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Title:      Exit the Skeleton
Author:     Herbert Adams
eBook No.:  0500751.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          August 2005
Date most recently updated: October 2007

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Title:      Exit the Skeleton
Author:     Herbert Adams



AMABEL LEIGH woke as her daily helper, elderly and stout, entered the
room with the tray.

"Mornin', dearie. Ten o'clock to the tick and here's yer brekfus'. A nice
kipper, seein' as it's Wednesday. Three letters for yer; two of 'em bills
by the look of it. Hope the other makes up. No news in the papers. Strike
in Belfast, sudden death of a Cab'net Minister, airyplane crash in
America, but no news what is news. I'll get yer bath in 'arf a hour."

"You are very good to me, Croonie."

"Good to them as is good to me. That's my motter; always has been."

Croonie put the tray on a bedside table, straightened the coverlet and
pulled back the curtains. She seemed reluctant to go. She generally
enjoyed a little chat, and this morning there was a special reason for
one. Everybody called her Croonie. It was, not a nickname as many
supposed, nor had it any reference, ironic or otherwise, to her evident
lack of a singing voice. It was simpler than that. She had married a man
named Croonie, who had left her when she ceased to support him in the
manner to which he felt himself entitled.

"So Miss Valerie got back all right," she said.

"You have seen her?"

"Threw her arms round me the minute I got here, she did, and kissed me.
'Good to be home, Croonie,' she said. My word, she has shot up, taller 'n
you now and nearly as pretty as you was at her age."

"Prettier, I hope."

"She'll never be that, if she lives to a nundred. 'Tell Mummie I'll be
back soon,' she says, and out she pops. A young man, I 'spose, but her
only home yesterday and early in the mornin'. She said somethin' about
bathin' the Serpentine. There's the dratted bell. Bath ready in a' nour,

She bustled from the room. Amabel knew she was lucky to have such a
faithful servitor and friend. Croonie had been a dresser at the theatre
when they first met. Now her mornings were spent at the flat, where she
let herself in at eight o'clock on the tick, as she put it. She sometimes
"obliged" other ladies in the afternoon, or for an occasional party, but
her one job supplied her needs and she did not believe in work for work's

Amabel drank her tea and attacked her kipper. She did not immediately
open her letters; there was plenty to occupy her thoughts. Few would have
supposed that her pleasant bedroom had for many years been the connubial
nest of an intemperate cabman and his tempestuous spouse. Yet such was
the case. An enterprising speculator, with some skill as an architect,
had purchased a mews that was falling into decay and had transformed it
into a select colony of small flats. Outside, pebble-dash had disguised
the old brickwork; and inside, modern fitments and pretty lattice windows
had transformed stalls and coach-houses with the rooms over them into
suites, each with two bedrooms, a lounge, a tiny kitchenette and a
bathroom. The name, Russell's Mews, had burgeoned into Dowton Close and,
the position being near to South Kensington station, many fortunate
persons with some fashionable or aristocratic aspirations had secured
homes in a convenient locality at a moderate rent. Amabel's was on the
first floor.

Her bedroom looked larger and more lofty than was actually the case, for
the bed was low and the furniture small. The suite in Canadian white
maple and the cheerful chintz hangings were suggestive of a country
cottage rather than a London mews. The only picture on the walls was a
framed caricature of herself; clever but cruel. It had appeared in an
illustrated paper and she had persuaded the artist to let her have the
original, thereby starting a firm friendship. She said she hung it where
it was to keep her humble.

Breakfast finished, she opened the letters. The bills she tossed aside;
they were as she had expected. But the third missive, that Croonie had
hoped would bring luck, brought instead a look of anger to her face. Not
that it was entirely unexpected, but a thing that is foreseen can be
unpleasant when it comes, especially if it destroys what faint vestige of
hope there may be that it will not come. It was from a firm of solicitors
in Gray's Inn.

'Dear Miss Legh,

'As you may be aware, the play Lucky in Love, produced by Mr. Greg
Dobson, has been a failure. You will remember you guaranteed the
production up to a sum of two thousand pounds.

'We regret to have to inform you that the total losses are nearly three
times that amount. At the moment we are unaware of Mr. Dobson's precise
whereabouts. If you can give us his present address we shall be glad. In
the mean time perhaps you will let us have the amount of your guarantee.

'Yours faithfully,

'Wilson, Son & Willowby.'

"So Greg has bolted," she muttered. "How like him! What a fool I was!"

Two thousand pounds! She had thought she was onto a winner. Things had
gone wrong from the start. Greg was too lavish in every direction;
repeated delays; the illness of the leading man. Then the first night and
the awful reviews. Empty houses! "Give it time," Greg had said. So the
losses piled up.

No use blaming anyone. She was confident she knew a good thing and she
was wrong.

She put her hand under her pillow and pulled out a crumpled page from a
gossipy Sunday journal. One paragraph was marked. It was headed: Lucy
BAXT. She had marked it; she had read it many times before.

'The estate of Sir Lionel Cradon, the former Iron King, late of
Westbourne House, Sloane Street, provides the comfortable sum of two
hundred thousand pounds after the demands of the Treasury have been
satisfied. Of this, half is left to his infant son, the interest to
accrue until he is twenty-one, to effect insurances against future death
duties, so that a clear £100,000 may follow the title. The widow has the
income on the residue for life and then it also reverts to little Sir
Lionel, who is nearly one year old.'

There was a rap at the door.

"Hullo, darling! Can I come in?"

Without waiting for a reply the door was opened and a young girl entered.
She was tall and slender, with fine eyes, a rather wide mouth with
perfect teeth, good features and a clear skin tanned by the sun and the
sea. Very like the mother lying on the bed, though brimming over with
health and happiness. Amabel hastily pushed the papers she had been
reading under the cover of the bedclothes.

"Darling, I have had a gorgeous swim with Bruce. Oh, it is good to be
home!" She kissed her mother and sat on the edge of the bed.

"I thought your friend's name was Roger."

"No, darling. It was Roger--Roger Bennion--who brought me home. I told
you all about it last night, but I expect I was too excited for you to
make sense of it. It was all so wonderful! He and his wife Ruth are the
grandest people I ever met."

"And I suppose they thought me a neglectful mother."

"Indeed they did not! I told them how marvellous you had been to me.
Those schools in France and Switzerland and then the gorgeous year with
Uncle Fred in New Zealand, before I really settle down. Of course, they
understood I could not be with you when you were on tour and all that!
They have seen you act and are longing to meet you They were simply sweet
to me!"

"How did you meet them?"

"That part of it is rather sad. You see, Ruth was to have had a baby. She
asked me to call her Ruth--she is not a great deal older than I am. But
she was in a car smash and that ended it. She was terribly ill for a long
time, but she is all right now."

"Was her husband driving the car?"

"Rather not. There would have been no accident if he had been. He is
super. Thinks and acts quicker than any one I have ever met. It was
another woman. He simply adores Ruth, and when she was well enough he
took her to New Zealand for the voyage."

"But why did he bring her home on a coal barge?"

Valerie laughed gaily.

"Not a coal barge, darling. A cargo boat. They send meat and butter and
all sorts of things to England. The boats are beautifully kept. The
journey is slower than by the liners, and Major Bennion thought the extra
time would be good for Ruth. He had got to know Uncle Fred and he said if
I would come back with them they would pay my fare and everything else.
He wanted there to be someone on the boat about Ruth's age to keep her
company. You see, they only take about a dozen passengers and you never
know who there will be."

"Why do they trouble about passengers at all if they can only take so

"I asked Bruce that. He says it is to maintain morale. The officers are
more likely to mind their table manners if there are strangers,
especially women, aboard. Of course, you do not have the gaieties of the
cruisers--that is why the Bennions preferred it--but there is lots of
deck space for games."

"And now," Amabel said, "tell me about Bruce."

"Bruce Kelsall," Valerie replied. "He is third officer, the nicest boy I
ever met."

"You met him this morning?"

"We had a swim in the Serpentine. I didn't know you could do that till he
told me. I am bringing him here soon. You will love him."

"Do you love him?" the mother asked.

"He is terribly nice and very good-looking."

"You are not engaged or anything like that?"

"Oh, no, darling," Valerie said quite frankly, though she flushed a
little. "We are too young."

"You are, much too young. It is not very happy to be married to a sailor,
and I do not think third officers are well paid. What are his people?"

"He hasn't any, poor lamb. At least he has an uncle, but I don't suppose
he'll be much good to him, although he does own a block of flats,
Westbourne House in Sloane Street."

"Where?" asked Amabel sharply.

"Westbourne House, Sloane Street. Do you know it?"

"I used to know someone who lived there."

"This old uncle--his name is Pursey--lives there on the top floor among
the boxrooms. At least Bruce says he has made himself a sort of flat and
he is a kind of recluse and never sees anyone. Quite a weird old man and
I think he is a miser. Bruce means to look him up as they have only one
another in the world, but it is a case of no expectations."

"Anyway, dear, I shall be glad to see your Bruce." Valerie kissed her.

"I know you will like him. Oh, it is good to have a mummie again! You are
glad I am back?"

"I have always looked forward to it."

"Then we come to the serious part, darling. You have done so much for me.
Now you are going to ease off and I shall help you."

"How will you do that?" Amabel smiled.

"Of course I won't be much good at first, but if I go to the academy I
ought soon to be able to keep myself and that will be something."

"What academy?"

"Dramatic art," Valerie said.

Her mother did not immediately reply. The girl went on: "Don't say I am
no good, darling. It is what I have always wanted."

"Of course I don't say you are no good," Amabel answered slowly. "I am
only wondering what is best for you. The fees at these academies are
fairly high and there is no guarantee of steady employment."

"You have always done pretty well, Mummie. I know I can never be so
wonderful as you, but I'll make a jolly good try."

"My case is rather exceptional," her mother said. "I am not boasting; I
have little to boast of; but I had a chance and I took it. I have been
sixty years old for the past twenty years and I shall probably be the
same for the next twenty--when I shall really get there."

"I know. I told Ruth your real age and she would hardly believe me. She
thought you must be so much older."

"When I was a girl I had a small part in a play, and one of the
principals, an elderly woman, was knocked down on her way to the theatre.
She had no understudy and I took the part--I always enjoyed playing old
people and I suppose I did it pretty well. Anyway, they kept me at it,
and after that I had other parts of the same sort. In most casts there is
an old aunt, a grandmother or a frost-bitten spinster and I have played
them all. Not big parts, but necessary to the plot. Sometimes sweet and
sometimes sour. Make-up was important, but the voice and the slow
movements almost more so. I studied it until they said I was more genuine
than the real thing! As a result I never achieved fame, but I am always
in a job. The trouble with the academies is that they have to turn out a
genius every year or every term. What happens to them? A few keep going,
but there are new geniuses coming from the same machine to take their
places. The stage is cluttered with would-be Juliets, Ophelias and St.
Joans, and once you have been a star you do not care to play the

"I would not mind being a parlour-maid," Valerie said in a low voice.
"What else can I do?"

"Some girls take up domestic science and get good appointments."

"I knew a girl who did that," Valerie cried. "She had the most wonderful
diplomas. She could make the most marvellous dishes, she could control an
enormous staff and cater for hundreds. Then she married a man who was
something in a bank and she had to do her own chores, darn his socks,
cook his kippers. What a waste!"

"No doubt she was a good wife and was happy. What about a secretarial
career? Your knowledge of French would be useful and shorthand and typing
are easily learnt. The fees are small and there are always good jobs to
be had."

Valerie jumped up and went to the window. There were tears in her eyes
and it was some moments before she turned round and spoke.

"What is the matter, Mummie darling? You are somehow different. Is there
any trouble you have not told me about? Are we dreadfully poor?"

"Of course not," Amabel said. "I only want you to be happy: The theatre
can be very disappointing."

"But I want it. It is in my blood."

"You shall have what you want."

Valerie threw her arms round her and kissed her.

"Thank you, darling! I won't disappoint you. I swear it."

The door opened and Croonie's head appeared. "S'pose you know yer bath's
gone cold? I'll run another."



A modern flat could be tucked away in a single room of one of the
mansions of a former generation. The designer, however, of Westbourne
House had been more generous with space than others of his fraternity. He
had planned only two flats on a floor and each flat had some really large
rooms. Even so, a tenant like Sir Lionel Cradon (to whom rent was of
little consequence) found it pleasant to take an entire floor to
accommodate his establishment.

Amabel Legh had passed up and down Sloane Street often enough to be
familiar with the outward appearance of Westbourne House, but she had
never actually called there until the day after her daughter returned to
live with her. She hesitated a moment and then she pushed the swing doors
and found herself in a marble hall. A porter was sitting on an oak seat.

"Lady Cradon?" she said.

"First floor," he replied, without getting up. He was a middle-aged man,
pasty-faced, wearing dark uniform trousers, a sleeved waistcoat, but no
coat or cap. His brown, close-cropped hair did not improve his
appearance. He was by no means the smart liveryman one might have
expected in the afternoon at such an address.

"Is she at home?" Amabel looked at him with a cold hauteur she knew well
how to assume.

"I believe she is." He rose slowly to his feet.

"Then perhaps you will either find out or will take me to her."

He made no reply, but led the way to the elevator. His attitude showed
that he thought people could well manage to get to the first floor by
themselves, or might at least work the automatic lift.

After her husband's death Lady Cradon had considered the advisability of
giving up one of her two flats. It would be a simple thing to brick up
the openings that united them and half the accommodation would be ample
for herself and her baby son. She had not instructed the agents to take
any steps in the matter, but had mentioned it tentatively to some of her
friends. Already there had been enquiries for it, and when she had an
unknown caller she thought it was probably a friend of a friend wanting a

The door was opened by a maid and Amabel was shown into a spacious
sitting-room, luxuriously furnished with soft settees and costly rugs and
having many valuable ornaments and pictures. Lady Cradon was seated at a
small writing- table. She rose as her visitor entered. A handsome woman
in the mid-thirties, her ladyship was dressed in a plain but expensive
grey costume and wore a necklace of real pearls of considerable size.

"You are Lady Cradon?" Amabel said, seeing that the door had been closed.

"I am."

"So, in a way, am I. It is rather a strange and perhaps a painful story
that I have to tell you, but I hope you will realise that my intentions
are friendly."

Lady Cradon stared at her. She was not a particularly intelligent, but
she flattered herself she could generally manage her own affairs. No name
had been mentioned, yet she thought the face of her caller was not
entirely unfamiliar.

"Won't you sit down?" she said coldly.

Amabel did so and for a moment they regarded one another in silence.

"I am generally known as Amabel Legh. I am at present appearing at the
Regal Theatre, but I have been in a good many plays. You may have seen
some of them."

Lady Cradon had. She knew the name quite well. It accounted for the sense
of semi-recognition.

"I thought Miss Amabel Legh was considerably older," she said.

Amabel smiled. "On the stage I am. I am generally given elderly parts."

There was another moment of silence. In a far corner an old grandfather
clock was ticking. That was the only sound.

"Your husband, Sir Lionel, never mentioned me?"

"He did not. My husband was not interested in the theatre."

"That unfortunately, is true," Amabel said slowly. "I do not want to
shock you, but it is best to get to the point." She took a paper from her
bag. "This is a photographic copy of the certificate of marriage between
Lionel Cradon and myself. As you will see, the ceremony took place just
twenty years ago at a register office in Manchester, where you can, of
course, see the original."

She handed the paper over and Lady Cradon mechanically took it. That she
was shocked was true enough, but she did not at first realise its full
significance. There was no doubt what it purported to be. Lionel Edward
Cradon, widower, aged forty-one, and Amy Isabel Legh, spinster, aged
twenty-one. It was all in the usual form.

"This--this is not you. It is Amy Isabel Legh."

"I was christened Amy Isabel and at first I was billed in that way. When
I went to America they thought Amabel better. In some of my contracts
both names are used. I can show you them if you like."

Lady Cradon did not reply. Her mind did not seem to be working properly.
She looked first at the paper and then at the woman who had handed it to
her. She did not want to believe it. Could it be true?

"Perhaps I had better explain how it happened," Amabel said. "I am in
part to blame. There need be no hard feelings anywhere; it is only a
matter for arrangement."

Still Lady Cradon did not speak. It was too stupendous a thing to be
comprehended so suddenly. Lionel had loved her--she was convinced of
that. Was it credible that he had deceived her? She shrank from the
thought. He had always been so honest, so dependable.

"I was twenty when met him. I suppose I was attractive and he wanted to
marry me. I was on the stage and, as you just said, he was not interested
in the theatre. In fact he had had a Puritan upbringing and he
disapproved of it. But that did not lessen his urge to marry me. He did
it secretly, convinced that after the wedding he would be able to
persuade me to give it up. But I could not. It was my life, and, of
course, he was not particularly rich then. The wealth and the title did
not come till many years later. He would not tell his friends and
relations that he had married an actress, and he did all he could to
bring me to his way of thinking. We lived together as opportunity
offered, but with such a fundamental difference between us we were not
particularly happy.

"Please do not think I am blaming him. He was a good man and was in most
things very kind, but we really had little in common. If his business
talk bored me, no doubt my stage chatter bored him. It is no use going
into that. I see you still have that grandfather clock; I was with him
when he bought it. He was crazy on clocks. I sometimes wondered if he
still liked having his back scratched as he did when I was with him. Poor
soul; he had rather an irritable skin."

Lady Cradon stiffened. She resented these personal comments, yet they
carried some conviction, for they were true.

"The trouble came," Amabel went on, "when I was invited to join a company
to tour America. Lionel objected, but I was determined to go. And I did.
I said if I was not a success, I would come back and try to settle down
to the sort of life he wanted. Then I was killed. Not actually, of
course, but he thought I was. I do not know what steps he took to verify
the fact, or if he was more relieved than sorry. Anyway, the blame was

She paused. Lady Cradon was watching her, breathing heavily, saying

"What happened was that our company chartered a motor coach to take us
from town to town, as they did in those days, and on one of our first
runs the coach was wrecked. Some of us were killed, some concussed and
all more or less injured. In the confusion my name was included among the
dead and the news was cabled to England. Lionel did not question its
truth, though actually I was not very badly hurt.

"Of course it was wrong of me, but I dreaded going back to the life he
wished. Amy Isabel Legh was dead but Amabel Legh was born. I was tempted
to change my mind again when I found I was to have a baby, but I met some
very kind friends and I let things remain as they were. I was lucky. I
have heard of similar cases where the baby was lost after such an
accident, but probably things were more advanced. My baby was a girl, and
when she was old enough to ask about it I told her her father had been an
American actor who had died."

"Perhaps you told her the truth," Lady Cradon muttered.

Amabel looked at her for a few moments in silence.

"I thought you might say that," she said quietly, "but I hoped you would
not. I have tried to speak without bitterness or reproach to anyone but
myself. But I do not have to reproach myself with that. My little Valerie
was a sweet child, and after a time we returned to England. I did not see
Lionel. Amabel Legh appeared in a good many plays, but, as the theatre
had no appeal for him, he would not connect her with his lost Amy
Isabel--even if he heard of, her, which I do not suppose he did."

"You mean that Sir Lionel never heard this preposterous story of yours?"

"Can you call it preposterous in view of the marriage certificate, which
you will naturally verify? But I did not mean that at all. Lionel did
hear of it, but not until after he had married you. I saw him and I told
him. He, of course, did not question it. How could he? I had changed very
much. But it put him in a very difficult position. He had committed
bigamy. However innocent he may have been, that in the eyes of the law
was the fact."

"There is such a thing as desertion," Lady Cradon said.

"I told him that," Amabel replied. "He could bring an action for divorce
against me and no doubt he would have won it. He could then remarry you.
But to do all that he would have had to admit his bigamy. There would
probably have been no penalty, but he hated the publicity. And it did not
improve matters that his former wife, still living, was an actress. He
saw another way out."

"What was that?" was the swift enquiry.

"This, of course, was before your baby was born. I believe you were
married some years before that happened?"


"Exactly. Lionel may have thought he was unlikely to have a son to
inherit his title. My Valerie certainly could not do so. He thought it
simplest to pay me to hold my tongue."

"He paid you?"

"He did. Quite a substantial sum."

"Then why have you come to me?"

"He left me and his daughter nothing in his will. Legally I am Lady

"Then who am I?"

"I suppose," Amabel said coldly, "you are Miss Eleanor Patwick. Your
little boy is Lionel Patwick."

"How dare you say to me?" the lady cried, her face suffused with anger.

"I am not responsible for the law." Amabel was still quite calm. "I have
made some enquiries and it seems to me there should be enough for us all.
If I were to claim my rights I should be Lady Cradon, but I do not want
to be Lady Cradon. I would far rather be who I am. There is no doubt my
daughter could not inherit the title, so there is nothing in that. I see
no reason why we should not keep this thing to ourselves. They say there
is a skeleton in every cupboard. Let us leave it there. Give me twenty
thousand pounds and I swear no one shall ever hear a word of it from me."

"Twenty thousand pounds!"

"I do not think I am putting the figure too high. If I made my claim I
should be entitled to more than that as Lionel's widow. I believe he left
nearly half a million before tax was paid. You might get something; it
would depend on the wording of the will. Your wee son would get nothing,
as he was not born in wedlock. There is another thing. The title would
pass to Andrew Cradon, Lionel's brother. I happen to know Andrew quite
well, although he has not the remotest idea that I am his sister-in-law.
He has always thought he should have had the baronetcy. He was the
younger brother, but he did, or thought he did, most of the work of the
firm that led to the award. He got an O.B.E. He is terribly keen on this
Society of Peacemakers he has started. He would value the title for that.
How much do you suppose he would pay me if I took him my story?"

"Andrew hates me," Lady Cradon muttered.

"I don't know that he hates you," Amabel said, "but I doubt if he loves
you. For a good many years he was his brother's heir. Even when Lionel
married--or thought he married--you, there was still a long gap before
any offspring appeared. Then, just before his death, your baby arrived.
Is it surprising Andrew was peeved? I do not want to go to him. I do not
want to be Lady Cradon. I do not want to stir up a lot of unpleasantness
about Lionel. But I do want twenty thousand pounds. Is not my offer a
fair one?"

"I have not got twenty thousand pounds," Lady Cradon moaned.

"You could get it."

"But I can't. Mr. Angell explained it all to me most carefully. The
money is not mine; it is held by trustees. He is a trustee. All I get is
the income, and that, after tax is paid, is not such a great deal."

"I have stated my terms," Amabel said coldly. "I do not ask for an
immediate reply. You will want time to check what I have told you. You
may wish to consult Mr. Angell. Is he a solicitor?"

Lady Cradon nodded.

"Perhaps you had better consult someone else. The trustee-solicitor will
probably say my claim must be investigated and he will not pay you
anything until that is done. Then, of course, I should be compelled to
stand on my rights and your son will lose everything. A solicitor could
not make a bargain about a title. But if we come to a private
arrangement, known only to you and myself, it could all be happily
settled. I do not want to force you into any thing. There may be someone
you could consult in absolute confidence. I am quite willing to wait for
a few days."

"What must I do? What must I do?" Lady Cradon spoke in the same moaning
fashion. She could not disbelieve the story she had heard, yet she could
not run the risk of losing everything for herself and her baby.

At that moment the door opened and a nurse came in with a bundle in her

"Oh, I am sorry," she murmured. "I did not know you were engaged. I have
just brought baby in."

"Is this the wee Sir Lionel?" Amabel asked, getting up to inspect the
little man, who regarded her with blue eyes and gave her an approving
coo. "What a sweet baby!"

"Take him to the nursery, Florrie," Lady Cradon said. "I will come

"I will not keep you," Amabel remarked, putting a card on a table. "There
is nothing more to say. No doubt I shall hear from you in a few days.
That is my address."



Lady Cradon felt outraged, bewildered and frightened. Surely no woman
could experience anything more appalling than to be suddenly told her
marriage was no marriage, her son illegitimate, and the fortune and title
she thought hers belonged in law to others. She meant to fight, but how
was she to do it? What her visitor had said about Godfrey Angell she felt
to be true. He was a stern stickler for probity. If she told him of the
rival claim he would insist on a full investigation. If he found the
claim could be substantiated, would he--could he--resist it? Would he
even agree to the compromise Miss Legh had suggested? Might he not regard
it as a fraud on the public? She shrank from going to him, yet to whom
else could she turn? To tell the story to another might put herself
completely in that person's power. Surely, surely, there must be some way
out. Every thing could not come to an end so suddenly after so many

Amabel had no sense of disquiet as she left the flat. All had happened as
she had expected, perhaps a little less stormily than she had feared. It
was a pity the money was tied up with trustees, but she did not doubt
that Lady Cradon, after she had gone carefully into the matter, would
manage to realise enough to satisfy her.

She did not use the lift but walked down the stairs. When she reached the
hail she heard two men talking. One was the porter, the other a bronzed,
broad-shouldered young fellow in the early twenties. A third man,
standing by the lift gate, she took to be an assistant porter.

"I am sorry, Mr. Kelsail, but it is quite impossible for you to see him
without an appointment. He is probably asleep and there would be no
answer if you went to the door," She heard the porter say this. His
manner was more deferential than it had been when addressing herself.

"Is there no one looking after him?"

"My wife does for him, but she is out."

"I could come in the morning."

"I should not do that, sir. Mr. Pursey does not get up very early. If you
come in the afternoon at this time I will tell him to expect you and I do
not doubt he will see you."

"Very well, I will come then. How is he?"

The porter hesitated. "I think his health is quite good, but he does not
go out very much, except for a stroll in the evening."

At that moment Amabel stepped forward. "Is it Mr. Bruce Kelsall?" she

"It is," the bronzed young man said in surprise. Then he looked at her.
"Are you--can you be--Valerie's mother?"

"I can be and I am," she smiled.

"Oh!" Perhaps he was a little embarrassed. "Are you going out? May I come
with you?"

"1 would like you to. I have just been calling on Lady Cradon."

"Thank you." Then he called to the porter, who had joined his assistant,
"Strawn, tell my uncle I'll be along tomorrow afternoon."

"Very good, sir."

Bruce opened the door and he and Amabel went out.

"I have heard quite a lot about you from Valerie," she said pleasantly.

"I hope you don't mind my taking her out a bit while I am in London? I
really have no friends here, but I want to see my uncle before I sail
again. Do you know him?"

"Not at all. I have never been to the flats until this afternoon, when I
had a matter of business to discuss with Lady Cradon. Your uncle is the
owner of the block, isn't he?"

"Yes, but he keeps out of the way. Leaves things to the porter."

"Rather eccentric?"

"He always has been, but he seems to be getting worse. He lives alone in
the top of the building, and according to Strawn, who has been here for
years, he hardly sees anybody. He was my mother's brother and I know she
would have liked me to look him up."

"Of course she would," Amabel said. "You are in the Navy?"

"The Merchant Navy."

"Why not the Royal Navy?"

"Not good enough," he grinned. "I went to the naval college, but there
are not a lot of vacancies, and unless you pass almost at the top of the
list Her Majesty does not want you. I was two places down."

"Bad luck," Amabel said, "but you meant to go to sea, all the same?"

"Oh yes, rather!"

"You come of a sea-faring family?"

"My father commanded a ship that was torpedoed in the early days of the
war. My grandfather married a Norwegian lady who had Viking blood in her
veins. A great-great-great-grandfather was a very successful pirate. He
somehow got away with it, and settled down in Cornwall and was highly
respected. It must have been a grand life!"

He had a merry way of speaking, and Amabel liked him. "No hidden treasure
in some remote corner of the world that you can recover?" she smiled.

"Never heard of it."

"Well, so long as your motto is not 'Once aboard the lugger and the girl
is mine,’ we ought to be friends."

"That is jolly decent of you. You don't mind about me and Val?"

"Not within the limits mentioned."

"Thanks awfully. I say, ought I to call you Miss Legh or Mrs. Legh?"

"It is rather confusing, isn't it? I should stick to Miss Legh for the
present. If you can find a taxi we might go home and Valerie could give
us tea."

"That's fine."

Valerie was surprised and undoubtedly pleased when they walked in

"Don't try to steal him," she said to her mother. "I found him first."

Amabel showed him round the little home while the kettle was boiling and
they were soon sitting down to a merry meal.

"What a wonderful flat," Bruce said. "You must have been lucky to get

"I was," Amabel agreed.

"If my mother had had a place like this she might still be alive. She
wore herself out trying to keep an old-fashioned home in what she thought
the right way. Here you have everything you want just where you want it.
Easy to do it all yourself."

"Mummie doesn't quite do that," Valerie said. "She has a ministering
angel who arrives on the tick every morning and does not leave until she
has seen her eat a good lunch."

"She mothers me delightfully," Amabel laughed. "She is really an old

"Why is it that domestic help is so hard to get?" Bruce asked.

"There are a good many reasons for it," Amabel said. "One is that the
girls did not get a fair deal in the old days and another that they
prefer jobs where they have their evenings free. I am afraid the stage
was partly responsible for it."

"How so, Mummie?" Valerie asked.

"In plays and at the music-halls the maids were generally depicted as
illiterate and semi-imbecile, generally with adenoids. It raised easy
laughs and frightened girls from their natural calling. I am hoping to do
something about it."

"What can you do, darling?"

"A friend of mine, Andrew Cradon, has started what he calls the Society
of Peacemakers. He doesn't touch politics, but he tries to patch up
family quarrels and to settle strikes. I told him to prevent family
quarrels he must get the right people to marry. He should impress on
young men that they would have more chance of a happy home with a cook or
a housemaid than with a girl who sold odds and ends in a shop, or did
some job in a factory, or even thumped a typewriter. Better a
home-trained girl than the snappiest tin-opener who ever lived."

"Wonderful! What is Mr. Cradon doing about it?"

"He wants me to give some lectures, perhaps to be broadcast. Of course,
the girls must have proper conditions, and it cannot be done in a minute,
but if we could get the young men to listen I believe it would not be
long before the girls returned to the homes."

"You never told me!" Valerie exclaimed.

"Nothing may come of it. Mr. Cradon has his hands full."

"It sounds good to me," Bruce said. "You were seeing Lady Cradon about

"Not exactly," Amabel smiled, "though it might have an indirect effect.
She is related to Andrew Cradon by marriage."

"Mummie wanted me to take up domestic science instead of going on the
stage. What do you think about that, Bruce?"

The young man was a little embarrassed. He wished to please them both.

"It must be awfully important for a girl to know how to run a home," he
said. "On the other hand, we want good actresses and a girl with real

He left it at that. They both laughed and agreed he was right.

The following afternoon he was punctual for his call at Westbourne House.
The porter was not about, but his assistant said Mr. Pursey was expecting
him. He took him up in the lift and explained, as Bruce already knew,
that it did not reach the top floor, the final ascent being by a narrow

Bruce went up and pressed the bell at the door that confronted him. It
was speedily opened by a middle-aged woman he took to be Mrs. Strawn, the
porter's wife. She was rather slovenly dressed, and his first impression
was that the place was not very well looked after. The rooms may have
been originally intended for boxrooms, but the conversion into a
residential suite had been well carried out. He found himself in a little
hall that was almost bare of furniture, though bright and airy.

"Mr. Pursey is in? I am his nephew."

"Yes, sir. He is expecting you."

She opened a door on the left. She did not announce him: that probably
was unnecessary.

"Well, Uncle, how are you? I am just back from New Zealand and I thought
I would like to know you were all right. I called yesterday, but I was
told you were not seeing anyone."

The sole occupant of the room was an elderly man who sat huddled in a
chair near the window. He appeared to be heavily built, but there was a
rug over his knees. His face was florid, a fact made more notable by his
thick white hair. He had heavy spectacles and was wearing a dark coat and
waistcoat. His shirt had a collar attached, but it was unbuttoned and
without a tie, a style of dress he had always favoured. Bruce had spoken
cheerily and stepped forward to shake a limp, unresponsive hand.

"What do you want?" came in slow harsh tones.

"I want to know that you are quite well. I promised Mother I would always
come to see you when I was home. You have not changed much since I last
saw you."

"Your mother imagined I would leave you my money. I suppose you think
that, too."

"We never gave it a thought, Uncle Robert. You will live for years yet to
enjoy it yourself."

"No one ever calls on me unless they want something," was the rasping

"All I want," Bruce said, laughing, "is that you will come out to dinner
with me. I haven't any amazing adventures to talk about, but we had some
interesting experiences."

"I never go out to dinner."

'Why not make a change? On the boat home we had a delightful girl,
Valerie Legh, who is the daughter of Amabel Legh, the actress. She is
appearing at the Regal Theatre and I believe it is a very good play. We
could go to see her."

"I don't go to theatres."

"But, Uncle, you must go out sometimes. An occasional change is good for
all of us - unless, of course, your doctor forbids it."

"I don't have a doctor."

There was a pause. Bruce glanced round the room. It was barely furnished
and comfortless, even more so than when he had called nearly a year
before. Not exactly dirty, yet far from spruce and clean. He felt a
little sorry for the old man who lived in these surroundings, even if it
was of his own choice. It was not easy to talk brightly with such a lack
of encouragement. He tried again.

"Strawn tells me his wife looks after you. Has she any help?"

"She doesn't need any."

"She makes you comfortable?"

"I get all the comfort I want or can afford, taxes being what they are."

"You are sure there is nothing I can do for you? Any books or anything
like that?"

"I did not ask you to call. There is nothing I want, except to be left

Another pause. There was no suggestion of hospitality of any kind. The
harsh voice had said no word of welcome or goodwill. It was not much use
pressing an unwilling man.

"You are quite sure you will not come out with me anywhere? I could fetch
you in a taxi and bring you back."

"I am quite sure."

"I am sorry," Bruce said, sincerely enough. "You and I are the only ones
left of our family, and it is a nice feeling that there is someone to
come home to."

The man looked at him in his expressionless way, but did not reply.

"I do not quite know when we shall be sailing. We expect to make a long
journey across to the States, through the Panama Canal, and back to New
Zealand. But I would like to see you again before I go."

"You would only be wasting your time." Bruce got up.

"Well, Uncle, I won't stay any longer. I am sorry you are not more
pleased to see me. But please understand this: I want nothing from you.
Should you want me I am at Durand's Hotel, Gloucester Road. But I have no
wish to intrude. Goodbye."

The hand was not held out to him and he made no attempt to take it. He
walked to the door, paused a moment, and went out. There was no word to
detain him.

In the hall he saw Mrs. Strawn. He wondered if she had been listening to
their conversation.

"Is my uncle in his normal health?" he asked her.

"I should say so. He never complains."

There was something defensive in her tone, as though she scented

"He lives very much alone?"

"He prefers it."

"Does he never go out?"

"He sometimes takes a stroll in the evening."

"I see. This is my address, care of the Steam Company. A letter there
will always find me, though it may take time. I would like to know if he
is ever ill or asks for me."

"Very good, sir."

"Take care of him."

She did not reply and he went out. He walked down all the stairs to the
street, for the lift was in use. Little Sir Lionel had just returned from
his afternoon outing.



THE NEXT  day, Friday, Bruce and Valerie became involved in a startling
affair that was to have very remarkable repercussions.

In the morning Bruce called on a Mr. Punchon, a solicitor, who had acted
in connection with his mother's slender estate. There were some documents
to be signed. Mr. Punchon was a genial, fatherly man who had known the
family for many years.

"That's all, my boy," he beamed. "A bit difficult to do business for a
client who is here one day and in Toronto or New Zealand the next."

"We don't travel quite so fast as that," Bruce smiled, "not in our

"No jet-propelled merchant ships yet; we may come to it. Don't forget to
look in whenever you are home. I shall always glad to see you."

"Thank you, sir. There is one thing I wanted to ask you. Do  you act for
my uncle, Robert Pursey?" Mr. Punchon said he did. "Is he all right?"

"In what way do you mean--all right?"

"It is not easy to say. I called on him yesterday at his flat and he
practically said he did not want to see me again. We had never been
particularly fond of one another, but we had always got on fairly well."

"How long is it since you last saw him?"

"About a year. Our parting then was friendly enough. Now he seems to be
living in such--I won't say squalor, but discomfort. He is really quite
well off, isn't he?"

"Your uncle is a queer man and I daresay he gets queerer as the years go
by. I am sorry he was so disagreeable but he has always been abrupt and
stand-offish. I should not call him wealthy, but he owns those flats and
they ought to provide him with a fair income. I do not think he has much
else. The part of his rents not swallowed by rates is largely claimed for
taxes. The laws are very unfair, but a Cabinet Minister said some time
ago he was not concerned with justice for landlords."

"Uncle Robert hinted at something of that sort. But he need not have
taken it out on me. When did you last see him?"

"I have had no reason for seeing him for quite a time. We occasionally
have a lease for him to sign, or something of that sort, and I send it to
his flat by a clerk who acts as witness, or possibly Strawn, the porter,

"Is Strawn reliable? His wife seems to do the work of the flat, so far as
it is done."

"They have been there for some years. Mr. Pursey seems satisfied with

"Does my uncle collect the rents and that sort of thing?"

"No. He leaves the business to his agents in Sloane Street, Watsons. I
believe they send him a quarterly account. He hates to meet his tenants:
they might ask for something."

"That is why he only goes out at nights?" Bruce asked.

"Is that so? I was not aware of it, but I gather he is becoming more of a
recluse. Don't let it worry you. You cannot do anything about it."

"It worries me rather. My mother always said he was a lonely old man and
we ought to keep in touch with him. But if he is in fairly good health
and has enough money to live decently, I must leave it at that."

"You could ask Watsons about him if you like," Mr. Punchon said. "I think
they find him rather a tough nut where expenses are concerned."

"Do you?" Bruce asked.

Mr. Punchon laughed. "When leases are granted it is still the happy
privilege of the tenants to pay for them, so that does not worry him."

Bruce had arranged to meet Valerie for lunch and then to take her to a
cinema. At lunch he told her of his interview with his uncle the previous

"Fancy treating his only relative like that," Valerie commented. "I
suppose he is really a bit cracked. If he hates the sight of his tenants,
why doesn't he live somewhere else?"

"It costs him nothing to live where he is. I wanted to take him out but
he refused."

"Stupid old skinflint," Valerie said. "I expect he thought you were
paving the way to borrow something."

"Maybe it was that. I did not care much for Mrs. Strawn. A masterful sort
of female. I hope she does not get him under her thumb."

"Not easy, I imagine!"

"If we get out in time I think I will call at Watsons', his agents, to
see what they can tell me."

"What can they tell you?"

"I don't know. But I would not like to go away without making sure that
the old fellow is really all right and properly looked after. He might
have piles of debts and be too proud to let anyone know of it. Not that I
could do much for him in that way, but my mother said they had been good
friends when they were young."

"It is more likely that he has grown into a thorough miser. He has hoards
of money stored away in those boxes."

"I doubt it," Bruce said. "What have you been doing?"

"I have arranged for an audition at the Dramatic Academy. I am trembling
with excitement. Shall I pass?"

"Of course you will. Your mother's daughter could not fail."

"I hope you are right. She has promised to coach me in the pieces I have
to say."

"I wish I could hear you."

"I am glad you can't," she laughed. "I am terrified enough already."

They were out of the cinema in ample time to go to the estate agents, but
fate willed they were not to get there--anyway, not that day. The film
had been rather a depressing one--it is odd that producers of
entertainment so often think people like to be saddened. They went by
underground railway to Sloane Square and proceeded to walk up Sloane
Street. It was raining slightly, but that did not worry them. Bruce was
wondering just what he should say to Messrs. Watsons. He had a queer
feeling about it--if he pursued his enquiries would it appear as
genuinely concern for his uncle or only about his possible inheritance?
Valerie was thinking of her coming ordeal and also that she would miss
Bruce quite a lot when he left.

They spoke very little, but as they approached Westbourne House, which
faces the Gardens, they both saw a girl coming towards them, wheeling a
perambulator. It was an expensive affair with white enamelled panel-work.
The hood was up. The girl reached the entrance to the flats just before
they did. She stopped and made to take her baby from its cushioned nest.
Then she screamed.

The porter of the flats, Strawn, came down the steps just as Bruce and
Valerie joined her. It was usual for the girl to carry the baby into the
building, while the perambulator was taken in by the porter or his
assistant. She screamed again.

"It is a doll! Where is my baby?"

She seemed distraught, as well she might be

"What has happened?" the porter asked. Bruce and Valerie stood by,
waiting for the answer.

"Someone has taken my baby! This is a doll!"

What the said was true enough. The figure lying in the perambulator was a
large doll, about the size of a young baby.

"Where have you come from?" Bruce asked.

"From the shops. I only left it for a minute. The woman said she would
wait. But she was gone. What must I do? What must I do? What will Lady
Cradon say?"

She spoke almost hysterically and the tears came coursing down her

"What shop was it?" Valerie asked. "Can we make enquiries for you?"

"It was--it was the Stores. At the top. I've come straight back. I must
go and ask."

"Her ladyship is not in," Strawn said. "I had best take this in when you
go. It's a very queer thing."

"Can we go with you?" Valerie suggested. "The baby can't have gone far."

"I know the landlord here," Bruce said. "I know he would wish us to help

The girl made no answer, and, half-running, half-walking, they went off
together. In choking, disjointed sentences she told her strange story.

On her way home from the usual walk in the park she had to make a small
purchase in the popular Knightsbridge Stores, near the top of Sloane
Street. She pushed the pram into the shop, as so many did. Her baby was
Sir Lionel, the son of Lady Cradon. She made her purchase and was just
outside again when an assistant came running after her. There had been a
slight mistake: would the nurse slip back and see the assistant who
served her. She would mind the pram while she was away.

Puzzled, but quite unsuspicious, she had gone back. The assistant was
attending to someone else and she had to wait a few moments. Then the
assistant said there had been no mistake; she had not sent for her.
Running out again she saw the pram, but the other girl had gone. Being
rather late, she hurried for home.

Such, in effect, was her tale, told in jerky, tear-choked phrases. She
was obviously shocked, frightened, and almost distracted.

"Did you not look at the baby when you came out of the shop?" Bruce

"No--yes--I think I did. I don't know. The hood was up. It had started to
rain. I pushed it from the back."

"You hadn't left the pram while you were in the park?" he asked.

"Oh no. Not for a moment."

The Stores was about to close for the night when they got there. They
made such enquiries as they could but no light was thrown on the matter.
Bruce saw the manager, who expressed himself as very concerned when he
heard the amazing story, for Lady Cradon was a valued customer. The
nurse, whose name was Florrie Spaight, identified the assistant who had
served her. The girl confirmed the facts so far as she was concerned and
repeated what she had said before. The purchase was a simple one and she
had no anyone to fetch the customer back.

"What made you think it was one of our girls who came after you?" the
manager said.

"She--said so--she was dressed like them," Florrie faltered.

"Could you recognise her?"

"I--I don't know."

"A good many of the girls have gone. You can watch the others as they

As the staff had their own special exit, this was easily done, but poor
bewildered Florrie could not identify any one of the cheery throng,
anxious to get to their homes and pleasures.

"I will have further enquiries made in the morning," the manager said. "I
cannot believe that any of our girls would have acted in such a way.
Please assure Lady Cradon of that and of my real sympathy. I hope,
however, it is only a stupid and wicked practical joke and will be
cleared up before the night is over."

Bruce and Valerie accompanied Florrie Spaight back to the flat. They
hoped that the suggestion of a practical joke would prove correct and
that the baby would already have been taken home. This, unhappily, was
not the case.

Bruce told Lady Cradon of their enquiries, explaining that he was Mr.
Pursey's nephew. The porter had already told her the facts, so far as
they were known. She was almost speechless with grief and shock. Bruce
asked if she had informed the police of the matter and if there was any
thing he could do to help her.

She shook her head and showed them a scrap of paper she had found pinned
to the garment worn by the doll. It was in printed characters and said:

'If you wish to see your little boy again do nothing until you get a
message. Meanwhile he will be well cared for.'

"I must wait," she said dully.

"Bruce," said Valerie when they left, "we must go to the Bennions to tell
them what has happened. They asked me to call. If anyone can help that
poor woman it is Major Bennion."



WHEN they were married Roger and Ruth Bennion had occupied a flat in
Sloane Street, where he had lived in his bachelor days. It was not in
Westbourne House, but not far from it. Ruth, however, did not much like a
home without a garden and when they knew a baby was to be expected they
had moved to a little house in Egerton Terrace that had quite a pleasant
garden of its own. It gave Ruth pleasure to cultivate it, despite the
opposition of London smoke, and they thought it would be happier for
their baby to be able to enjoy fresh air without being pushed through the
streets. Their hopes, as Valerie had told her mother, had been tragically

Like other parts of London, the Egerton estate has a history of its own.
The land on the side of the Brompton Road, where it stands, was
originally known as Flounders Fields, from its usually moist and muddy
condition. It was part of the estate of that noble citizen, Henry Smith,
who left such a rich heritage for charity. At the end of the eighteenth
century Michael Novosielski, architect of the Royal Italian Opera House,
built himself a spacious residence there, which he called The Grange. He
also built a number of small houses adjoining it, which he honoured with
his own name, Michael's Grove. Nearly a hundred years later Egerton Place
was built on the site of the former Grove and Egerton Gardens on land
adjacent. They were the last word in red-brick elegance and each house
possessed a bathroom of its own, no mean boast in those days. Some older
nearby properties, to share this new respectability, adopted the name.
Brompton Crescent, mainly second-rate lodging houses, smartened itself
into Egerton Crescent, and Michael's Grove, which had acquired a rough
reputation, started afresh as Egerton Terrace.

Flounders Fields had been a resort of thieves and footpads. The largest
abode in Egerton Gardens, Mortimer House, has now become a centre for the
collection of income-tax. Whether this can be cited as an example of
reversion to type is an interesting speculation. Who the Egerton was who
gave the name to this select area is not known.

Egerton Terrace, although no longer admitting its indebtedness to
Michael, its begetter, has two charms that it owes to him. Many of the
houses have gardens and the whole forms a cul-de-sac quiet unusual so
close to one of London's thoroughfares. It was for these reasons the
Bennions had bought a home there.

The voyages to and from New Zealand had restored Ruth to her former
health, and they were sitting together in their drawing-room when the
visitors were announced. They were Valerie Legh, who had a very high
opinion of Roger's talents, and Bruce Kelsall.

After some banter Roger produced drinks.

"Cocktail?" he asked with his quizzical smile. "Or does the good
resolution still stand?"

"It still stands," she said. "I make no rash vows, but I shall keep off
drink and smoking as long as I can."

"Good girl. You, Bruce?"

"Thank you, sir."

"We meant to come tomorrow," Valerie said, "but some thing very queer
happened today and we thought we would like to ask you about it Bruce's
uncle owns Westbourne House in Sloane Street and one of the tenants is
Lady Cradon. While the maid was out with her baby, someone stole him from
the pram and left a big doll in his place."

"You really mean that!" Ruth exclaimed. "Stole the baby? How could they?"

"The nurse was lured away for a few minutes. She did not notice it until
she got back to the flats and went to lift the baby out."

"Have they been able to find it?"

"So far not a trace."

"What an appalling, incredible thing!" Ruth said. "How awful for Lady
Cradon. I knew her quite well when we were in Sloane Street. She and I
were expecting our babies at the same time. What is she doing about it?"

"Nothing," Valerie said. "She is afraid to. I suppose she is waiting to
hear what is demanded as ransom." She and Bruce related the story, just
as it happened, telling of the visit to the Stores and the note that was
pinned to the doll's clothing, forbidding any further action until the
mother heard from the kidnappers.

"Kidnapping is a remarkable thing to happen in broad daylight in a busy
London street," Roger said thoughtfully. "Is the nurse entirely to be
trusted? In some cases they have planned the whole thing or been
recruited as accessories to it."

"I think Florrie is reliable. She could not have planned it; it came as a
shock to her. I happened to be on the spot when she looked for the baby
and found the doll. She seemed absolutely astounded. It was genuine
enough, wasn't it, Bruce?"

"I think it was," he said. "There would have been no reason for her to
put on an act for our benefit, and I doubt if she could have done it. She
seemed a simple girl, probably from the country."

"And there is the fact that she left the pram and went back into the
shop. We saw the girl who had served her."

"A remarkable thing to happen in broad daylight in a busy London street."
Roger said thoughtfully. "Terrible indeed for Lady Cradon. You say she
has not gone to the police?"

"She is  afraid to," Valerie replied.

"What can you do to help her, Roger?" his wife asked.

"What can I do?" he echoed. "She must go to the police."

"Could you not tell her that?" Ruth said. "Think what we should have felt
had it been ours."

"Lady Cradon should disregard what it said in the note?" Valerie asked.

"Certainly," Roger said emphatically. "The sooner the police start their
enquiries the more likely they are to find the little chap."

"I wish we could help," Valerie murmured. "Don't you, Bruce?"

"Indeed I do," he said; "but Major Bennion is right. The police can put
out enquiries in every direction, in the papers and by radio. The less
time lost the better."

"I do hope the baby is being properly cared for," Ruth added "The note
said that he would be, but can you be sure?"

Soon after that Bruce and Valerie left, promising to report any further
information they might gain. As they had their evening meal Ruth said to

"I am so worried about Lady Cradon. Won't you go round to see if there is
any news, or if you can do anything for her?"

"Do you really wish me to?"

"I do, darling."

"You are not forgetting that you asked me to keep clear of sleuthing and
such things?" he smiled.

"This is different," she said. "At least I hope it is. Why do people
commit such wicked crimes?"

"Most crimes are committed for gain. Valerie is probably right in saying
that a demand for payment will follow. The trouble is that, whatever is
behind it, the delay helps the villains concerned to cover their traces."

"So you will tell Lady Cradon that she must take immediate action?" Ruth

"All right, darling, I will."

It is not many minutes' walk from Egerton Terrace to Sloane Street, and,
knowing Lady Cradon's flat was on the first floor, Roger went straight up
and rang the bell.

The door was opened by an elderly woman who said she was doubtful if Lady
Cradon could see anyone.

"She has no news of her little boy?"

"No, sir," the woman said.

"Would you please tell her I have called? My wife and I are very grieved
to hear of her trouble. My wife thought perhaps we could help her."

If Lady Cradon declined to see him, that was that. But the woman returned
and showed him into the room where Lady Cradon and Florrie Spaight were
sitting. The latter was still half crying; the former seemed frozen with

"Bruce Kelsall and a friend of his, who is also a friend of ours, told us
of your great trouble," Roger began. "I need not say how sorry we are.
Ruth insisted that I should come round in the hope that we might be able
to help you.

"How can you?" Lady Cradon asked hopelessly.

"I understand you have not yet notified the police?"


"I think it would be wise to do so, but I would like to ask a few
questions. Is this your nurse?"

"My nurse-companion, Florrie Spaight. She is the daughter of the
clergyman in our village."

"This has been a terrible experience for you, Florrie," Roger said
kindly. "You don't mind telling me about it?"

"No," she said with a suppressed sob. She was quite a nice-looking girl
and he thought it safe to dismiss the idea that she had been in any way a
party to the crime.

"Do you often go to those Stores when you are taking the baby out?"

"Perhaps two or three times a week."

"Often enough for people to know it was a thing you might do?"

"I suppose so."

"Always at that time?"

"About then. Generally on the way home."

"Have you ever before gone into the shop and left the pram outside?"

"Not unless Lady Cradon or someone else was with me, and then they
generally went in and I waited."

"Did that often happen?"

"No. I was generally by myself."

"You were, of course, surprised when the assistant, or the girl you took
for an assistant, came out and asked you to go back?"

"I was very surprised," Florrie said, with another sob.

"But as she offered to look after the pram, you went?"

"Yes. They don't really like prams inside, though they allow them. But I
thought it would be quicker."

"I quite understand that. When you came out you did not really look at
the baby?"

"N-no. Not really. He--he was on his side, asleep; his face part covered.
I thought it was going to rain."

For a moment the tears overcame her.

"It was a cruel thing to happen," Roger said gently. "Probably anyone
else would have acted just as you did. But tell me this--Was it the same

"I--I don't understand," she faltered. "There was only one."

"I know there was only one, but was it the same one? I am trying to
realise how it was done. Have you examined the perambulator and all the
cushions and rugs and things since you brought it back?"

Florrie and Lady Cradon looked at each other. It was the latter who

"I don't think we have. We picked up the doll with that message on it. We
did not look at anything else."

"Where is it?" Roger asked.

"Up here. The porter always brings it up. We are not supposed to leave it

"Would you look at it?"'

Lady Cradon rose and the girl went with her. In a few minutes they were
back. There was a queer puzzled look on their faces.

"It is not the same," Lady Cradon said. "It is exactly like it but there
were one or two marks on ours that are not there now and there is a cheap
underneath blanket that is not ours at all, The pillow is different."

"There were some toys in ours," Florrie added, "that are not there."

"What does it mean?" Lady Cradon murmured.

"It means," Roger answered, "that the whole affair was carefully planned
and perhaps the parties concerned have been waiting and watching for days
for their chance. I did not think anyone would risk exchanging a baby for
a doll in the sight of all the passers in a busy street, so your
discovery does not surprise me. Two women were probably involved. The
first, dressed as a shop girl, got Florrie to return to the Stores. The
second pushed up the similar pram with the doll in it and left it there,
pushing the other pram away. The pretended shop girl disappeared. It
would not be difficult to do it and no one would notice anything unless
they were paying special attention."

Lady Cradon and her helper looked at him, horror but realisation in their
eyes. They could picture the scene. They did not doubt it had happened
just as he described.

"I would like a few words with you alone, if you do not mind," Roger said
to Lady Cradon. He rose and opened the door as the girl, after a nod from
her employer, went out. "Do not worry too much," he added to her. "It was
a cruel trick, but I hope the baby will soon be home again."

He closed the door and turned to Lady Cradon.

"I trust you will see how important it is to inform the police at once.
You have many useful clues for them to work on. Your perambulator is
somewhere to be found and this second perambulator must have a
history--where it was procured and by whom. Each cushion and wrapping
will be considered and may give information. Everyone who was outside
that shop at that time this afternoon will be asked over the wireless and
in the press to with Scotland Yard if they saw anything that might throw
light on the matter."

Lady Cradon listened, but did not reply.

"I do realise the terrible unhappiness of your position," he went on.
"You do not want to take any action that might mean peril to your baby.
It is a cruel dilemma for any mother, but I am sure you would be wise to
notify the police immediately and then to act as they direct."

Still she said nothing.

"Kidnapping cases are rare in this country, but, when they happen, it is
not unusual for there to be some implied threat such as you received.
Probably no harm is meant for the child as there would be no gain in
that. Time is what is wanted. Time to find a safe hiding-place and to
work out the plan for getting payment."

"I must wait," Lady Cradon said in a tone so low as to be only just

For some moments they regarded one another in silence. The tick of the
grandfather's clock was the only sound to be heard. Roger was thinking
how she had changed since he had last seen her. Before his voyage to New
Zealand she had been a happy, healthy, good-looking woman. Not beautiful;
perhaps the old-fashioned word comely would best describe her. Now she
was much older, haggard, ravaged. Could the tragic happening of that
afternoon have had such woeful effect in so short a time?

Her thoughts were very different. Could she tell him? All she knew of
Major Bennion she liked, but could she trust him with the secret that was
burning her up? Absolute confidence--could she have that in anyone?

"The decision must rest with you," Roger said at last. "In my opinion it
is your duty, for your child's sake as well as your own, to go to the
police at once. What can be gained by delay? Remember, it is not only
ourselves who know of it. There are the people at the Stores. Such a
thing can not be kept secret. Soon everyone will be talking about it."

"I must wait," she said in that low, dull tone. "I know who did it."



ROGER WAS not often taken completely by surprise, but such was certainly
the result on this occasion.

"You know?" he echoed. "Then what are you doing about it?"

She did not reply to his question. She faced him with another.

"Major Bennion, can you promise me that what I tell you will never be
revealed to anyone whatsoever without my permission?"

She spoke earnestly and he hesitated for a few moments before he replied.

"I never give promises of that kind. If you can trust me, tell me. If you
cannot trust me, do not tell me."

Again there was silence. Only the voice of the imperturbable grandfather
could be heard.

"I am in great difficulty. I want advice, but I do not know to whom to
turn. I have had no sleep for days."

"Before this happened?"

"Yes. Before this happened."

"Cannot you consult your solicitor?"

"I am afraid to. I hope you will help me."

She paused for some moments. Then she seemed to come to a decision.

"A few days ago a woman called and told me she really was Lady Cradon.
She had married my husband twenty years ago and he thought she was dead.
Therefore his marriage to me was in law no marriage and my son is not
able to bear his title. Much if not all of the estate should be hers, not
mine or my son's."

"Did this woman give any proof of her statement?" Roger asked.

"She left me a copy of the marriage certificate and said I could check it
for myself."

"Have you done so? Do you believe her story?"

"I have done nothing, but it seems it must be true. She made me a

"What was that?"

"She said her daughter, who was Sir Lionel's daughter, could not inherit
the title, and she had no desire to alter her own life. If I would give
her twenty thousand pounds she would let things remain as they are. She
promised to wait a little time for my reply, but now, to compel me to
consent, she has stolen my son."

"You are assuming that?"

"Who else could it be?"

"It is strange, that the two things should happen almost at the same
time," Roger commented, "but there might be no connection. You say she
promised to wait for your reply. Can you tell me more of what she said?"

"She offered to wait while I got advice, but she said I had better not
mention it to my solicitor, who is the trustee for the estate. If I did,
he would insist on going into the whole affair and would probably not
allow me any more money and she would be compelled to withdraw her offer.
Is that true?"

"If her story was founded on fact," Roger said, "a complicated position
would arise. Your son would not inherit the title and probably the lawyer
would have to get the instructions of the court as to the disposal of
your husband's estate and the interpretation of his will."

"But could he not first test her story and then, if it was true, accept
her offer and pay her the money she asked for?"

"I am not a lawyer, but I doubt if that would be possible. He might come
to an arrangement about the money, but he could not bargain over the
title. And if your son does not inherit the title, the question would
arise, why not? It would be very difficult."

"But I cannot give her twenty thousand pounds. The money is in trust."

"Do you believe that if you give this woman twenty thousand pounds you
will get your baby back?"

"I do," Lady Cradon said. "But I told you I cannot get it. I must wait
till I hear from her."

"You may be right," Roger replied, "but I cannot quite see it that way.
If the woman's story is true, she probably has a good case for some share
of her husband's estate. She would not strengthen it by stealing your
baby. Rather the reverse. She would forfeit any sympathy she might
otherwise enjoy. Did you know anything of her before she called on you?"

"Not in connection with my husband. I have seen her on the stage. She is
an actress."

"Well known?"

"Fairly. She calls herself Amabel Legh."

"Who?" Roger cried. It was another big surprise for him.

"Amabel Legh. This is the marriage certificate. It gives her names as Amy
Isabel. She says Amabel is her stage name. Do you know her?"

"Not personally, but I know her daughter Valerie very well indeed. She
returned from New Zealand only a few days ago with Ruth and myself. She
is a most charming girl. It was she and Bruce Kelsall who went with your
nurse to the Stores and came to you afterwards."

"Perhaps she was in it," Lady Cradon said. "You thought there were two of
them. Naturally she was quickly on the scene."

"No," Roger said emphatically. "I am sure you are wrong there. Valerie
was very upset at what happened and wanted to help you. That is why she
came to me. I do not know her mother, but from what I have heard of her I
cannot think she is concerned in it either. She may have, or she may
think she has, some claim on the estate, but she would not be guilty of
such a wanton and senseless crime. Does Valerie know what her mother told
you--that she is Sir Lionel's child?"

"Miss Legh said she did not."

"I should imagine that is true. Tell me, Lady Cradon, your baby is more
precious to you than the title?"

"Need you ask? He is more precious than anything in the world."

"I am sure of it. And I am also sure it is useless for you to wait for a
letter from Amabel Legh. You really must inform the police."

"But the note says--"

"Disregard it. I will see Miss Legh at once myself. If I am convinced she
knows nothing about what happened this afternoon, you will then speak to
Scotland Yard, or let me do it for you. Is that agreed?"

"If you think so."

"I am sure it is the only thing to do. It may mean unpleasant
publicity--newspapers, wireless and a lot of callers. But the sooner and
the more widely the facts are known, the quicker the results."

Whether an actress who is only a minor star has a dressing-room to
herself, or has to share one with two or three others, depends on the
size of the cast and the accommodation available. The Regal Theatre was a
modern building and the designer had paid rather more attention to the
comfort of the performers than is sometimes the case. Amabel Legh had a
room of her own, and when she heard that Major Bennion wished to see her
she asked him to be brought in at once.

"You are Valerie's mother?" he said.

"Of course," she smiled. "Have you been seeing the show?" She was sitting
in front of the mirror, but she turned to speak to him. She was made up
as an elderly woman in a Victorian costume.

"Not yet. My wife and I are meaning to, but we wanted to tell you how
wonderfully good Valerie was to us on our voyage. My wife had been ill,
you know, and it was a great comfort for her to have your daughter with

"It was lucky for Val. You were wonderfully good to her, paying
everything and giving her such beautiful presents. But I could wish you
had seen me for the first time without my hag rig."

"You make a very charming old lady," Roger laughed.

"Not at such close range. I have really finished. I don't come in the
last scene, but I have to be ready to take a curtain. Bruce and Valerie
are in front."

"Have you seen them since this afternoon?" Roger asked.

"No. I said they could get dinner somewhere and then I would give them
supper after the show. I never have much before it; one acts best when
hungry. But I do enjoy my supper. Will you join us?"

"I would love to," Roger said, "but I am afraid it is impossible tonight
as I have another appointment. Perhaps you would let me give you all
supper tomorrow or some other time? I meant to see you, but this, in a
way, is a sort of business call. I believe you know Lady Cradon?"

The smile from Amabel's heavily lined features disappeared.

"I have met her," she said coldly.

"This afternoon her baby son was stolen from his perambulator near her
home and so far no trace of him has been found."

"What a ghastly thing! But--why have you come to me?"

"Lady Cradon said you made some sort of claim on the family a few days
ago and she thought you might have done this to enforce it."

Amabel looked at him for a few moments, tapping her foot on the floor.
Then she said:

"There must be a good many ways of playing this scene. One would be to
get superbly angry, denounce Lady Cradon as an imbecile and tell you to
clear out. Another would ask coldly what you knew of the whole affair and
whether you think anyone with such a claim would be lunatic enough to
meddle with the child?"

Roger smiled. "I am glad you decided against the superb anger, though I
am sure you could have done it well. As to the other, Lady Cradon told me
about the claim and I told her I could not conceive why in such
circumstances you should interfere with the baby. She was convinced she
would hear from you and so would not communicate with the police, lest
the other story came out too. I said I would see you, and if your reply
was as I anticipated we would lose no more time."

"Lady Cradon is a silly woman," Amabel said, "though no doubt she made a
good wife for Lionel. His sort really. I am sorry for her, but I know
nothing about her baby. What should I want with it? What should I do with
it? I was out shopping this afternoon but in quite a different
neighbourhood. There was a paragraph in the paper a few days ago, saying
the Baby Bart was worth a hundred thousand pounds. That probably explains
what happened. It is enough to tempt any evil person to kidnap him."

"I am afraid you are right. May I say I am sure you were not concerned
and now I hope she will get busy?"

"You may, but one thing, Major Bennion, since you have come. Do you not
agree that my offer to her was a generous one?"

"It would certainly appear so. Did Sir Lionel make you no payment?"

"I told her he did. Twenty thousand pounds. It made things easier for me,
but it is gone. I enjoyed it, though I made some bad investments. So now
I ask for another twenty thousand. Not really very much. Ought he not to
have left me something in his will?"

"Did he promise to do so?"

"No. But am I not entitled to it? You see, to me Lionel was a crushing
bore. He hated the theatre; we had nothing in common. No doubt I was
wrong to let him think I was dead, but I wanted to live my own life. The
next heir to the title would be his brother Andrew. He is a friend of
mine, but I have never said a word to him and do not intend to do so."

"Andrew Cradon. I seem to have heard of him."

"He runs the Society of Peacemakers."

"That is the man. Does Valerie know about her father?"

"Not a word, and I do not want her to."

"You will find she knows all about the missing baby. She was with Bruce
outside Westbourne House when the nurse found the perambulator contained
only a doll. They went--"

At that moment the call came for Amabel to join the rest of the cast in
the wings to make their bow to the audience. Roger departed.



ANDREW CRADON sat at his mahogany desk. He was a massive man. Over six
feet in height and stoutly built, with a large head going bald, clear
grey eyes and well-formed features, his was a personality not to be
overlooked in any assembly. He had a benevolent expression, though his
firm mouth suggested he was not an individual to be imposed upon.

He occupied a house in that part of Lowndes Street near to Sloane Street
and Cadogan Place, almost opposite to what was once the residence of the
great Earl Cadogan, now a block of flats. His room was in the front on
the ground floor. Behind it a smaller room served for a clerical staff,
and behind that again a really large room was used for business meetings
and conferences. The rest of the premises formed an adequate residence. A
neat brass plate on the front door bore the inscription--The Society of

He pressed a bell and a good-looking woman in her early thirties glided
into the room. She was neatly dressed and gave an impression of

"Good morning, Miss Pleyall. Anything of importance today?"

"Lord Rotherham has accepted your invitation to become a vice-president
and has sent a cheque for ten guineas. Archdeacon Belfort says he also
will join us but can only subscribe one guinea."

"Both good men," Mr. Cradon said, "and both should be useful. Anything
from the B.B.C. about the suggested broadcast?"

"Not yet. There is a letter from Mr. Hedley from Belfast. He thinks the
strike is nearly over. He was able to arrange a meeting between the two
sides. If all goes as he hopes he should be able to return today or
tomorrow. He sends a full report of the negotiations and says he thinks
his efforts have been useful, though they may not be acknowledged."

"Probably not. Hedley is a good lad. Any father might be proud of him. I
am glad he is taking our work seriously; at one time I feared he would

"The rest are mostly routine matters I can deal with, but, Mr. Cradon--"


"Have you seen this morning's papers?"

"You are thinking of the report that Lady Cradon's little boy is

"Yes. The Morning Pictorial is full of it. It has pictures of her and the
baby and says the perambulators were changed outside the Knightsbridge
Stores. A dummy was left in place of the baby." Miss Pleyall spoke with
more excitement than she usually showed.

"It must be true then," Mr. Cradon said. "My paper had only a very brief
reference to it. Has Lady Cradon telephoned?"

"Not yet. Would you like me to get on to her? I have the Pictorial here
if you would care to see it."

"Certainly I would. It seems a dastardly business, but I expect the
police will soon get to the bottom of it."

It was to the credit of the journal in question that news broken after
midnight could figure so prominently in its pages. There were bold
headlines and many pictures. Mr. Cradon and his secretary were busy
studying them when he was informed that Major Roger Bennion had called
and would like to see him.

Before going out, Roger had had a few words on the matter with Ben
Orgles, his butler-handyman. Ben had been in the police force in his
younger days and in the Royal Air Force during the war. Now, blessed with
a small pension, he and Bessie, his wife, were happy to run the Bennions'
home for them. They were devoted to both their master and their mistress.
Ben was putting on a bit of weight, but his cheeriness never deserted

"You have read about this Cradon baby case?" Roger asked him.

"Glanced at it, sir."

"You remember Lady Cradon from our Sloane Street days?"

"Oh yes, sir. Quite a pleasant lady."

"I would like to help her if I can, although the police will no doubt do
all that is necessary and may already have the information they want."

"They'll get a lot of information," Ben said. "How far it will help them
remains to be seen."

"Well, Ben, we may take it the prams were changed outside that shop. If
you were going to do a job like that, how would you set about it?"

"Not my line at all, sir," Ben grinned, "but I see what you mean.
Naturally I should want to get away as quickly as I could."

"You certainly would. The nurse seems to have been delayed a little in
the shop and she did not really look at the baby when she got back. Those
were things no one could count on. The hue and cry might have started
almost at once, and, remember, you are in charge of a fairly conspicuous

"So I am. It was a daring business, sir. I think I should nip round the
nearest corner. I would have a small pantechnicon waiting and would shove
the pram right in and get away."

"It could be done like that, but a pantechnicon waiting about in a London
street in the afternoon would attract attention and the police might ask
questions. You could not rely on pushing in your pram unobserved. I agree
as to turning the corner. Then, if there was an entry to a mews a little
further on, I think my plan would be to go there, get into a car with the
baby and leave the pram behind, hiding it as best I could--perhaps in an
empty garage."

"That should work all right, sir," Ben said with his wide grin. "A good
job you are for the police, not against them."

"What I want you to do is to make such enquiries as you can in the shop
and also to find the nearest mews and see what you can learn there. I do
not know who is in charge of the case, but if you make any useful
discoveries we shall of course pass the information along."

"I'll do my best, sir. A bit of the old game again."

Mr. Andrew Cradon asked for Major Bennion to be brought to his office
directly he knew of his arrival.

"I do not think we have met before," Roger began, "but on my return from
New Zealand I found among other letters one from you inviting me to
become a vice-president of the Society of Peacemakers. I thought I would
like to see you about it."

"It is very good of you to call,” Mr. Cradon beamed. "I shall be happy to
tell you anything I can and to give you the pamphlets describing our

"Well, in the first place," Roger said, "there are, I believe, a number
of peace societies. In what way does yours differ from the rest?"

"There are many so-called peace leagues and brotherhoods," Mr. Cradon
agreed. "Some of them are really political and only stand for peace on
their own terms. Others piously wish for peace but do precious little
about it. The Bible, you will remember, says, 'Blessed are the Peace
makers for they are the children of God'. So far as I know, we are the
only Society of Peacemakers."

"How do you set about it?"

"We are entirely non-political. We do not try to shake thrones or mould
governments. We start at the bottom and hope to work up. We have offices
in many large towns and we invite young couples to call on us and discuss
their troubles. I think we can claim to have saved many marriages. Our
endeavour is to get the parties together, to talk things over with a
kindly experienced man. There are no charges of any kind and it might
surprise you to know how many couples we have persuaded to try again--and
how often the breach has been permanently healed."

"Good work--if you can get them to come to you in time," Roger said.

"Precisely, and that, of course, is only one branch of our activities.
Whenever there is a strike, big or little, we are there to do our best.
Our method is the same--to try and get the parties together to talk
things over. One of our theories is that in every strike of any
importance the B.B.C. should invite representatives of both sides to the
microphone to set out their case. The public would then know what it is
all about, which often they do not, as newspaper reports are inadequate
and one-sided. Our part is to get the facts and suggest a reasonable
settlement. You will say there are arbitration boards. That is true, but
how slowly they work! We act immediately and we have had many successes."

"And not a few snubs," Roger suggested.

"How right you are!" Mr. Cradon laughed. "Often enough we are told to
clear out and mind our own business. But it is getting to be recognised
that we have no axes to grind. We only desire justice all round, not
least of all for the general public, often the greatest sufferers. In
international affairs we have no status, but our ideas are the same. A
frank statement of claim is the first step towards agreement."

"Who is behind your society?" Roger asked.

"I am," Mr. Cradon said. "I devote all my time and money to it. My son,
Hedley, is at this moment in Belfast and I believe he is helping to
effect a settlement of the trouble there. But we have many supporters who
assist with money and advice. I hope you will join us, Major Bennion.
There is a big work to be done by the Children of God. I have had a
wonderful idea from a friend of mine, Miss Amabel Legh, the actress."

"What is that?"

"Well," Mr. Cradon said, "it may be called the rehabilitation of domestic
service. Miss Legh holds that happy homes are the true foundations of
peace. If our young men would choose their wives from the cooks and the
household workers they would be far better cared for than if they married
shop-girls and factory hands. I think it a grand idea and I am hoping to
sponsor lectures to be broadcast by the B.B.C. I would also like to make
one of their weekly appeals, not so much for the money it might bring in
as the chance it would afford of offering our services to the community."

"It is a good work," Roger said sincerely. "If you will let me have your
pamphlets I will study them and let you know what I can do. Meanwhile, as
I am here, there is something else I would like to mention."

"Please do."

"As you have probably heard, your sister-in-law, Lady Cradon, is in great
trouble. Her baby son was kidnapped yesterday. My wife and I chanced to
hear of it, and as we were old neighbours of hers we offered our help,
which she accepted."

Roger was conscious of a change of expression in the face of the man he
was addressing. It may have been that he disliked the intrusion of a
stranger into a family matter. It may have been that he suspected--not
altogether without reason--that the professed call about the Society of
Peacemakers was really an excuse to discuss this other matter.

"My secretary and I were reading about it when you came," Mr. Cradon
said. "I had not heard of it officially. My sister-in-law and I are not
on very cordial terms, but I am very grieved for her distress. We were
intending to ring her up to ask if there was anything we could do to help

"Is there?" Roger enquired.

"So far as I am aware there is not, but my services are entirely at her
disposal. Please tell her so."

"I will. I was wondering if you could suggest any direction in which we
might look for the miscreants guilty of the affair."

"I have no idea at all," Mr. Cradon said. "I suppose a demand for money
is behind it."

"That seems probable. But in my view we have not far to look. What I mean
is that the criminals must have been in a position to know the movements
of Lady Cradon's household fairly intimately. They knew the nurse was
accustomed to call at that particular shop, probably about that time, and
they secured a perambulator practically identical with the one she used."

"That suggests the nurse herself, or one of the servants," Mr. Cradon

"I think the nurse is above suspicion. The other resident maid would be
too well known to her to have played an active part and, in any case, she
was in the flat at the time."

"She could have given information to a third party."

"The police will, of course, question her closely. Apart from the money
angle there is the possible motive of spite. Has Lady Cradon any

Mr. Cradon considered the question for some moments, frowning

"As I told you, I do not often see Lady Cradon, but she is not a
quarrelsome woman and I should not think she made enemies. But you used
the word spite. She has a sister, a Mrs. Kingston, whom I have always
regarded as a jealous and spiteful person. Lady Cradon married my
brother, who was a wealthy man. Her sister married a Captain Kingston,
who gambled away what money they had and left her penniless. She was very
bitter that she had so little and her sister so much. But I would
hesitate to suggest that she could be guilty of a deed so abominable and
apparently of so little advantage to herself."

"Thank you," Roger said. "That is, anyway, a matter to clear up. I was
told a paragraph was recently published about your brother's will that
might have incited cupidity. Do you know anything about that?"

"My secretary mentioned something of the sort to me just before you came.
She said she had kept a copy. If you like, I will ask her for it."

Roger said he would be pleased to see it. Mr. Cradon pressed a bell and a
few moments later Miss Pleyall handed them a cutting identical with that
retained by Amabel Legh. They both read it.

"Hardly a Lucky Baby Bart," Roger observed. "It would certainly appear
there was money enough to instigate the crime. But the will was, I
suppose, more or less what was to be expected?"

"It disappointed me," Mr. Cradon said. "I had hoped my brother would have
left something to my Society of Peacemakers. He knew how keenly
interested I was in it and we had made our money together. But, of
course, he was entirely justified in disposing of his estate as he saw

"Should little Sir Lionel never return--it is a horrible thought, but I
suppose it is at the back of our minds--you would, I take it, succeed to
the title and, if what the paper says is correct, possibly to much of the

"That had not occurred to me," Mr. Cradon said stiffly, "and I trust we
need not contemplate it."

The conversation then ended. Roger thanked him for what he had been told
and said he would see him again about S.O.P. before long. He then
returned to Egerton Terrace, where he found Ben Orgles waiting for him in
a state of mild excitement.

"Struck lucky I did, sir, almost at once. And I must hand it to you that
you were on to the right way of things from the word go."

"Carry on," Roger said.

"Well, sir, I couldn't learn much at the Stores. A lot of people talking
about what had happened, but they didn't know any more than we did. A man
from the Yard was making enquiries. I knew him, but he didn't seem to be
getting very far. So I thought I would look out for a likely garage, as
you said."

"Wilson's Mews?" Roger asked.

"You're dead right, sir. Round the first corner from the Stores is a
street leading to a square. A little way down this street is the entrance
to Wilson's Mews. It's a quiet place and more than half of it is used by
the business people nearby. But I saw one place empty. I went to the
agents and borrowed the key. Inside I found a perambulator! It was
exactly as described. It contained some baby's toys and a book with the
name Cradon in it."

"Good work," Roger said. "What did you do?"

"I left everything as it was and made some enquiries in the mews. Nobody
saw anything yesterday afternoon – in fact most of 'em are out at work
and two women who might have been home were at the pictures. But one
woman said that three days ago she saw a small dark man open the empty
garage and drive a car in. She didn't see him go, but she told her
husband about it when he got home and they reckoned the place was let."

"Could she describe the man?"

"Not very well. She said she might know him if she saw him again, but
that she could pick him out at a parade is damned--pardon,

"Never mind the damns with me, Ben. What next?"

"I went back to the agents and asked if the place was let. They said no.
A man borrowed the key a few days ago but brought it back and said it
might suit; he'd let them know. They never heard."

"Could they describe him?"

"Short and dark, wearing a trilby hat and a raincoat. Gave the name of

"No doubt not his own. Nothing to prevent him leaving his car there and
having a duplicate key cut to get it out later."

 "That's how it looks to me, sir."

"You didn't tell the agent about the perambulator you found?"

"No, sir." Ben grinned. "I was not giving that away. I kept the key,
saying I wanted my boss to see the place. Didn't want that pram to walk

"Quite right. Anything else?"

"I asked who the place belonged to. The owner's name is Smith. The last
people who rented it called themselves the Society of Peacemakers."

"Who?" Roger cried.

"The Society of Peacemakers. I think I got it right."

"That is very curious. I have just been seeing the president of that
society, Mr. Andrew Cradon. If the baby were done away with, he would get
the title and possibly a good deal of the money."

"Smells fishy," Ben commented.

"The Yard must know of it. Keep an eye on the mews till they take over."



ROGER'S NEXT call was on Lady Cradon. As he anticipated, a C.I.D. officer
was with her, none other than Chief Inspector Warren. Roger had met him
before and they thought well of one another. A third party was also
there--Lady Cradon's sister, Mrs. Marjorie Kingston. Roger was introduced
to her. The two women were not unlike, but where as Lady Cradon seemed
naturally kindly, Mrs. Kingston was sharper in tongue and feature and
might merit the adjective spiteful that had been applied to her.

She explained that directly she read of the affair she packed her
suitcase and came round, determined to be with her sister in her time of
trouble. No doubt she would be more comfortable in the sumptuous Sloane
Street flat than in her Bayswater bedsitting-room, but her motive may have
been kindly. Whether Lady Cradon was glad to receive her it was hard to

Roger told them of the discovery of the missing perambulator in Wilson's
Mews and handed the key to Inspector Warren.

"I think you had better have the nurse identify it," he said. "There may
be fingerprints on the handle."

Warren thanked him and said he had been intending to arrange for such a

"I have just been hearing about a woman, Gertrude Willows, who was with
Lady Cradon some weeks ago," he remarked. "She left in suspicious
circumstances and we want to find her."

"Indeed you do," Mrs. Kingston declared. "Directly I read the paper I
said to myself the Willows woman was behind it. She was untruthful and
dishonest, wasn't she, Eleanor?"

"She was not satisfactory," was the reply. "We never really proved she
had taken anything." Lady Cradon was looking woefully tired. There had
been no communication concerning her baby. No demand for payment or any
intimation of conditions for his return. She wondered if she had been
wise to appeal for police aid, or if the news as published in the papers
would harden the hearts of those who held him.

"That was only because you thought it less trouble to send her away than
to call in the police," her sister retorted.

"I ought perhaps to tell you," Roger said to Warren, "the last tenants of
the garage were the Society of Peacemakers."

"That is the concern run by that old humbug, Andrew Cradon," Mrs.
Kingston exclaimed. "It would not surprise me at all to hear he was mixed
up in it. What do you say, Eleanor?"

"Andrew was annoyed when my baby was born," Lady Cradon said, "but I
cannot think he would do a wicked thing like this."

"You are too trustful," her sister declared.

"I have seen Mr. Cradon," Roger remarked. "He asked me to tell you how
distressed he was at the news. He said he would do anything he could to
help you."

"Hypocrite!" muttered Marjorie.

Then Inspector Warren said he wanted to have a private talk with the
porter. Was there a room where he could see him without interruption?

"You can see him here," Lady Cradon said. "Come along, Marjorie."

Rather reluctantly the sister followed her from the room, and Warren
asked for an assistant who was also in the flat to fetch the porter.

"Wish me to stay?" Roger asked.

"I should be glad if you would. It is a queer business, but I think the
Willows woman is our best bet. If she is who I think, she was at one time
working with a very flash gang. Had Lady Cradon kept her, a big jewel
robbery might have followed. They may have thought this was better."

Strawn, the porter, looked more than usually smart when he entered the
room. He wore his proper uniform and saluted the chief inspector. After a
few general questions Warren said:

"What can you tell us about this affair?"

"I am sorry, sir, nothing. I was on duty yesterday afternoon and knew
nothing about it until the nurse got back and made the discovery."

"Had you noticed anyone lurking near the place at any time, watching the
nurse or the perambulator?"

"No, sir, never. We get loafers and beggars occasionally, but we send
them off sharp."

"You cannot suggest any direction in which we can look for the

"Wish I could, sir."

"How many tenants are there in the block?"

"On the ground floor left, Mr. and Mrs. Sweeting. They have a little girl
about five. On the right, Mrs. Morton. She is an old lady, over seventy.
Lady Cradon has the whole of the first floor. On the second floor left,
Captain and Mrs. Giles. He works, I believe, at the War Office. On the
right, Lady Betting, a widow. Third floor left, Major and the Honourable
Mrs. Feltham. Right, Mrs. Vannock, another old lady. Top floor left,
Admiral Heaton and his daughter. Right, Mr. Percy Belgood and his wife.
He is an M.P."

"They sound respectable enough. All on good terms with Lady Cradon?"

"Certainly, sir. So far as I could judge."

"On the top floor of all," Roger said, "I believe Mr. Pursey, the owner
of the flats, lives?"

"That's right, sir."

"Could we see him?"

"Of course you could, sir. But not now. He is out."

"I thought," said Roger, "he only went out at night?"

Strawn's pasty face wed a broad grin. "We are told to say that, sir, and
for the most part it is true. But he does go out in the daytime
occasionally, only he uses the back way."

"What is the reason for that?" Warren enquired.

"Well, sir, I suppose you would call him eccentric. He doesn't like
meeting his tenants; they might ask for something."

The inspector turned abruptly to another matter.

"Strawn, do you know anything about a Gertrude Willows?"

"Wasn't she with Lady Cradon for a short time, sir?"

"She was. Where is she now?"

"Afraid I can't tell you that."

"Have you seen her since she left?"

Strawn was silent for a few moments.

"Are you thinking she might have had a hand in this business, sir?"

"We have to consider all possibilities."

"I saw her passing once, but that was weeks ago, soon after she left.
There's one thing--"


"She used nasty language about her ladyship--said she'd pay her out for

"You are sure she said that?"

"Oh yes, more than once. But that's how girls talk."

"Do you know where she came from?"

"I believe she once mentioned somewhere up north," Strawn said.
"Huddersfield, I think it was, but I never had much to do with her. My
wife might know."

"I will see your wife," Warren said.

"Strawn, if I came this afternoon at about three o'clock, could I see Mr.
Pursey?" It was Roger who put the question.

"I don't know, sir. When he goes out in the morning, he likes to rest in
the afternoon."

"Then will you tell him I will call in the morning?"

"He--he is not partial to visitors, sir."

"Maybe not, but I think he will appreciate he must see either the chief
inspector or myself--or both of us."

"Well, sir, tomorrow afternoon would be better."

"All right. Let him know."

Warren decided he would go to the basement rooms to see Mrs. Strawn, as
he wished to inspect the whole place. Roger went down with him. There was
considerable accommodation there, a good deal of it cellar and boxroom
space reserved for the tenants. The Strawns, however, had their own flat
with two bedrooms, two sitting-rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. One of
the sitting-rooms was smaller than the other.

"A bit damp?" Roger asked, pointing to some discoloration in the
wall-paper in the smaller room.

"Always has been," Strawn grumbled. "Difficult to get proper ventilation
down here."

Mrs. Strawn was in her kitchen. She did not seem very pleased to see
visitors when cooking a meal, but she made the best of it.

"The inspector wants to know what you can tell him about Gertrude
Willows," her husband said.

"Precious little," was the reply. "She was just one of the girls that
comes and goes."

"Where did she come from and where did she go to?" Warren asked.

"I've no idea."

"Didn't she leave an address for letters to be forwarded?" Mrs. Strawn
shook her head.

"Not with us, perhaps with her ladyship," her husband said.

"Did you see her after she left?"

"She came in once about a bit of laundry," the woman replied. "Wouldn't
go to the flat. I got it for her."

"Did you ask her if she had got another place?"

"She said she was in no hurry. She'd take a holiday."

"Did she mention Huddersfield?" her husband enquired. "Came from there,
didn't she?"

"I b'lieve she did. I don't know if she was goin' back."

"How long ago was that?" Warren asked.

"‘Bout four weeks. Maybe five."

"The Labour Exchange might help," Roger suggested. Then he added: "Are
there many maids living-in in the flats?"

"Mrs. Morton has one, so has Mrs. Vannock. The rest is dailies."

"A field for enquiry." Roger smiled to Warren.

"Don't I know it?" the inspector said. "You have a helper, Strawn?"

"Joe Gassett. He's in the hall now. Want him?"

"Gen'rally has his meals here," said Mrs. Strawn, hinting perhaps that
she had to get on with her cooking.

"All right. I will see him upstairs."

Gassett was a red-headed youth of nineteen. He had had his job for about
a year. He could give no information. He knew all the girls and women who
worked in the block and probably indulged in a little back-chat with most
of them. He remembered Gertrude Willows, but had never had much to do
with her. He said he was fond of Lady Cradon's baby and hoped they would
soon find him.

"Will they offer a reward?" he asked.

"Think you could earn it?" Warren replied sharply.

"I'd have a good try, sir, if I knew where to start," he grinned.

Roger and Chief Inspector Warren then parted, the latter to take Nurse
Spaight to Wilson's Mews to identify the abandoned perambulator, the
former to walk to his home in Egerton Terrace. But he had not gone far
when he met Valerie Legh and Bruce Kelsall.

"Oh, Major Bennion," Valerie cried, "what luck to meet you. We have had
such an exciting morning and we have discovered something that may be
frightfully important. We were going to Westbourne House, as we thought
there might be a policeman there and we could tell him about it."

"There was a policeman there, a chief inspector to be precise. But
suppose you tell me first? Ruth would like to hear it, too. A taxi will
take us in a couple of minutes."

He hailed a car and as they rode along he told them of the discovery of the
pram and of some of the morning's activities.

Ruth was very pleased to see them, though she was disappointed to hear
there was no news yet of the missing baby.

"Now, Valerie," Roger said, "we are all attention."

"You tell them, Bruce," she urged.

"You are better at it than I am," he said.

"Well, we wondered what we could do to help and we thought it would be a
good thing to go to the Stores to look round and perhaps make some
enquiries. Apparently half London had the same idea. Of course, they had
read the news and the pavement was packed solid with people who had come
to see just where it had happened. There was a policeman trying to move
them along, but more were coming every minute and they were busy talking
about it. In parts of the crowd we heard three different people declare
that it would end up like the Lindbergh baby. What did they mean?"

She was animated and happy. Roger saw she knew nothing of the tragic
story to which she alluded. Was it any good keeping back what might be on
everyone's lips and would assuredly be recalled in the press?

"Colonel Lindbergh," he said quietly, "a very gallant American airman,
was the first to fly solo across the Atlantic. His baby was kidnapped. He
never saw it again alive."

"Oh, how awful! But it couldn't happen here."

"We will hope not," Roger said. "But I thought you had good news for us."

"I hope it is. Among the women who were talking outside the Stores one
attracted quite a lot of attention. We got near enough to hear what she
was saying. She declared she was there yesterday afternoon at about the
time it happened. She didn't notice much about the prams, but she saw two
and one of them was pushed away by a man. Is that important?"

"It certainly might be," Roger said. "It is a thing that had not occurred
to me. Has she told the police?"

"I asked her that," Bruce said. "Not likely, she told us. She wasn't
going to get mixed up in such a thing and wake up some morning and find
her throat cut."

"There was a bit of an argument," Valerie went on. "Then the policeman
came up and she slipped away. Bruce and I followed her. She got on a bus
and went to Victoria. We all got off there. We followed her to Vauxhall
Bridge Road. She went into a place called Brewster Buildings. We found
that she lives there and her name is Mrs. Green. Ought the police to be

"Most certainly," Roger said. "I will let Chief Inspector Warren know
about it and he will have her questioned. Men do of course push prams
sometimes, but it is sufficiently rare to be noticeable. I should imagine
the party we want would wish to be as inconspicuous as possible. By the
way, Bruce, I have an appointment to see your uncle tomorrow afternoon."

"I hope he will be more civil to you, sir, than he was to me."

"Why are you seeing him?" Valerie wanted to know. "You don't think he is
concerned in it?"

"It does not seem likely," Roger agreed, "but I am curious about him and
he may know something about his various tenants."

"According to Strawn," Bruce said, "he knows as little of them as
possible, except I suppose that they pay their rent."

"Roger likes to get all the sidelights he can," Ruth commented. "Bruce's
uncle does not seem to be a very kindly person. If he is a sort of
recluse he would surely hate to be mixed up in an affair like this."



THE PUBLIC interest in crime is a capricious thing. The Sunday journals
that consider a full chronicle of the week's misdeeds is the proper
reading for the Sabbath have undoubtedly their millions of readers, yet
it is only occasionally that a crime stimulates nation-wide curiosity.

The Cradon baby case became front-page news from the start. The daring
nature of the crime--the exchange of a perambulator carrying the tiny
heir to a vast fortune for a similar one containing only a doll, effected
in a busy street in full daylight--was alone sufficient to command
attention. Thousands of parents all over the country felt sympathy for
the distracted mother and waited eagerly for the latest scrap of news of
her child. The story touched the heart-strings of people everywhere.

The perambulator found in the mews was undoubtedly the one in which
little Sir Lionel had been taken out. The police accepted Roger Bennion's
theory that he had been driven away in a car, but whether the car had
gone north, south, east or west none could say. The newspapers and the
cinemas showed pictures asking, "Have you seen this baby?" The former
described the clothing he had been wearing at the time. Each piece, it
was said, including the shawl in which he was wrapped, was marked with
the monogram L.C. embroidered in blue silk. Except, it may be, to their
mothers, many babies are considerably alike, and, although much
information reached the police stations in most of the big towns,
investigation was fruitless. The B.B.C. referred to the matter in all
their bulletins. The results kept Scotland Yard busy, but the mystery

Enquiry as to the whereabouts of Gertrude Willows, "who it was thought
might give useful information," proved equally abortive. The
interrogation of Mrs. Green, traced to Brewster Buildings by Valerie Legh
and Bruce Kelsall, led nowhere. She persisted that she had seen a man
pushing a perambulator, but was vague as to the exact time, the
appearance of the man and the build of the pram.

What was perhaps more remarkable was the fact that no demand for payment
of any kind had been received by Lady Cradon. She had a vast number of
letters, mostly of sympathy, but none that made any proposal for the
restoration of her son. The police were of the opinion that the person or
persons who held him were waiting until the excitement had died down and
were also trying to devise some scheme by which they could get payment
without risk of detection and arrest.

Lady Cradon had several interviews with her trustee, her late husband's
solicitor, Mr. Godfrey Angell, on the matter.

"Can we not offer a large reward?" she asked, "and say if he is returned
unharmed it will be paid and no proceedings taken?"

"I am afraid not," was the reply. "It would be condoning the crime."

"But I will give my money, anything that is mine, to get him back," she
protested tearfully. Her grief was telling sadly on her. She could not
sleep without sedatives, and even they were not always effective. The
day-long agony of mind was almost more than she could endure. She had not
told Mr. Angell of the other anxiety that oppressed her, the possible
loss of wealth and title. That she felt could somehow be adjusted. Amabel
Legh was not an unreasonable woman. But in any case, what did it matter
compared with the recovery of her baby?

"I sympathise with you very very deeply," Mr. Angell assured her, "but we
could not promise that no proceedings would be taken. Nor, if we did
promise it, would our word bind the police. A grave criminal offence has
been committed and the law must take its course. What we can do, and what
I was going to suggest, is that we should offer a reward to anyone, not
the actual abductor, for information that leads to the child's return,
safe and uninjured."

"Yes," she said eagerly, "please do that. What will you offer?"

"The sum I have in my mind," he replied in his slow, precise manner, "is
two thousand pounds."

"Is that enough?"

"I think so. I had thought of one thousand, but decided to double it, if
you agreed."

"Indeed I do," Lady Cradon said. "Please let it be known at once."

The announcement of this large reward added to the interest and
excitement, and the police received more information that unfortunately
yielded no useful result. The Yard men were completely baffled. They
could only continue their untiring efforts and wait for some tangible

The press interviewed anyone and everyone who had any thing to say on the
matter or could offer reasonable suggestions. Their columns carried
letters that were in many cases critical of the police. The Morning
Pictorial scored a success with an interview with Mr. Hedley Cradon. It
printed his portrait and described him as a handsome man, twenty-nine
years of age, of distinguished appearance. He was not unlike his father,
though the benign aspect of the latter was not so notable in the son,
whose expression was less open and more calculating.

"It is an abominable and almost incredible outrage," he was quoted as
saying. "I was in Belfast at the time representing the Society of
Peacemakers in the recent strike. I think our efforts helped in the
settlement. My cousin was a splendid little chap and I trust he will soon
be restored to his mother. My father has urged all our centres to do any
thing possible to that end. Should they be successful, he will add five
hundred pounds to the reward offered."

"Your father is the next heir to the title?" he was asked.

"That is so, but, apart from his affection for his nephew, he has no wish
for such a title."

"Would he not accept a title?"

 "If his work for peace in the home and beyond it were deemed worthy of
the honour, I do not doubt he would be gratified. But a title earned by
someone else would have no value whatever to him."

"Are you satisfied that all possible steps are being taken to trace Lady
Cradon's baby, or can you suggest anything more that could be done?"

"I am satisfied that the police are doing all they can. In these cases
the co-operation of the public is of the greatest importance and I am
confident eventual success is certain."

Roger duly kept his appointment with Mr. Pursey, but it did not prove
very helpful. On arriving at Westbourne House, the porter was off duty,
but he was taken by the red-headed Joe Gassett straight up to the topmost
flat, where the door was opened by Mrs. Strawn. The entrance hall was a
little more trim and tidy than when Bruce had called, but it was still
bare and cheerless.

The same might be said for the sitting-room where Mr. Pursey received
him. The proprietor of the building was in the same seat as when his
nephew had called. He had his rug over his knees and his bricky-red
countenance showed no welcome to his visitor.

"What have you come for?" he demanded gruffly

"Concerning the disappearance of Lady Cradon's baby," Roger said
pleasantly. "I am sure it must have distressed you very much."

"Are you from the police?"

"I am working with them."

"Half London seem to think that."

"I hope all London is working with them. I am also a friend of Lady

"Why have you come to me? I am not her ladyship's nursemaid."

"As her landlord, I thought you might tell me if there have been any
happenings here that throw any light on the matter?"

"I don't interfere with the tenants and I don't expect them to interfere
with me."

"Has your porter been with you for a considerable time?"

"Eight years."

"You have found him conscientious and trustworthy?"

"I should not have kept him otherwise."

Mr. Pursey seemed to resent the questions. He answered promptly, but his
tone was harsh.

"His wife also has your confidence?"

"Certainly. She spends much of her time here."

"And the lad, Joe Gassett?"

"Lazy but honest."

"You see, Mr. Pursey, there are certain features of the case that
indicate intimate knowledge of Lady Cradon's household."

"What features?"

"I expect you have read about them in the papers," Roger said. "The
duplicate perambulator, the timing of the deed, the choice of the Stores
where Lady Cradon dealt, and the use of a costume similar to that worn by
the assistants there.  I am not suggesting that any member of your staff
is even suspected, but I thought you might possibly be able to help us in
some way."

"You thought wrong. I am sorry for her ladyship, but I  have enough
troubles of my own."

"I am puzzled," Roger went on, "by the pretended shop-girl. Where she
came from and where she went to. The girl who pushed the pram containing
the doll could have been loitering about, looking at the shops, and no
one would have taken much notice of her. She might easily have been there
on previous days, waiting for her chance. But it is the sham shop-girl I
cannot quite account for. Would she have waited about in her indoor
costume? Of course, she could have worn a raincoat and slipped it off and
handed it to the other girl before she accosted the nurse. What do you

Roger had been talking, not to air his theories, but to watch the queer
old man he was addressing. Could he really be as indifferent to it all as
he appeared? It seemed he was.

"I don't think anything about it, except that it is a damned nuisance,"
he said. "Of course, I am sorry for her ladyship, but she ought to be
able to look after her own family. No one thinks of me. The place overrun
with police and news paper men and all sorts of curious busybodies. The
sooner they clear out the better I'll be pleased."

If this was a hint for him to go, Roger did not take it.

"Then you cannot help us? I had the pleasure of meeting a nephew of yours
on the way home from New Zealand. Bruce Kelsall. An excellent fellow. You
must be proud of him."


"He is keen and able. He should do well at his job."

"Bah! Let him go back to his job and not hang around to see what he can
get from me."

"That is rather unjust," Roger said. "He cannot go back until his ship is
ready. He would interest and amuse you. Sailors always have so much to
tell us."

"No one amuses me. They are all after what they can get."

"What do they get?" Roger smiled.

"All they deserve," was the surly reply.

When Roger left the flat he walked all the way down the stairs. As he
reached the first floor he heard voices. To his surprise he saw Amabel
Legh and Lady Cradon in conversation outside the door of the latter's
flat. They both recognised him.

"I called on Eleanor," Amabel said, "to tell her how truly sorry I am for
the distress she is suffering."

Roger noted the use of the Christian name. Had they become friends or was
it Amabel's way of avoiding giving her the disputed title?

"It was kind of you," Lady Cradon murmured.

"I am glad you came out with me," Amabel added, "and I had to shut the
door as I could not say all I wanted to with your sister present. I know
you suspected I might have had something to do with your trouble. Major
Bennion told me so. But I had not. It was a terrible thing. I hope and
pray your baby is safe and will soon be brought back. What I most wanted
to say is that the other matter I saw you about can wait. Forget it until
this trouble is over. Then no doubt we can agree on something."

"It is very good of you," Lady Cradon said sadly. "Nothing matters much
till I get him back."

At that moment the door opened and the sister, Marjorie Kingston,
appeared. She seemed to regard them suspiciously.

"I heard voices," she said. "Quite a little party! Shall I have tea
brought out?"

"I was talking to Eleanor," Amabel smiled, "and the door blew to."

"I had been visiting someone upstairs," Roger added. There was no reason
why he should explain things to this unpleasant woman, but he thought it
might help.

"It is time my sister rested," Marjorie said. "The doctor is very strict
about it."

"Rest!" Lady Cradon said bitterly. "How can I rest? I would walk every
street in the whole of London if it would be any good."

However, she re-entered the flat with her sister.

"I do not like that Kingston woman," Amabel said when she and Roger
reached the ground level. "She seems to have forced herself on to poor
Eleanor and nothing short of a cyclone will get rid of her. If I am any
judge she pries into everything. She says nasty things about everybody,
especially that nice little nurse, Florrie Spaight. She tries to boss
them all, and Eleanor is too unhappy to resist her."

"She does not seem a very pleasing person," Roger agreed. "I suppose she
could not have stolen the wee mite to gloat over her sister's misery?"

"There is no evidence that way."

"I suppose not, but jealous women can be fiends. If the doctor knew his
job he would throw her out."

"Lady Cradon needs a companion."

"Not a tormentor! But I am glad I have met you, Major Bennion. I have
some wonderful news."

"Good. What is it?"

"The B.B.C. has seen the light. Andrew is on top of the world."


"Andrew Cradon of the Society of Peacemakers. He has been trying to get
on the air for ages. Next Sunday afternoon is our chance. It is not
actually him but me. There was to have been a recital for two pianos, but
both the players are ill and they have agreed to broadcast a talk on
'Happy Homes' that I am to give at a Y.M.C.A. hall."

"That is splendid," Roger said. "Are you nervous?"

"Who wouldn't be? But I shall talk to the people there and forget that
anyone else can hear me. Valerie is frightfully thrilled. She and Bruce
are coming, and she hopes you and Mrs. Bennion will come, too."

"Of course we will. We may learn quite a lot."



A CONSIDERABLE party gathered in the committee-room of the Y.M.C.A.
before Amabel Legh was due to go on the platform to give her address. She
had brought Valerie and Bruce with her and they were received by Mr.
Andrew Cradon, his son Hedley and the local Y.M.C.A. secretary. Ruth and
Roger Bennion were there and the technical expert from the B.B.C. who was
to supervise the broadcasting arrangements. Modestly in the background
was Mrs. Croonie. Amabel could not forget her faithful helper. She
herself appeared in high spirits, but she declared she felt horribly
nervous. She had been "on the air" before, but as one of a team. To face
an audience all by herself and at the same time speak to unseen millions
with words of her own was a terrifying ordeal.

"You must be ready with the gramophone in case I break down and run
away," she said to Mr. Cradon.

"I am not afraid of that, my dear," he assured her. "It is a moment I
have long looked forward to and I am sure you will not disappoint me."

Seeing Bruce, Roger went to him and told him of his interview with his

"I was not very cordially received and I cannot claim I learned much from
him. I tried to speak a good word for you, but with little success, I

"Kind of you to try, sir."

"Has he always been so dour?"

"He was never very genial," Bruce said, "but he seems to he getting

"Was he a sailor? How did he acquire his weather-beaten look?"

“He has always been like that. Long walks by himself in all weathers, not
rum, as you might suppose."

"I didn't." Roger laughed. "Is that white hair his own or is it a wig?"

"We always believed he was as bald as a turnip, but we never dared to

"I suppose not. What caused his dislike for his fellow men?"

"My mother told me when he was young he became engaged to a girl who got
all she could out of him and then ran away and married someone else. The
day before she went she extracted a valuable necklace from him. A vicious
gold-digger, of course."

"That does explain things," Roger said. "I suppose misanthropy is a
disease that grows worse as one feeds on it. Still, I think you should
have another try at him."

Meanwhile Valerie had been chatting with Hedley Cradon. They had not met
before, and the big good-looking young man was definitely attracted by
Amabel's slim and attractive daughter.

"I read that you and your father were giving an extra five hundred pounds
for the recovery of Lady Cradon's baby. It is splendid of you. Has it
helped at all?"

"I am afraid not. It made trouble at some of our offices. We were offered
a vast number of babies and told about a lot more. But we heard nothing
of the real little Lionel."

"What a ghastly thing it is! Your Society of Peacemakers does a lot of
good, doesn't it?"

Then someone bustled in and asked if they would take their seats, as it
was time to begin. They filed into a crowded hall. Only Amabel, Mr.
Cradon and the secretary went on to the platform, seats in the front row
having been reserved for the rest of the party. Valerie had Bruce on one
side of her and Hedley on the other. Bruce was not very pleased to see
how interested Valerie seemed to be in this newcomer.

The audience, mostly young men, clapped politely as the trio mounted the
dais. The B.B.C. representative had his headphones on and his gadgets
ready. First, Mr. Cradon stepped to the microphone. He had to fill in a
few moments before the broadcast began.

"I do not know how many of you have heard of the work of the Society of
Peacemakers. Sops some people term us, but we are also told on higher
authority that peacemakers shall be called the children of God. Is there
a greater need in the world today than peace? We do not expect or attempt
to influence national politics except by creating in all lands the desire
for peace. We try in a smaller way to make peace here, in the land, and
peace in the homes. But my friend, Miss Amabel Legh, whom so many of you
must have seen on the stage, brought me a new idea. On the stage she
generally plays an elderly part. It may surprise some of you to see how
young and charming she is in real life. She shall tell you her idea in
her own words."

He had received the signal that all was set. He turned and led Amabel to
the microphone. She was warmly welcomed. She was wearing a very
attractive grey costume with a bunch of carnations, and had a small hat
that did not obscure her features. If she was nervous she showed no sign
of it.

"I want to begin," she said in her clear, pleasing voice that could be
easily heard all over the hail, "by telling you a story. It is often that
Cinderella is the most popular story in the world. I am going to talk to
you of Cinderella, but it is Cinderella with a difference.

"This Cinderella was not beautiful and she had not got tiny feet. She was
just a comfortable, kindly girl and she never tried to dance in glass
slippers. I doubt if anyone could. When it was cold and wet she wore big
fur-lined boots, as any sensible girl would. But she did work in the
kitchen. She liked it.

"Then, of course, there were the ugly sisters. But they were not really
ugly. They were as pretty as art could make them. Their feet were small,
their fingernails were red and their hair was done in the very latest
style. For, you see, they were both of them assistants in a beauty
parlour and they could talk with the loveliest drawl, just as some of
their customers did.

"So we come to the Fairy Prince. Well, he wasn't actually a prince, and
he wasn't terribly handsome. He was really more like one of you--a
pleasant, decent chap in a steady job.

"It happened that he met the sisters at a palais de danse. He thought
them charming and he danced with them several times and they arranged to
meet again. Then one evening they took him home and Cinderella gave them
supper. He did not take a lot of notice of her; she was not smart like
her sisters. But he did notice the food--it was delicious. And he said

'"Ai suppose anyone could cook if they took the trouble,' the eldest
sister drawled in her most affected tone. 'It would bore me stiff. If you
can't feed out, there's always fish and chips and things in tins, so why

"When he left, he asked Cinderella if she had really cooked that supper.
She said she had; if he liked he should come again.

"He did. He came quite often, and the pretty sisters wondered which of
them he would choose. One night they talked about a friend who had just
had a baby. 'Horrid, messy little things!' said the second sister. "Ai
would never have one if I could help it.' 'But a home is not complete
without a baby,' Cinderella said. 'Think of the nappies,' drawled the
eldest; 'they take all your time and spoil all your fun.' 'It would be
fun!' said Cinderella.

"Well, of course, you can guess the rest. The prince married Cinderella
and they lived happy ever after. And they had their baby, too. They both
adored it. I called on them not long ago. Their home is beautifully kept;
the husband and baby are well fed and Cinderella is proud of them both.
For, you see, it is a true story. I hope you like it?"

There had been many smiles while she was speaking and now there was
hearty applause. She paused a moment.

"All good fairy stories have a moral. What is the moral of this story?
When Mr. Cradon told me of the wonderful work his society had done, how
they had saved hundreds of homes from divorce or break-up, I said it was
grand, but he should catch them younger. He asked what I meant. I said if
men married the right girls, the homes would be happy from the start and
stay happy. 'Who are the right girls?' he asked.

"I gave him the answer and I am going to give it to you. I say nothing
against the girls who work in shops or factories and the like, but our
values are all wrong. Will sticking on labels or minding machines or
selling ribbons make anyone good in the home? I know domestic service has
become unpopular, but that is what is wrong. The girls who can cook and
keep a home clean and look after a baby are the girls to make happy

"And the remedy is with you, the men. If you choose the girls who have
been trained in good homes you will have a good home of your own. In days
gone by the policeman was always supposed to marry the best cook on his
beat, and don't policemen know a good thing?"

There was laughter at this. Amabel went on: "I know the girls had a poor
time in the past. So did the miners, the farm labourers and many more.
But things have changed. The girls can get good wages and good
conditions, and if they realise that you men want wives who can make
happy homes, who have been trained in happy homes, they will flock back
to service and make Britain a better place to live in. So it is up to

At this there was applause mingled with laughter.

"Some of you may have heard the question so popular in quiz programmes.
If you were marooned on a desert island, what companions would you like
to have with you? Your first choice is generally the latest and prettiest
film star."

There were cries of "Hear! Hear!" and more laughter.

"You poor mutts!" said Amabel. "What would your glamour girl be in three
days away from her make-up box? She would be cross, peevish, useless, and
would keep you on the run fetching things for her and grumbling because
you could not get them!

"Always remember that cooking is one of the greatest of the arts.
Rembrandt could draw an old woman and show every line in her face and
every wrinkle. I know a girl who with her wonderful cooking can draw her
old man home every day to the tick, as a friend of mine puts it. Which is
the greater artist? Well, that is pretty much all I have to say. Choose
your wives from the home-workers and the task of the Society of
Peacemakers will be done before it begins. Choose the bits of fluff who
don't know the difference between a good meal and a trashy hash and who
want to be out every evening at the pictures or the palais and you will
get the trouble you are asking for."

She sat down amid a storm of applause. As it subsided a good-looking
young man at the back, evidently regarded as a wit by his friends, got up
and said:

"It is kind of Miss Amabel Legh to speak to us and we have enjoyed having
her, but she has not come to the right market. Surely she should have
gone to the Y.W.C.A."

There was loud laughter at this, but Amabel was ready with her reply. She
smiled at the questioner.

"How wrong a Prince Charming can be! The only market that interests me is
the marriage market, the market for happy homes. He ought to know that
demand creates supply. It is useless to take goods to market if there are
no buyers. The average male wants a happy home. If he thinks home making
comes by instinct to the female, he is wrong. He may find himself in two
untidy rooms with a discontented girl whose prize possession is a
tin-opener. But if he rates domestic training and domestic service higher
than shop and factory service--which it is--the girls will become
home-makers. So, as I said, it is up to you, the men. And when my friend
marries a good cook or a smart housemaid I hope he will ask me to the

There was more laughter and the meeting dispersed. In the committee-room
Amabel received many congratulations.

"Splendid, my dear," beamed Mr. Cradon. "I hope they will ask for more."

"I think you will have struck a responsive chord in a million homes,"
Roger Bennion said. "Should one start a registry office to cope with the
rush back to the hearth?"

"It won't happen as soon as that," Amabel laughed, "but I am sure I am
right. If we can keep rubbing it in, men will get sense in time."

Hedley Cradon whispered mischievously to Valerie: "Can you cook?"

"Does that mean you want to be asked to supper?" she smiled.

"It would be a grand idea," he said.

"Bruce is coming. I daresay Mummie could manage one more--even if it
means opening a tin."

Bruce heard and frowned. But he was not going to be sulky about it. He
could not expect to keep Valerie all to himself.



WHETHER AMABEL'S oration would lead to a back-to-the-hearth movement only
time could tell, yet it undoubtedly had important results in other
directions. But for it Valerie and Hedley Cradon would not have become
acquainted. In that case, Bruce would not have met Vadny and many things
might have happened otherwise than they did. But that is to anticipate.

On the day after the meeting Roger Bennion called on Chief Inspector
Warren at Scotland Yard to get first-hand information of the progress of
the search for the Cradon baby and to ask if he could be of possible
assistance. The detective was definitely gloomy.

"It is a hell of a business," he said. "We have heard of odd babies all
over the kingdom, but not a sign of the one we want. Luckily, perhaps,
our baby has a birthmark on the left thigh. Lady Cradon and the nurse and
the doctor are positive about that. So we have a quick and certain test."

"You have not published particulars of this birthmark?" Roger asked.

"We dare not. A score of babies would be tattooed or branded within a
week if we did. That is one of the drawbacks of a big reward. You can
see the photographs if you like. Some mothers seem to delight in showing
their naked babies crawling on cushions. Lady Cradon had hers done four
times. On this one you can clearly distinguish the birthmark."

"Yes. It is quite definite. He is a bonny boy for his age."

"Good enough. I have known girls very angry when the family album has
pictures of them minus their clothes, but when boys grow up I suppose
they do not mind. Anyway, it is useful to us."

"Very," Roger agreed. "Have you got on to anyone who used that garage in
Wilson's Mews?"

"Not a sign. The devils had all the luck. The only thing we have cleared
up is that Gertrude Willows had nothing to do with it."

"How do you know that?"

"She is in prison. Got two months for shop-lifting. She gave a false
name; said she was Mrs. Peters. She was living with Peters but not

"That does not help much," Roger agreed. "There is nothing I can do?"

"Afraid not," Warren replied gloomily. "The trouble is, a dead baby is so
much easier to hide than a live one."

"You think that has happened?"

"When there is no demand for ransom and the reward is unclaimed, it
becomes a very distinct possibility. If you can suggest a new line I
shall be glad to hear of it."

"I wish I could," Roger said. "In the cases in which I have been
concerned the search has generally been confined to a small area and a
limited number of people. This might lead anywhere and your machinery is
best for that. I know you questioned the porter at the flats, Strawn. I
suppose you also saw that queer fellow, Pursey, who owns the block, not
that I can quite see how he comes into the picture."

"I saw him all right," Warren answered. "A curmudgeon if I ever met one.
Babies not in his line! We just hope that something will turn up. It
generally does--even if it is too late."

"What about the second perambulator? I hoped that would be a useful

"It is not an uncommon model. We have traced twenty that were bought in
various parts of the town. All but one are accounted for. That one was
sold in Holborn two months ago, but they are vague about it. So far as
they can remember it was bought by an old man, as much like Pursey as
anyone we know, who said it was for his grandson and was to be delivered
to Beckenham railway station, south London. Name of Elliott. It was
collected there and pushed away."

"A long push to Kensington," Roger remarked, "but not impossible."

"Of course, we combed the Elliotts of Beckenham and looked for a white
pram. Not a sign."

When Roger got home he found that Ruth had been paying a visit to Lady

"Oh, Roger," she said, "I am so sorry for her. The worry is eating her
up. She is getting hopeless. There is less about it now in the papers and
the wireless is silent. She thinks it means she will never see her baby

"It means nothing of the sort," Roger declared. "Of course, newspapers
want new sensations, and what is front-page stuff one week can only get a
little paragraph in some odd corner the next."

"She wondered if it would be a good thing to increase the reward. What do
you think?"

"Two thousand pounds is a big sum," Roger said. "To increase it might
lead anyone concerned to hang on in case even more might be offered."

"But would it not lead to more notices in the papers and on the

"It might; but anyone with real information to give can hardly fail to
have heard what has been said."

"In the meantime," Ruth went on, "is the baby being properly looked after
and getting the right food? She asked me questions like that and it made
me cry, too."

"I know," Roger said. "It is damnable. I have never before been so
baffled. Did you see the sister, Mrs. Kingston?"

"I did. I don't like her. I would not say she gloats over Lady Cradon's
trouble, but she is certainly no comfort. She is one of those ghouls who
tell of all the horrors they have ever heard. Gipsies who stole children
and that sort of thing."

"She could not have had a finger in it herself?"

"Oh, Roger!--do you think that?"

"It was suggested to me, but I cannot see what she gains by it or how she
could do it. At least three people were concerned; how would she keep
them quiet when such a big reward is offered? Is Florrie Spaight still

"Yes, poor child. She is getting worn out. She dashes anywhere and
everywhere on the faintest clue. All so hopeless. But, Roger, Lady
Cradon said one queer thing. I am afraid her mind must be getting

"What was it?"

"She said she was not really Lady Cradon but Amabel Legh was! She seemed
to think I should know about it. What did she mean?"

"Did she say anything else?" Roger asked.

"She said she did not care who was Lady Cradon if only she could get her
baby back."

"Did Mrs. Kingston hear her say that?"

"She was not in the room. Lady Cradon said I knew and it was a relief to
talk to me. I tried to soothe her. It could not be serious."

"I am afraid it is serious," Roger said. "Sir Lionel Cradon married
Amabel Legh and thought she died abroad. I have not made all the
enquiries I want to, but there is no doubt about the marriage and very
little that our Valerie is Sir Lionel's daughter."

"What an awful complication! Does Valerie know? What will happen?"

"Valerie does not know. Her mother offers to keep the whole thing quiet
for a cash payment. She says, she has no use for a title, and it would
not benefit her daughter, anyway. Everything is in abeyance until the
baby is found."

"But, if he is found, can they do it like that--if they want to?"

"Not legally, but they say no one need ever know. So do not mention it,
my dear. I would not have told you if Lady Cradon had not."

"I will not breathe a word of it. You know that."

"Of course I do, darling," Roger smiled. "The worst of a skeleton in the
cupboard is that you never know who will find it or when it will pop

Bruce was also busy. He decided to act on Major Bennion's advice and seek
another interview with his uncle. If the old man was ill he might chance
to catch him in on one of his better days. First, however, he called on
the agents who collected his rents for him. He had meant to do that on
the afternoon when his intention had been so oddly interrupted by the
news of the baby's disappearance.

Messrs. Watson were an old-established firm, and, when he explained who
he was, the partner who dealt with Mr. Pursey's affairs, a Mr. Redding,
treated him with great cordiality.

"Do you often see my uncle?" Bruce asked.

"Very seldom," Mr. Redding said. "We make up his account each quarter and
send him a cheque."

"But surely there are matters sometimes that call for instructions?"

"Oh yes. We see him occasionally, but he does not want us to bother him
more than we can help. He knows he can leave things pretty much to us."

"When did you last see him?" Bruce enquired.

"Perhaps four months ago."

"It is a good deal longer than that since I was home. Did you notice any
change in him?"

"I don't think so," Mr. Redding said thoughtfully. "Of course, he is

"Did he seem more difficult?"

"He has never been too easy," the agent smiled, "but we get on all

"Living on the premises, I wonder he does not collect his own rents and
save the expense."

"If he did that he would have to receive all the tenants' complaints,
requests for repairs and so on, which he particularly wishes to avoid. We
settle the rates, pay the porters and look after things generally."

"He seemed to me more abrupt and less friendly than when I was last
home," Bruce said. "Is he really in good health?"

"So far as we can tell," Mr. Redding shrugged. "We consider him somewhat
eccentric, but we really have little direct contact. If he wishes to give
instructions he generally sends a message by the porter."

"The porter is reliable?"

"As porters go," Mr. Redding smiled. "He is not too popular with the
tenants, but probably we are not, either. We are not paid for that."

Bruce walked down the street and saw the porter sunning himself in the
entrance of Westbourne House.

"Strawn, is my uncle in? I want to see him."

"He told me he did not want to see you," the porter said, his pasty face
looking far from friendly.

"Why not?"

"He did not tell me."

"I may be leaving shortly and mean to see him before I do. I will go up

"I shouldn't do that, sir." Strawn's tone was a little less surly. "If
you really want to see him, come tomorrow afternoon. I will try to
arrange it."

So Bruce left it, and when he called the next day the incidents of his
previous visit almost exactly repeated them selves. He was taken to the
flat and found the old man in his favourite seat by the window.

"Well, Uncle, this is probably to say goodbye. The date is not fixed, but
I may get short notice. Perhaps only twenty-four hours."

"Why waste your time? I said goodbye before."

"I believe you saw a friend of mine, Major Bennion."

"What did he want?"

"He is trying to help in the Cradon baby case."

"Why come to me?"

"He thought you might give some useful suggestions."

"Busy-body! So are the police. So are you. Get out!"

"You are sure there is nothing I can do for you before I go?"

"Of course there is not. You know that. What do you want?" The red face
seemed angry and the eyes through the spectacles gave no glimmer of

"I only want us to part as friends. I would like to know your doctor is
treating you properly."

"Haven't got a doctor. I told you so."

"Uncle, are you satisfied with Strawn?"

"Why not?"

“He is none too civil with me and the tenants do not like him."

"Why should they?"

"I don't know much about flats, but I always thought a good porter made
things easier all round."

"Pah! Mind your own business and I will mind mine. I'm good for a long
time yet and there's nothing for you when I've gone. Don't count on it."

 "Well, then, I will say goodbye, and good luck, Uncle. I hope you will
wish me the same."

He held out his hand and after a moment's hesitation the old man put a
flabby hand to it. So they parted.

Bruce had things to fill his mind other than the unresponsiveness of his
only relation. As the days went by, he could not fail to notice the
attentions paid to Valerie by Hedley Cradon. What could he do about it?
He loved her; he had never been in love before and knew he could never
love anyone else. He would soon have to leave her. He had not minded that
so much before. He would not be in a position to marry until he got
promotion, but Valerie was too young to marry and was bent for a time at
least on a theatrical career. But what would happen if another--perhaps
more eligible--man courted her while he was away?

Hedley was with her almost as much as he was, though he was not invited
to those early morning dips in the Serpentine. But Hedley brought her
flowers and sometimes he persuaded her to let him take her in his car to
her dramatic classes.

"Are you getting fond of this Cradon fellow, Val?" Bruce asked one day
when he had her to himself.

"I find him amusing and interesting," she said.

"But are you fond of him?" he persisted.

"Not in the way you mean. You know I shan't think of anything like that
for years and years. Perhaps never. Don't spoil things, Bruce. Let us all
be friends together."

"How can we? I don't like him and he always pretends I am not there."

"Not really, he doesn't. He often says nice things about you."

"Then he's a humbug. He hates me."

"That is silly, Bruce darling. He and I have only known one another for a
few days."

It was something to be called Bruce darling again, even if the word did
not mean a lot. He kissed her, a thing she did not often permit.

"All right, Val," he said. "I know I must go pretty soon and I won't ask
you to promise anything. It would not be fair. But please remember, I
love you and I always will."

It did not raise his spirits as he left the Close to see Hedley Cradon
arriving, carrying a large bunch of roses. Hedley nodded, but they did
not speak. When he was admitted to the flat, Hedley said:

"Hullo, kiddy; how goes it? These are for your mother, but I hope you
will wear one of them." He extracted a choice blossom and handed it to

"Oh, thank you," Valerie murmured; "they are wonderful."

"Worth a kiss?"

"Mummie will probably think so. I will tell her."

"You little devil," he said. "You know what I meant."

He seized her in his arms and kissed her rather fiercely. She pushed him
away. Some girls might enjoy being kissed by two men in as many minutes.
She did not.

"I told you I don't like it," she said.

"Then you must learn to," he laughed. "Otherwise you have no right to be
so lovely."

"Don't be silly. Is there any news?"

"Only that you are more beautiful than ever. But perhaps that is not

"Why talk nonsense? I meant about Lady Cradon's baby. Have any of your
people heard anything?"

"Nothing that helps. Perhaps it is as well for me that I was in Belfast
when it all happened."


"If the poor brat never turns up, my father and I might get a lot of
money and my wife would some day be Lady Cradon."

"How she would hate it!"

This time it was Hedley's turn to ask why, and he did so with surprise.

"I suppose it is all right for old families, but to be 'my ladied' by
people with their tongues in their cheeks, and to know it was because of
what happened to that little baby, would be just horrible. Surely you
don't really think--"

"Of course we all hope not," he said, "but we cannot shut our eyes to the

Then Amabel came in. She was delighted with her flowers, though there was
no talk of the payment for them.

"When are you to speak again for the S.O.P.?" Hedley asked.

"That depends on your father, but I had an amazing number of letters
asking me to do so. It is pathetic to know how many people have no help.
Quite a few sent money to the Society."

"And they nearly all say Mummie's talk to men is the only way to remedy
the trouble," Valerie added. "Could the Society give wedding presents in
all cases where the girl had seen five years' domestic service?"

"It would mean more happy homes," her mother said.

"For heaven's sake don't mention it to the Dad," Hedley protested. "It
would probably mean he would have to find the cash, and he is heading for
ruin as it is."

Valerie was spending the evening, while her mother was at the theatre,
with friends. Both her admirers were thus left to their own devices and
this led to a curious encounter. Bruce, who had a room in an hotel in
South Kensington, decided after dinner to go by tube to Leicester Square
to see a film that was creating some sensation. It had rather a morbid
theme and was admirably suited for those whose idea of enjoyment is to be
made thoroughly miserable. As it happened, he paid it very little

It chanced that he found himself sitting immediately behind Hedley
Cradon. Hedley did not see him. In a cinema, owing to the dim light and
the non-stop entertainment, one seldom recognises one's neighbours, but
if the person in front of you is someone very much in your thoughts, you
are not likely to overlook the fact.

Hedley was not alone. His companion was a young woman, so far as could be
seen, of rather a garish type. They nestled closely together and more
than once exchanged furtive embraces.

Bruce felt very angry. He told himself it was no concern of his who or
what Hedley's friends might be. Yet he felt it was outrageous that a man
should try to make a sweet girl like Valerie care for him and should at
the same time be indulging in an affair with someone of this sort.

The girl might be a casual acquaintance, an old friend, or even a
relation, but something seemed to tell him it was not quite so innocent
as that. Could he find out?

He certainly knew little of what was happening on the screen, and when
the programme ended he followed them to the street. He kept close behind,
and when they hurried into a restaurant, he went, too. They made for a
room for supper and dancing; he was content to stay in the cocktail
lounge that commanded some view of the inner room.

He had never spied on anyone before and he did not try to analyse his
motives. He only knew that he wanted to learn the truth. He found a seat
near the door and was prepared to wait. He was soon offered
companionship. One woman sauntered past him, raising her eyebrows
interrogatively. He shook his head. Another, more enterprising, paused,
murmuring, "Lonely?" He replied shortly, "Waiting for someone."

He could not see the couple he was interested in until they started to
dance. Then he had glimpses of them as they circled past the open
doorway. The young woman was no doubt good-looking, but she had been
over-lavish with the colour scheme. Her hair was very light, but her
eyebrows and eyelashes were heavily blackened. In the cinema she had worn
a cape or cloak. Now this was removed, she showed shapely shoulders free
from straps or other fastenings. Her eyes were dark and her reddened
mouth looked hard even when she smiled at her companion. Her age might
have been thirty, possibly less. Bruce was no expert in such things. Who
was she? That is what he wanted to know.

Apparently they were not making a night of it. Sooner than might have
been expected they recovered their wraps and went out. He went, too. They
did not hail a taxi as he expected, but walked slowly to the Charing
Cross Road. There were plenty of people about and it was easy to follow
them without being conspicuous. They turned into a quiet court and
stopped at a door that evidently led to rooms or small flats over an
office. They entered and a few moments later lights appeared in the
first-floor room, round the edges of the curtains. The watcher waited,
perhaps for half an hour.

Then the lights went out.



CHINNOCK STREET was no buzzing hive of industry when Bruce arrived there
the next morning. Rather a dingy back water, with few signs of business
activity. In many cases it was difficult to judge what actually went on
behind the shabby shop-fronts, or how the tenants earned their no doubt
considerable rents. A few pieces of old furniture, some blue-and-white
plates, a faded engraving and a tray of old rings, brooches and studs
made the apparent stock-in-trade of one establishment. A card in the
window said "Curios and Jewellery Bought and Sold." Was there an implied
addition, "No questions asked"? A second-hand book-shop was not perhaps
out of place, Charing Cross Road being the centre of the industry. But
how often did book-lovers pass that way? The office beneath the rooms in
which he was interested bore the notice "Revell & Co., Accountants," the
word Turf being omitted but no doubt understood. A few doors away a dowdy
little restaurant appeared silent and deserted, hoping, no doubt, for
patronage later in the day.

Bruce was sorry to see that restaurant. He had carefully considered his
plan of campaign. Accosting strange ladies was a thing in which he was
very lacking in experience. He knew that Hedley Cradon was due in Lowndes
Street when the office opened--or soon after--but unless his companion
also went to business he reckoned she would not go out until considerably
later. A leisurely toilet would be the prelude to a stroll to some smart
restaurant. If, however, she could get a decent meal almost next door, or
could have something sent up to her, she might remain indoors until

Big Ben could be heard thundering out its long midday message when he
left the Charing Cross Road and went slowly down Chinnock Street. He
looked at the uninviting items in the various shop windows, then turned
back to the main thoroughfare. He paused for a time at the corner and
sauntered back and forwards again. Another stay in the busier
thoroughfare and he saw that his calculations had been justified.

A smart-looking figure emerged from the side door of Messrs. Revell's
premises and came towards him. He was confident she was the woman he had
seen the night before. She was wearing a dark-blue costume with a
feathered hat at the side of her head. Bruce crossed the road as she
approached. She looked quizzically, perhaps appraisingly, at him, as he
raised his hat.

"Don't say it," she murmured.

"Say what?" he asked.

"That old one--about our meeting before."

"Oddly enough it would be true, or nearly true."

"You're telling me," she said derisively.

"Last night I sat close to you in the Paradox Cinema. I admired your

"You liked my cheek and expect me to welcome yours. What is the big

"A spot of lunch for a lonely man in good company."

"A Lyons tea-shop or an A.B.C., I suppose?"

"It would be for you to choose. What is wrong with the Troc. grill-room
or the Albatross?"

"Quite sure the lonely man can afford it?"

"In reason." He smiled; it had been easier than he had feared.

"The Albatross is nearest."

"And the food is good."

"Likewise the drink," she said, "though that is good anywhere."

They walked side by side and soon reached the restaurant agreed. He was
glad her attire was not too conspicuous.

"Why the loneliness?" she asked. "A quarrel with the wife?"

"I am a sailor on short leave."

"Sailors have wives in every port. Or if not wives, the next best thing."

"Not me," he said.

"Every girl is the first," she mocked.

When they had taken their seats she put away two pink gins while they
waited for grilled soles with mushroom. He was content with beer.

"What is the name?" she asked.

"Bruce," he told her. He preferred to stick to the truth. It might be a
surname or a Christian name.

"Bruce? That is a fly one."


"Bruce--spider--flies. Dull, aren't you?"

"Afraid I was. And your name?"


"That is a new one to me."

"It is what everyone calls me. On the playbills it would be Evadne Peers.
Take your choice."

"I prefer Vadny. You are an actress?"

"That is my opinion. The managers sometimes think otherwise."

"Not in a job now?"

"How cute of you, Bruce."

He watched her as she ate. She had a hard mouth and, he guessed, a hard
nature, but it might well be that life had not been kind to her. Her
voice was not unpleasing, though she generally spoke in a mocking manner.

"Is the man you were with last night your husband?"

She stared at him. "Any business of yours?" she asked.

"You asked after my wife--or wives. May I not ask if you have a husband?"

"I don't believe in marriage. I prefer to be free."

"Free for what?"

"Saucy, Bruce! Free to meet a nice boy for lunch and free to say goodbye

"Meeting him again tonight?"


"The man you were with last night."

"Perhaps. Perhaps not."

"Who is he?"

"Haven't you ever been told, Bruce, that little boys should not ask

"Sorry, Vadny. I suppose he is an old friend?"

"Not so very old."

"I meant you have known him a long time."

"What then?"

"Nothing. I only thought I had seen him before somewhere. Or perhaps it
was his picture in the papers."

"Very likely. You should talk about yourself. Where you have been, what
you have seen and what you mean to do next."

"That would not interest you."

"I don't suppose it would, but men mostly like to talk about themselves.
Do you know why they marry?"

"I have a good idea," Bruce said.

"A wrong one probably. It is because they want someone to think them

"A dog would do that."

"But it can't say so. They want to be told, so they marry. And most
marriages come unstuck for the same reason. The girl thinks him wonderful
until she has got him. Then she finds he's just an ordinary mutt and she
lets him know it. But his secretary or some girl friend still thinks he
is just marvellous and so he goes to her to hear about it."

"You haven't a high opinion of men?"

"They are the meanest skunks on God's earth--barring women."

"What did you say that fellow's name was?" Bruce asked suddenly.

"Come off it. You know I didn't. Think we could have another go at this

The waiter thought he could manage it and the girl said she must do her
duty by the Chambertin if Bruce stuck to his beer.

"When does the lonely sailor go to sea again?"

"I am waiting orders."

"Making the most of your time till you get them?"

"Not doing too badly."

"I am generally available for a nice lunch without strings."

"Good for you, Vadny. I wish I could think where I saw that fellow's

"Oh, him again."

"Would it have been to do with that Peacemakers' Society?"

"Might have been."

"Or was it the Cradon Baby case?"

She finished the wine and grabbed for her gloves.

"There is something phoney about this, Bruce--if Bruce is the right name
and not Nosey Parker. You saw me at the Paradox last night; how did you
come to be hanging around where I live this morning? What does my friend
matter to you? Lonely sailor--my foot! May you soon be ship-wrecked! And
just one thing, you poor specimen of an imitation Don Juan, never talk to
a girl about last night. It's the next night that matters."

With that she got up and walked rather unsteadily across the room. She
had consumed the best part of a bottle of a fairly potent wine. Bruce sat
for a time smoking his cigarette. He felt he had not handled the affair
particularly well. But he did not know what exactly he had expected to
achieve. Had he been unwise to be so direct in his enquiries about
Hedley? Had it been imprudent to say so much about himself? If Vadny
reported the matter to Hedley, the latter would most certainly know who
the enquirer was and would guess his purpose. Was that a good thing or

Would Vadny keep quiet about it? Would a girl tell her protector that she
had lunched with a stranger, picked up so casually? On the whole he
thought she would if she could make it appear to her own credit that she
had checked such impudent curiosity.

He had learned something, but was it enough? The girl's name was Vadny
and he knew where she lived. He knew that Hedley was intimate with her,
but he did not know how long the affair had been going on. Had he
observed a passing incident or had he stumbled upon an established

He believed it must be the latter. A man making love to Valerie would not
suddenly pick up with a girl of Vadny's type. But if already committed to
Vadny, it might not be easy to break with her.

Bruce was thankful he had discovered so much. How was he to use it to
help the girl he loved? He paid his bill and departed. The lunch had cost
more than he could afford, but he felt it was money well spent. Had he
known what the fates had in store for him, he might have thought other



THE NEXT morning Bruce received at his hotel two letters that made a
profound difference to him and to several other people. The afternoon
before he had spent with Valerie, but he had told her nothing of his
lunch encounter with Evadne Peers. Yet that matter was so much in his
mind that even with Valerie he was not his usual light hearted self--a
fact that the girl could not fail to observe.

At her academy there had been a sort of rehearsal of “She Stoops To
Conquer.” It was a first try-out and they were allowed to read their
parts. Hers was a very small one, but it had all been enjoyable and she
gave an amusing account of it.

"Bruce, I don't believe you have heard a word I have been saying. What
are you brooding about?"

"Sorry, Val. I was wool-gathering a bit."

"Not very complimentary when I thought I was being so bright. Should I
offer a penny for your thoughts--or has the price gone up?"

"I was really thinking about Hedley Cradon."

"What a waste of time!"

"But you find him very entertaining."

"Do I?"

"You seem to. Of course, he can give you lovely flowers and other things
I cannot. But some day I will, Val, if you will let me."

"You think I'm a greedy wretch?"

"Indeed I do not, but--I don't like him and I hope you won't have more to
do with him than you can help."

"But I must be decent to him. Mummie likes him, and his father is an old
friend. Anyway, we can forget him for now."

Before he left they arranged that he should call at five o'clock the next
afternoon and they would spend the evening together. He was pleased about
that, but was still undecided how the Vadny matter was to be handled.

He could say nothing about it to Valerie, and he was not sure how to put
it to her mother. Amabel, a friend of the Cradons, might welcome the
alliance of her daughter with Andrew Cradon's son. If he told his story
would she regard him as a mischief-making snooper and imagine that
jealousy had made him invent or exaggerate things?

As he reached his hotel he came to a new decision. He would see Major
Roger Bennion and would tell him just what had happened. Both Major and
Mrs. Bennion were fond of Valerie; they would not willingly allow her to
be victimised or deceived.

In the morning he got his two letters. The first was brief and official.
It was from the steamship company that employed him and said the Queen of
the South was ready for sailing; would he report at Liverpool within
forty-eight hours.

He had been expecting it, but it was a bit of a shock that the final
notice was so short. It meant saying goodbye to Valerie and he must
certainly see Major Bennion before he left.

The second letter was more surprising and had some elements of
excitement. It was written on cheap paper in a somewhat illiterate hand,
It was addressed from 17 Byng Place, Walham Green Road. It said:

'If you are intrested in Lady Cradon's baby. and want to see him safely
ristored to her ladyship and want the reward, come here tomorrow
Wendesday at four o'clock precise. Walk straight in, up to the first
floor. There shouldn't be nobody about. Come alone and don't tell a sole,
it's more than my life is worth. But we have to arrange how I get my
share. No hanky or I say nothing and go back to my hidy hole. Gertrude

He read the letter more than once. Who was Gertrude Willows and how had
she got his address? Those were the first questions he asked himself. He
remembered her name as a former maid in Lady Cradon's service. If she was
still in touch with anyone in the household she might well have heard of
the part he and Valerie had played on the afternoon of the abduction. If
so, it had probably not been difficult to get his address. He might even
have been followed from Sloane Street on one of his calls there.

It seemed more than probable that Gertrude Willows had been concerned in
the affair and now wished to get the reward--or as much of it as she
could. It might well be her associates would think she was betraying
them, as any disclosures would lead to their arrest. She was probably
none too sure of her own position and so she wanted the child's release
to be effected through some entirely innocent party who would be
satisfied with a small share of the reward and would hand the rest to

The more he thought it over the more convinced he became that he was to
be a catspaw in the matter. But if so--what? The one great thing was to
get the baby back. He was not out for the reward, but he must play his
part if it would help to that end. Certainly he would keep the

He straightway wrote a letter.

'Val dear,

'The enclosed speak pretty much for themselves. The call to Liverpool is
a bit sooner than I had hoped, but I have been really lucky to see so
much of you. The other letter is rather queer, but I trust it means good
news at last as to the baby. Of course I am going. I do not know how long
I shall be there, but if I am not with you at five, as we arranged, I
shall come as soon after as I can, when I hope I shall really have
something worth telling you.

'My love,


He knew Valerie would have left for her class and meant to drop the
letter with its enclosures at the flat to await her return. First,
however, he went to Egerton Terrace to see Major Bennion.

He was welcomed with the usual broad grin of Ben Orgles, who had to tell
him that Major and Mrs. Bennion had left only a few minutes before in
their car.

"I wanted to see him rather badly," Bruce said.

"They have gone to the Woodcote Golf Club and are having lunch there. But
they are due for tea with Miss Amabel Legh at her flat when they get
back. She telephoned them just before they went out."

"Good. I am due there, too. I have just heard, Ben, that my boat leaves
the day after tomorrow, from Liverpool."

"Glad, sir, or sorry?"

"It is my job and I like it. But there are a few things I must do before
I go."

"There generally are," Ben said sympathetically.

"I would like to have seen the Cradon baby case cleared up, for one

"Ah, a rum business that. It worries the boss quite a lot. He and I got
on to the pram in Wilson's Mews quick enough. We handed over to the
police and there it stuck."

Bruce hoped that he might have big news before night, but thought it
better not to talk about it in case he was disappointed. They said
goodbye, Ben wishing him all possible luck on his voyage.

Having left his note for Valerie, Bruce found his way in good time to the
Walham Green area, as he thought it well to reconnoitre the position
before keeping his appointment. He had some difficulty in finding Byng
Place. The main roads are busy and the largest offices are those of the
Metropolitan Water Board, but there are many back streets, some of them
definitely squalid. Eventually he was successful.

Byng Place was a short cul-de-sac abutting on to a railway cutting. The
houses were far from attractive and appeared to be let in rooms or
tenements. The odd numbers were on one side, the even numbers on the
other. Iron railings enclosed a deep area in each case, there being about
six steps up to the front door. No. 17 was the last house on the right.
He walked sharply down on the side of the even numbers and then turned
back. Gertrude Willows would not seem to be living in great comfort.
Shabby curtains hung at the windows of her house, but otherwise there was
little sign of occupation. She had said that would be so, and if she was
planning to double-cross her associates, she would no doubt wish to be as
free from the risk of observation as possible.

Punctually at four o'clock he returned to the street and walked down the
side of the odd numbers. Arrived at No. 17, he strode up the steps and
turned the handle of the door. It opened and he found himself in a bare
hallway or passage.

"Come right up."

The voice was soft but distinct. No doubt his arrival had been seen from
the window. The stairs were uncarpeted and not very clean. Up he went.
Four or five steps from the top there was a half landing about a yard
square, the rest of the flight continuing to a sharp angle to the right.
He trod on the half-landing, then--He fell.

Down, down, through the flooring . . . into the darkness . . . into
water, icy cold and deep.



ROGER was teaching Ruth to play golf. She had completely regained her
strength and showed a natural aptitude for the game. He was confident she
would soon pass from the Bronze to the Silver class and hoped to see her
with a handicap as low as his own. After their round they had a leisurely
lunch at the club-house and then returned to Egerton Terrace. Ben Orgles
told them of Bruce's call.

"Did he leave any message for me?" Roger asked.

"No, sir. He said he wanted to see you, but he will be calling on Miss
Legh. He has had his sailing orders."

"Is he glad to be going?" Ruth enquired.

"Mixed feelings, I think," Ben grinned.

Ruth was glad to be calling on Amabel. Except for a few words at the
Y.M.C.A. meeting she had had little opportunity of speaking with her and
she wanted to tell her how much they had appreciated Valerie's company on
their homeward voyage. Possibly interest in the strange story Lady Cradon
had told her added to her desire for further acquaintance. Armed with a
large bunch of flowers, they drove to the flat and were welcomed by
Amabel her self.

"My kindly helper leaves after lunch," she said, "but everything is
ready. It is very good of you to have come."

They sat down to a sumptuous tea and were soon talking of Valerie. Both
Roger and Ruth said what a charming girl she was and how helpful she had

"I hear young Bruce has to rejoin his ship," Roger re marked. "Will she
be sorry?"

"She will miss him," Amabel said, "but I am really rather glad."

"You do not altogether like him?" Ruth asked.

"So far as I know him, I like him very much, but you know how it is on a
voyage. Two young people are thrown together and there is rather a
glamour about it all, especially on the moonlight nights. If they feel
the same about each other after he has been six months away, that will be
another thing. I would like Valerie to have a little more experience
before she commits herself."

"Roger and I think highly of Bruce," Ruth said, "but you are no doubt
very wise. Valerie would realise what it means to be married to a sailor,
away so much."

"How are the dramatic classes going?" Roger enquired.

"She loves them. She works very hard, but whether she has more than
ordinary talent I do not know. All the arts are cluttered up with average
people. It is a high average, but it is the little more that means so
much. Has she got it? It is so hard for a mother to judge."

"She may be too critical or too kind?" Ruth suggested.

"That is just it. But when Val has done a little more I shall take two
people whose judgment I trust to hear her. Unknown to her." Then,
abruptly, Amabel changed the subject. "Is there any news of poor Eleanor
Cradon's baby?"

"Nothing definite, I am afraid," Roger said.

"I am sorry. I really am distressed for her. I had a horrid dream about
it a few nights ago."

"What was it?" Ruth asked. "Some people believe that dreams reveal the

"This did not. I hope and pray not. Did you ever read that book by Victor
Hugo in which he described the practices of child stealers, who distorted
the faces of their little victims to make them horrible or grotesque, so
that they could be used for begging or shown in fairs?"

"I have read it," Roger said.

"I dreamt that something of that sort happened to little Lionel. I cannot
get it out of my mind. It could not really happen, could it?"

"The practice did exist," he told her. "More perhaps in France than in
this country. It was stamped out by the most severe punishments."

"I never heard of it," Ruth said. "How absolutely inhuman!"

"Nothing of the sort is likely in this case," Roger assured them. "The
display of such children is not permitted. The reward motive is the most
likely. Of every hundred crimes in this country, seventy-five are for
gain, fifteen for spite and ten for what are regarded as motives of

"I do hope this will soon be cleared up," Amabel said. "Surely the reward
is sufficient?"

Before they could reply Valerie ran in.

"Hullo, everybody. How nice to see you all." She kissed Ruth and her

"No kiss for me?" Roger smiled.

"Of course--if you would like it." She kissed him. "Bruce not here yet,

"No. There is a letter. I think it is from him."

Valerie darted across to the mantelpiece. "Excuse me, please." She tore
it open and read the note to herself and the first enclosure.

"Oh," she said, slightly dismayed. "He gets forty-eight hours to rejoin
his ship. I suppose that means he goes tomorrow."

No one commented and she read the second note.

"Gosh!" she cried excitedly. "This may be tremendous! Look at it."

She handed it to Roger. He studied it for a few moments. Then he read it

"I don't like it. I don't like it at all," he muttered.

"Why not?" Valerie said. "You remember Gertrude Willows, the former maid.
They thought she might be concerned in it."

"And they decided she could not be, as she was in prison at the time.
Since she got a two months' term, she must still be there."

"Then what does it mean?" cried the girl.

"I do not know. It may be a harmless hoax or it may be something more
serious. Walham Green is not a great distance. I think I will slip along
in my car to see that he is all right."

"May I come, too?" Valerie pleaded.

"Have your tea. I will come straight back."

"I don't want any tea. I must know he is all right."

"Come on then," Roger said. "Will you wait here, Ruth, if Miss Legh does
not mind?"

"Of course she will," Amabel said. "I hope you will bring Bruce back with

Roger and Valerie were soon on their way further west. The streets were
busy with traffic, but they made the best speed they could.

"What can it mean?" the girl asked again.

"It puzzles me," Roger replied. "I suppose the name Gertrude Willows is
used by someone who did not know of her arrest. She was charged under an
assumed name. But why Bruce should be brought into the affair of Lady
Cradon's baby beats me."

"They knew he and I met the nurse when she discovered the loss," Valerie

"Possibly, but it does not explain why they thought he would help them
play their game."

They did not speak any more. Walham Green Road is a very long one and
Roger had no idea where Byng Place was. Nor did the first people they
asked. But he soon located it and then a new shock awaited them.

A considerable crowd blocked the opening to the cul-de sac and, as they
drew up, a fire engine rushed by, the police making way for it. One of
the houses in the street was on fire.

"Stay in the car," Roger said. "I will get through and make enquiries."

Valerie did not demur. Obviously they could not drive through the crowd
and someone must remain in the car. Roger pushed his way to the police

"I am from Scotland Yard," he said. "From Chief Inspector Warren. Which
house is it?"

"Number seventeen, sir," said the constable, letting him pass.

Roger ran forward. Two fire engines were there and both were playing
their hoses on to the burning building, which was well ablaze at the top.

"Anyone inside?" he asked the officer in charge.

"Apparently not," was the reply.

"I believe there is." Roger showed him the Willows note. "I am Major
Bennion, working in this case with Chief Inspector Warren. I believe this
man was decoyed here."

"No sign of anyone," said the officer.

"That makes it worse. We must try to get in."

"We have tried. Can't get up the stairs. The roof may fall any minute."

"Then there is no time to waste," Roger said. "Can you turn off the water
for a moment; it makes such a noise."

They lent him a helmet and one of the firemen offered to go with him.
They made a dash for the front door. Smoke met them, but not much flame.
The wind was driving the fire upwards, though the whole place was old and
dry and could not last long. There was the roar of a furnace and the
crackle of burning wood, yet the noise was less when the cascades of
water stopped. Sparks were falling freely and the heat was intense.

"Bruce! Bruce!" Roger shouted. "Are you there? Bruce! Are you there?"

They heard a faint sound in reply.

"Downstairs," said the fireman.

They dashed to the basement. It was two feet deep in water. They waded
round and then for a moment they saw a face. It disappeared. The fireman
dashed forward--and he disappeared, too. Roger proceeded more cautiously.
He realised there must be a hole of some sort in the floor.

Luckily the fireman could swim. He reappeared and Roger gripped his hand.

"He's down there," the man gasped. "Half a moment and I'll get him."

He sank and reappeared with a body. Making sure his own footing was firm,
Roger seized it. It was Bruce. He drew him from the deep water to the
shallow. He held him with one hand so that his head did not again
submerge. The other hand he extended to the gallant fireman who would not
have found it easy in his helmet, boots and heavy equipment to have got
out unaided. Then together they carried the unconscious form to the
street. As they did so part of the upper building collapsed and a mass of
blazing timber fell and blocked the entrance. To go in again would have
been impossible. They had been only just in time.

Bruce was in a bad way, but artificial respiration soon produced signs of
life. There was a cut on his head; whether there were other injuries is
was impossible to say.

"Good work, sir." said the fire officer.

"Thanks to your man," Roger replied. "I've a car at the top of the road,
a blue Avis. A girl in charge. If one of your fellows will fetch it, I
will take this chap to my house, not far away, and put him to bed. There
is a rug and we'll soon get a doctor. Better than hanging about a
hospital where there may be no room."

Valerie was very pale when she brought up the car and was obviously
shocked when she saw Bruce's unconscious form. But Roger whispered a few
words of encouragement and the body was wrapped in the rug and put on the
back seat. She sat beside it. They drove away amid the cheers of the
crowd and the fire hoses renewed their deluge of the doomed building,
mainly to save the adjoining premises.

Arrived at Egerton Terrace, Ben Orgles was prompt and efficient.

"Ben and I will put him to bed," Roger told Valerie. "Would you go and
fetch Ruth and tell your mother? Don't worry. He will be all right."

"But what about his travelling to Liverpool tomorrow?"

"We will see what the doctor says. Personally I think it most unlikely."

"Don't let him go unless he is really fit," she urged.

"Be sure we will not. There is probably a lot we shall want him to tell



"NEVER before have I known of a man being saved from drowning in a
burning house."

The remark was made by Roger Bennion the next day to Chief Inspector
Warren after he had given him a full account of the happenings that
culminated in the rescue of Bruce Kelsall.

"How is he?" Warren asked.

"As well as can be expected. With some nursing he will probably be as fit
as ever."

"What about his rejoining his ship?"

"The doctor will not hear of it. If he attempted to travel he would
probably go down with pneumonia. Quiet and warmth are the things he

"Just as well. I want to have a talk with him."

"So do I," Roger said, "but the doctor insists on our waiting a day or
two. So far as I can judge, he had been in the water for over an hour,
and, with the smoke and the fire, he was pretty well all in when we
arrived. He made a big effort when he heard our call, but that about
finished him."

"What of the head injuries?"

"The doc thinks he hit his head in falling. There was no other bodily
damage. I hope he will be able to tell us how it all happened. Some sort
of booby-trap, I suppose."

"I saw our men and the fire experts this morning," Warren said. "Their
opinion is that part of the woodwork of the half landing was sawn away
and so was the boarding of the floor under it. If he trod there he would
fall right through into the cellar, which is about ten feet deep. They
believe it was already full of water."

"Did not the fire destroy the woodwork and so remove the traces of the

"No doubt it was meant to, but it did not completely do so. They found
some cut edges and they also found some of the boards that had been
removed to another part of the basement. The water prevented their

"Where do they think the fire started?"

"On an upper floor. Petrol was probably used."

"What a mercy it is that vindictive villains are often so foolish," Roger
said. "If they had, left the cellar empty the fall would probably have
killed him. If it didn't, the fire would. Or if they had filled the
cellar with water he might have drowned, especially if it was only deep
enough to prevent his being able to reach the top of the cellar wall. But
starting the fire gave the alarm."

"The fire brigade would not have helped much if you had not gone along,"
Warren commented dryly.

"There were other lucky chances that helped. It was the use of the name
of Gertrude Willows that really saved him. I suppose she is still in

"She is."

"So I imagined, and that made me suspect something was wrong. Then it was
a lucky chance that Bruce sent the letter to Valerie Legh and that she
came home a little sooner than she was expected. Also that I happened to
have my car handy."

"I am not denying it was a lucky escape," Warren said, "but why did they
pick on Bruce Kelsall in connection with Lady Cradon's baby?"

"That stumps me," Roger admitted, "but it gives you some useful lines for

"What are they?"

"To whom does the house belong? You cannot contrive such a thing in a few

"We have not overlooked that, but so far it is a dead end. The house had
been condemned by the local authority as unfit for occupation--the wall
next the railway cutting was cracking. The tenants had been moved out
three days before. Decent people, put into a council flat. We have seen

"Who had the keys?" Roger asked.

Warren shrugged. "Cheap locks."

"It must have been someone with local knowledge."

"True, but that doesn't help much."

"A neighbour may have seen someone go in or come away."

"That is our hope. We are making enquiries."

"I am sure you are," Roger said, "and good luck to you. I brought the
Willows letter in case your experts might make something of it. The
postmark, S.W.1, is not much help."

"Damned little help anywhere," Warren said gloomily. "I have never had
such a case. Let me know when I can see Kelsall. He is our best hope."

When Roger got back to Egerton Terrace he found Ruth and Valerie in
charge of the patient. The doctor had thought a nurse was needed, but
Ruth had insisted that she could do all that was necessary. Valerie had
asked to be allowed to come in to relieve her when she could. The doctor
said if they were willing to undertake the job, that should be adequate.
There was shock, exhaustion and slight concussion. Warmth, sleep and mild
stimulants were the best treatment.

"Any change?" Roger asked.

"He woke for a few minutes," Ruth said. "I think he recognised us. We
gave him some broth and he went to sleep again."

"Of course, he cannot rejoin his ship," Valerie added. "Will he lose his

"I do not think so," Roger replied. "I telephoned Captain Fawkes and
explained things to him. It was lucky we knew him from the last voyage
and he was quite sympathetic. He cannot delay sailing, but hopes to get
someone else. The chairman of the line, Sir James Nason, is a friend of
mine. That is why I chose that boat for our voyage, so I think all will
be well."

Then Roger decided that in view of the letter purporting to come from
Gertrude Willows he would call on Lady Cradon and tell her about it.

"Not much comfort to her," Ruth remarked.

"I am afraid not," Roger agreed, "but it will let her know the matter is
still receiving earnest attention and that new lines of enquiry may be
opening. That should cheer her a little."

When he reached Westbourne House he found Joe Gassett, the assistant
porter, in the hall. Joe told him Lady Cradon was at home.

"I think I'll be calling a cab shortly," he grinned. "A bit of a row on."

By what backstairs means he had his information Roger did not ask, but it
was well founded.

The sister, Mrs. Kingston, who liked to do such things for Lady Cradon,
had handed her month's wages to Florrie Spaight and had thought fit to
improve the occasion.

"You are very lucky to get it," she said, "seeing that you have no child
to look after and that you are at least partly responsible for what

Florrie had put up with a good deal from Mrs. Kingston. She was naturally
rather shy, if not timid, but she was not devoid of character. She came
of good parents and knew they would stand by her.

"I am leaving today," she said, as she took the money. Mrs. Kingston was
rather taken aback, but she was a born bully.

"Oh no, you are not," she snapped. "You can't. You must give a month's
notice. And no one will take you without a character."

"I can forgo the wages," Florrie said, putting the money back on the
table. "If I want a character, I shall write to Lady Cradon, not to you."

At that moment Lady Cradon entered the room. She was so wrapped up in her
sorrow that she had allowed her masterful sister to have her own way in
many things.

"This ungrateful, unfeeling girl says she means to walk out on us this
very day, without notice or warning," Mrs. Kingston told her. "Not much
loss perhaps, but I have never heard of anything more disgraceful!"

"Is this true?" asked Lady Cradon.

Florrie was pale, but she had a quiet dignity of her own. There were
tears in her eyes, but her voice was firm.

"I cannot stay to be spoken to as Mrs. Kingston speaks to me. She says I
have nothing to do. If baby comes back"--there was a break there--"I will
come back, too, if you want me."

Lady Cradon looked helplessly from one to the other of them, but there
was a dramatic interruption. The cook, Mrs. Hatter, entered with a
suddenness that suggested she had not been far away from the slightly
open door, if not at the keyhole. She was a middle-aged woman and stout,
as a cook should be.

"If nurse goes, I go," she announced.

"How dare you come in like this?" Mrs. Kingston demanded.

"You--you wouldn't leave me when I am in such trouble?" Lady Cradon

"Sorry to, my lady," the cook said, "but if she stays, I go. She
criticised my cooking. She said I was extravagant. What business is it of

"You are insolent," Mrs. Kingston cried. "You will not let them speak to
me like this, Eleanor? What I said was true and I did it for you."

"True, was it?" The cook put her arms akimbo in truly classic style. "We
was happy enough before you came, always exceptin' our sorrow about the
baby, but you upset everyone. Let me tell you this, I listened to that
talk on the wireless about home service. Very true it was, most of it. No
good homes without good cooking. But it is women like you that drove the
girls away and nothing will bring them back until you learn to treat 'em

At that moment the front-door bell rang. The cook went to the door and
showed Roger Bennion in. She retired to her kitchen and left him to face
the crisis. Lady Cradon was in tears. So was Florrie. Mrs. Kingston
looked furious.

"Hullo," Roger said. "What is the trouble? Can I help?"

There was a temporary silence. Florrie Spaight, her handkerchief to her
eyes, ran from the room.

"That worthless girl," Mrs. Kingston said, "has declared that she will
leave us today at a moment's notice, and the cook says she will go, too.
Can you imagine anything more inhuman when my sister is in such trouble?"

"They said they would stay if you went," murmured Lady Cradon.

"As if I could desert you!" Mrs. Kingston cried. "More than ever my place
is here."

"May I have a word with Lady Cradon?" Roger asked.

"I can hear it, too," said the sister.

"Please go," Lady Cradon said.

Roger opened the door. No one spoke. Mrs. Kingston hesitated, then,
angrily sailed out.

"Please get rid of her," Lady Cradon implored.

"I will do my best," Roger said. "I take it she has upset the staff?"

"They were my friends until she came."

"Has she anywhere to go?"

"She has kept her room in Mrs. Pink's boarding house."

"Has she incurred any expense in coming to you?"

"Rather the reverse, but I will pay her to go. She must go."

A few minutes later Roger tapped at the door of Mrs. Kingston's room.

"Who is there?" she asked.

"Major Bennion."

"You can't come in."

"I do not want to. Mrs. Pink has your room ready for you and there is a
taxi at the door. If you cannot pack all your things, Lady Cradon will
send them this afternoon."

It would have made a good scene in a comedy. Mrs. Hatter had reappeared.
She was standing in the passage leading to her quarters, arms akimbo as
before, a smirk on her really good-natured face. Florrie Spaight's door
was open and she was peeping out as she heard the voices. Possibly, too,
Lady Cradon was listening.

"Are you trying to turn me out of my own sister's home?" Mrs. Kingston
demanded loudly.

"She wishes you to go. I have a cheque for you, provided you go at once."

The door opened.

"What is it?"

Roger showed it to her, but did not part with it. It was for fifty

"I have never been so insulted in my life. But no one shall say I stopped
when I was not wanted. If I am begged to come back, I shall refuse. You
must send my things at once. I insist on it."

A few moments later she emerged in hat and coat and carrying a suitcase.
Roger opened the flat door and handed her the cheque as she passed out.

A certain lady M.P. once thought it was libellous when she was accused of
jigging across the floor of the House of Commons. Mrs. Hatter undoubtedly
jigged across the hall of the flat.

"Good riddance to bad rubbish," she muttered.

Florrie reappeared. Lady Cradon came out and shook hands with the cook
and kissed the nurse.

"It is wonderful," she said to Roger. "I feel as though a cloud had
passed away. Why did you come to see me?"

He returned with her to the sitting-room and told her of Bruce Kelsall's

"I have not been able to talk to him yet," he added, "and there is a good
deal I cannot understand, but I do think it gives some grounds for hope.
Why the name of Gertrude Willows was used I do not know. Possibly to make
it seem genuine. It may be that the writer was double-crossing his or her
associates and they discovered it. Not being aware how much Bruce had
been told, they planned this to silence him."

"It is a horrible thing!" Lady Cradon said. "He is a very brave young man
and I am very grateful to him. But does it really help us?"

"It gives the police several new lines for investigation. I am convinced
your son is still alive and I believe they will soon have news of him.
Ruth asked me to say that if you would like her to come in every day to
tell you if we hear anything she would be very happy to do so. She did
not know," he added with a smile, "that your sister was leaving you. She
might console you."

"I would love to see her. You have all been most kind. I cannot thank you

When Roger went down, he found both the porter and his assistant by the
front door.

"I said I'd be calling a taxi," Joe Gassett grinned, "but I didn't think
it would be for her, the sour puss."

"Now then, Joe," Strawn reproved him.

"Well, isn't she the worst-tempered worry-guts on earth? Not that she
isn't sweet enough when she meets her gentleman stranger."

"Mustn't speak like that of the tenants or their friends," Strawn said.

"Who is the gentleman stranger?" Roger asked.

"No one knows," Joe said. "He never comes here. That's queer, ain't it?
But she meets him at the top of the street or by the tube station. I seen
'em often."

"What is he like?" Roger enquired.

"Tall, dark. A bit of a spiv, if you ask me."

"Stop it, Joe," Strawn said sternly. "Any more talk like that and you

"My fault," Roger said. "I asked him."



IT WAS Ben Orgles who told Bruce that his ship had sailed without him.
Ben went to him early the next morning and found he was almost himself

"Ben, where are my clothes?"

"Your coat and trousers are dried and nicely pressed, but I am afraid we
cannot do much with the shirt. I'd lend you one of mine only it would be
a bit loose in the neck."

"Shirt doesn't matter. I've more at the hotel. I must catch the next
train to Liverpool."

"I shouldn't do that," Ben said in his soft, rather wheezy voice. "Your
boat sailed yesterday."

Bruce sat bolt upright. "Good Lord! What day is this?"

"Friday. You were a bit queer and the doctor would not think of your
getting up. Easy to miss a day or two when you are ill."

"But it's my job. I must get a plane and catch them up."

"That's an idea," Ben said admiringly. "They call it an 'elicopter. You
fly over the Atlantic and drop on the first boat you see. If that's
wrong, you try the next. Can't miss it if you know the way it's gone. But
they do say the Atlantic is wide in, parts."

"Ben, I'm sunk."

"What, again? Don't you believe it. Never mind my teasing. You trust the
Major; you'll be all right."

"He has been wonderful; they all have. I am only just beginning to
realise it. But if you do not report for duty, you are done."

"Not when the Major takes a 'and. He had a friendly chat with Captain
Fawkes who sent his love and 'oped you'd soon be better. Sir James Nason
said much the same."

"Stop fooling, Ben."

"I'm not fooling; it's solemn sober fact. The Major can always get things
done when he wants to. I believe in him. And, mind you, this ain't what
they call 'ero worship. Not a bit of it. I like the sort of 'ero you read
of in books. When he's followed by two hefty blokes, he turns round and
seizes 'em by the necks, irrespective of size, knocks their heads
together and throws 'em away like empty banana skins. The Major don't do
that. He arranges it so they knocks their own heads and he keeps his
hands clean. But I will say this, he never lets no one down. What is

Roger entered the room to stop any further eulogy.

"Better?" he asked.

"Perfectly fit, sir," Bruce said.

"Askin' for his clothes," Ben added.

"Good. We will talk about that presently. Get his breakfast."

"It's ready." Ben grinned and withdrew.

"Is it true, sir, that you spoke to Captain Fawkes? I seem to have lost
count of time."

"Quite true, and he fully understood. I told him the police wanted
information from you and you were not fit to travel. Sir James Nason says
that they will want you on another boat before long. Meanwhile your pay
goes on."

"It is wonderful," Bruce murmured. "I can never thank you enough."

"Don't try, my boy. We were all working in a good cause and you had the
bad luck. Tell me, if you feel like it, how it all happened."

"There is so little to tell. I got a letter--"

"The letter you sent to Valerie?"

"Yes. I suppose I was a fool, but I thought I ought to be there at the
time mentioned. I went up the stairs to the half landing. Then, instead
of treading on boards it seemed like brown paper and I fell into a deep

"It probably was brown paper," Roger said. "The well was actually a
cellar, below the basement floor. You could not reach the top?"

"No. I rose and swam round, but it felt like the side of a well. I
shouted for help, but I think I had hit my head. I couldn't do much."

"Did you hear or see anyone?"

"A voice called 'Come up' when I got there. I thought it was a woman, but
I don't really know. I didn't see any one."

"We know there was someone; they started the fire. It was lucky you heard
us call you."

"I didn't," Bruce said. "I knew the place was on fire. One bit of burning
wood hit me. I thought the brigade came and I shouted. But there was such
a noise and I was nearly all in. I seem to remember I made one last
effort – "

"Which, thank God, we heard. Don't think any more about it. But can you
tell me this--"

Before he could put the question Ben walked in with the breakfast.

"Get on with that," Roger said. "Later on I want you to tell me how many
people had the address of your hotel, and which of them might connect you
with the Cradon baby case. If you want anything else Ben will get it for

Roger left him for a good hour before he returned. It was not desirable
to rush things. Memory might work slowly at first. During that hour he
had a call from Valerie and was able to tell her what good progress the
patient had made.

"Give him my love," she said, "and tell him I will look round this
afternoon, if I may."

Roger returned to the sick-room and found Ruth there, chatting with

"Had a good breakfast?"

"The best in my life," Bruce declared. "That was a marvellous ham."

Roger laughed. "When Ruth and I were kiddies at school we had our
tuck-boxes, but we never imagined we should welcome them far more eagerly
when we were grown up! She has people in Nairobi who send us an
occasional ham that is the envy of our friends."

"And Roger has friends in Australia and New Zealand," Ruth added. "It
makes us feel terribly greedy, but it is a great help."

"When I get to New Zealand I will send something," Bruce said.

"That is a promise," Roger smiled. "Have you thought over my questions?"

"I have, sir, but I can't make much sense of it all. I don't think I gave
the hotel address to anyone except the steamship company, and of course
to my uncle and you and Valerie. A few more people might have known that
Valerie and I were interested in the baby case, but it doesn't seem to
add up to anything."

"Two theories suggest themselves," Roger said. "One is that someone
wanted to do you mischief and used the reward in the baby case to lead
you to their trap. The alternative is that it was a definite business
proposition by one of the gang concerned in the kidnapping. The others
discovered it and, not knowing how much you had already been told, they
let you come and did not mean to let you get away. What do you think of

"I don't know," Bruce said. "I was never told anything and I had not the
slightest intention of accepting any re ward. It doesn't make sense."

"There is no one who had a grudge against you?" Ruth asked.

"I don't think I am important enough to anybody," he smiled.

"You came here to see me about it," Roger said, "but we were out. What
were you meaning to tell me?"

"Oh," Bruce replied a little awkwardly, "it was not that at all."

"What was it?"

Bruce hesitated.

"Would you rather I went?" Ruth asked.

"Oh no, but it may seem silly. It was really about Valerie."

He told them how he had chanced to see Hedley Cradon and Evadne Peers at
the cinema and had followed them to Chinnock Street. Also of his meeting
with Evadne the next day.

"I expected to be leaving almost at once," he concluded. "I love
Valerie--you know that. I am not in a position to marry, though I hope for
promotion fairly soon. A man who is living with a girl like Evadne has no
right to try to make Valerie love him, but I did not know what to do
about it. I thought you might advise me or say you would look after her.
I knew you were both fond of her."

"We are," Ruth said. "I thought Hedley was paying her attentions, but I
do not think that she took them seriously."

"He could offer her more than I can," Bruce murmured miserably.

"Love's weapon is an arrow, not a pair of scales," Ruth told him.

"Was Hedley jealous of you?" Roger asked. "He knew of your interest in
the baby case and he probably knew your address."

"I don't like him," Bruce said, "but I cannot think he would try to get
rid of me like that. He knew I should soon be going away; he could afford
to wait."

"That is true," Roger agreed, "but at the moment he is the only person we
know who seems to comply with the requirements of the case. Did you give
Evadne your hotel address?"

"No. I am sure I did not. We talked of meeting again, but I do not think
we either of us meant it."

"Did you mention the baby case to her?"

Bruce said, "I did. I was trying to get her to talk about Hedley. I
wanted to know how long their association had been going on. I said I
thought I had seen her picture in the papers, perhaps in connection with
that case."

"What was her reaction?"

"She cooled off. She seemed to resent my enquiries."

"It will do no harm for me to have a few words with her," Roger said.
"And you may rely on it that we will keep a watching brief over Valerie,
whatever happens."



"BEN, I want you to do a bit of sleuthing."

"Glad to," Ben grinned. "I didn't do too badly in the pram business, did
I? Is this in the same affair?"

"I don't quite know," Roger said. "Have you heard of Mrs. Kingston, Lady
Cradon's sister?"

"I think I heard she was a lady who got herself misliked. Went to stay in
the flat."

"She is staying there no longer. I helped to persuade her to depart, to
the no regret of all concerned. Joe Gassett, the assistant porter, told
me she used to meet a mysterious gentleman friend at the top of the
street; but he never came to the flat. Mrs. Kingston may be as pure as
driven snow, and the gentleman may be a relation or a model of all the
virtues. Gassett described him as tall and dark and of the spiv type.
Mrs. Kingston has returned to Mrs. Pink's boarding house in Chelston
Villas, Bayswater. The gentleman may be a fellow guest. Anyway, there
should now be no obstacles to their meeting. I want you to find out who
he is and what he does. You might get more from Joe Gasset if Strawn the
porter is not about. I leave it to you. Charge up the expenses."

"Thank you, sir," Ben beamed. "I will do my best. Did they have a finger
in kidnapping the little nipper?"

"That is what you are going to find out. I am not interested in either of
them otherwise."

Roger then called at Scotland Yard and told Chief Inspector Warren that
Bruce Kelsall was ready to see him. He said Bruce did not seem able to
explain why he had received the Gertrude Willows letter. He did not
mention the Evadne Peers business. He left it to the detective to ask his
own questions and for Bruce to make what statement he chose.

At what he hoped was a suitable hour he made his way to Charing Cross
Road and entered the street where Evadne dwelt. He noticed, as Bruce had
done, that, although many places of business seemed to be quartered
there, little sign of activity was visible. This did not entirely
surprise him. He knew that many firms found it worth their while to have
a West End address for postal services while the volume of their trade
was conducted from some suburban area where rents were more moderate.

The door beside the bookmaker's office was unlocked. He went up to the
first floor and rang at the bell. The door was opened by a young woman
somewhat scantily clad in a kimono.

"Vadny?" he asked with a smile, purposely using the more intimate name.

"To my friends," was the reply.

"You will not know me. My name is Roger Bennion. I heard of you from a

She looked him up and down. She approved his type and he looked

"Come in," she said. "I had better put on some clothes." She gave him a
provocative smile as though inviting him to say she was not to trouble on
his account. He did not. He entered the little hall and she showed him
into a sitting-room.

"Shan't be long."

She went to another room. He judged it was a two-roomed suite, no doubt
with a bathroom and kitchenette. The room he entered was moderately clean
and comfortably furnished, though there was nothing costly in it. On the
mantelpiece were photographs of the lady herself, two in a pierette
costume, two in what might have been musical-comedy attire and one in a
bathing costume that displayed generously her natural charms. A
television set had the place of honour opposite the fireplace.

"Well, what is it?"

She had changed her kimono for a house gown and had tidied her hair and
added colour to her lips. The scent spray had also been busy.

"How quick you have been," Roger said.

"I never keep gentlemen waiting," she answered with her enigmatic smile.
"What kind friend sent you?"

He offered her a cigarette and lit t for her. Then he said: "Bruce

The smile disappeared from her lips.

"Don't know him," she said.

"Not well," Roger agreed. "I believe he lunched with you once and that
was about all."

"One lunches with many people," she drawled.

"Of course. But this one had a bit of bad luck. Do you know a street
called Byng Place? Walham Green way."

"Never heard of it."

"Know anything of a girl called Gertrude Willows?"

"No. And don't want to. What are you getting at? Did you come to see me
or to ask a lot of silly questions?"

"I wanted to see you and I also wanted to talk about young Kelsall."

"If I remember rightly he told me he was a lonely sailor and then, when I
let him give me lunch, he started asking questions like you are doing.
There is only one thing that interests me."

"What is that?" Roger asked.


"A very pleasant subject. But I will tell you why I am also interested in
the lonely sailor. It is really an odd story. On the day after he saw you
he got a letter asking him to call at number seventeen Byng Place and the
writer would give him information about the Cradon baby case that would
enable them to share the reward. The letter was signed Gertrude Willows."

Roger watched her closely while he was speaking, though his tone was
casual enough. There was a wary look in her eyes when he mentioned the
Cradon case, but she flicked her cigarette and said coolly:

"Why did not Gertrude Willows--whoever she is--claim the reward herself?
Why should she offer to share with a stranger--if he was a stranger?"

"That is part of the mystery, but there is much more to it than that. She
was a stranger right enough, but, knowing something of Lady Cradon, our
sailor thought it was up to him to learn what he could. He went to the
house, which was empty. Someone had cut away the floor boards on the half
landing and covered the hole with brown paper. He trod on it and fell
through into a deep cellar in the basement. Then the house was set on
fire. Perhaps you read about it in the papers?"

"I did not," Vadny said. "What happened next?" She spoke as though she
were more bored than interested, yet she seemed to wish to hear all he
could tell her.

"The fire brigade arrived. He was rescued, half drowned, half

"Two halves don't make a whole."

"Luckily for him they did not. He is now little the worse for it all."

"Am I supposed to laugh, or cry, or what?" she drawled.

"That is up to you. His friends are trying to get at the truth of the
matter. As you were the only person he had seen other, than his usual
companions, they wondered if you could help."

"This is sheer nonsense. I know nothing of the man or what happened to
him, and care less."

"Yet he did mention the Cradon case to you?"

"Did he? I have forgotten. What if he did?"

"He also asked you if you knew Hedley Cradon."

"He was impertinent. So are you. I don't discuss friends."

"But you know Hedley pretty well, don't you?"

"What the hell is it to do with you? What are you trying to get at? I am
acquainted with Mr. Cradon. I also know Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones and Mr.
Robinson. So what?"

"When a man is lured to a house and an attempt is made to kill him and
the house is set on fire, is it surprising that information is asked

"It is very surprising that it is asked for from me. I had lunch with
this Bruce Kelsall, then he passed out of my life. It is about time you
did the same."

At that moment there was the sound of the flat door opening and being
shut. A voice called:

"You there, Vadny? I got back sooner than I expected."

And Hedley Cradon entered the room.

That the "acquaintance" possessed a key to the apartment and walked in
when so disposed was no surprise to Roger, but it was very definitely a
surprise to the newcomer to find him there.

"Major Bennion!" he exclaimed. "What the devil are you doing here?"

"Enjoying a little chat with Vadny," Roger said. "How did you chance to
turn up?"

"He has been asking a lot of damn silly questions about someone called
Bruce Kelsall," Vadny declared. "Says he was decoyed to an empty house
and nearly killed. I neither know the fellow nor care what happened to

Hedley, however, did know the fellow and to find Major Bennion in his
love-nest filled him with fury.

"Get out!" he cried.

"Have you the right to ask me to go?" Roger returned quietly.

"Get out, or I'll throw you out!"

"I should advise you not to try."

Hedley did not stop to reason. He was mad with anger and rushed forward
to eject the intruder. He was big and heavy, but it may be that Roger,
though slimmer, was in better condition. They closed and struggled in a
ferocious grip. Neither struck a blow. Hedley thought to crush his
antagonist with sheer weight and strength. Roger relied on his agility
and knowledge of wrestling to avoid any hold that might result in a fall.
Vadny looked on in grim enjoyment. It was not often she had such a good
view of a fight. She moved a few pieces of furniture to give them more

"Out him!" she cried as the two men rolled to the floor. But both were up
again and locked in their fierce grip before either could gain an
advantage. The end was dramatic. Vadny decided not to remain a spectator
only. She slipped from the room and returned with something of the
rolling-pin nature. She aimed a savage blow at Roger's head. But he had
been expecting something of the sort and had always kept her in view. He
saw the action through a mirror and turned his head sharply to one side
so that Hedley's arm, which was on his shoulder, received the blow. At
the same moment Roger sank on one knee and, using all his strength, threw
his heavy antagonist behind him. It was something in the nature of what
experts call a cross-buttock. In falling, Hedley upset Vadny and they
rolled over together. Roger walked slowly from the room and out of the

Not perhaps a dignified exit, though he felt he had the honours of war.
He straightened his collar and tie and proceeded towards the Charing
Cross Road.

He had not gained a great deal by his interview. Hedley's intimacy with
Vadny was definitely established. He was hardly likely to continue his
pursuit of Valerie. That was to the good. As to Vadny, it was probable
she had played no part in the attack on Bruce. But her interest had
undoubtedly quickened when he alluded to the kidnapping of little Sir
Lionel. Was it possible she knew more of that than she was prepared to

He had proceeded some way, cogitating the problem, when he saw two
newsboys running towards him. They were carrying improvised posters and
they were shouting its message:

"Cradon Baby Found! Cradon Baby Found!"

He purchased a copy of the paper.



The Evening Comet had made a scoop. It gave an exclusive story of which
its rivals knew nothing. An enterprising journal, it always devoted
considerable space to the sensation of the hour. When Lady Cradon's tiny
son was abducted, the Comet, in common with the rest of the press, dealt
with it at great length and devoted no little ingenuity to finding a
solution of the mystery. When, however, the days went by and no further
details were forthcoming, the story had to give place to newer
happenings. Now it was indeed front-page news again.

It proved to be lucky for the Comet that one of its star reporters, Evan
Silver, had been ill. Going for a week's change of air to complete his
cure before returning to duty, he had stayed in that part of Poole that
likes to call itself Bournemouth. An old uncle of his, Reuben Silver, was
a Poole fisherman. Always interested in fishing and wanting as much sea
air as possible, Evan had gone out with Reuben on two or three occasions.
Then one day, when the net was drawn in with its glittering pulsating
catch of mackerel, a strange object rolled into the bottom of the boat.
It was a package rather over two feet in length, wrapped in sacking.

A knife was soon busy in investigating the unusual haul. There were three
thicknesses of sacking, then a sheet of mackintosh and finally a shawl
which, when unrolled, displayed the body of a male child.

Reuben and his partner, hardened salts as they were, were startled and
shocked by the sight. Evan turned over the shawl and saw in its corner
the embroidered initials L.C.

"This is the Cradon baby!" he cried in a tone of tense excitement to his
companions. "Over two thousand pounds reward was offered. What is payable
if it is found dead, I do not know. But it is news! My God, it is news!"

Of course, the others remembered the case, even if they had not been as
interested in it as was the newspaper man.

"What must we do with it?" old Reuben asked.

"Hand it over to the police," his partner said.

"Yes," Evan agreed, "we must hand it over to the police, but put me
ashore first. Give me a chance to get the story to my paper and I will
see you are well paid, even if you do not get the reward. Stay out for a
couple of hours. Don't disturb anything, and when you come in I will be
there with a camera. Your pictures will be in it, too. What a story!"

Such was the basis for the sensational headlines splashed across the page
that Roger read as he stood on the kerb in Charing Cross Road. In
smaller, though very bold type, the facts were given. How the reporter
was present with the fishermen was told. Only the detail of the slight
hold-up while the story was telephoned to town was omitted. The startling
detail SHAWL WITH L.C. MONOGRAM was set out in the largest lettering and
twice repeated. The pictures had not reached London, but they were being
rushed up by Evan himself in a large car and would appear as a further
"exclusive" in the morning Comet, or possibly in the Late Night Final of
the evening issue. He had been present when the gruesome parcel was
handed to the police, and had seen the doctor, though the latter declined
to answer his questions.

Turning to the stop-press column, Roger read that a reporter had called
to see Mr. Andrew Cradon of the Society of Peacemakers, the heir to the
title, with the news, but Mr. Cradon had declined to make any statement.

Hailing a taxi, Roger asked to be taken to Scotland Yard. There he found
Chief Inspector Warren with a copy of the Comet in front of him. Roger
asked him what he made of the story.

"Those blasted newspaper men got in front of us," Warren said, "but I
have just been phoned from Poole. It seems true enough."

"Satisfied it is the Cradon baby?" Roger enquired.

"Doesn't seem much doubt of it," was the grim reply. "We have to clear up
a murder now, not find a missing child. I always expected it would end
that way. Perhaps you can help us."

"How?" Roger asked.

"Our first job is to identify the child. I have been in touch with Lady
Cradon and have arranged to take her and the nurse by car to see it. You
are a friend of hers. Will you come, too?"

To accompany the bereaved mother on such a mission was not a pleasant
prospect, but Roger said if it was thought he could help in any way he
would do so.

"How did she take it?" he asked.

"Better than I expected. I suppose when you have dreaded a thing, it is a
relief of a sort to be sure."

"You did not get any more details from the local police?"

"Practically only what the paper said. I arranged to get down at once and
in the meantime the doctor is making an examination."

"Did they say if the parcel was weighted?" Roger asked.

"Very slightly, otherwise it might not have been recovered so soon."

"That, I suppose, was the intention. The waterproof wrapping and the
absence of heavy weighting suggests it was hoped discovery and
recognition would not be long delayed."

Warren nodded thoughtfully and made no comment. A big and speedy car was
ready and they went to Sloane Street to pick up Lady Cradon and Florrie
Spaight. Roger first telephoned Ruth and told her what had happened and
where he was going.

Both Lady Cradon and her young companion were composed--frozen with a
numb stillness. They were pale, but their tears had been shed. The news
had brought some ghoulish sightseers to the flats and they watched in
silence as the big car drew up and the ladies entered it. Both Strawn and
Joe Gassett were in attendance and handed in a few necessities for the

Little was said as they sped on their way. Roger tried to murmur a few
words of sympathy, and Warren muttered something about getting to the
bottom of it, but what can be said in such circumstances? Roger wished
they could have brought Ruth, too. Her mere presence might have been

They sped swiftly through the western suburbs, taking the by-pass roads
to Basingstoke and Winchester. The New Forest was beautiful, as it always
is, and from Ringwood they detoured to avoid Christchurch and Bournemouth
and reached the heart of the old town of Poole. They pulled up at an
address in Market Street that had been given them.

They were received by a courteous official who said he was sorry they
came on such a distressing business but he was sure it was best to know
the truth. He led them to an office where they were shown the wrappings
in which the body had been found. Florrie gave a half-subdued cry and
Lady Cradon almost fainted when they were shown the shawl. It had been
dried and was a beautiful piece of work, hand-woven with the softest
fleeciest wool and having a pattern like a spider's web. At one edge the
silken monogram L.C. stood out clearly.

"You will see the body?" the official. said gently. "It is painful, but
you know it has to be done."

Lady Cradon bowed her assent and they were led to the mortuary chamber. A
sheet was pulled aside from a little body on a slab. Lady Cradon stared
at it and then burst into hysterical laughing and crying. She would have
fallen if Roger had not supported her.

"That is not my baby! That is not my baby!" she cried. "Where is he?"

There was silence in the room. Was the lady right or had the shock upset
her reason?

"He was wrapped in your shawl," the local official muttered. "You said

Roger Bennion looked enquiringly at Florrie Spaight. She shook her head.

Silently and with gentle hands he turned the body over. There was no
birth-mark visible on the little limbs.

"You see! You see!" Lady Cradon cried.

Inspector Warren had brought his photographs with him. Although there was
some slight similarity in form and feature, there was little doubt the
babies were not the same. The absence of the birth-mark settled the
matter beyond question.

"Had you any other shawls like the one we have just seen?" Roger asked
Florrie Spaight.

"No," she whispered.

"That was the only shawl?"

"We have three more, but they are different."

"You are sure that one was the one that was in use that day?"

"Quite sure."

It was very puzzling, but Roger turned to the distraught mother.

"Thank God it is not your child," he said quietly. "That at least is
certain. It means your child is still alive and we will yet restore him
to you."

They were just the words of comfort she needed. A motherly soul led her
and the nurse out of the room and tried to persuade them to have some
tea. The men with drew to another room. There, after a few moments, the
doctor joined them.

"So far as I can tell from a cursory examination," he said, "that baby
died a natural death. It was not drowned and there are no signs of any
kind of violence. Probably pneumonia was the cause of death. I will
report more definitely later."

"But how came it in the shawl in which Lady Cradon's baby was lost?"
Inspector Jukes, the local officer, asked.

"That is not my business," the doctor replied.

"The thing gets more confusing," Inspector Warren muttered. "We have two
babies to account for now, not one."

"That is true," Roger agreed. "As this one was found locally and brought
here, I suppose you will have an inquest. Perhaps its identity will then
be discovered. That may lead to an explanation of how the shawl was
obtained and possibly help to find Lady Cradon's baby."

"We shall have an inquest," Jukes said. "Bound to. How long has the body
been in the water?"

His question was to the doctor, who shook his head.

"It is hard to say. Wrapped in waterproof and kept in fairly deep water,
you have a sort of cold storage. It might be a fortnight or even longer.
Is any baby missing?"

"Nothing reported," Jukes said

"I understand the package was picked up about a mile out," Roger
remarked. "Does that indicate that it was put in the water there or might
it have been carried from further round the coast?"

"The fishermen might have an idea about that," the doctor replied. "As
you may know, Poole Bay, or Bournemouth Bay as it is sometimes now
called, has four high tides every twenty-four hours and that tends to
keep things from getting away to sea--things we would sometimes rather be

"I have heard that before," Roger said.

"Surely four tides is very unusual," Warren commented. "What is the

"The general explanation," the doctor said, "is that the enormous outflow
from Southampton Water and in a lesser degree from Poole Harbour when the
tide goes out strikes the Isle of Wight and other coastal obstructions
and causes a backwash round the bay."

"So that an object in the water might be carried backwards and forwards
for days?"

"That is so," the doctor said, "especially if there was air in the
waterproof wrapping. Had it sunk to the bottom in the harbour, it would
have been attacked and decomposition would have been more marked."

"It is a damned pity the London paper got hold of the story before we had
time to check it," Inspector Jukes said wrathfully. "It makes us look
darned silly. I daresay if I had found the shawl I should have thought
what they did, but I would not have shouted it abroad until we had

"The paper will look silly, not us," Warren commented. "We shall issue an
official denial at once."

"And they will ask how this other baby came to be wrapped in Lady
Cradon's shawl," said Jukes.

"If, as the doctor tells us, the baby died a natural death," Roger added,
"what was the object of putting it into the water in such a way?"

"Someone may have wanted it to be taken for the Cradon baby," the doctor

"Could they think the mother would not know her own child?"

"That might depend on how soon she saw it. They probably did not know of
the birthmark."

"And meanwhile the real Cradon baby has still to be found."

"The whole thing doesn't make sense," Warren said gloomily. "It was
difficult before, but now it is a darn sight worse. We must take Lady
Cradon back to town, but first I will get through to the Yard to get that
contradiction sent out. Maybe in time for the six o'clock broadcast. We
can ask for information as to this baby. Let me know about the inquest,
Jukes, and I will come if I can. You may dig up something and the local
press may help."



AT THE time when these discoveries were being made at Poole, Bruce
Kelsall was having another talk with his uncle in Westbourne House. It
was of a more agreeable character than his previous interviews with him.
He had hesitated about seeing the old man again, but decided it was
better to do so. He had told him he was on the point of rejoining his
ship and, if Mr. Pursey learned in some way he had not done so, it might
appear an intentional deception. He therefore called at the flats in the
morning. He found Strawn, the porter, in the hall.

"Thought you had gone, sir," the porter remarked.

"There was an accident," Bruce said. "I want to tell my uncle about it. I
will come this afternoon if that will be all right for him."

"I will arrange it," Strawn said.

Bruce wandered round the shops for a time. Then, nearing South Kensington
station on his way to his hotel for lunch, he met a boy crying the news
that had startled Roger Bennion in the Charing Cross Road. He purchased
an Evening Comet and read its remarkable story. He changed his direction
and went to the flat in Dowton Close. The door was opened to him by
Valerie, who had no class until the evening.

"Hullo, Bruce," she cried with obvious pleasure. "You are just in time
for lunch."

"No," he said. "I just looked in--"

"But you must," she interrupted. "It is a celebration. Croonie's party
really. She would love to have you--wouldn't you, Croonie?" she called
more loudly.

"What's that, my dear?" asked the help, appearing at the kitchen door.

"You would like Bruce to come to the party?"

"Course I would. The more the merrier." She had taken a fancy to the
young sailor.

"You are very kind," he said, "but I couldn't think of it; barging in and
eating your food. My lunch will be ready for me. I came to show you
this." He held out the paper.

"Good morning, Bruce," said Amabel. "Are you really feeling all right? Of
course you must join us. What is it?" she added, as he handed her the

Both she and Valerie saw in a flash the bold headline, CRADON BABY FOUND!
And almost as quickly they read the essentials of the story.

"Found dead!" Amabel murmured in a hushed tone. "Oh, that poor woman!"

"It is truly terrible," Valerie said. "Who could have done such an
appalling wicked thing? One knew it might happen but somehow I always
felt everything would come right in the end."

They discussed the matter for some moments, but it seemed so final. There
was little they could say, nothing they could do. Then Croonie told them
the meal was ready.

"I ought not to stay," Bruce protested, but he yielded to their
persuasions and they all sat down together. Croonie generally had her
midday meal with Amabel when they were alone.

"Is this your birthday?" Bruce asked her.

"No," she said. "My unwedding day."

"What is an unwedding day?"

"The day I got rid of 'im; the best day in my life. At first I used to
celebrate by myself. I cooked the things he liked most; he was an
absolute 'og; and I ate 'em all myself. It did me a lot of good. But it's
more fun to share it."

She had prepared them a marvellous pie: pigeons, ox-cheek and mushrooms
were its principal ingredients. The crust was crisp and light, and it was
cooked to perfection. Amabel provided the beer.

"He was a foolish fellow to lose a thing like this," Bruce said. "It's

Amabel and Valerie agreed and they did it ample justice. But the other
matter was still very much in their minds.

"I suppose Andrew Cradon will become Sir Andrew?" Amabel remarked.

"Hedley once told me it was a good thing he was in Ireland when the baby
was stolen," Valerie said, "Or it might have been thought he had a finger
in it."

"I suppose he was in Ireland?" Bruce said. -

"There is no doubt about that," Amabel replied. "He was with a friend of
mine and there was a strike conference at the time."

"He told me," Valerie added, "that if the baby died, his wife would some
day be Lady Cradon. I said it would be hateful to get a title like that."

"He did not ask if you would like to be Lady Cradon?" Bruce asked. He
tried to speak lightly, but there was a queer feeling in his heart.

Valerie laughed.

"He did not get as far as that."

"Titles don't bring 'appiness," Croonie said, "no more than marryin'
does. Most women spend 'alf their lives getting a 'usband and the other
'alf wishing they 'adn't."

"It is an odd thing," Amabel remarked, looking thoughtfully at the girl
she had declared to be Sir Lionel's daughter, "we hear a lot about equal
rights for women, but no one suggests that titles should descend in the
female line. Why not? If a duke has six daughters and no son, would it
not be better for his oldest daughter to be the duchess than for the
title to go to the wife of some distant cousin?"

"If the daughter-duchess married Mr. Smith," Bruce asked, "would Mr.
Smith become a duke?"

"No. But their son would. There are a few families where the title
descends in the female line, why not all? It happens to royalty; why not
to others, right down the scale?"

"It gives a better chance, as things are, for the title to die out,"
Bruce said. "Is not that a good thing?"

"Perhaps. But if men are created earls, why should women be fobbed off
with a mere D.B.E.? Who wants to be a dame, anyway? If I ever broadcast
again, my theme shall be equal honours for women."

"No, Mummie," Valerie laughed. "Stick to your good cooks and happy homes.
It is a far far better thing and it wants rubbing in."

But their thoughts turned again to less cheery themes. It was Valerie who

"Unless it was done for spite, what would anyone gain by changing that
sweet baby for a doll and then drowning it at Bournemouth?"

No one was prepared with an answer. Bruce told them he was calling on his
uncle and wondered if the old man would have heard of the discovery.
Croonie provided them with a wonderful trifle, followed by excellent
coffee. Then he had to go.

"Thank you for my marvellous lunch," he said to her. "The only sad thing
about it is that it rather spoils Miss Legh's theory that good food keeps
the husband at home."

"E would 'ave stayed at the swill-tub all right if I 'ad let 'im," she
replied, "but 'e would never raise a finger except to 'it me. So out 'e

There was no one in the hall of Westbourne House when Bruce arrived. He
took himself up by the lift and then ascended the little staircase to his
uncle's suite. He was admitted by Mrs. Strawn, who favoured him with the
nearest approach to a smile she had ever been guilty of. She showed him
into the sitting-room where the old man was occupying his usual seat by
the window. There was a table by his side and on it lay a copy of the
Evening Comet with its grim announcement. He looked almost as though he
had not moved since his nephew had last called. His attire was the same
and the expression with his bricky red face and white hair was unaltered.

"Good afternoon, Uncle. I see you have the news as to Lady Cradon's

"Strawn told me. Your friend, Major Bennion, came with Inspector Warren
in a police car and took Lady Cradon to identify it."

It was almost the longest speech Mr. Pursey had ever made him. It seemed
that the remarkable happening rendered him less abrupt and more willing
to talk.

"It is a tragic ending to the affair," Bruce said. "One feels very sorry
for Lady Cradon and hopes the police will catch the villains responsible
for it."

"The police have not shown much intelligence so far." There was a pause.
Then the old man said, more in his old gruff style: "So you are still

"Yes. I ought to have joined my ship, but I had an accident and was
unable to do so."

"Wanted to get out of it?"

"Not at all. I was very disappointed, but it was not my fault."

"What happened?"

Bruce told him of the Gertrude Willows letter and his call at Byng Place
and the trouble that befell him.

"I was completely knocked out and they sailed without me. Luckily Major
Bennion was able to explain matters and I shall be taken on in the next

"A woman in the case, I suppose," was the caustic comment.

"No, Uncle, you are wrong. I never met this Gertrude Willows, but I had
heard her name. Had I known more of her I might have been aware that she
is in prison and therefore the letter must be bogus."

"She is in prison?"

"She gave a false name when she was arrested. Luckily Major Bennion knew
about it and he came along at once and helped to rescue me. Otherwise I
would have had a poor chance."

His uncle seemed to consider this for some moments. Then he said:

"What are the police doing about it? Surely they won't let a thing like
that happen and do nothing?"

"Inspector Warren saw me, but I could not tell him much. They are still
making enquiries."

"What enquiries?"

"Who had access to the house. What the neighbours saw, and that sort of
thing. I have not yet heard what they discovered."

"No arrest."

"Not that I have heard of."

"But why do they think you are concerned in the baby case?"

"They don't," Bruce said. "They think that was just a trick to get me to
the house in the hope of a share of the reward. But why anyone should
play such a trick and want to get rid of me is more than I can imagine."

"You have no idea what is behind it?"

"Not the remotest."

"Well, my boy, you are alive and well. That is all that matters. It is
worth a drink. Open that cupboard and bring out the bottle and glasses."

Pleased at this genial gesture, the first time there had been any offer
of hospitality, Bruce opened the door of an angle cupboard and took out a
bottle of brown brandy and one glass.

"Afraid I am not a brandy drinker, Uncle. Thanks all the same. Let me
pour out some for you."

"Nonsense, nonsense!" the old man said testily. "Do you good."

Bruce took a small drink and gave his uncle a more generous one. It was
tossed off quickly. Did that account for the high colour?

"Afraid I was a bit short when you came before, my boy, but I am dead
sick of people who are only out for what they can get. You seem
different. Come again if you feel like it, and let me know about that
funny business in Byng Street or Place, when you know any more. I don't
understand it and I don't like things I don't understand."

Bruce replied that he would, and for some moments there was silence. He
glanced round the room, noting, as he had done before, how bare and
comfortless it was. And suddenly he realised what gave that impression.
He had never been a frequent visitor, but he remembered, when he was
there before, brightness had been lent to the apartment by a number of
pieces of china. Old Bow and Chelsea he believed they were, and they were
said to be of considerable value. Now they were all gone. Did that mean
the old man really was hard up and that he had been compelled to sell his
treasures to pay his way? The solicitor had referred to the heavy burden
of taxation. Had it been even more severe than he imagined? He felt a
wave of sympathy. Perhaps the old fellow was not such a bad sort and
deserved pity.

 "Are you happy and comfortable here, Uncle?" he asked.

"What d'you mean?" The question was barked in the old fierce way.

"Please don't think me impertinent, but I suddenly thought a flat like
this, in such a good position, would really command quite a high rent."

"What if it would?"

"If you let it, you could live in rooms or an hotel for what you would
get and not be so lonely. You would be looked after and you would not be
bothered by your tenants."

He stopped. His uncle glared at him and he was afraid he had said too

"I live here because I like it," was the growled reply. "I like being
lonely and I can look after myself. I told you you could come again, but
don't think you can run my life for me. Good afternoon!"



DURING these happenings Ben Orgles had been busy on the task Roger
Bennion had given him. The day before the Comet made its startling
announcement, he had a chat with Joe Gassett, the assistant porter of
Westbourne House, and obtained from him a good description of Mrs.
Kingston, Lady Cradon's sister.

"How a woman can be honey to one man and vinegar to everybody else beats
me," Joe said.

Ben was cynical. "He'd have his vinegar when she'd got him. Angels before
marriage, devils afterwards. Plenty of women like that. But who is the

There Joe could give little help. He repeated what he had said to Major
Bennion, but could not add much to it.

"A smart, showy fellow, but I wouldn't trust him with a flyer--if I had
one," said Joe.

Ben, however, had little difficulty in identifying the couple in whom he
was interested. Having located the boarding house in which the lady was
staying, he loitered in the vicinity and was lucky enough to see her
coming out before he had been there very long. She was alone. She walked
up the street to the main road, where a man joined her. He was a big
fellow, handsome in a way, and with his dark brows, slouch hat and padded
shoulders, was not unlike the Punch drawings of his type, except that he
had real legs and feet. He raised his hat to the lady and they waited at
a bus stop. Ben saw a bus was coming and scrambled on it after them. They
went on top; he took a seat inside where he could see them quit.

They got off at the Marble Arch and went into a restaurant for lunch. He
secured a table not far away. He could not hear what they were saying,
but their conversation did not appear too agreeable. Perhaps the vinegar
was showing itself, though it seemed the man who was angry and the woman
who was trying to placate him.

Having started on his food with a few genial words to his waiter, Ben
asked him:

"That couple over there--do they come often?"

"He does."

"Believe I know him. George--no, I've forgotten it."

"Captain Fodwell."

"That's right. Pleasant fellow."

The waiter shrugged. "Not one of my regulars."

The meal concluded, the lady went off alone. Ben saw the man turn into
the cocktail bar. He decided he was the better quarry at the moment. He
knew where he could pick up the lady, but it would be good to discover
what he could of the man. He heard Captain Fodwell order a double whisky.

"Eh, that will do for me, too," he said to the barman, slipping into an
adjacent seat and speaking in his best imitation of a North-countryman.
He pulled out a well-filled note-case--though a folded sheet of newspaper
added to its opulence--and threw a pound note on the counter. Fodwell
eyed him with interest.

"Stranger to London?" he asked.

"Ay, in a manner o' speakin'. But I been to Lunnon afore. Coom up once
with the lads for a Coop final. A rare do."

"I hope the right side won."

"That depends which side you was on," Ben grinned. "Our lads took the
Coop. Whole town turned out to welcome 'em home."

"You are making a longer stay this time?" Fodwell enquired.

"Maybe I am," Ben said cautiously. "It a' depends."

"Business, I suppose?"

"You're wrong, mister. I've done wi' business. Made a bit of bra-ass and
want to enjoy myself. If it's to be Lunnon--it a' depends – "

"On the wife, I suppose," Fodwell smiled.

"Eh, no. Buried the poor lass ten years ago."

Ben was generally a truthful man, but he was also a firm believer in the
maxim that the end justifies the means. He had been told to discover all
he could about this Captain Fodwell and he knew the best way to do that
was to make Captain Fodwell curious about him. He appeared to be

"That was bad luck, you being still so young. Have another drink with

"No," Ben protested, "it's on me. Must pay me footin', as we say up hoom.
Same again, lad."

The barman refilled their glasses. Fodwell raised his.

"Here's to the first man I've met in donkeys years who's made money.
Mostly everyone I know is losing it. I don't want to be inquisitive, but
I would like to know the line."

Ben nodded in acknowledgment.

"Wool. There's nowt like wool. Mind you, I'm not sayin' it's what it was,
what with restrictions and purchase tax and utility goods an' all. But
still wool's wool." He paused a moment and winked. "Same time, I'm not
saying if you've made a bit it's not a sahnd thing to get out while the
goin's good."

"How right you are," Fodwell said. "Work hard, then play hard."

"Provided the game's worth it," Ben added with the former show of

"Perhaps I could help you. Allow me to introduce myself."

He took a card from his wallet. It told of Captain Godfrey Fodwell, late
Royal Tank Regiment, and gave as an address a Junior Military Club.

"Capt'in," Ben commented, evidently impressed. "Never did no fightin'
meself. Ain't got one of those cards, but most everyone in Leeds knows
Jim Blissett."

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Blissett," Fodwell said, and they shook hands.
"Now, what sort of fun do you want? Ladies?"

"Scared to death of 'em," Ben grinned.

"I don't think you would be if you met the right sort. What do you say to
a little business flutter that would make a nice profit and help you to
know a lot of pretty girls?"

"Eh, wants a bit of thinkin' over, that do," Ben said. "What sort o'

"Suppose you were to buy a night club?"

"A night club. Rather out o' my line."

"Fun, profit, and pretty girls," said the tempter.

"I might like to hear about it, but is it respectable?"

"I would not touch it otherwise," the captain assured him. "Mind you, you
would only get a share, and I can not even promise you that. I have a
partner. You would have to meet her, and she would have to agree."

If the partner was the lady he thought, Ben was anxious to meet her. But
he was not quite sure what he was entering upon. Night clubs are like
charity, if only in the one respect of covering a multitude of sins.

"A lady," he said in a tone of disappointment.

"It is like this," Fodwell explained. "I have an option to buy the place
and she is putting up part of the money. We want a bit more, but if she
doesn't get it we could let you in. I am never over optimistic, don't
believe in it, but if I say this is a little gold mine, the chance of a
lifetime, it is only because I want to be on the safe side."

"What's the price?" Ben asked.

"Ten thousand pounds."

"Ten thousand pahnds! Can't be much of a show for that. What's the
buildin' worth?"

"We are not buying the building. Don't want to. There is a rent of three
hundred a year. A mere trifle. A pound a night on a bottle of whisky or
champagne pays that. And do they sell one bottle? More likely fifty or a
hundred. What we pay for is the goodwill, the stock of wines and spirits,
the furnishings and every damn thing in the place. A going concern, lock,
stock and barrel, and pretty girls thrown in"

"It might be a'right."

"You shall see for yourself, Mr. Blissett. Where are you staying?"

"Near here," Ben said.

"Well, I've got to act quickly. Suppose you meet me and the lady for
lunch here tomorrow and we talk it over? No obligation on either side.
Then, if we agree, we can all go to the place in the evening and you
shall see it for yourself."

"Not expectin' me to tog up and a'?"

"I suppose you've got a dinner-jacket suit? That's all you need."

After another drink, for which Ben again insisted on paying, they parted
and Ben made his way back to Egerton Terrace. He reported his experiences
to Roger Bennion.

"You have made a good start," Roger said. "Carry on. I gave you a free
hand, but don't land me with a night club."

"I won't do that, sir," Ben grinned. "I don't know about the lady, but I
wouldn't be Fodwell's partner in a whelk stall. I expect he gave himself
his commission in the Tanks."

So the next day, the day that saw the Comet's announcement--"Cradon Baby
Found"--and caused the dash to Poole of certain interested parties, Ben
kept his lunch appointment. Fodwell and Mrs. Kingston were there when he
arrived. The former insisted on cocktails for them all and he also
insisted on paying for them. Mrs. Kingston was very gracious to the
potential partner and when they took their seats in the restaurant there
was at first no reference to the business they were to discuss. For that
there was a reason.

As it happened, no one of them had seen the Comet or heard its startling
news, but at the next table a man had a copy of the paper and Ben's
observant eye could not miss its striking headlines.

"Eh, 'scuse me," he said in his broadest tones, "but be that true?"

"Looks like if the man replied. "Not really surprising, is it?"

"What a terrible thing for the poor lady!"

"It is. You can have the paper if you like. I've finished with it."

He had finished his lunch, too. Ben thanked him and, taking the paper,
showed it to his companions. He noticed they looked at it and at one
another, but for some moments neither spoke.

"Now, I suppose," Fodwell remarked at last, to Mrs. Kingston rather than
to Ben, "no one gets that reward."

She did not reply and the meal seemed likely to be a silent one. Then
Fodwell said:

"Well, Blissett, we came to talk business and we had better get down to
it. I have discussed things with Mrs. Kingston and she is willing for you
to come in with us, but you understand it is strictly confidential. The
people would never forgive me if I let a word creep out. If it got known
round the town they were selling, it would do them enormous harm. Might
lose them a lot of their customers."

"S'pose it might," Ben agreed.

"Keep it under your hat. The place concerned is Purple Shades. Ever heard
of it?"

"Never," Ben said.

"It is really very well known," Mrs. Kingston remarked. "People recommend
it to one another."

"Very likely, ma'am. A bit out o' my line. Where is it?"

"Near here," Fodwell replied. "Behind Oxford Street."

"I thowt them places were mostly round Piccadilly Circus?"

"Not a bit of it, Blissett. A place gets a reputation and people come to
it from all parts of London."

"Think what a lot of people live round here who want a supper and dance,"
Mrs. Kingston added.

'What we suggest," Fodwell said, "is that we go there tonight and you see
it for yourself. The food they give, the entertainment and the crowd who
go there. See for yourself is my motto; we can discuss figures afterwards
if you are satisfied."

"What time do I get there?" Ben asked.

"Eleven," Mrs. Kingston said.

"Ten-thirty to get a good table," Fodwell suggested. "It may not be full
up before twelve, but you'll see the folk arriving. It will be the best
day's work of your life, Blissett; better than wool and no shrinking! And
what a show!" He winked broadly as though he could say more if a lady
were not present. The appointment was made.

That evening, before getting ready for his night adventure, Ben turned on
the wireless. He heard:

"Before the nine-o'clock news there is a police notice. The announcement
made by an evening journal that Lady Cradon's baby had been found is not
true. The body of a male infant was brought ashore in the vicinity of
Poole Harbour, as described in the journal, and it was wrapped in a shawl
bearing the initials L.C., but it is not Lady Cradon's baby. The police
are still anxious to hear of that baby and will also be glad of
information about this second child of approximately the same age. It
apparently died from natural causes, but the body has been in the water
for some days. Anyone who can throw light on either matter is asked to
communicate . . ."



This strange statement had been received too late to be included in the
B.B.C.'s six o'clock bulletin and, although the nine-o'clock news is
probably the most widely heard in the home, it is missed by those in
places of amusement. Thus it happened that when Ben Orgles met his two
prospective partners at Purple Shades neither of them had been told of

Purple Shades--its patrons, of course, often called it Purple Hades--had
commodious premises on the ground floor with kitchens, lavatories and
storerooms in the basement. Its decorations were in keeping with its name
and the lighting arrangements were of the most modern character. It had
little to distinguish it from other enterprises of its kind, but it
possessed an exceptionally able chef and its floor show was generally
good. Ben waited outside until his companions arrived; then, having
secured their table, they went to the cocktail lounge. He wore his
dinner-jacket suit, but Fodwell was in immaculate tails and Mrs. Kingston
had a really smart off-the-shoulder dress of bright-blue silk. She was
much made-up, but her expression was not amiable. She might have been
having words with her escort.

"S'pose you've heard the latest noos?" Ben said.

"About what?" Fodwell asked.

"Cradon baby. That paper was wrong."

"The body has not been found?" queried Mrs. Kingston, very interested.

"A baby has been found, that be trew; but 'tain't Lady Cradon's baby."
Ben told them of the B.B.C. announcement, watching to see its effect on

"What a foolish mistake," Fodwell said. "Then the reward still stands.
You ought to go back, Margaret."

"No," she said. "I cannot do that."

"You must. You were a fool to come away. I always told you so."

"I cannot go back. It is no good."

They looked angrily at each other, seeming for a moment to forget their
companion. Then Fodwell turned to him with a smile.

"We ought to tell you, Blissett, that Margaret is Lady Cradon's sister.
She went to comfort her in her trouble and we meant to invite her to join
us in this venture. You know how wealthy the Cradons are, but the poor
soul was too distressed to discuss any matter of business. So that is
where you come in. Lucky for you."

"That is true," Mrs. Kingston said, taking her cue from him. "Of course I
really went to help her, but that nurse of hers, whom I never trusted,
tried to set her against me. She also persuaded the cook to say I made
too much work. So I thought it best to go."

Ben had heard rather a different account of her departure, but he made no
comment. Fodwell said:

"I still think you should go back. After all, you are her sister."

"Not while she has those women there."

"Having come away, I admit it is difficult. Perhaps you could write to

She shook her head. Fodwell was obviously displeased, but he turned again
to Ben, waving his hand to the scene around them.

"What do you think of it, Blissett? Gorgeous, isn't it?"

"The place is a'right," Ben admitted, "but where be the people?"

"You wait, my boy. Presently there will hardly be standing room. If you
will excuse us, Margaret, I will show him some of the downstairs premises
and then we will eat."

He led the way to the basement. He seemed to know most of the attendants
and spoke to them by name. He invited Ben to peep into the kitchen. It
was impressive in its cleanliness, but he whispered that no word must be
said that would give a hint of their purpose. It might upset the staff.

When they sat down to their supper, many more people had arrived and
others were coming every minute. After a consultation with the waiter he
called Jules, Fodwell ordered an excellent repast and a magnum of

"When you are in Rome, you know," he said to Ben, "and a flyer more or
less is nothing to us when it will all soon be ours. You must enjoy
yourself and see what goes on. Think of the profit on the drinks alone."

Ben did enjoy himself. He liked a good meal and a glass or two of wine as
well as the next man. Such surroundings, if not new to him, were very
much out of the ordinary. The course of duty was sometimes decidedly
pleasant. Yet he was wondering how he was to get out of it. He had a
feeling he had learned as much of his companions as he was likely to do.
It had all happened remarkably quickly. Too quickly perhaps. Fodwell
would not stand for delay. He would want a prompt decision, probably with
a big deposit. But a night to think it over--could anyone object to that?
He need not have worried. The end was not of his making.

Couples were dancing. Fodwell asked Mrs. Kingston to dance with him. Ben,
grinning, told them to carry on, his dancing days were done. He declined
the offer of a partner, although Fodwell pointed to some attractive

The band was good of its noisy kind and then the floor was cleared for
the Purple Shades Belles. Six shapely damsels gave acrobatic dances,
remarkable for their agility and precision. They wore silken tunics and
Turkish trousers of gossamer texture that took all the colours thrown on
them and then, with a change of light, proved so transparent that the
damsels appeared to be wearing nothing at all. The applause was
considerable, and Ben, reprobate as he was, was glad his wife did not
witness his enjoyment.

Songs at the piano followed, given by a man who played well and had a
pleasing voice. The words were naughty but witty. He received an ovation.
It was to hear him that many of the people came. When dancing
recommenced, a head-waiter came to Captain Fodwell and asked if he would
go to the manager's office.

Rather surprised, he got up to comply.

"We go, too," Ben whispered to Mrs. Kingston.

She nodded and they followed a little behind the others across the floor
and down a passage. The door of a room was opened and they heard someone
say: "That is the man!"

They entered the room.

"Who are these people?" another person asked, pointing to the intruders.

"We are his partners," Mrs. Kingston said, somewhat aggressively.

"Then you can come in."

To Ben's practised eye the scene spoke for itself. Two big men,
undoubtedly police officers, were in morning clothes. A small man,
obviously excited, was the one who had first spoken. Beside him was a
foreigner in evening dress.

"Captain Fodwell," said one of the big men--Ben ranked him as an
inspector, "this is Mr. James Grant. He accuses you of obtaining the sum
of one thousand pounds from him as a deposit on the purchase of this
place. Mr. Angelino here, the owner, says the place is not for sale and
never has been. He received no deposit. What have you to say?"

Fodwell looked like a cornered rat. He was trying to think of a reply,
but Mrs. Kingston, perhaps unwisely, forestalled him.

"It is not true," she said shrilly. "I gave Captain Fodwell the thousand
pounds for the deposit. The agreed price was ten thousand."

"But-a this is mad-house," cried Mr. Angelino. "My beautiful club is
not-a for sale. Ten t'ousand pounds--I would not-a take fifty t'ousand!"

"Fodwell brought me here," Mr. Grant said. "He told me it was for sale
for ten thousand and I paid him a thousand on account. Here is his
receipt." He waved a piece of paper. "I was to return to Scotland the
next day, but was delayed. So I thought there was no harm in seeing Mr.
Angelino. He told me I had been cheated, so I went to Scotland Yard."

The inspector nodded.

"Who are you?" he asked the lady.

"I am Mrs. Kingston. He had a thousand pounds from me but I have had no
receipt. It is true. He told Mr. Blissett so."

"Who are you?" The question was to Ben, who favoured them with his usual

"I am Ben Orgles, butler to Major Roger Bennion, late of the R.A.F. and
formerly sergeant in B division, Metropolitan Police."

He could hardly have given them a greater surprise. Mrs. Kingston
recoiled from him. Fodwell glared with hate. The inspector said:

"What are you doing here?"

"My master, Major Bennion, knew that this man had some designs on this
woman, and, her sister being a friend of his, he told me to try and find
out what he was up to. By chance"--Ben winked at the inspector--"I met
him in a bar and he offered me a share in this establishment. He said he
had an option to buy for ten thousand pounds and Mrs. Kingston was
putting up a thousand."

"Ten-a-t'ousand!" Angelino muttered, with a gesture of extreme

"You damned liar!" Fodwell cried. "You told me you were Jim Blissett of

"Neither of us very truthful, were we?" Ben beamed.

"What do you actually know of this man Fodwell?" the Inspector asked the

"Me? Nozzing; nozzing whatever. He come-a to me and he ask would I pay
heem commission if he bring-a parties to my 'ouse. I say yes for real
parties, if he let me know. So he come-a sometimes, but no party."

"Did you ever instruct him to effect a sale?"

"Never at all."

The two policemen conferred in undertones for a few moments. The
inspector said to Fodwell: "Ever heard of a man called Alexander

Fodwell looked startled. "Never," he said.

"Alexander Cattermole got the keys of a house and advertised it for sale.
He obtained deposits from fourteen different people to buy it and then he
disappeared. We have been looking for him and I think we have found him.
Similar trick really."

"I don't know what you mean," Fodwell muttered,

"Maybe not. We shall soon see. Meanwhile you are under arrest on the
charge of obtaining money by false pretences from Mr. Grant. You can make
a statement at headquarters if you want to. I shall require statements
from you others. Further charges may follow."

Mrs. Kingston was almost in a state of collapse. After a time Ben offered
to take her home and she was glad to agree. Possibly her distraught state
made her more communicative than she otherwise would have been.

"That wicked man," she moaned, almost weeping. "Shall I get my money

"Perhaps some of it," Ben said. "He probably meant to get all he could
from as many of us as possible and then to disappear, like the man with
the house deposits did. I expect he was that man."

"I let him have a thousand pounds. He said I should receive at least
fifty pounds a week. He wanted me to let him have more. He said when it
was all settled we would get married. But I haven't much more. I couldn't
risk it all."

"You had a narrow escape," Ben told her. "Whatever sentence he gets won't
be too much."

"But I hated Major Bennion. Did he really send you to help me?"

"He did. He thought Fodwell was up to no good. He wondered if he had been
concerned in kidnapping Lady Cradon's baby."

"Oh no. He knew nothing about that. It was his suggestion that I should
go to my sister as soon as we heard of it."

"To interest her in the Purple Shades?"

"That was what he said, but I found it impossible to talk to her about
it. She would not listen. Then he thought as I was there I might learn
something, and between us we might get the reward. But the nurse was in
the way. My sister was too fond of her."

"How d you get to know Fodwell?" Ben asked.

"At a restaurant. I had to go out sometimes; it is so awful to be with
the same dreary people every night. We got talking. He said he had the
chance of a fortune, but wouldn't tell me about it. Then we met again
and. . . oh, my money!"

She sobbed. Ben was glad the journey was a short one.



"DADDY often said that the plots of nearly all our romances could be
found in the Bible," Ruth remarked to Roger at breakfast the next

They had been discussing the latest phases of the Cradon case. He had
told her of his experiences the day before and of Ben's adventures.

"Expatiate," he said.

"Well, for actual romance, there is Jacob's seven years for Rachel. For
the confidence trick, Jacob's deception of his old father to cheat his
brother. The woman scorned, Mrs. Potiphar. Glamour girl and strong man,
Delilah and Samson. Spy story, the two men hidden in Jericho and let down
by a rope over the city wall. Match-making mother, Naomi and Ruth.
Passion and treachery, David and Uriah. Of course, there are lots more."

"The Very Rev. taught you well, my dear. In the Apocrypha there is also
the father of detective stories."

"I don't think I know that one," she said.

"You must. The fair and beauteous Susanna, a young married woman, bathing
in her garden, was espied by two wicked, old men and they lusted for her.
But she refused them. They said if she did not yield to their desires
they would say that they had disturbed her with a young lover. She still
refused and the next day they accused her publicly. As they were elders
and judges, they were believed and Susanna was led away to be executed,
that being the law. But a sleuth appeared, one Daniel. He told the people
they were wrong and had the two accusers separated. Under which tree did
this dreadful thing happen? he asked the first. Under the cedar tree,
said villain number one. Then he asked the second, under which tree? And
he said under the sycamore. So the people knew they were lying and they
were both slain, to the joy of the public, the relief of Susanna and the
lasting fame of the sleuth."

"I do remember the story," Ruth said.

"Of course you do. But what is behind this Biblical  research?"

"The judgment of Solomon."

"I don't quite follow," Roger said.

"Two women had babies of the same age in the same house. One night one of
the babies died. Its mother put it beside the other mother who was asleep
and took the live child as her own."

"I know that part and I know Solomon's drastic judgment, but I do not
quite see the application."

"Of course it may be wrong, but it shows such things can happen," Ruth
said. "The baby found at Poole had died a natural death. Suppose its
mother changed it for Lady Cradon's baby and so it was found in that

"Solomon's woman acted on impulse and there was no one else in the house.
Our affair must have been the work of a small gang. The baby was changed
for a doll, the other change must have happened later. There was the
buying of the second pram, the garage in which it was hidden, the car
that drove the child away--it took a lot of planning. Would all the
people concerned run the risks they did just to supply some bereaved
mother with a foster-child? It doesn't seem likely. Yet it is a clever
idea, darling, and I must think it out. It might fit in somewhere."

"I hope it will," Ruth said, pleased with his praise. "I do wish we could
help Lady Cradon."

"So do I, precious. Meanwhile we are pretty much where we were. I think
we can take it that Ben's summary of Mrs. Kingston and the man Fodwell is
correct. It is good to clear them out of the way, though I never really
suspected her. There was no motive except spite. She may be spiteful
enough, but it is too big a business for her. That she was playing
Fodwell's game and trying to get her sister to hand over something to him
before he did his disappearing trick is much more likely."

"But he must be wicked enough for anything," Ruth said.

"True, but he was too busy on the Purple Shades swindle to start on
something else. What fools women will be for the man who talks of
marrying them!"

"Lonely, probably."

"Both she and her late husband were gamblers. Anyway, we are quit of
them. We have to find who stole the baby, who changed it for another
baby, where it now is, who threw the second into the sea and why. And how
it all links up with the attack on young Bruce."

"You think that comes into it?"

"I have a feeling it does," Roger said, "though I cannot see how. Some
problem, isn't it?"

"I have a feeling you will solve it," said his trusting wife. "What are
you doing today?"

"This morning I attend a meeting of the Society of Peacemakers. I sent a
small donation and I have been put on the committee. I think nearly
everyone is on the committee, but they don't all turn, up. I am rather
anxious to meet Master Hedley. I have not seen him since we parted
somewhat angrily at his lady's flat. I am curious to see what he will do
about it."

"Will you tell old Mr. Cradon of his son's affair?"

"Certainly not," Roger said. "I do not know either of them well enough.
It is not a thing in which we could interfere, except to save Valerie
from a mistake."

"Do you think the Cradons will interfere about the baby?" Ruth was a very
beautiful and charming young woman, but she had her fair share of
feminine curiosity.

"You mean, will they try to show that the baby found in the sea is really
the little Sir Lionel and therefore old Cradon becomes Sir Andrew?"

"They are entitled to proof, aren't they?"

"They certainly are," Roger said. "It is a matter of public concern."

He rang the bell and Ben Orgles came into the room. Roger had
complimented him on his handling of the Fodwell affair and had rewarded
him for his work.

"I have another bit of sleuthing for you, Ben."

"Glad to hear it, sir." Ben grinned. "Keeps me young."

"And feeds you well. But there is no champagne this time. You are to be
the invisible man."

"Am I built for the part, sir?" Ben put his hands anxiously on his
curving waistcoat.

"The invisible man is not the one we don't see but the one we do not
notice. A certain young lady, Evadne Peters, called Vadny by her
associates, has a flat on the first floor at Chinnock Street, off the
Charing Cross Road. I want you to find out all you can about her. Hedley
Cradon is a frequent visitor, but I hope to hear more of her than that.
Don't get to know her, just watch."

"A shadow," Ben chuckled.

"An invisible one," Ruth laughed. "We have to think of Bessie."

When Roger arrived at Lowndes Street, he noticed a number of cars already
drawn up outside the office of the Society of Peacemakers. Apparently the
meeting was to be well attended. He found the room already full. Mr.
Andrew Cradon had a central seat on a dais. Hedley sat on one side of him
and Miss Pleyall, the indefatigable secretary, on the other. Among those
near the front was Amabel Legh, looking very smart in a dark-blue
costume. There was a fair sprinkling of other women and some few
clergymen. Roger took a chair at the back. He was, however, seen by
Hedley, who at once left his exalted position to come to speak to him.

"May I have a word with you, Major Bennion?"

He led the way to the entrance passage, where they could talk without
being overheard.

"I feel I owe you an apology. I do not know what came over me to act as I
did and I was sorry for it afterwards. I think you will appreciate that
it was a bit of a shock to find someone apparently intruding in one's
private affairs, but I hope you bear no ill-will."

He spoke pleasantly. Probably, Roger thought, he was taking the wisest
line in the circumstances.

"I bear no ill-will. There was an idea your lady friend might be in some
way concerned in the attack on Bruce Kelsall. If she was not, there is no
harm done."

"She certainly was not," Hedley said. "Kelsall did scrape up an
acquaintance with her, but she did not give him another thought."

"I am glad to hear it. Provided my friends are not affected, your way of
living is no affair of mine."

Roger spoke meaningly. He was thinking of Valerie Legh and Hedley knew
it. But no reply was made; there was a call from the council chamber. The
meeting had begun.

"I am pleased to welcome so many of you today," Andrew Cradon was
saying. "We have been busy since we met a month ago and I think we can
record some good work. I would like first to refer to the broadcast by
Miss Amabel Legh on the starting of happy homes. She was speaking to
young men and she pointed out that wives chosen from those experienced in
homecraft, trained in domestic science, were the most likely to make good
mates and contented homes. The effects of her address were remarkable.
Many people heard of our work for the first time and a vast
correspondence resulted, which brought us new members and valuable
subscriptions. I am hoping to arrange for Miss Legh to speak again, and
in the meantime I ask you to elect her a member of our executive council.
As you know, it is my privilege to invite those I think fit to join our
general committee, but you only can elect the council. I therefore
propose Miss Amabel Legh."

"I second that," said a gentleman in the front row, and it was carried
with acclamation. Amabel stood up.

"Thank you very much," she said. "I see little hope for family life in
the future unless wives and mothers get adequate help. I trust young men
will realise that domestic service, far from being degrading, is the
surest way for happy marriage."

There was more applause when she sat down and the chairman went on to
tell of the successful ending of the Belfast strike and of the adjustment
of quarrels in the domestic life in many homes. He said there were
rumours of another strike in the London docks and he presumed the
committee would approve of their attending there to do their best to
avert it. Then a clergyman got up.

"The two most destructive forces in family life are drink and gambling.
What is the Society doing about them?"

Mr. Cradon replied that in some of the cases that came to them those
troubles were present and they did their best to combat them. The Society
had its particular mission and could not engage in general controversies.

"The source of all our evils," another clergyman said, "is the lack of
religion. And religion is losing ground because there are too many
churches. When Roman Catholics, High Churchmen, Low Churchmen and half a
dozen different sorts of Free Churchmen claim to worship the God of Love
and the Prince of Peace, and quarrel and fight among themselves, how can
the ordinary man listen to them? What is the Society doing to bring them

With something of a sigh, Mr. Cradon got up.

"Mr. Nettlerush has raised that question before. We are non-political and
non-sectarian. I believe mighty forces are working for the unity of the
churches and that work we should support, but we must keep to our own
particular sphere of action."

A lady began: "The influence of the cinema and in particular of gangster
films--" but several people cried "Order!" and she sat down.

"What about the crime wave?" someone else asked. "Do we believe in
capital punishment and flogging?"

"Certainly not," Mr. Nettlerush answered. "Brutality cannot be cured by
more brutality."

Several started speaking at once and this time the chairman called for
order. Roger, listening, saw that to run a peace society was not as easy
as it sounded. Did all cranks flock to a new movement to get its support
for their particular creed or hobby? The chairman said:

"I really must ask you to remember our own objective. When a quarrel, big
or little, comes to our notice, we do our utmost to make peace. We are
agreed on that. If we took part in all the controversies of the day, we
should fall out among ourselves. That we must at all cost avoid."

"When is the Society going to publish its accounts?"

This came from a little man sitting near Roger. It was followed by a

"I beg your pardon?" Mr. Cradon said.

"When is the Society going to publish its accounts?" the man repeated
more loudly. He was a Mr. Randolph-Smythe. Mr. Cradon rose to his feet.
He looked embarrassed.

"I admit," he said in a rather hesitating way, "that we have not
published accounts in any comprehensive form; but the council sees the
list of all subscriptions received and is satisfied that they do not meet
our expenses."

"I suggest," Mr. Randolph-Smythe said, "that a society that appeals for
public support is bound to let it be known what money it receives and how
it spends it."

There were several cries of "Hear! Hear!" and Mr. Nettlerush asked:

"Why are the accounts not published?"

Mr. Cradon did not reply and Mr. Randolph-Smythe was on his feet again.

"I do not wish to appear hostile to our chairman, for whom I have great
admiration, but I have raised this question in the interests of the
Society and because I think reticence on the matter may be doing us harm.
A friend in Belfast has sent me a copy of a local paper. You may regard
it as a scurrilous rag, but it is read by working people there and is
likely to be copied elsewhere. This is what it says?'

He produced the sheet and started reading.

"It is claimed that the settlement of the recent strike was largely due
to the intervention of the Society of Peacemakers. What is this society?
So far as we can ascertain, it publishes no accounts and is largely run
by a man called Andrew Cradon. How much of its funds does Andrew Cradon
appropriate for his services? No one knows. How much is paid to his son,
Hedley, who was much in evidence here at the time? We are not told. We
advise workers everywhere not to be bamboozled by the interference of
these people. We suggest the so-called Peacemakers are in fact supported
and subsidised by Big Business, who, under a cloak of goodwill and
philanthropy, seek to rob their dupes of their just dues."

There were cries of "Shame!" as he stopped. Mr. Cradon pale and obviously
upset, jumped up.

"I thank Mr. Randolph-Smythe for drawing our attention to this
mischief-making article. Our greatest enemies are those whose object is
to foment trouble. I can promptly reply to the two main questions. How
much do I appropriate for my services? Nothing. I have never received one
penny for my work for the Society. How much is paid to my son? Nothing.
He has an allowance or salary, but that is paid by myself alone. As to
the suggestion that we are the tools of Big Business, that is an absolute
lie. No trade concern of any sort contributes anything whatsoever to our

There was prolonged applause when he said this. He went on:

"As most of you know, I am not a poor man. I started this Society because
I believed it was needed. At first I bore the entire cost myself. I told
my friends about it and some of them desired to take a part. I welcomed
their aid because it meant we could enlarge the scope of our activities.
As we became known, more subscriptions poured in. I was glad of it, as it
enabled us further to extend our work. We have never really appealed for
funds and I hope you will let me say this: the Society's services are
free and at no time has our income equalled our expenditure. I have
always made good the annual deficit. That is why no accounts have been
published. I never sought to advertise the amount of my contributions."

Louder cheers broke out when he sat down. Mr. Randolph-Smythe rose again.

"What Mr. Cradon has told us is, I think, what we already knew or
expected. There is one more paragraph in this vile rag. When it is
disposed of, we can consider what steps we ought to take."

Again he read:

"'It would be interesting to know who was the charming lady that Hedley
Cradon entertained so lavishly and whether she was paid by this curious
society. Or did she labour for love?"

"My son will answer that," Mr. Cradon said.

Hedley got up. His face was flushed with anger.

"This paper ought to be prosecuted for libel. A lady helped me in my
work. Why not? She offered her services as secretary and I accepted them
gratefully. She was paid nothing, nor was she lavishly entertained.
Apology from the journal should be demanded."

This was applauded, and the man who had seconded the election of Amabel
Legh to the council got up.

"We all appreciate the motive that induced our chairman to refrain from
publishing the extent of his own good work. 'Let not your right hand know
what your left hand is doing' is a good maxim and one that is perhaps
less observed than it should be. But we are also told not to hide our
light under a bushel, and, as Mr. Cradon's modesty and self-restraint can
lead to misunderstanding, I move that in future our accounts be
published. I also suggest a lawyer's letter be sent to this newspaper,
giving them the facts and asking for a full retraction and apology,
failing which, legal advice will be taken as to appropriate action."

This was discussed at some length and agreed. The meeting then dispersed.
Roger found Amabel proposed to walk home and she was pleased for him to
go with her.

"Major Bennion," she said after a time, "do you think there was anything
in that insinuation about Hedley?"

He avoided a direct reply. "You are thinking about Hedley and Valerie and

"I am," she owned. "I am really worried about it. Hedley has not been to
see us for the past two or three days. Valerie and Bruce are together a
great deal. Of course, I only want her happiness but young girls do not
realise all that marriage means. I really wish Bruce had gone in his ship
as arranged."

"And left the coast clear for Hedley?"

"Well--a young sailor, however charming he may be, has not much to offer
a girl, has he?"

"I agree that Valerie is too young to think of marriage, but from what I
know of Hedley--I repeat, from what I know--I am sure Bruce could make
her far happier than Hedley ever will. Please do not encourage that young
man. You will regret it all your life."

"You think another woman was with him?"

"I should think it not unlikely, but I know he has other commitments."

Amabel was silent for a time. Then she said, "Thank you for telling me."

Roger then put a question.

"Does Andrew Cradon know you were married to his brother?"

"He has no idea of it. I sometimes wish I had said nothing about it,
especially after all the trouble Lady Cradon has had. But I was bound to
do my best for Valerie."



AN ENQUIRY into the death of a child can seldom have aroused such keen
interest as that shown in the case of the infant drawn from the water of
Poole Harbour. Who was it? If not little Lionel Cradon, how came it to be
wrapped in the shawl he was wearing when he disappeared?

The Comet newspaper had to accept the Scotland Yard statement as set out
by the B.B.C., but it ate no humble pie because its bold assertion was
declared untrue. On the contrary, it took to itself great credit for the
discovery of the body and demanded that the double mystery must be
cleared up. Where was little Lionel? Who was the child found in his

Roger Bennion decided to attend the inquest and he took Bruce Kelsall
with him. Bruce had time on his hands and felt, as one who was present
when Lady Cradon's baby was first missed, he had a special interest in
the matter. He was also curious to see how such enquiries were conducted
. They went by road.

"Any more news of that queer attempt on yourself?" Roger asked him as
they left London behind.

"Not so far as I know:“ Bruce said. "I had another talk with Inspector
Warren. He told me people in the street had seen a man entering and
leaving the house, but they supposed he was an official of the borough
council. No one could give a clear description of him and their ideas
varied considerably."

"They generally do. You have had no other mysterious communication? You
have not been followed in the street?"

"Nothing of the sort. Of course, it bothers me a bit, but I cannot see
why anyone should be interested in me."

"All the same," Roger said, "you had better keep your weather eye open,
or else leave London until it is time for you to sail."

"I will be careful," Bruce laughed, "but I do not want to go away just

On account of Valerie, Roger thought, but he did not say it. "You may not
know the reason," he remarked, "but no one would engineer an elaborate
thing like that without some very definite motive."

They sped through the beautiful though familiar countryside and did not
speak a great deal. At one point Roger said:

"Heard or seen any more of that rather queer old uncle of yours?"

"I called on him as you suggested and he was really quite friendly. He
said he would like to see me again and would let me know. But I haven't
heard yet."

"Tell me if you do. He interests me."

The court where the enquiry was to be conducted was already well filled
when they arrived. Roger noticed a few people he knew. Lady Cradon and
Florrie Spaight had been brought down by Mr. Angell, the solicitor. He
was there in a double capacity: as her friend and adviser and also as
trustee for little Sir Lionel. Neither Andrew Cradon nor his son was
present, but it was not impossible they were represented. The press was
much in evidence, there were several doctors, and the local fisherfolk
made a good showing.

When the jurors had been sworn and had complied with regulations as to
seeing the body, the coroner, Dr. Petshaw, addressed them.

"Those of you who have had experience of these cases may know that in the
ordinary way you have to be satisfied first as to the identity of the
deceased person; secondly, as to how he or she met their death; and
thirdly, whether blame attaches to anyone in connection with the matter.
Today we may be able to do none of these things. There are features in
the case more strange than I have ever met before. You may have read
statements in the press; if so, you must entirely disregard them and
concern yourselves only with the sworn evidence that will be placed
before you. Call Evan Silver."

Evan Silver, having taken the oath, said that he was on the reporting
staff of the London Evening Comet. While on holiday he had gone out
fishing with his uncle, Reuben Silver, of Poole. Somewhere off
Bournemouth Bay the net had brought in a package which when opened proved
to contain the body of a male infant. He had concluded it was the baby
son of Lady Cradon, who had been missing for some time. He had notified
the police and his newspaper.

"You did not get any confirmation as to the child's identity?" the
coroner asked.

"No, sir. I had been covering the case for my paper and I felt no doubt
whatever in the matter. The age of the child and the fact that it was
wrapped in a shawl of which I had seen a description and which bore the
initials L.C. seemed conclusive."

"But you could have waited a day or two?"

"Well, sir," Silver smiled, "first with the news is our motto and I saw
no reason for waiting. I am very sorry if a mistake was made."

"Can you identify this shawl as the one in which the child was wrapped?"
He was handed the large, finely woven shawl.

"Yes, sir. And those are the initials."

The two fishermen, Reuben and his partner, gave brief confirmatory
evidence and Dr. Edwards followed.

He said he was called in by the police to examine the body, that of a
male child of about one year old. There were no signs of violence and he
could trace no poison. He was satisfied that death had occurred before
the body was put into the water. The child was well-nourished, but there
had been some lung trouble. He had asked the official pathologist to
confirm his conclusions.

The pathologist, a man of very wide experience in these unhappy cases,
then took the stand. He agreed with Dr.  Edwards. The absence of water in
the lungs showed that death was not due to drowning, but there were very
definite signs of pneumonia and that, in his opinion, was the cause of
death. Infection by micrococcus lanceolatus was unmistakable.

"Can you suggest any reason why a child that died a natural death should
be put into the sea in this way?" the coroner asked.
"That is hardly in my province," was the rather tart reply. "It might
have been intended that the child should be mistaken for someone else,
but I deal with facts not theories."

"Can you give the jury any idea how long the body may have been in the

The pathologist gave some rather gruesome details, but said a precise
time could not be put. Probably twelve to fourteen days; not less than
seven, not more than twenty.

Then Lady Cradon was called. She was pale, almost haggard, but she bore
herself with outward composure. The coroner made a few sympathetic
remarks, then he said:

"I believe your baby son was stolen from you a short time ago?"

"That is so."

"In spite of the efforts of the police and the offer of a reward, he is
still missing?"


"You were shown the announcement that he had been found and you came down
here to identify him. What did you find?"

"It was not my son."

"Can you tell the jury why you are so sure of that?"

"A mother knows her child. There was not really a great resemblance. My
baby has blue eyes, this has brown. My baby had a birthmark like a tiny
brown egg on his left thigh, this baby has not."

"Thank you. You have seen the shawl in which this baby was wrapped. Is it
similar to the one your baby was wearing?"

Again he held up the gossamer garment. Lady Cradon was visibly affected,
but she said she was convinced it was the same one.

"You cannot suggest how it can have been wrapped round this other child?"

"I cannot."

In watching the scene Roger wondered if his wife Ruth, with her knowledge
of Bible stories, would have seen any parallel with the case of the coat
of many colours. "We found this dipped in blood, can it be thy son
Joseph's?" Had the story a modern application?

The coroner was holding up other garments. One was a tiny woollen vest,
the other a white linen robe.

"These also were found on the child. Can you recognise them?"

"No," Lady Cradon said; "my baby had nothing like them."

She was allowed to leave the box and Florrie Spaight took her place. She
said she was little Sir Lionel's nurse and she confirmed all that Lady
Cradon had told them. Her voice was only just audible, but her evidence
was most definite. She identified the shawl, but repudiated the other

"How can you be so sure?" the coroner asked.

"I handled all his clothes. There was a tiny tear in the edge of the
shawl. I repaired it."

She showed the neat stitches that were her work.

"But the other garments?"

"They are different. Of course, my baby had vests, but he was wearing a
silk one. The other is a nightgown. Ours are not like that; they have
more embroidery. He was not wearing a nightgown."

"Are daygowns and nightgowns very different for a baby?"

"Ours are," Florrie said.

The coroner was not going to argue about that. "What about quality?" he

Florrie was not a clergyman's daughter for nothing. "You cannot tell
anything by quality. A poor mother may put better work into her baby's
clothes than a rich one. Our nightgowns are finer, but he was not wearing
a nightgown."

Dr. Petshaw knew his limitations and he called another medical man, Dr.

Dr. Benson of Hans Place, London, said he had attended Lady Cradon when
her son was born. He swore to the birthmark and stated the child had
never had any lung trouble. The infant found in the water was a different
child altogether.

Then photographs were produced that demonstrated the existence of the
mark and showed the babies, though similar in many respects, were unlike
in others. The coroner said:

"I do not think we can carry the case any further today. We have proved
beyond question that this is not Lady Cradon's son, but who he is we have
still to learn. I think we can accept the evidence that, so far as the
cause of death is concerned, this unknown child died from inflammation of
the lungs, commonly called pneumonia, and there is no indication of foul
play. Although, of course, neglect can amount to foul play, should it be
deliberate. The mystery of the clothing is very baffling. That the shawl
is the identical shawl Lady Cradon's baby was wearing when he disappeared
seems undoubted, but the other garments are different. Why a child that
died a natural death should be cast into the sea is also most baffling.
We must leave the matter in the hands of the police. I trust anyone who
can give them any information will do so. I should like to thank Lady
Cradon for the assistance she has given us. It must have been most
distressing for her. I am sure we all hope her son will soon be restored.
The members of the jury will be notified when the case can be resumed."

Roger noticed that Chief Inspector Warren of the Yard was present. He, no
doubt, was hoping to learn something that would help his enquiries, but
it looked as though he might as well have stayed away. When the hearing
concluded, Warren joined the local officer, Inspector Jukes, who had the
matter in hand. Roger went across to them and found they were expressing
their disappointment, as they often do, with a certain amount of

"You think you handed the buck to us," Jukes was saying, "but you don't.
The shawl is most definitely yours, and, if the shawl, why not the baby?"

"You want us to fish in your waters?" Warren returned.

"The fishing is done. We want you to identify the catch."

"What steps have you taken locally?" Roger asked, knowing them both. "I
suppose pneumonia is a notifiable complaint?"

"It is. We have been to all the medical officers in the vicinity. No
deaths from pneumonia for several weeks of man, woman or child. We have
seen all the fishermen and boatmen plying for hire up the river from
Wareham, round the coast to Christchurch; not a clue."

"What is the idea of that?" Roger enquired.

"Because the body was found in Poole Bay or Bournemouth Bay, call it
which you like, it does not follow the child came from these parts. Motor
cars can get here from all over the country in a few hours. Someone
arrives in a car, hires a boat and when they are well at sea they drop a
bundle overboard. That is why we questioned the boat men, but they can't
help. Why Poole was chosen instead of the mouth of the Thames, or Dover,
or anywhere else, heaven only knows."

"More chance for the body to be picked up here," Roger suggested.

"Why did they want it to be picked up?" Warren asked.

There was no answer to that. The local inspector went on:

"We will do anything in reason, glad to, my point is that it is not a
local child. How could a local child get in that shawl?"

Driving Bruce back to London, Roger asked him what his impressions of the
proceedings had been.

"I was interested, but rather disappointed," Bruce said. "It was, of
course, necessary to show that the body found was not that of Lady
Cradon's baby, but that was all they did. Was a public enquiry needed for

"That was not quite all," Roger said. "It was established that this
infant, whoever it was, died a natural death. That is a very important
point, though it is a puzzling one. Some sort of proceedings were
necessary before the coroner could grant the order for the poor mite to
be buried."

"While I was waiting for you," Bruce told him, "I looked at some of the
people in the crowd. One man I was almost sure I had seen before and for
a time I couldn't think where. He is short and dark and has a scar on his
left cheek. Then I remembered I had seen him more than once at the back
of Westbourne House. The flats run from Sloane Street to Pavilion Road
and their trade entrance is there."

"I know Pavilion Road," Roger said. "It is mostly given up to garages and
workshops. What made you notice this man?"

"I hardly know. I went up Pavilion Road because I found it more
interesting than the main street. I saw him hanging about in a furtive
sort of way and wondered what mischief he was up to. So it was rather a
surprise to see him in court."

"He may have worked for one of the tenants and been interested in the
case. People do get drawn to inquests: a morbid taste and it would be
unusual to come so far, but when big rewards are offered a lot of
curiosity is stimulated. You did not learn any more?"

"I think someone called him Gilbert, but his group moved off and others
were pushing by."

"Gilbert might be a Christian name or a surname. It is worth bearing in



WHEN Roger and Bruce got back to Egerton Terrace they found Valerie with
Ruth and they gave them a full account of the day's doings.

"Then there is still hope so far as Lady Cradon is concerned?" Ruth said.

"Very definitely," Roger replied, "especially if your theory is correct,
but a mother having effected the change may be the least likely person to
make restitution."

"If the baby died a natural death," Valerie asked, "is it a crime to put
the body in the water? They do bury people at sea, don't they, Bruce?"

"Certainly they do, but it is properly done, with certificates and a
burial service."

"I don't know if you would call it a crime," Roger said. "It would
undoubtedly be an offence and liable to punishment."

"Could any mother find happiness with a baby that was not her own," Ruth
enquired, "knowing the terrible distress she had caused the real mother?"

'What can have happened to the other clothes?" Valerie wanted to know.
"If it was intended to make it appear that the baby found was little
Lionel, why leave some of the clothes and use only the shawl?"

"That is one of the points that worries me," Roger said. "I think it must
have been intended that the body should be recovered, otherwise the
parcel would have been weighted and it would probably have been dropped
outside tidal waters. If it was hoped it would be recovered, it seems
reasonable to suppose it was also hoped it would be taken for the Cradon
baby. But if so, why change some only of the clothes? I confess I cannot
yet see the answer."

They discussed the matter without finding any very conclusive solution,
and then Valerie told them that during the day she had had a call from
Hedley Cradon.

"He made me rather a wonderful suggestion," she said.

"Is it fit for us to hear?" Roger asked.

"Quite," she laughed. "He is interested in a theatre club. It owns a tiny
theatre and produces plays. He said if I would like to join he was sure
they would be glad to have me and I should get parts right from the
start. Of course, only small ones to begin with."

For a moment or two no one spoke. Evidently Hedley was still pursuing
her, despite his affair with Evadne Peers. Bruce looked grim, but it was
Ruth who put the question:

"What does your mother say about it?"

"I have not seen her yet, to tell her. Of course, she may not approve."

"Does Hedley act?" Bruce asked.

"Oh no," she laughed. "He chanced to hear about it and thought he would
let me know. He says the right way to learn to act is to act. Then you
see the effect on a real live audience. In the classes you only try to
please the teachers who may have rather old-fashioned ideas. Is he right?
Do tell me what you think, Major Bennion."

She was really only a child, and dreadfully in earnest. He did not want
to hurt her, but the thing had to be stopped.

"I am no expert in such matters," he said, "but I think you have to be
careful about your theatre club. Some have done fine work, producing good
plays and good players, but quite a lot are only mutual admiration
societies, the performers all wonderful to one another. I would rather
trust the trained teachers. Another thing is that not a few of the clubs
specialise in the private production of nasty plays that would not be
shown elsewhere and which healthy public would not support."

"You think I should refuse?" She was obviously disappointed.

"I am afraid, my dear, I do. There is no short and easy way to success.
But, of course, you will do as your mother advises."

"Mummie is almost sure to say no!"

"We had a theatre club in Fenchester," Ruth remarked, "and it was found
that the actors and actresses, learning to talk naturally in what was
little more than a back drawing-room, were quite inaudible in a real

"I suppose you would see a lot of Hedley," Bruce said. "He could come
whenever he liked. Is that what you want?"

Valerie turned on him. She had to be careful in what she said to her
friends, but she could at least take it out of her admirer.

"It is not that at all. Hedley does not come into it. It is my chance--or
isn't it? Do you disapprove because you think it would be bad for me or
because you dislike him?"

She was rather wrought-up and it was Roger who replied. "Need we confuse
things, my dear? I do not like Hedley, but I should never advise you
against anything I thought for your good merely because he recommended
it. Please believe that."

"I do," she said almost tearfully, "but it seemed so wonderful. I--I am
sorry. I think I will go home."

She ran from the room, no one trying to stop her. Bruce looked miserable
and undecided.

"Poor child!" Roger said. "Go after her, Bruce. She will probably hate
you if you do, but she will hate you worse if you do not."

Bruce dashed off.

Roger then had a talk with Ben Orgles. The ex-policeman-airman-butler
said he had been observing Evadne Peers as instructed but regretted he
had little to report. She seemed to be living a quiet life, but there was
no doubt that Hedley Cradon often spent the night with her.

"Have you spoken to her?" Roger asked. "I know you fancy yourself as that
innocent north-countryman at a loose end in wicked London."

"No, sir," Ben grinned. "You told me not to. I've tried three characters
in case Hedley Cradon should suspect me. I have seen them together and
they did not seem like love birds. Rather snappy, I thought, but I could
not hear much of what they said. I believe she is meeting someone for
supper tonight, so I thought I would be there. I might strike lucky."

"I hope you will," Roger said. "We have nothing against her and we may be
able to remove her from our list of possible accomplices, but we want to
be sure."

"Sorry we are sending you into such questionable company," Ruth smiled.

"I hope I can take care of myself," he grinned, "but I am only human."

After that Roger strolled along the busy Brompton Road to Sloane Street.
Joe Gassett, the assistant porter, was sunning himself outside Westbourne

"Strawn off duty?" Roger asked.

"No, sir. He is downstairs. Do you want him?"

"Not really. Is Lady Cradon in?"

"Yes, sir. Mr. Angell brought her back and she is lying down. She seemed
worn out, poor lady."

"Then I will not disturb her."

"I had a talk with the cook, sir," Joe said. "Miss Spaight told her what
had happened at Poole. It makes things all the queerer. A relief it
weren't our baby they found, but it don't help her ladyship much. Strawn
says while there's life there's hope. That's true enough--if there is

"You are right, Joe. Do you see much of your boss Mr. Pursey?"

"That I don't, sir. He goes out in the evenin' sometimes, but Strawn says
if we do see him we are not to speak. He don't like it."

"It is an odd thought," Roger remarked, "a hermit in Sloane Street. They
are generally supposed to seek more secluded places."

"Takes all sorts to make a world," Joe said philosophically.

"Right again, Joe. Is there a man named Gilbert who works here, for Mr.
Pursey or for any of the tenants?"

"Not that I know of. No men here at all, except, of course, casuals."

Roger nodded. Bruce's idea might be correct, but a lot of people were
employed in Pavilion Road.

"Sorry you have not won that reward yet," he said.

"So 'm I, sir. Not for want of tryin', 'cept that I don't really know
where to begin. Seemin'ly the p'lice ain't much better. I could do with
two thousand pounds. Almost as good as winnin' a football pool."

"What would you do with it?" Roger asked.

Joe grinned. "Start a business o' my own, but I ain't one o' the lucky
ones." He paused a moment and then enquired:

"You did say Gilbert? You didn't mean Jim?"

"It might be Jim Gilbert."

"Oh--Jim looks in occasionally and I believe he is Jim Gilbert, but we
always calls 'im Jim."

"Who is he?"

"Mr. Strawn's son-in-law. Married 'is daughter Emmie, though that was
before my time."

"Who is he? What does he do?" Roger was definitely interested, though he
tried not to show it too plainly.

"Something to do with cars. A garridge of 'is own, I believe; like what
I'd like to 'ave. That's what made me think of 'im."

"Near here?"

"Oh no. Somewhere in the country. I could ask Strawn if you like. We
don't see 'im very often."

"Don't trouble," Roger said. "It is of no importance." But was it? That
is what he asked himself as he walked away. Was this Jim Gilbert the man
Bruce had seen at Poole? If so, had it any significance? If Strawn had a
relative living in that vicinity, he might well try to get first-hand
information of a matter so vitally affecting one of the tenants of his
block. Yet Roger had a feeling he had got hold of something at last.

Later that night the feeling was to be strengthened.

Ben Orgles had heard Vadny tell Hedley Cradon that she was having supper
at the Albatross, a favourite haunt of hers. He did not hear who her
companion was to be, but the implication was that Hedley was not to be
there. The precise hour of the appointment was not mentioned, but it was
a likely bet that it would be after a show. To be on the safe side Ben
arrived at the restaurant in good time and waited outside for her to
arrive. He was wearing his dinner-jacket suit, but it was covered with a
long rain coat and he had a slouch hat that partially concealed his
features. He had also adorned himself with a formidable moustache. It was
probably unnecessary, but he loved dressing up and it was best to take no

As each taxi pulled up he managed to be approaching the entrance. It was
not long before Vadny appeared. She was alone. She paid her fare and
walked straight in. He followed. She went to the cloakroom. He got rid of
his coat and hat and waited. She entered the restaurant and had a few
words with the head waiter, to whom she was evidently well known. He
escorted her to a table. It was at the side against the wall, not the
position an interested eavesdropper would have chosen for her, but that
could not be helped.

The place was not very full, and after a quick survey Ben decided to take
the table next to hers. He told the head waiter what he wanted.

"Sorry, sir, that table is booked."

"My friend may be late," Ben said. "I told her I would be just there." He
handed over a pound note.

"Of course, sir, in that case--"

Ben sat behind Vadny so that he would be facing her companion. The
companion soon came. It was not a man but a woman. She was smartly
attired in a low-cut evening dress and her grey hair had been dressed in
the latest style.

She had a hard face, and Ben had the impression he had seen her before,
but he could not place her. Vadny jumped up and kissed her.

"So you've got here, Mum."

The woman nodded and sat down. Vadny Peers's mother would presumably be
Mrs. Peers, unless the daughter had married. But it did not follow; as an
actress, she might be using an assumed name. Anyway, to Ben it conveyed
nothing. He knew no Mrs. Peers, yet he somehow thought he knew this
woman. He listened, hoping to hear more, but they spoke in soft whispers
and the music of the band drowned what they might have said. Ben got up
and went to the door as though looking for his companion. He re turned
and sat in the other chair at his table, the chair that almost touched
Vadny's chair. Still he could hear nothing. He dropped his napkin and
groped near to the other table to retrieve it. As he did so there was a
lull in the music.

"…better keep away, Mum . . . nosing around… don't like it . . ."

He heard that. Vadny said it. But their voices again became inaudible.

He had his supper and they had theirs. There was nothing more he could
do, except to find out who the woman was and where she came from. Whether
what he had heard meant anything or nothing he could not tell. He knew
where he could pick up Vadny; would her "mum" lead to anything?

It was tantalising to be so near and to hear so little. Would they go
away together? In any event he must see it through.

But at last "mum" rose to go, and to go alone. As mother and daughter
kissed one another Ben slipped out, reaching the door first. The woman
asked the porter to get her a taxi. Ben hailed another. "Follow that
one"--the old familiar words.

It was a simple and not a long chase. Through Piccadilly, across Hyde
Park Corner, down Sloane Street, a turn to the right to Pavilion
Road--and a stop at the back entrance to Westbourne Court.

The woman alighted, paid her fare and went in at the tradesmen's
entrance. Then Ben knew.

The woman in the fashionable evening attire was one he had not only
previously seen, but seen fairly often, in drab working clothes and the
cheapest of hats. She was the wife of Strawn, the porter of the flats!



"You are sure it was Mrs. Strawn and you are convinced she is the girl's

This was Roger's question to Ben when he had his report the next morning.

"It was Mrs. Strawn all right, sir. I ought to have spotted her at first;
seen her often enough, 'specially when we lived in the street close by.
But you don't expect a char to appear as a duchess, pearl necklace and

"Fish paste?" Roger asked.

Ben blinked.

"Didn't you know that sham pearls are made from fish paste?"

"Always glad to learn, sir."

"It isn't the sort you put in sandwiches, but it is fish paste, all the
same. The scales of sardines and herrings treated chemically. Quite a big
industry. They call the stuff pearl essence."

"A new one on me, sir," Ben said. "I guess these were fish paste right

"Anyway," Roger said, "things are beginning to make some sort of pattern.
The Strawns have one daughter who is Hedley Cradon's lady and another
daughter who married Jim Gilbert, a garage proprietor who was at the
Poole enquiry yesterday. It doesn't add up to a lot, but it suggests
queer possibilities."

Ruth was with them. She enquired: "Are you thinking that Hedley Cradon is
really behind the kidnapping of little Lionel, and these people did it
for him while he was in Ireland?"

"It seems possible. It has always been in my mind. We must not forget
that Hedley and his father are heirs to the title and to a considerable
fortune if little Lionel is eliminated."

"You suspect Andrew Cradon? He seemed so genuine."

"He may be," Roger said thoughtfully, "but Hedley might be looking

"We want two girls and a man with a car to do the changing of the prams
and the get away," Ben declared, rubbing his hands with satisfaction,
"and Strawn's two girls and Jim Gilbert fill the bill. Also they used the
empty garage formerly owned by those Peace people. I think it adds up to
quite a lot, sir."

"It may do," Roger said, "but we must go warily. Until we know what
really happened to the baby we may make things more dangerous if we let
our suspicions get known."

"But why should they--any of them--drown the wrong child?" Ruth asked.

Before Roger could reply the telephone rang and she took the receiver.
She spoke for some few moments.

"It is Florrie Spaight, Lady Cradon's nurse," she told them. "She seems
rather excited. Lady Cradon has had a very curious letter and wants to
know if you can see her about it."

"I will go round at once," Roger said.

"Shall I come, too?"

"By all means. I am sure Lady Cradon would like you to."

"Any orders for me, sir?" asked Ben.

"Keep in touch with things as best you can. You might get hold of Joe
Gassett again and see if he can tell your any more about Strawn's family.
He may know if Mrs. Strawn often does the duchess act."

It did not take long to walk to Westbourne House. Neither of the porters
was about, and Ruth and Roger went straight up to Lady Cradon's flat. The
door was open, as Florrie had been looking out for them. She obviously
was excited and she took them at once to Lady Cradon's room. She, too,
showed signs of agitation.

"It is good of you to have come so quickly," she said. "Please read

She handed Roger a sheet of cheap notepaper and a glance read its brief

'Please your Ladyship do not worry too much about your little boy. He is
quite well and happy. I am taking good care of him and will bring him
back to you as soon as it safe for me to do so. I do not want any

It was unsigned.

"Is it true?" Lady Cradon said tremulously. "Or is it another horrible

"Have you the envelope?" Roger asked.

This was handed to him and he examined it carefully. "The postmark is
Bournemouth--Poole," he said. "I believe the two towns have a joint
postal service. The writing is the same as in the letter; there seems no
attempt to disguise it. Obviously it is written by a woman, probably not
very well educated. I am inclined to believe it is genuine."

"But what must I do? Why is it not safe for her to return him?"

"Could we advertise, offering her complete protection?" Ruth suggested.

"I do not advise that," Roger said, "since we do not know what she is up
against. I think this letter must be shown at once to the police. They
think they have combed the Poole-Bournemouth area pretty thoroughly, but
I still think the secret of the business lies there. If Ruth is willing,
I will run her down and we will make some inquiries on our own account."

"I am willing enough," his wife said.

"It is very good of you both," Lady Cradon said. "Should I come?"

"Not until we know a bit more," Roger answered. "You phone Inspector
Warren and let him have the letter."

"I will. I do not know what I should have done without your help. Of
course, the woman must have the reward if you find her, and the baby is

"The sooner we get off the better." But at that moment the door opened
and Mrs. Hatter ushered in Hedley Cradon.

"Don't mention your letter," Roger whispered to Lady Cradon.

Hedley looked a little embarrassed when he saw the company.

"I did not know you were engaged," he murmured. "My father and I have
just seen the account in the paper of what happened yesterday at Poole.
We both want to say how sorry we are for all your distress, Aunt Eleanor,
but we are relieved the child they found was not your Lionel. We trust
you will soon hear of him. It is a most peculiar business. Can we help in
any way?"

"How can you?" Roger asked.

"Well--" Hedley hesitated. "The account in the paper was so incomplete.
We wondered if you could tell us any more and if that would suggest

"It is very good of you, Hedley," his aunt said. "It was clear there had
been a mistake and the body was not that of my baby. Otherwise we are
much as we were before."

"Yet it was your shawl. There must be a connection somewhere."

There was a pause. It was broken by Mrs Hatter, who again opened the door
to show in Amabel Legh. The actress was looking very smart in a dark
costume and small close-fitting hat. She went straight to Lady Cradon.

"I was not told you had visitors, Eleanor," she said. "I was passing and,
having seen the morning paper, I felt I must look in. It is so difficult
to express all one feels: great relief and yet great anxiety. Valerie and
I do so hope you will get really good news soon."

"It is very kind of you," Lady Cradon murmured.

"We wish we could be of help. Valerie feels it so very, personally, as
she was there when the loss was discovered. Is there anything at all we
can do?"

"I am afraid not."

Lady Cradon was not ungrateful, but Roger sensed the feeling of strain
between her and the woman whose claim to her name and fortune might still
mean utter disaster. He did not speak, but Amabel went on:

"With Major Bennion and Hedley to help you, I do not suppose there is.
What have you been saying to upset my little girl, Hedley?"

"I am sorry if I upset her," the big man replied. "I did not mean to. I
only asked if she would care to join a theatre club and do some real

"Real acting!" Amabel exclaimed. "I abominate those semi-amateur shows.
You might as well offer a part in a ballet to a girl who has had a couple
of dancing lessons."

"I am sorry," he began again stiffly, but there was a further
interruption. Mrs. Hatter once more threw open the door and, with her
head high in the air, announced:

"Mrs. Kingston."

The newcomer went to her sister and kissed her.

"I read the paper, Eleanor, and I had to run round. I have been so
distressed for you."

Lady Cradon again murmured how kind it was of her. Roger whispered a word
to Florrie Spaight and she spoke up firmly.

"It is time you lay down, Lady Cradon. You are very tired and the doctor
would be vexed if you did not rest."

"I am sure she is right," said Ruth. "Roger and I are just going."

"I think I will lie down," Lady Cradon murmured, as she moved to the
door. "Thank you all very much for calling." There was a general exodus.
Roger whispered to Florrie, "Tell your good woman Not at Home is the
order for the rest of the day." Florrie nodded.

A little later Roger and Ruth were again on the road for the west. They
did not speak much until they were well out of the populous area.

"Why did all those people turn up?" Ruth asked. "I wonder if there will
be more."

"Did you sense anything but sympathy?"

"Some sympathy, some curiosity. In these cases people like to be able to
tell their friends they have spoken with the party concerned. But there
may have been more than that with Hedley."


"If he is really concerned, he must be puzzled as to what actually
happened or as to what we know. Perhaps both. Roger, do you believe that
letter is genuine?"

"I am gambling on it, or we should not be on the road now."

"What are you meaning to do?"

"Work out your hunch, my dear, and see where it takes us."

He made the best speed he could, and on this occasion he went right
through Bournemouth from Christchurch, partly that she might see what a
large town it was. Eventually they were halted by the traffic lights at
County Gates.

"This is goodbye to Hampshire. We now enter Dorset," he told her. "We
also enter the ancient town of Poole. If I were a patriotic Poole
councillor, I would ask for arches or banners to be put up here. Welcome
to the Borough of Poole. So many beauties are attributed to Bournemouth
that belong to its neighbour."

"I had an aunt who lived in Canford Cliffs," Ruth said. "She was quite
offended when someone told her it was Poole."

They drove on and made for Poole's municipal buildings. Roger asked for
the public health department. They were shown into some handsome offices
and soon were confronting a charming dark-eyed girl who was obviously
efficient, even if a little suspicious of strangers.

"I believe cases of what are called notifiable complaints or diseases
have to be registered here?" Roger said.

"That is so," was the guarded reply.

"Pneumonia and broncho-pneumonia are notifiable?"

"They are."

"Is any note made as to the result of the illness?"

"Not if the patient recovers."

"Only deaths are recorded?"


"Can I see the register?"

The girl regarded him in some doubt through her big rimmed spectacles.

"May I ask why you wish to do so?"

"I am Major Bennion. I am working in conjunction with Scotland Yard in
the Cradon baby case; your local Inspector, Jukes, knows me. You are, of
course, aware of the inquest that was held on the unknown child who was
not Lady Cradon's baby?"

"We had Inspector Jukes here and also someone from London. There were no
deaths from that cause during the period in which they were interested."

"I am concerned in a case where the patient did not die."

"It is really quite all right," Ruth added with her charming smile. "It
should only take a couple of minutes."

"I must ask the doctor," the girl said.

She was gone for some little time. Whether she had only consulted the
M.O.H. or had also telephoned the police, they could not tell, but when
she came back she was carrying the book they were anxious to see.

Roger's quick eye ran down the entries and he soon saw one that
interested him.

"Thomas and Timothy Wadhurst, each aged one year, both had pneumonia.
Twins, I suppose," he remarked. "Notified by Dr. Mortison. Sons of Mrs.
Peggy Wadhurst."

"They both recovered," the girl said.

"I see their address is Martha Cottage, Penley Lane, Lilliput. Can you
tell me Dr. Mortison's address?"

She did so, and, being authorised to help, she added:

"There is the visiting sister, you know."

"What does she do?"

"In our Child Welfare Service she is responsible for after care and keeps
an eye on the case."

"Grand work," Roger said. "If we want to see her, we will come back."

Thanking her, they withdrew, leaving her a little mystified. Being
interested in the case of the twins, she had personally verified their
recovery and could not see what special need there was for the enquiry.

"What are you getting at, Roger?" Ruth asked, when they were outside.

"Your hunch, my dear; not mine," he said. "We will soon see if it means
anything. I hope Dr. Mortison is in."

He was. Though busy, as all medical men are, they caught him at a lucky
moment and he saw them at once. He was a stout man, but did not spare
himself in the rush of his arduous calling.

"I am sorry to bother you, doctor," Roger said, "but I am interested in
the case of Mrs. Wadhurst's twin sons. I believe you attended them for
pneumonia and they both made a good recovery?"

"That is so. What about it?"

"It may mean a grant for Mrs. Wadhurst. They are still doing well?"

"Oh yes. I should have heard otherwise. One of them was pretty bad and
the other only slightly affected. A very decent woman, Mrs. Wadhurst. She
deserves any help that is going."

"Thank you so much," Roger said. "We must not take up more of your time."



Whether that part of Poole that is known as Lilliput took its name from
Swift's imaginary land of pigmies, or whether the name already existed
and he borrowed it, is not quite clear. It is a pleasant part of the
world and its inhabitants are of normal growth.

Having played on the Parkstone golf course, Roger was aware that it is
bisected by the Lilliput Road, and he made his way there, looking for
Martha Cottage, Penley Lane. He hoped to find it without enquiries that
might draw further attention to his search.

There are few more beautiful places in England than Poole Harbour, with
its pretty islands and the background of the Purbeck Hills. At one time
the houses of Lilliput were few and spacious, but of recent years a vast
number of small residences have been erected. There is a considerable
colony at the end of the Lilliput Road, and at one point Roger was more
than a little interested to see the sign “Garage.” That, he found, was at
the entrance to Penley Lane. Next to it came some vacant plots of land
and beyond them, Martha Cottage, a small, tidy residence with a well-kept
front garden.

He drew up, and he and Ruth went to the front door. It was opened by a
good-looking young woman, who had no doubt observed their car, rather an
unusual sight so far down the lane. She had a clear healthy skin and
pretty brown eyes.

Roger raised his hat. "Mrs. Wadhurst?" he asked.

"I am."

"This is my wife. May we come in?"

They were shown into a pleasant parlour and were asked to sit down.

"How are the twins?" Roger asked.

There was a look of doubt in her eyes, but she replied, "Quite well,
thank you."

"You were interested in the case of that little boy whose body was found
here and who was supposed to be Lady Cradon's baby--weren't you?"

The doubt became alarm. The blood seemed to leave her cheeks.

"No," she said, "not especially. I mean everyone was interested in a way.
We were sorry for her."

"You wrote to tell her so?" Roger quietly suggested.

"No! No! Why do you say that?"

"Many people did. It would only be kind. May we see the twins?"

She rose to her feet as though to guard the way to the door. "Why should
you? What do you want?"

"Believe me, Mrs. Wadhurst, we come as friends. If you are in danger from
anyone, it is not from us. We would protect you."

"I don't know what you mean. I have nothing to do with anyone else.
Please go away."

She was agitated and spoke a little wildly. She motioned them to leave.

"My wife and I are very fond of little children. We lost our own baby
before it was born. We know Lady Cradon. When my wife heard of her
sorrow, she made a strange suggestion to me. May I tell you what it was?"

Mrs. Wadhurst looked from him to Ruth, frightened and bewildered, not
knowing what to say. Ruth, who was beginning to see things in the right
light, reassured her.

"It is quite true, Peggy," she whispered. "If we have made a mistake we
will go at once. If we have not, you have nothing to fear from us."

"I don't know if you went to Sunday-school," Roger said, "but if you did,
you may have heard of what is called the Judgment of Solomon. Two women
had babies of the same age. One baby died and its mother changed it for
the living baby--"

Peggy collapsed on to a seat, crying with convulsive sobs. "You had two
babies," Roger went on; "one was so ill that the doctor did not expect it
to recover. Your babies had pneumonia. The baby that was found in the sea
had had pneumonia, but it had died a natural death. . . . Don't you think
you had better tell us all about it?"

For some moments she sobbed silently, Ruth putting an arm round her. Then
she got up and motioned them to follow her. They went to a bedroom on the
floor above. In it there were two cots and in each of them a child was
asleep. "My baby," she whispered, pointing to one of them. "Hers--" and
she pointed to the other.

The two infants were much of a size and not greatly dissimilar. Ruth bent
over the one said to be the little Sir Lionel. She had seen him before,
but she would not have sworn to his identity until he awoke. Roger,
however, turned him gently over and uncovered the brown birth mark on the
soft smooth thigh. As he did so, the blue eyes opened and there was a
contented chuckle.

"Hush, dearie, hush," Peggy whispered. The little man slept again.

With one consent they tiptoed from the room and down the stairs.

"Which of your babies is the other one?" Roger asked. "Tim or Tom?"


"Tom died?"


"Where is your husband?"

"At sea. He is due back at any time."

"You were waiting for his return?"

The girl nodded.

"Lady Cradon was very grateful for your letter. Don't you think you had
better tell us the whole story from the beginning? I do not believe you
have done much wrong and I am pretty sure you have done a lot of good."

The girl seemed to be considering what she should say. There were
footsteps on the garden path; the front door, which was seldom locked,
was opened and a face showed itself at the door of the room.

It was not a pleasant face. It belonged to a short, wiry little man and
had two shifty eyes, rather close together, an ugly mouth with an untidy
scrap of dark moustache, and a scar on the left cheek. The man looked
curiously and suspiciously at the strangers.

"Ullo, Peggy," he said with a nasty grin; "saw the big car at the door
and wondered if it 'ad come to the wrong place. Anything I can do?"

"No, thank you, Mr. Gilbert," Peggy said nervously.

"New friends," he leered, "always welcome. Anything wanted, I'm the man."

He evidently wished to stay and hoped for some sort of introduction.
Peggy said nothing and Roger looked at him with the coldest of stares.

"Oh, well, Peg. See you later. So long." He slouched away.

"It concerns him?" Roger said softly.

She nodded, and made no further reply. She looked more troubled and
frightened than before.

"I didn't know it was Lady Cradon's baby," she murmured; "not at first. I
never meant any harm."

"You probably did a great deal of good, as my husband said," Ruth told
her reassuringly. "Did it begin when your baby died?"

"Before that."

"Tell us from the start."

"It really began when Emmie Gilbert, his wife, came and told me her
sister's baby was to stay with them for a night or two. Could I lend her
some baby food as she hadn't got any. Of course I did. I said I would
help her with it. But she said she could manage."

"How did the baby get here?" Roger asked.

"Jim, her husband, was to fetch it."

"Go on."

"It was then that my baby was took so bad. Dr. Mortison said it should go
to hospital, but there wasn't room. He would see it again next day. That
evening it had a choking fit and--and it died."

The tears came to her eyes. The others said nothing, but Ruth pressed her
arm sympathetically.

"I don't remember exactly what happened. I think I sat here, almost as if
I was dead myself. Then I thought I would tell Emmie about it. I went to
their back door; I generally went in that way. But I stopped by the
window, as they were quarrelling; not loudly, but I could hear them. The
window was open and the curtain not quite drawn. I looked in."

She stopped for a moment. Then in a voice only just audible she went on:

"There was a baby lying on two chairs that made a sort of bed. It seemed
to be asleep. They were quarrelling as to--as to who should kill it.
Emmie said she wouldn't and he told her not to be a fool. It had to die,
anyway. He must go and get the boat ready and he couldn't risk it crying
when he was taking it out. She said she would go with him; she couldn't
stop with it. I didn't hear all they said, but they went to the door
together. Then he turned back and put a pillow on its face. 'All right
when we return,' he said."

She was trembling as she told her story, but she made an effort to
control herself.

"When I knew they were on the way to the harbour, I pushed the window
open and climbed in. I lifted the pillow. It was such a sweet baby, just
about the age of mine, and it was still breathing. I think it may have
had something to make it sleep. I picked it up and carried it out."

"Leaving the shawl behind?" Roger said.

"I wasn't thinking about that, but I did. Then--I don't know what
possessed me--but I got my son, little Tom, and put him in its place. I
kissed him goodbye and left him just as they had done. I remember
thinking he was a sailor's son and if they put him in the water he would
have a sailor's burial."

She stopped and for some moments no one spoke. The story--or part of
it--became horribly clear. Roger asked very gently:

"What happened the next day when your doctor came?"

"I had Tim downstairs and I let him think it was Tom. He said it was
wonderful; he was so much better. He was ever so pleased. Then he said,
'How is the other little rascal?' I said he was better, too. He said he
had better see him; so I said I would fetch him. Doctor isn't fond of
stairs. So I took Tim up and put him in a different night gown with a
blue tie-up instead of a pink one, and brought him down again. The doctor
was ever so pleased. He said I had had a bad time and must take care of
myself. Then he went."

Roger and Ruth could not help smiling at her simple ruse.

"I think you are wonderfully plucky," Ruth said.

"I suppose you still have the other garments with the L.C. monogram?" her
husband asked.

"Upstairs. I hid them carefully."

That would be a further proof of her story, if proof were necessary.

"When did you first know it was Lady Cradon's baby?"

"Not really until they had the case down here. I don't read the papers
much and at first I thought it was Emmie's sister's baby as she had said,
and for some wicked reason they were to get rid of it. Once I met Emmie
and I asked her about the baby she told me was to come. I thought it was
only natural to do that. She looked at me queerly and said their plans
changed and it never came. After that they both looked at me in a nasty
sort of way. I am afraid of them."

"You may well be," Roger said. "Did you know much of them before this

"Not much. Tim--that's my husband--doesn't like them, but they are the
nearest neighbours."

"Has no one been doubtful about your twins?" Ruth asked.

"I don't think so. Why should they? Everyone here knows I have them and I
don't take them out much, except in the garden."

"When you wrote to Lady Cradon," Roger said, "you meant she should have
her boy back when your husband returned?"

She nodded. "I was afraid of what might be in the papers. But when Tim is
here it will be all right."

"You realise how distressed Lady Cradon has been?"

"Yes, poor lady. That is why I wrote to her."

"You saved her baby," Ruth said. "She will be very very grateful, but I
think you should let her have him back at once."

"In fact," Roger added, "you and both the babies had better come back to
London with us now. We can make you comfortable and you will be safe."

"But if Tim gets back and I am not here--"

"Let me know his boat and I will arrange it all."

Peggy demurred, but their arguments prevailed. She had been through a
very prolonged ordeal and it was a relief to get away and to know it was
over and everything would be put right.

"Another thing," Roger said. "I have a hunch that as soon as your
neighbours see our car leave, they will come round to have it out with
you. So I want you to pack in very carefully with all you want to take
and my wife will drive you away. Then you will wait for me at County
Gates. I see there is a bus there from here. I will stay a little while
to see if I am right."

The car could not get away without passing the garage, so he did not
think any further outlook was being kept. Neither Ruth nor Peggy liked
his plan very much, but he had his way. Not a great deal of luggage was
needed, and he soon saw them start off, the little ones snugly wrapped up
and the spare clothing, including little Sir Lionel's original garments,
in a suitcase. Peggy crouched down to be out of sight.

Roger's hunch proved correct. He sat in the sitting-room to wait. His
speedy success in getting to the bottom of the mystery surprised even
him. Thinking of Ruth's Judgment of Solomon theory, he had visualised
something of the sort, but had never expected to go so swiftly to the
heart of the matter. That the villains who had stolen the child in the
first place would not have intentionally changed it for another seemed
obvious. Therefore there must have been a substitution by someone else.
And that someone else must be someone who had had a child with that
particular illness.

That proved correct, but it was only part of the story. Who was
responsible for the whole affair--its planning and its execution? Jim
Gilbert must now know the infant he had put in the water was not the one
he had thought, but he did not know how his vile intentions had been
foiled. Nor must he, lest he should warn those for whom he was working.

There were steps on the garden path. The handle of the front door was
turned. It was locked. Knuckles knocked on the panel. Roger made no
motion. Then the steps moved more stealthily to the back of the cottage.

He went to the back room, the kitchen, and as he did so he picked up a
short, stout poker which he slipped up his sleeve. Through the crack of
the door he saw Jim Gilbert push back the fastening of the casement with
the blade of his pocket knife and climb in. Roger stepped forward. Jim
was startled.

"Where's Peggy?" he managed to ask.

"Gone," Roger said.

"Where's the kids?"

"Gone, too."

"Gorn where?"

"To visit friends."

"Don't believe it. What you doin' here?"

"Looking after the place for her for a little time," Roger said. "What
are you doing here?"

"We're neighbours."

"Do neighbours generally come in like that?"

Jim was moving nearer. He had got over his first surprise and was
speaking more truculently. He had put away his knife, but Roger saw he
had a big spanner in his jacket pocket.

"Seen you afore, ain't I?"

"Depends where you looked," Roger said. "When I meet Peggy, shall I tell
her why you came?"

"Don't believe she's gorn. She's upstairs."

He made as though he would have gone to the door to investigate. But it
was a feint. He swung round and pulled out his spanner, raising his arm
to strike. Roger was quicker than he. He shot out his arm. The poker slid
into his hand. He gripped it and with one and the same movement struck
the raised elbow. The spanner fell to the ground. Roger shot forward his
left fist and landed it on the chin. Those early years of boxing had not
been wasted. Jim, too, fell to the ground, unconscious.

"A pity," Roger muttered; "rather precipitates things, but it may be for
the best."

Looking round, he saw a coil of clothes-line. He tied Jim's hands behind
his back, sat him in a chair and tied his legs to the chair legs. Then he
gagged him with towelling and passed the cord round the back of the
chair. There was plenty of clothes-line and he made a good job of it.

He closed the cottage and went to the bus stop. There was a telephone
box. He put through a call to Inspector Jukes and was lucky to get him.

"If you go at once to Martha Cottage, Penley Lane, you will find a nice
little parcel tied up and waiting for you. It is Jim Gilbert of Gilbert's
Garage next door. He is the man who dropped that baby into the sea. I
have plenty of proof. You had better hold Mrs. Gilbert, too, for
questioning. I am getting back to London and want them kept quiet while
we are busy that end."

Then he caught his bus.



ROGER joined Ruth and Peggy Wadhurst and their little passengers in the
car and headed for London. The girls wanted to know if his hunch as to
Jim Gilbert had proved correct. He said it had, but he did not tell them
exactly what had happened. He assured Peggy he did not think she had any
more to fear from him.

"Was what I did very wrong?" she asked, with the old misgiving.

He laughed. "I will not say a clever lawyer could not frame some sort of
charge against you, but if a jury heard it and knew the facts, they would
acquit you without leaving the box. I do not think any charge will ever
be made."

"You were wonderfully plucky," Ruth said.

"You saved the life of Lady Cradon's baby," Roger added, "and you
probably saved Jim Gilbert from a charge of murder, which is luck he does
not deserve."

"What will happen to him?" Peggy enquired.

"That depends on what is proved against him. He meant to commit murder,
but thanks to you he failed to do it."

"And my little Tom can now be properly buried under his own name?"

"Most certainly. One other thing, Peggy. Lady Cradon wished us to tell
you that the promises as to the reward hold good."

"But I don't want it. I told her so."

"I know you did; but it is yours and well you earned it. Think what
husband Tim and baby Tim can do with two thousand pounds! You cannot
refuse it."

Peggy was silent. It would be wonderful to have so much for her Tim.
Nothing could pay for the loss of Tom. But the money was not for that; it
was for saving another little life.

 They rushed on till Ruth said:

"Do we ever eat, Roger?"

"You poor darlings! You must both be famished!"

"I had a good lunch," Peggy said. "I didn't worry about tea."

"We have had nothing since breakfast," Ruth declared. "I hate to
interrupt when he is busy, but as a good wife I must insist on his having
nourishment, even if I starve."

"'She has a woman's heart that feels when kept waiting for her meals,’”
Roger quoted. "Sorry, old lady, we'll soon make good."

He pulled up at the next place of refreshment they came to. He and Ruth
went in and they brought something out for Peggy, who remained with the

"I do not think we must take little Lionel to Sloane Street," he said. "I
suppose we can fix them all up for the night?"

"Of course we can, but should we not let Lady Cradon have the glad news
as soon as possible?"

"Certainly. But it may be better not to let anyone else know of it just
yet. If we took the baby to the flat every one in the block would hear of
it. We will go to Lady Cradon and if she likes to come back with us to
see it is all true, of course she shall."

"How thrilled she will be!" Ruth exclaimed. "Could we telephone her from

"Better not, I think. Good news will keep. It may not be such good news
for some."

But a big surprise was in store for him. When at last he drew up at
Egerton Terrace; Bessie Orgles came running out.

"Please, sir, Mr. Hedley Cradon came to see you. I told him you were
expected and he said he would wait."

"Where is he waiting?"

"In the end room, sir."

"Good. Keep him there and do not let him know we brought anyone back with
us. I will go to him almost at once."

"Very good, sir. And Ben asked me to tell you that Mr. Bruce Kelsall came
round to say that his uncle, Mr. Pursey, had invited him out this
evening. He was to let you know."

"Did he tell Ben where they were going?"

"No, sir. He didn't know himself. Ben said he should keep an eye on them
and if they settled in a restaurant he would slip out and phone where it

"Thank you, Bessie. A sound man, Ben--isn't he?"

"I think so, sir," the wife beamed.

The big, handsome man, as the Comet had described Hedley Cradon, was
decidedly nervous. Roger found him walking restlessly backwards and
forwards in the sitting-room.

"Oh, good evening, Major Bennion. I must apologise for intruding like
this, but I want your advice."

"Sit down," Roger said coldly, waving him to a chair.

"Thank you. I know I have no right to come. I treated you badly, but I
apologised, and I hope you have forgiven me.

Roger made no reply.

"The fact is--I am being blackmailed."

"Why not go to the police?"

"I can't. That's the trouble."

"Go to your father."

"It would distress the old man. I do not want to do that. And if I did,
he would probably say, as you did, go to the police. I don't know where
that would end."

Roger took out his pipe and lit it. He did not offer a smoke to his
uninvited visitor.

"I do not know why you think I could help you, or why I should if I
could. I am very busy. If there is anything you want to tell me, please
get on with it."

"I am being blackmailed."

"You said that before. By whom?"

"You will regard what I tell you as confidential?"

"I certainly shall not. If it concerns matters I think it may, I shall
consider myself at liberty to use it as I see fit in the interests of

Hedley hesitated, but apparently decided he must speak.

"It is Evadne Peers."

"The woman you have been living with?"

"Yes. I know you think I ought not to go about with Valerie Legh. I am
willing to give up seeing her if you will help me."

"We will leave Miss Legh out of it," Roger said.

"I only want to do what is decent."

"A little late to think of it. Have you anything to tell me?"

"It is about the Cradon baby, as everyone calls it. I thought the find at
Poole would settle the affair, but now no one knows where he is."

Roger thought how amazed Hedley would be if told that his cousin was in
the house with them! He said:

"Where do you think he is?"

"I have not the remotest idea. I never had."

"Then where does the blackmail come in?"

Again Hedley hesitated. He seemed to be choosing his words with care.

"If anything really happened to that baby I, after my father, should be
the heir to the title and probably a lot of money. Everyone knows that."

"They do."

"Vadny says she has a letter from me saying that I would pay handsomely
to get rid of him."

"Is it true?"

"I don't know. I wrote something, but I cannot remember exactly what it
was. She will not let me see it. Of course, I never seriously meant that
I wanted anyone to harm him. Whatever I said was in jest; that it might
be worth a lot to me if he never grew up. Something like that."

"How came you to write such a letter?"

"I was away from home; I often was, on the Peace business. She wrote,
sending me a newspaper cutting about the money left to little Lionel and
asking if I was the next heir. I said I was and jokingly told her it was
a pity I could not get such a fortune."

"Did she take you seriously?"

"I didn't think so--not till later on."

"Did she say she had acted on your hint and arranged for his removal?"

"Oh no! She swears she knows nothing about it, but she believes I do. Or
so she says. If she took the letter to the police or showed it to the
Comet man, everyone would say I was responsible for what happened. I
could never live it down."

"She wants you to buy the letter?"

"No. She wants--she wants me to marry her!"

That was certainly unexpected. Marriage by blackmail! No doubt there had
been cases of such things, but they could not hold out much hope of
happiness. Yet the stake was a big one. If little Lionel did not
reappear, Vadny, should her plan succeed, would eventually become Lady
Cradon--or so she might think. What was the truth of the story? Was
Hedley really an innocent victim or was he only dreading exposure? That
he was desperately frightened there was little doubt.

"What do you know of this girl?" Roger asked. "How did you meet her? What
are her people?"

"I met her as one does meet these girls. I think it was at a party. She
was an actress out of a job. I liked her. That is really all I can tell
you. I took that flat for her. I was a fool. I suppose it was to impress
her that I said what a difference it would make to me if the child died."

"You not only said it, you wrote it?"

"I suppose I did. Or something like it. I never meant any harm to him."

"You do not know who her people are or anything about them?"

"Not a thing. One doesn't ask."

Could that be true? Could Hedley really be ignorant of the fact that
Vadny's father and mother, the Strawns, worked at the flats where his
aunt and her little son lived?

"Ever heard of Jim Gilbert?"

"Never. Who is he?"

"I don't know much of him. Did Vadny make her charge against you as soon
as the baby was missed?"

"No. Only two days ago."

"What brought that about?"

"We had been quarrelling. I was tired of her and wanted to break things
off. She had been getting more difficult and I meant to end it. I said I
would give her five hundred pounds; she had already had a good deal. She
flared up and demanded that I should marry her, or she would take my
letters to the police."

"More than one letter?"

"She always liked me to write to her when I was away." Hedley had got up
from his seat and was prowling across the room. He was nervous and
decidedly scared. Roger watched him for some moments. Was his story true?
Was it the whole truth?

"From what you have told me," he said, "I see four possibilities about
the kidnapping. You did it or arranged for it, unknown to Vadny. She did
it, unknown to you. You did it together and have fallen out as to what
she is to get out of it. Or it was all done by someone else. Someone who,
so far as we can see, gained nothing by it and has made no attempt to get
the big reward. Can you suggest anything else?"

"I know nothing about it, absolutely nothing. I swear it."

"That leaves Vadny."

"She was away at the time, like I was."

"How do you know that?"

"She was in Liverpool. She went there with me when I crossed to Belfast
and remained there till I came back. She wrote from there."

"She was not the lady who, according to the local paper, enjoyed your
hospitality in Belfast?"

"She was not," Hedley said slowly, looking very uncomfortable.

"A pity. It would have been an alibi for you both. But, of course,
several people were concerned in the abduction and the party really
responsible may have been far away. You have nothing more to tell me?"

"Nothing at all."

"Only this," Roger said. "You have not told me why you came to me."

"I hoped you would advise me, I dare not go to the police. I do not want
to tell my father. I have been a fool over this girl, but you already
know about it. You have had a lot of experience and you seem to have all
the inside information there is."

"It did not occur to you," Roger said dryly, "that if Vadny exercised her
threats and went to the police it would put you in a better position if
you could say there could be nothing in it, for you had already told me
about it?"

"No. That was not in my mind."

"I wonder! Anyway, my advice is simple. Do nothing. You have broken with
Vadny; leave it at that. If she goes to the police, you will tell them
your story. She may hesitate to do so lest they suspect her complicity."

The door opened and Ruth came in.

"I am sorry to interrupt," she said, "but you have not forgotten you were
taking me out, Roger?"

Hedley jumped up.

"I am just going," be said. "I am sorry I have been so long. Thank you
for your advice."

Then Mrs. Orgles appeared.



"I HAVE had a message from Ben," Mrs. Orgles told them, when Hedley had
gone. "Mr. Pursey and Mr. Bruce Kelsall have just arrived at the Three
Goblins Restaurant in Little Greek Street, Soho. Ben will be there, too.
He thought be ought to let you know."

"Thank you," Roger said. "All well with our visitors?"

"Very well," Ruth replied. "The little boys are darlings. Peggy is
looking after them beautifully, but we must let Lady Cradon know."

"Of course we must. I will take you to her and you can tell her about it.
Bring her back here, if she wishes to come. I will go on to Soho. I have
a feeling I may be needed and I think our glad news is best in your
hands, a woman's affair."

They got in the car, and on the way to Sloane Street Ruth asked:

"What was Hedley Cradon talking about for so long? Did you tell him we
had found little Lionel and brought him home, and that we knew the part
the Gilberts played in the business?"

"I told him nothing. He did most of the telling. Whether he is more rogue
than fool I am not quite sure, but the whole picture is a lot more clear.
No time to explain it now. Tell Lady Cradon I think she had better leave
the baby with us until I have been able to go into the whole thing with
the police."

Bruce had been very pleased when Strawn rang him up at his hotel and said
Mr. Pursey would like to meet him for supper that evening. The porter
told him the time and said he was to call for his uncle and they would go

It was a genial message and Bruce was glad to accept the invitation. It
showed the old gentleman had not forgotten, and it was pleasant to feel
they would part friends when he had the order to sail.

"Shall I come in a taxi and pick him up?"

"I think he would like that," Strawn said, "but don't be late. He hates
to be kept waiting."

Bruce felt rather elated when he went to give the news to Roger Bennion,
as he had promised to do. He found Roger had already set out on what was
to prove such an eventful trip. He left the message with Ben Orgles.

"Where may you be going?" Ben asked.

"That is up to my uncle," said Bruce. "He probably knows London better
than I do."

He was a minute or so before his time, but Mr. Pursey was ready for him.
He looked a queer old-fashioned figure as he crossed the pavement to the
car. He wore a round soft felt hat like clergymen used to favour, and his
dark morning suit was covered with a sort of cloak not now often seen.
Bruce remembered he had worn the same attire years before when they had
been out together.

"You're in good time, my boy. Do you know the Three Goblins?"

"Afraid I have never heard of it," Bruce said.

"I haven't been for a long time, but it used to serve the best dinner in
London. We'll see if it is as good as it was. None of your dressy places
for me, all fal-lals and no food."

The taximan knew the place and, as they went there, Mr. Pursey was quite
chatty. He said what wonderful meals you could get in Soho before the
First World War.

"Six courses for half a crown. There was a Lyon's place in Piccadilly,
where they gave you eleven courses for three-and-six, and you could have
a second help of anything or everything without extra charge."

"I shouldn't think you needed it," Bruce said.

The old man chuckled. "You didn't, but you might like two serves of joint
or poultry and miss the savoury or sweet. After that you could go to the
Coliseum and get the best seat in the house for half a crown. Those were
the days!"

Externally, the Three Goblins was unpretentious except for the palms in
pots on the pavement outside. Internally, it looked like most restaurants
of its class, though it boasted on one of its walls a large painting of
three dancing devils, from which no doubt it derived its name.

"I suppose they supply specially long spoons," Bruce remarked.

"Why?" demanded his uncle.

"Supping with the devil."

The allusion was lost on the old man. He grunted and said:

"Sit beside me. I can hear better that way. The left is my good ear."

He beckoned the waiter, who handed him the menu.

"What would you like, my boy?"

"Anything that suits you, Uncle."

"I don't know their fancy names for things. I want cooked lobster, roast
duck and a savoury."

"Vaire good, sir," said the waiter. "Hors-d'oeuvres to start?"

"We'll see what you've got. And a bottle of Chambertin." He might not go
out often, but he certainly knew how to do himself well when he did.
Bruce prepared to enjoy himself.

"Heard yet when you are to sail?"

"Not yet. I expect to any day now."

"Good thing. I don't believe in youngsters kicking up their heels. Only
means mischief. Where did you meet this Major Bennion?"

"He was a passenger on our run from New Zealand."

"A meddlesome person."

"I don't think I should say that, Uncle. I was told he had been concerned
in some queer cases and had discovered the truth when the police failed."

"Not done much for Lady Cradon."

"Not yet," Bruce admitted, "but he does not often fail. It was bad luck
on you, Uncle, having a thing like this happen in your flats."

"Disgraceful! Haven't they found any clue at all? Don't they suspect

"I don't really know. It was so odd finding another baby in the Cradon

"How do they account for that?"

"I really don't know."

"Don't they tell you anything?" The old man spoke rather querulously. His
questions were abrupt and he seemed annoyed that Bruce knew so little.
Their food had arrived and they were doing justice to it.

"They do not tell me much," Bruce said. "I cannot expect them to. Miss
Valerie Legh and I were there when the nurse discovered the loss, but it
was really no affair of ours."

"Valerie Legh--she the girl you are sweet on?"

"I admire her very much, sir."

"Huh--you might bring her to see me before you go."

"Thank you, Uncle. I would love to. I know you will like her."

The uncle grunted and the conversation lapsed. Then he said:

"Did this clever Major Bennion find out the explanation of your accident
in that empty house?"

"I am afraid not."

"What is your own explanation?"

"It completely baffles me. Anyone who wanted to prevent my sailing might
have played a practical joke on me, but I cannot see who it could be. And
it was a good deal more than a joke. I suppose the fire might have been a
coincidence, but the whole thing was most mysterious."

"No affair with some woman and the other man wanted to be rid of you?"

"It could not have been."

"But it was a woman who sent you the letter."

"Someone who used a woman's name."

"And the police and Major Bennion are baffled?"

"It seems so. They heard that a man had been seen about the place, but
they never discovered who it was."

"Don't the fools suspect anybody?" the old man asked again.

"They don't tell me."

"Huh! What do we pay them for? I thought you would discover something

Bruce did not reply to that and there was another long pause. His uncle
ate greedily and called for a second bottle of wine.

"No more for me," Bruce protested. It was a stronger vintage than he was
used to.

"Nonsense, boy. You must take your share."

Bruce thought he was trying to be genial, though it did not come natural
to him. It was rather difficult to sustain the conversation until the old
man told him to describe his life aboard ship. This he did and he tried to
make it interesting, but he had the impression that his uncle was not
paying much attention. It was a relief when he said abruptly:

"Time we were going."

He settled the bill--Bruce noted the charges were by no means
moderate--and they made their way to the street.

"I'll get a taxi," Bruce said.

"No, we will walk. That wine was a bit strong. A little fresh air would
do us good."

Bruce was inclined to agree. They started down the street and took a turn
to the left.

"Used to know all these streets when I was young," the old man said,
after they had gone some way. "A short cut here to Piccadilly."

They entered an ill-lit passage, little more than an alley. Then a queer
thing happened. They had travelled half its length when three men sprang
out from a concealed doorway. They were brandishing weapons. They
muttered "Hand it over!" or something of that sort. Bruce thought they
were attacking the old man and stepped forward to defend him. They turned
on him and aimed blows at his head with their coshes. He defended himself
as best he could. His uncle slipped past and hurried on towards
Piccadilly. The men closed in and Bruce was knocked to the ground with a
blow that stunned him.

"Finish him!" one man muttered.

"Hi!" was shouted from the end of the alley.

Two men came running towards them. The three did not linger. They bolted
as fast as they could in the direction the uncle had taken.

"No good following them," Roger Bennion said. "I hope he is all right."

He and Ben Orgles bent over the fallen man. The whole thing had happened
in a matter of moments, but, had they not come up when they did, the
thugs could have accomplished their evil purpose. As it was, Bruce had
got off lightly. He had warded off several blows with his arms and they
were badly bruised. It was the blow to the head that had knocked him out,
and that, fortunately, had done no permanent damage.

Roger and Ben picked him up and he soon showed signs of returning

"What--" he muttered thickly. "Who--"

"Never mind," Roger said. "We know all about it. If you can manage a few
steps we'll get a taxi and take you home."


"Never mind him now."

With their support each side he walked, or was dragged, to the street and
Roger stayed with him while Ben went for a cab. He was soon back and they
all got in, Roger giving the order to Dowton Close.

He had remembered that his own home was at the moment rather overful. He
thought Amabel Legh and Valerie would not mind looking after the patient
for an hour or two until he was fit to go to his hotel. Luckily they were
both in, Amabel having just got back from the theatre.

"Of course," she said; "bring him in."

"I am really all right," Bruce protested. He had a headache but
otherwise not much was amiss.

"What happened?" Valerie asked, wide-eyed and sympathetic. "Another
attack, you poor darling?"

"Yes," Roger said, "another attack. He was walking with his uncle and
three men set on them. Luckily Ben and I were following and no great harm
was done. Give him some cold water and perhaps a cold bandage. Keep him
quiet till we are back. I want to see that uncle of his."



WHEN Roger Bennion rang the bell of the top-floor flat at Westbourne
House, the door was opened by Mrs. Strawn. There was no duchess look
about her. She was wearing an overall or dressing-gown and her hair was
untidy. She recognised the caller and her hard features showed definite
displeasure. Now that he looked for it, Roger could see some likeness to
her young and pretty daughter, Vadny.

"I want to see Mr. Pursey," he said.

"You can't. He has gone to bed."

"But he has only just come in. It is most important."

"He has gone to bed."

"Please tell him that I am here. He and his nephew were attacked by three
men after they had had supper together. I want some information."

"He won't see anyone."

"That is surely for him to decide, not you. Tell him I am here, if he
would rather I brought the police I will do so, but we must see him

She stared angrily at him, but she met a gaze as determined as her own.

"1 will ask him," she muttered.

She turned away and entered a room. As she did so, a shadow from behind
Roger--a substantial shadow--slipped past him through the open door and
into a small cloak room just inside the hall.

"He will see you," Mrs. Strawn said sulkily when she returned. "Wait a
minute." She closed the door and bolted it. Then she left him.

"This way," she said a few moments later and she showed him into the room
he had been in before. Mr. Pursey was seated in the big chair, almost as
though he had never left it. He wore the clothes he had been wearing the
evening, there was no sign of disrobing. The ceiling light was on and it
made his hair look whiter than ever. It was not disarranged in any way.

"Were you unhurt?" Roger asked abruptly.

"Not badly hurt," the old man replied. "What do you know about it?"

"I came up with a friend after it was all over. Three men, weren't

"Three or four."

"Would you know them again?"

"I don't think I should."

He spoke curtly, but Roger persevered.

"They were armed, weren't they?"

"I really don't know. Sticks, perhaps."

"Could you give any description of them, or how they were dressed?"

"Of course not. It was dark and they had something over their faces."

"What made you go that way?"

"I was showing my nephew a short cut. How is he?"

"Too soon to say. He was badly hit. How did you manage to get away?"

"I slipped past and they went for him."

"But did you not call for help?"

The old man stared at him, resenting his questions.

"He is young and strong. I thought he would be all right."

"You really mean that, Mr. Pursey? You got into Piccadilly, or some other
busy street, knowing that three men were attacking your nephew, and you
never told the police or did anything to get him help? You came straight
home and you still did nothing about it?"

Roger was regarding him very intently. His tone suggested such behaviour
was incredible, even in an old man. The answer was slow in coming. "I--I
suppose I was more shaken than I realised. I did not stop to think. I
only wanted to get home. He is all right, isn't he?"

Roger peered more closely at him. Then he bent suddenly forward and
pulled off the white wig and spectacles, revealing a head covered with
closely clipped brown hair.

"So it was you, Strawn, all the time! You will have a lot of explaining
to do!"

With an oath the porter jumped from the chair and threw himself at him.
Strongly built, he went for Roger's throat, meaning to choke the life out
of him. Roger seized him round the body and they rolled over together.

"Emily!" Strawn shouted.

Mrs. Strawn appeared at the door. She had a revolver in her hand. She
raised it and fired. The bullet missed by inches.

"Don't shoot!" Strawn cried. "Hit him!"

Perhaps he realised that shots might rouse the silent building; perhaps
he feared that as they rolled on the floor her firing was as likely to
find him as his opponent. Mrs. Strawn vanished, to return a moment later
with a heavy hammer in her hand. She crept close, seeking a chance to
strike at Roger's head, but he swung her husband between them. She raised
her arm for a decisive blow. . . and was flung heavily into a chair. She
rolled over in it to the floor, and Ben Orgles, who had timed his
entrance very aptly, grabbed the hammer and was master of the situation.

Roger gained the upper hand of Strawn and sat heavily on his stomach. The
porter was winded and temporarily disabled.

"Find something to tie them up, Ben," Roger said.

But it was not to be as easy as all that. Mrs Strawn was not done with.
Panting heavily, she scrambled to her feet and rushed at Roger to aid her
husband. Ben, however, pushed her over again, and, tearing down a
curtain, rolled her in it. That kept her busy for a few moments, and he
tossed Roger a length of flex, torn from an electric reading lamp, that
made a good binding for the man's ankles. Mrs. Strawn was up
again--kicking, biting, scratching. Ben had been used to handling
difficult cases, but it is never pleasant to have a struggle with a
woman. Roger lent him a hand, and it was not long before both man and
wife were securely bound in their chairs, once again some clothes-line
found in the kitchen helping to make a good job of it.

Strawn looked a queer object. In the tussle a good deal of the red
colouring matter that had turned him from the pasty-faced porter into the
rubicund Mr. Pursey had been rubbed off, giving him a very blotchy
appearance. His wife's clothes had got torn in the struggle and she was
almost breathless from her efforts. Both were silent, waiting with
vengeful glares what might be wanted of them.

"There is a telephone, Ben," Roger said. "Try and get Inspector Warren to
come over at once and we may clear up the whole business."

As Ben carried out his instructions, Roger said:

"Strawn, where is Mr. Pursey?"

"Don't answer," the wife muttered. "He can't make you."

Strawn was silent.

"Very well," Roger said, "I suppose you realise you will be charged with
murdering him? A short time back you were in his service. Then he
disappeared and you pretended you were he. You wore his wig, you wore his
clothes and you refused as far as you could to see people. That is
correct, isn't it?"

They stared at him, but neither spoke. If baffled hate could have killed
him, his end would have been swift.

"Then Bruce Kelsall, his only relative, came home. That made it difficult
for you, didn't it? Could you deceive him? You managed to do so, but you
were not content with that. You thought if you could kill him there would
be no one ever to question your right to what you had stolen. Your first
attempt failed. You lured him to that old house in Byng Place, but you
made a mistake. You wrote in the name of Gertrude Willows, not knowing
that she was in prison and unable to take any part in the affair. He did
not know either. But I did, and that enabled me to get to him in time.
There has seldom been a more devilish plot than the cutting away of the
landing floor and the firing of the building, but, thank God, it failed."

There was terror as well as hate in their eyes as they heard their foul
doings so accurately described, but still they were silent.

"Not content with that, you tried again. This evening, with pretended
hospitality, you took him to the Three Goblins and after supper you led
him to a prepared ambush, where your three assassins set on him while you
ran away. But we were ready for them. You were followed all the time, and
if Bruce Kelsall dies you will be charged with his murder, also."

He thought it well not to tell them too soon that Bruce was in no danger.

"I ask you again, where is Mr. Pursey?" This time the woman spoke.

"He went away," she muttered.

"Where did he go?"

There was no answer.

"Do you imagine anyone will believe that? He went away without informing
his lawyers or his agents that he was going? He left his clothes and his
wig behind? He left you to enjoy his flat and his money? Where is he?"

"We did not kill him," Strawn said shakily.

"Then what happened to him?"

"We don't know," said the wife.

"Very well," Roger replied. "What do you know about Lady Cradon's baby?"

They were startled at the sudden change of subject. Their terror
increased, but they did make an answer.

"Nothing," they both muttered.

"Nothing! Did Jim and Emmie Gilbert manage it all without your

They appeared to be utterly dumbfounded. Was there anything this man did
not know? The question in their guilty faces was as plain as if they had
said it aloud. But neither could find words. Silence was the only refuge.

"It is true the baby they dropped in the water was not Lady Cradon's
baby, though they thought it was. They are being taken care of. If you
want to help them you had best tell the truth and the whole truth."

"Hedley Cradon knows more about it than anyone," Mrs. Strawn said

"I wonder if he does. It would have been grand to have him for a
son-in-law, wouldn't it? But he was in Ireland at the time."

"You can get others to do things for you," Strawn muttered.

"As you did tonight? That is quite enough. We shall want to know what Mr.
Cradon can tell us and also what Vadny has to say."

At the mention of their other daughter's name Strawn's mottled
countenance grew paler under its colouring and his wife clawed frenziedly
at her bonds to get free.

"Leave her out of it. She was away."

Then Ben Orgles told them that Chief Inspector Warren had arrived.
Accompanied by two of his men, the detective strode into the room.

"Strawn, the porter here, has been posing as Robert Pursey," Roger told
him. "He lived in his flat, wore his clothes and received his money. He
tried to kill Bruce Kelsall, Pursey's only relative, in that house in
Byng Place, and tonight he made another attempt, hiring thugs to attack
him in a dark street off Soho. His wife is his accomplice. They say they
did not kill Pursey, but refuse to tell us what happened to him. I leave
them to you. But I would like a word in private."

He led the way to another room, and Warren also had something to say.

"I wanted to see you, Major Bennion. We heard from Jukes of Poole and he
told us he had roped in Jim Gilbert and his wife in accordance with a
message from you, but he wants to know where is the evidence. We can't
snap up people like that, even to oblige you."

"I know," Roger said, "and I apologise. One way and another I have had a
busy time. I meant to come straight along to you, but this other business
cropped up and I had to attend to Master Strawn. Anyway, Lady Cradon's
baby is safe in my house and the whole thing is pretty well taped up, or
will be when you get busy."

He told of his experiences in Poole and of Peggy Wadhurst's story of the
exchange of babies that had saved little Sir Lionel's life.

"You can see her tomorrow and get it all from her. That end is clear
enough. We have to sort out the details of the actual abduction, but I do
not think that will take you long."

"I suppose," Warren said with pretended sarcasm, "that the Force could
really be disbanded and the job handed over to you."

"I would not say that," Roger laughed. "If I have helped I am glad. I am
still a bit puzzled as to what exactly happened to old Pursey. I doubt if
you will get much out of the Strawns, but I would like to go over the
flat with you tomorrow to see if it throws any light on things."

This was agreed, and Roger departed with Ben Orgles to see Bruce and tell
him of his precious "relations".

"It's been quite a day, sir," Ben grinned. "Queer that the baby case
should link up with the attempts on young Kelsall--or doesn't it?"

"I think it does," Roger said. "You did a good job tonight, Ben."

"Thank you, sir. I oughtn't to have, let that bitch fire at you, but I
didn't know she had a gun. Then Strawn said 'Don't shoot,’ so I waited a
moment to see what the hell-hag would do."

"That's all right, Ben. She couldn't have hit a hay-stack. I don't often
have two rough-and-tumbles in a day, but it is good for the figure. You
must try it."

"Give me the chance," Ben grinned.

At Dowton Close they found Bruce, completely recovered, chatting gaily
with Valerie and her mother.

"It is the second time you have saved me, sir," Bruce said to Roger. "I
am still rather mystified about it all and to say thank you seems so
woefully inadequate."

"We will take it all as said," Roger replied. "It was in a good cause,
and now for a surprise. Your Uncle Robert and Strawn the porter are one
and the same person."

"You do not mean that!" Bruce exclaimed. "How can they be?"

"Have you, since you came back, ever seen them together or more or less
at the same time? Is it not a fact that you could not see your uncle
unless Strawn made the appointment and, when you kept it, Strawn was not

"That is a fact," Bruce said thoughtfully. "But they were so different--"

"It was my experience, too. Your uncle disappeared; we do not yet know
exactly how or when; and by wearing his white wig and colouring his face
a bricky red, Strawn took his place. That the old man was eccentric made
it easy. When did you last actually see him?"

"Nearly a year ago. I said goodbye to him and to Strawn before I went to
New Zealand. I am sure I saw them both."

"So during that year the imposture was effected. Did you notice no
difference when you came back?"

Bruce hesitated. "I did and I didn't. I thought he was changed and more
unfriendly, but I imagined it was due to a sort of mental illness."

"Good acting," Amabel commented, "but he had plenty of chance of studying
the old man. Make-up always helps a lot."

"And it was the Strawns who tried to get rid of Bruce in that fire,"
Valerie exclaimed, "and again tonight."

"That is so," Roger said.

"How utterly wicked! But you spotted the fraud."

"Not as soon as I would have wished. But if Strawn could deceive Bruce,
who knew his uncle, you must not think too hardly of me, since I had
never seen him."

"But you did spot the fraud," Amabel remarked.

"Not till the end. I found it difficult to believe in that old uncle; he
seemed hardly human. Yet, as Bruce says, mental cases are unaccountable.
But it was his red skin that gave him away. Sitting under that light, an
hour or so ago, I saw that his colour was coming off on his collar.
Agitation, I suppose, or heat. I snatched off his wig and saw Strawn's
brown crop. Then everything fell into shape."

'Pretty wonderful!" Valerie said.

"Thank you. Now we must take Bruce to his hotel. Ben shall see him safely
tucked up while I attend to the other part of our affair."

When Roger reached his home Ruth was waiting for him. "Oh, Roger, it. was
marvellous! Lady Cradon came and her baby knew her. He said, 'Mummie!

She threw herself into his arms and burst out crying.

"I can't help crying; I am so happy. So happy that we were able to help

A little later, when he had soothed her and they were cosily in bed, she

"It seems such a pity."

"What does, darling?"

"She says she does not care about the money and the title now she has her
baby back, but she has been through so much."

"She has not lost them yet, darling. Happy dreams."



JOE GASSETT did not sleep on the premises, and when he arrived at
Westbourne House early the next morning he was astonished to find a
constable in charge. The taciturn officer would only tell him that Strawn
and his wife had been taken away for questioning and that he was to get
on with his job.

Joe pretended to obey, but being curious, he took an early opportunity to
telephone to the Strawns' daughter, Evadne Peers, for further
particulars. She could tell him nothing.

Roger Bennion arrived at the flats before Inspector Warren and he had a
few words with the assistant porter, though he did not impart

"How long have you been here, Joe?" he asked him.

"Just over six months."

"Who gave you the job?"

"I s'pose it was Strawn really."

"Did you see Mr. Pursey?"

"Yes, I did."

"Can you remember just how it all happened?"

"Well, it was like this," Joe said. "I saw Strawn and he showed me round
and told me what I would have to do. Then he said I must see the boss the
next day."

"Was Strawn there when you did so?"

"As a matter of fact he weren't. He said it was his time off and I must
go straight up to the top flat. So I did. Mrs. Strawn let me in and I saw
the old gent. He asked a few questions and said I could come on trial. I
must satisfy Strawn and that would satisfy him."

"You can carry on for a bit if Strawn is away?"

Joe grinned. "I pretty much carry on now," he said. "Not a lot to do
really and I mostly do it."

Then Warren and two of his assistants arrived. Roger told the chief
inspector of this conversation and said he thought it pretty well fixed
the date of the disappearance of Mr. Pursey.

"Strawn would want to get rid of an assistant who knew the old man," he
said, "but one he engaged himself could be more easily managed. Did you
extract anything of importance from him or his wife?"

"I did not. They could not deny the imposture as they were caught in the
act, but they persist that Pursey just vanished. When I asked what they
did about it, they said they waited for a time and then, as he did not
show up, they carried on for him."

"What about the attempts on Bruce Kelsall?"

"Perfect innocence! Couldn't account for them at all."

"I suppose they would say that," Roger remarked. "I wonder what we shall
find upstairs."

They made a very thorough examination of the top floor and discovered
several things of interest, though nothing that shed new light on the
matter. Mr. Pursey's clothes were still in the cupboards and so were some
of Strawn's. There was plenty of evidence of the dual occupation, but
nothing that showed what had happened to the old man. In his desk they
found his cheque book and it was significant that six months back there
was an interval of three weeks, during which no cheques were drawn. They
also found with it three signatures, "Robert Pursey,” cut from letters or
documents he had signed. They were shaky but no doubt genuine. There was
also a sheet with a number of signatures, as though made by someone
copying the original and practising to get it perfect.

"Pretty good, some of them," Warren said. "Not surprising the bank passed

"To my mind," Roger said, "the real question is how the body was disposed
of. We pretty well know how the baby was taken to Poole, but it is not so
easy to handle a dead man."

"They seem to have had six months to do it," Warren commented.

"I expect they did it at once. No sign of anything up here, but what
about Strawn's own quarters?"

"We will search them," Warren agreed. "There are the cellars; perhaps we
ought to dig up the floors."

"It may come to that," Roger said, "but I have another idea. Of course it
may be wrong, but it is worth trying."

He led the way to the half-empty room in the basement he had noticed on
his first visit there. He took a few measurements.

"It looks to me," he said, "that the recess to the left of the fireplace
has been bricked in. Why should the wall be nearly two feet thicker there
than it is the other side? Why is the wallpaper discoloured?"

"I see what you mean," Warren said grimly. "We will soon know."

With the aid of a crowbar, his men cut into the wall. It was only a brick
thick, with another wall behind it. From the space between there came a
most unpleasant odour.

No one spoke as more bricks were removed. Then Warren took a torch and
peered into the blank space they had opened.

"You are right," he muttered. "A body there, on the floor. We must cut
the wall down and get it out."

"Poor old Pursey," Roger muttered. "I will leave you to it. You had
better send for your doctor. It is not a pleasant job, but the sooner he
sees it the better."

Roger was glad to get into the clean fresh air. The horrible tangle was
now almost cleared up. There could be no reasonable doubt that the body
bricked behind that wall was Robert Pursey, or all that remained of him.
Whether he had been murdered or had died a natural death remained to be
proved. The Strawns insisted they had not killed him. That might be true.
It was not impossible that the old man had died in his bed and they had
thought it to their advantage to conceal the fact. Then the idea of the
personation had occurred to them and they had yielded to the temptation.
The doctor's gruesome task would clear up some of the questions.

The sensations of the day were not over. In the late afternoon Roger had
a message asking if he could see Chief Inspector Warren at the Yard. He
went at once.

"I hand it to you, Major Bennion," Warren said. "You spotted the fraud
and you led us to the victim. There is no doubt as to his identity. He
had been tumbled into that bricked-up cupboard in his nightclothes. There
is no evidence so far of foul play, but tests for poison have to be
completed. But it is not that I wanted to see you about. It is the other

"The baby case?"

"Yes. Hedley Cradon is dead."


"No. Maybe it was a hero's death. We went early this morning to see
Evadne Peers, Strawn's daughter. She was gone. We now know that she
started out before breakfast and went to the garage where Hedley Cradon
had two cars. She said she wanted his M.G. to take to him. She asked for
it to be filled up as they might be going as far as Bournemouth. The man
knew her, as she had often been there with Cradon, and he did what she
wanted. A little later Cradon himself called and was told what had
happened. He was very angry and set out in his other car, apparently to
chase her."

"A saloon, isn't it?"

"Yes. Slower than the M.G., but the man says Evadne Peers is not a very
experienced driver and would probably not go all out. Anyway, Cradon
nearly caught her. She passed through Ringwood and he was close behind. A
little girl ran into the road to stare after the red M.G. as Cradon came
round a bend. To miss her he had to run up the bank. His car overturned
and he was killed outright."

"Very tragic," Roger said. "Perhaps it was a mercy."

"The Vadny woman ran on, not knowing what had happened. She made straight
for Gilbert's garage where Jukes' men were in charge. Learning who she
was, they held her and phoned us. From Ringwood there came a phone to
Cradon's garage, as that address was in the car. The man there phoned us,
so we got the full story."

"Very smart work," Roger commented. "The only trouble is we may never
know the whole truth as to the kidnapping business."

"How do you mean?"

"The Strawn gang did it; that is clear enough; but how far was Cradon an
accessory? We, now, shall have their story, not his. But you have the
Strawns so tied up that you may get the whole thing from them."



THREE mornings later Bruce Kelsall called soon after breakfast-time at
Egerton Terrace to tell Ruth and Roger he had received orders to sail on
the day after the morrow.

"Take care of yourself this time," Roger said.

"I will, sir."

"Are you glad?" Ruth asked.

"On the whole, I am. It is good of them to have given me another chance,
and it is a step up, too, second officer. I think I have to thank you for
that, sir."

"Not a bit," Roger said. "I did have a chat with your chairman, but it
was your own good work that did it. What does Valerie say about it?"

"I am on my way to tell her. I want her to spend the day with me if she

"I suppose you know that the solicitors found a will and, except for two
hundred pounds to Strawn, everything is left to you?"

"They told me that."

"Will Strawn get his legacy?" Ruth asked.

"Hard to say," Roger laughed. "It will do his lawyers more good than him
if he does. How will it affect things with Valerie?"

Bruce was a little embarrassed.

"I don't know yet, sir. I am going now to tell her. I realise how young
she is. After this trip, and perhaps the next, if she is willing I shall
get a shore job."

"I hope it will work out as you desire," Roger said, "and I think it
will. I want to see her mother, so I will come round with you."

They found both Valerie and Amabel at home. When informed of Bruce's
impending departure, the former promptly agreed to play truant and to
spend the day with him.

"Major Bennion," Valerie said rather shyly, "I hope you will not mind my
saying how wonderful I think you have been in unravelling all these
horrible affairs. And I do want to thank you for all you have done for

"That is sweet of you, my dear," he smiled. "Of course, the police would
have found it all out in time--"

"Not in time to save Bruce!" she exclaimed.

"Perhaps not. But a lot is owing to Ruth, you know, for the Solomon's
judgment suggestion."

"I agree it has been marvellous," Amabel said. "I hope I am not very
stupid, but I still do not quite understand the connection between Bruce
and Lady Cradon's baby."

"In one way there is no connection," Roger replied. "They were separate
affairs, but the same evil mind was behind them both. The Strawns linked
them together when they used the promise of the reward in the Cradon case
to lure Bruce to Byng Place. They owned to a good deal when Warren told
them we had discovered their skeleton in the cupboard--not quite a
skeleton yet. They were abjectly frightened of a capital charge and to
avoid it told the whole story.

"It appears Mrs. Strawn was the brains of the business. Anxious beyond
reason for the welfare of her daughters, and particularly for Vadny, she
was willing to stop at nothing to advance, as she thought, their
fortunes. Old Mr. Pursey died one night in his sleep. The doctors admit
that might be true. There were no signs of violence, no bullet holes or
damage to the skull and no traces of poison. Mrs. Strawn conceived the
idea that her husband should impersonate him. It was made easy by the
lonely life he had led. She swears, by the way, that her family knew
nothing of what was being done. The two men were much the same in build
and with the white wig, the spectacles, the clothes and a touch of colour
all over the face, the likeness was good enough to deceive anyone,
including the nephew."

"Bruce had not seen him for quite a while," Valerie pointed out.

"I thought his manner had changed," Bruce said, "but I admit I was
completely taken in."

"Your return bothered them. At first they relied on surliness to drive
you away, but you were rather persistent and they realised that as long
as you lived the danger of detection remained. Once you were disposed of,
it would be all plain sailing. Mrs. Strawn knew of the house in Byng
Place through a friend who lived there. Strawn cut away the flooring on
the staircase and she was there to call you up and to start the fire."

"What an awful woman!" Valerie shuddered. "How about the second attempt?"

"That was simple. Two of the three men employed in the ambush have been
caught and will stand their trial. Strawn found denials useless."

"But who actually kidnapped the baby?" Amabel asked.

"That was very much as we thought. Emmie Gilbert posed as the shop
assistant who persuaded the nurse to go back to the stores, and Mrs.
Strawn pushed up the second pram with the doll and pushed away the one
with the baby. Jim Gilbert was waiting in the garage with the car; Emmie
had already joined him."

"It is shocking to think that such a thing could happen here in broad
daylight," Amabel said. "Thank goodness you caught them and everything is
cleared up."

"Everything but the motive. That is in dispute."

"How so?" she asked.

"What part did Hedley Cradon play in the affair? We do not know and
perhaps we never shall know. He had written some foolish letters to Vadny
Peers, saying how he would benefit if little Lionel died. Vadny showed
those letters to her mother, who thought they put him in their power. So
the affair was arranged and they then demanded that Hedley should marry
Vadny as the price of silence. Hedley came to me about it and asked my
advice. He admitted the letters, but swore he never contemplated such a
terrible action. Now he is dead he cannot defend himself."

"He died saving that child," Valerie said. "There was a full account of
it in the papers. I do not believe he was capable of planning anything so
foul as the murder of his little cousin."

"I suppose it often happens that a life, a brother perhaps, or a cousin,
is between a man and a fortune," Amabel remarked, "and they must feel
what a difference it would make to them if he died, but they do not try
to kill him. I knew of a case where there were twin sons; one got an
earldom and a vast estate by being twenty minutes older than his

"That is quite true," Roger agreed, "but it is indiscreet, to say the
least, to put such things in a letter to a person like Vadny. Joe Gassett
played a part, innocently enough. He telephoned Vadny about the parents
and she, taking alarm, dashed off to her sister Emmie Gilbert. Hedley
pursued her and met his fate. The Strawns persist that he knew all about
the affair and arranged that it should be done while he was in Ireland,
offering a big reward if it worked out as he hoped. Instead of the reward
they wanted marriage, and they sent Vadny away at the time to keep her

"Do you believe that?" Amabel asked.

"I can only say the Gilberts tell quite another story. They admit the
kidnapping--they cannot get away from it--but they say there was never
any intention to harm the child. They thought they were to hold it for
ransom. When they found it had died, they panicked and tried to get rid
of the body."

"Is that true?" Valerie asked.

"It does not tally with Peggy Wadhurst's story and it makes nonsense of
the marriage demand. It will be a nice tangle for the jury to unravel. My
own theory is that at first the Gilberts, or anyway Emmie, thought it was
to be an abduction for ransom only. That was why she let Peggy know she
was expecting her sister's baby. It would be necessary to account for the
arrival. Later they were told--or Jim told Emmie--that the baby was to be
got rid of. Emmie was perhaps unwilling, but she had to let them have
their way. So she assured Peggy the infant had never arrived. That would
tally with Peggy's story, which of course is true. Whether or not Hedley
was really innocent may remain an open question."

"I believe he was," Valerie declared. "I did not care for him. He was
silly, but he was not an utter fiend."

"It is easy to accuse him now he is gone," her mother added.

"In one way," Roger told them, "it may not make a lot of difference.
Actually there was no murder. The Gilberts and Mrs. Strawn are guilty of
abduction and will be sentenced accordingly. The Strawns will also get
what is due to them for the other matter. The prosecution will probably
make no mention of Hedley at all. It means there will also be no case
against Vadny. Lucky for her, but she does not appear to have taken an
active part in things."

"I understand it all now," Amabel said, "but, having got hold of Mr.
Pursey's property, why were the Strawns not satisfied? Why did they want
to abduct the child?"

"The flats may not bring in as much as they thought, when taxes and
upkeep are paid, and there is Mrs. Strawn's insatiable ambition. What a
triumph to see her pet daughter become My Lady!"

"I suppose that was it. It is truly wonderful that you unmasked such
villainy. If these children are going out, can you spare me a moment,
Major Bennion? There is something important I want to ask you."

"Of course."

Valerie and Bruce went off, radiantly happy. Roger had no doubt they
would come to a pleasant understanding. As the door closed, Amabel said:

"Would you do me a great favour? Would you let Eleanor Cradon know that I
withdraw all claims against her and little Lionel as to the money and the
title? I want nothing."

Roger smiled. "I am very glad you have said that, but it is not quite
enough, is it?"

"What do you mean?"

"Can Lady Cradon be happy enjoying what she is told is not really hers?
With the ever-present dread that others will discover the facts and her
son lose his inheritance?"

"What more can I do?"

"You can tell her the truth."

Roger spoke quietly. The actress drew herself up with a gesture that
would have been admirable on the stage.

"Are you suggesting that I did not marry Lionel Cradon? That the marriage
certificate was a forgery?"

"I suggest nothing of the sort."

"Then what do you suggest?" she demanded imperiously.

"Let us drop the heroics, Amabel. Lionel Cradon did commit bigamy. I do
not doubt it was done in innocence, but Eleanor was not the victim, you

"Why do you say that?" Her tone was uncertain.

"When I saw your certificate, I noticed that Lionel Cradon was described
as a widower. That meant there had been a previous wife. I took the
trouble to make a few enquiries and to look up books of reference. In
1924 he married Georgina Hathway. In a tribute to him when he got his
title I read that she died in 1937--five years after his alleged marriage
to you. That is true, isn't it?"

There was no answer. She knew not what to say. "There had been no
divorce--therefore his marriage to you was no marriage! I was a little
sceptical about your story. I did not believe Lionel Cradon would have
been so proud of his son if he had known him to be illegitimate. He would
have dealt with things in a different way. It was hard on you, but I
wondered if the mistake you told us of, a genuine mistake, had been about
his first wife and not about you?"

Amabel sank into a chair.

"What must I do?" she whispered.

"First tell me the real story."

She was silent for some time. Then she began in a low clear tone. A good
story always appealed to her.

"Lionel did not get on well with Georgina. She left him and he heard she
was dead. There was a car smash in America, but it was to her, not to me.
Much of what I said was true. Our marriage was kept secret, not because
he had any doubt of Georgina's death but because I was on the stage. We
were only together five months when he had a letter from Georgina saying
she was coming home. It was a terrible shock to him, but he was an honest
man. He paid me twenty thousand pounds and I went to America, as I had an
offer of an engagement. It was not till I was there that I knew Valerie
was on the way."

"Did you tell him?"

"No. I had promised not to communicate with him. I thought twenty
thousand pounds an enormous sum of money. It is, but I suppose I was
extravagant. Anyway, I managed until just before he died. Then I
speculated in a show to recover something and I lost all I had left. I
thought he might remember me in his will, but he did not. Was it very
wrong to put up a fight--to try to get some thing for his child and my

"I am afraid it was," Roger said. "Very wrong to the real wife. You could
have told her the truth and asked for something."

"That would have looked like blackmail."

"Was your plan any better?"

"I did not see it like that."

"Well," Roger said, "it is to your credit that you wanted to withdraw
your claim, but Lady Cradon must know her son bears his title, not by
your kindness but in his own right. You see that?"

"You will tell her?"

"No. You must do that. I will go with you if you like."

"Let us go now. I shall feel happier when it is off my mind. Valerie
warned me about you, Major Bennion. She said you always got to the root
of things. But you are rather sweet, all the same!"

At the flats, Joe Gassett, in a new smart uniform and full of importance,
took them up to the first floor. The door was opened by Peggy Wadhurst.
She was looking very pretty; the strained look had gone from her eyes.

"All well, Peggy?"

"Yes, sir, thank you. Lady Cradon is most kind and I am staying here
until the case is over and my husband is back."

"Both boys well?"

"Splendid, sir," she smiled.

Amabel had recovered her poise. When they entered Lady Cradon's room she
went straight to her and kissed her.

"Eleanor darling, I am so glad your little boy is back, safe and sound.
And I have some other news for you that is almost as wonderful."

Lady Cradon looked years younger and inexpressibly happier than she had
done a few days before.

"Nothing could be as wonderful as that," she said. "But what is it?"

"Major Bennion made enquiries for me and he found that although poor
Lionel did get his marriages muddled, of course quite innocently, I was
the wife who was no wife, not you."

"But how--"

"It may sound complicated, though it is really very simple. When Lionel
married me, his first wife Georgina was still alive. So ours was no
marriage. She died before he married you, so you are really and truly
Lady Cradon and your little boy is Sir Lionel in his own right."

Amabel spoke triumphantly, as she had often done in clearing up domestic
tangles in the last act of her plays. She seemed to enjoy her dramatic
success. Lady Cradon was a little bewildered.

"Is this true?" she asked Roger.

"Essentially it is," he said. "I found it out some days ago, but it did
not seem so important until we knew the baby was all right. Amabel wanted
to tell you herself."

"It is indeed wonderful. I cannot say how relieved I am and how much I
thank you both. But--Amabel--is it quite fair to you?"

"Perfectly," she said. "I am happy, too, for I have another secret to
tell you. Andrew has asked me to marry him and I have consented. I think
I can console him for poor Hedley's loss. Of course, we shall not
announce it for a little while. But, just one thing: I think we should
both promise never to tell him I ever married Lionel. It would do no good
and might spoil his memory of his brother."

Lady Cradon kissed her.

"I promise that, and I hope you will both be very happy."

"We shall be," Amabel laughed. "We shall make a big thing of the Society
of Peacemakers and before long I also may be Lady Cradon!"

"In your own right, and his!" Roger said.

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