Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership




Title:      The Island of Sheep (1936)
Author:     John Buchan
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0301551.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          December 2003
Date most recently updated: December 2003

This eBook was produced by: Don Lainson dlainson@sympatico.ca
Production notes: 

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

---------------------------------------------------------------------------


A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      The Island of Sheep (1936)
Author:     John Buchan





Contents

PART I

Fosse

I.  LOST GODS

II.  HANHAM FLATS

III.  THE TABLET OF JADE

IV.  HARALDSEN

V.  HARALDSEN'S SON

VI.  SUNDRY DOINGS AT FOSSE

VII.  LORD CLANROYDEN INTERVENES


PART II

Laverlaw

VIII.  SANCTUARY

IX.  LOCHINVAR

X.  THE DOG SAMR

XI.  WE SHIFT OUR BASE


PART III

The Island of Sheep

XII.  HULDA'S FOLK

XIII.  MARINE BIOLOGY

XIV.  THE WAYS OF THE PINK-FOOT

XV.  TRANSFORMATION BY FIRE

XVI.  THE RIDDLE OF THE TABLET




TO

J.N.S.B.

WHO KNOWS THE NORLANDS AND THE WAYS OF THE WILD GEESE




PART I

Fosse


CHAPTER I

Lost Gods


I have never believed, as some people do, in omens and
forewarnings, for the dramatic things in my life have generally
come upon me as suddenly as a tropical thunderstorm.  But I have
observed that in a queer way I have been sometimes prepared for
them by my mind drifting into an unexpected mood.  I would remember
something I had not thought of for years, or start without reason
an unusual line of thought.  That was what happened to me on an
October evening when I got into the train at Victoria.

That afternoon I had done what for me was a rare thing, and
attended a debate in the House of Commons.  Lamancha was to make a
full-dress speech, and Lamancha on such an occasion is worth
hearing.  But it was not my friend's eloquence that filled my mind
or his deadly handling of interruptions, but a reply which the
Colonial Secretary gave to a question before the debate began.  A
name can sometimes be like a scent or a tune, a key to long-buried
memories.  When old Melbury spoke the word 'Lombard,' my thoughts
were set racing down dim alleys of the past.  He quoted a
memorandum written years ago and incorporated in the report of a
certain Commission; 'A very able memorandum,' he called it, 'by a
certain Mr. Lombard,' which contained the point he wished to make.
Able!  I should think it was.  And the writer!  To be described as
'a certain Mr. Lombard' showed how completely the man I once knew
had dropped out of the world's ken.

I did not do justice to Lamancha's speech, for I thought of Lombard
all through it.  I thought of him in my taxi going to the station,
and, when I had found my compartment, his face came between me and
the pages of my evening paper.  I had not thought much about him
for years, but now Melbury's chance quotation had started a set of
pictures which flitted like a film series before my eyes.  I saw
Lombard as I had last seen him, dressed a little differently from
to-day, a little fuller in the face than we lean kine who have
survived the War, with eyes not blurred from motoring, and voice
not high-pitched like ours to override the din of our environment.
I saw his smile, the odd quick lift of his chin--and I realized
that I was growing old and had left some wonderful things behind
me.

The compartment filled up with City men going home to their
comfortable southern suburbs.  They all had evening papers, and
some had morning papers to finish.  Most of them appeared to make
this journey regularly, for they knew each other, and exchanged
market gossip or commented on public affairs.  A friendly
confidential party; and I sat in my corner looking out of the
window at another landscape than what some poet has called 'smoky
dwarf houses,' and seeing a young man's face which was very
different from theirs.

Lombard had come out to East Africa as secretary to a Government
Commission, a Commission which he very soon manipulated as he
pleased.  I met him there when I was sent up on a prospecting job.
He was very young then, not more than twenty-five, and he was in
his first years at the Bar.  He had been at one of the lesser
public schools and at Cambridge, had been a good scholar, and was
as full as he could hold of books.  I remembered our first meeting
in a cold camp on the Uasin Gishu plateau, when he quoted and
translated a Greek line about the bitter little wind before dawn.
But he never paraded his learning, for his desire was to be in
complete harmony with his surroundings, and to look very much the
pioneer.  Those were the old days in East Africa, before the 'Happy
Valley' and the remittance man and settlers who wanted self-
government, and people's hopes were high.  He was full of the
heroes of the past, like Roddy Owen and Vandeleur and the Portals,
and, except that he was a poor horseman, he had something in common
with them.  With his light figure and bleached fair hair and brown
skin he looked the very model of the adventurous Englishman.  I
thought that there might be a touch of the Jew in his ancestry--
something high-coloured and foreign at any rate, for he was more
expansive and quickly fired than the rest of us.  But on the whole
he was as English as a Hampshire water-meadow. . . .

The compartment was blue with pipe-smoke.  My companions were
talking about rock-gardens.  The man in the corner opposite me was
apparently an authority on the subject, and he had much to say
about different firms of nursery gardeners.  He was blond, plump,
and baldish, and had a pleasant voice whose tones woke a
recollection which I could not fix.  I thought that I had probably
seen him at some company meeting. . . .

My mind went back to Lombard.  I remembered how we had sat on a
rock one evening looking over the trough of Equatoria, and, as the
sun crimsoned the distant olive-green forests, he had told me his
ambitions.  In those days the after-glow of Cecil Rhodes's spell
still lay on Africa, and men could dream dreams.  Lombard's were
majestic.  'I have got my inspiration,' he told me.  His old
hankerings after legal or literary or political success at home had
gone.  He had found a new and masterful purpose.

It was a very young man's talk.  I was about his own age, but I had
knocked about a bit and saw its crudity.  Yet it most deeply
impressed me.  There were fire and poetry in it, and there was also
a pleasant shrewdness.  He had had his 'call' and was hastening to
answer it.  Henceforth his life was to be dedicated to one end, the
building up of a British Equatoria, with the highlands of the East
and South as the white man's base.  It was to be both white man's
and black man's country, a new kingdom of Prester John.  It was to
link up South Africa with Egypt and the Sudan, and thereby complete
Rhodes's plan.  It was to be a magnet to attract our youth and a
settlement ground for our surplus population.  It was to carry with
it a spiritual renaissance for England.  'When I think,' he cried,
'of the stuffy life at home!  We must bring air into it, and
instead of a blind alley give 'em open country. . . .'

The talk in the compartment was now of golf.  Matches were being
fixed up for the following Sunday.  My vis-à-vis had evidently some
repute as a golfer, and was describing how he had managed to lower
his handicap.  Golf 'shop' is to me the most dismal thing on earth,
and I shut my ears to it.  'So I took my mashie, you know, my
LITTLE mashie'--the words seemed to have all the stuffiness of
which Lombard had complained.  Here in perfection was the smug
suburban life from which he had revolted.  My thoughts went back to
that hilltop three thousand miles and thirty years away. . . .

All of us at that time had talked a little grandiloquently, but
with Lombard it was less a rhapsody than a passionate confession of
faith.  He was not quite certain about the next step in his own
career.  He had been offered a post on the staff of the Governor of
X--, which might be a good jumping-off ground.  There was the
business side, too.  He had the chance of going into the firm of
Y--, which was about to spend large sums on African development.
Money was important, he said, and cited Rhodes and Beit.  He had
not made up his mind, but ways and means did not greatly trouble
him.  His goal was so clear that he would find a road to it.

I do not think that I have ever had a stronger impression of a
consuming purpose.  Here was one who would never be content to
settle among the fatted calves of the world.  He might fail, but he
would fail superbly.

'Some day,' I said, 'there will be a new British Dominion, and it
will be called Lombardy.  You have the right sort of name for
Empire-making.'

I spoke quite seriously, and he took it seriously.

'Yes, I have thought of that,' he said, 'but it would have to be
Lombardia.'

That was not the last time I saw him, for a year later he came down
to Rhodesia, again on Government business, and we went through a
rather odd experience together.  But it was that hour in the
African twilight that stuck in my memory.  Here was a man dedicated
to a crusade, ready to bend every power of mind and body to a high
ambition, and to sacrifice all the softer things of life.  I had
felt myself in the presence of a young knight-errant, gravely
entering upon his vows of service. . . .

I looked round the compartment at the flabby eupeptic faces which
offered so stark a contrast to the one I remembered.  The talk was
still of golf, and the plump man was enlarging on a new steel-
shafted driver.  Well, it required all kinds to make a world. . . .

I had not seen Lombard for more than a quarter of a century.  I had
not even heard his name till that afternoon when Melbury mentioned
him in the House.  But at first I had often thought of him and
waited for his avatar.  I felt about him as Browning felt about
Waring in the poem, for I believed that sooner or later--and rather
soon than late--he would in some way or other make for himself a
resounding name.  I pictured him striding towards his goal,
scorning half-achievements and easy repute, waiting patiently on
the big chance and the great moment.  Death alone, I was convinced,
would stop him.  And then the War came. . . .

The compartment had nearly emptied.  Only my vis-à-vis remained.
He had put up his feet on the seat and was skimming a motoring
journal. . . .

Yes, I decided, the War had done it.  Lombard would of course have
fought--he was the kind of man who must--and in some obscure action
in some part of the world-wide battlefield death had closed his
dreams.  Another case of unfulfilled renown.  The thought made me
melancholy.  The fatted calves had always the best of it.  Brains
and high ambitions had perished, and the world was for the
comfortable folk like the man opposite me.

We passed a station, and the next was obviously my companion's
destination, for he got up, stretched his legs, and took down a
parcel from the rack.  He was carrying back the fish for dinner.
He folded up his papers and lit a cigarette.  Then for the first
time he had a proper look at me, and in his face I saw slowly the
dawning of recognition.  He hesitated, and then he spoke my name.

'Hannay?' he said.  'Isn't it Dick Hannay?'

The voice did the trick with me, for I remembered those precise
tones which he had never managed to slur and broaden after our
outland fashion.  My eyes cleared, and a response clicked in my
brain.  I saw, behind the well-covered cheeks and the full chin and
the high varnish of good living, a leaner and younger face.

'Lombard!' I cried.  'I haven't seen or heard of you for twenty
years.  Do you know that the Colonial Secretary referred to you in
the House this afternoon?  I have been thinking of you ever since.'

He grinned and he held out his hand.

'What did he say?  Nothing uncomplimentary, I hope.  We've been
having a bit of a controversy with his department over Irak.  I've
often heard of YOU, and read about you in the papers, and I've been
hoping to run across you some day.  You made some splash in the
War.  You're a K.C.B., aren't you?  They offered me a knighthood
too, but my firm thought I'd better stand out.  Bad luck we didn't
spot each other sooner, for I should have liked a yarn with you.'

'So should I,' was my answer.  'We have plenty to talk about.'

He replied to the question in my eye.

'Those were funny old times we had together.  Lord, they seem a
long way off now.  What have I been doing since?  Well, I went in
for oil.  I wish I had taken it up sooner, for I wasted several
years chasing my tail.  My firm made a pot of money in the War, and
we haven't done so badly since.'

He was friendly and obviously glad to see me, but after so long a
gap in our acquaintance he found it difficult to come to close
quarters.  So did I.  I could only stare at his bland comfortable
face and try in vain to recapture in it something that had gone for
ever.

He felt the constraint.  As we slackened speed, he dusted his hat,
adjusted an aquascutum on his arm, and looked out of the window.  I
seemed to detect some effort in his geniality.

'I live down here,' he said.  'We mustn't lose sight of each other
now we have foregathered.  What about lunching together one day--my
club's the Junior Carlton?  Or better still, come down to us for a
week-end.  I can give you quite a decent game of golf.'

The train drew up at a trim little platform covered with smooth
yellow gravel, and a red station house, like a Wesleyan chapel,
which in June would be smothered with Dorothy Perkins roses.  There
was a long line of fading geraniums, and several plots of
chrysanthemums.  Beyond the fence I could see a glistening tarmac
road and the trees and lawns of biggish villas.  I noticed a
shining Daimler drawn up at the station entrance, and on the
platform was a woman like a full-blown peony, to whom Lombard waved
his hand.

'My wife,' he said, as he got out.  'I'd like you to meet her. . . .
It's been great seeing you again.  I've got a nice little place
down here. . . .  Promise you'll come to us for some week-end.
Beryl will write to you.'



I continued my journey--I was going down to the Solent to see about
laying up my boat, for I had lately taken to a mild sort of
yachting--in an odd frame of mind.  I experienced what was rare
with me--a considerable dissatisfaction with life.  Lombard had
been absorbed into the great, solid, complacent middle class which
he had once despised, and was apparently happy in it.  The man whom
I had thought of as a young eagle was content to be a barndoor
fowl.  Well, if he was satisfied, it was no business of mine, but I
had a dreary sense of the fragility of hopes and dreams.

It was about myself that I felt most dismally.  Lombard's youth had
gone, but so had my own.  Lombard was settled like Moab on his
lees, but so was I.  We all make pictures of ourselves that we try
to live up to, and mine had always been of somebody hard and taut
who could preserve to the last day of life a decent vigour of
spirit.  Well, I kept my body in fair training by exercise, but I
realized that my soul was in danger of fatty degeneration.  I was
too comfortable.  I had all the blessings a man can have, but I
wasn't earning them.  I tried to tell myself that I deserved a
little peace and quiet, but I got no good from that reflection, for
it meant that I had accepted old age.  What were my hobbies and my
easy days but the consolations of senility?  I looked at my face in
the mirror in the carriage back, and it disgusted me, for it
reminded me of my recent companions who had pattered about golf.
Then I became angry with myself.  'You are a fool,' I said.  'You
are becoming soft and elderly, which is the law of life, and you
haven't the grit to grow old cheerfully.'  That put a stopper on my
complaints, but it left me dejected and only half convinced.



CHAPTER II

Hanham Flats


All that autumn and early winter I had an uneasy feeling at the
back of my mind.  I had my pleasant country-gentleman's existence,
but some of the zest had gone out of it.  Instead of feeling, as I
usually did, that it was the only life for a white man, I had an
ugly suspicion that satisfaction with it meant that I had grown
decrepit.  And at the same time I had a queer expectation that an
event was about to happen which would jog me out of my rut into
something much less comfortable, and that I had better bask while
the sun shone, for it wouldn't shine long.  Oddly enough, that
comforted me.  I wasn't looking for any more difficult jobs in this
world, but the mere possibility of one coming along allowed me to
enjoy my slippered days with a quieter conscience.

In the week before Christmas came the second of the chain of
happenings which were the prelude to this story.  My son came into
it, and here I must beg leave to introduce Peter John, now in his
fourteenth year.

The kind of son I had hoped for when he was born was the typical
English boy, good at games, fairly intelligent, reasonably honest
and clean, the kind of public-school product you read about in
books.  I say had 'hoped for,' for it was the conventional notion
most fathers entertain, though I doubt if I should have had much
patience with the reality.  Anyhow, Peter John was nothing like
that.  He didn't care a rush for the public-school spirit.  He was
rather a delicate child, but after he had passed his seventh
birthday his health improved, and at his preparatory school he was
a sturdy young ruffian who had no ailments except the conventional
mumps and measles.  He was tall for his age and rather handsome in
his own way.  Mary's glorious hair in him took the form of a sandy
thatch inclining to red, but he had her blue eyes and her long,
slim hands and feet.  He had my mouth and my shape of head, but he
had a slightly sullen air which he could have got from neither of
us.  I have seen him when he was perfectly happy looking the
picture of gloom.  He was very quiet in his manner; had a pleasant,
low voice; talked little, and then with prodigiously long words.
That came of his favourite reading, which was the Prophet Isaiah,
Izaak Walton, and an eighteenth-century book on falconry translated
from the French.  One of his school reports said he spoke to his
masters as Dr. Johnson might have addressed a street-arab.

He was never meant for any kind of schoolboy, for talk about
'playing the game' and the 'team spirit' and 'the honour of the old
House' simply made him sick.  He was pretty bad at his books,
though he learned to slog along at them, but he was a hopeless
duffer at games, which indeed he absolutely refused to learn.  He
detested his preparatory school, and twice ran away from it.  He
took the lowest form at his public school, where, however, he was
happier, since he was left more to himself.  He was the kind of boy
who is the despair of masters, for he kept them at arm's length,
and, though very gentle and well-mannered, could not help showing
that he didn't think much of them.  He didn't think much of the
other boys either, but most were wise enough not to resent this,
for he was for his weight one of the handiest people with his fists
I have ever seen.

Peter John's lack of scholastic success used to worry Mary
sometimes, but I felt that he was going his own way and picking up
a pretty good education.  He was truthful and plucky and kindly,
and that was what I chiefly cared about.  Also his mind never
stopped working on his own subjects.  He scarcely knew a bat from a
ball, but he could cast a perfect dry-fly.  He was as likely to be
seen with a doll as with a tennis-racquet, but before he was twelve
he was a good enough shot with his 16-bore to hold his own at any
covert shoot.  He had a funny aversion to horses, and wouldn't get
into a saddle, but he was a genius with other animals.  He could
last out a long day in a deer forest when he had just entered his
teens.  Also he had made himself a fine field naturalist, and even
Archie Roylance respected his knowledge of birds.  He took up
boxing very early and entirely of his own accord, because he didn't
like the notion of being hit in the face, and thought that he had
better conquer that funk.  It proved to be a game in which he was a
natural master, for he had a long reach and was wonderfully light
on his feet.  I would add that in his solemn way he was the
friendliest of souls.  The whole countryside within twenty miles of
Fosse had a good word for him.  One habit of his was to call
everybody 'Mr.' and it was a queer thing to hear him 'mistering'
some ragamuffin that I had helped on the Bench to send to jail a
few months before.  Peter John was getting his education from wild
nature and every brand of country folk, and I considered that it
was about as good a kind as any.

But it made him rather a misfit as a schoolboy, since he had none
of the ordinary ambitions.  He wouldn't have thanked you for
putting him into the Eleven or the Boat, and the innocent snobbery
of boys left him untouched.  He simply wasn't running for the same
stakes.  I think he was respected by other boys, and on the whole
rather liked by the masters, for he was always being forgiven for
his breaches of discipline.  Certainly he had an amazing knack of
getting away with things.  He twice stayed out all night, and
wasn't expelled for it, since no one thought of disbelieving his
explanation that in one case he had been timing a badger, and in
the other waiting for an expected flight of grey-lags.  He must
have poached and never been caught, for he once sent his mother a
brace of woodcock with his compliments, after she had complained in
a letter that the birds were scarce with us.  Also he kept hawks
from his second week as a lower boy and nobody seemed to mind.  At
the date of which I write he was in his fourth half at school, and
had at various times possessed goshawks, sparrow-hawks, merlins,
and innumerable kestrels.  The whole aviary in bandboxes used to
accompany him backwards and forwards in the car.  He had generally
a hawk of sorts tucked away in his change coat, and once a party of
American tourists got the surprise of their lives when they stopped
a gentle-looking child to ask some question about the chapel, and
suddenly saw a bird come out of the heavens and dive under his
jacket.



Mary announced at breakfast that Peter John was cutting down costs
and reducing his establishment.  Archie Roylance, who was staying
with us, looked up sympathetically from his porridge bowl.

'What?  Sending his horses to Tattersall's and shutting up the old
home?  Poor old chap!'

'He has lost his she-goshawk, Jezebel,' Mary said, 'and can't
afford another.  Also white horse-leather for jesses costs too
much.  He has nothing left now except a couple of kestrels.  If you
want to live with death, Archie, keep hawks.  They perish at the
slightest provocation.  Hang themselves, or have apoplexy, or a
clot or something, or they get lost and catch their jesses in a
tree and die of starvation.  I'm always being heartbroken by Peter
John coming in with a sad face in the morning to tell me that
another bird is dead.  Last summer he had four kestrels, called
Violet, Slingsby, Guy, and Lionel.  The most beloved little birds.
They sat all day on their perches on the lawn, and scolded like
fishwives if one of Dick's cockers came near them, for they
couldn't abide black dogs.  Not one is left.  Jezebel killed one,
two died of heart-disease, and one broke its neck in the stable-
yard.  Peter John got two eyasses to take their place from the
Winstanleys' keeper, but they'll go the same road.  And now Jezebel
is a corpse.  I never liked her, for she was as big as an eagle and
had a most malevolent eye, but she was the joy of his soul, and it
was wonderful to see her come back to the lure out of the clouds.
Now he says he can't afford to buy any more and is putting down his
establishment.  He spent most of his allowance on hawks, and was
always corresponding with distressed Austrian noblemen about them.'

Just then Peter John came in.  He was apt to be late for breakfast,
for, though he rose early, he had usually a lot to do in the
morning.  He was wearing old beagling breeches, and a leather-
patched jacket which a tramp would have declined.

'I say, I'm sorry about your bad luck,' Archie told him.  'But you
mustn't chuck falconry.  Did you ever have a peregrine?'

'You mustn't talk like that,' Mary said.  'Say tassel-gentle or
falcon-gentle, according to the sex.  Peter John likes the old
names, which he gets out of Gervase Markhan.'

'Because,' Archie continued, 'if you'd like it I can get you one.'

Peter John's eye brightened.

'Eyass or passage-hawk?' he asked.

'Eyass,' said Archie, who understood the language.  'Wattie Laidlaw
got it out of a nest last spring.  It's a female--a falcon, I
suppose you'd call it--and an uncommon fine bird.  She has been
well manned too, and Wattie has killed several brace of grouse with
her.  But she can't go on with him, for he has too much to do, and
he wrote last week that he wanted to find a home for her.  I
thought of young David Warcliff, but he has gone to France to cram
for the Diplomatic.  So what about it, my lad?  She's yours for the
taking.'

The upshot was that Peter John had some happy days making new hoods
and leashes and jesses, and that a week later the peregrine arrived
in a box from Crask.  She was in a vile temper, and had damaged two
of her tail feathers, so that he had to spend a day with the imping
needle.  If you keep hawks you have to be a pretty efficient
nursemaid, and feed them and wash them and mend for them.  She
hadn't a name, so Peter John christened her Morag, as a tribute to
her Highland ancestry.  He spent most of his time in solitary
communion with her till she got to know him, and in the first days
of the New Year he had her in good train.

Always in January, if the weather is right, I go down to the
Norfolk coast for a few days' goose-shooting.  This year I had
meant to take Peter John with me, for I thought that it would be a
sport after his own heart.  But it was plain that he couldn't leave
Morag, and, as I wanted company, I agreed to her coming.  So on the
night of January 7 Peter John, his bird, and myself found ourselves
in the Rose and Crown at Hanham, looking out over darkening
mudflats which were being scourged by a south-west gale.

Peter John found quarters for Morag in an outhouse, and after
supper went to bed, for he had to be up at four next morning.  I
looked into the bar for a word with the old fowlers, particularly
my own man, Samson Grose, whom I had appointed to meet me there.
There were only two in the place besides Samson, Joe Whipple and
the elder Green, both famous names on the Hanham Flats, for the
rest were at the evening flight and would look in later on their
way home for the fowler's jorum of hot rum-and-milk.  All three
were elderly--two had fought in the Boer War--and they had the
sallow skins and yellowish eyeballs of those who spend their lives
between the Barrier Sands and the sea.  I never met a tougher, and
I never saw a less healthy-looking, breed than the Hanham men.
They are a class by themselves, neither quite of the land nor quite
of the water.

Samson had good news.  The Baltic must be freezing, for wild fowl
were coming in plentifully, though too thin to be worth shooting.
Chiefly widgeon and teal, but he had seen a little bunch of
pintail.  I asked about geese.  Plenty of brent, he said, which
were no good, for they couldn't be eaten, and a few barnacle and
bean.  The white-fronts and the pink-foot were there, though they
had been mortal hard to get near, but this gale was the right thing
to keep them low.  The evening flight was the better just now,
Samson thought, for there was no moon, and geese, whose eyesight is
no keener than yours or mine, left the shore fields early to get
back to the sea, and one hadn't to wait so long.  He fixed 4.15 as
the time he was to meet us at the inn-door next morning; for dawn
would not be till close on eight, and that gave us plenty of time
to get well out into the mud and dig our 'graves.'

The three fowlers left for home, and I went into the bar-parlour to
have a talk with the hostess, Mrs. Pottinger.  When I first visited
Hanham she and Job her husband were a handsome middle-aged pair,
but Job had had his back broken in Hanham Great Wood when he was
drawing timber, and his widow had suddenly become an old woman.  It
was a lonely business at the Rose and Crown, on the edge of the
salt marshes and a couple of miles from any village, but that she
minded not at all.  Grieving for Job, and a kind of recurring fever
which is common in those parts in the autumn, a sort of mild
malaria, had taken the vigour out of her, and put a pathos like a
dog's into her fine dark eyes.  She ran the little inn for the
fowlers, who had been Joe's friends, and did a small transport
business with a couple of barges in the creek and an ancient
carrier's cart along the shore.  She took me in as a guest because
Job had liked me, but, though the house had three or four snug
little bedrooms, she did not hold it out as a place for visitors,
and would have shut the door in the face of an inquisitive
stranger.

I found her having a late cup of tea and looking better than I
remembered her last time.  A fire burned pleasantly, and window and
roof-beams shook in the gale.  She was full of inquiries about
Peter John, who in his old-fashioned way had at once paid his
respects to her and begged her tolerance for Morag.  She shook her
head when she heard that he was going out next morning.  'Pore
little lad,' she said.  'Young bones want long lays abed.'  Then
she broke to me what I should never have suspected, that there was
another guest in the Rose and Crown.

'Nice, quiet, young gentleman,' she said, 'and not so young
neither, for he'll never see thirty-five again.  Name of Smith--Mr.
James Smith.  He has been ill and wanted a place where folks
wouldn't worrit him, and he heard of this house through my cousin
Nance, her that's married on a groom at Lord Hanham's racin'
stables.  He wrote to me that pleadingly that I hadn't the heart to
refuse, and now he's been a fortnight in the red room and become,
as you might say, a part of the 'ousehold.  Keeps hisself to
hisself, but very pleasant when spoke to.'

I asked if Mr. Smith was a sportsman.

'No.  He ain't no gunner.  He lies late and goes early to bed, and
in between walks up and down about the shore from Trim Head to
Whaffle Creek.  But this night he has gone out with the gunners--
for the first time.  He persuaded Jeb Smart to take him, for, like
your little gentleman son, he has a fancy for them wild birds.'

Mrs. Pottinger roused herself with difficulty out of her chair, for
in spite of her grief she had put on weight since her husband's
death.

'I think I hear them,' she said.  'Job always said I had the ears
of a wild goose.  I must see if Sue has kept up the fire in the
bar, and got the milk 'ot.  The pore things will be perished, for
it's a wind to blow the tail off a cow, as folks say.'

Sure enough it was the returning fowlers.  Two men, whose short
frieze jackets made them seem as broad as they were long, were
stamping their feet on the brick floor.  A third was peeling off an
airman's leather coat with a fleece lining, and revealing long legs
in trench-boots and a long body in home-spun.  I thought him one of
the biggest fellows I had ever seen.

I knew the two Smarts, Jeb and Zeb--their shortened Christian names
were a perpetual confusion--and they introduced me to the third,
for Mrs. Pottinger, after satisfying herself that all was well, had
retreated to her parlour.  The fowlers drank their rum-and-milk and
between gulps gave me their news.  They had not done much--only a
'Charlie,' which is a goose that has been pricked by a shot and has
dropped out of the flight.  But they thought well of the chances in
the morning, for the gale would last for twenty-four hours, there
were plenty of white-fronts and pink-foot now out on the sea, and
in that hurricane they would fly in low.  Jeb and Zeb had never
much conversation, and in three minutes they grunted good-night and
took the road.

I was left with the third of the party.  As I have said, he was a
very big man, clean-shaven except for a small fair moustache, and
with a shock of sandy hair which had certainly not been cut by a
good barber.  He was wearing an old suit of home-spun tweeds, and
he had a pull-over of a coarse black-and-white pattern, the kind of
thing you see in a Grimsby trawler.  I would have set him down as a
farmer of sorts, but for the fact that his skin was oddly pallid,
and that his hands were not those of a man who had ever done manual
toil.  He had bowed to me in a way which was not quite English.  I
said something about the weather, and he replied in good English
with just a suspicion of a foreign accent.

Clearly he had not expected to find another guest in the Rose and
Crown, for his first glance at me had been one of extreme surprise.
More than surprise.  I could have sworn that it was alarm, almost
panic, till something about me reassured him.  But his eyes kept
searching my face, as if they were looking for something which he
dreaded to find there.  Then, when I spoke, he appeared to be more
at his ease.  I told him that I had come to Hanham for some years,
and that I had brought my boy with me, and hoped to show him a
little sport.

'Your boy?' he asked.  'He is young?'

When I told him nearly fourteen, he seemed to be relieved.

'The boy--he is fond of shooting?'

I said that Peter John had never been after geese before, but that
he was mad about birds.

'I too,' he said.  'I do not shoot, but I love to watch the birds.
There are many here which I have not seen before, and some which I
have seen rarely are here in multitudes.'

As I went to bed I speculated about Mr. Smith.  That he was a
foreigner I judged both from his slight accent and from his rather
elaborate English.  I thought that he might be a German or a
Dutchman or a Swede, perhaps a field-naturalist who was visiting
Hanham just as Archie Roylance used to visit Texel.  I liked his
face, which was kindly and shy, and I decided that, since he seemed
to be a lonely fellow, Peter John and I would offer to take him out
with us.  But there were two things about him that puzzled me.  One
was that I had a dim consciousness of having seen him before, or at
least some one very like him.  The set of his jaw and the way his
nose sprang sharply from below his forehead were familiar.  The
other was that spasm of fright in his eyes when he had first seen
me.  He could not be a criminal in hiding--he looked far too honest
and wholesome for that--but he was in fear, in fear of some one or
something coming suddenly upon him even in this outlandish corner
of England.  I fell asleep wondering what might lurk in the past of
this simple, substantial being.

At four o'clock we were called, and after a cup of tea joined
Samson on the jetty, and by the light of an exiguous electric torch
started to find our way over the dry sand, and out into the salt
marshes.  The gale had dropped a little, but the wind blew cruelly
on our right cheek, and the whole dark world was an ice-box.  Peter
John and I wore rubber knee-boots, beastly things to walk in, and,
not having Samson's experience, we plunged several times up to the
waist in the little creeks.  Both of us had 8-bore guns firing
cartridges three and a half inches long, while Samson had a 12-bore
with a barrel as long as a Boer roer.  By and by we were free of
the crab grass and out on the oozy mud-flats.  There Samson halted
us, and with the coal-shovels from our goose-bags we started to dig
our 'graves,' piling up a rampart of mud on the sea side from which
the birds were coming.  After that there fell a silence like death,
while each of us crouched in our holes about a hundred yards apart,
peering up with chattering teeth into the thick darkness, and
waiting for that slow lightening which would mean the dawn.

A little after six there came a sound above us like the roar of a
second gale, the first having subsided to a fairly steady south-
west wind.  I knew from experience what it was, and I had warned
Peter John about it.  It was thousands and thousands of waders,
stints and knots and redshanks and the like, flying in batches,
each batch making the noise of a great wave on a beach.  Then for a
little there was stillness again, and the darkness thinned ever so
little, so that I believed that I must be seeing at least fifty
yards.  But I wasn't, for when the duck began I could only hear the
beat of their wings, though I knew that they were flying low.

There was another spell of eerie quiet, and then it seemed that the
world was changing.  The clouds were drifting apart, and I suddenly
saw a brilliant star-sown patch of sky.  Then the whole horizon
turned from velvet-black to grey, grey rimmed in the east with a
strip of intense yellow light.  I looked behind me and could see
the outlines of the low coast, with blurs which I knew were woods,
and with one church-steeple pricking fantastically into the pale
brume.

It was the time for the geese, and in an instant they were on us.
They came in wedge after wedge, shadowy as ghosts against the
faintly flushing clouds, but cut sharp against the violet lagoon of
clear sky.  They were not babbling, as they do in an evening flight
from the fields to the sea, but chuckling and talking low to
themselves.  From the sound I knew they were pink-foot, for the
white-fronts make a throatier noise.  It was a sight that always
takes my breath away, this multitude of wild living things surging
out of the darkness and the deep, as steady in their discipline as
a Guards battalion.  I never wanted to shoot and I never shot
first; it was only the thunder of Samson's 12-bore that woke me to
my job.

An old gander, which was the leading bird in one wedge, suddenly
trumpeted.  Him Samson got; he fell with a thud five yards from my
head, and the echo of the shot woke the marshes for miles.  It was
all our bag.  The birds flew pretty high, and Peter John had the
best chance, but no sign of life came from his trench.  As soon as
the geese had passed, and a double wedge of whistling widgeon had
followed very high up, I walked over to investigate.  I found my
son sitting on his mud rampart with a rapt face.  'I couldn't
shoot,' he stammered; 'they were too beautiful.  To-morrow I'll
bring Morag.  I don't mind hawking a goose, for that's a fair
fight, but I won't kill them with a gun.'  I respected his
feelings, but I thought him optimistic, for, till he had learned to
judge their pace, I was pretty sure that he would never get near
them.

We had a gargantuan breakfast, and then tumbled into bed for four
hours.  After luncheon we went out on the sand dunes with the
falcon, where Peter John to his joy saw a ruff.  He wouldn't fly
Morag, because he said it was a shame to match a well-fed bird of
prey against the thin and weary waders which had flown from the
Baltic.  On our road back we met Smith, who had been for a long
walk, and I introduced Peter John.  The two took to each other at
once, in the way a shy man often makes friends with a boy.  Smith
obviously knew a good deal about birds, but I wondered what had
been his observation ground, for he was keenly interested in ducks
like teal and widgeon, which are common objects of the seashore,
while he spoke of rarities like the purple sandpiper as if they
were old acquaintances.  Otherwise he was not communicative, and he
had the same sad, watchful look that I had noticed the night
before.  But he brightened up when I suggested that he should come
with us next morning.

That evening's flight was a wash-out.  The wind capriciously died
away, and out of the marshes a fog crept which the gunners call a
'thick.'  We tried another part of the mud-flats, hoping that the
weather would clear.  Clear it did for about half an hour, when
there was a wonderful scarlet and opal sunset.  But the mist crept
down again with the darkening, and all we could see was the
occasional white glimmer of a duck's wing.  The geese came from the
shore about half-past five, not chuckling as in the morning, but
making a prodigious clamour, and not in wedges, but in one
continuous flight.  We heard them right enough, but we could see
nothing above us except a thing like a grey woollen comforter.  At
six o'clock we gave it up, and went back to supper, after which I
read King Solomon's Mines aloud to Peter John before a blazing
fire, and added comments on it from my own experience.

I thought that the weather was inclining to frost and had not much
hope for next morning.  But the gale had not finished, and I was
awakened to the rattle of windows and the blatter of sleet on the
roof.  We found Smith waiting for us with Samson, looking as if he
had been up for hours or had not slept, for his eyes were not gummy
like Peter John's and mine.  We had a peculiarly unpleasant walk
over the crab grass, bent double to avoid the blizzard, and when we
got to the mud our hands were so icy that they could hardly grip
the coal-shovels.  Smith, who had no gun, helped Peter John to dig
his 'grave,' the latter being encumbered by Morag, who needed some
attention.  Never was an angrier bird, to judge by her vindictive
squeaks and the glimpses I had in the fitful torchlight of her
bright, furious eyes.

We had a miserable vigil, during which the sleet died away and the
wind slightly abated.  My hole was close to a creek, and I remember
that, just as dawn was breaking, the shiny, water-proof head of a
seal popped up beside me.  After that came the usual ritual--the
thunderous flocks of waders, the skeins of duck, and then in the
first light the wedges of geese, this time mainly white-fronts.
They were a little later than usual, for it must have been half-
past seven before they came, and well after eight before they had
passed.

The guns did nothing.  Samson never fired, and though I had two
shots at the tail birds of a wedge, I was well behind them.  The
birds were far out, and there was something mightily wrong with the
visibility. . . .  I was just getting up to shake the mud out of my
boots when I squatted down again, for I was the spectator of a
sudden marvellous sight.  Smith, who shared the hole with me, also
dropped on his knees.

Peter John had flown Morag, and the falcon had picked a gander out
of a wedge and driven him beyond the echelon.  The sky had
lightened, and I saw the whole drama very clearly.  Morag soared
above her quarry, to prepare for her deadly stoop, but the goose
had been at the game before and knew what to do.  It dropped like a
stone till it was only a couple of yards above the mud, and at that
elevation made at its best pace for the shore.  Fifty feet or so
above it the falcon kept a parallel flight.  She had easily the
pace of the goose, but she did not dare to strike, for, if she had,
she would have killed her prey, but, with the impetus of her stoop,
would have also broken her own neck.

I have watched sensational horse-races and prize-fights in my time,
but I have never seen anything more exciting than the finish of
that contest.  The birds shot past only about ten yards to my
right, and I could easily have got the white-front, but I would as
soon have shot my mother.  This was a show in which I had no part,
the kind of struggle of two wonderful winged things that had gone
on since the creation of the world.  I fairly howled in my
enthusiasm for the old goose.  Smith, too, was on his feet on the
top of the rampart yelling like a dervish, and Peter John was
squelching through the mud after the combatants. . . .

The whole business can scarcely have lasted a full minute, for the
speed was terrific; but I seemed to be living through crowded
hours.  The white-front turned slightly to the left, rose a little
to clear a hillock in the crab grass, and then the two became mere
specks in the distance.  But the light was good enough to show us
the finish.  The lower speck reached a pinewood and disappeared,
and the upper speck was lost against the gloom of the trees.  The
goose had won sanctuary.  I found myself babbling, 'Well done--oh,
well done!' and I knew that Peter John, now frantically waving the
lure, would be of the same mind.

Suddenly my attention was switched on to the man Smith.  He was
sitting in the mud, and he was weeping--yes, weeping.  At first I
thought it was only excitement, and wasn't much surprised, and then
I saw that it was something more.  I gave him a hand to help him
up, and he clutched my arm.

'It is safe,' he stammered.  'Tell me, it is safe?'

'Safe as the Bank,' I said.  'No falcon can do anything against a
bird in a wood.'

He gripped me harder.

'It is safe because it was humble,' he cried.  'It flew near the
ground.  It was humble and lowly, as I am.  It is a message from
Heaven.'

Then he seemed to be ashamed of himself, for he apologized for
being a fool.  But he scarcely spoke a word on the way back, and
when I got out of bed in time for luncheon, Mrs. Pottinger brought
me the news that he had left the Rose and Crown. . . .  That moment
on the mudflats had given me a line on Smith.  He was a hunted man,
in desperate terror of some pursuer and lying very low.  The
success of the old white-front had given him hope, for its tactics
were his own.  I wondered if I should ever meet him again.



CHAPTER III

The Tablet of Jade


The next chapter in this tale came at the end of March when the
Clanroydens stayed with us at Fosse for a long week-end.  Sandy,
after his return from South America and his marriage, had settled
down at Laverlaw as a Scots laird, and for the better part of a
year you couldn't dig Barbara and him out of that heavenly
fastness.  Then came a crisis in the Near East on which he felt
called upon to hold forth in the House of Lords, and gradually he
was drawn more and more into public affairs.  Also Barbara took a
long time to recover from the birth of her daughter, and had to be
much in London within reach of doctors.  The consequence was that
Mary and I saw a good deal of the Clanroydens.  Mary was one of the
daughter's godmothers, and Lady Clanroyden stayed at Fosse with us
most of the time that Sandy was in China as chairman of an
international Commission.  He had only returned from the Far East
at the end of February.

It was the most perfect kind of early spring weather.  In February
we had a fortnight's snow, so the ground was well moistened and the
spring full, and in the first week of March we had drying blasts
from the north-east.  Then came mild south-west winds, and a sudden
outburst of life.  The blackthorn was in flower, the rooks were
busy in the beeches, the elms were reddening, and the lawns at
Fosse were framed in gold drifts of daffodils.  On the Friday after
tea Sandy and I went for a walk up on to the Sharway Downs, where
you look east into the shallow Oxfordshire vales and north over
ridge upon ridge of green, round-shouldered hills.  As the twilight
drew in there was a soft bloom like peach-blossom on the landscape,
a thrush was pouring out his heart in a bush, and the wild cry of
lapwings, mingled with the babble of young lambs, linked the
untamable with our comfortable human uses.

Sandy, as he sniffed the scents coming up from the woods and the
ploughlands, seemed to feel the magic of the place.

'Pretty good,' he said.  'England is the only really comfortable
spot on earth--the only place where man can be utterly at home.'

'Too comfortable,' I said.  'I feel I'm getting old and soft and
slack.  I don't deserve this place, and I'm not earning it.'

He laughed.  'You feel like that?  So do I, often.  There are times
at Laverlaw when it seems that that blessed glen is too perfect for
fallen humanity, and that I'm not worthy of it.  It was lucky that
Adam was kicked out of Paradise, for he couldn't have enjoyed it if
he had remained there.  I've known summer mornings so beautiful
that they depressed me to my boots.  I suppose it is proper to feel
like that, for it keeps you humble, and makes you count your
mercies.'

'I don't know,' I said.  'It's not much good counting your mercies
if you feel you have no right to them.'

'Oh, we've a right to them.  Both of us have been through the
hards.  But there's no such thing as a final right.  We have to go
on earning them.'

'But we're not.  I, at any rate.  I'm sunk in cushions--lapped
about in ease, like a man in a warm bath.'

'That's right enough, provided you're ready to accept the cold
plunge when it comes.  At least that's the way I look at it.  Enjoy
your comforts, but sit loose to them.  You'll enjoy them all the
more if you hold them on that kind of tenure, for you'll never take
them for granted.'

We didn't talk much on the way home, for I was meditating on what
Sandy had said and wondering if it would give me that philosophy
for advancing age which I was seeking.  The trouble was, that I
couldn't be sure that I would ever be willing to give up my
pleasant ways.  Sandy would, for he would always have open ears,
but I was getting pretty dull of hearing.

That night at dinner he was in his best form.  Till last year he
had never been farther east than India, though he knew the Near and
Middle East like a book, and he was full of his new experiences.
Sandy rarely talked politics, so he said nothing about the work of
his Commission, but he revelled in all the whimsies and freaks of
travel.  Adventures are to the adventurous, and his acquaintance
was so colossal that wherever he went he was certain to revive old
contacts.  He had something to tell me about common friends whom I
had long lost sight of, and who had been washed up like driftwood
on queer shores.

'Do you remember a man called Haraldsen?' he asked.

'Yes,' I said.  'I once knew a Haraldsen, a Dane.  Marius Eliaser
Haraldsen.'

He nodded.  'That's the chap.'

It was odd to hear that name spoken, for though I had not thought
of it for years, just lately it had come back to my memory, since
it was in a way connected with Lombard.

'I haven't seen him for a quarter of a century, and he was an old
man then.  What's he doing?  Did you run across him?'

'No.  He is dead.  But I knew him at the end of the War--and after.
I've got something to tell you about Haraldsen, and something to
show you.'

After dinner we sat round the fire in the library, and Sandy went
up to his bedroom and brought down a small flat object wrapped in
chamois leather.  'First of all, Dick,' he said, 'what do you
remember about Haraldsen?'

I remembered a good many things, especially a story into which
Lombard came.  But since I wanted to hear what Sandy had to tell, I
only said that I had known him in Rhodesia as a rather lucky
speculator in gold-mining propositions.  He had been a long time in
South Africa, and was believed to have made a pot of money in the
earlier days of the Rand.  But he was always looking for new
fields, and might have dropped some of it in his Rhodesian
ventures.  When I had last seen him he had been exploring north of
the Zambezi, and had a dozen prospectors working for him in the
bend of the Kafue.

'Yes,' said Sandy.  'That was Haraldsen.  Let me tell you something
more about him.  He was the professional gold-seeker in excelsis,
with a wonderful nose for the stuff and the patience of Buddha.
But he wasn't the ordinary treasure-hunter, for he had a purpose
which he never lost sight of.  He was a Dane, as you say, a native
of Jutland, and he was bred a mining engineer.  He was a pretty
good mineralogist, too.  But he was also, and principally, a poet.
His youth was before the days of all this Nordic humbug, but he had
got into his head the notion that the Northern culture was as great
a contribution to civilization as the Greek and Roman, and that the
Scandinavian peoples were destined to be the true leaders of
Europe.  He had their history at his fingers' ends, and he knew the
Sagas better than any man I've ever met--I'm some judge of that,
for I know them pretty well myself.  He had a vision of a great
Northern revival, when the spirit of Harald Fairhair would revive
in Norway, and Gustavus Adolphus and Charles XII. would be reborn
in Sweden, and Valdemar the Victorious in Denmark.  Not that he
wanted any conquests or federations--he wasn't interested in
politics: his ideal was a revival of the Northern mind, a sort of
Northern Renaissance of which he was to be the leader.  You
remember what a tough bird he was in any practical question, but
how he could relax sometimes and become the simplest of souls when
you pressed the right button.'

I certainly remembered one instance when Haraldsen had talked to me
about a house he was building in a little island somewhere in the
north, and had rhapsodized over it like a boy.  Otherwise he was
regarded as rather a hard citizen.

'Well, for his purpose he wanted money, and that would be difficult
to come by if he stayed at home.  So he started out like the
gooseherd in Hans Andersen in search of fortune--a proper big
fortune, for he had a lot to do with it.  Somehow he drifted to
Egypt, and he was one of the prospectors that Ismail sent out to
look for an El Dorado in the Sudan.  At that time he must have been
in his early twenties.  Then by way of Abyssinia and Madagascar he
moved south, until he fetched up in Mozambique, where he started
out to look for the Queen of Sheba's gold-mines.

'He wasted a lot of time in that barren game, and more than once
nearly had his throat cut, and then he was lucky enough to turn up
on the Rand when that show was beginning.  He did well--exceedingly
well in a way, but not enough to satisfy him.  He had still to find
his own private special Golconda.  So he went north into Rhodesia,
where you met him, and farther north into the Eastern Congo.  And
then he decided that he had had enough of Africa, and would try
Asia.'

'So that's where he went,' I said.  'The old hero!  When I knew him
he was nearer sixty than fifty.'

'I know.  He was as tough as one of his own Saga-men.  Well, he had
a good many adventures in Asia--principally in Siberia and in the
country east and south of the Caspian.  When I came across him in
Persia early in 1918 he was rather the worse for wear.  You
remember what a big fellow he was, with his enormous long arms and
his great shoulders?  When I met him he wasn't much more than a
framework, and his clothes hung on him like the rags on the props
of a scarecrow.  But he wasn't ill, only indecently lean, and he
was quite undefeated.  He was still hunting for his Ophir.'

'That must have been during the War,' I put in.  'How on earth was
he allowed to wander about in those parts?'

'He wasn't.  He simply went--there were more of those uncharted
libertines in the war zones than people imagined.  You see, he was
an impressive old gentleman, and he had money, and he knew the
ropes--all the many ropes.  He travelled in some style, too, with
servants and a good cook and an armed escort who were more afraid
of him than of any possible enemies.  He wasn't a business man for
nothing.  I had about a week of his company, and in the cool of the
morning, when we ate white mulberries together in the garden, he
told me all about himself.  He spoke to me freely, for we were two
civilized men alone in the wilds, and he took a fancy to me, for I
knew all about his blessed Sagas.  How did he impress you, Dick,
when you knew him?'

'I liked him--we all did, but we were a little puzzled about what
he was after.  We thought that a Rand magnate of well over fifty
would be better employed enjoying himself in Europe than in
fossicking about in the bush.  He was very capable and ran his
outfit beautifully.  You would have had to rise uncommonly early to
get the better of old Haraldsen.'

'He must have changed before I met him,' said Sandy.  'In Africa
you have to fight hard to prevent matter dominating mind, but in
Asia the trouble is to keep mind in reasonable touch with matter.
Haraldsen, when I knew him, was about as much mystic as gold-
hunter.  He told me about his past life, as if it were a thing very
far away.  I mentioned your name, I remember, and he recollected
you, but didn't seem greatly interested in anything that happened
in Africa.  He had a son somewhere in Europe, but he said very
little about him--also a house, but I never discovered where.  What
filled his thoughts was this treasure which he was going to find
some day, and which had been waiting for him since the foundation
of the world.  I gathered that he was a rich man, and that he was
not looking for mere wealth.  He told me about his dreams for the
future of the Northern races, but rather as if he were repeating a
lesson.  The fact was that to find his Ophir had become for him an
end in itself, quite apart from the use he meant to make of it.
You sometimes find that in old men who have led a strenuous life.
They become monomaniacs.'

'Did he find it?' I asked.

'Not in Persia.  The Middle East at that time wasn't propitious for
treasure-hunting.  You must understand that Haraldsen wasn't
looking for gold in the void.  He was proceeding on a plan, and he
had his data as carefully marshalled as any Intelligence
Department.  He was following the reports of a whole host of
predecessors, whose evidence he had collected and analysed--chiefly
the trail of old caravan-routes along which he knew that gold had
been carried.  Well, he failed in Persia, and the next I heard of
him was in Sinkiang--what they used to call Chinese Turkestan.  I
was in India then, keeping a watchful eye on Central Asia, and my
old friend managed to give me a good deal of trouble.  He got into
Kashgar, and we had the deuce of a job getting him out.  Sinkiang
at that time was a kind of battleground between Moslem home-rulers
and Soviet emissaries, with nobody to keep the peace except some
weak Chinese officials and a ragtime Chinese army.  However, in the
end it was arranged that he should come to India, and I was looking
forward to welcoming him at Simla, when news came that the Tungans
had won, and that the garrison and the foreigners had been booted
out and were fleeing eastward to China.  I decided that it was all
up with Haraldsen.  He would never make the two thousand miles of
desert that separated Sinkiang from China.  I wrote something pious
in my diary about the foolishness of treasure-hunting.'

'Poor old chap!' I murmured.  'It was the kind of end he was bound
to have.'

'It wasn't the end,' said Sandy.  'That was twelve years ago.
Haraldsen is dead, but after he left Sinkiang he lived for ten
years.  He must have been eighty when he died, so he had a goodish
run for his money.  Moreover, he found his Ophir.'

'How do you know?' I asked excitedly.

'It's a queer story,' said Sandy, and he took the object in his
hands out of its chamois-leather wrappings.  It was a tablet, about
eight inches by six, of the most beautiful emerald jade I have ever
seen.  Sandy handed it to Mary, who handed it to me.  I saw that it
was covered on both sides with spidery marks, but if it was any
known language it was one I couldn't read.  Mary, who loved all
jewels, exclaimed at its beauty.

'I got that in Peking,' he said.  'There were times when we weren't
very busy, and I liked to go foraging about the city in the sharp,
bright autumn afternoons.  There was one junk-shop up near the An
Ting gate where I made friends with the owner.  He was an old
Mohammedan from Kansu whose language I could make a shot at
talking, and his place was an education in every corner and century
of Asia.  In the front, which was open to the street, there was a
glorious muddle of saddlery and rugs and palanquins and bows and
arrows and furs, and even a little livestock like red desert-hawks
in bamboo cages.  As you went farther in the stock got smaller in
size, but more valuable, things like marvellously carved walking-
sticks, and damascened swords, and mandarin hats, and temple
furniture, and every sort of lacquer.  Some outlandish things, too,
like an ordinary English grandfather's clock marked 'London, 1782.'
At the very back was the inner shrine which the old man only took
you into when he knew all about you.  It smelt of scented woods and
spices and the dust of ages, and it was hard to find your way about
in it with no light but the owner's little green lamp.  Here were
the small precious things, some on shelves, some in locked
cabinets, and some in cheap glazed cases of deal.  There was
everything, from raw Bhotan turquoises to mandarin's buttons of
flawed rubies, from tiny celadon cups to Ming bowls, from ivory
Manchu combs to agate snuff-boxes.  I was looking for something for
Barbara when I found this.

'I always liked good jade, and even in that dusk I saw that this
was a fine piece.  The old fellow let me take it into the light in
the front shop, and I had no doubts about it.  It was an exquisite
bit of the true imperial stone, with the famous kingfisher's-back
colour.  As you see, one side is covered with hieroglyphics which I
can't read.  The other side has also an inscription, which at first
I took to be in the same jargon.  I asked the shop-keeper what the
writing meant, and he shook his head.  It was some hieratic
language, he thought, which the monks used on the Tibetan border.

'I took a tremendous fancy to the piece, and we chaffered over it
for the better part of an afternoon.  In the end I got it at quite
a reasonable price--reasonable, that is, for jade, which would keep
its value in China if the bottom dropped out of everything else.  I
think that the only reason why it was unsold was its size, which
made it too clumsy for personal adornment, and because of the
inscriptions on it which made it hard to fashion it into an
ordinary jewel.  The old fellow was doubtful about its provenance.
From the quality of the stone he thought that it should have come
from Siberia, from the Lake Baikal neighbourhood, but at the same
time he was positive that the inscriptions belonged to the south-
west corner of China.  He couldn't read them, but he said he
recognized the characters.

'That night in my hotel, when I examined the tablet by the light of
a good lamp, I got the surprise of my life.  The close lettering on
one side, all whorls and twists, I could make nothing of.  But on
the other side the few lines inscribed were perfectly comprehensible.  They consisted of a Latin sentence, a place-name,
and a date.  The Latin was "Marius Haraldsen moriturus haec scripsit
thesauro feliciter invento"--"Marius Haraldsen, being on the point
of death and having happily found his treasure, has written these
words."  The place-name was Gutok.  The date was the fifteenth of
October the year before last.  What do you think of that for a
yarn?'

I looked at the translucent green tablet in which the firelight
woke wonderful glints of gold and ruby.  I saw the maze of spidery
writing on one side, and on the other the Latin words, not very
neatly incised--probably with a penknife.  It seemed a wonderful
thing to get this news of my old friend out of the darkness four
thousand miles from where I had known him.  I handled it
reverently, and passed it back to Sandy.  'What do you make of it?'
I asked.

'I think it's simple,' he said.  'I raced back next morning to the
old man to find out how he had got hold of it.  But he could tell
me nothing.  It had come to him with other junk--he was always
getting consignments--some caravan had picked it up--bought it from
a pedlar or a thief.  Then I went to the Embassy, and one of the
secretaries helped me to hunt for Gutok.  We ran it to earth at
last--in a Russian gazetteer published just before the War.  It was
a little place down in the province of Shu-san, where a trade-route
sent a fork south to Burma.  An active man with proper backing
could have reached it in the old days from Shanghai in a month.'

'Are you going there?' I asked.

'Not I.  I have never cared about treasure.  But I think we can be
certain what happened.  Haraldsen found his Ophir--God knows what
it was--an old mine or an outcrop or something--anyhow, it must
have been the real thing, for he knew too much to make mistakes.
But he discovered also that he was dying.  Now Gutok is not exactly
a convenient centre of transport.  He probably wrote letters, but
he couldn't be certain that they would ever get to their
destination.  Two years ago all that corner of Asia was a rabble of
banditry and guerrillas.  So he adopted the sound scheme of writing
poorish Latin on a fine bit of jade, in the hope that sooner or
later it would come into the hands of some one who could construe
it and give his friends news of his fate.  He probably entrusted it
to a servant, who was robbed and murdered, but he knew that the
jade was too precious to disappear, and he was pretty certain that
it would drift east and fetch up in some junk-shop in Peking or
Shanghai.  That was rather his way of doing things, for he was a
fatalist, and left a good deal to Providence.'

'Yes, that was the old chap,' I said.  'Well, he has won out.  You
and I were his friends, and we know when and where he died and that
he had found what he was looking for.  He'd have liked us to know
the last part, for he wasn't fond of being beaten.  But his
treasure wasn't much use to him and his Northern races.  It's
buried again for good.'

'I don't know,' said Sandy.  'I'm fairly certain that that spidery
stuff on the other side is an account of how to reach it.  It was
done at the same time as the Latin, either by Haraldsen himself or
more likely by one of his Chinese assistants.  I can't read it, but
I expect I could find somebody who can, and I'm prepared to bet
that if we had it translated we should know just what Haraldsen
discovered.  You're an idle man, Dick.  Why not go out and have a
shot at digging it up?'

'I'm too old,' I said, 'and too slack.'

I took the tablet in my hands again and examined it.  It gave me a
queer feeling to look at this last testament of my old friend, and
to picture the conditions under which it had been inscribed in some
godless mountain valley at the back of beyond, and to consider the
vicissitudes it must have gone through before it reached the Peking
curio-shop.  Heaven knew what blood and tears it had drawn on its
road.  I felt too--I don't know why--that there was something in
this for me, something which concerned me far more closely than
Sandy.  As I looked at my pleasant library, with the fire reflected
from the book-lined walls, it seemed to dislimn and expand into the
wild spaces where I had first known Haraldsen, and I was faced
again by the man with his grizzled, tawny beard and his slow,
emphatic speech.  I suddenly saw him as I remembered him, standing
in the African moonlight, swearing me to a pact which I hadn't
remembered for twenty years.

'If you are not sleepy, I'll tell you a story about Haraldsen,' I
said.

'Go on,' said Sandy, as he lit his pipe.  He and Mary are the best
listeners I know, and till well after midnight they gave their
attention to the tale which is set down in the next chapter.



CHAPTER IV

Haraldsen


In the early years of the century the land north of the Limpopo
River was now and then an exciting place to live in.  We Rhodesians
went on with our ordinary avocations, prospecting, mining, trying
out new kinds of fruit and tobacco, pushing, many of us, into
wilder country with our ventures.  But the excitement did not all
lie in front of us, for some of it came from behind.  Up from the
Rand and the Cape straggled odd customers whom the police had to
keep an eye on, and England now and then sent us some high-coloured
gentry.  The country was still in many people's minds a no-man's-
land, where the King's writ did not run, and in any case it was a
jumping-off ground for all the wilds of the North.  In my goings to
and fro I used to strike queer little parties, often very ill-
found, that had the air of hunted folk, and were not very keen to
give any information about themselves.  Heaven knows what became of
them.  Sometimes we had the job of feeding some starving tramp, and
helping him to get back to civilization, but generally they
disappeared into the unknown and we heard no more of them.  Some
may have gone native, and ended as poor whites in a dirty hut in a
Kaffir kraal.  Some may have died of fever or perished miserably of
thirst or hunger, lost in the Rhodesian bush, which was not a thing
to trifle with.  In the jungles of the middle Zambezi and the glens
of the Scarp and the swamps of the Mazoe and the Ruenya there must
have been many little heaps of bleached and forgotten bones.

I had come back from a trip to East Africa, and in Buluwayo to my
delight I met Lombard, with whom I had made friends in the Rift
valley.  He had finished his work with his Commission, and was on
the road home, taking a look at South Africa on the way.  He had
come by sea from Mombasa to Beira, and was putting up for a few
days at Government House.  When he met me he was eager to go on
trek, for he had several weeks to spare and, since I was due for a
trip up-country, he offered to go with me.  My firm wanted me to
have a look at some copper indications in Manicaland, north of the
upper Pungwe in Makapan's country.  Lombard wanted to see the
fantastic land where the berg and the plateau break down into the
Zambezi flats, and he hoped for a little shooting, for which he had
had no leisure on his East African job.  My trip promised to be a
dull one, so I gladly welcomed his company, for to a plain fellow
like me Lombard's talk was a constant opening out of new windows.

In the hotel at Salisbury we struck a strange outfit.  It was a
party of four, an elderly man, a youngish man, and two women.  The
older man looked a little over fifty, a heavily built fellow, with
a square face and a cavalry moustache and a loud laugh.  I should
have taken him for a soldier but for the slouch of his shoulders,
which suggested a sedentary life.  He spoke like an educated
Englishman--a Londoner, I guessed, for he had that indefinable
clipping and blurring of his words which is the mark of the true
metropolitan.  The younger man was an American from his accent, and
at the first glance I disliked him.  He was the faux bonhomme, if I
knew the breed, always grinning and pawing the man he spoke to, but
with cold, cunning grey eyes that never smiled.  We were not a
dressy lot in Rhodesia, and the clothes of these two cried out like
a tuberose in a cottage window.  They wore the most smartly cut
flannels, and soft linen collars, which were then a novelty, and
they had wonderful buckskin shoes.  The cut of their jib was not
exactly loud, but it was exotic, though no doubt it would have been
all right at Bournemouth.  Even Lombard, who was always neat in his
dress, looked shabby by contrast.

The women were birds of Paradise.  They were both young, and rather
pretty, and they were heavily rouged and powdered, so that I
wondered what their faces would be like if the African sun got at
them.  They wore garden-party clothes, and in the evening put
themselves into wonderful fluffy tea-gowns.  They seemed to belong
to a lower class than their male escort, for they had high vulgar
voices and brazen Cockney accents.  The party, apparently, had
money to burn.  They made a great outcry about the food, which was
the ordinary tinned stuff and trek-ox, but they had champagne to
all their meals, and champagne was not a cheap beverage in
Salisbury.

I had no talk with any of them except the young fellow.  He was
very civil and very full of questions, after he had mixed me a
cocktail which he claimed was his own patent.  He and his friends,
he said, were out to cast an eye over the Rhodesian proposition and
sort of size-up what kind of guy the late C. J. Rhodes had been.
Just a short look-see, for he judged they must soon hurry home.  He
talked a ripe American, but I guessed that it was not his native
wood-notes, and sure enough I learned that he was a Dane by birth,
name of Albinus, who had been some years in the States.  He
mentioned Montana, and I tried to get him to talk about copper, but
he showed no interest.  But he appeared curiously well-informed
about parts of Rhodesia, for he asked me questions about the
little-known north-eastern corner, which showed that he had made
some study of its topography.

Lombard had a talk with the elder man, but got nothing out of him,
except that he was an Englishman on a holiday.  'Common vulgar
trippers,' said Lombard.  'Probably won some big sweepstake or had
a lucky flutter in stocks, and are now out for a frolic.  Funny
thing, but I fancy the old chap tries to make himself out a bigger
bounder than God meant him to be.  When he is off his guard he
speaks almost like a gentleman.  The women!  Oh, the eternal type--
Gaiety girls--salaried compagnons de voyage.  The whole crowd make
an ugly splash of aniline dye on this sober landscape.'

We were to be off at dawn next morning.  Before turning in I went
into the bar for a drink, and there I met a policeman I knew--Jim
Arcoll, who was a famous name anywhere north of the Vaal River.  I
didn't ask him what he was doing there, for that was the kind of
question he never permitted, but I told him my own plans.  He knew
every corner of the country like his own name, and, when he learned
where we were going, he nodded.  'You'll find old Haraldsen up
there,' he said.  'He's fossicking somewhere near Mafudi's kraal.
Give him my love if you see him, and tell him to keep me in touch
with his movements.  It's a rough world, and he might come by a
mischief.'

Then he jerked his thumb to the ceiling.

'You've got a gay little push upstairs,' he said.

'I've only Lombard--the man you met in Buluwayo!' I replied.

'I didn't mean your lot.  I mean the others.  The two dudes with
the pretty ladies.  Do you know who the older man is?  No less than
the illustrious Aylmer Troth.'

People have long ago forgotten the Scimitar case, but a year before
it had made a great stir in England.  It was a big financial
swindle, with an ugly episode in it which might have been suicide,
or might have been murder.  There was a famous trial at the Old
Bailey, and five out of the twelve accused got heavy terms of penal
servitude.  One of the chief figures had been a well-known London
solicitor called Troth, who was the mystery man of the whole
business.  He had got off after a brilliant defence by his counsel,
but the judge had been pretty severe in his comments and a heavy
mist of suspicion remained.

'Troth!' I said.  'What on earth is he doing here?  I thought the
chap upstairs looked too formidable for the ordinary globe-
trotter.'

'He is certainly formidable.  As for his purpose, ask me another.
We've nothing against him.  Left the court without a stain on his
character and all that.  All the same, he's a pretty mangy lad, and
we have instructions to keep our eye on him till he gets on to the
boat at Beira or Capetown.  I don't fancy he's up to any special
tricks this time.  With his pretty love-birds he carries too heavy
baggage for anything very desperate.'

Some days later, after a detour westward to pick up part of my
outfit, we were on the hills between the Pungwe and the Ruenya.  I
thought that we had said good-bye to Troth and his garish crew, and
had indeed forgotten all about them, when suddenly one noon, when
we off-saddled at a water-hole, we struck them again.  There were
the four sitting round a fire having luncheon.  The men had changed
their rig, and wore breeches and leggings and khaki shirts, with
open necks and sleeves rolled up, very different people from the
exquisites of the hotel.  Albinus looked a workmanlike fellow who
had been at the game before, and even Troth made a presentable
figure for the wilds.  But the women were terrible.  They too had
got themselves up in breeches and putties and rough shirts, but
they weren't the right shape for that garb, and they had a sad
raddled look like toy terriers that had got mixed up in a dog-
fight.  The sun, as I had anticipated, was playing havoc with their
complexions.

The four did not seem surprised to see us, as indeed why should
they, for they were on the regular trail into Makapan's country,
and a fair number of people passed that way.  They were uncommonly
forthcoming, and offered us drinks, of which they had plenty, and
fancy foods, of which they had a remarkable assortment.  They
seemed to be in excellent spirits, and were very full of chat.
Troth was enthusiastic about everything--the country and the
climate, and the delight of living in the open, of which, he
lamented, a busy man like himself had never before had a chance.
Alas, they could only have a few days of this Paradise, and then
they must make tracks for home.  No, they were not hunting; they
had shot nothing but a few guinea-fowl for the pot.  He wished that
he wasn't such a rotten bad naturalist, or that he had somebody
with him to tell him about the beasts and birds.  Altogether you
couldn't have met a more innocent Bank Holiday tripper.  The girls
too spoke their piece very nicely, though I couldn't believe that
they were really enjoying themselves.  Albinus said little, but he
was very assiduous in helping us to drinks.

I asked if we could do anything for them, but they said they were
all right.  They proposed to have a look at a place called Pinto's
Kloof, which they had been told was a better view-point than the
Matoppos, and then they must turn back.  It seemed odd that a man
with Troth's antecedents should be enjoying himself in this simple
way, and Albinus didn't look as if he had any natural taste for the
idyllic, nor the high-coloured ladies.  But I must say they kept up
the part well, and Troth's last word to me was that he wished he
was twenty years younger and could have a life like mine.  He said
it as if he meant it.

When we had ridden on, Lombard observed that he thought that they
were anxious to make themselves out to be greater novices and
greenhorns than they really were.  'I caught a glimpse of their
ironmongery,' he said, 'and there was more there than scatter-guns.
I'll swear there were rifles--at least one Mauser and what looked
like an express.'

I nodded.

'I noticed that too,' I said.  'And did you observe their boys?
Two they may have hired in Salisbury, but there was a half-caste
Portugoose whom I fancy I've seen before, and who didn't want to be
recognized.  He dodged behind a tree when he saw me.  Arcoll is
right to keep an eye on that lot.  Not that I see what mischief
they can do.  This part of the world can't offer much to a shady
London solicitor and an American crook.'

Three days later we were well into Makapan's country and I had
started on my job, verifying the reports of our prospectors in a
land of little broken kopjes right on the edge of the Scarp.  I had
with me a Cape half-caste called Hendrik, who was my general
factotum, and who looked after the whole outfit.  There was nothing
he could not turn his hand to, hunting, transport-riding, horse-
doctoring, or any job that turned up: he was a wonderful fellow
with a mule team, too, and he was the best cook in Africa.  We had
four boys with us, Mashonas whom I had employed before.  Lombard
spent his time shooting, and, as it was a country where a man could
not easily get lost if he had a compass, I let him go out alone.
He didn't get much beyond a few klipspringer and bushbuck, but it
was a good game area, and he lived in hopes of a kudu.

Well, one evening as we were sitting at dinner beside our fire, I
looked up to see Peter Pienaar standing beside me.  It was not the
Peter that you knew in the War, but Peter ten years younger, with
no grey in his beard, and as trim and light and hard as an Olympic
athlete.  But he had the same mild face, and the same gentle sleepy
eyes that you remember, and the same uncanny quietness.  Peter made
no more noise in his appearances than the change from night to
morning.

I had last heard of him in the Kalahari, which was a very good
reason why I should expect to find him next on the other side of
Africa.  He ate all the food we could give him and drank two
bottles of beer, which was his habit, for he used to stoke up like
a camel, never being sure when he would eat or drink again.  Then
he filled a deep-bowled pipe with the old Transvaal arms on it,
which a cousin had carved for him when a prisoner of war in Ceylon.
I waited for him to explain himself, for I was fairly certain that
this meeting was not accidental.

'I have hurried to find you, Dick,' he said, 'for I think there is
going to be dirty work in Makapan's country.'

'There's sure to be dirty work when you're about, you old
aasvogel,' I said.  'What is it this time?'

'I do not know what it is, but I think I know who it is.  It is
friends of yours, Dick--very nasty friends.'

'Hullo!' I said.  'Was it Arcoll who sent you?  Are you after the
trippers that we found on the road last week?'

'Ja! Captain Jim sent me.  He said, "Peter, will you keep an eye on
two gentlemen and two ladies who are taking a little holiday?"  He
did not tell me more, and he did not know more.  Perhaps now he
knows, for I have sent him a message.  But I have found out very
bad things which Captain Jim cannot stop, for they will happen
quickly.  That is why I have come to you.'

'But those four tourists can't do anything,' I said.  'One I know
is a crook, and I think the other is, and they've got an ugly
Portugoose with them that I swear I've seen before.  But that's
only three, and they are cumbered with two women.'

'The vrows have gone back to the town,' said Peter solemnly.  'They
will wait quietly there till the others return.  They will make the
whole thing seem innocent--naughty, perhaps, but innocent.  But the
three you speak of are not the only ones.  By this time they have
been joined by others, and these others are very great scoundrels.
You say, how do I know?  I will tell you.  I am at home in
Makapan's country and Makapan's people do what I ask them.  They
have brought me news which is surer and speedier than Captain Jim
can get.  There is very bad mischief brewing.  Listen, and I will
tell you.'

The gist of Peter's story was that after they had got rid of the
women Troth and Albinus had moved down from the scarp into the
bush-veld.  The third, the Portugoose, Peter knew all about.  His
name was Dorando, and Peter had come across his tracks in many
queer places; he had done time for I.D.B. and for selling illicit
liquor, and was wanted in Mozambique on a variety of charges from
highway robbery to cold-blooded murder.  An odd travelling
companion for two innocent sight-seeing tourists!  Down in the
flats the three had been joined by two other daisies, one an
Australian who had been mixed up in the Kruger Treasure business,
and one a man from the Diamond Fields called Stringer.  I opened my
eyes when I heard about the last, for Jim Stringer was an ill-
omened name at that time in South Africa.  He was the typical 'bad
man,' daring and resourceful and reputed a dead shot.  I was under
the impression that he had been safely tucked away for his share in
a big Johannesburg burglary.

'He came out of tronk last month,' said Peter, 'and your friends
must have met him as they came up-country and arranged things.
What do you say, Dick?  Here are three skellums that I know well,
and your two friends who are not good people.  They have with them
four boys, Shangaans whom I do not know, but they are Makinde's
people, and Makinde's kraal is a dirty nest.  What are they after,
think you?  They are not staying in the flats.  They have already
moved up into the Berg, and they are moving fast, and they are
moving north.  They are not looking for gold, and they are not
hunting, and they are not admiring the scenery.  Where are they
going?  I can tell you that, for I found it out before they joined
Jim Stringer.  The two English do not drink, or if they drink they
do not babble.  But Dorando drinks and babbles.  One of Makapan's
people, who is my friend, was their guide, and he heard Dorando
talk when he was drunk.  They are going to Mafudi's kraal.  Now who
is at Mafudi's kraal, Dick?  They do not want to see old Mafudi in
his red blanket.  There is somebody else there.'

'Haraldsen!' I exclaimed.

'Ja! The Baas.'  Peter always called Haraldsen the Baas, for he had
often worked for him, as guide and transport-rider, and Haraldsen
had more than once got him out of scrapes.  Peter was a loyal soul,
and if his allegiance was vowed to anyone alive it was to the old
Dane.

'But what on earth can they have to do with Haraldsen?' I demanded.

'I do not know,' he said; 'but they have got it in for the Baas.
Consider, Dick.  He is not a young man, and he is up there alone,
with his little band of Basutos and the Dutchman Malan, who is
clever but not a fighter, for he has but the one arm.  The Baas is
very rich, and he is believed to know many secrets.  These skellums
have some business with him and it will not be clean business.
Perhaps it is an old quarrel.  Perhaps he has put it across your
friends Troth and Albinus in old days.  Or perhaps it is just plain
robbery, and they mean to make him squeal.  He cannot have much
money with him, but they may force him to find them money.  I do
not know, but I am certain of one thing, that they mean to lay
hands on the Baas--and he will not come happily out of their hands--
perhaps not alive.'

I was fairly flabbergasted by Peter's tale.  At first I thought he
was talking through his hat, for we were civilized folk in
Rhodesia, and violence was more or less a thing of the past.  But
Peter never talked wildly, and the more I thought of it the less I
liked it.  Five desperadoes up in that lonely corner could do
pretty much what they pleased with Haraldsen and his one-armed
assistant.  I remembered the old fellow's reputation for having
hunted gold all his life and having struck it in a good many
places.  What more likely than that some hungry rogues should try
to get him alone in the wilds and force out of him either money or
knowledge?

'What do you mean to do?' I asked.

'I am going straight to Mafudi's,' said Peter.  'And I think you
are coming with me, Dick.'

Of course I couldn't refuse, but I felt bound to go cautiously.
Would it not be better to get Arcoll and the police?  I didn't
relish the notion of a private scrap with people who would
certainly not stick at trifles.  Besides, could we do any real
good?  Haraldsen and Malan might be ruled out as combatants, and we
three would be up against five hefty scallywags.

Peter overruled all my objections in his quiet way.  Arcoll was a
hundred miles off.  A native runner had been sent to him, but it
was impossible for him to arrive at Mafudi's in time, for Troth and
his little lot would be there by to-morrow morning.  As for being
outnumbered, we were five honest men against five rascals, and in
all rascals he believed there was a yellow streak.  'I can shoot a
little,' he said, 'and you can shoot a little, Dick.'  He turned
inquiringly to Lombard.

'I can loose off at any rate,' said Lombard.  He was looking rather
excited, for this adventure was a piece of luck he had not hoped
for.

The upshot was that we had no rest that night.  I sent off one of
my boys with another message for Arcoll, giving him more details
than Peter had given him, and suggesting a road in by the northwest
which I feared he might not think of.  I left Hendrik and the mules
and the rest of the outfit to come on later--and I remember
wondering what kind of situation they would find when they reached
Mafudi's.  The three of us took the road just after ten o'clock.
Peter's boy accompanied us, a tough little Bechuana from Khama's
country.

I had travelled the route several times before, and Peter knew it
well, but in any case it was not hard to find, for it kept to the
open ground near the edge of the scarp, bending inland only to
avoid the deep-cut kloofs.  There was a wonderful moon which made
the whole landscape swim in warm light--an African moon, which is
not the pale thing of the north, but as masterful as the sun
itself.  When it set we were on high ground, a plateau of long
grass and thorns, with the great hollow of the lower veld making a
gulf of darkness on our right.  The road was easy enough to follow,
and when dawn came with a rush of gold and crimson out of the east
we were close to the three queer little peaks between which lay
Mafudi's kraal.

We went straight to Haraldsen's camp, which was about half a mile
from the kraal on one of the ridges.  It was the ordinary
prospector's camp of which at that time you could have found a
score or two in Rhodesia, but more professional than most, for
Haraldsen had the cash with which to do things properly.  Gold is
not my pidgin, but the heaps of quartz I passed looked healthy.  He
had struck an outcrop which he thought promising, and was busy
tracing the run of the reef, having sunk two seventy-foot shafts
about a quarter of a mile apart.  But I wasn't concerned with old
Haraldsen's operations, but with Haraldsen himself.  We had been
sighted by his boys, and he stood outside his tent awaiting us, a
figure like a patriarch with the sun on his shaggy head.

While our breakfast coffee was being made I told him our story, for
there was no time to lose, since Peter calculated that Troth and
his lot, by the road they were coming, could not be more than five
miles off.  Haraldsen had a face so weathered and set in its lines
that it didn't reveal much of his thoughts, and he had grey eyes as
steady as a good dog's.  But the mention of Troth woke him up and
the name of Albinus didn't please him.  He seemed to be more
worried about them than about the other scallywags.

'Troth I know,' he said in his deep voice and his precise accent,
for he always spoke English as if he had got it from old-fashioned
books.  'He is a great scoundrel and my enemy.  Once--long ago--he
was my partner for a little.  He does not like me, and he has a
reason, for I most earnestly laboured to have him put in tronk.  He
comes now like a ghost out of the past, and he means evil.'  Of
Albinus, he would only say that his father had had a great devil in
him, and that he did not think that the devil had been exorcized in
the son.

He had not the smallest doubt that the gang were after him, but he
didn't explain why.  All he said was, 'They will try to make me do
their will, and if I do not consent they will kill me.  Unless,
indeed, I first kill them.'

I tried as usual to put the common sense of it.  'If they find us
with you,' I said, 'they won't dare to do anything.  A quiet murder
might be in their line, but they won't want to fight a battle.'

But Haraldsen shook his head.  He knew Troth, he said, and he knew
about Albinus.  He must have laid these gentry out pretty flat some
time or other for them to have such a murderous grudge against him,
or else he knew the depth and desperation of their greed.  But what
impressed me most was Peter's view.  He knew about Stringer and
Dorando, and was clear that they would not go home without loot.
They would not think of consequences, for they could leak away into
the back-world of Africa.

I was never one for a fight except in the last resort, so I
proposed that Haraldsen should take his best horse and make a bolt
for it, leaving us to face the music, since there was nothing much
to be got out of Peter and Lombard and myself.  But Haraldsen
wouldn't hear of this.  'If I flee,' he said, 'they will find me
later and I shall live with a menace over my head.  That I will not
face.  Better to meet them here and have done with it.'

That was all very well, but I wasn't keen on being mixed up in any
Saga-battle.  I asked him if his boys were any use.  'None,' he
said.  They are Mashonas and are timid as rabbits.  Besides, I will
not have them hurt.'

'What about Mafudi's men?' I asked.

It was Peter who answered.  'Mafudi is always drunk, and also very
old.  Once his people were warriors, but now they have no guns.
They will not fight.'

'Well, then, it's the five of us--and one of us crippled--against
the five of them.'

But it was worse than that, for it appeared that Malan had a bad go
of fever and might be counted out.  Also Haraldsen had run out of
ammunition and had sent a boy off to get a fresh supply, and as his
rifles were Mannlichers and ours Mausers we could do nothing to
help him out.  This seemed to me fairly to put the lid on it, but
Peter did not lose his cheerfulness.  'We must make a plan,' he
said--a great phrase of his; and he delicately scratched the tip of
his left ear, which was always a sign that his mind was working
hard.

'This is my plan,' he said at last.  'We must find a place where we
can defend ourselves.  Captain Arcoll will be here to-day--or
perhaps to-night--at any rate not later than to-morrow.  We cannot
fight these skellums on fair terms in the open, but in a strong
fort we may beat them off for perhaps twelve hours, perhaps more.'

'But where is your fort?' I asked.  As I looked round the bright
open place, the jumble of kopjes with the green of Mafudi's crops
in the heart of it, I didn't see much hopes of a refuge we could
hold.  It was all open and bare, and we hadn't time to dig trenches
or build a scherm.

'There is the Hill of the Blue Leopard,' said Peter, using a
Mashona word.  'It is above the kraal--you can see the corner of it
beyond that ridge.  It is a very holy place where few go but the
priests, and it has round it a five-foot hedge of thorns and a big
fence of stakes.  I do not know what is inside except a black stone
which fell from heaven.  It is there that the young men must watch
during the Circumcision.  If we get in there, Dick, I think we
could laugh at your friends for a little--long enough to give
Captain Arcoll time to get here.  There is another thing.  If the
skellums were strong enough to break in, I think that Mafudi's men
might be very angry.  It is true that they have no guns, but very
angry men can do much with knobkerries and axes.'

'But they'll never let us enter,' I protested.

'Perhaps they will.  I will try.  I have always been good friends
with Mafudi's folk.'  And without another word he strode off in the
direction of the kraal.

I was doubtful about his success, for I knew how jealous the
natives were of their sacred places, especially the Mashonas, who
have always been in the hands of their priests.  Still I knew that
Peter had an amazing graft among the tribes, for he was not the
kind of man who damned them all as niggers.  People used to say
that he was the only white man who had ever been present at the
great Purification Dance of the Amatolas.  It was a nervous
business waiting for his return, for he took a long time about it.
I made Haraldsen collect his valuables, and we prepared a sort of
litter for Malan, who was at that stage of fever when a man is
pretty well unconscious of his surroundings.  Always I kept my eye
on the corner of the kloof where any moment Troth and his gang
might be expected to appear.

But they did not come, and at last Peter did.  He had succeeded in
persuading the elders of the tribe to let us inside the sacred
enclosure.  He did not tell me what arguments he had used, for that
was never his way; he presented the world with results and left it
to guess his methods.  We bundled up our traps in a mighty hurry,
for there was no time to lose, hoisted Malan into his litter, and
told Haraldsen's boys to take the horses up into the berg and to
lie low till we sent for them.  In the kraal, in the open space in
the centre of the kyas, we were met by most of Mafudi's people, all
as silent as the tomb, which is not common among Kaffirs.  We had
to have water poured on our heads--what the books call a
lustration--and to have little dabs of green paint stuck on our
foreheads.  Peter's Bechuana boy was not allowed to be of our
party, only the white men.  Then we were solemnly conducted up a
narrow bush road to the Hill of the Blue Leopard, and as we started
there was a great 'Ouch,' a sound like a sigh, from all the
natives.  There was a kind of cattle-gate in the wall of the
scherm, which a priest ceremonially opened, and the four of us and
Malan in his litter passed into the holy place.

At first sight it looked as if we had found a sanctuary.  The hill
was perhaps a hundred feet high, and most of it was covered with
thick bush, except a bald cone at the top where the sacred stone
lay.  The bush was mostly waak-em-beetje thorn and quite
impenetrable, but it was seamed and criss-crossed by dozens of
little paths, worn smooth like a pebble by ages of ceremonial.  One
of the items in the Circumcision rite was a kind of demented hide-
and-seek in this maze.  Around the foot of the hill, as I have
said, was a dense quickset scherm which it would have taken a
regiment to hack through.  The only danger-point was the gate, and
I thought that in case of trouble two of us might manage to hold
it, for I didn't envy the job of the men who tried to rush it in
the face of concealed rifles.  Anyhow, we could hold it long
enough, I thought, to give Arcoll time to turn up.  Indeed, I had
hopes that Troth and his gang would miss us altogether.  They would
find Haraldsen's camp deserted and conclude that he had moved on.

In every bit of my forecast I was wrong.  In the first place our
enemies came round the edge of the kloof in time to see the
movement of Mafudi's people toward the little hill, and if they
didn't guess then what had happened, they knew all right when they
got to Haraldsen's camp.  For his boys had been too slow over the
job of scattering into the woods.  One of them they caught, and,
since they meant business and were not fastidious in their methods,
they soon made the poor devil blab what he knew or guessed.  The
consequence was that half an hour after we were inside the scherm
the others were making hell in Mafudi's kraal.  I had found a lair
well up the hill where I could spy out the land, and I saw that
Troth's party was bigger than I had supposed.  I made out Troth and
Albinus, their natty outfit a little the worse for wear, and the
trim figure of Dorando, and Jim Stringer's long legs.  They had
left their natives behind, but they had four other white men with
them, and I didn't like the cut of their jib.  They were eight to
our four, odds of two to one.  I called Peter up beside me, and his
eyes, sharp as a berghaan's, examined the reinforcements.  He
recognized the Australian and one other, a Lydenburg man whose name
he mentioned and then spat.  'I think we must fight, Dick,' he said
quietly.  'The greed of these men is so great that it will make
them brave.  And I know that Dorando and Stringer are bad, but not
cowards.'

I thought the same, so I started out to make my dispositions, for I
had learned some soldiering in the late war.  Haraldsen I kept out
of sight, for his life was the most valuable of the lot, and
besides I meant to pretend that we knew nothing about him.  Peter,
who was far the best shot among us, I placed behind a rock where he
had a good view of the approaches.  I told him not to shoot unless
they tried to rush the gate, and then to cripple if possible and
not kill, for I didn't want bloodshed and a formal inquiry and
screeds in the papers--that would do no good to either Haraldsen or
me.  Lombard and I took our stations near the gate, which was a
solid thing of log and wattle jointed between two tree trunks.  We
had a rifle and a revolver apiece; but I would have preferred shot-
guns.  I could see that Lombard was twittering with excitement, but
he kept a set face, though he was very white.

The affair was slow in beginning.  It was after midday before
Dorando and Stringer appeared on the track that led up from the
kraal.  They had a handkerchief tied to a rifle muzzle by way of a
white flag.  I halted them when they were six yards from the gate,
and asked what they wanted.

Butter wouldn't have melted in their mouths.  They had come to see
Mr. Haraldsen, who was a friend of theirs--to see him on business.
They understood that he was on the hill.  Would he step out and
come down to luncheon with them?  They were kind enough to include
me in the invitation.

I said that I knew nothing about Mr Haraldsen, but that I knew a
good deal about them.  I proposed another plan: let them leave
their guns where they stood, and come inside the scherm and take a
bite with us.  They thanked me, and said they would be delighted,
and moved to the gate, but they did not drop their rifles, and I
saw the bulge of revolvers in their pockets.  'Stop,' I shouted.
'Down guns or stay where you are,' and Lombard and I showed our
pistols.

'Is that a way to talk to gentlemen?' said Dorando with a very ugly
look.

'It's the way to talk to you, my lads,' I said.  'I've known you
too long.  Strip yourselves and come inside.  If not, I give you
one minute to get out of here.'

Dorando was livid, but Stringer only smiled sleepily.  He was the
more dangerous of the two, for he was mighty quick on the draw and
didn't miss.  He had a long thin face, and few teeth, which made
his mouth as prim as a lawyer's.  I kept my eye on him, having
whispered to Lombard to mark Dorando.  But they didn't try to rush
us, only said a word to each other and turned and went back.  That
was the end of the first bout.

All afternoon nothing happened.  The heat was blistering, and as
there was no water on the hill and we had nothing liquid but a
flask of brandy, we suffered badly from thirst.  Malan babbled in
his fever, and Haraldsen, who was in the shade beside him, went to
sleep.  Old Haraldsen had been in so many tight places in his life
that he was hard to rattle.  Little green lizards came out and
basked in the sun on the tracks, widow-birds flopped among the
trees, and a great ugly aasvogel dropped out of the blue sky and
had a look at us.  The whole land lay baking and still, and down in
the kraal there was not a sound.  There was nobody in the space
between the huts, not a child or a chicken stirred, and we might
have been looking down at a graveyard.

Suddenly from one of the kyas there came a cry as of some one in
deadly pain.  In the hot silence it had a horrible eeriness, for it
sounded like a child's scream, though I knew that a Kaffir in pain
or terror often gives tongue like an infant.  I saw Lombard's face
whiten.

'Oughtn't we to do something?' he croaked, for his mouth was dry
with thirst.

'We can't,' I told him.  'I don't know what these swine are up to,
but it will soon be our turn.  Our only hope is to sit tight.'

When the twilight began to fall Peter descended from his perch.
Being higher up the hill he had had a better view and he brought
news.

'The stad is quiet,' he told us.  'All Mafudi's people are indoors,
for they have been told that they will be shot if they show their
faces.  Of the others, two are on guard and the rest have not been
sleeping.  They have been pulling down a kya to get the old straw
from the roof, and they have been down at the byres where the hay
is kept.  As soon as it is dark they will be very busy.'

'Good God!' I cried, for I saw what this meant.  'They mean to burn
us out.'

'Sure,' he said.  'They are clever men.  The moon will not rise
till nine o'clock.  Soon it will be black night, and we cannot
shoot in the dark.  There are eight of them, and of us only four.
At this time of year there is no sap in the thorns, so they will
burn like dry tinder.  The gate will no longer matter.  They can
fire this scherm at six places, and we cannot watch them all.  We
are in a bad fix, Dick.'

There was no doubt about that.  At in-fighting those scallywags--
leaving out Troth and Albinus, whom I knew nothing about--were far
more than our masters.  If Peter was right, our sanctuary would
very soon be a trap.  I summoned Haraldsen, and the four of us had
a solemn council.  We couldn't hold the place against fire, and we
couldn't escape, for the gaps made by the flames would all be
watched, and likewise the gate.

'Have you any plan?' I asked Peter.

He shook his head, for even he was at the end of his resources.

'We can only trust in God,' he said simply, and his mild quizzical
face was solemn.  'Perhaps Jim Arcoll may come in time.'

Haraldsen said nothing.  He had no weapon, so I offered him my
rifle.  But he preferred to take an axe which Peter had insisted on
bringing from the camp, and he swung it round his head, looking
like some old Viking.  I apologized to Lombard for having got him
into such a hole, but he told me not to worry.  That cry from the
kraal had stripped him of all nervousness or fear.  He was thinking
only of what mischief he could do to the eight devils at the foot
of the hill.

The short mulberry gloaming faded out of the sky, and night came
down on the world like a thick black shawl.  I had sent Lombard and
Peter up to the summit where they could get early news of what was
happening, for I knew that an attempt would be made to fire the
scherm in several places at once.  I stayed at the gate, and
Haraldsen for some reason of his own insisted on staying beside me.
We moved the sick Malan out into the open, for I feared that the
firing of the scherm might kindle all the bush on the hill.

I can't say that I enjoyed the hour we had to wait.  I saw no
chance for us, short of a miracle, and the best we could hope for
was a good scrap and a quick death.  You may ask why we didn't
parley with our enemies to gain time.  The answer is that we were
convinced that they meant black murder if we gave them half a
chance; at least they meant to do in Haraldsen, and we couldn't
allow that.  Haraldsen himself had wanted to be let out and to go
down and face them alone, but Peter and I told him not to be a
fool.

The crisis came, as such things do, when I wasn't expecting it.
Suddenly I saw a red glow in the night, apparently on the other
side of the hill.  The glow spread, which must mean that other
fires had been started.  There was a rifle shot, which I assumed to
be Peter's, and then Lombard stumbled down with the news that the
scherm was burning in four places.  The next thing I knew was that
there was a big burst of flame about five yards from me, and at the
same moment faces appeared in the gate.  I fired at one, there was
an answering crackle of shots, and I felt a raw pain in my left
shoulder.  Then I saw the gate in a sheet of flame, for the wattles
had been fired.

After that there was a wild confusion.  I found an ugly face close
to me, fired at it, and saw it go blind.  That was the man from
Lydenburg, for we found the body later.  I saw other figures in the
gap, and then I saw an extraordinary sight.  Haraldsen, looking
like a giant in the hellish glow, had leaped forward and was
swinging his axe and shouting like a madman.  The spectacle must
have confounded the attackers, for they made wild shooting.  He had
a bullet through one pocket and another through his hair, but he
got none in his body.  I saw him jump the blazing remnant of the
gate and bring his axe down on somebody's head.  And then he was
through them and careering out into the dark.

I was pretty dazed and wild, and I decided that it was all up now,
when suddenly the whole business took a new turn.  Above the
crackle and the roar of the flames I heard a sound which I had not
heard since the Matabele Rising, the deep throaty howl of Kaffirs
on the war-path.  It rose to heaven like a great wind, and I
clutched at my wits and realized what had happened.  Mafudi's men
were up.  They had been like driven cattle all day, but this
outrage on their sacred place had awakened their manhood.  Once
they had been a famous fighting clan and the old fury had revived.
They were swarming like bees round the scherm, and making short
work of our assailants.  The Kaffir sees better in the dark than a
white man, and a knobkerrie or an axe is a better weapon in a blind
scrap than a gun.  Also there were scores of them, the better part
of a hundred lusty savages, mad with fury at the violation of their
shrine.

There was nothing I could do except join Peter and Lombard on the
top.  But there was no sign of them there, for they had each made
for one of the burning gaps to do what they could to hold the fort.
As a matter of fact the fires at no place had gone far enough to
make an opening, so none of our assailants had got inside the
scherm.  Pandemonium was in full blast around it, where some of
Mafudi's men were rounding up Troth's lot and the rest were beating
out the flames.  This latter wasn't an easy job and the moon was up
before it was over.  I simply sat on the bald crest beside the
sacred stone and waited.  This was no work for me.  Peter and
Lombard were somewhere on the hill, but it was impossible to find
them in that dark maze.  The noise of native shouting soon died
away, so I realized that they had finished their business.  The
fires were all mastered except one that kept breaking out afresh.
Then over the rim of the horizon rose the moon, and the world was
bright again.  I was just starting out to look for the others when
I heard the jingle of bridles and the clatter of hoofs and knew
that Arcoll's police had arrived at last.

Arcoll made a fine bag of miscreants--five, to be accurate, who
were firm in the grip of Mafudi's people.  Three were dead--the man
from Lydenburg whom I shot, one of the new fellows whose skull
Haraldsen split with his axe, and, as the fates would have it,
Troth himself.  Peter had got Troth at the very start, when he
showed up for a second in the gleam of the first fire.  There he
lay with his neat London outfit punctured by Peter's bullet, a
home-bred hound among jackals, but the worst jackal of the pack.



'That's a pleasant yarn,' said Sandy.  'Old Haraldsen told me a
good many of his adventures, but not that one.  It had the right
sort of ending.'

'That wasn't quite the end,' I said.  'Haraldsen had burst through
the ring into the arms of Mafudi's men, who knew him well and
recognized him and kept him out of danger.  But as soon as Arcoll
arrived and took charge the old man got busy.  He had been berserk
at the gate, and now he seemed to be 'fey.'  He said there was
something still to do, and he insisted on Peter and Lombard and me
accompanying him to the top of the Hill of the Blue Leopard.  There
he made us a speech, looking more like an old Norseman than ever.
He said that we were his blood-brothers, who had been ready to
stand by him to the end.  But the end hadn't come, though Troth was
dead and the others would soon be in quod.  There was a legacy of
ill will that would follow him to his last day, and the dead Troth
would leave it as a bequest to his successors.  So he wanted the
three of us to swear that if he called for us we would come to his
aid wherever in the world we might be.  More, we must be ready to
come to his son's help, for he considered that this vendetta might
not end with his own life, and we were to hand on the duty to our
own sons.  As none of us was married that didn't greatly worry us.

'It was like something out of one of his Sagas.  There we stood
above the silvered bush on rocks which were like snowdrifts in the
strong moonlight.  We took his right hand in turn in ours and put
it to our foreheads, and then we raised our right arms and repeated
a mad formula about dew and fire and running water. . . .  Lord,
how it all comes back--that white world, and the smell of charred
bush, and the pain in my shoulder, and Lombard, who had had about
as much as he could stand, whimpering like a scared dog!'

'Well, he's dead now,' said Sandy, 'and your oath is finished, for
it's not likely that his son will trouble you.  Heigh-ho!  The old
wild days have gone.  Peter long ago entered Valhalla.  What about
the third--Lombard, I think you called him?'

'Curiously enough,' I said, 'I met him last autumn.  He's not
thinking about any Saga oath nowadays.  He is bald and plump and
something in big business.'



CHAPTER V

Haraldsen's Son


The Clanroydens went off to Laverlaw for a fortnight, Sandy to fish
his Border burns, and Barbara to attend to her garden, and I was
settling down to my farming, when I got a letter from Lombard.  I
had heard nothing of him since our meeting in the train the
previous autumn.  He had not invited me for a week-end as he had
suggested--at which I rejoiced, for I would have had to invent some
excuse for refusing; nor had he repeated his proposal to lunch
together in London.

His letter began with apologies for this neglect; he had been very
busy all winter and had had to make two trips abroad.  But now he
wanted to see me--wanted to see me urgently.  Was there any chance
of my being in town in the coming week, and if so, could we meet?
He would keep any appointment, but he suggested luncheon and then
going back to his office to talk.  I couldn't imagine what he had
to say to me, and I had an unpleasant suspicion that he wanted me
for one of his financial ventures, but, as I had to go to London on
other business, I had no grounds for declining.  So I wired asking
him to lunch at my own club, a quiet place with a smoking-room on
the top floor which we could have to ourselves.

Lombard was looking worried, and he had also a heavy cold.  His
ruddy face had gone white, his eyes watered, and his voice was like
a cracked tin-can.  He had been drenched golfing, he told me, and
the east wind had done the rest.  But his bodily ailment was the
least of his troubles, and I had the impression that this plump,
four-square personage had been badly shaken.  At luncheon I made
him drink hot whisky-and-water, but he only picked at his food, and
had very little conversation.  There was something on his mind, and
I was glad when I got him to the upper smoking-room, settled him in
an armchair, and told him to get on with it.

His first question startled me.

'Do you remember a chap called Haraldsen?' he asked.  'Thirty years
ago in Rhodesia?  The time I went on trek with you when I was on my
way home?'

'I do,' I said.  'Oddly enough I was talking about him last week.'

'Well, I've seen him.'

'Then you've seen a ghost,' I replied; 'for he is dead.'

He opened his rheumy eyes.

'I don't mean the old man--I mean his son.  But how do you know
that Haraldsen is dead?  The young one doesn't know it.'

'Never mind,' I said.  'It's too long a story to tell you now, but
it's a fact.  What about the young one?  I knew there was a son,
but I never heard anything about him.  What sort of age?'

'Over thirty.  Perhaps nearer forty.  He wrote to me and asked for
an interview--found my name in the telephone-book--didn't say what
he wanted.  I thought he might have something to do with a Swedish
wood-pulp proposition, for I've been doing a little in that line
lately, so I agreed to see him, though I was very busy.  I had
completely forgotten the name, and it never suggested Rhodesia.'

He stopped, and then broke out quite fiercely.  'Why on earth
should it?  It's all more than thirty years ago, and I've long ago
buried the callow boy who went vapouring about Africa.  Hang it
all, I've made a position for myself.  Next year I hope to be a
Director of the Bank of England.  I've my reputation to consider.
You see that, don't you?'

I didn't know what he was driving at, but it was plain that Lombard
was no longer the sleek suburbanite.  Something had jostled him out
of his rut.

'But there was nothing in the old Haraldsen business to hurt your
credit,' I said.  'So far as I remember, you behaved well.  There's
no skeleton in that cupboard.'

'Wait till you hear,' he replied dismally.  'This chap came to my
office, and he told me a dashed silly story.  Oh, a regular blood-
and-thunder yarn of how he was in an awful mess, with a lot of
crooks out gunning for him.  I didn't follow him very clearly, for
he was in a pitiable state of nerves, and now and then lost command
of the English language altogether.  But the gist of it was that he
was in deadly danger, and that his enemies would get him unless he
found the right kind of friends.  I don't know how much was true,
but I could see that he believed it all.  There must be some truth
in it, for he didn't look a fool, and I'll swear that he's honest.'

He stopped, and I waited, for I guessed what was coming.

'He asked me to help him,' Lombard continued, 'though God knows
what he thought I could do.  I'm not a Cabinet Minister or a Chief
of Police.  Did you ever hear anything more preposterous?'

'Never,' I said heartily--and waited.

'He had got it into his head that he had some claim on me.  Said I
once helped his father in a tight place, and that his father had
sworn me to stand by him if called upon--or by his son.  Apparently
the old man had put it all down in writing, and this Haraldsen had
the document.'

'Well, it's not the kind of thing you could sue on,' I said
cheerfully.

'I know that. . . .  But, I say, Hannay, do you remember the
occasion?'

'Perfectly.  We stood on the top of a kopje in the moonlight, and
the old boy swore us by one of his Viking oaths.  Oh, I remember it
all right.'

'So do I,' said Lombard miserably.  'Well, what the devil is to be
done about it?'

'Nothing,' I said stoutly.  I had sized up Lombard, and I realized
that to expect this sedentary middle-aged fellow to take a hand in
a wild business was beyond all reason.  My old liking for him had
returned, and I didn't want him to have an uneasy conscience.  But
what puzzled me was why young Haraldsen had gone to him.  'There
were three of us in it,' I said.  'You and I and Peter Pienaar.
Peter is in a better world, but I'm still to the fore.  Why didn't
he tackle me?  I had much more to do with his father than you had.'

'Perhaps he didn't think of you as a major-general with a title.
He probably heard my name in the City.  Anyhow, there we are, and
an infernal worrying business it is.'

'My dear chap, you needn't worry,' I said.  'We have all been
foolish in our young days, and we can't be expected to go on living
up to our folly.  If I had made a pact with a man when I was
twenty-one to climb Everest, and he turned up to-day and wanted to
hold me to it, I should tell him to go to blazes.  But I should
like to hear more of young Haraldsen's yarn.'

'I didn't get it quite straight,' he replied, 'for the fellow was
too excited.  Besides, I didn't try to, for I could think of
nothing except that ridiculous performance in Rhodesia.  But I
jotted down one or two names he mentioned, the names of the people
he was afraid of.'  From his pocket he took a sheet of notepaper.
'Troth,' he read, 'Lancelot Troth.  And a name which may be Albius
or Albion--I didn't ask him to spell it.  Oh, and Barralty--you
know, the company-promoter that came down in the Lepcha goldfield
business.'

This made me open my eyes.  'God bless my soul, but Troth is dead.
You know that yourself, for you saw old Peter Pienaar account for
him.  Your second name is probably Albinus--you must remember him
too.  If he's still alive I can't think what the Devil is waiting
for.  Barralty I know nothing about.  I tell you what, Lombard,
this all sounds to me like sheer hallucination.  Young Haraldsen
has come on Troth and Albinus in his father's papers, and has let
himself be hagridden by ghosts from the past.  Most likely the man
is crazy.'

He shook his head.  'He didn't impress me that way.  Scared if you
like, but quite sane.  Anyhow, what do you advise me to do about
it?  He made an appeal to me--he was almost weeping--and I had to
promise to give him an answer.  My answer is due to-morrow.'

'I think you had better turn the thing over to me,' I said.  'I've
had some news lately about old Haraldsen, and I'd like to meet his
son.  Have you got his address?'

'I know how to get on to him.  He's desperately secretive, but he
gave me a telephone number which I could ring up and leave a
message for a Mr. Bosworth.'

'Well, send the message.  I must go home to-morrow, but to-night
I'm free.  Tell him to dine with me here to-night at eight.  Give
him my name, and mention that I was deeper in the old business than
you were.  If the thing's genuine, he is bound to have some record
of me.  If it's bogus, he'll never turn up.'

'What will you do with him?' he asked.

'I'll cross-examine him and riddle out the business.  I know enough
about old Haraldsen to be able to cross-examine with some effect.
I suspect that the whole thing is a lunatic's fancy, for there's a
good deal of lunacy in the Northern races.  In that case, you and I
will be able to go to bed in peace.'

'But if it's serious?' he asked, and his face showed that he had
not much doubt about that.

'Oh, if there's anything in it, I suppose I must take a hand.
After all, I was a pretty close friend of his father, which you
never were.  You needn't worry about the Moonlight Sonata stuff,
for I put nothing on that.  That was only old Haraldsen's taste for
melodrama.  Consider yourself as clean out of the affair, like
Peter Pienaar.  You've been a responsible citizen for the better
part of thirty years, with a big business to manage and a settled
life and all the rest of it.  No sane man would expect you to butt
into a show of this kind.  Besides, you'd be no sort of good at it.
I've settled down, too, but I've led a different kind of life from
you, and crime is a little bit more in my line.  I've made several
excursions into the under-world, and I know some of the ropes.'

There was an odd change in his face, which had hitherto registered
only anxiety.  I could have sworn that he was getting cross.

'If you were in my position, would you take that advice?' he asked
in a flat voice.

'Most certainly I should,' I replied.

'You're a good fellow, Hannay,' he said, 'and you mean well.  But
you're a damned liar.  If you were in my position, you'd do nothing
of the kind, and you'd have the blood of anybody who advised you
to.  I can see what you take me for--I could see it in your eyes
when we foregathered in the train.  You believe I'm a fatted calf
that has made a success in the City, and thinks only of his bank
balance and his snug house, and his Saturday's golf.  You believe
that I'm the sort of herring-gutted creature that would take any
insult lying down, or at the best run round to my solicitors.
Well, you're wrong.  I've had a soft life compared to you, but it
hasn't been all fur-lined.  I've had to take plenty of risks, and
some of them mighty big ones.  I had no wish to see you again after
we met last autumn, for I saw that you despised me, and I didn't
see how I could ever get you to change your mind.  You're right in
some ways.  I'm a bit flabby and out of training in body and mind.
But by God you're wrong about the main thing.  I've never gone back
on my word or funked a duty.  And I'm not going to begin now.  If
there's anything in Haraldsen's story, my promise stands, and I'm
in the business up to my neck, the same as you.  If you don't agree
to that, then you'll jolly well stand out, and I'll take it on
myself.'

I felt the blood surging to my cheeks.  Lombard had got up from his
chair, and I had done the same, and we stood staring at each other
across the hearth-rug.  I saw in his face what I had missed
altogether on the last occasion we met, a stubborn resolution and a
shining honesty.  In spite of his baldness and fleshiness and
bleared eyes and snuffling, he looked twenty years younger.  I
recognized in him the boy I had known in Equatoria, and I felt as
if I had suddenly recovered an old friend.

'Never mind what I thought,' I said.  'If I thought as you say I
did I made a howling mistake and I grovel in apologies.  We've
picked up our friendship where we left it at Mafudi's kraal, and
we'll see this thing through together.'

All the anger had gone out of his face.

'Mafudi,' he repeated.  'Yes, that's the name.  I couldn't get to
sleep last night for trying to remember it.'



I had two things to think about that evening.  One was the
revelation I had had of the true Lombard.  That gave me
extraordinary pleasure, for it seemed to remove the suspicion I had
had all winter that I was myself old and stale and that all my
youth had gone.  If the fire still burned in this padded City
magnate, it could not have died altogether in me.  The second thing
was Haraldsen, and I confess I felt solemn when I reflected that
the week before Sandy Clanroyden had brought news of him out of the
remotest East, news acquired by the wildest of chances.  I had an
eerie sense that this was all a sort of preparation engineered by
Providence.

Lombard telephoned to me that 'Mr. Bosworth' would come to my club
at eight o'clock.  There was nobody in the smoking-room as I waited
for my guest, and I remember trying to imagine what kind of fellow
I should meet, and to reconstruct a younger version of old
Haraldsen.

I got one of the shocks of my life when he appeared.  For it was
the man Smith, whom Peter John and I had met in the Rose and Crown
at Hanham.

His surprise when he saw me was quite equal to mine.

'You!' he cried.  'Oh, thank God, I have found you.  I never
dreamed. . . .'

'You heard my name at Hanham,' I said.

'Ah, but I was looking for a South African engineer called Dick
Hannay.  In you I saw only an English general and a grandee.  I
took to you then--I do not know when I have so taken to a man, for
I saw that you were wise and kind.  But I did not imagine that you
were my Dick Hannay.'

'Well, I am,' I said.  'I've seen Lombard, so two of your father's
friends are with you.  The third, the pick of the bunch, is dead.'

'You will stand beside me?' he stammered.

'Certainly,' I said.  'You may count us both in.  Lombard told me
that this afternoon.'

It was wonderful to see the effect these words had on him.  As I
have said, he was a very big fellow, but he slouched as if he were
afraid of his size, and he had a shy, confused manner, like a large
thing trying to hide behind something too small to cover it.  He
had cut an odd enough figure at Hanham, but in London he was clean
out of the picture.  When he entered the room my impression had
been of a being altogether maladjusted to his environment, out of
focus, so to speak, built on a wrong scale.  But with his recovery
of confidence he became almost normal, and I saw that the bucolic
impression I had got of him was false.  In his old-fashioned
dinner-jacket he was more like a scholar than the farmer I had
taken him for.  His brow was broad and high, and his eyes had the
unmistakable look of having peered a good deal over white paper.

At dinner he told me his story.  He had not seen his father for
eight years, or heard from him for three years, but it was clear
that the old man was the dominant influence in his life.  He had
been brought up from childhood on a plan.  While the elder
Haraldsen was ranging the world the younger stayed in Europe,
preparing himself for the task for which the former was laying up a
fortune.  He was to be the leader of the Northern peoples to a new
destiny, and from a small boy he was put into the strictest
training.  First he was to be a master of all Northern learning,
and imbibe its spirit.  Then he was to know every corner of the
North and every type of Northman.  After that he was to have a
first-class business education and learn how to handle big affairs.
The old man's ambition for his son seemed to have been a kind of
blend of Sir Walter Scott and Bismarck and Cecil Rhodes.

Of course, it didn't work--that kind of scheme never does.  The
young Valdemar (his Christian name was Valdemar) went stolidly
through an immense curriculum, for he was clay in his father's
hands, but the result was not the Admirable Crichton of the old
man's dreams.  He went to college in Denmark and Germany; he did
two years in a Copenhagen bank; he travelled from Greenland in the
west to the White Sea in the east, and even got as far as
Spitzbergen, and there were not many places in Scandinavia and its
islands on which he had not turned his unseeing eyes.  But he did
it all as a round of duty, for he had not a spark of his father's
ardour.  A scholar indeed he became, and a keen naturalist, but
nothing more.  He wanted a quiet life, and the future of the
Northern races was no more to him than a half-forgotten fairy tale.

So at twenty-six there was Valdemar Haraldsen, sound in wind and
limb, stuffed with much curious learning, but with no more ambition
than a mole.  I gathered that the old man had been disappointed,
but had made the best of it.  His son was young, so there was still
hope, for there must be some fruit from so arduous a sowing.  It
seemed that his mother had come out of the Norland Isles, the
daughter of a long line of what they called King's Yeomen there.
She had inherited an island, and there the elder Haraldsen, on one
of his longer sojourns in Europe, had built a house.  He seemed to
have made a minor hobby of it, for he had spent a good deal of
money and filled it with Northern furniture and antiques.  He
agreed to Valdemar settling down there, after the boy had married
with his consent, for no doubt he thought that the genius loci
would have something to say to him.  But the marriage had soon a
tragic ending, for the young wife died with her first child.

I asked about the child.

'She lives and is well,' he said.  'She is now in her thirteenth
year.  She is at a school in England.'

He had stayed on in his lonely isle, and I gathered had become a
good deal of a recluse, rarely coming south, and filling his time
with his hobbies, which were principally natural history and an
inquiry into the interaction of the old Norse and Celtic peoples.

'But I was happy,' he said in his gentle voice.  'I was indeed
always anxious about my father, who did not come to me and would
not permit me to go to him.  But I had my girl Anna with me till
she was of age for school, and I had my house and my books and my
little kingdom.  And I had good health and a quiet mind.'

'You're well off?' I asked.

A pained look came into his eyes, as if his mind had been engaged
with pleasant things and now saw something hideous.

'I believe I am very rich,' he said slowly.  'I do not know how
rich, for money has never interested me.  There are bankers in
Copenhagen who look after these things for me, and they tell me I
need not stint myself.'

I thought what bad luck it was on old Haraldsen to go on piling up
a fortune for a son who never wanted to hear how much it was.

'Well,' I said, 'I think I've got the lay-out.  You've been
squatting peacefully up in your island while your father has been
gold-digging in the ends of the earth.  What has happened now?
What is the trouble?'

'The trouble,' he said slowly, and his eyes were full of pain
again, 'is that I have lost my quiet mind.'

Then he told me, with long stops when he seemed to be hunting for
words, the following story.

Two years before he had had a letter from a London firm of
solicitors who said that they wrote on behalf of a client who had a
claim on his father, and asked for his father's address.  He
replied that he did not know where his father was, and thought no
more about it.  Then came a second letter, asking whether the old
man was alive or dead, and Haraldsen duly replied that he couldn't
be sure, but hoped for the best.  After that he was informed that
an action at law would be begun, and that, if his father did not
appear, an attempt would be made to have his death presumed, so
that recourse might be had against his estate.  I didn't quite get
the hang of the argument, for Valdemar was not very clear himself.
The correspondence was all perfectly civil in tone, but the last
letter gave him a nasty shock, for the solicitors disclosed that
their client was a Mr. Lancelot Troth.

Now Valdemar had a great quantity of his father's papers, which he
had been at pains to read and arrange, and among them were records
of his old days in Africa, and especially of his early work on the
Rand.  The name of Troth appeared in some of them.  Troth had been
the old man's partner at one time and had tried to swindle him.
There had been a terrific row, and Troth had cleared out, but
Haraldsen had been certain that he would come back again and make
mischief.  He took the trouble to write out a detailed statement of
the case, and Valdemar said that it left the impression on him that
while Troth was no doubt a rogue, he might have had some kind of a
grievance, and that his father's conscience was not quite easy
about the business.

Among the papers, too, was a full account of the affair at the Hill
of the Blue Leopard, and of how he had sworn three men, Lombard,
Peter Pienaar, and myself, to stand by him or his son, if there was
any further trouble on that score.  The funny thing was that he did
not mention that Troth had been killed.  He seemed to have the Saga
notion that a vendetta went on from generation to generation, and
that Troth's son, if he had one, might make things unpleasant for
his own son.  He mentioned Albinus too, who had apparently been a
subordinate figure in the first row on the Rand, but a leader at
Mafudi's.

So when Valdemar saw the name of Troth in the solicitors' letter he
began to feel uncomfortable.  I gathered that his father had been
very solemn about the affair, and had gone out of his way to warn
his son.  Valdemar did his best to put the thing out of his head,
but not with much success.  And then he got a letter signed
Lancelot Troth which had effectively scared him.  The lawyers'
correspondence had been, so to speak, only ranging shots, and now
the guns started in earnest.

The writer said that his father had been grievously wronged by the
old Haraldsen, and that he demanded restitution.  If the old man
was dead, or lost to the world, the son must pay, for he had
ascertained that he was very rich.  There need be no unpleasantness,
if the writer were fairly treated, for he was convinced that his
claim must be patent to any reasonable man.  He suggested that a
meeting should be arranged in Copenhagen or London, to which
Valdemar could bring one adviser, while he, Troth, would bring his
partner, Mr. Erick Albinus, who was a party to his claim.  There
was no talk now of any legal action.  It was a straight personal
demand to stand and deliver.

Valdemar was mightily put out, and, not being a man of the world,
would in all likelihood have done something silly--seen Troth,
agreed to his terms, and so put himself in his power for the rest
of his life.  But luckily he met an Englishman who came up that
summer to fish in the Norlands, and in the course of conversation
asked him some vague questions, in which he managed to mention
Troth's name.  The Englishman was a well-known barrister whose
practice was largely at the Old Bailey, and he could tell him a
good deal about Troth, though he had never heard of Albinus.  Troth
had succeeded to his father's business as a solicitor, and bore a
pretty shady repute.  The fisherman described him as one who didn't
stick at trifles, but had so far been clever enough to keep on the
sunny side of the law.  He was believed to be at the moment in the
environs of Queer Street, for he was mixed up with Barralty in the
Lepcha Reef flotation, and that was beginning to look ugly.  'I
hate the fellow,' said the Englishman, 'but I wouldn't go out of my
way to cross him.  He has an eye like a gunman's, and a jowl like a
prizefighter.'

That talk opened Valdemar's eyes to the dangers of his position.
He had sense enough to see that it was a case of large-sized
blackmail, and that any sum he paid would only be a lever for
further extortions till he was bled white.  He went off his sleep,
and worried himself into a fever, for he couldn't decide what his
next step should be.

While he was still cogitating he got a second letter from Troth.
Mr. Haraldsen need not trouble to come south, for the writer was
about to pay a visit to the Norlands in his friend Mr. Barralty's
yacht.  He proposed a meeting in Hjalmarshavn some three weeks
ahead.

This screwed Valdemar up to the point of action.  Alone on his
island he was at the mercy of any gang of miscreants that chose to
visit him.  His ignorance of the world made him imagine terrible
things.  He hungered for human society, for a crowd in which he
could hide himself.  So he buried his papers and some of the things
he most valued, shut up his house, left the island to the care of
his steward, and along with his daughter fled from the Norlands.
He left an address in Copenhagen for forwarding letters, but he did
not mean to go there, for he was known in Denmark and would be
recognized.  He determined to go to London, where he would be
utterly obscure.

Troth and his friend duly arrived in the Norlands.  They visited
the Island of Sheep--this was the name of Valdemar's place--and,
when they found it empty, pretty well ransacked the house, just
like so many pirates from the sea.  But they did no mischief, for
they were playing a bigger game.  Valdemar heard of this from his
steward, his letter going first to his bank in Copenhagen, then to
a friend in Sweden, and finally to his English address.  He placed
his child in an English school, and took to wandering about the
country, calling himself Smith and other names, and never staying
long in one place.  He heard of the crash of the Lepcha Reef and
Barralty's difficulties, and realized that this would make the gang
keener than ever on his scent.  He had letters from Troth--three I
think--and the last fairly put the wind up.  'You have refused to
meet me frankly,' said Troth, 'and you have run away, but don't
imagine you can escape me.  I will follow you till I track you
down, though I have to give up my life to the job, and the price
you will have to pay will double with each month I have to wait.'
It was brigandage now, naked brigandage.

I am not sure that I believed all this tale, but there was one
thing I couldn't doubt--Valdemar believed it, and was sweating with
terror.  That big man, who should have marched stoutly through
life, had eyes like a hunted deer's.

'What an infernal nuisance for you!' I said.  'You can't go home,
because of the threats of those scallywags!  Well, anyhow, you're
safe enough here, and can have an easy mind till we think out some
plan.'

'I am not safe here,' he said solemnly.  'At first I thought that
no one knew me in England.  But I was wrong.  They have had
descriptions of me--photographs--from the Norlands and from
Copenhagen.  They have found people who can identify me. . . .  One
day in the street I saw a barber from Denmark who has often shaved
me, and he recognized me, and tried to follow me.  He is a poor man
and would not have come here on his own account.  He has been
brought to London.  The net is drawing in on me, and I know from
many small things that they are very close on my trail.  I change
my dwelling often, but I feel that I cannot long escape them.  So I
am very desperate, and that is why I have sought out my father's
friends.'

He sat huddled in his chair, his chin sunk on his breast, the image
of impotence and despair.  I realized that Lombard and I were going
to have a difficult job with him.  I had an uneasy suspicion, as I
looked at him, that his story might be all moonshine, the
hallucination of a lonely neurotic, and I wished I had never heard
of him.  Keeping a promise was one thing, but nursing a lunatic was
quite another.

'It is not only for myself I fear,' he said in a leaden voice.
'There is my little daughter.  I dare not visit her in case they
follow me.  They might kidnap her, and then I should assuredly go
mad.'

To that I had nothing to say, for the mention of kidnapping always
made me windy.  I had had too much of it in the affair with Medina,
which I have already written about.*

'There is my father, too,' he went on.  'He may at any moment go to
the Norlands or come to England, and I cannot warn him.'

'You needn't worry about that,' I said gently.  'Your father died
two years ago--at a place called Gutok, in Chinese Tibet.'  And I
repeated briefly what Sandy Clanroyden had told me.

You never saw such a change in a man.  The news seemed to pull him
together and put light into his eyes.  To him, apparently, it was
not a matter of grief, but of comfort.

'Thesauro feliciter invento,' he repeated.  'Then he succeeded--he
has died happy.  I cannot sorrow for him, for he has greatly ended
a great life.'

He put his chin on his hand and brooded, and in that moment I was
possessed by one of those queer irrational convictions which I have
always made a habit of accepting, for I have never found them
wrong.  This Valdemar Haraldsen was as sane as myself, and he was
in deadly peril.  I believed implicitly every word of his tale, and
my duty to help him was plain as a pikestaff.  My first business
must be to tuck him away comfortably somewhere out of the road.

I asked him where he was living and if he was sure he had not been
followed here.  He said that he had only moved into his new
quarters two days before, and was pretty certain that he was safe
for the moment.  'But not for long,' he added dismally.

'Well, you must clear out,' I said.  'Tomorrow you pack your kit.
You are coming to stay with me for a little.  I will go down by an
earlier train, for we shouldn't be seen together.  Put on your
oldest clothes and travel third-class--I'll send my keeper to meet
you, and he'll bring you up in the old Ford.  Your name is still
Bosworth.'

I fixed up a train, offered him a whisky-and-soda, which he
declined, and saw him shamble off in the direction of his Bayswater
lodgings.  He looked like a store-farmer who had borrowed an
ancient suit of his father's dress-clothes, and that was the rôle I
wanted him to play.  Then I rang up Macgillivray in his Mount
Street rooms, found that he was at home, and went round to see him.


* In The Three Hostages.



CHAPTER VI

Sundry Doings at Fosse


I found Macgillivray reading Greek with his feet on the mantelpiece
and the fire out.  He was a bit of a scholar and kept up his
classics.  Of all my friends he was the one who had aged least.
His lean, dark head and smooth, boyish face were just as I
remembered them twenty years ago.  I hadn't seen him for months,
and he gave me a great welcome, rang for beer to which he knew I
was partial, and settled me in his best armchair.

'Why this honour?' he asked.  'Is it friendship or business?  A
sudden craving for my company, or a mess you want to be helped out
of?'

'Both,' I said.  'But business first.'

'A job for the Yard?'

'No-o.  Not just yet, anyhow.  I want some information.  I've just
got on the track of a rather ugly affair.'

He whistled.  'You have a high standard of ugliness.  What is it?'

'Blackmail,' I said.

'Yourself?  He must be a bold blackmailer to tackle you.'

'No, a friend.  A pretty helpless sort of friend, who will go mad
if he isn't backed up.'

'Well, let's have the story.'

'Not yet,' I said.  'It's a private affair which I would rather
keep to myself for a little till I see how things shape.  I only
want an answer to a few questions.'

He laughed.  'That was always your way, Dick.  You "keep your ain
fish-guts for your ain sea-mews," as they say in Scotland.  You
never let in the Yard till the fruitiest episodes are over.'

'I've done a good deal for you in my time,' I said.

'True.  And you may always count upon us to do our damnedest.'

Then he suddenly became serious.

'I'm going to talk to you like a grandfather, Dick.  You're not
ageing properly.'

'I'm ageing a dashed sight too fast,' I said.

'No, you're not.  We're all getting old, of course, but you're not
acquiring the virtues of age.  There's still an ineradicable
daftness about you.  You've been lying pretty low lately, and I had
hoped you had settled down for good.  Consider.  You're a married
man with a growing son.  You have made for yourself what I should
call a happy life.  I don't want to see you wreck it merely because
you are feeling restless.  So if it's only a craze for adventure
that is taking you into this business, my advice to you as a friend
is to keep out of it.'

He picked up the book he had been reading.

'Here's a text for you,' he said.  'It is Herodotus.  This is the
advice he makes Amasis give to his friend Polycrates.  I'll
translate.  "I know that the Gods are jealous, for I cannot
remember that I ever heard of any man who, having been constantly
successful, did not at last utterly perish."  That's worth thinking
about.  You've been amazingly lucky, but you mustn't press your
luck too far.  Remember, the Gods are jealous.'

'I'm not going into this affair for fun,' I replied.  'It's a solid
obligation of honour.'

'Oh, in that case I have no more to say.  Ask your questions.'

'Do you know anything about a fellow called Albinus, Erick Albinus?
A man about my own age--a Dane by birth who has lived in America
and, I should think, in many parts of the world?  Dabbles in
finance of a shady kind.'  I gave the best description I could of
how Albinus had looked thirty years ago, and what his appearance
to-day might be presumed to be.

Macgillivray shook his head.  'I can't place him.  I'll have our
records looked up, but to the best of my knowledge I don't know
anybody like him.  I certainly don't remember his name.'

'Well, then, what about a man called Lancelot Troth?'

'Now we're getting on familiar ground,' he said.  'I know a good
deal about Troth.  The solicitor, I suppose you mean?  He belongs
to a firm which has been going on for several generations and has
never been quite respectable.  The father was a bit of a rogue who
died years ago somewhere in Africa.  That was before my time, but
in the last ten years we have had to keep an eye on the activities
of the son.  He operates on the borderland of rather dubious
finance, but so far he has never quite crossed the frontier, though
sometimes he has had to be shepherded back.  Company promotion is
his chief line, and he is uncommonly clever at taking advantage of
every crack in our confused company law.  I thought we had him the
other day over the Lepcha business, but we were advised that a
prosecution would fail.  He has several side lines--does a good
deal of work for Indian rajahs which may now and then be pretty
shady--made a pot of money over greyhound-racing in its early days--
a mighty gambler, too, they tell me, and fairly successful.  Rich!
So-so.  Flush one day and hard up the next--he leads the apolaustic
life, and that's an expensive thing nowadays.'

I asked about his appearance and Macgillivray described him.  A man
in his early forties, strongly made, with the square, clean-shaven
face of his profession.  Like a cross between a Chancery barrister
and a Newmarket trainer.

'He doesn't make a bad impression at first sight,' he added.  'He
looks you in the face and he has rather pleasant eyes.  On the
occasions when I've met him I've rather liked him.  A tough, no
doubt, but with some of the merits of the breed.  I can imagine him
standing stiffly by his friends, and I have heard of him doing
generous things.  He's a bit of a sportsman too--keeps a six-ton
cutter, and can be seen on a Friday evening departing in old
clothes from his City office with his kit in a pillow-case.  If
your trouble is blackmail, Dick, and Troth is in it, it won't be
the ordinary kind.  The man might be a bandit, but he wouldn't be a
sneak-thief.'

Then I spoke the name of Barralty, and when he heard it
Macgillivray's attention visibly quickened.  He whistled, and his
face took on that absent-minded look which always means that his
brain or his memory is busy.

'Barralty,' he repeated.  'Do you know, Dick, you've an uncommon
knack of getting alongside interesting folk?  Whenever you've
consulted me it has always been in connection with gentry about
whom I was pretty curious myself.  Barralty--Joseph Bannatyne
Barralty!  It would take a cleverer man than me to expound that
intricate gentleman.  Did you ever see him?'

I said No--I had only heard of him for the first time that day.

'How shall I describe him?  In some lights he looks like a half-pay
colonel who inhabits the environs of Cheltenham.  Tallish, lean,
big-nose, high cheek-bones--dresses generally in well-cut flannels
or tweeds--age anything round fifty.  He has a moustache which has
gone grey at the tips, and it gives him a queer look of innocence.
That's one aspect--the English country gentleman.  In another light
he is simply Don Quixote--the same unfinished face, the same mild
sad eyes and general air of being lost that one associates with the
Don.  That sounds rather attractive, doesn't it?--half adventurer,
half squire?  But there's a third light--for I have seen him look
as ugly as sin.  The pale eyes became mean and shallow and hard,
the rudimentary features were something less than human, and the
brindled moustache with its white points looked like the tusks of
an obscene boar. . . .  I dare say you've gathered that I don't
much like Mr. Barralty.

'But I don't understand him,' he went on.  'First of all, let me
say that we have nothing against him.  He came down in the Lepcha
business, but there was never any suggestion against his character.
He behaved perfectly well, and will probably end by paying every
creditor in full, for he is bound to come on top again.  He has had
his ups and downs, and, like everybody in the City, has had to mix
with doubtful characters, but his own reputation is unblemished.
He doesn't appear to care for money so much as for the game.  Yet
nobody likes him, and I doubt if many trust him, though every one
admits his ability.  Now if you find a man unpopular for no
apparent reason, it is generally safe to assume some pretty rotten
patch in him.  I assume the patch all right in Barralty's case, but
I'm hanged if I can put my finger on it, or find anything to
justify my assumption except that now and then I've seen him look
like the Devil.'

I asked about his profession.

'He's a stockbroker--a one-man firm which he founded himself.  His
interests?  Not financial exclusively--indeed, he professes to
despise the whole money-spinning business.  Says he is in it only
to get cash for the things he cares about.  What are these?  Well,
yachting used to be one.  In the days of his power he had the
Thelma--six hundred tons odd--that might be the original link with
Troth.  Then he's a first-class, six-cylindered, copper-bottomed
highbrow.  A gentlemanly Communist.  An intellectual who doesn't
forget to shave.  The patron of every new fad in painting and
sculping and writing.  Mighty condescending about all that ordinary
chaps like you and me like, but liable to enthuse about
monstrosities, provided that they're brand-new and for preference
foreign.  I should think it was a genuine taste, for he has that
kind of rootless, marginal mind.  He backs his fancy too.  For
years he has kept the ---- going (Macgillivray mentioned a
peevishly superior weekly journal), and he imports at his own
expense all kinds of exponents of the dernier cri.  His line is
that he despises capitalism, as he despises all orthodoxies, but
that as long as the beastly thing lasts, he will try to make his
bit out of it, and spend the proceeds in hastening its end.  Quite
reasonable.  I blame nothing about him except his taste.'

'Isn't he popular with his progressive lot?' I asked.

Macgillivray shook his head.  'I should doubt it.  They flatter him
when necessary, and sponge on him, but I'm pretty certain they
don't like him.'

I asked if all this intelligentsia business might not be a dodge to
help Barralty's city interests.  It made him a new type of
financier, and simple folk might be inclined to trust a man who
declared that his only object in getting money was to prevent
anybody, including himself, piling it up in the future.

Macgillivray thought that there might be something in that.

'He's a cautious fellow.  His name is always being appended to
protests in the newspapers, but he keeps off anything too extreme.
His line is not the fanatic, but the superior critic of human
follies.  He does nothing to scare the investor. . . .  Well, I'll
keep an eye on him, and see if I can find out more about his
relations with Troth.  And the other fellow--what's his name--Erick
Albinus?  You've given me an odd triangle.'

As I was leaving, Macgillivray said one last thing, which didn't
make much impression at the time, but which I was to remember
later.

'I should back you against the lot, Dick.  They're not natural
criminals, and their nerve might crack.  The danger would be if
they got into the hands of somebody quite different--some really
desperate fellow--like yourself.'



I went down to Fosse next morning by the early train, and Haraldsen
duly arrived at midday.  He put up with my keeper Jack Godstow, who
had a roomy cottage in which I reserved a couple of rooms for
bachelor guns when Fosse was overcrowded during a big shoot.  I
hunted him up after tea, and we went for a walk on the Downs.

My impression of the day before was confirmed.  Haraldsen was as
sane as I was.  Whatever his trouble was, it was real enough, and
not a mental delusion.  But he was in an appalling condition of
nerves.  He was inclined to talk to himself under his breath--you
could see his lips moving, and he had a queer trick of grunting.
When we sat down he kept twitching his hands and fussing with his
legs, and he would suddenly go off into an abstraction.  He
admitted that he had been sleeping badly.  I was distressed by his
state, for he was a fifty per cent. sicker man than he had been at
Hanham in January.  I discovered that he had two terrors: one that
something very bad might at any moment happen to himself or his
daughter--especially his daughter.  The other was that this
miserable thing might simply drag on without anything happening,
and that he would be shut off for ever from his beloved home in the
north.

I did my best to minister to his tattered nerves.  I told him that
he was perfectly safe with me, and that I wouldn't let matters drag
on--Lombard and I would take steps to clear them up.  I encouraged
him to talk about his Island of Sheep, for it did him good to have
something pleasant to think about, and he described to me with
tremendous feeling the delight of its greenery and peace, the
summer days when it was never dark, the fresh, changing seas, the
tardy, delicate springs, the roaring, windy autumns, the long,
snug, firelit winters.

I impressed upon him that for the present he must lie low.  He
would have the run of the house and the library, and Mary and I
would see a lot of him, but to the countryside he must be an
invalid friend of a friend of mine, who had come to Fosse for quiet
and mustn't be disturbed.  Jack Godstow would take him out fishing
and show him the lie of the land.  I gathered that he had some
belongings scattered up and down London which he would like to have
beside him, and I said that I would arrange for Lombard to collect
them quietly and send them on.  But I chiefly told him to be quite
assured that this persecution was going to be brought to an end,
for I saw that it was only that hope which would soothe him.

I spoke confidently, but I hadn't a notion how it was to be done.
Haraldsen's safety depended on his being hidden away--I was quite
clear about that--so we couldn't draw the fire of his enemies so as
to locate them.  About these enemies I was wholly in the dark.  An
Americanized Dane, a shady sporting solicitor, a highbrow financier
who looked like Don Quixote and had just crashed; it didn't sound a
formidable combination.  I had only met one of them, Albinus, and
about him I only knew the episode at Mafudi's kraal; Macgillivray
rather liked Troth, and Barralty sounded unpleasant but
ineffective.  Yet the three were engaged in something which had put
the fear of death on a very decent citizen, and that had to be
riddled out and stopped.  There was nothing to do but to wait on
developments.  That night I wrote a long letter to Lombard, telling
him the result of my talk with Macgillivray, asking him to keep his
ears open for any news which would connect the three names, and
warning him that I might summon him at any moment.  As we went to
bed I told Mary that I had not much to do for the next few weeks,
and that I meant to devote them to getting Haraldsen back to an
even keel.

But next day I had news which upset all my plans.  Peter John at
school was stricken with appendicitis, and was to be operated on
that day.  Mary and I raced off at once and took rooms near the
nursing-home.  The operation went off well, and after two days,
which were purgatory to me and hell to Mary, he was pronounced to
be out of danger.  He made an excellent quick recovery, being as
healthy as a trout, but it was a fortnight before he was allowed
up, and three weeks before he left the home.  Then, since the
weather was hot, we took him to a seaside place on the East coast
for a couple of weeks, so it was not till the beginning of June
that we returned to Fosse.

Meanwhile I had heard nothing about Haraldsen.  Lombard and
Macgillivray had both been silent, and Jack Godstow had only
reported weekly that the gentleman was doing nicely and was looking
forward to the May-fly season.  When I got back to Fosse I expected
to find him rested and calmed and beginning to put on flesh, for
all these weeks he had been deep in country peace and must have
felt secure.

I found exactly the opposite.  Haraldsen looked worse than when I
had left him, leaner, paler, and his eyes had more of a hunted look
than ever.  He had little to say to me except to repeat his thanks
for my kindness.  No, he had not been disturbed; nothing had
happened to alarm him; he was quite well and had got back a bit of
his appetite, he thought; he wasn't sleeping so badly.  But all the
time his eyes were shifting about as if he expected any moment to
see something mighty unpleasant, and he started at every noise.  He
was the very model of a nervous wreck.

I had a long talk about him with Jack Godstow.  I won't attempt
Jack's dialect, for no words could reproduce the odd Cotswold lilt
and drawl, and the racy idiom of every sentence.  The gist of his
report was that Mr. Haraldsen was a difficult one to manage, since
he never knew his own mind.  He would make a plan to fish the
evening rise, and then change it and start out at midnight when
there was nothing doing.  He didn't like the daylight no more than
an owl, and he didn't like other folks neither, and would get
scared if he saw a strange face.  He was always asking about new
folk in the neighbourhood, but Lord bless you, said Jack, new folk
didn't come this way, except for an odd hiker or two, and the extra
hands for the hay harvest, and the motor gentry on the Fosse Way.
The gentleman needn't worry himself, and he had told him so, but it
was no good speaking.  I explained to Jack that my friend was a
sick man, and that part of his sickness was a dread of strange
faces.  Jack understood that and grinned.  'Like that new 'awk of
Master Peter John's,' he said.

The mention of Peter John gave me an idea.  The boy was not going
back to school that half, and was settling down to a blissful
summer at Fosse before he went north to Sandy Clanroyden at
Laverlaw.  He had six little kestrels sitting all day on the lawn,
and Morag on her perch in the Crow Wood, and a young badger called
Broccoli that rootled about in the stable straw and gave him heart
disease at night by getting down into the entrails of the
greenhouses.  He was still under a mild doctor's régime, but was
picking up strength very fast.  Haraldsen had taken to him at
Hanham, and I thought that his company might be wholesome for him.
So I asked him to take on the job of being a good deal with my
guest, for everything about Peter John suggested calm nerves and
solid reason.  There was something else in my mind.

'Mr. Haraldsen is an invalid,' I said, 'and must keep quiet.  He
has been through rather a beastly experience, which I'll tell you
about some day.  It's just possible that the experience isn't over
yet, and that some person or persons might turn up here who
wouldn't be well disposed to him.  I want you to keep your eyes
very wide open and let me know at once if you see or hear anything
suspicious.  By suspicious I mean something outside the usual--I
don't care how small it is.  We can't afford to take any chances
with Mr. Haraldsen.'

Peter John nodded and his face brightened.  He asked no questions,
but I knew that he had got something to think about.

Nothing happened for a week.  The boy did Haraldsen good; Mary and
I both noticed it, and Jack Godstow admitted as much.  He took him
to fish in the early mornings both in our little trout stream and
in the Decoy ponds.  He took him on the Downs in the afternoon to
fly Morag.  He took him into the woods after dinner to watch fox
cubs at play, and try to intercept Broccoli's cousin on his way
from his sett.  Haraldsen began to get some colour into his face,
and he confessed that he slept better.  I don't know what the two
talked about, but they must have found common subjects, for I could
hear them conversing vigorously--Peter John's slow, grave voice,
and Haraldsen's quicker, more staccato speech.  If we were making
no progress with Haraldsen's business we were at any rate mending
his health.

Then one evening Peter John came to me with news.

They had been out hawking with Morag on the Sharway Downs, and on
their way home had met a young man on horseback.  At first Peter
John had thought him one of the grooms from the Clipperstone Racing
Stables exercising a horse, but as they passed he saw that the
rider was not dressed like a groom.  He wore white linen breeches,
a smartly cut flannel coat, and an O.E. tie.  He had taken a good
look at the falconers, and the impression left by him on Peter John
was of a florid young man with a small dark moustache and slightly
projecting upper teeth.  To their surprise they met him again, this
time apparently in rather a hurry, for he was going at a quick
trot, and again he scrutinized them sharply.  Now, said my son,
that meant that he had made a circuit by the track that led to
Sharway Lodge Farm, and cut through the big Sharway Wood--not an
easy road, and possible only for one who knew the country.  Who was
this young man?  Did I know anybody like him, for he had never seen
him before?  Why was he so interested in the pair of them?

I said that he was no doubt a stranger who was intrigued by the
sight of the falcon, and wanted to have another look at it.

'But he didn't look at Morag,' was the answer.  'It was Mr.
Haraldsen that interested him--both times.  You might have thought
that he knew him and wanted to stop and speak.'

'Did Mr. Haraldsen recognize him?' I asked, and was told No.  He
didn't know him from Adam, and Peter John, not to alarm him, had
pretended he was one of the racing-stable people.

Two days later I had to be at Gloucester for the Agricultural Show.
When I was dressing for dinner in the evening Mary was full of the
visitors she had had that afternoon at tea.

'The Marthews, no less!' she said.  'I can't think what brought
them here, for Caythorp is thirty miles off and I scarcely know
them.  Claire Marthew was a god-daughter of one of my Wymondham
aunts--I used to meet her here in the old days when she was Claire
Serocold and a very silly affected girl.  She hasn't improved much--
her face lacquered like a doll's, and her eyes like a Pekinese,
and her voice so foolish it made one hot to hear it.  She's by way
of being uncommonly smart, and she babbled of grandees.  But she
was amiable enough, though I can't explain this sudden craving for
my society.  She brought her whole party with her--in several cars--
you never saw such a caravan.  Mostly women who had to be shown
the house and the garden--I wish I were a better show-woman, Dick,
for I become paralysed with boredom when I have to expound our
possessions.  There was one extraordinarily pretty girl, a Miss
Ludlow--a film actress, I believe, who was content to smile and
look beautiful.  There were a couple of young men, too, who didn't
say much.  I told Peter John to look after them, and I think he
took them to see the hunters at grass, and Morag, and Broccoli.  By
the way, I haven't seen him since.  I wonder what he's up to?'

Peter John was very late for dinner.  In theory he should have been
in bed by nine, but it was no good making rules for one whose
habits, in summer at any rate, were largely nocturnal.  At ten
o'clock, when I was writing letters in the library, he appeared at
my side.

'Did my mother tell you about the people who came to tea?' he
asked.  'There was a flock of them, and one was the man that Mr.
Haraldsen and I met on Tuesday--the chap on horseback who wanted to
have another look at us.'

'What was his name?' I asked.

'They all called him Frankie.  My mother thinks it was something
like Warrender--but not Warrender.  I took him to see the horses,
and he asked a lot of questions.'

'Wasn't there another man?' I asked.

'Yes, but he didn't count.  He was a sort of artist or antiquarian,
and couldn't be got away from the tithe-barn.  It was this Frankie
chap that mattered.  He made me take him all over the place, and he
asked me all sorts of questions about who lived here, and what
their jobs were, and who our friends were, and if many people came
to stay with us.  It would have been cheek in anybody else, but he
did it quite nicely, as if he liked the place enormously and wanted
to know all about it.  But you told me to look out for anything
suspicious, and I thought him a bit suspicious.

'And that isn't the end,' he went on.  'Frankie didn't go off with
the rest.  He started with them in a little sports car of his own,
but he turned off at the lodge gate and tucked away his car in the
track that leads to the old quarry.  I was following him and saw
him skirt the water-meadow and have a look at the back of Trimble's
cottage.  Then he moved on to Jack's, and lay up in the hazel clump
behind it, where he could get a good view.  I nipped in by the side
door, and luckily caught Mr. Haraldsen, who was just starting out,
and told him to stick indoors.  Frankie was so long in the clump
that I got tired of waiting and decided to flush him, so I made a
circuit and barged in beside him, pretending I had lost Broccoli.
He took it quite calmly, and said he was a keen botanist and had
stayed behind to look for some plant that he had heard lived here.
But he didn't want to stay any longer, so I saw him to his car, and
he socked me two half-crowns, and then I went back to give the "All
Clear" to Mr. Haraldsen.'

I told Peter John that he had done very well, and had better get
off to bed.  His story had disquieted me, for this Frankie man had
clearly been interested in Haraldsen, and it looked as if he had
spotted his lair.  That wasn't difficult, for, if there was anybody
at Fosse who was not staying in the house, Jack's cottage was the
only one big enough for a guest.  I cross-examined Mary about
Frankie, but she could tell me little.  He had seemed a very
ordinary young man, with pleasant manners and a vacant face--she
remembered his prominent teeth.  But she had got his name--not
Warrender, but Varrinder.  'He's probably the son of the snuffy old
Irish peer--Clongelt?--Clongelly?--who was said to be a money-
lender in Cork Street.'

It was, I think, three days later that Sandy Clanroyden came to
visit us.  He wired that he wanted exercise, and proposed that I
should meet him at a distant railway station, send his kit back in
the car, and walk with him the fifteen miles to Fosse.  We had a
gorgeous walk through the blue June weather, drank good ale at the
little pubs, and dropped down from the uplands nearly opposite our
lodge gates, where a wild field of stunted thorns formed the glacis
of the hills.  We had a clear view of a patch of highway, where two
men were getting into a little sports car.

Sandy sank to the ground as if he had been shot.  'Down, Dick,' he
commanded, and, after a long stare, fixed in his eye the little
single glass which he used for watching birds.  All I saw was two
young men, who seemed to be in rather a hurry.  One was hatless,
and the other had his hat pulled far down on his head.  At that
distance I couldn't be sure, but I had the impression that both
were a little the worse for wear, for their flannel suits didn't
seem to hang quite right on them.

When they had gone, Sandy pocketed his glass and grunted.  He
didn't say one word till we reached the house and were being
greeted by Mary.  Instead of replying to her inquiries about
Barbara, he asked, like a cross-examining counsel, if she had had
any visitors at Fosse that afternoon.

'Oh yes,' she said.  'The Varrinder youth, who came with the
Matthews, turned up again.  I told you about him, Dick.  He's a
great botanist, and there is something very rare here, which he
wanted to show to his friend.  He said that on his last visit he
had found the dwarf orchis.'

Sandy whistled.  'Not very clever,' he said.  'Ustulata is
impossible on this soil.  Who was his friend?'

'A Frenchman, a Monsieur Blanc.  Mr. Varrinder called him Pierre.'

'Describe him.'

Mary wrinkled her brows.  'A man about thirty-five or forty, I
should say.  Very slim and elegant and beautifully dressed.  A
queerly shaped head that rose to a peak, rather like a faun's--
clean-shaven, and with the kind of colour that people get from
living in hot climates.  His chin was paler than the rest of his
face, so I expect he once had a beard.  They wouldn't stay to tea--
only wanted permission to explore the home woods.'

'Did Peter John see them?' I asked.

'I don't know.  He has been out for the whole day, but he's back
now, for I heard his bath running.'

As I was showing Sandy his room he said solemnly, 'We must have a
long talk after dinner, Dick.'

'We must,' I said.  'I have a good deal I want to tell you.'

'And I have something rather startling to tell you,' he replied.



That night I brought Peter John into our conference, for I judged
that he had better know everything.  I began by going fully into
the Haraldsen business, of which, of course, Sandy knew nothing.  I
told him of my talk with Lombard, and my talks with Haraldsen
himself, and my conviction that the man was not dreaming, but was
really in danger.  I repeated what Macgillivray had told me about
Troth and Barralty.  I explained that I had thought it best to
bring him down to Fosse, which seemed to me a safe hiding-place.
Then I recounted what had happened since he came here, his growing
restlessness and misery, which Peter John seemed to be in the way
of curing, and finally the episode of young Varrinder.  I said that
I hadn't liked the business of that youth, for he appeared to have
a morbid interest in Haraldsen, and I told of his lying up behind
Jack's cottage, and I added that I liked less his coming here to-
day with his tale of a bogus orchis.  'Do you know anything about
him?' I asked.

'Not much,' said Sandy.  'I've heard of him.  He's reputed to be
something of a waster, gambles high at Dillon's, and so forth.  But
I can tell you a good deal about his friend Monsieur--Pierre--
Blanc.'  Sandy repeated the name slowly as if each syllable had its
flavour.

'Listen, Dick,' he said, 'and you, Peter John, though you'll have
to get your father to explain a lot afterwards.  I've told you
pretty fully the story of what happened in Olifa two years ago.*
You remember that the Gran Seco was a sort of port of missing
ships, where all kinds of geniuses and desperadoes who had crashed
their lives were inspanned in Castor's service.  They were like
the servants of the Old Man of the Mountain in the Crusades, and
drugged themselves into competence and comfort.  Well, you
know what happened.  The gang--they called themselves the
Conquistadores--was cleaned out.  Some were killed in our final
scrap, and the rest were bound to die slowly when they were
deprived of their dope.  There was one of them, almost the boldest,
called Jacques D'Ingraville, who had been in his day a famous
French ace.  He was as big a blackguard as the others, but more
wholesome, for, though he doped, his work in the air kept his body
from becoming quite so sodden.  I was never very sure what became
of him in the end.  We had no certain news of his death in the
fight at Veiro, but there was a strong probability that he had
stopped a bullet there, and anyhow, I knew that his number was up,
since the supply of astura was cut off.  I pictured him creeping to
some hole in South America or Europe to die.


* The tale of Lord Clanroyden's doings in Olifa will be found in
The Courts of the Morning.


'Well, I was wrong,' he continued.  'Alone of those verminous
Conquistadores--almost certainly alone--D'Ingraville lives.  And I
should say that he had recovered.  He looked quite a fit man when I
saw him this evening.'

Nobody spoke for a little.  To me the whole affair suddenly began
to wear a blacker complexion.  It wasn't so much the appearance of
D'Ingraville, for I had always suspected that Troth and Barralty
and Albinus were not the whole of the gang.  It was the fact that
they had managed to trace Haraldsen here in spite of all our care.
I reckoned that they must be far cleverer and more powerful than I
had believed, and that my job of standing by Haraldsen was going to
be a large-sized affair.  I suddenly felt very feeble, and rather
timid and old.  But the sight of Sandy's face cheered me, for
instead of being worried it was eager and merry.

'Who are in with you, Dick?' he asked.  'Only Lombard?  Well, I
think I must make a third.  Partly because I've been funnily mixed
up with Haraldsen, for Fate made me his father's legatee.  The jade
tablet was put in my hands for a purpose.  Partly because of
Monsieur le Capitaine Jacques D'Ingraville, alias Pierre Blanc.
He's too dangerous a lad to be left at large.  I haven't finished
my Olifa job till I have settled with him.  The time, I think, has
come for me to take a hand.'

He got up and found himself a drink.  I looked at him as he stood
half in the dusk, with the light of a single lamp on his face--not
much younger than me, but as taut as a strung bow and as active as
a hunting leopard.  I thought that Haraldsen's enemies had unloosed
a force of pretty high velocity.  Peter John must have thought the
same.  He had listened to our talk with his eyes popping out of his
head, and that sullen set of his face which he always wore when he
was strongly moved.  But as he looked at Sandy his solemnity broke
into a smile.

'I go up to town to-morrow,' said Sandy, 'and I must get busy.  I
want a good deal more information, and I have better means of
getting it than Macgillivray.  I wish I knew just how much time we
have.  The gang are on Haraldsen's track--that's clear--but the
question is, have they located him?  The Varrinder lad can't be
sure, or he wouldn't have come back twice. . . .  Of course they
may have done the business to-day.  I wonder how far they got this
evening?'

Peter John spoke.  'They didn't get very far.  They couldn't.  You
see, they both fell into the Mill pool.'

Sandy took his pipe from his mouth and beamed on the boy.  'They
fell into the Mill pool?  Explain yourself, my son.'

'I spotted them when they arrived,' said Peter John, 'and I knew
they would be a little time in the house anyhow, so I nipped off
and warned Mr. Haraldsen to keep cover.  When they came out I
trailed them.  They went through the garden to the High Wood, but I
was pretty certain that they meant to go to the hazel clump behind
Jack's cottage.  To get there they had to cross the Mill lead by
the plank bridge just above the pool.  The stone at the end of the
bridge isn't safe unless the planks are pushed well up the bank.
So I loosened it a bit more, and pulled down the planks so that
they rested on it.'

'Well?' Sandy and I demanded in one breath.

'They both fell into the pool, and it's pretty deep.  I helped to
pull them out and asked them to come up to the house to change.
They wouldn't, for they were very cross.  But Mr. Varrinder socked
me another five bob.'



CHAPTER VII

Lord Clanroyden Intervenes


Sandy departed next morning, and, as usual, was not communicative
about his plans.  I wanted him to see Haraldsen, but he said that
there was no need, and that the sooner he was in London the better.
He asked for Lombard's address and a line of introduction to him,
and his only instruction was to keep Haraldsen safe for the next
week.  He suggested that to look after him might be made a whole-
time job for Peter John.

Peter John took on the task joyfully, for here was something after
his own heart.  He worshipped Sandy, and to be employed by him
thrilled him to the marrow.  Besides, he had struck up with
Haraldsen one of those friendships that a shy, self-contained boy
very often makes with a shy man.  Haraldsen came twice to dinner
during the week after Sandy left, and there was no mistake about
the change for the better in his condition.  He spoke of his
daughter at school without the flicker of fear in his eyes which
had distressed me.  He was full of questions about our small
woodland birds, which were mostly new to him, and to which Peter
John was introducing him.  He was even willing to talk about his
Island of Sheep without a face of blank desolation.

Then on the morning of Midsummer Day I got a shock on opening my
Times.  For on the leader page was a long letter from Sandy, and it
was headed, 'The late M. E. Haraldsen.'

It told the story of the jade tablet and of how he had picked it up
in a Peking junk-shop.  He quoted the Latin in which Haraldsen had
said good-bye to the world, but he didn't mention the place where
the words had been written.  The letter concluded as follows:


'Marius Haraldsen was known to many as one of the most successful
prospectors and operators in the early days of the South African
gold-fields.  But his friends were aware that he was more than an
ordinary gold-seeker.  He had great dreams for his own Northern
peoples, and his life was dedicated, as in the case of Cecil
Rhodes, to building up a fortune for their benefit.  He must have
made great sums of money, but he always cherished the dream that
before his death he would find a true Ophir which would enable him
to realize fully his grandiose plans.  I met him on this quest in
the Middle East and others have met him elsewhere.  He was no
casual prospector, but, with ample means and the most scientific
methods, was engaged in following up the trail of earlier
adventurers.

'Now it would seem that before his death he had made good on the
biggest scale.  The jade tablet in my possession tells us that he
had found his treasure.  The inscription on the obverse no doubt
contains the details, for Marius Haraldsen was above all things a
practical man, and did not leave a task half finished.  The writing
is difficult, but when it is translated, as I hope it will shortly
be, the world will know something of what may well prove an epoch-
making discovery.

'Meantime, I thought that this interim report might give
satisfaction to the surviving friends of a great man and an
intrepid adventurer.'


The thing was signed 'Clanroyden,' and dated from Laverlaw, and the
Times had as its fourth leader a pleasant little essay on the
survival power of material objects and the ingenious ways of
Providence.

I pondered long over that letter.  The first thing that struck me
was that it was not written in Sandy's usual fastidious style.  It
was frank journalism, and must be meant to appeal to a particular
audience.

My second reflection was that I knew what that audience was.  It
was the gang who were persecuting Haraldsen's son.  Sandy, in so
many words, told them that the old man had brought off his great
coup, and that the Haraldsen fortune was potentially far bigger
than any of them had dreamed.  Here was a new strong scent for the
pack.

My last thought was that Sandy had now put himself into the centre
of the hunt.  Any one reading that letter must assume that he knew
all about the Haraldsen family and its affairs.  He wrote himself
down as the possessor of what might be worth millions--he professed
confidence about the meaning of the writing on the tablet and the
certainty of its being translated. . . .  His purpose was clear.
It was to draw off the hounds.

I wired to him at once at his London club asking when I could see
him, but I got no answer.  Instead I had a telegram in the
afternoon from Lombard requesting me to come at once to his country
house.  The telegram concluded:  'Lock up carefully behind you,'
and that could only have one meaning.  I brought up Haraldsen to
stay at the Manor, with instructions to Mary and Peter John not to
let him out of their sight, and by five o'clock I had started in
the car for Surrey.

I reached Lombard's house about half-past seven.  It was on the
skirts of an old-fashioned village which had become almost a London
suburb by the building of a ring of big villas round it.  The house
wasn't bad of its kind, a pseudo-Georgian edifice of red brick with
stone facings, and its six acres or so of ground had been shaped
into a most elaborate garden.  There was a sample of everything--
miniature park, lily pond, water-garden, pergolas, arbours, yards
of crazy paving; and he must have kept a largish staff of
gardeners, for the place was blazing with flowers and manicured to
the last perfection.  Fosse was a shabby, old farm-house compared
to it.  It was the same indoors.  Everything was shining white
enamel, and polished wood, and glowing brass and copper.  Some of
the pictures looked to me good, but they were over-varnished and
too pretentiously framed.  There was overmuch glitter about the
place, the masses of cut flowers were too opulent, the red lacquer
was too fresh, there was no sober background to give the eye
relief.

In the drawing-room I found the Lombards, and I recognized the
inspiration which had created this glossiness.  His wife, whom I
had caught a glimpse of at the station in the preceding autumn,
proved to be the most sumptuous of Lombard's possessions.  She was
dressed, I remember, in white and purple, and she had a wonderful
cluster of orchids at her breast.  As a girl she must have been
lovely, and she was still a handsome woman of the heavy Madonna
type--a slightly over-coloured Madonna.  Being accustomed to slim
people like Mary and Barbara Clanroyden and Janet Raden, I thought
her a little too 'fair of flesh,' in the polite phrase of the
ballads.  I learned afterwards that she had been a tempestuous
beauty, and well-dowered as well, for it was his marriage that
first launched Lombard on his career.

'We are not to wait,' she told me.  'The fourth of our little party
may be late.  And we are not to use names, please, at table.
Barton (that was the butler) is a confidential person, but it is
not desirable that anybody else should know who is dining here.  So
you are to be Dick, please, and the fourth will be Sandy.  These
are Lord Clanroyden's own instructions.'

Dinner was announced, and I hadn't been seated five minutes at the
table before I had Mrs. Lombard placed.  She was a warm-hearted
woman, without much brains, but with certain very definite tastes,
and she dominated her environment.  She was deeply in love with
Lombard and he with her, and, since they had no children, each had
grown into the other's ways.  He had been swallowed up in the
featherbed of her vast comfortableness, but she in turn had caught
a spark from him, for she had a queer passion for romance, which I
don't think she could have been born with.  She amazed me by the
range and variety of her not very intelligent reading, she had odd
sensitive strains in her, and she sat in her suburban paradise
expectant of marvels.  Lombard had probably not told her very much
about the present business, but he had told her enough to thrill
her.  I found her eyes looking at me sometimes just like an excited
child, and I could see that she anticipated the coming of Sandy
almost with awe.  A few people no doubt knew my name, but half the
world knew Sandy's.

He did not appear till the June twilight filled the big french
windows, through which he slipped as if he had been a guest staying
in the house.  Barton and a footman were in the room at the time,
and Mrs. Lombard behaved as if he were an old friend.  'So glad to
see you at last, Sandy,' she said.  'I hope you had a pleasant
journey.'

'Pleasant but longish,' he said.  'The air is the best route on a
summer night.  What a jolly place!  I never smelt such roses.'

'Have you come from Laverlaw?' I asked when we were alone.

'No, only from London.  But I didn't think it wise to come direct.
I've been half round the southern counties, and I did the last
stage on a bicycle--from Heston.  You must give me a lift back
there in your car, Dick.'

Sandy made an excellent meal and set himself to draw out Mrs.
Lombard.  I could see that he was asking himself the same question
that I had asked, what part she played in her husband's life; and I
think that he reached the same conclusion.  She was not going to
make any difficulties.  Soon he had her talking about all her
interests, the pleasantness of the neighbourhood, her brief season
in London, her holiday plans--it was to be the Pyrenees, but her
husband might not get away till later in the summer.  He looked on
her with favour, for her kindness and comeliness were manifest, and
the embarrassment left her eyes as she spoke to him, not as a
notable, but as a sympathetic human being.  She had a delicious
voice, and her prattle was the most soothing thing conceivable.  It
explained Lombard's smug contentment with his life, but it
convinced me that in that life the lady was not an active force.
She would neither spur nor impede him.

In the library after dinner I got my notion of Lombard further
straightened out, for the room was a museum of the whole run of his
interests.  Sandy, who could never refrain from looking round any
collection of books, bore me out.  The walls on three sides were
lined to the ceiling with books, which looked in the dim light like
rich tapestry hangings.  Lombard had kept his old school and
college texts, and there was a big section on travel, and an
immense amount of biography.  He had also the latest works on
finance, so he kept himself abreast of his profession.  But the
chief impression left on me was that it was the library of a man
who did not want the memory of any part of his life to slip from
him--a good augury for our present job.

'I've burned my boats, as you saw from the Times this morning,'
said Sandy.  'I dare say you guessed the reason.  The pace was
becoming too hot--for Haraldsen.'

'How about yourself?' said Lombard.

'I have better wind and a better turn of speed,' was the answer.
He filled his pipe, and sat himself crosswise in an armchair with
his legs dangling over an arm.

'What do you make of Haraldsen, Dick?' he asked.  'Apart from his
father and all that, is he worth taking trouble about?'

'Yes,' I said firmly.  'I have come to like him enormously.  He is
a high-strung being and has gone through a very fair imitation of
hell, but there's no crack in his brain, and I'm positive there is
none in his character.'

'Apart from the old man, and your promise, and one's general
dislike of letting the Devil have the upper hand, you think he's
worth saving?'

'Most certainly I do.'

'Good,' said Sandy.  'I asked, because this affair looks like being
infernally troublesome, and it is as well to be sure about the
principal personage. . . .  Well, I haven't let the grass grow
under my feet since I saw you last.  I've seen Macgillivray, who
didn't know much, but gave me some hints that were more useful than
he imagined.  Lombard here has been doing good work on the Barralty
trail--by the way, the reason why I've been so melodramatic about
coming here to-night is that Lombard must be kept free from
suspicion as long as possible, or half his usefulness goes.  I'm
deeply suspect by this time; so are you, Dick; but Lombard has
still a clean sheet.  And I can assure you that the people we are
up against are very active citizens.  Chiefly, I've been busy with
some of my old channels--very nearly silted up, some of them were,
and one way and another I've convinced myself that Haraldsen is the
quarry of a very dangerous and desperate gang.  The most dangerous
kind, for they range from stolid respectability down to the
dirtiest type of criminal.  They have every weapon in their
armoury, and they are organized like an American football team.'

'Hold on,' I said, much impressed, for Sandy didn't use words like
'dangerous' or 'desperate' very readily.  'I don't quite see their
purpose.  I can understand a vulgar attempt to blackmail a simple
Norlander.  But isn't this organization you speak of a bit too
elaborate, like using a steam-hammer to crack a nut?'

'No,' was the reply, 'for the possible reward is immense.  Quite
apart from what my jade tablet may have to contribute, old
Haraldsen's fortune was very large.  Those blackguards could milk
his son to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not
millions.  Lombard has been good enough to verify that.'

'It took some doing,' said Lombard; 'but I had a pull with the
Scandinavian banks.  Haraldsen holds the bulk of the preference
stock in'--he mentioned some famous companies--'and he has
ludicrous balances on current account.'

Sandy nodded.  'There's no doubt then about the bigness of the
prize.  And it should have been easy fruit.  They had only to get
hold of Haraldsen, a shy, unworldly recluse, to strip him bit by
bit of his possessions--all by proper legal process.  The man's a
baby in these things.  I can see him in Troth's hands assigning
great blocks of his gilt-edged stuff--for consideration, of course,
such as a holding in some of Barralty's shaky concerns.  Then there
would be a little peace for him, and then another cut at the joint.
All very simple and pleasant, if ugly snags like us three hadn't
got in the way.  We won't be popular in certain quarters.'

'Have you a line on the gang?' I asked.

'So-so,' he said.  'I know a good deal about Troth, not all to his
disadvantage.  He has his enemies and plenty of critics, but he has
also his friends.  A sharp practitioner, of course, but there's
more in his persecution of Haraldsen than mere greed.  I haven't
got the facts quite straight yet, but at the back there is some
kind of family vendetta, which he inherited from his father.  The
elder Troth and the elder Haraldsen were once partners on the Rand,
and I gather that they were together in a big venture which turned
out well.  Troth did something dirty, and Haraldsen kicked him out,
as apparently he was justified in doing under their contract.  But
Troth thought that he had been badly treated and was entitled to
his share in the profits of the big coup, and he was determined to
make Haraldsen disgorge.  That was the reason of the scrap on the
Rhodesian hills you told me about.  Troth believed that he was
trying to get what belonged to him, and his son is on the same
tack.  Also, I suppose, Albinus.'

'Have you got in touch with Albinus?' I asked.

'Yes, and it wasn't hard.  He's quite a prominent figure in his own
line.  He has lived for the last two years in a fashionable West-
End hotel, and done himself pretty well.  He seems to be
comfortably off, for, though he does a little in the City, he
spends most of his time amusing himself--races a bit and patronizes
the drama, and entertains lavishly.  Quite a popular citizen.  I
had him pointed out to me at Epsom--a fellow a little more than
your own age, Dick, who has kept his figure as well as you have,
but far better dressed than you could ever hope to be.  His hair
has gone grey, and he has the air of a retired cavalry colonel.  I
didn't care for his looks, for I don't like a face that is
perpetually smiling while the eyes never change, but people don't
seem to mind him.  He's a member of ----.'  And he mentioned a
highly respectable club.  'They say his finances are dicky.'

Lombard nodded.  'I heard for a fact that his bank has pulled him
up about his overdraft.  He has been too thick with Barralty.'

'Ah!  Barralty!'  Sandy's face took on that look of intense
absorption which meant that his interest was really awakened.
'There's the puzzler.  I can place Troth and Albinus--they're
types--but Barralty is his own species and genus.  I've been
collecting data about him and it's mighty interesting.  It's going
to take us a long time to get the measure of that lad.  But I've
managed to see him--from a distance, and I confess I was
fascinated.'

Sandy laughed.

'I got a young friend to take me to a party--golly, such a party!
I was a French artist in a black sweater, and I hadn't washed for a
day or two.  A surréaliste, who had little English but all the
latest Paris studio argot.  I sat in a corner and worshipped, while
Barralty held the floor.  It was the usual round-up of rootless
intellectuals, and the talk was the kind of thing you expect--
terribly knowing and disillusioned and conscientiously indecent.  I
remember my grandfather had a phrase for the smattering of cocksure
knowledge which was common in his day--the "culture of the
Mechanics' Institute."  I don't know what the modern equivalent
would be--perhaps the "culture of the B.B.C."  Our popular sciolism
is different--it is a smattering not so much of facts as of points
of view.  But the youths and maidens at this party hadn't even that
degree of certainty.  They took nothing for granted except their
own surpassing intelligence, and their minds were simply nebulae of
atoms.  Well, Barralty was a king among those callow anarchists.
You could see that he was of a different breed from them, for he
had a mind, however much he debased it.  You could see too that he
despised the whole racket.'

'What is he like?' I asked, for I had never had him properly
described to me.

'Quite ordinary, except for his eyes.  His pupils don't appear to
be quite in the centre of the eyeballs, but rather high up, so he
has always the air of looking over your head.  And those pupils are
intensely bright.  An impressive face, but the more repellent the
more you look at it.  I have only begun my study of Mr. Barralty,
but I have reached one firm conclusion.  The man is inordinately,
crazily ambitious.  He has to assert himself even if it is only to
be a Pope among the half-baked.  I should say that he had about as
much morals as a polecat, but he has what often does fairly well as
a substitute, worldly wisdom.  He is a cautious fellow, and up to
now he has kept his feet on a very slippery floor, at least as far
as repute goes.  He wants to keep that repute, but he must have
money, great quantities of money, so that he can prove to the world
that a fastidious and cynical intellectual can beat the philistines
at their own game.  It's one version of the Grand Manner that our
ancestors used to talk about.  Do you follow me?  Do you see how
tempting the Haraldsen affair must be to him?  Here is something
quite secret and far away from the ordinary swim, which promises
immense loot and not a word said.  I think we can be certain that
he is the brain in the enterprise and will get the biggest share.
And that he won't stick at trifles.  I can imagine Troth having
scruples, but not Barralty.'

Sandy's tone was so grave that for a moment there was silence.
Then I felt bound to put in a word of caution.

'You realize,' I said, 'that we are taking all this story of a plot
on Haraldsen's word?'

'I do,' he said.  'That's why we must go slowly and wait on
developments.'

'And the other two,' I said.  'We have nothing to link the young
Varrinder and your Conquistador friend with the business except
that they seem to have come sniffing round Haraldsen.'

'True,' was the answer.  'On that point we have no evidence, only
suspicions.  Therefore we must go very cannily.  But not too
cannily, or we may be caught.  Who was it said that behind every
doubt there lurked an immoral certainty?  We must take suspicions
for facts till they are disproved, for I don't think that in this
affair we can afford to give away any weight.  I'm coming in,
partly because I don't like the Devil to score, and partly because
I'm pretty certain that D'Ingraville is in it, and I have a
rendezvous with D'Ingraville as long as he is above the sod.
Therefore I'm going to follow my instinct and treat the thing
seriously from the start.  Our immediate duty is to safeguard
Haraldsen.'

'Your Times letter to-day will help,' I said.

'It is a step in the right direction.  But only a step.  We must
make it impossible for those blackguards to get at his money.  So
Lombard and I have made certain arrangements.  To-morrow morning he
goes back with you to Fosse with a bagful of papers which Haraldsen
will sign.  I assume that he'll agree, for it's the only way.
We're making a trust of his possessions, with several most
responsible trustees, and he must give Lombard his power of
attorney.  He will have enough free income for his modest needs,
but till the trust is revoked he won't be able to touch the
capital.  That means that there can be no coercion on him to part
with his fortune without considerable delays and a good many people
knowing about it.'

'That sounds common sense,' I said.  'But will the gang that is
after him ever discover it?'

'I shall take steps to see that they are informed,' he replied.  'I
want to get them off his trail and gunning for me.  My Times letter
will have put them on my track.  By the way, I propose presently to
announce in the same admirable newspaper that I intend to present
old Haraldsen's jade tablet to the British Museum.'

'Whatever for?' I asked.

Sandy grinned in his impish way.  'More ground bait.  They won't
believe it.  They'll think it's a dodge to put them off the scent.
They'll think too that something has happened to rattle me, which
is what I intend.  I don't want them to consider me too formidable.
They'll fumble for a little and make one or two false casts, but
soon I shall have the pack in full cry.'

It seemed to me that Sandy was going a little beyond the mark in
his quixotry, and I told him so.  His face was so lit up and eager
that I thought it was simply another ebullition of the boy in him
that could not die, and I reminded him he was a married man.  That
at once made him grave.

'I know, Dick,' he said.  'I've thought of that.  But Barbara would
be the first to agree.  It isn't only saving Haraldsen, poor devil,
though that is a work of necessity and mercy.  It's putting a spoke
in D'Ingraville's wheel, for if that sportsman is left on the loose
there will be hell to pay for others than Haraldsen.  You needn't
worry about me, for as I've told you, they're bound to fumble at
the start.  They won't know what to make of me, and, if I may say
it modestly, they may be a little worried.  Presently, they'll pull
themselves together, but not just yet.  I must put in a week or two
in London.  I'll stay at the club, which I don't fancy they'll
attempt to burgle.  Violence won't be their line, at least not at
the start.  You see, I must get a line on D'Ingraville to make
sure.'

I asked him how he proposed to get that, and he said 'Varrinder.  I
have found out a good deal about that lad, and I think I may make
something of him.  He's still only a novice in crime, and his nerve
isn't steady.  I fancy he may be turned into what the French police
call an indicateur, half-apache and half-informer.  We shall see.
And meantime, Dick, I have a whole-time job for you.  You are
responsible for Haraldsen.'

He spoke the last sentence in the tone of a general giving orders
to his staff.  There was nothing boyish now about his face.

'Haraldsen,' he said, 'is the key of the whole business.  I can't
think how on earth he has escaped them so long.  Probably his
blundering simplicity.  If he had been cleverer most likely they
would have caught him.  Well, we can't afford to let them catch
him.  God knows what might happen if they got a weak-nerved fellow
into their clutches!  Apart from what he might be made to suffer
there's a good chance that they might win, for a trust can be
revoked, and I can imagine a shattered Haraldsen giving them all
the legal authority they want.  He's our Achilles-heel, and we must
guard him like a child.  And there's the daughter, too, the little
girl at school--I'm not easy about her if her father is left
anywhere in the neighbourhood.  It's a queer business to have as
our weak point a neurotic Viking.  All the same, I've a notion that
in the last resort Haraldsen might surprise us--might go clean
berserk and turn and rend them.  I don't know him, but I remember
the old man.'

'You mean that Fosse isn't safe?' I asked.

'Just that.  It is almost certain that they have their eyes on it
already, and even if they haven't they soon will have.  It doesn't
do to underrate the intelligence of that crowd.  The place is not
much more than seventy miles from London on a knuckle of upland
accessible from every side--with a trunk road close to your gates,
and hikers and tourists thick around it all summer.  You're as
defenceless as an old sow basking in the sun.  Your own people are
trusty, but your frontiers are too wide to watch.  You must get
yourself into a sanctuary, and there's one place only that fills
the bill.'

I asked its name, but I had already guessed the answer.

'Laverlaw,' he said.  'I want you to shift your camp there at once--
you and Mary and Peter John and Haraldsen.  You'll only be
antedating your yearly visit by a few weeks.  There's nothing to
keep you in the south, is there?'

'Nothing,' I said.  'But are you sure it's wise?  They're still
doubtful about Fosse, but now that you're in the business, they
will be certain about Laverlaw.'

'I mean them to be,' he replied.  'The fight must come, and I want
to choose my own ground for it.  Fosse is hopeless--Laverlaw pretty
well perfect.  Not a soul can show his face in that long glen of
mine without my people knowing it.  Not a stray sheep can appear on
my hills without my shepherds spotting it.  Not the smallest
unfamiliar thing can happen but it is at once reported.  Haraldsen
will be safe at Laverlaw till we see how things move.  You remember
in the Medina business that I advised you to get straight off to
Machray?  Well, Laverlaw is as good as any Highland deer forest--
better, for there are more of my own folk there.  So, Dick, you've
got to move to Laverlaw at once--as inconspicuously as possible,
but at once.  I've warned Babs, and she's expecting you.'

I saw the reason in Sandy's plan, but I wasn't quite happy.  For I
remembered what he seemed to have forgotten, that when I went to
Machray to keep out of Medina's way I had had an uncommonly close
shave for my life.




PART II

Laverlaw



CHAPTER VIII

Sanctuary


Laverlaw, Mary used to say, was her notion of the end of the world.
It is eight miles from a railway station and the little village of
Hangingshaw, and the road to it follows a shallow valley between
benty uplands till the hills grow higher, and only the size of the
stream shows that you have not reached the glen head.  Then it
passes between two steep hillsides, where there is room but for it
and the burn, rounds a corner, and enters an amphitheatre a mile or
two square, bounded by steep heather hills, with the Lammer Law
heaving up its great shoulders at the far end.  The amphitheatre is
the park of the castle, mountain turf, diversified with patches of
the old Ettrick Forest and a couple of reedy lakes.  The house
stands at the junction of four avenues of ancient beeches--the keep
thirteenth century, most of it late sixteenth century, and nothing
more modern than the Restoration wing built by Bruce of Kinross.
There are lawns and pleasaunces and a wonderful walled garden, and
then you are among heather again, for the moorlands lap it round as
the sea laps a reef.

All the land for miles is Sandy's, and has been in his family for
centuries, and though there is another property--Clenry Den, in
Fife, from which, by an absurd eighteenth-century transformation,
they take their title of Clanroyden--Laverlaw has always been their
home.  From Hangingshaw southward there are no dwellings but hill-
farms and shepherds' cottages.  Beyond the containing walls of the
valley lie heathy uplands hiding an infinity of glens and burns,
nameless except to herds and keepers and the large-scale Ordnance
map.  The highway stops short at the castle, and beyond it a drove
road tracks the ultimate waters of the Laver, and makes its way, by
a pass called the Raxed Thrapple, to the English Border.  The place
is so perfect that the first sight of it catches the breath, for it
is like a dream of all that is habitable and gracious; but it is
also as tonic as mid-ocean and as lonely as the African veld.

I took Haraldsen and Peter John from Fosse by road, while Mary with
maid and baggage and Jack Godstow travelled by rail by way of
London.  I had always made a practice of taking my keeper Jack to
Laverlaw on our annual visits, partly that he might act as my
loader at grouse-drives, and partly to give him a holiday in a
different sort of world.  Also he made a wonderful gillie and
companion for Peter John.  Jack was a living disproof of the legend
that the English countryman is not adaptable.  He was in bone and
fibre a Cotswold man, and yet wherever he went he met friends, and
he had a knack of getting right inside whatever new life he was
introduced to.  There was something about him that attracted good
will--his square face with little greying side whiskers, and his
steadfast, merry, brown eyes.

So in the first days of July there was a very pleasant party at
Laverlaw--Barbara Clanroyden and her daughter, Mary, Haraldsen,
Peter John, and myself.  But there was no Sandy.  I gave him a lift
to the aerodrome that night we met at Lombard's house, and since
then I had seen nothing of him.  I had an address in London, not a
club but a bank, to which I wrote to report our arrival, but for
days I had no word from him.  He was publicly supposed to be at
Laverlaw, for the press had announced his arrival there and his
intention of staying for the rest of the summer.  The Scotsman and
the local papers chronicled his presence at local functions, like
the Highland Show, the wedding of a neighbour's daughter, and a
political fête at a house on the other side of the shire.  But I
was certain that he had never left London, and when I met his
factor by chance and asked for information, I found that gentleman
as sceptical as myself.  'If his lordship had come north I would
have seen him,' he said, 'for there's some important bits of
business to put through.  These newspapers are oftener wrong than
right.'

In a week the place had laid such a spell on us that Fosse was
almost forgotten, and the quiet of the glen seemed to have been
about us since the beginning of time.  The post came late in the
afternoons, bringing the papers, but my day-late Times was rarely
opened, and I did my scanty correspondence by post cards and
telegrams.  It was still, bright weather with a light wind from the
east, and all day we were out in the strong sunshine.

If we saw no strangers there was a perpetual interest in our little
colony itself.  There were the two keepers, Sim and Oliver, both
long-legged Borderers whose forbears had been in the same glen
since the days of Kinmont Willie, and who now and then in their
speech would use phrases so vivid and memorable that I understood
how the great ballads came to be written.  There was the head
shepherd Stoddart--Sandy kept one of the farms in his own hands--a
man tough and gnarled as an oak-root, who belonged to an older
dispensation.  He had the long stride and the clear eye of his
kind, and his talk was a perpetual joy to us, for in his soft,
lilting voice he revealed a lost world of pastoral.  Under his
tuition I became quite learned about sheep, and I would accompany
him when he 'looked the hill,' and thereby got the hang of a wide
countryside.  Also to my delight I found Geordie Hamilton, the
Scots Fusilier who had been my batman in the War.  He had been
mixed up with Sandy in his South American adventure, and had been
installed at Laverlaw as a sort of 'Laird's Jock,' a factotum who
could put his hand to anything, and whose special business it was
to attend his master out-of-doors, much what Tom Purdey was to Sir
Walter Scott.  Geordie had changed little; his stocky figure and
his mahogany face and sullen blue eyes were the same as I
remembered; but above the ears there was a slight grizzling of the
shaggy dark hair.

The days passed in a delightful ease.  We walked and rode over the
hills, and picnicked by distant waters.  The streams were low and
the fishing was poor, though Peter John did fairly well in the
lochs, and got a three-pounder one evening in the park lake with
the dry fly.  It was only a month to the Twelfth, so Morag the
falcon was not permitted on the moors, but he amused himself with
flying her at pigeons and using her to scare the hoodies.  The
months at Laverlaw had made Barbara well again, and she and Mary,
with their clan about them, were happy; even Sandy's absence was
not much of a drawback, for his way was the wind's way, and any
hour he might appear out of the void.  It was lotus-eating weather
in a land which might have been Tir-nan-Og, so remote it seemed
from mundane troubles.  When I gave a thought to my special problem
it was only to remind myself that for the moment we were utterly
secure.  The pedlar who took the Laverlaw round from Hangingshaw
had his coming advertised hours in advance; the baker's and
butcher's carts had their fixed seasons and their familiar drivers;
and any stranger would be noted and talked over by the whole glen;
while, as for the boundary hills, the shepherds were intelligence-
officers who missed nothing.  All the same I thought it wise to
warn the keepers and Stoddart and Geordie Hamilton that I had a
private reason for wanting to be told in good time of the coming of
any stranger, and I knew that the word would go round like a fiery
cross.

We were all lapped in peace, but the most remarkable case was
Haraldsen.  It may have been the stronger air, for we were four
hundred miles farther north, or the belief that here he was safe,
but he lost his hunted look, he no longer started at a sudden
sound, and he could talk without his eyes darting restlessly
everywhere.  He began to find an interest in life, and went fishing
with Peter John and Jack, accompanied the keepers and Stoddart on
their rounds, and more than once joined me in a long stride among
the hills.

It was not only ease that he was gaining.  The man's old interests
were reviving.  His Island of Sheep, which he had been shutting out
of his thoughts, had returned to his mind while he was delighting
in the possessions of another.  Laverlaw was so completely a home,
that this homeless man began to think of his own.  I could see a
longing in his eyes which was not mere craving for safety.  As we
walked together he would talk to me of the Norlands, and I could
see how deep the love of them was in his bones.  His mental trouble
was being quieted by the renascence of an old affection.  Once in
the late afternoon we halted on the top of the Lammer Law to drink
in the view--the glen of the Laver below us with the house and its
demesne like jewels in a perfect setting, the far blue distances to
the north, and all around us and behind us a world of grey-green or
purple uplands.  He drew a long breath.  'It is Paradise,' he said;
'but there is one thing wanting.'  And when I asked what that was,
he replied, 'The sea.'

Yet at the back of my head there was always a slight anxiety.  It
was not for the present but for the future.  I did not see how our
sanctuary could be attacked, but this spell of peace was no
solution of the problem.  We could not go on living in Laverlaw in
a state of mild siege.  I had no guess at what Sandy was after,
except that he was unravelling the machinations of Haraldsen's
enemies; that knowledge was no doubt essential, but it did not mean
that we had defeated them.  We were only postponing the real
struggle.  My one solid bit of comfort was that Haraldsen was
rapidly getting back to normal.  If he went on as he was going, he
would soon be a possible combatant in any scrap, instead of an
embarrassment.

Then one day that happened which woke all my fears.  I had told
Peter John that Haraldsen was in danger, and warned him to be very
much on the watch for anything or anybody suspicious.  This was
meat and drink to him, for it gave him a job infinitely more
attractive than the two hours which he was supposed to devote to
his books every morning.  I could see him cock his ears whenever
Sim or Geordie had any piece of news.  But till this particular day
nothing came of his watchfulness.

It was the day of the sheep-clipping at the Mains of Laverlaw, the
home farm.  The two hill hirsels had been brought down to the valley
the night before, and were penned in great folds beside the stream.
Beyond was a narrow alley which admitted them in twos and threes to
a smaller fold where the stools of the shearers were set up.  At
dawn the men had assembled--Stoddart and his young shepherd, whose
name was Nickson, and the herds from the rest of the Laverlaw
estate, many of whom had walked a dozen moorland miles.  There were
the herds of the Lanely Bield, and Clatteringshaws, and Drygrain,
and Upper and Nether Camhope, and the two Lammers, and a man from
the remotest corner of Sandy's land, the Back Hill of the Cludden,
who got his letters only once a fortnight, and did not see a
neighbour for months.  And there were dogs of every colour and age,
from Stoddart's old patriarch Yarrow, who was the doyen of the
tribe, to slim, slinking young collies, wild as hawks to a stranger,
but exquisitely skilled in their trade and obedient to the slightest
nod of their masters.  On this occasion there was little for them to
do; it was their holiday, and they dozed each in his owner's shadow,
after a stormy morning of greetings with their kind.

We all attended the clipping.  It was a very hot day, and the air
in the fold was thick with the reek of sheep and the strong scent
of the keel-pot, from which the shorn beasts were marked with a
great L.  I have seen a good deal of shearing in my time, but I
have never seen it done better than by these Borderers, who wrought
in perfect silence and apparently with effortless ease.  The
Australian sheep-hand may be quicker at the job, but he could not
be a greater artist.  There was never a gash or a shear-mark, the
fleeces dropped plumply beside the stools, and the sheep, no longer
dingy and weathered but a dazzling white, were as evenly trimmed as
if they had been fine women in the hands of a coiffeur.  It was too
smelly a place for the women to sit in long, but twenty yards off
was crisp turf beginning to be crimsoned with bell-heather, and the
shingle-beds and crystal waters of the burn.  We ended by camping
on a little hillock, where we could look down upon the scene, and
around to the hills shimmering in the heat, and up to the deep blue
sky on which were etched two mewing buzzards.

We had our luncheon there, when the work stopped for the midday
rest, and Haraldsen and I went down afterwards to smoke with the
herds.  The clipping meal at Laverlaw was established by ancient
precedent.  There was beer for all, but whisky only for the older
men.  There were crates of mutton-pies for which the Hangingshaw
baker was famous, and baskets of buttered scones and oatcakes and
skim-milk cheese.  The company were mighty trenchermen, and I
observed the herd of the Back Hill of the Cludden, to whom this was
a memorable occasion, put away six pies and enough cakes and cheese
to last me for a week.

After that we went home, but Peter John stayed behind, for he had
decided to become a sheep-farmer and was already deep in the
confidence of the herds.  In the afternoon I took Haraldsen to
visit the keep of Hardriding ten miles off, an ancient tooth of
masonry on a crag by a burn.  I remember thinking that I had never
seen him in better spirits, for his morning at the clipping seemed
to have cheered him by its spectacle of decent, kindly folk.

When we got back just before dinner I found Peter John waiting for
me with a graver face than usual.

There had been visitors, it appeared, at the clipping that
afternoon.  One was Little, the auctioneer from Laverkirk.  That
was to be expected, for 'Leittle,' as the countryside pronounced
his name, was a famous figure in the shire, a little red-faced man
with a gift of broad humour, whose jokes in the sale-ring were
famous through the Lowlands.  But he had also a rough side to his
tongue, and this, with his profound knowledge of black-faced sheep,
made him respected as well as liked.  He was a regular guest at the
Laverlaw clippings, and was a special friend of Stoddart's.  But he
had brought a friend with him whom nobody had met before.  Peter
John described him carefully.  An average-sized man, quite young,
with a small, well-trimmed moustache like a soldier.  He wore
riding breeches and cloth gaiters, and a check cap, and carried a
shooting-stick.  He was Scotch and spoke broadly, but not in the
local fashion--Stoddart thought he must come from Dumfries way.
His name was Harcus, and Little had introduced him as a rising
dealer whom they would soon hear more of, and who was on holiday,
taking a look at the Laver Water flocks.  He seemed to know a lot
about Cheviot sheep.

'Well, he sounds harmless enough,' I said, when I had heard his
story.  'A dealer is the kind of fellow you'd expect at a clipping,
and if Little brought him he must be all right.'

But I could see from the boy's face that he was not satisfied.

'I didn't much like him,' he said.  'He was too soft-spoken, and he
wanted to know too much.  Geordie Hamilton said he would "speir the
inside out of a whelk."  He asked all about who was staying here,
and if Lord Clanroyden was still here.  He said a lot of nice
things about Lord Clanroyden which Mr. Stoddart thought cheek.  Mr.
Stoddart thought he wanted something out of him.'

'There's nothing in that,' I said.  'That's the habit of dealers.
He probably wants to buy the Mains hoggs before they're sent to
Laverkirk.  Was that the only thing that made you suspicious?'

'No-o,' he said slowly.  'There was another thing.  He behaved
rather queerly about me.  I was sitting behind the keel-pot cutting
a whistle, and I heard all his talk with Mr. Stoddart and Mr.
Nickson.  I saw that he had noticed me when he arrived.  He
pretended not to know we were staying in this house, and when Mr.
Stoddart said that you were here he looked surprised, and asked was
that the General Hannay that he had heard about in the War?  And
then he said suddenly, "Sir Richard's boy's here.  I would like to
have a crack wi' him," and Mr. Stoddart had to introduce us.  That
showed that he must have known all about us before, and that I was
your son.'

'That was odd,' I admitted, rather impressed by Peter John's
shrewdness.  I asked what he had talked to him about, and he told
me just ordinary things--what school he was at, what he thought of
Scotland, what he was going to do when he grew up--and that he had
laughed when he heard of the sheep-farming plan.  Stoddart had
given the two visitors a drink, and after an hour's stay they had
gone down the valley in Little's car.

I said that I didn't think there was any real cause to worry.  But
Peter John was obstinate, and then he added that which really
alarmed me.

'I thought I had better do something about it,' he said, 'so I
asked Mr. Sprot--he's the young shepherd at Nether Laver and lives
nearest to Hangingshaw--to try to find out when he got home if this
Mr. Harcus had been in the village before.  Do you know what he
told me?  That he had been there for three days, and had been
staying with Miss Newbigging at the post office.  He said he had
been to a lot of farms, and had bought the short-horn bull at
Windyways that got the second prize at the Highland Show.'

That word 'post office' alarmed me.  It was the very place a man
would choose for his lodgings if he wanted to make private
inquiries.  There was no inn in Hangingshaw, and the post office
was the natural centre for a big countryside.  Also Miss
Newbigging, the postmistress, was a most notorious old gossip, and
lived to gather and retail news.

'So I thought I'd better ask Geordie Hamilton to go down there' (in
this case alone Peter John dropped his habit of 'mistering'
everybody, for it was impossible to call Geordie otherwise than by
his Christian name).  'He went off on his bicycle after tea.  I
thought he was the best man for the job, for he's a great friend of
Miss Newbigging.'

'That was right,' I said.  'So far I give you good marks.  I'll
have a talk to Geordie in the morning.'

I dressed for dinner with a faint uneasiness at the back of my
head.  It was increased when, just as we were drinking our coffee,
I was told that Geordie Hamilton wanted to see me urgently.  I
found him in the gun-room with a glowing face, as if he had made
some speed on his bicycle from Hangingshaw in the warm evening.

'Yon man Haircus, sirr,' he began at once.  'Actin' under
instructions from Maister Peter John I proceeded to Hangingshaw and
had a word wi' Miss Newbiggin'.  Sprot was speakin' the truth.
Haircus is no there noo, for he gaed off in the car wi' Leittle the
auctioneer, him and his pockmanty.  But he's been bidin' there the
last three days and--weel, sirr, I dinna like the look o' things.
I didna like the look o' the man, for he was neither gentry nor
plain folk.  And gude kens what he's been up to.'

Geordie proceeded with his report, delivered in the staccato
fashion of the old Scots Fusilier days.  He had found Miss
Newbigging alone and had had a friendly cup of tea with her.
'Yon's an awfu' ane to speak,' he said.  'She has a tongue on her
like a pen-gun.'  The post mistress had been full of her late
lodger, and had described him as a 'fine, couthy, cracky body.'  He
was Galloway bred, but had been a lot in the north of England, and
his big market was Carlisle.  He told her that he wanted to get in
touch with the farmers in these parts, which he said were the pick
of the Borders.  'He was aye rimin',' said Miss Newbigging, 'about
this bonny countryside and the dacent folk that bode in it.'  She
had been glad to answer his questions, for he was bringing trade
into the parish.  When asked if he had been curious about Laverlaw,
she had replied that he had, just as every one would be curious
about the Big House.  He seemed to know all about Lord Clanroyden
and to have a great opinion of him.  'I telled him that his
lordship was supposed to be in residence, but that I hadna clapped
eyes on him for months.  But says I, that's naethin new, for his
lordship comes and gangs like a bog-blitter, though I whiles think
that he should pay mair attention to his leddy wife, and her no
that strong.'  But Miss Newbigging had been positive that she had
never given him the names of the party now at Laverlaw.  'Though he
might have read them on the letters,' she had added.

On further examination Geordie discovered that Harcus had been what
the postmistress called 'a usefu' man about the house.'  He had
helped her every day to sort out the mail, both the incoming and
the outgoing.  He had often been jocose about the former.  'Here's
ane to Sundhope frae the Bank,' he would say.  'That'll be about
the over-draft for the beasts he bocht at Kelso.  And here is a
bundle for her leddyship.  It's bigger than I get mysel' after the
back-end sales.  But I see there's twa leddyships, Leddy Clanroyden
and Leddy Hannay.  There's walth o' rank the noo up the Laver
Water.'

This had roused Geordie's interest.  He asked if Harcus had made a
point of looking at the outgoing letters.  Miss Newbigging had
replied:  'He did, now I come to think o't.  I was aye tellin' him
there was nae need, for the hale lot gangs to Laverkirk to be
sorted.  But he was a carefu' man, and he had time on his hands,
and he would set them out in wee packs as if he was playin' at the
cards.  "That's for Embro", he would say, "an that's for the West
country, and that heap's for England."  He was aye awfu' interested
in the English letters, comin' as he did frae Carlisle.'

Geordie, having learned all he wanted, had taken his departure
after compliments.  Now he sat before me with his shaggy brows
drawn down.  'Ye telled me, sirr, to let naething gang by me,
however sma,' and there's just a chance that there's mischief here.
Haircus doesna ken wha's writin' to the folk in this house, but he
kens a wheen o' the names that the folk here write to.'

That was precisely the point, and at first I thought that it did
not matter.  And then, when Geordie had gone, I suddenly remembered
that though we were in a sanctuary our party was not complete.
There was one absentee, one sheep outside the fold.  Not Sandy--he
could very well look after himself.  It was Haraldsen's child, his
daughter Anna.

I started out to look for Haraldsen, but he had gone off with Peter
John to dap for trout in the park lake.  It was nearly eleven
o'clock before they returned, and, as they entered the lit hall
from the purple gloom which is all the night that Laverlaw knows in
early July, I thought what a miracle recent weeks had wrought in
Haraldsen's appearance.  He held his head up, and looked you
straight in the face, and walked like a free man.  When I called to
him he was laughing like a care-free boy at the figure Peter John
cut in Sandy's short waders.  It struck me that it was just in this
recovered confidence that our danger lay.

He had often told me about his daughter Anna.  She was at a well-
known boarding-school for girls in Northamptonshire, called Brewton
Ashes, under the name of Smith, the name he had taken when he
sought refuge in England.  At first he had looked after her in her
holidays, and taken her to dismal seaside resorts which he had
heard well spoken of.  But as his dread of pursuit grew he had
dropped all this, and had not seen her for nearly a year.  It had
been arranged that one of the mistresses, to whom she was attached,
should look after her in the holidays, and Haraldsen must have paid
for pretty expensive trips for the two, since it was the only way
he could make up to the child for his absence.  He had always been
very careful about letters, writing to her not direct, but through
his bank, and he had never dared to show himself within twenty
miles of Brewton Ashes.

I turned the conversation on to the girl, being careful not to
alarm him, for I didn't want to spoil his convalescence.  I
pretended that Peter John wanted to write and tell her about
Laverlaw, and asked how it was done.  He told me that there was a
choice of three banks, who all had their instructions.

'It seems a roundabout way,' I said; 'but I dare say you are wise.
Do you stick to it rigidly?'

'Yes.  It is better so.  You never know. . . .  Well, to be quite
honest, I have broken the rule once, and I do not intend to break
it again.  That was last Monday.  Anna's thirteenth birthday was
yesterday, and I made a mistake about the dates, for I have been so
busy here that I have grown careless.  I could not bear to think
that she would have no message from me on that day, so I wrote
direct to her at Brewton Ashes.'  His smile was a little
embarrassed, and he looked at me as if he expected reproaches.  'I
do not think that any harm is done.  This place is so far away from
everybody.'

'Oh, that's all right,' I said.  'You needn't worry about that, but
I think you're wise all the same to stick to your rule.  Now for
bed.  Lord, it's nearly midnight.'

But I thought it by no means all right.  It was infernally bad luck
that Haraldsen should have chosen to be indiscreet just at the time
when the mysterious Harcus was in the neighbourhood.  I told myself
that the latter would make nothing of a letter addressed to a Miss
Anna Smith at a country address in England.  But I have never made
the mistake of underrating the intelligence of the people I was up
against.  Anyhow, I was taking no chances.  I routed out Geordie
Hamilton from his room above the stables and warned him for duty.
Then I wrote a letter to Sandy in London, telling him all that had
happened and my doubts about Harcus.  I left it to him to decide
whether any steps should be taken to safeguard the girl.  Geordie
was instructed to set off at once to Laverkirk, twenty miles
distant, and post it there, so that it might catch the London mail--
Laverkirk was on the main line to the south--and reach Sandy the
following evening.

But I wasn't content with a letter.  I also wrote out a telegram to
Sandy in a simple cypher we had often used before--a longish
telegram, for I had to explain how it was possible that the enemy
might have got the girl's address.  Geordie, when he had posted the
letter, was to go to bed in the Station Hotel, be up betimes, and
send the telegram as soon as the office was open.  I had no fear of
espionage in Laverkirk, which was a big bustling market-town with
half a dozen post offices.

Then I went to bed with anxiety in my mind out of which I could not
argue myself.  The happy peace of Laverlaw had been flawed.  I felt
like the man in Treasure Island who was tipped the black spot.



CHAPTER IX

Lochinvar


Next day the heat-wave broke in a deluge, and by midday the Laver
was coloured and by the evening in roaring spate.  Peter John and I
went out before dinner, and got a heavy basket with the worm in the
pools above the park.  The following morning it still drizzled, and
we did well in the tributary burns with the fly known locally as
the black spider.  Burn-fishing has always had its charms for me,
for no two casts are the same, and I love the changing scenery of
each crook in the little glens.  But after luncheon Peter John's
soul aspired to higher things.  There was a tarn six miles off in
the hills called the Black Loch, a mossy hole half overgrown with
yellow water-lilies and uncommonly difficult to fish.  We had tried
it before in a quiet gloaming and had had no luck, though we had
seen big trout feeding.  Sim had always declared that it only
fished well after rain, when its sluggish inmates were stirred by
the swollen runnels from the hills.  So we set off with Oliver and
Geordie Hamilton, warning Barbara that we might be late for dinner.

We did not return till half-past nine.  The weather cleared, the
sun came out, and the warm evening was a kind of carnival for the
Black Loch trout.  They took whatever we offered them, but for
every five fish hooked four broke us or dropped off.  We had to
cast over an infernal belt of water-lilies and pond-weed, which
meant a long line and a loose line.  It was impossible to wade far
out, for the bottom was treacherous, and once I went down to the
waist.  To land a fish we had to drag him by brute force through
the water-weeds, and, as we were fishing far and fine, that usually
meant disaster.  There were two spits of gravel in the loch, and
the only chance with a big one was to try to manoeuvre him towards
one of these, not an easy job, since one had practically no
purchase on him.  Peter John, who was far the better performer,
managed this successfully with two noble fellows, each nearly two
pounds in weight, but he too had many failures.  Nevertheless,
between us we had two dozen and three fish, a total weight of just
over twenty-seven pounds, the best basket that had been taken out
of the Black Loch in Oliver's memory.

These two days' fishing had put everything else out of my mind, a
trick fishing always has with me.  As we tramped home over the
dusky sweet-scented moors I had no thought except a bath and
dinner.  But as we approached the house I was suddenly recalled to
my senses.  Before the front door stood a big and very dirty car,
from which a man in a raincoat had descended.  He had no hat, he
seemed to have a baldish head and a red face mottled with mud, and
his whole air was of fatigue and dishevelment.  He was in the act
of helping another figure to alight, which looked like a girl.  And
then suddenly there was a noise in the house, and from it Haraldsen
emerged, shouting like a lunatic.  He plucked the girl from the
car, and stood hugging and kissing her.

When we got nearer I saw that the man was Lombard, but very unlike
the spruce city magnate with whom I had been lately connected.  He
looked tired and dirty but content, and somehow younger, more like
the Lombard I remembered in Africa.  'Thank God we're here at
last,' he said.  'It's been a roughish passage. . . .  What do I
want most?  First a bath, and then food--a lot of it, for we've
been living on biscuits.  I've brought no kit, so you must lend me
some clothes to change into.'  As for Haraldsen, he went on
behaving like a maniac, patting the girl's shoulder and holding her
as if he thought that any moment she might disappear.  'My
happiness is complete,' he kept declaring.  This went on till
Barbara and Mary appeared and swept the child off with them.

I provided Lombard with a suit of flannels, and we ate an enormous
late supper--at least four of us did, while the other three, who
had already dined, looked on.  The girl Anna appeared in a pleated
blue skirt and a white blouse, the uniform, I supposed, of her
school.  She was a tall child for her years, and ridiculously
blonde, almost bleached.  She had a crop of fair hair which looked
white in certain lights, a pale face, and features almost too
mature, for the full curve of her chin was that of a woman rather
than a girl.  There was no colour about her except in her eyes, and
I thought that Haraldsen deserved something better than this plain,
drab child.  I had whispered that to Mary in the hall before
supper, and she had laughed at me.  'You're a blind donkey, Dick,'
she had said.  'Some day she will be a raging beauty, with that
ivory skin and those sea-blue eyes.'

When we had eaten, Haraldsen went off with the women to put Anna to
bed and to look after her wardrobe, for she also was kit-less.
Lombard had a couple of glasses of Sandy's famous port, and when we
adjourned to the smoking-room, where a peat fire was burning, he
stacked himself in an armchair with an air of great content.
'First score for our side,' he said.  'But it has been a close
thing, I can tell you.  Till about ten hours ago I wouldn't have
given twopence for our chances.  I'll have to do the devil of a lot
of telegraphing tomorrow, but to-night, thank God! I can sleep in
peace.'

Then he told his story, which I give in his own words.



Clanroyden (he said) had your telegram yesterday morning.  There
was a letter too, you tell me?  Well, he hadn't had that when I
left, but you seem to have explained things pretty fully in your
wire.  He got hold of me at once--luckily I was sleeping in town,
having motored up the day before.  There were one or two small
matters I had to arrange before I took my holiday, and I had
finished them and was going home after luncheon.

He said I must get busy--that the other side had probably got the
address of Haraldsen's daughter and might be trusted to act at
once.  Possibly it was even now too late.  I must go down to the
school in Northamptonshire and fetch her back to town.  He would
arrange that she should stay with a great-aunt of his in Sussex
Square till he made other plans.  He would have gone himself, but
he dared not, for he thought he was pretty closely marked, but I
was still free from suspicion, and I was the only one to take on
the job.  He wrote me a chit to the headmistress, Miss Barlock, to
say that he was Haraldsen's--Smith's, that is to say--greatest
friend and managed his affairs, and that he had authority from him
to bring his daughter to him in London for a few days in connection
with some family business.  He thought that would be enough, for
the schoolmistress-woman was pretty certain to know his name, and
my appearance, too, he said, was a warrant of respectability.  I
was to bring the girl straight to Sussex Square, where he would be
waiting for me.  He said he would expect me before four o'clock,
but if there was any difficulty I was to wire at once, and he would
send down one of the partners in the bank that paid the school
fees.

I rather liked the job of saviour of youth, for I felt that I
hadn't been quite pulling my weight in this business, so I started
off in my car in good spirits.  It was the big Bentley, which I
always drive myself.  I was at Brewton Ashes by eleven o'clock, a
great, raw, red brick building in a fine park, which I believe was
one of the seats that old Tomplin, the oil fellow, built for
himself before he crashed.  Well, I sent up my card to Miss
Barlock, but by the mercy of God I didn't send up Clanroyden's chit
with it.  I was told that Miss Barlock was engaged for the moment,
and was shown into a drawing-room full of school groups and prize
water-colours and great bowls of fine roses.  The room rather made
me take to the place, for it showed that the people there knew how
to grow flowers, and there's never much wrong with a keen gardener.

I waited for about ten minutes, and then Miss Barlock's door opened
and three people came out.  One was Anna, who looked flustered.
The others were a man and a woman--a young man in a flannel suit
with an O.E. tie, a pleasant-looking toothy chap with a high
colour, and a middle-aged woman in a brown linen costume and big
specs.  A maid took the three downstairs, and I was ushered into
the presence of Miss Barlock.

She was slim and grey-haired and bright-eyed, with that air of
brisk competence which shy women often cultivate in self-defence.
There was obviously nothing wrong with her, but I saw at a glance
that she was a precisian and would be a stickler about rules.  So
some instinct warned me to go canny.  Luckily I began by saying
only that I was an old friend of Anna Smith's father, and that I
had dropped in to see her and give her a message.

Miss Barlock smiled.  'It never rains but it pours,' she said.
'Dear Anna does not often have visits from friends.  Her poor
father, of course, has not been down for months.  But this morning
who should appear but Anna's cousins?  They and Anna must have
passed you as you came in.  They brought a letter from Mr. Smith,
who asked me to allow them to carry off Anna a week before the
holidays begin.  They propose, I think, a cruise to the Northern
capitals.  I readily consented, for the child has been rather
wilting in the hot weather.'

At this I sat up and thought hard.  It looked as if I was too late,
and that the other side had got in first.  I decided that it wasn't
the slightest good my showing Clanroyden's chit.  The others would
have a water-tight case, a letter from Haraldsen himself in a good
imitation of his handwriting, which perhaps Miss Barlock
recognized, for she must have seen it in his early days in England.
I thought how clever they had been in sending down an inconspicuous
young man and a rather dowdy woman, instead of some smart female
with scarlet lips and a distempered face whom the schoolmistress
would have suspected.  Those two were the very model of respectable
country cousins.  I couldn't discredit them, for if I told Miss
Barlock the truth I would only discredit myself.  Clanroyden's
letter, even if she didn't think it a forgery, couldn't prevail
against the ipsissima verba of Haraldsen.  I realized I was in a
cleft stick and must conduct myself discreetly.  The first thing
was to see Anna herself.

Miss Barlock glanced at the cards which lay on the writing table.
'Lady Bletso and her son--he is the young baronet--propose to give
Anna luncheon in the Brewton Arms at one o'clock, and then to leave
for London.  The morning will be occupied in packing Anna's
things.'  I noted a baronetage on the table which had been moved
from the stand of reference books.  Miss Barlock was a cautious
woman and had looked up her visitors before receiving them.  I
wondered who the true Bletsos were.  I had heard of the name in
Yorkshire.

I said cordially that I was glad that Anna's relations were
carrying her off for a cruise.  Excellent thing, I observed
fatuously, to expand the mind of the young.  But, having come so
far, I would like to have a talk with the child, being her father's
friend, and also I had a message to her from him which I had
promised to deliver.  I would have liked to give her lunch, but
since she was engaged for that to her cousins, might we have a
short walk in the park together?

Miss Barlock saw no objection.  She rang a bell and bade a maid
fetch Miss Margesson.  Miss Margesson, she informed me, was the
girl's chief friend among the mistresses, had been given special
charge of her by her father, and had on more than one occasion
accompanied her abroad on holidays.  Presently Miss Margesson
appeared, and the sight of her gave me my first glimmer of hope.
For here was one who had none of the repressions and pedantries of
the ordinary schoolmistress.  She was a tall girl, with a kind
mouth, and clever, merry blue eyes.  At all costs I must make her
an ally.

'Anna Smith's packing is being attended to, Miss Margesson?' her
superior asked.  'It will be completed in an hour?  Very good.  A
car will come for her at a quarter to one to take her down to the
Brewton Arms, where she will meet her cousins.  Meantime, this is a
friend of Anna's father who has called to see her.  Will you
arrange that he has a short walk with Anna in the garden?  Yes,
now.  It cannot be long, I fear, Mr. Lombard,' she added, turning
to me, 'for Anna will no doubt desire to say good-bye to her
mistresses and her friends.'

Miss Margesson took me downstairs and out into a very pretty
terraced garden at the back of the house.  She went indoors and
presently returned with Anna.  For the first time I had a proper
look at the child, and what I saw rather impressed me.  She's not
much of a beauty, as you saw, but I thought that she had an
uncommon sensible little face.  I don't know much about children,
having none of my own, but the girl's composure struck me as
remarkable.  She didn't look as if she had inherited her father's
nerves.  The sight of her was my second gleam of hope.

There was no time to waste, so I plunged at once into my story.

'Anna, my dear,' I said, 'we've never met before, but when I was
young I knew your grandfather in South Africa and he made me and
another man, whose name is General Hannay, promise to stand by your
father if trouble came.  Your father is in great danger--has been
for a long time--and now it's worse than ever.  That's why he
hasn't been to see you for so long.  That's why you're called Smith
here, when your real name is Haraldsen.  That's why his letters to
you always come through a bank.  Now YOU are also in danger.  These
people Bletso, who came this morning and say they're your cousins,
are humbugs.  Their letter from your father is a fake.  They come
from your father's enemies, and they want to get you into their
power.  Your friends discovered the danger and sent me down to
bring you away.  I'm only just in time.  Will you trust me and do
what I ask you?'

That extraordinary child's face did not change.  She heard me with
the same uncanny composure, her eyes never leaving mine.  Then she
turned to Miss Margesson and smiled.  'What a lark, Margie!' was
all she said.

But Miss Margesson didn't take it that way.  She looked scared and
flustered.

'What a ridiculous story!' she said.  'Say it's nonsense, Anna.
Your name's Smith, all right.'

'No, it isn't,' was the placid answer.  'It's Haraldsen.  Sorry,
Margie dear, but I couldn't tell that even to you.'

'But--but--' Miss Margesson stammered in her uneasiness.  'You know
nothing about this man--you never saw him before.  How do you know
he's speaking the truth?  Your cousins had a letter from your
father, and Miss Barlock, who is very shrewd, saw nothing wrong
with it.  They looked most respectable people.'

'I didn't like them much,' said Anna, and again I had a gleam of
hope.  'The woman had ugly eyes behind her specs.  And I never
heard of any English cousins.'

'But, darling, listen to me,' Miss Margesson cried.  'You never
heard of this man either.  How do you know he comes from your
father?  How do you know he is speaking the truth?  If you have any
doubt, let us go together to Miss Barlock and tell her that you
don't want to go on any cruise, and want to stay here till the end
of the term.  In the meantime you can get in touch with your
father.'

'That sounds good sense,' I said; 'but it won't do.  Your father's
enemies now know where you are.  They are very clever people and
quite unscrupulous.  If you don't go away with the Bletsos, they'll
find ways and means of carrying you off long before your father can
interfere.'

'Rubbish,' said Miss Margesson rudely.  'Do you expect me to
believe this melodrama?  You look honest, but you may be half-
witted.  What's your profession?'

'Not one for the half-witted,' I said.  'I'm what they call a
merchant-banker,' and I told her the name of my firm.  That was a
lucky shot, for Miss Margesson had a cousin in our employ, and I
was able to tell her all about him.  I think that convinced her of
my bona fides.

'But what do you propose to do with Anna?' she demanded.

'Take her straight to her father.'  That I had decided was the only
plan.  The girl would be in perpetual danger in London, now that
our enemies had got on her trail.

'Do you know where he is?' she asked.

'Yes,' I said, 'and if we start at once I can get her there before
midnight.'

Then it suddenly occurred to me that I had one convincing piece of
evidence at my disposal.

'Anna,' I said, 'I can tell you something that must persuade you.
You had a letter from your father on your birthday three days ago?'

She nodded.

'And it didn't come from London enclosed in a bank envelope.  It
came from Scotland.'

'Yes,' she said, 'it came from Scotland.  He didn't put any address
on it, but I noticed that it had a Scotch postmark.  That excited
me, for I have always wanted to go to Scotland.'

'Well, it was that letter of your father's that gave his enemies
the clue.  One of them spotted the address in a Scotch post office.
Your father's friend, Lord Clanroyden, was worried, and he sent me
here at once.  Doesn't that prove that I'm telling the truth?'  I
looked towards Miss Margesson.

Her scepticism was already shaken.  'I don't know what to think,'
she cried.  'I can't take any responsibility--'

Then that astonishing child simply took charge.

'You needn't, Margie dear,' she said.  'Hop back into the house and
carry on.  I'm going with Mr. Lombard.  I believe in him.  I'm
going to Scotland to my father.'

'But her things are not packed,' put in Miss Margesson.  'She can't
leave like this--'

'I'm afraid we can't stand on the order of our going,' I said.
'It's now just twelve o'clock, and any moment the Bletsos may turn
up and make trouble.  We can send for Anna's things, and in two
days everything will be explained to Miss Barlock.  YOU must keep
out of the business altogether.  The last you saw of Anna and me
was in the garden, and you know nothing of our further movements.
But you might do me a great kindness and send this wire in the
afternoon.  It's to Lord Clanroyden--you've heard of him?--he's
Anna's father's chief stand-by.  He told me to bring Anna to
London, but that's too dangerous now.  I want him to know that we
have gone to Scotland.'  I scribbled a telegram on a leaf from my
pocket-book.

Miss Margesson was a good girl, and she seemed to share Anna's
conviction.  She hugged and kissed the child.  'Write to me soon,'
she said, 'for I shall be very anxious,' and ran into the house.

'Now for the road,' I said.  'My car is at the front door.  I'll
pick you up in the main avenue out of sight of the house.  Can you
get there without being seen?  And bring some sort of coat.  Pinch
another girl's if you can't find your own.  The thicker the better,
for it will be chilly before we get to Laverlaw.'

I picked up Anna in the avenue all right, and we swung out of the
lodge gates at precisely a quarter-past twelve.  Then I saw
something which I didn't much like.  Just outside the gates a car
was drawn up, a very powerful car of foreign make, coloured yellow
and black.  It looked to me like a Stutz.  The only occupant was a
chauffeur in uniform, who was reading a newspaper.  He glanced
sharply at me, and for a moment seemed about to challenge us.  When
we had passed I looked back and saw that he had started the car and
was moving in the direction of the village.  I guessed that this
was the Bletsos' car, and that the man had gone to seek his master.
He did not look quite like an ordinary chauffeur.

That was the start of our journey.  My plan was to get into the
Great North Road as soon as possible--Stamford seemed the best
point to join it at--and then to let the Bentley rip on the best
highway in England.  I didn't see how we could be seriously pursued
even if that confounded chauffeur had spotted our departure.  But I
was all in a dither to reach Laverlaw that night.  This young
Lochinvar business was rather out of my usual line, and I wanted to
get it over.

Well, we got to Stamford without mishap, and after that we did a
spell of over sixty to the hour.  The morning had been hot and
bright, but the wind had shifted, and I thought we might soon run
into dirty weather.  At first I had kept looking back to see if we
were followed, but there was no sign of a black and yellow car, and
after a little I forgot about it.  Lunch was our next problem, and,
as there was a lot of traffic on the road, I feared that if we
looked for it in a good hotel we should be hung up.  I consulted
Anna, and she said that she didn't care what she ate as long as
there was enough of it, for she was very hungry.  So we drew up at
a little place, half pub and half tea-house, at the foot of a long
hill just short of Newark.  While my petrol tank was being filled
we had a scratch meal, beer and sandwiches for me, while Anna's
fancy was coffee and buns, of which she accounted for a surprising
quantity.  I also bought two pounds of chocolates and a box of
biscuits, which turned out to be a lucky step.

We were just starting when I happened to cast my eyes back up the
hill.  I have a good long-distance eyesight, and there at the top,
about half a mile away, I saw a car which was unpleasantly like the
Stutz I had seen at Brewton.  A minute later I lost it, for some
traffic got in the way, but I saw it again, not a quarter of a mile
off.  There could be no mistake about the wasp-like thing, and I
didn't think it likely that another car of the same make and colour
would be on the road that day.

If its occupants had glasses--and they were pretty certain to have--
they must have spotted us.  I drove the Bentley as hard as I
dared, and tried to think out our position.  They knew of course
what our destination was.  They certainly had the pace of us, for I
had heard wonderful stories of what a Stutz could do in that line--
and this was probably super-charged--so it wasn't likely that we
could shake them off.  If we stopped for the night in any town we
should be at the mercy of people whose cleverness Clanroyden had
put very high, and somehow or other they would get the better of
me.  A halt of that kind I simply dared not risk.  The road before
us for the next hundred miles or so was through a populous country,
and I didn't believe that they would try a hold-up on it.  That
would be too risky with so many cars on the road, and they would
not want trouble with the police or awkward inquiries.  But I had
driven a good deal back and forward to Scotland, and I knew that to
get to Laverlaw I must pass through some lonely country.  Then
would be their chance.  I couldn't stand up against the toothy
young man and the formidable-looking chauffeur.  I would be left in
a ditch with a broken head and Anna would be spirited away.

My chief feeling was a firm determination to go all out to get to
Laverlaw.  I couldn't outwit or outpace them, so I must trust to
luck.  Every mile was bringing us nearer safety, and if it was
bringing us nearer the northern moorlands, I must shut down on the
thought.  At first I was afraid of scaring Anna, but, when I saw
her face whipped into colour by the wind and her bright enjoying
eyes, I considered that there was no danger of that.

'You remember the car we saw at the school gates?' I said.  'The
black and yellow thing?  I've a notion that it's behind us.  You
might keep an eye on it, for I want both of mine for this bus.'

'Oh, are we being chased?' she cried.  'What fun!'  And after that
she sat with her head half screwed round and issued regular
bulletins.

Beyond Bawtry we got into the rain, a good steady north-country
downpour.  We also got into a tangle of road repairs, where we had
to wait our turn at several single-track patches.  At the last of
these the Stutz was in the same queue and I managed to get a fairly
good view of it.  There was no mistake about it.  I saw the
chauffeur in his light-grey livery coat, the same fellow who had
stared at us at Brewton.  The others in the back of the car were of
course invisible.

Beyond Pontefract the rain became a deluge, and it was clear from
the swimming roads that a considerable weight of water had already
fallen.  It was now between four and five, and from constant
hangups we were making poor speed.  The Stutz had made no attempt
to close on us, though it obviously had the greater pace, and I
thought I knew the reason.  Its occupants had argued as I had done.
They didn't want any row in this populous countryside, but they
knew I was making for Laverlaw, and they knew that to get there I
must pass through some desolate places.  Then their opportunity
would come.

In a big village beyond Boroughbridge they changed their tactics.
'The Wasp is nearly up on us,' Anna informed me, and I suddenly
heard a horn behind me, the kind of terrifying thing that they fix
on French racing cars.  The street was fairly broad, and it could
easily pass.  I saw their plan.  They meant to get ahead of me, and
wait for me.  Soon several routes across the Border would branch
off and they wanted to make certain that I did not escape them.  I
groaned, for the scheme I had been trying to frame was now knocked
on the head.

And then we had a bit of unexpected luck.  Down a side street came
a tradesman's van, driven by one of those hatless youths whom every
motorist wants to see hanged as an example, for they are the most
dangerous things on the road.  Without warning it clipped over the
bows of the Stutz.  I heard shouting and a grinding of brakes, but
I had no time to look back and it was Anna who reported what
happened.  The Stutz swung to the left, mounted the pavement, and
came to rest with its nose almost inside the door of a shop.  The
van-driver lost his head, skidded, hit a lamp-post, slewed round
and crashed into the Stutz's off front wing.  There was a very
pretty mix-up.

'Glory be,' Anna cried, 'that has crippled the brute.  Well done
the butcher's boy!'

But she reported that so far as she could see the Stutz had not
been damaged seriously.  Only the van, which had lost a wheel.  But
there was a crowd, and a policeman with a note-book, and I thought
that the whole business might mean a hold-up of a quarter of an
hour.  I had a start again, and I worked the Bentley up to a steady
eighty on a beautiful stretch of road.  My chief trouble was the
weather, for the rain was driving so hard that the visibility was
rotten, and I could see little in front of me and Anna little
behind.

I had to make up my mind on the route, for Scotch Corner was
getting near.  If I followed the main North Road by Darlington and
Durham I would be for the next hundred miles in a thickly settled
country.  But that would take me far from Laverlaw, and I would
have the long Tweed valley before I got to it.  If I turned left by
Brough to Appleby, I should have to cross desolate moorlands, which
would give the Stutz just the kind of country it wanted.  I
remembered a third road, which ran through mining villages where
there would be plenty of people about.  It was a perfectly good
road, though the map marked most of it second-class.  Besides, it
was possible that the Stutz didn't know about it, and, if I had a
sufficient start, might assume that I had gone by either Darlington
or Brough.  Anyhow, unless it caught me up soon, it would be at
fault.  Clearly it was my best chance.

But Fate, in the shape of the butcher's boy, had not done its work
thoroughly.  The rain stopped, the weather cleared, there was a
magnificent red sunset over Teesdale, and just as I was swinging
into my chosen road with an easier mind, Anna reported that the
Wasp was coming into view.

That, as they say, fairly tore it.  I had not diverted the hounds
and the next half-hour was a wild race, for I wanted to get out of
empty country into the colliery part.  I broke every rule of decent
driving, but I managed to keep a mile or so ahead.  The Stutz was
handicapped by the softness of the surface after the rain, and by
not knowing the road as I knew it.  It was beginning to grow dark,
and to the best of my knowledge what there was of a moon would not
rise till the small hours.  My only hope was that it might be
possible somewhere in the Tyne valley to give the pursuers the
slip.  I had tramped a good deal there, in the days when I was keen
about Hadrian's Wall, and knew the deviousness of the hill-roads.

I reached the mining country without mishap, and the lights of the
villages and the distant glow of ironworks gave me a comforting
sense of people about and therefore of protection.  Beyond Consett
the dark fell, and I reflected uneasily that we were now getting
into a wild moorland patch which would last till we dropped down on
the Tyne.  Somehow I felt that the latter event would not happen
unless I managed to create a diversion.  I could see the great
headlights of the Stutz a mile behind, but I was pretty certain
that when it saw its chance it would accelerate and overhaul us.  I
realized desperately that in the next ten minutes I must find some
refuge or be done in.

Just then we came to a big hill which shut off any view of us from
behind.  I saw a bright light in front, and a big car turned in
from a side-road and took our road a little ahead of us.  That
seemed to give me a chance.  On the left there was a little road,
which looked as if it led to a farm-house, and which turned a
corner of a fir-wood.  If I turned up that, the Stutz, topping the
hill behind us, would see the other car far down the hill and
believe it to be ours. . . .  There was no time to waste, so I
switched off our lights and moved into the farm road, till we were
in the lee of the firs.  We had scarcely got there when, out of the
corner of my eye, I saw the glow of the Stutz's lights over the
crest, and I had scarcely shut off my engine when it went roaring
down the hill fifty yards away.

'Golly,' said Anna, 'this is an adventure!  Where is the chocolate,
Mr. Lombard?  We've had no tea, and I'm very hungry.'

While she munched chocolate I started the engine, and after passing
two broken-hinged gates we came to a little farm.  There was nobody
about except an old woman, who explained to me that we were off the
road, which was obvious enough, and gave us big glasses of milk
warm from the cow.  I had out the map (luckily I had a case of them
in the car with me) and I saw that a thin red line, which meant
some sort of road, continued beyond the farm and seemed to lead
ultimately to the Tyne valley.  I must chance its condition, for it
offered some sort of a plan.  I reasoned that the Stutz would
continue down the hill and might go on for miles before it spotted
that the other car was not ours.  It would come back and fossick
about to see which side-road we had taken, but there were several
in the area, and it would take a little time to discover our tracks
on the farm road.  If it got thus far, the woman at the farm would
report our coming, and say that we had gone back to the main road.
I made a great pretence to her of being in a hurry to return to
that road.  But, when she had shut the door behind us, we crossed a
tiny stack yard, found the continuation of the track trickling
through a steep meadow, and, very carefully shutting every gate
behind us, slipped down into a hollow where cattle started away
from our lights and we had to avoid somnolent sheep.

The first part was vile, but in the end it was joined by another
farm-track, and the combination of the two made a fair road, stony,
but with a sound bottom.  My great fear was of ditching in one of
the moorland runnels.  After a little it was possible to increase
the speed, and, though I had often to stop and examine the map, in
half an hour we had covered a dozen miles.  We were in a lonely bit
of country, with no sign of habitation except an occasional
roadside cottage and the lights from a hillside farm, and we passed
through many plantations of young firs.  Here, I thought, was a
place to get a little sleep, for Anna was nodding with drowsiness
and I was feeling pretty well done up.  So we halted at the back of
a fir clump and I made a bed for Anna with the car rugs--not much
of a bed, for, the weather in the south having been hot, I had only
brought summer wraps.  We both had some biscuits and chocolate, but
the child went to sleep with her mouth full, snuggled against my
side, and I wasn't long in following.  I was so tired that I didn't
want to smoke.

I woke about four.  Every little pool left by the rain was flushed
rose-pink with the reflection of the sky, and I knew that that
meant dirty weather.  I roused Anna, and we laved our faces in the
burn, and had another go at the biscuits.  The air was cold and
raw, and we would have given pounds for hot coffee.  The whole
place was as quiet as a churchyard, not even a bird whistled or a
sheep bleated, and both of us felt a bit eerie.  But the sleep had
done us good, and I was feeling pretty confident that we had
puzzled the Stutz.  It must have spent a restless night if it had
been prospecting the farm roads in north Durham.  My plan now was
to make straight for Laverlaw and trust to luck.

We weren't long in getting to the Tyne valley near Hexham.  The
fine morning still held, but the mist was low on the hills, and I
counted on a drizzle in an hour or two.  Anna looked chilly, and I
decided that we must have a better breakfast.  We were on a good
road now and I kept my eye lifting for an inconspicuous pub.
Presently I found one a little off the road, and its smoking
chimney showed us that the folk were out of bed.  I turned into its
yard, which was on the side away from the road, and Anna and I
stumbled into the kitchen, for we were both as stiff as pokers.
The landlord was a big, slow-spoken Northumbrian, and his wife was
a motherly creature who gave us hot water to wash in and a comb for
Anna's hair.  She promised, too, bacon and eggs in a quarter of an
hour, and in the meantime I bought some cans of petrol to fill up
my tank.  It was while the landlord was on this job that, to
stretch my legs, I took a stroll around the inn to where I had a
view of the highroad.

I got a nasty jar, for there was the sound of a big car, and the
Stutz came racing past.  I guessed what had happened.  It had lost
us right enough in the Durham moorlands, but its occupants had
argued that we must be making for Laverlaw, and that, if we had
tangled ourselves up in by-roads, we must have made poor speed
during the night.  They would therefore get ahead of us, and watch
the road junctions for the North.  There was one especially that I
remembered well, where the road up the North Tyne forked from the
main highway over the Cheviots by the Carter Bar.  Both were
possible, and there was no third by which a heavy car could make
fair going.  Their strategy was sound enough.  If we hadn't turned
into that pub for breakfast we should have been fairly caught, and
if I hadn't seen them pass, in another hour we should have been at
their mercy.

Yet after the first scare I didn't feel downhearted.  I felt
somehow that we had the game in our hands, and had got over the
worst snags.  I said nothing about the Stutz to Anna, and we
peacefully ate an enormous breakfast.  Then I had a word with the
landlord about the countryside, and he told me a lot about the
side-ways into the upper glens of Tyne.  At eight o'clock we
started again in a drizzle, and soon I turned off the main highway
to the left by what I had learned was one of the old drove-roads.

All morning we threaded our way in a maze of what must be about the
worst roads in Britain.  I had my map and my directions from the
inn, but often I had to stop and ask the route at the little
moorland farms.  Anna must have opened fifty gates, and there were
times when I thought we were bogged for good.  I can tell you it
was a tricky business, but I was beginning to enjoy myself, for I
felt that we had won, and Anna was in wild spirits.  The sight of
bent and heather intoxicated her, and she took to singing and
reciting poems.  The curlews especially she hailed as old friends,
and shouted a Danish poem about them. . . .

Well, that's about the end of my story.  We never met the Stutz
again, and for all I know it is still patrolling the Carter Bar.
But I was taking no risks, and when we got into the main road up
the Tyne to Liddesdale, I didn't take the shortest way to Laverlaw,
which would have been by Rule Water, or by Hermitage and the
Slitrig.  You see, I had a fear that the Stutz, if it found no sign
of us on the Carter or Bellingham roads, might have the notion of
keeping watch on the approaches nearer Laverlaw.  So I decided to
come in on you from the side where it wouldn't expect us.  The sun
came out after midday, and it was a glorious afternoon.  Lord, I
think we must have covered half the Border.  We went down Liddel to
Langholm, and up the Esk to Eskdalemuir, and so into Ettrick.  For
most of the way we saw nothing but sheep and an odd baker's van.

Lombard finished with a cavernous yawn.  He grinned contentedly.
'Bed for me,' he said, 'and for Heaven's sake let that child have
her sleep out.  A queer business for a sedentary man getting on in
years!  I'm glad I did it, but I don't fancy doing it often.'

I asked one question.  'What was the chauffeur in the Stutz like?'

'I only got a glimpse of him,' he replied; 'but I think I should
know him if I saw him again.  An odd-looking chap.  Tall and very
thin.  A long, brown face, a pointed chin, and eyes like a cat's.
A foreigner, I should say, and a bit of a swine.'

I remembered the man who had come to Fosse with the youth
Varrinder, and whom Sandy had recognized as Jacques D'Ingraville.
We had not been quite certain if he was in the Haraldsen affair,
and it had been Sandy's business to find that out.  Now I knew, and
the knowledge disquieted me, for of this man Sandy had spoken with
a seriousness which was almost fear.



CHAPTER X

The Dog Samr


Anna Haraldsen's arrival made us tighten the precautions at
Laverlaw.  We were now all assembled there, except the laird, and
he might be trusted to look after himself.  Lombard showed no
desire to leave.  He had wound up his business affairs in
anticipation of a holiday, and thought that he might as well take
the first few days of it in Scotland.  He wrote a long account to
his wife of his journey, which he read to me with pride--certainly
it was a vigorous bit of narrative; and at the end he put in
something about staying on to watch events.  'That will please
Beryl,' he said.  'She's very keen about this business, and will
like to know that I'm doing my bit.'  I asked him what events he
expected, and he replied that he had a feel in his bones that
things would begin to move.  That was not my own view, for, short
of bombs from an aeroplane, I didn't see what the other lot could
do to harm us.  Laverlaw was as well guarded as a royal palace.

I have mentioned that Haraldsen was becoming a cured man.  Under
Peter John's care he had lost nearly all his jumpiness, he ate and
slept well, laughed now and then, and generally behaved like an
ordinary mortal.  You could see that he was homesick, for the sight
of Sandy's possessions reminded him of his own.  But he had
altogether lost the hunted look.  The coming of his daughter put
the top stone on his recovery.  It was as if a nomad had got
together a home again.  I expected him to be in a great state about
the very real risk she had run; I knew that with Peter John it
would have come between me and my sleep; but he never gave it a
thought.  Indeed, he scarcely listened when Lombard told him about
it.  He wrote to Miss Barlock and sent for Anna's kit, and then
shut the lid on that chapter.

But it did one good to see him and the girl together.  For a couple
of years the two had not met each other.  He talked a good deal to
her of the Norlands, which she was beginning to forget, and he was
always reminding her of things that had happened in the Island of
Sheep.  I noticed that he tried to appear interested in her stories
about school, but on that subject she had better listeners in Mary
and Barbara and me, and an infinitely better one in Lombard.  He
seemed to wish to forget all that had happened in England, as if it
had been a bad dream.  He reminded me one day with satisfaction
that at Laverlaw we were half-way to the Norlands.

One thing was clear--for him that English chapter was closed.
Haraldsen was not only a cured man, but a new man, or perhaps he
had returned to what he had been before I met him.  There was
confidence in his voice, more vigour in his eyes, and he held
himself and walked like a free man.  That was all to the good, for
he would be a combatant now, I hoped, instead of a piece of
compromising baggage.  He was beginning to assert himself, too, and
I came to think that, if Lombard was right, and things started to
move, Haraldsen himself might be the propelling force.  He was
becoming restless again, not from shaky nerves, but from some
growing purpose.  He and Anna had long serious palavers in Norland,
and I guessed that he was trying to hammer out some line of action.
He might soon take a hand in shaping his own destiny.

Peter John, his former comrade, was now wholly neglected, and
Haraldsen and Anna made most of their expeditions together.  I had
asked myself how my son would get on with the girl, and I soon
found an answer.  They didn't get on at all.  Peter John had never
had much to do with women, except his mother, and to some small
degree with Barbara Clanroyden and Janet Roylance, because they
were the belongings of his friends.  I did not believe that he
would make friends with any kind of girl, and it soon became clear
that, anyhow, Anna was not his kind.  Never were there such obvious
incompatibles.  He talked little, and when you asked him a question
it was like dropping a stone into a deep well--you had to wait for
the answer.  She babbled like a brook.  He had a ridiculously
formal style of speech--Johnsonian English, his house-master had
called it whereas she revelled in every kind of slang--school slang
out of novels, slang from film captions.  I found her mannerisms
often delightful, for she had not a complete command of English.
For example, she would make unfamiliar positives from negative
words, 'couth' (as the opposite of uncouth) was a favourite term of
praise with her, and, contrary-wise, 'unbeautiful' a condemnation.
Peter John thought them merely silly.  Then she was always chaffing
him, and it was about as much use chaffing Cleopatra's Needle for
all the response she got.  He treated her with elaborate
politeness, and retired into his kennel, as an old house-dog will
sometimes do when visitors bring a strange hound.

This went on for the better part of a week.  Then suddenly
Lombard's prophecy came true, and events quickened their pace to a
run.

One afternoon all of us, except Barbara's infant, made an
expedition to the shieling of Clatteringshaws, where the shepherd's
only daughter--his name was Tarras--was being married to Nickson,
the young herd on the home farm.  It was a slack time in the
pastoral year, before the autumn fairs began, and the whole
Laverlaw estate turned out to the ceremony, for Nickson was popular
and Tarras was one of the oldest hands on the place.  The minister
of Hangingshaw was to marry the couple at half-past two; after that
there was to be high tea on the green beside the burn; then dancing
was to follow till all hours in the big shed.  Few of us had seen a
Scots wedding, and, besides, Jean Tarras had been one of the
Laverlaw maids, so we all set out on ponies to make an afternoon of
it--except Peter John who, according to his custom, preferred to
walk.

It was divine weather--just as well for the tea beside the burn--
and we made a cheerful party.  Anna especially was in wild spirits,
and I realized for the first time those good looks about which Mary
had been so certain.  Now that she was in prettier clothes than her
school uniform, and had been out a good deal in the sun, she had
become an altogether more vivid and coloured being.  Her hair had
gold glints in it.  Her skin had flushed to a sort of golden ivory,
and her lovely eyes had become deeper by contrast.  She held
herself well in the saddle, and her voice rang out over the heather
as sweet and true as a bell.  She was riding with Mary and Lombard,
and I was behind with Barbara and Haraldsen, and I couldn't help
telling her father that she was an uncommonly pretty child.  The
fact was so patent that he didn't trouble even to look pleased.

'Where does she get her name?' I asked.  'Her mother?'

'No, my mother.  Anna is a common name in the Norlands.  But it is
not right for her.  She is no Jewish prophetess.  If I had the
christening of her again, it should be Nanna, who was Balder's
wife.'

I remembered vaguely that Balder was some sort of Norse god, and
certainly the girl looked a goddess that afternoon.  Haraldsen was
getting very full of Northern lore these days, for he went on in
his queer staccato way to explain that a goddess's name would not
do for her either--that she was more like the maidens in the Edda,
who had to live in the underworld in a house ringed with fire till
a hero rescued them.  He ran over a string of those ladies, of whom
Brynhild was the only one I recognized.

 'Poor Anna,' he said.  'Perhaps she will be like the women in the
Sagas, ill-fated because her men are doomed.  She may be as proud
and sad as Bergthora, but she will never be treacherous like
Halgerda.'

I wasn't quite sure what he was talking about.  I had read one or
two of the Sagas on Sandy's advice, and I observed that they were
gloomy anecdotes.

'They are the Scriptures of my race,' said Haraldsen.  'And they
have truths from which we cannot escape, though they are sad
truths.  They are true for me--and for you too, Hannay, and for
Lord Clanroyden, and for our kind ladies, and for your son, who is
striding yonder as if he were Thor on his travels.  You Scots know
it too, for you have it in your sayings.  There is a weird which
none can escape.  Fenris-Wolf is waiting in Hell for Odin himself.'

'I should let Fenris-Wolf sleep in this weather,' I told him, and
he laughed.

'True,' he said.  'It is not well to think of ultimate things.
There is a Norland proverb which says that few can see farther
forth than when Odin meets the wolf.'

He stopped and sniffed the scents, a wonderful mingling of thyme
and peat and heather blown by a light west wind over miles of
moorland.  'This place is like the Norlands,' he said with
abstracted eyes.  'I have smelled this smell at midsummer there,
when there was a wind from the hills.'

'It's my own calf-country,' I said, 'and I'm glad to think it
reminds you of yours.'

'The reminder is not all pleasure.  It makes me sad also.  There is
another of our proverbs--I seem to be quoting many to-day--that
strongest is every man in his own house.  I am in the house of a
stranger--the kindest of strangers.'

'So am I,' I said; 'but I'm not complaining.'

'But you have your home--you can reach it in a day.  Anna and I
have a home, but it is shut to us.  She is like the poor Princess
in the tale--there is a ring of flame round her dwelling.'

'Oh, we're going to put those fires out,' I said cheerfully.  'It
won't be long till you're as snug in your island as Sandy in
Laverlaw and me at Fosse--a dashed sight more snug, for you haven't
to pay income-tax.  If the worst comes to the worst, I'll come up
and join you.'

A sudden queer look came into his face.  He had been talking
dolefully in a brisk voice, and he had been half laughing.  But now
his eyes grew grave, just as his father's used to.

'I wonder if I shall ever find peace,' he said slowly.  'We
Norlanders get tied up in a skein of fate from which there is no
escape.  Read in the Sagas, and you will see how relentless is the
wheel.  Hrut slays Hrap, and Atli slays Hrut, and Gisli slays Atli,
and Kari slays Gisli.  My father, God rest him, punishes the old
Troth, and the younger Troth would punish me, and if he succeeds
perhaps Anna or some child of Anna's will punish him.'

It was in a whirl of outlandish names and with Haraldsen looking as
mysterious as a spae-wife that we plashed through the burn and off-
saddled on the green of Clatteringshaws.

You could not imagine a pleasanter spectacle.  A dozen shepherds
had brought their womenfolk, and there was a big contingent of the
Laverlaw servants, and an ancient horse-bus had conveyed a party
from Hangingshaw village.  The minister, an active young man who
had got a Military Cross in the War, had come on a bicycle.
Stoddart, the head-shepherd on the Mains, was the master of
ceremonies, and he was busy with the preparations for tea, with Sim
and Oliver as his lieutenants.  Tarras welcomed us with that kindly
composure which makes a Border shepherd the best gentleman on
earth, for he is as sure of himself as any king.  There must have
been fully fifty guests.  The older men were in their Sunday
blacks, their regular garb for church, weddings, and funerals, but
the younger wore the glen homespun, and the keepers were, of
course, in knickerbockers.  I noticed that every man had a black-
and-white checked necktie, a thing which Sandy always wore at home
and which was the Laverlaw equivalent to a tartan.  The women were
in bright colours, except the bride, who wore white, and I thought
how female clothes had been evened up since the War.  Most of the
girls were fully as well-dressed as Barbara or Janet.

The ceremony in Tarras's little parlour was a suffocating business,
but happily it did not last long.  Then the blushing Nickson and
the very demure bride disappeared up a wooden ladder to shed some
of their finery, and we examined the presents laid out in the
kitchen.  Tarras and his wife did hosts at the tea on the green,
and I have never seen a company tuck in more resolutely to more
substantial viands.  There were hot mutton pies, and cold mutton
hams, and all that marvellous variety of cakes and breads in which
Scotland has no rival, and oceans of strong tea and rich cream, and
beer for those who liked it, and whisky for the elderly.  Old
Tarras made a speech of Welcome, and Barbara replied almost in his
own accent, for the American South, when it likes, has the same
broad vowels as the Border.  And then, after a deal of eating and
drinking, all hands set to work to remove the tables, and the
company split up into groups, while youth wandered off by itself.
Presently dancing would begin in the wool-shed--the fiddlers were
already tuning up--and there would be supper some time in the small
hours.

The ladies started for home early, and, since I wanted exercise, I
sent my pony back with Geordie Hamilton.  Lombard professed the
same wish, and Haraldsen, who had been a silent figure at the
feast, followed suit, so that Geordie departed like a horse-thief
who had made a good haul.  We were in no hurry, for it was less
than an hour's walk home over hill turf, so we went round to the
back of the cottage, where some of the older men were sitting on a
rock above a small linn, smoking their pipes and talking their slow
talk.  I remember thinking that I had rarely had so profound an
impression of peace.  The light wind had dropped, and the honey-
coloured bent and the blue of the sky were melting into the
amethyst of twilight.  In that cool, mellow, scented dusk, where
the only sounds were the drift of distant human speech, and the
tinkle of the burn, and the calling of wild birds, and the drowsy
bleat of an old ewe, I seemed to have struck something as
changeless as the hills.

The dogs were mostly congregated round Tarras's back-door, on the
look-out for broken meats, and I had just taken a seat on a bank
beside Stoddart when a most infernal racket started in their
direction.  It sounded like the father and mother of dog-fights.
All of us got to our feet, but we were on the wrong side of the
burn, and it took us some minutes to circumvent the linn, pass
through the gates of the sheep-fold, and get to the back-door where
bicycles and the Hangingshaw horse-bus were parked.  For the last
dozen yards we had the place in sight, where a considerable drama
was going on.

The centre of it was Stoddart's dog, the patriarch Yarrow.  He was
about twelve years old, and in his day had been the pride of the
countryside, for he had won twice at the big sheep-trials.  I dare
say he was an arrogant old fellow, and said nasty things to the
young collies, for it isn't in dog nature to be a swell without
showing it.  But as Stoddart's dog he had a position of acknowledged
pre-eminence, and at clippings and speanings and lamb sales he took
precedence, and was given, so to speak, the first lick from the
plate.  But now he must have gone a bit too far.  Every dog in the
place had it in for him, and with bared teeth was intent on his
massacre.

The old beast was something of a strategist.  He had got into the
corner where the peat-shed projected beyond the cottage wall, so
that he couldn't be taken in flank or in rear, and there he was
putting up a sturdy fight.  He had a dozen enemies, but they had
not much notion of a mass assault, for if they had come on in a
wave they would have smothered him.  What they did was to attack
singly.  A little black-and-tan dog would dart forward and leap for
his neck, only to be hurled back by Yarrow's weight, for though his
teeth were old and blunt, he was a heavy beast, and could have
given pounds to anything else there.  But some of his assailants
must have got home, for he had an ear in tatters, and his neck and
throat were blotched with blood.

His opponents' game was the old one of the pack, learned when their
ancestors hunted on the plains of Asia.  They meant to wear the old
fellow down, and then rush in and finish him.  Stoddart saw what
they were after, and flung his stick at them, roaring abuse.  I
would have bet any sum that, but for us, in ten minutes the poor
old beast would have been dead.

But I would have been wildly wrong, for suddenly Yarrow changed his
plan, and the fight was transformed.  Instead of standing on the
defence he attacked.  With lips snarling back over his gums, and
every hair on his thick collar a-bristle, and with something
between a bark, a bay, and a howl, he charged his enemies.  He
didn't snap--his teeth weren't good enough--he simply hurled his
weight on them, using jaw and paws and every part of him as weapons
of offence.  Far more important, he let them see that he was out
for blood.  He didn't want to save his hide now, but to rend
theirs.  I have never seen such determination in any animal, except
in African wild game.  Yarrow's twelve years by Stoddart's fireside
were forgotten.  He was no more the household pet, the shepherd's
working partner, the prize-winner at shows to be patted and
stroked; he was a lightning-bolt, a tornado, a devouring fiend. . . .
There was a cloud of dust and fur, and then the whole mob
streaked into flight.  One went between my legs, one tripped up
Lombard, several felt the weight of their masters' crooks.  As for
old Yarrow, he had fixed his stumps in the hind-leg of a laggard,
and it took Stoddart all his time to loose them.

I stopped to laugh, for it was one of the best finishes I had ever
seen.  Each shepherd was busy rounding up and correcting his own
special miscreant, and Lombard, Haraldsen, and Peter John and I
were left to ourselves.  I got a glimpse of Haraldsen's face and
gripped his arm, for I thought he was going to faint.  He was white
as paper, and shaking like a leaf.  He looked just as he had done
that morning on Hanham sands when the whitefront had escaped from
Peter John's falcon.

Words came slowly from his pale lips.  He was drawing a moral, but
it was the opposite of the Hanham one.  But the first words were
the same.

'It is a message to me,' he croaked.  'That dog is like Samr, who
died with Gunnar of Lithend.  He reminds me of what I had
forgotten.'

By now Stoddart had dragged Yarrow indoors to be washed and
bandaged, and the other shepherds were busy with their own dogs.
The gathering twilight showed that it was time for us to set out
for home.  Haraldsen followed us mechanically as we crossed the
paddock where Tarras grew his potatoes, and the meadow where he cut
his bog-hay, and breasted the long slopes which the westering sun
had made as yellow as corn.  He walked with great strides, keeping
abreast of us, but a little to the right, as if he wished to be
left alone to his gloomy Scandinavian meditations.  But there was
something new about him that caught my eye.  He was wearing a suit
of that russet colour called crotal, and it somehow enlarged his
bulk.  He kept his head down and poked forward, with his great
shoulders hunched, and he had the look of a big brown bear out for
action.  There was fight and purpose in his air which before then
had only been a lounging, loose-limbed acquiescence.  Now there was
something of old Yarrow when he had gathered himself up for the
final rush.

At the watershed of the glen we stopped by consent, for the view
there was worth looking at with its twenty miles of rounded hills
huddling into the sunset.  There was a little cairn on which
Lombard and I seated ourselves, while Peter John as usual circled
round us like a restless collie.  Then Haraldsen spoke:

'I must leave you soon--Anna and I--at once,' he said.  'I have
been too long a trespasser.'

'We're all trespassers on Sandy,' I said.

He didn't listen to me.  He was in his proverbial mood, and quoted
something from the Hava-mal (whatever that may be).  It ran like
this:  'Stay not in the same house long, but go; for love turns to
loathing if a man stays long on another's floor.'

'Oh, nonsense!' I said.  'We're not here cadging hospitality.
We're all in the same game, and this is part of it.'

'That is what I mean,' he answered.  'We are not playing it right.
I, at any rate, have been a fool.'

We waited, for he was labouring with some thought for which he
found it hard to get words.  But it was only the words that were
lacking, for every line of his face spoke of purpose.

He put his big hand on my shoulder.

'In January, do you remember, on the Norfolk shore?  I saw the
goose escape the hawk by flying low.  I thought that I too might
escape by being quiet and humble. . . .  I was wrong, for humility
drains manhood away, but does not give safety.  To-day I have seen
the virtue of boldness.  I will no longer be passive, and try to
elude my enemies.  I will seek them out and fight them, like Samr
the hound.'

All three of us sat up and took notice, for this was a Haraldsen we
had not met before.  Except for his shaven chin he might have been
his father.  He had identified old Yarrow with some Saga dog, and
he seemed to have got himself into the skin of an ancestor.  His
great nose looked like the beak of a Viking galley, and his pale
eyes had the ice-blue fanaticism of the North.

'I have been forgetting my race,' he went on.  'Always a weird
followed us, and Fate was cruel to us.  But we did not run from it
or hide from it, but faced it and grappled with it, and sometimes
we overthrew it.  I have been a coward and I have seen the folly of
cowardice.  I have been sick too, but I am a whole man again.  I
will no longer avoid my danger, but go out to meet it, since it is
the will of God. . . .'



'Quisque suos patimur Manes.'  A voice spoke below us, but I did
not know what the words meant.  Lombard did, and perhaps Peter
John, though I doubt it.

We turned to find Sandy.  He had come quietly up the hill while we
had been talking, and had been eavesdropping at our backs.  He was
wearing an old grey flannel suit, and looked pale, as if he had
been too much indoors lately.

'How on earth did you get here?' I asked.

'Flew.  Archie Roylance dropped me at Chryston, and that's only
five miles off.  I was just in time to kiss Jean Tarras and drink
her health. . . .  You were saying, when I interrupted?' and he
turned to Haraldsen.

On Haraldsen's face there was no sign of surprise at Sandy's sudden
appearance, for he was far too full of his own thoughts.

'I was saying,' he replied, 'that I will skulk no longer in a
foreign country or in other men's houses.  I will go home to my own
land and there will fight my enemies.'

'Alone?' Sandy asked.

'If need be, alone.  You have been true friends to me, but no
friends can take from me the burden of my own duty.'

Sandy looked at him with that quick appraising glance of his which
took in so much.  I could see in his eyes that, like me, he had
found something new in Haraldsen which he had not expected, and
which mightily cheered him.  His face broke into a smile.

'A very sound conclusion,' he said.  'It's the one I've been coming
to myself.  I've come up here to talk about it. . . .  And now let
us push on for dinner.  Laverlaw air has given me the first
appetite I've had for weeks.'



CHAPTER XI

We Shift our Base


That night after dinner we held a council of war, at which we all
agreed that Peter John should be present.  That was a comfort to
him, for since Anna's coming he had been rather left out of things.
Sandy, as was his habit at Laverlaw, wore the faded green coat of a
Border dining club, but it didn't make him look, as it usually did,
a Scots laird snug among his ancestral possessions.  His face had
got that special fining-down which I so well remembered, and his
eyes that odd dancing light which meant that he was on the warpath
again.

We had heard nothing of him for weeks, so I had a good many
questions to ask.

'What have I been doing?' he said.  'Going to and fro on the earth.
Trying to get a line on various gentry.  My old passion for queer
company has stood me in good stead, and by voluptuous curves I've
been trying to get in on their flanks.  One way and another I've
learned most of what I wanted to know.  Several of the unknown
quantities I can now work out to four places of decimals.  We're up
against a formidable lot--no mistake about that.'

'More formidable than you thought?' asked Lombard.

'Ye-es,' he said slowly.  'But in a different way.  That is my
chief discovery.'

'What was your method' I asked.  'Have you been up to your old
tricks?'  I turned to Lombard.  'Perhaps you don't know that he's
one of the best quick-change artists in the world.'

'Partly,' Sandy replied.  'I've had quite a lot of fun in the
business.  But I met some of them in my own name and person.  We
had better be clear about one thing--they know all about us.  Dick
they marked down long ago; and Lombard since he levanted with Miss
Anna.  They don't know our motive, but they realize that we are
backing Haraldsen.  If I've got a good deal of their dossiers,
they've got plenty of ours.  You'd be surprised, Dick, to know how
zealously they have been searching into your tattered past, and
I'm glad to think that what they found has made them fairly 
uncomfortable.  They've been pumping, very cleverly and quietly,
all your old pals like Artinswell and Julius Victor and Archie
Roylance.  They even got something out of Macgillivray, though he
wasn't aware of it.'

'What do they make of YOU?'

Sandy laughed.  'Oh, I puzzle them horribly.  I've got the jade
tablet, so I'm in the thick of it, and they're gunning for me just
as much as for Haraldsen.  But I'm a troublesome proposition, for
they understand quite well that I've taken the offensive, and
they've an idea that when I fix my teeth in anything I'm apt to
hang on.  That's the worst of my confounded melodramatic
reputation.  It sounds immodest, but I've a notion that they've got
the wind up badly about me, and if we had only the first lot to
deal with I might make them cry off. . . .  Only of course we
haven't.'

'What's the new snag?' I asked.

'Patience,' he said.  'We'll go through the list one by one.
First, Varrinder, the youth with the rabbit teeth.  We can count
him out, for he'll worry us no more.  He was what I suspected--an
indicateur, and at heart a funk.  I laid myself out to scare Master
Varrinder, and I succeeded.  He was very useful to me, so far as
his twittering nerves allowed him.  Yesterday he sailed, under
another name, for Canada, and he won't come back for a long, long
time.  Next, Dick.'

'Albinus,' I said.

'Right.  He's the second least important.  Well, I've seen a lot of
Mr. Erick Albinus.  I played bridge with him at Dillon's, which
cost me twenty pounds.  We went racing together, and I had a boring
but illuminating day.  I gave a little dinner for him, to which I
made a point of asking one or two of his City friends about whom he
is most nervous.  He's a nasty piece of work, that lad, and it
beats me how people tolerate him as they do, for he's the oily faux
bonhomme if there ever was one.  He's in the job for greed, for
financially he's on the edge of Queer Street, and also Troth has
some kind of family pull on him.  But I think I could scare him out
of it, like Varrinder, if I wanted to.  But I don't.  I've decided
that he's safer in than out, for he has a big yellow streak in him,
and, though he's a clever devil, he'll be a drag on his friends in
the long run.  So I've remained on good terms with Mr. Albinus, and
he flatters himself that he has thrown dust in my eyes, more power
to him.

'Now we get to bigger business.  Troth--Mr. Lancelot Troth.  I've
come to a clear decision about Troth.  He's a ruffian, but I don't
think he's altogether a rogue.  A fine distinction, you say.
Maybe, but it's important.  First, he has his friends who genuinely
like him, quite honest fellows, some of them.  I got myself invited
to the annual dinner of his Fusilier regiment, where he made a
dashed good speech.  I gathered that in the War he was a really
good battalion officer, and very popular with the men.  I did my
best to follow his business tracks, and pretty tangled they are,
but my impression is that he is more of a buccaneer than a
swindler.  He's a bold fellow who runs his head now and then
against the law, because he likes taking risks.  Did you ever read
The Wrong Box? There's a touch of Michael Finsbury in Troth.'

'Did you meet him--I mean as yourself?' I asked.

'Indeed I did.  Had quite a heart-to-heart talk with him.  I went
down to his office, sent in my card, and begged for a few minutes'
conversation on private business.  There was a fine commotion in
that office, a client was cleared like a shot out of his private
room, and he told his secretary that on no account must we be
disturbed.  I suppose he thought that I had come to offer terms.  I
was the guileless innocent--asked if he had read my letter to the
Times--said I was very anxious to get all the information I could
about old Haraldsen, and that I had heard that he had known him in
South Africa.  That puzzled him, and in self-defence he became very
stiff and punctilious--said he had had nothing to do with
Haraldsen, though his father might have met him.  You see, he
hadn't yet linked me up with you, Dick, and was playing for safety.
Then I said that I was trying to get on the track of Haraldsen's
family--believed he had a son somewhere, and could he help me to
locate him?  I had come to him solely as a matter of business, for
I had heard good reports of his skill.  I said I had got this jade
tablet, which I couldn't possibly stick to, and that I proposed to
present it to the British Museum unless I could find Haraldsen's
heirs, in which case they should have it.

'That fetched him.  He suggested luncheon, and took me to one of
the few old City places remaining where you feed in a private box.
He insisted on champagne, so I remembered a saying of my father's,
that if a man gave you champagne at luncheon, you should suspect a
catch.  He was very civil and forthcoming, and began, quite
cleverly, to dig things out of his memory which his father had told
him about Haraldsen.  He dared say that with a little trouble he
could get some information for me about the people who had a claim
to the equities in Haraldsen's estate.  We parted on excellent
terms, after some highly technical talk about spring salmon in
Caithness, and he promised to ring me up as soon as he had anything
to tell me.'

'Did he?' Lombard asked eagerly.  He was the one of us who knew
most about Troth.

'No.  For in the next day or two his scouts linked me up with Dick--
Laverlaw was enough for that--and he must have realized that I
knew everything and had been playing with him.  But I rang him up
myself and got a very dusty answer.  However, he agreed to see me
again, and I made him lunch with me at Claridge's--planted him down
in the middle of a crowded restaurant, where he couldn't make an
exhibition of himself.  For I meant to make him lose his temper,
and if that had happened in his office the end would only have been
a shindy.  I managed it all right.  I orated about old Haraldsen,
that wonderful figure half-saint and half-adventurer, and the
sacred trust that had been laid on me, and so forth.  He listened
with a squared jaw and ugly suspicious eyes while I strummed on the
falsetto.  Then he broke out.  "See here, Lord Clanroyden," he
said.  "I've had enough of this stuff.  You've been trying to fool
me and I don't like it.  I see what your game is, and I don't like
it either.  You take my advice and keep out of this business, or
you'll get hurt, big swell as you are.  Old Haraldsen was a
scoundrel, and there's some of us who have a lot to get back from
him and his precious son."

'I opened my eyes and started on another tack.  I said that all
this shocked me, and I'm hanged if I didn't get him to believe that
I meant it.  You see, I was the new-comer who might have heard any
kind of story from the other side.  He actually seemed to want to
put himself right in my eyes, and he gave me his own version.  What
it was doesn't signify, except that he has a full-sized vendetta on
his hands inherited from his father, and isn't going to forget it.
I must say I respected his truculence.  It was rather like the kind
of family legacy you have among the Indian frontier tribes.  I
pretended to be surprised, and not altogether unsympathetic, and we
parted on very fair terms.  I had got the two things I wanted.  I
had kept the gang uncertain what part I meant to play, and I had
taken the measure of Troth.  A bit of a ruffian as I have said, but
not altogether a rogue.  If he were the only one in the show I
think he might be squared.  He wants what he considers to be his
rights, not loot in the general way.  But of course he's not alone,
for there's a bigger and subtler mind behind him.  Can you put a
name to it?'

'Barralty,' said Lombard and I in unison.

'Yes, Barralty.  He is the mind all right.  I had to get a full
view of Barralty, so I approached him from all kinds of angles.
I've told you already about the Bloomsbury party, where he was a
king among the half-baked.  I followed up his trail in the City--
Lombard started me on that--and my conclusion is that the Lepcha
business hasn't done him much harm.  He has still plenty of money
in the ordinary way, though not a hundredth part of what he wants,
and his reputation is still high.  I thought I'd have a peep at his
political side, so I got Andrew Amos to arrange that I should
attend a private conference between some of the intellectuals and
the trade-union leaders--I was a boiler-maker from the Clyde and a
fairly shaggy comrade.  His performance there rather impressed me,
for he managed to make himself a bridge between two utterly
different worlds--put the idealistic stuff with a flavour of hard
good sense, and the practical view with a touch of idealism.
There's a considerable future for him in politics, if he decides
that way.

'Then I thought that I'd better make his acquaintance.  You know
Charles Lamancha's taste for freak parties?  Well, I got him to
give a dinner at the club--himself, Christopher Stannix, an Under-
Secretary, a couple of bankers, and Ned Leithen, and I had myself
placed next to Barralty.  Of course by this time he knew all about
me, for the Laverlaw party had begun, and his friends had
discovered the way we have tied up Haraldsen's fortune, so
naturally I was considered the villain of the piece.  He made no
mistakes that night.  He was very polite to me, and talked
intelligently about my Far East Commission and foreign affairs
generally, and even condescended to be enthusiastic about this
Border country in which he said he often motored.  He did not
attempt to pump me, but behaved as if I were an ordinary guest of
whom he had heard and whom he was quite glad to meet.  There was
some pretty good talk, for Stannix always manages to put life into
a dinner table, and Barralty kept his end up.  He had a wrangle
with one of the bankers over some financial point, and I thought he
put his case uncommonly well.  So did the others, for he was
listened to with respect.  There's no doubt that he has a pretty
solid footing in the world, and there's no mistake about his
brains.  He's as quick as lightning on a point, and I can see him
spinning an immense web and keeping his eye on every thread in it.'

'I told you that weeks ago,' said Lombard.  'Barralty is as clever
as the devil.  But what about the rest of him--besides his mind?'

'I'm coming to that.  That was the thing I most wanted to know
about, and it wasn't easy to get cross-bearings.  I had to dive
into queer worlds and half-worlds and, as I've already said, I
found that my unfortunate liking for low society came in useful.  I
found out most of what I wanted, but it has been a long job and not
a particularly pleasant one.  One piece of luck I had.  There was
bound to be a woman somewhere, and I scraped up acquaintance with
Barralty's particular friend.  She's a lovely creature, a red-
haired Jewess, who just missed coming off as a film-star.  Heaven
knows what her real name is, but she calls herself Lydia Ludlow.'

'She came to tea at Fosse,' Peter John put in.  'I remember her
name.  My mother said she was an actress.'

'Dick,' said Sandy solemnly, 'I think Peter John should be in bed.
But I won't enlarge upon Miss Ludlow, except to say that she was
hard to get to know, but that she repaid me for my trouble.  I was
an American film magnate, very well made up, and I don't think she
is likely to recognize me again.  I had a wonderful scheme for a
super-film about Herod Agrippa, which would star her.  So we had a
number of confidential talks, in which Barralty's name cropped up
as a friend who would take a share in the venture.  You see, it was
to be a great Anglo-American show, a sort of proof of the unity of
art and the friendship of the Anglo-Saxon race.  I learned from her
a good deal about Barralty.  He is her slave, it appears, but the
fetters don't gall, for his success is to be her success.  The two
of them represent a pretty high-powered ambition, and Miss Ludlow
won't let the pressure slacken.'

'What's your conclusion?' I asked.  'A first-class brain, but how
much stuff behind it?'

'Not a great deal.  I have collected all my evidence and carefully
weighed it, and that is my verdict.  Barralty has three spurs to
prick him on--ambition, greed, which is part of his ambition, and
his lady.  But he has a lot of tethers to keep him still--fear of
his reputation, fear of his skin, all sorts of funks.  He's not the
bold class of lad.  Rather a sheep in wolf's clothing.  If things
were as they were a year ago, I believe we could settle the whole
business out of hand.'

'You mean--what?'  Haraldsen spoke for the first time.

'Well, we could do a deal with Troth, a reasonable deal, and I
believe he would stick to it.  I could scare Albinus as I have
scared Varrinder.  And in spite of Miss Ludlow I think I could
scare Barralty.  Only you see that is impossible now, for a fifth
figure has appeared, who puts a darker complexion on the thing.
Before, it was not much more than melodrama, but now the tragic
actor is on the boards.  For the real wolf has arrived.'

'We knew for certain that D'Ingraville was in it after Lombard's
escapade,' I said.

I had to tell Sandy some of the details of Lombard's story, for he
had not heard them.

'Yes,' he said reflectively.  'He must have been the man who drove
the Stutz.'  He referred to a pocket diary.  'There were three days
when he slipped away from me, and now I know what he was doing.
Otherwise I didn't let him often out of my sight.  No, I never was
in his sight, but there wasn't much he did in those weeks in London
that I didn't know.  You see, I was on my own ground and he was a
stranger, so I had a pull on him.  He tried a little contre-
espionage, but it was clumsy.  I've been sitting tight and watching
him, and all I can say is, that if he was formidable in Olifa he's
a dashed sight more formidable to-day.'

I whistled, for I had Sandy's Olifa doings clear in my head, and I
remembered just how big a part D'Ingraville had played there.

'He's a beast of prey,' Sandy went on.  'But in Olifa he was a sick
beast, living an unnatural life on drugs which must have weakened
his nerve.  Now he's the cured beast, stronger and much more
dangerous than if he had never been sick.  It's exactly what
happens with a man who gets over infantile paralysis--the strength
of will and mind and body required to recover from the disease give
the patient a vitality and self-confidence that lasts him for the
rest of his days.  I don't know why God allowed it and by what
magic he achieved it, but D'Ingraville to-day is as fit a man as
any of us here, and with ten times our dæmonic power. . . .  And he
isn't alone.  You remember, Dick, the collection of toughs that
Castor called his Bodyguard.  I thought that all of them had been
gathered in, but I was mistaken.  Two at least survive--the ones
called Carreras and Martel, the Spaniard and the Belgian.  At this
moment they're with D'Ingraville in London, and you may bet they're
in with him in this show.'

'But Martel was killed in your last scrap,' I put in.  'What was
the name of the place?  Veiro?  You told me so.  I don't remember
about Carreras, but I'm positive about Martel.'

'So I thought,' said Sandy; 'but I was wrong.  Carreras managed to
leak out quite early, but I thought Martel was one of the bag at
Veiro.  But he's very much alive.  I could take you any day into a
certain Soho restaurant, and show you Martel in a neat blue suit
and yellow boots having his apéritif.  The same lithe, hard-trained
brute, with the scar over his left eye that he got from Geordie
Hamilton.  We have the genuine beasts of prey on our trail this
time, Dick, my lad. . . .  And I'll tell you something more.  We
could have bought off, or scared off, the others, I think, but
there's no scaring D'Ingraville's pack, and there's only one price
to buy them with and that's every cent of Haraldsen's fortune and
my jade tablet.  D'Ingraville, I understand, is particularly keen
on the jade tablet--naturally, for he's an imaginative blackguard.'

'But how will the old lot mix with the new?' I asked.

'They won't,' said Sandy grimly.  'But if I'm any judge of men,
they'll have to do as they're told.  None of them can stand up for
a moment against D'Ingraville.  Troth, the ordinary, not too
scrupulous, sedentary attorney--Barralty, the timid intellectual--
what can they do against the real desperado?  I could almost be
sorry for them, for they're young rabbits in the fox's jaw.
D'Ingraville is the leader now, and the rest must follow, whether
they like it or not.  He won't loosen his grip on either his
opponents or his allies.  He's the real enemy.  My old great-great-
great-grandfather at Dettingen led his regiment into action after
telling them, "Ye see those lads on yon hill?  Well, if ye dinna
kill them, they'll kill you."  That's what I say about D'Ingraville.'

'So much for the lay-out,' I said.  'What do you propose to do
about it?'

'At first I was for peace,' Sandy answered.  'I thought that the
gang could be squared or scared.  I knew that D'Ingraville
couldn't, but I fancied he might be dealt with in another way--he
and his Bodyguard.  I saw the Olifa Embassy people, but it's no
good.  There's not enough positive evidence against them to make
extradition possible.  Besides, even if there were, it wouldn't
solve Haraldsen's problem.  These hounds will stick to his track,
and, unless they could be decently strung up, there's no lasting
security for him.  So I take it that things have come to a crisis.
At any rate they're coming, and we must face it.  It's no good our
sheltering here any longer.  I dare say we could stave them off for
a bit, but it would be a rotten life for everybody, and some day
they would get under our guard.  We must fight them, and choose our
own ground for it, and, since they are outside civilization, we
must be outside it too.'

'I don't see the sense of that,' I said.  'This is a law-abiding
country, and that will cramp D'Ingraville's style.  If we go down
into the jungle the jungle beasts will have the advantage.'

Sandy shook his head.

'First, you can't bring things to the point in a law-abiding land.
Second, a move will cramp the style of Troth and Barralty worse
than ever.  Third, D'Ingraville is a product of civilization, and
I'd be more afraid of him in a Paris street than on a desert
island.  So I agree with what I overheard Haraldsen say when I
overtook you on the hill.  We must fight the last round in the
Island of Sheep.'

Then Haraldsen spoke.

'That is my resolution,' he said in his slow, quiet voice.  He
stood up and stretched his great form to its full height, much as I
had seen his father do on that moonlit hill long ago.  'I will do
as the old dog did this afternoon, and snap back at my tormentors.'

'Right,' said Sandy.  We all felt the tension of the moment, and he
wanted to keep the temperature down.  'I think that is common
sense.  I will arrange that the papers announce that you are going
back to the Norlands.  We had better divide up.  I have a friend, a
trawler skipper in Aberdeen, who will take you.  By the way, what
about your daughter?'

'Anna goes with me.  I should be a wretched man if she were out of
my sight.  Also, it is right that she should share in my destiny.'

'I dare say that's wise.  If you left her here, they might make a
hostage of her.  Dick, you can go by the monthly Iceland boat,
which sails next week from Leith, and you'd better take Geordie
Hamilton.  I will come on later.  You may be certain that the pack
will be hot after us as soon as they learn our plans.  Laverlaw and
Fosse and Mary and Peter John and Barbara and the infant will be
left in peace.'

There was a small groan from Peter John.  He had been listening to
our talk with eyes like saucers.  'Mayn't I come too?' he pled.

'No, my lad,' I said, though his piteous face went to my heart.
'You're too young, and there's no duty in it for you.  We can't
afford camp-followers.'

'But I will not permit it,' Haraldsen cried passionately.  'I go to
meet my fate, whatever God may send, I and my daughter.  But I will
not have you endanger yourself for me.  You have been most noble
and generous; but your task is over, for you have restored me to
myself and made me a man again.  I go to my home to fight out the
battle there with one or two of my own people.  You, my friends,
will remain in your homes, and thank God that He has given you
peace.'

'Not I,' I said.  'I promised your father to stand by you, and I'm
jolly well going to stick to that.  Besides, I'm getting fat and
slack, and I need fining down.  I wouldn't be out of this for all
your millions.  What about you, Lombard?'

'I'm on,' was the answer.  'I swore the same oath as you, and I
want some exercise to stir up my liver.  I've tidied up my affairs
for a month or two, for I meant, anyhow, to take a long holiday.
Beryl won't object.  She's as keen on this job as I am.'

I had spoken briskly, but my heart was in my boots.  I was certain
that Mary would raise no objections, as she had raised none in the
'Three Hostages' business, but I knew that she would be desperately
anxious.  I had no fears for her and Peter John, for the battle-
ground would be moved a thousand miles off, but I saw a miserable
time ahead for those that I loved best.

Haraldsen stared at us and his eyes filled with tears.  He seized
on Lombard, who was nearest him, and hugged him like a bear.  I
managed to avoid an embrace, but he wrung my hand.

'I did not know there was such honour in the world,' he said with
his voice breaking.  'Now indeed I may be bold, for I have on
either side of me a friend.'

Then he looked at Sandy, of whom he had hitherto been rather in
awe.

'But of you, Lord Clanroyden, I can ask nothing.  You have sworn no
oath, and you are a great man who is valuable to his country.
Also, you have a young wife and a little baby.  I insist that you
stay at home, for this enterprise of ours, I must tell you, will be
very difficult.  And I think it may be very dangerous.'

'Oh, I know that,' was the answer.  'Barbara knows it too, and she
would be the first to tell me to go.  I have a bigger interest in
this than any of you.  Give me some beer, Dick, and I'll tell you a
story.'

I filled up his tankard and very deliberately he lit his pipe.  His
eyes rested on each of us in turn--Lombard a little flushed and
excited, me rather solemnized by the line things were taking, Peter
John who had suddenly gone pale, and Haraldsen towering above us
like a Norse rover.  In the end they caught Haraldsen's eyes, and
some compelling force in them made him pull up a chair and sit down
stiffly, like a schoolboy in the headmaster's room.

'Three days ago,' said Sandy, 'I had a little trip across the
Channel.  I flew to Geneva, and there got a car and motored deep
into the Savoy glens.  In the evening I came to a small, ancient
chateau high up on the knees of the mountains.  In the twilight I
could see a white wedge poking up in the eastern sky, which I knew
to be Mont Blanc.  I spent the night there, and my host was
D'Ingraville.'

We all exclaimed, for it sounded the maddest risk to take.

'There was no danger,' Sandy went on.  'I was perfectly certain
about my man.  He belongs to a family that goes back to the
Crusades and has come badly down in the world.  That little
dwelling is all that is left to a man whose forbears once owned
half Haute Savoie.  There's a sentimental streak in D'Ingraville,
and that hill-top of his is for him the dearest thing on earth.  I
had discovered that, never mind how, and I wasn't afraid of his
putting poison in my coffee.  He's a scoundrel, but on a big scale,
and he has some rags of gentility left.

'Well, we had an interesting evening.  I didn't try to bargain with
him, but we exchanged salutes, so to speak, before battle.  I
wanted to find out the mood he was in, now that he was a cured man,
and to discover just how far he meant to go.  There's no doubt on
that point.  He is playing up to the limit.  He is going to skin
Haraldsen, and perhaps Troth and Barralty into the bargain.  But
there's more in it than greed.  Once it might have been possible to
buy him off with an immense sum--but not now, since he knows I'm in
it.  He has come to regard me as his eternal enemy.  The main
quarrel now is not between Haraldsen and the Pack, but between
D'lngraville and me.  He challenged me, and I accepted the
challenge.'

He must have seen disapproval in my face, for he went on.

'There was no other way, Dick.  It wasn't vanity.  He might go
about the world boasting that he had beaten me, and I would never
give it a thought.  I'm quite content that he should find his own
way to Hell.  But there's more to it than that.  He's what is left
over from my Olifa job, and till those remains are swept up, that
job isn't finished.  I can't leave the thing half done.  I can't
let that incarnate devil go loose in the world.  If I shirked his
challenge I should never sleep in my bed again.'

There had come into Sandy's face that look that I had seen once or
twice before--on the little hill outside Erzerum, in Medina's
library in Hill Street--and I knew that I might just as well argue
with a whirlwind.  He was smiling, but his eyes were solemn.

'He saw me off next morning in a wonderful mountain dawn.  "It's
good to be alive in such a world," he said.  "Au revoir.  It will
not be long, I hope, till we meet again."  Well, I'm going to hurry
on that meeting.  I'm going to join him on your island, and I think
that one or the other of us won't leave it.'




PART III

The Island of Sheep



CHAPTER XII

Hulda's Folk


I had never before sailed in northern waters, and I had pictured
them as eternally queasy and yeasty and wind-scourged.  Very
different was the reality in that blue August weather.  When
Lombard, Geordie Hamilton, and I embarked in the Iceland boat at
Leith, there was a low mist over the Forth, but we ran into clear
air after the May, and next morning, as we skirted the Orkneys, the
sea was a level plain, with just enough of a breeze to crisp it
delicately, and in the strong sunlight the distant islets stood out
sharp and clear like the kopjes in a veld morning.

But the fine weather did nothing to raise my spirits.  I had never
started out on a job with less keenness or with drearier
forebodings.  Lombard put me to shame.  This man, whom I thought to
have grown soft and elderly, was now facing the unknown, not only
composedly but cheerfully.  He had a holiday air about him, and
would have been glad to be in the business, I'm positive, even
though he had never sworn that ancient oath.  I began to think that
the profession of high finance was a better training than the kind
of life I had led myself.  Part of his cheerfulness was due to the
admiration he had acquired for Sandy, which made him follow as
docilely as a small boy in the wake of a big brother.  I yielded to
no one in my belief in Sandy, but we had been through too many
things together for me to think him infallible.  That rotten Greek
sentence that Macgillivray had quoted stuck in my mind.  Both Sandy
and I had had amazing luck in life, but luck always turned in the
end.

My trouble was that I could not see how the affair could finish.
We were to get to grips, in some remote island which was clean
outside any law, with a gang that knew no law.  That could only
mean a stand-up fight in the old style.  No doubt Haraldsen would
have his own people, but the Norlanders were not a warlike folk,
and, though we would have numbers on our side, I wasn't prepared to
be cocksure about the result.  If we beat them off, it might put
the wind up Troth and Barralty for good and all, but it would have
no effect on D'Ingraville.  Not unless we killed him.  If, on the
other hand, we were beaten, God knows what would happen to
Haraldsen and his daughter--and to the rest of us, and especially
to Sandy.  There could be no end to the business unless either
D'Ingraville or Sandy perished.  It looked like one of those crazy
duels that the old Northmen used to fight, and I remembered that
they always chose an island for the purpose.  The more I considered
the business, the more crazy and melodramatic I thought it.  Two
sober citizens, Lombard and myself, were being dragged at the
chariot wheels of two imaginative desperadoes, for Sandy had always
a kind of high-strung daftness about him--that was where his genius
lay.  And it looked as if Haraldsen had reverted to some wild
ancestral type.

But most of all I was worried about those we had left behind.  Mary
I hoped did not realize the full danger, for I had always put the
affair to her as a piece of common blackmail.  We had gone to
settle Haraldsen in his home, and see that he was comfortable, and
the worst that could happen would be that we might have to read the
Riot Act to some vulgar blackmailers.  Sandy must have put it in
the same way to Barbara--at least, I fervently hoped so.  Neither
knew anything about D'Ingraville.  But Mary was an acute person who
missed very little, and was extraordinarily sensitive to an
atmosphere.  She was greatly attached to the Haraldsens, and would
never have hinted that I should back out of my duty towards them.
But I was pretty certain that she understood that that duty was a
more solemn thing than the light holiday task I had pretended.  She
had said nothing, and had bidden me good-bye as if we were off to
Norway to catch salmon.  Yet I had a notion that her calm was an
enforced thing, for no woman had ever more self-control, and that
her anxiety would never sleep till she saw me again.  She would
remember that August morning at Machray when I had gone out for an
ordinary day's stalking, and had been found by her twenty hours
later senseless on the top of a crag with Medina dead at the
bottom.

With these thoughts in my head I got no good of the bright
afternoon, as we skirted the northern butt of the Orkneys and
approached the Roost through which our course lay.  Suddenly I
noticed that the ship was slowing down.  The captain, a placid old
Dane with whom I had made friends, joined me.

'We take another passenger, General,' he said.  'One who was too
late for us at Leith.  We were advised of him by wireless.  He will
have to pay the whole fare between Leith and Reykjavik, or there
will be trouble with your British port authorities.'

I followed his eyes and saw approaching us from the land a small
motor-boat, with a single figure in the stern.

'It is a man,' he said, handing me the glasses.  'Some Icelander
who has tarried too long in Scotland, or some Scot who would come
in for the last of the Iceland salmon.'

There seemed something familiar about the shape of the passenger,
but I went below to fetch my tobacco pouch, and I did not see the
motor-boat arrive.  What was my amazement, when I came on deck
again, to find Peter John!  He was wearing one of my ulsters, and
had his kit in a hold-all.  Also, he had Morag the falcon on his
wrist.  There he stood, looking timid and sheepish like a very
little boy.  He said nothing, but held out a letter.

It was from Mary.  She said simply that she couldn't bear the sight
of her son's tragic face.  'He has been wandering about like a lost
dog,' she wrote.  'I think some sea air would be good for him, for
he has been rather limp in the heat lately.  And if there is any
trouble he might be useful, for he is pretty sensible.  He has
promised me to keep an eye on you, and I shall be happier in my
mind if I know he is with you.  Cable from Hjalmarshavn, please, to
say he has arrived.'

That was all.  Peter John stood very stiff, as if he expected a
scolding, but I wasn't inclined to scold.  It was a joy to have him
with me, and that Mary should send him after me convinced me that
she was not really anxious--though I doubt if that conclusion did
justice to her stoicism.  Then a thought struck me.  The boy knew
how dangerous our mission was, for he had heard Sandy expound it.

'Did you tell your mother that there was some risk in this
business?' I asked.

'Yes.  I thought that was only fair.'

'What did she say?'

'She said that she knew it already, and that she would feel easier
if I were with you to take care of you.'

That was Mary all over.  Another woman would have clutched at her
boy to keep at least one of her belongings out of danger.  Mary,
knowing that a job had to be done, was ready to stake everything to
have it well done.

Peter John's solemn face relaxed into a smile when he saw the
change in mine.

'How did you get here?' I asked.

'I flew,' was the reply.  'I flew to Inverness and then to
Kirkwall.  The only difficult things were the motor-boat and the
wireless message.'

At that I laughed.

'I don't know that you can take care of me.  But there's no doubt
you can take care of yourself.'

We came to the little port of Hjalmarshavn, the capital of the
Norlands, in the same bright, west-wind weather.  The green hills
behind the black sea-cliffs, the blue tides creaming white on the
little skerries, the wall of dimmer peaks to the north, all seemed
to sleep in a peace like that of the Blessed Isles in the story.
In Hjalmarshavn there was a gentle bustle, and about a thousand
varieties of stinks, from rotting seaweed to decaying whale.  The
houses were painted in a dozen colours, and the little bay was full
of many kinds of small craft--fishing smacks, whale boats, kayaks,
and primitive motor-launches.  The only big craft were the Grimsby
trawlers, and a steamer flying the red and white Danish flag which
had just come in from Iceland.  Ours was the first passenger ship
for a fortnight that had arrived from the south, so the other lot
had not preceded us.  I made inquiries and heard that the Aberdeen
trawler had arrived three days before, and that Haraldsen had at
once gone on to his island.

We hired a motor-boat, and that afternoon rounded the south end of
the main island, skirted its west side, and threaded our way
through an archipelago of skerries till we were abreast of Halder,
the second biggest of the group.  Its shore was marvellously
corrugated, deep-cut glens running down from peaks about 3,000 feet
in height and the said peaks sometimes ending in mighty precipices
and sometimes falling away into moorish levels and broad shingly
beaches.  Presently on our port appeared a low coast-line, which
from the map I saw was the Island of Sheep.  It was separated from
Halder by a channel perhaps two miles wide, but its character was
wholly different from its neighbour.  It reminded me of Colonsay, a
low, green place cradled deep in the sea, where one would live as
in a ship with the sound of waves always in one's ear.

Then I saw the House, built on high land above a little voe, half
castle, half lighthouse it seemed, belonging both to land and
water.  There are no trees in the Norlands, but even from a
distance I could see that some kind of demesne had been laid out,
with stone terraces ending in little thatched pavilions.  Below it,
close to the shore, nestled a colony of small dwellings.  What
caught the eye was the amazing greenness.  After the greys and
browns of the Shetlands the place seemed to be as vividly green as
an English meadow in May.  The lower part of the House was rough
stone, the upper part of a dark timber, but the roof was bright
green turf, growing as lustily as in a field.  When in the early
twilight we put in to the little jetty, I seemed to be looking at a
port outside the habitable world in some forgotten domain of peace.

As long as I live I shall remember my first step on land--the whiff
of drying stockfish from the shore, the black basalt rocks, the
clumps of broad-leaved arch-angelica, and the oyster-catchers
piping along the shingle.

Haraldsen and Anna were awaiting us.  Haraldsen was wearing the
native Norland dress, coat and breeches of russet home-spun, with
silver buttons at collar and knees, homespun stockings and silver-
buckled shoes, and a queer conical cap of dark blue and red.  He
looked half squire and half pirate, but wholly in keeping with his
surroundings.  Anna had a navy-blue skirt and a red jumper, bare
legs, and buckled raw-hide mocassins.

'You have brought the boy,' Haraldsen said after his first words of
greeting.  His eyes looked troubled.

'His mother sent him after us,' I said.  'He is supposed to take
care of me.'

'He is very welcome,' was the answer, but his brow was furrowed.
I could see that a second child in the party seemed to him to add
heavily to his responsibilities. . . .  Little did either of us
guess that these two children were to be our salvation.

Very different was Anna's greeting.  She seemed to have shed the
English schoolgirl, and with that all her tricks of speech and
manner which had annoyed my son.  Hitherto, as I have said, she had
treated him cavalierly, and driven him to a moody silence.  Now she
was a hostess in her own house, and she had the manner of a
princess welcoming a friend to her kingdom.  Amazingly handsome she
looked, with her brilliant hair and eyes, and her ivory skin
coloured by the sea-winds and lit by the sun.  She took the boy's
hand in both of hers.

'I am very glad to see you, Mr. Peter John,' she said.  'We shall
have great fun together.'

I was not prepared for such a palace as the old Haraldsen had
built.  I had accepted the family fortune as a fact, but had seen
no evidence in a hunted man and a rather shabby schoolgirl.  Now I
realized that there must be great wealth in the background.  Above
the low cliffs the land had been levelled, and there were wide
lawns as fine as England could show, for in that moist climate the
turf was perfect.  There was some attempt at flowers too, roses and
larkspur and simple annuals, but only in sunken hollows to avoid
the winds, which in the Norlands can blow like the wrath of God.
The House itself was of three storeys, sheltered on three sides by
a half moon of hills, while the bulk of Halder across the channel
was there to break the force of the eastern blasts.  Following the
old Norland fashion, the ground floor was mainly storerooms, as in
a Border keep, with the living-rooms above them, and the bedrooms
in the top storey.  It was all new except at one end, where stood a
queer little stone cell or chapel, with walls about five feet
thick.  This, according to the tale, had been the home of an Irish
hermit, who in the dark ages had found a refuge here till the
heathen Northmen were the death of him.

The entrance was by a flight of steps which seemed to be hewn out
of the living rock.  First came a vast hall, at least a hundred
feet long and the full height of the house.  This had been
constructed, I suppose, on the model of a Viking hall, and in it
one seemed to cheat the ages.  Where the old Haraldsen had got the
timbers I do not know, but they were hoar-ancient, and the black-
oak panelling was carved in wild grotesques.  The furniture was
ancient and immense; there was a long dining-table which would have
accommodated fifty Vikings, and gigantic chairs which only Falstaff
could have decently filled.  For decorations there were some
wonderful old pieces of tapestry, and a multitude of ship models of
every age in silver and ivory and horn and teak, which must have
been worth a ransom.

That was the state apartment, and a pretty comfortless one.  But on
either side of it were other rooms--a big drawing-room, expensively
furnished, but as barren of human interest as a museum, and like a
museum full of collector's pieces; a smoking-room, on the walls of
which hung every kind of Norland implement from the Stone Age
downward; a billiard room, with a collection of sporting trophies,
including many of the old man's African heads; and above all a
library.  That library was the pleasantest room in the house, and
it was clearly Haraldsen's favourite, for it had the air of a place
cherished and lived in.  Its builder had chosen to give it a fine
plaster ceiling, with heraldic panels between mouldings of Norland
symbols.  It was lined everywhere with books, books which had the
look of being used, and which consequently made that soft tapestry
which no collection of august bindings can ever provide.  Upstairs
the bedrooms were large and airy, with bare oak floors, and not too
much furniture, but with all modern comforts.

What struck me especially was that everything was of the best and
probably of high value.  It seemed queer to be contemplating a
siege in a treasure house.

'The treasures were my father's,' said Haraldsen.  'Myself I do not
want possessions.  Only my books.'

The entertainment was as good as the lodging.  There was an old
steward called Arn Arnason, who wore the same clothes as his master
and looked like Rumpelstiltzkin in the fairy-tale, and he had under
him four elderly serving maids.  I gathered from Haraldsen that it
was his habit to send his motor-boat once a week to Hjalmarshavn
for letters and such things as he imported.  But the island itself
produced most of his supplies.  He had his own cows for milk, the
mutton was about the best in the world, and he cured his own hams
and bacon; he grew all the simpler vegetables, including superb
potatoes: the sea yielded the fish he wanted, not to speak of
lobsters, and there were sea-trout and brown trout to be had from
the lochs.  Indeed, I never ate better food in my life--simple
food, but perfect basic material perfectly cooked.  In two things
only it deviated into luxury.  There was a wonderful cellar in
which the sherry and the madeira in particular were things to dream
of, and following the Northern fashion, our meals began with a
preposterous variety of hors d'oeuvre.  Peter John, till he learned
better, used to eat of so many small outlandish dishes that he had
no room for solid food.

We went early to bed, but before turning in I had one word with
Haraldsen about serious business.

'We are well in front,' I said.  'Any news of our friends?'

'None.  We have a telephone to Hjalmarshavn, and I have arranged to
get word of all strangers who arrive there.  But I do not think
they will come by Hjalmarshavn.'

'Any news of Lord Clanroyden?'

He shook his head.  'No doubt he will soon telegraph, and we will
get the message by telephone.  He said he would follow at once.'

I asked one other question, and got an answer which sent me to bed
with an uneasy mind.  'What men have you on the island?'

He looked perturbed.

'There is Arn Arnason in the house,' he said.  'There are the three
gardeners, Dahl and Holm and Evansen.  Down at the harbour there is
Jacob Gregarsen, who is in charge of the motor-boat.  And there is
also Absalon the fowler, who is bed-ridden.  All these are old men,
I fear.'

'Good God!' I cried.  'I thought you had a lot of hefty youths.'

'It is my blunder,' he said penitently.  'I had forgotten.  There
were a score of young men on the Island of Sheep, but now they are
all abroad.  Some have gone to Greenland and Iceland after cod, and
some are at the halibut fishing.  One, on whom I counted most,
sailed last month for America.'



The clear blue weather ended that night.  Next morning we were back
in the typical Norlands, a south-west wind which brought scuds of
rain, and mist over all the hills.  Halder, as seen across the
Channel, was only a grey wraith.  The fashion of the household was
for a skimpy petit déjeuner and then an elaborate midday meal.
Haraldsen had some business of his own, so Lombard, Peter John, and
I got into oilskins, and, escorted by Anna, started out to prospect
the island.

Its main features were simple, and, since they are important to my
story, I must make them clear.  The place was about six miles long,
and at the greatest two miles wide, and it lay roughly north and
south.  The House stood about two-thirds of the way up, and the
highest ground, only five or six hundred feet in altitude, was just
behind it.  Towards the north end the land was broken moorland,
with two or three small lochs full of trout, and the butt itself
was a sheer cliff of at least four hundred feet, over which one of
the lochs emptied in a fine waterfall.  All that part of the coast
was rugged and broken, little gullies descending from the uplands
to a boulder-strewn shore.

Below the House, as I have said, was a small voe, with to the south
a village close to the water.  South of this again were stretches
of sand, and, since the coast there ran out to a point, there was
good shelter for boats in almost any wind.  The southern part of the
island was quite different in character.  The ground fell to only a
few feet above sea-level, and the shore was either sand or sprawling
reefs.  Inland there was a waste of bent and marsh, with several
swampy lochs which looked as if they might furnish difficult
fishing.  Peter John's eyes brightened as we circumnavigated the
place, for it was plainly a paradise for birds.  A shout from him
called my attention to a pair of purple sandpipers.  In the Norlands
no shooting is permitted on land, and only for a short season on the
sea, so the islands are pretty well a sanctuary.  It was absurd to
see curlews almost running between our legs like tame pheasants, and
so shy a bird as the golden plover coolly regarding us from a rock
two yards off.  That great bog must have been at least four square
miles in extent, and it was alive with every kind of bird.  It
wasn't easy to get my son away from it.

Towards the south end the land rose slightly to hummocky downs, and
the sea began to poke its fingers into it.  There must have been a
dozen little inlets, and a big voe a quarter of a mile wide into
which one of the lochs discharged a stream.  Seatrout were jumping
merrily at the stream mouth.  I wished to Heaven that I had come
here for a holiday and not on a grim job, for I never saw a more
promising fishing-ground.  We walked to the mouth of the voe, where
a swell was breaking under the wind, and looked out on low mists
and a restless sea.

We had two days of dripping weather, and, since there was nothing I
could do, I put in some hard thinking.  Our total strength when
Sandy arrived would be four reasonably active men, two children,
three or four ancient servitors, and a batch of women.  My picture
had vanished of a lot of stalwart young Norlanders prepared to
fight for their master.  That was bad enough, but my real
perplexity was what we should be called on to fight about.  Sandy
had been clear that we must come here to bring things to a head,
but I hadn't a notion what that head would be.

I could see perfectly well the old game of Troth and Barralty.  It
would be easy enough to descend on a lonely island and terrify a
nervous recluse into doing their will.  It might not have been so
difficult to lay their hands on him in England, a stranger in a
strange land, and frighten him into compliance.  But now he had
formidable friends about him, and they knew it.  Lombard was a
figure in the City, Sandy was a famous man, and I had a reputation
of sorts.  Haraldsen's enemies were men of a certain position, and
one at least was a man of devouring ambition; they couldn't afford
to go brazenly outside the law when there were people like Sandy to
advertise their trespasses.  A raid even on the Island of Sheep
would be too clumsy a piece of folly.  Besides, it would be futile.
Even if they had the bigger man-power, we could summon help.  I
understood that there were only half a dozen policemen in the
Norlands and these not of much account, but a telephone message to
Hjalmarshavn would certainly fetch volunteer support, and there was
a Danish Government boat cruising somewhere about the fishing-
grounds.  A wireless message from Hjalmarshavn would bring it to
the succour of law and order.

Gradually I argued myself into the conviction that the enemy would
not come at all, that, like the wicked, we had fled with no man
pursuing, and that the best thing Lombard and I could do was to
make a fishing holiday of it.  That of course couldn't last for
ever.  We couldn't roost indefinitely in these outlandish parts,
for we had all a good deal to do at home.  I decided that I would
give the place a fortnight's trial, and then, if nothing happened,
we would consider Haraldsen safe and go back to England.

But my decision did not greatly comfort me, for I could not get
Sandy's words out of my head.  He had been positive that a big
climax was impending; and, besides knowing more of our enemies than
the rest of us, his instinct wasn't often at fault.  And then I
remembered the words Macgillivray had spoken in the spring.  I
remembered the mysterious D'Ingraville, whom I had never seen.  He
was a different proposition from the others; he had no reputation
to lose, no prestige to endanger; he was the outlaw at war with
society who would stick at nothing to get his desire.  Troth and
Barralty were only the jackals that the lion forced to go hunting
with him to find him game.  Also he had a definite rendezvous with
Sandy, and would not fail to keep it.  With D'Ingraville in the
affair there were no limits.  He would bring things to a brute
struggle, with death and treasure as the stakes.  And we were not
only feeble; with two children on our hands we were hopelessly
vulnerable.  By cunning or by force he would find out our weak
points and play ruthlessly to win.

The upshot was that by the second afternoon I was as nervous as a
hen; I longed for Sandy to cheer me, but there was no sign or word
of him.  The thick weather and the leaden prospect, only a rain-
drummed sea and the ghost of Halder, and wet bogs and sweating
black crags, did not raise my spirits.  We could see the Channel
fairly plain, and in those two days nothing passed up it except a
drifter out of its course, and a little steamer flying the Danish
flag which Arnason said was a Government ship sent out for the
purpose of marine biology.  It hustled north at a great pace, with
a bone in its teeth, as seamen say.  The fishing fleets were miles
to the west, and the Iceland boats took the other side of Halder.
I felt that the mist shut us into a dark world far away from the
kindly race of men, a world into which at any moment terrible
things might irrupt.  Though I had Peter John at my side, an
impression of deep loneliness settled on me.  Also a horrid
premonition of coming disaster, which I could not get rid of.  A
ridiculous sailor's rhyme haunted my memory:


     'Take care, beware
      The Bight of Benin--
      One comes out
      Though forty go in.'


But the third morning the wind shifted to the east, and we woke to
steel-blue skies, Halder clear in every cranny, and calm sunlit
seas.  The tonic weather reminded me of South Africa, where in the
Boer War I used often to go to bed supperless on the wet ground and
wake whistling from pure light-heartedness.  I simply could not
keep up my reasoned gloom, and all the rest of us fell into the
same cheerful mood.  It was difficult to believe that this fresh
shining place could ever harbour evil folk and dark deeds.  Also
there came a message from Sandy, telephoned on from Hjalmarshavn.
It didn't say much--only, 'Delayed, but coming on.  Expect me when
you see me,' but it seemed to lighten my responsibility.  The
Hjalmarshavn office didn't give the date and the place from which
it was sent, and it was too much to expect from it a written
confirmation.

That day, and for the next day, we put care behind us.  Haraldsen
came out of his silent spell, and played the host manfully.  He
took us down to the village and showed us the life of the place--
the dry-houses for the fish, the queer old women spinning and
weaving and making their native dyes of lichen and seaweed, wild
geranium and clover.  After the whale and the codfish the important
animal was the sheep, which gave the island its name, funny little
shaggy fellows with wonderful fleeces.  'Sheep's wool is Norland
gold,' was a local proverb.  It was a strange clachan, full of
uncanny stinks, for the winter fodder for the cows was dried
whale's flesh, and you could smell it a mile away.  I had a great
talk with old bed-ridden Absalon, the fowler, who was a 'king's
bonder,' a yeoman whose family for generations had had a croft
direct from the king.  Haraldsen farmed his land for him, since his
two sons had both perished at sea.  He sat up in a bed made of
ship's timbers, and told yarns, which Haraldsen translated, of seal
hunts when there were still seals in the Norlands, and great
walruses that had drifted down from the Arctic, and whale hunts
when the waters of the voes were red with blood.  His crooked old
hands clawed at the blankets, and his voice was as wild as a
solan's, but he had the benign face of an apostle.

I came out of his house a happier man, and my cheerfulness was
increased by the sight of the Danish marine biology boat putting
into the bay in Halder across the Channel.  Gregarsen, the man in
charge of our motor-boat, told me that her name was the Tjaldar,
and that she had been trawling off the northern capes.  'This wind
will last,' he said, 'for her men are cunning, and only choose that
anchorage when it blows steady from the east.'  Somehow I felt that
the trim little ship kept us in touch with civilized things.

Haraldsen, as I have said, was a good host these days, but he was a
queer one.  At Laverlaw, when he had got over his nervous trouble,
he was very like an ordinary Englishman, apart from a slight
foreign trace in his speech.  But on his native heath he was a
Norlander, steeped in island lore, rejoicing in his home with the
passion of a returned exile.  He, who had been sparing of words,
was now almost garrulous, as if he wanted to explain himself to us
and let us into the secrets of his life.  He used to recount the
folk-tales as if he believed in them--how the seals were the souls
of Pharaoh's soldiers who had been drowned in the Red Sea, and the
wren who picked at the seams of the houses was the mouse's brother
changed into a bird by the Trolls' enchantment.  The Trolls by his
way of it were the chief plague of the Norlands--with pixies and
mermaids as runners-up.  They were Hulda's Folk--Hulda being a sort
of she-devil--and they were always on the watch to do mankind a
mischief.  They shipwrecked boats, and hag-rode the cattle, and
sucked the blood of young lambs, and even kidnapped little girls--
and here his eye would turn anxiously to Anna.

Then he was full of the islands' history, from the famous old saga
of Trond of Gate, which is the Norland epic, to the later days when
Algerian pirates raided the coast and sent the people into the
hills and the sea-caves.  By and by I saw the meaning of his talk.
He was reminding himself--and us--that in the Norlands life had
always been on a razor's edge, and that what he had to expect in
the near future was what all his kin had had to face in the past.
Clearly it was a comfort to him that he was following a long
tradition.  He had none of my scepticism; he believed that Fate was
waiting for us as certainly as that the sun would rise to-morrow.

He was unlike what he had been at Laverlaw in another sense, for
his nerves were all tuned up again, but in a different way.  He had
become high-coloured in his talk, exalted, rhetorical, speaking
often like somebody in a book, as if the words were not his own.
There were times when he seemed almost 'fey,' his eye wild, his
voice harsh and shrill, and his language like an Israelitish
prophet.  That was generally when he was telling us some legend,
into which he flung himself as if it had been his own experience.
One strange thing I noticed--he was always talking about fire, as
if fire were the Norland weird.  In that damp, salty place fire
scarcely seemed the perilous element; one would have thought wind
and wave the real enemies.  But it was always through fire that his
house marched to triumph, and by fire that the luckless ones
perished.  It was fire that Hulda's Folk employed to work their
most evil deeds.  It was fire that somehow at the back of his head
he dreaded for himself and his belongings.  'Then fire came,' he
would say, as if it was the natural conclusion to all things.



The happy people were Anna and Peter John.  The old stiffness
between the two had gone, and they had become like brother and
sister.  She was the mistress of the island, and she had a guest
who was worthy of its treasures, for the boy had a whole new world
to explore and was wildly excited.  A good deal of the place was
like Scotland, except that the heather was poor.  There were
pastures beside the burns, as bright with flowers as any English
meadow.  I never saw a better bloom of mint and meadow-sweet,
ragged robin and cranesbill; flag-irises and a kind of marsh-
marigold were everywhere, and the drier slopes were gay with
ragwort.  The hay was mostly tall clover.  On the hills the
tormentil grew as I have never seen it grow elsewhere, and the old
women used to pound its roots in querns as a substitute for hops.
The birds were mostly familiar, but the quantity of them was
unbelievable--guillemots and razorbills, puffins as tame as
sparrows, and gannets from a colony on the western cliffs.  That
was on the water, and on the land there was every moor bird known
to Peter John except the grouse.  There were no hawks, except one
Iceland falcon which we got a fleeting glimpse of in the Channel.
Peter flew Morag a good deal, and she brought in snipe and curlews
for the pot; and she was nearly the end of one of the funny little
blue Iceland cats at a cottage door.

I think that I have mentioned that my son was no horseman, but
under Anna's coercion he got himself on one of the Norland ponies,
and they quartered the island together.  But the real passion of
both was the sea, a novelty to Peter, who was inland bred.  In the
soft, bright weather they were hours in or on the water.  Peter was
a fair swimmer, but Anna was magnificent--old Arnason had a joke
that she was web-footed, being descended from seals, which she
refuted by displaying her shapely feet.

There was no great variety of craft to play about in--only the
motor-boat which Jacob Gregarsen looked after, and which was never
used except for an emergency trip to Hjalmarshavn for supplies and
once a week to fetch the mail; and one or two ancient Norland
boats, double-ended things with high sterns and stern posts, about
twenty feet long and very broad in the beam.  But there were a
couple of kayaks in the houses, the Eskimo kind like a Rob Roy
canoe, and these were taken down to the water and launched, and
provided the children with their chief amusement.  Anna could
handle hers brilliantly, and make it turn over like a turtle and
right itself, and Peter John was an apt pupil.  The two of them
racing about in the voe and adventuring out into the Channel were
like nothing so much as a pair of diving ducks.  The trouble was to
get them home for meals, for those long-lighted days were
deceptive, and, since neither had a watch, they would wander in
about midnight, thinking they were in time for dinner.  Anna's
great hope was for a shoal of whales to come in and the whole
Norlands to assemble for a whale hunt.  She had only seen one in
her life, but the memory of it was vivid.  The whale was the small
pilot-whale--what they call the 'ca'in whale' in Scotland--and I
heard her discoursing to Peter John of the wild excitement of the
chase, and its manifold perils.  She spoke like a bloodthirsty
young Viking, and was determined that they should join the hunt in
their kayaks and be in at the death.  I was determined in my own
mind that there should be no such escapade.



Anna was wholly care-free, for Haraldsen had not told her the
reason of his return to his island, and Peter John was under bond
not to enlighten her.  He, of course, knew the whole story, and
since he was always on the move, I warned him to keep his eyes open
for anything that seemed suspicious.  He always carried his field
glasses, and I was confident that nothing was likely to come to the
island without his spotting it.  It was well to have such a scout,
for the place, except for the House and the village, was at the
moment wholly unpeopled.  He saw that I was anxious, and he did his
best to live up to my instructions.  The first day of the fine
weather he had nothing to report.  The second day he announced that
in a voe on the other side of the island he had discovered signs of
a visit from some petrol-driven craft.  When I told Haraldsen this
he paid no attention.  'Some trawler put in for water,' he said;
'many of them carry boats with out-board motors.'

But on the third day the boy came to me with a grave face.

'Gregarsen says that the motor-boat is out of order.  Something has
gone wrong with the engine--something bad--and he'll have to get a
man from Hjalmarshavn to repair it.'

'How on earth did that happen?' I asked crossly, for the motor-boat
was our only transport to the outer world.  'He has not had it
out.'

'It happened in the night, he thinks.  He says some fools have been
monkeying with it.'

I went down to the harbour and had a look at it.  Sure enough there
was bad mischief.  The sparking-plug had gone, and the main feed
pipe had been cut through.  Gregarsen was a stupid elderly fellow,
with a game leg which he had got at the Greenland fishing, and he
had only an elementary knowledge of mechanics.

'How did this happen?' I demanded, for he could speak a kind of
American-English, having once been a hand on a Boston tramp.  'Have
you been walking in your sleep?'

He shook his head.  'Hulda's Folk,' he said darkly.

The thing made me very uneasy, for the damage had been done by some
one who had had tools for the purpose.  There was nothing for it
but to telephone to the little shipyard at Hjalmarshavn and get
them to send up a man.  I did not do this at once, for I was
trysted with Haraldsen to walk to the north end of the island, and
put it off till we returned to luncheon.

I did not enjoy that walk, for I kept puzzling over the motor-boat,
and I could not shake off the feeling that something was beginning
to flaw the peace of the island.  The accident was utterly
incomprehensible to me, except on the supposition that Gregarsen
had been drunk, or had gone temporarily insane and had forgotten
what he had done.  It was a nuisance, for next day we should have
been sending to Hjalmarshavn for letters, and I longed for some
word from Sandy.  I felt myself set down on a possible battlefield
with no sign of the commander-in-chief.  Haraldsen's conversation
did not cheer me.  He was as mysterious as a spae-wife, and his
only answer to my complaint was, 'What must be, will be.'  Also the
weather suddenly began to change.  By midday the blue of the sky
had dulled, and the heavens seemed suddenly to drop lower.  The
clear outlines of the Halder hills had gone, and the Channel,
instead of a shining crystal, became an opaque pebble.  'Ran is
stoking his ovens,' was all Haraldsen said on the subject, and it
did not comfort me to know that Ran was a sea-god.

Immediately after luncheon I rang up Hjalmarshavn, but could not
get through.  There was nothing wrong with the apparatus in the
House, and the trouble was probably at the other end, but the
motor-boat business had filled me with suspicions, and I set out
alone in the afternoon to trace the telephone line.  It ran on low
posts by the back of the garden and then down a shallow cleft to
the beach not a quarter of a mile south of the village.  It was
clearly all right as far as the water's edge.  But then I had a
shock.  It entered the sea in a copper casing from a little
concrete platform.  There seemed something odd about the look of
that take-off, and I ran my hand down the cable.  I lifted up an
end which had been neatly cut through.

That put the lid on my discomfort.  The fog was thickening.  While
walking with Haraldsen I had been able to see the other side of the
Channel and witness the Tjaldar, returning from one of her dredging
expeditions, settling snugly into her little harbour.  But now
Halder was blotted out, and I could only see a few hundred yards of
sea.  I felt as if we were being shut into a macabre world where
anything might happen.  We and our enemies, for that our enemies
were near I had no manner of doubt.  They had cut our communications
and had us at their mercy--three men, two children, and a batch of
ancients.  Where they were, how they had got here, I never troubled
to think.  I felt them in the fog around me--Hulda's Folk, who had
their own ways of moving by land and sea.

I ran back to the House in what was pretty near a panic.  Lombard
and Haraldsen had gone for a walk, and to give myself something to
do I overhauled our armoury.  We had half a dozen rifles, four
shotguns, and plenty of ammunition.  There was a revolver for each
of us, and a spare one which I had destined for Peter John.

At the thought of him all my anxiety was switched on to the
children.  If there were evil things afoot in the island they might
be at their mercy.  Haraldsen and Lombard returned for tea, but not
Anna and Peter John.  When he heard my story Haraldsen came out of
his Nordic dreams and became the distracted parent.  The fog had
drawn closer, and our search could only be blind, but we got
together the garden staff and Gregarsen, and set out in different
directions.

The dinner-hour came and there was no sign of them.  In the dim,
misty brume which was all the northern night, we stumbled about the
island.  Midnight came and we were still searching.  In the small
hours of the morning they had not returned.



CHAPTER XIII

Marine Biology


That morning Anna and Peter John had gone off for the day, with
sandwiches in their pockets, to explore in kayaks the voes at the
south end of the island.  They ate their luncheon on a skerry which
the tide had just uncovered, and which was their idiotic notion of
comfort.  The sea was like a pond, and the mist was slowly coming
down, but Anna, after sniffing the air, said that it was only a
summer darkening and would clear before evening.  Then she proposed
an adventure.  The Tjaldar had returned to its home at Halder, and
over the Channel came the sound of its dropping anchor.

'Let's pay a call on it,' said Anna.  'Perhaps they'll ask us to
tea.  Marine biologists are nice people.  I've been to tea with
them before, when the old Moe was here.'

Peter John demurred.  No embargo had been laid on their crossing
the Channel, but he dimly felt that the trip would be considered
out of bounds.

'That doesn't matter,' Anna retorted.  'We haven't been forbidden
to go.  Besides, in this weather they won't see us from the shore.
We'll be back long before dinner.  There's not a capful of wind,
and it's as safe as crossing a voe.  We're not likely to get such a
chance again.'

Peter John said something about currents, but Anna laughed him to
scorn.  'There's a rip two miles north, but here there's nothing to
trouble about.  I've been across in the kayak often.  You're a
landlubber, you know, and I'm a seadog, and you ought to believe
me.  I believe you when it's about birds.'

Peter John felt this to be true.  Children have a great respect for
each other's expertise, and Anna had shown an uncanny knowledge of
the ways of boats and tides and the whole salt-water world.  She
bore down his scruples with another argument.  'My father would
send us across any time we wanted, but it would be with Gregarsen
and the motor-boat, which wouldn't be any fun, or in the long-boat,
which is as slow as a cow.  In these wieldy little kayaks we'll
slip over in no time.  If you like, I'll give you five minutes'
start and race you.'

No boy can resist a 'dare,' so Peter John acquiesced, and they got
into their kayaks and headed for Halder, Morag the falcon sitting
dejectedly on her master's knee.

The mist came down closer, but it was only a curtain of silk,
through which Halder rose like a wraith.  They did not race, but
presently fell into an exciting conversation, so that the kayaks
often rubbed shoulders.  For Anna was telling of the whale-hunts,
which she had held forth to Peter John as the chief glory of the
Norlands.  Only once in her memory had the Grind come to the Island
of Sheep, for generally they took the wider channels beyond Halder.
But that once was stamped for ever on her mind, though she had only
been a little girl at the time.  She told how the fiery cross was
sent through the islands, by means of beacons on every headland;
how every man at the signal tumbled into his boat and steered for
the rendezvous; how the rendezvous could not be missed, for all the
sea-ways were full of people, and the Grind only came in clear
weather.  She described how the boats guided the school of whales,
as dogs headed sheep, trimming their edges and slowly forcing the
leader into one of the voes.  Once the leader entered the rest
followed, and the voe would be churned white with blind and
maddened monsters.  Then came the killing, which Anna could only
imagine, for her nurse had hurried her away from the scene; but all
the same she described it as she had heard of it from others, and
she made a barbaric tale of it.  Peter John listened with interest,
and at the end with disapproval.

'It sounds pretty beastly,' he said.

'Perhaps it is,' said the girl; 'but a lot of good things are
beastly, like killing pigs and using live bait.  Anyhow, it puts
money in the pockets of our poor people, and gives them food and
lighting for the long winter.'

'All the same, I'm sorry for the whales.'

'That's silly,' she replied.  'You're not sorry for haddocks and
halibut and sea-trout.  Fish are cold-blooded things and don't
feel.'

'Whales aren't fish,' said the student of natural history, but he
was overborne.

Their discussion had brought them across the still water into the
shadow of Halder, and they looked up to see the Tjaldar above them.
The kayak is a noiseless thing, and the fog had helped them to
approach it unperceived.  It sat at anchor very trim and
comfortable, with a thin spire of smoke rising from the galley
funnel, and a pleasant odour of food drifting from it.  Some one
was emptying ashes from the stokehold.

'Couth little craft,' said Anna appreciatively.  'I smell tea.
Let's hail her.  Tjaldar ahoy!'

The voice brought a face to the bulwark.  It was the face of an
elderly man, dark and aquiline and rather puffy.  He wore a
yachting-cap and a flannel suit, but he did not look any kind of
sailor.  He seemed puzzled and a little startled.

'That will be one of the Danish scientists,' Anna whispered.  Then
she raised her voice.

'You're the marine biologists, aren't you?  We've come to call on
you from the Island of Sheep across the Channel.'

She spoke in Danish, but the face showed no intelligence.  Then she
repeated her words in English, and the man seemed to understand.

'Wait.  I will ask,' he said, and disappeared.

He was back in a minute accompanied by another man, a tall fellow
with a sunburnt face, wearing an old Harris tweed jacket, and with
a pipe in his teeth.

'Where did you youngsters spring from?' the second man asked.

'I'm Miss Haraldsen from the Island of Sheep--and this is my
friend, Peter John.  We're visitors.  May we come aboard?'

'You certainly may,' said the man with the pipe, and he seemed to
wink at his companion.  The port ladder was lowered and the
children tied up the kayaks to its bottom rung, and carefully
transhipped themselves.  It takes some skill to get out of a kayak.

When they reached the much-encumbered deck they found that three
sailors had joined the party.

'Just wait here a second, my dears,' said the man with the pipe,
and he and the others went forward, leaving Anna and Peter John
with the three sailors.  The boy saw nothing but a rather untidy
deck, very different from the shipshape vessels of his fancy.
There seemed to be uncommonly little free space, and what looked
like a gigantic net was clumsily heaped abaft of a stumpy mast.
The deck-hands were busy at the vessel's side.  But the girl's
experienced eyes darted about, and saw more.

'This is a funny place,' she whispered.  'I don't much like it,
Peter John.  These men aren't a trawler's crew--they've no sores on
their hands.  Trawlers' men are always getting stung and poisoned.
They aren't Danes either--at least, they don't look like it.  What
are they doing with our kayaks?'

'They're getting them aboard.'

'Whatever for?'  The girl's voice had suddenly a startled note in
it.  'Look here, I don't like this. . . .  Just look at the trawl.
It's absurd.  It has no otter-boards. . . .  There's something
wrong with this ship.  Let's make them launch the kayaks again and
get off.'

'We can't quite do that,' said Peter John.  'I think we must see it
through now--wait, anyhow, till these men come back.'  But Anna's
suspicions had infected him, and he looked uneasily at the little
kayaks as they were swung up on deck.

He turned in obedience to a smothered squawk from Anna.  A woman
was coming towards them--a woman in a white serge frock with a fur
cape thrown over her shoulders.  She was bare-headed and had
wonderful red hair.  It was now Peter John's turn to long for the
kayaks, for he recognized some one he had seen before, the
beautiful Miss Ludlow who, two months ago, had come to tea at
Fosse.

The pretty lady advanced smiling.  At the sight of her Morag the
falcon showed the most lively displeasure.  Had Peter John not
tightened the lead she would have sought a perch with malevolent
purpose on an exquisite red coiffure.

'What a wicked bird!' said the lady.  'You're sure you've got it
safe. . . .  How nice of you to come to see us!  You must be
ravenous for tea.  Come along, my dears, but I think you'd better
leave the bird here.'

So Morag's lead was fastened to a stanchion, and she was left in a
very ill temper ruffling her wings on a spare yard.  The children
followed the lady to a deck-house, which was half chart-room and
half cabin.  It was a snug little place, and on an oilskin-covered
table tea was set out, an ample meal for which their souls
hungered.  There were three men sitting there, the dark, sallow one
to whom they had first spoken, the sunburnt one with the pipe, and
another, a tall, slim man with a thin face, high cheek-bones and a
moustache which was going grey at the tips.  All three rose
politely at their entrance and bowed to Anna.

'Here are our visitors,' said the lady; 'and I'm sure they are
hungry.  They have come over from the Island.  The fog is getting
thicker, and I don't think we can let them go till it clears.  What
do you think, Joe?'

'It wouldn't be safe,' said the tall man.  'We must wait anyhow
till the Skipper returns.  The dory should be back in an hour or
so.'

A steward brought in hot water and a big plate of toasted scones.
The lady made tea, and much conversation.  The sallow man she
called Erick, and the sunburnt man Lancie, but most of her remarks
were addressed to the tall man called Joe.  She prattled of the
weather and the Norlands, of London, of Cowes, of ships, and the
sea.  It was very clear that this company was English, and had
nothing to do with marine biology, and Anna's eyes showed her
bewilderment.

When the tall man spoke it was to ask questions about the Island of
Sheep.  His manners were good, and he showed no intrusive
curiosity, but it was plain from the others' faces that this was a
topic that interested them.  They talked much as a yacht's party
might have talked who had come into strange latitudes and had
suddenly got news of other fellow-countrymen.

'Your father is at home?' the man called Lancie asked.  'He has a
wonderful place over there, hasn't he?  We heard about it at
Hjalmarshavn.  Are you two brother and sister?'

'We're no relations.  This is my friend, Peter John Hannay.  He is
English.  He is staying with us.'

Four pairs of eyes seemed to open wider.

'Are you by any chance Sir Richard Hannay's son?' the man called
Joe asked, with a sudden eagerness in his voice.

Peter John nodded.  'Yes, and Sir Richard is staying with us,'
added Anna.

'We must return your call,' said the lady.  'I've always longed to
meet Sir Richard--and your father too, my dear.'

Peter John's mind had been working furiously, ever since the sight
of Miss Ludlow had opened for him the door on a dark world.  Anna
was bewildered, but only because the Tjaldar was so different from
the old Moe, and she had had to revise her marine biology notions,
but the boy knew enough to realize that they had blundered into the
enemy's camp.  He had heard Sandy's talk, and I had told him the
whole story, and ever since his coming to the Island of Sheep his
business had been to be on the watch.  Behind all his escapades
with Anna had been this serious preoccupation.  The sight of Lydia
Ludlow had awakened him, and now in this little cabin he was face
to face with Haraldsen's enemies, the sallow Albinus, the stalwart
Troth, the lean, restless Barralty.  Only one was missing, the most
formidable of them all.  At any cost he and Anna must get off and
carry the fateful news.

'We should be going,' he said as he got up, 'or our people will be
anxious.'

'You can't go in this weather,' said Barralty.  He too rose and
opened the door, and sure enough a solid wall of vapour had built
itself beyond the vessel's side.

'I've got a compass,' said Peter John, 'and we can't miss the way.'

'We daren't risk it,' said the man.  'We should never be able to
face your father if anything went wrong.'

'They must wait till the Skipper comes back,' said Troth, and the
others agreed.

Peter John was getting desperate.  'We're rather grubby,' he said.
'Could we wash our hands?'

'Certainly,' said the lady.  'Come down to my cabin, both of you.'
She seemed to Peter John to look meaningly at the others and
slightly nod her head.  She took Anna's hand and led her out, and
the boy followed.  He lingered a little beyond the door, and he
heard, or thought he heard, some one of the three exclaim:  'My
God, we have got the trump card now.  This will keep the Skipper in
order.'

Miss Ludlow took them down a steep companion into a narrow alley
lined with cabins.  The big one at the end was hers, and she
ushered the children into it with the utmost friendliness.  'You'll
find everything you want there, my dears,' she said.  'Towels and
hot water.  The bathroom is next door.  I'll come down presently to
fetch you.'

But as she left them she drew behind her a sliding door at the end
of the passage.  Peter John darted after her and tried its handle.
It was locked from the outside.

Anna proceeded to scrub her hands and use a pocket comb to tidy up
her hair.  'This is a queer ship,' she said, 'and queer people.
But they're kind, I think.  They're ordinary yachting folk, but the
Tjaldar isn't much of a yacht.  Too much of a grubby trawler for
their nice clothes.'

Peter John was looking out of the port-hole into the wall of fog.
'They aren't kind,' he said.  'They're our enemies--your father's
and my father's.  They're the people who tried to catch you at
school.  They're the people we were always on the look-out for at
Laverlaw.  I must tell you all I know, for we're in an awful hole.'

There and then in that dim cabin he told her the story as he knew
it, told her many things which Haraldsen had jealously kept hidden
from her, and gave point and shape to suspicions which had long
lain at the back of her head.  He may have told the story crudely,
with a boy's instinct for drama, but Peter John was also a realist
who made no mistake about the fundamentals.  She sat quiet as a
mouse, but at the end she gave a low cry.

'They're going to attack our island?  And we've let ourselves be
made prisoners?  Oh, Peter John, it is all my fault!  I dragged you
on this silly expedition.'

'It is my fault, for I should have remembered.  You see, I knew and
you didn't.'

Two miserable children clung to each other, while the fog thickened
without and the cabin darkened.



Meantime, in the deck-house they had left, there was a feverish
council.  From what I learned later I can reconstruct the scene as
if I had been listening outside the door.  In an hour's time the
man called the Skipper would arrive, and three men and one woman
had much to talk of before then.  I can picture their rapid,
confused speech, their alternations of eagerness and diffidence,
their sudden confidence dashed by sudden fears.  Always in the
background there must have been this shadow of fear.  For the
absent Skipper had become to them no longer a colleague but a
master.  They were people whose plans lay well inside the pale of
what we call civilization.  They had reputations to lose, ambitions
which demanded some respect for the conventions, comfortable lives
which they were not inclined to sacrifice.  But they had become
yoked to one who cared for none of these things, a man from the
outlands who had long ago discarded their world.  They were like
schoolboys playing at pirates who had suddenly found themselves
enrolled under the authentic Blackbeard.  Barralty, I fancy, was
the worst scared.  Albinus was the common rogue who had already
known the shady side of the law.  Troth was a robust fellow, a
sportsman accustomed to risks who would not be greatly rattled till
he knew the full extent of the trouble.  But Barralty was the
brittle intellectual, who found himself in a world where his old
skill went for nothing, and with him was the woman who had worked
with him, and who now saw all their careful schemes on the edge of
a fulfilment more disastrous than failure.

Troth must have spoken first, for he had the coolest head.

'Things are brightening,' he said.  'This is a piece of luck for
us, for we've got our hostages.  Now we can deal.'

'You think so?' said Barralty, in a voice which he tried to keep
calm.

'Well, we've got the girl, and she's what Haraldsen cares most for
in the world.  And we've got the boy, who's the apple of Hannay's
eye.  There's only Lombard left, and he doesn't count for much.
There's no word of Clanroyden.'

'What has happened to Clanroyden?'

'God knows!  Run out, perhaps. . . .  No, he's not that kind of
fellow.  The Skipper must have put a spoke in his wheel, for he's
devil enough for anything.'

'Have you got a line on the Skipper's plan?'

'Plain enough.  Old-fashioned piracy.  He'll descend on the Island
like a marauding Viking and hold 'em up.  If they show fight, as
they're likely to, he'll kill.  He'll get what he wants and he
don't care a damn for bloodshed.  When he has got it he'll
disappear, he and his gang, into the outer darkness, as he has done
before.  I daresay he'll play fair with us--I don't know--but we'll
have to disappear with him.  Do any of you fancy spending the rest
of your lives being hunted up and down the globe, even if your
pockets are full?  D'Ingraville won't mind it, for it's his
profession, but what about you, Barralty?  What about you, with
your big ideas about public life?  What about you, Lydia?  You like
your little comforts.  What about you, Erick?  No more race-
meetings for you, my lad, and flutters at Monte?'

'My God!' Barralty groaned.  'Can't we bring the man to reason?'

'We can't, for all the reason, as he sees it, is on his side.  He
knows what he wants a little more clearly than we ever have, and he
has the power behind him.  We're only passengers--he's the fighting
force.  What can we do to stop him?  He has his two infernal
trusties from South America, Carreras and Martel--the very sight of
them gives me the creeps.  He has his crew of gunmen.  He's going
to implicate us all in his gangster business, so that we'll all
hang together.'

'But he can't compel us if we object,' Albinus groaned.

'Can't he?  I haven't got him fully taped, but he's the biggest
size in desperado I've ever struck.  I know what's in your mind,
Erick.  You think that we might make terms on our own account with
the people on the Island.  I've had the same idea myself, but I
tell you it won't do.  The Skipper knows that game too well.  If we
try to double-cross him he'll shoot.'

I can picture those four scared conspirators sitting for a moment
dismally silent, till Troth's vigour woke them.

'But now things look better,' he said.  'We have got the materials
for a civilized deal.  Thank heaven for these blessed children!  I
don't much like using kids in this business--if you remember, I
always stuck out against it before--but needs must when the devil
drives.  The Skipper can't be fool enough to neglect such a chance.
It gives us a sitter, when the other way is an ugly gamble.'

'But do we want the same things?' Barralty asked.  'We want a good
deal, but the Skipper may want everything.  And remember that
Haraldsen isn't alone.  He has Hannay with him, and Hannay by all
accounts is a tough customer.'

'That will be the moment for the double-crossing if the Skipper
plays the fool,' said Troth grimly.  'Once we get to bargaining we
put the lid on his bloody piracy, and that's what we most want.'

Then the Skipper arrived.

I picture his coming into the stuffy cabin, his face shining with
fog crystals, and his pale eyes dazed by the sudden light.

'An hour till dinner,' he said, with a glance at the chronometer.
'There's time for a hot rum-and-milk, for it has been perishingly
cold in the dory.  But I've done my job.  The reconnaissance is
complete, gentlemen.  To-morrow is The Day.'

Troth told him about Anna and Peter John.  He listened with head
lifted, rather like a stag at gaze, a smile wrinkling his lean
cheeks.

'Fortune is kind to us,' he said.  'Now we can add point to our
first cartel.  For one kind of possession we can offer another--and
a dearer.'

But there was that in his voice which made Barralty look up
anxiously.

'Surely that alters our whole plan,' he said.  'Now we can treat,
where before we could only coerce.'

'I do not think so, my friend.'  D'Ingraville spoke lightly, as if
the matter were not of great importance.  'They will not treat--not
on our terms.  You want much, no doubt, but I want all, you see,
and men will fight for their all.'

'But--but--' Barralty stammered.  'Haraldsen cares for his daughter
above everything, and Hannay for his son.'

'Maybe,' was the answer.  'But Haraldsen and Hannay are not all.'

'Lombard does not count.'

'I do not think of Lombard.  I think of Lord Clanroyden.'

'But Clanroyden isn't there.'

'Not yet.  But he will be there to-morrow.'

'How do you know?  Have you any news?'

'I have no news.  I have heard nothing of Clanroyden since we left
London.  But I know that he will be there, for I have an
assignation with him, and he will not fail me.  And Clanroyden will
never yield.'

'But what do you mean to do, man?' Troth asked.

'I mean to follow the old way, the way of my Norman kinsfolk.  Fate
has been marvellously good to us.  There is no man on the Island
except those three--to-morrow they will be four--only dotards and
old women.  The telephone is cut and they have no boat.  The fog
will lift, I think, by the morning, but the Island will be in a
deeper fog which cuts it off from the world.  We shall have peace
and leisure to do our will.  If they listen to us, so much the
pleasanter for everybody.  If they fight we shall fight too, and
beyond doubt we shall win.'

'Win!' Barralty muttered.  'What do you mean by win?'

'Everything,' was the answer.  'I shall get my will, though I leave
a house in ashes and an island of dead men.'

'And then?'  It was Lydia's strained voice that spoke.

'Then we disappear, leaving a riddle in the Norlands which no man
will ever expound.  Trust me, I have made my plans--for you, my
friends, and for you, my fair lady.  You may have to face some
little adjustments in your lives, but what of that?  Le mouvement
c'est la vie.'

He lifted his glass and looked towards Lydia, drinking the last
mouthful as if it were a toast.

'And now,' he said, 'let me have a look at our hostages.  Martel,'
he cried to some one outside the door, 'fetch the babes.'



Peter John takes up the tale again. . . .  The children had sat in
a stupor of misery and fright, unable to think, deaf to all sounds
except the thumping of their hearts.  'We must get away,' the boy
had repeated at intervals, and the girl had replied, 'We must,';
but the words were only a kind of groan, so destitute were they of
any hope.  What Anna thought I do not know, but Peter John's mind
was fuller of mortification than of fear.  He had failed in his
trust, and by his folly had given the enemy a crushing vantage.

They lost count of time, and it may have been an hour or two hours
before the sliding panel in the alley opened and a face showed in
the cabin door.  A hand switched on the light.  They saw a man
slightly over the middle height, wearing sea-boots and a seaman's
jersey--a man who did not look like a sailor, for he had a thin,
shaven, pallid face, a scar on his forehead, and eyebrows that made
a curious arch over weak, blinking eyes.  When he spoke it was with
a foreign accent in a hoarse, soft voice.  'You will come with me,
please,' he said.  'M. le Capitaine would speak with you.'

The sight of the man sent a spasm of sharp fear through Peter
John's dull misery.  For he knew him--knew him at least by hearsay.
Sandy at Laverlaw had taken some pains to describe to us the two
members of the old Bodyguard of Olifa whom D'Ingraville had with
him.  This was the Belgian Martel--there could be no mistake about
the scar and the horseshoe brows.  At the door of the deck-house
stood another man, a tall stooping fellow whose hatchet face and
black beady eyes were plain in the glow from the cabin.  This was
beyond doubt the Spaniard Carreras.  The wolf pack was complete.

'Don't answer anything,' the boy whispered to Anna.  A stubborn
silence was the one course left to them.

But there was no inquisition.  Peter John had the impression of a
company mighty ill at ease.  The smooth geniality of tea-time had
gone, and the four who had then entertained them seemed to have
lost interest in their visitors and to be much concerned with their
own thoughts.  The pretty lady had become haggard and rather old,
while Troth had lost his robustness and sucked his pipe nervously.
Barralty had become a wisp of a man, and Albinus a furtive shadow.
Only the newcomer radiated confidence and vitality.  For a moment
Peter John forgot his fear, and looked curiously at the tall man
whom at Fosse he had assisted to put into the stream.  He was so
taut and straight that he had the look of an unsheathed sword.  His
pale eyes glittered like ice, and his smile had as much warmth in
it as an Arctic sun.  Magnificent, wonderful, terrible, inhuman,
like some devastating force of nature.  Yet, strangely enough, the
boy feared the reality less than the picture he had made in his
head.  This was a wild thing, like Morag, and wild things could be
tamed, curbed, or destroyed.

The Skipper bowed to Anna and nodded pleasantly to Peter John.

'You must be our guests for the night, I fear,' he said.  'We are
not a very commodious ship, so you mustn't mind rather rough beds.
You will want to turn in soon.  What about supper?'

It was Anna who replied.  'We don't want any supper, thank you.
But we'd like to turn in, for we're both very sleepy.'

'Right.  Show the young lady and gentleman to their quarters,
Martel.  Mr. Hannay will berth forward, and Miss Haraldsen can have
Miss Ludlow's couch.  Good-night and pleasant dreams.'

That was all.  The two followed Martel the way they had come, and
Anna was left in the big cabin, where a bed had been made up for
her on the couch.  Martel did the expected thing, for he took the
key from the inside of the cabin-door and pocketed it; then he
pulled the sliding panel which automatically locked itself.  The
sight of Anna's desolate face was the last straw to Peter John's
burden.  He followed Martel on deck, feeling as if the end of all
things had come.

Suddenly an angry squawk woke him to life.  Morag, hungry and
drenched with fog, sat on her perch in a bitter ill-temper.

'May I take my falcon with me?' he begged.

Martel laughed.  'I guess you may if you want company.  Your ugly
bird will be better below deck.'



Peter John found himself in a little cubby-hole of a cabin under
the fore-deck.  It was empty except for a hammock slung from the
ceiling, and a heap of blankets which some one had tossed on the
floor.  There was a big port-hole which Martel examined carefully,
trying the bolts and hinges.  'Don't go walking in your sleep and
drowning yourself, sonny,' was his parting admonition.  He did not
clamp it down, but left it ajar.

Peter John's first act, when he found himself alone, was to open
the port-hole wide.  It was on the port side, looking west, and
close to where they had embarked on the Tjaldar in the afternoon.
The fog was thinning, and a full moon made of what remained a half-
luminous, golden haze.  The boy had a notion of getting out of the
port-hole and trying to swim to the Island, but a moment's
reflection drove it out of his head.  He was not a strong swimmer,
and he could never manage two miles in those cold Norland waters.

Then a squeak from Morag gave him another idea.  There was no light
in the cabin except what came from the moon, but he tore a leaf
from a little writing-book which he kept for bird notes and printed
on it a message.  'In Tjaldar, which is enemy ship,' he wrote.
'Expect immediate attack.  Don't worry about us for we are all
right.'  He wrapped the paper in a bit of silk torn from his
necktie, and tied it round Morag's leg.  Then he slipped the leash,
and cast the bird off through the port-hole.  Like a stone from a
catapult she shot up into the moonlit fog.

'An off-chance,' he told himself, 'but worth taking.  She's
savagely hungry, and if she doesn't kill soon she'll go back to the
House.  If she's seen there Mr. Haraldsen has a spare lure and
knows how to use it.  If he gets the message he'll at least be
warned.'

The action he had taken had put sleep out of his head and had
cheered him up for the moment.  He could make nothing of the
hammock, so he sat himself on the heap of blankets and tried to
think.  But his thoughts did him no good, for he could make no
plans.  His cabin door was locked and the key in Martel's pocket.
Anna was similarly immured at the other end of the ship.  They were
prisoners, mere helpless baggage to be towed in the wake of the
enemy.  Oddly enough, the Skipper did not seem to him the most
formidable thing.  The boy thought of D'Ingraville as a dreadful
impersonal force of nature, like a snow blizzard or an earthquake.
His horror was reserved for Carreras and Martel, who were evil
human beings.  As he remembered Martel's horse-shoe brows and soft
sneering voice he shivered in genuine horror.  The one was the
hungry lion, but the other was the implacable, cunning serpent.

How long he sat hunched on the blankets he does not know, but he
thinks it must have been hours.  Slowly sleep came over him, for
body and mind and nerves were alike weary. . . .  Then that
happened which effectually woke him.  The disc of light from the
porthole was obscured by something passing over it, slowly and very
quietly.  He looked out, and saw to his amazement that one of the
kayaks was now floating on the water beneath him, attached to a
rope from above.

As he stared, a second object dropped past his eyes.  It was the
other kayak, which lightly shouldered the first and came to rest
beside it.

His hand felt for one of the lowering ropes and he found it taut.
Grasping it, he stuck his feet through the port-hole, wriggled his
body through and slid down the rope.  Almost before he knew he was
sitting in a kayak, looking up at the dim bulk of the vessel.

Then came another miracle.  A human figure was sliding down the
rope from the Tjaldar's deck, and he saw that it was Anna, coming
down hand over hand as lightly as a squirrel.  She saw him, dropped
into the second kayak, and reached for the paddle.  All was done as
noiselessly as in a dream.  There was a helper on the deck above,
for the taut rope was dropped after her and swished gently into the
water.

Anna kissed her hand to the some one above, seized her paddle, and
with a slow stealthy stroke sent her kayak out into the golden
haze.  As Peter John clumsily followed suit, she turned on him
fiercely, 'Quiet, you donkey,' she whispered.  'Don't splash for
your life.  Hang on to me and I'll tow you.'

In half a dozen strokes the little craft were out of sight of the
Tjaldar.



CHAPTER XIV

The Ways of the Pink-Foot


They had travelled a quarter of a mile before Peter John spoke.
'How did you manage that?' he asked excitedly.

Anna slackened pace and dropped into line with him.

'I didn't.  It was the man--the one with the funny eyebrows--the
one the Skipper called Martin or some name like that.'

Peter John emitted a groan of dismay.

'But he's Martel--the worst of them--my father told me.  It's a
plot, Anna.  He didn't mean any good to us.'

'He's let us escape, anyway, and that's the good I want.  I had
dropped off to sleep on that beastly couch when he woke me up, and
said I'd better be off, for this was no place for kids.  He made me
follow him up on deck, keeping in the shadow so that we shouldn't
be seen.  There was no one about anyhow, and not a light except the
riding-light.  He had already got the kayaks in the water, and he
said you would notice them, for they were beside your port-hole,
and if you didn't we'd go down and rouse you up.  When he saw you
sitting in a kayak, he said it was what he expected, for you were a
bright citizen.'

'It's all a trick,' Peter John groaned.  'Martel's the worst devil
of the lot.  He wants us to escape so that we can be caught and
brought back, and so give them an excuse to bully us.'

'That sounds to me silly,' said Anna.  'I they wanted to treat us
rough there was nothing to prevent them anyhow.  I think the man is
friendly.  He's a Norlander.'

'He isn't.  He's a Belgian.'

'Well, he speaks Norland as well as my father.  And he knows about
the Islands.  He was out in the dory this afternoon, and he says
the Grind are coming.  He says that they will rendezvous at the
Stor Rock--the Grind always have a rendezvous.  I don't know why he
told me that, but he seemed to think it important, for he said it
several times.  Only a Norlander could know about such things.'

'He may know Norland, but he's a Belgian and the worst of the lot.
My father told me.  What else did he say?'

'He said that we must hurry like the devil, and we weren't to go
straight to the House.  If we could shape any kind of course we
were to go to the south part of the Island, to the Birdmarsh.  That
looks as if he thought the Skipper would be after us.  I believe he
meant well by us, Peter John, and anyway we're free again.'

'We won't be long free,' said the boy.  He had his compass out, and
halted for a moment to steady it.  'I don't trust him one bit,
Anna.  A course due west will bring us to the House, and that's
where we steer for.  If we can't make it, then we'll do the
opposite of what Martel said and try for the north.'

'I don't care where we land,' said the girl, 'as long as it's on
the Island.'

The boy held up his hand and listened.

'If they find out we're gone--or if Martel tells them--they can
overhaul us in ten minutes with their outboard motor.  Do you hear
anything, Anna?'

The fog was breaking up into alleys and strips of moonlit sea,
rayed round them like the points of a star.  There was no sound,
not even the ripple of water or a gull's cry.

'Come on,' Anna urged.  'We must be a quarter of the way across,
and every moment counts.  Take longer sweeps, Peter John, like me,
and don't behave as if you were making butter-pats.'

Then for half an hour there was no further speech.  The boy had not
the girl's effortless skill, and put much needless strength into
his strokes, so that his shoulders soon began to ache, and his
breath to shorten.  The fog was oddly intermittent.  Now they would
be in a circle of clear sea, now back in a haze so thick that Peter
John had to keep his compass on his knee, and Anna closed in on him
for guidance.  On one such occasion she observed that Morag had
been left behind, and that she wished well to the first hand that
touched her.

'She hasn't,' was his answer.  'I flew her out of the port-hole,
and tied a message to her varvel.  If she doesn't kill, they may
get her at the House.'

'What message?' Anna asked.

'Only that you and I were all right, but that they had better look
out for squalls.'

Then, when they were in one of the patches of clear air, there fell
on their ears the unmistakable sound of a motor behind them.

'Now we're for it,' said Anna.  'Heaven send the fog thickens.  I
was right about Martel.  He told me not to go straight for the
House, and that's what we've done, and they've naturally followed
us. . . .  Where are you heading for now?'

The compass had dropped to the bottom of the kayak and Peter John
had altered course to the north-west.

'Martel said south,' said Anna.

'That's why we are going north,' was the answer.

Mid-channel in the small hours with an enemy close behind you is no
place for argument.  Anna followed obediently, the more as she saw
that the new route was taking them into thicker weather.  Presently
on their port beam they heard the chug of a motor, but could see
nothing when they screwed their heads round.  Now they were back in
dense fog, and the compass was brought into use again.  Fear and
the sense of pursuit had given both a fresh vigour, and the little
craft slipped gallantly through the water.  The moon was setting,
and its golden light no longer transfused the sea-mist, which was
becoming cold and grey.  Soon it would be dawn.

Then suddenly they got a dreadful scare.  The sound of a motor
broke just ahead of them.  They stopped and held their breath,
living by their ears, for their eyes were useless in the brume. . . .
The noise came nearer--soon it was not twenty yards ahead--but
they saw nothing.  Then slowly it died away towards the west.

'That was their second motor,' said Peter John.  'It had a
different sound from the other.'

'Who was right?' said Anna triumphantly.  'I said we should trust
that Martin man, but you wouldn't.  We've disobeyed both the things
he told us to do, and the result is we've been jolly nearly
copped.'

After that there were no more alarms.  The fog grew denser as they
approached the Island, but it lifted slightly when the lap of the
tide told them that they were close to shore.  In this part the
cliffs rose sheer from a narrow rock-strewn beach, but the children
had visited the place before, and knew that a landing could be made
in one of the tiny bays cut by descending streams.  One such they
found, where there was a half-moon of sand at the foot of a steep
gully in the crags.  They beached the kayaks and hid them in the
cover of some big boulders.  Then, taking hands, they proceeded to
climb the ravine, which was stony and rough, but quite practicable.
Near the top they found a recess of heath and bracken and there
Anna resolutely sat down.

'Thank God for His mercies,' she said.  'If we had only some food
I'd be happy.  I'm going to sleep, and you'd better do the same,
Peter John, for Heaven knows what sort of a day we have before us.'



They had no watch, and Peter John, who could usually tell the time
by the sky, was out of his reckoning in those northern latitudes.
They slept sound in the nook of rock, and it was only the sun on
Anna's face that woke them.  The time cannot have been much short
of noon.

The mist had gone, and the day was bright and hot, but the
visibility was poor.  Halder, of which they had a full view, was a
cone of dull blue with no details showing, and the Channel between
might have been a bottomless chasm, for it had none of the sheen of
water.

'It will be fine till three,' said Anna, who knew the Norland
weather.  'Then I think it will blow again from the east, and blow
hard.'

She stood up to stretch her arms, but Peter John caught her skirt
and pulled her back.  'We mustn't show ourselves,' he enjoined.
'Remember, they're after us.  Wait here while I reconnoiter.'  He
crawled out of the cleft, and lay prone on a knuckle of rock from
which the view was open eastward.  He was back in a few seconds.
'The Tjaldar has gone,' he whispered.  'No sign of her, and I could
see twenty miles of water.  It must be pretty late in the day, for
I'm desperately hungry.  Aren't you?'

'Perishing, but it's no good thinking about it.  We'll get no food
till we get home.  How is that to be managed?  I've been taking our
bearings from Halder, and we should be about two miles north of the
House.  There's a track to it on the top of the cliffs, and it's
mostly in sight of the Channel, but if the Tjaldar isn't there that
won't matter.  I expect she is somewhere on the west side of the
island.'

'What lies between the House and the west side?' Peter John asked.
It was about the only part they had not explored.

'There's the hill Snowfell.  A little hill compared to the ones at
Laverlaw.  Then there's a boggy place which we call the Goose Flat,
because the pink-foot breed there.  Then there's the sea--a rather
nasty bit of coast with only one decent landing. . . .  Let's
bustle and get home.  If the brutes are going to attack to-day
there's no reason why they shouldn't start early, for just now
there's no darkness to wait for.'

They climbed to the top of the gully where it ran out on to the
tussocky cliff-top.  Peter John, upon whom unpleasant forebodings
had descended, insisted on keeping close in cover and showing no
part of themselves on the skyline.  Presently they looked down on a
small tarn, much overgrown with pond-weed, which they remembered as
the only lochan which had no boat.  The track to the House passed
its eastern edge, and by this their road lay.

It was a terribly exposed track, and Peter John regarded it with
disfavour.

'Hadn't we better hug the cliff-edge where there's a certain amount
of cover?' he suggested.

'You may if you like, but I won't.  The Skipper and his lot can't
be near the place yet, and I want to be home soon.  They'll all be
mad with anxiety.  I must loosen my bones, for I'm as stiff as a
ramrod.  I'll race you, Peter John.'

She shook her yellow locks, and before the boy could prevent her
was off at a gallop along the track.  There was nothing for it but
to follow her.  He found it hard to catch her up, and the effort
put other things out of his head.  When they topped the rise, which
overlooked the hollow where the House lay a mile distant, they were
abreast and going at their best speed.

Then the boy saw something which made him halt in his tracks,
clutch at Anna's arm, and bring her slithering to the ground. . . .
Behind a rocky knoll three hundred yards off a man was posted.

He had not heard them, for he continued to smoke and regard the
House through binoculars.  They had only a back view of him, but he
was plainly a sailor from the Tjaldar by his blue jersey and baggy
blue serge trousers.  He had some notion of landscape, for he was
so placed that he must command any access to the House from the
north.

Peter, his hand on Anna's bowed head, lay for a little with his
nose in a patch of lousewort.  He was thinking hard and studying
the environs of the House.  Their only chance now was to reach it
from the west or south.  But west lay Snowfell, where there was
scarcely cover for a tomtit.  On the south the approaches were
better, but to reach the south it was necessary to get to the back
of Snowfell and fetch a wide circuit.  One ugly thought struck him.
If the Tjaldar had gone to the west of the island, might it not
have all that side under observation?  This watcher came from the
Tjaldar.  If the enemy had posted his vedettes up to the edges of
the House, was he not likely to be holding the intermediate ground?

Nevertheless, it was their only chance.  The two very cautiously
wormed their way back over the ridge they had crossed, left the
track, and made good speed across a marshy field which was the
source of the stream that fed the lochan.  They saw no sign of life
except a group of Norland ponies, as tame as puppies, who came up
to have their noses rubbed, and fell to grazing quietly as soon as
they had passed.  But, warned now, they made the final ascent of
the spine of the island, a continuation of Snowfell, with immense
care, pulling themselves up between two patches of bracken to look
over the far side.

There was no sign of the Tjaldar.  The hill fell steeply in screes
and rocks to the water's edge.  There seemed to be a bay there, the
contours of which were concealed by the hump of the cliffs, with a
spire of smoke ascending from it.  South, the ground flattened out
into a mantelpiece, where pools of water glimmered among rushes and
peat.  Beyond that a bulge of hill cut off further view.  There was
no sign of life except the white specks, which were birds down in
the Goose Flat, a nimbus of screaming gulls over a dead porpoise on
one of the reefs, and the column of smoke.

'That's all right,' said Anna with relief.  'They've been here this
morning, and that smoke is the remains of a breakfast fire.  They
have landed that man to keep an eye on the House, and they have
gone off in the Tjaldar on some other business.  Probably they're
back at Halder by now to mislead us.  Their time is the evening.
We can't go over Snowfell, for the picket would see us, but we can
get round by the Goose Flat and reach the House by way of the
reservoir.  Come on, for I'm weak with starvation.'

Anna would have marched boldly down the hill, but Peter John had
sense enough to make her keep cover.  This was not so difficult as
long as they were on the encumbered slopes, for any road had to be
picked among secret tangles of rock and fern.  But before they came
to the Goose Flat they found themselves on short heather and screes
and as conspicuous as rooks on a snow-field.  Even Anna was
sobered.

'Let's run this bit,' she whispered, 'and get it over.'

It was no doubt the best plan, but it failed.  They had not covered
ten yards before a whistle cleft the silence.  A figure showed
itself on the edge of the seaward cliff--and then another.  To
Peter John's horror, as he cast his eye in the opposite direction,
a man appeared on the ridge of Snowfell.

'Three,' he groaned.

'Four,' Anna corrected.  'There's another behind us--we must have
passed close to him.'

A rib descended from Snowfell, and Peter John saw that if they
could get beyond that they would be for a moment out of sight of
the watchers, even of him on the hill.  The rib bisected the Goose
Flat, making a kind of causeway across it.  There was no real cover
in the Flat, for to any one on the edge whatever tried to hide
itself among the short rushes and shallow lagoons would be easily
visible.  But to gain even a minute or two was something.  The
children in full view raced beyond the rib, waded into the Goose
Flat, and flung themselves behind exiguous tussocks.

'We're out of their sight,' Anna panted; 'but they'll be down here
in a jiffy to nobble us.  Let's get on.  We might beat them and get
first to the Bird Marsh.  We could hide there.'

'No good,' said the boy.  'If we go south, we'll be in their view
in twenty yards, and the man on the hill has only got to walk down
to cut us off.  The chap behind, too.  We're done, Anna, unless
they think we've broken back.'

'They can't.  They saw us come here.'

'Then we're for it.  We might as well have stayed on the Tjaldar.'

'Oh, Peter John, what a mess we've made of everything!' the girl
wailed.

Suddenly the boy's eyes opened wide to a strange spectacle.  Just
in front of them the causeway made by the rib of hill was somewhat
broken, and a glimpse could be got of the swamp farther to the
north.  In this gap appeared the foolish heads and poised necks of
a little flock of pink-foot.  They were young birds who, having
been hatched out in the Goose Flat, had spent their early
adolescence on the sea skerries, and had now, according to their
ancestral habit, returned for a little to their birthplace.  They
were chattering among themselves, apparently alive to the presence
of something novel in front, about which they desired to be better
informed.

By the mercy of God Peter John remembered a piece of lore that he
had learned from the wildfowlers at Hanham in January.  The pink-
foot is not a skeery bird.  He has resolved that his duty is not to
live but to know, and he is nearly the most inquisitive thing in
creation.  If you want to get in range of him, Samson Grose had
said, show yourself, and the odds are that he will move nearer you
to discover what sort of thing you are.  With young pink-foot, that
is; older birds have learned wisdom.

To Anna's amazement the boy got to his feet, while his right hand
held her down. . . .  She saw the echelon of geese stop and confide
things to each other.  Every eye of them was on to Peter John, and
after a moment's hesitation they began to move forward.  They
seemed oddly self-conscious, for they did not keep looking in his
direction.  Some would stop for a second to feed, and all kept
turning their heads every way.  But the whole flock was steadily
drifting south, as if there was some compulsion in their rear.  In
five minutes they had moved at least ten yards.

The pink-foot were in sight of the watchers, and Peter John was
not.  Would the watchers draw the inference desired?  They must do
it at once, for if the geese came too near, they would lose their
heads, stream back, and all would be lost.  To one who did not know
their habits the conclusion must surely be clear.  The children
were behind them, and their presence there was making them move
south.  Therefore it was in the north part of the Goose Flat that
they must be sought.  They had been seen to disappear behind the
rib of hill, but they must have crawled back and got in the rear of
the geese.

Peter John's heart was in his mouth, as he stood staring at the
bobbing heads and projected necks of these absurd pink-foot, who to
him and Anna meant everything.  At any moment he himself might come
within sight of some watcher who had shifted ground.  Two lots of
human beings, invisible to each other, were regarding some foolish
winged creatures with desperate intentness.  It was a new way of
taking the auspices.

Then on the boy's ear fell that which was like an answer to his
prayers.  A whistle was blown up on the hillside, and answered by
another from the direction of the sea.  The pink-foot had been
correctly observed. . . .  A second later he had confirmation, for
something had come north of the geese to alarm them.  They stopped
their leisurely advance, and straggled to left and right.  The
watchers had appeared to hunt for the fugitives in the north end of
the swamp.

There was no time to lose, for when they found their search
fruitless they would undoubtedly cast south.  Peter John dragged
Anna out of the foot of mud where she sat like a nesting wild-duck,
and the two scrambled out of the bog and raced for their lives
along the harder skirts of the hill.  They did not stop till they
had rounded the flank of the massif of the Isle, and were looking
down on the Bird Marsh and the rolling barrens beyond it.  Only
once had Peter John glanced back, and that was to see the pink-
foot, shaken out of their comfortable ways, bunching for a seaward
flight.  Once they were in the deep of the Marsh, where Anna knew
the paths, they felt reasonably secure, and dared to draw breath
again.  As Anna cast herself on a patch of heather she could not
resist one word of reproach.  'I was right all along about the
Martin man.  If we had steered south as he told us we should have
missed this heart-disease.  We might even be home and having
breakfast.'

When she had recovered her breath she spoke again.

'That was very clever of you, Peter John.  I'll never laugh at you
again for being silly about birds.  I thought you had gone mad till
I saw your plan.  It was a miracle, and I feel happy now.  We are
going to win, never fear.'

'I wish I knew how,' said the boy dolefully.  'We have slipped
through them, but we have still to get into the House. . . .  I
wonder if they've any notion there what's happening. . . .  And
after that?  The brutes are three or four to our one, and they're
desperate.'

'I don't care,' said Anna; 'we're going to win.  There'll be
another miracle, you'll see.'  She raised herself and sniffed the
air.  From where they sat they had no view of the Channel, but the
southern part of Halder was in sight.  'We can't see the Tjaldar's
anchorage.  I wonder if she has come back.  Look at the sky over
there, Peter John.  I said the weather would change in the
afternoon, and it's jolly well going to.  There's the father and
mother of a thunderstorm coming up over Halder, and after that it
will blow like fury from the east. . . .  Lordie, it's hot, and
there's a plague of daddy-longlegs.  That should mean that the
Grind are coming.  That was what the Martin man said.  He may be a
scoundrel, but we would have been better off if we had taken his
advice this morning.'

Peter John was almost cross.  There was no need to rub in the good
intentions of Martel, which he knew to be moonshine, and less to
babble about pilot whales, when the world was crashing about them.
'Let's start,' he said.  'We'll have our work cut out getting to
the House even from this side.'

Anna let her head sink back on the moss.

'I feel dreadfully sleepy,' she said.  'Perhaps it's the storm
coming.  All the energy has gone out of me. . . .  Martin said the
Grind would rendezvous at the Stor Rock.  That's only about seven
miles from the south end of this island--half-way between it and
Kalso.'

An exasperated Peter John got to his feet and regarded the girl as
she lay with her eyes half-closed.  She certainly looked very
weary--and different, too, in other ways.  She had become like her
father--her skin had suddenly acquired his pallor, and her eyes,
when she opened them, his light wildness.  And her mind was still
on her preposterous whales.

'You stay here and rest,' he said, 'and I'll go and prospect.
There may be some difficult ground to cover, where one will be
safer than two.'

'All right,' she said sleepily.  'Come back before the storm
begins, for I hate being alone with thunder. . . .  I didn't know
there were so many daddy-longlegs in the world.'

Peter John, in a mood between irritation and depression, hopped
over the tussocks of the Bird Marsh, struck the shore, and trotted
northward on the edge of the shingle.  Halder was beginning to veil
itself in a gloom as purple as a ripe grape, but the Channel was
clear, and there was no sign of the Tjaldar by the other shore.
The air was oppressive and still, but he had the feeling that some
fury of nature was banking up and would soon be released.

The road, which the other day had seemed but a step or two, was now
interminable to his anxious mind.  He came in view of the harbour
and the cluster of cottages to the south of it; all was peaceful
there.  Then by way of the channel of a stream he climbed from the
shore, and looked suddenly upon the shelf where the House stood.

There was peace there, too, but he saw various ominous things.
There were pickets posted--one on the near edge of the main lawn,
one on the hill behind, and one above the voe on the road up from
the harbour.  These pickets were armed.  Their business was to see
that none entered the House and that none left it.  Even as he
stared, the one nearest him detected some movement in the back
parts and sent over a warning shot; he heard the bullet crack on
the stone roof of an outhouse.  These watchers were the terriers to
guard the earth till the hunters arrived.

Peter John's first impulse was to dodge the cordon and get into the
House.  He believed that he could do it, for he must know the
ground better than they did.  But if he once got in he would not
get out again, and Anna would be left deserted.  If the House was
to be entered it must be in Anna's company.

There was no time to lose, so he turned and made for the Bird Marsh
again, no longer hugging the shore, but taking the short cut across
the hill.  His last glance back showed the Tjaldar rounding the
cliffs north of the harbour.  He felt miserably depressed and
utterly feeble.  The people in the House must know their danger
now, but what good was that knowledge to them?  There were three
men there to face a dozen and more--the crew of the Tjaldar had
seemed to him unduly large, and its members had not looked
innocent.  If Anna and he joined the defence they would only be two
more non-combatants. . . .  Where, oh where, was Lord Clanroyden?
Peter John had come to regard Sandy as the sheet anchor in this
affair, the man who had planned the whole strategy, the regular
soldier among amateurs.  His absence gave him a dreadful sense of
confusion and impotence.

Before he reached the Bird Marsh the weather had changed with a
vengeance.  The purple cloud had crossed the Channel from Halder,
and the afternoon had grown as dark as a winter's gloaming.  There
was no lightning, but the gloom suddenly burst in a tornado of
hail.  So violent was the fall that the boy was beaten to the
ground, where he lay with his back humped, protecting every inch of
exposed skin from that blistering bastinado.

This lasted for perhaps five minutes.  But when the hail ceased the
sky did not lighten.  The ground was white like winter and a wind
as icy as the hail blew out of the east.  He threaded the Bird
Marsh to where he had left Anna, listless in the heat of the summer
afternoon. . . .  The girl had gone.  Peter John lifted up his
voice and called her, but there was no answer.

She had not followed him, for in that case he would have met her.
It was scarcely possible that the enemy could have arrived from the
Goose Flat and captured her.  East and west lay impassable lochs.
She could only have gone south on to the low dunes which stretched
to the butt of the island.  The hail had obliterated her tracks in
the heather, but a few yards on there was a deep scar in a peat-
hagg as if some one had slipped.  A little farther and there was
another footmark in the peat.  Peter John followed the trail till
he was out of the swampy ground and on the thymy slopes.

Suddenly he became aware that there was another sound in his ears
beside the whistle of the wind.  It came from in front of him, a
strange blend of excited shouting and what seemed like the dash of
waves on a skerry.  At first he thought it the screeching of gulls
over a dead porpoise.  And then there came a note in it which was
human, which must be human--deep voices in the act of giving
orders--a note which no animal can compass.  He stumbled over the
last ridge, and looked down on the big voe into which one of the
lochs of the Bird Marsh discharged its waters, and the network of
lesser voes which made up the south end of the Island.

The shores of the voe were dense with people, and its surface and
that of the lesser voes black with a multitude of boats.  But at
the heads of each inlet was a spouting and quivering morass in
which uncouth men laboured with bloody spears.  It was a scene as
macabre as any nightmare, but it was orderly too.  There were men
with papers on the shore pricking off figures. . . .  For a second
his mind wandered in utter confusion, and then he got the answer.
Anna's tales had come true.  The Grind had arrived.

At first he did not realize that this meant salvation.  The
strangeness of the spectacle lifted it clean out of his normal
world.  He only knew that Anna was down there, and that he must
find her.  But as he raced down the slopes the scene before him
began to change.  Men left their toil and moved to a post midway up
the big voe.  The boats from the lesser voes began to draw to the
same place.  The people with the papers in their hands did
likewise--one of them was shouting what sounded like an order.
Long before Peter John had reached the point at least three-fourths
of the people had moved there. . . .  Then as he came nearer he saw
a group make a platform of their arms, and some one was hoisted on
to it.

It was Anna, but an Anna whom he had not known before.  Around her
was bent and shingle grimed with blood--men with conical caps, and
beards like trolls and wild eyes and blood-stained whale spears--a
few women like mænads--and as a background a channel choked with
animals dying or dead.  She stood on a human platform, like a
Viking girl in the Shield-ring, the wind plucking at her skirts and
hair, her figure braced against it, her voice shrill and
commanding.  Something had been re-born in her out of the ages,
some ancient power of domination; and something too had been re-
born in her hearers, an ancestral response to her call.

She was speaking Norland, of which he understood not one word.
What she said, as he learned afterwards, was that pirates were
attacking her house and her father, and she summoned the men of the
islands to their defence.  She struck a note which reverberated
through all their traditions, the note of peril from strangers--
Norse and Scots rovers, Algerian pirates, who had driven the folk
to the caves of the hills.  The Norlander is not a fighting man,
but he has fighting strains in him if the right chord be touched.
Moreover, these men had their blood hot and their spirit high from
the Grind hunt. . . .

She saw Peter John, and she seemed to use him to point her appeal.
An older man spoke and was answered with a frenzied shouting.
Certain men were detailed to keep watch on the Grind--they drew
themselves off from the rest as the speaker called their names. . . .
Then suddenly Anna was no more on her platform.  She had Peter
John's hand in hers, and behind them, racing northward, was the
better part of a hundred islanders babbling like hounds, and in
each right hand a reddened whale-spear.



CHAPTER XV

Transformation by Fire


For sheer misery I give the night when the children were missing
the top place in my experience.  By dinner-time I was anxious; by
midnight I was pretty well beside myself; but when morning came
with no word of them, I had fallen into a kind of dull, aching
torpor.  Haraldsen, Lombard, and I were on our feet for ten hours,
and we dragged the ancient servants after us till their legs gave
out.  My first thought was naturally for the kayaks, and we
ascertained that they were not in the harbour.  Gregarsen, the
skipper of the now useless motor-boat, was positive that the
children had been out in them in the morning, but he had a sort of
notion that he had seen them return.  The sea was like a mill-pond,
so they could not have come to grief through ill weather.  My
special job was to range the coast, but nowhere on the east side of
the island was there any sign of the kayaks, and I had to put the
west side off till the next day.  Lombard tried the fishing-lochs
in case there had been a mishap there.  As for Haraldsen I don't
know what he did except to prowl about like a lost dog.  He seemed
almost demented, and hardly spoke a word.

When I returned to the House about 5.30, the riding lights of the
Tjaldar across the Channel were just going out.  I had a momentary
idea that the children might have gone there, but I at once
rejected it.  Neither Peter John nor Anna was the sort of person to
condemn their belongings to a night of needless anxiety.

At the corner of the lawn, where a high trellis had been erected to
shield a bowling green, I found Haraldsen looking a good deal the
worse for wear.  But he did not look maniacal, as I must have
looked.  It was rather as if his mind had withdrawn itself from the
outer world altogether.  His eyes were almost sightless, like those
of an old dog which moons about the doors.  He had been in a queer
'fey' mood, ever since we arrived on the Island, but Anna's
disappearance seemed to have taken the pin out of his wits
altogether.

He was staring owlishly at something which was making a commotion
at the top of the trellis--staring helplessly and doing nothing
about it.  It was a bird which had somehow got tangled in the top
wires, and was flapping wildly upside-down on the end of a string,
and was obviously in a fair way to perish from apoplexy.  I saw
that it was Morag, caught by her lead.

It didn't take me long to extricate her, and get savagely bitten in
the process.  I saw the paper round her leg, and with some
difficulty unwound it.  My first feeling, as I read it, was a deep
thankfulness.  At any rate the children were still in the land of
the living.

They were on the Tjaldar.  I saw the little ship across the
Channel.  She had got up steam, and was moving away from her
anchorage with her head to the north.  But she would return.  The
message had said that she was our enemies' base, and that on that
day they would attack us.

The news pulled me out of my stupefied misery into a fury of
action.  I shouted at Haraldsen as if he were deaf.  'They've got
the children,' I cried.  'Out there on the Tjaldar!  God knows how,
but they've got 'em.  They've cut the telephone and wrecked the
motor-boat, and to-day they are coming for us. . . .  D'you hear?
The children are safe so far.  But we must prepare to meet an
attack.  Don't look like a stuck pig, man.  At any rate now we have
something to bite on.'

I hustled him into the House, where we found a very gummy-eyed
Lombard.  I raked up some breakfast from a demoralized household,
but I remember that none of us could eat much, though we swallowed
a good many cups of tea.  And all the time I was discussing our
scanty defences, simply to keep my mind and those of the others
from ugly speculations. . . .  We had a pretty poor lay-out.  None
of the old servants could be trusted with a gun, for your Norlander
knows little of fire-arms.  The only man who might have been of any
use was old Absalon the fowler down at the clachan, and he was
bedridden.  The fighting-men were Haraldsen, Lombard, myself, and
Geordie Hamilton--all of us fair shots, and Haraldsen, as I had
discovered, a bit of a marksman.  Happily we had plenty of weapons
and ammunition.  But we had a big area to hold, and the House was
ill-adapted for defence--it could be approached on too many sides.
We were bound to be outnumbered, and we were badly handicapped by
the fact that the enemy had the two children as hostages.  From
what Sandy had told me of D'Ingraville it was not likely that he
would be too scrupulous in the use of them. . . .

Sandy!  The memory of him was like a blow in the face.  What in
God's name had happened to him?  Here were we up to our necks in a
row of his devising, and no word of him!  I pictured him held up by
an accident somewhere on the road, and frantically trying to get a
message through to an island which was now wholly cut off from the
world.

I tried to think calmly and picture what an attack would be like.
Our enemies were out for business, and their ways would not be
gentle.  What did they want?  To occupy the House and ransack it at
their leisure.  Yes, but still more to get hold of Haraldsen.  He
was what really mattered.  They must get their hands on him, and
force him to do what they wanted.  As for Lombard and me, they must
silence us.  Kill us, or hide us away somewhere for good.  Or bribe
us.  The horrid thought struck me that they would try to bribe me
with Peter John as the price.

I have never contemplated an uglier prospect, and the notion that
the children were part of it made me sick at heart.  No doubt the
enemy would begin with overtures--Haraldsen and the House to be
handed over--Lombard and myself to sign some kind of bond of
conformity.  When that was refused they would attack.  We might
stall them off for a bit and do them a certain amount of damage,
but in the end we must be overpowered. . . .  Was there any hope?
Only to protract the business as long as possible on the chance
that something might turn up.  I tried to make a picture of Sandy
hurrying to our rescue, but got little comfort out of it.  If he
was going to do anything, he would have been here long ago.

The sole way of spinning out the affair was to keep Haraldsen away
from their hands.  So long as he was uncaptured they had not won.
Therefore he must be got out of the House into hiding.  Was there
any place of concealment?

He was more reasonable than I expected.  He forced his mind back
from its wanderings, and his eyes became more like those of a
rational being.  He saw my point.  I had been afraid that his
bellicosity would make him refuse to keep out of the scrap, but
Anna's loss seemed to have weakened the spirit in him.  He agreed
that our only chance was to delay his own capture as long as
possible. . . .  There was one hiding-place known only to Anna and
himself.  I have mentioned that to the north of the House, at the
end of a kind of covered arcade used for pot-plants, stood the
little stone cell of an Irish hermit who had brought Christianity
to the Norlands and had been murdered by the sea-rovers.  The elder
Haraldsen had restored this, and had put a roof on it, not of
living turf like the House, but of ordinary thatch.  In the floor
of the cell the workmen had discovered steps which led downward to
the sea, ending in a cave in the cliffs at the north side of the
harbour.  The discovery had been kept secret--which was the only
alternative to blocking the place up--and the entrance was through
a trap carefully concealed by a heavy bench which old Haraldsen had
had made of driftwood.

This seemed to be what we wanted.  I told Haraldsen that he must
get to it at once, taking with him a lantern and a packet of food.
If the worst happened and we were all scuppered or kidnapped, the
attack would still have failed if he remained at large.  I told him
not to try to get out at the sea end, for then he would be
certainly taken, but to stay tight in the passage till the enemy
had gone, and then to try what he could do in the way of getting
help.  The one thing that mattered was that he himself should keep
out of their hands.  Addled as his wits were, I think that he
understood this.  He looked at me with eyes like a willing, but
stupid, dog's.  Arn fitted him out with food and light, but the
last thing he did was to go up to his bedroom and fetch a light
sporting rifle and some clips of cartridges.  'I shall feel safer
with this,' he said, and I saw no harm in his being armed.  The
enemy might find the passage, and the show conclude with a scrap in
the bowels of the earth.  I saw him into the cell, watched his
lantern flickering down a stone staircase like a precipice, and
pulled the bench back over the trap.  There can have been no lack
of ventilation in that passage, for a current of air drew up it
like a tornado.

Then Lombard and I set ourselves to barricade the House.  It wasn't
a great deal that we could do, for the place was big and rambling,
and had not been built for defence.  We shuttered the windows, and
stacked furniture at the doors, and at the back parts, where the
entrance was simplest, made a kind of abattis of derelict machines
like chaff-cutters and mangles and even an old weaver's loom.  The
ancient servants were no use except to watch certain entrances and
give timely warning.  To Geordie Hamilton, who was something of a
shot, I gave the front of the House, his post being a little
pavilion at the south end.  He was to let nobody approach the main
door, and challenge anybody who showed his face on the Terrace.
Lombard I placed in command of the rear.  He distrusted his prowess
with a rifle, and preferred to trust to four double-barrelled shot-
guns.  There was not much of a field of fire in the back parts,
owing to the rise of the hill, and any assault there was likely to
be close-quarters fighting.  For myself I chose the roof, which
gave me a prospect of the whole terrain.  I could see little of the
Island, for the lift of the hill blocked the view to north and
south and west, but I had the Channel clear before me, and that
would give me early news of the Tjaldar.

So I sat down among the lush greenery of the roof, with a chimney-
stack as cover, a revolver in my pocket, a couple of .240 magazine
rifles beside me, and my spirits as low as I ever remembered them.
The thought of Peter John made me sick at heart.  The message on
Morag's leg said they were both safe, but that was nothing; they
were on the Tjaldar, and that meant in the enemy's power.
D'Ingraville wasn't likely to fling away such a trump card.  He
would use these helpless children to the limit as bargaining
counters, and if I refused to deal, he would not be scrupulous
about the counters. . . .  I remember wondering just how far his
colleagues would approve of his methods--Troth and Barralty and the
rest, who were probably more particular about the kind of crime in
which they dabbled.  But D'Ingraville would not pay much attention
to the whimsies of sedentary folk who by this time must be putty in
his hands. . . .  I longed to see the Tjaldar appear, for, though
that would mean the beginning of the end, it would also mean that I
was within a mile or so of my son.  I tried to concentrate my mind
on a plan, but I simply could not think.  I must wait and see how
D'Ingraville opened the action.

It was a mild morning, growing closer as it neared midday.  The
visibility was only moderate, but the Channel was clear, and there
was no Tjaldar in it. . . .  Five minutes after twelve, just when I
was thinking of taking a look round our defences, I saw the first
sign of the enemy.  Some one keeping well in cover came over the
skirts of Snowfell, and took up position to the north of the House,
about half a mile off.  My glass showed me that he had a seaman's
boots and jersey, and that he was armed.  The timing must have been
good, because five minutes later the sudden clamour of a flock of
black-backed gulls to the south made me turn that way, and I saw a
second man of the same type ensconce himself just behind the
reservoir and rake the House and the gardens with his glasses.  I
knew now what was happening.  D'Ingraville was getting his vedettes
placed, so as to prevent any movement out of the House.  The earths
were being stopped before the pack came up. . . .  I turned my
glass on Snowfell.  There were two men squatting on its upper
screes.

A thought struck me which gave me a moment of comfort.  Why did he
take these precautions?  He must have thought, not only that we
were helpless, but that we were unsuspecting.  The breakdown of the
telephone and the motor-boat might have alarmed us, but we had no
cause to assume the near presence of the enemy.  Or the Tjaldar as
his base.  But Anna and Peter John knew!  Could they have escaped?
Could D'Ingraville imagine that they were now in the House? . . .
I rejected the vain hope.  How could the children get out of the
clutches of men who left nothing to chance?  Or why should these
men imagine that we could escape when we had nowhere to fly to? . . .

Nothing happened for an hour or two.  I descended from my perch and
made a tour of the House.  Geordie Hamilton had seen nothing--he
was too low down for any long views.  Lombard too had not much of a
prospect, and the watchmen on Snowfell were just beyond his radius
of vision.  I left Geordie lunching solidly off bread-and-cheese
and beer, had a pow-wow with Lombard, and returned to my watch-
tower.  I noticed that the weather was changing.  It was getting
very dark to the east over Halder, the Channel was being flawed
with odd little cat's-paws, and, though it was still close, I had
the feeling of being in a hot room next to an ice box--as if
something sharp and bitter were just round the corner.

Close on three o'clock there came a diversion.  There was a shot
behind me, and when I looked over the ridge of the roof I saw some
stone splinters clattering off one of the byres.  I hastened down
to investigate, and found that it was Lombard who had drawn fire.
He had remembered that Morag was immured in the cheese-house, and
would probably be pretty thirsty.  So he had set out to water her,
and had been observed by a picket, who had fired a warning shot
which sent him back to cover.  The earth-stoppers were taking their
job seriously.

A few minutes later we got our first news of the hounds.  Round the
seaward cliff north of the harbour came the bows of a ship.  I had
not seen the Tjaldar at close quarters before, and at first did not
recognize her.  As seen at her moorings under Halder she had looked
a smaller craft.  But with my glass I picked out her name.  She was
showing no colours, for the Danish flag was no longer at her
masthead. . . .

I did not see her anchor and lower her boats.  For she was no
sooner off the mouth of the voe than the gloom which had been
brooding over the Channel burst in the father and mother of a
storm.  I would have been beaten off my perch if I had not found
some shelter from the chimney stack.  In a minute or two the grass
of the roof was white with hailstones the size of a sparrow's eggs.
The garden, the terrace, the hillside looked deep in snow.  And
with the hail came a wind that cut like a knife.  It must have been
the better part of half an hour before the tornado passed, and I
could look seaward at anything but a blinding scurry.

There was the Tjaldar, white as a ship marooned in the Arctic ice,
rocking in a sea which had suddenly become sullen and yeasty.  Her
starboard ladder was down, but there was no sign of boats.  These
must have landed.  On her deck I thought I saw the flutter of a
woman's dress. . . .  And then I looked at the foreground, where a
path from the harbour climbed on to the terrace.  In the same
second of time I saw heads appear above the terrace's edge, and
heard Geordie Hamilton's challenge.  The heads disappeared.  I
found a better stance in the corner of my chimney-stack and picked
up one of the rifles.  I considered that presently I might have to
get busy.

The Tjaldar's party were no fools.  Some of them must have gone
south under the cliff to their picket stationed beside the
reservoir, and learned from him how we had placed our men.  I had
hoped that Geordie had kept himself well in cover, but he must have
shown himself to the sentry, who told the new-comers of his
whereabouts.  Anyhow, the next thing I heard was a roar like a
bull's from Geordie's little pavilion, and I had a glimpse of a
confused struggle there which ended in a sudden silence.  The Scots
Fusilier had been overpowered, and one of the three defenders put
out of action. . . .

The next act followed fast.  The terrace became suddenly populous,
and the new-comers were unchallenged.  D'Ingraville had not
underrated his opponents, for to match our miserable trio he had
brought at least twenty.  I did not count the numbers beneath me,
but there were at least a score, and there were also the pickets to
be reckoned with.  Clearly they knew all about us, for, now that
Geordie Hamilton had been dealt with, they seemed at their ease.
They were following a prearranged plan, based on exact knowledge of
the place, for some made their way to the back parts, and some to
the arcade which led to the hermit's cell, but more waited at the
foot of the steps which led to the main door.  They were grouped in
two bodies with an alley between them, and seemed to be waiting for
somebody.

Who that was soon appeared.  Up the alley came three men.  I had no
doubt about who they were, for I remembered Sandy's descriptions.
D'Ingraville was the tall fellow in the yachting cap and grey
flannels--he had grown his beard again and looked like a naval
officer, except that his light, springy stride was scarcely the
walk of the quarter-deck.  The dark, lean man, with the long face
made in two planes, was Carreras the Spaniard.  And beyond doubt
the slim one, in the much-stained blue suit and the cap a little
over one eye, was Martel, the Belgian.

Of the others I had only a vague general impression, as of
something hard, tough, and ruthless, but well-disciplined.  This
might be a posse of gangsters, but they would obey orders like a
Guards battalion.  But the three leaders made the clearest and
sharpest impact on my mind.  They were perhaps three hundred yards
away from me, but their personalities seemed as vivid as if they
were in the same room.  I had an overpowering impression of a
burning vitality which was also evil, a glowing, incandescent evil.
It cried out from the taut lines of D'Ingraville, from his poise
like that of a waiting leopard.  It clamoured from Carreras's
white, pitiless face.  Above all it seemed to me that it shouted
from the Belgian Martel's mean, faun-like presence.  It was the
last one I hated worst.  D'Ingraville was a fallen angel, Carreras
a common desperado, but Martel seemed to be apache, sewer-rat, and
sneak-thief all in one.

They had something to say to us.  I moved out from the shelter of
the chimney, was instantly seen, and covered by twenty guns.  I
dropped my own rifle and held up my hand.

'Will you gentlemen kindly tell me your business?' I shouted
against the east wind.

It was D'Ingraville who replied.  He bowed, and his two queer
companions did the same.

'Sir Richard Hannay, isn't it?' he said, and his pleasant voice
coming down wind was easily heard.  'We want a talk with Mr.
Haraldsen.  But it would perhaps save time--and trouble--if I could
first have a word with Lord Clanroyden.'

'Sorry,' I shouted.  'Mr. Haraldsen is not at home.  He has left
the island.'

From where I stood I could see the smile on his face, repeated in
those of his two companions.  They knew very well that I was lying.

'How unfortunate!' he said.  'Well, what about Lord Clanroyden?'

Did they know that we were without Sandy?  Or was this a fishing
question?  Or did they believe that he was in the House?  Anyhow,
it was not for me to enlighten them.

'If you have anything to say you can say it to me,' I said.  'Go
ahead, for it's devilish cold waiting.'

'A roof-top is scarcely the place for a conference,' said
D'Ingraville.  'Won't you come down, Sir Richard, from your eyrie?
It's a cold day, as you justly observe, and we might talk indoors.'

'All right,' I said, 'I'll come down.'  And then, as I looked at
the three men, I had a sudden inspiration.  I had meant to ask that
D'Ingraville should be their envoy, when I observed the man Martel
standing in an odd position, his left arm flung across his chest
and clutching the biceps of his right.  That was an attitude I had
seen before, and it woke in me a wild surmise.  It might be meant
as a sign.  My mind was pretty hopeless, for their desire to talk
seemed to me certain proof that they wanted to make terms about the
children, but it was just not sodden enough to miss this little
thing.

'You can keep yourself for Lord Clanroyden,' I told D'Ingraville.
'I'll do my talking to that other chap--the one on your left.  Send
him forward, and I'll let him indoors.'

'If there's any dirty work,' said D'Ingraville, his voice suddenly
becoming shrill, 'you'll pay for it bloodily.  You understand
that?'

'I do.  I'll leave the door open so that you can keep your eye on
me, and plug me if I try to be funny.'

I went downstairs with an ugly void at the bottom of my stomach.
Old Arn was on guard at the main door, and had built up a perfect
battlement of furniture, which it took some minutes to clear away.
When I got the door opened and the east wind in my face, I saw that
the three men had moved nearer--close to the foot of the steps.  I
beckoned to Martel.

'You two stay where you are,' I said.  'This man and I will be
inside the hall out of the wind.  We'll be well in sight.'  I
turned and re-entered the House.  I heard footsteps on the stone
and was conscious that Martel had joined me.  My heart was in my
mouth, for I was certain that his first word would be about the
children and the price we were prepared to pay for them.

I swung round on him.  'Well?' I demanded.  'What do you want?'

But the words died away on my lips.

Said the man called Martel, 'Dick, my lad, we've made rather a hash
of this business.'



God knows how he had managed it.  There was no ordinary makeup
about him, no false moustache or dyed hair or that sort of thing.
But in some subtle way he had degraded himself--that is the only
word for it.  Everything about him--slanting eyebrows, furtive
eyes, tricky mouth, slouching shoulders--was mean and sinister,
because he chose that it should be so.  But when he looked me in
the face, with that familiar twinkle in his eyes and that impish
pucker of the lips, he was the friend I knew best in the world.

There was just an instant when his eyes had the old insouciance.
Then they became very grave.

'We must talk fast, for there isn't much time.  I've made a deuce
of a mess of things, and I thought I was being rather clever.
First--to ease your mind.  Peter John and the girl are safe--for
the moment, at any rate.'

'Thank God!' I said fervently.  Such a load was lifted from my
heart that I felt almost confident.  But Sandy's next words
disillusioned me.

'I've done most of what I set out to do.  I've got Barralty and his
lot scared into fits.  No more high-handed crimes for them!
They're sitting in the Tjaldar sweating with terror. . . .  I've
collected enough evidence to keep them good for the rest of their
lives, and incidentally to hang D'Ingraville and most of his crowd.
Do you realize that up to now we had nothing against him that any
court would listen to? . . .  So I had to make him commit himself.
You see that?  He had to attack Haraldsen in his island, and have a
show-down once and for all.  Well, I thought I had got him taped.
I was counting on Haraldsen doing as he promised to do, and having
a hefty push of young islanders to defend him.  I would know
D'Ingraville's plans, being his chief staff-officer, and so could
play into their hands.  And lo and behold! when I get here, I find
there's not a soul in the island but dotards, and the whole place
is as unprotected as a stranded whale.'  He stopped and sniffed,
and then said a strange thing.  'Just the weather for the Grind,'
he said.  'Gad, that would be a bit of luck.'

Then he demanded, 'Where's Haraldsen?'  I told him and he nodded.
'I hope he'll stay in his earth. . . .  See here, Dick.  The layout
as I planned it was that D'Ingraville should be encouraged to
attack you and so commit himself.  But before he had time to do any
harm, your supports would arrive and hold him.  Well, that's a
wash-out, for there are no supports.  I have got word to the Danish
destroyer that patrols the fishing banks.  She's on her way, but
she's coming from the Westmanns, and can't be here much before
midnight.  That gives D'Ingraville time to do the deuce of a lot of
damage.  I tried to have the attack delayed, and I managed to have
it put off till now--it was arranged for this morning--principally
because I got them hunting for the children.  But now we're for it.
It's seven or eight hours till midnight, time enough for
D'Ingraville to cut all our throats if he wants to.  If he gets
hold of Haraldsen there may be some ugly work.  If it's only you
and Lombard he'll be content perhaps with ransacking the House.
How long can you stick it?'

'An hour maybe,' I said.  'We've no manpower to keep them out.
They are old hands, and won't give us much of a chance of picking
them off piecemeal.'

'They won't,' he said.  'If you can make it three hours we might do
the trick. . . .  I'll go back and report that you won't treat.
I'll say you can agree to nothing without Haraldsen's consent, and
that he isn't here, and that you'll do your damnedest to defend his
property.  I'll try to tangle up things at the other end.  I'll
have to come over to you some time, but I'll choose my own time for
that--the moment when I can be of most use.  If D'Ingraville finds
that he has been diddled and gets his hands on me, then my number
is up, and I won't be any use to you as a corpse.'

As Sandy spoke I had a vivid memory of a bush-crowned hillock in
the African moonlight, when, to defend another Haraldsen, Lombard
and I had imperilled our lives.  I seemed to have done all this
before, and to know what was coming next, and that foreknowledge
gave me confidence.  I must have smiled, for Sandy looked at me
sharply.

'You're taking this calmly, Dick.  You know it's a devilish tight
fix, don't you?  The one hope is midnight and the Danish boat.
Spin things out till then without a tragedy and we have won.  I
must be off.'  He waved his hand to D'Ingraville at the foot of the
steps and turned to go.  His last word was, 'Keep Haraldsen off the
stage for Heaven's sake.  He's our weakest point.'  He went down
the steps, and the next second I had clanged the great hall-door
behind him and dropped the bolts.  I left old Arn piling up the
barricade again and skipped up to my post behind the chimney-stack,
with the intention of doing some fancy shooting.  I saw Sandy
conferring with D'Ingraville and Carreras, looking once again the
murderous scallywag.



Suddenly, in a pause of the wind, a voice rang out, a voice coming
from the north, from the hermit's cell at the end of the arcade.

'Off the terrace,' it shouted.  'Back to your sties, you swine, or
I shoot.'

It was Haraldsen--there could be no mistaking that voice--but it
seemed to be raised to an unearthly pitch and compass, for it
filled the place like the rumour of the sea in a voe.  D'Ingraville's
ruffians were accustomed to the need for cover, and suddenly the
whole gang seemed to shrink in size, as it splayed out and crouched
with an uneasy eye on the north.  All but one--Carreras.  I don't
know what took the man.  Perhaps he was looking for shelter in the
lee of the steps and the House--at any rate, he moved forward
instead of back.  A shot cracked out, he flung up one arm, spun
half-left, and dropped on his face.

In an instant every man of them was flat on the ground, worming his
way back to the terrace wall which would give refuge from that
deadly rifle.  Then the voice spoke again, and what it said must
have considerably surprised one at least of the crawlers.

'Clanroyden,' it shouted.  'Back to the House with you!  Quick,
man!  Do as I tell you.  I can't handle that scum if there's a
friend mixed up in it.'

How on earth he saw who Martel was I cannot tell.  But it was a
foolish move, and it came very near being the end of Sandy.  It was
the words 'Back to the House' that did the mischief, for they
enabled D'Ingraville to identify the man Martel, when otherwise it
might have seemed a mere bluff.  At any rate so Sandy thought, for
to my horror I saw him scramble to his feet from behind a clump of
Arctic willows.  He knew his danger, for he twisted and side-
slipped like a rabbit.  I was choking with fright, for I couldn't
get down to the main door in time, and there was Arn's barricade to
get out of the way: the front of the House was bare of cover, and
till he got round the corner of it he was in the centre of an easy
field of fire.  But only one shot followed him, and I'm pretty
certain it did not come from D'Ingraville; he must have been
confident of getting his revenge at leisure.  The shot missed its
mark--I believe that the reason was that the fugitive at the moment
stumbled over the dead Carreras.  In a few seconds he was out of my
orbit of sight.  He would be safe in the back parts for the time
being, unless he fell in with a stray picket.

Presently he was out of my mind as well, for all my attention was
fixed on D'Ingraville.  He had got his main force under cover of
the terrace wall--out of Haraldsen's danger, and it was plain
enough what he proposed to do.  It was child's play to take
Haraldsen in flank and rear.  The cell's door and window opened to
the south, and its inmate could protect himself in that direction,
but what could he do against an attack from above by way of the
thatched roof?  Three sturdy fellows with five minutes' work could
uncover the badger's earth.

A figure squeezed in beside me behind the chimney-stack.  'A close
call,' said Sandy.  'The bullet went through my pocket.  If I
hadn't tripped and turned side on, I'd be dead. . . .  What's our
friend up to?  Oh, I see.  Fire.  They'll burn the thatch and smoke
him out.  This is our worst bit of luck.  If only that damned fool
had stuck in his burrow, instead of trying to be heroic.  I dare
say he's off his head.  Did you hear his voice?  Only a madman's
could ring like that.  And he gave me away, the blighter, though
God knows how he spotted me!  Another proof of lunacy!  This show's
turning out pretty badly, Dick.  In about half an hour D'Ingraville
will have got Haraldsen, and very soon he'll have got me, and he
won't be nice to either of us.'

A kind of dusk had fallen owing to the cloud-wrack drifting up with
the east wind, and the prospect from my roof-top was only of leaden
skies and a black, fretful sea.  The terrace was empty, but I could
see what was happening beyond it, and I watched it with the
fascinated eyes of a spectator at a cinema, held by what I saw, but
subconsciously aware of the artifice of it all.  My mind simply
refused to take this mad world into which I had strayed as an
actual thing, though my reason told me that it was a grim enough
reality.  I caught a glimpse of one figure after another among the
stunted shrubberies and sunk plots which lay north and east of the
hermit's cell.  Then an exclamation from Sandy called my attention
to the cell itself.  There was a man on its roof pouring something
out of a bucket.  'Petrol,' Sandy whispered.  'I guessed right.
They'll burn him out.'

A tongue of flame shot up which an instant later became a globe of
fire.  A spasm of wind swept it upwards in a long golden curl.
Directly beneath me I saw men appear again on the terrace.  It was
safe enough now--for Haraldsen could scarcely shoot from a fiery
furnace.

D'Ingraville was looking up at us, for he had guessed where Sandy
would have taken position.

'You have kept your promise, Lord Clanroyden,' he cried.  'I am
glad of that, for this would have been a dull place without you.'

Sandy showed himself fully.

'Thank you,' he said.  'I like to keep my word.'

'You have won the first trick,' the pleasant voice continued.  'At
least you have deceived me very prettily, and I am not easily
deceived.  I make you my compliments.  But I don't think you will
win the rubber.  When we have secured that madman, I will give
myself the pleasure of attending to you.'

I have called his voice pleasant, and for certain it was now
curiously soft and gentle, though notably clear.  But there was
something feline in it, like the purring of a cat.  There he stood
with his wild crew about him, elegant, debonair, confident, and as
pitiless as sin.  The sight of him struck a chill in my heart.  In
a very little we should be at his mercy, and it was hours--hours--
before there was any hope of succour.  I was not alarmed for
myself, or even for Haraldsen, who seemed now to have got outside
the pale of humanity; but I saw nothing before Sandy except
destruction, for two men had wagered against each other their
lives. . . .  And the children!  Where and in what peril were they
crouching in this accursed island? . . .

Suddenly there was a roar which defied the wind and made
D'Ingraville's voice a twitter.  It was such a thunder of furious
exultation as might have carried a Viking chief into his last
battle.  Out from the cell came Haraldsen.  His figure was lit up
by the blazing roof and every detail was clear.  He was wearing his
queer Norland clothes, and his silver buckles and buttons caught
the glint of fire.  One part of his face was scorched black, the
rest was of a ghostly pallor.  His shaggy hair was like a coronet
of leaves on a tall pine.  He had no weapon and he held his hands
before him as if he were blind and groping.  Yet he moved like a
boulder rushing down a mountain, and it seemed scarcely a second
before he was below me on the terrace.

There was no mistaking his purpose.  The man had gone berserk, and
was prepared to face a host and rend them with his naked fingers.
Had I been near enough to see his eyes, I knew that they would have
been fixed and glassy. . . .  Once in Beira I saw a Malay run amok
with a great knife.  The crowd he was in were almost all armed, but
the queer thing was that not a shot was fired at the man, and he
had cut a throat and split two skulls before he was tripped up and
sat upon by a drunken sailor coming down a side street, who hadn't
a notion what was afoot.  That was what happened now.  There were
men behind him with guns, there were twenty men on the terrace with
rifles and pistols, yet this tornado with death in its face was
permitted to sweep down on them unhindered.  A palsy seemed to have
taken them, like what happens, I have been told, to mountaineers in
the track of a descending avalanche.

What befell next must have taken many minutes, but to me it seemed
to be a mere instant of time.  I was not conscious till it was all
over that Sandy beside me had grabbed my wrist in his excitement
and dug his nails into my flesh. . . .  D'Ingraville was standing
in the front of a little group which seemed to close round him as
the whirlwind approached.  Haraldsen swept them aside like dead
leaves, but whether the compulsion was physical or moral I cannot
tell.  He plucked D'Ingraville in his arms as I might have lifted a
child of three.  Then, and not till then, there was a shot.
D'Ingraville had used his gun, but I know not what became of the
bullet.  It certainly did not touch Haraldsen.

Haraldsen held up his captive to the heavens like a priest offering
a sacrifice.  He had drawn himself to his full height, and in the
brume to my scared eyes looked larger than human.  D'Ingraville
wriggled half out of his clutch, and seemed to be tossed in the air
and re-caught in a fiercer grip.  The next I knew was that
Haraldsen had turned north again and was racing back towards the
hermit's cell.

Then the shooting began.  The men on the terrace aimed at his legs--
I saw rifle bullets kick up flurries of dust from the flower beds.
But for some unknown reason they missed him.  The men near the cell
tried to stop him, but he simply trampled them underfoot.  Only one
of them fired a shot, and we found the mark of it later in a furrow
through his hair. . . .  He was past them, and at the blazing cell
where the last rafter was now dropping into a fiery pit.  For a
moment I thought he was going to make a burnt-offering of
D'Ingraville, who by this time must have had the life half squeezed
out of him in that fierce embrace.  But no.  He avoided the cell,
and swung half-right to the downland above the sea.

By this time he was out of sight of the terrace, but in full view
of Sandy and me on the roof-top.  We might write off D'Ingraville
now, for he was beyond hope.  Haraldsen's pace never slackened.  He
took great leaps among the haggs and boulders, and by some trick of
light his figure seemed to increase instead of diminish with
distance, so that when he came out on the cliff edge, and was
silhouetted against the sky, it was gigantic.

Then I remembered one of his island tales which he had told us on
our first arrival--told with a gusto and realism like that of an
eyewitness.  It was the story of one Hallward Skullsplitter who had
descended a thousand years ago upon the Island of Sheep and cruelly
ravaged it.  But a storm had cut him off with two companions from
his ships, and the islanders had risen, bound the Vikings hand and
foot, and hurled them into the sea from the top of Foulness. . . .
It was Foulness I was now looking at, where the land mouth of the
harbour ran up to a sea-cliff of three hundred feet.

I had guessed right.  At first I thought that Haraldsen meant to
seek his own death also.  But he steadied himself on the brink,
swung D'Ingraville in his great arms, and sent him hurtling into
the void.  For a second he balanced himself on the edge and peered
down after him into the depths.  Then he turned and staggered back.
I got my glasses on to him and saw that he had dropped on the turf
like a dead man.



A tremendous drama is apt to leave one limp and dulled.  D'Ingraville
was gone, but his jackals remained, and now they would be more
desperate than ever with no leader to think for them.  Our lives
were still on a razor's edge, and it was high time for a plan of
campaign.  But Sandy and I clutched each other limply like two men
with vertigo.

'Poor devil!' said Sandy at last.  'He can't have known what was
coming.  Haraldsen must have hugged him senseless.'

'We're quit of a rascal,' I said; 'but we've got a maniac on our
hands.'

'I don't think so.  The fury is out of him.  He returned to type
for a little, and is now his sober commonplace self again.'  He held
out his watch.  'Not yet seven!  Five hours to keep these wolves
at bay.  Hungry and leaderless wolves--a nasty proposition! . . .
Great God!  What is that?'

He was staring southward, and when I looked there I saw a sight
which bankrupted me of breath.  The murky gloaming was lit to the
north by the last flames of the hermit's cell, but to the south
there was a breach in the gloom and a lagoon of clear sky was
spreading.  Already the rim of the southern downs was outlined
sharply against it.  In that oasis of light I saw strange things
happening. . . .  At sea a flotilla of boats was nearing the
harbour on a long tack, and one or two, driven by sweeps, were
coming up the shore.  Across the hill moved an army of men, not
less than a hundred strong, sweeping past the reservoir,
overflowing the sunk lawn, men shaggy and foul with blood, and
each with a reeking spear.

The sight was clean beyond my comprehension, and I could only stare
and gasp.  It was as if a legion of trolls had suddenly sprung out
of the earth, for these men were outside all my notions of
humanity.  They had the troll-like Norland dress, now stained
beyond belief with mud and blood; their hair and eyes were like the
wild things of the hills; the cries that came from their throats
were not those of articulate-speaking men, and each had his
shining, crimsoned lance. . . .  Dimly I saw the boats enter the
harbour and their occupants swarm into the Tjaldar like cannibal
islanders attacking a trading ship.  Dimly I saw D'Ingraville's men
below me cast one look at the murderous invasion and then break
wildly for the shore.  I didn't blame them.  The sight of that
maniacal horde had frozen my very marrow.

Dimly I heard Sandy mutter, 'My God, the Grind has come.'

I didn't know what he meant, but something had come which I
understood.  In the forefront of the invaders were Anna and Peter
John.



CHAPTER XVI

The Riddle of the Tablet


I have often wondered how we should define the courage of the
ordinary rapscallion.  A contempt, doubtless, for certain kinds of
danger with which he is familiar and which for him have lost the
terrors of the unknown.  Not a settled habit of mind, for often he
will be paralysed by the unexpected, and thrown into a panic by
what is outside his experience.  The first happened when Haraldsen
went berserk and plucked D'Ingraville out of the heart of his gang;
the second, when several score of ensanguined Norlanders turned the
knees of the gang to water.  Certainly it was the wildest spectacle
I ever beheld, and he would have been a stout fellow who stood up
against that nightmare army of bloodstained trolls. . . .  As a
matter of fact, two of the gang did put up some kind of resistance
with their guns, and perished as if they had been pilot-whales.  I
doubt if the Norlanders knew what they were doing.  Like Haraldsen
they had gone back to type--they were their forebears of a thousand
years ago making short work of a pirate crew.

The rest, who surrendered like sheep, were not maltreated, but were
trussed up like bundles of hay with the home-made ropes that every
Norlander carries with him.  The detachment in the boats who had
swarmed over the Tjaldar behaved with extreme circumspection.  I
fancy that the atmosphere of a modern steamer got them out of their
atavistic dreams quicker than their kinsmen on the land.  They were
civil to Barralty and his friends, though they found it hard to
find a common tongue, and, having brought the vessel round to a
better anchorage and left everything shipshape about her, they came
ashore soberly to take counsel with the rest of us.

For the madness did not take long to ebb.  The case of Haraldsen
was curious.  As soon as I saw that there was no fear of resistance
and that the Norlanders were ready to do whatever Anna told them, I
started off with Peter John for the top of the cliffs, for
Haraldsen seemed to be the one big problem left.  I found him
sitting up on the turf, with his huge fists stuck in his eyes like
a sleepy child.  I think it was the sight of Peter John, who had
always been his close friend, that gave him a bridge back to the
ordinary world.

'Anna's all right, sir,' said the boy.  'She's down there with all
the Norland men behind her.'

'Good!' he said.  'They'll do what she tells them.  Have the Grind
come to my island?'

Peter John nodded.

'It is the first time for ten years,' said Haraldsen.  'I must go
down and arrange about food and drink.  The Grind are a hungry and
thirsty job, and a dirty one.'

His wits were still wool-gathering, and I tried to steady them.

'You're safe,' I said, 'and the House, and Lord Clanroyden and all
of us.  You need never give another thought to this trouble.'

'I am glad of that,' he said dully.  'There was a lot of trouble.
Where is the tall man with the beard?'

'Dead,' I said, 'in the sea.'

'He would be' was the odd answer.  'He came out of the sea, and he
has returned to it.'

Then he yawned, his limbs relaxed, and before I could count five he
was fast asleep.  I knew better than to waken him.  We got together
a sort of litter, and had him carried down to the House, where he
was put to bed and slept for thirty-two hours.  He woke ravenous,
had a bath and shaved, and then ate the better part of a ham and
emptied three coffee-pots.  He remembered not one solitary thing
between his discovery that the children were lost and his waking in
his own bed, and it wasn't for me to enlighten him.  But one thing
that berserk fit had done for him: it had drained him for good of
timidity.  He was now as steady-nerved and confident as his father
had been, and a hundred per cent. more restful.



The fishery boat arrived an hour before midnight, by which time we
had taken counsel, not only among ourselves, but with the folk on
the Tjaldar and had settled on our story.  It was no good having
the true business broadcast to the world.  Barralty and his people
had gone yachting with D'Ingraville, who had picked his crew and
had forced them into an attack on the Island of Sheep for his own
purposes.  They had refused to come on shore, and had seen nothing
of the doings on land.  The fortunate advent of the Grind had
averted tragedy.  The children had found the Islanders and had led
them to the House, where we had been putting up a forlorn defence.
Haraldsen had picked off one of the desperadoes, and had fought
with D'Ingraville on the cliff-top to the latter's doom.  (Sandy
could provide a dossier of D'Ingraville which would prevent
unavailing regrets about his end.) The coming of the Islanders had
led to the general surrender of the invaders, two of the latter
being the only casualties.

D'Ingraville's gang was a collection of blackguards of various
races which it was left for the Copenhagen courts to sort out and
deal with.  Most of them were rather urgently wanted by their
several countries.  The Tjaldar, which had been chartered in
Troth's name, had the rudiments of a regular crew who had not been
mixed up in the piracy, and it was arranged that, under the convoy
of the Danish destroyer, she should return to Aberdeen.

With the clearing away of our anxieties came a clearing of the
skies.  The Norlands seemed to swim into a zone of halcyon weather--
sunlit days, calm seas, and wonderful, long-lit, golden evenings.
When I came there first I thought I was getting outside the world,
and then presently I found that I was indeed outside the world in a
nightmarish limbo.  Now that the nightmare had gone, the Island
seemed a happy place, where life could be worthily lived in the
company of sea-tides, and friendly wild things, and roaring
mornings, and blissful drowsy afternoons.  To me it was Fosse, and
to Sandy it was Laverlaw, but both, so to speak, set in a world of
new dimensions.  To Lombard, the man whom I had once thought of as
degenerated into a sleek mediocrity, it was a revelation.  It had
brought back to him something of his youth and his youth's dreams.

I remember that he and I sat together on the highest point of
Snowfell, looking across the empty Channel to Haldar, bright as a
jewel in the sunshine.  The Tjaldar and the fishery boat were at
anchor below us; beside us curlew and plover kept up a gentle
complaining; around us, except in the east, there was a great
circle of glittering sea.  The landscape was as delicate and
unsubstantial as the country of a dream.

'I shall come back to the Norlands,' said Lombard, shaking out his
pipe.  'It was good of you to let me into this show, Hannay; I hope
I haven't misconducted myself.'

'You were the steadiest of the lot,' I said warmly.  'You never
gave a cheep even when things looked ugliest.'

He laughed.

'I often wanted to.  But I'm glad to find I haven't gone quite
soft.  I never really thought I had.  But I've let myself get dull
and flat.  That's what this business has taught me.  I want to get
air and space round me, for I live in a dashed stuffy world. . . .
So I'm coming back to the Norlands to make my soul.'

I suppose I must have looked at him in surprise, for he laughed
again.  'You know well enough what I mean.  The Norlands are a
spiritual place which you won't find on any map.  Every man must
discover his own Island of Sheep.  You and Clanroyden have found
yours, and I'm going to find mine.'



My last recollection is of two meals in the great hall of the
House.  The first was the night of the coming of the Grind, or
rather the small hours of the following morning.  The Danish
fishery boat had arrived; the malefactors were safely stowed away;
and, while Haraldsen lay in his bed upstairs, in the hall were
gathered the Norlanders who had saved us, both the boat parties and
those who had come by land--the officers of the destroyer--Sandy,
Lombard, and myself--and Anna and Peter John.  The children seemed
to have got their second wind, for, having been very tired and
drowsy at first, they woke up before midnight to an astonishing
vigour.  The Danish officers, who knew the Norlands well and also
Haraldsen, were the friendliest of souls.  As for the Norlanders,
to them the Island of Sheep was the home of legend and the
Haraldsen family the centre of their mythology.  At first they were
shy and laggard, for your Norlander is an excellent giver but a
poor taker.  But they were very hungry, and Arn had provided a
feast of fat things, and in twenty minutes they had squared their
elbows to the job and were as merry as grigs.

I shall never forget that scene.  Arn had supplemented the electric
light by several score of candles, and the huge place was as bright
as day.  The tapestries, the carved grotesques, the many ships'
models, the curious panelling--their minutest lines and their
subtlest colours were displayed in that fierce radiance.  And below
sat a company which might have come out of a picture in a child's
Grimm.  Many of the islanders wore their cowls, for they were in
doubt as to whether that vast hall should be reckoned a dwelling.
And at the head of the long oaken table, in a chair like a galley's
beak, sat Anna.  I had never seen anything quite like her.  She had
changed from rough clothes into a white silk gown, and the coronel
of lights under which she sat made her seem a creature of gold and
ivory.  She ruled the feast, too.  It was she who gave the toasts;
it was she who in musical Norland thanked our preservers.  Here was
the true fairy-tale princess, the Queen out of the North, and to
that wild gathering she lent an air of high ceremonial.  But she
was a stony-hearted princess, for she insisted on toasting Peter
John.  I don't know what she said about him, but it got the
Norlanders out of their seats and he was hoisted--Morag angrily
protesting--on a dozen shoulders.  A speech was demanded, and his
was of two sentences.  'Thank you all very much.--Anna, you beast,
I'll pay you out for this.'

The second meal was the following day, when the Tjaldar was about
to sail under the convoy of the Danish destroyer, and the islanders
had returned to their homes.  We had the Tjaldar party to dinner,
and Haraldsen himself was the host.  I have never been present on a
more fantastic occasion.  Sandy said we had to do it, to mark the
close of hostilities, but it was a pretty cruel business for the
ex-conspirators.  Albinus was a dingy figure, still considerably
rattled.  Barralty was the frightened intellectual trying to
recover his poise, but he was a long way short of getting back his
self-esteem.  The lady was the most composed.  She wore a charming
gown, and had the wit not to make any pretences.  They had got
themselves into an ugly show, and were now quit of it and
correspondingly grateful.  But they all looked at Sandy in some
awe.  I gathered that, as Martel, he had been chiefly responsible
for scaring the life out of them.

I think I may say that we all behaved well.  Lombard talked the
City to Barralty and Troth, Sandy had some polite things to say
about politics, a great deal of information was vouchsafed about
the Norlands, some of Haraldsen's treasures were exhibited, and
Miss Ludlow was caressingly sweet to Anna.  I should add that old
Arn excelled himself, that the food was perfection, and that the
best of Haraldsen's cellar was forthcoming.  This last point was
especially appreciated by Troth, who soon relaxed into bonhomie.  I
found him a very friendly fellow, with sensible notions about the
Essex creeks and tides.

It was he who, before they left, made an attempt at an apology.

'I hope, Mr. Haraldsen,' he said, 'that we're all going to forgive
and forget.'

Haraldsen looked down on him from his great height.

'I ask for nothing better,' he said.  'I understand that you feel
some grievance against me, Mr. Troth.  On my father's account, I
think, and for your own father's sake?  Well, we are willing that
some reparation should be made.  Lord Clanroyden will tell you
what.'

Sandy took from his pocket something in a chamois-leather wrapping.

'This belonged to the late Mr. Haraldsen,' he said.  'It came into
my hands in rather an odd way, about which I wrote to the papers.
I do not intend to hand it over to the British Museum.  I propose,
Mr. Troth, to give it to you in full settlement of any claims you
may think you have against the late Mr. Haraldsen's estate.'

He took from a bag the tablet of emerald jade which he had shown us
at Fosse.

Troth received it with a face in which surprise, greed, and a kind
of shame were mingled.  He turned the lovely thing over in his
hands, made as if to read the inscription, and then looked at Sandy
a little confusedly.

'D'you mean that, Lord Clanroyden?' he asked.  'It's extraordinarily
good of you.  Of course I give up any claims--I had already given
them up.  D'you mean me to act on what this tablet may tell me?'

'Certainly.'

'And to keep for myself whatever I may find?'

'Certainly.  For yourself, and any friends you want to share with
you.'

Troth peered at the inscription.

'One side's in Latin.  The other side--the important side--I
suppose I can get that translated?'

'It has been already translated,' said Sandy gravely.  'I have seen
to that.'

'And you found?'  The eternal treasure-hunter was in Troth's voice.

'We found a list of the Twelve Major Virtues and the Ninety-Nine
Names of God!'



THE END




This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia