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Title: The House on the Fens
Author: Arthur Gask
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Language: English
Date first posted: March 2012
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The House on the Fens

by

Arthur Gask





WHAT THIS STORY IS ABOUT

But for the timely intervention of Inspector Stone, Gilbert Larose, who
has brought an end to many a dangerous criminal, might himself have been
arrested for murder. As it was, the weight of evidence was
overwhelmingly against him, and he was compelled to bring into play all
his wit and resource in an effort to establish his own innocence.

His researches led him to a dark, lonely, jealously-guarded house deeply
hidden in the Norfolk fens where he stumbled upon the triple mystery of
a rich recluse, a criminal impersonation and a girl in dire distress.
Regardless of danger and his own interests he decided to probe the
affair to its depths.

Another gripping story of the quality of The Vengeance of Larose, about
which H, G. Wells said; "By far the best piece of story-telling Gask has
done. It kept me up to half-past one last night."

*

BY THE SAME AUTHOR

THE VENGEANCE OF LAROSE
THE FALL OF A DICTATOR
THE GRAVE-DIGGER OF MONKS ARDEN


*


THE HOUSE ON THE FENS
by
ARTHUR GASK

HERBERT JENKINS LIMITED 8 DUKE OF YORK STREET, ST. JAMES'S,
LONDON, S.W.I
A HERBERT JENKINS' BOOK
First printing 1940

*

CONTENTS

I    THE WAYS OF DEATH
II   THE HOUNDS OF THE LAW
III  THE HOUSE ON THE FENS
IV   THAT CURSED DOG, LAROSE
V    THE HOUSE OFF EVIL
VI   THE HOUND ON THE TRAIL
VII  POOLS OF SILENCE
VIII SECRET SERVICE
IX   THE SECRET OF THE FENS
X    THE ORDEAL OF GILBERT LAROSE



CHAPTER I.—THE WAYS OF DEATH

Dr. Methuen's beautifully appointed consulting-room, with, all evidence about it of how successful his practice must be, was not infrequently the stage upon which poignant tragedies of life were set, and the curtain had just been rung up upon one more.

A patient had been told he was suffering from the rather rare disease of myeloid leukaemia, a persistent increase of the white corpuscles of the blood, and that there was no hope for him. Medical science knew of no cure or, indeed, of any way of retarding the approaching death.

Dr. Methuen's manner was grave and solemn, as was natural when having to break to an unsuspecting patient that he was in the throes of a mortal disease. But then, as far as the doctor was concerned, it was all in the day's work and the memory of the incident would speedily pass out of his well-ordered mind.

In the evening he would go home as usual to his family, dine well, read, or play a hand or two of bridge until about eleven o'clock, and then turn into bed for a good night's rest. And that was how it should be, for, if he were to continue to carry on his large consulting practice successfully, other people's misfortunes must never be allowed to interfere in any way with the methodical daily routine of his life.

Still, always a keen student of psychology, and realising fully that no medical practitioner can be a success in his profession if he is not, he was always interested in the way in which a patient received his sentence of death. And he was particularly interested now.

When he delivered a verdict of this nature some took it bravely, their blanched faces and parted lips alone betraying the emotion which they felt. Others, however, would tremblingly implore for the possibility of a mistaken diagnosis, and yet others, again, would burst into paroxysms of uncontrollable tears.

But this patient now before him had become only as if furiously angry. His jaw had set hard, his face become black and scowling, and there was a snarl in his tones as he asked, "And so I am to pass out at thirty-four while others enjoy their lives up to more than double that age?"

"But you will not die suddenly," said Dr. Methuen, trying to soften down the blow, "and you will not die in pain. You will simply gradually become weaker and in time have to take to your bed." He shrugged his shoulders. "But, of course, if you would like a second opinion, although I am afraid the microscope leaves no doubt whatsoever, I would suggest your consulting Dr. Price Edwards. He——"

"I want no other opinion," interrupted the patient brusquely. "I am quite convinced." He spoke contemptuously. "I thought there was something peculiar in Dr. Bain's manner when he told me to come to you. He seemed so anxious to get me out of his place as quickly as possible as if he was expecting some catastrophe would happen to me there." The scowl returned to his face. "And you say I have even less than a year to live?"

Dr. Methuen nodded gravely. "I am afraid not many months. You see, you have been in this condition for a long time."

"Gad, and I only thought I was run down and wanted a tonic!" exclaimed the patient. "That's what I went to my own man for." His tone became almost a violent one. "The miserable coward, why didn't he tell me himself instead of going through the farce of sending me on to you?"

"Well, you can do anything you like now," said the doctor soothingly, "for nothing will make you either better or worse. Just live from day to day and give yourself the best of everything you can."

"Good advice, that!" scoffed the patient ironically. "With this cursed disease on me I shall naturally feel inclined for all sorts of pleasures." He rose abruptly to his feet. "What's your fee, now?"

"Three guineas, please."

The patient opened his wallet and passed over a banknote. To the doctor's astonishment he saw it was one for 50.

"But—er——" he began.

"Oh, it'll be a good one," said the patient sharply. "I got it off a bookmaker at Sandown Park on Saturday and the man's well known to everybody."

"But it's a large one to give change for," said the doctor. He hesitated a moment and then went on quickly. "Still, as it happens I can manage it. I've just been paid a large account in cash."

He unlocked a drawer in his desk and, abstracting a sheaf of notes, counted out the required change, and handed it to the patient. The latter, without verifying its correctness, crushed up the notes and thrust them into his trouser pocket. "Good morning," he said and, without another word, and giving the doctor no time to precede him, he let himself out of the consulting-room.

For a long minute the doctor continued to stand by his desk, interestedly regarding the 50 bank-note which he was holding in his hand.

"I'll give it to Elsie for her birthday," he said at length. "She'll never have seen a bank-note for 50, and it'll be a novelty to her." His thoughts reverted to the patient, and he frowned. "An unpleasant fellow, and quite likely to become mental. His expression was almost maniacal. I shouldn't wonder if he did away with himself."

In the meantime the man whose sentence of death he had pronounced was walking defiantly down the street. As when in the consulting-room, he was showing no signs of fear, but only those of an intense and almost ungovernable rage. He felt as if someone had tricked him and, helpless and bound hand and foot, he was being handed over to a revengeful enemy.

Hailing a taxi, he was driven to a fashionable and expensive restaurant and there proceeded to order an elaborate meal and a bottle of the best champagne. But the food almost choked him and the wine brought no feeling of exhilaration.

The restaurant was beginning to fill up for luncheon and he looked round scowlingly at the happy and animated throng. He took in the pretty girls with the smiling, carefree men who were escorting them, and their joy of life struck at him like a stinging blow.

Why should happiness and pleasure of so many years be before them when it was ordained he should die so soon?

Ah, how he'd love to drag them down into oblivion with him! If he could only press a button and crash the whole world into ruins! If he were doomed to die, then everyone should die with him if it were only in his power!

Then he thought of his friends, his smiling, sleek, complacent friends, and—something seemed to snap with great violence in his brain. A red mist rose up before his eyes and he gnashed his teeth in rage. They were hypocrites every one of them. When he was rotting in his coffin they would carry on just the same as if he had never been, smiling and laughing, kissing pretty girls, eating good dinners, golfing, going to races and—bah! now he saw things clearly, how he hated them all!

His thoughts ran on and, giving rein to his imagination, his eyes gloated in vengeful ecstasy. He turned now to his meal with more zest and, drinking his champagne to the last drop, something of a feeling of well-being coursed through him.

Presently he left the restaurant, carrying himself with quite a jaunty air.


Sir George and Lady Almaine were entertaining some friends to dinner in their beautiful home in Hampstead, and if there were anywhere a happy man it should surely have been the good-looking baronet.

He was only thirty years of age, in the best of health, of ample means, and barely a year previously had married a beautiful young girl who had just recently presented him with a son and heir. He was a typical English gentleman, of a restrained and quiet disposition and with his emotions, to all appearances, always kept well under control.

He had looked many times at his wife during the meal and had thought, as he so often did, how really lovely she was. Not yet twenty-two, her profile was clear-cut, her complexion of flawless ivory and cream, and she had long-lashed, calm grey eyes. The serenity of her Madonna-like face was relieved, however, by the hint of warmth and passion in her very pretty mouth. The formation of the beautifully moulded lips was a perfect Cupid's bow.

The other women there were certainly all attractive but they could none of them compare with their hostess. Mrs. Hutchings-Vane was a vivacious widow in the early thirties, the dainty prettiness of Alma Livingstone would make any man look twice at her and the two sisters, Joan and Mary Rising, if good looks counted for anything, would certainly not remain in their maiden states for long.

Of the men, there was Dr. Revire, a rising Harley Street physician, and the despair of many mothers with marriageable daughters; Major Sampon, an old friend of Sir George and his wife; the alert-looking, suave Arnold Gauntry, a successful rubber broker in the city, Julian Travers, a lean-jawed barrister with the mobile mouth of the orator, and the debonair Gilbert Larose, the one-time well-known international detective. All the men guests were bachelors, except Larose, who had married Lady Ardane, the wealthy widow of the late Sir Charles Ardane.

The meal over, while the ladies chatted in the drawing-room, the men adjourned to Sir George's study for some poker. They were all well-seasoned card players and, while the limit was not made unduly high, it was, nevertheless, still high enough to suggest all the players were well-to-do and that the loss of ten or twenty pounds would not worry them in any way.

For an hour and longer the game proceeded with the utmost good fellowship, it being laughingly remarked, however, that whenever Major Sampon was the dealer he always somehow managed to get a good hand.

Then a most unfortunate thing happened. It had been Major Sampon's turn again to deal and the betting was high, with a good sum showing on the table. Then when the cards came to be put down it was seen that the major had the best hand, with four kings and the three of diamonds. He was about to pick up the pool, for the fourth time it was remembered when he had been dealing, when Larose, who was seated next to him, exclaimed suddenly, "Hullo, but this won't do! There's a card there on the carpet, just by your feet. You must have dropped one when dealing."

The other players craned their necks and, sure enough, there was the two of spades lying under the major's chair.

A few moments of most embarrassed silence followed, with the major getting furiously red.

"I'm afraid that'll have to nullify the hand," said Larose frowningly. "Of course, it was an accident, but it leaves a doubt as to what your original five cards really were and——"

"You damned policeman!" roared the major in a sudden burst of temper. "You accuse me of cheating?"

"Not for a moment," replied Larose quietly and with his temper well in hand, "but you must see——"

"But you do mean I cheated!" shouted the major. He could hardly get his breath. "You cad, you've no business to be here at all. You are aping the gentleman on your wife's money. Everyone knows you only married her because of that and——"

"Shut up, Sampon," called out Sir George angrily. "Remember you are a guest here and that this gentleman is my friend. You are entirely in the wrong."

The major sprang up from his chair. "Well, at any rate I won't play any more," he shouted, his rage in no wise abated. He sneered. "I'll go where the company is more to my liking," and, striding over to the door, he let himself out of the room and banged the door to behind him.

Sir George was all apologies. "I'm so sorry, Mr. Larose," he said miserably. "He didn't really mean anything he said. He was only naturally very upset by finding himself in such an awkward predicament."

Larose looked pale but he laughed it off lightly. "I don't mind," he smiled. "He'll probably come back presently and be quite all right again." He made a grimace. "But I had to call attention to that card, hadn't I?"

"Of course you had," said Julian Travers emphatically. "It was a damned piece of carelessness on Sampon's part, and if some of us didn't know him, well—we might even think it worse than that." He looked round significantly from one to the other. "Gad, but hadn't he a good hand almost every time when he was the dealer!"

Sir George shook his head emphatically. "But Sampon's not like that," he said quickly. "He and I have been friends since our Harrow days and I've always found him straight. It was rotten carelessness dropping that card but, I am quite sure, nothing more." He looked puzzled. "I can't understand his being so bad-tempered and insulting, either, as he's generally such a good-tempered chap."

"Well, don't let it spoil the game," said the barrister. "It's your deal now, Mr. Gauntry. I've cut."

So the game was resumed, but there was no zest in it, and after a couple more hands they stopped playing.

"Now, of course, not a word to anyone outside this room what's happened," said Sir George, as he rose to his feet, "and then no harm will have been done. I expect Sampon will have come to his senses by now. I'll go and see what he's doing."

But if Sir George were hoping the matter would be kept secret, the moment he entered the drawing-room he saw he was going to be disappointed. The major was not there, and the ladies were grouped together talking earnestly, with unsmiling faces.

"What's happened, George?" asked Lady Almaine, with a pretty frown. "Major Sampon's fearfully upset. He's been telling us he's been accused of cheating."

"Nothing of the kind!" exclaimed Sir George testily. "It's all a mistake. He happened to drop a card under his chair when dealing and Mr. Larose was the one to notice it when the hand had been played. Then Sampon lost his temper. That was all. A storm in a tea-cup, nothing more."

"But he was dreadfully put out," commented Mrs. Hutchings-Vane. "I've never seen him like it before."

"He ought to have been dreadfully apologetic," snapped Sir George. "He insulted Mr. Larose, who gave him no provocation. He was in the wrong from first to last, from being so careless as to drop a card when he was dealing, to telling you all here anything about it. Really, I'm quite ashamed of him." He turned to his wife. "Where is he now, Joyce?"

Lady Almaine inclined her head. "Out on the balcony, I think. He said he'd go there. He didn't say anything about going home."

"No, he's not gone home," said Sir George. "His coat and hat are still in the hall." He frowned. "Well, if he's on the balcony, let him stay there a bit and cool his heels." He became the smiling host again. "But come on, let's have some music. I'll bring the others in. Look in the paper, dear, and see if there is anything decent to listen to on the wireless."

Then for an hour and longer the time sped quickly by. Lady Almaine played some pieces of Chopin, Mrs. Vane sang two songs in a rich contralto voice and they listened to a ghost-story over the air.

But all the time an undercurrent of uneasiness was seemingly felt by everyone. Major Sampon had not reappeared, and it was unpleasant that the harmony of the evening was being spoilt by his bad temper.

Then, rather apologetically, Arnold Gauntry voiced the opinion of them all.

"I think we ought to bring the major back into the fold," he said smilingly. "He must be feeling very sorry for himself by now, but probably doesn't like to come in, not knowing quite what reception he'll got." He turned to Larose. "Look here, Mr. Larose, wouldn't it be a nice thing if you went out and fetched him? You're the injured party and could make it easier for him than anybody else."

"Oh, yes, do go, Mr. Larose," supplemented Lady Almaine pleadingly. "I hate to think of the poor man out there, imagining we're all angry with him."

"All right," laughed Larose, "I'll go and be very nice to him," and he immediately left the room.

It was still rankling in Larose's mind that the major had flung into his teeth that he had married a rich woman for her money, but for all that he was still smiling when he went on to the balcony.

Sir George Almaine's house stood in the middle of a large garden surrounded by a high wall. The house itself was built upon an elevation, with the ground in front of it sloping sharply down. So the architect had designed a broad and rather ornate verandah all along one side, with a balustrade about three feet high. There was a drop of about six feet from the verandah to the ground below. It was a bright moonlight night and, turning on to the verandah, Larose expected to find the bad-tempered major upon one of the seats there. But there was no sign of him anywhere and so he walked down the steps into the garden. He went all round the house without finding him and then returned into the house.

"But didn't we hear loud talking?" asked Gauntry, when Larose had made known the major was not to be seen anywhere. "Oh, I made certain I did and was afraid the major was still in his bad temper."

Everyone was concerned that Major Sampon had gone off without coming in first to make his peace, but Sir George affected to make light of the whole matter.

"Never mind," he said. "He's probably only gone for a bit of a walk and will be returning any moment for his hat and coat."

They talked on for about half an hour and then, it getting towards midnight, all the guests prepared to leave together. They were chatting by the hall door and saying their final goodbye when Travers and Gauntry happened to go round the comer on to the verandah.

"What's that up at the far end, there," asked Gauntry suddenly, "in the shadow under the balustrade?"

"Workmen's tools, I think," replied Travers, but advancing a few steps forward, he cried out excitedly, "No, it isn't! It's someone lying there and it may be Sampon. Perhaps he's fainted."

His cry had brought the other men running round and in a few seconds they were all bending over a recumbent figure. A torch was flashed and it was seen at once it was that of the missing major. He was lying upon his side, with his head in a dark pool of blood. There was a trail of blood, too, from a large garden chair about six feet away. Horrified exclamations burst from those standing round.

"God, he's been murdered!" exclaimed Dr. Revire breathlessly. "Look where his head's been battered in?"

"Keep the ladies away," cried Larose hoarsely, "and stand back, everybody, except the doctor. Don't touch anything, whatever you do. Now, are you sure he's quite dead, Doctor?"

"Dead!" exclaimed Dr. Revire. "God, yes! His skull's crushed right in! He couldn't have lived ten seconds with a head like that." He looked round with horror-struck eyes. "Who could have killed him?"

"We'll have to find that out," snapped Larose. He turned quickly to Sir George. "Have a car brought round the corner and flash the headlights on. Everyone move off the verandah. I'll go and ring up the police." His eyes swept round upon the ghastly-faced little group of men. "Another thing, we must none of us go away now. The police will want to question us all." He glanced back at Dr. Revire, who was still bending down over the body. "How long do you think he's been dead, Doctor?"

The doctor had now recovered his equanimity and spoke in a sharp professional manner. "From the warmth of his body, not more than half an hour," he said. He repeated, his former question. "But who on earth can have killed him?"

"Look here," said Sir George shakily, "as you must have all seen when you drove in, they're laying new water mains in the road. Well, there's a watchman outside all night to make sure the warning lights are kept burning. I'll go and find out if he's seen anyone come into the drive," and he ran off at once.

After a quick search through the grounds by Larose and the other two men they went back into the house. The ladies were standing shivering and shaking just inside the front door.

"Oh, is he really dead?" asked Lady Almaine, almost in tears.

"I'm sorry to say he is," said Larose solemnly, "and so everyone must remain here now. No one must leave until the police have done with them. I'm just going to ring up the station."

"But are you sure he's been murdered?" asked Mrs. Hutchings-Vane, the colouring upon her face standing out grotesquely against its white background.

Larose nodded. "Quite sure!"

He went into Sir George's study and rang up the Hampstead police station, quickly informing the sergeant in charge who he was and what had happened. Then he put in another call to the private house of Chief Inspector Stone, one of the Big Four of Scotland Yard. He was longer there in getting any answer and then a grumbling voice asked sleepily, "Well, what is it now?"

"It's I, Charlie," replied Larose. "Gilbert, and I'm in a bit of a hole, or I wouldn't have dreamed of ringing you up."

"All right, boy," came the voice with some animation in it now, "I don't mind if it's you. What's happened?"

"I'm at Sir George Almaine's house, Avon Court, on Hampstead Hill," said Larose, speaking very distinctly. "I've been spending the evening here. One of my fellow guests has been murdered out on the verandah and earlier in the evening he had fastened a quarrel on me. I'm not certain I wasn't out in the garden just about the time he was done in. Anyhow, when the local police arrive, and I've just rung them up, they're bound to be darned suspicious about me, and it's an odds on chance they'll want to put me in the cells. So if you would come along, too, you might save me a lot of unpleasantness."

Inspector Stone whistled. "Was he shot, Gilbert?"

"No, Charlie, what are you dreaming about? He was bashed in on the top of his head."

"All right, all right, my boy, that lets you out," came the booming voice over the phone, "You never were a basher, whatever else you were. Yes, I'll come but I'll have to ring the Chief first as a matter of form. So it'll probably be at least three quarters of an hour before I'm with you. Keep your pecker up. Old Charlie Stone will pull you through," and the receivers at both ends were jerked back on to their stands.

Larose returned into the lounge, where Sir George and Lady Almaine and the others were gathered together, talking in hushed voices, and there was no hiding from himself that he was regarded uneasily by them all. They stopped speaking, too, the instant he appeared.

Dr. Revire frowned hard, the barrister took out a silk handkerchief and began industriously wiping over his glasses again and again, Arnold Gauntry looked rather nervous, while Sir George's handsome face was white and strained. All the ladies appeared as if they were upon the verge of breaking down.

"Well, did you find any night watchman outside?" asked Larose frowningly of Sir George.

Sir George nodded solemnly. "Yes, but he said no one had come in or gone out of the drive the whole evening."

"Was he close enough to the gates to see?" snapped Larose.

"Not twenty yards away, and he'd had to stop there all the time to look after the tools. He had only two lamps to watch, so there was no reason for him to go far away."

Larose forced a smile upon his face and spoke up boldly. "Look here," he said, "I don't pretend I don't know what you must all be fearing, but make your minds quite easy, I didn't do it, I never set eyes upon him when I went out to look for him. I never——"

"My dear fellow," broke in Sir George vehemently, so vehemently that it might almost have been that he spoke in great relief. "None of us suspect you for a moment. We are only thinking of the unhappy position in which you are placed. You had every reason to be angry with him for having insulted you."

"Of course, we don't suspect you," added Lady Almaine with equal vehemence. "It's unthinkable you would do anything like that. It would not be like you at all." She hesitated. "We wonder if it would be best not to say anything about what's happened. It might save——"

"No, no," interrupted Larose sternly, "there must not be the slightest attempt to keep anything back. Everything must be told fully. All of you have nothing to be afraid of and it can be only of me they will have any suspicions." He nodded confidently. "But suspicions are not proof, you know."

They talked on for a few minutes, with the front door wide open, and then a car came tearing up the drive. Out of it jumped four men, with one of them carrying a large-sized camera.

"I'm Inspector Flower," announced the first of them to Sir George as the latter came forward. "We were rung up from here," and Sir George, having made himself and Larose known, led the inspector and his assistants on to the balcony.

He told the inspector briefly that the dead man was a friend of his, Major Sampon, who along with seven other guests had been spending the evening with him, that about half past nine the major had gone out of the house, as they all thought for a few minutes, but had not returned, and then that, when all the other guests had been leaving, his dead body had been discovered where it now was. He mentioned also that the watchman outside in the road had seen no one enter or leave the drive since eight o'clock.

The inspector was a shrewd-looking, hard-faced man about forty, and he carried himself importantly. He and Larose had not met before, as he, the inspector, had but recently been transferred from the north of England. He had not long been a Divisional Inspector and was of a pushing and ambitious nature. Secretly, he was not too pleased to find the well-known one-time detective, Gilbert Larose, on the scene.

He just glanced at the body and then told the photographer to get busy.

"And you say nothing's been touched?" he asked Sir George sharply, "Everything's exactly as it was when you found him?"

"Exactly," replied Sir George. Then he added, "One of my guests who is a medical man thinks he must have been killed between eleven and half past."

"Our own surgeon will decide that," commented the inspector brusquely. "He will arrive in a few minutes."

The police surgeon drove up in his car even as the inspector was speaking and, quickly taking in everything upon the scene of the murder, with hardly a word of comment, commenced a brisk and business-like examination of the body.

"Been dead some time round about an hour and a half," he announced, "but can't say within twenty minutes or so. Killed by one fierce blow with a blunt instrument, probably a hammer. Both parietal bones deeply fractured at their junction. Died practically instantaneously." He looked at his watch. "Twelve thirty-six, so he was killed between eleven and eleven-thirty. I can't tell you anything more until after the autopsy."

"Did he call out, do you think?" asked the inspector.

"Certainly not after he was struck. No struggling of any kind. Most likely taken unawares from behind, when lying back in that chair. Then, of course, he was dragged here."

"What time will it suit you to do the autopsy?" asked the inspector.

"Two o'clock this afternoon," replied the police surgeon, and he was off again as speedily as he had come.

The finger-print expert started looking for finger-prints, and the dead man's pockets were turned out. A pocketbook was taken from the breast one and the inspector was about to put it to one side when Larose said sharply, "See what's inside, please. It's important."

The inspector frowned and half hesitated, but he complied with the request and opened the wallet. In one compartment there were five five-pound bank notes and, in the other, seven treasury ones, to the value of 6.

"Thank you," said Larose, and he frowned now in his turn.

The body was taken away in the ambulance and a search now started for the weapon which had killed the major, but nothing of a probable nature was found among the masonry tools lying close to the balustrade.

"But there's no hammer here," said Larose, "and yet there undoubtedly should be. We'd better search the grounds below. It may have been thrown there."

The sky was still unclouded and the moon made everything almost as bright as day. Eight cigarette butts were found on the ground just under that end of the balcony where the major had been killed, and one of the plainclothes men carefully wrapped them up.

"And collect the matches, too," said Larose, and the frowning inspector watched while ten were found and put away.

Then suddenly the third plain clothes man gave a shout and it was seen he was flashing his torch upon a big hammer lying by the edge of one of the flower beds.

It needed no second glance to determine it was the weapon used to commit the murder, for its head was bloody and there were hairs sticking to it.

It was carried carefully into the house to be examined for finger-prints and then the inspector turned to Sir George.

"Now a list, please," he said sharply, "of everyone who's in the house. I understand no one has gone out since dinner, so that will cover everybody who could have had anything to do with the crime. Then I'll be questioning you one by one."

A couple of minutes later, Sir George led the inspector and one of the plain clothes men into his study and, with the door closed behind them, proceeded to relate everything which had happened. The plain clothes man took shorthand notes of the conversation.

Mindful of what Larose had insisted, Sir George glossed over nothing, mentioning every happening of the evening connected with the major which he could recall.

The inspector's eyes opened wide when he heard of the unpleasantness at the card-table, and all that had followed after, but they opened wider still when he learnt that Larose had been out looking for the major about the very time the police surgeon said the latter had probably been killed. Then, when, with obvious reluctance, Sir George mentioned that Arnold Gauntry thought he had heard voices upon the verandah when Larose was outside, the inspector caught his breath sharply, but then immediately masked all expression from his face.

He immediately, however, asked Sir George about how long Larose had been absent from the room.

"A very short time," replied the baronet, "not more than three or four minutes at the outside."

A long silence followed and then the inspector said very quietly, "Thank you, Sir George. You have been very frank, although the whole matter must be most harrowing to you. Now I think I'd better see Mr. Gauntry next if you will please send him in to me."

Then when Sir George had left the room, the inspector leant back in his chair and tried to collect his excited thoughts. Incredible though it was, it seemed as if this one-time Chief Inspector of the Criminal Investigation Department must be the murderer. Grossly insulted at the card table and no doubt the insult being repeated again upon the verandah, with no premeditation, he had seized the first thing handy, the big mason's hammer, and struck the major that fierce blow. Then coming to his senses, with all the cool effrontery for which he had been notorious when at the Yard, he was now attempting to brazen things out, no doubt relying upon his reputation when in the C.I.D. to pull him through.

A feeling of exultation surged through the inspector. If he could bring home the murder to Gilbert Larose, with all the ensuing publicity, he, Thomas Flower, would be a made man!

Arnold Gauntry entered the room looking very quiet and subdued. The inspector was favourably impressed, being at once of opinion that he would make a reliable witness.

Gauntry told his story with no waste of words. Then the inspector asked, "And how did Mr. Larose seem to take it when Major Sampon insulted him?"

"Well, he didn't look pleased," replied Gauntry thoughtfully, "but then who would when he was told in front of everyone that he was aping the gentleman on his wife's money? It was a horrible thing to say."

"Did he lose his temper?"

"He didn't have time to because Sir George interfered and told the major to hold his tongue. Of course Mr. Larose looked very upset."

"Then, when, later in the evening, he went out, at your suggestion I understand, to look for the major, how long would you say he was gone?"

"Not very long," replied Gauntry. "Five or six minutes I should say."

"All that time?" queried the inspector.

"I think so," replied Gauntry, considering. Then he added quickly, "But, of course, that is only conjecture. It might have been less or it might have even been more."

"And how did he seem when he returned?"

"Quite all right, very little to say and very quiet as he had been all the evening since the unpleasantness with the major."

The inspector spoke carelessly. "And I understand from Sir George that when Mr. Larose was out of the room you heard voices out on the verandah?"

Gauntry hesitated, "We-ll, I certainly thought I did, but, of course, I may have been mistaken. You see, there was a lot of conversation going on in the drawing-room where we all were."

"But you thought you did?" insisted the inspector.

"Oh, yes, and I remarked upon it to Mr. Larose directly he came in. But he said there had been no one out there."

"Then to hear voices outside above the conversation that was going on in the room," suggested the inspector, "they must have been pretty loud, mustn't they?"

Gauntry looked uncomfortable. "I suppose so," he admitted reluctantly, "and it made me think the unpleasantness between Mr. Larose and the major had started again."

"And who else heard the voices beside yourself?"

Gauntry shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. Perhaps no one. At any rate, no one made any comment when Mr. Larose said I had been mistaken."

The inspector eyed him intently. "Did you know Major Sampon well?"

"Good gracious, no!" replied Gauntry. "I had never met him before to-night. Until I was introduced to him here I had never set eyes on him before."

"Well, did he strike you as being a bad-tempered man?" asked the inspector.

"No, on the contrary, he seemed very quiet and reserved. I took him to be a man who would show his feelings very little."

The inspector frowned. "Then in that case what made him flare up as suddenly as he did when you were all at that game of poker?"

Gauntry hesitated. "Well, no man likes to be held up as a cheat, now does he?"

"But Sir George says Mr. Larose did not accuse him of cheating."

"Not exactly! But Mr. Larose spoke very sharply to him, and, certainly, as if there were some grounds for suspicion." Gauntry frowned uneasily. "You see, the unfortunate thing was Major Sampon had been having unusually good hands every time he had been the dealer, and if Mr. Larose hadn't noticed the odd card upon the ground, he would have picked up more than another 12 then."

There was a knock upon the door and the police photographer entered. He handed a piece of paper to the inspector upon which was written, "No traces of any fingermarks upon the handle of the hammer." The inspector nodded and the man left the room.

"Thank you, Mr. Gauntry," said the inspector. "That will do. Now, will you please ask Mr. Travers to come in next?" he asked. "And I leave it to your good sense not to discuss the questions I have asked you with the others."

The inspector was now quite satisfied that Larose was the guilty party and, leaving him until the last, his subsequent questioning of all the others was very brief. He was disappointed that none of them had heard the voices upon the balcony.

When at last Larose came in, he eyed him frowningly. "Of course you realise," he said sharply, "that I shall have to treat you just as an ordinary person. It will make no difference to me that you have yourself been attached to the Criminal Investigation Department."

"And it shouldn't," nodded Larose imperturbably. "It would be a gross neglect of duty on your part if it did." He spoke as sharply as the inspector himself had done. "Now it will save a lot of questioning if I tell you my story first and then you can ask any——"

The inspector held up his hand. "If you please," he said coldly, "I would prefer to deal with everything in my own way." He spoke with a trace of sarcasm. "My methods may be entirely different from yours."

Larose smiled. "Then go ahead," he said. "I'm all ready."

The inspector took a good grip of himself. A man of quick decisions, he had made up his mind what he would do. "See here, Mr. Larose," he said sharply, "I'm not going to beat about the bush. With the evidence already before me, in my opinion it would be sheer waste of time asking you any questions now, but"—he rose to his feet—"I consider it my duty to——"

But he heard a voice outside in the lounge and suddenly stopped speaking. It was a loud and booming voice that he knew well and his eyebrows came together in a heavy frown.

The door opened quickly to admit a big, stout man, just beyond middle years, with a fatherly and happy-looking face. He was Chief Inspector Stone, considered to be one of the shrewdest men in the Criminal Investigation Department.

He nodded to Inspector Flower and made a half smile in the direction of Larose, but gave no explanation to account for his sudden arrival.

"I'm sorry I'm late," he said to the inspector, "but my taxi had a blow-out." He pulled a chair up close and asked, "Now, how far have you got?"

Larose breathed a sign of intense relief. He realised quite well that the inspector had been intending to order his arrest, and with all his bold and confident demeanour he, Larose, had felt sick at heart at the very thought of being detained upon a charge of murder.

But if Larose was happy, the inspector was certainly not, and he muttered an imprecation under his breath. It was a damnable piece of misfortune the coming of this chief inspector, for it meant the taking of the whole case out of his hands. Now he would lose all the credit of being the one to have arrested the well-known Gilbert Larose upon a charge of murder, and he had lost it only by a few seconds, too. But he dissembled his disgust under a stolid policeman-like expression.

"I had practically finished," he said, regarding Larose very sternly, "and was just about to——"

But Stone interrupted sharply. "I'll have the notes read over, please," he said. He turned to Larose, "And you had better go outside until we want you again."

"But he's not to leave the house," said the inspector quickly. "He's to——"

"Of course, he won't leave," said Stone testily. "He knows better than to take himself off before everyone's allowed to go."

Larose left the room, suppressing a delighted grin. The mortification of the inspector was so apparent. Then the latter at once proceeded to give a quick and businesslike review of everything which had taken place. He gave it well, too, and Stone soon had a good grasp of the whole case. Then the notes of the plain-clothes man were read through.

A short silence followed, with Stone looking very thoughtful.

The inspector spoke emphatically. "Of course, Mr. Stone, it is most regrettable to have to come to the conclusion," he said, "but unhappily, everything points to Gilbert Larose being the party who killed the man. There was the provocation at the card-table, the quarrel was renewed out on the balcony, as evidenced by the raised voices heard by Mr. Gauntry, and the major was found dead an hour afterwards. No one but Larose had left the house during the evening, and no stranger had entered the grounds." He nodded. "Everything appears quite clear and, pending further enquiries, we are fully justified in arresting Larose at once."

Stone frowned. "You haven't spoken to the night-watchman yourself?" he asked.

"No, Sir George had questioned him before we arrived, and the man was most emphatic no one had entered the drive."

Stone looked sceptical. "But whether his statement is worth anything," he said, "depends entirely upon the character of the man himself." He shook his head. "Generally speaking, I have no high opinion of the intelligence of night-watchmen. They wouldn't be night-watchmen if they had any brains. We must go out and question him ourselves, but, first, we'll have Mr. Larose in again."

Larose was brought in and Stone at once started to question him. "Was Major Sampon a friend of yours?" he asked.

"No, I had never met him until to-night," replied Larose.

"And he was very rude to you at the card-table?"

"Yes, very insulting."

"And naturally you were very angry?"

"Yes, at the time."

"You say at the time! Then you were not angry when you went out to speak to him on the balcony?"

"No, or I shouldn't have gone out."

"Was it your own idea to go out and make it up with him?"

"No, Mr. Gauntry suggested it first and then Lady Almaine, too, asked me to go."

"And you went almost immediately after you had all been listening to that ghost-story on the radio? That would make it just after twenty minutes past eleven, when the ghost story was scheduled to finish."

"Yes, almost immediately after, within a couple of minutes or so."

"Did you go straight on to the verandah when you went out?"

"Yes, through the lounge and then by the french window of the dining-room which was open."

"Who told you the major was then upon the verandah?"

Larose hesitated. "Well, no one. But he had told the ladies earlier in the evening that he was going there to have a smoke and, as it was surmised from his hat and coat being still in the hall that he had not gone home, it was naturally supposed by us all that he would be still there."

"At any rate the verandah would have been the most likely place where you would have expected to find him, would it not?" asked Stone.

"Yes, certainly. It was the only place outside where there were any seats comfortable enough to sit on for the long time he had been outside. You remember it rained heavily yesterday afternoon, and so all the cushioned chairs had been brought there."

Stone considered for a few moments. Then he asked, "And if, when you went out at twenty-two minutes past eleven, the body had been where it was found later—you would have seen it, would you not?"

"No, I never looked in the shadows under the balustrade," replied Larose. "I just gave a quick glance over the verandah and, seeing he was not either upon one of the chairs or walking about, went straight into the garden to look for him."

"Then, when the body was subsequently found, did it strike you you might have over-looked it?"

"Yes, it did."

A moment's silence followed and then Inspector Flower said, with his face expressing surprise, "But we are told that when Mr. Travers and Mr. Gauntry went on the verandah later, they saw the body at once."

"No, they didn't," snapped Larose. "They walked much farther up the verandah, too, than I had gone before they saw anything. Then, at first, they mistook the body for the masons' tool bags. We all knew the verandah was being repaired because we had been out on it before dinner."

With Stone still silent, the inspector went on. "Now, Mr. Larose," he said sternly, "there is no getting away from the fact that you were the only person known to have left the house after that quarrel with Major Sampon. No one else could have gone out without it being noticed, and therefore——"

"Oh, but couldn't they?" interrupted Larose. He spoke scornfully. "Why, any of us could have gone out without being noticed and have stayed out for a quarter of an hour, too, when the ghost-story was on."

"When what?" cried the inspector explosively.

"When the ghost-story was on," repeated Larose. "Hasn't anybody told you that, at the suggestion of the announcer, we listened to it in complete darkness. All the lights were switched off, and the curtains drawn." He shrugged his shoulders. "So anyone could have left the room and returned without being seen."

"Gad," exclaimed Stone with his eyes as wide as saucers, "then that brings everybody in!"

"Yes," nodded Larose, "if it were certain one of us or Sir George or Lady Almaine committed the murder."

Stone drew in a deep breath. "And the police-surgeon said at 12.36 that the major had been killed between an hour and an hour and a half previously." He emphasized the point with one big, fat forefinger. "Then that would make his death occur some time during the time when the lights were switched off!"

"Or just after they had been switched on again," scowled the inspector, "when Mr. Larose went out to look for him." He sprang to his feet and opened the study door. "Sir George," he called out, "please come here. We want you," and Stone gave Larose a big wink.

Sir George appeared at once and the inspector, waving him into the room, closed the door behind him.

"Why didn't you tell me," he asked with obvious anger in his tones, "that the drawing-room was in darkness for twenty minutes when you were listening to the radio?"

The baronet evidently did not like the way in which he was being spoken to, and his face flushed.

"Why should I have told you?" he asked coldly. "I mentioned the things which were important."

"Only the things which were important!" exclaimed the inspector, raising his voice. "Why, man——"

But Stone interrupted sharply. "One moment, if you please, Inspector." He turned to Sir George. "You see, sir, that putting the room in darkness may be very vital to what happened for it was possible for any of you to have left the room, committed the murder, and returned unnoticed by everyone."

Sir George's face fell. "Good God," he exclaimed, "I never thought of that!" His voice shook. "But surely you don't think any of us did it?"

"We don't know what to think," said Stone gravely. "Until we heard of this turning out of the lights, it was only of Mr. Larose we could have any suspicion, but now every one of you comes into the picture." He nodded. "We don't know who may not have been holding a secret hatred of Major Sampon and taken that opportunity to injure him."

"My God," exclaimed Sir George again, "what a ghastly idea!"

"Well," went on Stone briskly and inwardly greatly relieved that his old friend Larose was now not the only one in the limelight, "we shall have to question you all again, and I put you on your honour not to tell any of the others what the inspector has just called you in for. Good! Then you go and wait outside. We'll want you in a couple of minutes."

The moment the door was closed he turned to Larose. "Now, sir, you didn't leave the room during the ghost story? And you listened to it all? Excellent! Then please tell me quickly what the story was about and we shall be able to make sure you are speaking the truth."

Larose smiled at the wiliness of the old fox, but it was just like Charlie Stone to get a grasp of the essentials so quickly.

"It was the story of an old lady, nearly eighty, who had lived all her life in the same house in a lonely part of the country," he said, "and she and her servants began to be terrified by mysterious happenings which took place in the dead of night. Things were knocked over and there was a sound, like the hissing of a snake. A couple of months or so before it had been rumoured that a deadly cobra had escaped from a travelling menagerie, and it was now thought it must have taken refuge somewhere in the house. The four servants were threatening to leave, particularly so the nurse-attendant, and the butler who had been with her twenty years. The old lady had a weak heart. The police were called in and two officials from the Zoo came down, but no traces of the snake were found. One night the hissing was louder than ever and the old lady nearly died. Then——"

"But what did the nurse-attendant do that night?" asked Stone, with a sharp interruption.

"Shrieked and knocked over a water-bottle," replied Larose.

"Go on," urged Stone, "and cut it short now."

"Well, the old lady's grandson came down. He was very smart and got the family solicitor to show him the old lady's will. Then——"

"Name of solicitor?" snapped Stone.

"Don't remember," said Larose, "but he was old-fashioned and kept taking snuff. Well, the grandson saw in the will that the old lady had left the butler 500 and a cottage and he began to suspect him of wanting to kill off his grandmother and marry the nurse who was in a conspiracy with him. So, making out he had gone back to London, he climbed up into his bedroom instead. Then he caught the butler in the very act of——"

"That'll do," interrupted Stone. "We've had enough of you. Now you send in Sir George and, after him, we'll have a few words with everybody else, but"—he spoke most emphatically—"I want you to keep all those we've had these few words with separate from those we've not spoken to. You understand, the two lots are not to meet until we're finished with them all."

"And one of my men shall help you," said the inspector grimly, as he touched the bell upon the desk.

"Good!" exclaimed Stone, with his eyes twinkling. "That will give an official sanction to the proceedings. Now, we'll have Sir George in again."

But when Larose had left the room and before the baronet had time to appear, the inspector asked Stone frowningly, "But how do you know Mr. Larose wasn't making up the whole story?"

"Because it happens I heard it myself, in my own house," replied Stone smilingly. "My wife would sit up for it and I make it a rule never to go to bed before she does, because"—he lowered his voice to a whisper—"I'm always afraid she may go through my pockets when I'm asleep."

The inspector frowned more than ever. He could not understand such frivolity in a man of Stone's reputation.

"Now, Sir George," said Stone pleasantly, when the baronet had come in, "I ask you as a matter of formality if you were present in the room during the whole telling of the ghost story?"

"Certainly, I was," was the instant reply.

"Then just tell us the story briefly so that we can be quite satisfied you were there."

The baronet got rather red. "We-ll, er, er, that's awkward," he replied hesitatingly, "because I really didn't listen to it. I only just caught the beginning and the end. I was worrying about the unpleasantness with Major Sampon and how the evening had been spoilt. You see, apart from the insult to Mr. Larose, I have been friendly with Sampon for many years and my wife has known him since she was a girl. As a matter of fact he first introduced her to me. So you can understand how upset and pre-occupied I was, and not at all in the mood to listen to a rubbishy ghost story." He nodded. "But I was in the room all right and never stirred from my chair."

Stone looked sympathetic. "Well, we certainly won't suspect you, Sir George. Now go and send in Mr. Gauntry, but please have no conversation with any of the others until we have done with them. I expect Mr. Larose has made that clear to you."

Arnold Gauntry rattled off the story glibly. He certainly made some mistakes and could not answer a couple of questions Stone put to him, giving, however, the same explanation as Sir George had done, that his thoughts had been wandering to Major Sampon.

Dr. Revire gave a clear enough epitome of the story, but his remembrance of details was faulty and he could not state what exactly the nurse-attendant had broken when she had shrieked, although he struggled hard to recall what it was. He said he had been feeling very sleepy and several times had almost dozed off.

Julian Travers was a little better but not very much. He thought all ghost stories were rubbish, and had purposely turned his thoughts away. He was engaged in an important case on the morrow, and had tried to concentrate on it. Of course, he had heard the shrieks, half a dozen he should say, but they had only detracted him while they lasted and then he had called his thoughts back to his brief.

"Well, this line of enquiry doesn't seem to be helping us much," commented Stone, when the barrister had left the room. "Sir George himself might in fact be the guilty party and none of the others could put up a really cast-iron alibi upon what they remember of the story." He made a gesture of resignation. "Still, as we've examined the men we may as well talk to the women as well, if only as a matter of form."

Then, to his amazement, the first lady they called in, Mrs. Hutchings-Vane, supplied a most disconcerting piece of information, when, upon being asked if she had listened attentively to the ghost story, she replied hesitatingly, "We-ll, I wasn't too interested, as I knew the story already."

"You knew it already!" exclaimed Stone, elevating his eyebrows in great surprise. "But surely it's not been on the air before to-night?"

"Not on the air, perhaps, but it appeared in Nash's Magazine last month, and I read it there. It's by Eliah Ranson, who specialises in that creepy sort of stuff, and was called 'The Snake Ghost.'"

Stone turned to the inspector and shrugged his shoulders despondently. "Thank you, Mrs. Hutchings-Vane," he said, "but after what you've just told us we won't question you any more and we shan't need to have any of the other ladies in, either!" and Mrs. Hutchings-Vane at once left the room.

A few moments of hurried conversation between Stone and the inspector, and the two proceeded into the lounge, where Sir George and Lady Almaine and their guests were waiting.

"Now one thing more, ladies and gentlemen," announced Stone, "and then we can let you all go. I want you to go back into the drawing-room and sit where you were sitting when you listened to that ghost-story in the dark. We want to make an experiment."

So back into the drawing-room they trooped and when all were seated, Stone asked, "Now you're all in your right places? Good! And the door's exactly as it was, half open? Now you see Inspector Flower and me standing in this corner and I've got my hand upon the switch. Well, I'm going to turn off the lights for exactly three minutes—I can see the time by the luminous hands of my watch—and I want whoever hears me to say so as I am crossing the room. Mind you, I don't say I am going to move from my place here at all, but I want to find out if anyone can leave this room without the others hearing him do so. Now, no false alarms, please, and when anyone calls out they hear me I shan't say whether they are right or wrong until the lights all go up again."

The room was plunged into darkness and a long tense silence followed; minutes when the women bit hard upon their handkerchiefs to prevent themselves calling out and the men cursed Chief Inspector Stone for putting everyone to this harrowing test. But no one called out that he had heard any movement anywhere and the silence was not broken.

"Time up!" called out Stone. "Switch on, please, Inspector," and the lights coming on again with dazzling suddenness, it was seen that Stone was now standing by the door. In the darkness he had moved across the room without being heard.

"Do you see," he began, "it was quite——"

But he suddenly stopped speaking and stared, as everyone else was now staring, at a neatly folded garment lying in the clear space in the very middle of the drawing-room floor. Upon it was perched the peaked cap of an inspector of police.

"They're mine!" exclaimed Inspector Flower angrily. "I left them in the car. Who brought them in?"

But everyone looked at one another with blank faces and no one made any reply.

"You can all go, ladies and gentlemen," announced Stone hurriedly, before the question could be repeated, "but please understand we may want to question you all again in the course of the next day or so," and he and the inspector returned to Sir George's study for further consultation.

CHAPTER II.—THE HOUNDS OF THE LAW

The afternoon following upon that early morning when he had been dragged from his comfortable bed to go to Avon Court, Chief Inspector Charles Stone was closeted with his colleague Chief Inspector Elias Carter in the former's private room in Scotland Yard.

Carter was cockney-born and, tall and lanky and with high cheek bones, he looked out upon the world with shrewd grey eyes from under very bushy brows. Stone had been detailing to him all the happenings of the previous night at Sir George Almaine's house in Hampstead and he had listened intently, interjecting with a remark only very occasionally and asking very few questions. He knew Stone well enough to be quite sure that nothing of any importance would have escaped the observation of the big stout man with whom he had worked for so many years. They had been humble policemen together, they had been transferred to the plain clothes branch almost at the same time and, step by step, they had mounted together to their chief inspectorships. Now, as far as possible, the most important cases were always entrusted to them and it would be a mystery indeed if one or other of them did not flash some bright light into its darkest corner.

"But I believe that night watchman," went on Stone, "for, contrary to the usual run of his calling, he is quite an intelligent man, and not only that, but he had had toothache all the evening, and so is not likely to have dropped asleep. So we can take it for granted that no stranger entered the grounds through the drive. Then the walls surrounding the grounds are high and studded with broken glass, and there is no sign of anyone having climbed over."

He nodded. "So we came to the inevitable conclusion that someone inside the house committed the murder, and that leaves us with five maid-servants, Sir George and Lady Almaine, and eight guests. Now I dismiss the maids at once. The two housemaids were in bed by half past ten and have a perfect alibi, the cook is fifty-one, stout and motherly, and the two parlourmaids were with her in the kitchen until the three of them went upstairs to their rooms, a short time before half past eleven." He looked enquiringly at his colleague. "Now, Elias," he asked, "have you got a grasp of everything up to the moment when we finished with Avon Court?"

"Except who it was," said Carter, "who brought the inspector's cap and cape into the drawing-room when you had switched off the lights; you haven't told me that yet."

Stone smiled. "And I can't tell you for certain. When the inspector roared out to know who had done it no one owned up, and I didn't press the question." His smile broadened. "But, of course, I expect it was our lively friend, Gilbert. Flower had continued to be so stubborn that everything pointed to him as being the guilty party and that no one could have had any opportunity to commit the murder except him that, naturally, Larose wanted to prove him to be wrong," his smile became a broad grin, "and he did it very neatly. Flower was completely knocked off his pedestal."

He went on, "Well, when I left Avon Court early this morning, although I was certain that one of those ten people must be the guilty party, I had no suspicion about any one of them in particular." He spoke very solemnly. "Now I am sorry to say I have, although I confess the very idea shocks me and, also, it doesn't fit in accurately with all the facts."

"But surely you don't think it was Larose?" asked Carter sharply.

Stone shook his head vigorously. "No, no, not for a moment. But you listen to me, Elias, and, although you know none of the parties concerned, you see if you are not a bit shocked, too. This morning I took possession of everything which had come out of the dead man's pockets, including his bunch of keys, and went off to his house in Maida Vale. He was a well-to-do bachelor, and although his house is on the small side, everything suggests ample means. He kept a working housekeeper and one maid. I unlocked the big roll-top desk in his study and at once saw, lying face open before me, a letter which was dated yesterday. I'll read it to you."

He produced a sheet of notepaper from a portfolio and proceeded to read very slowly:

"19 Queen Street,
"Maida Vale.
"July 22nd.

"My DEAR TOM,

"You will not receive this letter until after I am dead, but in case anything should happen to me I am making all arrangements for everything to be in order when I am gone. I am well off, and my estate should be worth about 40,000. Except for a few small legacies, I have left everything to you in appreciation of our happy friendship. I took great pleasure in the thought of what comfort the money will bring to you.

"I have not much trust in lawyers, and so yesterday sent this last Will of mine, which of course nullifies all previous ones, to our mutual friend, Sir George Almaine, to produce at the proper time.

"Hoping you will live for many years to enjoy what I am bequeathing you,

"Affectionately yours,

"HENRY SAMPON.

"P.S.——"

"But there is no postscript," went on Stone, "and it is evident he was keeping the letter open to add one. Another thing, for the moment I don't know to whom this letter was written, for there was no addressed envelope with it." He looked hard at his companion. "Now, before I go on, do you quite understand the significance of this letter?"

Carter nodded. "He was expecting he would not live long, and"—he hesitated—"it almost looks as if he knew his end was going to be a sudden one."

"Exactly!" exclaimed Stone. "In other words, he was intending to make away with himself." He produced another letter and held it up to his colleague. "Now here's the one which was in a sealed envelope, addressed to Sir George. Under the circumstances I had no compunction in opening it. It is dated yesterday, too, and"—he spoke very solemnly—"you just listen to what he wrote."

"MY DEAR GEORGE,

"It is terrible for me to have to write this letter. I shall be dead when it reaches you, for I cannot endure life any more. But I dare not die with my unconfessed guilt upon me. I half think, however, that you will guess what I am about to write. Joyce believes she burnt that letter which she cannot find, but an instinct tells me you found it and know all about our guilty affection. Joyce and I had been lovers since long before she met you.

"No, George, in the beginning it was not dishonouring you, because she was not bound to you then and was free to do what she liked with herself. The wrong only began after she became your wife. We have met here many times unknown to you.

"The awful mistake was that I did not marry her before I went to Africa for those six months. Then, when I came back it was too late for, believing she no longer loved me and dazzled by your title, she had married you. When I returned home, although only a bride of three weeks, she realised at once she still cared for me and—but I won't put it into words, George, remembering there is now that little boy.

"It is a dreadful thing for me to have to write this about Joyce, and I feel mean and contemptible in doing it and then escaping the consequences. But in your mercy and forgiveness never let Joyce know I have told you. It was all my fault for I am so much older than she is. If you keep silent you can still be happy for, if Joyce could not give you the love which was mine, she has at least as great a respect for you as any woman could ever have for any man.

"Your broken-hearted one-time friend,

"HENRY SAMPON,

"P.S.—I do not know when I shall post this letter, for like a moth I still hover round the candle. Rest assured, however, that when it reaches you I shall be dead."

Stone finished reading the letter and looked up at his colleague. "A ghastly letter from a most despicable coward! Why the devil didn't he say nothing and just shoot himself?" He sighed heavily. "But we've got a motive now for the murder, sure enough, and it points straight to Sir George. He went out on to the balcony under cover of the darkness when they were all listening to that ghost story and killed the man." He thumped upon the table. "But I should never have dreamed her ladyship was that kind of woman. She's one of the last I should have picked out to be deceiving her husband."

"She's much younger than he is, you say?" queried Carter.

"Yes, about eight years, and she's a pretty, dainty thing and, to look at, a perfect little lady. Gosh, but she must be some actress, too, as last night she was pretending to look at Sir George as if he were the only man in the whole world to her! She certainly doesn't suspect him of the murder—and God! what'll happen when we accuse him of killing her lover?"

Carter raised one hand protestingly. "One moment, Charlie, you're going too fast. To make it quite clear Sir George had a reason for wanting to kill the man, you've first to prove he was aware of his wife's unfaithfulness."

"But that won't he difficult," frowned Stone. "Sir George is a gentleman and not of the type to be able to lie plausibly. He won't break down but'll probably admit everything, so that we don't have to bring in this letter of Sampon's as evidence of probability. He'll try to save his wife's reputation at all costs and, perhaps, make out he knew Sampon had designs upon his wife and killed him to save her from him."

"But the weak spot there," said Carter, "is that if Sir George had suspected him of being his wife's lover, is it likely he would have asked him to the house last night?"

"Oh, I thought of that, right enough," nodded Stone. "Still, as you know quite well, the unfaithfulness of their women will stir men to the most cunning and patient waiting for their revenge."

"But another thing," commented Carter, "the murder was, of course, quite unpremeditated, for it was only by chance the murderer found his victim sitting defenceless and with his back towards him in that chair. Then, too, it was chance again that the hammer happened to be so handy to strike him with."

"Certainly," agreed Stone readily, "and I know you'll want to argue that if Sir George had not gone out on the balcony expressly to injure the major—why should he have gone out there at all?"

"Exactly," smiled Carter, "and if he had no evil purpose in his mind, why should he have left the drawing room when it was all in darkness in the secretive, stealthy manner you want to make out he did?"

"I don't say he left in a stealthy manner," retorted Stone instantly. "He may have just left it quietly so as not to disturb those listening to the ghost story. His only idea then might have been to bring the major back as a pleasant surprise for everyone, and restore the harmony of the evening. Remember, he was the host and, if he had masked his suspicions sufficiently to have invited the major to the house, he would naturally be wanting to keep up the pretence of being friendly with him."

Carter shook his head. "No Charlie, it doesn't sound convincing and, until you can prove Sir George knew of his wife's deceit, you have no case at all against him."

Stone was still stubborn. "Well, you and I will go and have a talk with him straightaway. We'll soon find out if he suspected her." He rubbed his chin uneasily. "But it's not too pleasant to ask a husband if he knows his wife has been carrying on with another man"—he pointed to the letter upon the desk—"particularly so after that significant reference to the little boy."

There was a knock upon the door, and a constable entered. "Mr. Gilbert Larose would like to see you, sir," he said, addressing Stone.

The two chief inspectors looked hard at each other. "All right," said Stone to the constable, "ask him to wait a few minutes. Tell him I shan't be long."

"Well, Elias, what about it?" asked Stone when the constable had left the room. "Shall we ask Gilbert to have a yarn with us? I think we're justified in telling him this new development."

"Y-e-s, I suppose we are," admitted Carter slowly, and his face broke into a dry smile, "although he's also one of the suspects."

"Gad, he's that right enough with Flower?" exclaimed Stone. "Why, if I hadn't arrived when I did, Gilbert would have been under arrest in another two minutes." He shook his head. "Still, we can put him right out of our calculations at once. We've never known him lose his temper, have we?"

"Never," replied Carter emphatically, "and he always thinks carefully before he acts."

Larose came in smilingly and shook hands with both the men. In his old days at the Yard they had all three worked many times together and had always been the best of friends.

"Well, my boy," smiled Stone, "have you had one of those wonderful inspirations of yours and got the whole thing cut and dried for us?"

"No, I haven't," said Larose with an unsmiling face, "but I think I've picked up a trail." He shook his head. "You know neither you nor I, Charlie, nor that damned inspector, either, had all our wits about us last night. Every one of those guests ought to have been searched at once, for I'm pretty confident that Major Sampon was robbed as well as murdered."

"O-oh," exclaimed Stone, "and how do you make that out?"

"Well, only 31 was found in his wallet," said Larose, "and I am sure there should have been much more than that. As far as I can remember and reckoning roughly, of that 31 he had won more than 20 of it from us that evening. That makes out he started to play with only 11 on him."

"And quite enough for him to be prepared to lose at a friendly game!" commented Stone.

"But not when directly we sat down," snapped Larose, "he wanted to play for high stakes. You see, there were five of us and bridge was first suggested, with one of us to cut out. Then the major said at once, 'All right, and we'll play for shilling points!' But Dr. Revire said he'd prefer poker, if we didn't mind, as he'd not played bridge for a long while. So poker was agreed upon and Sir George suggested a one pound limit but Sampon at once wanted to raise it to a fiver."

"A fiver!" exclaimed Stone, "Pretty hot, that, at a private house!"

"Yes," nodded Larose emphatically, "and do you think he'd have suggested shilling points at bridge or a 5 limit at poker if he'd come with only 11 on him and no cheque book?"

But the two chief inspectors making no comment, Larose went on. "Then another thing, and a most suspicious one. Before we started playing Sampon asked if anyone could change a 10 note for him and Travers, the barrister, obliged. Then when Sampon produced his pocket-book to get out the ten pound note, I took in, subconsciously, that it didn't seem very fat. It was one of those pretty soft doeskin ones and——"

"Here it is," broke in Stone, as he fished it out from a drawer, "I've got everything here that was found in his pockets."

"Ah," exclaimed Larose, with his eyes glinting, "and there should be twelve notes in it now! That's what there was when it was taken out of his pocket by the inspector."

"Correct," nodded Stone as he handed it out to him, "five fivers, five ones and two halves."

"But I'll swear when he took it out at the card table to give Travers the tenner," said Larose, "it wasn't anything like as fat as that. It couldn't have had more than four or five notes in it then. It was quite thin." He shook his head frowningly. "I'm sure there's something funny there."

"You mean, of course," commented Carter, "that, wanting to play heavily and having few notes upon him, some of those few would have been high ones."

"Yes, and high enough," nodded Larose, "to make it worth while for his murderer to take them." He went on quickly. "You see, I look at it like this. When his body was being dragged into the shadow of that balustrade, perhaps this pocket-book fell out of his pocket and, the murderer picking it up—being doeskin there was no risk of any finger-marks—glanced inside. Then seeing some bank-notes of high denomination, say of fifty or a hundred pounds each, he thought it would be quite safe to take them. With 31 left intact, no one would dream for a moment that the man had been robbed."

"Very plausible," smiled Carter with his dry humorous smile, "but all conjecture, isn't it?"

"By no means!" rejoined Larose sharply. "I've got plenty to support it. Now you listen. Not two hours ago I was lunching with Sir George and Lady Almaine and I brought up this idea of the major having been robbed to them. Then Sir George almost jumped out of his chair. He said Major Sampon had won 200 at Sandown Park last Saturday. He had had 3 on Maid of Orleans at a hundred to six and then, when the Maid had won, he had put the whole 50 on the favourite, Atlantic, in the next race at three to one, and picked up 200 altogether in the two bets. Now, what do you think of that?"

Stone frowned. "Was Sir George at Sandown Park with him?" he asked.

"No, but Sampon told Lady Almaine about it on Sunday."

"Does Sir George know with whom he had the bets?"

"No, nothing more than that they were cash ones," replied Larose, "and the only bets he had had that afternoon. Now another thing. Sir George knew where Sampon banked and is acquainted with the manager there. So, directly after lunch we both went round to the Regent Street branch of the Consolidated Bank and, explaining everything to the manager, he at once found out for us that Sampon had paid in no money or cheques for longer than three weeks."

"And that means, of course," began Stone, "that——"

"If you don't find the notes at his house in Maida Vale," said Larose, "they have been stolen from him."

"I've just come from looking through his things," said Stone, "and there was no money either in his desk, the safe, or the pockets of his other clothes." He nodded. "Still, I'll go back and see if he's hidden any notes anywhere else."

A short silence followed and then Carter said, "And you had lunch to-day with Sir George and his wife! Then, of course, you found them very upset?"

"Terribly so," replied Larose, "for, quite apart from the dreadful scandal which will fall upon them, they have lost one of their greatest friends."

Carter spoke casually. "Was he as great a friend of her ladyship's as of her husband?"

"Probably a greater one," nodded Larose. "She had known him longer than she could remember and was saying to-day he'd been like an elder brother to her. When she was a little girl in pig-tails he used to call for her and take her to the Zoo. But for him, too, she might never have known Sir George. He introduced him to her less than two years ago."

"Do you think Sir George was ever jealous of him?" asked Carter in the same careless tone.

Larose shook his head. "No, he's not that kind of man and she"—he looked scornfill—"is not that kind of woman to make him jealous. Anyone can see with half an eye that she almost worships him."

Stone cleared his throat uneasily. "Well, Gilbert, we're going to take you into our complete confidence, and so you just read this letter. I found it this morning in his desk. There was no envelope and I don't know who this Tom is," and he handed him the first of the letters he had shown to Carter.

Larose read it carefully and frowned hard, "'In case anything may happen to me,'" he repeated. "What the devil did he mean? Did he anticipate someone was going to murder him? What for? What had he done?"

But instead of replying to his questions, Stone handed him the second letter. "This was in a sealed envelope and addressed to Sir George," he said very solemnly. "I opened it. Notice it is dated yesterday, so, as with the other letter, Sampon must have written it a few hours before going up to Avon Court to dinner."

Larose took the letter from his out-stretched hand and, starting to read it, his face instantly became puckered into a frown; then he paled, his lips parted and his expression was one of horrified and incredulous amazement.

He read it slowly through to the end, and for a long moment there was a dead silence. Then he asked hoarsely, "But are you sure he wrote it? Are you certain this is his handwriting?"

"Quite," replied Stone. "Here's his driving licence with his signature upon it, and here is his cheque book with the used butts. There's not the slightest doubt the handwritings are the same."

"Good God!" exclaimed Larose, "then what a little Jezebel that girl must be! Married to one of the best of men, a happy wife and mother!" His voice rose. "But no, I can't believe it! I don't believe it! She's not that kind of woman!" He spoke sharply. "Now, look here, Charlie. You've seen and spoken to her, and so tell me honestly, did she strike you as one who would be deceiving her husband in the way this Sampon writes she was?"

Stone shook his head. "No, she didn't, Gilbert, but I learnt from Sampon's housekeeper this morning that she'd been visiting him a lot lately, sometimes coming for an hour or so even as often as three and four times a week." He shrugged his shoulders. "But then you can never really sum up a woman. Their minds are unfathomable to us."

"Nonsense!" snapped Larose. "On broad lines, women can be summed up just as easily as men. You can tell at a glance whether they're warm and impulsive or cold and unemotional; whether they're good or bad-tempered, and whether they tell more untruths than are permissible to their sex." He scoffed. "I don't say for a moment that you can tell everything about them, but you can see instantly if they're thorough bad lots, and if ever there's been one who isn't, it's Lady Almaine. No, I don't believe she's ever carried on with that brute. He is a brute to have written a letter like that and it shows him up as a man of despicable character."

"It's not a nice letter, certainly," admitted Stone. "He dragged the girl in and then was intending to get out of everything himself by committing suicide. It's a very selfish letter."

"Selfish!" exclaimed Larose angrily. "It seems actually spiteful to me. He makes out he's broken-hearted and yet he deliberately rubs in his treachery by that ghastly hint about the child." He calmed down again and asked sharply. "Then what do you intend to infer from it?"

"That Sir George had found out from the lost letter referred to," replied Stone, "that Sampon was carrying on with his wife and——"

"Invited him to dinner," broke in Larose sarcastically,

"A-ah, that might have been a ruse," retorted Stone, "as I have been arguing with Carter here. He might have wanted to watch them when they were together."

"Then going out on to the balcony," went on Larose, "in a sudden fit of fury he killed him. That's your idea, isn't it?"

"Exactly!"

"But don't you see," argued Larose, "if he'd been enraged enough to be in the mood to want to kill him, he would have been much more than suspecting him—he'd have been certain of everything." His voice rose scoffingly. "Then if he were certain, can you imagine him inviting the wretch to his house? What would have been his object? What was there to gain by it?"

Stone made no answer and Larose went on, "No, it all crystallises into this. If his wife had indeed been unfaithful to him there is not the slightest indication that Sir George suspected anything of it. Then, that being so, the motive for his committing the murder is gone and he drops out of the lime-light altogether."

Stone spoke firmly. "We shall go up to Avon Court and ask Sir George a question or two."

Larose nodded, "Yes, about that letter Sampon wrote to his friend, Tom. Find out what Sampon said when he sent the Will to Sir George. He must have sent a covering letter with it. Of course you won't show Sir George that other letter about his wife."

"Not if we can help it," said Stone rather uneasily, "We don't want to, but we may have to and——"

Larose looked horrified. "But you mustn't show it him on any account," he said emphatically. "Whether Lady Almaine has been unfaithful or not, with Sampon dead, it's only her secret now and there's no necessity to bring the matter up, point-blank, to her husband."

Stone shook his head. "But our whole case against him depends upon whether he knew of his wife's relations with the dead man."

"Well, you can find that out at once without asking him directly. Question him as to the reputation the major had, and he won't be subtle enough to hide his real feelings about the man." Larose spoke scornfully, "Goodness, gracious, you've been all these years having dealings with people who've fallen foul of the law, and if you can't form a pretty good idea now when you're being lied to, well, you haven't learnt much from your experiences."

"All right, my son," smiled Stone, "we'll go up to Avon Court straightaway and manage everything as tactfully as we can." A thought struck him. "And if you like you can come with us. As a friend of his, you can lead him on to talk about what we want to know without, perhaps, exciting his suspicions."

"Certainly, I'd like to come," said Larose, "and, as I've suggested, the excuse will be to show him this letter to Tom and find out who Tom is and all about the Will."

"Then we'll go off immediately," nodded Stone. "But, first, is there anything else you want to tell me?"

"Yes, there is," replied Larose instantly, "and please listen patiently to me for a minute or two." He paused a few moments as if to collect his thoughts and went on, "Now are you quite convinced the major was murdered by someone who came from inside the house? Well, so am I and, as Sir George tells me you are certain none of the maids could have had any hand in it, the enquiry can be narrowed down to Sir George, Lady Almaine and his eight guests. Then, that being so, the only chance any of them—excepting, of course, myself—had of committing the murder was during that twenty minutes of darkness when the ghost story was on. We are agreed there, are we not?"

Stone smiled. "Yes, both you and I made it quite clear anyone could move about in that room, unnoticed."

"Then of those ten people," went on Larose, "leaving out Sir George and me for the moment, what about the women? Can you imagine any of them striking that blow?"

Stone considered for a moment. "I wouldn't say it was impossible. That Livingstone girl looks muscular and the widow's not a weakling by any means."

"By Jove, no!" agreed Larose. "She's a noted golfer and golfs five or six days out of the seven. As for the pretty Alma Livingstone, she captained an English hockey team to France last year. Yes, they both could have struck that blow easily enough, but I don't think for a moment they did. If one of them had, she would certainly have shown some noticeable signs of emotion when she was back in the room and the lights went up. As it was, no one noticed anything about anyone. Then——"

"One moment," interrupted Stone. "What about Lady Almaine herself? Suppose she had got an idea that Sampon was going to make a confession to her husband, it is possible she might have struck that blow to prevent him speaking. Certainly she's dainty and most refined looking, but she's healthy and strong and no weakling, either."

"Yes," agreed Larose sarcastically, "and directly after she had murdered her lover she was rolling a cigarette for her husband and she did it so neatly and with such unshaking hands that we all stood round to watch her!"

Stone made no comment and Larose went on, "But to return to the men, and we are left with only Arnold Gauntry, Dr. Revire and the barrister, Julian Travers. Now the only one of them I had met before was this Travers, but Sir George has told me everything he knows about the other two. Revire he has known about three years but Gauntry only for about one. He met him at the house of a mutual friend and——"

"One moment," interrupted Carter, "how long have you yourself known Sir George?"

"About a year, but I have only been to his house twice before last night. I know Travers pretty well. His people live near my place in Norfolk and he comes of an irreproachable family. So I am inclined to dismiss him from my calculations altogether."

"Here, but you're pretty quick in giving him a clearance, aren't you?" frowned Stone.

"I'm only going on general principles," replied Larose, "for as I think someone both murdered and robbed last night, then if he wasn't already a hardened criminal, he is not unlikely to have come from a family, some of whose members are abnormal in some ways and, certainly, Travers does not fill the bill there."

"Was Travers a friend of the dead man?" asked Carter.

"Yes, and Dr. Revire was a friend of his, too. That brings us to the doctor, and we must be careful there. As we all know, we must always be careful when considering a medical man, for no calling brings out the inherent good and bad qualities more than theirs."

"That's true, Gilbert," nodded Stone. "There are more outstanding saints and sinners among doctors than among any other class of men, but thank Heaven the saints are in the greater number."

"Well, Revire's father was a Russian nobleman who married an English girl," went on Larose. "Revire was born in London and educated at Charterhouse. He then went on to Batholomew's Hospital and, after a distinguished career, started to practise as a nerve specialist. He has private means, is of good reputation and, on the surface, there is nothing against him. Now we come to Arnold Gauntry."

Stone laughed. "Keeping your host card until the last, aren't you, Gilbert?"

"Unhappily, it's not much of a best card," said Larose frowningly, "but still there are one or two things about this man which stand out in sharper relief than those about any of the others. His antecedents are unknown and Sir George says he never mentions his family or connections or says anything about his life prior to his setting up as a rubber broker in the city. Now this seems peculiar to me as he's, naturally, a chatty, conversational sort of fellow. At dinner last night he was most entertaining with some happenings about a holiday he'd recently spent in Scotland. I'm of opinion, too, he's lived abroad at some time or other of his life and, if so, he has some special reason for never referring to it."

"What makes you think he's lived abroad?" asked Carter.

"Well, I was asking Sir George every question I could think of about him," replied Larose, "and he happened to mention he was subject to bad attacks of influenza, all the year round, and nothing put him right but big doses of quinine." He nodded, "Now big doses of quinine suggest malaria rather than influenza to me."

"Certainly," nodded back Stone, "and if his business is in rubber, then we can reasonably infer from these bouts of malaria that he learnt it in—say Malaya or Ceylon. He has a slightly yellow look, too, as if he'd lived in the tropics."

"But he's never mentioned to Sir George that he's been out of Europe," frowned Larose, "and that's what seems curious to me. He must have some reason for his reticence."

"Well, we'll find out all we can about him," said Stone. "He's given us his address at 17 Swallow Street, Lothbury."

"But that's only his place of business," said Larose. "He's got a flat in 22 Fitzroy Square. Still, don't you go enquiring there; I'll see to that end. If there are too many of us on his trail he may get to hear of it. Now another thing about this man—and I'm thinking about it quite a lot."

Here he paused for so long that Stone at length said a little testily, "Well, get on with it. What's worrying you?"

"It's this," said Larose. He looked from one to the other of the inspectors, and the words came out with a jerk. "I wonder if I fell into a trap last night. Yes, a trap deliberately set for me and me alone. Look here. Sampon had insulted me and everybody in that house knew it. Sampon was murdered and I was induced to go out to look for him. So when he was found dead it was naturally everyone's first thought that I had killed him." He raised his hand to emphasize his point. "Now had this Arnold Gauntry murdered Sampon and wanted to fasten suspicion on me?"

Stone smiled. "But as he had not met the man until last night, what possible motive could he have had for killing him?"

Larose nodded. "That's the snag. Things don't fit in there." He frowned. "Still, looking back, I am sure Gauntry's manner towards me was peculiar last night. I didn't realise it so much at the time, but I can see now that for some reason he was particularly interested in me. When we were first introduced, apparently he didn't get my name correctly, for, speaking to me a few minutes later, he addressed me as 'Mr. Rose.' I corrected him, 'Larose,' I said, 'Gilbert Larose,' and he immediately puckered up his face into a frown. I imagined then, with some amusement, that he was remembering me as having been once here at the Yard and was wondering how a policeman, as Sampon called me afterwards, came to be a friend of Sir George."

"And what are you imagining now?" smiled Stone.

Larose hesitated. "Well, I don't forget that if it hadn't been for this Gauntry's damned interference there wouldn't have been any suspicion about me at all. When you come to think of it, too, it was a fearful piece of cheek his taking upon himself to suggest that I should go out and ask the sulking major to come in. What had he got to do with it? It was no business of his."

Neither of the two chief inspectors made any answer and Stone looked at his watch. "Well, we'd better be going now to have that talk with Sir George."

Arriving at Avon Court, they were ushered into Sir George's study, where the baronet was busy writing. Carter was introduced to him, and then Stone said briskly, "Now, we want to ask you a few questions, and the first is, do you know the purport of the last Will Major Sampon made?"

Sir George nodded. "Yes, as a matter of fact I've just come from his lawyer. He's left everything to my little son."

Stone could not contain his surprise. "O-oh," he exclaimed, "and when was the Will made?"

"Just after the baby was born. A little less than two months ago."

"O-oh," exclaimed Stone again, "and did you know he'd made that Will?"

"Not exactly, but he'd mentioned more than once that he was intending to make my son his heir."

"Did your wife know that?"

"Oh, yes, it was her he told."

Stone thought for a moment. "Well, do you know a friend of his," he asked, "whose Christian name is Tom."

"Yes, Tom Kennedy. He's on the Stock Exchange. He lives at Earl's Court."

"Was he a great friend of Major Sampon?"

Sir George hesitated. "Well, I wouldn't say exactly that they were great friends. They were very good friends and often went fishing together. Kennedy is a nice fellow. I know him well."

Stone drew in a deep breath and, producing the 'My dear Tom' letter, handed it to Sir George. "Well, just read that," he said. "We found it this morning, lying open in Major Sampon's desk."

Sir George started to read it, but almost immediately he frowned. "'In case anything should happen to me,'" he read out. "What does he mean?" He read on and then he frowned harder. "But I've had no Will from him!" he exclaimed. He looked at the date. "And this was written on Wednesday. Then if he sent it to me the day before he wrote this, I ought to have had it on the Wednesday." He shook his head emphatically. "No, I've had no Will or even a letter from him lately. He always phoned up when he wanted to speak to my wife."

"But are you quite sure it's not come," asked Stone sharply, "and not been given to you?"

"Most unlikely," replied Sir George, and then, apparently realising for the first time the significance of what everything meant, he reddened slightly.

"Who takes in the letters?" asked Stone.

"The parlourmaid, nearly always," replied Sir George emphatically,

"What time do they come?"

"Just before seven, about twelve, and again about half past four."

"But perhaps it came by hand," suggested Stone.

"Why should it?" asked Sir George, now obviously beginning to put himself upon the defensive. "The post only takes a few hours."

"Well, you don't mind our questioning the parlourmaid, do you?" asked Stone.

"Certainly not," replied Sir George, and he pressed a bell upon his desk. "You'll find her intelligent and she has a good memory. When anything in the house is mislaid she generally knows where it is."

And certainly the parlourmaid did seem intelligent, answering Stone's questions quickly and with no hesitation. She said it was she who always took the letters out of the box on the front door. Yes, she remembered what letters came yesterday; there were five in the morning, one at mid-day, and one in the evening. There was one long one with a half-penny stamp on it but it was only a circular, with Dunlop Tyres printed on the envelope. The day before that she was quite certain there had been none in long envelopes. No, no letter addressed in Major Sampon's handwriting had come for a long time. She was certain of that.

Stone eyed her intently. "How do you come to know his handwriting?" he asked.

"Because when he was away in South Africa," she replied, "he wrote several times to her ladyship, and his handwriting is easy to remember. It is so very big." She smiled. "I have been in service here for nearly four years and naturally have got to know the handwritings of most of the people who write."

A short silence followed when she had left the room, and then Stone asked thoughtfully, "Was the major a greater friend of Lady Almaine than of you?"

Sir George hesitated. "Well, I suppose he was," he said slowly. "I had known him since we were boys at Harrow together, but lost touch with him afterwards until about three years ago. My wife, however, had known him all her life. Besides, he was at all times very reserved with men and told me much less about himself than he did her." He nodded. "Yes, I suppose he was a closer friend to her than to me, although we always got on very well together."

"Did she see him often?" went on Stone.

"No, only occasionally; perhaps once in every two or three weeks. Sometimes Sampon's time was very occupied, his work is at the War Office, and then he would be away a lot. No, we neither of us saw him very often."

A hard, tense silence followed, Sir George's statement was most damning to his wife, and Stone sighed heavily. There was no help for it, and he, Stone, must now produce the dreadful letter Major Sampon had written. His hand moved to his breast pocket while, at the same time, he looked furtively at Larose. But Larose, very much on the alert, had been watching him intently and he now spoke up quickly.

"But one moment," he said. "May I suggest something. As Lady Almaine knew the major so well, couldn't we have a word with her now. Perhaps she may even be able to explain to us what this letter to Mr. Tom Kennedy means." He pointed through the long French window. "I see she's out on the lawn there with the baby. May I call her in?" and he rose to his feet and walked over to the window.

"Certainly," said Sir George. "But I don't think she'll know anything about the letter to Mr. Kennedy or she'd have told me."

The window was opened and Sir George called out, "Joyce, dear, will you come here for a minute? Inspector Stone wants to speak to you."

Lady Almaine nodded and came through the window. For the moment she seemed to look rather frightened at seeing so many there, but quickly recovered herself and gave Larose and Stone a friendly smile. She was introduced to Inspector Carter and then Stone said genially, "So this is the son and heir, is it! What a splendid little fellow," and it might almost have been said that a look of relief came over his face as he added, "And isn't he like his father!"

Lady Almaine laughed lightly. "He's going to be much more handsome, I think," she said, but the proud look she flashed at her husband made them all doubt that she was giving expression to her real opinion.

Certainly the baby was very like Sir George, with the same cast of features and the same shape of head. His beautiful grey eyes, however, came from his mother.

For the second time Stone sighed heavily as he looked from the child to the mother. Most susceptible always to the charms of the gentler sex, he was well aware of his weakness and was now fighting hard lest his conviction of Lady Almaine's guilt should be swamped by her winsome attractiveness.

Larose repressed a smile. In spite of the sickening suspicion in his heart that she might be a guilty woman, he yet wanted to save Sir George the agony of learning it and, seeing the struggle which was now going on in Stone's mind, he thought there were good hopes of averting the catastrophe. He spoke up quickly, so that Stone should not get in first.

"It's like this, Lady Almaine," he said. "Mr. Stone has come across a letter in Major Sampon's desk and we wonder if you can explain it. It was one he wrote yesterday to Mr. Tom Kennedy and was lying open, evidently awaiting the postscript he was intending to add."

Stone did not seem to mind that Larose had taken the initiative from him, and at once held out the letter to Lady Almaine, who had passed over the baby to her husband.

Lady Almaine took the letter from him but, as she proceeded to read down it, her expression became a very puzzled one. Watching her intently, Carter thought she was prettier than ever Mrs. Carter had been, although at one time in his opinion his Nancy had been the handsomest girl in Tooting. With his eyes upon her, too, Stone could not help sighing regretfully that his own days of romance were over.

Lady Almaine read through the letter and then looked up at her husband. "But you've had no Will, George!" she exclaimed.

"No, dear," he replied. "That's the puzzle!"

"And this sounds, too, as if he thought he was soon going to die," she went on, frowningly, "although on Sunday he certainly had no idea of it, as he was talking about going to Switzerland at Christmas." She turned to Stone. "I was at his house with him for more than an hour that afternoon and he was quite bright and chatty."

Stone cleared his throat. "You knew him well, did you, Lady Almaine?" he asked.

"Very well. I've known him all my life."

Stone hesitated. "And would you say he was a truthful man?"

She seemed surprised at the question. "Of course, he was. He was a gentleman. He would never have purposely deceived anyone."

"Then how do you account," asked Stone sharply, "for his writing he had sent the Will to your husband the previous day and yet Sir George has not received it?"

"Why, it's just a mistake," she replied. "He was intending to send it and forgot to do so." Her face clouded. "But I don't understand his making this new Will, as he's told me several times he had made our small son his heir. Not that we wanted the money for him, as we've plenty to give him ourselves," she added quickly, "but it makes it look as if he were offended with us in some way."

"Then you have no idea what made him change his mind?" asked Stone.

"Not the slightest. He was as kind and friendly as he could be when I saw him on Sunday."

"Was he a man of moods?" asked Stone.

"Not a bit," replied Lady Almaine. "He was always the same, quiet and calm. I've never seen him upset until last night. In all these years I've never seen him in a temper before." Then, as if wanting to make excuses for him, she went on, "Still, he hasn't seemed to me in the best of health lately."

"Oh, in what way?" asked Larose instantly.

"Well, he said that of late he'd been getting tired very easily and had not felt inclined to do anything."

"Had he been to see a doctor?" asked Larose.

"I don't know," replied Lady Almaine. She shook her head. "He wouldn't have told me if he had. Although he and I were such good friends, he was most reticent in some ways and there were some things in his life about which he never talked. For instance, he's never told anyone, not even me, what his work in connection with the War Office was. But it must have been very important, for it sometimes took him away from home for many days on end together. When we saw him again, however, he never used to mention where he'd been."

A short silence followed and then Stone said, "So we're to understand he was a secret, silent man who made very few friends." He eyed Lady Almaine very sharply. "Well, do you think there was a woman in his life?"

In spite of her general air of sadness, Lady Almaine laughed. "I'm quite sure there wasn't. He wasn't that kind of man. He was in no way a woman-hater, but there was nothing passionate in his liking for us." Her voice rippled. "I'm sure he's never been in love in his whole life."

Stone frowned. "But I understand he was very friendly with that widow who was here last night?" he asked.

Lady Almaine nodded. "Yes, but I'm sure she and I were the only women friends he had. She is the widow of a brother officer of his, and the attraction there was wholly intellectual. They were both students of foreign languages and knew French, German, Italian, Japanese, besides other languages as well."

At last Stone evidently thought he had got the opportunity he wanted and, turning to Sir George, he asked bluntly, "And in the matter of the other sex do you, too, consider Major Sampon was a moral man?"

Sir George smiled. "I haven't the slightest doubt about it. He never thought about women, he never talked about them and, although a man of wide reading, he hated books touching on matters of sex." He shrugged his shoulders. "In fact, he was rather an old-fashioned prude."

They talked on for some time and then, to Larose's great relief, the conversation began to languish. He saw that, at any rate for the time being, Stone had shot his bolt and was not going to produce the second letter.

Then Lady Almaine would insist upon providing refreshments and Stone found himself looking smilingly into her eyes as she mixed him a whisky and soda. He sighed heavily for the third time as he thought in what dainty and attractive surroundings evil could be. He felt disgusted with himself, however, for his weakness.

At length they all took their leave, and directly their car was out of the drive Larose asked curiously, "Well, what do you think of it?"

"I wish I hadn't got to think of it at all," grunted Stone. "It'll be the death of that man when he comes to learn what his wife has been doing."

"He'll never learn it," said Larose calmly. "Under the circumstances it's quite unnecessary for us to make known our suspicions to him."

"Suspicions!" ejaculated Stone contemptuously. He seemed about to speak with some heat, but then immediately calmed himself down. "No, Gilbert," he went on sadly, "with all her prettiness and nice manners, we simply can't get away from that vile letter Sampon wrote. She is a guilty woman, without the slightest doubt."

"But I have a great doubt," retorted Larose stoutly. "An instinct tells me she is devoted to her husband and has never been untrue to him."

"But what reason then had the man for writing as he did?" asked Stone. He looked very troubled. "I'd like to think it was all a pack of lies, but my cooler judgment won't let me." His face broke into a smile. "Gosh! but what a perfect little actress she is! She almost won me over several times." He turned round to his colleague on the back seat. "What do you think of her, Carter? Can she be a wrong 'un, with that beautiful face of hers?"

Carter took quite a long time to answer. "I haven't made up my mind yet," he said slowly. "I'll have to consider it carefully, now I'm not under that sort of spell she would always throw over all us poor weak men. She's an exceedingly pretty woman." He spoke with more animation. "But I'm quite of the opinion her husband has never had any suspicions of her, whatever she's been doing. He's a man of very transparent nature and if he thought she was a guilty woman he couldn't have hidden it from us."

"Then what about that Will Sampon said he sent her?" grunted Stone.

"He never received it," replied Carter. "His surprise was quite genuine there. But I'll read those two letters again when we get in. I'm thinking now they must be taken together. They were written at the same time, when the writer was in the same mood and therefore they both reflect the same condition of mind. So we have a double chance of making out what it was."

"Yes, and in my opinion he was lying in both of them," commented Larose dryly. "He had never sent any Will to Sir George."

"Then why the blazes was he writing to that Kennedy man?" snapped Stone, evidently not liking the confident way in which Larose was speaking.

"Probably to cause further anxiety to his best friend," replied Larose contemptuously. He spoke angrily. "Don't you realise how deuced awkward it will make it for Sir George when Kennedy gets that letter and reads that Sampon has made him his heir and entrusted the Will to Sir George's keeping? Of course, it will look as if Sir George is suppressing this second Will, so that his kid may come into all the money under the first one!"

"Well, the Will may turn up yet," nodded Stone. "We may find Sampon's housekeeper knows something about it." He laughed. "You know, Gilbert, a pretty woman could always get round you, but I can't bring myself to believe that Major Sampon suddenly started upon a campaign of lying. It isn't reasonable. Now is it?"

Larose dropped them at the Yard and Stone, going up to his room, learned that a caller had been waiting some time most impatiently to see him.

The caller was shown in and, directly he was alone with Stone, he said sharply, "I'm Colonel Templar and I want all details about the murder of Major Sampon." He handed a card to the Chief Inspector. "I come from the Intelligence Department, where Major Sampon was one of our most trusted officers."

"Oh, he was in the Secret Service, was he?" asked Stone, drawing a deep breath.

"Yes, and we have just learnt that at the time of his death he was in the company of a man whom we believe to be a dangerous spy in the pay of the Soviet, a Dr. Ansell Revire."

And, even in that day of many surprises, Stone thought this announcement the greatest surprise of them all.

CHAPTER III.—THE HOUSE ON THE FENS

Larose had been greatly relieved to see that afternoon that the newspapers had not got hold of much detail in their accounts of the tragedy at Avon Court, and that none of the names of the dead man's fellow guests were mentioned. But, with Sir George refusing to furnish any information at all and with Chief Inspector Stone keeping a tight rein upon what should be released by the police at that juncture, he could understand it.

No one would realise better than Stone how intrigued the public would have been to learn that suspicion of having committed the murder was pointing to a former officer of the Criminal Investigation Department of Scotland Yard, and that one, who in his time had trailed many murderers, was now most unpleasantly in the limelight in connection with a dreadful crime.

It meant everything to Larose that opportunity should be given to the police to track down the murderer before it became known that he, Larose, had been involved in a so-called quarrel with the dead man, such a very short time before the latter had been so foully done to death.

But, if Larose were congratulating himself that a little breathing space was going to be given him, his spirits fell to zero when Sir George rang him up at the hotel where he was staying, just after dinner.

Five reporters, Sir George told him, had been up to Avon Court that evening and, arriving one after another and all within a few minutes, they had refused to go away without having speech with him. They had stood outside in the drive just by the front door and had insisted it was imperative that, for his own sake, he should speak to them.

So in great annoyance, he, Sir George, had gone out, intending to deal most summarily with them. But he had found them most polite and even apologetic, with their spokesman informing him that they were in possession of all the main facts and it was in every way in his own interest that he should listen to them.

Then, to his disgust, he learnt that they knew the names of all those who had been his guests the previous evening, all about the unpleasantness at the card-table and everything that had happened afterwards, even to the fact that the well-known Gilbert Larose had narrowly escaped being arrested on the spot.

Sir George said he had been flabbergasted, but he had still declined to say anything, and in the end the reporters had gone away.

But a most unfortunate thing had followed, for as the reporters were just going out of the drive, they had met one of the housemaids coming in, and, taking the chance, had stopped her and asked her if she were one of the servants. The girl had at once admitted she was and, a stupid, timid creature, had straightaway allowed herself to be pumped dry as to all which she knew had taken place the previous evening.

Sir George said "damn!" several times as he was telling Larose everything, but the latter could not think of any swear words equal to the occasion, and ultimately hung up the receiver with a very unpleasant feeling in his stomach.

The next morning his worst misgivings were fulfilled, for newspaper after newspaper provided its readers with sensational headlines above many intimate details of the dinner party and all that had taken place later in the evening.

They one and all gave the names of the guests, making, however, two mistakes there and calling Arnold Gauntry just 'Mr. Daunt' and the barrister Travers, 'Mr. Plovers.' Then they told of the game of poker, the Daily Cry here adding that it understood the stakes were high. They went on that Major Sampon had been winning consistently and then it had suddenly been thought he had been cheating, with angry words following between him and Mr. Gilbert Larose, the former well-known international detective. Then they told of the furious and protesting major taking himself off into the grounds, how Mr. Larose had tried unsuccessfully to find him, but how, later, his dead body had been discovered upon the verandah, dragged into the shadows of the balustrade. They described the injuries the murdered man had received, finishing up with the statement that Inspector Flower of the Highgate police had almost completed his preliminary investigations when Chief Inspector Stone had arrived upon the scene and taken charge of everything.

Larose licked his dry lips. "Exactly," he remarked bitterly, "they don't exactly put it into words but the implication is there, right enough, that I of all those people had reason to wish that man an injury." He sighed heavily. "Well, I must get busy now, to save myself this time."

He read carefully through every newspaper again and then, having sat very thoughtful for a long time, suddenly roused himself briskly into action.

He took a taxi and was driven to Fleet Street. Then he alighted at the palatial building of the Daily Megaphone and sent in his card to the editor. He was not kept waiting long, and was soon ushered into the presence of the man who was well known as one of the shining lights of London's journalistic circles.

The great man advanced at once and shook hands cordially. "I've never had the pleasure of meeting you, Mr. Larose," he said. "But, of course, I've heard of you. Now what can I do for you?"

Larose came straight to the point at once. "It's about that report you've got of the murder at Avon Court, in this morning's issue, I've come," he said. He smiled. "It doesn't make things look too good for me, does it?"

The editor hesitated. "Oh, I wouldn't say that, Mr. Larose." He smiled back. "Of course it makes things more interesting to our readers our mentioning your having been present in the house."

"Well, under the circumstances," went on Larose, "I should be greatly obliged if you would disclose to me the source of your information." He pointed to a copy of the Daily Megaphone upon the editorial desk. "Your representative certainly didn't get all those details there from that servant girl he interviewed in the drive and, for a special reason, I should like to know who gave them to him."

"What special reason?" frowned the editor.

"Because the report rather appears to me particularly to single me out," replied Larose.

"How? It mentions the names of all the others who were there as well."

"Certainly, but it gives two of them wrongly, whereas mine is not only given correctly, but the Christian name is added as well, the only Christian name of anyone mentioned. Also, it refers to my one-time association with Scotland Yard."

"And you mean it suggests animus against you?"

"Spite," nodded Larose, "to make it as unpleasant for me as possible, until the real criminal is found out."

The editor considered for a few moments. "Well, of course, as a general rule," he said at length, "we never disclose our source of information but, as in this case the information was given to four other newspapers, it was more or less publicly supplied and so I see no harm in telling you." He picked a paper from among others on his desk and handed it over to Larose. "This arrived by the five o'clock post yesterday afternoon and our representative went up hot-foot to Avon Court. Sir George Almaine refused to tell us anything, but Jane Ashley, one of the maids there, corroborated a great deal of what was in the letter, and so we took it that it was all true and made use of it."

Larose took the paper from him. It was just an ordinary piece of typewriting paper and, with no place of origin given, under the date of the previous day was typed:

"In connection with the murder of Major Sampon at Avon Court last night, the following particulars may be of interest to your readers. Those present at dinner with Sir George and Lady Almaine were Mrs. Hutchings-Vane, the two Miss Risings, Miss Livingstone, Major Sampon, Dr. Revire, Mr. Plovers, Mr. Daunt, and Mr. Gilbert Larose, the well-known one-time detective. After dinner the men played poker, with a one-pound limit. Major Sampon won consistently every time he had the deal. Then Mr. Gilbert Larose accused him of cheating and the major was very insulting to Mr. Larose. The major left the room and went out into the grounds. Later, Mr. Larose went out to bring him back, but said he could not find him. Then just as the guests were leaving, about an hour afterwards, the dead body of Major Sampon, with his head horribly battered in, was found upon the verandah. It had been dragged into the shadows cast by the balustrade. Inspector Flower was the officer who first arrived at Avon Court but, later in the night and just at the last moment, Chief Inspector Stone appeared and took full charge of the investigation. It is understood that Chief Inspector Stone and Mr. Gilbert Larose had often worked together when the latter was at Scotland Yard."

Larose made a grimace as he read the final sentence. "You see," he nodded, "that last sentence was, of course, to imply that Chief Inspector Stone was a personal friend of mine." He nodded. "But happily, no paper put it in."

The editor shook his head. "No, it didn't touch the matter of the murder and so apparently everyone left it out."

"And all four newspapers had had a letter like this?" asked Larose.

"I think so. I presume they were the same. At any rate all the men who went up to Avon Court last night said among themselves that a typed communication had been sent to their papers."

"Well, may I take this?" said Larose, holding up the paper.

The editor hesitated. "What do you want it for?" he asked.

"To show to Inspector Stone," replied Larose. He spoke very solemnly. "You see, the fact that someone took the trouble to type off all these copies and broadcast them round means something, spite against someone"—he nodded—"and I believe that someone is me."

"All right, you can have it," said the editor and, thanking him, Larose at once took his leave.

Larose's next journey was to Arnold Gauntry's flat in Fitzroy Square. He was not for one moment expecting to find Gauntry at home at that hour of the day, but he was chancing he might be able to learn something about him from someone in the house.

He found number twenty-two was a large flat-fronted house of five storeys and a basement, of that type so esteemed in mid-Victorian days. It had, however, been reconditioned recently and was now divided off into eight self-contained flats. He was delighted to see a small board affixed to the area railings, notifying that there was a flat vacant and that enquiries should be made to the caretaker inside.

The big front door was open and in the hall he came upon the caretaker himself, polishing the floor. He asked about the vacant flat, and was at once taken up to the third floor to inspect it.

"The only drawback here, sir," explained the caretaker, "is that we have no lift. But then the rentals would not be so moderate if we had."

Larose chatted for a minute or two, all the time considering the caretaker and making up his mind if he were a man he could trust. The man was middle-aged and pleasant-looking, with a happy, humorous face. He carried himself very erectly, and Larose noticed he had lost two fingers off his left hand.

"Been in the army?" queried Larose. "Ah, I thought so! How did you come to injure your hand?"

"Piece of shell, sir, August 1915, on the Somme."

Then Larose asked if the flats were quiet and about the other tenants, and who looked after their suites for them.

"All except one have daily maids, sir," replied the man. "My wife looks after that one. The tenant there is a painter—lady. Miss Charlotte Torrens, and is very well known."

Then Larose said, "You have a Mr. Arnold Gauntry living here, haven't you? Do you happen to know what his occupation is?"

"No, sir," replied the man. "I know nothing about him at all." His pleasant face seemed to harden. "He never speaks to anyone"—he smiled—"not even to say good morning if I happen to meet him in the hall or upon the stairs. He is a very reserved gentleman."

Larose had already decided he could trust the man and thought now was the propitious moment. "Look here," he said, with his voice only just above a whisper. "I'm going to trust you. I've not really come to take any flat at all but only just to try to find out what I can about this man." He took a one-pound note from his pocketbook and held it out. "Now what can you tell me about him?"

But the caretaker made no movement to take the proffered note. Instead, he shook his head. "I'm sorry, sir," he said firmly, "but I should lose my place if it was found out I was talking about the tenants." He smiled. "And I can't afford that. I've got a wife and children."

"No one will ever know," laughed Larose, "and it'll be quite safe." But the caretaker still refusing to take the note, he went on confidingly, "See here, you fought for us in the Great War and so I'll tell you something." He lowered his voice again and spoke very slowly. "It is suspected this Mr. Gauntry's occupation is to spy out military and naval secrets, and that is why I'm after him."

"Then are you a detective?" asked the caretaker, now most interested.

"I used to be. I was attached to Scotland Yard once? My name is Gilbert Larose."

The caretaker nodded vehemently. "Oh, I've heard of you. You were in lots of murder cases"—his face suddenly took on a rather frightened look—"and you're well mixed up in one now. I've just been reading about that murder at Hampstead!"

Larose felt furious with himself for having given his name. For the moment he had quite forgotten about the report in the newspapers that morning. But he grasped the situation quickly and went on very solemnly, "Yes, and there's something very mysterious about that murder that we can't make out." He nodded significantly. "This Mr. Gauntry was there, too. His name was given wrongly in the papers as Daunt."

The caretaker whistled. "Good God," he exclaimed, "then if he's a spy, as you say, then he might easily turn out to be the murderer." He could hardly get his breath now in his excitement, as he blurted out, "Major Sampon worked for the British Secret Service!"

Larose's face was the picture of astonishment. "How do you come to know that?" he snapped.

The caretaker looked rather sheepish. "Well, sir, you see, in 1917 I was servant to a Colonel Meadows who used to question the German prisoners because he spoke German so well. Then, after the war, I knew he worked for the Intelligence Department, because I had got my sister a situation with him in his place near Dorking, as cook, and she told me. She was with him until he died last year, and she said his special job was to train officers for Secret Service work. I was allowed to go there every summer for my holiday and I've often seen a Major Sampon there. The name is a very unusual one and this morning, when I saw he had been murdered, it struck me at once he must be the same gentleman. He was tall and thin with sandy hair."

"Yes, that's the same one," nodded Larose. He spoke very sternly. "But you mustn't tell it to anybody else."

"Oh, I won't, sir. I promise you," said the caretaker earnestly. "I won't mention it again."

"Well, about this Mr. Gauntry," continued Larose, "you must realise now you must keep back nothing."

"But I know so little, sir. There's really nothing I can tell you."

"What are his habits? Tell me them."

"Nearly always the same, sir. His daily attendant lets herself into his flat at seven. He has his breakfast about eight, goes away by half-past, and then I don't see anything more of him until eight or nine at night. His lights generally go out early and one day of the week is just the same as another, except Sunday, when his servant gets his lunch for him and doesn't go out until the afternoon."

"Does he have any visitors?"

"Very few, unless they come after I've gone home, which is about ten o'clock every night. Oh, about once a fortnight some gentlemen come in for cards. I don't know who they are, and they're often different ones."

"But how do you know they come to play cards?"

The caretaker smiled. "There are never more than three of them, sir, so I'm thinking they come to play bridge."

Larose smiled. "You are very sharp and would make a good detective. Now about letters? Does he get many?"

"Hardly any—only tradesmen's accounts not stuck down. Oh, I took up a letter this morning that wasn't an account, and I remember he's had others from the same party before. The postmark on them is Foxwold."

"Foxwold, that's in the fen country in Norfolk!" exclaimed Larose. "Well, then, how often does he get letters from there?"

"Every three or four weeks or thereabouts."

"Is the writing on the envelope a woman's, do you think?" asked Larose.

The caretaker laughed. "I shouldn't think so. It's big and too bold to be a woman's."

A short silence followed, and then Larose asked, "Now, do you happen to know if he's got a typewriter in the flat here?"

"I don't know," replied the man, "but, funnily enough, he came in with one yesterday and I heard him tap-tapping with it a few minutes later when I was passing his door. He had arrived in a taxi and seemed in a bit of a hurry from the way he ran up the stairs."

"What time was that?" asked Larose, with his heart beating quickly.

"About lunch time, just before one." The man laughed. "I've just told you he is never at home during the day, and yet yesterday he was. But it was the first time I have ever known him to come home."

"How long did he stay?" asked Larose.

"Not long, about three quarters of an hour I should say. I was here in the hall when he passed through."

"Had he got the typewriter with him, then?"

"Oh, yes! It was one of those small portable ones, and not much of a lump to carry."

Larose took his leave, very much elated with what he had found out. Then it was pretty certain Gauntry had sent those typed letters to the newspapers and, that being so, what was his reason for doing it? He gritted his teeth. He would find out!

He spent a few minutes at a call-office, talking to Sir George over the telephone, and then drove straight to Scotland Yard. Going up to Stone's room, he asked to see him of the constable who was on duty in the corridor outside. He was known to the constable, who told him the Chief Inspector was busy at that moment upon very important business.

"But I'll see that he knows at once that you are here, sir," added the constable, and Larose sat down to wait.

But he had not to wait long, for almost immediately another constable reappeared and beckoned to Larose to follow him. Then, greatly to his astonishment, Larose found himself being ushered into the presence of Sir Garnet Holden, the Chief Commissioner of Police. He had not met the Chief before, as the latter had been appointed some years after he had left the C.I.D., but he recognised him at once from the photographs he had, from time to time, seen in the Press. Stone was present in the room, and at once introduced him.

Sir Garnet was a fine, soldierly-looking man, with a very stern, set face. He eyed Larose intently and inclined his head, rather coldly, Larose thought, without offering to shake hands.

"I am pleased to meet you, Mr. Larose," he said gravely, "but regret it is under these circumstances." He plunged at once into the matter of the murder. "It is a very serious business, this killing of Major Sampon. He was an important man."

"Yes, I have heard he was," assented Larose readily. "He was a member of the Secret Service and it is not unlikely he was on duty when he met his death."

Sir Garnet frowned. "How do you come to know he was attached to the Secret Service?" he asked. "The nature of his work was not public property."

But Larose was not minded to disclose that it was by chance only he had learnt about the dead man's association with the Secret Service. With his faculties always upon the alert and most sensitive always to his environment, he believed he had sensed an atmosphere of possible hostility directly he had entered the room.

So now he said quite sharply, "I have not been working on this case for twenty-four hours, sir, without finding out something, and I am more than unusually interested here, because I am the one particularly under suspicion. That Major Sampon had been very rude to me at the card-table and with all that followed afterwards, it has made things look decidedly unpleasant for me."

"Yes, it has," said Sir Garnet bluntly and making no attempt to gloss over what was evidently in his mind, "and that mention in the newspapers this morning of your one-time association with Scotland Yard makes it unpleasant also for us."

"But it might have been worse," smiled Larose, hiding nothing in his turn, "for if Mr. Stone had not arrived when he did I should, certainly, have been put under arrest, straightaway. Inspector Flower had quite made up his mind I was the guilty party."

Sir Garnet did not smile back. "And have you yourself formed any opinion yet," he asked coldly, "as to who among you might be the criminal?" There was just a trace of sarcasm in his tones. "Mr. Stone here says the fact that you must have been in close touch with the unknown person who committed the murder will make your services to us most valuable."

"I hope so," laughed Larose. His face sobered down. "At any rate I have made certain discoveries and am expecting they may lead us somewhere." He spoke quickly and confidently. "This murder is not an uncomplicated crime and there is more in it than the actual killing of Major Sampon. For some reason I was purposely drawn into it, and when that reason is known the identity of the murderer will be clearer."

"What on earth do you mean?" asked Sir Garnet, his habitual impassive expression being now turned into one of astonishment.

"Major Sampon was murdered, sir," said Larose quietly, "and then a deliberate attempt was made to fasten the blame on to me. It looked an easy thing, too, for the major had insulted me and it might quite naturally have been supposed that I was spiteful towards him."

"Explain, please, what you mean," said Sir Garnet, from whose face all surprise had now faded.

"One moment, sir," said Larose. He looked round at Stone. "Have the finger-prints of everyone there been checked up yet, Mr. Stone?"

The inspector nodded. "Yes, but none of them are upon the records." He shook his head. "We got nothing there."

Larose turned back to the Chief. "And, of course, sir, you have heard everything that took place that night? You know that at the suggestion of one of the other guests I went outside to look for Major Sampon?"

Sir Garnet assented with a curt nod. He did not quite like Larose's manner. It seemed to lack deference and almost looked as if he, Larose, might have been addressing his remarks to anyone and not to the Chief Commissioner of Police himself.

Larose went on calmly, "Well, exactly as following upon the suggestion of Mr. Arnold Gauntry suspicion came to be focused upon me, so exactly also, in my opinion, had that same gentleman first made it possible that there should be something to be suspicious about. In short, he first committed the murder with the deliberate intention of later fastening the guilt upon me."

The Chief Commissioner's face was sterner and colder than ever. "Do you mean to tell me," he asked incredulously, "that you really believe this Arnold Gauntry committed a dreadful murder just in the hope that everyone would think it was you?" He raised his voice ever so little. "It is quite incredible, Mr. Larose."

Larose smiled. "Incredible or not, sir, all that has happened subsequently goes quite a long way to prove it." He raised his hand impressively, "Listen. This morning five newspapers published an account of the happening of the night before last, and they were all, as you have admitted, most unpleasant for me. They gave my surname with the Christian name as well, so that there should be no possibility of any mistake. Mark you—the only person whose Christian name they mentioned. Then they stated I had accused Major Sampon of cheating and——"

"No, no," corrected Sir Garnet instantly, "they didn't specifically say that it was you who had accused him of cheating. They mentioned no name there."

"Well, it amounted to the same thing," retorted Larose, "when they went on to say that high words had followed between him and me." He shrugged his shoulders. "No matter, the whole purport of the report which had been supplied to them was obviously given to single me out, particularly, from among all the others there. You must see that."

"But what report are you referring to?" asked Sir Garnet sharply. "I understand the reporters from these newspapers went up to the house and extracted their information from one of the maids they happened to meet outside in the drive."

"No, sir," said Larose, "those reporters went up to Avon Court, following upon a typed anonymous communication their papers had all received by the five o'clock postal delivery yesterday afternoon. What the maid told them only assured them that the information which had been mailed their papers was in the main correct. She could not, however, have given them all those details they published, because she did not know them herself. I have been on the phone to Sir George and learnt exactly what she did tell them, following upon the questions they asked her."

"Go on," said the Chief Commissioner, because Larose had stopped speaking.

"Well, sir," said Larose very solemnly, "it was this Arnold Gauntry who sent that report to those papers!"

"How do you know that?" came the sharp query like a shot from a gun, and Larose at once proceeded to relate all he had learnt, only a few minutes previously, from the caretaker of Gauntry's flat.

"So you see, sir," he insisted, "everything points to him having sent those reports after he had typed them at midday yesterday, with great secrecy. There was the hurried visit to his flat at a most unusual time of day, and there was the typing of them himself, when he has clerks and typewriters of his own at his place of business in the city."

The Chief Commissioner looked frowningly at Stone, "We must obtain those reports," he said, "and——"

"I have one here," interrupted Larose and with a dramatic flourish he abstracted the letter from his pocket and handed it to the Chief. "I got it from the editor of the Daily Megaphone." He went on quickly, "Now, there are certain points about it which undoubtedly, in my mind, are conclusive evidence that it is Gauntry's work. First, there are a number of mistakes where the words have had to be typed over again, and that shows it was done by someone who is obviously not accustomed to habitual use of the typewriter."

"But how do you know he is not accustomed to typing?" asked the Chief Commissioner.

"A man doesn't usually keep a dog and bark, too," laughed Larose. "The head of a business firm does not as a rule do any typing when there are typists to do it for him." He went on, "Then, take notice of the craftiness of the man. He doesn't want publicity for himself and so puts his own name wrong, as Daunt, and so that the error shall not stand out conspicuously as the only name given incorrectly, he makes Travers become Plovers, both wrong names not wholly dissimilar but differing sufficiently so that no one will recognise in them Gauntry and Travers."

Sir Garnet smiled for the first time, "Really, you are very plausible, Mr. Larose. Go on."

"Well," smiled back Larose, "we come now to what I consider clinches the whole matter of his mysterious venom against me. That last sentence in the letter proves most conclusively that I was uppermost in his mind the whole time, and that he only wrote the letter to damage me. Read with what went before, it distinctly implies that Mr. Stone was shielding me and that but for him I should deservedly have been arrested on suspicion."

"But I understand you and this Arnold Gauntry had never met each other before that night," frowned the Commissioner, "and so what possible reason could he have had for wanting to injure you?"

"I don't know yet," replied Larose. He nodded. "That's what I've got to find out."

The Commissioner was still frowning. "And you suggest he went on to the balcony with the express purpose of murdering Major Sampon?"

"No, certainly not!" exclaimed Larose. He spoke very slowly. "Thinking it over carefully, I believe he just went out so that he could go on smoking. He is an inveterate chain-smoker and had never been without a cigarette in his mouth the whole evening, since we got up from dinner. You see, he couldn't smoke with all the lights out as no one ever enjoys smoking in the dark. Then, going out very quietly, he saw the top of the major's head just above the rail of the chair, and the big mason's hammer lying close beside him. He may have thought what a nice mark the major's head would make and then, perhaps, it flashed through him that if he struck the blow—it would naturally be put down to me because of the insult I had received. So, upon the impulse of the moment, he crashed Major Sampon's head in, dragged the body into the shadows, and inveigled me into going outside, so that, later, suspicion would be fastened upon me."

A short silence followed and the Commissioner smiled again. "Your theory is certainly clever, Mr. Larose, if a little far-fetched." His manner thawed. "But now, how do you propose to follow it up? Are you at a dead end?"

"No," replied Larose confidently, "I shall find out what he was before he set up as a rubber broker in the city five years ago, and see where his past crossed mine. I am convinced there is some hidden bond of enmity between us."

"But where are you going to start?" asked the Commissioner. "How are you going to pick up any tracks of his past life?"

"I learnt from that caretaker," said Larose slowly, "that from time to time he receives letters from someone in Norfolk. They are postmarked from a lonely little village in the Fens. I shall find out who this someone is."

"How?" queried the Commissioner,

Larose nodded. "The handwriting is big, and that should be good enough in a little village. I shall go to the post office and cook up a tale." He looked round at Stone and his face broke into a smile. "Often in our work together, a smaller thing than that has brought someone to the six-foot drop, hasn't it, Mr. Stone?"

"Sure!" smiled back Stone. "You'd find out something because a man happened to have been born on a Tuesday instead of a Wednesday! You'd pick up a trail from that."

With the Commissioner now in a much more pleasant frame of mind, they all discussed matters for a few minutes longer, and then Larose left the room to wait for Stone in the latter's own sanctum.

The inspector appeared very soon and laying his hand affectionately upon Larose's shoulder, said gravely, "I'm devilish glad you turned up as you did, my son. Some of Flower's pals have been whispering and the whispering had got to the Chief's ear. He was a bit upset and sent for me. We were actually talking about you when I got the message you were here."

Larose made a grimace. "I thought he was a bit distant when I came in, but he was quite all right when I left."

"Oh, yes, perfectly all right! You quite won him over and he hasn't a suspicion about you now. He thinks, too, there's a lot in your idea although it's right opposite to the one we've got."

"But what's your idea?" asked Larose. "Have you found out anything?"

"We have not found out much," grunted Stone, "but we know now Sampon was in the Secret Service and trailing that Dr. Revire as a suspected spy. We're hot on the doctor's track now."

"Whew!" whistled Larose in amazement, "what a boil over!" His face fell. "Then if Revire killed him, it knocks all my ideas on the head!"

"Not altogether," commented Stone. "Revire, and Gauntry may have been working together. I'm now suspicions, too, of that widow woman. Her interest in foreign languages may have been all a blind to keep herself in close touch with the major. At any rate I'm going up to Sir George to find out how she came to know Sampon in the first instance."

"But you won't bring up that letter again!" said Larose, looking rather troubled. "You promise me that?"

Stone nodded. "Not without giving you warning, at any rate." He frowned. "Still, it's not altogether impossible that pretty Joyce Almaine is mixed up in it all, too. Her friendship"—he stressed the word ironically—"with Sampon, may have been only to worm out secrets from him. She may be in the spy ring too."

"Nonsense!" snorted Larose contemptuously. "A girl only twenty-two with her first baby isn't the stuff to make a spy out of! Goodness gracious, her father is a country parson and the surroundings of her up-bringing would not have been suitable either."

"But at any rate," nodded Stone darkly, "they were suitable enough to incline her to pay small regard to her marriage vows."

"You're a stubborn old ass," laughed Larose, "and in the end, I'm sure you'll be very sorry you ever held a bad opinion of her."

"Well, we'll see," retorted Stone, determined to have the last word. "Yes, we'll see."

Towards noon the following day, in a rakish-looking sports car with the hood thrown back, Larose drove into the little village of Foxwold, upon the border of the dreary Norfolk fens. He was equipped with a large camera, two fishing rods, a sporting gun, a rifle, blankets, a small tent and a cooking stove. Altogether, things had every appearance of his being a holidaying tourist, independent of hotels and towns. He drove up to the little general shop, which was also the post office, and bought some cigarettes.

Then he asked of the woman who served him, "Can you tell me, please, where a Mr. Curtis is staying?"

"Curtis, Curtis!" repeated the woman. She shook her head. "I'm sorry, I've never heard of him."

Larose smiled his most pleasant smile. "But he's staying somewhere here," he said, "because I've had two letters from him lately with the Foxwold postmark on them, and he wrote he should be staying here all this month. Unfortunately he's very absent-minded and omitted to give the exact address. If he's been in the village you must have noticed him because he's very tall, more than six feet. He's about forty and a great friend of mine."

The woman shook her head again. "But I've never seen him," she said, "and I don't remember stamping any letters in a handwriting I don't know." She nodded. "Still, my daughter may have stamped them, but she's away in London now."

"Well, you couldn't mistake his handwriting," smiled Larose. "It's very big and bold."

"That's how Professor Bannister writes," said the woman. "His writing takes up most of the envelope."

"The great Professor Bannister!" exclaimed Larose, as if very surprised.

"Yes, I've heard," nodded the woman, "that his books are read all over the world."

"So they are," nodded back Larose. He went on with animation, "Why, I know him, too. Do you mean to say he lives here?"

"About four miles away," replied the woman, "at Wrack House, right in the heart of the Fens."

"Oh, then I must go and call upon him! How do you get to his place?"

The woman looked curiously at Larose. "'Well, it's a long way," she said slowly, "and a very bad road. Unless you're a very great friend, too, it mayn't be worth your while to go, as he never sees anybody now. He won't even come out to speak to them, but has them all sent away. Sometimes, too, some of the gates are padlocked, so that no cars can get near the house."

"But he'll see me," smiled Larose, for some reason rather elated at what the woman was telling him. "We are very old friends. How do you get there?"

The woman led him to the shop door and pointed with her hand. "You go towards Feltwell for about half a mile until you come to a narrow, unmade road, on the right. It is very rough and looks as if no one ever used it. It's very muddy in bad weather, but it'll be all right to-day. Turn into it and keep straight on over all the dykes for a long, long way, more than two miles."

"Of course, there are bridges over these dykes," frowned Larose.

"Yes, but they're only made of heavy planks, and are very narrow, so you'll have to be careful in a car. Then at last you'll come to the Big Drain. You cross over that and then turn sharply to the left. Then keep by the side of the Drain for nearly another mile, until you see a house far away in the distance on the left. You can't mistake it, for it's very lonely and there's not another one within three miles. Now one thing more. When you get near the house, whatever you do, don't get out of your car until someone comes, for the Professor has got two big Alsatian dogs and they're said to be very fierce with strangers. Oh, and another thing! The mists come up over the Fens without any warning and it would be dangerous if you were caught in one. You might have to stop where you were all night."

Larose made a grimace, "It doesn't sound very inviting." He nodded. "Still, I'll go."

The woman smiled. "He's very eccentric," she said, "and from what I've heard he's become much more so lately. He's never wanted to see people, and he's more like that than ever now."

"Doesn't he ever come into the village?" asked Larose.

"Well, lately we've sometimes seen him passing through in his car, with his niece driving, but they never pull up."

"But where does he get his provisions from?"

She looked resentful. "I don't know. I believe they all come from London and are picked up at some railway station. But when this man Bent was here, they used to deal with me quite a lot, but now he never spends a penny, locally"—she sniffed—"except to send for a few postage stamps by Miss Bannister."

"Does he keep many servants?" was Larose's next question.

"No, none at all now. He used to have this man Bent and an elderly woman, Mary Trescowthick, but they both went some months ago, and now this niece, quite a young girl, is the only person living up there now."

"But doesn't he do any farming?" asked Larose.

"No, and he never has done. He's let all his land go to wild and waste. He just writes his books and fishes and shoots."

Larose thanked her for her information and, driving on in the direction she had indicated, directly he was out of sight of the village, pulled up his car to the side of the road and started to think hard.

He had never heard of this Professor Bannister before, and had no idea what sort of books he wrote. In one respect it didn't seem he was going to be at all helpful, and yet in another there were certainly distinct possibilities he might be.

What association with crime was a learned man whose books were read all over the world be likely to have? And yet, these padlocked gates, these fierce hounds to keep strangers away, and this refusal of late to allow anyone to come near him—rather suggested something of a mysterious and sinister nature.

But with what excuse could he, Larose, approach him, with the slightest chance of learning anything about him?

Most painstaking and thorough in all things, Larose quickly made up his mind. Before going to Wrack House he would find out what were the books the Professor had written. He would straightaway go to Cambridge and at the Public Library there would be certain to learn all about him. It meant a journey of about sixty miles there and back, but what did that count as he had already travelled so far? Yes, he would go to Cambridge and begin his investigations with a good lunch at the Bull Hotel.

He found two rows of Jasper Bannister's works upon the shelves of the Library, and frowned rather helplessly when, upon taking one down, he noted the highly scientific nature of its contents. The title of the books was Man's Real Place in Nature, and he saw that the Professor was a Doctor of Medicine, a Doctor of Science and possessed a long string of letters after his name, quite half of which conveyed no meaning to Larose. But he smiled all the same.

"Good," he told himself, "then I'll go as the representative of a publishing firm and, if I can get to see him, suggest that he should do business with us! When he refuses, which, of course, he will do, I'll say then that I'm also on holiday and ask him if I can take some photographs of his house, or where I can get any shooting or fishing or something like that. He won't see through me. A man of his great mind will be sure to have cobwebs somewhere in his brain." He screwed up his face. "But where the deuce does Gauntry come in?" He grinned. "Perhaps Bannister is a vampire and Gauntry supplies him with corpses so that he may suck their blood."

To prepare himself further for an interview with the Professor, he had a little chat with one of the attendants at the Library, and learnt that the Professor was not only a great anthropologist but also a well-known mathematician as well. He was a great student of chess, too, and occasionally contributed chess problems of profound intricacy to the chess magazines.

"Yes, he lives not far from here, among the Norfolk Fens, sir," concluded the attendant, shaking his head, "but nothing has come lately from his pen and there are rumours that he is now inclined to be mental. He refuses to receive any callers, and once when a young reporter did succeed in catching him out on his land, the newspaper man came back with the report that the professor had seemed to him half drunk. He had actually set two fierce dogs on him and the reporter had only escaped by jumping into his car. This occurred only a few weeks ago."

An hour later, passing by some workmen who were repairing the main road there, Larose turned into the narrow track to which the woman had directed him and, the deeper he got among the Fens, the more dismal and dreary the prospect seemed. Endless low wastes of land, stretching as far as the eye could see, countless muddy dykes criss-crossing in every direction and filled with malodorous mud and, for a long while, not a habitation to be seen anywhere. He became a little uneasy, too, as he noticed it looked rather misty in the distance.

At last, what he knew must be Wrack House came into sight and, as he approached nearer, he saw it was a long, low building of two stories. But about a quarter of a mile away from the house, a padlocked gate barred his way. He grinned, however, when he found he could lift the free end off its hinges.

"Now for it," he told himself a little breathlessly, as he drove quietly up to the front of the house. "If those dogs are handy, they ought to be hearing me by now."

But no dogs came rushing out and the house seemed quite empty and deserted. Weeds grew on all the paths all round, the many windows were all closed, and there were no signs of life anywhere. Still keeping in his car, he turned and drove round to the back of the house. There, to his delight, he came upon a young woman feeding some little chickens. He had driven round very quietly, and the wind blowing in the opposite direction, she did not become aware of his approach until he was within a few yards of her.

Then, instantly, she looked up, her face paled and she appeared very frightened. "What are you doing here?" she gasped. "Who are you?"

"I've come to see Professor Bannister," he said with a friendly smile. "Is he at home, can you tell me?"

But the girl made no answer and was staring at him with widely-opened eyes. She was now leaning against the wall and her expression was a very startled one.

"I come from a firm of publishers," went on Larose, gently, "and my name is Curtis."

"No, it isn't," she burst out quickly. She seemed to be struggling to get her breath. "You are Mr. Gilbert Larose, who used to be that great detective."

Larose was thunderstruck and felt himself getting furiously red. He stared at the girl in bewilderment.

Then suddenly the girl's whole expression altered, and, from one of fear, it became one of intense relief. Her colour rushed back and her eyes sparkled. She sprang forward and held out both her hands to him.

"Oh, I'm so glad you've come!" she exclaimed and her voice shook. "I couldn't have prayed for anyone better." She had to choke back her tears. "Oh, Mr. Larose, I'm in such trouble!"

Larose was stirred instantly to sympathy and a desire to protect her. She could not be much over twenty, he thought, and she was dark-eyed and pretty. It was evident she was of a gentle disposition. He made no attempt to deny his identity.

"Well, I'll get you out of it," he smiled reassuringly. "But tell me how you came to know me."

"I was staying at the same hotel as you were in Harrogate last year," she replied, "and you helped to judge the costumes at the Fancy Dress Ball. I was introduced to Mrs. Larose, too. I was with my mother who, unhappily, has since died. My name is Ethel Bannister." She smiled. "I never forget a face."

"And how can I help you?" he asked. He looked round quickly and lowered his voice to a whisper. "But first, where's the Professor?"

"He's gone to look at some rabbit-traps and it'll be quite safe for about half an hour as they're nearly a mile away. But come inside, will you? We can talk better there."

And so in a big, shabby room, with furniture of one-time grandeur, Ethel Bannister told her story—and a strange enough story it was.

She had come from Edinburgh a little over three months previously, her widowed mother having died very suddenly. The annuity they had been living on ending with her mother's death, she had written to her distinguished uncle, the Professor, whom she had never seen, asking him if he could put her in the way of earning a living as secretary to one of his friends.

Then, rather to her surprise, he had offered her a post himself with 50 a year salary to begin with. But she was on no account to tell anyone where she was coming to. So many people wrote to him for assistance, he said, and if it were known he had helped anyone, then everyone would expect him to do the same for them.

She had promised to tell no one, and, coming south with the money he had sent her, he had met her late one night at the railway station at Ely and brought her to Wrack House.

Then had commenced a life which was very different from what she had expected. It was a general servant her uncle had wanted and not a secretary. She had to prepare all the meals and if she didn't keep the house clean, no one would have done it, and it would have continued to be, as she had found it when she had arrived, too filthy to live in.

But it wasn't what she found she had to do about the house which so astonished her. It was her uncle himself who had been the great surprise. As she had never seen him before, and had only very hazy ideas of what he would be like, she had expected to find him eccentric, but had never dreamed that a man of his great scholarship would sometimes be so rough and unpleasant in his ways.

He was not of sober habits and some days was drinking all day long. Then he would not wash or dress himself and would go about with only his pyjamas on. He was never incapably drunk, but often would lie back in his arm-chair and sing horribly coarse songs until he was too hoarse to go on any longer.

Lately she had become really frightened of him for—she blushed here—he had taken to watching her in a horrible sort of way, and patting her on the cheek and wanting to hold her hand. He had a dreadfully cruel smile and was cruel in his nature, too.

A few days previously a calf had been born and, as he hadn't wanted it kept alive, he had given it to his two Alsatian dogs to tear to death.

Larose had been listening most intently all the time, trying to pick up something which would link together this most uncommon man and the rubber broker of Lothbury.

But the girl's next words came to him as a staggering shock and sent his pulse bounding up to a furious rate.

"And do you know, Mr. Larose," she went on very solemnly, "the idea has been gradually forming in my mind"—her eyes took on a startled look and she spoke very softly—"that he is not my uncle at all."

"W-h-a-t, what do you mean?" gasped Larose.

The girl looked very grave. "I think my real uncle has died," she whispered, "and that he is taking his place."

A long silence followed, and with a perfect welter of possibilities avalanching themselves through Larose's mind. But he soon had mastered his excitement and could speak in a quiet tone again.

"What makes you think so?" he asked.

"Well, from the very first he has never struck me as being an educated man. He won't even talk about history or science; he doesn't know the names of the most common wild flowers, and the other day when he cut his thumb at dinner with the carving knife, the same evening he was worrying that he felt blood-poisoning coming on. Yet even I know that any signs of poisoning wouldn't come on for a few days, and my uncle, as a doctor, would have know that, too. Yes, I don't believe this man here is my uncle, the famous Professor Bannister."

"What an extraordinary idea!" exclaimed Larose, wanting time to take it all in.

"Of course," went on the girl, "he's like what I knew Uncle Jasper was, in some ways. He's got the same handwriting. Uncle always wrote to my mother and sent her a cheque for 10 at Christmas, and he's got the same big black beard Uncle was said to have." She nodded vigorously here. "But about the colour of his beard I have become suspicious. He had a black mark on his cheek yesterday and when I asked him how he'd managed to get ink there, he looked as if he were very guilty about something and got up immediately and went into his bedroom and washed it off. Yes, I think his beard is only dyed black and his hair as well."

"But if he's not your uncle," said Larose frowningly, "surely someone in the neighbourhood would have found it out by now?"

"No, they wouldn't!" said the girl instantly, "because he never lets anyone get near enough to him to see that there's a difference between them. Before I came up here, I don't think he ever went off his own land in daylight. Now whenever he's outdoors if it's only twenty yards from the house, he wears a slouch hat well down over his eyes so that in the distance everyone would take him for my uncle, because of the black beard."

"But doesn't he ever go out in the car?"

"Yes, he goes out in it, but I drive, while he sits huddled in a corner at the back. We never pull up in any town or villages until we're nearly twenty-five or thirty miles away, and then I get out to do all the shopping. Another thing about him which is very strange—he always wears a big pink patch over one eye. He says he had that eye injured years ago and it looks so horrible he doesn't want me to see it."

"And what do you imagine there?" asked Larose, very puzzled.

"I don't know," said the girl frowning hard, "but one day I caught him without the patch when he was washing under the pump, and he clapped his hand over his face and swore angrily at me to go away. It came into my mind then he was only using the patch to make his appearance, for some extraordinary reason, look different to me."

"But had you ever heard your uncle had injured his eye?" asked Larose.

"Certainly not, and I'm sure Mother had never heard of it, although she hadn't seen him for some years."

A short silence followed, and then Larose asked, "Does he write much?"

The girl was emphatic. "I am sure he never writes a word, that is, I mean, of any book. He's got a lot of loose pages of manuscript upon his desk and sometimes shuts himself up in his room and pretends to be going on with this new book. Then I'm forbidden to interrupt him on any pretext." She shook her head. "But all the time I think he's only doing chess problems. He hasn't used up a pennyworth of ink since I've been up here. I do know that for certain."

"Anything more?" asked Larose.

The girl thought for a moment and then nodded. "Yes, he can etch most beautifully and I never heard my uncle could do that."

Another short silence followed and then Larose said, "And so you never do any shopping locally?"

"No, always a long way away, either in Ely or Cambridge or Newmarket. Then, he generally waits until its beginning to get dark before we start out. He hates my going out into Foxwold for the letters, too, and is always warning me not to stop and talk to anyone. It's a perfect mania with him that nothing should be known what is going on here"—she smiled sadly—"though, goodness knows, nothing ever happens."

"Well, does he write many letters?" asked Larose, coming at last to what had brought him all that way to the Fens.

"No, very few; to his bank in London, to a firm there, too, when he orders a case of whisky to be sent to some railway station to be picked up in the car, and, very occasionally, what looks like a private letter."

"Does he get many letters?"

"Not many. You see, it's been known everywhere for years and years that he was very eccentric and would never reply to any letters his admirers sent him, and so people gave up writing. Those this uncle of mine now here," she smiled half sadly and half amused, "does receive, he just glances through and throws them into the grate at once. Then he puts a match to them. He's not a bit interested unless they contain cheques."

"But about the letters he writes himself," asked Larose, "have you posted any lately to anyone in London?"

"Yes, to a Mr. Gauntry at 22 Fitzroy Square, and I think he had an answer back from him among the letters I brought from Foxwold yesterday."

Larose felt his heart bumping. "But how do you come to know this Mr. Gauntry's handwriting?"

"Well, a letter has always arrived in that handwriting about two days after uncle has sent one to this Mr. Gauntry. So I have presumed they were from him."

"Did he burn that last letter he had in Mr. Gauntry's handwriting?"

"I suppose he did. At any rate I've not seen it lying about."

"Well, do you know what this man here who is making out he is your uncle has to write to that Mr. Gauntry about?"

She shook her head. "I haven't the remotest idea." She nodded. "But I know he sent him a cheque the other day, because I happened to see him putting it in the envelope." She nodded again. "You see, he gets plenty of money. A cheque came from his publishers last week and it was for 750. I looked in his desk when he was outside killing a fowl."

"And you're beginning to feel perfectly sure now that he's not your uncle?" asked Larose.

The girl hesitated. "Except for one other thing besides the handwritings being just the same, and that is, as my uncle was, he's an enthusiastic chess-player. I play chess, too, and every evening when he's not been drinking he sets up the chessmen and sometimes keeps me up until terribly late, until past midnight even." A thought seemed suddenly to strike her and she asked curiously. "But what have you come up here for, Mr. Larose?"

Larose smiled. "Evidently because Fate or Providence or something sent me up to help you." He became grave again. "Now I can trust you, can't I? Of course, I can!" He spoke slowly, "Well, I'm back on my old detecting business again and I want to find out something about this gentleman who has been writing to that Mr. Gauntry. Mr. Gauntry is under suspicion of having done something which brings him into bad disfavour with the Law, and I want to know who his friends are. You understand?"

"Yes, but I don't see how you'll find out anything"—she made a little face—"from this uncle of mine." She looked troubled. "When he comes home, he won't let you get a word in, and he may even put his two big dogs on to you. He's in a specially bad humour to-day because he's found there's not a drop of anything more to drink in the house. He made a miscalculation and thought that there was another case of whisky in the cellar."

"That's bad," frowned Larose. "Take away his drink from a man who's accustomed to plenty and it's inclined to make him as savage as a bear."

"And worse still," went on the girl, "he's run out of petrol, too, and doesn't know what on earth he's going to do. He's been talking of making me walk into the village and bring back a gallon in a tin."

Then suddenly an idea seized Larose, and he snapped his fingers together triumphantly. "I've got it!" he exclaimed, "I'll make out I'm a traveller for a wine and spirit firm in London and have brought some samples with me. I've got one, if not two, bottles of whisky in the back of the car and a large bottle of champagne as well."

The girl's eyes sparkled. "And I'll go a little way to meet him and tell him," she said. "That'll stop him getting furious before he comes into the house."

"And another thing," said Larose. He looked uneasily out of the window. "It looks as if there's one of those ghastly mists coming up, and I might be able to make that an excuse for stopping an hour or two." He smiled. "You see, I don't know Professor Bannister any more than you did when you first came here, and I can't find out everything in a few minutes."

"And it won't be a few minutes you'll have to stop!" exclaimed the girl, who now peered out through the window, too. "This is a big mist coming over and in a quarter of an hour you mayn't be able to see half a dozen yards in front of you."

"Then I'll stop until it clears," said Larose, "and have a good talk to him." He pointed across the room to some very large-sized chessmen upon an enormous chessboard. "Why, I might even suggest having a game of chess with him?"

"But do you play chess?" she asked eagerly.

"Certainly I do, and I'm pretty good at it, too."

She clasped her hands together. "Oh, then if you can give him something to drink, and get him into a good humour and start a game of chess, why—he won't want you to go for a week. He's mad on chess and is always grumbling it is no pleasure playing with me. He has to give me a rook and then always beats me. Yes, he has a regular mania about chess. He spends hours and hours working out problems."

"Then I'll settle him," nodded Larose confidently. "You see if I don't."

The girl was all smiles, until she remembered her first trouble and then she asked anxiously, "But how are you going to help me? I've got no money to get away."

"I'll do something," nodded Larose. "We'll first find out if he's an impostor, and, if he is, you can come straight away with me. You can stop with my wife for a time. We live in Carmel Abbey, which isn't very far from here."

"How awfully kind of you," said the girl. She blushed. "No woman would ever be afraid of trusting herself with you. There is something in your face which gives——" but she suddenly stopped talking and pointed to the window. "There he is!" she whispered. "I'll go and try to calm him down before he catches sight of your car."

Larose saw a man emerging in shadowy outline from the now quickly-gathering mist. He was carrying some rabbits, and on either side of him stalked a magnificent looking hound, almost as big as a young calf.

The man disappeared out of sight and a short silence followed. Then came a loud bellowing shout, "What the hell is this? Where is the——" but the voice died away and a long silence ensued. Then Larose heard heavy footsteps in the passage, the door was pushed wide open, and he found himself being scowlingly regarded by a rough-looking man with a big black beard and a large patch over one eye.

Larose started and the ingratiating, easy smile died on his face, for the man before him had most unmistakably the same general cast of features and the same shaped head as Arnold Gauntry.

CHAPTER IV.—THAT CURSED DOG, LAROSE

For a long moment they stood staring at each other and then the bearded man burst out fiercely, "How the devil did you get here?"

"I came in my car," began Larose, "and——"

"I know that," shouted the man, "I can see, can't I, and that's your car outside. But how did you unlock the padlock on the gate?"

"I didn't unlock it," said Larose meekly. "The staples were quite loose in the woodwork, and I just lifted the gate off the post. I am going to replace it as I go back."

"But who are you?"

"My name is Curtis, sir, and I travel for Macgregor's Scotch whisky. I also represent the Bollinger champagne. I am really on a holiday, but I am looking out for business at the same time. I had lost my way and, this fog coming on and seeing your house in the distance, I thought I would call in."

"But how do you come to be on my land at all?"

"I was looking for somewhere to fish. I have heard there are a lot of eels in the Big Drain."

The bearded man growled. "Didn't you know whose house this was?"

"Not until the young lady told me. I am quite a stranger to these parts."

"But of course you've heard of me, Professor Bannister!"

Larose was very much upon the alert and sensed something of anxiety in the question. He pretended to be very confused. "I'm—sorry—Professor," he stammered, "but I don't remember having heard the name before."

The Professor calmed down. "Then you've never read any of my books?"

Larose shook his head. "No, I never have been a deepreading man, I only read novels and stories of the detective type." He smiled a sheepish smile. "I'm afraid I'm not at all brainy."

The Professor's manner became quite agreeable. "And you travel in whisky, do you? Well, have you got any samples with you?"

Larose at once became business-like. "Yes, sir," he replied briskly, "and I shall have much pleasure in giving you a bottle to try. I will also leave you a bottle of our champagne." He made a movement towards the door. "I'll go and get them now out of the car."

"But I'd better come with you," nodded the Professor unpleasantly. "There are two dogs outside who might tear you to pieces if I wasn't there," and he led the way out of the room.

Passing outside, Larose was certainly glad of the Professor's company. Although only a few yards away, the car was not visible in the thick mist which was now blanketing the house, but the two huge dogs were very much in evidence, and sniffing hard with muzzles low down upon the ground. They had evidently smelt the presence of a stranger, and started to growl menacingly the moment they caught sight of Larose. They were terrifying looking animals with big, blood-shot eyes.

"Not nice to meet if you were alone, eh?" laughed the Professor. "They wouldn't give you much quarter." He waved the dogs away with his arm, "Get off, Hitler, you brute! Get away, Himmler!" He pointed to the latter animal. "That dog killed a man just before I bought him, not three months ago, and the police ordered him to be shot. But the owner smuggled him away and I got him. It was weeks before I dared to let him off his chain." He added proudly. "Both of these beasts could pull down a bullock."

And looking at them, Larose thought, too, that they both could. In view of the plan which was forming in his mind, he was furious with himself for having brought no pistol with him.

A bottle of whisky and the one of champagne were brought in and, at Larose's suggestion, the latter bottle was opened at once and two tumblers filled to the brim with the diamond-sparkling wine.

"Well, here's luck," said the Professor, lifting up his glass. "I never welcome visitors, as I've probably made you understand"—he smiled quite pleasantly—"but under the circumstances, I don't particularly object to you. It happens I'm a little short of liquor at the present moment."

He drained the tumbler to the last drop in one long draught and, setting it down, smacked his lips in obvious appreciation!

Larose bowed in warm approval. "That's the proper way to drink champagne, sir," he said smilingly, "a long, big pull of the first glass and it gets down at once to your very toes. I can always tell when a gentleman is accustomed to good wine. Never any sipping, except with port, or a white wine of good vintage. Drink sherry in small mouthfuls and burgundy and claret in little bigger ones." He spoke with the enthusiasm of a real lover of wine. "Now, what do you think of that champagne?"

"Not at all bad," said the Professor. "In fact it's quite good."

"Well, I can put it in for you at two hundred and fifty shillings a case," went on Larose in good salesman's manner, "12 10s., and it's dirt cheap at the price." He picked up the bottle. "Let me fill your tumbler again, but drink it more slowly this time, so that you can get the flavour as well as the effect. No, no, thank you, I won't have any more myself. It gets to my head on an empty stomach."

Accordingly, the Professor finished the rest of the bottle on his own, and quickly began to mellow into an agreeable companion. He told Larose whereabouts there would be likely to be good sport with the eels in the Big Drain, and how he could get a duck or two, if very wary, in certain places on the Fens.

Conversation progressed most friendlily and Larose, learning of his petrol dilemma, at once offered to let him have a spare two-gallon tin he had in his car.

Then Larose's eyes, roving round the room, appeared to fall haphazardly on the outsize chessmen and board upon the table in the corner, and at once starting up from where he had been sitting, without any apology, he walked over to inspect them.

"Oh, what magnificent chessmen!" he exclaimed with great enthusiasm. "I don't remember ever having seen any so large before."

"No, they're certainly a bit out of the way," commented the Professor, and then he asked casually, "Ever play chess yourself?"

"Yes," nodded Larose, "I'm rather keen on it." He smiled. "I play a pretty good game, too."

The Professor looked scornful. "Bah," he exclaimed, "I'll give you a knight and play you for a pound!"

Instantly Larose had every appearance of having been insulted. "There's no player living who could do that," he said warmly. "I've played with the chess masters at Boloni's and I always put up a good fight."

"Well then, I'll give you a pawn and play you for half-a-crown."

"No, you won't," said Larose firmly. "I'll have a game with you if you really want it, but we'll play even." He smiled. "If you lose you shall give me an order for a case of that champagne."

"Right," agreed the Professor heartily, "and you shall have first move!"

"Not at all," snapped Larose. "I'll have no favours from anyone. We'll draw for it."

The men were set up and the Professor, having drawn White, made the first move. He opened with the King's Gambit, offering the usual sacrifice of the pawn. The first seven or eight moves were made with lightning rapidity, almost in as many seconds, and then the Professor paused.

"Gad," he exclaimed smilingly, "I see you can play and I'm glad you didn't take me on for that pound!"

"I'm President of the North Tooting Club," said Larose coldly, and as if nettled at the other's patronising manner, "and I told you I could play a good game."

And play a good game he certainly could, but he soon perceived the Professor was equally as strong. An hour went by, extending to nearly two, and still the game did not appear to have swung definitely toward either player.

Larose's thoughts had, however, been rather distracted from the game, for all the time he had been trying to sum up the character of his strange, uncouth-looking opponent with the disfiguring patch over one eye. The man was an impostor, of course, for he was certainly not a professor, and there was no doubt, too, that he was some blood relation of Arnold Gauntry. The likeness between them was striking, and most likely they were brothers.

This man, however, was much rougher and coarser than Gauntry. Still, his present mode of life would in a way account for that. His beard was straggling and untrimmed and the one bushy eye-brow which was exposed had not been cut for months. His hands were dirty and his fingernails begrimed.

But with all his coarseness, he was a man of strong and intelligent character. He was calculating and had courage and resource, as indeed was indicated by the moves he was now making on the board. He was possessed of good brain power, but was a man of action rather than a man of thought. He had nothing of the scientist or the thinker about him. To conclude, his face betrayed his ruthless nature, and his one eye was very cruel.

The game went on, until, looking at his watch, Larose saw it was nearly six o'clock.

"I'm afraid," he said with feigned reluctance, "that I shall have to go now, so do you mind agreeing to call the game a draw? I think it would work out to be one in any case."

"Draw be damned!" bellowed the Professor truculently. "I've got a win here!" He clenched his fist determinedly. "We're going to play this out if you have to stop here all night. This is the first decent game I've had for months," he shook his head vexatiously—"I mean for years." He pointed through the window, "'You'll have to go,'" he mimicked. "How the devil are you going 'to go'? Why, man, you couldn't get a hundred yards from the house in this fog, without getting lost!"

"But it's nearly six o'clock!" said Larose hesitatingly.

"Well, you'll stay here for the night and we'll finish this game and have another after tea."

"It's very good of you," began Larose. "I——"

"Not at all," cried the Professor. "It's myself I'm thinking of. I'm bored to death in this beastly hole, and except for"—he seemed to pull himself up—"except for my writing I'd never stop here another day." He raised his voice loudly. "Ethel, what have you got for tea?"

The girl appeared in the doorway, looking hot and flurried. "I'm roasting those two ducks, Uncle, and there'll be bread and butter pudding."

"That'll do, girl." He turned to Larose. "Now, we'll go on with the game. It's my move, isn't it?" His eyes turned back to the board upon which there were now few pieces left, and he went on reminiscently, "You know, this ending here reminds me of one I remember playing about seven years ago"—he frowned and corrected himself quickly—"oh, twenty years ago. I was playing third man for a club in a match against the great City of London once, and there were just the same pieces on the board then as there are now, four pawns, two knights and each had this bishop of differing colour."

"What a wonderful memory you have!" said Larose, wanting to encourage him to go on, as he had stopped speaking.

The Professor seemed pleased at the compliment and at once resumed his story. "But I particularly happen to remember that game because it was almost historic in its importance and I won it by a ruse. The whole winning or losing of the whole match depended upon it. There were fifteen players a side and the score up to then was seven all. Well, Black offered a draw, but I wouldn't have it, as I could see he was getting upset at the crowd of people standing round, and I hoped he would make a mistake. But I knew he would have to make it soon, for it was getting on towards midnight and we shouldn't be allowed to play a minute after that, and then, with the game looking so even, the adjudicators would be bound to give it as a draw."

The Professor leant back here and laughed heartily. "Black was a fine player, but I got him all right in the end, almost in the last couple of minutes. He was a stutterer and a nervous little chap, and I suddenly noticed—I had got a bit of a cold—that he started and looked up angrily at me every time I blew my nose. So I took to blowing it whenever I saw he was about to make his move. And then—what I expected would happen, did. His hand was shaking badly and he accidentally touched the wrong pawn. Then, of course, he had to move it, and I gave him mate in three. Ha, ha, ha, he was wild as blazes about it, and glared at me like a scalded cat!"

Larose laughed heartily, too. "But you won't frighten me in that way," he said.

"No, perhaps not," agreed the Professor. He regarded Larose thoughtfully. "You're quite a different man when you're not trying to sell booze to anyone. You strike me as very much all there, then."

The game was resumed and presently, of set purpose, Larose allowed the Professor to win. The latter was overjoyed and shook Larose warmly by the hand, thanking him profusely for the great game he had given him.

Presently tea was announced and, proceeding into the kitchen, they partook of an appetising meal and although the month was July, appreciated the warmth coming from the big, old-fashioned stove.

"You need a fire at night for ten months of the year on these damned Fens," growled the Professor. "It's a fearful part to live in, too, unless you like solitude, for in the winter we're often wrapped for days and nights on end in fog."

Ethel Bannister waited on them quickly and deftly and Larose was glad to see her face no longer bore the strained and frightened look it had when she had been telling him her story in the afternoon. Every now and then she flashed him a grateful glance over her uncle's shoulder, as if she were quite sure and happy now under his protection.

The meal over, more chess followed until nearly midnight, with Larose scoring one game and the Professor another.

The Professor had become increasingly friendly as the evening had worn on, so much so that it had been finally arranged Larose should stay on at Wrack House at any rate over the following day, when he would be taken out and given some good sport with the eels in the Big Drain.

And all the evening Larose had been wondering, if this man were an impostor, what had become of the real Professor. Had he died a natural death or had he—Larose shuddered at the thought—come to a violent and bloody end and was now rotting in some hidden grave among those mist and fog-shrouded wastes of the lonely Fens?

Larose saw no difficulty that the man was an impostor in the fact that he was an ardent chess-player, even as Professor Bannister had been. That was only a coincidence, one of the many surprising ones that were so often encountered in everyday life. Neither were his ideas upset that the handwritings of them both seemed identical. This man was an etcher of outstanding ability—he had shown Larose, with much pride, some of the etchings he had done—and it would be nothing to an etcher, after a little practice, to imitate any handwriting. So there was no difficulty about the imposture there.

Then about this man being a famous writer, Larose scoffed at the idea that he ever did any writing at all. His desk was placed altogether in the wrong position for a man who wrote much. Sitting at it by the window, the light fell over the right side and no habitual writer would ever tolerate his right hand continually casting a shadow as he wrote.

Larose was greatly heartened at the thought that he had got in touch with a scoundrel, perhaps even a dreadful criminal, for it was strengthening his case immeasurably against Arnold Gauntry. He was sure he had but to find the secret bond of enmity between the latter and himself and then the reason for the murder of Major Sampon would be quite clear.

He was thinking hard of all those things later, as he lay wide-eyed and wakeful in the darkness of his room towards one o'clock in the morning.

He must get speech again alone with Ethel Bannister, but how on earth he was to manage it he did not know. The man with the black beard seemed to have no work to do and, what with this confounded chess-playing and this rotten, muddy business of going after eels, he would probably never leave his side.

But this problem was solved in a totally unexpected manner.

Larose was going over for the hundredth time how he could trap both Gauntry and this one-eyed relation of his, when he suddenly became aware of a gentle tapping upon his door, and then he heard the handle turn softly.

"It's all right, it's only I," came the gentle voice of Ethel Bannister. "But stay where you are and don't get out of bed. I'm going to light a candle." She laughed a little nervously. "But I've had to shut the door again, because of the dogs. There was Himmler outside just now, and I shouldn't wonder if Uncle had put him on the watch there. He was very friendly with you to-night, but he wouldn't trust you more than anybody. He distrusts everyone but me, and he only leaves me out because he thinks women have no brains."

His first surprise over, Larose smiled in the darkness. This girl had got courage anyhow!

"But is it quite safe?" he whispered when she had lit the candle and he saw her in a dressing-gown standing just inside the door.

"Quite," she whispered back. "You just listen," and through the ill-fitting door, with a wide space at the bottom, he heard the faint but unmistakable sounds of loud snoring some distance away.

Even in the dim light cast by the candle, he could see that the girl was blushing and he thought it was a most becoming blush too.

"I told you this afternoon," she went on whisperingly, "that you were a man no woman need be afraid of, and you see this proves I was paying you no empty compliment."

"Quite all right, my dear," said Larose in his most fatherly manner. "If I were only a few years older I should be double your age, and I have a great respect for brave girls. Now, you bring that chair a little closer and we'll talk. As you say, we'll be quite safe as long as we hear Blackbeard snoring and the snores are that distance away."

"Ail the same we must be very quiet," whispered the girl warningly, "for in spite of his loud snoring he's a light sleeper and it takes very little to wake him." Her bosom was rising and falling quickly in her emotion. "And what do you think of him?"

"He's not your uncle," replied Larose decisively. "He's a scoundrel and a very dangerous man and it's not safe for you to stay here alone with him any longer."

"But what's become of my uncle, then?" she asked, almost in tears.

"I don't know, but we must find that out and you can help me a lot if you give your mind to it. Now, I learnt from the woman in the post office in Foxwold that he used to employ a man and an elderly woman here. Well, do you know how long they had been gone before you came here?"

The girl pulled herself together and replied steadily, "No, but it must have been some time, for everything about the house was so filthy."

"But was it years or months, do you think?" asked Larose.

"Oh, it wasn't years," she said. "It could have been only months, at any rate since the woman left, because there were cakes in the cupboard which she had made. Of course they were hard as bricks when I found them, but they weren't a bit mouldy and would have been quite all right to eat if one wasn't particular. I gave them to the fowls."

"How do you know she had made them?" asked Larose. "They might have been bought at some shop."

"Oh, no, they weren't! They were saffron cakes and there was a little tin of saffron in the cupboard, too. The woman must have been Cornish, because her name was Trescowthick, and they're very fond of saffron cakes in Cornwall."

"But this man here might have made them!" suggested Larose.

The girl laughed softly. "He can't cook anything, not even a potato. He was living on tinned stuff when I came up here, and bread which he got in from somewhere about once every ten days or a fortnight."

"But how did he get the Professor's letters, then," went on Larose, "if he didn't dare to show himself in the village?"

"He didn't get them," replied the girl. "The last time this man of his, Bent he was called, went into Foxwold, he took a letter to the postmistress from my uncle saying he was going away for some weeks and the letters were to remain until he came back. So when I went in with another letter saying they were then to be given to me, there were quite a number to be collected."

"Ah," exclaimed Larose with great interest, "then to how long before did the letters go back?"

The girl shook her head. "I don't know. I wasn't curious then." She hesitated. "But I think the woman in the shop said something about three months."

Larose snapped his fingers together. "Then everything's as clear as day," he exclaimed triumphantly. "This impostor here is Bent himself and his reason for keeping out of everybody's sight for all those weeks was just so that he could grow his beard much longer. Now anyone happening to see him at a distance will naturally take him for your uncle."

Ethel Bannister was trembling all over. "Oh, yes, you must be right," she said brokenly. "When I first came here his beard wasn't nearly so long as it is now." She nodded vehemently. "And the letter he sent me to Edinburgh, asking me to come here, was posted in Ely. So he went all that way to post it so that no one by any chance would catch sight of him in the village here. Yes, yes, of course, he's that man Bent."

"But do you know if Bent had anything the matter with his eye?" asked Larose quickly.

She shook her head. "I really don't know anything about him. This man here will never talk about him or the woman either, and has always put me off when I've asked about them. He's just told me that Mary Trescowthick was lazy and dirty and that he had to send Bent off for being impertinent."

"But who was supposed to be staying here when your uncle went on his holiday? There must have been someone to look after the cow and the fowls, yes, and the dogs, too."

"Oh, the woman was here then. He's told me that."

"Then presumably Bent was supposed to have gone off when the Professor did, and the woman after the Professor had come back."

"Yes, only that would fit in with the little I've been told."

Larose spoke very solemnly. "Then it seems to me that your uncle and this Mary Trescowthick faded away, both at the same time. They disappeared suddenly and this fellow here at once took command of everything."

Then for a long minute neither of them spoke, the dead and awed silence being only broken by the snoring in the distant room.

At last Larose said briskly and as if, after all, there was nothing much to worry about, "Well, about that letter Bent, yes, we'll call him by his proper name from now on, received yesterday from this Mr. Gauntry. If he didn't burn it, where is it likely to be now?"

Ethel Bannister moistened her dry lips with her tongue. "In his jacket pocket," she said. "He's very careless about putting things away and, indeed, he's got no place where he can lock up anything, except the little medicine cupboard in his bedroom." She smiled wanly. "That's where he keeps his bottle of hair-dye. There are no keys to his desk or to any of the other cupboards."

"Well, has he got a pistol or revolver in the house, do you know?" was Larose's next question.

She shook her head. "I've never seen one, but he's got two rifles and a gun."

Larose put his finger to his lips and made a movement as if he were going to get very stealthily out of the bed. "Then I'll go and look in that jacket pocket of his," he whispered. "I want that letter badly."

But the girl held up her hand instantly in terrified protest. "No, no, you mustn't," she whispered hoarsely. "I've sent Himmler back to the kitchen, but both the dogs are in the house and if they hear strange footsteps they'll come up at once." She nodded. "I'd go, if it'd be any good, but it wouldn't be, for I couldn't get into his room without waking him. The lock of the door won't catch and so he has to put a chair against the door to prevent it rattling. Everything in this house is like that. It's all——"

But suddenly there was a loud resounding bang as a door up the passage slammed to with great violence.

"Oh, it's my door!" almost wailed the girl. "I left it open. Now, it will have wakened him up and he'll come out to see what's happened. He's dreadfully superstitious and half believes in ghosts. He is always upset by strange noises in the night."

"Then put out that candle," hissed Larose instantly, "and don't even breathe until we know what's happened."

Deep silence ensued when the girl had done as she was bidden, but only for a few seconds, and then they heard the sound as of a scraping of a chair upon the floor, followed almost immediately by heavy footsteps in the distance.

Larose flashed a small electric torch, to find the girl lying prone upon the floor with her ear pressed close to the space at the bottom of the door.

With a quick movement of her hand she smoothed her dressing-gown down over her legs the instant she saw the light, and then looked up smilingly at Larose.

"He's gone downstairs," she whispered, "perhaps only to get something to drink. He often does in the middle of the night. Was there any whisky left?"

"Yes, quite a third of a bottle."

She rose swiftly to her feet. "Then that may keep him there for a little while. Quick, give me your torch and I'll go and look for that letter," and she had opened the door softly and was out of the room in a few seconds.

Larose jumped out of bed and, groping his way across the room, stood in the doorway with his head craned round and peering anxiously into the darkness of the passage. Then to his horror he heard the unmistakable sounds of Bent's heavy footsteps coming up the creaking stairs.

"Good God," he exclaimed fearfully, "he'll catch her in his room!"

But happily his fears were short-lived, for almost immediately he saw the dancing light of his torch in the passage and the girl came running swiftly up.

"He's coming back," she panted, as the light fell upon Larose, and without a sound they both glided into the room and the door was closed very softly behind them.

"Here's the letter," she went on breathlessly, "but he's lighted a candle and may come up the passage this time. Oh, I hope to Heaven he doesn't knock on my door. I tell you, noises in the night always make him come out to see what they are."

"But you must hide somewhere," whispered Larose sharply. He looked round the big room, which was almost bare of furnishings. "Get on to the bed and lie close up against the wall. I'll throw the counterpane over you," and once again the room was plunged into darkness.

As the girl had feared, the man came up the passage, and soon the light of his candle was seen showing under the door. As it remained stationary there, Larose, in a lightning flash, resolved upon his course of action, and called out loudly, "Hullo, what's up?" at the same time jumping on to the floor as if he had just got out of the bed. "Come in," he went on, "I can't find my torch."

The man opened the door and entered, holding his candle high up so that he could see all round the room. Behind him padded the big Alsatian, Himmler, looking more fierce and menacing than ever. "Did you hear any noise," snapped Bent suspiciously, "like some heavy person falling down?"

"No, but my door slammed to," replied Larose. "I evidently hadn't latched it properly and it made enough noise to wake the dead."

"Oh, that's what it was!" exclaimed Bent, evidently with some relief. "It woke me up with a start." He subsided into the one solitary chair the room contained and drew in a deep breath. "Do you know, sometimes I think this damned house is haunted?"

"I shouldn't wonder," agreed Larose. "It must have been built for donkey's years, and of course a lot of people have died in it."

Bent drew in another deep breath. "It's funny, I'm afraid of nothing living," he went on, "but I'm always jumpy about spooks. Of course, I don't really believe in them and yet"—he hesitated—"well, you don't either, do you?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Larose as if rather doubtful, longing to get rid of him, and yet at the same time anxious to lead him on. He spoke judicially. "I think if anyone has died violently he mightn't rest easy in his grave. You see, spiritualists will have it that the spirit of a person who's been cut off suddenly never really rests until the hour when he would have died in his properly appointed time, in a natural way."

"But the spirit wouldn't wander!" insisted Bent quickly, in a manner as if more to satisfy himself than as if he really believed it. "I mean, it would keep to the place where the party had actually died."

Larose looked doubtful again. "I couldn't say," he said, shaking his head, "but I should think it would come back to the place where it had always lived. I know people in the occult world hold to that view."

Bent rose to his feet. "Well, at any rate," he said with a forced laugh, "these dogs will keep anyone, alive or dead, at a distance. That's what I got them for."

Then suddenly Himmler began sniffing hard and began to pad stealthily towards the bed upon which Larose had all the time been sitting.

"Here, I say," laughed Larose, "keep him away from my bed, will you? I'm very susceptible to fleas and I'll bet he's got plenty."

"Come here, you brute," called out Bent angrily, and giving the animal a kick, he drove him out of the room. "Well, good night again," he went on. "I'll go and get some more sleep now and I'll make sure this damned door is shut properly this time."

He pulled the door to behind him with a resounding bang which reverberated through the house and then they heard his footsteps retreating down the passage.

"Oh, I'm sure he's killed my uncle," came in a terrified whisper in the darkness, "and that's what makes him so afraid of noises in the night. The darkness frightens him because he's got a guilty conscience."

"Well, never mind," said Larose soothingly. "You'll soon be away from here and then I'll find out everything and see he gets his punishment." He flashed his torch and went on in matter-of-fact tones, "Now you remain exactly where you are until it gets light. Cover yourself up properly to keep warm, but let me have one of your blankets. I'll make myself comfortable on the floor. It'll only be for a couple of hours or so and then you can get back to your room."

"You are kind," said the girl brokenly. "I don't know what would have happened to me if you hadn't come."

"Well, don't think about it," said Larose. "Don't talk any more and try to get some sleep. One minute, though, while I read this letter and then I'll put out the light."

So, taking the letter out of its envelope, by the light of the torch, he read it quickly through, smiling exultingly almost as soon as his eyes fell upon the first words. It was dated the day following upon the night of Major Sampon's murder and read:

"DEAR JOE,

"News which will amaze you. Just by blind chance it may be that our dream of vengeance is unexpectedly coming true. That cursed dog, Larose, is in a tight corner and it looks as if the public hangman will soon be doing the job we wanted to do ourselves. What a fool you are not to take in any newspapers! If you had you would have read all about it. It is too long to tell you everything in a letter, but I will run down soon—I may come any time—and see you. I got the cheque passed through all right, but I don't think you had better stop up there much longer. It's too risky and I have been uneasy ever since the visit of that bank manager.

"Yours,

"HARRY."

Larose's heart beat violently in his excitement. "Just what I wanted!" he exclaimed breathlessly to the girl, "and I'll be grateful all my life to you for getting it for me."

"But what's in it?" she asked.

"It's too long to explain just now," said Larose, "but it proves that this man here is not your uncle and that the man who is writing to him is a criminal, too." He nodded. "I'll tell you about it to-morrow."

"But one thing, first," pleaded the girl. "If no one interfered with this man here, how long do you think he would be staying on here as my uncle?"

"As long as he dared," replied Larose, "to get in as much of the money which is being paid in by the publishers for the royalties on your uncle's books. Perhaps, also, he is selling some stocks and shares which your uncle may have had. But now go to sleep. I am going to switch off the torch."

A deep silence followed, and after a long while it was apparent, from her regular breathing, that the girl had fallen asleep. Presently it seemed that Larose was asleep, too, as he had now got his eyes shut and was no longer staring into the darkness.

The night waned and the dawn began to break and still for an hour and longer there was no movement in the room. Then, suddenly, the girl awoke with a start and sat up instantly, looking scared and frightened, but the scared expression changed to one of great thankfulness when her eyes fell upon the sleeping man upon the floor.

For a long minute she remained quite still and then, after a quick glance at her wrist-watch, without making a sound, she slid out of the bed and tip-toed very quietly towards the door. About to pass Larose, however, she stopped and for a moment stood looking down at him. Then she suddenly dropped upon her knees and, pulling the blanket a little closer over him, lightly brushed over his forehead with her hand before she glided smilingly from the room.

Larose smiled, too, when she had gone. "Poor child," he murmured sleepily, "it's nice to think she knows she's got a protector." His eyes opened wider. "Gad, but things might have gone very badly with her if I hadn't happened to come. The wonder is she's been safe with that brute for so long."

That morning at breakfast Bent, looking lusty and strong, and with all his fears of the night passed away, suggested an alteration in the day's programme. He wanted Larose to drive him into Newmarket in his, Larose's, car, to get some more whisky and also a few things in the provision line. Then, they would have good sport with the eels in the afternoon.

Larose at once expressed himself as quite agreeable; indeed he was pleased with the suggestion that he should drive him into Newmarket, hoping that at some of the shops they might visit there he would, later on, be able to find out something about Mary Trescowthick. He thought it was quite probable that some of the tradespeople with whom the real Professor was in the habit of dealing might have some idea where her people lived. He would then learn if she had returned to them or was just 'missing.'

Just as they were about to start upon their journey, and were actually seated in the car, Bent called to Ethel Bannister to come outside.

"Here, girl," he said sharply, "I want you to go into Foxwold this morning and see if there are any letters for me. I'm expecting an important one. You can use the petrol this gentleman has lent me. Then get his tin refilled and our tank filled up, too, in the village." He raised his finger warningly. "But mind, no gossiping. I don't want anyone to know I've got a visitor here or they'll be thinking everyone can come."

Larose flashed a reassuring glance at the girl, but was very annoyed he could get no private speech with her and tell her to keep back any letter there was. He was quite confident, however, that if there were another letter in the handwriting of Arnold Gauntry she would certainly not give it up to the party it would be addressed to.

Although the morning was warm and sunny, Larose was not a bit surprised that Bent asked for the hood to be put up and the whole journey sat leaning back in the corner with his cap pulled well down over his forehead.

Larose bad a good laugh to himself, wondering how this rough, uncouth man beside him could be so dense as to imagine that he, Larose, was taking him to be a learned man of science whose books were read all over the world. He began wondering, also, with much curiosity if Bent had ever attempted to pass himself off as Professor Bannister in Newmarket. He was certainly well acquainted with the town, for he talked of what shops they would go to and particularly mentioned one provision shop where one could always be certain of obtaining prime, sugar-cured and well-cooked hams.

But upon approaching the environs of the town, Larose speedily learnt the part he himself was expected to play. He was to do all the shopping while Bent was not intending to set foot out of the car.

"You see," laughed Bent in explanation, pointing to his shabby, greasy clothes, "I never intend to tog myself up for anyone." He made a horrible grimace. "Still, I don't want people to see me dressed like this. A paragraph about me might get in the newspapers and I simply loathe publicity of all kinds." He tried to look very stern and uncompromising. "My reputation as a man of science is the only thing about me I want people to be interested in."

Larose said he quite understood and Bent went on, "So, of course, don't mention my name anywhere."

Larose nodded smilingly, but all the same, at every place he went in, beginning with one of the hotels where he bought half a dozen bottles of whisky, he purposely, but as if quite by accident, mentioned that what he was purchasing was for Professor Bannister. But no one seemed a bit interested, and no one took up the name until he came to the last shop of all, when he went in to get the delicious sugar-cured ham Bent had so smacked his lips about.

There, the man who served him, who happened to be the proprietor of the shop himself, at once exclaimed smilingly, "Oh, it's for Professor Bannister, is it? Well, I'm very pleased to hear it. He often used to buy things from us, but we've not heard of him for months now, and we quite thought we'd lost his custom by offending him in some way. How is he keeping, sir, may I ask?"

"Oh, he's quite well, thank you," said Larose, "very busy, always at work on those wonderful books of his." Then he asked, as if rather surprised, "But he didn't often come here himself, did he?"

"No, no, it was his man, Bent, who used to come, but we knew the things were for the Professor because he had an account with us, and used to pay by cheque."

"Ah, that fellow Bent!" exclaimed Larose. "He's been gone some time. The Professor had to send him away for getting drunk."

"I don't wonder," nodded the provision merchant. "He was often just a little the worse for liquor when he came in here." He nodded again. "A morose, unpleasant-looking man, and looking worse with that dreadful eye of his."

Larose's heart gave a big bump. Here was news at last! The very thing he wanted to find out.

"I never saw him," he said. "What was the matter with his eye?"

"A dreadful squint, sir. I don't think I've ever seen a worse one. And I'm sure it was that which helped to make him so bad-mannered. He was very ashamed of that eye, so much so, that I remember when he first used to come here as the Professor's new servant, he always used to keep it closed. Really, it was a long time before he let anyone see the squint and we had quite got to think he couldn't open that eye."

"And how many years is it since he first came to your shop?" asked Larose, the more and more delighted with the information he was receiving.

"Let me see," considered the provision merchant. "Oh, I can tell you. It was soon after I bought this shop. Yes, about six years ago. I happen to remember it because the first time he came in he'd lost the order Professor Bannister had given him and we were a little bit doubtful about trusting him. He got very angry and said he was the Professor's new man. He went out to the car and brought in the Professor's woman servant to prove it."

"Oh, the woman Trescowthick!" exclaimed Larose,

"Yes, 'old Mary' as we always called her. She used often to come in here with Bent and buy sixpenny-worth of bulls'-eyes. She was very fond of peppermints."

"But you've not seen her lately!" said Larose, shaking his head.

"No, sir," replied the man looking very solemn, "I think it was the last time Bent came in that he told us she had died suddenly in a fit of apoplexy. I was rather surprised to hear it, because she looked too thin to me to be likely to be taken off by anything like that."

"She wasn't very old," suggested Larose, hazarding a guess.

"No, sir, certainly not," said the man, "but the way she carried herself, with her shoulders all hunched up, made her look older than she really was." He laughed. "With her big hooked nose and her dark skin, and untidy hair, I always thought of her as something like an old witch. I'm sure she had Gipsy blood in her."

"And to test your memory," smiled Larose, "how long do you reckon it is since this last visit of Bent?"

"About six months, sir," smiled back the man. "It was during that week of hard frost and snow we had in February, and we wondered how he would get back to Foxwold. He'd had a spot or two that afternoon and was not too steady on his feet."

Notwithstanding all he had found out, there was no elation in his heart as Larose presently walked out to the waiting car. It sickened him almost to nausea to be going back with this man, who, now he was almost sure, must be a murderer, to that grim, gloomy house, so deep in the heart of the Fens. The place was so lonely, and if help were needed there would be no possibility of obtaining it.

The slightest suspicion in Bent's mind, too, that he, Larose, had come to spy things out, and the situation would become one of the gravest danger. Bent would be like one who had been awakened by a thunderclap and, hasty and impetuous by nature, quite probably would resort to violence at once. Then with all the advantage of surprise on his side, what chance would he, Larose again, have? The man was of strong and powerful physique and, moreover, those dreadful dogs were never farther than a few yards away from his side.

Larose cursed deeply here, that, contrary to his usual habit, when upon any investigation, he had come unarmed. With his trusty little automatic handy, he would have faced, as he had so often done before, almost any odds with equanimity, but now—well, he must just be as cunning as a fox to anticipate danger before it came.

Of course, he could have tried to buy a pistol there and then in the town. But he dismissed that idea at once as being far too risky, for it would have meant going round to the police station to get a permit before any gunsmith would sell him one, and he was sure Bent's mind was not sleepy enough to stand that. The man was careless and unthinking up to a certain point, but once his faculties were aroused he would be sharp as a weasel and nothing would escape him.

Then his thoughts went back suddenly to the hapless Ethel Bannister and how much she was depending upon him, and he squared his shoulders resolutely and all his confidence came back. He would rely upon his mother wit. It had never failed him yet, and he was smiling happily as he approached the car.

Bent regarded him frowningly. "You've been a devil of a time, haven't you?" he asked.

Larose nodded as he jumped into the car. "Yes, there are a lot of customers in the shop."

"Who served you?" asked Bent, Larose thought a trifle suspiciously.

"Oh, a fool of a young chap!" replied Larose. "He was devilish slow and a bit deaf as well. I had to repeat everything I said twice before he seemed to be able to take it in."

Bent seemed satisfied and, much to Larose's disgust, because he wanted to think, kept up a conversation the whole way back. But it was mostly about chess and the great possibilities of the Evan's Gambit.

"And just fancy," he exclaimed enviously, "that one simple move of a boozing old sea captain has put him among the great men of the world. He will be remembered"—he grinned slyly here—"when well-known writers like myself have been long forgotten."

Arriving home, without bothering to help carry in any of the things which had been bought, Bent betook himself quickly into the house to see if there were any letters for him. Larose drove his car into one of the sheds and then lingered quite a long time over getting out the parcels, hoping the girl would appear to help him. And he was not disappointed there, for presently she came running out and he commenced piling some of the things into her arms.

"There were two letters for him," she whispered. "One contained a dividend from some oil company and the other was from uncle's publishers in Saint James's. This one had got their name outside on the envelope and he was very gloomy when he read it."

Larose nodded smilingly. "Well, I've found out a lot about him from a man in one of the shops in Newmarket. As we said, he's Bent himself, and he's just wearing that patch over his eye so that you shan't see he's got a bad squint in it. Evidently, he's been afraid that if you saw it you might happen to mention about it to someone in the village, and then they would, of course, have known at once who was up here, making out he was the Professor."

"But what are we to do?" asked the girl fearfully.

"I haven't decided yet," replied Larose, "but don't you worry. I tell you you shall come away with me when I go. I'll have to think everything out before the day's over, and you be all prepared to leave at a moment's notice. The great risk to me now is that this Arnold Gauntry may arrive before we've gone. You see, the devil of it is he's Bent's brother and he knows who I am."

"Bent's brother!" exclaimed the girl looking more frightened than ever. "Then does he know you suspect him of something and are making inquiries about him?"

"No, certainly not," said Larose. "He pretends to be quite friendly with me, and has no reason to believe I am not as equally friendly towards him. If he comes, I'll just have to be as surprised as he is that we are meeting here, and bluff it out somehow." He nodded. "I'll he ready with some story which will sound quite plausible."

"Oh, but I shall be so glad to get away!" she exclaimed. "I shall never feel safe with him any more."

"But you'll be quite all right as long as I'm with you," assured Larose. "Still, now I'm here, I want to find out everything I can, and if this man has done anything very wrong"—he hesitated, not liking to put his thoughts into words—"perhaps——"

"You mean if he's murdered my uncle and that woman!" broke in the girl fiercely.

Larose nodded reluctantly. "Yes, and if he's done that I may be able so to prey upon his mind that he'll drop some hint as to where he's put them." He lowered his voice to the merest whisper. "Now I've got an idea and, like the brave girl you've shown yourself to be, you must help me."

Then two minutes' rapid conversation ensued, with Ethel Bannister breathing hard but nodding in scared acquiescence as Larose unfolded his plan. Then, not daring to remain outside any longer, they returned with the parcels into the house.

The sky was very overcast as if a sudden change of weather were coming.

During the meal which followed, Bent appeared to be very thoughtful and hardly spoke a word. He sat very silent with his one eye blinking unpleasantly into vacancy. The room was getting darker and darker every minute, and it was evident a big storm was about to burst. Just as they were getting up from their chairs, a loud peal of thunder broke over the house, and the rain began to fall in torrents.

"No fishing to-day," announced Bent. He smiled for the first time. "So, we'll have some more chess. Thank goodness you are here!"

They played right on until tea-time, with Bent all the afternoon imbibing generous draughts of whisky with very little water. He became much more animated and Larose saw that side of his nature which had so frightened Ethel Bannister.

As the afternoon wore on he began to take quite a lively interest in her, stopping often between his moves, to stare intently in her direction. He remarked, too, with no reserve, what a nice figure she had got and how pretty she was when she had any colour. He winked violently at Larose to emphasize his statements and the latter would have dearly loved to slap his face for his coarseness.

After tea the two men drew their chairs up to the fire and Larose casually brought round the conversation to what they had been discussing in his bedroom in the early hours of that morning.

He told some really blood-curdling stories of people walking after death in the dead hours of the night, and gave it emphatically as his opinion that there must be some truth in the idea of ghosts because so many levelheaded people believed in them.

He stated, too, as a well-known fact, that in prisons where 'hanged men' had been buried, the most hardened warders would never venture to go alone into the graveyard at night. Also, the graves there, he said, were dug at least three feet deeper than ordinary ones, with the heaviest paving stones being always placed over them with the least possible delay.

"But what the hell's that for?" demanded Bent, who all the time had been stirring uneasily in his chair. "If ghosts really come up they must be able to get out of any grave."

"Oh, I don't altogether agree there," said Larose. "They say the deeper a grave is and the heavier are the stones over it, the harder it is for spirits to escape. At any rate, I met the caretaker of a cemetery once and he said he had often found that, when people had died suddenly, the loose earth over their graves looked disturbed in the mornings."

"I don't believe it," growled Bent. "It's ridiculous!"

Larose shrugged his shoulders. "Well, that's what he said, and he swore he was continually raking the earth back until the headstone had been finally placed in position."

"Well, what about the people who never get any headstones?" sneered Bent derisively.

"He said complaints were always being made then by their relations that the graves had been interfered with. Yes, and another thing! He said, too, that in violent death cases the grass on the graves took much longer to grow. He was sure of that."

"Well, if ghosts do walk," snarled Bent after a long silence to digest this last piece of information, "they can't do you any harm. They can't hit you if they're only damned spirits."

"But they can give you nasty shocks," said Larose, "and may even cause death from hemorrhage of the brain from fright. I read once of two people dying in a house which was haunted by the spirit of a murdered man. The doctors said it was just as if they had been strangled, although there were no marks of fingers or a rope round their necks."

"Did they burn the house down?" growled Bent.

"No, they laid the ghost at last by firing off guns over the murdered man's grave. It sounds ridiculous, of course, but it was said to be effective."

"I tell you it's all damned rot," exclaimed Bent, raising his voice, "and we're fools to talk about it." He turned to Ethel Bannister, who all the time had been listening open-mouthed to the conversation. "Here, you girl, you get off to bed,"—he sneered—"and pull the chest of drawers up against your door as you always do. It's spooks you must be afraid of."

The girl made no comment but, obediently lighting her candle, bade them both good-night and left the room. A few minutes later, they heard her slow footsteps ascending the creaking stairs.

"Yes, we've been fools to talk about this nonsense," scowled Bent. "There is nothing in it, as I say, and it's only because I've lived on these cursed Fens for all these years that I've come to think about spooks at all. I never used to, but the mists roll up of nights like ghosts and——"

But a piercing shriek came from the floor above and his blood seemed almost to freeze in his veins as he heard the voice of Ethel Bannister calling loudly for help.

"You go," he gasped hoarsely to Larose. "My heart's bad! See what's the matter!" and Larose, although apparently almost as scared as he was, darted from the room.

But he met the girl already half-way down the stairs and, gripping her tightly by the arm, led her into the kitchen, where she sank wide-eyed and dishevelled into the nearest chair.

"What's happened? What were you shrieking about?" snarled Bent, his fright stinging him into a furious anger.

But it was quite a minute before the girl could speak. Then she gasped brokenly, "There was an old woman up there on the landing, and she was gliding along towards me. I was so frightened."

"A woman gliding along!" roared Bent, by a strange twist in his nature, all his courage now coming back, although his face was livid and his forehead all picked out in little beads of sweat. "Hell, I'll see to that! Hitler, Himmler," he shouted, as he flung open the door leading into the yard, "come in, you brutes!" and the two big hounds, excited by his loud calling, crashed into the room.

"You carry the lamp," he ordered Larose and, snatching up the poker, he led the way into the passage and towards the staircase. "Up you go, Himmler! Sool her, Hitler! Bring her down! Sool her, good dogs!"

And then followed pandemonium, with the excited hounds baying furiously, as they sprang up the stairs, and the two men running quickly after them.

Ethel Bannister sat up in her chair and smiled, although a little weakly. Her emotion was almost overpowering her. She listened breathlessly to the loud trampling above, the banging of doors and the fierce shouting of Bent as he urged the dogs on.

But very soon the noise all died down, the voices sank to ordinary tones and at length she heard the men returning down the stairs.

"There was no one there!" exclaimed Bent angrily as they came back into the kitchen. "You fool of a girl, you; imagined it all!"

"Oh, but I didn't," protested the girl hotly. "I saw her as plainly as I see you now, and if I hadn't run she would have seized hold of me in another moment."

"But she can't have got away," frowned Larose, as if very annoyed, too. "All the windows were shut, we've searched through every room and the dogs would have smelt out anyone if they had been there."

"But she was there," persisted the girl, "and I tell you she was coming up to take hold of me."

"Well, what was she like?" asked Larose, a little more gently. "Come, pull yourself together and describe her to us." He spoke soothingly. "Now was she young or old?"

"She was old," panted Ethel Bannister, "very dark, like a Gypsy woman and she had a hooked nose and dark piercing eyes. She got so close to me that I could even smell her. There was a strong peppermint smell."

"Gad," exclaimed Larose as if very astounded, "now you mention it I remember I smelt peppermint too! Didn't you, Professor? The smell was quite strong at the top of the stairs."

But Bent did not answer. His face had gone livid again now and the sweat had burst on to his face once more. He stared horror-struck at the girl, for all the world as if he had heard some dreadful news and could not believe his ears.

"It's funny!" went on Larose slowly. His words came haltingly as he stared long and hard at Bent. "I wouldn't believe a word of it if she hadn't smelt that smell." He forced a smile on to his lips. "Are there any peppermints in the house, Professor?"

"No," snapped the Professor, finding his voice at last, "and there never have been." His colour began to return now. "What damned foolery that a spook would smell of sweets!"

"Ah, but it wouldn't be sweets!" exclaimed Larose. "It would just mean that the woman had been buried near where the peppermint grows. There are a lot about here and they have little bell-shaped flowers."

Bent had slumped heavily into a chair. "Well, I'm tired," he said wearily, "and I don't want to talk about it any more. This darned girl has made a fool of us and we'd better all go off to bed." He nodded towards the dogs. "At any rate I'll have these brutes up on the landing all night, and if that darned woman walks again, it'll be she then who'll get the fright."

Ethel Bannister went upstairs first, taking the dogs for company as far as her door. Then Bent saw Larose up to his room and soon the house was wrapped in complete silence for the night.

"That got at him," nodded Larose solemnly as he started to undress. "He's done her in right enough. Perhaps the Professor died suddenly and he saw his chance. He's just of the type to stick at nothing."

The next morning came bright and clear and there were all the prospects of a glorious summer day. Bent seemed quite himself again at breakfast, and was in a good humour and even inclined to be jovial. By tacit consent no mention was made of the previous night.

The meal over, Bent suggested he and Larose should go out along the dykes on the chance of getting a duck or two.

"You see," he explained, "after that heavy rain yesterday the water will be very disturbed for a little while, and we'd better give it a few hours to become clearer. But there are sure to be duck about and we'll go after them now, and then fish in the afternoon. Have you got plenty of cartridges? Well, then I'll buy some from you if you can spare me a box. I happen to be very short just now."

"But aren't you going to take the dogs, Uncle?" asked Ethel, very surprised when she saw him chaining them up.

"No, they'd only be a nuisance," grunted Bent. "They'd frighten the birds," but Larose guessed from his manner that that was not the real reason for leaving them at home.

They started off in a direction exactly opposite to that of the track leading to the village, and it soon came into Larose's mind once again how hopeless it would be to search for any grave in that vast wilderness, unless some direct pointer had been given as to whereabouts it lay. But he kept his eyes well open, hoping that some such pointer might be given now. Bent's superstitious nature had been so well stirred up the previous night that it was just possible that it was all a pretence his now coming out after duck. It might be that he really wanted to find out if the grass were actually refusing to grow over the spot where he had buried a body.

But watch Bent intently as Larose did, he could detect no sign of the man displaying any special interest in the ground anywhere as they walked along. Still he, Larose, got some little satisfaction in noticing that Bent became much brighter and more animated as they were approaching the far end of the Wrack House lands.

"And this is as far as I go," announced Bent, "nearly a thousand acres in all."

"And where's the next house?" asked Larose, thinking he had never been in a more lonely and desolate place before, in all his life.

"A couple of miles or so over there," laughed Bent. "You can't see it, because it is low down and only one story high," He looked cunningly at Larose. "An uninteresting place for any spooks to make their homes, eh?"

Larose laughed merrily but the remark made him quite certain what thoughts were uppermost in Bent's mind and that if the latter were indeed responsible for any grave upon the Fens, then they had just been passing not very far from it.

They got no ducks, but, as Larose had not really been expecting any, he was not disappointed. He knew enough about duck shooting to know that if any had been there they would not have allowed themselves to be approached, near enough to be shot, in that open haphazard manner.

They returned home after about a couple of hours, with Bent now quite cheerful and as if he had, at any rate for the moment, thrown some great load off his mind. After dinner he got out his car and drove Larose off to that section of the Big Drain just by where the latter had turned off to get to the Professor's house, the day but one previously.

"Now this Big Drain," he explained, "is the main artery carrying off all water from this part of the Fens. The waters from all the dykes empty themselves in it about here, and bring down plenty of eels. So, we can either fish for them with worms or else spear them down through the mud at the banks," and then he began swearing angrily when he found the pronged head of the long spear he had brought with him was loose on its handle.

"Blast!" he exclaimed, when all his manipulation failed to make it firm, "I'll have to go back and put a couple of rivets in it. Never mind, you dig about for a worm or two and use the rod while I am gone. I won't be very long," and off he drove in the car.

Larose had soon dug up some worms and, baiting his hook with one, started to fish. But his thoughts were far away and he did not take much interest in what he was doing.

He could certainly easily get Bent arrested upon the charge of impersonating the absent Professor and taking possession of his monies. There was all evidence, too, that Arnold Gauntry was aiding and abetting him in the fraud, as was proved by the latter's letter. But it was not sufficient to get Gauntry charged merely with fraud. He wanted to get him convicted of murder and, if it could be found out that the Professor and the woman Trescowthick, had met with foul play at Bent's hands, then he, Gauntry, would certainly be in it, too, up to the neck. Indeed, it might turn out that the two brothers—- he was sure they must be brothers as he had made up his mind now that the shape of their hands were very similar—had carried out the murders between them. If so, then the presence of a known murderer in Avon Court that night when Major Sampon had met his death would be of supreme significance in determining who had been the actual killer then.

At this point Larose got a bite and, notwithstanding his worried preoccupation, it was with something of a thrill that he landed a fine big eel.

He baited his hook with another worm and let his thoughts run on.

But could he be quite sure this man Bent was a murderer as well as a thief?

Added to the significant way in which Bent had been affected the previous night when Ethel Bannister had acted so realistically in making out she had seen the ghost of Mary Trescowthick, there were many things which pointed to it. The sudden disappearance of both the Professor and the woman was extremely suspicious and it was most unlikely they would have died from natural causes both at the same time. Then again, if Mary Trescowthick's disappearance were accounted for by the Professor having dismissed her from his service, why had Bent told that perfectly unnecessary lie to the man in the provision shop that she had died suddenly in a fit?

But if Bent had actually murdered them both, he must have disposed of the bodies somewhere, and that was the snag which was going to prevent the crime being brought home to him.

Larose rose sharply to his feet here and let his gaze wander again, as he had let it wander so many times during his long walk with Bent, over the wide wastes of fenland stretching so far and desolate in every direction.

Had he been right in thinking they had passed near some hidden grave that morning and, even if they had, what chance had he, after all these months, of locating it?

He shrugged his shoulders helplessly, knowing as well that no charge of murder could be substantiated unless the bodies were forthcoming. Even unable to deny that he had been impersonating the Professor, Bent could just sit tight and insist that both his master and the woman had gone away and he didn't know where. Then fraud would be all which could be proved against him, with Arnold Gauntry as his accomplice, and what good would that be in helping to suggest the latter was the killer of Major Sampon that night?

But suddenly Larose started and his heart almost seemed to stand still in his dismay, as he saw in the distance a moving speck, travelling along at a good speed by the side of the Big Drain. He knew instantly that it could only be a car and it must be coming to Wrack House.

Then the worst had happened and Gauntry was now appearing upon the scene!

He moistened his dry lips with his tongue, but a few minutes later threw back his head and burst into a hearty laugh. What a terrible dilemma to be in, and what on earth could he say to the man? Gauntry was no fool and would not be easily taken in. His suspicions, too, would be aroused straightaway. In their surroundings of guilt, a man who had once been a member of the Criminal Investigation Department would appear to wrong-doers as a naked light right over an open barrel of gunpowder upon which they were sitting.

His thoughts avalanched through him like lightning as he gave his imagination full rein, and then in a flash an inspiration came to him. He knew what tale he would tell! No, he was not beaten yet!

So it was a very amazed Larose who stood, fishing rod in hand, staring with startled eyes at Gauntry, as the latter turned his little single-seater car to pass very slowly over the narrow bridge across the dyke which ran at right angles to the Big Drain.

Gauntry recognised who it was at once and, as astounded as Larose appeared to be, brought his car to a standstill with a jerk and shut off the engine. Then they both gazed at each other in dead silence for about as long as an ordinary man could comfortably hold his breath.

Larose was the first to speak and his words came spasmodically from his heaving chest. "Gosh, then you've followed me!" he exclaimed. He could hardly get his words out. "How did you know I'd come this way?"

Gauntry eyed him stonily, with eyes as hard as flint. "What are you doing here?" he asked curtly.

Larose laughed nervously. "I've been fishing," he said, "and look at the big eel I've caught." He swallowed hard. "But I say, is it just by chance you've come here? You know this track leads only to Professor Bannister's house? Do you know him?"

"Do you?" asked Gauntry, making no reply to any of his questions.

Larose nodded. "I do now but I didn't until yesterday. I had never even heard of him before." He went on quickly, "Look here, I see I'll have to make a clean breast of it, and I trust to your honour to respect my confidence. The fact is"—he hesitated for a long moment here and then blurted out—"the fact is I'm in smoke. In plain language I'm keeping out of the way for a few days and I don't want anyone to know where I am."

"But what on earth for?" asked Gauntry, his curiosity now stronger than anything else.

"Well, things were getting a bit too hot for me about that major being killed," replied Larose, "and upon Inspector Stone's advice, he is a great friend of mine, I've made myself scarce until things are cleared up. Of course I know suspicion was stronger against me than anyone else, but that damned Inspector Flower has been pulling all the strings he can to get me arrested at once. Still, Stone's confident he knows the real murderer and everything will be all right in a few days."

"Knows the real murderer!" exclaimed Gauntry. His face had gone a nasty colour. "Then who the devil is he? Has he said?"

Larose nodded. "Yes, that night watchman. They took his finger-prints and found out they were on the records. He served two years for housebreaking some time ago." He spoke confidently. "You see, what we think happened was this. The man's lamp blew out and he'd got no matches. So he came up the drive to borrow some from the house and found Sampon asleep upon the verandah. He noticed Sampon's wrist watch and hit him on the head to get it. He only meant to stun him, but killed him instead. Then he got frightened and ran off without picking his pockets."

"What an extraordinary story!" exclaimed Gauntry with a heavy frown. "Has Inspector Stone any proof?"

"The wrist watch is missing," replied Larose, "and the night watchman has been contradicting himself in a most suspicious way. He admits now he did fall asleep and half thinks, as he was waking up, that he saw a man dash out of the drive. At any rate, Stone believe he's guilty and expects him to break down and confess."

"But why didn't you sit tight and face the music?" asked Gauntry, as if very mystified and a little bit suspicious as well.

"I just didn't want to be so shamed before everybody by being arrested," said Larose. "I've been told I'm on the list for a knighthood in the next Birthday Honours, and if I had been arrested, if only for an hour, all my chances would have been spoilt."

"And how did you happen to come here?" asked Gauntry,

"It was just by chance," explained Larose volubly. "I had driven in my car yesterday, bringing a camping outfit with me, to camp somewhere on these Fens, as being a place where I would be certain to be quite safe. Then I saw a thick fog coming on and bolted for the only house there was in sight. There was a girl there and she told me it belonged to her uncle, this Professor Bannister, who never allowed people to trespass on his land. She seemed very frightened and said he might put his two savage Alsatian dogs on to me. She told me to go off at once."

Larose paused to swallow hard. Then he shrugged his shoulders. "But how could I go?" he went on. "This cursed fog was coming down like a blanket and I daren't try to get back over all those narrow plank-bridges again. Then I happened to catch sight of a big heap of empty whisky bottles in the yard and an inspiration came to me. I said I was a traveller for a Scotch whisky firm, and it appeared I couldn't have put up a better excuse. The Professor is a boozer and it happened he was out of drink. The girl took the bait at once." He grinned at his own cleverness. "Then the rest was easy."

"Oh, was it?" asked Gauntry unpleasantly. He sneered. "Do you think you deceived him?"

Larose laughed scoffingly. "I'm sure I did. By great good luck I had two bottles of whisky with me in the car and we became friends at once. I played chess with him and he wouldn't let me go. I stopped the night, and we drove into Newmarket this morning in my car—he was out of petrol too—to get more whisky." He nodded triumphantly. "We are bosom friends now and with his mania for chess, I believe I could stop here as long as I liked."

"Oh, and how long are you going to stop?" queried Gauntry with a heavy frown.

Larose frowned too. "I can't stop. It's too risky. I'm off to-morrow." He appeared to remember something and asked rather anxiously, "Were there any men repairing the road just now, as you turned off? Ah, they are still there, are they?" He nodded most uneasily. "Well, one of them recognised me as I passed him, and he saw me come this way. He called out to me. He used to be a road-mender near my own place. Carmel Abbey, and if it gets into the newspapers that I can't be found, he may talk and give the whole show away. So, I'm inclined to go off, first thing to-morrow, directly it gets light."

"And what do you think of Professor Bannister?" asked Gauntry, after a short pause, fixing Larose intently with his eyes.

"Mad, like all great men!" replied Larose instantly. Then he added quickly, "At least, I suppose he's great although, as I say, I'd never heard of him or his greatness before. But he must be great, I suppose, to have written all those books he's got there lying about." He made a grimace. "Highbrows are not in my line and never will be." A thought seemed to strike him, and he asked, "But do you know him well?"

Gauntry shook his head, "No, I've never seen him. But I've done business with him in connection with the selling of rubber shares and, being up this way, I thought I'd look in."

"But he won't see you," said Larose. "He'll turn you away at once."

"Oh, no, he won't," laughed Gauntry. "I've come to give him some money."

Larose spoke earnestly, "Well, you won't give me away, will you?"

"I suppose not," replied Gauntry slowly.

"And you won't tell anybody you've seen me?" went on Larose.

Gauntry shook his head. "No, I've always found it best to mind my own business." He eyed Larose intently again. "But where are you going to-morrow?"

"I've thought it all out," replied Larose confidingly. "I shall go to Dunwich, on the Suffolk coast. It's a small village and I shall stay at the little inn there. Then I shall be able to get the newspapers, and telephone up to Stone or Sir George if I want to. I see now it was a mistake to get right away from newspapers and telephone."

Gauntry started his engine. "Well, I'll be going on now," he said. He smiled for the first time. "No, I won't give you away. I'll pretend I've never seen you before and it'll be a bit of a joke between us." He looked down at the big eel Larose had caught. "I may even come out later and do a bit of fishing myself."

"Yes, and perhaps try and push me in the Big Drain when I'm not looking," muttered Larose, as he gazed after the retreating car. He smiled. "Still, I think I took him in right enough. These big rogues are often big babies if you know the right way to handle them."

CHAPTER V—THE HOUSE OF EVIL

With a very thoughtful expression upon, his face, Gauntry drove on up to the house. He turned into the yard at the back to find no one there, but almost immediately Bent appeared from one of the sheds, holding the big eel-spear in his hand.

"Gad," he exclaimed, "you gave me a fright! I wondered who the blazes it was."

"But didn't you get my letter?" asked Gauntry, jumping quickly out of the car.

"Yes, but I didn't think you'd turn up so soon. Still, I'm devilish glad to see you. Come into the house. I've a lot to tell you."

"And I've a lot to tell you, too," nodded Gauntry significantly, "but I don't think I'll go inside," He inclined his head in the direction of the house. "You've still got that girl there?"

Bent grinned. "My niece, you mean? Yes, of course, I have, and very useful I find her. She cooks beautifully and is a pretty creature, too." His grin broadened. "If we weren't uncle and niece I might almost be inclined to marry her. I've thought about it several times."

"Don't be a fool," said Gauntry rudely. "I consider it a great mistake you ever got her here. No, I won't go into the house. I shall feel safer talking to you outside. Come back into that shed."

"I've got another visitor here, too," went on Bent as he led the way back to where he'd been repairing the spear. "Didn't you pass a man, fishing, as you came along by the Big Drain?"

"Yes, and I stopped to speak to him," nodded Gauntry grimly. "I've met him before."

Bent appeared most astonished. "You know him!" he exclaimed. "He travels for Macgregor's whisky."

"Macgregor's whisky be damned!" scoffed Gauntry contemptuously. "He's an ex-detective from Scotland Yard and"—he gritted his teeth together menacingly—"that blackguard Gilbert Larose!"

Then followed a ten minutes' conversation with Bent one moment clenching his fists in furious anger and the next nodding his head exultingly, with his eyes gleaming with a bitter hate. His face was sweating and he had taken off his patch, his badly squinting eye thus adding not a little to his general appearance of malignity.

"And are you sure the devil will hang?" he asked at length. "You say he can't get out of it?"

"I don't see how he possibly can," replied Gauntry emphatically, "for his running away like this will make things look blacker than ever for him." He nodded significantly. "I'll take care that information as to where he's hiding reaches the proper quarters. That Inspector Flower is as spiteful as a nest of wasps about the handling of the case being taken from him."

Bent suddenly looked doubtful. "But I don't altogether like the matter being left to the police!" he exclaimed. "Remember he's one of them himself, and they'll shield him all they can. He's got money, too, and can pull a lot of strings."

"But he can't muzzle the Press," smiled Gauntry cunningly, "and directly I get back to town I shall type off a little letter to them. It will make good reading that Gilbert Larose, Esquire, of Carmel Abbey, has been seen camping on the Norfolk Fens, or is now stopping at Dunwich. They all know he's suspected and it'll be meat and drink to the Yellow newspapers to print anything about him."

But Bent was very grim. "I think we're milksops," he said. "We've got him here and we could put paid to him ourselves without a soul being any the wiser." He clenched his fists again. "I'll do it myself and there'd be no marks on him if he's ever found. We've learnt our lesson there and we'll run no risks this time. I'll just strangle him"—he threw out his hands—"and he'll just vanish. No one will ever know he's been here."

"And you'll strangle his car, too, I suppose," commented Gauntry sarcastically, "and this girl you've got here, as well! Oh, but you'd have to shut her mouth! Women are the very devil to talk if they get a hint of any mystery in anything."

"But she's a little fool," grunted Bent contemptuously, "and we could feed her up with any tale. She's pretty enough, as you'll say when you've seen her, but she hasn't got the brain of a mouse or I shouldn't have humbugged her for so long." He caught hold of the other's sleeve. "I tell you, Harry, I vote for doing in the chap ourselves. He's our meat and we mustn't let him go now we've got the chance."

"Don't be a fool, Joe, it'd be much too risky," said Gauntry sharply. "Why, those road-repairers saw him come this way, and one of them knows who he is. He was in a devil of a stew about it just now." He nodded. "We can't afford to have anyone making enquiries here. You know that quite well."

Bent's face fell, and he said spitefully, "You've just sneered about me being taken in by him, but what about yourself? How do you know he's not told you a pack of lies? If he's Larose, as you say, how do you know he's not been put on to find out all about me and Bannister?"

"When he's in such a scrape himself he's likely to be meddling in other affairs, isn't he?" sneered Gauntry. He shook his head. "No, his talk fits in all right with what I myself know about him. He's just admitted Inspector Stone is shielding him and I know that for a fact. So it's quite plausible he's come away on Stone's advice, although"—he smiled evilly—"a lot of good that'll do him."

A short silence followed and then Bent said with a frown, "Well, I've got some things which are worrying me here and the first is that cursed American publisher of Bannister's is coming here to see me to-morrow, and I don't know what the blazes to do. I had a letter from him yesterday."

"Then wire him at once that you're going away immediately," exclaimed Gauntry, looking very worried. "Say you're travelling abroad somewhere and don't know when you'll be back."

"But I don't know where to wire him," said Bent disgustedly. "He wrote from a hotel in Birmingham just before, as he said, he was leaving to visit a couple of places before he came on to me. You remember it was this chap who arrived here without warning in April. Fortunately, I met him when I was out fishing by the Big Drain, and I bluffed him that Bannister had gone away. He was very annoyed because he was going back to New York the next week and couldn't come again for some months."

"Well, what's the trouble?" asked Gauntry, "Tell him the Professor's gone away again."

"But that'll look queer," said Bent, "because last time he was inclined to be suspicious and not to believe me at first. You see, there was a strong wind blowing and I didn't hear his car until it was within a few yards of me. Then I got a bit flurried and started swearing at him for trespassing. Then I wasn't too quick with my answers about Bannister and he eyed me very queerly."

"Well, you'll be all ready for him now," said Gauntry, "and can tell a plausible tale without any hesitation."

"Yes, but the awkward part is," went on Bent, "don't you forget that 750 cheque came from him only last week, and in writing to say I'd got it, in reply to what he asked, I said I was hard at work on my next book and that it would be ready in a few weeks. I had to reply to his question."

"Has he ever seen the Professor, do you know?" asked Gauntry after a few moments' thought.

Bent shook his head. "No, of course he hasn't. No one has seen him since he came to live here, about twelve years ago. He's often told me that." He grinned cunningly. "If you hadn't told me who this devil here is, I was half thinking of getting him to make out he was Bannister. I would have pretended to arrange it as a joke. You see, I know for certain that Bannister hadn't allowed himself to be photographed since he became famous, and so no one knows what he is like."

Gauntry appeared to be thinking hard. "I might," he said slowly, "I might, although it may be damned risky, make out I'm the Professor." He looked at the rough, uncouth Bent, and then let his glance fall upon his own spick-and-span clothes. "At any rate I should more look the part."

Bent grinned delightedly. "Yes, you do it. You can be in bed and say you're not well, so that he doesn't stop long. I'll pack that girl off to the village the moment he comes, so that she'll know nothing about it."

"And about that girl!" asked Gauntry sharply. "What's going to become of her when you leave here?" He spoke warningly. "You know you can't stop here much longer, not a day after we've got rid of those shares and the next royalties from the London publishers come in. Then what are you going to do with the girl?"

"Pack her off with the money that's due to her, I suppose," frowned Bent. He sighed, "Although I tell you I wouldn't mind keeping her by me." He looked a bit shame-faced. "I've got rather taken with her lately and shall hate to be without her, wherever I am."

"You big ass!" exclaimed Gauntry angrily. "That's the way so many people have brought penal servitude and worse upon themselves—through some woman." He nodded. "She'll probably talk a lot about what's happened here as it is and"—his eyes were hard and steely—"there must be no confidences between you and her because she's got a pretty face."

"Ah, and she could make herself very dangerous!" nodded Bent, suddenly remembering about the ghost Ethel Bannister was so sure she had seen. He looked at Gauntry uneasily and went on very slowly, "She saw that Trescowthick woman's spirit last night."

"She saw her what?" asked Gauntry, his face all puckered up into an incredulous frown.

"Saw her spirit, I said," snapped Bent, "her spook, her ghost, or whatever you like to call it," and then, taking no notice of the contempt upon Gauntry's face, he went on to relate all that had happened the previous night.

When he had finished, Gauntry looked more disgustedly at him than ever. "And do you mean to tell me," he asked angrily, "that a big, hulking fellow like you, who can be as callous and bloody as a slaughterman when he wants to, can actually be such a booby as to believe the girl saw anything at all?"

"Certainly, I do," replied Bent fiercely, "and it was the old woman's spook, without a shadow of doubt, which she saw." His voice rose in its earnestness. "Why, man, she described Mary exactly and she knew nothing of what she was like before."

"How do you know?" asked Gauntry sneeringly. "Couldn't they have told her in the village?"

"But they hadn't," insisted Bent. "Ethel's a shy, timid girl, with no curiosity at all, and she's much too reserved to have had conversations with strangers. I'd told her she was never to talk to anyone in Foxwold and I believe she's obeyed me."

"And what did that damned Larose think of it?" asked Gauntry with a scowl.

"He was as scared as I was," replied Bent. "His mouth was like a rabbit trap when she was telling us what she'd seen."

"Then you were all a pack of fools," commented Gauntry, "and I can understand better now why Larose is hiding himself away. He's got a yellow streak in him or else high living on his wife's money has made him soft. At any rate, he's nothing like the man of character, now, he was once supposed to be. But come on, I want to see this girl, I'll soon tell you if she's a sly one. These quiet girls often are." He nodded significantly. "I'll leave you my automatic and half a dozen cartridges when I go, and you can pump bullets into any more ghosts which appear."

Bent led the way into the kitchen and called out loudly for Ethel Bannister to come. But it was quite a minute before she appeared, which was very quick considering she had had to come in a roundabout way from behind the shed where the two men had been holding their conversation. She had managed to overhear quite a lot which they had said, and so it was with some effort that she composed her face to mask the emotion she was experiencing.

"This is my niece," announced Bent with a grim smile. "Ethel, this is a friend of mine, Mr. Gauntry, to whom you posted a letter for me the other day."

"I don't remember," smiled the girl, as she came forward and shyly took the hand which Gauntry held out.

Gauntry took her in well and frowned slightly. She was certainly attractive and certainly, also—the thought for some reason made him uneasy—no fool. Her face was intelligent and brimful of common sense.

"Well, Miss Bannister, and how do you like living here?" he asked.

"It's very lonely," she replied hesitatingly. She glanced at Bent. "But I promised Uncle I'd stop for six months."

"And after that?" asked Gauntry with a smile.

"I think I shall go to London and train to be a nurse."

"And then what about me?" asked Bent jovially. "I suppose I'll have to go back to tinned goods again."

"Well, Uncle, it isn't fair, is it," she asked, "to expect me to remain on here for ever?" She made a grimace. "I never have anyone but you to talk to, and I hate these mists and fogs."

"Oh, it's a sweetheart you want," laughed Bent, "and I wonder you haven't got one before."

She shook her head. "No, it's not that. I want a career. I don't like having to do nothing but housework."

The two men went into Bent's study and Gauntry whispered quickly, "Make some excuse to get her out of the house so that there'll be no chance of her overhearing us. She's not the fool you think she is and, if I'm going to make out I'm Bannister, we must have everything cut and dried before that damned publisher appears."

Bent nodded and went to the door of the room. "Here, Ethel," he called out, "just take that eel-spear to Mr. Curtis and tell him I'll follow in a few minutes. You'll find him by the Big Drain just before the first dyke."

So, a few minutes later, Larose was put in possession of what she had managed to overhear and his mouth went a little dry at the recital. "That settles it," he nodded, "and we'll have to clear out to-morrow morning. I'll say I want to get away very early and won't bother about any breakfast. You can slip out before me and be waiting for me here, but you'll have to smuggle any things you want to take, in my car the last thing to-night."

"But Bent may get up to see you off," said the girl anxiously, "and then what shall I do?"

"He won't get up," nodded Larose. "I've got some sleeping tablets with me, and we must manage to give them both a good dose to-night. You can slip the stuff in their drinks, the last thing before you go to bed."

"But won't it make his brother very suspicious about you," asked Ethel, "when they find you've taken me away?" She nodded. "He looks a very shrewd man to me."

"Oh, he's shrewd enough," laughed Larose, "but look what a good excuse you've got. You can leave a note behind, saying that seeing that ghost has terrified you and you can't stop on in the house. Say, too, I didn't know anything about your leaving but that you're going to walk on and make me pick you up when I overtake you."

"Oh, what a friend you are!" she exclaimed thankfully. "What should I have done without you?"

"And what should I have done without you?" returned Larose. "Why, my dear girl, you've saved the whole situation for me." He went on briskly, "Now, does this Bent keep any money in the house?"

"He gets 10 sent him at a time from the bank and the last 10 came last week. He keeps it in one of the drawers of his desk."

"And he spent about five pounds of it in Newmarket yesterday!" commented Larose. "Well, you'll have to take all you can find, as part of the wages due to you. That'll make them more inclined to believe I had nothing to do with it."

"But oh, how glad I shall be to get away!" exclaimed the girl. "Thank Heaven, it is only a few hours and nothing can happen to us in that short time."

But Larose, in his own mind, was not quite so sure about that. He had yet to pass all the rest of the day in the company of two desperate men, desperate with the frenzy of cornered rats, too, if the very slightest inkling came to them as to what was going on. They would be watchful, and one false step on his side and the avalanche would fall.

All the time he would have to be playing a part, and the cold steely eyes of Gauntry and the murderous-looking one of Bent would be fixed on him to read him through and through.

And if anything happened he would be so helpless. Bent might come up behind him and grip his windpipe with those hairy paws of his, he might knock him out with some sudden blow or he might stab him with that ugly-looking knife which, just now, he had come provided with to gut the eels.

And the mental agony would be that he could do absolutely nothing to safeguard himself. He must give no sign that he knew he was in danger and he must betray nothing of the fear which he felt. He must play up to Gauntry as if grateful to him for the confidence he was respecting, and he must play up to Bent as if he were the carefree Scotch whisky traveller out upon his holiday.

But he dissembled his thoughts and exclaimed brightly to Ethel Bannister, "Yes, to-day will soon pass and this time to-morrow you will be in my beautiful home, Carmel Abbey, among friends who will take every care of you and see to it that your future is a happy one." He shook his head warningly. "But now I think you'd better go back. You've been here quite long enough. Tell them I have caught five eels and am very excited about it."

The girl went off as he had bidden her and later in the afternoon Gauntry and Bent came up in the car. Bent's manner was hearty and most friendly, and he laughed boisterously at several feeble jokes he cracked. They both joined in the fishing and, of studied purpose but with some mental strain, Larose never attempted to guard against being pushed into the water. He was assured that his safest course was to appear as if he thought they were all good friends together.

But for all his brave front, the evening was not a pleasant one. Ethel was looking white and nervous and he caught Gauntry many times regarding her thoughtfully. Also, it was obviously very hard for Bent continually to keep up his appearance of friendliness, and every now and then his one eye would glare menacingly, in a most vicious manner.

After the evening meal they played nap for nearly two hours, with Larose, by making some very ill-judged calls, obligingly dropping more than five pounds to the others. That seemed to please Gauntry quite a lot, and gradually he lost his thoughtful frown. Yes, this policeman fellow, Larose, had lost his kick now and was undoubtedly nothing like the man of keen intelligence he had once been reported to be.

About ten o'clock Larose, upon a secret sign from Ethel, knew that both the men had drunk their doped liquor and a few minutes later he started yawning and remarking how sleepy he was.

"It's that fishing in the sun," he laughed. "I've always noticed that when you have sat fishing like that for some time you always feel sleepy at night. I'll go off to bed, if you don't mind, so that I'll be quite fit for to-morrow. I'll go off very quietly without disturbing anyone."

Neither Gauntry nor Bent raised any objection, indeed that was what they preferred, as they were wanting to perfect all their plans for the reception of the American publisher on the morrow. But they did not stay up as long as they had intended, for they both soon became sleepy too.

So up to bed they went, with them both, however, first tiptoeing to the door of Larose's room.

"Yes, he's all right," whispered Gauntry. "I can hear him snoring and he must have gone off to sleep at once."

But as a matter of fact Larose was not asleep. He had heard their stealthy footsteps, and accordingly had simulated some gentle snores. He was not even undressed but, with his coat off, was sitting up in a chair. He did not dare to trust himself to the softness of a comfortable bed, in case he over-slept himself.

He need not have worried there, however, for Ethel tapped softly upon his door even as the first rays of the morning light began to penetrate into the room.

She opened the door very softly and looked in. "I'll go and chain up the dogs," she whispered. "They might growl if they saw you without their master and we daren't take a single risk." She nodded. "I saw that man give Bent a pistol last night, when you were out of the room, and he showed him how to use it."

Dawn came and the morning crept on. Five, six, seven o'clock and both Bent and Gauntry were still sleeping. Towards eight, however, Bent lazily opened his eyes and, blinking hard for a few moments, suddenly became aware how flooded with sunshine his room was.

"Hell," he exclaimed, "it must be damned late!" and rolling over to look at his watch upon the chair, he saw it wanted only ten minutes to eight.

He jumped out of bed at once, vaguely wondering how it was he heard no movements of Ethel downstairs. Then, instantly, his eyes fell upon a sheet of note-paper which had been pushed under his door.

He picked it up frowningly and gritted his teeth together furiously at almost the first words he read.

"MY DEAR UNCLE,

"After seeing that awful ghost I cannot stop here another night. It is impossible for me to sleep. So I am going to walk on and make Mr. Curtis pick me up when he overtakes me. I shall tell him I have arranged it with you so that he won't refuse. You owe for fifteen weeks' salary, but I took the four pound notes out of the desk. So will you deduct that and send on the balance to me, care of the General Post Office, London? I shall get Mr. Curtis to drop me at some railway station and then I will take the train on from there. Thank you for your kindness. I do so hope you won't be angry with me.

"Your affectionate niece,
"ETHEL BANNISTER.

"P.S. You said you would pay for repairing my watch when you knocked it off the table. I expect it will cost quite ten shillings, so will you please add that on?"

"Blast her!" exclaimed Bent, "I'll never send her a penny," and he ran out to tell Gauntry the news.

He found him still sleeping and had to shake him to wake him up. Gauntry read the letter without a word, but then remarked, "And it's a damned good thing, too. I'm glad she's gone. I could see you were well on the way to making a fool of yourself if she were here with you much longer." He looked at his watch and frowned heavily. "But I say, isn't there something funny about us both having slept so late, I never sleep all the night through like this."

Bent stared hard at him for a long moment before he took in what he meant. "But she couldn't have given us anything," he said. "She brought no medicines and I've got no sleeping stuff in the house."

"How do you know she'd brought nothing?" asked Gauntry, sharply.

The other laughed coarsely. "Because, when she's been outside milking I've often gone through everything she's got in her room," He nodded cunningly. "I wasn't taking everything for granted, I tell you, and I wanted to make sure she wasn't sending away letters to anyone. I used to count the envelopes she'd got in her box to see if she'd been using any." He nodded again. "No, I've seen every blessed thing she'd got and there was not a spot of medicine among them."

But Gauntry was not quite satisfied in his own mind, particularly so as he still felt rather drowsy. He wondered uneasily if after all it would not have been better, at all risks, to deal with Larose as the other had wanted to.

Towards eleven o'clock Bent, who all the time had been on the look out, saw a car coming up the track in the distance and, according to plan, Gauntry slipped on his pyjamas and prepared to take to his bed. He had decided to make out he had got a bad attack of gout, as he had recently been visiting a client of his who was suffering from one. He had seen him with his foot all bandaged up and, accordingly, Bent had got ready a bandage, made from lengths of a torn sheet. Now, it was hurriedly wrapped round and round one of his feet, and the ensuing protruberance under the coverlet upon the bed suggested to the conspirators that everything would look perfectly natural for one suffering from such a painful complaint.

The blind was pulled half down, leaving the room in semi darkness. Gauntry put on a pair of large, dark glasses, which Professor Bannister had used and Bent had found for him, and nodded that he was then all ready.

As they had expected, the arrival was the American publisher and Bent opened the door to him with what he thought was the gravity becoming a servant whose master was ill.

"I'm Dr. Hiram Salter," announced the American, "and I wrote Professor Bannister I was coming."

"Yes, certainly, sir," nodded Bent, blinking unpleasantly with his one uncovered eye. He hesitated. "But I don't quite know whether I ought to let you see the master. He's ill and has to be kept perfectly quiet."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," exclaimed the other sympathetically, "and I hope it's not serious. What's he got the matter with him?"

"A very bad gout attack, sir," said Bent seriously, "and he's got a lot of pain."

The American considered. "But I've come a long distance out of my way to see him," he said at length, "and, remember this is the second time I've been here, both times at a lot of inconvenience, too." His face brightened. "I know, of course, gout can be very painful as I've had a touch myself; still, it isn't a grave sickness and perhaps the Professor will spare me a few minutes. I won't keep him long."

"Well, I'll see, sir," said Bent, after a short pause. "You just come inside, will you?" and as if with great reluctance, he led him into what was evidently the Professor's dining-room. Then making sure the door was closed behind him, he rushed off at a quick tip-toe run to Gauntry.

"He's a doctor!" he announced in an excited whisper. "He calls himself Dr. Salter!" He looked most perturbed. "Oh hell!"

"Don't be an ass," snarled Gauntry. "They're all doctors where he comes from, the man who makes your false teeth or who sells you a cake of soap over a shop counter. It often means nothing over there." He spoke sharply. "Tell me what he's like?"

Bent looked somewhat relieved and wiped over his forehead with his sleeve. "He's tall and thin like a regular Yank," he said, "and he looks darned smart in the head, too." He nodded warningly, "He's a shrewdie, all right, and you'll have to be devilish cute to put it over him."

"Bring me a drink," said Gauntry curtly, and Bent at once left the room, returning, however, quickly with a tumbler half filled with what looked like port wine.

"What the devil's this?" asked Gauntry with some irritation.

"What you need," replied Bent, "a stiff whisky in port wine. It'll stoke you up properly."

"You fool, whisky doesn't go with port!" snapped Gauntry. "It ought to have been brandy if anything." He reached out his hand. "Never mind, give it me and show that fellow in, I want to get it over. Oh, and when he's been here ten minutes, not a minute longer, come in and ask me if I want anything, or say it's time I had my sleep. You understand? Play the faithful servant and look as little like a boozing barman as you can."

Bent winked his unpleasant wink and left the room. A moment later the publisher from America was ushered in.

Bent had been quite correct in describing the latter as looking a shrewdie. He certainly was shrewd-looking, with an alert, intelligent face and very keen grey eyes. He regarded Gauntry very intently as he advanced to the bed and shook hands.

"So sorry to find you sick, Professor," he said in educated tones. "It's hard luck for everyone when you can't put down those great ideas of yours on paper." He spoke as if rather surprised. "But you're much younger-looking than I expected!"

"It's living the life I do that keeps me young," said Gauntry slowly and in a very deep voice. "Away from all the world here, I have no worries, and the sharp fenland air is invigorating."

"But I shouldn't think it was too good for your gout," commented the American doubtfully. "I'm told you get six long months of fog and mist here."

"All that," agreed Gauntry readily, "but still it suits me and, except for occasional attacks like this, I keep in the best of health."

"Well, I hope you're taking good care of yourself now," nodded Dr. Salter warmly. He looked round the room as if expecting to see some medicine bottles about and asked, "But what treatment, may I ask, are you giving yourself?"

Gauntry cursed him for his inquisitiveness, not having the remotest idea what treatment was generally given for gout. He was determined, however, not to allow himself to be taken out of his depth.

"Just rest!" he replied with a deep sigh. "I always find rest is the only thing for me."

"But that's foolish!" exclaimed the doctor sharply. "As medical men, we both know that colchicum has a specific effect in gout." He could not contain his surprise. "Do you mean to tell me you are not taking any?"

Gauntry shook his head frowningly, as if the catechism were not pleasing to him. "I know what suits me best," he said a little testily. "I leave it to nature and let it run its course."

The American saw his annoyance and at once turned the conversation. "Well, and how are you getting on with your new book?" he asked.

Gauntry took quite half a minute before he replied. It had been most disconcerting to learn that the man was a real doctor, and he was now wondering if he had said anything which would raise suspicion in the other's mind that he was not acting as a medical man would.

"Oh, quite well!" he replied at length. "I shall have it all finished in about three or four months."

The doctor almost jumped from his chair. "Three or four months!" he exclaimed. He looked quite worried. "Do you forget you are under contract with us to deliver it by the end of next month? Why, we have already listed it as among our forthcoming autumn publications! We have broadcast it everywhere that it will be on sale in November."

Gauntry smiled a sickly smile. "Well, you shall have it by the agreed time," he said. "I am rather absent-minded and had quite forgotten when I promised it to you."

Dr. Salter seemed relieved. "Well, who shall we get to write the preface?" he asked.

"I'm not particular," replied Gauntry with a shrug of his shoulders. "Get whom you like."

"But you insisted in your last letter but one to me," commented the doctor with a very puzzled frown, "that we must be most careful whom we asked."

"Well, I've changed my mind," said Gauntry, a little testily. "I see I've been too fussy. That's all."

"Then I'll ask Dr. Seltzer," said the doctor,

"Good," nodded Gauntry, "he'll do!"

"He'll do!" exclaimed the doctor with his face all puckered up. "You don't forget Dr. Seltzer is a woman?"

"Ah, of course not," nodded Gauntry, "and a very worthy one, too." He spoke carelessly and as if the matter were of no account. "A man or a woman, it's all the same to me."

Dr. Salter stroked his chin thoughtfully, and then asked, "Well, what do you think of H. G. Wells's new book, 'Whence, Where and When?' We sent you a copy."

"Excellent!" nodded Gauntry. "I thought it a splendid piece of work!"

The doctor frowned. "But I thought you didn't like Wells. Remember, you wrote in Abnormal Life that he ought to have joined up with the Girl Guides. You said it was only their society that he was fitted for."

"So I did," admitted Gauntry readily. "So I did. But I've altered my mind since. He is one of our greatest men."

Dr. Salter changed the conversation abruptly. "Now, what do you think of the view Makenoff takes of the South American fossil sloth?" He spoke most earnestly. "I should like you to give me your candid opinion there, as it will be of profound interest to us all in America."

Gauntry swallowed hard. He was in a tight corner there and did not know what to say. Indeed, he had never heard of any fossil sloth. But he was saved from the discourtesy of refusing to discuss the matter with his visitor by the entrance of Bent, as his faithful servitor.

"I think, Master," he said with the familiarity of an old dependent, "that you've talked quite enough. So, I'll bring you another glass of that port and you must try and get some sleep." He turned to the amazed Dr. Salter, who was thunderstruck at the idea of an acute gouty sufferer having 'another glass of port' and added apologetically, "I'm sorry, sir, but I know my master, and I simply won't let him go on any longer."

"He's right," supplemented Gauntry very weakly, "I feel the excitement is bringing on another attack."

The doctor stared hard and harder from one to the other of them in a most startled sort of way. Then he seemed about to address himself rather angrily to Gauntry. But he quickly thought better of it and, rising to his feet, advanced to shake hands with the sufferer.

"Good-bye," he said most politely. "I hope you'll be better soon," and with a courtly little bow, he preceded Bent out of the room.

"Ah," he exclaimed as, upon their way back to the front entrance to the house, they passed a window looking into the yard, "I see you've got some Alsatians here," He stopped to regard them interestedly. "What do you keep them for?"

"Mostly to prevent strangers approaching the house," said Bent. "They're very savage and everyone knows we've got them. Professor Bannister must have perfect privacy to carry on his great work."

"Exactly!" nodded the doctor. He regarded the dogs intently. "They look in fine condition. How long have you had them?"

"Oh, a long time," replied Bent evasively, "between three and four years, I should think."

The doctor regarded them more interestedly than ever. "As long as that?" He shook his head. "But I wouldn't have thought they were so old."

Bent saw him off in his car and returned to Gauntry with great relief, "He's gone," he chuckled, "and I think we cooked his goose well."

"I hope so," grunted Gauntry, "but you only came in just in time. He was starting to ask me about some fossils and I should have had to be positively rude to him to put him off." He became quite cheerful. "Now, let's have a decent meal. My breakfast was choking me this morning at the thought of his coming, and I hardly ate anything."

"Me, too," laughed Bent, "but I had three or four spots to brace me up."

They sat down to their meal with light hearts, but they would hardly have been so cheerful if they had known what was passing through the mind of their late visitor at that exact moment.

He was profoundly suspicious that he had not seen Professor Bannister at all!

As had been Bent's opinion, he was a very shrewd man, and as he now looked back upon his interview with the invalid, thought by thought began to pile up that for some reason he had been deliberately deceived and that the person he had been talking to was anyone but the renowned Professor himself.

Now he came to think of it, not once during the conversation had the man's replies to his questions suggested he was conversant with Professor Bannister's literary affairs. He had not known when it was contracted that the manuscript of the new book should be delivered, he had not known that some scientific confrere of great eminence was to be asked to write a preface and he had not remembered—a most dreadful lapse—that Dr. Seltzer, with whom he had certainly often corresponded, was a woman.

Then, too, about the man pretending he was Professor Bannister laid up with an acute attack of gout, why, it was a farce, it was a huge joke!

The doctor laughed heartily here, as he negotiated his way along the narrow track leading on to the Foxwold road.

Fancy any medical man drinking port wine when suffering from such an ailment, and fancy him not cutting short his suffering at once with some form or other of the world-wide panacea for gout, the bulb of the meadow saffron, colchicum!

Then he frowned in annoyance. Of course, the whole business was just part of Professor Bannister's well-known eccentricity. Without doubt he had a morbid aversion to having speech with strangers and so had taken these means of escaping an interview. Here, the doctor laughed again. Certainly it had its amusing side, but still it was rather exasperating.

And it was the added feeling of annoyance at the thought of those up at Wrack House who might now be chuckling at the success of the deception they had carried out which made Dr. Salter pull up his car in Foxwold. He had caught sight of a constable whom he rightly decided must belong to the village and he stopped to speak to him.

"Good morning, Constable," he said. "Now do you happen to know the great Professor Bannister?"

"Yes, sir," replied the policeman. "He lives not far from here, at Wrack House. I've spoken to him once or twice."

"Well, have you seen him about lately?"

"Yes, sir, the day before yesterday, not in the village here, but three or four miles back on the Newmarket Road. He was in a car with another gentleman."

"Oh, he was out in his car, was he?"

"Not in his car, sir. It was a strange one and he was not at the wheel."

"Then did you happen to notice what the man who was driving was like. Was he a biggish-looking man with a black beard?"

"No, sir, he was a good-looking gentleman, much younger than the Professor. The Professor was the one with the black beard."

Dr. Salter elevated his eyebrows. "Oh, then Professor Bannister has a black beard?"

"Yes, sir, a big bushy one, and you can always pick him out by it, a long way away."

The doctor whistled, "And he's got a pink patch over one eye, hasn't he?"

The constable shook his head. "No, sir, not that I know of, unless he's met with some trouble to his eye lately."

A short silence followed, and then Dr. Salter asked, "He's very eccentric, isn't he, this great Professor, and he doesn't like strangers to visit him?"

"No, sir, if he can help it, he won't let anybody come on to his land. He lives a very quiet life and there's only him and his niece up there, shut away from everyone else."

"But surely he keeps a man to look after his cows and his fowls and his dogs and all that?" asked the doctor.

The constable shook his head. "Not now, sir. He used to have one, a chap called Bent, but he went away some months ago. We used to see quite a lot of him when he was there, as he did all the errands and the marketing for the house."

"And what was he like?" was the doctor's next question. "Had he got a patch over his eye?"

"No, sir, but he'd got a bad squint in one. I've never seen such a squint and it gave him a nasty appearance. He was a biggish, rough-looking chap, not a nice man to have any dealings with. He was very rude and off-hand to everyone."

"And about this niece of his, what's she like?"

The constable smiled. "A real little lady, sir, very quiet and reserved. She comes in here to fetch his letters. I saw her the day before yesterday."

"I suppose you don't happen to know if she mentioned that the Professor was ill."

"I didn't speak to her, sir," replied the constable. "She only went into the post-office." He made a motion with his head towards the little general shop a few yards away. "But perhaps Mrs. Leadbetter, the postmistress, can tell you." He looked curiously at the doctor. "But were you thinking of going up to his house, sir?"

"I had half thought of it," nodded the doctor, "but from what I can hear I think I should get a bad sort of reception."

The policeman laughed. "I'm sure you would, sir. He's got two savage Alsatians up there and they're not friendly with strangers."

"And how long's he had them?"

The policeman considered. "Oh, about six months! That man Bent brought them up just before he left. They came in a big cage, upon a trailer behind the car, looking just like wild animals."

Dr. Salter thanked the constable, and proceeding into the post office, bought some cigarettes. Then he said casually, "I understand Miss Bannister was in here the day before yesterday! Did she happen to say her uncle was ill?"

The woman shook her head. "No, sir, and I don't think he can be, as she passed here very early this morning, in a car going up the London Road. I'm sure she wouldn't be leaving him if he weren't well."

"Oh, then Professor Bannister wasn't driving her!"

"No, a strange gentleman, and it wasn't the Professor's car. I happened to be at the window as they went by."

"A very charming young lady," nodded Dr. Salter.

"Yes, sir, but very shy. She hardly says a word when she comes in."

The doctor got back into his car quite satisfied that he had solved the mystery. At the Professor's instigation someone had impersonated him at the interview! The Professor must have been privy to it, for his own man had helped in the deceit! It was most annoying, and he was half inclined to go back and let them know he had not been so easily gulled as they thought, and insist upon having speech with the Professor in person.

But no, it wasn't worth it! The man was entitled to his privacy if he wanted it and besides—it would not do to offend one of their most profitable clients. The handling of Professor Bannister's books was quite a little gold mine to the firm.

Bent and Gauntry enjoyed their breakfast, and the former, although it rankled in him that he would no longer have the company of Ethel Bannister, was quite cheerful until he suddenly remembered something. Then he gasped out, "But how the hell shall I manage to get the letters now that damned girl's not here to go for them?"

"I've thought of that," replied Gauntry, "and it'll be quite easy. For the few weeks you'll be remaining on here you'll have to go back to being Bannister's man again. I'll push on the selling of the last lot of shares, straightaway, and you needn't wait one single day longer here after you've got those royalties from London about the second of September."

"But I don't like the idea," frowned Bent. "I've been out of everybody's thoughts for so long now that, when it comes to be found out Bannister's gone, they'll never think of me having a hand in it. But if I pop up now again before everyone, as you say, then when they learn he's disappeared, it will look devilish suspicious against me and, whenever I try to hide, I'd be picked up quick and lively to explain everything."

"But they won't be able to find you," said Gauntry with the utmost confidence, "I've thought of a way out of that."

"Won't be able to find me!" growled Bent. "What about this eye? You know it was only by damned good luck I escaped those six years ago. If Bannister had been reading any newspapers then he'd have known who I was at once and would never have given me the situation."

Gauntry smiled. "I've been making some enquiries, only this last week, and I've heard of a French surgeon who's a great master in dealing with cases like yours. So, I'll take you straight over to Paris and he may be able to put you right, at once, so that no one will know you've had a squint."

"And what if he says he can't do it," grumbled Bent. "I'll be in a nice hole then."

"Not at all, for if it's inoperable you'll have to have the eye out and a glass one put in instead."

Bent made a gesture of disgust. "Curse you, it's nothing to you because it's not your eye."

"Oh, isn't it!" scoffed Gauntry, His face was grim and hard. "You just remember, Joe, I stand to sink or swim with you and I'm not going to take any chances." He nodded. "Now, we're very nearly out of danger, with a good sum of money to be divided between us, and so you just watch every step you take during the next few weeks."

"Oh, I'll keep my end up here all right," growled Bent, "but I don't like the idea of the loneliness I've got to put up with and"—he glared defiantly—"I'm not ashamed to say I don't like ghosts."

"Well, I've given you my pistol," smiled Gauntry, "and don't you hesitate to use it." The frown faded from his face and he looked very grim and stern. "Also, I advise you, for your own sake and mine, if you ever find yourself in a desperate position, which I don't suppose for a moment you ever will"—he spoke very solemnly—"shoot to kill, and then blow your own brains out."

"Thank you," nodded Bent sarcastically, "It's very comforting, I am sure."

"But it'd be the only thing to do," went on Gauntry emphatically, "for don't you forget, Joe, you are wanted on many charges now, and"—his tones were more solemn and grim than ever—"the hangman's noose can't be nice about one's neck, and it would be far pleasanter to snuff out the quicker way."

CHAPTER VI—THE HOUND ON THE TRAIL

As Larose had told the Chief Commissioner of the Police, so many of the most outstanding triumphs of his professional career had been achieved from the very smallest and, apparently, most trivial of happenings. So now, he was by no means despairing that, in a few hours almost, he would not unmask the identity of the false Professor Bannister.

All he had, however, to help him was the knowledge that the man squinted badly with his left eye and once, when playing in a chess match against the City of London Club, any time over six years previously, had won the deciding game for his own side.

Arriving in town early in the afternoon, he looked up in the directory the headquarters of the City of London Club and, upon enquiring there, at once learnt the name and home address of the secretary. Ringing up that address he learnt that that gentleman was an officer in the Strand branch of a well-known bank, and very shortly he was interviewing him at his place of work. He explained who he was and stated that he was upon a private investigation of great importance.

"Now, do you keep a record of all the matches your club has played?" he asked the secretary, who was a smartly dressed young fellow of about thirty years of age.

"Certainly we do," replied the secretary, "but unhappily we possess now only the records going back for a very short time. Four years ago the place where we used to meet was burnt down and all our books were destroyed."

Larose's face fell. "Then, of course," he said most disappointedly, "you can't tell me about any of the matches before that time?"

The secretary shook his head. "No, I am sorry I can't." He looked curiously at Larose. "But what is it you so particularly want to know?"

Larose made an apologetic grimace. "The name of a man who was playing on board three against you when your club lost a certain match by one point, some time over six years ago."

The secretary laughed. "That's a big order, I'm afraid, as we generally play about twenty matches a year. No, I can't help you in any way. Oh, wait a minute! I can send you a gentleman who was a member of our club for over fifty years. He gave up active participation with us only about three years ago."

"Who is he?" asked Larose, willing to grasp at any straw.

"He's an old clergyman," said the secretary, "and, I'm sorry to say, rather getting into his dotage, but he has still a prodigious chess memory and he might be able to help you. He used to be one of the Canons of St. Paul's Cathedral, Canon Newbury, and now he's the Rector of a little parish in Essex, Good Easter, about thirty-five miles out of town. He'll help you, if anybody can, for I think the absorbing passion of his life now is chess, and chess only." He laughed. "When he goes to heaven, if indeed they admit clergymen there, I'm sure he'll be wanting to play over again some of the games of his earthly life."

Late in the afternoon Larose found himself in the delightful little village of Good Easter and, enquiring at the Rectory there, learnt that the Rector had only a few minutes previously stepped across to church to take the daily evensong.

So, into the church Larose went and joined the small crowd of three assembled there. The Canon was a very reverent-looking old gentleman, with a patriarchal beard into which most of the words of the service seemed to disappear. Larose's heart fell as he noted how painfully the Canon stumbled over the reading of the First Lesson and how in his absent-mindedness, apparently, he altogether omitted to read the second one. Here was poor material, he thought, from which to weave the net which was to draw in two malefactors.

He tackled him, however, when he came out of the church and asked if he could have a few minutes' private conversation.

The old clergyman seemed slow in taking in what was required of him and eyed Larose with heavy, brooding eyes.

"You're not a reporter, are you?" he asked. "Because, if you are, I don't want to see you. I'm eighty-four and have no craving for publicity."

"No, I'm not a reporter," smiled Larose, "and I only want to speak to you about chess. I understand you played for the great City of London Club for longer than fifty years."

"No, no," reproved the old man, his face lighting up, "only for forty-eight, and then for reasons of health, unhappily, I had to give up my stall in the cathedral and come to finish my days down here. Oh, you want to talk to me about chess, do you? Certainly, I'll see you," and he tottered to the Rectory, with Larose following closely behind.

Larose started to explain what he was wanting and he found himself now in the presence of quite a different individual from the mumbling old clergyman in the age-old and ivy-covered adjoining church.

He explained what he wanted and the Canon took it in without any difficulty. He screwed up his face thoughtfully. "I gather you want to know," he said, "about some particular game upon which the fate of one of our matches depended, and where we lost by one point, seven to eight years ago, you say. Now let me think, let me think if I can remember." He smiled. "I forget so many things and never can remember names, but, strangely enough, I can shut my eyes and recall the moves of games played half a century ago. Now let me see." He considered for a long moment and then started up. "Was it a game where Black used the French defence?" he asked sharply.

"No, it was quite a lively game," said Larose. "White opened with the King's Gambit and——"

"Oh, oh," broke in the Canon quickly, "but you make a mistake. The French defence can develop into quite a lively game, and if his opponent isn't careful Black can assume the attack on the eleventh move. I was a great believer in the French defence, and have gained many a hard-won victory with it." He closed his eyes. "But let me think again."

Larose could have wept. The old gentleman would meander on and on and the interview would end in disappointment. But all at once, with a startled exclamation, the Canon rose abruptly to his feet and, striding over to a cupboard with more energy than Larose had thought him capable of, brought out a chess-board and set of men and laid them upon the table.

"Now," he said briskly, "do you remember the positions when the game ended? Well, put everything upon the board, exactly as it was, and I may be able to tell you about the game." He smiled an old and wrinkled smile. "A chord of memory has been stirred in me."

So, rather breathlessly, Larose set up the pieces and the pawns as they had all been when Bent had been stirred into reminiscence only two days before.

"No, that's not how it should be," cried the Canon, excitedly. "The black bishop should be on rook's fourth and not on rook's sixth." He leant back in his chair and smiled. "Yes, I remember the game perfectly and our man lost through an oversight. He should have moved the king's pawn and not the queen's. He made a bad mistake, but just through sheer nervousness, I believe."

"Then do you remember who the players were?" asked Larose quietly, a great hope surging up in his heart.

"Well, I remember our man distinctly. He was a nervous little fellow. He was nearly bald and had sandy whiskers. He used to stammer when he got excited."

"But his name?" asked Larose, pleadingly.

"His name, his name!" muttered the Canon. He shook his head. "No, I can't remember that, although I ought to, for I said the Burial Service over him some time afterwards. He died suddenly of pneumonia. No, it's no good, I shall never think of his name. I can't remember any names now."

"Well, which club were you playing against?" asked Larose, striving manfully to keep up hope.

The old clergyman shook his head again. "No, I can't tell you that either and it's no good you worrying me. Ah, I remember one thing! They were common fellows in that club we were matched against, and one of our members remarked afterwards, rather unkindly I thought, that they were in keeping with the place they came from, as they smelt of leather."

And cross-examine the Canon as he did, that was all the information Larose could get out of him. He returned to his car and drove back to town very thoughtfully and in anything but a cheerful frame of mind.

Approaching the city, however, he smiled and something of his natural light-heartedness seemed to come back to him. In Aldgate he pulled up his car by the side of the kerb and beckoned to a policeman, who was standing near.

"I say, Constable," he said, smilingly, "you look a bright, intelligent fellow. Were you born in London?"

The policeman smiled back. "Yes, sir, and my father and his father, too. So I've got bricks and mortar in my veins."

"Well, I was born in Australia," went on Larose, "and so don't know as much about this little place as you do. So tell me," he laughed—"if you met a man and he smelt of leather, where would you say he came from?"

"If I met him in London, sir? Oh, then for sure I'd say he came from Bermondsey. It's just across the river there. All the big tanneries are there and they smell very strong."

"Thank you, Constable. I am very much obliged."

"Not at all, sir," returned the policeman. "Go over the Tower Bridge and you're there in no time. Oh, but you needn't have given me anything, sir." For Larose had passed over half-a-crown. "It was nothing in telling you that."

"Nothing to you, perhaps, my friend," murmured Larose, as he drove in the direction indicated, "but all the same it may lead to the hanging of two men."

Gaining the other side of the river, his nostrils were speedily assailed with the acrid odour of the tanneries, and he sniffed hard as if it wore some very delightful and delicious perfume.

He drove straight to the Public Library and asked of a very obliging assistant there if there were any chess clubs in the district.

"Oh, yes, sir," replied the man, "but they only meet in the winter. They have a room in Snowfield's."

So Larose obtained the name of the secretary and very soon was ringing at that gentleman's door. He kept a hairdresser's shop in a little mean street off Crucifix Lane and Larose was pleased to see that, although the hour then was well past ten o'clock, there was a light showing over the side door.

A middle-aged man, who turned out to be the secretary himself, at once appeared.

Larose apologised for troubling him at so late an hour, but explained he was upon a very important enquiry and, coming straight to the point, asked him if his chess club kept any records of their matches with other clubs and the name of their members who played in them.

The man shook his head. "We certainly do keep a minute book," he replied, "and in our annual report the results of the matches we have played are put down, but not the names of the players."

"Well, have you ever had among your members," asked Larose, his heart beating painfully, "a very good player who had a bad squint in his left eye, a very pronounced squint no one could help noticing?"

The man thought for a few moments, and then shook his head again. "No, I don't remember any member like that."

Larose's hopes at once fell to zero, but they rose again when the secretary went on to say that he had only been connected with the club for a little over three years.

"Oh, but the man I want to know about," he said, "used to play for the club much longer ago than that, at least six or seven years. Then can you put me on to anyone who would be likely to remember the members of about that time?"

"Certainly, I can," said the secretary, and he pointed across the street. "You just go over to Mr. Tomkins, the chemist, there. He's about our oldest member and joined up when the club was first founded about twenty years ago. I see his light's still on upstairs, so he won't be in bed." He laughed. "You may find him a bit annoyed at being roused up so late, as he's always a rather cranky old chap, but say you want some of the special cough drops he makes and he'll be quite pleasant at once."

So Larose rang at the chemist's door and after a longish interval, heavy footsteps sounded coming down the stairs. The door opened and he was confronted with a querulous-looking old man in very soiled pyjamas and with big horn spectacles perched upon the top of his long, thin nose.

"I'm very sorry to knock you up," said Larose most apologetically, "but I want some of your famous cough lozenges, very urgently."

"Cough lozenges at this time of night!" snarled the old man. "Haven't you more consideration for other people than to come at this ghastly hour for a trivial thing like that?"

"But I want ten shillings' worth," said Larose quickly, confident that such an order would be a very large one for such a little shop in so poor a quarter.

"Oh, ten shillings' worth!" exclaimed the chemist, and the scowl upon his face instantly faded away, "Then come inside, will you," and he led Larose into the shop and switched on the lights.

Larose at once passed over a ten-shilling note as evidence of his good faith. "But, first, I want to ask you a couple of questions," he said. "Now, you're a noted chessplayer, aren't you, and you've belonged to the Bermondsey Club for many years?"

"I was one of the first members," said the chemist. He smiled. "And I'm their oldest, if not their best player."

"Well, do you remember another very good player," asked Larose, "who belonged to the club about six or seven years ago, a man with a dreadful squint in his left eye, a biggish chap who frowned a lot and had large hands?"

The chemist's mouth opened and he stared very hard at Larose. He had been about to bring down a huge bottle from off a shelf, but now his arms dropped to his side and he seemed to have altogether forgotten what he had been going to do.

"Do I remember a player with a horrible squint in his left eye?" he repeated slowly. A dry smile came into his face and he asked, as if very amused, "Do you want him?"

"Yes, I do," replied Larose. "I want him badly."

"Ah!" and the chemist's look of amusement passed into a low chuckling laugh. "So do a lot of people," he went on, "the Home Secretary, the Chief Commissioner of the Police, the two thousand City police, the thirty thousand metropolitan ones and all the police and detectives all over the country." He drew in a deep breath. "Good God, they've been looking for him for years!"

"Did he ever play at the third board," asked Larose, hoarsely, "in a match when you beat the City of London Club by one point?"

"Ay, he did," nodded the chemist, "the only match we've ever won against that great club of stuck-up and purse-proud members." His old eyes took on a far-away, reminiscent look. "Ay, it was a great game, but our man gave us a shock by opening with the risky King's Gambit. Still, Joe was always a bold, fighting fellow——"

"But Joe who?" asked Larose sharply, his heart beating painfully, and his nerves strung up almost to breaking point.

"Joe Carrabin, one of the Dencross murderers," chuckled the chemist, "the only always-to-be-remembered member our club will ever have! Joe Carrabin, who with his father strangled that old lady for her jewels and shot her butler afterwards! Old man Carrabin was hanged but Joe got away like a streak of lightning, and has never been caught sight of from that day to this." He sighed heavily. "We've missed Joe a lot! He always put up a good game and was so cunning in his moves that we none of us wonder that he escaped the clumsy police."

But Larose was no longer listening. He was feeling faint and had to lean against the counter so that he would not fall. A dark mist was before his eyes and his ears were closed to all sounds.

The Dencross murders! It had been nearly his last case when at Scotland Yard! A case presenting dreadful difficulties and with, apparently, not one single clue the murderers had left behind! But he, with infinite patience and almost by sheer intuition, had picked up a trail. He had followed it when, a score of times and more, it had seemed to lead nowhere and just to vanish into air. But he had persevered, he had never grown weary, and in the end his triumph had come. Ah, but it had only been half a triumph! He had got the father hanged, but his son, the co-murderer, had escaped and never been caught.

He drew in a deep breath. No wonder the Carrabins hated him, for it had come out at the trial that but for him the identity of the murderers would never have been disclosed. Lord Aveling, the presiding judge, had commended him warmly and the Press had applauded him as 'the man who never failed.'

He came back to earth again, with the old chemist still meandering on and going over every move of that historic game. Apparently, the savagery of Joseph Sylvester Carrabin was of a more faded memory to him than the murderer's proficiency in the great game of chess.

"But what do you want to know about Joe for?" the chemist asked suddenly, regarding Larose now very suspiciously over the top of his glasses.

"Well, I was with an old clergyman this afternoon," laughed Larose, pulling himself together, "and he was present at that match. He had a most lively recollection of that game on board three, perhaps because soon after he had buried the man who had been playing Black and——"

"A nervous little chap, with a bald head," interrupted the chemist, "a famous County Court judge and very highly thought of, so we heard. He was as bold as a lion when he'd got his wig and gown on, but very highly strung and a stammerer when he was playing chess. Ha, ha, Joe kept upsetting him by blowing his nose like a fog-horn and he dropped a certain draw because of it."

Once started upon his reminiscences, the chemist would have been happy to go on for hours, but Larose cut him short and went off at last with his lozenges.

He tried to make his mind a blank until he reached the hotel where he was going to stay, and then, in the privacy of his bedroom, throwing himself into a big arm-chair, he went back in memory over all the details of those murders in Dencross Hall, which had taken place more than six years previously. Yes, it was more than six years ago, six years and seven months, because the crime had been committed upon a dark night in December.

An old lady, very well-to-do, indeed much more wealthy than anyone had supposed, as was learnt when the Will was proved, lived with four servants in a beautiful old house, deep in the heart of the country, near the little village of Dencross in Surrey.

She was a widow, the wife of a judge, and had lost her husband some fifteen years previously. They had been a childless couple and she had been greatly affected by the loss, at once cutting herself off from the few distant relations she had, and denying herself all visitors.

The memory of her husband was sacred to her and it was the obsession of her widowed life to keep everything in her surroundings as near as possible to what they had been when he was with her.

So, the same staff was retained, three maids and a butler, and they all grew old together. The only real difference in the arrangement of the affairs of the household was that the butler took over the duties of the gardener. It had been the man's own wish that he should do so, for with no entertaining now he would have had practically nothing to do in his old capacity. Still, every night at dinner, he was the butler again, and he and the parlourmaid waited upon the old lady in state, she always in evening dress and wearing some of the beautiful jewels which had come to her in the days of her youth.

And it was those very jewels which were to bring her to such a dreadful form of death, handing all that remained of her to the police surgeon who performed the post-mortem, a fearful-looking travesty of one-time lovely womanhood, with convulsed limbs and blue-black face. She had been strangled.

About a month before the tragedy occurred, she suddenly noticed that one of the large emeralds in her necklace was loose and a thorough examination of her other jewellery convinced her that they all needed a good overhauling.

So, a great event in her life, for one day she broke the seclusion she had enforced upon herself, and accompanied by Rattery, the butler, and Thompson, the parlourmaid (in her service all the servants were called by their surnames), as a body-guard, she took train to town to entrust her jewellery to Surplice and James, the well-known jewellers in Bond Street.

Three weeks later a like journey was undertaken to town to bring back the overhauled treasures.

Then exactly a week after the jewellery had been brought home the crime occurred.

The cook was awakened just after two o'clock in the morning by the sound of groaning outside her bedroom door, and, jumping out of bed to see what was the matter, was horror-struck to find the butler, with a ghastly trail of blood behind him, lying in the corridor and almost in the very act of death.

He was bleeding from a bullet wound in the stomach and only lived just long enough to gasp out what had happened.

It appeared he had been awakened by suspicious noises and, proceeding to the door of his mistress's room, had found it unlatched. He had pushed it open and entered the room. There, he had seen two masked men. One was at the back of his mistress and had got a cord round her neck and was strangling her, while the other was by her bureau and searching through the drawers. This second man had immediately fired a pistol at him, which had made only a sound like the cracking of a whip, and he had felt he was hit and had fainted. Then presently he had come to and managed to crawl to the cook's door. He could not describe the men, but said that the one who had shot him looked much older than the other, because of his hair, which was very scanty round the temples. Also, this second man was of a stouter and heavier build. Then the butler had gasped out his last breath and died.

The cook had at once telephoned the police station at Edenbridge and within a few minutes a sergeant and two policemen had arrived.

But they had found no clue to the identities of the murderers.

Subsequent investigations showed that all the jewels had been taken and, also, about twenty pounds in treasury notes which, it was known, the old lady had had in her bedroom. Entry into the house had been effected through a sky-light opening into a small lumber-room, the men had gained access by climbing up on to the roof by way of the ivy and the lightning conductor.

It was presumed that the younger and more agile of the men had done the climbing and then had admitted the elder man through the front door.

This was the position when Scotland Yard was called in, and some of the shrewdest and most experienced members of the Criminal Investigation Department were speedily devoting all their energies to pick up the beginnings of a trail.

There was no doubt the crime had been carried out by those perfectly familiar with the house, for the skylight was in a well in the very centre of the roof and hidden from all view below by the high up-sloping sides of the other parts of the roof.

So a most systematic and patient enquiry was undertaken to cheek up all strangers who could have been in possession of such knowledge, and attention was immediately focused upon the workmen of a firm of decorators who had done up the interior of the house the previous year. But this firm was a local one, in Edenbridge, and the conclusion was quickly arrived at that there was nothing warranting any suspicion there.

The theft of the jewellery, too, was now considered from another point of view. It was held to be anything but a coincidence that the jewels had been taken within a few days of their return from the London jewellers. Apparently, up to the time of their being brought to town to receive attention, no one, except the servants in the house, had been aware that Mr. Rampini was in possession of jewels of such value, or, at any rate, if anyone had known it before, then their knowledge must date back to more than fifteen years, to when the husband was alive and company was often entertained.

But the idea was immediately dismissed that anyone of criminal intent and possessing such knowledge would have waited all those years before acting. Then, that being so, it was taken for granted that the jewels were stolen because a knowledge of their existence and value had followed only upon their being entrusted to the Bond Street jewellers to overhaul.

So, someone in the employ of the Bond Street firm, it was considered, must be suspect. This employee had seen the jewels; he had heard of the motor-carless and eccentric old lady who had brought them up by train, with her old butler and elderly parlourmaid for an escort, and he had judged, and rightly so, that their protection when at Dencross Hall would be of the same primitive and old-fashioned nature.

But here came the difficulty, for not only had a man of criminal intent to be found among the Bond Street employees, but he must either himself, or in conspiracy with another person, know all about the geography of the Hall and the best place where to get in.

And that proved the snag. The five workmen and the elderly one-armed commissionaire employed by Surplice and James were men of impeccable character. They had all been some time in the service of the firm, and their private lives, too, gone into most minutely, yielded nothing of the very slightest suspicious nature. Also, they all denied strenuously that they had ever discussed the affairs of the firm with strangers.

Larose smiled as it came hack to him now how hopeless everything had seemed when he had been sent down to take over the case. Apparently there was not a clue to be picked up and no place from where he could start off upon a trail.

He had gone afresh over all the ground which had already been traversed so minutely and with such patience, and then, he remembered, there had been one thing which had inclined him at once to the belief that the enquiry had not been pushed back far enough.

Everyone had been puzzled about this one particular happening, for it was most peculiar and unexplainable, but no one hitherto appeared to have grasped its true significance.

The happening was this:

When the two burglars had entered the house, the one by the skylight and the other, presumably, by the front door, they had, apparently, been intending to take one precaution against being heard and interrupted by any of the servants—one precaution and one only.

Into the jamb of a door they had driven a stout staple and to it, with a strong piece of copper wire, had attached the handle of the door so that it could not be pulled open from inside. This proceeding, however, had not helped them in any way, because the room so dealt with had been an empty one in an unoccupied wing of the house.

But he, Larose, was quite sure it had been done for some specific purpose and, after much questioning of the cook and hard searching back in memory on her part, had learnt that many years back, when much company was entertained, the butler had always slept in that particular room. Later on, however, upon his master's death he had changed into a room in the opposite wing, simply for purposes of convenience, so that all the occupied rooms would be together.

He, Larose again, had therefore at once come to the conclusion that the burglars' knowledge of the ways of the house must go back to those distant years, they evidently thinking that the butler still slept in that room, and they had accordingly meant to wire him in, as being the only dangerous member of the household.

He next found out that about twenty years previously electric light had been installed in the Hall, the work being carried out by four men from a firm in Lambeth.

So off to that firm he went and, after much turning over of books by them, managed to obtain the names and addresses of the four employees who had done the job. Two of them, he found, were dead, one he couldn't trace at all, but with great patience he followed up the fourth, by name of Charles Alexander Carrabin, and through the courtesy of the Electricians' Union, learnt where he was then living. He was by himself and renting two rooms upon the fourth floor of a house in a street off Tottenham Court Road.

He did not approach him direct but, by discreet enquiries, found out quite a lot about him. He was about fifty years of age and in the employ of the Marylebone Corporation. He was a very reserved man, keeping himself very much to himself. Of regular habits, every evening he spent an hour or so in the bar of an unpretentious but comfortable little public-house, the Spade and Shovel, just round the corner.

Larose remembered having had the man pointed out to him as the former was leaving the house where he lived and judged him to be an individual of some force of character, although possibly of not a very agreeable one, as his expression was always frowning and unfriendly. When he went out of an evening he wore good clothes, looking recent purchases, and he carried himself like a person of some importance.

"Yes," smiled Larose here, "and every night for a week, made up, however, to look quite a different person, I followed that fellow. An instinct told me I was on to something crooked, for he had a habit of looking back over his shoulder as if to see if anyone were trailing him, and I remember how pleased I was at the interest he took in gazing into the windows of jewellers' shop. They were the only ones he appeared to be interested in. That was all I got for my trouble for a solid six nights, as he never went anywhere in particular except to that little public-house and when there never spoke to anyone. But then on the seventh night I clicked at last."

He nodded reminiscently. "Yes, I was in that little pub and how my heart bumped when I saw the jeweller's one-armed commissionaire come in. The Carrabin man gave him a swift covert look and then dropped his eyes, but the commissionaire did not seem to know him. But oh, how elated I was! Here at last was what I had been looking for, a line joining up Carrabin with someone from the jeweller's shop; the link between the putting in of that electric light twenty years before, and the burglary and murders of only three weeks back."

He shook his head. "Ah, that commissionaire was a nice fellow and I never let them know that it was through him that the news about the Rampini jewels had leaked out! He'd been quite sure he'd never talked about the firm's business outside. But he had. He couldn't carry his liquor. That was the trouble, and after a couple of glasses, though he was quite sober, his tongue began to wag. I can remember his conversation that night, even now, although I'm sure he himself couldn't have told anyone a single word of it the next morning."

"How's diamonds to-day, old chap?" asked the publican.

"Pretty good, pretty good, old Beer and Stout," he replied. "Lady Mascot bought some diamond studs off us to-day and paid three hundred quid for them, but that was nothing to her. She gave me two half-crowns for just opening the door to let her out. Not bad that, for five seconds' work!"

"Sell any rings?"

"Rather! There was a lovely bit of stuff came in this morning with her boy. She was Lord MacToon's daughter and she's got the bluest eyes I ever saw. The viscount, he was her boy; yes, Viscount Harlow, and the ring he put on her pretty little finger—I could have kissed it—cost him one hundred and fifty quid!"

Larose heaved a big sigh. "Yes, it was he who had caused all the trouble. Charles Carrabin had heard his gassing about the Rampini jewels one night and that had sealed the old lady's doom. Carrabin remembered he had once worked in the house and guessed the job would be an easy snip for him."

He paused again to consider. "Now what exactly did I do next? Yes, yes, it was that same night when I had to put down all my cards in a great hurry and I nearly lost the whole game altogether. I had followed Carrabin to those tenements in Lisson Grove, where he had gone to see his son, Joe, although I didn't find until afterwards that it was Joe he had been to see. Well, I must have been clumsy somehow as, when returning home, he suddenly became suspicious he was being shadowed. He stopped to look in a shop window, not a jeweller's this time, and I was so close behind him that I daren't stop, too, but had to walk on and pass him. As I did, he had got his back to me and I couldn't see his face, but I saw his hands were shaking. That was a bad sign and I had to make up my mind like lightning."

Larose leant back here and chuckled delightedly for some moments. It was one of those memories of his resource which was always pleasing to him.

He went on, "Yes, I walked on only for a few paces and then I turned round to see what he was doing. Cripes! it was a good thing I did, for he was bolting across the street like a rabbit. I knew then it was neck or nothing and I raced after him shouting, 'Pickpocket, pickpocket, that fellow's got my wallet.' Oh, the rumpus which followed! Two young chaps collared him and held him tight, though for a few moments he fought like a fury. Then a policeman came up and, white with rage, he was marched to the police station. Then he was goosed properly, for I took the sergeant to one side and told him who I was. Dear old Charlie Stone was there in a quarter of an hour and while friend Carrabin was detained, we went and broke into his rooms."

Larose nodded solemnly. "It was a risk, I knew, for I had so little to go upon, but I remembered those shaking hands and was quite sure the fellow would be wanted for something. Then Charlie was as pleased as punch for we found an automatic and, better than that, the old judge's gold watch, which had been listed among the missing things."

He drew in another big sigh. "But we weren't as clever as we thought, for Joe slipped us. We raced to those tenements and, learning from the caretaker then that there was a man called Carrabin upstairs, in a couple of shakes we were thundering at his door. But Joe was out and the caretaker had to open the door with his master key. Then, what a find! All the jewellery which had been stolen, yes, every bit of it, except the old man's watch!"

He clenched his fist and shook his head vexatiously. "But we made one fearful blunder. We had left that damned police car outside and Joe, coming home like a lamb, spotted the driver's uniform. He saw the red lights at once and went off like lightning.

"He stole a motor bicycle from a nearby backyard, and that was the last we heard of him. His father was hanged for the murder of the butler, though a lot of good people argued he ought not to have been because of the weakness of the evidence. Still, the dreadful manner in which the poor old lady had been killed no doubt influenced both jury and judge."

A long silence followed and then he went on very sadly, "But what a fool you've been, Gilbert! You ought to have remembered that Joe squinted with his left eye. It was an unpardonable thing to forget for if you hadn't you would have at once been suspicious who this chap Bent was. Your only excuse is you had never set eyes on the man and so were not carrying his picture in your mind."

He helped himself to a big drink of whisky and his face lighted up exultingly. "Still, you're in at the death, Gilbert. You're the old dog who picked up trail again and you haven't been beaten in the end. But I must off to bed now, for I'm very tired and I have an interesting day to-morrow." He grinned. "I wonder what that rather unfriendly Chief Commissioner of the Police will say when he hears what I have to tell him?"

The following day Larose was up early and spent a busy morning going from place to place at break-neck speed. Towards one o'clock, however, he had apparently finished his enquiries and betook himself, carefree and lighthearted as ever, to enjoy a good lunch at a good restaurant. He lingered over his meal, many times looking at his watch.

At half-past two, he left the restaurant and, taking a taxi to Scotland Yard, was soon being ushered into the private room of Chief Inspector Stone.

The latter regarded him rather anxiously as he came in.

"Any news, my lad?" he asked quietly.

"Too right," smiled Larose, "plenty of good stuff this time."

Stone raised one hand warningly. "Not a word," he exclaimed. "I've got to take you straight to the Chief directly you turn up. I'm to have no conversation with you, before." He picked up the receiver of the telephone upon his desk and spoke into it. "Sir Garnet, please. Oh, he's engaged, is he? Oh, oh, all right, then, but tell him at once that Mr. Larose is here."

He put down the receiver and smiled a grim smile. "He's with the Home Secretary for the moment, but I don't suppose he'll keep us long. No, don't tell me anything, but"—although they were quite alone and the door shut, he lowered his voice to a whisper—"I'll tell you, as your friend Charlie Stone and not in any official capacity, that the Chief is very disturbed about you. He was worrying me all yesterday."

"Oh, what about?" grunted Larose.

Stone made a grimace. "He thinks you bluffed him in that little talk you had with him the other day and, great Jupiter, I do believe it's at the bottom of his mind you've bolted." He shook his head frowningly. "It's only that he doesn't know you, Gilbert, and friends of that damned Inspector Flower have been poisoning his mind. He thinks now we ought not to have let you go so easily and he's snapping at me for, as he says, having persuaded him." His big fatherly face looked very troubled. "But it is quite all right, you say, my lad. You've found out something?"

Larose nodded in the greatest of good humour. "I'll blow him sky high, Charlie. I'll bust him to bits and——" but the telephone bell tingled and Stone picked up the receiver again.

"Good, we'll come at once," he said, and gripping Larose affectionately by the arm, led him from the room.

The Chief Commissioner was not alone this time. There was another man in the room, a big man, with a big face and rather humorous-looking eyes. He was Mr. Chambers, the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, and Larose greeted him sociably, but he was not going to offer to shake hands with him. The big man, however rose at once and held out his hand smilingly.

"We've met before, haven't we, Mr. Larose?" he said.

"Yes, sir," smiled back Larose, "that night in Paris."

"Hush," exclaimed the big man in mock embarrassment, "I was on holiday then and we mustn't talk about it!" His face sobered down. "Sit down, Sir Garnet wants to have a little chat with you."

The Chief Commissioner spoke up at once. "Have you met with any success, Mr. Larose?"

Larose nodded. "Yes, quite a lot." He paused for a long moment and then went on very slowly, "For one thing, I know where Joseph Carrabin, the Dencross murderer, is in hiding and he can be arrested at once."

"The Dencross murderer," exclaimed Mr. Chambers with animation. "Let me think, let me think. Didn't he murder that old lady, the wife of Judge Rampini for her jewels?" He turned to the Chief Commissioner. "Wasn't I in office at the time, Sir Garnet?"

"Yes, sir, you were," replied the Chief, masking his amazement at Larose's news in a stiff official manner. "It was a double murder, too, of that Mrs. Rampini and her butler, carried out by two men, father and son, Charles and Joseph Carrabin."

"The father shot the butler," supplemented Larose, calmly taking his part in the conversation as if as a matter of course, "and the son strangled the woman. The father was hanged, but the son got into hiding and has evaded arrest ever since." He nodded smilingly. "It was one of my last cases when I was attached to Scotland Yard."

"Gad, and it was one of your greatest, too," commented Stone warmly, his awe of his Chief now quite swamped in his admiration for his friend. He nodded to the Home Secretary. "It will always be considered as a classic, sir, at the Yard, a perfect miracle of imagination, plus infinite patience."

"But you mustn't believe quite all Mr. Stone says," laughed Larose. He looked warmly at the stout inspector. "He and I have been staunch friends for years and we have a great affection for each other."

"But it was a marvellous case, Mr. Larose!" exclaimed the Home Secretary. "I remember it all now, and how unstinting Lord Aveling was in his praise of you. Yes, and there was a petition to reprieve the father, but I would not advise it because his lordship was so strong against any clemency, as the strangling of the old lady had been so ghastly."

"And where is this Joseph Carrabin in hiding now?" asked the Chief Commissioner coldly.

"In a lonely and isolated house, deep in the Norfolk Fens," replied Larose. "He is there by himself, along with two savage Alsatians. He is a man of ruthless disposition and is armed with an automatic pistol. We shall have to be very wary in arresting him without it entailing loss of life."

"Have you seen him yourself?" asked the Chief.

"Yes, I spent two days and nights in his company. I got back yesterday morning."

"Did you recognise him for certain as this Joseph Carrabin?"

"No, I had never seen him before and I didn't know, until late last night, some sixteen hours after I left him, who he was."

"Well, how did you come to find out?" asked the Chief frowningly.

Larose drew in a long breath. "Well, I went to him as a traveller in Scotch whisky and, seeing a set of chess-men on a table, brought up the subject of chess to him. I found he was a great enthusiast and our conversation led to my agreeing to stay with him as his guest, so that we could have a few games together. Then the position of the pieces towards the end of the first game stirred his memory, and he said it was exactly like the ending in a game he had once taken part in many years previously, when he had been playing in a match for the chess club he belonged to, against the City of London dub."

Larose nodded here. "By then I was quite sure he was a crook in some way, but his story of this game he had played and how his winning of it had decided the whole match in favour of his club were all I had to go upon to find out who he was."

The Home Secretary frowned heavily. "And you tell us from this game of chess you discovered his identity."

"Oh yes," laughed Larose. "I left the house where he is living at about four o'clock yesterday morning, and by eleven o'clock last night, when all the enquiries I had been making were finished, I knew without a shadow of doubt who he was."

He went on, "You see, it was like this—I was sure that if I could only find out to which Metropolitan club he had belonged, someone in that club would be certain to remember the player who had won the decisive game for them in a match against the renowned City of London Club."

"Ah, I follow you now," exclaimed Mr. Chambers. "Much simpler, perhaps, than it would at first appear."

"Yes, up to a point, it was," agreed Larose instantly, "but the difficulty came in when I learnt that all the records of the City of London Club had been destroyed in a fire of a few years ago. It seemed almost as if I was at a dead end then, because it seemed doubtful if any member of the club could remember the details of a particular match played so many years ago."

"But how many years previously did the man say he'd played that game?" asked Mr. Chambers.

"About twenty," replied Larose. "But I rather guessed from his age, which must be well under forty, that he was telling a lie there." He nodded. "But still, even ten years would be much too long a time for most memories to go back about a matter like that."

"I should think so," commented Stone. "I belong to a bowling club and couldn't tell you matches we've played, even half a dozen years ago."

"Still, after some trouble," continued Larose, "I routed out an old clergyman now living down in Essex about thirty-five miles from town. He had been a member of the City of London Club for nearly fifty years. He's a retired Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral and he's over eighty now. He's——"

"I know him," broke in the Home Secretary, holding up his hands disgustedly. "You mean old Canon Newbury! Well, you can't go by anything he says! He's all gone to pieces lately. He's in his dotage!"

"In every-day matters he's in his dotage, perhaps," laughed Larose, "but in matters of chess he's still in the prime of life." He made a grimace. "But at first, as you say, it seemed hopeless. I don't think he remembers the name of any club against whom the City of London has ever played, but"—he held up one forefinger impressively—"when I described the game to him and put the pieces and pawns upon his board, just in the positions they had been two days ago in my game with that man, he told me instantly he remembered the game perfectly and that the opponents of his club that night had been common fellows."

Larose chuckled. "Yes, that's what he told me, and beyond the fact that one of his fellow-members had remarked that they looked like the place they came from and smelt of leather, he remembered nothing more." He seemed very pleased with himself. "But that was quite enough. I went to Bermondsey where the tanneries are and got in touch with the secretary of the Bermondsey Chess Club, who put me on to an old chemist who is an ardent chess player. I told him what I wanted and he remembered the match at once. He said instantly that the player who had won that game for them"—Larose paused dramatically here—"was Joe Carrabin, the Dencross murderer."

A long silence followed and then the Chief Commissioner, with a little more pleasantness than he had hitherto shown, asked, "Did he describe this chess-player to you?"

"Yes, and the description tallied exactly with that of the man I have just been stopping with. He mentioned particularly a bad squint in the left eye."

Inspector Stone made a violent exclamation. "Yes, by James!" he cried excitedly, "that's Joe Carrabin, right enough. Everyone who knew him said his squint was dreadful." He spoke sharply to Larose. "Now, Mr. Larose, what was this man doing among those Fens where you met him?"

Larose paused so long to answer that a frown settled upon the faces of all his audience and they began to look impatient. "He is living in that big, lonely house," he replied very slowly, "and he is impersonating the owner, the well-known, eccentric scientist, Professor Jasper Bannister. For longer than six months now he has been doing it, imitating his handwriting, forging his signature, and collecting any monies which come in for the absent man. Also"—he lowered his voice to the merest whisper—"I would not like to give it as my opinion that he has not murdered the Professor as well as an elderly woman who, for many years, had been in service there."

An awed hush followed. The Chief Commissioner was scowling hard, Stone had got his mouth wide open and the Home Secretary looked rather white and was breathing hard.

The Chief spoke first. "Have you any evidence to support that?" he asked.

Larose shrugged his shoulders. "No direct evidence as yet," he replied, "but both disappeared at the same time under very suspicious circumstances, and"—he made another of his impressive silences,—"Joseph Carrabin is now most terrified of their ghosts."

The Home Secretary mopped his forehead with his handkerchief. "Very gruesome, Mr. Larose," he exclaimed, "and most interesting even if it were only a tale from a book." He smiled a sickly smile. "Really, I don't think I shall sleep to-night."

The Chief Commissioner awoke to red-tape preciseness. "But if this be all as you say, Mr. Larose"—his voice was cold and official—"how does it help us in any way to determine the murderer of Major Sampon?"

"Yes, that's it," nodded Mr. Chambers, quickly. "How does it help us to bring home to anyone that crime?"

Larose made another of his irritating pauses. "Only," he said, speaking now more slowly than ever, "that Arnold Gauntry happens to be Joe Carrabin's brother, and murder often runs in families."

Stone almost jumped from his chair. "Good God, Gilbert!" he exclaimed, "what a scoop! What a thunderbolt!" He turned excitedly to the Chief Commissioner. "It's quite all right, sir! It's quite all right! If Mr. Larose states anything as a fact, then you can be quite sure it is one. In all the years he was with us at the Yard, I've never known him deceive us." His face beamed as he clapped Larose soundly upon the shoulder. "Good for you, Gilbert! You are a sharp boy!"

The face of the Chief Commissioner was now smiling, and Larose did not want to see it frown again, so, stepping forward, he drew a paper out of his pocket and held it out to him.

"Here, sir," he said, "is a list of the names of the passengers travelling from Colombo in the P. & O. liner Orontes in March, 1931, and you will see that Henry Carrabin is among them. He probably came over to see his father before he was hanged. Then because of the scandal attaching to the name of Carrabin, a most unusual name, he changed it and three months later the name of Arnold Gauntry appears for the first time in the telephone directory. Finally, here is a letter he wrote, only five days ago, to his brother on the Fens. Note, the envelope is addressed to Professor Bannister, but the letter commences 'Dear Joe' and is signed 'Harry,'" and Larose resumed his seat, as if he were quite confident he had now clinched the whole matter.

And everyone else was undoubtedly of the same opinion when the Chief had read the letter aloud.

"Then, of course," nodded the latter, "this Gauntry is privy to the impersonation of the Professor, and he shows, most clearly, his animus against you." He smiled most friendlily at Larose. "Now, sir, you have carried through this investigation so wonderfully that I am sure any advice you give us will be most valuable. So what do you suggest should be done next?"

"Joe Carrabin must be arrested on the original warrant issued for the murder of Mrs. Rampini," said Larose, "and then we must search for the bodies of Professor Bannister and the woman, Mary Trescowthick. I am convinced they have been buried on the Fens."

"Then you would leave his brother alone for the present?" frowned the Commissioner.

"Oh, yes!" exclaimed Larose, hurriedly. "Don't give him an inkling that we have any suspicion about him, in any way." He nodded. "I still have hopes of sheeting home to him the Sampon murder, I have yet another card to play."

They talked on for some time and then the little party broke up, with Larose, however, accompanying Stone to the latter's private room.

"Gosh, Gilbert, but you've saved the whole situation!" exclaimed the stout inspector fervently. "We were at a dead end everywhere. We certainly believe that Dr. Revire is an agent, working for the Soviet Republic, but we have no conclusive evidence there. Since that murder of Sampon he has shut down like a knife and we haven't been able to find a thing against him."

"Never mind Revire for the moment, Charlie," smiled Larose. "Our first job now is to get the cuffs on friend Joe, and we've got all our work cut out to do it. As I told them just now, he's armed, and, if I know anything of men, he just the type to let out hell amongst us, and then shoot himself so that he won't be taken alive. Yes, we shall want all our wits about us to keep him nice and healthy for that appointment with the hangman."

CHAPTER VII.—POOLS OF SILENCE

Larose returned to his hotel, the Semiris, just off the Haymarket, in a very happy frame of mind. Not only had he dispelled all the suspicion there had been against him in high circles but, to his great satisfaction, he had succeeded in obtaining from Stone the letter which Major Sampon had written to Sir George incriminating the latter's wife.

He had had a hard tussle there with the stout inspector, but in the end had prevailed, insisting that the letter could have no possible bearing upon the murder of the major, and, moreover, stating he wanted it for a specific purpose, which he would disclose later. He had promised, however, that it would be forthcoming any time if Stone should want it back.

Regarding the contemplated arrest of Joe Carrabin in his lonely retreat upon the Fens, as there appeared to be no imperative need that he should be taken in hot haste, it had been arranged that it should be effected the next day but one. Stone was giving evidence in the Criminal Courts on the morrow, and the arrest was considered so important that he wanted to superintend it himself. So it had been decided that those taking part in it should leave the city the following night so as to be all ready upon the spot the first thing the next morning.

This suited Larose admirably, as an idea concerning the murdered major had been forming in his mind, and he wanted to try it out.

The next day by nine o'clock he was in the major's house in Maida Vale and interviewing the housekeeper. Then, obtaining from her the name and address of Sampon's usual medical man, he learnt the latter lived only a few streets away, and was fortunate to catch him just as he was about to leave upon his morning rounds. He explained who he was and that he was making some private enquiries about the deceased man.

"Now do you mind telling me, Doctor," he said, "if you happen to know if Major Sampon had been in good health just prior to the dreadful fate which overtook him?"

The doctor considered for a moment. "No, I see no reason why I should not tell you," he said. He nodded solemnly. "Major Sampon was in a very bad state of health and suffering from an incurable disease. His sickness was what is known as myeloid leukaemia, a very insidious form of blood disease."

"Oh, oh!" exclaimed Larose, very startled, "and did he know he'd got it?"

The doctor nodded again. "Yes, I diagnosed it myself but sent him on to a specialist to have the diagnosis confirmed."

"How long ago was that?" asked Larose, breathing a little quickly.

"I saw him the Friday before he was murdered, and he saw the specialist the following Monday."

"Did you tell him on the Friday what was wrong with him?"

"No, I left it to the specialist, so that then he would have no days of suspense. I was quite certain of my diagnosis, but thought it wiser he should be told by one who would convince him, straightaway. I didn't want him to be harrowed by preliminary uncertainty."

"And when did he see this specialist, do you say?"

"On the Monday morning. The specialist was Dr. Methuen of Wimpole Street."

"Well, now one more question," said Larose. "Was Major Sampon quite normal mentally when he came to see you upon that Friday?"

The doctor hesitated. "He was perfectly sane and in full possession of all his faculties, if you mean that. Still, he seemed very irritable and he was also hasty in his speech. I noticed those things particularly because, as a general rule, he was a man of most placid disposition, a quiet, reserved man, who spoke very little."

Larose thanked him for his courtesy and a few minutes later was ringing the bell of Dr. Methuen's door in Wimpole Street. But he quickly found this medical man was not so accessible as the Maida Vale one had been, and, indeed, he was told at first that it was quite impossible for him to see the specialist that day, as the latter was already full up with appointments.

But he insisted he must see him, as he was not a patient and came upon a matter of urgent importance. So, in the end, it was arranged he should return at ten minutes to three, when perhaps, under the very unusual circumstances, the great man might spare him a few minutes.

Larose was not sorry to have the morning free, as among the scraps of conversation which Ethel Bannister had managed to pick up when listening behind the shed while Bent and Gauntry had been whispering together, was one about the Professor's American publisher coming the following day, and the two men, she said, had sounded very uneasy about it.

So he was now most curious to know what had happened and what story had been given to account for the Professor's absence when the publisher had arrived.

He went into a bookseller's shop and found out the name of Professor Bannister's London publishers and, getting them on the phone, learnt who his American publishers were. Then he said he had heard that the head of the latter firm was at present in London and asked who he was and how he could get in touch with him.

He was given his name, Dr. Hiram Salter, but was informed that was all the information which could be supplied. They were not aware even that Dr. Salter was on this side of the water.

Nothing daunted, however, Larose next rang up the American Embassy. They knew of the doctor, who was himself a distinguished man of science, but did not know if he were in England at the present time. But they suggested that if he were now in London he would most probably be putting up at the Rialto Hotel, which was the one most favoured by citizens of the United States.

Accordingly, to the Rialto Larose went and, to his great joy, learnt that the doctor was staying there, although he was not in the hotel at that moment. However, just before one o'clock the doctor returned and he was soon interviewing him in his private room. He explained who he was and that at one time he had been attached to Scotland Yard in the Criminal Investigation Department.

"Now forgive my troubling you," he went on, "but I understand you were intending to call upon Professor Bannister at Wrack House, the day before yesterday. Well, may I ask if you saw him?"

The doctor eyed him very intently. "What's that to do with you?" he asked brusquely.

"Well, I told you I had been a detective once," replied Larose. He smiled. "And as a matter of fact I'm doing a bit of private detective work now."

"Oh, you are, are you?" commented the doctor frowningly. "Well, what do you want to find out?"

Larose had summed up the character of the American correctly, and realised that the latter was not a man to be bluffed into talking when he had no reason to say anything. He must be confided in, at any rate to a certain extent. So he at once proceeded to explain how the matter stood.

"The fact is, sir," he replied, "I have strong suspicions that everything is not as it should be up there. Indeed, of course in strict confidence, I believe Professor Bannister is not in the house at all, and that his place is being taken by an impostor."

The American elevated his eyebrows. "Oh, oh; then have you been up there?" he asked.

"Yes, the day before you were supposed to be coming. In fact, I left Wrack House very early upon the morning when you were due to arrive."

"And did you find the Professor in bed," asked the American grimly, "suffering from an acute attack of gout and waited upon by a bearded, one-eyed ruffian who was dosing him with port wine?"

Larose showed his undoubted surprise, but after a few moments laughed merrily. "No, sir," he said; "in my case the bearded ruffian, as you call him, was the Professor. He said he was the party who had written all those wonderful books."

The American now joined in the laugh. "Then they've tried to deceive us both," he said, "and a very clumsy business they made of it."

"But who was your Professor?" asked Larose, being quite sure, however, it had been Gauntry, but at the same time wanting Dr. Salter's assurance to that effect.

The American considered. "An educated man, in a way, quite shrewd up to a certain point, a man of the world but knowing absolutely nothing about science or medicine." He nodded. "A clever rogue but out if his depth nearly all the time he was talking to me." He frowned suddenly. "But I say, what did it mean, my friend? Was it a joke on Professor Bannister's part to prevent himself from being disturbed by strangers?"

Larose shook his head. "I'm afraid not, sir," he spoke solemnly. "I'm afraid Professor Bannister's dead."

"But you appall me!" exclaimed the American. "What do you mean? Speak plainly, man! You can trust me."

So then Larose, saying nothing, however, about foul play, took the publisher partly into his confidence, half an hour later leaving that gentleman in a very bewildered state of mind. He had got from him a description of the supposed invalid which tallied exactly with that of Gauntry.

"And you keep your eyes on the newspapers, sir," were Larose's parting words. He nodded significantly. "You may see something very interesting in them soon."

Just before three o'clock he was ushered into Dr. Methuen's consulting-room, finding that gentleman, notwithstanding the inconvenience put upon him, in a most amiable state of mind.

"Of course I had to see you, Mr. Larose," smiled the doctor. "I remember some of your exploits when at Scotland Yard, and have no doubt you have come now about the late Major Sampon."

"Yes, and I won't keep you long, sir," replied Larose quickly. "I spoke to Dr. Bain this morning, and he told me what the major was suffering from and that he had sent him on to you. Now all I want to know is, would you say the major was a perfectly sane man when he came to you last Monday week?"

For a long moment the doctor regarded Larose very thoughtfully. Then he said slowly, "You ask me a question to which it is difficult to give a precise answer. We are all well aware now of the profound influence exerted by diseases of the body upon the mind"—he shook his head—"and this disease had been sapping that poor man for a long time. Was he perfectly sane, you ask me—well"—he hesitated again—"I'll go so far as to say this. He was sane when he was with me in this room, but his general condition was such that he might have been on the very verge of a mental breakdown."

"Then you consider he was quite responsible for his actions when you saw him?" asked Larose rather disappointedly.

"Yes, yes, quite responsible," replied the doctor, "but still, as I tell you, his mental balance might have been just hovering over the precipice side." He frowned. "The verdict it was my unpleasant duty to pronounce was a great shock to him and he took it very badly. Indeed, as he sat there where you are sitting, his sanity might have suddenly given way, all in one single moment." He shrugged his shoulders. "Of course I couldn't tell that."

"But how did he take what you told him?"

"Oh, he became very angry!" replied the doctor. "He was furious that he should die so young and other people continue to enjoy life." He shook his head. "In fact it was in my mind then that he might become mental." He spoke curiously. "But why are you asking me all this?"

"Well, the very next day," said Larose, "he wrote a vile letter accusing himself of a dastardly crime and involving someone else in it."

"Burn it, burn it!" exclaimed the doctor warmly. "Take no notice of it! Let it be as if he had never written it." He smiled. "You see, Mr. Larose, I have been giving you the very guarded opinion of an individual who has been a practitioner of medicine for longer than forty years, and I had to be most precise in what I said, but if I spoke to you unprofessionally and as man to man, I should say," he raised his voice ever so little, "that Major Sampon was a nasty, unpleasant fellow, and that he left this consulting-room ripe for any spite and mischief against those who were in more fortunate health than he was." He rose to his feet. "Now, good-bye, I can't spare you a minute longer."

"Thank you very much, Doctor," said Larose. "You have told me just what I wanted to know. I am most grateful to you and I am so sorry I have been taking up your time."

"Not at all, not at all!" smiled the doctor, leading the way to the consulting-room door. "Very pleased to be of any service and I hope I have helped you."

But with his hand upon the door he stopped suddenly. "Oh, another interesting thing about that man! Do you know he made me change a 50 note to get my fee?"

"A 50 note!" exclaimed Larose, and his memory went surging violently back. "Have you still got it?" he asked excitedly.

"Certainly! I haven't changed it yet. I'm keeping it to give my daughter for a birthday present."

"Oh, do show it to me," said Larose eagerly. "I want the number badly, as we believe the major was robbed as well as murdered and very likely banknotes of considerable value were taken from him. Their numbers may be consecutive ones to the note you have."

"Most probably," nodded the doctor, unlocking a drawer and producing the 50 note, "as he took four of them out of his pocket and they all looked crisp and clean as if they had not been in circulation before. He said he had won them at the races the previous Saturday afternoon."

"Did he say who he'd got them from?" asked Larose, in great jubilation, and taking down the number.

"I think he mentioned Ike somebody, as he was assuring me they would be good ones because the bookmaker was a man of high reputation."

Larose returned to his hotel, a little tired with all his rushing about but very pleased so far with his day's work.

It had been arranged he should pick up Stone at six o'clock that evening and drive him down to Foxwold in his, Larose's, own car. They were to be followed by four plain-clothes men in a big police car. Certain preparations had been made and they were hoping to arrest the redoubtable Joe Carrabin without any fighting on the morrow.

The afternoon was hot and sultry and Larose thought a tepid bath would do him good. There was a bathroom en suite opening out of his bedroom and, as he leisurely undressed, he smiled happily to himself at the surprises both the brothers Carrabin might be getting in the course of the next few days.

"First Joe," he told himself, "and then the dear Henry, but I hope to goodness we don't find the wily Arnold Gauntry still up with brother Joe when we get there. We mustn't put the wind up him yet." He frowned. "It's not a bit of good to me his being nabbed for helping Joe to steal old Bannister's money. I want him on a charge of murder and until I can prove there's been murder done up there and, at least that he's connived at it, we must leave him alone." He drew in a deep breath. "Oh, what a thud I'll come if it turns out that the Professor has really gone away and just left Joe in charge. The woman, even, may be alive and well and back in her home in Cornwall!"

He braced himself up and shook his head. "No, no, everything points to there having been foul play and even if we can't prove Henry took part in it, his conniving at the crime will be perfectly clear." He thought for a moment. "Yes, I will phone Stone presently to get someone to ring up at a call office and make quite sure Gauntry, the rubber merchant, has returned to the city," and, all his clothes off now, he stepped into the bathroom and pulled to the door behind him.

And not half a minute afterwards the other door of the bedroom, that leading on to the corridor, opened stealthily for about a foot and the very astonished face of the man who was so much in his thoughts came peering round.

It had come about in this way.

A few minutes previously, Arnold Gauntry, happening to pass down the Haymarket, had caught sight of Larose and, greatly surprised at seeing him in town, had followed to see where he was going. Then, seeing him pass into the hotel with something of that indefinable manner in his walk, as of a person who has reached the end of his journey, and, moreover, seeing the hotel commissionaire smile at him as if he knew him well, he at once jumped to the conclusion that he was staying there.

Then immediately he was of two minds. On the one hand he did not want Larose to ask him any awkward questions about Professor Bannister and yet, on the other, he wanted to find out how it was Larose was now daring to appear in town again.

He was most curious to learn if Inspector Stone had found out anything more about the night-watchman to confirm his suspicions of the latter's guilt, and so made it safe for Larose to come out of hiding.

The two wishes struggled for the mastery in him and, finally, the first one prevailed and he decided to seek out Larose in the hotel and have a talk with him.

So he walked up the lounge and, addressing the girl at the reception desk, said brusquely, "Mr. Gilbert Larose, what number? I've just seen him come in. I'll go up. He's expecting me."

"Fifth floor, number twenty-nine, sir," replied the girl and, accordingly, he took the lift to that floor. Then approaching the door of number twenty-nine, at the end of a long and deserted corridor, he was about to rap upon the door with his knuckles when he saw it was not hitched but only pushed to.

For a moment he hesitated but, hearing no sound within, he opened the door wider to find the room empty and see clothes lying about upon the chairs. He now heard the loud splashing of water in the adjoining bathroom.

In a flash he realised exactly what had happened. Through inadvertence the bedroom door had been left unlatched and Larose was in the bathroom having a bath.

For a few seconds his inability to decide what to do next was positive agony to him. He could see the outline of what looked like a fat pocket-book in the breast-pocket of a jacket lying upon a chair and his fingers itched to get hold of it. The lure of big thefts or petty pilfering ran strongly in his blood, and the pocket-book was a temptation.

Larose was a wealthy man through his wife, and having so recently been in flight, it might contain hundreds, even thousands of pounds!

But was it worth the risk, he asked himself in a lightning thought, and then in another he came to the conclusion it was. He tip-toed forward and abstracted the pocket-book, darting quickly back to the door. Then more loud splashing continuing—Larose was evidently now turning on the shower—a gentle click followed, the door latched, and Gauntry had effectively covered his tracks.

He was sure Larose would now think either that his pocket had been picked or that the pocket-book had fallen out in the street.

With a great effort to exhibit no signs of haste, he proceeded out of the hotel and up to Piccadilly Circus before he took a taxi and was driven to his flat in Fitzroy Square.

Then in the privacy of his rooms, he opened the pocket-book to see what he had obtained by his theft and the foregoing of his conversation with Larose.

He was very disappointed. There were seven pounds in treasury notes, some postage stamps and visiting cards, a driving-licence, and a letter in an opened envelope. Then he took in to whom the envelope was addressed and, quickly abstracting the letter, he read through it with gaping mouth and startled eyes.

It was the letter Major Sampon had written to Sir George Almaine, confessing he had been Lady Almaine's lover.

Larose discovered the loss of his pocket-book within a very few minutes of coming out of the bathroom to resume his clothes. From his early days, all his life long he had trained his mind to register everything his eyes saw and it functioned in that way automatically. So now, when he made to put on his jacket his hand drew back suddenly and he frowned hard. He had not left his jacket like that! He was always most particular how he put down his clothes and now one of the sleeves was folded backwards in a crease! Immediately then he snatched up the jacket to find that his pocket-book was gone.

In a flash he sent his thoughts running back and he remembered hearing a click, the click of his door being closed he realised now, when he had been under the shower. Then someone had entered his room and taken the pocket-book, and he gritted his teeth in rage. He went out into the corridor but no one was there and, a thought coming into his mind, he proceeded down to the reception desk and enquired if any visitor had been sent up to his room.

But his good fortune was out there, as a fresh girl had just come on duty and he was informed that the other one would not be back until the following day. So he returned disappointedly and in rather a dejected frame of mind to his room.

In the meantime the man who was calling himself Bent had been having anything but a pleasant time. Arnold Gauntry had left about three o'clock and he had accompanied him in the car as far as the Big Drain, thinking that the walk back, short as it was, would do him good and shake up his liver.

Reaching the house and going into the yard, he found the two Alsatians had been fighting and Hitler had got a ghastly-looking wound by his throat, exposing part of the cartilage. Thereupon he had snatched up a stick to give Himmler a good hiding. But at the first blow the savage beast had sprung upon him and he had been thankful to escape into the house and bang the door to behind him. Then, infuriated by a nasty bite the dog had given him, on the arm, he had loaded the automatic pistol which Gauntry had given him and fired at Himmler through the kitchen window.

But although firing at such a close range, he was not much of a marksman. He had broken one of the dog's legs with the first shot but it had taken two more to kill him.

Returning into the yard to see what he could do for Hitler, he had found the animal breathing so painfully through his lacerated wind-pipe that he had thought it best to kill him too.

So there the dogs lay in a perfect welter of blood and it made him feel very sick. He never could bear the sight of blood and he went indoors again to have a stiff drink to make himself feel better.

He had several more stiff drinks afterwards and, in a half fuddled state, cut his hand badly in opening another bottle of whisky, with more blood dripping all about the kitchen floor.

He lay back in a big arm-chair all the evening and then, when it began to get dark, feeling altogether too shaky to attempt to light the lamp, he staggered upstairs to his bedroom and threw himself, just as he was, boots and all, upon the bed.

He soon went off into a drunken slumber but he did not sleep for very long, waking up suddenly about half-past ten in a muck sweat from the terror of a dreadful dream. It was just about the time when Larose was interviewing the old chemist in Bermondsey.

He had dreamt that he was lying, all trussed up upon the floor, with Larose fastening a rope round his neck. Professor Bannister was standing over him and smiling.

It was a dreadful dream and, cursing deeply, he jumped out of bed and barricaded his door with every thing that he could pull against it. Then, for the remaining part of the night, he alternately dozed lightly or kept starting up to listen for footsteps coming up the stairs. His eyes blinked fearfully into the darkness.

The relief was almost overwhelming when light began to appear in the room, and at last he sank into a heavy slumber which lasted for many hours.

It was nearly noon before he finally awoke to consciousness, feeling like the last thing in the world, and with his head so heavy that he wanted to hold it up with his hands.

But half a tumbler of neat whisky put some life into him and he went out into the yard. There the two great Alsatians lay, stiffened horribly in death and surrounded by ugly-looking, dried-up black pools.

It was a beautifully warm English summer day and, pulling himself together, he drew in deep breaths of the sunlit air.

He must get rid of the bodies. He couldn't leave them there. The heat would soon make them reek and, apart from that, they sickened him each time he looked at them. So he would take them away, a long distance from the house. He would drop them in the Big Drain below where he was accustomed to fish, so that they could not contaminate the water.

He drove his car out of the shed and, overcoming his repugnance, dragged the bodies off the ground and lashed them on to the luggage grid behind. He noticed then that Himmler had got a grass-seed sticking into one eyeball, at the corner, and he understood then what had made the beast more particularly savage than usual.

The exercise and a good souse over his head from the pump making him feel much better, he drove out of the yard in quite good spirits.

The dogs were dead! Well, what did it matter? He would have had to have shot them in any case when he went away because he couldn't have left them to prey upon the countryside! Wanting their usual feed of rabbits, they would soon have roamed over the Fens, taking their toll of lambs and sheep. Then an outcry would speedily have been raised and it would have been found out within a few days that no one was living in Wrack House.

That would have been the last thing he wanted. He intended to leave secretly and by night, and it might be months, even, before anyone would learn that he had gone. Then—and he guffawed hoarsely here—what a mystery it would be to everyone what had really happened to the renowned Professor Bannister of such world-wide fame! And the mystery would never be solved! Bannister, his man and the serving woman would just have vanished from all human sight, and their disappearance would be one of the great unsolved mysteries of smug, order-loving England.

He reached the place by the Big Drain where he was intending to topple in the Alsatians and, not wishing to handle the blood-fouled bodies more than he could help, he backed his car to the very edge of the bank, putting on the brakes so that the car should remain stationary.

But either the brake-linings were worn thin, or else his whisky-shaking hands had not pushed down the brake lever far enough, for the movement of his jumping out started the car moving, and in a matter of seconds it had run backwards and was toppling into the Big Drain.

Over it went, and with a resounding splash it fell into the muddy waters and disappeared. For a few moments the eddies swirled and widened, and then the Big Drain was left to guard its secret until the next big drought was to grip the lonely Fens.

For a long minute Bent did not seem to have taken in what had happened. He just stared hard and harder, as if he were very puzzled. Then a realisation of everything came to him and his face was convulsed in fury.

He clenched his hands, he stamped his feet, and he shouted out his curses at the very top of his voice. Then a panic seized him and he looked round and round, as if there were enemies on every side.

What in hell's name was he going to do now? How was he going to get his food? How would he get his letters and how could he post one to let his brother know the fix he was in?

But he calmed down presently and felt relief that, at any rate, he had some whisky left in the house. The thought of the strong spirit stirred him into action, and at an ambling run he returned to the house.

A stiff drink quickly made him regard things in a better light, and he laughed his horrible hoarse laugh. Things were not so very bad after all. There was enough food in the house to last him a long time and as for posting any letters, well, he would have to walk into the village in the dead of night when no one was about.

Of course, if he became Professor Bannister's man, Bent, again, he could go openly about wherever and whenever he wanted to but still—still, that idea continued to be unpleasing to him and, certainly, he would put it off for as long as be could.

He nodded confidently to himself. Well, there was no hurry and he could take his time to make up his mind what he would do.

He got himself a scratch meal and then for the rest of the day sat out in the sunshine in the yard, returning, however, into the house every now and then to get himself a spot of whisky. But he did not drink nearly so heavily as he had done the previous day.

The afternoon waned, the evening came slowly and then dusk began to fall. He dreaded the darkness for he could not forget his dreadful dream.

Again he lit no lamp, and before it had become quite dark he was up in his bedroom and had barricaded the door as before.

Strangely enough, he dropped to sleep quickly, but towards midnight awoke in the horrors of another dreadful dream. Larose was again putting a rope round his neck, but this time it was Mary Trescowthick who was standing over him. Her face was bloody, her hair was all dishevelled, and her eyes were full of reproach as she looked down at him.

He started up in terror and shouted loudly, "It's this cursed house which gives these dreams. It's haunted," and then emboldened that his cry had brought down no catastrophe upon him, he sprang out of bed and, by the faint light of the starlit night, tore away the barricade behind his door. He tramped down the stairs, still shouting loudly, and burst out through the kitchen door into the yard.

There the peace and calmness of the night soon calmed him. "But I'll never sleep inside again," he swore. He nodded assuringly to himself, "I'll bring a mattress down and sleep on the fenlands where the damned dreams won't come."

But not daring to go upstairs again in the darkness, he took some cushions and made himself a bed upon the grass about fifty yards away from the house, and so exhausted was he by his fright that be soon dropped into a fitful slumber again.

He woke up several times before the dawn came, but he had no more dreams and that confirmed him in his opinion that his sleep would be quite undisturbed as long as he was not under the roof of the house.

The next day, to give himself something to do, he went fishing in the dykes and obtained several eels. But the day was long and tedious and he was glad when darkness approached so that he could put his plan in operation and make a comfortable bed for himself right away from the house.

He did not, however, go very far, barely a hundred yards, and there, with a mattress tucked away among the big tussocks of coarse grass, and with a pillow and a blanket, he prepared to pass the night. He did not undress.

But though all was peace and quiet he could not sleep and lay for a long while staring up at the starlit sky. The night was quite warm.

At last he thought he must have just dozed off, when he was gradually awakened by the sounds of low voices very close to where he lay.

He was about to start up when he heard a voice which he recognised and he was instantly frozen into immobility. It was Larose speaking.

"Now, that's as near the house as we'd better go," he heard. "Joe Carrabin may sleep heavily when he's full of booze but those beastly dogs of his may hear the slightest sound. Whew! Doesn't this aniseed stink?"

"By Jove, it does!" came another voice. "We'll smell of it for days."

"Still, the dogs will pick it up directly they're let out," laughed Larose, "and they'll be a mile and more away when we come for Joe. Still, I expect we'll have to shoot them afterwards. They're as fierce and savage as wild animals. But let's clear off now and we'll be able to get a few hours sleep. Joe's not an early riser and I reckon if we all get here by eight o'clock it'll be soon enough."

The voices faded away and Joe Carrabin lay on like a dead man.

It was indeed several minutes before he could take in that the voices had been real and not part of another dream. Even then he might have doubted he had really heard them if his nostrils had not been now assailed by a pungent odour. It reminded him of cough lozenges and the sweets he used to suck when he was a boy. Yes, the smell was that of aniseed right enough and, of course—he actually found himself smiling—a trail of it had been laid to decoy the Alsatians away from the house.

Then, quite calmly and strangely enough without any sense of fear the full realisation of what had happened came home to him.

Somehow Larose, the one-time detective of Scotland Yard, had found out who he was. He had informed the police and a body of them were coming the next morning to arrest him. Of course, the charge would be the old one for which he had been wanted for getting on now for seven years, strangling that old Rampini woman to get her jewels.

A lot of hard thinking on the part of the recumbent Joe followed, quite clear thinking, too, and wholly unobscured by any alcoholic haze. He was no longer the whisky-sodden Bent, with no backbone and haunted by the bloodied ghost of an old woman. He was Joe Carrabin, the cunning and very resourceful outlaw with criminal blood running hot and strong within his veins. His dead mother had been jailed several times for shop-lifting, his father had been hanged and his clever brother Henry, the cleverest of the family, had climbed his way up to gentility by many acts of fraud, for which, however, he had never been caught.

So Joe now considered what he would do. He never gave it a thought that they were coming for him for anything to do with Professor Bannister. They had found out he was Joe Carrabin and they were just coming for him for that.

He was certainly in a bad way, with no car, and with his dreadful squinting eye which would give him away to the first person who saw him when his description was re-broadcast.

No, he wasn't going to ran away. He had had too much of that, six and a half years back. He wasn't going to give himself up either. He'd got a better plan than that. He would just hide in the least likely place where the damned police would look for him. He would remain where he was.

"Now that devil Larose said they'd come about eight o'clock, didn't he?" he muttered. "Splendid, then I've got plenty of time," and he rose up quite leisurely and, carrying his bedding with him, went very quietly back into the house. The moon had now risen and was giving plenty of light.

He collected two out of the three loaves in the breadpan, two tins of corned beef, a jar of dripping and an empty two gallon petrol tin which he filled with water. All these he carried into an empty, open shed which in days gone by had been used as a stable, and which had once possessed a door. Over a small part of the front of the shed ran a sort of loft, but it was so narrow and occupied so little space that, unless one came right into the shed, it would not be noticed that any such loft was there. It had no ladder leading up to it but one reached it by climbing up successively upon two narrow shelves running along the whole length of one side of the shed.

Upon this loft he was going to hide, making sure it would not be searched. It had the added advantage of a small window which opened on to the yard, exactly opposite the kitchen door. He also carried up some blankets and a pillow. Then, after throwing about the things in his bedroom to suggest a hurried get-away, and wiping out the kitchen sink most carefully until it was perfectly dry, he betook himself up into the loft and lay down to get some sleep.

He had reached a state of fatalism when he didn't really seem to mind what happened but, with the loaded automatic in his pocket, he was intending to make a fight of it if necessary, and, if the worse came to the worst, finally blow out his own brains to avoid arrest. He would be quite happy, he told himself, if he could first get the hated Larose. The Carrabins had always been a united family and an imagined wrong against one member of them would be always faithfully repaid by the others.

Notwithstanding his new condition of iron nerve, it was a long time before he got to sleep, but sleep came with the first rays of morning light and he did not wake until roused by the loud sounding of a motor horn.

Raising himself upon one elbow, he looked through the dirty window pane and smiled grimly at what he saw below.

A light delivery van had drawn up in the yard and a youngish looking man in a light dustcoat and a rakish trilby was jumping out. The man had got a half-smoked cigarette drooping down from one corner of his mouth.

He approached the back door and rapped loudly with his knuckles. Then, waiting for someone to appear, he turned his back to the door and hummed the first bars of a popular tune. No one answering his knock, after about half a minute he rapped again. Then he rapped on the kitchen window and called out loudly, "Hi, hi, does Professor Bannister live here? I've got a parcel for him."

But no one still appearing, he tried the handle of the door and, finding the door unlocked, opened it and put his head inside. He shouted "Hi, hi," again, but then withdrew his head and, walking round the house, glanced into the sheds to see if anyone was about, returning, however, in a few moments to the yard.

Finally, he became bolder and entered the house, all the time continuing his shouting of "Hi, hi." He walked through the kitchen and along the passage looking in every room, the doors of which were all open wide, as he passed. Next, he went up the stairs still calling out all the time. Then he reappeared in the yard and announced sibilantly to the, apparently, untenanted delivery van, "There's no one here and it looks darned like as if the bird has flown. In a darned hurry, too," he added, "as the clothes in one bedroom are all scattered about anyhow."

The back of the delivery van opened with a jerk and Larose, Inspector Stone and three plain-clothes men jumped out.

"Damnation," swore Larose, with, his face about a couple of feet long, "he's bolted right enough! His car's gone!"

Stone laughed good-naturedly. "So you weren't so clever as you thought, Gilbert. He got the wind up somehow."

"But perhaps he's out in the grounds," suggested one of the plainclothes men, London born and whose idea was that houses in the country were always surrounded by grounds.

"Grounds be blowed!" laughed Stone. "You great ninny, the grounds here are umpteen square miles of open fenland!" He started suddenly and pointed to the big dark patches on the ground at the other side of the yard. "Gosh, that's blood!" His eyes opened very wide. "What's been happening here?"

Larose darted across to the patches and, after a quick moment's inspection, picked up the big axe. "He killed the dogs before he went," he exclaimed breathlessly. "Look at the blood and hairs on this axe!"

They all crowded into the house and, after another search had been made, a council of war was held.

"He went the day before yesterday, I should say," announced Stone. "At any rate, he killed the dogs then, as that blood is at least thirty-six hours old. Then the sink is as dry as a bone, and the bit of soap, too." He nodded grimly. "Yes, he's had time to get almost anywhere in England, Scotland or Wales by now."

"Never mind, we'll get him in the end," said Larose cheerfully. He indicated two of the plainclothes men. "Well, I'll stay on here with King and Casey as arranged. King will go back with you to the Big Drain and pick up my car."

Stone rose to his feet with a big sigh. "And I'll have to go back to the Chief with my tail between my legs." He made a grimace at Larose. "Your stock's falling, my boy, and if you don't find any corpses it'll go lower still."

Half an hour later Larose and the two men who had been left with him were having a belated breakfast of sandwiches in the kitchen of Wrack House. Larose was quite cheerful.

"Now you quite understand what we've got to do!" he said. "I reckon he buried them around the last week in February and we've got to find where the ground is a bit raised up somewhere, or an oblong patch where the grass looks different from everywhere else." He grinned. "We've got about a thousand acres to go over, but still the job won't be nearly so difficult as it seems. I've got a pretty good idea in which direction to go and we shall be helped by seeing some empty cartridge cases lying about."

"But do you really think, sir," asked one of the men, "that he fired any cartridges over a grave?"

"I do," nodded Larose, "and I feel more confident than ever now, since we've come here, that there are bodies buried. I sold him a full box of twenty five cartridges and, as you saw, there are seven gone from it now. That means to me that he's fired them over a grave." He laughed. "Seven and thirteen are always the particular numbers which superstitious people either love or fear."

"Well, he must be darned superstitious," laughed back the man, "to do a silly thing like that."

"He is darned superstitious," said Larose. "For a minute or two he was as terrified as a little child would have been when that girl made out she had seen a ghost. He was white as death and shivering as if he was in an ague. But come on now, let's start. We may have a long tramp before us, but at any rate it'll be in the fresh air."

So Joe, up in his loft, saw them set out and he frowned uneasily when he saw one of them was carrying a big garden fork. Then, his eyes sweeping round upon the wide expanse of fenland on every side, he became amused and tossed his head contemptuously. Soon seeing them far specks in the distance, he got down to stretch his legs and proceeded leisurely into the house. He inspected curiously what they had brought with them and ate a small slice of some tasty-looking brawn which he found wrapped up in a piece of sandwich paper.

"By Hell, but if I'd only got some poison in the house," he muttered, "wouldn't I just play up with it!"

He looked at a whisky bottle upon one of the shelves and his mouth watered. It was his last bottle and three parts full. He hesitated a moment, and then poured out a good stiff drink in a tumbler. He felt it do him good and had another one. Then, suddenly realising what a fall his two drinks had made to the level of the whisky in the bottle, after a moment's consideration, he poured in a sufficient quantity of water to restore the level to that it had been before he had taken any of the spirit.

He was fearing the sharp-eyed Larose might by chance have happened to take note of how much whisky the bottle had contained.

He swore angrily here. No, Larose would do nothing by chance. Everything he did would be of set purpose. Although he could not for the life of him think how he done it, he, Larose, had found him out and he was now respecting him accordingly.

Rinsing and drying the cup most carefully, he returned to the loft. He was now feeling quite hungry, and opening one of the tins of corned beef, ate half of its contents, along with some slices of bread, thickly spread over with dripping. The savoury smell of the fat speedily attracted the flies and he cursed roundly as he drove them off, realising now that he would have to keep all his eatables covered up with something as long as he was in the loft.

His meal over, and his food under the blanket, he lay down and soon dropped off to sleep.

Larose and his assistants had a very disappointing day, returning to the house about six, thoroughly worn out. They had expected the search would be an arduous one but, forgetting they were none of them accustomed to much walking, had not reckoned how stiff and weary they would be.

Larose had brought a small flask of brandy with him and that had been shared equally between the three of them. But it had only been a very little drink and, tired as they were, they looked rather enviously at the bottle of whisky upon the shelf.

Larose had noticed it that morning when they had first entered the house and subconsciously he had wondered if that were the last of the bottles he had bought for the man he had been supposed to regard then as the Professor.

"Well, boys," he said, noting the glances the others were casting upon the whisky, "what about it? A little would do us good, wouldn't it?" He laughed as he took down the bottle. "The spoils of war, you know."

"But do you think it will be all right?" asked one of the men. "He won't have put poison in it!"

"I shouldn't think so," returned Larose, "at any rate I'll taste it first."

He got some upon his finger and put it to his lips. Then he put a little in a teaspoon and sipped it. "Seems quite all right," he said, holding up the bottle to the fight, "but devilish weak. Why, I'd swear it has been watered."

However, they each had a tot and then, their evening meal finished, took themselves off to the rooms upstairs, where they each requisitioned a bed. Larose chose the one where Joe Carrabin had been wont to sleep, with the laughing intimation to the others that perhaps by so doing he would dream of Joe and learn where he was.

The following morning he was first up, and about eight o'clock was down in the kitchen and had lit the primus to boil some water. It had been a hot night and there was every prospect of its being a very hot day. They had all slept badly until the early morning and that accounted for them having awakened so late.

Waiting for the kettle to boil, he stood looking out idly through the kitchen window on to the yard and the sheds. Yes, it certainly was going to be a gruelling day for it was hot even now and there were a lot of flies about.

Then, subconsciously at first, he took in the number of flies buzzing about, in and out through the broken window high up on the shed just opposite. Before he had gone to sleep Joe had covered his jar of dripping with the end of his blanket, but in the night he had kicked the blanket off, and the flies were now having a good feast.

Larose was interested and, his mind at that moment very full of thoughts about dead bodies, he wondered what was now of such interest to the flies he was watching. He would go and see.

So he crossed leisurely over the yard and went into the shed, or rather he started to go in, for he suddenly pulled himself up sharply, with a look of incredulous amazement upon his face.

He had heard the unmistakable sounds of loud snoring just above his head!

But it was only for two seconds that he stood still and then, with his heart beating furiously, he was tip-toeing back into the house. The two detectives were now in the kitchen.

"Quick," he hissed in a hoarse whisper, "he's up there in the loft on the top of that shed. He's fast asleep."

"What, Joe Carrabin?" gasped one of the men.

"Yes, almost for certain! Someone's snoring up there and it's sure to be Joe. Quick, not a sound!"

So it came about not a half a minute later that Joe was awakened by a heavy body falling upon him, followed, so it seemed, by a dozen pairs of hands gripping him all over. He started to struggle furiously but soon realised it was hopeless, with two men upon his chest pinioning his arms and a third coiling a length of rope round his imprisoned legs.

"Keep quiet, Joe," ordered Larose, "and you won't get hurt. The game's up and you can't do anything."

So the murderer of poor old Mrs. Rampini, his legs tied and his arms fastened to his sides by another length of rope, was lowered down into the shed and then carried into the house.

There, he was bound more scientifically and propped up in the big armchair in the kitchen, where he had always sat in his impersonation of the master of the house.

And all the time he had never uttered a word. His eyes had glared ferociously, his face had sweated until the perspiration had dripped off him, and his chest had heaved convulsively, but there had been no abuse. He had not sworn or uttered a single oath.

Of special purpose, Larose sent off both his men posthaste to Foxwold to ring up Inspector Stone. He wanted to get them out of the way, so that he could have a talk with Joe Carrabin without any witnesses. He had long since grasped that members of the Carrabin family would always be loyal to one another, but still if he dealt tactfully with Joe he thought he might get something out of him without the latter being aware of it.

So when they were alone he wiped the perspiration off the man's face and offered him a cigarette. But he got no response, only a stony glare. Then he suggested a spot of whisky, but the glare was still there, only not quite so stony now.

Accordingly, he put a good two inches of the watered whisky in a glass and held it up to Joe's lips. The latter drank it eagerly and his expression became a little less unpleasant.

Larose shook his head. "But you shouldn't have watered that whisky, Joe. Of course you came in yesterday when we were out and had a spot and then put water in the bottle so that it shouldn't be noticed. But, without my actually realising it, you made me suspicious and put all my senses on the alert. I thought there was something peculiar somewhere, and then, when I saw those flies buzzing round that little window, I went into the shed at once to see what they were doing there and—I heard you snoring."

He laughed as if it were a good joke. "But you were clever, very clever, Joe. It was really smart of you to think of remaining on here and it took us all in. It was just chance that we found you, those flies coming after your dripping and attracting my attention. Ah, that dripping was another of your mistakes!"

Joe Carrabin made no comment and Larose went on. "But it was all chance that you've been caught. It was chance that brought me down here and I saw at once you weren't Professor Bannister, because I'd been in Cambridge that very morning and another Professor I know had been telling me about him. He is a much older man than you, for one thing. So I became curious and wanted to know who you were. Then that wonderful game you told me you won against the City of London Club's third man gave the whole game away. They sent me to the Bermondsey Club and an old chemist, Tomkins I think his name was, told me who you were. He remembered the game quite well and said you were a grand player." He laughed, "All very simple, wasn't it?"

"Damn you!" swore Joe deeply. "I'd throttle you if I could."

"Yes, as you did that old woman," nodded Larose. He nodded again. "You'll hang for that, Joe."

"Not I," scoffed Joe. "They can't prove I did it."

"Oh, can't they? What about the statement of that butler whom your Dad shot?"

"It won't hold water. He made a mistake. I was only putting the old woman on the bed when he saw me. She had fainted. Then, when I was out of the room she came to and Dad tried to stop her. But he squeezed her too hard and she snuffed out."

Larose spoke very solemnly. "But there are other things against you now, Joe." He paused a moment. "You've murdered Bannister and Mary Trescowthick."

Joe burst into a loud guffaw. "You just prove it." He seemed most indignant. "Why, Bannister went away six months and more ago and left me in full charge of everything. He sacked the Trescowthick woman before he went."

"Oh, and where has he gone to?" asked Larose sarcastically.

"Somewhere in China, I think, to a place called Tibet," replied Joe with a fine assumption of carelessness. "He said he was going to find out how some old witch doctors there could manage to live a hundred and fifty years." He shrugged his shoulders. "That's all I know."

Larose shook his head. "You've buried him out here on the Fens, Joe, as well as poor Mary Trescowthick," he spoke very sternly, "and we're going to find the bodies."

Joe laughed loudly. "Oh, that's why you went out this morning with gardening tools is it? I noticed the fork and thought you were going to look for mushrooms."

Larose shook his head again. "It won't wash, Joe! There's a grave out somewhere on these Fens. I'm sure of it."

"Then you find it," sneered Joe. He seemed amused. "You can't lay any charge of murder until you produce the bodies. But give us another drop of whisky." He grinned. "I don't suppose now I'll be getting too much of it in the next few years."

"But in a few weeks' time you'll be having that one stiff drink more," commented Larose significantly, "just after the chaplain's had his little talk with you one morning—and that, Joe, will be the last drink you'll ever have."

"Oh, will it?" jeered Joe defiantly. "Well, we'll see."

"So you'd far better confess everything about the Professor and poor old Mary," went on Larose. "If you don't"—he nodded darkly—"then Mary will go on haunting you when you're in the cells!"

"But you told me the other day," grinned Joe triumphantly, "that ghosts only haunted the place where the dead 'uns had once lived," and Larose felt rather foolish that he, Larose, had over-reached himself that time.

Stone appeared not very much later than noon, having broken all traffic regulations in his anxiety to arrive before Joe Carrabin had managed to evade them again.

He had a short conversation with Larose and it was arranged what should be given out to the Press. Above all things, they did not want to let the man passing as Arnold Gauntry learn that anything was known of his brother's impersonation of Professor Bannister, until more time had been given to discover any bodies if they had really been buried as Larose was so confidently assuming.

Of course, the news of Joe Carrabin's arrest could not be kept secret beyond a few hours, as he would have to be brought before the magistrates, at any rate the next day, and committed for trial.

So it was agreed the Press should be informed that the much wanted Joe Carrabin, the Dencross murderer, for whose arrest a warrant had been issued six and a half years ago, had been caught at last. He had been recognised, when being driven in a car by a young lady as they were passing through Brandon some weeks ago, by a man who had known him once in Bermondsey. The man had informed the police of his suspicions, but it had been with great difficulty that the police had been able to trace the car. Then it had been found that Carrabin was in the employ of the great Professor Bannister, on his land in the heart of the Norfolk Fens.

"That'll give nothing away, Gilbert," nodded Stone, "and you can go on playing about here as long as you like." He smiled. "If it were not you who were so certain that he's murdered and buried those two, I would say it was all bunk and that you'll have all your trouble for nothing. Still"—and his smile became a broad grin—"as it's you who are on the job I expect a couple of corpses, whosoever's they are, will be produced to prove something. Good-bye, my lad, and good luck to you."

CHAPTER VIII.—SECRET SERVICE

Dr. Revire did not look too pleased when, very full up with appointments the next morning but one, the card of Arnold Gauntry was handed to him by the nurse-attendant, with the message that the former had not come to see him professionally, but wanted a few minutes' private conversation with him as soon as possible.

The doctor had met Gauntry upon two occasions at Avon Court but had not formed a good opinion of him and, indeed, had rather wondered how he came to be a friend of Sir George Almaine.

So he frowned now as he glanced down at the card. "Tell him I'm very busy," he said, "and ask him please to call again some other day."

But the nurse-attendant came back immediately. "He says he must see you, Doctor," she said. "He insists the matter is very urgent."

"All right, then," nodded the doctor, "but he'll have to wait some time. I shan't see him out of his turn."

So, to Gauntry's great disgust, he was kept waiting longer than an hour and it had not improved his temper when at last he was shown into the consulting-room. Perhaps sensing that the doctor would not be inclined to be too friendly with him, he did not offer to shake hands, He, however, sat himself down in the chair to which Dr. Revire had politely waved him.

"I won't waste any time, Dr. Revire," he said sharply. "I'll come straight to the point." He spoke almost as if he was addressing an inferior. "I am quite aware you have more interests than your professional ones, and that you are working for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics." He raised his hand protestingly. "No, no, you needn't be at all uneasy," He nodded. "I am working for them myself, and quite a lot of the information you supply passes through my hands."

Dr. Revire's face was an impassive mask, and its expression did not admit or deny anything. It almost seemed he was not interested.

Gauntry went on. "Two years ago when upon a holiday in Turkestan, you became friendly with another traveller and you crossed the Caspian sea with him in the steamer Tamur. Upon your arrival in Baku he became ill and for three weeks you were both his doctor and nurse. He turned out to be a high Soviet official and through his persuasion you were induced to work for the Soviet Republic when you returned to London. You have unique opportunities of obtaining information, as among your patients are many moving in diplomatic circles and——"

Dr. Revire raised his hand. "Why all this? As there are no witnesses I can admit it all."

"But it was necessary so that there should be perfect confidence between us," said Gauntry.

The doctor looked at his watch. "Well, what have you come to me about?" he asked rather sharply.

"The late Major Sampon," said Gauntry very slowly, "was high up in the British Secret Service." He nodded impressively. "He was trailing you!"

The doctor's eyes opened very wide. He was certainly interested now. "Ah," he exclaimed, "I'm not surprised now you tell me!" He nodded. "He rather wanted to push a friendship on me."

"And he is dead now!" went on Gauntry significantly.

Dr. Revire started. "You mean——" he began.

"I mean nothing," broke in Gauntry sharply. "I just stated a fact." He nodded. "But it's a good thing he's gone. He was becoming a menace to us both and if I hadn't dealt with him Valmar would have seen to it he could have done our cause no more harm."

The doctor's face was white and he spoke a little hoarsely. "To supply political information and gather details of armaments and pass on scraps of conversation is one thing," he said, "but,"——he shook his head emphatically—"the taking of life is repellent to me."

"But if a state of war were on," countered Gauntry scoffingly, "you would be hanged without mercy if you were found out, and the same with me. To put it plainly we are both spies."

Dr. Revire frowned. "Necessary evils!" he commented. "Someone has to do the work." He spoke with some dignity. "Besides, I am Russian born, and I am only helping my country. Added to that, I am heart and soul a believer in the great ideals of Lenin. I am wholly in accord with what he stood for." His frown deepened. "But I tell you frankly I do not approve of what those in authority in my country are doing now, and it is in my mind to help them no further until their policy shows a great change."

Gauntry sneered, "But with all your love of these great ideals, you have been taking money for the information you have supplied."

"No, I have not been taking it," retorted the doctor sharply. "Where it has been necessary to pay for the information I have obtained, every penny which has come to me I have passed on to my informants." He scoffed. "I have no need of getting money that way. I make plenty in my profession." His face hardened suddenly. "But you shock me by what you tell me." He recoiled in his chair. "Do you mean to say you killed Major Sampon?"

"I say nothing," replied Gauntry coldly. "He is dead and that's an end to it." He turned the conversation. "Now what I've come to you about is this." For a moment he seemed to hesitate and then he went on firmly and decisively, "That killing has got to be fixed on someone and Gilbert Larose deserves it most. He has worked several times for the British Secret Service, and, to my own knowledge, has got two German agents put away. Besides, he's always been most ready with his gun and has shot several people himself when he thought the law couldn't get them in the proper way." He nodded. "Yes, he's the one who should hang for Sampon's death."

Dr. Revire looked puzzled. "I don't quite understand what you mean."

Gauntry smiled. "But it's very simple. When the adjourned inquest comes on, your evidence, as well as mine, must weigh strongly against him. You must ring up that Inspector Flower without any delay and say it comes back to you now that you did hear voices when Larose was out on the verandah and you think one of them belonged to him. Yes, Flower's the best man to ring up. He's a spiteful little beast and will jump at what you tell him."

Gauntry was in many ways a shrewd man, but he was a poor judge of character, particularly so of those more educated or cleverer than himself. His mother had been born in Nuremberg of German parents and he had inherited from her that fatal miscalculation of what was in other people's minds. He was no psychologist and it was his view that self-interest would buy anything.

So now he was profoundly astonished at the way Dr. Revire received his suggestion. The latter's eyes blazed with wrath, he sprang to his feet and for the moment it seemed as if he were actually about to resort to physical violence. But he quickly took a grip of himself again and spoke icily and very quietly.

"Will you please clear out, Mr. Gauntry?" he said. "Your presence nauseates me." In spite of his self-control his anger rose. "You contemptible fool, aren't you a better judge of men than that?" he scoffed. "I may be a spy, but I'm not a perjurer and in my ordinary dealings I try to behave as a gentleman." He waved towards the door. "Go on, let yourself out."

Gauntry's face was suffused with fury and, no coward himself, he wished the doctor had attempted to resort to violence. But he forced up a smile which was evil and threatening. "Very well, Doctor," he said. "You know the consequences. You will be exposed to the authorities. It will be done anonymously, quite easily and without exposing anyone else, least of all myself, to risk."

The doctor shook his head ironically. "No, Mr. Gauntry, you are quite harmless and cannot injure me in any way." He went on quickly, "I am not quite a fool and I have never laid myself open to being uncovered by the very alert counter-espionage people of this country, You say a lot of the information I have supplied has passed through your hands. Well, if you look back it will perhaps come home to you as an unpleasant shock that you do not even know what my handwriting is like."

He spoke confidently. "Not only have I never put pen or pencil to paper and everything I have passed on has been done by word of mouth, but also, I have never met any other agent here in this house. It has always been when I could not by any possibility have been trailed."

He screwed up his face and moved his lips as if he had an unpleasant taste in his mouth. "Now you just get out!" and he pressed violently upon the bell-push on his desk.

The nurse-attendant at once appeared and Gauntry rose to his feet. "Good-day to you, Doctor," he said with the utmost pleasantness. "We'll see who's right," and he bowed himself out as if they were the best of friends.

Dr. Revire attended to the rest of his patients that day with no outward traces of the mental storm which was inwardly disturbing him. Notwithstanding the bold front he had put on before Gauntry, he had been rendered very uneasy by the latter's visit.

It was not of himself he was thinking, for he felt quite safe there, but it was of Larose, and he was determined that, as far as he could prevent it, no evidence should be faked against the one-time detective who had impressed him as being both a gentleman and a very likeable fellow.

He was in two minds. He was not going to see a gross injustice done, but at the same time he did not want to strike a blow at the espionage system of his own country.

Still, he reflected, Gauntry had just exposed himself as a man dangerous to any organisation and, with his violent methods of carrying on his work, it was most probable he would sooner or later get laid by the heels and then bring down much better men than he with him.

Dr. Revire at last decided what he would do.

His consulting hours over, he drove out into the suburbs as far as Muswell Hill. There he looked out for and found a roadside telephone call-box. He entered and rang up Scotland Yard, asking to be put on to someone in authority in the Political Department.

"Well, what do you want?" asked a gruff voice at length, "and who's speaking?"

"It doesn't matter who I am," replied the doctor in a hoarse whisper which effectively disguised his voice, "but I want to furnish some information."

"Then what is it?"

"Keep your eye on Arnold Gauntry, a dealer in rubber in the city, and who lives privately in a flat in Fitzroy Square. You'll find his exact addresses in the telephone directory."

"What's he done?"

The doctor spoke with an effort. "He's a Soviet agent and also"—he spoke as if much more willingly—"just make some enquiries about him in relation to that murder of Major Sampon. He knew the major was in the Secret Service and was not very far from him when he was murdered. Mind what you're up to, though, for Gauntry is pretty sharp and a difficult man to be caught tripping."

"Oh, please give us a bit more information than that!" pleaded the police official, but the receiver had been hung up and the line was dead.

The news was at once reported to the Chief Commissioner, and the frown already upon his face deepened. Less than an hour previously, Stone had been with him relating their failure to find Joe Carrabin that morning. He now sent for Stone and handed him the phone message which had been written down, watching the expression upon the latter's face as he read it.

"Gosh," exclaimed Stone, his eyes like saucers, "then Mr. Larose is not the only one who thinks this Gauntry murdered the major!" He read through the message again. "And this man is an agent of the Soviet, too! What beasts there were among that party that night!"

"It is probable," suggested the Chief, "that Gauntry and this Dr. Revire managed the killing between them!"

"Of course, of course they did!" agreed Stone at once, but then he frowned and half shook his head. "Still, the doctor didn't strike me as that sort of man. He seemed a gentleman and of quite a different class from the Carrabin fellow." He regarded his Chief intently. "Is it quite proved, sir, that the doctor is a Soviet agent?"

"No, it isn't," replied the Chief. "The counter-espionage people admit they have been suspecting him for a long time, but they have never succeeded in fastening anything on him."

"Good," exclaimed Stone, "then I'm almost certain he's not working with that other man."

The Chief Commissioner lifted the receiver off the telephone upon his desk. "McGubbin," he said laconically. "I want him at once," and very quickly there was a knock upon the door and a tall lanky raw-boned Scotsman appeared.

He had weak, watery blue eyes and they blinked as if he had just got out of bed and was still sleepy. He looked anything but the competent man he was, the head inspector working for Scotland Yard in conjunction with the counter-espionage in Whitehall.

Without a word, the Chief handed him the slip of paper which he had just shown to Stone. The Scotsman read it through twice and then looked up at his superior and just exclaimed "Ah!"

"Have you ever heard of this Arnold Gauntry before?" asked the Chief.

"Noo," replied the Scotsman and then for a long moment he looked down at the paper again.

"Then you can't say whether there's anything in it?" frowned the Chief.

McGubbin spoke slowly after the manner of one who always weighed his words most carefully. "Sir," he said, "on May the sixteenth and seventeenth last our Detective Ironson was trailing the Russian jeweller, Rubinoff, but he lost him both times at the comer of this Swallow Street in Lothbury. He said he disappeared so quickly that he didn't see into which building he had gone and he was not able to find out. Then if you remember, on the night of May the twentieth," he spoke very solemnly, "Ironson was picked up dead in Fitzroy Square. He had been pistolled in the head and the pistol used had undoubtedly had a silencer on, because no one had heard the shot." He nodded. "Yes, I think there's a lot in this bit of information. It's very valuable."

"Good God," exclaimed the Chief to Stone, "what a climax things seem to be leading up to!" He turned to the big Scotsman. "We know something about this fellow already, and we believe his real name is Carrabin. We have not been trailing him because we think he can be picked up any time we want him."

"But I'll shadow him now," nodded the Scotsman, "and we'll know as much about him as his mother did before he could even toddle."

In the meantime Gauntry had been carrying on his legitimate business in the city that afternoon in a very unpleasant frame of mind. Judging all people by his own standard, he had been quite certain Dr. Revire would have had no compunction in agreeing to pile up evidence against Larose and, consequently, he was furious at the rebuff he had received in that quarter.

But he had not played all the cards in his hand yet, he told himself, and he nodded grimly when he thought of the hold the letter which he had taken from Larose gave him over the pretty Lady Almaine. Certainly, he could put the screw on there.

It never entered into his mind for one moment that the letter was not stating the exact truth. Of course Lady Almaine and the major had been lovers! She was just the alert and clever kind of woman to be deceiving her husband, and the latter was just the heavy unsuspicious type of man to be easily hood-winked.

He felt pretty confident, too, that he knew how Larose had got hold of the letter. Of course Inspector Stone was over-awed by the fellow having so much money now, and he had allowed him to meddle in their trying to find out who had killed the major. So no doubt he had been the one to go through the dead man's papers. There, he had come across this letter addressed to Sir George and with his usual way of poking his nose into everyone's business, he had opened it and read what was inside.

Then, of course, he had kept it to himself, perhaps, thinking that one day he would do a line with Lady Almaine himself. He looked a man who would be fond of girls and, particularly so, if they were as pretty as the little Joyce.

Gauntry made up his mind to press on with the matter at once and go up to Avon Court the next morning. Then, suddenly, he began to wonder which of the two, Sir George, or his wife, it would work out the better to approach, for he was realising now how really damaging the letter made things look for the baronet if he had really been aware of what was going on between his wife and the major.

He thought everything over for a long while, but in the end came to the conclusion it would be easier to deal with Lady Almaine. Sir George might prove very stubborn and at all costs refuse to do as he, Gauntry, suggested.

Then the question came up as to how he could manage to get speech with Lady Almaine alone, but the difficulty there was quickly got over.

Ringing up Sir George, with the pretence of learning how they all were at Avon Court, the baronet told him, with some annoyance, that he had to go into the country on business connected with some property he owned, and would be away from home the whole day.

So the coast being all clear, the next morning he drove up to Hampstead and was soon alone with Lady Almaine in her sitting-room. It struck him how extremely pretty she looked, and it came to him as quite an agreeable thought that, as a further price for his silence about the very compromising letter, it was just possible she might be an agreeable conquest for him when he had leisure to consider such matters.

"Now, Lady Almaine," he said, speaking very seriously, "I come about a very delicate matter and I realise I must take you fully into a confidence which I am sure you will respect, as the giving of it involves a certain danger to me!"

"Good gracious," exclaimed Joyce, "what on earth are you going to tell me?" Then, a thought striking her, she asked quickly, "But was it my husband you really wanted to see?"

"No, certainly not!" smiled Gauntry. "He told me last night over the phone he would be away and that is what made me come up now. It was urgent that I should speak to you alone, with no one else present."

Lady Almaine looked just a little bit uneasy. She had never had a particular liking for Gauntry, and she sensed a certain familiarity in his manner now which rather grated upon her.

He went on. "Now, of course, it will be no surprise to you when I mention that Major Sampon was a member of the British Secret Service and——"

"But it is a great surprise to me!" exclaimed Lady Almaine. She looked very puzzled. "Are you sure?"

Her surprise was undoubtedly genuine and Gauntry's opinion of the deceased major rose. Evidently the latter had not allowed his love affairs to interfere with his work, and like a wise man he had kept the women out of it.

He laughed. "Of course, I'm sure! We worked together. I'm in the Secret Service too!"

"You!" she exclaimed, "but he never told me he knew you. I didn't think you'd ever met until the other night."

Gauntry seemed amused. "We've known each other for years, but it's a rule of life with us in the service to keep ourselves as much apart from each other as possible." He lowered his voice mysteriously. "We were watching Mr. Gilbert Larose. He's working on behalf of Russia and sending all the news he can about our army and navy and air force to Moscow."

"But I don't believe it!" exclaimed Lady Almaine hotly. "Mr. Larose is a gentleman and wouldn't be a traitor to his country!"

Gauntry spoke as if with great reluctance. "He's not only that but"—his voice hardened and he spoke with the utmost sternness—"he's a murderer as well." He added very solemnly, "It was he who killed Major Sampon."

Lady Almaine started to her feet. "I don't believe it," she cried passionately. "It's unbelievable. I certainly don't know Mr. Larose very well, but anyone can see he's a man of kind nature and he would never harm an innocent man."

Gauntry shrugged his shoulders. "But Major Sampon wasn't innocent in his eyes. He was tracking him down and he had come to learn it. It would have been only a matter of days and the great Larose would have been arrested."

Lady Almaine was breathing hard. "But I can't believe it. No, I won't." She snapped angrily at him, "But why have you come to tell me all this?"

Gauntry was very stern. "Because this Larose must be punished for his crime. He must not get off because he once belonged to the police. He has powerful friends at Scotland Yard and if we are not careful he will get out of it. So we must arrange that the evidence is strong against him and you must do your share."

"I?" exclaimed Lady Almaine. "Why should I?"

Gauntry regarded her with steely eyes. "You must back me up that you too heard voices when he went out on to the verandah to look for the major, and it sounded as if they were quarrelling. You must say that, although you didn't recall it when Inspector Flower was questioning you that night, you can remember it distinctly now."

She looked furiously at him. "You are an evil man and I shall do nothing of the sort," she cried, "and I shall tell Mr. Larose how you are plotting against him."

Gauntry smiled sneeringly as he put his hand in his breast pocket. "But I don't think you will, my lady, when you've read this." He held out the envelope containing the letter Major Sampon had written to Sir George. "Do you recognise this writing?"

She just glanced carelessly at the envelope. "Certainly, I do! It's Major Sampon's." She spoke angrily. "But what are you doing with a letter addressed to my husband?"

He did not reply, but, taking out the letter and folding it across so that she could read only the first few lines, held it towards her. "No, I'm not going to give it you. It's not going out of my hands. But just you read how it starts."

Slowly, and with her face all puckered up in a frown, the started to read—

"'My dear George, It is terrible for me to have to write this letter. I shall be dead when it reaches you, for I cannot endure life any more. But I dare not die with my unconfessed guilt upon me.'"

She looked up into his face with a startled expression. "But what does it mean?" she asked, with her voice shaking.

Gauntry smiled. "Is it his handwriting? You are quite sure? You are positive about it?"

She nodded. "Quite sure! Positive! I know his handwriting as well as I do my own."

"Then finish it!" exclaimed Gauntry, triumphantly, as he exposed the whole sheet. "But you're not to snatch. So keep your hands down."

Very slowly she read through the letter. Her face whitened, her lips parted and her breath came very quickly. But she did not speak until she had finished. Then, looking up, she said tremblingly but very quietly, "I was mistaken. It is not Major Sampon's handwriting." She pointed with scorn. "He never wrote that."

Gauntry smiled unpleasantly. "Oh, he didn't, didn't he? But you said you were sure it was his handwriting. You were positive about it." He shook his head contemptuously. "No, little Joyce, you and he were lovers and, with this evidence before them, no one will have the slightest doubt about it." He put the letter back in his pocket and tried to assume a kindly manner. "Still, it will be a secret between you and me, and no one need ever know anything about it," He nodded solemnly. "If you do as I tell you I will give you the letter and you can destroy it."

"Where did you get it from?" she asked, in a voice she did not recognise as her own.

"He gave it me to give to Sir George if anything ever happened to him," replied Gauntry. He shrugged his shoulders. "Of course, I hadn't the remotest idea what was in it and just locked it up in my safe. I knew he lived, as all we Secret Service agents do, a dangerous life, and I only thought he was finalising some instructions to one of his greatest friends, something, perhaps, about his estate, in case anything should happen to him."

"And why did you open it?" asked Lady Almaine, in a voice as cold as ice.

Gauntry looked just a little bit embarrassed and hesitated before answering. "Well," he said at length, "under the circumstances in which my friend met his death, I thought it my duty to go through every paper he had left in my charge." He nodded. "That letter wasn't the only one. I have several things to do for him which I regard as sacred duties."

A short silence followed. Lady Almaine had sunk back in the chair, looking very drawn and tired.

Gauntry went on. "Well, it's very simple what I want you to do. Just ring up Inspector Flower and say that now you come to think of it you did hear voices on the verandah that night and that they were those of Major Sampon and Mr. Larose. You can add that it sounded as if they were quarrelling." He smiled, but with a trace of menace in his tones. "Now you understand? You know what to do?"

She was quite calm now. She nodded. "Yes, I shall tell my husband."

Gauntry spoke as if more her friend than her enemy. "Oh, I should certainly not do that," he said, persuasively, "for even if by some miracle you get him to believe for the moment that the letter is a forgery, he will not believe it for long, and all his life doubt will always be with him." He smiled evilly. "And I don't believe he'll think it's a forgery. Remember it says you and Major Sampon met much more often than he thought, and the proof of that will be easy. He has only to speak to that housekeeper and she'll tell him you used to come there, perhaps three and four times a week." There was a horrible note in his laugh. "I'm sure he didn't know that."

Lady Almaine felt a cold shiver run down her spine. She felt herself indeed caught in the toils. They had been intending to go to Italy next Christmas and, all unbeknown to her husband and as a great surprise for him, she had been having lessons in Italian from Major Sampon.

Gauntry saw her obvious fear and pressed home his advantage. "And another thing," he went on, warningly, "This letter makes things look rather black against Sir George. If he knew, as it suggests, what were your relations with Sampon"—he nodded—"then it is quite feasible he went out and struck him down himself, not necessarily intending to kill him, but as a punishment for the fellow's treachery."

Joyce's heart stood still. She loved her husband heart and soul, almost revering him for the lovely little son he had given her. She had difficulty in restraining her tears.

Gauntry now exhibited a lot of tact. He saw she was on the point of breaking down, and judged it was best to leave her. He did not want a wailing and weeping woman on his hands, who might in her terror consent to do what he had urged her and then, under cross-examination, break down and confess to the conspiracy. He wanted one who would be strong and reliant in her perjury and fight like a lioness for her honour.

Well, he had administered the poison and he would now leave it to do its dreadful work.

He rose to his feet. "But I must be going now and you can just ring up in a day or two and you can tell me you're willing to do what I suggest."

"And if I'm not willing," she asked and for all the world she could not keep the shaking out of her voice.

He spoke very sternly. "Then I shall just have to consider what I ought to do. I shall either show the letter to Sir George and try to induce him for his own safety to back me up, or else"—he shrugged his shoulders—"I shall just hand the letter over to the police and it will become public property. That's all." And he let himself out of the door and regained his waiting car in the drive.

He thought quite a lot about Joyce Almaine in the ensuing hours and many times he ruminated pleasantly on the hold he had over a very pretty girl. She was certainly charming to look at and, with her guilty secret in his possession, he should be able to do what he liked with her. He had not had a love-affair for many years but, now, approaching middle age, he thought he could enjoy every delicious thrill of one, with the ardour of a young man, coupled with the restraint of maturer age. It would be like sipping some rare and delicious wine, very slowly.

No, he would certainly not give her back that letter, whatever evidence she gave against the much hated Larose. He would hold it over her like a scourge, ready to fall upon her white shoulders—he almost shivered in delightful anticipation here—until he had grown tired of her.

But these ruminations and this happy frame of mind came, suddenly, to an abrupt termination.

Leaving his office, with his day's work over, about half past four he heard a newsboy crying his papers in Lothbury!

What was that he heard? Some familiar chord of memory was stirred in him by a name! The memory was an unpleasant one, too.

Then he almost snatched a paper from the newsboy's hands. "The Dencross Murderer Trapped at Last!" he read. "Arrest of Joe Carrabin, who strangled Mrs. Rampini."

A dreadful mist rose before his eyes and the letters of the newsprint were all blurred and running together.

There was a basement cafe nearby, where he often went for light meals, and with shaking legs he made his way down the stairs, and ordered a cup of coffee. There, in the cool and quiet, and with the roar of the traffic muffled down, he read his paper.

There was really not very much in it about his brother, but what there was struck terror into his heart, so much so that he feared the other people in the cafe might notice his agitation.

He read that Joe had been recognised by a Bermondsey acquaintance of many years ago, a couple of weeks or so previously when he had been seen motoring through the little village of Brandon, in Suffolk. But the police had had great difficulty in trailing the car. At last, however, they had learnt it belonged to the well-known Professor Bannister who resided in a lonely house, deep among the Norfolk Fens.

They had, accordingly, raided the house and, taking Carrabin completely by surprise, had arrested him without any difficulty, after having, however, to shoot his two savage dogs.

It appeared he had been living there in the employ of Professor Bannister for upwards of six years. The Professor had been away from home when Carrabin had been arrested and it was not known where be was, or when he would return. But then the great man was known to be of most eccentric character, keeping all his movements secret, and avoiding all publicity as much as he possibly could. Still, when he eventually came back, no doubt it would be a very great surprise to him to learn that the man he had left behind to manage his affairs was a notorious character, over whose head a warrant had been hanging for all those years.

Gauntry breathed a sigh of relief when he had read all there was about his brother's arrest.

Apparently, the Professor's absence was not considered in any way suspicious, and the police were evidently pushing no enquiries there. So he, Gauntry, was quite safe and there was no need for him to take any precautions for his own safety! Of course, his brother would say nothing! No Carrabin would ever give another away, if any harm would come from it!

But Joe must have all the help that could be given him. He must have the best legal advice possible. The crime for which he was charged was more than six years old, and it was just possible he might be able to escape capital punishment.

Accordingly, Gauntry taxied at once to the chambers of one of the best criminal lawyers, and was fortunate to find him in. He said he wanted arrangements made for the defence of Joseph Carrabin, but explained he did not want it to become known who was financing him.

The solicitor nodded understandingly. The criminal classes were a good source of income to him and he was often approached by friends and relatives of arrested men who were not anxious for the limelight and did not want their interest broadcast. It was nothing to him who they were as long as they paid his fees and he generally found they were well provided with money.

So it came about that that same evening the sullen Joe was visited by a frowning, portly man with big penetrating eyes and big bushy eyebrows.

Joe gave his version of the death of the judge's widow, much the same as that he had given to Larose, and the solicitor listened gravely but without comment. With his knowledge of men and women he knew he was in the presence of a consummate liar, but he had expected that and it did not surprise him.

"Well, we'll brief Wickham Adders to defend you," he said in parting, "and, if anyone can get you off he will," and with a curt nod to Joe he took his departure.

Joe was well satisfied. He had heard of this Wickham Adders, who for many years had been practising in the Criminal Courts, and knew that no advocate could better bully or cajole a hesitating and uncertain jury than he. It was held, generally, that through his persuasion many an accused had been loosed back into Society, when by rights he should have been handed over to the hangman.

The next day, Gauntry, pursuing his usual business in the city, suddenly became uneasy. He thought he was being followed.

He was always wary about that, but now he became more than usually suspicious. It was always his habit to cast occasional glances over his shoulder and to stop and look in shop windows and, by their reflection, note who was passing behind him. He would often, too, turn round suddenly and retrace his steps for fifty yards or so to determine if he saw the same face, twice.

That morning, however, something different had struck him. He had had to go out to call upon some clients, as indeed he often had to do, and, uneasy about his brother's arrest, he had turned and retraced his steps more times than usual.

Then, twice something had happened. He had certainly not recognised any face he had seen before, but he had met two men in his walkings back, on each occasion a different one, who, as if studiously and of set purpose, had not taken the slightest notice of him. Although passing within a couple of paces of him, they had stared fixedly straight before them in what, he thought, was a most unnatural manner. He was sure their attitudes had been strained. He had noted, too, that they were both tall men. They had struck him somehow as being of the same type, and their tightly buttoned coats suggested business to him. Yet, they had been walking leisurely, as if time were of no consequence to them.

He had been rather worried about this all day long, and it had prevented him from concentrating his thoughts properly upon an important rubber deal. Another thing, too, had annoyed him. That afternoon he had been expecting a visit from one of his most particular agents who had been sent upon an important mission to Portsmouth. He was the man, Valmar, who, as he had mentioned to Dr. Revire, would have ultimately dealt with Major Sampon, if he himself had not done so. Valmar was always most punctilious in keeping his appointments and yet he had neither sent any messages nor telephoned to explain his non-appearance. So, he was now wondering if anything could have happened to him.

He returned to his flat in Fitzroy Square just before ten that night and, meeting the caretaker in the hall, he was sure the latter had looked curiously at him. Then he cursed himself for all his suspicions and told himself it was all nerves. Of course, he had not been followed, Valmar had been detained for some special reason and the caretaker had been just the same as usual. He had always thought this caretaker had inquisitive eyes, but the fool couldn't help it.

The next day, however, he went to his office with his camera; he had always been a keen amateur photographer, and the camera was an expensive one. Then, at quarter of an hour intervals during the morning, from the window of his private room, he took six snaps of people passing in the street below. Summoning one of his clerks when the last one had been taken, he ordered him to go out at once to a Kodak shop he named and get all the films developed. They were to be enlarged and, at no matter what expense, everything was to be done straight away. He was to call for them at four o'clock.

Gauntry was now getting really worried, for not only was there no news of Valmar, but another agent was now late in reporting. This latter had a relative who worked in the submarine sheds on the Medway and it was a valuable connection for the Soviet.

Shortly after four o'clock the man he had sent to the Kodak Company returned with the pictures and, pinning them down upon his desk, under a big magnifying glass, Gauntry proceeded to examine them.

Then very soon a horrible feeling of nausea began to take possession of him, for in every picture among the busy throng of people, who had been then passing up the street, he picked three identical men. They were all tall, they looked like detectives, and moreover, worst of all, he recognised one of them as being the very man who had not looked at him when he had passed him the previous day.

The sweat poured out upon his forehead in little beads. He was uncovered at last! They were after him and probably only waiting for other Soviet agents to visit him and be drawn into the net as well!

But worse was to follow, for the telephone upon his desk rang almost immediately afterwards and a voice he did not know asked if he would like a demonstration of a new car, the Wanderer, which had been put on the market. This would-be seller of a car gave his name as Harvey and stated he would be free to call round any time.

Gauntry's face went almost green with horror, for it was the very worst message he could have received. Such wording of a message was only to be used in the greatest of emergencies and had been sent, he knew, in a roundabout way from the Soviet Embassy itself. It was an imperative order for him to burn all incriminating papers immediately, and escape, in any way he could, with the least possible delay.

This shock, stunning as it had been for the moment, was quickly over, and the beating of his heart slowing down, he considered the exact position he was in.

He had been considering himself so safe that he was caught now at a great disadvantage. He had ample funds in two banks, but they were both closed now and, apart from that, he would not have dared to approach them lest any withdrawal of a large sum might have precipitated the catastrophe. He could, however, lay hands upon enough ready money to get him out of the country and, indeed, much more than that if he could manage to elude the men who he was quite certain were now shadowing him.

One thing, too, gave him a certain amount of confidence. He was quite sure now that it was not intended that he should be arrested at once. For the moment the authorities were only keeping in close touch with him so that he should not escape. But any flurried action on his part, any betraying of the fact that he knew they were after him, and then the blow would fall instantly.

And the danger of it was that someone, even in his own office, might be spying upon him. Three of his six clerks had been with him only a short time and he could not be sure of them. Indeed, he could be sure of only one of his staff, the one he had sent for the photographs, as the latter was a worker for the Soviet as well.

He summoned the man at once into his room. "Look here, Harl," he said, speaking in a whisper. "I believe I'm being watched and may have to go into hiding. But they can have nothing against you and you'll be quite safe. I shall go at my usual time or, perhaps, a little earlier. But you stay behind after the others have gone and burn any scrap of paper in that safe. I dare not do it because"—he nodded in the direction of the outer office—"one of them in there may smell the burning paper and give a signal to those who're perhaps waiting outside. They may be on the watch for the slightest indication that I know they're after me and then they'll rush in at once. But I'm sure it's only me they're after. You understand?"

The man nodded back. "All right, I'll make a clean sweep of everything before I leave. Don't you worry," and he shook hands with Gauntry and wished him good luck.

So a few minutes later, Gauntry walked leisurely through his offices, stopped in the street to light a cigarette and then, taking a taxi, was driven to his club, the Brougham in North Audley Street. It was a very select club, whose members were mostly staid and well-to-do business men, who played bridge for small points between half-past four and seven every day. It was the last place in the world where you would expect to find anyone of anti-British and unpatriotic activities.

Next, Gauntry dined at a good restaurant, partaking of cocktails, a large bottle of champagne, and quite a number of liqueur brandies. He lingered over his meal and did not arrive home until after half-past nine. He was driven there in a taxi and, indeed, took so long in fumbling in his pocket for the fare and seemed so unsteady on his legs that it might almost have been thought by any person watching him that he was slightly the worse for liquor.

He stumbled up to his flat and, after much banging about, his lights went out and perfect quietude in his rooms followed.

"He's good for the night," remarked one lounger in the square, sidling up to another, "but still, orders are that one of us must remain here. So I'll stop until two and then you can relieve me until six," and the man he addressed disappeared in the direction of Tottenham Court Road.

But if the watchers had thought Gauntry was asleep they were very much mistaken. He was wide awake, and his head was as clear as if he had not taken a drop of alcohol that evening.

He was very busy, too, and his movements were like lightning. He had changed into a dark lounge suit, and was busy sorting out some papers which he took out from a locked suit-case. He took only a few of these and, making them into a small packet, thrust them carefully into one of the side pockets of his jacket.

Then, donning a cap which he pulled low down over his forehead, he let himself out of his flat and tip-toed softly down the stairs. It was now a quarter past two and he guessed rightly that the caretaker had gone for the night.

He passed right down to the basement of the building and unbolting the door at the back, let himself out as softly as a cat and crept up the steps into a small yard level with the ground floor.

Then there was not the slightest hesitation about what he did. He climbed over into the neighbouring yard, into the yard beyond that, and finally into the third yard. This last one belonged to a small private hospital. He had been an inmate of this hospital about three months previously when he had sprained his ankle badly and his medical man had insisted he should not remain without attendance in his flat.

He was expecting that all the houses in that side of the square would be built much on the same plan and reckoned he would have no difficulty in finding his way to the front door. He saw there were lights still on and, if he should meet anyone, was prepared with the excuse that he had climbed over into their yard looking for a parrot of his which had escaped. Being known to the nurses and the maids, he was confident his excuse would be accepted without suspicion.

As he had anticipated, he was able to make his way without any difficulty to the front door. He met no one, although he heard voices and laughter in some of the rooms he passed. He let himself out quietly and, pulling the door to behind him, passed out into the square. He walked in the direction opposite to that of his own building and was soon proceeding briskly down the Euston Road. He felt quite safe now and was confident he would get away.

Working as a secret agent for a Foreign Power, he knew possible danger was always never very far away and, accordingly, he was at all events prepared in one way for the contingency which had now arisen. He knew where a car could be procured, night or day, with all charges being rendered to the Soviet Embassy.

So he proceeded to a small garage in one of the streets behind King's Cross station, kept by a man who traded in used cars and who, when he thought it safe, was not averse to dealing with stolen ones as well.

Here, explaining from where he came, he was speedily supplied with a serviceable, if shabby-looking car and, three-quarters of an hour after he had left his flat, was travelling at a good pace eastwards out of London.

Now, for the twentieth time, he considered how it had come about that the avalanche had descended so suddenly upon him. The Moscow-born Valmar had probably been caught, and other minor agents had probably been mopped up as well; but he felt sure somehow, as far as he himself was concerned, the crisis had been precipitated by Joyce Almaine.

Possibly, in terror at the position in which she found herself with her guilty intrigue exposed, she had taken a bold course, as the lesser of two evils, and directly after he had left her had rung up Inspector Stone to help her.

She would probably have told him everything which had taken place at the interview.

Then Stone would have been furious that faked evidence had been sought after against his great friend, Larose. He would have known, too, it was a lie that Larose was a Russian spy and he would have soon found out that he, Gauntry, was not, as he had stated, working for the British Secret Service.

Gauntry cursed here. He had made a bad slip in telling her that Major Sampon was working for the Intelligence Department, as, immediately, they would be most suspicious how he had come to learn it. That would have instantly brought him, Gauntry, into their orbit, and their suspicions once having been aroused—he shrugged his shoulders—anything might have been found out.

Gauntry gritted his teeth viciously. Well, anyhow, he could vent his spite against the woman. He had brought the letter with him and before he left the country he would post it to her husband. That would pay her out.

It was a fine, starlit night and, directly he was well out of London, he speeded up his car as fast as it would go. He had a lot to do before dawn.

CHAPTER IX.—THE SECRET OF THE FENS

In the meantime Larose and his two helpers had spent two very arduous and disappointing, if nevertheless they had been healthy, days. Theoretically, it certainly had not seemed a matter of great labour for three men thoroughly to explore even as large an acreage of land as one thousand acres, but in practice it was a very different thing.

The grass was in so many places so coarse and long that it would wholly mask any slight elevation of the ground, and to look for empty cartridge cases meant nearly always pushing aside the grass, tuft by tuft, with the hands.

Larose had thought hopefully that proceeding in the direction Joe Carrabin had taken him, when supposedly going after duck that morning, would have led to some quick discovery. But he had soon realised that the slight elevation, near the bank of the nearly two-mile-long dyke along which they had walked, gave a view of a very wide vista of fenland and was not going to be of any help.

Still the three of them, walking slowly and spread out with a few yards between them, persevered, with the sickening thought, however, always at the back of their minds that after all there might be no bodies buried anywhere and that they were just wasting their time.

They started out each morning about eight o'clock and, taking their mid-day meal with them, did not return home until seven.

On the third day when they had begun working about a mile and a half away from the house, things went on much the same as on the two preceding days until about five o'clock. Then Larose announced that he was going to knock off and proceed to his home, Carmel Abbey, which was distant less than an hour's run. He would stay the night, he said, and on the morrow bring back some much more tasty provisions than upon which they had hitherto been regaling themselves.

"And I'll be back early, boys," he went on to the two detectives, "by eight o'clock at the latest. But don't you stop until the usual time." He smiled. "You may be very close now to the very spot where the bodies are."

So he left them to themselves and, about half an hour afterwards, they saw his car in the distance speeding along in the direction of the Big Drain.

"Well, what about it?" laughed one of them, by the name of King, a shrewd-looking Cockney. "Shall we have a sleep, Casey?"

"No, we'll stick at it," grinned the other, who was also a Cockney, but whose name, Patrick Casey, suggested that he was of Irish stock. "No, we'll keep going for another hour." He nodded in the direction of the now fast-disappearing car. "He's a decent chap, the guv'nor, and we'll do our best for him." He nodded again. "This means a lot to him, although I don't quite understand how. A good many people would like to think he had a hand in that Sampon murder himself." He nodded a third time. "I've heard whisperings, and you must have heard them, too, that if it hadn't been for old Stone, Flower would have arrested him there and then that night in Hampstead."

So the search was renewed with the same thoroughness as if Larose had been there, and another hour went by. Then Casey flopped down among some big tussocks. "Oh, aren't my poor legs tired!" he cried, and he pushed the tussocks aside to make his position more comfortable.

But in an instant he had sprung to his feet again and, holding out something in his hand to his companion, was staring at him with startled eyes. He had picked up an empty cartridge shell, and it was bright and new as if it had only lain for a few days where he had found it.

A few moments' silence followed and then King gave a big whoop. "Gosh, gosh," he cried, "then Larose was right after all."

"Steady, steady," admonished Casey, "this may mean nothing. It may be the only one here," but in spite of his doubtful tones, his face was flushed and excited.

And the excitement was not abated when, in less than a couple of minutes, four more cartridge cases were found within a few yards of where the first one had been picked up.

Then the responsibility of their calling sobered down the two men. They had both been in the Force for many years and it had not been by chance that Stone had selected them to help Larose. They were shrewd and intelligent men and they soon showed the stuff they were made of.

"Now Casey," said King, "a couple of blankets would cover every inch of this ground where we've picked up these cases, so we can assume he stood within a few yards of here. Then, Joe is a right-handed man, so every time he broke that old gun of his to get out the empty cartridges he took them out with his right hand and flung them to the right."

"One moment," said Casey. "I was wondering in which direction he was facing when he fired the gun, but of course he would have had his back to the way from which he'd come, his back to the house, I mean. He wouldn't have walked round the place where he'd buried anything before he'd started shooting."

A few moments' quick glancing round and then their eyes fell upon a patch of grass different from that anywhere else. The tussocks were taller and thicker and had a bright colour. The two men looked significantly at each other.

"It's had nourishment," nodded Casey grimly. He grinned. "Joe must have been surprised at what a good crop had come up instead of the bare patch he'd been expecting."

Then dismay seized them. They had not got the garden-fork with them. Tired of carrying it upon such a hot day, they had left it sticking up in the ground half a mile and more away.

But they were too eager to wait while they went back to fetch it, and King began pulling up the tussocks, while Casey attacked the earth underneath with his big clasp knife.

They worked, however, for only a very short time and then Casey started back as if he had been bitten by an adder for, in a hole he had dug barely six inches into the ground, he had uncovered the toe part of a much mildewed boot. He wiped the perspiration from his forehead.

"I think that clinches it," he said hoarsely. "I'll go back and fetch that fork."

"No, no," cried King at once, "we'll leave it until the guv'nor's here to-morrow morning. It's nearly seven o'clock now and we can't take the remains away if we dig them up. No, I vote we leave them." His face lit up with enthusiasm. "Good old Larose, it'll be one of the happiest moments of his life!" He whistled. "Whew, but what an imagination he's got to think any bodies would be here!"

"But wait a minute," said Casey. "We'll see if they're both here," and he began knifing up the soil parallel to the part of the boot he had uncovered. The blade of his knife soon caught in something and, reaching down, he dragged up for a few inches what looked like a piece of a woman's stocking.

The two grimaced at each other and, pressing back the earth they had disturbed, without a word started to walk back to the house.

It was not until they were indoors that either of them spoke. Then King said, "We really ought to walk into the village and phone up the Yard."

"No, I won't hear of it," returned Casey instantly, "I'm too dog-tired to walk another yard and"—he made the pretence of shuddering—"if murder's been done in this house I'm not going to remain here by myself while you're away." He nodded. "My dad and mum came from Galway, and they're just as much afraid of ghosts as poor Joe was. No, we've done enough for to-day and deserved a rest. Tarnation, man, it's a ten-mile walk there and back to the village! Besides"—and he nodded again, but more vehemently this time—"if anyone should be phoned up it's Mr. Larose, and we don't know his phone number. Carmel Abbey may be anywhere in Norfolk."

"But we could easily find out," said King. He smiled. "Still, we'll leave it as a pleasant surprise for him when he comes to-morrow morning."

Notwithstanding that it was their daily life to move among the after-scenes of violence and that dead men and women coming to bloody ends were no novelty to them, something of awe was in the very bones of the two men as they sat on in the kitchen that night after their meal.

They were not accustomed to the silence of the countryside and they thought uneasily of the wide, lonely wastes about the old house, and the long miles which separated them from other human beings. They missed the noise of the traffic and the stirring of the great city which never slept.

They sat up talking until quite late, both unwilling, although they would neither of them have admitted it, to go upstairs to bed. At last, however, about half-past ten, they carried up the lamp to a big bedroom they were sharing, and in a few minutes the house was wrapped in darkness and in silence. Casey had seen to it most particularly that both the doors were bolted and they had no thought of their being disturbed during the night.

At the very moment, however, when they put out their light, Gauntry was making all speed along the Romford Road, his destination being the very house in which they were sleeping, and his objective the desk in Professor Bannister's room.

Ethel Bannister had spoken to the best of her knowledge, but she had not been correct when she had told Larose that the man who was impersonating her uncle had no place in which to hide anything private away.

On the contrary, he had a place and, at all events as far as she was concerned, a perfectly effective one. It was a so-called secret drawer in the very old-fashioned desk at which Professor Bannister had been wont to write.

Its secrecy, however, would not have baffled anyone who was looking for it for five minutes, as the space it took up was suspiciously obtrusive under the pigeon holes. Still, it had served its purpose with the Professor and in it he had kept a thousand pounds' worth of bonds to bearer as well as nearly a hundred pounds in treasury notes of small dimensions. When Joe Carrabin, as he had often chuckled to himself, had come into the property, he had left the bonds and notes there, in case he ever had to get away in a hurry which, however, he was not for one moment expecting.

So Gauntry, having upon his visit to the lawyer handed over a substantial cheque to provide for his brother's defence, was now going to annex Joe's nest-egg for his own pressing needs.

He was reckoning confidently that Wrack House would be now locked up and empty, but for all that he was taking no chances and so, arriving at the Big Drain about three o'clock in the morning, left his car there and proceeded the last half mile on foot.

Casey was sleeping badly. Although his work as a detective had developed him into a practical level-headed man, upon occasions his Irish blood ran strong within him and the fancies and superstitions so prevalent among the people of the Galway hills were now taking their hold upon him.

So his slumbers were light and troubled and it was no wonder a slight noise from one of the rooms below awoke him with a start.

He leant up upon one elbow and listened. Yes, there was no doubt the sounds were not part of his dreams. He could hear most distinctly a low grating noise and, his teeth chattering, he slid hurriedly out of bed and tip-toed over to his colleague. "Hist," he whispered when he had awakened him, "that darned ghost's come back! I can hear her in the room below."

King had all his senses on the alert in an instant, and he heard the noise, too. "Nonsense, you big fool," he whispered back sharply, "ghosts don't make noises. It's someone trying to break into the house," and in a second he was out of bed, too, and by the faint starlight illuminating the room, groping for his trousers.

"But put your shoes on," he ordered. "If you've got bare feet you know you can never grapple properly with a man. He'll stamp on your toes." He grinned as he braced up his trousers like lightning, "Gosh, what a place we've come to! It's nothing but one surprise after another."

They groped their way downstairs by the spare use of an electric torch, flashing the light backwards so that it should not herald their coming. Arriving at the study door, which was wide open, they peered cautiously round, just in time to see a man lifting the lower sash of the window of the room. As he had expected, Gauntry had found the doors locked, and so had effected an entrance through the window. He had found the bolt too stiff to move and so had cut through it with the blade of a hack-saw. He stepped into the room, not bothering much about the noise he made. He was quite confident the house was empty.

The two detectives remained where they were, waiting to see what he was going to do next. Not knowing whether he were armed or not, they were not intending to rush him but were all ready to pounce upon him directly he came within reach.

But he made no movement to come their way. Instead, he walked over to the desk, and, throwing back the rolltop, by the light of an electric torch began fumbling at the back. A click followed, a drawer was pulled back and there came a rustling of papers.

Then Casey, in his eagerness to lose nothing of what was going on, precipitated a catastrophe. He had bent forward too far and, in an effort to recover himself, he stumbled.

Gauntry heard him and instantly flashed his torch in the direction from which the sound had come, at once showing up the white faces of the two watching men.

King was the first to take in that they had been seen and with a cry "Hands up," he hurled himself in the direction of the torch and the man behind it. But Gauntry was almost as quick as he was and, whipping an automatic out of his pocket, without the fraction of a second's hesitation, fired point-blank at him.

But the excitements of the day and the long motor ride had made his hand unsteady and, although King was then only a few paces away, he missed him altogether. Casey, however, uttered a hoarse cry and toppled to the floor.

Then before Gauntry had time to fire again King was upon him and with the impetus of his fierce rush, had knocked him over backwards. He crashed down heavily and, his bead striking a corner of the desk, he was instantly rendered unconscious.

King was on top of him almost as quickly as he had fallen, but at once realised what had happened and that for the moment, at all events, he was helpless. He picked up the pistol, however, and then darted back to Casey. His comrade's face was covered with blood and King thought with a dreadful pang that he had been hit in the forehead. But, after a short inspection by the light of the torch he uttered a fervent "Thank Heaven!" The bullet had almost missed him, just grazing the side of his head, and he was not even unconscious.

"It's all right, old man," King said reassuringly. "Another twentieth of an inch and you wouldn't have been hit at all. It's just cut the skin. But keep where you are for a minute." He jerked his head in the direction where Gauntry lay. "That devil's stunned, but I'll truss him up in case he comes to."

So he tore a tablecloth to pieces and tied Gauntry both at his ankles and his wrists, being very interested when he was doing it as to what manner of man the burglar was. To his surprise, he saw the man was well-dressed, with smart collar and tie, and that his shoes were expensive looking. Also, he reckoned that the wrist watch he took off to make his tying the more effective must have cost at least twenty pounds.

Gauntry disposed of for the moment, he lit a lamp and, helping Casey on to the sofa, proceeded to bathe his wound. It was a very superficial one and, bandaged up, Casey soon felt much better.

Next King went back again to Gauntry and, taking everything out of his pockets, made a little pile of their contents upon a small table. He whistled when he came across three 50 banknotes pinned into one of his top waistcoat pockets with a stout safety pin. Finally, the dawn beginning to break, he carried Gauntry into an adjoining room and, laying him upon a settee there, doused his head and face over with cold water. Gauntry was now beginning to come to, and blinked his eyes with much perplexity at the face he saw bending over him. He drank a long drink of water and seemed altogether to be recovering his senses so quickly that King thought it advisable to secure him with more lengths of tablecloth to the settee before he left him.

About seven o'clock King heard the sounds of a motor car and met Larose as he was coming into the yard.

"Whose car is that by the Big Drain?" asked Larose instantly. "Has anyone come on here?"

"Certainly, sir," smiled the man, "a city gentleman who dropped in through the study window during the night. He evidently thought the house was empty and used his gun on us when he found it was not," and then he went on to tell Larose all that had happened.

Larose's face was the picture of astonishment. "But what on earth did he come to a lonely old house like this for?" he asked.

"Oh, for some bonds and notes which were in the desk," replied King. He nodded. "They seem worth a tidy bit of money."

"Bonds and notes!" exclaimed Larose. Then a thought flashed through him and he rapped out, "What's he like?"

"A gentleman," said King, "nicely dressed and all that. If the pocket-book which I took off him is his own, from the visiting-cards inside he's a Mr. Arnold Gauntry."

Larose gasped and could only get out his words in jerks. "I'll go in and see him," he said, striding quickly towards the door. "It seems incredible but——"

"Wait a minute, sir," urged King, interposing himself between Larose and the door. "I've something else to tell you as well," and he blurted out with great delight, "We've found those bodies, two of them, a man's and a woman's. We found them last night," and then, for the second time within those few minutes, Larose could hardly believe his ears.

"This'll mean promotion for both of you chaps," he said enthusiastically, shaking King warmly by the hand, "besides a good money present for you which I'll see myself you get. But now I'll go and see this man. Where have you put him?"

"In the first room on the right up the passage, sir. He's trussed up and you'll find him looking very disagreeable. He seems quite all right now, although he's not spoken a word."

Larose went into the little room, half fearing he would see a stranger. But no, it was the man he had known as Gauntry, right enough, although looking very undignified, tied round with strips of tablecloth.

"Hullo!" exclaimed Larose pleasantly. "How are you, Mr. Gauntry?"

Gauntry smiled and replied in an equally pleasant tone, "Quite well, thank you, Mr. Larose, except that they've tied these knots too tightly and I'd like a cup of tea. I'm very thirsty."

"All right," nodded Larose, "you shall have it, in a minute or two," and he went into the study to see what Gauntry had come after in the desk. King came with him, while Casey all smiles now and quite himself again, had gone into the kitchen to make some tea. Larose noted the bonds to bearer and the substantial bundle of Treasury notes. Then his eyes fell upon the little pile of things which had been taken from Gauntry's pockets and put upon the table. He was about to pick them up and see what they were, when his hand drew back and he suppressed a start, for he had seen among them the letter which Sampon had written to Sir George. Apart from the handwriting, so well remembered now, he knew it by the paper and shape of the envelope and by one of the corners of the envelope being turned up at the bottom.

"God, the letter about that poor woman!" he murmured to himself. "How on earth did that get here?"

"I haven't taken any inventory or even looked through them yet," said King.

Larose saw his chance. "Well, you go at once and get some brown paper and wrap everything up. You'll find some in the cupboard in the kitchen," and then, the man turning to comply with his request, he whipped up the fatal letter and pushed it in his pocket.

"Oh, wait a minute," he went on. "Perhaps you'd better make an inventory first. I'll be helping Casey with the breakfast. Still, get the brown paper."

"All right, sir," said the man coming back, "I'll do it at once." He seemed doubtful. "But what am I to do with these 50 notes?" and he pointed to them, folded up among the papers on the table.

"50 notes!" exclaimed Larose. "Where did you find them?"

"Pinned into one of his waistcoat pockets," replied King. "I mightn't have noticed them at all if it hadn't been for that big safety pin, as they were folded up so small."

Larose whistled. "Great Scot," he exclaimed excitedly, "they may be more important than anything. Unfold them and read out the numbers. No, I won't touch them. My oil-pipe leaked as I was coming down and I've got oily hands. You do it all." Then he added with a quick intake of breath, "Did Casey see you take them out of his pocket?"

"Sure, he did," grinned King. "He was terribly interested. He'd never seen notes for such a large amount before."

It was a very astonished Inspector Stone who was rung up an hour later from the village. It was Larose himself who had gone into Foxwold, and he now gave an outline of what had happened and so excited was Stone that his heavy breathing could be heard distinctly over the wire.

"Gad, what a thundering round up!" he exclaimed when Larose had finished speaking. "Yes, I'll get the number of Dr. Methuen's note again to make everything quite certain before we start to come down. Then you can reckon that in three and a half hours we arrive, surgeon, photographer, ambulance and all. All right, my lad, I'll ring up the Chief at once. Good-bye, I'll be seeing you soon. No, we won't let a word leak out until to-morrow. Don't you worry about that."

Larose returned to Wrack House in a very happy frame of mind. It gave him no added elation when he arrived there to learn that in his absence Gauntry had tried to bribe the two men to give him back his pistol and let him shoot himself.

He bore no resentment, either, against Gauntry, and although, if need had arisen, he would have shot him down without the slightest compunction, now he was caught, in a way he felt rather sorry for him.

He knew so well the dreadful time which was before Gauntry, the waiting before the trial, the hopeless fight for a verdict of not guilty, and then the awed moment which even the most hardened criminal could not endure without terror when the judge put on the black cap. Then would come more waiting before the sentence was carried out, and finally that last day when in the early morning he would be led to where in a few moments his neck was to be broken.

No man could go through all those happenings without poignant agony of mind.

But Larose was under no delusions. He was labelling Gauntry as still dangerous to him, most dangerous, and much as he would have liked to question him he did not dare. Indeed, he did not intend to be alone with him for one moment. He was looking ahead.

The presence of the Sampon letter among the things taken from Gauntry's pockets could only mean that it was Gauntry who had come into his, Larose's, room in the hotel that afternoon. Then that being so, to account for Major Sampon's three 50 bank notes being in his possession—which was really the only one vital fact linking him up with the murder—it was quite likely Gauntry would admit the theft of the pocket-book and swear he had found the notes inside when he had stolen it.

Then that would turn suspicion upon him, Larose, again!

A cold shiver ran down Larose's spine. With the best of motives, would he have to perjure himself and deny he had ever lost any pocket-book?

Gauntry would have been able to prove with absolute certainty that he had taken the pocket-book if the scheduled list of the contents of his pockets, made by the detective King, had included the Sampon letter. But, with no mention of the letter having been found among his things, there would be only his bare word to support his statement and who would believe that?

Ah, but would there be only his bare word? No, there would be more than that, for the pocket-book had contained his, Larose's, driving-licence and, having to admit its loss, Gauntry's contention about his theft of the pocket-book would be proved up to the hilt.

Then again, when Gauntry's flat was searched, which it assuredly would be, the pocket-book itself might be found. Gauntry might not have thrown it away as it was an expensive morocco one, with the initials G.L. on it in gold and there could be no possible doubt as to whom it had belonged.

To sum everything up, if when he, Larose, went into the witness box he were asked by Gauntry's counsel if he had lost his pocket-book, he would have to admit it at once and then—what a loop-hole it would give Gauntry to get out of having committed the murder!

It was very awkward altogether.

Stone arrived about one o'clock with two police cars and an ambulance. The bodies were dug up carefully and the police surgeon at once gave it as his opinion that, while he could not then determine how Professor Bannister had died, the woman's skull had been fractured by a violent blow at the back, with that probably causing her death.

The following morning Larose went up to Avon Court to break the news to Sir George and Lady Almaine that Arnold Gauntry had been arrested, and was being charged with the murder of Major Sampon.

Rather to his annoyance he learnt Sir George had gone out and would not be back until lunch, but Joyce appeared at once and took him to her boudoir. He noticed with some distress that she was looking very tired and worn. She had lost her pretty colour and there were dark lines round her eyes.

"I've rather bad news," he said directly they were alone. "Arnold Gauntry has been arrested for the murder of Major Sampon and will be charged this morning."

She started up on the instant. "What!" she exclaimed hoarsely and with widely opened eyes. "Arnold Gauntry! Oh, the fiend!" and, subsiding back into her chair, she covered her face with her hands and burst into tears.

Larose hated to see a woman cry, and, above all, a pretty one. So he moved his chair up beside her with the intention of giving her what comfort he could.

"Now, don't take it so much to heart," he said with the utmost sympathy. "I know Mr. Gauntry was a friend of yours, but——"

"A friend of mine!" she exclaimed passionately, snatching her hands from her face, "Why"—she could hardly get her breath—"he is the worst enemy any woman could possibly have and I hate him."

"But I thought——" began Larose in great astonishment.

"No matter what you thought," she broke in vehemently. "He is a devil and"—she nodded significantly—"he is no friend of yours, either."

"I know that," smiled Larose. "He did his best to fasten the murder on to me."

She nodded again. "Yes, even to the extent of coming here and trying to make me promise to give false evidence. He wanted me to say I'd heard you and Major Sampon quarrelling on the verandah when you went out to look for him." She began to cry again. "Oh, he is a devil!"

Larose was thinking quickly. So Gauntry had been up to see her! He had dared to ask her to lie about that night of the murder! Indeed, more than that, he seemed to have been threatening her, too! And now she was looking ill and depressed! Good God, Gauntry had had that letter with him when he had come up and he had brought it out! He had been attempting to blackmail her!

He spoke quickly and impressively. "Look here, Lady Almaine," he said, "let you and me trust each other." He spoke in a most business-like way. "Now, did that fellow show you any letter he'd got?"

Joyce looked terrified and her face blanched to the colour of chalk. She stared at him like a hunted creature.

"No, don't look so frightened," smiled Larose. "I'm your friend. I'm going to help you. I believe the wretch was trying to blackmail you!" He put his hand in his breast pocket and, feeling about for a few moments, produced Major Sampon's letter. "Look here," he went on, "is this what he showed you?" and he held it out toward her.

She stared hard with her bosom rising and falling quickly in her emotion. "Yes," she whispered, "and he read it out to me."

"I thought so," nodded Larose. He thrust the letter into her hands. "Well, you destroy it and forget all about it. But read it again first to make sure it's the same one."

A short silence followed and then she looked up and nodded. She could not speak.

"Good, then I'll burn it," said Larose and, taking it from her, he put it in the grate and set alight to it with a match. In silence they watched it being burnt, envelope and all, and then Larose crumpled up the ashes in his fingers.

"Well, that's finished with," he said. He laughed. "But I really oughtn't to have done it. Still, you must never tell and then it'll be all right."

She found her voice at last. "Who's seen it?" she asked, still speaking tremulously.

"Only Inspector Stone, that wretch and I," replied Larose. "It was found among Major Sampon's papers, then I had care of it, but Gauntry stole it from me."

"Do you believe it is true?" she asked, her face now suffused to a burning crimson.

"Certainly not," replied Larose sharply. "The major was absolutely out of his mind when he wrote it. He had just learnt from a doctor in Wimpole Street that he was suffering from a dreadful and incurable disease, and it had sent him out of his mind," and then he told her the whole story of the letter, beginning with its being found in the major's desk, going on to his visit to Dr. Methuen, how he had discovered the letter had been stolen from him and finally, how he had seen it among the things taken from Gauntry's pockets and got hold of it without anyone seeing him.

He made a grimace. "Now, if I'm asked about it in the witness-box," he said, "I'm afraid I shall have to perjure myself and say I know nothing about it." He smiled. "Still, it won't worry me much, for I feel I shall be perfectly justified."

She laid her hand upon his arm. "Oh, Mr. Larose, I'm so grateful to you," she said with a sob. "I've had three miserable days and I've even thought of doing away with myself."

"Well, it's all over now," said Larose briskly. He nodded solemnly. "But this little talk here is never to be mentioned. It's to be a secret even from your husband." Then seeing her eyes welling up with tears again and, to distract her thoughts, he went on gaily, "Now what about a glass of sherry? It's early but I could do with one."

She brightened up at once and, not wishing any maid to see her until all traces of her emotion had passed away, herself fetched the sherry and some biscuits. Then sitting close beside him, she joined him in both.

"Do you know, sir," she said brightly, her worn expression now passed, and her eyes pools of great relief, "that these biscuits are the first food I've taken for three days without actually forcing it down my throat. I don't believe, too, that for three nights I've slept one single hour on end."

Presently she bade good-bye to Larose at the front door, and he got into his car with a lump in his throat. She had had to choke back her tears in parting and, glancing back over her shoulder to see none of the maids were about, she had suddenly lifted up his hand and kissed it.

"Really, Gilbert," he murmured as he drove away, "you must be rather a bad sort of man, for you would certainly have liked to have kissed her back"—he sighed heavily—"but it would not have been upon the hand you would have kissed her."

With his thoughts still lingering upon the pretty face and alluring figure of Joyce Almaine, he drove to Scotland Yard to have a little talk with Stone. He found the stout inspector in the best of spirits, with his good-natured face all happiness and smiles.

"A great feather in our caps, Gilbert, the laying of this second Carrabin by the heels. Not only is he being charged with the murder of Sampon, but the Secret Service would like to have a go at him, too. He's been a dreadful thorn in their side for a long time. He's the unknown master-agent they've been trying to uncover for months and months, but they had no idea who he was and where he was working. Now they've got a whole fistful of evidence against him." He smiled his happy, fatherly smile. "I tell you the Yard is in high favour all round."

"Good for you, Charlie," smiled back Larose; then he pretended to look frightened. "But I've got a confession to make!"

"Oh, what is it?" asked Stone. He grinned. "I suppose I'll have to forgive you whatever you've done."

"Well, I've burnt that letter of Sampon's," said Larose. "It was dangerous and like keeping a bomb."

Stone considered frowningly. "But I don't suppose it matters," he said after a few moments. His face brightened. "No, we'll forget all about it. That'll be the best thing."

Larose raised one forefinger warningly. "And you'll never say you gave it me?"

"Not I," boomed Stone instantly. "A nice scandal it'd be if it became known I'd passed over an official document to a private individual"—he smiled—"for that's all you are now, Gilbert, in spite of what you've done for us." He made a sweep with his arm and shook his head vigorously. "No, I've forgotten all about it. That'll be the best thing, I never saw it, and it didn't exist." He pulled out a drawer in his desk. "Now, have a cigar?"

In due course of time the trials of the two brothers came on. Joe was tried first and he was arraigned upon four charges; breaking into Dencross Hall, murdering Mrs. Rampini, murdering Mary Trescowthick and fraudulently converting to himself monies of the deceased Professor Bannister.

No charge was laid against him of murdering Professor Bannister, because the post-mortem could not determine the latter had not died a natural death. About Mary Trescowthick, however, there was no doubt, her skull having been fractured in two places, in such a manner that her death could not have been anything but a violent one.

With the redoubtable efforts of the great King's Counsel, Wickham Adders, Joe put up a spirited defence to both the capital charges.

He boldly took his stand in the witness box and, under oath, gave evidence on his own behalf. He told his story, too, clearly, and without any hesitation, exactly as if he were making the moves of a well-thought out game of chess.

With regard to Mrs. Rampini he pleaded as he had outlined to Larose, that he was completely innocent of her murder. He had not even, he said, handled the poor lady roughly. She had fainted from fright, and all her butler had seen him doing had been lifting her up on to the bed. Then he had been out of the room for several minutes to make sure all was quiet and had come back to find Mrs. Rampini dead. His father had been very much distressed. The latter also had never intended to kill the butler, either, but had purposely fired low in order to hit him in the legs.

Then about Mary Trescowthick. Her death was none of his doing either. Professor Bannister had struck her with the axe because she had inadvertently burnt a lot of his manuscript. The Professor was a man of most violent temper and it was all over in a matter of seconds before he, Joe, had had time to prevent it.

Then the Professor realised what he had done and the shock was so great he had been taken with a fit. He had fallen to the ground and never spoken or moved again.

Joe said he had been very frightened because the tragedies had occurred late one night when they had been snow-bound, with huge drifts all round the house cutting them off from all help or communication with the outside world.

Then for five terrible days he had had to live with the corpses, the snow preventing him from getting a dozen yards away from them. He believed he must have been drunk most of the time, as he found out afterwards that he got through nearly a whole case of whisky.

Then the idea began to form gradually in his mind that when he did get into Foxwold his story would not be believed and he would be accused of a double murder.

So, directly the snow allowed him to leave the house, that was on the sixth day, although for a week longer the sodden fenland prevented him from getting into the village, he took the bodies out along the harder ground by the dyke-side and buried them.

Then, going through the Professor's desk to look at his papers, he suddenly thought how easy it would be to imitate his handwriting and draw cheques. He practised for some days and then started upon a systematic course of fraud. He had taken no one into his confidence, making out to his brother that it was Professor Bannister's own wish—the professor was a most eccentric man—that he, Joe Carrabin, should act in his place while he was away upon a holiday in Tibet.

That was his story, Joe said, and he told it very well, speaking sadly after the manner of a man who realised that he was under a cloud, but who thought himself very much misunderstood. And he was not shaken anywhere in the fierce cross-examination he had to undergo at the hands of Peter Shearer, who led for the Crown. He just stuck to his story, doggedly, and as if it were the absolute, if extraordinary, truth.

Then the ponderous Wickham Adders rasped in the moral for the defence, thundering into the jury that it was contrary to all canons of justice to judge a man by his character, good or bad.

It was upon facts alone they were to give their verdict, hard, solid facts which had withstood the fire of all the scorn which had been poured upon them, facts which might almost have seemed fantastic until it had been realised they could not be disproved. In conclusion, the accused was a broken, friendless man, but he asked for no pity. Justice was what he claimed, and he, Wickham Adders, was confident he would receive it.

Ultimately, the jury retired early in the afternoon, but they could not agree upon the verdict, and so were locked up for the night.

At noon the next day a message was received that they were ready and they filed into Court trying to mask all expression from their faces. An awed hush filled the Court, but the knowing ones nodded significantly to one another. There was going to be no putting on of the black cap, for the jurymen would have been looking much more nervous in that case.

And the knowing ones proved to be quite right, for when the verdict was pronounced it was heard Joe Carrabin had been acquitted upon the two capital charges, but found guilty upon the others.

The judge's voice was grim and icy cold when he sentenced Joe to seven years' hard labour for the burglary and seven years upon the fraudulent conversion charge.

"And the sentences not to be concurrent," he snapped. "The prisoner will serve both terms."

"That shows what old Harbank thought," commented Peter Shearer dryly to Adders when the two advocates were in the disrobing room.

Adders looked very amused. "Well, so didn't we all?" he laughed. He whispered in Peter Shearer's ear, "Those jurymen ought to be excused for a thousand years. They're a positive menace to the community," and he went off as if very pleased with his own wit.

CHAPTER X.—THE ORDEAL OF GILBERT LAROSE

The trial of Henry Carrabin, or of Arnold Gauntry as we have known him all along, began the following week and, if there had been interest in the trial of Joseph, that of his brother was intensified tenfold.

By his own special request Larose had not been called to give evidence at the trial of Joe, and no mention of the part he had played in bringing the latter to justice had come out in Court. But what he had really done had more than leaked out in the newspapers—indeed, it had simply poured out—and enterprising newspaper men, from one source and another, had put together nearly the whole story.

Unstinting praise had been accorded him and the public had been greatly disappointed he had not been in the limelight during the whole course of the trial.

But they were consoling themselves they would both see and hear plenty of him at the trial of this other brother, for not only would he be the star witness but, also—this was whispered—it would be almost as if he himself were upon trial.

It was an open secret in the clubs, in the hotels and wherever people foregathered that the great Larose had almost been arrested for the murder of Major Sampon. The two had had a quarrel but a couple of hours before the major had been found killed and—this was whispered, too—Larose had had a better opportunity than anyone else to commit the crime.

But Larose had been allowed to remain free and with almost superhuman intelligence and, without doubt spurred on by the realisation of his own danger, in a few days he had unmasked the real murderer.

Still, nothing could be certain until the verdict of the jury had been given and, until then, it would be a duel of wits between the two great King's Counsels, Peter Shearer for the Crown and the mighty Wickham Adders for the accused, with Larose hovering in the background and his whole future waiting upon the result.

Yes, if this Henry Carrabin were not found guilty of the murder then Larose's position would be a most uncomfortable one.

The day of the trial arrived and the Court was packed almost as soon as the doors were opened. Lord Attleborough was to preside and, of stern and unemotional probity, it was generally conceded the scales of Justice would balance to a hair's breadth in his hands.


(The trial lasted five days and, in the report which follows, the intervals and adjournments are skipped and, for the convenience of the reader, the happenings are given as one uninterrupted whole.—Author's note.)


The trial opened, and Henry Carrabin stepped into the dock looking calm and unconcerned. He was smartly dressed, and everything about him was spick and span, his appearance, generally, making a good impression upon the spectators.

"But he doesn't look like a murderer," whispered old Lady Fitzmore, whose first murder trial it was. "That skinny man there, whose face we can just see, looks far more like one to me."

"Hush, Mother," whispered back her daughter reprovingly, "that's Canon Boxworthy, the Wandsworth Prison chaplain. You musn't speak now."

Peter Shearer opened very quietly, with his beautifully modulated voice. He was a scholarly-looking man, tall and slight and with an intellectual cast of countenance. There were never any fire-works about him, but none better than he could drive home his facts, like the scintillating flashes of a rapier.

It was a strange story, he said, he had to tell, and at first consideration it appeared to begin a few weeks ago at a social gathering in Hampstead. But, in reality, it began long before that and its ramifications were far-reaching.

"Upon July, the twenty-second last," he went on, "Sir George and Lady Almaine gave a dinner-party at their house, Avon Court, and after dinner the six men of the party adjourned to the library for a game of poker. With only three of them, however, have we any concern. They were Mr. Gilbert Larose, the well-known one-time international detective now retired from his profession but still remembered for many of his brilliant achievements when attached to the Criminal Investigation Department at Scotland Yard; Major Sampon, believed by everyone to be working at the War Office; and Mr. Arnold Gauntry, who carried on a business in the city as a dealer in rubber.

"None of these three men had ever met before and, apparently, they knew nothing of one another. But anyone who was imagining there were no bonds of union between them and that the happenings of their lives had never mingled together would have been very much mistaken.

"Major Sampon was a highly-trusted officer of the British Secret Service, whose activities at that time were being wholly directed to the uncovering of Russian spies in England; Arnold Gauntry, whose real name was Henry Carrabin and whose father had been hanged for murder seven years previously, was a dangerous and much-wanted agent of the Soviet Republic, and Gilbert Larose was the officer of the Criminal Investigation Department who had been almost wholly responsible for bringing Carrabin's father to the scaffold."

Peter Shearer paused dramatically for a few moments and a thrill ran round the Court at the possibilities of the drama about to be enacted before them.

The King's Counsel went on very solemnly, "So, in that room the stage was all set for the dreadful tragedy, with the characters—the hunter after his quarry who, all unbeknown to him, was sitting but a few feet away, and a third man whose presence there was stirring feelings of revenge and hate in the breast of one of the others."

Peter Shearer pressed home his point. "You must take in that Major Sampon did not know who this Arnold Gauntry was. He was not aware he was the dangerous but unknown Soviet agent for whose uncovering he had been working so assiduously for so many months. You must grasp, too, that at that time Larose did not know who Gauntry was, either, but"—he raised his hand impressively—"we can prove that Gauntry knew who both the others were. He knew, too, that Sampon was hot upon his trail—we shall bring witnesses to prove that—and he knew also that Larose was the man who had practically hanged his father. We shall prove that as well."

Then Peter Shearer went on to relate all that had taken place that night at Avon Court, the unpleasantness at the card-table, the major going out of the house in a sulk, the listening to the ghost-story in the dark, Larose going out to look for the major, the discovery later of the body and, finally, the arrival of the police.

He went on impressively, "Now there is no denying the fact that when the police appeared Mr. Larose was under the gravest suspicion. The dead man had grossly insulted him, he, alone of them all in the house, was known positively to have had the opportunity of striking that dread blow, and, moreover, this Arnold Gauntry had testified to the investigating inspector that he, Gauntry, was of opinion he had heard quarrelling voices when Larose had been out on the verandah.

"And that was how the situation was continuing the next day. Everyone under suspicion and Mr. Larose most of all. But Larose was already getting ideas and one was that Major Sampon had been robbed, as well as murdered."

Then he told how Larose had confided his suspicions to Inspector Stone, because he had learnt Major Sampon had received four 50 notes the previous Saturday at the races, and he brought in then how, later, Larose had come to visit Dr. Methuen and obtain from him the number of the 50 note he, the doctor, had in his possession.

"You see," he nodded to the jury, "by the morning after the murder had been done Larose's suspicions were definitely turning in the direction of this Arnold Gauntry, because it was wholly through him he was under such a cloud and, although he could give no reason for it, he was suspecting malice on Gauntry's part. He had come to believe that when he had been sent out at Gauntry's suggestion to look for Major Sampon he had been sent to fall into a trap. Then, if he were right in his surmise there, Gauntry had known that the major was lying dead upon the verandah and, to have been aware of that, he must almost in all certainty have killed him himself. These suspicions were engendered by two happenings, the first, as he had told Inspector Stone, Gauntry's expression had been a most unfriendly one when he had learnt Larose's name and, the second, Gauntry had made out he had heard those quarrelling voices coming from the verandah when Larose was out there. No one else had heard the voices and Larose was certain Gauntry had not heard them, either."

He paused here to take a drink of water and then related what had followed, how Larose could learn little of Gauntry in the city but at the latter's flat in Fitzroy Square had heard about the letter with the Foxwold postmark upon it, how he had gone to that little village and on to Wrack House and how he had been received by Professor Bannister's niece. Then he told of all which had happened there, with the girl recognising Larose and making known her fears, how Larose had become certain the man was an imposter, the games of chess which had been played, and the suspicions gradually coming into Larose's mind that both the Professor and the serving-woman had met with foul play. Next, he mentioned the arrival of Gauntry upon the scene, how very soon Larose had formed the opinion that the two were almost certainly brothers and, finally, he described the departure from Wrack House of Larose and Ethel Bannister.

"Then, my lord and gentlemen of the jury," he cried, "followed one of the most amazing pieces of detective work which has ever been recorded in either fact or fiction. With nothing to go upon except that the man posing as Professor Bannister had stated that, once when playing in a chess-club match, he had been successful with an opening to his game, known to chess-players as the King's Gambit, Gilbert Larose established without a shadow of a doubt that the false Professor was Joseph Carrabin, wanted for the Dencross murder and"—he pointed dramatically towards the dock—"that that man there was his brother, Henry."

A delighted thrill ran through the spectators. Things were developing and they were beginning to get some return for sitting so long upon their hard and uncomfortable seats.

Then Peter Shearer said very solemnly, "But Mr. Larose had now established another fact. He understood the hatred with which this Arnold Gauntry must be regarding him, and he realised why the man had been so determined to fasten the guilt of the murder upon him. It was vengeance, the son of a criminal and a criminal himself, too, seeking revenge upon the man who had brought his father to the scaffold."

Again a thrill ran through the spectators and they turned their glances upon the prisoner in the dock. But he added nothing to their emotions, as he was looking—only just amused.

The King's Counsel went on, "Well, as all the world knows, Joe Carrabin was arrested. But Larose was not content there. He was more strongly of opinion than ever that Professor Bannister and the serving-woman, Mary Trescowthick, had not gone away as Joe Carrabin had stated, but that they had come to violent ends and were lying buried somewhere upon those wide and desolate fen-lands surrounding the house. So he remained behind there and, with two men from Scotland Yard, began a systematic search of one thousand acres."

He looked down at his notes for a few moments and then resumed his address. "But I will now leave them looking for the bodies and go back to this Arnold Gauntry. Returning to the city, Gauntry had suddenly become most uneasy, for he had learnt somehow that he was being watched. Added to that, his agents were no longer reporting to him as they should have been doing and, no doubt, a deadly fear was gripping at his heart that he had been betrayed.

"Then, we know now, he suddenly received a message in the middle of the afternoon, warning him to burn all his papers and take to instant flight. At the time, to those listening into his phone the message seemed innocent enough and its significance, unhappily, was not realised until it was too late. At any rate he had to flee. But he was rather in a dilemma, for it was after the closing hour of the banks and he was short of ready money.

"The situation was not, however, wholly desperate, as hidden away in a secret drawer in Professor Bannister's desk at Wrack House were upwards of one thousand pounds in Treasury notes and bonds to bearer. So, if he could only lay hands upon them he would be in funds to make it easier for him to get out of the country."

"Then, by a clever ruse, he managed to elude those who were on the watch for him and made his way down to the Norfolk Fens. In the dead of night he broke into the Professor's house. He thought it was untenanted, but the two Scotland Yard detectives were sleeping there. They were awakened by sounds in the room below and, creeping down, caught him in the very act of rifling the desk. He made a murderous attack upon them with an automatic pistol and it was by a miracle only that one of them escaped death. But he was quickly overpowered and tied up. Then a search of his pockets was made."

Peter Shearer paused dramatically here and all eyes in the Court were riveted upon him. A surprise was expected and, certainly, no one was disappointed. The King's Counsel went on.

"And, among other things, what did they find?" His voice was very stern and solemn as he answered his own question. "The three 50 notes which had belonged to Major Sampon and which, it was presumed, had been taken from his pocket-book when he had been lying that night in the very act of death upon the verandah!"

No grave could have been more silent than was the Court then. No one seemed to breathe and they sat on as motionless as graven images.

Peter Shearer broke the silence, speaking now in brisk and business-like tones.

"Now, my lord and gentlemen of the jury, the witnesses I shall call will prove the guilt of the accused up to the very hilt. The whole case is in a nut-shell. An officer of the British Secret Service is foully done to death, an agent of the Soviet Union whose safety that officer was imperilling is known to have been near him when he was murdered and, later, in the possession of this agent are found bank-notes belonging to the murdered man!" He raised his voice in declamation. "What more conclusive evidence could anyone want?"

Dr. Methuen was the first witness called and the 50 bank-note he had received from Major Sampon was produced. Next came Mr. Israel Abrahams, a book-maker, who produced his betting-book and testified he had paid out four 50 notes to an unknown better, whose description, however, tallied with that of Major Sampon, that Saturday afternoon at Sandown Park. Next came a bank cashier who gave evidence that on that Saturday morning he had paid out eight 50 notes to Mr. Abrahams and that four of the numbers of them were those of Dr. Methuen's banknote and the three found upon the prisoner when he had been arrested.

No cross-examination of any of these witnesses was made, but it was not so with the fourth witness, Inspector Stone, who gave formal evidence of the arrest of the prisoner, for Wickham Adders at once rose briskly to his feet.

Adders was a big, heavy man, looking every ounce of his sixteen stone. He had a huge head, with a wide forehead, big ox-like eyes, eye-brows as bushy as a bird's nest, and a long straight mouth with the firm and mobile lips of the orator.

Junior counsel were wont to say that when he stood up suddenly it was like a whale heaving its body out of the sea. His reputation was one of the highest at the Bar. Certainly, he could assume a most ferocious air when he wanted to but, at heart, he was always a gentleman and never treated witnesses unfairly.

He smiled pleasantly at Stone and, after eliciting from him that he had been responsible for the handling of the enquiry into the major's death, asked, almost casually so it seemed, "And so, of course, it was you who went through the papers of the deceased?"

"Yes, I went through them all," replied Stone.

"And, of course again, you allowed none of them to pass out of your hands?"

"Certainly not," frowned Stone, as if rather shocked at the question being asked.

"And they have all been placed at the disposal of the defence?" went on the King's Counsel, and Stone replying in the affirmative he was told he could leave the box. Then it was quite a minute before he remembered the letter he had been cajoled into giving up to Larose and he would have whistled in dismay if he had not realised where he was. He took out his handkerchief and wiped the perspiration from his forehead.

An officer from the Intelligence Department was now in the box and, with documentary evidence to support his statements, he testified to the prisoner's activities as an agent on behalf of the Soviet Union. Next came witnesses who told of his particular interest in the murdered man, one relating how he had been ordered to shadow the major as closely as he could, get to know the geography of his house in Maida Vale and, if possible, find out if the major were in the habit of being alone in his garden any time after it had become dark.

Wickham Adders did not seem much interested in any of these witnesses and asked no questions, leaning back in a bored manner in his seat and looking up at the ceiling. But he straightened himself up instantly the name of Gilbert Larose was called by the usher and, looking round, seemed to sense with some amusement the thrill which passed through the Court as the one-time detective appeared.

Larose's face was unsmiling, but it was not grave. He looked self-possessed and very sure of himself.

He took the oath and Peter Shearer proceeded to run him quickly through the happenings of the fatal night. He did not refer to his subsequent investigations as he had outlined them to the Court in his, Peter Shearer's, opening address. He took him back, however, to the part he had played leading up to the arrest of the elder Carrabin who had been hanged seven years before.

Larose was a good witness, never saying either too much or too little, but just answering the questions briefly and clearly, as they were put to him.

Wickham Adders rose to cross-examine and his voice was particularly soft and gentle, always an ominous sign to those who knew his ways.

"Now, Mr. Larose," he began, "we have been told by my learned friend that, in an unofficial capacity, you have taken a large part in the working-up of this case. That is so, is it not?"

"Yes," smiled Larose, "I was particularly interested."

"Of course you were," smiled back Adders, "for, as with everyone else in the house, you were under a cloud." He spoke carelessly. "It was you who found out from the housekeeper the name of Major Sampon's doctor?"

"Yes," nodded Larose.

"And when you called at the house in Maida Vale she opened the door to you herself?"

"No, one of the maids opened it."

Adders nodded approvingly. "Ah, an excellent memory for little things, as you went there more than ten weeks ago!" He went on. "And you waited in the hall until the housekeeper came?"

"No, I was shown into a room to wait."

"Were you kept waiting long?"

"No, a very short time."

"And what room was it you were shown into?"

"The drawing-room, I should say."

"What makes you say that?"

"Because it contained more ornaments than would be in a room of everyday use and there was no central table."

For the second time Adders nodded approvingly. "More observations! Excellent! Then tell the court what furniture, etc., the room contained."

Larose considered for a few moments. "A sofa, a number of chairs, some small tables, a writing-bureau and a pianola."

"And what day was it you went there?" asked Adders.

"On the Tuesday, the 29th of July," replied Larose with no hesitation, "exactly a week after the murder."

Adders went off on a new tack. "And when you arrived at Professor Bannister's house on the Fens, very early that morning, only a few hours after the prisoner had broken in, no doubt you were very astonished to find out who the burglar was?"

"Very," replied Larose.

"And when you had seen him and made sure who he was," went on Adders, "you would naturally have been most interested to see what he had come after?"

"Yes, I was," replied Larose.

"And you were naturally interested, also, in the things which had been taken from his pockets and were lying in that little pile upon the table?"

"Not particularly so," said Larose, "until Detective King had pointed out to me the three 50 bank-notes. Then I was tremendously interested in those notes."

"But, of course, you went through the other things which were with them?" suggested Adders carelessly and almost as if the question were an idle one.

Larose shook his head. "No, my interest was over after seeing the numbers on the notes, as I knew then they were those which had been taken from Major Sampon and I was satisfied." He shrugged his shoulders. "I had rounded up my investigations and the case was finished as far as I was concerned." He smiled. "You see, the reactions at times like those are very distressing, and I felt limp as a rag."

"But come now," urged Adders silkily. "There was a little pile of papers and things there and it is not in human nature you would not have been curious." He frowned. "Remember, you had been hounding down this man and his brother, night and day for many days, and surely the most trivial things about him would have been of absorbing interest to you?"

"But I tell you they no longer were," said Larose. Then he added after a moment's thought, "I might, perhaps, have been mildly curious, but all the same I know I didn't examine anything. Ah, I remember now! I told Detective King to make the packet of everything, as my fingers were oily. I had had an oil-break coming down and my hands were very dirty. You see, I was in a great hurry, too, to go out and see where they had found those bodies."

Adders looked smilingly at the jury, as if he were very doubtful of the truth of what Larose had just said and as if he were quite confident, too, that they would be of the same opinion.

The Court, generally, was most puzzled at the line the cross-examination was taking but, the majority of them fully conversant with the subtlety of the great advocate, were expecting at any moment some great surprise. The crafty Wickham Adders, the hero of a hundred and more criminal trials in his many years at the Bar, was certainly not asking these seemingly profitless questions for nothing and, accordingly, expectation was at fever point.

Adders went on in the same careless tone, "I believe you generally stop at the Semiris Hotel when you are in town? Well, when you were staying there the day before you went back to Wrack House to assist in the arrest of Joe Carrabin, do you happen to remember the number and floor of your room?" He raised his hand quickly. "No, no, don't mention the number. Just answer yes or no."

"Yes," smiled Larose.

"You remember it distinctly, with no chance of any mistake?"

"Certainly!" replied Larose. "I always get that particular room when I can, because it is one of the quietest in the hotel."

Adders picked up a piece of paper and pencil and beckoned to an usher. "Give these to the witness, please." He looked up at Larose again. "And you, sir, write down the number and the floor."

A moment's silence followed while Larose did as he was requested. Then, the paper handed back, the King's Counsel just glanced down at it and, folding it in two, placed it by his brief.

He looked very intently at Larose. "Now, sir," he said sternly, and there was a fuller and a deeper note in his tones as he rapped out his next question, "do you happen to have lost a pocket-book lately?"

Larose felt his heart beating quickly, for, in a lightning flash of thought, he realised what was coming. As he had been expecting, the wretch in the dock, like a cornered rat, was going to admit he had stolen the pocket-book and declare he had found the damning 50 notes inside. Then it would appear as if he, Larose, had taken them off the murdered man and therefore, by implication, was the murderer.

So there was no help for it. Lie must be met with lie, but his own lie would be a forgivable one. It would be downright cowardice to be squeamish in dealing with any man of the Carrabin type and it was a mercy he, Larose, was all prepared.

He spoke with no hesitation. "No, not lately," he replied, "but I lost one in July, upon-the night of the murder."

Instantly, the big King's Counsel frowned, as if it were not the answer he had been expecting and, for the moment, he seemed to have been altogether thrown out of his stride. He darted a quick and almost angry glance at the prisoner and then hesitated, as if uncertain what to say next. It was noticed, too, that the prisoner was now frowning as well, the first time he had done so since he had entered the dock.

"On the night of the murder!" exclaimed Adders at last. He appeared incredulous. "Do you mean it was stolen from you at Avon Court?"

Larose shook his head. "No, I don't think that," he replied. "I think it fell out of my pocket as I was changing a tyre. I had a puncture in Regent Street as I was returning to my hotel."

"And what was in it?" asked Adders very sharply.

"Some Treasury notes, a few postage stamps, my visiting-cards and my driving-licence," rattled off Larose glibly.

"When did you discover its loss?"

"The next morning when I was brushing my jacket, I missed it at once."

"And, of course, you made instant enquiries in the hotel on the chance that you might have dropped it somewhere there?" was the next question, put very sternly as if the matter were of some importance.

Larose shook his head again. "No, because, as I say, I was almost certain I had lost it in the street. As a matter of fact, I made no enquiries at all, anywhere. As my cards were inside the pocket-book, I knew quite well that, if it had been picked up by an honest person, it would be returned to me, but"—he shrugged his shoulders—"if by a dishonest one, then I never expected to hear of it again." He nodded. "I never did."

"But you made no enquiries anywhere?" queried Adders, as if in the greatest surprise. He puckered up his face into a most puzzled frown. "You mean to tell us you did not ring up Avon Court to find out if you had dropped it there?"

"No," replied Larose, "for I knew if they had found it they would have rung me up. They knew where I was staying." He smiled. "Besides, the loss was not great, only a few pounds, and I had many other things to think of that morning."

"But your driving-licence!" exclaimed Adders. "Surely that was most important?" His voice took on a sharp tone again. "Of course, you applied for another one, at once?"

"No, I didn't," smiled Larose. "I forgot all about it and it wasn't until about a fortnight afterwards that I went to get one."

A short silence followed and then, eyeing Larose most intently, Adders burst out like a bullet from a gun, "Have you got a pocket-book upon you now? Then show it to the Court. Open it and we'll see what you've got inside."

Larose looked amused and took out half a dozen Treasury notes, some postage-stamps, a few visiting-cards and a motor-driving licence. "Almost exactly what was in the other one," he smiled. "I never carry much in any pocketbook because of the bulge it makes in the jacket."

Adders raised a big, fat forefinger in solemn warning. "But I put it to you, Mr. Larose," he said with the utmost sternness, "that you did not, as you have just told the Court, lose your pocket-book upon the night of the murder, Tuesday, July the 22nd. Instead, you lost it, sir, on Tuesday the 29th, in the afternoon, on the same day that you had paid your visit to the house of the murdered man in Maida Vale." His voice rose in emphasis, with the big forefinger now moving up and down like a pendulum. "And there was more in that pocket-book than you have admitted to us, for it contained a letter which did not belong to you and which you had purloined secretly from Major Sampon's writing-bureau that very morning." His voice was thundering now and he crashed his clenched fist into the palm of his other hand. "Yes, sir, you had taken it from that bureau when you had been left alone in the room."

Larose could have laughed in his relief. He was on sure ground now. He had certainly taken no letter from the house in Maida Vale and he had not even looked inside the bureau. He spoke up boldly and with his face the very picture of surprise. "There was no such letter," he said with indignation, "and I never purloined one. I did not go near the desk."

"Remember you are on oath, sir," thundered Adders, "and you swear to the Court that you did not take a letter and that it was not in the pocket-book when it was lost?"

"I do," replied Larose quietly, "and I am quite aware I am on oath."

For a long moment the King's Counsel stood staring at him, as if he would have bored him through and through with his eyes. The spectators in the Court were thrilled to their very marrows now. Some great climax was on the point of eventuating. Wickham Adders was about to hurl another question and it would burst like a bomb into the calm and confident equanimity of Larose. It could not be for nothing that the great advocate had been hammering in about the lost pocket-book all this time. It had been of deadly purpose he had been putting all his questions.

But, to their amazement and most dreadful disappointment, nothing happened and, the lines of his face smoothing down, Wickham Adders made a little smiling bow to Larose and subsided heavily into his seat. The cross-examination was over.

And if the spectators had not been able to grasp the significance of what had been happening under their very eyes, neither had Peter Shearer. He was quite sure, however, that a duel of most deadly nature had been taking place and that it had been thrust and parry all along. He could not understand it, but Larose, undoubtedly, emerging from the fight unscathed, like the shrewd man he was he left well alone and made no re-examination.

The next witness was Detective King and, when he was called into Court and stepped into the box, Wickham Adders leant forward as if determining to lose no single word of what the man might say or fail to notice every expression passing across his face.

Peter Shearer took him quickly through the happenings of the night when Henry Carrabin had broken into Wrack House, how they had been awakened by the noise, how they had come downstairs and seen him going to the desk, how he had become aware that they were watching and had fired point-blank at them, and all that happened after.

He gave his evidence with policeman-like precision, answering at once and never putting in an unnecessary word.

Wickham Adders rose up in a leisurely way to cross-examine. "And I expect, Mr. King," he smiled, "that you remember every incident of that night! You have forgotten nothing?"

"No, sir, nothing," replied the detective.

"You can recall everything in the exact order in which it happened? Everything stands out clearly to you?"

"Yes, sir, everything."'

Then Adders went on to ask a number of seemingly irrelevant questions about what Larose said and did when he arrived and went in to see the man they had made prisoner, how he addressed him, did he approach up close to him and who it was who loosed the man's bonds. He appeared to want to find out most particularly if Larose had actually touched him.

The wise ones among the spectators nodded understandingly to one another, Wickham Adders was not really interested in any of these things. He was just setting a trap for the witness and in a few moments the latter would fall headlong in.

Adders went on, "Then after the little talk with the prisoner, of course, Mr. Larose went into Professor Bannister's room to see what the man had come after in the desk?"

"Yes, sir, I took him in and showed him the money and the bonds."

"Had you counted the notes then?"

"Yes, sir, there was 95."

"And, of course, Mr. Larose checked the amount?" asked Adders carelessly.

The detective shook his head. "No, sir, he didn't touch anything. He said his hands were too dirty. He'd been making some adjustments to his car on the way down."

Adders nodded. "Ah, I remember he told us that! Well, about the things you had taken from the prisoner's pockets, of course, he was very interested there?"

"Not until I had told him about the three 50 notes, sir," replied King. "Then he was very startled."

"But hadn't he seen them lying on the table among the other things?" asked Adders, as if very surprised.

"No, sir, I had pushed them under some of the papers."

Adders frowned. "Why?" he asked very sharply.

For the first time the detective seemed to hesitate. "Well, sir, you see 150 was a lot of money and I didn't want to leave the bank-notes lying about for the first person who came in to see. I was responsible for them."

"Then, of course, being such a careful man," suggested the King's Counsel rather sarcastically, "you had hidden away the bonds and the 95 which had been in the desk?"

"No, sir," smiled the detective, "but I had shut up the desk and they were quite safe."

Adders continued, "You say Mr. Larose was very startled when you told him about the notes, then what did he do?"

"He whistled and then he said, 'Show them to me, quick! What are the numbers?'"

"And he took them from you—quick—to examine the numbers?"

The detective shook his head. "No, sir, he never actually touched them. He said he wouldn't because of the oil upon his hands. I just held them up to him and he read the numbers."

"Then?" asked Adders with a heavy frown.

"He ordered me to get some brown paper out of the kitchen cupboard, make a list of everything that was on the table and do them up in a packet. I was to give the packet, too, only to Inspector Stone."

Adders spoke very carelessly, "And you left him standing there while you went for the brown paper?"

"No, sir, he said he was going to have a cup of tea and he came with me into the kitchen."

"He followed after you, you mean?"

"No, sir, we both went together."

The King's Counsel unmasked his guns at last. "I want to be assured," he thundered, "that Mr. Larose was never left alone for one single moment with those things which had been taken out of the prisoner's pockets." His voice reverberated through the Court. "Now, can you tell me or can you not?"

"I can, sir," replied King firmly. "I am absolutely positive he was not."

"But how, after all these weeks," went on Adders fiercely, "can you remember such a trifling happening as that?"

"Because, sir," smiled the detective, "as we were going out through the door Mr. Larose flourished a cake of scented soap which he had just brought from his own house. He held it up to me to smell and said laughingly that we could all have a decent wash at last. We had been complaining of the soap we had found in the kitchen because it seemed to have become rancid."

"What happened next?" snapped the King's Counsel, looking so annoyed that the spectators were quite sure that if a trap had been set for the detective, then he had certainly not fallen into it.

"I got a piece of brown paper and went back into the study," replied King. "I made a list of everything which had come out of the prisoner's pockets and then wrapped them up and put them in my pocket. Then the packet did not go out of my possession again until I gave it up to Inspector Stone, along with the list I had made out."

"And on that list you made out," asked Adders, "there was no mention of a letter, in an envelope which had been opened?"

"No, sir, there was no letter there at all."

"And you put your name to only one list? Yes, yes, I've seen it. I mean you never made out another list, deleting anything you had put down in the first one."

"Certainly not, sir," replied the detective with the utmost firmness, and Adders once more subsided into his seat, with the expression upon his face by no means a triumphant one.

Inspector Stone, seated in the body of the Court, wiped over his forehead once again. He did not deceive himself as to what had really happened. That dare-devil Larose had been taking big risks again and—he smiled a half reluctant smile here—had got away with them successfully, as he generally did. Gosh, but he was a dangerous fellow!

The case for the Crown was soon closed after the detective's evidence and Wickham Adders, jumping quickly to his feet, opened his address for the defence.

He started off at once upon a high note, as one who was intending to take no nonsense from anyone. He thundered into the jury with fierce vehemence that this was a trial for murder and for nothing else. One man had been foully done to death and another man, the prisoner, was being charged with the committing of the crime. It was all outside the charge that the accused was a proved spy and a confessing thief, and that he had been fraudulently converting a dead man's property to his own and his brother's use. He was not being tried for spying, or for theft, or for fraudulent conversion, but only for murder, and it was upon that charge and that charge alone that he must be found innocent or guilty.

Wickham Adders looked with pitying scorn here in the direction of Peter Shearer. His learned brother, he went on, in his opening address for the Crown had stated that the story of the crime went back for many years and had many ramifications. But that was only a wild flight of fancy upon his learned friend's part, for the story began and ended upon the night of Tuesday, July the twenty-second last.

It did not matter if the accused had been a spy in the pay of the Soviet Union for twenty years, or if his father, his mother and all his uncles and aunts had been brought to the scaffold through the instrumentality of Mr. Gilbert Larose. Those happenings, in themselves, were no proof at all that he had struck the fatal blow which had killed Major Sampon on July the twenty-second, and it was upon the facts of that night alone he must be judged.

It might indeed be that the accused was anti-social in his ways and a most undesirable individual for any community to shelter. But that must not be weighed against him in connection with the crime with which he was now charged.

This was a Court of Justice and, however unsavoury might be the character of the accused, he was entitled to the same exact mead of justice as would be accorded to a person of most blameless life.

Finally, the King's Counsel announced that he would call only one outside witness and then put the accused straight into the witness-box and let him tell his own story.

The name of Ann Thomson was at once called and the late Major Sampon's housekeeper came into the Court and stepped into the witness-box.

"You had been Major Sampon's housekeeper for the six years prior to the day of his death?" asked Adders.

"Yes, sir," replied the housekeeper.

"So we may take it that you were fully conversant with all the major's ways?"

"Yes, sir, I was."

"Then did he often use this drawing-room of his where the pianola and the writing-bureau were?"

"Not very often, sir, but he did occasionally."

"Did he ever write any of his letters there?"

"Yes, he did sometimes when he was listening to the pianola. It was an electric one."

"Do you know if he had been writing there upon any day just preceding his death?"

"I can't say that for certain, sir, but I remember he was in there, with the pianola going, upon the afternoon of the day he went up to dine at Avon Court."

"And Mr. Larose came up to see you a week later, on Tuesday the 29th?"

"I think it was on the Tuesday, sir. At any rate I am sure it was on the Monday or the Tuesday because I was doing some washing when he called and I always wash on one of those days."

"And he was shown into this drawing-room by one of the maids and left there by himself for a few minutes?"

"Yes, sir, whilst I dried my hands and made myself tidy to go and see him."

"Well, did the writing bureau in there contain any of the house note-paper, with the embossed address?"

"Yes, sir, I always saw to it that there was some there, as well as envelopes and blotting-paper. The master was very particular in all his ways."

"Now was this writing bureau kept locked?"

"No, sir, never. It could always be pulled open."

"And was this bureau gone through when Inspector Stone came up to examine the major's papers?"

"No, sir, no one went into the drawing-room. The police just asked me where Master kept everything and I took them into his study. I never thought of the drawing-room."

"And had you yourself looked into this bureau after your master had died?"

"No, sir, and I've never looked in it since."

"Thank you, Miss Thomson. That will do."

Wickham Adders made a motion with his arm and Henry Carrabin stepped out of the dock and into the witness-box. He took the oath without the slightest trace of nervousness, appearing quite calm and self-possessed, although his face had, perhaps, paled a little. A deep hush filled the Court.

The King's Counsel was quick and almost brusque in his questioning. "Now, Carrabin," he asked, "did you kill Major Sampon?"

The reply came quick and sharp, too. "No, I did not."

"Did you leave the drawing-room at Avon Court at any moment when that ghost-story was being listened-in to in the dark?"

"I did not."

"Did you go outside the house at any time after dinner, until you all, finally, went out together when you were going to your cars?"

"No, I did not."

"Did you hear voices coming from the direction of the verandah when Mr. Larose had gone out alone to look for Major Sampon?"

"Yes, I did."

"Did it strike you at the time that they were angry voices?"

"Yes, it did."

"And did you volunteer that information to Inspector Flower when, later, he was questioning you?"

"No, I did not. He asked me point-blank."

A short pause in the examination followed and then Adders, after glancing down at his notes, looked up and asked, "Were you walking down the Haymarket at about a quarter to four on the afternoon of Tuesday, July the twenty-ninth?"

"I was."

"And did you suddenly catch sight of Mr. Gilbert Larose walking in front of you and follow him and see him go into the Semiris Hotel?"

"I did."

"And you were very surprised? Then tell the Court, in your own words, why."

Henry Carrabin spoke a little hoarsely. "I had most unexpectedly met Mr. Larose two days previously upon the Norfolk Fens, when I was going to see my brother, and he had told me then that, acting upon the strong advice of Inspector Stone, he had come there to hide for a few days. He said he was in danger of being arrested for the murder of Major Sampon and the inspector had told him to go away at once until the real murderer had been arrested. He told me Inspector Stone was certain that the night-watchman, who had been out in the road when Major Sampon was killed, had committed the crime and that any moment the man would be confessing he had done it."

"And you believed his story?" asked Adders, with a face as expressionless as a block of wood.

"I did implicitly," replied Carrabin. He added dryly, "Mr. Larose is a great actor and can tell a lie with a straight enough face to convince anybody."

Adders went on, "And you followed him into the hotel?"

"Yes, but not until a few minutes afterwards. I was curious to find out if he felt himself safe now because he had learnt the night-watchman had confessed, but I hesitated to go and talk to him, because"—he was apparently speaking with the utmost candour—"I didn't want him to ask me any questions, which might have been awkward to answer, about my brother."

"Well, you went in after a few minutes," said Adders.

"Yes, after about ten minutes, certainly not longer."

"Then tell the Court what happened."

Carrabin spoke slowly as if he were making certain to leave nothing out. "I went up to the reception-desk and said to the girl there, 'I've come to see Mr. Gilbert Larose. He's just come in and he expects me. I'll go up to his room. What's the number?' Then she told me it was number twenty-nine on the fifth floor and——"

"One moment," interrupted Adders sharply, and he picked up the piece of paper upon which Larose had written down the number and floor of his room and, beckoning to the usher for the third time, bade him hand it up to the Bench. "The same floor and number which Mr. Larose wrote down, my lord, floor five and number twenty-nine." He waved to Carrabin to go on.

"I went up in the lift," said Carrabin, "and the room was the last one at the end of a long passage. I saw no one about. I was just going to knock on the door when I saw it was unlatched. No sound coming from inside, I pushed it open. There was no one in the room, but I heard the noise of water splashing in the bathroom which led out from it. I guessed Mr. Larose was having a bath because I saw clothes lying about upon the chairs."

He paused for a moment here and swallowed hard. Then he went on, but speaking much more quickly now, "Then I saw the top of a pocket-book, just protruding from the breast-pocket of a jacket lying upon a chair, and I tip-toed in and took it."

"What special reason made you take it?" asked Adders very sharply.

Carrabin spoke very slowly again, "Because I thought that, as he had been so recently hiding away, he would probably have been carrying plenty of money. The pocketbook bulged the pocket a little as if it were well-filled."

"Then what did you do next?"

"I left the hotel at once as quickly as I could and went straight home to my flat in Fitzroy Square. Then I looked to see what was in the pocket-book."

"And what did you find?"

Carrabin spoke more slowly than ever, "I found," he said impressively and for the first time he looked in the direction of the jury, "a motor-driving licence, some postage stamps, seven pounds in one pound Treasury notes and"—he could hardly get his words out now—"three 50 bank-notes."

A deep 'ah' ran round the Court. They could understand the meaning of everything now! Wickham Adders had been leading up to this amazing climax all the time! The defence was making out that Larose, and not the prisoner, had taken the three 50 bank-notes from off the body of the dead man. It was a truly dreadful and almost incredible possibility!

Adders asked very quietly, "And were these bank-notes the same ones which were found upon you when you were caught breaking into Professor's Bannister's house that night?"

"They were," replied Carrabin very solemnly, and a deep sigh seemed to fill the Court.

But Adders gave no time for any whispering between the spectators. "And what else did you find in the pocketbook?" he asked, with the same sharpness with which all the time he seemed to have been addressing the prisoner.

"A letter," replied Carrabin, "and——"

"Yon are not to say to whom it was addressed," broke in Adders quickly and with a heavy frown upon his face. "You are to tell us only from where it was written, the date on it and the signature at the bottom."

Carrabin nodded as if he quite understood. "It was written from 19 Queen Street, Maida Yale," he said. "The date on it was July the twenty-second and it was signed Henry Sampon."

Not a sound was to be heard in the Court. Everyone was thrilled, waiting for what disclosure was coming next.

"And this letter," went on Adders, "detailed some very personal happenings of Major Sampon's life in connection with a lady." He raised his hand sharply and spoke with the utmost sternness. "Now no names. Just answer my question."

"It did," replied Carrabin very solemnly.

"Then what became of this letter," asked Adders, "which you swear to the Court had been taken from Mr. Larose's pocket-book upon the afternoon of July the twenty-ninth?"

"I carried it about with me," replied Carrabin more solemnly than ever, "that day, the next day, and the day after that—until it was taken from me by Detective King when he turned out my pockets as I was roped up at Wrack House."

The Court hardly breathed, the excitement was so great.

"You are sure of that?" boomed Adders. "There is not the shadow of a doubt in your mind that you had it upon you then?"

"Not the faintest shadow of a doubt," nodded Carrabin emphatically. "I have never been more sure of anything in my life."

"One last question," said Adders. "What did you do with this pocket-book you have told us you stole from Mr. Larose?"

"I burnt it in my flat."

The King's Counsel looked at the judge. "I have finished, my lord," he said and he plumped down into his seat.

Now the best epitome of some aspects of the trial was given, weeks afterwards, by a young barrister, who had just taken silk, to his father who had but recently returned from a holiday in Australia and whom he had not seen for six months.

"You must understand, Dad," he said, "that as far as the defence was concerned it was a most unusual trial. Those of us who knew Wickham Adders could see that his heart was not in his work and that it was distasteful to him, as if all the time he knew the man he was defending were guilty. Naturally, he did his best to earn his fee, it was said he got twenty-five hundred guineas out of it, but there was so obviously no trust between him and the accused. When the man was making his sworn statement in the witness-box Adders had to keep on preventing him from blurting out something which Adders was determined should not be mentioned in Court. Of course, it all had to do with that letter Carrabin had sworn he had taken out of Larose's pocket-book and which was damaging to the reputation of some unknown woman."

"But do you think there really had been any such letter?" asked the father.

The young barrister hesitated. "I don't know any more than Adders did and he himself was evidently very doubtful about it. There was absolutely nothing but the prisoner's word to go upon that the letter had existed, and so Adders wouldn't let any supposed contents be broadcast. You see, perhaps out of sheer malice Carrabin only might have been wanting publicly to slander some woman who, he was thinking, had given him away." He shook his head. "Adders is a gentleman and wouldn't have it."

"But do you think," asked the father, "that Larose deliberately perjured himself when he denied there had been any letter in his pocket-book?"

The barrister shook his head. "Not exactly, but I think if there had been any letter he got out of it by a quibble. Adders may have slipped there and put the question to him in a wrong way by asking, as he did, if Larose had taken a letter from anyone which did not belong to him. If the letter had really existed, then most likely Larose hadn't. Perhaps, he had found it or, perhaps even, it had been given to him."

"But what about the date when he declared he had lost the pocket-book?" went on the father. "Was Larose perjuring himself there?"

The barrister made a grimace. "I wouldn't like to say and no one but Larose will ever know. You see, it is well-known to be one of Larose's ideas that if a man is undoubtedly guilty of a crime and a thoroughly bad lot then, to make sure of his conviction and punishment, nothing is an unrighteous thing."

The father smiled. "He makes his own ten commandments, then?"

The son smiled back. "Exactly, and they're not bad ones, either." He spoke impressively. "You must take in that the other Carrabin brother, Joe, who had undoubtedly been a double, and perhaps treble, murderer, had only a few days before been declared not guilty on the capital charges. On the face of it, it had appeared to be a gross miscarriage of justice and old Harbank, the judge who had presided at the trial, was known to have been very much put out about it. It had come out afterwards that the acquittal there had been all the work of one single juryman who had harangued and harangued and so absolutely worn down the others that they had at last given in," He shrugged his shoulders. "So, it would have been only natural if Larose had been very determined this other Carrabin should have no loop-hole of escape."

The father nodded. "And upon which particular Tuesday the pocket-book had been lost by Larose was a vital matter for the defence?"

"Oh, yes, for if Carrabin could have proved he had found a letter in Larose's pocket-book when he stole it in the hotel upon that afternoon of July the 29th, then it made it possible to believe he had found the three 50 bank-notes there, as well. But Larose, making out he had lost the pocket-book a week earlier than that, knocked all the bottom out of Carrabin's story about stealing it that particular afternoon at the hotel and made the whole thing look a deliberate and lying invention upon Carrabin's part."

"Well, how did Carrabin stand tip to Peter Shearer's cross-examination?" asked the father.

"Admitted everything except that he'd murdered Sampon!" smiled the barrister. "Admitted that he knew Sampon was a Secret Service man and becoming very dangerous to him! Admitted, even, that he had had enquiries made as to Sampon's ways and habits when at home, but said there it had been done only to learn how best to avoid him if they came to search his house!"

"Well, I expect Peter Shearer didn't ask him much about that letter?"

The barrister threw out his hands. "Never mentioned it, as if he knew he were treading upon dangerous ground! And he never asked him a question, either, about his visit to the hotel! Just ignored it, as if it were so obvious a lie that it wasn't worth referring to!"

"But couldn't Carrabin bring that girl-clerk at the reception desk of the hotel to prove that he had called there that Tuesday afternoon?"

The barrister shook his head. "No, Carrabin's luck was out there. It was known the defence had been to the hotel, but the girl couldn't remember anything about it. She admitted she had a bad memory, but she had no recollection of having sent anyone up to Larose's room."

"Still, it was funny that Carrabin knew his number."

"A bit, but then he might have got someone to go and look down the visitor's book afterwards, on the pretence of wanting to find out if he'd got a friend staying there. You see, the number of the room is always pencilled by the visitor's name."

"And Lord Attleborough, how did he sum up?"

"Very fairly, but all the time as if he'd got a nasty taste in his mouth. He warned the jury most strongly against any prejudice because of the prisoner's anti-social activities and he stressed, every bit as emphatically as Adders had done, that Carrabin was being tried for murder and nothing else. Then he added that, if the jury believed the prisoner's story of how he had come into possession of the banknotes, then the case for the Crown must fail, for his having taken them off the body was the only absolute proof of his having committed the crime."

"And then?" asked the father.

His son seemed amused. "The jury were absent for just twenty minutes and, as they filed into Court, everyone realised their verdict was going to be one of guilty. Lord Attleborough's grim comment was that he thoroughly agreed with it and he put on the black cap."

"How did Carrabin take it?"

"He didn't seem to mind a bit. He bowed ironically to the judge and went down out of the dock with a smile upon his face."

"He's evidently a hard case," sighed the father.

"He was," nodded the son. "He no longer is, as he was hanged the day before yesterday."


A few days after the trial Inspector Stone met Larose in Regent Street and they stopped to speak. Larose was smiling inscrutably.

"A-a-ah!" exclaimed the stout inspector with a heavy frown, "I don't wonder you've been keeping out of my way, Gilbert." He shook his finger admonishingly. "You made a bad man of me, my lad! You made me a common perjurer!"

"Not at all!" smiled Larose. "It was not I! It was your bad memory. That was it." He drew in a deep breath. "Gad, but wasn't I glad when I heard you'd said nothing about that letter!"

"Yes," nodded Stone sternly, "it would have put us both in a nice hole, wouldn't it? I know I should have been dismissed the Force and lost my pension."

"All in a good cause, Charlie," laughed Larose. His face sobered down. "We saved that poor woman from dreadful unhappiness. She would never have been happy again if that letter had come out."

Stone sighed. "I suppose not," he said. His face brightened. "I saw her on Sunday in Kew Gardens and she looked as pretty as a peach." He nodded. "Yes, and then for the first time my conscience stopped pricking me. She was with her husband and they both looked so happy."

"Did they see you?" asked Larose.

"Rather!" exclaimed Stone. "Bless your heart, they came and took us into the pavilion for tea. I was with my missus and two of the kids and everything was as nice and friendly as possible. They would insist, too, upon driving us back all the way to town afterwards," His face beamed. "But I say, Gilbert, isn't she a pretty girl?" His voice dropped to a whisper. "Here, I'll tell you something. My missis says——"

"You old wretch!" laughed Larose. "But come on. I'll stand you a drink. We'll crack a small bottle together in memory of old times."

"Gilbert, Gilbert," reproved Stone, but with his face wreathed in a big smile, "so you'd make a drunkard of me, as well as a perjurer!" He nodded. "Well, well, I'll risk it. Lead the way, lad, and let's hear the cork go pop." He smacked his lips. "It'll do us good and perhaps help us both to forget what bad men we've been."

THE END


THE HOUSE ON THE FENS

But for the timely intervention of Inspector Stone, Gilbert Larose, the
dauntless investigator who has brought many a dangerous criminal to
justice, might himself have been arrested for murder. Set in a dark,
lonely, jealously-guarded house deeply hidden in the Norfolk fens, this
splendid Larose story is a yarn to send delicious cold shivers down your
spine.


THE VENGEANCE OF LAROSE

H. G. Wells says of this highly exciting yarn: "By far the best piece of
storytelling Gask has done. It kept me up to half past one last night."

Sunday Mercury: "Mr. Gask knows all there is to know of how to write a
good mystery story, which also means how to keep the reader's nose
buried in the book until the last page."


THE FALL OF A DICTATOR

Aberdeen Press: "As topical and fascinating as its title suggests, The
story is original and makes excellent espionage reading."

Manchester Evening News: "One of the best constructed dramas of the
British Secret Service we have read for some time."


THE GRAVE-DIGGER OF MONKS ARDEN

Scotsman: "Not to be recommended as a bedside book except for people
with strong nerves. Larose's adventures are varied and exciting. It is a
strange story, rich in thrills and 'creeps', and makes excellent
reading."

Nottingham Journal: "A full-blooded, well-told tale which has the merit
of a new theme. Hardly the thing for the squeamish."


THE NIGHT OF THE STORM

The three young mistresses of a beautiful old Priory in Essex are faced
suddenly with an accusation of murder. Harassed by the unceasing police
investigations the girls appeal to Gilbert Larose. Another thrilling
chapter in the life of the famous detective.


THE MASTER SPY

This exciting international spy story will keep the reader breathless
from cover to cover.

East Anglian Times: "Will be relished by those who revel in thrills."


THE JEST OF LIFE

A pleasantly humorous novel. Mr. Gask's touch is light and sure, and his
characterization shows a deep and sympathetic insight into the frailties
of human nature.

Truth: "A rich feast of riotous humour with a moral to it."


THE HANGMAN'S KNOT

Gilbert Larose has met crime in a hundred guises but never has he been
called upon to elucidate a mystery so completely baffling as in this
first-class thriller.

Manchester Evening Chronicle: "An amazing amount of cleverness and
ingenuity."


THE DARK HIGHWAY

The story of a double crime, perpetrated at midnight amongst the lonely
sand-dunes of the Coorong.

Nottingham Journal; "A thrilling story."


THE POISONED GOBLET

Tells of the efforts of a gang of men to kidnap the child of Lady
Ardave. Larose takes a hand and finds himself faced with one of the most
puzzling cases of his career.

Manchester Evening Chronicle: "A pleasing piece of work."


THE HIDDEN DOOR

Gilbert Larose to the rescue once more—this time to the Suffolk coast,
where, in the space of a few weeks, four residents of adjoining villages
had mysteriously disappeared, An extremely clever detective story.


RED PASTE MURDERS

For the eighth time in a fortnight, and for the fourth day in
succession, murder is committed in Adelaide. Who is the mysterious
assassin? A novel of non-stop thrills and excitement.


GENTLEMEN OF CRIME

A millionaire was being forced to pay enormous sums of money by a
blackmailer. So he hired the most celebrated detectives and crooks to
help him. A magnificent story of plot and counterplot.


THE SHADOW OF LAROSE

Is murder, in exceptional cases, justifiable? It was with any thoughts
but those of murder that Charles Edis began his holiday, yet before many
hours had passed—he had committed murder.

Times Literary Supplement: "Moves quickly and excitingly."


THE JUDGMENT OF LAROSE

A distinguished house-party was assembled at Southdown Court when
suddenly the peace of this country house was shattered by the discovery
of a terrible crime. An extremely ingenious and forceful yarn.


THE SECRET OF THE SANDHILLS

Two little boys and a dog came upon a good pair of shoes on the beach.
The dog sniffed so much at the sand close by, that the boys scraped away
and came across a man's leg. An intriguing murder mystery.


THE SECRET OF THE GARDEN

Archibald Cups, a bank clerk, is sentenced to prison for an embezzlement
which he did not commit. He escapes and hides in the house of the very
judge who sentenced him.

Field: "Mr. Gask is a great hand at ingenious situations."


CLOUD THE SMITER

The story of a great criminal and his associates who for long defied the
police of Australia. But in the end one word proved the undoing of the
whole band.

The Times: "The Smiter is a capital creation,"


THE LONELY HOUSE

Tells of a lonely house upon a lonely shore, and how a master-criminal
was in hiding there; how chance led a great tracker of crime to the
spot, and how his feet came first to be set upon the trail.

Times Literary Supplement: "Thrilling from beginning to end."

CRIME and DETECTION

Each 8s. 3d. net

DEATH COMES BY POST

by JOLYON CARR. Author of "Freedom for Two"

One summer evening Ronald Campion walked out of his house and
disappeared. Two days later Connie Hansel, walking home along the
riverside, found his drowned body among the shallows. "Suicide" said the
coroner's jury. "Murder" said the village of Middle Wycherley. Known and
liked by everyone, who could have wished to drive Campion to his death?
An extremely clever detective story by the talented author of Murder in
the Dispensary.

JANE CARBERRY, DETECTIVE

by BERYL SYMONS Author of "Through a Glass Darkly"

Evan in her wildest dreams Jane Carberry could not have pictured herself
as the instrument chosen by fate to bring a gang of international jewel
thieves to justice and a murderer to execution. Yet by an incredible
series of events she, a wealthy fastidious society woman, became
involved with crime and criminals. In the opinion of our most
experienced readers none of Beryl Symons's many popular novels has
better exemplified not only her remarkable versatility but her
marvellous gifts for story-telling.

DEATH IN MERMAID LANE

by GRET LANE Author of "Death Visits the Summerhouse"

With the appearance of a nurse and child at the old inn in Mermaid Lane
fear, strange and deep, took possession of Tree House opposite. In this
atmosphere of brooding terror, three mysterious and ruthless attempts
were made upon the life of the nurse. Then Kate Marsh, the author's
famous heroine investigator, took a hand in the affair. Unable to
prevent two cunningly conceived murders, she finally, by brilliant
reasoning and resource, solved the problem and, in the nick of time,
saved a third victim from a diabolically clever killer. A mystery
thriller of unusual merit.

THRILLS

Each 8s. 3d. net

TWISTED FACE DEFENDS HIS TITLE

by G. DAVISON Author of "Twisted Face Strikes Again"

Twisted Face, the infamous hero of a hundred criminal exploits, is
openly challenged by his treacherous disciple, Otto. In the black arts
of crime Otto has little to learn from his master though he hides his
fiendish ingenuity behind a mask of pleasant and disarming bonhomie. But
he has thrown down the gauntlet and Twisted Face has accepted the
challenge with diabolical satisfaction. A book which will be warmly
welcomed by G. Davison's myriad admirers.

PLAYGIRL WANTED

by ROY VICKERS Author of "The Enemy Within"

A high-spirited but unsophisticated girl, pursuing an innocent social
adventure, is caught in the wheels of a political kidnapping. Wanted by
the authorities and threatened by the infamous Karnilov, she becomes the
unwilling pawn of two sides. Though ignorant of the technique of
intrigue, she acts on her own commonsense and kindly initiative with
astonishing results. A swift, light-hearted Secret Service thriller,
written with that verve and freshness that we have come to expect from
Roy Vickers.

HER SECOND MURDER

by JAMES CORBETT Author of "The Ghost Train"

Another breathless story of international crime and espionage for which
James Corbett is so justly famed. A taxi-driver was urgently directed by
his fare, a young and attractive girl, to Vine Street Police Station.
Upon arrival he found, to his horrified amazement, that she had been
strangled. But there were two clues in her handbag: a green silk
handkerchief and a piece of paper. The story of a foul crime—a crime
that precipitated a grave national menace.

THE END

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