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Title: Blue Hand (1925)
Author: Edgar Wallace
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Language:  English
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Title: Blue Hand (1925)
Author: Edgar Wallace





CHAPTER ONE


Mr. Septimus Salter pressed the bell on his table for the third time and
uttered a soft growl.

He was a stout, elderly man, and with his big red face and white
side-whiskers, looked more like a prosperous farmer than a successful
lawyer. The cut of his clothes was queerly out of date, the high white
collar and the black satin cravat that bulged above a flowered waistcoat
were of the fashion of 1850, in which year Mr. Salter was a little ahead
of his time so far as fashions were concerned. But the years had caught
him up and passed him, and although there was not a more up-to-date
solicitor in London, he remained faithful to the style in which he had
made a reputation as a "buck."

He pressed the bell again, this time impatiently.

"Confound the fellow!" he muttered, and rising to his feet, he stalked
into the little room where his secretary was usually to be found.

He had expected to find the apartment empty, but it was not. A chair had
been drawn sideways up to the big ink-stained table, and kneeling on
this, his elbows on the table, his face between his hands, was a young
man who was absorbed in the perusal of a document, one of the many which
littered the table.

"Steele!" said Mr. Salter sharply, and the reader looked up with a start
and sprang to his feet.

He was taller than the average and broad of shoulder, though he gave an
impression of litheness. His tanned face spoke eloquently of days spent
out of doors, the straight nose, the firm mouth, and the strong chin
were all part of the characteristic "soldier face" moulded by four years
of war into a semblance of hardness.

Now he was a little confused, more like the guilty school-boy than the
V.C. who had tackled eight enemy aeroplanes, and had come back to his
aerodrome with a dozen bullets in his body.

"Really, Steele," said Mr. Salter reproachfully, "you are too bad. I
have rung the bell three times for you."

"I'm awfully sorry, sir," said Jim Steele, and that disarming smile of
his went straight to the old man's heart.

"What are you doing here?" growled Mr. Salter, looking at the papers on
the desk, and then with a "tut" of impatience, "Aren't you tired of
going over the Danton case?"

"No, sir, I'm not," said Steele quietly. "I have a feeling that Lady
Mary Danton can be found, and I think if she is found there will be a
very satisfactory explanation for her disappearance, and one which will
rather disconcert--" He stopped, fearful of committing an indiscretion.

Mr. Salter looked at him keenly and helped himself to a pinch of snuff.

"You don't like Mr. Groat?" he asked, and Jim laughed.

"Well, sir, it's not for me to like him or dislike him," he replied.
"Personally, I've no use for that kind of person. The only excuse a man
of thirty can produce for not having been in the war, is that he was
dead at the time."

"He had a weak heart," suggested Mr. Salter, but without any great
conviction.

"I think he had," said Jim with a little twist of his lips. "We used to
call it a 'poor heart' in the army. It made men go sick on the eve of a
battle, and drove them into dug-outs when they should have been
advancing across the open with their comrades."

Mr. Salter looked down at the papers.

"Put them away, Steele," he said quietly. "You're not going to get any
satisfaction out of the search for a woman who--why, she must have
disappeared when you were a child of five."

"I wish, sir--" began Steele, and hesitated. "Of course, it's really no
business of mine," he smiled, "and I've no right to ask you, but I'd
like to hear more details of that disappearance if you can spare me the
time--and if you feel inclined. I've never had the courage to question
you before. What is the real story of her disappearance?"

Mr. Salter frowned, and then the frown was gradually replaced by a
smile.

"I think, Steele, you're the worst secretary I ever had," he said in
despair. "And if I weren't your godfather and morally bound to help you,
I should write you a polite little note saying your services were not
required after the end of this week."

Jim Steele laughed.

"I have expected that ever since I've been here," he said.

There was a twinkle in the old lawyer's eyes. He was secretly fond of
Jim Steele; fonder than the boy could have imagined. But it was not only
friendship and a sense of duty that held Jim down in his job. The young
man was useful, and, despite his seeming inability to hear bells when he
was wrapped up in his favourite study, most reliable.

"Shut that door," he said gruffly, and when the other had obeyed, "I'm
telling this story to you," and he pointed a warning finger at Jim
Steele, "not because I want to satisfy your curiosity, but because I
hope that I'm going to kill all interest in the Danton mystery as you
call it for evermore! Lady Mary Danton was the only daughter of the Earl
of Plimstock--a title which is now extinct. She married, when she was
quite a young girl, Jonathan Danton, a millionaire shipowner, and the
marriage was not a success. Jonathan was a hard, sour man, and a sick
man, too. You talk about Digby Groat having a bad heart, well, Jonathan
had a real bad one. I think his ill-health was partly responsible for
his harsh treatment of his wife. At any rate, the baby that was born to
them, a girl, did not seem to bring them together--in fact, they grew
farther apart. Danton had to go to America on business. Before he left,
he came to this office and, sitting at that very table, he signed a
will, one of the most extraordinary wills that I have ever had
engrossed. He left the whole of his fortune to his daughter Dorothy, who
was then three or four months old. In the event of her death, he
provided that the money should go to his sister, Mrs. Groat, but not
until twenty years after the date of the child's death. In the meantime
Mrs. Groat was entitled to enjoy the income from the estate."

"Why did he do that?" asked Jim, puzzled.

"I think that is easily understood," said Mr. Salter.  "He was
providing against the child's death in its infancy, and he foresaw that
the will might be contested by Lady Mary. As it was drawn up--I haven't
explained all the details--it could not be so contested for twenty
years. However, it was not contested," he said quietly. "Whilst Danton
was in America, Lady Mary disappeared, and with her the baby. Nobody
knew where she went to, but the baby and a strange nurse, who for some
reason or other had care of the child, were traced to Margate. Possibly
Lady Mary was there too, though we have no evidence of this. We do know
that the nurse, who was the daughter of a fisherman and could handle a
boat, took the child out on the sea one summer day and was overtaken by
a fog. All the evidence shows that the little boat was run down by a
liner, and its battered wreck was picked up at sea, and a week later the
body of the nurse was recovered. We never knew what became of Lady Mary.
Danton returned a day or two after the tragedy, and the news was broken
to him by Mrs. Groat, his sister. It killed him."

"And Lady Mary was never seen again?"

Salter shook his head.

"So you see, my boy," he rose, and dropped his hand on the other's
shoulder, "even if by a miracle you could find Lady Mary, you could not
in any way affect the position of Mrs. Groat, or her son. There is only
one tiny actress in this drama who could ever have benefited by Jonathan
Danton's will, and she," he lowered his voice until it was little more
than a whisper, "she is beyond recall--beyond recall!"

There was a moment of silence.

"I realize that, sir," said Jim Steele quietly, "only--"

"Only what?"

"I have a queer feeling that there is something wrong about the whole
business, and I believe that if I gave my time to the task I could
unveil this mystery."

Mr. Salter looked at his secretary sharply, but Jim Steele met his eyes
without faltering.

"You ought to be a detective," he said ironically.

"I wish to heaven I was," was the unexpected reply. "I offered my
services to Scotland Yard two years ago when the Thirteen Gangs were
holding up the banks with impunity."

"Oh, you did, did you?" said the lawyer sarcastically as he opened the
door, and then suddenly he turned. "Why did I ring for you?" he asked.
"Oh, I remember! I want you to get out all those Danton leases of the
Cumberland property."

"Is Mrs. Groat selling?" asked Steele.

"She can't sell yet," said the lawyer, "but on the thirtieth of May,
providing a caveat is not entered, she takes control of the Danton
millions."

"Or her son does," said Jim significantly. He had followed his employer
back to the big private office with its tiers of deed boxes, its worn
furniture and threadbare carpet and general air of mustiness.

"A detective, eh?" snorted Mr. Salter as he sat down at his table. "And
what is your equipment for your new profession?"

Jim smiled, but there was an unusual look in his face.

"Faith," he said quietly.

"Faith? What is faith to a detective?" asked the startled Salter.

"'Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things
unseen.'" Jim quoted the passage almost solemnly, and for a long
time Mr. Salter did not speak. Then he took up a slip of paper on which
he had scribbled some notes, and passed it across to Jim.

"See if you can 'detect' these deeds, they are in the strong-room," he
said, but in spite of his jesting words he was impressed.

Jim took up the slip, examined it, and was about to speak when there
came a tap at the door and a clerk slipped into the room.

"Will you see Mr. Digby Groat, sir?" he asked.



CHAPTER TWO


MR. SALTER glanced up with a humorous glint in his eye. "Yes," he said
with a nod, and then to Jim as he was about to make a hurried exit, "you
can wait, Steele. Mr. Groat wrote in his letter that he wanted to see
the deeds, and you may have to conduct him to the strong-room."

Jim Steele said nothing.

Presently the clerk opened the door and a young man walked in.

Jim had seen him before and had liked him less every time he had met
him. The oblong sallow face, with its short black moustache, the sleepy
eyes, and rather large chin and prominent ears, he could have painted,
if he were an artist, with his eyes shut. And yet Digby Groat was
good-looking. Even Jim could not deny that. He was a credit to his
valet. From the top of his pomaded head to his patent shoes he was an
exquisite. His morning coat was of the most fashionable cut and fitted
him perfectly. One could have used the silk hat he carried in his hand
as a mirror, and as he came into the room exuding a delicate aroma of
Quelques Fleurs, Jim's nose curled. He hated men who scented themselves,
however daintily the process was carried out.

Digby Groat looked from the lawyer to Steele with that languid, almost
insolent look in his dark eyes, which the lawyer hated as much as his
secretary.

"Good morning, Salter," he said.

He took a silk handkerchief from his pocket and, dusting a chair, sat
down uninvited, resting his lemon-gloved hands upon a gold-headed ebony
cane.

"You know Mr. Steele, my secretary," said Salter.

The other nodded his glossy head.

"Oh, yes, he's a Victoria Cross person, isn't he?" he asked wearily. "I
suppose you find it very dull here, Steele? A place like this would bore
me to death."

"I suppose it would," said Jim, "but if you'd had four years' excitement
of war, you would welcome this place as a calm haven of rest."

"I suppose so," said the other shortly. He was not too well pleased by
Jim's reference to the fact that he had escaped the trials of war.

"Now, Dr. Groat--" but the other stopped him with a gesture.

"Please don't call me 'doctor,'" he said with a pained expression. "The
fact that I have been through the medical schools and have gained my
degrees in surgery is one which I wish you would forget. I qualified for
my own amusement, and if people get into the habit of thinking of me as
a doctor, I shall be called up all hours of the night by all sorts of
wretched patients."

It was news to Jim that this sallow dandy had graduated in medicines.

"I came to see those Lakeside leases, Salter," Groat went on. "I have
had an offer--I should say, my mother has had an offer--from a syndicate
which is erecting an hotel upon her property. I understand there is some
clause in the lease which prevents building operations of that
character. If so, it was beastly thoughtless of old Danton to acquire
such a property."

"Mr. Danton did nothing either thoughtless or beastly thoughtless," said
Salter quietly, "and if you had mentioned it in your letter, I could
have telephoned you the information and saved your calling. As it is,
Steele will take you to the strong-room, and you can examine the leases
at your leisure."

Groat looked at Jim sceptically.

"Does he know anything about leases?" he asked. "And must I really
descend into your infernal cellar and catch my death of cold? Can't the
leases be brought up for me?"

"If you will go into Mr. Steele's room, I dare say he will bring them to
you," said Salter, who did not like his client any more than Jim did.
Moreover, he had a shrewd suspicion that the moment the Groats gained
possession of the Danton fortune, they would find another lawyer to look
after their affairs.

Jim took the keys and returned with an armful of deeds, to discover that
Groat was no longer with his chief.

"I sent him into your room," said Salter. "Take the leases in and
explain them to him. If there's anything you want to know, I'll come in."

Jim found the young man in his room. He was examining a book he had
taken from a shelf.

"What does 'dactylology' mean?" he asked, looking round as Jim came in.
"I see you have a book on the subject."

"Finger-prints," said Jim Steele briefly. He hated the calm
proprietorial attitude of the man, and, moreover, Mr. Groat was
examining his own private library.

"Finger-prints, eh?" said Groat, replacing the book. "Are you interested
in finger-prints?"

"A little," said Jim. "Here are the Lakeside leases, Mr. Groat. I made a
sketchy examination of them in the strong-room and there seems to be no
clause preventing the erection of the building you mention."

Groat took the document in his hand and turned it leaf by leaf.

"No," he said at last, and then, putting down the document, "so you're
interested in finger-prints, eh? I didn't know old Salter did a criminal
business."

"He has very little common law practice," said Jim.

"What are these?" asked Groat.

By the side of Jim's desk was a bookshelf filled with thick black
exercise books.

"Those are my private notes," said Jim, and the other looked round with
a sneering smile.

"What the devil have you got to make notes about, I wonder?" he asked,
and before Jim could stop him, he had taken one of the exercise books
down.

"If you don't mind," said Jim firmly, "I would rather you left my
private property alone."

"Sorry, but I thought everything in old Salter's office had to do with
his clients."

"You're not the only client," said Jim. He was not one to lose his
temper, but this insolent man was trying his patience sorely.

"What is it all about?" asked the languid Groat, as he turned one page.

Jim, standing at the other side of the table watching him, saw a touch
of colour come into the man's yellow face. The black eyes hardened and
his languid interest dropped away like a cloak.

"What is this?" he asked sharply. "What the hell are you--"

He checked himself with a great effort and laughed, but the laugh was
harsh and artificial.

"You're a wonderful fellow, Steele," he said with a return to his old
air of insouciance. "Fancy bothering your head about things of that
sort."

He put the book back where he had found it, picked up another of the
leases and appeared to be reading it intently, but Jim, watching him,
saw that he was not reading, even though he turned page after page.

"That is all right," he said at last, putting the lease down and taking
up his top-hat. "Some day perhaps you will come and dine with us,
Steele. I've had rather a stunning laboratory built at the back of our
house in Grosvenor Square. Old Salter called me doctor!" He chuckled
quietly as though at a big joke. "Well, if you come along, I will show
you something that will at least justify the title."

The dark brown eyes were fixed steadily upon Jim as he stood in the
doorway, one yellow-gloved hand on the handle.

"And, by the way, Mr. Steele," he drawled, "your studies are leading you
into a danger zone for which even a second Victoria Cross could not
adequately compensate you."

He closed the door carefully behind him, and Jim Steele frowned after
him.

"What the dickens does he mean?" he asked, and then remembered the
exercise book through which Groat had glanced, and which had had so
strange an effect upon him. He took the book down from the shelf and
turning to the first page, read: "Some notes upon the Thirteen Gang."



CHAPTER THREE


THAT afternoon Jim Steele went into Mr. Salter's office. "I'm going to
tea now, sir," he said.

Mr. Salter glanced up at the solemn-faced clock that ticked audibly on
the opposite wall.

"All right," he grumbled; "but you're a very punctual tea-drinker,
Steele. What are you blushing about--is it a girl?"

"No, sir," said Jim rather loudly. "I sometimes meet a lady at tea,
but--"

"Off you go," said the old man gruffly. "And give her my love."

Jim was grinning, but he was very red, too, when he went down the stairs
into Marlborough Street. He hurried his pace because he was a little
late, and breathed a sigh of relief as he turned into the quiet tea-shop
to find that his table was as yet unoccupied.

As his tall, athletic figure strode through the room to the little
recess overlooking Regent Street, which was reserved for privileged
customers, many heads were turned, for Jim Steele was a splendid figure
of British manhood, and the grey laughing eyes had played havoc in many
a tender heart.

But he was one of those men whose very idealism forbade trifling. He had
gone straight from a public school into the tragic theatre of conflict,
and at an age when most young men were dancing attendance upon women,
his soul was being seared by the red-hot irons of war.

He sat down at the table and the beaming waitress came forward to attend
to his needs.

"Your young lady hasn't come yet, sir," she said.

It was the first time she had made such a reference to Eunice Weldon,
and Jim stiffened.

"The young lady who has tea with me is not my 'young lady,'" he said a
little coldly, and seeing that he had hurt the girl, he added with a
gleam of mirth in those irresistible eyes, "she's your young lady,
really."

"I'm sorry," said the waitress, scribbling on her order pad to hide her
confusion. "I suppose you'll have the usual?"

"I'll have the usual," said Jim gravely, and then with a quick glance at
the door he rose to meet the girl who had at that moment entered.

She was slim of build, straight as a plummet line from chin to toe; she
carried herself with a dignity which was so natural that the men who
haunt the pavement to leer and importune, stood on one side to let her
pass, and then, after a glimpse of her face, cursed their own timidity.
For it was a face Madonna-like in its purity. But a blue-eyed,
cherry-lipped Madonna, vital and challenging. A bud of a girl breaking
into the summer bloom of existence. In those sapphire eyes the beacon
fires of life signalled her womanhood; they were at once a plea and a
warning. Yet she carried the banners of childhood no less triumphantly.
The sensitive mouth, the round, girlish chin, the satin white throat and
clean, transparent skin, unmarked, unblemished, these were the gifts of
youth which were carried forward to the account of her charm.

Her eyes met Jim's and she came forward with outstretched hand.

"I'm late," she said gaily. "We had a tiresome duchess at the studio who
wanted to be taken in seventeen different poses--it is always the plain
people who give the most trouble."

She sat down and stripped her gloves, with a smile at the waitress.

"The only chance that plain people have of looking beautiful is to be
photographed beautifully," said Jim.

Eunice Weldon was working at a fashionable photographer's in Regent
Street. Jim's meeting with her had been in the very room in which they
were now sitting. The hangings at the window had accidentally caught
fire, and Jim, in extinguishing them, had burnt his hand. It was Eunice
Weldon who had dressed the injury.

A service rendered by a man to a woman may not lead very much farther to
a better acquaintance. When a woman helps a man it is invariably the
beginning of a friendship. Women are suspicious of the services which
men give, and yet feel responsible for the man they have helped, even to
the slightest extent.

Since then they had met almost daily and taken tea together. Once Jim
had asked her to go to a theatre, an invitation which she had promptly
but kindly declined. Thereafter he had made no further attempt to
improve their acquaintance.

"And how have you got on with your search for the missing lady?" she
asked, as she spread some jam on the thin bread-and-butter which the
waitress had brought.

Jim's nose wrinkled--a characteristic grimace of his.

"Mr. Salter made it clear to me to-day that even if I found the missing
lady it wouldn't greatly improve matters," he said.

"It would be wonderful if the child had been saved after all," she said.
"Have you ever thought of that possibility?"

He nodded.

"There is no hope of that." he said, shaking his head, "but it would be
wonderful, as you say, and more wonderful," he laughed, "if you were the
missing heiress!"

"And there's no hope of that either." she said, shaking her head. "I'm
the daughter of poor but honest parents, as the story-books say."

"Your father was a South African, wasn't he?"

She nodded.

"Poor daddy was a musician, and mother I can hardly remember, but she
must have been a dear."

"Where were you born?" asked Jim.

She did not answer immediately because she was busy with her jam
sandwich.

"In Cape Town--Rondebosch, to be exact," she said after a while. "Why
are you so keen on finding your long-lost lady?"

"Because I am anxious that the most unmitigated cad in the world should
not succeed to the Danton millions."

She sat bolt upright.

"The Danton millions?" she repeated slowly. "Then who is your
unmitigated cad? You have never yet mentioned the names of these
people."

This was perfectly true. Jim Steele had not even spoken of his search
until a few days before.

"A man named Digby Groat."

She stared at him aghast.

"Why, what's the matter?" he asked in surprise.

"When you said 'Danton' I remembered Mr. Curley--that is our chief
photographer--saying that Mrs. Groat was the sister of Jonathan Danton?"
she said slowly.

"Do you know the Groats?" he asked quickly.

"I don't know them," she said slowly, "at least, not very well, only--"
she hesitated, "I'm going to be Mrs. Groat's secretary."

He stared at her.

"You never told me this," he said, and as she dropped her eyes to her
plate, he realized that he had made a faux pas. "Of course," he said
hurriedly, "there's no reason why you should tell me, but--"

"It only happened to-day," she said. "Mr. Groat has had some photographs
taken--his mother came with him to the studio. She's been several times,
and I scarcely noticed them until to-day, when Mr. Curley called me into
the office and said that Mrs. Groat was in need of a secretary and that
it was a very good position; £5 a week, which is practically all profit,
because I should live in the house."

"When did Mrs. Groat decide that she wanted a secretary?" asked Jim, and
it was her turn to stare.

"I don't know. Why do you ask that?"

"She was at our office a month ago," said Jim, "and Mr. Salter suggested
that she should have a secretary to keep her accounts in order. She said
then she hated the idea of having anybody in the house who was neither a
servant nor a friend of the family."

"Well, she's changed her views now," smiled the girl.

"This means that we shan't meet at tea any more. When are you going?"

"To-morrow," was the discouraging reply.

He went back to his office more than a little dispirited. Something deep
and vital seemed to have gone out of his life.

"You're in love, you fool," he growled to himself.

He opened the big diary which it was his business to keep and slammed
down the covers savagely.

Mr. Salter had gone home. He always went home early, and Jim lit his
pipe and began to enter up the day's transactions from the scribbled
notes which his chief had left on his desk.

He had made the last entry and was making a final search of the desk for
some scrap which he might have overlooked.

Mr. Salter's desk was usually tidy, but he had a habit of concealing
important memoranda, and Jim turned over the law books on the table in a
search for any scribbled memo he might have missed. He found between two
volumes a thin gilt-edged notebook, which he did not remember having
seen before. He opened it to discover that it was a diary for the year
1901. Mr. Salter was in the habit of making notes for his own private
reading, using a queer legal shorthand which no clerk had ever been able
to decipher. The entries in the diary were in these characters.

Jim turned the leaves curiously, wondering how so methodical a man as
the lawyer had left a private diary visible. He knew that in the big
green safe in the lawyer's office were stacks of these books, and
possibly the old man had taken one out to refresh his memory. The
writing was Greek to Jim, so that he felt no compunction in turning the
pages, filled as they were with indecipherable and meaningless scrawls,
punctuated now and again with a word in longhand.

He stopped suddenly, for under the heading "June 4th" was quite a long
entry. It seemed to have been written in subsequently to the original
shorthand entry, for it was in green ink. This almost dated the
inscription. Eighteen months before, an oculist had suggested to Mr.
Salter, who suffered from an unusual form of astigmatism, that green ink
would be easier for him to read, and ever since then he had used no
other.

Jim took in the paragraph before he realized that he was committing an
unpardonable act in reading his employers' private notes.

"One month imprisonment with hard labour. Holloway Prison. Released July
2nd. Madge Benson (this word was underlined), 14, Palmer's Terrace,
Paddington. 74, Highcliffe Gardens, Margate. Long enquiries with boatman
who owned Saucy Belle. No further trace--"

"What on earth does that mean?" muttered Jim. "I must make a note of
that."

He realized now that he was doing something which might be regarded as
dishonourable, but he was so absorbed in the new clues that he overcame
his repugnance.

Obviously, this entry referred to the missing Lady Mary. Who the woman
Madge Benson was, what the reference to Holloway Gaol meant, he would
discover.

He made a copy of the entry in the diary at the back of a card, went
back to his room, locked the door of his desk and went home, to think
out some plan of campaign.

He occupied a small flat in a building overlooking Regent's Park. It is
true that his particular flat overlooked nothing but the backs of other
houses, and a deep cutting through which were laid the lines of the
London, Midland and Scottish Railway--he could have dropped a penny on
the carriages as they passed, so near was the line. But the rent of the
flat was only one-half of that charged for those in a more favourable
position. And his flat was smaller than any. He had a tiny private
income, amounting to two or three pounds a week, and that, with his
salary, enabled him to maintain himself in something like comfort. The
three rooms he occupied were filled with priceless old furniture that he
had saved from the wreckage of his father's home, when that easy-going
man had died, leaving just enough to settle his debts, which were many.

Jim had got out of the lift on the fourth floor and had put the key in
the lock when he heard the door on the opposite side of the landing
open, and turned round.

The elderly woman who came out wore the uniform of a nurse, and she
nodded pleasantly.

"How is your patient, nurse?" asked Jim.

"She's very well, sir, or rather as well as you could expect a bedridden
lady to be," said the woman with a smile. "She's greatly obliged to you
for the books you sent in to her."

"Poor soul," said Jim sympathetically. "It must be terrible not to be
able to go out."

The nurse shook her head.

"I suppose it is," she said, "but Mrs. Fane doesn't seem to mind. You
get used to it after seven years."

A "rat-tat" above made her lift her eyes.

"There's the post," she said. "I thought it had gone. I'd better wait
till he comes down."

The postman at Featherdale Mansions was carried by the lift to the sixth
floor and worked his way to the ground floor. Presently they heard his
heavy feet coming down and he loomed in sight.

"Nothing for you, sir," he said to Jim, glancing at the bundle of
letters in his hand.

"Miss Madge Benson--that's you, nurse, isn't it?"

"That's right," said the woman briskly, and took the letter from his
hand, then with a little nod to Jim she went downstairs.

Madge Benson! The name that had appeared in Salter's diary!



CHAPTER FOUR


"I'm sick to death of hearing your views on the subject, mother," said
Mr. Digby Groat, as he helped himself to a glass of port. "It is
sufficient for you that I want the girl to act as your secretary.
Whether you give her any work to do or not is a matter of indifference
to me. Whatever you do, you must not leave her with the impression that
she is brought here for any other purpose than to write your letters and
deal with your correspondence."

The woman who sat at the other side of the table looked older than she
was. Jane Groat was over sixty, but there were people who thought she
was twenty years more than that. Her yellow face was puckered and lined,
her blue-veined hands, folded now on her lap, were gnarled and ugly.
Only the dark brown eyes held their brightness undimmed. Her figure was
bent and there was about her a curious, cringing, frightened look which
was almost pitiable. She did not look at her son--she seldom looked at
anybody.

"She'll spy, she'll pry," she moaned.

"Shut up about the girl!" he snarled, "and now we've got a minute to
ourselves, I'd like to tell you something, mother."

Her uneasy eyes went left and right, but avoided him. There was a menace
in his tone with which she was all too familiar.

"Look at this."

He had taken from his pocket something that sparkled and glittered in
the light of the table lamp.

"What is it?" she whined without looking.

"It is a diamond bracelet," he said sternly. "And it is the property of
Lady Waltham. We were staying with the Walthams for the week-end. Look
at it!"

His voice was harsh and grating, and dropping her head she began to weep
painfully.

"I found that in your room," he said, and his suave manner was gone.
"You old thief!" he hissed across the table, "can't you break yourself
of that habit?"

"It looked so pretty," she gulped, her tears trickling down her withered
face. "I can't resist the temptation when I see pretty things."

"I suppose you know that Lady Waltham's maid has been arrested for
stealing this, and will probably go to prison for six months?"

"I couldn't resist the temptation," she snivelled, and he threw the
bracelet on the table with a growl.

"I'm going to send it back to the woman and tell them it must have been
packed away by mistake in your bag. I'm not doing it to get this girl
out of trouble, but to save myself from a lot of unpleasantness."

"I know why you're bringing this girl into the house," she sobbed; "it
is to spy on me."

His lips curled in a sneer.

"To spy on you!" he said contemptuously, and laughed as he rose. "Now
understand," his voice was harsh again, "you've got to break yourself of
this habit of picking up things that you like. I'm expecting to go into
Parliament at the next election, and I'm not going to have my position
jeopardized by an old fool of a kleptomaniac. If there's something wrong
with your brain," he added significantly, "I've a neat little laboratory
at the back of this house where that might be attended to."

She shrank back in terror, her face grey.

"You--you wouldn't do it--my own son!" she stammered. "I'm all right,
Digby; it's only--"

He smiled, but it was not a pleasant smile to see.

"Probably there is a little compression," he said evenly, "some tiny
malgrowth of bone that is pressing on a particular cell. We could put
that right for you, mother--"

But she had thrown her chair aside and fled from the room before he had
finished. He picked up the jewel, looked at it contemptuously and thrust
it into his pocket. Her curious thieving propensities he had known for a
very long time and had fought to check them, and as he thought,
successfully.

He went to his library, a beautiful apartment, with its silver grate,
its costly rosewood bookshelves and its rare furnishings, and wrote a
letter to Lady Waltham. He wrapped this about the bracelet, and having
packed letter and jewel carefully in a small box, rang the bell. A
middle-aged man with a dark forbidding face answered the summons.

"Deliver this to Lady Waltham at once, Jackson," said Digby. "The old
woman is going out to a concert to-night, by the way, and when she's out
I want you to make a very thorough search of her room."

The man shook his head. "I've already looked carefully, Mr. Groat," he
said, "and I've found nothing."

He was on the point of going when Digby called him back.

"You've told the housekeeper to see to Miss Weldon's room?"

"Yes, sir," was the reply. "She wanted to put her on the top floor
amongst the servants, but I stopped her."

"She must have the best room in the house," said Groat. "See that there
are plenty of flowers in the room and put in the bookcase and the
Chinese table that are in my room."

The man nodded.

"What about the key, sir?" he asked after some hesitation.

"The key?" Digby looked up. "The key of her room?"

The man nodded.

"Do you want the door to lock?" he asked significantly.

Mr. Groat's lips curled in a sneer.

"You're a fool," he said. "Of course, I want the door to lock. Put bolts
on if necessary."

The man looked his surprise. There was evidently between these two
something more than the ordinary relationship which existed between
employer and servant. "Have you ever run across a man named Steele?"
asked Digby, changing the subject.

Jackson shook his head.

"Who is he?" he asked.

"He is a lawyer's clerk. Give him a look up when you've got some time to
spare. No, you'd better not go--ask--ask Bronson. He lives at
Featherdale Mansions."

The man nodded, and Digby went down the steps to the waiting electric
brougham.


Eunice Weldon had packed her small wardrobe and the cab was waiting at
the door. She had no regrets at leaving the stuffy untidy lodging which
had been her home for two years, and her farewell to her dishevelled
landlady, who seemed always to have dressed in a violent hurry, was soon
over. She could not share Jim Steele's dislike of her new employers. She
was too young to regard a new job as anything but the beginning of an
adventure which held all sorts of fascinating possibilities. She sighed
as she realized that the little tea-table talks which had been so
pleasant a feature of her life were now to come to an end, and
yet--surely he would make some effort to see her again?

She would have hours--perhaps half-days to herself, and then she
remembered with dismay that she did not know his address! But he would
know hers. That thought comforted her, for she wanted to see him again.
She wanted to see him more than she had ever dreamt she would. She could
close her eyes, and his handsome face, those true smiling eyes of his,
would look into hers. The swing of his shoulders as he walked, the sound
of his voice as he spoke--every characteristic of his was present in her
mind.

And the thought that she might not see him again!

"I will see him--I will!" she murmured, as the cab stopped before the
imposing portals of No. 409, Grosvenor Square.

She was a little bewildered by the army of servants who came to her
help, and just a little pleased by the deference they showed to her.

"Mrs. Groat will receive you, miss," said a swarthy-looking man, whose
name she afterwards learnt was Jackson.

She was ushered into a small back drawing-room which seemed poorly
furnished to the girl's eye, but to Mrs. Groat was luxury.

The old woman resented the payment of a penny that was spent on
decoration and furniture, and only the fear of her son prevented her
from disputing every account which was put before her for settlement.
The meeting was a disappointment to Eunice. She had not seen Mrs. Groat
except in the studio, where she was beautifully dressed. She saw now a
yellow-faced old woman, shabbily attired, who looked at her with dark
disapproving eyes.

"Oh, so you're the young woman who is going to be my secretary, are
you?" she quavered dismally. "Have they shown you your room?"

"Not yet, Mrs. Groat," said the girl.

"I hope you will be comfortable," said Mrs. Groat in a voice that
suggested that she had no very great hopes for anything of the sort.

"When do I begin my duties?" asked Eunice, conscious of a chill.

"Oh, any time," said the old woman off-handedly.

She peered up at the girl.

"You're pretty," she said grudgingly, and Eunice flushed. Somehow that
compliment sounded like an insult. "I suppose that's why," said Mrs.
Groat absently.

"Why what?" asked the girl gently.

She thought the woman was weak of intellect and had already lost
whatever enthusiasm she had for her new position.

"Nothing," said the old woman, and with a nod dismissed her.

The room into which Eunice was shown left her speechless for a while.

"Are you sure this is mine?" she asked incredulously.

"Yes, miss," said the housekeeper with a sidelong glance at the girl.

"But this is beautiful!" said Eunice.

The room would have been remarkable if it had been in a palace. The
walls were panelled in brocade silk and the furniture was of the most
beautiful quality. A small French bed, carved and gilded elaborately,
invited repose. Silk hangings hung at either side of the head, and
through the French windows she saw a balcony gay with laden
flower-boxes. Under her feet was a carpet of blue velvet pile that
covered the whole of the room. She looked round open-mouthed at the
magnificence of her new home. The dressing-table was an old French model
in the Louis Quinze style, inlaid with gold, and the matching wardrobe
must have been worth a fortune. Near one window was a lovely
writing-table, and a well-filled bookcase would almost be within reach
of her hand when she lay in bed.

"Are you sure this is my room?" she asked again.

"Yes, miss," said the housekeeper, "and this," she opened a door, "is
your bathroom. There is a bath to every room. Mr. Groat had the house
reconstructed when he came into it."

The girl opened one of the French windows and stepped on to the balcony
which ran along to a square and larger balcony built above the porch of
the house. This, she discovered, opened from a landing above the stairs.

She did not see Mrs. Groat again that afternoon, and when she inquired
she discovered that the old lady was lying down with a bad headache. Nor
was she to meet Digby Groat. Her first meal was eaten in solitude.

"Mr. Groat has not come back from the country," explained Jackson, who
waited on her. "Are you comfortable, miss?"

"Quite, thank you," she said.

There was an air about this man which she did not like. It was not that
he failed in respect, or that he was in any way familiar, but there was
something proprietorial in his attitude. It almost seemed as though he
had a financial interest in the place, and she was glad when her meal
was finished. She went straight up to her room a little dissatisfied
that she had not met her employer. There were many things which she
wanted to ask Mrs. Groat; and particularly did she wish to know what
days she would be free.

Presently she switched out the light, and opening the French windows,
stepped out into the cool, fragrant night. The after-glow of the sun
still lingered in the sky. The square was studded with lights; an almost
incessant stream of motor-car traffic passed under her window, for
Grosvenor Square is the short cut between Oxford Street and Piccadilly.

The stars spangled the clear sky with a million specks of quivering
light. Against the jewelled robe of the northern heavens, the roofs and
steeples and stacks of London had a mystery and wonder which only the
light of day could dispel. And in the majestic solitude of the night,
Eunice's heart seemed to swell until she could scarcely breathe. It was
not the magic of stars that brought the blood flaming to her face; nor
the music of the trees. It was the flash of understanding that one half
of her, one splendid fragment of the pattern on which her life was cut,
was somewhere there in the darkness asleep perhaps--thinking of her, she
prayed. She saw his face with startling distinctness, saw the tender
kindness of his eyes, felt on her moist palm the pressure of those
strong brown fingers....

With a sigh which was half a sob, she closed the window and drew the
silken curtains, shutting out the immortal splendours of nature from her
view.

Five minutes later she was asleep.

How long she slept she did not know. It must have been hours, she
thought. The stream of traffic had ceased and there was no sound from
outside, save the distant hoot of a motor-horn. The room was in
darkness, and yet she was conscious that somebody was there!

She sat up in bed and a cold shiver ran down her spine. Somebody was in
the room! She reached out to turn on the light and could have shrieked,
for she touched a hand, a cold, small hand that was resting on the
bedside table. For a second she was paralysed and then the hand was
suddenly withdrawn. There was a rustle of curtain rings and the
momentary glimpse of a figure against the lesser gloom of the night,
and, shaking in every limb, she leapt from the bed and switched on the
light. The room was empty, but the French window was ajar.

And then she saw on the table by her side, a grey card. Picking it up
with shaking hands she read:

"One who loves you, begs you for your life and honour's sake to leave
this house."

It bore no other signature than a small blue hand. She dropped the card
on the bed and stood staring at it for a while, and then, slipping into
her dressing-gown, she unlocked the door of her room and went out into
the passage. A dim light was burning at the head of the stairs. She was
terror-stricken, hardly knew what she was doing, and she seemed to fly
down the stairs.

She must find somebody, some living human creature, some reality to
which she could take hold. But the house was silent. The hall lamp was
burning, and by its light she saw the old clock and was dimly conscious
that she could hear its solemn ticking. It was three o'clock. There must
be somebody awake in the house. The servants might still be up, she
thought wildly, and ran down a passage to what she thought was the
entrance to the servants' hall. She opened a door and found herself in
another passage illuminated by one light at the farther end, where
further progress was arrested by a white door. She raced along until she
came to the door and tried to open it. There was no handle and it was a
queer door. It was not made of wood, but of padded canvas.

And then as she stood bewildered, there came from behind the padded door
a squeal of agony, so shrill, so full of pain, that her blood seemed to
turn to ice.

Again it shrieked, and turning she fled back the way she had come,
through the hall to the front door. Her trembling fingers fumbled at the
key and presently the lock snapped and the door flew open. She staggered
out on to the broad steps of the house and stopped, for a man was
sitting on the head of those steps.

He turned his face as the door opened, and in the light from the hall he
was revealed. It was Jim Steele!



CHAPTER FIVE


JIM came stumbling to his feet, staring in blank amazement at the
unexpected apparition, and for a moment thus they stood, facing one
another, the girl stricken dumb with fear and surprise.

She thought he was part of a dreadful dream, an image that was conjured
by her imagination and would presently vanish.

"Jim--Mr. Steele!" she gasped.

In a stride he was by her side, his arm about her shoulders.

"What is wrong?" he asked quickly, and in his anxiety his voice was
almost harsh.

She shuddered and dropped her face on his breast.

"Oh, it was dreadful, dreadful!" she whispered, and he heard the note of
horror in her low voice.

"May I ask what is the meaning of this?" demanded a suave voice, and
with a start the girl turned.

A man was standing in the doorway and for a second she did not recognize
him. Even Jim, who had seen Digby Groat at close quarters, did not know
him in his unusual attire. He was dressed in a long white overall which
reached from his throat to his feet; over his head was a white cap which
fitted him so that not a particle of his hair could be seen. Bands of
white elastic held his cuffs close to his wrists and both hands were
hidden in brown rubber gloves.

"May I again ask you, Miss Weldon, why you are standing on my doorstep
in the middle of the night, attired in clothes which I do not think are
quite suitable for street wear? Perhaps you will come inside and
explain," he said stepping back. "Grosvenor Square is not quite used to
this form of midnight entertainment."

Still clutching Jim's arm, the girl went slowly back to the passage and
Digby shut the door.

"And Mr. Steele, too," said Digby with ironic surprise, "you're a very
early caller."

Jim said nothing. His attention was wholly devoted to the girl. She was
trembling from head to foot, and he found a chair for her.

"There are a few explanations due," he said coolly, "but I rather think
they are from you, Mr. Groat."

"From me?'" Mr. Groat was genuinely unprepared for that demand.

"So far as my presence is concerned, that can be explained in a minute,"
said Jim. "I was outside the house a few moments ago when the door swung
open and Miss Weldon ran out in a state of abject terror. Perhaps you
will tell me, Mr. Groat, why this lady is reduced to such a condition?"

There was a cold menace in his tone which Digby Groat did not like to
hear.

"I have not the slightest idea what it is all about," he said. "I have
been working in my laboratory for the last half-hour, and the first
intimation I had that anything was wrong was when I heard the door
open."

The girl had recovered now, and some of the colour had returned to her
face, yet her voice shook as she recited the incidents of the night,
both men listening attentively.

Jim took particular notice of the man's attitude, and he was satisfied
in his mind that Digby Groat was as much in ignorance of the visit to
the girl's room as he himself. When she had finished, Groat nodded.

"The terrifying cry you heard from my laboratory," he smiled, "is easily
explained. Nobody was being hurt; at least, if he was being hurt, it was
for his own good. When I came back to my house to-night, I found my
little dog had a piece of glass in its paw, and I was extracting it."

She drew a sigh of relief.

"I'm so sorry I made such a fuss," she said penitently, "but I--I was
frightened."

"You are sure somebody was in your room?" asked Digby.

"Absolutely certain." She had not told him about the card.

"They came through the French window from the balcony?" She nodded.

"May I see your room?"

She hesitated for a moment.

"I will go in first to tidy it," she said. She remembered the card was
on the bed, and she was particularly anxious that it should not be read.

Uninvited Jim Steele followed Digby upstairs into the beautiful room.
The magnificence of the room, its hangings and costly furniture, did not
fail to impress him, but the impression he received was not favourable
to Digby Groat.

"Yes, the window is ajar. You are sure you fastened it?"

The girl nodded.

"Yes. I left both fanlights down to get the air," she pointed above,
"but I fastened these doors. I distinctly remember that."

"But if this person came in from the balcony," said Digby, "how did he
or she get there?"

He opened the French door and stepped out into the night, walking along
the balcony until he came to the square space above the porch. There was
another window here which gave on to the landing at the head of the
stairs. He tried it--it was fastened. Coming back through the girl's
room he discovered that not only was the catch in its socket, but the
key was turned.

"Strange," he muttered.

His first impression had been that it was his mother who, with her
strange whims, had been searching the room for some trumpery trinket
which had taken her fancy. But the old woman was not sufficiently agile
to climb a balcony, nor had she the courage to make a midnight foray.

"My own impression is that you dreamt it, Miss Weldon," he said, with a
smile. "And now I advise you to go to bed and to sleep. I'm sorry that
you've had this unfortunate introduction to my house."

He had made no reference to the providential appearance of Jim Steele,
nor did he speak of this until they had said good night to the girl and
had passed down the stairs into the hall again.

"Rather a coincidence, your being here, Mr. Steele," he said. "What were
you doing? Studying dactylology?"

"Something like that," said Jim coolly.

Mr. Digby Groat searched for a cigarette in his pocket and lit it.

"I should have thought that your work was so arduous that you would not
have time for early morning strolls in Grosvenor Square."

"Would you really?" said Jim, and then suddenly Digby laughed.

"You're a queer devil," he said. "Come along and see my laboratory."

Jim was anxious to see the laboratory, and the invitation saved him from
the necessity of making further reference to the terrifying cry which
Eunice had heard.

They turned down a long passage through the padded door and came to a
large annexe, the walls of which were of white glazed brick. There was
no window, the light in the daytime being admitted through a glass roof.
Now, however, these were covered by blue blinds and the room owed its
illumination to two powerful lights which hung above a small table. It
was not an ordinary table; its legs were of thin iron, terminating in
rubber-tyred castors. The top was of white enamelled iron, with curious
little screw holds occurring at intervals.

It was not the table so much as the occupant which interested Jim.
Fastened down by two iron bands, one of which was about its neck and one
about the lower portion of its body, its four paws fastened by thin
cords, was a dog, a rough-haired terrier who turned its eyes upon Jim
with an expression of pleading so human that Jim could almost feel the
message that the poor little thing was sending.

"Your dog, eh?" said Jim.

Digby looked at him.

"Yes," he said. "Why?"

"Haven't you finished taking the glass out of his paw?"

"Not quite," said the other coolly.

"By the way, you don't keep him very clean," Jim said.

Digby turned.

"What the devil are you hinting at?" he asked.

"I am merely suggesting that this is not your dog, but a poor stray
terrier which you picked up in the street half an hour ago and enticed
into this house."

"Well?"

"I'd save you further trouble by saying that I saw you pick it up."

Digby's eyes narrowed.

"Oh, you did, did you?" he said softly. "So you were spying on me?"

"Not exactly spying on you," said Jim calmly, "but merely satisfying my
idle curiosity."

His hand fell on the dog and he stroked its ears gently.

Digby laughed.

"Well, if you know that, I might as well tell you that I am going to
evacuate the sensory nerve. I've always been curious to--"

Jim looked round.

"Where is your anaesthetic?" he asked gently, and he was most dangerous
when his voice sank to that soft note.

"Anaesthetic? Good Lord," scoffed the other, "you don't suppose I'm
going to waste money on chloroform for a dog, do you?"

His fingers rested near the poor brute's head and the dog, straining
forward, licked the torturer's hand.

"Filthy little beast!" said Digby, picking up a towel.

He took a thick rubber band, slipped it over the dog's mouth and nose.

"Now lick," he laughed; "I think that will stop his yelping. You're a
bit chicken-hearted, aren't you, Mr. Steele? You don't realize that
medical science advances by its experiments on animals."

"I realize the value of vivisection under certain conditions," said Jim
quietly, "but all decent doctors who experiment on animals relieve them
of their pain before they use the knife; and all doctors, whether they
are decent or otherwise, receive a certificate of permission from the
Board of Trade before they begin their experiments. Where is your
certificate?"

Digby's face darkened.

"Look here, don't you come here trying to bully me," he blustered. "I
brought you here just to show you my laboratory--"

"And if you hadn't brought me in," interrupted Jim. "I should jolly well
have walked in, because I wasn't satisfied with your explanation. Oh,
yes, I know, you're going to tell me that the dog was only frightened
and the yell she heard was when you put that infernal clamp on his neck.
Now, I'll tell you something, Mr. Digby Groat. I'll give you three
minutes to get the clamp off that dog."

Digby's yellow face was puckered with rage.

"And if I don't?" he breathed.

"I'll put you where the dog is," said Jim. "And please don't persuade
yourself that I couldn't do it?"

There was a moment's silence.

"Take the clamps off that dog," said Jim.

Digby looked at him.

For a moment they gazed at one another and there was a look of malignity
in the eyes that dropped before Jim's. Another minute and the dog was
free.

Jim lifted the shivering little animal in his arms and rubbed its bony
head, and Digby watched him glowering, his teeth showing in his rage.

"I'll remember this," he snarled. "By God, you shall rue the day you
ever interfered with me!"

Jim's steady eyes met the man's.

"I have never feared a threat in my life," he said quietly. "I'm not
likely to be scared now. I admit that vivisection is necessary under
proper conditions, but men like you who torture harmless animals from a
sheer lust of cruelty, are bringing discredit upon the noblest of
professions. You hurt in order to satisfy your own curiosity. You have
not the slightest intention of using the knowledge you gain for the
benefit of suffering humanity. When I came into this laboratory," he
said--he was standing at the door as he spoke--"there were two brutes
here. I am leaving the bigger one behind."

He slammed the padded door and walked out into the passage, leaving a
man whose vanity was hurt beyond forgiveness.

Then to his surprise Groat heard Jim's footsteps returning and his
visitor came in.

"Did you close your front door when you went upstairs?"

Digby's eyebrows rose. He forgot for the moment the insult that had been
offered him.

"Yes--why?"

"It is wide open now," said Jim. "I guess your midnight visitor has gone
home."



CHAPTER SIX


IN the cheerful sunlight of the morning all Eunice's fear had vanished
and she felt heartily ashamed of herself that she had made such a
commotion in the night. And yet there was the card. She took it from
under her pillow and read it again, with a puzzled frown. Somebody had
been in the room, but it was not a somebody whom she could regard as an
enemy. Then a thought struck her that made her heart leap. Could it have
been Jim? She shook her head. Somehow she was certain it was not Jim,
and she flushed at the thought. It was not his hand she had touched. She
knew the shape and contour of that. It was warm and firm, almost
electric; that which she had touched had been the hand of somebody who
was old, of that she was sure.

She went down to breakfast to find Groat standing before the fire, a
debonair, perfectly dressed man, who showed no trace of fatigue, though
he had not gone to bed until four o'clock.

He gave her a cheery greeting.

"Good morning, Miss Weldon," he said. "I hope you have recovered from
your nightmare."

"I gave you a lot of trouble," she said with a rueful smile. "I am so
very sorry."

"Nonsense," he said heartily. "I am only glad that our friend Steele was
there to appease you. By the way, Miss Weldon, I owe you an apology. I
told you a lie last night."

She looked at him open-eyed.

"Did you, Mr. Groat?" she said, and then with a laugh, "I am sure it
wasn't a very serious one."

"It was really. I told you that my little dog had a piece of glass in
his paw; the truth was that it wasn't my dog at all, but a dog that I
picked up in the street. I intended making an experiment upon him; you
know I am a doctor."

She shivered.

"Oh, that was the noise?" she asked with a wry little face.

He shook his head.

"No, he was just scared, he hadn't been hurt at all--and in truth I
didn't intend hurting him. Your friend, however, persuaded me to let the
little beggar go."

She drew a long sigh of relief.

"I'm so glad," she said. "I should have felt awful."

He laughed softly as he took his place at the table.

"Steele thought I was going to experiment without chloroform, but that,
of course, was absurd. It is difficult to get the unprofessional man to
realize what an enormous help to medical science these experiments are.
Of course," he said airily, "they are conducted without the slightest
pain to the animal. I should no more think of hurting a little dog than
I should think of hurting you."

"I'm sure you wouldn't," she said warmly.

Digby Groat was a clever man. He knew that Jim would meet the girl again
and would give her his version of the scene in the laboratory. It was
necessary, therefore, that he should get his story in first, for this
girl whom he had brought to the house for his amusement was more lovely
than he had dreamt, and he desired to stand well with her.

Digby, who was a connoisseur in female beauty, had rather dreaded the
morning meal. The beauty of women seldom survives the cruel searchlight
which the grey eastern light throws upon their charms. Love had never
touched him, though many women had come and gone in his life. Eunice
Weldon was a more thrilling adventure, something that would surely
brighten a dreary week or two; an interest to stimulate him until
another stimulation came into sight.

She survived the ordeal magnificently, he thought. The tender texture of
the skin, untouched by an artificial agent, was flawless; the eyes,
bright and vigorous with life, sparkled with health; the hands that lay
upon the table, when she was listening to him, were perfectly and
beautifully moulded.

She on her side was neither attracted nor repelled. Digby Groat was just
a man. One of the thousands of men who pass and repass in the corridor
of life; some seen, some unnoticed, some interesting, some abhorrent.
Some stop to speak, some pass hurriedly by and disappear through strange
doors never to be seen again. He had "stopped to speak," but had he
vanished from sight through one of those doors of mystery she would have
been neither sorry nor glad.

"My mother never comes to breakfast," said Digby halfway through the
meal. "Do you think you will like your work?"

"I don't know what it is yet," she answered, her eyes twinkling.

"Mother is rather peculiar," he said, "and just a little eccentric, but
I think you will be sensible enough to get on with her. And the work
will not be very heavy at first. I am hoping later that you will be able
to assist me in my anthropological classification."

"That sounds terribly important," she said. "What does it mean?"

"I am making a study of faces and heads," he said easily, "and to that
end I have collected thousands of photographs from all parts of the
world. I hope to get a million. It is a science which is very much
neglected in this country. It appears to be the exclusive monopoly of
the Italians. You have probably heard of Mantaganza and Lombroso?"

She nodded.

"They are the great criminal scientists, aren't they?" she said to his
surprise.

"Oh, I see, you know something about it. Yes, I suppose you would call
them criminal scientists."

"It sounds fascinating," she said, looking at him in wonder, "and I
should like to help you if your mother can spare me."

"Oh, she'll spare you," he said.

Her hand lay on the table invitingly near to his, but he did not move.
He was a quick, accurate judge of human nature. He knew that to touch
her would be the falsest of moves. If it had been another woman--yes,
his hand would have closed gently over hers, there would have been a
giggle of embarrassment, a dropping of eyes, and the rest would have
been so easy. But if he had followed that course with her, he knew that
evening would find her gone. He could wait, and she was worth waiting
for. She was gloriously lovely, he thought. Half the pleasure of life
lies in the chase, and the chase is no more than a violent form of
anticipation. Some men find their greatest joy in visions that must
sooner or later materialize, and Digby Groat was one of these.

She looked up and saw his burning eyes fixed on her and flushed. With an
effort she looked again and he was a normal man.

Was it an illusion of hers? she wondered.



CHAPTER SEVEN


THE first few days of her engagement were very trying to Eunice Weldon.

Mrs. Groat did not overwork her, indeed Eunice's complaint was that the
old woman refused to give her any work at all.

On the third day at breakfast she spoke on the matter to Digby Groat.

"I'm afraid I am not very much use here, Mr. Groat," she said; "it is a
sin to take your money."

"Why?" he asked quickly.

"Your mother prefers to write her own letters," she said, "and really
those don't seem to be very many!"

"Nonsense," he said sharply, and seeing that he had startled the girl he
went on in a much gentler tone: "You see, my mother is not used to
service of any kind. She's one of those women who prefer to do things
for themselves, and she has simply worn herself to a shadow because of
this independence of hers. There are hundreds of jobs that she could
give you to do! You must make allowance for old women, Miss Weldon. They
take a long time to work up confidence in strangers."

"I realize that," she nodded.

"Poor mother is rather bewildered by her own magnificence," he smiled,
"but I am sure when she gets to know you, you will find your days very
fully occupied."

He left the morning-room and went straight into his mother's little
parlour, and found her in her dressing-room crouching over a tiny fire.
He closed the door carefully and walked across to her and she looked up
with a little look of fear in her eyes.

"Why aren't you giving this girl work to do?" he asked sharply.

"There's nothing for her to do," she wailed. "My dear, she is such an
expense, and I don't like her."

"You'll give her work to do from to-day," he said, "and don't let me
tell you again!"

"She'll only spy on me," said Mrs. Groat fretfully, "and I never write
letters, you know that. I haven't written a letter for years until you
made me write that note to the lawyer."

"You'll find work for her to do," repeated Digby Groat. "Do you
understand? Get all the accounts that we've had for the past two years,
and let her sort them out and make a list of them. Give her your bank
account. Let her compare the cheques with the counterfoils. Give her
anything. Damn you! You don't want me to tell you every day, do you?"

"I'll do it, I'll do it, Digby," she said hurriedly. "You're very hard
on me, my boy. I hate this house," she said with sudden vehemence. "I
hate the people in it. I looked into her room this morning and it is
like a palace. It must have cost us thousands of pounds to furnish that
room, and all for a work-girl--it is sinful!"

"Never mind about that," he said. "Find something to occupy her time for
the next fortnight."

The girl was surprised that morning when Mrs. Groat sent for her.

"I've one or two little tasks for you, miss--I never remember your
name."

"Eunice," said the girl, smiling.

"I don't like the name of Eunice," grumbled the old woman. "The last one
was Lola! A foreign girl. I was glad when she left. Haven't you got
another name?"

"Weldon is my other name," said the girl good-humouredly, "and you can
call me 'Weldon' or 'Eunice' or anything you like, Mrs. Groat."

The old woman sniffed.

She had in front of her a big drawer packed with cheques which had come
back from the bank.

"Go through these," she said, "and do something with them. I don't know
what."

"Perhaps you want me to fasten them to the counterfoils," said the girl.

"Yes, yes, that's it," said Mrs. Groat. "You don't want to do it here,
do you? Yes, you'd better do it here," she went on hastily. "I don't
want the servants prying into my accounts."

Eunice put the drawer on the table, gathered together the stubs of the
cheque books, and with a little bottle of gum began her work, the old
woman watching her.

When, for greater comfort, the girl took off the gold wrist-watch which
she wore, a present from her dead father, Mrs. Groat's greedy eyes
focussed upon it and a look of animation came into the dull face.

It looked like being a long job, but Eunice was a methodical worker, and
when the gong in the hall sounded for lunch, she had finished her
labours.

"There, Mrs. Groat," she said with a smile, "I think that is the lot.
All your cheques are here."

She put away the drawer and looked round for her watch, but it had
disappeared. It was at that moment that Digby Groat opened the door and
walked in.

"Hullo, Miss Weldon," he said with his engaging smile. "I've come back
for lunch. Did you hear the gong, mother? You ought to have let Miss
Weldon go."

But the girl was looking round.

"Have you lost anything?" asked Digby quickly.

"My little watch. I put it down a few minutes ago, and it seems to have
vanished," she said.

"Perhaps it is in the drawer," stammered the old woman, avoiding her
son's eye.

Digby looked at her for a moment, then turned to Eunice.

"Will you please ask Jackson to order my car for three o'clock?" he
asked gently.

He waited until the door closed behind the girl and then: "Where is that
watch?" he asked.

"The watch, Digby?" quavered the old woman.

"The watch, curse you!" he said, his face black with rage.

She put her hand into her pocket reluctantly and produced it.

"It was so pretty," she snivelled, and he snatched it from her hand.

A minute later Eunice returned.

"We have found your watch," he said with a smile. "You had dropped it
under the table."

"I thought I'd looked there," she said. "It is not a valuable watch, but
it serves a double purpose."

She was preparing to put it on.

"What other purpose than to tell you the time?" asked Digby.

"It hides a very ugly scar," she said, and extended her wrist. "Look."
She pointed to a round red mark, the size of a sixpence. It looked like
a recent burn.

"That's queer," said Digby, looking, and then he heard a strangled sound
from his mother. Her face was twisted and distorted, her eyes were
glaring at the girl’s wrist.

"Digby, Digby!" Her voice was a thin shriek of sound. "Oh, my God!"

And she fell across the table and before he could reach her, had dropped
to the floor in an inert heap.

Digby stooped over his mother and then turned his head slowly to the
frightened girl.

"It was the scar on your hand that did it," he said slowly. "What does
it mean?"



CHAPTER EIGHT


THE story of the scar and the queer effect it had produced on Mrs. Groat
puzzled Jim almost as much as it had worried the girl. He offered his
wild theory again and she laughed.

"Of course I shall leave," she said, "but I must stay until all Mrs.
Groat's affairs are cleared up. There are heaps of letters and documents
of all kinds which I have to index," she said, "at least Mr. Groat told
me there were. And it seems so unfair to run away whilst the poor old
lady is so ill. As to my being the young lady of fortune, that is
absurd. My parents were South Africans. Jim, you are too romantic to be
a good detective."

He indulged in the luxury of a taxi to carry her back to Grosvenor
Square, and this time went with her to the house, taking his leave at
the door.

Whilst they were talking on the step, the door opened and a man was
shown out by Jackson. He was a short, thick-set man with an enormous
brown beard.

Apparently Jackson did not see the two people on the step, at any rate
he did not look toward them, but said in a loud voice:

"Mr. Groat will not be home until seven o'clock, Mr. Villa."

"Tell him I called," said the bearded man with a booming voice, and
stepped past Jim, apparently oblivious to his existence.

"Who is the gentleman with the whiskers?" asked Jim, but the girl could
give him no information.

Jim was not satisfied with the girl's explanation of her parentage.
There was an old school-friend of his in business in Cape Town, as an
architect, and on his return to his office, Jim sent him a long
reply-paid cablegram. He felt that he was chasing shadows, but at
present there was little else to chase, and he went home to his flat a
little oppressed by the hopelessness of his task.

The next day he had a message from the girl saying that she could not
come out that afternoon, and the day was a blank, the more so because
that afternoon he received a reply to his cable. The reply destroyed any
romantic dreams he might have had as to Eunice Weldon's association with
the Danton millions. The message was explicit. Eunice May Weldon had
been born at Rondebosch; on the l2th June, 1899; her parents were Henry
William Weldon, musician, and Margaret May Weldon. She had been
christened at the Wesleyan Chapel at Rondebosch, and both her parents
were dead.

The final two lines of the cable puzzled him:

"Similar inquiries made about parentage Eunice Weldon six months ago by
Selenger & Co., Brade Street Buildings."

"Selenger & Co.," said Jim thoughtfully. Here was a new mystery. Who
else was making inquiries about the girl? He opened a Telephone
Directory and looked up the name. There were several Selengers, but none
of Brade Street Buildings. He put on his hat, and hailing a taxi, drove
to Brade Street, which was near the Bank, and with some difficulty found
Brade Street Buildings. It was a moderately large block of offices, and
on the indicator at the door he discovered Selenger & Co. occupied No. 6
room on the ground floor.

The office was locked and apparently unoccupied. He sought the
hall-keeper.

"No, sir," said that man, shaking his head. "Selengers' aren't open. As
a matter of fact, nobody's ever there except at night."

"At night," said Jim, "that's an extraordinary time to do business."

The hall-keeper looked at him unfavourably.

"I suppose it is the way they do their business, sir," he said
pointedly.

It was some time before Jim could appease the ruffled guardian, and then
he learnt that Selengers were evidently privileged tenants. A complaint
from Selengers had brought the dismissal of his predecessor, and the
curiosity of a house-keeper as to what Selengers did so late at night
had resulted in that lady being summarily discharged.

"I think they deal with foreign stock," said the porter. "A lot of
cables come here, but I've never seen the gentleman who runs the office.
He comes in by the side door."

Apparently there was another entrance to Selengers' office, an entrance
reached by a small courtyard opening from a side passage. Selengers were
the only tenants who had this double means of egress and exit, and also,
it seemed, they were the only tenants of the building who were allowed
to work all night.

"Even the stockbrokers on the second floor have to shut down at eight
o'clock," explained the porter, "and that's pretty hard on them, because
when the market is booming, there's work that would keep them going
until twelve o'clock. But at eight o'clock, it is 'out you go' with the
company that owns this building. The rents aren't high and there are
very few offices to be had in the city nowadays. They have always been
very strict, even in Mr. Danton's time."

"Mr. Danton's time," said Jim quickly. "Did he own this building? Do you
mean Danton the shipowner millionaire?"

The man nodded.

"Yes, sir," he said, rather pleased with himself that he had created a
sensation. "He sold it, or got rid of it in some way years ago. I happen
to know, because I used to be an office-boy in these very buildings, and
I remember Mr. Danton--he had an office on the first floor, and a
wonderful office it was, too."

"Who occupies it now?"

"A foreign gentleman named Levenski. He's a fellow who's never here,
either."

Jim thought the information so valuable that he went to the length of
calling up Mr. Salter at his home. But Mr. Salter knew nothing whatever
about the Brade Street Buildings, except that it had been a private
speculation of Danton's. It had come into his hands as the result of the
liquidation of the original company, and he had disposed of the property
without consultation with Salter & Salter.

It was another blank wall.



CHAPTER NINE


"I SHALL not be in the office to-day, sir. I have several appointments
which may keep me occupied," said Jim Steele, and Mr. Salter sniffed.

"Business, Steele?" he asked politely.

"Not all of them, sir," said Jim. He had a shrewd idea that Mr. Salter
guessed what that business was.

"Very good," said Salter, putting on his glasses and addressing himself
to the work on his desk.

"There is one thing I wanted to ask, and that is partly why I came,
because I could have explained my absence by telephone."

Mr. Salter put down his pen patiently.

"I cannot understand why this fellow Groat has so many Spanish friends,"
said Jim. "For example, there is a girl he sees a great deal, the
Comtessa Manzana; you have heard of her, sir?"

"I see her name in the papers occasionally," said Mr. Salter.

"And there are several Spaniards he knows. One in particular named
Villa. Groat speaks Spanish fluently, too."

"That is curious," said Mr. Salter, leaning back in his chair. "His
grandfather had a very large number of Spanish friends. I think that
somewhere in the background there may have been some Spanish family
connection. Old man Danton, that is, Jonathan Danton's father, made most
of his money in Spain and in Central America, and was always
entertaining a houseful of grandees. They were a strange family, the
Dantons. They lived in little water-tight compartments, and I believe on
the day of his death Jonathan Danton hadn't spoken more than a dozen
words to his sister for twenty years. They weren't bad friends, if you
understand. It was just the way of the Dantons. There are other families
whom I know who do exactly the same thing. A reticent family, with a
keen sense of honour."

"Didn't Grandfather Danton leave Mrs. Groat any money? She was one of
his two children, wasn't she?"

Septimus Salter nodded.

"He never left her a penny," he said. "She practically lived on the
charity of her brother. I never understood why, but the old man took a
sudden dislike to her. Jonathan was as much in the dark as I am. He used
to discuss it with me and wondered what his sister had done to incur the
old man's enmity. His father never told him--would never even discuss
the sister with him. It was partly due to the old man's niggardly
treatment of Mrs. Groat that Jonathan Danton made his will as he did.

"Probably her marriage with Groat was one of the causes of the old man's
anger. Groat was nothing, a shipping clerk in Danton's Liverpool office.
A man ill at ease in good society, without an 'h' to his name, and
desperately scared of his wife. The only person who was ever nice to him
was poor Lady Mary. His wife hated him for some reason or other.
Curiously enough when he died, too, he left all his money to a distant
cousin--and he left about £5,000. Where he got it from heaven knows. And
now be off, Steele. The moment you come into this office," said Mr.
Salter in despair, "you start me on a string of reminiscences that are
deplorably out of keeping with a lawyer's office."

Jim's first call that morning was at the Home Office. He was anxious to
clear up the mystery of Madge Benson. Neither Scotland Yard nor the
Prisons Commissioners were willing to supply an unofficial investigator
with the information he had sought, and in desperation he had applied to
the Secretary of State's Department. Fortunately he had a "friend at
court" in that building, a middle-aged barrister he had met in France,
and his inquiry, backed by proof that he was not merely satisfying his
personal curiosity, had brought him a note asking him to call.

Mr. Fenningleigh received him in his room with a warmth which showed
that he had not forgotten the fact that on one occasion Jim had saved
him from what might have been a serious injury, if not death, for Jim
had dragged him to cover one night when the British headquarters were
receiving the unwelcome attentions of ten German bombers.

"Sit down, Steele. I can't tell you much," said the official, picking up
a slip of paper from his blotting-pad, "and I'm not sure that I ought to
tell you anything! But this is the information which 'prisons' have
supplied."

Jim took the slip from the barrister's hand and read the three lines.

"'Madge Benson, age 26. Domestic Servant. One month with H.L. for theft.
Sentenced at Marylebone Police Court. June 5th, 1898. Committed to
Holloway. Released July 2nd, 1898.'"

"Theft?" said Jim thoughtfully. "I suppose there is no way of learning
the nature of the theft?"

Mr. Fenningleigh shook his head.

"I should advise you to interview the gaoler at Marylebone. These
fellows have extraordinary memories for faces, and besides, there is
certain to be a record of the conviction at the court. You had better
ask Salter to apply; they will give permission to a lawyer."

But this was the very thing Jim did not want to do.



CHAPTER TEN


EUNICE WELDON was rapidly settling down in her new surroundings. The
illness of her employer, so far from depriving her of occupation, gave
her more work than she had ever expected. It was true, as Digby Groat
had said, that there were plenty of small jobs to fill up her time. At
his suggestion she went over the little account books in which Mrs.
Groat kept the record of her household expenses, and was astounded to
find how parsimonious the old lady had been.

One afternoon when she was tidying the old bureau, she stopped in her
work to admire the solid workmanship which the old furniture builders
put into their handicraft.

The bureau was one of those old-fashioned affairs, which are half desk
and half bookcase, the writing-case being enclosed by glass doors
covered on the inside with green silk curtains.

It was the thickness of the two side-pieces enclosing the actual desk,
which, unlike the writing-flap of the ordinary secretaire, was
immovable, that arrested her attention. She was rubbing her hand
admiringly along the polished mahogany surface when she felt a strip of
wood give way under the pressure of her finger-tips. To her surprise a
little flap about an inch wide and about six inches long had fallen down
and hung on its in visible hinges, leaving a black cavity. A secret
drawer in a secretaire is not an extraordinary discovery, but she
wondered whether she ought to explore the recess which her accidental
touch had revealed. She put in her fingers and drew out a folded paper.
There was nothing else in the drawer, if drawer it could be called.

Ought she to read it, she wondered? If it had been so carefully put
away, Mrs. Groat would not wish it to be seen by a third person.
Nevertheless, it was her duty to discover what the document was, and she
opened it.

To the top a piece of paper was attached on which a few words wire
written in Mrs. Groat's hand:

"This is the will referred to in the instructions contained in the
sealed envelope which Mr. Salter has in his possession."

The word "Salter" had been struck out and the name of the firm of
solicitors, which had supplanted the old man had been substituted.

The will was executed on one of those forms, which can be purchased at
any law stationer's. But apart from the preamble it was short:

"I give to my son, Digby Francis Groat, the sum of 20,000 pounds and my
house and furniture at 409, Grosvenor Square. The remainder of my estate
I give to Ramonez--Marquis of Estremeda, of Calle Receletos, Madrid."

It was witnessed by two names, unknown to the girl, and as they had
described themselves as domestic servants it was probable that they had
long since left her employment, for Mrs. Groat did not keep a servant
very long.

What should she do with it? She determined to ask Digby.

Later, when going through the drawers on her desk she discovered a small
miniature and was startled by the dark beauty of the subject. It was a
head and shoulders of a girl wearing her hair in a way, which was
fashionable in the late seventies. The face was bold, but beautiful, the
dark eyes seemed to glow with life. The face of a girl who had her way,
thought Eunice, as she noted the firm round chin. She wondered who it
was and showed it to Digby Groat at lunch.

"Oh, that is a picture of my mother," he said carelessly.

"Your mother," said Eunice in astonishment, and he chuckled.

"You'd never think she was never like that; but she was, I believe, a
very beautiful girl,"--his face darkened--"just a little too beautiful,"
he said, without explaining what he meant.

Suddenly, he snatched the miniature from her and looked on the back.

"I'm sorry," he apologized, and a sudden pallor had come to his face.
"Mother sometimes writes things on the back of pictures, and I was
rather--" he was going to say "scared "--"and I was rather
embarrassed."

He was almost incoherent, an unusual circumstance, for Digby Groat was
the most self-possessed of men.

He changed the subject by introducing an inquiry which he had meant to
make some time before.

"Miss Weldon, can you explain that scar on your wrist?" he asked.

She shook her head laughingly.

"I'm almost sorry I showed it to you," she said. "It is ugly, isn't it?"

"Do you know how it happened?"

"I don't know," she said, "mother never told me. It looks rather like a
burn."

He examined the little red place attentively.

"Of course," she went on, "it is absurd to think that the sight of my
birthmark was the cause of your mother's stroke."

"I suppose it is," he nodded, "but it was a remarkable coincidence."

He had endeavoured to find from the old woman the reason of her sudden
collapse, but without success. For three days she had lain in her bed
speechless and motionless and apparently had neither heard nor seen him
when he had made his brief visits to the sick room.

She was recovering now, however, and he intended, at the first
opportunity, demanding a full explanation.

"Did you find anything else?" he asked suspiciously. He was never quite
sure what new folly his mother might commit. Her passion for other
people's property might have come to light.

Should she tell him? He saw the doubt and trouble in her face and
repeated his question.

"I found your mother's will," she said.

He had finished his lunch, had pushed back his chair and was smoking
peacefully. The cigar dropped from his hand and she saw his face go
black.

"Her will?" he said. "Are you sure? Her will is at the lawyer's. It was
made two years ago."

"This will was made a few months ago," said Eunice, troubled. "I do hope
I haven't betrayed any secret of hers."

"Let me see this precious document," said Digby, starting up.

His voice was brusque, almost to rudeness. She wondered what had brought
about this sudden change. They walked back to the old woman's shabby
room and the girl produced a document from the drawer.

He read it through carefully.

"The old fool," he muttered. "The cussed drivelling old fool! Have you
read this?" he asked sharply.

"I read a little of it," admitted the girl, shocked by the man's brutal
reference to his mother.

He examined the paper again and all the time he was muttering something
under his breath.

"Where did you find this?" he asked harshly.

"I found it by accident," explained Eunice. "There is a little drawer
here "--she pointed to the seemingly solid side of the bureau in which
gaped an oblong cavity.

"I see," said Digby Groat slowly as he folded the paper. "Now, Miss
Weldon, perhaps you will tell me how much of this document you have
read? "--he tapped the will on his palm.

She did not know exactly what to say. She was Mrs. Groat's servant and
she felt it was disloyal even to discuss her private affairs with Digby.

"I read beyond your legacy," she admitted, "I did not read it
carefully."

"And you saw that my mother had left me £20,000?" said Digby Groat,
"and the remainder to--somebody else."

She nodded.

"Do you know who that somebody else was?"

"Yes," she said. "To the Marquis of Estremeda."

His face had changed from sallow to red, from red to a dirty grey, and
his voice as he spoke shook with the rage he could not altogether
suppress.

"Do you know how much money my mother will be worth?" he asked.

"No, Mr. Groat," said the girl quietly, "and I don't think you ought to
tell me. It is none of my business."

"She will be worth a million and a quarter," he said between his teeth,
"and she's left me £20,000 and this damned house!"

He swung round and was making for the door, and the girl, who guessed
his intentions, went after him and caught his arm.

"Mr. Groat," she said seriously, "you must not go to your mother. You
really must not!"

Her intervention sobered him and he walked slowly back to the fireplace,
took a match from his pocket, lit it, and before the astonished eyes of
the girl applied it to one corner of the document. He watched it until
it was black ash and then put his foot upon the debris.

"So much for that!" he said, and turning caught the amazed look in the
face of Eunice. "You think I've behaved disgracefully, I suppose," he
smiled, his old debonair self. "The truth is, I am saving my mother's
memory from the imputation of madness. There is no Marquis of Estremeda,
as far as I know. It is one of the illusions which my mother has, that a
Spanish nobleman once befriended her. That is the dark secret of our
family, Miss Weldon," he laughed, but she knew that he was lying.



CHAPTER ELEVEN


The door of Digby Groat's study was ajar, and he caught a glimpse of
Eunice as she came in and made her way up to her room. She had occupied
a considerable amount of his thoughts that afternoon, and he had cursed
himself that he had been betrayed into revealing the ugly side of his
nature before one whom he wished to impress. But there was another
matter troubling him. In his folly he had destroyed a legal document in
the presence of a witness and had put himself into her power. Suppose
his mother died, he thought, and the question of a will arose? Suppose
Estremeda got hold of her, her testimony in the courts of law might
destroy the value of his mother's earlier will and bring him into the
dock at the Old Bailey.

It was an axiom of his that great criminals are destroyed by small
causes. The spendthrift who dissipates hundreds of thousands of pounds,
finds himself made bankrupt by a paltry hundred pounds, and the clever
organizer of the Thirteen who had covered his traces so perfectly that
the shrewdest police in the world had not been able to associate him
with their many crimes, might easily be brought to book through a piece
of stupidity which was dictated by rage and offended vanity. He was now
more than ever determined that Eunice Weldon should come within his
influence, so that her power for mischief should be broken before she
knew how crushingly it might be employed.

It was not an unpleasant task he set himself, for Eunice exercised a
growing fascination over him. Her beauty and her singular intelligence
were sufficient lures, but to a man of his temperament the knowledge
that she added to these gifts a purity of mind and soul gave her an
added value. That she was in the habit of meeting the man he hated, he
knew. His faithful Jackson had trailed the girl twice, and on each
occasion had returned with the same report. Eunice Weldon was meeting
Steele in the park. And the possibility that Jim loved her was the
greatest incentive of all to his vile plan.

He could strike at Jim through the girl, could befoul the soul that Jim
Steele loved best in the world. That would be a noble revenge, he
thought, as he sat, pen in hand, and heard her light footsteps pass up
the stairs. But he must be patient and the game must be played
cautiously. He must gain her confidence. That was essential, and the
best way of securing this end, was to make no reference to these
meetings, to give her the fullest opportunity for seeing Jim Steele and
to avoid studiously any suggestion that he himself had an interest in
her.

He had not sought an interview with his mother. She had been sleeping
all the afternoon, the nurse had told him, and he felt that he could be
patient here also. At night, when he saw the girl at dinner, he made a
reference to the scene she had witnessed in the old woman's
sitting-room.

"You'll think I'm an awful cad, Miss Weldon," he said frankly, "but
mother has a trick of making me more angry than any other person I have
met. You look upon me as a very unfilial son?" he smiled.

"We do things we're ashamed of sometimes when we are angry," said
Eunice, willing to find an excuse for the outburst. She would have
gladly avoided the topic altogether, for her conscience was pricking her
and she felt guilty when she remembered that she had spoken to Jim on
the subject. Digby Groat was to make her a little more uncomfortable by
his next remark.

"It is unnecessary for me to tell you, Miss Weldon," he said, with his
smile, "that all which happens within these four walls is confidential.
I need not express any fear that you will ever speak to an outsider
about our affairs."

He had only to look at the crimson face, at the downcast eyes and the
girl's fingers playing nervously with the silver, to realize that she
had already spoken of the will, and again he cursed himself for his
untimely exhibition of temper.

He passed on, to the girl's great relief, to another subject. He was
having certain alterations made in his laboratory and was enthusiastic
about a new electrical appliance which he had installed.

"Would you like to see my little den, Miss Weldon?" he asked.

"I should very much," said the girl.

She was, she knew, being despicably insincere. She did not want to see
the laboratory. To her, since Jim had described the poor little dog who
had been stretched upon the table, it was a place of horror. But she was
willing to agree to anything that would take Digby Groat from the topic
of the will, and the thought of her own breach of faith.

There was nothing very dreadful in the laboratory, she discovered. It
was so white and clean and neat that her womanly instinct for
orderliness could admire the well-arranged little room, with its shelves
packed with bottles, its delicate glass retorts and its strange and
mysterious instruments.

He did not open the locked doors that hid one cupboard which stood at
one end of the laboratory, so she knew nothing of the grisly relics of
his investigations. She was now glad she had seen the place, but was
nevertheless as pleased to return to the drawing-room.

Digby went out at nine o'clock and she was left alone to read and to
amuse herself as best she could. She called at Mrs. Groat's room on her
way up and learnt from the nurse that the old lady was rapidly
recovering.

"She will be quite normal to-morrow or the next day," said the nurse.

Here was another relief. Mrs. Groat's illness had depressed the girl. It
was so terrible to see one who had been as beautiful as the miniature
proved her to have been, struck down and rendered a helpless mass,
incapable of thought or movement.

Her room, which had impressed her by its beauty the day she had arrived,
had now been enhanced by the deft touches which only a woman's fingers
can give. She had read some of the books which Digby Groat had selected
for her entertainment, and some she had dipped into only to reject.

She spent the evening with The Virginian, and here Digby had introduced
her to one of the most delightful creations of fiction. The Virginian
was rather like Jim, she thought--but then all the heroes of all the
books she read were rather like Jim.

Searching in her bag for her handkerchief her fingers closed on the
little card which had been left on her table the night of her
introduction to the Grosvenor Square household. She took it out and read
it for the twentieth time, puzzling over the identity of the sender and
the object he had in view.

What was the meaning of that little card, she wondered? And what was the
story which lay behind it?

She put down her book and, rising, switched on the lamp over her
writing-table, examining the card curiously. She had not altered her
first impression that the hand had been made by a rubber stamp. It was
really a beautiful little reproduction of an open palm and every line
was distinct. Who was her mysterious friend--or was he a friend? She
shook her head. It could not be Jim, and yet--it worried her even to
think of Jim in this connection. Whoever it was, she thought with a
little smile, they had been wrong. She had not left the house and
nothing had happened to her, and she felt a sense of pride and comfort
in the thought that the mysterious messenger could know nothing of Jim,
her guardian angel.

She heard a step in the passage and somebody knocked at her door. It was
Digby Groat. He had evidently just come in.

"I saw your light," he said, "so I thought I would give you something I
have brought back from the Ambassadors' Club."

The "something" was a big square box tied with lavender ribbon.

"For me?" she said in surprise.

"They were distributing them to the guests," he said, "and I thought you
might have a taste for sweeties. They are the best chocolates in
England."

She laughed and thanked him. He made no further attempt to continue the
conversation, but, with a nod, went to his room. She heard the door open
and close, and five minutes later it opened again and his soft footsteps
faded away.

He was going to his laboratory, she thought, and wondered, with a
shiver, what was the experiment he was attempting that night.

She had placed the box on the table and had forgotten about it until she
was preparing for bed, then she untied the pretty ribbons and displayed
the contents.

"They're delicious," she murmured, and took one up in her fingers.

Thump!

She turned quickly and dropped the chocolate from her fingers.

Something had hit against her window, it sounded like a fist. She ran to
the silken curtains which covered the glass doors from view and
hesitated nervously for a moment; then with a little catch of breath she
thought that possibly some boys had thrown a ball.

She pulled back the curtains violently and for a moment saw nothing. The
balcony was clear and she unfastened the latch and stepped out. There
was nobody in sight. She looked on the floor of the balcony for the
object which had been thrown but could find nothing.

She went slowly back to her room and was closing the door when she saw
and gasped. For on one of the panes was the life-size print of the Blue
Hand!

Again that mysterious warning!



CHAPTER TWELVE


EUNICE gazed at the hand spell-bound, but she was now more curious than
alarmed. Opening the window again she felt gingerly at the impression.
It was wet, and her finger-tip was stained a deep greasy blue, which
wiped off readily on her handkerchief. Again she stepped out on to the
balcony, and following it along, came to the door leading to the head of
the stairs. She tried it. It was locked. Leaning over the parapet she
surveyed the square. She saw a man and a woman walking along and talking
together and the sound of their laughter came up to her. At the corner
of the square she saw passing under a street-lamp a helmeted policeman
who must, she calculated, have been actually in front of the house when
the imprint was made.

She was about to withdraw to her room when, looking down over the
portico, she saw the figure of a woman descending the steps of the
house. Who was she? Eunice knew all the servants by now and was certain
this woman was a stranger. She might, of course, be one of Digby Groat's
friends or a friend of the nurse, but her subsequent movements were so
unusual that Eunice was sure that this was the mysterious stranger who
had left her mark on the window. So it was a woman, after all, thought
Eunice in amazement, as she watched her cross the square to where a big
limousine was waiting.

Without giving any instructions to the chauffeur, the woman in black
stepped into the car, which immediately moved off.

Eunice came back to the room and sat down in a chair to try to
straighten her tangled mind. That hand was intended as a warning, she
was sure of that. And now it was clear which way the visitor had come.
She must have entered the house by the front door and have got on to the
balcony through the door on the landing, locking it after her when she
made her escape.

Looking in the glass, Eunice saw that her face was pale, but inwardly
she felt more thrilled than frightened, and she had also a sense of
protection, for instinctively she knew that the woman was a
friend. Should she go downstairs and tell Digby Groat? She shook her
head at the thought. No, she would reserve this little mystery for Jim
to unravel. With a duster, which she kept in one of the cupboards, she
wiped the blue impression from the window and then sat down on the edge
of her bed to puzzle out the intricate and baffling problem.

Why had the woman chosen this method of warning her? Why not employ the
mundane method of sending her a letter? Twice she had taken a risk to
impress Eunice with the sense of danger, when the same warning might
have been conveyed to her through the agency of the postman.

Eunice frowned at this thought, but then she began to realize that, had
an anonymous letter arrived, she would have torn it up and thrown it
into her waste-paper basket. These midnight visitations were intended to
impress upon the girl the urgency of the visitor's fear for her.

It was not by any means certain that the woman who had left the house
was the mysterious visitor. Eunice had never troubled to inquire into
Digby Groat's character, nor did she know any of his friends. The lady
in black might well have been an acquaintance of his, and to tell Digby
of the warning and all that she had seen could easily create a very
embarrassing situation for all concerned.

She went to bed, but it was a long time before sleep came to her. She
dozed and woke and dozed again and at last decided to get up. She pulled
aside the curtains to let in the morning light. The early traffic was
rumbling through the street, and the clear fragrance of the unsullied
air came coldly as she stood and shivered by the open window. She was
hungry, as hungry as a healthy girl can be in that keen atmosphere, and
she bethought herself of the box of chocolates which Digby had brought
to her. She had taken one from its paper wrapping and it was between her
teeth when she remembered with a start that the warning had come at the
very moment she was about to eat a chocolate! She put it down again
thoughtfully, and went back to bed to pass the time which must elapse
before the servants were about and any kind of food procurable.

Jim Steele was about to leave his little flat in Featherdale Mansions
that morning when he was met at the door by a district messenger
carrying a large parcel and a bulky letter. He at once recognized the
handwriting of Eunice and carried the parcel into his study. The letter
was written hurriedly and was full of apologies. As briefly as possible
Eunice had related the events of the night.

"I cannot imagine that the chocolates had anything to do with it, but
somehow you are communicating your prejudice against Digby Groat to me.
I have no reason whatever to suspect him of any bad design toward me,
and in sending these I am merely doing as you told me, to communicate
everything unusual. Aren't I an obedient girl! And, please, Jim, will
you take me out to dinner to-night. It is 'my night out,' and I'd love
to have a leisurely meal with you, and I'm simply dying to talk about
the Blue Hand! Isn't it gorgeously mysterious! What I shall try to catch
up some of my arrears of sleep this afternoon so that I shall be fresh
and brilliant." (She had written "and beautiful" in mockery but had
scratched it out.)

Jim Steele whistled. Hitherto he had regarded the Blue Hand as a
convenient and accidental method which the unknown had chosen for his
or her signature. Now, however, it obtained a new significance. The Blue
Hand had been chosen deliberately and for some reason which must be
known to one of the parties concerned. To Digby Groat? Jim shook his
head. Somehow he knew for certain that the Blue Hand would be as much of
a mystery to Digby Groat as it was to the girl and himself. He had no
particular reason for thinking this. It was one of those immediate
instincts which carry their own conviction. But who else was concerned?
He determined to ask his partner that morning if the Blue Hand suggested
anything to him.

In the meantime there were the chocolates. He examined the box
carefully. The sweetmeats were beautifully arranged and the box bore the
label of a well-known West End confectioner. He took out three or four
of the chocolates, placed them carefully in an envelope, and put the
envelope in his pocket. Then he set forth for the city. As he closed his
own door his eye went to the door on the opposite side of the landing,
where dwelt Mrs. Fane and the mysterious Madge Benson. The door was ajar
and he thought he heard the woman's voice on the ground floor below
talking to the porter of the flats.

His foot was extended to descend the first of the stairs when from the
flat came a sharp scream and a voice: "Madge, Madge, help!"

Without a second's hesitation he pushed open the door and ran down the
passage. There were closed doors on either side, but the last on the
right was open and a thin cloud of smoke was pouring forth. He rushed
in, just as the woman, who was lying on the bed, was rising on her elbow
as though she were about to get up, and tearing down the blazing
curtains at one of the windows, stamped out the fire. It was all over in
a few seconds and he had extinguished the last spark of fire from the
blackened lace before he looked round at the occupant of the bed, who
was staring at him wide-eyed.

She was a woman of between forty and forty-five, he judged, with a face
whose delicate moulding instantly impressed him. He thought he had seen
her before, but knew that he must have been mistaken. The big eyes, grey
and luminous, the dark brown hair in which a streak of grey had
appeared, the beautiful hands that lay on the coverlet, all of these he
took in at one glance.

"I'm very greatly obliged to you, Mr. Steele," said the lady in a voice
that was little above a whisper. "That is the second accident we have
had. A spark from one of the engines must have blown in through the open
window."

Just beneath her was the cutting of the London, Midland and Scottish
Railway, and Jim, who had watched the heavily laden trains toiling
slowly and painfully up the steep incline, had often wondered if there
was any danger from the showers of sparks which the engines so
frequently threw up.

"I must apologize for my rather rough intrusion," he said with his sweet
smile. "I heard your screams. You are Mrs. Fane, aren't you?"

She nodded, and there was admiration in the eyes that surveyed his
well-knit figure.

"I won't start a conversation with you under these embarrassing
circumstances," said Jim with a laugh, "but I'd like to say how sorry I
am that you are so ill, Mrs. Fane. Could I send you some more books?"

"Thank you," she whispered. "You have done almost enough."

He heard the door close as the servant, unconscious that anything was
wrong, came in, and heard her startled exclamation as she smelt the
smoke. Coming out into the passage he met Madge Benson's astonished
face.

A few words explained his presence and the woman hustled him to the door
a little unceremoniously.

"Mrs. Fane is not allowed to see visitors, sir," she said. "She gets so
excited."

"What is the matter with her?" asked Jim, rather amused at the
unmistakable ejection.

"Paralysis in both legs," said Madge Benson, and Jim uttered an
exclamation of pity.

"Don't think I'm not grateful to you, Mr. Steele," said the woman
earnestly; "when I saw that smoke coming out into the passage my heart
nearly stopped beating. That is the second accident we have had."

She was so anxious for him to be off that he made no attempt to continue
talking.

So that was Mrs. Fane, thought Jim, as he strode along to his office. A
singularly beautiful woman. The pity of it! She was still young and in
the bloom of health save for this terrible affliction.

Jim had a big heart for suffering humanity, and especially for women and
children on whom the burden of sickness fell. He was half-way to the
office when he remembered that Mrs. Fane had recognized him and called
him by name! How could she have known him--she who had never left her
sick-room?



CHAPTER THIRTEEN


"Mr. Groat will not be down to breakfast. He was working very late,
miss."

Eunice nodded. She preferred the conversation of Digby Groat to the
veiled familiarity of his shrewd-faced servant. It would be difficult
for her to define in what way Jackson offended her. Outwardly he was
respect itself, and she could not recall any term or word he had
employed to which she could reasonably take offence. It was the
assurance of the man, his proprietorial attitude, which irritated her.
He reminded her of a boarding-house at which she had once stayed, where
the proprietor acted as butler and endeavoured, without success, to
combine the deference of the servant with the authority of the master.

"You were out very early this morning, miss," said Jackson with his sly
smile as he changed her plates.

"Is there any objection to my going out before breakfast?" asked Eunice,
her anger rising.

"None at all, miss," said the man blandly. "I hope I haven't offended
you, only I happened to see you coming back."

She had been out to send the parcel and the letter to Jim, the nearest
district messenger office being less than a quarter of a mile from
Grosvenor Square. She opened her lips to speak and closed them again
tightly. There was no reason in the world why she should excuse herself
to the servant.

Jackson was not ready to take a rebuff, and besides, he had something
important to communicate.

"You weren't disturbed last night, were you, miss?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" demanded Eunice, looking with a start.

His keen eye was on her and without any reason she felt guilty.

"Somebody was having a joke here last night, miss," he said, "and the
governor is as wild as... well, he's mad!"

She put down her knife and fork and sat back in her chair.

"I don't quite understand you, Jackson," she said coldly. "What is the
joke that somebody was having, and why do you ask me if I was disturbed?
Did anything happen in the night?"

The man nodded.

"Somebody was in the house," he said, "and it is a wonder that Mr. Groat
didn't hear it, because he was working in his laboratory. I thought
perhaps you might have heard him searching the house afterwards."

She shook her head. Had the Blue Hand been detected? she wondered.

"How do you know that a stranger was in the house?" she asked.

"Because he left his mark," said the man grimly. "You know that white
door leading to the laboratory, miss?"

She nodded.

"Well, when Mr. Groat came out about half-past two this morning he was
going to turn out the hall lights when he saw a smudge of paint on the
door. He went back and found that it was the mark of a Blue Hand. I've
been trying to get it off all the morning, but it is greasy and can't be
cleaned."

"The mark of a Blue Hand?" she repeated slowly and felt herself change
colour. "What does that mean?"

"I'm blessed if I know," said Jackson, shaking his head. "The governor
doesn't know either. But there it was as plain as a pike-staff. I thought
it was a servant who did it. There is one under notice and she might
have been up to her tricks, but it couldn't have been her. Besides, the
servants' sleeping-rooms are at the back of the house, and the door
between the front and the back is kept locked."

So the mysterious visitor had not been satisfied with warning her. She
had warned Digby Groat as well!

Eunice had nearly finished breakfast when Digby made his appearance. He
was looking tired and haggard, she thought. He never looked his best in
the early hours, but this morning he was more unprepossessing than
usual. He shot a swift suspicious glance at the girl as he took his
place at the table.

"You have finished, I'm afraid, Miss Weldon," he said briefly. "Has
Jackson told you what happened in the night?"

"Yes," said Eunice quietly. "Have you any idea what it means?"

He shook his head.

"It means trouble to the person who did it, if I catch him," he said;
then, changing the conversation, he asked how his mother was that
morning.

Eunice invariably called at Mrs. Groat's room on her way down, and she
was able to tell him that his mother was mending rapidly and had passed
a very good night.

"She can't get well too soon," he said. "How did you sleep, Miss
Weldon?"

"Very well," she prevaricated.

"Have you tried my chocolates?" he smiled.

She nodded.

"They are beautiful."

"Don't eat too many at once, they are rather rich," he said, and made no
further reference either to that matter or to the midnight visitor.

Later in the morning, when she was going about her work, Eunice saw
workmen engaged on cleaning the canvas door. Apparently the blue stain
could not be eradicated, and after a consultation with Digby the canvas
was being painted a dull blue colour.

She knew that Digby was perturbed more than ordinarily. When she had met
him, as she had occasionally that morning, he had worn a furtive, hunted
look, and once, when she had gone into his study to bring to his notice
an account which she had unearthed, he was muttering to himself.

That afternoon there was a reception at Lord Waltham's house in Park
Lane, in honour of a colonial premier who was visiting England. Digby
Groat found it convenient to cultivate the acquaintance of the aesthetic
Lord Waltham, who was one of the great financial five of the City of
London. Digby had gone cleverly to work to form a small syndicate for
the immediate purchase of the Danton estate. The time had not yet come
when he could dispose of this property, but it was fast approaching.

There were many women in that brilliant assembly who would have been
glad to know a man reputedly clever, and certainly the heir to great
wealth; but in an inverted sense Digby was a fastidious man. Society
which met him and discussed him over their dinner-tables were puzzled by
his avoidance of woman's society. He could have made a brilliant
marriage, had he so desired, but apparently the girls of his own set had
no attraction for him. There were intimates, men about town, who were
less guarded in their language when they spoke across the table after
the women had gone, and these told stories of him which did not redound
to his credit. Digby in his youth had had many affairs--vulgar, sordid
affairs which had left each victim with an aching heart and no redress.

He had only come to "look in," he explained. There was heavy work
awaiting him at home, and he hinted at the new experiment he was making
which would take up the greater part of the evening.

"How is your mother, Groat?" asked Lord Waltham.

"Thank you, sir, I think she is better," replied Digby. He wanted to
keep off the subject of his mother.

"I can't understand the extraordinary change that has come over her in
late years," said Lord Waltham with a little frown. "She used to be so
bright and cheerful, one of the wittiest women I have ever met. And
then, of a sudden, all her spirits seemed to go and if you don't mind
my saying so, she seemed to get old."

"I noticed that," said Digby with an air of profound concern, "but women
of her age frequently go all to pieces in a week."

"I suppose there's something in that. I always forget you're a doctor,"
smiled Lord Waltham.

Digby took his leave and he, too, was chuckling softly to himself as he
went down the steps to his waiting car. He wondered what Lord Waltham
would say if he had explained the secret of his mother's banished
brightness. It was only by accident that he himself had made the
discovery. She was a drug-taker, as assiduous a "dope" as he had ever
met in his professional career.

When he discovered this he had set himself to break down the habit. Not
because he loved her, but because he was a scientist addicted to
experiments. He had found the source of her supply and gradually had
extracted a portion of the narcotic from every pellet until the drug had
ceased to have its effect.

The result from the old woman's point of view was deplorable. She
suddenly seemed to wither, and Digby, whom she had ruled until then with
a rod of iron, had to his surprise found himself the master. It was a
lesson of which he was not slow to take advantage, every day and night
she was watched and the drug was kept from her. With it she was a slave
to her habit; without it she was a slave to Digby. He preferred the
latter form of bondage.


Mr. Septimus Salter had not arrived when Jim had reached the office that
morning, and he waited, for he had a great deal to say to the old man,
whom he had not seen for the better part of the week.

When he did come, a little gouty and therefore more than a little
petulant, he was inclined to pooh-pooh the suggestion that there was
anything in the sign of the Blue Hand.

"Whoever the person is, he or she must have had the stamp by them--you
say it looks like a rubber stamp--and used it fortuitously. No, I can't
remember any Blue Hand in the business. If I were you, I should not
attach too much importance to this."

Although Jim did not share his employer's opinion he very wisely did not
disagree.

"Now, what is this you wore telling me about a will? You say Mrs. Groat
has made a new will, subsequent to the one she executed in this office?"

Jim assented.

"And left all her money away from the boy, eh?" said old Mr. Salter
thoughtfully. "Curiously enough, I always had an idea that there was no
love lost between that pair. To whom do you say the money was left?"

"To the Marquis of Estremeda."

"I know the name," nodded Mr. Salter. "He is a very rich grandee of
Spain and was for some time an attache at the Spanish Embassy. He may or
may not have been a friend of the Dantons, I cannot recall. There is
certainly no reason why she should leave her money to one who, unless my
memory is at fault, owns half a province and has three or four great
houses in Spain. Now, here you are up against a real mystery. Now, what
is your news?" he asked.

Jim had a little more to tell him.

"I am taking the chocolates to an analyst--a friend of mine," he said,
and Mr. Salter smiled.

"You don't expect to discover that they are poisoned, do you?" he asked
dryly. "You are not living in the days of Caesar Borgia, and with all
his poisonous qualities I have never suspected Digby Groat of being a
murderer."

"Nevertheless," said Jim, "I am leaving nothing to chance. My own theory
is that there is something wrong with those innocent-looking sweetmeats,
and the mysterious Blue Hand knew what it was and came to warn the
girl."

"Rubbish," growled the old lawyer. "Get along with you. I have wasted
too much time on this infernal case."

Jim's first call was at a laboratory in Wigmore Street, and he explained
to his friend just enough to excite his curiosity for further details,
which, however, Jim was not prepared to give.

"What do you expect to find?" said the chemist, weighing two chocolates
in his palm.

"I don't know exactly what I expect," said Jim. "But I shall be very
much surprised if you do not discover something that should not be
there."

The scientist dropped the chocolates in a big test-tube, poured in a
liquid from two bottles and began heating the tube over a Bunsen burner.

"Call this afternoon at three o'clock and I will give you all the grisly
details," he said.

It was three o'clock when Jim returned, not expecting, it must be
confessed, any startling results from the analysis. He was shown into
the chemist's office, and there on the desk were three test-tubes,
standing in a little wooden holder.

"Sit down, Steele," said Mendhlesohn. He was, as his name implied, a
member of a great Jewish fraternity which has furnished so many
brilliant geniuses to the world. "I can't quite make out this analysis,"
he said. "But, as you thought, there are certainly things in the
chocolates which should not be there."

"Poison?" said Jim, aghast.

Mendhlesohn shook his head.

"Technically, yes," he admitted. "There is poison in almost everything,
but I doubt whether the eating of a thousand of these would produce
death. I found traces of bromide of potassium and traces of hyacin, and
another drug which is distilled from cannabis indica."

"That is hashish, isn't it?"

Mendhlesohn nodded.

"When it is smoked it is called hashish; when it is distilled we have
another name for it. These three drugs come, of course, into the
category of poisons, and in combination, taken in large doses, they
would produce unconsciousness and ultimately death, but there is not
enough of the drug present in these sweets to bring about that alarming
result."

"What result would it produce?" asked Jim.

"That is just what is puzzling me and my friend, Dr. Jakes," said
Mendhlesohn, rubbing his unshaven chin. "Jakes thinks that, administered
in small continuous doses, the effect of this drug would be to destroy
the will-power, and, what for a better term I would describe in the
German fashion, as the resistance-to-evil-power of the human mind. In
England, as you probably know, when a nervous and highly excitable man
is sentenced to death, it is the practice to place minute doses of
bromide in everything he eats and drinks, in order to reduce him to such
a low condition of mental resistance that even the thought of an
impending doom has no effect upon him."

Jim's face had gone suddenly pale, as the horror of the villainous plot
dawned upon him.

"What effect would this have upon a high-spirited girl, who was, let us
say, being made love to by a man she disliked?"

The chemist shrugged his shoulders.

"I suppose that eventually her dislike would develop into apathy and
indifference. She would not completely forgo her resistance to his
attentions, but at the same time that resistance would be more readily
overcome. There are only two types of mind," he went on, "the 'dominant'
and the 'recessive.' We call the 'dominant' that which is the more
powerful, and the 'recessive' that which is the less powerful. In this
world it is possible for a little weak man to dominate a big and
vigorous man, by what you would call the sheer force of his personality.
The effect of this drug would ultimately be to turn a powerful mind into
a weak mind. I hope I am not being too scientific," he smiled.

"I can follow you very well." said Jim quietly. "Now tell me this,
Mendhlesohn, would it be possible to get a conviction against the person
who supplied these sweets?"

Mendhlesohn shook his head.

"As I told you, the doses are in such minute quantities that it is quite
possible they may have got in by accident. I have only been able to find
what we chemists call a 'trace' so far, but probably the doses would be
increased from week to week. If in three weeks' time you bring me
chocolates or other food that has been tampered with, I shall be able to
give you a very exact analysis."

"Were all the chocolates I brought similarly treated?"

Mendhlesohn nodded.

"If they have been doped," he went on, "the doping has been very
cleverly done. There is no discoloration of the interior, and the drug
must have been introduced by what we call saturation, which only a very
skilful chemist or a doctor trained in chemistry would attempt."

Jim said nothing. Digby Groat was both a skilled chemist and a doctor
trained in chemistry.

On leaving the laboratory he went for his favourite walk in Hyde Park.
He wanted to be alone and think this matter out. He must act with the
greatest caution, he thought. To warn the girl on such slender
foundation was not expedient. He must wait until, the dose had been
increased, though that meant that she was to act as a bait for Digby
Groat's destruction, and he writhed at the thought. But she must not
know; he was determined as to this.

That night he had arranged a pleasant little dinner, and he was looking
forward eagerly to a meeting with one whose future absorbed his whole
attention and thoughts. Even the search for Lady Mary Danton had receded
into the background, and might have vanished altogether as a matter of
interest were it not for the fact that Digby Groat and his affairs were
so inextricably mixed up with the mystery. Whilst Eunice Weldon was an
inmate of the Groats' house, the Danton mystery would never be
completely out of his thoughts.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN


JIM had never seen the girl in evening clothes, and he was smitten dumb
by her ethereal beauty. She wore a simple dress of cream charmeuse,
innocent of colour, except for the touch of gold at her waist. She
looked taller to Jim's eyes, and the sweet dignity of her face was a
benison which warmed and comforted his heart.

"Well," she asked as the cab was proceeding towards Piccadilly. "Am I
presentable?"

"You're wonderful!" breathed Jim.

He sat stiffly in the cab, scarcely daring to move lest the substance of
this beautiful dream be touched by his irreverent hands. Her loveliness
was unearthly and he, too, could adore, though from a different
standpoint, the glorious promise of her womanhood, the delicious
contours of her Madonna-like face. She was to him the spirit and
embodiment of all that womanhood means. She was the truth of the dreams
that men dream, the divine substance of shadowy figures that haunt their
thoughts and dreams.

"Phew!" he said, "you almost frighten me, Eunice."

He heard her silvery laugh in the darkness.

"You're very silly, Jim," she said, slipping her arm into his.

Nevertheless, she experienced a thrill of triumph and happiness that she
had impressed him so.

"I have millions of questions to ask you," she said after they had been
ushered to a corner of the big dining-room of the Ritz-Carlton. "Did you
get my letter? And did you think I was mad to send you those chocolates?
Of course, it was terribly unfair to Mr. Groat, but really, Jim, you're
turning me into a suspicious old lady!"

He laughed gently.

"I loved your letter," he said simply. "And as for the chocolates--" he
hesitated.

"Well?"

"I should tell him that you enjoyed them thoroughly," he smiled.

"I have," said the girl ruefully. "I hate telling lies, even that kind
of lie."

"And the next box you receive," Jim went on, "you must send me three or
four of its contents."

She was alarmed now, looking at him, her red lips parted, her eyebrows
crescents of inquiry.

"Was there anything wrong with them?" she asked.

He was in a dilemma. He could not tell her the result of the analysis,
and at the same time he could not allow her to run any farther into
needless danger. He had to invent something on the spur of the moment
and his excuse was lame and unconvincing.

Listening, she recognized their halting nature, but was sensible enough
not to insist upon rigid explanations, and, moreover, she wanted to
discuss the hand and its startling appearance in the middle of the
night.

"It sounds almost melodramatic," said Jim, but his voice was grave, "and
I find a great difficulty in reconciling the happening to the realities
of life. Of one thing I'm sure," he went on, "and it is that this
strange woman, if woman it be, has a reason for her acts. The mark of
the hand is deliberately designed. That it is blue has a meaning, too, a
meaning which apparently is not clear to Digby Groat. And now let us
talk about ourselves," he smiled, and his hand rested for a moment over
hers.

She did not attempt to withdraw her own until the waiter came in sight,
and then she drew it away so gently as to suggest reluctance.

"I'm going to stay another month with the Groats," she informed him, "and
then if Mrs. Groat doesn't find some real work for me to do I'm going
back to the photographers'--if they'll have me."

"I know somebody who wants you more than the photographer," he said
quietly, "somebody whose heart just aches whenever you pass out of his
sight."

She felt her own heart beating thunderously, and the hand that he held
under the cover of the table trembled.

"Who is that--somebody?" she asked faintly.

"Somebody who will not ask you to marry him until he can offer you an
assured position," said Jim. "Somebody who loves the very ground you
walk upon so much that he must have carpets for your dear feet and a
mansion to house you more comfortably than the tiny attic overlooking
the London, Midland and Scottish Railway."

She did not speak for a long time, and he thought he had offended her.
The colour came and went in her face, the soft rounded bosom rose and
fell more quickly than was usual, and the hand that he held closed so
tightly upon his fingers that they were almost numb when she suddenly
released her hold.

"Jim," she said, still averting her eyes, "I could work very well on
bare boards, and I should love to watch the London, Midland and Scottish
trains--go past your attic."

She turned her head to his and he saw that her eyes were bright with
tears.

"If you're not very careful, Jim Steele," she said, with an attempt at
raillery, "I shall propose to you!"

"May I smoke?" said Jim huskily, and when she nodded, and he lit his
match, she saw the flame was quivering in his shaking hand.

She wondered what made him so quiet for the rest of the evening. She
could not know that he was stunned and shaken by the great fortune that
had come to him, that his heart was as numb with happiness as his
fingers had been in the pressure of her hand.

When they drove back to the house that night she wanted him to take her
in his arms in the darkness of the cab and crush her against his breast:
she wanted to feel his kisses on her lips, her eyes. If he had asked her
at that moment to run away with him, to commit the maddest folly, she
would have consented joyously, for her love for the man was surging up
like a bubbling stream of subterranean fire that had found its vent,
overwhelming and burning all reason, all tradition.

Instead, he sat by her side, holding her hand and dreaming of the golden
future which awaited him.

"Good night, Jim." Her voice sounded cold and a little dispirited as she
put her gloved hand in his at the door of 409.

"Good night," he said in a low voice, and kissed her hand. She was
nearly in tears when she went into her room and shut the door behind
her. She walked to her dressing-table and looked in the glass, long and
inquiringly, and then she shook her head. "I wish he wasn't so good,"
she said, "or else more of a hero!"



CHAPTER FIFTEEN


JIM continued his journey to the flat, so enveloped in the rosy clouds
which had descended upon him that he was unconscious of time or space,
and it seemed that he had only stepped into the cab when it jerked to a
halt before the portals of Featherdale Mansions. He might have continued
in his dream without interruption had not the cabman, with some
asperity, called him back to remind him that he had not paid his fare.

That brought him back to the earth.

As he was about to open the outer door of the flats (it was closed at
eleven every night) the door opened of its own accord and he stepped
back to allow a lady to pass. She was dressed from head to foot in black
and she passed him without a word, he staring after her as she walked
with quick steps to a motor-car that he had noticed drawn up a few yards
from where his cab had stopped. Who was she? he wondered as the car
passed out of sight.

He dismissed her from his thoughts, for the glamour of the evening was
not yet passed, and for an hour he sat in his big chair, staring into
vacancy and recalling every incident of that previous evening. He could
not believe it was true that this half-divine being was to be his; and
then, with a deep sigh, he aroused himself to a sense of reality.

There was work to be done, he thought, as he rose to his feet, and it
was work for her. His income was a small one, and must be considerably
augmented before he dare ask this beautiful lady to share his lot.

He glanced idly at the table. That afternoon he had been writing up his
notes of the case and the book was still where he had left it, only--

He could have sworn he had left it open. He had a remarkable memory for
little things, tiny details of placements and position, and he was sure
the book had not only been closed, but that its position had been
changed.

A woman came in the mornings to clean the flat and make his bed and
invariably he let her in himself. She usually arrived when he was making
his own breakfast--another fad of his. She had no key, and under any
circumstances never came at night.

He opened the book and almost jumped.

Between the pages, marking the place where he had been writing, was a
key of a peculiar design. Attached to the handle was a tiny label on
which was written: "D.G.'s master key."

This time there was no sign of the Blue Hand, but he recognized the
writing. It was the same which had appeared on the warning card which
the girl had received.

The woman in black had been to his flat--and had left him the means to
enter Digby Groat's premises!

"Phew!" whistled Jim in amazement.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN


EUNICE woke in the morning with a queer little sense of disappointment.
It was not until she was thoroughly awake, sitting up in bed and sipping
the fragrant tea which the maid had brought her, that she analysed the
cause. Then she laughed at herself.

"Eunice Weldon," she said, shaking her head sadly, "you're a bold woman!
Because the best man in the world was too good, too silly, or too
frightened, to kiss you, you are working up a grievance. In the first
place, Eunice Weldon, you shouldn't have proposed to a man. It was
unladylike and certain to lead to your feeling cheap. You should have
been content to wait for the beautiful carpet under your feet and the
mansion over your head, and should have despised the bare boards of an
attic overlooking the railway. I don't suppose they are bare boards,
Eunice," she mused. "They are certain to be very nicely covered and
there will be all sorts of mementos of Jim's campaigns hanging on the
walls or tucked away in odd little cupboards. And I'm sure, when the
trains are not rattling past, that the view from the window is
beautiful, and, anyway, I shouldn't have time to look out of the window.
There would be Jim's shirts to mend, Jim's socks to darn, and--Eunice
Weldon, get up!" she said hurriedly as she slipped out of bed.

Going along the corridor Digby Groat heard the sound of her fresh young
voice singing in the bathroom, and he smiled.

The ripe beauty of the girl had come on him with a rush. She was no
longer desirable, she was necessary. He had intended to make her his
plaything, he was as determined now that she should be his decoration.
He laughed aloud at the little conceit! A decoration! Something that
would enhance him in the eyes of his fellows. Even marriage would be a
small price to pay for the possession of that jewel.

Jackson saw him smiling as he came down the stairs.

"Another box of chocolates has arrived, sir," he said in a low voice, as
though he were imparting a shameful secret.

"Throw them in the ashpit, or give them to my mother," said Digby
carelessly, and Jackson stared at him.

"Aren't you--" he began.

"Don't ask so many questions, Jackson." Digby turned his glittering eyes
upon his servant and there was an ugly look in his face. "You are
getting just a little too interested in things, my friend. And whilst we
are on this matter, let me say, Jackson, that when you speak to Miss
Weldon I want you to take that damned grin off your face and talk as a
servant to a lady; do you understand that?"

"I'm no servant," said the man sullenly.

"That is the part you are playing now, so play it," said Digby, "and
don't sulk with me, or--"

His hand went up to a rack hanging on the wall, where reposed a
collection of hunting-crops, and his fingers closed over the nearest.

The man started back.

"I didn't mean anything," he whined, his face livid. "I've tried to be
respectful--"

"Get my letters," said Digby curtly, "and bring them into the
dining-room."

Eunice came into the room at that moment.

"Good morning. Miss Weldon," said Digby, pulling out her chair from the
table. "Did you have a nice dinner?"

"Oh, splendid," she said, and then changed the conversation.

She was dreading the possibility of his turning the conversation to the
previous night, and was glad when the meal was finished.

Digby's attitude, however, was most correct. He spoke of general topics,
and did not touch upon her outing, and when she went to Mrs. Groat's
room to play at work, for it was only playing, the real work had been
done, he did not, as she feared he might, follow her.

Digby waited until the doctor called, and waylaying him in the passage
learnt that his mother had completely recovered, and though a recurrence
of the stroke was possible, it was not immediately likely. He had a few
words to say to her that morning.

Old Mrs. Groat sat by the window in a wheeled chair, a huddled, unlovely
figure, her dark gloomy eyes surveyed without interest the stately
square with its green leafy centrepiece. The change of seasons had for
her no other significance than a change of clothing. The wild heart
which once leapt to the call of spring, beat feebly in a body in which
passion had burnt itself to bitter ashes. And yet the gnarled hands,
crossing and re-crossing each other on her lap, had once touched and
blessed as they had touched and blasted.

Once or twice her mind went to this new girl, Eunice Weldon. There was
no ray of pity in her thought. If Digby wanted the girl, he would take
her, and her fate interested old Jane Groat no more than the fate of the
fly that buzzed upon the window, and whom a flick of her handkerchief
presently swept from existence. There was more reason why the girl
should go if... she frowned. The scar on the wrist was much bigger than
a sixpence. It was probably a coincidence.

She hoped that Digby would concentrate on his new quest and leave her
alone. She was mortally afraid of him, fearing in her own heart the
length to which he would go to have his will. She knew that her life
would be snuffed out, like the flame of a candle, if it were expedient
for Digby to remove her. When she had recovered consciousness and found
herself in charge of a nurse, her first thought had been of wonder that
Digby had allowed her to revive. He knew nothing of the will, she
thought, and a twisted smile broke upon the lined face. There was a
surprise in store for him. She would not be there to see it, that was
the pity. But she could gloat in anticipation over his chagrin and his
impotent rage.

The handle of the door turned and there followed a whispered
conversation. Presently the door closed again.

"How are you this morning, mother?" said the pleasant voice of Digby,
and she blinked round at him in a flutter of agitation.

"Very well, my boy, very well," she said tremulously. "Won't you sit
down?" She glanced nervously about for the nurse, but the woman had
gone. "Will you tell the nurse I want her, my boy?" she began.

"The nurse can wait," said her dutiful son coolly. "There are one or two
things I want to talk to you about before she returns. But principally I
want to know why you executed a will in favour of Estremeda and left me
with a beggarly twenty thousand pounds to face the world?"

She nearly collapsed with the shock.

"A will, my boy?" She whined the words. "What on earth are you talking
about?"

"The will which you made and put into that secret drawer of your
cabinet," he said patiently, "and don't tell me that I'm dreaming, or
that you did it for a joke, or that it was an act of mental aberration
on your part. Tell me the truth!"

"It was a will I made years ago, my dear," she quavered. "When I thought
twenty thousand pounds was all the money I possessed."

"You're a liar," said Digby without heat. "And a stupid old liar. You
made that will to spite me, you old devil!"

She was staring at him in horror.

Digby was most dangerous when he talked in that cool, even tone of his.

"I have destroyed the precious document," said Digby Groat in the same
conversational voice, "and when you see Miss Weldon, who witnessed its
destruction, I would be glad if you would tell her that the will she saw
consumed was one which you made when you were not quite right in your
head."

Mrs. Groat was incapable of speech. Her chin trembled convulsively and
her only thought was how she could attract the attention of the nurse.

"Put my chair back against the bed, Digby," she said faintly. "The light
is too strong."

He hesitated, but did as she asked, then seeing her hand close upon the
bell-push which hung by the side of the bed, he laughed.

"You need not be afraid, mother," he said contemptuously, "I did not
intend taking any other action than I have already taken. Remember that
your infernal nurse will not be here all the time, and do as I ask you.
I will send Miss Weldon up to you in a few minutes on the excuse of
taking instructions from you and answering some letters which came for
you this morning. Do you understand?"

She nodded, and at that moment the nurse came in.

Summoned to the sick-room, Eunice found her employer looking more feeble
than she had appeared before she was stricken down. The old woman's eyes
smouldered their hate, as the girl came into the room. She guessed it
was Eunice who had discovered the will and loathed her, but fear was the
greater in her, and after the few letters had been formally answered,
Mrs. Groat stopped the girl, who was in the act of rising.

"Sit down again, Miss Weldon," she said. "I wanted to tell you about a
will of mine that you found. I'm very glad you discovered it. I had
forgotten that I had made it."

Every word was strained and hateful to utter.

"You see, my dear young woman, I sometimes suffer from a curious lapse
of memory, and--and--that will was made when I was suffering from an
attack--"

Eunice listened to the halting words and was under the impression that
the hesitation was due to the old woman's weakness.

"I quite understand, Mrs. Groat," she said sympathetically. "Your son
told me."

"He told you, did he?" said Jane Groat, returning to her contemplation
of the window; then, when Eunice was waiting for her dismissal, "Are you
a great friend of my son's?"

Eunice smiled.

"No, not a great friend, Mrs. Groat," she said.

"You will be," said the woman, "greater than you imagine," and there was
such malignity in the tone that the girl shuddered.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN


JIM loved London, the noise and the smell of it. He loved its gentle
thunders, its ineradicable good-humour, its sublime muddle. Paris
depressed him, with its air of gaiety and the underlying fierceness of
life's struggle. There was no rest in the soul of Paris. It was a city
of strenuous bargaining, of ruthless exploitation. Brussels was a dumpy
undergrown Paris, Berlin a stucco Gomorrah, Madrid an extinct crater
beneath which a new volcanic stream was seeking a vent.

New York he loved, a city of steel and concrete teeming with
sentimentalists posing as tyrants. There was nothing quite like New York
in the world. Dante in his most prodigal mood might have dreamt New York
and da Vinci might have planned it, but only the high gods could have
materialized the dream or built to the master's plan. But London was
London--incomparable, beautiful. It was the history of the world and the
mark of civilization. He made a detour and passed through Covent Garden.

The blazing colour and fragrance of it! Jim could have lingered all the
morning in the draughty halls, but he was due at the office to meet Mr.
Salter.

Almost the first question that the lawyer asked him was:

"Have you investigated Selengers?"

The identity of the mysterious Selengers had been forgotten for the
moment, Jim admitted.

"You ought to know who they are," said the lawyer. "You will probably
discover that Groat or his mother are behind them. The fact that the
offices were once the property of Danton rather supports this
idea--though theories are an abomination to me!"

Jim agreed. There were so many issues to the case that he had almost
lost sight of his main object.

"The more I think of it," he confessed "the more useless my search
seems to me, Mr. Salter. If I find Lady Mary, you say that I shall be no
nearer to frustrating the Groats?"

Mr. Septimus Salter did not immediately reply. He had said as much, but
subsequently had amended his point of view. Theories, as he had so
emphatically stated, were abominable alternatives to facts, and yet he
could not get out of his head that if the theory he had formed to
account for Lady Mary Danton's obliteration were substantiated, a big
step would have been taken toward clearing up a host of minor mysteries.

"Go ahead with Selengers," he said at last; "possibly you may find that
their inquiries are made as much to find Lady Mary as to establish the
identity of your young friend. At any rate, you can't be doing much
harm."



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


AT twelve o'clock that night Eunice heard a car draw up in front of the
house. She had not yet retired, and she stepped out on to the balcony as
Digby Groat ascended the steps.

Eunice closed the door and pulled the curtains across. She was not tired
enough to go to bed. She had very foolishly succumbed to the temptation
to take a doze that afternoon, and to occupy her time she had brought up
the last bundle of accounts, unearthed from a box in the wine-cellar,
and had spent the evening tabulating them.

She finished the last account, and fixing a rubber band round them, rose
and stretched herself, and then she heard a sound; a stealthy foot upon
the stone of the balcony floor. There was no mistaking it. She had never
heard it before on the occasion of the earlier visits. She switched out
the light, drew back the curtains noiselessly and softly unlocked the
French window. She listened. There it was again. She felt no fear, only
the thrill of impending discovery. Suddenly she jerked open the window
and stepped out, and for a time saw nothing, then as her eyes grew
accustomed to the darkness, she saw something crouching against the
wall.

"Who is that?" she cried.

There was no reply for a little time; then the voice said:

"I am awfully sorry to have frightened you, Eunice."

It was Jim Steele.

"Jim!" she gasped incredulously, and then a wave of anger swept over
her. So it had been Jim all the time and not a woman! Jim, who had been
supporting his prejudices by these contemptible tricks. Her anger was
unreasonable, but it was very real and born of the shock of
disillusionment. She remembered in a flash how sympathetic Jim had been
when she told him of the midnight visitor and how he had pretended to be
puzzled. So he was fooling her all the time. It was hateful of him!

"I think you had better go," she said coldly.

"Let me explain, Eunice."

"I don't think any explanation is necessary," she said. "Really, Jim, it
is despicable of you."

She went back to her room with a wildly beating heart. She could have
wept for vexation. Jim! He was the mysterious Blue Hand, she thought
indignantly, and he had made a laughing-stock of her! Probably he was
the writer of the letters, too, and had been in her room that night. She
stamped her foot in her anger. She hated him for deceiving her. She
hated him for shattering the idol she had set up in her heart. She had
never felt so unutterably miserable as she was when she flung herself on
her bed and wept until she fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.

"Damn!" muttered Jim as he slipped out of the house and strode in search
of his muddy little car. An unprofitable evening had ended tragically.

"Bungling, heavy-footed jackass," he growled savagely, as he spun
perilously round a corner and nearly into a taxi-cab which had ventured
to the wrong side of the road. But he was not cursing the cab-driver. It
was his own stupidity which had led him to test the key which had made a
remarkable appearance on his table the night before. He had gone on to
the balcony, merely to examine the fastenings of the girl's window, with
the idea of judging her security.

He felt miserable and would have been glad to talk his trouble over with
somebody. But there was nobody he could think of, nobody whom he liked
well enough, unless it was--Mrs. Fane. He half smiled at the thought and
wondered what that invalid lady would think of him if he knocked her up
at this hour to pour his woes into her sympathetic ears! The sweet,
sad-faced woman had made a very deep impression upon him; he was
surprised to find how often she came into his thoughts.

Half-way up Baker Street he brought his car to a walking pace and
turned. He had remembered Selengers, and it had just occurred to him
that at this hour he was more likely to profit by a visit than by a
daytime call. It was nearly two o'clock when he stopped in Brade Street
and descended.

He remembered the janitor had told him that there was a side entrance,
which was used alone by Selengers. He found the narrow court which led
to the back of the building, and after a little search discovered what
was evidently the door which would bring him through the courtyard to
the back of Brade Street Buildings. He tried the door, and to his
surprise it was unlocked. Hearing the soft pad of the policeman's feet
in the street, and not wishing to be discovered trying strange doors at
that hour, he passed through and closed it behind him, waiting till the
officer had passed before he continued his investigations.

In preparation for such a contingency, he had brought with him a small
electric lamp, and with the aid of this he found his way across the
paved yard to a door which opened into the building. This was locked, he
discovered to his dismay. There must be another, he thought, and began
looking for it. There were windows overlooking the courtyard, but these
were so carefully shuttered that it was impossible to tell whether
lights shone behind them or not.

He found the other entrance at an angle of two walls, tried it, and to
his delight it opened. He was in a short stone corridor and at the
farther end was a barred gate. Short of this and to the right was a
green door. He turned the handle softly, and as it opened he saw that a
brilliant light was burning within. He pushed it farther and stepped
into the room.

He was in an office which was unfurnished except for a table and a
chair, but it was not the desolate appearance of the apartment which
held his eye.

As he had entered a woman, dressed from head to foot in black, was
passing to a second room, and at the sound of the door she turned
quickly and drew her veil over her face. But she had delayed that action
a little too long, and Jim, with a gasp of amazement, had looked upon
the face of that "incurable invalid" Mrs. Fane!



CHAPTER NINETEEN


"Who are you, and what do you want?" she asked. He saw her hand drop to
the fold of her dress, then: "Mr. Steele," she said as she recognized
him.

"I'm sorry to disturb you," said Jim as he closed the door behind him,
"but I wanted to see you pretty badly."

"Sit down, Mr. Steele. Did you see my--" she hesitated, "see my face?"

He nodded gravely.

"And did you recognize me?"

He nodded again.

"Yes, you are Mrs. Fane," he said quietly.

Slowly her hands rose and she unpinned the veil.

"You may lock the door," she said; "yes, I am Mrs. Fane."

He was so bewildered, despite his seeming self-possession, that he had
nothing to say.

"You probably think that I have been practising a wicked and mean
deception," she said, "but there are reasons--excellent reasons--why I
should not be abroad in the daytime, and why, if I were traced to
Featherdale Mansions, I should not be identified with the woman who
walks at night."

"Then it was you who left the key?" he said.

She nodded, and all the time her eyes never left his face.

"I am afraid I cannot enlighten you any farther," she said, "partly
because I am not prepared at this moment to reveal my hand and partly
because there is so little that I could reveal if I did."

And only a few minutes before he had been thinking how jolly it would be
if he could lay all his troubles and perplexities before her. It was
incredible that he should be talking with her at this midnight hour in a
prosaic city office. He looked at the delicate white hand which rested
against her breast and smiled, and she, with her quick perceptions,
guessed the cause of his amusement.

"You are thinking of the Blue Hand?" she said quickly.

"Yes, I am thinking of the Blue Hand," said Jim.

"You have an idea that that is just a piece of chicanery and that the
hand has no significance?" she asked quietly.

"Curiously enough, I don't think that," said Jim. "I believe behind that
symbol is a very interesting story, but you must tell it in your own
time, Mrs. Fane."

She paced the room deep in thought, her hands clasped before her, her
chin on her breast, and he waited, wondering how this strange discovery
would develop.

"You came because you heard from South Africa that I had been making
inquiries about the girl--she is not in danger?"

"No," said Jim with a wry face. "At present I am in danger of having
offended her beyond pardon."

She looked at him sharply, but did not ask for an explanation.

"If you had thought my warnings were theatrical and meaningless, I
should not have blamed you," she said after a while, "but I had to reach
her in some way that would impress her."

"There is something I cannot understand, Mrs. Fane," said Jim. "Suppose
Eunice had told Digby Groat of this warning?"

She smiled.

"He knows," she said quietly, and Jim remembered the hand on the
laboratory door. "No, he is not the person who will understand what it
all means," she said. "As to your Eunice," her lips parted in a dazzling
little smile, "I would not like any harm to come to the child."

"Have you any special reason for wishing to protect her?" asked Jim.

She shook her head.

"I thought I had a month ago," she said. "I thought she was somebody
whom I was seeking. A chance resemblance, fleeting and elusive, brought
me to her; she was one of the shadows I pursued," she said with a bitter
little smile, "one of the ghosts that led nowhere. She interested me.
Her beauty, her fresh innocence and her character have fascinated me,
even though she has ceased to be the real object of my search. And you,
Mr. Steele. She interests you too?" She eyed him keenly.

"Yes," said Jim, "she interests me too."

"Do you love her?"

The question was so unexpected that Jim for once was not prepared with
an answer. He was a reticent man ordinarily, and now that the
opportunity presented he could not discuss the state of his feelings
towards Eunice.

"If you do not really love her," said the woman, "do not hurt her, Mr.
Steele. She is a very young girl, too good to be the passing amusement
that Digby Groat intends she shall be."

"Does he?" said Jim between his teeth.

She nodded.

"There is a great future for you, and I hope that you will not ruin that
career by an infatuation which has the appearance at the moment of being
love."

He looked at the flushed and animated face and thought that next to
Eunice she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

"I am almost at the end of my pursuit," she went on, "and once we can
bring Digby Groat and his mother to book, my work will be done." She
shook her head sadly. "I have no further hope, no further hope," she
said.

"Hope of what?" asked Jim.

"Finding what I sought," said Mrs. Fane, and her luminous eyes were
fixed on his. "But I was mad, I sought that which is beyond recall, and
I must use the remaining years of my life for such happiness as God will
send to me. Forty-three years of waste!" she threw out her arms with a
passionate gesture. "Forty-three years of suffering. A loveless
childhood, a loveless marriage, a bitter betrayal. I have lost
everything, Mr. Steele, everything. Husband and child and hope."

Jim started back.

"Good God!" he said, "then you are--"

"I am Lady Mary Danton." She looked at him strangely. "I thought you had
guessed that."

Lady Mary Danton!

Then his search was ended, thought Jim with dismay. A queer
unsatisfactory ending, which brought him no nearer to reward or
advancement, both of which were so vitally necessary now.

"You look disappointed," she said, "and yet you had set yourself out to
find Lady Mary."

He nodded.

"And you have found her. Is she less attractive than you had imagined?"

He did not reply. He could not tell her that his real search had not
been for her, but for her dead child.

"Do you know I have been seeing you every day for months, Mr. Steele?"
she asked. "I have sat by your side in railway trains, in tube trains,
and even stood by your side in tube lifts," she said with the ghost of a
smile. "I have watched you and studied you and I have liked you."

She said the last words deliberately and her beautiful hand rested for a
second on his shoulder.

"Search your heart about Eunice," she said, "and if you find that you
are mistaken in your sentiments, remember that there is a great deal of
happiness to be found in this world." There was no mistaking her
meaning.

"I love Eunice," said Jim quietly, and the hand that rested on his
shoulder was withdrawn, "I love her as I shall never love any other
woman in life. She is the beginning and end of my dreams." He did not
look up at the woman, but he could hear her quick breathing. Presently
she said in a low voice:

"I was afraid so--I was afraid so." And then Jim, whose moral courage
was beyond question, rose and faced her.

"Lady Mary," he said quietly, "you have abandoned hope that you will
ever find your daughter?"

She nodded.

"Suppose Eunice were your daughter? Would you give her to me?" She
raised her eyes to his.

"I would give her to you with thankfulness," she said, "for you are the
one man in the world whom I would desire any girl I loved to marry "--
she shook her head. "But you, too, are pursuing shadows," she said.
"Eunice is not my daughter--I have traced her parentage and there is no
doubt at all upon the matter. She is the daughter of a South African
musician."

"Have you seen the scar on her wrist?" he asked slowly. It was his last
hope of identification, and when she shook her head, his heart sank.

"I did not know that she had a scar on her wrist. What kind of a scar is
it?" she asked.

"A small round burn the size of a sixpence," said Jim.

"My baby had no such mark--she had no blemish whatever."

"Nothing that would have induced some evilly disposed person to remove?"

Lady Mary shook her head.

"Oh, no," she said faintly. "You are chasing shadows, Mr. Steele, almost
as persistently as I have done. Now let me tell you something about
myself," she said, "and I warn you that I am not going to elucidate the
mystery of my disappearance--that can wait. This building is mine," she
said. "I am the proprietor of the whole block. My husband bought it and
in a moment of unexampled generosity presented it to me the day after
its purchase. In fact, it was mine when it was supposed to be his. He
was not a generous man," she said sadly, "but I will not speak of his
treatment of me. This property has provided me with an income ample for
my needs, and I have, too, a fortune which I inherited from my father.
We were desperately poor when I married Mr. Danton," she explained, "and
only a week or two later my father's cousin, Lord Pethingham, died, and
father inherited a very large sum of money, the greater portion of which
came to me."

"Who is Madge Benson?" he demanded.

"Need you ask that?" she said. "She is my servant."

"Why did she go to prison?"

He saw the woman's lips close tight.

"You must promise not to ask questions about the past until I am ready
to tell you, Mr. Steele," she said, "and now I think you can see me
home." She looked round the office. "There are usually a dozen
cablegrams to be seen and answered. A confidential clerk of mine comes
in the morning to attend to the dispatch of wires which I leave for him.
I have made myself a nuisance to every town clerk in the world, from
Buenos Ayres to Shanghai," she said with a whimsical laugh in which
there was a note of pain. "'The shadow he pursueth--' You know the old
Biblical lines, Mr. Steele, and I am so tired of my pursuit, so very
tired!"

"And is it ended now?" asked Jim.

"Not yet," said Lady Mary, and suddenly her voice grew hard and
determined. "No, we've still got a lot of work before us, Jim--" She
used the word shyly and laughed like a child when she saw him colour.
"Even Eunice will not mind my calling you Jim," she said, "and it is
such a nice name, easily remembered, and it has the advantage of not
being a popular nickname for dogs and cats."

He was dying to ask her why, if she was so well off, she had taken up
her residence in a little flat overlooking a railway line, and it was
probable that had he asked her, he would have received an unsatisfactory
reply.

He took leave of her at her door.

"Good night, neighbour," he smiled.

"Good night, Jim," she said softly.

And Jim was still sitting in his big arm-chair pondering the events of
the night when the first rays of the rising sun made a golden pattern
upon the blind.



CHAPTER TWENTY


EARLY the next morning a district messenger arrived at the flat with a
letter from Eunice, and he groaned before he opened it.

She had written it in the hurt of her discovery and there were phrases
which made him wince.

"I never dreamt it was you, and after all the pretence you made that
this was a woman! It wasn't fair of you, Jim. To secure a sensation you
nearly frightened me to death on my first night here, and made me look
ridiculous in order that I might fall into your waiting arms! I see it
all now. You do not like Mr. Groat, and were determined that I should
leave his house, and this is the method which you have followed. I shall
find it very hard to forgive you and perhaps you had better not see me
again until you hear from me."

"Oh, damn," said Jim for the fortieth time since he had left her.

What could he do? He wrote half a dozen letters and tore them all up,
every one of them into shreds. He could not explain to her how the key
came into his possession without betraying Lady Mary Danton's secret.
And now he would find it more difficult than ever to convince her that
Digby Groat was an unscrupulous villain. The position was hopeless and
he groaned again. Then a thought struck him and he crossed the landing
to the next flat.

Madge Benson opened the door and this time regarded him a little more
favourably.

"My lady is asleep," she said. She knew that Jim was aware of Mrs.
Fane's identity.

"Do you think you could wake her? It is rather important."

"I will see," said Madge Benson, and disappeared into the bedroom. She
returned in a few moments. "Madame is awake. She heard your knock," she
said. "Will you go in?"

Lady Mary was lying on the bed fully dressed, wrapped in a
dressing-gown, and she took the letter from Jim's hand which he handed
her without a word, and read.

"Have patience," she said as she handed it back. "She will understand in
time."

"And in the meanwhile," said Jim, his heart heavy, "anything can happen
to her! This is the very thing I didn't want to occur."

"You went to the house. Did you discover anything?"

He shook his head.

"Take no notice and do not worry," said Lady Mary, settling down in the
bed and closing her eyes, "and now please let me sleep, Mr. Steele; I
have not been to bed for twenty-four hours."

Eunice had not dispatched the messenger with the letter to Jim five
minutes before she regretted the impulse which had made her write it.
She had said bitter things which she did not really feel. It was an
escapade of his which ought to be forgiven, because at the back of it,
she thought, was his love for her. She had further reason to doubt her
wisdom, when, going into Digby Groat's library she found him studying a
large photograph.

"That is very good, considering it was taken in artificial light," he
said. It was an enlarged photograph of his laboratory door bearing the
blue imprint, and so carefully had the photographer done his work, that
every line and whorl of the finger-tips showed.

"It is a woman's hand, of course," he said.

"A woman!" she gasped. "Are you sure?"

He looked up in surprise.

"Of course I'm sure," said Digby; "look at the size of it! It is much
too small for a man."

So she had wronged Jim cruelly! And yet what was he doing there in the
house? How had he got in? The whole thing was so inexplicable that she
gave it up, only--she must tell Jim and ask him to forgive her.

As soon as she was free she went to the telephone. Jim was not in the
office.

"Who is it speaking?" asked the voice of the clerk.

"Never mind," said the girl hurriedly, and hung up the receiver.

All day long she was haunted by the thought of the injustice she had
done the man she loved. He would send her a note, she thought, or would
call her up, and at every ring of the telephone the blood came into her
face, only to recede when she heard the answer, and discovered the
caller was some person in whom she had no interest.

That day was one of the longest she had ever spent in her life. There
was practically no work to do, and even the dubious entertainment of
Digby was denied her. He went out in the morning and did not come back
until late in the afternoon, going out again as soon as he had changed
his clothes.

She ate her dinner in solitude and was comforted by the thought that she
would soon be free from this employment. She had written to her old
employer and he had answered by return of post, saying how glad he would
be if he could get her back. Then they could have their little
tea-parties all over again, she thought, and Jim, free of this obsession
about Digby Groat, would be his old cheerful self.

The nurse was going out that evening and Mrs. Groat sent for her. She
hated the girl, but she hated the thought of being alone much more.

"I want you to sit here with me until the nurse comes home," she said.
"You can take a book and read, but don't fidget."

Eunice smiled to herself and went in search of a book.

She came back in time to find Mrs. Groat hiding something beneath her
pillow. They sat in silence for an hour, the old woman playing with her
hands on her lap, her head sunk forward, deep in thought, the girl
trying to read, and finding it very difficult. Jim's face so constantly
came between her and the printed page, that she would have been glad for
an excuse to put down the book, glad for any diversion.

It was Mrs. Groat who provided her with an escape from her ennui.

"Where did you get that scar on your wrist?" she asked, looking up.

"I don't know," said Eunice. "I have had it ever since I was a baby. I
think I must have been burnt."

There was another long silence.

"Where were you born?"

"In South Africa," said the girl.

Again there was an interval, broken only by the creak of Mrs. Groat's
chair.

In sheer desperation, for the situation was getting on her nerves,
Eunice said: "I found an old miniature of yours the other day, Mrs.
Groat."

The woman fixed her with her dark eyes.

"Of me?" she said, and then, "Oh, yes, I remember. Well? Did you think
it looks like me?" she asked sourly.

"I think it was probably like you years ago. I could trace a
resemblance," said Eunice diplomatically.

The answer seemed to amuse Jane Groat. She had a mordant sense of
humour, the girl was to discover.

"Like me when I was like that, eh?" she said. "Do you think I was
pretty?"

Here Eunice could speak whole-heartedly and without evasion.

"I think you were very beautiful," she said warmly.

"I was, too," said the woman, speaking half to herself. "My father tried
to bury me in a dead-and-alive village. He thought I was too attractive
for town. A wicked, heartless brute of a man," she said, and the girl
was somewhat shocked.

Apparently the old doctrine of filial piety did not run in Jane Groat's
family.

"When I was a girl," the old woman went on, "the head of the family was
the family tyrant, and lived for the exercise of his power. My father
hated me from the moment I was born and I hated him from the moment I
began to think."

Eunice said nothing. She had not invited the confidence, nevertheless it
fascinated her to hear this woman draw aside the veil which hid the
past. What great tragedy had happened, she speculated, that had turned
the beautiful original of the miniature into this hard and evil-looking
woman?

"Men would run after me, Miss Weldon," she said with a curious
complacence. "Men whose names are famous throughout the world."

The girl remembered the Marquis of Estremeda and wondered whether her
generosity to him was due to the part he had played as pursuing lover.

"There was one man who loved me," said the old woman reflectively, "but
he didn't love me well enough. He must have heard something, I suppose,
because he was going to marry me and then he broke it off and married a
simpering fool of a girl from Malaga."

She chuckled to herself. She had had no intention of discussing her
private affairs with Eunice Weldon, but something had started her on a
train of reminiscence. Besides, she regarded Eunice already as an
unofficial member of the family. Digby would tell her sooner or later.
She might as well know from her, she thought.

"He was a Marquis," she went on, "a hard man, too, and he treated me
badly. My father never forgave me after I came back, and never spoke
another word in his life, although he lived for nearly twenty years."

After she had come back, thought Eunice. Then she had gone away with
this Marquis? The Marquis of Estremeda. And then he had deserted her,
and had married this "simpering fool" from Malaga. Gradually the story
was revealing itself before her eyes.

"What happened to the girl?" she asked gently. She was almost afraid to
speak unless she stopped the loquacious woman.

"She died," said Mrs. Groat with a thin smile. "He said I killed her. I
only told her the truth. Besides, I owed him something," she frowned. "I
wish I hadn't," she muttered, "I wish I hadn't. Sometimes the ghost of
her comes into this room and looks down at me with her deep black eyes
and tells me that I killed her!" She mumbled something, and again with
that note of complacency in her voice:

"When she heard that my child was the son--" she stopped quickly and
looked round. "What am I talking about?" she said gruffly.

Eunice held her breath. Now she knew the secret of this strange
household! Jim had told her something about it; told her of the little
shipping clerk who had married Mrs. Groat, and for whom she had so
profound a contempt. A shipping clerk from the old man's office, whom he
had paid to marry the girl that her shame should be hidden.

Digby Groat was actually the son of--the Marquis of Estremeda! In law he
was not even the heir to the Danton millions!



CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE


EUNICE could only stare at the old woman. "Get on with your book,"
grumbled Mrs. Groat pettishly, and the girl, looking up through her
lashes, saw the suspicious eyes fixed on her and the tremulous mouth
moving as though she were speaking.

She must tell Jim. Despite her sense of loyalty, she realized that this
was imperative. Jim was vitally interested in the disposal of the Danton
estate, and he must know.

Suddenly the old woman began speaking again.

"What did I tell you just now?" she asked.

"You were talking about your youth," said the girl.

"Did I say anything about--a man?" asked the old woman suspiciously. She
had forgotten! Eunice forced the lie to her lips.

"No," she replied, so loudly that anybody but this muddled woman would
have known she was not speaking the truth.

"Be careful of my son," said Mrs. Groat after a while. "Don't cross him.
He's not a bad lad, not a bad lad "--she shook her head and glanced
slyly at the girl. "He is like his father in many ways."

"Mr. Groat?" said Eunice, and felt inexpressively mean at taking
advantage of the woman's infirmity, but she steeled her heart with the
thought that Jim must benefit by her knowledge.

"Groat," sneered, the old woman contemptuously, "that worm. No--yes, of
course he was Groat. Who else could he be; who else?" she asked, her
voice rising wrathfully.

There was a sound outside and she turned her head and listened.

"You won't leave me alone. Miss Weldon, until the nurse comes back, will
you?" she whispered with pathetic eagerness. "You promise me that?"

"Why, of course I promise you," said Eunice, smiling; "that is why I am
here, to keep you company."

The door handle turned and the old woman watched it, fascinated. Eunice
heard her audible gasp as Digby came in. He was in evening dress and
smoking a cigarette through a long holder.

He seemed for the moment taken aback by the sight of Eunice and then
smiled.

"Of course, it is the nurse's night out, isn't it? How are you feeling
to-night, mother?"

"Very well, my boy," she quavered, "very well indeed. Miss Weldon is
keeping me company."

"Splendid," said Digby. "I hope Miss Weldon hasn't been making your
flesh creep."

"Oh, no," said the girl, shocked, "of course I haven't. How could I?"

"I was wondering whether you had been telling mother of our mysterious
visitor," he laughed as he pulled up an easy chair and sat down. "You
don't mind my smoke, mother, do you?"

Eunice thought that even if old Jane Groat had objected it would not
have made the slightest difference to her son, but the old woman shook
her head and again turned her pleading eyes on Eunice.

"I should like to catch that lady," said Digby, watching a curl of smoke
rise to the ceiling.

"What lady, my boy?" asked Mrs. Groat.

"The lady who has been wandering loose round this house at night,
leaving her mark upon the panels of my door."

"A burglar," said the old woman, and did not seem greatly alarmed.

Digby shook his head.

"A woman and a criminal, I understand. She left a clear finger-print,
and Scotland Yard have had the photograph and have identified it with
that of a woman who served a sentence in Holloway Gaol."

A slight noise attracted Eunice and she turned to look at Jane Groat.

She was sitting bolt upright, her black eyes staring, her face working
convulsively.

"What woman?" she asked harshly. "What are you talking about?'"

Digby seemed as much surprised as the girl to discover the effect the
statement had made upon his mother.

"The woman who has been getting into this house and making herself a
confounded nuisance with her melodramatic signature."

"What do you mean?" asked Mrs. Groat with painful slowness.

"She has left the mark of a Blue Hand on my door--"

Before he could finish the sentence his mother was on her feet, staring
down at him with terror in her eyes.

"A Blue Hand!" she cried wildly. "What was that woman's name?"

"According to the police report, Madge Benson," said Digby.

For a second she glared at him wildly.

"Blue Hand," she mumbled, and would have collapsed but for the fact that
Eunice had recognized the symptoms and was by her side and took her in
her strong young arms.



CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO


OUTSIDE the door in the darkened passage a man was listening intently.
He had trailed Digby Groat all that evening, and had followed him into
the house. Hearing a movement of footsteps within, he slipped into a
side passage and waited. Eunice flew past the entrance to the passage
and Jim Steele thought it was time that he made a move. In a few minutes
the house would be aroused, for he guessed that the old woman had
collapsed. It was a desperate, mad enterprise of his, to enter the great
household at so early an hour, but he had a particular reason for
wishing to discover the contents of a letter which he had seen slipped
into Digby's hand that night.

Jim had been following him without success until Digby Groat had
alighted at Piccadilly Circus apparently to buy a newspaper. Then a
stranger had edged close to him and Jim had seen the quick passage of
the white envelope. He meant to see that letter.

He reached the ground floor in safety and hesitated. Should he go into
the laboratory whither Digby was certain to come, or should he--? A
hurried footstep on the stairs above decided him: he slipped through the
door leading to Digby's study. Hiding-place there was none: he had
observed the room when he had been in there a few days previously. He
was safe so long as nobody came in and turned on the lights. Jim heard
the footsteps pass the door, and pulled his soft felt hat further over
his eyes. The lower part of his face he had already concealed with a
black silk handkerchief, and if the worst came to the worst, he could
battle his way out and seek safety in flight. Nobody would recognize him
in the old grey suit he wore, and the soft collarless shirt. It would
not be a very noble end to the adventure, but it would be less
ignominious than being exposed again to the scorn of Eunice.

Suddenly his heart beat faster. Somebody was coming into the library. He
saw the unknown open the door and he crouched down so that the big
library table covered him from observation. Instantly the room was
flooded with light; Jim could only see the legs of the intruder, and
they were the legs of Digby Groat. Digby moved to the table, and Jim
heard the tear of paper as an envelope was slit, and then an exclamation
of anger from the man.

"Mr. Groat, please come quickly!"

It was the voice of Eunice calling from the floor above, and Digby
hurried out, leaving the door open. He was scarcely out of sight before
Jim had risen; his first glance was at the table. The letter lay as
Digby had thrown it down, and he thrust it into his pocket. In a second
he was through the doorway and in the passage. Jackson was standing by
the foot of the stairs looking up, and for the moment he did not see
Jim; then, at the sight of the masked face, he opened his mouth to shout
a warning, and at that instant Jim struck at him twice, and the man went
down with a crash.

"What is that?" said Digby's voice, but Jim was out of the house, the
door slammed behind him, and was racing along the sidewalk toward
Berkeley Square, before Digby Groat knew what had happened. He slackened
his pace, turned sharp to the right, so that he came back on his track,
and stopped under a street light to read the letter.

Parts of its contents contained no information for him. But there was
one line which interested him:

"Steele is trailing you: we will fix him to-night."

He read the line again and smiled as he walked on at a more leisurely
pace.

Once or twice he thought he was being followed, and turned round, but
saw nobody. As he strolled up Portland Place, deserted at this hour of
the night save for an occasional car, his suspicion that he was being
followed was strengthened. Two men, walking one behind the other, and
keeping close to the railings, were about twenty yards behind him.

"I'll give you a run for your money, my lads," muttered Jim, and
crossing Marylebone Road, he reached the loneliest part of London, the
outer circle of Regent's Park. And then he began to run: and Jim had
taken both the sprint and the two-mile at the 'Varsity sports. He heard
swift feet following and grinned to himself. Then came the noise of a
taxi door shutting. They had picked up the "crawler" he had passed.

"That is very unsporting," said Jim, and turning, ran in the opposite
direction. He went past the cab like a flash, and heard it stop and a
loud voice order the taxi to turn, and he slackened his pace. He had
already decided upon his plan of action--one so beautifully simple and
so embarrassing to Digby Groat and his servitors, if his suspicions were
confirmed, that it was worth the bluff. He had dropped to a walk at the
sight of a policeman coming toward him. As the taxi came abreast he
stepped into the roadway, gripped the handle of the door and jerked it
open.

"Come out," he said sternly.

In the reflected light from the taximeter lantern he saw the damaged
face of an old friend.

"Come out, Jackson, and explain just why you're following me through the
peaceful streets of this great city."

The man was loath to obey, but Jim gripped him by the waistcoat and
dragged him out, to the taxi-driver's astonishment.
The second man was obviously a foreigner, a little dark, thin-faced man
with a mahogany face, and they stood sheepishly regarding their quarry.

"To-morrow you can go back to Mr. Digby Groat and tell him that the next
time he sets the members of the Thirteen Gang to trail me, I'll come
after him with enough evidence in each hand to leave him swinging in the
brick-lined pit at Wandsworth. Do you understand that?"

"I don't know what you mean about to-morrow," said the innocent Jackson
in an aggrieved tone. "We could have the law on you for dragging us out
of the cab."

"Try it, here comes a policeman," said Jim. He gripped him by the collar
and dragged him toward the interested constable. "I think this man wants
to make a charge against me."

"No, I don't," growled Jackson, terrified as to what his master would
say when he heard of this undramatic end to the trailing of Jim.



CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE


THERE is little that is romantic about a Police Station, and Digby
Groat, who came in a towering rage to release his servants, was so
furious that he could not even see the humorous side of the situation.

Once outside the building he dismissed one, Antonio Fuentes, with a
curse, and poured the vials of wrath upon the unhappy Jackson.

"You fool, you blundering dolt," he stormed. "I told you to keep the man
in sight; Bronson would have carried out my orders without Steele
knowing. Why the hell did you carry a revolver?"

"How did I know he would play a dirty trick on me like that?" growled
Jackson; "besides, I've never heard of the Firearms Act."

It was a stupid but a dangerous situation, thought Digby Groat, as he
sat gnawing his nails in the library. It was an old theory of his that
great schemes come to nought and great crimes are detected through some
contemptible little slip on the part of the conspirators. What Jim had
done in the simplest, easiest manner, was to set the police moving
against the Thirteen, and to bring two of its members into the searching
light of a magisterial inquiry. What was worse, he had associated Digby
Groat with the proceedings, though Digby had an excuse that Jackson was
his valet, and, as such, entitled to his interest. He had disclaimed all
knowledge of Fuentes, but, as an act of generosity, as the Spaniard was
a friend of his servant, had gone bail for him also.

Had the Thirteen brought off a big coup, their tracks would have been so
hidden, their preparations so elaborated, that they would have defied
detection. And here through a simple offence, which carried no more than
a penalty of a five-pound fine, two of the members of the gang had come
under police observation. Madmen!

It was a sleepless night for him--even his three hours was denied him.
The doctor attending his mother did not leave until past three o'clock.

"It is not exactly a stroke, but I think a collapse due to some sudden
shock."

"Probably you're right," said Digby. "But I thought it best to call you
in. Do you think she will recover?"

"Oh. yes. I should imagine she'll be all right in the morning."

Digby nodded. He agreed with that conclusion, without being particularly
pleased to hear it.

Difficulties were increasing daily, it seemed; new obstacles were
besetting the smooth path of his life, and he traced them one by one and
reduced them to a single cause--Jim Steele.

The next morning, after he had telephoned to a shady solicitor whom he
knew, ordering him to defend the two men who were to be charged at
Marylebone with offences under the Firearms Act, he sent for Eunice
Weldon.

"Miss Weldon," he said, "I am making changes in this house, and I
thought of taking my mother to the country next week. The air here
doesn't seem to agree with her, and I despair of her getting better
unless she has a radical change of environment."

She nodded gravely.

"I am afraid I shall not be able to accompany you, Mr. Groat."

He looked up at her sharply.

"What do you mean, Miss Weldon?" he asked.

"There is not sufficient work for me to do here, and I have decided to
return to my old employment," she said.

"I am sorry to hear that, Miss Weldon," he said quietly, "but, of
course, I will put no obstacle in your way. This has been a calamitous
house recently, and your experience has not been an exceedingly happy
one, and therefore I quite understand why you are anxious to leave us. I
could have wished that you would have stayed with my mother until she
was settled in my place in the country, but even on this point I will
not press you."

She expected that he would have been annoyed, and his courtesy impressed
her.

"I shall not, of course, think of leaving until I have done all that I
possibly can," she hastened to add, as he expected her to do, "and
really I have not been at all unhappy here, Mr. Groat."

"Mr. Steele doesn't like me, does he?" he smiled, and he saw her
stiffen.

"Mr. Steele has no voice in my plans," she said, "and I have not seen
him for several days."

So there had been a quarrel, thought Digby, and decided that he must
know a little more of this. He was too wily to ask her point-blank, but
the fact that they had not met on the previous day was known to him.

Eunice was glad to get the interview over and to go up to Mrs. Groat,
who had sent for her a little earlier.

The old woman was in bed propped up with pillows, and apparently was her
normal self again.

"You've been a long time," she grumbled.

"I had to see your son, Mrs. Groat," said Eunice.

The old woman muttered something under her breath.

"Shut the door and lock it," she said. "Have you got your note-book?"

Eunice pulled up a chair to the bedside, and wondered what was the
important epistle that Mrs. Groat had decided to dictate. Usually she
hated writing letters except with her own hand, and the reason for her
summons had taken the girl by surprise.

"I want you to write in my name to Mary Weatherwale. Write that down."
Old Mrs. Groat spelt the name. "The address is in Somerset-Hill Farm,
Retherley, Somerset. Now say to her that I am very ill, and that I hope
she will forgive our old quarrel and will come up and stay with
me--underline that I am very ill," said Jane Groat emphatically. "Tell
her that I will pay her expenses and give her £5 a week. Is that too
much?" she asked. "No, don't put the salary at all. I'll be bound she'll
come; they're poorly on, the Weatherwales. Tell her she must come at
once. Underline that, too."

The girl scribbled down her instructions.

"Now listen, Miss Weldon." Jane Groat lowered her voice. "You are to
write this letter, and not to let my son know that you have done it: do
you understand? Post it yourself; don't give it to that horrible
Jackson. And again I tell you not to let my son know."

Eunice wondered what was the reason for the mystery, but she carried out
the old woman's instructions, and posted the letter without Digby's
knowledge.

There was no word from Jim, though she guessed he was the masked
stranger who had knocked down Jackson in the hall. The strain of waiting
was beginning to tell upon Eunice; she had grown oddly nervous, started
at every sound, and it was this unusual exhibition of nerves which had
finally decided her to leave Grosvenor Square and return to the less
exciting life at the photographic studio.

Why didn't Jim write, she asked herself fretfully, and immediately after
relentless logic demanded of her why she did not write to Jim.

She went for a walk in the park that afternoon hoping that she would see
him, but although she sat for an hour under his favourite tree, he did
not put in an appearance and she went home depressed and angry with
herself.

A stamp upon a postcard would have brought him, but that postcard she
would not write.

The next day brought Mrs. Mary Weatherwale, a stout, cheery woman of
sixty, with a rosy apple face. She came in a four-wheeled cab,
depositing her luggage in the hall, and greeted Eunice like an old
friend.

"How is she, my darling?" ("Darling" was a favourite word of hers,
Eunice discovered with amusement.) "Poor old Jane, I haven't seen her
for years and years. We used to be good friends once, you know, very
good friends, but she--but there, let bygones be bygones, darling; show
me to her room, will you?"

It required all the cheerfulness of Mrs. Weatherwale to disguise her
shock at the appearance of her one-time friend.

"Why, Jane," she said, "what's the matter with you?"

"Sit down, Mary," said the other pettishly. "All right, young lady, you
needn't wait."

This ungrateful dismissal was addressed to Eunice, who was very glad to
make her escape. She was passing through the hall later in the
afternoon, when Digby Groat came in. He looked at the luggage, which had
not been removed from the hall, and turned with a frown to Eunice.

"What is the meaning of this?" he asked. "To whom does this belong?"

"A friend of Mrs. Groat is coming to stay," said Eunice.

"A friend of mother's?" he answered quickly. "Do you know her name?"

"Mrs. Weatherwale."

She saw an instant change come over his face.

"Mrs. Weatherwale, eh," he said slowly. "Coming to stay here? At my
mother's invitation, I suppose." He stripped his gloves and flung them
on to the hall table and went up the stairs two at a time.

What happened in the sick-room Eunice could only guess. The first
intimation she had that all was not well, was the appearance of Mrs.
Weatherwale strutting down the stairs, her face as red as a turkey-cock,
her bead bonnet trembling with anger. She caught sight of Eunice and
beckoned her.

"Get somebody to find a cab for me, my darling," she said. "I'm going
back to Somerset. I've been thrown out, my darling! What do you think of
that? A woman of my age and my respectability; thrown out by a dirty
little devil of a boy that I wouldn't harbour in my cow-yard." She was
choleric and her voice was trembling with her righteous rage. "I'm
talking about you," she said, raising her voice, and addressing
somebody, apparently Digby, who was out of sight of Eunice. "You always
were a cruel little beast, and if anything happens to your mother, I'm
going to the police."

"You had better get out before I send for a policeman," said Digby's
growling voice.

"I know you," she shook her fist at her invisible enemy. "I've known you
for twenty-three years, my boy, and a more cruel and nastier man never
lived!"

Digby came slowly down the stairs, a smile on his face.

"Really, Mrs. Weatherwale," he said, "you are unreasonable. I simply do
not want my mother to be associated with the kind of people she chose as
her friends when she was a girl. I can't be responsible for her vulgar
tastes then; I certainly am responsible now."

The rosy face of the woman flushed an even deeper red.

"Common! Vulgar!" she spluttered. "You say that? You dirty little
foreigner. Ah! That got home. I know your secret, Mr. Digby Groat!"

If eyes could kill, she would have died at that moment. He turned at the
foot of the stairs and walked into his study, and slammed the door
behind him.

"Whenever you want to know anything about that!"--Mrs. Weatherwale
pointed at the closed door--"send for me. I've got letters from his
mother about him when he was a child of so high that would make your
hair stand on ends, darling."

When at last a cab bore the indignant lady from Grosvenor Square, Eunice
breathed a sigh of relief. One more family skeleton, she thought, but
she had already inspected the grisly bones. She would not be sorry to
follow in Mrs. Weatherwale's footsteps, though, unknown to her, Digby
Groat had other plans.

Those plans were maturing, when he heard a sharp rat-tat at the door and
came out into the hall. "Was that a telegram for me?" he asked.

"No, for me," said Eunice, and there was no need to ask whom that
message was from; her shining eyes, her flushed face, told their own
story.



CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR


"JIM!"

Eunice came running across the grass with out-stretched hands, oblivious
to the fact that it was broad daylight and that she was being watched by
at least a hundred idle loungers in the park.

Jim took both her hands in his and she experienced a moment of serene
comfort. Then they both talked at once; they were both apologetic,
interrupting one another's explanations with the expression of their own
contrition.

"Jim, I'm going to leave Mrs. Groat's house," she said when they had
reached sanity.

"Thank God for that," said Jim.

"You are so solemn about it," she laughed. "Did you really think I was
in any danger there?"

"I know you were," he said.

She had so much to tell him that she did not know where to begin.

"Were you sorry not to see me?"

"The days I have not seen you are dead, and wiped off the calendar,"
said Jim.

"Oh, before I forget," said Eunice, "Mrs. Weatherwale has gone."

"Mrs. Weatherwale!" he repeated, puzzled.

"I haven't told you? No, of course not. I did not see you yesterday. But
Mrs. Groat asked me to write to Mrs. Weatherwale, who is an old friend
of hers, asking her to come and stay. I think Mrs. Groat is rather
afraid of Digby."

"And she came?" asked Jim.

The girl nodded.

"She came and stayed about one hour, then arrived my lord Digby, who
bundled her unceremoniously into the street. There is no love lost
there, either, Jim. The dear old lady hated him. She was a charming old
soul and called me 'darling.'"

"Who wouldn't?" said Jim. "I can call you darling even though I am not a
charming old soul. Go on. So she went away? I wonder what she knows
about Digby?"

"She knows everything. She knows about Estremeda, of that I am sure.
Jim, doesn't that make a difference?"

He shook his head.

"If you mean does it make any difference about Digby inheriting his
mother's money when she gets it, I can tell you that it makes none. The
will does not specify that he is the son of John Groat, and the fact
that he was born before she married this unfortunate shipping clerk does
not affect the issue."

"When is the money to be made over to the Groats?"

"Next Thursday," said Jim, with a groan, "and I am just as far from
stopping the transfer of the property as I have ever been."

He had not told her of his meeting with Lady Mary Danton. That was not
his secret alone. Nor could he tell her that Lady Mary was the woman who
had warned her.

They strolled across the Park towards the Serpentine and Jim was
unusually preoccupied.

"Do you know, Eunice, that I have an uncanny feeling that you really are
in some way associated with the Danton fortune?"

She laughed and clung tighter to his arm.

"Jim, you would make me Queen of England if you could," she said, "and
you have just as much chance of raising me to the throne as you have of
proving that I am somebody else's child. I don't want to be anybody
else's, really," she said. "I was very, very fond of my mother, and it
nearly broke my heart when she died. And daddy was a darling."

He nodded.

"Of course, it is a fantastic idea," he said, "and I am flying in face
of all the facts. I have taken the trouble to discover where you were
born. I have a friend in Cape Town who made the inquiries for me."

"Eunice May Weldon," she laughed. "So you can abandon that idea, can't
you?" she said.

Strolling along by the side of the Serpentine, they had reached the
bridge near the magazine and were standing waiting until a car had
passed before they crossed the road. Somebody in the car raised his hat.

"Who was that?" said Jim.

"Digby Groat," she smiled, "my nearly late employer! Don't let us go to
the tea-shop, Jim," she said; "let us go to your flat--I'd love to."

He looked at her dubiously.

"It is not customary for bachelors to give tea-parties to young
females," he said.

"I'm sure it is"--she waved aside his objection. "I'm perfectly certain
it happens every day, only they don't speak about it."

The flat delighted her and she took off her coat and busied herself in
the little kitchenette.

"You told me it was an attic with bare boards," she said reproachfully
as she was laying the cloth.

To Jim, stretched in his big chair, she was a thing of sheer delight. He
wanted no more than to sit for ever and watch her flitting from room to
room. The sound of her fresh voice was a delicious narcotic, and even
when she called him, as she did, again and again, to explain some curio
of his which hung in the hall, the spell was not broken.

"Everything is speckless," she said as she brought in the tea, "and I'm
sure you haven't polished up those brasses and cleaned that china."

"You're right first time," said Jim lazily. "An unprepossessing lady
comes in every morning at half-past seven and works her fingers to the
bone, as she has told me more times than once, though she manages to
keep more flesh on those bones than seems comfortable for her."

"And there is your famous train," she said, jumping up and going to the
window as an express whizzed down the declivity. "Oh, Jim, look at those
boys," she gasped in horror.

Across the line and supported by two stout poles, one of which stood in
the courtyard of the flat, was a stretch of thin telegraph wires, and on
these a small and adventurous urchin was pulling himself across
hand-over-hand, to the joy of his companions seated on the opposite wall
of the cutting.

"The young devil," said Jim admiringly.

Another train shrieked past, and running down into Euston trains moved
at a good speed. The telegraph wire had sagged under the weight of the
boy to such an extent that he had to lift up his legs to avoid touching
the tops of the carriages.

"If the police catch him," mused Jim, "they will fine him a sovereign
and give him a birching. In reality he ought to be given a medal. These
little beggars are the soldiers of the future, Eunice, and some day he
will reproduce that fearlessness of danger, and he will earn the
Victoria Cross a jolly sight more than I earned it."

She laughed and dropped her head against his shoulder.

"You queer man," she said, and then returned to the contemplation of the
young climber, who had now reached the opposite wall amidst the
approving yells and shouts of his diminutive comrades.

"Now let us drink our tea, because I must get back," said the girl.

The cup was to her lips when the door opened and a woman came in. Eunice
did not hear the turning of the handle, and her first intimation of the
stranger's presence was the word "Jim." She looked up. The woman in the
doorway was, by all standards, beautiful, she noticed with a pang. Age
had not lined or marred the beauty of her face and the strands of grey
in her hair added to her attraction. For a moment they looked at one
another, the woman and the girl, and then the intruder, with a nod and a
smile, said:

"I will see you again. I am sorry," and went out closing the door behind
her.

The silence that followed was painful. Jim started three times to speak,
but stopped as he realized the futility of explaining to the girl the
reason of the woman's presence. He could not tell her she was Lady Mary
Danton.

"She called you 'Jim,'" said the girl slowly. "Is she a friend of
yours?"

"Er--yes," he replied awkwardly. "She is Mrs. Fane, a neighbour."

"Mrs. Fane," repeated the girl, "but you told me she was paralysed and
could not get up. You said she had never been out of doors for years."

Jim swallowed something.

"She called you 'Jim,'" said the girl again. "Are you very great
friends?"

"Well, we are rather," said Jim huskily. "The fact is, Eunice--"

"How did she come in?" asked the girl with a frown. "She must have let
herself in with a key. Has she a key of your flat?"

Jim gulped.

"Well, as a matter of fact--" he began.

"Has she, Jim?"

"Yes, she has. I can't explain, Eunice, but you've got--"

"I see," she said quietly. "She is very pretty, isn't she?"

"Yes, she is rather pretty," admitted Jim miserably. "You see, we have
business transactions together, and frequently I am out and she wants to
get to my telephone. She has no telephone in her own flat, you see,
Eunice," he went on lamely.

"I see," said the girl, "and she calls you 'Jim'?"

"Because we are good friends," he floundered. "Really, Eunice, I hope
you are not putting any misconstruction upon that incident."

She heaved a little sigh.

"I suppose it is all right, Jim," she said, and pushed away her plate.
"I don't think I will wait any longer. Please don't come back with me,
I'd rather you didn't. I can get a cab; there's a rank opposite the
flat, I remember."

Jim cursed the accident which had brought the lady into his room at that
moment and cursed himself that he had not made a clean breast of the
whole thing, even at the risk of betraying Lady Mary.

He had done sufficient harm by his incoherent explanation and he offered
no other as he helped the girl into her coat.

"You are sure you'd rather go alone?" he said miserably.

She nodded.

They were standing on the landing. Lady Mary's front door was ajar and
from within came the shrill ring of a telephone bell. She raised her
grave eyes to Jim.

"Your friend has the key of your flat because she has no telephone of
her own, didn't you say, Jim?"

He made no reply.

"I never thought you would lie to me," she said, and he watched her
disappear down the staircase with an aching heart.

He had hardly reached his room and flung himself in his chair by the
side of the tea-table, when Lady Mary followed him into the room.

"I'm sorry," she said, "I hadn't the slightest idea she would be here."

"It doesn't matter," said Jim with a wan smile, "only it makes things
rather awkward for me. I told her a lie and she found me out, or rather,
your infernal telephone did, Lady Mary."

"Then you were stupid," was all the comfort she gave him.

"Why didn't you stay?" he asked. "That made it look so queer."

"There were many reasons why I couldn't stay," said Lady Mary. "Jim, do
you remember the inquiries I made about this very girl, Eunice Weldon,
and which you made too?"

He nodded.

He wasn't interested in Eunice Weldon's obvious parentage at that
moment.

"You remember she was born at Rondebosch?"

"Yes," he said listlessly. "Even she admits it," he added with a feeble
attempt at a jest.

"Does she admit this?" asked Lady Mary. She pushed a telegram across the
table to Jim, and he picked it up and read:

"Eunice May Weldon died in Cape Town at the age of twelve months and
three days, and is buried at Rosebank Cemetery. Plot No. 7963."



CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE


JIM read the cablegram again, scarcely believing his eyes or his
understanding,

"Buried at the age of twelve months," he said incredulously, "but how
absurd. She is here, alive, besides which, I recently met a man who knew
the Weldons and remembered Eunice as a child. There is no question of
substitution."

"It is puzzling, isn't it?" said Lady Mary softly, as she put the
telegram in her bag. "But here is a very important fact. The man who
sent me this cablegram is one of the most reliable private detectives in
South Africa."

Eunice Weldon was born, Eunice Weldon had died, and yet Eunice Weldon
was very much alive at that moment, though she was wishing she were
dead.

Jim leant his elbow on the table and rested his chin on his palm.

"I must confess that I am now completely rattled," he said. "Then if the
girl died, it is obvious the parents adopted another girl and that girl
was Eunice. The question is, where did she come from, because there was
never any question of her adoption, so far as she knew."

She nodded.

"I have already cabled to my agent to ask him to inquire on this
question of adoption," she said, "and in the meantime the old idea is
gaining ground, Jim."

His eyes met hers.

"You mean that Eunice is your daughter?"

She nodded slowly.

"That circular scar on her wrist? You know nothing about it?"

She shook her head.

"It may have been done after "--she faltered--"after--I lost sight of
her."

"Lady Mary, will you explain how you came to lose sight of her?" asked
Jim.

She shook her head.

"Not yet," she said.

"Then perhaps you will answer another question. You know Mrs. Groat?"

She nodded.

"Do you know a woman named Weatherwale?"

Lady Mary's eyes opened.

"Mary Weatherwale, yes. She was a farmer's daughter who was very fond of
Jane, a nice, decent woman. I often wondered how Jane came to make such
a friend. Why do you ask?"

Jim told her what had happened when Mrs. Weatherwale had arrived at
Grosvenor Square.

"Let us put as many of our cards on the table as are not too stale to
exhibit," she said. "Do you believe that Jane Groat had some part in the
disappearance of my daughter?"

"Honestly I do," said Jim. "Don't you?"

She shook her head.

"I used to think so," she said quietly, "but when I made inquiries, she
was exonerated beyond question. She is a wicked woman, as wicked as any
that has ever been born," she said with a sudden fire that sent the
colour flying to her face, "but she was not so wicked that she was
responsible for little Dorothy's fate."

"You will not tell me any more about her?"

She shook her head.

"There is something you could say which might make my investigations a
little easier," said Jim.

"There is nothing I can say--yet," she said in a low voice, as she rose
and, without a word of farewell, glided from the room.

Jim's mind was made up. In the light of that extraordinary cablegram
from South Africa, his misunderstanding with Eunice faded into
insignificance. If she were Lady Mary's daughter! He gasped at the
thought which, with all its consequences, came as a new possibility,
even though he had pondered it in his mind.

He fixed upon Jane Groat as one who could supply the key of the mystery,
but every attempt he had made to get the particulars of her past had
been frustrated by ignorance, or the unwillingness of all who had known
her in her early days.

There was little chance of seeing Septimus Salter in his office, so he
went round to the garage where he housed his little car, and set forth
on a voyage of discovery to Chislehurst, where Mr. Salter lived.

The old gentleman was alone; his wife and his eldest son, an officer,
who was staying with him, had gone to Harrogate, and he was more genial
in his reception than Jim had a right to expect.

"You'll stay to dinner, of course," he said.

Jim shook his head.

"No thank you, sir, I'm feeling rather anxious just now. I came to ask
you if you knew Mrs. Weatherwale."

The lawyer frowned.

"Weatherwale, Weatherwale," he mused, "yes, I remember the name. I
seldom forget a name. She appears in Mrs. Groat's will, I think, as a
legatee for a few hundred pounds. Her father was one of old Danton's
tenants."

"That is the woman," said Jim, and told his employer all that he had
learnt about Mrs. Weatherwale's ill-fated visit to London.

"It only shows," said the lawyer when he had finished, "how the terrific
secrets which we lawyers think are locked away in steel boxes and stowed
below the ground in musty cellars, are the property of Tom, Dick and
Harry! We might as well save ourselves all the trouble. Estremeda is, of
course, the Spanish Marquis who practically lived with the Dantons when
Jane was a young woman. He is, as obviously, the father of Digby Groat,
and the result of this woman's mad passion for the Spaniard. I knew
there was some sort of scandal attached to her name, but this explains
why her father would never speak to her, and why he cut her out of his
will. I'm quite sure that Jonathan Danton knew nothing whatever about
his sister's escapade, or he would not have left her his money. He was
as straitlaced as any of the Dantons, but, thanks to his father's
reticence, it would seem that Mrs. Groat is going to benefit."

"And the son?" said Jim, and the lawyer nodded.

"She may leave her money where she wishes--to anybody's son, for the
matter of that," said the lawyer. "A carious case, a very curious
case"--he shook his grey head. "What do you intend doing?"

"I am going down to Somerset to see Mrs. Weatherwale," said Jim. "She
may give us a string which will lead somewhere."

"If she'll give you a string that will lead Mr. Digby Groat to prison,"
growled the old lawyer, "get hold of it, Steele. and pull like the
devil!"



CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX


WHEN his alarm clock turned him out at six in the morning, Jim was both
sleepy and inclined to be pessimistic. But as his mind cleared and he
realized what results the day's investigations might bring, he faced his
journey with a lighter heart.

Catching the seven o'clock from Paddington, he reached the nearest
station to Mrs. Weatherwale's residence soon after nine. He had not
taken any breakfast, and he delayed his journey for half an hour, whilst
the hostess of a small inn facing the station prepared him the meal
without which no Englishman could live, as she humorously described it,
a dish of eggs and bacon.

It seemed as though he were in another world to that which he had left
behind at Paddington. The trees were a little greener, the lush grasses
of the meadows were a more vivid emerald, and overhead in the blue sky,
defying sight, a skylark trilled passionately and was answered somewhere
from the ground. Tiny furry shapes in their bright spring coats darted
across the white roadway almost under his feet. He crossed a crumbling
stone bridge and paused to look down into the shallow racing stream that
foamed and bubbled and swirled on its way to the distant sea.

The old masons who had dressed these powdery ashlars and laid the
moss-green stones of the buttresses, were dead when burly Henry lorded
it at Westminster. These stones had seen the epochs pass, and the
maidens who had leant against the parapet listening with downcast eyes
to their young swains had become old women and dust and forgotten.

Jim heaved a sigh as he resumed his trudge. Life would not be long
enough for him, if Eunice...if I--

He shook the thought from him and climbed steadily to his destination.

Hill Farm was a small house standing in about three acres of land,
devoted mainly to market garden. There was no Mr. Weatherwale. He had
been dead for twelve years, Jim learnt at the inn, but the old lady had
a son who assisted in the management of the farm.

Jim strode out to what was to prove a pleasant walk through the glories
of a Somerset countryside, and he found Mrs. Weatherwale in the act of
butter-making. She had a pasture and a dozen cows, as she informed him
later.

"I don't want to talk about Jane Groat," she said decisively, when he
broached the object of his visit. "I'll never forgive that boy of hers
for the trouble he gave me, apart from the insult. I gave up my work and
had to hire a woman to take charge here and look after the boy--there's
my fare to London--"

"I dare say all that could be arranged, Mrs. Weatherwale," said Jim with
a laugh. "Mr. Digby Groat will certainly repay you."

"Are you a friend of his?" she asked suspiciously, "because if you
are--"

"I am not a friend of his," said Jim. "On the contrary, I dislike him
probably as much as you do."

"That is not possible," she said, "for I would as soon see the devil as
that yellow-faced monkey."

She wiped her hands on her apron and led the way to the sunny little
parlour.

"Sit ye down, Mr. What-you-may-call-it," she said briskly.

"Steele," murmured Jim.

"Mr. Steele, is it? Just sit down there, will you?" She indicated a
window-seat covered with bright chintz. "Now tell me just what you want
to know."

"I want to know something about Jane Groat's youth, who were her
friends, and what you know about Digby Groat?"

Mrs. Weatherwale shook her head.

"I can't tell you much about that, sir," she said. "Her father was old
Danton who owned Kennett Hall. You can see it from here "--she pointed
across the country to a grey mass of buildings that showed above the
hill-crest.

"Jane frequently came over to the farm. My father had a bigger one in
those days. All Hollyhock Hill belonged to him, but he lost his money
through horses, drat them!" she said good-humouredly, and apparently had
no particular grievance against the thoroughbred race-horse.

"And we got quite friendly. It was unusual, I admit, she being a lady of
quality and me being a farmer's daughter; but lord! I've got stacks of
letters from her, or rather, I had. I burnt them this morning."

"You've burnt them?" said Jim in dismay. "I was hoping that I should
find something I wanted to know from those."

She shook her head.

"There's nothing there you would find, except a lot of silly nonsense
about a man she fell in love with, a Spanish man."

"The Marquis of Estremeda?" suggested Jim.

She closed her lips.

"Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't," she said. "I'm not going to
scandalize at my time of life, and at her time of life too. We've all
made mistakes in our time, and I dare say you'll make yours, if you
haven't made them already. Which reminds me, Mr.--I don't remember your
name?"

"Steele," said Jim patiently.

"Well, that reminds me there's a duck of a girl in that house. How Jane
can allow a beautiful creature like that to come into contact with a
beast like Digby, I don't know. But that is all by the way. No, I burnt
the letters, except a few. I kept one or two to prove that a boy doesn't
change his character when he grows up. Why, it may be," she said that
good-humouredly, "when Digby is hanged the newspaper reporters would
like to see these, and they will be worth money to me!"

Jim laughed. Her good-humour was infectious, and when after an absence
of five minutes she returned to the room with a small box covered with
faded green plush, he asked; "You know nothing of Digby Groat's recent
life?"

She shook her head.

"I only knew him as a boy, and a wicked little devil he was, the sort of
boy who would pull a fly's wings off for the sport of it. I used to
think those stories about boys were lies, but it was true about him. Do
you know what his chief delight was as a boy?"

"No, I don't," smiled Jim. "It was something unpleasant, I am sure."

"To come on a Friday afternoon to Fanner Johnson's and see the pigs
killed for market," she said grimly. "That's the sort of boy he was."

She took out a bundle of faded letters and fixing her large steel-rimmed
spectacles, read them over.

"Here's one," she said; "that will show you the kind of kid he was."

"I flogged Digby to-day. He tied a bunch of crackers round the kitten's
neck and let them off. The poor little creature had to be killed."

"That's Digby," said Mrs. Weatherwale, looking over her glasses. "There
isn't a letter here which doesn't say that she had to beat him for
something or other," she read on, reading half to herself, and Jim heard
the word "baby."

"What baby was that?"

She looked at him.

"It wasn't her baby," she said.

"But whose was it?" insisted Jim.

"It was a baby she was looking after."

"Her sister-in-law's?" demanded Jim.

The woman nodded.

"Yes, Lady Mary Danton's, poor little soul--he did a cruel thing to her
too."

Jim dare not speak, and without encouragement Mrs. Weatherwale said:
"Listen to this, if you want to understand the kind of little devil
Digby was."

"I had to give Digby a severe flogging to-day. Really, the child is
naturally cruel. What do you imagine he did? He took a sixpence, heated
it in the fire and put it on the poor baby's wrist. It left a circular
burn."

"Great God!"-said Jim, springing to his feet, his face white. "A
circular burn on the wrist?"

She looked at him in astonishment.

"Yes, why?"

So that was the explanation, and the heiress to the Danton millions was
not Digby Groat or his mother, but the girl who was called Eunice
Weldon, or, as the world would know her, Dorothy Danton!



CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN


EUNICE was Lady Mary's daughter! There was no doubt of it, no possible
doubt. His instinct had proved to be right. How had she got to South
Africa? He had yet to find a solution to the mystery.

Mrs. Weatherwale's rosy face was a picture of astonishment. For a moment
she thought her visitor had gone mad.

"Will you read that piece again about Digby Groat burning the baby's
wrist," said Jim slowly, and after a troubled glance at him, she
complied.

"The little baby was lost soon after," she explained. "It went out with
a nurse; one of Jane's girls took it out in a boat, and the boat must
have been run down by some ship."

And then a light dawned upon Jim.

What ships passed to the east of the Goodwins (for it was near there
that the disaster must have occurred) on the day of the tragedy? He must
find it out immediately and he must take the letter from Jane to her
friend in order to place it before Septimus Salter. Here, however, the
woman demurred, and Jim, sitting down again, told her plainly and
frankly all his fears and suspicions.

"What, that beautiful girl I saw in Jane's house?" said Mrs. Weatherwale
in amazement. "You don't tell me!"

"I do," said Jim. "She has the mark on her wrist, a burn, and now I
remember! Mrs. Groat knows she is the daughter of Lady Mary, too! It was
the sight of that scar which brought about her stroke."

"I don't want any harm to happen to Jane, she hasn't been a bad friend
of mine, but it seems to me only justice to the young lady that she
should have the letter. As a matter of fact, I nearly burnt it."

"Thank God you didn't," said Jim fervently.

He carried his prize back by the first train that left for London and
dashed into Salter's office with his news.

"If your theory is correct." said the old man when he had finished.
"there ought not to be any difficulty in discovering the link between
the child's disappearance and her remarkable appearance in Cape Town as
Eunice Weldon. We have had confirmation from South Africa that Eunice
Weldon did die at this tender age, so, therefore, your Eunice cannot be
the same girl. I should advise you to get busy because the day after
to-morrow I hand over the Danton estate to Mrs. Groat's new lawyers, and
from what I can see of things," said Mr. Salter grimly, "it is Digby
Groat's intention to sell immediately the whole of the Danton property."

"Does that amount to much?"

"It represents more than three-quarters of the estate," said the lawyer
to Jim's surprise. "The Lakeside properties are worth four hundred
thousand pounds, they include about twenty-four homesteads and six
fairly big farms. You remember he came here some time ago to question us
as to whether he had the right of sale. I had a talk with Bennetts--they
are his new solicitors--only this morning," Mr. Salter went on stroking
his big chin thoughtfully, "and it is pretty clear that Digby intends
selling out. He showed Bennett the Power of Attorney which his mother
gave him this morning."

The lawyer was faithfully interpreting Digby Groat's intentions. The
will which Eunice had found had shocked him. He was determined that he
should not be at the mercy of a capricious old woman who he knew
disliked him as intensely as he hated her, and he had induced his mother
to change her lawyers, not so much because he had any prejudice against
Salter, but because he needed a new solicitor who would carry through
the instructions which Salter would question.

Digby was determined to turn the lands and revenues of the Danton Estate
into solid cash--cash which he could handle, and once it was in his bank
he would breathe more freely.

That was the secret of his business in the city, the formation of a
syndicate to take over the Danton properties on a cash basis, and he had
so well succeeded in interesting several wealthy financiers in the
scheme, that it wanted but the stroke of a pen to complete the deal.

"Aren't there sufficient facts now," asked Jim, "to prove that Eunice is
Lady Mary's daughter?"

Salter shook his head.

"No," he said, "you must get a closer connection of evidence. But as I
say, it should not be very difficult for you to do that. You know the
date the child disappeared. It was on the 21st June, 1901. To refresh
your memory I would remark that it was in that year the Boer War was
being fought out."

Jim's first call was at the Union African Steamship Company, and he made
that just when the office was closing.

Fortunately the assistant manager was there, took him into the office
and made a search of his records.

"None of our ships left London River on the 20th or 21st June," he said,
"and, anyway, only our intermediate boats sail from there. The mail
steamers sail from Southampton. The last ship to pass Southampton was
the Central Castle. She was carrying troops to South Africa and she
called at Plymouth on the 20th, so she must have passed Margate three
days before."

"What other lines of steamers run to South Africa?"

The manager gave him a list, and it was a longer one than Jim had
expected.

He hurried home to break the news to Lady Mary, but she was out. Her
maid, the mysterious Madge Benson, said she had left and did not expect
to be back for two or three days, and Jim remembered that Lady Mary had
talked of going to Paris.

"Do you know where she would stay in Paris?"

"I don't even know she's gone to Paris, sir," said the woman with a
smile. "Lady Mary never tells me her plans."

Jim groaned.

There was nothing to do but wait until to-morrow and pursue his
inquiries. In the meantime it was growing upon him that Eunice and he
were bad friends. He smiled to himself. What would she say when she
discovered that the woman who called him "Jim" was her mother! He must
possess his soul in patience for another twenty-four hours.

Suddenly a thought came to him, a thought which struck the smile from
his lips. Eunice Weldon might forgive him and might marry him and change
the drab roadway of life to a path of flowers, but Dorothy Danton was a
rich woman, wealthy beyond her dreams, and Jim Steele was a poor man. He
sat back in his chair to consider that disquieting revelation. He could
never marry the girl Eunice now, he thought; it would not be fair to
her, or to him. Suppose she never knew! He smiled contemptuously at the
thought.

"Get thee behind me, Satan." he said to the little dog that crouched at
his feet, watching him with eyes that never left his face. He bent down
and patted the mongrel, who turned on his back with uplifted paws. "You
and I have no particular reason to love Digby Groat, old fellow," he
said, for this was the dog he had rescued from Digby's dissecting table,
"and if he harms a hair of her head, he will be sorry he was ever born."

He began his search in the morning, almost as soon as the shipping
offices opened. One by one they blasted his hopes, and he scarcely dared
make his last call which was at the office of the African Coastwise
Line.

"And I don't think it is much use going to them," said the clerk at the
last but one of his calls. "They don't sail from London, they are a
Liverpool firm, and all their packets sail direct from the Mersey. I
don't think we have ever had a Coastwise boat in the London docks. I
happen to know," he explained, "because I was in the Customs before I
came to this firm."

The Coastwise Line was an old-fashioned firm and occupied an
old-fashioned office in a part of London which seemed to be untouched by
the passing improvements of the age. It was one of those firms which
have never succumbed to the blandishments of the Company Promoter, and
the two senior partners of the firm, old gentlemen who had the
appearance of being dignitaries of the Church, were seated on either
side of a big partner's table.

Jim was received with old-world courtesy and a chair was placed for him
by a porter almost as ancient as the proprietors of the African
Coastwise Line.

Both the gentlemen listened to his requirements in silence.

"I don't think we have ever had a ship pass through the Straits of
Dover," said one, shaking his head. "We were originally a Liverpool
firm, and though the offices have always been in London, Liverpool is
our headquarters."

"And Avonmouth," murmured his partner.

"And Avonmouth, of course," the elder of the two acknowledged the
correction with a slight inclination of his head.

"Then there is no reason why I should trouble you, gentlemen," said Jim
with a heavy heart.

"It is no trouble, I assure you," said the partner, "but to make
absolutely sure we will get our sailings for--June, 1901, I think you
said?"

He rang a bell, and to the middle-aged clerk, who looked so young,
thought Jim, that he must be the office-boy, he made his request known.
Presently the clerk came back with a big ledger which he laid on the
partners' desk. He watched the gentleman as his well-manicured finger
ran carefully down the pages and suddenly stopped.

"Why, of course," he said, looking up, "do you remember we took over a
Union African trip when they were hard pressed with transport work?"

"To be sure," said his partner. "It was the Battledore we sent out, she
went from Tilbury. The only ship of ours that has ever sailed from
Thames River."

"What date did it sail?" asked Jim eagerly.

"It sailed with the tide, which was apparently about eight o'clock in
the morning of the 21st June. Let me see," said the partner, rising and
going to a big chart that hung on the wall, "that would bring her up to
the North Foreland Light at about twelve o'clock. What time did the
accident occur?"

"At noon," said Jim huskily, and the partners looked at one another.

"I don't remember anything peculiar being reported on that voyage," said
the senior slowly.

"You were in Switzerland at the time," said the other, "and so was I.
Mr. Mansar was in charge."

"Is Mr. Mansar here?" asked Jim eagerly.

"He is dead," said the partner gently. "Yes, poor Mr. Mansar is dead. He
died at a comparatively early age of sixty-three, a very amiable man,
who played the piano remarkably well."

"The violin," murmured his partner.

Jim was not interested in the musical accomplishments of the deceased
Mr. Mansar.

"Is there no way of finding out what happened on that voyage?"

It was the second of the partners who spoke.

"We can produce the log book of the Battledore."

"I hope we can," corrected the other. "The Battledore was sunk during
the Great War, torpedoed off the Needles, but Captain Pinnings, who was
in command of her at the time, is alive and hearty."

"And his log book?" asked Jim.

"That we must investigate. We keep all log books at the Liverpool
office, and I will write to-night to ask our managing clerk to send the
book down, if it is in his possession."

"This is very urgent," said Jim earnestly. "You have been so kind that I
would not press you if it were not a matter of the greatest importance.
Would it be possible for me to go to Liverpool and see the log?"

"I think I can save you that trouble," said the elder of the two, whose
names Jim never knew. "Mr. Harry is coming down to London to-morrow,
isn't he?"

His friend nodded.

"Well, he can bring the book, if it exists. I will tell the clerk to
telephone to Liverpool to that effect," and with this Jim had to content
himself, though it meant another twenty-four hours' delay.

He reported progress to the lawyer, when he determined upon making a
bold move. His first business was the protection of Eunice, and although
he did not imagine that any immediate danger threatened her, she must be
got out of 409, Grosvenor Square, at the earliest opportunity.

If Lady Mary were only in London, how simple it would be! As it was, he
had neither the authority to command nor the influence to request.

He drove up to 409, Grosvenor Square, and was immediately shown into
Digby Groat's study.

"How do you do, Mr. Steele," said that bland gentleman. "Take a seat,
will you? It is much more comfortable than hiding under the table," he
added, and Jim smiled.

"Now, what can I do for you?"

"I want to see Miss Weldon," said Jim.

"I believe the lady is out; but I will inquire."

He rang the bell and immediately a servant answered the summons.

"Will you ask Miss Weldon to step down here?"

"It is not necessary that I should see her here," said Jim.

"Don't worry," smiled Digby. "I will make my exit at the proper moment."

The maid returned, however, with the news that the lady had gone out.

"Very well," said Jim, taking up his hat, and with a smile as bland as
his unwilling host's, "I will wait outside until she comes in."

"Admirable persistence!" murmured Digby. "Perhaps I can find her."

He went out and returned again in a few minutes with Eunice.

"The maid was quite misinformed," he said urbanely. "Miss Weldon had not
gone out."

He favoured her with a little bow and left the room, closing the door
behind him.

Eunice stood with her hands behind her, looking at the man on whom her
hopes and thoughts had centred, and about whose conduct such a storm was
still raging in her bosom.

"You want to see me, Mr. Steele?"

Her attitude shook his self-possession and drove from his mind all the
carefully reasoned arguments he had prepared.

"I want you to leave this house, Eunice," he said.

"Have you a new reason?" she asked, though she hated herself for the
sarcasm.

"I have the best of reasons," he said doggedly. "I am satisfied that you
are the daughter of Lady Mary Danton."

Again she smiled.

"I think you've used that argument before, haven't you?"

"Listen, Eunice, I beg of you," he pleaded. "I can prove that you are
Lady Mary's daughter. That scar on your wrist was made by Digby Groat
when you were a baby. And there is no Eunice Weldon. We have proved that
she died in Cape Town a year after you were born."

She regarded him steadily, and his heart sank.

"That is very romantic," she said, "and have you anything further to
say?"

"Nothing, except the lady you saw in my room was your mother."

Her eyes opened wider and then he saw a little smile come and go like a
ray of winter sunshine on her lips.

"Really, Jim," she said, "you should write stories. And if it interests
you, I might tell you that I am leaving this house in a few days. I am
going back to my old employment. I don't want you to explain who the
woman was who has the misfortune to be without a telephone and the good
fortune to have the key of your flat," she said, her anger swamping the
pity she had for him. "I only want to tell you that you have shaken my
faith in men more than Digby Groat or any other man could have done. You
have hurt me beyond forgiveness."

For a moment her voice quivered, and then with an effort of will she
pulled herself together and walked to the door. "Good-bye, Jim," she
said, and was gone.

He stood as she had left him, stunned, unable to believe his ears. Her
scorn struck him like a whip, the injustice of her view of him deprived
him of speech.

For a second a blinding wave of anger drowned all other emotions, but
this passed. He could have gone now, for there was no hope of seeing her
again and explaining even if he had been willing to offer any
explanation.

But he stayed on. He was anxious to meet Digby Groat and find from his
attitude what part he had played in forming the girl's mind. The humour
of the situation struck him and he laughed, though his laughter was
filtered through a pain that was so nearly physical that he could not
distinguish the one from the other.



CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT


THE end was coming. Digby Groat took too sane a view of things to
mistake the signs.

For two years he had been in negotiation with a land agent in San Paulo
and had practically completed the purchase of an estate. By subterranean
methods he had skilfully disguised the identity of the purchaser, and on
that magnificent ranch he intended to spend a not unpleasant life. It
might not come to a question of flight, in which case the ranch would be
a diversion from the humdrum life of England. And more than ever was he
determined that Eunice Weldon should accompany him, and share, at any
rate, a year of his life. Afterwards--he shrugged his shoulders. Women
had come into his life before, had at first fascinated, and then bored
him, and had disappeared from his ken. Probably Eunice would go the same
way, though he could not contemplate the possibility at the moment.

The hours of the morning passed all too slowly for Jim Steele. The
partner brothers had said that their "Mr. Harry" would arrive at one
o'clock, and punctually at that hour Jim was waiting in the outer
office.

Mr. Harry's train, however, must have been late. It was nearer two when
he came in, followed by a porter carrying a thick parcel under his arm.
Presently the porter came out. "Will you go in, sir," he said
respectfully, and Jim stepped quickly into the room.

Mr. Harry, whom he had thought of as a boy, was a grave man of fifty,
and apparently the younger brother of the eldest partner.

"We have found the log of the Battledore," said that gentleman, "but I
have forgotten the date."

"June 21st," said Jim.

The log lay open upon the big table, and its presence brought an
atmosphere of romance into this quiet orderly office.

"Here we are," said the partner. "Battledore left Tilbury 9 a.m. on the
tide. Wind east by south-east, sea smooth, hazy." He ran his fingers
down. "This is what I think you want."

For Jim it was a moment of intense drama. The partner was reading some
preliminary and suddenly he came to the entry which was to make all the
difference in the world to the woman whom Jim loved dearer than life.

"'Heavy fog, speed reduced at 11.50 to half. Reduced to quarter speed at
12.1. Bosun reported that we had run down small rowing boat and that he
had seen two persons in the water. Able seaman Grant went overboard and
rescued child. The second person was not found. Speed increased,
endeavoured to speak Dungeness, but weather too hazy for flag
signals'--this was before the days of wireless, you must understand, Mr.
Steele." Jim nodded.

"'Sex of child discovered, girl, apparent age a few months. Child handed
to stewardess.'"

Entry followed entry, but there was no further reference to the child
until he came to Funchal.

"In the island of Madeira," he explained. "'Arrived Funchal 6 a.m.
Reported recovery of child to British Consul, who said he would cable to
London.'"

The next entry was: "Dakka--a port on the West Coast of Africa and
French protectorate," said the partner. "'Received cable from British
Consul at Funchal saying no loss of child reported to London police.'"

There was no other entry which affected Jim until one on the third day
before the ship arrived at Cape Town.

"'Mr. Weldon, a Cape Town resident who is travelling with his wife for
her health, has offered to adopt the child picked up by us on June 21st,
having recently lost one of his own. Mr. Weldon being known to the
Captain and vouched for by Canon Jesson'--this was apparently a
fellow-passenger of his," explained the partner--"'the child was handed
to his care, on condition that the matter was reported to the
authorities in Cape Town.'"

A full description of the size, weight, and colouring of the little waif
followed, and against the query "Marks on Body" were the words "Scar on
right wrist, doctor thinks the result of a recent burn."

Jim drew a long sigh.

"I cannot tell you gentlemen how grateful I am to you. You have righted
a great wrong and have earned the gratitude of the child who is now a
woman."

"Do you think that this is the young lady?"

Jim nodded.

"I am sure," he said quietly. "The log of Captain Pinnings supplies the
missing link of evidence. We may have to ask you to produce this log in
court, but I hope that the claim of our client will not be disputed."

He walked down Threadneedle Street, treading on air, and the fact that
while he had gained for Eunice--her name was Dorothy now, but she would
be always Eunice to him--a fortune, he had lost the greatest fortune
that could be bestowed upon a man, did not disturb his joy.

He had made a rough copy of the log, and with this in his hand he drove
to Septimus Salter's office and without a word laid the extracts before
him.

Mr. Salter read, and as he read his eyes lit up.

"The whole thing is remarkably clear," he said; "the log proves the
identity of Lady Mary's daughter. Your investigations are practically
complete?"

"Not yet, sir," smiled Jim. "We have first to displace Jane Groat and
her son," he hesitated, "and we must persuade Miss Danton to leave that
house."

"In that case," said the lawyer, rising, "I think an older man's advice
will be more acceptable than yours, my boy, and I'll go with you."

A new servant opened the door, and almost at the sound of the knock,
Digby came out of his study, urbane and as perfectly groomed as usual.

"I want to see Miss Weldon," said the lawyer, and Digby stiffened at the
sight of him. He would have felt more uncomfortable if he had known what
was in Salter's mind.

Digby was looking at him straightly; his whole attitude, thought Jim,
was one of tense anxiety.

"I am sorry you cannot see Miss Weldon," he said, speaking slowly. "She
left with my mother by an early Continental train and at this moment, I
should imagine, is somewhere in the region of Paris."

"That is a damned lie!" said Jim Steele calmly.



CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE


THEY stood confronting one another, two men with murder in their hearts.

"It is a lie!" repeated Jim. "Miss Weldon is either here or she has been
taken to that hell house of yours in Somerset!"

For the time being Digby Groat was less concerned by Jim's vehement
insult than he was by the presence of the lawyer.

"So you lend yourself to this blackguardly outrage," he sneered. "I
should have thought a man of your experience would have refused to have
been made a dupe of by this fellow. Anyway," he turned to Jim, "Miss
Weldon wants no more to do with you. She has told me about that quarrel,
and really, Steele, you have behaved very badly."

The man was lying. Jim did not think twice about that. Eunice would
never have made a confidant of him.

"What is your interest in Miss Weldon?" asked Digby, addressing the
lawyer.

"Outside of a human interest, none," said old Salter, and Jim was
staggered.


"But--" he began.

"I think we had better go, Steele," Salter interrupted him with a
warning glance.

They were some distance from the house before Jim spoke.

"But why didn't you tell him, Mr. Salter, that Eunice was the heiress of
the Danton fortune?"

Salter looked at him with an odd queer expression in his bright blue
eyes.

"Suppose all you fear has happened," he said gently. "Suppose this man
is the villain that we both believe he is, and the girl is in his power.
What would be, the consequence of my telling him that Eunice Weldon was
in a position to strip him of every penny he possesses, to turn him out
of his house and reduce him to penury?"

Jim bit his lip.

"I'm sorry, sir." he said humbly. "I'm an impetuous fool."

"So long as Digby Groat does not know that Eunice threatens his position
she is comparatively safe. At any rate, her life is safe. Once we let
him learn all that we know, she is doomed."

Jim nodded. "Do you think, then, that she is in real danger?" he asked.

"I am certain that Mr. Digby Groat would not hesitate at murder to
serve his ends," said the lawyer gruffly.

They did not speak again until they were in the office in Marlborough
Street, and then Jim threw himself down in a chair with a groan and
covered his face with his hands.

"It seems as if we are powerless," he said bitterly, and then, looking
up, "Surely, Mr. Salter, the law is greater than Digby Groat. Are there
no processes we can set in motion to pull him down?" It was very seldom
old Septimus Salter smoked in his office, but this was an occasion for
an extraordinary happening. He took from a cabinet an old meerschaum
pipe and polishing it on the sleeve of his broad-cloth coat, slowly
filled it, packing down the straggling strands of tobacco which
overflowed the pipe, with exasperating calmness.

"The law, my boy, is greater than Digby Groat, and greater than you or
I. Sometimes ignorant people laugh at it, sometimes they sneer at it,
generally they curse it. But there it is, the old dilatory machinery,
grinding slow and grinding exceedingly small. It is not confined to the
issue of search warrants, of arrest and judgments. It has a thousand
weapons to strike at the cheat and the villain, and, by God, every one
of those weapons shall be employed against Digby Groat!"

Jim sprang to his feet and gripped the old man's hand. "And if the law
cannot touch him," he said, "I will make a law of these two hands and
strangle the life out of him."

Mr. Salter looked at him admiringly, but a little amused. "In which
case, my dear Steele," he said dryly, "the law will take you in her two
hands and strangle the life out of you, and it doesn't seem worth while,
when a few little pieces of paper will probably bring about as effective
a result as your wilful murder of this damnable scoundrel."

Immediately Jim began his inquiries. To his surprise he learnt that the
party had actually been driven to Victoria Station. It consisted of
Eunice and old Mrs. Groat. Moreover, two tickets for Paris had been
taken by Digby and two seats reserved in the Pullman. It was through
these Pullman reservations that the names of Eunice and the old woman
were easy to trace, as Digby Groat intended they should be.

Whether they had left by the train, he could not discover.

He returned to the lawyer and reported progress.

"The fact that Jane Groat has gone does not prove that our client has
also gone," said the lawyer sensibly.

"Our client?" said Jim, puzzled.

"Our client," repeated Septimus Salter with a smile. "Do not forget that
Miss Danton is our client, and until she authorizes me to hand her
interests elsewhere--"

"Mr. Salter," interrupted Jim, "when was the Danton estate handed over
to Bennetts?"

"This morning," was the staggering reply, though Mr. Salter did not seem
particularly depressed.

"Good heavens," gasped Jim, "then the estate is in Digby Groat's hands?"

The lawyer nodded.

"For a while," he said, "but don't let that worry you at all. You get
along with your search. Have you heard from Lady Mary?"

"Who, sir?" said Jim, again staggered.

"Lady Mary Danton," said the lawyer, enjoying his surprise. "Your
mysterious woman in black. Obviously it was Lady Mary. I never had any
doubt of it, but when I learnt about the Blue Hand, I was certain. You
see, my boy," he said with a twinkle in his eyes, "I have been making a
few inquiries in a direction which you have neglected."

"What does the Blue Hand mean?" asked Jim.

"Lady Mary will tell you one of these days, and until she does, I do not
feel at liberty to take you into my confidence. Have you ever been to a
dyer's, Steele?"

"A dyer's, sir; yes, I've been to a dye-works, if that is what you
mean."

"Have you ever seen the hands of the women who use indigo?"

"Do you suggest that when she disappeared she went to a dye-works?" said
Jim incredulously.

"She will tell you," replied the lawyer, and with that he had to be
content.

The work was now too serious and the strings were too widely distributed
to carry on alone. Salter enlisted the services of two ex-officers of
the Metropolitan Police who had established a detective agency, and at a
conference that afternoon the whole of the story, as far as it was
known, was revealed to Jim's new helpers, ex-Inspector Holder and
ex-Sergeant Field.

That afternoon Digby Groat, looking impatiently out of the window, saw a
bearded man strolling casually along the garden side of the square, a
pipe in his mouth, apparently absorbed in the contemplation of nature
and the architectural beauty of Grosvenor Square. He did not pay as much
attention to the lounger as he might have done, had not his scrutiny
been interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Bennett, an angular, sandy-haired
Scotsman, who was not particularly enamoured of his new employer.

"Well, Mr. Bennett, has old Salter handed over all the documents?"

"Yes, sir," said Bennett, "every one."

"You are sure he has not been up to any trickery?"

Mr. Bennett regarded him coldly.

"Mr. Septimus Salter, sir," he said quietly, "is an eminent lawyer,
whose name is respected wherever it is mentioned. Great lawyers do not
indulge in trickery."

"Well, you needn't get offended. Good Lord, you don't suppose he feels
friendly towards you, do you?"

"What he feels to me, sir," said Mr. Bennett, his strong northern accent
betraying his annoyance, "is a matter of complete indifference. It is
what I think of him that we are discussing. The leases of the Lakeside
Property have been prepared for transfer. You are not losing much time,
Mr. Groat."

"No," said Digby, after a moment's thought. "The fact is, the people in
the syndicate which is purchasing this property are very anxious to take
possession. What is the earliest you can transfer?"

"To-morrow," was the reply. "I suppose "--he hesitated--"I suppose
there is no question of the original heiress of the will--Dorothy
Danton, I think her name is--turning up unexpectedly at the last
moment?"

Digby smiled.

"Dorothy Danton, as you call her, has been food for the fishes these
twenty years," he said. "Don't you worry your head about her."

"Very good," said Bennett, producing a number of papers from a black
leather portfolio. "Your signature will be required on four of these,
and the signature of your mother on the fifth."

Digby frowned.

"My mother? I thought it was unnecessary that she should sign anything.
I have her Power of Attorney."

"Unfortunately the Power of Attorney is not sufficiently comprehensive
to allow you to sign away certain royalty rights which descended to her
through her father. They are not very valuable," said the lawyer, "but
they give her lien upon Kennett Hall, and in these circumstances, I
think you had better not depend upon the Power of Attorney in case there
is any dispute. Mr. Salter is a very shrewd man, and when the
particulars of this transaction are brought to his notice, I think it is
very likely that, feeling his responsibility as Mr. Danton's late
lawyer, he will enter a caveat."

"What is a caveat?"

"Literally," said Mr. Bennett, "a caveat emptor means 'let the purchaser
beware,' and if a caveat is entered, your syndicate would not dare take
the risk of paying you for the property, even though the caveat had no
effect upon the estate which were transferred by virtue of your Power of
Attorney."

Digby tugged at his little moustache and stared out of the window for a
long time.

"All right, I'll get her signature."

"She is in Paris, I understand."

Digby shot a quick glance at him.

"How do you know?" he asked.

"I had to call at Mr. Salter's office to-day," he said, "to verify and
agree to the list of securities which he handed me, and he mentioned the
matter in passing."

Digby growled something under his breath.

"Is it necessary that you should see Salter at all?" he asked with
asperity.

"It is necessary that I should conduct my own business in my own way,"
said Mr. Bennett with that acid smile of his.

Digby shot an angry glance at him and resolved that as soon as the
business was completed, he would have little use for this uncompromising
Scotsman. He hated the law and he hated lawyers, and he had been under
the impression that Messrs. Bennett would be so overwhelmed with joy at
the prospect of administering his estate that they would agree to any
suggestion he made. He had yet to learn that the complacent lawyer is a
figure of fiction, and if he is found at all, it is in the character of
the seedy broken-down old solicitor who hangs about Police Courts and
who interviews his clients in the bar parlour of the nearest
public-house.

"Very good," he said, "give me the paper. I will get her to sign it."

"Will you go to Paris?"

"Yes," said Digby. "I'll send it across by--er--aeroplane."

The lawyer gathered up the papers and thrust them back into the wallet.

"Then I will see you at twelve o'clock to-morrow at the office of the
Northern Land Syndicate."

Digby nodded.

"Oh, by the way, Bennett"--he called the lawyer back--"I wish you to put
this house in the market. I shall be spending a great deal of my time
abroad and I have no use for this costly property. I want a quick sale,
by the way."

"A quick sale is a bad sale for the seller," quoth the lawyer, "but I'll
do what I can for you, Mr. Groat. Do you want to dispose of the
furniture?"

Digby nodded.

"And you have another house in the country?"

"That is not for sale," said Digby shortly.

When the lawyer had gone he went up to his room and changed, taking his
time over his toilet.

"Now," he said as he drew on his gloves with a quiet smile, "I have to
induce Eunice to be a good girl!"



CHAPTER THIRTY


DIGBY GROAT made an unexpected journey to the west. A good general, even in
the hour of his victory, prepares the way for retreat, and the
possibility of Kennett Hall had long appealed to Digby as a likely
refuge in a case of emergency.

Kennett Hall was one of the properties which his mother had inherited
and which, owing to his failure to secure her signature, had not been
prepared for transfer to the land syndicate. It had been the home of the
Danton family for 140 years. A rambling, neglected house, standing in a
big and gloomy park, it had been untenanted almost as long as Digby
could remember.

He had sent his car down in the early morning, but he himself had gone
by train. He disliked long motor journeys, and though he intended coming
back by road, he preferred the quietude and smooth progress of the
morning railway journey.

The car, covered with dust, was waiting for him at the railway station,
and the few officials who constituted the station staff watched him go
out of the gate without evidence of enthusiasm.

"That's Groat who owns Kennett Hall, isn't it?" said the porter to the
aged station-master.

"That's him," was the reply. "It was a bad day for this country when
that property came into old Jane Groat's hands. A bad woman, that, if
ever there was one."

Unconscious of the criticisms of his mother, Digby was bowling up the
hill road leading to the gates of Kennett Hall. The gates themselves
were magnificent specimens of seventeenth-century ironwork, but the
lodges on either side were those ugly stuccoed huts with which the
mid-Victorian architect "embellished" the estates of the great. They had
not been occupied for twenty years, and bore the appearance of their
neglect. The little gardens which once had flowered so cheerfully before
the speckless windows, were overrun by weeds, and the gravel drive, seen
through the gates, was almost indistinguishable from the grassland on
either side.

The caretaker came running down the drive to unlock the gates. He was an
ill-favoured man of fifty with a perpetual scowl, which even the
presence of his master could not wholly eradicate.

"Has anybody been here, Masters?" asked Digby.

"No, sir," said the man, "except the flying gentleman. He came this
morning. What a wonderful thing flying is, sir! The way he came down in
the Home Park was wonderful to see."

"Get on the step with the driver," said Digby curtly, who was not
interested in his servitor's views of flying.

The car drove through a long avenue of elms and turned to breast a
treeless slope that led up to the lower terrace. All the beauty and
loveliness of Somerset in which it stood could not save Kennett Hall
from the reproach of dreariness. Its parapets were crumbled by the wind
and rain of long-forgotten seasons, and its face was scarred and stained
with thirty winters' rains. Its black and dusty windows seemed to leer
upon the fresh clean beauty of the world, as though in pride of its
sheer ugliness.

For twenty years no painter's brush had touched the drab and ugly
woodwork and the weeds grew high where roses used to bloom. Three great
white seats of marble, that were placed against the crumbling terrace
balustrade, were green with drippings from the neglected trees; the
terrace floor was broken and the rags and tatters of dead seasons spread
their mouldering litter of leaves and twigs and moss upon the marble
walk where stately dames had trodden in those brave days when Kennett
Hall was a name to inspire awe.

Digby was not depressed by his view of the property. He had seen it
before, and at one time had thought of pulling it down and, erecting a
modern building for his own comfort.

The man he had called Masters unlocked the big door and ushered him into
the house.

The neglect was here apparent. As he stepped into the big bleak entrance
he heard the scurry and scamper of tiny feet and smiled.

"You've got some rats here?"

"Rats?" said Masters in a tone of resignation, "there's a colony of
them, sir. It is as much as I can do to keep them out of my quarters,
but there's nothing in the east wing," he hastened to add. "I had a
couple of terriers and ferrets here for a month keeping them down, and
they're all on this side of the house." He jerked his head to the right.

"Is the flying gentleman here?"

"He's having breakfast, sir, at this minute."

Digby followed the caretaker down a long gloomy passage on the ground
floor, and passed through the door that the man opened.

The bearded Villa nodded with a humorous glint in his eye as Digby
entered. From his appearance and dress, he had evidently arrived by
aeroplane.

"Well, you got here," said Digby, glancing at the huge meal which had
been put before the man.

"I got here," said Villa with an extravagant flourish of his knife. "But
only by the favour of the gods. I do not like these scout machines: you
must get Bronson to pilot it back."

Digby nodded, and pulling out a rickety chair, sat down.

"I have given instructions for Bronson to come here--he will arrive
to-night," he said.

"Good," muttered the man, continuing his meal.

Masters had gone, and Villa was listening to the receding sound of his
footsteps upon the uncovered boards, before he asked:

"What is the idea of this, governor? You are not changing headquarters?"

"I don't know," replied Digby shortly, "but the Seaford aerodrome is
under observation. At least, Steele knows, or guesses, all about it. I
have decided to hire some commercial pilots to give an appearance of
genuine business to the company."

Villa whistled.

"This place is no use to you, governor," he said, shaking his head.
"They'd tumble to Kennett Hall--that's what you call it, isn't it?" He
had an odd way of introducing slang words into his tongue, for he spoke
in Spanish, and Digby smiled at "tumble."

"You're becoming quite an expert in the English language, Villa."

"But why are you coming here?" persisted the other. "This could only be
a temporary headquarters. Is the game slipping?" he asked suddenly.

Digby nodded.

"It may come to a case of sauve qui peut," he said, "though I hope it
will not. Everything depends upon--" He did not finish his sentence, but
asked abruptly: "How far is the sea from here?"

"Not a great distance," was the reply. "I travelled at six thousand feet
and I could see the Bristol Channel quite distinctly."

Digby was stroking his chin, looking thoughtfully at the table.

"I can trust you, Villa," he said, "so I tell you now, much as you
dislike these fast machines, you've got to hold yourself in readiness to
pilot me to safety. Again, I say that I do not think it will come to
flight, but we must be prepared. In the meantime, I have a commission
for you," he said. "It was not only to bring the machine that I arranged
for you to come to this place."

Villa had guessed that.

"There is a man in Deauville to whom you have probably seen references
in the newspapers, a man named Maxilla. He is a rich coffee planter of
Brazil."

"The gambler?" said the other in surprise, and Digby nodded.

"I happen to know that Maxilla has had a very bad time--he lost nearly
twenty million francs in one week, and that doesn't represent all his
losses. He has been gambling at Aix and at San Sebastian, and I should
think he is in a pretty desperate position."

"But he wouldn't be broke," said Villa, shaking his head. "I know the
man you mean. Why, he's as rich as Croesus! I saw his yacht when you
sent me to Havre. A wonderful ship, worth a quarter of a million. He has
hundreds of square miles of coffee plantations in Brazil--"

"I know all about that," said Digby impatiently. "The point is, that for
the moment he is very short of money. Now, do not ask me any questions,
Villa: accept my word."

"What do you want me to do?" asked the man. "Go to Deauville, take your
slow machine and fly there; see Maxilla--you speak Portuguese?"

Villa nodded.

"Like a native," he said. "I lived in Lisbon--"

"Never mind where you lived," interrupted Digby, unpleasantly. "You will
see Maxilla, and if, as I believe, he is short of money, offer him a
hundred thousand pounds for his yacht. He may want double that, and you
must be prepared to pay it. Maxilla hasn't the best of reputations, and
probably his crew--who are all Brazilians by the way--will be glad to
sail under another flag. If you can effect the purchase, send me a wire,
and order the boat to be brought round to the Bristol Channel to be
coaled."

"It is an oil-running ship," said Villa.

"Well, it must take on supplies of oil and provisions for a month's
voyage. The captain will come straight to me in London to receive his
instructions. I dare say one of his officers can bring the boat across.
Now, is that clear to you?"

"Everything is clear to me, my dear friend," said Villa blandly, "except
two things. To buy a yacht I must have money."

"That I will give you before you go."

"Secondly," said Villa, putting the stump of his forefinger in his palm,
"where does poor August Villa come into this?"

"You get away as well," said Digby.

"I see," said Villa.

"Maxilla must not know that I am the purchaser under any circumstances,"
Digby went on. "You may either be buying the boat for yourself in your
capacity as a rich Cuban planter, or you may be buying it for an unknown
friend. I will arrange to keep the captain and the crew quiet as soon as
I am on board. You leave for Deauville tonight."

He had other preparations to make. Masters received an order to prepare
two small rooms and to arrange for beds and bedding to be erected, and
the instructions filled him with consternation.

"Don't argue with me," said Digby angrily. "Go into Bristol, into any
town, buy the beds and bring them out in a car. I don't care what it
costs. And get a square of carpet for the floor."

He tossed a bundle of notes into the man's band, and Masters, who had
never seen so much money in his life, nearly dropped them in sheer
amazement.



CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE


DIGBY GROAT returned to town by car and reached Grosvenor Square in time
for dinner. He had a hasty meal and then went up to his room and
changed.

He passed the room that Eunice occupied and found Jackson sitting on a
chair before the door.

"She's all right," said the man, grinning. "I've shuttered and padlocked
the windows and I've told her that if she doesn't want me to make
friendly calls she has to behave."

Digby nodded.

"And my mother--you gave her the little box?"

Again Jackson grinned.

"And she's happy," he said. "I never dreamt she was a dope, Mr. Groat--"

"There is no need for you to dream anything," said Digby sharply.

He had a call to make. Lady Waltham was giving a dance that night, and
there would be present two members of the syndicate whom he was to meet
on the following morning. One of these drew him aside during the
progress of the dance.

"I suppose those transfers are quite in order for to-morrow," he said.

Digby nodded.

"Some of my people are curious to know why you want cash," he said,
looking at Digby with a smile.

The other shrugged his shoulders.

"You seem to forget, my dear man," he said suavely, "that I am merely an
agent in these matters, and that I am acting for my rather eccentric
mother. God bless her!"

"That is the explanation which had occurred to me," said the financier.
"The papers will be in order, of course? I seem to remember you saying
that there was another paper which had to be signed by your mother."

Digby remembered with an unspoken oath that he had neglected to secure
this signature. As soon as he could, he made his excuses and returned to
Grosvenor Square.

His mother's room was locked, but she heard his gentle tap.

"Who is that?" she demanded in audible agitation.

"It is Digby."

"I will see you in the morning."

"I want to see you tonight," interrupted Digby sharply. "Open the door."

It was some time before she obeyed. She was in her dressing-gown, and
her yellow face was grey with fear.

"I am sorry to disturb you, mother," said Digby, closing the door behind
him, "but I have a document which must be signed tonight."

"I gave you everything you wanted," she said tremulously, "didn't I,
dear? Everything you wanted, my boy?"

She had not the remotest idea that he was disposing of her property.

"Couldn't I sign it in the morning?" she pleaded. "My hand is so shaky."

"Sign it now," he almost shouted, and she obeyed.


The Northern Land Syndicate was but one branch of a great finance
corporation, and had been called into existence to acquire the Danton
properties. In a large, handsomely furnished board-room, members of the
syndicate were waiting. Lord Waltham was one; Hugo Vindt, the bluff,
good-natured Jewish financier, whose fingers were in most of the
business pies, was the second; and Felix Strathellan, that debonair
man-about-town, was the important third--for he was one of the shrewdest
land speculators in the kingdom.

A fourth member of the party was presently shown in in the person of the
Scotch lawyer, Bennett, who carried under his arm a black portfolio,
which he laid on the table.

"Good morning, gentlemen," he said shortly. Millionaires' syndicates had
long failed to impress him.

"Good morning, Bennett," said his lordship. "Have you seen your client
this morning?"

Mr. Bennett made a wry face as he unstrapped the portfolio.

"No, my lord, I have not," he said, and suggested by his tone that he
was not at all displeased that he had missed a morning interview with
Digby Groat.

"A queer fellow is Groat," said Vindt with a laugh. "He is not a
business man, and yet he has curiously keen methods. I should never have
guessed he was an Englishman: he looks more like a Latin, don't you
think. Lord Waltham?"

His lordship nodded.

"A queer family, the Groats," he said. "I wonder how many of you fellows
know that his mother is a kleptomaniac?"

"Good heavens," said Strathellan in amazement, "you don't mean that?"

His lordship nodded.

"She's quite a rum old lady now," he said, "though there was a time when
she was as handsome a woman as there was in town. She used to visit us a
lot, and invariably we discovered, when she had gone, that some little
trinket, very often a perfectly worthless trifle, but on one occasion a
rather valuable bracelet belonging to my daughter, had disappeared with
her. Until I realized the true condition of affairs it used to worry me,
but the moment I spoke to Groat, the property was restored, and we came
to expect this evidence of her eccentricity. She's a lucky woman," he
added.

"I wouldn't say that with a son like Digby," smiled Strathellan, who was
drawing figures idly on his blotting-pad.

"Nevertheless, she's lucky," persisted his lordship. "If that child of
the Dantons hadn't been killed, the Groats would have been as poor as
Church mice."

"Did you ever meet Lady Mary, my lord?" asked Vindt.

Lord Waltham nodded.

"I met Lady Mary and the baby," he said quietly; "I used to be on dining
terms with the Dantons. And a beautiful little baby she was."

"What baby is this?" asked a voice.

Digby Groat had come in in his noiseless fashion, and closed the door of
the board-room softly behind him. The question was the first intimation
they had of his presence, all except Lord Waltham, who, out of the
corner of his eye, had seen his entrance.

"We were talking about Lady Mary's baby, your cousin."

Digby Groat smiled contemptuously.

"It will not profit us very much to discuss her." he said.

"Do you remember her at all, Groat?" asked Waltham.

"Dimly," said Digby with a careless shrug. "I'm not frightfully keen, on
babies. I have a faint recollection that she was once staying in our
house, and I associate her with prodigious howling! Is everything all
right, Bennett?"

Bennett nodded.

"Here is the paper you asked for." Digby took it from his pocket and
laid it before the lawyer, who unfolded it leisurely and read it with
exasperating slowness.

"That is in order," he said. "Now, gentlemen, we will get to business."

Such of them who were not already seated about the table, drew up their
chairs.

"Your insistence upon having the money in cash has been rather a
nuisance, Groat," said Lord Waltham, picking up a tin box from the floor
and opening it. "I hate to have a lot of money in the office; it has
meant the employment of two special watchmen."

"I will pay," said Digby good-humouredly, watching with greedy eyes as
bundle after bundle of notes was laid upon the table.

The lawyer twisted round the paper and offered him a pen.

"You will sign here, Mr. Groat," he said.

At that moment Vindt turned his head to the clerk who had just entered.

"For me?" he said, indicating the letter in the man's hand.

"No, sir, for Mr. Bennett."

Bennett took the note, looked at the name embossed upon the flap, and
frowned.

"From Salter," he said, "and it is marked 'urgent and important.'"

"Let it wait until after we have finished the business," said Digby
impatiently.

"You had better see what it is," replied the lawyer, and took out a
typewritten sheet of paper. He read it through carefully.

"What is it?" asked Digby.

"I'm afraid this sale cannot go through," answered the lawyer slowly.
"Salter has entered a caveat against the transfer of the property."

Livid with rage Digby sprang to his feet.

"What right has he?" he demanded savagely. "He is no longer my lawyer:
he has no right to act. Who authorized him?"

The lawyer had a queer expression on his face.

"This caveat," he said, speaking deliberately, "has been entered by
Salter on behalf of Dorothy Danton, who, according to the letter, is
still alive."

There was a painful silence, which the voice of Vindt broke.

"So that settles the transfer," he said. "We cannot go on with this
business, you understand, Groat?"

"But I insist on the transfer going through," cried Digby violently.
"The whole thing is a plot got up by that dithering old fool, Salter.
Everybody knows that Dorothy Danton is dead! She has been dead for
twenty years."

"Nevertheless," said Lord Waltham quietly, "we cannot move in face of
the caveat. Without being a legal instrument, it places upon the
purchasers of the property the fullest responsibility for their
purchase."

"But I will sign the transfer," said Digby vehemently.

Lord Waltham shook his head.

"It would not matter if you signed twenty transfers," he said. "If we
paid you the money for this property and it proved to be the property of
Miss Danton, as undoubtedly it would prove, if she were alive, we, and
only we, would be responsible. We should have to surrender the property
and look to you to refund us the money we had invested in the estate.
No, no, Groat, if it is, as you say, a bluff on the part of Salter--and
upon my word, I cannot imagine a man of Salter's position, age and
experience putting up empty bluff--then we can have a meeting on another
day and the deal can go through. We are very eager to acquire these
properties."

There was a murmur of agreement from both Strathellan and Vindt.

"But at present, as matters stand, we can do nothing, and you as a
business man must recognize our helplessness in the matter."

Digby was beside himself with fury as he saw the money being put back in
the tin box.

"Very well," he said. His face was pallid and his suppressed rage shook
him as with an ague. But he never lost sight of all the possible
developments of the lawyer's action. If he had taken so grave a step in
respect to the property, he would take action in other directions, and
no time must be lost if he was to anticipate Salter's next move.

Without another word he turned on his heel and stalked down the stairs
into the street. His car was waiting.

"To the Third National Bank," he said, as he flung himself into its
luxurious interior.

He knew that at the Third National Bank was a sum nearly approaching a
hundred thousand pounds which his parsimonious mother had accumulated
during the period she had been in receipt of the revenues of the Danton
estate. Viewing the matter as calmly as he could, he was forced to agree
that Salter was not the man who would play tricks or employ the
machinery of the law, unless he had behind him a very substantial
backing of facts. Dorothy Danton! Where had she sprung from? Who was
she? Digby cursed her long and heartily. At any rate, he thought, as his
car stopped before the bank premises, he would be on the safe side and
get his hands on all the money which was lying loose.

He wished now that when he had sent Villa to Deauville he had taken his
mother's money for the purchase of the gambler's yacht. Instead of that
he had drawn upon the enormous funds of the Thirteen.

He was shown into the manager's office, and he thought that that
gentleman greeted him a little coldly.

"Good morning, Mr. Stevens, I have come to draw out the greater part of
my mother's balance, and I thought I would see you first."

"I'm glad you did, Mr. Groat," was the reply. "Will you sit down?" The
manager was obviously ill at ease. "The fact is," he confessed, "I am not
in a position to honour any cheques you draw upon this bank."

"What the devil do you mean?" demanded Digby.

"I am sorry," said the manager, shrugging his shoulders, "but this
morning I have been served with a notice that a caveat has been entered
at the Probate Office, preventing the operation of the Danton will in
your mother's favour. I have already informed our head office and they
are taking legal opinion, but as Mr. Salter threatens to obtain
immediately an injunction unless we agree to comply, it would be madness
on my part to let you touch a penny of your mother's account. Your own
account, of course, you can draw upon."

Digby's own account contained a respectable sum, he remembered.

"Very well," he said after consideration. "Will you discover my balance
and I will close the account."

He was cool now. This was not the moment to hammer his head against a
brick wall. He needed to meet this cold-blooded old lawyer with cunning
and foresight. Salter was diabolically wise in the law and had its
processes at his fingertips, and he must go wanly against the framed
fighter or he would come to everlasting smash.

Fortunately, the account of the Thirteen was at another bank, and if the
worst came to the worst--well, he could leave eleven of the Thirteen to
make the best of things they could.

The manager returned presently and passed a slip across the table, and a
few minutes afterwards Digby came back to his car, his pockets bulging
with bank-notes.

A tall bearded man stood on the sidewalk as he came out and Digby gave
him a cursory glance. Detective, he thought, and went cold. Were the
police already stirring against him, or was this some private watcher of
Salter's? He decided rightly that it was the latter.

When he got back to the house he found a telegram waiting. It was from
Villa. It was short and satisfactory.

"Bought Pealigo hundred and twelve thousand pounds. Ship on its way to
Avonmouth. Am bringing captain back by air. Calling Grosvenor nine
o'clock."

The frown cleared away from his face as he read the telegram for the
second time, and as he thought, a smile lit up his yellow face. He was
thinking of Eunice. The position was not without its compensations.



CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO


EUNICE was sitting in the shuttered room trying to read when Digby Groat
came in. All the colour left her face as she rose to meet him.

"Good evening. Miss Weldon," he said in his usual manner. "I hope you
haven't been very bored."

"Will you please explain why I am kept here a prisoner?" she asked a
little breathlessly. "You realize that you are committing a very serious
crime--"

He laughed in her face.

"Well," he said almost jovially, "at any rate. Eunice, we can drop the
mask. That is one blessed satisfaction! These polite little speeches are
irksome to me as they are to you."

He took her hand in his.

"How cold you are, my dear," he said, "yet the room is warm!"

"When may I leave this house?" she asked in a low voice.

"Leave this house--leave me?" He threw the gloves he had stripped on to
a chair and caught her by the shoulders. "When are we going? That is a
better way of putting it. How lovely you are, Eunice!"

There was no disguise now. The mask was off, as he had said, and the
ugliness of his black nature was written in his eyes.

Still she did not resist, standing stiffly erect like a figure of
marble. Not even when he took her face in both his hands and pressed his
lips to hers, did she move. She seemed incapable. Something inside her
had frozen and she could only stare at him.

"I want you, Eunice! I have wanted you all the time. I chose you out of
all the women in the world to be mine. I have waited for you, longed for
you, and now I have you! There is nobody here, Eunice, but you and I. Do
you hear, darling?"

Then suddenly a cord snapped within her. With an effort of strength
which surprised him she thrust him off, her eyes staring in horror as
though she contemplated some loathsome crawling thing. That look
inflamed him. He sprang forward, and as he did, the girl in the
desperation of frenzy, struck at him; twice her open hand came across
his face. He stepped back with a yell. Before he could reach her she had
flown into the bathroom and locked the door. For fully five minutes he
stood, then he turned and walked slowly across to the dressing-table,
and surveyed his face in the big mirror.

"She struck me!" he said. He was as white as a sheet. Against his
pale face the imprint of her hand showed lividly. "She struck me!" he
said again wonderingly, and began to laugh.

For every blow, for every joint on every finger of the hand that struck
the blow, she should have pain. Pain and terror. She should pray for
death, she should crawl to him and clasp his feet in her agony. His
breath came quicker and he wiped the sweat from his forehead with the
back of his hand.

He passed out, locking the door behind him. His hand was on the key when
he heard a sound and looking along the corridor, saw the door of his
mother's room open and the old woman standing in the doorway.

"Digby," she said, and there was a vigour and command in her voice which
made him frown. "I want you!" she said imperatively, and in amazement he
obeyed her.

She had gone back to her chair when he came into the room.

"What do you want?" he demanded.

"Shut the door and sit down."

He stared at her dumbfounded. Not for a year had she dared address him
in that tone.

"What the devil do you mean by ordering me--" he began.

"Sit down," she said quietly, and then he understood.

"So, you old devil, the dope is in you!"

"Sit down, my love child," she sneered. "Sit down, Digby Estremeda! I
want to speak to you."

His face went livid.

"You--you--" he gasped.

"Sit down. Tell me what you have done with my property."

He obeyed her slowly, looking at her as though he could not believe the
evidence of his ears.

"What have you done with my property?" she asked again. "Like a fool I
gave you a Power of Attorney. How have you employed it? Have you sold--"
she was looking at him keenly.

He was surprised into telling the truth.

"They have put an embargo--or some such rubbish--on the sale."

She nodded.

"I hoped they would," she said. "I hoped they would!"

"You hoped they would?" he roared, getting up.

Her imperious hand waved him down again. He passed his hand over his
eyes like a man in a dream. She was issuing orders; this old woman whom
he had dominated for years, and he was obeying meekly! He had given her
the morphine to quieten her, and it had made her his master.

"Why did they stop the sale?"

"Because that old lunatic Salter swears that the girl is still
alive--Dorothy Danton, the baby who was drowned at Margate!"

He saw a slow smile on her lined face and wondered what was amusing her.

"She is alive!" she said.

He could only glare at her in speechless amazement.

"Dorothy Danton alive?" he said. "You're mad, you old fool! She's gone
beyond recall--dead--dead these twenty years!"

"And what brought her back to life, I wonder?" mused the old woman? "How
did they know she was Dorothy? Why, of course you brought her back!" She
pointed her skinny finger at her son. "You brought her, you are the
instrument of your own undoing, my boy!" she said derisively. "Oh, you
poor little fool--you clever fool!"

Now he had mastered himself.

"You will tell me all there is to be told, or, by God, you'll be sorry
you ever spoke at all," he breathed.

"You marked her. That is why she has been recognized--you marked her!"

"I marked her?"

"Don't you remember, Digby," she spoke rapidly and seemed to find a joy
in the hurt she was causing, "a tiny baby and a cruel little beast of a
boy who heated a sixpence and put it on the baby's wrist?"

It came back to him instantly. He could almost hear the shriek of his
victim. A summer day and a big room full of old furniture. The vision of
a garden through an open window and the sound of the bees... a small
spirit-lamp where he had heated the coin....

"My God!" said Digby, reeling back. "I remember!"

He stared at the mocking face of his mother for a second, then turned
and left the room. As he did so, there came a sharp rat-tat at the door.
Swiftly he turned into his own room and ran to the window.

One glance at the street told him all that he wanted to know. He saw Jim
and old Salter... there must have been a dozen detectives with them.

The door would hold for five minutes, and there was time to carry out
his last plan.



CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE


A MINUTE later he appeared in Eunice Weldon's room. "I want you," he
said, and there was a sinister look in his eye that made the girl cower
back from him in fear that she could not master. "My dear," he said with
that smile of his, "you need not be afraid, your friends are breaking
into the house and in half an hour you will be free. What I intend doing
to you is to put you in such a condition that you will not be able to
give information against me until I am clear of this house. No, I am not
going to kill you," he almost laughed, "and if you are not sensible
enough to realize why I am taking this step, then you are a fool--and
you are not a fool, Eunice."

She saw something bright and glittering in his hand and terror took
possession of her.

"Don't touch me," she gasped. "I swear I will not tell," but he had
gripped her arm.

"If you make a sound," his face was thrust into hers, "you'll regret it
to the last day of your life."

She felt a sudden pricking sensation in her arm and tried to pull it
away, but her arm was held as by a vice.

"There. It wasn't very painful, was it?"

She heard him utter a curse, and when he turned his face was red with
rage.

"They've smashed in the gates," he said sharply.

She was walking toward him, her hand on the little puncture the needle
had made, and her face was curiously calm.

"Are you going now?" she asked simply.

"We are going in a few minutes," said Digby, emphasizing the "we."

But even this she did not resent. She had fallen into a curious placid
condition of mind which was characterized by the difficulty, amounting
to an impossibility, of remembering what happened the previous minute.
All she could do was to sit down on the edge of a chair, nursing her
arm. She knew it hurt her, and yet she was conscious of no hurt. It was
a curious impersonal sensation she had. To her, Digby Groat had no
significance. He was a somebody whom she neither liked nor disliked. It
was all very strange and pleasant.

"Put your hat on," he said, and she obeyed. She never dreamt of
disobeying.

He led her to the basement and through a door which communicated with a
garage. It was not the garage where he kept his own car--Jim had often
been puzzled to explain why Digby kept his car so far from the house.
The only car visible was a covered van, such as the average tradesman
uses to deliver his goods.

"Get in," said Digby, and Eunice obeyed with a strange smile.

She was under the influence of that admixture of morphine and hyacin,
which destroyed all memory and will.

"Sit on the floor," he ordered, and laced the canvas flap at the back.
He reached under the driver's seat and pulled out a cotton coat which
had once been white, but was now disfigured with paint and grease,
buttoning it up to the throat. A cap he took from the same source and
pulled it over his head, so that the peak well covered his eyes.

Then he opened the gates of a garage. He was in a mews, and with the
exception of a woman who was talking to a milkman, the only two persons
in sight, none saw the van emerge.

There was not the slightest suspicion of hurry on his part. He descended
from his seat to close the gates and lock them, lit a pipe and,
clambering up, set the little van going in the direction of the
Bayswater Road.

He stopped only at the petrol station to take aboard a fair supply of
spirit, and then he went on, still at a leisurely pace, passing through
the outlying suburbs, until he came to the long road leading from
Staines to Ascot. Here he stopped and got down.

Taking the little flat case from his pocket, and recharging the glass
cylinder, he opened the canvas flap at the back and looked in.

Eunice was sitting with her back braced against the side of the van, her
head nodding sleepily. She looked up with a puzzled expression.

"It won't hurt you," said Digby. Again the needle went into her arm, and
the piston was thrust home.

She screwed up her face a little at the pain and again fondled her arm.

"That hurt," she said simply.

Just outside Ascot a touring car was held up by two policemen and Digby
slowed from necessity, for the car had left him no room to pass.

"We are looking for a man and a girl," said one of the policemen to the
occupants of the car. "All right, sir, go on."

Digby nodded in a friendly way to the policeman.

"Is it all right, sergeant?"

"Off you go," said the sergeant, not troubling to look inside a van on
which was painted the name of a reputable firm of London furnishers.

Digby breathed quickly. He must not risk another encounter. There would
be a second barrier at the cross roads, where he intended turning. He
must go back to London, he thought, the police would not stop a
London-bound car. He turned into a secondary road and reached the main
Bath road passing another barrier, where, as he had expected, the police
did not challenge him, though they were holding up a string of vehicles
going in the other direction. There were half a dozen places to which he
could take her, but the safest was a garage he had hired at the back of
a block of buildings in Paddington. The garage had been useful to the
Thirteen, but had not been utilized for the greater part of a year,
though he had sent Jackson frequently to superintend the cleaning.

He gained the west of London as the rain began to fall. Everything was
in his favour. The mews in which the garage was situated was deserted
and he had opened the gates and backed in the car before the occupants
of the next garage were curious enough to come out to see who it was.

Digby had one fad and it had served him well before. It was to be
invaluable now. Years before, he had insisted that every house and every
room, if it were only a store-room, should have a lock of such a
character that it should open to his master key.

He half led, half lifted the girl from the car, and she sighed wearily,
for she was stiff and tired.

"This way," he said, and pushed her before him up the dark stairs,
keeping her on the landing whilst he lit the gas.

Though it had not been dusted for the best part of a month, the room
overlooking the mews was neat and comfortably furnished. He pulled down
the heavy blind before he lit the gas here, felt her pulse and looked
into her eyes.

"You'll do, I think," he said with a smile. "You must wait here until I
come back. I am going to get some food."

"Yes," she answered.

He was gone twenty minutes, and on his return he saw that she had taken
off her coat and had washed her hands and face. She was listlessly
drying her hands when he came up the stairs. There was something
pathetically childlike in her attitude, and a man who was less of a
brute than Digby Groat would have succumbed to the appeal of her
helplessness.

But there was no hint of pity in the thoughtful eyes that surveyed her.
He was wondering whether it would be safe to give her another dose. In
order to secure a quick effect he had administered more than was safe
already. There might be a collapse, or a failure of heart, which would
be as fatal to him as to her. He decided to wait until the effects had
almost worn off.

"Eat," he said, and she sat at the table obediently.

He had brought in cold meat, a loaf of bread, butter and cheese. He
supplemented this feast with two glasses of water which he drew in the
little scullery.

Suddenly she put down her knife and fork.

"I feel very tired," she said.

So much the better, thought Digby. She would sleep now.

The back room was a bedroom. He watched her whilst she unfastened her
shoes and loosened the belt of her skirt before she lay down. With a
sigh, she turned over and was fast asleep before he could walk to the
other side of the bed to see her face.

Digby Groat smoked for a long time over his simple meal. The girl was
wholly in his power, but she could wait. A much more vital matter
absorbed his attention. He himself had reached the possibility which he
had long foreseen and provided against. It was not a pleasant situation,
he thought, and found relief for his mind by concentrating his thoughts
upon the lovely ranch in Brazil, on which, with average luck, he would
spend the remainder of his days.

Presently he got up, produced from a drawer a set of shaving materials
wrapped in a towel, and heating some water at the little gas-stove in
the kitchen, he proceeded to divest himself of his moustache.

With the master key he unlocked the cupboard that ran the height of the
room, and surveyed thoughtfully the stacks of dresses and costumes which
filled the half a dozen shelves. The two top shelves were filled with
boxes, and he brought out three of these and examined their contents.
From one of these he took a beautiful evening gown of silver tissue, and
laid it over the back of a chair. A satin wrap followed, and from
another box he took white satin shoes and stockings and seemed satisfied
by his choice, for he looked at them for a long time before he folded
them and put them back where he had found them. His own disguise he had
decided upon.

And now, having mapped out his plan, he dressed himself in a chauffeur's
uniform, and went out to the telephone.



CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR


"DEAD! Jane Groat dead?"

To Lady Mary the news came as a shock.

Jim, gaunt and hollow-eyed, sitting listlessly by the window of Mr.
Salter's office, nodded.

"The doctors think it was an overdose of morphia that killed her," he
said shortly.

Lady Mary was silent for a long while, then;

"I think perhaps now is a moment when I can tell you something about the
Blue Hand," she said.

"Will it assist us?" asked Jim, turning quickly.

She shook her head.

"I am afraid it will not, but this I must tell you. The person against
whom the Blue Hand was directed was not Digby Groat, but his mother. I
have made one grave mistake recently," she said, "and it was to believe
that Digby Groat was dominated by his mother. I was amazed to discover
that so far from her dominating him, she was his slave, and the only
explanation I can give for this extraordinary transition is Digby
Groat's discovery that his mother was a drug-taker. Once he was strong
enough to keep the drug from her the positions were reversed. The story
of the Blue Hand," she said with her sad little smile, "is neither as
fantastic nor as melodramatic as you might expect."

There was a long silence which neither of the men broke.

"I was married at a very early age, as you know." She nodded to Salter.
"My father was a very poor nobleman with one daughter and no sons, and
he found it not only difficult to keep up the mortgaged estates which he
had inherited, but to make both ends meet even though he was living in
the most modest way. Then he met Jonathan Danton's father, and between
the two they fixed up a marriage between myself and Jonathan. I never
met him until a week before my wedding-day. He was a cold, hard man,
very much like his father, just to a fault, proud and stiff-necked, and
to his natural hardness of demeanour was added the fretfulness due to an
affected heart, which eventually killed him.

"My married life was an unhappy one. The sympathy that I sought was
denied me. With all his wealth he could have made me happy, but from the
first he seemed to be suspicious of me, and I have often thought that he
hated me because I was a member of a class which he professed to
despise. When our daughter was born I imagined that there would be a
change in his attitude, but, if anything, the change was for the worse.

"I had met his sister, Jane Groat, and knew, in a vague kind of way,
that some scandal had attached to her name--Jonathan never discussed it,
but his father, in his lifetime, loathed Jane and would not allow her to
put her foot inside his house. Jonathan hadn't the same prejudices. He
knew nothing of her escapade with the Spaniard, Estremeda, and I only
learnt of the circumstances by accident.

"Jane was a peculiar mixture. Some days she would be bright and
vivacious, and some days she would be in the depths of gloom, and this
used to puzzle me, until one day we were at tea together at our house in
Park Lane. She had come in a state of nerves and irritability which
distressed me. I thought that her little boy was giving her trouble, for
I knew how difficult he was, and how his cruel ways, even at that tender
age, annoyed her. I nearly said distressed her," she smiled, "but Jane
was never distressed at things like that. We were having a cup of tea
when she put her hand in her bag and took out a small bottle filled with
brown pellets.

"'I really can't wait any longer, Mary,' she said, and swallowed one of
the pills. I thought it was something for digestion, until I saw her
eyes begin to brighten and her whole demeanour change, then I guessed
the truth.

"'You're not taking drugs, are you, Jane? 'I asked.

"'I'm taking a little morphine,' she replied. 'Don t be shocked, Mary.
If you had my troubles, and a little devil of a boy to look after, as I
have, you'd take drugs too!'

"But that was not her worst weakness, from my point of view. What that
was I learnt after my husband sailed to America on business.

"Dorothy was then about seven or eight months old, a bonny, healthy,
beautiful child, whom my husband adored in his cold, dour fashion. One
morning Jane came into my room while I was dressing, and apologizing for
her early arrival, asked me if I would go shopping with her. She was so
cheerful and gay that I knew she had been swallowing some of those
little pellets, and as I was at a loose end that morning I agreed. We
went to several stores and finished up at Clayneys, the big emporium in
Brompton Road. I noticed that Jane made very few purchases, but this
didn't strike me as being peculiar, because Jane was notoriously mean,
and I don't think she had a great deal of money either. I did not know
Clayneys. I had never been to the shop before. This explanation is
necessary in view of what followed. Suddenly, when we were passing
through the silk department, Jane turned to me with a startled
expression and said to me under her breath, 'Put this somewhere.'

"Before I could expostulate, she had thrust something into the interior
of my muff. It was a cold day and I was carrying one of those big pillow
muffs which were so fashionable in that year. I had hardly done so
before somebody tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to see a
respectable-looking man who said sharply, 'I'll trouble you to accompany
me to the manager's office.'

"I was dazed and bewildered, and the only thing I recollect was Jane
whispering in my ear, 'Don't give your name.' She apparently was suspect
as well, for we were both taken to a large office, where an elderly man
interviewed us. 'What is your name?' he asked. The first name I could
think of was my maid, Madge Benson. Of course, I was half mad. I should
have told them that I was Lady Mary Danton and should have betrayed Jane
upon the spot. My muff was searched and inside was found a large square
of silk, which was the article Jane had put into it.

"The elderly man retired with his companion to a corner of the room and
I turned to Jane. 'You must get me out of this; it is disgraceful of
you, Jane. Whatever made you do it?'

"'For God's sake, don't say a word,' she whispered. 'Whatever happens, I
will take the responsibility. The magistrate--'

"'The magistrate?' I said in horror. 'I shall not go before a
magistrate?'

"'You must, you must; it would break Jonathan's heart, and he would
blame you if I came into court. Quick.' She lowered her voice and began
speaking rapidly. 'I know the magistrate at Paddington and I will go to
him and make a confession of the whole thing. When you come up to-morrow
you will be discharged. Mary, you must do this for me, you must!'

"To cut a long story short, the manager came back and, summoning a
policeman, gave me into custody. I neither denied my crime nor in any
way implicated Jane. I found afterwards that she explained to the
proprietor that she was a distant relation of mine and she had met me in
the shop by accident. How can I depict the horror of that night spent in
a police-court cell? In my folly I even thanked God that my name had not
been given. The next morning I came before the magistrate, and did not
doubt that Jane had kept her word. There was nobody in the court who
knew me. I was brought up under the name of Madge Benson and the elderly
man from Clayneys went into the witness-box and made his statement. He
said that his firm had been losing considerable quantities through
shop-lifting, and that he had every reason to believe I was an old hand.

"Humiliating as this experience was, I did not for one moment doubt that
the magistrate would find some excuse for me and discharge me. The shame
of that moment as I stood there in the dock, with the curious crowd
sneering at me! I cannot even speak of it to-day without my cheeks
burning. The magistrate listened in silence, and presently he looked at
me over his glasses and I waited.

"'There has been too much of this sort of thing going on,' said he, 'and
I am going to make an example of you. You will go to prison with hard
labour for one month.'

"The court, the magistrate, the people, everything and everybody seemed
to fade out, and when I came to myself I was sitting in a cell with the
jailer's wife forcing water between my teeth. Jane had betrayed me. She
had lied when she said she would go to the magistrate, but her greatest
crime had yet to be committed.

"I had been a fortnight in Holloway Gaol when she came to visit me. I
was not a strong woman and they put me to work with several other
prisoners in a shed where the prison authorities were making experiments
with dyes. You probably don't know much about prisons," she said, "but
in every county gaol through England they make an attempt to keep the
prisoners occupied with some one trade. In Maidstone the printing is
done for all the prisons in England--I learnt a lot about things when I
was inside Holloway! In Shepton Mallet the prisoners weave. In Exeter
they make harness. In Manchester they weave cotton, and so on.

"The Government were thinking of making one of the prisons a dye-works.
When I came to the little interview-room to see Jane Groat, I had
forgotten the work that had stained both my hands, and it was not until
I saw her starting at the hands gripping the bars that I realized that
the prison had placed upon me a mark which only time would eradicate.

"'May, look!' she stammered. 'Your hands are blue!'

"My hands were blue," said Lady Mary bitterly. "The Blue Hand became the
symbol of the injustice this woman had worked.

"I did not reproach her. I was too depressed, too broken to taunt her
with her meanness and treachery. But she promised eagerly that she would
tell my husband the truth, and told me that the baby was being taken
care of, and that she had sent it with her own maid to Margate. She
would have kept the baby at her own house, she said, and probably with
truth, but she feared the people, seeing the baby, would wonder where I
was. If the baby was out of town, I too might be out of town.

"And then occurred that terrible accident that sent, as I believed, my
darling baby to a horrible death. Jane Groat saw the advantage which the
death gave to her. She had discovered in some underhand fashion the
terms of my husband's will, terms which were unknown to me at the time.
The moment Dorothy was gone she went to him with the story that I had
been arrested and convicted for shop-lifting, and that the baby, whom it
was my business to guard, had been left to the neglectful care of a
servant and was dead.

"The shock killed Jonathan. He was found dead in his study after his
sister had left him. The day before I came out of prison I received a
note from Jane telling me boldly what had happened. She made no attempt
to break to me gently the news of my darling baby's death. The whole
letter was designed to produce on me the fatal effect that her news had
produced on poor Jonathan. Happily I had some money and the property in
the City, which my husband, in a moment of generosity, which I am sure
he never ceased to regret, had given to me. At my father's suggestion I
turned this into a limited liability company, the shares of which were
held, and are still held, by my father's lawyer.

"Soon after my release my father inherited a considerable fortune, which
on his death came to me. With that money I have searched the world for
news of Dorothy, news which has always evaded me. The doubt in my mind
as to whether Dorothy was dead or not concentrated on my mistrust of
Jane. I believed, wrongly, as I discovered, that Jane knew my girlie was
alive. The Blue Hand was designed to terrorize her into a confession. As
it happened, it only terrorized the one person in the world I desired to
meet--my daughter!"

Salter had listened in silence to the recital of this strange story
which Lady Mary had to tell.

"That clears up the last mystery," he said.



CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE


EUNICE woke and, opening her eyes, tried hard to remember what had
happened. Her last clear recollection was of her room in Grosvenor
Square. The last person--she shivered as she recalled the moment--was
Digby Groat, and he was coming towards her--she sat up in bed and reeled
with the pain in her head. Where was she? She looked round. The room was
meanly furnished, a heavy green blind had been drawn over the small
window, but there was enough light in the room to reveal the shabby
wardrobe, the common iron bed on which she lay, the cheap washstand and
the threadbare carpet that covered the floor.

She was fully dressed and feeling horribly grimy. She almost wished at
that moment she was back in Grosvenor Square, with its luxurious
bathroom and its stinging shower-baths.

But where was she? She got off the bed, and, staggering across the room,
she pulled aside the blind. She looked out upon the backs of drab
buildings. She was in London, then. Only London could provide that view.
She tried to open the door--it was locked, and as she turned the handle
she heard footsteps outside.

"Good morning," said Digby Groat, unlocking the door.

At first she did not recognize him in his chauffeur uniform and without
his moustache.

"You?" she said in horror. "Where am I? Why have you brought me here?"

"If I told you where you were you would be no wiser," said Digby coolly.
"And the reason you are with me must be fairly obvious. Be sensible and
have some breakfast."

He was looking at her with a keen professional eye. The effect of the
drug had not worn off, he noticed, and she was not likely to give him a
great deal of trouble.

Her throat was parched and she was ravenously hungry. She sipped at the
coffee he had made, and all the time her eyes did not leave his.

"I'll make a clean breast of it," he said suddenly. "The fact is, I have
got into very serious trouble and it is necessary that I should get
away."

"From Grosvenor Square?" She opened her eyes wide in astonishment.
"Aren't you going back to Grosvenor Square?"

He smiled.

"It is hardly likely." he said sarcastically. "Your friend Steele--"

"Is he there?" she cried eagerly, clasping her hands. "Oh, tell me,
please."

"If you expect me to sing your lover's praises you're going to get a
jar!" said Digby, without heat. "Now eat some food and shut up." His
tone was quiet but menacing, and she thought it best not to irritate
him.

She was only beginning to understand her own position. Digby had run
away and taken her with him. Why did she go? she wondered. He must have
drugged her! And yet--she remembered the hypodermic syringe and
instinctively rubbed her arm.

Digby saw the gesture and could almost read her thoughts. How lovely she
was, he mused. No other woman in the world, after her experience of
yesterday, could face the cold morning clear-eyed and flawless as she
did. The early light was always kind to her, he remembered. The
brightness of her soft eyes was undiminished, untarnished was the
clarity of her complexion. She was a thing of delight, a joy to the eye,
even of this connoisseur of beauty, who was not easily moved by mere
loveliness.

"Eunice," he said, "I am going to marry you."

"Marry me," she said, startled. "Of course, you will do nothing of the
kind, Mr. Groat. I don't want to marry you."

"That is quite unimportant," said Digby, and leaning forward over the
table, he lowered his voice. "Eunice, do you realize what I am offering
you and the alternative?"

"I will not marry you," she answered steadily, "and no threat you make
will change my mind."

His eyes did not leave hers.

"Do you realize that I can make you glad to marry me," he said, choosing
his words deliberately, "and that I will stop at nothing--nothing?"

She made no reply, but he saw her colour change.

"Now understand me, my dear, once and for all. It is absolutely
necessary that I should marry you, and you can either agree to a
ceremony or you can take the consequence, and you know what that
consequence will be."

She had risen to her feet and was looking down at him, and in her eyes
was a contempt which would have wilted any other man than he.

"I am in your power," she said quietly, "and you must do what you will,
but consciously I will never marry you. You were able to drug me
yesterday, so that I cannot remember what happened between my leaving
your house and my arrival in this wretched place, and possibly you can
produce a similar condition, but sooner or later, Digby Groat, you will
pay for all the wrong that you have done to the world. If I am amongst
the injured people who will be avenged, that is God's will."

She turned to leave the room, but he was at the door before her and
pulled her arm violently towards him.

"If you scream," he said, "I will choke the life out of you."

She looked at him with contempt.

"I shall not scream."

Nor did she even wince when the bright needle passed under the skin of
her forearm.

"If anything happens to me," she said in a voice scarcely above a
whisper, "I will kill myself in your presence, and with some weapon of
yours." Her voice faded away and he watched her.

For the first time, he was afraid. She had touched him on a sensitive
point--his own personal safety. She knew. What had put that idea into
her head, he wondered, as he watched the colour come and go under the
influence of the drug? And she would do it! He sweated at the thought.
She might have done it here, and he could never have explained his
innocence of her murder.

"Phew!" said Digby Groat, and wiped his forehead.

Presently, he let her hand drop and guided her to a chair.

Again, her hand touched her arm, tenderly, and then:

"Get up," said Digby, and she obeyed. "Now go to your room and stay
there until I tell you I want you."



CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX


THAT afternoon he had a visitor. He was, apparently, a gentleman who was
anxious to rent a garage, and he made one or two inquiries in the mews
before he called at Digby Groat's temporary home. Those people who
troubled to observe him, noticed that he stayed a considerable time
within this garage, and when he came out he seemed satisfied with his
negotiations. He was in truth Villa, who had come in answer to an urgent
wire.

"Well," said Digby, "is everything ready?"

"Everything is ready, dear friend," said Villa amiably. "I have the
three men you want. Bronson is one, Fuentes and Silva are the others;
they are known to you?"

Digby nodded. Bronson was an army aviator who had left the service under
a cloud. Digby had employed him once before, to carry him to
Paris--Bronson ran a passenger carrying service which Digby had
financed. The other two he knew as associates of Villa--Villa had queer
friends.

"Bronson will be in a field just outside Rugby. I told him to pretend he
had made a false landing."

"Good," said Digby. "Now you understand that I shall be travelling north
in the disguise of an old woman. A car must be waiting a mile short of
the station and Fuentes must reach the line with a red hand-lamp and
signal the train to stop. When it stops he can clear and by that time I
shall be well away. I know Rugby well and this sketch-map will tell you
everything." He handed a sheet of paper to Villa. "The car must be
waiting at the end of the lane marked B. on the plan--the house--is it
in good condition?"

"There's a house on the property," said Villa, "but it is rather a
tumbledown affair."

"It can't be worse than Kennett Hall," said Digby. "That will do
splendidly. You can keep the girl there all night and bring her to
Kennett Hall in the morning. I will be there to receive you. To-morrow
afternoon, just before sundown, we will take our final flight to the
sea."

"What about Bronson?"

"Bronson will have to be settled with," said Digby, "but you can leave
that to me."

He had his own views about Bronson which it was not expedient at the
moment to discuss.

"How are you going to get to the Hall?" asked the interested Villa.

"You can leave that to me also," said Digby with a frown. "Why are you
so curious? I will tell you this much, that I intend taking on the car
and travelling through the night."

"Why not take the girl by the car?" demanded the persistent Villa.

"Because I want her to arrive at Kennett Hall by the only way that is
safe. If the Hall is being watched, there is a chance of getting away
again before they close in on us. No, I will be there before daybreak,
and make a reconnaissance. In a case like this, I can trust nobody but
myself, and what is more, Villa, I know the people who are watching me.
Now, do you understand?"

"Perfectly, my friend," said Villa jovially; "as to that little matter
of sharing out--"

"The money is here," said Digby, tapping his waist, "and you will have
no cause to complain. There is much to be done yet--we have not seen the
worst of our adventures."

For Eunice Weldon the worst was, for the moment, a splitting headache
which made it an agony to lift her head from the pillow. She seemed to
have passed through the day in a condition which was neither wakefulness
nor sleep. She tried to remember what had happened and where she was,
but the effort was so painful that she was content to lie with her
throbbing head, glad that she was left alone. Several times the thought
of Digby Groat came through her mind, but he was so inexplicably
confused with Jim Steele that she could not separate the two
personalities.

Where she was she neither knew nor cared. She was lying down and she was
quiet--that satisfied her. Once she was conscious of a sharp stinging
sensation in her right arm, and soon after she must have gone to sleep
again, only to wake with her head racked with shooting pains as though
somebody was driving red-hot nails into her brain.

At last it became so unendurable that she groaned, and a voice near
her--an anxious voice, she thought--said;

"Have you any pain?"

"My head," she murmured. "It is dreadful!"

She was conscious of a "tut" of impatience, and almost immediately
afterwards somebody's arm was round her neck and a glass was held to her
lips.

"Drink this," said the voice.

She swallowed a bitter draught and made a grimace of distaste.

"That was nasty," she said.

"Don't talk," said the voice. Digby was seriously alarmed at the
condition in which he found her when he had returned from a visit of
reconnaissance. Her colour was bad, her breathing difficult and her
pulse almost imperceptible. He had feared this, and yet he must continue
his "treatment."

He looked down at her frowningly and felt some satisfaction when he saw
the colour creep back to the wax-like face, and felt the throb of the
pulse under his fingers.

As to Eunice, the sudden release from pain which came almost immediately
after she had taken the draught, was so heavenly that she would have
been on her knees in gratitude to the man who had accomplished the
miracle, and with relief from pain came sleep.

Digby heaved a sigh of relief and went back to his work. It was very
pleasant work for him, for the table was covered with little packages of
five thousand dollar gold bills, for he had been successful in drawing
the funds of the Thirteen and exchanging them for American money. He did
not want to find himself in Brazil with a wad of English notes which he
could not change because the numbers had been notified.

His work finished, he strapped the belt about his waist and proceeded
leisurely to prepare for the journey. A grey wig changed the appearance
of his face, but he was not relying upon that disguise. Locking the
door, he stripped himself of his clothes and began to dress deliberately
and carefully.

It was nearly eight o'clock that night when Eunice returned to
consciousness. Beyond an unquenchable thirst, she felt no distress. The
room was dimly illuminated by a small oil-lamp that stood on the
washstand, and the first thing that attracted her eye, after she had
drunk long and eagerly from the glass of water that stood on the table
by the side of the bed, was a beautiful evening dress of silver tissue
which hung over the back of the chair. Then she saw pinned to the side
of the pillow a card. It was not exactly the same shade of grey that
Digby and she had received in the early stages of their acquaintance.
Digby had failed to find the right colour in his search at the local
stationers, but he had very carefully imitated the pen-print with which
the mysterious woman in black had communicated her warnings, and the
girl reading at first without understanding and then with a wildly
beating heart, the message of the card saw her safely assured.

"Dress in the clothes you will find here, and if you obey me without
question I will save you from an ignominious fate. I will call for you
but you must not speak to me. We are going to the north in order to
escape Digby Groat."

The message was signed with a rough drawing of the Blue Hand.

She was trembling in every limb, for now the events of the past few days
were slowly looming through the fog with which the drugs had clouded her
brain. She was in the power of Digby Groat, and the mysterious woman in
black was coming to her rescue. It did not seem possible. She stood up
and almost collapsed, for her head was humming and her knees seemed
incapable of sustaining her weight. She held on to the head of the
bedstead for several minutes before she dared begin to dress.

She forgot her raging thirst, almost forgot her weakness, as with
trembling hands she fastened the beautiful dress about her and slipped
on the silk stockings and satin shoes. Why did the mysterious woman in
black choose this conspicuous dress, she wondered, if she feared that
Digby Groat would be watching for her? She could not think
consecutively. She must trust her rescuer blindly, she thought. She did
her hair before the tiny mirror and was shocked to see her face. About
her eyes were great dark circles; she had the appearance of one who was
in a wasting sickness.

"I'm glad Jim can't see you, Eunice Weldon," she said, and the thought
of Jim acted as a tonic and a spur.

Her man! How she had hurt him. She stopped suddenly in the act of
brushing her hair. She remembered their last interview. Jim said she was
the daughter of Lady Mary Danton! It couldn't be true, and yet Jim had
said it, and that gave it authority beyond question. She stared at her
reflection, and then the effort of thought made her head whirl again and
she sat down.

"I mustn't think, I mustn't think," she muttered, and yet thoughts and
doubts, questions and speculations, crowded in upon her. Lady Mary
Danton was her mother! She was the woman who had come into Jim's flat.
There was a tap at the door and she started. Was it Digby Groat? Digby
who had brought her here?

"Come in," she said faintly.

The door opened but the visitor did not enter, and she saw, standing on
the little landing, a woman in black, heavily veiled, who beckoned to
her to follow. She rose unsteadily and moved towards her.

"Where are we going?" she asked, and then, "Thank you, thank you a
thousand times, for all you are doing for me!"

The woman made no reply, but walked down the stairs, and Eunice went
after her.

It was a dark night; rain was falling heavily and the mews was deserted
except for the taxi-cab which was drawn up at the door. The woman opened
the door of the cab and followed Eunice into its dark interior.

"You must not ask questions," she whispered. "There is a hood to your
coat. Pull it over your head."

What did it mean? Eunice wondered.

She was safe, but why were they going out of London? Perhaps Jim awaited
her at the end of the journey and the danger was greater than she had
imagined. Whither had Digby Groat gone, and how had this mysterious
woman in black got him out of the way? She put her hand to her head. She
must wait. She must have patience. All would be revealed to her in good
time--and she would see Jim!

The two people who were interested in the departure of the
eleven-forty-five train for the north, did not think it was unusual to
see a girl in evening dress, accompanied by a woman in mourning, take
their places in a reserved compartment. It was a train very popular with
those visitors to London who wanted to see a theatre before they left,
and the detective who was watching on the departure platform,
scrutinizing every man who was accompanied by a woman, gave no attention
to the girl in evening dress and, as they thought, her mother. Perhaps
if she had not been so attired, they might have looked more
closely--Digby Groat was a great student of human nature.

Lady Mary, in her restlessness, had come to Euston to supplement the
watch of the detectives, and had passed every carriage and its occupants
under review just before Eunice had taken her seat.

"Sit in the corner," whispered the "woman," "and do not look at the
platform. I am afraid Groat will be on the look-out for me."

The girl obeyed and Lady Mary, walking back, seeing the young girl in
evening dress, whose face was hidden from her, never dreamt of making
any closer inspection. The detective strolled along the platform with
her towards the entrance.

"I am afraid there will be no more trains to-night, my lady," said the
bearded officer, and she nodded. "I should think they've left by
motor-car."

"Every road is watched now," said Lady Mary quietly, "and it is
impossible for them to get out of London by road."

At the moment the train, with a shrill whistle, began to move slowly out
of the station.

"May I look now?" said Eunice, and the "woman" in black nodded.

Eunice turned her head to the platform and then with a cry, started up.

"Why, why," she cried wildly, "there is Mrs. Fane--Lady Mary, my
mother!"

Another instant, and she was dragged back to her seat, and a hateful
voice hissed in her ear; "Sit down!" The "woman" in black snapped down
the blind and raised "her" veil. But Eunice knew that it was Digby Groat
before she saw the yellow face of the man.



CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN


THE recognition had been mutual. Lady Mary had seen that white face,
those staring eyes, for a second, and then the train had rolled quickly
past her, leaving her momentarily paralysed.

"There, there!" she gasped, pointing. "Stop the train!"

The detective looked round. There was no official in sight, and he tore
back to the barriers, followed by Lady Mary. He could discover nobody
with authority to act.

"I'll find the station-master," he cried. "Can you telephone anywhere?"

There was a telephone booth within a few yards and her first thought was
of Jim.

Jim was sitting in his room, his head in his hands, when the telephone
bell rang, and he went listlessly to answer the call. It was Lady Mary
speaking.

"Eunice is on the northern train that has just left the station," she
said, speaking rapidly. "We are trying to stop it at Willesden, but I am
afraid it will be impossible. Oh, for God's sake do something, Jim!"

"On the northern train?" he gasped. "How long has it left?"

"A few seconds ago...."

He dropped the receiver, threw open the door and ran downstairs. In that
moment his decision had been taken. Like a flash there had come back to
his mind a sunny afternoon when, with Eunice at his side, he had watched
a daring little boy pulling himself across the lines by the telegraph
wire which crossed the railway from one side to the other. He darted
into the courtyard and as he mounted the wall he beard the rumble and
roar of the train in the tunnel.

It would be moving slowly because the gradient was a stiff one. From
which tunnel would it emerge? There were two black openings and it might
be from either. He must risk that, he thought, and reaching up for a
telegraph wire, swung himself over the coping. The wires would be strong
enough to hold a boy. Would they support him? He felt them sagging and
heard an ominous creak from the post which was in the courtyard, but he
must risk that too. Hand over hand he went, and presently he saw with
consternation the gleam of a light from the farther tunnel. In frantic
haste he pulled himself across. There was no time for caution. The
engine, labouring heavily, had passed before he came above the line. Now
he was over the white-topped carriages, and his legs were curled up to
avoid contact with them. He let go and dropped on his foot. The movement
of the carriage threw him down and he all but fell over the side, but
gripping to a ventilator, he managed to scramble to his knees.

As he did so he saw the danger ahead. The train was running into a
second tunnel. He had only time to throw himself flat on the carriage,
before he was all but suffocated by the sulphur fumes which filled the
tunnel. He was on the right train, he was certain of that, as he lay
gasping and coughing, but it would need all his strength to hold himself
in position when the driver began to work up speed.

He realized, when they came out again into the open, that it was
raining, and raining, heavily. In a few minutes he was wet through, but
he clung grimly to his perilous hold. Would Lady Mary succeed in
stopping the train at Willesden? The answer came when they flashed
through that junction, gathering speed at every minute.

The carriages rocked left and right and the rain-splashed roofs were as
smooth as glass. It was only by twining his legs about one ventilator,
and holding on to the other, that he succeeded in retaining his hold at
all. But it was for her sake. For the sake of the woman he loved, he
told himself, when utter weariness almost forced him to release his
grip. Faster and faster grew the speed of the train, and now in addition
to the misery the stinging rain caused him, he was bombarded by flying
cinders and sparks from the engine.

His coat was smouldering in a dozen places, in spite of its sodden
condition, his eyes were grimed and smarting with the dust which the
rain washed into them, and the agony of the attacks of cramp, which were
becoming more and more frequent, was almost unendurable. But he held on
as the train roared through the night, flashing through little wayside
stations, diving into smoky tunnels, and all the time rocking left and
right, so that it seemed miraculous that it was able to keep the rails.

It seemed a century before there came from the darkness ahead a
bewildering tangle of red and green lights. They were reaching Rugby and
the train was already slowing. Suddenly it stopped with unusual
suddenness and Jim was jerked from his hold. He made a wild claw at the
nearest ventilator, but he missed his hold and fell with a thud down a
steep bank, rolling over and over... another second, and he fell with a
splash into water.

The journey had been one of terror for Eunice Danton. She understood now
the trick that had been played upon her. Digby Groat had known she would
never leave willingly and had feared to use his dope lest her appearance
betrayed him. He had guessed that in his disguise of the woman in black
she would obey him instantly, and now she began to understand why he had
chosen evening dress for her.

"Where are you taking me?" she asked.

He had drawn the blinds of the carriage and was smoking a cigarette.

"If I had known you would ask that question," he said sarcastically, "I
would have had a guide book prepared. As it is, you must possess your
soul in patience, and wait until you discover your destination."

There was only one carriage on the train which was not a corridor car,
and Digby had carefully chosen that for his reservation. It was a local
car that would be detached at Rugby, as he knew, and the possibility of
an interruption was remote. Once or twice he had looked up to the
ceiling and frowned. The girl, who had caught a scratching sound, as
though somebody was crawling along the roof of the carriage, watched him
as he pulled down the window and thrust out head and shoulders. He drew
in immediately, his face wet with rain.

"It is a filthy night," he said as he pulled down the blinds again.
"Now, Eunice, be a sensible girl. There are worse things that could
happen to you than to marry me."

"I should like to know what they were," said Eunice calmly. The effect
of the drug had almost worn oft and she was near to her normal self.

"I have told you before," said Digby, puffing a ring of smoke to the
ceiling, "that if your imagination will not supply you with a worse
alternative, you are a singularly stupid young person, and you are not
stupid." He stopped. Suddenly he changed his tone and, throwing the
cigarette on to the ground, he came over to her and sat by her side. "I
want you, Eunice," he said, his voice trembling and his eyes like fiery
stars. "Don't you understand I want you? That you are necessary to me. I
couldn't live without you now. I would sooner see you dead, and myself
dead too, than hand you to Jim Steele, or any other man." His arm was
about her, his face so close to hers that she could feel his quick
breath upon her cheek. "You understand?" he said in a low voice. "I
would sooner see you dead. That is an alternative for you to ponder on."

"There are worse things than death."

"I'm glad you recognize that," said Digby, recovering his
self-possession with a laugh. He must not frighten her at this stage of
the flight. The real difficulties of the journey were not yet passed.

As to Eunice, she was thinking quickly. The train must stop soon, she
thought, and though he kill her she would appeal for help. She hated him
now, with a loathing beyond description--seeing in him the ugly reality,
and her soul shrank in horror from the prospect he had opened up to her.
His real alternative she knew and understood only too well. It was not
death--that would be merciful and final. His plan was to degrade her so
that she would never again hold up her head, nor meet Jim's tender eyes.
So that she would, in desperation, agree to marriage to save her name
from disgrace, and her children from shame.

She feared him more now in his grotesque woman garb, with that smile of
his playing upon his thin lips, than when he had held her in his arms,
and his hot kisses rained on her face. It was the brain behind those
dark eyes, the cool, calculating brain that had planned her abduction
with such minute care, that she had never dreamt she was being
duped--this was what terrified her. What was his plan now? she wondered.
What scheme had he evolved to escape from Rugby, where he must know the
station officials would be looking for him?

Lady Mary had seen her and recognized her and would have telegraphed to
the officials to search the train. The thought of Lady Mary started a
new line of speculation. Her mother! That beautiful woman of whom she
had been jealous. A smile dawned on her face, a smile of sheer joy and
happiness, and Digby Groat, watching her, wondered what was the cause.

She puzzled him more than he puzzled her.

"What are you smiling at?" he asked curiously, and as she looked at him
the smile faded from her face. "You are thinking that you will be
rescued at Rugby," he bantered.

"Rugby," she said quickly. "Is that where the train stops?" And he
grinned.

"You're the most surprising person. You are constantly trapping me into
giving you information," he mocked her. "Yes, the train will stop at
Rugby." He looked at his watch and she heard him utter an exclamation.
"We are nearly there," he said, and then he took from the little silk
bag he carried in his role of an elderly woman a small black case, and
at the sight of it Eunice shrank back.

"Not that, not that," she begged. "Please don't do that."

He looked at her.

"Will you swear that you will not make any attempt to scream or cry out
so that you will attract attention?"

"Yes, yes," she said eagerly. "I will promise you."

She could promise that with safety, for if the people on the platform
did not recognize her, her case was hopeless.

"I will take the risk," he said. "I am probably a fool, but I trust you.
If you betray me, you will not live to witness the success of your
plans, my friend."



CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT


SHE breathed more freely when she saw the little black case dropped into
the bag, and then the speed of the train suddenly slackened and stopped
with such a violent jerk that she was almost thrown from the seat.

"Is there an accident?"

"I don't think so," said Digby, showing his teeth mirthlessly. He had
adjusted his wig and his bonnet and now he was letting down the window
and looking out into the night. There came to his ears a sound of voices
up the line and a vista of signal lamps. He turned to the girl as he
opened the door.

"Come along," he commanded sharply, and she stood aghast.

"We are not in the platform."

"Come out quickly," he snarled. "Remember you promised."

With difficulty she lowered herself in the darkness and his arm
supported her as she dropped to the permanent way. Still clutching her
arm, they stumbled and slid down the steep embankment and came presently
to a field of high grass. Her shoes and stockings were sodden by the
rain which was falling more heavily than ever, and she could scarcely
keep her feet, but the hand that gripped her arm did not relax, nor did
its owner hesitate. He seemed to know the way they were going, though to
the girl it was impossible to see a yard before her.

The pitiless rain soaked her through and through before she had half
crossed the field. She heard Digby curse as he caught his foot in his
skirt, and at any other time she might have laughed at the picture she
conjured up of this debonair man, in his woman's dress. But now she was
too terrified to be even amused.

But she had that courage which goes with great fear. The soul courage
which rises superior to the weakness of the flesh.

Once Digby stopped and listened. He heard nothing but the patter of the
rain and the silvery splash of the water as it ran from the bushes. He
sank on his knees and looked along the ground, striving to get a
skyline, but the railway embankment made it impossible. The train was
moving on when the girl looked back, and she wondered why it had stopped
so providentially at that spot.

"I could have sworn I heard somebody squelching through the mud," said
Digby. "Come along, there is the car."

She caught the faint glimmer of a light and immediately afterwards they
left the rough and soggy fields and reached the hard road, where walking
was something more of a pleasure.

The girl had lost one shoe in her progress and now she kicked off the
other. It was no protection from the rain, for the thin sole was soaked
through, so that it was more comfortable walking in her stockinged feet.

The distance they had traversed was not far. They came from the
side-lane on to the main road, where a closed car was standing, and
Digby hustled her in, saying a few low words to the driver, and followed
her.

"Phew, this cursed rain," he said, and added with a laugh! "I ought not
to complain. It has been a very good friend to me."

Suddenly there was a gleam of light in the car. He had switched on a
small electric lamp.

"Where are your shoes?" he demanded.

"I left them in the field," she said.

"Damn you, why did you do that?" he demanded angrily. "You think you
were leaving a clue for your lover, I suppose?"

"Don't be unreasonable, Mr. Groat. They weren't my shoes, so they
couldn't be very much of a clue for him. They were wet through, and as I
had lost one I kicked off the other."

He did not reply to this, but sat huddled in a corner of the car, as it
ran along the dark country road.

They must have been travelling for a quarter of an hour when the car
stopped before a small house and Digby jumped out. She would have
followed him, but he stopped her.

"I will carry you," he said.

"It is not necessary," Eunice replied coldly.

"It is very necessary to me," he interrupted her. "I don't want the
marks of your stockinged feet showing on the roadside."

He lifted her in his arms; it would have been foolish of her to have
made resistance, and she suffered contact with him until he set her down
in a stone passage in a house that smelt damp and musty.

"Is there a fire here?" He spoke over his shoulders to the chauffeur.

"Yes, in the back room. I thought maybe you'd want one, boss."

"Light another," said Digby. He pushed open the door, and the blaze from
the fire was the only light in the room.

Presently the driver brought in an oil motor-lamp. In its rays Digby was
a ludicrous spectacle. His grey wig was soaked and clinging to his face;
his dress was thick with mud, and his light shoes were in as deplorable
a condition as the girl's had been.

She was in a very little better case, but she did not trouble to think
about herself and her appearance. She was cold and shivering and crept
nearer to the fire, extending her chilled hands to the blaze.

Digby went out. She heard him still speaking in his low mumbling voice,
but the man who replied was obviously not the chauffeur, though his
voice seemed to have a faintly familiar ring. She wondered where she had
heard it before, and after awhile she identified its possessor. It was
the voice of the man whom she and Jim had met coming down the steps of
the house in Grosvenor Square.

Presently Digby came back carrying a suitcase.

"It is lucky for you, my friend, that I intended you should change your
clothes here," he said as he threw the case down. "You will find
everything in there you require."

He pointed to a bed which was in the corner of the room.

"We have no towels, but if you care to forgo your night's sleep, or
sleep in blankets, you can use the sheets to dry yourself," he said.

"Your care for me is almost touching," she said scornfully, and he
smiled.

"I like you when you are like that," he said in admiration. "It is the
spirit in you and the devil in you that appeal to me. If you were one of
those puling, whining misses, all shocks and shivers, I would have been
done with you a long time ago. It is because I want to break that
infernal pride of yours, and because you offer me a contest, that you
stand apart from, and above, all other women."

She made no reply to this, and waited until he had gone out of the
room before she looked for some means of securing the door. The only
method, apparently, was to place a chair under the door-knob, and this
she did, undressing quickly and utilizing the sheet as Digby had
suggested.

The windows were shuttered and barred. The room itself, except for the
bed and the chair, was unfurnished and dilapidated. The paper was
hanging in folds from the damp walls, and the under part of the grate
was filled with the ashes of fires that had burnt years before, and the
smell of decay almost nauseated her.

Was there any chance of escape? she wondered. She tried the shuttered
window, but found the bars were so thick that it was impossible to
wrench them from their sockets without the aid of a hammer. She did not
dream that they would leave the door unguarded, but it was worth trying,
and she waited until the house seemed quiet before she made her attempt.

Stepping out into the dark passage, she almost trod on the hand of
Villa, who was lying asleep in the passage. He was awake instantly.

"Do you want anything, miss?" he asked.

"Nothing," she replied, and went back to the room. It was useless,
useless, she thought bitterly, and she must wait to see what the morrow
brought forth.

Her principal hope lay in her--her mother. How difficult that word was
to say! How much more difficult to associate a name, the mention of
which brought up the picture of the pleasant-faced woman who had been
all that a mother could be to her in South Africa, with that gracious
lady she had seen in Jim Steele's flat!

She lay down, not intending to sleep, but the warmth of the room and her
own tiredness made her doze. It seemed she had not slept more than a few
minutes when she woke to find Villa standing by her side with a huge cup
of cocoa in his hand.

"I'm sorry I can't give you tea, miss," he said.

"What time is it?" she asked in surprise.

"Five o'clock. The rain has stopped and it is a good morning for
flying."

"For flying?" she repeated in amazement.

"For flying," said Villa, enjoying the sensation he had created. "You are
going a little journey by aeroplane."



CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE


JIM STEELE had had as narrow an escape from death as he had experienced
in the whole course of his adventurous life. It was not a river into
which he tumbled, but a deep pool, the bottom of which was a yard thick
with viscid mud, in which his feet and legs were held as by hidden
hands.

Struggle as he did, he could not release their grip, and he was on the
point of suffocation when his groping hands found a branch of a tree
which, growing on the edge of the pond, had drooped one branch until its
end was under water. With the strength of despair, he gripped, and drew
himself up by sheer force of muscle. He had enough strength left to drag
himself to the edge of the pond, and there he lay, oblivious to the
rain, panting and fighting for his breath.

In the old days of the war, his comrades of the Scout Squadron used to
tick off his lives on a special chart which was kept in the mess-room.
He had exhausted the nine lives, with which they had credited him, when
the war ended, and all further risk seemed to an end.

"There go two more!" he gasped to himself. His words must have been
inspired, for as he drew himself painfully to his bruised knees he heard
a voice not a dozen yards away, and thanked God again. It was Digby
Groat speaking.

"Keep close to my side," said Digby.

"I will," muttered Jim, and walked cautiously in the direction where he
had heard the voice, but there was nobody in sight. The train, which had
been stationary on the embankment above--he had forgotten the
train--began to move, and in the rumble of its wheels, any sound might
well be drowned.

He increased his pace, but still he did not catch sight of the two
people he was tracking. Presently he heard footsteps on a roadway, but
only of a man.

They had reached better going than the field, thought Jim, and moved
over in the same direction. He found the lane, and as he heard the
footsteps receding at the far end he ran lightly forward, hoping to
overtake them before they reached the car, the red rear-light of which
he could see. The wheels were moving as he reached the open road, and he
felt for his revolver. If he could burst the rear tyres he could hold
them. Jim was a deadly shot. Once, twice, he pressed the trigger, but
there was no more than a "click," as the hammer struck the sodden
cartridge, and before he could extract the dud and replace it the car
was out of range.

He was aching in every limb. His arms and legs were cramped painfully,
but he was not deterred. Putting the useless pistol in his pocket, he
stepped off at a jog-trot, following in the wake of the car.

He was a magnificent athlete and he had, too, the intangible gift of
class, that imponderable quality which distinguishes the great
race-horse from the merely good. It served a double purpose, this
exercise. It freed the cramped muscles, it warmed his chilled body and
it cleared the mind. He had not been running for ten minutes before he
had forgotten that within the space of an hour he had nearly been hurled
to death from the roof of a train and had all but choked to death in the
muddy depths of a pond.

On, on, without either slackening or increasing his pace, the same
steady lop-lopping stride that had broken the heart of the Oxford crack
when he had brought victory to the light-blue side at Queen's Park.

It was half an hour before he came in sight of the car, and he felt well
rewarded, although he had scarcely glimpsed it before it had moved on
again.

Why had it stopped? he wondered, checking his pace to a walk. It may
have been tyre trouble. On the other hand, they might have stopped at a
house, one of Digby Groat's numerous depots through the country.

He saw the house at last and went forward with greater caution, as he
heard a man's voice asking the time.

He did not recognize either Villa or Bronson, for though he had heard
Villa speak, he had no very keen recollection of the fact. "What to do?"
murmured Jim.

The house was easily approachable, but to rush in with a defective
revolver would help neither him nor the girl. If that infernal pond had
not been there! He groaned in the spirit. That he was wise in his
caution he was soon to discover. Suddenly a man loomed up before him and
Jim stopped dead on the road. The man's back was towards him, and he was
smoking as he walked up and down, taking his constitutional, for the
rain had suddenly ceased. He passed so close as he turned back that, had
he stretched out his hand towards the bushes under which Jim was
crouching, he would not have failed to touch him.

In a little while a low voice called:

"Bronson!"

"Bronson!" thought Jim. "I must remember that name!"

The man turned and walked quickly back to the house, and the two talked
in a tone so low that not a syllable reached Jim.

At the risk of discovery he must hear more, and crept up to the house.
There was a tiny porch before the door and under this the two men were
standing.

"I will sleep in the passage," said the deep-throated Villa. "You can
take the other room if you like."

"Not me," said the man called Bronson. "I'd rather stand by the machine
all night. I don't want to sleep anyway."

"What machine?" wondered Jim. "Was there another motor-car here?"

"Will the boss get there to-night?" asked Villa.

"I can't tell you, Mr. Villa," replied Bronson. "He might not, of
course, but if there are no obstacles he'll be at the Hall before
daybreak. It is not a very good road."

At the Hall! In a flash it dawned upon Jim. Kennett Hall! The pile of
buildings which Mrs. Weatherwale had pointed out to him as the one-time
ancestral home of the Dantons. What a fool he had been not to remember
that place when they were discussing the possible shelters that Digby
Groat might use!

Both Villa and Bronson were smoking now and the fragrance of the former
man's cigar came to the envious Jim.

"She won't give any trouble, will she, Mr. Villa?" asked Bronson.

"Trouble?" Villa laughed. "Not she. She'll be frightened to death. I
don't suppose she's ever been in an aeroplane before."

So that was the machine. Jim's eyes danced. An aeroplane... where? He
strained his eyes to beyond the house, but it was too dark to
distinguish anything.

"Nothing funny will happen to that machine of yours in the rain?"

"Oh no," said Bronson. "I have put the sheet over the engines. I have
frequently kept her out all night."

Then you're a bad man, thought Jim, to whom an aeroplane was a living,
palpitating thing. So Eunice was there and they were going to take her
by aeroplane somewhere. What should he do? There was time for him to go
back to Rugby and inform the police, but--

"Where is Fuentes?" asked Bronson. "Mr. G. said he would be here."

"He's along the Rugby Road," replied Villa. "I gave him a signal pistol
to let us know in case they send a police-car after us. If you aren't
going to bed, Bronson, I will, and you can wait out here and keep your
eye open for any danger."

Fuentes was in it, too, and his plan to get back to Rugby would not
work. Nevertheless, the watchful Fuentes had allowed Jim to pass, though
it was likely that he was nearer to Rugby than the place where he had
come out on to the road. They might not get the girl away on the machine
in the darkness, but who knows what orders Digby Groat had left for her
disposal in case a rescue was attempted? He decided to wait near, hoping
against hope that a policeman cyclist would pass.

Villa struck a match to start a new cigar and in its light Jim had a
momentary glimpse of the two men. Bronson was in regulation air-kit. A
leather coat reached to his hips, his legs were encased in leather
breeches and top-boots. He was about his height, Jim thought, as an idea
took shape in his mind. What an end to that adventure! Jim came as near
to being excited as ever he had been in his life.

Presently Villa yawned.

"I'm going to lie down in the passage, and if that dame comes out, she's
going to have a shock," he said. "Good night. Wake me at half-past
four."

Bronson grunted something and continued his perambulations up and down
the road. Ten minutes passed, a quarter of an hour, half an hour, and
the only sound was the dripping of the rain from the trees, and the
distant clatter and rumble of the trains as they passed through Rugby.

To the north were the white lights of the railway sidings and workshops;
to the west, the faint glow in the sky marked the position of a town.
Jim pulled his useless pistol from his pocket and stepped on to the
roadway, crouching down, so that when he did rise, he seemed to the
astonished Bronson to have sprung out of the ground. Something cold and
hard was pushed under the spy's nose.

"If you make a sound, you son of a thief!" said Jim, "I'll blow your
face off! Do you understand that?"

"Yes," muttered the man, shivering with fright.

Jim's left hand gripped his collar. The automatic pistol under his nose
was all too obvious, and Felix Bronson, a fearful man for whom the air
alone had no terror, was cowed and beaten.

"Where is the bus?" asked Jim in a whisper.

"In the field behind the house," the man answered in the same tone.
"What are you going to do? Who are you? How did you get past--"

"Don't ask so many questions," said Jim; "lead the way--not that way,"
as the man turned to pass the house.

"I shall have to climb the fence if I don't go that way," said Bronson
sullenly.

"Then climb it." said Jim, "it will do you good, you lazy devil!"

They walked across the field, and presently Jim saw a graceful outline
against the dark sky.

"Now take off your clothes," he said peremptorily.

"What do you mean?" demanded the startled Bronson. "I can't undress
here!"

"I'm sorry to shock your modesty, but that is just what you are going to
do," said Jim; "and it will be easier to undress you alive than to
undress you dead, as I know from my sorrowful experience in France."

Reluctantly Bronson stripped his leather coat.

"Don't drop it on the grass," said Jim, "I want something dry to wear."

In the darkness Bronson utilized an opportunity that he had already
considered. His hand stole stealthily to the hip-pocket of his leather
breeches, but before it closed on its objective Jim had gripped it and
spun him round, for Jim possessed other qualities of the cat besides its
lives.

"Let me see that lethal weapon. Good," said Jim, and flung his own to
the grass. "I am afraid mine is slightly damaged, but I'll swear that
yours is in good trim. Now, off with those leggings and boots."

"I shall catch my death of cold." Bronson's teeth were chattering.

"In which case," said the sardonic Jim, "I shall send a wreath; but I
fear you are not born to die of cold in the head, but of a short sharp
jerk to your cervical vertebra."

"What is that?" asked Bronson.

"It is German for neck," said Jim, "and if you think I am going to stand
here giving you lectures on anatomy whilst you deliver the goods, you
have made a mistake--strip!"



CHAPTER FORTY


UNDER menace of Jim Steele's pistol, Mr. Bronson stripped and shivered.
The morning was raw, and the clothes that Jim in his mercy handed to the
man to change were not very dry. Bronson said as much, but evoked no
sympathy from Jim. He stood shivering and shaking in the wet clothes,
whilst his captor strapped his wrists behind.

"Just like they do when they hang you," said Jim to cheer him up. "Now,
my lad, I think this handkerchief round your mouth and a nearly dry spot
under a hedge is all that is required to make the end of a perfect
night."

"You're damned funny," growled Bronson in a fury, "but one of these
days--"

"Don't make me sing," said Jim, "or you'll be sorry."

He found him a spot under a hedge, which was fairly dry and sheltered
from observation, and there he entertained his guest until the grey in
the sky warned him that it was time to wake Villa.

Mr. Villa woke with a curse.

"Come in and have some cocoa."

"Bring it out here," said Jim. He heard the man fumbling with the lock
of the door and raised his pistol.

Something inside Jim Steele whispered: "Put that pistol away," and he
obeyed the impulse, as with profit he had obeyed a hundred others.

Men who fight in the air and who win their battles in the great spaces
of the heavens are favoured with instincts which are denied to the other
mortals who walk the earth.

He had time to slip the pistol in his pocket and pull the goggles down
over his eyes before the door opened and Villa sleepily surveyed him in
the half-light.

"Hullo, you're ready to fly, are you?" he said with a guffaw. "Well, I
shan't keep you long."

Jim strolled away from the house, pacing the road as Bronson had done
the night before.

What had made him put the pistol away? he wondered. He took it out
furtively and slipped the cover. It was unloaded!

He heard the man calling.

"Put it down," he said, when he saw the cup in his hand.

He drank the cocoa at a gulp, and making his way across the field to the
aeroplane he pulled on the waterproof cover, tested the engine and
pulled over the prop.

Eunice had swallowed the hot cocoa and was waiting when Villa came in.
What the day would bring forth she could only guess. Evidently there was
some reason why Digby Groat should not wait for her, and amongst the
many theories she had formed was one that he had gone on in order to
lead his pursuers from her track. She felt better now than she had done
since she left the house in Grosvenor Square, for the effect of the drug
had completely gone, save for a tiredness which made walking a wearisome
business. Her mind was clear, and the demoralizing tearfulness which the
presence of Digby evoked had altogether dissipated.

"Now, young miss, are you ready?" asked Villa. He was, at any rate. He
wore a heavy coat and upon his head was a skin cap. This, with his hairy
face and his broad stumpy figure, gave him the appearance of a Russian
in winter attire. Why did he wrap himself up so on a warm morning? she
wondered. He carried another heavy coat in his hand and held it up for
her to put on.

"Hurry up, I can't wait for you all day. Get that coat on."

She obeyed.

"I am ready," she said coldly.

"Now, my dear, step lively!"

Jim, who had taken his place in the pilot's seat, heard Villa's deep
voice and looking round saw the woman he loved.

She looked divinely beautiful by the side of that squat, bearded man who
was holding her forearm and urging her forward.

"Now, up with you."

He pushed her roughly into one of the two seats behind the pilot, and
Jim dared not trust himself to look back.

"I'll swing the prop. for you, Bronson," said Villa, making his way to
the propeller, and Jim, whose face was almost covered by the huge
fur-lined goggles, nodded. The engine started with a splutter and a roar
and Jim slowed it.

"Strap the lady," he shouted above the sound of the engine, and Villa
nodded and climbed into the fuselage with extraordinary agility for a
man of his build.

Jim waited until the broad strap was buckled about the girl's waist, and
then he let out the engine to its top speed. It was ideal ground for
taking off, and the plane ran smoothly across the grass, faster and
faster with every second. And then, with a touch of the lever, Jim set
the elevator down and the girl suddenly realized that the bumping had
stopped and all conscious motion had ceased. The Scout had taken the
air.

Eunice had never flown in an aeroplane before, and for a moment she
forgot her perilous position in the fascination of her new and wonderful
experience. The machine did not seem to leave the earth. Rather it
appeared as though the earth suddenly receded from the aeroplane and was
sinking slowly away from them. She had a wonderful feeling of
exhilaration as the powerful Scout shot through the air at a hundred
miles an hour, rising higher and higher as it circled above the field it
had left, a manoeuvre which set Villa wondering, for Bronson should have
known the way back to Kennett Hall without bothering to find his
landmark.

But Bronson, so far from being at the wheel, at that moment was lying
bound hand and feet beneath a bush in the field below, and had Villa
looked carefully through his field glasses he would not have failed to
see the figure of the man wearing Jim's muddy clothes. Villa could not
suspect that the pilot was Jim Steele, the airman whose exploits in the
abstract he had admired, but whose life he would not at this moment have
hesitated to take.

"It is lovely!" gasped Eunice, but her voice was drowned in the
deafening thunder of the engines.

They were soaring in great circles, and above were floating the scarves
of mist that trailed their ravelled edges to the sun, which tinted them
so that it seemed to her the sky's clear blue was laced with golden
tissue. And beneath she saw a world of wonder: here was spread a
marvellous mosaic, green and brown and grey, each little pattern rigidly
defined by darked lines, fence and hedge and wall. She saw the blood-red
roof of house and the spread of silver lakes irregular in shape, and to
her eye like gouts of mercury that some enormous hand had shaken
haphazard on the earth.

"Glorious!" her lips said, but the man who sat beside her had no eye for
the beauty of the scene.

Communication between the pilot and his passengers was only possible
through the little telephone, the receiver of which Jim had mechanically
strapped to his ear, and after awhile he heard Villa's voice asking:

"What are you waiting for? You know the way?"

Jim nodded.

He knew the way back to London just as soon as he saw the railway.

The girl looked down in wonder on the huge chequer-board intercepted by
tiny white and blue ribbons.

They must be roads, and canals, she decided, and those little green and
brown patches were the fields and the pastures of Warwickshire. How
glorious it was on this early summer morning to be soaring through the
cloud-wisps that flecked the sky, wrack from the storm that had passed
overnight. And how amazingly soothing was the loneliness of wings! She
felt aloof from the world and all its meanness. Digby Groat was no more
than that black speck she could see, seemingly stationary, on the white
tape of a road. She knew that speck was a man and he was walking. And
within that circle alone was love and hate, desire and sacrifice.

Then her attention was directed to Villa. He was red in the face and
shouting something into the telephone receiver, something she could not
hear, for the noise of the engines was deafening.

She saw the pilot nod and turn to the right and the movement seemed to
satisfy Villa, for he sank back in his seat.

Little by little, the nose of the aeroplane came back to the south, and
for a long time Villa did not realize the fact. It was the sight of the
town which he recognized that brought the receiver of the telephone to
his lips.

"Keep to the right, damn you, Bronson. Have you lost your sense of
direction?"

Jim nodded, and again the machine banked over, only to return gradually
to the southerly course; but now Villa, who had directed the manoeuvre,
was alert.

"What is wrong with you, Bronson?" and Jim heard the menace in his
voice.

"Nothing, only I am avoiding a bad air current," he answered, and
exaggerated as the voice was by the telephone, Villa did not dream that
it was anybody but Bronson to whom he was speaking.

Jim kept a steady course westward, and all the time he was wondering
where his destination was supposed to have been. He was a raving
lunatic, he thought, not to have questioned Bronson before he left him,
but it had never occurred to him that his ignorance on the subject would
present any difficulties.

He was making for London, and to London he intended going. That had been
his plan from the first, and now, without disguise, he banked left,
accelerated his engines and the Scout literally leapt forward.

"Are you mad?" It was Villa's voice in his ear, and he made no reply,
and then the voice sank to a hiss: "Obey my instructions or we crash
together!"

The barrel of an automatic was resting on his shoulder. He looked round,
and at that moment Eunice recognized him and gave a cry.

Villa shot a swift glance at her, and then leapt forward and jerked at
Jim's shoulders, bringing his head round.

"Steele!" he roared, and this time the pistol was under Jim's ear. "You
obey my instructions, do you hear?"

Jim nodded.

"Go right, pick up Oxford and keep it to your left until I tell you to
land."

There was nothing for it now but to obey. But Jim did not fear. Had the
man allowed him to reach London it might have been well for all parties.
As Villa was taking an aggressive line, and had apparently recognized
him, there could be only one end to this adventure, pistol or no pistol.
He half twisted in his narrow seat, and looked back at Eunice with an
encouraging smile, and the look he saw in her eyes amply repaid him for
all the discomfort he had suffered.

But it was not to look at her eyes that he had turned. His glance
lingered for a while on her waist, and then on the waist of Villa, and
he saw all that he wanted to know. He must wait until the man put his
pistol away; at present Villa held the ugly-looking automatic in his
hand. They passed over Oxford, a blur of grey and green, for a mist lay
upon the city, making it difficult to pick out the buildings.

Soon Jim's attention was directed elsewhere. One of his engines had
begun to miss and he suspected water was in the cylinder. Still, he
might keep the machine going for awhile. A direction was roared in his
ear, and he bore a little more west. It seemed that the engine
difficulty had been overcome, for she was running sweetly. Again he
glanced back. The pistol was tucked in the breast of Villa's leather
jacket, and probably would remain there till the end of the journey. To
wait any longer would be madness.

Eunice, watching the scene below in a whirl of wonder, suddenly felt the
nose of the aeroplane dive down, as though it were aiming directly for
earth. She experienced no sense of fear, only a startled wonder, for as
suddenly the nose of the aeroplane came up again with a rush and the sky
seemed to turn topsy-turvy. There was a tremendous strain at the leather
belt about her waist, and looking "down" she found she was staring at
the sky! Then she was dimly conscious of some commotion on her right and
shut her eyes in instinctive apprehension. When she opened them again
Villa was gone! Jim had looped the loop, and, unprepared for this form
of attack, Villa, who was not secured to the machine, had lost his
balance and fallen. Down, down, the tiny fly shape twirled and rolled
with outstretched arms and legs, tragically comic in its
grotesqueness....

Jim turned his head away and this time swung completely round to the
girl, and she saw his lips move and his eyes glance at the telephone
which the man had left.

She picked up the mouthpiece with trembling hands. Something dreadful
had happened. She dare not look down: she would have fainted if she had
made the attempt.

"What has happened?" she asked in a quavering voice.

"Villa has parachuted to the ground," lied Jim soothingly. "Don't worry
about him. He's not in any danger--in this world," he added under his
breath.

"But, Jim, how did you come here?"

"I'll have to explain that later," he shouted back, "my engine is
misbehaving."

This time the trouble was much more serious, and he knew that the
journey to London he had contemplated would be too dangerous to attempt.
He was not at sufficient height to command any ground he might choose,
and he began to search the countryside for a likely landing. Ahead of
him, fifteen miles away, was a broad expanse of green, and a pin-point
flicker of white caught his eye. It must be an aerodrome, he thought,
and the white was the ground signal showing the direction of the winds.
He must reach that haven, though, had he been alone, he would not have
hesitated to land on one of the small fields beneath him.

Here the country is cut up into smaller pastures than in any other part
of England, and to land on one of those fields with its high hedges,
stiff and stout stone walls, would mean the risk of a crash, and that
was a risk he did not care to take.

As he grew nearer to the green expanse he saw that he had not been
mistaken. The sheet was obviously planted for the purpose of signalling,
and a rough attempt had been made to form an arrow. He shut off his
engines and began to glide down, and the wheels touched the earth so
lightly that Eunice did not realize that the flight was ended.

"Oh, it was wonderful, Jim," she cried as soon as she could make herself
heard, "but what happened to that poor man? Did you--"

There was a flippant reply on Jim's lips, but when he saw the white face
and the sorrowful eyes he decided it was not a moment for flippancy. He,
who had seen so many better men than Villa die in the high execution of
their duty, was not distressed by the passing of a blackguard who would
have killed him and the girl without mercy.

He lifted Eunice and felt her shaking under the coat she wore. And so
they met again in these strange circumstances, after the parting which
she had thought was final. They spoke no word to one another. He did not
kiss her, nor did she want that evidence of his love. His very presence,
the grip of his hands, each was a dear caress which the meeting of lips
could not enhance.

"There's a house here," said Jim, recovering his breath. "I must take
you there and then go and telegraph dear old Salter."

He put his arm about her shoulder, and slowly they walked across the
grasses gemmed with wild flowers. Knee-deep they paced through the
wondrous meadowland, and the scent of the red earth was incense to the
benediction which had fallen on them.

"This house doesn't seem to be occupied," said Jim, "and it is a big
one, too."

He led the way along a broad terrace, and they came to the front of the
building. The door stood open, and there the invitation ended. Jim
looked into a big dreary barn of a hall, uncarpeted and neglected.

"I wonder what place this is," said Jim, puzzled.

He opened a door that led from the hall to the left. The room into which
he walked was unfurnished and bore the same evidence of decay as the
hall had shown. He crossed the floor and entered a second room, with no
other result. Then he found a passageway.

"Is anybody here?" he called, and turned immediately. He thought he
heard a cry from Eunice, whom he had left outside on the terrace
admiring the beauty of the Somerset landscape. "Was that you, Eunice?"
he shouted, and his voice reverberated through the silent house.

There was no reply. He returned quickly by the way he had come, but when
he reached the terrace Eunice was gone! He ran to the end, thinking she
had strolled back to the machine, but there was no sign of her. He
called her again, at the top of his voice, but only the echoes answered.
Perhaps she had gone into the other room. He opened the front door and
again stepped in.

As he did so Xavier Silva crept from the room on the left and poised his
loaded cane. Jim heard the swish of the stick and, half turning, took
the blow short on his shoulder. For a second he was staggered, and then
driving left and right to the face of the man he sent him spinning.

Before he could turn, the noose of a rope dropped over his head and he
was jerked to the ground, fighting for breath.



CHAPTER FORTY-ONE


WHILST Jim had been making his search of the deserted house, Eunice had
strolled to the edge of the terrace, and, leaning on the broken
balustrade, was drinking in the beauty of the scene. Thin wraiths of
mist still lingered in the purple shadows of the woods and lay like
finest muslin in the hollows. In the still air the blue-grey smoke of
the cottagers' fires showed above the tree-tops, and the sun had touched
the surface of a stream that wound through a distant valley, so that it
showed as a thread of bubbling gold amidst the verdant green.

Somebody touched her gently on the shoulder. She thought it was Jim.

"Isn't it lovely, Jim?"

"Very lovely, but not half as lovely as you, my dear."

She could have collapsed at the voice. Swinging round she came face to
face with Digby Groat, and uttered a little cry.

"If you want to save Steele's life," said Digby in a low urgent tone,
"you will not cry out, you understand?"

She nodded.

He put his arm round her shoulder and she shivered, but it was no caress
he offered. He was guiding her swiftly into the house. He swung open a
door and, pushing her through, followed.

There was a man in the room, a tall, dour man, who held a rope in his
hand.

"Wait, Masters," whispered Digby. "We'll get him as he comes back." He
had heard the footsteps of Jim in the hall and then suddenly there was a
scuffle.

Eunice opened her lips to cry a warning, but Digby's hand covered her
mouth and his face was against her ear.

"Remember what I told you," he whispered.

There was a shout outside, it was from Xavier, and Masters dashed out
ahead of his employer. Jim's back was turned to the open door, and Digby
signalled. Immediately the rope slipped round Jim's neck and he was
pulled breathlessly to the ground; his face grew purple and his hands
were tearing at the cruel noose. They might have choked him then and
there, but that Eunice, who had stood for a moment paralysed, flew out
of the room and, thrusting Masters aside, knelt down and with her own
trembling hands released the noose about her lover's neck.

"You beasts, you beasts!" she cried, her eyes flashing her hate.

In an instant Digby was on her and had lifted her clear.

"Rope him," he said laconically, and gave his attention to the
struggling girl. For now Eunice was no longer quiescent. She fought with
all her might, striking at his face with her hands, striving madly to
free herself of his grip.

"You little devil!" he cried breathlessly, when he had secured her
wrists and had thrust her against the wall. There was an ugly red mark
where her nails had caught his face, but in his eyes there was nothing
but admiration.

"That is how I like you best," he breathed. "My dear, I have never
regretted my choice of you! I regret it least at this moment!"

"Release my hands!" she stormed. She was panting painfully, and, judging
that she was incapable of further mischief, he obeyed.

"Where have you taken Jim? What have you done with him?" she asked, her
wide eyes fixed on his. There was no fear in them now. He had told her
that he had seen the devil in her. Now it was fully aroused.

"We have taken your young friend to a place of safety," said Digby.
"What happened this morning, Eunice?"

She made no reply.

"Where is Villa?"

Still she did not answer.

"Very good," he said. "If you won't speak I'll find a way of making your
young man very valuable."

"You'd make him speak!" she said scornfully. "You don't know the man
you're dealing with. I don't think you've ever met that type in the
drawing-rooms you visited during the war. The real men were away in
France, Digby Groat. They were running the risks you shirked, facing the
dangers you feared. If you think you can make Jim Steele talk, go along
and try!"

"You don't know what you're saying," he said, white to the lips, for her
calculated insult had touched him on the raw. "I can make him scream for
mercy."

She shook her head.

"You judge all men by yourself," she said, "and all women by the poor
little shop-girls you have broken for your amusement."

"Do you know what you're saying?" he said, quivering with rage. "You
seem to forget that I am--"

"I forget what you are!" she scoffed. The colour had come back to her
face and her eyes were bright with anger. "You're a half-breed, a man of
no country and no class, and you have all the attributes of a
half-breed. Digby Groat, a threatener of women and an assassin of men, a
thief who employs other thieves to take the risks whilst he takes the
lion's share of the loot. A quack experimenter, who knows enough of
medicines to drug women and enough of surgery to torture animals--I have
no doubt about you!"

For a long time he could not speak. She had insulted him beyond
forgiveness, and with an uncanny instinct had discovered just the things
to say that would hurt him most.

"Put out your hands," he almost yelled, and she obeyed, watching him
contemptuously as he bound them together with the cravat which he had
torn from his neck.

He took her by the shoulders and, pushing her feet from her ungently,
sat her in a corner.

"I'll come back and deal with you, my lady," he growled.

Outside in the hall Masters was waiting for him, and the big, uncouth
man was evidently troubled.

"Where have you put him?"

"In the east wing, in the old butler's rooms," he said, ill at ease.
"Mr. Groat, isn't this a bad business?"

"What do you mean, bad business?" snarled Digby.

"I've never been mixed up in this kind of thing before," said Masters.
"Isn't there a chance that they will have the law on us?"

"Don't you worry, you'll be well paid," snapped his employer, and was
going away when the man detained him.

"Being well paid won't keep me out of prison, if this is a prison job,"
he said. "I come of respectable people, and I've never been in trouble
all my life. I'm well known in the country, and although I'm not very
popular in the village, yet nobody can point to me and say that I've
done a prison job."

"You're a fool," said Digby, glad to have some one to vent his rage
upon. "Haven't I told you that this man has been trying to run off with
my wife?"

"You didn't say anything about her being your wife," said Masters,
shaking his head and looking suspiciously at the other, "and, besides,
she's got no wedding-ring. That's the first thing I noticed. And that
foreign man hadn't any right to strike with his cane--it might have
killed him."

"Now look here, Masters," said Digby, controlling himself, for it was
necessary that the man should be humoured, "don't trouble your head
about affairs that you can't understand. I tell you this man Steele is a
scoundrel who has run away with my wife and has stolen a lot of money.
My wife is not quite normal, and I am taking her away for a voyage..."
He checked himself. "Anyway, Steele is a scoundrel," he said.

"Then why not hand him over to the police," said the uneasy Masters,
"and bring him before the justices? That seems to me the best thing to
do, Mr. Groat. You're going to get a bad name if it comes out that you
treated this gentleman as roughly as you did."

"I didn't treat him roughly," said Digby coolly, "and it was you who
slipped the rope round his neck."

"I tried to get it over his shoulders," explained Masters hastily;
"besides, you told me to do it."

"You'd have to prove that," said Digby, knowing that he was on the right
track. "Now listen to me, Masters. The only person who has committed any
crime so far has been you!"

"Me?" gasped the man. "I only carried out your orders."

"You'd have to prove that before your precious justices," said Digby,
with a laugh, and dropped his hand on the man's shoulder, a piece of
familiarity which came strangely to Masters, who had never known his
employer in such an amiable mood. "Go along and get some food ready for
the young lady," he said, "and if there is any trouble, I'll see that
you get clear of it. And here." He put his hand in his pocket and took
out a wad of notes, picked two of them out and pressed them into the
man's hand. "They are twenty-pound banknotes, my boy, and don't forget
it and try to change them as fivers. Now hurry along and get your wife
to find some refreshment for the young lady."

"I don't know what my wife's going to say about it," grumbled the man,
"when I tell her--"

"Tell her nothing," said Digby sharply. "Damn you, don't you understand
plain English?"

At three o'clock that afternoon a hired car brought two passengers
before the ornamental gate of Kennett Hall, and the occupants, failing
to secure admission, climbed the high wall and came trudging up towards
the house.

Digby saw them from a distance and went down to meet the bedraggled
Bronson and the dark-skinned Spaniard who was his companion. They met at
the end of the drive, and Bronson and his master, speaking together,
made the same inquiry in identical terms;

"Where is Villa?"



CHAPTER FORTY-TWO


THE room into which Jim was thrust differed little from those chambers
he had already seen, save that it was smaller. The floorboards were
broken, and there were holes in the wainscot which he understood long
before he heard the scamper of the rats' feet.

He was trussed like a fowl, his hands were so tightly corded together
that he could not move them, and his ankles roped so that it was next to
impossible to lever himself to his feet.

"What a life!" said Jim philosophically, and prepared himself for a
long, long wait.

He did not doubt that Digby would leave immediately, and Jim faced the
prospect of being left alone in the house, to make his escape or die. He
was fully determined not to die, and already his busy mind had evolved a
plan which he would put into execution as soon as he knew he was not
under observation.

But Digby remained in the house, as he was to learn.

An hour passed, and then the door was snapped open and Digby came in,
followed by a man at the sight of whom Jim grinned. It was Bronson,
looking ludicrous in Jim's clothes, which were two sizes too large for
him.

"They discovered you, did they, Bronson!" he chuckled. "Well, here am I
as you were, and presently somebody will discover me, and then I shall
be calling on you in Dartmoor, some time this year, to see how you are
going along. Nice place Dartmoor, and the best part of the prison is
Block B.--central heating, gas, hot water laid on, and every modern
convenience except tennis--"

"Where is Villa?" asked Digby.

"I don't know for a fact," said Jim pleasantly, "but I can guess."

"Where is he?" roared Bronson, his face purple with rage.

Jim smiled, and in another minute the man's open hand had struck him
across the face, but still Jim smiled, though there was something in his
eyes that made Bronson quail.

"Now, Steele, there's no sense in your refusing to answer," said Digby.
"We want to know what you have done with Villa. Where is he?"

"In hell," said Jim calmly. "I'm not a whale on theology, Groat, but if
men are punished according to their deserts, then undoubtedly your
jovial pal is in the place where the bad men go and there is little or
no flying."

"Do you mean that he is dead?" asked Digby, livid.

"I should think he is," said Jim carefully. "We were over five thousand
feet when I looped the loop from sheer happiness at finding myself once
again with a joy-stick in my hand, and I don't think your friend Villa
had taken certain elementary precautions. At any rate, when I looked
round, where was Villa? He was flying through the air on his own, Groat,
and my experience is that when a man starts flying without his machine,
the possibility of making a good landing is fairly remote."

"You killed him," said Bronson between his teeth, "damn you!"

"Shut up," snapped Digby. "We know what we want to know. Where did you
throw him out?"

"Somewhere around," said Jim carelessly. "I chose a deserted spot. I
should have hated it if he had hurt anybody when he fell."

Digby went out of the room without a word, and locked the door behind
him, and did not speak until he was back in the room where he had left
Villa less than a week before. He shuddered as he thought of the man's
dreadful end.

The two Spaniards were there, and they had business which could not be
postponed. Digby had hoped they would rely on his promise and wait until
he had readied a place of safety before they insisted on a share-out,
but they were not inclined to place too high a value upon their chief's
word. Their share was a large one, and Digby hated the thought of paying
them off, but it had to be done. He had still a considerable fortune. No
share had gone to the other members of the gang.

"What are your plans?" asked Xavier Silva.

"I'm going to Canada," replied Digby. "You may watch the agony columns
of the newspapers for my address."

The Spaniard grinned.

"I shall be watching for something more interesting," he said, "for my
friend and I are returning to Spain. And Bronson, does he go with you?"

Digby nodded.

It was necessary, now that Villa had gone, to take the airman into his
confidence. He had intended leaving his shadow in the lurch, a fact
which Bronson did not suspect. He sent the two men into the grounds to
give the machine an examination, and Jim, sitting in his room, heard the
noise of the engine and struggled desperately to free his hands. If he
could only get up to his feet! All his efforts must be concentrated upon
that attempt.

Presently the noise ceased; Xavier Silva was a clever mechanic, and he
had detected that something was wrong with one of the cylinders.

"Tuning up!" murmured Jim.

So he had more time than he had hoped for.

He heard a step on the stone terrace, and through the window caught a
glimpse of Bronson passing. Digby had sent the man into the village to
make judicious inquiries as to Villa's fate.

Curiously enough, the three men who had watched the approaching
aeroplane from the terrace of Kennett Hall had been unconscious of
Villa's doom, although they were witnesses of the act. They had seen the
loop in the sky and Digby had thought no more than that Bronson was
showing off to the girl, and had cursed him roundly for his folly.
Villa's body must be near at hand. How near, Bronson was to discover at
the village inn.

After the man had left, Digby went to look at his second prisoner, and
found her walking up and down the room into which she had been put for
safety.

"Did you like your aeroplane journey, Eunice?" he asked blandly.

She did not reply.

"Rather thrilling and exciting, wasn't it? And were you a witness to the
murder of my friend Villa?"

She looked up at him.

"I don't remember that your friend Villa was murdered," she said, ready
to defend Jim of any charge that this man might trump up against him.

He read her thoughts.

"Don't worry about Mr. Steele," he said dryly. "I am not charging him
with murder. In fact, I have no time. I am leaving tomorrow night as
soon as it is dark, and you are coming with me by aeroplane."

She did not answer this.

"I am hoping that you won't mind a brief immersion in the sea," he said.
"I cannot guarantee that we can land on my yacht."

She turned round. On his yacht! That, then, was the plan. She was to be
carried off to a yacht, and the yacht was to take her--where?

There was a clatter of feet in the outer room and he opened the door.
One glance at Bronson's face told him that he had important news.

"Well?" he asked sharply.

"They've found Villa's body. I saw a reporter at the inn," said the man
breathlessly.

"Do they know who it is?" asked Digby, and Bronson nodded.

"What?" asked Digby, startled. "They know his name is Villa?"

Again the man nodded.

"They found a paper in his pocket, a receipt for the sale of a yacht,"
he said, and through the open doorway Eunice saw the man shrink back.

"Then they know about the yacht?"

The news confounded him and shook him from his calm. If the police knew
about the yacht his difficulties became all but insuperable, and the
danger which threatened him loomed up like a monstrous overwhelming
shape. Digby Groat was not built to meet such stunning emergencies and
he went all to pieces under the shock.

Eunice, watching him through the open door, saw his pitiable collapse.
In a second he had changed from the cool, self-possessed man who had
sneered at danger into a babbling fretful child who cursed and wrung his
hands, issuing incoherent orders only to countermand them before his
messenger had left the room.

"Kill Steele!" he screamed. "Kill him, Bronson. Damn him--no, no, stay!
Get the machine ready... we leave to-night."

He turned to the girl, glaring at her.

"We leave to-night, Eunice! To-night you and I will settle accounts!"



CHAPTER FORTY-THREE


HER heart sank, and it came to her, with terrifying force, that her
great trial was near at hand. She had taunted Digby with his cowardice,
but she knew that he would show no mercy to her, and unwillingly she had
played into his hands by admitting that she knew she was the heiress to
the Danton fortune and that she had known his character, and yet had
elected to stay in his house.

The door was slammed and locked, and she was left alone. Later she heard
for the second time the splutter and crash of the aeroplane's engines as
the Spaniard tuned them up.

She must get away--she must, she must! She looked round wildly for some
means of escape. The windows were fastened. There was no other door from
the room. Her only hope was Jim, and Jim, she guessed, was a close
prisoner.

Digby lost no time. He dispatched Silva in the car, telling him to make
the coast as quickly as possible, and to warn the captain of the Pealigo
to be ready to receive him that night. He wrote rapidly a code of
signals. When in sight of the sea Bronson was to fire a green signal
light, to which the yacht must respond. A boat must be lowered on the
shoreward side of the yacht ready to pick them up. After the messenger
had left he remembered that he had already given the same orders to the
captain, and that it was humanly impossible for the Spaniard to reach
the yacht that night.

Digby had in his calmer moments made other preparations. Two inflated
life-belts were taken to the aeroplane and tested, signal pistols,
landing lights, and other paraphernalia connected with night flying were
stowed in the fuselage. Bronson was now fully occupied with the motor of
the aeroplane, for the trouble had not been wholly eradicated, and Digby
Groat paced up and down the terrace of the house, fuming with impatience
and sick with fear.

He had not told the girl to prepare, that must be left to the very last.
He did not want another scene. For the last time he would use his little
hypodermic syringe and the rest would be easy.

Fuentes joined him on the terrace, for Fuentes was curious for
information.

"Do you think that the finding of Villa's body will bring them after us
here?"

"How do I know?" snapped Digby, "and what does it matter, anyway? We
shall be gone in an hour?"

"You will," said the Spaniard pointedly, "but I shan't. I have no
machine to carry me out of the country, and neither has Xavier, though
he is better off than I am--he has the car. Couldn't you take me?"

"It is utterly impossible," said Digby irritably. "They won't be here
to-night, and you needn't worry yourself. Before the morning, you will
have put a long way between you and Kennett Hall."

He spoke in Spanish, the language which the man was employing, but
Fuentes was not impressed.

"What about that man?" He jerked his thumb to the west wing, and a
thought occurred to Digby. Could he persuade his hitherto willing slave
to carry out a final instruction?

"He is your danger," he said. "Do you realize, my dear Fuentes, that
this man can bring us all to destruction? And nobody knows he is here,
except you and me."

"And that ugly Englishman," corrected Fuentes.

"Masters doesn't know what has happened to him. We could tell him that
he went with us!"

He looked at the other keenly, but Fuentes was purposely stupid.

"Now what do you say, my dear Fuentes," said Digby, "shall we allow this
man to live and give evidence against us, when a little knock on the
head would remove him for ever?"

Fuentes turned his dark eyes to Digby's, and he winked.

"Well, kill him, my dear Groat," he mocked. "Do not ask me to stay
behind and be found with the body, for I have a wholesome horror of
English gaols, and an unspeakable fear of death."

"Are you afraid?" asked Digby.

"As afraid as you," said the Spaniard. "If you wish to kill him, by all
means do so. And yet, I do not know that I would allow you to do that,"
he mused, "for you would be gone and I should be left. No, no, we will
not interfere with our courageous Englishman. He is rather a fine
fellow." Digby turned away in disgust.

The "fine fellow" at that moment had, by almost super-human effort,
raised himself to his feet. It had required something of the skill of an
acrobat and the suppleness and ingenuity of a contortionist, and it
involved supporting himself with his head against the wall for a quarter
of an hour whilst he brought his feet to the floor; but he had
succeeded.

The day was wearing through and the afternoon was nearly gone before he
had accomplished this result. His trained ear told him that the
aeroplane was now nearly ready for departure, and once he had caught a
glimpse of Digby wearing a lined leather jacket. But there was no sign
of the girl. As to Eunice, he steadfastly kept her out of his thoughts.
He needed all his courage and coolness, and even the thought of her,
which, in spite of his resolution, flashed across his mind, brought him
agonizing distress.

He hopped cautiously to the window and listened. There was no sound and
he waited until Bronson--he guessed it was Bronson--started the engines
again. Then with his elbow he smashed out a pane of glass, leaving a
jagged triangular piece firmly fixed in the ancient putty. Carefully he
lifted up his bound hands, straining at the rope which connected them
with the bonds about his feet, and which was intended to prevent his
raising his hands higher than the level of his waist.

By straining at the rope and standing on tiptoe, he brought the end of
the connecting link across the sharp jagged edge of the glass. Two
strokes, and the rope was severed. His hands were still bound and to cut
through them without injury to himself was a delicate operation.
Carefully he sawed away, and first one and then the other cord was cut
through. His hands were red and swollen, his wrists had no power until
he had massaged them.

He snapped off the triangular piece of glass and applied it to the cords
about his feet, and in a minute he was free. Free, but in a locked room.
Still, the window-sash should not prove an insuperable obstacle. There
was nothing which he could use as a weapon, but his handy feet smashed
at the frames, only to discover that they were of iron. Jonathan
Danton's father had had a horror of burglars, and all the window-frames
on the lower floor had been made in a foundry. The door was the only
egress left and it was too stout to smash.

He listened at the keyhole. There was no sound. The light was passing
from the sky and night was coming on. They would be leaving soon, he
guessed, and grew frantic. Discarding all caution, he kicked at the
panels, but they resisted his heavy boots, and then he heard a sound
that almost stopped his heart beating.

A shrill scream from Eunice. Again and again he flung his weight at the
door, but it remained immovable, and then came a shout from the ground
outside. He ran to the window and listened.

"They are coming, the police!"

It was the Spaniard's throbbing voice. He had run until he was
exhausted. Jim saw in stagger past the window and heard Digby say
something to him sharply. There was a patter of feet and silence.

Jim wiped the sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his coat and
looked round desperately for some means of getting out of the room. The
fireplace! It was a big, old-fashioned fire-basket, that stood on four
legs in a yawning gap of chimney. He looked at it; it was red with rust
and it had the appearance of being fixed, but he lifted it readily.
Twice he smashed at the door and the second time it gave way, and
dropping the grate with a crash he flew down the passage out of the
house.

As he turned the corner he heard the roar of the aeroplane and above its
drone the sound of a shot. He leapt the balustrade, sped through the
garden and came in sight of the aeroplane as it was speeding from him.

"My God!" said Jim with a groan, for the machine had left the ground and
was zooming steeply up into the darkening sky.

And then he saw something. From the long grass near where the machine
had been a hand rose feebly and fell again. He ran across to where he
had seen this strange sight. In a few minutes he was kneeling by the
side of Fuentes. The man was dying. He knew that long before he had seen
the wound in his breast.

"He shot me, senor," gasped Fuentes, "and I was his friend... I asked
him to take me to safety... and he shot me!"

The man was still alive when the police came on the spot; still alive
when Septimus Salter, in his capacity of Justice of the Peace, took down
his dying statement.

"Digby Groat shall hang for this, Steele," said the lawyer; but Jim made
no reply. He had his own idea as to how Digby Groat would die.



CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR


THE lawyer explained his presence without preliminary, and Jim listened
moodily.

"I came with them myself because I know the place," said Mr. Salter,
looking at Jim anxiously. "You look ghastly, Steele. Can't you lie down
and get some sleep?"

"I feel that I shall never sleep until I have got my hand on Digby
Groat. What was it you saw in the paper? Tell me again. How did they
know it was Villa?"

"By a receipt in his pocket," replied Salter. "It appears that Villa,
probably acting on behalf of Digby Groat, had purchased from Maxilla,
the Brazilian gambler, his yacht, the Pealigo--"

Jim uttered a cry.

"That is where he has gone," he said. "Where is the Pealigo?"

"That I have been trying to find out," replied the lawyer, shaking his
head, "but nobody seems to know. She left Havre a few days ago, but what
her destination was, nobody knows. She has certainly not put in to any
British port so far as we can ascertain. Lloyd's were certain of this,
and every ship, whether it is a yacht, a liner, or a cargo tramp, is
reported to Lloyd's."

"That is where he has gone," said Jim.

"Then she must be in port," said old Salter eagerly. "We can telegraph
to every likely place--"

Jim interrupted him with a shake of his head.

"Bronson would land on the water and sink the machine. It is a very
simple matter," he said. "I have been in the sea many times and there is
really no danger, if you are provided with life-belts, and are not
strapped to the seat. It is foul luck your not coming before."

He walked weakly from the comfortable parlour of the inn where the
conversation had taken place.

"Do you mind if I am alone for a little while? I want to think," he
said.

He turned as he was leaving the room.

"In order not to waste time, Mr. Salter," he said quietly, "have you any
influence with the Admiralty? I want the loan of a seaplane."

Mr. Salter looked thoughtful.

"That can be fixed," he said. "I will get on to the 'phone straight away
to the Admiralty and try to get the First Sea Lord. He will do all that
he can to help us."

Whilst the lawyer telephoned, Jim made a hasty meal. The pace had told
on him and despair was in his heart.

The knowledge that Digby Groat would eventually be brought to justice
did not comfort him. If Eunice had only been spared he would have been
content to see Digby make his escape, and would not have raised his hand
to stop him going. He would have been happy even if, in getting away,
the man had been successful in carrying off the girl's fortune. But
Eunice was in his wicked hands and the thought of it was unendurable.

He was invited by the local police-sergeant to step across to the little
lock-up to interview the man Masters, who was under arrest, and as Mr.
Salter had not finished telephoning, he crossed the village street and
found the dour man in a condition of abject misery.

"I knew he'd bring me into this," he bewailed, "and me with a wife and
three children and not so much as a poaching case against me! Can't you
speak a word for me, sir?"

Jim's sense of humour was never wholly smothered and the cool request
amused him.

"I can only say that you tried to strangle me," he said. "I doubt
whether that good word will be of much service to you."

"I swear I didn't mean to," pleaded the man. "He told me to put the rope
round your shoulders and it slipped. How was I to know that the lady
wasn't his wife who'd run away with you?"

"So that is the story he told you?" said Jim.

"Yes, sir," the man said eagerly. "I pointed out to Mr. Groat that the
lady hadn't a wedding-ring, but he said that he was married all right
and he was taking her to sea--"

"To sea?"

Masters nodded.

"That's what he said, sir--he said she wasn't right in her head and the
sea voyage would do her a lot of good."

Jim questioned him closely without getting any further information.
Masters knew nothing of the steamer on which Digby and his "wife" were
to sail, or the port at which he would embark.

Outside the police station Jim interviewed the sergeant.

"I don't think this man was any more than a dupe of Groat's," he said,
"and I certainly have no charge to make against him."

The sergeant shook his head.

"We must hold him until we have had the inquest on the Spaniard," he
said, and then, gloomily, "to think that I had a big case like this
right under my nose and hadn't the sense to see it!"

Jim smiled a little sadly.

"We have all had the case under our noses, sergeant, and we have been
blinder than you!"


The threat of a renewed dose of the drug had been sufficient to make
Eunice acquiescent. Resistance, she knew, was useless. Digby could
easily overpower her for long enough to jab his devilish needle into her
arm.

She had struggled at first and had screamed at the first prick from the
needle-point. It was that scream Jim had heard.

"I'll go with you; I promise you I will not give you any trouble," she
said. "Please don't use that dreadful thing again."

Time was pressing and it would be easier to make his escape if the girl
did not resist than if she gave him trouble.

The propeller was ticking slowly round when they climbed into the
fuselage.

"There is room for me, senor. There must be room for me!"

Digby looked down into the distorted face of the Spaniard who had come
running after him.

"There is no room for you, Fuentes," he said. "I have told you before.
You must get away as well as you can."

"I am going with you!"

To Digby's horror, the man clung desperately to the side of the
fuselage. Every moment was increasing their peril, and in a frenzy he
whipped out his pistol.

"Let go," he hissed, "or I'll kill you," but still the man held on.

There were voices coming from the lower path, and, in his panic, Digby
fired. He saw the man crumple and fall and yelled to Bronson: "Go, go!"

Eunice, a horrified spectator, could only stare at the thing which had
been Digby Groat, for the change which had come over him was
extraordinary. He seemed to have shrunk in stature. His face was
twisted, like a man who had had a stroke of paralysis.

She thought this was the case, but slowly he began to recover.

He had killed a man! The horror of this act was upon him, the fear of
the consequence which would follow overwhelmed him and drove him into a
momentary frenzy. He had killed a man! He could have shrieked at the
thought. He, who had so carefully guarded himself against punishment,
who had manoeuvred his associates into danger, whilst he himself stood
in a safe place, was now a fugitive from a justice which would not rest
until it had laid him by the heel.

And she had seen him, she, the woman at his side, and would go into the
box and testify against him! And they would hang him! In that
brick-lined pit of which Jim Steele had spoken. All these thoughts
flashed through his mind in a second, even before the machine left the
ground, but with the rush of cold air and the inevitable exhilaration of
flight, he began to think calmly again.



CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE


BRONSON had killed him, that was the comforting defence. Bronson, who
was now guiding him to safety, and who would, if necessary, give his
life for him. Bronson should bear the onus of that act.

They were well up now, and the engines were a smooth "b-r-r" of sound.
A night wind was blowing and the plane rocked from side to side. It made
the girl feel a little sick, but she commanded her brain to grow
accustomed to the motion, and after a while the feeling of nausea wore
off.

They could see the sea now. The flashing signals of the lighthouses came
from left and right. Bristol, a tangle of fiery spots, lay to their
left, and there were tiny gleams of light on the river and estuary.

They skirted the northern shore of the Bristol Channel and headed west,
following the coastline. Presently the machine turned due south, leaving
behind them the land and its girdle of lights. Twenty minutes later
Bronson fired his signal pistol. A ball of brilliant green fire curved
up and down and almost immediately, from the sea, came an answering
signal. Digby strapped the girl's life-belt tighter, and saw to the
fastening of his own.

"Fix my belt." It was Bronson shouting through the telephone, and Digby,
leaning forward, fastened the life-belt about the pilot's waist. He
fastened it carefully and added a, stout strap, tying the loose end of
the leather in a knot. Down went the machine in a long glide toward the
light which still burnt, and now the girl could see the outlines of the
graceful yacht and the green and red lights it showed. They made a
circle, coming lower and lower every second, until they were spinning
about the yacht not more than a dozen feet from the sea. Bronson shut
off his engines and brought the machine upon the water, less than fifty
feet from the waiting boat.

Instantly the aeroplane sank under them, leaving them in the sea. It was
a strange sensation, thought the girl, for the water was unusually warm.

She heard a shriek and turned, and then Digby caught her hand.

"Keep close to me," he said in a whimpering voice, "you might be lost in
the darkness."

She knew that he was thinking of himself. A light flared from the
oncoming boat, and she looked round. In spite of herself, she asked:

"Where is the man?"

Bronson was nowhere in sight. Digby did not trouble to turn his head or
answer. He reached up and gripped the gunwale of the boat and in a
minute Eunice was lifted out of the water. She found herself in a small
cutter which was manned by brown-faced men, who she thought at first
were Japanese.

"Where is Bronson?" she asked again in a panic, but Digby did not reply.
He sat immovable, avoiding her eyes, and she could have shrieked her
horror. Bronson had gone down with the aeroplane! The strap which Digby
had fastened about his waist, he had cunningly attached to the seat
itself, and had fastened it so that it was impossible for the pilot to
escape.

He was the first up the gangway on to the white deck of the yacht, and
turning, he offered his hand to her.

"Welcome to the Pealigo," he said in his mocking voice.

Then it was not fear that had kept him silent. She could only look at
him.

"Welcome to the Pealigo, my little bride," he said, and she knew that
the man who had not hesitated to murder his two comrades in cold blood
would have no mercy on her.

A white-coated stewardess came forward, and said something in a language
which Eunice did not understand. She gathered that the woman was deputed
to show her the way to the cabin. Glad to be free from the association
of Digby, she passed down the companion-way, through a lobby panelled in
rosewood, into a cabin, the luxury of which struck her, even though her
nerves were shattered, and she was incapable of taking an interest in
anything outside the terrible fact that she was alone on a yacht with
Digby Groat.

Extravagance had run riot here, and the Brazilian must have lavished a
fortune in the decoration and appointments.

The saloon ran the width of the ship and was as deep as it was broad.
Light was admitted from portholes cunningly designed, so that they had
the appearance of old-fashioned casement windows. A great divan, covered
in silk, ran the length of the cabin on one side, whilst the other was
occupied by a silver bedstead, hung with rose silk curtains. Rose-shaded
lights supplied the illumination, and the lamps were fashioned like
torches and were held by beautiful classical figures placed in niches
about the room.

She came to the conclusion that it was a woman's room and wondered if
there were any other women on board but the stewardess. She asked that
woman, but apparently she knew no English, and the few words in Spanish
which she had learnt did not serve her to any extent.

The suite was complete, she discovered, for behind the heavy silken
curtains at the far end of the cabin there was a door which gave to a
small sitting-room and a bath-room. It must be a woman's. In truth, it
was designed especially by Senor Maxilla for his own comfort.

Lying on the bed was a complete change of clothing. It was brand-new and
complete to the last detail. Digby Groat could be very thorough.

She dismissed the woman, and bolting the door, made a complete change,
for the third time since she had left Grosvenor Square.

The boat was under way now. She could feel the throb of its engines, and
the slight motion that it made in the choppy sea. The Pealigo was one of
the best sea boats afloat, and certainly one of the fastest yachts in
commission.

She had finished her changing when a knock came at the door and she
opened it to find Digby standing on the mat.

"You had better come and have some dinner," he said.

He was quite his old self, and whatever emotions had disturbed him were
now completely under control.

She shrank back and tried to close the floor, but now he was not
standing on ceremony. Grasping her arm roughly, he dragged her out into
the passage.

"You're going to behave yourself while you're on this ship," he said.
"I'm master here, and there is no especial reason why I should show you
any politeness."

"You brute, you beast!" she flamed at him, and he smiled.

"Don't think that because you're a woman it is going to save you
anything in the way of punishment," he warned her. "Now be sensible and
come along to the dining-saloon."

"I don't want to eat," she said.

"You will come into the dining-saloon whether you want to or not."

The saloon was empty save for the two and a dark-skinned waiter, and,
like her own cabin, it was gorgeously decorated, a veritable palace in
miniature, with its dangling electrolier, its flowers, and its marble
mantelpiece at the far end.

The table was laid with a delicious meal, but Eunice felt she would
choke if she took a morsel.

"Eat," said Digby, attacking the soup which had been placed before him.

She shook her head.

"If you don't," and his eyes narrowed, "if you don't, my good soul, I
will find a way of making you eat," he said. "Remember," he put his hand
in his pocket, pulled out the hateful little black case (it was wet, she
noticed) and laid it on the table, "at any rate, you will be obedient
enough when I use this!"

She picked up her spoon meekly and began to drink the soup, and he
watched her with an amused smile.

She was surprised to find how hungry she was, and made no attempt to
deny the chicken en casserole, nor the sweet that followed, but
resolutely she refused to touch the wine that the steward poured out for
her, and Digby did not press her.

"You're a fool, you know, Eunice." Digby lit a cigar without asking
permission, and leaning back in his chair, looked at her critically.
"There is a wonderful life ahead for you if you are only intelligent.
Why worry about a man like Steele? A poor beggar, without a penny in the
world--"

"You forget that I have no need of money, Mr. Groat," she said with
spirit. Any reference to Jim aroused all that was savage in her. "I have
not only the money which you have not stolen from my estate, but when
you are arrested and in prison, I shall recover all that you have now,
including this yacht, if it is yours."

Her answer made him chuckle.

"I like spirit," he said. "You can't annoy me, Eunice, my darling. So
you like our yacht--our honeymoon yacht?" he added.

To this, she made no reply.

"But suppose you realise how much I love you." He leant over and caught
her hand in both of his and his eyes devoured her. "Suppose you realise
that, Eunice, and knew I would give my life--my very soul--to make you
happy, wouldn't that make a difference?"

"Nothing would make a difference to my feelings, Mr. Groat," she said.
"The only chance you have of earning my gratitude is to put in at the
nearest port and set me ashore."

"And where do I set myself?" he asked coolly. "Be as intelligent as you
are beautiful, Eunice. No, no, I shall be very glad to make you happy,
so long as I get a little of the happiness myself, but I do not risk
imprisonment and death." He shivered, and hated himself that he had
been surprised into this symptom of fear and hated her worst, having
noticed that.

"Where are we going?" she asked.

"We are bound to South America," said Digby, "and it may interest you
to learn that we are following a track which is not usually taken by the
South American traffic. We shall skirt Ireland and take what Americans
call the Western Ocean route, until we are within 1000 miles of Long
Island, when we shall turn due south. By this way we avoid being sighted
by the American ships, and we also avoid--"

The man who came in at that moment, Eunice thought must be the captain.

He wore three rings of gold about his wrist, but he was not her ideal of
a seaman. Under-sized, lame in one foot, his parchment face of stiff
black hair almost convinced her that this was a Japanese boat after all.

"You must meet the captain," said Digby, introducing him, "and you had
better make friends with him."

Eunice thought that the chances of her making friends with that
uncompromising little man were remote.

"What is it, captain?" asked Digby in Portuguese.

"We have just picked up a wireless; I thought you'd like to see it."

"I had forgotten we had wireless," said Digby as he took the message
from the man's hand.

It was ill-spelt, having been written by a Brazilian who had no
knowledge of English and had set down the message letter by letter as he
received it. Skipping the errors of transmission, Digby read;

"To all ships westward, southward, and homeward bound. Keep a sharp look
out for the yacht Pealigo and report by wireless, position and bearing,
to Inspector Rite, Scotland Yard."

Eunice did not understand what they were talking about, but she saw a
frown settle on Digby's forehead, and guessed that the news was bad. If
it was bad for him, then it was very good for her, she thought, and her
spirits began to rise.

"You had better go to bed, Eunice," said Digby. "I want to talk to the
captain."

She rose, and only the captain rose with her.

"Sit down," said Digby testily. "You are not here to do the honours to
Mrs. Digby Groat."

She did not hear the last words, for she was out of the saloon as
quickly as she could go. She went back to her own cabin, shut the door,
and put up her hand to shoot home the bolt, but while she had been at
dinner somebody had been busy. The bolt was removed and the key of the
door was gone!



CHAPTER FORTY-SIX


EUNICE stared at the door. There was no mistake. The bolts had recently
been removed and the raw wood showed where the screws had been taken
out.

The Pealigo was rolling now, and she had a difficulty in keeping her
balance, but she made her way round the cabin, gathering chairs, tables,
everything that was movable, and piling them up against the door. She
searched the drawers of the bureau for some weapon which might have been
left by its former occupant, but there was nothing more formidable than
a golden-backed hairbrush which the plutocratic Maxilla had overlooked.

The bathroom yielded nothing more than a long-handled brush, whilst her
sitting-room made no return for her search.

She sat watching the door as the hours passed, but no attempt was made
to enter the cabin. A bell rang at intervals on the deck: she counted
eight. It was midnight. How long would it be before Digby Groat came?

At that moment a pale-faced Digby Groat, his teeth chattering, sat in
the cabin of the wireless operator, reading a message which had been
picked up. Part was in code, and evidently addressed to the Admiralty
ships cruising in the vicinity, but the longer message was in plain
English and was addressed:

"To the chief officers of all ships. To the Commanders of H.M. ships: to
all Justices of the Peace, officers of the police Great Britain and
Ireland. To all Inspectors, sub-inspectors of the Royal Irish
Constabulary:

"Arrest and detain Digby Groat, height five foot nine, stoutly built,
complexion sallow, had small moustache but believed to have shaven.
Speaks Spanish, French, Portuguese, and is a qualified surgeon and
physician, believed to be travelling on the S.Y. Pealigo, No. XVM. This
man is wanted on a charge of wilful murder and conspiracy; a reward of
five thousand pounds will be paid by Messrs. Salter & Salter,
Solicitors, of London, for his arrest and detention. Believe he has
travelling with him, under compulsion, Dorothy Danton, age 22. Groat is
a dangerous man and carries fire-arms."

The little captain of the Pealigo took the thin cigar from his teeth and
regarded the grey ash attentively, though he was also looking at the
white-faced man by the operator's side.

"So you see, senhor," he said suavely, "I am in a most difficult
position."

"I thought you did not speak English," said Digby, finding his voice at
last.

The little captain smiled.

"I read enough English to understand a reward of five thousand pounds,
senhor," he said significantly. "And if I did not, my wireless operator
speaks many languages, English included, and he would have explained to
me, even if I had not been able to understand the message myself."

Digby looked at him bleakly.

"What are you going to do?" he asked.

"That depends upon what you are going to do," said the Brazilian. "I am
no traitor to my salt, and I should like to serve you, but you readily
understand that this would mean a terrible thing for me, if, knowing
that you were wanted by the English police, I assisted you to make an
escape? I am not a stickler for small things," he shrugged his
shoulders, "and Senhor Maxilla did much that I closed my eyes to. Women
came into his calculations, but murder never."

"I am not a murderer, I tell you," stormed Digby vehemently, "and you
are under my orders. Do you understand that?"

He jumped up and stood menacingly above the unperturbed Brazilian, and
in his hand had appeared an ugly-looking weapon.

"You will carry out my instructions to the letter, or, by God, you'll
know all about it!"

But the captain of the Pealigo had returned to the contemplation of his
cigar. He reminded Digby somewhat of Bronson, and the yellow-faced man
shivered as at an unpleasant thought.

"It is not the first time I have been threatened with a revolver," said
the captain coolly. "Years ago when I was very young, such things might
have frightened me, but to-day I am not young. I have a family in Brazil
who are very expensive; my pay is small, otherwise I would not follow
the sea and be every man's dog to kick and bully as he wishes. If I had
a hundred thousand pounds, senhor, I should settle down on a plantation
which I have bought and be a happy and a silent man for the rest of my
life."

He emphasized "silent," and Digby understood.

"Couldn't you do that for a little less than a hundred thousand?" he
asked.

"I have been thinking the matter out very carefully. We shipmen have
plenty of time to think, and that is the conclusion that I have reached,
that a hundred thousand pounds would make all the difference between a
life of work and a life of ease." He was silent for a moment and then
went on. "That is why I hesitated about the reward. If the radio had
said a hundred thousand pounds, senhor, I should have been tempted."

Digby turned on him with a snarl.

"Talk straight, will you?" he said. "You want me to pay you a hundred
thousand pounds, and that is the price for carrying me to safety;
otherwise you will return to port and give me up."

The captain shrugged his shoulders.

"I said nothing of the sort, senhor," he said. "I merely mentioned a
little private matter in which I am glad to see you take an interest.
The senhor also wishes for a happy life in Brazil with the beautiful
lady he brought on board, and the senhor is not a poor man, and if it is
true that the beautiful lady is an heiress, he could be richer."

The operator looked in. He was anxious to come back to his own cabin,
but the captain, with a jerk of his head, sent him out again.

He dropped his voice a tone.

"Would it not be possible for me to go to the young lady and say: 'Miss,
you are in great danger, and I too am in danger of losing my liberty,
what would you pay me to put a sentry outside your door; to place Senhor
Digby Groat in irons, in the strong-room? Do you think she would say a
hundred thousand pounds, or even a half of her fortune, senhor?"

Digby was silent.

The threat was real and definite. It was not camouflaged by any fine
phrases; as plainly as the little Brazilian could state his demands, he
had done so.

"Very good." Digby got up from the edge of the table where he had sat,
with downcast eyes, turning this and that and the other plan over in his
mind. "I'll pay you."

"Wait, wait," said the captain. "Because there is another alternative
that I wish to put to you, senhor," he said. "Suppose that I am her
friend, or pretend to be, and offer her protection until we reach a port
where she can be landed? Should we not both receive a share of the great
reward?"

"I will not give her up," said Digby between his teeth. "You can cut
that idea out of your head, and also the notion about putting me in
irons. By God, if I thought you meant it--" He glowered at the little
man, and the captain smiled.

"Who means anything in this horrible climate?" he said lazily. "You will
bring the money to-morrow to my cabin, perhaps--no, no, to-night," he
said thoughtfully.

"You can have it to-morrow."

The captain shrugged his shoulders; he did not insist, and Digby was
left alone with his thoughts.

There was still a hope; there were two. They could not prove that he
shot Fuentes, and it would be a difficult matter to pick up the yacht if
it followed the course that the captain had marked for it, and in the
meantime there was Eunice. His lips twisted, and the colour came into
his face. Eunice! He went along the deck and down the companion-way, but
there was a man standing in the front of the door of the girl's cabin, a
broad-shouldered brown-faced man, who touched his cap as the owner
appeared, but did not budge.

"Stand out of the way," said Digby impatiently. "I want to go into that
room."

"It is not permitted," said the sailor.

Digby stepped back a pace, crimson with anger.

"Who gave orders that I should not pass?"

"The capitano," said the man.

Digby flew up the companion-ladder and went in search of the captain. He
found him on the bridge.

"What is this?" he began, and the captain snapped something at him in
Portuguese, and Digby, looking ahead, saw a white-fan-shaped light
stealing along the sea.

"It is a warship, and she may be engaged in manoeuvres," said the
captain, "but she may also be looking for us."

He gave an order, and suddenly all the lights on the ship were
extinguished. The Pealigo swung round in a semicircle and headed back
the way she had come.

"We can make a detour and get past her," explained the captain, and
Digby forgot the sentry at the door in the distress of this new danger.

Left and right wheeled the searchlight, but never once did it touch the
Pealigo. It was searching for her, though they must have seen her
lights, and now the big white ray was groping at the spot where the
yacht had turned. It missed them by yards.

"Where are we going?" asked Digby fretfully.

"We are going back for ten miles, and then we'll strike between the ship
and Ireland, which is there." He pointed to the horizon, where a splash
of light trembled for a second and was gone.

"We are losing valuable time," said Digby fretfully.

"It is better to lose time than to lose your liberty," said the
philosophical captain.

Digby clutched the rail and his heart turned to water, as the
searchlight of the warship again swung round. But fortune was with them.
It might, as the captain said, be only a ship carrying out searchlight
practice, but on the other hand, in view of the wireless messages which
had been received, it seemed certain that the cruiser had a special
reason for its scrutiny.

It was not until they were out of the danger zone that Digby remembered
the mission that had brought him to the bridge.

"What do you mean by putting a man on guard outside that girl's door?"
he asked.

The captain had gone to the deckhouse, and was bending over the table
examining an Admiralty chart. He did not answer until Digby had repeated
the question, then he looked up and straightened his back.

"The future of the lady is dependent, entirely, on the fulfilment of
your promise, illustrious," he said in the flamboyant terminology of his
motherland.

"But I promised--"

"You have not performed."

"Do you doubt my words?" stormed Digby.

"I do not doubt, but I do not understand," said the captain. "If you
will come to my cabin I will settle with you."

Digby thought a while; his interest in Eunice had evaporated with the
coming of this new danger, and there was no reason why he should settle
that night. Suppose he was captured, the money would be wasted. It would
be useless to him also, but this, in his parsimonious way, did not
influence him.

He went down to his cabin, a smaller and less beautifully furnished one
than that occupied by Eunice, and pulling an arm-chair to the neat
little desk, he sat down to think matters over. And as the hours passed,
his perspective shifted. Somehow, the danger seemed very remote, and
Eunice was very near, and if any real danger came, why, there would be
an end of all things, Eunice included, and his money would be of no more
value to him than the spray which flapped against the closed porthole.

Beneath the bureau was a small, strong safe, and this he unlocked,
taking out the broad money-belt which he had fastened about his waist
before he began the journey. He emptied one bulging pocket, and laid a
wad of bills upon the desk. They were gold bonds of ten thousand dollar
denomination, and he counted forty, put the remainder back in the pocket
from whence he had taken it, and locked the belt in the safe.

It was half-past five and the grey of the new day showed through the
portholes. He thrust the money in his pocket and went out to talk to the
captain.

He shivered in the chill wind of morning as he stepped out on the deck
and made his way for'ard. The little Brazilian, a grotesque figure,
wrapped in his overcoat and muffled to the chin, was standing moodily
staring across the grey waste. Without a word Digby stepped up to him
and thrust the bundle of notes into his hand. The Brazilian looked at
the money, counted it mechanically, and put it into his pocket. "Your
Excellency is munificent," he said. "Now take your sentry from the
door," said Digby sharply.

"Wait here," said the captain, and went below. He returned in a few
minutes.



CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN


SHE had heard the tap of her first visitor at one o'clock in the
morning. It had come when Digby Groat was sitting in his cabin turning
over the possibilities of misfortune which the future held, and she had
thought it was he.

The handle of the door turned and it opened an inch; beyond that it
could not go without a crash, for the chairs and tables that Eunice had
piled against it. She watched with a stony face and despair in her
heart, as the opening of the door increased.

"Please do not be afraid," said a voice.

Then it was not Digby! She sprang to her feet. It might be some one
worse, but that was impossible.

"Who is it?" she asked.

"It is I, the captain," said a voice in laboured English.

"What is it you want?"

"I wish to speak to you, mademoiselle, but you must put away these
things from behind the door, otherwise I will call two of my sailors,
and it will be a simple matter to push them aside."

Already he had prized open the door to the extent of two or three
inches, and with a groan Eunice realized the futility of her barricade.
She dragged the furniture aside and the little captain came in smiling,
hat in hand, closing the door after him.

"Permit me, mademoiselle," he said politely, and moved her aside while
he replaced the furniture; then he opened the door and looked out, and
Eunice saw that there was a tall sailor standing with his back to her,
evidently on guard. What did this mean, she wondered? The captain did
not leave her long in ignorance.

"Lady," he said in an accent which it was almost impossible to
reproduce, "I am a poor sailor-man who works at his hazardous calling
for two hundred miserable milreis a month. But because I am poor, and of
humble--" he hesitated and used the Portuguese word for origin--which
she guessed at--"it does not mean that I am without a heart." He struck
his breast violently. "I have a repugnancio to hurting female women!"

She was wondering what was coming next: would he offer to sell his
master at a price? If he did, she would gladly agree, but the new hope
which surged up within her was dissipated by his next words.

"My friend Groat," he said, "is my master. I must obey his orders, and
if he says 'Go to Callio,' or to Rio de Janeiro, I must go."

Her hopes sunk, but evidently he had something more to say.

"As the captain I must do as I am told," he said, "but I cannot and will
not see a female hurted. You understand?"

She nodded, and the spark of hope kindled afresh.

"I myself cannot be here all the time, nor can my inconquerable sailors,
to see that you are not hurted, and it would look bad for me if you were
hurted--very bad!"

Evidently the worthy captain was taking a very far-sighted view of the
situation, and had hit upon a compromise which relieved him at least of
his responsibility toward his master.

"If the young lady will take this, remembering that Jose Montigano was
the good friend of hers, I shall be repaid."

"This" was a silvery weapon. She took the weapon in her hand with a glad
cry.

"Oh, thank you, thank you, captain," she said, seizing his hand.

"Remember," he raised a warning finger. "I cannot do more. I speak now
as man to woman. Presently I speak as captain to owner. You understand
the remarkable difference?"

He confused her a little, but she could guess what he meant.

He bowed and made his exit, but presently he returned.

"To put the chairs and tables against the floor is no use," he said,
shaking his head. "It is better--" He pointed significantly to the
revolver, and with a broad grin closed the door behind him.

Digby Groat knew nothing of this visit: it satisfied him that the sentry
had been withdrawn, and that now nothing stood between him and the woman
whom, in his distorted, evil way, he loved, but her own frail strength.
He tapped again. It pleased him to observe these threadbare conventions
for the time being, yet when no answer came to his knock, he opened the
door slowly and walked in.

Eunice was standing at the far end of the cabin; the silken curtains had
been drawn aside, and the door leading to her sitting saloon was open.
Her hands were behind her and she was fully dressed.

"My dear," said Digby, in his most expansive manner, "why are you tiring
your pretty eyes? You should have been in bed and asleep."

"What do you want?" she demanded.

"What else could a man want, who had such a beautiful wife, but the
pleasure of her conversation and companionship," he said with an air of
gaiety.

"Stand where you are," she called sharply as he advanced, and the
authority in her tone made him halt.

"Now, Eunice," he said, shaking his head, "you are making a lot of
trouble when trouble is foolish. You have only to be sensible, and there
is nothing in the world that I will not give you."

"There is nothing in the world that you have to give, except the money
which you have stolen from me," she said calmly. "Why do you talk of
giving, when I am the giver, and there is nothing for you to take but my
mercy?"

He stared at her, stricken dumb by the coolness at the moment of her
most deadly danger, and then with a laugh he recovered his
self-possession and strolled towards her, his dark eyes aflame.

"Stand where you are," said Eunice again, and this time she had the
means to enforce her command.

Digby could only stare at the muzzle of the pistol pointed towards his
heart, and then he shrank back.

"Put that thing away!" he said harshly. "Damn you, put it away! You are
not used to fire-arms, and it may explode."

"It will explode," said Eunice. Her voice was deep and intense, and all
the resentment she had smothered poured forth in her words. "I tell you,
Digby Groat, that I will shoot you like a dog, and glory in the act.
Shoot you more mercilessly than you killed that poor Spaniard, and look
upon your body with less horror than you showed."

"Put it away, put it away! Where did you get it?" he cried. "For God's
sake, Eunice, don't fool with that pistol; you don't want to kill me, do
you?"

"There are times when I want to kill you very badly," she said, and
lowered the point of the revolver at the sight of the man's abject
cowardice.

He wiped his forehead with a silk handkerchief, and she could see his
knees trembling.

"Who gave you that pistol?" he demanded violently. "You didn't have it
when you left Kennett Hall, that I'll swear. Where did you find it? In
one of those drawers?" He looked at the bureau, one of the drawers of
which was half open.

"Does it matter?" she asked. "Now, Mr. Groat, you will please go out of
my cabin and leave me in peace."

"I had no intention of hurting you," he growled. He was still very pale.
"There was no need for you to flourish your revolver so
melodramatically. I only came in to say good night."

"You might have come about six hours earlier," she said. "Now go."

"Listen to me, Eunice," said Digby Groat; he edged forward, but her
pistol covered him, and he jumped. "If you're going to play the fool,
I'll go," he said, and followed the action by the deed, slamming the
door behind him.

She heard the outer door open and close, and leant against the brass
column of the bed for support, for she was near to the end of her
courage. She must sleep, she thought, but first she must secure the
outer door. There was a lock on the lobby door; she had not noticed that
before. She had hardly taken two steps through the cabin door before an
arm was flung round her, she was pressed back, and a hand gripped the
wrist which still carried the weapon. With a wrench he flung it to the
floor, and in another moment she was in his arms.

"You thought I'd gone "--he lifted her, still struggling, and carried
her back to the saloon. "I want to see you," he breathed; "to see your
face, your glorious eyes, that wonderful mouth of yours, Eunice." He
pressed his lips against hers; he smothered with kisses her cheeks, her
neck, her eyes.

She felt herself slipping from consciousness; the very horror of his
caresses froze and paralysed her will to struggle. She could only gaze
at the eyes so close to hers, fascinated as by the glare of the deadly
snake.

"You are mine now, mine, do you hear?" he murmured into her ear. "You
will forget Jim Steele, forget everything except that I adore you," and
then he saw her wild gaze pass him to the door, and turned.

The little captain stood there, his hands on his hips, watching, his
brown face a mask.

Digby released his hold of the girl, and turned on the sailor.

"What the hell are you doing here? Get out," he almost screamed.

"There is an aeroplane looking for us," said the captain. "We have just
picked up her wireless."

Digby's jaw dropped. That possibility had not occurred to him.

"Who is she? What does the wireless say?"

"It is a message we picked up saying, 'Nothing sighted. Am heading due
south.' It gave her position," added the captain, "and if she is coming
due south I think Mr. Steele will find us."

Digby fell back a pace, his face blanched.

"Steele," he gasped.

The captain nodded.

"That is the gentleman who signs the message. I think it would be
advisable for you to come on deck."

"I'll come on deck when I want," growled Digby. There was a devil in him
now. He was at the end of his course, and he was not to be thwarted.

"Will the good gentleman come on deck?"

"I will come later. I have some business to attend to here."

"You can attend to it on deck," said the little captain calmly.

"Get out," shouted Digby.

The captain's hand did not seem to move; there was a shot, the deafening
explosion of which filled the cabin, and a panel behind Digby's head
splintered into a thousand pieces.

He glared at the revolver in the Brazilian's hand, unable to realize
what had happened.

"I could have shot you just as easily," said the Brazilian calmly, "but
I preferred to send the little bullet near your ear. Will you come on
deck, please?"

Digby Groat obeyed.



CHAPTER FORTY-EIGHT


WHITE and breathless he leant against the bulwark glowering at the
Brazilian, who had come between him and the woman whose rum he had
planned.

"Now," he said, "you will tell me what you mean by this, you swine!"

"I will tell you many things that you will not like to hear," said the
captain.

A light dawned upon Digby.

"Did you give the girl that revolver?"

The Brazilian nodded.

"I desired to save you from yourself, my friend," he said. "In an hour
the gentleman Steele will be within sight of us; I can tell where he is
within a few miles. Do you wish that he should come on board and
discover that you have added something to murder that is worse than
murder?"

"That is my business," said Digby Groat, breathing so quickly that he
felt he would suffocate unless the pent-up rage in him found some vent.

"And mine," said the captain, tapping him on the chest. "I tell you, my
fine fellow, that that is my business also, for I do not intend to live
within an English gaol. It is too cold in England and I would not
survive one winter. No, my fine fellow, there is only one thing to do.
It is to run due west in the hope that we escape the observation of the
airship man; if we do not, then we are--" He snapped his fingers.

"Do as you like," said Digby, and turning abruptly walked down to his
cabin.

He was beaten, and the end was near. He took from a drawer a small
bottle of colourless liquid, and emptied its contents into a glass. This
he placed in a rack conveniently to his hand. The effect would not be
violent. One gulp, and he would pass to sleep and there the matter would
end for him. That was a comforting thought to Digby Groat.

If they escaped--! His mind turned to Eunice. She could wait; perhaps
they would dodge through all these guards that the police had put, and
they would reach that land for which he yearned. He could not expect the
captain, after receiving the wireless messages of warning, to take the
risks. He was playing for safety, thought Digby, and did not wholly
disapprove of the man's attitude.

When they were on the high seas away from the ocean traffic, the little
Brazilian would change his attitude, and then--Digby nodded. The captain
was wise; it would have been madness on his part to force the issue so
soon.

Eunice could not get away; they were moving in the same direction to a
common destination, and there were weeks, hot and sunny weeks, when they
could sit under the awning on this beautiful yacht and talk. He would be
rational and drop that cave-man method of wooing. A week's proximity and
freedom from restraint might make all the difference in the world,
if--There was a big if, he recognized. Steele would not rest until he
had found him, but by that time Eunice might be a complacent partner.

He felt a little more cheerful, locked away the glass and its contents
in a cupboard, and strolled up to the deck. He saw the ship now for the
first time in daylight, and it was a model of what a yacht should be.
The deck was snowy white; every piece of brass-work glittered, the
coiled sheets looked to have been dipped in chalk, and under that
identical awning great basket chairs awaited him invitingly.

He glanced round the horizon; there was no ship in sight. The sea
sparkled in the rays of the sun, and over the white wake of the steamer
lay a deep black pall of smoke, for the Pealigo was racing forward at
twenty-two knots an hour. The captain, at any rate, was not playing him
false. He was heading west, judged Digby.

Far away on the right was an irregular purple strip, the line of the
Irish coast; the only traffic they would meet now, he considered, was
the western-bound steamers on the New York route. But the only sign of a
steamer was a blob of smoke on the far-off eastern horizon.

The chairs invited him, and he sat down and stretched his legs
luxuriously.

Yes, this was a better plan, he thought, and as his mind turned again to
Eunice, she appeared at the head of the companion-way. At first she did
not see him, and walking to the rail, seemed to be breathing in the
beauties of the morning.

How exquisite she looked! He did not remember seeing a woman who held
herself as she did. The virginal purity of her face, the glory of her
colouring, the svelte woman figure of her--they were worth waiting for,
he told himself again.

She turned her head and saw him and made a movement as though she were
going back to her cabin, but he beckoned to her, and to his surprise,
she walked slowly toward him.

"Don't get up," she said coldly. "I can find a chair myself. I want to
speak to you, Mr. Groat."

"You want to speak to me," he said in amazement, and she nodded.

"I have been thinking that perhaps I can induce you to turn this yacht
about and land me in England."

"Oh, you have, have you?" he said sharply. "What inducement can you
offer other than your gracious self?"

"Money," she answered. "I do not know by what miracle it has happened,
but I believe I am an heiress, and worth"--she hesitated--"a great
deal of money. If that is the case, Mr. Groat, you are poor."

"I'm not exactly a pauper," he said, apparently amused. "What are you
offering me?"

"I'm offering you half my fortune to take me back to England," she said.

"And what would you do with the other half of your fortune?" he mocked
her. "Save me from the gallows? No, no, my young friend, I have
committed myself too deeply to make your plan even feasible. I'm not
going to bother you again, and I promise you I will wait until we have
reached our destination before I ask you to share my lot. I appreciate
your offer and I dare say it is an honest one," he went on, "but I have
gone too far literally and figuratively to turn back. You hate me now,
but that feeling will change."

"It will never change," she said as she rose. "But I see that I am
wasting my time with you," and with a little nod, she would have gone
had he not caught her hand and drawn her back.

"You love somebody else, I suppose?"

"That is an impertinence," she said. "You have no right to question me."

"I am not questioning you, I am merely making a statement which is
beyond dispute. You love somebody else, and that somebody is Jim
Steele." He leant forward. "You can make up your mind for this, that
sooner than give you to Jim Steele, I will kill you. Is that plain?"

"It is the kindest thing you have said," she smiled contemptuously as
she rose.



CHAPTER FORTY-NINE


A LITTLE smudge of smoke far away to the south, sent Jim Steele racing
away on a fool's errand, for the ship proved to be nothing more
interesting than a fruit-boat which had ignored his wireless inquiry
because the only man who operated the instrument was asleep in his bunk.
Jim saw the character of the ship when he was within two miles of it,
and banked over, cutting a diagonal course north-west.

Once or twice he glanced back at his "passenger," but Inspector Maynard
was thoroughly at home and apparently comfortable.

Jim was growing anxious. At the longest he could not keep in the air for
more than four hours, and two of those precious hours were already gone.
He must leave himself sufficient "juice" to make the land and this new
zigzag must not occupy more than half an hour.

He had purposely taken the machine to a great height to enlarge his
field of vision, and that meant a still further burden upon his limited
supply of petrol.

He was almost despairing when he saw in the far distance a tiny white
arrow of foam--the ship whose wake it was he could not see. His hand
strayed to the key of his little wireless and he sent a message
quivering through the ether. There was no response. He waited a minute
and again the key clattered and clicked. Again a silence and he flashed
an angry message. Then through his ear-pieces he heard a shrill wail of
sound--the steamer was responding.

"What ship is that?"

He waited, never doubting that he would learn it was some small
merchant vessel. There was a whine, and then:

"P-E-A-L-I-G-O," was the reply.


Digby had gone forward to see what the men were doing who were swung
over the side. He was delighted to discover that they were painting out
the word Pealigo and were substituting Malaga. He went up to the captain
in his most amiable mood.

"That is a good thought of yours," he said, "changing the name, I mean."

The captain nodded.

"By your orders, of course," he said.

"Of course," smiled Digby, "by my orders."

All the time he was standing there chatting to the Brazilian he noticed
that the man constantly turned his eyes to the north, scanning the sky.

"You don't think that the aeroplane will come so far out, do you? How
far are we from the coast?"

"We are a hundred and twelve miles from the English coast," said the
skipper, "and that isn't any great distance for a seaplane."

Digby with unusual joviality slapped him on the back.

"You are getting nervous," he said. "He won't come now."

A man had come on to the bridge whom Digby recognized as the wireless
operator. He handed a message to the captain, and he saw the captain's
face change.

"What is it?" he asked quickly.

Without a word the man handed the written slip.

"Ship heading south, send me your name and number."

"Who is it from?" asked Digby, startled at this voice from nowhere.

The captain, supporting his telescope against a stanchion, scanned the
northern skies.

"I see nothing," he said with a frown. "Possibly it came from one of the
land stations; there is no ship in sight."

"Let us ask him who he is," said Digby.

The three went back to the wireless room and the operator adjusted his
ear-pieces. Presently he began writing, after a glance up at the
captain, and Digby watched fascinated the movements of the pencil.

"Heave to. I am coming aboard you."

The captain went out on the deck and again made a careful examination of
the sky.

"I can't understand it," he said.

"The signal was close, senhor captain--it was less than three miles
away," broke in the operator.

The captain rubbed his nose.

"I had better stop," he said.

"You'll do nothing of the kind," stormed Digby.

"You'll go on until I tell you to stop."

They returned to the bridge, and the captain stood with one hand on the
telegraph, undecided.

And then right ahead of them, less than half a mile away, something fell
into the water with a splash.

"What was that?" said Digby.

He was answered immediately. From the place where the splashing had
occurred arose a great mass of billowing smoke which sped along the sea,
presenting an impenetrable veil. Smoke was rising from the sea to their
right, and the captain, shading his eyes, looked up. Directly over them
it seemed was a silvery shape, so small as to be almost invisible if the
sun had not caught the wing-tips and painted them silver.

"This, my friend," said the captain, "is where many things happen." He
jerked over the telegraph to stop.

"What is it?" asked Digby.

"It was a smoke-bomb, and I prefer a smoke-bomb half a mile away to a
real bomb on my beautiful ship," said the captain.

For a moment Digby stared at him, and then with a scream of rage he
sprang at the telegraph and thrust it over to full-ahead. Immediately he
was seized from behind by two sailors, and the captain brought the
telegraph back to its original position.

"You will signal to the senhor aviator, to whom you have already told
the name of the ship, if you have obeyed my orders," he said to the
operator, "and say that I have put Mr. Digby Groat in irons!"

And five minutes later this statement was nearly true.

Down from the blue dropped that silvery dragon-fly, first sweeping round
the stationary vessel in great circles until it settled like a bird upon
the water close to the yacht's side.

The captain had already lowered a boat, and whilst they were fixing the
shackles on a man who was behaving like a raving madman in his cabin
below, Jim Steele came lightly up the side of the ship and followed the
captain down the companion-way.

Above the rumble of the yacht's machinery Eunice had heard the faint
buzz of the descending seaplane, but had been unable to distinguish it
until the yacht stopped, then she heard it plainly enough and ran to the
porthole, pulling aside the silk curtain.

Yes, there it was, a buzzing insect of a thing, that presently passed
out of sight on the other side. What did it mean? What did it mean, she
wondered. Was it--and then the door flew open and a man stood there. He
was without collar or waistcoat, his hair was rumpled, his face
bleeding, and one link of a steel handcuff was fastened about his wrist.
It was Digby Groat, and his face was the face of a devil.

She shrank back against the bed as he came stealthily toward her, the
light of madness in his eyes, and then somebody else came in, and he
swung round to meet the cold level scrutiny of Jim Steele.

With a yell like a wild beast, Digby sprang at the man he hated, but the
whirling steel of the manacle upon his hand never struck home. Twice Jim
hit him, and he fell an inert heap on the ground. In another second
Eunice was in her lover's arms, sobbing her joy upon the breast of his
leather jacket.



THE END




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