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Title: Hard Pressed
Author: Fred M. White
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1000451
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2010
Date most recently updated: August 2010

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

Title: Hard Pressed
Author: Fred M. White


CONTENTS

      I A MODERN SPORTSMAN
     II AN UNEXPECTED MEETING
    III A LIVING FORTUNE
     IV A GREAT TEMPTATION
      V THE SHADOW OF DOUBT
     VI A TRIAL SPIN ON THE DOWNS
    VII A LEAF FROM THE PAST
   VIII ROGUES IN COUNCIL 
     IX IN THE TOILS
      X CONFESSION
     XI ON THE EDGE
    XII A LION IN THE PATH
   XIII "AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN"
    XIV THE POST CLUB
     XV JOLLY & CO.
    XVI THE NOOK
   XVII A FAIR DAY'S SPORT
  XVIII AN EVENING VISIT 
    XIX THE EMPTY HOUSE
     XX INSIDE
    XXI THE EAVESDROPPERS
   XXII A SOLDIER OF FORTUNE
  XXIII A CHANGE OF AIR
   XXIV A STRANGE VISITOR
    XXV THE DERELICT
   XXVI A SECOND TRIAL
  XXVII DRIVING IT HOME
 XXVIII HONOUR BRIGHT
   XXIX ACTING THE FRIEND
    XXX AN ULTIMATUM
   XXXI A POINT-BLANK REFUSAL
  XXXII AN EASY FALL 
 XXXIII THE FIVE BASKETS
  XXXIV NO. 5
   XXXV A POISONOUS ATMOSPHERE 
  XXXVI FIELDEN INTERVENES
 XXXVII BETWEEN TWO FIRES
XXXVIII LOOSENING THE GRIP
  XXXIX A DRAMATIC EXIT 
     XL CAUGHT! 
    XLI HOME AGAIN
   XLII FIRST PAST THE POST

*

CHAPTER I

A MODERN SPORTSMAN


It was a gala night at the National Opera House, and the theatre was
crammed from floor to roof, for Melba was sustaining a new part, and all
London had gathered to listen. It was rarely indeed that so fashionable
an audience assembled in February. The boxes were ablaze with diamonds.
On the grand tier, however, there was one box which was not filled with
gaily garbed women and which attracted attention by the fact that its
sole occupants were a girl and two men. Though she was quietly dressed
and wore no ornaments except flowers, nevertheless a good many women
envied May Haredale; for the box belonged to Raymond Copley, who was
quite the last thing in the way of South African millionaires. He was a
youngish, smart-looking Englishman of the florid type, was becoming
known as a sportsman and, according to all accounts, was fabulously
rich. He was supposed to have discovered diamonds in Rhodesia, a stroke
of fortune which put him in a position, it was alleged, practically, to
dictate terms to the De Beers Company, and those "in the know" in the
City declared he had come out of a negotiation for amalgamation with two
millions of money in his pocket.

Be that as it may, he had purchased a fine old estate within twenty
miles of London, and lavished large sums upon his racing stud, and
people began to court his acquaintance. He was on very friendly terms
with his near neighbour, Sir George Haredale, of Haredale Park, which
accounted for the fact that the Baronet and his only daughter were
availing themselves of Copley's hospitality that evening.

May Haredale ought to have been enjoying herself. She did not have many
opportunities for pleasures of this kind, for, sooth to say, Sir George
Haredale was a poor man. He had a constant struggle to keep up
appearances, and most of his friends wondered how he managed to pay the
expenses of his racing stable. But the Haredales had been kings of the
turf for a hundred years or more, and Sir George clung desperately to
this last vestige of the family greatness. The whole estate was going to
rack and ruin, the gardens and grounds were neglected, the
conservatories were empty, the carpets and old furniture were faded and
worn. But the stables left nothing to be desired. How near they were to
the verge of collapse only Sir George himself knew.

He had few rich and influential friends. He did not care for moneyed
men, as a rule, and so the old county families were surprised to see the
intimacy that had grown up between him and Raymond Copley. They
professed not to understand it, but one or two shrewd observers declared
that May Haredale was at the bottom of it, and that Copley was over head
and ears in love with the girl.

It would have been strange were it otherwise. She was just the sort of
girl to attract a man like Copley. She was tall, well formed and
exceedingly pretty, though cold and haughty at the mere suggestion of a
liberty.

What she thought of Copley she had never been heard to say. She had not
many friends in her own circle. She was perfectly happy and contented so
long as she had a good horse and the promise of a day with the hounds.
Most people deemed her rather distant and reserved, but a few hinted
that May Haredale could be chummy enough when she chose. Others,
however, had noticed a great change in the girl during the past two
years. There was a time when she had been one of the merriest madcaps,
and then, all at once, she seemed to grow up and become staid and
dignified. And it was not altogether the weight of family trouble which
bore her down, for, as a matter of fact, she had no idea how desperate
Sir George's fortunes were.

She appeared on friendly terms with Copley, but, though for the past
twelve months he had been a familiar visitor at Haredale Park, he did
not think that he was making much progress in her good graces. Clever as
he was, the girl managed to keep him at a distance without wounding his
pride, and as time went on he found himself more and more infatuated
with May Haredale.

He belonged to the class of man who never counts the cost of anything
and is ready to go any lengths in the pursuit of a fancy. He thought he
had been extremely patient, and told himself earlier in the evening that
before the week was out things would have to be settled one way or the
other. And he was not without weapons, either. Sir George could have
unfolded a tale in that respect had he chosen to do so. The Baronet was
proud, but there are times when pride has to take a second place, and
such a crisis in his affairs had arrived. May would have been surprised
to learn that Copley could at any moment sell the old home over their
heads and turn them out to shift as best they might.

She sat with her face on her hand, looking at the stage, but she was not
listening to Melba's marvellous voice. Her mind had gone back to a
somewhat similar scene two years ago when she was last in the same opera
house. How different things had seemed then! How much happier she had
been in those days! She roused herself presently to find that Copley was
addressing her.

"Oh, I beg pardon," she said. "I suppose the singing carried me away.
What were you saying?"

Copley uttered something appropriate. There was a hard look in his eyes
as he took in the details of May's fresh beauty. She was just the wife
for him. She had a fine appearance and good breeding and would take him
into certain houses the _entrée_ of which had as yet been denied him.
They were going on afterwards to supper at the Carlton, and before he
slept that night Copley would know his fate; indeed, he knew it already.
He had a kind of instinct that May disliked him. But that, after all,
was a small matter. When she learned the truth there would be no
alternative. That her dislike might turn into hatred mattered nothing to
Copley. He bent down already with an air of possession which brought a
faint flush into May's cheeks. She was feeling rebellious.

"You are enjoying it?" he asked.

"Oh, yes. I should be a strange creature if I didn't. I have so few
treats like this."

"Isn't that your own fault?" Copley returned. "Surely, you must know
that if you only liked to say the word----"

A sudden outburst of applause drowned the rest of his speech, but to all
intents May heard everything that he had to say. She blamed herself that
she had not shown this man earlier that her feelings towards him were
merely conventional. And now she would have to make up her mind one way
or the other. Copley stood with a smile upon his face, evidently very
sure of his ground. A longing to get away, to be alone with herself,
came over May Haredale. In a way she was grateful to Copley for saying
no more. She was glad when the performance was over and they began to
move towards the stairs. Here a stranger bustled up and touched Copley
on the arm. As he turned to the intruder his face changed. May thought
he looked almost alarmed, but it was a trifle and she only noticed it
vaguely. The recollection was to come back to her later.

"One moment, Sir George," Copley said. "Would you mind waiting for me in
the vestibule? It is a little business affair which won't detain me five
minutes."

Sir George passed on with his daughter, leaving the two men together.
Copley turned sharply round upon his companion.

"Now what is it?" he asked curtly.

"Oh, I thought you would like to know," the other said. "I only got back
last night. The first man I met this morning in the City was Aaron
Phillips."

"You don't mean that," Copley exclaimed.

"I do, indeed. It is a thousand pities I haven't managed to find you
before to-day. I have been chasing you from place to place in the most
maddening fashion. However, Phillips is here, and so I thought I would
come and warn you. No, no, I have made no mistake."

"But the thing is impossible, Foster. You know as well as I do that
Phillips was killed----"

"Well, so we imagined. Anyway, the beggar's back again, and there's no
getting away from it. And if he is allowed to talk, and we don't square
him----"

"Square him! Why, it would cost half a million!"

"Well, suppose it does. Won't it be cheap at the price? Wouldn't it be
better for us to plank that money down than be standing in--but you know
what I mean. It's a most infernal piece of ill luck, but, after all,
your position is by no means a bad one. You go everywhere, you are
eagerly sought after. Besides, who is to know whether you are a
millionaire or a pauper? You've got the reputation of being a rich man,
and with brains like yours----"

"I can't stop now," Copley said hurriedly. "I have some people supping
with me at the Carlton, and it is impossible to put them off."

The other man grinned.

"I understand," he said. "I guessed who the lady was. I'll come round to
your rooms at half-past twelve or a quarter to one, and then we can talk
the thing over quietly. You can see for yourself that the matter won't
keep."




CHAPTER II

AN UNEXPECTED MEETING


Meanwhile, Sir George and his daughter were waiting impatiently for
Copley. As they stood, the fashionable stream hurried by them. The road
outside was crammed with cabs and 'buses and motors, for all the
theatres were discharging their audiences. The street was one seething
mass when Copley joined his friends. They pressed together towards the
pavement, and Copley could scarcely conceal his annoyance that his car
was not in attendance. He supposed there was some misunderstanding and
suggested that it would save time if they took a cab.

"We might have some difficulty in getting two cabs," he said. "One of us
had better walk."

"I'll walk," Sir George answered. "I haven't had any exercise to-day,
and it will give me an appetite for supper."

May looked up vaguely alarmed. She had no fancy for a drive to the
Carlton in the company of Raymond Copley.

"Wouldn't it be better to walk along till we come to the end of the
street?" she proposed. "There would be more chance of getting a cab when
we are out of the crush."

Without waiting for a reply she stepped on to the pavement. In his
aggressive way Copley elbowed a clear path. The road seemed to be fuller
than ever of vehicles. Then there rose the quick cry of a woman's voice,
the sound of clashing metal, and before any one could realize it two
motors had overturned. Instantly all was confusion, and five minutes
later May found herself on the other side of the street alone and
presenting a somewhat conspicuous figure in her evening dress and cloak.

She was not frightened or alarmed. She had too much pluck and courage
for that. She thought the best thing would be to turn down this dark
side street and make her way to the Haymarket.

She walked quietly and fearlessly along, the road getting narrower as
she went. She passed one or two men who made audible remarks upon her
appearance, but she did not heed them. And, then, almost before she knew
what had happened, a man by her side began to pester her with remarks
which brought the blood flaming to her face. That the nighthawk was not
sober did not tend to improve the situation.

She looked about for some one to appeal to, and with sudden thankfulness
heard steps hurrying behind. Next moment she saw her tormentor lying on
his back in the gutter with another man standing over him.

"I am glad to be of assistance to you," the stranger said. "If you will
allow me to walk with you as far as the corner of the street I will call
a cab. I suppose you got separated from your party and this fellow
followed you."

"That is so," May replied. "I cannot sufficiently thank you."

She paused in the midst of her speech, for her rescuer's face was
shining out clear and distinct in the lamplight. At the same instant the
stranger turned and their eyes met.

"Harry," the girl murmured, "Harry!"

"Well, yes," the stranger laughed awkwardly. "This is rather an
unexpected meeting, isn't it?"

May made no reply at the moment. She was studying her companion
intently. She noticed how white his handsome face was. There was the
suspicion of suffering in his eyes. His dress was neat, but worn and
shabby, and yet there was an unmistakable air about Harry Fielden which
proclaimed that he had been accustomed to better things. He stood
half-defiant, half-smiling, and yet he held up his head as if he had
nothing to be ashamed of.

"Where have you been for the last two years?" May asked.

Harry Fielden shrugged his shoulders.

"It would be difficult to tell," he said. "In the first place, I tried
Australia. But things were worse there than they are here. America I
could not stand at any price; then I went to South Africa, where I
managed to starve. I had one slice of fortune, but was cruelly used by a
man I trusted. And now, if it be possible, I am poorer than ever. I am
trying to get employment at a stud farm or racing stable. It is the only
thing I really know."

May Haredale listened with trembling lips. Raymond Copley would have
been surprised had he seen the expression on her face. He might have
been uneasy, too.

"I am very sorry," the girl remarked. "Oh, my dear boy, how foolish you
have been! To think what you wasted! To think of that beautiful old
house!"

"I try not to think of it," Fielden said. "I was all the fool you took
me for, and worse. It was my misfortune that I had no one to look after
me. When I came into a fine property at the age of twenty-one I had no
knowledge of the world. And every blackguard and sponger who came along
I accepted at his own valuation. Well, it is an old story, May--a fool
and his money are soon parted. But, thank goodness! I never did anything
to be ashamed of. I never wronged man or woman and I pulled up in time
to pay all my debts. There is nothing left now but the old house, and
that I couldn't sell because it is not worth any one's while to buy it.
More for the sake of sentiment than anything else I have managed to pay
my subscriptions to my clubs. I still have the freedom of Tattersall's
and Newmarket, though I have known what it is to sleep out of doors, but
not till this minute did I fully realize what I threw away. Ah, we were
good friends in those days, May."

May Haredale nodded. It was difficult to speak at that moment, for she
and Harry Fielden had been more than friends. They had been brought up
together from childhood, and had been together at many a dance and
tennis party and many a clinking run with the hounds. Nothing had ever
passed between them, but it was a tacit understanding that Fielden and
May Haredale would wait for one another.

When the crash came and Fielden disappeared, May had made no sign, but
from that time she was more sedate and seemed to have left her old life
and spirits behind her.

"I had not forgotten you," she murmured presently. "We must try to do
something for you, Harry. I will speak to father. And then there is Mr.
Copley. He has a fine establishment near us and one of the largest
racing stables in the kingdom. But you don't know him. He is a South
African millionaire who has come into our neighbourhood since your
time."

"Oh, I have met some of them," Fielden said grimly. "They don't think
so much of them out there as folk do at home. I fancy I know the name. I
wonder if it is the same Copley I met on the Rand--but, no, that is out
of the question. So you think he might find me something to do? You
don't know what heartbreaking work it is, seeking occupation and finding
none. And I am anxious to work, goodness knows. I am young and strong,
steady and trustworthy, and there is no man living who knows more about
horses than I do. I wonder if you would mind speaking to this man for
me. I've got no pride now. I have had that knocked out of me. But
perhaps you would not like me to come down into the old neighbourhood
again. You might not care for it."

"Oh, my dear boy," May said reproachfully. "How can you talk like that!
You know that there are some friends who were ready to do anything for
you. But you would not give them a chance. You disappeared without so
much as saying good-bye."

"Well, you can understand my feelings," Fielden answered. "However, I've
got to go down to the old place to-morrow, in any case. There are some
things in the house that I need, and I shall hope to meet Joe Raffle. It
was very good of you to take Joe into your service. It was awfully kind
of your father to buy most of my horses. I hope there is a Derby winner
amongst them."

"We think so," May exclaimed. "We have great hopes of a Blenheim colt.
He hasn't been seen in public since the Middle Park Plate which he won
handsomely enough. We think he is the best horse we ever had, and people
appear to be of the same opinion. If he doesn't win the Derby I don't
know what will become of us. But get Raffle to take you over to Mallow's
to-morrow and he will show you the colt. It's only a matter of a few
hundred yards, as you will recollect, from our lodge gates to Mallow's
stables. Mallow is only a small trainer, but he suits us and is not
expensive. I wish you would stay down for a day or two. We shall be back
to-morrow night, and my father will be disappointed if he doesn't see
you. And now, really----"

"I am sorry," Fielden said. "I have no right to keep you talking here.
Come along and I will get you a cab. And if I can manage to stay at the
old place over to-morrow I will come and see you. How jolly if one of my
colts should win the Derby for Sir George!"

There was a tender smile on May's lips and a dash of colour in her face
as she drove presently to the Carlton. Sir George was waiting with fussy
anxiety. Copley looked disturbed and rather ill-tempered. They accepted
May's explanation. Naturally, they put down her heightened colour and
sparkling eyes to the excitement of her adventure.




CHAPTER III

A LIVING FORTUNE


Harry Fielden would have shirked the visit if he could, but there was
nobody whom he could trust to go down to the old home and procure the
papers he required. He was glad to see Herons Dyke again, but, at the
same time, he was half ashamed to meet the old faces. Many would have
welcomed him gladly, but he had made an utter failure of his life, and
pride stood in the way of meeting these acquaintances.

There was nothing left but the house. Long ago the estate had passed
into the hands of strangers. The stables had fallen into decay. The tan
track round the park was overgrown with weeds and grass. He was
surprised to find himself unrecognized. A dozen people passed him with
no more than a casual glance. He had forgotten that two years' "roughing
it" had changed him from a handsome boy into a stern, resolute man, with
an expression far beyond his age. Even his moustache had altered him. It
was true that May Haredale had recognized him readily enough, but that,
surely, was different.

He would go as far as Haredale Park Farm and look at the horses. He was
all the more ready to do this, because he felt assured he would pass for
a total stranger. It was possible Joe Raffle might identify him, but,
then, the old head groom had known him ever since he could walk. And now
Joe was Sir George Haredale's trusted right-hand man and had been so for
the last eighteen months, since the death of his predecessor. It had
always been a consolation to Fielden to know that Raffle had gone on to
Mallow's, with the stud which had once been his property. They had not
been a very brilliant lot and few of the horses had ever paid for their
keep; but Raffle believed in the Blenheim blood and had always
prophesied that some of the colts would do great things at the proper
time.

Fielden was amused to see the suspicious glances cast at him by more
than one of the lads. Presently Raffle came himself, a short, sturdy
man, bent with age, whitehaired, but with cheeks rosy as a winter apple.
He was about to ask Fielden's business sharply, when his face changed
and he led Fielden to one side. The old man was moved and with
difficulty held his voice steady, but his keen blue eyes gleamed with
pleasure.

"I never expected to see this day, Master Harry," he said. "And one of
those lads wanted to order you off the premises. Just think of it! And
they told me you were dead. I met a man in London who said he knew for
a fact that you were drowned in the Modder in South Africa."

Fielden's face grew stern for a moment.

"Your friend wasn't far wrong, Joe," he said grimly. "It was a near
thing. But that is too long a story to tell now. I came down on
business, and I don't know whether I was glad or sorry to find that no
one recognized me."

"Miss May would have been glad to see you," Raffle said.

"Oh, we have already met. That was an accident, too. I told her I was
coming to-day, and she gave me a cordial invitation to look at the
horses. I couldn't resist a chance like that. Well, Joe, I hope that Sir
George has done better with the Blenheim stock than I did. I understand
he didn't give much for them. I am told he bought the whole lot, lock,
stock and barrel, for a bagatelle. And now they say there is a Derby
winner amongst them. Is that a fact, Joe? Or is it one of the fairy
tales one is always hearing in regard to turf matters?"

Raffle lowered his voice impressively.

"It is no fairy tale, Mr. Harry," he said. "Barring accidents, we are
going to win the Derby this year with a colt locally bred and locally
trained. It is a Blenheim colt, too, and if you hadn't been unfortunate
he would have been yours. He's only once been seen in public yet, and
nobody but ourselves knows what he can do. Still, people will get
talking and our horse stands at a short price in the betting."

"I am glad to hear it," Fielden said heartily. "I am especially glad to
hear it for Sir George's sake. You know almost as much about the family
as I do. You know what Sir George could do with the money. We don't want
to gossip, but I know Sir George is a good master to you and that his
interests are yours."

"That's true, Mr. Harry. I'd do anything for Sir George, who has been a
rare good master to me. But he ain't you, sir, and he ain't the old
squire, either. You see, I served under a Fielden from the time I was
ten years old till I was close on seventy, and it was a bit of a wrench
leaving Herons Dyke. And when I heard you were dead, it seemed to me,
sir, that I had nothing else left to live for. I ain't one to show my
feelings much, sir, but when I saw you in the yard just now I could have
burst out crying like a kid. You ought never to have gone away, sir. You
ought to have stayed here and faced it out. But, perhaps, you did well
in South Africa. Maybe you have come back with a fortune. I'd like to
hear you say so."

"I think I am rather worse off than when I went out," Fielden smiled. "I
had a fortune in my grasp, but was robbed by a pair of murderous
scoundrels, who will have something to answer for later. And now, take
me round and show me the horses. Let me see this Blenheim colt of which
such great things are expected."

Raffle led the way across the fields to the neat yard along the range of
stables where Mallow trained for a small owner or two. Whatever the
condition of the house and grounds, there was nothing lacking in the
stables. They came at length to a loose box a little apart from the
rest, and Raffle stripped the clothing off a great raking chestnut
horse, showing a skin like satin gleaming in the sunlight. The
expression on Raffle's face was almost motherly. His eyes shone as he
laid his hand upon the horse's glossy neck.

"There," he said proudly, "look at that! You are most as good a judge of
a horse as I am, tell me if he doesn't look all the way a Derby winner.
Just cast your eye over those shoulders, look at those quarters. And a
real tryer he is, too, and as good-tempered as a lamb. I always knew we
should do great things some day with one of the Blenheim colts, but I
never expected anything quite as good as this."

A quarter of an hour later the two left the box. So far as Fielden could
see, Raffle had not overestimated the chances of the Blenheim colt. If
everything went well for the next three months, Sir George's fortunes
would be restored and there would be no more poverty at Harefield Park.

Fielden was extravagant in his praise, but there was no answering
enthusiasm upon Raffle's part. He was moody and thoughtful. There was
something almost guilty in the glance that he turned upon Fielden.

"What's the matter?" the latter asked.

"No man ever yet did a foolish thing without being found out," Raffle
muttered. "Let's walk across the park where we can be alone, because
there is something I must say to you. If you hadn't turned up yet, Mr.
Harry, it would have been all right, but seeing you have turned up, why,
it's all wrong and I am bound to tell you. When you went away, you left
your affairs in a muddle. There was money coming to you from
Weatherby's, though perhaps you didn't know it, and up to this year they
have kept up your subscriptions to one or two races, the Derby amongst
others. Oh, I knew it, and I am going to tell you now why I kept the
knowledge to myself. The year you went away so sudden you nominated more
than one colt for the Derby and, of course, the money was all right.
Well, after you disappeared and they said you was dead, nothing seemed
to matter and I thought no more about things. Sir George took over your
'osses, and it was only when this Blenheim colt began to shape so well
that I began to ask myself a few questions. It was easy to bamboozle Sir
George, because he is the worst man of business in the world. And I can
prove every bit of it, sir; I can prove every word I am saying. And
therefore it comes about that this Blenheim colt--this one that's going
to win the Derby--belongs to you, or at any rate he was nominated in
your name, which comes to the same thing. I daresay you will ask me why
I have done this, and why I kept the secret, and I'll tell you. I really
did it for the sake of Miss May. I would do anything for her, anything
to put Sir George on his legs again. You see, I thought you was dead and
out of the way and, after all said and done, I was doing nobody any harm
by keeping my mouth shut. And yet now you have come back home again I
feel a bit of a scoundrel."

"It seems incredible," Fielden exclaimed; "it is a strange discovery for
a pauper to make."

"Well, sir," Raffle said doggedly, "there it is, and this wonderful
chance is entirely in your own hands, pauper or no pauper."




CHAPTER IV

A GREAT TEMPTATION


As yet Fielden could not realize it. The thing was so unexpected he
found it hard to grasp Joe Raffle's meaning. He was too conventional to
have much imagination. He had not thought it possible that fortune could
have devised a method of restoring his old prosperity. But after the
first shock of discovery it seemed feasible. Similar things had happened
before, though, perhaps, not exactly on lines such as these.

And now the position of things as they were at the time he left was
coming back to him. He had a vivid recollection of the night when he
first stood face to face with ruin, when he knew that he had come to the
end of his tether. For Harry Fielden had not drifted into a mess with
his eyes shut. He had known that things were getting desperate and had
staked pretty well everything on a certain race and his horse had lost.
When things came to be settled up there was just enough to pay his
creditors in full. He recalled how he sat down one night with pencil and
paper and worked out the whole thing fairly and squarely. He had had
friends to dinner that evening. It was daybreak before the last hand had
been played and Fielden found himself alone to face the dreaded
disaster.

How clearly it all returned to him now! He had not felt disposed to
sleep, but had gone up to his room in the silent house and refreshed
himself with a bath and changed his clothes, after which he had come
down to the dining-room again. He had thrown back the curtains and
opened the windows to admit the sunshine of a perfect day--the day of
his ruin!

But he had done nothing to be ashamed of. He had not disgraced himself,
and no friend or tradesman was the poorer for his rashness. So leaving
his affairs to the family solicitors, he quietly vanished from the scene
of his folly.

He did not know then--indeed, he did not know fully now--that out of a
sum of money waiting at his banker's his various subscriptions and
racing liabilities were being paid, for it had never occurred to him to
withdraw the various orders he had given to his banker.

Obviously Joe Raffle was speaking the truth as to the Blenheim colt,
though the other part of the business still remained a mystery. But if
he could believe his ears aright, then at that moment he was not an
outcast and pauper, but one of the most envied men who had ever set foot
upon a racecourse. At the lowest estimate, he was worth five thousand
pounds. He could sell the Blenheim colt with all his engagements for
such a figure before the day was out. He might return to the old house
and restore some of its glories. He might have enough to keep him
comfortably, and, above all, acquire a position that would entitle him
to go to Sir George Haredale and ask for the hand of his daughter.

This was all very well from one point of view, but there was another
side. His prosperity would be Sir George's ruin. Still, the temptation
was dazzling, and for a few minutes Fielden was afraid to trust himself
to words.

"You have done very wrong, Raffle," he said presently.

Joe scratched his head contritely.

"I know it, sir," he admitted. "I didn't realize how wrong I had behaved
till I saw you come in the stable yard, and you could have knocked me
down with a feather. But what else could I do? You had gone away and I
heard you were dead. I had to believe it, because the man who told me
gave me chapter and verse for it, and I felt as if I had lost a child of
my own. By-and-by I was comfortably settled in Sir George's employ,
having as much money as I needed for my wants, and never, so far as I
knew, a single relation in the world. I said nothing about the colt,
because I hadn't much opinion of it at first. Then I began to get as
fond of Miss May as I used to be of you, sir. An idea came to me one
night when I was sitting over my pipe--and, bear in mind, nobody else
knew--and that was that, bar accidents, I had a Derby winner in the
stable. For Miss May's sake I was willing to do much. There was no
chance of anybody finding it out. And, after all, I was doing nothing
wrong. You see, in the first place, nobody will be a penny the worse. As
to Sir George and yourself, there is no reason why you shouldn't make a
large fortune. It makes no difference to me, of course; I am long past
troubling about that sort of thing. But now that I know you are alive it
is another matter. Still, the colt's keep hasn't been much, and it's
only a matter of luck that he don't happen to belong to Sir George.
Besides, Sir George is expecting to win a fortune, and he is not the man
to grudge you your share. You will have to tell him what I've told you,
sir, and if Sir George wants proofs I shall have them ready when the
time comes."

"Nobody knows anything of this?" Fielden asked.

"Not a soul, sir," Raffle said solemnly. "Nobody even guesses it, and if
you hadn't turned up I should have gone down to my grave with the secret
unspoken. Because, as I said before, sir, there's no harm done, and
nobody any the worse. But, seeing that you have come back, why, the
truth must be told."

"And what will Miss Haredale say?" Fielden asked.

Raffle's face paled perceptibly.

"Ah, well, sir," he said, "that won't be very pleasant. I'd do anything
in the world for Miss May, but she isn't you, and that makes a
difference. Of course, I know what you would do if you had your own way.
You would just say nothing about it and let Sir George put the money in
his pocket. You would rather starve than do anything you didn't consider
right. I can see it in your face now, I can tell by your eyes. But it
isn't going to be, sir. You'll excuse me for speaking so plainly, but I
couldn't rest comfortably in my grave if I thought you were in want,
when, by every right, you ought to have a fortune in your pocket. It's
no use you arguing, Mr. Harry, if you don't tell the truth, I shall."

The old man's voice shook strangely as he spoke. His lips were
quivering, but there was an air of determination about him which there
was no mistaking. Nobody knew better than Fielden how obstinate Joe
Raffle could be. There was nothing to gain by threats, and sternness
would be worse than useless.

"I am certain you have acted for the best," Fielden said soothingly.
"And, as you say, there is nothing wrong in this little scheme of
yours. Why, you might have kept the colt yourself and made a fortune
over him. But, to use a pet expression of your own, my dear Joe, what
you have told me has knocked me all of a heap. I must have time to think
it over. I should be sorry to spoil an interesting situation like this
by doing anything rash. Besides, there is plenty of time between now and
the Derby--pretty well three months, isn't it? Has the colt any other
engagements before Epsom?"

"Only two," Raffle explained. "And then he'll be an eye-opener to some
people. Now don't you do anything foolish, sir. If you go the right way
about it you've got a hundred thousand pounds in your pocket."

"Oh, I'll do nothing rash," Fielden laughed. "You needn't be afraid of
that. But I must have time to think this matter over. I shall stay down
here a day or two, though I had intended to go back to London to-morrow.
I don't mind so much now that I find nobody identifying me, and there
are several things at the house I want to gather together. I had no idea
the old furniture was left. I suppose they didn't sell it because they
had no instructions from me, and enough was saved from the wreck to pay
my creditors without it. I'll come round in the morning and see you
again, Joe. To-night I believe I am dining with Sir George. If anybody
asks you who I am, you had better say my name is Field; it sounds like
Fielden and is easy to remember. Seeing that I am so changed, nobody
will connect me with the old family. Now I must be off."

In a thoughtful mood Fielden turned towards the old house. He was glad
no one recognized him, for the knowledge was likely to make his task all
the easier. He had the key of the house in his pocket. The mansion
appeared to have been left exactly as he last saw it. There was not even
a caretaker on the premises. The estate around Herons Dyke had long
passed into the possession of strangers. It presented a striking
contrast to the neglected grounds and grass-covered paths which
surrounded the old mansion where, for the last three hundred years, the
Fieldens had kept open house and dispensed a lavish hospitality. But
those days were gone for ever, they would never come back again, unless,
perhaps----

"What a chance!" Fielden muttered to himself. "What a wonderful stroke
of fortune! And yet, I don't see how I can do it. There is no honourable
course but silence."




CHAPTER V

THE SHADOW OF DOUBT


There were many things in the place which Fielden had forgotten. Here
were boxes of cigars and cigarettes, while cards still lay scattered
about and the glasses had not been removed. Fielden had learnt much in
the hard school of adversity, and he began to realize that he had about
him the means to secure a considerable sum of money. Despite the dust
and gloom and air of decay, the library was intact. Fielden was
surprised at this, for he had frequently heard his father say that the
books were valuable. Perhaps it had occurred to nobody to look for rare
books in the house of a man who gave himself over entirely to sport, but
here they were and possibly a little later they might appear to
advantage in a London auction-room. Fielden was not so sanguine as he
once had been, but at a modest computation he thought they would fetch
at least a thousand pounds.

He went up to his bedroom and began idly turning out the drawers. At any
rate he would be able to cut a presentable appearance at Haredale Park.
He might venture in the open, too, for it was nearly dark. The lights of
Haredale gleamed hospitably as he walked up the drive. He had had no
formal invitation, nothing save May Haredale's suggestion, but he knew
Sir George well enough to be sure of his reception.

It all looked strangely familiar as the butler opened the door and asked
his name. Fielden knew the butler's face well, but it was plain the
latter did not recognize him. Yes, Sir George and Miss Haredale were at
home. They had arrived from London late in the afternoon, but, so far as
the butler knew, did not expect any guest. Still, so many people came
and went to that hospitable house that the advent of a stranger caused
no surprise in the butler's mind.

"If you will give me your name, sir," he suggested.

"Oh, tell Miss Haredale that Mr. Field is here. She expects me,
because----"

Fielden broke off suddenly, for May Haredale came across the hall at
that moment. She smiled a welcome and held out her hand. She dismissed
the butler, after giving instructions to him to take the visitor's bag
upstairs.

"I was almost afraid you wouldn't come," she said. "I feared you would
be too proud or something equally absurd."

"I plead guilty," Harry Fielden smiled. "Really I don't think I should
have had courage to come, only I found that not a soul knew me with the
exception of Joe Raffle. I have passed a score of people to-day whom I
know intimately. But it is just as well, May. Why, even Mason, your
butler, looked at me as if I were a perfect stranger."

"But I recognized you," May said quietly.

"Ah, you recognized me, and I was glad of that. I don't think I can tell
you how happy that made me. When we met in London I felt for the first
time for more than two years that I was not alone in the world. It makes
one hard and bitter to be always amongst strangers who care nothing for
one, to feel that if one dropped dead in the street no one would feel
even a pang of regret. But I ought not to be talking like this. There is
one thing I am going to ask you and Sir George, and that is, to keep my
identity a secret. It is possible I may be here a good deal off and on,
and that is why I am going to drop the last two letters of my name and
call myself Field."

It was with mixed feelings that Fielden stood by his dressing-table
adjusting his black evening tie an hour later. His surroundings were
bringing back his boyhood's associations vividly, every object was
growing familiar. It was just the same when he came down to the
drawing-room and found Sir George waiting him.

Here was a change, at any rate. Those around him daily might not have
seen much difference, but to Fielden Sir George had grown old and bent.
There were lines of care about his eyes and his manner was painfully
nervous. In this old man there was no suggestion of one of the finest
sportsmen and most fearless riders in the county. Fielden had learnt
much in the light of bitter experience. He knew great mental anxiety
when he saw it, and he needed no one to tell him that he was face to
face with it now. But Sir George's welcome was hearty. The ring in his
voice and the pressure of his hand left nothing lacking in the way of
sincerity.

"Ah, my boy, this is an unexpected pleasure," he said. "I don't think
you really know how glad I am to see you. You are almost the only one of
the old stock left except ourselves. One by one they have passed away,
and of the score of houses where I used to go as a boy there isn't one
to-day which is not inhabited by new people. Most of them are sportsmen
of a sort, but they haven't the old feeling for it. Well, perhaps I am a
bit old-fashioned. And how you have changed! I give you my word for it,
I should not have known you from Adam. Yet it seems only the other day
that you came into one of the finest properties and proceeded to get rid
of it after the manner of your kind. How we missed you! But it is no use
crying over spilt milk. I hoped at one time that you and May--God bless
me, what am I talking about! May tells me that you don't want to be
known by your own name, and that we are to speak of you as Mr. Field.
Perhaps it is natural. Now you are here, you had better stay a few days,
and I'll see if I can find something for you to do. A friend of mine
lives close by, Mr. Raymond Copley. He is new since your time, is very
rich, has a fancy to keep a stable, and is looking for some one he can
rely upon to take the entire management. He has had one or two men who
have robbed him. I am sure I can recommend you; with all your folly and
extravagance you never forgot what is due to your name."

"You are very good, sir," Fielden answered. "The post you speak of would
be a perfect boon to me. Besides, it is about the only thing I am
capable of doing properly. But who is Mr. Copley and where did he make
his money?"

"South Africa, I believe. He is a millionaire with a taste for sport,
not exactly what you would call a gentleman, but I believe him to be a
thoroughly good fellow. I don't mind telling you, between ourselves,
that I am under obligations to him. Things haven't gone very well with
me, and I don't know how I should have pulled through if it hadn't been
for Copley. He has been very generous and I only wish May could be more
cordial towards him. I can't think why she doesn't like the man. It
would be a splendid thing for her---- But, there. I am rambling again."

Fielden turned his face aside. He was feeling a strange pain at his
heart which he could not account for. But he understood what Sir George
intended to convey. Beyond all doubt, Sir George Haredale was under
great obligations to this newcomer and was warning Fielden there must be
no more nonsense between May and himself. He was telling the latter
precisely what his hopes for his daughter were.

Of course there was nothing in it that Fielden could resent. He had had
his opportunity and deliberately lost it. It was only during the last
twenty-four hours that he realized what his feelings towards May were.
If he had not been a fool, he would be rich and prosperous at this
moment, with May for his wife.

The strange sensation was with him all through dinner. He tried in vain
to shake it off. It was not a cheerful meal, on the whole, for every now
and then Sir George lapsed into moody silence and May's gaiety was
fitful. The evening dragged on till ten o'clock before Sir George came
into the drawing-room with slightly flushed face and eyes that were too
bright. May looked anxiously at her father. So here, Fielden thought,
was another skeleton in the closet. The discovery was a fresh stab to
him. His own selfishness and folly were a reproach. It was a relief when
the door bell clanged and the butler announced that Mr. Copley would
like to speak to Sir George.

"Ask him in," Sir George said unsteadily.

Fielden glanced at May. He could see that her face had changed slightly
and her eyes grown hard and cold. Then the door opened and Copley came
in, big and self-important, with the air of a man entirely at home.
There was something in his appearance which jarred upon Fielden,
something that aroused a pang beyond mere jealousy. As Copley bent over
May Haredale's hand and murmured something which he intended for a
compliment, Fielden started back for a moment.

"This is my young friend, Mr. Harry Field," Sir George said. "Harry, let
me introduce you to Mr. Copley. I think I have found the very man you
want for your stables, Copley. He is the son of an old pal of mine and
has all the game at his finger-tips."

Copley threw a half-contemptuous glance at Fielden and did not hold out
his hand, for which discourtesy Harry felt grateful.

"Excuse me a moment," Fielden said. "I have forgotten something. I'll be
back presently."

With his head in a whirl Fielden walked into the library. He was
fighting hard for the mastery of himself.

"Good God!" he muttered, "so it's that blackguard! What a blessing he
doesn't know me by sight! Raymond Copley and May Haredale! Not if it
costs me my life!"




CHAPTER VI

A TRIAL SPIN ON THE DOWNS


Harry Fielden spent a sleepless night and was glad when it was time to
come down to breakfast. He congratulated himself upon the way he had
restrained himself on the previous evening. He had even forced himself
to be polite to Copley, though his one impulse had been to take him by
the throat and choke the life out of him. His very presence in a house
like Haredale Park was an outrage. He wondered what Sir George would say
if he had known the real character of his guest. Possibly Fielden would
have spoken freely, had not he remembered what Sir George had said as to
the relationship existing between himself and Raymond Copley. Plainly
the master of Haredale Park was under the scoundrel's thumb. No doubt he
had lent him money, and probably the price of the assistance was to be
May Haredale's hand. There had been no mistaking Copley's manner towards
her. His air of cool proprietorship had sent the blood humming in
Fielden's head and caused it to tingle in his finger-tips. Harry had to
smile complacently whilst every instinct in his nature was crying out
against the villain's presence. He had only to speak and he knew that
Sir George would do his duty at any cost.

But he dared not speak. He had no desire to ruin the man who had been so
kind to him. It was far better to play a waiting game. But come what
might, May Haredale should never marry that man. Sir George should be
ruined a thousand times over and Haredale Park pass into the hands of
strangers before that catastrophe occurred.

It had been a relief to hear Copley say that he would not be down again
till the end of the week. Therefore he had three days in which to think
of some scheme. It was a bright, fresh February morning, with a touch of
frost in the air, but the diamonds were growing soft and yielding to the
sunshine. May Haredale was in excellent spirits. It was impossible not
to catch the infection of her gaiety. Fielden put trouble on one side.
There would be time for that later, he thought, as they rode out
together over the Downs. They were out again in the afternoon and it was
dark before they returned. It was like old times for Fielden to feel a
good horse under him. The exercise and motion drove all gloomy thoughts
away. Still, from time to time the shadow of distress lay heavily upon
his shoulders.

He strolled round to Mallow's after tea to have a pipe and chat with
Raffle. Everything appeared to be going well, and the old man was in
high glee.

"We shall try the colt at daybreak," he said. "Would you like to come
and have a look, Mr. Harry? I daresay there will be one or two people
about, but I don't think they'll learn much. I've got a plan of my own
on foot, and after to-morrow I shouldn't be surprised if you found the
colt going a little queerly in the betting."

Raffle chuckled as he spoke, but refused to be more explicit.

"Oh, never you mind, sir," he said. "There are some things it is as well
not to talk about. If you like to turn out to-morrow as soon as it is
light, I think I can show you something worth looking at."

Fielden nodded approvingly. He woke fairly early with the pale dull
light of the wintry morning streaming through his window, crept
downstairs into the deserted hall and let himself out by a side door.
The grey mist hanging over the Downs lifted as the sun began to make his
influence felt. A little later Fielden discerned a group of figures
faintly sketched against the skyline, and could see two horses in their
clothing. Then he picked out the form of Joe Raffle. There was a stretch
of turf between two banks of gorse, and the horses began to move along
the flat expanse. Fielden strolled up to the group, and was amused to
see the suspicious glances turned in his direction.

"That's all right, Mr. Mallow," Raffle muttered. "This gentleman is a
friend of mine. Now, sir, will you go on to the top of the Downs and
wait for us by the boundary stone? That will be the winning post. No
reason, I suppose, to ask you if you know which is the colt and which is
the old horse. That's pretty plain even in this light."

"That's right enough," Fielden smiled.

He walked rapidly towards the improvised winning-post, unslung his
glasses and fixed them steadily upon the little specks in the distance.
Presently they made a move in his direction and grew larger as they came
along. Fielden could hear the thud of hoofs upon the turf. Then they
flashed by him, the old horse lengths ahead. It came as a surprise to
the watcher, for he had expected an entirely different result. What was
Mallow doing? What scheme had that wily man in his brain? Fielden
stepped aside into the gorse, so as to be out of the wind which had
already extinguished two matches he had used in his attempt to light a
cigarette. As he stooped, he heard voices from somewhere close by. The
voices carried clear enough in the silence of the spot, and Fielden
could hear every word. With an instinct of caution which he could not
have explained he crouched down behind the thick shelter of a bush.

He thought he had recognized one of the voices and now he felt sure of
it. It was Raymond Copley beyond a doubt. Who the other man was Fielden
had not the slightest idea.

"Now what does that mean?" Copley was asking.

"What does it mean?" the other man exclaimed with a sneer. "Why, it is
as plain as the nose on your face. I felt certain what was going to
happen when I advised you to come here this morning. The boy told me
there was going to be a trial, and I wanted you to see for yourself. You
are always too sanguine in these matters, Copley, and that's a fact. Now
what do you think of the chances of your friend Sir George's colt?"

"I don't know what to say," Copley muttered. "The colt seemed to be
beaten fairly and squarely. I suppose there is no faking about it."

"Faking! Sir George and his trainer between them haven't got brains
enough for that. They belong to the old-fashioned school who pride
themselves upon doing everything above board. And a precious good job
for you and me, because they find the money to keep and train horses and
we sail in when it comes to making a book. Perhaps you're sorry you had
anything on the Blenheim colt."

"Oh, you were quite right to bring me here," Copley replied. "I owe you
one for this day's work. But the worst of it is I have backed that horse
for a big stake, just when I don't know where to turn for ready money.
If anybody knew my present position, a good many people would be anxious
to have an interview with Raymond Copley, the South African millionaire.
Then there's that scoundrel Phillips to be reckoned with. But come
along, let us go before anybody sees us. After breakfast----"

"Breakfast be hanged!" the other man broke out impatiently. "What's the
use of worrying about breakfast with a bit of information like this in
our pockets? The delay of half an hour may make all the difference in
the world. Besides, there may be a dozen other people watching for all
we know."

"Well, what do you suggest?" Copley asked.

"Suggest, who wants to suggest anything? What we have to do is to get
back to your place as soon as possible and take the motor straight to
town. By ten o'clock we can get our commission on the market at our own
price. Then we can have as much breakfast as you like. That's the worst
of you, Copley. You always think everything can wait. Now come on."

The voices died away in the distance, and then Fielden straightened
himself again. He was somewhat mystified by what he had seen. He was
puzzled to know what Joe Raffle and Mallow were driving at. But no doubt
the old man would tell him at the first opportunity. Some clever scheme
was in the wind. It was just possible, too, that Raffle expected that
Copley and his friend would be there. It was more than possible that
Raffle knew the class of scoundrel he had to deal with. The old man was
coming down the wide stretch of turf, and Fielden looked eagerly towards
him. As he vaulted a patch of gorse, his left foot dropped on something
soft, like a bundle, and he was thrown violently to his knees. Then he
turned to find that he had stumbled upon the figure of a man lying at
the foot of the gorse bush, snugly rolled up in a railway rug. Here was
another tout, beyond doubt, another of the hateful tribe which has
always been the detestation of every racing man. Fielden turned upon him
savagely and demanded what he was doing there. He bent over the stranger
threateningly, and the latter rose to his feet.

"Keep your temper," he said. "I'm doing no harm. I'm not the only one
who has earned a bit on the Downs this morning. Hands off, please. Why,
bless my soul! if it isn't Mr. Fielden."

Harry stared in amazement at the mention of his name. For a moment he
did not recognize the dark unshaven features of the man. They seemed
familiar, yet somehow he failed to connect them with time, or space, or
locality.

Then it suddenly came to him.

"Aaron Phillips!" he exclaimed. "Now is it Luck that has sent you here,
or Coincidence?"




CHAPTER VII

A LEAF FROM THE PAST


Aaron Phillips was standing up with something like a smile upon his
face. He was a short, slim person, swarthy and foreign-looking, except
for the pair of keen blue eyes which bespoke the Anglo-Saxon in his
blood. From the roots of his hair across to his left temple was a long,
angry red furrow which looked like a comparatively freshly-healed wound.
As to the rest, he was fairly well dressed, with that indescribable air
of nattiness which usually pertains to those who belong to the _genus_
"horsey."

"Glad to meet you, Mr. Fielden," he grinned.

"I shall be obliged if you won't use that name here," Harry replied.
"For the present my name is Field, and I want you not to forget it. But
how did you manage to get home again? I thought you were dead."

Phillips indicated the scar on his forehead.

"It was a near thing, Mr. Fielden, I beg pardon, Field. It wasn't the
fault of those scoundrels, I can tell you. They left me for dead, and if
I hadn't been picked up by some of the boys I should have died of
starvation on the veldt. As it was, I had a very close shave, and so did
Copley and Foster, for the matter of that. Our friends chased them all
across the Colony and how they managed to escape was a mystery to me.
Still, perhaps it is as well. There are more ways than one of taking
revenge."

The little man's eyes gleamed as he spoke. He glanced meaningly at
Fielden and jingled a few coppers in his pocket.

"Make them pay for it, you mean," Fielden smiled.

"That's it, sir, you've got it first time. Now, as you know perfectly
well, there are a dozen or more people out yonder who would give a good
round sum to have Copley on the end of a rope, or within reach of a
revolver shot. They are not the sort to give information to the police,
because that is not the way we used to do things. Still, if I like to
open my mouth widely enough I could make it deuced hot for Copley & Co.
I could have them conveyed to Cape Town, and it wouldn't take me long to
find evidence enough to give those two chaps ten years on the
Breakwater. Yes, sir, I'd have done it, too, but there's a better way
than that. It took me the best part of a year or more to scrape enough
money together to pay my passage home. I had heard some queer stories
about Copley, and I wanted to find out if they were true. What do I see
when I reach London? Why, Copley with a set of offices in the
city--Copley with a suite of rooms at a palatial hotel--Copley with a
place in the country and a string of race-horses. Oh, I tell you, Mr.
Fielden--Field, I mean--I rubbed my hands when I heard of it. Thinks I
to myself, 'This is a better game than handing Copley over to the South
African police.' I don't quite know yet how Copley has managed it, but
here he is ruffling it with the best, spending money like water, and
going to marry the daughter of a baronet in these parts."

Fielden's face flushed angrily. He winced at this home thrust on
Phillips' part. So already people were coupling May Haredale's name with
Copley. It had not occurred to him that things had gone as far as that.
However, Phillips could not be expected to know this. He was merely
innocently repeating local gossip.

"I suppose you mean to have some of this money?" he asked.

"If you don't mind my using the expression, I am going to blackmail
Copley. I am not afraid of the blackguard here. There is no chance of
his trying on any of his murderous tricks in England. He knows I have
come back, but as yet I have not waited upon him. I have had a hint to
call from Foster, but I am not taking any of that, thank you. You don't
catch me dropping into a police trap with a chance of being prosecuted
and hustled out of the country before I know where I am. When I do
strike it will be in a different way altogether. For the present, I have
been looking around asking questions, because, you see, it will be of
considerable advantage to me to find out where Copley is getting his
money. That he is earning it honestly I don't believe. He couldn't do it
if he wanted to. He is the sort of blackguard who would rather make five
pounds dishonestly than a tenner by legitimate business."

"I suppose you never found those plans?" Fielden asked.

Phillips swore heartily.

"Never, sir," he said. "They were in my portmanteau, as you know. I had
the portmanteau in my possession when those blackguards attacked me, and
they had to levant without it, so closely were they pressed. But when I
was well again I asked for my baggage and no one could tell me what had
become of it. It vanished in a most mysterious manner. If you ask me,
the portmanteau was stolen by one of those thievish Kaffre boys. It
makes me wild when I think of it. Probably it is concealed in a Kaffre
hut. In the old portmanteau is a scrap of paper which is worth hundreds
of thousands to us. I say us, because it is yours just as much as it is
mine. I don't belong to your class, Mr. Fielden, but you played the
game and were always a white man. And if those papers ever do come to
hand, I shall do the fair thing by you. It doesn't follow because I
happen to be the son of a sporting publican that I don't know the
difference between right and wrong. But what's the good of worrying
about that? We shall never see those papers again, and as far as we are
concerned that diamond mine might never have existed. But what are you
doing here?"

"I used to live close by," Fielden explained. "Most of this was once my
property. Sir George Haredale's trainer employs an old servant of mine
and I came out this morning to see that trial. I might ask you the same
question."

Phillips' blue eyes twinkled.

"Bit of a disappointment, wasn't it?" he asked.

"What do you know about it?" Fielden demanded.

"Oh, well, sir, we are not partners in this job, at any rate. If you
like to keep your counsel, I am perfectly willing to keep mine. Old
Raffle is as straight as they make 'em, but he is a downy old fox all
the same, and pretty neatly he drew the feather over Copley's eye this
morning. Oh, yes, I heard all those blackguards had to say; in fact, I
followed them here. I am glad I came, because I heard something that
confirmed my suspicions."

"You mean as to Copley's movements?"

"To be sure. I wanted to know where Copley is getting his money. I know
he isn't paying his tradesmen, but that doesn't matter, for a man with
a reputation for wealth can get as much credit as he likes. But Copley
is flying at high game and must have the command of a good deal of ready
cash. Now where does it come from? What sort of a swindle is on? Why
were they so anxious to watch the trial of the Blenheim colt this
morning? And, by the way, Mr. Fielden, you must give old Raffle a hint
to keep his eye on the stable lads. Somebody has been betraying
confidence. It doesn't matter this time, because Copley was fooled this
morning as easily as if he had been a schoolboy. But I am getting a bit
away from the point. I was going to tell you where Copley got his money.
Well, it's a betting swindle, one of the biggest and most ingenious that
has been attempted on the turf for many a long day. I just heard enough
to put me on the track. But I've my work cut out before I reach the
bottom of it. You have no occasion to love Copley----"

"Indeed, I haven't," Fielden said bitterly. "I have every reason for
disliking the man, every reason for exposing him before Miss--well,
before things have gone too far. If I can help you, I will do so
cheerfully."

"That's right," Phillips said approvingly. "Now where can I see you for
half an hour in the course of the afternoon? We mustn't stay talking
here. There is old Raffle."

Fielden thought it over for a moment or two. He was glad enough to meet
this old South African comrade of his again. In several respects
Phillips was anything but a desirable acquaintance. His upbringing had
been none too strict, but, at the same time, he had a rough code of
honour, and it was one of his proudest boasts that he never forgot a
friend or a favour. Probably he had had his own reasons for leaving
England suddenly, and no doubt those reasons had something to do with
the turf. At any rate, he had a profound and intricate knowledge of
racing matters, and there was no swindle or trick with which he was not
familiar.

"You had better meet me at Heron's Dyke," Fielden said. "You can be
outside in the road about a quarter to five. There is nobody on the
premises. I have the key in my pocket, and I daresay I shall manage to
get a light from somewhere."

Phillips disappeared amongst the high gorse. As Fielden stepped into the
open he saw Raffle looking about for him. There was a shrewd smile on
the old man's face, and he did not appear in the least disconcerted by
the result of the trial.

"Well?" Fielden asked. "What about your Derby winner now?"

Raffle's eye contracted in a wink.

"It's all right, sir," he said. "The trial was a great success. Did you
happen to see anybody in the gorse?"

"Yes," Fielden replied. "I saw Mr. Copley."

"And a friend," Raffle chuckled. "I know all about it. And between you
and me, sir, I got this up for the benefit of Mr. Copley, who is about
the greatest rascal unhanged, and that's saying a good deal. It was high
time you came back."




CHAPTER VIII

ROGUES IN COUNCIL


Raffle strode sturdily along, refusing to say another word. What
deep-laid schemes the old man had in his mind Fielden could only faintly
guess. At any rate it was good to know that Raffle was satisfied, and
that some careful plan was afoot with a view to Copley's discomfiture.

"Perhaps you are wise to keep your own counsel," Fielden said. "But I've
learnt something this morning, too, Raffle. There is somebody in the
stable who is disclosing secrets, and the sooner you know it the
better."

"I know it already," Raffle grinned. "It is all part of the scheme. They
have got hold of one of the boys, and I am watching him carefully. I let
him take away just as much information as I like. Don't you worry about
me, Mr. Harry. I haven't been at this game for fifty years without
learning a thing or two. I have always made it a rule to go straight
myself, but that is no reason why I should keep my eyes closed to the
doings of other people."

"Quite right," Fielden said approvingly. "But what do you know about
Mr. Copley? He is a stranger in these parts."

"That may be, sir, but he is no stranger to me. I never forget a face,
and I've been on every racecourse in the country during the last five
and twenty years. The first time I saw Mr. Copley, he was being shown
round the stables by Sir George. I didn't like him, and I didn't like
his manner, and thinks I to myself, 'I wonder where I've seen _you_
before?' Suddenly there flashes into my mind a little incident that
happened at Lincoln. I can see it as plain as I can see this book in my
hand. And then I knew that Mr. Copley, the African millionaire, was one
and the same with the welsher that I had seen half killed at Lincoln a
good many years ago. Well, it wasn't for me to say anything about it,
because I can find you a score of men to-day, rich and prosperous men,
who started life amongst the scum of the racecourse. I have been making
a few inquiries amongst my old pals, and it is just as I expected. Mr.
Copley may be a rich man now, but he is just as big a scamp as ever he
was, and Sir George ought to know it. I tell you, Mr. Harry, it fairly
makes my blood boil to see that blackguard swaggering about here and
hanging around Miss May as if she belonged to him. It fair spoils my
enjoyment and my food, it does. But you see how difficult it is for a
man in my position to interfere. But your case is different."

Fielden shook his head sadly. His case was very different indeed. More
and more bitterly did he blame himself for the heedless, senseless folly
which had brought him to his present pitch. How changed things might
have been if he had only shown ordinary prudence! What would he gain if
he went to Sir George with these vague stories about Copley? He could
not doubt but that Sir George was deeply in Copley's debt, and that
Copley had brought this about so that, when the time came, he could
force May to marry him. These painful thoughts were uppermost in his
mind as he strode back to the house. He could not shake them off, though
May rallied him on his quietness and offered him the proverbial penny
for his thoughts.

"I know what is the matter," she said gaily. "You are fretting because
you have nothing to do. But that won't be for long. Do you know that we
are dining with Mr. Copley to-night, and that you have been included in
the invitation? Mr. Copley telephoned from London this morning, and you
were especially mentioned by name. I am sure if I put in a word for you
the post will be as good as yours. Before long you will be occupying an
important place in the racing world, and the rest is in your own hands.
You have the consolation, too, of knowing that no one has recognized
you."

It was on the tip of Fielden's tongue to refuse. It was repugnant to his
instincts to take service with a man like Copley. Yet, on the other
hand, it was fair enough to fight this fellow with his own weapons.
Through him Fielden had lost the chance of his lifetime. But for him and
his rascally associates, Fielden and Phillips would have been rich men
to-day. Moreover, if something were not done speedily, a fate which was
worse than death awaited May Haredale. To turn his back upon a chance
like this would be to precipitate the very calamity which he was most
anxious to avert. Copley was the type of strong man who always gets his
way. He was not the least scrupulous as to his methods, and Sir George
Haredale was bound to him hand and foot. It would be far better to seize
this coign of vantage, especially as Copley had not the smallest idea of
the bitter enemy he was maintaining under his roof.

Meanwhile, Copley and his friend Foster had returned from town. They
reached Copley's establishment, Seton Manor, just before dark. They had
not lost any time. Apparently they had done their work fairly well, for,
according to the late evening papers, the Blenheim colt had receded
steadily in the betting. People were asking themselves what had
happened. Most of the public knew and respected Sir George Haredale. Not
the faintest shadow rested on his reputation, and this fact had had
somewhat of a steady effect on the market. But though a certain division
had rushed in at these improved prices to back their fancy, there
seemed to be an unlimited amount of money ready to be laid against the
horse. At any rate, Copley was fairly satisfied. He had invested several
thousand pounds against the Blenheim colt, which, in his opinion, was
already as good as out of the running altogether.

He came into what he called his library just before dinner and found
Foster awaiting him. Both were in evening dress, both exceedingly shiny
and glossy, and both carried more jewellery than was in accordance with
good taste. The guests were not expected for half an hour, so Copley
helped himself liberally to brandy and soda and lighted a fresh
cigarette.

"Any letters?" he asked.

"Nothing of importance," Foster replied. "When I left you this morning I
went round to see if I could see anything of Phillips. He wasn't at his
lodgings, and they said he wasn't expected back till to-morrow. Now what
are you going to do about that chap?"

"Oh, let him go to the devil!" Copley growled.

"My dear Copley, why do you always talk like that? Why do you think that
every man is a fool except yourself? You appear to be very prosperous.
Nobody can deny your courage. And because you are not afraid of Phillips
you seem to think he isn't dangerous. I think he is. Suppose he goes to
Scotland Yard and lays his information before the people there, and
suppose they communicate with the authorities in Cape Town, the result
will be an application for your arrest, and once you get out there you
know what will happen. It will be all U.P."

"Thinking about your own skin," Copley sneered.

"Well, and what if I am? I haven't got a sanguine temperament like
yours. Of course, we could buy Phillips off; at least we could buy him
off for the time being and keep his mouth shut till we devised some plan
for getting rid of him altogether. But he is a cunning devil, is Aaron
Phillips, and has learnt how to profit by past experience. It is no use
asking him to come to your hotel. He isn't going to walk into a trap
like that, and he isn't going to wait much longer, either. If we could
give him a thousand pounds just to go on with, why----"

"A thousand devils," Copley exclaimed furiously. "Where am I going to
get a thousand pounds? I mean, where am I going to get it just at this
moment? I've got this place here, which isn't paid for. I managed to get
the bank to advance the money till I could complete the purchase, and
the furnishing was an easy matter. One can get as much credit as one
likes in this country, provided one winks at extortionate charges. As I
will never pay for the stuff at all, the West End tradesmen can charge
what they please. But the fact remains that though people are tumbling
over one another to get my custom I am fairly at my wits' end for ready
cash. Of course, it will be all right when the flat season begins in
earnest. With any luck there'll be a hatful of money to share between
us before the October meeting at Newmarket. We ought to make over a
thousand pounds at Mirst Park on Saturday week. I suppose you've got it
all ready. Got the telephone in place? The worst of this game is that
one has to take so many people into one's confidence."

"That's all right," Foster explained. "Everything is in its place now. I
went down to Mirst Park the day before yesterday. The house is finished
and all the workmen have gone. The telephone is in good order, because I
tried it. The man who fixed up the extension from the hall to the roof
was a bit curious, but I managed to put him off the scent by some lie
about the doctor's orders and a patient who had been recommended to try
outdoor treatment. But we ought to have a mechanic of our own, Copley.
If any hint of our little secret leaked out, the man who fixed that
extended telephone would be certain to see it, and naturally he would
ask himself a question or two. The fewer outsiders we have to deal with
the better."

"There's no doubt of that," Copley agreed. "Then there's nothing to
settle now. Did you rehearse the bit in Covent Garden?"

"Oh, yes. I was in the office we have taken next door to the Post Club,
and went through the whole thing with Radley, who was stationed outside.
There wasn't a hitch anywhere. I don't see why we shouldn't clear a
thousand pounds; indeed, we might make a great deal more. But perhaps it
would be just as well to be on the safe side. It would be a fatal
mistake to arouse the suspicions of the bookmakers at the beginning, and
if this scheme breaks down we've got another one."

Copley smiled as he finished his brandy and soda. He threw the end of
his cigarette into the grate as the door bell rang.

"Come along," he said. "Here are our guests. Let us go into the
drawing-room and wait for them. We must assume respectability even if we
have it not."




CHAPTER IX

IN THE TOILS


In spite of his dislike of Copley, Fielden could not see much to object
to in his manner as he came forward to receive his guests. He was,
perhaps, a trifle loud and domineering, perhaps a little too familiar in
the way in which he held May Haredale's hand in his. Foster more or less
obliterated himself. It was his rôle in company to play the confidential
servant. He was quiet and subdued, though nothing escaped his sharp
glance. The dinner was excellent. Everything was in good taste, as
Fielden was forced to admit. The talk, for the most part, was lively and
was kept principally to the topic of sport. Afterwards there was a move
towards the billiard-room, and ere he realized it, Fielden found himself
engaged in a game of pool with Sir George and Foster, while May Haredale
and Copley looked on. A moment or two later these two vanished on a
pretext of Copley's that he wished to show May some sporting pictures he
had lately acquired. The pictures were duly inspected, but Copley made
no move to rejoin the party.

"Hadn't we better go back?" May suggested.

Copley turned an admiring glance upon the girl. There was no mistaking
the expression of his face. May had more than her fair share of courage,
but she was feeling a bit restless and nervous. She was wondering why
she disliked this man so much. She had had nothing but kindness and
courtesy at his hands. She knew that he had helped her father more than
once. Yet her instinct told her that Copley was not to be trusted. There
was a boldness about him that repelled her, something in his glittering
eye from which she recoiled. Now she knew almost before the words were
spoken what Copley was going to say.

"The others are not likely to miss us for a bit," he said. "Besides,
there is something I have to talk to you about. To be perfectly candid,
I asked you over here this evening on purpose. I wonder why it is that
you avoid me so."

"I was not aware of it," May murmured.

"But, indeed, you do. I have noticed it more than once. Surely you must
know why I come so frequently to Haredale Park. I am not much of a
ladies' man, Miss May, and I never have been. I have led a rough kind of
life. I know so little of the atmosphere of drawing-rooms. But every man
recognizes, when the time comes, when he meets with the woman who is
made for him alone, and that is the point I have reached. I think I
could provide you all you need. You will have a fine house and a good
position, and everything you want. I daresay this is a rough way of
putting it, but it is none the less sincere for that."

It was sincere enough, as May had to admit. Copley's assurance had
vanished. He was speaking from his heart. The man was rogue and
scoundrel through and through, but had fallen deeply in love with May
Haredale. He was prepared to go any lengths to make her his wife. It was
the only piece of honesty and sincerity that he had ever displayed since
he was old enough to know the distinction between right and wrong.

May stood silent and trembling. She was not insensible to the compliment
Copley was paying her. She knew that he meant every word he said, and
she knew, too, that there must be a hard fight before she could convince
him that the thing he so ardently desired was impossible. She had an
uneasy feeling, too, that Copley had not yet played all his cards. "I
ought to thank you, I suppose," she said. "In a sense you are doing me
an honour, and this is the first time that any man has asked me such a
question, and naturally I feel disturbed. But what you ask of me is
quite impossible."

"Why impossible?" Copley asked grimly. "Oh, I didn't expect you to jump
at me; I know you are not that sort of girl. Perhaps that is one of the
main reasons why I am so anxious to make you my wife. But if there is no
one else----"

"There is no one else," May said with a sorrowful sincerity which was
not lost upon her companion. "There is no one else, and there never will
be. If it is any sort of consolation to you, Mr. Copley, I shall never
marry."

"Never is a long day," Copley smiled. "At any rate, as long as there is
nobody else in question I shall feel encouraged to go on. I am a very
persistent man, and in the end I always get my own way. I'll ask you
again in a week or two, and, perhaps, when you have had time to think it
over----"

"No, no," May said firmly. "There must be no thinking it over. I could
not marry you. I could not care for you enough for that and I would
never marry a man to whom I could not give myself wholly and entirely.
It is the same to-day, it will be the same next year. Mr. Copley, I ask
you not to allude to this distressing topic again. If you do, I shall
have no alternative but to treat you as a stranger."

There was no mistaking the sincerity of May's words. Her natural courage
and resolution had come back to her. She met Copley's glance without
flinching. Her little mouth was firmly set. Even Copley, with all his
egotism and assurance, knew that the last words had been said.

A sudden blind rage clutched him. His thin veneer of gentility vanished.
He stretched out a hand and laid it upon the girl's arm.

"So you mean to defy me," he said hoarsely.

"Defy you!" May cried, indignantly. "What do you mean? Have you
forgotten that you are a gentleman? Anybody would think to look at you
and hear you speak that you were playing the villain in some sensational
melodrama. You have paid me the compliment of asking me to be your wife,
and I have done my best to decline in such a manner as to give you as
little pain as possible. You will be good enough to take me back to the
billiard-room and not to allude to this matter again."

Copley laughed derisively. He had forgotten himself. The love and
passion in his heart had died away to a sullen anger. Never since he had
known May Haredale had he felt such a wild longing to possess her. Well,
if the girl would have it, then he must speak openly and freely. She
must be made to understand that here was her master, whose lightest wish
she must learn to obey.

"You don't understand," he said. "I suppose you think you have only to
raise your hand and pick and choose. Ah, you are mistaken, my dear young
lady. If you don't believe me, ask Sir George. He promised to speak to
you on my behalf, but I see he hasn't done so. Probably he shirked it.
Now I shall have to tell you myself. Do you know that at the present
moment I am master of Haredale Park? I don't imagine you are acquainted
with business, but you know that your father is not a rich man. Has that
fact escaped you?"

"I am aware of it," May said coldly.

"Very well, then. Where do you suppose he has found the money to pay his
racing debts? Do you suppose it dropped from the clouds? During the last
twelve months, your father has had from me something like thirty
thousand pounds. Even a rich man can't always put his hand on large sums
of money like that. And I should have refused to part with the money if
it had not been for your sake. But when a man is in love, he is guilty
of all sorts of follies and extravagances and when a man like me is in
love he does not stick at trifles. Now try to realize my position. Try
to realize that if I say the word there is an end to Haredale Park as
far as you are concerned. I am not boasting. I could turn you both out
to-morrow if I chose, and what would become of you then? Ask yourself
the question. You needn't answer it now; you can take time to do so."

May Haredale trembled from head to foot. She had half-dreaded,
half-expected this, but the blow was no less crushing now that it had
fallen, and she could see from the grim expression on Copley's face that
he meant every word he said. She had read of similar situations in
novels, but they had sounded cold and unconvincing, and little like the
real thing now that she was face to face with it.

"You would never do it," she faltered.

"By Heaven, I would!" Copley cried. "Ah, you do not know what manner of
man I am. Why, when you look at me like that, instead of melting I grow
all the harder. I must make you my wife. You little know the sacrifices
I have made to bring this about. I never thought that I could be a fool
for the sake of a woman. I could almost laugh at my own folly, but it
has become part and parcel of my very existence, the only object in the
world that is worth attaining. Well, it is no use talking, for I could
go on in the same strain all night. It is for you to decide. You can
please yourself whether your father is turned out of house and home, or
whether your prosperous and happy future----"

"Prosperous and happy future," May echoed scornfully. "The words on your
lips sound like blasphemy. It seems almost incredible that a man with
any sort of pride should stoop to such a trick as this to force a woman
to marry him, when, from the bottom of her heart, she loathes and
detests him."

Copley jeered.

"Oh, go on," he said. "Let it come out. Treat me as if I were dirt under
your feet. But you will think better of it before a week has passed.
Tell your father what I have been saying to-night, and talk it over
with him. Perhaps he will be able to persuade you better than I can. Let
us go back to the billiard-room."

May turned coldly away, but her eyes were dim, and all the world seemed
slipping away from beneath her feet.




CHAPTER X

CONFESSION


Fielden was not enjoying his game of billiards. It was a favourite game
of his, and one which he had not had much opportunity of exercising
lately, but he would have given something for an excuse to get out of
it. The reason was obvious why Raymond Copley had made an excuse to get
May out of the room. His instinct told him what was going on, and if he
had had any lingering doubt on the subject it would have been dispelled
by the most casual glance at Sir George.

For Haredale had lost all geniality. He became silent and depressed.
From time to time he glanced anxiously towards the door. If such a thing
were possible to a man of his position, and with a record like his, it
might be said that he looked as if he had been committing some crime and
was in deadly fear of being found out.

There was no longer room for hesitation in Fielden's mind. There was a
conspiracy between Sir George and Copley against May Haredale's
happiness. Fielden was boiling. It seemed incredible that a man like Sir
George could deliberately become a party to such a scheme as this. And
so the game went on, with two people at least not taking the faintest
interest in it. Then the door opened and May Haredale entered.

Fielden shot a swift glance in her direction. He saw how pale her face
was, how rigidly haughty and set were her features. There were traces of
tears in her eyes, but so far as Fielden could see he had no cause to
despair. Whatever had been said or done, Copley had not gained much. His
face showed that. Defeat was written all over it. He was not the man to
put up with disaster without showing it, and Fielden knew in that moment
that so far, at any rate, things had not gone well with his host. Sir
George saw it, too, for his jaw dropped, and he turned almost a guilty
face towards Copley. For a moment there was an awkward silence.

"It is getting very late," May said. "Don't you think we had better be
going?"

Haredale looked at Copley as if waiting for a lesson.

"It is not so very late," he remarked.

"Well, it seems so to me," May said. "Besides I am very tired. I am sure
Mr. Copley will excuse me."

Copley murmured something more or less appropriate. He was not used to
taking the trouble to disguise his humiliation.

"If you must go, you must," he said. "I'll come round after breakfast
and see you to-morrow morning, Sir George. I have something important
to say to you. Perhaps you will be there, too, Mr. Fielden. I fancy I
can put something in your way. I want some one to take a general
superintendence of my stables. Sir George tells me you are thoroughly
up to the work, and that I can place every confidence in you. You seem
to be the sort of man I am looking for, and, though I am interested in
racing, I have very little time to spare to look into the details."

It was hard work to return thanks for this ungracious speech, but
Fielden managed it somehow. He was feeling strangely elated, and hoped
that nothing of his emotions found expression on his face. He was glad
enough to find himself at length seated in the brougham with his friends
on the way back to Haredale Park. It was a singularly silent ride, for
May never spoke a word the whole time and Sir George was ill at ease.
When they reached home May turned to Fielden.

"I hope you will excuse me a moment or two, Harry," she said. "I have
something to say to my father. It won't take many minutes. Perhaps you
will wait for us in the library. I think you will find everything you
want there."

Sir George stood nervously in the hall shuffling from one foot to
another. It seemed to take him a long time to get out of his overcoat.
He turned to May testily.

"Surely, there is nothing you have to say to me to-night," he said. "It
will keep till to-morrow."

Without reply May turned towards the drawing-room and Sir George
followed. He closed the door carefully behind him. She crossed to the
fireplace and stood facing her father. Her face was firm, though her
lips trembled slightly, and the task before her was by no means a
pleasant one.

"I hardly know how to begin," she said. "It is so difficult for me in my
unfortunate position. I have never ceased to regret the death of my
mother, but I cannot remember feeling the want of her so much as I do
now. I suppose you can guess what happened to-night. You know what Mr.
Copley said to me."

Sir George shook his head. His attempt to appear unconcerned was so
grotesque a failure that, in spite of her unhappiness, May could not
repress a smile.

"You are very transparent," she cried. "You make a bad conspirator,
father. You know perfectly well what happened to-night. You know why we
were asked to dine with Mr. Copley. He has done me the honour to ask me
to be his wife. Now don't pretend to be surprised, because Mr. Copley
had your full sanction; in fact, he told me he had discussed the matter
with you more than once."

"And you accepted him?" Sir George asked eagerly.

"We will come to that presently. Now let me ask you a question. Suppose
that your position was as good as it was twenty years ago, that there
were no mortgages on the estate. In that case, what would you have said
to Mr. Copley if he had expressed a wish to become your son-in-law? You
wouldn't have turned him out of the house, because we don't do things
like that. But your reply would have been no less unmistakable. You
would have made Mr. Copley feel the absurdity of his ambition. He would
never have been asked to come here again. Now isn't that so?"

Sir George shuffled about uneasily.

"Other times, other methods," he answered. "You see the condition of
things is quite altered. Really, some of our best women marry rich men
who have nothing particular to boast of in the way of pedigree. I can
call a dozen cases to mind."

"Yes," May retorted. "And I can call a dozen cases to mind where you
have expressed the strongest indignation with parents who have
encouraged marriages of that sort. You have stigmatized the thing as a
sale. Why, you refused to shake hands with Lord Middlebourne when he
told you that his daughter was going to marry young Blackley. Yet, in
the face of all this, you entered into a conspiracy with Mr. Copley, a
conspiracy which you must know would be fatal to my happiness."

"You, you didn't refuse him?" Sir George gasped.

"Refuse him! Of course I did. I hope I did not say too much. But I let
him know that the thing was impossible. I told him that in no
circumstances could I become his wife. I have felt that this was coming
for some time, and I blame myself for permitting things to go so far.
Mr. Copley took it very badly. He lost his temper. He threatened me. He
even went so far as to say that, unless I thought better of my reply, he
would turn us out of Haredale Park."

Sir George turned a white and anxious face towards his daughter.

"Did he say that?" he asked hoarsely.

"I have already told you so. But, of course, this is ridiculous. You
would never have been so foolish as to place yourself in the power of a
man like Mr. Copley. It is very well to know such people, and I daresay
you have found him useful in business. But as to the rest---- Why do you
look at me like that? You don't mean to say that his story is actually
true?"

Sir George seemed to have some difficulty in speaking. When at length
the words came they were free enough.

"It is true," he said. "My dear child, you must not blame me unduly. I
have been terribly unfortunate of late. Everything I have touched has
gone wrong. I am almost afraid to look at my betting book, and if the
Blenheim colt does not win the Derby, then I shall be something worse
than a pauper. You don't know what hopes I build upon this. If it comes
off all right we shall be rich and prosperous. But it has been an awful
struggle to keep my head above water so far, and when Copley offered to
help me in an open-handed way, I dared not refuse. Of course, I had not
the least idea then that he had given you even more than a passing
thought. It never occurred to me that he was lending me this money
merely to have a hold upon me, and I thought it possible you might care
for him. There is always the chance----"

"Oh, you didn't. I cannot believe you would ever think so meanly of me
as that."

"Well, I don't know," Sir George said, stung into retort. "Anyhow, it is
unfortunate that Harry Fielden should come back just now."

The hot blood flamed into May's face.

"That is unjust and ungenerous," she cried. "In any case, my reply would
be just the same. I never did care for anybody but Harry Fielden, and I
never will. You know that. There is not the slightest chance of his ever
being in a position to keep a wife. But we are talking in a circle. I am
more than sorry to hear what you say, but if the worst comes to the
worst we shall have to dispose of everything and leave Haredale Park.
For nothing shall induce me to marry Raymond Copley."

"Well, there's an end of it all," Sir George said. "This makes a beggar
of me. But don't decide like that. Think it over and give me your final
answer in the morning."




CHAPTER XI

ON THE EDGE


If Harry Fielden had hoped to see May again that night he was
disappointed. She was tired, Sir George said, and hoped that Fielden
would not mind if she did not come into the library. He was a little bit
under the mark himself and would go to bed. So Fielden was left to his
uneasy thoughts with the hope that he might learn something in the
morning. But glancing at May across the breakfast table he could read
nothing from the expression of her face. She was a little silent, but
otherwise her features were tranquil, and it was not till an hour or so
afterwards that Fielden found himself alone with her.

"I hope you are better?" he asked.

"Oh, there's nothing whatever the matter with me," May said in her
candid way. "I am only worried, that's all. You have been here quite
long enough to see that things are not going with us as they should. It
will be a terrible thing if our colt fails to win the Derby. Indeed, I
don't know how we shall be able to carry on till the end of May in any
case. What a wretched business it all is! How foolish people are to risk
their happiness on the speed of a horse! But the Haredales have always
been gamblers. I suppose it is in the blood. Put on your hat and take me
for a walk across the Downs. I need something to blow the cobwebs away."

Fielden was eager. For some time he walked in silence by the girl's
side, waiting for her to speak. He had a feeling that, sooner or later,
May would confide in him. She stopped suddenly and raised her eyes to
his.

"I am going to ask you a question," she said. "I want you to put
yourself in my place for a moment. Suppose that the honour and fortune
of the family rested in my hands, and it was for me to say whether the
Haredales were to leave this old place in poverty and disgrace, or
whether they were to stay on occupying the old position, what would you
do?"

"It depends on circumstances," Fielden said.

"Of course it does, my dear boy. I didn't expect you to make such a tame
reply as that. Surely you must know what I mean. It is for me to decide.
I have the opportunity of bringing into the family the necessary money
to set everything right. But at a price."

"As usual," Fielden, said sadly. "The price happens to be yourself."

"You have guessed it. The price is myself. I suppose it would be no news
to you if I told you who the man was."

"Not after last night," Fielden said between his teeth. "So Raymond
Copley has asked you to marry him. I suppose it is the old story which
one has read in books and newspapers a thousand times. Copley has got
your father under his thumb and has threatened to ruin him, unless you
consent to be his wife. I am not a very shrewd person, but I felt sure
of this when we came home last night. You refused Copley, of course, and
he took his refusal in the way such a cad would. He threatened you and
said he had your father on his side. And now you are hesitating what to
do. You have said that no power on earth shall force you to consent,
that you cannot save the family honour at such a price. You are right,
May. It is a vile thing to ask of a girl. It is so mean and
dishonourable. Heaven knows, I care for your welfare. I never knew how
much I did care till we met in London the other night. Then I realized
for the first time the price I am paying for my folly. If I hadn't been
a fool, you would be my wife to-day, and it would have been my pleasure
and privilege to help Sir George out of his trouble. Can you ever
forgive me?"

May turned a tearful face towards Fielden. Impulsively she held out her
hands to him, and he caught them almost fiercely. They were alone on
the wide stretch of Downs. Not a soul was in sight. Neither knew how it
happened, but a moment later Fielden's arms were about the girl, and she
was crying unrestrainedly upon his shoulder. There was only one thing
for it, and that was to kiss the tears away and bring the smiles back to
May's lips.

"Now we have done it," Fielden said ruefully. "I am a nice fellow to
talk about other men being dishonourable. I ought to be well thrashed
for giving way to temptation like this. Fancy a man in my position
daring to make love to any girl. But you knew what my feelings were."

"I was sure," May whispered.

"But what are we to do? It would be another matter, I suppose, if it
were three months later and the Blenheim colt had won the Derby. Then,
perhaps, Sir George would forgive me and make the best of it for your
sake. As it is, I have only succeeded in complicating matters. You are
resolved, of course, that nothing will induce you to change your mind so
far as Copley is concerned. But will you have strength enough to do it,
May? I don't think you realize the pressure which would be put upon you
when you find that Haredale Park will have to go, when you find yourself
in lodgings----"

"Never," May cried passionately. "I refuse even to discuss it. The idea
is unthinkable."

Fielden pressed the point no longer. He really had not the heart to do
so. Sufficient unto the day was the evil thereof. But it was with mixed
feelings that an hour or so later he walked across the fields to Seton
Manor. Copley was waiting to receive him. The latter was in his hardest
and most businesslike mood. There was something repellent about the
expression of his face. The library reeked strongly of tobacco and
spirits. From the ruddy tinge on Copley's face he had partaken of more
than one brandy and soda already.

Fielden hoped there was nothing in the expression of his face which in
any way betrayed his thoughts. Fancy a man like this married to a girl
like May Haredale! Copley was braggart and bully to his finger-tips--a
man without heart, or conscience, or feeling. Nay, he was worse than
this, as Fielden very well knew. For the moment, it was on the tip of
Harry's tongue to say he had thought the matter over and had decided to
decline Copley's offer. But more prudent thoughts prevailed. It would be
as well to be as near Copley as possible, to be on the spot, to act when
disaster threatened. Besides, Fielden, to some extent, was in league
with Aaron Phillips, and if there was anything in the way of rascality
afoot, it might be possible to detect it. It would be a fine thing to go
to Copley with the evidence of his rascality in plain black and white,
and agree to silence on the condition that this persecution of Miss
Haredale ceased.

"Ah! you have come," Copley said in his blunt way. "Well, I have
arranged everything for you. I want you to take over the entire
management of my stable. The last man had four hundred a year and the
run of the house, and I am prepared to offer you the same terms.
Everything will be left in your hands. As I told you last night, my
racing stable is only a side-show, and I don't want to be bothered with
it. You can make a start next week at Mirst Park. I have horses running
in races both days, and I shall probably run down myself. But you know
the ropes well enough."

"I think you can leave it to me," Fielden remarked.

"Very well, then, that's settled. You can ask the housekeeper to give
you a room. You can have all the meals you want, and the horses will be
yours to handle as you like. I must wish you good morning, for I have a
score of things to occupy my attention before I motor to town at six
o'clock. I think that will do. Good day."

Fielden took his leave, hardly knowing whether to be pleased or not. He
spent the next hour or so in the stables, interviewing the stud groom
and the helpers, who seemed to know all about the new arrangement. He
said little or nothing about it, but was somewhat surprised to find what
a poor set of horses Copley owned. For the most part they were little
better than platers. There might be a racer or two amongst them, but
only for small meetings. The groom was quite open in his comments, and
to these Fielden listened discreetly. He was free, presently, to go over
to Haredale Park and get his belongings together. He strode across the
Downs and passed the wide stretch of turf where the trial of the
Blenheim colt had taken place. He was hurrying down the slope when he
came face to face with Aaron Phillips.

"I was looking for you," the latter said. "I haven't been letting the
grass grow under my feet since we met last. I am beginning to get a hold
of the game. We shall be able to make those fellows sit up before long.
I suppose you couldn't manage to get away on Friday and Saturday next
for the two days' racing at Mirst Park? If you can, I shall show you
something that will open your eyes."

"As it happens," Fielden explained, "I am going there. I have just been
appointed a kind of general manager to Mr. Copley. I have to thank Sir
George Haredale for this. As you can imagine, Phillips, it is not a
congenial occupation. But there are urgent reasons why I ought to accept
it. We have a horse or two entered for the Mirst Park meeting, and I
shall go with them. Now, then, what is it?"

Aaron Phillips' face lightened.

"What a stroke of luck!" he exclaimed. "In that case, I need not detain
you now. But I'll contrive to see you on the course, and then I think it
will be our turn."




CHAPTER XII

A LION IN THE PATH


Copley did not appear to be so busy as he had professed when he
dismissed Fielden so unceremoniously. He lighted a fresh cigar and sat
down moodily over a mass of accounts. He pushed these aside presently,
and took up a copy of the _Sportsman_, which he proceeded to read with a
perplexed frown on his moody face.

"I cannot for the life of me understand it," he muttered. "The trial was
fair and square, and I see no reason why the boy's information was not
to be relied upon. But that colt is more firmly established in the
betting than ever. I can't recollect anything like it. It seemed a dead
sure thing to lay that money against the horse. And, yet, though I laid
over ten thousand pounds against him, in this morning's paper he is at a
shorter price than before. Well, if the public like to be such fools,
it's their look-out, not mine. Still, it's unpleasant. I wonder if
Foster has learnt anything this morning."

Foster came in a moment or two later. His usual smile had deserted him,
and he looked troubled and anxious.

"I wanted to see you," said Copley. "I can't for the life of me
understand this betting. Here's the Blenheim colt backed for a ton of
money again. Why, in the face of the commission we have put on the
market, he ought to be fairly knocked out."

"Oh, I've seen it," Foster replied. "I've sent for the boy. I wonder if
that young rascal played us false. But, no, I don't think he would dare
do that. Besides, he stands to win a pot of money himself. At any rate,
I have sent for him, and if there was anything about the trial that was
not fair we shall know it in half an hour."

For the next hour or so the two conspirators sat discussing the matter.
Then there came to them a diminutive youth, shrunken and clean-shaven,
with the air of one who has passed all his life in the atmosphere of a
stable. His little wizened face was white with agitation, and he stood,
with his eyes cast to the ground, waiting for Copley to speak.

"What is it?" the latter asked roughly.

"I don't know, sir," the boy said humbly. "I don't know how it was done.
Ah, that there Raffle is a deep 'un. I made sure as the trial the other
morning was all open and above board, and now I find as how it wasn't
the Blenheim colt we saw at all. It is no use asking me to explain,
gentlemen, and it is no use bullying me, for the more you do that the
more muddled I get. It is only a word or two I 'eard between Raffle and
the 'ead lad that put me on the scent. We've got two or three 'osses in
the stable as like the Blenheim colt as two peas. They are nearly all
the same blood, you know. What old Raffle is a-driving at, I dunno. But
it looks as if one colt was changed for another at the last moment, and
nobody would have been any the wiser if I hadn't 'eard that little
conversation this blessed morning."

Copley and Foster exchanged glances. It was no use to scarify the boy,
for the conspiracy was none of his making, and he was obviously telling
the truth; indeed, he had been well paid to bring information to Copley
and had nothing to gain by further deception. But what was the meaning
of it all? Why had Raffle chosen to bring off a mock trial? So far as
Copley knew, Raffle had no reason to suspect the honesty of the stable
boy. He could not know that he was in Copley's pay, nor could he have
known, either, that Copley and Foster would witness that early morning
trial. Could it be that there was some one else in the field whom Raffle
wished to deceive? At any rate, whether that was so or not, Joe Raffle
had put both Copley and his accomplice in a hole. After witnessing the
trial they had laid against the colt to an enormous amount, and, after
all, Sir George Haredale's horse might win the Derby. They dismissed
the boy with strict injunctions to keep his eyes open and let them know
the latest developments. Then they talked the matter over to see if they
could find some way out of the trouble.

"It's a bit of a facer," Copley muttered. "I am bound to confess I never
expected anything like this. I wonder what that old fox Raffle was
driving at? Whom is he trying to deceive? I'd give something to know."

"What does it matter?" Foster asked impatiently. "Wilfully or not, he
has deceived us. As I figure it out, we stand to lose something like
five thousand pounds. If that horse starts fit and well for the Derby we
shall be in a rare mess. And there's nothing to beat the colt. It would
be maddening to be done at the beginning of the season. Fancy having to
upset all our plans because of a misfortune like this!"

"Unless we could stop the colt," Copley suggested.

Foster looked keenly across the table at his companion.

"That's not a bad idea," he said thoughtfully. "If the Blenheim colt
lost the Derby we should win ten thousand pounds at least. At the price
the horse stands in the betting to-day, we could lay another twenty
thousand pounds without knocking him altogether out of the betting. I
don't call to mind a case in which the public have been more infatuated
about a horse. Why, our commission never shook him at all. Suppose,
without anybody knowing it, we could guarantee that the horse didn't
start. In that case, we could lay a hundred thousand pounds against him,
with the absolute knowledge that it would be only a question of time
before we scooped up the money. Our Mirst Park scheme is a mere fleabite
to it."

Copley's sombre eyes lighted a little.

"Yes, if we could only do it," he sneered. "But the age for that game is
past. There is no chance of hocussing a horse, or laming him, or bribing
a stable boy, or squaring a jockey. That was all very well in the old
days, when meetings were few and far between, and we hadn't got an
enlightened Press that watches everything as a cat watches a mouse. It's
no use wasting time over idle dreams of that sort, Foster. Poor as he
is, Sir George wouldn't even hear of such a thing."

"Think not?" Foster asked. "Well, I believe myself that every man has
his price. I have never found anything to the contrary. I thought you
were a fool to come down here at all. I thought you were a fool to allow
yourself to be fascinated by that girl, but now I begin to see a way of
turning it to account. I don't suppose she'll marry you. I never thought
she would."

The big veins on Copley's temples thickened.

"Stow that," he said hoarsely. "You are going too far. I'll not listen
to a word of it. It is no business of yours. If you have anything good
to suggest, I shall be glad to listen to it, but I'll thank you to leave
Miss Haredale's name out of the discussion."

"Oh, very well," Foster said sulkily. "But, in this case, one thing
leads to another. To gain Miss Haredale you found money for her father
when we could have done with it ourselves--indeed, we wanted it pretty
badly. Now is your chance to get it back, and more. Sir George can't pay
you. He could as easily repay a million. He will find, too, that it is
impossible to coerce Miss Haredale into marrying you. Don't get wild. I
don't want to introduce the young lady's name more than I can help, but
I am bound to speak of her. You will find that she will hold out to the
end, and that, if need be, she won't object to leaving Haredale Park.
But Sir George will cut up rough when the time comes. He is chockful of
family pride. He is the sort of chap who is wedded to the family home,
and when the pinch comes you'll find him ready for anything. Of course,
he will make a fuss. He will ask you how you dare suggest such a thing
to him, but it will come right in the end."

Copley glanced contemptuously at the speaker.

"What are you talking about?" he exclaimed. "What are you driving at?
Do you take Sir George for an utter fool? Do you suppose that he is
likely to scratch a horse he has backed to win or lose everything he
has?"

"Well, why not? He backed the colt at a very long price, and I don't
suppose he has put down more than a thousand altogether. On the other
hand, he owes you at least forty. Suppose you ask him to pay that back
at once. Suppose you let him know that if he doesn't you will turn him
out of his house a mere beggar. Suppose, if he consent, you offer to
wipe out his debt and give him, say ten thousand pounds, the day after
the colt is scratched. You needn't do it now; you can wait a month. Then
you can put the screw on at once. He'll kick, jib, order you out of the
house, but he will knuckle under in the long run. If he doesn't, then
I'm a fool and know nothing about human nature. Why, the thing is so
easy and perfectly safe not a soul will know anything about it. The colt
pulls up lame one day at exercise, he is reported to be coughing, and
before the fools who back horses know what has happened the pen has been
put through the name of the favourite. You've got the game entirely in
your hands. Then we can get our commissions out all over the country and
make a fortune without a penn'orth of risk. By Jove! it makes me tremble
only to think of it. If the thing is properly worked, we should divide
half a million between us. Now, what have you got to say to that?
Doesn't it sound right?"

Copley brought his fist down upon the table.

"By gad," he exclaimed, "I'll do it, Foster!"




CHAPTER XIII

"AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN"


As most people are aware, the camp-followers of the turf are a large
body whose ways of earning a living are, to say the least of it,
peculiar. This noble army numbers folk of all kinds, from the member of
a swagger West End club to the humble seller of cards on the various
courses. Amongst these, in his place, came Aaron Phillips. If he had
been asked, he would probably have said that he was a professional
backer of horses, a description which covers a wide field and embraces
many methods of getting a living--more or less honestly.

In all likelihood Phillips would have resented the imputation that he
was not a sportsman, and have declared emphatically that he was nothing
else. He had been connected with racing ever since he could recollect,
but had never been across a horse in his life, and would have found it
impossible to pick out the good points of an animal. But he was fond of
horses in his way. He had heard them talked about for years, and most of
the frequenters of his father's public-house were either followers of
racing or indirectly mixed up with the "sport of kings." He had been
born, too, in the vicinity of a classic course and had always taken the
greatest interest in the dramatic side of the turf. There was not an
ingenious swindle but he had the details of it by heart.

For some years before his departure for South Africa he had followed
racing from one course to another. Though he had never done anything
deliberately dishonest, he was up to every dodge, always seemed to have
money in his pocket, and was invariably well dressed. The fact that his
mother had belonged to one of the leading Romany tribes Phillips found
greatly to his advantage. He was never above passing the time of day
with such nomads as he encountered, and more than once had benefited by
this politeness. Had he ever wanted a useful and faithful tool,
something uncommonly smart in the way of a human ferret, he knew where
to put his hand on such a person. Strange as it may seem, there was
never a great fraud connected with the turf that was not freely
whispered amongst its humble followers long before it reached the ears
of the authorities. More than once Phillips had listened to the outline
of a story which would have astonished the magnates of the Jockey Club
if they could have heard it. And it was by such means that he had
managed to pick up the threads of a plot which, before long, seemed
likely to promise sensational disclosures. It was an additional
satisfaction to Phillips to know that the main persons in this plot were
his old enemies Raymond Copley and Foster. He had followed up the clues
in his patient way, and at last had something really definite to go
upon.

It might be inferred that Phillips already had these two in the hollow
of his hand. But he had learnt patience in the hard school of adversity,
and had no intention of throwing away the chance of making money for the
mere sake of revenge. At any moment he might have pricked the glittering
bubble which Copley had blown, and laid both scoundrels by the heels in
gaol, but that would have entailed loss of time and a considerable
sojourn in South Africa, without any material return beyond that of
triumph over his enemies. Now he was beginning to see a way to crush
both Copley and Foster, and fill his own pockets at the same time.

He was not without his peculiar code of honour. Harry Fielden had
defended him at one time and he was not going to forget it. Fielden
would have been astonished to learn how much Phillips knew about his
affairs. He knew, for instance, all about May Haredale. He knew that
Copley was infatuated with the girl and was prepared to go any lengths
to make her his wife. He knew too, pretty well what was in old Raffle's
mind, and chuckled as he thought of it. And now the time had come to
fire the first shot.

He turned out of his lodgings on a sunny Friday in February, and made
his way to Russell Square. He was more carefully dressed than usual and
wore a dark, quiet-looking suit, with a grey overcoat and felt hat. His
gloves were neat, his boots well polished, and, save the horseshoe pin
in his white cravat, there was no suggestion of the racing man about
him. He turned presently into Kelly Street, and, knocking at the door of
a certain house, asked for Major Carden. The Major, he was informed, was
just finishing breakfast, but would see Mr. Phillips.

It was the usual room in a lodging-house--shabby Axminster carpet, dingy
horsehair furniture, with the inevitable lustres on the mantelpiece. The
tablecloth was none too clean, though on it was a vase or two of
flowers, tastefully arranged. At one end of the table sat a stout
pink-faced person with a carefully-trimmed grey moustache. He was a
typical specimen of the retired military man, bluff and hearty in
manner, with a pair of faded grey eyes faintly tinged with pink.
Evidently, too, he had been accustomed to mix with the best people, as
he would have phrased it himself. Probably, he still belonged to a good
club, and no doubt found it exceedingly difficult to make both ends
meet.

The second person at the breakfast table was an exceedingly pretty
girl, who looked none the less refined and attractive because her black
dress was of the plainest. She was chattering gaily as Phillips came in.
She appeared to have a proper respect and affection for her father,
whose words she seemed to hang upon. The Major looked up from the table
and nodded genially.

"You are punctual, Phillips," he said. "I am afraid I am a little late
this morning. Alice, my dear, this is Mr. Phillips. He is the
distinguished journalist I was telling you about last night. We are both
connected with the same papers."

As the Major spoke, he winked swiftly at Phillips, and the latter
smiled. What the Major was driving at he hadn't the remotest idea.

"Oh, yes," he murmured. "The Major and I are old friends."

The girl smiled pleasantly. She appeared a trifle shy, and gave Phillips
the impression that she had no friends, and that her young life was, for
the most part, a constant sacrifice for her selfish and dissipated
father. She rose presently, and with an excuse left the two men
together. Immediately she was gone the Major crossed the room and
produced a bottle of brandy, from which he helped himself liberally.
Phillips curtly refused.

"I met some old friends last night," the Major said. "I am afraid I was
just a little--well, you know how it is."

"I do," Phillips said shortly. "But what did you tell that lie for? What
have we got to do with journalism?"

"My dear sir, there are times when one must dissemble. I know I am a bit
of an old scamp, but, you see, my daughter doesn't know it. I wouldn't
for worlds like her to know the life I am leading. She is a good girl
and believes in me, and I have managed to give her a fine education. She
is the only thing I have in the world to care for. She is the only thing
that has kept me from going headlong to the dogs. I daresay when I am
done with, some of my relations will look after her. Meanwhile, they
take precious good care to keep me at arm's length. I don't blame them,
either. I hit upon the journalistic dodge to account for my late hours.
I was afraid you might give me away. I am bound to tell you this, and I
hope you will respect my confidence. Well, now, what do you want me for?
Sit down a minute."

"I have come to put a little money in your way," Phillips replied. "I
gave you a hint of what I was after the night before last. They tell me
you are a member of the Post Club."

"Oh, yes," Carden replied. "I have managed, somehow or other, to keep
myself on the club books. Not that I go to the Post very much, because I
can't afford it. If I meet a young friend occasionally who is anxious to
see life, I take him there to lunch, on the strict understanding, of
course, that he repays me."

"Then I want you to take me there. I would like to lunch there to-day,
and I wish you to introduce me to Mr. Rickerby, the commission agent. It
is a very simple matter. If you can bring this about and get me half an
hour's conversation with Rickerby after lunch, I'll give you a tenner
and pay for the lunch besides. There's no risk and no responsibility as
far as you are concerned."

The Major pondered the matter.

"What are you up to?" he asked presently.

"That," Phillips said, "is no business of yours. But I assure you that I
am up to nothing wrong. Nothing I can say or do will get you into
trouble. I don't mind telling you there is a big swindle on foot to rob
the leading bookmakers and commission agents and I am trying to expose
it. If I do, there will be a good round sum of money for me, and if I
fail, I shall be none the worse off. Now, are you game?"

The Major smiled. At that moment ten-pound notes were scarce, and
Phillips' offer came in the nature of a windfall. But it was not part of
his diplomacy to accept the suggestion too eagerly.

"I think so," he said. "I don't see why I shouldn't accommodate you.
Perhaps, later, you might have something else to put in my way."

"Very well, then," Phillips replied. "I need not detain you now. I'll
meet you at the club at half-past one."




CHAPTER XIV

THE POST CLUB


There are several smart betting clubs in London, but none smarter or
more up-to-date than the Post Club. Like most institutions of the kind,
it is somewhat mixed and largely devoted to the purposes of gambling.
All sorts and conditions of men can be met there, from the magnates of
the turf down to small bookmakers. At the same time the subscription is
a heavy one and the entrance fee large. It is so large, indeed, that the
police have never been bold enough to raid the club, which is conducted
on the best principles. Betting on the tape goes on to an enormous
extent, and there on most afternoons of the racing season nearly all the
chief commission agents can be found. The club premises consist of a
billiard-room, dining-room, and smoking-room, the last fitted with
several tape machines, which bring the result of the day's racing
directly from the course. Great wagers are constantly being made and
sometimes enormous bets effected even after the horses have been
dispatched by the starter.

Till after lunch the club is very quiet as a rule. On the first day of
the Mirst Park Meeting not more than half a dozen racing men were in the
dining-room. At a little table near the door sat the Major and his
guest, discussing a dainty luncheon to the accompaniment of a choice
brand of champagne. The Major was beaming. This was a pastime after his
own heart, and seeing that the luncheon was costing him nothing he was
doing the thing very lavishly indeed. There was something almost regal
in the way he spoke to the waiters. His manner was bland and florid,
and, beyond all was the consciousness of the five-pound note in his
pocket which Phillips had given him to pay for the repast. They sat for
some little time, when the door was flung violently open and a large man
in an impossible waistcoat came into the dining-room.

Full-bodied and scarlet, he had an air of prosperity and in an
aggressive way suggested money. Most persons in the sporting world were
familiar with that huge personage in the striking waistcoat, for it was
none other than Mr. Rickerby, of a firm of turf accountants, who
advertised that they recognized no limit. In early life Mr. Rickerby, or
Rick, as his friends styled him, had been a butcher. He had failed at
that principally because he spent most of his time backing horses or
arranging prize-fights. After he had passed through the Bankruptcy Court
he began with a small silver book and, having a real genius for
figures, together with a striking presence, an enormous voice and
amazing audacity which amounted almost to simplicity, he soon made
headway in his new profession. In a short time he took a partner who had
been a smart accountant, and now had a suite of palatial offices in the
Strand, where he kept a large staff of clerks, and where telephone
messages were pouring in almost day and night. Rickerby was a leviathan,
and though he by no means despised the small fish that came into his
net, revelled in big bets and dramatic wagers.

He nodded to the Major with a mixture of insolent familiarity and
fawning politeness. Occasionally the Major was of use to him. Besides,
Carden was well connected and Mr. Rickerby had a profound admiration for
the aristocracy. He would have passed on only, at a sign from Phillips,
Carden detained him.

"Come and lunch with us, Rickerby," he said. "Try this new brand of
champagne. Waiter, lay a place for Mr. Rickerby. Bring another bottle.
No, on second thoughts, you had better bring a magnum. Rickerby, let me
introduce my friend Mr. Phillips. He is just home from the Cape."

Rickerby touched an imaginary forelock.

"Proud to make your acquaintance, sir," he said. "Do you do anything in
our line?"

"Well, I have," Phillips said. "I used to follow racing closely enough
before I left England. Out yonder, from my point of view, I found
something better. Still, there is nothing so fascinating as the great
game. I daresay I shall make a wager or two before the season is over. I
suppose one can't make bets here?"

"Not unless you are a member," the Major explained. "The committee are
most particular about that kind of thing. They must think of the police.
But I've no doubt Rickerby will be glad to accommodate you."

"Certainly, sir," Rickerby said. "Up to any amount you like. The Major's
introduction is good enough for me, and a telegram or letter will always
receive attention."

Gradually the conversation became more general. Luncheon was a thing of
the past, and cigars and coffee had been set out in the smoking-room.
Phillips seemed to find Rickerby a mine of interesting information, for
he plied him with diplomatic questions. Under the influence of the
champagne and brandy Rickerby expanded.

"Swindles, my dear sir!" he exclaimed. "There is no end to them. We drop
on a dozen dodges every year of which the public know nothing. Why don't
we prosecute? Because it isn't worth while, and the police are not
sympathetic. Moreover, why should we let the public know of ways and
means by which they might rob us? Ah, I could tell you of one or two
men, and big men, too, in some of the West End clubs who would find
themselves in a pretty tight place if some of us only liked to open our
mouths. But what's the use? Why throw good money after bad?"

"But don't you get done?" Phillips asked.

"Well, very rarely," Rickerby responded, "but there are others in the
club, who seem to me to lay themselves out for that sort of thing.
There's a chap here called Selwyn, a rich young Australian fool, who
thinks he knows everything. He's just the type of mark that the
broken-down racing man prays for. He's in the hands of one or two here
who are robbing him of thousands. He's soft enough to make bets five
minutes after a race has been run. I've tipped him a hint once or twice,
but bless you, it's no use. It is waste of breath to tell Selwyn that
the men in whose hands he is are manipulating the telephone or wire and
always betting on a dead certainty. One or two of the bets have been
offered to me, but I am not taking any. I daresay you may think I ought
to expose these people, but I've got something better to do."

"I should like to ask you one question," Phillips said. "Have you
noticed by any chance if the people you are speaking about are
particularly lucky in their bets on races run at Mirst Park?"

Rickerby looked admiringly at the speaker.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "you know more than I gave you credit for, but
perhaps you are in the habit of studying this kind of thing. Now I come
to think of it, I do recollect hearing it said that Selwyn had dropped a
lot of money to these men last Mirst Park Meeting. If you really know
anything, Mr. Phillips, I think you ought to say so."

"Oh, I won't go quite so far as that," Phillips said modestly; "it's
only an idea that occurred to me which I was reminded of by something I
read when I was in South Africa. But mightn't this be a coincidence?"

"I think not," Rickerby replied, "you could hardly say that of a series
of bets in which Selwyn always loses and which are never made till after
the race is run."

"Extraordinary," Phillips said. "But I can't see how it can be anything
more than a mere coincidence. I suppose you do a tremendous lot of late
betting."

"My dear sir, that is exactly what the club is for. Some of us wouldn't
be able to live without it. But, all the same, we don't bet a second
after the official time of starting."

By this time the smoking-room was filling up rapidly. Two or three score
of men had come mainly to hear the result of the afternoon's racing and
to make their bets up to the very last moment that wagers were accepted.
Phillips, apparently perfectly satisfied with what he had heard, lounged
in one corner smoking a cigar, watching the crowd of sportsmen keenly
out of the corner of his eye. He seemed to have one glance, too, for the
weather outside, which had changed somewhat, for the sky was overcast
and flakes of snow were falling. A little later the room was almost in
darkness and the whole world seemed to be lost in a white drift. The
clock over the mantelpiece pointed to nearly twenty minutes past three.
The result of the three o'clock race had been announced, and, so far as
Phillips could tell, there had not been one sensational incident in the
way of a bet.

"Your friend Selwyn is evidently not present to-day," Phillips observed,
as Rickerby dropped into a seat by his side.

"Oh, yes, he is," the bookmaker retorted.

"That's very interesting," Phillips said. "I wish you would introduce me
to Mr. Selwyn. I think a little later I shall be able to show him a way
of saving money."




CHAPTER XV

JOLLY & CO.


Phillips slipped out of the club by and by, and for a while walked up
and down opposite, studying the building in which the Post Club was
situated. It was a large block of offices on five or six floors, mostly
given over to merchants and dealers whose business was in connexion with
Covent Garden Market. Moving up and down as if waiting for a friend,
Phillips was making an exceedingly careful scrutiny of the building.

"It isn't as easy as I thought it was at first," he said. "I've got a
pretty shrewd idea, for which I have in the main to thank that
snowstorm. It is evident that Rickerby is perfectly right, and that
there is some cunning plot afoot to rob this Selwyn. I wonder whether
Rickerby was alluding to Raymond Copley. It can't be anybody else. Now
it is clear the gang cannot make late bets during a snowstorm or thick
mist or anything of that kind. I should like to know how they manage to
get the name of the winner into the club before the horse is past the
post. But that I must leave for the present. The point I have to find
out now is how the man upstairs who comes to do the betting gets his
information. If there was another block of buildings opposite the club I
could understand it, because it would be easy to signal from one window
to another. But there's nothing opposite except the Market with a lot of
porters hanging about, and I don't suppose they have anything to do with
it. The puzzle beats me for the moment. Still, having got so far, it is
hard if I can't get to the bottom of it. The signal must come from
somewhere in the block of buildings where the club is situated. Well,
that gives me something to go on with anyhow, and I haven't much time to
spare, especially as I must meet Fielden to-morrow at Mirst Park. I
suppose there is only one thing to do, and that is to find out the name
and occupation of every firm which has an office under the roof. The
first thing I need is a Post Office Directory."

With the aid of this book he managed to winnow down the doubtful firms
to five or six. The rest he found were established houses engaged in
legitimate trade, the others being more or less new-comers whose
callings were rather nondescript. By a stroke of good fortune, just
before five o'clock Phillips obtained the assistance of a clerk in a
fruit concern, whose firm was in the block of buildings in which the
club was housed, and the doubtful firms were reduced to two. Standing
outside looking up at the club, the windows of which were now in
darkness, Phillips saw that next door were a couple of windows bearing
on their wire blinds the legend, Jolly & Co. There was a light behind
the blinds, so that the lettering stood out clear and distinct.

"I think I am getting on," Phillips commented. "Now, how am I going to
find out about Jolly & Co.? It is a bit too dangerous to ask casually
for Mr. Jolly. But, stop. Most of the people have left, and it is any
odds the light has been used by the charwoman who is cleaning out the
offices. It won't do any harm to go up and see."

Phillips put his plan into execution. He came at length to the second
floor, and stopped at a door at the end of the passage which led to the
rooms occupied by the Post Club. On the door the name of Jolly & Co. was
painted in white letters. From behind it came the sound of scrubbing.
Phillips entered boldly. The room was furnished as an office. There were
a table and a chair or two, and in a corner an American roll-top desk.
Beside the desk was a telephone which, from its glittering newness, had
not been long erected. Attached to the receiver in the place of the
usual short flex was a cord at least eight or nine feet long. It was a
small matter in itself, but it did not escape Phillips' keen glance. He
wondered what it was for. It was certain that it was not attached to
the receiver by accident.

In one part of the room an old woman was kneeling down scrubbing the
floorcloth.

"Is Mr. Jolly here?" Phillips asked.

"No, sir," was the reply. "He went away early. I saw the key of the
office hanging up soon after half-past three."

Phillips smiled. He was beginning to understand now. There had been
snowstorms most of the afternoon at intervals, and this, no doubt, had
interfered with the campaign against the bookmakers.

"That is very annoying," Phillips said. "I particularly want to see Mr.
Jolly. I have some very important business with him. Can you tell me
where he lives?"

The old woman shook her head emphatically.

"No, I can't, sir," she said. "I haven't any idea where he lives. And,
besides, he is mostly a stranger to me."

"He hasn't been here long, then?"

"No, sir. He came last autumn and, of course, I does for him like I do
for the other gentlemen. He stayed till about the end of November, then
he told me he had to go abroad for the winter. He has only been back
about a week."

Phillips thought his time was not being wasted. Everything appeared to
be going his way.

"I am very sorry," he said, "but, really, I must find him. It is most
awkward, seeing that he is a stranger to me. Would you mind telling me
what he is like? If you can give me a description of him I might make
inquiries in the neighbourhood. It is possible he may be in one of the
hotels close by playing billiards or something of that sort."

"Well, that's possible," the old woman said. "I know Mr. Jolly is fond
of a game of billiards, because my little boy has had to fetch him once
or twice. He is young and clean-shaven, looks like a boy almost till you
get close to him, and then you can see what a lot of wrinkles he has
round his eyes. He might easily be mistaken for an actor. Dresses very
well, he does, except he wears a steel watch-chain."

Phillips gave the old woman a shilling and departed. He had found out
all he was likely to discover. He had already moved towards the door
when a sudden thought struck him.

"Oh, by the way," he said, "I wish you would let me have the number of
your telephone. If I can't come here again I shall telephone Mr. Jolly
in the morning."

The old woman intimated that the number was on the top of the telephone,
and Phillips made a note of it. Then he went away, on the whole very
well satisfied with his afternoon's work. He had yet, however, to verify
a certain suspicion, and this he could not accomplish till late in the
evening. It was eight o'clock or more before he turned into a public
telephone call-office and rang up the number which he had copied in
Jolly's office. He was not surprised to find that he received no reply,
but it was not a reply he was after. What he really wanted was to get in
connexion with the Exchange. He managed this presently. It was growing
late, and there was no great pressure upon the office.

"I am sorry to trouble you," he said, "but I can't get anything from
this number. Can you tell me if Mr. Jolly has a wire between the office
and his house?"

The assistant amiably replied she would ascertain. In a few moments she
spoke again.

"No wonder you couldn't get a reply," she said. "Jolly & Co. are not
connected with the Exchange at all. We switch them on by arrangement for
business purposes, but their wire is a private one. It has only been
recently erected."

Phillips drew a sharp breath. He was expecting sensational developments,
but this information fairly staggered him.

"I am much obliged to you," he said. "But I am very anxious to get on to
Mr. Jolly. You say the wire is a private one. I suppose it goes from the
office to Mr. Jolly's own house. Where is that?"

"His place is called The Nook, Mirst Park."

Once more Phillips was taken aback. The whole plot was opening up before
his eyes. Many important matters remained to be cleared up, but he felt
he was getting on with a vengeance.

"I didn't know where he lived," he said, "but many thanks for this
information and all the trouble you have taken. Would you mind putting
me in connexion with the Nook?"

The assistant was still obliging. For the best part of five minutes
Phillips stood there with the receiver at his ear, and the longer he had
to wait the more satisfied he appeared to be. Then, presently, the thin
voice at the other end of the wire began to speak to him again.

"I am very sorry," she said. "But I have rung half a dozen times and
can't make anybody hear. Probably they have left the receiver off the
instrument. I can try again presently."

"A thousand thanks," Phillips said. "But I won't trouble you. I'll call
round at the office in the morning. What a stroke of luck! Now for Mirst
Park."




CHAPTER XVI

THE NOOK


On second thoughts, Phillips deemed it more prudent to remain in town
overnight. There would be no difficulty in reaching Mirst Park to-morrow
in time to open his campaign. Besides, when he came to think it over
there were a good many things yet to be done. He ate his modest dinner
in his modest lodgings and then sat down over a cigarette to think out
the result of his day's work. The more he cogitated the more satisfied
he was with his rate of progress.

He had got past the age when a man burns for revenge and that sort of
thing. He infinitely preferred to make Copley smart and put money in his
own pocket at the same time. As for his diamond-mining adventure, he
expected to hear no more of that. He had been robbed of his precious
plans and had no hopes of seeing his missing portmanteau again, but,
like a prudent man, he was not inclined to cry over spilt milk.

He had thought it all out before morning, and shortly after ten o'clock
set out to call upon Major Carden again. To his surprise he found that
the Major had already breakfasted and was making preparations for going
out. A big fur coat was carelessly thrown across an arm-chair, and
Phillips smiled when he saw it. Probably the Major had struck a
prosperous line. Possibly some of the ten-pound note had been laid out
at an adjacent pawnbroker's.

"I didn't expect to see you this morning," the Major said genially.
"Most infernally cold, isn't it? Looks like snow, too. Still, one must
take the rough with the smooth when one goes racing."

"So you are going racing?"

"Well, I had thought of it. I don't often get the chance of treating
myself, and my idea was to run down to Mirst Park this afternoon. You're
going, aren't you?"

"Oh, yes, I am going down on business. But I wanted you to stay in town
and do a little commission for me."

The Major's florid face fell.

"That is very awkward," he muttered. "You see, I promised to take my
daughter with me. She is fonder of that kind of thing than I am, and the
poor child seldom has an outing. In the old days of my prosperity Alice
had her own horse, and deuced good across country she was. Can't you
manage to put it off till to-morrow, Phillips? I shall be greatly
obliged if you can."

Phillips reflected for a moment.

"Very well," he said. "I daresay it can be managed. I will see you on
the course this afternoon and let you know what my address is. If you
are discreet and cautious over this little matter there is a fair sum of
money in it for you. You can drop me a note to-night, because there is
no pressing hurry, and you can get the information this evening or early
to-morrow. What you have to do is to go round to the Post Club and find
out all the heavy bets which were made there with Selwyn in connexion
with to-day's racing at Mirst Park. You must let me know with whom the
bets were made and who made them. I think that is all. But I shall see
you on the course later, and if anything crops up in the meantime I
shall let you know."

There was nothing to prevent Phillips from making his way to Mirst Park.
Half an hour later he took train from Waterloo and, arrived at his
destination, proceeded to look out for lodgings. He had his own reasons
for preferring rooms to an hotel. He needed to keep himself as quiet as
possible. This matter satisfactorily settled, he turned his steps to the
course, which was as yet practically deserted. There was little to
indicate that a race meeting was in progress, excepting the shows and
roundabouts and booths outside the stands and paddocks. There were the
usual loafers picnicking on the grass, the usual litter of torn
betting-tickets and papers scattered far and wide. Phillips passed
along, looking eagerly about him. He wanted somebody who could give him
certain information. He stood on the centre of the course, some four or
five hundred yards from the ring. He appeared to be admiring the
landscape, which was pleasant enough under the brilliant sunshine,
though this was interspersed now and then by ominous-looking clouds
which seemed to threaten snow later.

As most people know, Mirst Park course is situated in a kind of theatre,
with rising ground behind the stands, so that it is possible for
everybody to obtain a perfect view of a race from start to finish.
Peeping out of the trees here and there were a few good-class houses,
one of which, standing higher than the rest, towered over the top of the
grand stand. There was the suggestion of a smile on Phillips' face as he
adjusted his racing-glasses and made a close inspection of the house in
question. He could see that it possessed a flat roof with a parapet
around it. Phillips was still intent upon his examination when a
policeman with a fine air of detachment strolled by.

"The best natural course I have ever seen," Phillips said with
enthusiasm. "Have you got many like this in these parts, officer?"

"Not that I know of," the policeman said. "I suppose you have never been
here before."

"I am from South Africa," Phillips said. "We've got nothing like this
out there. I should like to have one of those houses yonder. It must be
nice to sit in your own house and be able to watch all the races,
especially in weather like this. Now there's that place at the back of
the stand. I suppose you know who that belongs to. Some man with money,
I expect?"

"I can't tell you, sir," the policeman replied. "I've lived here most of
my life, but that house yonder has been empty for a long time. I
understood it was taken by some Colonial gentleman last autumn, but I
don't think he has been in it yet. Of course, I don't know for certain,
because my beat is on the other side of the Common, and I am only on
duty here on race days."

"Just so. What is the name of the house?"

"Let me see," the policeman said, reflectively. "Oh, I know. I think
they call it The Nook."

The officer passed on, and Phillips replaced the racing-glasses in their
case. Fortune was still on his side. He made his way through the woods
up into the road which ran in front of the houses, and came at length to
a pair of iron gates with the name of the house, The Nook, painted on
them in gilt letters. The place appeared to be fairly well looked after.
The paths were trim, but, so far as Phillips could see, there was little
traffic through the gates and no sign whatever of wheels, either of cabs
or motors. Peering through the shrubs, he noticed that the windows were
fitted with curtains and blinds as if the house were inhabited. There
was, perhaps, some risk in what Phillips was about to do, but he was
prepared to take the consequences. He walked briskly up the drive until
he came in front of the house. Most of the blinds were up. He saw
evidences of refinement and luxury in the blinds and curtains, though it
struck him as rather significant that the gardens had not had much
attention bestowed upon them. Phillips hesitated before ringing the
bell. It was an old-fashioned bell, with a drop-handle, and he could
hear it clanging through the house with a hollow sound which suggested
emptiness. As he expected, no reply came, though he rang two or three
times. It was impossible for any one to see into the living-rooms, for
the house was built upon a slope and the front door was approached by a
flight of steps. Just as Phillips was turning away a man emerged from
behind a belt of shrubs, followed by a truculent-looking bull-terrier.
He looked like a gardener, though there was in his appearance that
faint, intangible something which suggested a close familiarity with the
turf. He eyed Phillips sourly and suspiciously, and none too politely
requested to know his business.

"Are you employed here?" Phillips asked.

"Yes, I am," the man growled. "I am the gardener. And there's no one at
home, if you want to know."

Phillips' assumption of annoyance was artistic. He turned away
impatiently.

"Then Mr. Ronaldson is not here now?" he asked.

"Never heard the name," the gardener responded.

"But he used to live here. I knew him well in South Africa. He gave me
his address two years ago and asked me to look him up if ever I came to
England. I suppose he has gone somewhere else then. Do you happen to
know the name?"

"No, I don't," the gardener said sulkily. "We've only been here a few
months, and my master hasn't come into the house yet. He's a stranger,
too. You had better make inquiries in the village."

Phillips expressed his thanks. He had found out pretty well all he
wanted to know, and felt that if this repellent person had entertained
any suspicions they were lulled to sleep by this time. He stood
examining the repulsive-looking bull-terrier. He alluded to the animal's
points approvingly. He spoke, too, as a man who knew what he was talking
about. One or two remarks elicited the assent of the gruff gardener, who
smiled slightly.

"Yes, he's a good dog," he said. "And capital in the house."

"Keeps the burglars away," Phillips laughed.

"Oh, I daresay he would if I left him here. But I don't live on the
premises. I only look round to see that things are all right. I believe
the servants are coming in next week."

"But why not have a caretaker?" Phillips asked.

"Oh, there's no occasion for that. They're more trouble than they're
worth."

Phillips nodded and walked leisurely away.




CHAPTER XVII

A FAIR DAY'S SPORT


At Mirst Park there was not very much for Fielden to do. The horses he
had brought with him were a moderate lot, and, in the words of the
stud-groom, there was not a racer amongst them. With his intimate
knowledge of horse-flesh Fielden wondered why Copley kept such an
indifferent stable, and where he got his animals. They were even worse
than the ordinary run of equine rubbish usually foisted on the
millionaire whose ambition it is to figure as a patron of the turf.
Perhaps the whole thing was a blind. Perhaps the stud at Seton Manor was
merely intended to cover Copley's rascality in another direction. At any
rate, Fielden watched the first two races with mingled feelings of
contempt and amusement. He had seen his employer's horses figure in both
in the sorriest fashion, and till the four o'clock race was free to do
as he pleased.

It was strange to move about the paddock, by the weighing-room and on
the stand, rubbing shoulders with a score of men whom he knew well. The
course was familiar to him, too. Were the past two years but a dream,
and had he never left the scene of his former recreations? But no one
recognized him. He strolled about listening to the roar of the
betting-ring and the cries of the multitude, or threaded his way in and
out among the horses. He even spoke to one or two jockeys whom he had
once known, but none seemed to identify him.

Despite the crowd and the horses, the ladies on the stand and the
members in the enclosure, however, it was a lonely business, and his
face lightened as he caught sight of May Haredale seated by herself on
one of the stands. He made his way eagerly to her side. She turned and
smiled upon him. There was a healthy flush on her face. Her eyes were
sparkling, and yet there was a suspicion of anxiety about her which
Fielden had noticed more than once lately.

"Why are you alone?" he asked.

"Oh, it has only been the last few minutes," May explained. "We have a
colt running in this race, and my father has gone to give instructions
to his jockey. By the way, how badly your horses have cut up to-day. No,
I am not particularly interested in this race, and I haven't so much as
a pair of gloves on it."

"Then what do you say to a stroll?" Fielden suggested. "It is cold, and
we look like having another fall of snow. I couldn't see the three
o'clock race for the snow. Positively I hadn't the faintest notion what
had won till I saw the numbers go up. Let us walk across the course to
the starting-point and back. We shall have plenty of time."

May consented, and soon they were beyond the enclosure and past the
white posts and rails towards the patch of gorse across the Downs, where
the starter was already fidgeting about on his cob. Away from the noise
and excitement of the ring the flush faded from May's face, and her eyes
seemed inexpressibly sad.

"What's the matter?" Fielden asked anxiously. "We all change as we grow
older. I suppose I am different from what I used to be. But I don't like
to see you so quiet. It is so foreign to your nature, May. There was a
time when you were all laughter and sunshine. Oh, dear, what a fool I
have been, to be sure. How different things might have been if I had
only had a little common sense. You don't know how I blame myself."

"Were you altogether to blame?" May asked. "I don't think so. You had no
one to look after you from the time you were at school till you came
into your property. You were merely a boy then, and you behaved like
one."

"Oh, I know, I know," Fielden sighed. "But that's all past and done
with. But don't talk about me. I am far more interested in you. I hope
nothing has happened to increase your anxiety. You know what I mean."

May looked irresolutely at her companion.

"I ought not, perhaps, to tell you," she said. "I ought not to tell
anybody. But, then, well, you are Harry Fielden, and I have known you
all my life. If you didn't care for me quite as much as you do, if I had
not cared for you--but, there, we need not go into that. It is my father
who has worried me. It is extraordinary what a change has come over him
lately. He used to be so kind to me, to let me do as I liked, and even
when we were so poor that we didn't know where to turn for money he was
always happy and cheerful. Why, a few months ago he would have laughed
at the idea of my marrying a man like Mr. Copley. Now he is almost eager
for it."

Fielden made no reply for a moment. A wave of indignation came over him.
He caught his lip between his teeth and bit it fiercely. A year or two
ago he would have smiled at the suggestion that Sir George would
sanction a match between his daughter and a man like Copley. But during
the hard and bitter months of his wanderings he had learnt some amount
of cynical wisdom. He was no longer inclined, as he had been in the old
days, to take every man at his face valuation. And, no doubt, when the
pinch came, Sir George was just like the rest. He would speak loudly
enough of his willingness to give up the old house and live in humble
lodgings rather than have any slur cast upon his honour. But it would be
different when this pretty theory came to be put to the test. Fielden
forgot all about the racecourse. He heard nothing of the shouting crowd.
The horses streaming to the post conveyed nothing to his eye.

"I want you to be candid with me," he said. "Is Sir George putting
pressure upon you to marry that blackguard?"

There was something so vehement in Fielden's speech that May looked at
him in astonishment.

"Surely you are going too far," she said. "Mr. Copley is not a
gentleman, of course----"

"I tell you, he is a scoundrel," Fielden interrupted. "Believe me, May,
I would not have spoken unless I had been bound to. That man is not fit
to go into any respectable house. I cannot say more than that at
present, because the secret is not altogether mine. But this much I tell
you: Had there been no such person as Raymond Copley I should be a rich
man at the present moment. I know that, but for the merest accident,
there would be blood on that man's hands. You must not marry him, May.
You must not give him the slightest encouragement. When I think of your
associating with that rascal my blood boils. If the worst comes to the
worst, I must tell Sir George what I know myself. It is with the
greatest reluctance I entered Copley's employment; indeed, I only did
so because there are certain things I want to find out and this seemed
to provide a favourable opportunity. Otherwise, I would rather get my
living by selling race-cards and sleep under a furze bush. But do you
mean to say your father really insists on this?"

A rush of tears filled May's eyes.

"That is what it comes to," she rejoined. "It is only the last two days
that I have noticed such a change in my father. Harry, do you think it
is as bad as he says it is? He tells me that unless I consent to marry
Mr. Copley we shall be ruined and be turned out of the house without so
much as a penny. It seems incredible. I can't understand a man with an
atom of self-respect who would compel a girl to marry him against her
will. It isn't as if I were rich, or intellectual, or beautiful."

Harry thought he could understand. Indeed, any man could understand who
looked down into the pretty, pleading, anxious face that was turned up
towards Fielden.

"There is no accounting for people like Copley," he said. "He is the
kind of man that has not an atom of consideration for anybody but
himself. He has no heart or conscience, and the more unattainable a
thing is the more he longs for it. He cannot win you; therefore, you are
the one thing in the world that he passionately desires. God help the
woman, however fascinating and beautiful, who becomes Copley's wife! It
would mean years of brutality and neglect and self-contempt. You
mustn't, May. I understand the duty you owe to your father, but no man
has a right to exact such a sacrifice as that. Don't you think I had
better see Sir George and give him a hint of the sort of man Copley is?"

May shook her head resolutely.

"I am afraid that would do more harm than good," she said. "I must fight
my battle alone, Harry, and if you interfered my father might forbid you
Haredale Park. He has already hinted that, if you had not come home
again, I should have been willing to become Mrs. Raymond Copley, and if
I were not allowed to see you I don't know what I should do. There is
nobody else I could confide in. But I will let you know how things go
on. We had better go back. I feel better for this confession."

But it seemed a hopeless business, and Fielden's face was sad and gloomy
as he strode alongside May towards the stand.

Ah! but hope was not dead yet.




CHAPTER XVIII

AN EVENING VISIT


For once Sir George Haredale did not seem to be in the least pleased to
see Fielden. He was standing on the lower steps of the stand talking to
Major Carden with the air of one who is conversing with an old
acquaintance. By Carden's side was his daughter, eager and interested,
following all that was going on around her with the zest and enjoyment
of a child.

"Oh, here you are," Sir George said fussily. "I was beginning to wonder
what had become of you. Carden, this is my daughter. Major Carden and I
were at Eton together. We used to do a good deal of racing before you
were born."

The Major took off his hat with a flourish.

"Charmed to meet the daughter of my old friend," he said, "charmed. Ah,
those were pleasant days when one had youth and strength and a banking
account which appeared to be inexhaustible. Now I deem myself fortunate
if I can steal a day off occasionally to get down to a suburban
racecourse. Let me present you to my daughter. My dear Alice----"

"But I know her already," May Haredale cried. "We were at school
together. I had no idea that my father and yours knew one another. I am
so pleased to see you again. Father, Alice Carden was my greatest friend
all the years I was at Eastbourne. We parted promising to write to one
another regularly, but somehow or another we have never corresponded.
But now that I have met you I won't lose sight of you any more. Major
Carden, you really must let Alice come and stay at Haredale Park with
me. I want her for a long visit."

Carden professed himself to be delighted, and this in all sincerity. He
began to see visions of a snug and comfortable time, away from dingy
lodgings and vilely-cooked food to which he had never become accustomed.
The two girls paired off, and the Major strolled towards the paddock
gates, for he had noticed Phillips there, evidently waiting for a chance
to speak to him.

"Got any instructions?" the Major asked.

"Nothing fresh," Phillips explained. "I want you to do exactly as I
asked you, and if you can manage it this evening, after you get back to
town, so much the better. I have written my address on the back of this
card, and it is possible I may be here for two or three days longer. I
want you to find out what wagering there was to big money with Selwyn at
the Post Club to-day, and wire to the address on this card. It is more
than probable that, before the week is out, I may be able to put a good
thing in your way. I suppose I can come round and see you whenever I
like."

The Major thought that would be all right. It would be just as well,
perhaps, to get his daughter out of the way. With diplomacy he might
contrive to expedite the invitation to Haredale Park, so that he could
have the ground clear without fear of interruption. He returned to the
place where his daughter was waiting for him.

At a sign from Phillips, Fielden came forward.

"Well," he asked, "how are you getting on?"

"Splendidly," Phillips replied. "I have been far more fortunate than I
anticipated. We will get some fun out of Copley and Foster yet. From
your point of view I daresay you may think I am wrong. But I mean to
make money out of this. I will expose Copley and fill my purse at the
same time. You wonder what I am driving at? Can you manage to stay here
over to-morrow?"

"I think so," Fielden said.

"That's good. In that case we can push our investigations farther and,
with any luck, before the week is out we shall not only know where
Copley gets his money, but how he makes it. Of course, we know that he
doesn't even begin as a millionaire; we know that he is an unscrupulous
adventurer. But he has the command of ready money, and we wish to know
how he makes it. As a matter of fact, I know that already. But there are
a few weak points in my case, and we can't make a definite move till
these are cleared up. Now I want you to have dinner with me in my
lodgings. I told my landlady I might have a friend staying with me, and
she will be ready to put a bedroom at your disposal."

"Why this mystery?" Fielden asked.

"Oh, it is no mystery. I only want to interest you. After dark we shall
indulge in a little quiet burglary, that is, if you don't object."

"It is not an alluring prospect," Fielden said.

"Of course it isn't," Phillips agreed. "But when you are dealing with
scoundrels it is necessary to use their own weapons. I presume you are
as interested as I am in the exposure of Copley and Foster and all their
methods."

"Up to the hilt," Fielden said between his teeth. "Poor as I am, I would
give all I possess to bring that about. I would give five years of my
life to manage that between now and Derby Day. And if necessary I can
find some money. I am better off than I expected, but I intended to keep
the money for a start in life later. Still, if you want it and will
promise to put it to a good use, I will give you every farthing
cheerfully. You have only to say the word."

Phillips chuckled.

"Oh, there's no occasion to do that, sir," he said. "Keep the money in
your pocket. I shall have enough and to spare before long. I mean to
drag Copley's plunder from between his teeth. I will take all I can get
from him, and when the time comes we shall drop a hint in the proper
quarter, and there will be an end to Raymond Copley. Within three months
you will see that man in gaol. You needn't be alarmed for Miss Haredale.
She is as safe from that man as if she were the daughter of the King. I
had better be going, because it is as well that we should not be seen
talking together for too long. I have scribbled my address on the back
of this card, and shall expect you about half-past seven."

Fielden asked no more questions, but returned to his friends with a
vivid sense of curiosity. He listened to Major Carden's flamboyant talk,
and as he bowed to Alice Carden could not help thinking what a pretty
and refined girl she was. He made his excuses for not returning to
Haredale, and was faintly amused to see how relieved Sir George appeared
to be.

"No, I can't get back to-night," he explained. "I have several things to
do here. But I hope to see you on Sunday, if I may be allowed to come
over."

"Of course, you may," May smiled, as she held out her hand. "Miss Carden
is coming to stay with me to-morrow. I have persuaded her to come at
once. I am ashamed to have neglected her so long."

Fielden finished his business, saw the stud-groom and the horses safely
on the rail, and then went to the retired part of the village where
Phillips' lodgings were situated. It was little more than a cottage, but
the place was neat and clean, and the cooking left nothing to be
desired.

"It is only a bit of fish and a steak," Phillips said cheerfully, "but
you will find it beautifully served, and as to the wine, well, I got
that myself, and I know it is everything it should be. Please sit down
and make yourself at home. We can discuss matters over our cigars.
There's nothing like racing to give you an appetite. I only hope it
won't snow before morning."

"I hope not," Fielden said. "To all intents and purposes the racing was
spoilt this afternoon by the snow, and it is very odd that no one saw a
yard from start to finish of the three o'clock race. It was most
annoying."

"Was it?" Phillips asked. "Well, I confess I didn't find it so.
Yesterday at the time of the three o'clock race I was at the Post Club,
and, singular to say, we had the same blinding snowstorm in Covent
Garden. Now it surprises you, but from your point of view and mine that
snowstorm was the most fortunate thing that could have happened. When I
sat smoking my cigar in the Post Club there came to me the inspiration
of a lifetime. I seemed to see in a flash exactly what had happened, and
soon I shall know to a dead certainty. You must restrain your curiosity
for a little longer. You will probably know all about it before you go
to bed. Try one of these cigars. They are excellent."

Fielden had hardly got his cigar aglow before the landlady came in with
a telegram, which Phillips opened eagerly. There was a smile of triumph
on his face as he handed it to Fielden.

"What do you make of that?" he asked.

"I can make nothing of it," Fielden said. "It is a wire to the effect
that no important wager was made this afternoon on the three o'clock
race at the Post Club, and is signed Carden. I presume that is our stout
friend with the florid face and ingratiating manner, who was talking to
you this afternoon. But how it helps us I haven't the ghost of an idea."

Phillips rose and threw his cigar in the fire.

"Come," he said. "It is time to start. You haven't much longer to
wait."




CHAPTER XIX

THE EMPTY HOUSE


There was just enough moonlight for Phillips' purpose, but not enough to
render his task dangerous. Fielden asked no questions, partly because he
deemed it would be useless, and partly because he did not wish to spoil
what appeared to have in it the making of a dramatic adventure. His
spirits were rising, and he was looking forward keenly to something in
the way of enterprise. He and Phillips had been in more than one tight
place together, and he had every confidence in his companion.

They made their way along the main street in silence, and came presently
to the deserted racecourse. There was very little evidence of the
afternoon's sport, nothing but a few partially dismantled tents and
booths, and the extraordinary remnants of reeking humanity that always
haunt a race meeting.

They went across the heath, and by and by Phillips pulled up in front of
the avenue to The Nook.

"This is the place," he said quietly.

"Oh, is it?" Fielden asked. "Perhaps you had better tell me before we go
farther who lives here."

"That is precisely what we've come to find out," Phillips said coolly.
"I've got a pretty shrewd notion, but that isn't good enough for me.
I've told you that there's a gang of clever swindlers in England who
have put their heads together to rob the betting ring of an enormous sum
of money. Operations began last autumn, but the flat-racing was nearly
finished, so that they did not make quite such a haul as they had
anticipated. Still, they made enough to keep themselves in luxury all
the winter and to find the necessary funds for carrying on the campaign
in the spring. It is a big combine, and unless something is done to stop
it, these people will make colossal fortunes. Mind you, one or two of
the large bookmakers have a suspicion, but up to now they haven't been
able to prove anything. Indeed, without egotism, I may say they would be
powerless without me. I got some vague idea of the scheme three years
ago from a man who is now dead. Then when racing began again this year I
fancied I could see a trace of the same idea in this business. I knew I
was right when I discovered that Copley was operating on a large scale.
I lunched at the Post Club with a member who gave me an introduction to
Rickerby, the financial agent. You remember him?"

"I ought to," Fielden said drily. "Goodness knows, his firm had enough
of my money. But go on."

"Well, I pumped Rickerby. I don't mind telling you that I went to the
Post Club on purpose. He has been pretty hard hit. He believes he has
been the victim of a swindle, and he is right, though it was no part of
my policy at the time to tell him so. He can't very well refuse to take
big bets, even when he feels there is something underhand going on. Only
a short time ago he was hit for some thousands of pounds by one of the
gang, and, moreover, had to pay the money."

"This sounds very interesting," Fielden said, "but what has it to do
with our present adventure?"

"Oh, I am coming to that," Phillips went on quietly. "You see, these
bets are always made in the same way. One of the conspirators, who is
actually a member of the Post Club, strolls into the smoking-room some
five or six minutes before--well, we'll say before the three o'clock
race. He hangs about till the horses are about finishing and then, in
the most casual way in the world, makes a bet. Now, mind you, this bet
is booked before the race is finished, as a careful comparison of the
time shows. Yet the horse has won, and the man in the smoking-room of
the Post Club knows it before the judge has given his decision."

"Impossible," Fielden exclaimed.

"I know it seems impossible, and twenty years ago you would have said
the telephone was impossible, and people would have scouted the idea of
wireless telegraphy. But they both came, like the phonograph and other
wonders."

"Oh, that's all very well," Fielden smiled. "But you are not going to
ask me to believe that this thing is done by thought-reading or anything
of that sort? You won't tell me that this famous member of the Post Club
is a clairvoyant who sees the race finished while it is being run?
Because, if that were the case, the favoured person would have no need
of a syndicate to help him; he would do it all by himself."

"I am not suggesting anything of the kind," Phillips said. "There's
nothing occult about the business. The thing is capable of explanation,
and I am in a position to give it, except for the finishing touches,
which make this dodge almost a work of genius. I know who is at the
bottom of it, I know who is working it, and I know how the information
is conveyed to within a few feet of the tape machines in the Post Club.
But how that information is filtered to the man inside is the thing that
beats me at present. But so much I have found out. In the very next
office to the smoking-room of the Post Club is a firm who call
themselves Jolly & Co. Now Jolly & Co. only took their office last
September or October. There is not the slightest sign of any business
being done there, because I have been in the office myself. Taken in
conjunction with what I have told you, it must strike you as an odd
thing that this mysterious Jolly & Co. shut up the office and went
abroad last year after the flat-racing was over. Probably Jolly & Co.
went off to make a bit in the Riviera, or Egypt, or some other
fashionable resort where fools and money congregate. It is an odd thing
that during the January meeting at Mirst Park Jolly & Co. should turn up
again and resume operations in Covent Garden. Now I called to see Mr.
Jolly. He had left his office, but I guessed that before I called, or I
shouldn't have ventured. The first thing I saw was a telephone with an
unusually long flex to it. I don't quite understand why this flex is so
long, but I can make a shrewd guess. It cost me an hour or two and
plenty of hard thinking to get farther in my investigations, but I found
late in the evening that Jolly & Co.'s telephone was a private wire
leading from Covent Garden to his residence at Mirst Park. Now do you
begin to understand?"

Fielden shook his head.

"It begins to smell suspicious," he said. "I am bound to confess it
looks very like a deep-laid conspiracy. But I must confess myself too
dense to follow it."

"Oh, it requires explanation. But luck favoured me in my investigations,
and I managed to pick up a good many unlooked for clues. Still, the
fact remains that from this house here to an office next door to the
Post Club there is a private telephone. Now a child would admit that no
one would have a private telephone from here to an office in London, at
a cost of something like a hundred and fifty pounds a year, merely for
the sake of sending domestic messages. I came here to have a good look
at The Nook, as this house is called, and I found, not altogether
unexpectedly, that nobody was living here. I was told by a gardener that
the tenant had not yet taken possession, though it has been furnished
for some time. I had rung the bell a few times, and when the man came
professed I had called to see some one who used to live here.
Considering that it is supposed to be a fully-furnished house, that bell
made a great deal of noise. I am ready to bet that the house is
practically empty. At any rate, I have come here to find out for myself,
and as I believe there is nobody on the premises our task ought not to
be difficult."

"I don't like it," Fielden said. "It smells very much like burglary, and
if we were discovered we should find some difficulty in giving an
explanation which would satisfy the police. Isn't there any other way?"

Phillips waved the suggestion aside impatiently.

"You can go back if you like, sir," he said. "As for me, I will see this
thing through. We might never have such an opportunity again. And,
besides, I want to have a look at that telephone. I think we shall find
something that will open our eyes. I am not in a position actually to
prove it, but I am convinced that Jolly & Co. will be found to be part
and parcel of Copley and Foster. Now you understand why I am so anxious
to enter the house. Still, if you prefer to remain outside and leave the
matter to me----"

"Oh, no," Fielden said hastily. "Having come so far I won't turn back. I
am taking it that you are correct in thinking the house is empty."

"Of course it is, there is no question about that. The gardener told me
so, and I see no reason to doubt his statement. I wouldn't miss this
chance for anything. Even if I get nothing out of it, I should like to
know how this swindle is being worked. But come along, we are wasting
time. There is enough moonlight to help us without using lights, which
is so far fortunate. It may be a little awkward for you, connected as
you are with Copley, but it is all in the game."

"Lead on," Fielden said curtly.

They turned into the avenue and came presently to the front of the
house. Somebody had evidently been in since Phillips' visit, for all the
blinds had been pulled down. Then they walked cautiously round, looking
for a weak spot where they could effect an entrance.




CHAPTER XX

INSIDE


The adventurers managed to squeeze through a scullery window, the latch
of which had not been secured, and a moment later were in the house. As
Phillips had surmised, the place was empty. There were, however, cooking
utensils in the kitchen, a quantity of plates and dishes and glass, with
two baskets containing a small supply of cutlery and silver. Floorcloth
had been laid down on the kitchen floor and a carpet in the hall, and
there were carpets on the stairs, but three of the four living-rooms on
the ground floor were empty. But the fourth room was comfortably
furnished. A fire was still burning in the grate, and on the tiled
hearth Phillips detected the ends of two or three cigarettes. There was
a faint aroma of tobacco on the air, not the sort of tobacco likely to
be consumed by a caretaker.

"It is just as I told you," Phillips chuckled. "I felt sure we should
find the house empty."

"Yet you are not altogether right," Fielden replied. "Somebody has been
here recently, and somebody who knows how to appreciate a good
cigarette. Besides, look at that fire. I don't like it, Phillips, and
wish we were well out of it. We don't happen to be in South Africa now."

"Oh, that's all right," Phillips said cheerfully. "No doubt the fire was
lighted this morning by the gardener, and no doubt also one of the
conspirators has been here. In fact, I should have been disappointed if
I hadn't found traces of him. It isn't necessary for our friends to come
often, but they couldn't very well work their scheme unless they were on
the spot when racing is taking place at Mirst Park. I wonder what our
friend thought of the snowstorm about three o'clock. I guess that must
have upset his calculations a bit. Now look at this."

Phillips bent down to the fireplace and lifted one of the cigarette
ends, which he handed to Fielden.

"Do you know anybody who smokes these?" he asked.

"I think so," Fielden said after close inspection. "They are
particularly expensive cigarettes, and can't be had unless specially
ordered. The only man I know who smokes them is Raymond Copley."

"Precisely. And you may bet your boots this is one of his. At any rate,
it is a curious coincidence, and tends to confirm what I have already
told you. I should be greatly surprised if Copley were not here this
afternoon. Now let us get a bit farther. There is nothing to detain us
after we have examined the telephone. I am afraid we shall have to use a
match, but, then, we are bound to take certain risks."

By the aid of a box of vestas the telephone instrument was found in the
hall. It presented no special features. It appeared to be the kind of
hanging instrument to be seen in hundreds of offices and private houses.

"Nothing remarkable about that," Fielden said.

For the moment Phillips made no reply. He fetched a chair from the
kitchen and mounted it. After the expenditure of two or three matches,
the ends of which he was careful to deposit in his pocket, he broke into
a smile.

"Ah, I expected something like this," he said. "There is an extension to
this instrument. If you look in the angle of the wall you will see that
it goes up to the ceiling. To tell you the truth, I am glad to find
this, because it bears out what strikes me as a very plausible theory. I
was rather disappointed to find the telephone here at all. But now I can
understand why it was placed in this particular spot. We have a cunning
lot to deal with, and it was to be expected they would not do things
like other people. Let us go upstairs and see how far this extension
goes. To the roof, unless I am mistaken."

The exploration proved troublesome, but the extension was traced to the
second floor and thence along the ceiling, where it finally disappeared
through a skylight which gave on to the roof. An iron ladder was
attached to the skylight, and Phillips pointed out to his companion that
the ladder appeared to have been regularly used. The iron rungs were
worn bright, the sides were clean and shiny.

"Come along," Phillips whispered. "We must get out on the top. But be
cautious and display as little light as possible. I daresay we can
manage with a solitary match."

They found themselves on the roof presently. By feeling about they could
trace the flex of the extension to a square wooden box screwed down to
the leads. The box did not appear to be locked, and it was easy for
Phillips to fumble about inside it until he drew out a cylinder of gutta
percha with something glittering at either end.

"Stoop down and light a match," he whispered, "and hide the flame under
your coat. Now, then, bend down here. That's right."

The match burst into flame under cover of Fielden's coat. The feeble
light displayed another telephone receiver attached to the end of a
somewhat long flex.

"You can blow out the match," Phillips went on, "and don't forget to put
the end in your pocket. It is just as well to be careful when dealing
with such a gang. Perhaps you begin to understand? You don't know, I
expect, that this roof commands the whole racecourse, and enables one to
see everything from start to finish. Now a man could sit down here on
this box and watch the race with the telephone receiver to his mouth. If
he were a really good judge of racing--I mean, if he were any good as a
judge of a finish--he would be able to spot the winner in nine cases out
of ten fifty lengths from home, and therefore, if there was some one at
the other end in the office of Jolly & Co., the result of a particular
race would be known in London before the horse was past the post. Do you
follow?"

"Yes, that's all very well," Fielden objected, "but that does not
account for the fact that----"

"That the information is conveyed in the smoking room of the Post Club.
Of course it doesn't. That, I confess, is where I am beaten for the
present. I am certain that a second later the confederate in the Post
Club knows what has happened. Don't ask me to tell you how the final
touches are put on, because I don't know. But, knowing as much as I do,
we shall soon find out, and I think you will admit that we haven't
wasted our evening. You understand now why either Copley or a
confederate was here this afternoon. The man, whoever he was, came with
the intention of sending the result of the three o'clock race to Covent
Garden. Why the three o'clock race is always picked out for this
swindle we don't know, but that will be made plain sooner or later. They
didn't make anything yesterday or to-day, because on both occasions the
race was run in a snowstorm. It was the snowstorm that first put the
idea into my head; in fact, it was the snowstorm that led me here at
all. And now, let us go back to my lodgings and discuss the matter over
a cigar."

The telephone receiver was replaced in its box, the lid shut down, and
the investigators began their descent to the lower rooms. They had not
forgotten to be cautious and walked as quietly and carefully as if the
house were occupied, which was, perhaps, as well, for as they reached
the first-floor landing there came the scratch of a match downstairs. It
was only a slight noise, but in the empty house it boomed loudly in the
ears of the explorers. The match had been struck to light the gas, for a
moment later the hall blazed up brightly, and Fielden and his companion,
looking over the banisters, saw two men in the hall.

"Have you made up a fire in the dining-room?" one of them asked. "You
haven't? Well, do so at once. I am half frozen. It's precious poor fun
motoring from London on a night like this. Did you bring in the hamper?"

Phillips started at the sound of the voice.

"This is awkward," he whispered. "I wish to goodness we had gone five
minutes sooner. It will be worse for you than for me if we are found
out. Did you recognize that voice?"

"Copley," Fielden muttered. "I'd give something to be out of this. The
other man is Foster, of course. I wonder what ill luck brings these
fellows here to-night. Still, as all these rooms are empty they are not
likely to come upstairs. But they mean to stay, or Copley would not have
been so fastidious about the fire."

"They are going to make a night of it," Phillips replied. "Judging from
that remark about the hamper, they have brought supper with them,
expecting somebody else, very likely. Well, there is nothing for it but
to wait. If we could only put out the gas in the hall we might have a
chance. We can slip down while they are at supper and leave by the way
we came. We must have that gas out."

"They would only light it again."

"Not if I plug the burner. I'll go and look for a piece of wood. It is
likely the carpenters have left some behind: they generally do. If I can
find a piece about four feet long, the trick will be done."




CHAPTER XXI

THE EAVESDROPPERS


To Fielden, waiting, it seemed that Phillips was a long time away. While
he stood looking over the banisters he learned that the fire had been
made up downstairs. With grim amusement he watched Foster open the
hamper and take from it certain delicacies which formed the foundation
of what promised to be an exceedingly good supper. There were sundry
bottles, too, with gold foil about the necks, and when the hamper had
been emptied Foster repaired to the kitchen and presently reappeared
with a tray laden with plates and dishes, the requisite number of
glasses and knives and forks, and a tablecloth. Judging from the smell,
Copley was smoking in the dining-room whilst his accomplice was
preparing the supper. Matters had progressed thus far when Phillips
stole gently back, carrying a long very thin slip of wood from a broken
board, the end of which he had whittled to a fine point.

"I've found it," he said. "If I lean over the banisters I can jam the
point of this stick into the eye of the burner, and put out the gas.
They won't be able to light it again for a while. Is it safe?"

The sudden pop of a cork was heard.

"Sounds like it," Fielden whispered. "I think Foster carried in
everything and they are at supper. Now is your time."

Phillips leant over the banisters, and at the second attempt thrust the
sharpened end of the long strip of wood into the eye of the burner.
There was a feeble flicker or two, and then the whole place was wrapped
in darkness. He was only just in time, for almost on the same instant
Foster came out of the dining-room. They heard him muttering that the
gas had gone wrong, and watched him, faintly outlined by a match, strive
in vain to light the gas once more. After the third attempt he abandoned
the effort with an oath and went back to the dining-room. Straining
their ears, the two men on the landing could hear Copley's reply.

"Choked up with dust, I suppose. But never mind so long as we are all
right. Sit down and eat. I daresay those other fellows will be some time
yet."

Phillips whispered in his companion's ear.

"I think we shall be safe. What do you say to creep away now we have the
opportunity? Or would it be worth while to stay outside the dining-room
and listen to what they're talking about? It is pitch dark, and we can
slope at any moment."

Fielden was feeling reckless. It did not matter what happened. Without
further ado they tiptoed into the hall where, by the aid of the intense
stillness and a door ajar, they commanded all that was going on. Copley
sat at one end of the table, facing Foster at the other. For some time
the two men ate steadily with an appetite sharpened by their drive
through the cold air. When the meal was finished Copley pushed his chair
aside and strode over to the fireplace. Would Foster remove the supper
things? He had begun to gather the plates and dishes together when
Copley stopped him.

"Oh, never mind the things," he said impatiently. "Let the man remove
them in the morning. He can finish up what is left. We have more
important matters to attend to. Take a cigar and sit down by the fire.
What is the next move?"

"We have had cruel bad luck," Foster replied. "Who would have expected
to have two race-days ruined by snowstorms? A prophet could not have
foreseen anything like this. I reckon we have lost twenty thousand
pounds the last two days."

"It's a bad start," Copley answered. "We didn't have the luck, and we
haven't made the money. I was on the roof yesterday and to-day, and I
declare to you I couldn't see a single incident in the race. I've never
seen two such blinding snow showers. It was simply maddening to stand
there and feel a fortune supping through your fingers, all on account of
the snow. And that's not the worst, Foster. It will be another month
before there will be two days' racing at Mirst Park, and we can't count
upon a single penny till then. I tell you frankly I don't know where to
turn for ready cash. It's all very fine to have tradesmen breaking their
necks to get my custom, but that doesn't fill my purse with the needful.
It's very odd that a man in my position can procure almost any article
of value he pleases, but when it comes to raising a bit of cash
everybody's suspicions are aroused at once."

"Well, philosophy won't help us," Foster said. "We must annex some ready
money to carry us over the next month, at any rate. The same ill luck
can't happen at the next meeting. Such a coincidence couldn't happen
twice. Don't forget that if we can manage to hang on for four weeks we
shall make enough to carry us on to the Derby, and after the big race is
run we shall be in clover. If you work your cards properly the Blenheim
colt is bound to lose, and with this knowledge we can lay against the
horse as long as anybody is fool enough to take our bets."

"I haven't forgotten that," Copley said. "Of course, I haven't spoken to
Sir George about it yet, but I have asked him to dine with me on Sunday
evening at Seton Manor, and I shall put on the screw then. He'll kick at
first. He'll talk about the blood of his ancestors and the honour of his
race and all that kind of rot, but he is bound to give in. If I asked
him to-night he would say he would rather leave Haredale Park and beg
his bread before he would do anything to be ashamed of. We have both
heard people talk like that before now, but when it comes to the point
Sir George will sing another tune. They all do."

"Provided the lady does not change her mind," Foster said with a grin,
which caused Fielden, listening at the door, to clench his fists. "You
mustn't lose sight of that fact, Copley. Miss Haredale dislikes and
despises you. But though she vows that nothing in the world will induce
her to marry you, circumstances alter cases, and when she knows she is
no longer mistress of Haredale Park, it is possible her frowns may turn
into smiles."

Copley laughed unpleasantly.

"I haven't lost sight of these things," he said. "Miss Haredale has the
bad taste to dislike me exceedingly. I would give anything if I could
induce her to change her mind. I believe I might even grow honest and
lead a respectable life. Still, that would be beastly monotonous. Your
plan is the best. I had better accept my dismissal and leave Miss
Haredale to go her own way. Then I can put the screw on Sir George and
compel him to find some excuse for scratching his colt. When he sees
that I mean to have my money and discovers the sheriff in possession, he
will not be long in inventing a reason why the Blenheim colt should not
run that shall be consistent with his confounded dignity. You can leave
that safely to me, Foster. My word, how cold it is! I wish you would
shut that door. The draught is cutting my legs off. I daresay----"

What Copley was about to say was lost to the listeners in the hall by
the closing of the door. They could hear nothing save a murmur of voices
which conveyed nothing to their ears. Phillips touched his companion's
shoulder.

"Here's our chance," he whispered. "The sooner we are off the better. We
cannot learn anything more this evening; indeed, there cannot be much
more to learn."

They stole cautiously along the hall, through the kitchen and outhouses,
and were soon outside safe under cover of the darkness. It was black
enough now that the moon had gone down, and they could move freely into
the road and across the heath to the village.

"Well, what do you think of these precious rascals?" Phillips asked.
"Don't you agree that we are deep in the secrets of a vile conspiracy?
We can't leave it where it is."

"Most certainly not," Fielden said. "At present I am thinking more about
Sir George Haredale than of anybody else. A year or two ago I should
have scorned the idea of his doing anything dishonourable. But I have
learnt worldly wisdom, and can imagine how it would be if Sir George
were suddenly face to face with poverty. He is completely under Copley's
thumb. If these two men bring off their coup, they will make an enormous
fortune. But it must be prevented at all costs, Phillips. Think out some
scheme of checkmate, and I shall be your debtor for the rest of my
life."

"I think I can manage that," Phillips said. "I'll tell you what my plan
is when we get back to my rooms."




CHAPTER XXII

A SOLDIER OF FORTUNE


Major Carden sat over the breakfast which his daughter had prepared for
him. He had been unusually late the night before, and showed it in the
additional pinkness of his cheeks and the slightly red rims under his
eyes. Not that he was feeling much the worse for the previous evening's
pleasure; indeed, in his philosophical moments, the Major was fond of
speculating which was the wiser--to take his fill of enjoyment's cup
with its concomitants in the morrow of suffering and tribulation, or
abandon such courses, however delightful. One mode of life was jolly to
a point, but, on the other hand, the man who exercised prudence and some
measure of control had a compensation in his economy. As a matter of
fact, the Major never had been economical. "Sufficient for the day is
the evil thereof" summed up his religion to its fullest extent. After a
stimulant he knew he would be himself again, so he ate his breakfast
with a zest that was truly amazing after the carousal of the night.

For Major Carden always appeared to be in the best of health and
spirits. Beyond his impecuniosity he had little to trouble him, and at
the moment things appeared to be going very well indeed. He saw his way
to make money out of Phillips, and had also been offered a roving
commission on the Continent to purchase horses for the Army. This would
entail his being away for three or four months, but his travelling
allowance was liberal, he would put up at the best hotels, and enjoy
himself in a manner consonant with his mission and dignity. He would
tell his daughter that he was going abroad on some journalistic
commission, for the Major, to do him justice, would have been loth for
Alice to know all the expedients he resorted to in earning his
precarious living.

His love for his daughter was the one wholesome spot in his otherwise
shady existence. He had been a selfish man all his life, had spent his
own fortune and his wife's, and had broken the heart of that unhappy
woman in a gentlemanly way. There had been no violence, no open
unkindness, but the refinement of neglect that undermines health and
spirit. When the crash finally came the Major removed to London with his
young daughter. He told her just as much as he considered necessary,
with the consequence that she regarded him as one of the best and most
self-denying of men. Alice had few friends, and none knew anything about
the Major's means, so that the journalistic fiction remained
unassailable, and Alice could speak freely of her father as adding high
intellectual qualities to his other gifts. His frequent late absences
from home were explained in this way, and if he never said anything
definite about his work, his diffidence might be attributed to natural
modesty.

In the circumstances, therefore, the Major was not sorry his daughter
had had an invitation to spend a holiday at Haredale Park. He had
thought of inviting himself also, but his new commission put that out of
the question. After he had finished his breakfast he helped himself to a
liberal dose of brandy and soda, and had just lighted his first cigar
when his daughter came in.

"You are very late," she said with playful fondness. "I declare you grow
worse and worse."

"Not my fault, my dear," the Major protested. "These things are
inevitable amongst newspaper men. I thought I should be at home by
eleven, but something important turned up at the last moment and they
told me off to attend to it. They are good enough to say they can depend
on me, Alice. That is one of the advantages of being steady. If anything
goes wrong at the office the first thing they say is, 'Where is
Carden?'"

Alice smiled affectionately. To her this was quite natural. For a girl
who had spent so many years in London she was wonderfully simple.

"I suppose it can't be helped," she said. "How few men there are who
would have endured your misfortunes and turned to and made a living as
you are doing! I wish I were clever."

"Oh, so you are, my dear, so you are," the Major said magnanimously.
"The great thing is pluck and perseverance. Without egotism, I think I
am endowed with those qualities, and to some extent so are you, and you
will make a name as an artist yet. Stick to it, my child, stick to it.
At the same time, it is good to have an occasional change, and I am glad
you are going to Haredale Park. I suppose you can manage to put your
painting pupils off for a week or two? Probably you will find it lonely
when I am away. I shall only be able to run over from the Continent
occasionally."

"Oh, I shall miss you," Alice said. "But I shall be safe enough. The
landlady is always motherly, and she will see I come to no harm."

The Major dismissed the subject with a flourish of his cigar. He had
rather feared his daughter might give way to tears. He thought she might
ask him to take her along with him and so put him to the pain of
refusal. Possibly the girl was looking too eagerly forward to her visit
to Haredale Park to think of anything else. She had not forgotten the
days when Major Carden was a man of position and they occupied a fine
house in the country, when she had her horse and plunged into the dear
delights of country life. It was good to feel she was going back to it,
even though it was only for a little time. She had already made her
modest preparations. She only hoped there would not be too many visitors
at Haredale Park. But May Haredale had assured her they lived very
quietly and had not many friends.

"I am getting nervous about it," she said. "It will seem so different to
the life I have been leading here. If I had only foreseen this I might
have saved up and bought myself another dress or two. Still, I know I
shall enjoy myself."

"Of course you will," the Major said heartily. "But you won't get much
gaiety at Haredale. They don't go in for society much. You see, there
are very few of the old families left. Times change, my dear, and we
change with them. I don't suppose, plainly speaking, that Sir George is
much better off than I am. I happen to know that much depends upon the
Blenheim colt winning this year's Derby. I was in the Post Club
yesterday with one or two of my----"

The Major coughed hastily as if his cigar smoke had gone the wrong way.

"What am I talking about?" he exclaimed. "Anybody would think I am still
interested in sport. Do you know, beyond an occasional day at a small
meeting, I have no time for that sort of thing. I was in the Post Club
on business, purely on business. It is a very sad thing to see young
men wasting so much of their time and money on horses. But I can't
prevent them from talking and am bound to hear the gossip that goes on.
That is how I came to know so much about Sir George's affairs. Every
penny he can scrape together goes on the stables, so you'll probably
find that Miss Haredale leads a very quiet existence."

"I am glad to hear it," Alice said. "I shall be happy with her. She was
the greatest friend I had at school, and I can't understand how I ever
managed to lose sight of her. Is it a nice place?"

"Very pleasant," the Major said critically. "It is a grand old house,
full of works of art and furniture and that kind of thing. Of course,
all these things go with the estate, so that Sir George could not
dispose of them, which is a precious lucky thing for the heir, for there
won't be too much for him when the time comes. The stables are very
fine, too, and Sir George has some of the best cattle in the country.
Oh, I have no doubt you will enjoy yourself. When do you go?"

"To-day," Alice said.

The Major appeared to be slightly embarrassed.

"Oh, yes," he said, "I had forgotten. It is a trifle awkward, because I
have only a little money just now. The cashier at the office is so
careless. He omitted to draw my cheque on Friday. Till to-morrow I am
not sure whether I shall be able to spare money for your fare. Next
week it would be quite different."

Alice Carden kissed the speaker affectionately.

"How thoughtful you are!" she said. "You are always thinking about other
people. But please don't worry about that. I have saved a little, and
shall have enough to keep me for the next two or three weeks and bring
me home again."

The Major expressed his gratification. For once at least he was sincere.
It was most unfortunate, he said, that he should be in temporary need of
cash. He laid strict injunctions upon Alice to spend what she had freely
and not for one moment to forget that she was a Carden; if she wanted
more money she was to write to him without hesitation. He saw her off at
Waterloo presently. He paid for the cab in the most lordly fashion, and
insisted on his daughter travelling first class, though he had not the
money to pay for the ticket. But Alice was looking forward too eagerly
to her holiday to notice these things.

"Good-bye," she cried. "You will have left for the Continent before I
come back. But don't let the thought of my being alone in London
interfere with your pleasure. I should like to feel you were not
troubling about me."

"I'll try, my dear," the Major said. "Good-bye."




CHAPTER XXIII

A CHANGE OF AIR


About the same time that Major Carden was sitting over his breakfast,
Sir George Haredale was gloomily contemplating his own. He had read most
of his letters, and had impatiently pushed aside the sheaf of bills and
applications for money which poured like a flood upon him at every post.
Some of them were peremptory and some imploring. But they had been
coming in for so long that the master of Haredale Park was more or less
hardened to them. But one communication was distinctly out of the common
and worried him excessively.

"What the deuce does it mean?" he soliloquized irritably. "And who are
these people, Absalom & Co.? I never had any dealings with them.
According to their note-paper they call themselves financial agents, but
the whole thing looks more like a communication from money-lenders. Yet
I don't see how I owe them anything. They write to remind me that in
virtue of an assignment made by Mr. Raymond Copley of a certain date I
am in their debt to the extent of more than forty thousand pounds. What
the dickens is an assignment? And what does Copley mean by doing a thing
of this sort without consulting me? These people hope I shall make
arrangements to liquidate the debt in the course of the next fourteen
days. Why, they might just as well ask me to find as many millions. But
I daresay there is nothing really alarming about the thing if I only
understood it. I wish I had a head for figures. I wish my father had
given me a business training. Still, Copley will put it right. Perhaps
he is annoyed at the way that May has been behaving. But I hardly think
he will visit her folly upon me. However, I must say the thing is
alarming."

Sir George shuffled the letter into his pocket as the door opened and
May entered. She was dressed for going out and was buttoning her driving
gloves round her wrists. Outside on the gravel stood a smart cob in a
Whitechapel cart.

"Where are you going?" Sir George asked.

"To the station to meet Alice Carden. She will be here for lunch."

"I had forgotten her," Sir George murmured. "To tell you the truth, my
dear, I am rather sorry you asked her."

"But I was always fond of Alice."

"Yes, of course, why not? The girl is all right. But, between ourselves,
Carden is a bit of a bad egg. He comes of an old family, and I recollect
when his position was as good as ours. But he muddled his money away.
He always affected the society of those sportsmen who are ready to do
anybody. He made the mistake of regarding everybody as a fool except
himself, and naturally he came to grief. Those fellows always do."

"But he belongs to one or two good clubs," May protested.

"Oh, I know that. He was never actually found out. He was mixed up in
one or two very queer transactions, but contrived to keep clear of
trouble himself. There are scores of men who meet him on familiar terms,
but precious few ask him to their houses. Still, the girl is coming
here, and we must make the best of it. But I wouldn't ask her again if I
were you. You can easily drop the acquaintance after the next week or
so."

May discreetly refrained from discussing the matter further. There was a
strong vein of loyalty in her nature. She liked Alice Carden, and was
not disposed to visit any of the father's shortcomings on the daughter.
She had almost forgotten what Sir George said during her drive to the
station. It was a crisp day, and a frosty sun was shining. There was an
exhilaration in the air almost like champagne. Before the station was
reached May put her troubles behind her, not a very difficult matter for
a girl in her twentieth year who boasts of a fine constitution and a
perfect flow of animal spirits. Her cheeks were glowing, her eyes
sparkling, as she advanced to meet Alice Carden.

"I thought I would come for you myself," she said. "I brought a cart
which I am driving. Now if you will pick out your boxes we'll get a
porter to put them in the trap for you."

"My boxes," Alice laughed. "Behold my humble belongings. I have come
down here with one dress-basket which contains all the finery I have. I
hope you haven't many dinner parties and that kind of thing, for,
positively, I have only one evening dress, and I am afraid that that is
hopelessly out of date. Still, if you have any special functions, it
will be easy to plead a convenient headache."

May laughed as she took up the reins.

"Calm yourself," she said. "I assure you there will be nothing of that
sort. We have dropped out of gaieties. For one thing, most of our old
friends have left the neighbourhood, and my father doesn't care for new
people. We three will probably dine alone every night of your stay, and
we can ride and drive, and I can give you a day or two with the hounds
if you like."

Alice Carden protested sincerely that she wanted nothing better. It was
pleasant to find herself once more driving down the country roads behind
a good horse. It was like old times when she came to Haredale Park and
surveyed the room which had been appropriated to her use. It was exactly
as her father had described. Here was the old oak, the long rambling
passages, the china and pictures and ancient furniture, all in the
setting where they had been fixed the best part of two centuries ago.
Here was the open landscape in front of the mullioned windows. Here were
the woods and fields and lawns, and in the distance the stables where
Sir George Haredale's stud led its luxurious existence.

It was pleasant to sit in the dining-room before a well-appointed lunch
with the fine silver on the table, the vases of flowers, and the
beautiful glass. Whatever Sir George's feelings on the subject of his
daughter's guest were, there was nothing in his manner to which the girl
could take exception. He was natural, courtly and charming, as he always
was, and appeared to take the keenest pleasure in Alice Carden's
arrival. So far as she could see, there was no sign of trouble, no grim
shadow to forecast the ruin hanging over the house. The butler and a
footman or two moved about the room. The sunshine poured through the
painted windows. Altogether it was a household to be envied. Alice's
spirits rose accordingly. She meant thoroughly to enjoy herself, and
when lunch was over professed herself willing to fall in with any plan
May had to suggest.

"Well, let us have a ride," the latter said. "We will go over the Downs
towards the sea and come back by Seton Manor. Now run away and get your
habit on. I will have a horse saddled for you which is not too fresh.
You used to be a daring rider at one time, but it is as well to begin
cautiously. In a day or two you shall have a hunter after your own
heart."

They rode out in the keen sunshine and broke across the wide expanse of
Downs, and Alice Carden gave herself up to the exquisite enjoyment of
the hour. It was good to feel the elastic movement of the cob, to listen
to the thud of his hoofs on the turf and catch the breeze streaming in
her face. They turned presently as the sun was setting, and jogged more
quietly homewards. A little later, as they came to Seton Manor, a string
of horses clothed and hooded were turning into the stables. Alice pulled
up.

"Who lives there?" she asked.

Some colour crept into May Haredale's cheeks.

"Our neighbour, Mr. Copley," she explained. "He is a newcomer and a
great lover of horses; he is very rich, having made a large fortune in
South Africa, and I suppose this is one way of getting rid of his
income. Like most beginners at the game, he has hardly any good horses,
but that is probably because he hasn't time to look after them himself."

"Is he a friend of yours?" Alice asked.

"Oh, well, he comes over to Haredale Park pretty frequently. My father
has struck up a sort of intimacy with him. Between ourselves, I detest
the man. He goes everywhere in virtue of his money, but he is not a
gentleman, as anybody can see. I am going to tell you a secret, Alice,
which you must not tell to a soul. Mr. Copley is anxious to marry me.
Needless to say, I have given him very little encouragement."

"Of course, you wouldn't," Alice said. "You haven't forgotten what you
used to tell me at school. Don't you remember how you confided in me
about Harry Fielden, and how you used to read part of his letters? I
never knew what became of him."

"No, I never told you. Well, perhaps I will to-night before we go to
bed. It was a very unfortunate business altogether. There was nothing
wrong about Harry. He was merely very reckless and extravagant, and got
rid of his money and went abroad. He hadn't a single penny left, and
there was an end of my romance. It sounds very commonplace, but it is
just as serious to me as if it were one of those pretty stories we read
in books. So now Harry has nothing and I have nothing, and some day or
other I shall end, I suppose, in marrying a man for the sake of a home.
But you may be certain it won't be Mr. Raymond Copley."

"How very sad!" Alice said sympathetically. "Do you ever see Mr.
Fielden?"

"Oh, yes," May laughed unsteadily. "In fact, he is coming towards us
now."




CHAPTER XXIV

A STRANGE VISITOR


Interest as well as sympathy lit up Alice Carden's eyes. She looked with
something more than curiosity at the well-set-up young man who came
striding across the turf towards them. May reached over and laid an
impressive hand upon her friend's arm.

"I am not sure I meant to tell you so much," she whispered. "I spoke on
the spur of the moment. Harry came back to England unexpectedly a little
time ago, and I met him by accident in London. It was a bit romantic in
its way, but I'll tell you about that later. He came down here to his
old home to get some of his belongings, and, to his surprise, nobody
recognized him. I was the only person who knew him, excepting an old
stud-groom who had been in the employ of the Fieldens for the last fifty
years. When he found that no one knew him, he thought he might procure
some congenial occupation in his own neighbourhood. It was part of the
same romance that he should obtain this employment at the hands of Mr.
Copley. But, of course, he does not pass in his own name. Please to
recollect that he is Mr. Field. Now, my dear, you have the whole story
in a nutshell. It is like the plot of a novel. I am the beautiful
heroine, beloved by the rich bounder, while my heart is given to the
handsome penniless young man of good family who is in the villain's
employ. Don't think me heartless because I speak so lightly of it, and
don't forget to behave as if I had not told you this story. Mr. Field is
an old friend of ours, and that's the only thing you have to remember."

Alice Carden promised to act discreetly. There was no time to say more,
for Fielden was beside them, and Alice found herself bowing to him as if
he were a new acquaintance.

"You have not been here before?" he asked.

"This is my first visit to Haredale," Alice said. "But I have seen you
before, Mr. Field. Don't you remember you were with my father and Sir
George at Mirst Park a day or two ago? We were not introduced then."

"Oh, I have not forgotten it," Fielden laughed. "I understand you are an
old friend of May's, I mean Miss Haredale's. Would you mind if I came
over to-night after dinner?"

May flashed a glance at the speaker.

"We shall be delighted," she said. "I fancy my father told me he
expected Mr. Copley, too."

Fielden said nothing for a moment or two; then it suddenly occurred to
him that he had forgotten an important matter which would detain him
that evening. He understood what May had hinted to him. He knew it was
hardly prudent for him to be much at Haredale Park whilst Copley was in
the neighbourhood. By way of turning the conversation, he suggested that
the girls should dismount and inspect the stables.

"Nothing I should like better," Alice cried.

"Then come on," Fielden said eagerly. "Let me help you down. You will
find the stables everything to be desired. They are modern, luxurious,
and nothing appears to have been overlooked. From first to last they
must have cost about twice as much as the house. We have a dozen helpers
more than are necessary; indeed, things are conducted on a most lavish
scale."

"And the horses?" Alice asked. "Are they----"

"Well, as to the horses, the less said about them the better. They are a
pretty moderate lot. Perhaps later we may weed them out a bit. But come
and see for yourself."

It was growing dusk by the time the inspection was over. Then the two
girls walked back towards the archway which led into the wide
stable-yard. Outside the gate two of the stable helps were engaged in an
altercation with a seedy-looking tramp in an advanced state of
intoxication.

"Excuse me for a moment," Fielden said, "I must see what is wrong. Now,
my man, what are you doing here?"

It was easy for the girls to notice what was going on and to hear every
word that was said. At the tones of authority in Fielden's voice the
tramp looked up and made a ludicrous effort to pull himself together.
Over his right eye there was a fresh cut, from which the blood was
trickling. The helpers, too, showed signs of punishment, and a desire to
fling out the stranger, but they dropped back as Fielden appeared.

"I came to see Mr. Copley," the tramp said.

"Mr. Copley isn't here," Fielden said curtly. "Still, if you want him,
it would be as well to ask for him in a proper manner. What do you mean
by pushing yourself forward in this fashion?"

"I didn't," the tramp said sulkily. "I never said nothing to these men
till they ordered me out, and one of them shoved up against me. I don't
stand that from any one, guv'nor, and so I tell you. If you don't
believe me, try it on yourself."

Fielden was conscious that the blood was mounting into his cheeks. He
returned for a moment to where the two girls were standing and walked
with them into the road.

"I think you had better leave us," he said. "I must give that fellow a
lesson, and this is no place for either of you."

"I hope you won't get hurt," Alice Carden said. "It is curious, but I
know that man quite well by sight. He used to be in my father's
regiment; in fact, he was his servant. He comes to our rooms in London
occasionally and my father helps him with a few coppers and some clothes
now and again. I am afraid it is another case of degradation caused by
drink."

"It looks like it," Fielden said. "This man was probably one of the
Major's racing-touts, one of those broken-down creatures occasionally
employed on more or less shady jobs. But he must be taught decent
manners. I don't think you need be afraid for me. I'll try to come over
to lunch to-morrow."

Fielden saluted the two girls and returned to the spot where the tramp
was swaying about defiantly.

"Now what do you want?" he demanded once more.

"What do I want?" the fellow sneered. "Well, I want a sovereign, and I
am not going till I get it. If Mr. Copley was here I could have ten
sovereigns. Yes, and he would be glad to pay me, too. You think, because
I have been unfortunate that I can't get any money. You are wrong, young
man, you are wrong."

"Well, you won't get any here," Fielden said. "If you have anything to
say to Mr. Copley you had better wait. He will be here at five o'clock,
but you must wait outside."

"Me wait outside! Who are you talking to? I don't wait for no man, not
even for Raymond Copley. I have got to get back to London to-night
anyhow. You just give me a sovereign or two and tell Mr. Copley you've
done it. Tell him if I have any more of this sort of thing he had best
look for somebody else to play building houses with fruit baskets in
Covent Garden. Tell him that. If I have any more of this to put up with
he can get somebody else to monkey with his fruit baskets. You needn't
say more than that."

In spite of the man's intoxication he knew what he was talking about,
and was plainly desirous of conveying something definite. There was a
malignant look in his eye which Fielden did not fail to notice.

"Oh, be off," he said impatiently. "I won't have any row here. Are you
going, or shall I turn you out?"

The intruder answered with a furious oath. He was anxious, he said, to
see any man on the face of the earth who could do a job like that. He
lurched violently at Fielden, and the next moment was sprawling on his
back with the haziest knowledge of what had happened. Then, at a sign
from Fielden, the two helpers took him by the shoulders and legs and
carried him into the road. He rose muttering and threatening. He shook
his fist towards the stables and lurched off until he was swallowed up
by the darkness. Quite unconscious that his knuckles were cut and
bleeding Fielden went about his work. It was only when Copley himself
appeared and asked what had happened that Fielden looked at his damaged
hand.

"Oh, that's nothing," he laughed. "A tramp came here not long since
asking for you and demanding a sovereign or two as if you were his
banker. The fellow was insolent, and I had to knock him down, but I had
no idea my knuckles were cut. Needless to say the man didn't get his
sovereign, though he did leave a queer message for you. It is
astonishing what strange things men say when they are in liquor."

"And what did this one say?" Copley asked.

"Oh, he said if he could see you he would get as many pounds as he
liked. He went on to remark that if he had to put up with any more of
this you could find somebody else to monkey with your fruit baskets at
Covent Garden. Idiotic, wasn't it?"

Fielden spoke carelessly, but he kept an eye upon Copley. He saw the
latter start, remarked the queer look on his face, and how his eyes
gleamed with anger.

"Absurd," he said. "I suppose the fellow thinks I am interested in
Covent Garden. But there is no accounting for the vagaries of a drunken
man. Anyway, it's not worth thinking about. Anything fresh to report?"




CHAPTER XXV

THE DERELICT


Raymond Copley went back into the house in a thoughtful mood. The
much-envied and much-talked-of millionaire was not particularly happy.
He had a good deal to occupy his attention and had reached a crisis in
his affairs which was likely to prove awkward unless something turned up
speedily. It was easy, as he often cynically observed, to obtain almost
unlimited credit upon the strength of his fictitious wealth, but
exceedingly difficult to raise even a hundred pounds in the City. He had
practically no security to offer his bankers, and dared not do anything
that would suggest to an outsider that he was in want of ready cash. One
or two of his schemes lately had ended in failure, and, so far as he
could see, it was almost impossible for him to hold out for the month
which intervened between now and the next meeting at Mirst Park.

Now here was a fresh cause of annoyance which he had not anticipated.
Unfortunately for the ultimate success of Copley's schemes, they
necessitated the employment of more than one subordinate, and these
subordinates had to be paid. Moreover, they were drawn unavoidably from
the refuse of the population, so that they were a standing source of
danger, for it is hazardous to depend upon people who are usually ready
to sell their services to the highest bidder. One of them had been so
audacious as to turn up at the very gates of Seton Manor and demand
money. Luckily, he had not said enough to rouse suspicions. His remarks
to Fielden might easily be ignored as the ravings of a drunken wretch.
Certainly they did not convey much intelligence. So far all was safe.

But it was a warning, and a warning that Copley did not care to
disregard. Happily, he thought, Fielden was not a curious man, or he
might have inquired farther into the incident. He might even have been
disposed to speculate a sovereign or two, and the tramp might have been
in a sufficiently reckless mood to sell information at that price. The
thing must be looked into at once.

Foster sprawled in the library with a copy of the _Sportsman_ in his
hand and a cigarette in his mouth. He looked up carelessly at his
employer, but seeing there was something amiss put down the paper and
waited for Copley to speak.

"What has gone wrong?" he asked.

"Oh, everything," Copley said savagely. "Has a single thing gone
straight since the Mirst Park meeting? Here am I in a big house,
furnished regardless of expense, with scores of tradesmen tumbling over
one another to serve me, and yet I haven't a ten-pound note to call my
own. As if that was not bad enough, that blackguard Chaffey has turned
up here."

"I suppose he wants money," Foster asked.

"Well, that was the idea, no doubt. I didn't see him myself, but I
understand he was drunk and objectionable, and Field turned him out.
They had a bit of a scrimmage, and I hope Field gave the fellow a
lesson. At any rate, he went off quietly in the end."

"Then why worry?" Foster said.

"Why worry? What a question! I forgot to tell you the worst. Chaffey
came here demanding money. He said if I had been at home he could have
got as much as he wanted. Imagine what Field must have thought. He would
conclude that I was under obligations to the scamp, but, as you know, I
haven't exchanged a dozen words with him. Everything has been done
through you, and I must say I can't congratulate you on your choice."

"You never do when things go wrong," Foster retorted. "Would you have
had me employ a gentleman? Did you want a man of intelligence, who would
have asked many questions of himself. Chaffey is the man for us. But you
are making a great fuss about nothing."

"Well, what do you think of this? Chaffey told Field that if he had any
more of this sort of thing I could get somebody else to monkey with my
fruit baskets in Covent Garden. Ah, I thought you would change your
tune. Imagine a remark like that in a sporting public-house! Scores of
people would smell a rat instantly. They would get on the track of
money-making, especially if Chaffey happened to mention my name in
connexion with the affair. If they only found him with money and plied
him with drink, he would tell them all he knew."

"Which is precious little," Foster said coolly, as he lighted a fresh
cigarette. "Chaffey doesn't really know anything. Still, we must make
him understand that we won't stand this kind of thing. What do you
propose to do?"

"Why, follow him, of course. He can't be far away. He is sure to have
gone to some pothouse. He went down the London Road, and the best thing
is to go after him at once. Let us take the car and make excuses that we
shan't be back in time for dinner. You think I am making much ado about
nothing. But my nerves are not what they used to be. Come along."

Foster made no objection. In truth he was almost as uneasy as his
employer. By and by they were rolling along the road in a car, stopping
under some pretext or other at every public-house. They came presently
to a small place where they heard news of the man they were after. He
had left a short time before; in fact, he had been violently ejected,
because he had no money to pay for the drink he had consumed. Half a
mile farther on the motorists espied a shadowy outline staggering down
the middle of the road and lurching from side to side, singing as he
went.

"That's the man," Foster whispered. "Stop the car and I'll get out and
tackle him."

The tramp paused when he found himself within the radius of the powerful
lights. He stood trying to collect his scattered senses, until, finally,
he got some hazy idea of whom he was talking to. His face grew hard and
sullen, and he looked none the better for a swollen eye and a cut
forehead.

"Oh, it's you, is it?" he said. "This is a nice way to treat a
gentleman. Here am I, miles away from my happy home and not a penny in
my pocket."

"What are you doing here?" Foster asked.

"That, sir," said the tramp with great dignity, "is my business. I have
private occupations of which you know nothing. You are taking advantage
of my poverty. Don't forget that I was in as good a position as yourself
at one time."

"You might easily be better," Foster said contemptuously. "Still, you
haven't told me what brings you here, and why you made a disturbance at
Seton Manor."

"I was at the Lington Meeting," Chaffey answered. "I lost all I had and
was tramping back to London when I recollected that Mr. Copley lived
close by. I thought I would borrow a pound or two from him, and that's
why I called. It would have been all right but for those stable men.
Would you care to be treated like a dog? I lost my temper. You'd have
lost yours if you had been in my place. And that's all about it. I don't
want to make any trouble if you treat me properly. Give me a few pounds
and I'll go back to London the first thing in the morning."

"I'll give you money if you return to-night," Foster said curtly. "Get
in the car and we'll drive you as far as Maley Junction. Come on."

"I will not come on," Chaffey said with an assumption of his old
dignity. "You give me the money and I'll go to town early in the
morning. I can't go before, because I have heard something. There's a
trial coming off here to-morrow morning, and I am bound to see it. You
don't suppose I live on what I get from you. If the trial turns out as I
hope it will, it will put a lump in my pocket. Now what is the good of
standing frowning at me like that? I tell you I'm not going back to
London to-night. I won't go till eight o'clock to-morrow morning. If you
don't help me, I know a man who will give me a tenner cheerfully to hear
how I monkey with the fruit baskets in Covent Garden. But do as you
please. I don't mind lying in a ditch till morning, and I don't mind
tramping to town to-morrow. It wouldn't be the first time I've done
both. Not that I want to quarrel with you, Mr. Foster; if you do the
fair thing by me, I'll do the fair thing by you. Give me a quid or two
so that I can get some supper and a bed, and I'll promise not to come
near Seton Manor again. What's more, if the trial turns out all right,
I'll send a message to Mr. Copley."

"Oh, give him money and let him have his way," Copley cried impatiently.
"There isn't much chance of drumming sense into him to-night."

A whispered conversation between Copley and Foster followed, then three
sovereigns changed hands and Chaffey departed along the road with the
air of a man who has an object in life.

"You have done the right thing," he said. "I knew you would, when you
came to think of it, and I'll let Mr. Copley know all about the trial.
Good-night, gentlemen, and good luck to you."

So Chaffey vanished into the darkness.




CHAPTER XXVI

A SECOND TRIAL


Despite his cheery optimism, Joe Raffle did not appear so gay as usual.
He seemed to have something on his mind, and those under him noticed
that now and then he spoke with a sharpness that was not customary. In
fact, the groom was troubled. He had been glad to see his old master
again and to know that his small conspiracy looked like setting Harry
Fielden on his feet once more. But when he came to review the position
of affairs he did not feel absolutely satisfied, though he had done
nobody a wrong, nor had calculated on putting a single penny in his
pocket. On the contrary, he had been convinced that he was doing a most
disinterested action.

But in the light of the past few days everything looked different.
Raffle was by no means blind to what was going on around him. There was
plenty of gossip in the stables, for some degree of friendship between
the lads at Haredale Park and those at Seton Manor was inevitable, and
it was an open secret that there might possibly be an alliance between
the two houses. It was plain to Raffle's keen eyes that May Haredale
disliked Raymond Copley intensely and that Sir George was doing all he
could to remove this objection. Raffle guessed, too, pretty accurately
what was the state of Harry Fielden's feelings, and saw that if this
marriage took place his little scheme would be worse than useless. If
Fielden had not turned up again it would not have mattered. But as it
was the large fortune which Sir George was about to annex seemed likely
to go into the pockets of Raymond Copley.

Joe hated Raymond Copley with all the contempt that an old sportsman has
for an ignorant dabbler in the great game. He knew that Copley cared
nothing for racing for its own sake, that he kept his stable only to
give himself importance in the eyes of his neighbours. Raffle was not
aware that the Seton Manor stud was a blind to cover the conspiracies
hatched between Copley and Foster, but he knew enough to set his teeth
on edge and to make him determined to stop this hateful marriage if he
could. It was gall and wormwood to feel that after all he had been
working and planning for the advantage of Copley. He knew that Harry
Fielden would have some delicacy in interfering and believed it likely
that, if May consented to become Copley's wife, he would forbid Raffle
to say a word about the real ownership of the Blenheim colt.

This was bad, but worse was to follow. For the last two or three days
the colt had been off his feed, and Raffle thought he was developing
symptoms of staleness. To settle this point, he arranged for another
early morning trial. He had confided his intention to a couple of his
trusty helpers, who fondly imagined that no one knew of it but
themselves. But these things leak out in stables, and in some mysterious
way the projected trial reached the ears of Chaffey, who, when he chose
to tear himself away from his beloved bars, was one of the cleverest
touts that ever worried a stable. After parting from Copley and Foster,
he staggered along cheerfully till he came to a roadside public-house,
where he obtained a shakedown for the night. The thirst for drink was
upon him--indeed, it was seldom or never absent--but he managed to put a
check upon himself, and retired to bed with strict injunctions to be
called at daybreak. In the morning he rose a trembling wreck, his tongue
cleaved to the roof of his mouth, his nerves were a-quiver, but, by a
supreme effort, he kept himself from the drink which called to him so
strongly. The smell of it in the dingy public-house appealed to him
mockingly, but he thrust the fierce desire aside and stole off to the
Downs with splitting head and aching brows. He resolved to make up for
his sufferings later. With luck he would be in London soon after nine
o'clock. An hour later he would have sold his valuable information, and
then--well, then, he would enjoy himself after the manner of his kind.

Having concealed himself in a patch of gorse, he waited with what
patience he could for the trial. It was a long and weary vigil, but
presently he heard the muffled tramp of horses and the sound of voices.
Cautiously Chaffey raised himself and peeped out. He knew he was hiding
just behind the winning-post. The solitary figure standing there was
familiar to him. With a grin he recognized Fielden.

In the distance he could see two horses flashing along, and as they drew
nearer he made out the fine dashing outline of the Blenheim colt. He had
never seen that noble animal before, but his keen instinct told him he
was not mistaken. He forgot his aches, pains, and everything else in the
excitement of the moment. He saw the Blenheim colt holding his own,
sailing along with a free and easy stride, and then suddenly, within a
hundred yards or so of the gorse bushes, the other horse came away and
finished many lengths ahead. The colt had a peculiar action that Chaffey
did not fail to notice.

"They are right," he said, "the colt's queer. My word! it was well I
came here this morning. This will be five and twenty pounds in my
pocket. And if I have any luck that bloomin' Copley can get somebody
else to look after his fruit baskets. I've had enough of it."

Chaffey dropped down as he saw Raffle coming up to the winning-post.
The horses had been led away, and nobody could hear what Fielden and his
companion and Mallow had to say.

"This is a bad business," Harry observed.

"Looks like it, sir," Raffle said gloomily. "I can't make out what's
wrong with the colt. I thought I knew all about horses, but this puzzles
me. He seemed quite right a day or two ago, and I can't see now what's
wrong."

"Oh, there's plenty of time," Fielden said cheerfully. "I daresay you'll
manage to make him fit for the Guineas. It is a good thing I didn't take
your advice and back him. I am glad the money I got for the library is
still in the bank."

The stud-groom shook his head obstinately.

"I don't think you are right, sir," he said. "I still believe in the
colt and, as you say, there is heaps of time between now and the
Guineas. Of course, I must tell Sir George, and a fine state he'll be
in, I expect. Just think what a difference that colt will make if he
wins. And yet you refuse, sir, to benefit by so much as a penny."

"Why should I?" Fielden asked. "Practically the horse doesn't belong to
me. Legally, I suppose, he does, and I have no doubt I could put in a
successful claim. But the colt was only a yearling when I went away. He
has been trained in Mallow's stable and by Sir George's man."

"I never call myself that, sir," Raffle muttered.

"Ah, but you are, Joe, morally speaking. You have accepted service under
him, and you take his money. I know you have behaved exceedingly well to
me. I know you have meant everything for the best, and I thank you for
it. But I cannot interfere. Can't you see that I am in honour bound----"

"In honour bound to stand by and see Mr. Copley marry Miss Haredale?"
Raffle asked indignantly. "I am sure I beg your pardon. I forgot myself.
I had no business to speak like that to you. But that is what it is
coming to. Here have I been working and scheming and keeping my mouth
shut to put a matter of a hundred thousand pounds into Mr. Copley's
pockets."

"If the colt wins," Fielden suggested.

"Oh, he'll be all right, sir. It is only a matter of a few days, but if
this thing gets talked about, why, the colt will go bang down in the
betting and we shall all make fortunes with the outlay of a few pounds.
There is another thing I must tell you. You see, it is like this----"

Raffle turned away as he spoke, and Fielden followed him, so that the
figure eagerly listening behind the gorse bush could hear no more.
Though, on the whole, he had had an exceedingly fortunate morning, he
bitterly regretted that the deeply-interesting conversation had been cut
short just at the point when he might have picked up information that
might have made his fortune.

"I wonder what they're talking about?" he muttered, as he limped
painfully and slowly across the Downs towards Seton Manor. "I suppose I
had better give Mr. Copley a tip. I can send it to him from one of these
pubs. He doesn't deserve any consideration from me, but it will be worth
a fiver later. Now for breakfast and just one drink--only one before I
get back to London and draw my money. There will be plenty of time for
fun this evening. What a fool I've been! If I could only have kept off
that accursed liquor I should have had a stud of my own by this time."

With this philosophy on his lips Chaffey turned into the bar of the
nearest public-house.




CHAPTER XXVII

DRIVING IT HOME


Copley sat at the breakfast-table waiting for Foster to come down. He
had glanced impatiently through his letters, none of which appeared to
be particularly interesting. Then he picked up a repulsive-looking
envelope that lay by the side of his plate. The envelope was greasy and
forbidding, though the handwriting upon it was fairly neat and clear, if
a trifle unsteady. Copley was on the point of pitching it into the fire,
feeling pretty sure it was something in the nature of a begging epistle,
when he changed his mind and opened it.

"Dear sir," it ran, "I was on the Downs this morning and saw the trial I
was speaking to you about last night. Sir George's head man thought it a
dead secret, but I had had it from a sure quarter, and I saw the race
between the Blenheim colt and another at half-past seven. The colt was
quite stale, and, if I am any judge of such matters, I think it will
take all their time to wind him up for the Guineas. I thought you would
like to know this, because, properly handled, there is money in it.
Perhaps it may be worth a five-pound note to me the next time we meet."

There was no signature to this document, but Copley guessed where it
came from. He rose from the table and stood for a while thinking this
over. There was money in the tidings, but not in the way hinted at by
Chaffey.

"Anything fresh?" Foster asked, as he attacked his breakfast with zest.
"You look rather pleased about something."

"Well, I am," Copley said, with a sinister smile he found it hard to
conceal. "I've got something here that looks like good business if we
can only hold on a bit longer. As you know, we don't quite agree as to
how Sir George Haredale is to be handled. If I went to him boldly and
told him that he must scratch the Blenheim colt, do you think he would
consent if he saw I was in earnest? My opinion is he would kick me out
of the house. But there is another way of working it, and for the hint I
have to thank Chaffey, of all people in the world. Here is a note from
him."

"Wants more money," Foster said with his mouth full.

"Not for the moment, at any rate. He thinks his information is worth a
prospective fiver. As a matter of fact, it is invaluable. You know he
told us last night that he wasn't going away till he witnessed a trial
this morning. He has seen it, and this letter gives me the result. The
trial was that of the Blenheim colt. Chaffey says it will take them all
their time to get him fit for the Guineas, even if they can manage it.
Chaffey is probably in town by now, and has no doubt sold his
information to some smart bookmaker. By this time to-morrow the Blenheim
colt will be knocked out of the betting, and one will be able to get any
price one likes. When this becomes public property Sir George will be
justified in scratching the colt. He could say he had no hopes now of
winning the Derby, and has taken this step solely on behalf of the
public. Everybody will believe him. No questions will be asked, and his
conduct will be regarded as most sportsmanlike. Do you see what I am
driving at?"

"By Jove!" Foster exclaimed. "That is really smart of you. As Sir George
backed his colt at long prices the money loss will be small. You can
arrange as to the money Sir George owes you, and directly the pen is put
through the colt's name we shall be masters of a hundred thousand
pounds. It isn't so much as we expected, but we shall be able to draw
the money during the next few days, and then be in a position to carry
on a war against the bookmakers till we have made as much as we like.
Things are entirely in your hands. You have only to put it plainly to
Sir George and offer to cancel his mortgages, and the thing is done.
He'll fall in with your suggestion readily. He only wants the excuse to
get out. You'll want to handle him carefully, of course. But every man
has his price, and I don't believe Haredale is any exception to the
rule."

"I'll do it to-day," Copley muttered.

"That's right," Foster said approvingly, "there's nothing like striking
while the iron is hot. But if I were you I'd run up to town first and
give Absalom & Co. a hint to put the screw on without delay. What you
have to do is thoroughly to frighten Sir George, who will probably send
for you, and see if he can't arrange terms. We had better motor to
London at once. It might be as well to get Absalom's people to send a
man down this afternoon to let Sir George know that business is meant.
By the time we get back this evening there will be a note from Sir
George asking you to go over and see him. If not, I am no prophet."

On the best of terms with themselves the conspirators started for town
half an hour later, and before eleven o'clock Copley was closeted with
the principal of the well-known financial house of Absalom & Co.
Apparently the interview was to his satisfaction, for he soon made his
way to the Post Club. Foster joined him at lunch, and up to four o'clock
they amused themselves by making small wagers on the day's racing. Soon
after five one of the waiters came into the smoking-room and informed
Copley that a gentleman was waiting to see him.

He went downstairs to find Mr. Absalom in the ante-room. The latter
smiled as he heard the clicking of the machines.

"Do you do anything in that way?" Copley asked.

"Not I," the visitor laughed. "I leave that to the fools who have more
money than sense. If there were no such thing as a horse or a bet I
should be deprived of nine-tenths of my clients, and instead of being a
rich man, I should be hard put to it to obtain a living. So the sport
has all my sympathy. But I didn't come here to discuss racing. I want to
speak to you about Sir George Haredale. I sent my manager down to see
him."

"Yes, yes," Copley said impatiently.

"Oh, I won't detain you longer than I can help. My manager saw Sir
George and had a long conversation with him. He was inclined to be high
and mighty at first, but we soon changed all that. He was very anxious
to know why you had transferred your debt to us, and we told him, of
course, that you were engaged in very big speculations which called for
all the ready capital you could lay your hands upon. We also hinted that
we were finding money tight, and gave him to know that unless the cash
was paid within a week, we should have to avail ourselves of our rights
and place a man in possession at Haredale Park. That rather knocked the
old gentleman off his balance. My manager said he was quite civil after
that, and intimated his intention to do everything he could. But, at
the same time, he appears to be very much annoyed with you. He thinks
you have not treated him fairly, and seems to hope that when he has seen
you he can arrange matters. Of course, he hasn't the least idea that we
are merely dummies, so if you change your mind you can telephone to us
and we will sit tight. He said he expected to see you this evening."

Copley nodded approvingly. There was no need for hurry, for he knew that
the longer Sir George Haredale thought over the matter, the more likely
he was to yield in the end. After thanking Absalom, who went his way, he
sent for Foster.

"It's all right," he said when the latter came downstairs. "Absalom's
people have seen Sir George, and have left him in a state of blue funk.
I think the best thing we can do is to let him think it over for a day
or two, because the longer he dwells upon the prospect before him the
more likely he will be to listen to any terms I choose to offer. But we
can talk this over after dinner. Let's get back to Seton Manor. By the
way, I suppose you have dealt with those commissions. Did you manage to
lay any money against the Blenheim colt to advantage? Has the trial
leaked out yet?"

"I managed to get a good lump on," Foster explained. "I fancy the story
is getting known. According to one of the papers, the Blenheim colt has
gone back to six to one. I think we have done as much as we can. At any
rate, the money is as good as in our pockets."

At Seton Manor Copley and his accomplice sat down to dinner in higher
spirits and with better appetite than they had displayed for some time.
There was nothing to trouble them. They had netted a huge sum of money
without the slightest risk, and, what was more to the point, they would
be in a position to handle it in the course of a few days. There was a
good deal of flavour in Copley's cigar as he lay back in his seat
sipping his coffee. A moment or two later a footman came in with a note
on a tray. Copley smiled as he tore open the envelope, and intimated to
the servant that he need not wait.

"From the Baronet?" Foster grinned.

"You've guessed it," Copley replied. "He wants me to go over at once on
most important business."




CHAPTER XXVIII

HONOUR BRIGHT


As time passed Sir George Haredale began to think that trouble was
really before him. He had not the least pretence to be a business man.
He had always been prone to take people at their own valuation. He would
never have done anything dishonest or underhanded, and he paid his
fellow-men a similar compliment. He had never counted the cost of
anything, for the simple reason that he had never been taught to. If he
wanted a thing he got it. If he couldn't pay for anything he simply owed
for it. When, from time to time, his creditors grew pressing, he gave
his lawyers instructions to raise another mortgage, and there, so far as
he was concerned, was an end of the whole transaction.

It does not take long, especially with two or three generations of
similar incapacity, seriously to embarrass even so fine an estate as
Haredale Park. The day came at length when Sir George was under the
painful necessity of facing the inevitable, when his worried lawyer told
him a few plain truths, and he realized that his income was barely
sufficient to live upon. Unfortunately, at this crisis, an occasional
run of luck on the turf had relieved the pressure, and it occurred to
Sir George as a brilliant idea that here was a source of permanent
income. Then luck ran steadily against him, as it always does sooner or
later, and at the time Sir George made the acquaintance of Copley he was
literally at his wits' end to know what to do.

It was a misfortune, though a disguised one, that Copley in his
headstrong way should fall in love with May Haredale. He had gone about
his wooing in characteristic fashion, and had recognized that, unless he
were in a position to force the pace, his suit was hopeless. Hence he
had helped Sir George, although he needed every penny he had for
himself. At that time Copley did not see his way to get it all back and
a great deal more. But now he had the consolation of knowing that he
would come out all right, whether May Haredale became his wife or not.

He was playing his game with wonted caution and cunning. In response to
Sir George's note, he pleaded some excuse, and on one pretext or other
kept clear of Haredale Park for the best part of a week. He knew how to
play his fish. He knew that delay was in his favour, and was not going
to spoil his triumph by undue haste.

Sir George was thoroughly frightened. The interview with Messrs.
Absalom's manager came in the light of a revelation to him. He realized
that he was in Copley's power, and that the latter could ruin him
whenever he chose. Not that he expected anything of the kind. He was of
far too sanguine a nature for that, and being a gentleman and a man of
honour he naturally believed the story that Copley was temporarily hard
put to it for the want of money. From that point of view, of course,
Copley was behaving very well. He had not pressed Sir George, nor had he
insisted that the money must be paid. In point of fact, he had not
mentioned the matter at all.

But Messrs. Absalom's manager had been emphatic enough. There was
something in his manner which Sir George did not like. He actually had
no respect for the aristocracy, and spoke as if money were the only
thing in the world that mattered.

"It comes to this, Sir George," he said. "We must ask you to make
arrangements to clear this off in a week. It is business, pure and
simple, and my people want the money. Things are not going well, and we
must look to you to settle this claim."

"Within a week?" Sir George cried. "Impossible!"

The shrewd manager shrugged his shoulders.

"I am sorry to hear you say that, Sir George," he replied. "In that
case, we must take matters into our own hands and sell you up,
including your horses in training. We shall much regret this step, but
necessity will compel us. The best thing you can do is to consult your
solicitors and see if you can raise a loan. Otherwise--well, I think I
have made myself plain."

The man withdrew, leaving Sir George to his own disturbed thoughts. With
his sanguine disposition and lack of business knowledge he still clung
to the idea that Copley would be able to put this matter right. But when
Copley wrote that business called him elsewhere Sir George's vague sense
of alarm began to develop into a perfect nightmare. At the expiration of
a week the first blow fell. A man, shabbily dressed and dingy of aspect,
called to see Sir George and would take no refusal. He stood in the hall
grimly quiet, waiting for the master of the house, who appeared
presently and demanded in his haughtiest manner what the intruder
wanted.

"I am here on behalf of Absalom & Co.," the intruder said. "Fact is, I
represent the sheriff. It is no use blaming me, Sir George. I am only
doing my duty, and it's not so pleasant, at that. But I am here in
possession, and here I am bound by law to stay until this money is paid.
As soon as that is done I shall be only too pleased to go away."

Sir George began to understand the position. He had heard of these
things before, but they had always appeared to be remote enough from
him. This was what was called an execution, and Sir George's dignity
disappeared accordingly.

"This is very awkward," he said. "I had not anticipated anything like
this. How long will you have to stay here?"

"Well, it varies according to circumstances," the man explained. "It all
depends upon what action the plaintiffs take. If they give you an
extension of time I may be here for a month. Sometimes I have been in a
house much longer."

"A month," Sir George exclaimed, "impossible!"

"It may be less than that," the man said. "If they don't give you any
time at all I shall be gone in a week. In the ordinary course of things,
at the expiration of seven days the sheriff will come in and sell
everything."

"Seven days!" Sir George repeated the words over and over again, as if
he were trying to grasp their meaning. He had barely a week to find this
money, and, if it were not forthcoming, everything he had would be
disposed of. He would have to face the world without a penny. He
wondered if these people would take his horses. He wondered whether
their action would injure him in the Derby. But misfortunes never came
singly, and it was possible that the Blenheim colt might not start for
the historic race at all. For the moment everything lay in the hands of
Raymond Copley. Probably he had not the slightest idea that Absalom &
Co. had gone to these lengths. No doubt he would devise a way out of
this disgraceful situation. It was the only chance.

"If you wouldn't mind going away," Sir George said, "and coming back
later in the day, I will see what I can do."

The man smiled broadly.

"Bless you! I couldn't do that," he said. "It would be as much as my
place is worth. I might even get prosecuted, and I've a wife and family
to think of. I dare not stir a step from here, Sir George; indeed, I
dare not. If people treat me well I always try to give as little trouble
as possible, and as yet nobody knows who I am and why I came. I daresay
you can think of some excuse to account for my presence in the house."

It was very humiliating, but there was nothing for it but a mild
conspiracy between the master of Haredale and this grubby representative
of the majesty of the law. Sir George led the way into the library.

"You had better stay here," he said. "I can say you've come down from
London on some business in connexion with the stable. By the way, it is
just as well I should know your name. Oh, Brown, is it? Well, you had
better remain here till I come back, and I can arrange for you to have
your meals in the kitchen. I suppose you won't object to that?"

"I shan't, if the servants don't," Brown said.

"Very good. I am going to see a friend, and shall return as soon as
possible. I suppose if you had a telegram from Absalom calling you back
to London, you would disappear without any trouble."

"Certainly, sir, and very glad to go. I have never been in a big house
like this before, and it makes all the difference. But I'll do my best
to save your servants from knowing who I am and what I am doing at
Haredale Park."

Possibly the speaker had some hope that this complacency would not leave
him poorer than it found him, and, in his sanguine way, Sir George was
already settling in his mind the size of the tip he would give this
fellow after he had seen Copley and made arrangements to get rid of him.
Nevertheless the master of Haredale was really distressed and alarmed as
he made his way across the fields to Seton Manor. Perhaps Copley might
not be back from London till dinner-time. But Copley was there. He was
in the stable-yard talking to Foster as Sir George approached.

"Here he comes," said Foster with a grin. "I thought he wouldn't be very
long. It is any odds that Absalom's man is in possession already. Our
friend looks rather dejected, doesn't he? Now is your time to clinch the
business."

Copley smiled his assent. "I don't think we are likely to have much
trouble with Sir George."




CHAPTER XXIX

ACTING THE FRIEND


Copley turned to his visitor with an air of surprise. He held out his
hand with an appearance of great friendliness and began to talk about
horses as if nothing out of the common had happened.

"I am sorry I have been unable to see you," he said. "But I have been
dreadfully harassed in business. You country gentlemen think that
capitalists like myself have unlimited cash. Never, my dear Sir George,
was there a greater mistake. There are times when I would give one of my
ears for a thousand pounds in hard cash. Everything we have is locked
up, and bankers are so chary of speculative securities. Of course, it
comes all right in the long run, but really, for some days, matters have
been extremely critical. However, I managed to make a satisfactory
arrangement last night, and came home dead tired, with the full
intention of not going near the City for two or three days. I hope there
is nothing amiss with you. I don't suppose there is. Ah, you want to be
in my line to know what anxiety is."

"I think I've a pretty fair idea of it," Sir George said, as he shook
hands. "You have been good enough to advise me once or twice, and I
thought I would come over this morning and consult you about a worry of
my own. I came on the off-chance, and esteem myself fortunate to find
you at home."

"Oh, not at all, not at all," Copley said breezily. "In fact, I was
coming to see you. My conscience has been pricking me, and I feel I have
been very rude. But come into the library and tell me all about it. I'll
help you if I can."

"You are exceedingly good," Sir George said gratefully. "I have had a
most unpleasant shock this morning. It has to do with those people,
Absalom & Co. They tell me you have transferred my debt to them. I can't
understand it."

Copley shook his head as he motioned his visitor to a chair. He passed
over the cigars to Sir George, and sat down to listen in an attitude of
respectful attention.

"No, you wouldn't understand these things," he explained. "It is only
the man of hard business training and instinct that can follow the
ramifications of modern finance. Finance is a fascinating sport with
substantial gains for the successful man, but Heaven help him who fails.
He is bound to go to the wall, and no one has the slightest mercy for
him. It is almost a truism to say that we are at war with one another.
Though outwardly on good terms, we really are the bitterest enemies. It
is part of the game. I go and stay with other financiers, and they come
and stay with me. We drink each other's wine and smoke each other's
cigars. We share grouse moors and yachts, we even marry each other's
daughters. But, at the same time, it is everybody for himself. That is
one of the recognized rules, and if you go under you may become a clerk
or something of that kind, unless you prefer to blow out your brains. It
is all the same in the City. I tell you this, so that you may understand
what a lot of enemies one makes when one embarks in a new venture. It is
a mistake to imagine that all the money the successful man makes comes
from the public. Every time I make a quarter of a million, some of my
friends must suffer. I have a very big thing on at present, and thought
I had guarded myself at all points. But man is only human, and it is
impossible to foresee everything. Two of my cleverest friends spotted
the weak point in my armour, and were not slow to take their
opportunity. They squeezed me to such an extent that, about a fortnight
ago, they very nearly crushed the life out of me altogether. I was
compelled to find forty thousand pounds at a few hours' notice. The only
people I could think of were Absalom & Co., and I transferred your debt
to them. My dear fellow, if I hadn't done so I should have been in the
Bankruptcy Court to-day. Absalom & Co., in their turn, are being
squeezed, and that is why they are putting pressure upon you."

"Then you can't help me?" Sir George said blankly.

"My dear Sir George, I am afraid not. It is with great regret I say
this. In two or three weeks I shall be in funds, and if you will wait
till then, why I shall give you my cheque with pleasure. At the moment I
have nothing. In a month's time I shall have a fortune at my disposal.
But probably these people won't wait."

"Then I am ruined," Sir George exclaimed.

Copley murmured that it looked very much like it. He made no suggestion
at all. He merely appeared to be duly sympathetic. He was waiting for
Sir George Haredale to realize his position. That done, it would be easy
to play his game successfully.

For a time Sir George paced up and down the library. He cursed himself
and his bad fortune, blamed Chance, bemoaned his cruel ill luck; in
fact, like the weak man he was, he blamed everything except the headlong
folly and short-sighted blindness which had brought all this about. In
the meantime, Copley sat letting his fish play until his strength was
exhausted and he could readily be drawn to land. It was a one-sided
battle.

"Is there nothing you can suggest?" Sir George cried despairingly. "Is
there no way of getting delay?"

Copley made no reply for a time. When at length he spoke he dropped his
voice to a persuasive whisper.

"Well, there is one method," he said. "Absalom is a sportsman, and he
takes a great interest in racing matters. Between ourselves, he finances
some of the swell bookmakers, and I understand has a grip upon some of
the large commission firms. If you could show him a way to make thirty
or forty thousand pounds on a race like the Derby, you might induce him
to withdraw his execution for a month. Though he is in a corner, or he
wouldn't have dropped on you, the suggestion I speak of would be worth a
sacrifice."

"I don't follow you," Sir George said.

"No? Then I must speak more plainly. At the present moment you own a
colt which looks like winning the Derby. I know the colt has been
coughing lately, but your man Raffle is very sanguine and knows what he
is talking about. I see the colt has come back in the betting to eight
to one, and the public never seem to be tired of backing him. That,
however, is the public's look-out and is no concern of yours. In the
colt's present condition you will be justified in putting a pen through
his name and nobody could blame you. Owners don't raise horses for the
benefit of the public, and if the public choose to come in and forestall
the market and the horse is scratched, then they must take the
consequences. It has been done over and over again, and I don't see why
you shouldn't do it yourself. You needn't do it to-day, or to-morrow, or
even next week, but if I can assure Absalom that this is going to
happen, why, in that case, I feel certain these proceedings will be
withdrawn, and perhaps such terms arranged as will wipe the debt out
altogether. Do you follow me?"

Sir George sat white and rigid. He seemed trying dimly to comprehend
what Copley was driving at. All the time Copley was speaking he did not
meet the eye of his victim. But Sir George's face was no index of his
feelings. He was quivering from head to foot with a nameless indignation
and, though Copley did not know it, was within an ace of inflicting
personal punishment on the financier.

"You can't be in earnest," Sir George said with difficulty. "Surely, you
were joking when you asked me to do this thing? Why, it would be
contemptible, dishonourable to the last degree. I expect to win a
fortune with the Blenheim colt, but I backed him at a very long price,
and if he breaks down the loss will not be so great. It would be bad
enough to lose a fortune which I regarded as as good as in my pocket,
but deliberately to scratch the horse, to wait for a fortnight whilst
these friends of yours are laying against the colt, is an insult which I
did not dream any man would put upon me."

"You will pardon me if I don't see it in that light," Copley said
coolly. "You have a right to do what you like with your own. You are
justified in scratching the horse and, indeed, you have every excuse for
doing so. I don't see that it matters much whether it is done to-day or
in a fortnight's time. You may lose the few thousands pounds you put on
the colt, but that seems probable in any case. And, on the other hand,
you have it in your power to wipe out your debt to me--that is, to
benefit to the extent of forty thousand pounds."

Sir George's indignation began to ebb. He no longer felt a disposition
to smite Copley hip and thigh; he was thinking of his own position and
future.

"And if I refuse?"

Copley shrugged his shoulders eloquently.

"In that case, there is no more to be said or done," he answered. "I
would help you if I could, but I am powerless just now. But perhaps you
will think better of it. I am sure you will be tired of that man in
possession by the end of a week."




CHAPTER XXX

AN ULTIMATUM


Copley rose as if the interview were over, and he had done all he could
for his friend. But Sir George lingered. He stood gazing into the fire
thoughtfully and moodily. Copley's last shaft had gone home. Sir
George's whole nature revolted from spending a week in the company of
the man in possession. He wanted to gain time, to have an opportunity to
consider matters, and, above all, to get rid of the incubus which, in
his mind's eye, he could see seated patiently in the library at Haredale
Park. Yet he also knew what he ought to have done. He ought either to
have knocked Copley down out of hand, or to have walked out of the house
with a curt intimation that he and Copley must be strangers in the
future.

But, like the weak man he was, when the pinch came he did neither of
these things. It would never have occurred to him to assert that he was
a man of honour. All the world had taken it for granted, and in this
opinion Sir George shared. But, on the other hand, he was face to face
with disgrace, and in a few days would be homeless and penniless, a mark
for the finger of scorn, and the object of pity of those whom he had
looked down upon from a lofty standpoint. But was there, after all, any
great harm in what Copley suggested? Scores of owners of horses had done
such things before, and he had a genuine excuse for drawing the pen
through the name of the Blenheim colt, since it had fallen ill. If other
people benefited by the knowledge, it was no concern of his. If the colt
were no better at the end of a fortnight, he could be scratched and
things go on as they were. Besides, the colt was a good one, and in the
autumn there would be every chance of winning the St. Leger with him.
This reasoning was all very specious and wrong, but it wasn't long
before Sir George had justified himself, as Copley felt sure he would
do.

"Wait a little," Sir George said. "You can't expect me to make up my
mind at once. I must have time to think it over. But I can't do anything
as long as that man is at Haredale Park. If you can get rid of him for
me----"

"Oh, I think I can do that," Copley interrupted. "But if I telephone to
Absalom & Co. from here they will want some guarantee from you
that--well, you know what I mean. They won't want any writing, your word
will be good enough for that."

Sir George expanded at this suggestion. It never struck him that a mere
negotiation on this point from Copley's view would be as good as a
written document.

"I think I can give it," he said.

"Very well," Copley said briskly. "I am glad to hear you talk like that.
It is a commonsense view of the situation. Sit down and smoke your cigar
in peace and don't worry any more about the matter. I'll go into my
office and ring up Absalom & Co., and in an hour's time you will be free
from your trouble."

For three-quarters of an hour Sir George sat immersed in gloomy
thoughts. Manipulate the transaction as he might, deceive himself as he
pleased, there was no getting away from the fact that he was
contemplating a shameful thing, and the knowledge that he was saving
himself did not mend matters. The best part of an hour had passed before
Copley returned with a cheerful face.

"I thought I could manage," he exclaimed. "I felt sure there would be
little difficulty, if we only convinced Absalom & Co. that there was a
good thing for them here. But, mind you, I had to give them my word.
They wouldn't accept anything in the least vague. Nothing is to be done
for a fortnight; in fact, not till after the next meeting at Mirst Park,
and at the end of that time the Blenheim colt is to be scratched. You
have only to keep him short of exercise, and the public will conclude
that something serious is amiss with the colt. I had to promise this
before I could move these people at all. Of course, if you don't want to
go as far as that I can ring them up again. It would be a pity to do so,
however, seeing that by this time Absalom's have taken steps to withdraw
their action, and in a few minutes the man at Haredale Park will receive
a telegram calling him back to London at once. You had better think the
matter over. Don't say that I persuaded you, for, if you wish to break
off negotiations, it is not too late to do so."

Copley's voice was gentle, but there was nothing persuasive about him.
He meant to leave the matter entirely in Sir George's hands. But, as he
had confidently expected, Sir George did not repudiate the bargain. On
the contrary, he thanked Copley for what he had done, and when they left
the library a few minutes later the arrangement was ratified. As they
made for the stable-yard Copley paused as if something had suddenly
occurred to him.

"There is one other matter," he said. "I didn't like to mention it
before for fear you should imagine I was forcing your hand. Now I can
speak freely. It relates to your daughter. When I lent you that money I
expected to have the privilege of calling myself your son-in-law. I
have not yet had anything definite from Miss Haredale; in fact, I am
afraid she dislikes me. But things can't go on like this, and you
promised to put in a good word for me. I daresay you will think it
strange, but I have set my heart on this marriage. It will be well,
perhaps, to let your daughter know how things stand. I fear she doesn't
comprehend the position. Tell her yourself."

There was no mistaking the ring of command in the last words.

"Certainly," Sir George promised. "I will do so without delay. I can't
for the life of me understand May's hesitancy. Almost every girl in the
county would jump at the chance of being Mrs. Raymond Copley. Besides,
May must marry a rich man. But leave it to me, Copley. Come over after
dinner this evening and see if we can't fix this thing up once and for
all."

Sir George returned to Haredale trying to feel on good terms with
himself and elated with the turn things had taken. But he could not
disguise that he had done wrong. He could not still the voice of
conscience. However, he was relieved to hear from his butler of the
departure of Brown on receipt of a telegram. The man had made certain
promises. He would call again later in the day, but had left his address
in case Sir George wanted to write to him. It was very correct and
discreet, no one was any the wiser, nobody had guessed about this black
disgrace, and in the fullness of his heart Sir George wrote a short note
to Brown enclosing a cheque. He was sealing up the envelope and putting
on the stamp when May entered.

She was fresh from her ride. Her eyes were sparkling and her cheeks
glowed. There was something in her gay abandon and her clear light of
innocence that jarred upon Sir George. Why should she have none of this
trouble? Why should she be outside of it all? To some extent, she was
the cause of the mischief. But for her Copley would never have lent Sir
George any money; but for her he would never have found himself in the
clutches of Absalom & Co. This was as specious as his other moralizing,
and he never imagined that he had fallen into a trap set by Copley. What
he wanted was some one to vent his anger upon.

"Where have you been?" he asked irritably. "I have been looking for you
everywhere. I have just been having a conversation about you with Mr.
Copley. He wants to know----"

"He already does know," May said coldly. "I thought I had made that
quite clear. I shall be glad if you will not allude to this again. It is
most distasteful to me."

Sir George brought his fist with a bang on the table.

"You are a fool," he cried. "I beg pardon, but I can't think of any
other word. You don't seem to realize what obligations we are under to
Mr. Copley. Do you know that if he liked he could turn us out of the
house to-morrow? Do you know that even this morning he has saved us from
a great disgrace? And he has done all this out of affection for you. I
can assure you that Mr. Raymond Copley is not the man to be played
with."

"My dear father," May protested, "why this violence? I don't in the
least want to play with Mr. Copley."

"Oh, this is no joking matter. You ought to be proud to think that a man
like that is ready to lay his wealth at your feet. Now, I want you to
understand that if you treat him in this way he will very likely teach
you a lesson. It is no use beating about the bush. We are in his hands.
And, therefore, you must marry him."

"Must, my dear father. Surely----"

"Oh, I am not going to listen to any more. I won't argue with you. You
are either going to marry Mr. Copley or I wash my hands of you
altogether. I will not be ruined for the mere whim of a girl. Now you
quite understand me? If this thing isn't settled to-morrow, Haredale
will be no place for you."




CHAPTER XXXI

A POINT-BLANK REFUSAL


It was a cruel shock to the girl. She had never heard her father speak
like that before; indeed, she would not have deemed him capable of such
harshness. For many years May and her father had been the best of
friends; indeed, their relationship had been more like brother and
sister than anything else. She had shared in Sir George's pleasures, she
had known most of his troubles, and generally had been allowed to do
exactly as she pleased. And if she had a proper sense of pride, it was
Sir George who was mainly responsible for it. He had never forgotten
that he was the master of Haredale Park, and that the family had lived
there three centuries and more. He had always spoken his mind freely to
May on the subject of new-comers and interlopers. He had declared that
no matter what his neighbours might do, not one of them should ever
cross his threshold; he had apparently despised these new rich from the
bottom of his heart. It seemed only the other day that Sir George had
spoken most contemptuously about Raymond Copley. A few months before
and he would have laughed to scorn any suggestion on Copley's part to
become one of the family.

"We need not envy them, my dear," Sir George had said over and over
again. "After all, money is not everything. Of course, one has to be
agreeable to these people in the hunting-field and when one meets them
at neighbouring houses, but, thank goodness, we need not go farther than
that. You won't have much when I die, but so long as you marry the right
sort of man I shall be quite content with your choice. I can trust you,
I know."

These recollections crowded into May's mind as she stood face to face
with her father. It struck her almost with painful force that she was
making his acquaintance for the first time. This was another Sir George
Haredale, of whom she had not the slightest knowledge. He looked hard
and sullen, and met her eye with difficulty. May hoped he would have the
grace to be ashamed of himself, that this was an outburst for which he
would apologize presently.

"Do you really know what you are saying?" she murmured. "I hope I have
not mistaken you, father."

"You have not mistaken me at all," Sir George said sullenly.

"Then I am to understand that it is your wish that I should become the
wife of Mr. Raymond Copley?"

"I thought I had made it quite plain."

"You are so set upon this match that unless I marry this man I am no
longer to consider Haredale Park as my home."

Sir George nodded. He had not the courage to put it as plainly as that.

"I will try to be calm," May went on. "But this has been a terrible blow
to me. Even now I can hardly believe my ears. Do you mean to say that if
I refuse Mr. Copley I am to be turned out of house and home?"

"Don't be dramatic," Sir George interrupted.

"I didn't know that I was. I only want to have a clear understanding.
Oh, the thing is monstrous. You cannot realize what you are saying. If
you have no sort of feeling for yourself or me, just try to imagine what
our friends will say. We know many people who would decline to be on
visiting terms with Mr. Copley. There are lots of houses where he could
not go. Even if I were fond of the man and could meet your wishes, it
would be a long time before certain of our neighbours forgave me. What
will you say when you meet them racing, or hunting, or shooting? Do you
suppose this thing can be kept quiet? Do you suppose everybody won't
know why I left home? Do you believe for a moment that common gossip
will not say that you turned your daughter out because she refused to
marry a man whom you declined to call upon for months after he came
here? I know such things happen in the case of boys, but I never yet
heard of a father in your position who sent his daughter away because
she refused to sell herself to a person whom she both disliked and
despised."

Sir George listened uncomfortably. He was violating all his best
feelings. He knew what a sorry figure he must be cutting in the eyes of
his daughter. Moreover, every word she said was true. This thing would
get out. It would be a dainty morsel in the mouths of all the gossips,
and, though he could rely upon May to be silent, other tongues would not
be bridled. But he comforted himself with the assurance that things
would never go as far as that, for when May saw that he was in earnest
she would yield. There might be tears and reproaches, but in the end she
would bow to his wishes, and though Copley was not popular, yet he would
be accepted in time on the strength of being Sir George Haredale's
son-in-law.

"There are reasons why this must be," he said. "I am under obligations
to Copley, under great obligations. Besides, he is paying you the
greatest compliment in his power. There are many girls----"

"Oh, what have the majority of girls to do with me? I am not like them.
I have not been trained in the same school. I know lots of my friends
regard matrimony as a matter of business. They are too idle and selfish
to think of anything but themselves. They would deem it a fine thing to
have the spending of Mr. Copley's money. But I detest the man too much
for that. He is not a gentleman, his manners are not good, and I am sure
he is neither honest nor straightforward. I would do anything in my
power to help you, but if it comes to this, that Haredale Park can only
be preserved to us by this hateful marriage, then I decline. It is too
great a sacrifice to ask of your daughter. Oh, how can you even make the
suggestion?"

"You will think better of it," Sir George said.

"Never! I have said the last word. I will not allude to it again, and,
unless you take back what you have said, I will accept you at your word
and go out into the world and earn my own living. Don't mention it
again."

Sir George looked uneasily at his daughter. Her austere sternness
disturbed him. He said that Copley was coming over later in the evening
to hear what May had to say on the matter.

"Very well," she answered, "I am rather glad of that. I shall be able to
settle this thing for ever."

She turned and swept from the room. She was glad she had kept the tears
out of her eyes. She was glad Sir George little knew how terribly he had
wounded her. For the rest of the day May went about the house as though
nothing had happened. She had a smile and a pleasant word for her
visitor, so that even Sir George took heart of grace and deluded himself
with the idea that his firmness had not been misplaced. It was only when
Copley came that he found out how mistaken he was. Copley had no
difficulty in getting May to himself, for Alice Carden was deeply
engrossed in a book, and Sir George was sitting over his cigar in the
library. At the very first hint of the reason for his visit May turned
to him.

"I think I know what you are going to say," she observed. "I shall be
glad to have this matter finally settled. Oh, no, I don't mean what you
do at all. Will you be good enough to come to the library with me,
because I should like my father to hear what passes between us? I won't
detain you more than a few minutes, and it is the best way."

The self-satisfied smile died from Copley's lips. He had not expected a
reception like this, and it surprised him, too, to see this
uncompromising dignity in May's manner. Perhaps she had never been more
alluring or more attractive in his eyes than she was at that moment, and
he knew, too, without any words from her, that he was on the eve of
defeat.

"Very well," he said, "though I don't see why we shouldn't settle it
between us. It is our affair."

May made no reply. She walked into the library, followed by Copley. Sir
George turned eagerly as they entered.

"Ah, well?" he said with an uneasy attempt at playfulness. "I see you
have come to an understanding."

"I trust so," May said quietly, "though I don't think it is the
understanding you anticipate. This is a very hateful position for me,
and I would give a good deal to be out of it. But it would be cowardly
if I tried to shirk my duty. Mr. Copley has already asked me to be his
wife, and I refused him. I do not wish to give him any pain, but I had
to put the matter plainly because he is a persistent man and not
inclined to take 'No' for an answer. I understand he has come here
to-night to renew his offer. Now, Mr. Copley, I have to tell you before
my father that what you ask is impossible. I am old-fashioned enough to
prefer happiness to money, and I could not marry a man whom I did not
love. I have never liked you, I never could like you, in fact, I hope
you won't think me rude when I say that I dislike you exceedingly.
Besides, there is something unmanly and cowardly in pursuing a
defenceless girl in this way. If you have one spark of proper feeling
you will never allude to this topic again. I don't want to appeal to
your pride. I think I have said enough."

Copley said nothing at the moment. He was struggling to obtain the
mastery of himself. His face flushed angrily. There was a nasty glitter
in his eyes.

"Does she understand?" he asked.

"It is not my fault if she doesn't," Sir George muttered.

"It is because I do understand," May said, "that I am all the more
determined in my refusal."




CHAPTER XXXII

AN EASY FALL


"One moment," Copley put in. "If Sir George has explained matters, then,
perhaps I can speak freely. Your father is indebted to me--I will not
say anything about the amount, for that would all be wiped out and we
could start on a much better footing if you would only take another view
of the case. If you persist----"

"You can take that for granted," May said.

"Would you like to think it over?" Copley suggested.

"Oh, I have thought it over. I have had all day to think it over. I see
you mean to force me to speak more plainly still. You have a hold over
my father. He is deeply in your debt. You have lent him a large sum of
money, not out of any feeling of friendship or generosity, but simply
because you thought you could force me to marry you. Did any one ever
hear of such a situation except on the stage? I know that if I do not
change my mind you will visit your displeasure upon my father, you will
make it impossible for us to remain at Haredale Park any longer. It
seems a strange thing that a man should be so lost to all sense of
decency as to use weapons like these to compel a girl to marry him. But
it hasn't stopped there. My father has told me quite plainly, even
brutally, that unless I make this sacrifice I am no longer to consider
myself as his daughter. I must go out as if I were a mere underling to
earn my own living. Very well; I am ready to do so. No, I don't want
words from either of you. My mind is made up, and there is no more to be
said."

May turned away, and left the library with her head held high and a
bright colour burning her cheeks. She was very near to tears, but was
grateful for the pride which had carried her through this trying
interview without the semblance of a breakdown. When they were alone Sir
George turned to his companion.

"I wouldn't have believed it," he said apologetically. "I never expected
that May would be so disobedient. But you must make allowance for her. I
daresay in time----"

"Never," Copley said emphatically. "She means every word she says. If
you had half the pluck and grit she has you would never have found
yourself in your present position. We have made a mistake, Haredale; we
have gone the wrong way to work. I don't blame you any more than myself,
but you may depend upon it that your daughter will never be my wife.
She will keep her word; she will go out into the world, if necessary, to
earn her own living, and I shouldn't wonder if she made a very good one.
I must put up with my disappointment, I suppose. I would give half I
possess to be able to say that your daughter was my wife. But there must
be none of these harsh measures, Haredale. Just think what people would
say! We should both be boycotted. The thing would get into the papers
and your life wouldn't be worth living. We must find some other way out.
Now let us change the subject."

Sir George was perfectly willing. Despite his selfish obstinacy the
interview had been a trial to him, and he was exceedingly glad to get it
over.

"What else have you in your mind?" he asked.

"Oh, business, of course. About the Blenheim colt? I am taking it for
granted that you will scratch him. I don't see very well how you can
back out. I have made the arrangements with Absalom & Co., and as they
have withdrawn their action they will expect you to do your part. Now
what do you say to letting the colt have a run in the Champion Stakes
next week at Mirst Park? I thought it would be a very good way of
getting out. To begin with, the public will be glad to see whether or
not their fears are justified, and if the horse cuts up badly, why,
then, you can scratch him at once. It would appear absolutely fair and
above board; in fact, it will be. Or, if you like, you can let it be
understood that the horse is not quite fit and that you still have hopes
of getting him in fettle for the Derby. Either seems a good scheme."

"I see," Sir George said thoughtfully. "Yes, on the whole, that isn't a
bad idea of yours. I shall be glad to get it over, too. I hadn't the
slightest intention of sending the colt to Mirst Park, but Raffle
reports that he is much fitter to-day, so that there is no reason why I
should not adopt your suggestion. There is the chance that people will
blame me for taking the risk, but, at the outside, that will be the
worst of it. I will talk it over with Raffle in the morning, and let you
know definitely."

Shortly after breakfast next morning Mallow came into the library to
hear what his employer had to say. The trainer would hardly believe his
ears when Sir George unfolded his plan. He had a score of practical
objections to make, but Haredale put them all impatiently aside.

"Does the colt belong to you or to me?" he asked. "I have the very best
of reasons for what I am going to do. It has always been my policy to
take the public into my confidence. I want them to see at Mirst Park
exactly what the horse can do. If they like to go on backing him after
that it will be their own look-out."

"But that isn't the point, Sir George," Mallow insisted. "The colt is
coming on splendidly again. It would be madness to extend him just now,
and if he breaks down badly, don't blame me. I'll do my best between now
and the day of the race, not because I want to, but because you are my
employer and I must obey orders."

Mallow refused to say more. He closed his mouth obstinately and went
back to the stables in a peculiar frame of mind. He had had twenty years
of turf experience. There was no cunning wile or deep-laid plot that was
not familiar to him and he was wondering what dodge Sir George was up
to. Hitherto he had found Sir George Haredale the soul of honour and
integrity, but it was one of Mallow's theories that every man had his
limits. Besides, no one knew better how critical Sir George's financial
affairs were. Of late, too, Sir George had been hand in glove with
Raymond Copley, and Mallow hated Copley from the bottom of his heart. In
his own phraseology, Copley was a wrong 'un.

Raffle was past all words when, in the fullness of his heart. Mallow
confided in him. Raffle was a keen judge of such matters. He sought an
opportunity later in the afternoon of seeing Fielden and telling him
what had happened.

"Is Sir George mad?" Fielden asked.

"I don't think so, sir," Raffle replied. "I don't like it at all. Depend
upon it, Sir George has got into a mess over his money matters and has
thought out some scheme for putting himself right. Call me a fool if
that there Copley isn't at the bottom of the whole thing. He and Sir
George have been as thick as thieves lately. They say you can't touch
pitch without being defiled. And since those two have been so friendly,
Sir George is quite another man. However, unless you like to interfere,
I must act upon instructions. I am bound to do as I am told."

"How could I interfere?" Fielden asked.

"Well, sir, the colt rightfully belongs to you. He is as much yours as
the coat on your back. I can't see why you should stand quietly by and
watch the ruin of one of the finest horses that ever trod the turf."

"I had forgotten that," Fielden said. "Perhaps, later, I may have
something to say, but for the present that must be our secret, Joe.
Mallow must carry out his instructions. By the way, what are they?"

Something like a grin crossed Raffle's face.

"Oh, we've got to run him, sir," he said. "We've got to run him and do
our best. That there is the faintest chance of his winning Sir George
does not believe for a moment. Still, if you refuse to take a hand, I
must do as I am told, that's all. Perhaps you will be at Mirst Park
yourself on the first day."

"Of course. I am taking one or two of our crocks there. But I must be
off, Joe."

The conversation haunted Fielden. It was with him night and day till the
first day of the Mirst Park meeting arrived. He had seen little or
nothing of Phillips for some time, but that morning he had received a
telegram asking him to meet Phillips in London early in the afternoon.
He gathered from the message that Phillips had something important to
say and so he decided to go to town. It would be easy to get back in
time to see the end of the afternoon's sport. None of the Haredale Park
party was over. Nor had Copley put in an appearance, and Fielden had his
time almost to himself. He ran against Raffle in the paddock half an
hour or so before the race for the Champion Stakes. There was a queer
grin on the old man's face as he suggested that Fielden should go and
have a look at the horse. They found the Blenheim colt in his stable
looking in much better condition than Fielden had expected.

"He looks splendid," he said.

"Ah, he is a bonny colt," Raffle exclaimed with a look of affection in
his eyes. "I never saw a better-tempered horse or a more genuine trier.
He'll go every inch of the way, and I shouldn't be surprised if--but we
won't talk about that."

Raffle refused to say more. Moreover, he had the colt to look to, for
the race was close at hand; so Fielden made his way into the stand,
where he could command a good view. Not that he had any interest in the
race. It was a foregone conclusion that the Blenheim colt would be
beaten and in only one or two instances did he carry any public money. A
moment or two later Raffle took up a position by Fielden's side.

"The colt moves well," said Fielden, looking through his glasses, "and I
don't see much signs of staleness, either. Upon my word, if I had any
money to spare I'd back him for a trifle myself."

"You might do worse," Raffle chuckled.




CHAPTER XXXIII

THE FIVE BASKETS


There was the usual roar from the ring which began to die down as the
horses were seen fidgeting at the post. Then a murmur arose from the
spectators, and the dancing kaleidoscope of colours broke into a thin
stream as the field got away to a capital start. They came along all in
a cluster round the bend of the course till, presently, there was a
hoarse shout from the onlookers and the name of the Blenheim colt was on
every lip. The horse hung for a moment or two coming up the straight,
then seemed to recover himself and, moving along with a beautifully free
and easy stride, caught the leaders a dozen lengths from home and
slipped past the post a winner by a short head.

"What did I tell you?" Raffle chuckled. "Well, they can't blame me. I
was told by Sir George to do the best I could with the horse and I
carried out my instructions to the letter. No, sir, I didn't back him
myself. I wasn't quite sure. Besides, Sir George wouldn't have liked it.
Between you and me, sir, I don't think he'll be altogether pleased."

Fielden asked no questions. Whatever suspicions Raffle had he kept to
himself. Fielden glanced at his watch and saw he would just have time to
catch a train to town and join Phillips at the rendezvous in Covent
Garden. He hurried away from the course and caught his train by sheer
good luck.

He wasn't at all easy in his mind. He was inclined to agree with Raffle
that there was more than met the eye in this affair and that Sir George
had little consideration for the public when he decided to run the colt
at Mirst Park. On the face of it, it was a mad thing to do and the fact
that the horse had won rendered Sir George's policy all the more
inexplicable. There was something sinister, too, in the close friendship
which had sprung up between Haredale and Copley. That Copley was an
unscrupulous blackguard Fielden knew very well. Possibly this knowledge
was not shared by Sir George, but there was no getting over the fact
that Haredale's money matters were in a critical state. Better men than
Sir George had yielded to temptation.

Fielden was still debating the matter when he reached town. He turned up
at the hotel in Covent Garden where Phillips was awaiting him, it
wanting then just ten minutes to three. Phillips was relieved when
Fielden came in.

"I thought you were going to fail me," he said. "I began to think that
you had missed your train."

"I very nearly lost it," Fielden laughed. "But why do you want me?"

"We shall see that in good time, sir," Phillips said. "In about ten
minutes from now we shall begin operations. There is just time to smoke
a cigarette before we start. What is the best news from Mirst Park? I
haven't seen a paper yet. Was the Blenheim colt beaten very
disgracefully?"

"He wasn't beaten at all," Fielden said. "In fact, he won with
considerable ease. There was very little trace of staleness about him.
But it is early to talk about that. We must wait and see what old Raffle
says to-morrow. I should not be surprised if the colt has done himself
some serious injury to-day."

Phillips burst into a hearty laugh.

"What a joke!" he cried. "And what a sell it will be for Sir George! Oh,
I know a thing or two, Mr. Fielden. I haven't been moving about with my
eyes shut lately. It is very good of your old friend to pull out his
horse in public, for the benefit of backers generally, but the man who
will be most surprised and most disappointed at the result of to-day's
race will be Sir George himself. If there is another man madder than Sir
George it will be that scoundrel Copley."

"What do you mean?" Fielden asked.

"Never mind, sir. The least said soonest mended. But if I had ten
thousand pounds I'd cheerfully back my opinion to the last penny that
Sir George never hoped for and never expected a victory for the colt.
I'll explain all in very good time. Now the sooner we are off the
better. We are going to meet a gentleman named Chaffey whom I expect to
see in a few minutes not very far from the Post Club on the other side
of the street. You remember telling me how Chaffey turned up at Seton
Manor, and what he said when he was drunk. I am glad you overheard that,
because it solved a point that has been puzzling me for some time. I
couldn't for the life of me make out how it was that Jolly & Co. managed
to signal the result of the three o'clock race at Mirst Park into the
smoking-room of the Post Club. I doubt if I ever should have found out
had not Chaffey gone down to Seton Manor and hinted that if he couldn't
get what he wanted somebody else might have his job of playing with the
fruit baskets in Covent Garden. I saw at once that this was connected
with the swindle, but for the life of me I couldn't place it. After
thinking over it for the best part of a week, I took a stroll through
Covent Garden market and finally stood in front of the Post Club trying
to piece the puzzle together in my mind. There were a good many men
about loading and unloading baskets, and I saw that most of them carried
them on their heads. Why, some of these porters can carry as many as
eight or nine bushel baskets on their heads. While I stood watching
them an idea flashed into my mind. Look at this copy of to-day's
_Sportsman_. Turn to the probable starters in the three o'clock race,
and you will see for yourself that there is a number by the side of
every horse. Now most racing men carry a _Sportsman_. There would be
nothing suspicious in a backer pulling the _Sportsman_ out of his pocket
and consulting it at any moment. He might do it in a railway carriage,
or on the course, or in a smoking-room, and it wouldn't attract any
attention. Unless I am greatly mistaken, I have found the clue to the
means by which Copley & Co.'s confederate has the result of a race at
Mirst Park conveyed to him into the smoking-room of the Post Club
practically before the horses are past the post. Then, of course, he can
make what bets he likes. He is perfectly safe, because he can't lose.
But, come along, it is past three and I don't want to lose this chance
of verifying my conclusions. Only we must be careful. We must not rouse
Chaffey's suspicions. He must not know that we are even watching him.
Close to the Post Club there is a shop where we can procure some cigars
and cigarettes and keep our eye upon what is going on. Are you ready?"

Fielden was ready and willing, for his curiosity was aflame. When he and
his companion reached Covent Garden, they turned into a cigar shop in
the same block of buildings in which the Post Club was situated. A good
many customers had to be attended to, so that it was excusable to stand
inside the door way and watch what was taking place on the other side of
the road.

The market was practically empty. Business had been finished for the
day, and there were only two or three casual porters loafing about
waiting on the off-chance for an hour's work. One of them standing by a
pile of baskets with hands plunged deeply in his pockets and a pipe in
his mouth was Chaffey.

"No mistake about him?" Phillips asked.

"That's the man," Fielden whispered. "I could swear to that expression
of his anywhere. But what is he doing there? He doesn't seem to be
particularly busy."

"He is getting well paid for his job, anyway," Phillips chuckled. "As it
is not likely to last long he'll be gone in a few moments. Have you the
right time about you? What do you make it? Five minutes past three by
post office time? The result ought to be here at any moment. Ah, I
thought so. Just keep your eye closely upon Chaffey."

In his excitement Phillips bent over and grasped his companion's arm.
Fielden saw Chaffey suddenly pull himself up and moisten his hands. He
touched his ragged cap as if in response to a distant call, then he
proceeded to fling five baskets one on the top of the other and balance
them on his head. With this pyramid thus arranged he walked slowly
across the market and disappeared down one of the corridors, where he
was lost to sight.

"What on earth does it mean?" Fielden asked.

"Oh, that's the signal," Phillips explained. "The result has just come
into the office of Jolly & Co. on the private telephone wire from The
Nook at Mirst Park. The supposed Mr. Jolly stands near the window with
the telephone receiver to his ear ready to flash the signal across the
street. Now you understand why the flex of the telephone is so long.
Before the horse is past the post the man on the top of the house at
Mirst Park sends the number, and Jolly & Co. signal it to Chaffey. Then
Chaffey simply puts five or other number of baskets on his head, and the
confederate in the Post Club has the result. Mind you, this could be
done within five seconds of the race being settled. Now take this
_Sportsman_ and I'll eat my hat if the winner of the three o'clock race
at Mirst Park isn't number five on the programme."

When the result was published Phillips proved to be correct.




CHAPTER XXXIV

NO. 5


"That's it," Phillips exclaimed. "I think we've got it right at last. We
know by the evening paper that Dandy won the Longhill Handicap, which
was the three o'clock race at Mirst Park to-day. We also know that Dandy
is No. 5 on the _Sportsman_ list, all of which goes to prove our case.
It is a smart bit of business, isn't it?"

"Exceedingly smart," Fielden said, "and, to some extent, risky. Whoever
sends the message from Mirst Park is certainly a very good judge of
racing. That telephone signal must have been started before the horse
was past the post."

"Oh, I don't know," Phillips argued. "In a very tight race they would
have to wait to see what the judge had to say. But I am sure that either
of us could spot the winner in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred within
fifty lengths of the post. Therefore, the result would be known in
London and signalled into the Post Club practically at the same instant
that the race was over. I think we shall know how to deal with Mr.
Copley now."

"What are you going to do?" Fielden asked.

"That depends upon circumstances. I don't mind telling you, when I first
came home and found Copley in an apparently good position, I intended to
make money out of him. I didn't feel so keen upon revenge as I used to
feel. It would have been no great satisfaction to me to get him ten
years on the Breakwater, and, besides, I should have had to go out to
the Cape and waste several months there. That is why I decided to hit
him through his pocket. But I had to be careful, because I had a
dangerous man to deal with and I didn't relish the idea of a prosecution
for blackmail. That is one of the reasons why I went into this business.
When I speak, I shall lay Copley by the heels without taking any trouble
and probably without appearing in the matter. I shall have the
satisfaction of sending him to gaol, and I shan't have to go out of the
country at all."

"You can't make anything out of this," Fielden reminded him.

"Of course not. If I were to go to Copley to-day and tell him what I had
discovered he would give me a few thousand pounds to keep my mouth shut
and, sooner or later, when the dodge is found out, as it must be, I
should figure in the dock with the others. It is too dangerous a game.
Still, when I come to think of it, sir, you are somewhat in my debt."

"Perhaps I am," Fielden admitted. "But I don't see what special favour
you have done me----"

"By getting rid of Raymond Copley," Phillips smiled. "I couldn't have
served you better. We shall have him out of the way anyhow. Later, when
you find yourself in a good position again, I will ask you to give me a
responsible post in your stables. Oh, it will all come right, sir. You
ought to win a big stake over the Derby, if you play your cards right,
and the Blenheim colt will be worth a small fortune."

"What have I to do with the horse?" Fielden asked.

"I know all about that, sir," Phillips said cheerfully. "Never mind
where I had my information. I am half a gipsy and my mother's tribe pick
up news from all sorts of unlikely quarters. A lad who used to be in
your stables told me the story. Nobody else would have believed him but
me. I can give you chapter and verse if you like, but that would only be
wasting time, and I can guess what Copley's game is, too. See if I don't
prove to be a true prophet. The Blenheim colt will be sure to show signs
of to-day's race; indeed, he is a marvel if he does any good during the
rest of his career as a three year-old. But, then, the horse is a
marvel. Still, very few of us know that, and we shall be able to back
him for the Derby at our own price within the next few days. I will
stick on the horse every farthing I can rake together. If I could only
get a couple of thousand pounds I could make a fortune. And you ought to
make a fortune, too. You told me that you could find that sum, if
necessary, and seeing that you have it in your power to prevent the
Blenheim colt from being scratched you will be flying in the face of
Providence if you turn your back on a chance like this."

Fielden looked at his companion in some perplexity. He was astonished to
find that Phillips knew so much. Whence did the man derive his
information? But there never was a gipsy yet who was not fond of a
horse. The various clans roam all over the country, and very little that
is going on escapes their sharp black eyes and there is, besides, a sort
of freemasonry amongst them. But it mattered little whence Phillips'
information came, for he had certainly got it. He was correct in every
detail, too, and for the first time Fielden began to see his way. He
could lay his hands upon a couple of thousand pounds, and before the
week was out he knew that the Blenheim colt would be at any price in the
market that a backer needed. Two thousand pounds in itself was not much
to lose. It would leave him only a little worse off than he was at
present. On the other hand, it might bring him in enough to start life
again as a rich man. He was thinking of May Haredale and all the
brilliant possibilities in that quarter. He could stop this vile
conspiracy. It was for him to say what the future of the Blenheim colt
was, and he could do this without arousing any gossip or giving the
public any chance for spicy scandal. When the right moment came he could
go to Sir George and inform him that he had no control whatever over the
colt. Sir George might bluster and Copley might threaten, but their
threats would be in vain. In the long run Sir George would benefit and
May would be free from the persecutions of a scoundrel and Fielden would
be in a position to offer her a luxurious home. He had learnt his
lesson, too. He was no longer the careless and extravagant youth who had
left England more or less under a cloud.

He was aroused from his reverie by questions from Phillips.

"Really, I beg pardon," he said, "but, for the moment, I was thinking
about something else."

"Oh, I understand that," Phillips said with a dry smile. "But we haven't
finished. Our case is not complete. We must know whether there is any
big wagering on the three o'clock race this afternoon in the Post Club.
To get my facts I have brought Major Carden over here on purpose. I have
paid his expenses to and from Germany, and I understand he wishes to
return to-night, if possible. Let's go on to our hotel and wait for him.
But I must tell you that Carden knows nothing. He thinks I have some
deep scheme on for making money and so long as I pay him for his
information he is satisfied. You had better leave all questions to me."

Fielden was willing enough to do so. To some degree he was not pleased
to be mixed up in this business, though it gave him a hold over Copley.
They had hardly reached their hotel before the Major came in. He made
no objection to Phillips' offer of refreshment. They talked for a few
minutes on indifferent topics and then Phillips went to the point.

"I suppose you've got my cheque," he said, "or you would not have been
here to-day. I hope it wasn't inconvenient."

"It was devilish inconvenient," the Major said in his florid way. "But
as you are willing to pay I don't mind. Now I am ready to give you all
the information you need. Please don't be long because I have a train to
catch before five."

"Then we needn't waste more time," Phillips said. "I suppose you were in
the Post Club all the afternoon."

"My dear sir, I lunched there and I've only just come away. I left a lot
of people there. Rickerby was there, with three or four more of the
gilded plungers, including Selwyn. As to the first and second race----"

"Oh, hang the first and second race," Phillips cried impatiently. "It is
the three o'clock race at Mirst Park that I am interested in. Was there
any heavy wagering going on, and can you tell me who was betting? That's
all I want to know."

The Major went into detail. There had been a certain amount of business
over the three o'clock race, but sundry heavy wagers had been deferred
almost to the last moment. A large amount of chaff had gone on between
one particular plunger and Selwyn and his satellites over a horse called
the Dandy. Dandy had been a rank outsider and had only cropped up in the
betting at the eleventh hour, so to speak. A quarter of an hour before
the race there had been no takers. Then the argument grew more heated
and finally Selwyn had laid several wagers against Dandy at a thousand
to thirty. All this had taken place, so far as the Major could guess,
whilst the race was in progress. There was something like consternation
amongst the bookmakers when the news came that Dandy had won the
Longhill Handicap by three lengths. Altogether it had been a dramatic
afternoon.

"And that's about all I can tell you," the Major concluded. "If you want
me again, give me more notice, please. I really must be going."

He took up his hat and swaggered from the room, leaving Phillips
apparently very well pleased.

"Our case is complete," he said. "The rest is in your hands."




CHAPTER XXXV

A POISONOUS ATMOSPHERE


It is impossible for a man to change the habits of a lifetime,
especially when he has reached the age to which Sir George Haredale had
attained. He tried hard to justify himself in his present embroilment.
He juggled with his conscience, but the ways of the transgressor are
hard, and the master of Haredale Park was having anything but a good
time. He knew that he was doing wrong, that he was about to commit
something in the shape of a crime. When a man has pledged himself to
this kind of thing, it is marvellous how circumstances combine to help
him.

On the face of it things were not going well. The victory of the
Blenheim colt in the Champion Stakes was a blow to him. He had expected
the colt to lose, thereby giving him occasion to scratch it. If this had
turned out as he had expected, he would have been the object of popular
sympathy and his reputation as a sportsman and an honourable man would
have been enhanced. But to his surprise and vexation, the colt had
proved his sterling worth and within the last few hours the public had
established him more firmly than ever in the betting. There was always
the chance, of course, that the race would leave its mark on the colt
and that some ill effects might supervene, in which case the original
programme could be carried out without exciting the suspicions of the
many-headed.

This was precisely what did happen. Three days later Mallow came into
his employer's study with a long face and the information that the
colt's lack of condition was rather more manifest than before. For once
in a way Mallow was not polite and forgot the respect due to his master.

"It's just as I told you, Sir George," he exclaimed. "The colt's been
ruined. I don't say it isn't possible to get him fit in time for the
Derby, because he's a wonder. But if you had tried to ruin the horse you
couldn't have gone about it in a better way. I can almost cry when I
think of it."

"You are forgetting yourself, Mallow," Sir George said.

"Oh, maybe I am, sir, maybe I am. I have been dealing with fools and
knaves all my lifetime, and I ought to be accustomed to them by now. I
feel as if I had been a party to cutting that colt's throat. You don't
deserve to have a horse like that in your stable; you don't deserve to
win another race as long as you live."

Sir George was vastly indignant. He wanted to know if Mallow realized
whom he was talking to. But Mallow was in no mood for politeness and
told his employer a few home truths. He sketched graphically what the
better-class sportsmen would say when they realized what had happened.
It was useless to be angry, all the more so because he knew that every
word Mallow spoke was true. On the spur of the moment he had intended to
give Mallow instructions to have the horse struck out of all his
three-year engagements, but looking his irate servant in the face he
lacked the pluck to do so. So he proceeded to compromise.

"At the worst," he said with some dignity, "it was only an error in
judgment. If you can get the colt fit again before the Derby the public
will have no grievance against me. They will win their money and that's
all they care about."

Mallow appeared to be somewhat mollified.

"Then things are to go on as they are, Sir George?" he asked. "There has
been a lot of mischief done, but it is not yet too late. But it is no
use crying over spilt milk."

This was going rather too far and too fast. Sir George's fears were
aroused again.

"Your instructions are not quite indefinite," he corrected. "We will let
the matter stand over for a week. At the end of that time we will see
the colt's condition. If there is no material change for the better,
then I must scratch him."

With this perforce Mallow had to remain content and went out muttering
to himself. He wanted to know what Sir George was driving at and what
this new policy meant. The trainer had a shrewd idea, though he hardly
dared to whisper it even to himself. Still, a week was a week, and much
might be done in that time. Besides, if necessary, he knew Raffle had a
great card to play. For some reason or other Sir George wanted the colt
scratched and Mallow had no difficulty in laying this somewhat shady
diplomacy on the shoulders of Raymond Copley.

Meanwhile, the week drifted on and things remained in much the same
position at Haredale Park. Sir George had said nothing more to his
daughter, neither had she alluded to the detestable topic. But she was
ready to take a step which would have considerably alarmed her father
had he known of it. Copley was away on business. He came back on
Saturday and made his way across to Haredale Park after dinner. In the
drawing-room he was coldly informed that Sir George was in the library.
He appeared to take this curt dismissal in good part and went off in
search of Sir George whom he found sitting moodily over the fire.

"Where have you been lately?" the Baronet asked.

"Oh, my dear sir," Copley explained, "you forget that I have my business
to look after. I have been exceedingly busy. When things take a turn
for the better that is the time to follow your fortune closely. During
the last few days I have been making money with both hands."

It appeared to be no idle boast, for Copley was looking less gloomy than
usual. Fortune was smiling upon him again. He and his confederates had
had a rare haul over the Longhill Handicap. They were in funds, and
unless things went very wrong indeed by the time the Derby was over they
would be all rich men. But Sir George guessed nothing of this. He was
only sorry to think that May should be so obstinate in refusing to take
her share in the spending of these phenomenal riches.

"I am exceedingly glad to hear it," he said.

"Oh, thank you very much. You see, fortune cuts all round. What's good
for me is good for you. In the first place, you can make your mind easy
about that affair of Absalom & Co., because they won't trouble you any
more. After the Derby we need not worry ourselves as to money matters.
That brings me to my reason for coming here this evening. I understand
that the colt has broken down permanently. From what I see in the papers
there is not the remotest chance of his winning a race as a three-year
old."

"It looks like it," Sir George answered. "At the same time, Mallow
doesn't share my opinion. He is very obstinate."

"Oh, what the devil does it matter what he says or thinks?" Copley said
impatiently. "He is only a servant. Surely you can do what you like with
your own. Besides, in this matter the opinion of the whole racing world
will sustain you. At the worst people can only say that you have made an
error in judgment. The Press recognizes that you have acted like a good
fellow and a sportsman in running this risk simply with the object of
taking the public into your confidence. They don't know, of course, that
you don't want the horse to win, nor what a surprise the Mirst Park
victory was to you. And on the top of that they tumble over one another
to back the colt, and if he doesn't start at all they are to blame.
Still, it has been a good thing for me. I have laid against your animal
thick and thin and after the Derby is over I shan't need to do any more
work."

Sir George made no reply. He sat gazing dubiously into the fire. Looking
back at the course of events, he could hardly see how he had got himself
into this mess. He ought to have refused to listen to Copley, and should
have supported the opinion of such a sound judge as Raffle. Besides, he
had never won a Derby in his racing career, and it seemed to him that he
was wasting a splendid chance. But it was too late to repent, too late
to draw back, and all Sir George could hope was that no one would ever
have an inkling of his shame. He did not know, neither did Copley, that
May was standing in the doorway. She had come in for something she
required. Her evening shoes had made no sound on the thick carpets, and
she had heard every word that was said. Not that she intended to play
the eavesdropper. But one remark of Copley's had fascinated her and she
stood as if rooted to the spot.

She knew her ears did not deceive her. She had been brought up all her
life in an atmosphere of racing. She knew almost as much about it as
Raffle himself. The thing was plain and a wave of shame and humiliation
rushed over the girl as she stood there drinking in every word.

She could not blind herself to the truth. She could not get away from
the fact that her father was a conscious participant in a disgraceful
action. It mattered little that her father was in Copley's hands, or
that Copley had suggested the whole thing. The shock was none the less
painful. It seemed incredible that a man in Sir George's position should
stoop so low as this. These plots had happened before and no one had
spoken of them with greater contempt than had Sir George. Now was he
self-confessed as a principal in one of the shadiest of them all.

May stole away. For a moment she had been on the point of an outburst.
But perhaps it would be better to wait and speak to her father quietly
later, to try to find some means of averting this dreadful dishonour.

"I cannot stay here," she murmured. "The atmosphere poisons me. I must
get away, I must get away."




CHAPTER XXXVI

FIELDEN INTERVENES


May went quietly back to the drawing-room. There was nothing in her face
to indicate what she was suffering. For a time she sat gazing into the
fire, watching Alice Carden who sat opposite her engrossed in a book. At
the end of half an hour May had made up her mind what to do, and when
Alice laid her volume aside, she began to speak.

"How long is your father likely to be away?" she asked.

"Oh, for two months, I suppose," Alice said. "But I may find him at home
when I go back next week."

"I hope not," May answered, "because I have a plan to suggest to you. I
wonder if you would mind my coming with you? I suppose you could get me
a bedroom in your house. I should like to pay for myself. Could it be
managed, do you think?"

"It would be delightful," Alice cried. "But why do you want to leave
this beautiful house? What will Sir George say when he hears of it?"

"He mustn't hear it," May whispered. "We have always been very good
friends, Alice, and you can help me now if you will. I am going to
confide in you and you must not whisper a word of it to a soul. So long
as your father is away I shall be safe with you, and as he may not be
back for some weeks I will have time to turn round. I must go away, I
cannot stay here any longer. Something has happened which compels me to
get my own living."

"Oh, impossible!" Alice cried.

"My dear, don't you know that it is the unexpected that happens? Well,
in my case, it has. If anybody had told me this a couple of months ago I
should have laughed the idea to scorn. It would have been incredible
that my father should threaten to turn me out of the house. Hitherto we
have been the best of friends, and I have regarded him as one of the
most upright and most honourable of men. I have always prided myself
upon the fact that nothing could rob us of our good name; but I was
mistaken, Alice. Actually this place does not belong to us at all. My
father is a mere lodger, dependent upon the good will of Mr. Raymond
Copley, who can turn us out at any moment. Moreover, he has compelled my
father to do a thing that I blush to mention. Do you know why Mr. Copley
has brought all this about?"

"I think I can guess," Alice said. "He is anxious to marry you. Am I not
right?"

"You have guessed it," May exclaimed. "You have saved me the humiliation
of telling you that. Mr. Copley can't say he has bought me. But he has
bought my father, and it comes to this, that unless I consent to be
Raymond Copley's wife I am to consider this my home no longer. These
were my father's very words. I suppose he chose them because they
sounded best. But it is as if he had told me to go. I couldn't marry
that man; nothing would induce me to do so. There is worse behind--there
is a conspiracy on foot which I overheard in the library just now. You
must not ask me to tell you what it is. My tongue would refuse to tell
it. Well, it is the last straw. I couldn't be more miserable than I have
been the last week or so. I cannot stay any longer. I have little or no
money, but I have my mother's jewels which ought to fetch at least a
thousand pounds. I propose to go to London and look about for something
to do. I want to come to you because we are such friends, and because I
know you will sympathize with me. We can live very cheaply together and
I will pay you for all I have, and before your father returns I shall
probably have found work. You won't refuse, will you?"

"How can you think such a thing?" Alice said reproachfully. "There is
nothing I would not do for you, and I know we shall be perfectly happy
together. It would be worse than death to marry a man like Mr. Copley.
I don't know why it is, but from the very first moment I saw him I hated
him. I think he has such a cruel face. His mouth is so hard and his eyes
are dreadful. But when do you want to go? When will you be ready to
start?"

"Didn't you say you must be back in town on Tuesday? Didn't you say
something about your pupils? Well, suppose you go up on that day and I
follow you on Wednesday. It would arouse suspicion for us both to go at
the same time, and indeed I would ask you to stay longer only I can't
breathe here. Knowing what I do, it is hateful to have to sit down to
the same table with my father. I daresay I shall come to forgive him in
time, but for the present it is beyond my strength. Mr. Copley is always
about the house. Do try to make it Tuesday if you can. It seems so
horrid of me----"

Alice rose from her seat and kissed the speaker affectionately.

"I won't hear another word," she said. "It is not in the least horrid of
you. I will gladly do all I can to help you."

Tuesday came at length and Alice Carden went away, leaving May to her
own melancholy thoughts. She had not seen Harry Fielden for a few days
and was thankful he had not been near her. It would be hard parting from
him. It would be difficult to say good-bye without betraying herself or
giving him some inkling of what had happened. After lunch on Wednesday
she stole out of the house and walked to the station. She had sent on
her luggage by Alice Carden the day before, so that when she left for
London it might seem that she was only going for a casual visit. She
would not mind the new life, so she thought, and she hardened her heart
as she looked out of the carriage window. But, all the same, she was
glad to find herself alone, for the tears would come and the old
familiar landscape grew dim and blurred.

What would they say, she wondered, when they knew. What would Harry
Fielden think? But, at that very moment, Harry Fielden had something
else to occupy his attention. He was walking across the Downs towards
Haredale Park with Raffle, and the latter was speaking his mind very
freely.

"I won't be quiet, sir, and I won't keep my mouth shut," he said. "I
tell you, Mr. Harry, it is a foul conspiracy and there are no two ways
about it. Sir George gave Mallow a week to try to pull the colt round,
and he says, says he, 'Mallow, if he's no better by that time, he's to
be scratched.' Those were the instructions and Sir George confirmed them
this morning. Now I am not going to say that the colt is much better,
but I am prepared to pledge my reputation, and it is worth something,
that I'll get him fit in a month. The whole thing has been arranged
between Sir George and that man Copley, so that the horse can be
scratched for the Derby. The public are to believe that Sir George has
been unfortunate, but has played the game like a gentleman and a
sportsman. Well, you may have what opinion you like, but I know better.
Mind you, if I didn't know what I know I should have to put up with it
and hold my tongue, because I am only a servant and no one can blame me
for obeying my orders. But I have been making inquiries, and I find that
Copley and his gang have been laying thick and thin against the colt for
the past week. Do you mean to tell me they could know the colt would be
scratched if they hadn't got Sir George in their power?"

"What do you want me to do?" Fielden asked.

A bitter smile crossed the old man's face.

"I shouldn't have thought you'd ask what you were to do, sir," he said.
"But I'm not going to stand it. I'm not going to sit down quietly and
see this game going on. I daresay you think it will be bad for Miss May
if this thing comes out. But bless you! if you go the right way to work
nothing will leak out. The colt mustn't be scratched. You leave him
where he is and he's certain to win the Derby. You are the very man to
step in and stop the game. Let Sir George know what your power is. Let
Copley see that he's got a gentleman to deal with. It will ruin Copley
and his mob, but that doesn't matter. They are a fine set of thieves,
if you ask me, sir, and I shouldn't mind telling Copley so. Now I would
like to hear your opinion."

Fielden had no particular opinion to offer. At the same time, he had
information in his possession which would have astonished Raffle if he
could only have seen into the mind of his old master. Pressing as the
matter was, it was not possible to act on the spur of the moment, and
Fielden contented himself by saying he would think over the matter.

"But you can't do it, sir," Raffle protested. "There's no time to waste
like that. The colt has to be scratched and maybe a telegram's already
gone to London to that effect. The mischief may be done."

"By Jove, I hadn't thought of that," Fielden exclaimed. "All right, Joe,
it will be a most unpleasant piece of business, but I see now that it
must not be put off any longer. I'll go straight over to Haredale Park
and see Sir George at once."

Sir George was in his library. He had given instructions to the butler
to deny him to every one. In fact, he was seated by the library fire
reading a letter which May had left for him. She had not minced matters.
She had gone away for reasons well known to him, she said, and her
address mattered nothing to anybody. Sir George was looking particularly
old and grey and troubled as Fielden thrust his way past the butler and
entered the library. Sir George's manner was not encouraging, and he
curtly demanded to know the meaning of this intrusion.

"I am sorry," Fielden said, "but my business would not wait. Am I to
understand that you have struck the Blenheim colt out of the Derby? Is
it done?"

"It's not done yet," Sir George said indignantly, "but it will be done
this afternoon. Perhaps you have some objection to make. Perhaps you
would like to forbid it?"

"I do and must," Fielden said quietly. "The horse does not belong to you
at all. He happens to be mine."




CHAPTER XXXVII

BETWEEN TWO FIRES


Sir George Haredale pulled himself together.

"You will excuse me," he said, "but I don't follow you. I have had much
trouble and worry lately and I am not myself this morning. Did you say
that the Blenheim colt belonged to you? If this is a joke I cannot say I
admire it."

"I assure you I was never more serious in my life, Sir George," Fielden
protested. "I know what I say sounds extraordinary. The Blenheim colt
belongs to me; it was never yours at all; in fact, it is not even
entered in this year's Derby in your name. I have been making inquiries,
and this is a literal fact. I have derived my information from
headquarters. The conditions, monetary and otherwise, have been complied
with----"

"I don't doubt it for a moment," Sir George exclaimed. "But what has all
this to do with me? When you went abroad I bought every animal you
possessed."

"I don't think so, Sir George. One or two were kept back; Raffle did so
on his own responsibility. My solicitors have the papers and receipts,
so that it is possible to earmark your exact purchases. I may tell you,
however, that until I came here, I had no notion of this singular
business. It appears that I forgot to advise my bankers before I left
England and that, even up to the present moment, they are meeting my
racing obligations out of the surplus moneys paid into my account. Now
according to what Raffle says, _your_ colt, I mean your entry for this
year's Derby, was disposed of long ago. My colt Raffle kept for
sentimental reasons and, for the last two years, he has been trained
with your horses. Raffle has always declared that some day he would do
something great with one of the Blenheim blood. When he found out how
good a thing he had he was almost frightened. He was on the point of
confessing to you several times, but when he heard that I was dead he
decided to let matters slide. Raffle has a vein of sentiment in his
nature and, I suppose, the romance of the thing appealed to him.
Besides, he knew that you were a friend of mine and that May was more
than a friend. He is very fond of your daughter, in which he shows his
good taste. So the foolish old man resolved to keep the secret to
himself. He had transferred his allegiance to you and yours and had set
his heart upon restoring your family fortunes; in reality he was giving
May a comfortable and settled future. He didn't want the money for
himself. He was satisfied to feel that he was repaying the kindness he
had had at your hands. From a lofty moral point of view the thing may be
open to censure, but what I am able to prove I say through my lawyers,
through my bankers, through Raffle himself, and through other witnesses
whom we can produce. Of course I am in your debt for training expenses,
but that, at the moment, is beside the point. The point is that the
Blenheim colt which, bar accidents, is certain to win this year's Derby,
as you are perfectly well aware----"

"I am not so sure of that," Sir George interrupted. "If I am to believe
what Raffle says----"

"We will come to that," Fielden went on. "I think otherwise. The horse
has been knocked about in the betting a good deal lately and I am told
that he has gone to an outside price again. I have managed to scrape
together about two thousand pounds, every penny of which I have put upon
the colt. I had made up my mind never to make another bet, but this
opportunity is too good to be lost. If this horse wins the Derby, then I
shall be a rich man again. If that good fortune is in store for me, it
will be the last bet I shall ever make. And now, you understand why,
apart from the morality of the thing, I object to the horse being
scratched. In fact, you are not in a position to do so."

Sir George rubbed his head bewilderingly.

"Please say it all over again," he asked. "I know you mean everything
you say, I know you are not joking with me, but I can't understand it."

Fielden went over his points once more slowly and carefully, and then,
at last, Sir George began to see. He did not fail to grasp his own
position, either. He knew the peril in which he stood, unless he could
persuade Fielden to fall in with his plans. But Fielden had told him he
had backed the colt for all he was worth, and he was not likely to ruin
himself merely to save an old man from the result of his folly. Besides,
this would entail a shameful confession, for Sir George was not aware
that Fielden had an intelligent view of the situation.

"This is very awkward," he remarked.

"I don't see why it should be," Fielden said coolly. "You can make a
fortune, too. You have backed the horse heavily, and nothing in the race
has any chance of beating him. I must consider myself. I have learnt the
folly of sacrificing myself to my friends. In this affair I have some
one to think about besides myself. May----"

"May! What has she to do with it?"

Fielden hesitated. He hated to give anybody pain, but the time had come
to speak plainly.

"She has a great deal to do with it," he said. "Whatever disgrace falls
upon you cannot affect her good name. But, at the same time, I strongly
object to any one being able to say that my future wife's father had
been warned off the turf for malpractices."

"Malpractices!" Sir George cried. "My dear Fielden, you are forgetting
yourself. Explain, please."

"I had much rather not," Fielden said. "But since you force me to speak,
I must go on. I happen to know a good deal about Mr. Raymond Copley. I
know you are deeply in his debt. I know that he helped you, because he
hoped thereby to compel you to coerce May into a marriage with him. I am
given to understand that you have done your best. I beg of you, Sir
George, not to interrupt me. You have challenged me and I have a right
to state my case. Copley is a scoundrel. I knew something about him in
South Africa, though we never met. But he was in constant contact with a
sort of partner of mine named Aaron Phillips. Phillips and I contrived
to get an option on a diamond mine and, but for unforeseen
circumstances, we should have made a fortune out of it. But the locality
was kept a secret. The only man who knew where it was died and we had
nothing but some plans to go on. Copley and Foster heard of this and
resolved to get hold of those plans. The plans have vanished and
probably will never be seen again. Then these two ruffians tried to
murder Phillips. Indirectly they nearly murdered me. Phillips came back
to England and sought me out. If he thought it worth while he could put
the police on the track of Copley and Foster and they would be certain
of penal servitude. But Phillips has other views. He has been following
up these two men like a sleuth-hound and you may take my word for it
that within a few days both Copley and Foster will be arrested in
connection with one of the biggest turf frauds of recent years. Oh, I
know what I am talking about."

"Bless me!" Sir George cried, "is this true?"

"Absolutely. I know about the whole thing. I know how the scheme has
been worked and could put my hand upon the confederates at the present
moment. But you will see for yourself before the week is out. You must
not say a word of this to a living soul, and if you meet Copley during
the next day or two I will ask you to behave towards him as if he were
still a friend. Now you see the kind of man who has you in his toils.
Simply because Copley has a powerful hold on you, you have promised to
draw the pen through the name of the Blenheim colt. I won't unduly blame
you, Sir George; no man knows how weak he is till he is face to face
with a great trouble and a great temptation. Was not that the situation?
Copley is in a position to turn you out of Haredale Park. He offers to
cancel the debt if you will scratch the colt. At that moment the colt
falls providentially lame. You can oblige him without a soul being any
the wiser, and even gain popular applause over it, and make a fortune
out of it by working it the right way."

"Not a penny," Sir George said emphatically.

"Well, I am glad to hear you say that. At the same time, I can't forget
what you were willing to do. At any rate, I am preventing you from
something in the nature of a crime. You can't interfere with my
property, but you can refuse to carry out what Copley desires and defy
him to do his worst. You are safe from him, and in future your daughter
will have no occasion to be ashamed of you."




CHAPTER XXXVIII

LOOSENING THE GRIP


Fielden's last thrust went home. Sir George fairly winced and the red of
shame flushed his face. Never in the course of his life had anybody ever
spoken to him like this before. And never did he feel less able to
resist the reproach.

"You are going too far," was all he could say.

"Indeed, I have no wish to," Fielden exclaimed. "I only want to save you
from this crowning folly, and you need not be afraid of Copley. He is
powerless to do you any mischief. Of course, you will still owe the
money to somebody, but ere the law can make up its mind who is your
creditor, if we have any luck at Epsom, you will be independent of all
your creditors. Nobody need know of this. You may rest assured that not
a word of it will ever pass my lips, and not even May shall be told."

"I am afraid she knows already," Sir George rejoined. "It is useless, my
dear boy, for me to combat your statements farther. I thought I was an
honest English gentleman, and now I find that at a turn of the screw I
am only a pitiful scoundrel. I fear that May has found out all about it.
I was anxious she should marry Copley, for salvation seemed to lie that
way, and I was under great obligations to the man. I was so annoyed with
May that I said more than I should have done; indeed, I lost my temper
and, in the heat of the moment, told her that if she did not obey me in
this matter she was no longer a daughter of mine. Of course, I did not
mean it."

Fielden walked to the window and back before he ventured on a reply. Hot
words hovered on his lips and anger filled his heart, but he tried to
speak calmly.

"That, to say the least of it, was indiscreet," he said. "If I know May,
and I think I do, she is the last girl in the world to put up with
treatment like that."

"She didn't put up with it," Sir George confessed miserably. "She has
gone, taking with her nothing but her mother's jewels which she intends
to turn into money. In her letter to me she refuses to say where she is.
She says she is going to get her own living and will never come back to
Haredale. She must know what took place between Copley and me last
night, for she alludes to something she overheard in the library. I
wonder if you can help me?"

Fielden groaned aloud. He had not expected a bitter disappointment like
this. He was anxious to avoid scandal. Of course, the public would have
to hear the strange story which, like a romance, clothed the Blenheim
colt. But there was nothing in that to be ashamed of, nothing which
would reflect on the honour either of Sir George or himself. Nor would
the vast army of race-goers suffer. But the disappearance of May had
altered all that. People would ask questions and neighbours were sure to
talk. For the moment it seemed as if Fielden's efforts had been wasted,
then an inspiration shot into his mind and he took comfort from it.

"I think I know where to find her," he said. "But it may take me a few
days and, meanwhile, you had better let it be known that May has gone
away on a visit. We will assume that she is staying with Miss Carden for
the present. I need not detain you longer. You will know what to do when
Copley turns up to ascertain why the Blenheim colt has not been
scratched. For obvious reasons we won't make the discovery public just
yet; in fact, I see no reason why it should be made public at all. We
can trust May, and I am sure we can trust Raffle, though you will have
to tell Copley the truth. Still, as he will be in other hands before
long, nothing he can say or do will matter much. I am going up to London
and shall be greatly surprised if, when I come back, I don't bring you
news of May."

Fielden took his departure, leaving Sir George to his own troubled
thoughts. He was properly ashamed of himself. He knew what a humiliating
figure he had cut. He knew how two people, whose opinions he valued
highly, despised him. Yet, in spite of everything, himself included, he
was glad to know that he would be compelled to keep faith with the
public. He was glad to know that within a few days Copley would have no
further power to harm him. He had known all along, juggle with his
conscience as he might, that old Raffle had been perfectly correct in
regard to the colt. Notwithstanding the folly of that appearance at
Mirst Park, the colt was not so lame as he had made out and in a week or
two would be all right again. At the present moment if he risked a
thousand or two, there was almost absolute certainty he would get it
back fifty-fold at the great Epsom meeting. As Sir George pondered the
situation, his mind was equally divided between shame and exultation. He
did not fail to see his conduct in its proper light, nor did he fail to
see an honourable way out, with credit to himself and a good many
thousands in his pocket. He sat thinking until it was time for his
solitary dinner. He had proved everything to his satisfaction before he
returned to the library for a cigar. He would have given anything to
have had May back again, for once she was under his roof, the way looked
perfectly clear. He was still weighing the pros and cons when Copley
strode angrily into the library.

He had entered unannounced and looked at Sir George with the light of
battle in his eye. He stood an imposing, bullying figure. But the master
of the house was not afraid.

"What is the meaning of this?" Copley demanded. "I hope you are not
trying to shirk your obligations, because if you do, by gad, I shall
have to teach you a lesson."

"You mean about the colt?" Sir George asked.

"What else could I mean? You promised he should be scratched this
afternoon. It hadn't been done when I left London at six o'clock. Why?"

"Sit down and have a cigar," Sir George said, "and I'll explain to you.
But don't adopt that tone to me, because I don't like it. I am not
accustomed to it."

Copley burst into an offensive laugh.

"Oh, aren't you?" he said. "We'll precious soon see about that. No, I
don't want a cigar or anything to drink. I'll go home again and perhaps
I can find another way----"

"I don't think it will make much difference," Sir George said mildly. "I
didn't scratch the colt for the simple reason that I find I haven't the
power."

"Haven't the power? What are you talking about?"

"I assure you I am speaking the truth. I wasn't in the least aware of it
myself till this afternoon. It is quite a story in its way. Now do,
please, sit down and listen. The man you know as Field is the son of an
old friend of mine named Fielden, who at one time owned a considerable
amount of property hereabouts. You may have heard some of the neighbours
speak of him. The son preferred not to be known by his proper name, and
that is why I introduced him to you as Field. Now Field, or Fielden,
whichever you like to call him, is really the owner of the Blenheim
colt. If you will be quiet I will tell you all about it. By the way,
Fielden knows a good deal about you and also about your friend Foster.
He ran against you in South Africa where he was in partnership with a
man called Aaron Phillips. I don't know Mr. Phillips myself, but he
tells a story which interested me very much. I have just had it from Mr.
Fielden's lips. But sit down."

Copley sat down suddenly. His bullying air fell away from him like a
garment. He seemed to have some difficulty in getting a light to his
cigar. Sir George could almost have smiled as he saw the change in his
one-time friend. There was a look of anxiety, almost of anxious misery,
in Copley's eyes as he wriggled about in his chair whilst Sir George
told his tale.

"There you have it in a nutshell," the latter concluded. "That is the
whole romance for you to deal with as you like. It doesn't matter a bit
whether I want to serve you or not, you can see for yourself the
position I am in and how powerless I am to prevent the Blenheim colt
from running in this year's Derby. Mr. Fielden would not consent, even
if he hadn't backed the colt to his last penny. You may depend upon it
that if the horse starts he is bound to win, for in this year's moderate
lot there is nothing to beat him. This upsets all your plans, but you
will find that everything I say is correct. You have still time to get
out."

"How can I?" Copley asked. "Why, I have laid against the colt till I am
tired of it, and if he runs he'll win. But it is no use my sitting here
wasting time. I must go back at once and talk this thing over with
Foster. I never heard such an extraordinary story in my life. I thought
I was up to most of the moves, but a prophet couldn't have foreseen
this. One thing is very certain, as matters have turned out I shall want
every penny I can scrape together the next few days and I shall look to
you to repay what you owe me. Of course, I don't want to be unpleasant,
but necessity knows no law."

Sir George waved his cigar gracefully. He felt he could promise with an
easy mind.

"Don't let that trouble you," he said. "I think I shall be able to
manage. Circumstances alter cases. Must you really go?"




CHAPTER XXXIX

A DRAMATIC EXIT


May had taken her fortune in her own hands. She had, as she thought,
shaken the dust of Haredale Park from her feet for ever. There was no
reason, she thought, why she should not make her own way in the world.
Her trinkets were more valuable than she had expected. She had disposed
of one for a hundred pounds, and had no anxiety as to the immediate
future. But she was miserable enough. Lodgings seemed to cramp and
confine her. She missed the pure air of the Downs, and longed once more
to feel the exhilarating stride of a good horse under her. At the end of
three days she would have given her pride and all her possessions to be
back at Haredale. Already she was trying to think of some excuse for
returning home.

She did not know how near her wishes were to being gratified. She was
not aware that Fielden was looking for her all over London. He had
jumped to the correct conclusion that he would find her near to Alice
Carden, but the trouble was to obtain Miss Carden's address. It was not
till the Saturday morning that he ran against Phillips, who fortunately
knew where Carden lived.

"You won't find him at home," he said.

"I don't want him," Fielden smiled. "Thank you very much. I'll see you
later in the day, perhaps."

"I'm busy," Phillips said darkly. "I've a good many things to do this
morning. I've to interview Selwyn and other big plungers. After that, I
have an appointment with one of the leading men of Scotland Yard, which
will take us down to Mirst Park with a view to going over a certain
house we wot of."

Phillips bustled away and Fielden lost no time in seeking out the modest
residence of Major Carden. He was disappointed to hear that Miss Carden
was out, but it was gratifying to be told that Miss Carden's friend was
in the house. Without waiting for further information, Fielden walked
upstairs into the room where May was seated. She had pulled a chair up
dejectedly in front of the fire and started at the sound of Fielden's
voice. There were tears in her eyes.

"So you have found me out."

"Oh, yes, I have run you to earth," Fielden smiled. "I have been looking
for you for three days. I had some difficulty in getting the Major's
address, but felt quite sure that when I had that you would not be far
off. Like me, May, you have not many friends. And now, don't you think
you have been foolish?"

May smiled through her tears.

"But what else could I do?" she asked. "Oh, my dear boy, if you knew
everything you would not blame me."

"I think I do know everything," Fielden said gravely. "At any rate, I
know why you left home. I had a long interview with your father,
and--well, I won't blame him. None of us know what we would do in a
temptation like that. That scoundrel Copley had him entirely in his
power. Now, tell me, do you know anything of the great conspiracy? Were
you in the library the night before you left home, and did you hear Sir
George and Copley----"

"I heard everything," May exclaimed. "I must tell you, Harry; I must
tell somebody. I never felt so ashamed and humiliated in my life. It was
bad enough to be turned out of the house because I refused to marry that
man, but when I found that my father had entered into a plot with Mr.
Copley to do a disgraceful thing, I felt I could not stay at home any
longer. I suppose the mischief is done and the Blenheim colt has been
struck out of the Derby. But though the public will never know how they
have been swindled, I shall always feel that my father----"

The girl broke down.

"You need not worry about that," Fielden said. "I quite understand what
your feelings are. But what you so greatly dread will never happen.
Disgrace will be spared you and yours, because your father has not the
power to interfere with the colt. Possibly before the day is out Copley
will be as helpless as a child. You look surprised and I don't wonder. I
am going to tell you something in the nature of a romance. To begin
with, the Blenheim colt belongs to me."

May was too surprised to speak. She sat on the arm of Fielden's chair.
She did not seem to notice that his arm was around her, and that her
head was very near his shoulder. She did not seem to care about anything
now that Fielden was with her, and there was a link between the past and
the present. It was a fascinating story which Fielden had to tell, much
more remarkable than anything May had ever read of between the covers of
a sporting novel. When the recital was finished she wiped the tears from
her eyes, and a happy smile broke over her face. On the spur of the
moment she bent down and kissed her companion.

"Did any one ever hear the like of it?" she exclaimed. "It seems almost
too good to be true. It is more like a fairy story than literal fact.
But I am glad for your sake, for my sake, and for my father's sake. For
he is my father, and it is possible that in his position I might have
acted in a like heedless and foolish way. It would have been a terrible
blow for him to leave Haredale Park. It is only since I have been in
lodgings that I have come to realize what it means to have no home, what
it was to turn out of such a dear old place as Haredale. But, Harry, we
don't appear to be out of the wood yet. It will be a bitter
disappointment to Mr. Copley and his colleague to be deprived of their
chance of swindling the public. I am sure Mr. Copley will be none the
less vindictive against my father, because this was no fault of his. I
am afraid we shall have to leave Haredale in any case."

"I don't think so," Fielden said. "Before long Copley will be powerless.
We shall be able to hang on till Derby Day; then the gallant colt will
win fortunes for all of us, and I shall be a rich man again. I shall be
able to restore the old house and buy back the land, and then I shall
have a home fit to ask my wife to. After that we shall be happy, only
there won't be any more betting and gambling, because I have learnt my
lesson, and it will be all the more effectual and lasting because it has
been bitter. Meanwhile nobody knows anything about your trouble with
your father except myself and, I presume, Miss Carden. You are supposed
to be on a visit to London for a few days. It is lucky you have no maid
to make mischief. I must return to Haredale this evening. Let me tell
your father that I have explained everything to you, that you are coming
back on Monday or Tuesday, and that Miss Carden will accompany you. I
know Sir George will be glad to see you. He told me he could not
understand how he spoke to you as he did. And, you see, as there is no
one to follow your father, as the title will die out with him, Haredale
Park will be your own some day. I know you love the place."

"I couldn't tell you how much," May said unsteadily. "It is only during
the last few days that I have realized the depth of my affection. I will
come back. You may tell father I said so. I will return on Monday as
early as possible and I hope you will be there to meet me. I thought I
was going to be brave and strong and earn my own living; I thought that
wanted no more than the pluck one has to exhibit in the hunting-field.
But it is quite different. It must be a matter of custom and
surroundings. It is all very well to run up to London to spend a few
days with friends, but when you are alone, as I have been, the very size
of the place frightens one. You don't know how glad I shall be to be
home again. Why, twenty-four hours after I came here I began to cast
about for reasons and excuses for going back."

An hour later Fielden left, at peace with all mankind and inclined to
take a roseate view of the future. Everything depended on the Blenheim
colt. The path was clear and those chiefly concerned were going to have
a straight run for their money. The poisonous influence of Copley would
be removed. There would be peace and happiness at Haredale Park once
more and, above all, May was coming home.

Fielden flung himself down in the corner of his carriage and proceeded
to open a late edition of an evening paper. He read the racing news of
interest, then turned to the news items on the fifth page. Two headlines
caught his attention at once and held him fascinated. They were
sensational enough even to the ordinary person, but to Fielden they were
pregnant with meaning.

  "ALLEGED GREAT TURF FRAUDS.

  "ARREST OF MR. COPLEY AND MR. FOSTER.

  "Late this afternoon, the well-known financier, Mr. Raymond
  Copley, and his private secretary, Mr. Foster, were arrested in
  London on a warrant in connection with some alleged turf frauds
  which took place recently at the Post Club. We understand that
  the warrant was granted at the instance of Mr. Selwyn."




CHAPTER XL

CAUGHT!


Raymond Copley went away from Haredale Park with every ounce of fight
knocked out of him. Never for a moment had he anticipated a development
like this. He had gone there in his most truculent mood. Everything
seemed to be prospering with him. He had only to hold out his hand and
all would drop into it. He had no fear Sir George would defy him. Rather
had he taken a journey across the fields in order to manifest his power.

There had been no actual necessity for Sir George to put his colt out of
the betting yet; indeed, it would have been diplomatic to wait for
another fortnight. But Sir George must be shown that he could not do as
he liked. He must understand the force he had to deal with in Copley.

Now it had all vanished like a dream. The thing appeared incredible to
Copley as he walked homewards. He could not realize it. He was not
disposed to regard Sir George's story as a deliberate lie, for it bore
the impress of truth. The only way to settle the thing once and for all
was to ask for absolute proof. But, if this were done, Harry Fielden
would protest and, if he did so, the public would learn what was going
on. Taking it altogether, the risk was too great.

He would have to find some other way out of his difficulties. He had
laid against the Blenheim colt thick and thin. He had literally piled
the money against it with the comfortable assurance that it would never
run at all, and that he was about to net a huge fortune without a
pennyworth of risk. That prospect had vanished at a blow. If he stayed
in England he would have to pay these debts, or the turf would know him
no more. And if posted at Tattersall's, his career was at an end. There
would be no more chance of making money in that way. He would have to
start an entirely new plan if he meant to keep up his rôle of
millionaire. But millionaires do not repudiate their racing debts, and
Copley could see nothing but ruin wherever he looked.

There was worse behind, too. It was disturbing to know that in some
mysterious manner Aaron Phillips was mixed up in this business. But he
had made no sign. He had not come near Copley, nor had he attempted to
extort money from him. Yet he was actually a sort of partner with Harry
Fielden, who had taken service with Copley under the name of Field. The
more Copley thought over the matter the less he liked it. He had known
Fielden by name, although they had never met. He realized for the first
time that he had a deadly enemy under his own roof, so to speak. How
much did these two know?

Well, it wouldn't be difficult to discover. He would send for Fielden
directly he got back to Seton Manor and pump him judiciously. Foster
awaited him with the air of a man who finds the world a good place to
live in. He looked uneasy, however, as he noted the expression of his
employer's face.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"Matter enough," Copley growled. "It's all over, my friend. You can say
good-bye to your dreams of fortune. If we can get away with a whole skin
we shall be lucky. As far as I can make out, we have made ourselves
liable for thirty or forty thousand pounds, and have nothing to pay it
with."

"Well, that's all right," Foster said.

"Oh, is it? I suppose you will admit that if the Blenheim colt turns out
fit and well for the Derby there is nothing to beat him."

"If he does turn out. But he won't."

"Oh, yes, he will. But I'll tell you the story and if you can show me
some way out you are a cleverer man than I take you for."

Foster listened with deepest interest. He looked just as anxious and
haggard as Copley by the time the story was finished. For a long time he
sat gnawing his fingers.

"It's a facer," he said presently. "That horse will run, and he'll win,
too, unless we can find some means of preventing him from starting. We
_must_ find some means."

Copley threw up his hand impatiently.

"What's the good of talking that rot?" he said. "The age for getting at
horses is past. That was done with years ago. Even the sporting writer
wouldn't dare to use a situation like this. You must think of something
better than that. If the worst comes to the worst we've got a few weeks
to turn round between now and Derby day. Sir George owes me forty
thousand pounds, which I must get without delay. It is no use thinking
anything more about May Haredale. With that money we may be able to
cover our loss or hedge and bring it down to a trifle. We shall have to
be contented with what we make over the Mirst Park meeting. So long as
Rickerby and that set are not suspicious----"

"I begin to fear they are," Foster interrupted. "As you know, we ought
to have had a big cheque last week, but it hasn't come, though I wrote a
sharp letter about it again the day before yesterday. I don't know
whether Rickerby suspects, or whether he will refuse to pay, but in the
face of what you have learnt the non-receipt of that cheque is alarming.
Nor do I like what you say about Phillips and this chap Fielden.
Phillips is a dangerous man and owes us a grudge. Let's have Fielden in.
We may be able to bully something out of him."

Copley jumped at the idea. He rang the bell and sent for Fielden, who
appeared presently cool and collected, and ready to answer any
questions.

"Look here," Copley said in his most overbearing manner, "I've been
hearing things about you. I am told your name is not Field at all, but
Fielden. Is that so?"

"That is quite correct," Harry said calmly.

"Then, what the devil do you mean by coming into my service under false
pretences? No honest man----"

"I'll thank you not to take that tone with me," Fielden said. "We don't
want to discuss the question of honesty. It is a subject on which you
are not an authority. But I see you have found out everything and I may
as well be candid. I entered your service because I had nothing to do. I
assumed the name of Field, because I found nobody recognized me and I
didn't want any of my old friends to know what I was doing. I suppose I
am correct in assuming that Sir George Haredale has told you everything.
Probably he has informed you that my partner in South Africa was Aaron
Phillips. I need not ask if you know Aaron Phillips, because that would
be superfluous. I never met either of you till I returned to England,
but I know about you. Phillips knows more. I am also aware of the
conspiracy for preventing the Blenheim colt from running in the Derby,
but that scheme is frustrated. Have you any more to say?"

"This is a nice way to speak to an employer," Copley protested.

"It would be if I were still in your employ," Fielden retorted. "But I
no longer consider myself your servant. There is no occasion for me to
remain with you. Perhaps the next time we meet--but never mind about
that."

Fielden turned curtly on his heel and left the room. The other two
exchanged significant glances.

"Pretty cool," Foster muttered.

"Yes, and pretty sure of his ground, too," Copley replied. "I don't like
it, Foster, I don't like it a bit. I have a feeling that those fellows
know everything. It frightens me to think that Phillips has been lying
low for so long. You may depend upon it he is up to some mischief. And
now that you tell me you have not received Rickerby's cheque I feel all
the more certain of it. Don't you think it would be as well to go over
to The Nook and remove that telephone? It always struck me as a
dangerous thing to leave it on the roof. You never know what
inquisitive people there may be about. If anybody acquainted with racing
only saw it they would be sure to make inquiries. We had better take the
car and run over before it is dark. What do you say?"

Foster had no objection; in fact, he rather liked the idea. Half an hour
later the car was crossing the country and before dusk the two reached
their destination. They were later than they had expected in consequence
of a breakdown on the road, but they seemed to be in time, for the house
was quiet and deserted and, so far as they could see, nobody had been
meddling with the telephone. Foster drew down the blinds and lit the
gas. It had not occurred to him to lock the front door. There was no
occasion for hurry and, after procuring a chest of tools, he started on
his work, which presented few difficulties.

Then the door opened and two men walked deliberately into the hall.
Copley turned upon them with a snarl.




CHAPTER XLI

HOME AGAIN


"What do you mean by this?" Copley demanded.

The intruders were not in the least abashed. On the contrary, they had
every evidence of being very sure of their ground. The foremost touched
Copley on the shoulder.

"Mr. Raymond Copley, I believe?" he said politely.

"It would be foolish to deny it," Copley sneered.

"Very good, sir," the stranger went on. "And this other gentleman is Mr.
Foster?"

Foster nodded uneasily. He held the screwdriver he was using and waited
for developments with white face and quivering lips.

"That being so, gentlemen," the stranger said, "I may as well introduce
myself. I am Inspector Andrews of Scotland Yard and this is my
assistant. We have a warrant for the arrest of both of you on the charge
of obtaining a large sum of money by means of a trick from Mr. Selwyn
and others in connection with race meetings at Mirst Park. The warrant
was obtained on the information of Mr. Selwyn, and you will please
consider yourselves my prisoners. Anything you say, of course, will be
given in evidence against you."

Copley cursed himself under his breath. What a fool he had been to come
here! The matter would have been bad enough if he had been arrested at
Seton Manor, but to be taken here, to be identified in this fashion at
The Nook was fatal. There was nothing for it in the circumstances but to
try to bluster.

"This is an outrage," he exclaimed. "It is a mere tale to extort money
from a man in my position. You haven't a scrap of evidence to justify a
proceeding like this."

"That remains to be proved, sir," the Inspector said quietly. "I may say
that your accomplice, Captain Eversleigh, is already in custody and is
volunteering all the information we require. We have also arrested the
man Chaffey in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden. More than that, we
have interviewed the National Telephone authorities, and they have not
been reticent, either. Besides that, we can produce the agent who let
this house and who has already identified you. Also, we have taken
possession of the office of Jolly & Co., and your accomplice there is in
our hands also. I don't think we have left anything undone. We motored
to Seton Manor, but you had left just before we arrived. We kept you
under observation till now. Come, Mr. Copley, nothing will be gained by
taking this attitude. I am telling you this in fairness to yourself so
that you may know what you have to answer."

Copley was done and submitted quietly to have the handcuffs put upon his
wrists. Foster seemed equally subdued. He advanced towards the
Inspector's assistant, then suddenly lunged forward, brushed him aside,
and darted through the door into the open air. Instantly he was lost in
the thick bushes. Inspector Andrews shrugged his shoulders.

"You are to blame for that," he said. "No, it is no use following him
just now. We must pick him up later. Mr. Copley, if you are quite ready
we'll get back to London."

An hour later Copley was safely housed. By seven o'clock his name was
ringing from one end of London to the other. At first the published
details were meagre, but the extra specials contained fuller tidings.
They had managed to ferret out some racing particulars and to interview
Rickerby, who was not in the least reticent. By ten o'clock Copley's
arrest formed the one topic of conversation in the clubs. His name
appeared largely on every poster and the South African millionaire found
himself notorious.

The news even reached the ears of May Haredale and her friend Alice.
They had been treating themselves to the theatre in honour of recent
events and paused on their way home to buy a paper. There was plenty to
discuss as they partook of their frugal supper and they sat till late
with the paper between them.

"You have had a lucky escape," Alice said.

"My father has," May replied. "I would never have married that man. I
would have starved first. I never liked him and always felt there was
something wrong about him. He won't trouble us any more and I only hope
this terrible business won't upset my father."

"Don't let us talk any more about it," Alice said. "Let us think about
nothing else but your going home again. I don't know how I shall manage
to stay in London after this. My fortnight at Haredale Park spoilt me."

It is not necessary to say much about May's homecoming. Sir George met
his daughter in the hall. He waited to say a few words to Alice Carden
and then led May into the library.

"I hope you won't blame me, my child," he said. "I can say no more than
that I am exceedingly sorry for what happened. It was only after you had
gone that I realized what a brute I had been. I must have been mad. But
I thought I was going to be turned out of the old home, and to marry
Copley--pardon me for alluding to it--seemed such an easy way out of my
difficulty. I know now that women don't regard these things from the
same standpoint as men do and, of course, I believed Copley was in a
strong position. I regarded him as honest and straightforward,
otherwise----"

"You could not have done that," May protested. "How could you? When you
were ready to fall in with his--but I won't say anything about that. All
that is past and done with for ever. As Harry Fielden said, no man knows
how weak he is till he is face to face with a great temptation. It is
enough that you sincerely regret what has happened. As for me, I am only
too glad to return home on any terms."

"You overwhelm me," Sir George murmured.

"Oh, don't feel like that, I implore you. But, tell me, what difference
will this make to you? I have heard about the strange story of the colt
and how Harry Fielden stepped in to prevent disgrace to our house. But
that does not alter the fact that you owe Mr. Copley a large sum of
money. I suppose it will have to be paid whether he is convicted or
not."

"Undoubtedly," Sir George answered. "But my lawyer says it will be some
time before I am called upon to pay the money. I had a long interview
with him this morning. Everybody knows now that Raymond Copley is no
millionaire and that he is an unscrupulous adventurer who passed
himself off as a wealthy man in order to carry out his swindles. From a
telegram I have just received a good many fresh details came out this
morning when Copley was brought up at Bow Street. The magistrate has
refused to allow bail, but it will be two or three months before Copley
is convicted, and during the interval some of his creditors are sure to
make him bankrupt. They will be anxious to rescue some of the plunder
and there are probably several thousand pounds in the bank besides all
the stuff at Seton Manor and other places. It will take time to
investigate these things, and possibly the summer will be over before
the Bankruptcy officials ask me to pay this money to Copley's estate.
Long before that the Blenheim colt will have won the Derby."

May could not repress a smile.

"You are always sanguine," she said. "In fact, if you hadn't been so
sanguine, you would not be in your present position. I suppose nobody
knows of our trouble."

"Only Harry Fielden," Sir George said thankfully. "I suppose, we shall
have to regard him as one of the family, though what he is going to live
on and how he is going to keep you, goodness knows. I've got nothing."

A smile crossed May's face.

"We are all going to make fortunes out of the colt," she said. "If you
are so sanguine, you must not grudge a little bit of a similar spirit to
us. I know that Harry has backed the colt for all he is worth. It is
very dreadful and wrong and extravagant, but Harry tells me that this
will be the last time. How singular that the fortunes of two families
should depend upon a horse! Only think, too, that, but for the merest
accident, the Blenheim colt would not be in the Derby at all. That makes
me think our good fortune is to continue. I don't think Fate would play
us a low-down trick. It is impossible that the colt has been saved only
to speed us to ruin at the last. But I don't like to think about it. I
shall be in a fever of anxiety from now till May. But I'll try to be
calm. I must realize that this is my last bet."

Sir George was content to let it go at that. He was glad to have his
daughter back, glad to think that things were no worse. Fate, too, had
been kind to him, for he had preserved his name and reputation. He had
lost nothing; indeed, he stood to be in a better position than he had
ever yet occupied. For the first time for months he was looking forward
to his dinner with gusto.




CHAPTER XLII

FIRST PAST THE POST


Things turned out much as Sir George's lawyer had predicted. After
several adjourned hearings Copley was committed for trial, together with
his associates, and Aaron Phillips had the satisfaction of giving the
most damning evidence against the accused. Of Foster nothing whatever
had been heard and it was assumed he had got safely out of the country.
Copley's trial was set down to take place in June and in the meantime
some of his creditors had made him a bankrupt. The bubble was pricked.
Copley had nothing to gain by keeping up the pretence of being a man of
integrity and substance. He stood out now unabashed and unashamed, and
refused to give any information about his business affairs. Perhaps he
was looking forward to the time, some years hence, when on his release
from gaol he could blackmail Sir George Haredale.

But Sir George had already taken steps to obviate that. He had learnt
his lesson and was not likely to put himself in Copley's power again. A
proper statement of the relationship between Copley and himself had
been rendered by Sir George's lawyer and ample time had been given by
the Bankruptcy officials to pay the debt. Therefore Sir George could
look forward with easy mind to the momentous event at Epsom.

Everything went smoothly and Raffle pronounced the colt as fit to run
for a kingdom. The horse was established in the betting once more and at
that moment there were few more popular men in England than Sir George
Haredale. He was anxious, of course, for so much depended upon what was
to take place between now and next Wednesday, and Harry Fielden was not
very far from the spot; indeed, his feelings were like those of Sir
George. His whole fortune, too, depended upon the running of the colt.
About the only member of the party who was not unduly anxious was Raffle
himself. He went about his business with a knowing smile and refused to
discuss even the possibility of defeat.

"Bless you, sir," he said to Fielden two days before the race, "I can't
see what you've got to fret about. The race is in our pockets. It
wouldn't do to disappoint the people now, for Epsom is Epsom. But that
colt will just win from the start. There ain't going to be any risks,
because so much depends upon it. What a story it would make, Mr. Harry,
wouldn't it?"

Fielden nodded. They were standing in the Blenheim colt's stall admiring
the noble animal, which looked fit to race for his own life. There was
no sign of staleness about him. He was apparently trained to the last
ounce and, as Raffle said, his temper was perfect.

"He won't mind the crowd and the horses," he said, laying his hand upon
the colt's glossy neck. "I never saw such a tractable animal. It is a
proud day for me to live to see the Blenheim blood doing a big thing
like this. I always believed in it, sir, though we had a good many
failures. I wonder what the public would say if they knew everything."

"They are not in the least likely to do that," Fielden laughed. "I think
we were wise to keep the whole thing to ourselves. It is just as well,
too, to let the colt run as Sir George's property. At any rate, there's
no harm done and we haven't broken any rules. Besides, it is all in the
family. What are your plans for to-morrow, Raffle? If you don't mind, I
will go to Epsom with you. Sir George and Miss Haredale can follow on
Wednesday morning. I don't want to lose sight of the colt if I can help
it. I wish Wednesday was over."

Raffle highly approved the suggestion, so, on the morrow, they went off
to Epsom with the colt. They literally slept with it all Tuesday night.
The fateful Wednesday dawned without a cloud in the sky and by noon the
Downs were crowded with people. For the most part they meant to have a
holiday, seeing that they were on the favourite to a man and that the
chance of the favourite losing was as remote as a racing possibility
could be. Shortly after two o'clock Fielden left the paddock and went to
join Sir George and May and Miss Carden.

"I hope all is well," May whispered.

"It couldn't be better," Fielden said. "Another hour and you will be out
of your misery. The colt looks as fine as a star. We are having him
saddled at the top end of the course so that he won't be actually seen
till he is ready for the start. It will be a popular victory, May."

"Oh, yes," May said nervously. "I suppose it will. I don't know when I
felt so anxious. I was looking forward to enjoying this race, but I
don't think I shall. I envy you, Harry. How can you keep so cool?"

Fielden smiled. In fact, he was anything but cool. He looked confident
but, at the same time, he was conscious of a dryness in his throat and
of the quicker beating of his heart as he weighed the possibilities
which the next hour held for him and the party from Haredale Park. At
that moment he possessed practically nothing. If by any untoward fate
the horse lost he would be as poor as he was before, and his marriage
with May would be indefinitely postponed. In case of this disaster Sir
George would have to sell everything to pay his mortgages and the money
he owed to Copley's estate. He would have to spend the rest of his days
in humble lodgings. There would be an end to the glories of Haredale.

But if the horse won! So much depended upon those four feet, upon those
wonderful staying powers of which Raffle had so frequently boasted.
Hitherto there had always been a weak spot in the Blenheim blood and it
might crop up at the very moment when so much depended upon bone and
muscle and sinew.

And if everything did go well, why, then, Sir George Haredale would be a
rich man again. Fielden would have more than he ever possessed before
and the tarnished glory of the family would be restored. As he stood,
quiet and reserved, he did not look like a man to whom the next
half-hour meant so much. But he thought that half-hour would never be
over.

The minutes wore on nevertheless. The roar and fret and murmur of the
crowd at last died down and the long winding ribbon of turf between the
masses of people began to manifest itself. The gay kaleidoscope of
colour gradually drifted into a ragged line at the post. Then a hoarse
roar broke out again.

"They're off!" May whispered, clutching Fielden frantically by the arm.
"You must tell me how the race is going. Positively, I haven't the
courage to look."

Fielden did not hear a word she said. He had no consciousness of those
tense nervous fingers on his arm. He stood like a statue with his racing
glasses glued to his eyes. He watched the streaming glow of colours
rigidly, until, presently, it seemed to him that one horse came floating
easily and gracefully apart from the rest and then his heart began to
sing within him. They came in much the same order round Tattenham
Corner. Then the roar intensified till everything seemed to shake and
rock, and Fielden trembled and could not see through his glasses. When
he finally adjusted them to his satisfaction, he was conscious of a
still deeper shout of gratification from the multitude. Then, as if in
response to the ringing cheers, the Blenheim colt drew almost
imperceptibly away from the ruck of horses and passed the winning-post a
good half length ahead. The Derby was ancient history now. The Blenheim
colt had won this classic race and a score or two of old friends were
gathering round Sir George to shake him by the hand. The victory was all
the more popular because ninety-nine out of every hundred spectators had
backed the winner.

Fielden closed his glasses with a snap. He was conscious now that May
was clinging to his arm and that she was swaying backwards and forwards
ominously. It was only for a few moments, however, and then a slight
smile trembled on her lips.

"Take me away from here for a while," she whispered. "Let us take a walk
on the course. Do you know, I feel as if I could enjoy a turn on a
roundabout. I could even shy for cocoanuts. And only two or three
minutes ago I felt as if I were going to faint. I never saw a yard of
the race. If I had looked up I should have collapsed. I guessed how
things were going only by the cheers of the crowd. I knew by that
exultant roar that the colt was winning. But I don't want to go through
it again, Harry, I have had enough. Now that we have all made fortunes,
it will be so good to be at home again and feel that everything there
actually belongs to us. Some of my father's old friends want us to dine
in London. But I would far rather go home. You must back me up."

But Sir George wanted no particular backing. Tried sportsman as he was,
the strain had told upon him and he was glad, so he said, to find
himself once more in a comfortable corner of a railway carriage on his
way to Haredale. It was a lovely evening, too, and the face of the old
house was bathed in sunshine.

"It is smiling a welcome to us," May said. "To think that it is
absolutely our own! I hope we have done with gambling for ever."

"I have finished with it for good," replied Harry. "I have won a fortune
and a wife on the same day, and that is more luck than most men gain on
the course. If you are happy, darling, what more do I need?"


THE END



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