesn't seem to me to be a very proper ambition."

"That is an unnecessary question, and I'm wasting my time when I answer
you," said Jack sternly. "I went there to save her life, to protect her
against your murderous plots!"

"My murderous plots?" she repeated aghast. "You surely don't know what
you're saying."

"I know this," and his face was not pleasant to see. "I have sufficient
evidence to secure the arrest of your father, and possibly yourself. For
months I have been working on that first providential accident of
yours--the rich Australian who died with such remarkable suddenness. I
may not get you in the Meredith case, and I may not be able to jail you
for your attacks on Mrs. Meredith, but I have enough evidence to hang
your father for the earlier crime."

Her face was blank--expressionless. Never before had she been brought up
short with such a threat as the man was uttering, nor had she ever been
in danger of detection. And all the time she was eyeing him so steadily,
not a muscle of her face moving, her mind was groping back into the
past, examining every detail of the crime he had mentioned, seeking for
some flaw in the carefully prepared plan which had brought a good man to
a violent and untimely end.

"That kind of bluff doesn't impress me," she said at last. "You're in a
poor way when you have to invent crimes to attach to me."

"We'll go into that later. Where is Lydia?" he said shortly.

"I tell you I don't know, except that she has gone out for a drive. I
expect her back very soon."

"Is your father with her?"

She shook her head.

"No, father went out early. I don't know who gave you authority to
cross-examine me. Why, Jack Glover, you have all the importance of a
French examining magistrate," she smiled.

"You may learn how important they are soon," he said significantly.
"Where is your chauffeur, Mordon?"

"He is gone, too--in fact, he is driving Lydia. Why?" she asked with a
little tightening of heart. She had only just been in time, she thought.
So they had associated Mordon with the forgery!

His first words confirmed this suspicion.

"There is a warrant for Mordon which will be executed as soon as he
returns," said Jack. "We have been able to trace him in London and also
the woman who presented the cheque. We know his movements from the time
he left Nice by aeroplane for Paris to the time he returned to Nice. The
people who changed the money for him will swear to his identity."

If he expected to startle her he was disappointed. She raised her
eyebrows.

"I can't believe it is possible. Mordon was such an honest man," she
said. "We trusted him implicitly, and never once did he betray our
trust. Now, Mr. Glover," she said coolly, "might I suggest that an
interview with a gentleman in my bedroom is not calculated to increase
my servants' respect for me? Will you go downstairs and wait until I
come?"

"You'll not attempt to leave this house?" he said, and she laughed.

"Really, you're going on like one of those infallible detectives one
reads about in the popular magazines," she said a little contemptuously.
"You have no authority whatever to keep me from leaving this house and
nobody knows that better than you. But you needn't be afraid. Sit on the
stairs if you like until I come down."

When he had gone she rang the bell for her maid and handed her an
envelope.

"I shall be in the saloon, talking to Mr. Glover," she said in a low
voice. "I want you to bring this in and say that you found it in the
hall."

"Yes, miss," said the woman.

Jean proceeded leisurely to her toilet. In the struggle her dress had
been torn, and she changed it for a pale green silk gown, and Jack,
pacing in the hall below, was on the point of coming up to discover if
she had made her escape, when she sailed serenely down the stairs.

"I should like to know one thing, Mr. Glover," she said as she went into
the saloon. "What do you intend doing? What is your immediate plan? Are
you going to spirit Lydia away from us? Of course, I know you're in love
with her and all that sort of thing."

His face went pink.

"I am not in love with Mrs. Meredith," he lied.

"Don't be silly," she said practically, "of course you're in love with
her."

"My first job is to get that money back, and you're going to help me,"
he said.

"Of course I'm going to help you," she agreed. "If Mordon has been such
a scoundrel, he must suffer the consequence. I'm sure that you are too
clever to have made any mistake. Poor Mordon. I wonder what made him do
it, because he is such a good friend of Lydia's, and seriously, Mr.
Glover, I do think Lydia is being indiscreet."

"You made that remark before," he said quietly. "Now perhaps you'll
explain what you mean."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"They are always about together. I saw them strolling on the lawn last
night till quite a late hour, and I was so scared lest Mrs.
Cole-Mortimer noticed it too----"

"Which means that Mrs. Cole-Mortimer did not notice it. You're clever,
Jean! Even as you invent you make preparations to refute any evidence
that the other side can produce. I don't believe a word you say."

There was a knock at the door and the maid entered bearing a letter on a
salver.

"This was addressed to you, miss," she said. "It was on the hall
table--didn't you see it?"

"No," said Jean in surprise. She took the letter, looked down at the
address and opened it.

He saw a look of amazement and horror come to her face.

"Good God!" gasped Jean.

"What is it?" he said, springing up.

She stared at the letter again and from the letter to him.

"Read it," she said in a hollow voice.

     "_Dear Mademoiselle_,

     "_I have returned from London and have confessed to Madame
     Meredith that I have forged her name and have drawn £100,000
     from her bank. And now I have learnt that Madame Meredith loves
     me. There is only one end to this--that which you see----_"

Jack read the letter twice.

"It is in his writing, too," he muttered. "It's impossible, incredible!
I tell you I've had Mrs. Meredith under my eyes all the time she has
been here. Is there a letter from her?" he asked suddenly. "But no, it
is impossible, impossible!"

"I haven't been into her room. Will you come up with me?"

He followed her up the stairs and into Lydia's big bedroom, and the
first thing that caught his eye was a sealed letter on a table near the
bed. He picked it up. It was addressed to him, in Lydia's handwriting,
and feverishly he tore it open.

His face, when he had finished reading, was as white as hers had been.

"Where have they gone?" he asked.

"They went to San Remo."

"By car?"

"Of course."

Without a word he turned and ran down the stairs out of the house.

The taxi that had brought him in the role of Jaggs had gone, but down
the road, a dozen yards away, was the car he had hired on the day he
came to Monte Carlo. He gave instructions to the driver and jumped in.
The car sped through Mentone, stopped only the briefest while at the
Customs barrier whilst Jack pursued his inquiries.

Yes, a lady had passed, but she had not returned.

How long ago?

Perhaps an hour; perhaps less.

At top speed the big car thundered along the sea road, twisting and
turning, diving into valleys and climbing steep headlands, and then
rounding a corner, Jack saw the car and a little crowd about it. His
heart turned to stone as he leapt to the road.

He saw the backs of two Italian gendarmes, and pushing aside the little
knot of idlers, he came into the centre of the group and stopped. Mordon
lay on his face in a pool of blood, and one of the policemen was holding
an ivory-handled revolver.

"It was with this that the crime was committed," he said in florid
Italian. "Three of the chambers are empty. Now, at whom were the other
two discharged?"

Jack reeled and gripped the mud-guard of the car for support, then his
eyes strayed to the opening in the wall which ran on the seaward side of
the road.

He walked to the parapet and looked over, and the first thing he saw was
a torn hat and veil, and he knew it was Lydia's.




Chapter XXXVIII


Mr. Briggerland, killing time on the quay at Monaco, saw the _Jungle
Queen_ come into harbour and watched Marcus land, carrying his lines in
his hand.

As Marcus came abreast of him he called and Mr. Stepney looked round
with a start.

"Hello, Briggerland," he said, swallowing something.

"Well, have you been fishing?" asked Mr. Briggerland in his most
paternal manner.

"Yes," admitted Marcus.

"Did you catch anything?"

Stepney nodded.

"Only one," he said.

"Hard luck," said Mr. Briggerland, with a smile, "but where is Mrs.
Meredith--I understood she was going out with you to-day?"

"She went to San Remo," said Stepney shortly, and the other nodded.

"To be sure," he said. "I had forgotten that."

Later he bought a copy of the _Nicoise_ and learnt of the tragedy on the
San Remo road. It brought him back to the house, a visibly agitated
man.

"This is shocking news, my dear," he panted into the saloon and stood
stock still at the sight of Mr. Jack Glover.

"Come in, Briggerland," said Jack, without ceremony. There was a man
with him, a tall, keen Frenchman whom Briggerland recognised as the
chief detective of the Préfecture. "We want you to give an account of
your actions."

"My actions?" said Mr. Briggerland indignantly. "Do you associate me
with this dreadful tragedy? A tragedy," he said, "which has stricken me
almost dumb with horror and remorse. Why did I ever allow that villain
even to speak to poor Lydia?"

"Nevertheless, m'sieur," said the tall man quietly, "you must tell us
where you have been."

"That is easily explained. I went to San Remo."

"By road?"

"Yes, by road," said Mr. Briggerland, "on my motor-bicycle."

"What time did you arrive in San Remo?"

"At midday, or it may have been a quarter of an hour before."

"You know that the murder must have been committed at half-past eleven?"
said Jack.

"So the newspapers tell me."

"Where did you go in San Remo?" asked the detective.

"I went to a café and had a glass of wine, then I strolled about the
town and lunched at the Victoria. I caught the one o'clock train to
Monte Carlo."

"Did you hear nothing of the murder?"

"Not a word," said Mr. Briggerland, "not a word."

"Did you see the car?"

Mr. Briggerland shook his head.

"I left some time before poor Lydia," he said softly.

"Did you know of any attachment between the chauffeur and your guest?"

"I had no idea such a thing existed. If I had," said Mr. Briggerland
virtuously, "I should have taken immediate steps to have brought poor
Lydia to her senses."

"Your daughter says that they were frequently together. Did you notice
this?"

"Yes, I did notice it, but my daughter and I are very democratic. We
have made a friend of Mordon and I suppose what would have seemed
familiar to you, would pass unnoticed with us. Yes, I certainly do
remember my poor friend and Mordon walking together in the garden."

"Is this yours?" The detective took from behind a curtain an old British
rifle.

"Yes, that is mine," admitted Briggerland without a moment's hesitation.
"It is one I bought in Amiens, a souvenir of our gallant soldiers----"

"I know, I quite understand your patriotic motive in purchasing it,"
said the detective dryly, "but will you tell us how this passed from
your possession."

"I haven't the slightest notion," said Mr. Briggerland in surprise. "I
had no idea it was lost--I'd lost sight of it for some weeks. Can it be
that Mordon--but no, I must not think so evilly of him."

"What were you going to suggest?" asked Jack. "That Mordon fired at Mrs.
Meredith when she was on the swimming raft? If you are, I can save you
the trouble of telling that lie. It was you who fired, and it was I who
knocked you out."

Mr. Briggerland's face was a study.

"I can't understand why you make such a wild and unfounded charge," he
said gently. "Perhaps, my dear, you could elucidate this mystery."

Jean had not spoken since he entered. She sat bolt upright on a chair,
her hands folded in her lap, her sad eyes fixed now upon Jack, now upon
the detective. She shook her head.

"I know nothing about the rifle, and did not even know you possessed
one," she said. "But please answer all their questions, father. I am as
anxious as you are to get to the bottom of this dreadful tragedy. Have
you told my father about the letters which were discovered?"

The detective shook his head.

"I have not seen your father until he arrived this moment," he said.

"Letters?" Mr. Briggerland looked at his daughter. "Did poor Lydia leave
a letter?"

She nodded.

"I think Mr. Glover will tell you, father," she said. "Poor Lydia had an
attachment for Mordon. It is very clear what happened. They went out
to-day, never intending to return----"

"Mrs. Meredith had no intention of going to the Lovers' Chair until you
suggested the trip to her," said Jack quietly. "Mrs. Cole-Mortimer is
very emphatic on that point."

"Has the body been found?" asked Mr. Briggerland.

"Nothing has been found but the chauffeur," said the detective.

After a few more questions he took Jack outside.

"It looks very much to me as though it were one of those crimes of
passion which are so frequent in this country," he said. "Mordon was a
Frenchman and I have been able to identify him by tattoo marks on his
arm, as a man who has been in the hands of the police many times."

"You think there is no hope?"

The detective shrugged his shoulders.

"We are dragging the pool. There is very deep water under the rock, but
the chances are that the body has been washed out to sea. There is
clearly no evidence against these people, except yours. The letters
might, of course, have been forged, but you say you are certain that the
writing is Mrs. Meredith's."

Jack nodded.

They were walking down the road towards the officers' waiting car, when
Jack asked:

"May I see that letter again?"

The detective took it from his pocket book and Jack stopped and scanned
it.

"Yes, it is her writing," he said and then uttered an exclamation.

"Do you see that?"

He pointed eagerly to two little marks before the words "Dear friend."

"Quotation marks," said the detective, puzzled. "Why did she write
that?"

"I've got it," said Jack. "The story! Mademoiselle Briggerland told me
she was writing a story, and I remember she said she had writer's cramp.
Suppose she dictated a portion of the story to Mrs. Meredith, and
suppose in that story there occurred this letter: Lydia would have put
the quotation marks mechanically."

The detective took the letter from his hand.

"It is possible," he said. "The writing is very even--it shows no sign
of agitation, and of course the character's initials might be 'L.M.' It
is an ingenious hypothesis, and not wholly improbable, but if this were
a part of the story, there would be other sheets. Would you like me to
search the house?"

Jack shook his head.

"She's much too clever to have them in the house," he said. "More likely
she's put them in the fire."

"What fire?" asked the detective dryly. "These houses have no fires,
they're central heated--unless she went to the kitchen."

"Which she wouldn't do," said Jack thoughtfully. "No, she'd burn them in
the garden."

The detective nodded, and they returned to the house.

Jean, deep in conversation with her father, saw them reappear, and
watched them as they walked slowly across the lawn toward the trees,
their eyes fixed on the ground.

"What are they looking for?" she asked with a frown.

"I'll go and see," said Briggerland, but she caught his arm.

"Do you think they'll tell you?" she asked sarcastically.

She ran up to her own room and watched them from behind a curtain.
Presently they passed out of sight to the other side of the house, and
she went into Lydia's room and overlooked them from there. Suddenly she
saw the detective stoop and pick up something from the ground, and her
teeth set.

"The burnt story," she said. "I never dreamt they'd look for that."

It was only a scrap they found, but it was in Lydia's writing, and the
pencil mark was clearly visible on the charred ashes.

"'Laura Martin,'" read the detective. "'L.M.,' and there are the words
'tragic' and 'remorse'."

From the remainder of the charred fragments they collected nothing of
importance. Jean watched them disappear along the avenue, and went down
to her father.

"I had a fright," she said.

"You look as if you've still got it," he said. He eyed her keenly.

She shook her head.

"Father, you must understand that this adventure may end disastrously.
There are ninety-nine chances against the truth being known, but it is
the extra chance that is worrying me. We ought to have settled Lydia
more quietly, more naturally. There was too much melodrama and shooting,
but I don't see how we could have done anything else--Mordon was very
tiresome."

"Where did Glover come from?" asked Mr. Briggerland.

"He's been here all the time," said the girl.

"What?"

She nodded.

"He was old Jaggs. I had an idea he was, but I was certain when I
remembered that he had stayed at Lydia's flat."

He put down his tea cup and wiped his lips with a silk handkerchief.

"I wish this business was over," he said fretfully. "It looks as if we
shall have trouble."

"Of course we shall," she said coldly. "You didn't expect to get a
fortune of six hundred thousand pounds without trouble, did you? I dare
say we shall be suspected. But it takes a lot of suspicion to worry me.
We'll be in calm water soon, for the rest of our lives."

"I hope so," he said without any great conviction.

Mrs. Cole-Mortimer was prostrate and in bed, and Jean had no patience to
see her.

She herself ordered the dinner, and they had finished when a visitor in
the shape of Mr. Marcus Stepney came in.

It was unusual of Marcus to appear at the dinner hour, except in evening
dress, and she remarked the fact wonderingly.

"Can I have a word with you, Jean?" he asked.

"What is it, what is it?" asked Mr. Briggerland testily. "Haven't we had
enough mysteries?"

Marcus eyed him without favour.

"We'll have another one, if you don't mind," he said unpleasantly, and
the girl, whose every sense was alert, picked up a wrap and walked into
the garden, with Marcus following on her heels.

Ten minutes passed and they did not return, a quarter of an hour went
by, and Mr. Briggerland grew uneasy. He got up from his chair, put down
his book, and was half-way across the room when the door opened and Jack
Glover came in, followed by the detective.

It was the Frenchman who spoke.

"M'sieur Briggerland, I have a warrant from the Préfect of the Alpes
Maritimes for your arrest."

"My arrest?" spluttered the dark man, his teeth chattering. "What--what
is the charge?"

"The wilful murder of François Mordon," said the officer.

"You lie--you lie," screamed Briggerland. "I have no knowledge of
any----" his words sank into a throaty gurgle, and he stared past the
detective. Lydia Meredith was standing in the doorway.




Chapter XXXIX


The morning for Mr. Stepney had been doubly disappointing; again and
again he drew up an empty line, and at last he flung the tackle into the
well of the launch.

"Even the damn fish won't bite," he said, and the humour of his remark
cheered him. He was ten miles from the shore, and the blue coast was a
dim, ragged line on the horizon. He pulled out a big luncheon basket
from the cabin and eyed it with disfavour. It had cost him two hundred
francs. He opened the basket, and at the sight of its contents, was
inclined to reconsider his earlier view that he had wasted his money,
the more so since the _maître d'hôtel_ had thoughtfully included two
quart bottles of champagne.

Mr. Marcus Stepney made a hearty meal, and by the time he had dropped an
empty bottle into the sea, he was inclined to take a more cheerful view
of life. He threw over the debris of the lunch, pushed the basket under
one of the seats of the cabin, pulled up his anchor and started the
engines running.

The sky was a brighter blue and the sea held a finer sparkle, and he
was inclined to take a view of even Jean Briggerland, more generous than
any he had held.

"Little devil," he smiled reminiscently, as he murmured the words.

He opened the second bottle of champagne in her honour--Mr. Marcus
Stepney was usually an abstemious man--and drank solemnly, if not
soberly, her health and happiness. As the sun grew warmer he began to
feel an unaccountable sleepiness. He was sober enough to know that to
fall asleep in the middle of the ocean was to ask for trouble, and he
set the bow of the _Jungle Queen_ for the nearest beach, hoping to find
a landing place.

He found something better as he skirted the shore. The sea and the
weather had scooped out a big hollow under a high cliff, a hollow just
big enough to take the _Jungle Queen_ and deep and still enough to
ensure her a safe anchorage. A rock barrier interposed between the
breakers and this deep pool which the waves had hollowed in the stony
floor of the ocean. As he dropped his anchor he disturbed a school of
fish, and his angling instincts re-awoke. He let down his line over the
side, seated himself comfortable in one of the two big basket chairs,
and was dozing comfortably....

It was the sound of a shot that woke him. It was followed by another,
and a third. Almost immediately something dropped from the cliff, and
fell with a mighty splash into the water.

Marcus was wide awake now, and almost sobered. He peered down into the
clear depths, and saw a figure of a woman turning over and over. Then as
it floated upwards it came on its back, and he saw the face. Without a
moment's hesitation he dived into the water.

He would have been wiser if he had waited until she floated to the
surface, for now he found a difficulty in regaining the boat. After a
great deal of trouble, he managed to reach into the launch and pull out
a rope, which he fastened round the girl's waist and drew tight to a
small stanchion. Then he climbed into the boat himself, and pulled her
after him.

He thought at first she was dead, but listening intently he heard the
beating of her heart, and searched the luncheon basket for a small flask
of liqueurs, which Alphonse, the head waiter, had packed. He put the
bottle to her lips and poured a small quantity into her mouth. She
choked convulsively, and presently opened her eyes.

"You're amongst friends," said Marcus unnecessarily.

She sat up and covered her face with her hands. It all came back to her
in a flash, and the horror of it froze her blood.

"What has happened to you?" asked Marcus.

"I don't know exactly," she said faintly. And then: "Oh, it was
dreadful, dreadful!"

Marcus Stepney offered her the flask of liqueurs, and when she shook her
head, he helped himself liberally.

Lydia was conscious of a pain in her left shoulder. The sleeve was torn,
and across the thick of the arm there was an ugly raw weal.

"It looks like a bullet mark to me," said Marcus Stepney, suddenly
grave. "I heard a shot. Did somebody shoot at you?"

She nodded.

"Who?"

She tried to frame the word, but no sound came, and then she burst into
a fit of weeping.

"Not Jean?" he asked hoarsely.

She shook her head.

"Briggerland?"

She nodded.

"Briggerland!" Mr. Stepney whistled, and as he whistled he shivered.
"Let's get out of here," he said. "We shall catch our death of cold. The
sun will warm us up."

He started the engines going, and safely navigated the narrow passage to
the open sea. He had to get a long way out before he could catch a
glimpse of the road, then he saw the car, and a cycling policeman
dismounting and bending over something. He put away his telescope and
turned to the girl.

"This is bad, Mrs. Meredith," he said. "Thank God I wasn't in it."

"Where are you taking me?" she asked.

"I'm taking you out to sea," said Marcus with a little smile. "Don't get
scared, Mrs. Meredith. I want to hear that story of yours, and if it is
anything like what I fear, then it would be better for you that
Briggerland thinks you are dead."

She told the story as far as she knew it and he listened, not
interrupting, until she had finished.

"Mordon dead, eh? That's bad. But how on earth are they going to explain
it? I suppose," he said with a smile, "you didn't write a letter saying
that you were going to run away with the chauffeur?"

She sat up at this.

"I did write a letter," she said slowly. "It wasn't a real letter, it
was in a story which Jean was dictating."

She closed her eyes.

"How awful," she said. "I can't believe it even now."

"Tell me about the story," said the man quickly.

"It was a story she was writing for a London magazine, and her wrist
hurt, and I wrote it down as she dictated. Only about three pages, but
one of the pages was a letter supposed to have been written by the
heroine saying that she was going away, as she loved somebody who was
beneath her socially."

"Good God!" said Marcus, genuinely shocked. "Did Jean do that?"

He seemed absolutely crushed by the realisation of Jean Briggerland's
deed, and he did not speak again for a long time.

"I'm glad I know," he said at last.

"Do you really think that all this time she has been trying to kill me?"

He nodded.

"She has used everybody, even me," he said bitterly. "I don't want you
to think badly of me, Mrs. Meredith, but I'm going to tell you the
truth. I'd provisioned this little yacht to-day for a twelve hundred
mile trip, and you were to be my companion."

"I?" she said incredulously.

"It was Jean's idea, really, though I think she must have altered her
view, or thought I had forgotten all she suggested. I intended taking
you out to sea and keeping you out there until you agreed----" he shook
his head. "I don't think I could have done it really," he said, speaking
half to himself. "I'm not really built for a conspirator. None of that
rough stuff ever appealed to me. Well, I didn't try, anyway."

"No, Mr. Stepney," she said quietly, "and I don't think, if you had, you
would have succeeded."

He was in his frankest mood, and startled her later when he told her of
his profession, without attempting to excuse or minimise the method by
which he earned his livelihood.

"I was in a pretty bad way, and I thought there was easy money coming,
and that rather tempted me," he said. "I know you will think I am a
despicable cad, but you can't think too badly of me, really."

He surveyed the shore. Ahead of them the green tongue of Cap Martin
jutted out into the sea.

"I think I'll take you to Nice," he said. "We'll attract less attention
there, and probably I'll be able to get into touch with your old Mr.
Jaggs. You've no idea where I can find him? At any rate, I can go to the
Villa Casa and discover what sort of a yarn is being told."

"And probably I can get my clothes dry," she said with a little grimace.
"I wonder if you know how uncomfortable I am?"

"Pretty well," he said calmly. "Every time I move a new stream of water
runs down my back."

It was half-past three in the afternoon when they reached Nice, and
Marcus saw the girl safely to an hotel, changed himself and brought the
yacht back to Monaco, where Briggerland had seen him.

For two hours Marcus Stepney wrestled with his love for a girl who was
plainly a murderess, and in the end love won. When darkness fell he
provisioned the _Jungle Queen_, loaded her with petrol, and heading her
out to sea made the swimming cove of Cap Martin. It was to the boat that
Jean flew.

"What about my father?" she asked as she stepped aboard.

"I think they've caught him," said Marcus.

"He'll hate prison," said the girl complacently. "Hurry, Marcus, I'd
hate it, too!"




Chapter XL


Lydia took up her quarters in a quiet hotel in Nice and Mrs.
Cole-Mortimer agreed to stay on and chaperon her.

Though she had felt no effects from her terrifying experience on the
first day, she found herself a nervous wreck when she woke in the
morning, and wisely decided to stay in bed.

Jack, who had expected the relapse, called in a doctor, but Lydia
refused to see him. The next day she received the lawyer.

She had only briefly outlined the part which Marcus Stepney had played
in her rescue, but she had said enough to make Jack call at Stepney's
hotel to thank him in person. Mr. Stepney, however, was not at home--he
had not been home all night, but this information his discreet informant
did not volunteer. Nor was the disappearance of the _Jungle Queen_
noticed for two days. It was Mrs. Cole-Mortimer, in settling up her
accounts with Jack, who mentioned the "yacht."

"The _Jungle Queen_," said Jack, "that's the motor-launch, isn't it?
I've seen her lying in the harbour. I thought she was Stepney's
property."

His suspicions aroused, he called again at Stepney's hotel, and this
time his inquiry was backed by the presence of a detective. Then it was
made known that Mr. Stepney had not been seen since the night of
Briggerland's arrest.

"That is where they've gone. Stepney was very keen on the girl, I
think," said Jack.

The detective was annoyed.

"If I'd known before we could have intercepted them. We have several
destroyers in the harbour at Villafrance. Now I am afraid it is too
late."

"Where would they make for?" asked Jack.

The officer shrugged his shoulders.

"God knows," he said. "They could get into Italy or into Spain, possibly
Barcelona. I will telegraph the Chief of the Police there."

But the Barcelona police had no information to give. The _Jungle Queen_
had not been sighted. The weather was calm, the sea smooth, and
everything favourable for the escape.

Inquiries elicited the fact that Mr. Stepney had bought large quantities
of petrol a few days before his departure, and had augmented his supply
the evening he had left. Also he had bought provisions in considerable
quantities.

The murder was a week old, and Mr. Briggerland had undergone his
preliminary examination, when a wire came through from the Spanish
police that a motor-boat answering the description of the _Jungle Queen_
had called at Malaga, had provisioned, refilled, and put out to sea
again, before the police authorities, who had a description of the pair,
had time to investigate.

"You'll think I have a diseased mind," said Lydia, "but I hope she gets
away."

Jack laughed.

"If you had been with her much longer, Lydia, she would have turned you
into a first-class criminal," he said. "I hope you do not forget that
she has exactly a hundred thousand pounds of yours--in other words, a
sixth of your fortune."

Lydia shook her head.

"That is almost a comforting thought," she said. "I know she is what she
is, Jack, but her greatest crime is that she was born six hundred years
too late. If she had lived in the days of the Italian Renaissance she
would have made history."

"Your sympathy is immoral," said Jack. "By the way, Briggerland has been
handed over to the Italian authorities. The crime was committed on
Italian soil and that saves his head from falling into the basket."

She shuddered.

"What will they do to him?"

"He'll be imprisoned for life," was the reply "and I rather think that's
a little worse than the guillotine. You say you worry for Jean--I'm
rather sorry for old man Briggerland. If he hadn't tried to live up to
his daughter he might have been a most respectable member of society."

They were strolling through the quaint, narrow streets of Grasse, and
Jack, who knew and loved the town, was showing her sights which made her
forget that the Perfumerie Factory, the Mecca of the average tourist,
had any existence.

"I suppose I'll have to settle down now," she said with an expression of
distaste.

"I suppose you will," said Jack, "and you'll have to settle up, too;
your legal expenses are something fierce."

"Why do you say that?" she asked, stopping in her walk and looking at
him gravely.

"I am speaking as your mercenary lawyer," said Jack.

"You are trying to put your service on another level," she corrected. "I
owe everything I have to you. My fortune is the least of these. I owe
you my life three times over."

"Four," he corrected, "and to Marcus Stepney once."

"Why have you done so much for me? Were you interested?" she asked after
a pause.

"Very," he replied. "I was interested in you from the moment I saw you
step out of Mr. Mordon's taxi into the mud, but I was especially
interested in you----"

"When?" she asked.

"When I sat outside your door night after night and discovered you
didn't snore," he said shamelessly, and she went red.

"I hope you'll never refer to your old Jaggs's adventures. It was
very----"

"What?"

"I was going to say horrid, but I shouldn't be telling the truth," she
admitted frankly. "I liked having you there. Poor Mrs. Morgan will be
disconsolate when she discovers that we've lost our lodger."

They walked into the cool of the ancient cathedral and sat down.

"There's something very soothing about a church, isn't there?" he
whispered. "Look at that gorgeous window. If I were ever rich enough to
marry the woman I loved, I should be married in a cathedral like this,
full of old tombs and statues and stained glass."

"How rich would you have to be?" she asked.

"As rich as she is."

She bent over toward him, her lips against his ear.

"Tell me how much money you have," she whispered, "and I'll give away
all I have in excess of that amount."

He caught her hand and held it fast, and they sat there before the altar
of St. Catherine until the sun went down and the disapproving old woman
who acted as the cathedral's caretaker tapped them on the shoulder.




Chapter XLI


"That is Gibraltar," said Marcus Stepney, pointing ahead to a grey shape
that loomed up from the sea.

He was unshaven for he had forgotten to bring his razor and he was
pinched with the cold. His overcoat was turned up to his ears, in spite
of which he shivered.

Jean did not seem to be affected by the sudden change of temperature.
She sat on the top of the cabin, her chin in the palm of her hand, her
elbow on her crossed knee.

"You are not going into Gibraltar?" she asked.

He shook his head.

"I think not," he said, "nor to Algeciras. Did you see that fellow on
the quay yelling for the craft to come back after we left Malaga? That
was a bad sign. I expect the police have instructions to detain this
boat, and most of the ports must have been notified."

"How long can we run?"

"We've got enough gas and grub to reach Dacca," he said. "That's roughly
an eight-days' journey."

"On the African coast?"

He nodded, although she could not see him.

"Where could we get a ship to take us to South America?" she asked,
turning round.

"Lisbon," he said thoughtfully. "Yes, we could reach Lisbon, but there
are too many steamers about and we're certain to be sighted. We might
run across to Las Palmas, most of the South American boats call there,
but if I were you I should stick to Europe. Come and take this helm,
Jean."

She obeyed without question, and he continued the work which had been
interrupted by a late meal, the painting of the boat's hull, a difficult
business, involving acrobatics, since it was necessary for him to lean
over the side. He had bought the grey paint at Malaga, and happily there
was not much surface that required attention. The stumpy mast of the
_Jungle Queen_ had already gone overboard--he had sawn it off with great
labour the day after they had left Cap Martin.

She watched him with a speculative eye as he worked, and thought he had
never looked quite so unattractive as he did with an eight-days' growth
of beard, his shirt stained with paint and petrol. His hands were grimy
and nobody would have recognised in this scarecrow the elegant habitué
of those fashionable resorts which smart society frequents.

Yet she had reason to be grateful to him. His conduct toward her had
been irreproachable. Not one word of love had been spoken, nor, until
now, had their future plans, for it affected them both, been discussed.

"Suppose we reach South America safely?" she asked. "What happens then,
Marcus?"

He looked round from his work in surprise.

"We'll get married," he said quietly, and she laughed.

"And what happens to the present Mrs. Stepney?"

"She has divorced me," said Stepney unexpectedly. "I got the papers the
day we left."

"I see," said Jean softly. "We'll get married----" then stopped.

He looked at her and frowned.

"Isn't that your idea, too?" he asked.

"Married? Yes, that's my idea, too. It seems a queer uninteresting way
of finishing things, doesn't it, and yet I suppose it isn't."

He had resumed his work and was leaning far over the bow intent upon his
labour. Suddenly she spun the wheel round and the launch heeled over to
starboard. For a second it seemed that Marcus Stepney could not maintain
his balance against that unexpected impetus, but by a superhuman effort
he kicked himself back to safety, and stared at her with a blanched
face.

"Why did you do that?" he asked hoarsely. "You nearly had me overboard."

"There was a porpoise lying on the surface of the sea, asleep, I
think," she said quietly. "I'm very sorry, Marcus, but I didn't know
that it would throw you off your balance."

He looked round for the sleeping fish but it had disappeared.

"You told me to avoid them, you know," she said apologetically. "Did I
really put you in any danger?"

He licked his dry lips, picked up the paint-pot, and threw it into the
sea.

"We'll leave this," he said, "until we are beached. You gave me a scare,
Jean."

"I'm dreadfully sorry. Come here, and sit by me."

She moved to allow him room, and he sat down by her, taking the wheel
from her hand.

On the horizon the high lands of northern Africa were showing their
saw-edge outlines.

"That is Morocco," he pointed out to her. "I propose giving Gibraltar a
wide berth, and following the coast line to Tangier."

"Tangier wouldn't be a bad place to land if there weren't two of us," he
went on. "It is our being together in this yacht that is likely to cause
suspicion. You could easily pretend that you'd come over from Gibraltar,
and the port authorities there are pretty slack."

"Or if we could land on the coast," he suggested. "There's a good
landing, and we could follow the beach down, and turn up in Tangier in
the morning--all sorts of oddments turn up in Tangier without exciting
suspicion."

She was looking out over the sea with a queer expression in her face.

"Morocco!" she said softly. "Morocco--I hadn't thought of that!"

They had a fright soon after. A grey shape came racing out of the
darkening east, and Stepney put his helm over as the destroyer smashed
past on her way to Gibraltar.

He watched the stern light disappearing, then it suddenly turned and
presented its side to them.

"They're looking for us," said Marcus.

The darkness had come down, and he headed straight for the east.

There was no question that the destroyer was on an errand of discovery.
A white beam of light shot out from her decks, and began to feel along
the sea. And then when they thought it had missed them, it dropped on
the boat and held. A second later it missed them and began a search.
Presently it lit the little boat, and it did something more--it revealed
a thickening of the atmosphere. They were running into a sea fog, one of
those thin white fogs that come down in the Mediterranean on windless
days. The blinding glare of the searchlight blurred.

"_Bang!_"

"That's the gun to signal us to stop," said Marcus between his teeth.

He turned the nose of the boat southward, a hazardous proceeding, for he
ran into clear water, and had only just got back into the shelter of the
providential fog bank when the white beam came stealthily along the edge
of the mist. Presently it died out, and they saw it no more.

"They're looking for us," said Marcus again.

"You said that before," said the girl calmly.

"They've probably warned them at Tangier. We dare not take the boat into
the bay," said Stepney, whose nerves were now on edge.

He turned again westward, edging toward the rocky coast of northern
Africa. They saw little clusters of lights on the shore, and he tried to
remember what towns they were.

"I think that big one is Cutra, the Spanish convict station," he said.

He slowed down the boat, and they felt their way gingerly along the
coast line, until the flick and flash of a lighthouse gave them an idea
of their position.

"Cape Spartel," he identified the light. "We can land very soon. I was
in Morocco for three months, and if I remember rightly the beach is good
walking as far as Tangier."

She went into the cabin and changed, and as the nose of the _Jungle
Queen_ slid gently up the sandy beach she was ready.

He carried her ashore, and set her down, then he pushed off the nose of
the boat, and manoeuvred it so that the stern was against the beach,
resting in three feet of water. He jumped on board, lashed the helm, and
started the engines going, then wading back to the shore he stood
staring into the gloom as the little _Jungle Queen_ put out to sea.

"That's that," he said grimly. "Now my dear, we've got a ten mile walk
before us."

But he had made a slight miscalculation. The distance between himself
and Tangier was twenty-five miles, and involved several detours inland
into country which was wholly uninhabited, save at that moment it held
the camp of Muley Hafiz, who was engaged in negotiation with the Spanish
Government for one of those "permanent peaces" which frequently last for
years.

Muley Hafiz sat drinking his coffee at midnight, listening to the
strains of an ornate gramophone, which stood in a corner of his square
tent.

A voice outside the silken fold of his tent greeted him, and he stopped
the machine.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Lord, we have captured a man and a woman walking along by the sea."

"They are Riffi people--let them go," said Muley in Arabic. "We are
making peace, my man, not war."

"Lord, these are infidels; I think they are English."

Muley Hafiz twisted his trim little beard.

"Bring them," he said.

So they were brought to his presence, a dishevelled man and a girl at
the sight of whose face, he gasped.

"My little friend of the Riviera," he said wonderingly, and the smile
she gave him was like a ray of sunshine to his heart.

He stood up, a magnificent figure of a man, and she eyed him admiringly.

"I am sorry if my men have frightened you," he said. "You have nothing
to fear, madame. I will send my soldiers to escort you to Tangier."

And then he frowned. "Where did you come from?"

She could not lie under the steady glance of those liquid eyes.

"We landed on the shore from a boat. We lost our way," she said.

He nodded.

"You must be she they are seeking," he said. "One of my spies came to me
from Tangier to-night, and told me that the Spanish and the French
police were waiting to arrest a lady who had committed some crime in
France. I cannot believe it is you--or if it is, then I should say the
crime was pardonable."

He glanced at Marcus.

"Or perhaps," he said slowly, "it is your companion they desire."

Jean shook her head.

"No, they do not want him," she said, "it is I they want."

He pointed to a cushion.

"Sit down," he said, and followed her example.

Marcus alone remained standing, wondering how this strange situation
would develop.

"What will you do? If you go into Tangier I fear I could not protect
you, but there is a city in the hills," he waved his hand, "many miles
from here, a city where the hills are green, mademoiselle, and where
beautiful springs gush out of the ground, and there I am lord."

She drew a long breath.

"I will go to the city of the hills," she said softly, "and this man,"
she shrugged her shoulders, "I do not care what happens to him," she
said, with a smile of amusement at the pallid Marcus.

"Then he shall go to Tangier alone."

But Marcus Stepney did not go alone. For the last two miles of the
journey he had carried a bag containing the greater part of five million
francs that the girl had brought from the boat. Jean did not remember
this until she was on her way to the city of the hills, and by that time
money did not interest her.



THE END



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