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Title: The Forger (1927)
Author: Edgar Wallace
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Language:  English
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Title: The Forger (1927)
Author: Edgar Wallace




TO DENNIS NEILSON TERRY



CHAPTER I


THE BIG consulting-room at 903, Harley Street differed as much from its
kind as Mr. Cheyne Wells differed from the average consultant.

It was something between a drawing-room and the kind of a library which a
lover of good books gathers together piecemeal as opportunity presents.
There was comfort in the worn, but not too worn, furniture, in the deep,
leather-covered settee drawn up before the red fire. Two walls were
filled with shelves wedged with oddly bound, oddly sized volumes; there
were books on the table, a newspaper dropped by a careless hand on the
floor, but nothing of the apparatus of medicine--not so much as a
microscope or test tube.

In one corner of the room, near the window where yellow sunlight was
pouring in, was a polished door; beyond that a white-tiled bathroom
without a bath but with many glass shelves and glass-topped table. You
could have your fill of queer mechanisms there, and your nostrils
offended by pungent antiseptics. There were cupboards, carefully locked,
with rows and rows of bottles, and steel and glass cabinets full of
little culture dishes. But though Peter Clifton had been a constant
visitor for years, he had never seen that door opened.

He was sitting now on an arm of one of the big chairs, his fine head
screwed round so that he could see the street, though he had no interest
in the big car which stood at the kerb, or the upper floors of the houses
on the opposite side of the road which filled his vision. But he was a
sensitive man, with a horror of emotional display, and just then he did
not wish any man--even Cheyne Wells--to see his face.

Presently he jerked back his head and met the dark eyes of the man who
straddled before the fireplace, a cigarette drooping from his lips.

Mr. Wells was rather thin, and this gave the illusion of height which his
inches did not justify. The dark, saturnine face with its neat black
moustache was almost sinister in repose: when he smiled, the whole
character of his face changed, and he was smiling now.

Peter heaved a deep sigh and stretched his six feet of bone and muscle.

"It was a good day for me when I mistook you for a dentist!" he said.

There was a nervous tension in his laugh which Mr. Donald Cheyne Wells did
not fail to note.

"My good chap"--he shook his head--"it was a double-sided benefit, for
you have been the most foolishly generous patient I have ever had. And I
bless the telephone authorities that they made 903, Harley Street the
habitation of a gentleman who left the week before I moved in."

Again the other laughed.

"You even cured the old molar!" he said.

The smile left the surgeon's face.

"I have cured nothing else--except your misgivings. The real assurance on
which your faith must rest is Sir William Clewers's. I would not have
dared to be so definite as he; even now I tell you that although the big
danger is wiped out you are liable to the attacks I spoke about. I did
not think it was worth while discussing that possibility with Sir
William, but you may have another consultation if you wish?"

Peter shook his head emphatically.

"In future I am making long detours to avoid Harley Street," he said, and
added hastily: "That's pretty ungracious-"

But the surgeon waved his agreement.

"You'd be a fool if you didn't," he said, and then, turning the subject
abruptly: "What time is this interesting ceremony?"

He saw a frown gather for an instant on the broad forehead of his
patient. It was a surprising expression to observe on the face of a very
rich and a very good-looking young man who was to marry the most
beautiful girl Cheyne Wells had seen in his life, yet the consultant was
not wholly surprised.

"Er--twelve-thirty. You'll be there, of course? The reception is at the
Ritz and we go on to Longford Manor. I thought Jane would have preferred
the Continent--but she seems rather keen on Longford."

There was no sound for a little while except the soft tick of the Swiss
clock on the mantelpiece. Then: "Why the frown?" asked Wells, watching
his patient's face intently.

Peter threw out his arms in a gesture of uncertainty. "The Lord
knows--really. Only...it has been such a queer courtship...with this
thing hanging over my head. And sometimes Jane is rather--how shall I put
it?--'cold' isn't exactly the word--neither is 'indifferent.’
‘Impregnable’--that's the word. One can't get into her mind. She becomes a
stranger, and that terrifies me. The whole thing started on the wrong
note--we haven't kept step. I'll go on mixing my metaphors till I can get
a little lucid." The smile was twitching the corner of Cheyne Wells's
lips.

"I introduced you--here beginneth the first wrong note!" he said. "And--"

"Don't be a silly ass--that was the rightest thing you ever did. Donald,
I adore Jane! There is nothing in the world I wouldn't do for her. She
terrifies me because I feel that way and because I know she doesn't. And
there is no reason why she should--that's my bit of comfort. I sort of
burst into that quiet home and made myself an infernal nuisance--I almost
bullied her into an engagement that wasn't an engagement--"

His teeth came together, and again that strained, worried look.

"Donald, I bought her," he said quietly, and this time the consultant
laughed aloud.

"You're too imaginative, my friend--how could you buy her? Stuff!"

But Peter shook his head.

"Of course, I didn't say, 'I want your daughter--I'll give a hundred
thousand pounds for her'; I'd have been chucked out if I had. But when,
like a blundering left-handed oaf, I cornered Leith in his study and
blurted out that I would settle that sum if I married...and I'd only seen
Jane twice! I have an idea that broke down opposition...I'm not sure...I
feel rather rotten about it. Do you know that I've never kissed Jane?"

"I should start today," said the other dryly. "A girl who is going to be
married the day after tomorrow expects some sort of demonstration."

Peter ran his fingers through his untidy brown hair.

"It's wrong, isn't it?" he asked. "It is my fault, of course...once I got
panic-stricken--I wondered if she had heard something about me. You know
what I mean. Or whether there was some arrangement which I upset--Hale,
for example."

"Why should she--"

There was a soft tap on the door of the consulting-room.

"That is my wife," said Wells. "Do you mind her coming in, or do you want
to talk?"

"I've talked enough," said Peter ruefully.

He went towards the slim, youthful woman who came in. Marjorie Wells was
thirty-five and looked ten years younger, though darker than her husband.

"They told me you were here," she said with a quick flash of teeth. "Hail
to the bridegroom! And, by the way, I saw the bride this morning, looking
conventionally radiant--with the wrong man!"

If she saw the quick sidelong glance her husband shot in her direction,
she gave no evidence. There was a thread of malice--in the most innocent
of Marjorie's comments; this was a veritable rope.

He it was who took up the challenge.

"The wrong man--not Basil Hale by any chance?"

He saw Peter's grey, questioning eyes turned in Marjorie's direction. He
winced rather easily, did this young man who had once been deputy sheriff
of Gwelo and had hanged L'chwe, the rebel chief, out of hand.

"It was Basil, of course--poor old Basil! I'm sure he feels rotten--"

"Why should he?"

When Cheyne Wells used a voice that had the hard tinkle of metal in it,
his wife became meek and penitent.

"I am a mischievous gossip, aren't I? I'm so sorry, Peter."

He was taking up his hat and was smiling as at some secret joke.

"Yes--you are," he said grimly. "You give me more heart jumps than any
woman I know. Come and dine tomorrow night, Wells."

The surgeon nodded. "It will have to be a bachelor dinner," he said
significantly. "I can't have you made miserable the night before your
wedding."

He walked with Peter to the door and stood on the top step until the
Rolls had disappeared into Wigmore Street. Then he came back to the
consulting-room.

"What's the matter with Peter really?--he looks healthy enough."

She asked the question off-handedly, as though the repetition of Peter's
visits had only just dawned on her.

"I have told you half a dozen times, Marjorie, that I do not discuss my
patients--even in my sleep. And, Marjorie," as, with a petulant twist of
one shoulder, she turned towards the door, "don't be--er--difficult about
Peter--do you understand...Well, what is it?"

A maid was at the open door. A small sealed envelope lay on the silver
plate she carried. It was unaddressed, but he broke the flap and took out
a card. This he studied.

"All right, show Mr. Rouper in, please. You can clear." This to his wife.
"I'll talk to you later about Peter--and other things."

She was out of the room before he had finished.

The man who was ushered in was tall and broad-shouldered; what hair he
had was grey, but he carried himself like a soldier. Cheyne Wells shut
the door and pointed the visitor to a chair.

"Sit down, Inspector."

Chief Inspector Moses Rouper put his Derby hat carefully on the table,
peeled his brown leather gloves and felt anxiously in the inside pocket
of his greatcoat. When he had brought to light a fat leather wallet he
seated himself.

"Sorry to bother you, Doctor," he began. "I know that you're a busy man,
but I had to see you."

Mr. Wells waited, expectant but wondering.

"Here we are." The inspector fished out a folded white paper and spread
it on the table. "A fifty-pound note. We shouldn't have been able to
trace it only your name is stamped on the back." He fixed pince-nez and
read: "'D. Cheyne Wells, MRCS, 903, Harley Street.’”

He passed the note to the consultant, who turned it over and saw the
faded purple stamp mark.

"Yes," he said, "that is my stamp--I use it for a variety of purposes,
though I can't remember stamping this note."

"Do you remember passing the note--or where it came from?"

Cheyne Wells was thinking.

"Yes--fifties are an unusual denomination--I had that from a patient, Mr
Peter Clifton. I passed it at Kempton Park races--I like to bet
occasionally, and I hate bookmakers' accounts,"

The detective smiled genially. "And you lost it?"

Mr. Wells shook his head with a laugh. "As a matter of fact, I won--a
couple of hundred." Rouper was writing rapidly on the back of an
envelope. "Mr. Peter Clifton. I think I know the gentleman," he said.
"He's got a flat in Carlton House Terrace."

"But what is the mystery?" asked Wells, and added good humouredly:
"You're not suggesting that he stole it?"

The inspector finished his writing before he spoke. "No, sir. But that
note is a forgery. It's the Clever One's worst job! The paper gave him
away."

There was no need to seek information about the Clever One. For five
years his unauthorized intrusions into the currency field had agitated a
world of bankers. So long had he been active that nobody quite remembered
who had named him so. (In point of fact it had been a police constable in
the course of his evidence against one of the Clever One's agents.)

"He's never tackled English notes before," said Rouper. "He started on
the Bank of Africa, then he switched off to the Swiss Federal, then he
had a cut at the US hundred-dollar bills, then he came back to the Bank
of France. We thought he was taking up the United States again--we traced
one bill in Paris, and it was a bit of a startler to find he'd gone all
unpatriotic!" He laughed wheezily and coughed.

"You haven't lost your money," he assured the worried surgeon. "The Bank
has met the note, and now I want to meet the man who forged it!"

Wells opened a small wall safe and took out a book. "I'll make absolutely
sure," he said, and turned the leaves quickly. After a while he stopped.
"Here it is--Mr. Peter Clifton, £52 10s.--cash. He never paid me by
cheque."

"Number?"

Mr. Wells shook his head. "No, I didn't take the number. I never do. It
would be rather like hard work. Most of the people who consult me pay in
cash."

The detective ran his eye down the page. "That would be about the date,"
he nodded, and, drawing a small brown book from his pocket, thumbed the
leaves. "Yes, Kempton was the same day. Thank you. Doctor." Him also
Cheyne Wells saw to the door. When he came back there was a thoughtful
frown on his face--and it was not the forgery which concerned him. If
there was one thing more certain than another, it was that he had not
stamped his name on the back of that note. Who had? And what was the
object?



CHAPTER 2


"HAVE YOU seen Peter today?"

John Leith looked up from his evening newspaper as the question followed
on chance thought.

"No, Daddy."

Mr. Leith resumed his study of the day's news. He was a hearty man, with a
long beard that had once been golden and now was completely grey.

The walls of the lofty room in which they sat would have proclaimed his
calling even had not the long windows said “studio.” Every inch of wall
space was covered with his landscapes, his studies, his copies of the
great masters. It was his wont to confess plaintively that comfortable
circumstances had ruined him as an artist. After a while he put down his
paper and came to this favourite topic of his.

"Without the spur of poverty a man is just a loafer after his fancies. It
is when a man has to paint what the public wants that he growls himself
to greatness. All the masters did their best work to order--Murillo,
Leonardo, Bellini, Michaelangelo--chapel-hacks every one of 'em! Greuze
painting like the devil to keep his extravagant virago of a wife supplied
with money; Morland and his public-house signs; Gainsborough with his
duchesses--when an artist can afford to choose his own subjects he's
finished!"

But she was not interested in artists. Her legs doubled under her, she
reclined over the bulbous end of a settee, her face in her hands, her
grave eyes fixed on the one being in the world she loved without
reservations.

"We are awfully well off, aren't we, Daddy?"

He pursed his bearded lips.

"Tolerably, my dear--"

"Then, why must I marry Peter? I know that he is hideously rich--and I
really think I am fond of him, though there is a look on his face
sometimes that scares me...and I do think I could be much fonder of him,
if--well, if there wasn't such a violent hurry."

He reached over lazily and caught her hand. "My dear--I wish it. I want
to see you settled."

She looked at him, startled. "You're not ill. Daddy--?"

His loud laugh was a reassuring answer. "No, I'm not ill," he said good
naturedly. "I'm keeping nothing from you. Only I want to see you married.
He's a good fellow, and, as you say, enormously rich."

"Where did he make his money?" She had asked this question before. "He
never speaks about his relations--he couldn't inherit an enormous fortune
unless everybody knew about it. Basil says--"

"Basil says a lot that Basil shouldn't say." Mr. Leith's voice was quiet,
but she gathered that at the moment Basil was unpopular. "You haven't
heard from Peter, eh?"

"Yes--I've heard from him. He telephoned. Some police officer has been to
his house about a fifty-pound note that was forged, and it had Donald
Wells's name stamped on it, and Peter was quite agitated--you know how his
voice goes, all funny and high?"

"A forged fifty-pound note--there's some reference here to the fellow they
call the Clever One." Mr. Leith had returned to his journal. He both read
aloud and pursued his private thoughts. "Rascal! They'll catch him...um,
about Peter. Clever chap, Peter. He's cursed with money, too--he might be
as great as Zohn. Really, Peter's etchings are marvellous. Do you
remember those beauties he did for you--"

"And which you lost," she accused, and he grumbled, in his middle-aged
way, about his failing memory..

"Where the deuce I left them I can't think--I was going somewhere and I
put them in my pocket--left them in the train, I'll swear."

She let him go on, her interest being completely self-centred.

"And, talking of things one loses," she nodded, "Daddy, don't you realize
that I shall be married in forty-eight hours! And I don't want to be a
bit--isn't it awful?"

The bearded man put down his newspaper and, leaning over, nicked open a
cigar box and took the first cigar that came. He bit off the end and lit
it almost simultaneously. "There are nine and seventy cardinal illusions
of youth." He pulled strongly at the cigar. "Maybe there are two or three
more. But an important one is that all brides-to-be are deliriously happy
and impatient for the last forty-eight hours to pass. That all brides are
confident of the future, that no brides, or only a miserable few, have
any serious misgivings about the future."

He was looking at her over his glasses.

"They do, my dear--the nice ones. The young people who love each other
with equal desperation are the exceptions."

"In fact the position is horribly normal?" She nodded agreement to this
possibility. "Well, it--it isn't pleasant. I have a feeling that I ought
to say something--tabulate my emotions and inhibitions and have them
witnessed before a commissioner of oaths. In other words, I want to be
fair to Peter, and I'm not being."

She looked round as the door handle turned, and slid down to a more
graceful pose. Mr. Leith raised his head to stare at the visitor.

"I want to see you, Basil," he said.

"Sounds like a row--what have I done?"

There were times when Jane decided that she loathed Basil: usually, such
is the contrariness of women, these were the occasions when Basil Hale
made a very special effort to please her. He had a round, fresh face; his
hair was reddish and he smiled all the time. There was a period in their
acquaintance when his assurance was a source of irritation to Jane Leith,
an irritation in which was a spice of uneasiness. Instinctively she knew
that there were no boundaries to his audacity, that he was cast in the
mould of the brigand who takes what he wants, asks no man's permission
and fears no man's resentment. He was as unlike her mental picture of a
Lothario as any man could be. Handsome he was not; he was inclined to
chubbiness; but his vitality was immeasurable. He drew something from
every man and woman who fell under its spell, and left them at the end
inert and exhausted.

He stood now by the door, a delighted grin on his glowing face, in no
wise abashed by the ominous note in her father's voice or the disapproval
in her eye. From his burnished head to the tip of his shiny shoes he was
resplendent. There was a glittering diamond point in the onyx buttons of
his white waistcoat, two larger scintillations from his shirt; even the
gardenia in the buttonhole of his dress coat had an ultra-exotic quality.

"What's the trouble and why the chilliness? I'm going to the Arts' Dance.
What about it, Jane?"

"Jane is not going to any dance, artistic or otherwise. I want a few
words with you, Basil."

Leith got up from his chair and nodded to his study, which opened from
the studio.

"O Lord! You're not going to rag me, are you?" Basil had a gurgling
little giggle of a laugh. "Stop him, Jane! I'll stand anything if you'll
come and dance. Dash up and climb into something simple an' expensive.
Jane, you look divine tonight--you do, by Heaven! It's a desecration
marrying that dull monument of virtue--"

"Hale!"

When Mr. Leith called him by his surname, Basil seldom argued. As the
study door closed on them, Jane heard the purr of the front door bell and
crossed quickly to the large window. A big Rolls stood in Avenue Road
before the door. Was it dismay she felt, apprehension? For some reason
which was not to be analysed she was irritated. She could not allow
herself to believe this--nor could she wholly hide from realization the
devastating discovery. The man to whom she would be married in
forty-eight hours bored her already!

She tried hard to simulate pleasure at seeing him, gave a warmth to her
greeting that surprised and pleased him. She hated herself for the
deception. He wore his shabbiest suit and was unusually nervous and
tongue-tied. She had not sufficient self-conceit to realize that he had a
palpable excuse.

When Cheyne Wells had said that she was the most beautiful woman in
London, he had been daring rather than extravagant. She had all that
regular features and a faultless skin could lend to natural charm of
expression and grace of figure. But there was something that had neither
form nor shape, an elusive glory which dwelt somewhere behind the grey
eyes--a visible fragrance like a tropic dawn, like daffodils growing on a
field sloping to the sea.

"I didn't expect you."

It sounded terribly trite.

"No"--he was a little hoarse. "I didn't expect to come. But I've been
thinking out--things. You know the sort of thing--"

With Peter, tautology was the forerunner of incoherence.

"What things?"

"You, mostly. I'm afraid I've been rather a--what shall I say--you know--"

She knew, but would not help him. She found an ugly satisfaction in her
cruelty.

"Well--you and everything. Whether it is the game to marry you when you
aren't frantically keen I mean--well, you're not, are you?"

For one wild moment she was urged to tell him the truth, tempering the
blow with protestations of her friendship.

"You haven't come to break it off, have you, Peter?"

What a liar she was! She was aghast at the duplicity of the concern in
her voice.

"Er--no. I thought I'd like you to say--you know?"

"You'd like me to break it off?"

Then the danger of this drift came to her. In consternation she realized
that the return of her father would precipitate this cloudy mixture of
hint and half-dissolved intention into a definite separation.

"Don't be silly. Of course I wouldn't dream of doing anything so--" She
paused here for a word, rejected “absurd” as ill-fitting. Happily he
filled the gap. If a large, relieved sigh can fill a gap.

"Sorry--I'm rather worried tonight. A fellow from Scotland Yard has been
to see me. I told you that. I have a sneaking admiration for Scotland
Yard--I was in the Rhodesian Police when I was a kid."

"Did you find a gold mine in Rhodesia?"

She smiled the question, but there was purpose in it.

His confusion dumbfounded her.

"No. I--er--inherited it from--from my father."

She could have sworn that the hand that went up to his face was shaking;
he seemed to realize that his agitation needed explaining.

"How abruptly you asked that question! You made me feel as if I had
stolen the money!"

Her steady eyes were fixed on his.

"I didn't even ask you about money--I was joking! I don't even know
whether one does find gold mines in Rhodesia."

She was lying at the rate of one every few seconds, she noted, through
the awkward silence which followed.

He was the type of man (she decided) that would make most girls envious
of her fortune. She would give him full points for his looks--ordinarily
that kind of face fascinated her. The straight nose and firm chin and the
big, rather deep-set eyes. A good figure too--an athlete of a man. If he
would only talk! If he had the aplomb of Basil or the worldliness of
Donald Wells!

There he sat, the most obviously ill-at-ease visitor that had ever come
to the studios, literally twiddling his fingers and trying, in his
disjointed way, to make conversation about the weather and etching.

John Leith led the way out of his study, and a somewhat chastened Basil
followed. Not so chastened that he could not wink at Jane as he caught
her eye. Nor completely squashed either.

"I say, honestly, Jane--what about this last spinster fling? Here's the
Arts' Ball calling, and it won't take you a minute to dress. Old Peter
won't mind. I'll bet he wants to talk business."

She looked expectantly at Peter. His brows had met: for the first time
since their acquaintance began. That decided her.

"I think I'll go, Daddy," she said.

Mr. Leith shrugged his shoulders. When Jane came down, a beautiful,
ethereal thing in green, Peter had gone.

Somehow she did not enjoy the evening.



CHAPTER 3


WHEN PETER stepped out of his car before St. George's he faced fifty
cameras. A dozen urgent voices begged him to stand still--there was a
fierce chattering of falling shutters.

"Thank you, Mr. Clifton," said a newspaper photographer.

"Thank you," said Peter mechanically. What on earth brought all these
people here? Every pew filled; throughout the church the sickly perfume
of flowers. Strangers, most of them--idle folk lured by curiosity to see
two millions of money marry beauty. Idle, open-mouthed women staring at
him and nudging one another--he saw his valet in one pew and his butler
and wife in another. Forby smiled respectfully, in his face a look of sad
uncertainty. Possibly he would not “suit”the new madame. It was rather
dreadful to have so many lives dependent on one. Blossoms were massed
along the chancel rail, and flowers on the altar, and lighted candles.
His gloved hands twiddled with the rim of his hat.

"Have you got the ring?"

"Eh?"

He felt in his waistcoat pocket. Yes, it was there. Jane had begun by
expressing her indifference to gold or platinum, and had finished by
distinctly favouring platinum.

Marjorie Wells smiled at him from a favoured front pew. She looked
unusually haggard, and there was no geniality in her smile. Perhaps she
was continuing, mutely, her protest against Donald acting as best man.
She had become a stickler for custom. It was unlucky to have a married
best man; it was absurd. Surely Peter had a friend. His lawyer? Peter's
lawyer was also a benedict--lawyers marry young.

Marjorie Cheyne Wells had been crying! He made the discovery when she
turned full face to him, and it came as a shock. Marjorie was no
sentimentalist.

"For Heaven's sake, how long do we wait?" he asked fretfully.

Donald Wells looked at his watch.

"You've been here just under fifty seconds. Nervous?"

"A bit, yes. I wish I had seen Jane yesterday--I was rather stuffy about
her going out to dance with Hale--I wanted to apologize."

Wells's thin lips were pressed tighter. Jane should have been spanked, he
thought. She had set the town talking--supping tete a tete with Basil Hale
two nights before her marriage.

A stir and a craning of necks. The choir was waddling down to meet the
bride. “Waddle”--that was the word for it, decided Peter. Like a double
rank of white ducks...

She was here! The organ trembled, and one clear note led the sweet voices
of boys. Now they were coming back with greater dignity. And here was
Jane on her father's arm and mysteriously strange girls in white behind
her. He hardly knew one of them--certainly did not recognize Jane, though
he stared and stared till Wells caught his sleeve and placed him...

Kneeling was an aching business, though in Jane it seemed no effort.
Would her hand be cold when he took it--no, it was blood-warm and soft: to
touch it was to receive a caress.

She never looked at him once; her voice was clear when she answered the
priest's demands--but she never looked at Peter--did not take his arm as
they walked to the vestry. He was so dazed that he had to think before he
signed the register--a full half minute he kept them waiting, the pen
poised...

More snappings of cameras and a swaying mass of women surging up to the
car door. A policeman stood on the step till they were clear of the
crowd.

"Ghastly, wasn't it?" she said.

"Yes...rather...I don't realize."

They were alone, but no more alone than when he had driven her back from
Lord's or a theatre. And there was no splendour in this very loneliness.

"I'll be awfully good to you," he blurted out.

It was just the banality he would utter. Jane drew into the corner of the
car, for the first time in her life self-conscious.

Thank Heaven she had managed at the eleventh hour to change the venue of
the reception from the hotel to the house in Avenue Road! It had involved
the dispatch of hundreds of telegrams, and fewer people would come--which
was an advantage.

In her own room she sat down to take stock. Mainly she was concerned
about herself, but now and again a thought of Peter crossed her mind and
her maid saw her face shadow.

"You ought to go down soon, madame."

Madame! She was Mrs. Peter Clifton. There was no time to reflect on the
phenomenon.

"Porter, who did the flowers for the house, said Mr. Clifton paid him with
a bad five-pound note, miss--ma'am. I told Porter it would be all right--"

"Bad five-pound note? A forgery?" Jane's first sensation was one of
amusement.

"Yes, miss. He took it to the post office and they said: 'Where did you
get it?' and all that--and Porter says he can't afford to lose all that
money."

A bad five-pound note! How odd! And yesterday there was trouble about a
fifty-pound note. Jane was not amused any longer.

She opened a drawer of her writing table, took out her bag and opened it.

"Here is another five pounds--tell Porter not to be silly--of course he
will lose nothing. Mr. Clifton must have had these forgeries passed on
him."

She went downstairs, so intent upon the forged note that she had to be
shepherded to the studio. This was not a moment to discuss the matter
with Peter. She found it very difficult to talk to him at all...

Free of everything at last, thank God--of white charmeuse and veil and the
faint smelling bouquet, free of the slavery of greeting unimportant
people with a smile that must approximate to happiness.

Basil Hale was almost the last to approach, and she saw an imp in his
dancing eyes.

"I've got orders not to annoy or depress you," he said, and whilst he
spoke he was shaking hands with Peter, at whom he did not look. "Happy
life to you, Jane, and all that sort of thing, and come back soon and
make matches for all your friends--ow!"

His hand was still resting in Peter's--Peter had given it a sudden and
excruciating grip.

"Congratulate me!" he said coolly.

It was the first glimpse she had of another Peter.

"By Gad--you've got a grip on you!" complained Basil.

That was the one distinct memory she carried away from the babel and the
white rosettes and silver confetti.

As the car went swiftly and noiselessly across Hampstead Heath she
brushed the last silver anchor from her skirt and looked round at her
husband. His arm was in the rest loop, his eyes fixed thoughtfully on the
road ahead. She tried to ask him if he was happy, but she could not bring
her tongue to this supreme hypocrisy. And then she remembered the
five-pound note. She thought he hadn't heard her, and told him again.

"Porter? Yes, I gave him a fiver. Bad, was it? How careless!"

“Careless” was not exactly the word she expected. She discovered that she
badly wanted him to talk--she was living for the present: the future was
not to be contemplated sanely.

"Longford Manor was your idea, Jane," he said in surprise.

"Was it?" Jane could be very provocative.

"I thought Paris or--"

"Don't say 'Como,’” she breathed. She felt that if he said “Como” she
would scream.

He went red.

"I don't know Como," he said, a little stiffly. "But whatever I should
have said it would not have been Longford Manor. I thought you didn't
like the place when you saw it."

"Is it your own house?" She evaded the challenge.

"No--I've hired it three months at a time when I got sick of town. The
owner lives permanently abroad and one can always get it. The grounds are
nice and its loneliness rather appealed to me."

"It shall appeal to me too," she said stoutly, and went on: "Don't mind
if I'm rather nervy today--getting married is a nervy business. Did you
see Marjorie? That woman is in love with you, Peter." He was too
astonished to protest. "I know. She looked at me with a basilisk eye.
Isn't that funny?"

"I'll swear you're mistaken," he said, almost violently.

"Perhaps I am--about you. But she loathes me."

"But why?"

Jane shook her head. They had traversed the mean streets of Tottenham and
were on the Epping road. He returned to the question of honeymoon--she
would rather have talked about Marjorie Cheyne Wells.

"We could go abroad after," he suggested. "New York--Long Island or
somewhere. It is glorious on the Sound. I know quite a lot of people in
the States. I went over there last year with Bourke--he's the big fellow
at Scotland Yard."

He had been many times in America--pleasure trips to kill ennui really.
She found herself wondering why Peter sought out detectives and made them
his friends.

There was little more said on that wearisome journey. With a fluttering
at her heart she saw from the crest of the hill above Newport the
chimneys of Longford Manor in the distance. Before she could quite
collect her thoughts and order them, the car had passed the lodge gates
and was slowing before the door of the house.

The two menservants were waiting in the open doorway, deaf old men who
had been in the owner's service for years. An ancient maid brought a cup
of tea to Jane in her panelled sitting-room-boudoir would have been too
pretty a name for this severe apartment.

Peter's room as well as her own opened from this chamber. He appeared at
the door as she was sipping the hot liquid.

"You've not seen the garden and the rockery?" he asked her. She was
childishly glad to get into the open air and the slanting sunlight, but
when he took her arm she was so unresponsive that after a while he let it
fall awkwardly.

Time did not pass. Every minute had to be lived through--she was wearing
with the strain of it when she went up to dress for dinner with the help
of the old maid. For one thought of Peter's she was grateful: Anna was
under the impression that the honeymoon was in its decline.

"Mr. Clifton said he'd bring you here before you went to London, ma'am.
This is a rare place for honeymoons. We often let for a month, but you're
the first lady that's ever finished her honeymoon at Longford."

For which she thanked Peter rather prettily when they were at dinner.

"Anna doesn't read the newspapers or she'd know I was a liar," he said,
and seemed in a hurry to change the subject.

They spent that interminable evening in the big library that formed one
wing of the manor house. Once or twice he tried to say something, but the
stream of thought ran into a sandy delta of incoherent words. More than
once she had an inclination to fly from the house and find some sort of
conveyance that would take her home. When he tried to talk of
housekeeping or the future, she sat tense, holding herself in.

"...You'll sign what cheques you wish--a sort of joint account, Jane.
Money is rather a horrid subject for a honeymoon, isn't it?"

"You've been awfully generous."

He was momentarily deceived into a deeper blundering.

"The settlement was nothing--the hundred thousand, I mean. Money is a
ruthless sort of weapon--I wonder sometimes whether I haven't used it a
little cruelly."

"It gives you what you want."

A little devil was in her: how could he guess that she was seeking a
respite from her panic by the most obvious method?

"It gave me to you--I mean, it made possible--"

It needed that gaucherie of his and the arm that slipped a little
awkwardly about her shoulders.

She was on her feet, looking down at him with smouldering eyes.

"It bought me--that is what you mean!"

"I meant nothing of the kind--"

"Yes, you did--money was the short cut--we comfortably placed people are
inclined to be dazzled with sums that seemed fabulous. It was easier
than--courting--that's a stupid old word, but it's expressive. You don't
think I love you, do you?"

A white face above her shook from side to side. "No. I hoped. But I don't
think so."

"Or that you have anything more in me than money can buy? A bargain's a
bargain--I'll keep to mine. I'll be your wife. I am your wife. I'm not
going to be a fool at this hour. But I don't love you. I hate being
heroic, but you can't buy that. You can kiss me if you like, but I shall
hate it--I'm sorry. I ought to have told you last night--when was it I saw
you? If you are satisfied with that--here I am!"

He was looking down at her blankly, and his face had lost all expression.

"I see," he said at last. "Well--I don't want what I paid for. I want what
you can give."

She shook her head. "That is nothing," she said.

He nodded at this. "Well, we've got--er--a month to fill in somehow," he
said.

At that second came on the outer door a knock that reverberated
thunderously through the bare stone hall. A shuffle of feet on the flags
and the rattle of chains. Peter waited, his eyes on the door. Presently
it opened.

It was Chief Inspector Rouper. "Sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Clifton."

He was terse to a point of brusqueness as he laid a small attaché-case on
the library table and snapped it open. Jane was watching in
amazement--almost forgotten was the unnerving five minutes through which
she had just passed, though she was shaking from head to foot.

Rouper pulled out a bundle of banknotes and laid them on the table.

"They were found in a suitcase that you left at Victoria parcels office
yesterday morning," he said quietly. "I should like some explanation, Mr.
Clifton."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean," said the detective, "that every one of those notes is a
forgery."



CHAPTER 4


PETER CLIFTON looked from the detective to the neatly packed bundle of
notes.

"I have never left a suitcase at Victoria," he said steadily.

"I am telling you--" began the inspector, raising his voice.

"Don't be aggressive, please." The authority in his voice made Jane open
her eyes. "I have told you that I have never left a suitcase at
Victoria."

"It had your label on," insisted Rouper, but in a milder tone.

Peter's lips parted in a ghost of a smile.

"One does not label bags containing forged notes and leave them in a
public place--I would like to have your chief constable's views on that.
And Superintendent Harvey's and a few other gentlemen's. The inference I
am to draw is that I knew those notes were forged and that I was
distributing them. The Bank of England will give you one million eight
hundred thousand reasons why I should not do anything so stupid. Have you
the suitcase?"

Rouper turned to one of the two men who stood outside the door and gave
an order, and presently he brought in a brand-new cowhide case. To the
handle dangled a printed label:

“Mr. Peter Clifton, 175, Carlton House Terrace”

"I have never seen it before," said Peter after one glance. "Would it be
suggesting that you betray official secrets if I asked you how you knew
the bag was at Victoria?"

"That is neither here nor there." Rouper, never an even-tempered man, was
ruffled. "I've come down to inquire into the circumstances. And another
thing--"

"I gave a man a forged fiver this morning, and a forged fifty was traced
to me yesterday and--"

Peter put his hand in his pocket and took out a leather notecase. He
opened this on the table and slowly extracted one by one its contents.

"That is a good twenty and so is that--this one"--he lifted the note to the
light--"is forged. The watermark is bad--you'd better take charge of it.
This note"--he fingered the fourth carefully--"is genuine, and this--but
this is a forgery; I can feel without looking."

One by one he sorted the notes.

"Did you get these from your bank?"

"Some of them--I'm rather careless about money and keep my notes in a
steel-lined drawer of my desk. When I want money I take the first that
comes to hand. When I receive money in return for a cheque, I replenish
the store."

"From the bank?" asked the detective quickly.

Peter shook his head. "I seldom go to the bank. No, from tradespeople--my
tailor, for example, cashed a cheque last week for a hundred. Whoever's
nearest."

Jane listened, puzzled, fascinated. Suppose--if he were guilty here was a
complete and baffling explanation.

Baffled, Rouper certainly was. He fell back on the bundle of notes. "You
couldn't have got these from a shop," he said triumphantly.

There was contempt in Peter's voice.

"I have told you--they are not mine. The case isn't mine. The only thing
that looks like mine is the label. An enemy hath done this."

"Have you any enemies?"

Peter smiled.

"Only you, Rouper."

The detective's face went dark with anger.

"I'm no enemy--I am surprised that a gentleman like you should say so. I'm
doing my duty."

Then, to the amazement of the listening girl, Peter shook his head. "You
have been watching me for a month--keeping me under observation, I think,
is the expression."

Anger overcame the inspector's discretion. "Have I? Then perhaps you'll
put a little more information at my disposal. Who is the lady who has
been visiting you in your flat night after night--going in by the side
door and leaving I don't know when?"

"What a horrible invention!"

Jane could hardly believe that it was she who was talking so furiously.
"Even if it were true, you have no right--"

"It is true." Peter was coolness itself. "Perfectly true. I have been
visited in my flat by a lady who has generally stayed no longer than an
hour and has left by the way she came. Her age is, I believe, sixty-five.
Her name and address I am not prepared to give--"

"A friend of yours?"

Again Peter smiled.

"Not even a friend. She is in truth one who hates me--her occupation is,
or was, a cook, and I will add she is, or was, a very bad cook. And that,
I think, is all I can tell you."

Rouper rubbed his chin irritably.

"This will have to be reported to our people," he said.

"It will be reported by me." Peter nodded to the telephone on the table.

The inspector hesitated. "Can I use that?" He half reached for the
instrument.

"No," curtly, "you cannot. There is no law which gives you the right to
use my telephone."

Rouper's surprise was almost comic.

"All right, sir. I am sorry I annoyed you. As a matter of fact, I haven't
reported this matter to the Yard--"

"Nor to the Essex police," smiled Peter. "In fact, Rouper, of all the
people in this room you are in the worst mess! You've come without a
warrant--you're on territory where you have no right except at the request
of the Chief Constable of Essex, you've brought two men with
you--unauthorized, I imagine--and you've got to ask me very kindly not to
mention this matter to headquarters."

Rouper looked at him suspiciously. "You're not a police officer of any
kind, are you?"

Peter shook his head. "Merely an intelligent observer," he said.

Then for the first time he appeared to be aware of his wife's presence.
"Jane, if you will excuse us for a moment, I would like to talk to the
inspector."

She went into the dark drawing-room and turned on the light. A big barn
of a place that smelt mustily and of earth, so that, even though the
night was warm, she shivered and switched on the electric stove that
stood in the open bricklined fireplace. The sound of voices came to her
in a low hum.

Almost, in the new interest, the supreme drama had receded into the
background. In that quarter of an hour when she had stood by the side of
her husband and heard the stupefying accusation, she had experienced
almost every human emotion. Fear amounting to terror, relief,
near-happiness as the half charge was turned away from him; contempt--when
had she felt contempt? It was with something of dismay to recall that it
was Peter's quiet contempt that she had shared. He had changed--the
nervous and tongue-tied Peter she knew had vanished and left no trace. It
was another man who faced these merciless servants of the law, fenced
with them, by inference threatened them.

Was he bluffing? Her heart sank at the thought. Suppose these two
millions of his were mythical...Yet the hundred thousand he had settled
on her was real enough. John Leith had, as it were, bitten every single
pound.

She heard the front door close, and Peter came in. She expected that he
would be smiling, but he was very serious. "The bloodhounds have gone,"
he said.

"Who is this Rouper?"

"A genuine detective. They are rather a fine lot of fellows at the
Yard--poorly paid but beyond suspicion. I suppose they make a little by
side-lines--so do we all. Now and again they get a fellow who is
gambolling with the hares when he should be snug at home in his kennel.
That's Rouper--he's all side-line."

"He is an elderly man--"

"Due to retire this year. I know Scotland Yard rather well. I have had to
consult them once or twice--no, I'm not a disguised detective masquerading
as a millionaire! I'm just--well, it pays me to keep in touch with the
Yard."

"But this man is watching you."

He chuckled at this. "I made him spiteful and then it came out. Yes, he
has been watching me."

He looked at his watch.

"You had better toddle off to bed. You had better lock your door in case
somebody leaves a few forged fivers under your pillow."

She smiled for the first time that day--genuinely.

"Longford Manor has no other surprises to offer." Jane was almost
flippant. "A family ghost, now?"

"I do not allow my family ghost to travel with me," was all he said. And
then he nodded towards the door.

In this way was Jane Clifton peremptorily dismissed on her wedding night.

She was amused as she went up the broad stairs--a little piqued, too. She
had pictured many possibilities--it was not within the scope of her
unpleasant daydreams that she should be dismissed, or that she should so
meekly obey the imperious gesture.

As she reached the landing she had a fright. It was lit by one dim globe,
and that was enclosed in an antique iron lantern that swung from the
ceiling. One foot was on the top stair when she saw a figure moving in
the shadow. Jane suppressed a scream only by sheer force of will.

"Oh, it is you, Anna!"

The aged servant came into the light.

"Yes, ma'am--I bin waiting for you."

She followed the girl into the bedroom with its big four-poster and
tapestry-covered walls. But it was bright enough when the light was
switched on.

The old lady was ready to accept credit for the efficiency of the
electric service.

"We're the only house in the neighbourhood to be lit that way," she said
proudly. "Everything's done by it--cookin', cleanin', everything."

"Does Mr. Clifton come here very often?" asked Jane as she stepped out of
her dress.

She was surprised at the rebuff which followed.

"We ain't supposed to talk about anybody's business," said Anna primly.
"That's why we keep our jobs."

"But are you Mr. Clifton's servants?"

"We belong to the 'ouse," was the cryptic reply, "an' we're let with the
'ouse."

"But the house isn't Mr. Clifton's, I know that," said the undaunted Jane.

Anna had her reply. She belonged to the house and was hired with the
house. To which she added. Jinks & Jinks done everything. Jane gathered
they were the house agents.

The bed was unexpectedly comfortable--the appointments were made for
comfort--you could extinguish all or half the lights from the bedhead. She
turned them out and snuggled down luxuriously. She was half asleep when
she remembered she had not locked the door.

She had no intention of doing anything so theatrical. She was asleep
almost before the thought ran out of her mind...

Anna looked very old in the searching light of morning.

"Good morning, ma'am."

Ma'am--of course. How funny!

Waiting till the old woman had gone out of the room, Jane slipped into
her dressing-jacket and slippers and went over to the open window. She
looked down upon a shaven lawn separated from the park by a decrepit iron
fence. Beyond was the rolling green of parkland that stretched to a belt
of sunlit elms.

She did not see Peter, but, as she was turning away, he came into view,
and to her surprise a strange man walked by his side.

Peter apparently was in good spirits: the sound of his laughter came to
her. "...poor old Rouper...caught him out..."

She was not sure whether she was glad or sorry to find him so cheerful.
Perhaps he did not care very much--or was he waiting to wear down her
mental resistance, or hoping that blessed propinquity would bring about a
change in her attitude?

She drank the tea that Anna had brought, turned on the water in her bath
and began to unpack her one big trunk. When she joined the two men on the
lawn, Peter's flippant mood had passed: he was grave, almost glum, and
for the first time since that scene in the library was his old
embarrassed self.

"Jane, this is Mr. Bourke--you've heard me speak of him."

So this was the redoubtable Superintendent Bourke. He was a stoutish man
with a large, jovial face and many chins.

"Sorry to intrude myself into the Garden of Eden, Mrs. Clifton."

Mr. Bourke was less like a great detective than any man she had ever
imagined. It was only when she looked into his eyes, steadfast,
searching, sceptical, that she found the attributes of a thief-catcher.

"I hope old man Rouper didn't worry you last night, Mrs. Clifton? Good
chap, Rouper, but he rather jumps at conclusions, huh?"

He ended almost every question with a deep-throated growl of inquiry.

He turned abruptly to Peter.

"Perhaps it was the gardener, Mr. Clifton?"

Clifton shook his head.

"The gardener would hardly walk on flower-beds, and to my knowledge he
has no car."

She was listening, puzzled.

"What is it?" she asked, and again Peter showed signs of embarrassment.
He went red and shifted uneasily.

"The fact is...some fellow was in the grounds last night...we don't know
who it was, but one of the servants saw him." He pointed to a garden bed
under the window. "He left footmarks on the mould. It is nothing to worry
about. Bourke didn't come down because of that: we were merely discussing
it."

Seeing that he did not wish to pursue the subject, Jane left the men
alone. She expected Bourke to stay to lunch, but, to her surprise, he
disappeared, and she found herself alone at the long table with Peter.

He was no more inclined now to discuss the midnight visitor than he had
been.

"A tramp possibly," he said. "These fellows know that the house is empty
half the year. I suppose he was looking for an unfastened window."

He spoke enthusiastically of Bourke, his genius and his qualities as an
investigator. She listened without interrupting to a eulogy that lasted
through the greater part of the meal.

"How did you come to know these people at Scotland Yard, Peter?" she
asked, as they strolled out on to the sunlit lawn.

The question produced a curious effect upon him: from the self-possessed,
cool man of the world, he became an incoherent, stammering schoolboy.

"Well...they have been rather decent to me...taken an interest in me and
all that sort of thing and helped me tremendously, especially Bourke. You
have no idea what good fellows they are. And of course it is always as
well to be on the right side--"

"On the right side of Scotland Yard? Why?" she asked quickly.

He did not answer at once, evidently revolving in his mind many
alternative answers.

"Well, it is," he said at last, very unconvincingly, and changed the
subject.

They spent the afternoon on a miniature golf course. As the day wore on,
they both experienced something of the tension and the peculiar
antagonism of the night before. Was it antagonism? Was it not in her
heart a fear and in his a sense of resentment, she wondered.

He grew shorter and more sparing of speech. Eventually she relapsed into
silence, and in silence they dined, under the myopic eye of the old and
asthmatic manservant who acted as butler, footman and man-of-all-work.

After dinner she wandered into the drawing-room. The night was a little
chilly: a small wood fire smouldered on the open hearth. He followed, and
waited (she imagined) with suppressed impatience until the coffee had
come. It was almost like a ritual, this coffee-drinking together. The
girl in the grey evening frock, and the man sitting stiffly on the edge
of a big armchair, were indulging in a ceremony from which neither
obtained the least pleasure.

Presently he made an excuse.

"I shall be in the library if you want me," he said, in such a tone as
suggested to her that he had not the slightest expectation of being
wanted at all.

At ten o'clock she looked in. He was sitting at the table with a blank
sheet of notepaper before him, nibbling the end of a. pen. Peter jumped
up in some confusion, which suggested she had surprised him in a
reprehensible act.

"I am going to bed now," she said, and was gone before his mumbled reply
reached her.

Sleep did not come easily, and hardly had her head touched the pillow
before she remembered the visitor of the night before. She got out of bed
and, going to the window, looked out. The moon had not yet risen. The
calm of the day was at an end: a fitful wind was blowing; from somewhere
in the south came a low growl of thunder.

She pulled the curtains over the open window, went back to bed and tried
to sleep. It was an hour before she fell into a restless slumber.

It was unusual in her to dream, but now dreams followed in bewildering
succession. Of Peter, of her father, of that stout detective. They were
without beginning or end--just fitful, uneasy glimpses of horrors--Peter
drowning in the sea and the detective grinning fiendishly at him from the
high bridge of a liner...

She turned in her sleep, shivering. Peter had told her to lock the door,
but she had no fear.

Suddenly she was awake. Somebody's arm was about her thinly clad
shoulders.

There were lips to her cheek, hot, hungry lips that roved blindly. With a
scream she struggled up, fighting back the man who held her.



CHAPTER 5


HER HAND thrust wildly at a bristling chin--she remembered an old
jiu-jitsu trick and pressed it upward, and as she did so she felt the arm
encircling her shoulder relax under the shock. In an instant she wriggled
from his grasp and was out of bed, too breathless to scream, too
terrified to think.

Blindly she ran to the door by the window. It swung open and she was in
the dour sitting-room. She could see nothing. The drawn curtains excluded
even the faint lights of the night.

Behind her she could hear the scraping of feet on the polished floor of
her bedroom, and in a frenzy of fear she ran forward and, stumbling over
a chair, fell. Falling, her hands touched the handle of a door, and this
in her desperation she turned.

"Who is there?"

A sudden blinding glow of light. Peter was half out of bed. As she picked
herself up from where she sprawled on the floor she stared at him,
amazed, dumbfounded. The visitor of the night had not been this newly
wakened sleeper. She had felt the roughness of a tweed coat and a soft
collar.

"Jane! What is wrong?"

She could only point backward through the dark opening of the door and
gasp an incoherent story. Before she was half way through her narrative,
Peter had run past her. Jane staggered to the bed and sat down. She was
trembling from head to foot. For the first time in her life she had
known, fear. And she was cold--terribly cold.

She looked round helplessly for something to cover her, did not see his
black dressing-gown hanging behind the door.

Peter came back to find her sitting on his bed, an eiderdown about her
trembling shoulders.

"Your window is wide open and there is a ladder against the wall outside.
Now just tell me what happened."

He sat down on the edge of the bed and listened as she told her
disjointed story. He was not furious, as she expected him to be. There
was a certain gravity in his tone which first surprised and then piqued
her. All his interest seemed to be centred, not in the identity, but in
the clothing of the visitor.

"You're sure he was dressed?"

"Of course he was dressed," she said, a little impatiently. "I tell you,
I felt the coat, and there was a safety pin in his collar which came
loose and scratched my finger--look!"

He was silent for a while, but she knew that he was not thinking of her
scratched finger, at which he had hardly glanced.

"He didn't speak--you're sure of that? And he wore boots? I must have been
sleeping heavily: I did not hear you scream."

"I didn't scream. I had no breath to scream. I thought it was--you!"

He had raised his head, listening. She heard the whine and purr of a
distant motor car.

"That is he," he said.

It may have been imagination on her part, but she could have sworn she
detected relief in his tone.

"Why didn't you follow him?"

She tried to simulate reproach, but did not succeed. She was only too
glad that he had not left her alone.

"I wasn't sure." And then, in some confusion: "You see, I didn't exactly
know what had happened--it might have been nightmare. And even if I had
followed, it is very unlikely that I could have come up with him."

He was walking about the room, gathering up his clothes.

"I suppose you want me to go?"

He shook his head again.

"No, I'll dress. It's nearly four o'clock and I've slept quite long
enough. You had better stay here and keep the light on till I come back."

Apparently he dressed in the sitting-room, for in an incredibly short
space of time he returned to take the electric torch that lay on the
bedside table.

"I'm going down the ladder to do a little investigation," he said. "In
the meantime you can either go to sleep--I don't think you will,
somehow--or dress yourself--or, alternatively, stay where you are!"

He said this with one of those quick, rare smiles of his, and she had the
impression that he was feeling very cheerful about something. She heard
his feet on the rungs of the ladder, and, slipping out of the bed, she
made her way to the sitting-room.

The electric fire offered a coal-like comfort, but it did not induce her
to stay. Passing into her bedroom, she shut the door and looked out of
the open window. Peter was standing on the gravel path below. She saw the
circle of his lamp roving the garden beds, and she must have made some
sound, for he addressed her.

"There are new footmarks here," he said conversationally.

It was extraordinary, she thought, as she closed the window and drew the
curtains before turning on the light, how calmly he accepted her
terrifying experience. It was almost as though he had expected something
of the sort to happen.

She had not finished dressing when she heard him come back up the ladder,
cross the sitting-room and pass into the corridor. Going into the
sitting-room, she found he had turned on the lights. She had hardly
settled herself in a chair before the all too warm radiator when he came
in with two cups of tea and a plate of biscuits, which he set on the
table. He might have been a thought-reader, to have gauged her wonder and
resentment.

"I suppose you think I take this rather calmly," he said. "As a matter of
fact, I'm only just beginning to realize what has happened. If I'd been
quite awake I'd have gone after that fellow and broken his neck!"

The venom in his voice was certainly genuine, she decided. She too was
feeling the reaction, and though the hand that reached out to take the
tea did not tremble, she had not wholly recovered from the shock. Dawn
was paling in the eastern skies; the elms in the drive were a hard, black
line against the steel of morning.

"We had better change rooms," he suggested. "I can keep my window closed.
There are three panes which open and admit all the air that I want. But I
don't imagine this bird will repeat his attempt--you found no jewellerymissing?"

She shook her head. That had been one of the discoveries she had made
when she went to dress; though the thought that she might have been
robbed had been the last thing to occur to her.

"No; I very foolishly left my rings and bracelets on the dressing-table,
but they have not been touched. If it were a burglar--"

She knew that it was no burglar, and in this certitude could not even
discuss such a possibility.

Making conversation was something of a trial. She discovered with a sense
of dismay that they had so few friends and interests in common. She found
herself talking about her wedding as though it were a ceremony in which
she had little more than a detached interest. She had not seen Marjorie
Cheyne Wells, either in the church or at the reception.

"Do you like her?" she asked, almost knowing what he would reply, for he
was one of those maddening people who had no strong likes or dislikes. It
was almost in the nature of a pleasant surprise to hear that Marjorie was
not a favourite of his.

"I don't quite know what to make of her," he said. "She can be so
extraordinarily sour--spiteful is a better word."

"Has she been spiteful to you?" she asked quickly, and he laughed.

"No. I'm too insignificant to arouse her animosity."

Here was an opportunity to ask a question which had been on the tip of
her tongue since the visit of the detective. This queer intimacy which
the adventure of the night had brought about created an atmosphere in
which the most embarrassing problems might be discussed. Nevertheless she
thought he was a little distant, and her uneasiness was intensified when,
for a moment after she had questioned him, he remained silent.

"Yes, it is perfectly true that this lady frequently visits me; but she
is, as I told Rouper, a cook--at least, she was many years ago."

He chuckled nervously. "She has a grievance," was all that he would tell
her, except that her name was Untersohn, of Swedish origin.

The sun came up into a blue, cloudless sky, and garden and lawn called
urgently. By seven o'clock, despite the stimulation of tea, Jane found
her head nodding. She went to her room, intending to lie down for an
hour--it was the sound of the luncheon gong which woke her.

Many things had happened while she had slept. Looking out of the window,
she saw Peter walking down the drive with a man whose figure suggested
Superintendent Bourke.

Peter was waiting lunch for her. "I told them not to sound that infernal
gong," he said. "You were sleeping so heavily that I didn't want you
wakened."

"Was that Mr. Bourke I saw?"

He explained that Bourke had come down at his request, and that he had no
doubt whatever about the man who had come to her room in the night being
the same individual who had been wandering about the grounds the night
before. He did not explain how he knew this, but went on:

"By the way, I hope you won't mind: I've asked Donald Wells if he can
come down--I would have gone up to him, but I don't like leaving you here
alone."

She looked up from her plate quickly.

"Why? Aren't you well?" she asked.

"Eh--well? Oh, yes, I'm well! Of course, Donald loathed the idea of
intruding on our honeymoon."

There was the ghost of a laugh in his eyes when he said this.

"Is he bringing Marjorie?"

Peter shook his head. "No," he said shortly.

"But why is he coming, if you're not ill?" she insisted.

It was an opportunity for heroics and oblique reproach. Yet somehow she
did not expect this, nor was she disappointed.

The afternoon came and brought the second shock of the day.

Peter was reading in the library, and she, having made a futile attempt
to interest herself in the rose garden and make conversation with an
ancient and taciturn gardener, had returned to the house with a blank
feeling of despair as she contemplated the hours that had to be filled
before bedtime.

Peter looked up as she came in and hastily concealed the book he was
reading--an odd circumstance which excited her curiosity.

"How long do we have to stay at Longford?" she asked desperately. "Peter,
this is an awful place, and will you be very angry if I tell you that I
am terribly bored?"

His smile was sympathetic. "I've been thinking the same thing," he
confessed, "and without consulting you I have engaged a suite at the
Ritz-Carlton. At least we shall have the theatres."

She was almost happy at the prospect of release from her dismal
environment.

"Father mustn't know--he wouldn't understand," she said. "When do we
leave?"

He told her that he had not been able to secure the suite he wanted until
the day after the morrow.

"What were you reading when I came in?"

Very guiltily he produced the book. It was a French work on etching. She
had forgotten that he had a hobby, and told him so.

"I owe it a lot," he said. "I shouldn't have met you if my vanity hadn't
run in the direction of a private show."

She had even forgotten that it was in a dingy gallery off Bond Street
that her father had introduced them.

"Poor Daddy! He was terribly upset about losing your plates. I am sorry."

Here Peter was sufficiently human to echo her sorrow. For in a moment of
expansiveness he had loaned what to him was an invaluable set of his
etchings to his prospective father-in-law. Peter's work was
extraordinarily fine. The lost plates, each no larger than a postcard,
represented his supreme efforts.

"It's a terrible pity--I'll never do such good work again," he said, for
the moment a picture of gloom. Then he laughed almost gaily. "And they
say we English have no artistic leaning! I offered a thousand pounds for
the return of the plates, but the finder preferred the masterpieces!"

She sat in a low chair on the other side of the fire, her chin in her
palm, looking at him, her mind strangely busy.

"I suppose this man--what do they call him?--the Clever One--must be an
etcher too? Daddy says that only a brilliant artist could do the work--he
has seen some specimens."

"I suppose so."

His tone was completely indifferent. Evidently he was not greatly
interested in the artistic abilities of the unknown forger. The very
mention of the Clever One seemed to dry up his good humour and inhibit
further conversation.

After a while she rose and went out into the hall.

She was standing at the door, looking across the park, when she became
aware of the car. It was not an ordinary limousine. Her first impression
was that by some error part of a circus procession had strayed into the
grounds. The body was large and old-fashioned. It was painted a bright
crimson lake, and this was “picked out” with gold. The handles and the
other metal appointments were of dull gold--the chauffeur and the footman
were in uniform which completely matched the car and its upholstery, for
their caps were gold-laced.

Watching this tremendous machine open-mouthed, Jane observed that the
servants' caps were further ornamented with imposing cockades.

The footman got down and opened the door. He seemed rather
self-conscious. From the interior stepped a large woman. She was of
commanding height; stout of build, coarse-skinned. But Jane could see,
beyond the inflamed face and swollen flesh, the beauty that once had
lived in that repellent visage. The thick coating of white powder
accentuated the furrows and wrinkles beneath. Her lips were a bright
scarlet, the eyelashes heavily darkened--a smear of the colouring matter
had somehow reached her cheek and had given a touch of the grotesque to a
face which in itself was a little terrifying.

Her swollen hands were gloveless, and every finger was tightly ringed
from knuckle to knuckle. There were diamonds in her ears, and suspended
from her neck a huge and glittering plaque that rested on her bosom.

She was expensively and youthfully dressed, but the colours must have
been of her own choosing. No tyrannical designer would have sanctioned
that champagne hue or those girlish lines.

She stood under the portico, staring sombrely at the girl.

"You're his wife? I'm Madame Untersohn."

Madame Untersohn--the cook! This, then, was the mysterious woman who had
visited Peter almost daily. Her voice was hard and common; she made no
attempt to carry any further than in her appearance and state the
illusion of gentility.

"I am Mrs. Clifton, yes."

The large woman was breathing heavily; obviously under the effect of some
pent emotion--Jane suspected a rumbling fury and was more interested than
alarmed.

"You're gettin' what ain't his to give." The visitor almost barked the
accusation. "What he's robbin' the rightful heir out of--"

For a moment Jane was staggered. She could overlook the theatrical
gesture, the hackneyed cliché of cheap melodrama. "Rightful heir? Who is
'the rightful heir'?" Madame Untersohn struck yet another attitude.
"Peter Clifton's brother--my son!" she said.



CHAPTER 6


PETER'S BROTHER? Peter was an only child: it was the one piece of
information that he had given to her about himself.

"I think you are mistaken--"

"Allow me!"

It was Peter's voice. He had come out of the library noiselessly behind
her.

"Allow you, eh?" The painted lips curled in an ugly sneer. "You'll do all
the talkin'! But you can't talk your poor brother out of his rights!"

There was a subtle difference in the harsh voice that addressed Peter
Clifton. The coarse assurance had been replaced by a note of pleading,
there was an uneasiness in it which was reflected in the woman's gesture,
for the jewelled hands were rubbing nervously one over the other and
the blackened lashes were blinking nervously.

"I come down to see you an' have it out!" The voice had grown shrill.
"I'm not afraid of you. If you come any of your father's tricks I'll
shoot you like a dog, by God I will!" She had snapped open the big bag
she carried, groped into its depths and now one trembling hand held a
nickel-plated revolver. "...shoot you as soon as look at you. I want
justice, and you ain't goin' to frighten me!"

Peter was surveying her, his face expressionless, his grave eyes fixed on
the woman's.

"Come in, Mrs. Untersohn," he said, and, turning, walked to the library
and threw open the door.

Jane could only gape, dumbfounded at the scene. It was like the segment
of a fantastic dream that had neither beginning nor end. She watched the
woman waddle past, her suspicious eyes on Peter, the shining pistol still
wagging tremulously in her hand.

Madame Untersohn backed into the room and Peter followed her. The door
closed upon them. Jane walked out on to the lawn, her head in a whirl.

What did all this mean--what explanation could there possibly be for the
intrusion of this overdressed old woman with her threats and her revolver
and her cryptic references to Peter's brother?

As she walked slowly and aimlessly towards the drive she heard the hum of
wheels and, looking up, saw a car appear from the direction of the lodge
gates. Her heart leapt as she recognized the blue body of it, and she ran
across the lawn, waving her hand.

"I'm terribly sorry--barging into Arcady and all that sort of thing."
Donald Cheyne Wells's white teeth showed in a smile as he took her hand.

"And I'm terribly glad you came," she said fervently. "Welcome to
Wonderland!"

He smiled again. "A pleasant wonderland, I hope?" he suggested. It was a
curious fact (she remembered even as she revealed the happenings of the
night) that she had never before been on terms of confidence either with
Donald or his wife, and yet, almost before she realized what she was
saying, she had told him of the midnight visitor.

The effect upon him was remarkable. He stood stock still, staring at her.

"For God's sake!" he breathed; and then quickly: "You didn't know him?"

There was something almost comic in his agitation. And then she saw his
eyes open even wider. The “coach” of Madame Untersohn had drawn up beyond
the house, and as they walked it had come into view.

"Untersohn--is she here?"

His face had gone peaked and grey. She could only gaze at him in
consternation.

"Do you know her? Who is she?"

But before her question was finished he was walking quickly towards the
house.

Before he could reach the portico, Madame Untersohn had appeared. Under
the powder her face was a choleric red. Imperiously she beckoned to the
watchful footman and her ponderous car moved towards her.

Cheyne Wells stopped at the sight of her and did not speak or move until
the machine moved on with its resplendent burden.

"How long has she been here?" He was brusque almost to a point of
rudeness.

"Only a few minutes," said Jane wonderingly. "Who is she?"

 She heard his long sigh, the sigh of a man from whom a weight of trouble
 had been shifted; his tone became more amiable.

"She's a woman who's been worrying Peter rather a lot, I fancy," he said.
And then quickly: "Did you see her? Did she say anything to you?"

Jane laughed.

"You're becoming mysteriouser and mysteriouser, Donald," she said. "Yes,
I did have a brief interview with the lady, in the course of which she
told me that her son was the rightful heir, that he was Peter's brother--"

Again his face had gone tense; his dark eyes had narrowed till they were
the merest slits.

"She told you that, did she? She's mad! Obviously she's mad. Nobody would
travel about in a band wagon as she does unless they were crazy. You
didn't take the slightest notice of anything she said, did you?"

Jane shook her head.

"I haven't had time to think about it," she said, and was going on, but
he interrupted her.

"Peter never had a brother. This woman is a lunatic, obsessed with the
idea that her son is the heir to Peter's fortune."

"She doesn't seem particularly poor herself," said Jane, remembering the
flashing diamonds.

Wells nodded.

"She ought to be a rich woman. That makes her behaviour all the more
extraordinary." He seemed most anxious to convince her on the point--too
anxious, she thought, in her shrewd way.

"Peter should have had her arrested years ago; he's too
kind-hearted--hallo, Peter, old boy!"

Peter Clifton had strolled out from the house, his hands thrust deep into
his flannel pockets, a half smile on his lips. Without a word to the
girl, Donald Wells darted to him, caught him by the arm and led him,
reluctantly, Jane thought, back into the house.

"Mysteriouser and mysteriouser," said Jane, and went up to her ugly
little sitting-room. No bride ever felt more unbride-like than she, or
less necessary to the happiness, the comfort or the entertainment of
anybody.

She could not believe her ears a quarter of an hour later when she heard
Donald's car moving off. He had gone without saying goodbye, without
exchanging another word. At first she was amused, then a little angry,
and it required something more than Peter's message of farewell at third
hand to restore her equanimity.

"He had to rush back to town."

"Why did he rush down?" she asked, almost tartly.

"I asked him to see me--what do you think of the lady?"

He followed her into the library and pushed an easy chair for her, but
she stood by the side of the library table, her fingers drumming
ominously.

"Have you any more surprises for me?" She asked, and something in her
tone amused him, for he laughed.

"I'm terribly sorry." Peter was apologetic, but he was in no sense
abashed--not even apprehensive. "She was surprising, wasn't she?"

He was waiting for a further question, and she did not disappoint him.

"What did she mean when she talked about your brother?"

He smiled faintly.

"That is one of my many family skeletons," he said; "to me, the smallest.
I suppose I've got an unmoral mind, but that particular indiscretion of
my father does not trouble me as it should."

She was silent at this.

"Oh--is it that?" she asked awkwardly.

"It is that. I'm sorry. Mrs. Untersohn, who, so far as I know, is Miss
Untersohn, has very hazy ideas of primogeniture and imagines that her son
is entitled to a--er--share in the estate."

His questioning eyes were upon her. Was she convinced? they seemed to
ask.


"It is very--ugly, isn't it?"

It was a lame, almost hypocritical response on her part; she really was
not shocked; did not even realize the unpleasantness of the revelation.
Her chief emotion was one of relief.

"Yes--very. Do you mind? I have asked Bourke to come to dinner."

She was a little staggered at this.

"The police officer? Peter, why are you so keen on having detectives
around you?"

This genuinely amused him.

"I thought I had explained," he laughed. "In fact, I can't improve on the
explanation I have given. Bourke is a very good friend of mine. He has
done a great deal for me. Do you really mind if he comes? I can put him
off."

She had no objections at all. A third at dinner would relieve the
tension.

"Is he staying the night?"

Peter shook his head.

"He goes back to London soon after dinner."

There was no link between their talk and the realization of their
extraordinary relationship. It came upon her suddenly--the grotesque
unreality of their positions. Peter had accepted her with amazing
readiness; his compliance was almost inhuman. She sat at the window of
her bedroom, looking out over a world that had grown bleak and a little
ugly, wondering whether presently she would wake up and find her marriage
was a dream; in some respects--here was the curious perversity of
it--rather a pleasant dream.

When she saw Peter crossing the lawn slowly she had to tell herself:
"That is your husband--you bear his name; you are his wife till death do
you part."

Even the horrible inevitability did not shock her; even as she did not
believe the unbelievable phenomenon of her marriage, so she accepted her
own fate as something in which she was not personally interested.

"Which is silly," she told herself; yet there was no conviction in her
scorn.

The afternoon post brought a letter from Basil Hale, and the sight of his
handwriting gave her a little pang. Peter brought the letter to her in
her room, together with a wrappered newspaper.

"I didn't see the postman come," she said in surprise.

"He was here an hour ago--I forgot to give you the letter," he answered.

She slit the envelope--what had Basil to say? He had, he said, returned
from Bournemouth that morning; the London postmark indicated the earliest
postal collection.

'I am wondering when it will be reasonably decent to call upon you young
love birds...Your father was so dismal the night you left that I took a
late train to Bournemouth. I don't exactly know why...'

The rest was so much chronicling of unimportant personal experiences.

For some reason the letter irritated her. It may have been the suggestion
that there was a privacy into which he or anybody else could not intrude.

Basil was being normally impertinent. She was forced to consider her
mental attitude towards Basil Hale. They had been friends years before
she had met Peter. A typical happy-go-lucky young man of the town, coarse
in the grain, inclined to be loose of tongue, but thoroughly amusing.
Brilliant sometimes; an excellent companion who could shock, but never
bored.

Idly she turned over the little sheet and saw that at the bottom he had
written a postscript--an odd trick of his:

'I am terribly worried about you--honestly. Have I done right? Have any of
us? This passion for money for which we are prepared to sacrifice
everything--'

There the postscript ended--without so much as a full stop. Jane searched
the envelope for some continuation of the message--there was none. But as
she opened it out she made a discovery. The flap of the envelope curled
back under the strain of her search, and the gum was still wet.

Somebody had opened the letter and read it, and that somebody could be no
other person than her husband.



CHAPTER 7


SHE FOUND Peter in the library, dozing over a book, and without preamble
made her accusation.

"I am probably being very unjust in suspecting you of a meanness which
only one of the servants--"

"You need not blame the servants," he said quietly. "Yes, I opened the
letter."

A wave of anger swept over her and for a moment left her dumb.

"You opened my letter? Why? Is that one of the privileges that marriage
gives you?"

"I haven't noticed any particular privilege attaching to matrimony," he
said, with a half smile which maddened her. (She told herself she loathed
Peter in his more confident mood.)

"Will you please explain"--she tried to keep her voice calm--"why you took
this extraordinary step? It was not an accident--you would have told me."

"It was not an accident," he said coolly. "Only I object to Basil Hale’s
corresponding with you. I intended telling you this later--I never dreamt
he would have the nerve to write to you; when you were on
your--honeymoon."

She was angry, but she was bewildered too. She had always thought that he
and Basil were good friends. And, as if he read her mind, he went on
quickly: "I am not jealous in the vulgar sense of the word. Hale and I
are as the poles apart. I mistrust him, and he doesn't like me."

"Why do you mistrust him?"

He shrugged.

"One takes unreasonable dislikes, and he is one of them. I know I have
committed an unpardonable fault, but, Jane, I had only your happiness in
mind."

The last part of his speech was uttered a little haltingly. She was not
convinced. Unless she was prepared to quarrel, the sane course was to let
the matter rest where it stood; saner, perhaps, to find an excuse for him
in order that the possibilities of a growing friendship might not be
disturbed. This last course she took.

"It isn't really important," she said, almost carelessly. "I was a little
annoyed. One gives letters a very special value."

"Naturally. I'm terribly sorry."

This incident drove them a little farther apart; by the time Bourke
arrived their relations were almost frigid, and she could bless the happy
thought that had brought a third party to that unpromising meal.

Mr. Bourke, that stout man, was in his heartiest mood, so that she thawed
under his genial influence and found herself taking an interest in
criminals. Apparently there was only one in the world, and that one
exceptionally clever.

"I'm a poor man, but I'd give a thousand pounds to put my hand on him,"
boomed Mr. Bourke.

He had a trick of emphasizing his words with imaginary thumps on the
table. Every time he raised his huge fist Jane winced, but never once did
the expected thud come.

"Here's a man outside of all the criminal categories. He has
confederates, yet none have betrayed him. Why? Because they don't know
him!"

"In what respect does he differ from other forgers?" she asked.

There was no need for her to simulate an interest is the Clever One; the
unknown forger had taken hold of her imagination.

Bourke put his hand in his pocket, took out a thick leather notecase and
opened it. From one of its many compartments he extracted an American
bill for one hundred dollars.

"Look at that," he said. "You're not an expert, but if you were you'd say
the same. It is impossible to distinguish this from a genuine bill. There
are plenty of cheap forgeries in circulation. There is a place in Hamburg
where you can buy five-pound notes at eighteenpence a time. But a fellow
who buys the Clever One's work has got to pay--and he's paying for
safety."

Peter, who seemed scarcely interested, broke in with a question.

"What would that hundred-dollar bill cost straight from the hands of the
maker?" He leaned forward as he asked the question, his eyes on the
detective's face.

"Twenty dollars," replied Bourke promptly; "or rather, that would be the
cost from the agent, who would probably make five dollars on the
transaction. That is where the Clever One differs from all the others--he
charges for peace of mind. You could go through the United States of
America with a pocket full of these, and the chance of your being caught
is one in ten thousand. Unless you happen to be in Washington or in some
town where there was a chance of the Federal authorities taking a casual
peek at the money in circulation. There was a banker in Ohio who, in the
course of a year, passed three thousand of these hundred-dollar bills
into circulation--innocently, of course."

The modus operandi of the Clever One he found difficult to explain.
Agents had been arrested in Paris, Berlin and Chicago, and they could
give no other information except that at an agreed hour and rendezvous,
usually at night, and in some open place where there was no chance of
espionage, the forged bills or banknotes were handed to them and they
gave in exchange the price to the last penny. With the forgeries was a
typewritten slip telling them where they could write for the next batch.
The address was never the same: it was, the police discovered in one
case, an “accommodation” provided by a small newsagent. Invariably a
chance-found boy was sent to collect the letters, which probably passed
through two or three hands before they eventually reached the forger.

"He never makes the mistake of flooding the market. Sometimes he will
supply nothing for nine months at a time. But what he turns out is the
best. The only thing we're certain about is that his agents are very few
in number. There never has been a case where deliveries have been made
simultaneously in Paris and Berlin."

"Yet his profits must be enormous," said the girl wonderingly.

Bourke nodded.

"Sixty thousand a year. That's a lot of money. The only time he ever put
out forged bills wholesale was during the slump of the franc--he was
probably one of the contributing causes. He put thirty million francs in
mille notes on the French market."

Peter had been playing with his knife through this conversation, his eyes
fixed upon the table. Jane had the impression that he was a little bored,
and wondered why a man who was so interested in police work should find
so little that was thrilling in this narrative.

She gathered from his restlessness that he was anxious to see Bourke
alone. He left the conversation to Bourke and herself and sat throughout
the meal staring at the one picture the room held--a big oil painting in a
dull gold frame affixed to the panelling. It was a picture of a man of
the Regency period, high-stocked, heavy-faced, with a harsh, big mouth
and eyes into which the painter had conveyed more than a hint of cold
malignity. The picture seemed to fascinate him, for again and again his
eyes wandered back to the painted canvas.

At the earliest possible moment she rose and left them, and Peter visibly
brightened at the first sign of her coming departure. She was not by
nature curious, and was irritated to find herself speculating upon what
was the subject of the talk that held these two men in such earnest
conference. Really it was no business of hers.

She wandered from the drawing-room to her sitting-room upstairs; poked
the smouldering wood fire to a feeble liveliness, and, in sheer boredom,
searched the little bookshelf for something to read. There was a number
of three-decker novels, a volume on archaeology (published in 1863), a
dogeared school manual, and, to her surprise, a very modern volume in
German. She could not read German, but the illustrations left her in no
doubt as to the subject of the book. It was a manual on the art of
etching.

Peter's? She remembered the plates that her father had lost; remembered,
too, some of the better examples of Peter's work. A fenland scene, full
of light and soft shadows. John Leith had told her that this little work
of Peter's compared favourably with Zohn at his best.

The book had been read carefully, for there were certain unintelligible
phrases underlined. So Peter spoke or read German--she was discovering
some new accomplishment every day. Here she was shocked to find that
there was a sneer in her thought--there was no reason to sneer at Peter.
There was, in truth, much that she could admire and respect.

It was ten o'clock when Peter called her down to say goodnight to Mr.
Bourke. She stood by her husband's side and watched the red tail light of
the car disappear down the drive before they walked back to the library,
a little awkward in their companionship. "Well, did you have a very
satisfactory talk?" she asked.

She wasn't really interested, but she was trying desperately hard to
return her friendship to the notch whence it had slipped that afternoon.

He was gauche; stammered a little, and there was an uncomfortable silence
before she said "Goodnight" somewhat hastily, and went up to her room.

Tonight she locked the door, drew the curtains over the window and
fastened the latch of the casement so that it could not be opened; then
she undressed. She was not a bit tired--only bored, bored beyond words.
For an hour she lay, turning from side to side, in a vain attempt to
sleep, until at last she fell into a state that was neither one thing nor
the other, a sort of dazed and stupid wakefulness...

What brought her to full consciousness, her heart thumping, she did not
know. It was a sound--the crunch of feet on gravel. Perhaps in her sleep
subconsciously she had been listening. Danger had come before, and might
come again, from without.

She was out of bed in a second and, pulling on her dressing-gown, she
walked stealthily to the window and looked out. For a time she saw
nothing, and then...

It was not imagination: against the darkness of the grass she saw
something darker moving--the figure of a man.

She had to put her hand before her mouth to suppress the exclamation of
terror. There it was again! With trembling hands she opened the door
leading to the sitting-room, crossed it swiftly and opened Peter's door.
The bed was empty, had not been slept in, she saw by the light of the
little lamp burning on the bedside table.

The hands of the clock beneath the lamp pointed to two. She went through
the room and down the stairs. The library door was open and the interior
dark, but she saw a crack of light under the dining-room door and went
in. This room, too, was empty, but even as she turned the handle she was
conscious of a faint rhythmic-like whirr like the sound of machinery.

Where was the picture of the malignant man?

It had disappeared from the wall, and in its place was an oblong
aperture. The picture and the lower portion of the panelling formed a
door, now standing wide open.

Jane crept forward and, looking round the edge, saw a sight which she
would never forget.

A long, narrow room, dusty, unfurnished save for a stout bench in the
centre and a smaller bench against the wall littered with the
paraphernalia of the etcher's craft. But it was not these on which her
eye rested. On the central bench was a small machine that whirred and
clicked softly as its cylinders turned, A printing machine...

Then her heart nearly stopped beating, as she saw the oblong slips which
were being fed along a small canvas band. They were banknotes, and the
man who was standing, watching the automatic delivery, was her husband!



CHAPTER 8


JANE COULD only stare at her husband--numbed--speechless. Here, then, was
the secret of the Clever One, and the Clever One was--

She wanted to scream as the horror of her discovery came upon her. She
was married to a forger, the most notorious forger in the world, the man
for whom the police of Europe and America were searching. It wasn't true,
it couldn't be true. Yet here he was, examining with a critical eye one
of the notes he had taken from the belt.

His back was towards her as she cringed away from the door. She gained
the hall, and had one foot on the stairs when she remembered the man on
the lawn. Under the stress of this new shock he seemed unimportant, and
it was not until she reached the upper landing that the old fear
returned, and, leaning over the banisters, she called Peter by name. At
the third time his voice answered her.

"What is it, Jane?" he asked.

"There is a man...on the lawn."

She tried to keep her voice steady. He heard its quaver and misunderstood
the cause. She waited, listening, heard him go back to the dining-room
and the soft thud of a door closing, and then a sharp click. Almost
immediately she heard him race into the hall and the jangle of chains
being removed.

From the window of her room she caught a glimpse of him in the light
thrown from the hall. There was no sign of the intruder, and after a
while she saw Peter reappear from the gloom.

She was sitting now, terribly calm, not as she had been the night before.
The discovery had stunned her, yet her mind was unnaturally active. She
could remember certain little incidents, examine them with a strange,
passionless detachment. This was the source of Peter's wealth, the
explanation for the “legacy.” He was the Clever One, and this house,
which he pretended to rent, was his headquarters.

As she drew the curtain and turned on the lights she heard his foot on
the stairs, and when he appeared in the doorway she was not more than a
few feet away from him.

"I could see nobody," he said breathlessly, and then, as he saw her face,
she detected the look of dismay in his eyes.

She knew she was pale, never dreamt how colourless and drawn her face had
become.

"My dear! You look terrible! If I find that man I'll murder him!"

"The man?" She had almost forgotten the shape on the lawn. "Oh, yes. You
didn't find him?"

He made no answer, his chief concern for the moment was this shaken wife
of his.

"We'll go to town tomorrow," he said, and when she shook her head: "Why?"
he demanded in surprise.

"I don't know. I'll tell you tomorrow. I'm very tired."

She was more than tired. Mentally and physically she was exhausted. She
lay for half an hour staring into the dark, trying to reorganize her
outlook upon life and Peter. Once she heard him go out from the house,
evidently conducting a new search for the unknown trespasser.

Jane went cold as a possible solution for that intrusion came to her. A
detective! Was Peter under observation? In his anxiety to keep friendly
with the police was he blind to the possibility that Bourke had guessed
his secret and was watching him?

She fell into a deep sleep amidst these speculations and woke to find the
sun pouring into her room and hear the vinegary-faced Anna asking if she
had had a good night.

Jane sat up in bed and looked round, bewildered. Had it all been an ugly
dream? It was almost impossible to believe that it could have been
anything else, in the freshness and gaiety of the morning...

"Did you go downstairs in the night, ma'am?" Anna was asking. "I found
one of your slippers in the hall."

No dream--hideous reality. She remembered leaving the slipper behind her
as she had fled up the stairs.

"Reminded me of Cinderella," Anna went on--the morning seemed to have
brought a little of its loveliness into her own withered heart. "Funny me
thinking that--I ain't seen the play for years."

As Jane sipped her tea an idea occurred to her. "Anna--to whom does this
house belong?"

Anna shook her head. "I don't know now, ma'am. It used to be owned by an
old gentleman who lived abroad. Maybe he's dead by now. The agent is a
gentleman named Blonberg--he's got an office in the West End--Knowlby
Street. I never seen him. Sometimes he comes down here and stays a month
at a time."

Jane stared at the woman.

"And yet you've never seen him?"

"No, ma'am. When Mr. Blonberg comes down he brings his own servants, and a
poor lot they are! The place is like a pigsty after they've gone. Nothing
swept, nothing dusted, the garden in rack and ruins."

"But where do you go when he's here?"

Anna smiled toothlessly.  "Home to my brother in London. All the servants
get a holiday on board wages--none of us live in the neighbourhood, except
the gardener. He works in the garden three days a week, but he's not
allowed to come to the house."

Jane turned the extraordinary circumstances over and over in her mind.
Who was Mr. Blonberg? Somebody who was anxious to avoid recognition...

She began to see clearly now. This was Peter's own house...Blonberg was
the name behind which he worked and schemed--the man who, according to
Bourke the detective, had many confederates, but was not betrayed because
they were ignorant of his identity.

She was very cool now, until a little aching of heart revealed a most
peculiar and devastating knowledge. She was fond of Peter! Why this
discovery of his guilt should emphasize his attractive qualities she
could not analyse. Of a sudden she was conscious of his great loneliness,
his danger, was tenderly aware of his gentleness with her.

What could she do? Write to her father and tell him everything? She shook
her head at the thought. No, it must remain her secret--hers and
Peter's--and she must find some way to avert the inevitable disaster which
awaited him.

The police were already suspicious and the net was being drawn. Rouper
knew him for what he was, Bourke must know, too, and be utilizing his
friendship to blind Peter to the peril in which he stood.

Jane was the type that thrived on the threat of misfortune. All her
dormant qualities were stirred to life. She was almost cheerful as she
stood under the cold shower and felt the icy fingers of the water tattoo
upon her slim body.

Peter was in the grounds, striding up and down the lawn, and at the sight
of his face she hardly restrained an exclamation of alarm. He was pale,
hollow-eyed, listless.

"No--I didn't sleep very well," he said. "The truth is--the country doesn't
agree with me. But I am afraid you will have to put up with Longford
Manor for another night--those confounded people can't put us up until
tomorrow."

There was a querulous note in his tone--she had never seen him so nervous
and irritable.

"I should like to spend a full week here--can't we?" she asked.

To leave this place with its ghastly secret for other prying eyes would
be an unpardonable folly.

He seemed relieved at her suggestion, and then his face clouded.

"I suppose it isn't possible for you to go to town and leave me here for
a day or two?" And then, quickly: "That's an extraordinary suggestion, I
know, and of course it is impossible. Only--I've one or two things I want
to clear up. And I thought of asking Cheyne Wells to come down for a
night, I wish to see him about--things."

She puzzled over the suggestion that Donald Wells should be asked down.
Did Peter wish to see him as friend or doctor? The strain he was
undergoing must be a frightful one, calling for every stimulation that
science could devise.

"Certainly, ask him. But, Peter, I couldn't possibly go to town by
myself--people would think all sorts of queer things."

He ought to know, she thought, that what “people” might think or say
would not influence her in the slightest degree. Apparently he accepted
her conventional objection without question. She was almost annoyed.

Slipping her arm through his, she paced by his side.

"Peter--I'm being a selfish pig and you're being a perfect angel. If you
don't hate me you ought to--if I were you I'd loathe the sight of me! But
I really do want to help you--where and how I can. I mean--in various
ways."

He laughed softly.

"You don't know how you're helping me at this very minute!" he said, and
added, before he could check his speech: "I hope you never will know."

Here was a challenge which yesterday she would have taken up instantly.
To his relief she did not ask the question which he thought was
inevitable.--He gave her little chance, for he went on:

"If you think you're being unreasonable, it will comfort you to know that
I'm not worrying--really. My natural vanity was rather hurt for a bit. Men
are rather godlike--they think the world and all that is in it was created
for their satisfaction. I don't think you hate me or that we're going to
drift apart, or that we've discovered that we've both made a terrible
mistake and that the future is a tragic blank. The only unreality about
our marriage was an entire absence of courtship--an old-fashioned word but
the only one."

She nodded. That really was the case. Peter and she had enjoyed the most
formal of engagements. Except for the kiss he had given her in the vestry
on the day of their marriage, there had been nothing.

"Anyway we avoided that illusion," he went on surprisingly. "And it is
the greatest of all the illusions. A man meets a girl, is on his best
behaviour--meets her again, calls on her people and takes her to dances
and things. She learns to like him--allows him certain little
privileges--they drift into an engagement. He seldom shows her the ugly
side of him--always on his best behaviour, always acting perfection.
Naturally she is an idealist and, seeing her ideal, loves the man he
shows her. And then they marry and he slackens off. She sees him at
breakfast, when he doesn't have to act, and after dinner, when he's as
nature made him, and she knows she's been cheated. I'd rather you were
never cheated."

Jane listened, fascinated. For the moment she forgot that she was talking
to the Clever One, the forger for whom the police of Europe were
searching; forgot the cloud that shadowed both their lives, in the
exposition of a philosophy which held for her a hope--a certainty of
happiness.

"We'll just hang on and trust in truth," he smiled down on her oddly. "I
think we shall have great need of one another. Please God you will have
no great shocks in the near future, but if you do--I want to feel that
there is firm ground beyond any mud through which we may have to wade."

Thus, in the glory of morning sunlight and amidst the fragrance of
flowers, he offered his first warning of the catastrophe that was to
shake her to the very foundations of life.



CHAPTER 9


"WHAT DO you mean--mud?"

She had to force herself to ask the question, and her voice was husky.
Perhaps he would tell her the truth and ask her help. She knew he loved
her; was more sure of him at that moment than ever she had been. The
realization brought her to the edge of tears. Eagerly, yet dreading, she
waited, holding her breath.

"Mud--well, ugliness. I can't explain."

He was vague, unwilling, she guessed, to go any farther along the path of
self-revelation. The breakfast gong put a prosaic period to his mood.

At breakfast he relapsed into silence. Once she saw him staring fixedly
at the picture on the panelled wall, and, in spite of her self-control,
shuddered. Fortunately he did not notice.

She tried to make conversation. Very daringly she referred to the
eccentric Mrs. Untersohn--a subject that had by tacit agreement been
taboo--and only then did she arouse him to interest.

"A queer woman--she lives at Hampstead--no, that isn't why she is queer.
Lots of nice, normal people live at Hampstead. She ought to be well off,
but I suspect her son is a drain. I've helped her many times--I suppose
I've given her ten thousand pounds in the past four years."

He was very diffident and apologetic about his plan to have Cheyne Wells
down for the night.

"As a matter of fact, it was his suggestion; he thought I was looking run
down--are you sure you don't mind?"

If he had asked her on the previous night she would have been
wholehearted in her endorsement of the plan. But now--? She did not want
outsiders. With Peter alone she might get nearer to his confidence.

"When is he coming?"

"Tonight--if you'd rather he didn't I could put him off?"

But she shook her head.

That morning, after Peter had gone to the village to send some telegrams
(he said), she made a discovery. It came about in a most commonplace way.
Anna had unpacked her trunk and deposited its contents in various drawers
of the ancient wardrobe. Jane could not find her handkerchiefs and rang
for the ancient maid.

"Now where did I put 'em, ma'am?"

Anna added a new homeliness to her face by a deep frown.

"I remember--I put all the handkerchiefs together in Mr. Clifton's
dressing-table drawer. I'll get 'em."

"Don't trouble--I can find them myself."

Jane was in no great hurry. It was half an hour later that she went into
Peter's room. The one drawer in his dressing-table was locked, but the
key was on the table top. She turned the lock, opened the drawer, and the
first thing she saw was a neat pile of small copper plates. She lifted
the top plate out and instantly recognized it as one of the collection
which Peter said her father had lost. There was no doubt about it. So
they hadn't been lost after all! Peter, in his absent-minded way, had
them here all the time and had forgotten. When had they been mislaid? She
concentrated in an effort of memory. On April 1st! She remembered that
her father had made a jest about the date, denying that he had ever had
the plates and claiming that Peter was making an April fool of him.

The servant came up soon after and Jane asked carelessly: "When was Mr.
Blonberg here last?"

Anna thought.

"At the beginning of April, ma'am."

So that was it! Jane recalled the fact that at the beginning of April
Peter had a mysterious call to Paris.

"He didn't always sleep here--Mr. Blonberg. He comes down for the day in
his car and goes back the same night as often as not. He always drives
himself in a little closed car."

Jane sighed.

"How interesting!" she said.

With an effort she drove her mind to a more mundane subject.

"Dr. Wells is staying the night--I suppose there is a spare bedroom?"

"Three, ma'am. Is he coming by himself?"

It was a startling possibility that Donald Wells should bring his wife,
the one woman in the world whom Jane actively disliked.

"I suppose so--yes, I'm sure."

The possibility of being called upon to entertain Marjorie Cheyne Wells
was more than she dared contemplate.

Donald came after lunch--and came alone.

"There is nothing to be alarmed about," he told her when, at the first
opportunity, she sought him out and asked point-blank if there was any
special reason for his visit. "Peter is run down--I don't exactly know
why. He was as fit as a fiddle when he left London--I hope that woman
Untersohn hasn't rattled him. Marjorie? Oh, she's fine," he answered
shortly.

He gave her the impression that he was not anxious to discuss his wife.
Jane had guessed that the relationships between Donald and his wife were
not of the best, and Basil Hale had suggested that Mrs. Cheyne Wells was a
difficult woman to live with. But then, Basil's gossip was frankly
malicious.

For some reason Jane began to resent the presence of the doctor before he
had been in the house an hour. He represented a barrier to the smooth
progression of her new understanding with Peter--an understanding which
must remain one-sided until the opportunity came for her to tell him all
that she knew and feared. Towards the close of the day, however, she had
an experience which shattered much of her confidence that the
understanding could be anything more than one-sided.

She was alone with him for a few minutes before tea, and remembered the
incident of the morning. Perhaps he himself was unaware that the lost
plates had been found.

"Oh, I forgot to tell you, Peter--do you know that your plates are in the
drawer--the plates you thought Daddy had lost--"

So far she got, and stopped. His face had gone the colour of chalk.

"How do you know--why did you go to my drawer?"

His voice was sharp, almost angry, and momentarily she was staggered by
his tone.

"I went for some handkerchiefs--but, Peter, why are you cross? I thought
you valued those etchings..."

He was making a supreme effort to recover his equilibrium.

"Yes--sorry I'm so jumpy. In the drawer, are they? What a careless fool I
am! And I suppose I left the key on the table? I really need a nurse!"

The colour was back in his face, but he was obviously distressed by her
discovery. She knew, when he suggested that he did not know the plates
were there, he was lying, and lying clumsily.

"Very awkward--I mean, after accusing your father of losing them. Jane,
I'd be greatly obliged if you would keep this matter to yourself. I mean,
I shouldn't like your father to know that I'd made such an ass of
myself."

"But he'd understand--"

"I'd rather you didn't tell him--honestly. I'm rather keen on his not
knowing."

It seemed such a stupid little thing to make such a fuss about, but she
promised smilingly: the smile was wholly forced.

His anger she might understand; his undisguised fear was inexplicable.
Jane was baffled. Just when she thought she was beginning to know him,
something happened that threw her back to the place whence she had
started. She found a sort of an explanation in the presence of Donald
Wells. Peter was a bundle of jangled nerves--for the moment abnormal. How
far she had contributed to that state was a matter for uneasy
consideration.

She wrote to John Leith that afternoon--a colourless letter about
trivialities. She made no mention of the lost plates. Her letter to Basil
Hale was equally uninformative. She wondered as she wrote what would be
Basil's caustic verdict if he knew that his letter to her had been
opened. That was another strange happening at variance with all her
preconceptions of Peter.

Dinner was for eight o'clock, and at seven Peter and Donald Wells were
still together in the library. She dressed and came down. They were still
engaged, and she wandered out into the garden. The world was very quiet
and, except for the chattering of the birds, there was no sound. The
peacefulness of the evening had a curiously sedative effect upon her--she
was getting nervous, too. How nervous, she was to discover as she passed
through the opening in the yew hedge that led to the garden. Somebody
called her name in a whisper and she jumped.

"Oh! Who is that?"

She looked round with a wildly beating heart, saw nobody, and was
preparing to flee when the voice spoke again, this time more loudly.

"Jane!"

It was Basil Hale, sitting on a low garden seat, scarcely visible under
the drooping branches of a willow tree.

"Basil! What on earth are you doing here?"

He came cautiously from cover, a broad grin on his red face.

"Scared you!" he chuckled. "Where is hubby--with Donald?"

There was something in his tone that she did not like--perhaps she had
forgotten the old domineering air of proprietorship he had habitually
assumed. It jarred on her now a little.

"Yes--they are in the library. Are you staying to dinner?"

He shook his head.

"No--I've got my flivver down the road--I was on my way back to town and
thought I'd slip in for a glimpse of the bonny bride."

Her eyes were smiling--it had always been difficult to be annoyed with
Basil, though she found it less of an effort than usual.

"Been down to hear the preliminary court proceedings against Worth, a
crazy labourer who murdered his wife with a hatchet," he said pleasantly.

Basil had been called to the Bar. He never practised, but he took an
academic interest in horrors. Jane took none whatever, but it had so
happened that in her ennui of the afternoon she had read the newspaper
very thoroughly, and amongst other items had noticed that the police
court proceedings against the mad Worth had been postponed. She was on
the point of offering ironical condolences that he had had his journey
for nothing, when he continued:

"I've been in court all day--"

"But the case was postponed."

He seemed to regard this as a great joke.

"Fancy your knowing that! Jane, you're becoming quite a murder expert.
Yes, it was postponed and my introduction is spoilt! Dam' nuisance--and I
rehearsed it so carefully! Do you remember the case of Alexander
Welerson?"

She was looking at him, her mouth an “O” of amazement.

"What are you talking about, Basil? Have you been--"

"Drinking? No. Welerson was a very rich man who killed two perfectly
innocent servants in cold blood. He's the text of my argument. He was
crazy mad, of course. There was a bad history of insanity in the family.
His father died in an asylum and Welerson eventually died in Dartmoor.
There hasn't been a member of the family that wasn't queer in some way or
other."

"What is all this to do with me?" she demanded, and he smiled up at her
slyly.

"Wells is here, isn't he? He's been looking after Peter for years. Why is
Wells here now? Because Peter feels another attack is coming on, after
Donald had given him a clean bill of health for his marriage."

She stood petrified with horror at the innuendo.

"Peter--what do you mean?"

He saw that she understood, and nodded.

"Peter's crazy. I like you too much to allow you to stay in ignorance of
your danger. He's the son of Alexander Welerson--a mad homicide--and it's
about time you knew what your fool father has allowed you to marry!"

Jane Clifton looked at the red-faced man, dazed, uncomprehending. The
horror of his revelation momentarily paralysed her.

"It's not true." She found her voice. "It was a terrible thing to
say--terrible!"

He was grave enough now.

"I'm not blaming your father--Wells said he was cured and they're all
gambling on that. But they're gambling with your life, Jane--"

He heard a quick step on the gravel and turned with a grimace of fear
that she did not fail to notice.

"What are you doing here?"

It was Peter's voice, hard and authoritative, Basil blinked at him.

"Eh? I happened to be passing and I thought I'd call in to see Jane. I
hope you don't mind?"

Peter glanced from one to the other. Jane's face was drawn and haggard;
her trembling body told him less than he wished to know, more than he
could see without pain.

"What have you been telling her?" he demanded in a low voice.

Basil made a pitiable attempt to appear indifferent.

"All the gossip of town, old boy--" he began, but Peter turned abruptly
away to the girl.

"What is wrong, Jane--what has he told you?"

She shook her head.

"Nothing," she muttered, and tried to brush past him.

"What has he told you?" His strong hands held her by the shoulder. He was
looking down into her face. She did not answer, and again he turned to
Basil.

"I've two scores against you. Hale," he said slowly, "and I'm going to
allow one of them to wait."

"I'm afraid I can't follow you." Basil was smiling, but the uneasiness in
his voice was clear even to Jane.

"You broke into my house the second night I was here, and into my wife's
room. For that I intended killing you. And if the thing you have told
Jane is what I believe it to be, keep out of my way, Hale!"

"Don't threaten me," grated the other, fury overcoming fear.

"I have warned you," said Peter.

What followed was so unexpected, so quick to happen, that Jane thereafter
had only a confused memory. She saw Basil Hale crouch, heard the thud of
the blow as Peter's fist caught him squarely on the jaw, and in another
second he was a sobbing, howling, bestial thing, writhing in a clump of
dwarf roses. Lifting her bodily, Peter swung her through the yew opening.

"I think you'd better go to the house," he said, and turned to meet the
fury that came leaping towards him with whirlwind arms.



CHAPTER 10


MADAME UNTERSOHN lived in a dark little Georgian house in Hampstead: a
squat, two-floored building that was hardly visible behind high walls or
through a confusion of trees which must have been planted in some remote
period almost trunk to trunk. It had been built in the days when America
was still a British colony and the neighbourhood a veritable woodland,
and was a house of uneven floors and low ceilings; the lower rooms had
the everlasting musty earth smell which seems inevitable in such old
houses. They are living yet decaying things, rooted in stale soil.

A dark house that at nights was full of creaks and rustlings; one almost
heard the shuffling of ghostly feet along its crooked corridors.

If Mrs. Untersohn could have lived happily anywhere it was at Heathlands
with its half acre of unkempt garden. The place was to her taste. A long
drawing-room cluttered up with quaint modern furniture, showy Japanese
cabinets and tawdry little souvenirs of her limited travels, was her
ideal of what such a room should be. Two domestic servants and a
chauffeur (she hired a footman for state occasions from a local garage)
comprised her staff.

Mrs. Untersohn was in her drawing-room sitting at an inadequate
writing-table and endeavouring, with the aid of pencil stub and a
memorandum book, to make both ends meet. There were inevitable
miscalculations, both in addition and subtraction, but the broad effect
of her accountancy was depressing. She rubbed her nose with her knuckles,
shook her head and betrayed by other signs the extent of her dismay.

She enjoyed a fixed income on which she could have lived comfortably, but
Madame Untersohn had many demands upon her purse--heavy and insistent
demands which could not be denied.

She looked at the jewelled watch on her wrist, rose with a groan of
discomfort and went upstairs to her bedroom. When she came down she was
dressed in an unpretentious ulster and a very plain hat--a change which
considerably improved her appearance, though she would have been annoyed
if anybody had told her this.

She went out, not announcing her departure, and, walking to the Edgware
Road, boarded a bus. It was nine o'clock when she came to Marylebone Lane
and Knowlby Street. Higgson House was a narrow-faced office block that
had been built on the frontage of a dwelling house by a speculative
builder. It stood, an eyesore to the neighbourhood, in a street of good
class houses and ran back to the untidy mews behind. Higgson House had
ruined its builder and brought to bankruptcy two of its eventual
purchasers. Its present owner had apparently found tenants for the tiny
suites and narrow rooms, for on the door posts were divers brass plates
and painted names. In faded yellow letters she read “Blonberg,
Financier.”

The front door was closed and she pressed a bell. Almost instantly there
was a click and the door yielded to her pressure. Closing it behind
her, she passed along the meagre passage and began to climb the stairs.
Three flights she negotiated and then came to a small landing from which
two doors opened. She turned the handle of that facing her and entered a
small back room lighted by one dusty lamp.

"Come in," called a voice.

It came from an inner room. There was no illumination, but
sufficient light came from the outer office to show a small table
apparently set against the wall. Mrs. Untersohn knew, as she sat down
breathlessly, that the “wall” was a screen of fine wire gauze and that
sitting behind that gauze was the man she sought.

"I had your note." The voice from the darkness had a hollow sound--a
little metallic and unnatural. "You ask for a lot of money."

"I'm worth a lot of money," she answered in her deep voice. "Millions! If
I had my rights..."

"I am not interested in your rights," said the voice, "but I am very much
interested in something else. You come at a very good time. Mrs.
Untersohn, if your son values his life he must not repeat his visit to
Longford Manor!"

"Eh!"

The unseen could imagine her jaw dropping with astonishment. Then she was
not in it, he decided.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Mr. Blonberg," she gasped. "My
son? He didn't go to Longford at all. I went there myself--and it was like
talking to a bit of stone tryin' to make Clifton do the right thing by
me. Him rollin' in money an' me tryin' to make a penny do the work of a
pound--"

"Your son was at Longford Manor last night," said the voice sternly. "He
broke into the room of Mrs. Clifton. Warn him. He should be down on his
knees in gratitude that he has the chance I give him. How much do you
want?"

The last question was put abruptly.

"A thousand, Mr. Blonberg--and as to my son."

"You can't have a thousand. Five hundred will be posted to you. Have you
the promissory note?"

She fumbled in her bag, produced a slip of paper and pushed it through a
slit, in shape and size like the slit of a letterbox, cut in the gauze.
Instantly she heard the crinkle of notes and saw a thin pad of money
lying on the table before her.

"Unfasten the spring catch of the front door as you go out and close it
after you," said the voice of Mr. Blonberg, "and as usual wait in the
outer office until you hear my bell ring."

Mrs. Untersohn got up from the table.

"I only want to tell you that my boy wouldn't do anything wrong," she
said. "He's naturally high spirited being a gentleman born, but--"

"Better be a gentleman born than a gentleman dead," said the ominous
voice. "Wait in the office."

She went outside. Presently she heard the snap of a lock and a faint
moaning sound that died away into silence. A few seconds later, a noisy
bell tinkled. Mrs. Untersohn went out, shutting the door, which fastened
behind her. Obediently she released the catch of the front door and
slammed it.

This time she did not go back by bus: it was raining, and, chartering a
providential taxicab which she found in Marylebone Lane, she was driven
home.

And throughout the journey her troubled mind was so occupied by the
thought of the danger attending the one person she loved, that she did
not realize she was still grasping the bundle of notes Blonberg had
pushed into her hands.

Her son. There had been a threat in Blonberg's voice. What did he know
about her boy? She was frightened by Blonberg--terribly frightened of the
glare of those unseen eyes. She had a strange, grotesque picture of him
in her mind, this ogre in the wire cage who knew everything--who told her,
on her first visit to him, all the secrets that she thought were locked
tight in her own breast.

But he wouldn't hurt the boy--for whom she had sacrificed
everything--almost everything.

With that piece of self-assurance she went to bed.

The next morning her maid brought her a cup of coffee and the newspaper.
The coffee she sipped leisurely, and enjoyed a sensation of complacent
comfort. The heavy demands that had been made upon her during the last
week could now be satisfied. He was a dear boy, she told herself, and
worth it.

The maid pulled up the blinds and handed her a pair of horn-rimmed
spectacles as she idly turned the pages of the newspaper. As idly she
read the headlines:--

MYSTERIOUS MURDER IN HERTFORDSHIRE

MR. BASIL HALE FOUND BATTERED TO DEATH IN THE GROUNDS OF HISTORIC MANOR

The maid heard the scream, turned in startled surprise to see the old
woman leap from her bed, gibbering and mouthing and still holding the
paper in her hand.

"My son, my son!" she  shrieked. "Murdered--my son!"



CHAPTER 11


JANE CLIFTON realized that she could be two persons. At the moment she
was one--but it was the wrong one. She could sit at dinner with her
husband and Wells and talk lightly and almost amusingly about people they
knew, could ask calmly whether Marjorie was well and take, or
surprisingly simulate, an interest in the petty interests of a woman whom
she passively disliked. She found herself talking about the wedding and
was shocked.

It was amazing that she could talk and act rationally. She was angered by
her own indifference, her own abnormal serenity. She tried to stimulate a
sense of horror which would not develop naturally. She was married to a
madman--tied to him for life--the son of a homicide, a forger planning and
carrying out his crime with all the proper cunning of a madman.

Jane found herself examining him feature by feature. There was nothing of
madness in his eyes--she dimly remembered a hideous picture her father had
once painted of a lunatic's face. It used to be kept in one of his locked
sketchbooks, but she had seen it one day and had been physically
nauseated. The loose mouth, the irregular features, the peculiar
unevenness of the face. John Leith had painted the picture in
water-colours for his own edification and had been brutally faithful to
his subject.

Peter bore no resemblance to this nightmare portrait. The hands that were
folded on the table were singularly beautiful, big, but as shapely as a
woman's. His mouth was firm, the gaze fixed upon Cheyne Wells steadfast.

If she could only experience some emotion--fear, contempt, indignation at
the wrong he had done in marrying at all--if she were anything but what
she was, an impersonal observer of his weaknesses, she might bring her
own fate into perspective.

Donald Wells seemed unconscious of the strained atmosphere. No reference
had been made to that encounter in the garden. Though she had seen Peter
for a moment before dinner, she did not ask what had become of Basil, and
he had volunteered no explanation. There was a bruise on his cheek and
one of his fingers was bandaged. He told Wells in the course of the meal
that a dog had bitten him, and pooh-poohed the suggestion that he should
have the wound, slight as it was, examined.

It was obvious to Jane that even Donald Wells knew nothing of the fight
or of Basil's presence, for once in the course of dinner he mentioned
casually that he had met Basil in Bond Street and that he was going
abroad for three months. But the doctor was not kept in ignorance very
long. Jane had hardly left the room before the doctor put the question
that he had wanted to ask through the meal.

"What is the matter, Peter?"

Peter shook his head.

"Nothing," he said curtly.

"Don't be a fool. Something has upset you."

Peter hesitated for a while, and then briefly, haltingly, he told of the
occurrence in the garden. At the mention of Basil's name the doctor half
rose from his chair.

"Basil?" he said incredulously. "What was he doing there? What was he
talking about?"

Peter shrugged.

"Can't you guess?" he asked bitterly. "The swine knows who I am--and what
I am!"

Wells stared at him incredulously. "You mean he has told
Jane--impossible!"

"Didn't you see her at dinner? Wasn't it as clear as daylight that she
knows?"

Donald Wells pinched his under lip.

"I can't believe it's possible--good God! How would he know?"

Peter shook his head, shrugged his shoulders impatiently.

"How can I tell? That sort of prying sneak worms his way into every ugly
secret. For a moment I had a thought that you--"

"I? Don't be absurd!" scoffed Wells. "It would be a terribly
unprofessional thing to do, and unpardonable even if Hale was my best
friend, which he isn't."

Peter sat for a long time staring ahead of him, his face was tense and
troubled; and then he asked suddenly: "Do you think there's any danger?
That man has scared me: I'm as frightened as a child in the dark."

Donald Wells reached out his hand and took the other's wrist and felt the
pulse for a while with the other. To his consternation, Peter saw a frown
gather on the doctor's face.

"You're rather upset, aren't you?" asked Wells, biting his lip
thoughtfully. "I didn't realize you had taken this so badly--what a swine!
I'm going to see Jane and ask her if she minds my staying the night
here."

"You're not to frighten her." Peter Clifton's voice was almost rough.
"God! I'd have given all my fortune to have prevented this, Donald. What
a fool I was, what a fool!"

Donald Wells misunderstood him.

"I suppose you beat him up--there's nothing foolish about that--"

"I'm thinking about my marriage," said Peter slowly. "I relied on you--I'm
not blaming you, old man, for I realize you were guided by the
specialist. Is there any immediate danger of a relapse?"

Donald shook his head.

"You cannot have a 'relapse' since you have never shown any symptoms of
the disease. As to whether you are likely to be attacked at all, I should
say there was not the slightest," he said, but his tone lacked
heartiness. "I'll give you a light sedative tonight, and I'd better phone
Marjorie that I shan't be back."

When he rose from the table there came from outside the sound of a car's
brakes, and the two men looked at one another.

"Are you expecting anybody?" asked Donald.

Peter shook his head.

"Not unless Mr. Hale has decided to pay a return visit," he said grimly.
"In my present mood I could desire nothing better!"

Jane had also heard the wheels, and it was she who went into the hall as
the old serving man opened the door. She stepped back in amazement as the
visitor was revealed. It was Marjorie Wells, and on that beautiful lady's
face was an apologetic smile.

"I hope I've come to take Donald back--but I'm not sure," she said. "Do
you very much mind my interrupting your honeymoon?"

In spite of herself, Jane laughed. It seemed so odd to hear that word.
"Everybody is interrupting my honeymoon," she said good humouredly. "I
could almost fall on your neck in sheer gratitude, Marjorie!"

"Bored already--"

"What do you want?"

It was Cheyne Wells's voice, its anger ill concealed.

"Hallo, darling!" Marjorie was coolness itself. "I'm being a loving and
attentive wife. I know how you hate solitary drives; I thought it would
be a good idea to pick you up."

Donald said nothing. In the dim light which the hall lamp gave, Jane saw
the effort he made to control himself.

His attitude was hardly a surprise to her. There were rumours, vague and
unsupported by external evidence, that all was not well in the Wells
menage. Basil had been the chief vehicle of this gossip; but beneath all
his malignity there was, generally, a thin stratum of unhappy truth.

"I'm not returning tonight," he said shortly, after he had brought his
voice to a politer level. "Peter isn't feeling quite up to the mark, and
I thought I'd stay and see him through."

"How lucky!" She did not waver under his steely eyes. "I thought
something like that might happen, and I've brought down your sleeping
suit. Peter, dear, will you please pay off my hired car? I simply dare
not ask Donald for money. He's always at his worst when questions of
finance are involved."

Relief, absolute and unqualified, was Jane's chief emotion. She led the
way up to the room she had mentally set aside for her unexpected guests.

"I don't as a rule forgive people who hate me," Marjorie prattled on as
she threw her cloak on the bed, "but I'll forgive you if you feel the
tiniest bit savage. Where is Donald sleeping?" she asked abruptly.

For a moment Jane was embarrassed.

"I don't know. I really hadn't thought. I didn't even know that he was
staying," she answered. "But this old house is full of spare rooms. I'll
get Anna to make the beds up."

"I only asked," said Marjorie calmly, "because I think I should like to
be a long way from him tonight. Donald has a violent temper--most husbands
get that way after a time. No, I'm not going to disclose the family
skeletons, my dear. This room is lovely." She walked to the door and
inspected the lock. "And there's a key--shall I tell you something?"

Without waiting for the permission she asked, she went on:

"Do you realize the most dreadful thing a woman can get is a talkative
husband? The husband who strides up and down the room half the night
telling you your faults and instructing you how you can get rid of them?"

"I'm sure Peter will never do that."

"You're too great a lamb to have any faults at this stage of your married
life!"

"Basil Hale was here today."

Why she said this Jane could never understand. It was one of those
unpremeditated speeches that one would give everything to unsay. But the
effect on the woman was extraordinary. She had been looking at her
reflection in the long, old-fashioned pier glass over the mantelpiece,
and now she turned quickly, her mouth and eyes wide open.

"Basil Hale--here? Why did he come?" she asked quickly. "You didn't ask
him, of course?"

She spoke rapidly, the words stumbling forth in her agitation.

"I thought you meant when you said that you had an interrupted
honeymoon--He dared!"

And then Jane jerked out a question.

"Do you know anything about Peter?" She was reckless now, her pent
emotions at last finding expression. "You've known him longer than I--is
it true what Basil said about him? I wanted to ask Donald, but I didn't
dare, and I haven't had the opportunity--oh, I don't know what I'm talking
about. You'll think I'm mad, but I just wasn't interested enough to ask
him anything."

To her surprise she found she was trembling violently. Marjorie Cheyne
Wells took her by the shoulders and, pushing her into a chair, stared
down at her through slits of eyelids.

"Do I know what about Peter?" she demanded. "What is the matter, Jane?
Has it something to do with Basil’s calling?"

The girl nodded.

"Something he knew about Peter that he told you?"

Jane nodded again. When she spoke her voice was shaking.

"He said Peter's father was mad--and his grandfather. There's a horrible
history of insanity in the family. And oh, there's something else,
Marjorie--I can't tell you. I didn't seem to care till this minute. I
don't know why I'm such a weakling, but I'm afraid--terribly afraid."

"Of Peter?"

Jane shivered. "No, not of Peter, but for him. I don't think I love him,
Marjorie. I liked him awfully, and Daddy was very pleased that I should
marry. But I'm terribly sorry for him."

Marjorie spoke no word; her dark eyes were fixed steadily upon the girl.

"Peter is the son of a lunatic, eh?" she said softly. "Of course, that
accounts for so much. What a fool I have been!" A pause, and then: "Is he
the Clever One by any, chance?"



CHAPTER 12


THE WORDS brought Jane to her feet.

"No, no, no!" she said breathlessly. And, in a panic: "I don't know what
you mean--the Clever One. You mean the forger?"

"I mean the forger," said Marjorie relentlessly. "The man all London is
talking about; the banknote gentleman."

She waited for an answer, but none came. Then she nodded slowly.

"I see--who told you that Peter was the forger?"

Only then was Jane beginning to understand what she had done. In a moment
of pitiable weakness she had made a confidante of the last person in the
world she would have trusted, and told or inferred that catastrophic
secret which might bring her life tumbling about her in hopeless ruin.

"How absurd!" She made an heroic effort to bring the talk back to normal,
though she realized she had ventured too far from the safe and beaten
path to be successful. "I'm only telling you what Basil said about Peter.
You knew it, of course?"

Marjorie shook her head.

"My dear husband tells me nothing," she said, with a hard little smile.
"I guess a lot, and sometimes I guess wrong. But I never supposed that
Peter was mad--that's it, is it?"

She slipped an arm round the girl's shaking shoulders.

"Here am I getting all motherly and affectionate," she said, but Jane
felt the sneer that could not be hidden and drew clear of the encircling
arm. "And the horrible thing is that I've never liked you and you've
always loathed me. I suppose you know I'm desperately in love with your
Peter?"

She said this so calmly that Jane thought she was joking, but a glance at
the woman's face told her that behind the flippancy was the truth.

"That's a disgraceful confession for a decent married woman to make--but I
was, and I am. Up to a point."

Jane looked aghast at her for a moment, and in some odd way a little
spark of virtuous indignation kindled and died in her heart.

"If you were very much in love with him," said Marjorie, "you would want
to murder me! Happily you're not."

Her eyes had not left Jane's all the time she was speaking.

"You like him and you're sorry for him, which means you're on the
jumping-off place for love." She sighed heavily. "Peter, Of course,
wouldn't have told you of the many infamous hints I have given to him. I
don't suppose he recognized them, poor dear!"

She walked back to the pier glass, carefully applied a lipstick to her
red mouth before she spoke again.

"Good Lord--what an amazing thing!" She nodded in the friendliest way to
her reflection. "And Basil told you--and of course Basil wouldn't lie. He
never tells a lie when he is trying to hurt. Have you spoken to my good
man?"

"No," said Jane. For the first time in her life she understood this hard
woman. Marjorie had always been a terrifying quantity: a woman with a
bitter tongue, all too ready to gibe at things which had been rather
precious to Jane.

"So Basil told you, eh?" The voice of Marjorie Cheyne Wells was almost
silky. "I'm rather sorry for Basil. He's foul, but amusing."

"Why are you sorry for him?" asked Jane.

Marjorie did not turn her head, but continued the operation of her
lipstick.

"Because," she said slowly and without the slightest trace of emotion, "I
don't think Basil has very long to live!"

Jane stared at her in wonderment.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that if he told Peter and Peter knows--"

Jane had the feeling that this wife of Cheyne Wells was going to make
some tremendous pronouncement, but she checked herself and laughed
softly. If she loved Peter she loved herself better. Marjorie Wells was
making a new survey of life, tabulating assets which hitherto had been
invisible. Knowledge had brought her from the status of suspecting
observer to a participant in a game so great that only now was she
beginning to rate it at its true value.

Her laughter stopped as abruptly as it had begun, and she bent her head,
listening.

"That is dear Donald in the hall, and he'll be wondering what ghastly
secrets I've been telling you about his patients. Let us go down; I want
to have a good look at Peter--and don't forget that I'm madly in love with
him."

The lightness of her tone called for a smile, but Jane had an uncanny
knack of getting beneath the superficialities of voice and manner, and
she knew that Marjorie Wells was investing an old truth with a new
significance.

"You have no rival," she said as flippantly.

Marjorie gave her an odd glance which it was impossible to interpret.

Her husband had an instinct that was almost clairvoyant. She had noticed
it on previous occasions. She was startled to have a manifestation now of
his queerly occult power. One glance he gave at Jane's face, and then, to
the visible embarrassment of Peter, he said abruptly: "Hale has been here
talking a lot of nonsense about Peter."

Marjorie did not attempt to simulate surprise. She had tried that before
and had failed miserably to deceive him.

"Jane has just told me," she said.

She was more successful in her assumption of indifference.

"I knew that sooner or later that drunken brute would make trouble."

She heard Peter's murmured protest; unless she was mistaken that would be
sufficient to turn Donald's conversation into another channel. She
herself led the talk to surer ground. The evening passed
conversationally; a most commonplace end to a bewildering day, thought
Jane, as she closed the door of her bedroom and locked it.

That night she had come to a decision. She would write to her father and
tell the astute John Leith everything. Fortunately there was a good
supply of stationery in her bedroom--fortunately because she made half a
dozen attempts before she finally plunged into the recital of her
troubles. She had always taken them to her father, but it required an
especial effort to tell him of her discovery. Now she spared him nothing.
He would be hurt, alarmed, horrified; and the only logical outcome to her
letter would be his arrival to take her away. Was not that also the only
sane step she could take? She was married to a forger--a criminal with
perhaps a life sentence over his head. But that seemed almost
unimportant, as she wrote, compared with the greater and more awful
menace which had already thrown a shadow over her life. She wrote:

"...don't know what you can do. Daddy, except come and take me away. I
think Peter will understand. He is aware that I know. And really he is
most considerate, most thoughtful--a dear. I feel I'm being a terrible
coward in running away, but to put in a week of this would get on my
nerves, and it is better that I should go now before he returns to
London. We have made a ghastly mistake..."

She wrote until one o'clock, and then--she destroyed the letter, burning
it in the grate. Peter and Cheyne Wells were in bed; she had heard
Peter's door close and his harsh goodnight in the passage. Her own mind
was in confusion; she was mentally and physically weary, and was asleep a
few seconds after she had reached out and switched off the light.

Tap, tap, tap!

The noise was gentle but insistent. She was instantly awake, sitting up
in bed, her heart thumping painfully.

"Who is it?" she asked in a low voice, when she had located the sound.

"Marjorie--let me in."

The whispered words were urgent. Jane slipped out of bed, unlocked the
door and admitted the woman.

"Shut the door--lock it."

The hand on Jane's bare arm was cold and trembling.

"What is the matter?"

Marjorie must have guessed she was feeling for the switch of the little
table-lamp, for she stopped her.

"No, no, don't put on the light. I've got one of my nervous fits--can't
sleep. This is a horrible house!"

She had evidently brought her dressing-gown on her arm, for Jane heard
the swish of silk as her guest pulled it on.

"Where is Peter sleeping?"

"In the next room but one--do you want him?"

There was no answer for a while, and then: "This room is very dark. Are
the curtains over the window very heavy--would a light be seen from the
outside?"

"No," said Jane, wondering.

"Very well, put on the lamp."

In the dim, warm light Marjorie Wells's face showed gaunt and pallid.

"Where is Donald sleeping? I didn't even trouble to inquire."

"Donald is at the back of the house," Jane told her, and the shivering
woman sighed her relief.

"If he hears me talking he will come in, and I don't want to see Donald
tonight."

She went across to the window and, examining the curtains, seemed
satisfied.

"What time is it?" She peered down at the little gold clock on the
bedside table--she was, Jane discovered, a little short sighted. "Half
past two. I went to bed at eleven."

Jane threw kindling wood on the half dead fire--the night was chilly. She
wondered how long Marjorie intended staying, yet felt more pleasure than
annoyance to have her companionship.

Donald's wife had drawn an armchair to the fire and sat crouching over
it, warming her trembling hands. After a while she broke her brooding
silence.

"You must have thought I was mad when I asked about the Clever One--you
didn't tell Peter, did you?"

"I've hardly spoken to Peter," said Jane, keeping her voice steady. "Who
is this forger? Have you some idea?"

She had to set her teeth to ask the words, but Marjorie raised one
shoulder in denial.

"I don't know," she said indifferently. "One talks about this kind of
people, though one is never brought into even the remotest contact with
them. Donald had one of his forged notes. He must be very rich." She shot
a glance at the girl, so swift that Jane hardly saw the movement of her
eyes. "They'll catch him one of these days and then he'll go to prison
for life, and a jolly good thing for everybody."

Jane shuddered at the venom in the woman's tone. It was almost as though
she had a personal grudge against the forger. Then, in her abrupt way,
Marjorie went off at a tangent.

"Was Basil very foul? What a loathsome beast he is! But you rather liked
him, didn't you?"

Jane nodded.

"He is always amusing," she said.

"Amusing!" sneered Marjorie Wells. "At somebody else's expense."

"Have you know him long?" She was not really interested, but the occasion
called for a conversational effort.

"Years ago, when we were at Nunhead."

She saw that the name meant nothing to Jane.

"You didn't know Donald had a sixpenny practice in South London, did you?
But he did. And if you think he won his way to Harley Street by sheer
brilliance, I am going to undeceive you! Donald was once as near to ruin
as any man can get without tumbling over the edge--and I sometimes wish
he'd tumbled," she added coolly.



CHAPTER 13


JANE COULD only look at her in shocked wonder.

"He was mixed up in an unpleasant case." Marjorie seemed to find a
malicious joy in relating the history of this disreputable incident in
Donald's life. "There was an inquest and nearly a police prosecution; and
then Donald found his rich patient! No, it wasn't dear, deranged
Peter--don't wince, darling, I'm only being sardonic--it was a mysterious
Mr. Looker, or some other name, who was a hypochondriac and had faith in
Donald. Hence the glory and splendours of Harley Street and our
magnificent entry into society. We had a four-roomed flat in Nunhead over
the surgery, which was a converted shop. I am not saying that Donald
isn't clever: in some ways he's brilliant. He's more a conversationalist
than a pathologist, and after all that is what you want in a West End
practice. The old ladies of Bayswater swear by him, and really his
methods are admirable. He sends all old gentlemen to Torquay and all old
ladies to Bath. He used to send some of them to Wiesbaden, but those
wretched German doctors got hold of them and cured them and we lost our
patients. Donald never sends them abroad nowadays."

"Is he a nerve specialist?" asked Jane, with a growing sense of dismay.
It was as though one of the props of life were sagging.

"A nerve specialist? I suppose so. Who isn't? He's plausible, and, as I
say, he can talk, and with mental cases a convincing talker has got the
British Pharmacopoeia skinned to death! I'm weakening your faith in
Donald, aren't I?" She smiled quickly up into the girl's face. "But--"

They both heard the sound; they would have been deaf if they had not--a
shrill squeal of fear, a howl such as a tortured beast might make.
Marjorie sprang to her feet, her face convulsed with terror.

"What was that? What was that?" she whispered.

Jane was moving towards the window when the other woman clutched her by
the arm.

"No, no, no!" She almost whined the entreaty. "Put out the light first."

In the presence of that undisciplined terror Jane was calm. She went to
the bed, turned the switch and ran to the window, pulling back the heavy
curtains. Rain had been falling earlier in the evening, but now the stars
were shining. There was no sound but the rustling of leaves, and far away
the faint sound of a locomotive's whistle.

"What was it?" Marjorie was clinging to her arm.

"An owl probably," said Jane.

She pulled the curtains, and half led, half supported the woman to the
bed. When she turned on the light Marjorie was lying full face down with
her head buried in the clothes, and the bed was shaking with the violence
of her sobs. Jane got her water from the carafe. It was half an hour
before the woman was calm. Once, as Jane sat on the edge of the bed,
trying to soothe her, she thought she heard the creak of a floorboard on
the landing outside, and, creeping to the door, she listened. There was
no further sound and she went back to her patient.

"I'm a fool--God! what a fool I am!" said Marjorie Wells huskily. "I've
been living so long on the edge of things that I must have gone a little
crazy myself. What do you think it was, Jane?"

Before the hesitating Jane could invent, she went on:

"It wasn't an owl, it was a madman! Donald took me the rounds of an
asylum once." She shuddered and screwed her eyes tight. "I saw things,
heard things--it was ghastly! One man was making a noise just like that."

For a moment Jane thought that she would break down again, but she
mastered herself.

"I am getting hysterical--what was that?"

She clung to Jane like a frightened child.

"Somebody on the landing; I'll see who it is."

"No, no, don't open the door, please!"

They listened, but the creak of floorboard was not repeated. They did not
hear any other noise.

An hour later Jane walked to the window and peeped out. It was morning,
and the park was bathed in the grey, eerie light of dawn. By this time
Mrs. Wells had recovered some of her old manner, and that glimpse of
daylight was sufficient to restore her almost to normal.

"I've ruined your night's rest and I'm terribly sorry. I wouldn't sleep
in this house again for all the money in the world. When are you coming
back to town?"

Jane hesitated.

"Today, I think," she said. "Peter has got a suite at the Ritz."

Marjorie looked past her, her lips pursed thoughtfully.

"I want a long talk with you, but we shall have to arrange our meeting
like conspirators--Donald has the greatest objection to my making friends
with you, or we should have seen much more of one another. I think I'll
go now--will you come with me to the door of my room?"

"Are you as frightened as that?" smiled Jane in spite of herself.

The other nodded.

"You don't know just how frightened I am," she said in a serious tone.

Jane went back to her room with no thought of going to bed. She was
thoroughly awake now, and had quite enough to occupy her mind before the
house would begin to stir. Marjorie Wells had shown Donald in a new light.
All his dignity, his quiet yet pretentious wisdom fell from him like a
beautiful cloak, leaving exposed the skeleton of a fakir. It was not a
pleasant thought that Peter's health was in the hands of such a man. And
that cry--it was not nice to remember--the cry of a madman, Marjorie had
said. Peter? She grew sick at the thought, and then dismissed it
contemptuously. Peter would be in bed.

She sat before the replenished fire for a while and then rose uneasily
and passed out into the little sitting-room which separated his bedroom
from hers. She turned the handle gently and stepped in.

The first thing she noticed was that the window was wide open, the
curtains undrawn. Above the sill of the window projected the rough ends
of a garden ladder. And then her eyes turned to the bed. It had a high
footboard; from where she stood she could only see the head and shoulders
of her husband, but at the sight of him she gasped. He was still wearing
his dinner jacket, and was lying fully clothed on the top of the bed. She
tiptoed towards him and nearly screamed at the horrid spectacle. His
white shirt front was splashed and stained with blood; the hand that hung
over the side of the bed was smeared red; there was blood on his face,
his collar was crumpled and torn from the stud, his black tie hung loose.
He still wore his light evening shoes, but they were smothered with mud
which was not yet dry, and mud was on the silken counterpane.

She stood, petrified with horror at the sight, holding on to the
footboard, and then she saw, on the strip of carpet by the side of the
bed, a large hammer, and, stooping mechanically, she picked it up. The
foul thing was bloodstained from handle to head. She wanted to drop it;
instead, she put it on the bedside table.

"Peter!" she whispered fearfully. "Peter!"

She shook him with all her strength, but he did not wake. He was like a
man in a drugged sleep. She wanted to scream, to fly from the room, but a
greater instinct held her fast. This man was her husband, tied to her by
an intangible bond. She had a duty which seemed grotesque in the face of
this grisly evidence. Murder had been done. That cry in the night meant
something that she dared not let her mind rest upon.

In that inspired moment she saw him in a new light--his helplessness, his
terrible isolation. He had no friends. The woman who had blatantly talked
of her love for him would be the first to pull him down. She caught her
breath at the thought--every hand was against him, the law, his “friends.”

She went to the door and shot home the bolt. Then she came back to renew
her attempt to waken him. He groaned as she shook him but did not open
his eyes. Soon the servants would be about, and he would stand starkly
revealed for what he was. There came over her, in that moment of
sickening, shuddering horror and fear, a tremendous perception of her
duty.

She loosened the collar, pulled it off, and, setting her teeth, she began
with hands that shook to undress him. Switching on the lamp, she made
absolutely sure that the stains were confined only to his coat and shirt,
and then began a task which was almost Herculean, for he was a heavy man,
difficult to move. In a quarter of an hour she had him stripped to the
waist, and carried shoes, coat and vest and that hideous shirt into her
own room. She heated some water in her tea-making kettle over the fire,
returned with a bowl and a sponge and washed his hands clear of the grim
evidence of tragedy. Only once did he murmur in his sleep and she bent
her head to listen.

"Basil...swine..." he said, and relapsed again into silence. She picked
up the hammer with a piece of paper, took that also into her room, and,
throwing on more kindling, dropped it into the fire and watched the
wooden haft burn dully. The clothes, shirt and shoes must be got rid of
somehow. Her brain was very active. She had a feeling as if she herself
had committed the murder and was planning her own safety and the
destruction of the evidence against her. The clothes she could not burn:
she made them into a bundle and packed them at the bottom of the trunk.
Going back into his room, she opened his wardrobe and took out another
dress jacket and shirt. Into this last she fitted the studs and links she
had taken from the bloodstained garment in her trunk.

By this time the hammer head was red hot. She raked it out into the
hearth, where it might cool, and, remembering the ladder, went back to
Peter's room and pushed the ladder head till it fell back on the lawn.
Then, half closing the window, she drew the curtains and returned to her
own bedroom to wait.

The old woman brought her tea half an hour later. "Why, ma'am, you're
up!" she said in surprise.

Jane forced a smile. "It would be a sin to stay in bed on a morning like
this," she said lightly.

Anna lingered at the door. "Beg your pardon, ma'am, but did you hear
anything in the night?"

Jane's heart was in her mouth but she shook her head. "What was there to
hear?"

"An awful noise. Parsons heard it too--like a big dog howling."

Jane restrained her inclination to shiver at this illustration: a big
dog--a mad dog.

"And the gardener heard it. He sleeps down by the lodge."

"It probably was a dog," said Jane steadily.

She was already bathed and dressed when the woman had come to waken her,
and now she went downstairs and out into the open air. There was nobody
about; even the gardener was out of sight. She made her way leisurely to
the front of the house, picked up the garden ladder--it was a considerable
weight--and transported it some distance across the lawn. She turned to go
back to the house when she heard her name called faintly, and, looking
round, saw the gardener running towards her, gesticulating like one
demented.

"Oh, ma'am," he almost sobbed in his fear, "I've seen something!"

Jane's heart stood still and she braced herself for what was coming.

"A man--killed--murdered! The red-haired gentleman who was here
yesterday--down by the wall--murdered!"

Jane held fast to the door and stared back at the man. Now she knew.

Peter had killed Basil Hale!



CHAPTER 14


AS SHE walked unsteadily through the hall Donald Wells was coming down
the stairs. He took one glance at her face and ran to her side.

"What is the matter?"

She could not speak; she pointed through the door to the incoherent
gardener. Donald waited a second at the foot of the stairs to call his
wife. After a few seconds Marjorie came into view, wearing a wrapper.

"Come down here and look after Jane," he said, and went out to the
gardener.

The man had little to tell. He was on his way to his tool-house, which
was built against the wall which surrounded the property, when he saw a
man's foot showing behind a bush. He thought at first it was a tramp who
had got into the grounds and then he saw.

"Wait here--I'll come back in a moment,"

Donald Wells returned to Jane.

"Is Peter up?"

Jane shook her head.

"I haven't heard him," she said.

"Come up with me." He turned and walked up the stairs. "You can go back
to your room, Marjorie."

"I don't choose to go back to my room," said Marjorie Wells coolly. "What
is wrong?"

"Somebody has been hurt or killed in the grounds."

"My God! That was the sound--"

"What sound?" He turned half way up the stairs and looked down at her.
"Did you hear it, too?" he asked. "I hoped you were asleep. It woke me. I
think I should go back to my room if I were you, dear."

His request was almost mild compared with his earlier tone.

"I don't think so. There's no reason why I should go back to my room."

Marjorie was firm, and for some reason he did not resent her obstinacy.

He knocked at Peter's door and tried the handle. "Peter!" he called, but
there was no answer. "Is there any other way into this room?"

Jane had remembered that it was she who bolted the door, indeed had
nearly blurted out the truth.

"Yes, you can get in through the sitting-room," she said, and showed him
the way.

"I gave him a little sedative dose last night--he was a little excited--but
that shouldn't make him sleep so heavily. Did you hear him walking about
in the night?"

She shook her head, and followed the doctor into Peter's room. He lay as
she had left him, the eiderdown over his shoulders, and he was breathing
regularly.

"Pull back the curtains," ordered Donald, and when she obeyed he leaned
over the sleeping man.

She heard him utter an exclamation under his breath.

"What has happened?" It was Marjorie, standing in the open doorway, who
asked the question, and her voice was sharp with suspense.

"Nothing," snarled Donald. And then, to Jane: "What's wrong with this
husband of yours? Wake up, Peter!"

And then, to her relief, Peter's eyelids quivered and he stretched his
arms with a groan and muttered:

"I've got a gosh awful head."

Donald was looking round the room with keen, searching eyes.

"He's half dressed," he said. "Where are his other clothes?"

"There!" Jane pointed to the clothes thrown over the chair.

"Clothes? What's the matter with my clothes?" groaned Peter. He was
sitting on the side of his bed, his face buried in his hands, apparently
oblivious of their presence. "My heavens! That was powerful dope of
yours, Wells. I feel like a dead man."

Donald called his wife from the doorway.

"Get my medicine chest and a glass of water," he ordered.

Whilst he waited he walked to the window and looked out. In the light of
morning Jane saw that his face was haggard.

One fact struck her as remarkable--that he made no attempt to join the
shivering gardener below, or see the dead man lying somewhere in a tangle
of bushes. It was she who brought him back to that awful subject.

"It is Basil Hale," she said simply.

He looked at her sharply. "Good God! You haven't been--you mean the dead
man?" She nodded. "How do you know?"

"The gardener told me--it was the man who was here yesterday. Oh, Donald,
isn't it terrible, terrible!"

He nodded curtly.

"Yes. I wondered if it was Hale. Somehow I expected this." He was looking
at her steadily, his thin face sphinxlike and expressionless. "I guessed
it was Hale," he said in a lower voice. "When I came up I was almost
panic-stricken--Peter hated him."

"Peter hates nobody." Jane's voice was sharp, resentful.

Wells's thin nose wrinkled up in astonishment. Obviously he was not
prepared for this blind championship. "Oh--well, perhaps he didn't."

Here was the second circumstance: Donald had spoken as though Peter was
not present, or as though he knew that what he said would be
incomprehensible in his semi-unconscious state.

"Eh?" Peter looked up dully. "What's this all about? By jingo, my head's
splitting!"

Donald took the glass of water that his wife brought at that moment,
poured in half the contents of two bottles and stirred it with a glass
rod.

"Drink this--at a gulp." he said, and Peter obeyed. "Now lie down."

The doctor pushed him on to the bed and his patient subsided with a
groan.

"We can leave him now. I'll go along and see this--"

He was reluctant to say the word apparently; even more reluctant to leave
the two alone, for he found some flimsy excuse for ordering his wife back
to her room, and to Jane's surprise she meekly obeyed.

No sooner was her husband out of sight, however, than Marjorie rejoined
the girl.

"Who is it? Somebody killed? Not--Basil?"

Jane nodded.

"I'm afraid so," she said. "Isn't it ghastly?"

A long interregnum during which neither spoke.


"That was the sound we heard." Marjorie screwed her face in a grimace of
disgust. "I wonder how Peter is."

She opened the door and walked in, Peter was lying wide awake.

"That head's better. Hallo, Marjorie! What's all the trouble?"

And then he saw his wife and a look of alarm came to his face.

"I say, I haven't been ill, have I?" he asked.

He must have seen something in Jane's eyes, for in another instant he was
off the bed and standing unsteadily, swaying a little.

"What have I done?" he demanded.

"You'd better wait till you're quite fit."

"I'm fit enough now." His voice was surprisingly even. "Has anything
happened?"

"Somebody's been killed in the grounds. I think it's somebody we know."

She saw the colour fade from his face.

"Who?" he asked.

Jane licked her dry lips and felt her breath coming painfully fast: it
was she who must tell him--somehow Marjorie did not anticipate that right.

"I fear it is Basil," she said huskily.

He gripped the footboard.

"Basil? You mean Basil Hale? Killed? Not murdered?"

She nodded. Marjorie caught him by the arm.

"Sit down, Peter."

"But it's impossible." He shook off her hand. "Basil murdered--by whom?"

He did not know. Jane stared at him in terrified amazement. Of whatever
had happened in the night he was ignorant. There was no pretence here; he
was genuinely shattered by the news.

"Poor devil! I wonder who--"

And then she saw the light of fear in his eyes. It was as though there
arose before his gaze the spectacle of his mad father. He looked
fearfully down at his hands, fearfully and furtively, and when he did not
see there the thing he had expected she saw his relief. "That's bad. I'll
have a bath and dress, if you don't mind."

He was more shaken than she had ever seen him, thought Jane, as she and
Marjorie Wells left him. They were in the bedroom and Marjorie had closed
both doors carefully before she spoke.

"Peter thought he committed the murder. Did you see him looking at his
hands? I wonder if he did?"

Jane Clifton flamed round at her. That this woman who professed an
understanding and friendship--love, even, could without evidence suspect
Peter roused her to fury.

"Why wonder? You know him better than I. Would you imagine that he could
commit a wicked murder?"

Marjorie was neither angered nor distressed.

"Peter is a little mad--you've already told me that. Really, Jane, your
loyalty is wonderful! You'll be falling in love with him yourself if you
aren't careful!"

She left Jane alone, bewildered, baffled.

What should she do? And then she remembered Superintendent Bourke. She
would get on the phone straight away to Scotland Yard and tell Bourke;
and if he was not at Scotland Yard she could perhaps find his private
address. Instinctively she recognized in him a real friend of Peter's.
She must do this before the local police took charge.

It was half past seven and she had no expectation of finding the
superintendent in his office at such an early hour, but it was his voice
which answered her.

"Yes, Mrs. Clifton." (How strange that name sounded!) "Yes, it is Bourke
speaking. Is anything wrong?"

She told him in a few words, and at the mention of Basil Hale she heard
him whistle.

"I'll come right along. It happens that your place is on the edge of the
Metropolitan area. Does your husband know you've called?"

"No, no," she hastened to tell him.

When she got back to her room she found Marjorie pacing up and down.

"Mr. Bourke is coming down," she said, a little breathless at her
temerity.

Marjorie did not reply, her forehead was furrowed in a frown.

"Bourke is the police officer, isn't he? A friend of Peter's?"

"I wish I knew all that you knew," she went on. "I mean all that you
haven't told me. Basil's been hanging about this place since you
arrived--I know that. Donald let it out by accident this morning. I don't
think he was really in love with you until you were married, but that was
like Basil. A person or a thing had to be unattainable before he was
really interested--"

"But we were only friends," protested Jane. "He's never even made love to
me, and his attitude was more like that of a brother."

A flickering smile came and went on Marjorie Wells's worn face.

"That is what I mean," she said. "Only marriage could have made the
difference. When you became Mrs. Peter Clifton--"

She stopped short here, shook her head almost angrily.

"I wish I knew."

There was a note of asperity in her tone, for no reason whatever so far
as Jane could judge.

"Did you partly undress Peter?"

Her keen eyes searched the girl's face, but Jane summoned all her
resolution to the lie.

"No," she said.



CHAPTER 15


IF SHE changed colour her deception was valueless. She fixed her mind
upon the most impersonal object she could think of, and she must have
succeeded in this effort of self-control, for apparently Marjorie saw
nothing to arouse her suspicions.

"Why should I?" asked Jane, but her companion was looking out of the
window.

Donald Wells was coming slowly across the lawn, his hands thrust deep in
his pockets, his eyes on the ground. By his very attitude she knew that
the gardener was not mistaken, and, risking the inevitable snub, she went
out of the room and down the stairs to meet him.

"Yes, it was Basil." He was surprisingly civil. "Poor devil, he must have
been battered to death by a hammer or something."

Jane, standing on the landing above, listening, held tight to her
fast-beating heart. Battered to death--with a hammer!

She went back to her room, retrieved the hammer head which she had
concealed in the coalbox, and had time to slip it into her trunk and
unlock the door before Marjorie returned in some hurry.

"I told Donald that you have sent for Mr. Bourke," she said in a low
voice. "He's furious with you; he says you may have done Peter an awful
lot of harm."

There was a tap at the door. Jane opened it and found her husband
standing in his bathrobe.

"What's the racket?" he asked. "Has anything happened? Somebody told me
something unpleasant, but I can't quite remember what it was."

He was nervous and, for him, irritable. She opened the door wider.

"Come in," she invited.

He had forgotten all that had happened a few minutes before--forgotten
that she had told him of Basil's death!

"Don't you remember? A man has been found dead in the grounds--murdered."

The hand that went up to his mouth shook a little.

"Murdered? Who was it?" he asked huskily.

It was Marjorie who supplied the answer.

"Basil Hale."

He blinked at her like a man suddenly confronted with a strong light.

"Basil Hale murdered?" And then: "By whom? When did it happen?"

"Some time in the night." Jane's voice was very gentle "I think about
three o'clock. And, Peter, I've sent for Mr. Bourke."

He looked at her dully, as though he did not fully comprehend the
tremendous news she had given him.

"Hale murdered? Good God!"

"Did you mind--my sending for Bourke?"

He shook his head.

"No, I am greatly obliged to you. How did you know what time it
occurred?"

She told him of the cry in the night, and again he blinked.

"I was asleep then." His voice was defiant, challenging. In that moment
he was consciously on his defence. "I heard nothing, and I am a very
light sleeper. Has Donald seen him?"

Jane nodded. He stood for a second or two, looking from one to the other.

"I'll dress and go down," he said, and went into his room.

Jane waited till she heard the slam of the door and turned to meet the
inquisitive eyes of Mrs. Wells.

"Peter is a little shaken."

"Has he no excuse for being shaken?" demanded Jane indignantly, and when
Marjorie Wells smiled she hated her.

"Don't be stupid--there's the footstep of my beloved, a little lighter
than a cat but not quite so light as a tiger."

She opened the door and Donald strode in, his face as black as thunder.

"Has anybody told Peter?"

"I have," said Jane.

"And you sent for Bourke, too, eh? That wasn't wise, Marjorie. This is
going to make an evening paper sensation."

"You can hardly hush it up," said Jane. "It is a very terrible thing to
happen, but I don't see that it concerns us."

She was being deliberately brutal, and felt no qualms at her callousness.

"It concerns everybody," said Donald sharply. "It wouldn't have mattered
so much if there hadn't been that fight yesterday evening. You don't
suppose the servants are going to keep quiet about that, do you? They
hated each other, he and Peter. Besides, I'd already telephoned for
Rouper; he happens to be at Hertford on a case. I told him to drive over
at once. We don't want Bourke in this business--"

"Mr. Rouper dislikes Peter," said Jane steadily. "I think you might have
consulted me before you called him in."

He was somewhat staggered at her tone, and it struck Jane that up to that
moment he had regarded her more or less as a cipher, a negligible
quantity, not to be considered seriously in such a moment of crisis.

"I suppose I should have done," he said after a pause. "Somehow I had
forgotten that you and Peter are married--Rouper isn't a bad sort really,
and I don't think he has any particular animosity towards Peter.
Naturally, every police officer is antagonistic when he's investigating a
crime."

Jane was dressed and standing before the house when Rouper arrived.

"Good morning, Mrs. Clifton." His manner was just short of being genial.
"I had the doctor's message when I got to the Chief Constable's office.
He's had a little quarrel, hasn't he? I don't suppose there'll be any
summons for assault. I'd have telephoned last night, but I was out on a
case--"

Donald Wells's voice called him sharply from the hall.

"Is that you, Rouper? Come in, will you? I want to speak to you very
privately."

He left Jane momentarily bewildered. Assault? Then Donald phoned the man
last night--about what? Then it flashed on her that the subject of the
telephone message had been the fight in the rose garden. If there was one
thing certain it was that Rouper knew nothing of the murder. It seemed
natural now that she should seek out Marjorie and tell her of the
detective's arrival and of their conversation.

Marjorie was dressing when the girl came into the room. She listened
without interruption, and when Jane had finished she laughed; it was a
hard, mirthless little laugh. And then, to the girl's amazement, she ran
out of the room into Jane's and went stealthily to the window. She was
just in time to see Donald Wells and the detective before they
disappeared into the tangle of bushes where the body lay.

"What is the mystery--please?"

She had never heard Jane Clifton's voice quite so cold, quite so
incisive. It was not a request, it was a command. For a moment she,
ignoring to the full, with a certain malignant satisfaction, her own
mystery, was startled.

"Some day you will know all about it," she said, but Jane was not
allowing a vital matter to be dismissed so lightly.

"There is something very, very wrong, Marjorie," she said evenly. "I
don't think you know a great deal. You told me that you were a good
guesser, and I have a feeling that you're guessing right. Are you going
to take me entirely into your confidence and tell me all you know and
think and believe? I am groping in the dark at present. All this concerns
Peter, doesn't it--do you think Peter killed this man?"

Marjorie pursed her lips. She was a curiously contradictory woman,
dominated by her moods. Jane felt that for the moment their tacit
alliance was dissolved. Donald Wells's wife had also a personal end to
serve, and would not sacrifice her own interests by any nonsensical act
of altruism. She would be ready indeed to sacrifice Peter if any other
course threatened to jeopardize her own comfortable future.

"I believe you're wanting to help me up to a point, Marjorie, and I think
that point has been reached. But you can't help me except by giving me
knowledge. What do you know?"

"Nothing."

The reply was prompt and decisive, and for a second Jane had a dreary
sense of isolation. There was only one person could help her, and that
was Peter.

A few minutes later she knocked at Peter's door. He was standing by the
window in his shirtsleeves, staring absently towards the bushes where the
men had vanished. He, too, had been watching.

"Peter!"

He had not heard her come in and started when she addressed him.

"Won't you let me help you?"

He was betrayed by the unexpectedness of the question into a despairing
gesture.

"Who can help--" he began wearily, and realized too late that he had
revealed his own distress. "Do you mean my headache?" he began lamely.

"I mean Basil Hale--and all he said. And I mean"--it required a tremendous
effort to finish her sentence--"I mean that room where the printing
presses are."

He went a shade paler, but did not turn his head.

"You know, do you? How did you find that out? How perfectly ghastly for
you!"

"I came down two nights ago," she went on, and her tone was almost
conversational, "and I saw you in the room and the press working."

Reproaches, demands for explanations, and an expression of the agony of
mind she felt would have been so many banalities. She might as well, she
told herself, have said "How odd!" of an earthquake.

He made no other comment upon her discovery, apparently something more
important was filling his mind.

"Somebody took my clothes off last night or this morning," he said, not
looking at her. "That isn't the suit I wore." He pointed to the jacket
which Jane had hung over the chair. "And that is not the shirt."

"I took your clothes off," she said, "early this morning."

Still he was staring out of the window.

"Why?" he asked at last. "Had they any--was there anything--?"

And now he looked at her, his face bleak from the foreknowledge of all
she had to tell.

"There was blood on them," said Jane quietly.

He drew a long, shuddering breath.

"I thought so--there were stains on the washbowl in the bathroom. Was
there any on my--hands?"

She nodded.

"I washed them off," she said simply. "Look at me, Peter, please."

He obeyed.

"I must have killed him," he said simply. "I've no recollection, except
that I still feel so terribly tired. Do you know how I got out of the
window? Was there a ladder there?"

"There was a ladder there; he may have come into the room," she answered.

Peter shook his head. He was very calm; the old nervousness had passed.

"I was rather agitated last night--I've not been feeling quite sure of
myself, that's why I brought Donald down. There was always a chance that
I'd have these queer lapses, yet I'll swear no man feels saner than I.
But Donald warned me, and so did Sir William Clewers."

"Is that the specialist?" she asked.

He nodded.

"He's the fellow who gave the 'all clear' a little prematurely." His
frosty smile was without humour. "I've only done one mad
thing--consciously--and that was marrying you, Jane. I don't know that that
was so mad as wicked. You washed my hands, of course, and my face? How
dear of you!"

His voice was so gentle that she felt the tears coming to her eyes.

"What do you want me to do?" He was like a child, this tall athlete. "I
want a lead. I suppose I ought to tell Bourke everything when he comes."

"You'll tell him nothing--except about the quarrel," she said vigorously.
"You have to think of me, Peter. Get rid of Donald as soon as you can,
and after the police have been we will go back to London."

He nodded.

"All right--not about the blood or anything? I'll do what you think best.
But if anybody else is suspected--I can't keep silent then, can I? If it
weren't for you I'd tell him everything. We'll have to separate anyway. I
must get somebody to look after me."

He went slowly down the stairs and she followed. Donald had not returned,
and Marjorie was in her room.

They were alone when Bourke's high-powered car came up the drive, and the
big man's face was serious.

"What time did this happen?" he asked without preamble. "Some time after
one o'clock, I know."

"How did you know that?" asked Peter.

Bourke was looking at him gravely.

"Because at one o'clock," he said, "Hale called up Scotland Yard and told
the officer on duty that Longford Manor was the headquarters of the
Clever One, and we should find the plant in a secret room that leads from
the library."



CHAPTER 16


JANE CLIFTON went rigid with fear. The detective's voice sounded as
though it came from an immense distance.

"...he was very circumstantial...gave our man the very fullest
particulars. He said that there was a picture on the wall, and that if
you felt along the frame you'd find a spring that allowed it to swing
back from the wall. That is the picture, isn't it?"

She was incapable of further shock--only now did she realize that they had
walked together into the room where the secret printing press was hidden.

Peter was talking, and his voice betrayed neither fear nor excitement.

"It is quite true: there is a room. I found it by accident the other
day."

He went to the wall, touched the picture and there was a click! The frame
swung out as though impelled by a hidden spring. Behind was a deep
cuplike depression, in the centre of which was a small iron wheel--rather
like the driving wheel of a car in miniature. This he turned and pulled.
The panelling swung open heavily. Putting his hand inside the opening, he
switched on a light and passed through, Bourke following.

Jane came slowly to the doorway. She saw a long and lofty room--the
benches she had seen before--there was no press, no banknotes, nothing of
the apparatus of forgery which she had hurriedly glimpsed a few nights
previously.

"Humph!"

Bourke glanced up and down the empty benches.

"Something has been bolted to that central table," he examined the holes
in the wood. "They don't look to be very recent," he said, and looked up.
"Those wires must have been connected with whatever was on the table. I
shouldn't be surprised if this place had been used for some such
purpose."

"I thought that it had been used for a dark room."

How calmly Peter was speaking! His very coolness brought her back to the
realities.

Bourke was rubbing the top of the table with his finger.

"Acid," he said, and, turning on his heel, walked out of the room. "This
can wait--hallo, Rouper here? Who brought him?"

"Dr. Wells." Jane found her voice.

"Did he? That was very enterprising of him. Hallo, Rouper!"

The inspector greeted his chief without enthusiasm. "The doctor brought
me over from Hertford to see this man--"

"You told me that he brought you here because of the quarrel my husband
had with Mr. Hale," said Jane. "I don't think that you knew there had been
a murder when you arrived, did you?"

For a second the inspector was nonplussed.

"That's a matter I can't discuss with you, madam," he said gruffly.

"Discuss it with me." Bourke's voice was very quiet. "Did you know this
murder had been committed when you came from Hertford?"

The detective hesitated.

"No, sir."

"Good--let me see this body."

The police officers were hardly out of the house before Donald Wells
asked: "What on earth made you try to get Rouper into trouble, Jane?"

"I was trying to stop him lying," she said.

He was biting his lip, his mind searching this way and that for an
explanation of her new attitude. Peter had insisted upon going with
Bourke and Rouper. Marjorie had discreetly disappeared, and they were
alone in the library.

"Jane, you've got to get used to the idea that Peter isn't normal. I hate
to admit it, but when I went up to see him this morning I fully expected
to find him--God knows what I expected."

Their eyes met and held.

"I wonder what you did expect?" she asked slowly. "Was it to find Peter
covered with blood and with a hammer by his side?"

This time it was no involuntary question, slipped from the tongue in a
second of indiscretion. She spoke with cold deliberation. Donald Wells
was struck dumb: for a brief moment of time he could only stare at her.

"Yes," he said at last, in a voice little above a whisper. "How odd
that--you should have said that--thought that."

Jane's smile was as cold as her words.

"You must have been pleasantly surprised," she said.

She went across the park to meet the three men on their return. Peter
looked white and ill. Bourke was his sphinxlike self. Only Rouper showed
any perceptible cheerfulness.

Peter was talking earnestly to the detective. She heard him say
emphatically "...see Radlow," and at that moment he seemed conscious of
her presence and came quickly towards her.

"Will you go to town and wait for me?" he asked. "I am wiring to your
father and asking him to see you at the flat--I think you had better go to
Carlton House Terrace and not to the hotel."

She hesitated.

"It is Basil?"

"Yes," he answered shortly, and went on: "Bourke will take you and
Marjorie back with him--get Anna to pack for you, and I will send your
baggage or bring it with me. I would have wired for your father, but I
don't want you to stay here a minute longer than necessary. Donald is
staying with me."

"Couldn't I stay too?" she asked, almost pleaded.

He shook his head.

"No--I want you to go at once, please."

She went back into the house meekly and found Marjorie in the library.
Mrs. Wells listened to the proposal, and, when Jane had finished: "I'll
wait for Donald--unless you very much wish me to go back with you. And,
Jane, will you forget all the nonsense I talked in the night about
Donald? I was rather annoyed with him, and I'm afraid I've got the tongue
and soul of a virago. It is Basil, of course? We'd better clear out of
here. They will want to telephone. I suppose he has relations--I have
never heard of them."

That thought had not occurred to the girl. Somewhere perhaps was an old
man or woman to whom this news would come as the very knell of doom. She
shivered, and prayed most fervently that nowhere in the world would the
tidings bring such misery.

Her own attitude puzzled her as she began feverishly to pack. She had
liked Basil, though it was a liking entirely dissociated from tenderness.
She felt terribly sorry for him--why did she not feel the grief proper to
the loss of one who had been at any rate a friend?

She was kneeling by her trunk when the self-revelation came. Basil Hale
had been the midnight visitor--the man who had forced his way into her
room on her wedding night, the prowler under her window! Subconsciously
she had known this--but since when? Knowledge must have come in the rose
garden when he was telling her of Peter. His furtiveness, the fact that
he was there at all, had betrayed him.

She sat back on her heels, stony-faced, aghast. It was Peter's voice
outside the door which roused her.

"Are you ready--Bourke is going back at once."

She had only a few things to lay on top of the trunk, and these she
placed, slamming down the lid. At the bottom lay the grisly relics of the
murder.

"Come in."

He entered and looked at the trunk in dismay.

"Couldn't I bring that? It is rather large--"

"No--I must take the trunk."

He went back to the head of the stairs and called Bourke. Mr. Bourke was
not appalled.

"We can put it in the back," he said. "I'm sorry to rush you, Mrs
Clifton, but we must bring Hale up to the house."

It needed only that to hasten her.

Bourke was going back to town for some purpose which he did not disclose.
Whatever was the reason, it seemed a matter of urgency, for he was
impatient to be gone. The trunk was brought down to the hall, and she
followed; Bourke was standing by the library door. The newspapers had
arrived whilst she was packing and had been put upon the hall table.
Bourke had taken the first journal that came to his hand, and had just
opened it as she appeared.

"Are you ready?" he began, and then saw from the tail of his eye an
arresting headline. "Good God!" he gasped.

For there, in the stop press column of the middle page, he saw a headline
and an announcement:

HERTFORD MURDER MYSTERY

DEATH IN THE GROUNDS OF A HONEYMOON HOUSE

Mr. Basil Hale, a well known art connoisseur, was found dead in the
grounds of Longford Manor in the early hours of this morning. It is at
Longford Manor that Mr. Peter Clifton and his bride are spending their
honeymoon. Both Mr. and Mrs. Clifton were personal friends of the deceased
man. There can be little doubt that Mr. Hale is the victim of foul play.
The Hertfordshire police are investigating the murder.

"Read that!" He thrust the paper into Peter's hands, and flew into the
library; Jane heard him speaking rapidly at the telephone.

Looking over Peter's arm, she read the paragraph with a sinking heart.
There could be no questioning the sinister significance of that
paragraph.

"I'm terribly sorry." Peter put down the paper with a groan. "Of course,
they had to tell the facts as they were: I hoped your name wouldn't come
into the case."

Well Jane knew why the detective was telephoning, and she waited his
return with a thumping heart. In a few minutes Bourke came out.

"This is the London edition," he said. "It went to press at four o'clock
this morning--the murder was committed at three and not discovered until
seven! Somebody has been a pretty quick reporter. And that somebody is
the man who committed the murder!"

He looked at Jane and then at the waiting car.

"The night telephone operators have gone off duty, and it will take a
couple of hours to get into touch with them, and that applies to the
night staff of the newspaper. I have asked them to have the gentleman who
received the news meet me at Scotland Yard at twelve--now, Mrs. Clifton."

But their departure was to be still further delayed. They reached the
door at the same moment as a dusty taxicab deposited its fare.

Mrs. Untersohn had not completely dressed. In the cold light of morning,
and bereft of the aid which artifice gave to her appearance, her face
would have been unpleasant to see; now it was distorted into a grimace of
agonized rage.

"Where is he?" she screamed as she staggered towards them.

Then she saw Peter, and her shaking finger accused him.
"Murderer...murderer!" she howled. "You killed him!" She sprang at him, a
shrieking fury, but Bourke caught and held her.

"Let me go...I'll kill him...Peter Clifton--Peter Welerson, do you know
what you've done...you've killed my son--your own brother!"

Jane Clifton reeled back as though she had been struck in the face.



CHAPTER 17


BASIL HALE was Peter's half brother!

She was repeating the words of the demented woman--repeating them
mechanically as, ten minutes later, Bourke sent the big police car down
the drive.

That moaning wreck of a woman she had left lying half dressed upon her
bed, shuddering to unconsciousness under the effects of Donald's
hypodermic needle, was the mother of Basil Hale.

"Don't think about it," growled Bourke when she asked him a question.

The fresh morning air in her face was both sedative and stimulant. They
had not left Longford Manor far behind when she was almost her normal
self. And she felt more at ease with him than she could have thought was
possible. She had a sense of understanding with the big man. Yesterday he
was commonplace, rather unpresentable. Today he had a new dignity, a new
authority. She must have felt towards him then as Peter had felt all
these years.

"Will you tell me, Mr. Bourke, what are the qualities required in a
detective?"

He was taken aback.

"I'm blest if I know. I suppose a natural suspicion and a faith in the
crookedness of humanity are the big essentials," he said without turning
his head. "Why do you ask?"

The blurred mass of her intentions was coming into focus, but it was not
yet so clearly outlined that she could put before him a definite plan.

"Peter wants a lot of help, I think--particular help that you could not
give him because you mustn't be told just what the trouble is. I am quite
ignorant about Scotland Yard, but I read once that if the police know
things, suspicious things, they must act even though they may believe in
the innocence of the person affected."

He nodded at this, threw a swift understanding glance at her from under
his heavy eyelids.

"I suppose you will think I am being a romantic fool when I suggest that
I want to be a detective. And yet I do. I want to get to the bottom of a
horrible mystery--the murder, Mrs. Untersohn, everything. And then I think
I may be able to tell the police without hurting anybody--I mean anybody
I'm fond of. I'm terrified now of saying anything--"

"Do you know anything--for certain?"

He asked this bluntly and she shook her head.

"No--I don't think so. I'm guessing--we're all guessing. I can't get a
line--is that the word?--to certain coincidences. I'm aching to tell you
two things, but if I did I'd never forgive myself."

Bourke, driving with one hand, took a long cigar case from his pocket
with the other. He did not ask permission to smoke: she would have been
surprised if he had. He bit off the end and lit it with a little silver
lighter, very deliberately, and she guessed that he was giving himself
the time to consider her words: he could have had little pleasure in
smoking a cigar as they pushed forward at fifty miles an hour.

"Peter hasn't been a 'case' in the strict sense of the word," he said.
"That is to say, he hasn't become a subject for police investigation. In
the early days he rather bored me with his fears and worries. But I took
him up as one takes up a spare time hobby--till I got to know and like
him. He has been rather a difficult feller in one way; he's rich and I'm
a poor man. The first time he offered me a present--it was a thousand
pounds--for the little service I could do him, it was pretty hard to
refuse. I'm not saying I've never taken presents from people I've helped,
but Peter was different--it was self-interest in my case, I suppose--I
never knew whether some day he wouldn't go the way of Alexander Welerson,
and that would have been awkward."

They were approaching Barnet now, had slowed, for the traffic was heavier
than usual.

"I don't know which direction you'll take in your investigations. The man
who knew most about Peter was Basil Hale."

She stopped and stared at him.

"Basil knew--what makes you think that?" she asked.

"He's spent a year and more than a year nosing about Elmwood--that is the
village where Peter's father had his house. And he has been at Southport
a lot. Welerson's lawyer had his office there--Radlow and Bolf--old Radlow
was one of Peter's trustees."

Radlow! She remembered Peter's words.

"Hale tried to get at him," the detective went on, swerving the car
alarmingly to avoid a dog, "but Radlow wasn't telling. He's eighty, but
he's got a forty mind. I don't know what he expected to find from the
lawyers--Peter's never got anything worth knowing."

She remembered the name, though she had never seen the old lawyer. It was
a representative of this firm of lawyers who had attended at her father's
house and had read, with incredible rapidity, the particulars of her
marriage settlement. But that was a younger Radlow--a tight-lipped,
detached man who had been interested in nothing but another professional
engagement and had spent most of his spare time looking at his watch.

Bourke brought the conversation back to the ugly realities of the day. "I
wonder if you guess who it was broke into your room, Mrs. Clifton?"

"Yes, I think I know. That is one of the things I shall never understand.
Why he came to Longford Manor."

"He was in love--or thought he was. He was that kind of man. And of course
quite mad."

Mad! She understood, and for the moment was stunned. Basil Hale was the
son of Alexander Welerson--Peter's half brother. The taint was in his
blood too!

"Sorry--I'm afraid that shocked you. Yes, Hale was mad all right. And his
mother had a legitimate grievance. Old Welerson married her in his crazy
way, although he had a wife living. She knew he was married, but he
persuaded her that his marriage wasn't legal--Peter's mother was a sort of
cousin--old Radlow could clear up that mystery, but he won't. I asked
Peter to wire him before I left, but I don't suppose anything will induce
that old oyster to open his shell."

They were well into the London traffic by now, and conversation became
fragmentary and unimportant. The car pulled up before the huge doorway of
Peter's flat. She had made one visit to this handsome apartment of his,
so she was not wholly a stranger to the butler who met her.

"I am afraid we aren't very shipshape, madam," he said. "We didn't expect
Mr. Clifton for weeks, and I've been getting the flat cleaned."

There was little evidence of confusion, however. Peter had telephoned
early in the morning and her room was ready, Walker explained. "Oh,
pardon me, madam--there is a gentleman waiting. I put him in the
drawing-room."

She nodded.

"Yes--my father."

Walker agreed: he was the type of well-trained servant who agrees very
readily.

When she walked into the big salon overlooking Green Park she had a
surprise. It was not John Leith who stood on the hearthrug, his hands
behind him, his chin on his breast, but a spare old man whom she had
never seen before. He was completely bald and his face was a tangle of
deep lines and furrows.

"Mrs. Clifton?" He had a thin, shrill voice, which was further complicated
by a lisp.

"Yes?" she said wonderingly.

"My name's Radlow--lawyer--got Peter's wire--fortunately was dressed--saw the
paper--beastly--whole thing--Hale got self to blame."

He spoke rapidly, breathlessly, jerking out one disconnected sentence
after another. Evidently he had trained himself to this economy of
speech; it was a lifetime habit.

He drew a folded newspaper from the tail of his long frock-coat and
stabbed an item with a gnarled forefinger.

"Basil Hale mad--always said so--told his mother--Stupid old woman!"

"You know Mrs. Untersohn?" she asked.

"Know her?" Mr. Radlow's voice was thin with annoyance. "Haunted my
office--magnificent settlement--asinine extravagance--seen her car? Vulgar!
She's a cook--" He tapped the paper again. "Nasty thing, this--somebody
knows all about it--I see the drift--my son has been making
inquiries--you've seen him."

Jane gathered that “my son” was the thin-lipped lawyer who had attended
her in the matter of the marriage settlement. "A fine, handsome boy!"

At any other time she would have laughed. He seemed to have lost the
thread of his discourse in this rhapsody, for he tapped his forehead and
muttered.

"Ah, yes," he said at last. "This newspaper account--bad for Peter,
eh--very bad. Bad for Peter Clifton Welerson--son of Alexander Hale
Welerson, deceased--that's where she got the Hale from--her name's
Untersohn--Swedish. I shall have to do something at once--statutory
declaration at my time of life--and I was hoping I'd never see those
damned courts again! If the fools had only studied the will--!"

Only then did he remember the object of his visit and demanded when she
expected Peter. Apparently he knew, from the servants perhaps, that she
was coming alone.

"He was a fool to stay--tell him to ring me up--"

He carried his abruptness of speech into abruptness of movement. Leaning
forward, he clutched her hand quickly, shook it with surprising vigour,
and put on the old-fashioned silk hat that he carried, and was out of the
room almost before she could recover her breath. As soon as the outer
door slammed the butler came hurrying in.

"Mr. Leith," he said, and Jane ran forward to meet her father.

It seemed a hundred years since she had gazed into that worn, studious
face. He was haggard now with anxiety, and for the first time in her life
she saw him seriously perturbed.

"This is a ghastly business, Jane. My poor darling!"

The arm around her shoulders was trembling, and for the moment she was
more concerned about the effect the news had had upon him than about her
own worries.

Not yet had she made up her mind as to how much she should tell him.
Peter's secret was very much his, not to be divulged even to this
well-beloved father. She was spared one revelation: Peter had been on the
telephone to him and had told him frankly about his health.

"It is difficult to believe that Peter isn't the sanest man in the
world," he said, frowning moodily into the grate. Then he turned and
pushed her back from him. "Let me look at you. This has been a horrible
experience for you. My God, what an awful thing money is!"

She smiled faintly.

"You mean, I oughtn't to have married Peter, and that I only married him
for his money?"

He nodded.

"I married you to him for his money," he said a little bitterly. "I
thought I saw an end to all difficulties and dangers. I am not as rich a
man as you think," he added quickly, as he saw the question in her eyes,
"and I really was worried about the future. When Peter came into our
little circle I jumped at him--literally jumped."

He did not attempt to particularize the cause of his worry, but asked:

"Who is with Peter now--is Bourke there?"

"Mr. Bourke brought me up," she explained. "Donald is with him, and
Marjorie."

At the word “Marjorie” he started. "Marjorie Wells? How did she come to
be there?" Jane told him. For some reason or other he seemed relieved.
"Was that old Radlow I saw going out? Yes, I know him. He's Peter's
lawyer, or rather he's the head of the firm that acts for Peter, You
remember, dear, you met his son. What did he want?"

As best she could she gave Mr. Radlow's speech a coherence which it had
not possessed in its original form. He listened attentively, stopping now
and again to question her on what she thought were unimportant points.

"I wish you'd come back to Avenue Road with me," he said when she had
finished, "but I suppose that wouldn't be quite fair to Peter--are you
fond of him?" She hesitated just a shade of a second too long. "You like
him, though?" he asked anxiously.

"I like him very much--I think I could love him," she said frankly, and
did not overlook the fact that he winced. "Don't you want me to?"

"Of course," he said hurriedly. "But, my dear, it would be better if
you--didn't love him, you know. If what he says is true--"

She shook her head.

"That I am going to find out," she said quietly. He stayed to lunch with
her, and twice she nearly told him of the secret room and the mysterious
disappearance in the space of twenty-four hours of all evidence of
Peter's tragic folly. On both occasions she stopped herself in time,
though she had to invent a lie in order to finish, without arousing his
suspicion, a sentence she had already begun.

The lunch was something of an ordeal to Jane, and she was amazed that it
should be so, for she dearly loved this quiet man and had anticipated
their meeting with a sense of comfort. She was almost pleased when he
went and left her alone. The meeting with the lawyer had produced a new
problem: one of her partly formed theories had been shattered. She had
seen in Peter's forgery the secret of his wealth, and had not doubted
that this rich father of his was a myth invented to explain his
prosperity. But the lawyer could not be lying when he spoke of the
two-million legacy. Why, then, had Peter been guilty of this unutterable
folly? Why, then, had Peter deliberately set himself out to break the
law? Was it symptomatic of the family insanity, a freakish hobby, a
perverted interest that he had adopted for the thrill and excitement of
the forger's life?

One thing she had intended telling her father--this she remembered when he
had left--and that was the recovery of Peter's etchings. She had never
seen John Leith so annoyed with himself as he had been over that piece of
carelessness. She made a mental note to produce this innocuous item of
news the next time they met.

After lunch she telephoned to Longford Manor, and found that Bourke had
returned there, and that he and Peter were out of the house. Donald Wells
had left for London with his wife. It was a strange voice that spoke to
her. She supposed he was a detective, from his tone of authority, but he
was evidently a detective who had been instructed to give her any
information she asked for.

"Mr. Clifton will be coming to town this evening with the superintendent,"
said the voice.

Apparently Mrs. Untersohn had gone too, for when she asked about the woman
she was informed briefly that she had been taken away--by whom or in what
circumstances he did not say.

She had at least two hours before Peter returned. She sent out for an
evening paper.

"If the fools had only studied the will--" What did the  old man mean by
that, she wondered. What was there in the will that would enlighten her?
She determined at the first opportunity to secure a copy of the document.

The paper came only a few minutes ahead of its representative. She found
a column headed “Manor House Murder,” and had hardly begun to read when
the reporter was announced.

Jane had met many journalists at her father's house, and the Press had no
terrors for her.

"I'm sorry to bother you, Mrs. Clifton"--the young man was conventionally
apologetic. "We're rather anxious to check the times in this murder. I
believe you heard Mr. Hale shouting?"

"How do you know?" she asked quickly.

"It's in the evening newspapers. It says you were awakened in the middle
of the night, that you tried to rouse your husband, but that when you
went into his room he was not there."

She stared at him.

"Who said that?" she demanded.

The journalist smiled. "It's difficult to tell off-hand the source of any
information, but it has been reported. I think you will find it in that
newspaper."

She skimmed the column and presently she came to the passage:

'Mrs. Clifton, who was asleep, was awakened by a terrible cry in the
grounds. She was so alarmed that she went into her husband's room, and,
finding he was not there, she asked Mrs. Wells, the wife of the famous
West End physician and who had also been awakened by the cry, to go in
search of him. Apparently Mr. Clifton himself had heard the noise and had
gone out into the grounds, though he does not remember having left his
room.'

Marjorie had been the informant! Marjorie or Cheyne Wells?

"This story is a fabrication," she said. "It is perfectly true that I
went into my husband's room, but he had taken a sleeping draught the
night before and I was unable to wake him. The rest is sheer
imagination."

A little lower down her eyes were arrested by another paragraph:

Sir William Clewers, the eminent alienist, who called on Mr. Clifton this
morning, said that the work is undoubtedly the act of a madman.

Her face betrayed no sign of emotion as she handed the newspaper back to
the reporter.

Sir William Clewers was there! Who had brought him down? She was no
longer puzzled: one of the clouds which had obscured the truth from her
eyes was melting.



CHAPTER 18


"I DON'T know whether you wish to tell me this, Mrs. Clifton," said the
reporter, "but there's a story--which naturally we haven't printed without
confirmation--that your husband and Mr. Hale quarrelled violently yesterday
evening, and that, in fact, there was a fight."

She nodded. Her brain was ice-cold now: she was entirely mistress of
herself. Lie must be met by lie till more substantial weapons came into
her hand.

"Mr. Hale was very offensive. He broke into our house the night we arrived
there, and my husband, discovering it was he, told him when he found him
in the grounds to leave. It was Mr. Hale who struck him, and I do not
think that my husband did any more than defend himself. That is all I can
tell you." In a moment of inspiration she added:

"I don't know whether you think it wise to print this--such a statement
might reflect upon my husband and suggest that he had some grievance
against Basil Hale."

The reporter smiled. "We aren't likely at this stage to print anything
which might incriminate your husband or anybody else, Mrs. Clifton," he
said. "I am asking now for my private information--I am covering the case.
There is another point which strikes us as curious. The murder was
committed between three and a quarter past; we have made inquiries of the
Press agency which supplied us with the information, and we find that
this was telephoned through to the Press agency office at ten minutes to
four. Another account which has come from Longford Manor is to the effect
that Hale's body was not discovered until somewhere in the region of
seven. Have you any idea who supplied the agency with the first news?"

She was content here to plagiarize Bourke. "If you knew who gave the
agency that news, you would know who committed the murder," she said.

After he had gone, she went into her room, locked the door and began
unpacking her trunk. It was some time before she reached the thick sheets
of wrapping paper which separated her clothes from Peter's bloodstained
garments. Overcoming a repugnance which was almost nauseating, she lifted
out the horrible things, and put them into the wrapping paper she had
thrown on the floor. They had left no marks in the trunk, she was
relieved to find. They must be got rid, of at once--but how and where?

She made a small parcel of the clothes, in which she wrapped the
hammerhead, took it into the small sitting-room which she had already
allocated as her own, and rang the bell for the butler.

"Central heating? Yes, madam. It's operated from the basement--the
under-porter attends to the furnace. Have you anything you wish to be
burnt?"

The question was too direct for Jane. "No," she said.

There was a pond in Green Park, but this she knew was drained at regular
intervals. The river? It seemed a simple matter to drop that telltale
evidence into the fast-flowing Thames, but the spectacle of a lady
throwing a big parcel into the water would hardly escape attention. It
must be done at night, she decided, and sat down to plan the disposal of
the package. She would take a cab to the Thames Embankment late that
night, and, waiting a favourable opportunity, would drop the package over
the parapet. It sounded easy, but would it be? The Embankment was well
lighted and was seldom free from pedestrians even on the most inclement
nights. A fog would make it easy, but there was no possibility of
fog..."Will you see Mr. Bourke?"

She started guiltily at the sound of Walker's voice. "Mr. Bourke?" she
stammered, and changed colour. "Yes--yes, I will see him in the
drawing-room."

She took the package and locked it away in the empty cupboard of a
secretaire before she hurried to meet the detective.

"No, Peter didn't come up," he said as he shook hands. "He wanted to stay
the night, and I think he's wise--there will be an inquiry tomorrow. But
you needn't worry about him, Mrs. Clifton: nothing can happen to him. I've
left three of my best men there, and they do not include Mr. Rouper," he
added grimly.

Before she could reply he went on: "Have you seen the evening
newspapers?" and when she replied: "Fierce, eh? Mr. X is going to get
Peter into this case or die in the attempt!"

"Who is Mr. X?" she asked.

"Possibly it's Mrs. X," he said, as he settled himself comfortably in the
chair she indicated. "This is the queerest case I've ever known in all my
police experience. Murders? Dozens of 'em! But just straightforward
crimes where you had only to find who was the last person with the
deceased, or who had had the most reason for wishing him out of the way,
to be able to nail your man. But here's Basil Hale murdered by some
person or persons unknown, and here's the murderer making the most
strenuous efforts, not to save his own skin, but to put the blame on
Peter! By the way, I've found out all about the message to the News
Association. It was phoned through at twelve minutes to four."

"From where?" she asked quickly.

"From Longford Manor," said Bourke examining the carpet attentively as
though he had lost something. "Queer thing, isn't it? Longford Manor! The
Longford operator was half asleep when the signal came through, and took
two minutes to connect. So therefore the first attempt to send the
message must have been some time before ten minutes to four. Who sent it?
That's the queer thing." Bourke rubbed his chin irritably. "The operator,
who knows the district and who would be well aware that Longford Manor is
frequently let to strange guests, asked the name of the sender."

"Who was it?" Her voice was little more than a whisper.

Bourke turned his eyes slowly in her direction. "Who do you think, Mrs
Clifton? Who but Peter! It was Peter who sent the details of the murder.
The operator says he recognized the voice."

A long silence followed.

"Queer," said Bourke at last, and then, with abruptness, he said
something that terrified her. "There are one or two things I want to
find, Mrs. Clifton. Part of the dress suit and shirt that Peter wore on
the night of the murder. The second thing is a coal hammer that was in
the study. The old man who has been looking after your husband at
Longford Manor volunteered a statement to me that Peter had two dress
suits, that the coat of one of them had disappeared--he wasn't sure about
the waistcoat, which was white, but he's very certain of the coat; and
he's equally sure of a shirt, the shirt that Peter wore that same night.
He says he noticed it because the one he put out for Peter to wear had a
square cuff--the only shirt that was shaped that way, the others having
rounded corners. He also says that the shirt that was in Peter's room,
and which apparently he had worn the night before, had never been worn at
all, that one of the sleeves was starched together for the space of about
six inches between shoulder and elbow, which proved that no arm had been
through it."

Still he did not look at the white-faced girl.

"When Peter was found," he continued after a while, "he was dressed in
his singlet and trousers, which almost suggests to me that somebody
undressed him. This somebody may also have washed his face and hands--I'm
not certain about this. I'd like to be absolutely sure"--his eyes were on
her now, fixed, unwavering and, to her, menacing--"where those clothes are
at this present moment--and the coal hammer."

She was about to speak but he stopped her.

"Don't say anything till I've finished. And remember, Mrs. Clifton, that I
hold a very responsible position at Scotland Yard, and that though
theoretically I am on duty twenty-four hours a day, I have my moments of
relaxation, when I relapse into the role of a private citizen. And when
I'm a private citizen I have to forget that I'm a detective, or I should
go mad."

He looked at his watch.

"I have been a private citizen for three minutes. And maybe I'll be a
private citizen till about seven o'clock tonight. In that period of time
I'm a very good friend of Peter's."

She understood and nodded to him.

"Now about this coat and possibly vest, and certainly shirt, and very
likely coal hammer."

He fumbled in his coat pocket, and this time asked permission to smoke.
She held a match for him with a hand that was quivering, but apparently
he did not notice her agitation.

"Thank you, Mrs. Clifton--as I say, about all these interesting articles: I
should be terribly worried if I thought that they were in the hands of
Peter's enemies, or that they were so placed that they were likely to
fall into their hands. That, I confess, would worry me like the devil,
but"--he sent a ring of smoke up to the high ceiling and watched it with
curious interest--"but if I could be sure in my mind that these souvenirs
were in the hands of somebody who was fond of Peter and wanted to help
him, why, I shouldn't worry so much."

"Then I don't think you need worry," she said promptly.

He looked at her for a while.

"Is that so? Well, I'm rather relieved--speaking as a private citizen.
Round about seven o'clock tonight I may be seeing you in another capacity
and asking you all sorts of bothering questions. Could I have a cup of
tea, please?"

She jumped up and rang the bell. Mr. Bourke wanted further time to
consider the situation.

"I've a weakness for tea," he confessed, when Walker brought in the tray,
"and that's not my only weakness."

He watched the servant till the door closed, then:

"I've a weakness for the poor--like to give 'em old clothes and such
things. Suppose you'd got an old dress jacket or a shirt you've no use
for, I'd find a good home for 'em. And tools. Chisels, or even hammers--a
lot of the criminal classes who want to go straight can't carry on their
work because they haven't the right kind of tools. It's asking a lot, I
know," he continued, all his attention upon the tea he was stirring, "and
I can well understand your hesitating for fear they got into the wrong
hands. But suppose you have such things, Mrs. Clifton, and you wanted to
get rid of them? You wouldn't care to throw 'em in the ashpan, and you're
not allowed by law to throw rubbish into the river. Rouper's a
conscientious man," he went off at a tangent. "He's the type of man who'd
hate to see the Thames Conservancy laws broken, and possibly if you went
out of Carlton House Terrace with a parcel you wanted to get rid of, he'd
be shadowing you, and if you tried to throw it in the river there he'd be
ready to stop you. You see, Mrs. Clifton"--again his eyes shot back to
hers--"I'm not the only person anxious to give clothes to the poor, and
suspecting you may have some you'd like to get rid of."

Jane found her voice. "I'd rather you had them than anybody," she said.

Mr. Bourke nodded. "I'm glad to hear you say that." He was stirring his
tea furiously now. "When Rouper comes with a search warrant, as he might,
he'd probably want to take all the old clothes he found for his poor
friends."

"You don't seem to like Mr. Rouper," she said, and realized she was making
a very fatuous remark.

Bourke smiled broadly. "We're a band of brothers at Scotland Yard, and
I'm Rouper's boss. There are a lot of things I could suggest if I were
Rouper's equal, but being his boss makes a difference."

He put down the tea, which he had not tasted.

"Have you ever seen a search warrant executed?" he asked, resuming his
cigar, which he had temporarily balanced on the edge of the fireguard.

She shook her head.

"Would you like to see how it's done?" Then, noting her look of alarm, he
chuckled. "You wouldn't like to have a rehearsal?"

"Do you mean that?" she asked seriously. "That they will search this
flat?" And, when he nodded: "Tonight?"

"Somewhere about six, I should imagine," said Bourke slowly. "I'd like to
show you what they'll do, quite unofficially."

She rose at once.

"Which room would they start on?"

"Peter's," said he promptly. "He's got a study, hasn't he? Most people
have. Personally, I do my studying in bed."

"You haven't been there before?" she asked as she led the way.

"Dozens of times," he replied coolly, "but I'm putting myself in the
position of a fellow who doesn't know the run of the flat. My name's
Rouper for the time being."



CHAPTER 19


PETER'S STUDY was a large room on the second floor (his flat occupied two
floors) and was immediately over the drawing-room. Bourke stood in the
doorway and gave a swift glance round.

"They wouldn't touch the bookcases, would they?" he mused. "And I suppose
the desk is locked?"

The desk was an empire writing table and he tried its four drawers. They
opened readily, and contained nothing but stationery and the
paraphernalia which a tidy man would keep in the drawers of his desk.

"There's a safe here somewhere."

He found it at last, set into the wall, and to her amazement twisted the
combination unerringly, and, turning the handle, pulled open the door.

"Yes, I know the combination: it's one of the secrets Peter and I share,"
he said. "You see, he was always afraid--"

He stopped suddenly, frowned, and stared out of the window.

"I never thought of that," he said, speaking his thought aloud.

"Thought of what?" she asked. "What was Peter afraid of?"

He did not answer her, but turned his attention to the safe, peering into
its depths. There were a number of tightly filled envelopes: these were
heavily sealed. He took them out one by one, glanced at the
superscriptions, which he did not let her see, and then, putting in his
hand:  "Here it is!"

He almost shouted the words as he drew to light a thick diary, as it
proved. It was bound in red leather and bore the figures of the current
year.

As he handled this he turned a beaming countenance upon the girl.

"I'm not being mysterious, but I'm telling you that this is the one book
that I, Moses Rouper, wanted to find."

"What is it?" she asked, and then saw the figures. "A diary!"

He drew another chair up to the table and they sat down side by side. He
did not open the book: his big hand covered it.

"Do you want to see this?" he asked.

"What is it?" She was bewildered. "I didn't know that Peter kept a
diary."

She realized that there were so many things she did not know about Peter
that to particularize any one was superfluous. He turned back the cover,
and then one page after another, till he came to the first writing page.
It was blank, so, was the next, and the third; on the fourth there was an
entry in Peter's characteristic handwriting:

'240 USCN 100 all excellent: mailed Baltimore.'

She frowned over this.

"What does it mean?" she asked.

"Two hundred and forty United States currency notes for a hundred
dollars," said Mr. Bourke calmly. "They were posted to an agent, if one
believes his account."

She went suddenly limp; her head whirled, and for a moment she thought
she was going to faint. In an instant his arm was around her.

"It's true, then?"

It did not seem her voice that was speaking.

"I'm Rouper--don't forget I'm Rouper. I'm telling the brutal truth. After
a bit I'll be Bourke again."

He turned page after page and stopped again. She did not want to look at
this hideous record, but it fascinated her, and her eyes were drawn
irresistibly to the page.

'300 USCN 106 three flaws: mailed SG. 3. Chicago.'

"Notice how he calls them notes and not bills? That's his insularity,"
murmured Bourke, as page after page slipped under his fingers.

Again he stopped against the entry. May 3d.

'700 Ml. SFB Exint plate, 2 flaws.'

This entry puzzled her till the detective explained.

"'Ml' stands for 'mille,’ and mille means a thousand. 'SFB' is the Swiss
Federal Bank. No destination. To be called for, I guess. There were a lot
of SFB duds put on the market at the end of May."

"Oh, this is horrible, horrible!" She put her hands before her eyes. "I
don't want to read any more. Is it true, Mr. Bourke?"

"Rouper," corrected Bourke laconically. "It's no use asking him if it's
true, because he'll say yes. Anyway, Rouper doesn't know anything about
the truth and never will."

"I don't want to see any more," she said again, as he turned the pages.

He chuckled at this and got up stiffly from the table.

"I'd better put this with the old clothes," he said. "I know lots of poor
fellows who'd give their heads for a diary, even if it was part used."

Only for a second did she experience a panic sense that this lethargic
man was trapping her, and he seemed to read her thought, for, in quite a
different tone, he said: "You've got to trust somebody, Mrs. Clifton."

Going back to the safe, he closed it, and measured with his eye the
distance from the wall, wherein it was placed, to the window. He lifted
the lower sash and, stepping out on to a balcony, gazed down.

"Inside job," he said cryptically when he returned, but offered no
explanation.

He made a quick but thorough search of the room, ran his eyes along the
books on the shelves, taking one or two down to turn their pages, and
eventually he seemed satisfied.

"No, I don't want any other rooms, Mrs. Clifton. I should think my tea's
got cold, but that doesn't matter. I'm going to the drawing-room now." He
spoke deliberately, and every word had a significance. "If you'd be kind
enough to bring along any parcels of clothes that you've no use for, I'll
be obliged."

He went out into the corridor by himself, returned to his seat by the
fire, and a few minutes later she came in very pale, carrying a brown
paper parcel in her hand.

"These are the clothes, Mr. Bourke," she said, and forced a smile. "Or is
it Mr. Rouper?"

"Bourke," said that gentleman promptly. "Mr. Rouper--"

The door opened quickly, but before the butler could announce the
visitor, Jane saw Rouper's face. He came into the room unceremoniously,
dismissed the butler with a jerk of his head.

"I'm very sorry, Mrs. Clifton, but I've got an unpleasant duty to
perform," he said.

Only then did he seem to become aware of Superintendent Bourke's
presence.

"You're a little ahead of me, sir," he said with some asperity.

"Just arrived, Rouper," murmured the other. "Get on with your job."

Rouper swallowed something, groped in his side pocket and produced a
paper.

"I've a search warrant issued by a Metropolitan magistrate, Mrs. Clifton,
and I want to make a thorough search of this flat."

"It is his duty, Mrs. Clifton." Bourke's voice was sympathetic, almost
benevolent. He picked up his hat and tucked the brown paper parcel under
his arm. "Taking home the family washing, Rouper," he said, smiling
blandly, and with a nod to Jane walked out of the room, leaving her to
conduct a baffled Rouper prying into every corner of the flat in a vain
search for bloody clothes and incriminating diaries.

Almost the first place to which he went was the wall safe.

"Do you know the combination of this?" he asked.

"No," she replied truthfully.

Obviously he did not believe her; but apparently the question had been
entirely unnecessary for he took a slip of paper from his waistcoat
pocket, studied a group of letters, and in a minute the safe was open.

He opened the sealed packages one by one and examined their contents.
There seemed to be nothing of a really private nature: a lease or two, a
thick wad of correspondence, apparently having some connection with
Peter's visit to South Africa, and a legal document which Rouper opened
and glanced at. Over his shoulder she saw it was a will, and guessed it
was the will of Peter's father. At that moment there flashed upon her the
recollection of Mr. Radlow's words. "If the fools had only studied the
will..." Was there anything that Rouper could detect, she wondered?
Apparently not: he folded up the document, replaced it in its envelope
and put it on the chair with the others.

On one thing she was determined--she would get the code word, which so far
she did not know, and examine the will carefully. A resolution, however,
which was to pass from her mind in the new problems which the evening
brought.

The search was a disappointment for Rouper, and he closed the safe with a
savage thud.

"Have you unpacked the baggage you brought from Longford Manor?"

It so happened that when she had taken out her things to remove Peter's
clothes, she had replaced her own belongings. Through these Rouper went.
And then, in his annoyance, he made a grievous mistake.

"What was that parcel Superintendent Bourke was carrying?" he demanded,
and had no sooner asked the question than he realized his blunder.

"Isn't that a question you should ask Superintendent Bourke?" said Jane.

"I was only joking, Mrs. Clifton." From his hurry and his fear she guessed
that Bourke was the one man in the world of whom he stood in awe.  "I
hope you won't repeat that to Mr. Bourke; he mightn't understand it."

He took his departure almost at once, and Jane was left with a few more
pieces assembled in this baffling jigsaw puzzle of hers.

Just before her solitary dinner was served, Peter rang up. He was very
nervous; she sensed the strain under which he was living.

"I'm sorry I didn't call before, but I've been most unpleasantly
occupied," he said, and asked if she was comfortable and had everything
she wanted. "It must be dull for you. Couldn't you ask your father to
come over and stay the night?"

She had thought of that plan, but had rejected it.

"I shall be up tomorrow," he went on, and then: "Have you seen Bourke--and
Rouper?"

She told him briefly of Rouper's visit, but thought it wise not to speak
over the telephone of Mr. Bourke's peculiar conduct.

"I'm in rather a mess," he said. "It seems that I was the fellow who
telephoned the news agency, though why I should do so, heaven knows,
because I didn't know of their existence, much less their address--"

"What?" She was startled. "Are you sure you didn't know the telephone
number?"

"Sure?" His voice was surprised. "Of course I'm sure. I've never had
occasion to communicate with the Press. Why?"

She did not answer for a while and he repeated his question, thinking she
had not heard.

"Because," she said slowly, "there isn't a telephone directory at
Longford Manor. I wanted to find an address the first morning I was
there, and Anna said it had been thrown away under the impression it was
an old one, and that the new directory hadn't been delivered."

She did not think it wise at that moment to tell him of the visit of
Radlow, since he made no inquiry about the lawyer.

"Peter"--she lowered her voice--"I want to see you very particularly
tomorrow--about your diary."

"My what?"

"Your diary."

A pause.

"I don't keep a diary."

"I never dreamt that you did." Her voice was almost jubilant.



CHAPTER 20


SHE HAD hardly left the phone before the bell shrilled, and she thought
it was merely the very common phenomenon of a call being rung off. When
it persisted, however, she went back to the instrument, and a strange,
deep, harsh voice spoke:

"Peter Clifton?...Are you Peter Clifton?...Murderer!"

It was Mrs. Untersohn.

"I know you--Blonberg! I know..."

She heard a confusion of voices at the other end, had the impression that
somebody was dragging the demented woman from the phone, and then a
quiet, steady voice said:

"Has she been bothering you? I am the nurse."

Jane's mouth was dry, and she could hardly articulate.

"Where is she?" she said at last.

"At her own house in St. John's Wood. Is that Mrs. Clifton? She's been
trying to get out of bed to telephone you all the evening, but has only
just now, when we were out of the room..."

The nurse was rather voluble, explained and apologized at an inordinate
length. Much she said Jane did not hear, for her mind was elsewhere.

Blonberg was the agent for Longford Manor; the man who had let the house
to Peter. In what appearance did he show in this drama? Here was a new
thread.

That evening was the longest and most tedious she had ever known. She
played patience, but the cards had no meaning. Then she sat at the piano
to play, but the first reverberations made her jump. At nine o'clock she
put on her coat and hat, rang for Walker and asked him to get her a taxi.

Less than a week had passed since she had left Avenue Road, and yet it
seemed a strange thoroughfare to her, and the old familiar house, where
she had spent her childhood, was as strange. Her old maid let her in and
stood aghast at the unexpected sight.

"Thank God you're back, miss!" she said in the hushed voice which is
employed by her class when discussing such matters of public interest as
mysterious murders. "I've been worrying about you all day down in that
awful country house--"

"Where is my father?" asked Jane, cutting her short.

"He's in the studio, miss--ma'am, I mean--working."

Jane went to the back of the house where the big studio was and turned
the handle of the door. Only one ceiling light burnt. There was no sign
of John Leith; evidently he was in his room. She went across to the tiny
office and tried the handle; the door was locked.

"Who is there?" asked her father's voice.

"It is Jane, Daddy."

She heard an exclamation, the sound of a chair being pushed back, and
after a little delay the door was opened. He had evidently been working
on a wash-colour sketch of the Broads; the half finished drawing was
pinned to his sloping drawing-board.

"What is the trouble, my dear?" he asked abruptly.

"I'm bored," she said with a smile.

"Oh!" And then: "Has Peter arrived in town?"

"He comes tomorrow."

He was looking unusually ill, she thought; his eyes were deeply shadowed;
his face seemed more deeply lined. She was conscious that at certain
times in their lives there was an atmosphere of constraint. She had felt
that morning as though she and her father had always been strangers, now
she came to think of it. In everything she could remember she had gone
her own way, always with his assent and approval. Their very affection
was probably based upon the easygoing relationship which existed between
them.

"The whole thing is rather--awful." He was back in the old chair, his long
white hands caressing his beard. "I've no real regret about Hale; he was
something of a brute. I had to talk pretty severely to him the day before
your wedding, you, remember."

"You realize Peter is suspected?"

He nodded. "Yes, I've read the newspapers." He stretched himself and
fetched a long sigh. "Thank God you're not in love with him!" he said
fervently. "You think that's a pretty strange observation, but--"

"I am in love with him," she said quietly, and he sat bolt upright,
staring at her.

"You don't mean that, Jane?" He did not attempt to disguise his anxiety
and concern. "Of course, I had the impression that you liked him and all
that sort of thing, and I was hoping that sooner or later you would--love
him."

He was hesitant, lame, wholly unconvincing. It came to her as a shocking
fact that he had hoped nothing of the sort.

She knew him less well now than she had ever known him. It was as if his
identity had been replaced by one entirely unrecognizable to her.

"But I understood..." He was ill at ease. John Leith, as she had
observed, was something of a prude in certain matters.  "I understood
that your marriage...you remember you told me before you left on your
honeymoon that you were going to ask Peter to give you a little time to
know him better...in fact, I hinted to Peter--"

She nodded. "I've had quite enough time to know him better--and I love
him. I don't know why. All that you hinted and all that I said has come
to pass! I'm not sure that I'm any the happier for it."

He looked at her with a troubled frown. "That's splendid," he said
awkwardly. "Naturally, one would wish that--if this terrible affair hadn't
happened."

It was at that moment she remembered the thing she had intended telling
him that morning.

"You know Peter found the etchings?" she asked.

For a second he looked bewildered.

"Etchings?" And then she saw his jaw drop. "You mean those...the plates!"
He recovered himself quickly. "That's fine," he said. "Did he tell you
where he found them?"

She was speechless with amazement. Why should this simple item of news
strike what little colour there was from John Leith's face and leave him
with shaking hands and sunken eyes? Desperately she strove to recover the
lost atmosphere of that happy home of hers, but in the twinkling of an
eye everything had changed--even he, whom she had regarded as the most
steadfast quantity in life. It was incredible; she could not believe the
evidence of her own senses.

"I'm glad Peter found the etchings." He had better command of himself
now. "Mind you, Jane, they weren't epoch-making--pretty little things, the
promise rather than the act of accomplishment. But Peter set great store
by them, and I should, too, if I had done such good work at his age."

He seemed anxious to get back to his work, at any rate displayed no great
desire to discuss the enormous happenings of the past week; but he did
return again to the subject of her feelings towards her husband.

"I don't think I should let my mind dwell too much upon Peter if I were
you, dear--I've had a long chat with Wells. He said he had a specialist
down there this morning to see Peter, and they are both a little worried.
I don't know what is coming out at the inquest. You've got to be prepared
for the worst."

"In other words, you think Peter is mad?" she said steadily.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know. Wells is a pretty shrewd fellow, and he's on Peter's
side--"

"Is he?"

He looked up at her sharply.

"What makes you say that, darling?"

"I am wondering."

"I don't think there's any doubt about it," he said a little loudly.
"Naturally Wells has his professional duties to perform. He's a pretty
big man."

"How long has he been a pretty big man, Daddy?"

It was an evening of shocks for John Leith.

"What weird questions you're asking! I thought you liked Donald."

"How long has he been a great man--when did he leave Nunhead?"

At the word “Nunhead” John Leith half rose from his chair. "Who's been
talking to you?" And then, without waiting for her reply: "I suppose
you've heard of that unfortunate case. I happen to know all about it.
Donald was innocent; the charge--well, it didn't exactly come to
that--arose out of professional jealousy. The old woman died from natural
causes and no trace of poison was found. Besides which, Donald didn't
benefit a penny through her will. It's all malicious gossip, my dear."

He got up from his chair.

"And now I think you'd better run off home. Peter may be calling you up."

Throughout the interview he had been ill at ease, so restless that he did
not keep one position for more than a few seconds. She had never seen him
so nervous in her life, and she would have been puzzled to account for
his attitude, but for the new subject matter he had given her. She knew
now something about Donald that she had not known before.

She left her father at the door of his office and went out into the hall.
The maid came out and down the stairs to let her out.

"The house has been upside down since you left, madam," she chattered on.
"The whole of the top floor is being redecorated, and the man from
Waring's was here today about your furniture."

"My furniture? What do you mean?" The maid was conscience-stricken.

"Oh, I do hope you won't tell Mr. Leith. It's a dead secret. He's turning
the top floor into a little flat especially for you, in case you ever
want to stay here..."

Jane stepped into the waiting taxi, her bewilderment complete. John Leith
expected her return--had been expecting it from the day she had married:
he; had known he was marrying his only child to a madman!



CHAPTER 21


NO MESSAGE had been received in her absence. She had expected to hear
from Donald Wells or from the communicative Marjorie; but apparently, as
the butler said, the telephone had not rung. She went to bed and slept
more soundly than she had thought possible. It was nine o'clock when she
awakened and took her tea from the hands of a pretty maid she had not
remembered seeing overnight. The girl had been engaged before her
marriage and had been on holiday, but had been called back by the butler
to attend to her.

There were two letters and a postcard, the first from Peter, a half sheet
of notepaper on which he had scribbled a line without beginning or end,
and a long one from her father.

'You must have thought I was very unsympathetic last night, darling, but
the truth is I have been terribly upset by what Donald Wells has told me,
and I was hardly in a condition to discuss Peter and your future. I am
afraid the case looks black against Peter. Donald tells me that the
detective officer engaged in the case says he would be perfectly
justified in placing Peter under arrest, and he would have done so
immediately but for influence which was exercised by somebody in
authority.' (Here Jane recognized the relationship of Rouper with Bourke
and could afford to smile.)

'After you had left, Donald Wells came in. His wife has had a nervous
breakdown and he is sending her abroad far a complete change of air. She
is leaving by the eight o'clock train tomorrow morning. I tell you this
in case you thought of calling her up. I was glad to hear from Donald
that you and she were such good friends. She is very indiscreet and I am
afraid, a malicious woman, and talks a lot of nonsense. Donald tells me
that it was she who told you about the Nunhead affair. Both Donald and I
think you should get into touch with a good firm of solicitors, and I
don't think you can do better than get Sir John Lafe.' (he mentioned the
name of the most eminent solicitor in London).

The rest of the letter dealt mainly with his own state of mind, his
regret that he had ever sanctioned the marriage, and then:

'Donald has a theory which I can only regard as fantastic. It is that
Peter is the Clever One, the forger about whom everybody is talking. He
says that it is not an unusual occurrence for mania to take such a form,
and he recalled to me what I had never realized before--Peter's
extraordinary skill as an etcher. He said that the police had made some
sort of discovery about the existence of a secret room at Longford Manor,
and that Inspector Rouper said that there was no doubt whatever that that
room had been used either for the printing or for the engraving of forged
notes. It is an amazing coincidence that Peter has lived at Longford
Manor at intervals for years. There is just a possibility that the place
is really his.'

She read the letter twice before she tore it into four and tossed the
pieces into the fire. And then she looked at the postcard. It was from
Marjorie:

'Will you lunch with me on Tuesday at the Carlton, 1pm?--M.'

There was no sign here of a nervous, breakdown--or evidence that she was
going abroad. Jane shook her head helplessly.

One question at least should be settled, and settled that morning. She
ordered her car, and, after consulting the telephone book, was driven to
Knowlby Street.

At this hour of the morning it was a busy place; railway delivery vans
were drawn up almost bonnet to tail. There was no difficulty in finding
the freakish-looking Higgson House. She searched the names painted on the
lintel, and presently she saw “Blonberg, Financier,” and underneath,
evidently newly painted, the words, “Enquiries 3rd Floor.” She toiled up
the steep and narrow stairs and arrived breathlessly on the landing,
facing a glass-panelled door with the word 'Enquiries'.

Apparently Mr. Blonberg had a further office. A small hand was painted on
the wall indicating the upper floor, and under this, “Blonberg. Private.”
Tapping at the door, a shrill voice bade her come in. She found herself
in a small, very untidy outer office. Two girl clerks were laboriously
typing and a third was powdering her nose before a small piece of
looking-glass over the fireplace.

"I wish to see Mr. Blonberg."

"Have you an appointment?" asked the third girl carelessly, as she closed
her powder-box with a snap.

"Will you please tell him that Mrs. Clifton wishes to see him?"

The clerk disappeared through a door behind her, and was gone two
minutes. When she reappeared she opened the door invitingly, and Jane
passed through into the sanctum.

The room was tinier than that which she had left. Sitting at a very
small, untidy desk was a small, untidy man. He wore a soiled collar, and
the cuffs that showed under his worn coat were frayed; nor, she noticed,
were his hands clean. "Come in, ma'am, and sit down, will you?" He was a
long-faced man with the most irregular features Jane had ever seen; his
narrow head was covered with a shock of grey hair, and he had not shaved,
possibly for days. "What can I do for you, ma'am?"

"Are you the agent of Longford Manor?" He nodded many times.

"I thought that's who you was--were, I mean. The minute I heard your name
I said to meself: 'That's Mrs. Clifton, the young lady that's been in that
house where the murder was committed.' What a sad occurrence, ma'am--"

She was not in a conversational mood.

"I want to know who is the landlord of the house, or who owns it?"

He shook his head.  "Ah, there you've got me! We're only the agents.
There's another lot of agents. The old gentleman who owns Longford Manor
lives in Florence. In Italy," he added unnecessarily. "We never see him,
we just send on the money to his agents in Paris--"

"You go down there yourself sometimes, don't you?"

He looked up at her slyly from under his lids. "Well, now you come to
mention it, I do go down and potter about," he said. "It's the only
holiday I get, and it costs me nothing. They're the kind of holidays,
ma'am! Vacations, they call 'em in America. I was in Chicago for two
years, but I couldn't get on with them Americans--"

"Do you know Mrs. Untersohn?"

He shook his head. "Sounds foreign to me. Never heard of the woman. I'll
ask one of my clerks."

He put out his hand to the bell, but before he could press it she stopped
him.

"Are you sure you don't know her?"

"Never seen her in me life," he told her. "All sorts of women come up
here borrowing money, or trying to borrow it, but I don't remember her
name."

He explained with some pride that he was a registered moneylender, and
apparently he drove a prosperous trade amongst small tradesmen and
artisans. The house agency was something of a side-line.

"You are Mr. Blonberg?"

He nodded gravely.

"I'm Mr. Blonberg all right."

"Did you let Longford Manor to my husband?"

He nodded.

"Certainly I did. He's an old client--we've had him off and on for five or
six years. Longford Manor's let regularly. There's a stockbroker who has
it for Christmas, though it's not the sort of place I should care to live
in in the winter. And Mr. Clifton's the most regular renter we've got."

There was nothing to be gained from this man. She felt that he was
genuine when he denied all knowledge of Mrs. Untersohn; and yet this
strange woman had convinced Jane that Blonberg held the key that might
very well unlock one entrance to the inner mystery.

"Let me see you down the stairs, ma'am." He jumped up and shuffled
forward. She saw he was wearing bright red leather slippers. Evidently Mr
Blonberg believed in comfort. She wondered if he slept in his clothes,
and decided that in all probability he did.

"No, thank you, I'll find my way out. You can't give me the name of the
gentleman who owns Longford Manor?"

"I could, ma'am, but it'd be unprofessional. He don't want it known that
he's a letter. You can't argue with old gentlemen, as you well know. It's
bad business, this trouble at Longford Manor. I shouldn't be surprised if
it don't stand empty for years. Some people believe in ghosts.
Personally, I don't..."

He was still talking when she went down the stairs. Evidently, she
thought ruefully, she had not the attributes of a detective. She had
learnt nothing. If she had had the skill of a Bourke she might have
surprised from that unsavoury individual quite a number of vital facts.
She determined to suggest to Mr. Bourke when she saw him that he should
try his practised hand--though what benefit it would be to her if she knew
who owned Longford Manor she could not imagine.

Jane was disappointed, too: she had expected to find something more
sinister than this narrow-faced weakling--altogether she was not a
success. It was stupid of her to come. She should have told Bourke.

"Good morning, Mrs. Clifton."

She was opening the door of her car when she heard the voice and jumped.
Bourke was standing a few feet from her on the pavement, a broad smile
upon his large face.

"Haven't been borrowing money, have you?" he asked with an air of
jocularity. "Blonberg isn't a very keen lender."

"Oh!" she gasped. "You knew where I'd been?"

"Yes, I heard you go in, and was on the landing below when you came out.
I suppose you've been to discover something about Longford Manor? There
is the making of a detective in you. That was the first inquiry I made.
The owner is a man named Brance who lives in Montecattini summer and
winter, which means that he's eccentric. Blonberg is his agent, which
means that he's an imbecile."

"Who is Blonberg?" she asked.

"An ex-convict. He's had three convictions, but has now settled down to
honest larceny--in other words he commenced as a moneylender, and probably
started on capital that was stolen. I don't know all the truth about
Brance, but I'm guessing that Longford Manor is heavily mortgaged and
that Blonberg is the mortgagee. That of course is why he's the agent and
practically the proprietor. I owe you an apology, Mrs. Clifton. Yes, I'll
drive back with you if you'll drop me somewhere near Trafalgar Square."

He got in after her

"Why do you owe me an apology?" she asked when the car had started.

"You remember those clothes you gave me for the deserving poor? You'll
never dream what happened to them. I was taking them home last night, or
rather about two o'clock this morning, and in the middle of Westminster
Bridge I stopped to light a cigar. Very foolishly I put the parcel on the
edge of the parapet, and what do you think happened?"

Jane's heart leapt.

"They fell plumb into the middle of the river. You wouldn't think it was
possible that a man of my experience could be so careless. Heavy parcel,
too; pretty sure to sink right down to the bottom. May I give you a word
of advice?"

"I should love it," she said, entering into his spirit.

"When you give away old clothes," he said, staring out of the window,
"especially men's clothes, always remember that good tailors have a tag
and write the name and address of their customer on it. You usually find
it in the inside edge of the pocket. The same way with shirts. It's
always advisable to take those things off if you're giving to the
deserving poor, because the deserving poor have a habit of coming back
for more!"

Jane listened with growing consternation. Her carelessness had been
criminal. She was so overcome that she could not even thank him. But he
gave her no chance of thanking him. He turned from the subject quickly to
that of Blonberg. He talked without seeming to take breath; exhausted
Blonberg with one long, sardonic description, and came abruptly to the
murder.

"I'd like to have a little talk with Mrs. Cheyne Wells. You say she heard
the cry--"

"Mrs. Wells has gone abroad."

"Eh?"

The gentle drone of sound ceased. That “Eh?” was sharp and metallic.



CHAPTER 22


"ARE YOU sure, Mrs. Clifton? Where did you hear this?"

She told him of the letter she had had from her father, and Bourke
listened, fingering his big face.

"She wasn't broken down last night--in fact, I never saw a woman who
looked less like neurasthenia. Eight-thirty--that means she's gone to
Belgium. You've no idea what's her destination?"

"I can find out," said Jane, "if you'll come back to the house."

To her surprise, he seemed to consider this question of Marjorie's
departure to be of sufficient importance to justify a change of plan. She
got on to Donald Wells at once.

"Yes, Marjorie went abroad this morning," said Donald. "I wanted to get
her out of the way of this beastly case--she's gone to Germany, and she'll
be away a couple of months. She wanted to phone you, but I thought it
best not to bother you with her plans. How are you feeling? I'm going
back to see Peter today and to attend that infernal inquiry. Where is
Bourke? I expected a call from him this morning."

It was one of those over-loud telephones, and evidently Mr. Bourke heard
the inquiry, for his lips said "Longford Manor."

"He's at Longford Manor," said Jane.

"I can't understand Peter making a friend of that fellow--he drinks too
much, for one thing." (Out of the corner of her eye Jane saw the
superintendent grin, and knew that he also had heard this.) "You've got
to be very careful with him, Jane. Under the pretence of friendship these
people gain one's confidence, and you may say something that is very
harmful to Peter."

"I will be very careful," said Jane.

He seemed to regard that assurance as ending the conversation, for he
hung up.

"He doesn't like me," said Bourke mournfully.

Here was an opportunity which she could not afford to miss. "What was the
trouble at Nunhead, Mr. Bourke?"

"Nunhead? Oh, you mean with Wells? That happened years ago. There was a
very rich old lady who lived on the outskirts of Brockley. She was one of
Wells's patients. She told him, or told somebody else, that she was
leaving him her entire fortune--she was one of those cantankerous old
girls who spend their lives quarrelling with their relations. She died so
suddenly that the coroner refused Wells's certificate and ordered an
inquest. There was some talk of poison, but the experts disagreed.
Anyway, when it was discovered that she had not left a penny to Wells,
motive was entirely missing. I think possibly the will was as much of a
surprise to him as the inquest. What made it look black against him was
that he was undoubtedly a specialist in the art of drug-blending--I don't
know whether that is the technical word for the practice, but certainly
he knew more about the property of vegetable poisons than most doctors.
That came out at the inquest. However, the whole thing blew over, and
about six months later Wells--he was plain Dr. Wells then and hadn't got
his 'Cheyne'--left the district. How he got to Harley Street Heaven knows,
for he left owing money in all directions. There were scores of judgment
summonses out against him. The next time I heard of him he was in Harley
Street." He looked at his watch. "I'd better hop down to that dear old
manor house," he said sarcastically. "I don't think anybody has been
murdered in my absence, because I left a couple of particularly reliable
men--unless they've killed Rouper, who isn't very popular at the Yard. Did
he stay long yesterday afternoon?"

"Not very long," she answered.

"You had the search, of course, and Rouper was very thorough. By the way,
did he know the code for the safe?"

She nodded.

"Thought he would," chuckled Bourke. "That's certainly the most widely
known combination that any man has. You know it of course--'Janet'. That
was his mother's name. Didn't I tell you? I'm terribly sorry. He gave it
to me before I came up and told me you could have it."

The door had hardly closed on Superintendent Bourke before she was in
Peter's library and was spinning the dial. In another second the safe
opened to “Janet,” and after a brief search amongst the envelopes she
found the will.

What would this document make plain to her? Her breath came a little
quicker; she sat down at Peter's writing table and opened the stiff
paper. Apparently this was a typewritten copy of the will, and she read
it carefully. After a few preliminary bequests, including one to “Peter
Clifton Welerson of £100,000,” the will went on:

The residue of my estate I bequeath to the aforesaid Peter Clifton
Welerson, who was born at Elm House in the village of Chadwick on the
fourth of May in the year of Our Lord 1902, and I would charge him that
all his life he follows the example of sincerity, modesty and loving
kindness which made his mother so exemplary a woman, and that he emulates
the diligence and the self-effacing qualities of his illustrious father.

Jane would not have been human if she had not sniffed at this little
piece of egoism.

She read the will carefully from beginning to end, but saw nothing that
was in any way illuminating.

That afternoon, browsing along the well-filled bookshelves in the study,
she had further evidence of the late Mr. Welerson's many-sidedness. On one
shelf which was packed with old school books her eyes suddenly caught the
word “Welerson” on the back cover. She took down the slim book and turned
to the title page. It was evidently printed for private circulation, and
the title was, curiously enough. The History of Paper Currency, by
Alexander Welerson, BA (Cambs).

The book was well illustrated--and now she understood why the printing had
been private, for there were half a dozen reproductions of famous
forgeries, with the errors of the forgers circled in red ink.

Welerson had written other books, for there was a footnote on one page
which ran: “See Acid Reactions, Messrs Gibbson & Fry, by the same
author.”

There was genius here--genius that had since crossed the invisible
borderline that marks the boundaries of sanity.

She was putting the book away when the front flyleaf, which had been
stuck to the cover, came open. Written in a flowing hand were the words
“To my dear wife, Janet Welerson,” and in brackets, “This book was
published on the day our darling Peter was born.”

She put the book back on the shelf with a deep sigh. She had hoped to
hear from the old lawyer Radlow, but neither the first nor the second
post had brought any communication. Peter had telephoned in the afternoon
to say that the inquest had been adjourned for a week, and that he would
be coming up that night. She was still talking at the phone when Walker
brought in a telegram. It bore no signature, she found when she opened
it, and had been handed in at Amsterdam at one o'clock.

'Tell nobody I wired you. Write me Continental Berlin telling me
everything happened. You must trust Donald implicitly: you don't know
what he is doing for Peter.'

It was obviously from Marjorie, but why had she not put her name? What
was behind this mysterious flight of hers? At school Jane had learnt a
system of shorthand: she was not particularly proficient in the matter of
speed, but she found this method of writing a very useful one, and she
copied the telegram in a little notebook which served as diary and
engagement tablet, before she consigned Marjorie's message to the fire.

Peter had not returned at four, nor at five. At six o'clock she rang up
Longford Manor and his voice answered her.

"I'm afraid I shan't be back in time for dinner, Jane. Bourke will tell
you everything that happened."

"Why are you slaying on?" she asked, her heart sinking. "You are not--?"

She heard his short laugh.

"Not under arrest--no, thank Heaven! I don't know how long that happy state
of affairs will continue. I have asked Bourke to put a man on duty in
Carlton House Terrace."

"Why?" she asked, but he gave her no satisfaction.

"Well--I don't want you to be bothered by reporters. I'll be home at ten.
Is your father with you?"

"No," she answered, and something in her tone caused him to ask:

"Is he very angry with me?--I shouldn't blame him."

"No, no," she assured him.

Mr. Bourke did not arrive until about nine o'clock. It was raining heavily
and his waterproof coat was soaked, although he had only walked a short
distance.

"Is Peter here?"

He was genuinely surprised--she almost thought alarmed--when she shook her
head.

"He said he wouldn't be here till ten," she answered.

His eyes narrowed.

"He left Longford an hour ago."

Something of his alarm communicated itself to Jane.

"Alone?"

Bourke nodded.

"Yes. Wells and the other doctor came away at seven. They insisted upon
having some sort of consultation, and I presume the subject has been our
unfortunate Peter. Will you see if that is from him?" he asked, as Walker
came in with a telegram.

She tore open the buff envelope and, taking out two closely written
sheets of paper, read them and passed them across to Bourke. The wire was
not from Peter. The first word he looked for was the signature. It was
“Radlow.”

"This is meant for Peter," he said, but read it aloud.

'Re your telephone call have decided in view of innuendoes tonight's
papers make fullest statement tonight come Lands Sydenham ten-thirty
draft statement be ready Commissioner tomorrow.'

"I can't understand much of this," she said. "Mr. Radlow is almost as
laconic in his telegrams as he is in his speech. What are 'Lands'?"

"That is the name of his house at Sydenham. I suppose it is old man
Radlow?"

Bourke looked the telegram over. There was no office of origin, simply
the word “London,” which meant that the message had been put on the
telephone.

"Peter won't be back till ten o'clock. I think we might as well go
down--are you on duty or off?" she challenged him.

"Off," he replied promptly. "Is your car available?"

She rang for Walker and ordered the Rolls to be brought round.

"If Peter turns up before we leave, he'll have to come along. Anyway,
you'd better write a message and tell him where you've gone."

He looked at his watch again and frowned.

"I don't like this," he said. "He ought to have been here by now. It's a
good road and he should be on the outskirts of London twenty minutes
after he leaves the house."

While they were waiting for the car he reread the telegram and explained
the cryptic words at the end.

"He means he is preparing a statement to take before a Commissioner of
Oaths. The telephone inquiry I don't understand; but I've no doubt he
will tell us all about it."

In spite of the rain the night was warm, and she took a raincoat and
later was glad of this precaution, for so heavily was the rain falling
that, but for the protection of the butler's umbrella, she would have
been wet through walking from the door to the car. It was dark, and the
way out of London to Sydenham was one to be negotiated with the greatest
caution. Most of the route lay along car lines, and in some places the
road was thick with mud. On the way he told her something of Radlow's
history.

The old man had the reputation of being a misanthrope and lived
practically alone, except for three servants, in the big house where his
wife had died and where some of the happiest years of his life had been
spent. Although his business lay in Southport, he had been the owner of
Lands for forty years.

The house stood in an island site on Sydenham Hill, a high, rather
gaunt-looking edifice, surrounded by a triangular acre of garden enclosed
in a high brick wall. Bourke had to rely largely upon his memory, and
made the error of turning into a side thoroughfare, under the impression
that the front of the house faced north. This mistake was pardonable, for
by the side of the kerb near a fairly large wooden door let into the wall
he saw the lights of a car and ordered the chauffeur to draw up well
short of this.

"Just wait a moment," he said to the girl, and, getting down, went
forward through the driving rain to the doorway. One glance and he saw
that he had made an error and had come to the garden gate.

He walked back to Jane, who was leaning out of the window, looking ahead.

"We've come the wrong side--" he began.

"Whose car is that?" she asked in a low voice, "I'm sure it's Peter's!"



CHAPTER 23


IN ANOTHER second she was on the pavement and walking quickly to the
unattended Bentley.

"It is Peter's!"

In the light of the street lamp Bourke saw that the car--an all-weather
two-seater--was splashed with mud. To supplement his search he took a
little flashlamp from his pocket and sent the beam under the hood. On the
floor lay a strap; he picked this up and examined it; then he began
walking round the car. The dicky seat was half open.

"That is Peter's all right," he said, and, going back to the garden gate,
pushed.

The door yielded to his pressure and he found himself on a gravel path
that ran between two high clumps of rosemary bushes. After a while he
came out and joined the girl.

"I don't understand this." His voice was troubled. "Of course, Peter may
have been a constant visitor here without telling anybody. He might have
chosen this way of going in. But it's rather remarkable--wait here."

He returned to the garden, and with the aid of his lamp began to find his
way to what was possibly a private entrance. No dogs barked, to his
relief; he caught a glimpse of the house: it was in darkness except for
one square of light, which he presumed represented the unshaded french
windows of a lower room.

He reached the lawn and was turning back when he heard a deep groan and
spun round, the circle of his light roving left and right. And then he
saw a hand, the gloved palm outstretched, and, pulling aside a clump of
flowers that hid its owner, he saw a man lying on his back.

It was Peter!

Bourke whistled softly, and, stooping, dragged the unconscious figure to
a sitting position. He had set his lamp down that he might have his hands
free, and he was reaching for this when, with a gasp of amazement, he saw
that it was focused on something that, experienced man as he was, made
him jump. It was an automatic pistol, and about the muzzle was clipped a
curious dull blob of metal, which he recognized as the new German
silencer.

He took the pistol up, smelt at its muzzle, and, pressing home the safety
catch, thrust the weapon into his pocket. He was a man of extraordinary
strength, and with scarcely an effort pulled Peter to his feet and
carried him, his feet dragging on the gravel, to the doorway. And then he
remembered the chauffeur.

"Is there anything wrong?" asked Jane breathlessly, as she came running
towards him.

"Can you drive the Bentley?" asked Bourke in a low voice, and when she
had answered in the affirmative: "Send the Rolls round to the front of
the house and tell the chauffeur to wait."

It was only then that she saw the limp figure that he propped up against
the open door.

"O God! Is that Peter?" she asked in a terrified whisper,

"Do as I tell you," hissed the detective.

He drew the inanimate figure farther into the shadow. A chance
pedestrian, a patrolling policeman--anything might bring his plan to ruin.
He himself was taking a risk, but taking it with his eyes open, in the
faith that he was doing the right thing.

He heard the car move away, and then Jane came back.

"Stand out of the way," he cautioned. Lifting Peter on his shoulder, he
walked quickly across the pavement and heaved him into the deep low seat
of the car. "Get in the other side and drive back to Carlton House
Terrace." He gave his orders rapidly. "He may have recovered by then.
He's moving now. Get him into the flat and wait for my return."

She wanted to ask him a hundred things, but was wise enough to defer her
questions until later. Shaking as she was from head to foot, she set her
teeth and, getting into the driver's seat, put her foot upon the starter;
Bourke watched the tail light till it had disappeared round the corner on
to the main road.

He took the pistol out of his pocket again and sniffed at the muzzle, and
his big face was set in a humourless grin as he pulled the door to and
went at his leisure to the front of the house.

First he must interview the chauffeur. If he, too, had recognized Peter's
car, there was going to be trouble; but apparently he had neither noticed
its appearance nor had he heard Jane's reference. It was not surprising,
remembering it was a night of gusty wind and she had spoken in a low
voice.

"Mrs. Clifton has gone back to town by taxi: she's not feeling very well."
(Fortunately they had passed a taxi rank just before they had turned into
the side road.) "You'll wait for me here."

Bourke walked up the asphalted path to the dark front door and rang. He
rang three times before a maid opened the door of the dark hall.

"Is that Mr. Clifton?" she asked.  "The master is expecting you, sir. I'm
sorry the gas isn't lit, but the master doesn't like lights in the hall."

Evidently she had never seen “Mr. Clifton,” for she accepted the
detective's assurance. Despite the economical Radlow's objection to
lighting, she kindled a small flame in a huge hanging lamp, and led the
way down a small passage to what was evidently the back of the house.

"The master said he was not to be disturbed till you came," she
whispered.

Evidently the old man was a bit of a terror in that house. "All right,"
said Bourke. "I'll announce myself." He opened the door, and as he did so
there was a rush of air. The back window was open then. "Wait here."

A gas chandelier overhung the desk, and the white globes gave a
steadiness to the light, in spite of the draught. In the very centre of
the room, beneath the chandelier, was a big, old-fashioned partner's
desk, and over this, his head upon the blotting pad, one arm hanging
helplessly by his chair, sprawled the figure of a man.

"Have you a telephone? Of course you have. Where is it?"

"In the hall, sir," said the trembling maid. "Is anything wrong?"

"Yes. Call up the police station; just tell the operator you want the
police. Say Superintendent Bourke is here; ask them to send the
divisional surgeon and the detective officer in charge."

He closed the door upon her and went slowly towards the desk.

One of the two french windows was wide open; the curtains were blowing in
at an angle. He closed the window carefully before he turned his
attention to the dead man. The blotting pad was red with blood. So too
was the paper beneath the pen held in a stiffened hand.

Bourke stopped and looked, then going behind the stricken figure, he read
the few lines written at the head of the page, which was numbered 7.

'...I felt in the circumstances that I could not very well deny the
wishes of my client. There was at that time no trace of the dreadful
malady--'

Here the writing ended. Pages 1 to 6 were missing. He looked in the
wastepaper basket; that was empty. The rest of Radlow's statement had
vanished.

Bourke went out of the room, and, removing the key which was on the
inside, he locked the door from without. Three servants were in the hall,
talking in excited, fearful tones, and he heard one tremulous voice
talking into the phone.

"Could you speak, sir?"

Bourke went to the instrument, and found himself talking with the station
sergeant.

"Yes--yes, an ambulance also, please. Yes, undoubtedly it's murder."

He heard the smothered exclamations of horror and signalled the women out
of the hall.

"Wait a minute till I get these servants away. Shot dead at close range.
I happened to be down here making inquiries about the Longford Manor
case. You might make a note of that in your book, sergeant."

He hung up the phone and, descending the narrow stone stairs that led to
the basement, asked for the housekeeper. This proved to be the servant
who had admitted him.

"He's not dead, sir, is he?" she whispered. "The dear old master..."

"Come upstairs," he ordered, but she shrank back.

"I couldn't see him, I couldn't really, sir."

Eventually he persuaded her to light the gas in the drawing-room. She had
little to tell him. “The master” had retired to his study after dinner,
at ten minutes past eight, with orders that he was in no circumstances to
be disturbed. She had taken him his coffee immediately after he had
entered the room, and since then she had not heard a sound from the
snuggery, as he called it. She remembered all the telephone calls that
had come through during the day. Mr. Radlow very seldom received messages:
he had an old-fashioned man's hatred of the phone, and the instrument was
only in the house at all because he had a dread of fire and liked to be
in touch with the fire station. There had been four calls in the
morning--two from tradesmen, one a wrong number, and one from Mr. Radlow's
doctor, who was in the habit of visiting the old gentleman twice a week
and had telephoned putting off his appointment until the following day.

In the afternoon there had been two calls, one of which Mr. Radlow himself
had answered.

"It was Mr. Clifton, sir, but the master was asleep. He always has an
hour's nap in the afternoon, and I didn't like to disturb him. When he
woke up I told him Mr. Clifton had called, and he said that if he
telephoned again I was to tell him. Mr. Clifton telephoned at about half
past five, or it may have been six. Mr. Radlow turned me out of the hall,
just as you did when you were telephoning, but I heard him say, as I was
going down the stairs: 'I'll make the statement--I don't care whether you
like it or not, you young fool!' or something like that, and then he must
have changed his mind, for he said: 'Very well, I'll think the matter
over, and if I change my mind I will let you know.' It was after I took
the coffee in to him that he asked me to call up 'telegrams' and send a
message to Mr. Clifton."

She had this slip of paper in her bag downstairs and went to fetch it. It
was exactly the message that Jane had received.

"That's how I knew you were coming--oh, but you're not Mr. Clifton, you're
a police gentleman."

"Did you hear a sound of any kind?" interrupted Bourke.

The woman hesitated.

"I did think I heard a door slam. In this old house you can hear almost
any noise."

"A quick, sharp slam?" he suggested.

It was rather muffled, she thought.

"What time was this?"

Here she gave him explicit information.

"Half an hour before his call." She had heard the clock chime.

The servant had barely finished when a thundering knock came to the door
and Bourke went to admit a detective sergeant and two men from the local
station. Glancing past them, he saw a policeman in uniform outside the
front gate. He recognized the officer as an old assistant of his.

"Come in, Rennie. All right, you needn't wait. What is your name?"

"Mrs. Stodder, sir," faltered the housemaid-housekeeper.

He led Rennie into the chamber of death, and there a few minutes later
they were joined by the divisional surgeon.

"I've touched nothing," said Bourke. "The old man was writing a statement
which I had come to collect--it concerned the Longford Manor case, and
you'll notice that he's on page 7. And the other six pages are missing."



CHAPTER 24


ON THE floor by the side of the desk was a square silver box, which the
superintendent had overlooked. Rennie stooped and picked it up.

"Hallo, what's this?" he said.

He opened the lid. It was a cigarette box, a motor car accessory, and
Bourke recognized it before Rennie had turned back the lid and read the
monogram “P.C.”

Not a muscle of his face moved.

"I dropped that," he said. "It's a little case that Peter Clifton carries
in a leather pocket by the side of the driving wheel."

He had seen this box in use a dozen times. Peter had one peculiar habit:
he very seldom smoked cigarettes unless he was driving a car, and had
had this little box made so that he should always have a supply at hand.

He looked inside again; the box was packed tight. He drew out one
cigarette and examined it. It was a popular and widely advertised brand
of Virginians.

"Amazing fellow," he said, apropos of nothing, and slipped the case into
his pocket.

The two detectives were searching the room carefully.

"By the way, that window was open when I came in. The papers may have
blown outside," said Bourke, though he was very sure that if they had
blown anywhere it would have been into the passage when he opened the
door.

"There are some footstains on the carpet," said one of the detectives
suddenly, as he bent down and touched the muddy surface, "and it's wet."

"Phone up to the Yard for a photographer," said Bourke. "Ask them to get
into touch with Chief Inspector Watkins and send him down." (He named the
Area Chief Inspector.) "He'll be in charge of the case. And, by the way,
when you question the servants they will tell you that they expected a
visit from Mr. Peter Clifton. Radlow was his lawyer--or rather, his
father's lawyer. I came instead."

A little crowd had gathered round the gateway when he went out to the
car, for ill news spreads fast. The policeman introduced a gentleman who
was a next-door neighbour of Radlow's, a well-known City tea merchant. He
had been in his garden, looking for an Airedale pup that had strayed out
into the night and would not answer his whistle. Bourke took this witness
back to the hall.

"Come into the house," said Bourke when he had heard the preliminaries.
He escorted this new and important witness to the drawing-room. "What did
it sound like?"

"It sounded rather like a pistol fired through a silencer," said the
neighbour. "I was in the Musketry School at Hythe during the war, and we
made experiments with various kinds of silencers, so the sound was pretty
familiar; and the wind was blowing in my direction, which made it sound
all the more distinctly."

"Did you hear any other noise?"

"I heard nothing, and from where I stood could see nothing. I walked a
little way along my path, which runs by the side of the dividing wall,
till I came to a place where I could look over. I wasn't very curious,
naturally, because on a miserable night like this one doesn't want to be
out of doors longer than one can help. But as I looked over I thought I
saw a man walk across the lawn in the direction of the back gate. This
house and the next six have back gates, which in every case except Mr
Radlow's have been converted into the entrance of a garage. I called out,
thinking it was Radlow, but had no reply. From where I stood I could see
the window in Radlow's room was open. We've had burglars in this
neighbourhood lately, and I was a little alarmed. In fact, I almost
telephoned for the police, but one doesn't like to interfere with a
neighbour's business, and I happen to know that Mr. Radlow always spent
the evening in that room and was rather a demon for fresh air."

"You didn't see the man?"

"No, not well enough to identify him."

"Was he tall or short?"

Here the witness could not help. He had heard the garden gate slam and
soon after he had found his pup and taken him inside.

"One thing only I want to ask you: did this man walk quickly or slowly?
Did he walk straight or did he stagger?"

"He walked very straight and very quickly."

Bourke nodded.

"I should have been surprised if he hadn't."

He drove straight back to Carlton House Terrace, a very anxious man.
Peter's car was not outside the house; he wondered if Jane had got back,
but it was she who opened the door to him.

"He's sleeping," she said in a low voice.

"He hasn't recovered, then?" frowned Bourke.

"Only for a little while. He was able to walk into the house but I'm
quite sure he didn't recognize me or know where he was. Thank heavens
Walker was in his pantry, and I was able to get Peter to his room without
help." She was looking anxiously into his face. "Something terrible has
happened?" And, when he nodded: "Mr. Radlow--?"

"Radlow has been shot at close quarters. I don't think I should ask any
questions if I were you, Mrs. Clifton. Where is this man of yours?"

She took him to the bedroom. Peter lay fully dressed on the bed, covered
by an eiderdown quilt. He was sleeping, and Bourke did not attempt to
wake him, but made a quick search of his pockets. The first thing he
brought to light was a long, black, spare magazine, which he knew without
testing fitted the butt of the automatic. The second object of interest
was a flat package in Peter's inside pocket. It was heavily sealed and
tied about with green tape, but bore no superscription of any kind.
Bourke broke the seals; inside he found another wrapping of fine silver
paper. Within this, a pad of American currency bills, each for a hundred
dollars. There were fifty of these, and he could count them the more
easily because they were numbered consecutively. Mr. Bourke's nose
wrinkled.

"All he wants now is a confession in his left boot!" he growled.

One thing interested him: it was a thin gold cigarette case which he
found in Peter's pocket. It was empty. The sight fascinated him. He had
seen Peter fill that case a few hours before.

He shook the sleeping man, and slowly Peter's eyes opened. "Get up." said
Bourke authoritatively, and the sleeper obeyed. "Take off your coat."

Peter, his eyes still closed, carried out the operation, assisted by Jane
and the detective. He either would not or could not speak; he was so dead
with sleep that when they lowered him again to the pillow he was
immediately unconscious. Bourke rolled up the sleeve, and with the help
of his flashlamp began to examine the arm. What he saw evidently
satisfied him, for he turned to the anxious Jane with a smile of triumph.
"Do you know what your husband wants? Light!

"Light?" said the puzzled girl.

Bourke indicated the two shaded wall brackets which were the only
illuminants of the room. There was a lamp by the bedside; he removed the
silken cover, and, switching this on, held the lamp before the face of
the sleeper. She saw Peter's eyelids quiver, saw the grimace that was
almost painful--he put up his hand to push it away, but Bourke was
adamant.

"Wake up," he said, and as though his words had some magical quality
Peter's eyes opened wide and he sat up without assistance.

"What's the trouble?"

"You are," snarled Bourke. "You've ruined a promising career that was
nearly at an end. I've two years to serve for my pension, and I look like
serving them in one of His Majesty's prisons!"

Peter looked from the detective to the girl, then he glanced round the
room.

"I got home, did I?"

"You got home all right, in every sense of the word," said Bourke. He
glanced significantly at Jane, and she left them alone.

It was a quarter of an hour before they followed her. Peter was very
pale; Bourke's hair was ruffled in all directions.

"Do your servants know Peter is back?" was the first question the
detective asked.

"Yes; I told them he had been in some time."

"Good. They didn't hear him come in."

He looked at his watch.  "You returned here at ten minutes to ten. Was
there a hall porter?"

"He wasn't on duty when I came in. The lifts work automatically."

He nodded again.

"Good. Who took his car away?"

"I did; as soon as I got him into the house I drove the car round to a
garage I sometimes use. I don't know where Peter's own garage is."

"Excellent," commented Bourke; "Which means that your chauffeur will not
see it."

Peter groaned. "You've tied my hands, Bourke," he said.

"What did you want to do?" asked Jane quickly.

Bourke nodded. "The great and original idea of Mr. Peter Clifton was to
walk into the nearest police station and confess himself guilty of two
murders," he said. "But as he can only do that by implicating his wife as
an accessory and Detective-Superintendent Joe Bourke as a confederate, he
has very kindly promised to refrain. Where did you leave that car, Mrs
Clifton?"

She wrote down the address of the garage.

"I'll go along and give it a look over. You go to bed, Peter; but what
your wife will do I don't know. If I were she, I'd sit up near the
telephone, refuse to give any information except that her husband is in
bed and asleep, and be ready to admit Detective-Inspector Moses Rouper
when he calls. I may be back before him, but I shall certainly return."

"Shall I come with you?" asked Peter.

"You're the last person I want with me," said Bourke. "You stay here. If
reporters come, refuse to see them."

"Won't that look a little suspicious?"

Bourke shook his head. "Here's a man who's just come up from Longford
Manor, where a murder's been committed and where a certain amount of
suspicion attaches to him. What is more likely than that he should expect
to be bothered with reporters? There's every excuse for refusing to see
anybody. I don't think the house is watched. Rouper, I should imagine, is
too busy elsewhere." Bourke was gone immediately afterwards.



CHAPTER 25


WHEN HE got out of the house he looked round for some sign of a watcher.
He knew exactly where a police observer was likely to post himself, but
there was no sign of detectives, and later, when he passed a uniformed
policeman on the corner of the street, and gave him a casual goodnight,
the man, recognizing him, made no reference, which he certainly would
have done, to surveillance.

Peter's car had been taken to a public garage, and on showing his card he
was instantly led to the machine, which stood in the centre of the
courtyard and was then in the process of being washed. With the aid of a
handlamp he made a complete search of the interior, a process facilitated
by the fact that the cleaners had already gone through and dusted the
upholstery. He saw the chief of the cleaning gang.

"No, sir, there was nothing inside except a couple of cigarette ends."

"Eh?" Bourke turned on him sharply. "I suppose they couldn't be
recovered?"

The man nodded. "Yes; they're in the vacuum bag."

The bag was unhooked and emptied. One of the cigarette ends had become
unravelled in the process of vacuum cleaning, but the other was intact.
The cigarette had been smoked half way down. Through a holder, decided
Bourke. He wrapped the cigarette in paper and put it carefully in his
pocket.

Amidst the grey dust which had been emitted from the vacuum he saw a
little speck of white, and, brushing the debris away gently with his
forefinger, he saw a tiny white pellet.

"What other cars have been cleaned with this vacuum?"

"That's the first, sir," the foreman was in haste to tell him. "All the
dust you see on that sheet came out of this car. We always use a fresh
bag for every car, and the dust is examined in case anything has been
lost. We've often found loose pearls that way, and once we had a diamond
ring that a lady dropped."

Bourke opened the package containing the cigarette and added the pellet.

"Nothing else found?"

The gang master said no, but one of his hands rather sheepishly admitted
that he had found three cigarettes on the seat, and excused his tiny
larceny by their apparent worthlessness. He had them in his pocket.
Bourke took them in his hand and examined them; they were, as he had
expected, the same brand as those that were packed in the silver box.
These he put in his cigar case, and, there being nothing else to learn of
the car, he went to the unusual expense of a taxicab and drove back to
Scotland Yard. Here he sought the chief of a certain department and
handed over to him the silver cigarette case.

"There are half a dozen fingerprints on this," he said. "I want them
brought up and the photographs to be on my desk at twelve tomorrow. One
copy is to go to the Records Department for identification and report."

He took out the half smoked cigarette, found a little test tube in a
cupboard of his room, and dropped it in, corking the top.

"That is for chemical analysis."

He had separated the pellet from the cigarette, and this he placed in
another sheet of paper.

"I want a chemical examination of this. I rather think it is hyoscin."

These discoveries from the car were beyond his expectations. Never in his
wildest dreams did he imagine he would make such a haul, and it was a
very jubilant Bourke who knocked at the door of 903, Harley Street.

The footman was not inclined to admit him.

"The doctor has gone to bed, sir," he said, "and Mrs. Cheyne Wells is
abroad."

"Tell Dr. Wells that Superintendent Bourke wishes to see him."

He was left alone in the hall while the footman went upstairs. When he
came down again Donald Wells followed him, and, except that he wore a
flowered silk dressing-gown, he was fully dressed.

"I was just going to bed, Bourke. Did you want to see me particularly?
I've rather a headache tonight."

"Everybody will have a headache in the morning unless I'm greatly
mistaken," said Bourke cheerfully. "I mean everybody except me. Poor old
Peter Clifton and Mrs. Clifton and Moses Rouper--possibly you, Doctor."

Cheyne Wells opened the door and ushered his visitor into his study,
switching on the light as he did so. He walked to a little table, touched
a spring, and the top opened, revealing a well-stocked cellarette.

"What will you drink?"

"Water," said Bourke tersely. "I'm like the native in Kipling's poem--when
it comes to slaughter I do my job on water."

Wells laughed, pouring a little whisky into a tumbler and filling it from
a hissing syphon.

"Whom are you slaughtering tonight?"

"That's what I want to know. I'm not quite sure of his identity, but it's
only a matter of days before I put him just where the dogs can't bite
him. I had a talk with Sowlby on the phone--the solicitors who are acting
in this Longford Manor case."

He proceeded, rather tediously Donald thought, to set forth a rather
uninteresting conversation. Then suddenly Bourke said: "I suppose you
know the old lawyer has been murdered--shot dead in his study at ten
o'clock tonight?"

On Cheyne Wells's face was an expression of horror.

"Radlow--murdered? Good God!"

"Did I say Radlow?"

Bourke's voice was hard as steel. For a moment Donald Wells was incapable
of answer.

"Did I say Radlow?" asked Bourke again. "I was talking about Sowlby,
wasn't I? He's a lawyer, he's an old man: why should you think I had
suddenly switched to Radlow? You don't know him, anyway."

Donald Wells recovered himself.

"I knew him--Peter's lawyer, wasn't he? Peter had been talking about him
for days, as a matter of fact. I wondered what had become of the old man:
I haven't seen him for years--that's queer that I should think you were
talking about Radlow, but I'm almost psychic."

Bourke did not answer him; his steely eyes were fixed upon the doctor's.
When he did speak it was slowly and impressively. "Radlow was shot dead
in his study tonight by an unknown man, who, however, was seen by a
neighbour--the man who lives next door went out in the garden to collect
his dog, and saw the murderer leaving the room after the shooting."

His voice was steady, almost monotonous, he gave no pause or excuse for
interruption.

"That often happens in murder cases. Doctor--the most unlikely weakness
pops in. Who'd suppose, on a wet, wretched night like that, a respectable
citizen of Sydenham would be poking round his garden looking for a pup?
And he saw the man, was able to describe him to me, and I've come to
arrest--" the man before him was stiff with terror, "--any idle rumour
that might be floating round that Peter Clifton was at Sydenham."

Only then, by sheer will-power, did Donald Wells drop his eyes. The
tumbler he lifted to his lips was shaking, but in his quick-witted way he
found an excuse for his agitation.

"Radlow--good God!" he murmured as he drained the glass at a gulp.
"Terrible business, eh?"

"Where did you leave Peter?"

"I left him--at Longford Manor," said Wells. "He was coming on after: he
said he had an engagement. He was seeing somebody in town. I have an idea
that he was seeing Radlow."

Bourke pursed his lips thoughtfully. "That was his idea. I happened to be
outside his flat in Carlton House Terrace about ten minutes to ten when
he came home. Never saw a man look sicker than poor old Peter Clifton.
You've got it right. Doctor--he was going down to see Radlow, but I
persuaded him to go to bed. I went down and saw Radlow--alone. When I say
'alone,’" he added carefully, "I mean I took Mrs. Clifton with me, but she
got so worried about Peter looking so sick that she went back home in a
taxi. I found Radlow half an hour after he'd been killed, and I couldn't
help feeling how terribly awkward it would have been for Peter if he'd
been seen around Radlow's house somewhere in the region of ten o'clock."

Cheyne Wells did not answer; his eyes were still examining the carpet.
Presently he raised them.

"Who do you think killed Radlow?" he asked quietly.

"That's going to be easy to discover, as soon as we find the pistol.
They're going to make a search of the grounds tomorrow. Not that they'll
find anything. First-class murderers do not leave their weapons behind,
except in storybooks--or unless they want to plant the murder on to
somebody else. I've known that to be done once or twice. And odd
cigarette boxes to make sure that even pudden-headed policemen like me
shouldn't have any doubt that the murderer was Peter."

Now that he had Donald Wells's eyes, he held them. Donald did not flinch.

"It sounds more like a detective story than Scotland Yard," he said with
a smile. "Now what do you want me to do for you, Bourke?"

"You're a doctor." Bourke looked up at the ceiling reflectively. "And I'd
like to get from you a good antidote to hyoscin and morphine.
Administered subcutaneously--that's a lovely word!"

The eyes seemed to fall with a click and transfixed Donald, but not a
muscle of the doctor's face moved.

"That sounds remarkably like what ignorant people call 'twilight sleep,’”
he said.

Bourke nodded.

"I'm an ignorant man and that's what I call it too," he said.

Donald shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know what antidote you want. No injurious effects follow if it
is properly administered--"

"By a duly qualified medical man," murmured Bourke. "The rum thing is, I
have found the hyoscin but missed the morphine--a tiny little pellet. It
must have been in the bottom of the car, but the vacuum cleaner fished it
out. I've asked them to look for a little brown pellet about the same
size, but I don't suppose they'll be successful. Duly qualified medical
men are not quite so careless as to drop two pellets!"



CHAPTER 26


WELLS SHOOK his head.

"I don't know what on earth you're talking about. Which car?" And then,
suddenly: "Sit down, Bourke. You and I are at cross purposes. You're
being horribly mysterious and I'm being appropriately mystified. Now tell
me just what's in your mind. Is it about Peter? And who is the duly
qualified medical man? I know none except myself." He chuckled at this.
"Are you accusing me of doping Peter or something? And what has all this
to do with Radlow?"

He talked in his quick, nervous way and could not altogether hide from
the cold-blooded scrutinizer the tension under which he laboured.

"I should like to know what's in your mind, Superintendent."

"I'll tell you what's in my mind, Dr. Wells," said Bourke quietly. "It's
in my mind that you're taking the news I've brought you in quite the
wrong way. You're a friend of Mr. Clifton's--I'll call him Peter because I
have the honour to be a friend of his too. And you haven't reacted--is
that the medical term? a useful one--exactly as I should have expected.
I've come and told you that another acquaintance of his has been
murdered. I've as good as told you that Peter's suffering from the
effects of a drug; and I haven't noticed that you're upset about this,
and I haven't heard you say you'd like to go straight away to where Peter
is and do what you can for him. And that's exactly what I should have
expected you to do, Dr. Wells, and you haven't done it. All the time I've
been here you've been defending yourself--against what? When I used the
word 'arrest' you nearly collapsed--why? What have you to fear? I'm
talking to you now as man to man, without witnesses."

Cheyne Wells stood in front of the fire, a favourite attitude of his, his
hands thrust down into his trousers pockets, his head on one side,
watching the detective, and he had recovered something of his old poise.

"And I'm going to tell you something man to man--and without witnesses,"
he said softly.

He stepped forward and tapped the table to emphasize his point.

"Suppose, Superintendent Bourke, I were to tell you that Peter Clifton
had confessed to me that he murdered Basil Hale--what would you do? That
would be a very embarrassing moment for you, wouldn't it? Suppose I say
here and now, or put it to paper: 'I consider it my duty as a citizen to
inform the police that Mr. Peter Clifton, of 175, Carlton House Terrace,
has made a statement to me in which he confessed that in a moment of
insanity he murdered Basil Hale at Longford Manor,’ signed and handed
that paper to you--what would you do?"

Bourke's huge head shot forward. His eyes were the veriest slits.

"I'll tell you what I'd do," he said in his deep rumbling voice. "I'd
take you into custody right here! If anybody has to be tried it shall be
you. And I've got enough evidence to make a prima facie charge against
you."

In spite of his self-control, Wells's face went white.

"On what charge?"

"Passing a forged fifty-pound note at Hurst Park racecourse, knowing it
to be forged. That's one charge. I dare say by this time tomorrow I'll
have another couple up my sleeve."

The masks were off now. In Donald's eyes burnt cold, malignant hatred.
"You don't seem to realize what you're saying. Superintendent. You're not
talking to Dr. Wells of Nunhead, you know."

Bourke nodded. "You don't seem to understand. Wells"--he dropped all
titles of courtesy--"that the police never go looking for trouble. When it
comes they're ready to deal with it, but they don't try to make
crime--they wait till crime sticks up its head and then they belt it one.
You're not Dr. Wells of Nunhead, I know. Within twelve months of that
inquest you were in a good practice at Harley Street. Where did you get
the money?"

"What the hell's that to do with you?" flamed the other.

"It's a lot to do with me. Suppose I put you on the stand, could you
produce two witnesses whose evidence any sane jury would accept, to
explain how you suddenly became wealthy, and from Dr. Wells of Nunhead
developed into Dr. Cheyne Wells of Harley Street, a nerve specialist? Turn
that over in your mind--if that marvellously sudden prosperity of yours
can be explained, you can go up to Scotland Yard and get the coat off my
back, for I'll not deny what I've said to you tonight. I'm warning
you"--his forefinger shot out towards the pallid Donald--"leave Peter
Clifton alone; and if you've got a good scheme for raking in his
millions--forget it. There have been two murders committed. You were at
Longford Manor when Basil Hale was killed--"

"I haven't left the house this night."

"You're a liar," said Bourke calmly. "I've had a man trailing you all
day. You left the house at eight o'clock tonight and returned at a
quarter to eleven. My man lost sight of you--I present you with that
information--between the hours of nine-fifteen and when you got out of
your taxi at this front door."

He picked up his hat, and walking to the door flung it open so violently
that he nearly wrenched it from its hinges.

"Somebody is going to be caught for these murders. Wells," he said, "and
it won't be Peter Clifton. Get that into your nut. Not Rouper can help
you-- if Rouper's even in the force this time next week. You can pass that
bit of information on to him. Not cigarette cases filled with cigarettes
he doesn't smoke, and not forged diaries written by your pal the Clever
One."

He pulled the door to with a bang and went out. Donald Wells sat down to
consider a peculiarly dangerous situation. His servant came after
midnight and found him sitting with his head between his hands.

"Go to bed," said Donald without looking up, and maintained that attitude
for nearly two hours. Then he rose and stretched his cramped limbs, went
out into his little laboratory, and mixed himself a draught more potent
than whisky.

His head was clear now, his mind quick and alert. He drew a sheet of
paper towards him from the stationery rack and began writing. He had
finished his letter at six o'clock, placed it in a large envelope
addressed to the Chief Constable, CID, Scotland Yard. He put on a stamp,
walked into the hall and hesitated at the door. No, he would sleep on it;
the letter could very well go later in the day.

It was not unfortunate for him that he made this decision, for outside
the house there waited a Scotland Yard man, who had had strict
instructions from Superintendent Bourke.

"If you see Wells come out to post a letter, and that letter's addressed
to the Yard, take him into custody and detain him at Marylebone Lane till
I come."

Mr. Bourke had reached the decision that if he himself were a going to be
hanged it might as well be for a sheep as for a lamb, though not in his
most charitable moment did he regard Dr. Donald Cheyne Wells as being in
the least sheeplike.



CHAPTER 27


PETER WOKE in the morning from a sound, dreamless sleep, to find somebody
standing by the side of his bed and to hear the pleasant rattle of
teacups, and then:

"Strong or weak?" said the sweetest voice in the world. "And I haven't
been married long enough even to know whether you like sugar."

He blinked open his eyes. Jane, in a flowered kimono, was standing by his
bedside, a small china teapot poised.

"Eh?" he said, and looked round. "Oh, I'm here, am I?"

"You're very much here," she said calmly. "I wonder if you realize how
extremely interesting it is to have a husband who is never quite sure of
what bed he's sleeping in!"

Peter smiled ruefully and rubbed his fingers through his hair.

"I realize that being married to me at all must be the most ghastly
experience a woman could have," he said as he took the cup from her
hands.

"What time is it?"

She laughed softly at this.

"That really does sound domestic. It is half past seven."

He looked round the room, puzzled.

"Is Bourke here?" he asked.

"Mr. Bourke is not here," she said. "I had serious thoughts of offering
him the spare room, but I don't think he would have accepted."

He swallowed the tea gratefully and frowned at the slim figure sitting on
the edge of the bed.

"Something happened last night--what was it? I've a dim idea that Bourke
told me something." He screwed up his eyes in an effort of memory and
gasped. "Radlow--he was killed!"

She nodded.

"Yes," she said quietly, "Mr. Radlow was shot."

Peter buried his face in his hands and groaned.

"How ghastly! I suppose--"

"You needn't suppose anything until you've seen Mr. Bourke," she said
promptly, "especially if you are supposing that you killed him."

He shook his head.

"It's no good, Jane," he said despairingly. "You've been wonderful to me,
and now that you know...about my wretched ancestor, I can talk freely. I
thought I was cured, that there was no danger, or I would never have
allowed you to marry me. Donald told me there was a possibility that I
should have these lapses--why do you look at me like that?"

There certainly was a strange expression in Jane's fine eyes. "Was I
looking weirdly? Perhaps I was. Peter, I don't think I should worry very
much about what Donald Wells says. You are inclined to take his opinion
too seriously. And don't stare like a frightened fawn, darling--you don't
mind those automatic terms of endearment, do you? We've got to pretend
that we're happily married, and you must get used to being addressed in
these affectionate terms."

He laughed quietly at this, it was the first time she had seen him laugh
since their marriage.

"I can bear a lot of that," he said. And then, more seriously: "Why don't
you like Donald? He has been a very good friend of mine, Jane. I don't
know what I should have done without his help."

She turned a solemn face to him.

"Detectives live in a normal state of suspicion," she said. "That is what
Mr. Bourke told me."

"Detectives?"

She nodded. "I am a detective," she said quietly. "I have taken up my
new profession with enthusiasm. I am suspicious of Donald, suspicious of
Marjorie, quite prepared to be suspicious of Mr. Bourke himself."

"And of me?"

The ghost of a smile came and faded. "No, not of you. I suspect you of
being many things that are rather nice, and many that are rather
foolish." She got up and poured out another cup of tea. "I'm going to ask
you one of these days to give me a little chronology of what happened to
you and how you came to know all, especially Donald. And now I'll leave
you. When you are dressed, will you come into my room--I suppose it is my
room--you'll find me waiting with a pen and paper and a questionnaire."

He laughed again. "I'll be the most obliging witness you have ever
cross-examined," he said.

She herself had to dress, but she stopped long enough in the sitting-room
to scan the newspapers. Only one had a paragraph on its principal page
dealing with the death of Mr. Radlow. Happily, for the moment, there could
be no association between that tragedy and Peter, and he would be spared
the ordeal of again meeting the persistent and ubiquitous crime reporter
anxious for particulars of his movements.

She dressed at leisure and returned to the pretty little sitting-room, to
find him standing at the open window looking across the sunlit park.
Evidently he had read the paragraph too, for he referred to the crime the
moment she came into the room.

"Bourke told me something," he said. "I can't remember what it was, but
I've a horrible feeling it was something unpleasant. Was I at Sydenham
last night?"

"You were," she answered without hesitation.

"I can't understand it, and yet I'm terribly afraid I can! Did Bourke
say--"

"Never mind what Mr. Bourke said." She was brisk and businesslike, true to
her promise, she sat down at the desk. "I want dates, Peter. How did you
come to meet Donald Wells?"

"My dear, is this necessary?" He was almost impatient with her.

She nodded. "Very necessary. Mr. Bourke asked me to get these facts."
Peter strode up and down the room, his hands clasped behind him, his
forehead gathered in a frown.

"I met him...when did I meet him? It was after my return from Africa. I
had a bad toothache on the boat, and a man I met there recommended a
surgeon in Harley Street. I remembered the number, 903, but the pain
disappeared for two or three months. One evening it came back; I drove to
Harley Street and met Donald Wells. You quite understand that the bigger
trouble was never absent from my mind. It has been a nightmare to me all
my life, ever since by accident I discovered that my father had died in
Broadmoor."

"When did you learn that?" she asked quickly.

"When I was twenty-one. The lawyers had to tell me. I had a lot of papers
to sign, and it was then I discovered that my name was Welerson. I didn't
have to ask why it was changed; the place of my father's death had
appeared in the documents that had to be read and signed. They were
brought out to me when I was living in Gwelo--that's in Rhodesia--and the
clerk who brought them for my signature was rather loquacious--he told me
everything. I always knew something was wrong. Old Radlow was so anxious
to keep me out of the country, to get me into the open air. I thought
possibly there might have been a history of lung trouble in the family.
It was a terrible shock to discover it was something so much worse."

She fetched a deep sigh and found she was patting the hand that rested
near hers on the table.

"Now tell me about Donald," she said gently.

"Well, I went to Harley Street, met Wells, and explained my mistake. He
had bought the house from the dentist, who was dead, but he took me along
to another fellow--in Devonshire Street, I think--who killed the nerve and
fixed me up. Wells waited with me, and afterwards I went back to the
house with him. His wife was abroad. I found him very sympathetic. He was
a doctor, and naturally I could tell him things that had been bottled up
in my mind for years. I had never consulted a medical man about my own
condition and the possibilities of inheriting my father's disease, and
now, at the first opportunity, I told him everything. I owe Donald more
than I can ever repay. He made me promise to see him every week, and we
became good friends. For one thing I can never be sufficiently grateful:
it was through him that I met you."

She nodded.

"I remember the night he brought you--my birthday party, wasn't it?"
Before he could answer, she asked quickly: "Was Basil Hale there?"

He considered for a moment.

"Yes, I think he was. I have no distinct recollection of him, but I have
a dim idea that he was hovering somewhere in the background."

She made a note.

"Another point, and I think this is the most important: do you remember
what was Donald's excuse for bringing you to our party?"

He nodded.

"Your father was anxious to meet me. He had seen some of my etchings."

She pushed the paper away. He had a relieved thought that the questions
were at an end.

"Peter, how often have you had these lapses--I mean, the periods when you
did not know what you were doing?"

"Not till recently," he answered. "But then, Donald told me that my
present age was the most critical. So did Clewers, the specialist."

"Have you had them since the night of Basil's death?"

"No--with the exception of last night, of course. I really can't
understand what happened. I've a distinct recollection of leaving
Longford Manor, but what happened after that I don't know. I've tried
very hard to recover every incident, but the last distinct recollection I
have is of the gatepost of the manor. After that, everything is blurred
and confused."

"Did you pass a car standing on the side of the road?"

Jane jumped at the sound of that strange voice. It was Bourke.
Remembering his size, he was surprisingly noiseless. He must have opened
the door while they were talking and closed it behind him without either
of them seeing or hearing him, for he was well in the room when he put
the question in his husky voice.

"Hallo!" Peter rose awkwardly. "Where the dickens did you come from?"

"Through the floor," said the other, with a broad grin. "I had my early
training as demon king in a pantomime. Good morning, Mrs. Clifton. I'm
sorry to have scared you."

"You didn't scare me. I admit to being rather startled."

Bourke chuckled.

"I'm theatrical--I admit it. The ambition of my life is to go one better
than the stage detective, but I've never had the chance. What about that
car?"

He drew up a chair and sat down on the other side of the table, his big
face turned towards Peter.

"A car? Yes, I do remember a car--a big black coupe."

"You passed it, and then you saw it again? Following you, wasn't it?"
suggested Bourke.

Peter thought for a moment.

"Yes, I remember that, too. I was driving rather slowly, and I wondered
it didn't pass me. It was a much more powerful car than mine. That's
about all I can remember."

"It's quite enough," said Bourke. "What have you been asking him, Mrs.
Clifton?"

She showed him the paper on which she had scribbled Peter's answers.
Bourke affixed his pince-nez and read them carefully.

"Good," he said at last, putting away his glasses. "But I knew most of
that. What I didn't know"--he spoke slowly--"was something entirely
different. You're pretty well acquainted with the grounds of Longford
Manor, aren't you?"

"Yes," said Peter quietly. His face had gone suddenly tense. Watching
him, Jane saw to her dismay that he was on his guard.

"You know that just at the back of the house there's an old well that
hasn't been used for years?"

Peter nodded. All the colour had left his face, and for a second even his
lips were bloodless. "I wondered if you did," said Bourke. He was looking
vacantly past Peter now. "An old dry well that hasn't been used for
years."

"Well, what about it?" Peter jerked out the words defiantly. "I remember
the well--the gardener told me it was to be filled up."

Bourke rubbed his big cheek reflectively and his gaze came back to the
younger man.

"You're a mystery to me, and I can't understand you," he said. "I've got
everything right--but that."

"But what?" asked Jane anxiously.

If Bourke was mystified, no less was she. For one terrible moment she had
expected the detective to tell them that the well had yielded up another
horror. Whatever be its secret it was sufficient to reduce Peter to a
state bordering upon panic.

"He baffles me, this old man of yours." Bourke could be rather coarse on
occasions, and now she was all but moved to hysterical laughter at this
wholly inadequate description of her husband. "Baffles me and rattles
me--he's led me to more blind ends than any man I've known. You're not to
go out today, my friend."

"I've no intention of going out," muttered Peter. He was still suffering
from the shock that Bourke's cryptic reference had given him.

"I've got an idea that in twenty-four hours all the fog in this case will
blow away. I don't mind telling you--this is outside my usual
practice--that I've traced the beginning of these murders to the Clever
One. There will be a big distribution in London tonight--perhaps the last
that the clever fellow will ever attempt--and unless I am mistaken we
shall pinch a man who knows enough of the big fellow to give us all the
information we want."

He paused as if he expected some comment, but Peter was silent.

"I'll tell you something more, Peter. We shall have the big fellow
himself behind bars--he's made one bad slip. He doesn't suspect this, or
he'd leave the country tonight."

"Do you know who he is?" asked Peter, not raising his eyes from the
table.

"Pretty well, Peter," said Bourke softly. "Pretty well!"

Jane did not see her husband for hours after the detective had left.
Peter had retired to his study with such rapidity that she guessed he
anticipated a further string of embarrassing questions. He came out to
lunch with her, and she guessed the cause of his nervousness and wisely
made no attempt to learn what had been in the detective's reference to
the well which had so upset him. As the meal progressed he grew more at
ease; smiled once when banteringly she addressed him as “dear.”

"For the sake of appearances you'll have to learn to do the same, Peter,"
she said. "You might practise the habit in secret. I will give you a list
of the extravagances you are permitted and expected to employ when you're
addressing your wife."

"I think I know most of them," said Peter quietly. "You see, I think
about you a lot."

She went pink at this, and tried to guide the conversation into more
humdrum channels.

"I don't know what you're going to do about me, Jane. You can't divorce
me unless I do something pretty beastly, and I'm not likely to do that."

"I might fall in love with somebody else," she suggested, and his
consternation was so genuine that she dissolved into gurgles of laughter.

How she could laugh at all puzzled her. She had often read the phrase,
“living on the edge of a volcano.” Surely no woman had lived so close to
the annihilation of peace and happiness as she was living now. At any
moment--the sickening thought came to her at intervals--a man might appear
in the doorway and beckon Peter and she would never see him again. A
forger--a murderer?

She shook her head. Not a murderer.

"What are you shaking your head about?" he asked.

"I was just thinking."

"About divorce?" Then, earnestly: "Jane, if anything happens, if ever
they take me away, the court will probably make you administratrix of my
estate." And then: "For God's sake, what is the matter?"

She was standing up by the table, her white face staring down at him.
Now, only now, she understood the cold-blooded villainy of the plot that
had been hatched against Peter Clifton. And in that moment the lifelong
love she had had for her father changed to a cold, almost malignant hate.



CHAPTER 28


DR. WELLS was full of schemes when he had come to Harley Street. He was
not sure whether he would set up as a consulting physician, whether he
would furbish up his surgery, in which he was not particularly skilled,
or whether--and this appealed to him most--he would turn a portion of his
house into a nursing home for mental cases.

It was the arrival of Peter, and the extraordinary story he had told,
which switched him over to the latter course. He saw possibilities in the
housing of the rich and deranged, and, going to work with considerable
enthusiasm, he had had two small suites prepared, with soundproof and
padded walls, when he mentioned his project to a more knowledgeable
colleague.

"Good Lord, they'll never allow you to do that!" said the shocked medico.
"You'll have to get a special permit, and no permit would be granted
unless you made ample provision for the patients to take exercise."

Dr. Wells heard the news with consternation. A small courtyard about
sixteen by eight behind the house certainly would not fulfil the
requirements of the medical authorities. So he abandoned his plan, and
found left on his hands two perfectly appointed suites which could never
possibly be occupied.

After he had made his decision about the letter he put it in his pocket,
walked up the stairs to the second landing. From there another flight of
stairs led, but these were closed by a door which was boarded up at the
side. The doctor unlocked the door and, locking it behind him, went up
the remaining flight, unlocked yet another door and passed into a small
apartment.

The woman who was lying on the bed jumped up. "What is it, Donald?" she
asked breathlessly.

"It's all right, don't worry; I'm not going to cut your throat or
anything."  He switched on a light, for the room was dark even in
daytime.

"You are going to be sensible, Donald, dear?" pleaded Marjorie. "I swear
to you I'll never give you any more trouble, and I really will keep a
guard on my tongue. Let me go out today--"

"You're in Germany," he said calmly, "and you're away for three or four
months. I have announced the fact in the Times."

"But what have I done?" she wailed.

"You're too original," he said, "and too clever. You've been clever
enough to discover that I've been circulating forged notes, and out of
sheer malice you stamped my name and address on the back of one of them.
It took me a long time to find that out, but when I did I decided there
were only two courses I could take. One was to mourn you as a bereaved
husband, and the other was to put you where you could do no further
mischief. In fact, Marjorie, you've become a very serious danger, even
worse than our dear friend Superintendent Bourke, who has been here
threatening me with God knows what."

"But, Donald," she fluttered, "I couldn't give evidence against you. The
law would not allow me."

"You've found that out, have you?" His thin lips curled in a smile.
"Technically that's very interesting, but it doesn't help me much. You
could give material to people who would give evidence against me without
the slightest hesitation, and that is what I'm anxious to avoid. You
needn't bother--everybody thinks you're abroad. I've even taken the
trouble of sending a man over to Holland to wire to your dear young
friend, Mrs. Clifton."

"The servants will wonder--" she began.

"I have provided for that. They're all on holiday except Frank, and he
leaves tomorrow. I'm going to do the work of the house with the aid of a
charlady, and you'll have to put up with the meals I send you."

"You can't keep me here for ever," she said, with a sudden return of her
old petulance.

"I am keeping you here until I can hail you as a real sister in crime,"
he smiled. And, seeing her perplexity: "You're more silly than I thought.
God knows I never had a very high opinion of your intelligence! You're
staying here, Marjorie,  until you're as much implicated in this business
as I am, and till you dare not talk for your neck's sake!"

She sank back. "Oh, my God! You don't mean that you want me to--kill
somebody?"

"Why not?" He was coolness itself. Then suddenly he burst into a fit of
laughter. "Not really," he said. "No, I don't want you to dip your hands
in blood--nothing so melodramatic. The condition I wish to create is very
simple. I want you to be so terrified for your own skin that you'll never
commit another indiscretion. I can only do that if you become an active
partner in my little scheme."

"I'll do anything, Donald," she said eagerly--too eagerly to please him.
"But it is absurd, and--and mediaeval to keep me locked up here in this
horrid room. I have nothing to read--"

"You can have all the books you want."

"But I shall go mad if I have nobody to speak to!"

"You have me--I know of no more amusing companion," he said. "If you are
very good, you may not have to stay a prisoner very long. In a month's
time, Marjorie, you will be able to slip away from England--from me, if
you like--and spend more money in Paris than ever you've spent before."

"A month!" she said, with an expression of dismay.

"It's not an awfully long time really," he said lightly. "Especially if
you're getting something at the end of it."

She brooded on this, and in the end asked a question.

"Bourke? Yes, he's hiding up Peter. I confess he staggered me. I didn't
know there was so much corruption in the police force. I've spent a
thousand pounds on Rouper and he's not been worth five cents," he went
on.

"Donald, tell me something," she interrupted him. "Are you--are you the
Clever One?"

"Am I the Clever One?" he mimicked. "I have many accomplishments, my
dear, but the forging of banknotes is not one of them! It requires a
lifetime's training and study, and I unfortunately am an unworthy servant
of medicine."

"But you've had forged money," she insisted. "I've seen it in the house.
Once in your room there were two big packets. I tore the paper and saw
they were foreign banknotes."

He sat down on the bed and laughed. For Donald Cheyne Wells had a
peculiar sense of humour. "Marjorie, my dear," he smiled at her kindly
enough, "you've given me another argument why I should keep you out of
the way. Anything more indiscreet than telling me at this moment that you
have surprised a guilty secret I cannot imagine."

He bit his nether lip, eyeing her thoughtfully. "I never dreamt that I
was a sentimentalist, but I suppose we all are. My long association with
you has given you an altogether false value."

"I don't know what you're talking about." She shook her head helplessly.

"I'm trying to put into very understandable language the reason you are
still alive," he said, almost pleasantly. "No, my dear, I'm not a forger
of banknotes. I am merely a cog in a rather complicated machine. At
least," he corrected himself carefully, "I was a cog. I am now amongst
the levers, thanks to my perspicacity. A highly complicated machine,
Marjorie, with a most wonderful intelligence service. I am getting my
hand on that too. Commit all these interesting facts to memory; they will
amuse your friends when you next have the opportunity of meeting them.
Which will not be just yet. My master is rather a difficult man, and I
was rather afraid, when I discussed business with him last night, that in
his coldblooded way he would suggest you should be definitely removed.
Happily, he suggested nothing so drastic."

"What do you want me to do?" she asked.

He knew her well enough to realize that she was in an abject state of
fear. If this state of mind could be made permanent, he had got a result
from an act which he already regretted. Donald Wells would have given a
great deal to withdraw a notification which he had sent to the newspapers
and a certain telegram dispatched by his agent from Holland. But he had
had exhibitions of Marjorie's penitence before, and on one occasion had
taken drastic steps to curb her tongue. The effect, however, had worn off
all too soon. Before he released Marjorie he must produce a more
convincing argument to check a repetition of her follies.

"Your first criminal act will be to write a letter to Peter. You have
admitted to me so often that you adore him that you won't find this task
a very difficult one. And it will be all the easier if I promise you that
I will take no exception to its character, however affectionate. It will
be written on the notepaper of the Continental Hotel, Berlin, but it
needn't be posted. You had better start 'I am enclosing this letter in
one to'--who shall we say? Well, any mutual friend you can think of. You
can say what you like, but there are certain essentials You will remind
him of the good times you've had together, you will hint that they have
not been altogether innocent, you will remind him of his danger and beg
him to go to you at once--"

"You want to make Jane jealous?"

He closed his eyes wearily.

"Will you please not be intelligent? As Jane is not in love with the man,
it is hardly likely that she will start breaking up the furniture when
she reads this."

"But when can I come out of this place?" she persisted. "It's awful for
me, Donald. I'm so used to an active life--"

"You once knew quite a lot about Swedish drill," he interrupted her. "I
advise you to devote your spare time to those exercises."

He had not closed his eyes the previous night, but after a bath he was as
fresh and as bright as though he had risen from a refreshing sleep. There
was much to be done; he was at the crisis of his career, and a false step
in any direction might involve him in irretrievable ruin. That morning
brought Chief Inspector Rouper, ostensibly in connection with the
Longford Manor murder.

Rouper was worried and nervous. In his long and not undistinguished
career at Scotland Yard there had been several unpleasant incidents, the
cumulative effect of which might easily bring disaster if they were
raised anew by any fresh inquiry into his conduct.

"I don't think I can do very much more for you, Doctor. I've already done
too much, and this morning I was almost sorry that I'd ever come into
this case at all. Bourke's got me 'taped,’ and he's the biggest man at
Scotland Yard. I've known him twenty years and I can't understand him.
He's not the sort of man who would shield Peter Clifton unless he thought
he was innocent, or unless"--he looked straightly at Wells--"unless he was
pretty sure he knew the man who did the murder."

"Rot! Who else could it have been?" said Wells, pushing his cigar box to
the officer.

"That's what I've been wondering," replied Rouper, ignoring the gesture.
"You see, I know Bourke's method. In the Public Prosecutor's office they
call him 'Bombshell' Bourke--he doesn't bring forward all the little bits
of evidence as he gets them, but waits till he's got his case fixed and
ready to the last witness and the last proof before he drops it into the
Crown basket. I'll tell you something else, Doctor. Bourke wouldn't hide
his own brother. If you gave him twenty thousand pounds, or fifty
thousand, you couldn't buy him. If he thought Peter Clifton was guilty,
then Peter would be in the 'boob' awaiting trial. I'm as scared as hell."

"Scared? You?" Rouper nodded his grey head.

"I wonder if you know how many detective officers Bourke's put out of
Scotland Yard--stripped them of their rank and sent them Mr. Nobodies on
foot along the Thames Embankment? That's why I'm afraid of him. The Chief
Commissioner and Commissioner for Discipline take Bourke's word as though
he was on his oath."

Donald Wells laughed. "And you think he'll work his ruthless will on you,
do you? Don't be a fool, Rouper; you've nothing to be afraid of; you've
done your duty to the best of your ability. You're hiding nobody and
you're trying your hardest to bring the murderer to justice. They don't
fire people out of Scotland Yard for that, do they?"

Rouper nodded again.

"Yes, if it's the wrong murderer," he said grimly. "There's a lot in this
case that I don't understand, Doctor. You told me that Clifton had
committed the murder, that you had seen him on his bed covered with
blood. You told me that his wife had taken his clothes to London and that
I'd find 'em in his flat. You told me there was a diary in existence
where he kept a record of all the notes he forged. None of those tips
have come off. I passed on the information you gave me to the officer in
charge of the case at Sydenham, but he says he hasn't found the pistol,
and that there's no evidence at all that Peter Clifton was near the house
on the night Radlow was shot. How do you know that he was there?"

Rouper's tone was distinctly hostile, and for the first time Donald had
begun to have misgivings. He had spent a very considerable sum on the
detective, and might be pardoned if he thought that Rouper was in his
pocket.  "Why don't you make a statement to the police if it is true that
Clifton confessed to you?" Rouper went on.

It was on the tip of Donald Wells's tongue to say that he had already
prepared such a statement, had spent the greater part of the night
writing it, and that after due consideration he had consigned the letter
to the flames.

"Any news about our clever friend?" he asked. Rouper hesitated, which was
significant. Hitherto he had shown no reticence even about the most
precious secrets of Scotland Yard.

"Yes," he said slowly, and seemingly reluctantly. "The French police say
that there's to be a big distribution of Dutch notes this week--in London
or Paris, I'm not sure which. In Paris, I should imagine. That woman
Untersohn is all right again--I thought she was going crazy, but from what
I hear  she's made a good recovery. Did you know that Hale was her son?"

Donald shook his head.

"That was the most amazing discovery I have made," he said, but did not
carry conviction.

Rouper was leaving at once for Longford Manor, his car was at the door.
Waiting until he had departed, Donald walked to Oxford Street. He had an
important appointment with his bank  manager. Donald was a man with a
frugal mind, a shrewd, wise investor with a very keen understanding of
the markets. At that moment the markets did not require a great deal of
understanding. Events in the Far East had brought down even gilt-edged
securities with a run, and it was not, as his bank manager told him
urgently, the moment to realize his holdings.

"In a fortnight the market will be up again," he said. "We have news from
Shanghai--"

Donald stopped him with a smiling gesture. "That I quite understand, Mr
Reed," he said, "but in the next week I shall require a lot of money, and
I really must sell even if I drop a point in the matter of profit."

In a fortnight, he thought as he walked along Oxford Street, the question
of a point or two could hardly affect him. He was making preparations for
a debacle. His lighthearted threats to keep his wife a prisoner for three
months were so much bluff. Unless his coup materialized in the next week
he would have need of all his ready money, and more need of his ready
wits.

Marjorie was a problem. He was rather annoyed with himself about
Marjorie. He had acted in a temper when he had imprisoned her and given
out the story of her going abroad. A temper is akin to panic. The
psychologist in him was revolted at this lapse from balance. Marjorie
behind locked doors was a menace. If she had the energy and initiative
she might easily attract attention from the window; and it would be an
extremely awkward situation if he came back to Harley Street to find a
gaping crowd, and a policeman on the doorstep inquiring into the
mysterious appearance at an upper window.

On the other hand, Marjorie, free and brought into allegiance, might be a
very potent helper, the only helper on whom he could absolutely rely.

He had been in a fury when by accident she had told him she was with Jane
on the night of the Hale murder, and when, in her terror at his insensate
rage, she had confessed to the confidences she had given to the girl, he
could have killed her. Instead, he had acted in a fury--bundled her
upstairs and locked her into the padded room, and had sent one of his men
post-haste to Holland. That was stupid. He had manoeuvred himself into an
unnecessary danger. The first step to be taken was to rectify the
position so far as Marjorie was concerned, and gain her complete
assistance.

When he returned home, the footman who opened the door to him, and who
was already dressed in his street clothes, for he was leaving that
afternoon, told him that Rouper had rung up twice.

"He seemed a little agitated, sir," said the footman.

Donald looked at him blankly.

"He was agitated, was he? That will do, Frank. What time do you leave?"

"I was leaving at once, sir. Are you going out to lunch?"

Wells nodded.

"I'll go when you have left," he said.

The man came out from the basement, where his room was, carrying his bag,
to find Cheyne Wells standing at the door of his room.

"I gave you a fortnight, didn't I? Well, you may reckon on three weeks'
vacation. If anything happens and I want you back, I will wire to you."

He waited till the front door closed on the servant, and then went slowly
up the stairs to his wife's pleasant little prison.

"You can come out," he said curtly, and flung the door open.

She was incoherent in her thanks. "Oh, Donald, you are a reasonable
darling! Really, this place was getting on my nerves. I'm sure I should
have gone mad..."

He let her talk without interruption as he led the way down to the little
dining-room at the back of the house. A cold meal was spread on the
table. He himself opened a bottle of champagne and filled her glass. She
was bubbling over with relief.

"It would have been stupid to have kept me up there. Of course you can
trust me, Donald--"

"Have you drafted that letter?" he asked.

She produced from amongst the papers she had brought down a sheet written
in her flourishing hand.

"Of course, it's rather odd--you're not going to be hurt by anything I've
said in this?" she began a little nervously. "You told me to--"

"Shut up!" he snarled, and read the letter through word for word, cut out
a few lines, inserted a sentence here and there, and nodded. "That's
splendid," he said, "but it wasn't necessary to disparage me."

"I thought it would be more artistic," she said, and he smiled.

"That is the right conspirator touch, Marjorie. Really, I shall be able
to make something of you. Go on with your lunch, I will do all the
talking that's necessary."

He himself ate sparingly, but drank the greater part of the wine he had
opened.

There was a little writing-table in the corner of the dining-room. He got
up, went into his study and brought back some sheets of paper and an
envelope.

"Copy this letter," he said, "and after you've done that I shall have
something to say to you."

He sat at the table, smoking a cigarette, a frown on his forehead, and
waited patiently until she had copied the letter. He read it through
carefully, folded it and put it in the envelope which she had already
addressed.

"Excellent," he said. "Finish your wine."

"You can write to the newspapers and say it was a mistake about my having
gone abroad, can't you? I can't stay in this house all the time."  She
quailed under the look he gave her.

"You will stay in this house for at least five days," he said. "In fact,
until the case of Peter is brought to a satisfactory finish. I am seeing
him today. I've got to trust you, but I'll trust you better when you're
isolated from an interested audience."

"You trusted me before, didn't you?" she flamed out, something of her old
self again. "Did I betray you? Did I tell the police at Nunhead that I'd
seen you making up old Miss Stillman's medicine? Did I tell them about
the little bottles of stuff that came from India--"

"You didn't," he said calmly, "and if you had it would not have been much
use to the police, because a wife cannot give evidence against her
husband."

"What are you going to do with Peter?" she demanded. "What is the
scheme?" That tantalizing smile of his never failed to rouse her to fury.
"I'm sick and tired of all this scheming and plotting. I wish to God we'd
never left Nunhead! I was happy there till that business came along--"

"Exactly. But that business, as you call it, ruined me. And I don't seem
to remember that you were particularly happy in a fifteen-shilling
apartment. I have a distinct recollection of your daily whine about
poverty; but you're a woman and therefore inconsistent, and I'm not
annoyed with you. You're a lover of good things too, Marjorie--good
clothes, good food. You have the Rolls-Royce-Ranelagh-box-at-Ascot
complex, and the argument I am now going to put before you will, I think,
be quite sufficient to make you behave sensibly. Unless you help me
whole-heartedly and without any reservations, there is a danger that I
may get into very serious trouble. So serious that I shall have to skip
this country, and in skipping I shall take every penny I possess. In that
case you would be left to the charity of your friends--and where are they?
You have a fatal facility for making enemies, my dear. If you sat down
with a pencil and a piece of paper for the next two hours and wrote down
the names of people who would lend you or give you a hundred, I don't
think you'd get much farther than Peter. Which means that you would have
to work for your living, retire into a drab Pimlico lodging and live
meanly for the rest of your life. I can see you standing in the pit
queue, watching your old-time friends drive past on their way to dinner.
And that is not a pleasing prospect, is it, my dear?"

She shivered. He knew her all too well.

"I'm not using any heroic arguments. I think a little stern fact is all
that is needed to convince you that your interests lie with me. I'm not
going to tell you that I shall poison you, or that if you betray me I
shall come back and cut your throat; I am merely pointing out just what
will happen to you, living!" She was near to tears.

"Don't be a beast, Donald. Of course I'll do anything! But it's going to
be very dangerous--I mean if I do things that are illegal."

He shook his head. "A wife cannot be prosecuted if she has acted under
the coercion of her husband," he said. "I'm putting all my cards on the
table, Marjorie. My position may be as safe as the Bank of England. On
the other hand, it may be so serious that I should be on my way to the
Continent. I want your friendship and help and I'm willing to pay you."

He took a slip of paper out of his pocket and pushed it across the table
to her. "I have this morning paid ten thousand pounds into your account,
to make you absolutely safe."

He saw her eyes brighten and cut short her fervent thanks. He had lived
too long with Marjorie to misunderstand her. She was a worshipper of
money and the comforts that money bought.

"There were three things I could do about Peter Clifton," he said. "I'm
going to try the first today. The second is too dangerous; and the third,
though it is difficult, is possible. It is very likely that I shall
succeed at the first shot, but if I don't, I'm relying on you."

"I'll do anything, Donald--anything. It was sweet of you to give me all
that money--really too sweet of you. You made my blood run cold when you
talked about pit queues and things--I loathe poverty. What do you wish me
to do?"

"First--and this is rather important--you're to stay in the house without
showing yourself. It means that you'll have to do housemaid's job and
cook's job, but it'll only be for a few days. Secondly, I want you to be
ready--I'll have your passport visaed--to leave for the United States."

She nodded.

"Of course I'll do anything--" she began, but again he interrupted her.
"I'll turn that ten thousand into fifty thousand if you're a good girl."

He was almost benevolent. He opened another bottle of champagne. They sat
for another hour whilst he discussed means and methods, and found in her
a complacent, indeed a willing helper.

He was on the point of going out to one of his two appointments when the
telephone bell rang in his study. It was Rouper.

"I've been trying to get you all the morning." Rouper's voice was
impatient, but there was a note of exultation in it too.

"What has happened?" asked Donald quickly.

"We've found something."

He heard a chuckle at the other end. Evidently the footman's description
of Mr. Rouper as agitated was not far-fetched.

"There's an old well at the back of Longford Manor, and one of the local
police, who was nosing round the grounds this morning, turned up the
cover and put the light of his lamp down. What do you think we found?"

Donald could guess, but he did not advance an opinion.

"A printing press and plates--the complete plant of a forged note factory!
And we've got the evidence of the gardener's son. He was up at the house
the night before the murder to collect empty milk bottles from the
kitchen, and saw Clifton carrying something in the direction of the
well."

"Does Bourke know?"

Again a delighted chuckle.

"No. The two men he left down here were away in the village, making
inquiries. But of course he'll know later in the day. I've got workmen
down the well now, and practically all the stuff is up."

Donald hung up the phone with a smile upon his thin lips. He was not
quite certain whether this discovery would help him or be a handicap.

Passing into his laboratory, he opened a little safe which stood in one
corner, unlocked a drawer and took out the folded page of a newspaper. He
brought this to his study and inserted it into an envelope. At this
crisis he must leave nothing to chance. At any moment Bourke might
arrive, armed with authority to examine every paper, every secret
possession he had. There was only one place for that torn page of a
country newspaper twenty-five years old, and that was in the strong room
of a lawyer.

He scribbled on the envelope “Private. To go with my documents and not to
be opened,” and, putting the envelope in a larger one, sealed it down. He
was doing this when Marjorie came in.

"Are you busy?" she asked. "I've been thinking about what I told
Jane--trying to remember every word, and how she took it. Donald, you're
not making a mistake about her, are you?"

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"She's no fool, and I don't think she's going to be as easy as you think.
If I were you, I shouldn't count on her being indifferent as to what
happens to Peter. She's fond of him."

"Stuff!" he said scornfully. "If what I think is true, and she's the
person who--" He did not complete the sentence, and she knew nothing about
the condition in which Peter Clifton found himself that morning. "If she
is defending Peter it is only from a sense of duty."

Marjorie shook her head. "She is very fond of him," she said
emphatically. "I don't say that she's madly in love with him. And she's
suspicious of me and you."

"Thanks to your blabbing tongue, she probably is," growled Donald. "But
she's fond of her father too, my friend, and when it comes to making a
decision she will take John Leith's advice."

Marjorie shook her head.

"I wonder," she said. "That certainly isn't the impression I have!"

"All right." He jerked his head towards the door. "I think you're
mistaken, but I'll be on my guard."

He sat frowning down at the unaddressed letter to his lawyer. Jane
Clifton? He had never regarded her as anything but a pawn in the great
game, a charming girl, modern, a little superficial. She was not his
kind, therefore he had never troubled to understand her.

Donald Wells had not a very high opinion of women's intelligence, and he
had certainly not counted Jane Clifton as a likely obstacle. It was
irritating that he should have to consider a new factor at this stage.
Jane Clifton? He shrugged her out of existence, addressed the envelope
rapidly and slipped it into his pocket. Anyway, he would be seeing her
that afternoon, and, forewarned, would be better able to judge her in the
light of Marjorie's warning.

He walked into Wigmore Street, registered his letter, still thinking of
the girl, and a little uneasy for some reason which he could not trace.
He had a subconscious conviction that he had fallen into error--not over
Jane Clifton?

All the way to St. John's Wood he had that irritating discomfort. It was
not Marjorie, it could not be Jane. Rouper's jubilation had entirely
obliterated the unpleasantness of the morning. It was not Peter--he was a
permanent unease. He got out before John Leith's house and told the
taxidriver to wait. The maid who admitted him said that Mr. Leith was in
the garden, which was exactly where Donald expected to find him.

It was a fair-sized patch of ground at the back of the house, and at the
end was a rustic summerhouse, which differed from most of its kind in
that it was well built and comfortably furnished. John Leith was
strolling towards this when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw his
visitor coming and walked slowly down to the door of this rustic pavilion
and there awaited him.

"Well?" he said. His voice lacked that assurance which was usual in him,
and he betrayed a certain nervousness which was altogether new.

Donald followed him into the summerhouse and dropped into a cane chair
with a sigh.

"Tonight I consult the oracle," he said lightly.

"I wish you joy of him," growled John Leith.

He sat on the edge of a chair, his elbows on his knees, his white hands
pulling nervously at his moustache. Donald looked at him curiously.

"I have often wondered how you came into this combination, John."

John Leith shrugged his shoulders.  "Perhaps you've often wondered how I
live," he said sardonically. "I tell you it is very much the same way as
you came in--I am guessing here, because I know nothing. I love travel, I
speak several languages, I have the entree to decent society--in many
ways, Donald, you've had considerable advantages over me in that
respect."

Donald leaned forward and lowered his voice. "Have you ever seen the
Clever One?" he asked.

"Consciously, no," said John Leith. "Probably you and I have had the same
experience. I've spoken with him in that theatrical room of his; I've
handled his money, and have carried it, with my heart in my mouth, as far
east as Bukarest."

Donald lit a cigarette.  "I'm worried a little," he said. "Worried for
myself, for you, for Jane."

"Why for Jane?" asked John Leith quickly. Then, as he saw the other look
up: "You needn't be afraid. This little house is soundproof. You can shut
the door if you like, but it will be beastly hot."

"I'll tell you why I'm worried." Donald pulled his chair closer to the
other. "Suppose we bring this thing off; suppose I persuade Peter to
allow himself to be certified, and hand over the administration of his
estate to Jane--that has been the scheme from the start, only we've
bungled the method a little. Is our clever friend coming in to take the
fruits of our labours?"

John Leith shook his head.  "I don't know. I've been thinking of that,"
he said. "He has always acted generously, and the idea was there should
be a cut for everybody."  Then suddenly he dropped his face into his
hands and groaned. "O God, what a brute I've been! I thought things could
be arranged quickly and easily. I never dreamt that Basil would be
killed--that was ghastly. The idea was that he was to disappear, and that
you were to fake a murder." He looked keenly at the other. "That murder,
Donald, is too much of a coincidence for my liking."

"He was killed by poachers, I tell you," said Donald calmly. "Rouper
agrees with that theory. Basil must have been prowling about the grounds
when somebody coshed him. There had been one or two men in the grounds
snaring rabbits."

John Leith looked at him for a long time without speaking. "Was Radlow
also killed by poachers?" he asked. "Why was he murdered, Donald? I'm
terrified--terrified! This thing has gone too far, gone in the wrong
direction. Radlow's death bewilders me."

"Splendid!" said the other sarcastically. "You now come into the category
of the profoundly astonished, in which I am an inconsiderable unit. No,
no, my dear friend, I know no more about Radlow's death than of Basil
Hale's."

"What was he writing?" asked Leith. "The police account says that six
sheets of manuscript were missing."

He got up, moved towards the door as if he was leaving, then turned
suddenly.

"I have never asked you how you came into this business, since we're
being so confidential perhaps you will tell me the terms on which you're
working; what you hope to gain; what is your idea of the ultimate end?"

Here Donald Wells had reason for cogitation. For years these men had been
in daily contact; for years they had talked obliquely of their
occupation, never putting into words the relationship which was tacitly
understood. To Donald, this easygoing weakling of a man was an
uncomplaining and incurious tool of the organization which for twenty
years had been fleecing Europe and America. Wells had a fatal knack of
grading men. He saw John Leith from the first as one who had taken the
line of least resistance, had not so much chosen a life of crime as had
had that career chosen for him, and had folded his hands and bowed to
circumstances. As he came to know John Leith better, he had learnt to
respect him less. He was, as he once told Marjorie, one of life's
drifters. His majestic volition owed everything to the accidental current
in which he was caught. He had been paid well for what service he could
render--Donald suspected him of being the real head of the Clever One's
intelligence department--but the contempt which the unknown held was
sufficiently advertised by the choice of Jane as victim and her father's
meek agreement that she should play that role.

"I came to the big man probably as you came," he said, watching the
other. "I was broke, desperate, and I had a note from Blonberg offering
me a loan on extraordinarily easy terms. I thought there was a catch in
it, but I was clutching at straws that day and I went up to Knowlby
Street and had my interview in his theatrically dark room. He was
brutally frank; told me that he wanted an agent, a man of education, to
distribute his forgeries. Then and there he gave me a thousand pounds in
real money to get myself out of the mess I was in, and at the next
meeting he put up the scheme of establishing myself in Harley Street.
Nobody knew better than he that I hadn't the qualifications that would
induce the most simple-minded doctor to consult me about anything. But it
suited his purpose, and voila! It has been a profitable enterprise."

"It was you who told him about Peter?" stated rather than asked Leith.

Donald Wells nodded. "Yes, that was an extraordinary bit of luck. Peter
came my house to have a tooth stopped--somebody had recommended him to the
surgeon-dentist who occupied the house before I bought it. We got
talking, and little by little he told me of his trouble and his fear. Of
course I remembered the Welerson case, and put two and two together."

"And it was you who suggested the scheme--and brought Jane into this?"

"And you who accepted it without protest," accused Donald. "My dear
fellow, this is not the moment for recriminations. I am perfectly certain
that that little plan is going to work out. Of course, it's tough luck on
Jane; she'll get a lot of publicity--"

"She loves him," said John Leith quietly. Donald stared at him.

"Rubbish! How could she love him! She knows nothing definitely about him
except that he's a lunatic."

"She loves him," said Leith again, and shook his head. "That's queer. I
never dreamt that Jane would love anybody. I was mad to listen to you,
but two millions dazzled me and it looked so very easy."

And then, to Donald's embarrassment, "You haven't told me all you know
about Peter, have you? There's something you're keeping back. I've got a
feeling that inside and behind all these schemes you're working for the
big 'un, you've got a little plan of your own, that belongs to Donald
Wells and to nobody else, and that you're playing a lone hand for
something--what is it?"

Donald forced a smile. "What utter drivel you talk--" he began, but John
Leith cut him short. "That's the feeling I have. At the back of that
cunning mind  of yours is a Something that even the big fellow doesn't
know,  a little private game that is being played parallel and
independent of the other."

He was too uncomfortably near the truth for Donald Wells's liking.
"You're getting jumpy, and if I'm not careful you'll make me nervous,
too."

John Leith's eyes did not leave his face. "When I find a man is making
preparations to fly the country, I am entitled to think either that
there's a bigger danger than I know, or that he's working for his own
ends. Your bank has been selling securities of yours for the past three
days. You went to your manager this morning and were in his private room
for the greater part of an hour."

Donald was startled, but he hid his amazement with a loud laugh.

"Hail, chief of the intelligence department!" he said mockingly. "Hail
and congratulations! Unworthy servant as I am of the Grand Cham of
Criminals, I can admire efficiency even when it's directed against me!
Chief spy of the mighty one, I salute you!"

John Leith dropped his eyes.

"I do the job I've got to do," he said sullenly. "I'm not as young as I
was, and I can't go gallivanting over Europe, dropping parcels of dud
bills."

"Don't apologize," said Donald as he rose, flicking some cigarette ash
from his waistcoat and adjusting his cravat. "And get that idea out of
your head that I'm double-crossing the Great White Chief." Then, briskly:
"I'll let you know what Peter says, though it is probably unnecessary,
for you're likely to have a spy hidden in a nearby cupboard. One rather
fancies that he will accept the general proposition I shall put before
him, in which case there remain only a few legal formalities to be gone
through, and lo! we are all near-millionaires."

John Leith did not answer him. He watched the dapper figure of the doctor
as he walked up the garden path and disappeared through the open french
windows of the study, and then his eyes fell to the ground, and for a
long time he sat twining and untwining his fingers, turning over in his
mind a hundred possibilities, each a little more disagreeable than the
last.

In the end he got up, opened a small cupboard in the wall and took out a
flask of brandy and poured a generous portion into a tumbler. This he
drank at a gulp. He went back into the house to receive a telephone
message from a woman who had served him well on many occasions.

"Excuse me, sir," said an uneducated voice, "but I think it's only right
to tell you that Mrs. Untersohn keeps a loaded revolver in her bedroom. I
see her looking at it today."

"Thank you," said John Leith, almost brightly.



CHAPTER 29


DR. DONALD CHEYNE WELLS pressed the bell at Peter's flat and waited. After
a little while he rang again. His finger was hardly off the bellpush when
the door was opened, not by the butler as he had expected.

"Why, Jane, what's wrong? Have your servants left you?" he asked good
humouredly.

She did not answer, and it only needed a glance at her face for this
shrewd man to realize that a very considerable change had come over Jane
Clifton since he had seen her last. She looked, in some indefinable way,
older, suddenly matured into womanhood, and he sensed here that hitherto
unconsidered factor at which Marjorie had hinted.

"Come in," she said, and closed the door behind him.

"How is Peter? Or isn't he here?"

"Peter is here," she said, and he thought it was an opportune moment to
remark the change in her attitude.

"What is the matter, Jane? Have I annoyed you in some way?"

She shook her head. "No, I'm not annoyed," she said. "Come in, will you,
Doctor?"

"'Doctor,’” he scoffed, as he followed her into the sitting-room. "What
is wrong, Jane? And how long have I been 'doctor' to you?" And then he
remembered. "Oh, I see! That very talkative lady wife of mine has been
engaged in a little propaganda! The fact is, my dear, Marjorie and I
aren't as good friends as we ought to be, and as she and I had rather a
row the other day she came to Longford Manor, she isn't taking a very
charitable view of her long-suffering husband. But you mustn't take
Marjorie too seriously--"

"I was telling Peter that he shouldn't take you too seriously, either,"
she said. "The trouble with poor Peter is that, being terribly straight
and truthful himself, he believes all the people of the world are made in
his mould!"

Donald was amused.  "We seem to have had a little 'panning' party," he
laughed. "Where is Peter?"

"In the library. I'll tell him you're here, but I want to speak to you
first about something. Won't you sit down?"

She was so formally polite, so irritatingly “grown up” that he hardly
knew whether to be angry or amused.

"This sounds as though something dreadful is coming. What is it?"

"Is Peter mad?"

Stripped of preamble, of delicate introduction, the question sounded
brutal. But he was not sorry that it was asked. At any rate it made his
own task considerably easier. It would have been wise of him perhaps if
he had been as direct. Instead, his professional training led him to
fence with the question.

"What an odd question to ask--aren't we all mad--"

"Is Peter mad? Let me put it plainly: is he so insane that he could be
put away in an institution?"

Again he had his chance and again avoided it.

"Peter's health is a matter which concerns him only, and I would not
dream of discussing the subject unless I had Peter's full permission."

"It concerns me also." Her voice was almost gentle, and he was deceived
by her seeming meekness. "I am his wife, and when I became his wife I
accepted a very heavy responsibility. I didn't realize at the time how
heavy it was. But if I have that responsibility, Dr. Wells, I have also
certain rights granted me by law, and I am entitled to know the state of
my husband's health. Indeed, I am the only person who has that right."

"Why don't you talk to your father--" he began.

"I am talking to you, and I'll be perfectly frank. I wish you to commit
yourself to an opinion concerning Peter before you see him. If you do not
tell me here and now what is the matter with Peter, I shall ask you to
leave the house."

He gaped at her in amazement.

"But, my dear Jane, this is a most remarkable attitude to take up--and
with an old friend, too! And really I don't like the way you're speaking
of your father--"

"I think it would be better if in future you called me Mrs. Clifton."

And now Donald Wells fully understood the peculiar difficulties and
dangers of his position. The cold dignity of the girl first took his
breath away and then enraged him.

"Stuff and nonsense!" he said roughly. "There's no sense in giving
yourself--" He hesitated.

"'Airs' is the word you want," she said. "I am giving myself airs. In
fact, I've had the arrogance to take complete control of Peter's life
from this morning."

There was a long and, to Donald, a painful silence. "Very well," he said
at last. "Peter is not mentally well. His father, as you know, was a
homicidal maniac, who committed a murder and died in Broadmoor. His
grandfather had the same taint; and I've every reason to believe that
Peter has inherited these weaknesses."

"For what reason have you reached this opinion?" she asked.

He kept his temper under control. "There are several reasons, which I am
not at the moment prepared to discuss. I am satisfied in my own mind that
Peter has committed a ghastly crime while in a condition of coma--that is
to say, when he was not responsible for his actions, or in such a state
of mental instability that he could not remember his deeds."

"The murder of Basil Hale?"

"Yes," he said defiantly, "the murder of Basil Hale! And I am also pretty
sure that he committed that terrible crime last night. He has seen
Clewers, who is the biggest authority on mental diseases, and Clewers has
always agreed that there was a chance of the danger recurring."

"That is not the story that you told Peter."

"It is the true story, anyway," he said desperately. "And, really, Jane,
I don't intend wasting my time in arguing the question of obscure mental
processes with a girl--"

"You're not arguing with a girl at all; you're arguing with Peter
Clifton's wife," she said. And then, to his surprise, she walked to one
of the inner doors and opened it.

"I'll take you to Peter."

He had to pass through the drawing-room, and saw, to his surprise, that
Jane had evidently had company that afternoon, for the tea table was set
and there were four or five used cups on the big silver tray. She knocked
at a further door and Peter's voice bade her enter. His second surprise
was when she did not attempt to accompany him.

Peter was writing when he entered, but he put down his pen and rose to
greet his visitor.

"Hallo, Donald!" he said, almost cheerfully. "You look a bit flushed.
Have you been having a row with Jane?"

"I don't know whether she's in a rowing mood; she's certainly difficult,"
growled Donald. He helped himself to a cigarette from the table. "Who's
been here this afternoon--Bourke?"

Peter shook his head.

"No. Jane had three men in to tea, friends of hers. They were rather
amusing, though God knows I'm not in a fit state to be amused! Well?"

Donald, standing in his favourite attitude before the empty fire grate,
pursed his lips. "That was a bad business last night," he said.

"You mean Radlow?"

"I mean Radlow."

"Do you think"--Peter hesitated. "You don't think I had anything to do
with that?"

"Do you?" asked Wells bluntly, but there was no answer. "Anyway, I'm not
going to probe into this, Peter. The important fact is, you've got to
make a decision, and a momentous decision--for the protection of yourself,
the protection of your Jane. It's as plain as a pikestaff that
you're--well, not to put too fine a point upon it, mental. I'm terribly
afraid there's no doubt about that at all. And what I'm scared of is that
the truth about these murders will come out. There'll be a horrible
criminal trial, and I honestly think the best thing you can do is to
anticipate that by a voluntary act."

Peter was still sitting at the table, his hands folded on the
blotting-pad, his head bent.

"What do you suggest?" he asked in a low voice.

"I suggest that you have a talk with Jane, and persuade her to my way of
thinking. Then we'd better get a couple of good men, certify you, and put
you in some special institution under the care of a practised man. It may
only be necessary for five or six years, at the end of which time all
these distressing symptoms may disappear."

A quietness reigned in the room, broken only by the ticking of the clock
on the mantelpiece.

"In other words, to commit myself to the stigma of lunacy?" Peter's voice
was scarcely audible.

Donald nodded. "The thing could be done quietly; the courts will appoint
Jane to administer your estate, and perhaps you might like to have me and
Jane's father as trustees."

Peter did not look up. Watching him keenly, Donald Wells saw his head
droop over the pad.

"What I want to avoid," he went on, "is the beastly publicity. If we can
get you certified quietly and put away, and the real authorship of these
murders is discovered, the police will take no action--how can they
against a man already an inmate of a mental hospital? You've got to
consider Jane, my boy" (here--he knew he was on safe ground and did not
need the confirmatory nod with which Peter responded). "You can't brand
her as the wife of a convicted murderer."

The young man at the table raised his haggard face to the other.

"There is no doubt at all?" he almost pleaded.

Donald shook his head. "None," he said, with a finality that made Peter
quiver. For five minutes he sat without speaking, and then, with a quick
sigh, raised his head.

"All right," he said. "Will you go and find Jane and ask her to come in?"

The girl was in the room where she had received her visitor, and she
neither expressed surprise nor showed the least concern when, with
appropriate gravity, Donald asked her to enter the library. Haltingly,
Peter told her the gist of the interview, and she listened without
comment.

"I think Donald's plan is the best," he said. "It is terrible for you,
but we've got to face ugly facts. You know the state in which I came home
last night, and you can guess what happened, Jane. It makes my heart ache
to tell you this, but I must do it."

"What is Donald's suggestion?" she asked.

He avoided her eyes.

"He is arranging to have me certified. You know what that means?"

She nodded. "I know what that means. He and another doctor will agree
that you are mentally deranged, and you will be taken somewhere--"

"I know the very place," broke in Wells. "A beautiful little house in the
country, where there are no other patients."

She silenced him with a gesture.

"I suppose Sir William Clewers will be the other doctor?"

Donald agreed.

"He is the greatest man in our profession," he said enthusiastically.

"Quite a lot of people think he shouldn't be in your profession at all--at
least, not practising," she said, with surprising calmness. "They even go
so far as to say that he's hopelessly antiquated, that he drinks more
than is good for him, and that he has been long since past his work!"

Donald Wells gasped.

"That is a disgraceful thing for people to say," he said with asperity.
"He is one of the best known alienists in the world."

"My dear," interposed Peter gently, "I think you'd better leave this
matter to Donald."

"We have left the matter to Donald quite a long time," said Jane; "but I
feel that this affects me so much that I ought to make every inquiry
possible. For the matter of that, how do you know that Peter is mad? Are
there symptoms which distinguish him from any other man?"

"Undoubtedly," said Donald Wells promptly. "There are certain
peculiarities of speech and look and manner, even now, when he is
perfectly rational, which betray him. I haven't said this before because
I didn't want to hurt Peter."

"For God's sake let the matter drop," begged Peter. "This is a horribly
ugly business, Jane, and the sooner we get it over the better." But Jane
ignored him.

"What kind of symptoms?" she asked. "Are they such as would be apparent
to any medical man?"

Donald nodded.

"To any man who has a knowledge of mental cases," he said.

"Would they be apparent to Sir George Grathman, to Dr. Heinrich Straus?"
She named the two great specialists so glibly that Donald stared at her.

"Why, of course," he said.

And then, to his astonishment, he saw her smile.

"Do you think Sir Vardon Jackson would detect signs of insanity in a
man?"

Now Sir Vardon Jackson was, of the great alienists, the greatest. He was
accepted as an authority by all the American and European medical
faculties, and his book on neuroses was a classic.

"Naturally," said Donald. "I'll call all these people in, but will be
necessary to disclose the whole ghastly truth about Basil Hale's murder,
and that I want to avoid."

She did not speak for a second; the smile still lingered her lips, and
then she said slowly: "I have saved you the trouble. Those three men who
names I have mentioned were here this afternoon!"

"What?" asked Peter, startled. "The men who came to tea?"

She nodded. "Yes. I brought them to tea because I wanted to make
absolutely sure about you. I told them everything except about the
murders, and I asked them to be perfectly frank and candid with me--every
one of those men said that you were as sane as I."

A deadly silence followed. Peter turned his head slowly towards Donald
Wells; his sallow face was twitching, but he said nothing. Jane's
pronouncement had left him speechless.

"Would you set your opinion against those gentlemen?" asked Jane.

"Yes, I would," retorted the other, hoarse with anger. "I know the case,
I know of the murders, I know exactly  what happened. Peter has as good
as confessed to me that he killed Basil Hale. These are big men, I admit,
but they know nothing whatever of the circumstances. How can they tell by
casual examination the state of Peter's mind?"

Jane Clifton inclined her head; the light in her eyes was hard and
antagonistic. Donald knew her now for an implacable enemy.

"Very well," she said. "I will agree to this scheme of yours. But Peter
has to be certified as insane by those three men brought here this
afternoon and by none other. And if they make a more careful inspection
and they agree that he is mad, then I will raise no objection. But one
thing I will tell you, Dr. Wells"--her voice lowered--"if Peter is taken
away and put under restraint, my lawyers will apply to the courts to
throw the whole estate into Chancery--how does that appeal to you?" She
knew! Ever since the interview began he had had an uneasy feeling that
there was something more behind her attitude and manner than the
antagonism engendered by Marjorie's foolish confidence. He had had a
second argument, which involved a betrayal of his employer. All
possibility of that source of profit was now dissipated.

"You'll tell Sir Vardon and these other men that Peter is a murderer,
will you? You'll tell them all about Basil Hale's body, and how you found
Peter covered with blood, lying on his bed fully dressed? You'll tell
them that, will you?"

Again she smiled.

"You can tell them that," she said quickly, "because you know how he got
there."

On this note the interview should by all logic have ended, but Donald
lingered on. There was yet a chance of salvation. He began rapidly to
build his defences.

"I'm going to put all my cards on the table, Jane--all right, Mrs.
Clifton--"

"Now I think you'd better address your remarks to me."

Peter's voice was cool and steady, so unlike the panic-stricken Peter she
had seen a moment or two before that Jane felt that somebody new had come
into the room.

"What are your cards, Wells, and how many of them are knaves?"

Donald winced at this. He was a man with a curiously perverted sense of
dignity. He had yet another characteristic: all Donald's best efforts
were carefully rehearsed. He had to extemporize the particulars of his
proposition, and in doing so he blundered.

"At what figure do you value your peace of mind, Clifton?" he asked. "Pay
me a hundred thousand pounds, and I'll undertake to leave you a very
happy man. It sounds ridiculous, but I can send away every worry that's
in your mind; I can give you a new outlook. But you've got to do it
quick."

Peter walked to the door leading to the corridor and threw it open.

"I shall need something more than your assurance to make me happy," he
said. "There is the door!"

"I see!"

Donald took up his silk hat and brushed it mechanically.

"You're accepting your wife's estimate of me and putting that against the
service I have rendered to you--"

"I will not be so vulgar as to remind you that your services have not
been altogether disinterested," said Peter. "Yes, I am accepting Jane's
view, I don't know how much of a fool I've been, but I'm beginning to
understand, in a muddled kind of way, that I haven't been exactly
Socrates."

Still Wells lingered. "I suppose it hasn't struck you that if the police
know the truth about Hale, your wife will be arrested as an accessory? If
it hasn't, you might give that matter a little thought, will you?"

Peter did not answer; he stood significantly by the door. Following the
visitor to the front door, he closed it upon him.

When he came back he found Jane sitting on the table, doubled up with
hysterical laughter. He looked at her for a moment in astonishment, and
then he began laughing too. Jane was the first to recover.

"Now for sanguinary war, Peter," she said. She knew that the crisis in
Peter's life and hers was near at hand, that she was dealing with a
force so unscrupulous that it did not stop short of murder. Only one
question she wished she could have answered to her satisfaction. Did
Basil Hale know when she was married that she was tying herself for life
with what he believed was a homicidal maniac? Was his visit to Longford
Manor on the night of her marriage entirely accidental?

She was alone when she debated these questions. It was an act of impulse
on her part which made her stretch out her hand and draw the telephone
towards her and put through a call to John Leith.

"Well, Jane, what have you decided?"

She did not at first understand what he was asking.

"Decided--oh! Then you knew Donald was coming here?"

There was no reply. She repeated the question.

"Yes, I knew. What is Peter going to do?"

"I'll tell you,. Father, if you will tell me something."

"I'll tell you anything, my dear." His voice had a faint note of surprise
in it, but that surprise became a devastating shock when she asked: "Why
did you send Basil Hale to Longford Manor the night I was married?"

Through the sensitive instrument she heard the quick intake of his
breath, and waited. His voice was sharper, shriller; when he spoke.

"Did he tell you that? Well, you know...I didn't want to take any risks
with you, my dear...with Peter...Peter's family record...I thought it was
best to have somebody handy..."

"I understand, Father. You knew, or thought you knew, that Peter was mad
when I married him?"

She did not wait for his reply, but hung up the receiver. The telephone
rang furiously for five minutes afterwards, but she neither answered it
herself nor would allow Peter to speak for her; and when, half an hour
later, came John Leith in a state of agitation, he found no answer to his
repeated ringing, for she had watched his arrival from her bedroom
window.



CHAPTER 30


THERE IS an air of serene calm about Scotland Yard. Clerks and messengers
stroll leisurely through its low-vaulted corridors on the ground floor,
and except for the policeman on duty at the door, and the marble memorial
to its fallen sons in the hall, there is little to distinguish police
headquarters from any other great Government office.

Mr. Bourke sat at his desk in the superintendent's room, toying with a
paperknife. Inspector Moses Rouper divided his attention between his
chief and the pageantry of the Thames Embankment. On the table was spread
a number of copper plates, and these Bourke examined from time to time
with the greatest interest. One of them was bent almost double, but the
remainder were intact, and bore no evidence of the drastic treatment to
which they had been subjected.

"The whole thing's as clear as daylight to me, sir," said Rouper
respectfully. "Clifton got news that we might search the house--I am not
saying that anybody at the Yard tipped him off--"

"I shouldn't say that, Rouper, if I were you," murmured Mr. Bourke, his
attention apparently engaged with the plates.

"I'm not saying it," Rouper hastened to assure him. "Anyway, he got news
that we might want to know all about this place that he was visiting so
often, and he took the press and the plates and threw 'em down the well.
If one of the local coppers hadn't found 'em, we should never have known
they were there."

"I should, Rouper," said Bourke, as gently as ever, "because I knew they
were there--at least, I guessed they were there--and I was going to have a
thorough search the day you found them. The paper and the notes were of
course burnt--"

"By Clifton," said Rouper triumphantly.

"Very possibly by Mr. Clifton," agreed Bourke. He was so very courteous
that Rouper's uneasiness increased with every minute. Nothing was quite
so symptomatic of an impending explosion as was Superintendent Bourke's
more beatific manner.

"There's been quite a lot of forgery at that place, Rouper. I should
imagine it has been used for years by Mr. X, or Y or Z or whatever his
name is. How is Mrs. Untersohn?"

"She's all right," said Rouper, surprised by the question. "I haven't
seen her since she was taken back from Longford, but I met one of the
servants, quite by accident, in Harley Street--when I say Harley Street I
mean Marylebone Road," he added quickly.

"Say Harley Street--it sounds better," suggested Bourke with his blandest
smile. "And the servant says she's making a good recovery?"

Rouper nodded. He loathed his chief when he was in a sarcastic vein.  "As
you were saying, there must have been a lot of notes printed at Longford.
Peter Clifton has been a tenant there off and on for years. Very likely
he owns the place."

"It is owned by Mr. Blonberg, or at least he's the agent," said Bourke,
"but it's quite true Mr. Clifton is the tenant. That's so of other people.
I quite agree, a considerable amount of forged currency has come out of
that interesting room. But the five notes for one hundred pounds which
you paid into your wife's banking account last Thursday are, I should
imagine, the genuine product of the Bank of England."

He did not look up; he spoke in quite an ordinary tone of voice, but
Rouper's jaw dropped.

"Five-five hundred?" he stammered. "I don't know what you mean."

"I've got the numbers, can trace most of them," said Bourke, with a
little sigh. "They came from Dr. Cheyne Wells's bank and they went into
your wife's bank. I thought it was rather strange, and then it occurred
to me that possibly you might have sold a grand idea for a patent
medicine to the doctor, and of course there's no reason in the world why
you shouldn't. If, on the other hand," he continued, still fingering the
plates which apparently absorbed him, "you had accepted five hundred
pounds as a gift, that, I fear, would have been contrary to police
regulations and would involve your appearance before the Chief
Commissioner."

"I sold him something." Rouper found his voice at last.

"But it was a very valuable something, I hope?" said Bourke softly. "I
should like to think he'd got value for his money."

"It was a--picture, an old master. I picked it up for a song."

"And sold it for a dance," said the tantalizing Bourke. "Old masters are
best masters, Rouper. The old master has been paying you a salary for
eighteen years and will be giving you a pension one of these days. It's
pretty silly to go risking the old master's pension for the young man's
five hundred--or is it a thousand?"

Chief Inspector Moses Rouper listened and sweated.

"What are you going to do about these things?" Bourke indicated the
plates and the battered press which was in a small adjoining room.

"I've made a report about them," said Rouper; His hand strayed towards
his pocket.

"One moment! Is there anything about Peter Clifton in your report? You
see, I should have to take action if his name was mentioned. If it is
just an ordinary report about finding these things in the well, that's
quite in order. If it's the sort of thing that I'd have to put before the
Commissioner and put in the Crown basket, well, I'd be very sorry--for
everybody."

There was too much significance in his tone for Rouper to overlook.

"I'm not sure that I've got the report correct," he said. "I'll look it
over and I'll write another one."

Bourke nodded several times. "It's always wise to be careful," he said
sententiously. "I'm hoping and praying that something will happen tonight
to save everybody's face--except the young master's."

And then his lethargy dropped away from him without warning, and he
became his old crisp self.

"Rouper, watch your step! That is not a threat, it's a warning! I've
broken so many police rules myself lately that I'm beginning to have an
unhealthy sympathy with people who have broken them all their lives. Go
along and write that report of yours, and let me see it before I leave
the office."

Before the door had closed on Rouper, he was on the telephone to the chief
inspector whose province was Central London. There followed a private
consultation, and that evening fifty picked men of the CID were on duty
at various restaurants in the West End, waiting for the arrival of a
small coterie of couriers who were to carry east and west the latest and
last products from the forger's press.



CHAPTER 31


DONALD WELLS came to St. John's Wood to consult his friend: and found John
Leith a broken man. There was no need for Wells to tell the story of his
failure. Leith had read it all in the tone of his daughter. He turned on
the doctor with weak fury.

"It's something you said to her, something you let out, you damned fool!"
he shouted. "All that I've worked for, all I've stood for--gone!"

"All you worked for was yourself, my dear John," said Donald coolly. "If
it gives you any pleasure to delude yourself into the belief that you
have made sacrifices for Jane, by all means do so. You gave her all she
wanted because it was the easiest thing to do. You think more about your
pictures than you do of any human being. There's no sense in flying into
a rage. The question is, what are we going to do? Peter in his role of
profitable lunatic is finished. Peter as a money-making proposition is
very much alive." He spoke very deliberately. "There's a good quarter of
a million to be made out of that young man, if you are willing to
sacrifice your vanity."

John Leith looked up quickly.

"What do you mean--sacrifice my vanity?"

"Jane knows, or guesses, just what part you've played. Sooner or later
she must know, unless a miracle happens, that her father was one of the
well-paid agents of the greatest forgery organization that ever ran in
this or any other country. By the time she knows that, you will certainly
be beyond assistance. I suggest that you go to Peter, or allow me to se
him--I dare say I could manage it--put the position clearly before him--"

"What position?" asked John Leith angrily.

"That you are what you are--an utterer of forged currency. Tell him you
want to go abroad and that you do not wish to bring disgrace upon
Jane--you know that sob stuff. Peter will part."

The bearded lips curled in a sneer.

"Oh, Peter will part, will he? And you'll take your share, I suppose?
Does it occur to you that I am no more a free agent than you are? That I
cannot leave London or move without the express permission of the Clever
One?"

Donald laughed scornfully. "Clever grandmother! It's a case of sauve qui
peut. Do you suppose that I wouldn't sell him, or that you wouldn't sell
him if we knew who he was? I've got plenty of money--I suppose you have
too--but I've an ineradicable weakness for getting a little more. If we
can't work Peter, don't forget Jane has got a hundred thousand in her own
right. And do it quick, John! It is in my bones that there's trouble very
near at hand, and I rather want to be out of the way when the shooting
starts."

"What are you going to do with Marjorie?" asked Leith. It was such an
unexpectedly mild and domestic question that Donald was surprised to a
laugh.

"In a moment of insanity I put ten thousand pounds into her account this
morning. I've got rather a weakness for the woman--I suppose it's because
I've been married to her for so long, and matrimony is a notorious warper
of judgment. Marjorie you need not worry about. Will you do it?"

John Leith shifted uncomfortably. "I should never forgive myself if I
did," he said.

Donald left him, well satisfied that the seed he had sown would sprout
munificently. He had forgotten to take his keys with him, and he wondered
uncomfortably if Marjorie had found them. He had hardly pressed the bell
before she opened the door, and evidently she had been watching for him.

"I got the creeps, being in the house by myself," she said. "Well,
darling, did you have a successful time?"

"Terribly," he said sardonically as he passed into his study. He saw the
keys were where he had left them, in one of the drawers of his desk, and
put them in his pocket.

"There is one letter," she said. "It came by hand. If you weren't so
violent about my opening your letters I should have looked to see what
was inside--it looks important."

That it was important he knew at first glance. Only one man wrote to him
on that thick white notepaper. Inside he found when he had peremptorily
dismissed his wife to bring a bottle of champagne from the cellar, yet
another envelope, and inside that a third. The writer took no risks, for
Donald's name and the large word “Private” were typewritten on each
cover. The letter was also typewritten, had neither date, preamble no
signature. He read it through carefully. It was rather a long epistle for
one who as a rule indulged in the most laconic phraseology. Donald read
and was fascinated.

Attached to the letter by a piece of red tape was a tiny key. Donald read
the letter again, committing it to memory: the evening might yet be
amusing and profitable.

He put the key in his pocket and poked the ashes of the letter till they
were dispersed. At that moment Marjorie came in with the bottle and two
glasses on a salver.

"Burning all your guilty secrets?" she said gaily. He hated her worst
when she was most trite. But he was in rather a good mood at the moment,
and smiled graciously at her inanity. She was unusually nervous, but in
his then state of tension he did not notice this, until he saw the hand
that was pouring out the wine shake.

"You're jumpy too, eh?"

"I am--I don't know why."

"Well, don't be," he commanded. "By the way, Marjorie, that little scheme
of ours--" He put his hand in his pocket and took out the letter she had
written at his dictation and threw it in the fire also. He did not see
her relief.

"The art of good generalship lies in an ability to change your front
under fire," he said, "and that cat won't jump--you're right about Jane:
she's in love with that crazy man."

"You're breaking my heart," she said humorously. Then, in a different
tone: "Honestly, Donald, I think she is very fond of him, and it would be
very awkward and embarrassing for  me if that letter fell into Jane's
hands."

"That worries me like the devil," he said sarcastically. "It was intended
to fall into Jane's hands, you fool!"

They dined together off cold tongue and champagne. At eight o'clock
Donald went out. His wife, watching through the study window, saw him
hail a cab and drive away, and sank down quickly into a chair, wiping her
damp face.

She had gone through two hours of unexampled strain. At any moment Donald
might have gone to the safe and opened the envelope in which he had put
the notes he brought from the bank that morning, and, opening them, would
have found nothing more valuable than a copy of yesterday's newspaper.
Marjorie was taking no risks. That twelve hours' experience in the padded
room upstairs was not to be repeated.

She dressed quickly, packed a small handbag, examined again the railway
tickets that would carry her, curiously enough, on the Continental route
that she was supposed to have taken, and was giving a last glance round
before leaving the house when there came a thunderous knock at the door.
She flew into Donald's study and peeped round the edge of the drawn
blind. Two men were standing on the doorstep. Near the pavement was a
uniformed policeman.

She opened her bag, took out the banknotes and slipped them into a pocket
that she had sewn in her underskirt. Only then did she open the door to
admit Mr. Bourke.



CHAPTER 32


To PETER CLIFTON, that afternoon and evening had had a delicate charm
which no other day of his life had held. He and Jane had dined early, and
at her request he had not dressed. He was learning a new Jane, something
quizzical, something tantalizing, something wholly feminine. A girl who
could banter him with a solemn face and make him forget the tragic
atmosphere in which he had been moving. A dozen times he had attempted to
return to the ugly realities, a dozen times she had headed him off.

They were in the little library, Jane browsing from volume to volume.
Presently she hesitated.  "Peter, would you mind very much if I asked you
something?"

"Go ahead," he said lazily.

He sat, pipe in mouth, in a deep lounge chair, a book on his knees.

"Was your father a great scientist?"

"Why, yes, I suppose he was," he said slowly. "You've found his book,
have you? Rather a queer coincidence that--about forgers, isn't it? In his
early youth he was a chemist. He discovered something or other--a new way
of treating iron.  I've only the vaguest idea about it, and that's how he
made his fortune."

She turned over the pages and found the book uninteresting, as well it
might be, for it was written in a dry technical way.

"Did you ever--" she hesitated to ask the question--"did you ever want to
forge notes?"

"I? Good Lord, no! I should be scared to death." He said this rather
brusquely and tried to change the subject.

"But you do know how to engrave a note? I mean, you would know if you
were put to it? It isn't so very difficult, is it?"

"Jane, my dear, let's talk about something else."

"Peter, my dear, I can't think of anything else to talk about."

He drew a deep sigh.  "Do you know how long we've been married?"

"A thousand years," she said. "I'm already a grey-haired old lady."

"I wonder if you know how many days?" She thought and shivered. She had
indeed lived a lifetime since she walked down the aisle upon his arm. He
did not speak again for five minutes, and evidently had been thinking
about the happening of the afternoon, for he asked:  "Do you suppose
there was anything in what Donald said, in that offer of his for a
hundred thousand pounds to make me completely happy?"

She smiled round at him. "My dear, aren't you rather tired of spending a
hundred thousand pounds on happiness?" And when she saw his blank look:
"That is exactly the amount you paid for me, my angel!"

He chuckled at this. "And well worth it," he said. "You were a bargain,
Jane. I wonder, if one could wake up and find that all this beastly
business was a dream, whether a man like myself could really be happy
with a girl like you?"

"Isn't it rather a question of whether a girl like me could be happy with
a man like you?" she asked lightly. "I don't know. The fact is, Peter,
you're rather too thrilling. I talk about being an old lady, but I really
found a grey hair in my head this morning--or it looked grey."

She heard a sound in the hall.

"That's the post," she said, "and I'm tired of answering your begging
letters." She went out and came back with a bundle of letters, sorted
them out on the table.

"They're all for you, I think," she said. "Mr. Peter Clifton...Mr. Peter
Clifton...P. Clifton, Esq...Peter Clifton, Esq--and there's one for me."

She opened her eyes wide as she recognized the writing.

"From Donald. Can it be a wedding present?"

"Wells? What is he writing about?"

She slit open the flap of the envelope and took out another and read the
superscription.  "This is terribly mysterious--'To go with my documents
and not to be opened.’”

Under this was the name of a firm of lawyers known to her. Only for a
moment did she hesitate. She knew well enough that the envelope had been
wrongly addressed. She could not guess that before Donald had addressed
it, and whilst yet his pen was flying over the surface, she filled his
mind to the exclusion of all other matters.

She tore open the second envelope and removed its contents. It was a
faded sheet of newspaper, worn and torn at the edges. It had been folded
and unfolded so often that it was almost falling apart. At the top
left-hand corner she saw a few lines in Wells's neat hand. He was a very
methodical man, she remembered, and had the habit of documentation. Here
he had written:

'By a strange coincidence found some old books wrapped in this paper
three weeks after P's first consultation.'

'The Cumberland Herald, 1898.'

"Cumberland!" exclaimed Peter. "That's queer. My mother used to live in
Cumberland. In fact we're Cumberland people."

There was nothing very exciting on the first sheet. She turned it over
and immediately saw the principal item: it was a column in the centre of
the page.

DEATH OF MR. ALEXANDER WELERSON

He heard her exclamation, and, jumping up from his chair, came to her
side.

We regret to announce the death of Mr. Alexander Welerson, for many years
a resident of Carlisle, and one of the foremost chemists of his age. Mr.
Welerson had just returned from Switzerland. where he had been staying,
and was driving into Carlisle when his horse took fright, overturning his
dogcart into a ditch. Mr. Welerson received injuries from which he did not
recover. The deceased gentleman leaves a wife and a baby, three months
old. By a curious coincidence, his namesake cousin, Mr. Alexander
Welerson, the well-known iron founder of Middlesbrough, was staying with
Mr. Welerson at the time of his death. It is believed that the late Mr.
Welerson had been engaged in experiments in connection with the smelting
of this metal.

They looked at one another in silence. "1900. Impossible!"

"When did your father die?" asked Jane in a voice not above a whisper.

"In 1919, the last year of the war."

She pointed to the woodcut that had been inserted above the notice. It
was a poorly drawn picture of a man of thirty, clean-shaven, and even the
artist had not succeeded in coarsening the rather delicate features.

"Is that your father?"

He shook his head.

"No," he said, "not the father I knew--what is it pinned to the paper?"

She turned the page over and saw what she had not noticed on the first
inspection, a small paragraph pinned to one corner of the larger sheet.
It had no date, but the paragraph told its own story. It was headed:

'NO CHANGE OF NAME'

'Mrs. Alexander Welerson, widow of the late Peter Clifton Welerson, was
married quietly on Tuesday to her cousin who bears the same name. Mr. and
Mrs. Welerson left for the Riviera with the bride's seven-months-old
baby.'

"Well?" Jane's voice was unsteady. "Do you know this precious secret that
Wells was going to sell you for a hundred thousand?"

He was stunned, almost incapable of thinking. "I don't understand it," he
muttered. "They were married in November, 1900. I was born in March,
1900--the 27th." The hand that held the paper trembled.

"Peter"--her voice was husky--"you're the son of the first Alexander--not
the man who died in Broadmoor. That is what he meant when he said he
hoped you would be worthy of our illustrious father. O God, how
wonderful!"

Then, before she realized what was happening, she was in his arms. He
held her close to him, cheek to cheek, scarcely daring to breathe.

"How wonderful!" she sobbed. "Peter, don't you understand--"

They heard Marjorie's shrill voice calling, and he had scarcely time to
put her away from him when Marjorie came flying into the room. Jane gazed
at her in amazement.

"Marjorie! I thought you were in Germany--"

But Marjorie did not hear; she had eyes only for Peter; came running
across to him and gripped him by the arm.

"Peter!" she gasped. "The police! They are at my house--Bourke!"

She was so breathless that she could hardly articulate.

"Where is your husband?" asked Peter quickly.

She shook her head. "I don't know--he went out--I was going myself
when--Bourke came! He searched everything. And they're looking for Donald.
And oh, Peter, do you know what Bourke said?" She put her hand on her
breast as though to gain command of herself. "He took me into the
dining-room and shut the door, and he said: 'Do you know the Clever One?
If you do, tell him we're coming for him tonight.'"

Jane looked from one to the other. Why had Bourke uttered this warning?
She felt her heart sinking and took a grip of herself. She must have
faith--she must.

"Why did he want to warn him?"

"How can I tell?" snapped Marjorie. "Do you know who it is, Peter? Is it
Donald! It is awful! There are two detectives in the house going through
all Donald's papers, and they say all the stations are watched. What am I
to do?"

"You can stay here," said Jane authoritatively.

The woman shook her head. "No, I can't stay here. Something might happen
to Donald and I want to be--"

She was at a loss for the right word. "I want to know. I can help him. He
doesn't know that I can. I've been terribly disloyal to him, Jane."

She was on the point of collapse. Jane put her arm round her waist and
led her into the bedroom. A glass of water seemed all that was sufficient
to bring Marjorie back to normal volubility. Jane returned to find her
husband.

"She's all right--" she began, as she went into the library, but Peter was
not there.

She went into his room; it was empty. And then she heard the slam of the
front door and flew out into the hall, to meet the butler.

"Mr. Clifton has just gone out. I don't know what's the matter with him,
ma'am; he hasn't taken a coat or hat or anything."

Running past him, Jane threw open the door and flew down the stairs. By
the time she reached the street Peter had disappeared.

She walked quickly down into Pall Mall. There was a rank near the Carlton
Club, and he might have taken a taxi from there. Her surmise proved
accurate. She saw the cab driving away before she reached the main
thoroughfare. The next taximan on duty lifted his finger questioningly,
and she beckoned him to her.

"Will you tell me where he went--the gentleman who took that taxi?"

"Knowlby Street, miss."

The name seemed familiar, but for a moment she could not place it.

"It's up by Marylebone Lane. The driver didn't know and asked me; that's
why I can tell you."

Knowlby Street--the place where Blonberg had his office. Now she knew!

"Come back to 175, Carlton House Terrace," she said, "and wait for me."

She almost ran back to the flat, found a coat and hat and took her bag
from the dressing-table. Marjorie was sitting in a chair, weeping
noisily, and interjecting questions which were more or less
unintelligible to Jane in her state of mind. She got down to the door;
the taxi was standing. "The end of Knowlby Street. Pull up there and
wait."

At this hour of the night Knowlby Street presented a deserted appearance.
Would there be anybody in this office block to admit her, she wondered.
They were certain to have a caretaker, and she seemed to remember that
offices had a staff of cleaners working all night.

She walked down the street quickly and paused at the door. What excuse
had she? Impulse had led her to an act of stupidity. Nevertheless she
pressed the only bell she found. That beneath the name of Blonberg she
could not see. She rang again, without result, and then, turning her
head, she saw another cab stop at the end of the street and a huge bulk
of a woman alight. It was Mrs. Untersohn.

Jane flew down the street and took shelter in the first convenient
doorway.



CHAPTER 33


MRS UNTERSOHN had in her life lived in the presence and fear of a
homicidal madman and had absorbed the habit of irrationality. But she was
very sane when she decided that bed was no place for a woman of
character.

A doctor protested; two nurses used their best persuasion. She was
mistress of her own house--a haggard, wild-eyed, rather terrifying
mistress.

There were no relations to whom the doctor could appeal. Though the
police had summoned him, Mrs. Untersohn was not under restraint.

The doctor accepted his dismissal with a gesture which told Madame
Untersohn that she had only herself to blame for anything which might
happen to her detriment. The nurses she paid up to the hour, complaining
of the extortion of the Home that sent them. She summoned her servants to
her bedroom and they came under the mistaken impression that she was
dying and desired to make some small reparation for the bad time and the
scanty wages they had received at her hands.

She was sitting before her dressing-table, dabbing her face with floury
white, and she did not look round at them but glared from one to the
other reflection she saw in the mirror.

"If that doctor comes back or the nurses, don't let them in. The whole
house will go into mourning from today. You'll be allowed a pound each
for black. There's a sale at Cathrey's; I saw the advertisement in this
morning's papers."

She opened her bag and took out three one-pound Treasury notes. She
dismissed them with a wave of her hand. It is history that one of the
three went out to buy “black” and never came back. Mrs. Untersohn's letter
to the local police inspector on the subject is to be found amongst the
archives of Hampstead Police Station.

She made this discovery in the evening. All the afternoon she had rested,
drinking nips of brandy from a bottle she kept under her pillow. She was
strong and confident when she penned the letter about the defaulting
servant, as her terminology bears witness.

All that evening she paced her drawing-room or crouched over a wood fire.
Basil was dead. Her boy. She told herself that  a hundred times. She was
enraged with her numb apathy; spurred herself to a rage that she did not
feel. Alexander Welerson's son--so clever, so cunning, so utterly
unscrupulous. She saw this latter quality as a virtue.

She could review her supreme grievance parallel with the stark facts that
destroyed the cause for grievance. Old Welerson had married her at a
registrar's office in Manchester. And she had accepted the status,
knowing that he was already married and had a child. He had raised her
from penury to a comfortable state--she hated his memory because he had
not given her more. Those queer evenings when they had sat together, and
his telling her mad stories of adventures which could not have happened.
She was never afraid of him. Even that night when he smashed the
furniture and tried to strangle her and the police came in, she was not
afraid. She could always handle him--in her youth she had been a woman of
extraordinary muscularity.

There was nearly a scandal and a police court case, for Welerson had
struck the police officer who came on the scene But the thing had been
hushed up.

Peter had not known his father as she knew him. Peter? He was married
now. She grinned with rage at the thought..

All night long, propped up with pillows, she lay thinking--thinking...

The morning came and dragged itself into afternoon. Towards evening a
letter was delivered to the house. She read it slowly line by line.

'I shall be glad if you will  repay the money you owe me. I shall be
waiting at the usual time and in the usual place. Now that your son is
dead it is impossible that he can inherit his father's money as you said
he would. He has himself to blame. I told you that he exceeded his duty
and that he would die. It is good for everybody that he should die. Bring
back at least the money you borrowed.--B.'

She read this in her disordered bedroom. And there her pent rage might have
found violent expression, but she held herself in.

From a locked drawer she took out a large German revolver. Basil had
given it to her--it was a souvenir of the war that he had acquired at
second hand. It was loaded when he had brought it to her and was loaded
now. Because of its length it would not go into her bag. She was forced
to wear a heavy fur coat, though the night was warm, because in this coat
was a pocket which would comfortably carry the weapon.

Just before she went out the oldest of her servants and one who was
approaching familiarity, brought her a cup of tea. She was gloomily
arrayed in a black skirt that was too short and a black blouse that was
too large.

"Excuse me, madame," she said, "but cook was asking, who are we in
mourning for?" Mrs. Untersohn regarded her sombrely. "Me," she said.

The servant went into the kitchen and described her mistress as being
“peculiar.”

The woman sipped at the hot fluid and gave her thoughts rein. Blonberg!
Blonberg, who had threatened and performed. He was some creature of
Peter's. Hadn't she gone to Blonberg years and years ago and borrowed
money on the story of her expectations? Didn't he know all about Basil
and Peter and Alexander Welerson? And then he must have gone and sold
her. He was an enemy--he had threatened Basil, and Basil was dead at
Peter's hands. This letter proved it.

The police were in Peter's pay too. There was always that fat detective
around. He was there to protect Peter. Whichever way she turned, there
stood her implacable foe--first to rob her, then to crush her, then to
destroy her son...

"The rightful heir," she murmured to the walls. "My boy!" There was an
old lawyer--Badman she called him, though that wasn't his
name--Radman--Radlow. Radlow and something. They sent her a pittance on the
first of every month. Not enough to keep Basil in the position he had--he
was a gentleman and mixed with gentlemen.

She was keeping her tremendous surprise for the last. Peter wasn't
supposed to know that Basil Hale was his brother. That would be sprung on
him--but he had found it out and killed Basil.

Blonberg should beg for mercy. He should go on his knees. She had two
hours before she saw him; they passed rapidly in the review of her
immense grievances. At last the time came. She went out of the
house--staggered rather, for her legs seemed too frail to support her. But
she found a cab. The clocks were chiming nine when she got out of the
cab; it was raining heavily.

"Here, ma'am--do you want me to wait?" It was the cabman. She wasn't quite
sure.

"Yes--you'd better."

She rang the bell, heard the click of the switch-controlled lock and went
in, closing the door. Up the narrow stairs she toiled, breathing noisily.
Outside the door on the top landing she stopped to take breath. Then,
with her wet hand gripping the butt of the German pistol, she went in.
The same dim light in the little outer lobby--the same Stygian darkness in
the sanctuary.

She felt for the table and chair and sat down. One hand went out
furtively and touched the close-webbed netting.

"Are you there?" she whispered, and immediately came the, answer in
muffled tones.

"Yes--I am here. Have you brought the money?"

"My son--" she began tremulously.

"Your son was as mad as his father," was the cool answer, and fury
brought courage to the woman.

"You knew all about it, hey? You and Peter together--and that girl of
his--"

She was tugging the revolver loose. The hammer had caught in the torn
lining of her pocket.

"Don't be a fool. Basil Hale was warned--he had work to do but went beyond
his orders--"

"He did, did he!" she screamed the words. "You murderer--"

A dazzling splash of light struck her in the face and blinded her.
Somewhere in front of the man was a powerful lamp which he had switched
on. She staggered to her feet, overturning the chair. Twice she fired
into the darkness behind the lamp. The explosions were deafening,
horrible.

She heard a deep sigh and tore at the wire.

"I've killed you--killed you!" she shrieked, and, turning, fled from the
room.

She went blundering down the stairs into the lower passage and, clutching
the catch of the door, jerked it open.

"Look out! She's got a gun!" said a voice.

Somebody clutched her arm and wrenched the pistol from her grip. She had
a confused vision of a crowd, all men, before she fell into the arms of
the policeman who held her.

"Get her to the hospital in that cab," said Bourke. "Three of you men
follow me--use a shooter only if it is necessary."



CHAPTER 34


JANE CLIFTON had seen Mrs. Untersohn enter the house. Possibly she had a
key of her own, thought Jane, and waited. Five minutes passed, ten
minutes, but the woman did not emerge. And then she saw a number of men
walking rapidly down the street and recognized, in the fading light of
day, the thickset Bourke. Her heart nearly stood still. They were going
to raid the office, and Peter was there somewhere. There was a little
consultation among the three. She thought one of them was Rouper. They
were talking head to head, and then--

The sound of two shots came in rapid succession. She could locate the
sounds by instinct rather than knowledge. Somebody inside that office was
firing--and Peter was there!

She saw Bourke go to the door and apparently stoop to insert a key. At
that moment the door must have opened, for suddenly there was projected
into the knot of men a dark figure that was screaming in a way which was
terrible to hear.

It was Mrs. Untersohn. Jane ran to the other side of the street past the
group and crossed again to a place near the cab she had left. The taximen
had been attracted by curiosity to the raided house, and she waited
impatiently for their return. Bourke must not see her here.

By the side of the office was a narrow, cobbled lane which apparently led
to a mews, and she was standing in this roadway when she heard the honk
of a motor horn and, turning, saw a taxi driving from the mews. She had
just time to spring to the narrow pathway when it passed her. The driver
she saw distinctly--a clean-shaven man who was smoking a clay pipe. And
then her wondering gaze fell upon the passenger.

It was Peter! For seconds the petrified girl stared into the eyes of her
husband.  "Peter!" she called, almost screamed.

He turned his head away quickly. Before she realized what had happened
the car had turned into Marylebone Lane and out of sight. She was still gazing
 after it when her cab driver returned. 

"There's been trouble in this house, miss," he said. "They  think
somebody's been shot."

She nodded dumbly.

"Take me home," she said at last.

Would Peter be there first? She answered her own question with a shake of
her head.

Bourke was the first to mount the narrow stairs. He stopped for a minute
to investigate the general office of Blonberg on the third floor, and
then he continued his way to the secret room above, the existence of
which he had long suspected. Only one glance he gave at the outer office,
and then he turned to face the glare of a blinding light that was shining
through the wire screen.

He tried to reach forward, but the netting held him back, until he found
a clasp-knife in his pocket and, cutting a hole in the fine gauze, put
his weight upon it. With a crash it parted from the ceiling batten to
which it was fixed. Bourke pushed aside the table, and found another
table placed edge to edge. Upon this the light rested a powerful handlamp
fixed to a flex in the ceiling. This he grasped and directed its rays in
the opposite direction.

A man was sitting against what looked like a cupboard that projected from
the wall. His head was bent lower than his knees, his two hands
outstretched as though to prevent himself from falling. Bourke lifted the
man by the shoulder, and as he did so the head fell back and he looked
down into the lifeless face of Cheyne Wells.

"Humph! I thought it might be," said Bourke. With the help of a man he
lifted the body from the cupboard,  looked for and found a small bump in
the woodwork. This he pressed and with a click the door opened. By the
light of the lamp he saw a tiny elevator large enough to hold two people.

"Send for the divisional surgeon. By the way, did you put men on duty at
the end of the mews, Rouper?"

Rouper started.

"Yes, sir," he said untruthfully, and at the earliest opportunity slipped
away to rectify his error. This opportunity came when Bourke stepped into
the lift and pushed one of the two buttons that were fixed to a control
inside. The lift dropped swiftly and did not stop till it was in what
Bourke imagined was the basement. He opened the door and stepped out.

He was in a garage. There were no cars there, but a number of tins of
spirit were piled against one wall, and in a corner of the room was a
mechanic's bench that had recently been used.

Opening the gate, he stepped out into the mews, which was below the level
of the upper street. A chauffeur was cleaning a car near at hand and was
inclined to be uninformative until Bourke revealed himself as an officer
from Scotland Yard.

"Oh, yes, sir, that garage is used by an old taxidriver. We call him Old
Joe. I've never seen him till tonight."

"How long ago?" asked Bourke quickly.

"About ten minutes ago. He drove out and he had a passenger."

The passenger he could describe more graphically than he could the
driver, and Superintendent Bourke had no difficulty in identifying Peter.
On the whole, he thought, it was perhaps as well that the entrance to the
mews had not been guarded or Peter challenged.

Nobody knew Old Joe. He was a “musher”--that is to say, he owned his own
cab and mostly did night work. He gave no trouble to anybody, and came
and went as a rule in the dark hours of the night.

Bourke went back into the garage, locked the door and ascended again to
the room of death.

"Those men are all right at the end of the mews," said Rouper, who was a
little out of breath, for he had just come up the stairs.

"I saw you post them," said Bourke unpleasantly.

He looked at his watch.

"Wait here until the divisional surgeon arrives. Put a man to make a
complete search of that upper office and take charge of every paper in
the building," he ordered. "You won't have long to wait, I'm sending
somebody competent to assume charge."

"I'm here," said the indignant Rouper.

"That's what I mean," said Bourke insultingly. "I'm going in search of
Peter Clifton."



CHAPTER 35


WHEN JANE arrived home she found the flat empty save for the servants.
Walker told her that Mrs. Wells had left five minutes after Jane. She had
sent for a cab in a great hurry and ordered the driver to take her to
Waterloo Station.

"Has Mr. Clifton come in?"

"No, madam."

"Nor telephoned."

"No, madam."

There was nothing to do but to wait. In less than half an hour she had a
companion to share her vigil.

"I thought I'd come in," said Bourke in his casual way. "Peter not at
home?"

"No; he's gone for a walk in the park--he just went. You must have just
missed him."

Mr. Bourke smiled. "Kipling, wasn't it, who wrote that bit about Judy
O'Grady and the colonel's lady being sisters under their skins? How often
have I, as a young officer, meant to pinch some bright lad, only to be
told by his wife that he'd just gone out, when all the time he was hiding
in the cellar!"

"Peter's not hiding in the cellar," she said hotly. "He has nothing to
hide for--you haven't come to arrest him?"

Bourke shook his head. "I've come for a quiet evening," he said. There
was not evidence of sarcasm in his voice. "There's something about
Carlton House Terrace that's very soothing. It's the opulence of it, the
extravagance of living on land that's worth a million pounds a foot, that
puts me to sleep. Have you been out, Mrs. Clifton?"

"No," she said boldly, "except to post a letter."

He gazed at the ceiling thoughtfully. "I'm trying to think whether
there's a pillarbox in Knowlby Street," he said half to himself,
scratching his chin. "I think there may be."

"You must think I'm an awful liar," she said ruefully.

"It's the duty of every wife to lie about her husband," said the unmoral
Bourke. "I didn't see you myself, but one of my men did. You were driving
in cab PC 97581. The driver's name is Leany and he lives in Grayside
Mews. You know my methods, Watson?"

This was Mr. Bourke's stock jest, and never failed to amuse him.

"I want to show you something," she said, suddenly remembering the paper
which was still outspread on the library table.

He followed her, and for five minutes stood gazing down at the two
paragraphs that could be read in one.

"That's the bit I didn't know," he said, with such satisfaction that he
seemed to be taking credit for his ignorance. "Good Lord, what a ramp! If
I'd had the courage of my convictions I'd have taken Wells yesterday."

"Wells? Did he commit the murder?"

"Both of 'em," said Bourke. "He's probably committed a dozen. Most big
murderers do, and I hand it to Wells--he's big."

"Have you arrested him?"

He shook his head.

"Are you going to?"

He shook his head again.

"But why not?" she asked, staggered.

"Because," said Mr. Bourke oracularly, "there's nothing that a judge and a
hangman can do that Mrs. Untersohn hasn't already done."

He felt his arm gripped and put out his hand to hold her.

"Steady, my young friend," he said in his rumbling, kindly way.

"Is he--dead?" she whispered.

Bourke nodded. "Shot dead."

"I heard--the shots. And it was Mrs. Untersohn--you're sure?"

"Absolutely. She had the pistol in her hand when she came downstairs, and
she hasn't been a bit reticent about it. A German pistol, a very
interesting exhibit."

Donald Wells dead! It was incredible. He had been there that afternoon,
standing where the detective was standing. She shook her head.

"I can't believe it."

It was at this point that Peter came in. He looked askance at the
detective, scarcely looked at his wife at all. "Did you enjoy your walk?"
asked Mr. Bourke calmly.

"Yes." The answer was curt and did not encourage further questioning.

"Cab driver managed to get out of London, I suppose?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"I just wondered," said Bourke. And then: "What I've got to say I'm going
to say before your wife, Clifton. Some time ago you offered me a lot of
money and I refused it. I told you that no man could serve two masters,
and that was a trite sort of thing to say, but, like all trite things,
true. Since then I've been serving three and I find they're rather a lot.
I haven't any conscience but I've a very strong sense of duty; and
because I've a strong sense of duty I'm handing in my resignation to the
Chief Commissioner tonight--don't interrupt me except to say 'Hear, hear.’
It will make a little difference to my pension. I'm going to tell you
that I can't afford to drop even a pound a week. I've been living in
daily dread that somebody,  Rouper or another clever lad, would find out
what I've been doing, in which case I should have left the Yard without
any pension and had twelve months in Wormwood Scrubbs thinking over what
might have been. But I'm lucky, just as you're lucky, Clifton; and if you
send me a handsome present the day I leave the Yard, I'm warning you that
I shall accept it. I'm not asking for it: in a sense I'm entitled to it.
I've no false shame, no false modesty, no false anything, but, as I say,
I can't; serve two masters, and that's why I'm clearing out of the Yard!"

"You shall have--" began Peter fervently. Mr. Bourke raised his hand.

"Don't mention the sum: it might make me lightheaded," he said. "I did
think of offering you my services as a minder, but I've got an idea that
you've married a lady who can look after you very well indeed. With these
few words I'll take my leave."

"Why are you doing this?" asked Peter. "You never gave me any warning. I
know I might have ruined your career, but now--"

"It's the cab driver and not being able to talk about him that's made me
decide," said Bourke cryptically.

For a long time after he had gone neither spoke. "I'm sorry I didn't
answer you when you called to me," said Peter at last, "but the fact is--"

"Please don't talk about it," she said. And then, for some astounding
reason, they drifted into a discussion of trivialities: the layout of Le
Touquet, the horses that Peter was going to buy at the December sales.
They were drifting towards a state of mental exhaustion when Bourke
returned.

"Sorry to bother you." He was profusely apologetic, which meant that he
had every reason for coming back. "I've found the missing sheets."

"Radlow's?" asked Peter quickly.

"That's right."

He produced from his hip pocket a paper folded in four, and neither Peter
nor the girl asked where they had been procured. Too well they knew that,
two hours before, they had been in Donald Wells's pocket.

He handed them to Peter, who read in silence. The first two pages told
him what he had discovered that day: the marriage of Alexander Welerson
with his cousin.

"The lady never quite recovered from the death of her husband, and her
own unhappy demise probably did much to bring about Mr. Welerson's
dementia. She was ill for a long time, and it was during that period,
whilst she was yet alive, that in one of those curious fits of mania with
which I as his lawyer have been familiar for many years, he contracted a
marriage with a girl named Untersohn, who had been a cook or a housemaid
in his employ. For two years before his wife's death Alexander Welerson
had been leading this double life, and a child was born to him which I
fear must have inherited the dread malady which brought his father to
ruin. From the first Mr. Welerson was passionately fond of his wife's
little son, and in his sane moments he was in the habit of lamenting to
me the duplicity he was practising. He had made his wife promise that in
no circumstances should the boy believe that he was not his son, and to
this end he charged me that I should keep secret the date of his marriage
and withhold from his son's inspection a copy of the marriage
certificate. I have reason to believe, however, that all these facts were
later in the possession of Basil Hale or Untersohn, who was conducting
investigations on behalf of Dr. Cheyne Wells. Whether or not this is so is
conjectural. I have no exact information on the subject..."

Peter finished reading and handed the paper to the girl by his side.

"My theory is that Wells got to know this statement was going to be made
in writing," said Bourke. "If you remember, somebody called Radlow up at
the house that afternoon. The first time he was sleeping, the second time
he answered himself and was quite under the impression that he was
talking to Peter. The caller was, without any question, Wells himself. As
soon as he knew that the statement was to be made, he improvised his
little plot. He must have been at Longford Manor when he rang up. He
understood Peter's habits; knew all about his practice of smoking
cigarettes when he was travelling alone by car. It was the simplest thing
in the world to dope the cigarettes, and this he did. He was waiting for
him on the road; as soon as he saw the car draw into the side and
stop--Peter would do this mechanically, before he lost consciousness--he
got into the machine, gave him two jabs with the needle,  and drove him
to Sydenham. Remember it was a wet, rainy night, and to make assurance
doubly sure, if he were stopped I by a traffic policeman, I think he
strapped Peter into an upright position. I found the strap on the floor,
you remember, Mrs. Clifton. He went there deliberately to kill the old
man, and to leave Peter to bear the blame. The timing of it, the cunning
of it, were diabolically clever. Probably he expected the statement to be
ready for him. He had warned him that Peter was calling. But he surprised
Radlow in the act of writing and shot him.

"The murder of Hale was probably less premeditated. Hale, by his crazy
conduct, was jeopardizing the great plan, which was to have Peter
certified so that the gang should administer the estate." Bourke shook
his head. "A dazzling scheme! One of the best that's ever been conceived
by the mind of man. I can't leave you this, but you'll probably remember
it."

He folded the paper, put it in his pocket, paused for a moment at the
door and raised his hands.

"That's the last you'll see of me tonight," he said.

Another long period of silence followed his departure. And then Jane took
her courage in both hands, went up behind where Peter was sitting, and
laid her hand on his shoulder.

"Peter," she said, "did my father get away?"

He nodded. "I hope so," he said.

Another little interregnum of quietness, and then: "He was the Clever
One, wasn't he?"

Peter nodded again.

"Yes. I'm sorry, old girl--I knew it, of course, the moment I found those
etchings of mine on the benches by the side of the press. He had
evidently been down to make a printing, put the plates on the bench and
had forgotten them; and when I accidentally found the room and saw those
plates I nearly swooned."

She did not answer, but he sought for her hand and held it.

"He is brilliant; for years he has been building up this organization,
finding his agents through Blonberg, who was a blind. As a moneylender he
got into touch with queer people. He knew of Mrs. Untersohn's grievance
when she came to borrow money from him, and got acquainted with Hale in
the same way. And then, by an odd coincidence, Wells found me."

"Who told you all this?" she asked in a low voice.

"He did."

She got up quickly. "I'll be back soon," she said, not looking round.

He waited for an hour before the empty fire-grate, smoking steadily till
the room was a haze of smoke, and at the end of the hour she came back.
She was in her kimono, and he could scarcely see that she had been
weeping.

She perched herself on the arm of his chair, and dropped her head upon
her husband's shoulder.

"Now let's talk about something else," she said.



THE END




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