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Title:  The Golden Bat
Author: Fred M White
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1200171.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: January 2012
Date most recently updated: January 2012

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

Author of "The House on the River," "The Crimson Blind," "The Green
Bungalow," &c., &c.

*

Published in The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.), in serial format
commencing Saturday 15 March, 1924.

*



CHAPTER I.--ONE OF THE SECRET SQUAD.


The big clean-shaven man with the florid, humorous face and mobile lips
would have passed anywhere for a barrister in prosperous practice, or
perhaps, a cabinet minister, well-dressed, assured, and certain of
himself, and it was his business to convey that impression, because
Lytton Barle was head of the Secret Squad at New Scotland, a position
not to be proclaimed on the house-tops. He was seated at a desk in his
private room, with a big cigar in his mouth, like some gentleman of
leisure, and his younger companion, in his neat, well-cut lounge suit,
might have just stepped out of his club in search of a congenial way of
passing an idle morning.

"Uncommonly glad to see you back in England again, Ray," Barle was
saying. "And more pleased still to know that you are ready to take a
hand at the old game. Tired of New Guinea, what?"

"Well, not exactly that, Harry," Ray smiled. "I'm looking for Edward
Keen, the man who robbed me of something like 40,000, and, like the boy
in the advertisement, I shan't be happy till I find him. But that's a
long story of tropical adventure, and, as the last chapter is rather
crude still, I don't propose to go into it now. A slender clue led me
from New Guinea to London, and here I am. Been golfing most of the
summer at Hunstanton, and came on here last Monday ready to take up the
clue I spoke of in earnest. Then I thought of you and the early days
here before the war claimed me. You know how one thing leads to another
in criminal investigation. The man I am after is in London, unless I am
all out, and if he isn't a master criminal, I never met one. And I don't
even know him by sight. But for the last three years of the war I was in
the military secret service, pottering about South America, thanks to my
training here, and I thought if I came back and offered to take on the
old job, you might give me an assignment, and in between I could perhaps
drop on the thread missing from my tangled skein. Follow me?"

"Excellent," Lytton Barle cried. "You are the very man I want as second
in command of my Secret Squad. Nobody knows you, at least nobody in the
clever gang I am after, and you happen to be a gentleman, which is more
important than it seems at first blush. The Secret Squad is a new
development, not officially attached to the Yard, and yet acting under
my instructions. All done by letter and telephone, no calling here, you
understand. We are up against the cleverest gang of burglars I ever
struck, with big brains behind the scheme, and they know me and my lot
too well."

"What, the lot who cleaned out Lord Barlington's place at Larchester the
other night?" Ray asked. "Got away with everything, and no trace behind.
I read all about that."

"That's the firm," Barle said grimly. "Motor car robbery quite up to
date. But not exactly in the general way. They haven't a car of their
own, more or less disguised and carrying a sham number plate. They
borrow a car from some private garage--old lady who never has her
limousine out at night, and so forth--and return it before daylight.
Possibly some chauffeur is in their pay and turns a blind eye on things.
At any rate, we do know where the Larchester car was borrowed, because
the thieves dropped a spare cover on their way back, and we traced it by
the number stamped in the rubber. Elderly gentleman in Bolton Gardens,
owner and driver under observation. But I am afraid that he is an
innocent party."

"And you want me to take this on, eh? Nothing I should like better. Any
special features about the robbery? Odd little incidents that I attach
much importance to? You know my peculiarities in that direction. If so,
please put me wise."

"All right, Monsieur Dupuin," Barle laughed. "The Edgar Allan Poe model
is not a bad one after all. Now, let me see. Um, yes. Do you know
anything about tropical butterflies?"

"As it happens, I do," Ray explained. "It was in the last year of the
war that I met the great authority on foreign entomology at San
Salvador. Man named Moon--John Everard Moon. It was in the leading hotel
there, and I was in disguise as a sort of prosperous peon farmer on the
spree, regular Spanish-American dog. Moon was out there after a sort of
mythical bug called the Golden Bat. Was searching the whole continent
for it. Only one of the species ever captured, and thats in some private
English home. Wonderful insect, as big as a hawk, and all powdered with
gold dust and a peacock blue on the edges of the wings. I was told that
the natives in the forest worshipped it, though none of them had ever
seen the moth. Sort of fetish, you understand. Why are you asking?"

"Well," Barle said, drily, "the insect you mean was not quite unique
because Lord Barlington had one in a glass case on the wall in his
library. Not that he valued it in the least, sort of trophy brought home
by some globe-trotting relative. But it was a Golden Bat all right, and
it was stolen by those burglars, though why they wanted it beats me.
Sheer curiosity, perhaps."

Ray drew a long, deep breath. His eyes gleamed oddly.

"Mr. Barle," he said, earnestly, "you have given me a clue worth its
weight in diamonds. And some unthinking folk prate of what they call
trifles! Trifles, by gad! With any luck, I am going to get my money back
and lay your gang by the heels at the same time. All I ask is a free
hand here. Give me an introduction to the superintendent of police at
Shepperton or in that district and leave the rest to me. Call your men
off, and let me have the run of my intellectual teeth for a month, and
if I fail then count me out altogether."

Lytton Barle was wise in his generation, and knew whom to trust and the
psychological time to trust him. Moreover, he had known Ray in the past,
and had a profound respect for his methods.

"Then be it so," he agreed. "I'll get Shepperton on the phone and make
that all right for you. Good luck."

Ray drifted out thoughtfully on to the Embankment. The product of Harrow
and Trinity College, Cambridge, born with a fair competency, and
possessed of the true adventurous mind plus a subtle intellect, he had
drifted almost unconsciously into the paths of criminal diplomacy. To
him languages came almost naturally, and two years' training at Scotland
Yard gave him all the groundwork he asked to know. Then the war came,
and with it his big chance. The South American Republics became his
hunting ground, and there he remained during the years following
Armageddon. And there in Brazil he stumbled on a fortune, and lost it
again in circumstances which will be seen all in good time. And when the
hour came for the thief who robbed him to render his account, Ray swore
that the reckoning should be a stern one. Now fate was throwing a
searchlight across the dim path.

But there had been another lure this perfect summer in the shape of a
few months' golf at Hunstanton, which lure had not been altogether
unconnected with the eternal feminine. But just as Ray began to regard
his dreams, as not entirely visionary, the lady in the case had
mysteriously vanished from the Norfolk coast without a sign, and Ray had
been looking for her ever since. And three days before he had caught
sight of her crossing Regent-street.

Had he been the average man, he would have spoken to her there and then.
Being Harry Ray, diplomat and hunter of criminals, he did nothing of the
sort. He followed the slim, graceful figure home, and saw her safely
into Silverdale Mansions, which is not far from the Marble Arch, and a
tip to the discreet porter in the vestibule did the rest. Ray strolled
away in an exulting mood and a wild excitement which was not visible on
his calmly immobile features.

"Well, I'm hanged," he murmured to himself. "Actually under the same
roof as the man Keen, a member of his household! The plot thickens. And
now to get in touch with the fellow."

A little later Ray turned into the United Universities Club, and
proceeded to consult the telephone directory. He found the name of
Edward Keen both in Silverdale Mansions and in a block of offices in a
court leading off Lombard-street. In the telephone booth he took up the
receiver and called up the latter number.

"That 0057?" he asked. "Mr. Keen? Quite so. May I speak to him for a
moment? No, he doesn't know my name. It is not exactly a matter of
business. I have a message for him."

"He's very busy just now," the voice at the other end of the wire said.
"Hold on a moment, and I'll put you through."

Ray waited for quite a little time. Then a response came in a cold,
metallic tone, a suggestion of something like suspicion.

"Yes, I am Mr. Keen. What can I do for you?"

"My name is Ray, Harry Ray, speaking from the United Universities Club.
I am deeply interested in tropical butterflies, especially Brazilian
ones. Only as an amateur, please understand. I was in Brazil for two
years, and know something about the subject. Also I have made a close
study of all Mr. John Everard Moon's works on the science. Is he not an
intimate friend of yours?"

There was quite a pause before any response came.

"I certainly look after his affairs when he is on his frequent travels,"
the voice said. "As a matter of fact, Mr. Moon is in Brazil at the
present moment, collecting matter for his next book. I am also an
enthusiast on butterflies, and my exhibits are only second to those of
my distinguished friend. Almost complete."

"With the exception of a Golden Bat," Ray murmured.

He paused, for an exclamation of surprise came from the other end of the
wire, and it came sharp, staccato, and rather hoarse.

"What, do you mean to say you are on the track of one?"

"I believe so. I shouldn't have troubled you but for the fact that your
name is so frequently mentioned in Mr. Moon's works as an
Anglo-Brazilian, whose assistance was most valuable, but when I heard
yesterday that a friend was shortly arriving home from Brazil with what
sounded like a Golden Bat for me, I ventured to ring you up. Perhaps one
of these early days we might meet and have a chat over the matter, I
could call at Silverdale Mansions, and--"

"Yes, yes, Mr. Ray. I am leaving for Manchester shortly, and shall not
be back before Friday evening at about half-past 7. Suppose you look
round at about that hour, and have a mouthful of dinner with me? I may
be a bit late, but you won't mind waiting?"

"Excellent!" Ray cried, and he meant it in a way that the man at the
other end of the wire little realised. "I'll be there. Good-bye."

So far everything had fallen out splendidly. Moreover, Ray had two
valuable days in which to lay the train which he hoped and believed
would lead to the exposing of a great conspiracy and a set of daring
robberies which for months had baffled the shrewdest brains in Scotland
Yard. By the merest accident Ray had lighted on a clue which possessed a
double thread--to get even with the mysterious individual who had robbed
him of those Brazilian diamonds and force him to disgorge, and to link
the scoundrel in question with the alarming burglaries which were
setting the police by the ears. Moreover, there was nobody in London who
knew more of the secret past of Mr. Edward Keen than himself. And now
they were going to meet, face to face, in circumstances that should be
utterly disarming, so far as any suspicions on Keen's part were
concerned.

It was, therefore, with an easy mind that Ray set out on Friday night to
keep his appointment. He was nearly half an hour early for Keen's little
dinner, but that was all part of the programme. He would be at
Silverdale Mansions before Keen's cab left Euston station. He did not
give his name to the manservant who admitted him, but merely stated that
he was expected. As he entered the drawing-room a girl seated before the
fire rose and came forward.

"Harry!" she gasped, "Harry! Really you?"

Ray took both her hands in his and held them fast.

"Yes, Angela," he said. "Darling, tell me all about it."



CHAPTER II.--THE ONLY GIRL IN THE WORLD.


They were alone together in the warm intimacy of that
perfectly-appointed room, and alone in the world, so far as they two
were concerned. Ray placed the girl's hands on his shoulders, and smiled
down masterfully into her eyes. Then he took the white face in his grip,
and kissed her lingeringly on the trembling lips.

"There," he murmured, "now you understand. You belonged to me from the
first, Angela, and I think you knew it. And so you really thought that
you could run away from me like that!"

"But you don't understand," the girl murmured. "When I was staying with
those friends in Hunstanton, and you came into my life----"

"And we fell in love with one another, darling."

"I did not think, I was too happy to think, Harry. Of course I knew--a
girl always knows. And then suddenly, as I realised everything one
night, I had to go. I told my friends I had had a telegram calling me
back, and I hoped you would be too proud to ask them for my address.
And--and that was the end of it."

"And, that was the end of the first chapter," Ray laughed. "I did not
ask for your address because I knew I could find you, which I did in the
end, quite by accident and followed you here. Then I managed, by a
polite fiction, to get invited here this evening. It will be just as
well to let Mr. Keen think, when he comes in, that we have just been
making ourselves acquainted; in fact, I have powerful reasons for not
taking him into our confidence. Angela, you will trust me in this
matter? It will not be for long."

"Oh, there can be no other way," Angela cried. "I hate this vile
deception, but it must be. Harry, I am more or less a prisoner here. I
go out, I attend concerts and have my own friends, but I am a prisoner
all the same. I am the mouse, and my guardian, Mr. Keen, is the cat. I
don't even know who I am, I have no name I can claim as my own. I am
called Angela Nemo, but nemo means nothing. And Mr. Keen will tell me
nothing as to my parentage. I have no parents, he says. And when I press
him, he laughs, and says it would be wiser for me to remain in
ignorance, and hints at dreadful things. How could I let you go on
loving me in the face of what I am telling you?"

Ray listened gravely. There was something wrong here, he told himself,
some rascality which would have to be fathomed. What was the connection
between Keen and this lovely, helpless girl, and why did a man like that
allow her to become a member of his household, and treat her lavishly
like a daughter? And what devilish cunning prompted him to the fiction
that there was something disgraceful and sinister surrounding her birth?

"Darling, I had no idea it was like this," he said. "Not that it makes
the slightest difference to me. I could not love you any more if you
were the daughter of a duchess."

"Oh, I know, I know," Angela murmured. "But it might be worse, even,
than it seems. It might be that there is madness in my family. Or some
inherent curse. Why did we ever meet, Harry?"

"So that we might be happy," Ray said smilingly. "So that I could take
you out of this mysterious bondage that darkens your innocent life. Ah,
I am going to show you presently. Yet I gather you are not being badly
treated here."

"No, I am not," Angela agreed. "But I am treated as a child, I am
watched and followed. It frightens me, boy."

Ray soothed her tenderly; he could see that her nerves were all awry.
Yet she was happier than she had been for months, as if the mere
unburdening of her heart had released some mental pressure.

"And so you know nothing about yourself?" Ray said presently. "No
little treasures, no photographs or things of that kind. And you can't
remember anything of your parents?"

"Nothing," Angela said sadly. "I have been here and in Brazil with Mr.
Keen when on his travels sometimes, ever since I was five--15 years ago.
I have a confused memory of a dreadful accident in a rocky country where
there was machinery and mines, and of some strange man saying somebody
was dead. I think it must be that my mother had died before then."

Ray turned it all over rapidly in his mind. The plot was thickening in a
manner he had not expected. He looked thoughtfully around the luxurious
apartment, and for the first time noticed the cases of tropical
butterflies on the walls. With his more or less superficial knowledge of
the subject he saw that there were few rarities though the collection
was by no means a bad one. Evidently Keen shared his distinguished
friend's love of these wonderful moths. That was probably the bond
between him and the eccentric John Everard Moon. Perhaps there was some
other bond between them, and if so Ray was not going to rest until he
found it out. It was likely to be a long job, because Moon had been for
a very long time in the wild forests of Brazil, and anyway it was hard
to identify that savant with anything savouring of crime or dishonour.
However.. ..

"We must get to the bottom of this," Ray said. "Angela, you will have to
be brave and resolute. There is a time of danger and peril coming which
involves our future happiness, and most likely you will be called upon
to play your part. But if you are in the least afraid or if you think
that your courage is not----"

She smiled up bravely into Ray's face. There was a steady resolution in
her wide grey eyes. He read no fear there.

"Never when I have you," she murmured. "If you think that, Harry, you
are mistaken. I would do anything to----"

She drew back hastily as a step was heard on the landing outside. Then
the door opened and Edward Keen came in. He discovered the lovers on
each side of the fireplace, seated, and apparently engaged in casual
conversation. Ray rose and bowed.

"It is very good of you to ask me here in this informal way, Mr. Keen,"
he said easily. "I came, perhaps, a little too soon, but Miss, er,
Nemo--is not that right?--was good enough to entertain me till you came.
You had a pleasant journey?"

The other man inclined his head rather formally. Evidently on guard, Ray
thought. His host was a man apparently about fifty years of age, though
he did not look it until the infinitely fine lines round the eyes and
mouth came under observation. He was dark enough to suggest foreign
blood, with hair cropped close and shaven high up the back of the neck
and over the ears, and on his upper lip was a small black moustache very
fine and silky.

"On the contrary, it was very good of you to come," he said. "As you can
see by looking round, I am also an enthusiastic collector, and share my
friend, Moon's, hobby. Not, of course, that I compare myself with him.
But being a Brazilian produce merchant, and having spent half my life in
that country, I have had some humble part in those wonderful books of
his, and he has been so kind as to acknowledge the fact in print. So you
know the country, too?"

"I was there for over eighteen months," Ray explained. "For the benefit
of my health. Crocked up in the war, and managed to get out there in a
destroyer by a little influence. Having much time on my hands and
wanting some recreation, I took up butterfly hunting none too
successfully. I have never met the great man, but I was in the same
drawing-room with him one night after a big dinner in San Salvador. A
fine old gentleman with grey hair and long beard and spectacles. I had
no opportunity of an introduction, which was very disappointing, as I
wanted to talk about that unique Golden Bat to him. I don't think even
he had a specimen."

"Nobody has," Keen replied. "There is a legend to the effect that one
was brought to England twenty years ago by some diplomatic individual,
but it has yet to be proved. And you really think that you are in touch
with one, Mr. Ray?"

"Well, I am sanguine," Ray smiled. "Novices' luck, you understand. A
friend of mine up in the mines. He wrote me that he had secured a Golden
Bat and was bringing it home for me. He may be back this month or by the
end of the year for certain. That's why I took the liberty of ringing
you up, seeing that you are an enthusiast and more or less a partner of
Mr. Moon's. And if I might venture to ask you to put me in touch with
him----"

"Dinner is served, Miss," the butler announced.

It was a pleasant meal well served and cooked, and the wines were all
that the most fastidious could desire. It was not until Angela had gone
and the two men were alone over their liqueurs and cigars that the
subject of the Golden Bat cropped up again.

"My friend Moon will he delighted to meet you," Keen said. "He is very
exclusive, at a rule, but any one who is really interested in entomology
has his ear. Quite a recluse, you understand, and a bit eccentric. Where
he is exactly at the present moment I know no more than the dead. Been
away in South America for ages. But liable to reappear at any moment
with material for another of those priceless books of his. When this
happens he stays at home till the book is ready for the press; buries
himself away in his cottage until it is finished; a cottage in the heart
of the country with only a dour old man to do everything for him. Even I
have to write for an appointment when I wish to visit the Thatched House
at Shepperton."

"That's a very strange thing," Ray cried. "Thatched House at Shepperton.
Closed for years at a time and nobody allowed to go inside. Kind
of mystery in the neighbourhood--what?"

With narrowing eyes Keen looked up uneasily.

"It is as you say," he muttered. "Nobody down there knows that Moon is
the great Moon. When he goes away the place is closed. But why does the
fact surprise you?"

"Because the Thatched House at Shepperton was burgled last night. By the
merest chance I read the meagre details in the 'Evening Mail' just
before I came out. There was quite a lot about the lonely house, and the
newspaper man had made the most of it--what they call a 'story' in
Fleet-street. Wonderful how those chaps get hold of things. And that is
where Moon lives when he is in England. Funny I should read that
paragraph when I was practically on my way here. I hope no valuables
were kept there."

Ray spoke slowly and with his eyes on the man on the other side of the
table. Keen half rose to his feet with a strangled cry, and then dropped
back again as if suddenly deprived of his strength. He struggled up and
rang the bell violently.

"Go out and get me a copy of the 'Evening Mail'," he said hoarsely, as
the butler entered. "Get it quick!"



CHAPTER III.--THE THATCHED HOUSE.


Keen was badly frightened, there could be no sort of doubt about that.
It was not alarm or surprise or uneasiness that Ray could read in those
darkly glittering eyes of his, but real fear. For the moment he had
forgotten all about his dinner companion; then slowly he managed to get
himself in hand. As he glanced uneasily at Ray he grew assured, for
Ray's face bore an expression of curious innocence that was almost
childish in its mute inquiry.

"Has something upset you?" the latter asked ingenuously.

"Well, just for the moment, just for the moment," Keen responded
casually. "You see, I am more or less responsible for the custody of the
house at Shepperton, and my conscience is uneasy, mainly because I
haven't been near the place for over a year. It isn't as if there were
any valuables on the premises. But you know what these people are, if
they can't find what they expect, they think nothing of turning a house
inside out and destroying valuable stuff for the mere sake of doing it.
And if they have wrecked their vengeance upon the poor old chap's
butterflies----"

At that moment the butler came in with a copy of the 'Evening Mail,' and
Keen snatched it impatiently from his hand. For the next ten minutes he
was deeply engrossed in the story. It was by no means badly told, and
the newspaper man had made the best of it. He described the lonely house
at Shepperton, standing in its neglected, weedy garden, remote from the
road, and empty for many months, during the absence of the eccentric
proprietor, whose name the writer gave, though it was quite evident that
he had no idea that he was weaving a newspaper story around a celebrity.
He spoke of the old man and his taciturn servant, and how, on and off,
for years, the place had been locked up, and left deserted without even
a word to the local police.

"All very clever," Keen muttered. "What journalists call a stunt, I
suppose. Something to make a splash on the front page, and hint at a
sensation, which probably will never come to anything. Now, tell me, Mr.
Ray, why should people burgle a place like that? It's only a small
bungalow, with one large room, which is a library and museum combined,
and three small bedrooms, with kitchen and offices. Electric light and
gas and all that kind of thing, but nothing more than that. Looking
through the account, there is not even a suggestion that my friend Moon
is a man of means. As a matter of fact, he isn't. However, I suppose I
shall have to go down there tomorrow and spend the day fooling about
with the local police. But if the moths are all right, I shan't worry.
It's an awful nuisance, because, I was going north--I mean into
Devonshire to-morrow--and now I am afraid I shall have to put it off.
However, let us talk about something else."

Ray went his way presently, without any further chance of a word with
Angela. Not that it mattered much, because there was a perfect
understanding between them, and he had not the least fear that she would
say anything likely to rouse the suspicions of the man whom she regarded
as her guardian. It was not late yet, and Ray went straight back to his
rooms, where he took the telephone receiver off the hook and called up
Lytton Barle. He gave a code number, and almost immediately a quiet
voice at the other end of the wire gave a number in reply. No more than
that, but it was quite sufficient for Ray, who responded with another
number, and, after an interval of a few seconds, he recognised the voice
of Barle, as it came over the line.

"Ray speaking," he said. "Where are you?"

"Well, as a matter of fact, I am in my own quarters," Barle responded.
"It's all right, you can speak quite freely. I have given orders I am
not to be disturbed, and you can talk as long as you like. Is there
anything doing?"

"I really begin to believe there is," Ray responded cheerfully. "I have
just been having a most entertaining evening with a man called Keen, who
lives at Silverdale Mansions, and has offices as a Brazilian produce
merchant in the City."

"Ah, not very illuminating," Barle murmured.

"Wait, my friend, wait. You remember telling me about that unique
butterfly which was stolen from Lord Barlington's place in the big
burglary the other night? The little incident you mentioned as of no
importance, but which struck me as being of great significance. Well, as
a matter of fact, it is. You see, this man Keen is a great friend of
John Everard Moon, the greatest living authority on entomology, in fact,
Moon frequently mentions Keen in his books. Now, it is a subject I am
rather keen on myself, and, for reasons which I don't want to go into at
present, I made an excuse to ring up Keen at his City office, and told
him that I was in touch with a Golden Bat, and, as I expected, he rose
to the bait. You see, I wanted to get into his house."

"Why?" Barle asked.

Ray was silent just for a moment. There was no particular reason why he
should tell his chief all about Angela, because it was more or less of a
sacred nature, and, up to the present, at any rate, had nothing whatever
to do with the business in hand.

"Don't press me on that point, please, will you?" he asked. "I wanted to
get into the home, or rather the flat, where Keen lives, and I managed
it. Now, let's get hack to the essentials, shall we? Last night, there
was a burglary at a little establishment called the Thatched House at
Shepperton, and, strangely enough, the house belonged to a man called
Moon."

"What, the great man in question?" Barle cried.

"Certainly. And it wasn't a coincidence, because, between you and me, I
burgled the house myself. With that permit of yours I had not any
trouble with the authorities at Shepperton. I merely broke in through
the closed shutters of the big room there and left the windows wide
open. I knew that the police would find them in that state, and they
did. Mind you, I didn't take anything out of the house, I didn't want
to. What I really wanted to do, I shall tell you in due course. I
managed to convey a hint as to what had taken place to a young
journalistic friend of mine, and he made quite an interesting story of
it for his paper. If you will get a copy of the 'Evening Mail,' you will
see it for yourself. Quite a good story."

"You are too subtle for me," Barle laughed.

"Oh, I don't think so. You will see when next we meet what I am driving
at. Now, after dinner this evening, I told Keen all about the burglary
at his friend's house, and I never saw a man more frightened in my life.
It was only for a minute or two, but there was no mistaking his terror.
There is something very sinister hidden in that lonely old bungalow,
which is frequently shut up for years at a time, and Keen knows all
about it. And I know a good deal about Keen--I wasn't out in Brazil all
those months for nothing. Now, I want to have a free hand in the
investigations of that burglary. I want to come and go as I like, but I
don't want Keen to know that I am interested. The best thing, I think,
is to have him watched, and, when he is safely out of the way, I can go
down to Shepperton and potter about there to my heart's content. I know
Keen is up to some mischief, because he told me tonight that the whole
thing was a nuisance, because he has important business just now that
calls him to the North. And, I didn't fail to notice that when he said
'North' he suddenly switched off into 'Devonshire.' I feel sure he is
going North at the first available opportunity, and I am going to ask
your men to track him, and see him safely out of London, so that I can
have a free hand at Shepperton. I haven't the least idea what I am going
to find in the Thatched House; perhaps nothing, but I am rather more
sanguine than that."

"All right," Barle said. "It shall be as you say. And now for a bit of
news. There was another of those baffling robberies the night before
last, between York and Scarborough, and a pretty fine haul the rascals
got away with. They actually had the impudence to travel from York to
just outside Scarborough in the big Rolls Royce belonging to the man who
was robbed. It had gone into York for a little tuning up, and they got
it from the garage by a forged letter, delivered by a man dressed as a
chauffeur. Then when they had laid hands upon the plunder they drove
back and left the car on the roadside. Now, what do you think of that!"

"Well, I think we have got our work cut out. It seems pretty evident to
me that it is the work of the same lot who raided Lord Barlington's
house. And that brings me back to the point. Do you think you could get
me a few minutes' interview with his lordship? It must be done very
quietly, and in such a way as not to attract attention. Come about
naturally, do you understand? I think he will be able to tell me one or
two facts of more than ordinary interest. Now I know he is a member of
my club, the United Universities, though he very seldom goes there. But
if you could arrange for him to drop into the small library there about
tea time to-morrow we should not be wasting his time or mine."

"Very well," Barle agreed; "I will do what I can, and if it's all right
I will call you about lunch time."

With that, the conversation ceased, and Ray went thoughtfully to bed. It
was just on the luncheon hour the next day when a message came from
Barle to the effect that the interview had been arranged, and that Lord
Barlington would be on the spot at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and in
due course Ray found himself alone with the tall, distinguished-looking
diplomat who had spent most of his life in the service of his Sovereign.

"Very good of you to see me like this, Lord Barlington," Ray said. "I
won't detain you long, but there are just a few questions I would like
to ask, because I may be on the track of the clue to the robbery at your
house. I dare say that Mr. Barle has told you all about me----"

"Oh, yes," Barlington said. "Really most interesting. A secret squad of
educated men, quite unknown to these scoundrels. An excellent idea! And
I understand that you spent some years in the English Army Secret
Service.

"In Brazil and other parts of South America. But particularly in
Brazil," Ray said, significantly. "Most of my time was passed at San
Salvador. At other times I was at Monte Video. I think your lordship
knows those parts."

"God bless my soul--yes!" Barlington exclaimed. "I was
Minister-in-Charge at both places."

"Quite so!" Ray smiled. "And may I ask your lordship if you were in any
way interested in tropical butterflies?"

"Butterflies!--butterflies! Certainly not."

"Ah!--that is rather disappointing," Ray said. "I hoped perhaps you
were, seeing that you had an almost unique specimen in a case in your
library. I am alluding to an insect called the Golden Bat, which, I am
informed, was stolen from your house, though why the burglars wanted to
take that is a mystery."

Lord Barlington looked a little grave. His benign expression had given
way to one of cold austerity.

"There are some questions," he said, "that I would rather not
answer--questions relating to painful incidents in one's life which are
best forgotten. And surely the freak idea of taking away that worthless
handful of dried fluff cannot possibly have any bearing on the problem
which you have to solve."

"I am afraid your lordship must allow me to be the best judge of that,"
Ray said firmly. "You never know what the faintest clue is likely to
lead to. I believe that I am on the track of big things--in fact, I know
I am. But I should never have got as far as I have if Mr. Barle had not
happened to mention to me the incident of the stolen butterfly. Now,
Lord Barlington."

The old diplomatist hesitated for some little time.

"Oh, well!" he sighed heavily. "If I must--I must. But it is a painful
business and relates to a son of mine who died out in Brazil in tragic
circumstances some seventeen years ago. And when I say tragic, I mean
disgraceful."



CHAPTER IV.--A CLUE OF SORTS.


"I want you to understand," Barlington began. "That I was left a widower
with two children, both of whom were quite young. My elder son has never
caused me the least anxiety, and of him I say nothing. But Charles was
different. I had to leave him to strangers, because, after the death of
my wife, I threw myself, heart and soul, into my work, which kept me for
the best years of my life abroad. So you will understand that my boys
had largely to bring up themselves. Charles ought to have been all
right; he was in perfect surroundings with the right sort of people, and
at Eton he was a popular favourite. A good sportsman, and all that sort
of thing. But I suppose there was a weakness somewhere, and at quite an
early age he began to go astray. It was after one particular,
disgraceful episode that I determined to have him with me out in South
America. He came sullenly enough, but he did come, and for a year or two
everything went well. Then, during one long leave of mine, he broke out
again, and got himself into the most serious trouble with the
authorities. The affair was too grave for me to interfere, and he fled
up country with the girl he married. I never saw her, though I believe
that she was a lady who had come out there as English governess to a
wealthy Spanish-American family, but when Charles got mixed up with some
sort of revolutionary business up in the hills where the Brazilian mines
are, it was too late to do anything, and my unfortunate boy was shot as
a spy, or betrayed into the hands of some murderous gang, and those
miscreants not only shot him, but murdered his wife as well. I should
never have known this, if it had not been told me a year or two later by
a man who had come down country, and had been very nearly an eyewitness
of the deplorable affair. He brought with him my boy's belongings in the
shape of some packing cases, and when I came to open them, I found
amongst them a little case that contained the Golden Bat. And, for some
reason, I kept it, perhaps because it was rare, perhaps because it was
extraordinarily beautiful, but I suppose mainly for sentimental reasons.
At any rate, it was very good of Keen to take all that trouble."

"Who?" Ray almost shouted. "Who?"

"Keen, a man named Keen," Barlington said, looking up in mild surprise.
"Edward Keen. He was a perfect stranger to me, and I have never seen him
since. But I thought it was very nice of him to saddle himself with all
those things."

Ray nodded absently. He was lost in a whirl of speculative thought, and
out of it was gradually crystalising a stupendous idea. He was like a
man who, in searching for an emerald, had suddenly blundered upon a
great, shining-diamond. And the light of it dazzled him. But he put all
this sternly out of his mind now, for there were other things to think
of.

"I am indeed sorry to rake up all this unpleasantness," he said. "And
all the more so, because I cannot even tell you why I am asking the
questions. But you have given me a really valuable piece of information,
which ought to lead to great results."

With that, they parted, and for the next few hours, Ray was free to
pursue his own line of thought. The more he pondered over the problem,
the more confused he grew. But somewhere in the back of the gloom, he
could see a ray of light. Then, next morning, came one of those
mysterious messages from Barle to the effect that Keen had left London
by way of Paddington Station, as if on his way to the West, and that he
had left the train at Reading, and had proceeded North, via Didcot and
Oxford.

"Oho," Ray said softly to himself. "Well, I was right after all. And
now, I think I will just run down to Shepperton, and have a good look
over the Thatched House."

Armed with the proper credentials, there was no trouble whatever in
reaching the Thatched House without attracting attention. He took with
him an intelligent constable that he picked up in the police station,
after a chat with the sergeant in charge there.

"Now look here," he said. "I want you to understand that I am a stranger
to you people, and that I never heard the name of Barle mentioned. I am
merely in here now asking a casual question. If any of your constables
meet me in the street, they are not to speak to me, mind, that is,
unless I give them the sign first. I should be down here frequently, and
most of my time will be spent in the Thatched House. But I shall let you
know when I am coming and it will be your duty, sergeant, to detail one
of your men to keep an eye on the bungalow and give me the alarm in case
anybody approaches it, whoever he is. I know there is no danger to-day,
and that is why I am taking this man with me. No, you are not going to
walk with me through the village, oh dear no. You will lag at a
respectful distance behind, and see that we are not watched. Then, when
the coast is clear, join me inside the house. By the way, have you had
any journalists hanging about here during the last day or so?"

"No, sir," the sergeant grinned. "They have all cleared off. When they
found there wasn't much in it, they stopped troubling us. But, if
anything big turns up----"

"If anything big turns up," Ray said shortly, "they won't know anything
at all about it. I will see to that all right."

He strode out of the police station into the sunlight, stopping just for
a moment to light a cigarette, then, in an aimless sort of way with the
policeman loitering a hundred yards behind, he drifted out into the
country and across the footpath over the fields leading to the bungalow.
It was a low, thatched building, standing all by itself, with nothing
more than a cart-track on the far side, by which tradesmen had been in
the habit of approaching the house. The bungalow itself had evidently
been fenced off in the corner of a field, and within recent memory,
somebody with a decided taste for gardening had made a successful effort
to create a floral oasis there. The lawn was ragged with unshorn grass,
the paths weedy, and the wide herbaceous borders choked with docks and
nettles. But here and there flowers held up their heads, dahlias and
stocks, and delphiniums struggling hard to live in the choking
undergrowth. With a little care and attention, and by the employment of
a couple of men for a week, the garden would have been a smiling
paradise again. But, as it was, with weeds and flowers mixed, it
presented a melancholy appearance of desolation and decay. Beyond it was
a small orchard with broken frames here and there, and, in the far
corner a wired enclosure which evidently had once contained poultry. Ray
had a feeling as he looked round that the world was very far off just
then. But it was just the sort of place where a recluse and a man of
science would hide himself from the public gaze, and devote himself
exclusively to his work, and from that side Ray could see nothing
sinister about it. In front of the bungalow itself was a wide flagged
terrace, and in the centre an antique leaden pump, which probably at one
time had been over a well in the field, a well obviously used for the
purpose of watering cattle. Some one had planted a Dorothy Perkins in a
fissure of the pavement, and under this the pump was half hidden.

But all this troubled Ray not at all. He waited for the officer to come
up and admit him, and, once inside, and secure behind the shuttered
windows, he switched on the light, wondering, meanwhile, how much it had
cost Moon to have the cable taken from the main road as far as the
bungalow, and why? But this, for the moment, was of little matter. He
was standing presently in the middle of the big library, the walls of
which were literally covered with cases of butterflies and insects,
probably the finest collection in the world. There were but a few books
in one dark corner, and in the centre of the room a long writing table,
every drawer of which was empty. Search as he would, Ray could find
nothing in the shape of papers or documents to identify the house with
its owner. He wandered aimlessly from room to room, looking for
something, he knew not what, in the hope of stumbling on some clue,
however small, by which he might establish a link in the chain which was
slowly forming in the back of his mind. But, so far, nothing.

Everything was perfectly neat and tidy, the cooking utensils in the
kitchen, the ashes in the open grate, which had not been removed, though
the hearth was tidy enough; even the kitchen sink was sweet and clean.
And yet, over everything there was that faint film of almost invisible
dust that gathers in a house even when it is deserted and no one comes
inside the front door for months. It was the same in the two plain
bedrooms, where the beds were made, the pillow slips in their place, and
the white linen bedspreads with their fancy borders just as they had
been left when Moon last turned his back upon his bungalow and locked
the front door. Nothing here to strike the most vigilant eye.

Then suddenly, in the better bedroom of the two, Ray came up all rigid,
like a pointer in a turnip field. Very gently, with his little finger
nail, he touched the bedspread and examined a minute speck of dust under
the pink tip. From his pocket he produced a magnifying glass, and bent
over four twig-like brown stains in the centre of the white linen cloth.
He shut off the light, and threw back the shutters so that the brilliant
sunshine fell exactly athwart the bed. He turned to his companion.

"Go out in the garden and get me a feather," he said. "A small, light
feather. You will be sure to find one in that old fowl house. A white
feather for choice. Be quick."

With the feather he lightly brushed the brown twigs, then bent over with
his glass again. He smiled to himself as he scratched delicately at one
of the stains, and, almost daintily, nibbled at his finger tips. It was
like a mouse nibbling cheese.

"Found anything, sir!" the policeman asked.

"Yes, I have found a good deal," Ray smiled gently. "I have found that
somebody has been here within a comparatively short time, and that this
somebody, whoever he is, had a meal cooked in the house, and, moreover,
partook of it in bed. I should say that it was breakfast, because a man
does not usually indulge in eggs and bacon at any other time. Anyway, it
is not long ago that somebody sat up in this bed and had a meal of eggs
and bacon, and obviously somebody else cooked it, because a man doesn't
get up and go back to bed to breakfast. Besides, what are those cinders
doing in that very neat kitchen, otherwise? I shouldn't be at all
surprised if two people have been living here for quite a long time."



CHAPTER V.--BEHIND THE CASES.


The police constable looked at Ray with a certain puzzled admiration,
and was evidently anxious to know what all this deduction meant. And Ray
was in the mood to tell him.

"Now, look here," he said. "Quite between ourselves, and it doesn't go
any further, you understand. We are on the verge of a very big thing
here, and if you do exactly as I tell you and keep your mouth shut, you
ought to get something out of it for yourself. Look at those four brown
marks, like the twigs of a tree. Close together, aren't they? Now, what
do you make of them? But, of course, you don't know. Well, to my mind,
they are the marks of a greasy fork."

"So they are, sir?" the constable cried. "Precisely. A four-pronged
fork."

"Yes, a four-pronged fork that has fallen off a plate. A greasy fork
probably with bacon fat on it. But that is a detail. You will notice
that, save for a little fine dust settled on them, the lines are quite
distinct and clean. Therefore, they must have been made within recent
memory. Somebody has been living here, or hiding here, almost under the
eyes of you local police, and you haven't been any the wiser. Oh, I
know. This is a lonely spot, and if these people have been using the
Thatched House for a hiding place, or as a rendezvous for a big robbery
gang, it would not be easy to spot them, and they could come and go
almost as they liked. At any rate, they have been here lately, feeling
quite sure that they were safe in Mr. Moon's prolonged absence. Not a
bad idea, either. Come along, we will go and have a look round the
house, and see if we can find anything."

For an hour or more, Ray searched the place from top to bottom without
coming on anything further in the way of a clue. There were no
provisions in the house, from which he deduced the fact that whoever was
using the bungalow for illicit purposes was taking no risks. Probably
they brought their provisions with them each time they came. He had more
then a shrewd notion whose was the master mind behind the whole
business. But that, for the moment, was quite a small issue. Apart from
the clue in the bedroom, there was nothing to suggest that the house had
been used for months, everything was nearly put away in its place, there
were no papers or documents, nothing so far as Ray could see, beyond the
hundreds of cases of tropical insects on the walls. He knew something
about these, and a close examination of them was a work of unadulterated
satisfaction. And then, when he had almost finished his search amongst
that mass of brilliant colouring, he pulled up with a start presently in
front of a certain case.

It was only a small box, some twelve inches square, with a front of
glass, but behind it was an undoubted specimen of the Golden Bat. Here
was something, at any rate, that was more than worth the trouble he was
taking in the matter. The Golden Bat was supposed to be unique, the
loveliest insect in the world, and one which even Moon, the greatest
authority on the subject, confessed in his latest work that had, up to
now, successfully evaded him. And yet, here it was, tucked away amongst
his collection as if it had been there for a number of years.

But Ray knew better than that. He knew perfectly well that this case had
only recently been placed in position, and, moreover, that it was the
specimen which had been taken away from Lord Barlington's place during
the recent burglary. But who had caused it to be put there? Why had it
been added to this collection without loss of time? If Moon had been in
England, it would have been a different matter. There was only one man
who could have had a hand in this, and that was Keen. By some means or
other, the Golden Bat had come into Keen's possession, following the
sensational burglary, and here it was, in damning evidence against him.

But this, for the moment, was of minor importance. Ray laid his hand on
the case, and, with a little patience, managed to detach it from the
wall. As he expected, it was not fastened to the plaster, but had been
forced into a space which, by sheer accident, more or less fitted it.
Very carefully, so as not to damage the beautiful insect inside, Ray
laid the case on its edge.

"There you are," he said to his companion. "Now, I don't suppose you
attach much importance to this exquisite butterfly, but it is going to
prove of vital consequence to some people. That, my friend, is called a
Golden Bat, and is probably the only specimen in the world. If you
should ever come across another one, I shall be glad to hear about it
without delay. However, that is very remote. Now, look here. You will
notice that the side of this case is made of thin sheets of mahogany,
which, up to lately, were highly varnished. If you look closely, you
will see that the varnish has been sandpapered off, and even planed at
the edges. Have you any idea why?"

"I think so, sir," the officer said cheerfully. "I should think that it
has been pared down to fit that space."

"That is one up to you," Ray said. "Quite right. And I should
say--Hello--what have we here?"

Without waiting for an answer to his own question, Ray lifted the next
specimen case from its hook on the wall. It was a large case, and
disclosed the wall paper behind, which showed up, not clean and unfaded
as it should have done, but stained and discoloured, with here and there
broken patches which had been gummed down again by strips taken from the
edge of a sheet of stamps. To the ordinary eye, there was nothing here
out of the common, but those shiny fragments seemed to interest Ray to
an extraordinary degree.

"Ah, now we are getting on," he said. "Go as far as the local post
office, and bring me back a few pieces of that sort of stamp paper. When
you return, I will show you something."

The officer departed, obviously unwillingly, and the door had hardly
closed behind him when Ray got to work. With a thin-bladed knife he
removed the almost transparent paper, taking infinite pains not to
disturb the surface below. Then, when this was finished, he removed the
large square of wallpaper in its entirety, and disclosed a square cavity
beyond. Into this, he thrust his arm as far as it would go, but even
then he had not reached the far end of the opening. Presently on the
table lay a complete set of house-breaking implements, together with the
tools used in the opening of safes. It was far the most complete and
elaborate plant that Ray had ever seen, and he felt really enthusiastic
on the subject of the finish and workmanship. He was a connoisseur in
such things, and for quite a long time he stood there looking almost
lovingly at the shining steel, tempered to perfection, and the gas plant
which was a model of neatness, and compactness, which left nothing to be
desired.

But the secret hiding place was by no means exhausted yet. The next
thing that came to view was a small parcel of uncut Brazilian diamonds,
some specimens of platinum, and what appeared to be a sort of legal
document, in Spanish, which Ray proposed to read, in due course, at his
leisure. Last of all, he removed a large registered envelope, containing
a mass of papers, and some faded photographs, which were evidently
amateur work, but which Ray, with his knowledge of the subject, felt
sure had been taken in the light of some foreign sun. It was impossible,
in the time at his disposal to go through the whole of these, and very
reluctantly Ray was on the point of abandoning the idea. At the same
time he was sure that he had stumbled upon a really important clue,
which clue might slip through his fingers altogether. It would be bad
luck if the people he was after decided to remove the whole of them to
another place, but the contingency was there, and on the spur of the
moment Ray had to decide what he was going to do about it. Then the
solution flashed into his mind.

"Yes, I think I can do that," he told himself. "These people would not
have any suspicions, and I should have the original documents in my own
hands, without their being any the wiser. I think this is a job for my
friend, Martin Cranston, that is, if I can only find him. Well, I am
going to take the risk, and if Cranston happens to be out of London, I
will put these back to-morrow. Yes, I think that in the right thing to
do."

A few minutes later the local constable returned and laid the thin
strips of paper on the table. His eyes opened wide, and he gave a gasp
of astonishment as he saw the litter there.

"Mean to say you have found all that, sir?" he asked.

"That, and a great deal more," Ray smiled drily, as he placed the
registered envelope in his pocket. "Now perhaps you begin to understand
what we are up against here. I don't suppose you have had much
experience with up-to-date burglars, but let me tell you that is the
finest set of house-breaking and safe-breaking implements that I have
ever seen. Scotland Yard contains nothing like it. That little
collection on the table there must have cost every penny of 5000. Now
perhaps you begin to understand what we are up against."

"Good lord, sir," the policeman gasped. "Not the big gang? Not the lot
that the Chief was telling me about?"

"It looks like it, the cleverest lot in England. And this is their
headquarters. Not a bad idea, eh, for them to come here and hide
themselves in the empty house of an innocent old gentleman, who devotes
his life to collecting butterflies? About the last place in England
where anybody would look for them."

"Ah, you are right there, sir. But we'll keep a watch. Now that we know
where to look for them, we'll----"

"You will do nothing of the kind," Ray said curtly. "That is the last
thing in the world I want. Neither you nor any other officer must come
near this place, except in the ordinary course of duty. I don't want any
bungling amateurs getting in my way. If it is necessary for the house to
be placed under observation, it will be done from London. You tell your
chief that I don't want to see him again if I can help it, because one
never quite knows who is hanging about. Now, come along and help me to
put these things back where they came from."

It was rather a long job, but presently the sheet of wallpaper was
replaced and the bits of gummy substance put back again exactly as they
had been before. Then the cases were restored to the wall, and at length
Ray professed himself to be satisfied.

"I think that is all for the present," he said. "You go quietly back to
your station, and I will get away across the fields. And mind, not a
word of this to anybody but your chief. I shall probably want you later
on, and if you show yourself discreet and alert, I won't forget to put
in a good word for you with the people of Scotland Yard when the time
comes."

Ray made his way back to London again by a somewhat circuitous route,
and once in his rooms, got on the telephone to Barle, whom he was
fortunate enough to find in his office. He gave him a brief
comprehensive account of what had taken place, and the great man
professed himself to be satisfied.

"Well, you haven't been wasting your time, anyhow," Barle said. "We
shall know exactly what to do when the right time comes."

"But that won't be yet, surely?" Ray asked uneasily. "For heaven's sake
don't get in my way now. Of course, we could lay the whole lot of them
by the heels if we raided the place when they were there, but I want a
good deal more than that. There is something more than mere burglary
behind this business, which has a great deal to do with my future.
Please don't take any steps in this matter without consulting me first."

"Oh, you can make your mind easy on that point," Barle laughed. "I will
leave it entirely in your hands, and if you fail, your blood will be on
your own head."

"I am not going to fail," Ray said doggedly. "This is going to be a big
sensation. One of the biggest of our time."



CHAPTER VI.--A WASTED LIFE.


It was an hour later before Ray ran the man he wanted to earth. He found
him at length in a big attic over a shop in Bloomsbury, a wide, bare
room, almost devoid of furniture, with a long deal table in the middle,
and a ragged apology for a bed huddled away in one corner. On a chair
stood a tray, with the remains of a meal, and by the large table sat a
man with a thin, gaunt face, and a lean head, the hair of which was
silver grey, quite prematurely grey, for, despite the ravages of
dissipation and disease, the solitary occupant of the garret could not
have been much more than forty. Ray marked the shaking hand and the
bloodshot eyes, to say nothing of the little, brown scars upon the
wrist, which were scored, over and over again, with the marks of a
hypodermic needle.

As Ray knocked and entered, the man sitting there in his shirt-sleeves
growled something, and looked up with a sullen scowl on his thin
sensitive face. Then he changed colour slightly, and forced a laugh to
his lips.

"Well, this is quite an unexpected pleasure," he said. "Fancy an old
acquaintance looking me up. Sit down. I am afraid I can't offer you
anything very comfortable in the way of a chair, but if you like to
remove those grizzly fragments of what I humorously term my breakfast,
you will find some sort of an anchor, even if it only stands on three
legs. And now, Harry Ray, what the devil do you want with me?"

"It's not the least use your taking that tone," Ray said coolly. "I have
known you a good many years, Cranston, both at home and abroad, so I am
quite used to your moods. Now, you are not particularly busy at the
moment, are you?"

"Well, I am, and I'm not. I have got a job here which may take me the
best part of a week, and the hard-hearted scoundrel of a publisher, who
at present has a mortgage on my soul, declines to find a penny on
account before the task is finished. I haven't a cent in the world, and
my clothes will have to be taken out of pawn before I can cross the
street, and I haven't had anything to eat, with the exception of the
offal you see there, since yesterday morning. And also, what's a sight
worse, I haven't had a drink since Monday. For heaven's sake, go out and
get me a spot of something that will pull me together. I am an absolute
wreck."

The man seemed to be almost at his last gasp, and Ray knew it. Also, he
knew that he would get nothing out that perverted genius, Martin
Cranston, until the latter had satisfied in some measure the craving for
drink, to say nothing of the food which he so sorely needed. Here was a
man who, a few years before, had all the world before him. There was
nothing he touched that he did not adorn. He had had a brilliant career
at Oxford, men spoke highly of him, and then, suddenly, the crash came.

It had been a light sentence, as Cranston was a first offender, and then
influential friends had found him a place in a foreign consular service.
But all to the effect. Almost immediately another scandal had followed,
and Cranston had disappeared into the wilds of South America. Some years
afterwards he had turned up in London again, where Ray had met and
helped him. And after that the unfortunate man settled down to a sort of
hack-work for firms of publishers whose business lay in the way of
facsimile reproductions of rare and curious documents. It was his fatal,
easy facility with a pen which had first brought about his downfall.
There was nothing in the world he could not copy. Given the necessary
pigments and paper, he could reproduce ancient manuscript, or even
modern ones for that matter, in a way which would deceive the eye of any
one but a trained expert. And this sort of work he was engaged upon on
behalf of a firm of art publishers, when Ray had intruded upon his
tortured solitude.

Ray came back a few moments later from a hurried visit to a firm of
caterers, and for some minutes he watched his unfortunate friend
voraciously devouring certain tempting delicacies, and washing them down
with the contents of a flask of whisky which had accompanied the
impromptu meal. Then, after a brief space Cranston rose and stretched
himself, and proclaimed the fact that he was his own man again. Indeed,
the change was marvellous.

"Here, give me a cigarette, old man," he said quite cheerfully. "Ah,
that's better! I know I was infernally rude when you came in, but I
can't help it. It's those damned drugs, Harry. And now I can't get them.
Every now and then the demon seizes me, and drags me down to hell. A
doctor pal of mine says it will be the making of me, now that I can't
lay my hands on any cocaine or morphia. He thinks if I could get six
months in gaol for buying that sort of stuff I would come out cured. But
it is too late, my boy, it's too late."

He dropped into his seat, and, covering his face with his hands, wept
silently for a few moments. Then, when he looked up again, his face was
quite clear and tranquil.

"I haven't done that for years," he said with a smile on his thin,
haggard face. "And I feel all the better for it. It isn't the drink that
hurts me so much, it's those cursed drugs. However, I said that before.
I don't want your charity, old man; but if you can put an honest job in
my way----"

"Well, as a matter of fact, that it exactly what I came for," Ray
admitted. "I haven't thought of you for ages. Now look here. You were
always discreet, whatever your other faults, and in that respect I know
I can trust you. At the present moment I have a big case in hand for
Scotland Yard."

"Oh, you're back to it again, are you?"

"Yes, in what is called the Secret Squad. Working quite independently,
if you understand me, never going near the place, and in touch with the
chief by telephone and correspondence. It's those big burglaries the
papers are all hollowing about. I have got something like a clue, and I
want you to help me. More or less by accident, I stumbled upon what may
prove to be documents of the last importance. In fact, I have got them
in my pocket at the present moment. But there is a danger in retaining
them, because if the scoundrels find out that they have been robbed it
may spoil the whole thing. And yet, at the same time, I don't want to
part with the originals. See what I mean. I want to keep these things,
and replace them by ingenious copies which would pass muster with the
ostensible owners. They won't be suspicious. They will never dream that
the things have been stolen and shams put in their place. Then the happy
idea occurred to me to look you up knowing that this was your line. But
I shan't be easy in my mind till the copies are put in their hiding
places. I wonder if you could manage to do this job by dark to-morrow?
It you could, I will pay your own price."

"Ah, that sounds the sort of thing I am after," Cranston exclaimed.
"Make it twenty pounds. That money will be a godsend to me. Keep me a
fortnight and enable me to get my wardrobe out of pawn. Come on, let's
have a look at the stuff."

He cleared a space on the big table, and for quite a long while
inspected the mass of papers that Ray laid before him with the aid of a
strong magnifying glass.

"Ah, this is going to be quite a simple job," he said. "More a matter of
steady plugging than anything else. I can work it both with a pen and by
photo-lithography."

"And what about the paper," Ray asked.

"Oh, that's all right, old chap. I have got hundreds of different
specimens of paper, old and new. You needn't worry on that score.
Besides, there is nothing very particular about the sheets this
correspondence is written on. Look here, what do you think of that for a
match."

Cranston dived into a drawer and produced a mass of paper which seemed
almost identical with that which Ray had brought.

"Excellent," he cried. "Oh, it will be all right in your hands I know.
But can you deliver it to-morrow?"

Cranston went over the sheets with an ivory scale. He made certain
calculations on his blotting pad, at the end of which he appeared to be
quite satisfied in his own mind.

"I can do it," he said. "If I sit up all night I ought to be through by
six o'clock to-morrow. I think I can hold myself in hand for that time.
Let me have enough food to carry me through, together with another flask
of that excellent whisky you brought, and all will be well. You needn't
be afraid I shan't stick to it, because I shall. I particularly want to
go out of London for a few days next week, but I can't very well turn up
at a friend's house in a pair of ragged bags and this shirt, which is
the only one I have at the present moment."

He was speaking now like a child who has just been presented with a new
toy. There was something pathetic about this wreck of a brilliant
intellect, and the destruction of a once promising career, which touched
Ray very deeply. But it was no time for sentiment now, and he knew how
disastrous a little pity always is to an abnormal mind like that of his
unhappy friend.

"Very well," he said, "I will get you everything you want at once, and
then I will call round to-morrow night at six o'clock for the copies.
You shall have your twenty pounds, and I hope that your little holiday
will do you good."

No reply came from Cranston. He was turning over the papers before him
with a strange gleam in his faded eyes. He had come upon the three
photographs at the bottom of the pile, and one by one he passed them as
if dazed by the sight of those more or less colourless impressions with
their yellow tinge.

"What's the matter?" Ray asked. "Do those pictures convey anything to
you? Have you seen any of them before?"

"Good Lord, yes," Cranston said hoarsely. "That's Charlie Barlington,
and his little missus. Probably the kid, too, but I won't say that for
certain. But it's good old Charlie all right. I'd swear to him
anywhere."

"What?" Ray asked. "Charles Barlington, the son----"

"The son of Lord Barlington. Precisely. A man I have known for years.
Knew him out yonder, too. Topping chap, Charlie."



CHAPTER VII.--LINKS IN THE CHAIN.


From the expression of Ray's face it would have been hard to have
guessed that he was listening to something of the last importance. But,
all the same, as much by good fortune as anything else, he had blundered
on to a clue which promised to take him a long way. Just for the moment
it occurred to him to keep this discovery to himself, but in his strange
way, he knew that Cranston was to be trusted; and there and then made up
his mind to take the latter to a certain extent into his confidence.

"Now, that is very strange," he said. "Do you know that in nearly half
our cases we come across a valuable clue when looking for something
quite different. I came to you this morning because you were the very
man I wanted to copy those documents for me. I felt certain that you
would do it with secrecy and despatch, and that you would regard the
transaction as entirely confidential."

"Well, naturally," Cranston smiled. "I am not puffed up over my
occupation, and the less anybody knows about it the better. If I hadn't
been a fool, I should have made a big reputation for myself by this time
as a decorative artist. As it is, I am a mere copyist, and when hard
driven, not in the least above lending myself to a palpable forgery.
Lots of silly old men of antiquarian tastes have my work in their
libraries under the impression that they are genuine papyrus. However,
we need not go into that. I can see you are half inclined to confide in
me, and if you like to unbosom yourself, you can rely upon my keeping my
mouth shut."

"I think I can," Ray said. "Now, as it happens, I want all the
information about this Charles Barlington I can get. Listen and I will
tell you the story."

In a few words, Ray gave an epitome of his recent adventures, not
forgetting the episode of the Thatched House and the unexpected finding
of the Golden Bat.

"And now you know all about it," he concluded. "What I want is to
identify young Barlington with the man Keen, and it seems to me that you
can help."

"Help!" Cranston cried. "I should think I could! Charlie Barlington and
myself were great friends at one time--birds of a feather flock
together, arcades ambo, and all that sort of thing. You know what I
mean. Boon companions, not caring much what we did or how we got our
money. I am speaking now of something like seventeen years ago, when we
had both come a mucker in England, and met more or less by accident in
San Salvador. We were pretty well at the last gasp then, and desperately
in need of ready cash. Then Barlington got very thick with some
half-breed swell, who put him on to a diamond mine up in the back
country. It was one of those secret touches, after the manner of Robert
Louis Stevenson and Joseph Conrad. You know the flair--old mine worked
ages ago by the Indians, and the secret of it lost, dangerous country
full or hostile tribes, and so on and so on. Do you follow!"

"I think so," Ray said. "Queer characters on parchment, and perhaps a
few skulls and crossbones mixed up with it."

"Well, more or less. Matter of fact, there was a shy sort of
half-desperado at the far end, to whom the property belonged. Before we
could do anything else we had to get his consent to the expedition, and
this we managed by offering him part of the plunder, and in a moment of
inspiration I suggested that we should have it all down in black and
white."

"Here, hold hard a minute," Ray cried. "Before we go any further, have a
look at those documents. I mean the agreement in Spanish. I shall be
rather disappointed if you don't find that you have seen the thing
before."

Cranston turned over the paper in front of him, and eagerly began to
read. Almost at once he looked up with an amazed expression on his thin,
lined face.

"Good Lord, you are right," he exclaimed. "This is the original
agreement between Lon What's-his-name and my poor old friend,
Barlington. And here is an endorsement at the end of Barlington's
writing, transferring his rights to Edward Keen. Stop a moment, I must
have another look at this."

With a magnifying glass at his eye, Cranston went over the endorsement
meticulously.

"Ah, just as I thought," he said. "This is a forgery. Oh, you can't
deceive me where a forgery is concerned. Rather cleverly done, but a
flaw all the same. Upon my word, Ray, this business is most infernally
complicated. But I am beginning to understand. After we got that
agreement, Barlington went up country taking his wife and child with
him. Mind you, I was dead against that idea, because I know the danger
of it."

"Half a minute," Ray said. "Did you know Keen?"

"Oh, I knew the swine all right. Called himself a Brazilian merchant.
But that was all swank. He was anything so long as he made
money--swindler, smuggler, gun-runner, anything you like. And he was
very anxious at one time to marry the girl who became Barlington's wife.
I didn't know much about her, except that she was a lady of quite good
family, who had gone out to South America as governess to the children
of some Brazilian swell. However, she fell in love with Charlie
Barlington and married him. I don't suppose this has got anything to do
with your business----"

"Oh, hasn't it!" Ray said drily. "However, I need not go into that just
at present. Was Keen what you might call one of those revengeful type of
men?"

"I don't know," Cranston said thoughtfully. "He was a nasty man to
cross, and never forgave an injury. He and that man of his, a sort of
body-servant----"

"I must interrupt you again," Ray said. "I should rather like to have a
thumbnail portrait of that fellow."

"Meaning Keen's familiar, eh? Rather a big chap. Very smug-looking and
outwardly respectable, with a clean-shaven face and a wide, tight-lipped
mouth."

"Ah, that will do," Ray said. "I don't mind telling you that Keen at the
present moment is living in London, and that he has a butler in his
employ whose description tallies exactly with what you are telling me.
But go on."

"Well, I don't think there is very much more to tell you. Poor old
Charlie went up country with his wife and child, and none of them were
ever heard of again. I always had my suspicions, but it was impossible
to prove anything, though I feel sure that Keen could have told me a lot
about it. But just about that time I got into a heap of trouble,
entirely through my own fault, and I had to leave that part of the world
in rather a hurry. But it is strange to come across traces of that old
story in this extraordinary way. Is there anything more I can tell you?"

"Not for the moment," Ray said. "You have given me a lot of really
valuable information which I shall be able to use when the time comes.
But in another direction you can help me. You do a good deal for
publishers of high-class work, and I suppose you have been in contact at
some time or another with every bookmaking house that produces technical
volumes. Now, have you ever heard of a great entomologist called Moon!"

"Of course I have," Cranston said. "Once I designed a title page for his
firm. They are very good people, and their offices are at Minerva House,
Charing Cross road. The name is Cotter and Lee. If you like, I will give
you an introduction to them, though it would be no great
recommendation."

Ray went off presently in the direction of Charing Cross road and turned
eventually into a fine suite of offices where he asked to see the junior
partner in the firm. It was some little time before he found himself in
a large, luxuriously furnished apartment, lined with books. At a big
desk in the window sat a benign looking gentleman with Ray's card in his
hand.

"Well, what can I do for you, sir!" he asked.

"Ah, that for the moment, I cannot say," Ray smiled. "As a matter of
fact, I am one of the confidential heads of Scotland Yard, and I am
going to ask you to give me certain information which will, of course,
be regarded as absolutely confidential."

"Oh, really," the old gentleman said. "I am afraid that this is rather
out of our line. However----"

"You never know," Ray said. "Mr. Lee, would you be good enough to tell
me everything you know with regard to one of your most important
clients? I mean Mr. Moon."

The publisher polished his spectacles thoughtfully.

"Now, that is rather odd, Mr. Ray," he said. "Most of our clients are
personal friends of ours. We only publish high-class literature, and we
are rather proud of our list of authors. Amongst others, Mr. Moon, of
course. But, really, I don't know anything more about the gentleman in
question than you do yourself."

"Am I really to believe that?" Ray asked.

"Indeed you are, sir. I have never seen Mr. Moon in my life. Nobody on
the premises has ever seen him."

"He deals through an agent, perhaps?"

"No. He writes to us direct, from addresses all over the world,
evidently typewritten, dictated letters, and they are always signed with
the initials of his typist. When we have royalties to forward, they are
sent as directed. But I need not tell you, Mr. Ray, that there is very
little money in Moon's type of work. The people who buy books published
at two guineas and upwards are few and far between. They are mostly
collectors and advanced students, and I need not remind you that
reproductions of moths and butterflies in colour render such works
exceedingly dear. Mr. Moon is a very great man, but evidently rather
eccentric, and, no doubt he has his own reasons for keeping himself to
himself. So you see that it is impossible for me to help you."

But Ray did not seem to be in the least disappointed. He had rather
expected something like this, and it merely served to confirm certain
suspicions which were already growing up in his mind. There was a long
way to go yet, and much time must elapse before that suspicion became a
certainty, and there were many things to do in the way of clearing the
ground. On the face of it, there was nothing very extraordinary in the
fact of an eccentric scientist keeping to himself. And, no doubt, John
Everard Moon was prone to this sort of secrecy. Not that it mattered
much.

Therefore, Ray strolled back to his own quarters and from thence called
up Barle on the telephone. He gave him a general outline of what he was
doing, and how far he had gone, to all of which Barle listened with
frank delight.

"Well, certainly, you have not been wasting your time," he said. "Now,
what do you want me to do?"

"Well, in the first place I want you to put somebody on to keep a close
watch upon Keen. I have no doubt, whatever, now that he is the moving
spirit in these big robberies, and that the whole programme is arranged,
and carried out at the Thatched House behind drawn blinds. But that is
not sufficient. I want to know all about Keen and what sort of business
he is doing in the city. I shall be greatly surprised to find that he is
doing any real business at all. Of course, you could arrest him on the
information already given you, but if you did that the rest of the gang
would slip through our fingers. I think you will agree with me that ours
is a waiting game, and that it will pay us to have Keen shadowed very
carefully for the next few days. And whilst I am about it, I should also
like to have a watch kept upon his butler at Silverdale Mansions. The
man's name is Easton, Thomas Easton. At least, that is the name by which
he is known at present."

"All right," Barle replied. "I will give the necessary instructions.
Meanwhile, what are you going to do?"

"That," Ray said, "will depend on circumstances."



CHAPTER VIII.--A NECESSARY PRECAUTION.


For the first time for some days, Ray felt himself justified in taking
an hour or two off and devoting that opportunity to his own more or less
private affairs. In the first place, he was particularly anxious to see
Angela again, and that for more reasons than one. But he was not going
to call at Silverdale Mansions. He might have done so but for his
conversation with Cranston a little earlier in the day. On the occasion
of his visit to Silverdale Mansions he had used his eyes to the best
advantage and had been no less suspicious because he already had some
sort of a grip on the character of the man he was approaching. And,
therefore, when he had found himself confronted at the door of the flat
by the butler, he had taken a swift mental photograph of that
individual. And, sooth to say, the impression on his mind had been
anything but a favourable one. And now he knew, beyond the shadow of a
doubt, that this same man Easton had been Keen's right hand man in all
the former's rascalities on the other side of the world.

It would, therefore, be somewhat rash on his part if he called at the
flat to see Angela and was confronted on the doorstep, as he would be,
by Thomas Easton. He had gone there once merely as an enthusiastic
amateur in entomology intent on imparting information to the great John
Everard Moon himself, and there, apparently, the business had ended. He
had no sort of pretext now for knocking at Keen's front door, and,
perhaps, identifying himself with Scotland Yard. You never know how much
these sort of people guessed, and the slightest slip might prove fatal
to all his plans. So he would have to hang about in the neighbourhood,
mostly in a bookseller's shop, under pretence of buying something, and
keeping his eye open on the street. He knew that Angela had no friends,
but on the other hand, he knew that, on most fine afternoons, she walked
for an hour or so in Kensington Gardens, and on this fact he was
proceeding. Then, after a delay of an hour or so, his patience was
rewarded. He saw Angela pass the shop, and followed her at a discreet
distance until she reached one of her favourite spots in the gardens,
and sat down. It was rather a secluded corner, and, anyhow, Ray knew
that he had not been followed.

She gave a little cry of pleasure when she saw him coming, and held out
her hand.

"I thought I was never going to see you again," she said. "I have been
hoping that you would call."

"Nothing I should like better," Ray said. "My dearest girl, I should
like to call every day. I should like to take you out to matinees and
little dinners, but I am afraid that would never do. I want your
guardian, or whatever he calls himself, to regard the incident between
us as closed. Angela, I think that our happiness is very dear to you."

She looked up with glowing eyes and a tender smile that went straight to
Ray's head. She was very sweet and desirable just then, and her pathetic
loveliness touched him deeply.

"There are reasons why these little meetings of ours must be kept a
secret," he continued. "I am not going to suggest that you are in
danger, because I have already seen to that. You are being watched
carefully as if you were royalty, but you are more or less in the hands
of a most unscrupulous man. Not for long, of course, but there it is for
the moment. Now, I want you to keep a close eye upon Keen, and let me
know everything he does. No little thing that he does is too small.
Write to me every day to the address which I will give you, and post the
letters yourself. And when I have time to see you, I will meet you here.
What newspapers do you take at the flat?"

"Most of them," Angela said. "The 'Morning Post' and the 'Times' and
some of the illustrateds."

"The 'Times' will serve admirably," Ray said. "Read the agony column
every day, and when you see an announcement that says, 'K.G. this
afternoon' you will know that it is from one, and that you are to meet
me here at this hour. And, whatever you do, mind that you don't incur
the suspicions of that man, Easton. Never let him see you with a letter
in your hand, and never appear to be under the impression that he is
watching you."

"It all sounds very dreadful," Angela murmured.

"Well, as a matter of fact, it isn't in the least dreadful," Ray smiled.
"Nobody dreams for a moment that I am in any way connected with the man
from Scotland Yard."

"As bad as that?" Angela cried. "Do you mean to say that my guardian,
Mr. Keen----"

"I prefer to say nothing about Mr. Keen for the moment. All I can tell
you is there is something very wrong going on, and that you may be able
to help when the time comes; indeed, your own happiness depends upon it.
Do you have many visitors at the flat?"

"Very few," Angela explained; "Not more than four or five gentlemen who
dine, occasionally. But I am quite sure that they are all highly
respectable people."

"I don't doubt it for a moment," Ray smiled grimly. "Sound, substantial
men of business, who give the house a sort of air. But doesn't any one
else come?"

"I don't think so," Angela said. "Oh, yes, late at night. You see, it is
rather dull for me in the flat, and I can't spend all my time playing
the piano and reading novels, so I generally retire early. And now you
come to mention it, I remember several occasions when Easton has let
people in before midnight. Of course, I never saw any of them."

"Of course, you wouldn't," Ray smiled. "Now, tell me, does Easton sleep
on the premises?"

"No, he doesn't," Angela said. "It isn't a large flat, at least, the
bedroom accommodation is rather limited. There are only four of them
altogether. That is, mine and Mr. Keen's and two servants' rooms, one
occupied by the cook, and the other by the two housemaids. I believe
that Easton sleeps in the basement, where the night porter has his
quarters."

"What time does he go?" Ray asked.

"Somewhere between eleven and midnight; never later, as far as I know.
Why do you ask?"

"Um, yes," Ray muttered. "He leaves the house pretty regularly, and
occasionally Keen has late visitors that he turns out himself, and the
place is a flat. Now, I wonder if you would have the courage to do a
little eavesdropping? I mean, forget things in the library, and get out
of your bed and fetch them? It is not a very pleasant suggestion, I
know, but it is of vital importance. I wonder if you would mind?"

Angela looked into her lover's face with steady, level eyes, and a
compression of her lips.

"I would do anything to get rid of this terrible mystery," she said.
"Oh, Harry, you don't know how I hate the flat and the terrible air of
wrong-doing that hangs about it. Of course, I am a nameless nobody----"

"Of course, you are nothing of the kind," Ray said. "I am going to prove
that to you before long. But you will have to help, my dear, you will
have to help. Will you?"

No reply came from Angela's lips, but the expression in her eyes was
quite enough for Ray. He knew, without being told, that he was going to
have a trusty ally there. And so they sat for a time in close
companionship, whilst Keen and all his works were forgotten. Then Ray
suddenly woke to the fact that it was five o'clock, and jumped to his
feet.

"Good Lord, how the time slips on," he said. "I must be going. No, I am
not going to walk a yard from here with you. And now, don't forget what
I told you as to the agony column of the 'Times.' And when I meet you in
a day or two, I hope that you will have some real live information for
me."

With that they parted, and Ray went on his way. It was nearly seven on
the next evening before he came away from Cranston's dreary attic with
the facsimilies of those precious papers in his hand. He took a taxi
back to his own rooms, where he deposited the originals in his safe and
then, with the others on his person, went round to his club and dined.
He played a couple of rubbers of bridge afterwards, and, shortly before
ten o'clock, hailed another taxi and drove down to Shepperton.

"You will wait here for me at the corner of the road," he instructed the
driver. "I may be half an hour, I may be two hours, and I may not come
back at all. But mind, you are engaged on official business--Scotland
Yard. And if I am not here in four hours' time go back to my
headquarters and report the matter. Here is a pound note for you on
account of your fare."

The man touched his hat with an understanding grin, and Ray disappeared
across the fields in the direction of the bungalow. He knew the way
perfectly well in the darkness, and a quarter of an hour later crept
cautiously across the flagged terrace until he was standing outside the
library window. He was taking no risks, he had no intention of entering
the house until he was absolutely satisfied that it was empty. Knowing
what he did of the people who had taken possession of the place he was
quite prepared to discover a number of people there. He stood waiting
quite a long time, hardly daring to move, and with eyes now accustomed
to the darkness made out the big window frame that gave on the terrace.
He knew that there were thick curtains across it, which kept out every
ray of light, save from somewhere under the ill-fitting casement of the
French window. Then he congratulated himself upon his caution, for he
knew now that somebody was there in the room.

He crept round to the back of the house and through the pantry window
made his way into the darkened corridor. The library door was open, and
a strong beam of light came from it. Very quietly Ray looked in. He saw
an elderly man with a grey beard and spectacles, and facing him the
butler, Easton.

Ray almost fell back in his astonishment.

"Moon," he said, in a voiceless whisper. "The great man himself. Now
what on earth is he doing here just now?"



CHAPTER IX.--THE GANG AT WORK.


Ray stood there in the dense shadow looking into the lighted room for a
moment so surprised that he forgot to take the necessary precautions. In
a way it was natural enough that Moon should be in his own house, but he
had certainly gathered from Keen that his friend was on the other side
of the world. Still, the great scientist was notoriously eccentric in
his movements, a law unto himself, a man who came and went just as he
liked, without consulting anybody. It had only been for a few minutes
some years before that Ray had met the great man at an evening crush
just outside San Salvador, but the clear impression of that rather fine
head with its grey beard and thick glasses remained in his mind, and not
for a moment did he doubt that he was practically face to face with one
of the objects of his search.

So he stood there, in the velvety blackness of the hall, looking into
the room where Moon was seated at a table, and more or less engaged in
writing some thing. Opposite to him stood Keen's rather mysterious
butler, who, as far as Ray could judge, was waiting for orders. His
attitude was respectful enough, and there was nothing between the two
men to suggest the slightest familiarity.

Was Moon in any way connected with these daring robberies? Or was he
merely being used by Keen as a pawn in the bold game that he was
playing? It would have been just the sort of audacious move that a man
like Keen would conceive. Ray could see clearly enough that such a piece
of strategy would appeal strongly to a man of Keen's undoubted
intellect. Nor would it be very difficult, either, with an old gentleman
who lived with his head in the clouds, and thought of nothing but his
beloved butterflies. Still, one could never quite tell. Ray had read of
too many notorious criminals who devoted their spare time to scientific
and intellectual hobbies, both by inclination and also as a cloak to
divert attention from their predatory activities. These incidents were
too numerous to be recapitulated.

Ray waited there, minute after minute, for one or the other of the men
inside the room to break the silence. He felt more or less safe, unless
some third person came along and turned on the light, in which case his
position would be a trying one. He had an exit one way, but if that
source was cut off, then he might find himself in a serious position.
There was nothing for it, therefore, but to stand there, on the off
chance of hearing something which he might presently turn to advantage.
It would be exceedingly awkward if Moon made up his mind to remain in
the bungalow for the night, and still more awkward if it turned out that
Easton the butler was sleeping there also. Perhaps it would be just as
well to get back into the garden and wait there for an hour or so, until
the lights were turned down, and the two men in the library had retired
for the night. But Ray was a little unwilling to miss what was taking
place in that lighted room.

Presently Moon looked up from his table and spoke.

"You have carried out my instructions?" he asked.

"I have done that, sir," Easton replied. "I don't think there is
anything further that I can do. I don't know whether you want me to stay
here to-night, sir, or not. Of course, if you do, I shall be very
pleased to help."

"No, I don't think so," Moon said thoughtfully. "I can manage by myself.
It will only be for a day or two at the outside, indeed perhaps less
than that. You can light the fire in the kitchen, and put the kettle on,
and after that I can manage for myself. On the whole, Easton, I think it
would be far better if you went back to the flat."

This was rather good hearing in a way, and Ray breathed a little easier.
He retired further into the shadows and stood crouching there whilst the
butler went along to the kitchen and turned up the lights there.
Presently Ray could hear the crackling of wood and the drawing of water,
and then the man came back into the library and informed Moon what he
had done.

"Yes, I think that will be all," the great man said. "And now, you be
off at once. You will be able to catch the last train back if you don't
delay, and if I want you in the morning I will let you know in the usual
way. Go out by the back door, and don't trouble to fasten it."

A few minutes later, and Ray knew that he and Moon were alone in the
house. Very softly he moved from room to room to make sure of this,
using his electric torch for the purpose. So far as he could ascertain,
there was nothing to fear in that direction, and, therefore, he came
back again to his observation post, and for a long time stood there
intently watching the old man who appeared to be deeply engrossed in his
correspondence. He rose presently and Ray shrank back again, but it was
only for a moment, when it became apparent that Moon had no intention as
yet of leaving the warm seclusion of the library. He crossed the room
with a small sheet of paper in his hand which he appeared to be
comparing with certain books on the shelves. Then a handful of volumes
were withdrawn and from behind it Moon produced a long black cylinder,
not unlike those used for the purpose of containing oxygen, indeed just
for a moment Ray took it to be oxygen, until he realised that it
possessed no weight, for Moon lifted it with one hand quite easily, and
laid it on the table where it dropped with no more sound than a roll of
paper would have made. When the scroll was open a huge sheet of paper
was disclosed which Ray could see was some sort of a map, and this the
scientist proceeded to spread out and attach to a bookshelf with a
handful of drawing pins. Then Ray could see that it was a large scale
map of Brazil, marked here and there with splashes of red that conveyed
nothing to the onlooker. For some little time Moon studied this closely,
then, putting the whole thing back in its case, and replacing it from
whence he had produced it, threw his correspondence into a drawer and
then cheerfully advanced in the direction of the door. He passed Ray so
close that the latter could have touched him. After that, he was doing
something in the tiny kitchen, and appeared once more carrying something
that smelt like a cup of cocoa and a plate of sandwiches. He was a long
time consuming them, and after what seemed to Ray to be an interminable
period, he yawned, wound up his watch, and went sleepily into his
bedroom.

Then followed another dreary vigil, with Ray crouched outside the
bedroom door until Moon's regular breathing denoted the fact that the
latter was fast asleep. It was now long past midnight, and Ray got to
work with a sense of relief. Anything better than standing there waiting
for the unexpected to happen. Very swiftly he removed the case
containing the Golden Bat and its companion from the wall, and stripping
away the piece of discoloured wallpaper, thrust the packet of forgeries
into the space from which he had purloined the original. The strips of
stamp paper were restored again, and the cases carefully fitted into
their places, and Ray had turned to go when a sudden laugh broke on his
ears.

It was a sort of low chuckle, followed by another, evidently from some
one else, and then a word of caution in a third voice and after that
silence. Ray shut off his electric torch and stood there tense and
eager, waiting for some indication as to the direction from which the
sound came. Then the kitchen door was thrown open and a long shaft of
light struck into the gloom of the corridor. Ray drew back against the
wall.

There were three men in the kitchen which opened directly on to the
corridor, so that Ray, from his hiding place, could watch every
movement. He saw a trio of entire strangers to him, young men, strong
and vigorous, and from the expression in their faces recklessly ready
for anything. So far as he could make out, they were all in a sort of
uniform. Not military kit exactly, but attired in the short livery
jackets and black leggings which one is accustomed to see in the case of
a gentleman's chauffeur. They had gathered round the fire, which was
still burning brightly, and on the little table before them was a
freshly-opened bottle of whisky. Ray crept up closer, so that he might
not miss anything that was said. But, before doing this, he noiselessly
slipped the latch on the front door, so that if anything happened he
would have a means of retreat, for he had no wish to try a game of
violence with those reckless-looking men seated by the fire.

"Well, here we are again," the first of them said. "Safe and sound once
more, and on the whole the best night's work we have ever done. This is
the life! Far better than going round the country telling everybody that
we are the heroes that the country was going to be made fit for, and
getting snubbed for our pains. Oh, there is nothing like being a soldier
in wartime."

It was a reckless speech enough, but made by a man who is evidently not
born to the criminal classes. Ray recognised the refined accent and the
stamp of the public school.

"Yes, that's right enough," the second man said. "But don't speak quite
so loud. I happen to know that the old man is here, and we shan't gain
much by disturbing his beauty sleep."

"Confounded nuisance," the third man observed. "Now what on earth
possessed him to come back just at this time? Keen must have been pretty
mad when he heard about it."

"Oh, I don't know," the first speaker said. "He's a downy bird, is Keen,
and you never quite know what he'll be up to next. I have been in this
show now for a year or two, and I haven't had much cause to regret it
from the cash point of view. But I don't trust Keen, and if it paid him
to do so he would give away the lot of us to-morrow."

"Here, steady-on," the next man said. "What a reckless devil you are,
Bill. You never know where Keen is, and who may be listening. If he
heard one word of that you would be sorry for it--for about five years.
Come on, lads, let's have a drop of whisky and a biscuit or two and get
back to our own quarters."

"That's all right," another of the gang said. "But what about the
stuff?"

"Oh, chuck it on the table. Easton will be here before morning, and he
will see to that. I am not going a yard from here with the goods in my
pocket. One runs risk enough in getting the boodle, without carrying it
about."

With that, the speaker put his hand in his pocket, and carelessly threw
half a dozen jewel cases on the big deal table behind him. The others
followed his example, and presently a dozen or more cases lay there in a
huddled heap. The bottle of whisky was more or less emptied, and then,
as mysteriously as they had come, the three men vanished into the night.

"Well, I don't seem to have been wasting my time," Ray said to himself.
"Now, I wonder where that lot came from? Evidently the gang had made a
big haul to-night. I suppose I shall have to leave it where it is."

Indeed, there was no alternative, if the desperate characters Keen had
gathered about him were to be laid by the heels in their entirety.
Obviously their plans were perfectly laid, and obviously also there was
some secure hiding-place within a few yards of where Ray was standing
where the stolen property could be laid aside until such time as the
leader could dispose of it. Keen was not the sort of man to sell the
proceeds of crime to the first 'fence' who offered him a few pounds for
it. No doubt the stolen property lay snugly hidden until such time as it
could be disposed of to advantage, and perhaps if he stayed there long
enough Ray thought he might get a clue to the treasure house. He had
heard one of the three say that Easton was coming back again, but that
was merely a surmise, and there was much to do in the meantime.

So Ray rather reluctantly crept out of the house and across the fields
to the place where his taxi was awaiting him. An hour later, and he was
back in his rooms again.



CHAPTER X.--A BIT OF A SURPRISE.


Ray had slept well and breakfasted at his leisure, after which he used
the secret telephone number and got in touch with Barle again. He gave
the latter a concise account of the happenings of the previous night, to
all of which the great man at the other end of the wire listened with
flattering interest.

"You are certainly not wasting your time, my young friend," he said.
"Moreover I think you did quite right to leave those jewels where you
found them."

"I couldn't very well do anything else," Ray said.

"In the circumstances, no. I agree with you that there is a hiding place
somewhere, and it will be our business to find it. But don't you trouble
about that side of the affair, because you have far more important work
to do. There is not the slightest doubt that Keen's is the master brain
in this undertaking, and that Keen is the man you have got to watch."

In the course of the morning Ray sent one of his messages to the 'Times'
and passed the time as best he could till the following afternoon, when
he went off in the direction of Kensington Gardens to meet Angela. She
had already arrived when he got there, and he could see by her sparkling
eyes and heightened colour that something had happened.

"Well," he asked. "Well, anything new?"

"Really I don't know," Angela smiled. "I have done exactly what you told
me, and I have kept my eyes open. It has been all the easier because
Easton has been away from the flat for the best part of two days."

"Oh come, that's interesting," Ray said. "I suppose you don't happen to
know where he has been?"

Angela shook her head. It had not occurred to her that the doings of a
butler would arouse any sort of curiosity.

"Oh, of course I don't know," she said. "But I think something has
happened. Mr. Keen has been very restless and irritable the last day or
two, and quite different from his usual self. I think that the night
before last something that came through the post upset him. He was in
the drawing-room with me, and I was playing to him when Easton came in
with the late letters. I wasn't watching particularly, but I heard him
give an exclamation, and then there came an expression over his face
which was positively dreadful. He seemed to realise that I was looking
at him, because he turned it off with a laugh, and muttered something
about those fools of clerks. But he went out a few seconds later, and
for quite a long time I heard him talking in a low tone with Easton in
the kitchen. Then I saw Easton leave the flat, carrying a despatch case
in his hand, and with an overcoat on his arm."

"What time did that come about?" Ray asked.

"Somewhere near half-past 9 I should think. You know the hour when the
last post comes in."

"And what happened then?" Ray asked.

"Oh, then Mr. Keen went out himself. He told me he should be late, and
that if he were not back by morning I was not to worry about him. But he
didn't say anything about Easton. And when he had gone some little time
I went down into the hall and saw the night porter. I told him I wanted
to speak to Easton for a moment, and he informed me that Easton had come
down to his room to get something, and had afterwards gone in in a taxi.
And Easton had not been back since."

"What excuse does Keen make for that?"

"He doesn't make any excuse at all. He has said nothing whatever about
Easton, and I didn't ask for fear Mr. Keen should think I was prying. Of
course, we can do without Easton, because we have a cook and two other
servants in the flat; but I thought it was funny my guardian should not
allude to Easton, not even to tell me he had gone for two days' holiday.
It rather frightens me, Harry; I hate all this mystery."

She snuggled closer to him as if for protection, and Ray saw that she
was greatly disturbed.

"I am very sorry, dearest," he said. "But I am afraid you will have to
put up with it for a little longer. I dare not tell you too much,
because what I know might tax your strength too far. You have no idea
what a brilliantly clever man your guardian is. If he had the slightest
inkling that you knew anything of what is going on, he would twist you
round his little finger and get it out of you before you realised that
you had told him anything. And he wouldn't show it either. He would
probably be more pleasant to you than ever. But you would suffer in the
long run. And he would get away with everything. All I can say is that
he is one of the most dangerous criminals in the world. He is utterly
unscrupulous, and would not even stick at murder. I don't for a moment
mean that he would lay violent hands upon you, but there are others, and
those others must be protected. Now, Angela, what is the dearest wish of
your heart?"

The girl looked up with a wistful smile.

"Oh, I think you know that," she murmured. "First of all I should like
to know who I really am. It's a horrible thing to go through the world
with a name like 'Miss Nemo.' I must have, or had, parents somewhere,
and if I knew where they were, life would be different altogether. Oh,
Harry, do you think you can help me in this matter? I would give
anything, anything to have the mystery cleared up. How can I possibly
marry you under such a ridiculous name as Angela Nemo?"

"Quite easily," Ray laughed. "You could marry me under the name of
Clytemnestra if you liked. Or Miss Beelzebub. You don't seem to realise
that it is you I want."

But Angela was apparently not satisfied.

"Oh, I know, I know," she said. "But put yourself in my place. Suppose
that you had no name, and that you wanted to marry a girl, well, a
girl----"

"Named Nemo, for instance, eh."

"Harry, I am quite serious," Angela went on. "You would have to tell
her, of course, and I don't think you would like that. I am quite sure
you wouldn't."

"Well, perhaps not," Ray admitted. "But suppose that in the course of my
investigations I have discovered something of the greatest possible
importance to the girl you are talking about? Suppose I could take her
from where she is at present and place her outside Keen's reach for
ever? Suppose when I had laid Keen and his tools by the heels I could
come along with proofs that you were not Miss Nemo. But Miss----"

"Is that possible?" Angela asked. "Do you really mean that, or are you
only encouraging me?"

"My dearest little girl," Ray said solemnly. "There is no supposing
about it. I am perfectly certain that I shall be able to do what I
suggest if you will only place yourself entirely in my hands. Go on in
the way you are going, pick up all the information you can, and try and
behave as if things were as they were before we met in London. That is
what I want you to do. You may not think you have accomplished much, but
even in this short time you have given me some really valuable
information. You are not Miss Nemo, and I hope before long that I shall
be able to show you who you really are. But we have a long way to go
first."

They sat there for some time in a blissful silence, heedless of the
passers' by, and living for the moment in a world of their own. For that
shining hour, at any rate, Ray quite forgot that he was a detective, and
that he had come there with one single purpose at the back of his mind.
They talked about themselves, to the exclusion of everything else, until
a distant clock, chiming the half after four, brought Ray back to
realities again.

"I am afraid I shall have to be going," he said. "I should like to meet
you like this every day, but that is impossible. You can write to me
whenever you like, because it will be perfectly safe to do so, and you
can give me every little detail. You never know in my profession how
important details sometimes are. They may seem trivial to you, but on
the other hand they may be simply vital to the case I am building up.
The first opportunity I have of seeing you again I shall take, of
course, but it will have to be through the Agony Column of the 'Times'
as usual."

"I won't forget," Angela whispered.

"That's right. And now are you quite sure you have told me everything?
No detail left out?"

"I have already told you so," Angela protested.

"Yes, yes, but I don't think you have, all the same. You told me that
Easton was away for a day or two; and you also informed me that, on the
night he left, Keen went out, saying that he might be very late. But you
didn't tell me what hour he came back. And you haven't told me if he is
at the moment in London."

"No, I didn't," Angela exclaimed. "How stupid of me. He didn't come back
that night, and the next afternoon he went off on one of his mysterious
journeys and is still away. It was rather unfortunate, because Mr.
Moon----"

"Mr. What?" Ray almost shouted. "Oh, I know who you mean. The great
entomologist. Do you mean to say that you have seen him? Has he been to
the flat?"

"He is at the flat now," Angela said.

Ray held his breath for a second or two.

"Staying in that flat?" he asked.

"Why yes. He came late last night, and told me that he was expected. I
think he said he had just returned from Brazil, and that he would only
be in England for a day or two. Such a dear old man, Harry, with his
long beard and glasses. So I put him into Mr. Keen's bedroom and there
he is. He and I are quite friendly. I suppose he means to stay till Mr.
Keen comes back. It's wonderful how he seems to know the place. If he
wants a book, he doesn't ask for it, he goes to the right spot and takes
it."

Ray sat there just a little dazed with a blinding illumination that
suddenly dazzled him.

"Oho," he said. "We are getting on."



CHAPTER XI.--THE LITTLE SHOP AT POPLAR.


Ray sat there, so deeply plunged in thought, that he was quite lost to
what Angela was saying. If his brain was not playing him some fantastic
trick, he was on the edge of a clue which, a few hours ago, he would
have discarded as a figment of a distorted imagination. But here was
Angela practically confirming it. He stole a glance at her
sweetly-serious face, with its rather proud glory, and its soft sadness,
the face of one who carries a secret grief which has to be hidden from
the world at any cost. But the lips were firm and the eyes denoted
courage, and Ray was going to trust her.

"I am very sorry, darling," he said, "but something you said set me
thinking, and I heard nothing. A chance remark of yours gave me an
inspiration so great that I am almost afraid to go on with it. However,
it's no use talking like that. What I want to know is whether you can
tell me anything about your past. I mean, have you got a scrap of paper,
a letter, a photograph, anything of that sort that one could go on? Even
a ring?"

Angela shook her head gently.

"I am afraid not, dear," she said. "There it nothing amongst my childish
treasures that has come to me since I came to England. Oh, I have been
thinking about it."

"Yes, but how did you come to England? You must have been quite a tiny
child at the time. Who looked after you?"

A sudden light leapt into Angela's eyes.

"Oh, is that what you mean?" she cried. "But you don't suppose that my
old nurse----"

"Ah," Ray said. "Now we are getting to it. You did have an old nurse,
then? Is she dead?"

"Not as far as I know," Angela replied. "She comes to see me
occasionally, at very long intervals, and she is on quite friendly terms
with Mr. Keen. She keeps a little shop down at Poplar. I have only been
there once, because it is a rough neighbourhood, and not altogether
safe. It is a queer little place in one of the old-fashioned streets
with the back windows looking on the river, and no doubt at one time was
inhabited by prosperous tradespeople. Now it is falling into decay, and
the houses on both sides are empty. Roffy is her name, Jane Roffy, and
her husband used to be a fireman on one of the South American liners.
She was a stewardess on his boat, and that is how she came to be a sort
of nurse of mine on the way home. You can see her if you like, not that
I expect she can tell you anything, but she might. You never know, do
you?"

"No, you don't," Ray said, significantly. "Now I want you to do
something. I want you to give me a letter of introduction to that woman,
so that I can call upon her with it, and explain things, as far as it is
necessary to do so. I suppose that she is more or less trustworthy?"

"Oh, indeed, yes. She is remarkably fond of me, indeed; she couldn't be
more so if I was her own daughter. But I can foresee one difficulty--she
thinks rather highly of Mr. Keen, and you don't want him to know
anything."

"That is quite right," Ray said. "But I am not going down to Poplar in
my present guise. I am going to be a South American sailor, on whom you
wish to confer a favour, and in your letter you can hint, perhaps, that
I have got into some sort of trouble. You need not mention my name, but
imply that this is a secret between your old nurse and yourself. If she
is as fond of a romance as most women, then I take it that she is not
likely to mention the matter to anybody else. You know what to do. Write
this letter as soon as you get home and post it yourself to my private
address. And do it to-night."

Without asking any further questions, Angela fell eagerly enough in with
Ray's suggestions. They parted at the usual place, and Ray went
thoughtfully homewards. In the morning the letter came--just a few
lines, saying enough, and yet not too much, and with this Ray went on
his way.

He did not go direct to Poplar, but called in at a shop in the
neighbourhood of Covent Garden, where he was well known, and thence
emerged, half an hour later, in the guise of a Dago sailor. It was by no
means the first time he had used the establishment in Covent Garden, and
the people there were well paid to keep his secret; in fact, it was part
of a scheme that he had worked out in connection with the officials of
Scotland Yard. It was an excellent disguise, and Ray had every reason to
be pleased with it. He looked to the very life one of those South
American seafaring men, most of whose lives are passed deep down in the
bowels of some great, ocean-going ship, in fact, a stoker or a fireman
who was rather down on his luck. Thus guised, he would have no
difficulty whatever in acting the part he was about to assume, and, at
the same time, secure the object of his journey, and not let the old
nurse know too much. He walked the whole way to Poplar, where he had no
difficulty in finding the object of his search. It was a little,
beetle-browed shop in a dingy street adjoining the river, with two
stories over it, and from what he could judge most of the inhabitants of
that silent byway eked out a living by letting lodgings to the floating
seafaring population that drifted there from time to time, for most of
the windows bore an 'apartments' card, and here and there some
foreign-looking person shuffled along the street.

The shop was a tiny one, down two steps, and, in its dingy interior Ray
could make out a more or less modest tobacconist's shop, and, on the
other side of the counter, a big deal tressle, upon which daily and
weekly papers were spread out. Behind the counter stood a big, fair,
untidy woman, with an honest enough face, and a kindly look in her blue
eyes. In the grimy window, Ray had not failed to note a small,
hand-written notice to the effect that letters could be left there, and
received at a charge of one penny each. This, he decided, might be of
some use to him in the course of the coming campaign. He shuffled up to
the counter, and, without a word, placed the letter in the woman's hand.

"This for me?" she asked. "Yes, I see it is. Where did you get it from,
young fellow?"

"A lady gave it to me," Ray said. "A lady who has been my good friend.
She say to me, 'You come down here, and my old nurse, Jane, she will
help you.'"

"Oh, I will help you all right," the woman smiled. "When you sailors get
into trouble, you always come to Jane Roffy, and this looks like the
handwriting of my young mistress as was. Just hold on till I finds me
glasses."

The glasses were found at length, and the big woman leisurely spelt out
the contents of the letter. It was quite a long time before she had
finished this, so that Ray had ample leisure to study his surroundings.

She looked up presently and smiled. Evidently the letter had not been
without its effect.

"It is from my young mistress. God bless her," she said. "She wants me
to keep an eye upon you, and help you all I can. Got into trouble,
seemingly?"

Ray inclined his head silently.

"Ah, well, you can't put old heads on young shoulders. You look like one
of them sailor lads from South Ameriky, but things very often isn't what
they seems, and, unless I have lost by commonsense, you are something
more than a stoker. Well, it's no business of mine, and I was never one
to ask silly questions. But if Miss Angela wants me to help you, I will.
Now, tell me, young fellow, what is it as you do want?"

Ray winked at the woman behind the counter. It was a plain English wink,
and she recognised it as such. If there was some romance or mystery
behind this disguise, it did not in the least concern her, but, if the
entanglement concerned her beloved mistress, then that was a different
matter altogether.

"Ah," she said, "I know'd you weren't what you seem. I've been young
myself, though perhaps you wouldn't believe it, and I have had my own
little affairs, long before I met my old man. And he wasn't half a bad
'un, neither, 'cept when the drink was in him, and then 'e were a holy
terror. But never mind that. What can I do to help you and that young
missus of mine?"

"We will come to that presently," Ray said, speaking in his natural
voice. "You've guessed it, Mrs. Roffy. I am just as English as you are,
but there are reasons why I don't want to be seen either here or
elsewhere in London just now under my own identity. Miss Angela and
myself----"

The old woman nodded her head knowingly.

"Ah, I can guess all about that," she said. "Didn't I tell you just now
as I had been young myself? Ah, I can keep my mouth shut as well as most
people. But look here, young fellow, before we go any further. I
wouldn't have anything happen to Miss Angela, no, not if I had to cut my
right hand off to save it. You see, she's got no proper people, no one
to look after her, such as a mother or father, and she don't know
nothing about the world, poor lamb. It's girls like that as falls in
love with the first 'andsome scamp as comes along, and regrets it all
their lives after. Ah, I know, I've seen that sort of thing 'appen over
and over again, and 'ow can I tell as you ain't one of them good looking
rascals as fools a girl with an oily tongue and well--you know what I
mean. And you comes here in disguise, suggestin' that you are in a bit
of trouble, and you wants me to 'elp you. So does she, for that matter,
which don't make it no better, because she is only a child after all."

"Your sentiments do you credit, Mrs. Roffy," Ray said earnestly. "I am
deeply concerned in the future happiness of Miss Angela, and, like you,
I would do anything to save her. One of these days I am going to marry
her. There is a big trouble hanging over her head, and that trouble I
want to avert. I can't do it openly, and that is why I am here in this
disguise. But if you want me to prove to you that I am an honourable
man--well I don't think that would be very difficult."

Apparently, it was not difficult to convince Jane Roffy, even without
credentials, for at the end of five minutes, she was quite sure that she
was doing no harm to the girl she loved so well.

"And now, what is it as you do want?" she asked.

"Ah, now you are talking," Ray said. "I want you to tell me all you know
about Miss Angela's early days. I want to know how you first came in
contact with her, and in what circumstances Mr. Keen appointed you her
nurse. Did you know her father or mother by any chance? When you took
the child over and brought her to England from San Salvador, did she
have any sort of a wardrobe, any sort of clothing by which you could
identify her with her parents?"

"Ah, they was both dead," the woman said.

"Yes, so I gathered from what Miss Angela told me. But amongst the
child's belongings, was there any jewellery, any trinkets, letters, or
photographs----"

"Photographs," the woman interrupted. "Ah, there was more than one of
them. I'll----"

She broke off abruptly as a stranger entered the shop. He threw the
woman a curt nod and disappeared up a flight of steps in the gloom
beyond. Ray gave a little gasp of astonishment, and then his face set in
its usual expression.

For the man who had come in, as if familiar with the place, was none
other than Keen himself.



CHAPTER XII.--A FIND.


Ray said nothing until Keen's footsteps had died away in the distance,
and the shop was silent again.

"Is that gentleman a friend of yours?" he asked.

"Well, I can't exactly say that, sir. He is very good to me, and he
comes here sometimes on some sort of business which ain't no concern of
mine. He has a room upstairs where 'e sees seafaring men like yourself,
and from what I can gather 'e is writing a book about them. What he
calls local colour, whatever that may mean. But if you are as friendly
with Miss Angela as you say you are, surely you know Mr. Keen by sight."

"Certainly I do," Ray said promptly. "I knew it was Mr. Keen, but he
doesn't know anything about me. I don't go to his house, and if he knew
only half what I have told you, then it would be a serious matter for
Miss Angela and myself, so I have put this affair in your hands with
every confidence."

"And it shan't be betrayed, neither," Mrs. Roffy said vigorously. "Mr.
Keen is very friendly and nice to me, but I don't like him and never
did. And if you asked me why I couldn't tell you. What them writer chaps
calls woman's prejudice I suppose. Well, he comes here, and I takes in
his letters and he drifts about the neighbourhood in them funny old
clothes of his, all of which is no business of mine, so long as he pays
me 'andsome and regular, which he allus does, mind you. I dare say I am
an old fool, and probably shall get all of us into trouble, but my 'eart
always governed my 'ead, and allus will."

She maundered on in this strain for some considerable time, and Ray made
no effort to check her. At the end of ten minutes Keen came down the
stairs again, changed out of recognition, so changed, indeed, that Ray
almost let him pass without a challenging glance. It was only his
professional instinct that prompted him to turn and look after the
retreating figure at the last moment. And Keen might have slipped out
unnoticed had not Ray been thoroughly master of his business. You can
change a man's body out of all semblance to the real thing, you can
alter a face so that the owner's own mother would not know it again, but
you cannot disguise a man's ears, and Ray was somewhat of a specialist
in ears. His quick eye took in the heavy lobe and the flattened top
which he had noticed instinctively the first time he and Keen had met,
and he smiled to himself as Keen disappeared.

"Oh, he drifts about East in disguise too, does he?" Ray asked
smilingly. "That was Mr. Keen, wasn't it?"

"That's right," the woman said. "But there is nothing wrong, is there?"

"Why should there be?" Ray asked. "I know lots of writers do that sort
of thing, I mean the conscientious writers who want to have everything
absolutely correct. It is rather dangerous for a man in a good position
to go prowling about East End slums, day and night, dressed like a
gentleman. He might want to see the inside of one of those Chinese opium
dens. He might want to spend the night in what you call a doss house; a
score of reasons. If I were you I wouldn't worry about Mr. Keen's
disguises. Don't be too curious, it doesn't pay. So long as he treats
you well, and you can make money out of his presence here, the rest
matters nothing. So you let lodgings, do you? Do you think you could
take me in for a few days? I would pay you in advance, and get all my
meals out."

"Don't you worry about that," Mrs. Roffy said. "I will do for you
gladly enough, because there is no fortune in this business, and the
money would be a godsend. I will get your breakfast, too, but I couldn't
promise no more than that. And now, sir, what about them photographs?"

"Presently," Ray said. "Presently. Perhaps you would not mind my looking
over the house first."

Mrs. Roffy waddled to the door and shrilly summoned a small child who
was playing by herself in the gutter.

"Here, Liza Ann," she said. "You come in and mind shop for five minutes.
You knows what they wants and where I finds it. Here's twopence waiting
for you afterwards."

It was a larger house than Ray had anticipated, and one which, no doubt,
in the old spacious days, had been the residence of one of the Flemish
cloth merchants who flourished in that neighbourhood back in the time of
Charles II. A broad, shallow oak staircase, with carved
ballusters--quite a work of art in its way--led to the upper floor, out
of which three rooms opened. They were plainly yet comfortably furnished
as sailors' bedrooms and Ray saw that he might be quite at home there.
He saw something more than that when he came to look out through the
window of one of the back rooms. He saw that the house hung several feet
over the river, and that it would be possible to moor a boat against the
piles on which the house stood so that it would be hidden away safely in
the darkness without any danger from passing traffic. There was nothing
wonderful in this on the face of it, but it struck Ray that this
advantage might have something to do with Keen's choice of a hiding
place, where he could lie low, and no doubt meet his confederates in
circumstances not calculated to rouse the suspicions of the local or
river police. It was just possible, too, that the proceeds of Keen's
daring robberies might be conveyed out of the country through the medium
of Poplar and the river. It was only an idle speculation of the moment,
but there might be something in it, and Ray pigeon-holed the passing
idea in his mind with a view to further developments.

The room in which he stood was an ancient one, the walls of which were
covered with fine napkin panelling, so fine indeed that it would have
fetched a great deal of money had it found its way into some West End
auction room. The panels here and there were cracked with age, and with
gaping seams, so that it was possible in places to see through them.

"That would be rather awkward with the neighbours next door," Ray said,
as he pointed this out to his companion. "If anybody was in the adjacent
bedroom with a light----"

"Oh, don't you worry about that," Mrs. Roffy laughed. "As it 'appens,
there ain't any next door neighbour. The 'ouse 'as been condemned and
will be pulled down soon to make room for some of them there model
dwellings. And so my shop would have been too, only my landlord is on
the local council, and 'e knows 'ow to manage things. It you take this
bedroom, mister, you needn't fear as any Paul Pry's looking at you."

"I think the room will suit me very well," Ray said. "And I will take it
for a week anyhow. I will send a few things in to-night. And now that
that's settled, I think I would like to see those photographs."

"I will go and fetch 'em," Mrs. Roffy said. "Or perhaps you would like
to come down in the shop."

"I would much rather see them here," Ray replied. "To begin with, we are
not likely to be interrupted by Mr. Keen if he comes back, and the light
is so much better here."

"All right, sir; all right. I'll get 'em. But mind you they will take
some little time to find, because they are up in the attic, and I have
got a whole heap of rubbish up there to go through, before I can lay my
'ands on them."

Ray intimated that he was in no hurry, which indeed was no more than the
truth. He rather welcomed the opportunity of exploring the old house,
which he proceeded to do the very moment that he found himself alone.
Here, obviously, was Keen's bedroom, for on the couch lay the clothes he
had discarded, and beside it a bunch of coloured bunting which Ray had
no difficulty in recognising as the house flags of certain lines of
steamers. He was still studying these when Mrs. Roffy came down the
stairs with a small parcel in her hand.

"I've got 'em, sir, I've got 'em," she said. "You see. I first met Mr.
Keen when I was laid up in San Salvador. I didn't go back with my boat
that trip, and Roffy 'e more or less deserted and ran the risk of losing
'is job rather than leave me alone in foreign parts. So when I got
better we goes up country and there Mr. Keen finds us. He tells us of a
gent and his wife and little girl who had gone up in the mountains
huntin' for diamonds or some such trash, and how they'd got killed by
some native tribe and that the child had only been saved by a mere
accident. So 'e takes us to a native hut where the poor little girl was
lyin' looked after, by the wife of a Peon, and hands her over to me. It
was only out of mere curiosity as I asks that native woman if there was
any belongings of the child, and she gives me a bundle of clothes and an
envelope with some sort of drawings in it and them two photographs. You
see, I wasn't much interested in anything but the child and the clothes,
so I shoves the envelope into my pocket, and forgets all about it. And I
never did remember till long after I was back in England, and I had seen
Miss Angela properly looked after in Mr. Keen's house. Said 'e was going
to adopt her, and seems that 'e did. So seein' I had had them
photographs so long, I said nothing about them, and I don't suppose I
ever should if you hadn't come along just now."

There was a lot more of this that Ray did not interrupt, because there
was just the chance that, out of this ocean of chaff, some grain of
priceless corn might emerge. But, apparently, there was nothing, and a
moment later Ray had the photographs of a man and a woman in his hand.
They were faded almost to extinction, and yellow with exposure, but they
were quite enough to tell him that he had made a startling discovery.

They were the same photographs that Ray had taken from behind the case
containing the Golden Bat in the Thatched House, the same photograph
that Cranston had exclaimed in astonishment over when they had lain on
the table in his attic. The photographs of the father and mother of
Angela beyond the shadow of a doubt. The secret of Angela's birth was
laid bare!



CHAPTER XIII.--A PAIR OF SPECTACLES.


Ray turned over the photographs in his hand after the casual fashion of
one who is not particularly interested. At the same time, he knew that
his discovery was of the greatest possible importance. In the first
place, he had identified Angela as the only child of Lord Barlington's
unfortunate son, Charles, and, so far, he had not been wasting his time.
But for the present at any rate, he had no intention of telling Angela
this, and that for many reasons. It was all very well to establish the
secret of her birth and presently bring her in contact with her elderly
relative, but it was not for that purpose that he had come into the
tangle at all. In front of his love affairs he was a policeman, and
before he could think of himself he had to place the duty which he owed
to his employers. He knew perfectly well what effect this discovery
would have upon Angela, and how difficult it would be for her to keep
her joy and surprise a secret from the sharp eyes of Keen. And it was
his intention to make use of Angela in bringing to justice one of the
leading criminals of his day. And so far Ray was a long way from that.

He had made a great discovery, it was true--a discovery that went very
far in the way of simplifying the problem, but there was still a great
deal to be done.

"You are quite sure as to the identity of those photographs?" Ray asked.
"I mean they are Miss Angela's father and----"

"So far as I know. At any rate that was what the Peon woman told me, and
I don't doubt it, Mister. And there's nothing in the world as I wouldn't
do to help that sweet young lady."

"That I quite believe," Ray said. "And you are doing it a deal better
than you think. Now tell me all about Mr. Keen and for how long he has
been studying human nature down here. Does he have any friends to see
him here, any letters, and so forth?"

A few people, it seemed, were in the habit of calling on Keen at the
little shop. Mrs. Roffy, of course, had no idea as to the identity of
these persons, who appeared to belong to all classes of life. They came
and went as they liked, and she confessed to hardly noticing any of
them, for she had her shop to look after.

"And that is all I can tell you, sir," she said. "It isn't many letters
that Mr. Keen has addressed to him here."

"Addressed under his own name, eh?"

"Well, no, they are not. 'E calls 'isself Grover in these parts. That is
the name as comes on his letters. But, lor bless you, I 'as lots of
letters left here, mostly to do with betting. I ain't got no sympathy
with them as says poor people 'asn't got no right to put money on a
'orse, so I takes in letters for a bookmaker friend of mine, well
knowing that if I get into trouble he'll pay the fine."

There was but little information to be obtained here for the moment, so
Ray went his way towards the place in Covent Garden which served him as
a dressing room. He had paid Mrs. Roffy a sum of money in advance, and
told her to expect him when she saw him. He was going down there in the
same disguise, and he particularly wanted the back bedroom looking out
over the river. An hour later he stepped out of the Covent Garden shop
and made his way towards Fleet-street, where he spent a few moments in
getting through one of his newspaper calls to Angela. He wanted to see
her the following afternoon, and she duly appeared at the accustomed
spot.

It was not much he had to tell her, because he was not going to inform
her yet that he had identified her with Lord Barlington's second son,
for he feared that this startling intelligence might cause her to betray
herself to the sharp, suspicious eyes of Keen. And that might lead to
disaster. It must not be forgotten, moreover, that Ray was something
more than a lover--he was an official high up in the Intelligence
Department of Scotland Yard, and his duty to the State came emphatically
first.

"Yes there is news," he said in reply to Angela's question "I am on the
track of a very big thing, which may lead to all sorts of amazing
developments. And I want you to help me."

"Oh in any way I can," Angela replied.

"Yes, that is just what I expected you to say. I think you have gathered
by this time that the man, Keen, is by no means what he professes to be.
He is, to say the least of it, an adventurer with a past. Oh, I know he
has been very good to you, but he has the strongest reasons for being
so. I want you to regard him as a man who cares about nothing but
himself, and one who is using you merely as a pawn in the deep game he
is playing. In fact, he is the leading spirit in one of the most
dangerous gangs of criminals working in England to-day. And, unless I am
greatly mistaken, the butler, Easton, is the second in command. You must
keep this fact before your eyes if you are going to be of any assistance
to me. I don't say they suspect you, because there is no reason why they
should, but they don't trust you, and any little act of yours is sure to
be carefully watched. You must go about as if you are quite in ignorance
of all this, and at the same time know everything that goes on, even to
the smallest detail. Keep a special eye upon Keen. And, by the way, is
Mr. Moon still staying at the flat?"

"Oh yes," Angela explained. "He says he may be going at any moment. He
is waiting to see Mr. Keen first."

"Oh, really," Ray exclaimed. "Then I am to understand that Mr. Keen has
not met his old friend yet."

"No, he is still away, though he may be back at any moment. He explains
his movements to nobody."

Ray smiled to himself as if something pleased him.

"This all bears out what I thought," he said. "Now you go back to the
flat and keep your eyes open. Don't let anything escape you. And meet me
here again at the same time on Thursday afternoon. That will be three
days hence. And now I must be off, because time is pressing."

It was not a particularly loverlike interview, but Angela could see that
Ray had a great deal upon his mind, and, indeed, the little he told her
was decidedly impressive. She went back to the flat again, striving to
appear as if nothing had happened, and went about her business smilingly
and cheerfully. So far, she had seen very little of the great scientist
who spent most of his time in the library over his manuscripts, and only
putting in an appearance at meal times. When he came, he was pleasant
enough, but always absent-minded, and from what she could see of him, he
created quite a good impression upon her. He declined to come in to tea,
saying that he was pressed for time, but that he hoped to enjoy the
pleasure of her society at dinner. So far, there was no sign of Keen, so
that it seemed to Angela that she could relax her vigilance, and all the
more so because the idea of keeping watch on this amiable old gentleman
with the benevolent white beard and thick spectacles seemed almost
superfluous.

But then you could never quite tell, and in that direction Ray's
instructions had been almost imperative. So, therefore, Angela watched
for any sign that might be of use, seated in the drawing-room with the
door slightly open in case her visitor should make any sort of a move.
But so far as she could gather, he remained in the library until the
gong went, and then he came in in his absent-minded way and sat down to
dinner with a few mild remarks on the subject of the weather. Easton
waited upon them during the meal, and after it was over the professor
smoked a mild cigarette and sipped his glass of claret.

"It must be very dull for you here, my dear," he said. "But, I suppose
you have your own friends?"

"Indeed, I have few I should call by that name," Angela said. "But, you
see, I have my books and my music, and I am frequently away in the
country. Mr. Keen is very good to me, and he realises that I want a
change sometimes."

The Professor ambled off presently, and Angela heard the library door
close behind him. She sat in the dining-room until after the
women-servants had gone to bed, and the clock over the mantelpiece
struck the hour of 11. With that, Easton came in asking if there was
anything else he could do before he left the flat, according to his
custom, to which Angela replied as usual that there was nothing, and
presently she heard the front door softly close. So far as she knew, the
Professor had retired for the night, in which she found herself
presently to be wrong, because she could see a thin thread of light
under the library door. She snapped off the electrics in the
drawing-room and went to her own room. She closed the door rather
noisily, but softly opened it a moment later just an inch or so wide, so
that she could watch anything that took place out of the darkness of her
room without being seen herself.

Why she sat there just behind the door watching for the next hour or so
she would have been at a loss to explain. Perhaps she was excited by
what Ray had told her, perhaps she felt the tension in the air, but
there she sat, without moving till the clock struck one, and the silence
of the flat was beginning to get on her nerves. She opened the bedroom
door a shade wider and looked cautiously out. As she did so, she caught
a side glance of Keen's bedroom, and then, to her great astonishment,
the man himself emerged very quietly and stole softly on the tips of his
toes in the direction of the front door. It opened as silently, and the
next moment Keen, dressed for the street, was gone.

Just for a minute or two Angela stood there half paralysed. The surprise
was so great that she had to gasp for breath. She was perfectly certain
that Keen had not returned before dinner, nor could he have passed her
bedroom or the drawing-room without her being aware of the fact. It was
obvious that Keen had been in his bedroom for hours, and that Moon had
been party to this strange proceeding. Moreover the light in the library
had been out for some time, so those two men must have been in Keen's
bedroom together. Ray had told her that Keen was a dangerous criminal,
but it seemed impossible to believe that that knowledge should be shared
by the harmless old professor.

Taking her courage into both hands, Angela stole along the corridor in
the direction of her guardian's bedroom. The door was wide open, and she
could see the empty interior. She switched on the light and looked about
her, but there was no sign of Moon to be seen. What then had become of
him? What was the meaning of this apparently unnecessary mystery?
Angela's keen eyes roamed round the room in eager search of some sign of
its late occupant, but so far as she could see there was nothing. Then,
as she moved, the play of light glittered on something lying on the
shelf under the toilet glass, and she sprang towards it.

Here at any rate was some sort of a clue. Beyond the shadow of a doubt
Mr. Moon's spectacles. She recognised them by their strange flatness and
the fact that each side of the frame contained a double lens. Moreover,
Keen wore no glasses.

She turned, almost breathless with excitement with the idea of getting
back to her own room when she found herself confronted unexpectedly by
the man Easton. His face was perfectly expressionless, though his
eyebrows were uplifted slightly.

"Easton, how you startled me," Angela faltered. "I came in here to
search for an aspirin for my headache. I suppose Mr. Moon is still in
the library?"

"I had to come back, miss, for something I had forgotten," Easton said
respectfully enough. But there was something in his eyes that warned
Angela of some hidden danger.



CHAPTER XIV.--A SENSATIONAL PARAGRAPH.


Ray went off to the little shop at Poplar the following morning, and in
the course of a few hours had established himself in the back bedroom
looking over the river.

He was still, of course, in his disguise of a foreign sailor, and the
only person who knew anything to the contrary in that shy neighbourhood
was the landlady herself. But, then, Ray knew that he had established
confidential relations with her, and that she was not in the least
likely to betray him in any way. This was going to be rather a long job,
and probably a tedious one. It might be days before he could turn his
back on Poplar again, but he was not going to do anything of the sort
until he had found out why Keen came down here, and who the people were
that called upon him. And when he had done this, it seemed to him that
he would have a fairly comprehensive idea as to the gang who were
pulling off that series of daring and brilliant robberies. Also, he was
fairly comfortable in his mind as to his own disguise. Mrs. Roffy was in
the habit of letting lodgings to seamen of all nationality, and even if
he and Keen came face to face, it should arouse no suspicion.

He knew now that Keen came down here pretty often, not under his own
name or identity, but as a sort of realistic journalist called Grover,
who made his headquarters in Poplar, what time he was picking up copy
for his newspapers. So far, everything was in order, and with any luck
the coup should come off.

For the moment, at any rate, Ray's chief ambition was to find a means of
exploring the empty house next door. He knew that it had been condemned
by the authorities, but that would not prevent it being used by an
inventive genius like Keen. This would give him no less than four
localities in which to pursue his schemes. First of all, he had his
flat, secondly his office in the city, thirdly the Thatched House at
Shepperton, in which places, no doubt, the plans of campaign were worked
out by the real leaders of the gang in secret, and in all probability
the quarters in Poplar were where the subordinates met the ringleaders.
Ray had no doubt whatever about this, and the more he thought it over,
the more sure he felt that the premises next door came within the
purview of operations. Doubtless, Keen made use of the river as a means
of disposing of the plunder. Under the beetling brows of those two
houses a motor launch might be snugly hidden outside the waterway, and
perhaps a small yacht further down towards the mouth of the Thames might
be impressed in the service for conveying a good deal of the plunder,
notably jewels, to Amsterdam, where they would be recut, and therefore
changed beyond recognition.

So Ray patiently waited that day and all the next for something to turn
up. He procured his own meals, he cooked his food over a primus stove,
and with the aid of a readable volume or two, and a plentiful supply of
cigarettes, he managed to wile the time away. It was on the second night
that he set out to explore the house next door. He knew that there was
no one there, at least, no one for the moment so that he would be
comparatively safe. With a ripping chisel and a fine fretwork type of
saw he removed half a dozen panels from the left hand wall of the
sitting-room, and saw behind them an opening into the next premises. No
doubt, in times gone by, it had all been one house, before some other
tenant had come along and installed the panelling which served in lieu
of a party wall. At any rate, here he was at length in the empty house,
with an electric torch in his hand, and an easy means of escape if any
interruption happened. In three minutes he would have the square of
panelling back in place, and a little soap mixed with brown colouring
would disguise all marks of his carpentering handiwork. The house was
quiet enough, and plunged in darkness. There was no layer of dust in
which to leave footprints, and Ray noticed this with a smile. Not only
was the place being made use of, but somebody had taken the trouble to
sweep the floors, and that not so long ago. In all probability Keen had
adopted the same scheme of entering the empty house from his own
bedroom, and, no doubt, from time to time those mysterious callers of
his had been initiated into the hiding place by that means. And,
moreover, Ray had not forgotten the bundle of house flags which gave him
the clue as to the use of a yacht in the handling of the plunder
gathered from time to time on Keen's marauding expeditions.

Torch in hand, he explored the premises from top to bottom. The house
was not clean but the floors had been carefully swept in case of
footprint trouble, and every room seemed to be empty. It was quite clear
that no high revelling took place here, there were no cigarette ends, no
empty bottles, and no sign of recent food. But down in the basement Ray
discovered three petrol tins, one empty, and the other still intact. As
he lifted these from their place, the electric torch disclosed a sort of
locker under a big double window that seemed to open right upon the
river. And in this locker were spare parts of machinery, evidently in
connection with motor traffic of some sort, probably aquatic. The parts
might have been there for years, for they seemed to be covered in red
rust, and a less discerning eye than Ray's would have discarded them as
possessing no significance. But Ray lifted one of these out, and rubbed
it vigorously with his handkerchief. The rust disappeared as if by
magic, and a vivid spot of clean white steel shone like a diamond on the
oval of the cylinder.

"That's not a bad idea," Ray said to himself. "These things are brand
new. Now I begin to understand."

He carefully replaced the red pigment on the gleaming metal and went
back thoughtfully to his own room. The panelling was replaced and Ray
sat down with a cigarette to think.

He was most certainly on the right track. He knew now that the gang
possessed the last thing in the way of a motor boat, and he sensed that
they had something equally up-to-date down the river in the way of a
fast yacht. There was big money behind this scheme, and no doubt Keen
was ready to put his hand deeply into his pocket, whenever he could see
a fair return for his outlay. This would be something for the river
police to take up when the right time came to expose the working of the
syndicate.

There was no immediate anxiety for the moment to keep a close eye on
Keen, because the ordinary sleuth hounds of the Yard had been put upon
his track, and they, of course, would be following their instructions to
the letter. Therefore, Ray went quietly to bed, and peacefully to sleep.
It was about twelve o'clock, the following day when he met Barle by
arrangement in the library of his club.

"Well," the latter asked. "Anything to report?"

"Oh, I have not been wasting my time," Ray smiled. "I have got on the
track of a big thing. I have found out who the leading spirit in the
great conspiracy is."

Barle composed himself to listen with the air of a man who is not easily
astonished. But for once in a way he enjoyed that sensation as Ray
proceeded to lay before him a series of logical deductions that seemed
to have no flaw.

"By Jove, I should never have thought of that," he said, "and yet it's
easily possible. And if you are correct, then we are very nearly at the
end of our troubles. Yes, and I think you are right, too. Now what do
you want me to do?"

"Keep your eye steadily upon Keen, and also a strict watch on the empty
house at Poplar through the river police. Of course, we could easily lay
hands on the subordinates, but I shall be greatly surprised if Keen
handles an ounce of that stuff once his tools have got away with the
plunder. The only chance of identifying Keen with the business is to
catch him red-handed if you see what I mean. If he is the wise man I
take him for, it isn't often that he goes to Holland himself, at least
until after the stuff is landed there, and he can run over to close the
deal."

Barle listened thoughtfully to all of this.

"Yes, I think you are right," he said. "Now I have a pretty shrewd idea
as to where the next robbery will take place. I am bound to confess that
I didn't think of this before I heard what you had to say. So I can take
no credit for it myself. Anyway we will get to that later on. I will do
all that you want, and you can get in touch with me any time you like.
Anything else you have to say?"

Ray rather thought not. He had cleared the deck for the moment, and he
was anxious to keep his appointment with Angela within the next hour or
two. He turned out of the club presently and walked towards his
lodgings. As he did so he almost mechanically bought an evening paper,
the 5 o'clock edition, published about three as usual, and this he
scanned idly over a belated lunch. Then as a flaring paragraph caught
his eye he sat up with a gasp.

ANOTHER AMAZING DISAPPEARANCE.

BEAUTIFUL GIRL VANISHES.

Under the heading was a small blurred photograph, but it was not so
indistinct as to deceive Ray concerning the identity of the original of
this more or less muddied picture.

Ray read on with staring eyes and quickly indrawn breath.

"Another of those strange disappearances which have been the cause of
considerable public uneasiness lately has just transpired in connection
with a young lady of great personal charm, until yesterday residing with
an elderly relative at Silverdale Mansions, Kensington. Miss Angela Nemo
(photograph inset) went out yesterday morning with the intention of
doing a little shopping, and has not been seen since. She has no friends
in London, and so far as her guardian, Mr. Edward Keen, knows, had no
trouble or anxiety of any sort. She is described as a girl of happy,
sunny disposition, perfectly normal, and in no way troubled with any
kind of illness. No sign was come from her since, and Mr. Keen is under
the impression that she has been kidnapped."

Ray laughed sardonically.

"I don't for a moment doubt it," he told himself, "and I could guess the
kidnappers in one. Well, we shall see."



CHAPTER XV.--THE MELCHIOR.


Ray was not as much disturbed over this unexpected happening as he might
have been, because he had more than a shrewd suspicion that no
particular harm would come to Angela. That, he felt, was no part of
Keen's programme. For some reason or another, the man in question was
really fond of the girl, which was certainly to his credit, otherwise he
would never have saddled himself with the cost of her education and
maintenance, which must have been a considerable item. It was just
possible that Keen might have had some sort of affection for Angela's
mother; but, be that as it might, Angela had in some way touched that
black heart of his, or she would never have remained all these years
under his roof.

It was possible, on the other hand, that Angela was more or less a pawn
in the great game that Keen was playing. Doubtless, he had smuggled her
out of the way, most probably because she had been detected in some acts
of espionage at a critical moment, and therefore had to be removed to
some secluded spot where she was powerless from further harm until some
new and startling robbery had been successfully accomplished. Nor would
this be difficult to a man of Keen's infinite resource. He could make up
some ingenious story in connection with Angela's parentage, and if this
was plausible enough he would be ready to follow it up if it took her to
the extreme end of the country. The idea that the girl had been
kidnapped in London was just the sort of thing to occur to a man of
Keen's subtle nature, and perhaps something had happened whereby it
became necessary to throw dust in the eyes of the female servants in the
flat, none of whom would have the slightest idea of what sort of life
their master was leading.

Yes, Ray did not suppose for a moment that Angela was very far away. She
might even be in the Thatched House at Shepperton, and once she was
there it would be exceedingly difficult for her to communicate with
anybody. Probably a close watch on Keen's movements might lead to the
discovery of the hiding place. Anyway, Ray had to put the whole trouble
out of his mind for the moment. He was a policeman first, and his love
affairs would have to be relegated into the background, at any rate for
the next few days. The first thing was to get in touch with Barle again,
and see if he happened to know anything connected with Angela. It was a
remote contingency, but quite a possible one.

An hour or two later, Barle stole into Ray's club, and there they had
one of their secret conferences.

"Is there anything fresh?" the great man asked.

"Well, there is and there isn't," Ray replied. "I have stumbled upon a
fresh phase of the mystery that puzzles me greatly. To begin with, I
happen to know Miss Angela Nemo very well, in fact, we were acquainted
some time before I ever heard of Keen and his masterly activities. To
make a clean breast of it, Miss Nemo is engaged to me, and I need not
tell you that Keen knows nothing whatever about it. And now she has
disappeared. Of course, you saw those paragraphs in the Press."

"I did," Barle said. "And to tell you the truth, they rather puzzled me.
To help you we have been keeping a very close eye upon Keen, and, of
course, we know all about the domestic arrangements in the household. We
know that the butler, Easton, is one of his accomplices, and we are
quite convinced that the female servants are absolutely innocent. Our
men took it for granted, too, that the young lady you mention is equally
blind to what is going on under her nose. And, therefore, I was more
than interested when I read those mysterious disappearance paragraphs in
the Press this morning. Have you anything to do with it?"

"Well, indirectly I am afraid I have," Ray confessed. "You see, I took
Miss Nemo into my confidence to a certain extent, and I was perhaps
foolish in telling her to keep her eyes open. It is more than possible
that she was caught spying, and removed to a place of safety by some
artful story."

Barle shook his head gravely.

"I am inclined to agree with you," he said. "Haven't you seen this
morning's papers?"

Ray confessed that he had been too busy worrying over this latest
development even to think of his papers.

"Well, they were at it again last night," Barle went on. "Another big
robbery, this time in the neighbourhood of Rochester and not very far
from the river Medway."

"Oh, indeed," Ray exclaimed. "Now, that is uncommonly interesting, and I
think you will agree with me when I tell you what I have been doing down
Poplar way."

He told the story of his discovery in the empty house and his theory as
to the manner in which most of the stolen property was being disposed
of.

"You see what I mean," he said. "Smuggled to Holland or somewhere on the
Continent by means of a yacht. The stuff is collected in the empty
house, and a motor boat conveys it to the yacht. That accounts for the
fact that there are so many of these robberies taking place within easy
reach of some good waterway. I shouldn't be surprised if she was hidden
away at this present moment in Moon's house at Shepperton. Anyway, I am
going to find out, and perhaps you can help me by getting a little more
information with regard to those newspaper reports. Suppose you get one
of your men to call at Keen's flat and pose as a representative of some
newspaper. I have no doubt a dozen have been there already, but if your
man can get inside so much the better. I suggest that I wait here whilst
you put the thing through and ring me up afterwards."

Falling in with this course, Barle went his way, and some hour or two
later called up Ray on the telephone.

"Here is another development," he said. "The flat is shut up. The
servants have gone away for a holiday if the hall porter is to be
believed, and they don't expect to be back for two or three days. What
do you make of it?"

"Oh, I don't know," Ray said. "It is certainly disturbing, but perhaps
it may be all for the best. My idea is to get into Keen's flat and see
if we can find something in the way of a clue. Do you think you can
manage that?"

"Oh yes, I can manage that easily enough," Barle said. "One of our
experts could quite easily open the front door as the place is not
bolted inside."

"That's the idea," Ray said. "And I think if you don't mind I will go
with him. But first of all, I must ascertain if Keen is really out of
town. I can ring up his office and make some excuse to ask him a
question with regard to that Golden Bat I told you about. If he is away,
then I will meet your man outside the flat at, say, seven o'clock this
evening."

They left it at that, and when Ray had ascertained that Keen was not
supposed to be in London, he killed time as best he could until the hour
came for him to keep the appointment made in Silverdale Mansions. If
nothing came of this, then it was Ray's intention to go as far as
Shepperton and see if he could lay his hands on some clue inside the
Thatched House. It was just on seven o'clock when he reached the
rendezvous and walked casually up the stairs until he came to the door
of Keen's flat. A few seconds later a man attired like a respectable
servant appeared apparently out of nowhere and joined him. In less time
than it takes to tell, the door gave, and the two were inside.

"That was rather smart," Ray said, as he switched on the lights. "It's
out of my line, of course, but I had no idea that you could open a lock
quite as easily as that."

"Oh, a lock is nothing, sir," the man said. "Any expert could do that.
You get the feel of those things, and the rest is a mere matter of
touch."

"So it seems," Ray smiled. "I think you had better stand just outside
the front door in a waiting attitude, as if you had rung the bell and
awaited a reply. I don't suppose anybody will come along, because they
are all at dinner just now. But still, it is just as well to be
careful."

For the next half hour or more, Ray searched the flat from end to end
without finding anything in the least significant. The servants'
bedrooms, of course, were entirely negligible, nor did he expect to find
anything of value in Keen's sleeping apartment. This was all in order,
and showed no signs of recent disturbance. He turned finally to Angela's
room in the faint hope that she might have left something behind her.
But this was a very faint hope, indeed; still Ray was not going to give
up yet, and for quite a long time he was turning things over, until it
seemed hopeless to waste any further time there. And then, quite by
accident, he seemed to come upon something definite. He noticed that the
looking glass over the big dressing chest was tilted at a rather unusual
angle, and that there were certain smears on it which were quite out of
place in that orderly apartment. It was some minutes before he could
make out what appeared to be a letter or two in the greasy smudge, and
after maneuvering to get the light at the correct angle he could read
the signs.

There he saw plainly enough the word 'yacht,' and following it, just
below, four further letters which read 'Mele.'

Here was something to go on with at any rate, and, slight as it was,
that threw a strong ray of light upon the theory that Ray had been
building up. For all day long he had been more or less thinking about
yachts, and here was a clue distinctly pointing to one. The message had
not been quite complete, probably because Angela had been disturbed
before she could finish the last word of the message. No doubt she had
written in the very faint hope that somebody might read it, perhaps Ray
himself, but, anyway, there it was, and it would not be long before he
put the final letters to the broken word 'Mele.' Ten minutes with one of
Lloyd's yachting registers, and he would know to a certainty what
particular boat Angela was alluding to.

He was in the street a little later, wondering what to do next. It was
impossible to get the desired information before morning, and he was not
disposed to waste his time till then. He would go down to the Thatched
House at Shepperton, and have a good look round there. No sooner had he
decided to do this than he was on his way. In due course, he picked up
his particular policeman at Shepperton, and having ascertained that the
house was empty, crossed the field in its direction.

There was not a soul inside the Thatched House, and it seemed to Ray
that he was likely to have his journey for nothing. Then, as he stood
thoughtfully in the library with the light switched on, he remembered
that queer roll of paper which he had seen Moon place so carefully in
its hiding place behind a set of moveable volumes. He was rather curious
to examine that map of Brazil, which was so valuable that it had to have
a separate hiding place all to itself. It was in his hands at length,
and he laid it flat on the table before him. Then, to his surprise,
looking down at it from an obtuse angle, the coloured outline of the
South American State vanished, and an entirely new map appeared. It was
one of those trick pieces of printing that was quite different from what
it was intended to convey. As a matter of fact, it was a large scale map
of the Kent coast, with here and there certain places marked in red ink.
And then suddenly it flashed across Ray that these were the spots where
the daring robberies had taken place. Moreover, they were numbered in
strict rotation.



CHAPTER XVI.--ONCE ABOARD THE LUGGER.


The more Ray studied this amazing production, the more did its
significance strike home to him. Looked at in a certain light and with
the eye at an oblique angle, it was possible to make out a vast amount
of information written in small letters down to a description of the
principal owners of cars, and the exact positions of the various
garages. Why the thieves should keep such a damning record of their
activities passed Ray's comprehension, but here it was, and it's use
could hardly be exaggerated.

If a photograph could be obtained and the same subsequently enlarged,
then Barle would have in his hands a piece of evidence absolutely
unique. Ray's first impulse was to get away with the roll of paper, and
run the risk of its loss being discovered by the owners. But it was only
for an instant, and he repressed this desire. He replaced the roll
carefully, telling himself that it would be an easy matter to bring a
photographer down during the next day, and obtain the necessary
impression.

On the whole, it was an excellent evening's work, and Ray was disposed
to be satisfied with it. The next thing was to find out the name of the
yacht on which Angela had been smuggled, and this was easily
accomplished during the following morning. The name that Ray put his
finger on in the register was that of Melchior, a steam yacht of modest
dimensions, which was registered with the Royal Netherlands Yacht Cub.
The name of the owner did not in the least matter, because Ray knew that
this was mere camouflage. The owner of the yacht was doubtless Keen, and
probably his boat, at that moment, was lying somewhere down the Thames.
If Ray was not mistaken, and he did not suppose he was, the Melchior had
not yet left her moorings, and was probably waiting just then for the
plunder from that sensational robbery in the neighbourhood of Rochester.
Somewhere about there the motor boat was snugly hidden awaiting
developments, and Ray was all the more sure of this because the craft in
question had not been anywhere near the empty house at Poplar for a day
or two. Somewhere, doubtless, on the mud flats of the Medway, the boat
was lying until the hue and cry had died away, and it would be safe to
get in contact with the Melchior at her anchorage. Therefore, it seemed
to Ray to be logical to bank upon the fact that he had at least 24 clear
hours at his disposal.

Early in the afternoon he was back again at Poplar in his foreign
seaman's disguise, intent upon his double task of bringing these
scoundrels to justice and releasing Angela from her more or less
involuntary confinement. A few discreet questions, judiciously asked,
afforded him the information that the Melchior was lying somewhere off
Sheerness, and that one or two of her crew were actually in the
neighbourhood of Poplar. It only needed a little tact and the display of
a handful of silver to get in touch with one of these men in a waterside
public house, and half an hour later he had all the information he
required.

The Melchior was waiting for its owner to go on board, and Ray had a
pretty shrewd idea of what would accompany that individual when he set
foot on his own deck. He might not bring the plunder himself, but Keen
would certainly be there, when it was delivered by his satellites. And
when this happened, Ray was going to be there unless he was greatly
mistaken in his calculations.

"When do you sail?" he asked his companion.

"Tide after next," the other replied. "There ain't no 'urry. It ain't a
bad job, neither. Good pay, and half our time spent ashore, mate, and we
don't go far neither."

"A pleasure yacht?" Ray asked.

"Yes. I think you can say that. Mostly cruising in northern waters, and
only for a day or two at a time. Rotterdam, and them there Dutch ports.
Out of a job, eh?"

"Well, I am and I'm not," Ray said, in his affected, broken English.
"What you call lying low, and not showing myself much outside places
like this. You see, friend, there's reasons why I like to get quietly
away without going all over the docks looking for a stoker's job like
yours."

Ray winked knowingly as he spoke, and signified to the potman to fill up
the glasses again. He saw to his satisfaction, that the other man was
feeling the effects of the liquor he was taking.

"That's so, is it, mate," the latter chuckled. "Ah, well, I've 'ad my
little misfortunes, an' I can sympathise with you. I'm on the straight
myself now, I am, because I've got a steady job with a gentleman wot's
free with 'is money and the other game don't pay. But if I can 'elp you
I will."

"There's only one way you can help me," Ray sighed, "and that is to
smuggle me out of the country in that boat of yours. Once I get across
to Holland I shall know what to do, and when I set foot in my native
country again I stay there. Now, do you think you could manage it for
me?"

As Ray spoke, he carelessly displayed a handful of Treasury notes to pay
for the drinks, and he did not fail to notice the gleam that came into
the other man's eyes.

"Wot ud it be worth?" the seaman asked hoarsely.

"Well, say ten pounds," Ray murmured. "If you can get me taken on as an
extra hand----"

"I can't do that, mate," the other said regretfully.

"Very well, then; let me take your place just for this voyage. It'll
only be for a day or two. I can go on board instead of you at the last
moment and say you have met with a bit of an accident or something of
that sort, and that you had sent me in your place. You can lend me a
suit of your clothes, and your work is of the kind that anybody who has
the necessary strength can do without making a mess of it."

"Aye, that's true," the other said, with an eager glance at the notes
which Ray had not put back in his pocket. "Ten pounds ain't to be
sneezed at these 'ard times. Why, it's a whole month's pay, and a week's
fun for the askin' as you may say."

"Well, shall we call it a deal?" Ray asked. "I've got my own reasons for
wishing to get out of the country, and I am prepared to pay for the
accommodation. What's your name?"

"Atkins," the other man replied. "Bill Atkins. I allus calls myself
that, though it weren't the name I was born to. All right, mate, I'll do
it. I'll give you a suit of dungarees and a pair o' boots, and you drop
down the river, tide after next, and ask for the Melchior. Say as I've
'urt meself in a street accident, and that up to the last minute I 'oped
I should be well enough to jine. Say Bill Atkins sent you as a
substitute."

The little sheaf of Treasury notes changed hands, and a little time
later Ray found himself with the necessary outfit. All he had to do now
was to wait for the proper tide, and drop down the river in search of
the Melchior. It was a totally transformed Ray who climbed up the ladder
of the yacht, in due coarse, and introduced himself to the chief
engineer. He wad dressed in a suit of stained and blackened dungarees,
his face was nearly as dark as his clothing, and his features were
hidden under a bushy moustache and beard. No questions were asked by the
engineer, who took Ray for granted, and, apparently, was only too glad
to think that his missing stoker had had the foresight to provide
somebody to take his place. The work required practically no training,
though it was hard enough, and Ray knew now that he was perfectly safe
to pursue his business without suspicion. Nor did it take him long to
discover that the crew, from the ship's captain down to the cabin boy,
were entirely ignorant of the work in which they were engaged. From
their point of view, it was a soft job under an easy-going employer,
whose habit it was to drift about the North Sea on short voyages.
Indeed, so far as Ray could gather, the Melchior had never been further
than Rotterdam.

They set off deliberately enough under half speed, and before daylight
were in the open sea. And then began the most difficult part of Ray's
task. He had his moments of leisure, of course, when it was possible to
get on deck for a breath of fresh air, so long as he kept away from the
waist of the ship and confined himself to the bows or stern. He had made
a few inquiries in a casual sort of way, and had ascertained that Mr.
Keen, the owner, was rarely in the habit of entertaining friends, and
that he had some sort of business connection in Rotterdam, for,
occasionally, the Melchior laid up there for two or three days at a
time. So far as he could gather, there was no one else on board save the
owner, who seemed to spend most of his time in his cabin. If there was
anybody else there the fact was not mentioned.

But, on the second morning, Ray crept up on deck, and looked eagerly
around him. He seemed to have the place to himself, with the exception
of a sailor or two, and then, from under the canvas of one of the
lifeboats, he surveyed the chart-house and the upper deck. His heart gave
a great leap as he saw a female figure emerge from one of the cabins,
and stand there, clear against the sky, looking towards the Dutch coast,
which was plainly rising like a blue haze in the far distance. As she
turned in Ray's direction, he raised a hand from behind the boat, and
waved a sign. He did that three times before he saw the figure move, and
come down in the direction of his partial hiding-place.

If he had had any doubts as to who it was, they were dispelled now. He
could see Angela's face as she came indolently towards him, and knew
that her quick intelligence had grasped the meaning of his upraised
hand. Very leisurely she came along until she stood on the far side of
the boat, as if intent on studying its mechanism, and then he ventured
to speak.

"It's all right, darling," he whispered "Don't take any notice, and
don't stay a minute. I only wanted to let you know that I was on board.
We shall get our chance to talk all in good time. Leave that to me,
Angela. And now go."

"How did you manage it?" Angela whispered.

"Oh, don't stop to ask that now," Ray said. "Leave it entirely to me,
and have no fear."



CHAPTER XVII.--IN THE KERRHAUS.


Still Angela lingered as if loth to leave the man who meant so much to
her. There was peril in this, but Ray had not the heart to order her
peremptorily away.

He could not see her face, he dared not lift his head high enough to get
a glance at her features, but from the tone of her voice it did not seem
to him that she was suffering from overmuch anxiety. There was no one
within earshot, the deck was more or less deserted, so Ray made up his
mind to risk another minute or two. He whispered to Angela to turn her
back upon him before he spoke again.

"Is there anything very wrong?" he whispered. "Are you in any trouble or
peril? Because if so----"

"No, I don't think so," Angela said. "It is a strange story, and so
bewilders me that I can make nothing of it. If we could have ten minutes
together I could explain. But I know that we shall be on our way back
home to-morrow night."

All this with Angela standing looking towards the Dutch coast, and Ray
lounging on the rail behind the lifeboat in an easy attitude, as if he
was merely gazing down into the sea.

"Yes," he said. "I think I am beginning to understand. Do you happen to
know where you are staying in Rotterdam to-night?"

"Oh, yes, at the Kerrhaus Hotel. I have been here on the yacht before,
and we always put up there."

"And what generally happens?"

"People come to see Mr. Keen on business, or he goes out to see them. I
know he has an appointment with a Dutch merchant at about 3 o'clock this
afternoon, and after dinner he always goes to call upon a friend of his
named van Rooden. He lives in the place called Hague Square."

"That is all right, then," Ray said, with a sigh of relief. "I also
shall be staying the night at the Kerrhaus Hotel. You won't recognise
me, but if you will be in the lounge about tea time I will come and sit
by you, and we will drift into conversation. You can tell me everything
then, but now you really must go. I have no business on deck at all--it
is no place for one of the stokers on board the yacht."

Angela vanished immediately, and Ray lounged along in the direction of
the stokehole. He had not come altogether unprovided for an emergency of
this kind, and in his sailor's canvas bag he had stowed away a complete
change of clothing. With this, and his present disguise, he would be
able to pass unnoticed, and, in the course of time, book a room at the
hotel.

It was still quite early when the 'Melchior' came to her moorings, and
there was no difficulty for Ray to obtain shore leave from the chief
engineer. They would be anchored up, so that individual said, for one
night only, and Ray was warned to be back on board by dusk the following
evening. Then, with his sack under his arm, he drifted away through the
dock gates. He was in no great hurry. He had been there more than once
during the Great War, and he spoke the language like a native. Indeed,
he would have been of little use in the Secret Service had it been
otherwise. He stayed just outside the gates long enough to see Keen and
Angela drive away in a taxi, followed presently, to his surprise, by
Easton, who seemed to be particularly anxious with regard to a big
iron-bound box which it took two porters to lift on to the carrier of
his own conveyance. Ray smiled to himself as he saw this, which he knew
would have caused great astonishment to the authorities if it had been
opened there and then.

But this, for the moment, was of little matter; that would come in good
time. Meanwhile, it was up to Ray to make himself presentable so that
his appearance would cause no comment when he applied for a room at the
Kerrhaus Hotel. He turned into a barber's shop, where he had a trim and
a shave, and afterwards, in the public baths, changed into his ordinary
clothing, leaving the discarded kit to be called for in due course.
Then, with a second-hand attache case which he purchased near the docks,
he walked as far as the hotel and registered for the night. He was still
wearing his false moustache and beard, so that he was quite prepared to
meet Keen face to face with no chance of recognition.

It was just before five when the coast became clear. He watched Keen off
the premises before he went down into the lounge to find Angela seated
there, a little apart from the rest of the guests. He was not troubling
in the least about Easton, because he knew that a mere servant would not
be likely to show himself in that part of the hotel. In his own natural
easy way he seated himself close to Angela and began to talk.

"Now then," he said. "Let's be businesslike. We are far enough away from
the rest not to be overheard, and Keen might be back at any moment. What
does it all mean?"

"Ah, there you are in the dark as much as I am," Angela replied. "I am
supposed to have vanished from my home, leaving no trace behind me."

"So I gathered from the papers," Ray smiled.

"Yes, that was Mr. Keen's idea. He pretended to believe that I had been
mysteriously spirited away, at least, that is what he told the police,
and the men from the newspapers who came clamouring for all the details.
Then he had a photograph of mine published. I daresay you saw it,
Harry."

"Most assuredly I did," Ray said. "And a most ghastly production it was.
I knew it was intended for you, but even I had some difficulty in making
out your features."

"Ah, that was part of the scheme. I don't know what happened, but the
next morning after I saw you, Mr. Keen came to me in a great state of
agitation and told me that I was in great danger, in fact, that we were
both in great danger. It was something to do with South America and a
sort of vendetta which had been formed against my guardian. It was such
a rambling statement that I couldn't make head or tail of it. I know
that in some way it had to do with my parentage, and that if I only
consented to the scheme Mr. Keen had in his mind, it might in the long
run be greatly to my peace of mind and future happiness. He also told me
that I was in considerable danger for the next day or two, at the end of
which time he would be able to take such steps as would entirely baffle
the ruffians behind the conspiracy. He was so convincing that I agreed.
I was to go out shopping in the ordinary way and somewhere in
Regent-street a car would pull up and I should be hailed by somebody
inside. I was to enter the car, leaving the rest to circumstances. Well,
rightly or wrongly, Harry, I did it, and an hour or two later I found
myself on board the 'Melchior.' And that's about all I can tell you. It
may be true or it may be part of some deep scheme on Mr. Keen's part.
But perhaps you know a great deal better than I do."

"I think I do, my dear girl," Ray smiled. "I think that you also know
too much and Keen is aware of the fact. There are urgent reasons why you
should be kept out of the way for a day or so, and the man in question
invented that ridiculous scheme to lull your suspicions to sleep. I
wouldn't mind making a small bet that you found something out in the
flat, and that you were detected either by Keen or Easton in the act of
doing so."

"You really are very wonderful, Harry," Angela cried. "Why, that is
exactly what did happen. And, unfortunately, Easton detected me coming
out of Mr. Keen's bedroom. I thought that Easton had left the flat for
the night, but it seems that I was wrong. You see, I watched Mr. Keen
leaving by the front door----"

"Stop a minute. You told me he wasn't there."

"So I thought. He certainly wasn't there at dinner, which I shared with
Mr. Moon, and I know he hadn't come in when I went to bed, because I
left my door slightly open, and sat up till long after midnight,
watching. Then, to my amazement, Mr. Keen came out of his bedroom, and
left the flat. The library light was out, so I naturally concluded that
Mr. Moon was in my guardian's room, but he wasn't, he was not in the
flat at all. The door of the bedroom was open, and I looked in to find
it empty. All I could discover was Mr. Moon's spectacles, without which
he is as blind as a bat. I came out to find myself face to face with
Easton. I told him some story about looking for an aspirin for a
headache, but I could see that he didn't believe it, though, of course,
he was civil enough. Then, next morning, Mr. Keen told me that
extraordinary story."

"It's all just as I thought," Ray said. "Those men were under the
impression that you knew something, and that is why they wanted to get
you out of London for a day or two."

"I am sorry I failed," Angela said.

"I am not quite so sure you have failed," Ray replied. "At any rate, you
have established a suspicion in my mind which has now become a
certainty."

"Then I have not been without my uses," Angela said. "I had a vague
suspicion that I was being deceived, and therefore I left you a sort of
message. It was an idea I picked up from a novel I have been
reading--writing a line or two on the looking glass with a piece of
soap. Of course, I knew you would never believe I had been kidnapped or
that I had gone away on my own accord, so on the mirror in my
bedroom----"

"Yes, I know," Ray said. "I burgled the flat, feeling that perhaps you
had left a clue behind you, and I found it. Hence my presence here at
this moment. I looked up the name of the yacht and I managed to bribe
one of the firemen to turn his place over to me for one voyage only.
Everything is going excellently, and before very long----"

Ray moved suddenly away with a warning glance at Angela, as Keen came in
through the revolving doors. But Ray had said all he wanted to, and he
could afford to wait now for the next act in the drama. He sat there,
reading the papers and smoking, until dinner time. Then, towards nine
o'clock, he followed Keen into the hall, where Easton was awaiting him.
From the lift two porters emerged, carrying the big, iron-clamped box.
This they conveyed to a waiting taxi, which drove away, closely followed
a minute later by another vehicle in which Ray had thrown himself.

"Keep that taxi in view," he commanded. "But don't get near enough to
excite suspicion. If you manage that all right, I will give you treble
your fare."

The driver grinned understandingly, and the chase began. It was not a
very long one, for presently the taxi in advance pulled up on one side
of the Hague Square in front of a tall gloomy house, and Keen alighted.
He had hardly reached the pavement before Ray had dismissed his own cab
and paid the fare he promised. Then he moved along in the gloom, exactly
opposite Keen's cab, and sauntered carelessly across the road as his
quarry stood on the doorstep of the big house, impatiently ringing the
bell.

Ray timed it to a nicety. He could have touched Keen as the latter stood
there just as the door opened and a sort of man-servant came out on the
step and lifted up his hand.

"You must not make that noise, mein Herr," he said.

"But dammit, you know me," Keen blustered.

"Yes, yes," the old man said. "But my master, mein Herr, van Rooden has
met with a serious accident. He is on the point of death. Run down by a
motor wagon. You could not see him to-night if you were the Queen of
Holland."

A savage curse leapt to Keen's lips. He turned to Easton, still seated
in the cab.

"Nothing doing here to-night," he said. "We must get back to our hotel
as soon as possible."



CHAPTER XVIII.--THE BROKEN SHAFT.


Ray grinned to himself under cover of darkness. Here was a fine check to
the conspirators who had come all this way from England with the cream
of the loot hidden in that iron-bound box which was obviously destined
to pass into the possession of the man called van Rooden. Ray had not
the remotest idea who van Rooden was, but he did not doubt that he was
one of those notorious international 'fences' whose business it is to
deal in stolen treasures and transport them across the Atlantic where
they find a ready sale. Half an hour later, and the transaction would
have been complete, but as it was, Keen's plans had been blown to the
winds, and in all probability he would now have to look for a fresh
outlet for the results of his audacious enterprises. A less astute
officer than Ray would have gone straight to the Rotterdam police and
laid his information. But Ray knew better than that. He was going to
accompany that iron-bound box back to England and take the whole gang
red-handed when the proper time came.

Meanwhile, he had plenty to do. He certainly wanted to have a few words
with the head of the detective staff in Rotterdam, where he knew he
would find some one who spoke English, and very probably an
international officer who was more or less under the instructions of Mr.
Barle himself. He knew exactly where to go, and who to ask for, and a
little while later, he was closeted with an official who could talk
English just as well as Ray. And, moreover, he had known the individual
in question during the few months he was in Rotterdam early in 1915.

"Ah, Mr. Ray," he said. "I am pleased to see you again. What may I have
the pleasure of doing for you? I was quite glad when one of my men
brought your card in. Is it something serious? Otherwise you would not
be in that guise."

"We are rather in the early stages yet," Ray said. "But before I do
anything else I want you to put through a long message in the code to my
chief, Mr. Barle, in London."

"Ah, anything I can do for Mr. Barle is a pleasure. You will sit at that
desk and write your message, please."

It was rather a long message, but it was through at length, and then Ray
turned to his companion.

"I am on the track of a very daring set of thieves," he explained. "The
gang who are sweeping all before them in England. Two of them are in
Rotterdam at the present moment."

"Then you want my assistance, is it not?"

"Well, not exactly in the way of making an arrest, though that may come
later on. I have been close behind these people all the way, in fact, I
am a fireman on board their yacht. I have every reason to believe that
they have a lot of the loot with them here. Indeed, I have seen it. Can
you tell me anything about a man named van Rooden, who lives in Hague
Square? I believe he has an important antique shop on the ground floor."

"Is that so. So you think he is the man?"

"I am almost confident of it. At any rate, the people I am after drove
up to his front door just now with a big iron-bound box, doubtless
containing valuables. Mind, they don't come in the daylight when the
shop is open, but long after it is closed. Have you any reason to
suspect van Rooden?"

"Well, no," the officer said thoughtfully. "He bears rather a good name
and people come from all over the world to see him. During the early
years of the war he was more or less ruined, and I know it was with the
greatest difficulty that he managed to survive his misfortunes. Now,
again, he is quite prosperous."

"Ah," Ray said significantly. "Ah. Now you may be able to guess as to
whence this new prosperity has come. You will greatly oblige me by
having this man watched. It won't be difficult, because he has just met
with a serious accident in connection with a motor of some sort. This
was a tremendous shock to the men I am after, and I know this, because I
was within a yard or two of the house in Hague Square where they had
come to unload the spoil. And now they will have to take it back again.
If anything transpires I will ask you to let Mr. Barle know without
delay. I can't stop for anything more."

Ray went back to his hotel, perfectly satisfied with the progress of
affairs. The accident to van Rooden had been a terrible shock to Keen,
who would be compelled now to retrace his steps and take the iron-bound
box with him. It seemed hardly possible to believe that in the short
time at his disposal Keen could make other arrangements in Rotterdam
and, therefore, he would be bound to get back home with the property
more or less on his person. It would not be safe to take it to the flat,
and in all probability it would be concealed for the time being in the
Thatched House at Shepperton. This would take the best part of three
days, and meanwhile, in the absence of both Keen and Easton, Barle would
be about to carry out the instructions Ray had given him without the
least fear of being disturbed, in other words, he would be able to visit
the Thatched House almost openly, and make use of certain things there
which Ray had introduced to his notice in the course of his long cypher
message. Meanwhile, there was nothing for it but to go quietly to bed
and wait developments.

By the middle of the following afternoon Ray was back again on the
Melchior in his fireman's kit, and presently had the satisfaction of
watching Keen and Easton arrive, together with Angela and what was
equally important, the iron-bound box. When the tide turned the yacht
was warped down the river, and presently stood out in the open sea.

Where were they going? Ray wondered. Would it be back to the old
anchorage, or in some secluded spot where the iron-bound box could be
landed without attracting undue attention? It was Ray's business to find
this out. The opportunity came his way a little later in the course of a
chat with the chief engineer.

"No, we are not going up the Thames this time," the latter explained.
"Sheerness or Chatham, I believe. The latter place for choice. At least,
those are my instructions."

Ray pondered this over in his mind a few minutes, and then it seemed to
him that the matter became plain. Evidently another robbery was in
progress, or imminent, and the Melchior was to lie up in one of the
muddy reaches between Sheerness and Chatham to take the loot off as soon
as it fell in the hands of the gang. Once this was done, the yacht would
sail away again to some rendezvous where the valuables would be taken
off by some other individual selected to take van Rooden's place. And
then, as he thought it over, something like an inspiration came to Ray.
If he could only detain the vessel within a few miles of the place on
the North Kent coast, where all these robberies took place, he might so
cripple her as to render the gang an easy prey. If the Melchior broke
down outside the three mile limit with the iron-bound box on board, then
the work of the subordinates under Barle would be made much easier, and
perhaps, when the time came for the raid, the results of the next
burglary might be brought to light within a few hours of their being
removed from the owner's premises.

Ray went about his work thinking out the details until they seemed to be
complete. He had found out by this time that Keen intended to land at
Chatham and proceed thence to London. He was, of course, going to take
Angela with him, but no doubt by this time he had concocted some story
of the girl's disappearance which would be calculated to satisfy the
police. For some reason or another, Keen had wanted Angela to accompany
him to Rotterdam, and close the flat. Probably this precaution was no
longer necessary, but in any case that was a mere detail.

They were within four miles of the harbour at Chatham when Ray put his
plan into execution. He stole very gently into the empty engine-room,
and, taking a small spanner from a rack, dropped it quietly into the
midst of the gleaming bed of machinery. He was back again before he was
missed, and waited on events. They were not long in coming, for a minute
later the yacht slowed down almost to a standstill, and in the engine
room was a grinding, tearing noise, followed by the snap of a
piston-rod, and then silence.

In a minute the whole yacht was in confusion. Keen came storming down to
the engine-room, cursing everybody, and shouting to know what had
happened. It was some time before the alarmed staff could ascertain the
extent of the damage. Then it became clear that the main shaft had
buckled, and two of the piston rods were out of action altogether.

"And that's torn it, sir," the chief engineer said. "We can't get a yard
further, and we shan't till the damage has been made good. That means
the best part of a week."

Keen ran up raging on deck, and threw his instructions about right and
left. There was nothing for it but to summon a boat, and get away
without further delay. There was a long whispered conference between
Keen and Easton, and eventually the latter was left on board to keep an
eye on things, whilst Keen and Angela went ashore in a motor boat which
they had signalled for.

"No reason for us to remain," Ray asked the chief engineer. "Looks like
a week's holiday, don't it, boss?"

"Oh, you can go to the devil as far as I am concerned," the worried
officer said. "Yes, at least a week."

Taking this as an intimation that his services were no longer required,
Ray tumbled over the side into one of the waiting boats, and a little
later landed on the quay. As he turned his face in the direction of the
town, he found himself facing Barle.

"I have been waiting for you," the latter said. "I knew you were
expected about this time. But what's this I hear about an accident to
the machinery?"

"I was the god in the car there," Ray grinned. "Of course you got my
message. Have you been to the Thatched House? Did you find the map and
get a photograph?"

"I got everything," Barle replied briefly. "And now come with me, for
there is a whole lot to be done. A few hours more, and we have them all
in the net."



CHAPTER XIX.--WHAT THE MAP SHOWED.


"But how on earth did you get here?" Ray asked.

"Need we go into that for the moment?" Barle retorted. "Still, if you
must know, I got my inspiration from that very ingenious map at the
Thatched House."

Ray nodded approvingly. Evidently Barle had lost no time in getting down
to Shepperton and laying hands on that clever map, which a stroke of
good fortune had thrown into Ray's way.

"I am very glad about that," he said. "I sent you that cypher message
from Rotterdam at the earliest possible moment, because I wanted you to
get the photograph whilst the coast was clear. The only two people we
had to fear were Keen and that man Easton, who acts as his butler. And,
as they were on the other side of the North Sea, I thought I would get
in touch with you."

"It was quite all right," Barle explained. "I sent down to Shepperton at
once, and in an hour or two the map was in my hands. Directly we had the
photographs I sent it back and replaced it behind the panel in the
library. The photograph was a great success. I have got a copy in my
pocket, and will show it to you presently. Come along with me."

"Delighted," Ray said. "But how on earth did you find out that the
Melchior would lie up off Chatham?"

"Oh, that is a matter of what the swell detectives in fiction call
obvious deduction," Barle laughed. "But I don't mind telling you that
the famous map inspired me. I gathered from that that the next robbery
would be not very far from here. In fact, I am banking on the certainty
of knowing the particular house which is marked down for plunder. And
when my spies here told me that the Melchior was in sight, I was certain
of it. Funny thing that the machinery should break down, wasn't it?"

"It would have been, only I happened to be responsible for it," Ray
said. "I had some sort of suspicion of the same kind myself, so when I
knew where we were coming I chucked a spanner into the engine bed, with
what result you know. My idea was to hold the boat up here for a week or
so, and keep a close eye on those chaps. Anyway, there it is, and, so
far as I can gather, everything is going our way. But what about Miss
Angela Nemo? How was that squared up? You see, I found her on board the
Melchior, and I managed to get half an hour's conversation with her in
the hotel where she and Keen were staying. In fact, I put up there
myself. What I want to know is, how Keen explained the disappearance to
the police."

"Oh, that was easy enough," Barle said. "He came round to the Yard, and
explained that the whole thing was a misunderstanding. He said that Miss
Nemo had gone into the country for a day or two, and that a letter that
she left behind her, explaining, had, quite by accident, found its way
into the fire. Of course, we accepted that statement, and the
sensational Press was only too glad to drop it when they found that
there was no story behind the business. It is quite forgotten by this
time. What I want to know is why Keen started the trouble at all."

Ray went on to explain. He told Barle all about the incident of the
looking-glass and the message thereon, but just for the moment he had no
desire to go into further details. There would be time enough for that
when the proper moment came.

"What do you want me to do now?" he asked.

"Well, I want you to come along with me," Barle explained. "I can appear
openly in this matter, because there is not a thief in London who can
identify me with Scotland Yard. I can move about the district freely,
perfectly easy in my mind. But you are rather different. You will have
to change your makeup. I take it that both Keen and Easton know you as
you are."

"I don't think they do," Ray said. "I am perfectly sure Eastern doesn't.
Still, if you think there is a risk through Keen, I can easily fake up
some other disguise."

"That is my idea," Barle said. "I have been round to your rooms, where I
took the liberty of going over your wardrobe, and I have all the
clothing you need in the next two or three days. Dress jacket, and so
forth."

"Oh, we are going into society, are we?" Ray chuckled.

"Something like that. But I can't tell you any more till you have seen
the map. I am staying quietly in a little country hotel, a mile or two
away, in a village called Hadlow. I am supposed to be something of a
motor expert, and am making trial with a new two-seater. As a matter of
fact, I am keeping an eye upon a garage not far off, belonging to an old
lady who lives more or less alone, because I am convinced that it will
be from this garage that the car will be stolen for the next robbery.
The chauffeur comes to the 'Ship' most evenings--that is the name of the
hotel I told you about--and, unless I am greatly mistaken, he has agreed
to see nothing, in exchange for a considerable bribe. Do you see what I
mean? The old lady's car goes out very, very seldom, and on the chosen
night the chauffeur will be away when the car is wanted. At least, that
is my theory. I may be wrong, because, in the circumstances, it would be
an easy matter to lure the chauffeur away by a bogus telegram. However,
all this in due course. Now, come along with me, and I will show you
that map. I have got the two-seater not very far off, and I have all
your necessary clothing in the bedroom which I have taken for you."

They came presently to the quiet little village of Hadlow and the
old-fashioned inn where Barle was putting up. So far as Ray could see,
as they drove along, the neighbourhood was an exceedingly prosperous
one, for in the course of four miles they passed at least a dozen great
houses, which obviously belonged to people either of rank or
considerable wealth.

"The place seems to swarm with them," Ray said.

"Yes, one of the richest nooks in England," Barle laughed. "Famous city
men, members of the aristocracy, and all that sort of thing. Do you see
that red brick place down the hollow there? One of the finest Tudor
houses in England. That's Abbotsfield, the Kentish seat of the Duke of
Abbotsfield. I need not ask if you have ever heard of him."

Ray nodded. The name was a famous one, both in statesmanship and
science. The Duke of Abbotsfield at one time had been high up in the
service of the nation, but at a comparatively early age had abandoned
his political career for the science that he loved so well. More than
that, he was a great collector. Indeed, his museum of historic valuables
was almost unique. He spent most of his time down there in Kent with a
few intimate friends around him, and these he was never tired of
entertaining. It was no wonder, then, that the name was quite familiar
to Ray.

"I am beginning to understand," he said. "Are you hinting to me that
Abbotsfield Park is going to be the next field of operations for our
friends, Keen and Co.?"

"That's right!" Barle chuckled. "I am perfectly certain of it. Not that
I take any credit to myself for the knowledge, because if I hadn't seen
that map I should still be as much in the dark as ever. Now, come and
look at it."

They were in Barle's sitting-room presently, pouring over the enlarged
photograph of the famous map. Evidently the camera had been placed at a
particular angle, because there was no trace of Brazil to be
seen--nothing but a large scale presentment of the North Kent coast
worked out in detail. There were marks here and there, circled round
certain properties, and beneath these a mass of exceedingly fine
writing, which, however, became plain enough under a powerful magnifying
glass. Some of the details given were very elaborate indeed, so much so
that Ray expressed his astonishment. Anything more perfect in its way it
would have been difficult to imagine. And yet there was something almost
childishly daring about the whole thing.

"What a set of infernal fools!" Ray exclaimed. "Fancy putting all this
on record! I should never have dared to have done such a thing, even if
I had found the most secret hiding-place in the world. You never know
when luck is going to be against you, and there is no getting away from
the fact that it was the blindest good fortune that brought this into my
hands."

"Yes, but if the cleverest criminal wasn't always a sanguine creature,
we police would have rather a thin time of it. But your criminal always
overlooks something, and that is where Scotland Yard scores."

"Yes; and that is not all," Ray pointed out. "Look at numbers one, two,
three, four, and five on that map. In every instance they represent big
houses where successful robberies have been achieved. Enough evidence to
send the whole gang of them into penal servitude. We could arrest Keen
and Easton to-morrow on the strength of that map alone."

"Very likely!--very likely!" Barle said. "But we should have to produce
a good deal more material than that. This time I am going to take the
scoundrels red-handed. I will tell you all about it presently.
Meanwhile, I am going to become a guest under the Duke's roof. He is
giving a big party in honour of his 50th birthday, and the house will be
full for the next week or two. Never mind how I managed to get an
invitation--we shall come to that in due course. But I am going, and
have the privilege of taking a young friend with me. Need I say that
that young friend will be yourself! You are going there under your own
name as a scientist from Brazil, who is more or less an authority on
tropical butterflies. You will find that the Duke is very keen on that
subject. Oh, yes, we are going to enjoy ourselves."

A sudden thought flashed through Ray's mind, a gleam of humour came into
his eyes, then he closed his lips and said no more with regard to that,
but all the same he was not going to abandon the brilliant thought that
had come to him.

"And now, what next?" he asked.

"Well, I suppose the next thing is to have something to eat," Barle
said. "But, before you do that, I think you had better go up to your
room and remove that beard. I told the people here I was expecting a
friend from abroad, and if you make yourself less hairy it will excite
no suspicion. I suggest a slight moustache, and perhaps a pair of
intellectual-looking pince-nez. You will find everything in your suit
case."

Ray came downstairs a little later changed beyond all recognition. He
was young Oxford to the life, the intellectual scientist, brilliant,
clever, and, indeed, just the counterfeit presentment that Barle would
have chosen.

"Excellent!" the latter said. "The day after to-morrow we go to
Abbotsfield Park, and stay there, awaiting developments. Before the end
of the week I am convinced that a big robbery will be attempted on the
premises in question. But it won't be for three or four days, because
Keen will await until the machinery of his yacht is in order again. How
long do you think it will take to repair the damage you caused?"

"Four days at least," Ray said. "I am speaking on the authority of the
chief engineer. The yacht is only three miles from a big dockyard, and
you may depend upon it that no time will be lost. I should say that in
all probability the raid will take place next Saturday night."

"Yes," Barle said, thoughtfully. "That is just how I figure it out
myself. Not that it makes much difference, because the trap is already
baited."

"Oh, then the Duke knows all about it, eh? Excellent!"



CHAPTER XX.--THE UNEXPECTED GUEST.


Barle mounted on the driving seat of his little two-seater, and the
superior-looking young Oxford man hopped up beside him before they set
out for a leisurely tour of the neighbourhood. Barle drove along the
London road for three or four miles until he came at length to a big
white house lying well back from the road, and surrounded by a high
stone wall.

"This place belongs to a Miss Seddon," he said. "She is a wealthy old
lady who lives entirely for herself, and, having nothing else to think
about, imagines herself to be a confirmed invalid. As a matter of fact,
she is as strong as I am. All the same, she is entirely in the hands of
her servants, and when they want a quiet time they persuade her that she
is not looking her best, whereupon she retires to bed and sends for her
doctor. Of course, he naturally plays up to a rich patient, and lets her
do anything she likes. I have found out all this through my local
intelligence department, and when I discovered that the lady is the
owner of a big Daimler car, which only goes out once a month. I began to
see where Keen would borrow his next conveyance when he came a-marauding
in this locality next. You know what I mean. The gang stop within a few
miles of their objective and borrow a car. When the raid has finished,
and the stuff is hidden, they leave the car on the roadside, and thus
get rid of what might otherwise be an important piece of evidence. But
you know all about that. The chauffeur in this case is a man named
Grimm, and the garage and his quarters over abut on the back lane. I
will drive you round that way and show you."

Barle turned his car into a side road and drove slowly over the broken
surface till he came to a building all by itself, situated on the edge
of the lane.

"There you are," he said. "There is the garage, and between it and the
old lady's garden is a large paddock. I suppose from here to the house
is over half a mile. The whole thing might be made for Keen. He either
bribes the chauffeur, or lures him away for a night, and the rest is as
easy as shelling peas. It is only a matter of pushing the car into the
lane. No chance of breaking into the garage and of being overheard,
because there isn't another residence within a mile. It is any money
that the Daimler snugly hidden in there is one which Keen will use to
get his plunder away from Abbotsfield. Every night from now on the
garage will be watched by officers hidden in the hedge opposite, and
they will follow at a discreet distance in a car of their own. This,
however, is a mere side line, what the law calls corroborative evidence
in case my plans go astray. I have taken every precaution I can think
of, and, as the bishop said in the story, I leave the rest to
Providence."

Three days later saw Barle and Ray driving up the noble avenue that led
to Abbotsfield Park. They found themselves presently in a great hall,
lined with priceless pictures and tapestries, gleaned from every part of
Europe. Ray was not easily impressed, for he had seen many great houses
in the course of his adventures, both at home and abroad, but it seemed
to him that he had never seen anything quite so artistically priceless
as Abbotsfield Park. On every hand were works of art, statuary, old
carvings, and gold-inlaid armour, perfectly ranged and all forming a
storehouse of treasure calculated to bring water to the mouth of any
thief who was fortunate enough to find himself there. It was the same
all over the place. Every room boasted its treasures, which seemed to be
scattered about with utter disregard to safety. So far as Ray could see,
nothing was under lock and key.

For the moment, at any rate, the other guests had not made their
appearance, so that they had their host to themselves. The Duke was a
fine-looking man, a little prematurely aged, perhaps, with white hair
and moustache, and, though his face was lined with thought, the merry
twinkle in his dark eyes showed that at any rate his spirit was young
enough. He led his visitors into a small cedar-panelled room looking out
on the Park, and with a wave of his hand indicated the silver box of
cigars and cigarettes that lay hospitably open on a Louis XIV table.

"Now we shall be quite comfortable," he said. "I am delighted to see
both you gentlemen here. Of course, I know who you are and why you have
come, but I am none the less pleased on that account. Really, I am quite
looking forward to the adventure. I don't mind telling you, Mr. Ray,
that one of my favourite relaxations is reading sensational literature."

"Ah, there you are not altogether alone, Duke. The late Sir Henry
Hawkins, the famous criminal judge, had a similar weakness, and so had
the great Lord Coleridge; in fact, I heard him make that confession one
night when I was dining with a friend in the Savage Club."

The Duke laughed pleasantly. It seemed as if all at once he had shed 10
years of his age.

"Now, tell me all about it," he demanded.

"I don't think there is very much to tell," Barle took up the thread. "I
might say that I know an attempt will be made upon the house during the
course of the next few days, and my young friend here is my inspiration.
He has worked out the whole thing very cleverly; in fact, I couldn't
have done it as well myself."

"But what is it they want?" the Duke asked. "They can't take away
pictures or armour, or statuary, and I don't see your modern thief
getting away with a car full of carpets."

"No, perhaps not," Barle said. "But I was under the impression that your
Grace had a perfectly priceless collection of engraved stones; diamonds
and rubies, and so on."

"Perfectly correct," the Duke said. "They are my greatest treasures, and
I have no finer delight than in showing them to my friends. But I don't
keep them lying about. I have a sort of strong room leading out of the
library, where I spend a good deal of my time. In there I have an
instalment of electric light, and I amuse myself on wet days in
pottering about and rearranging the shelves, and all that kind of thing.
But I don't say it is burglar proof, because it isn't. Two or three
years ago I got shut in there by accident, and if my own man had not
come into the library at the opportune moment I should have been
suffocated. So I had the front plating lining taken out, and some air
holes bored in the top of the door. Still, it would be a big job for the
burglar to get into that."

"I don't think so," Barle smiled. "Our safe makers are a clever lot, but
your modern safe breaker leaves them standing. Would you mind showing us
the room?"

Smilingly the Duke led the way into the magnificent library, with its
priceless first editions, and on one side indicated a steel door, over
which five holes were bored in the shape of a diamond. This he proceeded
to unlock with a key which he took from a hiding place, and threw the
door open.

"There," he exclaimed. "On those shelves and in all those little drawers
is, perhaps, the most perfect collection of engraved stones in the
world. All the family jewels are there as well. They are heirlooms. You
see, as a childless widower, all I have to do is to take care of them,
and hold them in trust for my successor. Of course, I know I ought to
keep them in my bank, but some of those jewels are of great historic
interest, and when some American or Continental connoisseur comes along
I like to show them to him. But you don't think they are safe?"

"I am perfectly sure they are not," Barle said frankly. "I know a score
of burglars who would be inside that door at the end of a quarter of an
hour. They have got a new sort of matrix, a kind of acid poultice, which
they spread on asbestos, just as you put mortar on a brick, and plaster
this on, all down the hinges of the door, and in ten minutes the acids
have eaten through it as easily as a mite eats into a cheese. If they
come here late at night and overpowered your watchman, they would be
miles away within half an hour of their advent. Oh, no, you mustn't rely
upon anything in the way of bolts and bars these days."

To all of which his Grace Abbotsfield listened with something like
alarm. However, forewarned is forearmed, and if these men could not
protect his treasures for him, then, indeed, the case was hopeless.

"That is very disturbing," he said. "If anything goes wrong with your
plans, then in all probability----"

"I think you can make yourself easy on that score," Barle said. "You
see, we know what is coming, and the thieves have not the least idea
that we are expecting them. If you leave it to us, you may be quite sure
it will be all right."

There was nothing more to be said for the moment, and so the subject was
allowed to drop. The next day the Duke's guests began to arrive, one or
two at a time, so that by Friday evening the house was comparatively
full. Nothing, of course, had been allowed to transpire as to the
threatened danger, so that the presence of Barle and Ray, under the roof
of Abbotsfield, passed as a matter of course. Barle was merely a
polished man of the world, taking a languid interest in the subjects
that intrigued the other guests, whilst Ray, the travelled man, and an
authority on the subject of tropical butterflies, was quite at home from
the first. He came down into the big drawing-room, with Barle on the
Friday night to find the house-party complete. There were men whose
faces were known wherever notables gathered together. Indeed, it was a
collection of celebrities in which Barle, at any rate, felt himself more
or less lost. He wandered over into one of the deep windows, and was
interested in a portfolio of sketches when Ray came across and squeezed
his arm.

"Well, I'm hanged," he murmured under his breath. "Who do you suppose is
here, actually as one of the guests?"

"Haven't a notion," Barle said briefly.

"Well, nobody less than Edward Keen himself."



CHAPTER XXI.--DRAGGING THE NET.


Barle glanced round the great, blue drawing-room, with its noble
proportions and vast spaces, and a grim, humorous light came into his
eyes. This was the sort of intricate problem that his soul loved. He
whistled ever so softly between his teeth.

"So, ho!" he murmured. "Then we really are getting to grips at last.
Which of these notables is the fair unknown?"

"I hope you don't mind," Ray said. "But I have taken you into my
confidence as far as I dared go without being absolutely sure of my
ground, and now I must tell you everything. Keen is here, in this room.
Can't you recognise him?"

"Give it up," Barle said. "Tell me."

"The man with the white beard and with spectacles," Ray said. "The one
talking to Lord Barlington."

"Yes, but that is Moon, the great entomologist."

"Precisely," Ray said drily. "And also Edward Keen, the great criminal.
Oh, I am quite sure of my ground. I have known it for some time, but
Miss Nemo proved it for me. Don't you remember my telling you how she
went into Keen's bedroom the night before she was 'abducted,' and found
nothing there except Moon's spectacles? That was confirmation of what I
already suspected. It was Moon whom I saw in the bungalow examining that
map, and then the happy idea that they were one and the same man came
home to me. Nothing could possibly be plainer."

"But, really, my dear fellow----"

"Yes, yes, I know what you are going to say. But why not? You know all
about the Golden Bat, and how it was stolen from Lord Barlington's house
and placed on one or the walls in the bungalow. You know that Keen is
almost as fine a judge of tropical butterflies as Moon himself. And
don't forget that Moon's publishers have never seen him--very few people
have seen him for the matter of that, and they have never been in the
same room together. Even out in Brazil there is nobody who has seen Keen
and Moon together. I don't see in the least why they should not be one
and the same. However, if you don't believe me, go across the room and
pull Moon's beard off. You will be convinced then."

"Rather dramatic, eh, what?" Barle smiled. "But we must not sacrifice
our big final scene for a sudden effect. However, what you have just
told me confirms me in my impression that this place will be the scene
of the next robbery. Here we have the principal character under the roof
of the man who is to be bereft of his treasures, and I have no doubt he
has his confederates fairly close at hand. Rather funny, isn't it, that
Lord Barlington, another of Keen's victims, should be under this roof.
And, moreover, invited especially to meet that distinguished scientist,
Mr. Moon. What you call dramatic retribution."

"Yes, it is strange, isn't it?" Ray said. "I shall have a few words with
Lord Barlington before long, in connection with a certain young lady I
have told you about, because, you see, Miss Nemo, who in supposed to
have no relatives in the world, is the only child of Lord Barlington's
second son. This is by way of being a side show, and more of less
remotely connected with the main issue, but it is of the greatest
interest to me, and I intend to see it through. Now, unless I am
altogether mistaken Keen, or Moon, or whatever he calls himself, is here
for the week-end, and I have not the slightest doubt that he has brought
his man with him. And if that man doesn't turn out to be the butler,
Easton, I shall be very much mistaken. Do you happen to have a valet of
your own? I mean, have you got one down here?"

"Oh, dear, yes," Barle said. "I am doing the thing in style, of course.
My man is somewhere about."

"Then get hold of him before we go in to dinner and ask him if Moon has
a body-servant with him. Of course, the man who comes down here with you
is one of your own staff."

"Well, naturally. I will see what I can do."

Barle strolled casually from the room and came back presently with the
information that Ray needed.

"You are quite right," he said, "Moon's man is called Easton, so that's
that."

"Nothing could be better," Ray said. "We have the two principal
characters in the conspiracy down here, and they will be safely under
our eye until the big coup is pulled off. That will probably be
to-morrow night, after dinner. No doubt it will be late in the evening,
when we are all playing bridge in the smoking room. And now, if you
don't mind, I will take a few hours off tomorrow morning and go up to
town. I want to visit the Thatched House and bring all those papers and
documents with me. They will be very useful when we come to confront the
rascals, and, besides, there are certain items, notably the Golden Bat,
which I am making use of for purposes of my own."

It was no difficult matter for Ray to borrow a car next morning and run
up to town. But first of all he wanted to go as far as the small hotel
in Hadlow and pick up a few odds and ends which he required, and he
drove through Chatham for this purpose. He was passing down one of the
main streets of the town, when, to his immense astonishment, he saw
Angela on the pavement. There was no reason for secrecy, he had no one
to fear, so he ordered the car to be pulled up, and got out.

"Now, what on earth are you doing here?" he asked.

Angela looked around somewhat fearfully.

"Oh, it's all right," Ray went on. "It is perfectly safe. Keen and his
familiar, Easton, are far enough away, and much too busy to think about
either you of me. Now, tell me, my dear, what on earth are you doing in
Chatham?"

"Oh, merely obeying orders," Angela smiled. "I am to remain here until
the machinery of the Melchior has been repaired, and then we are going
off somewhere in the yacht. I don't know quite what our destination is,
but I think it is somewhere North. I am told that all will be ready late
to-morrow night, and that I shall be picked up here somewhere about
midnight, so that we can catch the morning tide."

Here was confirmation, if Ray needed it, that the raid on the Duke's
treasures would take place late on the following evening. But of that he
said nothing.

"I am beginning to understand," he said. "You are staying at some hotel
here until Keen comes back."

"Yes, that is quite right." Angela explained. "I am staying at the
Mermaid. But how are you getting on? Where is my guardian and his man?
They told me they were going up to London. You see, the flat is shut up,
and the servants on board wages, so I suppose the idea is that we are
going off for quite a long time. I don't in the least want to go, Harry;
I dread the idea of it. If you can only stop it----"

"Oh, I am going to stop it right enough," Ray said, confidently. "You
can make your mind quite easy on that score. If there is one thing
certain in the world, it is that Keen will not pick you up here
to-morrow night. On the contrary, I think it is I who will have the
pleasure of doing so. So you can just kill time till then as best you
can, and comfort yourself with the knowledge that your travels are
over."

"It is very comforting to hear that," Angela murmured. "But that is not
everything."

"Oh, I know, I know. You are thinking about that mysterious name of
yours. Well, we are going to put that all right. Keen robbed your
father, and, unless I am greatly mistaken, sent him to his death. He
also robbed me through much the same business that was so fatal to your
father. I shall never see that money back again, but it is no great
matter after all. Still, it was a bad day for him when he first came in
contact with me, and he is going to realise it before long. But I can't
stand talking here any longer because matters are pressing. You go back
to your hotel, and don't move until you hear from me again."

With that, Ray climbed back in the car, and within the next couple of
hours reached Shepperton. He was busy for a little time in the Thatched
House, and then turned his face towards the coast, together with a
little box with a glass front of which he seemed to be extra-ordinarily
careful. He was back again at Abbotsfield Park not long after lunch, and
lost no time in getting in touch with Barle. He told the latter what he
had been doing, and how he had been passing his time, and when he had
finished, Barle rose from his seat and moved towards the door.

"Come along," he said. "I want you. We are going as far as Hadlow. I
have a few inquiries to make there, so we will drop in to our little
hotel there and have tea."

Ray waited in the parlour of the tiny hotel whilst Barle disappeared on
his errand. He was away perhaps half an hour, and then he came back with
the air of a man who is not dissatisfied.

"It goes," he said gaily. "It goes. I have been talking to one or two of
my scouts who are in close contact with the chauffeur I told you
about--I meant the man who drives the old lady's car--and they have
given me some very valuable information. I was wrong in suspecting the
chauffeur. He is innocent enough, but not long ago he had a telegram
telling him that his mother was seriously ill, and asking him to go and
see her at once. He told one of my men this; in fact, he showed him the
wire. Now, as the chauffeur happens to live at Newcastle and can't
possibly reach there before to-morrow afternoon, you will see how easy
it is for Keen's subordinates, whoever they are, to get hold of the car.
Of course, that is exactly what they are after. When the chauffeur
reaches Newcastle and finds he has been hoaxed, he will get back an soon
as possible, which, at the earliest, will be some time on Monday. It
will never occur to him that anything is wrong. He will merely think it
is the act of some enemy of his, and long before he gets back the
mischief will be done. The car will be taken out of its place late
to-morrow night, and will be driven somewhere near the side lodge of
Abbotsfield Park, and there wait till Keen and Easton turn up with the
plunder. Then they will all get in and drive to Chatham, and be on board
the yacht long before anybody suspects that a sensational robbery has
taken place. Then the car will be driven away by the subordinates and
abandoned in some country lane, after which the smaller fry will go
mostly back to London and lose themselves in the crowd. It's rather a
pretty scheme, and I have no doubt that Keen regards it as flawless. So
it would be but for you. And who on earth would suspect that
benevolent-looking old scientist, Professor Moon, of being a party to
one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on the public."

"Yes, I quite see that," Ray said. "Then you think that it will be
comparatively early to-morrow night. Why not in the early hours of the
morning?"

"I think not. There is always the chance of running into the night
watchman, and the possibility of having to put him out of the way.
Besides, Keen will go on the assumption that so long as the Duke's
guests are still downstairs, everything will be secure. That will be
Keen's chance. You see, the smoking room, where everybody plays bridge,
is some way from the library, and whilst the gambling is going on, Keen
will sneak out, and the deed will be done. Easton will be there, waiting
for his master, and half an hour will be all they want. The stuff will
be conveyed through the library window to the men who come up from the
car, and--well, you don't want me to tell you any more."

"Very well," Ray said. "I think you are right. And now would you mind
telling me where I come in?"



CHAPTER XXII.--RAY TELLS HIS STORY.


It was somewhere in the middle of the following afternoon, which was
Saturday, before Ray found an opportunity of speaking alone with Lord
Barlington. He found the old diplomatist by himself in the library, and
lost no time in getting to work.

"I have something to say to you, sir," he said. "Something of an
exceedingly private nature, which I am afraid will detain you for some
little time. Not here, if you don't mind."

"Bless my soul," Barlington said. "All this sounds very mysterious.
Suppose you come up to my bedroom. I have a fire there, and we shall not
be interrupted."

They walked up the broad marble staircase together, and turned into Lord
Barlington's room. From his pocket Ray produced a mass of papers and
laid them on a table.

"I want to speak to you about your son, Charles," Ray said. "I
understand that he died in rather unhappy circumstances, and I believe
the subject is a sore one with you."

Lord Barlington's eyes grew a trifle hard.

"I would rather not discuss it at all," he said. "I don't know in the
least who you are, except that you are a guest of my friend,
Abbotsfield, and apart from that----"

Ray's reply was to produce one of the faded photographs which he had
procured during his adventures at Poplar under the roof of Mrs. Roffy.
He handed it silently to his companion. The old man looked at it with a
softening of his expression.

"Yes," he said, at length. "That is my unfortunate lad. I presume you
know something about him, or you would not have dragged me here to talk
about these almost forgotten matters."

"I did not know him, if that is what you mean," Ray said. "But if I may
be pardoned for saying so, he was not as black as he was painted. At one
time, out in Brazil, he was doing his best to make good, and would have
done so but for the treachery of a scoundrel whose name I don't want to
mention. Your son had a pleasant, easy manner with him, and was very
popular with the masses. By accident he got hold of some plans connected
with a diamond mine which was supposed to be worked out, and he went up
country to develop it. He was murdered by some natives, who, I believe
were put on for the very purpose. At the same time his wife suffered the
same fate, and----"

"Did you know his wife?" Barlington cried.

"No, I didn't," Ray said. "But I know of her. She was a lady, if that is
what you mean, the daughter of a Colonel in the British Army, who had
gone out to San Salvador as English governess to a wealthy Brazilian of
position. I have a photograph of her here, taken at the same time as the
other one."

Barlington sat there for some little time poring over the faded features
there under his eyes.

"A pretty face," he murmured. "A refined face, and, as you say,
evidently a lady. But you have more to tell, I think."

"There was a child," Ray went on. "A girl."

"God bless my soul, was there?" Barlington asked. "Can you tell me what
became of her?"

"She is in England at the present moment," Ray explained. "I suppose
that the scoundrel in the play had some sort of a conscience, for he
looked after her and brought her up. I may be wrong, but my idea is that
the man I speak of was in love with your son's wife. At any rate, the
way he looked after her child was the one bright spot in a black
character. Now I daresay, Lord Barlington, that you imagine that we are
meeting for the first time. But that in not so. I came to see you once
at a certain club, soon after the robbery at your house."

With that, Ray removed his glasses and the smooth, dark moustache from
his upper lip.

"Oh, I know you now," Barlington exclaimed. "But why all this ridiculous
theatrical business? Didn't you tell me the last time we met that your
name was Ray?"

"Certainly I did. And, as a matter of fact, that is true. To make a
clean breast of it, I am connected with Scotland Yard. Why I am down
here will be plain enough before long, meanwhile, I am going to ask you
to respect my confidence. The Duke knows all about it, and so long as he
is satisfied I don't see that it matters to any one else. At any rate,
the whole thing will be public property in a few hours."

"Dear me, dear me," Barlington murmured. "We seem to be in a perfect
atmosphere of crime and mystery in this part of the world. Of course, I
will say nothing, not even to my old friend, our host, until you give me
permission to do so. And so I have actually a granddaughter alive, have
I?"

"You have, indeed," Ray said. "And a most beautiful and charming girl
she is, a grand-daughter for any man to be proud of. She has lived with
a scoundrel for years without knowing it, but nothing can contaminate
the girl who knows herself as Angela Nemo. The man, Keen, I am alluding
to, for reasons of his own, has always pretended that there is some
mystery about his ward's birth, mainly, I believe, to prevent her
breaking away from him. But he has had her educated splendidly, and
surrounded her with an atmosphere of wealth and refinement. But the fact
remains that he is a scoundrel, and the time has come when she must be
removed beyond his reach, and placed where she ought to be. When you see
her, Lord Barlington, I am sure you will agree with me."

"Of course, of course," Barlington said a little hoarsely. "I shall be
only too delighted to do the right thing. That unhappy boy of mine
caused me endless anxiety and worry, but he was my favourite, and I have
never forgotten him. When shall I be allowed to see my granddaughter?"

"Within a few hours," Ray said. "Probably to-morrow morning. I think she
had better come over here, and I hope to have the pleasure of fetching
her. At the present moment she is staying in an hotel at Chatham, at the
command of the man who calls himself her guardian, but unless things go
very much astray the individual I speak of will be in the hands of the
police before daybreak. He is practically in the trap now."

"This is terrible, very terrible," Barlington muttered. "The idea of a
granddaughter of mine actually living under the same roof as a criminal
is really distressing. But why do you take such an interest in the
matter?"

"I was rather hoping you would ask me that question," Ray smiled. "You
see, I am in love with Miss Barlington, as I must call her now, and my
affection is returned. I shall be able to satisfy you, when the time
comes, because I am something more than a mere policeman, and I am
perfectly capable of keeping your granddaughter in the position to which
she is entitled. You knew my father--he was Sir John Ray, of Hillsdon."

"Dear me, dear me, so I did," the old gentleman said fussily. "So you
are his son, eh? I remember you as quite a little lad, when I used to
come over for the shooting. And so you young people have come to an
understanding, eh? Well, I don't see how I can interfere, even if I
would. But I am a lonely old man since my elder son married and went off
to India with his regiment, so you see how happy I should be to
welcome----"

His voice trailed off into a murmur, and Ray rose to his feet. For the
moment, at any rate, he had finished.

"Let me leave it here, Lord Barlington," he said. "And not a word of
this for the next day or so."

The day dragged on; tea was a thing of the past, and the evening shadows
began to fall in. It was in the hall, just before the dinner bell rang,
that Ray had a chance of a few word with Barle. He told him hurriedly
the result of his conversation with Barlington, and how he had met
Angela that morning.

"There is one little thing I want you to do," he said. "When I came back
just now I brought with me the Golden Bat, which I took the liberty of
moving from its place in the Thatched House. I want you to give it to
the Duke, and ask him to put it in his strong room. It is only a little
joke on my part, but I think it will considerably astound Keen when he
comes to raid the treasure house. I will give it you presently."

"There is no objection, so far as I can see," Barle replied. "And now,
just listen to me. The trouble will begin to-night, probably between
eleven and twelve, when we are all playing bridge. Everybody here seems
to be keen upon the game, which fact, no doubt, Keen regards as a great
asset in his favour. But I am not going to play. I shall make some
ingenious excuse, and I want you to do the same. You must be handy when
I give you the sign, and do exactly as I tell you. I have got some
pressing business which will keep me dangling on the end of the
telephone. A call from London, you understand. I shall announce this at
dinner in a casual way, and, when they move to the card-room, shall sit
in the hall with a book. As a matter of fact, the telephone message I am
waiting for is from my watchers outside the garage at Hadlow, and they
will run over to the little hotel there and call me up directly the car
has left the garage. When I get that message, I shall go straight back
into the card-room, and clamour to cut in. You will be in the little
room leading off the library, in the dark, waiting on events. Before
that, and until I come into the card-room, you must be there, smoking or
watching, or something, ready to get my signal directly I come in. Then
vanish quietly, and I shall come to you when I think it safe to do so."

It all fell out exactly as Barle had suggested, so that shortly after
eleven, when the household had retired, Ray wandered about the
card-room, watching the play, as if he were waiting for his opportunity
to cut in. The door opened and Barle entered. He raised a finger, and
Ray moved towards him.

"It's all right," he whispered. "Everything is going splendidly. The
Daimler has just left the garage with two men, and is now on its way
here. It should reach the outer lodge in twenty minutes easily. Fade
away."



CHAPTER XXIII.--A BUSY AFTERNOON.


Blissfully ignorant of the fact that the aim of the law was reaching for
him, Keen was making his final plans for the biggest coup of his
hitherto successful career. So far as he could see there was no flaw in
his armour anywhere, and if this thing was accomplished as he hoped,
then he was prepared to lie up in the odour of sanctity and
respectability for the rest of his life. He had managed, after a deal of
scheming, to obtain an invitation to Abbotsfield Park on the occasion of
the birthday celebrations under the cloak of his fame as a well-known
naturalist, so the rest should be easy. This was something in the way of
a masterstroke, and probably quite new in the way of criminal strategy.

He was perfectly safe, because, so far as he knew, there was not a
single individual in the world who could connect the City man Keen, with
the entomologist, Moon, who had made such a great reputation for himself
during the last few years. As a matter of fact, the rising of Moon's
fame had been a comparatively recent one, and synchronised, more or
less, with certain events which happened in Brazil about 17 years ago.
He was supposed to be an exceedingly shy and retiring man, and this was
all in his favour. But be that as it might, here he was, an honoured
guest under the roof of the man he had set out deliberately to rob. And
he had not been wasting his time either. Absolutely sure of his
disguise, and with Easton to help him, he had studied every inch of the
ground both inside the house and out, so that when the raid came to be
put in active operation he would have been almost able to have taken his
part blindfold. He spent a good deal of time in the library, where the
strong room was, and in the hours when he was alone, had made a close
investigation of the door of the safe and the way in which it opened. It
was entirely an old-fashioned affair, and Keen had smiled to himself as
he studied it. With the aid of certain picklocks and a cake of wax, he
had made a mould which he felt pretty sure could be turned into a key in
the skilful hands of his man, Easton. And Easton, in the security of his
bedroom, provided with a simple bag of tools, had done his share in his
own masterly fashion.

So apparently everything was ready for the raid some hours before
midnight on that fateful Saturday. And then, just after lunch, he
received a shock. It came to him in the form of a telegram handed in to
the chief post office at Rotterdam through some mysterious agency, and
contained just half a dozen words in cipher. When Keen translated it, he
learnt that the Rotterdam police had made a raid upon Van Rooden's
premises in Hague Square and that the owner thereof was practically in
custody.

This brought Keen upstanding. He had not expected anything of the kind,
and he would have given a good deal at that particular moment to know
exactly what was happening on the other side of the North Sea. He had
been careful enough with his transactions with the Dutchman to cover up
his track completely, and so long as Van Rooden maintained silence, then
all should be well. But suppose the 'fence' had confessed! Not that it
looked much like it, or Keen would not have had that telegram. The whole
thing was a great nuisance, because hitherto Keen had had no difficulty
in disposing of his plunder in Rotterdam, and now he had to bring back
the proceeds of the last raid which at that moment were hidden on board
the 'Melchior.' It was rather a disturbing thought in case the Scotland
Yard people knew anything, and if they searched the yacht, then anything
might happen.

But on the other hand the 'Melchior' was ready to sail soon after
midnight, and by that time the store of valuables in her lockers would
be doubled. Then it only remained to pick up Angela and start off for
South America, where Keen knew that he could dispose of everything at
its full value. He had already arranged to transfer the lease of his
flat and sell the furniture just as it stood. He had practically passed
his city office over to somebody else, and there would be no difficulty
whatever with regard to the Thatched House at Shepperton.

With the telegram in his hand, he went off in search of Easton. Then in
his bedroom the two sat for some little time discussing that most
disturbing message.

"What do you think of it, sir?" Easton asked.

"I don't know quite what to think of it," Keen replied. "It is most
confoundedly annoying. Another day and it would not have mattered in the
least. I can't make up my mind whether this is a trap or a warning from
one of van Rooden's confederates. Sent to put me on my guard. At any
rate we have got to risk it now. Is everything absolutely in order?"

"Everything," Easton said. "The car will be here to the minute, and you
have the key of the strong room. Now, what do you want me to do, sir? Am
I going to commit the actual robbery, or are you? I mean, wouldn't it be
better for you to stay in the card room with the other gentlemen and
keep watch over them when the right moment comes? You could give me the
signal if anybody moved. Or would you like to do it yourself?"

"I shall be there just at the very last moment to see everything is all
right," Keen said. "But it will be only for a moment. You see, most of
the Duke's guests are very keen bridge players, and it will be difficult
to move them unless something very extraordinary happens. I shan't be
playing myself, I shall take very good care of that. But whether you see
me or not, you know exactly what to do. Get away with the stuff and take
the yacht as far as Sheerness. I am banking on the fact that the robbery
will not be discovered for some days, unless the Duke has occasion to
open the strong room, which I don't anticipate, so long as the house is
full of people. Then on Monday I shall make my regretful adieux and taxi
as far as Sheerness, where I can join you. A few hours after that we
shall be beyond reach. I can't see a flaw in it anywhere. But I am not
taking any risks, Easton. There only remains Miss Angela, I think I will
go into Chatham and see her myself. She must not go to bed to-night. She
must be told that she will be fetched from her hotel and taken on board
the 'Melchior.' You had better see the stuff on board, and then go over
to the Mermaid and tell Miss Angela that you have come from me. I will
go in and tell her this, so that she will regard it as absolutely
official. But before I do that, I want to make sure that the ground is
properly clear. I want to know definitely that the chauffeur person is
on his way to Newcastle. Go round to the garage and tell the head man
that I want to borrow one of the Duke's cars for the afternoon. You had
better come along."

They drove first of all to the lonely house outside the town, and there
at the little inn where Barle had put up, they met two men lounging in
the hall. At a sign from Easton, they slipped quietly outside and stood
within earshot of the car.

"Well, how is it?" Keen asked abruptly. "What have you two fellows got
to report?"

The taller of the two laughed, and his companion smiled, like one who is
enjoying a joke. They might have been a couple of week-end holiday
makers of the better class, undoubtedly they were men of education, and
not in the least like one might expect in connection with professional
crime.

"Oh, that is all right, Keen," the tall man said. "I don't think you
will find that Peters and myself have left anything undone."

Keen listened grimly. He had discarded his beard and glasses for the
time being, because the only person in the world who knew of his dual
identity was Easton, and Easton was a man to be trusted, because it had
always been made well worth his while.

"That's all right, of course, Magness," he said. "Now touching that
chauffeur. Has he really gone?"

"Really and truly," the tall man said. "I arranged all about the wire,
and I know that he got it. Moreover, I followed him to the station, and
heard him asking the booking clerk if he could book straight through to
Newcastle. I saw the train start, and after I got back here I walked
down the lane and satisfied myself that we should have no trouble in
getting the car when we want it. It's a very simple lock, and one that
any ordinary expert could open in two minutes. Oh, you can rely upon us,
if you will tell us exactly where to go."

"Haven't you been all over the ground already?" Keen demanded. "I told
you to do so."

"Oh, we know the road all right, and the gap in the park wall just past
the lodge where the car is to pull up. Then I understand that we are to
creep through the shrubbery and Easton will hand us the loot through the
library window."

Apparently satisfied at last, Keen curtly nodded to his accomplices, and
the car was once more turned in the direction of Chatham. There arrived
at the Mermaid, Keen got out and walked into the hotel. He was not
particularly anxious to be seen now that he had slipped off his beard
and spectacles, and placed them under one of the seats in the car. But
he had not long to wait, and a minute or two later found himself in the
little sitting-room, where Angela sat with a book.

"Ah, here we are," he said. "I dare say you wonder what this all means,
and where I have been. I have had a lot of very pressing business to do,
and have only just come down from London. I can't stay with you many
minutes, because I have friends waiting for me. Now I want you to listen
carefully. The repairs to the 'Melchior' are complete, and she is ready
to sail now at any moment."

"Where to?" Angela asked, concealing her anxiety as best she could.
"Where are we going this time?"

"Well, not across the North Sea, at all events," Keen smiled. "Perhaps
through the Bay and along the Mediterranean. I haven't made up my mind.
And even at the very last moment it may be postponed. I am hoping for
the best, however, and that is why I came here to warn you to be ready.
You have money?"

"Oh, yes," Angela said.

"Then you had better pay your bill after dinner, and tell the people
here that you are leaving very late in the evening. I shall not be able
to get back myself, but will send Easton for you. He ought to be here
shortly after midnight. I am sorry to put you to all this inconvenience,
but in a way it is for your own benefit. And, perhaps, however, who
knows, before long we may be able to throw some light upon a matter that
concerns you deeply. I mean regarding your parentage."

Angela looked up half hopefully. Was this man telling her the truth, she
wondered, or was it part of some deep game he was playing. In the
knowledge of what Ray had told her, she no longer trusted this man, and
anything he said she felt bound to regard with the deepest suspicion.
Still, he might have been telling the truth, and his manner was sincere
enough.

"Oh, if you only could," she cried. "In that case I would do anything
you asked me. But aren't you going to tell me a little more about this
voyage?"

"I can't," Keen said plausibly. "There are reasons which I cannot
discuss even with you. Perhaps in the course of a few hours I shall be
able to speak with confidence. But cheer up, don't look so disturbed,
and leave everything to me."

"Very well," Angela said. "I will trust you. And when Easton comes, I
shall be ready for him."

"Spoken like a good girl," Keen cried gaily. "I am sure you will have no
cause to regret it."



CHAPTER XXIV.--"LOCKS, BOLTS, AND BARS."


Within a moment of Barle's whispered confidence in Ray's ears with
regard to the progress of events, the latter had faded from the
card-room and was sauntering across the hall in the direction of the
library. The great hall was more or less in darkness, with only one
branch of electrics turned on, and much the same state of affairs
obtained in the library. For the Duke was highly considerate as far as
his servants were concerned, so that they retired early, and if the
guests wanted anything after their departure, they would have to get it
themselves. Doubtless Keen had counted on this, but, at any rate, there
it was, and Ray made his way into the very dimly-lit library without
hearing a sound or seeing a face anywhere. It was very much as if he had
the house all to himself, as he stepped softly across the huge Persian
carpet and entered a little room that led out of the larger apartment
and formed a sort of snuggery where a guest could sit and write if he
wanted to be altogether alone. There was no light in there, so that Ray
pulled up a chair by the side of the door and sat down to possess his
soul in patience until such time as he would be called upon for really
vigorous action. He slipped his hand down his right hip-pocket to make
sure that his revolver was there. He knew perfectly well that if
anything happened to upset the plans of the thieves, they would never be
taken without a fight.

At that moment, however, the atmosphere of the card-room was singularly
peaceful and placid. Under the shaded lights, five tables had been set
out, and round the green cloth as many games were in progress. On the
sideboard stood the drinks which the servants had brought in, the cigars
and cigarettes, and over everything hung a drifting atmosphere of blue
smoke. They all seemed to be very keen on their game, including the host
himself. They were good players for the most part, and just then they
were thinking about very little else.

The only three outside the charmed circle were Barle, who drifted from
table to table, watching the various hands, with Keen, white and
benevolent behind his spectacles, lounging in a deep window seat talking
to a very elderly gentleman on some abstruse subject which Barle could
just faintly catch. And so the minutes drifted on until the clock on the
mantelpiece struck the half-hour after eleven, and as it did so, Barle,
watching from under his eyebrows, saw Keen look up swiftly.

But still the placid minutes flowed on, and nothing happened. There was
just a hum of voices here and there, and little friendly disputes
following the conclusion of a hand, such as one hears where bridge
players are gathered together. Then Barle, moving aimlessly in Keen's
direction, caught the thread of what he was saying. He drew a sharp
breath.

"I can assure you, Professor, you are wrong," Keen murmured. "I have
made a study of the subject all my life, and I can speak from practical
experience. But let me convince you. There is a copy of Franz'
Comparative Philology in the library which I was glancing at only this
afternoon. If you will wait a minute I will hunt it up and show you the
paragraph."

"Certainly, my dear sir--certainly!" the aged gentleman said. "I am only
too ready to be convinced."

Keen rose from his seat and drifted quietly out of the room. Just for an
instant Barle had an impulse to follow him, but he checked that, because
he had the greatest faith in his subordinate, and in addition, there
were some half-dozen of his own men hidden away there, outside the
library window. And if anything had gone wrong, Ray would assuredly have
given him the signal.

Meanwhile, Ray, seated there in the darkness, waited patiently for the
beginning of the drama. It was just as the clock struck the half-hour
after eleven that Easton came cat-like into the library. He looked about
him for a few moments to make sure that the ground was clear, and then
advanced towards the strong room door. Ray held his breath, a little
fearful lest Easton should enter the little room to make sure that it
was empty. But he did nothing of the kind, and Ray breathed again.

He heard the quick flick of a key in the lock, and his trained ear told
him that the bolts had been withdrawn. It was a clever piece of work on
Easton's part, and Ray was not disposed to deny it. He saw the great
door flung back, and then one of the French windows leading to the
terrace outside was softly opened, and Easton murmured something that
Ray could not catch. Almost immediately a reply came from outside. It
was in the quietest of whispers, but Ray's trained ears caught the
words.

"Oh, we are all right," the voice said. "No trouble whatever. We have
been here ten minutes, wondering when the play was going to begin, and
we got from Hadlow here without meeting a soul. Now hand it out."

"All in good time," Easton said. "There is no hurry whatever. The
servants have all gone to bed, and the house party is in the card room
playing bridge. And here we are, me, the gentleman's servant mixing with
the household staff, and the gov'nor staying in the house. Never
anything quite like it before. Now, just drop out of sight again, and
lie doggo whilst I draw the blind. If one of the farm hands did happen
to be out as late as this, and he saw your shadow, there would be the
devil to pay. Nothing to worry about, it's the easiest thing we ever
struck, and the biggest. Now, then, fade away."

The blind dropped again, and then silence. Evidently Easton was waiting
for something, for he stood there by the door of the strongroom, without
even turning on the electric lights in the room. It was at that instant
when Ray's ear caught the sound of a soft footfall, and Keen came
silently in.

"Oh, here you are," he said. "And you have got the door open, too.
Excellent. You seem to have made a splendid job of it. But then you have
never been known to fail at that game. The others turned up yet?"

"They are just outside the window at the present moment," Easton
explained. "The car is in the lane, and Peters tells me that they were
fortunate enough to get here without meeting a soul on the way, not even
a solitary policeman. But don't you think it is a bit risky leaving the
others?"

"I am quite sure it isn't," Keen said coolly. "They are all deep in
their game, and they play for pretty high stakes, too. It would take an
earthquake or an explosion to move those follows from the card tables.
And I take it that you saw all the servants off to bed before you
moved."

"I did that," Easton muttered. "But----"

"There is no but about it," Keen said a little irritably. "I tell you it
is all right. There are only two people not playing, and one of them is
prowling about like a cat on hot bricks looking for a chance to cut in.
The other is a harmless old idiot, who is waiting for me whilst I look
up a reference in one of the books here. I am going to see everything
out of that strongroom, so that I shall know exactly what we have to
deal with."

"Ah, you are a confiding one, you are," Easton snarled. "After all these
years you don't trust me a yard."

"I don't trust anybody," Keen said coolly. "You are a valuable servant
to me, and I pay you well. If there is anybody in the world I have faith
in, it is you, and perhaps because you know so much. But this faith idea
isn't business. But, come on, don't let us stand bickering here. Let's
go on with it. Flick on those lights inside the safe."

Without further remonstrance, Easton touched the switch, and instantly
the interior of the strongroom was a blaze of light. Then Easton
advanced towards the shelves and the little pigeon-holes, only to fall
back a second later with a cry of surprise that brought Keen to his
side.

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

"Matter!" Easton croaked. "Matter! Look for yourself. What's that lying
on the shelf there? That little case, I mean. The case with the glass
top."

Keen bent over it eagerly, and the hand that he laid on the small object
trembled strangely.

"Good Lord," he whispered. "It's a Golden Bat. Seems to be raining
Golden Bats these times. I thought the thing was extinct, and then I get
hold of one at Lord Barlington's place, and now the devil fly away with
me if we haven't found another. What do you make of it?"

"Another nothing," Easton cried impatiently. "It is the same one. The
one we got from that old Lord. Can't you see for yourself? Look at the
sides of it. That is where I planed them down to fit in the space of the
wall in the Thatched House, near the place where we kept our tools."

"My God, so it is," Keen whispered. "Here, let's get out of this. There
is something wrong here."

He turned towards the door, closely followed by Easton, who was now as
greatly alarmed as his master. They were just the fraction of a second
too late. Ray crept quietly from his seat, and slammed the heavy iron
door to, at the same time turning the key in the lock. It was a pretty
little plant which he had laid for those two scoundrels, and it had come
off to a nicety. They were trapped in there as securely as they would
have been inside a prison cell. Very coolly, Ray strolled across the
library, through the hall, into the card-room, feeling quite at his ease
and secure as to the future. Barle looked up at him with a questioning
glance, and Ray nodded reassuringly.

"I am sorry to disturb you," Ray cried, "but there are burglars in the
library, Duke. I have them both locked up in the strongroom, so they are
perfectly safe. Perhaps your Grace would like to come along and
interview them yourself."



CHAPTER XXV.--BROUGHT HOME.


Ray's almost placid statement that he had trapped two burglars in the
library fell on the ears of those in the smoking room like a bombshell.
In an instant the games were forgotten and every man there was on his
feet. There was a move towards the door, led by the Duke himself, but,
at a sign from Barle, Ray intervened. He saw what Barle meant by the
significant way in which he pointed to his own breast and shook his
head. Even in that select company, Barle had no intention of proclaiming
his identity with the Secret Squad at Scotland Yard. He came across the
room and whispered a few words in his subordinate's ear.

"You carry on this thing," he said. "I don't want to be in it at all.
You know exactly what to do, and as you will be the principal witness
against these people at the trial there is no object in your keeping
secrecy. You know what the signals are. I suppose the rest of them are
outside?"

Ray nodded, and pushed his way through the crowd standing about the
door.

"One moment, if you please," he said. "I must ask you to all stand back.
Perhaps I had better tell you that I have this case in hand, and that I
am head of a department at Scotland Yard. Would you all mind waiting for
a few minutes whilst I go as far as the library with the Duke? There is
not the remotest chance of these men getting away, and if there is going
to be any excitement, then I promise, you shall all be in it."

"Yes, that's right," the Duke said. "Now come on, Mr. Ray, I am quite
looking forward to this. Do you mean to say that you have got those
fellows actually locked up in my strong room?"

"Nothing less," Ray smiled. "I set a bit of a trap for them, and they
fell into it. I had baited the trap with a butterfly. But you shall know
all about that presently."

The library, was in absolute silence. No doubt the two principal
characters in the drama had realised their position and were more or
less quietly waiting on events. Ray stood by the door and turned on all
the lights, then he pushed up the switch once more, and almost
immediately from outside in the darkness came the sound of a whistle,
followed distantly by three revolver shots. As Ray and his host stood,
there they could hear the sounds of strife outside, and then the whistle
again, after which everything grew silent once more.

"Those are the confederates outside, waiting for the spoil," he
explained. "Our men were all round them, only they didn't know it. The
switching on of those lights was a signal, and that second whistle tells
me that all is well. However, it would be just as well perhaps to make
sure."

Ray crossed the library and pulled aside the blinds.

"Are you there, Evershed?" he cried.

"Quite right, sir," a voice replied out of the darkness. "We have got
both of them, and the car they came in. Nobody hurt. Are we to stay,
sir?"

"Not for the moment," Ray said. "There are one or two things to be done
at this end first. You get those two fellows over to Chatham, and see
that they are properly looked after. Then come back in half an hour's
time, all of you, and I will hand over the leaders to your custody. That
is all."

"What's the next move?" the Duke whispered excitedly. "Sutton, what are
you doing down here?"

A white-faced servant stood in the doorway.

"I am very sorry, your Grace, but two or three of us who were not yet in
bed heard the sounds of shots, and naturally we came to see what was the
matter."

"Oh, well, you will know all about that in the morning. Burglars,
Sutton, burglars. All captured and properly looked after. You can tell
the women servants that, and perhaps you had better be handy in case I
ring for you."

The man-servant withdrew as requested, and then the Duke turned eagerly
to his companion.

"And now for those other men," he said. "But hadn't you better be
careful? If they are armed----"

"I am quite sure they are not," Ray said. "Your master criminal is not
that sort of melodramatic ass. The smaller fry have a weakness for
automatics, but the big man at the top, never. You see, our judges take
a serious view of that sort of thing, and the mere carrying of firearms
always means an addition to the sentence. I am not a bit afraid of
weapons. I will just fasten that window, and then we will get on with
it. Would you mind asking Mr. Barle to come this way?--not the rest."

"They will be rather disappointed," the Duke suggested.

"Oh, they can come in later on, but there is something more than mere
burglary here, something that affects the happiness of a certain young
lady, and one of your guests. I am alluding to Lord Barlington."

"Barlington! Bless my soul, what has he got to do with it? However, I
will do as you suggest."

Barle came into the library a moment later, alone.

"I think I know what you want, Ray," he said. "But don't you think that
Lord Barlington ought to be here as well?"

"Of course," Ray said. "Of course. I had forgotten just for the moment.
Perhaps you will fetch him."

Barlington came into the room, leaving the rest of the guests in a state
of puzzled excitement and wondering why they were excluded from what
they regarded as an unusual entertainment. Barle locked the door, and
Ray turned the key in the strong room.

"Now come on out," he said. "It is all up as far as you are concerned.
And the rest of your gang is now on the way to Chatham. You might just
as well throw up the sponge."

But Keen was not finished with yet. He emerged with an assumption of
ruffled dignity which rather roused Ray's admiration. His eyes gleamed
angrily behind his spectacles. Easton stood behind his master with hands
folded and in an attitude of respectful attention.

"I demand to know what this all means," Keen cried. "I come in here to
look for a book, which contains a reference I need in connection with an
argument which I have been having with Sir Charles Henderson. He will
confirm this if you ask him. When I got here I found the door of the
strong-room unlocked. My man happened to be crossing the hall at the
time, and I called him in to confirm my statement. We looked into the
strong-room, and suddenly the door was slammed to, and----"

"I think you can cut that all out," Ray said. "It is very clever, but,
you see, I happen to know too much. I am one of the Scotland Yard
officials, and perhaps when I tell you that my real name is Ray, and
that I once had the pleasure of dining with Mr. Keen in Silverdale
Mansions, you may decide to take up some other line. Now then, Mr.
Keen."

With that, Ray removed his glasses and moustache, and stood out,
confessed in his own person. It was a jolt for Keen, but after an
instant he was himself again.

"Who do you mean by Keen?" he asked.

Ray crossed the intervening space between himself and his questioner
swiftly, and tore away the long, white beard. He whisked off the
spectacles, and Keen stood confessed.

"Allow me to introduce you, gentlemen, to Mr. Keen," Ray went on. "The
South American produce merchant, who has an office in the City, where he
transacts a more or less phantom business. His real occupation is
high-class burglary, and he is the leading spirit in the series of
robberies which have taken place in this neighbourhood during the last
few months. He has a flat in London, Silverdale Mansions, to be correct,
and also a secluded retreat at Shepperton called the Thatched House. But
in the latter place he is known as Professor John Everard Moon, the
great entomologist. As a matter of fact, there is no such person as
Moon."

"Then who writes his books?" the Duke cried.

"Why, the man you see before you, of course. There never has been any
Moon. Keen is a great authority on the subject, and his dual identity
has enabled him to pose as two people, so that, as an Irishman might
say, he can accomplish the art of being in two places at the same time.
Nobody has ever seen Keen and Moon together. It was left to me to
discover the secret, and I don't mind telling our friend here that I
should never have tumbled to it if he hadn't behaved in that exceedingly
foolish manner with regard to the Golden Bat, which he was idiotic
enough to remove from Lord Barlington's house and place in his own
collection, on the walls of the bungalow at Shepperton. I never knew a
criminal yet, who hadn't some weak spot, and our friend here is no
exception to the rule. With all his cleverness and research, he had no
specimen of the Golden Bat, and he could not refrain from taking away
the only butterfly of the species ever caught. So I brought over the
case containing the insect from the Thatched House, and I placed it
inside the strongroom, knowing that Keen would find it there. He did
find it, and very astonished he was. I know that, because I was in that
little dark room, listening, and----"

"How much more of this?" Keen cried, throwing aside all pretence, now
that he saw the game was up. "What's the charge? I don't want to stay
here all night."

"I think you know perfectly well what the charge is," Ray said. "We have
caught you red-handed, and the same remark applies to your confederates
who came over here in the car which they borrowed from a garage at
Hadlow. We know all about your ingenious device for borrowing cars from
other people and leaving them derelict. And, more than that, the Daimler
you picked up was intended to convey the proceeds of to-night's robbery
to Chatham, and thence take them to your yacht, the 'Melchior,' which is
lying just off the harbour. Her machinery is all in order now, and
before daybreak you anticipated getting away with a mass of plunder, and
carrying it off to South America. At the present moment, the proceeds of
all your recent robberies are on the 'Melchior' because you were unable
to dispose of it in Rotterdam. It was rather unfortunate for you that
your chief ally, van Rooden, should have met with an accident at a very
critical time, and still more unfortunate that his premises were raided
by the Dutch police. And, as misfortunes never come alone, it was a bit
of a blow when your machinery went wrong. But that was not an accident,
I was responsible for it. I was a stoker on board the 'Melchior' on her
voyage to Rotterdam and back, and----"

"The devil you were," Keen snarled. "Oh, I wish I had known, I wish I
had known."

The mask had fallen from his face now, and he looked like the evil,
trapped beast that he was. He glared about him, as if seeking for some
way of escape, but there was something in Ray's cold, hard eye and the
stern lines about the corners of Barle's lips that kept him from any
outburst of violence. Easton stood behind with his hands folded and a
blank expression on his face. So far as he was concerned, the game
really was up, and he was quite prepared to take what was coming to him.

"You seem to know all about it," Keen went on. "Ah well, it has been a
good time, and a very paying one. But for real bad luck, I should have
got away, and you would never have heard of either Keen or Moon again.
Now call in your men, and hand us over to them. I am not going to make
any pretence at being sorry, but if you've got no more to say----"



CHAPTER XXVI.--THE VALUE OF A NAME.


"So far as you are personally concerned," Ray said, "I have finished.
But there is another matter which I am sure will be of the greatest
interest to Lord Barlington here. And if you like to confirm certain
suspicious I have, I may be able to help you when your trial takes
place. You need not answer unless you like, because my proofs are pretty
clear. But didn't you know Lord Barlington's son, Charles, years ago?"

"Oh, that's all right," Keen said recklessly. "I know exactly what you
are driving at. We did know one another, and a precious bad lot he was,
until he fell in love with a girl that I wanted to marry, and took her
over my head. But for that, I believe I should have been a different
man. I never realised what it was to be in love till I met the girl I am
speaking of. And I lay low, I said nothing, but waited for my revenge. I
robbed Barlington of what was a really valuable property, and one which
I have never been able to develop, because I haven't had the time. But
there is a fortune in it for the right people. I sent Barlington up
country, knowing that he would never come back, but I didn't know till
too late that he was taking his wife and child with him, and when I
discovered that, I did my best to save them from the natives into whose
hands they fell. But all too late. They were both murdered, and you can
believe me or not as you like, but I cannot get the business out of my
mind to this day."

"There was a child I think you said," Ray went on.

"Oh, yes, and that child I looked after. She has been living with me
ever since. There is nothing I would not do for her. My affection for
her is the one white spot in rather a black past."

Ray drew from his pocket a mass of papers, which he had taken from the
Thatched House and laid them before Keen.

"Those are the photographs, I think, of Mr. Charles Barlington and his
wife, and these are the documents you stole from him. And they relate to
the property which one of your agents sold to me in Brazil knowing
perfectly well that he was obtaining my money by false pretences.
Incidentally it was this little transaction that first put me on the
track of Keen. However, we need not go into that. You are sure that that
is Mrs. Barlington?"

"I wish I were as sure of my freedom," Keen growled. "I can tell you
when those two were married, so that you can obtain a copy of the
certificate if you want it. Lord Barlington, your grand daughter at this
very moment is in the Mermaid at Chatham, waiting for me to pick her up
and take her on board the 'Melchior.' But circumstances over which I
have no control prevent that, and I suggest that you send for her
yourself instead. If you will give me pen and ink and paper, I will
write down the name of the place where your son and his wife were
married. I can't do more than that, though I am not quite sure in my
mind that I don't owe my present position to the girl on whom I lavished
what affection I had, and whom I treated as if she had been my own
daughter. Unfortunately she will have to know all about this wretched
business, but you can tell her that I did my best at the last to provide
her with a good honourable name, which is all her own, though I had to
pretend for years that she was--well, let us say anonymous. And I think
that is about all."

Keen turned his back upon the rest of them, and refused to say another
word. A minute or two later, a footstep sounded on the terrace outside,
and Ray crossed to the window and drew up the blind. Four officers in
uniform were standing outside.

"You can come in," Ray said. "There are your men. You had better take
them this way, instead of the front door, because the servants are
hanging about and the more privately these proceedings are conducted the
better."

The handcuffs were snapped on the wrists of the two criminals, the
window blind dropped again, and they were gone. The Duke turned eagerly
to Lord Barlington.

"Well, upon my word, this is a most extraordinary romance," he said. "I
never heard anything like it. Criminals and yachts and Golden Bats and
missing grand-daughters all jumbled up together like a sort of
nightmare. I suppose I shall be able to iron it all out presently? But
look here, Barlington, what about this grand-daughter of yours? The poor
child can't be left where she is, sitting up all night waiting for some
one to turn up, and wondering what has become of them. Why not have her
over here?"

"That is very good of you, Abbotsfield," Barlington said, gratefully.
"But I am too utterly confused at present even to be able to think. You
see, I have never met the child, and if I turned up unexpectedly she
would probably refuse to believe that I am her grandfather. But I should
like to have her here, though I can't fetch her--I am much too upset and
agitated for that."

"Allow me to go, my lord," Ray said boldly. "As a son of an old friend
of yours, as the affianced husband of Miss Angela Barlington, I think I
could----"

"Good Lord!" the Duke cried. "Another romance! Is there no end to them?
Here, Barlington, come along with me and have a whisky and soda. It
seems to me that we both need it. Let this young fellow go if he likes,
and bring the child back with him. And in the meantime, we can try and
make the other people understand all that has happened. It's positive
cruelty to keep them chained up in the card-room till this time. Ring
the bell, Ray, and ask my man to have a car round. You can gamble on the
fact that not a single servant is in bed yet. Off you go. You may be a
policeman, but that doesn't prevent you being a man and a lover. I will
see Mrs. Everton before you come back and explain things to her."

It was all very irregular, of course, but there are times when the
proprieties have to take second place, and this was evidently one of
them. Ray slipped along the dark road presently in the luxurious
interior of a big limousine, and in the course of time reached his
destination. It was not yet so late that the Mermaid was all in
darkness, and in less than five minutes the car was on its way back to
Abbotsfield Park with the trembling and bewildered Angela inside,
wondering what had happened, and what all this strange proceeding meant.
Her belongings were on top of the motor, and she was inside with the one
man in the world who mattered. She turned to him with a question in her
eyes.

"What does it all mean, Harry?" she asked. "What has happened since I
saw you last, and why are you taking me to Abbotsfield Park at this time
of night?"

"You trust me, don't you?" Ray smiled.

"Oh, yes, my dear--oh, yes. If I can't trust you, who in the world can I
confide in?"

"Yes, that's right," Ray said. "I am taking you to Abbotsfield Park,
because you are going to be the guest of the Duke for a day or two, and
because you are also going to meet your grandfather before you sleep.
What do you think of that, Miss Barlington? May I kiss you, Miss
Barlington?"

"Of course you may, Harry," Angela whispered. "Something very wonderful
must have happened, or there would not be that happy look in your eyes.
Now, tell me, please!"

"Well, in the first place, your name is Barlington, and Lord Barlington
is your grandfather. You are the only child of his son, Charles. He
seems to have been rather a trial to his parents, but he had his good
points or your mother would never have married him. But, you see, Keen
wanted to marry her, too, and that was the cause of all the trouble."

Ray went on with his story, softening points down, here and there, that
told too heavily against Keen, for with all his duplicity he had been
genuinely fond of Angela, and she had always received every kindness at
his hands.

"And now you know all about it," he concluded. "You know that Keen and
Moon are one and the same person, in fact--you told me that before you
realised it yourself. You gave me the idea that I worked on, and I was
convinced I was right when you informed me of Moon's mysterious
disappearance the night when you were watching in the flat. Of course,
there is no reason whatever that you should be dragged into this
business, and I will see that you are not. People will be told that Lord
Barlington's son, Charles, left a child behind him; it will be a nine
days' wonder and then forgotten. At any rate, you are never likely to
see Keen again. He will take his sentence like the philosopher that he
is, and when he comes out of gaol will go abroad and be lost sight of. I
shall be very much mistaken if he hasn't discounted the future right
enough. I mean, he is certain to have a lot of stuff put away somewhere
with a view to a catastrophe like this. But don't let's talk about him
any more. Let's think about the future. Lord Barlington knows all about
us----"

"Us!" Angela echoed, with questioning eyes. "Do you mean to say you have
informed him----"

"Even so, my lady. And he is quite prepared to take me into the family.
You see, after all, I am something more than a mere policeman. Lord
Barlington used to know my father in the old days, and came to shoot at
our place. More than that, it looks to me as if your future is provided
for. My idea is to leave Scotland Yard and go out to Brazil and look
into those mines there. They belong to us right enough, and I really
think you will enjoy a honeymoon in a lovely country like that."

Angela nestled up to the man at her side. His arms went round her and
their lips met in a long, clinging kiss.

"Anywhere with you," she whispered. "Anywhere, because you have given me
not only love, but the name that I lost. Ah, you cannot tell how I
longed for that."

They swept along the avenue up to the house, and there on the doorstep
stood Barlington, eagerly awaiting them. He took Angela in his arms and
looked down into her eyes with more than content.



THE END



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