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Title: The Daughters of the Night
Author: Edgar Wallace
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1100661.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: November 2011
Date most recently updated: May 2013

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

Title: The Daughters of the Night
Author: Edgar Wallace




Chapter 1


Jim Bartholomew, booted and spurred and impatient to be gone, sat on the
edge of the table and watched the clock with a sigh. He looked too young
a man to be the manager of the most important branch of the South Devon
Farmers' Bank, and possibly the fact that his father had been managing
director of that corporation before he died had something to do with his
appointment.

But those who saw in him only a well dressed young man with a taste for
good horses, and imagined that his accomplishments began and ended with
riding to hounds or leading a hunt club cotillion, had reason to reverse
their judgment when they sat on the other side of his table and talked
business.

He glanced at his watch and groaned.

There was really no reason why he should remain until the closing hour,
for yesterday had been Moorford's market day and the cash balance had
gone off that morning by train to Exeter.

But, if the truth be told, Bartholomew lived in some awe of his
assistant manager. That gentleman at once amused and irritated him, and
whilst he admired the conscientiousness of Stephen Sanderson there were
moments when his rigid adherence to the letter of banking regulations
and local routine annoyed Jim Bartholomew unreasonably. He took another
look at his watch, picked up his riding whip from the table, and passed
into the assistant manager's room.

Stephen Sanderson did just what Jim expected. He looked up at his
manager and from the manager to the loud-ticking clock above the door.

"In two minutes we shall be closed, Mr Bartholomew," he said primly and
managed to colour that simple statement of fact with just a tinge of
disapproval.

He was a man of forty-two, hard-working and efficient, and Jim
Bartholomew's appointment to the management of the Moorford branch had
shattered one of the two ambitions of his life. He had no particular
reason to love his manager. Bartholomew was an out-of-door man, one who
had distinguished himself in the war, who loved exercise and something
of the frivolity of life. Sanderson was a student, an indefatigable
hunter of references, and found his chief pleasure within the restricted
area which a reading lamp throws. Moreover he had a weakness, and this
Jim Bartholomew, with his queer inquisitiveness, had discovered, to
Stephen Sanderson's embarrassment.

"The vaults are closed, Mr Sanderson," said Jim, with a smile. "I don't
think two minutes will make a great deal of difference one way or the
other."

Mr Sanderson sniffed without raising his eyes from the paper upon which
he was writing.

"How go the criminal investigations?" asked Jim humorously and the man
flushed and laid down his pen viciously.

"Let me tell you, Mr Bartholomew," he said hotly, "that you are making
fun of a quality of mine which may one day serve the bank and its
interests very well."

"I am sure it will," said Jim soothingly, half ashamed of the
provocation he had given.

"I have recently had from New York, from a corresponding friend of mine,
the threads of a remarkable case," went on the ruffled Sanderson, taking
up an envelope. "Here is something," he said vehemently, "which would
make you open your sceptical eyes in astonishment."

When he was excited his voice betrayed his northern ancestry, and that
to Jim Bartholomew was a danger sign.

"My dear chap, it is a very excellent study indeed," he said, "and I
congratulate you. Why, when I was in the Naval Intelligence Department,
I had serious thoughts of taking up detective work myself."

Again Mr Sanderson raised his eyes to the clock.

"You'll be going now," he said pointedly and Jim with a laugh turned out
of the bank.

His horse, held by the ostler of the Royal Inn, was waiting by the
sidewalk, and he mounted and cantered through the town and up the long
slope which leads to the edge of the moor. Clearing the scatter of
villas, he came at last after a stiff climb to the depression which was
locally named the Devils Bowl.

On the furthermost edge of the bowl a figure on horseback was waiting,
silhouetted against the westering sun, and he shook up his mount and
took a short cut down the rough slope and through the boulder-strewn bed
of the hollow.

The girl who awaited him had been sitting astride, but now she had taken
a more comfortable attitude, slipping one polished boot from the stirrup
and throwing it across the horse's neck. She sat clasping her knee, and
looking down at Jim's awkward progress with a smile of amusement.

Margot Cameron had the type of face which the black-and-white artists of
France alone know how to draw. If she gave the impression of pallor, it
was because of those vivid red lips of hers which drew all colour to her
mouth and made the healthy pink and the faint tan of her face seem
colourless by comparison.

When you were nearer to her you saw that the red of lip and the apparent
pallor of skin owed no more to the reinforcement of art than the mop of
gold-brown hair (now braided sedately) upon her shapely head.

Jim rode up, hat in hand, waving a salute.

"Do you know," said the girl, dropping her right foot back into the
stirrup, "that whilst I was sitting here there came over me, with almost
stunning force, the realisation that you do work for a living after
all!"

"I keep office hours," said Jim smugly, "which is quite a different
thing. If you have been in England all this long time and have not
discovered that English businessmen do not begin work until ten o'clock
in the morning, that they knock of for tea at three o'clock in the
afternoon, and go home at four, then your trip has been wasted."

A gleam shone in the girls eyes. She did not readily smile, and if
laughing had been a habit of hers, such hours of her life as were spent
in Bartholomew's company would have been a series of hysterical giggles.

They rode quietly side by side for a time before Jim spoke.

"Talking of hideous realisations," he said slowly, "it has been my day's
obsession that I shall only see you once more after today--you still
intend sailing on Saturday?"

The girl nodded.

"And you'll be away for--" He left his question half finished.

"I don't know," said Margot shortly, "my future plans are rather
uncertain. For the moment they are largely determined by what course of
action Frank and Cecile decide. They were talking of buying a place in
England and staying here for a few years. Frank doesn't like the idea of my
launching forth on my own, otherwise--" She stopped suddenly.

"Otherwise?" suggested Jim.

"Otherwise," said the girl, "I might, of course, think of taking a place
myself in England."

"Oh yes," said Jim softly.

She turned to him.

"You wouldn't like me to do that, would you?" she asked abruptly and Jim
was silent.

"No," he admitted in that quiet way of his, "I don't think I should care
for your taking that step. I should like it just to happen that you were
here. If you weren't so infernally well off`--I--I think your future
might be planned a little more definitely."

She waited, but he offered no explanation and she had not the will to
demand one. They had reached the wild slope of the upper moor. Far away
on the horizon like a tiny blue cloud was hoary Hay Tor, and beneath
them, through the thin plantation that fringed the river, they glimpsed
the silver fret of the Dart.

"This is the only place in England where I can breathe," said the girl,
snuffling the air.

"You have our permission," said Jim graciously.

He pulled in his horse and pointed with his riding crop across the moor.

"Do you see that white house--it is not really a house, I think it was
designed either for an emperors shooting box or a lunatic asylum."

"I see," said the girl, shading her eyes.

"That is Tor Towers. I suppose you have met Mrs Markham?"

"Markham?" said the girl, wrinkling her forehead. "No, I don't think I
have."

"She is a compatriot of yours and another immensely wealthy lady."

"American?" said the girl in surprise. "It is curious we haven't met her
and we've been here for a year."

"I've only seen her once myself," admitted Jim. "She is a client of the
bank, but Sanderson usually interviews her."

"Is she young or old?"

"Quite young," said Jim enthusiastically, "and as beautiful as--as,
well, have you ever seen Greuze's picture in the Louvre, 'L'Oiseau
Mort'? Well, she's as beautiful as that, and Greuze might have painted
his picture with her as a model except for the darkness of her hair."

The girl was looking at him, her eyebrows arched with something that
might have been amusement and was certainly surprise.

"Tut-tut!" she said with mock severity, "this enthusiasm--"

"Don't be silly, Margot," said Jim, and he really did blush. "I only saw
her once, I tell you."

"Once? But she made an impression apparently," nodded the girl.

"In a way she did," said Jim, returning to his old seriousness, "and in
a way she didn't."

"I understand you perfectly," said the girl. "What do you mean?"

"I mean I could admire her and yet there was something about her which
left me with an odd sense of sadness."

Margot laughed shortly.

"Of all ways to a man's heart, an odd sense of sadness is the shortest,"
she said. "Come, let us get home."

She turned her horse to one of the smaller roads leading to the valley
of the Dart and the Moor ford from which the town took its name.

"Wait a bit."

Jim reined his horse to a standstill, and Margot Cameron turning back
saw something in his face that set her heart thumping more than the
exercise of reining in her horse justified.

"Margot, I'm not going to see a great deal more of you," said Jim and
his voice was husky. "You're going away and God knows when you're coming
back again. And when you've left, this place which you and I think is so
beautiful will be just a damnable desert--if you will pardon the
profanity."

She did not speak, but looked past him.

"I think I'm staying on in this town," he said, "because I am probably
doing the only kind of job that I'm fit for. And it is likely that I
shall stay here for ever and be a bald old bank manager at seventy. I
wasn't intended to be a bank manager," he said, with a return to his
whimsical self, "it was never ordained that I should sit in an office
behind a leather-covered table and call the bluff on people who want a
thousand overdraft on a five-hundred security. It was intended that I
should be a sailor," he said half to himself, "or a--yes, a bank robber!
I have a criminal heart, but I have no enterprise."

"What is this all leading to?" asked the girl, bringing up her eyes to
his face.

"It is leading to this one vital and important fact," said Jim, sitting
bolt upright on his horse, a sure sign of his nervousness. "It means
that I love you and I don't want you to leave this country in any
ignorance of that point. Wait a moment," he said, as he thought she was
about to speak (as a matter of fact she found a little difficulty in
breathing in spite of her testimonial to the qualities of Dartmoor), "I
know you'll tell me that you wish I hadn't told you, but after all
you'll wish that because you will be afraid of my hurt." He shook his
head.

"I've got the hurt and I'm getting rid of a lot of my mind-sickness when
I tell you that I love you. I'm not going to ask you to be my wife
either, Margot. It would be unfair to entertain the idea of marrying
you, even supposing you did not whack me over the head with your crop at
the bare suggestion. I just wanted to tell you that I love you and that
I'm going to work--I shall leave this grisly town...and some day
perhaps..." His speech tailed off into something like incoherence.

She was laughing softly though there was a suspicion of tears in her
eyes.

"You are a queer man, Jim," she said softly, "and now having proposed to
me and rejected yourself nothing remains for me to say except that I
will never be a sister to you and that I promised Cecile I would bring
you home to tea."

Jim swallowed something and then with a deep sigh stuck his heels into
his horse and pushed him forward to the girls side.

"That's that," he said.

"I wonder if your that is my that?" said the girl, and went on quickly.
"Now, let us gossip about the beautiful Mrs Markham."

And of the beautiful Mrs Markham and other matters they talked until
they passed through the stone pillars of Moor House, that quaint mansion
on the hinge of Moorford which the Camerons had rented for the summer.


Chapter 2


Frank, a tall handsome American of thirty-five, was coming back from the
tennis court, and he greeted Jim and his sister from afar.

"I've had a visit from your assistant," he said, after the horses had
been taken away and Margot had gone into the house.

"From Sanderson?" said Jim in astonishment, "what the dickens did he
want? Have you overdrawn your account?"

Frank grinned.

"Nothing so prosaic as that," he said. "No, it was on quite an
interesting business he came. By the way he's something of an amateur
detective, I suppose you know?"

Jim groaned.

"Good Lord!" he said dismally, "he hasn't been up here rustling clues or
anything of that kind, has he?"

The other laughed.

"Not exactly," he said, "but a month ago he asked me for an introduction
to a personal friend of mine. I happened to mention when I was talking
with Sanderson at the bank that John Rogers, our District Attorney, was
a friend of mine. Rogers has an extraordinary knowledge of criminals and
has quite the best library on criminology in the United States. This was
the fact I let fall to your Mr Sanderson and which resulted in my giving
him a letter of introduction to John and his consequent visit today to
see me. Apparently John has put him in possession of important data and
Sanderson wished one or two matters explained--such as the functions of
our State Governors and their power to grant pardons."

"What is he after?" asked Jim after a puzzling moment. "He never
confides in me, you know; in fact, I rather jibe him about his criminal
investigations, and, in consequence, we are not exactly the most
intimate of friends."

Frank had led the way to his den as they were talking. He took up a
sheet of notepaper from his table and read it over.

"I jotted down a few items after he had gone," he said, "and really,
Bartholomew, your Mr Sanderson isn't as eccentric as he seems. This is
the point. There is in England at this present moment what he
romantically calls 'The Big Four of Crime.' Three of them are citizens
of my own dear native land, and one, I believe, is a Wop--or a
Spaniard--who poses as an Italian, named Romano. The fact that Romano is
a criminal has been established. The other three, about whom there are
known records, are a Mr and Mrs Trenton--Doc Trenton is the man--I've
got most of these facts from Sanderson--and a particularly
well-experienced forger named Talbot. These are the names by which they
call themselves, of course, and I wouldn't vouch for their accuracy."

"But what on earth has this to do-" began Jim.

"Wait a bit," said Frank, "I want to tell you this much. I think your
man has got on the right track. There's no doubt whatever about the
existence of the four persons whose doings he is following. They are
very much alive and kicking. The police of most of the countries in
Europe, certainly the police of America, know them and their exploits
very well, for at one time or another they have all been in the hands of
the law: The work that Sanderson has been engaged upon, apparently, has
been the identification of these four law breakers with a gang which,
for the past year, has been engaged in jewel robberies in Paris and
London."

Jim Bartholomew nodded.

"I have good reason for knowing there is such a gang," he said. "Almost
every post from the Bankers' Association contains some fresh warning and
some new particular of their methods. I suppose it was from these
'confidentials' that Sanderson got his idea?"

The "confidentials" were the secret documents which bankers in all
countries receive, not only from their own associates but from the
police headquarters.

"He told me as much," said Frank. "What Sanderson had really been doing
is this. He has been canvassing the police forces of the world by
correspondence, getting particulars of the jewel and bank thieves known
to them and, when it is possible, their photographs. That is why I was
able to help him with my friend the District Attorney who has written to
Sanderson telling him that he has sent him on a batch of information and
photographs. They hadn't turned up when Sanderson came here, but the
American mail comes in scraps, as you probably know."

"What is Sanderson's idea as to the future?" asked Jim, puzzled. "Does
he aspire to be a policeman? I suppose he didn't take you that much into
his confidence?"

Frank laughed.

"That is just what he did," he said. "As a matter of fact, he unbosomed
himself of his ambitions in a most highly confidential way but as he did
not extract from me any promise that I would not pass the information on
I can tell you. I can rely upon you, Bartholomew, not to rag him?"

"Of course," protested Jim. "Had I known he was taking the thing so
seriously and doing such excellent work I would have given him all the
assistance in my power."

"Sanderson's idea, and his chief ambition, is to create a Bankers'
Protection Corps," Frank went on, "and it is quite an excellent scheme.
His plan is to take the likeliest men from the banking world, clerks and
so on, and train them to the detection of banking crimes--and here comes
Jones to call us to tea."

He rose, and Jim preceded him from the room. In the hall Frank Cameron
changed the subject abruptly.

"I shall miss you quite a lot," he said, "and I am hoping that fate will
bring us back to this delightful spot."

Jim was as fervently hoping the same, but did no more than murmur a
conventional agreement.

"The voyage is going to do my wife a lot of good, I hope. She has not
been quite the same since her sister died."

It was the first time that Frank Cameron had mentioned his wife's
illness, though Jim had had many talks with Margot on the matter.

"She died quite suddenly in the United States, didn't she?"

Frank nodded.

"Yes, we were in Paris at the time. One morning we got an urgent cable
and Cecile went back to New York next day--she insisted upon going
alone--she arrived there just in time, poor girl. She has never quite
recovered from the shock. It has clouded her life most tragically--by
the way you never talk to Cecile about her sister, do you?"

Jim shook his head.

"No. I have never mentioned her, and it is not a subject I should care
to raise."

Frank nodded his approval.

Margot had changed from her riding kit and was sitting in the
drawing-room with her sister-in-law. Mrs Cameron rose and came towards
him with outstretched hands. She was a stately pretty woman of thirty
with flawless features and dark eyes that had always seemed to Frank to
hold the shadow of tragedy.

"Thank heaven, I've finished my packing," she said.

"When and how do you leave?" asked Jim. "Tomorrow?"

"Early on Saturday morning," said Cecile Cameron, handing him his tea.
"We're going by car to Southampton and sending the baggage on overnight.
I want to stay here until the very last moment and it will be rather fun
motoring in the early morning."

"I have ordered fabulous sums to be at your disposal tomorrow," laughed
Jim. "I don't know what my general manager will say when he knows that
the bank has lost four such excellent clients."

"Four?" said Mrs Cameron. "Who else is leaving beside us three?"

"Mrs Markham of Tor Towers will be a fellow passenger of yours--and
she's American, by the way."

"Markham? Do you know her, Frank?"

Frank Cameron shook his head.

"She is not a New Yorker," explained Jim. "I believe she comes from
Virginia. She is a regular visitor to this country and as a matter of
fact she is coming back to us and has deposited her jewels with us--I
wish she hadn't. I hate the responsibility of carrying a hundred
thousand pounds' worth of diamonds in my vault, and as soon as the good
lady is on the sea I shall send them up to London for safe custody."

"Mrs Markham," said Frank thoughtfully. "It is curious we have never met
her. Is she young or old?"

"Young," said Jim. "I have never seen her myself, except at a distance.
She leaves the management of her domestic affairs to her butler, a
pompous gentleman named Winter--a typical superior domestic servant.
Sanderson has conducted all the business dealings we have had with Mrs
Markham, so I know very little about her, except that she is a most
agreeable lady, has tons of money, is a widow, and spends most of her
time painting sketches of Dartmoor. But I don't suppose you three good
people will want any fourth, and certainly you'll find scores of friends
on the ship. Have you a suite?"

Frank nodded.

"We have Suite B, which is the best on the ship, and Cecile has a great
friend going out, Mrs Dupreid--Jane is sailing, isn't she?" He turned to
his wife.

"Yes, I had a letter from her this morning. You're quite right, Mr
Bartholomew; one doesn't want a great crowd on a ship, and sea voyages
depress me horribly. I don't think Jane Dupreid is going to be much of
an acquisition to our party, Frank." She smiled quietly. "Jane is a bad
sailor and takes to her bunk the moment the ship leaves the wharf and
stays there until it passes Sandy Hook."

The conversation drifted to ships and passengers and their
eccentricities, and was mainly between Frank Cameron and his wife and
Jim. Margot Cameron was unusually silent and thoughtful, and it was
Cecile who drew attention to the fact.

"You're rather quiet, Margot; what is the matter?"

Margot Cameron roused from her reverie with a start.

"How terrible that my silences are remarkable!" she said, with a little
laugh. "I suppose it is rather like when the engine stops at sea, it
wakes you up! To be perfectly frank, I was feeling a little sad at
leaving this place."

Frank looked from his sister to Jim and back to his sister again and
smiled.

"Oh yes," he said dryly.

"I think I must be getting old," said Margot, "but somehow of late I
hate change."

"I rather dislike it myself," said Frank, "but either you or I have got
to go, Margot. We have to settle up Aunt Martha's estate."

He saw Jim's eyes light up and grinned.

"That sounds as though we are going to make a short stay and then home
again, but I really ought to see the mining properties I am interested
in and that means spending the winter in California."

Jim groaned.

"Well," he said grimly "you'll find me here with the other permanent
fixtures of the town, and maybe when you return you will find plates
affixed to various buildings to commemorate your stay. I shall be a
deadly dull man."

"Perhaps a circus will happen along," suggested Margot helpfully.

"There are two courses open to me," said the solemn Jim. "The first is
to allow myself to get into the whirl of local gaiety and take up sheep
breeding, and the second is to rob the bank and shoot up the town. There
is every incentive to rob the bank," he added thoughtfully.

"The beautiful Mrs Markham's diamonds--"

"Why do you always prefix Mrs Markham with the word 'beautiful'?" asked
the girl, not without a certain undercurrent of irritation.

"For lack of a better adjective," was the cryptic reply.

"Well, I shouldn't shoot up the town until we're well on our way," said
Frank, passing his cup back to Cecile.

"Phew!" said Jim suddenly, "what a wonderful ring!"

He was looking at Mrs Cameron's outstretched hand and she flushed
slightly.

"It is lovely, isn't it?" said Cameron quietly "Let me show it to
Bartholomew."

She hesitated, then drew the ring from her finger and handed it to the
visitor. It was a broad band of gold and had the appearance of having
been cut rather than moulded. It was the design which had attracted
Bartholomew's attention, and now he carried it to the window to examine
it more carefully for the design was an unusual one. Three
serpent-headed women, delicately and beautifully carved, every line of
their sombre faces exquisitely modelled, though each face was not more
than an eighth of an inch in length.

He examined it admiringly, noted the twining snakes and a hint of wings,
and brought the ring back to Mrs Cameron.

"The Daughters of the Night," he said. "A beautiful piece of work!"

"The Daughters of the Night?" Mrs Cameron frowned.

"Yes, they are the three Furies, aren't they? The Roman deities who
brought punishment to evil-doers."

"I never heard them called the Daughters of the Night," Cecile Cameron
spoke slowly as she replaced the ring on her finger. "The Daughters of
the Night!"

"My mythology is a little bit rusty," smiled Jim, "but that is the name
by which I remember them. It is certainly a lovely piece of work."

"You are fortunate to see it," said Frank. "My wife only wears it one
day in the year, the anniversary of her father's death. Isn't that so,
darling?" Mrs Cameron nodded.

"Father gave one to my sister and myself," she said. "He was a great
connoisseur and had had this ring copied from one which is now in the
Louvre. It hasn't"--she faltered--"it hasn't very pleasant memories, but
Daddy was so proud of them--it was his own work--that I wear mine once a
year for his sake."

She did not mention her dead sister, but Jim guessed that that was where
the unhappiness of the memory lay.

"It is rather valuable," said Jim, "because the ring at the Louvre was
stolen in '99 if you remember, and today this is the only copy in the
world." Margot had risen and walked to the piano and was playing softly
and Jim had come to accept Margot's playing as part of the daily
pleasure which life held for him. He pulled up a chair to her side.

"Play me something that will soothe my jagged nerves," he said.

"You've no right to have jagged nerves--a boy like you," she said, and
stopped.

"This time next week where shall we be?" quoth he. "What ship are you
going on?"

"On the Ceramia."

"On the Ceramia?" he lifted his eyebrows.

"Great Scott! Old man Stornoway is chief officer and old Smythe is chief
engineer."

She turned on the stool, her hands on her lap.

"And who may these old gentlemen be?" she asked. "Frank!" she called
over her shoulder. "Come and hear about the doddering friends of Mr
Bartholomew."

"Well, they're not really old men," explained Jim, "but they are very
great pals of mine. You see, during the war I was in the Navy. I was
almost everything that you can be in the Navy from stoker to
Intelligence Officer. Stornoway was the skipper of B. 75, which was a
special service destroyer, and I was Intelligence Officer on her. We
were running a patrol to the north of Scotland. Smythe was chief
engineer and so we got to know one another rather well, and when we were
picked up--"

"Picked up?" said the girl. "What do you mean?"

"Well, you see, we were torpedoed rather neatly one cold February day
and we three were in the water together for about twelve hours, and
naturally under those circumstances you get to know a man."

The girl laughed.

"Did you rescue them from a watery grave?" she asked sardonically. "Or
did they rescue you?"

"Well, we sort of rescued one another," explained Jim hazily.

The girl sensed behind that awkward statement a story of unrecorded
heroism and resolved to seek out Stornoway at the earliest opportunity
and discover the truth of this incident.

Jim would have stayed to dinner but for the fact that he had a long
report which must be written that night, and the girl walked with him
down the drive.

"So you're going to be a bank robber after I leave, are you?" she said.

"Why not?" he protested stoutly. "It's easy. Do you know, Margot, I have
a criminal mind."

"I've often suspected you of having a weak mind, but never a criminal
mind," said the girl, "but I suppose that--"

"In what respect have I a weak mind?"

"Well," she drawled, "I think you lack resolution, and in some respects
self-confidence."

"Good lord!" he gasped. "I thought I was the most sure and certain man
in the world."

"In some respects you are. In fact, in some respects you are inclined to
be bumptious," she went on remorselessly, "but in others--"

He stopped and faced her.

"Now you've got to tell me where I've failed. Don't leave me in this
benighted land--for benighted it will be when you have gone--with that
untold mystery taxing all my mental resources. In what respect have I
failed?"

"I think you're very--English," she said.

"In other words, pudden-headed," said Jim. "But surely you are not going
to blame me because I am a citizen of the most downtrodden race in the
world."

She laughed.

"I think you're dense, that's all."

"Oh, is that all?" he said sarcastically. And then more seriously:

"Suppose I am willingly dense. Suppose I know that within my reach is
the greatest prize in all the world?" His voice shook ever so slightly.

"Suppose I know there is somebody so generous and so fine and so
immensely gracious that she would give herself to me--I who have just
enough money to realise my poverty. Suppose I knew all this and had
resolved in my heart that for her happiness and mine I must come to her
with an accomplishment behind me, would you say that I lacked
confidence?"

She did not speak, but laid her hand within his, and in silence they
walked the rest of the way.

"I shall see you tomorrow," she said without looking at him. "You
wouldn't like to come to Southampton to see us off?"

"That's an idea," he said. "It will be rather painful, but I--yes. I'll
do it. I'll come down by the morning train."

"Why not come down by car with us?"

"I can't do that," he said. "I am due in London on Saturday morning, but
I'll go up by the midnight train to London, see my general manager, and
catch the boat train to Southampton. Good night!" He held out his hand
and she looked round.

Behind them the groom was leading Jim's horse.

"Good night," she said, "and don't bring your horse tomorrow: I can't go
riding."

"Will you come into town tomorrow with your sister?" he asked.

"Possibly," she nodded. He swung into his saddle and the girl was gently
rubbing the nose of the horse.

"Jim," she asked suddenly "if--if you are going to make your fortune...you
will try something very rapid, won't you?"

He stooped over and laid his hand upon her head and she raised her eyes
to his.

"It will be something infernally rapid," he said.


Chapter 3


Mr Stephen Sanderson had had a bulky letter by the American mail and had
sat up half the night writing, taking notes and comparing the new data
he had received from Frank Cameron's friend with the voluminous matter
he had already classified and tabulated.

It was a long work, but it was a labour of love for Stephen Sanderson.
It meant the careful reading of thousands of newspaper extracts dealing
with the wave of crime which had swept over England and France that
year. It meant the comparison of methods thus recorded, with those which
had been supplied him by the report which had come from New York. He had
worked until the daylight filtered greyly through the curtained window
with a dozen portraits of men and women outspread on the table before
him. He was piecing together with amazing patience the pieces of the
most fascinating jigsaw puzzle. Only one or two pieces did not fit, and
he arose after four hours' sleep, refreshed and thrilled by the thought
that even these elusive scraps might yet be fitted into the picture.

Jim, coming to the office at ten o'clock, found his assistant sitting
before his desk a little hollow-eyed but more cheerful than he
remembered him.

"Good morning, Mr Sanderson."

"Good morning, Mr Bartholomew."

Jim had an inquiry on the tip of his tongue, but checked himself. He
looked at his assistant with a new respect.

"Is there anything particularly interesting this morning?" asked Jim as
he hung up his hat and slipped off his coat--it had been raining that
morning.

"Nothing, sir," said Sanderson. He was punctilious in all outward
evidence of respect.

"I have the money ready for Mrs Cameron and for Mrs Markham."

"Oh yes, but she's not drawing out her balance, is she?"

"Yes, sir," said the other. "Her balance isn't a very large one. About
2,000. She is leaving a little in the account because she is returning.
I am expecting Mr Winter any moment. Would you like to see him?"

"Who is Winter? Oh, the butler? No, thank you very much," said Jim
carelessly. "If he wants to see me he'll find me in the office."

He went into his room, closed the door, and Sanderson went on with his
work. There was a knock at the door and the clerk came in.

"Mr Winter, sir," he said.

"Oh, I'll see him in here. Ask him in, will you?"

A stout, genial-looking man with black side whiskers was Mr Winter. He
offered his large hand, and sitting down on the seat opposite Sanderson
at the managers invitation, he produced a pink slip which Sanderson
examined.

"Well, Mr Winter, I suppose your lady is in a state of great excitement
about the prospect of going back to America?"

"No, sir," smiled Mr Winter. "There's very little excitement at Tor
Towers, sir, believe me. It is just about the dullest situation I was
ever in. Mind you, everything is as it should be in the way of food and
accommodation, but there's precious little life."

"When are you leaving?"

"Tonight, sir. We are going by car to Bournemouth and on early tomorrow
to the ship."

"It is going to be a pleasant trip for you, Mr Winter."

The elder man rubbed the bald patch on the top of his head.

"Well, sir, it may be and it may not," he said cautiously "I have never
been out of England and I don't know how I'm going to get on with these
Americans. Of course, Mrs M. is a very nice lady and if they are all
like her I shall be comfortable. But never having been abroad or been on
a ship--why naturally I'm a bit nervous."

"You'll be all right," said Sanderson.

He rang the bell and handed the cheque to the clerk.

"Bring the cash for this, will you," he said

"There is one thing, sir," the butler leant over the table and lowered
his voice. "Mrs M. is a little nervous about those jewels you've got and
she asked me if I'll have a look at them to see if they are properly
packed--in fact, sir, I won't tell a lie, to see if they are still in
your possession."

Sanderson indulged in one of his rare smiles.

"I don't think she need worry about that," he said. "I suppose it is the
jewel robberies which are worrying her?"

"That's it, sir," nodded Winter emphatically. "My lady says that she was
robbed once before when she was in America and it has made her scared."

"I think I can put her mind at rest," said Sanderson, rising, and going
to a steel door at the end of his room.

He manipulated two keys and presently the big door swung open, and he
disappeared into the vault.

He came back in a moment with a small brown-paper parcel.

"Do you want me to open this?" he said, pointing to the package and the
sealed tape which enveloped it.

"No, sir," said Winter. "All she wanted you to do was to tear the paper
so that I could see. I understand the jewels are in a glass case."

"Mrs Markham's idea," said Sanderson, "and not a bad one."

He caught a corner of the paper and tore it cautiously revealing an
oblong glass box.

"There they are."

Mr Winter leaned forward and looked reverently at a section of a broad
diamond collar which sparkled and glittered in the light.

"That's all right, sir," he said, "and here's Mrs Markham's seal."

He handed over a gummed label, across which was written "Stella Markham"
and the date.

"What is that for?" asked Sanderson in surprise, and Mr Winter chuckled.

"A wonderful lady is Mrs M. She thinks of everything. 'Winter,' she
said, 'after Mr Sanderson has torn the paper you'd better put this label
over the tear so that nobody will think the parcel has been interfered
with without my knowledge."

He licked the label and with an "excuse me, sir," rubbed it down over
the torn paper.

"There's a gentleman Mrs Markham doesn't like," he said, with a jerk of
his head to the window which gave out upon the High Street. Following
the direction of his eyes Sanderson saw the back of a stocky figure.

"Who is that?" he asked.

"That's Farmer Gold. He's a very objectionable man and turned madame off
his property where she was sketching."

"He's usually a very decent fellow," said Sanderson. "I'll put this
package back in the vaults and you can reassure Mrs Markham that her
jewels are safe."

The clerk came in with the money which was counted, not once, but three
times by the careful Mr Winter. He had pocketed the money and was rising
when Sanderson detained him.

"There's one thing I want to see you about, Mr Winter," he said, "if
you can spare five minutes of your time."

"With all the pleasure in life," said Mr Winter.

"You're going to America, and you will be in a favourable position to
collect a little information for me, especially whilst you are on the
ship."

"If I'm well enough to get about, sir," interrupted Winter. "I'm not
looking forward--"

"Oh, you'll be well enough to get about," said Mr Sanderson, with a
little laugh. "Sailing with you will be Mr and Mrs Cameron."

"Cameron?" repeated the other.

"Yes."

"Are they country people? Do I know them?"

"I don't know whether you know them, but they live in this town."

"Oh yes, the American people," nodded Winter. "Yes, sir."

And Sanderson detailed his commission. Not for five minutes, but for
twenty did he speak. It was necessary to some extent to take the butler
into his confidence, and this he did. Jim heard the murmur of voices in
the next room and, looking across the unfrosted top of the door panel,
caught a glimpse of Sanderson's earnest face and smiled. He sealed the
letter he was writing and passed into the outer office.

"Has Mrs Cameron been?" he asked his clerk.

"No, sir. Mr Winter, Mrs Markham's butler, is here."

"Tell Mr Sanderson I shall be back in ten minutes," said Jim, and went
out into the High Street.

He was restless, impatient of things, craving unreasonably for a glimpse
of the face which was soon to pass away from him, perhaps for ever. He
walked through the town in the direction of the Camerons' house and knew
himself for a fool. He was halfway up Moor Hill when he saw the car
coming slowly down. It stopped at his signal and Cecile Cameron beckoned
him.

"Where are you going so early?" he asked.

The other occupant of the car was Margot, who had no need to make any
inquiry and was only interested in what excuse Jim would invent.

"I was coming out to meet you," said Jim, seating himself in one of the
bucket seats.

"And Margot?" said Cecile softly.

"And Margot," Jim admitted without blushing. "I know I am a frantic
idiot, but I just hate your going."

"I think we all wish we were staying," said Cecile, "even Margot."

"Even Margot," scoffed her sister-in-law.

"Can't you find an excuse to come with us?" said Mrs Cameron.

"I found the excuse quite a long time ago," said Jim.

Margot stared out of the window; interested apparently in anything and
everything except the young man in tweeds who sat with his foot against
hers.

"Maybe I'll turn up there if you don't come back quickly," Jim went on.
"One of these fine days when you're sitting in your palatial apartment
on the 29th floor of the Goldrox Hotel you will ring your bell for the
waiter and in will come Jim Bartholomew--I had no idea I had walked such
a short distance."

The car was pulling up before the bank.

Sanderson was standing at the door talking to his visitor.

"And now to do a little honest banking business?" said Jim. "I--"

He stopped dead at the sight of Mrs Cameron's face. It was as white as
death, her lips were bloodless and her face was frozen in an expression
of horror.

Jim turned and saw Sanderson at the door. He had just given his final
word to Mrs Markham's butler and had not noticed the arrival of the car.
He looked back again at Cecile. She was shaking as if from an ague.

"My God!" she gasped. "Oh, my God!"

By this time Sanderson had turned into the bank.

"What is the matter, Cecile dear? For heaven's sake, what has happened?"
said Margot, putting her arms about Cecile.

"Nothing, nothing."

Jim was dumb with astonishment.

Sanderson! What was there in the sight of that stony face which would
reduce this well-poised woman to such a condition of terror? That it was
Sanderson he did not doubt. He jumped out of the car and assisted Mrs
Cameron into the bank.

"Oh, it is nothing. I am stupid," she said faintly as he brought her
into his office. "Just a little fainting attack, I sometimes have them.
You must please forgive me, Mr Bartholomew, for making such a spectacle
of myself."

"But what was it, dear?" Margot asked anxiously.

"Nothing, nothing." Mrs Cameron forced a smile. "Really it was nothing,
Margot. I just had an attack of the vapours. Will you attend to me, Mr
Bartholomew? I--I don't think I want to see your assistant manager."

Jim was only too anxious to deal with the matter himself. He walked into
Sanderson's office and that worthy was at the table apparently
unconscious of his responsibility for Mrs Cameron's condition.

"I am attending to Mrs Cameron's account myself, Sanderson," said Jim.

"Very good, sir," replied the other, without looking up. "I've just
fixed Mrs Markham's account."

In three minutes Jim was back in his office with the notes and by that
time Cecile Cameron had recovered something of her calm.

"There's quite a run on the bank today," said Jim. "Mrs Markham's butler
has just drawn 2,000 for that lady."

There was a silence as he counted the money then: "Mrs Markham is the
lady who is going to America, is she?" said Cecile.

"I believe she is leaving today or tomorrow. I'll find out."

He went into Sanderson's room. He guessed that Cecile's interest in Mrs
Markham was an excuse to get him out of the room that she might have a
little further time to recover and he delayed his return as long as
possible.

He was somewhat surprised to find his assistant in excellent humour and
informative.

"Yes," said Jim on his return, "she's sailing tomorrow and her butler
has been confiding his terrors of the sea to Sanderson. I gather she is
leaving today."

He saw the girls back to their car and bade farewell to them and stood
watching the number plate at the back of the car until it had
disappeared, then he went slowly back to his office. He pressed the bell
which communicated with Sanderson and the assistant manager came in.

"Sanderson," he said, "I owe you an apology."

"Do you, sir?" said Sanderson in surprise.

"Yes," said Jim. "I've been rather a boor about your little hobby and I
didn't realise how very important your work in that direction may be."

Mr Sanderson looked at him suspiciously.

"Of course, Mr Bartholomew if you're going to be funny about it-"

"I'm not being funny at all," said Jim. "Sit down. I had a long talk
with Mr Cameron yesterday afternoon, and without betraying any of your
secrets he told me that you were working systematically with the object
of identifying the members of the Big Four who have been victimising the
banks."

"Well, sir, that's true," said Sanderson, sitting down, "and I'm happy
to say that I'm on the track. And I'm not the only one looking for them
either," he said. "I had a letter yesterday from a friend of Mr
Cameron's who's a lawyer in America, and he gave me some very
interesting information. The biggest enemy to the Big Four is a woman--a
woman detective who has been employed by the Department of Justice in
America for four years tracking down the principal members. I don't know
the name of the lady and this fact was told me in confidence."

"A woman detective sounds thrilling," said Jim. "What do you think are
the prospects of their capture?"

Sanderson shook his head.

"That's a difficult question to answer," he said. "As likely as not the
lady who is on their track is nearer to detecting them than ever I shall
be. She has unlimited resources, she has the Government of America
behind her, she can appear in all sorts of guises, and can devote the
whole of her time to the work." It seemed at that moment to Jim that he
had a deeper grudge against the mysterious woman detective with her
unlimited authority than he had against the miscreants whose undoing he
sought.

"By the way sir, Mr Winter wanted to see Mrs Markham's jewels before he
left," said Sanderson as he was leaving, and gave an account of the
interview.

He made no reference, however, to the interview which followed when they
sat head to head over the table, he and the butler whom he was training
and from whom he anticipated receiving such assistance.

"Blow her jewellery," said Jim. "I wish to heaven she'd leave it in
London or somewhere. I'll have to send that necklace to town just as
soon as Mrs Markham has gone, Sanderson. You might write to the Head
Office and tell them that they can expect it on Tuesday and you can take
it. A trip to town will do you no harm, and it will probably help you."

Sanderson nodded gratefully.

"Thank you, sir, I want to go to Scotland Yard to see Inspector McGinty.
I have had some correspondence with him. He seems a very intelligent
man."

"He probably is," said Jim dryly. "It is curious how often real
detectives are that way!"


Chapter 4


He had the choice of going home and eating a solitary lunch or mooning
in his office. Somehow a meal, and a solitary meal, had no attraction
for him and he was still in a state of indecision when he saw the
Camerons' car pull up and Frank jump down.

Jim Bartholomew hurried out to meet him.

"I want to speak to you, Jim," said that troubled man.

It was the first time he had called Jim Bartholomew by his Christian
name, and Jim accepted the omen with pleasure.

"I can't make out what has happened to Cecile," said Frank as they paced
the broad sidewalk, deserted at the luncheon hour, "This morning she was
quite cheerful and even made a jest about that ring of hers, which is a
mighty solemn subject with Cecile, I can tell you. What did you call
it?"

"The Daughters of the Night," said Jim. "It sounds romantic and a little
improper, but it is historically accurate."

"Well, as I say she went away from the house cheerful," Frank went on,
"but came back from the bank a pitiful wreck. What happened?"

"The Lord knows!" said Jim. "I was sitting in the car with her when
suddenly I saw her face go white and I thought she was going to faint."

"Was there reason for it?"

"None that I could see," said Jim, who thought it wisest not to mention
the fact that it was apparently the sight of Sanderson which had reduced
her to this condition.

"Well, anyway she's decided that she won't go to America tomorrow."

"Good Lord!" said Jim, and his heart leapt.

"I can't go either, of course," said Frank. "But Margot will have to go.
There are documents to be signed and either she or I must sign them.
We'll follow on after."

"Is Margot going alone?" said Jim.

"I'm afraid she must," replied the other.

"She'll have plenty of room to move around. I've engaged a suite for
three."

"What does she say about it?"

"Of course, she's very much distressed," said Frank, "and I'd like you
to see her. She's a good girl that, Bartholomew the best in the world is
my little sister. She's leaving tonight for Southampton. I wish you
would go down and see her off tomorrow I do not like to leave Cecile in
her present condition."

"Rather," said Jim, with alacrity "You haven't any idea what has decided
Mrs Cameron not to go? I thought she was rather keen on the trip."

"She was never enthusiastic," said the other; "but she was agreeable.
You see, her friend was going out, Mrs Dupreid, and there were all the
prospects of rather a jolly voyage. I'm as sick as a monkey about it.
What made her decide to change her mind heaven only knows. I never
attempt to pry into first causes, so far as women are concerned, and in
consequence I am a happily married."

Jim laughed.

"Can you spare time to come up to the house now?" asked Cameron. "My car
is here."

Jim hesitated.

"Just one moment."

He went back into the bank and entered Sanderson's room.

"I'm going out for about an hour, Sanderson," he said; "if you want me
will you 'phone Mrs Cameron's house?"

Sanderson nodded. He was even genial.

"I don't suppose you'll be needed this afternoon, Mr Bartholomew. I've
settled the trouble about Jackson & Wales' bill, and the statement will
be ready for you to sign at five."

On the way up to Moor House Frank Cameron offered Jim more of his
confidence than he had shown during the twelve months of their
friendship.

"Cecile has never been herself since her sisters death. She died of
typhoid in New York City," he said. "I told you Cecile got there in time
and only just in time. They were rather a devoted family and I sometimes
wonder whether the shock has not affected her mind--I'll be candid with
you, Jim. It worries me to death at times. I insisted upon her seeing a
specialist when we were in New York last fall and I gave him my views,
but he could trace nothing of a serious nature and put her condition
down to shock and nerve trouble. Margot, of course, has been a brick, as
she always is in times of stress. How do you feel towards Margot?" he
asked suddenly.

Jim went red.

"I love her," he said suddenly and with strange gruffness.

"I thought so," said the other quietly. "Well, what are you going to do
about it?"

There was a half-smile on his face as he asked the question.

"I'm going to ask her to be my wife, but I'm going to ask her, not as a
bank manager with a microscopic income--"

"You know that Margot has money of her own?" interrupted Frank.

"That is why," said Jim quietly "I have infinite faith in my--my star,
if you like. I am going to make good, and just as soon as Margot is on
the way I shall resign my position as bank manager and take up something
which offers better opportunities. I know, my dear chap, what you're
going to say"--he laid his hand on the other's knee. "You're going to
tell me that you've the very job for me--I know you're a very rich man
and I dare say you could place me in the way of getting easy money but
that isn't quite good enough and you wouldn't like me much if I accepted
your offer."

"You're right," said Frank after a pause. "And I respect you for it,
Jim. I don't doubt that you'll pull through and I know somebody else who
will share my faith."

Lunch was waiting when they arrived, and Cecile Cameron, who had
recovered something of her self-possession, met Jim with a whimsical
smile.

"Well, what do you think of my latest eccentricity, Mr Bartholomew?"

"The knowledge that you are still keeping money in my bank compensates
me for a lot," said Jim. "After all, is it eccentric to do what you want
to do and not do the things you don't want to do? Is it not more
eccentric to stop yourself doing what your heart aches to do?" He looked
straight at Margot and Margot returned his gaze without flushing. "To
give up what you want most in the world."

"I don't call that eccentric," said the girl. "I call that--a little
heroic."

Jim bowed, which was disconcerting.

"I decided that I couldn't break with this very peaceful life yet
awhile," said Mrs Cameron, "and I really think that I ought not to be
blamed."

"Nobody is blaming you, darling," said Frank. "Would you like to go to
the Continent for a little while?"

"I'd like to stay here," said his wife quickly, "in this little
out-of-the-world place where one sees nobody."

"This is where you bow again, Jim," said Margot.

"Do you 'Jim' Jim too?" asked Frank in spurious amazement.

"Occasionally in my tender moments," said the girl coolly and Jim
choked.

It was an unexpectedly cheerful luncheon party and Jim went to the bank
with two conspicuous possibilities for future happiness. (1) That if the
Camerons stayed, Margot would return. (2) That if Margot returned, he
would never have the courage to let her go again. It is extraordinary
how the prospect of his future cowardice cheered him.

Margot came to the bank that afternoon to say goodbye. She had probably
chosen this public spot because she was not quite certain how she would
behave if they parted in more secluded circumstances.

"Cecile is going away to Scotland. She had a long, long talk with Frank
this afternoon," said Margot. "Frank came out of the study looking
awfully serious. Anyway Cecile's gone. I've just seen her off."

"Gone already?" said Jim in amazement. "Has Frank--"

The girl shook her head.

"No, she's gone alone... She has some friends up there."

"Poor girl, I wonder what it was." Margot looked at Jim.

"I've been trying to guess too. Did you notice that when she collapsed
she was looking at your Mr Sanderson?"

Jim nodded.

"I did not fail to notice that," he said. "To my knowledge she had never
seen Sanderson before."

"I know she hadn't," said the girl. "We were talking about you two or
three days ago and I was telling her about Mr Sanderson's detective
hobby and she was amused. She then told me that she had never seen your
manager."

She offered Jim her hand.

"Goodbye, Jim," she said gently "I think I shall be coming back soon."

He took her hand in both of his and he found it difficult to speak.

"You understand, don't you?" he asked.

She nodded.

"I understand perfectly," she replied. "Won't you kiss me?"

She lifted up her face and he pressed her lips lightly with his.


Chapter 5


Jim Bartholomew came back from the railway station with a heavy heart.
He had declined Franks offer to drive him to the bank and had promised
to go up to the house to dinner. It accentuated his gloom that Sanderson
was in an exuberantly cheerful mood. To Jim's intense annoyance he
hummed little snatches of song as he worked, and the sound penetrating
through wood and glass partition had the character of a dirge.

"What the devil are you moaning about?" demanded Jim, exploding into his
assistant's room.

"Moaning, sir?" asked Sanderson, with a bland smile. "I'm just happy
that's all. Do you know sir what the Big Four--"

"Oh, damn the Big Four!" growled Jim irritably and was surprised to hear
the other chuckle.

He turned back from the door.

"Well, what about the Big Four?" he said, feeling that any subject which
interested him that afternoon would be more than welcome.

"I've been piecing together the rewards offered for the capture of these
fellows," said Sanderson. "Have you any idea how much it aggregates?"

"Not the faintest."

"120,000," said 'Mr Sanderson impressively. "The Italian Government
alone offer 50,000 for the recovery of the Negretti diamonds. They are
state heirlooms. The Duke of--"

"Shut up about money," said Jim. "Aren't you sick of talking pounds and
dollars and francs and marks?"

"No, sir, I'm not," said the other truthfully.

Jim had walked back in his room and Sanderson followed him.

"There's one thing I'd like to ask you to do, Mr Bartholomew," he said.

"What's that?" asked Jim.

"Write to headquarters and ask them to let us have an extra revolver
down here. We've only got one, the one in your desk. Do you know that I
sleep on these premises, upstairs, absolutely unarmed?"

"Well, take mine," said Jim. "What a ferocious beggar you are! I think
you go too often to the movies."

"Movies? Me?" spluttered Sanderson indignantly. "Do you imagine I spend
my hard-earned money in that kind of trash? The only thing I have seen
on the cinematograph, Mr Bartholomew," he said emphatically, "is a
series of interesting photographs showing the life of the bee, and if
these wretched cinema theatres would only show interesting topics of
that character I should be a regular patron."

"Here's the gun," said Jim, unlocking the drawer and taking out a
long-barrelled Colt. "Be careful. It is loaded."

"Put it in your drawer, sir, and leave the drawer unlocked and I'll take
it tonight."

"Why do you want a revolver?" asked Jim curiously.

"Because I have a feeling that sooner or later we are coming to grips
with the Big Four," replied Sanderson solemnly.

"Bosh!" said the sceptical Jim. "What the dickens are the Big Four
coming to this little burg for? To steal jingle and Merrick's overdraft,
or-"

"There's a hundred thousand pounds' worth of diamonds in this bank,"
said Sanderson, significantly and Jim whistled.

"By gosh! So there is! I think you're right. Now don't forget,
Sanderson, those diamonds must go up to London on Tuesday."

A customer came into the bank at that moment, a well-to-do farmer named
Sturgeon who farmed about a thousand acres in the neighbourhood. He
glanced up at the clock as he came in.

"I've just made it," he said, putting down his paying-in book on the
counter.

Jim, standing in the doorway of his room, gave him a nod.

"We're open day and night to take money, but we're rather careful of our
business hours when it comes to paying out," said Jim, his hands in his
pockets.

"Hello, Bartholomew," said Sturgeon. "I saw a friend of yours half an
hour ago getting out of the train at the Halt."

The Halt, as its name implied, was a small station outside the town
where the trains sometimes stopped to pick up and set down passengers
who came from the moorland villages and could thus save a journey into
town.

"I have so many friends that I can't place this particular one," said
Jim lazily.

"Mrs Cameron," was the surprising reply.

"Mrs Cameron? Nonsense," said Jim incredulously. "Mrs Cameron has gone
up to London."

"She may or may not have gone to town," said the other. "But I tell you
that she got down at the Halt and got into her car which was waiting."

Jim was silent.

"Maybe you're right," he said at last.

"I am right," smiled the other, gathering up his pass-book. "So long!"

Jim Bartholomew went back into his room and closed the door. Mrs Cameron
had left by the three o'clock train which connected with the northern
express at Bristol. She had gone an hour before Margot, who was catching
the Exeter train connecting through Yeovil with Southampton.

He had held his breath for a moment having a wild idea that it might
have been Margot. But Mrs Cameron!

Frank would be able to explain, and he was on his way to the telephone
when he thought better of it. Mrs Cameron would hardly change her plan
again without making her husband aware of the fact. Then he remembered
that Frank had spoken most casually of his wife going to Scotland and
had offered no comment upon her decision. It was curious.

When he went up to dinner that night he half expected to find Cecile
Cameron sitting in the drawing-room, but she was not there and Frank
made no mention of her, which was also an extraordinary circumstance,
for Frank Cameron never tired of talking of his wife. It was a very dull
meal and Jim missed Margot horribly. He talked of her very frankly and
his host encouraged him. It seemed to Jim as though Frank Cameron was
anxious to keep the conversation away from his wife, and once when Jim
mentioned casually the difficulties Cecile might have in catching the
Scottish express, Frank changed the subject. Jim walked home that night,
a little sick at heart, a little lonely and very love-conscious. A thin
drizzle of rain was falling and he had left his raincoat at the office.
His way back to the house where he lodged lay past the bank and he felt
in his pocket for his key. It was there, he noted with satisfaction. He
quickened his steps, overtaking another pedestrian, who turned out to be
the inspector of the local police.

"A wretched night, Mr Bartholomew," said that gentleman, recognising the
other. "Was that Mr Cameron's car I saw in the High Street half an hour
ago? There it is now." He pointed to a red tail light on the opposite
side of the road.

"No, it is not Mr Cameron's car. Has it been there long?"

"About half an hour," said the inspector. "I suppose it is one of the
gentry from the country. They're having a school concert tonight at the
Church Hall." The town of Moorford, feeling the urge for economy, had
decreed that the street lamps should not be lit upon moonlight nights,
and as this was officially a moonlight night, in spite of the heavy bank
of clouds overshadowing all sign of the moon and the drizzle of rain
which was falling, the lamps were dark, and it was impossible for Jim to
see the outlines of the car. As they came abreast of the bank he took
out the key which opened the side door.

"Going to work, sir?"

"No, I'm going to get my coat," said Jim. "I'll probably overtake you."

The inspector went on, and Jim entered and closed the door behind him.

The inspector passing glanced up and saw lights in the windows of the
living-rooms above the bank, where Mr Stephen Sanderson had his
headquarters. More than this, he noted a light in an interior room which
he recognised as the assistant manager's private office. He had not gone
a dozen yards when he heard a shot, and turned. He listened, but there
was no outcry. It was undoubtedly a shot. He was an old soldier and could
not mistake the sound. He walked quickly back to the bank and peered
over the green-painted sashes of the window and looked in. He saw a
silhouette of a figure against the glass door of Sanderson's office and
knocked.

Then he went round to the side door. It was ajar, though he had
distinctly remembered hearing Bartholomew close it.

He flashed his lamp into the interior and walked in. There was a door on
the left of the passage. He turned the handle and found himself in Jim
Bartholomew's private office. This too was empty and the key had been
left in the lock.

"Who is that?" called a voice.

"Inspector Brown--is anything wrong?"

"Come in, will you, inspector."

The inspector crossed the room, opened the glass-panelled door that gave
into Sanderson's office, and there he stopped.

Jim Bartholomew was kneeling on the floor, looking down upon a prostrate
figure that lay stretched stiff and stark by the side of the desk.

"Good God!" said he. "Why it's Mr Sanderson. Is he hurt?"

"He is dead," said Jim dully and looked at the revolver in his hand. "My
pistol killed him."

"I heard the shot as I was unlocking my door," said Jim, "and ran in.
There was nobody here." He got on his feet and walked to the door in
Sanderson's room which opened on to the passage leading to the side
door. That was unfastened.

"He went out this way," said Jim. "Get out into the street, Brown. I'll
search the house. The man who did this can't be far away."

But evidently the murderer had made his or her escape by the same
passage as the two men had entered. The slayer of Sanderson was probably
not half a dozen feet from the inspector when he had pushed open the
door which the murderer had left ajar in his flight, but when the
inspector reached the street it was empty. Far down to the southern end
of the town was a tiny speck of red light. It was the car that they had
seen waiting on the opposite side of the street and which was now
disappearing from view.

Jim's search of the room above gave nothing. It revealed only one fact,
that two persons had been there. Sanderson had had a visitor. There were
two empty coffee cups on the table and in the saucer of one of these was
the end of a cigarette, the type which Sanderson smoked.

There was no other clue, and he went back to the office and bent over
the dead man. Sanderson had been shot at short range. Death must have
come painlessly for upon his face, now dignified by the Greet
Visitation, was a strange serenity and something of that good humour in
which Jim had found him during the afternoon.

One hand of the dead man lay flat and open, turned downward on the
floor, the other was tightly clenched. Jim lifted this. Between ringer
and thumb was a little slip of paper. He prised the fingers apart and
took out the thing which Sanderson had been holding, carrying it to the
table under the light. It was a torn portion of a photograph, and the
untorn edges were about an inch and a half in length. The face, whatever
face it was, had gone, but the one hand which showed was obviously the
hand of a woman. Jim looked, and suddenly the room went round and round
and he gripped the edge of the table for support, for upon the finger of
that hand, the hand of this unknown woman, was the ring, the only one of
its kind in the world, and there leered up to him with microscopic
exactness the three dire faces of the Furies, the Daughters of the
Night.

Mrs Cameron!

Whoever had killed Sanderson had killed him to steal that picture. Where
had it come from? Then in a flash Jim remembered the package of
photographs which had come from the District Attorney. And Mrs Cameron's
horror at the sight of him, and her change of plans...the getting out at
the Halt when she was supposed to be on her way to Scotland. He sat
heavily on a chair, his head on his hands, shaking and ill. He heard the
thud of heavy feet in the passage, thrust the torn corner of the
photograph in his waistcoat pocket, and got up to meet the inspector,
who was unaccompanied.

"I'll have to fetch the doctor myself, Mr Bartholomew," he said. "The
police doctor is out of town and I shall have to go up to Dr Grey at
Oldshot. Will you wait?"

Jim nodded. He welcomed the interval. He wanted to think.

It was half an hour before the inspector returned accompanied by a
doctor and another constable he had picked up on his beat. And a further
surprise awaited him. The door was ajar but Jim Bartholomew had gone. On
the table of the room where the murdered man was lying was a sheet of
paper and a key and written upon the paper were the words:

"Telegraph to our bank at Tiverton to send a manager over to take
charge. Give him this key."

The inspector stared at the doctor and from the doctor to the constable.

"I don't understand it," he said in a worried voice. "Why did Mr
Bartholomew go? And where has he gone?"

Information on both subjects was forthcoming. At two o'clock it was
reported to the inspector that Mr Bartholomew had mounted the last train
for Exeter as it was moving out of the station. At ten o'clock next
morning in answer to the inspector's urgent wire arrived an official of
the bank, who made a hasty inspection of the strongroom.

He came with a little disordered bundle in his hand and put it on the
table, then consulted a deposit book.

"Deposit No. 64," he read slowly, "one dog collar of diamonds, property
of Mrs Stella Markham of Tor Towers. Deposited at the bank on the 19th
September. Valued 112,000 and insured by the bank. Premium paid."

He looked from the book to the torn package. The seals had been ripped,
the tapes broken, and the brown paper torn. Inside was a glass box--and
it was empty.

That afternoon a warrant was issued for the arrest of James Bartholomew
on a charge of murder and robbery. His description was telegraphed
throughout the country and the busy radio sent forth urgent inquiries to
all steamships which had left port that day, and received the reply "Not
aboard."


Chapter 6


Margot Cameron, leaning over the rail of the huge Ceramia, had watched
the quay anxiously for some sign of Jim. He had promised to see her off
and she knew that it must be some extraordinary circumstance which would
keep him away. There was so much that she wanted to tell him, so much
that she had forgotten to say when they had parted, and she could have
wept when the clanging bell warned non-passengers to leave the ship.

She was still on the deck as the big liner swung into Southampton
Waters, hoping that at the eleventh hour she would see him, and it was
not until the ship was passing Netley that she went below with a sigh,
to the luxurious suite which her brother had reserved. The vastness of
the apartments, their horrible emptiness, served to emphasise her
loneliness, and for the first time in her life she felt genuinely
homesick and could have cried. She shook of this weakness, changed her
dress, took a book and went on the deck to find her chair.

Frank had made his arrangements very thoroughly and three chairs had
been reserved amidships. A steward brought her rugs and pillow and she
settled down to get over what is invariably the most trying part of a
voyage.

A fluttering label to one of the chairs caught her eye. She reached out
and held it steadily.

"Mrs Dupreid," she read, and remembered that Cecile's friend was on
board.

She put down her book and went down to the purser's office.

"Mrs Dupreid," said one of the assistants. "Yes, madam, she is in
Stateroom 209, C Deck."

Margot thanked him and went up the elevator to C Deck and began her
search. Stateroom 209 was amidships and she knocked at the door. A maid
appeared.

"Is Mrs Dupreid in her cabin?" asked Margo.

"Yes, madam," said the maid, "but she doesn't want to see anybody."

"Will you tell her it is Miss Cameron."

"She knows you are on board, madam," said the maid, "and she told me to
ask you to excuse her. She is feeling very unwell and she is not fit to
see anybody."

Margot was a little piqued by the uncompromising refusal, and with a
conventional expression of regret she went back to her book on the
promenade. The passengers had come up from lunch (she only realised then
that in her anxiety to see Jim Bartholomew she had missed that rather
important meal) and were taking up their chairs. Her own chair was the
end of the four and next to her a steward was arranging cushions and
soft fleecy rugs for a tall slim girl who stood watching the preparation
without interest.

Margot glanced at her curiously. Women are always fascinating to other
women, and somehow Margot sensed rather than knew the identity of her
left-hand neighbour.

She was very pretty, about twenty-eight, Margot judged, with a spiritual
face and dark deep eyes that seemed to Margot to look through and
through her when they rested for a moment in her direction.

Presently the steward finished and the lady with a word of thanks seated
herself.

Margot noticed that she was beautifully dressed and read too the title
of her book, which was a book of reminiscences of a former police chief
in New York. The lady did not read. Instead, to Margot's surprise, she
turned to her.

"You're Miss Cameron, aren't you?" she asked.

"Yes," smiled Margot, laying down her book.

"I heard that you were on board with your brother and his wife. I am a
neighbour of yours. My name is Stella Markham."

"Oh yes, I have seen your house. It was pointed out to me only a few
days ago." ("Designed for an emperors palace or a lunatic asylum,"
she remembered Jim's description.) She shrugged (mentally) at the
recollection, for she was not feeling too kindly about Jim. She had
counted on his coming to see her off and he had failed her, had not even
sent her a wire.

"Your brother and his wife are with you--yes?"

"Mr and Mrs Cameron aren't on board," said Margot. "They changed their
plans at the last moment."

"It is going to be a lonely voyage for you," said Stella Markham, with a
quiet smile.

"I prefer it so, I think," replied Margot. The conversation dropped
hereabouts and they both took up their books.

It was Stella Markham who broke the silence.

"Your sister-in-law was one of the two people I wanted to meet," she
said. "Three if I include you," she added with tact, and Margot laughed.

"Who was the other?" she asked, and was quite unprepared for the reply.

"I wanted to meet a bank manager there, a man named Bartholomew. And
since I have been on board I have wanted to meet him more than ever."

"But why?" asked the girl in surprise, praying that Mrs Stella Markham
with the penetrating eyes would not observe her change of colour.

"I am told he is rather amusing," drawled the girl, and Margot bridled.
"I am sitting at the table of the chief officer, Mr Stornoway, and he
spoke about Mr Bartholomew when he heard I had come from Moorford."

Margot remembered that Stornoway was one of the ship's officers whom Jim
had mentioned.

"My dear," Mrs Markham went on, "he raved when I mentioned his name,
though at first I thought he looked a little embarrassed. It appears
that Mr Bartholomew was on a ship when it sunk and they were in the
water for twelve hours, and if it hadn't been for our bank manager they
would have both been drowned--he and another man who is also on this
ship."

"I have heard about it," said Margot.

"Do you know him?"

"Mr Bartholomew? Yes, I know him rather well."

"And is he very amusing?"

"Do you mean does he stand on his head and sing comic songs?" asked
Margot coldly.

"No, I mean is he interesting?"

"Oh, immensely," said Margot shortly, and again they drifted to their
books, and again it was Mrs Markham who spoke.

"I am the dullest person in the world," she said. "I am bored, bored,
bored, until I can find nothing in existence which justifies my living.
I hate England and I hate America. I hate Paris worst of all."

"Have you ever tried Coney Island?" asked Margot, who was beginning to
dislike her languid companion. "I am told that is rather amusing."

The lady stiffened a little.

"I have never met anybody who has ever been to Coney Island," she said,
and went back to her book. Margot took a turn up and down the deck by
herself; then went down in the elevator to F Deck on which the pursers
office was situated. Her conversation with Mrs Markham had reminded her
that there was a possibility that Jim had sent a telegram after all. At
any rate there would be one from her brother and sister. There was a
wire from Frank, but none from Jim. Nor was there any message from
Cecile. Margot remembered, however, that Cecile would be en route to
Scotland and must find a difficulty in wiring in time to catch the boat.
She wandered aimlessly about the ship until teatime. There seemed to be
nobody she knew on board, and in sheer ennui she went back to her cabin
and lay down. She was aroused by the entry of her maid, who began
setting out her dress for dinner.

"What time is it?"

"Half-past six, madam," said the faithful Jenny, who looked pale and
hollow-eyed.

"Have you been ill?" asked the girl.

"Yes, miss."

"Then you're a silly goop," said Margot cheerfully. "The sea is like
glass. Where are we?"

"We're near Cherbourg, madam. We arrive in an hour's time."

The Ceramia called at Cherbourg for passengers and generally there was a
stay of several hours.

Margot went into the restaurant to dinner. She had exchanged the table
for three which Frank had booked for a table in one corner of the
beautiful saloon and from her isolation scrutinised the restaurant
without, however, finding anybody she knew very well. On the fat side
she caught a glimpse of Mrs Stella Markham wonderfully arrayed in black
and heliotrope and she also was dining in solitary state. Margot had her
coffee in the big social hall, that seventh wonder of the maritime
world, and listened to the band, and at eleven o'clock as the Ceramia
was turning to leave Cherbourg she went to her suite for the night.

She was an excellent sailor, and though the ship took a roll in the
swell of the English Channel she slept soundly till Jenny brought her
morning coffee and rolls.

"There is no news for me, is there?"

"No, miss," said Jenny.

"No wireless?"

"No, miss."

"All right, put my bath ready."

She was bitterly disappointed. If he could not have come to see her, he
could at least have sent her a message. Surely he knew, of course he
knew, he who had been a sailor, that it was possible to communicate with
people at sea.

When she was dressed she sought out the purser, with whom she had
travelled before, and asked him a question.

"Oh yes, we're far enough away to get messages," he said. "As a matter
of fact we've had several radios in the night." He looked round and
lowered his voice. "One of which was an inquiry for a suspected
murderer, by the way."


Chapter 7


Margot Cameron shivered.

"Is he on board?" she asked.

He laughed.

"No, no. They got me out of my bed about three to identify the gentleman
and that meant going through about six hundred passports. Which annoyed
me."

The girl laughed in sympathy.

"Have you many passengers?"

"We're full up," he said, "and if I hadn't got the passports I couldn't
have given them any answer at all--I certainly shouldn't parade the
passengers in the middle of the night. As it was I was able to say that
the man they seek is not on board. If he has left England, which is
unlikely, he could have gone on a dozen ships. Saturday is a great
sailing day. Be sure, Miss Cameron," he said, "I'll let you have any
radio that comes within half an hour of its arrival."

With that she had to be content. Church service relieved the tedium of
the morning, and she dozed and read the weary hours away until
nightfall. She saw Mrs Stella Markham again. It was difficult to avoid
her, as her chair was next to Margot's and passengers retained the same
chairs in the same positions throughout the voyage. They were sitting
idling when an unhappy man waddled past and Mrs Markham laughed softly.

"That is my poor butler," she said. "He just loathes the sea."

"Does he travel first class?" asked the girl in surprise, for servants
usually are accommodated in the second saloon.

Mrs Markham nodded.

"Yes, why not?" she said coolly. "If I had a dog he should go first
class. I loathe second class people and I don't think third class people
ought to live."

"You're evidently a democrat," said Margot politely and the lady stared
at her.

"I loathe people who are ironical and sarcastic," she said.

"Then you loathe me most intensely," laughed Margot, and a smile dawned
at the corner of Stella Markham's straight lips.

"No, I don't exactly," she said. "You're so young and refreshing and I
would give exactly two millions to change places with you."

"Give who?" asked Margot quietly.

"Oh, I forgot," said Mrs Markham, and again the smile fluttered. "Money
doesn't mean a great deal to you. You're a lucky young lady."

Just as she was going down to dress for dinner Margot remembered with a
pang of remorse that she had not made inquiries of Mrs Dupreid and she
went to her suite. Again the hard-faced maid met her.

"Mrs Dupreid is better and she is sleeping, madam," she said. "I take
her on the deck at night for a little exercise."

Margot came away with the sense that she had at least done her duty. The
day never seemed to end and was like all second days at sea,
interminable, and with a sigh of relief she got into her pyjamas that
night and marked off the Sunday on her calendar, as a day nearer relief.
Monday was a replica of Sunday save that the weather had grown warmer
and the passengers had discarded even their lightest overcoats and were
leaning over the side or lying full stretched in their chairs on the
sun deck basking in the bright sun.

There was nothing that promised the sensational developments which
marked its close. Mrs Stella Markham gave her the first hint of unusual
happenings.

"I had quite an exciting adventure last night," she said, as she sat
down by Margot's side.

"That sounds thrilling," said Margot. "And just now I want to be
thrilled."

"My cabin is on A Deck, that is to say on this promenade deck," said Mrs
Markham, "and my windows open on to that portion of the promenade which
is underneath the captain's bridge. It is rather an embarrassing
position if one forgets to put up the shaded glass and even more
embarrassing when loving couples linger outside after the lights are
lowered at night--I think love talk is the most puerile in the world,
don't you?"

"I don't know," said Margot quietly, "I have not had an opportunity of
hearing it."

The other looked at her and smiled.

"Well, the first adventure happened when I was on deck immediately after
dinner. My maid went for a walk on the forward deck. Maids are rather a
responsibility, especially if they get friendly with the men passengers,
She was leaning over the rail looking at the third class people in the
well deck when she saw somebody in my room. My bedroom is that nearest
where she stood. It opens into a sitting-room and into a bathroom, She
looked round and to her amazement she saw a woman peering into the room
very timidly."

"What kind of woman?"

"Well, that is where the girl's description breaks down. According to my
maid, she was 'heavily veiled,' which sounds romantic but isn't very
descriptive. I haven't seen any very heavily veiled passengers on the
ship, though there are a few who might with advantage spare us the sight
of their unpleasant faces."

"What happened then?" asked Margot.

"The woman evidently saw my girl looking in and turned away quickly The
girl ran round as fast as she could to the saloon entrance but there was
no sign of woman veiled or otherwise and the cabins were empty."

"Probably a passenger who made a mistake."

"I thought of that," said Mrs Markham, with a nod, "but the most
extraordinary thing is yet to come. About half-past eleven I took my
final walk on the deck with Mr Winter--that is my butler, a very
respectable man--and the Rev. Mr Price from Texas. We were talking
about--various trivialities--you know the sort of conversation you can
develop on a ship, and really a minister is the only third possible when
one's butler is the second. And this sort of conversation went on until
eight bells rang, which is midnight, and I said good night to Mr Price
and we went back to my cabin. Winter always makes a point of seeing me
into my cabin at night.

"When I got to my door and opened it I was surprised to find the lights
turned on. I was about to remark upon the fact to Winter when a hand, a
grimy hand, and a blue sleeve came round the open doorway from my
bedroom, seized the switch and turned off the current. Mr Winter, in
spite of his appearance, is a very courageous man and immediately ran
into the room, switched on the light and dashed into my bedroom, which
was in darkness just as he did so he saw a man slip through the window
on to the foredeck like an eel, disappear over the rail of the deck down
on to the well deck and out of sight."

"Good heavens!" said the girl in alarm. "Who was it?"

"He is a sailor--one of the ship's sailors, and, of course, I've made a
complaint to the captain."

"What was his object, do you think? Robbery?" asked Margot.

Mrs Markham nodded.

"I'm very careless with my small pieces of jewellery," she said, "and
there was quite a number lying about, but evidently we must have
disturbed him, for nothing was missing."

"Did you see his face?"

"It was impossible for me, but Mr Winter said that the man was obviously
a stoker. His face and his hands were black and he wore the blue
dungarees which stokers on these oil-driven ships wear."

Apparently the captain took a very serious view of the circumstances,
for that afternoon all the stokers of the ship were paraded on the
afterdeck and the sedate Mr Winter accompanied his mistress in an
attempt to pick out the miscreant. In this, however, he failed--the
nearest he got being to identify the man who was on duty at the moment
the visitation occurred.

At dinner that night the passengers were supplied with printed copies of
the Ceramia bulletin, a little newspaper printed on the ship giving a
summary of the world's news which had been received by wireless. Margot
wondered whether there would be any reference to Mrs Markham's
adventure.

The girl read the little paper carefully but in the main it consisted of
extracts from speeches delivered by unimportant people upon subjects
which were age-old. There was the result of the tennis championship, a
few remarks upon the bank balances and the shifting exchanges, and that
was all.

Margot was talking to the purser on the upper deck that night when Mrs
Markham strolled up.

"Your bulletin isn't very interesting, Mr Purser," she said.

"It is as interesting as we can make it, madam," he answered, with a
smile. "You see we can only take the news they send us."

"Was there nothing else crowded out?" she asked.

"Nothing at all, madam," replied the purser. "Were you expecting
anything?"

"No, no," she replied, with a shrug of her shoulder. "Only one pines for
something more exciting than Mr Balfour's views on popular education."

As she walked away the purser looked after her.

"Has Mrs Markham told you what happened last night?"

Margot nodded.

"I wish it hadn't happened," said the purser in a troubled voice. "My
work is quite hard enough without these wretched robberies or attempted
robberies. There is generally something of the sort every voyage. When
you get three thousand people in one hull it is any odds against your
excluding a sprinkling of the criminal classes. Our own men on the ship
are very honest. They've been with us for years and we've never had a
complaint. Of course in the old days, with the stokers, we took on the
scum of the earth, but now in the oil-burning ships we have our pick of
the men and generally they are known personally to the chief engineer."

"Mr Smythe?" she said.

"Yes, do you know him?"

"I know of him," said the girl; "he is a friend of a friend of mine."

She was unusually wakeful that night and sat on the deck long after the
majority of the strollers had gone below, reading under a bulkhead
light.

She saw Mrs Markham leaning on the arm of her faithful butler, taking
her final constitutional, and presently these two disappeared. Most of
the lights on the ship had been extinguished, leaving bulkhead lights at
rare intervals to furnish illumination for the late promenaders.

She was making up her mind to go below when she saw a man walking slowly
from the after end of the ship. He was in evening dress and he kept
close to the rail, turning now and again to look upon the darkened
waters. It was not until he came abreast of her that he turned his face
and then she leapt up with a startled cry.

It was Jim Bartholomew!


Chapter 8


"Jim!" she gasped, and put out both her hands. "Why--why--"

"Ssh!" he said in a low voice. "Don't call me Jim."

"I don't understand."

"Call me John Wilkinson," he said, "that seems a fairly good name."

"But Jim, what has happened? What does it mean? Why are you on the ship?
It's delightful. I was so worried about your not coming."

He looked around.

"Walk to the rail," he said, "lean over and I'll talk to you. Margot,"
--his voice was low and serious--"I want you to be a real friend of
mine."

"You need not ask me to be that," she said. She was trembling with
excitement.

"I am going to make a bigger demand on your patience than any man has
made upon a woman before, I think," he went on. "First I want you to
meet me here every night."

"But why can't I see you in the daytime?"

"Because," he said, "there are reasons which, thank God! you don't
know."

Her heart was beating wildly, she was afraid, afraid for him. A thousand
wild speculations passed through her mind and she was no nearer the
solution of the mystery.

"I don't understand it," she said, and laid her hand upon his, "but I
trust you and you're on board, and that's wonderful. What did you say
your name is?"

"John Wilkinson. Frightfully unoriginal, but it is the first that came
into my head."

"Where is your cabin?" He chuckled.

"I haven't a cabin," he said, "at least not to myself."

"But, Jim--"

He squeezed her hand tight.

"Dear," he said, "four days ago I could have asked you to be my wife. I
could have taken you in my arms and you would have been mine, but I
missed my chance. A kind of vanity, which men call pride, would not
allow me to ask you because you had money and I had little, and today it
seems that I am not only in danger of losing you but of breaking your
heart, unless you keep steadfast and have faith in me and I, by the
grace of God, can make good in the next four days."

"In the next four days?" she repeated. He nodded.

"It seems strange, I who have talked about waiting for years to win out.
I've got to make good in four days or I'm lost and finished. Now will
you have that faith in me, Margot darling, and believe in me?"

She nodded, snuggling up against him.

"Now go below, dear, I'll stay where I am. There is a lynx-eyed ship's
inspector coming along and I do not desire his company. Good night."

He pulled one of her hands underneath his arm and kissed the fingertips.
Margot went below a little delirious, for all that was not joy was fear,
fear for the man she loved and whose danger she knew was imminent.

The next morning she made a request of the chief steward which resulted
in her being transferred from her loneliness to a seat at the purser's
table. There were three other passengers, two of whom made no appearance
during the voyage, and a third, a little German-American who had
generally eaten his meal before Margot put in an appearance.

"I never had such a table," said the purser in despair. "I can tell you
I'm awfully grateful to you for joining me, Miss Cameron. You are making
life worth living. In future every passenger who asks for a seat at my
table must furnish me with a written guarantee that he will not miss a
meal," he laughed. "In point of fact I've given another seat at the
table to an Italian officer. Have you noticed him?"

"The man with the baggy riding breeches?" said the girl.

"That's the fellow," said the purser. "I think he must sleep in them."

She had seen the dapper Italian staff officer, resplendent in grey and
gold, had duly admired his polished riding boots, the generous
proportions of his breeches, and the faultless cut of his high collared
tunic.

"Visconti is his name, Pietro Visconti. He's an awful swell in Italy. One
of the attaches to the Italian embassy I believe. At any rate, he's
travelling on a diplomatic passport."

Soon after, the Italian officer made his appearance. He was a little,
keen-faced man, very voluble, very polished, with a gift of bowing from
his waist which was a little awe-inspiring. He spoke English fluently
and would have fulfilled even Mrs Stella Markham's requirements in
respect to his amusing qualities.

It was not necessary that Margot and he should become good friends for
Captain Pietro Visconti to confide in the girl in the afternoon that he
was madly passionately in love--with another lady, at which declaration
Margot heaved a sigh of relief. The lady in question was none other than
Mrs Markham, about whose eyes and stature and beauty, purity of
complexion and grace of carriage, he spoke without comma or full stop
for half an hour.

The girl was glad of the distraction, for if the days had seemed long
before, this day was without end. She tried to sleep in the afternoon so
that she might be fresh and bright for her interview with Jim that
night, but sleep was denied her. It was on her return to the deck that
she was the recipient of Captain Visconti's confidence. Another
distraction came in the evening when Mrs Markham introduced the Rev
Charles Price to her. Here she was agreeably surprised, for the Rev.
Charles Price was a pleasant, well-read man who did not try to talk to
her for her good and did not even reprove her when she lit a cigarette
on the deck. Rather he held the match. He had been travelling in Europe
for his health, he said.

"Nerves?" asked the girl quietly, and he was surprised.

"Yes. Why do you suggest that?" he said.

"Because you're still very jumpy," she laughed. "You have been looking
round all the time you have been speaking to me and you start at every
sound."

He nodded.

"That's true," he said. "I think Mrs Markham's adventure has rather got
on my nerves. I hate the thought of her, or of any woman, being liable
to such an experience, though she is very plucky about it all."

The steward was bringing round tea on little wicker trays and she shared
her tray with Mr Price.

"I suppose you're going out to your friends?" he said, taking the tea
she handed him.

"Well, I am in a way," she replied. "I am making a business visit, after
which I'm going back to England--I hope."

It occurred to her at that moment that there was no urgent hurry for her
return. What Jim was going to do in New York she could not guess. Why he
was there was beyond the wildest flights of her imagination. She
remembered, as she had remembered a dozen times with a sinking of heart,
that the next four days were vital to him. And where was he all this
time? Why did he not appear on deck with the other passengers, and
what--She gave it up with a little shrug of despair, and Mr Price, who
had been watching her through his heavy--rimmed glasses, handed back his
empty cup.

"I think you want a little nerve cure yourself, Miss Cameron," he said.

At dinner that night she found in addition to the bulletin a passenger
list. She had been wanting this and had not dared to ask for one. She
went carefully through the long columns of names and came to the end
with a blank face.

Jim was not there, either in his own name or as John Wilkinson. She
closed the pamphlet thoughtfully and put it by the side of her plate.

"Were you looking for anybody, Miss Cameron?" asked the purser.

"Why--er--yes," she said with as much carelessness as she could assume;
"a friend of mine said he might travel by this ship--Mr Wilkinson, John
Wilkinson."

The purser shook his head.

"We haven't a Wilkinson aboard, either in the first, second, or third
class. I know that because I had to go through the landing tickets today
and compare them with the list."

"Not on board?" she said incredulously.

He shook his head.

"No," he said emphatically '"We have no passengers by the name of
Wilkinson, which is rather an unusual circumstance, because it is a
fairly common name. But for the matter of that I once went three voyages
without a Smith!" He had to leave the table early for the pressure of
work in the purser's department had been increased by the breakdown of
his assistant.

"Oh, by the way, Miss Cameron," he said as he was leaving, "if you would
like an unusual experience tonight and you can keep awake so long, I
will take you to the wireless room."

Her eyes sparkled.

"I'd love that!" she said. "But aren't you too busy?"

He shook his head.

"Even a purser is allowed time to sleep," he said humorously "Could you
be on the top deck at half-past twelve; and I will take you up."

She had arranged to meet Jim and the interview was for twelve and it
would be short. She nodded.

It was half-past eleven when she came on the deck and at five minutes to
twelve Jim came strolling along by the rail, pausing more frequently
tonight to look out to sea because the weather was finer and the ship's
motion was steadier and there were more passengers taking the air.

She walked down to meet him, noting that he had stopped between two
bulkhead lights and leant over the rail. He was as correctly dressed as
he had been on the previous night, but she thought his face looked a
little peaky and worn.

"It has been rather hot today," he said, when she asked him if he was not
feeling well, "and I have been--er--in my cabin."

"Did you see Frank before you came away?"

He shook his head.

"I hadn't time," he said. "I didn't leave until Friday night."

She did not ask him why realising that that was tacitly forbidden.

"Margot," he asked suddenly, "will you tell me something about your
sister-in-law?"

"Cecile," she said in surprise. He nodded.

"But, my dear, you know all there is to be known about her. She was
married some seven years ago to Frank."

"What was she before she was married?"

"What do you mean? She was well off. She was the daughter of Henrick
Benson, who was a rich man and an artist. You remember he carved that
ring which you called the Daughters of the Night."

He nodded.

"Do you know anything else about the family?"

"Nothing, except that her sister, of whom she was very fond, had married
unhappily when she was a girl of eighteen. I never heard very much about
it because Cecile doesn't talk about those things. She ran away from
college with a chauffeur or something, and naturally that isn't a thing
Cecile would say much about. Anyway the poor girl died."

"I know that," said Jim. "Do you know what became of her husband?" The
girl hesitated.

"Even that I am not certain about, but I have an idea that he was a
pretty bad man and--and--went to prison for some crime. That is only an
impression I have rather from what Cecile did not say than what she
said, Magda's life was a tragedy--that was her name. Why do you ask me
all this, Jim? No, no, I'm sorry I've broken the rule."

He leant toward her with a glance to left and right and kissed the tip
of her ear.

"Pray hard for me, Margot. Pray like smoke for the next three days, for
I am up against it good and hard."

She pressed his arm,

"I do pray for you," she said quietly

"And have faith in me, whatever you hear." She nodded.

"Now go down below, dearie, and let me make a furtive way to my hiding
place."

She was leaving when he clutched her arm and drew her to the rail. Two
passengers, young men were strolling toward them talking. One she
remembered having seen before, the other was a stranger. They were
apparently ordinary first class passengers in the conventional garb of
their class, but their appearance had a remarkable effect upon Jim.

"What is wrong?" she whispered as they passed. "Do you know them?"

"One of 'em," said Jim grimly "The fellow nearest to us--phew!"

"Who is he?"

He shook his head.

"I can guess," he said quietly "The last time I saw him he was stripped
to the waist and answered to the name of Nosey--on the whole I think it
was a pretty good guess on the part of the man who named him. Go, dear,
I must get away."

When she went back to the deck again he was gone and the mysterious
"Nosey" had also disappeared. She was joined soon after twelve by the
purser, who showed her up the narrow gangway leading to the wireless
room between the two giant smokestacks of the Ceramia. It was a hot
little room, blazingly illuminated, for the valve lamps of the
switchboard added to the glare of the overhead lights. The operator, a
spectacled young man, explained to her the workings of the instruments,
and presently she sat with earpieces clamped to her head listening
delightedly to the shrill intermittent whine.

"That's the Campania," explained the operator. "She's three hundred
miles astern."

"How wonderful!" said the girl. "And what is that other noise?"

He was lengthening the wave length, and "the other noise" was a shrill
almost imperceptible succession of sharp thin whistles.

"That is Aberdeen. It is the last you will hear from the old country,"
he said. "We shall be out of range tomorrow."

One of the operators looked across.

"I expect that's the news coming through," he said. "Excuse me, miss. If
you don't mind I'll take it down."

He fastened the receivers to his ears and sat down, jerking an ebony key
under his hand.

Presently he began to write. He looked round at the purser.

"I don't know whether it's worth while taking this down, sir," he said;
"the chief officer said that no reference to the Moorford murder should
appear in the bulletin."

"Moorford--murder?" said the girl anxiously. "Why, what was that?"

"Well, it's been censored out of the bulletin by the chief officer,"
said the purser. "I suppose he doesn't want to alarm the criminal in
case he happens to be on board this ship. It happened at a bank."

The girl stood with her back to the wall or she would have staggered.
Her face was deathly white, but none noticed this in the fierce rays
of the lamps.

"The assistant manager, a man named Stephenson, I think, or Sanderson,
was shot dead, and the manager, Bartholomew, was found with a revolver
in his hand. Apparently that could have been explained away because
Bartholomew had only left the police inspector a few minutes before, but
that night Bartholomew disappeared taking with him a diamond necklace
worth 112,000 which curiously enough is the property of a lady on this
ship. We've just had a wireless through informing her of her loss and
I'm delivering it in the morning."

"What--what happened to Bartholomew?" asked the girl in a strangled
voice.

"He got away," said the purser, with a shrug. "Clean away apparently. Of
course, they may have caught him since the last message came through. Is
there anything in that?" he asked the operator.

"No, just a few extra bits of news. They have arrested a man in France,
but it turns out that he is not Bartholomew." She took a step forward
and would have fallen but for the support of the purser's arm.


Chapter 9


"Why, Miss Cameron," he said, with concern, "I'm awfully sorry that I
brought you here. Those lights are strong and the room is stifling."

He led her out on to the boat deck on a level with which the wireless
cabin was situated, and found a chair for her.

"Just wait here. I'll get you a glass of water," he said, and hurried
below.

A figure in the shadow of one of the boats moved and she saw the gleam
of a white shirt front.

"Jim!" she whispered in agony "Jim!" He crossed to her noiselessly and
she saw that he was barefooted.

"Oh, Jim, I know! What does it mean? What does it mean?" she cried.

"You've heard?" he said quietly

She could only nod.

"You have faith in me, Margot, haven't you?" She drew a long breath and
raised her eyes slowly to his.

"Yes, Jim. I have faith," she said, and he bent down and held her for
the space of a few seconds in his arms, his lips to hers.

The sound of the purser's boots on the brass-edged companionway sent him
melting into the shadows.

"I'm better now," she said, as she took the glass with a shaking hand.

"You don't look very much better," said the purser. "I can't tell you
how sorry I am. I ought to have known that the room was too hot."

"Oh, no, it's all right," she said. "It was my own fault, really I--I
had too much wine for dinner."

"What a confession!" he said indignantly. "You forget you sit at my
table, Miss Cameron. Why, you haven't had wine since you've been on the
ship."

She laughed, but there was a note of hysteria in her laugh, and the
purser was very glad to hand her to her maid.

Murder! Murder! The words rang in her ears as she tossed from side to
side in her bed that night. The rush of the waters against the skin of
the ship, the wail of the wind as it struck the scuttle of her open
port, all seemed to carry the same burden of sound. It was impossible,
Jim couldn't have done it. Jim, who used to talk mockingly of being a
bank robber. It was absurd. It was tragic and yet here was a fact. There
was a warrant against him and his flight confessed his guilt.

What could she do? She asked herself that question a thousand times and
found no satisfactory answer. She could only have faith and wait, but
where was Jim? In what part of the hold was he hiding? How could he
escape the scrutiny of the inspectors who searched every yard of the
ship twice a day for signs of stowaways, who examined the boats and
penetrated into the noisome darkness of the ship's most secret places in
search of unauthorised passengers?

She might ask these, and endless strings of other questions, and yet
remain unsatisfied. It was nearly six o'clock before she dozed off and
the lunch bugle was sounded before she appeared on deck.

"I was wanting to see you," it was Stella Markham who beckoned her.
"I've had some terrible news."

Margot knew full well what that news was and at that moment she hated
this languid, drawling woman as she had never hated any human being
before. But for her wretched diamonds this crime would never have
occurred. Why had she not taken them somewhere else? To London, or New
York. She turned an inquiring face to the older woman.

"Yes?" she said, with an air of unconcern.

"I have lost a large dog collar of diamonds--stolen, my dear, by the
bank manager," said Mrs Markham. "Of course, the bank will make good the
loss because I am insured for them, but they were the finest stones--"

"Are you on the stage?" asked Margot rudely.

"My dear girl, no, why?"

"I thought only actresses lost diamonds worth 112,000 and dog collars
made of the finest stones," said the girl, exasperated beyond reason.
"Why do you leave them about or take them to banks; why don't you wear
them and take all your own risks?"

The woman's thin eyebrows rose, and then she laughed.

"I forgot," she said; "it was the amusing bank manager who took them,
and he was a friend of yours."

"He still is a friend of mine," flamed the girl.

"But how very interesting to know people of that class!" mocked Stella
Markham.

"I don't know what you mean by that class," the girl was in a cold fury.
"All I know is that your vanity and lack of forethought have brought
about a good man's downfall" (Mrs Markham smiled indulgently) "and a
poor decent man's death."

"Death?"

The smile vanished from Mrs Markham's face.

"Who is dead?" she asked quickly

"Stephen Sanderson, the assistant manager. He was found shot dead in his
office the night before we sailed."

The woman's face went suddenly old.

"Mother of God!" she whispered. "Shot dead! No, no!" So terrible was the
change in her appearance that Margot stepped up and caught her arm.

"Why, what is it?" she asked, but Mrs Markham made no reply. She shook
her head and then crumpled up back into her chair. She had fainted.

To Margot Cameron the memory of the days that followed seemed to her to
be the memory of bad dreams. That night she was in her accustomed place
to meet Jim, but Jim did not come. Earlier she had met the Rev. Mr Price
and Mrs Markham walking along the deck. Mrs Markham had fully recovered
and was apologetic. At least she said she had fully recovered from her
fainting fit, but the girl saw the dark rings round her eyes and drew
her own conclusions.

"It is silly of me, but I never could hear of violent death without
fainting," she said, "and it came as a double shock to me because I knew
the poor man."

"Mrs Markham has been telling me the sad news," said Mr Price. "It was
terrible, terrible."

He shook his head and there was conviction in his voice,

"That may account for--" began Mrs Markham.

"For what?" asked the gentleman when she paused.

"For what the deck steward told you this evening."

"Oh yes," said Mr Price, staring over the side of the ship.

"What was that?" asked the girl.

"The deck steward told me that there were two detectives on board. I
cannot discover whether they are first class passengers."

A new panic seized the girl.

"Detectives?" she said shakily "Who are they? Could you point them out?"

"No," said Mrs Markham, with a hint of irritation. "Winter will probably
know them, he's of that class of man who mixes with--detectives."

"It is terrible!" said Mr Price again.

The story of the bank tragedy seemed to have affected him deeply.

"I--er--think I'll go to bed," he said, "if you ladies will excuse me."

He turned abruptly and left them.

"I like that man," said Margot. "I don't know why but I think I like
him."

"Do you?" said Mrs Markham indifferently. "Yes, he's quite a nice man, I
should think."

"Your man is not with you tonight."

"He is under the weather," said Mrs Markham brusquely. "We had a head sea
this morning and that was quite enough to put Mr Winter hors de combat."

It was after this that Margot waited for Jim's appearance. She was still
waiting when the watch came to hose the deck. She retired to her cabin
that night and wept, almost for the first time in her life. She could
not sleep, and at five o'clock when the dawn was showing through her
porthole she got up, dressed herself and went out on the deck.

The elevators were not running at that hour and she had to climb the
broad companionway. When she reached C Deck she remembered Mrs Dupreid
and smiled in spite of her sadness at the idea of calling on her at five
o'clock in the morning.

Nevertheless she turned back and looked down the narrow passage which
led to the stateroom.

Mrs Dupreid's cabin door was ajar and there was a light burning.
Perhaps, thought Margot, she is as sleepless as I am, and after a
moment's hesitation she went down the passage and knocked at the door.

At the knock the door swung open. The cabin was empty. What was more,
the bed had not been slept in. Margot frowned. Probably Mrs Dupreid was
on deck, and she climbed the remainder of the stairs and went out into
the cold dawn. The deck was empty save for a patrolling quartermaster
who looked at her without interest, being inured to the eccentricities
of passengers, but presently came back to her and asked her if she would
like some coffee.

"I don't suppose any of the stewards are about so early miss, but I can
get you some if you wish."

She gratefully accepted the offer.

He put a chair for her and covered it with a rug and she was beginning
to enjoy the novelty of the experience.

The ship was rolling a little and she thought of Mr Winter
sympathetically. A grey sea was running and the skies were lowering and
promised rain.

"It will clear up before noon," said the quartermaster in the way of all
quartermasters, whose lives are spent in explaining away bad weather to
unhappy passengers, "That's the greaser watch going on duty."

A string of men was coming along the deck.

"They take a short cut in the morning when nobody's about."

"What are greasers?"

"They're the fellows who look after the engines--stokers we used to call
them--it's pretty hot, I can tell you, down below with a temperature of
140. When they dragged a fellow out the other day it took two hours
before he recovered consciousness!"

"Poor fellow!" said the girl. "It is terrible that we people who live in
such comfort do not realise what these men suffer."

"Martha's Sons," said the quartermaster profoundly "or Mary's sons, I
ain't sure which. A chap wrote a poem once showing that one lot of sons
had to work for the other lot of sons." Margot nodded. The leader of the
men was now abreast and they passed curious glances at her. She looked
along the line and nearly dropped her cup.

It required all her self-possession to remain silent, for the seventh of
the men, barefooted and bareheaded, looking straight ahead, was Jim
Bartholomew, clad in stained blue jumper and ragged-ended trousers that
did not come far below his knees.


Chapter 10


He passed with the others at a jogtrot and left her speechless. The
quartermaster was discussing with respectful fervour the inequalities of
life and did not notice her agitation.

"Yes, miss, that's what it is. Some of us work in the engine room below
and some of us sleep on the upper deck. But them as works in the engine
room below have pleasures which the upper deck people know nothing
about. There's many a man in the stokehole, miss," he said impressively,
"who's as much of a gentleman as the best first class passenger that
ever sailed. Think of 'em, miss, human beings, like you and
me--loving--"

"Oh don't," said the girl, putting out her hand.

"I'm sorry, miss," said the quartermaster in surprise, and a little
flattered that his eloquence had produced so remarkable a response.

"Will you get me another cup of coffee? I'm afraid I've spilt this," she
said. He took the cup and disappeared.

So that was it! That was the explanation of it all. Jim Bartholomew was
a stoker! Then it came to her, in a flash. The chief engineer and the
chief officer of the ship were his friends. It was the chief officer who
suppressed the news of the murder. They had shipped him, taking all
manners of risks for the sake of the man who had saved their lives at
the risk of his own. And was down there. She remembered the story of the
man who had been dragged out and had been two hours in recovering and
shuddered. He was down there at that moment. Well, it would be cool
there in the early morning--cooler than in the heat of the day.

Then she recalled the mysterious "Nosey"--"The last time I saw him he
was stripped to the waist." Was he a stoker too? She had not seen the
man since that night. But speculation here was brief. Her mind went back
to Jim.

She made a brief calculation. If he went down at five he would come up
at nine and probably not go on duty again until the afternoon. But the
afternoon was the hottest and the purser had said that this was a hot
ship, especially in the Gulf Stream. She wished that the man had not
told her, and then repented of the wish. Perhaps that was the reason Jim
had not come out to her that night. In this she was nearly right. He had
been on duty toiling there in the bowels of this giant steamer and in an
atmosphere which defied description. And he was doing it all for
something, for someone. She knew that. It was not for himself. It was
for--who else but for her? She was smiling when the quartermaster
brought her a fresh cup of coffee. She was smiling when she lay down
upon her bed an hour later for a doze, and when she woke cramped and
stiff, for she had not undressed, at three o'clock in the afternoon, her
first thought was of Jim Bartholomew, a fugitive from justice, labouring
in the stifling heat of the engine room and she laughed.

It was the laugh of pride, for she knew, none better, how terrible was
his peril.

Memory brought another recollection of the early morning, her visit to
the cabin of Mrs Dupreid. As soon as she was dressed she made her way to
the stateroom of Cecile's friend and knocked at the door. The same maid,
who apparently spent most of her time in the cabin, came in answer to
the summons and whispered:

"Mrs Dupreid is asleep. She had a very bad night."

"Indeed," said Margot politely. "What time did she go to bed?" It was no
business of hers, and it was impertinence to ask, as she knew.

"Oh, she went to bed before midnight, madam," said the maid, and Margot
went back to the deck puzzled.

Must there be a mystery about Mrs Dupreid, as well, she wondered? To
Stella Markham she was more than ordinarily polite. This graceful
creature had lost some of her poise in the last twenty-four hours. The
undercurrent of insolence had gone from her tone and she was, as Margot
told herself, more human than she had been before.

"Thank you, I had a very bad night," she replied to the girl's inquiry.
"I hate this ship. There are times," her voice was vibrant with passion,
"when I wish to God it were at the bottom of the sea!"

"Ask the captain, perhaps he'll sink it for you," said Margot calmly.
"He has the reputation of being a most obliging man."

The woman shot a glance at her, but her obvious anger melted to a smile.

"It's childish of me to give way," she said, "and I stand properly
rebuked. Phew! Isn't it hot?"

It was hot. The sea was like glass, for the quartermasters promise of a
break before noon had been miraculously fulfilled. Overhead the sky was
an unflecked blue, and only patches of gulf weed stained the sapphire
purity of the ocean.

"If it's hot here, I wonder what it is like in the engine room," said
Mrs Markham in her conversational tone. "They tell me that one of the
stokers, or greasers as they call them, died of apoplexy at midday. I
asked the doctor going down to lunch, but of course he denied it. They
never tell you the truth about these things on a ship."

"I think this voyage is going to kill me too," said Margot unsteadily
rising and walking to the rail.

Mrs Markham, who saw in this act nothing more than a piece of
restlessness on the part of her companion, resumed the knitting which
the arrival of Margot had interrupted.

Margot came back steeled to a further encounter. Somehow she knew that
if it were true that a man had died, it could not be Jim.

"How is your butler?" she asked. "Has he died of apoplexy?"

Mrs Markham went on knitting, her eyes fixed on her needles.

"No," she said after a while. "My butler is immortal." There was
something in her tone which made the girl look at her.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean a good butler never dies," said Mrs Markham.

Margot was looking up and down the deck. "I never see him about."

Mrs Markham shook her head.

"No, he keeps to the smoking-room. Here comes a friend of yours."

"He is not my friend," said Margot quickly as the smirking Captain
Pietro Visconti, resplendent in uniform, came marching along the deck.

"Queer little fellow," said Mrs Markham, intent upon her work.

"Yes," Margot added irreverently, "he looks as though he has come
straight from the hands of his Maker," and the other laughed.

The dapper officer halted at the regulation pace, saluted punctiliously
each of the ladies and shook hands solemnly with Margot.

"You were not down to lunch, miss," he said. "I am disconsolate. I
promenade on this side, I promenade on the other side, but I do not see
you. I climb to the boat deck and I promenade there also. I search in
the social hall and in the palm court, but no, you are not there."
Margot slipped away and left him with his divinity and hurried down to
her friend the purser.

"I want you to be awfully kind to me, Mr Bray," she said, when she found
him alone in his office, sweltering in the heat, though the electric
fans were going over his head.

"You may be sure that your wishes will be gratified, Miss Cameron," he
said gallantly. "I want you to break one of the most cherished rules
of the ship."

"What is the most cherished rule of the ship?"

"Well, one is that you never give away secrets. You never tell us the
number of knots you are going to run or what happens when the speed is
reduced and why."

He smiled.

"Sometimes we don't know in the purser's department."

"Well, I am going to ask you." It required an effort on her part and she
had to swallow before she spoke. "Is it true that a--a stoker died
today?"

He looked grave.

"The story's out, is it? Yes, it is perfectly true. What do they say he
died of?"

"They say heat apoplexy," she said, her feet trembling beneath her.

"That isn't true. It was a blow-out that killed him, poor chap. I am
awfully sorry. He has been with the company for fifteen years."

The girl drew a long sigh of relief which sounded like a sob.

"Thank you for telling me," she said huskily "I wanted to
know--something about it."

"Why Miss Cameron, one would think you had a friend in the stokehole,"
he laughed, as he opened the door for her.

"They are all my friends in the stokehole," she said. "I am only just
beginning to understand something of the burden which the Lord has laid
upon the sons of Martha." And the purser, who stood between Martha's
sons and the pleasant-living sons of Mary was silent.


The day had not been without adventure for Jim Bartholomew. His watch had
been relieved and he was passing down the narrow alleyway communicating
with his cramped quarters for'ard when somebody tapped him on the
shoulder, and looking round he saw the greasy black face of the man
beside whom he had been working that morning,

"I want to talk to you, Wilkinson," said the stoker in a low voice.
"Turn into the bathroom."

Jim obediently followed instructions,

The bathroom was a bare room fitted with showers and a long line of wash
bowls and it was empty.

"What were you doing on the promenade deck last night?" asked the man
called Nosey and there was authority in his tone.

"I might ask the same question of you," said Jim. The other looked at
him thoughtfully, then suddenly: "Of course! You're Bartholomew!"

"That is a name," said Jim, "it is not necessarily mine."

"Don't let us argue about that," said the man, "sit down somewhere--I'm
dead tired, but I've got to have this thing out with you."

They found two wooden stools.

"I'm going to tell you this," said Nosey. "I'm a Scotland Yard man, and
though I'm not after you I have power to arrest you and will probably do
so, though headquarters do not believe you committed the murder or stole
the necklace--my pal, by the way, has a very full report by wireless of
the affair. Now, the best thing you can do, Mr Bartholomew, is to tell
me all you know and be perfectly frank. You won't have many
opportunities, because I'm leaving the stokehole tomorrow or the next
day--I'm satisfied that none of the people I want are in the ship's
company."

There was nothing to be gained by evasion or silence and Jim told
everything to the last detail. For an hour they sat, the detective
interrupting occasionally with a question, and at the end when they
rose, the Scotland Yard man dropped his hand on the other's shoulder,

"There is somebody who is going to be pinched before this packet reaches
the Hudson River--maybe it will be you."

"I should hate you to go home empty-handed," said Jim politely.


The routine of ship life had grown wearisome for Margot Cameron and she
waited impatiently now not for the hour of sleep, but the hour of
meeting.

Once more she took her place by the rail on the darkest part of the deck
that night, and Jim came along,

He was, as usual, in evening dress.

"You wonderful man," she breathed and moved close to him. "How is the
work going? The big work, I mean."

"I think it is going well," he said.

He looked round.

"That infernal chief steward will see me, and he's the last man I want
to meet, because unhappily he knows me. Will you turn boldly with me and
compromise yourself for everlasting by coming to the boat deck
unchaperoned?"

"I think I am compromised already," said the girl, and slipped her arm
into his.

The way up to the boat deck was by a narrow companion ladder, and she
mounted first. There were one or two couples left, shadowy figures lying
in their chairs, and the two moved for'ard, where the gangway is narrow
and obstructed by bolts and stanchions. Between two boats was a narrow
platform from which the lowering was directed, and into one of these
tiny alleyways they turned.

"Now I want you to tell me everything that has happened?" she said, and
briefly he retailed all that happened up to the discovery of the body.

"I can't understand one thing," she said. "Why did Cecile get out at the
Halt and go to her car, and why didn't you tell Frank?"

"Because I thought he knew," said Jim. "It puzzled me too. Did she say
she was going to Scotland before she took her sudden decision?"

"No," said the girl. "It all came out in the talk she had with Frank in
the study. It was a serious talk, because Frank looked very worried when
he came out and poor Cecile looked positively ghastly. But you haven't
told me all."

"No, I haven't," he said, and he did not speak for a while. "There are
two things. One I'll tell you and one I will keep until later, I will
not tell you what happened after the inspector left me alone with the
body. But this you shall know, and I want your help to solve the
mystery. When I looked at poor Sanderson's hand I found that he was
clutching a piece of paper. I prised his hand open and took out the
corner of a photograph which had evidently been torn from his grasp."

"A photograph of whom?" asked the girl quickly

"Of nobody specially. It was just a corner, I tell you. All that was
visible was a woman's hand."

He was quiet.

"Yes," said the girl.

"It was a hand, and on that hand," said Jim, "was a ring."

The girl clutched his arm.

"Not the Daughters of the Night?" she asked in a whisper.

"Yes, the Daughters of the Night," he said.


Chapter 11


Cecile! Her ring--and yet--

"There was no doubt about it at all," he said. "Since I have been on the
ship I have borrowed the chief engineers magnifying glass and the
enlargement shows clearly every detail of the carved faces."

She was very silent and they stood leaning over the rail watching the
water foaming at the ship's hull.

"Won't you tell me some more of what happened to yourself?"

"Only this," he said. "I arrived at Southampton at daybreak and went
straight on board. I knew Smythe, the chief engineer, would be there and
I explained frankly all that happened and told him my suspicions which I
haven't given to you. He got Stornoway down to his cabin and we talked
the matter over at lunch. Two wonderful fellows, they are! They took the
risk. I berth in the chief engineer's cabin--which is on this deck, by
the way," he said. "The steward is in the guilty secret, but he too is
an old friend of mine."

"What is going to happen in New York?"

"I don't know," he said. "There are detectives on the ship, but I hardly
think that they are looking for me."

"What are they here for?"

"They are after the Big Four. Did I tell you poor Sanderson's theory?
Poor chap, almost the last thing he told me was the amount of reward
that was offered for their arrest."

"I don't know what to think," said the girl after a while. "The
photograph of the ring stuns me. It is the only ring of its kind in the
world. Frank has often said so. Oh, but it couldn't have been-"

She could not finish the sentence and he did not attempt to finish it
for her.

"Do you think that Cecile did this terrible thing?" she asked after a
while.

"Shoot Sanderson. Good Lord, no!"

"Do you think she knew Sanderson? It almost seems as though she did. You
remember how ill she became when she saw him from the car that day?"

He did not reply for a while, then:

"I should dismiss the possibility of your sister's guilt from your mind
if I were you," he said. "I am perfectly convinced that she had no more
to do with that murder than you or I."

Suddenly from the darkness behind them rose a cry, a strangled cry like
that of an animal. There was a scuttle of feet and the thud of something
falling. At the first sound Jim had leapt into the darkness and the girl
stumbled over him. She saw him bending over a dark object that lay
against a bulkhead. He struck a match and looked down.

"Who is this gentleman?" he asked.

The girl looked over his shoulder, and shuddered at the sight of the
blood that was trickling down the side of the unconscious man's head.

"Why, it's Mr Price," she said, "the clergyman."

Evidently nobody aft had heard the cry, for they were left alone. Jim
lifted the stricken figure and propped him up with his back against the
side of a raft. Presently the man groaned.

"How are you? Can you walk?" asked Jim.

At first he thought the man could not have recovered consciousness, for
he did not make an immediate reply.

"I'll try," said the voice, and with another groan he heaved himself on
his feet with Jim's assistance.

"Terrible, terrible!" he muttered and repeated, "terrible, terrible!"

"Are you better, Mr Price?" asked the girl.

"Yes, I'm better. Who is that?"

"It is Miss Cameron."

"Very extraordinary. I fell over those bolts. It is so dark up here."

"Who did this?" asked Jim.

"Did what?" demanded the other.

"Who hit you?" asked Jim again. "You're not going to tell me you fell
over a bolt, because I heard you struggling." He struck another match.
"And somebody tried to strangle you, there's the marks round your
throat!"

"I'm afraid you've been dreaming, sir," said Price, "but thank you for
your kind attention," and with this he staggered toward the
companionway, holding on to the boats as he went.

"Humph!" said Jim. "Well, that was fortunate."

"Fortunate?" repeated the girl. "Why fortunate?"

"Fortunate indeed," said Jim, his voice shaking. "I think you and I
ought to be on our knees thanking God--at least I ought--and heaven
knows I've got enough to be thankful for already."

"Let's see where that cry came from."

He went carefully along the narrow alleyways and stopped.

"Just about here, I think," he said, "almost opposite the entrance to
the wireless room. Now let's go along and see the wireless gentleman."

He passed through the narrow doorway and up a short flight of stairs to
the "public" office where passengers handed in their radios and where
they were checked. There was a little pigeon-hole behind which sat an
operator in his shirtsleeves.

"Did Mr Price take his change?" asked Jim suavely.

"Yes, sir, he took his change, one dollar and fifty cents."

"I thought he gave you a ten-dollar bill," said Jim at a random.

"That's just what he did do, sir, and the cable was eight dollars fifty
cents," said the operator patiently and Jim thanked him.

"What does it mean?" asked the girl wonderingly when they were on the
deck again.

"I wanted to know the length of the message and whether he sent a
message at all. He sent a radio which cost him eight dollars fifty
cents, which means that he sent about forty words, which is a fairly
long message. He had sent that message and it was when he came out that
they set upon him, and I should imagine that Mr Price is an extremely
lucky man that he is not over the side of the ship."

"Jim, there's one thing I want to ask you," said the girl when he was
taking leave of her. "If things work out, as please God they will, and
you are put right in the eyes of the world, are you--are you--how long
will you--" She found it more difficult to frame her question than she
had supposed.

"I will marry you just as soon as it is possible," said Jim, "even if I
have to borrow the money from you to pay for the licence."


Chapter 12


Two more days. Today, tomorrow, and perhaps half another day was all
that remained for Jim to put himself right. She did not doubt that he
would win through, and yet the fear that he might not turned her cold.
In the morning she was on deck immediately after breakfast and the first
person she saw was Mr Price, sitting calmly in his chair reading a
serious-looking volume. He touched his bandaged head to her in salute.

"I'm afraid I frightened you last night," he said. "It was very stupid
of me to go wandering about the upper deck by myself."

"I think if you had been by yourself you would have escaped injury," she
said.

He laughed, but his laugh ended with a little wince of pain.

"I see your young friend has convinced you that I was attacked by
somebody. Believe me, my dear Miss Cameron, that is not so. Probably the
cries you heard were some foolish young people skylarking on the other
side of the deck. I have often heard them myself and have been similarly
alarmed."

"You were attacked, and anyway Mr--my friend did not say he heard you
cry out," she persisted, with a nod of her head, "you were struck after
sending a long radio message to New York."

He dropped the book he was holding with a nervous start and looked at
her between his half-closed eyes.

"You're not Miss Withers, by any chance?" he said in little more than a
whisper.

She shook her head.

"Who is Miss Withers?" she demanded, "Oh, I know there's a woman
detective. Mr"--it was only by biting her tongue that she could keep Jim
Bartholomew's name unsaid--"Mr Wilkinson told me that there was such a
person."

"Yes, there is a person named Withers, Agnes Withers I think her name
is," he said lazily. "I seem to remember her figuring in a case and it
must have been in her capacity as a detective. No, I meant another Miss
Withers, an old friend of my--er--aunt." Captain Pietro Visconti came
along just then and carried her off.

"I do not like that priest," he said. "I never did like priests." He
twirled his little moustaches thoughtfully. "They are wolves in sheep's
clothing. They are very bad for the young," he smirked.

He was in a less emotional mood that morning, and sitting by her in
Stella Markham's chair (Margot wondered whether he derived any
extraordinary satisfaction from that association with the woman he so
brazenly and openly worshipped) he talked about Italy and Milan his
home; of his career in the army and during the war (she found afterwards
that he had fought with distinction on the Tagliamento), and spoke so
intimately of Washington that she asked him if he had been there before.

He nodded.

"Several times, but in a humble capacity not as second attach, to the
greatest military nation on the earth."

She smiled, and he reminded her gravely that the Romans had taught the
world the art of war. He had to vacate his chair, for Stella Markham put
in an appearance. The curious oldness which had come to her face, and
which Margot had noticed two days before, had not entirely disappeared,
She looked as if she had had no sleep and confirmed this impression with
her first words.

"I saw the daybreak this morning," she said.

"I've seen it one or two mornings," laughed Margot. "Can't you sleep?"

The woman shook her head.

"I haven't slept since I left Tor Towers," she said, and raised her
eyes.

"Great heavens, why did I ever leave there?"

"But you're going back, aren't you?"

"I suppose I shall be compelled to," said Mrs Markham after a pause. "I
shall have to if there is any question of the insurance on my
jewels--those which were stolen, you know, I have sent a radio to a firm
of lawyers in London to watch my interests and I do not suppose there
will be any very great difficulty. Well?"

It was Mr Winter, her butler, not as jovial or as rubicund as usual. He
stood in a deferential attitude.

"There is a radio for you in your cabin, madam," he said.

"All right, Winter." She dismissed him with a nod. "Even he is
brightening up," she explained. "What has happened to Mr Price?"

She was standing a little ahead of the chairs and looking along the
deck. She had seen the white bandage about the clergyman's head.

"Do you know Miss Cameron?"

"Yes," said the girl quietly "I think he met with an accident last night
on the boat deck."

"An accident? I knew nothing about that."

She walked along to Price and sat in a chair by his side for some time.

In the restless way of an ocean passenger Margot dropped her book and
went walking. She picked up en route a little German-American who was
her table companion. He was going back to America to marry and was very
shy until she drew him out, then found him something of a rhapsodist.

She had made the second circuit of the deck and was approaching the spot
where Mrs Markham sat talking to the clergyman when she saw the butler
come from the companionway. He stood at some distance and waited until he
caught Stella's eye. She rose and went downstairs, the butler following.

It was late in the afternoon before Margot saw Mrs Markham again. This
time they met in the social hall where Margot was taking tea listening
to the band, her heart and mind in the engine room below; for every thud
of the screw reminded her of the man whose future was hanging by a
thread.

Mrs Markham sailed in, radiantly beautiful to the girl's admiring eyes
and wearing a dress of such design as turned a hundred pair of feminine
eyes in her direction.

She pulled up an armchair to Margot's side.

"Where are you staying in New York?"

Margot gave her an address.

"I should like to see you there," said Mrs Markham. "I am going on to
Richmond, but I shall be back in New York in a week or ten days."

Insensibly Margot realised that Stella Markham's attitude had changed.
>From the light, almost patronising acquaintance, she had developed into
a would-be friend. And her subsequent attitude supported Margot's theory.
She talked of Devonshire, tried to get Margot to tell her something of
their home life at Moor House, and expressed her regret that they had
not met during their stay in England.

"I suppose you'll be met at New York?" she asked.

"Yes," said Margot. "I shall probably be met by my brother's lawyer--in
fact, I think it is certain I shall be."

"Who are his lawyers?" she asked interestedly. "Mine are Peak and
Jackson."

"John B. Rogers is Frank's lawyer. He used to be District Attorney."

"I know him," nodded Stella, "at least I know him by repute. And
everybody else, of course, knows him in New York."

"Yes, I think he's rather popular."

"I'm going on to Richmond immediately," said Mrs Markham thoughtfully,
"and I brought a box of candies from Paris which I promised to give to a
friend of mine the very day I landed."

"Why not hand them to a messenger?"

"Because I don't know my friend's address. I told her to call for me at
the very hotel you're staying at. I wonder if you would mind handing
them to her and telling the clerk, if anybody inquires for me, to send
her to you?"

"Not at all," said the girl, with a smile.

It was one of those little commissions which she detested, but she
thought that under the circumstances it would be ill-mannered to refuse.

"I will give you the candies before we leave the ship," said Mrs
Markham. "Perhaps you will come down to my cabin--I've some lovely
frocks I would like to show you. Why not come down this afternoon--now?"

Margot was curious to see Mrs Markham's cabin and accompanied her
without hesitation. Her suite was at the fore end of A Deck and
consisted of two rooms, a bedroom and sitting room, the former of which
was nearest the bow. It was a very pleasant cabin, though not in many
respects as pleasant as Margot's own suite. The dresses that Stella
Markham showed were beautiful and they alone were worth the visit. She
was saying goodbye when Mrs Markham called her back.

"You might as well take these candies along now," she said, and pulled a
steel box from under the bed. She tried the key in the lock and found
some difficulty in inserting it. She held up the box and examined the
keyhole closely.

"Somebody has been tampering with this," she said, and again Margot saw
that drawn look in her face. After a while she succeeded in turning the
key, lifted the lid and took out a flat circular package from which she
stripped the wrappings, revealing a beautiful, satin-covered box, the
top of which was hand-painted. This in turn she lifted and showed a
layer of the most delicious-looking candies Margot had seen.

"You don't mind taking these, do you?" she asked.

"Not at all," said Margot heartily and waited until the box was wrapped
and tied about with string. She carried the package back to her cabin
and put it in her trunk. Stella Markham puzzled her. At first she
thought she understood her perfectly but every day presented some fresh
phase, some new angle of the woman, and Margot felt her confidence in
her own judgment shocked by the contradictions and irreconcilable phases
of her character.

As she was stepping out of the elevator on the promenade deck Stella was
waiting for her.

"I feel I must make this confession," she said; "there's a duty on
sweets, and it struck me that if your friend the District Attorney sees
you through the customs, he is so well known that nobody will bother you
with an examination."

Margot laughed.

"That idea had occurred to me," she said.

Like every other day this was but a preparation for the night. To her
the days began when she met her lover in the shadows of the boat deck
and ended when they parted. All between was a weary interregnum relieved
only by such excitements as chance brought to her. But of mat excitement
she was to have this day her fill. It began in the afternoon when she
went into her cabin to find a not particularly agreeable odour of
tobacco smoke.

She rang the bell for the stewardess.

"Who has been smoking in this suite?" she asked.

"Nobody, madam, that I know of," said the woman in surprise.

The girl sniffed around.

"I wouldn't mind if they smoked decent tobacco, but this is terrible
stuff!"

She could not escape the impression that she had smelt that kind of
tobacco before somewhere. She looked round the apartment and after a
while she found what she was seeking, a little pile of cigar ash which
had evidently been knocked off and had not broken in its fall. She
examined it carefully and then very thoughtfully went back to the deck.
She saw Captain Pietro Visconti sitting by himself and she went straight
to him.

"Captain Visconti," she said, "what were you doing in my suite this
afternoon?"

He had jumped to his feet as she addressed him.

"In your suite, lady?" he said, with extravagant surprise. "I have not
been to your suite."

She unwrapped the little paper and showed him the cigar ash, and he
laughed.

"Ah, you are the Sherlock. You discover cigar ash, eh? Well, it is not
mine. My cigars are peculiar."

"Very peculiar," she said emphatically:

"They are Italian," he explained, "but there are several people who
smoke the same kind of cigars on this ship. I could find you a dozen.
Why should I want to go into your room, Miss Cameron? I do not even know
where it is."

After such a flat denial she had to accept his statement and apologise.
After all, he might have strolled in by accident. It was hardly likely
that he would come furtively smoking a cigar. And yet now she came to
think of it, she had never seen him without a cigar, and once he had
told her that he smoked them so unconsciously that he did not know
whether they were between his teeth or not.

But if he came--why? Here was a problem she saved against her meeting
Jim that night.

The second thrill came after dinner. It occurred to the girl that before
the chocolates could be delivered it would be necessary to know the name
of the person who would call for them, and as she was on the top deck
she went down the alleyway to Mrs Markham's suite.

Mrs Markham was evidently in, for there was a light showing through the
transom and she could hear the sound of voices. The girl knocked and at
the same time turned the handle, never doubting that Stella Markham whom
she had seen at dinner would be visible. To her surprise the door was
locked. Presently she heard:

"Who is there?"

It was Stella Markham's voice which spoke, but the voice was so strange
that she could hardly recognise her.

"It is I, Margot Cameron," said the girl. "I wanted to ask you something."

"One moment."

The light was suddenly switched out and the door was opened two inches.
Yet even by the indifferent light that was left Margot saw that the
woman's eyes were red with weeping.

"What is it, my dear?" asked Stella quietly.

"I wanted to know the name of the person who is to call for those
candies."

"I will tell you later, dear. Will you excuse me now?"

She shut the door almost in Margot's face and again she heard the murmur
of voices. The other person was evidently a woman and it was unlikely
that it would be Stella's maid. If Margot had any doubt upon that
subject it would have been set at rest when she saw the maid later on
the fore part of the deck.

Who, then, was the visitor? Margot was not ordinarily curious, but she
felt that it was her duty to collect information and in some indefinable
way she was helping the cause of Jim Bartholomew by her efforts.

Instead of going back to the deck she went into the broad saloon
entrance, from which the side alleyways gave, and after waiting half an
hour she was rewarded by seeing a woman come out of Mrs Markham's cabin.

Instead of coming to the saloon entrance the visitor turned into one of
the side alleys from which, as Margot knew, ran a smaller staircase to
the lower deck. Instantly her mind was made up. She raced down the
companionway to C Deck. She guessed rather than knew who the visitor
was, and she was rewarded when she saw the tall black figure turn into
Mrs Dupreid's cabin.

So it was Mrs Dupreid, Cecile's friend! Margot's head was in a whirl.
She gave up trying to think consecutively. Jim would know. It was another
problem for him. She relied upon him, believing that he already held the
threads of the mystery in his hands.

The whole thing was beginning to bewilder her. Why did Mrs Dupreid visit
Stella Markham, and why did Stella Markham weep? The thing was
altogether too puzzling. She went to the quietest part of the ship,
which was the library, and read one of Scott's novels and found in the
artificiality of his unreal heroes and heroines something of calm.

At eleven o'clock the library lights were lowered as a general hint to
all those who might still be enjoying its hospitality. There was another
hour yet, but as they had agreed to meet on the upper deck there was no
reason why Jim should not put in an appearance earlier. She blamed
herself for not having suggested this, and, getting her cloak, she went
on to the upper deck on the off chance of the same idea occurring to
him.

This night the deck was deserted. There was a dance in the saloon below
which had attracted most of the younger people, and as she stepped
cautiously along the obstructed way between the boats and the deckhouses
she decided that it was just a little too lonely to wait alone and that
if Jim was not there she would go down to the promenade again.

But Jim was there.

She stood stock still when she saw him. Dark as the night was, he was
silhouetted clearly. He was standing by the rail at the end of the long
boats--and Margot almost swooned, for there was a woman in his arms!

Margot stood as though paralysed. And yet there was no doubt. She could
never mistake Jim Bartholomew; the set of his head and shoulders was
inimitable.

It was Jim. He was whispering endearing words to his companion. She
could hear the caress in his voice and the woman was crying. The girl
held her head in her hands. Was she mad or dreaming? Was the ship filled
with weeping women? She gasped. Was this Mrs Markham?

She must have made some sound, for suddenly the couple went apart and
the woman melted into the darkness,

"Jim," said Margot hoarsely.

"Yes, dear. I didn't expect you."

"I guessed you didn't expect me," she said quietly with a pathetic
attempt at humour. "Jim, who was that woman?" He was silent.

"Who was that woman?"

"I can't tell you, dear."

"Don't call me 'dear,'" she said in a sudden fury. "Jim, who was that
woman? Will you tell me?"

"I can't tell you," he said.

"Then I'll find out." She swung on her heel and ran along the deck,
indifferent to possible foot-traps, and was back in the saloon entrance,
breathless but determined.

The first person she saw was Mrs Markham, who was talking to Visconti,
waving a languid fan as she watched the dancing through the open door of
the Social Hall. Margot went down the companionway at a run.

It was she!

She caught a glimpse of Mrs Dupreid's skirt as she disappeared into her
cabin, and a minute later Margot was at the door knocking.

"Who is there?" said a muffled voice.

"It is Margot Cameron."

"I'm sorry I cannot see you tonight. I am not well."

"I am coming in to see you, Mrs Dupreid," said the girl with
determination. "I am Margot Cameron, and Cecile is my sister-in-law."

"You can't come in," said the woman again, but Margot pressed aside all
opposition, stepped into the cabin and slammed the door behind her.

"Now," she said, and then--"why, why...! Cecile!"

It was Cecile Cameron, tear-stained and defiant, who faced her.


Chapter 13


"Now, will you kindly tell me," said Margot, sitting heavily down on the
settee, "what all this dam' mystery means?"

"Margot!" said Cecile.

"I know I am using violent language," said Margot recklessly, "but there
is a time when respectability means stagnation. Will you kindly
explain?"

"I can't," said Cecile sadly, "only I want you to know that Frank knows
I'm here."

"That's one comfort," said Margot, a smile struggling in the corner of
her lips, and the smile was one which was largely determined by her
relief. "So long as Frank knows you are here--how did you come here, by
the way?"

"I decided to come on the boat and my friend Mrs Dupreid luckily was
staying in North Devon. We were going to pick her up, if you remember,
on the way to the boat."

Margot nodded.

"I had a talk with Frank and I told him certain things and he agreed
that it would be best perhaps if I went. Only I couldn't go under my own
name for certain reasons. I wanted to be alone and I wanted to have the
freedom to work as I wished to work. I saw Mrs Dupreid and she very
kindly agreed to my plan, which was that I should take her passport and
occupy her cabin and she would come on by a later boat. That is to say
when I can get the passport back to her."

"That much I understand," nodded Margot. "But why are you here and why
were you in Mrs Markham's cabin?" Cecile shook her head.

"You've got to trust me, dear."

"Oh yes, I'll trust you," said Margot hopelessly. "I've trusted and I
trust you, and tonight I had to trust you both together in the most
compromising attitude, Cecile."

"I had to howl to somebody," said her sister-in-law. "I was surprised to
meet him. You see, I take my little walks on the upper deck. I have to
keep out of your way and I stumbled on him accidentally a night ago.
We've been talking--" She hesitated.

"So I gather," said Margot dryly, "and rather a nice way of talking too.
And really dear old Cecile, I don't grudge Jim's sympathy a bit. Did he
tell you that he himself is in need of quite a lot?"

"Yes," said Cecile, nodding, "poor boy."

"And I hope you were sympathetic?"

"Of course I was," said Cecile indignantly.

"And did he weep over you?" asked the remorseless Margot. "One good weep
deserves another."

"I think sometimes, Margot, you're absolutely heartless. But darling,
I'm so glad to see you," she took the girl in her arms and squeezed her.
"It's been a perfect hell of a life--"

"Ssh!" reproved Margot. "Now let's talk sensible. When am I to be let
into this scandal?"

Cecile looked at her thoughtfully.

"Maybe the day we reach New York," she said, "that's if--if--"

"If what?"

"If things go well," said Cecile guardedly.

"Do you know"--it was Margot's turn to hesitate--"about the--the
photograph? Cecile nodded.

"He told me everything."

"Did you ever meet Mr Sanderson before?" Cecile's back was toward the
girl and she shook her head.

"Let that matter wait until we arrive, will you, dear, to please me?"

"To please you I'll do anything. I wonder if that Jim has waited for
me?" she said, and went tearing out of the cabin. An elevator was going
up and she caught it, and arrived on the boat deck in time to whistle a
disappearing figure.

"Oh, it's you, is it?" said Jim. "Well, did you slay the lady?" The girl
shivered.

"Don't let's talk about slaying people," she said. "Cecile is a darling,
of course, but she's a most mysterious and exasperating darling just
now--and Jim, was it necessary that she should weep on your shirt
front?"

"I couldn't very well take of my shirt," said Jim calmly and the girl
smothered her laugh on his shoulder.

They snuggled together in the little place between the boats.

"When do you go back to your stokering?" asked the girl.

"Don't be frivolous about my stokering," he said; "it is a most
unfrivolous occupation. Whilst you're here I am going to take you into
my secret and if I do not tell you things that you want to know you must
not ask me. You promise?"

"I promise," she said.

"In the first place I want to tell you, as I have told you before and it
was quite unnecessary to tell you ever, that I did not steal Mrs
Markham's jewels. That necklace was stolen by what poor Sanderson called
The Big Four. It is pretty well confirmed, I think, that there is a Big
Four--that is to say, a gang of four have been working together and have
been engineering the big jewel robberies which have created such a
sensation in Europe. It was a member of the Big Four who stole Mrs
Markham's jewels."

"Who are the Big Four?" she asked. "Oh, I beg your pardon. Is that a
forbidden question?"

"It is and it isn't," he said. "It is a forbidden question because it is
one I cannot very easily answer. I can't answer it because I am not
certain. We know that there are two people named Trenton, both of whom
have served terms of imprisonment in the United States--Sanderson told
me that. They are a man and a woman, and at this particular moment there
are two detectives from Scotland Yard on board the ship who are
searching very carefully amongst the second and third class passengers.
The third of the four is a Spaniard named Antonio Romano. The fourth,
and really the keystone of the arch, though he is not the
leader--Trenton is that--is a man named Talbot who is an expert forger
and has made the obtaining of jewels a special branch of his study. It is
certain that two of the four are on board this ship. Scotland Yard has
had information to that effect."

"How do you know?"

"Because one of the Scotland Yard men works in my watch," was the
surprising reply.

"Is he a stoker?" asked the girl, then quickly "the man you call
'Nosey'?"

"Yes. I guessed who he was that night on deck, and when he asked me if I
was Jim Bartholomew, who was wanted for the murder--"

The girl went white.

"You didn't tell him that!" she said faintly "Oh, tell me you didn't say
that!"

"Oh yes I did," said. "Don't be silly, darling. You don't suppose I'm
going to be in hiding all my life? If I can't clear up this mystery on
the voyage, I am going back to stand my trial and prove conclusively
that I neither shot Sanderson not stole the jewels."

He kissed her gently and presently her panic feeling wore of.

"I shall be grey when this ship reaches port," she said.

"And I shall be a deep oil-burnt red," said Jim. "Shall I go on?"

"Oh, do, please."

"Well, there isn't any more to say," he said disappointingly "and it
will ease your mind to know that if I hadn't spoken to Sergeant Rawson,
who is my companion in misery, I wouldn't have had a ghost of a chance
of getting ashore in New York. When we anchor off Ellis Island there
will be a young army of American detectives on board looking for the
gang, and I think it is pretty certain they will find them."

"Why?" asked the girl.

"Because one of them has turned States Evidence. He sent a radio to
Washington on the night he was nearly killed." The girl would have cried
out in her astonishment, but he put his hand over her mouth. "Mr Price?"
she whispered.

"Price, or Talbot, that is one of them. He is turning States Evidence
and I'd have given anything to have seen the contents of his message.
Talbot is a man who is going to do things, and he's the man who is going
to restore to Mrs Markham her filched dog collar. And I hope she will
let her dog wear it," he added viciously.

"Poor darling," she laughed. "Do you know I feel ever so much better and
happier. This has been a really wonderful voyage."

"Hasn't it?" he said sardonically "If you could see how sunburnt I am
from the waist"--he changed his tone--"and yet it's worth it. I'd give
twice the time in twice as difficult circumstances for this stolen hour
with you." Then suddenly, "Let's go down on to the promenade deck and be
bold."

The deck was fairly clear of people and they walked up and down, talking
of Devonshire, of America, of all things in the world save the thing
that was in their hearts. At the end of the deck for'ard where it turned
before the cabins on A Deck they saw Mr "Price." He was leaning over the
rail, looking down at the deck below in a meditative and thoughtful way.
About twenty yards away sitting in a chair under one of the bulkhead
lights and smoking aimlessly was an exquisite young gentleman in
immaculate evening kit. Margot recognised him as the passenger whom she
had seen promenading with the man called "Nosey".

"Do you see that lad?" asked as they passed him.

"Yes."

"That is the other detective. He's engaged in watching Price, or Talbot,
to see that the gang do not get him. They nearly got him the other
night."

"But what a fine time he has, compared with the man in the stoke--hole!"
said the girl.

Jim chuckled. "They tossed as to who should go first class and my friend
lost," he said.

They made a circuit of the deck three times and still Mr Price leant
over the rail with his head sunk on his chest and his arms folded. The
fourth time they came round Jim stopped before the young watcher,

"Our friend has been there some time, hasn't he?" he said.

The watcher dropped his cigarette and looked along the deck.

"Yes, he's been there for half an hour."

"Has anybody been near him?"

Evidently the detective knew Jim. (The girl discovered later that the
two policemen and Jim had had a conference that night in the chief
engineer's cabin.)

"Nobody has been near him," he said. "Of course, lots of people have
been walking past him like you and others."

"I wonder what he's thinking about?" said Jim.

"Poor man," said the girl pityingly.

"Well, Price ought to be happy," replied the detective, with a laugh.

"He had a radio from the American Government today saying that he will
be pardoned and that his evidence will be accepted on behalf of the
State."

He strolled up toward the meditating figure, and laid his hand on his
shoulder. "Now Mr Price," he said. "You ought to be going to bed, you
know."

Price did not reply and the detective bent over and looked at him. Then
he turned and strolled back, his hands in his pockets.

"I think, Miss Cameron," he said, "I think," he said carefully "you
ought to go downstairs to bed."

Jim looked at him, and the girl looked at Jim and nodded.

"Is he--hurt?" she whispered.

"Oh no, but he has little fainting attacks," said the detective. "Fits,
you know, and people hate being seen when they're like that."

She accepted the lie as gospel and with a smile to Jim went down below.

Then Jim and the detective went forward and laid the dead man down on
the deck and the detective pulled out the stiletto from his side.


Chapter 14


Nothing keeps a secret so truly as a ship. For a ship's company from
captain to bellboy are born conspirators against revelation. None of the
passengers, save those immediately concerned, who sat down to breakfast
the next morning knew or guessed the tragedy which had been enacted in
the night.

Price's place at the table had been laid for him, his serviette folded
on his left, his hot rolls and coffee were waiting for him at half-past
eight, the hour at which he invariably took his first meal.

The deck steward dried the spray from his chair, put cushion and books
ready though he in common with every other deck hand knew that somewhere
down near the keel of the ship, in a little room devoid of light, Mr
Price lay dead.

Margot knew so little that, discovering Mr Price's cabin, she sent down
a message to ask how he was, and the steward, who at that moment was
packing the murdered mans belongings, returned the message that he was a
little better but was not coming on deck that day.

The bellboy who brought the message to her, the deck steward who heard
it delivered, the very band as they broke into a march at their eleven
o'clock performance were all well aware that at twelve o'clock the
previous night a passenger had been murdered in cold blood--but the
passengers knew nothing.

Mr Winter, the butler, was one of those who inquired for the Rev. Mr
Price. He inquired of the smoke room steward. The smoke room steward,
who not only knew that Mr Price was dead but had helped to carry his
body below, replied that Mr Price had been in there a few moments before
and had just gone out. That day, which had opened so sunnily was not
fortunate from the point of view of the ship's run. Towards midday they
ran into a dense white fog and for the rest of the day the Ceramia
crawled forward at ten knots an hour, her siren blowing at deafening
intervals. It was clammy and chilly on the promenades and the decks were
so wet and slippery that even walking was uncomfortable. Nevertheless
Margot maintained her chair and, enveloped in rugs, preferred the open
air to the clearer atmosphere of her cabin. Not so Stella Markham, who
retired to her own sitting-room.

Margot had spent the greater part of the morning with her sister-in-law
who had elected to remain in obscurity until the voyage was ended. She
did, however, prevail upon Cecile to shift her cabin to the larger and
more comfortable suite which Margot was occupying.

"I shall have you near me, but there are two entrances to the suite, so
you can go in and out as you like. I only ask this, that if you decide
to entertain Jim Bartholomew you invite me to your party."

Cecile smiled.

"You've never forgiven me, have you, Margot?"

"I've forgiven you because I have a Christian spirit," said Margot. "But
I don't think that sort of thing ought to become a habit. If you want to
weep, darling, you come along and weep on me. I'm ever so much less
knobbly than Jim."

The fog continued throughout the day but cleared up in the evening, only
to gather even more densely after dinner. Margot had come to know the
watches below which Jim was keeping and she knew that this was one of
his early nights and there was a prospect of his getting on to the boat
deck long before his usual hour. She simply sat and killed time with a
book, wrapped up in her big rug cape, and Mrs Markham coming out on the
deck with a face which expressed her disgust at the weather called her
sanity into question.

"Ugh! It's beastly," she said. "I wonder if we shall run into an iceberg
or anything?"

"You're a cheerful little soul," said Margot. "Have you ever been happy,
Mrs Markham?"

To her surprise Stella Markham turned on her with a face that was
haggard with fury.

"I don't think you know what happiness is if you ever think I've been
happy, or you can trace any look of happiness in me, Margot," she said.
"I've never been happy. I never shall be happy. How would you like to
stand before your Maker and confess that much?"

Margot was silent. She saw the woman's bosom rise and fall in her
agitation.

"I'm sorry," she said gently. "I didn't mean to be rude. I was just being
funny."

"Of course you were." Mrs Markham's anger vanished and she dropped her
hand upon the girl's shoulder. "I'm just full of nerves tonight. I'm
going back to that infernal cabin to read."

Mrs Markham was sick of body and sick of heart. True to her word she
went straight back to her cabin and found Mr Winter waiting for her.

"You have the key, madam," he said.

She took it out of her pocket, put it in the lock and opened the door.
The place was in darkness. So also was her bedroom, and this she
approached, switching on the light. She heard the movement of feet
almost as her hand was on the electric switch. The man who stood with
one hand upon the open window ready to spring was in evening dress, but
the lower half of his face was covered by a handkerchief.

"Winter!" called Markham loudly and the butler came in. The masked man
turned to face the levelled barrel of a revolver.

"What are you doing here?" asked Mrs Markham.

It was a question which was superfluous. Two drawers had been pulled out
and their contents were strewn on one of the settees. The intruder had
made no attempt to disguise his presence. The bed was rumpled as though
the mattress had been pulled up and examined. A wardrobe was open and
apparently the marauder had this time dispensed with the ordinary light,
for he carried a small electric torch.

"Put up your hands," said Mr Winter. "Put them up, sir."

With a quick movement of her hand Mrs Markham tore away the mask from
Jim Bartholomew's face.

She nodded.

"I know you," she said; "you're a friend of Margot's."

"Got me first time," said Jim.

At first he had put up his hands before the menacing pistol, but now put
them into his pockets.

"'What are you doing here?" Jim's eyes wandered from one confusion of
effects to another as he smiled, and he had a particularly happy smile.

"That's a silly question to ask!" he said coolly. "It must be pretty
evident to you that I haven't been tidying up!"

"You've been looking for something, haven't you?"

"That's about the size of it," said "You can put your revolver away. Mr
Winter. There is going to be no shooting."

"I'm going to take you before the captain straight away," said Winter,
His face was pale, whether from fury or fear Jim did not trouble to
consider.

"I don't think you will," he said gently. "After all, I can't run away
from the ship. There's no necessity for disturbing the captain at this
hour, even if they allow you to disturb him, which is extremely
doubtful. You know me, you can find me when you want me."

"Suppose we can't find you when we want you, Mr Bartholomew--I think
that is your name?"

"That is my name," said Jim.

There was an awkward pause.

"You can go,"' said Stella Markham.

"You wouldn't like to search me before I went, I suppose," said Jim.

"You can go," she said again, pointing to the door. She was whiter of
face than Winter.

"Wait," it was Mr Winter who blocked the entrance. "I don't think that
is how it should be arranged, Mrs Markham."

He was a strapping, strongly built man, but Jim pushed him aside as
though he had been a child and walked past him on to A Deck. He missed
the girl and guessed that she was waiting for him up above, and there he
found her. She had gone to her cabin and changed from her flimsy evening
gown to a costume more suitable for a tte--tte on a foggy night.

"Tomorrow," were his first words, "I am going to be a respectable
member of society. In other words, I am coming first class with my
friend from Scotland Yard, who is just about as tired of stoking oil
engines as I am."

"What is going to happen?" asked Margot.

"Well," he said, "tomorrow evening we pass Fire Island Light and some
time later we anchor off Sandy Hook. The next day the Federal
authorities come aboard and we shall see what we shall see."

The fog was thinning, but the ship was still keeping to her steady ten
knots.

"You're a little tired tonight, aren't you?" she asked. "You're not
speaking."

"I've had rather an exciting experience," he said. "I'll tell you about
it one of these days. And also I am a little tired. This fog means extra
duty in the stokehole. Everybody stands by and the watches are doubled."

"Then I won't keep you," she said dismally, and he caught her up in his
arms.

"That's just what you were proposing to do a few days ago, and maybe
what you'll have to do yet," he said--"that is, if I escape jail."

"Really, I think I'll go down and go to bed. Good night, Jim."

He kissed her again and watched her as she walked back toward the
companion ladder. Then he turned and strolled in the opposite direction.

She was nearing the ladder when she remembered that she had not asked
him about their next meeting and she turned back. When she saw him he
was leaning over the rail where she had seen him with Cecile in his
arms. He was more clearly silhouetted because the fog formed a white
background for him, and she stood a moment watching him.

As she did so she saw a figure steal out of the shadow of the boats, saw
something rise and fall, heard the horrible impact as it struck and saw
him droop limply over the rail. She tried to scream but she could not,
Then before she could utter a word or move she saw Jim's assailant stoop
and lift him by the legs, using the rail as a fulcrum. Higher and
higher--and then the girl screamed. But it was too late. As the black
figure darted back into the darkness Jim toppled over the side and she
heard the splash as he struck the water. She screamed again and raced
down the alleyway toward the stern of the ship. Her mind was made up and
when she came to the limit of the deck she jumped on the rails, ripped
of her skirt and taking one look to locate the dark figure which showed
in the light from the portholes, she sprang, straight as an arrow into
the water.

It was not as chilly as she had expected and she came to the surface and
looked round. She saw the dark bulk of Jim's shoulders and swam straight
to him as he sank. Her arm was round him as the stern of the vessel
cleared them. Then something struck the water with a splash and a vivid
green flare burnt within three yards of her. She turned and saw the red
lifebuoy with the spluttering calcium light and dragged Jim toward it.
They had been seen, and even as she looked and saw the vast stern of the
Ceramia towering above her, the liner turned sharply to starboard and
suddenly the screws were still.

She heard voices on the deck and the creak of a boat being lowered and
clung desperately to the lifebuoy. Jim had recovered consciousness but
was still too dazed to afford much help. She hooked his arm into the
buoy and kept treading water. Suppose the light failed? Suppose they
could not find her in the darkness? Already the ship seemed miles away
and she could not see the boat if they had lowered it, but the calcium
light burnt in a continuous splutter and presently she heard the
creaking of oars and the ship's lifeboat, looking monstrously large seen
from that angle, came alongside.


Chapter 15


They lifted Jim into the boat and the girl followed. She was attired
only in blouse and petticoat, and it did not occur to her until the boat
was hauled up to the level boat deck and then she was thankful for the
mercy of darkness until somebody put a coat around her and she made her
escape to her cabin.

She had a hot bath and changed, and then in spite of the protests of
Cecile went out to discover what had happened to Jim. She found him
dressed in tweeds, the centre of an interested circle of passengers and
he was lying outrageously.

"I went to sleep and fell over the rails," he said. "Miss Cameron saw
me--I don't remember anything until I recovered consciousness with the
calcium light blazing and Miss Cameron holding me up by my ears."

The quartermaster on watch aft had witnessed the fall and he it was who
had thrown the lifebuoy. This Jim discovered later. The doctor had
dressed his head and to Margot's relief the wound was not very serious.
The man who struck it must have been nervous, for he did no more damage
than a couple of stitches remedied.

"As for you," said Jim when he was alone with her, "I owe you something
more--"

"I'll present my bill one of these days," she interrupted hastily, "and
now I'm going back to my cabin--you seem quite your old talkative self,"
and with a gentle squeeze of his arm, she was gone.

His head was racking the next morning when he woke.

Accommodation had been found for him on F Deck and he shared a big cabin
with the two men from Scotland Yard. The visit of the doctor, the
application of a new dressing, and the swallowing of a draught reduced
his agony to a mere irritation.

That morning Mr Winter attended the commander of the ship and tendered a
complaint against the victim of the last night's adventure. His
complaint was listened to respectfully and he was informed that the
matter was already in the hands of the authorities. Whereupon Mr Winter
in his animosity grew a little venomous for one so respectable and
typically English.

"I suppose you know, sir," he said, "that this man Bartholomew is a
fugitive from justice and the police have a warrant out for him, on a
charge of murder?"

"I know all about that," said the commander politely. "Are you a police
officer?"

"No, sir, I am not," said Mr Winter, with dignity.

"Well, there are police officers on the ship who are attending to that
matter," said the commander, "and you can rest assured that they will
not shirk their duty."

Mrs Markham had chosen the time of Winter's appointment with the captain
for an interview which she badly wanted. Visconti, idling about the deck
as radiant and gorgeous a figure as ever, saw Stella come from the
companionway and instantly obeyed her beckoning finger.

"Will you come down to my cabin, Captain Visconti?" she asked,

"Madam"--he bowed low--"what would give me greater happiness?"

"I want to show you those Tanagra figures I bought in Italy last year,"
she said carelessly and he followed her to the end of the alleyway and
into her cabin.

She closed the door behind him and motioned him to a settee.

"Tony," she said, almost wailed, "Tony, what was wrong? Oh, my God! Why
did you kill Talbot?"

The Spaniard had set his kepi down on the seat beside him and did not
raise his eyes from the floor.

"Had he--?" she began again.

"He had turned States Evidence," said Tony.

"But how--when?"

The man she called Tony shrugged his elegant shoulders.

"He has been in a blue funk for a month past. You know that, madonna. I
had to keep close to his side all the time he was in Paris and never let
him out of my sight when he was in London. The discovery that there were
detectives on board must have driven him into a panic, for two days
after we sailed he sent a preliminary radio to Washington asking if
evidence would be accepted from one of the gang and whether that member
who betrayed the others would be treated favourably. On receipt of a
reply he sent a longer wire--Winter saw him writing it and guessed what
it was all about. Like a fool, too, Talbot had kept copies of his wires
and Winter found them in his cabin."

The woman was silent.

"Who are the detectives?" she asked. "Do you know them?"

He nodded.

"There is one who has been working in the stokehole with Bartholomew and
another who has been amongst the first class passengers all the voyage."

"Are they after--us?" He smiled.

"I don't know whether they're after you," he said. "I should think not.
Talbot never suggested in his wire that you were on board."

"But they will know," she said, fretfully plucking at her dress, and he
rose slowly to his feet, walked across to her and laid his hand upon her
bowed shoulder.

"Madonna," he said earnestly "there is a way out for you, unless
Winter--" He stopped and bit his lip thoughtfully.

"What do you mean?" she asked, looking up quickly.

"I mean you cannot be associated with any of the jobs which we have
done. That necklace business at Moorford--is that the name of the
place?" She nodded.

"Even that cannot be charged to you. Winter's job again. Why did he do
that?" he asked suddenly. "I always thought the diamonds were your own."

She nodded again.

"The only honest money I ever made in my life," she said bitterly.
"Somebody who--who was fond of me gave me an option on Eastern Lands and
that was the profit. I put the money into diamonds because Winter
advised me."

"You were foolish," said the other, "I see now Winter would not like you
having independent means or money of your own and he threw your jewels
into the stock. I have been interested in the fate of that
necklace--today I am more happy about it."

He looked down at her meditatively.

"Shall I tell you something, madonna?" he said more softly than he had
spoken, and she looked up with alarm in her eyes.

"No, please do not."

He gave one of his extravagant little gestures, but the hard brown eyes
which had directed the stroke that ended the life of Talbot the forger
were soft and humid.

"I love you greatly, madonna, and I know that is a very bad thing for
you to hear, because I am a man who has done many terrible deeds, but I
worship you as children worship God." He paused and then went on slowly,
"I will do everything to keep you out of this if our voyage ends badly."

"But Winter?" she asked, and the Spaniard who posed as an Italian showed
his teeth in a smile which was not pleasant.

"I do not regret Talbot," he went on as though speaking his thoughts
aloud, "I know the man and he was bad. If I have blood on my hands, so
also has he. You do not remember the case of the girl Hien--no, that
would be when you were in--"

The door opened violently and Winter came in and his face was livid with
rage.

"Well," he scowled at Tony, "what do you want?" and Tony smiled.

"Civility from you, my good Winter," he said lightly, "and a more amiable
cast of countenance."

"Amiable?" snarled the other. "Do you know that Fire Island Lightship is
right ahead?"

"The proximity of lightships does not distress me any," said Tony
cheerfully. "Indeed, in such foggy weather as this, it is a pleasure to
know that there is a lightship in the neighbourhood."

"See here, Tony, don't get fresh with me. Do you know what the lightship
means to you and me?" asked Winter.

He had dropped his somewhat exaggerated English accent. His drawl and
finicking intonation had gone and he snapped his words. There was a
wicked look in his eyes as he towered above the dapper little man.

"Why should I not get fresh with you?" demanded the other. He was his
insouciant self and he stood in an attitude of careless ease which might
have deceived any man but Winter, who knew that the thumb hooked into
the pocket of those baggy breeches touched a long-bladed knife and that
Tony would strike long before the bigger man could drop his hand to his
pistol pocket.

Winter forced a grin.

"Well, be cheerful if you feel like it," he said. "There's no reason, I
can tell you."

"What did the captain say?" asked Mrs Markham.

"What do you think he said?" growled the other. "He made me feel a fool.
You've got everything, Tony?" The Spaniard nodded.

"The dog collar?"

The Spaniard nodded again.

"When did you give him that?" asked Winter suspiciously.

"Oh, yesterday?" said the woman.

Winter looked from one to the other suspiciously.

"That's a lie," he said. "Where is that collar?" He made a step toward
the deck.

"You can save yourself the trouble," said Stella Markham coolly, "the
collar has been removed to a safe place." His heavy face was puckered
and lined with fury and he came back at her with a rush. Before he could
lay his hand upon her or before Tony could slip between them there was a
timid knock at the door.

"Who is that?" asked Winter.

Mrs Markham had stepped softly to the door, but he pushed her aside and
pulled it open. Cecile Cameron was standing there and their eyes met for
a moment. The scowl went out of Winter's face and a sly smile dawned
slowly.

"Come in, Mrs Cameron," he said politely. She had no eyes but for Stella
and went straight to the girl.

"Well?" it was Winter who spoke. "What are you going to do to get your
sister out of trouble?"

Cecile turned in alarm.

"Is she in--danger?" she asked in a low voice, and he growled
impatiently.

"We are all in danger, don't you realise that?"

"I will do my best," said Cecile Cameron wearily.

"You'll have to do a pretty good best too," said Winter brutally. "You
can't save your sister without making some effort to save her husband."

She met his eyes without flinching.

"I think I can do something," she said. "There is no charge against her
and she has no existence to the detectives on board."

"How do you know?" asked the man quickly. Tony, a silent spectator,
smiled.

"She has interviewed the excellent Bartholomew," he said, "and what she
tells us is a confirmation of my best hopes."

"Your hopes?" Winter swung round on him.

"My hopes," said the other. "I desire most earnestly that madame should
not appear in this matter if there is any question of police."

John Winter was peering at him.

"So that's it, is it," he said softly. "That's the meaning of your
sister's meetings, her visits night after night, and you said she was
only trying to induce you to give up this kind of life! You were lying,
eh? I suppose you've got it all framed up to put it on me, now Talbot's
dead. And Tony's in it!"

"You're a fool!" said Tony quietly "I shall have to share whatever
medicine they ladle out and I've got an idea it is going to be a stiff
dose."

Winter turned slowly to his wife. She was sitting with her head on her
sister's shoulder and her eyes were closed. There was something pathetic
in the weariness of the drawn face and the shadowed eyes, but Mr Winter
was no sentimentalist.

"If you think you're going to get this scandal hushed up and that I'm
going to be the goat who goes to jail whilst my dear wife is playing the
society lady in England or New York, why you've got another guess
coming," he said, breathing heavily. "You're in this with me, Stella, or
Magda, or whatever your fool name is, and I'm ready to take the stand
and prove you were in every job we did in Europe--"

"And I'm prepared to take the stand and prove that she was not," said
the little Spaniard.

"You!" snapped John Winter.

"Why not?" said Tony. "I at least am as respectable as you!"

"All right." John Winter turned to the door.

Then suddenly the fury he had pent up and suppressed burst its bounds
and with an oath he leapt at the white-faced girl, and his hand was at
her throat when he felt a curious pain under the left shoulder, a sharp,
hot twinge of agony that made him cry out and switch round.

"I gave you no more than a millimetre," said Tony quietly and John
Winter dropped his eyes to the long, thin blade in the Spaniard's hand.

"Only one millimetre! Imagine, my dear Winter, if I gave you
seventy-five or eighty!"

Winter did not speak. He pulled open the door and blundered out, and
when the women looked at Tony again his hands were empty and the knife
had mysteriously disappeared.


Chapter 16


"Here's the end of the road," said Jim Bartholomew.

"Where?" The girl looked round startled. A thin haze hung upon the sea,
but the Ceramia was making her maximum speed.

"If you listen you will hear a hooter going in a minute. That's Fire
Island and the United States."

"You seem to know a lot about the voyage for one who has never been
there," she said.

"I've never been to the United States," he confessed, "but I have been
to Fire Island Light. I came once on a cruise after a fugitive submarine
in the bad old days." The siren of the lightship was now audible. They
were standing on the foredeck beneath the captain's cabin and they heard
the clang and grind of the telegraph and soon after the thud of the
propellers came at longer intervals.

"We're slowing down," he said.

"Listen."

Margot took his arm in hers.

"Dear, I want to--ask you something."

He knew what was coming and was silent.

"What is going to happen to Mrs Markham?" she asked, and he looked at
her sharply.

"What do you know about Mrs Markham?" he demanded.

"Tell me what will happen to her."

"Do you know who she is?"

She nodded.

"Cecile told me this morning," she said. "Mrs Markham is Cecile's
sister--the one that was supposed to be dead, and she's married to that
dreadful man whom she pretends is her butler."

He looked thoughtfully over the side before he replied.

"Does Frank know?"

"Yes," nodded the girl. "She told Frank everything the day she was
supposed to leave for Scotland. Frank has been a brick throughout. What
is going to happen to Mrs Markham?" she asked again.

"Nothing," said Jim. "What poor Sanderson called the Big Four of Crime
was never known under that title to the police either in England or in
America. The people they have been after have been Talbot, Trenton, and
Romano--"

She raised her eyebrows.

"Romano? You don't mean our beautiful little cavalry officer?"

"That is the gentleman," said Jim grimly "But the name of Mrs Trenton
has never appeared in any of the warrants. She was looked upon by
Scotland Yard as being more or less of a victim, and I discovered from
the conversation I had with the detectives that that is the view which
the American police are taking. To make doubly sure one of them put
through a code inquiry to Washington yesterday morning and had a reply
which is quite satisfactory from Mrs Trenton's point of view. The only
danger of course," he said thoughtfully "is that Trenton, out of sheer
malice, endeavours to drag Mrs--his wife down with him. The man is a
fiend."

Margot shivered.

"Isn't it dreadful to think about? She ran away with him, when she was
at school--poor woman, she has been punished for her folly."

"I hope her punishment is ended," said Jim, and there was a great deal
more in his speech than the girl could guess. Winter had gone back to
his wife's cabin and was packing when the telegraph had rung the engines
to half-speed.

"Why are they slowing?" Stella asked listlessly.

"Why the hell don't you go and ask the captain?" snarled the other.

Mrs Markham shrugged.

"Really, Winter, you grow more and more impossible. Throughout this
voyage I have been trying to make things right for you and you've been
trying to make them just as wrong as they can be."

"When I want your advice I'll ask you for it," he said. "And when I want
you to talk, why, I'll send you along a permit. At present you can close
your mouth and sit tight. I've got something to settle with you--and
Tony."

He was busy strapping some bags and trunks. Mrs Markham sat with folded
hands staring into vacancy.

"Whatever side of the Atlantic we live," she said, "there's hell and a
worse hell in between."

"Will you shut up?" he snarled, and lifted a hand threateningly.

"One of these days"--he glowered at her--"one of these days, my lady--"

She shrugged her shoulders.

"One of these days I suppose I shall go the way of Talbot, and the way
you tried to send Jim Bartholomew."

He walked to the window of her sleeping cabin and looked out. The
swaying mast of a little boat was disappearing aft and his face went a
dirty white.

"That's a police boat," he said thickly.

She shrugged again and walked out of the room.

"Where are you going?"

"On to the deck to look."

"Come back," he shouted, and when she did not obey a suspicion of what
was behind her action came to him and with a bellow of rage he ran after
her.

He flew down the alleyway out on to the deck looking round for her. He
did not see his wife, but he saw something else which made his blood
turn cold.

Tony stood half a dozen paces from the saloon entrance and he was the
centre of a group of three men, strangers who had evidently come aboard
from the police boat, the mast of which showed above the rail, and
though Tony was smiling and obviously conversational, the hand of one of
the detectives which gripped the Spaniard's arm was self-explanatory. He
turned in a flash to go back the way he had come, but a fourth stranger
was standing in the narrow doorway and behind him was Jim Bartholomew.

"You're wanted, Trenton," said the man. "And if you're sensible, you are
not going to give me any trouble. Put out your hands."

The game was up. Escape was impossible, and Trenton, his flabby face
grey and old, held out his hands and the handcuffs were snapped on. The
stranger gripped him by the arm and led him across to the group of which
Tony Romano was the centre, and in that short space of time, Mr Winter,
or John Winter Trenton, made up his mind.

"Good morning, chief," he said, recognising one of Tony's captors.

"Good morning, Trenton," he said coolly. "The other man is dead, you
say?" He spoke to the Scotland Yard detective at his side, but Romano
answered.

"Yes, quite dead," he said cheerfully. "In fact, that I can certify
because I killed him. Now my dear Winter"--he smiled upon his
companion--"let us proceed."

"Wait a moment," said Trenton hoarsely. "You want three of us, don't
you?"

"Two alive and one dead," said the police officer.

"Well, you're going to take three alive."

They had not put the irons upon Tony Romano and he was standing in his
usual attitude of ease, a half smile on his thin, swarthy face.

"My friend," he interrupted, "you have heard the chief tell you that he
requires three, two alive and one dead. Would you desire anything more
than that?"

"Yes I would," snarled Trenton.

"You are contemptible," said Tony, "but you shall have it different
since you wish."

He spoke so calmly and gave so little warning of his intentions that
even the officer who held him was taken off his guard. He seemed to
contract the muscles of the arm which was in his captors grip and to
leap forward at the same time, and those who watched thought he did no
more than clumsily embrace his companion in misfortune, for he threw his
arms around him.

"That will do!" said the chief sharply. "Take that man, Riley." Then he
saw Trenton's face, the chin resting on the Spaniard's shoulder, and in
that face was a grimace of terror.

"Yes, that will do, I think," said Romano, and as he disengaged himself
from the other. Trenton crumpled in a heap to the ground.

"And that, gentlemen, is the knife," said the Spaniard pleasantly,
dropping the long steel weapon to the deck. Whilst they handcuffed him
he was very talkative.

"You need not bother about Trenton," he said. They were leaning over the
prostrate man trying to staunch the wound in his back. "He is quite
dead, I assure you. In that same way did my friend Talbot die. It is
better so. I do not like the idea of sharing a trial with such a man."

They hurried him below to F Deck, where they made a quick but thorough
search.

"I think you will find most of the jewels these people are bringing back
in friend Romano's baggy breeches," said Jim quietly. Romano smiled.

"Otherwise, why the baggy breeches?" he said coolly. "It is perfectly
true, chief, and these garments," he patted his pantaloons proudly with
his cuffed hand, "these garments are worth three million dollars."

>From an open port on F Deck a gangway led to the police boat. As they
were taking him away Romano turned to Jim.

"My respectful salutations to all who have been kind to me," he said. He
looked the other straight in the eye and Jim knew that the message was
for Stella Markham.

"Will you also apologise to Miss Cameron? I went to her room to gain
peace of mind. There was something there that I hoped to find. I was
successful--it is there still."


Chapter 17


So they took away Tony Romano and carried with them also the bodies of
the two men, and the passengers of the Ceramia heard for the first time
of the tragedy which had occurred without their knowledge. Then Jim
sought the woman. She was not alone. Cecile was with her, her arms about
her.

"Do they want me?" asked Stella Markham dully. Jim shook his head. He
hesitated to tell of the Spaniard's deed by which he had forfeited what
little chance he had had of escaping the Chair.

"I haven't had to explain your presence on the ship, Mrs Trenton," he
said. "The only man who can betray you is dead."

She nodded.

"Tony...Tony did that for me?"

It was not until that evening when they were gathered in Cecile's
sitting-room at the hotel that she told her story.

"I ran away from school with my--husband. He was much older than I, and
I suppose that I was fascinated--I was certainly a fool. He was not of
the same social grade as my own people, but his lack of breeding might
have been excused and he might, with his intelligence, have climbed very
high indeed. But John Winter Trenton was always a crook, a crook in
heart and a crook in mind. It was a long time before I learnt the truth,
and when I did I suppose I wasn't as horrified as I should have been. At
any rate, he could put things so attractively--I'm excusing myself," she
said, with a shrug. "I went with him. I took a passive part in some of
his most nefarious swindles and he got away with it for a long time.
Then a clever woman detective got after." Jim smiled.

"Why do you smile?"

"Curiously enough," he said. "I thought you were that woman detective
when I began to get a glimmering of this story."

Stella shook her head again.

"No, she has never left America. She had us arrested, Winter and I, and
it was while we were waiting trial that I let my sister know what had
become of me. For years Winter had been working a small game and then he
got into a better set, mainly through the help of Talbot, and we came to
Europe and they started the series of robberies which you know about. It
was Winter who planned it all, Tony and Talbot who carried the plan into
execution. I had nothing to do but pose as a grand lady. We rented
expensive furnished houses, sometimes in the north of England, sometimes
in the south, and from there the gang spread their nets. Winter, of
course, posed as my butler." She smiled faintly. "There is a certain
amount of humour in that. It was I who was that man's slave. He's dead,"
she cried passionately. "I'm glad he's dead! If I could thrust him down
into hell with these hands..." She stood trembling in her passion, and
then of a sudden broke into a fit of weeping.

"I think we know all there is to be known, Mrs Cameron," said Jim. "Does
your husband know?"

"I told him," said Cecile. Jim went out of the room, taking Margot with
him. They were walking to the elevator when the girl asked: "Why did you
search her stateroom, Jim? Of course, you were the mysterious sailor
whom she saw disappearing through the window? Did you expect to find
anything?"

"I expected to find two things," he said. "I found one--the second ring,
the Daughters of the Night. You remember Cecile telling us that her
father had given both his girls a similar ring? That I found on my
second visit. The other thing I sought I have never found and my failure
is the bitterest disappointment to me. Do you know we have not recovered
the jewels which were deposited by Mrs Markham and which probably today
are her only assets, even though they were stolen! Incidentally we are
responsible at the bank to the extent of 112,000. Here is the ring."

He took it from his waistcoat pocket and showed it her. It was a replica
of the ring which Mrs Cameron had worn, and the girl took it in her
hands and admired it.

"It was the photograph of Mrs Markham wearing this ring, which poor
Sanderson had. He must have caught a glimpse of her, and, utterly
deceived by Winter's pleasant appearance, he invited Winter down the
night Mrs Markham left Moorford, intending to employ, as he thought, an
honest servant to pursue inquiries. I think he suspected Stella from
what he had seen of her and her resemblance to the photograph, and he
had arranged to interview Winter in order to get him to identify the
police photograph of Mrs Trenton with the man's employer. I think that
theory is as near correct as possible. It is impossible to get the
correct one. Both the parties to that meeting are now dead."

"What happened then?"

"Winter came to the bank that night. Mrs Markham may have been in the
car--as to that I have no information. He was probably horrified to see
the photograph, for if Stella was identified so was he. In desperation
he must have threatened Sanderson, who produced my revolver. There was a
struggle, that is clear from an overturned chair. Winter, who was a
powerful man, must have secured possession of the revolver, shot
Sanderson and torn the photograph from his hand, making his escape down
the passage when I came through the door of my office."

"But the jewels? What happened then?"

"I'll tell you what happened then," said Jim. "As I stood looking down
at Sanderson I had an instinctive feeling that Mrs Markham was in some
way mixed up in this case. I took my keys and opened the safe expecting
to find Mrs Markham's packet gone. Sanderson had told me in the morning
that Winter had been down to the bank looking at the package and
sticking a label on it, and he also told me that Winter had drawn his
attention to a man outside the window of the office whom he said his
mistress did not like. I found the package and brought it to the table
and, without any excuse from the strict point of view of a banker and a
custodian, I broke the seals and opened the package, only to find, as I
expected, the glass box was empty."

"What had happened?" asked the girl.

"Winter had performed the very simple trick of 'ringing the changes'. He
had brought with him to the bank that morning a package similarly
sealed, and whilst he had drawn Sanderson's attention away by directing
his eyes to somebody outside the window, he substituted the empty
package for the other. As soon as I discovered the glass box was empty I
knew that Winter was in it and just how Sanderson had been tricked. Mrs
Markham I thought had already left. Probably Winter was on his way to
Southampton with her. I had to think quickly. I took 4.200 out of my
private drawer, raced home, took my bag which was already packed for my
visit to London--I intended spending Sunday night in London--and caught
the last train to Exeter. The rest of the story you know."

"What did you expect to find on board the ship?" He laughed. "I expected
to find the murderer. I was certain of finding you," he said.

"And this man speaks of the two things both in the same breath," said
the girl wonderingly, "and he expects me to go on loving him and
cherishing him--"

"I know you will," said Jim, "because I tell you honestly the only thing
that has spurred me on, the only thing that has kept my mind clear and
my heart cheerful, has been the knowledge that you were near me."

She looked at him, a keen, scrutinising glance. Three times the elevator
door had opened, but the sorrowful "Going down!" of the attendant had
been unheeded.

"Do you mean that?"

"Of course I mean it," he said indignantly.

"That's rather wonderful," she said softly, and then, "but you haven't
told me what you didn't find. What has become of the necklace?"

He spread out his hands in despair.

"Tony's baggy riding breeches yielded enough stuff to keep a respectable
jeweller going for ten years," he said, "but amongst those relics there
was nothing that bore the remotest resemblance to Mrs Markham's dog
collar, and that," he said soberly, "adds rather a gloom to the
proceedings. Now I wonder--"

"Poor Mrs Markham! Poor Cecile! What will be the end of that?"

"The Lord knows!" he said.

"By the way: I wonder who her friend is in New York, the girl to whom I
was to give the candies?"

"What friend in New York?" asked Jim, with sudden interest.

"Oh, some girl who will call for a box of-"

Jim gripped her with a yell.

"Where's that box?" he said, and her mouth opened wide.

"You don't mean--"

"Let me look at it." They flew down the corridor together and, defiant
of all proprieties, Jim followed the girl into her room. She unlocked
and opened her trunk and with trembling fingers tore the wrappings from
the candy box.

Jim knocked the lid off and their faces fell.

"It is candy," said Jim, "unless--" He poked his finger down, then
suddenly swept the chocolates aside and drew forth something which
glittered even through the silver tissue in which it had been wrapped.

"Darling," he said, "this settles our future."

"Our future was settled when you were rescued from a watery grave."

Suddenly he whistled.

"Tony went to your stateroom?"

"The Italian--yes?" she said in surprise. "I accused him--why?"

"He went to make sure that the box was there. The diamonds are Stella
Markham's own property and he was worried about their disposal. He must
have suspected that Stella had put them in your keeping, and searched
your cabin 'for his peace of mind'--those were his words. He loved her."

"Loved her?" repeated Margot incredulously.

"He loved her and rescued her as assuredly as you rescued me, when you
dived in your petticoat--"

She looked at him with a stern eye.

"You were supposed to be unconscious, Mr Jim Bartholomew."

"And do you wonder?" demanded Jim.


THE END


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