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Title:      The Three Hostages (1924)
Author:     John Buchan
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      The Three Hostages (1924)
Author:     John Buchan





DEDICATION

To a Young Gentleman of Eton College

HONOURED SIR,

On your last birthday a well-meaning godfather presented you with a
volume of mine, since you had been heard on occasion to express
approval of my works.  The book dealt with a somewhat arid branch
of historical research, and it did not please you.  You wrote to
me, I remember, complaining that I had "let you down," and
summoning me, as I valued your respect, to "pull myself together."
In particular you demanded to hear more of the doings of Richard
Hannay, a gentleman for whom you professed a liking.  I, too, have
a liking for Sir Richard, and when I met him the other day (he is
now a country neighbour) I observed that his left hand had been
considerably mauled, an injury which I knew had not been due to the
War.  He was so good as to tell me the tale of an unpleasant
business in which he had recently been engaged, and to give me
permission to retell it for your benefit.  Sir Richard took a
modest pride in the affair, because from first to last it had been
a pure contest of wits, without recourse to those more obvious
methods of strife with which he is familiar.  So I herewith present
it to you, in the hope that in the eyes of you and your friends it
may atone for certain other writings of mine with which you have
been afflicted by those in authority.

J.B.

June, 1924.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I.  DOCTOR GREENSLADE THEORISES

II.  I HEAR OF THE THREE HOSTAGES

III.  RESEARCHES IN THE SUBCONSCIOUS

IV.  I MAKE THE ACQUAINTANCE OF A POPULAR MAN

V.  THE THURSDAY CLUB

VI.  THE HOUSE IN GOSPEL OAK

VII.  SOME EXPERIENCES OF A DISCIPLE

VIII.  THE BLIND SPINNER

IX.  I AM INTRODUCED TO STRONG MAGIC

X.  CONFIDENCES AT A WAYSIDE INN

XI.  HOW A GERMAN ENGINEER FOUND STRANGE FISHING

XII.  I RETURN TO SERVITUDE

XIII.  I VISIT THE FIELDS OF EDEN

XIV.  SIR ARCHIBALD ROYLANCE PUTS HIS FOOT IN IT

XV.  HOW A FRENCH NOBLEMAN DISCOVERED FEAR

XVI.  OUR TIME IS NARROWED

XVII.  THE DISTRICT-VISITOR IN PALMYRA SQUARE

XVIII.  THE NIGHT OF THE FIRST OF JUNE

XIX.  THE NIGHT OF THE FIRST OF JUNE--LATER

XX.  MACHRAY

XXI.  HOW I STALKED WILDER GAME THAN DEER





CHAPTER I

DOCTOR GREENSLADE THEORISES


That evening, I remember, as I came up through the Mill Meadow, I
was feeling peculiarly happy and contented.  It was still mid-
March, one of those spring days when noon is like May, and only the
cold pearly haze at sunset warns a man that he is not done with
winter.  The season was absurdly early, for the blackthorn was in
flower and the hedge roots were full of primroses.  The partridges
were paired, the rooks were well on with their nests, and the
meadows were full of shimmering grey flocks of fieldfares on their
way north.  I put up half a dozen snipe on the boggy edge of the
stream, and in the bracken in Sturn Wood I thought I saw a
woodcock, and hoped that the birds might nest with us this year, as
they used to do long ago.  It was jolly to see the world coming to
life again, and to remember that this patch of England was my own,
and all these wild things, so to speak, members of my little
household.

As I say, I was in a very contented mood, for I had found something
I had longed for all my days.  I had bought Fosse Manor just after
the War as a wedding present for Mary, and for two and a half years
we had been settled there.  My son, Peter John, was rising fifteen
months, a thoughtful infant, as healthy as a young colt and as
comic as a terrier puppy.  Even Mary's anxious eye could scarcely
detect in him any symptoms of decline.  But the place wanted a lot
of looking to, for it had run wild during the War, and the woods
had to be thinned, gates and fences repaired, new drains laid, a
ram put in to supplement the wells, a heap of thatching to be done,
and the garden borders to be brought back to cultivation.  I had
got through the worst of it, and as I came out of the Home Wood on
to the lower lawns and saw the old stone gables that the monks had
built, I felt that I was anchored at last in the pleasantest kind
of harbour.

There was a pile of letters on the table in the hall, but I let
them be, for I was not in the mood for any communication with the
outer world.  As I was having a hot bath Mary kept giving me the
news through her bedroom door.  Peter John had been raising Cain
over a first tooth; the new shorthorn cow was drying off; old
George Whaddon had got his granddaughter back from service; there
was a new brood of runner-ducks; there was a missel-thrush building
in the box hedge by the lake.  A chronicle of small beer, you will
say, but I was by a long chalk more interested in it than in what
might be happening in Parliament or Russia or the Hindu Kush.  The
fact is I was becoming such a mossback that I had almost stopped
reading the papers.  Many a day The Times would remain unopened,
for Mary never looked at anything but the first page to see who was
dead or married.  Not that I didn't read a lot, for I used to spend
my evenings digging into county history, and learning all I could
about the old fellows who had been my predecessors.  I liked to
think that I lived in a place that had been continuously inhabited
for a thousand years.  Cavalier and Roundhead had fought over the
countryside, and I was becoming a considerable authority on their
tiny battles.  That was about the only interest I had left in
soldiering.

As we went downstairs, I remember we stopped to look out of the
long staircase window which showed a segment of lawn, a corner of
the lake, and through a gap in the woods a vista of green downland.
Mary squeezed my arm.  "What a blessed country," she said.  "Dick,
did you ever dream of such peace?  We're lucky, lucky people."

Then suddenly her face changed in that way she has and grew very
grave.  I felt a little shiver run along her arm.

"It's too good and beloved to last," she whispered.  "Sometimes I
am afraid."

"Nonsense," I laughed.  "What's going to upset it?  I don't believe
in being afraid of happiness."  I knew very well, of course, that
Mary couldn't be afraid of anything.

She laughed too.  "All the same I've got what the Greek called
aidos.  You don't know what that means, you old savage.  It means
that you feel you must walk humbly and delicately to propitiate the
Fates.  I wish I knew how."

She walked too delicately, for she missed the last step and our
descent ended in an undignified shuffle right into the arms of Dr.
Greenslade.

Paddock--I had got Paddock back after the War and he was now my
butler--was helping the doctor out of his ulster, and I saw by the
satisfied look on the latter's face that he was through with his
day's work and meant to stay to dinner.  Here I had better
introduce Tom Greenslade, for of all my recent acquaintances he was
the one I had most taken to.  He was a long lean fellow with a
stoop in his back from bending over the handles of motor-bicycles,
with reddish hair, and the greeny-blue eyes and freckled skin that
often accompany that kind of hair.  From his high cheek bones and
his colouring you would have set him down as a Scotsman, but as a
matter of fact he came from Devonshire--Exmoor, I think, though he
had been so much about the world that he had almost forgotten where
he was raised.  I have travelled a bit, but nothing to Greenslade.
He had started as a doctor in a whaling ship.  Then he had been in
the South African War and afterwards a temporary magistrate up
Lydenburg way.  He soon tired of that, and was for a long spell in
Uganda and German East, where he became rather a swell on tropical
diseases, and nearly perished through experimenting on himself with
fancy inoculations.  Then he was in South America, where he had a
good practice in Valparaiso, and then in the Malay States, where he
made a bit of money in the rubber boom.  There was a gap of three
years after that when he was wandering about Central Asia, partly
with a fellow called Duckett exploring Northern Mongolia, and
partly in Chinese Tibet hunting for new flowers, for he was mad
about botany.  He came home in the summer of 1914, meaning to do
some laboratory research work, but the War swept him up and he went
to France as M.O. of a territorial battalion.  He got wounded of
course, and after a spell in hospital went out to Mesopotamia,
where he stayed till the Christmas of 1918, sweating hard at his
job but managing to tumble into a lot of varied adventures, for he
was at Baku with Dunsterville and got as far as Tashkend, where the
Bolsheviks shut him up for a fortnight in a bath-house.  During the
War he had every kind of sickness, for he missed no experience, but
nothing seemed to damage permanently his whipcord physique.  He
told me that his heart and lungs and blood pressure were as good as
a lad's of twenty-one, though by this time he was on the wrong side
of forty.

But when the War was over he hankered for a quiet life, so he
bought a practice in the deepest and greenest corner of England.
He said his motive was the same as that which in the rackety Middle
Ages made men retire into monasteries; he wanted quiet and leisure
to consider his soul.  Quiet he may have found, but uncommon little
leisure, for I never heard of a country doctor that toiled at his
job as he did.  He would pay three visits a day to a panel patient,
which shows the kind of fellow he was; and he would be out in the
small hours at the birth of a gipsy child under a hedge.  He was a
first-class man in his profession, and kept abreast of it, but
doctoring was only one of a thousand interests.  I never met a chap
with such an insatiable curiosity about everything in heaven and
earth.  He lived in two rooms in a farmhouse some four miles from
us, and I dare say he had several thousand books about him.  All
day, and often half the night, he would scour the country in his
little run-about car, and yet, when he would drop in to see me and
have a drink after maybe twenty visits, he was as full of beans as
if he had just got out of bed.  Nothing came amiss to him in talk--
birds, beasts, flowers, books, politics, religion--everything in
the world except himself.  He was the best sort of company, for
behind all his quickness and cleverness, you felt that he was solid
bar-gold.  But for him I should have taken root in the soil and put
out shoots, for I have a fine natural talent for vegetating.  Mary
strongly approved of him and Peter John adored him.

He was in tremendous spirits that evening, and for once in a way
gave us reminiscences of his past.  He told us about the people he
badly wanted to see again; an Irish Spaniard up in the north of the
Argentine who had for cattle-men a most murderous brand of native
from the mountains, whom he used to keep in good humour by
arranging fights every Sunday, he himself taking on the survivor
with his fists and always knocking him out; a Scots trader from
Hankow who had turned Buddhist priest and intoned his prayers with
a strong Glasgow accent; and most of all a Malay pirate, who, he
said, was a sort of St. Francis with beasts, though a perfect Nero
with his fellow-men.  That took him to Central Asia, and he
observed that if ever he left England again he would make for those
parts, since they were the refuge of all the superior rascality of
creation.  He had a notion that something very odd might happen
there in the long run.  "Think of it!" he cried.  "All the places
with names like spells--Bokhara, Samarkand--run by seedy little
gangs of communist Jews.  It won't go on for ever.  Some day a new
Genghis Khan or a Timour will be thrown up out of the maelstrom.
Europe is confused enough, but Asia is ancient Chaos."

After dinner we sat round the fire in the library, which I had
modelled on Sir Walter Bullivant's room in his place on the Kennet,
as I had promised myself seven years ago.  I had meant it for my
own room where I could write and read and smoke, but Mary would not
allow it.  She had a jolly panelled sitting-room of her own
upstairs, which she rarely entered; but though I chased her away,
she was like a hen in a garden and always came back, so that
presently she had staked out a claim on the other side of my
writing-table.  I have the old hunter's notion of order, but it was
useless to strive with Mary, so now my desk was littered with her
letters and needlework, and Peter John's toys and picture-books
were stacked in the cabinet where I kept my fly-books, and Peter
John himself used to make a kraal every morning inside an up-turned
stool on the hearth-rug.

It was a cold night and very pleasant by the fireside, where some
scented logs from an old pear-tree were burning.  The doctor picked
up a detective novel I had been reading, and glanced at the title-
page.

"I can read most things," he said, "but it beats me how you waste
time over such stuff.  These shockers are too easy, Dick.  You
could invent better ones for yourself."

"Not I.  I call that a dashed ingenious yarn.  I can't think how
the fellow does it."

"Quite simple.  The author writes the story inductively, and the
reader follows it deductively.  Do you see what I mean?"

"Not a bit," I replied.

"Look here.  I want to write a shocker, so I begin by fixing on one
or two facts which have no sort of obvious connection."

"For example?"

"Well, imagine anything you like.  Let us take three things a long
way apart--"  He paused for a second to consider--"say, an old
blind woman spinning in the Western Highlands, a barn in a
Norwegian saeter, and a little curiosity shop in North London kept
by a Jew with a dyed beard.  Not much connection between the three?
You invent a connection--simple enough if you have any imagination,
and you weave all three into the yarn.  The reader, who knows
nothing about the three at the start, is puzzled and intrigued and,
if the story is well arranged, finally satisfied.  He is pleased
with the ingenuity of the solution, for he doesn't realise that the
author fixed upon the solution first, and then invented a problem
to suit it."

"I see," I said.  "You've gone and taken the gilt off my favourite
light reading.  I won't be able any more to marvel at the writer's
cleverness."

"I've another objection to the stuff--it's not ingenious enough, or
rather it doesn't take account of the infernal complexity of life.
It might have been all right twenty years ago, when most people
argued and behaved fairly logically.  But they don't nowadays.
Have you ever realised, Dick, the amount of stark craziness that
the War has left in the world?"

Mary, who was sitting sewing under a lamp, raised her head and
laughed.

Greenslade's face had become serious.  "I can speak about it
frankly here, for you two are almost the only completely sane
people I know.  Well, as a pathologist, I'm fairly staggered.  I
hardly meet a soul who hasn't got some slight kink in his brain as
a consequence of the last seven years.  With most people it's
rather a pleasant kink--they're less settled in their grooves, and
they see the comic side of things quicker, and are readier for
adventure.  But with some it's pukka madness, and that means crime.
Now, how are you going to write detective stories about that kind
of world on the old lines?  You can take nothing for granted, as
you once could, and your argus-eyed, lightning-brained expert has
nothing solid with which to build his foundations."

I observed that the poor old War seemed to be getting blamed for a
good deal that I was taught in my childhood was due to original
sin.

"Oh, I'm not questioning your Calvinism.  Original sin is always
there, but the meaning of civilisation was that we had got it
battened down under hatches, whereas now it's getting its head up.
But it isn't only sin.  It's a dislocation of the mechanism of
human reasoning, a general loosening of screws.  Oddly enough, in
spite of parrot-talk about shell-shock, the men who fought suffer
less from it on the whole than other people.  The classes that
shirked the War are the worst--you see it in Ireland.  Every doctor
nowadays has got to be a bit of a mental pathologist.  As I say,
you can hardly take anything for granted, and if you want detective
stories that are not childish fantasy you'll have to invent a new
kind.  Better try your hand, Dick."

"Not I.  I'm a lover of sober facts."

"But, hang it, man, the facts are no longer sober.  I could tell
you--"  He paused and I was expecting a yarn, but he changed his
mind.

"Take all this chatter about psycho-analysis.  There's nothing very
new in the doctrine, but people are beginning to work it out into
details, and making considerable asses of themselves in the
process.  It's an awful thing when a scientific truth becomes the
quarry of the half-baked.  But as I say, the fact of the
subconscious self is as certain as the existence of lungs and
arteries."

"I don't believe that Dick has any subconscious self," said Mary.

"Oh yes, he has.  Only, people who have led his kind of life have
their ordinary self so well managed and disciplined--their wits so
much about them, as the phrase goes--that the subconscious rarely
gets a show.  But I bet if Dick took to thinking about his soul,
which he never does, he would find some queer corners.  Take my own
case."  He turned towards me so that I had a full view of his
candid eyes and hungry cheek-bones which looked prodigious in the
firelight.  "I belong more or less to the same totem as you, but
I've long been aware that I possessed a most curious kind of
subconsciousness.  I've a good memory and fair powers of
observation, but they're nothing to those of my subconscious self.
Take any daily incident.  I see and hear, say, about a twentieth
part of the details and remember about a hundredth part--that is,
assuming that there is nothing special to stimulate my interest.
But my subconscious self sees and hears practically everything, and
remembers most of it.  Only I can't use the memory, for I don't
know that I've got it, and can't call it into being when I wish.
But every now and then something happens to turn on the tap of the
subconscious, and a thin trickle comes through.  I find myself
sometimes remembering names I was never aware of having heard, and
little incidents and details I had never consciously noticed.
Imagination, you will say; but it isn't, for everything that that
inner memory provides is exactly true.  I've tested it.  If I could
only find some way of tapping it at will, I should be an uncommonly
efficient fellow.  Incidentally I should become the first scientist
of the age, for the trouble with investigation and experiment is
that the ordinary brain does not observe sufficiently keenly or
remember the data sufficiently accurately."

"That's interesting," I said.  "I'm not at all certain I haven't
noticed the same thing in myself.  But what has that to do with the
madness that you say is infecting the world?"

"Simply this.  The barriers between the conscious and the
subconscious have always been pretty stiff in the average man.  But
now with the general loosening of screws they are growing shaky and
the two worlds are getting mixed.  It is like two separate tanks of
fluid, where the containing wall has worn into holes, and one is
percolating into the other.  The result is confusion, and, if the
fluids are of a certain character, explosions.  That is why I say
that you can't any longer take the clear psychology of most
civilised human beings for granted.  Something is welling up from
primeval deeps to muddy it."

"I don't object to that," I said.  "We've overdone civilisation,
and personally I'm all for a little barbarism.  I want a simpler
world."

"Then you won't get it," said Greenslade.  He had become very
serious now, and was looking towards Mary as he talked.  "The
civilised is far simpler than the primeval.  All history has been
an effort to make definitions, clear rules of thought, clear rules
of conduct, solid sanctions, by which we can conduct our life.
These are the work of the conscious self.  The subconscious is an
elementary and lawless thing.  If it intrudes on life two results
must follow.  There will be a weakening of the power of reasoning,
which after all is the thing that brings men nearest to the
Almighty.  And there will be a failure of nerve."

I got up to get a light, for I was beginning to feel depressed by
the doctor's diagnosis of our times.  I don't know whether he was
altogether serious, for he presently started on fishing, which was
one of his many hobbies.  There was very fair dry-fly fishing to be
had in our little river, but I had taken a deer-forest with Archie
Roylance for the season, and Greenslade was coming up with me to
try his hand at salmon.  There had been no sea-trout the year
before in the West Highlands, and we fell to discussing the cause.
He was ready with a dozen theories, and we forgot about the
psychology of mankind in investigating the uncanny psychology of
fish.  After that Mary sang to us, for I considered any evening a
failure without that, and at half-past ten the doctor got into his
old ulster and departed.

As I smoked my last pipe I found my thoughts going over Greenslade's
talk.  I had found a snug harbour, but how yeasty the waters seemed
to be outside the bar and how erratic the tides!  I wondered if it
wasn't shirking to be so comfortable in a comfortless world.  Then
I reflected that I was owed a little peace, for I had had a roughish
life.  But Mary's words kept coming back to me about "walking
delicately."  I considered that my present conduct filled that
bill, for I was mighty thankful for my mercies and in no way
inclined to tempt Providence by complacency.

Going up to bed, I noticed my neglected letters on the hall table.
I turned them over and saw that they were mostly bills and receipts
or tradesmen's circulars.  But there was one addressed in a
handwriting that I knew, and as I looked at it I experienced a
sudden sinking of the heart.  It was from Lord Artinswell--Sir
Walter Bullivant, as was--who had now retired from the Foreign
Office, and was living at his place on the Kennet.  He and I
occasionally corresponded about farming and fishing, but I had a
premonition that this was something different.  I waited for a
second or two before I opened it.


"MY DEAR DICK,

"This note is in the nature of a warning.  In the next day or two
you will be asked, nay pressed, to undertake a troublesome piece of
business.  I am not responsible for the request, but I know of it.
If you consent, it will mean the end for a time of your happy
vegetable life.  I don't want to influence you one way or another;
I only give you notice of what is coming in order that you may
adjust your mind and not be taken by surprise.  My love to Mary and
the son.

"Yours ever,

"A."


That was all.  I had lost my trepidation and felt very angry.  Why
couldn't the fools let me alone?  As I went upstairs I vowed that
not all the cajolery in the world would make me budge an inch from
the path I had set myself.  I had done enough for the public
service and other people's interests, and it was jolly well time
that I should be allowed to attend to my own.



CHAPTER II

I HEAR OF THE THREE HOSTAGES


There is an odour about a country-house which I love better than
any scent in the world.  Mary used to say it was a mixture of lamp
and dog and wood-smoke, but at Fosse, where there was electric
light and no dogs indoors, I fancy it was wood-smoke, tobacco, the
old walls, and wafts of the country coming in at the windows.  I
liked it best in the morning, when there was a touch in it of
breakfast cooking, and I used to stand at the top of the staircase
and sniff it as I went to my bath.  But on the morning I write of I
could take no pleasure in it; indeed it seemed to tantalise me with
a vision of country peace which had somehow got broken.  I couldn't
get that confounded letter out of my head.  When I read it I had
torn it up in disgust, but I found myself going down in my
dressing-gown, to the surprise of a housemaid, piecing together the
fragments from the waste-paper basket, and reading it again.  This
time I flung the bits into the new-kindled fire.

I was perfectly resolved that I would have nothing to do with
Bullivant or any of his designs, but all the same I could not
recapture the serenity which yesterday had clothed me like a
garment.  I was down to breakfast before Mary, and had finished
before she appeared.  Then I lit my pipe and started on my usual
tour of my domain, but nothing seemed quite the same.  It was a
soft fresh morning with no frost, and the scillas along the edge of
the lake were like bits of summer sky.  The moor-hens were
building, and the first daffodils were out in the rough grass below
the clump of Scots firs, and old George Whaddon was nailing up
rabbit wire and whistling through his two remaining teeth, and
generally the world was as clear and jolly as spring could make it.
But I didn't feel any more that it was really mine, only that I was
looking on at a pretty picture.  Something had happened to jar the
harmony between it and my mind, and I cursed Bullivant and his
intrusions.

I returned by the front of the house, and there at the door to my
surprise stood a big touring Rolls-Royce.  Paddock met me in the
hall and handed me a card, on which I read the name of Mr. Julius
Victor.

I knew it, of course, for the name of one of the richest men in the
world, the American banker who had done a lot of Britain's
financial business in the War, and was in Europe now at some
international conference.  I remembered that Blenkiron, who didn't
like his race, had once described him to me as "the whitest Jew
since the Apostle Paul."

In the library I found a tall man standing by the window looking
out at our view.  He turned as I entered, and I saw a thin face
with a neatly trimmed grey beard, and the most worried eyes I have
ever seen in a human countenance.  Everything about him was spruce
and dapper--his beautifully-cut grey suit, his black tie and pink
pearl pin, his blue-and-white linen, his exquisitely polished
shoes.  But the eyes were so wild and anxious that he looked
dishevelled.

"General," he said, and took a step towards me.

We shook hands and I made him sit down.

"I have dropped the 'General,' if you don't mind," I said.  "What I
want to know is, have you had breakfast?"

He shook his head.  "I had a cup of coffee on the road.  I do not
eat in the morning."

"Where have you come from, sir?" I asked.

"From London."

Well, London is seventy-six miles from us, so he must have started
early.  I looked curiously at him, and he got out of his chair and
began to stride about.

"Sir Richard," he said, in a low pleasant voice which I could
imagine convincing any man he tried it on, "you are a soldier and a
man of the world and will pardon my unconventionality.  My business
is too urgent to waste time on apologies.  I have heard of you from
common friends as a man of exceptional resource and courage.  I
have been told in confidence something of your record.  I have come
to implore your help in a desperate emergency."

I passed him a box of cigars, and he took one and lit it carefully.
I could see his long slim fingers trembling as he held the match.

"You may have heard of me," he went on.  "I am a very rich man, and
my wealth has given me power, so that Governments honour me with
their confidence.  I am concerned in various important affairs, and
it would be false modesty to deny that my word is weightier than
that of many Prime Ministers.  I am labouring, Sir Richard, to
secure peace in the world, and consequently I have enemies, all
those who would perpetuate anarchy and war.  My life has been more
than once attempted, but that is nothing.  I am well guarded.  I am
not, I think, more of a coward than other men, and I am prepared to
take my chance.  But now I have been attacked by a subtler weapon,
and I confess I have no defence.  I had a son, who died ten years
ago at college.  My only other child is my daughter, Adela, a girl
of nineteen.  She came to Europe just before Christmas, for she was
to be married in Paris in April.  A fortnight ago she was hunting
with friends in Northamptonshire--the place is called Rushford
Court.  On the morning of the 8th of March she went for a walk to
Rushford village to send a telegram, and was last seen passing
through the lodge gates at twenty-minutes past eleven.  She has not
been seen since."

"Good God!" I exclaimed, and rose from my chair.  Mr. Victor was
looking out of the window, so I walked to the other end of the room
and fiddled with the books on a shelf.  There was silence for a
second or two, till I broke it.

"Do you suppose it is loss of memory?" I asked.

"No," he said.  "It is not loss of memory.  I know--we have proof--
that she has been kidnapped by those whom I call my enemies.  She
is being held as a hostage."

"You know she is alive?"

He nodded, for his voice was choking again.  "There is evidence
which points to a very deep and devilish plot.  It may be revenge,
but I think it more likely to be policy.  Her captors hold her as
security for their own fate."

"Has Scotland Yard done nothing?"

"Everything that man could do, but the darkness only grows
thicker."

"Surely it has not been in the papers.  I don't read them carefully
but I could scarcely miss a thing like that."

"It has been kept out of the papers--for a reason which you will be
told."

"Mr. Victor," I said, "I'm most deeply sorry for you.  Like you,
I've just the one child, and if anything of that kind happened to
him I should go mad.  But I shouldn't take too gloomy a view.  Miss
Adela will turn up all right, and none the worse, though you may
have to pay through the nose for it.  I expect it's ordinary
blackmail and ransom."

"No," he said very quietly.  "It is not blackmail, and if it were,
I would not pay the ransom demanded.  Believe me, Sir Richard, it
is a very desperate affair.  More, far more is involved than the
fate of one young girl.  I am not going to touch on that side, for
the full story will be told you later by one better equipped to
tell it.  But the hostage is my daughter, my only child.  I have
come to beg your assistance in the search for her."

"But I'm no good at looking for things," I stammered.  "I'm most
awfully sorry for you, but I don't see how I can help.  If Scotland
Yard is at a loss, it's not likely that an utter novice like me
would succeed."

"But you have a different kind of imagination and a rarer kind of
courage.  I know what you have done before, Sir Richard.  I tell
you you are my last hope."

I sat down heavily and groaned.  "I can't begin to explain to you
the bottomless futility of your idea.  It is quite true that in the
War I had some queer jobs and was lucky enough to bring some of
them off.  But, don't you see, I was a soldier then, under orders,
and it didn't greatly signify whether I lost my life from a crump
in the trenches or from a private bullet on the backstairs.  I was
in the mood for any risk, and my wits were strung up and
unnaturally keen.  But that's all done with.  I'm in a different
mood now and my mind is weedy and grass-grown.  I've settled so
deep into the country that I'm just an ordinary hayseed farmer.  If
I took a hand--which I certainly won't--I'd only spoil the game."

Mr. Victor stood looking at me intently.  I thought for a moment he
was going to offer me money, and rather hoped he would, for that
would have stiffened me like a ramrod, though it would have spoiled
the good notion I had of him.  The thought may have crossed his
mind, but he was clever enough to reject it.

"I don't agree with a word you say about yourself, and I'm
accustomed to size up men.  I appeal to you as a Christian
gentleman to help me to recover my child.  I am not going to press
that appeal, for I have already taken up enough of your time.  My
London address is on my card.  Good-bye, Sir Richard, and believe
me, I am very grateful to you for receiving me so kindly."

In five minutes he and his Rolls-Royce had gone, and I was left in
a miserable mood of shame-faced exasperation.  I realised how Mr.
Julius Victor had made his fame.  He knew how to handle men, for if
he had gone on pleading he would only have riled me, whereas he had
somehow managed to leave it all to my honour, and thoroughly
unsettle my mind.

I went for a short walk, cursing the world at large, sometimes
feeling horribly sorry for that unfortunate father, sometimes
getting angry because he had tried to mix me up in his affairs.  Of
course I would not touch the thing; I couldn't; it was manifestly
impossible; I had neither the capacity nor the inclination.  I was
not a professional rescuer of distressed ladies whom I did not know
from Eve.

A man, I told myself, must confine his duties to his own circle of
friends, except when his country has need of him.  I was over
forty, and had a wife and a young son to think of; besides, I had
chosen a retired life, and had the right to have my choice
respected.  But I can't pretend that I was comfortable.  A hideous
muddy wave from the outer world had come to disturb my little
sheltered pool.  I found Mary and Peter John feeding the swans, and
couldn't bear to stop and play with them.  The gardeners were
digging in sulphates about the fig trees on the south wall, and
wanted directions about the young chestnuts in the nursery; the
keeper was lying in wait for me in the stable-yard for instructions
about a new batch of pheasants' eggs, and the groom wanted me to
look at the hocks of Mary's cob.  But I simply couldn't talk to any
of them.  These were the things I loved, but for a moment the gilt
was off them, and I would let them wait till I felt better.  In a
very bad temper I returned to the library.

I hadn't been there two minutes when I heard the sound of a car on
the gravel.  "Let 'em all come," I groaned, and I wasn't surprised
when Paddock entered, followed by the spare figure and smooth keen
face of Macgillivray.

I don't think I offered to shake hands.  We were pretty good
friends, but at that moment there was no one in the world I wanted
less to see.

"Well, you old nuisance," I cried, "you're the second visitor from
town I've had this morning.  There'll be a shortage of petrol
soon."

"Have you had a letter from Lord Artinswell?" he asked.

"I have, worse luck," I said.

"Then you know what I've come about.  But that can keep till after
luncheon.  Hurry it up, Dick, like a good fellow, for I'm as hungry
as a famished kestrel."

He looked rather like one, with his sharp nose and lean head.  It
was impossible to be cross for long with Macgillivray, so we went
out to look for Mary.  "I may as well tell you," I told him, "that
you've come on a fool's errand.  I'm not going to be jockeyed by
you or anyone into making an ass of myself.  Anyhow, don't mention
the thing to Mary.  I don't want her to be worried by your
nonsense."

So at luncheon we talked about Fosse and the Cotswolds, and about
the deer-forest I had taken--Machray they called it--and about Sir
Archibald Roylance, my co-tenant, who had just had another try at
breaking his neck in a steeplechase.  Macgillivray was by way of
being a great stalker and could tell me a lot about Machray.  The
crab of the place was its neighbours, it seemed; for Haripol on the
south was too steep for the lessee, a middle-aged manufacturer, to
do justice to it, and the huge forest of Glenaicill on the east was
too big for any single tenant to shoot, and the Machray end of it
was nearly thirty miles by road from the lodge.  The result was,
said Macgillivray, that Machray was surrounded by unauthorised
sanctuaries, which made the deer easy to shift.  He said the best
time was early in the season when the stags were on the upper
ground, for it seemed that Machray had uncommonly fine high
pastures. . . .  Mary was in good spirits, for somebody had been
complimentary about Peter John, and she was satisfied for the
moment that he wasn't going to be cut off by an early consumption.
She was full of housekeeping questions about Machray, and revealed
such spacious plans that Macgillivray said that he thought he would
pay us a visit, for it looked as if he wouldn't be poisoned, as he
usually was in Scotch shooting-lodges.  It was a talk I should have
enjoyed if there had not been that uneasy morning behind me and
that interview I had still to get over.

There was a shower after luncheon, so he and I settled ourselves in
the library.  "I must leave at three-thirty," he said, "so I have
got just a little more than an hour to tell you my business in."

"Is it worth while starting?" I asked.  "I want to make it quite
plain that under no circumstances am I open to any offer to take on
any business of any kind.  I'm having a rest and a holiday.  I stay
here for the summer and then I go to Machray."

"There's nothing to prevent your going to Machray in August," he
said, opening his eyes.  "The work I am going to suggest to you
must be finished long before then."

I suppose that surprised me, for I did not stop him as I had meant
to.  I let him go on, and before I knew I found myself getting
interested.  I have a boy's weakness for a yarn, and Macgillivray
knew this and played on it.

He began by saying very much what Dr. Greenslade had said the night
before.  A large part of the world had gone mad, and that involved
the growth of inexplicable and unpredictable crime.  All the old
sanctities had become weakened, and men had grown too well
accustomed to death and pain.  This meant that the criminal had far
greater resources at his command, and, if he were an able man,
could mobilise a vast amount of utter recklessness and depraved
ingenuity.  The moral imbecile, he said, had been more or less a
sport before the War; now he was a terribly common product, and
throve in batches and battalions.  Cruel, humourless, hard, utterly
wanting in sense of proportion, but often full of a perverted
poetry and drunk with rhetoric--a hideous, untamable breed had been
engendered.  You found it among the young Bolshevik Jews, among the
young gentry of the wilder Communist sects, and very notably among
the sullen murderous hobbledehoys in Ireland.

"Poor devils," Macgillivray repeated.  "It is for their Maker to
judge them, but we who are trying to patch up civilisation have to
see that they are cleared out of the world.  Don't imagine that
they are devotees of any movement, good or bad.  They are what I
have called them, moral imbeciles, who can be swept into any
movement by those who understand them.  They are the neophytes and
hierophants of crime, and it is as criminals that I have to do with
them.  Well, all this desperate degenerate stuff is being used by a
few clever men who are not degenerates or anything of the sort, but
only evil.  There has never been such a chance for a rogue since
the world began."

Then he told me certain facts, which must remain unpublished, at
any rate during our life-times.  The main point was that there were
sinister brains at work to organise for their own purposes the
perilous stuff lying about.  All the contemporary anarchisms, he
said, were interconnected, and out of the misery of decent folks
and the agony of the wretched tools certain smug entrepreneurs were
profiting.  He and his men, and indeed the whole police force of
civilisation--he mentioned especially the Americans--had been on
the trail of one of the worst of these combines and by a series of
fortunate chances had got their hand on it.  Now at any moment they
could stretch out that hand and gather it in.

But there was one difficulty.  I learned from him that this
particular combine was not aware of the danger in which it stood,
but that it realised that it must stand in some danger, so it had
taken precautions.  Since Christmas it had acquired hostages.

Here I interrupted, for I felt rather incredulous about the whole
business.  "I think since the War we're all too ready to jump at
grandiose explanations of simple things.  I'll want a good deal of
convincing before I believe in your international clearing-house
for crime."

"I guarantee the convincing," he said gravely.  "You shall see all
our evidence, and, unless you have changed since I first knew you,
your conclusion won't differ from mine.  But let us come to the
hostages."

"One I know about," I put in.  "I had Mr. Julius Victor here after
breakfast."

Macgillivray exclaimed.  "Poor soul!  What did you say to him?"

"Deepest sympathy, but nothing doing."

"And he took that answer?"

"I won't say he took it.  But he went away.  What about the
others?"

"There are two more.  One is a young man, the heir to a
considerable estate, who was last seen by his friends in Oxford on
the 17th day of February, just before dinner.  He was an
undergraduate of Christ Church, and was living out of college in
rooms in the High.  He had tea at the Gridiron and went to his
rooms to dress, for he was dining that night with the Halcyon Club.
A servant passed him on the stairs of his lodgings, going up to his
bedroom.  He apparently did not come down, and since that day has
not been seen.  You may have heard his name--Lord Mercot."

I started.  I had indeed heard the name, and knew the boy a little,
having met him occasionally at our local steeplechases.  He was the
grandson and heir of the old Duke of Alcester, the most respected
of the older statesmen of England.

"They have picked their bag carefully," I said.  "What is the third
case?"

"The cruellest of all.  You know Sir Arthur Warcliff.  He is a
widower--lost his wife just before the War, and he has an only
child, a little boy about ten years old.  The child--David is his
name--was the apple of his eye, and was at a preparatory school
near Rye.  The father took a house in the neighbourhood to be near
him, and the boy used to be allowed to come home for luncheon every
Sunday.  One Sunday he came to luncheon as usual, and started back
in the pony-trap.  The boy was very keen about birds, and used to
leave the trap and walk the last half-mile by a short cut across
the marshes.  Well, he left the groom at the usual gate, and, like
Miss Victor and Lord Mercot, walked into black mystery."

This story really did horrify me.  I remembered Sir Arthur
Warcliff--the kind, worn face of the great soldier and administrator,
and I could imagine his grief and anxiety.  I knew what I should
have felt if it had been Peter John.  A much-travelled young woman
and an athletic young man were defenceful creatures compared to a
poor little round-headed boy of ten.  But I still felt the whole
affair too fantastic for real tragedy.

"But what right have you to connect the three cases?" I asked.
"Three people disappear within a few weeks of each other in widely
separated parts of England.  Miss Victor may have been kidnapped
for ransom, Lord Mercot may have lost his memory, and David
Warcliff may have been stolen by tramps.  Why should they be all
part of one scheme?  Why, for that matter, should any one of them
have been the work of your criminal combine?  Have you any evidence
for the hostage theory?"

"Yes."  Macgillivray took a moment or two to answer.  "There is
first the general probability.  If a band of rascals wanted three
hostages they could hardly find three better--the daughter of the
richest man in the world, the heir of our greatest dukedom, the
only child of a national hero.  There is also direct evidence."
Again he hesitated.

"Do you mean to say that Scotland Yard has not a single clue to any
one of these cases?"

"We have followed up a hundred clues, but they have all ended in
dead walls.  Every detail, I assure you, has been gone through with
a fine comb.  No, my dear Dick, the trouble is not that we're
specially stupid on this side, but that there is some superlative
cunning on the other.  That is why I want YOU.  You have a kind of
knack of stumbling on truths which no amount of ordinary reasoning
can get at.  I have fifty men working day and night, and we have
mercifully kept all the cases out of the papers, so that we are not
hampered by the amateur.  But so far it's a blank.  Are you going
to help?"

"No, I'm not.  But, supposing I were, I don't see that you've a
scrap of proof that the three cases are connected, or that any one
of them is due to the criminal gang that you say you've got your
hand on.  You've only given me presumptions, and precious thin at
that.  Where's your direct evidence?"

Macgillivray looked a little embarrassed.  "I've started you at the
wrong end," he said.  "I should have made you understand how big
and desperate the thing is that we're out against, and then you'd
have been in a more receptive mood for the rest of the story.  You
know as well as I do that cold blood is not always the most useful
accompaniment in assessing evidence.  I said I had direct evidence
of connection, and so I have, and the proof to my mind is certain."

"Well, let's see it."

"It's a poem.  On Wednesday of last week, two days after David
Warcliff disappeared, Mr. Julius Victor, the Duke of Alcester, and
Sir Arthur Warcliff received copies of it by the first post.  They
were typed on bits of flimsy paper, the envelopes had the addresses
typed, and they had been posted in the West Central district of
London the afternoon before."

He handed me a copy, and this was what I read:


     "Seek where under midnight's sun
      Laggard crops are hardly won;--
      Where the sower casts his seed in
      Furrows of the fields of Eden;--
      Where beside the sacred tree
      Spins the seer who cannot see."


I burst out laughing, for I could not help it--the whole thing was
too preposterous.  These six lines of indifferent doggerel seemed
to me to put the coping-stone of nonsense on the business.  But I
checked myself when I saw Macgillivray's face.  There was a slight
flush of annoyance on his cheek, but for the rest it was grave,
composed, and in deadly earnest.  Now Macgillivray was not a fool,
and I was bound to respect his beliefs.  So I pulled myself
together and tried to take things seriously.

"That's proof that the three cases are linked together," I said.
"So much I grant you.  But where's the proof that they are the work
of the great criminal combine that you say you have got your hand
on?"

Macgillivray rose and walked restlessly about the room.  "The
evidence is mainly presumptive, but to my mind it is certain
presumption.  You know as well as I do, Dick, that a case may be
final and yet very difficult to set out as a series of facts.  My
view on the matter is made up of a large number of tiny indications
and cross-bearings, and I am prepared to bet that if you put your
mind honestly to the business you will take the same view.  But
I'll give you this much by way of direct proof--in hunting the big
show we had several communications of the same nature as this
doggerel, and utterly unlike anything else I ever struck in
criminology.  There's one of the miscreants who amuses himself with
sending useless clues to his adversaries.  It shows how secure the
gang thinks itself."

"Well, you've got that gang anyhow.  I don't quite see why the
hostages should trouble you.  You'll gather them in when you gather
in the malefactors."

"I wonder.  Remember we are dealing with moral imbeciles.  When
they find themselves cornered they won't play for safety.  They'll
use their hostages, and when we refuse to bargain they'll take
their last revenge on them."

I suppose I stared unbelievingly, for he went on:  "Yes.  They'll
murder them in cold blood--three innocent people--and then swing
themselves with a lighter mind.  I know the type.  They've done it
before."  He mentioned one or two recent instances.

"Good God!" I cried.  "It's a horrible thought!  The only thing for
you is to go canny, and not strike till you have got the victims
out of their clutches."

"We can't," he said solemnly.  "That is precisely the tragedy of
the business.  We must strike early in June.  I won't trouble you
with the reasons, but believe me, they are final.  There is just a
chance of a settlement in Ireland, and there are certain events of
the first importance impending in Italy and America, and all depend
upon the activities of the gang being at an end by midsummer.  Do
you grasp that?  By midsummer we must stretch out our hand.  By
midsummer, unless they are released, the three hostages will be
doomed.  It is a ghastly dilemma, but in the public interest there
is only one way out.  I ought to say that Victor and the Duke and
Warcliff are aware of this fact, and accept the situation.  They
are big men, and will do their duty even if it breaks their
hearts."

There was silence for a minute or two, for I did not know what to
say.  The whole story seemed to me incredible, and yet I could not
doubt a syllable of it when I looked at Macgillivray's earnest
face.  I felt the horror of the business none the less because it
seemed also partly unreal; it had the fantastic grimness of a
nightmare.  But most of all I realised that I was utterly
incompetent to help, and as I understood that I could honestly base
my refusal on incapacity and not on disinclination I began to feel
more comfortable.

"Well," said Macgillivray, after a pause, "are you going to help
us?"

"There's nothing doing with that Sunday-paper anagram you showed
me.  That's the sort of riddle that's not meant to be guessed.  I
suppose you are going to try to work up from the information you
have about the combine towards a clue to the hostages."

He nodded.

"Now, look here," I said; "you've got fifty of the quickest brains
in Britain working at the job.  They've found out enough to put a
lasso round the enemy which you can draw tight whenever you like.
They're trained to the work and I'm not.  What on earth would be
the use of an amateur like me butting in?  I wouldn't be half as
good as any one of the fifty.  I'm not an expert, I'm not quick-
witted, I'm a slow patient fellow, and this job, as you admit, is
one that has to be done against time.  If you think it over, you'll
see that it's sheer nonsense, my dear chap."

"You've succeeded before with worse material."

"That was pure luck, and it was in the War when, as I tell you, my
mind was morbidly active.  Besides, anything I did then I did in
the field, and what you want me to do now is office-work.  You know
I'm no good at office-work--Blenkiron always said so, and Bullivant
never used me on it.  It isn't because I don't want to help, but
because I can't."

"I believe you can.  And the thing is so grave that I daren't leave
any chance unexplored.  Won't you come?"

"No.  Because I could do nothing."

"Because you haven't a mind for it."

"Because I haven't the right kind of mind for it."

He looked at his watch and got up, smiling rather ruefully.

"I've had my say, and now you know what I want of you.  I'm not
going to take your answer as final.  Think over what I've said, and
let me hear from you within the next day or two."

But I had lost all my doubts, for it was very clear to me that on
every ground I was doing the right thing.

"Don't delude yourself with thinking that I'll change my mind," I
said, as I saw him into his car.  "Honestly, old fellow, if I could
be an atom of use I'd join you, but for your own sake you've got to
count me out this time."

Then I went for a walk, feeling pretty cheerful.  I settled the
question of the pheasants' eggs with the keeper, and went down to
the stream to see if there was any hatch of fly.  It had cleared up
to a fine evening, and I thanked my stars that I was out of a
troublesome business with an easy conscience, and could enjoy my
peaceful life again.  I say "with an easy conscience," for though
there were little dregs of disquiet still lurking about the bottom
of my mind, I had only to review the facts squarely to approve my
decision.  I put the whole thing out of my thoughts and came back
with a fine appetite for tea.

There was a stranger in the drawing-room with Mary, a slim oldish
man, very straight and erect, with one of those faces on which life
has written so much that to look at them is like reading a good
book.  At first I didn't recognise him when he rose to greet me,
but the smile that wrinkled the corners of his eyes and the slow
deep voice brought back the two occasions in the past when I had
run across Sir Arthur Warcliff. . . .  My heart sank as I shook
hands, the more as I saw how solemn was Mary's face.  She had been
hearing the story which I hoped she would never hear.

I thought it best to be very frank with him.  "I can guess your
errand, Sir Arthur," I said, "and I'm extremely sorry that you
should have come this long journey to no purpose."  Then I told him
of the visits of Mr. Julius Victor and Macgillivray, and what they
had said, and what had been my answer.  I think I made it as clear
as day that I could do nothing, and he seemed to assent.  Mary, I
remember, never lifted her eyes.

Sir Arthur had also looked at the ground while I was speaking, and
now he turned his wise old face to me, and I saw what ravages his
new anxiety had made in it.  He could not have been much over sixty
and he looked a hundred.

"I do not dispute your decision, Sir Richard," he said.  "I know
that you would have helped me if it had been possible.  But I
confess I am sorely disappointed, for you were my last hope.  You
see--you see--I had nothing left in the world but Davie.  If he had
died I think I could have borne it, but to know nothing about him
and to imagine terrible things is almost too much for my
fortitude."

I have never been through a more painful experience.  To hear a
voice falter that had been used to command, to see tears in the
steadfastest eyes that ever looked on the world, made me want to
howl like a dog.  I would have given a thousand pounds to be able
to bolt into the library and lock the door.

Mary appeared to me to be behaving very oddly.  She seemed to have
the deliberate purpose of probing the wound, for she encouraged Sir
Arthur to speak of his boy.  He showed us a miniature he carried
with him--an extraordinarily handsome child with wide grey eyes and
his head most nobly set upon his shoulders.  A grave little boy,
with the look of utter trust which belongs to children who have
never in their lives been unfairly treated.  Mary said something
about the gentleness of the face.

"Yes, Davie was very gentle," his father said.  "I think he was the
gentlest thing I have ever known.  That little boy was the very
flower of courtesy.  But he was curiously stoical, too.  When he
was distressed, he only shut his lips tight, and never cried.  I
used often to feel rebuked by him."

And then he told us about Davie's performances at school, where he
was not distinguished, except as showing a certain talent for
cricket.  "I am very much afraid of precocity," Sir Arthur said
with the ghost of a smile.  "But he was always educating himself in
the right way, learning to observe and think."  It seemed that the
boy was a desperately keen naturalist and would be out at all hours
watching wild things.  He was a great fisherman, too, and had
killed a lot of trout with the fly on hill burns in Galloway.  And
as the father spoke I suddenly began to realise the little chap,
and to think that he was just the kind of boy I wanted Peter John
to be.  I liked the stories of his love of nature and trout
streams.  It came on me like a thunderclap that if I were in his
father's place I should certainly go mad, and I was amazed at the
old man's courage.

"I think he had a kind of genius for animals," Sir Arthur said.
"He knew the habits of birds by instinct, and used to talk of them
as other people talk of their friends.  He and I were great
cronies, and he would tell me long stories in his little quiet
voice of birds and beasts he had seen on his walks.  He had odd
names for them too. . . ."

The thing was almost too pitiful to endure.  I felt as if I had
known the child all my life.  I could see him playing, I could hear
his voice, and as for Mary she was unashamedly weeping.

Sir Arthur's eyes were dry now, and there was no catch in his voice
as he spoke.  But suddenly a sharper flash of realisation came on
him and his words became a strained cry:  "Where is he now?  What
are they doing to him?  Oh, God!  My beloved little man--my gentle
little Davie!"

That fairly finished me.  Mary's arm was round the old man's neck,
and I saw that he was trying to pull himself together, but I didn't
see anything clearly.  I only know that I was marching about the
room, scarcely noticing that our guest was leaving.  I remember
shaking hands with him, and hearing him say that it had done him
good to talk to us.  It was Mary who escorted him to the car, and
when she returned it was to find me blaspheming like a Turk at the
window.  I had flung the thing open, for I felt suffocated, though
the evening was cool.  The mixture of anger and disgust and pity in
my heart nearly choked me.

"Why the devil can't I be left alone?" I cried.  "I don't ask for
much--only a little peace.  Why in Heaven's name should I be
dragged into other people's business?  Why on earth--"

Mary was standing at my elbow, her face rather white and tear-
stained.

"Of course you are going to help," she said.

Her words made clear to me the decision which I must have taken a
quarter of an hour before, and all the passion went out of me like
wind out of a pricked bladder.

"Of course," I answered.  "By the way, I had better telegraph to
Macgillivray.  And Warcliff too.  What's his address?"

"You needn't bother about Sir Arthur," said Mary.  "Before you came
in--when he told me the story--I said he could count on you.  Oh,
Dick, think if it had been Peter John!"



CHAPTER III

RESEARCHES IN THE SUBCONSCIOUS


I went to bed in the perfect certainty that I wouldn't sleep.  That
happened to me about once a year, when my mind was excited or
angry, and I knew no way of dodging it.  There was a fine moon, and
the windows were sheets of opal cut by the dark jade limbs of
trees; light winds were stirring the creepers; owls hooted like
sentries exchanging passwords, and sometimes a rook would talk in
its dreams; the little odd squeaks and rumbles of wild life came
faintly from the woods; while I lay staring at the ceiling with my
thoughts running round about in a futile circus.  Mary's even
breathing tantalised me, for I never knew anyone with her perfect
gift for slumber.  I used to say that if her pedigree could be
properly traced it would be found that she descended direct from
one of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus who married one of the Foolish
Virgins.

What kept me wakeful was principally the thought of that poor
little boy, David Warcliff.  I was sorry for Miss Victor and Lord
Mercot, and desperately sorry for the parents of all three, but
what I could not stand was the notion of the innocent little chap,
who loved birds and fishing and the open air, hidden away in some
stuffy den by the worst kind of blackguards.  The thing preyed on
me till I got to think it had happened to us and that Peter John
was missing.  I rose and prowled about the windows, looking out at
the quiet night, and wondering how the same world could contain so
much trouble and so much peace.

I laved my face with cold water and lay down again.  It was no good
letting my thoughts race, so I tried to fix them on one point in
the hope that I would get drowsy.  I endeavoured to recapitulate
the evidence which Macgillivray had recited, but only made
foolishness of it, for I simply could not concentrate.  I saw
always the face of a small boy, who bit his lips to keep himself
from tears, and another perfectly hideous face that kept turning
into one of the lead figures in the rose garden.  A ridiculous
rhyme too ran in my head--something thing about the "midnight sun"
and the "fields of Eden."  By and by I got it straightened out into
the anagram business Macgillivray had mentioned.  I have a fly-
paper memory for verse when there is no reason why I should
remember it, and I found I could repeat the six lines of the
doggerel.

After that I found the lines mixing themselves up, and suggesting
all kinds of odd pictures to my brain.  I took to paraphrasing
them--"Under the midnight sun, where harvests are poor"--that was
Scandinavia anyhow, or maybe Iceland or Greenland or Labrador.  Who
on earth was the sower who sowed in the fields of Eden?  Adam,
perhaps, or Abel, who was the first farmer?  Or an angel in heaven?
More like an angel, I thought, for the line sounded like a hymn.
Anyhow it was infernal nonsense.

The last two lines took to escaping me, and that made me force my
mind out of the irritable confusion in which it was bogged.  Ah!  I
had them again:


     "Where beside the sacred tree
      Spins the seer who cannot see."


The sacred tree was probably Yggdrasil and the spinner one of the
Norns.  I had once taken an interest in Norse mythology, but I
couldn't remember whether one of the Norns was blind.  A blind
woman spinning.  Now where had I heard something like that?  Heard
it quite recently, too?

The discomfort of wakefulness is that you are not fully awake.  But
now I was suddenly in full possession of my senses, and worrying at
that balderdash like a dog at a bone.  I had been quite convinced
that there was a clue in it, but that it would be impossible to hit
on the clue.  But now I had a ray of hope, for I seemed to feel a
very faint and vague flavour of reminiscence.

Scandinavian harvests, the fields of Eden, the blind spinner--oh,
it was maddening, for every time I repeated them the sense of
having recently met with something similar grew stronger.  The
North--Norway--surely I had it there!  Norway--what was there about
Norway?--Salmon, elk, reindeer, midnight sun, saeters--the last
cried out to me.  And the blind old woman that spun!

I had it.  These were two of the three facts which Dr. Greenslade
had suggested the night before as a foundation for his imaginary
"shocker."  What was the third?  A curiosity shop in North London
kept by a Jew with a dyed beard.  That had no obvious connection
with a sower in the fields of Eden.  But at any rate he had got two
of them identical with the doggerel. . . .  It was a clue.  It must
be a clue.  Greenslade had somewhere and somehow heard the jingle
or the substance of it, and it had sunk into the subconscious
memory he had spoken of, without his being aware of it.  Well, I
had got to dig it out.  If I could discover where and how he had
heard the thing, I had struck a trail.

When I had reached this conclusion, I felt curiously easier in my
mind, and almost at once fell asleep.  I awoke to a gorgeous spring
morning, and ran down to the lake for my bath.  I felt that I
wanted all the freshening and screwing up I could get, and when I
dressed after an icy plunge I was ready for all comers.

Mary was down in time for breakfast, and busy with her letters.
She spoke little, and seemed to be waiting for me to begin; but I
didn't want to raise the matter which was uppermost in our minds
till I saw my way clearer, so I said I was going to take two days
to think things over.  It was Wednesday, so I wired to Macgillivray
to expect me in London on Friday morning, and I scribbled a line to
Mr. Julius Victor.  By half-past nine I was on the road making for
Greenslade's lodgings.

I caught him in the act of starting on his rounds, and made him sit
down and listen to me.  I had to give him the gist of Macgillivray's
story, with extracts from those of Victor and Sir Arthur.  Before I
was half-way through he had flung off his overcoat, and before I had
finished he had lit a pipe, which was a breach of his ritual not to
smoke before the evening.  When I stopped he had that wildish look
in his light eyes which you see in a cairn terrier's when he is
digging out a badger.

"You've taken on this job?" he asked brusquely.

I nodded.

"Well, I shouldn't have had much respect for you if you had
refused.  How can I help?  Count on me, if I'm any use.  Good God!
I never heard a more damnable story."

"Have you got hold of the rhyme?" I repeated it, and he said it
after me.

"Now, you remember the talk we had after dinner the night before
last.  You showed me how a 'shocker' was written, and you took at
random three facts as the foundation.  They were, you remember, a
blind old woman spinning in the Western Highlands, a saeter in
Norway, and a curiosity shop in North London, kept by a Jew with a
dyed beard.  Well, two of your facts are in that six-line jingle I
have quoted to you."

"That is an odd coincidence.  But is it anything more?"

"I believe that it is.  I don't hold with coincidences.  There's
generally some explanations which we're not clever enough to get
at.  Your inventions were so odd that I can't think they were mere
inventions.  You must have heard them somehow and somewhere.  You
know what you said about your subconscious memory.  They're
somewhere in it, and, if you can remember just how they got there,
you'll give me the clue I want.  That six-line rhyme was sent in by
people who were so confident that they didn't mind giving their
enemies a clue--only it was a clue which they knew could never be
discovered.  Macgillivray and his fellows can make nothing of it--
never will.  But if I can start from the other end I'll get in on
their rear.  Do you see what I mean?  I'm going to make you somehow
or other dig it out."

He shook his head.  "It can't be done, Dick.  Admitting your
premise--that I heard the nonsense and didn't invent it--the
subconscious can't be handled like a business proposition.  I
remember unconsciously and I can't recall consciously. . . .  But I
don't admit your premise.  I think the whole thing is common
coincidence."

"I don't," I said stubbornly, "and even if I did I'm bound to
assume the contrary, for it's the only card I possess.  You've got
to sit down, old chap, and do your damnedest to remember.  You've
been in every kind of odd show, and my belief is that you HEARD
that nonsense.  Dig it out of your memory and we've a chance to
win.  Otherwise, I see nothing but tragedy."

He got up and put on his overcoat.  "I've got a long round of
visits which will take me all day.  Of course I'll try, but I warn
you that I haven't the ghost of a hope.  These things don't come by
care and searching.  I'd better sleep at the Manor to-night.  How
long can you give me?"

"Two days--I go up to town on Friday morning.  Yes, you must take
up your quarters with us.  Mary insists on it."

There was a crying of young lambs from the meadow, and through the
open window came the sound of the farm-carts jolting from the
stackyard into the lane.  Greenslade screwed up his face and
laughed.

"A nasty breach in your country peace, Dick.  You know I'm with you
if there's any trouble going.  Let's get the thing clear, for
there's a lot of researching ahead of me.  My three were an old
blind woman spinning in the Western Highlands--Western Highlands,
was it?--a saeter barn, and a Jew curiosity shop.  The other three
were a blind spinner under a sacred tree, a saeter of sorts, and a
sower in the fields of Eden--Lord, such rot!  Two pairs seem to
coincide, the other pair looks hopeless.  Well, here goes for
fortune!  I'm going to break my rule and take my pipe with me, for
this business demands tobacco."

I spent a busy day writing letters and making arrangements about
the Manor, for it looked as if I might be little at home for the
next month.  Oddly enough, I felt no restlessness or any particular
anxiety.  That would come later; for the moment I seemed to be
waiting on Providence in the person of Tom Greenslade.  I was
trusting my instinct which told me that in those random words of
his there was more than coincidence, and that with luck I might get
from them a line on our problem.

Greenslade turned up about seven in the evening, rather glum and
preoccupied.  At dinner he ate nothing, and when we sat afterwards
in the library he seemed to be chiefly interested in reading the
advertisements in The Times.  When I asked "What luck?" he turned
on me a disconsolate face.

"It is the most futile job I ever took on," he groaned.  "So far
it's an absolute blank, and anyhow I've been taking the wrong line.
I've been trying to THINK myself into recollection, and, as I said,
this thing comes not by searching, nor yet by prayer and fasting.
It occurred to me that I might get at something by following up the
differences between the three pairs.  It's a familiar method in
inductive logic, for differences are often more suggestive than
resemblances.  So I worried away at the 'sacred tree' as contrasted
with the 'Western Highlands' and the 'fields of Eden' as set
against the curiosity shop.  No earthly good.  I gave myself a
headache and I dare say I've poisoned half my patients.  It's no
use, Dick, but I'll peg away for the rest of the prescribed two
days.  I'm letting my mind lie fallow now and trusting to
inspiration.  I've got two faint glimmerings of notions.  First, I
don't believe I said 'Western Highlands.'"

"I'm positive those were your words.  What did you say, then?"

"Hanged if I know, but I'm pretty certain it wasn't that.  I can't
explain properly, but you get an atmosphere about certain things in
your mind and that phrase somehow jars with the atmosphere.
Different key.  Wrong tone.  Second, I've got a hazy intuition that
the thing, if it is really in my memory, is somehow mixed up with a
hymn tune.  I don't know what tune, and the whole impression is as
vague as smoke, but I tell it you for what it is worth.  If I could
get the right tune, I might remember something."

"You've stopped thinking?"

"Utterly.  I'm an Aeolian harp to be played on by any wandering
wind.  You see, if I did hear these three things there is no
conscious rational clue to it.  They were never part of my workaday
mind.  The only chance is that some material phenomenon may come
along and link itself with them and so rebuild the scene where I
heard them.  A scent would be best, but a tune might do.  Our one
hope--and it's about as strong as a single thread of gossamer on
the grass--is that that tune may drift into my head.  You see the
point, Dick?  Thought won't do, for the problem doesn't concern the
mind, but some tiny physical sensation of nose, ear, or eye might
press the button.  Now, it may be hallucination, but I've a feeling
that the three facts I thought I invented were in some infinitely
recondite way connected with a hymn tune."

He went to bed early, while I sat up till nearly midnight writing
letters.  As I went upstairs, I had a strong sense of futility and
discouragement.  It seemed the merest trifling to be groping among
these spectral unrealities, while tragedy, as big and indisputable
as a mountain, was overhanging us.  I had to remind myself how
often the trivial was the vital before I got rid of the prick in my
conscience.  I was tired and sleepy, and as I forced myself to
think of the immediate problem, the six lines of the jingle were
all blurred.  While I undressed I tried to repeat them, but could
not get the fourth to scan.  It came out as "fields of Erin," and
after that "the green fields of Erin."  Then it became "the green
fields of Eden."

I found myself humming a tune.

It was an old hymn which the Salvation Army used to play in the
Cape Town streets when I was a schoolboy.  I hadn't heard it or
thought of it for thirty years.  But I remembered the tune very
clearly, a pretty, catchy thing like an early Victorian drawing-
room ballad, and I remembered the words of the chorus--


     "On the other side of Jordan
      In the green fields of Eden,
      Where the Tree of Life is blooming,
      There is rest for you."


I marched off to Greenslade's room and found him lying wide awake
staring at the ceiling, with the lamp by his bedside lit.  I must
have broken in on some train of thought, for he looked at me
crossly.

"I've got your tune," I said, and I whistled it, and then quoted
what words I remembered.

"Tune be blowed," he said.  "I never heard it before."  But he
hummed it after me, and made me repeat the words several times.

"No good, I'm afraid.  It doesn't seem to hank on to anything.
Lord, this is a fool's game.  I'm off to sleep."

But three minutes later came a knock at my dressing-room door, and
Greenslade entered.  I saw by his eyes that he was excited.

"It's the tune all right.  I can't explain why, but those three
blessed facts of mine fit into it like prawns in an aspic.  I'm
feeling my way towards the light now.  I thought I'd just tell you,
for you may sleep better for hearing it."

I slept like a log, and went down to breakfast feeling more
cheerful than I had felt for several days.  But the doctor seemed
to have had a poor night.  His eyes looked gummy and heavy, and he
had ruffled his hair out of all hope of order.  I knew that trick
of his; when his hair began to stick up at the back he was out of
sorts either in mind or body.  I noticed that he had got himself up
in knickerbockers and thick shoes.

After breakfast he showed no inclination to smoke.  "I feel as if I
were going to be beaten on the post," he groaned.  "I'm a complete
convert to your view, Dick.  I HEARD my three facts and didn't
invent them.  What's more, my three are definitely linked with the
three in those miscreants' doggerel.  That tune proves it, for it
talks about the 'fields of Eden' and yet is identified in my memory
with my three which didn't mention Eden.  That's a tremendous point
and proves we're on the right road.  But I'm hanged if I can get a
step farther.  Wherever I heard the facts I heard the tune, but I'm
no nearer finding out that place.  I've got one bearing, and I need
a second to give me the point of intersection I want, and how the
deuce I'm to get it I don't know."

Greenslade was now keener even than I was on the chase, and indeed
his lean anxious face was uncommonly like an old hound's.  I asked
him what he was going to do.

"At ten o'clock precisely I start on a walk--right round the head
of the Windrush and home by the Forest.  It's going to be a thirty-
mile stride at a steady four and a half miles an hour, which, with
half an hour for lunch, will get me back here before six.  I'm
going to drug my body and mind into apathy by hard exercise.  Then
I shall have a hot bath and a good dinner, and after that, when I'm
properly fallow, I may get the revelation.  The mistake I made
yesterday was in trying to THINK."

It was a gleamy blustering March morning, the very weather for a
walk, and I would have liked to accompany him.  As it was I watched
his long legs striding up the field we call Big Pasture, and then
gave up the day to the job of putting Loch Leven fry into one of
the ponds--a task so supremely muddy and wet that I had very little
leisure to think of other things.  In the afternoon I rode over to
the market-town to see my builder, and got back only just before
dinner to learn that Greenslade had returned.  He was now wallowing
in a hot bath, according to his programme.

At dinner he seemed to be in better spirits.  The wind had
heightened his colour, and given him a ferocious appetite, and the
1906 Clicquot, which I regard as the proper drink after a hard day,
gave him the stimulus he needed.  He talked as he had talked three
nights ago, before this business got us in its clutches.  Mary
disappeared after dinner, and we sat ourselves in big chairs before
the library fire, like two drowsy men who have had a busy day in
the open air.  I thought I had better say nothing till he chose to
speak.

He was silent for a long time, and then he laughed not very
mirthfully.

"I'm as far off it as ever.  All day I've been letting my mind
wander and measuring off miles with my two legs like a pair of
compasses.  But nothing has come to me.  No word yet of that
confounded cross-bearing I need.  I might have heard that tune in
any one of a thousand parts of the globe.  You see, my rackety life
is a disadvantage--I've had too many different sorts of experience.
If I'd been a curate all my days in one village it would have been
easier."

I waited, and he went on, speaking not to me but to the fire:
"I've got an impression so strong that it amounts to certainty that
I never heard the words 'Western Highlands.'  It was something like
it, but not that."

"Western Islands," I suggested.

"What could they be?"

"I think I've heard the phrase used about the islands off the west
coast of Ireland.  Does that help you?"

He shook his head.  "No good.  I've never been in Ireland."

After that he was silent again, staring at the fire, while I smoked
opposite him, feeling pretty blank and dispirited.  I realised that
I had banked more than I knew on this line of inquiry which seemed
to be coming to nothing. . . .

Then suddenly there happened one of those trivial things which look
like accidents but I believe are part of the reasoned government of
the universe.

I leaned forward to knock out the ashes of my pipe against the
stone edge of the hearth.  I hammered harder than I intended, and
the pipe, which was an old one, broke off at the bowl.  I exclaimed
irritably, for I hate to lose an old pipe, and then pulled up sharp
at the sight of Greenslade.

He was staring open-mouthed at the fragments in my hand, and his
eyes were those of a man whose thoughts are far away.  He held up
one hand, while I froze into silence.  Then the tension relaxed,
and he dropped back into his chair with a sigh.

"The cross-bearing!" he said.  "I've got it. . . .  Medina."

Then he laughed at my puzzled face.

"I'm not mad, Dick.  I once talked to a man, and as we talked he
broke the bowl of his pipe as you have just done.  He was the man
who hummed the hymn tune, and though I haven't the remotest
recollection of what he said, I am as certain as that I am alive
that he gave me the three facts which sunk into the abyss of my
subconscious memory.  Wait a minute.  Yes.  I see it as plain as I
see you.  He broke his pipe just as you have done, and some time or
other he hummed that tune."

"Who was he?" I asked, but Greenslade disregarded the question.  He
was telling his story in his own way, with his eyes still
abstracted as if he were looking down a long corridor of memory.

"I was staying at the Bull at Hanham--shooting wild-fowl on the sea
marshes.  I had the place to myself, for it wasn't weather for a
country pub, but late one night a car broke down outside, and the
owner and his chauffeur had to put up at the Bull.  Oddly enough I
knew the man.  He had been at one of the big shoots at Rousham
Thorpe and was on his way back to London.  We had a lot to say to
each other and sat up into the small hours.  We talked about sport,
and the upper glens of the Yarkand river, where I first met him.  I
remember quite a lot of our talk, but not the three facts or the
tune, which made no appeal to my conscious memory.  Only of course
they must have been there."

"When did this happen?"

"Early last December, the time we had the black frost.  You
remember, Dick, how I took a week's holiday and went down to
Norfolk after duck."

"You haven't told me the man's name."

"I have.  Medina."

"Who on earth is Medina?"

"Oh Lord!  Dick.  You're overdoing the rustic.  You've heard of
Dominick Medina."

I had, of course, when he mentioned the Christian name.  You
couldn't open a paper without seeing something about Dominick
Medina, but whether he was a poet or a politician or an actor-
manager I hadn't troubled to inquire.  There was a pile of picture-
papers on a side-table, and I fetched them and began to turn them
over.  Very soon I found what I wanted.  It was a photograph of a
group at a country-house party for some steeplechase, the usual
"reading-from-left-to-right" business, and there between a Duchess
and a foreign Princess was Mr. Dominick Medina.  The poverty of the
photograph could not conceal the extraordinary good looks of the
man.  He had the kind of head I fancy Byron had, and I seemed to
discern, too, a fine, clean, athletic figure.

"If you had happened to look at that rag you might have short-
circuited your inquiry."

He shook his head.  "No.  It doesn't happen that way.  I had to get
your broken pipe and the tune or I would have been stuck."

"Then I suppose I have to get in touch with this chap and find
where he picked up the three facts and the tune.  But how if he
turns out to be like you, another babbler from the subconscious?"

"That is the risk you run, of course.  He may be able to help you,
or more likely he may prove only another dead wall."

I felt suddenly an acute sense of the difficulty of the job I had
taken on, and something very near hopelessness.

"Tell me about this Medina.  Is he a decent fellow?"

"I suppose so.  Yes, I should think so.  But he moves in higher
circles than I'm accustomed to, so I can't judge.  But I'll tell
you what he is beyond doubt--he's rather a great man.  Hang it,
Dick, you must have heard of him.  He's one of the finest shots
living, and he's done some tall things in the exploration way, and
he was the devil of a fellow as a partisan leader in South Russia.
Also--though it may not interest you--he's an uncommon fine poet."

"I suppose he's some sort of a Dago."

"Not a bit of it.  Old Spanish family settled here for three
centuries.  One of them rode with Rupert.  Hold on!  I rather
believe I've heard that his people live in Ireland, or did live,
till life there became impossible."

"What age?"

"Youngish.  Not more than thirty-five.  Oh, and the handsomest
thing in mankind since the Greeks."

"I'm not a flapper," I said impatiently.  "Good looks in a man are
no sort of recommendation to me.  I shall probably take a dislike
to his face."

"You won't.  From what I know of him and you you'll fall under his
charm at first sight.  I never heard of a man that didn't.  He has
a curious musical voice and eyes that warm you--glow like sunlight.
Not that I know him well, but I own I found him extraordinarily
attractive.  And you see from the papers what the world thinks of
him."

"All the same I'm not much nearer my goal.  I've got to find out
where he heard those three blessed facts and that idiotic tune.
He'll probably send me to blazes, and, even if he's civil, he'll
very likely be helpless."

"Your chance is that he's a really clever man, not an old blunderer
like me.  You'll get the help of a first-class mind, and that means
a lot.  Shall I write you a line of introduction?"

He sat down at my desk and wrote.  "I'm saying nothing about your
errand--simply that I'd like you to know each other--common
interest in sport and travel--that sort of thing.  You're going to
be in London, so I had better give your address as your club."

Next morning Greenslade went back to his duties and I caught the
early train to town.  I was not very happy about Mr. Dominick
Medina, for I didn't seem able to get hold of him.  Who's Who only
gave his age, his residence--Hill Street, his club, and the fact
that he was M.P. for a South London division.  Mary had never met
him, for he had appeared in London after she had stopped going
about, but she remembered that her Wymondham aunts raved about him,
and she had read somewhere an article on his poetry.  As I sat in
the express, I tried to reconstruct what kind of fellow he must be--
a mixture of Byron and Sir Richard Burton and the young political
highbrow.  The picture wouldn't compose, for I saw only a figure
like a waxwork, with a cooing voice and a shop-walker's suavity.
Also his name kept confusing me, for I mixed him up with an old
ruffian of a Portugee I once knew at Beira.

I was walking down St. James's Street on my way to Whitehall,
pretty much occupied with my own thoughts, when I was brought up by
a hand placed flat on my chest, and lo! and behold! it was Sandy
Arbuthnot.



CHAPTER IV

I MAKE THE ACQUAINTANCE OF A POPULAR MAN


You may imagine how glad I was to see old Sandy again, for I had
not set eyes on him since 1916.  He had been an Intelligence
Officer with Maude, and then something at Simla, and after the War
had had an administrative job in Mesopotamia, or, as they call it
nowadays, Iraq.  He had written to me from all kinds of queer
places, but he never appeared to be coming home, and, what with my
marriage and my settling in the country, we seemed to be fixed in
ruts that were not likely to intersect.  I had seen his elder
brother's death in the papers, so he was now Master of Clanroyden
and heir to the family estates, but I didn't imagine that that
would make a Scotch laird of him.  I never saw a fellow less
changed by five years of toil and travel.  He was desperately
slight and tanned--he had always been that, but the contours of his
face were still soft like a girl's, and his brown eyes were merry
as ever.

We stood and stared at each other.

"Dick, old man," he cried, "I'm home for good.  Yes--honour bright.
For months and months, if not years and years.  I've got so much to
say to you I don't know where to begin.  But I can't wait now.  I'm
off to Scotland to see my father.  He's my chief concern now, for
he's getting very frail.  But I'll be back in three days.  Let's
dine together on Tuesday."

We were standing at the door of a club--his and mine--and a porter
was stowing his baggage into a taxi.  Before I could properly
realise that it was Sandy, he was waving his hand from the taxi
window and disappearing up the street.

The sight of him cheered me immensely and I went on along Pall Mall
in a good temper.  To have Sandy back in England and at call made
me feel somehow more substantial, like a commander who knows his
reserves are near.  When I entered Macgillivray's room I was
smiling, and the sight of me woke an answering smile on his anxious
face.  "Good man!" he said.  "You look like business.  You're to
put yourself at my disposal while I give you your bearings."

He got out his papers and expounded the whole affair.  It was a
very queer story, yet the more I looked into it the thinner my
scepticism grew.  I am not going to write it all down, for it is
not yet time; it would give away certain methods which have not yet
exhausted their usefulness; but before I had gone very far, I took
off my hat to these same methods, for they showed amazing patience
and ingenuity.  It was an odd set of links that made up the chain.
There was an importer of Barcelona nuts with a modest office near
Tower Hill.  There was a copper company, purporting to operate in
Spain, whose shares were not quoted on the Stock Exchange, but
which had a fine office in London Wall, where you could get the
best luncheon in the City.  There was a respectable accountant in
Glasgow, and a French count, who was also some kind of Highland
laird and a great supporter of the White Rose League.  There was a
country gentleman living in Shropshire, who had bought his place
after the War and was a keen rider to hounds and a very popular
figure in the county.  There was a little office not far from Fleet
Street, which professed to be the English agency of an American
religious magazine; and there was a certain publicist, who was
always appealing in the newspapers for help for the distressed
populations of Central Europe.  I remembered his appeals well, for
I had myself twice sent him small subscriptions.  The way
Macgillivray had worked out the connection between these gentry
filled me with awe.

Then he showed me specimens of their work.  It was sheer
unmitigated crime, a sort of selling a bear on a huge scale in a
sinking world.  The aim of the gang was money, and already they had
made scandalous profits.  Partly their business was mere
conscienceless profiteering well inside the bounds of the law, such
as gambling in falling exchanges and using every kind of brazen and
subtle trick to make their gamble a certainty.  Partly it was
common fraud of the largest size.  But there were darker sides--
murder when the victim ran athwart their schemes, strikes
engineered when a wrecked industry somewhere or other in the world
showed symptoms of reviving, shoddy little outbursts in shoddy
little countries which increased the tangle.  These fellows were
wreckers on the grand scale, merchants of pessimism, giving society
another kick downhill whenever it had a chance of finding its
balance, and then pocketing their profits.

Their motive, as I have said, was gain but that was not the motive
of the people they worked through.  Their cleverness lay in the
fact that they used the fanatics, the moral imbeciles as
Macgillivray called them, whose key was a wild hatred of something
or other, or a reasoned belief in anarchy.  Behind the smug
exploiters lay the whole dreary wastes of half-baked craziness.
Macgillivray gave me examples of how they used these tools, the
fellows who had no thought of profit, and were ready to sacrifice
everything, including their lives, for a mad ideal.  It was a
masterpiece of cold-blooded, devilish ingenuity.  Hideous, and yet
comic too; for the spectacle of these feverish cranks toiling to
create a new heaven and a new earth and thinking themselves the
leaders of mankind, when they were dancing like puppets at the will
of a few scoundrels engaged in the most ancient of pursuits, was an
irony to make the gods laugh.

I asked who was their leader.

Macgillivray said he wasn't certain.  No one of the gang seemed to
have more authority than the others, and their activities were
beautifully specialised.  But he agreed that there was probably one
master mind, and said grimly that he would know more about that
when they were rounded up.  "The dock will settle that question."

"How much do they suspect?" I asked.

"Not much.  A little, or they would not have taken hostages.  But
not much, for we have been very careful to make no sign.  Only,
since we became cognisant of the affair, we have managed very
quietly to put a spoke in the wheels of some of their worst
enterprises, though I am positive they have no suspicion of it.
Also we have put the brake on their propaganda side.  They are
masters of propaganda, you know.  Dick, have you ever considered
what a diabolical weapon that can be--using all the channels of
modern publicity to poison and warp men's minds?  It is the most
dangerous thing on earth.  You can use it cleanly--as I think on
the whole we did in the War--but you can also use it to establish
the most damnable lies.  Happily in the long run it defeats itself,
but only after it has sown the world with mischief.  Look at the
Irish!  They are the cleverest propagandists extant, and managed to
persuade most people that they were a brave, generous, humorous,
talented, warm-hearted race, cruelly yoked to a dull mercantile
England, when God knows they were exactly the opposite."

Macgillivray, I may remark, is an Ulsterman, and has his
prejudices.

"About the gang--I suppose they're all pretty respectable to
outward view?"

"Highly respectable," he said.  "I met one of them at dinner the
other night at ----'s"--he mentioned the name of a member of the
Government.  "Before Christmas I was at a cover shoot in Suffolk,
and one of the worst had the stand next me--an uncommonly agreeable
fellow."

Then we sat down to business.  Macgillivray's idea was that I
should study the details of the thing and then get alongside some
of the people.  He thought I might begin with the Shropshire
squire.  He fancied that I might stumble on something which would
give me a line on the hostages, for he stuck to his absurd notion
that I had a special flair which the amateur sometimes possessed
and the professional lacked.  I agreed that that was the best plan,
and arranged to spend Sunday in his room going over the secret
dossiers.  I was beginning to get keen about the thing, for
Macgillivray had a knack of making whatever he handled as
interesting as a game.

I had meant to tell him about my experiments with Greenslade; but
after what he had shown me I felt that that story was absurdly thin
and unpromising.  But as I was leaving, I asked him casually if he
knew Mr. Dominick Medina.

He smiled.  "Why do you ask?  He's scarcely your line of country."

"I don't know.  I've heard a lot about him and I thought I would
rather like to meet him."

"I barely know him, but I must confess that the few times I've met
him I was enormously attracted.  He's the handsomest being alive."

"So I'm told, and it's the only thing that puts me off."

"It wouldn't if you saw him.  He's not in the least the ordinary
matinée idol.  He is the only fellow I ever heard of who was adored
by women and also liked by men.  He's a first-class sportsman and
said to be the best shot in England after His Majesty.  He's a
coming man in politics, too, and a most finished speaker.  I once
heard him, and, though I take very little stock in oratory, he
almost had me on my feet.  He has knocked a bit about the world,
and he is also a very pretty poet, though that wouldn't interest
you."

"I don't know why you say that," I protested.  "I'm getting rather
good at poetry."

"Oh, I know.  Scott and Macaulay and Tennyson.  But that is not
Medina's line.  He is a deity of les jeunes and a hardy innovator.
Jolly good, too.  The man's a fine classical scholar."

"Well, I hope to meet him soon, and I'll let you know my
impression."

I had posted my letter to Medina, enclosing Greenslade's
introduction, on my way from the station, and next morning I found
a very civil reply from him at my club.  Greenslade had talked of
our common interest in big-game shooting, and he professed to know
all about me, and to be anxious to make my acquaintance.  He was
out of town unfortunately for the week-end, he said, but he
suggested that I should lunch with him on the Monday.  He named a
club, a small, select, old-fashioned one of which most of the
members were hunting squires.

I looked forward to meeting him with a quite inexplicable interest
and on Sunday, when I was worrying through papers in Macgillivray's
room, I had him at the back of my mind.  I had made a picture of
something between a Ouida guardsman and the Apollo Belvedere and
rigged it out in the smartest clothes.  But when I gave my name to
the porter at the club door, and a young man who was warming his
hands at the hall fire came forward to meet me, I had to wipe that
picture clean off my mind.

He was about my own height, just under six feet, and at first sight
rather slightly built, but a hefty enough fellow to eyes which knew
where to look for the points of a man's strength.  Still he
appeared slim, and therefore young, and you could see from the way
he stood and walked that he was as light on his feet as a rope-
dancer.  There is a horrible word in the newspapers, "well-
groomed," applied to men by lady journalists, which always makes me
think of a glossy horse on which a stable-boy has been busy with
the brush and currycomb.  I had thought of him as "well-groomed,"
but there was nothing glossy about his appearance.  He wore a
rather old well-cut brown tweed suit, with a soft shirt and collar,
and a russet tie that matched his complexion.  His get-up was
exactly that of a country squire who has come up to town for a day
at Tattersalls'.

I find it difficult to describe my first impression of his face,
for my memory is all overlaid with other impressions acquired when
I looked at it in very different circumstances.  But my chief
feeling, I remember, was that it was singularly pleasant.  It was
very English, and yet not quite English; the colouring was a little
warmer than sun or weather would give, and there was a kind of
silken graciousness about it not commonly found in our countrymen.
It was beautifully cut, every feature regular, and yet there was a
touch of ruggedness that saved it from conventionality.  I was
puzzled about this, till I saw that it came from two things, the
hair and the eyes.  The hair was a dark brown, brushed in a wave
above the forehead, so that the face with its strong fine chin made
an almost perfect square.  But the eyes were the thing.  They were
of a startling blue, not the pale blue which is common enough and
belongs to our Norse ancestry, but a deep dark blue, like the
colour of a sapphire.  Indeed if you think of a sapphire with the
brilliance of a diamond, you get a pretty fair notion of those
eyes.  They would have made a plain-headed woman lovely, and in a
man's face, which had not a touch of the feminine, they were
startling.  Startling--I stick to that word--but also entrancing.

He greeted me as if he had been living for this hour, and also with
a touch of the deference due to a stranger.

"This is delightful, Sir Richard.  It was very good of you to come.
We've got a table to ourselves by the fire.  I hope you're hungry.
I've had a devilish cold journey this morning and I want my
luncheon."

I was hungry enough and I never ate a better meal.  He gave me
Burgundy on account of the bite in the weather, and afterwards I
had a glass of the Bristol Cream for which the club was famous; but
he drank water himself.  There were four other people in the room,
all of whom he appeared to call by their Christian names, and these
lantern-jawed hunting fellows seemed to cheer up at the sight of
him.  But they didn't come and stand beside him and talk, which is
apt to happen to your popular man.  There was that about Medina
which was at once friendly and aloof, the air of a simple but
tremendous distinction.

I remember we began by talking about rifles.  I had done a good
deal of shikar in my time, and I could see that this man had had a
wide experience and had the love of the thing in his bones.  He
never bragged, but by little dropped remarks showed what a swell he
was.  We talked of a new .240 bore which had remarkable stopping
power, and I said I had never used it on anything more formidable
than a Scotch stag.  "It would have been a godsend to me in the old
days on the Pungwe where I had to lug about a .500 express that
broke my back."

He grinned ruefully.  "The old days!" he said.  "We've all had 'em,
and we're all sick to get 'em back.  Sometimes I'm tempted to kick
over the traces and be off to the wilds again.  I'm too young to
settle down.  And you, Sir Richard--you must feel the same.  Do you
never regret that that beastly old War is over?"

"I can't say I do.  I'm a middle-aged man now and soon I'll be
stiff in the joints.  I've settled down in the Cotswolds, and
though I hope to get a lot of sport before I die I'm not looking
for any more wars.  I'm positive the Almighty meant me for a
farmer."

He laughed.  "I wish I knew what He meant me for.  It looks like
some sort of politician."

"Oh, you!" I said.  "You're the fellow with twenty talents.  I've
only got the one, and I'm jolly well going to bury it in the soil."

I kept wondering how much help I would get out of him.  I liked him
enormously, but somehow I didn't yet see his cleverness.  He was
just an ordinary good fellow of my own totem--just such another as
Tom Greenslade.  It was a dark day, and the firelight silhouetted
his profile, and as I stole glances at it I was struck by the shape
of his head.  The way he brushed his hair front and back made it
look square, but I saw that it was really round, the roundest head
I have ever seen except in a Kaffir.  He was evidently conscious of
it and didn't like it, so took some pains to conceal it.

All through luncheon I was watching him covertly, and I could see
that he was also taking stock of me.  Very friendly these blue eyes
were, but very shrewd.  He suddenly looked me straight in the face.

"You won't vegetate," he said.  "You needn't deceive yourself.  You
haven't got the kind of mouth for a rustic.  What is it to be?
Politics?  Business?  Travel?  You're well off?"

"Yes.  For my simple tastes I'm rather rich.  But I haven't the
ambition of a maggot."

"No.  You haven't."  He looked at me steadily.  "If you don't mind
my saying it, you have too little vanity.  Oh, I'm quick at
detecting vanity, and anyhow it's a thing that defies concealment.
But I imagine--indeed I know--that you can work like a beaver, and
that your loyalty is not the kind that cracks.  You won't be able
to help yourself, Sir Richard.  You'll be caught up in some
machine.  Look at me.  I swore two years ago never to have a
groove, and I'm in a deep one already.  England is made up of
grooves, and the only plan is to select a good one."

"I suppose yours is politics," I said.

"I suppose it is.  A dingy game as it's played at present, but
there are possibilities.  There is a mighty Tory revival in sight,
and it will want leading.  The newly enfranchised classes,
especially the women, will bring it about.  The suffragists didn't
know what a tremendous force of conservatism they were releasing
when they won the vote for their sex.  I should like to talk to you
about these things some day."

In the smoking-room we got back to sport and he told me the story
of how he met Greenslade in Central Asia.  I was beginning to
realise that the man's reputation was justified, for there was a
curious mastery about his talk, a careless power as if everything
came easily to him and was just taken in his stride.  I had meant
to open up the business which had made me seek his acquaintance,
but I did not feel the atmosphere quite right for it.  I did not
know him well enough yet, and I felt that if I once started on
those ridiculous three facts, which were all I had, I must make a
clean breast of the whole thing and take him fully into my
confidence.  I thought the time was scarcely ripe for that,
especially as we would meet again.

"Are you by any chance free on Thursday?" he asked as we parted.
"I would like to take you to dine at the Thursday Club.  You're
sure to know some of the fellows, and it's a pleasant way of
spending an evening.  That's capital!  Eight o'clock on Thursday.
Short coat and black tie."

As I walked away, I made up my mind that I had found the right kind
of man to help me.  I liked him, and the more I thought of him the
more the impression deepened of a big reservoir of power behind his
easy grace.  I was completely fascinated, and the proof of it was
that I went off to the nearest bookseller's and bought his two slim
volumes of poems.  I cared far more about poetry than Macgillivray
imagined--Mary had done a lot to educate me--but I hadn't been very
fortunate in my experiments with the new people.  But I understood
Medina's verses well enough.  They were very simple, with a
delicious subtle tune in them, and they were desperately sad.
Again and again came the note of regret and transcience and
disillusioned fortitude.  As I read them that evening I wondered
how a man, who had apparently such zest for life and got so much
out of the world, should be so lonely at heart.  It might be a
pose, but there was nothing of the conventional despair of the
callow poet.  This was the work of one as wise as Ulysses and as
far-wandering.  I didn't see how he could want to write anything
but the truth.  A pose is a consequence of vanity, and I was pretty
clear that Medina was not vain.

Next morning I found his cadences still running in my head and I
could not keep my thoughts off him.  He fascinated me as a man is
fascinated by a pretty woman.  I was glad to think that he had
taken a liking for me, for he had done far more than Greenslade's
casual introduction demanded.  He had made a plan for us to meet
again, and he had spoken not as an acquaintance but as a friend.
Very soon I decided that I would get Macgillivray's permission and
take him wholly into our confidence.  It was no good keeping a man
like that at arm's length and asking him to solve puzzles presented
as meaninglessly as an acrostic in a newspaper.  He must be told
all or nothing, and I was certain that if he were told all he would
be a very tower of strength to me.  The more I thought of him the
more I was convinced of his exceptional brains.

I lunched with Mr. Julius Victor in Carlton House Terrace.  He was
carrying on his ordinary life, and when he greeted me he never
referred to the business which had linked us together.  Or rather
he only said one word.  "I knew I could count on you," he said.  "I
think I told you that my daughter was engaged to be married this
spring.  Well, her fiancé has come over from France and will be
staying for an indefinite time with me.  He can probably do nothing
to assist you, but he is here at your call if you want him.  He is
the Marquis de la Tour du Pin."

I didn't quite catch the name, and, as it was a biggish party, we
had sat down to luncheon before I realised who the desolated lover
was.  It was my ancient friend Turpin, who had been liaison officer
with my old division.  I had known that he was some kind of
grandee, but as everybody went by nicknames I had become used to
think of him as Turpin, a version of his title invented, I think,
by Archie Roylance.  There he was, sitting opposite me, a very
handsome pallid young man, dressed with that excessive correctness
found only among Frenchmen who get their clothes in England.  He
had been a tremendous swashbuckler when he was with the division,
unbridled in speech, volcanic in action, but always with a sad
gentleness in his air.  He raised his heavy-lidded eyes and looked
at me, and then, with a word of apology to his host, marched round
the table and embraced me.

I felt every kind of a fool, but I was mighty glad all the same to
see Turpin.  He had been a good pal of mine, and the fact that he
had been going to marry Miss Victor seemed to bring my new job in
line with other parts of my life.  But I had no further speech with
him, for I had conversational women on both sides of me, and in the
few minutes while the men were left alone at table I fell into talk
with an elderly man on my right, who proved to be a member of the
Cabinet.  I found that out by a lucky accident, for I was
lamentably ill-informed about the government of our country.

I asked him about Medina and he brightened up at once.

"Can you place him?" he asked.  "I can't.  I like to classify my
fellow-men, but he is a new specimen.  He is as exotic as the young
Disraeli and as English as the late Duke of Devonshire.  The point
is, has he a policy, something he wants to achieve, and has he the
power of attaching a party to him?  If he has these two things,
there is no doubt about his future.  Honestly, I'm not quite
certain.  He has very great talents, and I believe if he wanted he
would be in the front rank as a public speaker.  He has the ear of
the House, too, though he doesn't often address it.  But I am never
sure how much he cares about the whole business, and England, you
know, demands wholeheartedness in her public men.  She will follow
blindly the second-rate, if he is in earnest, and reject the first-
rate if he is not."

I said something about Medina's view of a great Tory revival, based
upon the women.  My neighbour grinned.

"I dare say he's right, and I dare say he could whistle women any
way he pleased.  It's extraordinary the charm he has for them.
That handsome face of his and that melodious voice would enslave
anything female from a charwoman to a Cambridge intellectual.  Half
his power of course comes from the fact that they have no charm for
HIM.  He's as aloof as Sir Galahad from any interest in the sex.
Did you ever hear his name coupled with a young woman's?  He goes
everywhere and they would give their heads for him, and all the
while he is as insensitive as a nice Eton boy whose only thought is
of getting into the Eleven.  You know him?"

I told him, very slightly.

"Same with me.  I've only a nodding acquaintance, but one can't
help feeling the man everywhere and being acutely interested.  It's
lucky he's a sound fellow.  If he were a rogue he could play the
devil with our easy-going society."

That night Sandy and I dined together.  He had come back from
Scotland in good spirits, for his father's health was improving,
and when Sandy was in good spirits it was like being on the Downs
in a south-west wind.  We had so much to tell each other that we
let our food grow cold.  He had to hear all about Mary and Peter
John, and what I knew of Blenkiron and a dozen other old comrades,
and I had to get a sketch--the merest sketch--of his doings since
the Armistice in the East.  Sandy for some reason was at the moment
disinclined to speak of his past, but he was as ready as an
undergraduate to talk of his future.  He meant to stay at home now,
for a long spell at any rate; and the question was how he should
fill up his time.  "Country life's no good," he said.  "I must find
a profession or I'll get into trouble."

I suggested politics, and he rather liked the notion.

"I might be bored in Parliament," he reflected, "but I should love
the rough-and-tumble of an election.  I only once took part in one,
and I discovered surprising gifts as a demagogue and made a speech
in our little town which is still talked about.  The chief row was
about Irish Home Rule, and I thought I'd better have a whack at the
Pope.  Has it ever struck you, Dick, that ecclesiastical language
has a most sinister sound?  I knew some of the words, though not
their meaning, but I knew that my audience would be just as
ignorant.  So I had a magnificent peroration.  'Will you men of
Kilclavers,' I asked, 'endure to see a chasuble set up in your
market-place?  Will you have your daughters sold into simony?  Will
you have celibacy practised in the public streets?'  Gad, I had
them all on their feet bellowing 'Never!'"

He also rather fancied business.  He had a notion of taking up
civil aviation, and running a special service for transporting
pilgrims from all over the Moslem world to Mecca.  He reckoned the
present average cost to the pilgrim at not less than £30, and
believed that he could do it for an average of £15 and show a
handsome profit.  Blenkiron, he thought, might be interested in the
scheme and put up some of the capital.

But later, in a corner of the upstairs smoking-room, Sandy was
serious enough when I began to tell him the job I was on, for I
didn't need Macgillivray's permission to make a confidant of him.
He listened in silence while I gave him the main lines of the
business that I had gathered from Macgillivray's papers, and he
made no comment when I came to the story of the three hostages.
But, when I explained my disinclination to stir out of my country
rut, he began to laugh.

"It's a queer thing how people like us get a sudden passion for
cosiness.  I feel it myself coming over me.  What stirred you up in
the end?  The little boy?"

Then very lamely and shyly I began on the rhymes and Greenslade's
memory.  That interested him acutely.  "Just the sort of sensible-
nonsensical notion you'd have, Dick.  Go on.  I'm thrilled."

But when I came to Medina he exclaimed sharply.

"You've met him?"

"Yesterday at luncheon."

"You haven't told him anything?"

"No.  But I'm going to."

Sandy had been deep in an arm-chair with his legs over the side,
but now he got up and stood with his arms on the mantelpiece
looking into the fire.

"I'm going to take him into my full confidence," I said, "when I've
spoken to Macgillivray."

"Macgillivray will no doubt agree?"

"And you?  Have you ever met him?"

"Never.  But of course I've heard of him.  Indeed I don't mind
telling you that one of my chief reasons for coming home was a wish
to see Medina."

"You'll like him tremendously.  I never met such a man."

"So everyone says."  He turned his face and I could see that it had
fallen into that portentous gravity which was one of Sandy's moods,
the complement to his ordinary insouciance.  "When are you going to
see him again?"

"I'm dining with him the day after to-morrow at a thing called the
Thursday Club."

"Oh, he belongs to that, does he?  So do I.  I think I'll give
myself the pleasure of dining also."

I asked about the Club, and he told me that it had been started
after the War by some of the people who had had queer jobs and
wanted to keep together.  It was very small, only twenty members.
There were Collatt, one of the Q-boat V.C.'s, and Pugh of the
Indian Secret Service, and the Duke of Burminster, and Sir Arthur
Warcliff, and several soldiers all more or less well-known.  "They
elected me in 1919," said Sandy, "but of course I've never been to
a dinner.  I say, Dick, Medina must have a pretty strong pull here
to be a member of the Thursday.  Though I says it as shouldn't,
it's a show most people would give their right hand to be in."

He sat down again and appeared to reflect, with his chin on his
hand.

"You're under the spell, I suppose," he said.

"Utterly.  I'll tell you how he strikes me.  Your ordinary very
clever man is apt to be a bit bloodless and priggish, while your
ordinary sportsman and good fellow is inclined to be a bit narrow.
Medina seems to me to combine all the virtues and none of the
faults of both kinds.  Anybody can see he's a sportsman, and you've
only to ask the swells to discover how high they put his brains."

"He sounds rather too good to be true."  I seemed to detect a touch
of acidity in his voice.  "Dick," he said, looking very serious, "I
want you to promise to go slow in this business--I mean about
telling Medina."

"Why?" I asked.  "Have you anything against him?"

"No--o--o," he said.  "I haven't anything against him.  But he's
just a little incredible, and I would like to know more about him.
I had a friend who knew him.  I've no right to say this, and I
haven't any evidence, but I've a sort of feeling that Medina didn't
do him any good."

"What was his name?" I asked, and was told "Lavater"; and when I
inquired what had become of him Sandy didn't know.  He had lost
sight of him for two years.

At that I laughed heartily, for I could see what was the matter.
Sandy was jealous of this man who was putting a spell on everybody.
He wanted his old friends to himself.  When I taxed him with it he
grinned and didn't deny it.



CHAPTER V

THE THURSDAY CLUB


We met in a room on the second floor of a little restaurant in
Mervyn Street, a pleasant room, panelled in white, with big fires
burning at each end.  The Club had its own cook and butler, and I
swear a better dinner was never produced in London, starting with
preposterously early plovers' eggs and finishing with fruit from
Burminster's houses.  There were a dozen present including myself,
and of these, besides my host, I knew only Burminster and Sandy.
Collatt was there, and Pugh, and a wizened little man who had just
returned from bird-hunting at the mouth of the Mackenzie.  There
was Palliser-Yeates, the banker, who didn't look thirty, and
Fulleylove, the Arabian traveller, who was really thirty and looked
fifty.  I was specially interested in Nightingale, a slim peering
fellow with double glasses, who had gone back to Greek manuscripts
and his Cambridge fellowship after captaining a Bedouin tribe.
Leithen was there, too, the Attorney-General, who had been a
private in the Guards at the start of the War, and had finished up
a G.S.O.I., a toughly built man, with a pale face and very keen
quizzical eyes.  I should think there must have been more varied
and solid brains in that dozen than you would find in an average
Parliament.

Sandy was the last to arrive, and was greeted with a roar of joy.
Everybody seemed to want to wring his hand and beat him on the
back.  He knew them all except Medina, and I was curious to see
their meeting.  Burminster did the introducing, and Sandy for a
moment looked shy.  "I've been looking forward to this for years,"
Medina said, and Sandy, after one glance at him, grinned sheepishly
and stammered something polite.

Burminster was chairman for the evening, a plump, jolly little man,
who had been a pal of Archie Roylance in the Air Force.  The talk
to begin with was nothing out of the common.  It started with
horses and the spring handicaps, and then got on to spring salmon-
fishing, for one man had been on the Helmsdale, another on the
Naver, and two on the Tay.  The fashion of the Club was to have the
conversation general, and there was very little talking in groups.
I was next to Medina, between him and the Duke, and Sandy was at
the other end of the oval table.  He had not much to say, and more
than once I caught his eyes watching Medina.

Then by and by, as was bound to happen, reminiscences began.
Collatt made me laugh with a story of how the Admiralty had a
notion that sea-lions might be useful to detect submarines.  A
number were collected, and trained to swim after submarines to
which fish were attached as bait, the idea being that they would
come to associate the smell of submarines with food, and go after a
stranger.  The thing shipwrecked on the artistic temperament.  The
beasts all came from the music-halls and had names like Flossie and
Cissie, so they couldn't be got to realise that there was a war on,
and were always going ashore without leave.

That story started the ball rolling, and by the time we had reached
the port the talk was like what you used to find in the smoking-
room of an East African coastal steamer, only a million times
better.  Everybody present had done and seen amazing things, and,
moreover, they had the brains and knowledge to orientate their
experiences.  It was no question of a string of yarns, but rather
of the best kind of give-and-take conversation, when a man would
buttress an argument by an apt recollection.  I especially admired
Medina.  He talked little, but he made others talk, and his keen
interest seemed to wake the best in everybody.  I noticed that, as
at our luncheon three days before, he drank only water.

We talked, I remember, about the people who had gone missing, and
whether any were likely still to turn up.  Sandy told us about
three British officers who had been in prison in Turkestan since
the summer of '18 and had only just started home.  He had met one
of them at Marseilles, and thought there might be others tucked
away in those parts.  Then someone spoke of how it was possible to
drop off the globe for a bit and miss all that was happening.  I
said I had met an old prospector in Barberton in 1920 who had come
down from Portuguese territory and when I asked him what he had
been doing in the War, he said "What war?"  Pugh said a fellow had
just turned up in Hong Kong, who had been a captive of Chinese
pirates for eight years and had never heard a word of our four
years' struggle, till he said something about the Kaiser to the
skipper of the boat that picked him up.

Then Sandy, as the new-comer, wanted news about Europe.  I remember
that Leithen gave him his views on the malaise that France was
suffering from, and that Palliser-Yeates, who looked exactly like a
Rugby three-quarter back, enlightened him--and incidentally myself--
on the matter of German reparations.  Sandy was furious about the
muddle in the Near East and the mishandling of Turkey.  His view
was that we were doing our best to hammer a much-divided Orient
into a hostile unanimity.

"Lord!" he cried, "how I loathe our new manners in foreign policy.
The old English way was to regard all foreigners as slightly
childish and rather idiotic and ourselves as the only grown-ups in
a kindergarten world.  That meant that we had a cool detached view
and did even-handed unsympathetic justice.  But now we have got
into the nursery ourselves and are bear-fighting on the floor.  We
take violent sides, and make pets, and of course if you are -phil
something or other you have got to be -phobe something else.  It is
all wrong.  We are becoming Balkanised."

We would have drifted into politics, if Pugh had not asked him his
opinion of Gandhi.  That led him into an exposition of the meaning
of the fanatic, a subject on which he was well qualified to speak,
for he had consorted with most varieties.

"He is always in the technical sense mad--that is, his mind is
tilted from its balance, and since we live by balance he is a
wrecker, a crowbar in the machinery.  His power comes from the
appeal he makes to the imperfectly balanced, and as these are never
the majority his appeal is limited.  But there is one kind of
fanatic whose strength comes from balance, from a lunatic balance.
You cannot say that there is any one thing abnormal about him, for
he is all abnormal.  He is as balanced as you or me, but, so to
speak, in a fourth-dimensional world.  That kind of man has no
logical gaps in his creed.  Within his insane postulates he is
brilliantly sane.  Take Lenin for instance.  That's the kind of
fanatic I'm afraid of."

Leithen asked how such a man got his influence.  "You say that
there is no crazy spot in him which appeals to a crazy spot in
other people."

"He appeals to the normal," said Sandy solemnly, "to the perfectly
sane.  He offers reason, not visions--in any case his visions are
reasonable.  In ordinary times he will not be heard, because, as I
say, his world is not our world.  But let there come a time of
great suffering or discontent, when the mind of the ordinary man is
in desperation, and the rational fanatic will come by his own.
When he appeals to the sane and the sane respond, revolutions
begin."

Pugh nodded his head, as if he agreed.  "Your fanatic of course
must be a man of genius."

"Of course.  And genius of that kind is happily rare.  When it
exists, its possessor is the modern wizard.  The old necromancer
fiddled away with cabalistic signs and crude chemicals and got
nowhere; the true wizard is the man who works by spirit on spirit.
We are only beginning to realise the strange crannies of the human
soul.  The real magician, if he turned up to-day, wouldn't bother
about drugs and dopes.  He would dabble in far more deadly methods,
the compulsion of a fiery nature over the limp things that men call
their minds."

He turned to Pugh.  "You remember the man we used to call Ram Dass
in the War--I never knew his right name?"

"Rather," said Pugh.  "The fellow who worked for us in San
Francisco.  He used to get big sums from the agitators and pay them
in to the British Exchequer, less his commission of ten per cent."

"Stout fellow!" Burminster exclaimed approvingly.  "Well, Ram Dass
used to discourse to me on this subject.  He was as wise as a
serpent and as loyal as a dog, and he saw a lot of things coming
that we are just beginning to realise.  He said that the great
offensives of the future would be psychological, and he thought the
Governments should get busy about it and prepare their defence.
What a jolly sight it would be--all the high officials sitting down
to little primers!  But there was sense in what he said.  He
considered that the most deadly weapon in the world was the power
of mass-persuasion, and he wanted to meet it at the source, by
getting at the mass-persuader.  His view was that every spell-
binder had got something like Samson's hair which was the key of
his strength, and that if this were tampered with he could be made
innocuous.  He would have had us make pets of the prophets and
invite them to Government House.  You remember the winter of 1917
when the Bolsheviks were making trouble in Afghanistan and their
stuff was filtering through into India.  Well, Ram Dass claimed the
credit of stopping that game by his psychological dodges."

He looked across suddenly at Medina.  "You know the Frontier.  Did
you ever come across the guru that lived at the foot of the Shansi
pass as you go over to Kaikand?"

Medina shook his head.  "I never travelled that way.  Why?"

Sandy seemed disappointed.  "Ram Dass used to speak of him.  I
hoped you might have met him."

The club madeira was being passed round, and there was a little
silence while we sipped it.  It was certainly a marvellous wine,
and I noticed with pain Medina's abstinence.

"You really are missing a lot, you know," Burminster boomed in his
jolly voice, and for a second all the company looked Medina's way.

He smiled and lifted his glass of water.

"Sit vini abstemius qui hermeneuma tentat aut hominum petit
dominatum," he said.

Nightingale translated.  "Meaning that you must be pussyfoot if you
would be a big man."

There was a chorus of protests, and Medina again lifted his glass.

"I'm only joking.  I haven't a scrap of policy or principle in the
matter.  I don't happen to like the stuff--that's all."

I fancy that the only two scholars among us were Nightingale and
Sandy.  I looked at the latter and was surprised by the change in
his face.  It had awakened to the most eager interest.  His eyes,
which had been staring at Medina, suddenly met mine, and I read in
them not only interest but disquiet.

Burminster was delivering a spirited defence of Bacchus, and the
rest joined in, but Sandy took the other side.

"There's a good deal in that Latin tag," he said.  "There are
places in the world where total abstinence is reckoned a privilege.
Did you ever come across the Ulai tribe up the Karakoram way?"  He
was addressing Medina.  "No?  Well, the next time you meet a man in
the Guides ask him about them, for they're a curiosity.  They're
Mahommedan and so should by rights be abstainers, but they're a
drunken set of sweeps, and the most priest-ridden community on
earth.  Drinking is not only a habit among them, it's an
obligation, and their weekly tamasha would make Falstaff take the
pledge.  But their priests--they're a kind of theocracy--are strict
teetotal.  It is their privilege and the secret of their power.
When one of them has to be degraded he is filled compulsorily full
of wine.  That's your--how does the thing go?--your 'hominum
dominatus.'"

From that moment I found the evening go less pleasantly.  Medina
was as genial as ever, but something seemed to have affected
Sandy's temper and he became positively grumpy.  Now and then he
contradicted a man too sharply for good manners, but for the most
part he was silent, smoking his pipe and answering his neighbours
in monosyllables.  About eleven I began to feel it was time to
leave, and Medina was of the same opinion.  He asked me to walk
with him, and I gladly accepted, for I did not feel inclined to go
to bed.

As I was putting on my coat, Sandy came up.  "Come to the Club,
Dick," he said.  "I want to talk to you."  His manner was so
peremptory that I opened my eyes.

"Sorry," I said.  "I've promised to walk home with Medina."

"Oh, damn Medina!" he said.  "Do as I ask or you'll be sorry for
it."

I wasn't feeling very pleased with Sandy, especially as Medina was
near enough to hear what he said.  So I told him rather coldly that
I didn't intend to go back on my arrangement.  He turned and
marched out, cannoning at the doorway into Burminster, to whom he
did not apologise.  That nobleman rubbed his shoulder ruefully.
"Old Sandy hasn't got used to his corn yet," he laughed.  "Looks as
if the madeira had touched up his liver."

It was a fine still March night with a good moon, and as we walked
along Piccadilly I was feeling cheerful.  The good dinner I had
eaten and the good wine I had drunk played their part in this mood,
and there was also the satisfaction of having dined with good
fellows and having been admitted into pretty select company.  I
felt my liking for Medina enormously increase, and I had the
unworthy sense of superiority which a man gets from seeing an old
friend whom he greatly admires behave rather badly.  I was
considering what had ailed Sandy when Medina raised the subject.

"A wonderful fellow Arbuthbot," he said.  "I have wanted to meet
him for years, and he is certainly up to my expectations.  But he
has been quite long enough abroad.  A mind as keen as his, if it
doesn't have the company of its equals, is in danger of getting
viewy.  What he said to-night was amazingly interesting, but I
thought it a little fantastic."

I agreed, but the hint of criticism was enough to revive my
loyalty.  "All the same there's usually something in his most
extravagant theories.  I've seen him right when all the sober
knowledgeable people were wrong."

"That I can well believe," he said.  "You know him well?"

"Pretty well.  We've been in some queer places together."

The memory of those queer places came back to me as we walked
across Berkeley Square.  The West End of London at night always
affected me with a sense of the immense solidity of our civilisation.
These great houses, lit and shuttered and secure, seemed the
extreme opposite of the world of half-lights and perils in which
I had sometimes journeyed.  I thought of them as I thought of Fosse
Manor, as sanctuaries of peace.  But to-night I felt differently
towards them.  I wondered what was going on at the back of those
heavy doors.  Might not terror and mystery lurk behind that barricade
as well as in tent and slum?  I suddenly had a picture of a plump
face all screwed up with fright muffled beneath the bed-clothes.

I had imagined that Medina lived in chambers or a flat, but we
stopped before a substantial house in Hill Street.

"You're coming in?  The night's young and there's time for a pipe."

I had no wish to go to bed, so I followed him as he opened the
front door with a latch-key.  He switched on a light, which lit the
first landing of the staircase but left the hall in dusk.  It
seemed to be a fine place full of cabinets, the gilding of which
flickered dimly.  We ascended thickly-carpeted stairs, and on the
landing he switched off the first light and switched on another
which lit a further flight.  I had the sensation of mounting to a
great height in a queer shadowy world.

"This is a big house for a bachelor," I observed.

"I've a lot of stuff, books and pictures and things, and I like it
round me."

He opened a door and ushered me into an enormous room, which must
have occupied the whole space on that floor.  It was oblong, with
deep bays at each end, and it was lined from floor to ceiling with
books.  Books, too, were piled on the tables, and sprawled on a big
flat couch which was drawn up before the fire.  It wasn't an
ordinary gentleman's library, provided by the bookseller at so much
a yard.  It was the working collection of a scholar, and the books
had that used look which makes them the finest tapestry for a room.
The place was lit with lights on small tables, and on a big desk
under a reading lamp were masses of papers and various volumes with
paper slips in them.  It was workshop as well as library.

A servant entered, unsummoned, and put a tray of drinks on a side
table.  He was dressed like an ordinary butler, but I guessed that
he had not spent much of his life in service.  The heavy jowl, the
small eyes, the hair cut straight round the nape of the neck, the
swollen muscles about the shoulder and upper arm told me the
profession he had once followed.  The man had been in the ring, and
not so very long ago.  I wondered at Medina's choice, for a pug is
not the kind of servant I would choose myself.

"Nothing more, Odell," said Medina.  "You can go to bed.  I will
let Sir Richard out."

He placed me in a long arm-chair, and held the syphon while I mixed
myself a very weak whisky-and-soda.  Then he sat opposite me across
the hearth-rug in a tall old-fashioned chair which he pulled
forward from his writing-table.  The servant in leaving had turned
out all the lights except one at his right hand, which vividly lit
up his face, and which, since the fire had burned low, made the
only bright patch in the room.  I stretched my legs comfortably and
puffed at my pipe, wondering how I would have the energy to get up
and go home.  The long dim shelves, where creamy vellum and morocco
ran out of the dusk into darkness, had an odd effect on me.  I was
visited again by the fancies which had occupied me coming through
Berkeley Square.  I was inside one of those massive sheltered
houses, and lo and behold! it was as mysterious as the aisles of a
forest.  Books--books--old books full of forgotten knowledge!  I
was certain that if I had the scholarship to search the grave rows
I would find out wonderful things.

I was thirsty, so I drank off my whisky-and-soda, and was just
adding a little more soda-water from the syphon at my elbow, when I
looked towards Medina.  There was that in his appearance which made
me move my glass so that a thin stream of liquid fell on my sleeve.
The patch was still damp next morning.

His face, brilliantly lit up by the lamp, seemed to be also lit
from within.  It was not his eyes or any one feature that
enthralled me, for I did not notice any details.  Only the odd
lighting seemed to detach his head from its environment so that it
hung in the air like a planet in the sky, full of intense
brilliance and power.

It is not very easy to write down what happened.  For twelve hours
afterwards I remembered nothing--only that I had been very sleepy,
and must have been poor company and had soon got up to go. . . .
But that was not the real story: it was what the man had willed
that I should remember, and because my own will was not really
mastered I remembered other things in spite of him; remembered them
hazily, like a drunkard's dream.

The head seemed to swim in the centre of pale converging lines.
These must have been the book-shelves, which in that part of the
room were full of works bound in old vellum.  My eyes were held by
two violet pin-points of light which were so bright that they hurt
me.  I tried to shift my gaze, but I could only do that by screwing
round my head towards the dying fire.  The movement demanded a
great effort, for every muscle in my body seemed drugged with
lethargy.

As soon as I looked away from the light I regained some possession
of my wits.  I felt that I must be in for some sickness, and had a
moment of bad fright.  It seemed to be my business to keep my eyes
on the shadows in the hearth, for where darkness was there I found
some comfort.  I was as afraid of the light before me as a child of
a bogy.  I thought that if I said something I should feel better,
but I didn't seem to have the energy to get a word out.  Curiously
enough I felt no fear of Medina; he didn't seem to be in the
business; it was that disembodied light that scared me.

Then I heard a voice speaking, but still I didn't think of Medina.

"Hannay," it said.  "You are Richard Hannay?"

Against my will I slewed my eyes round, and there hung that
intolerable light burning into my eyeballs and my soul.  I found my
voice now, for it seemed to be screwed out of me, and I said "Yes"
like an automaton.

I felt my wits and my sense slipping away under that glare.  But my
main discomfort was physical, the flaming control of the floating
brightness--not face, or eyes, but a dreadful overmastering aura.
I thought--if at that moment you could call any process of my mind
thought--that if I could only link it on to some material thing I
should find relief.  With a desperate effort I seemed to make out
the line of a man's shoulder and the back of a chair.  Let me
repeat that I never thought of Medina, for he had been wiped clean
out of my world.

"You are Richard Hannay," said the voice.  "Repeat, 'I am Richard
Hannay.'"

The words came out of my mouth involuntarily.  I was concentrating
all my wits on the comforting outline of the chair-back, which was
beginning to be less hazy.

The voice spoke again.

"But till this moment you have been nothing.  There was no Richard
Hannay before.  Now, when I bid you, you begin your life.  You
remember nothing.  You have no past."

"I remember nothing," said my voice, but as I spoke I knew I lied,
and that knowledge was my salvation.

I have been told more than once by doctors who dabbled in the
business that I was the most hopeless subject for hypnotism that
they ever struck.  One of them once said that I was about as
unsympathetic as Table Mountain.  I must suppose that the
intractable bedrock of commonplaceness in me now met the something
which was striving to master me and repelled it.  I felt abominably
helpless, my voice was not my own, my eyes were tortured and
aching, but I had recovered my mind.

I seemed to be repeating a lesson at someone's dictation.  I said I
was Richard Hannay, who had just come from South Africa on his
first visit to England.  I knew no one in London and had no
friends.  Had I heard of a Colonel Arbuthnot?  I had not.  Or the
Thursday Club?  I had not.  Or the War?  Yes, but I had been in
Angola most of the time and had never fought.  I had money?  Yes, a
fair amount, which was in such-and-such a bank and such-and-such
investments. . . .  I went on repeating the stuff as glibly as a
parrot, but all the while I knew I lied.  Something deep down in me
was insisting that I was Sir Richard Hannay, K.C.B., who had
commanded a division in France, and was the squire of Fosse Manor,
the husband of Mary, and the father of Peter John.

Then the voice seemed to give orders.  I was to do this and that,
and I repeated them docilely.  I was no longer in the least scared.
Someone or something was trying to play monkey-tricks with my mind,
but I was master of that, though my voice seemed to belong to an
alien gramophone, and my limbs were stupidly weak.  I wanted above
all things to be allowed to sleep. . . .

I think I must have slept for a little, for my last recollection of
that queer sederunt is that the unbearable light had gone, and the
ordinary lamps of the room were switched on.  Medina was standing
by the dead fire, and another man beside him--a slim man with a
bent back and a lean grey face.  The second man was only there for
a moment, but he looked at me closely and I thought Medina spoke
to him and laughed. . . .  Then I was being helped by Medina into
my coat, and conducted downstairs.  There were two bright lights
in the street which made me want to lie down on the kerb and
sleep. . . .

                     *     *     *     *     *

I woke about ten o'clock next morning in my bedroom at the Club,
feeling like nothing on earth.  I had a bad headache, my eyes
seemed to be backed with white fire, and my legs were full of weak
pains as if I had influenza.  It took me several minutes to realise
where I was, and when I wondered what had brought me to such a
state I could remember nothing.  Only a preposterous litany ran in
my brain--the name "Dr. Newhover," and an address in Wimpole
Street.  I concluded glumly that that for a man in my condition was
a useful recollection, but where I had got it I hadn't an idea.

The events of the night before were perfectly clear.  I recalled
every detail of the Thursday Club dinner, Sandy's brusqueness, my
walk back with Medina, my admiration of his great library.  I
remembered that I had been drowsy there and thought that I had
probably bored him.  But I was utterly at a loss to account for my
wretched condition.  It could not have been the dinner; or the
wine, for I had not drunk much, and in any case I have a head like
cast iron; or the weak whisky-and-soda in Medina's house.  I
staggered to my feet and looked at my tongue in the glass.  It was
all right, so there could be nothing the matter with my digestion.

You are to understand that the account I have just written was
pieced together as events came back to me, and that at 10 a.m. the
next morning I remembered nothing of it--nothing but the incidents
up to my sitting down in Medina's library, and the name and address
of a doctor I had never heard of.  I concluded that I must have got
some infernal germ, probably botulism, and was in for a bad
illness.  I wondered dismally what kind of fool I had made of
myself before Medina, and still more dismally what was going to
happen to me.  I decided to wire for Mary when I had seen a doctor,
and to get as soon as possible into a nursing home.  I had never
had an illness in my life, except malaria, and I was as nervous as
a cat.

But after I had had a cup of tea I felt a little better, and
inclined to get up.  A cold bath relieved my headache, and I was
able to shave and dress.  It was while I was shaving that I
observed the first thing which made me puzzle about the events of
the previous evening.  The valet who attended to me had put out the
contents of my pockets on the dressing-table--my keys, watch, loose
silver, notecase, and my pipe and pouch.  Now I carry my pipe in a
little leather case, and, being very punctilious in my habits, I
invariably put it back in the case when it is empty.  But the case
was not there, though I remembered laying it on the table beside me
in Medina's room, and, moreover, the pipe was still half full of
unsmoked tobacco.  I rang for the man, and learned that he had
found the pipe in the pocket of my dinner jacket, but no case.  He
was positive, for he knew my ways and had been surprised to find my
pipe so untidily pocketed.

I had a light breakfast in the coffee-room, and as I ate it I kept
wondering as to what exactly I had been doing the night before.
Odd little details were coming back to me; in particular, a
recollection of some great effort which had taken all the strength
out of me.  Could I have been drugged?  Not the Thursday Club
madeira.  Medina's whisky-and-soda?

The idea was nonsense; in any case a drugged man does not have a
clean tongue the next morning.

I interviewed the night porter, for I thought he might have
something to tell me.

"Did you notice what hour I came home last night?" I asked.

"It was this morning, Sir Richard," the man replied, with the
suspicion of a grin.  "About half-past three, it would be, or
twenty minutes to four."

"God bless my soul!" I exclaimed.  "I had no notion it was so late.
I sat up talking with a friend."

"You must have been asleep in the car, Sir Richard, for the
chauffeur had to wake you, and you were that drowsy I thought I'd
better take you upstairs myself.  The bedrooms on the top floor is
not that easy found."

"I didn't drop a pipe case?" I asked.

"No, sir."  The man's discreet face revealed that he thought I had
been dining too well but was not inclined to blame me for it.

By luncheon-time I had decided that I was not going to be ill, for
there was no longer anything the matter with my body except a
certain stiffness in the joints and the ghost of a headache behind
my eyes.  But my mind was in a precious confusion.  I had stayed in
Medina's room till after three, and had not been conscious of
anything that happened there after, say, half-past eleven.  I had
left finally in such a state that I had forgotten my pipe-case, and
had arrived at the Club in somebody's car--probably Medina's--so
sleepy that I had to be escorted upstairs, and had awoke so ill
that I thought I had botulism.  What in Heaven's name had happened?

I fancy that the fact that I had resisted the influence brought to
bear on me with my MIND, though tongue and limbs had been helpless,
enabled me to remember what the wielder of the influence had meant
to be forgotten.  At any rate bits of that strange scene began to
come back.  I remembered the uncanny brightness--remembered it not
with fear but with acute indignation.  I vaguely recalled that I
had repeated nonsense to somebody's dictation, but what it was I
could not yet remember.  The more I thought of it the angrier I
grew.  Medina must have been responsible, though to connect him
with it seemed ridiculous when I thought of what I had seen of him.
Had he been making me the subject of some scientific experiment?
If so, it was infernal impertinence.  Anyhow it had failed--that
was a salve to my pride--for I had kept my head through it.  The
doctor had been right who had compared me with Table Mountain.

I had got thus far in my reflections, when I recollected that which
put a different complexion on the business.  Suddenly I remembered
the circumstances in which I had made Medina's acquaintance.  From
him Tom Greenslade had heard the three facts which fitted in with
the jingle which was the key to the mystery that I was sworn to
unravel.  Hitherto I had never thought of this dazzling figure
except as an ally.  Was it possible that he might be an enemy?  The
turn-about was too violent for my mind to achieve it in one
movement.  I swore to myself that Medina was straight, that it was
sheer mania to believe that a gentleman and a sportsman could ever
come within hailing distance of the hideous underworld which
Macgillivray had revealed to me. . . .  But Sandy had not quite
taken to him. . . .  I thanked my stars that anyhow I had said
nothing to him about my job.  I did not really believe that there
was any doubt about him, but I realised that I must walk very
carefully.

And then another idea came to me.  Hypnotism had been tried on me,
and it had failed.  But those who tried it must believe from my
behaviour that it had succeeded.  If so, somehow and somewhere they
would act on that belief.  It was my business to encourage it.  I
was sure enough of myself to think that, now I was forewarned, no
further hypnotic experiments could seriously affect me.  But let
them show their game, let me pretend to be helpless wax in their
hands.  Who "they" were I had still to find out.


I had a great desire to get hold of Sandy and talk it over, but
though I rung up several of his lairs I could not find him.  Then I
decided to see Dr. Newhover, for I was certain that that name had
come to me out of the medley of last night.  So I telephoned and
made an appointment with him for that afternoon, and four o'clock
saw me starting out to walk to Wimpole Street.



CHAPTER VI

THE HOUSE IN GOSPEL OAK


It was a dry March afternoon, with one of those fantastic winds
which seem to change their direction hourly, and contrive to be in
a man's face at every street corner.  The dust was swirling in the
gutters, and the scent of hyacinth and narcissus from the flower-
shops was mingled with that bleak sandy smell which is London's
foretaste of spring.  As I crossed Oxford Street I remember
thinking what an odd pointless business I had drifted into.  I saw
nothing for it but to continue drifting and see what happened.  I
was on my way to visit a doctor of whom I knew nothing, about some
ailment which I was not conscious of possessing.  I didn't even
trouble to make a plan, being content to let chance have the
guiding of me.

The house was one of those solid dreary erections which have
usually the names of half a dozen doctors on their front doors.
But in this case there was only one--Dr. M. Newhover.  The
parlourmaid took me into the usual drab waiting-room furnished with
Royal Academy engravings, fumed oak, and an assortment of belated
picture-papers, and almost at once she returned and ushered me into
the consulting-room.  This again was of the most ordinary kind--
glazed bookcases, wash-hand basin in a corner, roll-top desk, a
table with a medical journal or two and some leather cases.  And
Dr. Newhover at first sight seemed nothing out of the common.  He
was a youngish man, with high cheek-bones, a high forehead, and a
quantity of blond hair brushed straight back from it.  He wore a
pince-nez, and when he removed it showed pale prominent blue eyes.
From his look I should have said that his father had called himself
Neuhofer.

He greeted me with a manner which seemed to me to be at once
patronising and dictatorial.  I wondered if he was some tremendous
swell in his profession, of whom I ought to have heard.  "Well, Mr.
Hannay, what can I do for you?" he said.  I noticed that he called
me "Mr.," though I had given "Sir Richard" both on the telephone
and to the parlourmaid.  It occurred to me that someone had already
been speaking of me to him, and that he had got the name wrong in
his memory.

I thought I had better expound the alarming symptoms with which I
had awakened that morning.

"I don't know what's gone wrong with me," I said.  "I've a pain
behind my eyeballs, and my whole head seems muddled up.  I feel
drowsy and slack, and I've got a weakness in my legs and back like
a man who has just had 'flu."

He made me sit down and proceeded to catechise me about my health.
I said it had been good enough, but I mentioned my old malaria and
several concussions, and I pretended to be pretty nervous about my
condition.  Then he went through the whole bag of tricks--sounding
me with a stethoscope, testing my blood pressure, and hitting me
hard below the knee to see if I reacted.  I had to play up to my
part, but upon my soul I came near reacting too vigorously to some
of his questions and boxing his ears.  Always he kept up that odd,
intimate, domineering, rather offensive manner.

He made me lie down on a couch while he fingered the muscles of my
neck and shoulder and seemed to be shampooing my head with his long
chilly hands.  I was by this time feeling rather extra well, but I
managed to invent little tendernesses here and there and a lot of
alarming mental aberrations.  I wondered if he were not getting
suspicious, for he asked abruptly:  "Have you had these symptoms
long?" so I thought it better to return to the truth, and told him
"only since this morning."

At last he bade me get up, took off the tortoise-shell spectacles
he had been wearing and resumed his pince-nez, and while I was
buttoning my collar seemed to be sunk in reflection.  He made me
sit in the patient's chair, and stood up and looked down on me with
a magisterial air that made me want to laugh.

"You are suffering," he said, "from a somewhat abnormal form of a
common enough complaint.  Just as the effects of a concussion are
often manifest only some days after the blow, so the results of
nervous strain may take a long time to develop.  I have no doubt
that in spite of your good health you have during recent years been
working your mind and body at an undue pressure, and now this
morning quite suddenly you reap the fruits.  I don't want to
frighten you, Mr. Hannay, but neurosis is so mysterious a disease
in its working that we must take it seriously, especially at its
first manifestations.  There are one or two points in your case
which I am not happy about.  There is, for example, a certain
congestion--or what seems to me a congestion--in the nerve centres
of the neck and head.  That may be induced by the accidents--
concussion and the like--which you have told me of, or it may not.
The true cure must, of course, take time, and rest and change of
scene are obligatory.  You are fond of sport?  A fisherman?"

I told him I was.

"Well, a little later I may prescribe a salmon river in Norway.
The remoteness of the life from ordinary existence and the
contemplation of swift running water have had wonderful results
with some of my patients.  But Norway is not possible till May, and
in the meantime I am going to order you specific treatment.  Yes.
I mean massage, but by no means ordinary massage.  That science is
still in its infancy, and its practitioners are only fumbling at
the doorway.  But now and then we find a person, man or woman, with
a kind of extra sense for disentangling and smoothing out muscular
and nervous abnormalities.  I am going to send you to such an one.
The address may surprise you, but you are man of the world enough
to know that medical skill is not confined to the area between
Oxford Street and the Marylebone Road."  He took off his glasses,
and smiled.

Then he wrote something on a slip of paper and handed it to me.  I
read "Madame Breda, 4 Palmyra Square, N.W."

"Right!" I said.  "Much obliged to you.  I hope Madame Breda will
cure this infernal headache.  When can I see her?"

"I can promise you she will cure the headache.  She is a Swedish
lady who has lived in London since the War, and is so much an
enthusiast in her art that she will only now and then take a
private patient.  For the most part she gives her skill free to the
children's hospitals.  But she will not refuse me.  As for
beginning, I should lose no time for the sake of your own comfort.
What about to-morrow morning?"

"Why not to-night?  I have nothing to do, and I want to be quit of
my headache before bedtime.  Why shouldn't I go on there now?"

"No reason in the world.  But I must make an appointment.  Madame
is on the telephone.  Excuse me a moment."

He left the room and returned in a few minutes to say that he had
made an appointment for seven o'clock.  "It is an outlandish place
to get to, but most taxi-drivers know it.  If your man doesn't,
tell him to drive to Gospel Oak, and then any policeman will direct
you."

I had my cheque-book with me, but he didn't want his fee, saying
that he was not done with me.  I was to come back in a week and
report progress.  As I left I had a strong impression of a hand as
cold as a snake, pale bulging eyes, and cheekbones like a
caricature of a Scotchman.  An odd but rather impressive figure was
Dr. Newhover.  He didn't look a fool, and if I hadn't known the
uncommon toughness of my constitution I might have been unsettled
by his forebodings.

I walked down to Oxford Street and had tea in a tea-shop.  As I sat
among the chattering typists and shopboys I kept wondering whether
I was not wasting my time and behaving like a jackass.  Here was I,
as fit as a hunter, consulting specialists and visiting unknown
masseuses in North London, and all with no clear purpose.  In less
than twenty-four hours I had tumbled into a perfectly crazy world,
and for a second I had a horrid doubt whether the craziness was not
inside my mind.  Had something given in my brain last night in
Medina's room, so that now I was what people call "wanting"?  I
went over the sequence of events again, and was reassured by
remembering that in it all I had kept my head.  I had not got to
the stage of making theories; I was still only waiting on
developments, and I couldn't see any other way before me.  I must,
of course, get hold of Sandy, but first let me see what this
massage business meant.  It might all be perfectly square; I might
have remembered Dr. Newhover's name by a queer trick of memory--
heard it, perhaps, from some friend--and that remarkable
practitioner might be quite honest.  But then I remembered the
man's manner--I was quite clear that he knew something of me, that
someone had told him to expect me.  Then it occurred to me that I
might be doing a rash thing in going off to an unknown house in a
seedy suburb.  So I went into a public telephone-booth, rang up the
Club, and told the porter that if Colonel Arbuthnot called, I was
at 4 Palmyra Square, N.W.--I made him write down the address--and
would be back before ten o'clock.

I was rather short of exercise, so I decided to walk, since I had
plenty of time.  Strangely enough, the road was pretty much that
which I had taken on that June day of 1914 when I had been waiting
on Bullivant and the Black Stone gentry, and had walked clean out of
London to pass the time*.  Then, I remembered, I had been thrilling
with wild anticipation, but now I was an older and much wiser man,
and though I was sufficiently puzzled I could curb my restlessness
with philosophy.  I went up Portland Place, past the Regent's Park,
till I left the houses of the well-to-do behind me, and got into
that belt of mean streets which is the glacis of the northern
heights.  Various policemen directed me, and I enjoyed the walk as
if I had been exploring, for London is always to me an undiscovered
country.  I passed yards which not so long ago had been patches of
market-garden, and terraces, sometime pretentious, and now sinking
into slums; for London is like the tropical bush--if you don't
exercise constant care the jungle, in the shape of the slums, will
break in.  The streets were full of clerks and shop-girls waiting
for buses, and workmen from the St. Pancras and Clerkenwell
factories going home.  The wind was rising, and in the untidy
alleys was stirring up a noisome dust; but as the ground rose it
blew cleaner and seemed to bring from Kentish fields and the
Channel the tonic freshness of spring.  I stopped for a little and
watched behind me the plain of lights, which was London, quivering
in the dark-blue windy dusk.

[* See 'The Thirty-Nine Steps.']

It was almost dark when at last, after several false casts, I came
into Palmyra Square.  It was a square only in name, for one side
was filled with a warehouse of sorts, and another straggled away in
nests of small brick houses.  One side was a terrace of artisans'
dwellings, quite new, each with a tiny bow-window and names like
"Chatsworth" and "Kitchener Villa."  The fourth side, facing south,
had once had a certain dignity, and the builder who had designed
the place seventy years ago had thought, no doubt, that he was
creating a desirable residential quarter.  There the houses stood
apart, each in a patch of garden, which may at one time have had
lawns and flowers.  Now these gardens were mere dusty yards, the
refuge of tin cans and bits of paper, and only a blackened elm, an
ill-grown privet hedge, and some stunted lilacs told of the more
cheerful past.  On one house was the brass plate of a doctor, on
another that of a teacher of music; several advertised lodgings to
let; the steps were untidy, the gates askew on their hinges, and
over everything was written the dreary legend of a shabby gentility
on the very brink of squalor.

Number 4 was smarter than the others, and its front door had been
newly painted a vivid green.  I rang the bell, which was an
electric one, and the door was opened by a maid who looked
sufficiently respectable.  When I entered I saw that the house was
on a more generous scale than I had thought, and had once, no
doubt, been the home of some comfortable citizen.  The hall was not
the tank-like thing of the small London dwelling, and the room into
which I was ushered, though small, was well furnished and had an
electric fire in the grate.  It seemed to be a kind of business
room, for there was a telephone, a big safe, and on the shelves a
line of lettered boxes for papers.  I began to think that Madame
Breda, whoever she might be, must be running a pretty prosperous
show on ordinary business lines.

I was presently led by the maid to a room on the other side of the
hall, where I was greeted by a smiling lady.  Madame was a plump
person in the early forties, with dark hair and a high colour, who
spoke English almost without an accent.  "Dr. Newhover has sent
you.  So?  He has told me.  Will you please go in there and take
off your coat and waistcoat?  Your collar, too, please."

I did as I was bid, and in a little curtained cubicle divested
myself of these garments and returned in my shirt-sleeves.  The
room was a very pleasant one, with folding doors at one end,
furnished like an ordinary drawing-room, with flowers in pots and
books, and what looked like good eighteenth-century prints.  Any
suspicion I may have had of the bona fides of the concern received
a rude shock.  Madame had slipped over her black dress a white
linen overall, such as surgeons wear, and she had as her attendant
a small thin odd-looking girl, who also wore an overall, and whose
short hair was crowned with a small white cap.

"This is Gerda," Madame said.  "Gerda helps me.  She is very
clever."  She smiled on Gerda, and Gerda smiled back, a limp little
contortion of a perfectly expressionless face.

Madame made me lie down on a couch.  "You have a headache?"

I mendaciously said that I had.

"That I can soon cure.  But there are other troubles?  So?  These I
must explore.  But first I will take away the pain."

"I felt her light firm fingers playing about my temples and the
base of my skull and my neck muscles.  A very pleasant sensation it
was, and I am certain that if I had been suffering from the worst
headache in the world it would have been spirited away.  As it was,
being in excellent health, I felt soothed and freshened.

"So," she said, beaming down on me.  "You are better?  You are so
beeg that it is not easy to be well all over at once.  Now, I must
look into more difficult things.  You are not happy in your nerves--
not altogether.  Ah! these nerves!  We do not quite know what they
are, except that they are what you call the devil.  You are very
wakeful now.  Is it not so?  Well I must put you to sleep.  That is
necessary, if you are willing."

"Right-o," I answered; but inwardly I said to myself, "No, my
woman, I bet you don't."  I was curious to see if, now that I was
forewarned, I could resist any hypnotic business, as I believed I
could.

I imagined that she would try to master me with her eyes, which
were certainly remarkable orbs.  But her procedure was the very
opposite, for the small girl brought some things on a tray, and I
saw that they were bandages.  First of all, with a fine cambric
handkerchief, she swathed my eyes, and then tied above it another
of some heavy opaque material.  They were loosely bound, so that I
scarcely felt them, but I was left in the thickest darkness.  I
noticed that she took special pains so to adjust them that they
should not cover my ears.

"You are not wakeful," I heard her voice say, "I think you are
sleepy.  You will sleep now."

I felt her fingers stray over my face, and the sensation was
different, for whereas, when she had treated my headache, they had
set up a delicious cool tingling of the skin, now they seemed to
induce wave upon wave of an equally pleasant langour.  She pressed
my forehead, and my senses seemed to be focused there and to be
lulled by that pressure.  All the while she was cooing to me in a
voice which was like the drowsy swell of the sea.  If I had wanted
to go to sleep I could have dropped off easily, but, as I didn't
want to, I had no difficulty in resisting the gentle coercion.
That, I fancy, is my position about hypnotism.  I am no kind of use
under compulsion, and for the thing to affect me it has to have
the backing of my own will.  Anyhow, I could appreciate the
pleasantness of it and yet disregard it.  But it was my business to
be a good subject, so I pretended to drift away into slumber.  I
made my breath come slowly and softly, and let my body relax into
impassivity.

Presently she appeared to be satisfied.  She said a word to the
child, whose feet I could hear cross the room.  There was a sound
of opening doors--my ears, remember, were free of the bandages and
my hearing is acute--and then it seemed to me that the couch on
which I lay began slowly to move.  I had a moment of alarm and
nearly gave away the show by jerking up my head.  The couch seemed
to travel very smoothly on rails, and I was conscious that I had
passed through the folding doors and was now in another room.  Then
the movement stopped, and I realised that I was in an entirely
different atmosphere.  I realised, too, that a new figure had come
on the scene.

There was no word spoken, but I had the queer inexplicable
consciousness of human presences which is independent of sight and
hearing.  I have said that the atmosphere of the place had changed.
There was a scent in the air which anywhere else I would have sworn
was due to peat smoke, and mixed with it another intangible savour
which I could not put a name to, but which did not seem to belong
to London at all, or to any dwelling, but to some wild out-of-
doors. . . .  And then I was aware of noiseless fingers pressing my
temples.

They were not the plump capable hands of Madame Breda.  Nay, they
were as fine and tenuous as a wandering wind, but behind their airy
lightness was a hint of steel, as if they could choke as well as
caress.  I lay supine, trying to keep my breathing regular, since I
was supposed to be asleep, but I felt an odd excitement rising in
my heart.  And then it quieted for the fingers seemed to be
smoothing it away. . . .  A voice was speaking in a tongue of which
I knew not a word, not speaking to me, but repeating, as it were, a
private incantation.  And the touch and voice combined to bring me
nearer to losing my wits than even on the night before, nearer than
I have ever been in all my days.

The experience was so novel and overpowering that I find it hard to
give even a rough impression of it.  Let me put it this way.  A man
at my time of life sees old age not so very far distant, and the
nearer he draws to the end of his journey the more ardently he
longs for his receding youth.  I do not mean that, if some fairy
granted him the gift, he would go back to boyhood; few of us would
choose such a return; but he clothes all his youth in a happy
radiance and aches to recapture the freshness and wonder with which
he then looked on life.  He treasures, like a mooning girl, stray
sounds and scents and corners of landscape, which for a moment push
the door ajar. . . .  As I lay blindfolded on that couch I felt
mysterious hands and voices plucking on my behalf at the barrier of
the years and breaking it down.  I was escaping into a delectable
country, the Country of the Young, and I welcomed the escape.  Had
I been hypnotised, I should beyond doubt have moved like a sheep
whithersoever this shepherd willed.

But I was awake, and, though on the very edge of surrender, I
managed to struggle above the tides.  Perhaps to my waking self the
compulsion was too obvious and aroused a faint antagonism.  Anyhow
I had already begun a conscious resistance when the crooning voice
spoke in English.

"You are Richard Hannay," it said.  "You have been asleep, but I
have wakened you.  You are happy in the world in which you have
wakened?"

My freedom was now complete, for I had begun to laugh, silently,
far down at the bottom of my heart.  I remembered last night, and
the performance in Medina's house which had all day been growing
clearer in my memory.  I saw it as farce, and this as farce, and at
the coming of humour the spell died.  But it was up to me to make
some kind of an answer, if I wanted to keep up the hoax, so I did
my best to screw out an eerie sleep-walker's voice.

"I am happy," I said, and my pipe sounded like the twittering of
sheeted ghosts.

"You wish to wake often in this world?"

I signified by a croak that I did.

"But to wake you must first sleep, and I alone can make you sleep
and wake.  I exact a price, Richard Hannay.  Will you pay my
price?"

I was puzzled about the voice.  It had not the rich foreign tones
of Madame Breda, but it had a very notable accent, which I could
not place.  At one moment it seemed to have the lilt which you find
in Western Ross, but there were cadences in it which were not
Highland.  Also, its timbre was curious--very light and thin like a
child's.  Was it possible that the queer little girl I had seen was
the sibyl?  No, I decided; the hands had not been a child's hands.

"I will pay any price," I said, which seemed to be the answer
required of me.

"Then you are my servant when I summon you.  Now, sleep again."

I had never felt less like being anyone's servant.  The hands
fluttered again around my temples, but they had no more effect on
me than the buzzing of flies.  I had an insane desire to laugh,
which I repressed by thinking of the idiotic pointlessness of my
recent doings. . . .  I felt my couch slide backwards, and heard
the folding doors open again and close.  Then I felt my bandages
being deftly undone, and I lay with the light on my closed eyelids,
trying to look like a sleeping warrior on a tomb.  Someone was
pressing below my left ear and I recognised the old hunter's method
of bringing a man back gently from sleep to consciousness, so I set
about the job of making a workmanlike awaking.  I hope I succeeded.
Anyhow I must have looked dazed enough, for the lamps hurt my eyes
after the muffled darkness.

I was back in the first room, with only Madame beside me.  She
beamed on me with the friendliest eyes, and helped me on with my
coat and collar.  "I have had you under close observation," she
said, "for sleep often reveals where the ragged ends of the nerves
lie.  I have made certain deductions, which I will report to Dr.
Newhover. . . .  No, there is no fee.  Dr. Newhover will make
arrangements."  She bade me good-bye in the best professional
manner, and I descended the steps into Palmyra Square as if I had
been spending a commonplace hour having my back massaged for
lumbago.

Once in the open air I felt abominably tired and very hungry.  By
good luck I hadn't gone far when I picked up a taxi and told it to
drive to the Club.  I looked at my watch and saw that it was later
than I thought--close on ten o'clock.  I had been several hours in
the house, and small wonder I was weary.

I found Sandy wandering restlessly about the hall.  "Thank God!" he
said when he saw me.  "Where the devil have you been, Dick?  The
porter gave me a crazy address in North London.  You look as if you
wanted a drink."

"I feel as if I wanted food," I said.  "I have a lot to tell you,
but I must eat first.  I've had no dinner."

Sandy sat opposite me while I fed, and forbore to ask questions.

"What put you in such a bad humour last night?" I asked.

He looked very solemn.  "Lord knows.  No, that's not true, I know
well enough.  I didn't take to Medina."

"Now I wonder why?"

"I wonder too.  But I'm just like a dog: I take a dislike to
certain people at first sight, and the queer thing is that my
instinct isn't often wrong."

"Well, you're pretty well alone in your opinion.  What sets you
against him?  He is well-mannered, modest, a good sportsman, and
you can see he's as clever as they make."

"Maybe.  But I've got a notion that the man is one vast lie.
However, let's put it that I reserve my opinion.  I have various
inquiries to make."

We found the little back smoking-room on the first floor empty, and
when I had lit my pipe and got well into an armchair, Sandy drew up
another at my elbow.  "Now, Dick," he said.

"First," I said, "it may interest you to learn that Medina dabbles
in hypnotism."

"I knew that," he said, "from his talk last night."

"How on earth--?"

"Oh, from a casual quotation he used.  It's a longish story, which
I'll tell you later.  Go on."

I began from the break-up of the Thursday Club dinner and told him
all I could remember of my hours in Medina's house.  As a story it
met with an immense success.  Sandy was so interested that he
couldn't sit in his chair, but must get up and stand on the hearth-
rug before me.  I told him that I had wakened up feeling uncommonly
ill, with a blank mind except for the address of a doctorman in
Wimpole Street, and how during the day recollection had gradually
come back to me.  He questioned me like a cross-examining counsel.

"Bright light--ordinary hypnotic property.  Face, which seemed
detached--that's a common enough thing in Indian magic.  You say
you must have been asleep, but were also in a sense awake and could
hear and answer questions, and that you felt a kind of antagonism
all the time which kept your will alive.  You're probably about the
toughest hypnotic proposition in the world, Dick, and you can thank
God for that.  Now, what were the questions?  A summons to forget
your past and begin as a new creature, subject to the authority of
a master.  You assented, making private reservations of which the
hypnotist knew nothing.  If you had not kept your head and made
those reservations, you would have remembered nothing at all of
last night, but there would have been a subconscious bond over your
will.  As it is, you're perfectly free: only the man who tried to
monkey with you doesn't know that.  Therefore you begin by being
one up on the game.  You know where you are and he doesn't know
where he is."

"What do you suppose Medina meant by it?  It was infernal
impertinence anyhow.  But was it Medina?  I seem to remember
another man in the room before I left."

"Describe him."

"I've only a vague picture--a sad grey-faced fellow."

"Well, assume for the present that the experimenter was Medina.
There's such a thing, remember, as spiriting away a man's
recollection of his past, and starting him out as a waif in a new
world.  I've heard in the East of such performances, and of course
it means that the memory-less being is at the mercy of the man who
has stolen his memory.  That is probably not the intention in your
case.  They wanted only to establish a subconscious control.  But
it couldn't be done at once with a fellow of your antecedents, so
they organised a process.  They suggested to you in your trance a
doctor's name, and the next stage was his business.  You woke
feeling very seedy and remembering a doctor's address, and they
argued that you would think that you had been advised about the
fellow and make a bee-line for him.  Remember, they would assume
that you had no recollection of anything else from the night's
doings.  Now go ahead and tell me about the chirurgeon.  Did you go
to see him?"

I continued my story, and at the Wimpole Street episode Sandy
laughed long and loud.

"Another point up in the game.  You say you think the leech had
been advised of your coming and not by you?  By the way, he seems
to have talked fairly good sense, but I'd as soon set a hippopotamus
for nerves as you."  He wrote down Dr. Newhover's address in his
pocket book.  "Continuez.  You then proceeded, I take it, to 4
Palmyra Square."

At the next stage in my narrative he did not laugh.  I dare say I
told it better than I have written it down here, for I was fresh
from the experience, and I could see that he was a good deal
impressed.

"A Swedish masseuse and an odd-looking little girl.  She puts you
to sleep, or thinks she has, and then, when your eyes are bandaged,
someone else nearly charms the soul out of you.  That sounds big
magic.  I see the general lines of it, but it is big magic, and I
didn't know that it was practised on these shores.  Dick, this is
getting horribly interesting.  You kept wide awake--you are an old
buffalo, you know--but you gave the impression of absolute
surrender.  Good for you--you are now three points ahead in the
game."

"Well, but what is the game?  I'm hopelessly puzzled."

"So am I, but we must work on assumptions.  Let us suppose Medina
is responsible.  He may only be trying to find out the extent of
his powers, and selects you as the most difficult subject to be
found.  You may be sure he knows all about your record.  He may be
only a vain man experimenting."

"In which case," I said, "I propose to punch his head."

"In which case, as you justly observe, you will give yourself the
pleasure of punching his head.  But suppose that he has got a far
deeper purpose, something really dark and damnable.  If by his
hypnotic power he could make a tool of you, consider what an asset
he would have found.  A man of your ability and force.  I have
always said, you remember, that you had a fine natural talent for
crime."

"I tell you, Sandy, that's nonsense.  It's impossible that there's
anything wrong--badly wrong--with Medina."

"Improbable, but not impossible.  We're taking no chances.  And if
he were a scoundrel, think what a power he might be with all his
talents and charm and popularity."

Sandy flung himself into a chair and appeared to be meditating.
Once or twice he broke silence.

"I wonder what Dr. Newhover meant by talking of a salmon river in
Norway.  Why not golf at North Berwick?"

And again:

"You say there was a scent like peat in the room?  Peat!  You are
certain?"

Finally he got up.  "To-morrow," he said, "I think I will have a
look round the house in Gospel Oak.  Gospel Oak, by the way, is a
funny name, isn't it?  You say it has electric light.  I will visit
it as a man from the corporation to see about the meter.  Oh, that
can easily be managed.  Macgillivray will pass the word for me."

The mention of Macgillivray brought me to attention.  "Look here,"
I said, "I'm simply wasting my time.  I got in touch with Medina in
order to ask his help, and now I've been landed in a set of
preposterous experiences which have nothing to do with my job.  I
must see Macgillivray to-morrow about getting alongside his
Shropshire squire.  For the present there can be nothing doing with
Medina."

"Shropshire squire be hanged!  You're an old ass, Dick.  For the
present there's everything doing with Medina.  You wanted his help.
Why?  Because he was the next stage in the clue to that nonsensical
rhyme.  Well, you've discovered that there may be odd things about
him.  You can't get his help, but you may get something more.  You
may get the secret itself.  Instead of having to burrow into his
memory, as you did with Greenslade, you may find it sticking out of
his life."

"Do you really believe that?" I asked in some bewilderment.

"I believe nothing as yet.  But it is far the most promising line.
He thinks that from what happened last night PLUS what happened two
hours ago you are under his influence, an acolyte, possibly a tool.
It may be all quite straight, or it may be most damnably crooked.
You have got to find out.  You must keep close to him, and foster
his illusions, and play up to him for all you're worth.  He is
bound to show his hand.  You needn't take any steps on your own
account.  He'll give you the lead all right."

I can't say I liked the prospect, for I have no love for
playacting, but I am bound to admit that Sandy talked sense.  I
asked him about himself, for I counted on his backing more than I
could say.

"I propose to resume my travels," he said.  "I wish to pursue my
studies in the Bibliothèque Nationale of France."

"But I thought you were with me in this show."

"So I am.  I go abroad on your business, as I shall explain to you
some day.  Also I want to see the man whom we used to call Ram
Dass.  I believe him to be in Munich at this moment.  The day after
to-morrow you will read in The Times that Colonel the Master of
Clanroyden has gone abroad for an indefinite time on private
business."

"How long will you be away?" I groaned.

"A week perhaps, or a fortnight--or more.  And when I come back it
may not be as Sandy Arbuthnot."



CHAPTER VII

SOME EXPERIENCES OF A DISCIPLE


I didn't see Sandy again, for he took the night train for Paris
next evening, and I had to go down to Oxford that day to appear as
a witness in a running-down case.  But I found a note for me at the
Club when I got back the following morning.  It contained nothing
except these words:  "Coverts drawn blank, no third person in
house."  I had not really hoped for anything from Sandy's
expedition to Palmyra Square, and thought no more about it.

He didn't return in a week, nor yet in a fortnight, and, realising
that I had only a little more than two months to do my job in, I
grew very impatient.  But my time was pretty well filled with
Medina, as you shall hear.

While I was reading Sandy's note Turpin turned up, and begged me to
come for a drive in his new Delage and talk to him.  The Marquis de
la Tour du Pin was, if possible, more pallid than before, his
eyelids heavier, and his gentleness more silken.  He drove me miles
into the country, away through Windsor Forest, and as we raced at
sixty miles an hour he uncovered his soul.  He was going mad, it
seemed; was, indeed, already mad, and only a slender and doubtless
ill-founded confidence in me prevented him shooting himself.  He
was convinced that Adela Victor was dead, and that no trace of her
would ever be found.  "These policemen of yours--bah!" he moaned.
"Only in England can people vanish."  He concluded, however, that
he would stay alive till he had avenged her, for he believed that a
good God would some day deliver her murderer into his hands.  I was
desperately sorry for him, for behind his light gasconading manner
there were marks of acute suffering, and indeed in his case I think
I should have gone crazy.  He asked me for hope, and I gave him it,
and told him what I did not believe--that I saw light in the
business, and had every confidence that we would restore him his
sweetheart safe and sound.  At that he cheered up and wanted to
embrace me, thereby jolly nearly sending the Delage into a ditch
and us both into eternity.  He was burning for something to do, and
wanted me to promise that as soon as possible I would inspan him
into my team.  That made me feel guilty, for I knew I had no team,
and nothing you could call a clue; so I talked hastily about Miss
Victor, lest he should ask me more.

I had her portrait drawn for me in lyric prose.  She was slight, it
seemed, middling tall, could ride like Diana and dance like the
nymphs.  Her colouring and hair were those of a brunette, but her
eyes were a deep grey, and she had the soft voice which commonly
goes with such eyes.  Turpin, of course, put all this more
poetically, relapsing frequently into French.  He told me all kinds
of things about her--how she was crazy about dogs, and didn't fear
anything in the world, and walked with a throw-out, and lisped
delightfully when she was excited.  Altogether at the end of it I
felt I had a pretty good notion of Miss Victor, especially as I had
studied about fifty photographs of her in Macgillivray's room.

As we were nearing home again it occurred to me to ask him if he
knew Medina.  He said no, but that he was dining at the Victors'
that evening--a small dinner party, mostly political.  "He is
wonderful, that Mr. Victor.  He will not change his life, and his
friends think Adela is in New York for a farewell visit.  He is
like the Spartan boy with the fox."

"Tell Mr. Victor, with my compliments," I said, "that I would like
to dine there to-night.  I have a standing invitation.  Eight-
fifteen, isn't it?"

It turned out to be a very small and select party--the Foreign
Secretary, Medina, Palliser-Yeates, the Duke of Alcester, Lord
Sunningdale, the ex-Lord Chancellor, Levasseur the French Minister,
besides Turpin and myself.  There were no women present.  The
behaviour of the Duke and Mr. Victor was a lesson in fortitude, and
you would never have guessed that these two men were living with a
nightmare.  It was not a talkative assembly, though Sunningdale had
a good deal to say to the table about a new book that a German had
written on the mathematical conception of infinity, a subject which
even his brilliant exposition could not make clear to my thick
wits.  The Foreign Secretary and Levasseur had a tête-à-tête, with
Turpin as a hanger-on, and the rest of us would have been as dull
as sticks if it had not been for Medina.  I had a good chance of
observing his quality, and I must say I was astonished at his
skill.  It was he who by the right kind of question turned
Sunningdale's discourse on infinity, which would otherwise have
been a pedantic monologue, into good conversation.  We got on to
politics afterwards, and Medina, who had just come from the House,
was asked what was happening.

"They had just finished the usual plat du jour, the suspension of a
couple of Labour mountebanks," he said.

This roused Sunningdale, who rather affected the Labour Party, and
I was amused to see how Medina handled the ex-Chancellor.  He held
him in good-humoured argument, never forsaking his own position,
but shedding about the whole subject an atmosphere of witty and
tolerant understanding.  I felt that he knew more about the
business than Sunningdale, that he knew so much he could afford to
give his adversary rope.  Moreover, he never forgot that he was at
a dinner-table, the pitch and key of his talk were exactly right,
and he managed to bring everyone into it.

To me he was extraordinarily kind.  Indeed he treated me like a
very ancient friend, bantering and affectionate and yet respectful,
and he forced me to take a full share in the conversation.  Under
his stimulus, I became quite intelligent, and amazed Turpin, who
had never credited me with any talents except for fighting.  But I
had not forgotten what I was there for, and if I had been inclined
to, there were the figures of Victor and the Duke to remind me.  I
watched the two, the one thin, grey-bearded, rather like an admiral
with his vigilant dark eyes, the other heavy-jowled, rubicund,
crowned with fine silver hair; in both I saw shadows of pain
stealing back to the corners of lip and eye, whenever the face was
in repose.  And Medina--the very beau ideal of a courteous, kindly,
open-air Englishman.  I noted how in his clothes he avoided any
touch of overdressing, no fancifully-cut waistcoat or too-smartly-
tied tie.  In manner and presence he was the perfection of
unselfconscious good breeding.  It was my business to play up to
him, and I let my devotion be pretty evident.  The old Duke, whom I
now met for the first time, patted my shoulder as we left the
dining-room.  "I am glad to see that you and Medina are friends,
Sir Richard.  Thank God that we have a man like him among the young
entry.  They ought to give him office at once, you know, get him
inside the shafts of the coach.  Otherwise he'll find something
more interesting to do than politics."

By tacit consent we left the house together, and I walked the
streets by his side, as I had done three nights before.  What a
change, I reflected, in my point of view!  Then I had been blind,
now I was acutely watchful.  He slipped an arm into mine as we
entered Pall Mall, but its pressure did not seem so much friendly
as possessive.

"You are staying at your Club?" he said.  "Why not take up your
quarters with me while you are in town?  There's ample room in Hill
Street."

The suggestion put me into a fright.  To stay with him at present
would wreck all my schemes; but, supposing he insisted, could I
refuse, if it was my role to appear to be under his domination?
Happily he did not insist.  I made a lot of excuses--plans
unsettled, constantly running down to the country, and so on.

"All right.  But some day I may make the offer again and then I'll
take no refusal."

They were just the kind of words a friend might have used, but
somehow, though the tone was all right, they slightly grated on me.

"How are you?" he asked.  "Most people who have led your life find
the English spring trying.  You don't look quite as fit as when I
first saw you."

"No.  I've been rather seedy this past week--headachy, loss of
memory, stuffed-up brain and that sort of thing.  I expect it's the
spring fret.  I've seen a doctor and he doesn't worry about it."

"Who's your man?"

"A chap Newhover in Wimpole Street."

He nodded.  "I've heard of him.  They tell me he's good."

"He has ordered me massage," I said boldly.  "That cures the
headaches anyway."

"I'm glad to hear it."

Then he suddenly released my arm.

"I see Arbuthnot has gone abroad."

There was a coldness in his voice to which I hastened to respond.

"So I saw in the papers," I said carelessly.  "He's a hopeless
fellow.  A pity, for he's able enough; but he won't stay put, and
that makes him pretty well useless."

"Do you care much for Arbuthnot?"

"I used to," I replied shamelessly.  "But till the other day I
hadn't seen him for years, and I must say he has grown very queer.
Didn't you think he behaved oddly at the Thursday dinner?"

He shrugged his shoulders.  "I wasn't much taken by him.  He's too
infernally un-English.  I don't know how he got it, but there seems
to be a touch of the shrill Levantine in him.  Compare him with
those fellows to-night.  Even the Frenchmen--even Victor, though
he's an American and a Jew--are more our own way of thinking."

We were at the Club door, and as I stopped he looked me full in the
face.

"If I were you I wouldn't have much to do with Arbuthnot," he said,
and his tone was a command.  I grinned sheepishly, but my fingers
itched for his ears.

I went to bed fuming.  This new possessory attitude, this hint of
nigger-driving, had suddenly made me hate Medina.  I had been
unable to set down the hypnotist business clearly to his account,
and, even if I had been certain, I was inclined to think it only
the impertinent liberty of a faddist--a thing which I hotly
resented but which did not arouse my serious dislike.  But now--to
feel that he claimed me as his man, because he thought, no doubt,
that he had established some unholy power over me--that fairly
broke my temper.  And his abuse of Sandy put the lid on it--abuse
to which I had been shamefully compelled to assent.  Levantine, by
gad!  I swore that Sandy and I would make him swallow that word
before he was very much older.  I couldn't sleep for thinking about
it.  By this time I was perfectly willing to believe that Medina
was up to any infamy, and I was resolved that in him and him alone
lay the key to the riddle of the three hostages.  But all the time
I was miserably conscious that if I suggested such an idea to
anyone except Sandy I should be set down as a lunatic.  I could see
that the man's repute was as solidly planted as the British
Constitution.

Next morning I went to see Macgillivray.  I explained that I had
not been idle, that I had been pursuing lines of my own, which I
thought more hopeful than his suggestion of getting alongside the
Shropshire squire.  I said I had nothing as yet to report, and that
I didn't propose to give him the faintest notion of what I was
after till I had secured some results.  But I wanted his help, and
I wanted his very best men.

"Glad to see you've got busy, Dick," he said.  "I await your
commands."

"I want a house watched.  No. 4 Palmyra Square, up in North London.
So far as I know it is occupied by a woman, who purports to be a
Swedish masseuse and calls herself Madame Breda, one or more maids,
and an odd-looking little girl.  I want you to have a close record
kept of the people who go there, and I want especially to know who
exactly are the inmates of the house and who are the frequent
visitors.  It must be done very cautiously, for the people must
have no suspicion that they are being spied on."

He wrote down the details.

"Also I want you to find out the antecedents of Medina's butler."

He whistled.  "Medina.  Dominick Medina, you mean?"

"Yes.  Oh, I'm not suspecting HIM."  We both laughed, as if at a
good joke.  "But I should like to hear something about his butler,
for reasons which I'm not yet prepared to give you.  He answers to
the name of Odell, and has the appearance of an inferior prize-
fighter.  Find out all you can about his past, and it mightn't be a
bad plan to have him shadowed.  You know Medina's house in Hill
Street.  But for Heaven's sake, let it be done tactfully."

"I'll see to that for my own sake.  I don't want head-lines in the
evening papers--'House of Member of Parliament Watched.  Another
Police Muddle.'"

"Also, could you put together all you can get about Medina?  It
might give me a line on Odell."

"Dick," he said solemnly, "are you growing fantastic?"

"Not a bit of it.  You don't imagine I'm ass enough to think
there's anything shady about Medina.  He and I have become bosom
friends and I like him enormously.  Everybody swears by him, and so
do I.  But I have my doubts about Mr. Odell, and I would like to
know just how and where Medina picked him up.  He's not the
ordinary stamp of butler."  It seemed to me very important to let
no one but Sandy into the Medina business at present, for our
chance lay in his complete confidence that all men thought well of
him.

"Right," said Macgillivray.  "It shall be done.  Go your own way,
Dick.  I won't attempt to dictate to you.  But remember that the
thing is desperately serious, and that the days are slipping past.
We're in April now, and you have only till midsummer to save three
innocent lives."

I left his office feeling very solemn, for I had suddenly a
consciousness of the shortness of time and the magnitude of the job
which I had not yet properly begun.  I cudgelled my brains to think
of my next step.  In a few days I should again visit Dr. Newhover,
but there was not likely to be much assistance there.  He might
send me back to Palmyra Square, or I might try to make an
appointment with Madame Breda myself, inventing some new ailment;
but I would only find the same old business, which would get me no
further forward.  As I viewed it, the Newhover and Palmyra Square
episodes had been used only to test my submission to Medina's
influence, and it was to Medina that I must look for further light.
It was a maddening job to sit and wait and tick off the precious
days on the calendar, and I longed to consult with Sandy.  I took
to going down to Fosse for the day, for the sight of Mary and Peter
John somehow quieted my mind and fixed my resolution.  It was a
positive relief when at the end of the week Medina rang me up and
asked me to luncheon.

We lunched at his house, which, seen on a bright April day, was a
wonderful treasury of beautiful things.  It was not the kind of
house I fancied myself, being too full of museum pieces, and all
the furniture strictly correct according to period.  I like rooms
in which there is a pleasant jumble of things, and which look as if
homely people had lived in them for generations.  The dining-room
was panelled in white, with a Vandyck above the mantelpiece and a
set of gorgeous eighteenth-century prints on the walls.  At the
excellent meal Medina as usual drank water, while I obediently
sampled an old hock, an older port, and a most prehistoric brandy.
Odell was in attendance, and I had a good look at him--his oddly-
shaped head, his flat sallow face, the bunches of black eyebrow
above his beady eyes.  I calculated that if I saw him again I would
not fail to recognise him.  We never went near the library on the
upper floor, but sat after luncheon in a little smoking-room at the
back of the hall, which held my host's rods and guns in glass
cabinets, and one or two fine heads of deer and ibex.

I had made up my mind, as I walked to Hill Street, that I was going
to convince Medina once and for all of the abjectness of my
surrender.  He should have proof that I was clay in his hands, for
only that way would he fully reveal himself.  I detested the job,
and as I walked through the pleasant crisp noontide I reflected
with bitterness that I might have been fishing for salmon in
Scotland, or, better still, cantering with Mary over the Cotswold
downs.

All through luncheon I kept my eyes fixed on him like a dog's on
his master.  Several times I wondered if I were not overdoing it,
but he seemed to accept my homage as quite natural.  I had thought
when I first met him that the man had no vanity; now I saw that he
had mountains of it, that he was all vanity, and that his public
modesty was only a cloak to set off his immense private conceit.
He unbent himself, his whole mind was in undress, and behind the
veneer of good-fellowship I seemed to see a very cold arrogant
soul.  Nothing worse, though that was bad enough.  He was too proud
to boast in words, but his whole attitude was one long brag.  He
was cynical about everything, except, as I suspected, his private
self-worship.  The thing would have been monstrously indecent, if
it had not been done with such consummate skill.  Indeed I found my
part easy to play, for I was deeply impressed and had no difficulty
in showing it.

The odd thing was that he talked a good deal about myself.  He
seemed to take pains to rout out the codes and standards, the
points of honour and points of conduct, which somebody like me was
likely to revere, and to break them down with his cynicism.  I felt
that I was looking on at an attempt, which the devil is believed to
specialise in, to make evil good and good evil. . . .  Of course I
assented gladly.  Never had master a more ready disciple. . . .  He
broke down, too, my modest ambitions.  A country life, a wife and
family--he showed that they were too trivial for more than a
passing thought.  He flattered me grossly, and I drank it all in
with a silly face.  I was fit for bigger things, to which he would
show me the way.  He sketched some of the things--very flattering
they were and quite respectable, but somehow they seemed out of the
picture when compared to his previous talk.  He was clearly
initiating me step by step into something for which I was not yet
fully ready. . . .  I wished Sandy could have seen me sitting in
Medina's arm-chair, smoking one of his cigars, and agreeing to
everything he said like a schoolgirl who wants to keep on the good
side of her schoolmistress.  And yet I didn't find it difficult,
for the man's talk was masterly and in its way convincing, and,
while my mind repudiated it, it was easy for my tongue to assent.
He was in a prodigious good-humour, and he was kindly, as a keeper
is kind to a well-broken dog.

On the doorstep I stammered my thanks.  "I wish I could tell you
what knowing you means to me.  It's--it's far the biggest thing in
my life.  What I mean to say is--" the familiar patois of the
tongue-tied British soldier.

He looked at me with those amazing eyes of his, no kindness in
them, only patronage and proprietorship.  I think he was satisfied
that he had got someone who would serve him body and soul.

I, too, was satisfied, and walked away feeling more cheerful than I
had done for days.  Surely things would begin to move now, I
thought.  At the Club, too, I got encouragement in the shape of a
letter from Sandy.  It bore a French postmark which I could not
decipher, and it was the merest scribble, but it greatly heartened
me.


"I have made progress," it ran, "but I have still a lot to do and
we can't talk to each other yet awhile.  But I shall have to send
you letters occasionally, which you must burn on receipt.  I shall
sign them with some letter of the Greek alphabet--no, you wouldn't
recognise that--with the names of recent Derby winners.  Keep our
affair secret as the grave--don't let in a soul, not even Mac.  And
for God's sake stick close to M. and serve him like a slave."


There wasn't much in it, but it was hopeful, though the old ruffian
didn't seem in a hurry to come home.  I wondered what on earth he
had found out--something solid, I judged, for he didn't talk
lightly of making progress.

That evening I had nothing to do, and after dinner I felt too
restless to sit down to a pipe and book.  There was no one in the
Club I wanted to talk to, so I sallied forth to another pot-house
to which I belonged, where there was a chance of finding some of
the younger and cheerier generation.  Sure enough the first man I
saw there was Archie Roylance, who greeted me with a whoop and
announced that he was in town for a couple of days to see his
doctor.  He had had a bad fall steeplechasing earlier in the year,
when he had all but broken his neck, but he declared that he was
perfectly fit again except for some stiffness in his shoulder
muscles.  He was as lame as a duck from his flying smash just
before the Armistice, but all the same he got about at a surprising
pace.  Indeed, out of cussedness he walked more than he used to do
in the old days, and had taken to deer-stalking with enthusiasm.  I
think I have mentioned that he was my partner in the tenancy of
Machray forest.

I proposed that we should go to a music-hall or cut into the second
act of some play, but Archie had another idea.  One of his fads was
to be an amateur of dancing, though he had never been a great
performer before his smash and would never dance again.  He said he
wanted to see the latest fashions and suggested that we should go
for an hour to a small (and he added, select) club somewhere in
Marylebone, of which he believed he was a member.  It bore an evil
reputation, he said, for there was a good deal of high play, and
the licensing laws were not regarded, but it was a place to see the
best dancing.  I made no objection, so we strolled up Regent Street
in that season of comparative peace when busy people have gone home
and the idle are still shut up in theatres and restaurants.

It was a divine April night, and I observed that I wished I were in
a better place to enjoy spring weather.  "I've just come from a
Scotch moor," said Archie.  "Lord! the curlews are makin' a joyful
noise.  That is the bird for my money.  Come back with me, Dick, on
Friday and I'll teach you a lot of things.  You're a wise man, but
you might be a better naturalist."

I thought how much I would have given to be able to accept, as the
light wind blew down Langham Place.  Then I wished that this job
would take me out of town into fresh air, where I could get some
exercise.  The result was that I was in a baddish temper when we
reached our destination, which was in one of the streets near
Fitzroy Square.  The place proved to be about as hard to get into
as the Vatican.  It took a long harangue and a tip from Archie to
persuade the door-keeper that we were of the right brand of
disreputability to be admitted.  Finally we found ourselves in a
room with sham Chinese decorations, very garishly lit, with about
twenty couples, dancing and about twenty more sitting drinking at
little tables.

We paid five shillings apiece for a liqueur, found a table and took
notice of the show.  It seemed to me a wholly rotten and funereal
business.  A nigger band, looking like monkeys in uniform, pounded
out some kind of barbarous jingle, and sad-faced marionettes moved
to it.  There was no gaiety or devil in that dancing, only a kind
of bored perfection.  Thin young men with rabbit heads and hair
brushed straight back from their brows, who I suppose were
professional dancing partners, held close to their breasts women of
every shape and age, but all alike in having dead eyes and masks
for faces, and the macabre procession moved like automata to the
niggers' rhythm.  I dare say it was all very wonderful, but I was
not built by Providence to appreciate it.

"I can't stand much more of this," I told Archie.

"It's no great shakes.  But there are one or two high-class
performers.  Look at that girl dancing with the young Jew--the one
in green."

I looked and saw a slim girl, very young apparently, who might have
been pretty but for the way her face was loaded with paint and the
preposterous style in which her hair was dressed.  Little though I
know of dancing, I could see that she was a mistress of the art,
for every motion was a delight to watch, and she made poetry out of
that hideous ragtime.  But her face shocked me.  It was BLIND, if
you understand me, as expressionless as a mummy, a kind of awful
death-in-life.  I wondered what kind of experience that poor soul
had gone through to give her the stare of a sleep-walker.

As my eyes passed from her they fell on another figure that seemed
familiar.  I saw that it was Odell the butler, splendidly got up
for his night out in dress clothes, white waistcoat, and diamond
studs.  There was no mistaking the pugilistic air of the fellow,
now I saw him out of service; I had seen a dozen such behind the
bars of sporting public-houses.  He could not see me, but I had a
fair view of him, and I observed that he also was watching the girl
in green.

"Do you know who she is?" I asked.

"Some professional.  Gad, she can dance, but the poor child looks
as if she found it a hard life.  I'd rather like to talk to her."

But the music had stopped, and I could see that Odell had made a
sign to the dancer.  She came up to him as obediently as a dog, he
said something to another man with him, a man with a black beard,
and the three passed out at the further door.  A moment later I
caught a glimpse of her with a cloak round her shoulders passing
the door by which we had entered.

Archie laughed.  "That big brute is probably her husband.  I bet
she earns the living of both by dancing at these places, and gets
beaten every night.  I would say my prayers before taking on that
fellow in a scrap."



CHAPTER VIII

THE BLIND SPINNER


I look back upon those days of waiting as among the beastliest of
my life.  I had the clearest conviction now that Medina was the key
of the whole puzzle, but as yet I had found out nothing worth
mentioning, and I had to wait like the sick folk by the pool of
Bethesda till something troubled the waters.  The only thing that
comforted me was the fine old-fashioned dislike to the man which
now possessed me.  I couldn't pretend to understand more than a
fragment of him, but what I understood I detested.  I had been
annexed by him as a slave, and every drop of free blood in my veins
was in revolt; but I was also resolved to be the most docile slave
that ever kissed the ground before a tyrant.  Some day my revenge
would come and I promised myself that it would be complete.
Meantime I thanked Heaven that he had that blind spot of vanity,
which would prevent him seeing the cracks in my camouflage.

For the better part of a week we were very little separate.  I
lunched with him two days out of three, and we motored more than
once down to Brighton for fresh air.  He took me to a dinner he
gave at the House of Commons to a Canadian statesman who was over
on a visit, and he made me accompany him to a very smart dance at
Lady Amysfort's, and he got me invited to a week-end party at
Wirlesdon because he was going there.  I went through the whole
programme dutifully and not unpleasurably.  I must say he treated
me admirably in the presence of other people--with a jolly
affectionate friendliness, constantly asking for my opinion, and
deferring to me and making me talk, so that the few people I met
whom I had known before wondered what had come over me.  Mary had a
letter from a cousin of hers, who reported that I seemed to have
got into society and to be making a big success of it--a letter she
forwarded to me with a pencilled note of congratulation at the end.
On these occasions I didn't find my task difficult, for I fell
unconsciously under the man's spell and could easily play up to
him. . . .  But when we were alone his manner changed.  Iron crept
into his voice, and, though he was pleasant enough, he took a devil
of a lot for granted, and the note of authority grew more habitual.
After such occasions I used to go home grinding my teeth.  I never
had a worse job than to submit voluntarily to that insolent
protection.

Repeatedly in my bedroom at the Club I tried to put together the
meagre handful of ascertained facts, but they were like a lot of
remnants of different jig-saw puzzles and nothing fitted in to
anything else.  Macgillivray reported that so far he had drawn a
blank in the case of Odell; and that the watchers at Palmyra Square
had noted very few visitors except tradesmen and organ-grinders.
Nothing resembling a gentleman had been seen to enter or leave, so
it appeared that my estimate of Madame Breda's flourishing business
was wrong.  A woman frequently went out and returned, never walking
but always in a taxi or a motor-car--probably the same woman, but
so hooded and wrapped up as to make details difficult to be clear
about.  There were a host of little notes--coal or firewood had
been delivered one day, twice the wrapped-up lady had gone out in
the evening, to come back in a couple of hours, but mostly she made
her visits abroad in daylight, the household woke late and retired
to bed early, once or twice a sound like weeping had been heard but
it might have been the cat.  Altogether it was a poor report, and I
concluded that I was either barking up the wrong tree, or that
Macgillivray's agents were a pretty useless crowd.

For the rest, what had I?  A clear and well-founded suspicion of
Medina.  But of what?  Only that he was behaving towards me in a
way that I resented, that he dabbled in an ugly brand of hypnotism,
and that the more I saw of him the less I liked him.  I knew that
his public repute was false, but I had no worse crime to accuse him
of than vanity.  He had a butler who had been a prize-fighter, and
who had a taste for night clubs.  I remember I wrote all this down,
and sat staring blankly at it, feeling how trivial it was.  Then I
wrote down the six-line jingle and stared at that too, and I
thought of the girl, and the young man, and the small boy who liked
birds and fishing.  I hadn't a scrap of evidence to link up Medina
with that business, except that Tom Greenslade believed that he had
got from him the three facts which ran more or less in the rhyme;
but Tom might be mistaken, or Medina might have learned them in
some perfectly innocent way.  I hadn't enough evidence to swing a
cat on.  But yet--the more I thought of Medina the more dark and
subtle his figure loomed in my mind.  I had a conviction, on which
I would have staked my life, that if I stuck to him I would worry
out some vital and damning truth; so, with no very lively or
cheerful hope, but with complete certainty, I resolved for the
hundredth time to let logic go and back my fancy.

As in duty bound I paid another visit to Dr. Newhover.  He received
me casually, and appeared to have forgotten about my case till he
looked up his diary.

"Ah yes, you saw Madame Breda," he said.  "I have her report.  Your
headaches are cured but you are still a little shaky?  Yes, please.
Take off your coat and waistcoat."

He vetted me very thoroughly, and then sat down in his desk-chair
and tapped his eye-glasses on his knee.

"You are better, much better, but you are not cured.  That will
take time and care, and lies, of course, in your own hands.  You
are leading a quiet life?  Half town, half country--it is probably
the best plan.  Well, I don't think you can improve on that."

"You said something about fishing in Norway when I was here last."

"No, on the whole I don't recommend it.  Your case is slightly
different from what I at first supposed."

"You are a fisherman yourself?" I said.

He admitted that he was, and for a minute or two spoke more like a
human being.  He always used a two-piece Castle-Connell rod, though
he granted it was a cumbrous thing to travel with.  For flies he
swore by Harlows--certainly the best people for Norwegian flies.
He thought that there was a greater difference between Norwegian
rivers than most people imagined, and Harlows understood that.

He concluded by giving me some simple instructions about diet and
exercise.

"If my headaches return, shall I go back to Madame Breda?" I asked.

He shook his head.  "Your headaches won't return."

I paid him his fee, and, as I was leaving, I asked if he wanted to
see me again.

"I don't think it necessary.  At any rate not till the autumn.  I
may have to be out of London myself a good deal this summer.  Of
course if you should find the malaise recurring, which I do not
anticipate, you must come and see me.  If I am out of town, you can
see my colleague."  He scribbled a name and address on a sheet of
paper.

I left the house feeling considerably puzzled.  Dr. Newhover, who
on my first visit had made a great to-do about my health, seemed
now to want to be quit of me.  His manner was exactly that of a
busy doctor dealing with a malade imaginaire.  The odd thing was
that I was really beginning to feel rather seedy, a punishment for
my former pretence.  It may have been the reaction of my mental
worry, but I had the sort of indefinite out-of-sorts feeling which
I believe precedes an attack of influenza.  Only I had hitherto
been immune from influenza.

That night I had another of Sandy's communications, a typed half-
sheet with a Paris postmark.


"Keep close to M.," it ran.  "Do everything he wants.  Make it
clear that you have broken for ever with me.  This is desperately
important."


It was signed "Buchan," a horse which Sandy seemed to think had
been a Derby winner.  He knew no more about racing than I knew of
Chinese.

Next morning I woke with a bad taste in my mouth and a feeling that
I had probably a bout of malaria due me.  Now I had had no malaria
since the autumn of '17, and I didn't like the prospect of the
revisitation.  However, as the day wore on, I felt better, and by
midday I concluded I was not going to be ill.  But all the same I
was as jumpy as a cat in a thunderstorm.  I had the odd sense of
anticipation, which I used to have before a battle, a lurking
excitement by no means pleasant--not exactly apprehension, but
first cousin to it.  It made me want to see Medina, as if there was
something between him and me that I ought to get over.

All afternoon this dentist-anteroom atmosphere hung about me, and I
was almost relieved when about five o'clock I got a telephone
message from Hill Street asking me to come there at six.  I went
round to the Bath Club and had a swim and a shampoo, and then
started for the house.  On the way there I had those tremors in my
legs and coldness in the pit of the stomach which brought back my
childish toothaches.  Yes, that was it.  I felt exactly like a
small boy setting off with dreadful anticipations to have a tooth
drawn, and not all my self-contempt could cure me of my funk.  The
house when I reached it seemed larger and lonelier than ever, and
the April evening had darkened down to a scurry of chill dusty
winds under a sky full of cloud.

Odell opened the door to me, and took me to the back of the hall,
where I found a lift which I had not known existed.  We went up to
the top of the house, and I realised that I was about to enter
again the library where before I had so strangely spent the
midnight hours.

The curtains were drawn, shutting out the bleak spring twilight,
and the room was warmed by, and had for its only light, a great
fire of logs.  I smelt more than wood smoke; there was peat burning
among the oak billets.  The scent recalled, not the hundred times
when I had sniffed peat-reek in happy places, but the flavour of
the room in Palmyra Square when I had lain with bandaged eyes and
felt light fingers touch my face.  I had suddenly a sense that I
had taken a long stride forward, that something fateful was about
to happen, and my nervousness dropped from me like a cloak.

Medina was standing before the hearth, but his was not the figure
that took my eyes.  There was another person in the room, a woman.
She sat in the high-backed chair which he had used on the former
night, and she sat in it as if it were a throne.  The firelight lit
her face, and I saw that it was very old, waxen with age, though
the glow made the wax rosy.  Her dress was straight and black like
a gaberdine, and she had thick folds of lace at her wrists and
neck.  Wonderful hair, masses of it, was piled on her head, and it
was snow-white and fine as silk.  Her hands were laid on the arms
of the chair, and hands more delicate and shapely I have never
seen, though they had also the suggestion of a furious power, like
the talons of a bird of prey.

But it was the face that took away my breath.  I have always been a
great admirer of the beauty of old age, especially in women, but
this was a beauty of which I had never dreamed.  It was a long
face, and the features were large, though exquisitely cut and
perfectly proportioned.  Usually in an old face there is a certain
loosening of muscles or blurring of contours, which detracts from
sheer beauty but gives another kind of charm.  But in this face
there was no blurring or loosening; the mouth was as firm, the
curve of the chin as rounded, the arch of the eyes as triumphant as
in some proud young girl.

And then I saw that the eyes which were looking at the fire were
the most remarkable things of all.  Even in that half-light I could
see that they were brightly, vividly blue.  There was no film or
blearing to mar their glory.  But I saw also that they were
sightless.  How I knew it I do not know, for there was no physical
sign of it, but my conviction was instantaneous and complete.
These starlike things were turned inward.  In most blind people the
eyes are like marbles, dead windows in an empty house; but--how
shall I describe it?--these were blinds drawn in a room which was
full of light and movement, stage curtains behind which some great
drama was always set.  Blind though they were, they seemed to
radiate an ardent vitality, to glow and flash like the soul within.

I realised that it was the most wonderful face of a woman I had
ever looked on.  And I realised in the same moment that I hated it,
that the beauty of it was devilish, and the soul within was on fire
with all the hatred of Hell.

"Hannay," I heard Medina's voice, "I have brought you here because
I wish to present you to my mother."

I behaved just like somebody in a play.  I advanced to her chair,
lifted one of the hands, and put it to my lips.  That seemed to me
the right thing to do.  The face turned towards me, and broke into
a smile, the kind of smile you may see on the marble of a Greek
goddess.

The woman spoke to Medina in a tongue which was strange to me, and
he replied.  There seemed to be many questions and answers, but I
did not trouble to try to catch a word I knew.  I was occupied with
the voice.  I recognised in it those soft tones which had crooned
over me as I lay in the room in Palmyra Square.  I had discovered
who had been the third person in that scene.

Then it spoke to me in English, with that odd lilting accent I had
tried in vain to trace.

"You are a friend of Dominick, and I am glad to meet you, Sir
Richard Hannay.  My son has told me about you.  Will you bring a
chair and sit close to me?"

I pulled up a long low arm-chair, so long and low that the sitter
was compelled almost to recline.  My head was on a level with the
hand which lay on the arm of her chair.  Suddenly I felt that hand
laid on my head, and I recognised her now by touch as well as
voice.

"I am blind, Sir Richard," she said, "so I cannot see my son's
friends.  But I long to know how they look, and I have but one
sense which can instruct me.  Will you permit me to pass my hands
over your face?"

"You may do what you please, Madame," I said.  "I would to God I
could give you eyes."

"That is a pretty speech," she said.  "You might be one of my own
people."  And I felt the light fingers straying over my brow.

I was so placed that I was looking into the red heart of the fire,
the one patch of bright light in the curtained room.  I knew what I
was in for, and, remembering past experience, I averted my eyes to
the dark folios on the lowest shelves beyond the hearth.  The
fingers seemed to play a gentle tattoo on my temples, and then drew
long soft strokes across my eyebrows.  I felt a pleasant languor
beginning to creep down my neck and spine, but I was fully
prepared, and without much trouble resisted it.  Indeed my mind was
briskly busy, for I was planning how best to play my game.  I let
my head recline more and more upon the cushioned back of my chair,
and I let my eyelids droop.

The gentle fingers were very thorough, and I had let myself sink
back beyond their reach before they ceased.

"You are asleep," the voice said.  "Now wake."

I was puzzled to know how to stage-manage that wakening, but she
saved me the trouble.  Her voice suddenly hissed like a snake's.
"Stand up!" it said.  "Quick--on your life."

I scrambled to my feet with extreme energy, and stood staring at
the fire, wondering what to do next.

"Look at your master," came the voice again, peremptory as a drill-
sergeant's.

That gave me my cue.  I knew where Medina was standing, and, in the
words of the Bible, my eyes regarded him as a handmaiden regards
her master.  I stood before him, dumb and dazed and obedient.

"Down," he cried.  "Down, on all-fours."

I did as I was bid, thankful that my job was proving so easy.

"Go to the door--no, on all-fours, open it twice, shut it twice,
and bring me the paper-knife from the far table in your mouth."

I obeyed, and a queer sight I must have presented prancing across
the room, a perfectly sane man behaving like a lunatic.

I brought the paper-knife, and remained dog-wise.  "Get up," he
said, and I got up.

I heard the woman's voice say triumphantly:  "He is well broken,"
and Medina laughed.

"There is yet the last test," he said.  "I may as well put him
through it now.  If it fails, it means only that he needs more
schooling.  He cannot remember, for his mind is now in my keeping.
There is no danger."

He walked up to me, and gave me a smart slap in the face.

I accepted it with Christian meekness.  I wasn't even angry.  In
fact I would have turned the other cheek in the Scriptural fashion,
if it hadn't occurred to me that it might be overacting.

Then he spat in my face.

That, I admit, tried me pretty high.  It was such a filthy Kaffir
trick that I had some trouble in taking it resignedly.  But I
managed it.  I kept my eyes on the ground, and didn't even get out
my handkerchief to wipe my cheek till he had turned away.

"Well broken to heel," I heard him say.  "It is strange how easily
these flat tough English natures succumb to the stronger spirit.  I
have got a useful weapon in him, mother mine."

They paid no more attention to me than if I had been a piece of
furniture, which, indeed, in their eyes I was.  I was asleep, or
rather awake in a phantasmal world, and I could not return to my
normal life till they bade me.  I could know nothing--so they
thought--and remember nothing, except what they willed.  Medina sat
in my chair, and the woman had her hand on his head, and they
talked as if they were alone in the desert.  And all the while I
was standing sheepishly on the rug, not daring to move, scarcely to
breathe, lest I should give the show away.

They made a pretty picture--"The Prodigal's Return" or "The Old
Folks at Hone," by Simpkins, R.A., Royal Academy, 1887.  No, by
Heaven, there was no suggestion of that.  It was a marvellous and
tragic scene that I regarded.  The fitful light of the fire showed
figures of an antique beauty and dignity.  The regal profile of the
woman, her superb pose, and the soft eerie music of her voice were
a world removed from vulgarity, and so was the lithe vigour and the
proud face of the man.  They were more like a king and queen in
exile, decreeing the sea of blood which was to wash them back
again.  I realised for the first time that Medina might be
damnable, but was also great.  Yes, the man who had spat on me like
a stable-boy had also something of the prince.  I realised another
thing.  The woman's touch had flattened down the hair above his
forehead, which he brushed square, and his head, outlined in the
firelight against the white cushion, was as round as a football.  I
had suspected this when I first saw him, and now I was certain.
What did a head like that portend?  I had a vague remembrance that
I had heard somewhere that it meant madness--at any rate
degeneracy.

They talked rapidly and unceasingly, but the confounded thing was
that I could hear very little of it.  They spoke in low tones, and
I was three yards off and daren't for my life move an inch nearer.
Also they spoke for the most part in a language of which I did not
know a word--it may have been Choctaw, but was probably Erse.  If I
had only comprehended that tongue I might there and then have
learned all I wanted to know.  But sometimes Medina talked English,
though it seemed to me that the woman always tried to bring him
back to the other speech.  All I heard were broken sentences that
horribly tantalised me.

My brain was cool and very busy.  This woman was the Blind Spinner
of the rhymes.  No doubt of it.  I could see her spinning beside a
peat fire, nursing ancient hate and madness, and crooning forgotten
poetry.  "Beside the Sacred Tree."  Yggdrasil be hanged!  I had it,
it was Gospel Oak.  Lord, what a fool I had been not to guess it
before!  The satisfaction of having got one of the three conundrums
dead right made me want to shout.  These two harpies held the key
to the whole riddle, and I had only to keep up my present character
to solve it.  They thought they were dealing with a hypnotised
fool, and instead they had a peculiarly wide-awake if rather slow
and elderly Englishman.  I wished to Heaven I knew what they were
saying.  Sluicing out malice about my country, no doubt, or
planning the ruin of our civilisation for the sake of a neurotic
dream.

Medina said something impatiently about "danger," as if his purpose
were to reassure.  Then I caught nothing for several minutes, till
he laughed and repeated the word "secundus."  Now I was looking for
three people, and if there was a "secundus" there must have been a
"primus," and possibly a "tertius."

"He is the least easy to handle," he said.  "And it is quite
necessary that Jason should come home.  I have decided that the
doctor must go out.  It won't be for long--only till midsummer."

The date interested me acutely.  So did what followed, for he went
on:

"By midsummer they liquidate and disband.  There is no fear that it
won't succeed.  We have the whip hand, remember.  Trust me, all
will go smoothly, and then we begin a new life. . . ."

I thought she sighed, and for the first time she spoke in English:

"I fear sometimes that you are forgetting your own land, Dominick."

He put up an arm and drew her head to his.

"Never, mother mine.  It is our strength that we can seem to forget
and still remember."

I was finding my stand on that hearth-rug extraordinarily trying.
You see I had to keep perfectly rigid, for every now and then
Medina would look towards me, and I knew that the woman had an ear
like a hound.  But my knees were beginning to shake with fatigue
and my head to grow giddy, and I feared that, like the soldiers who
stand guard round a royal bier, I might suddenly collapse.  I did
my best to struggle against the growing weakness, and hoped to
forget it by concentrating all my attention on the fragments of
talk.

"I have news for you," Medina was saying.  "Kharáma is in Europe
and proposes to come to England."

"You will see him?"  I thought her voice had a trace of alarm in
it.

"Most certainly.  I would rather see him than any living man."

"Dominick, be careful.  I would rather you confined yourself to
your old knowledge.  I fear these new things from the East."

He laughed.  "They are as old as ours--older.  And all knowledge is
one.  I have already drunk of his learning and I must have the
whole cup."

That was the last I heard, for at that moment I made my exit from
the scene in a way which I could not have bettered by much
cogitation.  My legs suddenly gave under me, the room swam round,
and I collapsed on the floor in a dead faint.  I must have fallen
heavily, for I knocked a leg off one of the little tables.

When I came to--which I suppose was a minute or two later--Odell
was bathing my face, and Medina with a grave and concerned air was
standing by with a brandy decanter.

"My dear fellow, you gave me a bad fright," he said, and his manner
was that of the considerate friend.  "You're not feeling ill?"

"I haven't been quite fit all day, and I suppose the hot room
knocked me out.  I say, I'm most awfully sorry for playing the fool
like this.  I've damaged your furniture, I'm afraid.  I hope I
didn't scare the lady."

"What lady?"

"Your mother."

He looked at me with a perfectly blank face, and I saw I had made a
mistake.

"I beg your pardon--I'm still giddy.  I've been dreaming."

He gave me a glass of brandy and tucked me into a taxi.  Long
before I got to the Club I was feeling all right, but my mind was
in a fine turmoil.  I had stumbled at last upon not one clue but
many, and though they were confused enough, I hoped with luck to
follow them out.  I could hardly eat any dinner that night, and my
brain was too unsettled to do any serious thinking.  So I took a
taxi up to Gospel Oak, and, bidding it wait for me, had another
look at Palmyra Square.  The place seemed to have been dead and
decaying for centuries, seen in that windy moonless dark, and No. 4
was a shuttered tomb.  I opened the gate and, after making sure
that the coast was clear, stole round to the back-door where
tradesmen called.  There were some dilapidated outhouses, and the
back garden, with rank grasses and obscene clothes-posts, looked
like nothing so much as a neglected grave-yard.  In that house was
the terrible blind Fate that span.  As I listened I heard from
somewhere inside the sound of slow heartbroken sobs.  I wondered if
they came from the queer-looking little girl.



CHAPTER IX

I AM INTRODUCED TO STRONG MAGIC


The first thing I did when I got up next morning was to pay a visit
to Harlows, the fishing-tackle people.  They knew me well enough,
for I used to buy my rods there, and one of the assistants had been
down to Fosse to teach Mary how to use a light split-cane.  With
him I embarked on a long talk about Norwegian rivers and their
peculiarities, and very soon got his views on the best flies.  I
asked which river was considered to be the earliest, and was told
in an ordinary season the Nirdal and the Skarso.  Then I asked if
he knew my friend Dr. Newhover.  "He was in here yesterday
afternoon," I was told.  "He is going to the Skarso this year, and
hopes to be on the water in the last week of April.  Rather too
soon in my opinion, though salmon have been caught in it as early
as April 17th.  By the end of the first week of May it should be
all right."  I asked a good deal more about the Skarso, and was
told that it was best fished from Merdal at the head of the
Merdalfjord.  There were only about three miles of fishable water
before the big foss, but every yard of it was good.  I told him I
had hoped to get a beat on the Leardal for June, but had had to
give up the notion this year and intended to confine myself to
Scotland.  I bought a new reel, a quantity of sea-trout flies, and
a little book about Norwegian fishing.

Then I went on to see Macgillivray, with whom I had made an
appointment by telephone.

"I've come to ask your help," I told him.  "I'm beginning to get a
move on, but it's a ticklish business, and I must walk very warily.
First of all, I want you to find out the movements of a certain Dr.
Newhover of Wimpole Street.  He is going to Norway some time in the
next fortnight, to the Skarso to fish, and his jumping-off place
will be Stavanger.  Find out by which boat he takes a passage, and
book me a berth in it also.  I'd better have my old name, Cornelius
Brand."

"You're not thinking of leaving England just now?" he asked
reproachfully.

"I don't know.  I may have to go or I may not, but in any case I
won't be long away.  Anyhow, find out about Dr. Newhover.  Now for
the more serious business.  Just about when have you settled to
round up the gang?"

"For the reasons I gave you it must be before midsummer.  It is an
infernally complicated job and we must work to a time-table.  I had
fixed provisionally the 20th of June."

"I think you'd better choose an earlier date."

"Why?"

"Because the gang are planning themselves to liquidate by
midsummer, and, if you don't hurry, you may draw the net tight and
find nothing in it."

"Now how on earth did you find that out?" he asked, and his usually
impassive face was vivid with excitement.

"I can't tell you.  I found it out in the process of hunting for
the hostages, and I give you my word it's correct."

"But you must tell me more.  If you have fresh lines on what you
call my 'gang,' it may be desperately important for me to know."

"I haven't.  I've just the one fact, which I have given you.
Honestly, old man, I can't tell you anything more till I tell you
everything.  Believe me, I'm working hard."

I had thought the thing out, and had resolved to keep the Medina
business to myself and Sandy.  Our one chance with him was that he
should be utterly unsuspecting, and even so wary a fellow as
Macgillivray might, if he were told, create just that faint breath
of suspicion that would ruin all.  He grunted, as if he were not
satisfied.  "I suppose you must have it your own way.  Very well,
we'll fix the 10th of June for Der Tag.  You realise, of course,
that the round-up of all must be simultaneous--that's why it takes
such a lot of bandobast.  By the way, you've got the same problem
with the hostages.  You can't release one without the others, or
the show is given away--not your show only but mine.  You realise
that?"

"I do," I said, "and I realise that the moving forward of your date
narrows my time down to less than two months.  If I succeed, I must
wait till the very eve of your move.  Not earlier, I suppose, than
June 9th?  Assume I only find one of the three?  I wait till June
9th before getting him out of their clutches.  Then you strike, and
what happens to the other two?"

He shrugged his shoulders.  "The worst, I fear.  You see, Dick, the
gang I mean to crush and the people who hold the hostages are
allied, but I take it they are different sets.  I may land every
member of my gang, and yet not come within speaking distance of the
other lot.  I don't know, but I'm pretty certain that even if we
found the second lot we'd never be able to prove complicity between
the two.  The first are devilish deep fellows, but the second are
great artists."

"All the same," I said, "I'm in hopes of finding at least one of
the hostages, and that means some knowledge of the kidnappers."

"I must not ask, but I'd give my head to know how and where you're
working.  More power to you!  But I wonder if you'll ever get near
the real prime fountain of iniquity."

"I wonder," I said, and took my leave.

I had been playing with sickness, and now it looked as if I was
going to be punished by getting the real thing.  For all the rest
of that day I felt cheap, and in the evening I was positive I had a
temperature.  I thought I might have 'flu, so I went round after
dinner to see a doctor whom I had known in France.  He refused to
admit the temperature.  "What sort of life have you been leading
these last weeks?" he asked, and when I told him that I had been
hanging round London waiting on some tiresome business developments,
he said that that was the whole trouble.  "You're accustomed to an
active life in fresh air and you've been stuffing in town, feeding
too well and getting no exercise.  Go home to-morrow and you'll be
as right as a trivet."

"It rather would suit me to be sick for a spell--say a week."

He looked puzzled and then laughed.

"Oh, if you like I'll give you a chit to say you must go back to
the country at once or I won't answer for the consequences."

"I'd like that, but not just yet.  I'll ring you up when I want it.
Meantime I can take it that there's nothing wrong with me?"

"Nothing that a game of squash and a little Eno won't cure."

"Well, when you send me that chit, say I've got to have a quiet
week in bed at home--no visitors--regular rest cure."

"Right," he said.  "It's a prescription that every son of Adam
might follow with advantage four times a year."

When I got back to the Club I found Medina waiting for me.  It was
the first time he had visited me there, and I pretended to be
delighted to see him--almost embarrassed with delight--and took him
to the back smoking-room where I had talked with Sandy.  I told him
that I was out of sorts, and he was very sympathetic.  Then, with a
recollection of Sandy's last letter, I started out to blaspheme my
gods.  He commented on the snugness and seclusion of the little
room, which for the moment we had to ourselves.

"It wasn't very peaceful when I was last in it," I said.  "I had a
row here with that lunatic Arbuthnot before he went abroad."

He looked up at the name.

"You mean you quarrelled.  I thought you were old friends."

"Once we were.  Now I never want to see the fellow again."  I
thought I might as well do the job thoroughly, though the words
stuck in my throat.

I thought he seemed pleased.

"I told you," he said, "that he didn't attract me."

"Attract!" I cried.  "The man has gone entirely to the devil.  He
has forgotten his manners, his breeding, and everything he once
possessed.  He has lived so long among cringing Orientals that his
head is swollen like a pumpkin.  He wanted to dictate to me, and I
said I would see him further--and--oh well, we had the usual row.
He's gone back to the East, which is the only place for him, and--
no! I never want to clap eyes on him again."

There was a purr of satisfaction in his voice, for he believed, as
I meant him to, that his influence over me had been strong enough
to shatter an ancient friendship.  "I am sure you are wise.  I have
lived in the East and know something of its ways.  There is the
road of knowledge and the road of illusion, and Arbuthnot has
chosen the second. . . .  We are friends, Hannay, and I have much
to tell you some day--perhaps very soon.  I have made a position
for myself in the world, but the figure which the world sees is
only a little part of me.  The only power is knowledge, and I have
attained to a knowledge compared with which Arbuthnot's is the
merest smattering."

I noticed that he had dropped the easy, well-bred, deprecating
manner which I had first noted in him.  He spoke to me now
magisterially, arrogantly, almost pompously.

"There has never been a true marriage of East and West," he went
on.  "To-day we incline to put a false interpretation on the word
Power.  We think of it in material terms like money, or the control
of great patches of inanimate nature.  But it still means, as it
has always meant, the control of human souls, and to him who
acquires that everything else is added.  How does such control
arise?  Partly by knowledge of the intricacies of men's hearts,
which is a very different thing from the stock platitudes of the
professional psychologists.  Partly by that natural dominion of
spirit which comes from the possession of certain human qualities
in a higher degree than other men.  The East has the secret
knowledge, but, though it can lay down the practice, it cannot
provide the practitioners.  The West has the tools, but not the
science of their use.  There has never, as I have said, been a true
marriage of East and West, but when there is, its seed will rule
the world."

I was drinking this in with both ears, and murmuring my assent.
Now at last I was to be given his confidence, and I prayed that he
might be inspired to go on.  But he seemed to hesitate, till a
glance at my respectful face reassured him.  "The day after to-
morrow a man will be in London, a man from the East, who is a great
master of this knowledge.  I shall see him, and you will accompany
me.  You will understand little, for you are only at the beginning,
but you will be in the presence of wisdom."

I murmured that I should feel honoured.

"You will hold yourself free for all that day.  The time will
probably be the evening."

After that he left with the most perfunctory good-bye.  I
congratulated myself on having attained to just the kind of
position I wanted--that of a disciple whose subjection was so much
taken for granted that he was treated like a piece of furniture.
From his own point of view Medina was justified; he must have
thought the subconscious control so strong, after all the tests I
had been through, that my soul was like putty in his hands.

Next day I went down to Fosse and told Mary to expect me back very
soon for a day or two.  She had never plagued me with questions,
but something in my face must have told her that I was hunting a
trail, for she asked me for news and looked as if she meant to have
it.  I admitted that I had found out something, and said I would
tell her everything when I next came back.  That would only have
been prudent, for Mary was a genius at keeping secrets and I wanted
some repository of my knowledge in case I got knocked on the head.

When I returned to town I found another note from Sandy, also from
France, signed "Alan Breck"--Sandy was terribly out with his Derby
winners.  It was simply two lines imploring me again to make Medina
believe I had broken with him and that he had gone east of Suez for
good.

There was also a line from Macgillivray, saying that Dr. Newhover
had taken a passage on the Gudrun, leaving Hull at 6.30 p.m. on the
21st, and that a passage had been booked for C. Brand, Esqre, by
the same boat.  That decided me, so I wrote to my own doctor asking
for the chit he had promised, to be dated the 19th.  I was busy
with a plan, for it seemed to me that it was my duty to follow up
the one trail that presented itself, though it meant letting the
rest of the business sleep.  I longed more than I could say for a
talk with Sandy, who was now playing the fool in France and sending
me imbecile notes.  I also rang up Archie Roylance, and found to my
delight that he had not left town, for I ran him to ground at the
Travellers', and fixed a meeting for next morning.

"Archie," I said, when we met, "I want to ask a great favour from
you.  Are you doing anything special in the next fortnight?"

He admitted that he had thought of getting back to Scotland to
watch a pair of nesting greenshanks.

"Let the greenshanks alone, like a good fellow.  I've probably got
to go to Norway on the 21st, and I shall want to get home in the
deuce of a hurry.  The steamer's far too slow."

"Destroyer," he suggested.

"Hang it, this is not the War.  Talk sense.  I want an aeroplane,
and I want you to fetch me."

Archie whistled long and loud.

"You're a surprisin' old bird, Dick.  It's no joke bein' a pal of
yours. . . .  I dare say I could raise a bus all right.  But you've
got to chance the weather.  And my recollection of Norway is that
it's not very well provided with landin' places.  What part do you
favour?"

I told him the mouth of the Merdalfjord.

"Lord!  I've been there," he said.  "It's all as steep as the side
of a house."

"Yes, but I've been studying the map, and there are some eligible
little islands off the mouth, which look flattish from the
contouring.  I'm desperately serious, old man.  I'm engaged on a
job where failure means the loss of innocent lives.  I'll tell you
all about it soon, but meantime you must take my word for it."

I managed to get Archie suitably impressed, and even to interest
him in the adventure, for he was never the man to lag behind in
anything that included risk and wanted daring.  He promised to see
Hansen, who had been in his squadron and was believed to have flown
many times across the North Sea.  As I left him I could see that he
was really enormously cheered by the prospect, for if he couldn't
watch his blessed birds the next best thing was to have a chance of
breaking his neck.

I had expected to be bidden by Medina to meet his necromancer in
some den in the East End or some Bloomsbury lodging-house.  Judge
of my surprise, then, when I was summoned to Claridge's for nine-
thirty that evening.  When I got to the hotel it was difficult to
believe that a place so bright and commonplace could hold any
mystery.  There was the usual dancing going on, and squads of
people who had dined well were sitting around watching.  Medina was
standing by a fireplace talking to a man who wore a long row of
miniature medals and a star, and whom I recognised as Tom Machin,
who had commanded a cavalry brigade in France.  Medina nodded
casually to me, and Tom, whom I had not seen for years, made a
great fuss.

"Regimental dinner," he explained.  "Came out for a moment to give
instructions about my car.  Been telling Medina here of the dirty
trick the Government have played on my old crowd.  I say it's up to
the few sahibs like him in that damned monkey-house at Westminster
to make a row about it.  You back me up, Hannay.  What I say
is . . ." and so on with all the eternal iteration of "abso-lutely"
and "If you follow me" and "You see what I mean" of the incoherent
British regular.

Medina gently disengaged himself.  "Sorry, Tom, but I must be off
now.  You're dining with Burminster on Thursday aren't you?  We'll
talk about that business then.  I agree it's an infernal shame."

He signed to me and we went together to the lift.  On the first
floor, where the main suites are, a turbaned Indian waited for us
in the corridor.  He led us into a little ante-room, and then
disappeared through big folding-doors.  I wondered what kind of
swell this Oriental necromancer must be who could take rooms like
these, for the last time I had been in them was when they were
occupied by a Crown Prince who wanted to talk to me about a certain
little problem in Anatolia.

"You are about to see Kharáma," Medina whispered, and there was an
odd exaltation in his voice.  "You do not know his name, but there
are millions in the East who reverence it like that of a god.  I
last saw him in a hut on the wildest pass in the Karakoram, and now
he is in this gilded hotel with the dance-music of the West jigging
below.  It is a parable of the unity of all Power."

The door was opened, and the servant beckoned us to enter.  It was
a large room furnished with the usual indifferent copies of French
furniture--very hot and scented, just the kind of place where
international financiers make their deals over liqueur brandy and
big cigars, or itinerant stars of the cinema world receive their
friends.  Bright, hard and glossy, you would have said that no
vulgarer environment could be found. . . .  And yet after the first
glance I did not feel its commonness, for it was filled with the
personality of the man who sat on a couch at the far end.  I
realised that here was one who carried with him his own prepotent
atmosphere, and who could transform his surroundings, whether it
was a Pamir hut or a London restaurant.

To my surprise he was quite young.  His hair was hidden by a great
turban, but the face was smooth and hairless, and the figure, so
far as I could judge, had not lost the grace of youth.  I had
imagined someone immensely venerable and old with a beard to his
girdle, or, alternately, an obese babu with a soft face like a
eunuch.  I had forgotten that this man was of the hills.  To my
amazement he wore ordinary evening dress, well-cut too, I thought,
and over it a fine silk dressing-gown.  He had his feet tucked up
on the couch, but he did not sit cross-legged.  At our entrance he
slightly inclined his head, while we both bowed.  Medina addressed
him in some Indian tongue, and he replied, and his voice was like
the purr of a big cat.

He motioned us to sit down, looking not so much at us as through
us, and while Medina spoke I kept my eyes on his face.  It was the
thin, high-boned, high-bred face of the hillman; not the Mongolian
type, but that other which is like an Arab, the kind of thing you
can see in Pathan troops.  And yet, though it was as hard as flint
and as fierce as Satan, there was a horrid feline softness in it,
like that of a man who would never need to strike a blow in anger,
since he could win his way otherwise.  The brow was straight and
heavy, such as I had always associated with mathematical talent,
and broader than is common with Orientals.  The eyes I could not
see, for he kept them half shut, but there was something uncanny in
the way they were chased in his head, with an odd slant the
opposite from what you see in the Chinaman.  His mouth had a lift
at each corner as if he were perpetually sneering, and yet there
was a hint of humour in the face, though it was as grave as a
stone statue.

I have rarely seen a human being at once so handsome and so
repulsive, but both beauty and horror were merged in the impression
of ruthless power.  I had been sceptical enough about this Eastern
mage, as I had been sceptical about Medina's arts, because they
had failed with me.  But as I looked on that dark countenance I had
a vision of a world of terrible knowledge, a hideousness like an
evil smell, but a power like a blasting wind or a pestilence. . . .
Somehow Sandy's talk at the Thursday Club dinner came back to me,
about the real danger to the world lying in the constraint of
spirit over spirit.  This swarthy brute was the priest of that
obscene domination, and I had an insane desire there and then to
hammer him into pulp.

He was looking at me, and seemed to be asking a question to which
Medina replied.  I fancy he was told that I was a chela, or
whatever was the right name, a well-broken and submissive disciple.

Then to my surprise he spoke in English--good English, with the
chi-chi accent of the Indian.

"You have followed far in the path of knowledge, brother.  I did
not think a son of the West could have travelled so far and so
soon.  You have won two of the three keys to Mastery, if you can
make a man forget his past, and begin life anew subject to your
will.  But what of the third key?"

I thought Medina's voice had a tinge of disappointment.  "It is the
third key which I look for, master.  What good is it to wipe out
the past and establish my control if it is only temporary?  I want
the third key, to lock the door, so that I have my prisoner safe
for ever.  Is there such a key?"

"The key is there, but to find it is not easy.  All control tends
to grow weak and may be broken by an accident, except in the case
of young children, and some women, and those of feeble mind."

"That I know," said Medina almost pettishly.  "But I do not want to
make disciples only of babes, idiots, and women."

"Only some women, I said.  Among our women perhaps all, but among
Western women, who are hard as men, only the softer and feebler."

"That is my trouble.  I wish to control for ever, and to control
without constant watching on my part.  I have a busy life and time
is precious.  Tell me, master, is there a way?"

I listened to this conversation with feelings of genuine horror.
Now I saw Medina's plans, and I realised that he and he alone was
at the bottom of the kidnapping.  I realised, too, how he had dealt
with the three hostages, and how he proposed to deal.  Compared to
him a murderer was innocent, for a murderer only took life, while
he took the soul.  I hated him and that dark scoundrel more
intensely than I think I have ever hated man; indeed it was only by
a great effort that I checked myself from clutching the two by the
throat.  The three stories, which had been half forgotten and
overlaid by my recent experiences, returned sharp and clear to my
memory.  I saw again Victor's haggard face, I heard Sir Arthur
Warcliff's voice break; and my wrath rose and choked me.  This
stealing of souls was the worst infamy ever devised by devils among
mankind.  I must have showed my emotion, but happily the two had no
eyes for me.

"There is a way, a sure way," the Indian was saying, and a wicked
half-smile flitted over his face.  "But it is a way which, though
possible in my own country, may be difficult in yours.  I am given
to understand that your police are troublesome, and you have a
public repute, which it is necessary to cherish.  There is another
way which is slower, but which is also sure, if it is boldly
entered upon."

The sage seemed to open his half-shut eyes, and I thought I saw the
opaque brightness which comes from drug-taking.

"Him whom you would make your slave," he said, "you first strip of
memory, and then attune to your own will.  To keep him attuned you
must be with him often and reinforce the control.  But this is
burdensome, and if the slave be kept apart and seen rarely the
influence will ebb--except, as I have said, in the case of a young
child.  There is a way to rivet the bondage and it is this.  Take
him or her whom you govern into the same life as they have been
accustomed to live before, and there, among familiar things, assert
your control.  Your influence will thus acquire the sanction of
familiarity--for though the conscious memory has gone, the
unconscious remains--and presently will be a second nature."

"I see," said Medina abstractedly.  "I had already guessed as much.
Tell me, master, can the dominion, once it is established, be
shaken off?"

"It cannot save by the will of him who exercises it.  Only the
master can release."

After that they spoke again in the foreign tongue of I know not
what devilry.  It seemed to me that the sage was beginning to tire
of the interview, for he rang a bell and when the servant appeared
gave him some rapid instructions.  Medina rose, and kissed the hand
which was held out to him, and I, of course, followed suit.

"You stay here long, master?" he asked.

"Two days.  Then I have business in Paris and elsewhere.  But I
return in May, when I will summon you again.  Prosper, brother.
The God of Wisdom befriend you."

We went downstairs to the dancing and the supper parties.  The
regimental dinner was breaking up and Tom Machin was holding forth
in the hall to a knot of be-medalled friends.  I had to say
something to Medina to round off the evening, and the contrast of
the two scenes seemed to give me a cue.  As we were putting on our
coats I observed that it was like coming from light to darkness.
He approved.  "Like falling from a real world into shadows," he
said.

He evidently wished to follow his own thoughts, for he did not ask
me to walk home with him.  I, too, had a lot to think about.  When
I got back to the Club I found a note signed "Spion Kop," and with
an English postmark.


"Meet me," it said, "on the 21st for breakfast at the inn called
'The Silent Woman' on the Fosse Way as you go over from Colne to
Windrush.  I have a lot to tell you."


I thanked Heaven that Sandy was home again, though he chose
fantastic spots for his assignations.  I, too, had something to say
to him.  For that evening had given me an insight into Medina's
mind, and, what was more, the glimmerings of a plan of my own.



CHAPTER X

CONFIDENCES AT A WAYSIDE INN


My first impulse was to go to Macgillivray about this Kharáma
fellow, who I was certain was up to mischief.  I suspected him of
some kind of political intrigue; otherwise what was he doing
touring the capitals of Europe and putting up at expensive hotels?
But on second thoughts I resolved to let the police alone.  I could
not explain about Kharáma without bringing in Medina, and I was
determined to do nothing which would stir a breath of suspicion
against him.  But I got the chit from my doctor, recommending a
week's rest, and I went round to see Medina on the morning of the
19th.  I told him I had been feeling pretty cheap for some days and
that my doctor ordered me to go home and go to bed.  He didn't look
pleased, so I showed him the doctor's letter, and made a poor
mouth, as if I hated the business but was torn between my
inclinations and my duty.  I think he liked my producing that chit,
like a second-lieutenant asking for leave, anyhow he made the best
of it and was quite sympathetic.  "I'm sorry you're going out of
town," he said, "for I want you badly.  But it's as well to get
quite fit, and to lie up for a week ought to put you all right.
When am I to expect you back?"  I told him that without fail I
would be in London on the 29th.  "I'm going to disappear into a
monastery," I said.  "Write no letters, receive none, not at home
to visitors, only sleep and eat.  I can promise you that my wife
will watch me like a dragon."

Then I hunted up Archie Roylance, whom I found on the very top of
his form.  He had seen Hansen, and discovered that on the island of
Flacksholm, just off the mouth of the Merdalfjord, there was good
landing.  It was a big flattish island with a loch in the centre,
and entirely uninhabited except for a farm at the south end.
Archie had got a machine, a Sopwith, which he said he could trust,
and I arranged with him to be at Flacksholm not later than the
27th, and to camp there as best he could.  He was to keep watch by
day for a motor-boat from the Merdalfjord, and at night if he saw a
green light he was to make for it.  I told him to take ample
supplies, and he replied that he wasn't such a fool as to neglect
the commissariat.  He said he had been to Fortnum & Mason and was
going to load up with liqueurs and delicatessen.  "Take all the
clothes you've got, Dick," he added.  "It will be perishing cold in
those parts at this time of year."  He arranged, too, to cable
through Hansen for a motor-launch to be ready at Stavanger for a
Mr. Brand who was due by the Hull steamer on the morning of the
23rd.  If I had to change my plans I was to wire him at once.

That evening I went down to Fosse a little easier in my mind.  It
was a blessed relief to get out of London and smell clean air, and
to reflect that for a week at any rate I should be engaged in a
more congenial job than loafing about town.  I found Peter John in
the best of health and the Manor garden a glory of spring flowers.

I told Mary that I was ordered by my doctor to go to bed for a week
and take a rest cure.

"Dick," she asked anxiously, "you're not ill, are you?"

"Not a bit, only a trifle stale.  But officially I'm to be in bed
for a week and not a blessed soul is to be allowed to come near me.
Tell the servants, please, and get the cook on to invalid dishes.
I'll take Paddock into my confidence, and he'll keep up a show of
waiting on me."

"A show?"

"Yes, for you see I'm going to put in a week in Norway--that is,
unless Sandy has anything to say against it."

"But I thought Colonel Arbuthnot was still abroad?"

"So he is--officially.  But I'm going to breakfast with him the day
after to-morrow at The Silent Woman--you remember, the inn we used
to have supper at last summer when I was fishing the Colne."

"Dick," she said solemnly, "isn't it time you told me a little more
about what you're doing?"

"I think it is," I agreed, and that night after dinner I told her
everything.

She asked a great many questions, searching questions, for Mary's
brain was about twice as good as mine.  Then she sat pondering for
a long time with her chin on her hand.

"I wish I had met Mr. Medina," she said at last.  "Aunt Claire and
Aunt Doria know him. . . .  I am afraid of him, terribly afraid,
and I think I should be less afraid if I could just see him once.
It is horrible, Dick, and you are fighting with such strange
weapons.  Your only advantage is that you're such a gnarled piece
of oak.  I wish I could help.  It's dreadful to have to wait here
and be tortured by anxiety for you, and to be thinking all the time
of those poor people.  I can't get the little boy out of my head.
I often wake in a terror, and have to go up to the night-nursery to
hug Peter John.  Nanny must think I'm mad. . . .  I suppose you're
right to go to Norway?"

"I see no other way.  We have a clue to the whereabouts of one of
the hostages--I haven't a notion which.  I must act on that, and
besides, if I find one it may give me a line on the others."

"There will still be two lost," she said, "and the time grows
fearfully short.  You are only one man.  Can you not get helpers?
Mr. Macgillivray?"

"No.  He has his own job, and to let him into mine would wreck
both."

"Well, Colonel Arbuthnot?  What is he doing?"

"Oh, Sandy's busy enough, and, thank God! he's back in England.
I'll know more about his game when I see him, but you may be sure
it's a deep one.  While I'm away Sandy will be working all the
time."

"Do you know, I have never met him.  Couldn't I see him some time
when you're away?  It would be a great comfort to me.  And, Dick,
can't I help somehow?  We've always shared everything, even before
we were married, and you know I'm dependable."

"Indeed I do, my darling," I said.  "But I can't see how you can
help--yet.  If I could, I would inspan you straight off, for I
would rather have you with me than a regiment."

"It's the poor little boy.  I could endure the rest, but the
thought of him makes me crazy.  Have you seen Sir Arthur?"

"No, I have avoided him.  I can stand the sight of Victor and the
Duke, but I swear I shall never look Sir Arthur in the face unless
I can hand him over his son."

Then Mary got up and stood over me like a delivering angel.

"It is going to be done," she cried.  "Dick, you must never give
up.  I believe in my heart we shall win.  We must win or I shall
never be able to kiss Peter John again with a quiet mind.  Oh, I
wish--I wish I could do something."

I don't think Mary slept that night, and next morning she was
rather pale and her eyes had that funny long-sighted look that they
had had when I said good-bye to her at Amiens in March '18, before
going up to the line.

I spent a blissful day with her and Peter John wandering round our
little estate.  It was one of those April days which seem to have
been borrowed from late May, when you have the warmth of summer
joined with the austerity and fresh colouring of spring.  The riot
of daffodils under the trees was something to thank God for, the
banks of the little lake were one cascade of grape hyacinths, blue
and white, and every dell in the woods was bright with primroses.
We occupied the morning deepening the pools in a tiny stream which
was to be one of the spawning-grounds for the new trout in the
lake, and Peter John showed conspicuous talent as a hydraulic
engineer.  His nurse, who was a middle-aged Scotswoman from the
Cheviots, finally carried him off for his morning rest, and when he
had gone, Mary desisted from her watery excavations and sat down on
a bank of periwinkles.

"What do you really think of Nanny?" she asked.

"About as good as they make," I replied.

"That's what I think too.  You know, Dick, I feel I'm far too fussy
about Peter John.  I give hours of my time to him, and it's quite
unnecessary.  Nanny can do everything better than I can.  I
scarcely dare let him out of my sight, and yet I'm certain that I
could safely leave him for weeks with Nanny and Paddock--and Dr.
Greenslade within call."

"Of course you could," I agreed, "but you'd miss him, as I do, for
he's jolly good company."

"Yes, he's jolly good company, the dear fellow," she said.

In the afternoon we went for a canter on the downs, and I came back
feeling as fit as a race-horse and keyed up for anything.  But that
evening, as we walked in the garden before dinner, I had another
fit of longing to be free of the business and to return to my quiet
life.  I realised that I had buried my heart in my pleasant acres,
and the thought of how much I loved them made me almost timid.  I
think Mary understood what I was feeling, for she insisted on
talking about David Warcliff, and before I went to bed had worked
me into that honest indignation which is the best stiffener of
resolution.  She went over my plans with me very carefully.  On the
28th, if I could manage it, I was to come home, but if I was short
of time I was to send her a wire and go straight to London.  The
pretence of my being in bed was to be religiously kept up.  For
safety's sake I was to sign every wire with the name of Cornelius.

Very early next morning, long before anyone was stirring, I started
the big Vauxhall with Paddock's assistance, and, accompanied by a
very modest kit, crept down the avenue.  Paddock, who could drive a
car, was to return to the house about ten o'clock, and explain to
my chauffeur that by my orders he had taken the Vauxhall over to
Oxford as a loan for a week to a friend of mine.  I drove fast out
of the silent hill roads and on to the great Roman way which lay
like a strap across the highlands.  It was not much after six
o'clock when I reached The Silent Woman, which sat like an
observation post on a ridge of down, at a junction of four roads.
Smoke was going up from its chimneys, so I judged that Sandy had
ordered early breakfast.  Presently, as I was garaging the car in
an outhouse, Sandy appeared in flannel bags and a tweed jacket,
looking as fresh as paint and uncommonly sunburnt.

"I hope you're hungry," he said.  "Capital fellow the landlord!  He
knows what a man's appetite is.  I ordered eggs, kidneys, sausages
and cold ham, and he seemed to expect it.  Yes.  These are my
headquarters for the present, though Advanced G.H.Q. is elsewhere.
By the by, Dick, just for an extra precaution, my name's Thomson--
Alexander Thomson--and I'm a dramatic critic taking a belated
Easter holiday."

The breakfast was as good as Sandy had promised, and what with the
run in the fresh air and the sight of him opposite me I began to
feel light-hearted.

"I got your letters," I said, "but, I say, your knowledge of Derby
winners is pretty rocky.  I thought that was the kind of
information no gentleman was without."

"I'm the exception.  Did you act on them?"

"I told Medina I had broken with you for good and never wanted to
see your face again.  But why did you make such a point of it?"

"Simply because I wanted to be rid of his attentions, and I
reckoned that if he thought we had quarrelled and that I had gone
off for good, he might let me alone.  You see he has been trying
hard to murder me."

"Good Lord!" I exclaimed.  "When?"

"Four times," said Sandy calmly, counting on his fingers.  "Once
before I left London.  Oh, I can tell you I had an exciting
departure.  Three times in Paris, the last time only four days ago.
I fancy he's off my trail now, for he really thinks I sailed from
Marseilles the day before yesterday."

"But why on earth?"

"Well, I made some ill-advised remarks at the Thursday Club dinner.
He believes that I'm the only man alive who might uncover him, and
he won't sleep peacefully till he knows that I am out of Europe and
is convinced that I suspect nothing.  I sent you those letters
because I wanted to be let alone, seeing I had a lot to do, and
nothing wastes time like dodging assassins.  But my chief reason
was to protect YOU.  You mayn't know it, Dick, but you've been
walking for three weeks on the edge of a precipice with one foot
nearly over.  You've been in the most hideous danger, and I was
never more relieved in my life than when I saw your solemn old face
this morning.  You were only safe when he regarded our friendship
as broken and me out of the way and you his blind and devoted
slave."

"I'm that all right," I said.  "There's been nothing like it since
Uncle Tom's Cabin."

"Good.  That's the great thing, for it gives us a post in the
enemy's citadel.  But we're only at the beginning of a tremendous
fight and there's no saying how it will go.  Have you sized up
Medina?"

"Only a little bit.  Have you?"

"I'm on the road.  He's the most complex thing I've ever struck.
But now we've got to pool our knowledge.  Shall I start?"

"Yes.  Begin at the Thursday dinner.  What started you off then?
I could see that something he said intrigued you."

"I must begin before that.  You see, I'd heard a good deal about
Medina up and down the world and couldn't for the life of me place
him.  Everybody swore by him, but I had always a queer feeling
about the man.  I told you about Lavater.  Well, I had nothing to
go upon there except the notion that his influence upon my friend
had been bad.  So I began making inquiries, and, as you know, I've
more facilities than most people for finding things out.  I was
curious to know what he had been doing during the War.  The
ordinary story was that he had been for the first two years pretty
well lost in Central Asia, where he had gone on a scientific
expedition, and that after that he had been with the Russians, and
had finished up by doing great work with Denikin.  I went into that
story and discovered that he had been in Central Asia all right,
but had never been near any fighting front and had never been
within a thousand miles of Denikin.  That's what I meant when I
told you that I believed the man was one vast lie."

"He made everybody believe it."

"That's the point.  He made the whole world believe what he wanted.
Therefore he must be something quite out of the common--a
propagandist of genius.  That was my first conclusion.  But how did
he work?  He must have a wonderful organisation, but he must have
something more--the kind of personality which can diffuse itself
like an atmosphere and which, like an electric current, is not
weakened by distance.  He must also have unique hypnotic powers.  I
had made a study of that in the East and had discovered how little
we know here about the compulsion of spirit by spirit.  That, I
have always believed, is to-day, and ever has been, the true magic.
You remember I said something about that at the Thursday dinner?"

I nodded.  "I suppose you did it to try him?"

"Yes.  It wasn't very wise, for I might easily have frightened him.
But I was luckier than I deserved, and I drew from him a tremendous
confession."

"The Latin quotation?"

"The Latin quotation.  Sit vini abstemius qui hermeneuma tentat aut
hominum petit dominatum.  I nearly had a fit when I heard it.
Listen, Dick.  I've always had a craze for recondite subjects, and
when I was at Oxford I wasted my time on them when I should have
been working for my schools.  I only got a third in Greats, but I
acquired a lot of unusual information.  One of my subjects was
Michael Scott.  Yes--the wizard, only he wasn't a wizard, but a
very patient and original thinker.  He was a Borderer like me, and
I started out to write a life of him.  I kept up the study, and
when I was at the Paris Embassy I spent my leisure tracking him
through the libraries of Europe.  Most of his works were published
in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and mighty dull they are,
but there are some still in manuscript, and I had always the hope
of discovering more, for I was positive that the real Michael Scott
was something far bigger than the translator and commentator whom
we know.  I believed that he taught the mad Emperor Ferdinand some
queer things, and that the centre of his teaching was just how one
human soul could control another.  Well, as it turned out, I was
right.  I found some leaves of manuscript in the Bibliothèque
Nationale, which I was certain were to be attributed to Michael.
One of his best-known works, you remember, is the Physionomia, but
that is only a version of Aristotle.  This, too, was part of a
Physionomia, and a very different thing from the other, for it
purported to give the essence of the Secreta Secretorum--it would
take too long to explain about that--and the teaching of the
Therapeutae, with Michael's own comments.  It is a manual of the
arts of spiritual control--oh, amazingly up-to-date, I assure you,
and a long way ahead of our foolish psycho-analysts.  Well, that
quotation of Medina's comes from that fragment--the rare word
'hermeneuma' caught my attention as soon as he uttered it.  That
proved that Medina was a student of Michael Scott, and showed me
what was the bent of his mind."

"Well, he gave himself away then, and you didn't."

"Oh yes, I did.  You remember I asked him if he knew the guru who
lived at the foot of the Shansi pass as you go over to Kaikand?
That was a bad blunder, and it is on account of that question that
he has been trying to remove me from the earth.  For it was from
that guru that he learned most of his art."

"Was the guru's name Kharáma?" I asked.

Sandy stared as if he had seen a ghost.

"Now how on earth do you know that?"

"Simply because I spent an hour with him and Medina a few nights
ago."

"The devil you did!  Kharáma in London!  Lord, Dick, this is an
awesome business.  Quick, tell me every single thing that passed."

I told him as well as I remembered, and he seemed to forget his
alarm and to be well satisfied.  "This is tremendously important.
You see the point of Medina's talk?  He wants to rivet his control
over those three unfortunate devils, and to do that he is advised
to assert it in some environment similar to that of their past
lives.  That gives us a chance to get on their track.  And the
control can only be released by him who first imposed it!  I
happened to know that, but I was not sure that Medina knew it.  It
is highly important to have found this out."

"Finish your story," I begged him.  "I want to know what you have
been doing abroad?"

"I continued my studies in the Bibliothèque Nationale, and I found
that, as I suspected, Medina, or somebody like him, had got on to
the Michael Scott MS. and had had a transcript made of it.  I
pushed my researches further, for Michael wasn't the only pebble on
the beach, though he was the biggest.  Lord, Dick, it's a queer
business in a problem like ours to have to dig for help in the
debris of the Middle Ages.  I found out something--not much, but
something."

"And then?"

"Oh, all the time I was making inquiries about Medina's past--not
very fruitful--I've told you most of the results.  Then I went to
see Ram Dass--you remember my speaking about him.  I thought he was
in Munich, but I found him in Westphalia, keeping an eye on the
German industrials.  Don't go to Germany for a holiday, Dick; it's
a sad country and a comfortless.  I had to see Ram Dass, for he
happens to be the brother of Kharáma."

"What size of a fellow is Kharáma?" I asked.

Sandy's reply was:  "For knowledge of the practice unequalled but
only a second-class practitioner"--exactly what Medina had said.

"Ram Dass told me most of what I wanted to know.  But he isn't
aware that his brother is in Europe.  I rather fancy he thinks he
is dead. . . .  That's all I need tell you now.  Fire away, Dick,
and give me an exact account of your own doings."

I explained as best I could the gradual change in Medina's manner
from friendship to proprietorship.  I told how he had begun to talk
freely to me, as if I were a disciple, and I described that
extraordinary evening in Hill Street when I had met his mother."

"His mother!" Sandy exclaimed, and made me go over every incident
several times--the slap in the face, the spitting, my ultimate
fainting.  He seemed to enjoy it immensely.  "Good business," he
said.  "You never did a better day's work, old man."

"I have found the Blind Spinner at any rate," I said.

"Yes.  I had half guessed it.  I didn't mention it, but when I got
into the house in Gospel Oak as the electric light man, I found a
spinning-wheel in the back room, and they had been burning peat on
the hearth.  Well, that's Number One."

"I think I am on my way to find Number Two," I said, and I told him
of the talk I had overheard between the two about secundus and
sending "the doctor" somewhere, and of how I had discovered that
Dr. Newhover was starting this very day for the Skarso.  "It's the
first clear clue," I said, "and I think I ought to follow it up."

"Yes.  What do you propose to do?"

"I am travelling this evening on the Gudrun and I'm going to trail
the fellow till I find out his game.  I'm bound to act upon what
little information we've got."

"I agree.  But this means a long absence from London, and secundus
is only one of three."

"Just a week," I said.  "I've got sick leave from Medina for a
week, and I'm supposed to be having a rest cure at Fosse, with Mary
warding off visitors.  I've arranged with Archie Roylance to pick
me up in an aeroplane about the 28th and bring me back.  It doesn't
allow me much time, but an active man can do the deuce of a lot in
a week."

"Bravo!" he cried.  "That's your old moss-trooping self!"

"Do you approve?"

"Entirely.  And, whatever happens, you present yourself to Medina
on the 29th?  That leaves us about six weeks for the rest of the
job."

"More like five," I said gloomily, and I told him how I had learnt
that the gang proposed to liquidate by midsummer, and that
Macgillivray had therefore moved the date when he would take action
ten days forward.  "You see how we are placed.  He must collect all
the gang at the same moment, and we must release all three
hostages, if we can, at the same time.  The releasing mustn't be
done too soon or it will warn the gang.  Therefore if Macgillivray
strikes on the 10th of June, we must be ready to strike not earlier
than the 9th and, of course, not later."

"I see," he said, and was silent for a little.  "Have you anything
more to tell me?"

I ransacked my memory and remembered about Odell.  He wrote down
the name of the dancing club where I had seen that unprepossessing
butler.  I mentioned that I had asked Macgillivray to get on to his
dossier.

"You haven't told Macgillivray too much?" he inquired anxiously and
seemed relieved when I replied that I had never mentioned the
Medina business.

"Well, here's the position," he said at last.  "You go off for a
week hunting Number Two.  We are pretty certain that we have got
Number One.  Number Three--that nonsense about the fields of Eden
and the Jew with a dyed beard in a curiosity shop in Marylebone--
still eludes us.  And of course we have as yet no word of any of
the three hostages.  There's a terrible lot still to do.  How do
you envisage the thing, Dick?  Do you think of the three, the girl,
the young man, and the boy, shut up somewhere and guarded by
Medina's minions?  Do you imagine that if we find their places of
concealment we shall have done the job?"

"That was my idea."

He shook his head.  "It is far subtler than that.  Did no one ever
tell you that the best way of hiding a person is to strip him of
his memory?  Why is it that when a man loses his memory he is so
hard to find?  You see it constantly in the newspapers.  Even a
well-known figure, if he loses his memory and wanders away, is only
discovered by accident.  The reason is that the human personality
is identified far less by appearance than by its habits and mind.
Loss of memory means the loss of all true marks of identification,
and the physical look alters to correspond.  Medina has stolen
these three poor souls' memories and set them adrift like waifs.
David Warcliff may at this moment be playing in a London gutter
along with a dozen guttersnipes and his own father could scarcely
pick him out from the rest.  Mercot may be a dock labourer or a
deck hand, whom you wouldn't recognise if you met him, though you
had sat opposite him in a college hall every night for a year.  And
Miss Victor may be in a gaiety chorus or a milliner's assistant or
a girl in a dancing saloon. . . .  Wait a minute.  You saw Odell at
a dance-club?  There may be something in that."  I could see his
eyes abstracted in thought.

"There's another thing I forgot to mention," I said.  "Miss
Victor's fiancé is over here, staying in Carlton House Terrace.  He
is old Turpin, who used to be with the division--the Marquis de la
Tour du Pin."

Sandy wrote the name down.  "Her fiancé.  He may come in useful.
What sort of fellow?"

"Brave as a lion, but he'll want watching, for he's a bit of a
Gascon."

We went out after breakfast and sat in an arbour looking down a
shallow side-valley to the upper streams of the Windrush.  The
sounds of morning were beginning to rise from the little village
far away in the bottom, the jolt of a wagon, the "clink-clenk" from
the smithy, the babble of children at play.  In a fortnight the
may-fly would be here, and every laburnum and guelder rose in
bloom.  Sandy, who had been away from England for years, did not
speak for a long time, but drank in the sweet-scented peace of it.
"Poor devil," he said at last.  "He has nothing like this to love.
He can only hate."

I asked whom he was talking about, and he said "Medina."

"I'm trying to understand him.  You can't fight a man unless you
understand him, and in a way sympathise with him."

"Well, I can't say I sympathise with him, and I most certainly
don't understand him."

"Do you remember once telling me that he had no vanity?  You were
badly out there.  He has a vanity which amounts to delirium.

"This is how I read him," he went on.  "To begin with, there's a
far-away streak of the Latin in him, but he is mainly Irish, and
that never makes a good cross.  He's the déraciné Irish, such as
you find in America.  I take it that he imbibed from that terrible
old woman--I've never met her, but I see her plainly and I know
that she is terrible--he imbibed that venomous hatred of imaginary
things--an imaginary England, an imaginary civilisation, which they
call love of country.  There is no love in it.  They think there
is, and sentimentalise about an old simplicity, and spinning wheels
and turf fires and an uncouth language, but it's all hollow.
There's plenty of decent plain folk in Ireland, but his kind of
déraciné is a ghastly throw-back to something you find in the dawn
of history, hollow and cruel like the fantastic gods of their own
myths.  Well, you start with this ingrained hate."

"I agree about the old lady.  She looked like Lady Macbeth."

"But hate soon becomes conceit.  If you hate, you despise, and when
you despise you esteem inordinately the self which despises.  This
is how I look at it, but remember, I'm still in the dark and only
feeling my way to an understanding.  I see Medina growing up--I
don't know in what environment--conscious of great talents and
immense good looks, flattered by those around him till he thinks
himself a god.  His hatred does not die, but it is transformed into
a colossal egotism and vanity, which, of course, is a form of hate.
He discovers quite early that he has this remarkable hypnotic
power--Oh, you may laugh at it, because you happen to be immune
from it, but it is a big thing in the world for all that.  He
discovers another thing--that he has an extraordinary gift of
attracting people and making them believe in him.  Some of the
worst scoundrels in history have had it.  Now, remember his vanity.
It makes him want to play the biggest game.  He does not want to be
a king among pariahs; he wants to be the ruler of what is most
strange to him, what he hates and in an unwilling bitter way
admires.  So he aims at conquering the very heart, the very
soundest part of our society.  Above all he wants to be admired by
men and admitted into the innermost circle."

"He has succeeded all right," I said.

"He has succeeded, and that is the greatest possible tribute to his
huge cleverness.  Everything about him is dead right--clothes,
manner, modesty, accomplishments.  He has made himself an excellent
sportsman.  Do you know why he shoots so well, Dick?  By faith--or
fatalism, if you like.  His vanity doesn't allow him to believe
that he could miss. . . .  But he governs himself strictly.  In his
life he is practically an ascetic, and though he is adored by women
he doesn't care a straw for them.  There are no lusts of the flesh
in that kind of character.  He has one absorbing passion which
subdues all others--what our friend Michael Scott called 'hominum
dominatus.'"

"I see that.  But how do you explain the other side?"

"It is all the ancestral hate.  First of all, of course, he has got
to have money, so he gets it in the way Macgillivray knows about.
Second, he wants to build up a regiment of faithful slaves.  That's
where you come in, Dick.  There is always that inhuman hate at the
back of his egotism.  He wants to conquer in order to destroy, for
destruction is the finest meat for his vanity.  You'll find the
same thing in the lives of Eastern tyrants, for when a man aspires
to be like God he becomes an incarnate devil."

"It is a tough proposition," I observed dismally.

"It would be an impossible proposition, but for one thing.  He is
always in danger of giving himself away out of sheer arrogance.
Did you ever read the old Irish folk-lore?  Very beautiful it is,
but there is always something fantastic and silly which mars the
finest stories.  They lack the grave good-sense which you find in
the Norse sagas and, of course, in the Greek.  Well, he has this
freakish element in his blood.  That is why he sent out that rhyme
about the three hostages, which by an amazing concatenation of
chances put you on to his trail.  Our hope is--and, mind you, I
think it is a slender hope--that his vanity may urge him to further
indiscretions."

"I don't know how you feel about it," I said, "but I've got a
pretty healthy hatred for that lad.  I'm longing for a quiet life,
but I swear I won't settle down again till I've got even with him."

"You never will," said Sandy solemnly.  "Don't let's flatter
ourselves that you and I are going to down Medina.  We are not.  A
very wise man once said to me that in this life you could often get
success, if you didn't want victory.  In this case we're out for
success only.  We want to release the hostages.  Victory we can
never hope for.  Why, man, supposing we succeed fully, we'll never
be able to connect Medina with the thing.  His tools are faithful,
because he has stolen their souls and they work blindly under him.
Supposing Macgillivray rounds up all the big gang and puts the
halter round their necks.  There will be none of them to turn
King's evidence and give Medina away.  Why?  Because none of them
KNOW anything against him.  They're his unconscious agents, and
very likely most have never seen him.  And you may be pretty sure
that his banking accounts are too skilfully arranged to show
anything."

"All the same," I said stubbornly, "I have a notion that I'll be
able to put a spoke in his wheel."

"Oh, I dare say we can sow suspicion, but I believe he'll be too
strong for us.  He'll advance in his glorious career, and may
become Prime Minister--or Viceroy of India--what a chance the
second would be for him!--and publish exquisite little poetry
books, as finished and melancholy as The Shropshire Lad.
Pessimism, you know, is often a form of vanity."

At midday it was time for me to be off, if I was to be at Hull by
six o'clock.  I asked Sandy what he proposed to do next, and he
said he was undecided.  "My position," he said, "badly cramps my
form.  It would be ruination if Medina knew I was in England--
ruination for both you and me.  Mr. Alexander Thomson must lie very
low.  I must somehow get in touch with Macgillivray to hear if he
has anything about Odell.  I rather fancy Odell.  But there will
probably be nothing doing till you come back, and I think I'll have
a little fishing."

"Suppose I want to get hold of you?"

"Suppose nothing of the kind.  You mustn't make any move in my
direction.  That's our only safety.  If I want you I'll come to
you."

As I was starting he said suddenly:  "I've never met your wife,
Dick.  What about my going over to Fosse and introducing myself?"

"The very thing," I cried.  "She is longing to meet you.  But
remember that I'm supposed to be lying sick upstairs."

As I looked back he was waving his hand, and his face wore its
familiar elfish smile.



CHAPTER XI

HOW A GERMAN ENGINEER FOUND STRANGE FISHING


I got to Hull about six o'clock, having left my car at a garage in
York, and finished the journey by train.  I had my kit in a small
suit-case and rucksack, and I waited on the quay till I saw Dr.
Newhover arrive with a lot of luggage and a big rod-box.  When I
reckoned he would be in his cabin arranging his belongings, I went
on board myself, and went straight to my own cabin, which was a
comfortable two-berthed one well forward.  There I had sandwiches
brought me, and settled myself to doze and read for thirty-six
hours.

All that night and all next day it blew fairly hard, and I remained
quietly in my bunk, trying to read Boswell's Life of Johnson, and
thanking my stars that I hadn't lived a thousand years earlier and
been a Viking.  I didn't see myself ploughing those short steep
seas in an open galley.  I woke on the morning of the 23rd to find
the uneasy motion at an end, and, looking out of my port-hole, saw
a space of green sunlit water, a rocky beach, and the white and red
of a little town.  The Gudrun waited about an hour at Stavanger, so
I gave Dr. Newhover time to get on shore, before I had a hurried
breakfast in the saloon and followed him.  I saw him go off with
two men, and get on board a motor-launch which was lying beside one
of the jetties.  The coast was now clear, so I went into the town,
found the agents to whom Archie Roylance had cabled, and learned
that my own motor-launch was ready and waiting in the inner harbour
where the fishing-boats lie.  A clerk took me down there, and
introduced me to Johan, my skipper, a big, cheerful, bearded
Norwegian, who had a smattering of English.  I bought a quantity of
provisions, and by ten o'clock we were on the move.  I asked Johan
about the route to Merdal, and he pointed out a moving speck a
couple of miles ahead of us.  "That is Kristian Egge's boat," he
said.  "He carries an English fisherman to Merdal and we follow."
I got my glasses on the craft, and made out Newhover smoking in the
stern.

It was a gorgeous day, with that funny Northern light which makes
noon seem like early morning.  I enjoyed every hour of it, partly
because I had now a definite job before me, and partly because I
was in the open air to which I properly belonged.  I got no end of
amusement watching the wild life--the cormorants and eider-duck on
the little islands, and the seals, with heads as round as Medina's,
that slipped off the skerries at our approach.  The air was chilly
and fresh, but when we turned the corner of the Merdalfjord out of
the sea-wind and the sun climbed the sky it was as warm as June.  A
big flat island we passed, all short turf and rocky outcrops, was
pointed out to me by Johan as Flacksholm.  Soon we were shaping due
east in an inlet which was surrounded by dark steep hills, with the
snow lying in the gullies.  I had Boswell with me in two volumes;
the first I had read in the steamer, and the second I was now
starting on, when it fell overboard, through my getting up in a
hurry to look at a flock of duck.  So I presented the odd volume to
Johan, and surrendered myself to tobacco and meditation.

In the afternoon the inlet narrowed to a fjord, and the walls of
hill grew steeper.  They were noble mountains, cut sharp like the
edge of the Drakensberg, and crowned with a line of snow, so that
they looked like a sugar-coated cake that had been sliced.  Streams
came out of the upper snow-wreaths and hurled themselves down the
steeps--above a shimmering veil of mist, and below a torrent of
green water tumbling over pebbles to the sea.  The landscape and
the weather lulled me into a delectable peace which refused to be
disturbed by any "looking before or after," as some poet says.
Newhover was ahead of me--we never lost track of his launch--and it
was my business to see what he was up to and to keep myself out of
his sight.  The ways and means of it I left to fortune to provide.

By and by the light grew dimmer, and the fjord grew narrower, so
that dusk fell on us, though, looking back down the inlet, we could
see a bright twilight.  I assumed that Newhover would go on to
Merdal and the fjord's head, where the Skarso entered the sea, and
had decided to stop at Hauge, a village two miles short of it, on
the south shore.  We came to Hauge about half-past eight, in a
wonderful purple dusk, for the place lay right under the shadow of
a great cliff.  I gave Johan full instructions: he was to wait for
me and expect me when I turned up, and to provision himself from
the village.  On no account must he come up to Merdal, or go out of
sight or hail of the boat.  He seemed to relish the prospect of a
few days' idleness, for he landed me at a wooden jetty in great
good-humour, and wished me sport.  What he thought I was after I
cannot imagine, for I departed with a rucksack on my back and a
stout stick in my hand, which scarcely suggested the chase.

I was in good spirits myself as I stretched my legs on the road
which led from Hauge to Merdal.  The upper fjord lay black on my
left hand, the mountains rose black on my right, but though I
walked in darkness I could see twilight ahead of me, where the
hills fell back from the Skarso valley, that wonderful apple-green
twilight which even in spring is all the northern night.  I had
never seen it before, and I suppose something in my blood answered
to the place--for my father used to say that the Hannays came
originally from Norse stock.  There was a jolly crying of birds
from the waters, ducks and geese and oyster-catchers and sandpipers,
and now and then would come a great splash as if a salmon were
jumping in the brackish tides on his way to the Skarso. I was
thinking longingly of my rods left behind, when on turning a corner
the lights of Merdal showed ahead, and it seemed to me that I had
better be thinking of my next step.

I knew no Norwegian, but I counted on finding natives who could
speak English, seeing so many of them have been in England or
America.  Newhover, I assumed, would go to the one hotel, and it
was for me to find lodgings elsewhere.  I began to think this
spying business might be more difficult than I had thought, for if
he saw me he would recognise me, and that must not happen.  I was
ready, of course, with a story of a walking tour, but he would be
certain to suspect, and certain to let Medina know. . . .  Well, a
lodging for the night was my first business, and I must start
inquiries.  Presently I came to the little pier of Merdal, which
was short of the village itself.  There were several men sitting
smoking on barrels and coils of rope, and one who stood at the end
looking out to where Kristian Egge's boat, which had brought
Newhover, lay moored.  I turned down the road to it, for it seemed
a place to gather information.

I said good evening to the men, and was just about to ask them for
advice about quarters, when the man who had been looking out to sea
turned round at the sound of my voice.  He seemed an oldish fellow,
with rather a stoop in his back, wearing an ancient shooting-
jacket.  The light was bad, but there was something in the cut of
his jib that struck me as familiar, though I couldn't put a name to
it.

I spoke to the Norwegians in English, but it was obvious that I had
hit on a bunch of indifferent linguists.  They shook their heads,
and one pointed to the village, as if to tell me that I would be
better understood there.  Then the man in the shooting-jacket
spoke.

"Perhaps I can help," he said.  "There is a good inn in Merdal,
which at this season is not full."

He spoke excellent English, but it was obvious that he wasn't an
Englishman.  There was an unmistakable emphasis of the gutturals.

"I doubt the inn may be too good for my purse," I said.  "I am on a
walking-tour and must lodge cheaply."

He laughed pleasantly.  "There may be accommodation elsewhere.
Peter Bojer may have a spare bed.  I am going that way, sir, and
can direct you."

He had turned towards me, and his figure caught the beam of the
riding-light of the motor-launch.  I saw a thin sunburnt face with
a very pleasant expression, and an untidy grizzled beard.  Then I
knew him, and I could have shouted with amazement at the chance
which had brought us two together again.

We walked side by side up the jetty road and on to the highway.

"I think," I said, "that we have met before, Herr Gaudian."

He stopped short.  "That is my name . . . but I do not . . . I do
not think . . ."

"Do you remember a certain Dutchman called Cornelius Brandt whom
you entertained at your country house one night in December '15?"

He looked searchingly in my face.

"I remember," he said.  "I also remember a Mr. Richard Hanau, one
of Guggenheim's engineers, with whom I talked at Constantinople."

"The same," I said.  For a moment I was not clear how he was going
to take the revelation, but his next action reassured me, and I saw
that I had not been wrong in my estimate of the one German I have
ever wholeheartedly liked.  He began to laugh, a friendly tolerant
laugh.

"Kritzi Turken!" he cried.  "It is indeed romantic.  I have often
wondered whether I should see or hear of you again, and behold! you
step out of the darkness on a Norwegian fjord."

"You bear no malice?" I said.  "I served my country as you served
yours.  I played fair, as you played fair."

"Malice!" he cried.  "But we are gentlemen; also we are not
children.  I rejoice to see that you have survived the War.  I have
always wished you well, for you are a very bold and brave man."

"Not a bit of it," I said--"only lucky."

"By what name shall I call you now--Brandt or Hanau?"

"My name is Richard Hannay, but for the present I am calling myself
Cornelius Brand--for a reason which I am going to tell you."  I had
suddenly made up my mind to take Gaudian into my full confidence.
He seemed to have been sent by Providence for that purpose, and I
was not going to let such a chance slip.

But at my words he stopped short.

"Mr. Hannay," he said, "I do not want your confidence.  You are
still engaged, I take it, in your country's service?  I do not
question your motive, but remember I am a German, and I cannot be
party to the pursuit of one of my countrymen, however base I may
think him."

I could only stare.  "But I am not in my country's service," I
stammered.  "I left it at the Armistice, and I'm a farmer now."

"Do English farmers travel in Norway under false names?"

"That's a private business which I want to explain to you.  I
assure you there is no German in it.  I want to keep an eye on the
doings of a fashionable English doctor."

"I must believe you," he said after a pause.  "But two hours ago a
man arrived in the launch you see anchored out there.  He is a
fisherman and is now at the inn.  That man is known to me--too well
known.  He is a German, who during the War served Germany in secret
ways, in America and elsewhere.  I did not love him and I think he
did my country grievous ill, but that is a matter for us Germans to
settle, and not for foreigners."

"I know your man as Dr. Newhover of Wimpole Street."

"So?" he said.  "He has taken again his father's name, which was
Neuhofer.  We knew him as Kristoffer.  What do you want with him?"

"Nothing that any honest German wouldn't approve," and there and
then I gave him a sketch of the Medina business.  He exclaimed in
horror.

"Mr. Hannay," he said hesitatingly, "you are being honest with me?"

"I swear by all that's holy I am telling you the plain truth, and
the full truth.  Newhover may have done anything you jolly well
like in the War.  That's all washed out.  I'm after him to get a
line on a foul business which is English in origin.  I want to put
a spoke in the wheel of English criminals, and to save innocent
lives.  Besides, Newhover is only a subordinate.  I don't propose
to raise a hand against him, only to find out what he is doing."

He held out his hand.  "I believe you," he said, "and if I can I
will help you."

He conducted me through the long street of the village, past the
inn, where I supposed Newhover was now going to bed, and out on to
the road which ran up the Skarso valley.  We came in sight of the
river, a mighty current full of melted snow, sweeping in noble
curves through the meadowland in that uncanny dusk.  It appeared
that he lodged with Peter Bojer, who had a spare bed, and when we
reached the cottage, which stood a hundred yards from the highway
on the very brink of the stream, Peter was willing to let me have
it.  His wife gave us supper--an omelette, smoked salmon, and some
excellent Norwegian beer--and after it I got out my map and had a
survey of the neighbourhood.

Gaudian gave me a grisly picture of the condition of his own
country.  It seemed that the downfall of the old régime had carried
with it the decent wise men like himself, who had opposed its
follies, but had lined up with it on patriotic grounds when the War
began.  He said that Germany was no place for a moderate man, and
that the power lay with the bloated industrials, who were piling up
fortunes abroad while they were wrecking their country at home.
The only opposition, he said, came from the communists, who were
half-witted, and the monarchists, who wanted the impossible.
"Reason is not listened to, and I fear there is no salvation till
my poor people have passed through the last extremity.  You foreign
Powers have hastened our destruction, when you had it in your hands
to save us.  I think you have meant well, but you have been blind,
for you have not supported our moderate men and have by your
harshness played the game of the wreckers among us."

It appeared that he was very poor now, like all the professional
classes.  I thought it odd that this man, who had a world-wide
reputation as an engineer, couldn't earn a big income in any
country he chose.  Then I saw that it was because he had lost the
wish to make money.  He had seen too deep into the vanity of human
wishes to have any ambition left.  He was unmarried, with no near
relations, and he found his pleasure in living simply in remote
country places and watching flowers and beasts.  He was a keen
fisherman, but couldn't afford a good beat, so he leased a few
hundred yards from a farmer, who had not enough water to get a
proper rent for it, and he did a lot of trout fishing in the tarns
high up in the hills and in the Skarso above the foss.  As he sat
facing me beyond the stove, with his kind sad brown eyes and his
rugged face, I thought how like he was to a Scottish moorland
shepherd.  I had liked him when I first saw him in Stumm's company,
but now I liked him so much that because of him I was prepared to
think better of the whole German race.

I asked him if he had heard of any other Englishman in the valley--
anyone of the name of Jason, for instance.  He said no; he had been
there for three weeks, but the fishing did not begin for another
fortnight, and foreign visitors had not yet arrived.  Then I asked
him about the saeter farms, and he said that few of these were open
yet, since the high pastures were not ready.  One or two on the
lower altitudes might be already inhabited, but not many, though
the winter had been a mild one and the spring had come early.
"Look at the Skarso," he said.  "Usually in April it is quite low,
for the snowfields have not begun to melt.  But to-day it is as
brimming as if it were the middle of May."

He went over the map with me--an inch-to-a-mile one I had got in
London--and showed me the lie of the land.  The saeters were mostly
farther up the river, reached by paths up the tributary glens.
There was a good road running the length of the valley, but no side
roads to connect with the parallel glens, the Uradal and the
Bremendal.  I found indeed one track marked on the map, which led
to the Uradal by a place called Snaasen.  "Yes," said Gaudian,
"that is the only thing in the way of what you soldiers would call
lateral communications.  I've walked it, and I'm sorry for the man
who tries the road in bad weather.  You can see the beginning of
the track from this house; it climbs up beside the torrent just
across the valley.  Snaasen is more or less inhabited all the year
round, and I suppose you would call it a kind of saeter.  It is a
sort of shelter hut for travellers taking that road, and in summer
it is a paradise for flowers.  You would be surprised at the way
the natives can cross the hills even in winter.  Snaasen belongs to
the big farm two miles upstream, which carries with it the best
beat on the Skarso.  Also there is said to be first-class ryper-
shooting later in the year, and an occasional bear.  By the way, I
rather fancy someone told me that the whole thing was owned by, or
had been leased to, an Englishman. . . .  You are rich, you see,
and you do not leave much in Norway for poor people."

I slept like a log on a bed quite as hard as a log, and woke to a
brilliant blue morning, with the birds in the pine-woods fairly
riotous, and snipe drumming in the boggy meadows, and the Skarso
coming down like a sea.  I could see the water almost up to the
pathway of a long wooden bridge that led to the big farm Gaudian
had spoken of.  I got my glass on the torrent opposite, and saw the
track to Snaasen winding up beside it till it was lost in a fold of
the ravine.  Above it I scanned the crown of the ridge, which was
there much lower than on the sides of the fjord.  There was no snow
to be seen, and I knew by a sort of instinct that if I got up there
I should find a broad tableland of squelching pastures with old
snowdrifts in the hollows and tracts of scrubby dwarf birch.

While I was waiting for breakfast I heard a noise from the high-
road, and saw a couple of the little conveyances they call
stolkjaeres passing.  My glass showed me Dr. Newhover in the first
and a quantity of luggage in the second.  They took the road across
the wooden bridge to the big farm, and I could see the splash of
their wheels at the far end of it, where the river was over the
road.  So Dr. Newhover, or some friend of his, was the lessee of
this famous fishing, which carried with it the shooting on the
uplands behind it.  I rather thought I should spend the day finding
out more about Snaasen, and I counted myself lucky to have got
quarters in such an excellent observation-post as Peter Bojer's
cottage.

I wouldn't go near the track to Snaasen till I saw what Newhover
did, so Gaudian and I sat patiently at Peter Bojer's window.  About
ten o'clock a couple of ponies laden with kit in charge of a tow-
headed boy appeared at the foot of the track and slowly climbed up
the ravine.  An hour later came Dr. Newhover, in a suit that looked
like khaki and wearing a long mackintosh cape.  He strode out well
and breasted the steep path like a mountaineer.  I wanted to go off
myself in pursuit of him, keeping well behind, but Gaudian very
sensibly pointed out how sparse the cover was, and that if he saw a
man on that lonely road he would certainly want to know all about
him.

We sat out-of-doors after luncheon in a pleasant glare of sun, and
by and by were rewarded by the sight of the pack-ponies returning,
laden with a different size and shape of kit.  They did not stop at
the big farm, but crossed the wooden bridge and took the high-road
for Merdal.  I concluded that this was the baggage of the man whom
Newhover had replaced, and that he was returning to Stavanger in
Kristian Egge's boat.  About tea-time the man himself appeared--
Jason, or whatever his name was.  I saw two figures come down the
ravine by the Snaasen road, and stop at the foot and exchange
farewells.  One of them turned to go back, and I saw that this was
Newhover, climbing with great strides like a man accustomed to
hills.  The other crossed the bridge, and passed within hail of us--
a foppish young man, my glass told me, wearing smart riding-
breeches and with an aquascutum slung over his shoulder.

I was very satisfied with what I had learned.  I had seen Newhover
relieve his predecessor, just as Medina had planned, and I knew
where he was lodged.  Whatever his secret was it was hidden in
Snaasen, and to Snaasen I would presently go.  Gaudian advised me
to wait till after supper, when there would be light enough to find
the way and not too much to betray us.  So we both lay down and
slept for four hours, and took the road about ten-thirty as fresh
as yearlings.

It was a noble night, windless and mild, and, though darkness
lurked in the thickets and folds of hill, the sky was filled with a
translucent amethyst glow.  I felt as if I were out on some
sporting expedition and enjoyed every moment of the walk with that
strung-up expectant enjoyment which one gets in any form of chase.
The torrent made wild music on our left hand, grumbling in pits and
shooting over ledges with a sound like a snowslip.  There was every
kind of bird about, but I had to guess at them by their sounds and
size, for there was no colour in that shadowy world.

By and by we reached the top and had a light cold wind in our faces
blowing from the snowy mountains to the north.  The place seemed a
huge broken tableland and every hollow glistened as if filled with
snow or water.  There were big dark shapes ahead of us which I took
to be the hills beyond the Uradal.  Here it was not so easy to
follow the track, which twined about in order to avoid the boggy
patches, and Gaudian and I frequently strayed from it and took
tosses over snags of juniper.  Once I was up against an iron pole,
and to my surprise saw wires above.  Gaudian nodded.  "Snaasen is
on the telephone," he said.

I had hoped to see some light in the house, so as to tell it from a
distance.  But we did not realise its presence till we were close
upon it, standing a little back from the path, as dark as a
tombstone.  The inhabitants must have gone early to bed, for there
was no sign of life within.  It was a two-storeyed erection of
wood, stoutly built, with broad eaves to the roof.  Adjacent there
stood a big barn or hayshed, and behind it some other outbuildings
which might have been byres or dairies.  We walked stealthily round
the place, and were amazed at its utter stillness.  There was no
sound of an animal moving in the steading, and when a brace of
mallards flew overhead we started at the noise like burglars at the
creaking of a board.

Short of burglary there was nothing further to be done, so we took
the road home and scrambled at a great pace down the ravine, for it
was chilly on the tableland.  Before we went to bed, we had settled
that next day Gaudian should go up to Snaasen like an ordinary
tourist and make some excuse to get inside, while I would take a
long tramp over the plateau, keeping well away from the house in
case there might be something ado in that barren region.

Next morning saw the same cloudless weather, and we started off
about ten o'clock.  I had a glorious but perfectly futile day.  I
went up the Skarso to well above the foss, and then climbed the
north wall of the valley by a gulley choked with brushwood, which
gave out long before the top and left me to finish my ascent by way
of some very loose screes and unpleasant boiler-plates.  I reached
the plateau much farther to the east, where it was at a greater
altitude, so that I looked down upon the depression where ran the
track to Uradal.  I struck due north among boggy meadows and the
remains of old snowdrifts, through whose fringes flowers were
showing, till I was almost on the edge of Uradal, and looked away
beyond it to a fine cluster of rock peaks streaked and patched with
ice.  The Uradal glen was so deep cut that I could not see into it,
so I moved west and struck the Merdal track well to the north of
Snaasen.  After that I fetched a circuit behind Snaasen, and had a
good view of the house from the distance of about half a mile.  Two
of its chimneys were smoking, and there were sounds of farm work
from the yard.  There was no sign of live stock, but it looked as
if someone was repairing the sheds against the summer season.  I
waited for more than an hour, but I saw no human being, so I turned
homeward, and made a careful descent by the ravine, reconnoitring
every corner in case I should run into Newhover.

I found that Gaudian had returned before me.  When I asked him what
luck he had had he shook his head.

"I played the part of a weary traveller, and asked for milk.  An
ugly woman gave me beer.  She said she had no milk, till the cattle
came up from the valleys.  She would not talk and she was deaf.
She said an English Herr had the ryper shooting, but lived at
Tryssil.  That is the name of the big farm by the Skarso.  She
would tell me no more, and I saw no other person.  But I observed
that Snaasen is larger than I thought.  There are rooms built out
at the back, which we thought were barns.  There is ample space
there for a man to be concealed."

I asked him if he had any plan, and he said he thought of going
boldly up next day and asking for Newhover, whom he could say he
had seen passing Peter Bojer's cottage.  He disliked the man, but
had never openly quarrelled with him.  I approved of that, but in
the meantime I resolved to do something on my own account that
night.  I was getting anxious, for I felt that my time was growing
desperately short; it was now the 25th of April and I was due back
in London on the 29th, and, if I failed to turn up, Medina would
make inquiries at Fosse Manor and suspect.  I had made up my mind
to go alone that night to Snaasen and do a little pacific burgling.

I set out about eleven, and I put my pistol in my pocket, as well
as my flask and sandwiches and electric torch, for it occurred to
me that anything might happen.  I made good going across the bridge
and up the first part of the track, for I wanted to have as much
time as possible for my job.  My haste was nearly my undoing, for
instead of reconnoitring and keeping my ears open, I strode up the
hill as if I had been walking to make a record.  It was by the
mercy of Heaven that I was at a point where an outjutting boulder
made a sharp corner when I was suddenly aware that someone was
coming down the road.  I flattened myself into the shadow, and saw
Newhover.

He did not see or hear me, for he, too, was preoccupied.  He was
descending at a good pace, and he must have started in a hurry, for
he had no hat.  His longish blond locks were all tousled, and his
face seemed sharper than usual with anxiety.

I wondered what on earth had happened, and my first notion was to
follow him downhill.  And then it occurred to me that his absence
gave me a sovereign chance at Snaasen.  But if the household was
astir there might be other travellers on the road and it behoved me
to go warily.  Now, near the top of the ravine, just under the edge
of the tableland, there was a considerable patch of wood--birches,
juniper, and wind-blown pines--for there the torrent flowed in a
kind of cup, after tumbling off the plateau and before hurling
itself down to the valley.  Here it was possible to find an
alternative road to the path, so I dived in among the matted
whortleberries and moss-covered boulders.

I had not gone ten yards before I realised that there was somebody
or something else in the thicket.  There was a sound of plunging
ahead of me, then the crack of a rotten log, then the noise of a
falling stone.  It might be a beast, but it struck me that no wild
thing would move so awkwardly.  Only human boots make that kind of
clumsy slipping.

If this was somebody from Snaasen, what was he doing off the track?
Could he be watching me?  Well, I proposed to do a little stalking
on my own account.  I got down on all-fours and crawled in cover in
the direction of the sound.  It was very dark there, but I could
see a faint light where the scrub thinned round the stream.

Soon I was at the edge of the yeasty water.  The sounds had
stopped, but suddenly they began again a little farther up, and
there was a scuffle as if part of the bank had given way.  The man,
whoever he was, seemed to be trying to cross.  That would be a
dangerous thing to do, for the torrent was wide and very strong.  I
crawled a yard or two up-stream, and then in an open patch saw what
was happening.

A fallen pine made a crazy bridge to a great rock, from which the
rest of the current might conceivably be leaped.  A man was
kneeling on the trunk and beginning to move along it. . . .  But as
I looked the rotten thing gave way and the next I saw he was
struggling in the foam.  It was all the matter of a fraction of a
second, and before I knew I was leaning over the brink and
clutching at an arm.  I gripped it, braced one leg against a rock,
and hauled the owner close into the edge out of the main current.
He seemed to have taken no hurt, for he found a foothold, and
scarcely needed my help to scramble up beside me.

Then to my surprise he went for me tooth and nail.  It was like the
assault of a wild beast, and its suddenness rolled me on my back.
I felt hands on my throat, and grew angry, caught the wrists and
wrenched them away.  I flung a leg over his back and got uppermost,
and after that he was at my mercy.  He seemed to realise it, too,
for he lay quite quiet and did not struggle.

"What the devil do you mean?" I said angrily.  "You'd have been
drowned but for me, and then you try to throttle me."

I got out my torch and had a look at him.  It was the figure of a
slight young man, dressed in rough homespun such as Norwegian farm
lads wear.  His face was sallow and pinched, and decorated with the
most preposterous wispish beard, and his hair was cut roughly as if
with garden shears.  The eyes that looked up at me were as scared
and wild as a deer's.

"What the devil do you mean?" I repeated, and then to my surprise
he replied in English.

"Let me up," he said, "I'm too tired to fight.  I'll go back with
you."

Light broke in on me.

"Don't you worry, old chap," I said soothingly.  "You're going back
with me, but not to that infernal saeter.  We've met before, you
know.  You're Lord Mercot, and I saw you ride 'Red Prince' last
year at the 'House' Grind."

He was sitting up, staring at me like a ghost.

"Who are you?  Oh, for God's sake, who are you?"

"Hannay's my name.  I live at Fosse Manor in the Cotswolds.  You
once came to dine with us before the Heythrop Ball."

"Hannay!"  He repeated stumblingly--"I remember--I think--remember--
remember Lady Hannay.  Yes--and Fosse.  It's on the road between--"

He scrambled to his feet.

"Oh, sir, get me away.  He's after me--the new devil with the long
face, the man who first brought me here.  I don't know what has
happened to me, but I've been mad a long time, and I've only got
sane in the last days.  Then I remembered--and I ran away.  But
they're after me.  Oh, quick, quick!  Let's hide."

"See here, my lad," I said, and I took out my pistol.  "The first
man that lays a hand on you I shoot, and I don't miss.  You're as
safe now as if you were at home.  But this is no place to talk, and
I've the devil of a lot to tell you.  I'm going to take you down
with me to my lodging in the valley.  But they're hunting you, so
we've got to go cannily.  Are you fit to walk?  Well, do exactly as
I tell you, and in an hour you'll be having a long drink and
looking up time-tables."

I consider that journey back a creditable piece of piloting.  The
poor boy was underfed and shaking with excitement, but he stepped
out gallantly, and obeyed me like a lamb.  We kept off the track so
as to muffle our steps in grass, and took every corner like scouts
in a reconnaissance.  We met Newhover coming back, but we heard him
a long way off and were in good cover when he passed.  He was
hurrying as furiously as ever and I could hear his laboured
breathing.  After that we had a safe road over the meadow, but we
crossed the bridge most circumspectly, making sure that there was
no one in the landscape.  About half-past one I pushed open
Gaudian's bedroom window, woke him, and begged him to forage for
food and drink.

"Did you get into Snaasen?" he asked sleepily.

"No, but I've found what we've been looking for.  One of the three
hostages is at this moment sitting on your cabin-box."



CHAPTER XII

I RETURN TO SERVITUDE


We fed Mercot with tinned meats and biscuits and bottled beer, and
he ate like a famished schoolboy.  The odd thing was that his
terror had suddenly left him.  I suppose the sight of me, which had
linked him up definitely with his past, had made him feel a waif no
more, and, once he was quite certain who he was, his natural
courage returned.  He got great comfort from looking at Gaudian,
and indeed I could not imagine a better sedative than a sight of
that kind, wise old face.  I lent him pyjamas, rubbed him down to
prevent a chill from his ducking, put him in my bed, and had the
satisfaction of seeing him slip off at once into deep slumber.

Next morning Gaudian and I interviewed Peter Bojer and explained
that a young English friend of ours had had an accident, while on a
walking tour, and might be with us for a day or two.  It was not
likely that Newhover would advertise his loss, and in any case
Peter was no gossip, and Gaudian, who had known him for years, let
him see that we wanted the fact of a guest being with us kept as
quiet as possible.  The boy slept till nearly midday, while I kept
a watch on the road.  Newhover appeared early, and went down to
Merdal village, where he spent the better part of the forenoon.  He
was probably making inquiries, but they were bound in his own
interest to be discreet ones.  Then he returned to Tryssil, and
later I saw a dejected figure tramping up the Snaasen track.  He
may have thought that the body of the fugitive was in some pool of
the torrent or being swirled down by the Skarso to the sea, and I
imagined that that scarcely fitted in with his instructions.

When Mercot awoke at last and had his breakfast he looked a
different lad.  His eyes had lost their fright, and though he
stuttered badly and seemed to have some trouble in collecting his
wits, he had obviously taken hold of himself.  His great desire was
to get clean, and that took some doing, for he could not have had a
bath for weeks.  Then he wanted to borrow my razor and shave his
beard, but I managed to prevent him in time, for I had been
thinking the thing out, and I saw that that would never do.  So far
as I could see, he had recovered his memory, but there were still
gaps in it; that is to say, he remembered all his past perfectly
well till he left Oxford on February 17th, and he remembered the
events of the last few days, but between the two points he was
still hazy.

On returning to his rooms that February evening he had found a note
about a horse he was trying to buy, an urgent note asking him to
come round at once to certain stables.  He had just time for this,
before dressing for dinner, so he dashed out of the house--meeting
nobody, as it chanced, on the stairs, and, as the night was foggy,
being seen by no one in the streets.  After that his memory was a
blank.  He had wakened in a room in London, which he thought was a
nursing home, and had seen a doctor--I could picture that doctor--
and had gone to sleep again.  After that his recollection was like
a black night studded with little points of light which were
physical sensations.  He remembered being very cold and sometimes
very tired, he recollected the smell of paraffin, and of mouldy
hay, and of a treacly drink which made him sick.  He remembered
faces, too, a cross old woman who cursed him, a man who seemed
to be always laughing, and whose laugh he feared more than
curses. . . .

I suppose that Medina's spell must have been wearing thin during
these last days, and that the keeper, Jason, or whoever he was,
could not revive it.  For Mercot had begun to see Jason no longer
as a terror but as an offence--an underbred young bounder whom he
detested.  And with this clearing of the foreground came a
lightening of the background.  He saw pictures of his life at
Alcester, at first as purely objective things, but soon as in some
way connected with himself.  Then longing started, passionate
longing for something which he knew was his own. . . .  It was a
short step from that to the realisation that he was Lord Mercot,
though he happened to be clad like a tramp and was as dirty as a
stoker.  And then he proceeded to certain halting deductions.
Something bad had happened to him: he was in a foreign land--which
land he didn't know: he was being ill-treated and kept prisoner; he
must escape and get back to his old happy world.  He thought of
escape quite blindly, without any plan; if only he could get away
from that accursed saeter, he would remember better, things would
happen to him, things would come back to him.

Then Jason went and Newhover came, and Newhover drove him half
crazy with fear, for the doctor's face was in some extraordinary
way mixed up with his confused memory of the gaps between the old
world and the new.  He was mad to escape now, but rather to escape
from Newhover than to reach anywhere.  He watched for his chance,
and found it about eight o'clock the evening before, when the
others in the house were at supper.  Some instinct had led him
towards Merdal.  He had heard footsteps behind him and had taken to
the thicket. . . .  I appeared, an enemy as he thought, and he had
despairingly flung himself on me.  Then I had spoken his name, and
that fixed the wavering panorama of his memory.  He "came to
himself" literally, and was now once more the undergraduate of
Christ Church, rather shell-shocked and jumpy, but quite sane.

The question which worried me was whether the cure was complete,
whether Newhover could act as Medina's deputy and resurrect the
spell.  I did not believe that he could, but I wasn't certain.
Anyhow it had to be risked.

Mercot repeated his request for the loan of my razor.  He was
smoking a Turkish cigarette as if every whiff took him nearer
Elysium.  Badly shorn, ill-clad, and bearded as he was, he had
still the ghost of the air of the well-to-do, sporting young men.
He wanted to know when the steamer sailed, but there seemed no
panic now in his impatience.

"Look here," I said.  "I don't think you can start just yet.
There's a lot I want to tell you now you're able to hear it."

I gave him a rough summary of Macgillivray's story, and the tale of
the three hostages.  I think he found it comforting to know that
there were others in the same hole as himself.  "By Jove!" he said,
"what a damnable business!  And I'm the only one you've got on the
track of.  No word of the girl and the little boy?"

"No word!"

"Poor devils," he said, but I do not think he really took in the
situation.

"So you see how we are placed.  Macgillivray's round-up is fixed
for the 10th of June.  We daren't release the hostages till the
9th, for otherwise the gang would suspect.  They have everything
ready, as I've told you, for their own liquidation.  Also we can't
release one without the others, unless by the 9th of June we have
given up hope of the others.  Do you see what I mean?"

He didn't.  "All I want is to get home in double-quick time," he
said.

"I don't wonder.  But you must see that that is impossible, unless
we chuck in our hand."

He stared at me, and I saw fright beginning to return to his eyes.

"Do you mean that you want me to go back to that bloody place?"

"That's what I mean.  If you think it out, you'll see it's the only
way.  We must do nothing to spoil the chances of the other two.
You're a gentleman, and are bound to play the game."

"But I can't," he cried.  "Oh, my God, you can't ask me to."  There
were tears in his voice, and his eyes were wild.

"It's a good deal to ask, but I know you will do it.  There's not a
scrap of danger now, for you have got back your memory, and you
know where you are.  It's up to you to play a game with your
gaoler.  He is the dupe now.  You fill the part of the half-witted
farm-boy and laugh at him all the time in your sleeve.  Herr
Gaudian will be waiting down here to keep an eye on you, and when
the time is ripe--and it won't be more than five weeks--I give you
full permission to do anything you like with Dr. Newhover."

"I can't, I can't," he wailed, and his jaw dropped like a scared
child's.

Then Gaudian spoke.  "I think we had better leave the subject for
the present.  Lord Mercot will do precisely what he thinks right.
You have sprung the thing on him too suddenly.  I think it might be
a good plan if you went for a walk, Hannay.  Try the south side of
the foss--there's some very pretty scrambling to be had there."

He spoke to me at the door.  "The poor boy is all in pieces.  You
cannot ask him for a difficult decision when his nerves are still
raw.  Will you leave him with me?  I have had some experience in
dealing with such cases."

When I got back for supper, after a climb which exercised every
muscle in my body, I found Gaudian teaching Mercot a new patience
game.  We spent a very pleasant evening, and I noticed that Gaudian
led the talk to matters in which the boy could share, and made him
speak of himself.  We heard about his racing ambitions, his desire
to ride in the Grand National, his hopes for his polo game.  It
appeared that he was destined for the Guards, but he was to be
allowed a year's travel when he left the 'Varsity, and we planned
out an itinerary for him.  Gaudian, who had been almost everywhere
in the world, told him of places in Asia where no tourist had ever
been and where incredible sport was to be had in virgin forest, and
I pitched him some yarns about those few districts of Africa which
are still unspoiled.  He got very keen, for he had a bit of the
explorer in him, and asked modestly if we thought he could pull off
certain plans we had suggested.  We told him there was no doubt
about it.  "It's not as tough a proposition as riding in the
National," I said.

When we had put him to bed, Gaudian smiled as if well pleased.  "He
has begun to get back his confidence," he said.

He slept for twelve hours, and when he woke I had gone out, for I
thought it better to leave him in Gaudian's hands.  I had to settle
the business that day, for it was now the 27th.  I walked down the
fjord to Hauge, and told Johan to be ready to start next morning.
I asked him about the weather, which was still cloudless, and he
stared at the sky and sniffed, and thought it would hold for a day
or two.  "But rain is coming," he added, "and wind.  The noise of
the foss is too loud."

When I returned Gaudian met me at the door.  "The boy has
recovered," he said.  "He will speak to you himself.  He is a brave
boy and will do a hard task well."

It was a rather shy and self-conscious Mercot that greeted me.

"I'm afraid I behaved rather badly yesterday, sir.  I was feeling a
bit rattled, and I'm ashamed of myself, for I've always rather
fancied my nerve."

"My dear chap," I said, "you've been through enough to crack the
nerve of a buffalo."

"I want to say that of course I'll do what you want.  I must play
the game by the others.  That poor little boy!  And I remember Miss
Victor quite well--I once stayed in the same house with her.  I'll
go back to the saeter when you give the word.  Indeed, I'm rather
looking forward to it.  I promise to play the half-wit so that Dr.
Newhover will think me safe in the bag.  All I ask is that you let
me have my innings with him when the time comes.  I've a biggish
score to settle."

"Indeed I promise that.  Look here, Mercot, if you don't mind my
saying it, I think you're behaving uncommonly well.  You're a
gallant fellow."

"Oh, that's all right," he said, blushing.  "When do you want me to
start?  If it's possible, I'd like another night in a decent bed."

"You shall have it.  Early to-morrow morning we'll accompany you to
the prison door.  You've got to gibber when you see Newhover, and
pretend not to be able to give any account of your doings.  I leave
you to put up a camouflage.  The next five weeks will be infernally
dull for you, but you must just shut your teeth and stick it out.
Remember, Gaudian will be down here all the time and in touch with
your friends, and when the day comes you will take your
instructions from him.  And, by the way, I'm going to leave you my
pistol.  I suppose you can keep it concealed, for Newhover is not
likely to search your pockets.  Don't use it, of course, but it may
be a comfort to you to know that you have it."

He took it gladly.  "Don't be afraid I'll use it.  What I'm keeping
for Newhover is the best hiding man ever had.  He's a bit above my
weight, but I don't mind that."

Very early next morning we woke Mercot, and, while the sky was
turning from sapphire to turquoise, took our way through the hazy
meadows and up the Snaasen track.  We left it at the summit, and
fetched a circuit round by the back of the saeter, but first we
made Mercot roll in the thicket till he had a very grubby face and
plenty of twigs and dust in his untidy hair.  Then the two of us
shook hands with him, found a lair in a patch of juniper, and
watched him go forward.

A forlorn figure he looked in that cold half-light as he approached
the saeter door.  But he was acting his part splendidly, for he
stumbled with fatigue, dropped heavily against the door, and beat
on it feebly.  It seemed a long time till it opened, and then he
appeared to shrink back in terror.  The old woman cried out shrilly
to summon someone from within, and presently Newhover came out in a
dressing-gown.  He caught Mercot by the shoulder and shook him, and
that valiant soul behaved exactly like a lunatic, shielding his
head and squealing like a rabbit.  Finally we saw him dragged
indoors. . . .  It was horrible to leave him like that, but I
comforted myself with the thought of what Newhover would be like in
five weeks' time.

We raced back to Peter Bojer's and after a hasty breakfast started
off for Hauge.  I settled with Gaudian that he was to report any
developments to me by cable, and I was to do the same to him.  When
the day of release was fixed, he was to go boldly up to Snaasen and
deal with the doctor as he liked, making sure that he could not
communicate with Medina for a day or two.  A motor-launch would be
waiting at Merdal to take the two to Stavanger, for I wanted him to
see Mercot on board the English steamer.  I arranged, too, that he
should be supplied with adequate funds, for Mercot had not a penny.

We pushed off at once, for I had to be at Flacksholm in good time,
and as the morning advanced I did not feel so sure of the weather.
What wind we had had these last days had been mild breezes from the
west, but now it seemed to be shifting more to the north, and
increasing in vehemence.  Down in that deep-cut fjord it was calm
enough, but up on the crest of the tableland on the northern shore
I could see that it was blowing hard, for my glass showed me little
tourmentes of snow.  Also it had suddenly got much colder.  I made
Johan force the pace, and early in the afternoon we were out of the
shelter of the rock walls in the inlet into which the fjord
broadened.  Here it was blowing fairly hard, and there was a stiff
sea running.  Flying squalls of rain beat down on us from the
north, and for five minutes or so would shut out the view.  It was
a regular gusty April day, such as you find in spring salmon-
fishing in Scotland, and had my job been merely to catch the boat
at Stavanger I should not have minded it at all.  But there was no
time for the boat, for in little more than twenty-four hours I had
to meet Medina.  I wondered if Archie Roylance had turned up.  I
wondered still more how an aeroplane was to make the return journey
over these stormy leagues of sea.

Presently the low green lines of Flacksholm showed through the
spray, and when Johan began to shape his course to the south-west
for Stavanger, I bade him go straight forward and land me on the
island.  I told him I had a friend who was camping there, and that
we were to be picked up in a day or two by an English yacht.  Johan
obviously thought me mad, but he did as he was told.  "There will
be no one on the island yet," he said.  "The farmer from Rosmaer
does not come till June, when the haymaking begins.  The winter
pasture is poor and sour."  That was all to the good, for I did not
want any spectator of our madness.

As we drew nearer I could see no sign of life on the low shore,
except an infinity of eider-ducks, and a fine osprey which sat on a
pointed rock like a heraldic griffin.  I was watching the bird, for
I had only seen an osprey twice before, when Johan steered me into
a creek, where there was deep water alongside a flat reef.  This,
he told me, was the ordinary landing-place from the mainland.  I
flung my suit-case and rucksack on shore, said good-bye to Johan
and tipped him well, and watched the little boat ploughing south
till it was hidden by a squall.  Then, feeling every kind of a
fool, I seized my baggage and proceeded, like Robinson Crusoe, into
the interior.

It was raining steadily, a fine thin rain, and every now and then a
squall would burst on me and ruffle the sea.  Jolly weather for
flying, I reflected, especially for flying over some hundreds of
miles of ocean! . . .  I found the farm, a few rough wooden
buildings and a thing like a stone cattle-pen, but there was no
sign of human life there.  Then I got out my map, and concluded
that I had better make for the centre of the island, where there
seemed to be some flat ground at one end of the loch.  I was
feeling utterly depressed, walking like a bagman with my kit in my
hand in an uninhabited Norwegian isle, and due in London the next
evening.  London seemed about as inaccessible in the time as the
moon.

When I got to the rim of the central hollow there was a brief
clearing of the weather, and I looked down on a little grey tarn
set in very green meadows.  In the meadows at the north end I saw
to my joy what looked like an aeroplane picketed down, and a thing
like a small tent near it.  Also I could see smoke curling up from
a group of boulders adjoining.  The gallant Archie had arrived, and
my spirits lightened.  I made good going down the hill, and, as I
shouted, a figure like an Arctic explorer crawled out of the tent.

"Hullo, Dick," it cried.  "Any luck?"

"Plenty," I said.  "And you?"

"Famous.  Got here last night after a clinkin' journey with the bus
behavin' like a lamb.  Had an interestin' evenin' with the birds--
Lord! such a happy huntin'-ground for 'em.  I've been doin' sentry-
go on the tops all mornin' lookin' for you, but the weather got
dirty, so I returned to the wigwam.  Lunch is nearly ready."

"What about the weather?" I asked anxiously.

"Pas si bête," he said, sniffing.  "The wind is pretty sure to go
down at sunset.  D'you mind a night journey?"

Archie's imperturbable good humour cheered me enormously.  I must
say he was a born campaigner, for he had made himself very snug,
and gave me as good a meal as I have ever eaten--a hot stew of
tinned stuff and curry, a plum-pudding, and an assortment of what
he called "delicatessen."  To keep out the cold we drank
benedictine in horn mugs.  He could talk about nothing but his
blessed birds, and announced that he meant to come back to
Flacksholm and camp for a week.  He had seen a special variety--
some kind of phalarope--that fairly ravished his heart.  When I
asked questions about the journey ahead of us, he scarcely deigned
to answer, so busy he was with speculation on the feathered fauna
of Norway.

"Archie," I said, "are you sure you can get me across the North
Sea?"

"I won't say 'sure.'  There's always a lottery in this game, but
with any luck we ought to manage it.  The wind will die down, and
besides it's a ground wind, and may be quiet enough a few hundred
feet up.  We'll have to shape a compass course anyhow, so that
darkness won't worry us."

"What about the machine?" I asked.  I don't know why, but I felt
horribly nervous.

"A beauty.  But of course you never know.  If we were driven much
out of a straight course, our petrol might run short."

"What would that mean?"

"Forced landin'."

"But supposing we hadn't reached land?"

"Oh, then we'd be for it," said Archie cheerfully.  He added, as if
to console me:  "We might be picked up by a passin' steamer or a
fishin' smack.  I've known fellows that had that luck."

"What are the chances of our getting over safely?"

"Evens.  Never better or worse than evens in this flyin' business.
But it will be all right.  Dash it all, a woodcock makes the trip
constantly in one flight."

After that I asked no more questions, for I knew I could not get
him past the woodcock.  I was not feeling happy, but Archie's calm
put me to shame.  We had a very good tea, and then, sure enough,
the wind began to die down, and the clouds opened to show clear
sky.  It grew perishing cold, and I was glad of every stitch of
clothing, and envied Archie his heavy skin coat.  We were all ready
about nine, and in a dead calm cast loose, taxied over a stretch of
turf, rose above the loch so as to clear the hill, and turned our
faces to the west, which was like a shell of gold closing down upon
the molten gold of the sea.

Luck was with us that night, and all my qualms were belied.  Apart
from the cold, which was savage, I enjoyed every moment of the
trip, till in the early dawn we saw a crawling black line beneath
us which was the coast of Aberdeen.  We filled up with petrol at a
place in Kincardine, and had an enormous breakfast at the local
hotel.  Everything went smoothly and it was still early in the day
when I found we were crossing the Cheviots.  We landed at York
about noon, and, while Archie caught the London train, I got my car
from the garage and started for Oxford.  But first I wired to Mary
asking her to wire to Medina in my name that I would reach London
by the seven-fifteen.  I had a pleasant run south, left the car at
Oxford, and duly emerged on the platform at Paddington to find
Medina waiting for me.

His manner was almost tender.

"My dear fellow, I do hope you are better?"

"Perfectly fit again, thank you.  Ready for anything."

"You look more sunburnt than when you left town."

"It's the wonderful weather we've had.  I've been lying basking on
the verandah."



CHAPTER XIII

I VISIT THE FIELDS OF EDEN


There was a change in Medina.  I noticed it the following day when
I lunched with him, and very particularly at the next dinner of the
Thursday Club to which I went as his guest.  It was a small change,
which nobody else would have remarked, but to me, who was watching
him like a lynx, it was clear enough.  His ease of manner towards
the world was a little less perfect, and when we were alone he was
more silent than before.  I did not think that he had begun to
suspect any danger to his plans, but the day for their consummation
was approaching, and even his cold assurance may have been flawed
by little quivers of nervousness.  As I saw it, once the big
liquidation took place and he realised the assets which were to be
the foundation of his main career, it mattered little what became
of the hostages.  He might let them go; they would wander back to
their old world unable to give any account of their absence, and,
if the story got out, there would be articles in the medical
journals about these unprecedented cases of lost memory.  So far I
was certain that they had taken no lasting harm.  But if the
liquidation failed, God knew what their fate would be.  They would
never be seen again, for if his possession of them failed to avert
disaster to his plans, he would play for safety, and, above all,
for revenge.  Revenge to a mind like his would be a consuming
passion.

The fact that I had solved one conundrum and laid my hand on one of
the hostages put me in a perfect fever of restlessness.  Our time
was very short, and there were still two poor souls hidden in his
black underworld.  It was the little boy I thought most of, and
perhaps my preoccupation with him made me stupid about other
things.  My thoughts were always on the Blind Spinner, and there I
could not advance one single inch.  Macgillivray's watchers had
nothing to report.  It was no use my paying another visit to Madame
Breda, and going through the same rigmarole.  I could only stick to
Medina and pray for luck.  I had resolved that if he asked me again
to take up my quarters with him in Hill Street I would accept,
though it might be hideously awkward in a score of ways.

I longed for Sandy, but no word came from him, and I had his strict
injunctions not to try to reach him.  The only friend I saw in
those early days of May was Archie Roylance who seemed to have
forgotten his Scotch greenshanks and settled down in London for the
season.  He started playing polo, which was not a safe game for a
man with a crocked leg, and he opened his house in Grosvenor Street
and roosted in a corner of it.  He knew I was busy in a big game,
and he was mad to be given a share in it, but I had to be very
careful with Archie.  He was the best fellow alive, but discretion
had never been his strong point.  So I refused to tell him anything
at present, and I warned Turpin, who was an ancient friend of his,
to do the same.  The three of us dined together one night, and poor
old Turpin was rallied by Archie on his glumness.

"You're a doleful bird, you know," he told him.  "I heard somewhere
you were goin' to be married and I expect that's the cause.  What
do you call it--ranger yourself?  Cheer up, my son.  It can't be as
bad as it sounds.  Look at Dick there."

I switched him on to other subjects, and we got his opinion on the
modern stage.  Archie had been doing a course of plays, and had
very strong views on the drama.  Something had got to happen, he
said, or he fell asleep in the first act, and something very rarely
happened, so he was left to slumber peacefully till he was awakened
and turned out by the attendants.  He liked plays with shooting in
them, and knockabout farce--anything indeed with a noise in it.
But he had struck a vein of serious drama which he had found
soporific.  One piece in especial, which showed the difficulties of
a lady of fifty who fell in love with her stepson, he seriously
reprobated.

"Rotten," he complained.  "What did it matter to anyone what the
old cat did?  But I assure you, everybody round me was gloatin'
over it.  A fellow said to me it was a masterpiece of tragic irony.
What's irony, Dick?  I thought it was the tone your commandin'
officer adopted, when you had made an ass of yourself, and he
showed it by complimentin' you on your intelligence. . . .  Oh, by
the way, you remember the girl in green we saw at that dancin'
place?  Well, I saw her at the show--at least I'm pretty sure it
was her--in a box with the black-bearded fellow.  She didn't seem
to be takin' much of it in.  Wonder who she is and what she was
doin' there?  Russian, d'you think?  I believe the silly play was
translated from the Russian.  I want to see that girl dance again."

The next week was absolutely blank, except for my own perpetual
worrying.  Medina kept me close to him, and I had to relinquish any
idea of going down to Fosse for an occasional night.  I longed
badly for the place and for a sight of Peter John, and Mary's
letters didn't comfort me, for they were getting scrappier and
scrappier.  My hope was that Medina would act on Kharáma's advice,
and in order to establish his power over his victims bring them
into the open and exercise it in the environment to which they had
been accustomed.  That wouldn't help me with the little boy, but it
might give me a line on Miss Victor.  I rather hoped that at some
ball I would see him insisting on some strange woman dancing with
him, or telling her to go home, or something, and then I would have
cause to suspect.  But no such luck.  He never spoke to a woman in
my presence who wasn't somebody perfectly well known.  I began to
think that he had rejected the Indian's advice as too dangerous.

Kharáma, more by token, was back in town, and Medina took me to see
him again.  The fellow had left Claridge's and was living in a
little house in Eaton Place, and away from the glitter of a big
hotel he looked even more sinister and damnable.  We went there one
evening after dinner, and found him squatting on the usual couch in
a room lit by one lamp and fairly stinking with odd scents.  He
seemed to have shed his occidental dress, for he wore flowing
robes, and I could see his beastly bare feet under the skirts of
them, when he moved to rearrange a curtain.

They took no more notice of me than if I had been a grandfather's
clock, and to my disgust they conducted the whole conversation in
some Eastern tongue.  I gathered nothing from it, except a
deduction as to Medina's state of mind.  There was an unmistakable
hint of nervousness in his voice.  He seemed to be asking urgent
questions, and the Indian was replying calmly and soothingly.  By
and by Medina's voice became quieter, and suddenly I realised that
the two were speaking of me.  Kharáma's heavy eyes were raised for
a second in my direction, and Medina turned ever so little towards
me.  The Indian asked some question about me, and Medina replied
carelessly with a shrug of his shoulders and a slight laugh.  The
laugh rasped my temper.  He was evidently saying that I was packed
up and sealed and safe on the shelf.

That visit didn't make me feel happier, and next day, when I had a
holiday from Medina's company, I had nothing better to do than to
wander about London and think dismal thoughts.  Yet, as luck would
have it, that aimless walk had its consequences.  It was a Sunday,
and on the edge of Battersea Park I encountered a forlorn little
company of Salvationists conducting a service in the rain.  I
stopped to listen--I always do--for I am the eternal average man
who is bound to halt at every street show, whether it be a motor
accident or a Punch and Judy.  I listened to the tail-end of an
address from a fat man who looked like a reformed publican, and a
few words from an earnest lady in spectacles.  Then they sang a
hymn to a trombone accompaniment, and lo and behold, it was my old
friend, which I had last whistled in Tom Greenslade's bedroom at
Fosse.  "There is rest for the weary," they sang:


     "On the other side of Jordan,
      In the green fields of Eden,
      Where the Tree of Life is blooming,
      There is rest for you."


I joined heartily in the singing, and contributed two half-crowns
to the collecting box, for somehow the thing seemed to be a good
omen.

I had been rather neglecting that item in the puzzle, and that
evening and during the night I kept turning it over till my brain
was nearly addled.


     "Where the sower casts his seed in
      Furrows of the fields of Eden."


That was the version in the rhyme, and in Tom Greenslade's
recollection the equivalent was a curiosity shop in North London
kept by a Jew with a dyed beard.  Surely the two must correspond,
though I couldn't just see how.  The other two items had panned out
so well that it was reasonable to suppose that the third might do
the same.  I could see no light, and I finally dropped off to sleep
with that blessed "fields of Eden" twittering about my head.

I awoke with the same obsession, but other phrases had added
themselves to it.  One was the "playing-fields of Eton," about
which some fellow had said something, and for a moment I wondered
if I hadn't got hold of the right trail.  Eton was a school for
which Peter John's name was down, and therefore it had to do with
boys, and might have to do with David Warcliff.  But after
breakfast I gave up that line, for it led nowhere.  The word was
"Eden," to rhyme with "seed in."  There were other fields haunting
me--names like Tothill Fields and Bunhill Fields.  These were
places in London, and that was what I wanted.  The Directory showed
no name like that of "Fields of Eden," but was it not possible that
there had once in old days been a place called by that odd title?

I spent the morning in the Club library, which was a very good one,
reading up Old London.  I read all about Vauxhall Gardens and
Ranelagh and Cremorne, and a dozen other ancient haunts of
pleasure, but I found nothing to my purpose.  Then I remembered
that Bullivant--Lord Artinswell--had had for one of his hobbies the
study of bygone London, so I telephoned to him and invited myself
to lunch.

He was very pleased to see me, and it somehow comforted me to find
myself again in the house in Queen Anne's Gate where I had spent
some of the most critical moments of my life.

"You've taken on the work I wrote to you about," he said.  "I knew
you would.  How are you getting on?"

"So-so.  It's a big job and there's very little time.  I want to
ask you a question.  You're an authority on Old London.  Tell me,
did you ever come across in your researches the name of the 'Fields
of Eden'?"

He shook his head.  "Not that I remember.  What part of London?"

"I fancy it would be somewhere north of Oxford Street."

He considered.  "No.  What is your idea?  A name of some private
gardens or place of amusement?"

"Yes.  Just like Cremorne or Vauxhall."

"I don't think so, but we'll look it up.  I've a good collection of
old maps and plans, and some antique directories."

So after luncheon we repaired to his library and set to work.  The
maps showed nothing, nor did the books at first.  We were searching
too far back, in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries,
when you went fox-hunting in what is now Regent's Park and Tyburn
gallows stood near the Marble Arch.  Then, by sheer luck, I tried a
cast nearer our own time, and found a ribald work belonging to
about the date of the American War, which purported to be a
countryman's guide to the amusements of town.  There was all sorts
of information about "Cider Cellars" and "Groves of Harmony," which
must have been pretty low pubs, and places in the suburbs for cock-
fighting and dog-fighting.  I turned up the index, and there to my
joy I saw the word "Eden."

I read the passage aloud, and I believe my hands were shaking.  The
place was, as I hoped, north of Oxford Street in what we now call
Marylebone.  "The Fields of Eden," said the book, "were opened by
Mr. Askew as a summer resort for the gentlemen and sportsmen of the
capital.  There of a fine afternoon may be seen Lord A-- and the
Duke of B-- roving among the shady, if miniature, groves, not
unaccompanied by the fair nymphs of the garden, while from adjacent
arbours comes the cheerful tinkle of glasses and the merry clatter
of dice, and the harmonious strains of Signora F--'s Italian
choir."  There was a good deal more of it, but I stopped reading.
There was a plan of London in the book, and from it I was able to
plot out the boundaries of that doubtful paradise.

Then I got a modern map, and fixed the location on it.  The place
had been quite small, only a few acres, and to-day it was covered
by the block defined by Wellesley Street, Apwith Lane, Little
Fardell Street, and the mews behind Royston Square.  I wrote this
down in my note-book and took my leave.

"You look pleased, Dick.  Have you found what you want?  Curious
that I never heard the name, but it seems to have belonged to the
dullest part of London at the dullest period of its history."  Lord
Artinswell, I could see, was a little nettled, for your antiquary
hates to be caught out in his own subject.

I spent the rest of the afternoon making a very thorough
examination of a not very interesting neighbourhood.  What I wanted
was a curiosity shop, and at first I thought I was going to fail.
Apwith Lane was a kind of slum, with no shops but a disreputable
foreign chemist's and a small dirty confectioner's, round the door
of which dirty little children played.  The inhabitants seemed to
be chiefly foreigners.  The mews at the back of Royston Square were
of course useless; it was long since any dweller in that square had
kept a carriage, and they seemed to be occupied chiefly with the
motor vans of a steam laundry and the lorries of a coal merchant.
Wellesley Street, at least the part of it in my area, was entirely
occupied with the show-rooms of various American automobile
companies.  Little Fardell Street was a curious place.  It had one
odd building which may have been there when the Fields of Eden
flourished, and which now seemed to be a furniture repository of a
sort, with most of the windows shuttered.  The other houses were
perhaps forty years old, most of them the offices of small
wholesale businesses, such as you find in back streets in the City.
There was one big French baker's shop at the corner, a picture-
framer's, a watch-maker's and a small and obviously decaying
optician's.  I walked down the place twice, and my heart sank, for
I could see nothing in the least resembling an antique-shop.

I patrolled the street once more, and then I observed that the old
dwelling, which looked like a furniture depository, was also some
kind of shop.  Through a dirty lower window I caught a glimpse of
what seemed to be Persian rugs and the bland face of a soap-stone
idol.  The door had the air of never having been used, but I tried
it and it opened, tinkling a bell far in the back premises.  I
found myself in a small dusty place, littered up like a lumber room
with boxes and carpets and rugs and bric-a-brac.  Most of the
things were clearly antiques, though to my inexpert eye they didn't
look worth much.  The Turcoman rugs, especially, were the kind of
thing you can buy anywhere in the Levant by the dozen.

A dishevelled Jewess confronted me, wearing sham diamond earrings.

"I'm interested in antiques," I said pleasantly, taking off my hat
to her.  "May I look round?"

"We do not sell to private customers," she said.  "Only to the
trade."

"I'm sorry to hear that.  But may I look round?  If I fancied
something, I dare say I could get some dealer I know to offer for
it."

She made no answer, but fingered her earrings with her plump grubby
hands.

I turned over some of the rugs and carpets, and my first impression
was confirmed.  They were mostly trash, and a lacquer cabinet I
uncovered was a shameless fake.

"I like that," I said, pointing to a piece of Persian embroidery.
"Can't you put a price on it for me?"

"We only sell to the trade," she repeated, as if it were a litany.
Her beady eyes, which never left my face, were entirely without
expression.

"I expect you have a lot of things upstairs," I said.  "Do you
think I might have a look at them?  I'm only in London for the day,
and I might see something I badly wanted.  I quite understand that
you are wholesale people, but I can arrange any purchase through a
dealer.  You see, I'm furnishing a country house."

For the first time her face showed a certain life.  She shook her
head vigorously.  "We have no more stock at present.  We do not
keep a large stock.  Things come in and go out every day.  We only
sell to the trade."

"Well, I'm sorry to have taken up your time.  Good afternoon."  As
I left the shop, I felt that I had made an important discovery.
The business was bogus.  There was very little that any dealer
would touch, and the profits from all the trade done would not keep
the proprietor in Virginian cigarettes.

I paid another visit to the neighbourhood after dinner.  The only
sign of life was in the slums of Apwith Lane, where frowsy women
were chattering on the kerb.  Wellesley Street was shuttered and
silent from end to end.  So was Little Fardell Street.  Not a soul
was about in it, not a ray of light was seen at any window, in the
midst of the din of London it made a little enclave like a
graveyard.  I stopped at the curiosity shop, and saw that the
windows were heavily shuttered and that the flimsy old door was
secured by a strong outer frame of iron which fitted into a groove
at the edge of the pavement and carried a stout lock.  The shutters
on the ground-floor windows were substantial things, preposterously
substantial for so worthless a show.  As I looked at them I had a
strong feeling that the house behind that palisade was not as dead
as it looked, that somewhere inside it there was life, and that in
the night things happened there which it concerned me tremendously
to know.  Next morning I went to see Macgillivray.  "Can you lend
me a first-class burglar?" I asked.  "Only for one night.  Some
fellow who won't ask any questions and will hold his tongue."

"I've given up being surprised when you're about," he said.  "No.
We don't keep tame burglars here, but I can find you a man who
knows rather more about the art than any professional.  Why?"

"Simply because I want to get inside a certain house to-night, and
I see no chance of doing it except by breaking my way in.  I
suppose you could so arrange it that the neighbouring policemen
would not interfere.  In fact I want them to help to keep the coast
clear."

I went into details with him, and showed him the lie of the land.
He suggested trying the back of the house, but I had reconnoitred
that side and seen that it was impossible, for the building seemed
to join on with the houses in the street behind.  In fact there was
no back door.  The whole architecture was extremely odd, and I had
a notion that the entrance in Little Fardell Street might itself be
a back door.  I told Macgillivray that I wanted an expert who could
let me in by one of the ground-floor windows, and replace
everything so that there should be no trace next morning.  He rang
a bell and asked for Mr. Abel to be sent for.  Mr. Abel was
summoned, and presently appeared, a small wizened man, like a
country tradesman.  Macgillivray explained what was required of
him, and Mr. Abel nodded.  It was a job which offered no
difficulties, he said, to an experienced man.  He would suggest
that he investigated the place immediately after closing time, and
began work about ten o'clock.  If I arrived at ten-thirty, he
promised to have a means of entrance prepared.  He inquired as to
who were the constables at the nearest points, and asked that
certain special ones should be put on duty, with whom he could
arrange matters.  I never saw anyone approach what seemed to me to
be a delicate job with such businesslike assurance.

"Do you want anyone to accompany you inside?" Macgillivray asked.

I said no.  I thought I had better explore the place alone, but I
wanted somebody within call in case there was trouble, and of
course if I didn't come back, say within two hours, he had better
come and look for me."

"We may have to arrest you as a housebreaker," he said.  "How are
you going to explain your presence if there's nothing wrong indoors
and you disturb the sleep of a respectable caretaker?"

"I must take my chance," I said.  I didn't feel nervous about that
point.  The place would either be empty, or occupied by those who
would not invite the aid of the police.


After dinner I changed into an old tweed suit and rubber-soled
shoes, and as I sat in the taxi I began to think that I had entered
too lightly on the evening's business.  How was that little man
Abel to prepare an entrance without alarming the neighbourhood,
even with the connivance of the police; and if I found anybody
inside, what on earth was I to say?  There was no possible story to
account for a clandestine entry into somebody else's house, and I
had suddenly a vision of the earringed Jewess screeching in the
night and my departure for the cells in the midst of a crowd of
hooligans from Apwith Lane.  Even if I found something very shady
indoors it would only be shady in my own mind in connection with my
own problem, and would be all right in the eyes of the law.  I was
not likely to hit on anything patently criminal, and, even if I
did, how was I to explain my presence there?  I suffered from a bad
attack of cold feet, and would have chucked the business there and
then but for that queer feeling at the back of my head that it was
my duty to risk it--that if I turned back I should be missing
something of tremendous importance.  But I can tell you I was
feeling far from happy when I dismissed the taxi at the corner of
Royston Square, and turned into Little Fardell Street.

It was a dark cloudy evening, threatening rain, and the place was
none too brilliantly lit.  But to my disgust I saw opposite the
door of the curiosity shop a brazier of hot coals and the absurd
little shelter which means that part of the street is up.  There
was the usual roped-in enclosure, decorated with red lamps, a heap
of debris, and a hole where some of the setts had been lifted.
Here was bad luck with a vengeance, that the Borough Council should
have chosen this place and moment of all others for investigating
the drains.  And yet I had a kind of shamefaced feeling of relief,
for this put the lid on my enterprise.  I wondered why Macgillivray
had not contrived the thing better.

I found I had done him an injustice.  It was the decorous face of
Mr. Abel which regarded me out of the dingy pent-house.

"This seemed to me the best plan, sir," he said respectfully.  "It
enables me to wait for you here without exciting curiosity.  I've
seen the men on point duty, and it is all right in that quarter.
This street is quiet enough, and taxis don't use it as a short cut.
You'll find the door open.  The windows might have been difficult,
but I had a look at the door first, and that big iron frame is a
piece of bluff.  The bolt of the lock runs into the side-bar of the
frame, but the frame itself is secured to the wall by another much
smaller lock which you can only detect by looking closely.  I have
opened that for you--quite easily done."

"But the other door--the shop door--that rings a bell inside."

"I found it unlocked," he said, with the ghost of a grin.  "Whoever
uses this place after closing hours doesn't want to make much
noise.  The bell is disconnected.  You have only to push it open
and walk in."

Events were forcing me against all my inclinations to go forward.

"If anyone enters when I am inside? . . ." I began.

"You will hear the sound and must take measures accordingly.  On
the whole, sir, I am inclined to think that there's something wrong
with the place.  You are armed?  No.  That is as well.  Your
position is unauthorised, as one would say, and arms might be
compromising."

"If you hear me cry?"

"I will come to your help.  If you do not return within--shall we
say?--two hours, I will make an entrance along with the nearest
constable.  The unlocked door will give us a pretext."

"And if I come out in a hurry?"

"I have thought of that.  If you have a fair start there is room
for you to hide here," and he jerked his thumb towards the pent-
house.  "If you are hard-pressed I will manage to impede the
pursuit."

The little man's calm matter-of-factness put me on my mettle.  I
made sure that the street was empty, opened the iron frame, and
pushed through the shop-door, closing it softly behind me.

The shop was as dark as the inside of a nut, not a crack of light
coming through the closely-shuttered windows.  I felt very eerie,
as I tiptoed cautiously among the rugs and tables.  I listened, but
there was no sound of any kind either from within or without, so I
switched on my electric torch and waited breathlessly.  Still no
sound or movement.  The conviction grew upon me that the house was
uninhabited, and with a little more confidence I started out to
explore.

The place did not extend far to the back, as I had believed.  Very
soon I came upon a dead wall against which every kind of litter was
stacked, and that way progress was stopped.  The door by which the
Jewess had entered lay to the right, and that led me into a little
place like a kitchen, with a sink, a cupboard or two, a gas-fire,
and in the corner a bed--the kind of lair which a caretaker
occupies in a house to let.  I made out a window rather high up in
the wall, but I could discover no other entrance save that by which
I had come.  So I returned to the shop and tried the passage to the
left.

Here at first I found nothing but locked doors, obviously
cupboards.  But there was one open, and my torch showed me that it
contained a very steep flight of stairs--the kind of thing that in
old houses leads to the attics.  I tried the boards, for I feared
that they would creak, and I discovered that all the treads had
been renewed.  I can't say I liked diving into that box, but there
was nothing else for it unless I were to give up.

At the top I found a door, and I was just about to try to open it
when I heard steps on the other side.

I stood rigid in that narrow place, wondering what was to happen
next.  The man--it was a man's foot--came up to the door and to my
consternation turned the handle.  Had he opened it I would have
been discovered, for he had a light, and Lord knows what mix-up
would have followed.  But he didn't; he tried the handle and then
turned a key in the lock.  After that I heard him move away.

This was fairly discouraging, for it appeared that I was now shut
off from the rest of the house.  When I had waited for a minute or
two for the coast to clear, I too tried the handle, expecting to
find it fast.  To my surprise the door opened; the man had not
locked, but unlocked it.  This could mean only one of two things.
Either he intended himself to go out by this way later, or he
expected someone and wanted to let him in.

From that moment I recovered my composure.  My interest was
excited, there was a game to play and something to be done.  I
looked round the passage in which I found myself and saw the
explanation of the architecture which had puzzled me.  The old
building in Little Fardell Street was the merest slip, only a room
thick, and it was plastered against a much more substantial and
much newer structure in which I now found myself.  The passage was
high and broad, and heavily carpeted, and I saw electric fittings
at each end.  This alarmed me, for if anyone came along and
switched on the light, there was not cover to hide a cockroach.  I
considered that the boldest plan would be the safest, so I tiptoed
to the end, and saw another passage equally bare going off at right
angles.  This was no good, so I brazenly assaulted the door of the
nearest room.  Thank Heaven! it was empty, so I could have a
reconnoitring base.

It was a bedroom, well furnished in the Waring & Gillow style, and
to my horror I observed that it was a woman's bedroom.  It was a
woman's dressing-table I saw, with big hair-brushes and oddments of
scents and powders.  There was a wardrobe with the door ajar full
of hanging dresses.  The occupant had been there quite lately, for
wraps had been flung on the bed and a pair of slippers lay by the
dressing-table, as if they had been kicked off hurriedly.

The place put me into the most abject fright.  I seemed to have
burgled a respectable flat and landed in a lady's bedroom, and I
looked forward to some appalling scandal which would never be
hushed up.  Little Abel roosting in his pent-house seemed a haven
of refuge separated from me by leagues of obstacles.  I reckoned I
had better get back to him as soon as possible, and I was just
starting, when that happened which made me stop short.  I had left
the room door ajar when I entered, and of course I had switched off
my torch after my first look round.  I had been in utter darkness,
but now I saw a light in the passage.

It might be the confounded woman who owned the bedroom, and my
heart went into my boots.  Then I saw that the passage lights had
not been turned on, and that whoever was there had a torch like me.
The footsteps were coming by the road I had come myself.  Could it
be the man for whom the staircase door had been unlocked?

It was a man all right, and, whatever his errand, it was not with
my room.  I watched him through the crack left by the door, and saw
his figure pass.  It was someone in a hurry who walked swiftly and
quietly, and, beyond the fact that he wore a dark coat with the
collar turned up and a black soft hat, I could make out nothing.
The figure went down the corridor, and at the end seemed to
hesitate.  Then it turned into a room on the left and disappeared.

There was nothing to do but wait, and happily I had not to wait
long, for I was becoming pretty nervous.  The figure reappeared,
carrying something in its hand, and as it came towards me I had a
glimpse of its face.  I recognised it at once as that of the grey
melancholy man whom I had seen the first night in Medina's house,
when I was coming out of my stupor.  For some reason or another
that face had become stamped on my memory, and I had been waiting
to see it again.  It was sad, forlorn, and yet in a curious way
pleasant; anyhow there was nothing repellent in it.  But he came
from Medina, and at that thought every scrap of hesitation and funk
fled from me.  I had been right in my instinct; this place was
Medina's, it was the Fields of Eden of the rhyme.  A second ago I
had felt a futile blunderer; now I was triumphant.

He passed my door and turned down the passage which ran at right
angles.  I stepped after him and saw the light halt at the
staircase door, and then disappear.  My first impulse was to
follow, tackle him in the shop, and get the truth out of him, but I
at once discarded that notion, which would have given the whole
show away.  My business was to make further discoveries.  I must
visit the room which had been the object of his visit.

I was thankful to be out of that bedroom.  In the passage I
listened, but could hear no sound anywhere.  There was indeed a
sound in the air, but it appeared to come from the outer world, a
sound like an organ or an orchestra a long way off.  I concluded
that there must be a church somewhere near where the choir-boys
were practising.

The room I entered was a very queer place.  It looked partly like a
museum, partly like an office, and partly like a library.  The
curiosity shop had been full of rubbish, but I could see at a
glance that there was no rubbish here.  There were some fine
Italian plaques--I knew something about these, for Mary collected
them--and a set of green Chinese jars which looked the real thing.
Also, there was a picture which seemed good enough to be a Hobbema.
For the rest there were several safes of a most substantial make;
but there were no papers lying about, and every drawer of a big
writing-table was locked.  I had not the wherewithal to burgle the
safes and the table, even if I had wanted to.  I was certain that
most valuable information lurked somewhere in that place, but I did
not see how I could get at it.

I was just about to leave, when I realised that the sound of music
which I had heard in the passage was much louder here.  It was no
choir-boys' practising, but strictly secular music, apparently
fiddles and drums, and the rhythm suggested a dance.  Could this
odd building abut on a dance-hall?  I looked at my watch and saw
that it was scarcely eleven and that I had only been some twenty
minutes indoors.  I was now in a mood of almost foolhardy
confidence, so I determined to do a little more research.

The music seemed to come from somewhere to the left.  The windows
of the room, so far as I could judge, must look into Wellesley
Street, which showed me how I had misjudged that thoroughfare.
There might be a dancing-hall tucked in among the automobile shops.
Anyhow I wanted to see what lay beyond this room, for there must be
an entrance to it other than by the curiosity shop.  Sure enough I
found a door between two bookcases covered with a heavy portière,
and emerged into still another passage.

Here the music sounded louder, and I seemed to be in a place like
those warrens behind the stage in a theatre, where rooms are of all
kinds of shapes and sizes.  The door at the end was locked, and
another door which I opened gave on a flight of wooden steps.  I
did not want to descend just yet, so I tried another door, and then
shut it softly.  For the room it opened upon was lighted, and I had
the impression of human beings not very far off.  Also the music,
as I opened the door, came out in a great swelling volume of sound.

I stood for a moment hesitating, and then I opened that door again.
For I had a notion that the light within did not come from anything
in the room.  I found myself in a little empty chamber, dusty and
cheerless, like one of those cubby-holes you see in the Strand,
where the big plate-glass front window reaches higher than the
shop, and there is a space between the ceiling and the next floor.
All one side was of glass, in which a casement was half open, and
through the glass came the glare of a hundred lights from somewhere
beyond.  Very gingerly I moved forward, till I could look down on
what was happening below.

For the last few seconds I think I had known what I was going to
see.  It was the dancing-club which I had visited some weeks before
with Archie Roylance.  There were the sham Chinese decorations, the
blaze of lights, the nigger band, the whole garish spectacle.  Only
the place was far more crowded than on my previous visit.  The
babble of laughter and talk which rose from it added a further
discord to the ugly music, but there was a fierce raucous gaiety
about it all, an overpowering sense of something which might be
vulgar but was also alive and ardent.  Round the skirts of the hall
was the usual rastaquouère crowd of men and women drinking liqueurs
and champagne, and mixed with fat Jews and blue-black dagos the
flushed faces of boys from barracks or college who imagined they
were seeing life.  I thought for a moment that I saw Archie, but it
was only one of Archie's kind, whose lean red visage made a queer
contrast with the dead white of the woman he sat by.

The dancing was madder and livelier than on the last occasion.
There was more vigour in the marionettes, and I was bound to
confess that they knew their trade, little as I valued it.  All the
couples were expert, and when now and then a bungler barged in he
did not stay long.  I saw no sign of the girl in green whom Archie
had admired, but there were plenty like her.  It was the men I most
disliked, pallid skeletons or puffy Latins, whose clothes fitted
them too well, and who were sometimes as heavily made-up as the
women.

One especially I singled out for violent disapproval.  He was a
tall young man, with a waist like a wasp, a white face, and hollow
drugged eyes.  His lips were red like a chorus-girl's, and I would
have sworn that his cheeks were rouged.  Anyhow he was a loathsome
sight.  But ye gods! he could dance.  There was no sign of
animation in him, so that he might have been a corpse, galvanised
by some infernal power and compelled to move through an everlasting
dance of death.  I noticed that his heavy eyelids were never
raised.

Suddenly I got a bad shock.  For I realised that this mannequin was
no other than my ancient friend, the Marquis de la Tour du Pin.

I hadn't recovered from that when I got a worse.  He was dancing
with a woman whose hair seemed too bright to be natural.  At first
I could not see her face clearly, for it was flattened against his
chest, but she seemed to be hideously and sparsely dressed.  She
too knew how to dance, and the slim grace of her body was
conspicuous even in her vulgar clothes.  Then she turned her face
to me, and I could see the vivid lips and the weary old pink and
white enamel of her class.  Pretty, too . . .

And then I had a shock which nearly sent me through the window.
For in this painted dancer I recognised the wife of my bosom and
the mother of Peter John.



CHAPTER XIV

SIR ARCHIBALD ROYLANCE PUTS HIS FOOT IN IT


Three minutes later I was back in the curiosity shop.  I switched
off my light, and very gently opened the street door.  There was a
sound of footsteps on the pavement, so I drew back till they had
passed.  Then I emerged into the quiet street, with Abel's little
brazier glowing in front of me, and Abel's little sharp face poked
out of his pent-house.

"All right, sir?" he asked cheerfully.

"All right," I said.  "I have found what I wanted."

"There was a party turned up not long after you had gone in.  Lucky
I had locked the door after you.  He wasn't inside more than five
minutes.  A party with a black topcoat turned up at the collar--
respectable party he looked--oldish--might have been a curate.
Funny thing, sir, but I guessed correctly when you were coming
back, and had the door unlocked ready for you. . . .  If you've
done with me I'll clear off."

"Can you manage alone?" I asked.  "There's a good deal to tidy up."

He winked solemnly.  "In an hour there won't be a sign of anything.
I have my little ways of doing things.  Good night, sir, and thank
you."  He was like a boots seeing a guest off from an hotel.

I found that the time was just after half-past eleven, so I walked
to Tottenham Court Road and picked up a taxi, telling the man to
drive to Great Charles Street in Westminster.  Mary was in London,
and I must see her at once.  She had chosen to take a hand in the
game, probably at Sandy's instigation, and I must find out what
exactly she was doing.  The business was difficult enough already
with Sandy following his own trail and me forbidden to get into
touch with him, but if Mary was also on the job it would be naked
chaos unless I knew her plans.  I own I felt miserably nervous.
There was nobody in the world whose wisdom I put higher than hers,
and I would have trusted her to the other side of Tophet, but I
hated to think of a woman mixed up in something so ugly and
perilous.  She was far too young and lovely to be safe on the back-
stairs.  And yet I remembered that she had been in uglier affairs
before this and I recalled old Blenkiron's words:  "She can't scare
and she can't soil."  And then I began to get a sort of comfort
from the feeling that she was along with me in the game; it made me
feel less lonely.  But it was pretty rough luck on Peter John.
Anyhow I must see her, and I argued that she would probably be
staying with her Wymondham aunts, and that in any case I could get
news of her there.

The Misses Wymondham were silly ladies, but their butler would have
made Montmartre respectable.  He and I had always got on well, and
I think the only thing that consoled him when Fosse was sold was
that Mary and I were to have it.  The house in Great Charles Street
was one of those tremendously artistic new dwellings with which the
intellectual plutocracy have adorned the Westminster slums.

"Is her ladyship home yet?" I asked.

"No, Sir Richard, but she said she wouldn't be late.  I expect her
any moment."

"Then I think I'll come in and wait.  How are you, Barnard?  Found
your city legs yet?"

"I am improving, Sir Richard, I thank you.  Very pleased to have
Miss Mary here, if I may take the liberty of so speaking of her.
Miss Claire is in Paris still, and Miss Wymondham is dancing to-
night, and won't be back till very late.  How are things at Fosse,
sir, if I may make so bold?  And how is the young gentleman?  Miss
Mary has shown me his photograph.  A very handsome young gentleman,
sir, and favours yourself."

"Nonsense, Barnard.  He's the living image of his mother.  Get me a
drink, like a good fellow.  A tankard of beer, if you have it, for
I've a throat like a grindstone."

I drank the beer and waited in a little room which would have been
charming but for the garish colour scheme which Mary's aunts had on
the brain.  I was feeling quite cheerful again, for Peter John's
photograph was on the mantelpiece and I reckoned that any minute
Mary might be at the doorway.

She came in just before midnight.  I heard her speak to Barnard in
the hall, and then her quick step outside the door.  She was
preposterously dressed, but she must have done something to her
face in the taxi, for the paint was mostly rubbed from it, leaving
it very pale.

"Oh, Dick, my darling," she cried, tearing off her cloak and
running to my arms.  "I never expected you.  There's nothing wrong
at home?"

"Not that I know of, except that it's deserted.  Mary, what on
earth brought you here?"

"You're not angry, Dick?"

"Not a bit--only curious."

"How did you know I was here?"

"Guessed.  I thought it the likeliest cover to draw.  You see I've
been watching you dancing to-night.  Look here, my dear, if you put
so much paint and powder on your face and jam it so close to old
Turpin's chest, it won't be easy for the poor fellow to keep his
shirt-front clean."

"You--watched--me--dancing!  Were you in that place?"

"Well, I wouldn't say IN it.  But I had a prospect of the show from
the gallery.  And it struck me that the sooner we met and had a
talk the better."

"The gallery!  Were you in the house?  I don't understand."

"No more do I.  I burgled a certain house in a back street for very
particular reasons of my own.  In the process I may mention that I
got one of the worst frights of my life.  After various adventures
I came to a place where I heard the dickens of a row which I made
out to be dance music.  Eventually I found a dirty little room with
a window and to my surprise looked down on a dancing-hall.  I know
it, for I had once been there with Archie Roylance.  That was queer
enough, but imagine my surprise when I saw my wedded wife, raddled
like a geisha, dancing with an old friend who seemed to have got
himself up to imitate a wax-work."

She seemed scarcely to be listening.  "But in the house!  Did you
see no one?"

"I saw one man and I heard another.  The fellow I saw was a man I
once met in the small hours with Medina."

"But the other?  You didn't see him?  You didn't hear him go out?"

"No."  I was puzzled at her excitement.  "Why are you so keen about
the other?"

"Because I think--I'm sure--it was Sandy--Colonel Arbuthnot."

This was altogether beyond me.  "Impossible!" I cried.  "The place
is a lair of Medina's.  The man I saw was Medina's servant or
satellite.  Do you mean to say that Sandy has been exploring that
house?"

She nodded.  "You see it is the Fields of Eden."

"Oh, I know.  I found that out for myself.  Do you tell me that
Sandy discovered it too?"

"Yes.  That is why I was there.  That is why I have been living a
perfectly loathsome life and am now dressed like a chorus girl."

"Mary," I said solemnly, "my fine brain won't support any more
violent shocks.  Will you please to sit down beside me, and give me
the plain tale of all you have been doing since I said good-bye to
you at Fosse?"

"First," she said, "I had a visit from a dramatic critic on
holiday, Mr. Alexander Thomson.  He said he knew you and that you
had suggested that he should call.  He came three times to Fosse,
but only once to the house.  Twice I met him in the woods.  He told
me a good many things, and one was that he couldn't succeed and you
couldn't succeed, unless I helped.  He thought that if a woman was
lost only a woman could find her.  In the end he persuaded me.  You
said yourself, Dick, that Nanny was quite competent to take charge
of Peter John, with Dr. Greenslade so close at hand.  And I hear
from her every day, and he is very well and happy."

"You came to London.  But when?"

"The day you came back from Norway."

"But I've been having letters regularly from you since then."

"That is my little arrangement with Paddock.  I took him into my
confidence.  I send him the letters in batches and he posts one
daily."

"Then you've been here more than a fortnight.  Have you seen
Sandy?"

"Twice.  He has arranged my life for me, and has introduced me to
my dancing partner, the Marquis de la Tour du Pin, whom you call
Turpin.  I think I have had the most horrible, the most wearing
time that any woman ever had.  I have moved in raffish circles and
have had to be the most raffish of the lot.  Do you know, Dick, I
believe I'm really a good actress?  I have acquired a metallic
voice, and a high silly laugh, and hard eyes, and when I lie in bed
at night I blush all over for my shamelessness.  I know you hate
it, but you can't hate it more than I do.  But it had to be done.
I couldn't be a 'piker,' as Mr. Blenkiron used to say."

"Any luck?"

"Oh, yes," she said wearily.  "I have found Miss Victor.  It wasn't
very difficult, really.  When I had made friends with the funny
people that frequent these places it wasn't hard to see who was
different from the others.  They're all mannequins, but the one I
was looking for was bound to be the most mannequinish of the lot.
I wanted someone without mind or soul, and I found her.  Besides, I
had a clue to start with.  Odell, you know."

"It was the green girl."

She nodded.  "I couldn't be certain, of course, till I had her
lover to help me.  He is a good man, your French Marquis.  He has
played his part splendidly.  You see, it would never do to try to
AWAKE Adela Victor now.  We couldn't count on her being able to
keep up appearances without arousing suspicion, till the day of
release arrived.  But something had to be done, and that is my
business especially.  I have made friends with her, and I talk to
her and I have attached her to me just a little, like a dog.  That
will give me the chance to do the rest quickly when the moment
comes.  You cannot bring back a vanished soul all at once unless
you have laid some foundation.  We have to be very, very careful,
for she is keenly watched, but I think--yes, I am sure--it is going
well."

"Oh, bravo!" I cried.  "That makes Number Two.  I may tell you that
I have got Number One."  I gave her a short account of my doings in
Norway.  "Two of the poor devils will get out of the cage anyhow.
I wonder if it wouldn't be possible to pass the word to Victor and
the Duke.  It would relieve their anxiety."

"I thought of that," she replied, "but Colonel Arbuthnot says No,
on no account.  He says it might ruin everything.  He takes a very
solemn view of the affair, you know.  And so do I.  I have seen Mr.
Medina."

"Where?" I asked in astonishment.

"I got Aunt Doria to take me to a party where he was to be present.
Don't be worried.  I wasn't introduced to him, and he never heard
my name.  But I watched him, and knowing what I did I was more
afraid than I have ever been in my life.  He is extraordinarily
attractive--no, not attractive--seductive, and he is as cold and
hard as chilled steel.  You know these impressions I get of people
which I can't explain--you say they are always right.  Well, I felt
him almost superhuman.  He exhales ease and power like a god, but
it is a god from a lost world.  I can see that, like a god too, it
is souls that he covets.  Ordinary human badness seems decent in
comparison with that Lucifer's pride of his.  I think if I ever
could commit murder it would be his life I would take.  I should
feel like Charlotte Corday.  Oh, I'm dismally afraid of him."

"I'm not," I said stoutly, "and I see him at closer quarters than
most people."  The measure of success we had attained was beginning
to make me confident.

"Colonel Arbuthnot is afraid for you," she said.  "The two times I
have seen him in London he kept harping on the need of your keeping
very near to him.  I think he meant me to warn you.  He says that
when you are fighting a man with a long-range weapon the only
chance is to hug him.  Dick, didn't you tell me that Mr. Medina
suggested that you should stay in his house?  I have been thinking
a lot about that, and I believe it would be the safest plan.  Once
he saw you secure in his pocket he might forget about you."

"It would be most infernally awkward, for I should have no freedom
of movement.  But all the same I believe you are right.  Things may
grow very hectic as we get near the day."

"Besides, you might find out something about Number Three.  Oh, it
is the little boy that breaks my heart.  The others might escape on
their own account--some day, but unless we find HIM he is lost for
ever.  And Colonel Arbuthnot says that, even if we found him, it
might be hard to restore the child's mind.  Unless--unless--"

Mary's face had become grim, if one could use the word of a thing
so soft and gentle.  Her hands were tightly clasped, and her eyes
had a strained far-away look.

"I am going to find him," she cried.  "Listen, Dick.  That man
despises women and rules them out of his life, except in so far as
he can make tools of them.  But there is one woman who is going to
stop at nothing to beat him. . . .  When I think of that little
David I grow mad and desperate.  I am afraid of myself.  Have you
no hope to give me?"

"I haven't the shadow of a clue," I said dolefully.  "Has Sandy
none?"

She shook her head.  "He is so small, the little fellow, and so
easy to hide."

"If I were in Central Africa, I would get Medina by the throat, and
peg him down and torture him till he disgorged."

Again she shook her head.  "Those methods are useless here.  He
would laugh at you, for he isn't a coward--at least I think not.
Besides, he is certain to be magnificently guarded.  And for the
rest he has the entrenchments of his reputation and popularity, and
a quicker brain than any of us.  He can put a spell of blindness on
the world--on all men and nearly all women."

The arrival of Miss Wymondham made me get up to leave.  She was
still the same odd-looking creature, with a mass of tow-coloured
hair piled above her long white face.  She had been dancing
somewhere, and looked at once dog-tired and excited.  "Mary has
been having such a good time," she told me.  "Even I can scarcely
keep pace with her ardent youth.  Can't you persuade her to do her
hair differently?  The present arrangement is so démodé and puts
her whole figure out of drawing.  Nancy Travers was speaking about
it only to-night.  Properly turned out, she said, Mary would be the
most ravishing thing in London.  By the way, I saw your friend Sir
Archie Roylance at the Parminters'.  He is lunching here on
Thursday.  Will you come, Richard?"

I told her that my plans were vague and that I thought I might be
out of town.  But I arranged with Mary before I left to keep me
informed at the Club of any news that came from Sandy.  As I walked
back I was infected by her distress over little David Warcliff.
That was the most grievous business of all, and I saw no light in
it, for though everything else happened according to plan, we
should never be able to bring Medina to book.  The more I thought
of it the more hopeless our case against him seemed to be.  We
might free the hostages, but we could never prove that he had had
anything to do with them.  I could give damning evidence, to be
sure, but who would take my word against his?  And I had no one to
confirm me.  Supposing I indicted him for kidnapping and told the
story of what I knew about the Blind Spinner and Newhover and
Odell?  He and the world would simply laugh at me, and I should
probably have to pay heavy damages for libel.  None of his
satellites, I was certain, would ever give him away; they couldn't,
even if they wanted to, for they didn't know anything.  No, Sandy
was right.  We might have a measure of success, but there would be
no victory.  And yet only victory would give us full success, for
only to get him on his knees, gibbering with terror, would restore
the poor little boy.  I strode through the empty streets with a
sort of hopeless fury in my heart.

One thing puzzled me.  What was Sandy doing in that house behind
the curiosity shop, if indeed it was Sandy?  Whoever had been there
had been in league with the sad grey man whom I watched from behind
the bedroom door.  Now the man was part of Medina's entourage: I
had no doubt about the accuracy of my recollection.  Had Sandy
dealings with someone inside the enemy's citadel?  I didn't see how
that was possible, for he had told me he was in deadly danger from
Medina, and that his only chance was to make him believe that he
was out of Europe. . . .  As I went to bed, one thing was very
clear in my mind.  If Medina asked me to stay with him, I would
accept.  It would probably be safer, though I wasn't so much
concerned about that, and it would possibly be more fruitful.  I
might find out something about the grey man.

Next day I went to see Medina, for I wanted him to believe that I
couldn't keep away from him.  He was in tremendous spirits about
something or other, and announced that he was going off to the
country for a couple of days.  He made me stay to luncheon, when I
had another look at Odell, who seemed to be getting fat.  "Your
wind, my lad," I said to myself, "can't be as good as it should be.
You wouldn't have my money in a scrap."  I hoped that Medina was
going to have a holiday, for he had been doing a good deal lately
in the way of speaking, but he said "No such luck."  He was going
down to the country on business--an estate of which he was a
trustee wanted looking into.  I asked in what part of England, and
he said Shropshire.  He liked that neighbourhood and had an idea of
buying a place there when he had more leisure.

Somehow that led me to speak of his poetry.  He was surprised to
learn that I had been studying the little books, and I could see
took it as a proof of my devotion.  I made a few fulsome
observations on their merits, and said that even an ignorant fellow
like me could see how dashed good they were.  I also remarked that
they seemed to me a trifle melancholy.

"Melancholy!" he said.  "It's a foolish world, Hannay, and a wise
man must have his moods of contempt.  Victory loses some of its
salt when it is won over fools."

And then he said what I had been waiting for.  "I told you weeks
ago that I wanted you to take up your quarters with me.  Well, I
repeat the offer and will take no refusal."

"It is most awfully kind of you," I stammered.  "But wouldn't I be
in the way?"

"Not in the least.  You see the house--it's as large as a barracks.
I'll be back from Shropshire by Friday, and I expect you to move in
here on Friday evening.  We might dine together."

I was content, for it gave me a day or two to look about me.
Medina went off that afternoon, and I spent a restless evening.  I
wanted to be with Mary, but it seemed to me that the less I saw her
the better.  She was going her own way, and if I showed myself in
her neighbourhood it might ruin all.  Next day was no better; I
actually longed for Medina to return so that I might feel I was
doing something, for there was nothing I could turn my hand to, and
when I was idle the thought of David Warcliff was always present to
torment me.  I went out to Hampton Court and had a long row on the
river; then I dined at the Club and sat in the little back smoking-
room, avoiding anyone I knew, and trying to read a book of travels
in Arabia.  I fell asleep in my chair, and, waking about half-past
eleven, was staggering off to bed, when a servant came to tell me
that I was wanted on the telephone.

It was Mary; she was speaking from Great Charles Street and her
voice was sharp with alarm.

"There's been an awful mishap, Dick," she said breathlessly.  "Are
you alone?  You're sure there's no one there? . . .  Archie
Roylance has made a dreadful mess of things. . . .  He came to that
dancing-place to-night, and Adela Victor was there, and Odell with
her.  Archie had seen her before, you know, and apparently was much
attracted.  No!  He didn't recognise me, for when I saw him I kept
out of range.  But of course he recognised the Marquis.  He danced
with Adela, and I suppose he talked nonsense to her--anyhow he made
himself conspicuous.  The result was that Odell proposed to take
her away--I suppose he was suspicious of anybody of Archie's world--
and, well, there was a row.  The place was very empty--only about
a dozen, and mostly a rather bad lot.  Archie asked what right he
had to carry off the girl, and lost his temper, and the manager was
called in--the man with the black beard.  He backed up Odell, and
then Archie did a very silly thing.  He said he was Sir Archibald
Roylance and wasn't going to be dictated to by any Jew, and, worse,
he said his friend was the Marquis de la Tour du Pin, and that
between them they would burst up this show, and that he wouldn't
have a poor girl ordered about by a third-rate American bully. . . .
I don't know what happened afterwards.  The women were hustled
out, and I had to go with the rest. . . .  But, Dick, it's bad
trouble.  I'm not afraid so much for Archie, though he has probably
had a bad mauling, but the Marquis.  They're sure to know who he is
and all about him and remember his connection with Adela.  They're
almost certain to make certain in some horrible way that he can't
endanger them again.

"Lord," I groaned, "what a catastrophe!  And what on earth can I
do?  I daren't take any part!"

"No," came a hesitating voice.  "I suppose not.  But you can warn
the Marquis--if nothing has happened to him already."

"Precious poor chance.  These fellows don't waste time.  But go to
bed and sleep, my dear.  I'll do my best."

My best at that time of night was pretty feeble.  I rang up
Victor's house and found, as I expected, that Turpin had not
returned.  Then I rang up Archie's house in Grosvenor Street and
got the same answer about him.  It was no good my going off to the
back streets of Marylebone, so I went to bed and spent a wretched
night.

Very early next morning I was in Grosvenor Street, and there I had
news.  Archie's man had just had a telephone message from a
hospital to say that his master had had an accident, and would he
come round and bring clothes.  He packed a bag and he and I drove
there at once, and found the miserable Archie in bed, the victim
officially of a motor accident.  He did not seem to be very bad,
but it was a rueful face, much battered about the eyes and bandaged
as to the jaw, which was turned on me when the nurse left us.

"You remember what I said about the pug with the diamond studs," he
whistled through damaged teeth.  "Well, I took him on last night
and got tidily laid out.  I'm not up to professional standards, and
my game leg made me slow."

"You've put your foot into it most nobly," I said.  "What do you
mean by brawling in a dance-club?  You've embarrassed me horribly
in the job I'm on."

"But how?" he asked, and but for the bandage his jaw would have
dropped.

"Never mind how at present.  I want to know exactly what happened.
It's more important than you think."

He told me the same story that I had heard from Mary, but much
garlanded with objurgations.  He denied that he had dined too well--
"nothing but a small whisky-and-soda and one glass of port."  He
had been looking for the girl in green for some time, and having
found her, was not going to miss the chance of making her
acquaintance.  "A melancholy little being with nothin' to say for
herself.  She's had hard usage from some swine--you could see it by
her eyes--and I expect the pug's the villain.  Anyway, I wasn't
goin' to stand his orderin' her about like a slave.  So I told him
so, and a fellow with a black beard chipped in and they began to
hustle me.  Then I did a dam' silly thing.  I tried to solemnise
'em by sayin' who I was, and old Turpin was there, so I dragged his
name in.  Dashed caddish thing to do, but I thought a Marquis would
put the wind up that crowd."

"Did he join in?"

"I don't know--I rather fancy he got scragged at the start.  Anyhow
I found myself facin' the pug, seein' bright red, and inclined to
fight a dozen.  I didn't last for more than one round--my game leg
cramped me, I suppose.  I got in one or two on his ugly face, and
then I suppose I took a knock-out.  After that I don't remember
anything till I woke up in this bed feelin' as if I had been
through a mangle.  The people here say I was brought in by two
bobbies and a fellow with a motor-car, who said I had walked slap
into his bonnet at a street corner and hurt my face.  He was very
concerned about me, but omitted to leave his name and address.
Very thoughtful of the sweeps to make sure there would be no
scandal. . . .  I say, Dick, you don't suppose this will get into
the newspapers?  I don't want to be placarded as havin' been in
such a vulgar shindy just as I'm thinkin' of goin' in for
Parliament."

"I don't think there's the remotest chance of your hearing another
word about it, unless you talk too much yourself.  Look here,
Archie, you've got to promise me never to go near that place again,
and never on any account whatever to go hunting for that girl in
green.  I'll tell you my reasons some day, but you can take it that
they're good ones.  Another thing.  You've got to keep out of
Turpin's way.  I only hope you haven't done him irreparable damage
because of your idiocy last night."

Archie was desperately penitent.  "I know I behaved like a cad.
I'll go and grovel to old Turpin as soon as they let me up.  But
he's all right--sure to be.  He wasn't lookin' for a fight like me.
I expect he only got shoved into the street and couldn't get back
again."

I did not share Archie's optimism, and very soon my fear was a
certainty.  I went straight from the hospital to Carlton House
Terrace, and found Mr. Victor at breakfast.  I learned that the
Marquis de la Tour du Pin had been dining out on the previous
evening and had not returned.



CHAPTER XV

HOW A FRENCH NOBLEMAN DISCOVERED FEAR


I have twice heard from Turpin the story I am going to set down--
once before he understood much of it, a second time when he had got
some enlightenment--but I doubt whether to his dying day he will
ever be perfectly clear about what happened to him.

I have not had time to introduce Turpin properly, and in any case I
am not sure that the job is not beyond me.  My liking for the
French is profound, but I believe there is no race on earth which
the average Briton is less qualified to comprehend.  For myself, I
could far more easily get inside the skin of a Boche.  I knew he
was as full of courage as a Berserker, pretty mad, but with that
queer core of prudence which your Latin possesses and which in the
long run makes his madness less dangerous than an Englishman's.  He
was high-strung, excitable, imaginative, and I should have said in
a general way very sensitive to influences such as Medina wielded.
But he was forewarned.  Mary had told him the main lines of the
business, and he was playing the part she had set him as dutifully
as a good child.  I had not done justice to his power of self-
control.  He saw his sweetheart leading that blind unearthly life,
and it must have been torture to him to do nothing except look on.
But he never attempted to wake her memory, but waited obediently
till Mary gave orders, and played the part to perfection of the
ordinary half-witted dancing mountebank.

When the row with Archie started, and the scurry began, he had the
sense to see that he must keep out of it.  Then he heard Archie
speak his real name, and saw the mischief involved in that, for
nobody knew him except Mary, and he had passed as a Monsieur Claud
Simond from Buenos Aires.  When he saw his friend stand up to the
bruiser, he started off instinctively to his help, but stopped in
time and turned to the door.  The man with the black beard was
looking at him, but said nothing.

There seemed to be a good deal of racket at the foot of the stairs.
One of the girls caught his arm.  "No good that way," she
whispered.  "It's a raid all right.  There's another road out.  You
don't want your name in to-morrow's papers."

He followed her into a little side passage, which was almost empty
and very dark, and there he lost her.  He was just starting to
prospect, when he saw a little dago whom he recognised as one of
the bar-tenders.  "Up the stairs, monsieur," the man said.  "Then
first to the left and down again.  You come out in the yard of the
Apollo Garage.  Quick, monsieur, or les flics will be here."

Turpin sped up the steep wooden stairs, and found himself in
another passage fairly well lit, with a door at each end.  He took
the one to the left, and dashed through, wondering how he was to
recover his hat and coat, and also what had become of Mary.  The
door opened easily enough, and in his haste he took two steps
forward.  It swung behind him, so that he was in complete darkness,
and he turned back to open it again to give him light.  But it
would not open.  With the shutting of that door he walked clean out
of the world.

At first he was angry, and presently, when he realised his
situation, a little alarmed.  The place seemed to be small, it was
utterly dark, and as stuffy as the inside of a safe.  His chief
thought at the moment was that it would never do for him to be
caught in a raid on a dance-club, for his true name might come out
and the harm which Archie's foolish tongue had wrought might be
thereby aggravated.  But soon he saw that he had stepped out of one
kind of danger into what was probably a worse.  He was locked in an
infernal cupboard in a house which he knew to have the most unholy
connections.

He started to grope around, and found that the place was larger
than he thought.  The walls were bare, the floor seemed to be of
naked boards, and there was not a stick of furniture anywhere, nor,
so far as he could see, any window.  He could not discover the door
he had entered by, which on the inside must have been finished dead
level with the walls.  Presently he found that his breathing was
difficult, and that almost put him in a panic, for the dread of
suffocation had always been for him the private funk from which the
bravest man is not free.  To breathe was like having his face
tightly jammed against a pillow.  He made an effort and controlled
himself, for he realised that if he let himself become hysterical
he would only suffocate the faster. . . .

Then he declares that he felt a hand pressing on his mouth. . . .
It must have been imagination, for he admits that the place was
empty, but all the same the hand came again and again--a large soft
hand smelling of roses.  His nerves began to scream, and his legs
to give under him.  The roses came down on him in a cloud, and that
horrible flabby hand, as big as a hill, seemed to smother him.  He
tried to move, to get away from it, and before he knew he found
himself on his knees.  He struggled to get up, but the hand was on
him, flattening him out, and that intolerable sweet sickly odour
swathed him in its nauseous folds. . . .  And then he lost
consciousness. . . .

How long he was senseless he doesn't know, but he thinks it must
have been a good many hours.  When he came to he was no longer in
the cupboard.  He was lying on what seemed to be a couch in a room
which felt spacious, for he could breathe freely, but it was still
as black as the nether pit.  He had a blinding headache, and felt
rather sick and as silly as an owl.  He couldn't remember how he
had come there, but as his hand fell on his shirt-front, and he
realised he was in dress clothes, he recollected Archie's cry.
That was the last clear thing in his head, but it steadied him, for
it reminded him how grave was his danger.  He has told me that at
first he was half stifled with panic, for he was feeling abominably
weak; but he had just enough reason left in him to let him take a
pull on his nerves.  "You must be a man," he repeated to himself.
"Even if you have stumbled into hell, you must be a man."

Then a voice spoke out of the darkness, and at the sound of it most
of his fright disappeared.  It was no voice that he knew, but a
pleasant voice, and it spoke to him in French.  Not ordinary
French, you understand, but the French of his native valley in the
South, with the soft slurring patois of his home.  It seemed to
drive away his headache and nausea, and to soothe every jangled
nerve, but it made him weaker.  Of that he has no doubt.  This
friendly voice was making him a child again.

His memory of what it said is hopelessly vague.  He thinks that it
reminded him of the life of his boyhood--the old chateau high in a
fold of the limestone hills, the feathery chestnuts in the valley
bottom, the clear pools where the big trout lived, the snowy
winters when the wolves came out of the forests to the farmyard
doors, the hot summers when the roads were blinding white and the
turf on the downs grew as yellow as corn.  The memory of it was all
jumbled, and whatever the voice said its effect was more like music
than spoken words.  It smoothed out the creases in his soul, but it
stole also the manhood from him.  He was becoming limp and docile
and passive like a weak child.

The voice stopped and he felt a powerful inclination to sleep.
Then suddenly, between sleeping and waking, he became aware of a
light, a star which glowed ahead of him in the darkness.  It waxed
and then waned, and held his eyes like a vice.  At the back of his
head he knew that there was some devilry in the business, that it
was something which he ought to resist, but for the life of him he
could not remember why.

The light broadened till it was like the circle which a magic-
lantern makes on a screen.  Into the air there crept a strange
scent--not the sickly smell of roses, but a hard pungent smell
which tantalised him with its familiarity.  Where had he met it
before? . . .  Slowly out of it there seemed to shape a whole world
of memories.

Now Turpin before the War had put in some years' service in Africa
with the Armée Coloniale as a lieutenant of Spahis, and had gone
with various engineering and military expeditions south of the
Algerian frontier into the desert.  He used to rave to me about the
glories of those lost days, that first youth of a man which does
not return. . . .  This smell was the desert, that unforgettable,
untameable thing which stretches from the Mediterranean to the
Central African forests, the place where, in the days when it was
sea, Ulysses wandered, and where the magic of Circe and Calypso for
all the world knows may still linger.

In the moon of light a face appeared, a face so strongly lit up
that every grim and subtle line of it was magnified.  It was an
Eastern face, a lean high-boned Arab face, with the eyes set in a
strange slant.  He had never seen it before, but he had met
something like it when he had dabbled in the crude magic of the
sands, the bubbling pot, and the green herb fire.  At first it was
only a face, half averted, and then it seemed to move so that the
eyes appeared, like lights suddenly turned on at night as one looks
from without at a dark house.

He felt in every bone a thing he had almost forgotten, the spell
and the terror of the desert.  It was a cruel and inhuman face,
hiding God knows what of ancient horror and sin, but wise as the
Sphinx and eternal as the rocks.  As he stared at it the eyes
seemed to master and envelop him, and, as he put it, suck the soul
out of him.

You see he had never been told about Kharáma.  That was the one
mistake Mary made, and a very natural one, for it was not likely
that he and the Indian would foregather.  So he had nothing in his
poor muddled head to help him to combat this mastering presence.
He didn't try.  He said he felt himself sinking into a delicious
lethargy, like the coma which overtakes a man who is being frozen
to death.

I could get very little out of Turpin about what happened next.
The face spoke to him, but whether in French or some African tongue
he didn't know--French, he thought--certainly not English.  I
gather that, while the eyes and the features were to the last
degree awe-inspiring, the voice was, if anything, friendly.  It
told him that he was in instant danger, and that the only hope lay
in utter impassivity.  If he attempted to exercise his own will, he
was doomed, and there was sufficient indication of what that doom
meant to shake his lethargy into spasms of childish fear.  "Your
body is too feeble to move," said the voice, "for Allah has laid
His hand on it."  Sure enough Turpin realised that he hadn't the
strength of a kitten.  "You have surrendered your will to Allah
till He restores it to you."  That also was true, for Turpin knew
he could not summon the energy to brush his hair, unless he was
ordered to.  "You will be safe," said the voice, "so long as you
sleep.  You will sleep till I bid you awake."

Sleep he probably did, for once again came a big gap in his
consciousness. . . .  The next he knew he was being jolted in
something that ran on wheels, and he suddenly rolled over on his
side, as the vehicle took a sharp turn.  This time it didn't take
him quite so long to wake up.  He found he was in a big motor-car,
with his overcoat on, and his hat on the seat beside him.  He was
stretched out almost at full length, and comfortably propped up
with cushions.  All this he realised fairly soon, but it was some
time before he could gather up the past, and then it was all
blurred and sketchy. . . .  What he remembered most clearly was the
warning that he was in grave peril and was only safe while he did
nothing.  That was burned in on his mind, and the lesson was
pointed by the complete powerlessness of his limbs.  He could
hardly turn over from his side to his back, and he knew that if he
attempted to stand he would fall down in a heap.  He shut his eyes
and tried to think.

Bit by bit the past pieced itself together.  He remembered Archie's
cry--and things before that--Mary--the girl in green.  Very soon
the truth smote him in the face.  He had been kidnapped like the
rest, and had had the same tricks played on him. . . .  But they
had only affected his body.  As he realised this tremendous fact
Turpin swelled with pride.  Some devilry had stolen his physical
strength, but his soul was his own still, his memory and his will.
A sort of miasma of past fear still clung about him, like the
after-taste of influenza, but this only served to make him angry.
He was most certainly not going to be beaten.  The swine had
miscalculated this time; they might have a cripple in their hands,
but it would be a very watchful, wary, and determined cripple,
quick to seize the first chance to be even with them.  His anger
made his spirits rise.  All his life he had been a man of tropical
loves and tempestuous hates.  He had loathed the Boche, and free-
masons, and communists and the deputies of his own land, and ever
since Adela's disappearance he had nursed a fury against a person
or persons unknown: and now every detestation of which he was
capable had been focussed against those who were responsible for
this night's work.  The fools!  They thought they had got a trussed
sheep, when all the time it was a lame tiger.

The blinds of the car were down, but by small painful movements he
managed to make out that there was a man in the front seat beside
the chauffeur.  By and by he got a corner of the right-hand blind
raised, and saw that it was night time and that they were moving
through broad streets that looked like a suburb.  From the beat of
the engine he gathered that the car was a Rolls-Royce, but not, he
thought, one of the latest models.  Presently the motion became
less regular, and he realised that the suburban streets were giving
place to country roads.  His many expeditions in his Delage had
taught him a good deal about the ways out of London, but, try as he
might, he could not pick up any familiar landmark.  The young moon
had set, so he assumed that it was near midnight; it was a fine,
clear night, not very dark, and he picked up an occasional inn and
church, but they never seemed to pass through any village.
Probably the driver was taking the less frequented roads--a view he
was confirmed in by the frequent right-angled turns and the many
patches of indifferent surface.

Very soon he found his efforts at reconnaissance so painful that he
gave them up, and contented himself with planning his policy.  Of
course he must play the part of the witless sheep.  That duty, he
thought, presented no difficulties, for he rather fancied himself
as an actor.  The trouble was his bodily condition.  He did not
believe that a constitution as good as his could have taken any
permanent damage from the night's work. . . .  The night's!  He
must have been away for more than one night, for the row with
Archie had taken place very near twelve o'clock.  This must be the
midnight following.  He wondered what Mr. Victor was thinking about
it--and Mary--and Hannay.  The miserable Hannay had now four lost
ones to look for instead of three! . . .  Anyhow the devils had got
an ugly prisoner in him.  His body must soon be all right, unless
of course they took steps to keep it all wrong.  At that thought
Turpin's jaw set.  The rôle of the docile sheep might be difficult
to keep up very long.

The next he knew the car had turned in at a gate and was following
a dark tree-lined avenue.  In another minute it had stopped before
the door of a house, and he was being lifted out by the chauffeur
and the man from the front seat, and carried into a hall.  But
first a dark bandanna was tied over his eyes, and, as he could do
nothing with his arms or legs, he had to submit.  He felt himself
carried up a short staircase, and then along a corridor into a
bedroom, where a lamp was lit.  Hands undressed him--his eyes still
bandaged--and equipped him with pyjamas which were not his own, and
were at once too roomy and too short.  Then food was brought, and
an English voice observed that he had better have some supper
before going to sleep.  The bandage was taken off and he saw two
male backs disappearing through the door.

Up till now he had felt no hunger or thirst, but the sight of food
made him realise that he was as empty as a drum.  By twisting his
head he could see it all laid out on the table beside his bed--a
good meal it looked--cold ham and galantine, an omelette, a salad,
cheese and a small decanter of red wine.  His soul longed for it,
but what about his feeble limbs?  Was this some new torture of
Tantalus?

Desire grew, and like an automaton he moved to it.  He felt all
numbed, with needles and pins everywhere, but surely he was less
feeble than he had been in the car.  First he managed to get his
right arm extended, and by flexing the elbow and wrist a certain
life seemed to creep back.  Then he did the same thing with his
right leg, and presently found that he could wriggle by inches to
the edge of the bed.  He was soon out of breath, but there could be
no doubt about it--he was getting stronger.  A sudden access of
thirst enabled him to grasp the decanter, and, after some trouble
with the stopper, to draw it to his lips.  Spilling a good deal, he
succeeded in getting a mouthful.  "Larose," he murmured, "and a
good vintage.  It would have been better if it had been cognac."

But the wine put new life into him.  He found he could use both
arms, and he began wolfishly on the omelette, making a rather messy
job of it.  By this time he was feeling a remarkably vigorous
convalescent, and he continued with the cold meat, till the cramp
in his left shoulder forced him to lie back on the pillow.  It soon
passed, and he was able in fair comfort to finish the meal down to
the last lettuce leaf of the salad, and the last drop of the
claret.  The Turpin who reclined again on the bed was to all
intents the same vigorous young man who the night before had
stumbled through that fateful door into the darkness.  But it was a
Turpin with a profoundly mystified mind.

He would have liked to smoke, but his cigarettes were in the pocket
of his dress clothes which had been removed.  So he started to do
for his legs what he had already achieved for his arms, and with
the same happy results.  It occurred to him that, while he was
alone, he had better discover whether or not he could stand.  He
made the effort, rolled out of bed on to the floor, hit the little
table with his head and set the dishes rattling.

But after a few scrambles he got to his feet and managed to shuffle
round the room.  The mischief was leaving his body--so much was
plain, and but for a natural stiffness in the joints he felt as
well as ever.  But what it all meant he hadn't a notion.  He was
inclined to the belief that somehow he had scored off his enemies,
and was a tougher proposition than they had bargained for.  They
had assuredly done no harm to his mind with their witchcraft, and
it looked as if they had also failed with his body.  The thought
emboldened him.  The house seemed quiet; why should he not do a
little exploration?

He cautiously opened the door, finding it, somewhat to his
surprise, unlocked.  The passage was lit by a hanging oil-lamp,
carpeted with an old-fashioned drugget, and its walls decorated
with a set of flower pictures.  Turpin came to the conclusion that
rarely in his life had he been in a dwelling which seemed more
innocent and homelike.  He considered himself sensitive to the
nuances of the sinister in an atmosphere, and there was nothing of
that sort in this.  He took a step or two down the passage, and
then halted, for he thought he heard a sound.  Yes, there could be
no doubt of it.  It was water gushing from a tap.  Someone in the
establishment was about to have a bath.

Then he slipped back to his room just in time.  The someone was
approaching with light feet and a rustle of draperies.  He had his
door shut when the steps passed, and then opened it and stuck his
head out.  He saw a pink dressing-gown, and above it a slender neck
and masses of dark hair.  It was the figure which he of all men was
likely to know best.

It seemed that the place for him was bed, so he got between the
sheets again and tried to think.  Adela Victor was here; therefore
he was in the hands of her captors, and made a fourth in their bag.
But what insanity had prompted these wary criminals to bring the
two of them to the same prison?  Were they so utterly secure, so
confident of their power, that they took this crazy risk?  The
insolence of it made him furious.  In the name of every saint he
swore that he would make them regret it.  He would free the lady
and himself, though he had to burn down the house and wring the
neck of every inmate.  And then he remembered the delicacy of the
business, and the need of exact timing if the other two hostages
were not to be lost, and at the thought he groaned.

There was a tap at the door, and a man entered to clear away the
supper table.  He seemed an ordinary English valet, with his stiff
collar and decent black coat and smug expressionless face.

"Beg pardon, my lord," he said, "at what hour would you like your
shavin' water?  Seein' it's been a late night I make so bold as to
suggest ten o'clock."

Turpin assented, and the servant had hardly gone when another
visitor appeared.  It was a slim pale man, whom he was not
conscious of having seen before, a man with grey hair and a
melancholy droop of the head.  He stood at the foot of the bed,
gazing upon the prostrate Turpin, and his look was friendly.  Then
he addressed him in French of the most Saxon type.

"Êtes-vous comfortable, monsieur?  C'est bien.  Soyez tranquille.
Nous sommes vos amis.  Bon soir."



CHAPTER XVI

OUR TIME IS NARROWED


I lunched that day with Mary--alone, for her aunts were both in
Paris--and it would have been hard to find in the confines of the
British islands a more dejected pair.  Mary, who had always a
singular placid gentleness, showed her discomposure only by her
pallor.  As for me I was as restless as a bantam.

"I wish I had never touched the thing," I cried.  "I have done more
harm than good."

"You have found Lord Mercot," she protested.

"Yes, and lost Turpin.  The brutes are still three up on us.  We
thought we had found two, and now we have lost Miss Victor again.
And Turpin!  They'll find him an ugly customer, and probably take
strong measures with him.  They'll stick to him and the girl and
the little boy now like wax; for last night's performance is bound
to make them suspicious."

"I wonder," said Mary, always an optimist.  "You see, Sir Archie
only dragged him in because of his rank.  It looked odd his being
in Adela's company, but then all the times he has seen her he never
spoke a word to her.  They must have noticed that.  I'm anxious
about Sir Archie.  He ought to leave London."

"Confound him!  He's going to, as soon as he gets out of hospital,
which will probably be this afternoon.  I insisted on it, but he
meant to in any case.  He's heard an authentic report of a green
sandpiper nesting somewhere.  It would be a good thing if Archie
would stick to birds.  He has no head for anything else. . . .  And
now we've got to start again at the beginning."

"Not quite the beginning," she interposed.

"Dashed near it.  They won't bring Miss Victor into that kind of
world again, and all your work goes for nothing, my dear.  It's
uncommon bad luck that you didn't begin to wake her up, for then
she might have done something on her own account.  But she's still
a dummy, and tucked away, you may be sure, in some place where we
can never reach her.  And we have little more than three weeks
left."

"It is bad luck," Mary agreed.  "But, Dick, I've a feeling that I
haven't lost Adela Victor.  I believe that somehow or other we'll
soon get in touch with her again.  You remember how children when
they lose a ball sometimes send another one after it in the hope
that one will find the other.  Well, we've sent the Marquis after
Adela, and I've a notion we may find them both together.  We always
did that as children." . . .  She paused at the word 'children' and
I saw pain in her eyes.  "Oh, Dick, the little boy!  We're no
nearer him, and he's far the most tragic of all."

The whole business looked so black that I had no word of comfort to
give her.

"And to put the lid on it," I groaned, "I've got to settle down in
Medina's house this evening.  I hate the idea like poison."

"It's the safest way," she said.

"Yes, but it puts me out of action.  He'll watch me like a lynx,
and I won't be able to take a single step on my own--simply sit
there and eat and drink and play up to his vanity.  Great Scott, I
swear I'll have a row with him and break his head."

"Dick, you're not going to--how do you say it?--chuck in your hand?
Everything depends on you.  You're our scout in the enemy's
headquarters.  Your life depends on your playing the game.  Colonel
Arbuthnot said so.  And you may find out something tremendous.  It
will be horrible for you, but it isn't for long, and it's the only
way."

That was Mary all over.  She was trembling with anxiety for me, but
she was such a thorough sportsman that she wouldn't take any soft
option.

"You may hear something about David Warcliff," she added.

"I hope to God I do.  Don't worry, darling.  I'll stick it out.
But, look here, we must make a plan.  I shall be more or less shut
off from the world, and I must have a line of communication open.
You can't telephone to me at that house, and I daren't ring you up
from there.  The only chance is the Club.  If you have any message,
ring up the head porter and make him write it down.  I'll arrange
that he keeps it quiet, and I'll pick up the messages when I get
the chance.  And I'll ring you up occasionally to give you the
news.  But I must be jolly careful, for, likely as not, Medina will
keep an eye on me even there.  You're in touch with Macgillivray?"

She nodded.

"And with Sandy?"

"Yes, but it takes some time--a day at least.  We can't correspond
direct."

"Well, there's the lay-out.  I'm a prisoner--with qualifications.
You and I can keep up some sort of communication.  As you say,
there's only about another three weeks."

"It would be nothing if only we had some hope."

"That's life, my dear.  We've got to go on to the finish anyhow,
trusting that luck will turn in the last ten minutes."

I arrived in Hill Street after tea and found Medina in the back
smoking-room, writing letters.

"Good man, Hannay," he said; "make yourself comfortable.  There are
cigars on that table."

"Had a satisfactory time in Shropshire?" I asked.

"Rotten.  I motored back this morning, starting very early.  Some
tiresome business here wanted my attention.  I'm sorry, but I'll be
out to dinner to-night.  The same thing always happens when I want
to see my friends--a hideous rush of work."

He was very hospitable, but his manner had not the ease it used to
have.  He seemed on the edge about something, and rather
preoccupied.  I guessed it was the affair of Archie Roylance and
Turpin.

I dined alone and sat after dinner in the smoking-room, for Odell
never suggested the library, though I would have given a lot to
fossick about that place.  I fell asleep over the Field and was
wakened about eleven by Medina.  He looked almost tired, a rare
thing for him; also his voice was curiously hard.  He made some
trivial remark about the weather, and a row in the Cabinet which
was going on.  Then he said suddenly:

"Have you seen Arbuthnot lately?"

"No," I replied, with real surprise in my tone.  "How could I?  He
has gone back to the East."

"So I thought.  But I have been told that he has been seen again in
England."

For a second I had a horrid fear that he had got on the track of my
meeting with Sandy at the Cotswold inn and his visit to Fosse.  His
next words reassured me.

"Yes.  In London.  Within the last few days."

It was easy enough for me to show astonishment.  "What a crazy
fellow he is!  He can't stay put for a week together.  All I can
say is that I hope he won't come my way.  I've no particular wish
to see him again."

Medina said no more.  He accompanied me to my bedroom, asked if I
had everything I wanted, bade me good night, and left me.

Now began one of the strangest weeks in my life.  Looking back, it
has still the inconsequence of a nightmare, but one or two episodes
stand out like reefs in a tide-race.  When I woke the first morning
under Medina's roof I believed that somehow or other he had come to
suspect me.  I soon saw that that was nonsense, that he regarded me
as a pure chattel; but I saw, too, that a most active suspicion of
something had been awakened in his mind.  Probably Archie's fiasco,
together with the news of Sandy, had done it, and perhaps there was
in it something of the natural anxiety of a man nearing the end of
a difficult course.  Anyhow I concluded that this tension of mind
on his part was bound to make things more difficult for me.
Without suspecting me, he kept me perpetually under his eye.  He
gave me orders as if I were a child, or rather he made suggestions,
which in my character of worshipping disciple I had to treat as
orders.

He was furiously busy night and day, and yet he left me no time to
myself.  He wanted to know everything I did, and I had to give an
honest account of my doings, for I had a feeling that he had ways
of finding out the truth.  One lie discovered would, I knew, wreck
my business utterly, for if I were under his power, as he believed
I was, it would be impossible for me to lie to him.  Consequently I
dared not pay many visits to the Club, for he would want to know
what I did there.  I was on such desperately thin ice that I
thought it best to stay most of my time in Hill Street, unless he
asked me to accompany him.  I consulted Mary about this, and she
agreed that it was the wise course.

Apart from a flock of maids, there was no other servant in the
house but Odell.  Twice I met the grey, sad-faced man on the
stairs, the man I had seen on my first visit, and had watched a
week before in the house behind the curiosity shop.  I asked who he
was, and was told a private secretary, who helped Medina in his
political work.  I gathered that he did not live regularly in the
house, but only came there when his services were required.

Now Mary had said that the other man that evening in Little Fardell
Street had been Sandy.  If she was right, this fellow might be a
friend, and I wondered if I could get in touch with him.  The first
time I encountered him he never raised his eyes.  The second time I
forced him by some question to look at me, and he turned on me a
perfectly dead expressionless face like a codfish.  I concluded
that Mary had been in error, for this was the genuine satellite,
every feature of whose character had been steam-rollered out of
existence by Medina's will.

I was seeing Medina now at very close quarters, and in complete
undress, and the impression he had made on me at our first meeting--
which had been all overlaid by subsequent happenings--grew as
vivid again as daylight.  The "good fellow," of course, had gone; I
saw behind all his perfection of manner to the naked ribs of his
soul.  He would talk to me late at night in that awful library,
till I felt that he and the room were one presence, and that all
the diabolic lore of the ages had been absorbed by this one mortal.
You must understand that there was nothing wrong in the ordinary
sense with anything he said.  If there had been a phonograph
recording his talk it could have been turned on with perfect safety
in a girls' school. . . .  He never spoke foully, or brutally.  I
don't believe he had a shadow of those faults of the flesh which we
mean when we use the word "vice."  But I swear that the most
wretched libertine before the bar of the Almighty would have shown
a clean sheet compared to his.

I know no word to describe how he impressed me except "wickedness."
He seemed to annihilate the world of ordinary moral standards, all
the little rags of honest impulse and stumbling kindness with which
we try to shelter ourselves from the winds of space.  His consuming
egotism made life a bare cosmos in which his spirit scorched like a
flame.  I have met bad men in my day, fellows who ought to have
been quietly and summarily put out of existence, but if I had had
the trying of them I would have found bits of submerged decency and
stunted remnants of good feeling.  At any rate they were human, and
their beastliness was a degeneration of humanity, not its flat
opposite.  Medina made an atmosphere which was like a cold bright
air in which nothing can live.  He was utterly and consumedly
wicked, with no standard which could be remotely related to
ordinary life.  That is why, I suppose, mankind has had to invent
the notion of devils.  He seemed to be always lifting the corner of
a curtain and giving me peeps into a hoary mystery of iniquity
older than the stars. . . .  I suppose that someone who had never
felt his hypnotic power would have noticed very little in his talk
except its audacious cleverness, and that someone wholly under his
dominion would have been less impressed than me because he would
have forgotten his own standards, and been unable to make the
comparison.  I was just in the right position to understand and
tremble. . . .  Oh, I can tell you, I used to go to bed solemnised,
frightened half out of my wits, and yet in a violent revulsion, and
hating him like hell.  It was pretty clear that he was mad, for
madness means just this dislocation of the modes of thought which
mortals have agreed upon as necessary to keep the world together.
His head used to seem as round as a bullet, like nothing you find
even in the skulls of cave-men, and his eyes to have a blue light
in them like the sunrise of death in an arctic waste.

One day I had a very narrow escape.  I went to the Club, to see if
there was anything from Mary, and received instead a long cable
from Gaudian in Norway.  I had just opened it, when I found Medina
at my elbow.  He had seen me enter, and followed me, in order that
we should walk home together.

Now I had arranged a simple code with Gaudian for his cables, and
by the mercy of Heaven that honest fellow had taken special
precautions, and got some friend to send this message from
Christiania.  Had it borne the Merdal stamp it would have been all
up with me.

The only course was the bold one, though I pursued it with a
quaking heart.

"Hullo," I cried, "here's a cable from a pal of mine in Norway.
Did I tell you I had been trying to get a beat on the Leardal for
July?  I had almost forgotten about the thing.  I started inquiring
in March, and here's my first news."

I handed him the two sheets and he glanced at the place of
dispatch.

"Code," he said.  "Do you want to work it out now?"

"If you don't mind waiting a few seconds.  It's a simple code of my
own invention, and I ought to be able to decipher it pretty fast."

We sat down at one of the tables in the hall, and I took up a pen
and a sheet of notepaper.  As I think I have mentioned before, I am
rather a swell at codes, and this one in particular I could read
without much difficulty.  I jotted down some letters and numbers,
and then wrote out a version which I handed to Medina.  This was
what he read:


"Upper beat Leardal available from first of month.  Rent two
hundred and fifty with option of August at one hundred more.  No
limit to rods.  Boat on each pool.  Tidal waters can also be got
for sea trout by arrangement.  If you accept please cable word
'Yes.'  You should arrive not later than June 29th.  Bring plenty
of bottled prawns.  Motor boat can be had from Bergen.  Andersen,
Grand Hotel, Christiania."


But all the time I was scribbling this nonsense, I was reading the
code correctly and getting the message by heart.  Here is what
Gaudian really sent:


"Our friend has quarrelled with keeper and beaten him soundly.  I
have taken charge at farm and frightened latter into docility.  He
will remain prisoner in charge of ally of mine till I give the word
to release.  Meantime, think it safer to bring friend to England
and start on Monday.  Will wire address in Scotland and wait your
instructions.  No danger of keeper sending message.  Do not be
anxious, all is well."


Having got that clear in my head, I tore the cable into small
pieces and flung them into the waste-paper basket.

"Well, are you going?" Medina asked.

"Not I.  I'm off salmon-fishing for the present."  I took a cable
form from the table and wrote:  "Sorry, must cancel Leardal plan,"
signed it "Hannay," addressed it to "Andersen, Grand Hotel,
Christiania," and gave it to the porter to send off.  I wonder what
happened to that telegram.  It is probably still stuck up on the
hotel-board, awaiting the arrival of the mythical Andersen.

On our way back to Hill Street Medina put his arm in mine, and was
very friendly.  "I hope to get a holiday," he said, "perhaps just
after the beginning of June.  Only a day or two off now.  I may go
abroad for a little.  I would like you to come with me."

That puzzled me a lot.  Medina could not possibly leave town before
the great liquidation, and there could be no motive in his trying
to mislead me on such a point, seeing that I was living in his
house.  I wondered if something had happened to make him change the
date.  It was of the first importance that I should find this out,
and I did my best to draw him about his plans.  But I could get
nothing out of him except that he hoped for an early holiday, and
"early" might apply to the middle of June as well as to the
beginning, for it was now the 27th of May.

Next afternoon at tea-time to my surprise Odell appeared in the
smoking-room, followed by the long lean figure of Tom Greenslade.
I never saw anybody with greater pleasure, but I didn't dare to
talk to him alone.  "Is your master upstairs?" I asked the butler.
"Will you tell him that Dr. Greenslade is here?  He is an old
friend of his."

We had rather less than two minutes before Medina appeared.  "I
come from your wife," Greenslade whispered.  "She has told me all
about the business, and she thought this was the safest plan.  I
was to tell you that she has news of Miss Victor and the Marquis.
They are safe enough.  Any word of the little boy?"

He raised his voice as Medina entered.  "My dear fellow, this is a
great pleasure.  I had to be in London for a consultation, and I
thought I would look up Hannay.  I hardly hoped to have the luck to
catch a busy man like you."

Medina was very gracious--no, that is not the word, for there was
nothing patronising in his manner.  He asked in the most friendly
way about Greenslade's practice, and how he liked English country
life after his many wanderings.  He spoke with an air of regret of
the great valleys of loess and the windy Central Asian tablelands
where they had first foregathered.  Odell brought in tea, and we
made as pleasant a trio of friends as you could find in London.  I
asked a few casual questions about Fosse, and then I mentioned
Peter John.  Here Greenslade had an inspiration; he told me
afterwards that he thought it might be a good thing to open a
channel for further communications.

"I think he's all right," he said slowly.  "He's been having
occasional stomach-aches, but I expect that is only the result of
hot weather and the first asparagus.  Lady Hannay is a little
anxious--you know what she is, and all mothers to-day keep thinking
about appendicitis.  So I'm keeping my eye on the little man.  You
needn't worry, Dick."

I take credit to myself for having divined the doctor's intention.
I behaved as if I scarcely heard him, and as if Fosse Manor and my
family were things infinitely remote.  Indeed I switched off the
conversation to where Medina had last left it, and I behaved
towards Tom Greenslade as if his presence rather bored me, and I
had very little to say to him.  When he got up to go, it was Medina
who accompanied him to the front door.  All this was a heavy strain
upon my self-command, for I would have given anything for a long
talk with him--though I had the sense not to believe his news about
Peter John.

"Not a bad fellow, that doctor of yours," Medina observed on his
return.

"No," I said carelessly.  "Rather a dull dog all the same, with his
country gossip.  But I wish him well, for it is to him that I owe
your friendship."

I must count that episode one of my lucky moments, for it seemed to
give Medina some special satisfaction.  "Why do you make this your
only sitting-room?" he asked.  "The library is at your disposal,
and it is pleasanter in summer than any other part of the house."

"I thought I might be disturbing your work," I said humbly.

"Not a bit of it.  Besides, I've nearly finished my work.  After
to-night I can slack off, and presently I'll be an idle man."

"And then the holiday?"

"Then the holiday."  He smiled in a pleasant boyish way, which was
one of his prettiest tricks.

"How soon will that be?"

"If all goes well, very soon.  Probably after the second of June.
By the way, the Thursday Club dines on the first.  I want you to be
my guest again."

Here was more food for thought.  The conviction grew upon me that
he and his friends had put forward the date of liquidation; they
must have suspected something--probably from Sandy's presence in
England--and were taking no risks.  I smoked that evening till my
tongue was sore and went to bed in a fever of excitement.  The
urgency of the matter fairly screamed in my ears, for Macgillivray
must know the truth at once, and so must Mary.  Mercot was safe,
and there was a chance apparently of Turpin and Miss Victor, which
must be acted upon instantly if the main date were changed.  Of the
little boy I had given up all hope. . . .  But how to find the
truth!  I felt like a man in a bad dream who is standing on the
line with an express train approaching, and does not know how to
climb back on to the platform.

Next morning Medina never left me.  He took me in his car to the
City, and I waited while he did his business, and then to call in
Carlton House Terrace a few doors from the Victors' house.  I
believe it was the residence of the man who led his party in the
Lords.  After luncheon he solemnly installed me in the library.
"You're not much of a reader, and in any case you would probably
find my books dull.  But there are excellent arm-chairs to doze
in."

Then he went out and I heard the wheels of his car move away.  I
felt a kind of awe creeping over me when I found myself left alone
in the uncanny place, which I knew to be the devil's kitchen for
all his schemes.  There was a telephone on his writing-table, the
only one I had seen in the house, though there was no doubt one in
the butler's pantry.  I turned up the telephone book and found a
number given, but it was not the one on the receiver.  This must be
a private telephone, by means of which he could ring up anybody he
wanted, but of which only his special friends knew the number.
There was nothing else in the room to interest me, except the lines
and lines of books, for his table was as bare as a bank-manager's.

I tried the books, but most of them were a long sight too learned
for me.  Most were old, and many were in Latin, and some were
evidently treasures, for I would take one down and find it a
leather box with inside it a slim battered volume wrapped in wash-
leather.  But I found in one corner a great array of works of
travel, so I selected one of Aurel Stein's books and settled down
in an arm-chair with it.  I tried to fix my attention, but found it
impossible.  The sentences would not make sense to my restless
mind, and I could not follow the maps.  So I got up again, replaced
the work on its shelf, and began to wander about.  It was a dull
close day, and out in the street a water-cart was sprinkling the
dust and children were going park-wards with their nurses. . . .  I
simply could not account for my disquiet, but I was like a fine
lady with the vapours.  I felt that somewhere in that room there
was something that it concerned me deeply to know.

I drifted towards the bare writing-table.  There was nothing on it
but a massive silver inkstand in the shape of an owl, a silver tray
of pens and oddments, a leather case of notepaper and a big
blotting-book.  I would never have made a good thief, for I felt
both nervous and ashamed as, after listening for steps, I tried the
drawers.

They were all locked--all, that is, except a shallow one at the top
which looked as if it were meant to contain one of those big
engagement tablets which busy men affect.  There was no tablet
there, but there were two sheets of paper.

Both had been torn from a loose-leaf diary, and both covered the
same dates--the fortnight between Monday the 29th of May, and
Sunday the 11th of June.  In the first the space for the days was
filled with entries in Medina's neat writing, entries in some sort
of shorthand.  These entries were close and thick up to and
including Friday the 2nd of June; after that there was nothing.
The second sheet of paper was just the opposite.  The spaces were
virgin up to and including the 2nd of June; after that, on till the
11th, they were filled with notes.

As I stared at these two sheets, some happy instinct made me divine
their meaning.  The first sheet contained the steps that Medina
would take up to the day of liquidation, which was clearly the 2nd
of June.  After that, if all went well, came peace and leisure.
But if it didn't go well, the second sheet contained his plans--
plans I have no doubt for using the hostages, for wringing safety
out of certain great men's fears. . . .  My interpretation was
confirmed by a small jotting in long-hand on the first sheet in the
space for 2nd June.  It was the two words "Dies irae," which my
Latin was just good enough to construe.

I had lost all my tremors now, but I was a thousandfold more
restless.  I must get word to Macgillivray at once--no, that was
too dangerous--to Mary.  I glanced at the telephone and resolved to
trust my luck.

I got through to the Wymondhams' house without difficulty.  Barnard
the butler answered, and informed me that Mary was at home.  Then
after a few seconds I heard her voice.

"Mary," I said, "the day is changed to the 2nd of June.  You
understand, warn everybody . . . I can't think why you are worrying
about that child."

For I was conscious that Medina was entering the room.  I managed
with my knee to close the shallow drawer with the two sheets in it,
and I nodded and smiled to him, putting my hand over the receiver.

"Forgive me using your telephone.  Fact is, my wife's in London and
she sent me round a note here asking me to ring her up.  She's got
the boy on her mind."

I put the tube to my ear again.  Mary's voice sounded sharp and
high-pitched.

"Are you there?  I'm in Mr. Medina's library and I can't disturb
him talking through this machine.  There's no cause to worry about
Peter John.  Greenslade is usually fussy enough, and if he's calm
there's no reason why you shouldn't be.  But if you want another
opinion, why not get it?  We may as well get the thing straightened
out now, for I may be going abroad early in June. . . .  Yes, some
time after the 2nd."

Thank God Mary was quick-witted.

"The 2nd is very near.  Why do you make such sudden plans, Dick?  I
can't go home without seeing you.  I think I'll come straight to
Hill Street."

"All right," I said, "do as you please."  I rang off and looked at
Medina with a wry smile.  "What fussers women are!  Do you mind if
my wife comes round here?  She won't be content till she has seen
me.  She has come up with a crazy notion of taking down a surgeon
to give an opinion on the child's appendix.  Tommy rot!  But that's
a woman's way."

He clearly suspected nothing.  "Certainly let Lady Hannay come
here.  We'll give her tea.  I'm sorry that the drawing-room is out
of commission just now.  She might have liked to see my
miniatures."

Mary appeared in ten minutes, and most nobly she acted her part.
It was the very model of a distraught silly mother who bustled into
the room.  Her eyes looked as if she had been crying and she had
managed to disarrange her hat and untidy her hair.

"Oh, I've been so worried," she wailed, after she had murmured
apologies to Medina.  "He really has had a bad tummy pain, and
nurse thought last night that he was feverish.  I've seen Mr.
Dobson-Wray, and he can come down by the four-forty-five. . . .
He's such a precious little boy, Mr. Medina, that I feel we must
take every precaution with him.  If Mr. Dobson-Wray says it is all
right, I promise not to fuss any more.  I think a second opinion
would please Dr. Greenslade, for he too looked rather anxious. . . .
Oh, no, thank you so much, but I can't stay for tea.  I have a
taxi waiting, and I might miss my train.  I'm going to pick up Mr.
Dobson-Wray in Wimpole Street."

She departed in the same tornado in which she had come, just
stopping to set her hat straight at one of the mirrors in the hall.

"Of course I'll wire when the surgeon has seen him.  And, Dick,
you'll come down at once if there's anything wrong, and bring
nurses.  Poor, poor little darling! . . .  Did you say after the
2nd of June, Dick?  I do hope you'll be able to get off.  You need
a holiday away from your tiresome family. . . .  Good-bye, Mr.
Medina.  It was so kind of you to be patient with a silly mother.
Look after Dick and don't let him worry."

I had preserved admirably the aloof air of the bored and slightly
ashamed husband.  But now I realised that Mary was not babbling at
large, but was saying something which I was meant to take in.

"Poor, poor little darling!" she crooned as she got into the taxi.
"I do pray he'll be all right--I THINK he may, Dick. . . .  I hope,
oh I hope . . . to put your mind at ease . . . before the 2nd of
June."

As I turned back to Medina I had a notion that the poor little
darling was no longer Peter John.



CHAPTER XVII

THE DISTRICT-VISITOR IN PALMYRA SQUARE


During the last fortnight a new figure had begun to appear in
Palmyra Square.  I do not know if Macgillivray's watchers reported
its presence, for I saw none of their reports, but they must have
been cognisant of it, unless they spent all their time in the
nearest public-house.  It was a district-visitor of the familiar
type--a woman approaching middle age, presumably a spinster, who
wore a plain black dress and, though the weather was warm, a cheap
fur round her neck, and carried a rather old black silk satchel.
Her figure was good, and had still a suggestion of youth, but her
hair, which was dressed very flat and tight and coiled behind in an
unfashionable bun, seemed--the little that was seen of it--to be
sprinkled with grey.  She was dowdy, and yet not altogether dowdy,
for there was a certain faded elegance in her air, and an observer
might have noted that she walked well.  Besides the black satchel
she carried usually a sheaf of papers, and invariably and in all
weathers a cheap badly-rolled umbrella.

She visited at the doctor's house with the brass plate, and the
music-teacher's, and at the various lodging-houses.  She was
attached, it appeared, to the big church of St. Jude's a quarter of
a mile off, which had just got a new and energetic vicar.  She was
full of enthusiasm for her vicar, praised his earnestness and his
eloquence, and dwelt especially, after the way of elderly maiden
ladies, on the charm of his youth.  She was also very ready to
speak of herself, and eager to explain that her work was voluntary--
she was a gentlewoman of modest but independent means, and had
rooms in Hampstead, and her father had been a clergyman at
Eastbourne.  Very full of her family she was to those who would
hear her.  There was a gentle simplicity about her manners, and an
absence of all patronage, which attracted people and made them
willing to listen to her when they would have shut the door on
another, for the inhabitants of Palmyra Square are not a courteous
or patient or religious folk.

Her aim was to enlist the overworked general servants of the Square
in some of the organisations of St. Jude's.  There were all kinds
of activities in that enlightened church--choral societies, and
mothers' meetings, and country holiday clubs, and classes for adult
education.  She would hand out sheaves of literature about the
Girls' Friendly Society, and the Mothers' Union, and such-like, and
try to secure a promise of attendance at some of the St. Jude's
functions.  I do not think she had much success at the doctor's and
the music-teacher's, though she regularly distributed her
literature there.  The wretched little maids were too downtrodden
and harassed to do more than listen dully on the doorstep and say
"Yes'm."  Nor was she allowed to see the mistresses, except one of
the lodging-house keepers, who was a Primitive Methodist and
considered St. Jude's a device of Satan.  But she had better
fortune with the maid at No. 4.

The girl belonged to a village in Kent, and the district-visitor,
it seemed, had been asked to look her up by the rector of her old
parish.  She was a large flat-faced young woman, slow of speech,
heavy of movement, and suspicious of nature.  At first she greeted
the district-visitor coldly, but thawed at the mention of familiar
names and accepted a copy of the St. Jude's Magazine.  Two days
later, when on her afternoon out, she met the district-visitor and
consented to walk a little way with her.  Now the girl's hobby was
dress, and her taste was better than most of her class and aspired
to higher things.  She had a new hat which her companion admired,
but she confessed that she was not quite satisfied with it.  The
district-visitor revealed a knowledge of fashions which one would
have scarcely augured from her own sombre clothes.  She pointed out
where the trimming was wrong, and might easily be improved, and the
girl--her name was Elsie Outhwaite--agreed.  "I could put it right
for you in ten minutes," she was told.  "Perhaps you would let me
come and see you when you have a spare half-hour, and we could do
it together.  I'm rather clever at hats, and used to help my
sisters."

The ice was broken and the aloof Miss Outhwaite became confidential.
She liked her place, had no cause to complain, received good wages,
and above all was not fussed.  "I minds my own business, and Madame
minds 'ers," she said.  Madame was a foreigner, and had her queer
ways, but had also her good points. She did not interfere
unnecessarily, and was not mean.  There were handsome presents at
Christmas, and every now and then the house would be shut up and
Miss Outhwaite returned to Kent on generous board wages.  It was
not a hard billet, though of course there were a lot of visitors,
Madame's clients.  "She's a massoose, you know, but very
respectable."  When asked if there were no other inmates of the
house she became reticent.  "Not what you would call reg'lar part
of the family," she admitted.  "There's an old lady, Madame's aunt,
that stops with us a but, but I don't see much of 'er. Madame
attends to 'er 'erself, and she 'as her private room.  And of
course there's . . ."  Miss Outhwaite seemed suddenly to recollect
something, and changed the subject.

The district-visitor professed a desire to make Madame's
acquaintance, but was not encouraged.  "She's not the sort for the
likes of you.  She don't 'old with churches and God and such-like--
I've 'eard 'er say so.  You won't be getting 'er near St. Jude's,
miss."

"But if she is so clever and nice I would like to meet her.  She
could advise me about some of the difficult questions in this big
parish.  Perhaps she would help with our Country Holidays."

Miss Outhwaite primmed her lips and didn't think so.  "You've got
to be ill and nervy for Madame to have an interest in you.  I'll
take in your name if you like, but I expect Madame won't be at 'ome
to you."

It was eventually arranged that the district-visitor should call at
No. 4 the following afternoon and bring the materials for the
reconstructed hat.  She duly presented herself, but was warned away
by a flustered Miss Outhwaite.  "We're that busy to-day I 'aven't a
minute to myself."  Sunday was suggested, but it appeared that that
was the day when the district-visitor was fully occupied, so a
provisional appointment was made for the next Tuesday evening.

This time all went well.  Madame was out, and the district-visitor
spent a profitable hour in Miss Outhwaite's room.  Her nimble
fingers soon turned the hat, purchased in Queen's Crescent for ten
and sixpence, into a distant imitation of a costlier mode.  She
displayed an innocent interest in the household, and asked many
questions which Miss Outhwaite, now in the best of tempers,
answered readily.  She was told of Madame's habits, her very
occasional shortness of temper, her love of every tongue but
English.  "The worst of them furriners," said Miss Outhwaite, "is
that you can't never be sure what they thinks of you.  Half the
time I'm with Madame and her aunt they're talking some 'eathen
language."

As she departed the district-visitor was given a sketch of the
topography of the house about which she showed an unexpected
curiosity.  Before she left there was a slight contretemps.
Madame's latch-key was heard in the door and Miss Outhwaite had a
moment of panic.  "Here, miss, I'll let you out through the
kitchen," she whispered.  But her visitor showed no embarrassment.
"I'd like to meet Madame Breda," she declared.  "This is a good
chance."

Madame's plump dark face showed surprise, and possibly annoyance,
as she observed the two.  Miss Outhwaite hastened to explain the
situation with a speed which revealed nervousness.  "This is a lady
from St. Jude's, Madame," she said.  "She comes 'ere districk-
visiting and she knows the folk in Radhurst, where I comes from, so
I made bold to ask her in."

"I am very glad to meet you, Madame Breda," said the district-
visitor.  "I hope you don't mind my calling on Elsie Outhwaite.  I
want her to help in our Girls' Friendly Society work."

"You have been here before, I think," was the reply in a
sufficiently civil tone.  "I have seen you in the Square sometimes.
There is no objection on my part to Outhwaite's attending your
meetings, but I warn you that she has very little free time."  The
woman was a foreigner, no doubt, but on this occasion her English
showed little trace of accent.

"That is very good of you.  I should have asked your permission
first, but you were unfortunately not at home when I called, and
Elsie and I made friends by accident.  I hope you will let me come
again."

As the visitor descended the steps and passed through the bright
green gate into the gathering dusk of the Square, Madame Breda
watched her contemplatively from one of the windows.

The lady came again four days later--it must, I think, have been
the 29th of May.  Miss Outhwaite, when she opened the door, looked
flustered.  "I can't talk to you to-night, miss.  Madame's orders
is that when you next came you was to be shown in to her room."

"How very kind of her!" said the lady.  "I should greatly enjoy a
talk with her.  And, Elsie--I've got such a nice present for you--a
hat which a friend gave me and which is too young--really too
young--for me to wear.  I'm going to give it you, if you'll accept
it.  I'll bring it in a day or two."

The district-visitor was shown into the large room on the right-
hand side of the hall where Madame received her patients.  There
was no one there except a queer-looking little girl in a linen
smock, who beckoned her to follow to the folding-doors which
divided the apartment from the other at the back.  The lady did a
strange thing, for she picked up the little girl, held her a second
in her arms, and kissed her--after the emotional habit of the
childless dévote.  Then she passed through the folding-doors.

It was an odd apartment in which she found herself--much larger
than could have been guessed from the look of the house, and,
though the night was warm, there was a fire lit, a smouldering fire
which gave off a fine blue smoke.  Madame Breda was there, dressed
in a low-cut gown as if she had been dining out, and looking
handsome and dark and very foreign in the light of the shaded
lamps.  In an armchair by the hearth sat a wonderful old lady, with
a thing like a mantilla over her snow-white hair.  It was a room so
unlike anything in her narrow experience that the newcomer stood
hesitating as the folding-doors shut behind her.

"Oh, Madame Breda, it is so very kind of you to see me," she
faltered.

"I do not know your name," Madame said, and then she did a curious
thing, for she lifted a lamp and held it in the visitor's face,
scrutinising every line of her shabby figure.

"Clarke--Agnes Clarke.  I am the eldest of three sisters--the other
two are married--you may have heard of my father--he wrote some
beautiful hymns, and edited--"

"How old are you?" Madame broke in, still holding up the lamp.

The district-visitor gave a small nervous laugh.  "Oh, I am not so
very old--just over forty--well, to be quite truthful, nearly
forty-seven.  I feel so young sometimes that I cannot believe it,
and then--at other times--when I am tired--I feel a hundred.  Alas!
I have many useless years behind me.  But then we all have, don't
you think?  The great thing is to be resolved to make the most of
every hour that remains to us.  Mr. Empson at St. Jude's preached
such a beautiful sermon last Sunday about that.  He said we must
give every unforgiving minute its sixty seconds' worth of distance
run--I think he was quoting poetry.  It is terrible to think of
unforgiving minutes."

Madame did not appear to be listening.  She said something to the
older lady in a foreign tongue.

"May I sit down, please?" the visitor asked.  "I have been walking
a good deal to-day."

Madame waved her away from the chair she seemed about to take.
"You will sit there, if you please," she said, pointing to a low
couch beside the old woman.

The visitor was obviously embarrassed.  She sat down on the edge of
the couch, a faded nervous figure compared to the two masterful
personages, and her fingers played uneasily with the handle of her
satchel.

"Why do you come to this house?" Madame asked, and her tone was
almost menacing.  "We have nothing to do with your church."

"Oh, but you live in the parish, and it's such a large and
difficult parish, and we want help from everyone.  You cannot
imagine how horrible some of the slums are--what bitter poverty in
these bad times--and the worn-out mothers and the poor little
neglected children.  We are trying to make it a brighter place."

"Do you want money?"

"We always want money."  The district-visitor's face wore an
ingratiating smile.  "But we want chiefly personal service.  Mr.
Empson always says that one little bit of personal service is
better than a large subscription--better for the souls of the giver
and the receiver."

"What do you expect to get from Outhwaite?"

"She is a young girl from a country village and alone in London.
She is a good girl, I think, and I want to give her friends and
innocent amusement.  And I want her help too in our work."

The visitor started, for she found the hand of the old woman on her
arm.  The long fingers were running down it and pressing it.
Hitherto the owner of the hand had not spoken, but now she said:

"This is the arm of a young woman.  She has lied about her age.  No
woman of forty-seven ever had such an arm."

The soft passage of the fingers had suddenly become a grip of
steel, and the visitor cried out.

"Oh, please, please, you are hurting me. . . .  I do not tell lies.
I am proud of my figure--just a little.  It is like my mother's,
and she was so pretty.  But oh!  I am not young.  I wish I was.
I'm afraid I'm quite old when you see me by daylight."

The grip had relaxed, and the visitor moved along the couch to be
out of its reach.  She had begun to cry in a helpless silly way, as
if she were frightened.  The two other women spoke to each other in
a strange tongue, and then Madame said:

"I will not have you come here.  I will not have you meddle with my
servants.  I do not care a fig for your church.  If you come here
again you will repent it."

Her tone was harsh, and the visitor looked as if her tears would
begin again.  Her discomposure had deprived her of the faded grace
which had been in her air before, and she was now a pathetic and
flimsy creature, like some elderly governess pleading against
dismissal.

"You are cruel," she sighed.  "I am so sorry if I have done
anything wrong, but I meant it for the best.  I thought that you
might help me, for Elsie said you were clever and kind.  Won't you
think of poor Elsie?  She is so young and far from her people.
Mayn't she come to St. Jude's sometimes?"

"Outhwaite has her duties at home, and so I dare say have you, if
truth was spoken.  Bah!  I have no patience with restless English
old maids.  They say an Englishman's house is his castle, and yet
there is a plague of barren virgins always buzzing round it in the
name of religion and philanthropy.  Listen to me.  I will not have
you in this house.  I will not have you talking to Outhwaite.  I
will not have an idle woman spying on my private affairs."

The visitor dabbed her eyes with a wisp of handkerchief.  The old
woman had stretched out her hand again and would have laid it on
her breast, but she had started up violently.  She seemed to be in
a mood between distress and fear.  She swallowed hard before her
voice came, and then it quavered.

"I think I had better go.  You have wounded me very deeply.  I know
I'm not clever, but I try so hard . . . and . . . and--it pains me
to be misunderstood.  I am afraid I have been tactless, so please
forgive me . . . I won't come again . . . I'll pray that your
hearts may some day be softened."

She seemed to make an effort to regain composure, and with a final
dab at her eyes smiled shakily at the unrelenting Madame, who had
touched an electric bell.  She closed the folding-doors gently
behind her, like a repentant child who has been sent to bed.  The
front room was in darkness, but there was a light in the hall where
Miss Outhwaite waited to show her out.

At the front door the district-visitor had recovered herself.

"Elsie," she whispered, "Madame Breda does not want me to come
again.  But I must give you the hat I promised you.  I'll have it
ready by Thursday night.  I'm afraid I may be rather late--after
eleven perhaps--but don't go to bed till I come.  I'll go round to
the back door.  It's such a smart pretty hat.  I know you'll love
it."

Once in the Square she looked sharply about her, cast a glance back
at No. 4, and then walked away briskly.  There was a man lounging
at the corner to whom she spoke; he nodded and touched his hat, and
a big motor car, which had been waiting in the shadows on the other
side, drew up at the kerb.  It seemed a strange conveyance for the
district-visitor, but she entered it as if she were used to it, and
when it moved off it was not in the direction of her rooms in
Hampstead.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE NIGHT OF THE FIRST OF JUNE


The last two days of May were spent by me in the most miserable
restlessness and despondency.  I was cut off from all communications
with my friends and I did not see how I could reopen them.  For
Medina, after his late furious busyness, seemed to have leisure
again, and he simply never let me out of his sight.  I dare
say I might have managed a visit to the Club and a telephone
message to Mary, but I durst not venture it, for I realised as I
had never done before how delicate was the ground I walked on and
how one false step on my part might blow everything sky-high.  It
would have mattered less if I had been hopeful of success, but a
mood of black pessimism had seized me.  I could count on Mary
passing on my news to Macgillivray and on Macgillivray's taking the
necessary steps to hasten the rounding-up; by the second of June
Mercot would be restored to his friends, and Miss Victor too, if
Mary had got on her track again.  But who was arranging all that?
Was Mary alone in the business, and where was Sandy?  Mercot and
Gaudian would be arriving in Scotland, and telegraphing to me any
moment, and I could not answer them.  I had the maddening feeling
that everything was on a knife edge, that the chances of a blunder
were infinite, and that I could do nothing.  To crown all, I was
tortured by the thought of David Warcliff.  I had come to the
conclusion that Mary's farewell words at Hill Street had meant
nothing: indeed, I couldn't see how she could have found out
anything about the little boy, for as yet we had never hit on the
faintest clue, and the thought of him made success with the other
two seem no better than failure.  Likewise I was paying the penalty
for the assurance about Medina which I had rashly expressed to
Mary.  I felt the terror of the man in a new way; he seemed to me
impregnable beyond the hope of assault; and while I detested him I
also shuddered at him--a novel experience, for hitherto I had
always found that hatred drove out fear.

He was abominable during those two days--abominable but also
wonderful.  He seemed to love the sight of me, as if I were a
visible and intimate proof of his power, and he treated me as an
Oriental tyrant might treat a favourite slave.  He unbent to me as
a relief to his long spiritual tension, and let me see the
innermost dreams of his heart.  I realised with a shudder that he
thought me a part of that hideous world he had created, and--I
think for the first time in the business--I knew fear on my own
account.  If he dreamed I could fail him he would become a ravening
beast. . . .  I remember that he talked a good deal of politics,
but, ye gods! what a change from the respectable conservative views
which he had once treated me to--a Tory revival owing to the women
and that sort of thing!  He declared that behind all the world's
creeds, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and the rest, lay an ancient
devil-worship and that it was raising its head again.  Bolshevism,
he said, was a form of it, and he attributed the success of
Bolshevism in Asia to a revival of what he called Shamanism--I
think that was the word.  By his way of it the War had cracked the
veneer everywhere and the real stuff was showing through.  He
rejoiced in the prospect, because the old faiths were not ethical
codes but mysteries of the spirit, and they gave a chance for men
who had found the ancient magic.  I think he wanted to win
everything that civilisation would give him, and then wreck it, for
his hatred of Britain was only a part of his hatred of all that
most men hold in love and repute.  The common anarchist was a fool
to him, for the cities and temples of the whole earth were not
sufficient sacrifice to appease his vanity.  I knew now what a Goth
and a Hun meant, and what had been the temper of scourges like
Attila and Timour. . . .  Mad, you will say.  Yes, mad beyond
doubt, but it was the most convincing kind of madness.  I had to
fight hard by keeping my mind firm on my job, to prevent my nerve
giving.

I went to bed on the last night of May in something very near
despair, comforting myself, I remember, by what I had said to Mary,
that one must go on to the finish and trust to luck changing in the
last ten minutes.  I woke to a gorgeous morning, and when I came
down to breakfast I was in a shade better spirits.  Medina proposed
a run out into the country and a walk on some high ground.  "It
will give us an appetite for the Thursday dinner," he said.  Then
he went upstairs to telephone, and I was in the smoking-room
filling my pipe when suddenly Greenslade was shown in.

I didn't listen to what he had to say, but seized a sheet of paper
and scribbled a note:  "Take this to the head porter at the Club
and he will give you any telegram there is for me.  If there is one
from Gaudian, as there must be, wire him to start at once and go
straight to Julius Victor.  Then wire the Duke to meet him there.
Do you understand?  Now, what have you to tell me?"

"Only that your wife says things are going pretty well.  You must
turn up to-night at ten-thirty at the Fields of Eden.  Also somehow
you must get a latch-key for this house, and see that the door is
not chained."

"Nothing more?"

"Nothing more."

"And Peter John?"

Greenslade was enlarging on Peter John's case when Medina entered.
"I came round to tell Sir Richard that it was all a false alarm.
Only the spring fret.  The surgeon was rather cross at being taken
so far on a fool's errand.  Lady Hannay thought he had better hear
it from me personally, for then he could start on his holiday with
an easy mind."

I was so short with him that Medina must have seen how far my
thoughts were from my family.  As we motored along the road to
Tring I talked of the approaching holiday, like a toadying
schoolboy who has been asked to stay for a cricket week with some
senior.  Medina said he had not fixed the place, but it must be
somewhere south in the sun--Algiers, perhaps, and the fringes of
the desert, or better still some remote Mediterranean spot where we
could have both sunlight and blue sea.  He talked of the sun like a
fire-worshipper.  He wanted to steep his limbs in it, and wash his
soul in light, and swim in wide warm waters.  He rhapsodised like a
poet, but what struck me about his rhapsodies was how little
sensuous they were.  The man's body was the most obedient satellite
of his mind, and I don't believe he had any weakness of the flesh.
What he wanted was a bath of radiance for his spirit.

We walked all day on the hills around Ivinghoe, and had a late
lunch in the village inn.  He spoke very little, but strode over
the thymy downs with his eyes abstracted.  Once, as we sat on the
summit, he seemed to sigh and his face for a moment was very grave.

"What is the highest pleasure?" he asked suddenly.  "Attainment? . . .
No.  Renunciation."

"So I've heard the parsons say," I observed.

He did not heed me.  "To win everything that mankind has ever
striven for, and then to cast it aside.  To be Emperor of the Earth
and then to slip out of the ken of mankind and take up the sandals
and begging-bowl.  The man who can do that has conquered the world--
he is not a king but a god.  Only he must be a king first to
achieve it."

I cannot hope to reproduce the atmosphere of that scene, the bare
top of the hill in the blue summer weather, and that man, nearing,
as he thought, the summit of success, and suddenly questioning all
mortal codes of value.  In all my dealings with Medina I was
obsessed by the sense of my inferiority to him, that I was like a
cab horse compared to an Arab stallion, and now I felt it like a
blow in the face.  That was the kind of thing Napoleon might have
said--and done--had his schemes not gone astray.  I knew I was
contending with a devil, but I know also that it was a great devil.

We returned to town just in time to dress for dinner, and all my
nervousness revived a hundredfold.  This was the night of crisis,
and I loathed having to screw myself up to emergencies late in the
day.  Such things should take place in the early morning.  It was
like going over the top in France; I didn't mind it so much when it
happened during a drizzling dawn, when one was anyhow depressed and
only half-awake, but I abominated an attack in the cold-blooded
daylight, or in the dusk when one wanted to relax.

That evening I shaved, I remember, very carefully, as if I were
decking myself out for a sacrifice.  I wondered what would be my
feelings when I next shaved.  I wondered what Mary and Sandy were
doing. . . .

What Mary and Sandy were doing at that precise moment I do not
know, but I can now unfold certain contemporary happenings which
were then hid from me. . . .  Mercot and Gaudian were having a late
tea in the Midland express, having nearly broken their necks in a
furious motor race to catch the train at Hawick.  The former was
clean and shaven, his hair nicely cut, and his clothes a fairly
well-fitting ready-made suit of flannels.  He was deeply sunburnt,
immensely excited, and constantly breaking in on Gaudian's study of
the works of Sir Walter Scott.

"Newhover is to be let loose to-day.  What do you suppose he'll
do?" he asked.

"Nothing--yet awhile," was the answer.  "I said certain things to
him.  He cannot openly go back to Germany, and I do not think he
dare come to England.  He fears the vengeance of his employer.  He
will disappear for a little, and then emerge in some new crime with
a new name and a changed face.  He is the eternal scoundrel."

The young man's face lighted up pleasantly.  "If I live to be a
hundred," he said, "I can't enjoy anything half as much as that
clip I gave him on the jaw."

                     *     *     *     *     *

In a room in a country house on the Middlesex and Bucks borders
Turpin was talking to a girl.  He was in evening dress, a very
point-device young man, and she was wearing a wonderful gown,
grass-green in colour and fantastically cut.  Her face was heavily
made up, and her scarlet lips and stained eyebrows stood out
weirdly against the dead white of her skin.  But it was a different
face from that which I first saw in the dancing-hall.  Life had
come back to it, the eyes were no longer dull like pebbles, but
were again the windows of a soul.  There was still fear in those
eyes and bewilderment, but they were human again, and shone at this
moment with a wild affection.

"I am terrified," she said.  "I have to go to that awful place with
that awful man.  Please, Antoine, please, do not leave me.  You
have brought me out of a grave, and you cannot let me slip back
again."

He held her close to him and stroked her hair.

"I think it is--how do you say it?--the last lap.  My very dear
one, we cannot fail our friends.  I follow you soon.  The grey man--
I do not know his name--he told me so, and he is a friend.  A car
is ordered for me half an hour after you drive off with that
Odell."

"But what does it all mean?" she asked.

"I do not know, but I think--I am sure--it is the work of our
friends.  Consider, my little one.  I am brought to the house where
you are, but those who have charge of you do not know I am here.
When Odell comes I am warned and locked in my room.  I am not
allowed out of it.  I have had no exercise except sparring with
that solemn English valet.  He indeed has been most amiable, and
has allowed me to keep myself in form.  He boxes well, too, but I
have studied under our own Jules and he is no match for me.  But
when the coast is clear I am permitted to see you, and I have waked
you from sleep, my princess.  Therefore so far it is good.  As to
what will happen to-night I do not know, but I fancy it is the end
of our troubles.  The grey man has told me as much.  If you go back
to that dance place, I think I follow you, and then we shall see
something.  Have no fear, little one.  You go back as a prisoner no
more, but as an actress to play a part, and I know you will play
the part well.  You will not permit the man Odell to suspect.
Presently I come, and I think there will be an éclaircissement--
also, please God, a reckoning."

The wooden-faced valet entered and signed to the young man, who
kissed the girl and followed him.  A few minutes later Turpin was
in his own room, with the door locked behind him.  Then came a
sound of the wheels of a car outside, and he listened with a smile
on his face.  As he stood before the glass putting the finishing
touches to his smooth hair he was still smiling--an ominous smile.

                     *     *     *     *     *

Other things, which I did not know about, were happening that
evening.  From a certain modest office near Tower Hill a gentleman
emerged to seek his rooms in Mayfair.  His car was waiting for him
at the street corner, but to his surprise as he got into it someone
entered also from the other side, and the address to which the car
ultimately drove was not Clarges Street.  The office, too, which he
had left locked and bolted was presently open, and men were busy
there till far into the night--men who did not belong to his staff.
An eminent publicist, who was the special patron of the distressed
populations of Central Europe, was starting out to dine at his
club, when he was unaccountably delayed, and had to postpone his
dinner.  The Spanish copper company in London Wall had been doing
little business of late, except to give luncheons to numerous
gentlemen, but that night its rooms were lit, and people who did
not look like city clerks were investigating its documents.  In
Paris a certain French count of royalist proclivities, who had a
box that night for the opera and was giving a little dinner
beforehand, did not keep his appointment, to the discomfiture of
his guests, and a telephone message to his rooms near the Champs
Elysées elicited no reply.  There was a gruff fellow at the other
end who discouraged conversation.  A worthy Glasgow accountant, an
elder of the kirk and a prospective candidate for Parliament, did
not return that evening to his family, and the police, when
appealed to, gave curious answers.  The office, just off Fleet
Street, of the Christian Advocate of Milwaukee, a paper which
cannot have had much of a circulation in England, was filled about
six o'clock with silent preoccupied people, and the manager,
surprised and rather wild of eye, was taken off in a taxi by two
large gentlemen who had not had previously the honour of his
acquaintance.  Odd things seemed to be happening up and down the
whole world.  More than one ship did not sail at the appointed hour
because of the interest of certain people in the passenger lists; a
meeting of decorous bankers in Genoa was unexpectedly interrupted
by the police; offices of the utmost respectability were occupied
and examined by the blundering minions of the law; several
fashionable actresses did not appear to gladden their admirers, and
more than one pretty dancer was absent from the scene of her usual
triumphs; a Senator in Western America, a high official in Rome,
and four deputies in France found their movements restricted, and a
Prince of the Church, after receiving a telephone message, fell to
his prayers.  A mining magnate in Westphalia, visiting Antwerp on
business, found that he was not permitted to catch the train he had
settled on.  Five men, all highly placed, and one woman, for no
cause apparent to their relatives, chose to rid themselves of life
between the hours of six and seven.  There was an unpleasant
occurrence in a town on the Loire, where an Englishman, motoring to
the south of France--a typical English squire, well known in
hunting circles in Shropshire--was visited at his hotel by two
ordinary Frenchmen, whose conversation seemed unpalatable to him.
He was passing something from his waistcoat pocket to his mouth,
when they had the audacity to lay violent hands on him, and to slip
something over his wrists.

                     *     *     *     *     *

It was a heavenly clear evening when Medina and I set out to walk
the half-mile to Mervyn Street.  I had been so cloistered and
harassed during the past weeks that I had missed the coming of
summer.  Suddenly the world seemed to have lighted up, and the
streets were filled with that intricate odour of flowers, scent,
hot wood pavements and asphalt which is the summer smell of London.
Cars were waiting at house-doors, and women in pretty clothes
getting into them; men were walking dinner-wards, with some of whom
we exchanged greetings; the whole earth seemed full of laughter and
happy movement.  And it was shut off from me.  I seemed to be
living on the other side of a veil from this cheerful world, and I
could see nothing but a lonely old man with a tragic face waiting
for a lost boy.  There was one moment at the corner of Berkeley
Square when I accidentally jostled Medina, and had to clench my
hands and bite my lips to keep myself from throttling him there and
then.

The dining-room in Mervyn Street looked west, and the evening light
strove with the candles on the table, and made a fairy-like scene
of the flowers and silver.  It was a full meeting--fifteen, I
think--and the divine weather seemed to have put everybody in the
best of spirits.  I had almost forgotten Medina's repute with the
ordinary man, and was staggered anew at the signs of his
popularity.  He was in the chair that evening, and a better
chairman of such a dinner I have never seen.  He had the right word
for everybody, and we sat down to table like a party of
undergraduates celebrating a successful cricket-match.

I was on the chairman's right hand, next to Burminster, with
Palliser-Yeates opposite me.  At first the talk was chiefly about
the Derby and Ascot entries, about which Medina proved uncommonly
well posted.  He had a lot of inside knowledge from the Chilton
stables, and showed himself a keen critic of form; also he was a
perfect pundit about the pedigree of race-horses, and made
Burminster, who fancied himself in the same line, gape with
admiration.  I suppose a brain like his could get up any subject at
lightning speed, and he thought this kind of knowledge useful to
him, for I don't believe he cared more for a horse than for a cat.

Once, during the Somme battle, I went to dine at a French château
behind the lines, as the guest of the only son of the house.  It
was an ancient place, with fishponds and terraces, and there were
only two people in it, an old Comtesse and a girl of fifteen called
Simone.  At dinner, I remember, a decrepit butler filled for me
five glasses of different clarets, till I found the one I
preferred.  Afterwards I walked in the garden with Simone in a
wonderful yellow twilight, watching the fat carp in the ponds, and
hearing the grumbling of the distant guns.  I felt in that hour the
poignant contrast of youth and innocence and peace with that
hideous world of battle a dozen miles off.  To-night I had the same
feeling--the jolly party of clean, hard, decent fellows, and the
abominable hinterland of mystery and crime of which the man at the
head of the table was the master.  I must have been poor company,
but happily everybody was talkative, and I did my best to grin at
Burminster's fooling.

Presently the talk drifted away from sport.  Palliser-Yeates was
speaking, and his fresh boyish colour contrasted oddly with his
wise eyes and grave voice.

"I can't make out what is happening," he said in reply to a remark
of Leithen's.  "The City has suddenly become jumpy, and there's no
reason in the facts that I can see for it.  There's been a good
deal of realisation of stocks, chiefly by foreign holders, but
there are a dozen explanations of that.  No, there's a kind of
malaise about, and it's unpleasantly like what I remember in June
1914.  I was in Whittingtons' then, and we suddenly found the
foundations beginning to crumble--oh yes, before the Serajevo
murders.  You remember Charlie Esmond's smash--well, that was
largely due to the spasm of insecurity that shook the world.
People now and then get a feeling in their bones that something bad
is going to happen.  And probably they are right, and it has begun
to happen."

"Good Lord!" said Leithen.  "I don't like this.  Is it another
war?"

Palliser-Yeates did not answer at once.  "It looks like it.  I
admit it's almost unthinkable, but then all wars are really
unthinkable, till you're in the middle of them."

"Nonsense!" Medina cried.  "There's no nation on the globe fit to
go to war, except half-civilised races with whom it is the normal
condition.  You forget how much we know since 1914.  You couldn't
get even France to fight without provoking a revolution--a middle-
class revolution, the kind that succeeds."

Burminster looked relieved.  "The next war," he said, "will be a
dashed unpleasant affair.  So far as I can see there will be very
few soldiers killed, but an enormous number of civilians.  The
safest place will be the front.  There will be such a rush to get
into the army that we'll have to have conscription to make people
remain in civil life.  The embusqués will be the regulars."

As he spoke someone entered the room, and to my amazement I saw
that it was Sandy.

He was looking extraordinarily fit and as brown as a berry.  He
murmured an apology to the chairman for being late, patted the bald
patch on Burminster's head, and took a seat at the other end of the
table.  "I'll cut in where you've got to," he told the waiters.
"No--don't bother about fish.  I want some English roast beef and a
tankard of beer."

There was a chorus of questions.

"Just arrived an hour ago.  I've been in the East--Egypt and
Palestine.  Flew most of the way back."

He nodded to me, and smiled at Medina and raised his tankard to
him.

I was not in a good position for watching Medina's face, but so far
as I could see it was unchanged.  He hated Sandy, but he didn't
fear him now, when his plans had practically come to fruition.
Indeed he was very gracious to him, and asked in his most genial
tones what he had been after.

"Civil aviation," said Sandy.  "I'm going to collar the pilgrim
traffic to the Holy Places.  You've been in Mecca?" he asked Pugh,
who nodded.  "You remember the hamelidari crowd who used to
organise the transport from Mespot.  Well, I'm a hamelidari on a
big scale.  I am prepared to bring the rank of hadji within reach
of the poorest and feeblest.  I'm going to be the great benefactor
of the democracy of Islam, by means of a fleet of patched-up
'planes and a few kindred spirits that know the East.  I'll let you
fellows in on the ground-floor when I float my company.  John"--he
addressed Palliser-Yeates--"I look to you to manage the flotation."

Sandy was obviously ragging, and no one took him seriously.  He sat
there with his merry brown face, looking absurdly young and
girlish, so that the most suspicious could have seen nothing more
in him than the ordinary mad Englishman who lived for adventure and
novelty.  Me he never addressed, and I was glad of it, for I was
utterly at sea.  What did he mean by turning up now?  What part was
he to play in the events of the night?  I could not have controlled
the anxiety in my voice if I had been forced to speak to him.

A servant brought Medina a note, which he opened at leisure and
read.  "No answer," he said, and stuffed it into his pocket.  I had
a momentary dread that he might have got news of Macgillivray's
round-up, but his manner reassured me.

There were people there who wanted to turn Sandy to other subjects,
especially Fulleylove and the young Cambridge don, Nightingale.
They wanted to know about South Arabia, of which at the time the
world was talking.  Some fellow, I forget his name, was trying to
raise an expedition to explore it.

"It's the last geographical secret left unriddled," he said, and
now he spoke seriously.  "Well, perhaps not quite the last.  I'm
told there's still something to be done with the southern
tributaries of the Amazon.  Mornington, you know, believes there's
a chance of finding some of the Inca people still dwelling in the
unexplored upper glens.  But all the rest have gone.  Since the
beginning of the century we've made a clean sweep of the jolly old
mysteries that made the world worth living in.  We have been to
both the Poles, and to Lhasa, and to the Mountains of the Moon.  We
haven't got to the top of Everest yet, but we know what it is like.
Mecca and Medina are as stale as Bournemouth.  We know that there's
nothing very stupendous in the Brahmaputra gorges.  There's little
left for a man's imagination to play with, and our children will
grow up in a dull, shrunken world.  Except, of course, the Great
Southern Desert of Arabia."

"Do you think it can be crossed?" Nightingale asked.

"It's hard to say, and the man who tried it would take almighty
risks.  I don't fancy myself pinning my life to milk camels.
They're chancy brutes."

"I don't believe there's anything there," said Fulleylove, "except
eight hundred miles of soft sand."

"I'm not so sure.  I've heard strange stories.  There was a man I
met once in Oman, who went west from the Manah oasis . . ."

He stopped to taste the club madeira, then set down the glass and
looked at his watch.

"Great Scott!" he said.  "I must be off.  I'm sorry, Mr. President,
but I felt I must see you all again.  You don't mind my butting
in?"

He was half-way to the door, when Burminster asked where he was
going.

"To seek the straw in some sequestered grange. . . .  Meaning the
ten-thirty from King's Cross.  I'm off to Scotland to see my
father.  Remember, I'm the last prop of an ancient house.  Good-
bye, all of you.  I'll tell you about my schemes at the next
dinner."

As the door closed on him I had a sense of the blackest depression
and loneliness.  He was my one great ally, and he came and
disappeared like a ship in the night, without a word to me.  I felt
like a blind bat, and I must have showed my feeling in my face, for
Medina saw it and put it down, I dare say, to my dislike of Sandy.
He asked Palliser-Yeates to take his place.  "It's not the Scotch
express, like Arbuthnot, but I'm off for a holiday very soon, and I
have an appointment I must keep."  That was all to the good, for I
had been wondering how I was to make an excuse for my visit to the
Fields of Eden.  He asked me when I would be back and I said
listlessly within the next hour.  He nodded.  "I'll be home by
then, and can let you in if Odell has gone to bed."  Then with a
little chaff of Burminster he left, so much at ease that I was
positive he had had no bad news.  I waited for five minutes and
followed suit.  The time was a quarter past ten.

                     *     *     *     *     *

At the entrance to the Club in Wellesley Street I expected to have
some difficulty, but the man in the box at the head of the stairs,
after a sharp glance at me, let me pass.  He was not the fellow who
had been there on my visit with Archie Roylance and yet I had a
queer sense of having seen his face before.  I stepped into the
dancing-room with its heavy flavour of scent and its infernal din
of mountebank music, sat down at a side table and ordered a
liqueur.

There was a difference in the place, but at first I could not put
my finger on it.  Everything seemed the same; the only face I knew
was Miss Victor's, and that had the same mask-like pallor; she was
dancing with a boy, who seemed to be trying to talk to her and
getting few replies.  Odell I did not see, nor the Jew with the
beard.  I observed with interest the little casement above from
which I had looked when I burgled the curiosity shop.  There were
fewer people to-night, but apparently the same class.

No, not quite the same class.  The women were the same, but the men
were different.  They were older and more--how shall I put it?--
responsible-looking, and had not the air of the professional
dancing partner or the young man on the spree.  They were heavier
footed, too, though good enough performers.  Somehow I got the
notion that most of them were not habitués of this kind of place
and were here with a purpose.

As soon as this idea dawned on me I began to notice other things.
There were fewer foreign waiters, and their number was steadily
decreasing.  Drinks would be ordered and would be long in coming; a
servant, once he left the hall, seemed to be unaccountably
detained.  And then I observed another thing.  There was a face
looking down from the casement above; I could see it like a shadow
behind the dirty glass.

Presently Odell appeared, a resplendent figure in evening dress,
with a diamond solitaire in his shirt and a red silk handkerchief
in his left sleeve.  He looked massive and formidable, but puffier
than ever, and his small pig's eyes were very bright.  I fancied he
had been having a glass or two, just enough to excite him.  He
swaggered about among the small tables, turning now and then to
stare at the girl in green, and then went out again.  I looked at
my watch, and saw that it was a quarter to eleven.

When I lifted my head Mary had arrived.  No more paint and powder
and bizarre clothes.  She was wearing the pale blue gown she had
worn at our Hunt Ball in March, and her hair was dressed in the
simple way I loved, which showed all the lights and shadows in the
gold.  She came in like a young queen, cast a swift glance round
the room, and then, shading her eyes with her hand, looking up
towards the casement.  It must have been a signal, for I saw a hand
wave.

As she stood there, very still and poised like a runner, the music
stopped suddenly.  The few men who were still dancing spoke to
their partners and moved towards the door.  I observed the bearded
Jew hurry in and look round.  A man touched him on the arm and drew
him away, and that was the last I saw of him.

Suddenly Odell reappeared.  He must have had some warning which
required instant action.  I shall never know what it was, but it
may have announced the round-up, and the course to be followed
towards the hostages.  He signed peremptorily to Miss Victor and
went forward as if to take her arm.  "You gotta come along," I
heard, when my eyes were occupied with a new figure.

Turpin was there, a pale taut young man with his brows knit, as I
remembered them in tight corners in France.  The green girl had
darted to Mary's side, and Turpin strode up to her.

"Adela, my dear," he said, "I think it is time for you to be going
home."

The next I saw was Miss Victor's hand clutching his arm and Odell
advancing with a flush on his sallow face.

"You letta go that goil," he was saying.  "You got no business with
her.  She's my goil."

Turpin was smiling.  "I think not, my friend."  He disengaged
Adela's arm and put her behind him, and with a swift step struck
Odell a resounding smack on the cheek with the flat of his hand.

The man seemed to swell with fury.  "Hell!" he cried, with a
torrent of Bowery oaths.  "My smart guy, I've got something in my
mitt for you.  You for the sleep pill."

I would have given a fortune to be in Turpin's place, for I felt
that a scrap was what I needed to knit up my ragged nerves.  But I
couldn't chip in, for this was clearly his special quarrel, and
very soon I saw that he was not likely to need my help.

Smiling wickedly, he moved round the pug, who had his fists up.
"Fiche-moi la paix," he crooned.  "My friend, I am going to
massacre you."

I stepped towards Mary, for I wanted to get the women outside, but
she was busy attending to Miss Victor, whom the strain of the
evening had left on the verge of swooning.  So I only saw bits of
the fight.  Turpin kept Odell at long range, for in-fighting would
have been fatal, and he tired him with his lightning movements,
till the professional's bad training told and his wind went.  When
the Frenchman saw his opponent puffing and his cheeks mottling he
started to sail in.  That part I witnessed, and I hope that Mary
and Miss Victor did not understand old Turpin's language, for he
spoke gently to himself the whole time, and it was the quintessence
of all the esoteric abuse that the French poilu accumulated during
the four years of war.  His tremendous reach gave him an advantage,
he was as light on his legs as a fencer, and his arms seemed to
shoot out with the force of a steam-hammer.  I realised what I had
never known before, that his slimness was deceptive, and that
stripped he would be a fine figure of sinew and bone.  Also I
understood that a big fellow, however formidable, if he is
untrained and a little drunk, will go down before speed and quick
wits and the deftness of youth.

They fought for just over six minutes.  Turpin's deadliest blows
were on Odell's body, but the knockout came with one on the point
of the chin.  The big man crumpled up in a heap, and the back of
his head banged on the floor.  Turpin wrapped a wisp of a
handkerchief round his knuckles, which had suffered from Odell's
solitaire, and looked about him.

"What is to become of this offal?" he asked.

One of the dancers replied.  "We will look after him, sir.  The
whole house is in our hands.  This man is wanted on a good many
grounds."

I walked up to the prostrate Odell, and took the latch-key from his
waistcoat pocket.  Turpin and Adela had gone, and Mary stood
watching me.  I observed that she was very pale.

"I am going to Hill Street," I said.

"I will come later," was her answer.  "I hope in less than an hour.
The key will let you in.  There will be people there to keep the
door open for me."

Her face had the alert and absorbed look that old Peter Pienaar's
used to have when he was after big game.  There was no other word
spoken between us.  She entered a big saloon-car which was waiting
in the street below, and I walked to Royston Square to find a taxi.
It was not yet eleven o'clock.



CHAPTER XIX

THE NIGHT OF THE FIRST OF JUNE--LATER


A little after eleven that night a late walker in Palmyra Square
would have seen a phenomenon rare in the dingy neighbourhood.  A
large motor-car drew up at the gate of No. 7, where dwelt the
teacher of music who had long retired to rest.  A woman descended,
wearing a dark cloak and carrying a parcel, and stood for a second
looking across the road to where the lean elms in the centre of the
square made a patch of shade.  She seemed to find there what she
expected, for she hastened to the gate of No. 4.  She did not
approach the front door, but ran down the path to the back where
the tradesmen called, and as soon as she was out of sight several
figures emerged from the shadow and moved towards the gate.

Miss Outhwaite opened to her tap.  "My, but you're late, miss," she
whispered, as the woman brushed past her into the dim kitchen.
Then she gasped, for some transformation had taken place in the
district-visitor.  It was no longer a faded spinster that she saw,
but a dazzling lady, gorgeously dressed as it seemed to her, and of
a remarkable beauty.

"I've brought your hat, Elsie," she said.  "It's rather a nice one,
and I think you'll like it.  Now go at once and open the front
door."

"But Madame . . ." the girl gasped.

"Never mind Madame.  You are done with Madame.  To-morrow you will
come and see me at this address," and she gave her a slip of paper.
"I will see that you do not suffer.  Now hurry, my dear."

The girl seemed to be mesmerised, and turned to obey.  The
district-visitor followed her, but did not wait in the hall.
Instead, she ran lightly up the stairs, guiding herself by a small
electric torch, and when the front door was open and four silent
figures had entered she was nowhere to be seen.

For the next quarter of an hour an inquisitive passer-by would have
noted lights spring out and then die away in more than one room of
No. 4.  He might have also heard the sound of low excited speech.
At the end of that space of time he would have seen the district-
visitor descend the steps and enter the big car which had moved up
to the gate.  She was carrying something in her arms.

Within, in a back room, a furious woman was struggling with a
telephone, from which she got no answer, since the line had been
cut.  And an old woman sat in a chair by the hearth, raving and
muttering, with a face like death.


When I got to Hill Street, I waited till the taxi had driven off
before I entered.  There was a man standing in the porch of the
house opposite, and as I waited another passed me, who nodded.
"Good evening, Sir Richard," he said, and though I did not
recognise him I knew where he came from.  My spirits were at their
lowest ebb, and not even the sight of these arrangements could
revive them.  For I knew that, though we had succeeded with Miss
Victor and Mercot, we had failed with the case which mattered most.
I was going to try to scare Medina or to buy him, and I felt that
both purposes were futile, for the awe of him was still like a
black fog on my soul.

I let myself in with Odell's latch-key and left the heavy door
ajar.  Then I switched on the staircase lights and mounted to the
library.  I left the lights burning behind me, for they would be
needed by those who followed.

Medina was standing by the fireplace, in which logs had been laid
ready for a match.  As usual, he had only the one lamp lit, that on
his writing-table.  He had a slip of paper in his hand, one of the
two which had lain in the top drawer, as I saw by the dates and the
ruled lines.  I fancy he had been attempting in vain to ring up
Palmyra Square.  Some acute suspicion had been aroused in him, and
he had been trying to take action.  His air of leisure was the kind
which is hastily assumed; a minute before I was convinced he had
been furiously busy.

There was surprise in his face when he saw me.

"Hullo!" he said, "how did you get in?  I didn't hear you ring.  I
told Odell to go to bed."

I was feeling so weak and listless that I wanted to sit down, so I
dropped into a chair out of the circle of the lamp.

"Yes," I said.  "Odell's in bed all right.  I let myself in with
his key.  I've just seen that Bowery tough put to sleep with a
crack on the chin from Turpin.  You know--the Marquis de la Tour du
Pin."

I had a good strategic position, for I could see his face clearly
and he could only see the outline of mine.

"What on earth are you talking about?" he said.

"Odell has been knocked out.  You see, Turpin has taken Miss Victor
back to her father."  I looked at my watch.  "And by this time Lord
Mercot should be in London--unless the Scotch express is late."

A great tide of disillusion must have swept over his mind, but his
face gave no sign of it.  It had grown stern, but as composed as a
judge's.

"You're behaving as if you were mad.  What has come over you?  I
know nothing of Lord Mercot--you mean the Alcester boy?  Or Miss
Victor."

"Oh yes, you do," I said wearily.  I did not know where to begin,
for I wanted to get him at once to the real business.  "It's a long
story.  Do you want me to tell it when you know it all already?"  I
believe I yawned and I felt so tired I could hardly put the
sentences together.

"I insist that you explain this nonsense," was his reply.  One
thing he must have realised by now, that he had no power over me,
for his jaw was set and his eyes stern, as if he were regarding not
a satellite, but an enemy and an equal.

"Well, you and your friends for your own purposes took three
hostages, and I have made it my business to free them.  I let you
believe that your tomfoolery had mastered me--your performance in
this room and Newhover and Madame Breda and the old blind lady and
all the rest of it.  When you thought I was drugged and demented I
was specially wide awake.  I had to abuse your hospitality--rather
a dirty game, you may say, but then I was dealing with a scoundrel.
I went to Norway when you thought I was in bed at Fosse, and I
found Mercot, and I expect at this moment Newhover is feeling
rather cheap. . . .  Miss Victor, too.  She wasn't very difficult,
once we hit on the Fields of Eden.  You're a very clever man, Mr.
Medina, but you oughtn't to circulate doggerel verses.  Take my
advice and stick to good poetry."

By this time the situation must have been clear to him, but there
was not a quiver in that set hard face.  I take off my hat to the
best actor I have ever met--the best but one, the German count who
lies buried at the farm of Gavrelle.  "You've gone off your head,"
he said, and his quiet considerate voice belied his eyes.

"Oh no!  I rather wish I had.  I hate to think that there can be so
base a thing in the world as you.  A man with the brains of a god
and living only to glut his rotten vanity!  You should be scotched
like a snake."

For a moment I had a blessed thought that he was about to go for
me, for I would have welcomed a scrap like nothing else on earth.
There may have been a flicker of passion, but it was quickly
suppressed.  His eyes had become grave and reproachful.

"I have been kind to you," he said, "and have treated you as a
friend.  This is my reward.  The most charitable explanation is
that your wits are unhinged.  But you had better leave this house."

"Not before you hear me out.  I have something to propose, Mr.
Medina.  You have still a third hostage in your hands.  We are
perfectly aware of the syndicate you have been working with--the
Barcelona nut business, and the Jacobite count, and your friend the
Shropshire master-of-hounds.  Scotland Yard has had its hand over
the lot for months, and to-night the hand will be closed.  That
shop is shut for good.  Now listen to me, for I have a proposal to
make.  You have the ambition of the devil, and have already made
for yourself a great name.  I will do nothing to smirch that name.
I will swear a solemn oath to hold my tongue.  I will go away from
England, if you like.  I will bury the memory of the past months,
and my knowledge will never be used to put a spoke in your wheel.
Also, since your syndicate is burst up, you will want money.  Well,
I will give you one hundred thousand pounds.  And in return for my
silence and my cash I ask you to restore to me David Warcliff, safe
and sane.  Sane, I say, for whatever you have made of the poor
little chap you have got to unmake it."

I had made up my mind about this offer as I came along in the taxi.
It was a big sum, but I had more money than I needed, and
Blenkiron, who had millions, would lend a hand.

His face showed no response, no interest, only the same stern
melancholy regard.

"Poor devil!" he said.  "You're madder than I thought."

My lassitude was disappearing, and I began to get angry.

"If you do not agree," I said, "I will blacken your reputation
throughout the civilised world.  What use will England have for a
kidnapper and a blackmailer and--a--a bogus magician?"

But as I spoke I knew that my threats were foolish.  He smiled, a
wise, pitying smile, which made me shiver with wrath.

"No, it is you who will appear as the blackmailer," he said softly.
"Consider.  You are making the most outrageous charges.  I don't
quite follow your meaning, but clearly they are outrageous--and
what evidence have you to support them?  Your own dreams.  Who will
believe you?  I have had the good fortune to make many friends, and
they are loyal friends."  There was a gentle regret in his voice.
"Your story will be laughed to scorn.  Of course people will be
sorry for you, for you are popular in a way.  They will say that a
meritorious soldier, more notable perhaps for courage than for
brains, has gone crazy, and they will comment on the long-drawn-out
effects of the War.  I must of course protect myself.  If you
blackguard me I will prosecute you for slander and get your mental
condition examined."

It was only too true.  I had no evidence except my own word.  I
knew that it would be impossible to link up Medina with the doings
of the syndicate--he was too clever for that.  His blind mother
would die on the rack before she spoke, and his tools could not
give him away, because they were tools and knew nothing.  The world
would laugh at me if I opened my mouth.  At that moment I think I
had my first full realisation of Medina's quality.  Here was a man
who had just learned that his pet schemes were shattered, who had
had his vanity wounded to the quick by the revelation of how I had
fooled him, and yet he could play what was left of the game with
coolness and precision.  I had struck the largest size of opponent.

"What about the hundred thousand pounds, then?" I asked.  "That is
my offer for David Warcliff."

"You are very good," he said mockingly.  "I might feel insulted, if
I did not know you were a lunatic."

I sat there staring at the figure in the glow of the one lamp,
which seemed to wax more formidable as I looked, and a thousandfold
more sinister.  I saw the hideous roundness of his head, the
mercilessness of his eyes, so that I wondered how I had ever
thought him handsome.  But now that most of his game was spoiled he
only seemed the greater, the more assured.  Were there no gaps in
his defences?  He had kinks in him--witness the silly rhyme which
had given me the first clue. . . .  Was there no weakness in that
panoply which I could use?  Physical fear--physical pain--could
anything be done with that?

I got to my feet with a blind notion of closing with him.  He
divined my intention, for he showed something in his hand which
gleamed dully.  "Take care," he said.  "I can defend myself against
any maniac."

"Put it away," I said hopelessly.  "You're safe enough from me.  My
God, I hope that somewhere there is a hell."  I felt as feeble as a
babe, and all the while the thought of the little boy was driving
me mad.

                     *     *     *     *     *

Suddenly I saw Medina's eyes look over my shoulder.  Someone had
come into the room, and I turned and found Kharáma.

He was in evening dress, wearing a turban, and in the dusk his dark
malign face seemed an embodied sneer at my helplessness.  I did not
see how Medina took his arrival, for all at once something seemed
to give in my head.  For the Indian I felt now none of the awe
which I had for the other, only a flaming, overpowering hate.  That
this foul thing out of the East should pursue his devilries
unchecked seemed to me beyond bearing.  I forgot Medina's pistol
and everything else, and went for him like a wild beast.

He dodged me, and, before I knew, had pulled off his turban, and
tossed it in my face.

"Don't be an old ass, Dick," he said.

Panting with fury, I stopped short and stared.  The voice was
Sandy's, and so was the figure. . . .  And the face, too, when I
came to look into it.  He had done something with the corners of
his eyebrows and tinted the lids with kohl, but the eyes, which I
had never before seen properly opened, were those of my friend.

"What an artist the world has lost in me!" he laughed, and tried to
tidy his disordered hair.

Then he nodded to Medina.  "We meet again sooner than we expected.
I missed my train, and came to look for Dick. . . .  Lay down that
pistol, please.  I happen to be armed too, you see.  It's no case
for shooting anyhow.  Do you mind if I smoke?"

He flung himself into an arm-chair and lit a cigarette.  Once more
I was conscious of my surroundings, for hitherto for all I knew I
might have been arguing in a desert.  My eyes had cleared and my
brain was beginning to work again.  I saw the great room with its
tiers of books, some glimmering, some dusky; Sandy taking his ease
in his chair and gazing placidly up into Medina's face; Medina with
his jaw set but his eyes troubled--yes, for the first time I saw
flickers of perplexity in those eyes.

"Dick, I suppose, has been reasoning with you," Sandy said mildly.
"And you have told him that he was a madman?  Quite right.  He is.
You have pointed out to him that his story rests on his unsupported
evidence, which no one will believe, for I admit it is an
incredible tale.  You have warned him that if he opens his mouth
you will have him shut up as a lunatic.  Is that correct, Dick?

"Well," he continued, looking blandly at Medina, "that was a
natural view for you to take.  Only, of course, you made one small
error.  His evidence will not be unsupported."

Medina laughed, but there was no ease in his laugh.  "Who are the
other lunatics?"

"Myself for one.  You have interested me for quite a long time, Mr.
Medina.  I will confess that one of my reasons for coming home in
March was to have the privilege of your acquaintance.  I have taken
a good deal of pains about it.  I have followed your own line of
studies--indeed, if the present situation weren't so hectic, I
should like to exchange notes with you as a fellow-inquirer.  I
have traced your career in Central Asia and elsewhere with some
precision.  I think I know more about you than anybody else in the
world."

Medina made no answer.  The tables were turning, and his eyes were
chained to the slight figure in the arm-chair.

"All that is very interesting," Sandy went on, "but it is not quite
germane to the subject before us.  Kharáma, whom we both remember
in his pride, unfortunately died last year.  It was kept very
secret for obvious reasons--the goodwill of his business was very
valuable and depended upon his being alive--and I only heard of it
by a lucky accident.  So I took the liberty of borrowing his name,
Mr. Medina.  As Kharáma I was honoured with your confidence.
Rather a cad's trick, you will say, and I agree, but in an affair
like this one has no choice of weapons. . . .  You did more than
confide in me.  You trusted me with Miss Victor and the Marquis de
la Tour du Pin, when it was important that they should be in safe
keeping. . . .  I have a good deal of evidence to support Dick."

"Moonshine!" said Medina.  "Two lunacies do not make sense.  I deny
every detail of your rubbish."

"Out of the mouth of two or three witnesses," said Sandy
pleasantly.  "There is still a third . . . Lavater," he cried,
"come in, we're ready for you."

There entered the grey melancholy man, whom I had seen on my first
visit here, and in the house behind Little Fardell Street.  I
noticed that he walked straight to Sandy's chair, and did not look
at Medina.

"Lavater you know already, I think.  He used to be a friend of
mine, and lately we have resumed the friendship.  He was your
disciple for some time, but has now relinquished that honour.
Lavater will be able to tell the world a good deal about you."

Medina's face had become like a mask, and the colour had gone out
of it.  He may have been a volcano within, but outside he was cold
ice.  His voice, acid and sneering, came out like drops of chilly
water.

"Three lunatics," he said.  "I deny every word you say.  No one
will believe you.  It is a conspiracy of madmen."

"Let's talk business anyhow," said Sandy.  "The case against you is
proven to the hilt, but let us see how the world will regard it.
The strong point on your side is that people don't like to confess
they have been fools.  You have been a very popular man, Mr.
Medina, and your many friends will be loath to believe that you are
a scoundrel.  You've the hedge of your reputation to protect you.
Again, our story is so monstrous that the ordinary Englishman may
call it unbelievable, for we are not an imaginative nation.  Again
we can get no help from the principal sufferers.  Miss Victor and
Lord Mercot can tell an ugly story of kidnapping, which may get a
life-sentence for Odell, and for Newhover if he is caught, but
which does not implicate you.  That will be a stumbling-block to
most juries, who are not as familiar with occult science as you and
I. . . .  These are your strong points.  But consider what we can
bring on the other side.  You are a propagandist of genius, as I
once told Dick, and I can explain just how you have fooled the
world--your exploits with Denikin and such-like.  Then the three of
us can tell a damning story, and tell it from close quarters.  It
may sound wild, but Dick has some reputation for good sense, and a
good many people think that I am not altogether a fool.  Finally we
have on our side Scotland Yard, which is now gathering in your
associates, and we have behind us Julius Victor, who is not without
influence. . . .  I do not say we can send you to prison, though I
think it likely, but we can throw such suspicion on you that for
the rest of your days you will be a marked man.  You will recognise
that for you that means utter failure, for to succeed you must swim
in the glory of popular confidence."

I could see that Medina was shaken at last.  "You may damage me
with your lies," he said slowly, "but I will be even with you.  You
will find me hard to beat."

"I don't doubt it," was Sandy's answer.  "I and my friends do not
want victory, we want success.  We want David Warcliff."

There was no answer, and Sandy went on.

"We make you a proposal.  The three of us will keep what we know to
ourselves.  We will pledge ourselves never to breathe a word of it--
if you like we will sign a document to say that we acknowledge our
mistake.  So far as we are concerned you may go on and become Prime
Minister of Britain or Archbishop of Canterbury, or anything you
jolly well like.  We don't exactly love you, but we will not
interfere with the adoration of others.  I'll take myself off again
to the East with Lavater, and Dick will bury himself in Oxfordshire
mud.  And in return we ask that you hand over to us David Warcliff
in his right mind."

There was no answer.

Then Sandy made a mistake in tactics.  "I believe you are attached
to your mother," he said.  "If you accept our offer she will be
safe from annoyance.  Otherwise--well, she is an important
witness."

The man's pride was stung to the quick.  His mother must have been
for him an inner sanctuary, a thing apart from and holier than his
fiercest ambitions, the very core and shrine of his monstrous
vanity.  That she should be used as a bargaining counter stirred
something deep and primeval in him, something--let me say it--
higher and better than I had imagined.  A new and a human fury
burned the mask off him like tissue paper.

"You fools!" he cried, and his voice was harsh with rage.  "You
perfect fools!  You will sweat blood for that insult."

"It's a fair offer," said Sandy, never moving a muscle.  "Do I
understand that you refuse?"

Medina stood on the hearthrug like an animal at bay, and upon my
soul I couldn't but admire him.  The flame in his face would have
scorched most people into abject fear.

"Go to hell, the pack of you!  Out of this house!  You will never
hear a word from me till you are bleating for mercy.  Get out . . ."

                     *     *     *     *     *

His eyes must have been dimmed by his rage, for he did not see Mary
enter.  She had advanced right up to Sandy's chair before even I
noticed her.  She was carrying something in her arms, something
which she held close as a mother holds a child.

It was the queer little girl from the house in Palmyra Square.  Her
hair had grown longer and fell in wisps over her brow and her pale
tear-stained cheeks.  A most piteous little object she was, with
dull blind eyes which seemed to struggle with perpetual terror.
She still wore the absurd linen smock, her skinny little legs and
arms were bare, and her thin fingers clutched at Mary's gown.

Then Medina saw her, and Sandy ceased to exist for him.  He stared
for a second uncomprehendingly, till the passion in his face turned
to alarm.  "What have you done with her?" he barked, and flung
himself forward.

I thought he was going to attack Mary, so I tripped him up.  He
sprawled on the floor, and since he seemed to have lost all command
of himself I reckoned that I had better keep him there.  I looked
towards Mary, who nodded.  "Please tie him up," she said, and
passed me the turban cloth of the late Kharáma.

He fought like a tiger, but Lavater and I with a little help from
Sandy managed to truss him fairly tight, supplementing the turban
with one of the curtain cords.  We laid him in an arm-chair.

"What have you done with her?" he kept on, screwing his head round
to look at Mary.

I could not understand his maniacal concern for the little girl,
till Mary answered, and I saw what he meant by "her."

"No one has touched your mother.  She is in the house in Palmyra
Square."

Then Mary laid the child down very gently in the chair where Sandy
had been sitting and stood erect before Medina.

"I want you to bring back this little boy's mind," she said.

I suppose I should have been astonished, but I wasn't--at least not
at her words, though I had not had an inkling beforehand of the
truth.  All the astonishment I was capable of was reserved for
Mary.  She stood there looking down on the bound man, her face very
pale, her eyes quite gentle, her lips parted as if in expectation.
And yet there was something about her so formidable, so implacable,
that the other three of us fell into the background.  Her presence
dominated everything, and the very grace of her body and the mild
sadness of her eyes seemed to make her the more terrifying.  I know
now how Joan of Arc must have looked when she led her troops into
battle.

"Do you hear me?" she repeated.  "You took away his soul and you
can give it back again.  That is all I ask of you."

He choked before he replied.  "What boy?  I tell you I know
nothing.  You are all mad."

"I mean David Warcliff.  The others are free now, and he must be
free to-night.  Free, and in his right mind, as when you carried
him off.  Surely you understand."

There was no answer.

"That is all I ask.  It is such a little thing.  Then we will go
away."

I broke in.  "Our offer holds.  Do as she asks, and we will never
open our mouths about to-night's work."

He was not listening to me, nor was she.  It was a duel between the
two of them, and as she looked at him, his face seemed to grow more
dogged and stone-like.  If ever he had felt hatred it was for this
woman, for it was a conflict between two opposite poles of life,
two worlds eternally at war.

"I tell you I know nothing of the brat . . ."

She stopped him with lifted hand.  "Oh, do not let us waste time,
please.  It is far too late for arguing.  If you do what I ask we
will go away, and you will never be troubled with us again.  I
promise--we all promise.  If you do not, of course we must ruin
you."

I think it was the confidence in her tone which stung him.

"I refuse," he almost screamed.  "I do not know what you mean . . .
I defy you. . . .  You can proclaim your lies to the world. . . .
You will not crush me.  I am too strong for you."

There was no mistaking the finality of that defiance.  I thought it
put the lid on everything.  We could blast the fellow's reputation
no doubt, and win victory; but we had failed, for we were left with
that poor little mindless waif.  Mary's face did not change.

"If you refuse, I must try another way"; her voice was as gentle as
a mother's.  "I must give David Warcliff back to his father. . . .
Dick," she turned to me, "will you light the fire."

I obeyed, not knowing what she meant, and in a minute the dry
faggots were roaring up the chimney, lighting up our five faces and
the mazed child in the chair.

"You have destroyed a soul," she said, "and you refuse to repair
the wrong.  I am going to destroy your body, and nothing will ever
repair it."

Then I saw her meaning, and both Sandy and I cried out.  Neither of
us had led the kind of life which makes a man squeamish, but this
was too much for us.  But our protests died half-born, after one
glance at Mary's face.  She was my own wedded wife, but in that
moment I could no more have opposed her than could the poor bemused
child.  Her spirit seemed to transcend us all and radiate an
inexorable command.  She stood easily and gracefully, a figure of
motherhood and pity rather than of awe.  But all the same I did not
recognise her; it was a stranger that stood there, a stern goddess
that wielded the lightnings.  Beyond doubt she meant every word she
said, and her quiet voice seemed to deliver judgment as aloof and
impersonal as Fate.  I could see creeping over Medina's sullenness
the shadow of terror.

"You are a desperate man," she was saying.  "But I am far more
desperate.  There is nothing on earth that can stand between me and
the saving of this child.  You know that, don't you?  A body for a
soul--a soul for a body--which shall it be?"

The light was reflected from the steel fire-irons, and Medina saw
it and shivered.

"You may live a long time, but you will have to live in seclusion.
No woman will ever cast eyes on you except to shudder.  People will
point at you and say 'There goes the man who was maimed by a woman--
because of the soul of a child.'  You will carry your story
written on your face for the world to read and laugh and revile."

She had got at the central nerve of his vanity, for I think that he
was ambitious less of achievement than of the personal glory that
attends it.  I dared not look at her, but I could look at him, and
I saw all the passions of hell chase each other over his face.  He
tried to speak, but only choked.  He seemed to bend his whole soul
to look at her, and to shiver at what he saw.

She turned her head to glance at the clock on the mantelpiece.

"You must decide before the quarter strikes," she said.  "After
that there will be no place for repentance.  A body for a soul--a
soul for a body."

Then from her black silk reticule she took a little oddly-shaped
green bottle.  She held it in her hand as if it had been a jewel,
and I gulped in horror.

"This is the elixir of death--of death in life, Mr. Medina.  It
makes comeliness a mockery.  It will burn flesh and bone into
shapes of hideousness, but it does not kill.  Oh no--it does not
kill.  A body for a soul--a soul for a body."

It was that, I think, which finished him.  The threefold chime
which announced the quarter had begun when out of his dry throat
came a sound like a clucking hen's.  "I agree," a voice croaked,
seeming to come from without, so queer and far away it was.

"Thank you," she said, as if someone had opened a door for her.
"Dick, will you please make Mr. Medina more comfortable. . . ."

The fire was not replenished, so the quick-burning faggots soon
died down.  Again the room was shadowy, except for the single lamp
that glowed behind Medina's head.

I cannot describe that last scene, for I do not think my sight was
clear, and I know that my head was spinning.  The child sat on
Mary's lap, with its eyes held by the glow of light.  "You are
Gerda . . . you are sleepy . . . now you sleep"--I did not heed the
patter, for I was trying to think of homely things which would keep
my wits anchored.  I thought chiefly of Peter John.

Sandy was crouched on a stool by the hearth.  I noticed that he had
his hands on his knees, and that from one of them protruded
something round and dark, like the point of a pistol barrel.  He
was taking no chances, but the thing was folly, for we were in the
presence of far more potent weapons.  Never since the world began
was there a scene of such utter humiliation.  I shivered at the
indecency of it.  Medina performed his sinister ritual, but on us
spectators it had no more effect than a charade.  Mary especially
sat watching it with the detachment with which one watches a
kindergarten play.  The man had suddenly become a mountebank under
those fearless eyes.

The voices droned on, the man asking questions, the child answering
in a weak unnatural voice.  "You are David Warcliff . . . you lost
your way coming from school . . . you have been ill and have
forgotten. . . .  You are better now . . . you remember Haverham
and the redshanks down by the river. . . .  You are sleepy . . . I
think you would like to sleep again."

Medina spoke.  "You can wake him now.  Do it carefully."

I got up and switched on the rest of the lights.  The child was
peacefully asleep in Mary's arms, and she bent and kissed him.
"Speak to him, Dick," she said.

"Davie," I said loudly.  "Davie, it's about time for us to get
home."

He opened his eyes and sat up.  When he found himself on Mary's
knee, he began to clamber down.  He was not accustomed to a woman's
lap, and felt a little ashamed.

"Davie," I repeated.  "Your father will be getting tired waiting
for us.  Don't you think we should go home?"

"Yes, sir," he said, and put his hand in mine.

                     *     *     *     *     *

To my dying day I shall not forget my last sight of that library--
the blazing lights which made the books, which I had never seen
before except in shadow, gleam like a silk tapestry, the wood-fire
dying on the hearth, and the man sunk in the chair.  It may sound
odd after all that had happened, but my chief feeling was pity.
Yes, pity!  He seemed the loneliest thing on God's earth.  You see
he had never had any friends except himself, and his ambitions had
made a barrier between him and all humanity.  Now that they were
gone he was stripped naked, and left cold and shivering in the
arctic wilderness of his broken dreams.


Mary leaned back in the car.

"I hope I'm not going to faint," she said.  "Give me the green
bottle, please."

"For Heaven's sake!" I cried.

"Silly!" she said.  "It's only eau-de-cologne."

She laughed, and the laugh seemed to restore her a little though
she still looked deadly pale.  She fumbled in her reticule, and
drew out a robust pair of scissors.

"I'm going to cut Davie's hair.  I can't change his clothes, but at
any rate I can make his head like a boy's again, so that his father
won't be shocked."

"Does he know we are coming?"

"Yes.  I telephoned to him after dinner, but of course I said
nothing about Davie."

She clipped assiduously, and by the time we came to the Pimlico
square where Sir Arthur Warcliff lived she had got rid of the long
locks, and the head was now that of a pallid and thin but
wonderfully composed little boy.  "Am I going back to Dad?" he had
asked, and seemed content.

I refused to go in--I was not fit for any more shocks--so I sat in
the car while Mary and David entered the little house.  In about
three minutes Mary returned.  She was crying, and yet smiling too.

"I made Davie wait in the hall, and went into Sir Arthur's study
alone.  He looked ill--and oh, so old and worn.  I said:  'I have
brought Davie.  Never mind his clothes.  He's all right!'  Then I
fetched him in.  Oh, Dick, it was a miracle.  That old darling
seemed to come back to life. . . .  The two didn't run into each
other's arms . . . they shook hands . . . and the little boy bowed
his head and Sir Arthur kissed the top of it, and said 'Dear Mouse-
head, you've come back to me.' . . .  And then I slipped away."

                     *     *     *     *     *

There was another scene that night in which I played a part, for we
finished at Carlton House Terrace.  Of what happened there I have
only a confused recollection.  I remember Julius Victor kissing
Mary's hand, and the Duke shaking mine as if he would never stop.
I remember Mercot, who looked uncommonly fit and handsome, toasting
me in champagne, and Adela Victor sitting at a piano and singing to
us divinely.  But my chief memory is of a French nobleman whirling
a distinguished German engineer into an extemporised dance of joy.



CHAPTER XX

MACHRAY


A week later, after much consultation with Sandy, I wrote Medina a
letter.  The papers said he had gone abroad for a short rest, and I
could imagine the kind of mental purgatory he was enduring in some
Mediterranean bay.  We had made up our mind to be content with
success.  Victory meant a long campaign in the courts and the
Press, in which no doubt we should have won, but for which I at any
rate had no stomach.  The whole business was a nightmare which I
longed to shut the door on; we had drawn his fangs, and for all I
cared he might go on with his politics and dazzle the world with
his gifts, provided he kept his hands out of crime.  I wrote and
told him that; told him that the three people who knew everything
would hold their tongues, but that they reserved the right to speak
if he ever showed any sign of running crooked.  I had no reply and
did not expect one.  I had lost all my hate for the man, and, so
strangely are we made, what I mostly felt was compassion.  We are
all, even the best of us, egotists and self-deceivers, and without
a little comfortable make-believe to clothe us we should freeze in
the outer winds.  I shuddered when I thought of the poor devil with
his palace of cards about his ears and his naked soul.  I felt that
further triumph would be an offence against humanity.

He must have got my message, for in July he was back at his work,
and made a speech at a big political demonstration which was highly
commended in the papers.  Whether he went about in society I do not
know, for Sandy was in Scotland and I was at Fosse, and not
inclined to leave it. . . .  Meantime Macgillivray's business was
going on, and the Press was full of strange cases, which no one
seemed to think of connecting.  I gathered from Macgillivray that
though the syndicate was smashed to little bits he had failed to
make the complete bag of malefactors that he had hoped.  In England
there were three big financial exposures followed by long
sentences; in Paris there was a first-rate political scandal and a
crop of convictions; a labour agitator and a copper magnate in the
Middle West went to gaol for life, and there was the famous
rounding-up of the murder gang in Turin.  But Macgillivray and his
colleagues, like me, had success rather than victory; indeed in
this world I don't think you can get both at once--you must make
your choice.

We saw Mercot at the "House" Ball at Oxford, none the worse for his
adventures, but rather the better, for he was a man now and not a
light-witted boy.  Early in July Mary and I went to Paris for Adela
Victor's wedding, the most gorgeous show I have ever witnessed,
when I had the privilege of kissing the bride and being kissed by
the bridegroom.  Sir Arthur Warcliff brought David to pay us a
visit at Fosse, where the boy fished from dawn to dusk, and began
to get some flesh on his bones.  Archie Roylance arrived and the
pair took such a fancy to each other that the three of them went
off to Norway to have a look at the birds on Flacksholm.

I was busy during those weeks making up arrears of time at Fosse,
for my long absence had put out the whole summer programme.  One
day, as I was down in the Home Meadow, planning a new outlet for
one of the ponds, Sandy turned up, announcing that he must have a
talk with me and could only spare twenty minutes.

"When does your tenancy of Machray begin?" he asked.

"I have got it now--ever since April.  The sea-trout come early
there."

"And you can go up whenever you like?"

"Yes.  We propose starting about the 5th of August."

"Take my advice and start at once," he said.

I asked why, though I guessed his reason.

"Because I'm not very happy about you here.  You've insulted to the
marrow the vainest and one of the cleverest men in the world.
Don't imagine he'll take it lying down.  You may be sure he is
spending sleepless nights planning how he is to get even with you.
It's you he is chiefly thinking about.  Me he regards as a rival in
the same line of business--he'd love to break me, but he'll trust
to luck for the chance turning up.  Lavater has been his slave and
has escaped--but at any rate he once acknowledged his power.  YOU
have fooled him from start to finish and left his vanity one raw
throbbing sore.  He won't be at ease till he has had his revenge on
you--on you and your wife."

"Peter John!" I exclaimed.

He shook his head.  "No, I don't think so.  He won't try that line
again--at any rate not yet awhile.  But he would be much happier,
Dick, if you were dead."

The thought had been in my own mind for weeks, and had made me
pretty uncomfortable.  It is not pleasant to walk in peril of your
life, and move about in constant expectation of your decease.  I
had considered the thing very carefully, and had come to the
conclusion that I could do nothing but try to forget the risk.  If
I ever allowed myself to think about it, my whole existence would
be poisoned.  It was a most unpleasant affair, but after all the
world is full of hazards.  I told Sandy that.

"I'm quite aware of the danger," I said.  "I always reckoned that
as part of the price I had to pay for succeeding.  But I'm hanged
if I'm going to allow the fellow to score off me to the extent of
disarranging my life."

"You've plenty of fortitude, old fellow," said Sandy, "but you owe
a duty to your family and your friends.  Of course you might get
police protection from Macgillivray, but that would be an infernal
nuisance for you, and, besides, what kind of police protection
would avail against an enemy as subtle as Medina? . . .  No, I want
you to go away.  I want you to go to Machray now, and stay there
till the end of October."

"What good would that do?  He can follow me there, if he wants to,
and anyhow the whole thing would begin again when I came back."

"I'm not so sure," he said.  "In three months' time his wounded
vanity may have healed.  It's no part of his general game to have a
vendetta with you, and only a passion of injured pride would drive
him to it.  Presently that must die down, and he will see his real
interest.  Then as for Machray--why a Scotch deer-forest is the
best sanctuary on earth.  Nobody can come up that long glen without
your hearing about it, and nobody can move on the hills without
half a dozen argus-eyed stalkers and gillies following him.
They're the right sort of police protection.  I want you for all
our sakes to go to Machray at once."

"It looks like funking," I objected.

"Don't be an old ass.  Is there any man alive, who is not a raving
maniac, likely to doubt your courage?  You know perfectly well that
it is sometimes a brave man's duty to run away."

I thought for a bit.  "I don't think he'll hire ruffians to murder
me," I said.

"Why."

"Because he challenged me to a duel.  Proposed a place in the
Pyrenees and offered to let me choose both seconds."

"What did you reply?"

"I wired, 'Try not to be a fool.'  It looks as if he wanted to keep
the job of doing me in for himself."

"Very likely, and that doesn't mend matters.  I'd rather face half
a dozen cut-throats than Medina.  What you tell me strengthens my
argument."

I was bound to admit that Sandy talked sense, and after he had gone
I thought the matter out and decided to take his advice.  Somehow
the fact that he should have put my suspicions into words made them
more formidable, and I knew again the odious feeling of the hunted.
It was hardly fear, for I think that, if necessary, I could have
stayed on at Fosse and gone about my business with a stiff lip.
But all the peace of the place had been spoiled.  If a bullet might
at any moment come from a covert--that was the crude way I
envisaged the risk--then good-bye to the charm of my summer
meadows.

The upshot was that I warned Tom Greenslade to be ready to take his
holiday, and by the 20th of July he and I and Mary and Peter John
were settled in a little white-washed lodge tucked into the fold of
a birch-clad hill, and looking alternately at a shrunken river and
a cloudless sky, while we prayed for rain.


Machray in calm weather is the most solitary place on earth,
lonelier and quieter even than a Boer farm lost in some hollow of
the veld.  The mountains rise so sheer and high, that it seems that
only a bird could escape, and the road from the sea-loch ten miles
away is only a strip of heather-grown sand which looks as if it
would end a mile off at the feet of each steep hill-shoulder.  But
when the gales come, and the rain is lashing the roof, and the
river swirls at the garden-edge, and the birches and rowans are
tossing, then a thousand voices talk, and one lives in a world so
loud that one's ears are deafened and one's voice acquires a sharp
pitch of protest from shouting against the storm.

We had few gales, and the last week of July was a very fair
imitation of the Tropics.  The hills were cloaked in a heat haze,
the Aicill river was a chain of translucent pools with a few
reddening salmon below the ledges, the burns were thin trickles,
the sun drew hot scents out of the heather and bog-myrtle, and
movement was a weariness to man and beast.  That was for the day-
time; but every evening about five o'clock there would come a light
wind from the west, which scattered the haze, and left a land
swimming in cool amber light.  Then Mary and Tom Greenslade and I
would take to the hills, and return well on for midnight to a vast
and shameless supper.  Sometimes in the hot noontides I went alone,
with old Angus the head stalker, and long before the season began I
had got a pretty close knowledge of the forest.

The reader must bear with me while I explain the lie of the land.
The twenty thousand acres of Machray extend on both sides of the
Aicill glen, but principally to the south.  West lies the Machray
sea-loch, where the hills are low and green and mostly sheep-
ground.  East, up to the river-head, is Glenaicill Forest, the
lodge of which is beyond the watershed on the shore of another sea-
loch, and on our side of the divide there is only a stalker's
cottage.  Glenaicill is an enormous place, far too big to be a
single forest.  It had been leased for years by Lord Glenfinnan, an
uncle of Archie Roylance, but he was a frail old gentleman of over
seventy who could only get a stag when they came down to the low
ground in October.  The result was that the place was ridiculously
undershot, and all the western end, which adjoined Machray, was
virtually a sanctuary.  It was a confounded nuisance, for it made
it impossible to stalk our northern beat except in a south-west
wind, unless you wanted to shift the deer on to Glenaicill, and
that beat had all our best grazing and seemed to attract all our
best heads.

Haripol Forest to the south was not so large, but I should think it
was the roughest ground in Scotland.  Machray had good beats south
of the Aicill right up to the watershed, and two noble corries, the
Corrie-na-Sidhe and the Corrie Easain.  Beyond the watershed was
the glen of the Reascuill, both sides of which were Haripol ground.
The Machray heights were all over the 3,000 feet, but rounded and
fairly easy going, but the Haripol peaks beyond the stream were
desperate rock mountains--Stob Bán, Stob Coire Easain, Sgurr Mor--
comprising some of the most difficult climbing in the British
Isles.  The biggest and hardest top of all was at the head of the
Reascuill--Sgurr Dearg, with its two pinnacle ridges, its three
prongs, and the awesome precipice of its eastern face.  Machray
marched with Haripol on its summit, but it wasn't often that any of
our stalkers went that way.  All that upper part of the Reascuill
was a series of cliffs and chasms, and the red deer--who is no
rock-climber--rarely ventured there.  For the rest these four
southern beats of ours were as delightful hunting-ground as I have
ever seen, and the ladies could follow a good deal of the stalking
by means of a big telescope in the library window of the Lodge.
Machray was a young man's forest, for the hills rose steep almost
from the sea-level, and you might have to go up and down 3,000 feet
several times in a day.  But Haripol--at least the north and east
parts of it--was fit only for athletes, and it seemed to be its
fate to fall to tenants who were utterly incapable of doing it
justice.  In recent years it had been leased successively to an
elderly distiller, a young racing ne'er-do-well who drank, and a
plump American railway king.  It was now in the hands of a certain
middle-aged Midland manufacturer, Lord Claybody, who had won an
easy fortune and an easier peerage during the War.  "Ach, he will
be killed," Angus said.  "He will never get up a hundred feet of
Haripol without being killed."  So I found myself, to my disgust,
afflicted with another unauthorised sanctuary.

Angus was very solemn about it.  He was a lean anxious man, just
over fifty, with a face not unlike a stag's, amazingly fast on the
hills, a finished cragsman, and with all the Highlander's subtle
courtesy.  Kennedy, the second stalker, was of Lowland stock; his
father had come to the North from Galloway in the days of the boom
in sheep, and had remained as a keeper when sheep prices fell.  He
was a sturdy young fellow, apt to suffer on steep slopes on a warm
day, but strong as an ox and with a better head than Angus for
thinking out problems of weather and wind.  Though he had the
Gaelic, he was a true Lowlander, plain-spoken and imperturbable.
It was a contrast of new and old, for Kennedy had served in the
War, and learned many things beyond the other's ken.  He knew, for
example, how to direct your eye to the point he wanted, and would
give intelligent directions like a battery observer, whereas with
Angus it was always "D'ye see yon stone?  Ay, but d'ye see another
stone?"--and so forth.  Kennedy, when we sat down to rest, would
smoke a cigarette in a holder, while Angus lit the dottle in a foul
old pipe.

In the first fortnight of August we had alternate days of rain,
real drenching torrents, and the Aicill rose and let the fish up
from the sea.  There were few sea-trout that year, but there was a
glorious run of salmon.  Greenslade killed his first, and by the
end of a week had a bag of twelve, while Mary, with the luck which
seems to attend casual lady anglers, had four in one day to her own
rod.  Those were pleasant days, though there were mild damp
afternoons when the midges were worse than tropical mosquitoes.  I
liked it best when a breeze rose and the sun was hot and we had all
our meals by the waterside.  Once at luncheon we took with us an
iron pot, made a fire, and boiled a fresh-killed salmon "in his
broo"--a device I recommend to anyone who wants the full flavour of
that noble fish.

Archie Roylance arrived on August 16th, full of the lust of
hunting.  He reported that they had seen nothing remarkable in the
way of birds at Flacksholm, but that David Warcliff had had great
sport with the sea-trout.  "There's a good boy for you," he
declared.  "First-class little sportsman, and to see him and his
father together made me want to get wedded straight off.  I thought
him a bit hipped at Fosse, but the North Sea put him right, and I
left him as jolly as a grig.  By the way, what was the matter with
him in the summer?  I gathered that he had been seedy or something,
and the old man can't let him out of his sight. . . .  Let's get in
Angus, and talk deer."

Angus was ready to talk deer till all hours.  I had fixed the 21st
for the start of the season, though the beasts were in such forward
condition that we might have begun four days earlier.  Angus
reported that he had already seen several stags clear of velvet.
But he was inclined to be doleful about our neighbours.

"My uncle Alexander is past prayin' for," said Archie.  "He lives
for that forest of his, and he won't have me there early in the
season, for he says I have no judgment about beasts and won't
listen to the stalkers.  In October, you see, he has me under his
own eye.  He refuses to let a stag be killed unless it's a hummel
or a diseased ancient.  Result is, the place is crawlin' with
fine stags that have begun to go back and won't perish till
they're fairly moulderin'.  Poor notion of a stud has my uncle
Alexander. . . .  What about Haripol?  Who has it this year?"

When he heard he exclaimed delightedly.  "I know old Claybody.
Rather a good old fellow in his way, and uncommon free-handed.  Rum
old bird, too!  He once introduced his son to me as 'The Honourable
Johnson Claybody.'  Fairly wallows in his peerage.  You know he
wanted to take the title of Lord Oxford, because he had a boy goin'
up to Magdalen, but even the Heralds' College jibbed at that.  But
he'll never get up those Haripol hills.  He's a little fat puffin'
old man.  I'm not very spry on my legs now, but compared to
Claybody I'm a gazelle."

"He'll maybe have veesitors," said Angus.

"You bet he will.  He'll have the Lodge stuffed with young men, for
there are various Honourable Claybody daughters.  Don't fancy
they'll be much good on the hill, though."

"They will not be good, Sir Archibald," said the melancholy Angus.
"There will have been some of them on the hill already.  They will
be no better than towrists."

"Towrists" I should explain were the poison in Angus's cup.  By
that name he meant people who trespassed on a deer forest during,
or shortly before, the stalking season, and had not the good
manners to give him notice and ask his consent.  He distinguished
them sharply from what he called "muntaneers," a class which he
respected, for they were modest and civil folk who came usually
with ropes and ice axes early in the spring, and were accustomed to
feast off Angus's ham and eggs and thaw their frozen limbs by
Angus's fire.  If they came at other seasons it was after
discussing their routes with Angus.  They went where no deer could
travel, and spent their time, as he said, "shamming themselves into
shimneys."  But the "towrist" was blatant and foolish and
abundantly discourteous.  He tramped, generally in a noisy party,
over deer-ground, and, if remonstrated with, became truculent.  A
single member of the species could wreck the stalking on a beat for
several days.  "The next I see on Machray," said Angus, "I will be
rolling down a big stone on him."  Some of the Haripol guests, it
appeared, were of this malign breed, and had been wandering
thoughtlessly over the forest, thereby wrecking their own sport--
and mine.

"They will have Alan Macnicol's heart broke," he concluded.  "And
Alan was saying to me that they was afful bad shots.  They was
shooting at a big stone and missing it.  And they will have little
ponies to ride on up to the tops, for the creatures is no use at
walking.  I hope they will fall down and break their necks."

"They can't all be bad shots," said Archie.  "By the way, Dick, I
forgot to tell you.  You know Medina, Dominick Medina?  You once
told me you knew him.  Well, I met him on the steamer, and he said
he was going to put in a week with old Claybody."

That piece of news took the light out of the day for me.  If Medina
was at Haripol it was most certainly with a purpose.  I had thought
little about the matter since I arrived at Machray, for the place
had an atmosphere of impregnable seclusion, and I seemed to have
shut a door on my recent life.  I had fallen into a mood of content
and whole-hearted absorption in the ritual of wild sport.  But now
my comfort vanished.  I looked up at the grim wall of hills towards
Haripol and wondered what mischief was hatching behind it.

I warned Angus and Kennedy and the gillies to keep a good look-out
for trespassers.  Whenever one was seen, they were to get their
glasses on him and follow him and report his appearance and doings
to me.  Then I went out alone to shoot a brace of grouse for the
pot, and considered the whole matter very carefully.  I had an
instinct that Medina had come to these parts to have a reckoning
with me, and I was determined not to shirk it.  I could not go on
living under such a menace; I must face it and reach a settlement.
To Mary, of course, I could say nothing, and I saw no use in
telling either Archie or Greenslade.  It was, metaphorically, and
perhaps literally, my own funeral.  But next morning I did not go
fishing.  Instead, I stayed at home and wrote out a full account of
the whole affair up to Medina's appearance at Haripol, and I set
down baldly what I believed to be his purpose.  This was in case I
went out one day and did not return.  When I finished it, I put the
document in my dispatch-box, and felt easier, as a man feels when
he has made his will.  I only hoped the time of waiting would not
be prolonged.

The 21st was a glorious blue day, with a morning haze which
promised heat.  What wind there was came from the south-east, so I
sent Archie out on the Corrie Easain beat, and went myself, with
one gillie, to Clach Glas, which is the western peak on the north
bank of the Aicill.  I made a practice of doing my own stalking,
and by this time I knew the ground well enough to do it safely.  I
saw two shootable stags, and managed to get within range of one of
them, but spared him for the good of the forest, as he was a young
beast whose head would improve.  I had a happy and peaceful day,
and found to my relief that I wasn't worrying about the future.
The clear air and the great spaces seemed to have given me the
placid fatalism of an Arab.

When I returned I was greeted by Mary with the news that Archie had
got a stag, and that she had followed most of his stalk through the
big telescope.  Archie himself arrived just before dinner, very
cheerful and loquacious.  He found that his game leg made him slow,
but he declared that he was not in the least tired.  At dinner we
had to listen to every detail of his day, and we had a sweep on the
beast's weight, which Mary won.  Afterwards in the smoking-room he
told me more.

"Those infernal tailors from Haripol were out to-day.  Pretty wild
shots they must be.  When we were lunchin' a spent bullet whistled
over our heads--a long way off, to be sure, but I call it uncommon
bad form.  You should have heard Angus curse in Gaelic.  Look here,
Dick, I've a good mind to drop a line to old Claybody and ask him
to caution his people.  The odds are a million to one, of course,
against their doin' any harm, but there's always that millionth
chance.  I had a feelin' to-day as if the War had started over
again."

I replied that if anything of the sort happened a second time I
would certainly protest, but I pretended to make light of it, as a
thing only possible with that particular brand of wind.  But I
realised now what Medina's plans were.  He had been tramping about
Haripol, getting a notion of the lie of the land, and I knew that
he had a big-game hunter's quick eye for country.  He had fostered
the legend of wild shooting among the Haripol guests, and probably
he made himself the wildest of the lot.  The bullet which sang over
Archie's head was a proof, but he waited on the chance of a bullet
which would not miss.  If a tragedy happened, everyone would
believe it was a pure accident, there would be heart-broken
apologies, and, though Sandy and one or two others would guess the
truth, nothing could be proved, and in any case it wouldn't help
ME. . . .  Of course I could stalk only on the north beats of
Machray, but the idea no sooner occurred to me than I dismissed it.
I must end this hideous suspense.  I must accept Medina's challenge
and somehow or other reach a settlement.

When Angus came in for orders, I told him that I was going stalking
on the Corrie-na-Sidhe beat the day after to-morrow, and I asked
him to send word privately to Alan Macnicol at Haripol.

"It will be no use, sir," he groaned.  "The veesitors will no heed
Alan."

But I told him to send word nevertheless.  I wanted to give Medina
the chance he sought.  It was my business to draw his fire.

Next day we slacked and fished.  In the afternoon I went a little
way up the hill called Clach Glas, from which I could get a view of
the ground on the south side of the Aicill.  It was a clear quiet
day, with the wind steady in the south-east, and promising to
continue there.  The great green hollow of Corrie-na-Sidhe was
clear in every detail; much of it looked like a tennis-court, but I
knew that what seemed smooth sward was really matted blaeberries
and hidden boulders, and that the darker patches were breast-high
bracken and heather.  Corrie Easain I could not see, for it was
hidden by the long spur of Bheinn Fhada, over which peeped the
cloven summit of Sgurr Dearg.  I searched all the ground with my
glasses, and picked up several lots of hinds, and a few young
stags, but there was no sign of human activity.  There seemed to be
a rifle out, however, on Glenaicill Forest, for I heard two far-
away shots towards the north-east.  I lay a long time amid the
fern, with bees humming around me and pipits calling, and an
occasional buzzard or peregrine hovering in the blue, thinking
precisely the same thoughts that I used to have in France the day
before a big action.  It was not exactly nervousness that I felt,
but a sense that the foundations of everything had got loose, and
that the world had become so insecure that I had better draw down
the blinds on hoping and planning and everything, and become a log.
I was very clear in my mind that next day was going to bring the
crisis.

Of course I didn't want Mary to suspect, but I forgot to caution
Archie, and that night at dinner, as ill luck would have it, he
mentioned that Medina was at Haripol.  I could see her eyes grow
troubled, for I expect she had been having the same anxiety as
myself those past weeks, and had been too proud to declare it.  As
we were going to bed she asked me point-blank what it meant.
"Nothing in the world," I said.  "He is a great stalker and a
friend of the Claybodys.  I don't suppose he has the remotest idea
that I am here.  Anyhow that affair is all over.  He is not going
to cross our path if he can help it.  The one wish in his heart is
to avoid us."

She appeared to be satisfied, but I don't know how much she slept
that night.  I never woke till six o'clock, but when I opened my
eyes I felt too big a load on my heart to let me stay in bed, so I
went down to the Garden Pool and had a swim.  That invigorated me,
and indeed it was not easy to be depressed in that gorgeous
morning, with the streamers of mist still clinging to the high
tops, and the whole glen a harmony of singing birds and tumbling
waters.  I noticed that the wind, what there was of it, seemed to
have shifted more to the east--a very good quarter for the Corrie-
na-Sidhe beat.

Angus and Kennedy were waiting outside the smoking-room, and even
the pessimism of the head stalker was mellowed by the weather.  "I
think," he said slowly, "we will be getting a sta-ag.  There was a
big beast on Bheinn Fhada yesterday--Kennedy seen him--a great
beast he was--maybe nineteen stone, but Kennedy never right seen
his head. . . .  We'd better be moving on, sir."

Mary whispered in my ear.  "There's no danger, Dick?  You're sure?"
I have never heard her voice more troubled.

"Not a scrap," I laughed.  "It's an easy day and I ought to be back
for tea.  You'll be able to follow me all the time through the big
telescope."

We started at nine.  As I left, I had a picture of Greenslade
sitting on a garden-seat busy with fly-casts, and Archie smoking
his pipe and reading a three-days-old Times, and Peter John going
off with his nurse, and Mary looking after me with a curious tense
gaze.  Behind, the smoke of the chimneys was rising straight into
the still air, and the finches were twittering among the Prince
Charlie roses.  The sight gave me a pang.  I might never enter my
little kingdom again.  Neither wife nor friends could help me: it
was my own problem, which I must face alone.

We crossed the bridge, and began to plod upwards through a wood of
hazels.  In such fashion I entered upon the strangest day of my
life.



CHAPTER XXI

HOW I STALKED WILDER GAME THAN DEER


I

9 A.M. TO 2.15 P.M.


Obviously I could make no plan, and I had no clear idea in my head
as to what kind of settlement I wanted with Medina.  I was certain
that I should find him somewhere on the hill, and that, if he got a
chance, he would try to kill me.  The odds were, of course, against
his succeeding straight off, but escape was not what I sought--I
must get rid of this menace for ever.  I don't think that I wanted
to kill him, but indeed I never tried to analyse my feelings.  I
was obeying a blind instinct, and letting myself drift on the tides
of fate.

Corrie-na-Sidhe is an upper corrie, separated from the Aicill
valley by a curtain of rock and scree which I dare say was once the
moraine of a glacier and down which the Alt-na-Sidhe tumbled in a
fine chain of cascades.  So steep is its fall that no fish can
ascend it, so that, while at the foot it is full of sizable trout,
in the Corrie itself it holds nothing, as Greenslade reported, but
little dark fingerlings.  It was very warm as we mounted the chaos
of slabs and boulders, where a very sketchy and winding track had
been cut for bringing down the deer.  Only the toughest kind of
pony could make that ascent.  Though the day was young the heat was
already great, and the glen behind us swam in a glassy sheen.
Kennedy, as usual, mopped his brow and grunted, but the lean Angus
strode ahead as if he were on the flat.

At the edge of the corrie we halted for a spy.  Deep hollows have a
trick of drawing the wind, and such faint currents of air as I
could detect seemed to be coming on our left rear from the north-
east.  Angus was positive, however, that though the south had gone
out of the wind, it was pretty well due east, with no north in it,
and maintained that when we were farther up the corrie we would
have it fair on our left cheek.  We were not long in finding
beasts.  There was a big drove of hinds on the right bank of the
burn, and another lot, with a few small stags, on the left bank,
well up on the face of Bheinn Fhada.  But there was nothing
shootable there.

"The big stags will be all on the high tops," said Angus.  "We must
be getting up to the burnhead."

It was easier said than done, for there were the hinds to be
circumvented, so we had to make a long circuit far up the hill
called Clonlet, which is the westernmost of the Machray tops south
of the Aicill.  It was rough going, for we mounted to about the
3,000 feet level, and traversed the hill-side just under the upper
scarp of rock.  Presently we were looking down upon the cup which
was the head of the corrie, and over the col could see the peak of
Stob Coire Easain and the ridge of Stob Bán, both on Haripol and
beyond the Reascuill.  We had another spy, and made out two small
lots of stags on the other side of the Alt-na-Sidhe.  They were too
far off to get a proper view of them, but one or two looked good
beasts, and I decided to get nearer.

We had to make a cautious descent of the hill-side in case of deer
lying in pockets, for the place was seamed with gullies.  Before we
were half-way down I got my telescope on one of the lots, and
picked out a big stag with a poor head, which clearly wanted
shooting.  Angus agreed, and we started down a sheltering ravine to
get to the burnside.  The sight of a quarry made me forget
everything else, and for the next hour and a half I hadn't a
thought in the world except how to get within range of that beast.
One stalk is very much like another, and I am not going to describe
this.  The only trouble came from a small stag in our rear, which
had come over Clonlet and got the scent of our track on the hill-
face.  This unsettled him and he went off at a great pace towards
the top of the burn.  I thought at first that the brute would go up
Bheinn Fhada and carry off our lot with him, but he came to a halt,
changed his mind, and made for the Haripol march and the col.

After that it was plain sailing.  We crawled up the right of the
Alt-na-Sidhe, which was first-class cover, and then turned up a
tributary gully which came down from Bheinn Fhada.  Indeed the
whole business was too simple to be of much interest to anyone,
except the man with the rifle.  When I judged I was about the
latitude of my stag, I crept out of the burn and reached a hillock
from which I had a good view of him.  The head, as I suspected, was
poor--only nine points, though the horns were of the rough, thick,
old Highland type, but the body was heavy, and he was clearly a
back-going beast.  After a wait of some twenty minutes he got up
and gave me a chance at about two hundred yards, and I dropped him
dead with a shot in the neck, which was the only part of him clear.

It was for me the first stag of the season, and it is always a
pleasant moment when the tension relaxes and you light your pipe
and look around you.  As soon as the gralloch was over I proposed
lunch, and we found for the purpose a little nook by a spring.  We
were within a few hundred yards of the Haripol march, which there
does not run along the watershed but crosses the corrie about half
a mile below the col.  In the old days of sheep there had been a
fence, the decaying posts of which could be observed a little way
off on a knoll.  Between the fence and the col lay some very rough
ground, where the Alt-na-Sidhe had its source, ground so broken
that it was impossible, without going a good way up the hill, to
see from it the watershed ridge.

I finished Mary's stuffed scones and ginger biscuits, and had a
drink of whisky and spring water, while Angus and Kennedy ate their
lunch a few yards off in the heather.  I was just lighting my pipe,
when a sound made me pause with the match in my hand.  A rifle
bullet sang over my head.  It was not very near--fifty feet or so
above me, and a little to the left.

"The tamned towrists!" I heard Angus exclaim.

I knew it was Medina as certainly as if I had seen him.  He was
somewhere in the rough ground between the Haripol march and the
col--probably close to the col, for the sound of the report seemed
to come from a good way off.  He could not have been aiming at me,
for I was perfectly covered, but he must have seen me when I
stalked the stag.  He had decided that his chance was not yet come,
and the shot was camouflage--to keep up the reputation of Haripol
for wild shooting.

"It would be the staggie that went over the march," grunted Angus.
"The towrists--to be shooting at such a wee beast!"

I had suddenly made up my mind.  I would give Medina the
opportunity he sought.  I would go and look for him.

I got up and stretched my legs.  "I'm going to try a stalk on my
own," I told Angus.  "I'll go over to Corrie Easain.  You had
better pull this beast down to the burnside, and then fetch the
pony.  You might send Hughie and the other pony up Glenaicill to
the Mad Burn.  If I get a stag I'll gralloch him and get him down
somehow to the burn, so tell Hughie to look out for my signal.
I'll wave a white handkerchief.  The wind is backing round to the
north, Angus.  It should be all right for Corrie Easain, if I take
it from the south."

"It would be better for Sgurr Dearg," said Angus, "but that's ower
far.  Have you the cartridges, sir?"

"Plenty," I said, patting a side pocket.  "Give me that spare rope,
Kennedy.  I'll want it for hauling down my stag, if I get one."

I put my little .240 into its cover, nodded to the men, and turned
down the gully to the main burn.  I wasn't going to appear on the
bare hill-side so long as it was possible for Medina to have a shot
at me.  But soon a ridge shut off the view from the Haripol ground,
and I then took a slant up the face of Bheinn Fhada.

Mary had spent most of the morning at the big telescope in the
library window.  She saw us reach the rim of the corrie and lost us
when we moved up the side of Clonlet.  We came into view again far
up the corrie, and she saw the stalk and the death of the stag.
Then she went to luncheon, but hastened back in the middle of it in
time to see me scrambling alone among the screes of Bheinn Fhada.
At first she was reassured because she thought I was coming home.
But when she realised that I was mounting higher and was making for
Corrie Easain her heart sank, and, when I had gone out of view, she
could do nothing but range miserably about the garden.


II

2.15 P.M. TO ABOUT 5 P.M.


It was very hot on Bheinn Fhada, for I was out of the wind, but
when I reached the ridge and looked down on Corrie Easain I found a
fair breeze, which had certainly more north than east in it.  There
was not a cloud in the sky, and every top for miles round stood out
clear, except the Haripol peaks which were shut off by the highest
part of the ridge I stood on.  Corrie Easain lay far below--not a
broad cup like Corrie-na-Sidhe, but a deep gash in the hills,
inclined at such an angle that the stream in it was nothing but
white water.  We called it the Mad Burn--its Gaelic name, I think,
was the Alt-a-mhuillin--and half-way up and just opposite me a
tributary, the Red Burn, came down from the cliffs of Sgurr Dearg.
I could see the northern peak of that mountain, a beautiful cone of
rock, rising like the Matterhorn from its glacis of scree.

I argued that Medina would have seen me going up Bheinn Fhada and
would assume that I was bound for Corrie Easain.  He would re-cross
the col and make for the Haripol side of the beallach which led
from that corrie to the Reascuill.  Now I wanted to keep the higher
ground, where I could follow his movements, so it was my aim to get
to the watershed ridge looking down on Haripol before he did.  The
wind was a nuisance, for it was blowing from me and would move any
deer towards him, thereby giving him a clue to my whereabouts.  So
I thought that if I could once locate him, I must try to get the
lee side of him.  At that time I think I had a vague notion of
driving him towards Machray.

I moved at my best pace along the east face of Bheinn Fhada towards
the beallach--which was a deep rift in the grey rock-curtain
through which deer could pass.  My only feeling was excitement,
such as I had never known before in any stalk.  I slipped and
sprawled among the slabs, slithered over the screes, had one or two
awkward traverses round the butt-end of cliffs, but in about twenty
minutes I was at the point where the massif of Bheinn Fhada joined
the watershed ridge.  The easy way was now to get on to the ridge,
but I dared not appear on the sky-line, so I made a troublesome
journey along the near side of the ridge-wall, sometimes out on the
face of sheer precipices, but more often involved in a chaos of
loose boulders which were the debris of the upper rocks.  I was
forced pretty far down, and eventually struck the beallach path
about five hundred feet below the summit.

At the crest I found I had no view of the Reascuill valley--only a
narrow corrie blocked by a shoulder of hill and the bald top of
Stob Coire Easain beyond.  A prospect I must have, so I turned east
along the watershed ridge in the direction of Sgurr Dearg.  I was
by this time very warm, for I had come at a brisk pace; I had a
rifle to carry, and had Angus's rope round my shoulders like a
Swiss guide; I was wearing an old grey suit, which, with bluish
stockings, made me pretty well invisible on that hill-side.
Presently as I mounted the ridge, keeping of course under the sky-
line, I came to a place where a lift of rock enabled me to clear
the spurs and command a mile or so of the Reascuill.

The place was on the sky-line, bare and exposed, and I crawled to
the edge where I could get a view.  Below me, after a few hundred
yards of rocks and scree, I saw a long tract of bracken and deep
heather sweeping down to the stream.  Medina, I made sure, was
somewhere thereabouts, watching the ridge.  I calculated that, with
his re-crossing of the col at the head of Corrie-na-Sidhe and his
working round the south end of Bheinn Fhada, he could not have had
time to get to the beallach, or near the beallach, before me, and
must still be on the lower ground.  Indeed I hoped to catch sight
of him, for, while I was assured he was pursuing me, he could not
know that I was after him, and might be off his guard.

But there was no sign of life in that sunny stretch of green and
purple, broken by the grey of boulders.  I searched it with my
glass and could see no movement except pipits, and a curlew by a
patch of bog.  Then it occurred to me to show myself.  He must be
made to know that I had accepted his challenge.

I stood up straight on the edge of the steep, and decided to remain
standing till I had counted fifty.  It was an insane thing to do, I
dare say, but I was determined to force the pace. . . .  I had got
to forty-one without anything happening.  Then a sudden instinct
made me crouch and step aside.  That movement was my salvation.
There was a sound like a twanged fiddle-string, and a bullet passed
over my left shoulder.  I felt the wind of it on my cheek.

The next second I was on my back wriggling below the sky-line.
Once there I got to my feet and ran--up the ridge on my left to get
a view from higher ground.  The shot, so far as I could judge, had
come from well below and a little to the east of where I had been
standing.  I found another knuckle of rock, and crept to the edge
of it, so that I looked from between two boulders into the glen.

The place was still utterly quiet.  My enemy was hidden there,
probably not half a mile off, but there was nothing to reveal his
presence.  The light wind stirred the bog cotton, a merlin sailed
across to Stob Coire Easain, a raven croaked in the crags, but
these were the only sounds.  There was not even a sign of deer.

My glass showed that half-way down an old ewe was feeding--one of
those melancholy beasts which stray into a forest from adjacent
sheep-ground, and lead a precarious life among the rocks, lean and
matted and wild, till some gillie cuts their throats.  They are far
sharper-eyed and quicker of hearing than a stag, and an unmitigated
curse to the stalker.  The brute was feeding on a patch of turf
near a big stretch of bracken, and suddenly I saw her raise her
head and stare.  It was the first time I had ever felt well
disposed towards a sheep.

She was curious about something in a shallow gully which flanked
the brackens, and so was I.  I kept my glass glued on her, and saw
her toss her disreputable head, stamp her foot, and then heard her
whistle through her nose.  This was a snag Medina could not have
reckoned with.  He was clearly in that gully, working his way
upward in its cover, unwitting that the ewe was giving him away.  I
argued that he must want to reach the high ground as soon as
possible.  He had seen me on the ridge, and must naturally conclude
that I had beaten a retreat.  My first business, therefore, was to
reassure him.

I got my rifle out of its cover, which I stuffed into my pocket.
There was a little patch of gravel just on the lip of the gully,
and I calculated that he would emerge beside it, under the shade of
a blaeberry-covered stone.  I guessed right . . . I saw first an
arm, and then a shoulder part the rushes, and presently a face
which peered up-hill.  My glass showed me that the face was
Medina's, very red, and dirty from contact with the peaty soil.  He
slowly reached for his glass, and began to scan the heights.

I don't know what my purpose was at this time, if indeed I had any
purpose.  I didn't exactly mean to kill him, I think, though I felt
it might come to that.  Vaguely I wanted to put him out of action,
to put the fear of God into him, and make him come to terms.  Of
further consequences I never thought.  But now I had one clear
intention--to make him understand that I accepted his challenge.

I put a bullet neatly into the centre of the patch of gravel, and
then got my glass on it.  He knew the game all right.  In a second
like a weasel he was back in the gully.

I reckoned that now I had my chance.  Along the ridge I went,
mounting fast, and keeping always below the skyline.  I wanted to
get to the lee side of him and so be able to stalk him up-wind, and
I thought that I had an opportunity now to turn the head of the
Reascuill by one of the steep corries which descend from Sgurr
Dearg.  Looking back, it all seems very confused and amateurish,
for what could I hope to do, even if I had the lee side, beyond
killing or wounding him? and I had a chance of that as long as I
had the upper ground.  But in the excitement of the chase the mind
does not take long views, and I was enthralled by the crazy sport
of the thing.  I did not feel any fear, because I was not worrying
about consequences.

Soon I came to the higher part of the ridge and saw frowning above
me the great rock face of Sgurr Dearg.  I saw, too, a thing I had
forgotten.  There was no way up that mountain direct from the
ridge, for the tower rose as perpendicular as a house-wall.  To
surmount it a man must traverse on one side or the other--on the
Machray side by a scree slope, or on the Haripol side by a deep
gully which formed the top of the corrie into which I was now
looking.  Across that corrie was the first of the great buttresses
which Sgurr Dearg sends down to the Reascuill.  It was the famous
Pinnacle Ridge (as mountaineers called it); I had climbed it three
weeks before and found it pretty stiff; but then I had kept the
ridge all the way from the valley bottom, and I did not see any
practicable road up the corrie face of it, which seemed nothing but
slabs and rotten rocks, while the few chimneys had ugly overhangs.

I lay flat and reconnoitred.  What was Medina likely to do?  After
my shot he could not follow up the ridge--the cover was too poor on
the upper slopes.  I reasoned that he would keep on in the broken
ground up the glen till he reached this corrie, and try to find a
road to the high ground either by the corrie itself or by one of
the spurs.  In that case it was my business to wait for him.  But
first I thought I had better put a fresh clip in my magazine, for
the shot I had fired had been the last cartridge in the old clip.

It was now that I made an appalling discovery.  I had felt my
pockets and told Angus that I had plenty of cartridges.  So I had,
but they didn't fit. . . .  I remembered that two days before I
had lent Archie my .240 and had been shooting with a Mannlicher.
What I had in my pocket were Mannlicher clips left over from that
day. . . .  I might chuck my rifle away, for it was no more use
than a poker.

At first I was stunned by the fatality.  Here was I, engaged in a
duel on a wild mountain with one of the best shots in the world,
and I had lost my gun!  The sensible course would have been to go
home.  There was plenty of time for that, and long before Medina
reached the ridge I could be in cover in the gorge of the Mad Burn.
But that way out of it never occurred to me.  I had chosen to set
the course, and the game must be played out here and now.  But I
confess I was pretty well in despair and could see no plan.  I
think I had a faint hope of protracting the thing till dark and
then trusting to my hill-craft to get even with him, but I had an
unpleasant feeling that he was not likely to oblige me with so long
a delay.

I forced myself to think, and decided that Medina would either come
up the corrie or take the steep spur which formed the right-hand
side of it and ran down to the Reascuill.  The second route would
give him cover, but also render him liable to a surprise at close
quarters if I divined his intention, for I might suddenly confront
him four yards off at the top of one of the pitches.  He would
therefore prefer the corrie, which was magnificently broken up with
rocks, and seamed with ravines, and at the same time gave a clear
view of all the higher ground.

With my face in a clump of louse-wort I raked the place with my
glass; and to my delight saw deer feeding about half-way down in
the right-hand corner.  Medina could not ascend the corrie without
disturbing these deer--a batch of some thirty hinds, with five
small and two fairish stags among them.  Therefore I was protected
from that side, and had only the ridge to watch.

But as I lay there I thought of another plan.  Medina, I was pretty
certain, would try the corrie first, and would not see the deer
till he was well inside it, for they were on a kind of platform
which hid them from below.  Opposite me across the narrow corrie
rose the great black wall of the Pinnacle Ridge, with the wind
blowing from me towards it.  I remembered a trick which Angus had
taught me--how a stalker might have his wind carried against the
face of an opposite mountain and then, so to speak, reflected from
it and brought back to his own side, so that deer below him would
get it and move away from it up TOWARDS HIM.  If I let my scent be
carried to the Pinnacle Ridge and diverted back, it would move the
deer on the platform up the corrie towards me.  It would be a faint
wind, so they would move slowly away from it--no doubt towards a
gap under the tower of Sgurr Dearg which led to the little corrie
at the head of the Red Burn.  We never stalked that corrie, because
it was impossible to get a stag out of it without cutting him up,
so the place was a kind of sanctuary to which disturbed deer would
naturally resort.

I stood on the sky-line, being confident that Medina could not yet
be within sight, and let the wind, which was now stronger and
nearly due north, ruffle my hair.  I did this for about five
minutes, and then lay down to watch the result, with my glass on
the deer.  Presently I saw them become restless, first the hinds
and then the small stags lifting their heads and looking towards
the Pinnacle Ridge.  Soon a little fellow trotted a few yards up-
hill; then a couple of hinds moved after him; and then by a sudden
and simultaneous impulse the whole party began to drift up the
corrie.  It was a quiet steady advance; they were not scared, only
a little doubtful.  I saw with satisfaction that their objective
seemed to be the gap which led over to the Red Burn.

Medina must see this and would assume that wherever I was I was not
ahead of the deer.  He might look for me on the other side, but
more likely would follow the beasts so as to get the high ground.
Once there he could see my movements, whether I was on the slopes
of the Pinnacle Ridge, or down on the Machray side.  He would
consider no doubt that his marksmanship was so infinitely better
than mine that he had only to pick me out from the landscape to
make an end of the business.

What I exactly intended I do not know.  I had a fleeting notion of
lying hidden and surprising him, but the chances against that were
about a million to one, and even if I got him at close quarters he
was armed and I was not.  I moved a little to the right so as to
keep my wind from the deer, and waited with a chill beginning to
creep over my spirit. . . .  My watch told me it was five o'clock.
Mary and Peter John would be having tea among the Prince Charlie
roses, and Greenslade and Archie coming up from the river.  It
would be heavenly at Machray now among greenery and the cool airs
of evening.  Up here there was loveliness enough, from the stars of
butterwort and grass of Parnassus by the wellheads to the solemn
tops of Sgurr Dearg, the colour of stormy waves against a faint
turquoise sky.  But I knew now that the beauty of earth depends on
the eye of the beholder, for suddenly the clean airy world around
me had grown leaden and stifling.


III

5 P.M. TO ABOUT 7.30 P.M.


It was a good hour before he came.  I had guessed rightly, and he
had made the deduction I hoped for.  He was following the deer
towards the gap, assuming that I was on the Machray side.  I was in
a rushy hollow at a junction of the main ridge and the spur I have
mentioned, and I could see him clearly as, with immense
circumspection and the use of every scrap of cover, he made his way
up the corrie.  Once he was over the watershed, I would command him
from the higher ground and have the wind to my vantage.  I had some
hope now, for I ought to be able to keep him on the hill till the
light failed, when my superior local knowledge would come to my
aid.  He must be growing tired, I reflected, for he had had far
more ground to cover.  For myself I felt that I could go on for
ever.

That might have been the course of events but for a second sheep.
Sgurr Dearg had always been noted for possessing a few sheep even
on its high rocks--infernal tattered outlaws, strays originally
from some decent flock, but now to all intents a new species,
unclassified by science.  How they lived and bred I knew not, but
there was a legend of many a good stalk ruined by their diabolical
cunning.  I heard something between a snort and a whistle behind
me, and, screwing my head round, saw one of these confounded
animals poised on a rock and looking in my direction.  It could see
me perfectly, too, for on that side I had no cover.

I lay like a mouse watching Medina.  He was about half a mile off,
almost on the top of the corrie, and he had halted for a rest and a
spy.  I prayed fervently that he would not see the sheep.

He heard it.  The brute started its whistling and coughing, and a
novice could have seen that it suspected something and knew where
that something was.  I observed him get his glass on my lair,
though from the place where he was he could see nothing but rushes.
Then he seemed to make up his mind and suddenly disappeared from
view.

I knew what he was after.  He had dropped into a scaur, which would
take him to the sky-line and enable him to come down on me from
above, while he himself would be safe from my observation.

There was nothing to do but to clear out.  The spur dropping to the
Reascuill seemed to give me the best chance, so I started off,
crouching and crawling, to get round the nose of it and on to the
steep glen-ward face.  It was a miserable job till I had turned the
corner, for I expected every moment a bullet in my back.  Nothing
happened, however, and soon I was slithering down awesome slabs on
to insecure ledges of heather.  I am a fairly experienced
mountaineer, and a lover of rock, but I dislike vegetation mixed up
with a climb, and I had too much of it now.  There was perhaps a
thousand feet of that spur, and I think I must hold the speed
record for its descent.  Scratched, bruised, and breathless, I came
to anchor on a bed of screes, with the infant Reascuill tumbling
below me, and beyond it, a quarter of a mile off, the black cliffs
of the Pinnacle Ridge.

But what was my next step to be?  The position was reversed.
Medina was above me with a rifle, and my own weapon was useless.
He must find out the road I had taken and would be after me like a
flame. . . .  It was no good going down the glen; in the open
ground he would get the chance of twenty shots.  It was no good
sticking to the spur or the adjacent ridge, for the cover was bad.
I could not hide for long in the corrie. . . .  Then I looked
towards the Pinnacle Ridge and considered that, once I got into
those dark couloirs, I might be safe.  The Psalmist had turned to
the hills for his help--I had better look to the rocks.

I had a quarter of a mile of open to cross, and a good deal more if
I was to reach the ridge at a point easy of ascent.  There were
chimneys in front of me, deep black gashes, but my recollection of
them was that they had looked horribly difficult, and had been
plentifully supplied with overhangs.  Supposing I got into one of
them and stuck.  Medina would have me safe enough. . . .  But I
couldn't wait to think.  With an ugly cold feeling in my inside I
got into the ravine of the burn, and had a long drink from a pool.
Then I started down-stream, keeping close to the right-hand bank,
which mercifully was high and dotted with rowan saplings.  And as I
went I was always turning my head to see behind and above me what I
feared.

I think Medina, who of course did not know about my rifle, may have
suspected a trap, for he came on slowly, and when I caught sight of
him it was not on the spur I had descended but farther up the
corrie.  Two things I now realised.  One was that I could not make
the easy end of the Pinnacle Ridge without exposing myself on some
particularly bare ground.  The other was that to my left in the
Ridge was a deep gully which looked climbable.  Moreover, the foot
of that gully was not a hundred yards from the burn, and the mouth
was so deep that a man would find shelter as soon as he entered it.

For the moment I could not see Medina, and I don't think he had yet
caught sight of me.  There was a trickle of water coming down from
the gully to the burn, and that gave me an apology for cover.  I
ground my nose into the flowe-moss and let the water trickle down
my neck, as I squirmed my way up, praying hard that my enemy's eyes
might be sealed.

I think I had got about half-way, when a turn gave me a view of the
corrie, and there was Medina halted and looking towards me.  By the
mercy of Providence my boots were out of sight, and my head a
little lower than my shoulders, so that I suppose among the sand
and gravel and rushes I must have been hard to detect.  Had he used
his telescope I think he must have spotted me, though I am not
certain.  I saw him staring.  I saw him half-raise his rifle to his
shoulder, while I heard my heart thump.  Then he lowered his
weapon, and moved out of sight.

Two minutes later I was inside the gully.

The place ran in like a cave with a sandy floor, and then came a
steep pitch of rock, while the sides narrowed into a chimney.  This
was not very difficult.  I swung myself up into the second storey,
and found that the cleft was so deep that the back wall was about
three yards from the opening, so that I climbed in almost complete
darkness and in perfect safety from view.  This went on for about
fifty feet, and then, after a rather awkward chockstone, I came to
a fork.  The branch on the left looked hopeless, while that on the
right seemed to offer some chances.  But I stopped to consider, for
I remembered something.

I remembered that this was the chimney which I had prospected three
weeks before when I climbed the Pinnacle Ridge.  I had prospected
it from above, and had come to the conclusion that, while the left
fork MIGHT be climbed, the right was impossible or nearly so, for,
modestly as it began, it ran out into a fearsome crack on the face
of the cliff, and did not become a chimney again till after a
hundred feet of unclimbable rotten granite.

So I tried the left fork, which looked horribly unpromising.  The
first trouble was a chockstone, which I managed to climb round, and
then the confounded thing widened and became perpendicular.  I
remembered that I had believed a way could be found by taking to
the right-hand face, and in the excitement of the climb I forgot
all precautions.  It simply did not occur to me that this face
route might bring me in sight of eyes which at all costs I must
avoid.

It was not an easy business, for there was an extreme poverty of
decent holds.  But I have done worse pitches in my time, and had I
not had a rifle to carry (I had no sling), might have thought less
of it.  Very soon I was past the worst, and saw my way to returning
to the chimney, which had once more become reasonable.  I stopped
for a second to prospect the route, with my foot on a sound ledge,
my right elbow crooked round a jag of rock, and my left hand, which
held the rifle, stretched out so that my fingers could test the
soundness of a certain handhold.

Suddenly I felt the power go out of those fingers.  The stone
seemed to crumble and splinters flew into my eye.  There was a
crashing of echoes, which drowned the noise of my rifle as it
clattered down the precipice.  I remember looking at my hand
spread-eagled against the rock, and wondering why it looked so
strange.

The light was just beginning to fail, so it must have been about
half-past seven.


IV

7.30 P.M. AND ONWARDS


Had anything of the sort happened to me during an ordinary climb I
should beyond doubt have lost my footing with the shock and fallen.
But, being pursued, I suppose my nerves were keyed to a perpetual
expectancy, and I did not slip.  The fear of a second bullet saved
my life.  In a trice I was back in the chimney, and the second
bullet spent itself harmlessly on the granite.

Mercifully it was now easier going--honest knee-and-back work,
which I could manage in spite of my shattered fingers.  I climbed
feverishly with a cold sweat on my brow, but every muscle was in
order, and I knew I would make no mistake.  The chimney was deep,
and a ledge of rock hid me from my enemy below. . . .  Presently I
squeezed through a gap, swung myself up with my right hand and my
knees to a shelf, and saw that the difficulties were over.  A
shallow gully, filled with screes, led up to the crest of the
ridge.  It was the place I had looked down on three weeks before.

I examined my left hand, which was in a horrid mess.  The top of my
thumb was blown off, and the two top joints of my middle and third
fingers were smashed to pulp.  I felt no pain in them, though they
were dripping blood, but I had a queer numbness in my left
shoulder.  I managed to bind the hand up in a handkerchief, where
it made a gory bundle.  Then I tried to collect my wits.

Medina was coming up the chimney after me.  He knew I had no rifle.
He was, as I had heard, an expert cragsman, and he was the younger
man by at least ten years.  My first thought was to make for the
upper part of the Pinnacle Ridge, and try to hide or to elude him
somehow till the darkness.  But he could follow me in the
transparent Northern night, and I must soon weaken from loss of
blood.  I could not hope to put sufficient distance between us for
safety, and he had his deadly rifle.  Somewhere in the night or in
the dawning he would get me.  No, I must stay and fight it out.

Could I hold the chimney?  I had no weapon but stones, but I might
be able to prevent a man ascending by those intricate rocks.  In
the chimney at any rate there was cover, and he could not use his
rifle. . . .  But would he try the chimney?  Why should he not go
round by the lower slopes of the Pinnacle Ridge and come on me from
above?

It was the dread of his bullets that decided me.  My one passionate
longing was for cover.  I might get him in a place where his rifle
was useless and I had a chance to use my greater muscular strength.
I did not care what happened to me provided I got my hands on him.
Behind all my fear and confusion and pain there was now a cold fury
of rage.

So I slipped back into the chimney and descended it to where it
turned slightly to the left past a nose of rock.  Here I had cover,
and could peer down into the darkening deeps of the great couloir.

A purple haze filled the corrie, and the Machray tops were like
dull amethysts.  The sky was a cloudy blue sprinkled with stars,
and mingled with the last flush of sunset was the first tide of the
afterglow. . . .  At first all was quiet in the gully.  I heard the
faint trickle of stones which are always falling in such a place,
and once the croak of a hungry raven. . . .  Was my enemy there?
Did he know of the easier route up the Pinnacle Ridge?  Would he
not assume that if I could climb the cleft he could follow, and
would he feel any dread of a man with no gun and a shattered hand?

Then from far below came a sound I recognised--iron hobnails on
rock.  I began to collect loose stones and made a little pile of
such ammunition beside me. . . .  I realised that Medina had begun
the ascent of the lower pitches.  Every breach in the stillness was
perfectly clear--the steady scraping in the chimney, the fall of a
fragment of rock as he surmounted the lower chockstone, the
scraping again as he was forced out on to the containing wall.  The
light must have been poor, but the road was plain.  Of course I saw
nothing of him, for a bulge prevented me, but my ears told me the
story.  Then there was silence.  I realised that he had come to the
place where the chimney forked.

I had my stones ready, for I hoped to get him when he was driven
out on the face at the overhang, the spot where I had been when he
fired.

The sounds began again, and I waited in a desperate choking calm.
In a minute or two would come the crisis.  I remember that the
afterglow was on the Machray tops and made a pale light in the
corrie below.  In the cleft there was still a kind of dim twilight.
Any moment I expected to see a dark thing in movement fifty feet
below, which would be Medina's head.

But it did not come.  The noise of scraped rock still continued, but
it seemed to draw no nearer.  Then I realised that I had misjudged
the situation.  Medina had taken the right-hand fork.  He was bound
to, unless he had made, like me, an earlier reconnaissance.  My
route in the half-light must have looked starkly impossible.

The odds were now on my side.  No man in the fast-gathering
darkness could hope to climb the cliff face and rejoin that chimney
after its interruption.  He would go on till he stuck--and then it
would not be too easy to get back.  I reascended my own cleft, for
I had a notion that I might traverse across the space between the
two forks, and find a vantage point for a view.

Very slowly and painfully, for my left arm was beginning to burn
like fire and my left shoulder and neck to feel strangely
paralysed, I wriggled across the steep face till I found a sort of
gendarme of rock, beyond which the cliff fell smoothly to the lip
of the other fork.  The great gully below was now a pit of
darkness, but the afterglow still lingered on this upper section
and I saw clearly where Medina's chimney lay, where it narrowed and
where it ran out.  I fixed myself so as to prevent myself falling,
for I feared I was becoming light-headed.  Then I remembered
Angus's rope, got it unrolled, took a coil round my waist, and made
a hitch over the gendarme.

There was a smothered cry from below, and suddenly came the ring of
metal on stone, and then a clatter of something falling.  I knew
what it meant.  Medina's rifle had gone the way of mine and lay now
among the boulders at the chimney foot.  At last we stood on equal
terms, and, befogged as my mind was, I saw that nothing now could
stand between us and a settlement.

It seemed to me that I saw something moving in the half-light.  If
it was Medina, he had left the chimney and was trying the face.
That way I knew there was no hope.  He would be forced back, and
surely would soon realise the folly of it and descend.  Now that
his rifle had gone my hatred had ebbed.  I seemed only to be
watching a fellow-mountaineer in a quandary.

He could not have been forty feet from me, for I heard his quick
breathing.  He was striving hard for holds, and the rock must have
been rotten, for there was a continuous dropping of fragments, and
once a considerable boulder hurtled down the couloir.

"Go back, man," I cried instinctively.  "Back to the chimney.  You
can't get further that way."

I suppose he heard me, for he made a more violent effort, and I
thought I could see him sprawl at a foothold which he missed, and
then swing out on his hands.  He was evidently weakening, for I
heard a sob of weariness.  If he could not regain the chimney,
there was three hundred feet of a fall to the boulders at the foot.

"Medina," I yelled, "I've a rope.  I'm going to send it down to
you.  Get your arm in the loop."

I made a noose at the end with my teeth and my right hand, working
with a maniac's fury.

"I'll fling it straight out," I cried.  "Catch it when it falls to
you."

My cast was good enough, but he let it pass, and the rope dangled
down into the abyss.

"Oh, damn it, man," I roared, "you can trust me.  We'll have it out
when I get you safe.  You'll break your neck if you hang there."

Again I threw, and suddenly the rope tightened.  He believed my
word, and I think that was the greatest compliment ever paid me in
all my days.

"Now you're held," I cried.  "I've got a belay here.  Try and climb
back into the chimney."

He understood and began to move.  But his arms and legs must have
been numb with fatigue, for suddenly that happened which I feared.
There was a wild slipping and plunging, and then he swung out
limply, missing the chimney, right on to the smooth wall of the
cliff.

There was nothing for it but to haul him back.  I knew Angus's
ropes too well to have any confidence in them, and I had only the
one good hand.  The rope ran through a groove of stone which I had
covered with my coat, and I hoped to work it even with a single arm
by moving slowly upwards.

"I'll pull you up," I yelled, "but for God's sake give me some
help.  Don't hang on the rope more than you need."

My loop was a large one and I think he had got both arms through
it.  He was a monstrous weight, limp and dead as a sack, for though
I could feel him scraping and kicking at the cliff face, the rock
was too smooth for fissures.  I held the rope with my feet planted
against boulders, and wrought till my muscles cracked.  Inch by
inch I was drawing him in, till I realised the danger.

The rope was grating on the sharp brink beyond the chimney and
might at any moment be cut by a knife-edge.

"Medina"--my voice must have been like a wild animal's scream--
"this is too dangerous.  I'm going to let you down a bit so that
you can traverse.  There's a sort of ledge down there.  For
Heaven's sake go canny with this rope."

I slipped the belay from the gendarme, and hideously difficult it
was.  Then I moved farther down to a little platform nearer the
chimney.  This gave me about six extra yards.

"Now," I cried, when I had let him slip down, "a little to your
left.  Do you feel the ledge?"

He had found some sort of foothold, and for a moment there was a
relaxation of the strain.  The rope swayed to my right towards the
chimney.  I began to see a glimmer of hope.

"Cheer up," I cried.  "Once in the chimney you're safe.  Sing out
when you reach it."

The answer out of the darkness was a sob.  I think giddiness must
have overtaken him, or that atrophy of muscle which is the peril of
rock-climbing.  Suddenly the rope scorched my fingers and a shock
came on my middle which dragged me to the very edge of the abyss.

I still believe that I could have saved him if I had had the use of
both my hands, for I could have guided the rope away from that
fatal knife-edge.  I knew it was hopeless, but I put every ounce of
strength and will into the effort to swing it with its burden into
the chimney.  He gave me no help, for I think--I hope--that he was
unconscious.  Next second the strands had parted, and I fell back
with a sound in my ears which I pray God I may never hear again--
the sound of a body rebounding dully from crag to crag, and then a
long soft rumbling of screes like a snowslip.

                     *     *     *     *     *

I managed to crawl the few yards to the anchorage of the gendarme
before my senses departed.  There in the morning Mary and Angus
found me.



THE END




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